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What Friends Do

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"Erin? What are you doing here?" Confusion is thick in his voice, as well as more than a little irritation. But Erin's already grabbed his arm and is dragging him out of the chippy. Once outside his expression softens as he sees the worry etched across her face. "Is everything alright? Michelle? Clare?"

 

Erin lets go of his arm at that, crossing her own and stepping back to glare at him. "As if you don't know," she accuses, eyebrow raised.

 

His confused expression returns and he glances around as if expected the others to pop out with similar accusations. "No..." he says slowly, thinking over the past couple days as to what could've put her in such a state. "No... I don't think I do..."

 

Erin just scoffs at him for a moment and shifts her weight back and forth as if he's an idiot for not knowing. "You. And her." She's whispering now, but the anger in her voice makes the words come out louder than expected. She nods at the door they had just come out of as if trying to be discreet, but they're the only ones in the ally and at this point James knows full well what she's talking about. Well, kind of.

 

"Oh, come on Erin. Not this again." He tries hard to keep the whine out of his voice, but this has gone on long enough and he's exhausted. "I thought you liked Rebecca. What problem can you possibly have with me going on a date with her?"

 

"You don't know her like I do James. She seems sweet, but you don't know how she treat the boys she dates. In eighth grade-"

 

"Erin please, stop," he's covering his ears in an effort to physically stop her words, but he can still see her looking up at him, wide eyed and insistent. "Why do you keep doing this?"

 

"Oh, what?" she asks, throwing her hands up in frustration, "So helping a friend is a crime now?"

 

James softens, slumping his shoulders and moving a step closer. "Of course not," he says softly, "But seriously, you do this every time."

 

"And you should be thanking me," she scolds, waving a finger in his face and he's scarily reminded of her mother. "That girl did turn out to be a pickpocket didn't she?"

 

He rolls his eyes, but can't argue. "Well, yes, but that was one time. Isn't there any girl in Derry that's good enough?"

 

Erin blanches as if she's actually considering. Then she shakes her head to clear her thoughts. "That's not the point. The point is, Rebecca is not." She crosses her arms in satisfaction.

 

James mirrors her, crossing his own arms. "That's not an answer," he responds testily. "I haven't had a single relationship since I've been here because you keep finding faults with every girl I ask out. I've listened to you because you're my friend, but this is getting ridiculous." He's well and truly annoyed now and for once doesn't feel like backing down.

 

Erin scoffs again, opening and closing her mouth as if trying to think of a response. Her eyes are darting, but don't rest on him and for one insane second a thought comes to him. He never would've asked before, never would've even thought it, but his heart is pounding and he feels like being as reckless as her for once.

 

"Do you... Do you like me?" He can't believe he's actually asked her and his eyes go as wide as hers as the words sink in.

 

"What?!" she bursts out with a high pitched, nervous laugh. It's an insane thought, he knows that, but part of him is intensely aware that she hasn't said no. "Why-? Who-? Why would you even ask that?" She's laughing, but won't meet his gaze.

 

It really doesn't make sense: Erin liking him? But the more he thinks about it, the more it's the only thing that does make sense. And suddenly, what only a moment ago had seemed impossible, he is now absolutely certain of. "Admit it Erin," he says, voice coming out stronger. "You like me and that's why you keep interrupting my dates. None of the others seem to have any problem with it, just you. Because you like me." He's suddenly feeling smug as if he's worked out a particularly tricky math problem, and smirks at her.

 

Erin is still gaping at him, but scowls when she sees him smirk. "That is... Absolutely mental. I don't know what you're smoking or if you English are just naturally idiots, but there is no way in a thousand years that I could possibly, EVER, like you."

 

"Is that what it is? You don't like me because I'm English?" He's caught halfway between teasing and genuine hurt as he asks her.

 

"What? No," she says quickly backtracking before fumbling over her words. "Of course I have nothing against you being English. I mean maybe a little bit; you lot are in general pretty rotten. Not that I've actually met many, other than you and you're alright. I mean I do like you. As a friend though! I don't not like you because you're English, that's a bit racist init? That's not the point. I don't like you for lots of other reasons. Not that I don't like you as a friend. But it doesn't matter because there is no liking at all. Nothing. No reasons for not liking because there is no liking in the first place." She looks vaguely panicked by the end, and he considers letting it drop, but he's a bit too annoyed and having a bit too much fun to let it go.

 

"Alright then," he demands in a huff, "I think I deserve to know why you keep interrupting my dates.” He’s getting frustrated and can’t help adding under his breath, “I don’t break up your dates, even though you insist on going out with the biggest arseholes in the country.”

He doesn’t know why he said it. Not really. But as soon as the words leave his mouth he’s overwhelmed by the bitter knot that has taken up residence in his stomach, and he realizes how true the words actually are. Erin was amazing, most of the time , yet she insisted on going out with some of the biggest idiots he had ever met. He glances down, finally noticing his hand clenched in a fist, nails digging into his palm, and tries to bring his expression back to neutral.

 

But Erin who had been watching the emotions play out across his features was gaping at him. “What did you say?” she asks finally in hushed surprise.

 

James grimaces and wishes he could take the words back. But no, she had started this. If she could complain about his dates then so could he. “I said your dates are a bunch of idiots, Erin. And no, I won't take it back; you can do better.” Erin stares at him for a moment, and James feels his cheeks heat under her scrutiny.

 

“Are you…  jealous?” Erin looks how he feels, confused and surprised. James is amazed at how quickly she has managed to turn the tables on him and suddenly he feels like he’s gasping for air. He takes a step back, then another before his back hits the wall, but Erin follows, step for step.

 

“Course not,” he manages, the words coming out far breathier than he would’ve liked. He can feel his heart pounding as he realizes how close Erin is standing.

 

“Then why do you have a problem with who I date?” Her voice is sharp, hands on hips, and James is worried for a moment that he’s crossed a line.

 

But then, “Because friends look out for each other, right?” he asks, throwing her words back at her. She seems to realize the irony of the situation at the same time he does, and leans back on her heels, biting her lip.

 

James watches as she pulls her lip between her teeth, and feels like he’s been possessed as his next words leave his mouth. “Kiss me,” he says suddenly.

 

“What?” she asks, but he’s relieved to see her expression is one of surprised rather than disgust.

 

He clears his throat, his face burning. “It’s the only way to prove to each other that there’s no feelings. That we’re just… friends.” His voice cracks on the word ‘friend’ and the excuse feels weak even to his ears, but then Erin’s nodding and moving closer.

 

“Right,” she says, but he thinks she’s talking more to herself than to him. “Friends. It’s just a test. To prove. Ridiculous really…” Her words trail off and in a surge of courage she brings a hand around to his neck and pulls him down to meet her lips. James freezes: lips stiff, arms unmoving at his side. This was his idea, his crazy, insane, never thought she would go along with it in a million years idea, and he could barely move. Erin was kissing him and he didn’t know what to do.

 

And then suddenly he does. Erin moves her hand half an inch up, fingers tangling in his hair, and it’s as if a light’s been turned on. He begins moving his lips against hers and she responds in kind. It starts off gentle, the lightest brushes against each others lips, but soon the kiss deepens and Erin is sweeping her tongue inside his mouth and it’s all he can do to stop a moan from escaping. He’s had some experience, regardless of what Michelle says, and when he sucks on her bottom lip she makes a squeak of surprise at the back of her throat before pulling him even closer. James can’t help smirking against her lips, but when she pushes her body flush against him, all thoughts leave his mind.

 

James has his arms wrapped around her, holding her close as they kiss, her body warm and soft against his. Thoughts are running wild though his head, but part of his mind has managed to stay rational and he stops himself from exploring her curves like he wants to. Erin, on the other hand is not so rational, and when she slips a hand under his shirt, fingers trailing along his waistband, his knees nearly buckle. He can’t hold back anyone and suddenly flips them, pressing her against the wall in his place, hand tangling in her hair to cushion her head. His free hand is resting on her hip now, thumb grazing the barest sliver of skin. In a moment of reckless abandon he rocks against her, pants impossibly tight and seeking some kind, any kind, of relief.

 

But it’s that movement that breaks them apart, gasping with ragged breath and wide, wild eyes, as they realize the position they’re in. James takes a hurried, but reluctant step away from her. He’s ashamed to say he can’t help but glance at her heaving chest, but then he notices the covert look Erin gives his tented trousers and his cheeks burn. He shifts uncomfortably, shocked at what’s just happened and embarrassed by how badly he wants to do it again. Erin looks equally flustered and flushed and when she finally speaks her voice is breathless. “Right,” she starts, looking at the ground as she licks her swollen lips and tries to fix her tangled hair. James watches her with a twinge of unearned satisfaction knowing that he did that to her, made her look like that . His cock twitches as she licks her lips again, and he forces himself to take deep breaths and think about football.

 

“Right,” James repeats after his head has cleared a bit. He nods, even though he’s still not quite thinking straight and isn’t quite sure what to do at this point.

 

“Well,” she says, giving her shirt one last tug back into place. “That’s sorted then.” Her voice is lofty and final, despite her slightly panicked eyes, and James finds himself nodding before her words register.

 

“Hold on,” he manages to get out, “what’s sorted?” But she’s already gone, hurrying back down the alley and around the corner before his words can reach her.