It's not like Joe is unhappy now. Really, he's not.
He's got a nice house. He doesn't have to work another day in his life if he doesn't want to. He has a girlfriend...no, a fiancée. Someone who always loves and supports him, or at least usually does.
As he watches her plan their wedding — only a few months away now — he can convince himself that this is the right thing to do. She might not believe in God anymore, but deep down inside he still does, and he can't quite shake the thought that God (and his family) wouldn't accept him being gay.
Still, though, he can't completely push away all of his memories. Late at night, when she's out of town or asleep and he feels lonely, he thinks about how things used to be. Tonight is one of those nights. Beth is off on a plane to Dubai, and Joe sits alone at his desk.
He used to make videos with David there. Now he doesn't make them at all. His views had been declining for years, and even though he said he didn't care, he did. It was hard to see others grow and thrive when his own channel was dying. Eventually he'd lost his drive to do it around a year back, and he finally gave up on being "Stampy" a few months ago. It was freeing, in a sense. He didn't have to look at a testament to his dead relationship with the guy known to world as simply "BallisticSquid" every day. He didn't see all the comments asking when they'd record another video together or release another podcast. He didn't have to make up any excuses for it anymore. He didn't have to pretend that they'd simply grown apart, when their friendship had been more accurately clipped like an unruly branch on one of the trees in his backyard.
It hadn't been a problem at first. Beth seemed to get along well with David, and they'd even recorded a few videos together. Eventually, though, she started to feel jealous, even though he spent nearly all of his free time with her. Squid, she said, was his friend, but they were too close. She said that he didn't "get" her. That he was a bad influence on kids because he had said that fighting back when other kids picked on him had helped, when she staunchly believed that the only way to fix it was getting an adult's help. Maybe she didn't "get" him, either. She hadn't heard the whole story like he had. She hadn't lived it. She didn't know how he had already tried that, and everyone had told him he'd be okay if he could only deal with it for a little while longer. She didn't know what he'd gone through.
But Joe decided that he valued his relationship with Beth more than whatever he had with David. After all, he reasoned, kids should go to an adult if they're being bullied. He had to be a good role model, for the sake of his channel. Being possibly gay for his best friend wasn't exactly considered "good" five years ago. It still isn't now, in some places.
And besides...it was nice to have a pretty girl loving him. He'd had girlfriends before, but it was never really serious like it was now, and he didn't want to hurt his parents by never getting married. He knew how much they wanted grandchildren, and especially grandchildren with their name. He supposes he might be hurting them now, too, since Beth says she doesn't want kids, but when the fuck has she ever known what she wanted?
Everything will work out in the end, he keeps telling himself. Sometimes, like now, he's not so sure. Will he be feeling like this forever? Always pretending and always missing David and never telling anyone how he really feels? He might go crazy if he won't ever stop thinking of all the stupid little trips they took around the UK or all the nights they spent just talking on Skype or the first time they had sex, when everything finally just seemed to click for him.
Sometimes he wants to reach out again. To talk to David beyond a little chat on Twitter when he's trying to convince their fans that nothing is wrong. But somehow he just can't ever do it. He can't ever click that stupid fucking call button, and he hates himself for it.
Joe guesses it makes sense, though, that he can't do it. After all, he thinks, we don't talk anymore.
It's not like David is unhappy now. Really, he's not.
Nicole is his dream woman. She's beautiful and artistic and supportive, and she has tattoos, and she doesn't even mind that he's a little bit short. She likes it — says it makes it easier to kiss him.
She's perfect — and he worries that she's too good for him. Doesn't she deserve someone who can love her fully, without being hung up on some guy he had worked with in 2013? He knows she does. She deserves better than him, but she doesn't deserve the hurt a breakup will bring. It's almost better to just keep pretending for her.
David doesn't know why he still cares so much about Joe. He had hurt him so badly — shouldn't he want to keep his distance?
He doesn't. He still misses him. He still thinks about all the stupid shit they did together. He even misses traveling with Stamps, and he hates trains and planes more than anything.
He does know why they stopped being friends, though. Joe had decided that "bros before hoes" no longer applied to their relationship — and David supposes that he had first, after he started dating Nicole. But Joe was the one, after his girlfriend decided that she didn't like him, who stopped replying. Who didn't return his calls or come to any of his get togethers. It made David feel a bit like Jay Gatsby — throwing parties just because one day his old flame Daisy might decide to go to one. His version of a green light was the little dot that let him know that Stampy was online on Skype or his Xbox or anywhere, really. (David hasn't ended up dead in his swimming pool yet, though, so doesn't think he's quite gone full Gatsby.)
Eventually he realized that Joe didn't want to (or wouldn't) stay friends, and that was okay. They still recorded their podcast together once in a while, and it was enough for him. But eventually things started conveniently getting in the way — first a trip to Italy, then a scratchy throat or cold, then a bad connection or a broken microphone or just not "feeling up to it" — and they'd gone over a year without making a video together. He told himself that it was okay. They didn't make the same kind of videos anymore, and they didn't have the same friends. Of course they wouldn't be close like they had when they played Minecraft every day. They'd just grown apart.
That's what he tells everyone who asks him about it. Nicole, bless her, almost understood how he felt. She thought his girlfriend was a bitch, and he was a dick, and she made that clear many, many times, and it always made him feel better for a little while. Eventually, though, he'd always miss Joe again, and that's how he's feeling tonight. Nicole is off visiting her mother, and save for the dogs David is the only one in the house. Unlike Stampy, he still makes videos, but he's already got a week of uploads prerecorded, and he's sick of hearing himself talk. It's late, he's not tired, and he has nothing to do, so of course he thinks of Joe. He thinks about how they used to stay up late to talk, and how they used to do stupid little challenges together like trying to cook with random ingredients or seeing who could make tea faster, and how they had even wanted to move in together one day.
He hopes that one day they'll be friends again. He wants to call him or text him or something, just to tell him that, but he can't quite bring himself to do it. After all, he thinks, we don't talk anymore.