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Of Arguments and Birthday Parties

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Two years in to this thing he is absolutely not calling a relationship and returning home to an apartment he shared with the same guy still felt weird. Namely because Larry didn’t do those inane things like relationships and he certainly didn’t move in permanently with anyone either. Yet, here he is: going home after a long day at his photography studio to spend time with his roommate. Well, his ‘roommate’ according to the lease—neither of them are parading their actual status to anyone, especially their landlord. Even if Hank probably brags to some of his friends in a quiet back room somewhere that he's tamed the illusive Larry, he knows the truth.

This isn't a relationship and Hank hasn't tamed shit. Anyone who swears their undying fidelity is lying and Larry is an honest man with a healthy sexual appetite. Besides, Hank was a serial cheater where his wife was concerned so why should Larry expect monogamy? He doesn't so Hank can just stop his bitching.Meanwhile, Larry's going to ignore the fact he's going home and not out to a club. He's telling himself it's because he doesn't want to lose his equipment to someone's sticky fingers—pun unintentional, of course—and that there isn't enough time to get a good fuck and then get cleaned up in time for Harold's birthday party.

As Larry puts his key in the lock, he can't stop circling back to the fact that it's been two years with the same man as one constant in his life. What the hell is going on with him?

At least the sex is good. Amazing. He might even go so far as to call it mindblowing.

Of course, the fact that he had the same roommate—read: lover—for two years didn’t stop him from screwing anything with a pulse in the meantime. In the beginning he did it without thinking, just enjoying sex and seeking the next hit of feeling good.Now he’s starting to compare the other men to Hank and Larry isn’t quite sure how he feels about that.

He walks into the aforementioned apartment with a large, wrapped package under one arm. They’ll only have a few hours to get cleaned up and make it across town to Michael’s apartment.

“Dear, what’s that?” Hank asks, looking up from the kitchen table where he’s grading papers. “I know you don’t like the whole domestic thing, but even you aren’t so thick not to remember celebrating my birthday last month. Unless we're starting in with early Christmas presents.”

“Hmm?” Larry asks with a hum, leaning it against the cabinets. “Oh this? No, of course I remember your birthday. March fourteenth, right?” Hank lets out a noise of surprise and Larry flashes him a grin. “See? I do pay attention to more than just your shiny paycheck that lets me live in the lap of luxury.”

Hank frowns, ignoring the insinuation that he's Larry's sugar daddy. “Well, it seems like an awfully big gift…”

Larry tosses his head back, opening his mouth in a silent groan. “Goddamn it, Hank. It’s not like that. I’m a dick but I’m not that big of one to rub my lovers in your face like that. It’s for Harold’s birthday and Michael is throwing a little get-together. Even if Michael's insufferable at least his liquor cabinet is well-stocked and who needs more than that at a party?”

Somewhere in the middle of his rambling, Larry pinches the bridge of his nose, as he waits for the accusations to start.

Harry purses his lips but apparently decides to take the high road and not start a fight. It's a Christmas miracle eight months early. “So when’s the party?”

“Tonight, remember?” Larry chuckles, grabbing a glass and fills it at the tap. “And you say I have a horrible memory.”

Though it’s entirely possible Larry forgot to mention it’s Harold’s birthday and they’re going over to Michael’s tonight. Whoops.

Hank sighs, dragging a hand through his hair. “Who the hell is Harold? And Michael? More of your fuck buddies?" Hank huffs, turning his attention back to his papers. Larry feels bad for the kid who on the other end of Hank's red pencil. "Sorry but I think I’ll pass. Lord, how many people are going to be there?”

Ah, there are the accusations—here Larry thought he might avoid this particular fight. That was a short-lived victory.

“I don’t know how many guys Michael is inviting. At least four or five?” Larry’s anger starts bubbling underneath the surface and if he isn’t careful he’ll explode. “I’m sure it may come as a surprise to you, but I do have friends I’m not fucking.” Granted he can’t think of many of them right now but that’s beside the point. “You know what? Fuck it. I don’t want you to come. Sit at home and wonder if I'm being passed around like a two-dollar whore all night and give all your students failing grades because you're pissed at me. I don't give a shit.”

There, suck on that Hank. Fuck you.

Instead of shouting back, Hank rises from his chair and moves across the kitchen to snake his arms around Larry’s waist. All right. Not the reaction he was expecting whatsoever. Given their height difference, Larry has no choice but to drape his arms over Hank’s shoulders and pull the other man in close. Moving on auto-pilot, Larry dips his head down to press a quick kiss to his lover’s lips. One kiss turns into several more and soon Hank is taking control over the kiss and Larry is along for the ride.

This is why he puts up with Hank’s bullshit. Because no one makes him feel like this. And yet—and yet he still can’t stop fucking around. Doesn't want to give up his freedom to do what he wants.

Or calls his bluff and starts fucking other men as well.

“Does that mean I can come?” Hank asks, nipping at Larry’s jaw. All he can do is nod, the earlier fight mostly forgiven.

Mostly.

Hank pulls back ever so slightly, fingers fiddling with Larry’s collar. He has to fight back a shiver, body craving more and more of the other man’s touch. His gaze flicks to the clock above the table. They don't have time, much as Larry would love to be spread out over the kitchen table, sweeping all those essays to the floor in a shower of papers.

“So… assuming they’re our sort,” Hank says slowly, making the double meaning far too obvious, “does that mean this is a joint gift?”

As nice as that sounds, Larry shifts from foot to foot. “That’s the thing. It’s… kind of a personal thing. Definitely won’t work as a joint gift.” He flashes a quick smile, kissing the other’s forehead. “Don’t worry. We can stop someplace and get something quick for you to give him.”

Hank wrinkles his nose. “Personal…?" Larry closes his eyes, hoping this doesn't start going south once more. "Maybe I shouldn’t come after all. I’d hate to get in the way of whatever it is you do at these sorts of things.”

Oh for fuck’s sake.

“Do you honestly think there’s a sex toy in there?” Larry asks, gesturing at the package that’s flat and looks like a framed picture. “This is a birthday party not an orgy. There’s going to be food and alcohol—that’s it.” He pauses when he sees the sour expression on the other man’s face. Any more pinched and Hank’s face might collapse in on itself like a black hole. “Or, as I said not five fucking minutes ago, you don’t have to get a gift or come at all. Stay home and sit and stew all goddamned night over what you think I’m doing when I’m not sitting twenty feet away from you. I won't miss you.”

Except he would. Damn it.

Hank lets out a frustrated noise, then leans in to give his neck a soft kiss as if trying to make amends. “No, I want to come," he says though he sounds as excited as a patient going in for a root canal. "I’m just don’t know what to do with someone like you. Someone I don’t actually have.”

Well the neck kisses do help somewhat. Sorta. Kinda. They’re nice, he’ll give him that and, since they’re soothing his anger once more he’ll admit Hank successfully diffused the situation. Good for him—save if he'd stop pressing the issue there wouldn't be a situation to diffuse in the first place.

If only he didn’t bring up Larry’s lack of monogamy at every opportunity. At the beginning he’d mention it once or twice a month, and then drop it. Now it seems like they can’t get through a single fight without it being brought up at least twenty times. Larry's growing hot under the proverbial collar once more and Hank hasn't even said a word. So much for the peace the soft kisses to his throat had brought.

“For fuck’s sake, Hank. You have me more than anyone else. I live with you. I told you I don’t want any more than that. Settling down isn’t who I am and you are more than welcome to go fund a guy or two of your own on the side. We come home to each other at the end of the day. The rest of it is just sex! It doesn’t mean anything!”

An odd look passes over Hank’s face but then it’s gone and Larry thinks he must have imagined it. It’s funny, he so often points out that Hank is free to fuck other men but he’s never stopped to think about how he’d feel if the man actually did it. Maybe that’s why he always brings it up—he knows Hank would never go fuck someone else. It’s a safe thing to say and Larry will never have to look too closely at his own potential jealousy issues.

He wouldn’t care if Hank fucked other men, right?

Right.

… right.

There's a small part of himself that worries what his actual reaction would be if Hank didn't come home some night. If he was doing just as Larry suggested: fucking other men. Would he be upset and jealous? Would what's good for the goose not be good for the gander?

“So what time does this thing kick off?” Hank asks, trailing his lips over Larry’s jaw, pulling him from his thoughts. “Need to make sure we have time to pick up something to give him. What do you give a guy you’ve never met before?”

Larry chuckles. “Doesn’t matter. Harold will probably be too stoned to remember who got him what.” He steals a couple of quick kisses, suddenly feeling strangely domestic with Hank. Their relationship can flick back and forth between anger to sweet so quickly it’s like getting whiplash. “Well, the party starts at eight which means Harold won’t waltz in until at least nine. I wager we shoot for about 8:30—I think that’s when I had the cake delivered. Besides, no one wants to be the first to one of Michael’s soirées…”

“Dare I ask?”

“Trust me when I say pass on the cracked crab.”

Hank laughs, the sound rich and deep. “Do I want to know?”

Larry winces, remembering the last time he ate them and just how sick he was the next day. “You really, really don’t.”

Hank presses in closer, his fingers curling in the soft hairs at the nape of Larry’s neck. He fights back a shiver, his hands dropping lower to grip the other man’s ass. He starts rocking his hips against his lover’s, starting to think of fucking in the kitchen rather than getting ready for the party. He still needs to shower and it’ll take him a good thirty minutes to get his hair to look perfect.

“Easy, lover,” Hank whispers against Larry’s lips. “You start that and we may not get there by 8:30… And you do need to be there to get that cake.”

Larry pauses then, lifting one hand up to cup Hank’s face. His thumb strokes over his lover’s cheekbone and Hank leans into the touch. These tender moments are so rare because Larry’s always afraid to initiate them. Afraid that Hank will read more into them than he should.

Just because he may actually love Hank doesn’t mean he’ll ever want to say the words. Speaking them aloud will change their relationship in a way they can never come back from. It’d mean he’d have to give up the other men for good and Larry is too self-absorbed to think of anyone but himself and his own pleasure. Afraid of giving up his freedom. Afraid that Hank will do to him what he did to his wife two years ago.

“Are you sure you’re up for this, baby?” Larry asks quietly, thinking of some of Michael’s usual friends. “I know that gay things tend to embarrass the hell out of you and some of Michael's friends aren't you're type.”

If Hank is the one who still tries to pass as straight, Larry knows he won’t know what to make of the flaming queen that is Emory.

“They don’t embarrass me,” Hank replies. “Nor am I trying to act straight either, before you say it. I certainly wasn’t when I screwed you into the mattress, was I?”

Larry waves the comment away like pesky cigarette smoke in a dingy club. “But you always drink beer when everyone around you has a martini. Look at your clothes versus mine. Everything about you screams ‘I’m trying to be straight except for when I’m balls deep in my lover’s ass!’”

Hank narrows his eyes and pushes at Larry’s chest hard enough to knock the wind out of him. Well that slipped out. Whoops. Apparently it’s Larry’s turn to poke the proverbial sleeping bear rather than enjoy the tender moment between them.

“Well, everything about you screams ‘I’m single except for when I’m sleeping with my roommate,’” Hank retorts. “You’re the equivalent of the man who takes his wedding ring off whenever he leaves the house just in case he finds someone else to warm his bed for an afternoon.”

“Unless you missed the memo, men can’t marry other men.”

“That’s beside the point.” Hank crosses his arms in front of his chest, eyes narrowing. “I want you to be mine—”

“We’ve been over this a fucking thousand times and my answer isn’t going to change!” Larry shouts.

“—and I’m tired of not knowing if you’re going to call when you don’t come home,” he continues as if Larry hadn’t even said a word. “I’m tired of wondering if you’re dead or alive or if you’ve found someone better than me!” Now that he’s found his rhythm, nothing is going to stop Hank’s diatribe now. “You know what, maybe it would serve you right if I started acting the same as you. How would you feel if I started fucking other people behind your back? Started not coming home and not telling you where I was. Started throwing names of the men I’ve slept with around to make you jealous.”

He grunts, banging his head back against the hanging kitchen cabinets. “How are you fucking starting in on me again? Jesus Christ, Hank, this has to be a new record even for you. I hope you realize the more you badger me about this the less I want to give you that fidelity you so desperately crave.” He slides out from between Hank and the countertop, starting to pace about the kitchen. Hank doesn't turn to look at him. “I mean, really, you make it sound like I’m some sort of secret agent leading a double life. I have always told you where I was but I don’t tell you with whom because I don’t always stop to ask his name.”

Except Larry is afraid to admit that the guy who could be monogamous is there, lurking just under the surface—and maybe Hank would get what he wanted if he just let Larry reach the conclusion on his own. But of course he won’t because Hank is like a dog with a bone—gnawing and gnawing until it cracks and has to be thrown away. Just like their relationship might be if Hank doesn't shut his mouth.

“Go have fun with other men,” Larry says quietly, wrapping his arms around Hank from behind. “Enjoy the whole gay experience. Please.”

It’s Hank’s turn to duck away from Larry’s embrace. “For the last fucking time, I’m not gay. I’m bisexual. There’s actually a difference.” Hank puts more space between the two of them, stopping in front of the kitchen door, effectively cutting off Larry’s only exit from the room. “You keep telling me to go fuck other men, but you’re never home to know if I do or not! What would you say if I was with a woman who actually appreciates me for all I have to offer.” Hank smirks, his next words landing like a punch to the gut. “Or maybe I’m out fucking some younger, prettier twink.”

Larry growls at the thought—though he’s not sure if it’s the idea of Hank fucking another man (or woman) or if it’s that he’d take up with a younger guy. Odd, he can suggest that very thing whenever they have a repeat of this same damn fight but this is the first time Hank has actually risen to the challenge and Larry doesn’t like it. At all.

He swallows his jealousy down and decides to call Hank’s bluff. “Nice try. You’d have confessed every single detail the moment you got home.”

Hank makes a noise, clearly not happy Larry brushed him aside like a pesky gnat.

“Then let me come along!”

Hank’s words stun Larry into a stunned silence. There’s a script they follow and, for the first time in three years, Hank has deviated from it. Larry blinks, staring at the other man.

“What—what did you just say?”

“You heard me,” Hank presses. “There, it’s the perfect solution to the problem. I’m tired of you fucking other men without me, so why don’t you let me come along? A menage. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. I can't consider it cheating if I'm there with you.”

This is a horrible idea and he won’t have any part of it. He needs a shower and to get ready, not sit here and talk about potential threesomes with his lover. Larry pushes past Hank where he’s blocking the exit to the kitchen. “Absolutely not.”

Hank reaches out to grab Larry’s wrist. “Why not? It's a compromise I'd be happy to agree to.”

Larry pulls his hand away, glaring. “Because while I like ‘em all, I still only like them one at a time. I’m not sharing my bed with you and someone else. That’s not how this works.”

And with that he leaves the kitchen, going to their bathroom and stripping out of his clothes as he goes. Larry’s hoping a nice hot shower will wash away the ridiculous idea Hank decided to suggest. Honestly, a threesome? Two's company and three's a menage.

Deep down, though, Larry won’t admit he doesn’t want to see another guy touching his partner. Doesn’t want to admit just how deeply he cares for Hank, that when his lover called his bluff tonight he felt something snap inside him. Who knew Larry could actually feel something as banal as jealousy. Perhaps Larry is human after all and is afraid to admit he’s head over heels in love with his roommate.

But by the end of the night, he’ll be the one who will admit in front of all his friends—and one ex-lover—that he loves just one man.

Hank.