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Actually, Love

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They like to think he’s the dumb one of the group. And maybe sometimes he was, about certain things, so sue him. But he was light years ahead of them in the ways that mattered.

He wasn’t embarrassed by his enjoyment of things, for one, unlike Daniel and Soren. Daniel, because he was always afraid of looking foolish, and Soren because he was always afraid of looking weak. It was silly, they were both so silly, because who cared, especially when it came to the four of them. Michael had had his dick inside all of them, what was left to be embarrassed about?

He wasn’t afraid to see things for what they were, either. They all liked to pretend that this thing between them was just a friends with benefits situation. How stupid was that? Michael knew it was love by the second time they all ended up in Soren’s bed, and every day after just confirmed it.

Katie’s hand on his thigh under the table while they chatted at the diner, Soren sending him a cheeky text at work, Daniel shyly accepting a kiss from him in the back of a movie theater. It was all little things, all wonderful, affectionate things they liked to write off as casual but he saw so clearly through that.

Michael was smart enough to keep it to himself, though. They were all clinging so hard to the illusion of casual that he knew shattering it would just make them upset, and he wouldn’t risk it.

He thought maybe they would get the clue-by-four he was swinging at their heads when they talked about rom-coms being bullshit over a shared flask. He was right, of course he was right, that rom-coms only scratched the surface of real love. It was so dumb that they didn’t get it, it couldn’t have been any clearer. They had skipped the rom-com bullshit and dove headfirst into real love, it was singularly incredible to him that he was the only one who saw it.

No dice; they were as oblivious as always, and he resigned himself to be the only one in their little love circle with a shred of sense. It was exhausting sometimes, being the only one with any observational skills. Soren and Katie kept going on dates that went nowhere, and Daniel kept being the socially awkward nerd who had no clue how to talk to anyone.

It was just so dumb, honestly. Michael spent more time in Soren’s bed just sleeping with the three of them than he did having sex with them; if that wasn’t a neon sign of a relationship he didn’t know what was. To say nothing of the time they all spent with each other every day, both in and outside of the office; seeing a movie with Daniel, watching trashy reality shows with Katie, getting a drink and playing pool with Soren. They were dates, this was dating why was he the only one not ignorant of that fact?

They came around eventually, but it didn’t play out the way he thought it would. Not that he had planned it or anything, he didn’t live in a romance novel for god’s sake.

“Would you really replace me?”

Daniel’s voice was soft from the back seat, and there was a moment of surprised silence.

“What?” Katie finally asked, gentle and concerned, and Michael twisted around in the passenger seat to look back at them.

“Replace me,” Daniel said again, softer this time, scrunched down in his seat and staring out the window, his hands folded tightly in his lap.

“Of course we wouldn’t.” Michael frowned, and Daniel glanced up at him, looking weary.

“Oh come on, Dan, you know we were just joking,” Soren piped up from the driver’s seat, reaching up and adjusting the rear view mirror to give him a clear look at Daniel’s face in the reflection.

“Right,” Daniel sighed, looking back out the window, and Michael exchanged a look with Katie.

This wouldn’t be the first time Daniel was self-depreciating. Sometimes it was apropo of nothing, and sometimes, he knew, it was them driving him a little too hard. Tonight was clearly the second one, and Michael felt a little guilty about that. Clearly Katie did too.

Granted, he felt they had had reason to roast him a bit. His “pros and cons” lists about them were just so strange and so unbelievably Daniel, but it didn’t change the fact that the “cons” column had hurt a little bit. He could handle the silly ones, like Daniel’s complaint that Michael didn’t do a good enough job of cleaning his ears, but there were some on there that he really wished Daniel had mentioned long before now. That Michael had thought Daniel trusted him enough to mention.

“Would you replace us?”

Daniel looked at him, a confused crease between his eyebrows. “What?”

“You’re the one with the pros and cons lists, man.” Michael raised his eyebrows. “So what’s the verdict? You want to replace us?”

Katie twisted in her seat slightly, looking at Daniel expectantly, and in Michael’s peripheral vision he could see Soren glancing in the rearview mirror every few seconds to look at Daniel too. Even with the dim light from the passing street lamps, Michael could see the color rising to Daniel’s face.

“Of course I don’t,” he said quietly, looking at each of them in turn. “I dunno, I just- I just-”

“You’re completely in love with us Daniel, we know,” Michael interjected into Daniel’s stuck sputtering with a little grin. He expected an eye roll or a scoff in return, maybe an exasperated sigh.

What he got was Daniel’s blush getting intensely deeper, and his face shifting into a deer-in-the-headlights, frozen panic.

Oh. Oh.

“Stop freaking out,” Michael immediately ordered him, reaching into the back seat to grip Daniel’s knee tightly. “We fucking love you too, you idiot.”

There was a deafening silence in the car, but Michael refused to be embarrassed about it. How fucking long had they been dancing around this?

Daniel’s lips were parted in surprise, and Michael couldn’t be completely sure, but he could swear he saw Daniel’s eyes tearing up behind his glasses.

Michael shifted his gaze from Daniel to Katie, who looked equal parts emotional and terrified, then to Soren, who was staring determinately at the road, but his knuckles were white on the steering wheel.

“Come on, guys,” Michael finally sighed. “Can we please stop pretending that isn’t the truth? When was the last time any of you were in a relationship besides this one?”

There was an almost guilty silence in the car. Suddenly Katie gave a tense little laugh, shaking her head.

“I thought it was just me,” she confessed in a soft rush. “I mean...”

She gestured vaguely to the four of them. “This is kind of crazy, isn’t it? Most people don’t get to date three partners at the same time.”

“Most people don’t have foursomes every weekend for three years.” Michael raised his eyebrows. “Nothing about this has ever been anything but crazy. Doesn’t make it less real.”

Daniel made a strangled kind of sound, and he was definitely making an effort to hold back tears, the big, emotional dork. Michael squeezed his knee and shot him another smirk. “Dude, you are such a rom-com. Just mush, all the way through.”

Daniel gave a watery laugh, and it was like all the tension in him broke down, causing him to slump back in the seat.

“You were the one with the big love confession,” he replied, his voice a little raspy. “Doesn’t get more rom-com than that.”

“Well someone had to,” Michael sighed. “I was getting sick of dancing around it, it’s been too damn long already.”

“How long do you think we’ve been dancing around it?”

It was the first time Soren had spoken since reassuring Daniel that they wouldn’t replace him, and the other three looked at him.

“Since we started,” Michael said honestly, watching Soren’s sharp profile. “I knew by the second time we fucked.”

The car crawled to a stop at a red light, and Soren finally looked at him, his eyebrows drawn together.

“You did?”

“Yeah.” Michael shrugged one shoulder, glancing around at them all. “Apparently I’m the only one who was smart enough to pick up on it.”

Katie laughed first, in a startled kind of way, but there was nothing mean spirited in it. Then Daniel and finally Soren, their amusement breaking the tension in the car and they suddenly felt like them again.

Michael smiled, looking at each of them in turn as Soren eased back onto the gas as the light changed.

“And you guys say I’m the dumb one,” Michael tsked, shaking his head, and Katie leaned up from the back seat to kiss him.

“Shut up, Michael.”

“Love you too, Kay.”

It felt so nice to say it, and the flustered blush that took over Katie’s cheeks made him smile.

“And I love you.” He looked at Daniel, who turned equally pink. “And I love you.”

Soren didn’t turn pink, but he silently reached over to wrap his hand around Michael’s knee, his fingers giving a tight squeeze.

A few moments later, and they pulled up to Soren’s apartment.