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peaches and cream

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“I think it’ll be good for you,” Yann is saying, following Lucas around the library like a lost puppy. It’s still two hours to closing and, technically, Yann shouldn’t even be here while Lucas is on the clock . Lucas has half a mind to tell him to leave, if only to stop him from talking about what he thinks would be good for Lucas, but he can’t actually bring himself to do it. Instead, he shoves the stack of books into Yann’s hands and tells him to make himself useful, if all he’s here for is to pester Lucas.

Yann takes them without argument, and then goes on. “Seriously. We’ve let you go on moping for way too long. You need a good, stiff drink and a good, stiff dick.” Lucas chokes at that, turning to tell Yann he’s crazy, but he figures Yann already knows by the way he’s laughing.

“Don’t talk like that in here,” Lucas scolds, grabbing two books from Yann’s hands and shelving them properly. “This is a library. Honestly, Yann, is nothing sacred anymore?”

“When has the library ever been sacred? The nonfiction section is pretty much notorious for hookups.”

“Don’t remind me.”

They make their way to the YA romance section, and Lucas picks up the seven John Green novels and shelves them. Honestly, he thought teen girls were done with John Green a long time ago. He doesn’t understand why, in 2019, he’s still having to search the romance section for the proper placement for The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns.

Maybe he’s just bitter when it comes to romance.

Nevertheless, he turns to Yann and puts his hands on his hips. Yann is giving him this hopeful look, like he’s just waiting for Lucas to agree. “I don’t know why you think a stupid party is going to be ‘good for me’. How does meaningless sex help me get over an ex-boyfriend? I’ve never gotten that. I’m still going to wake up alone and sad,” Lucas points out, and Yann just rolls his eyes. Lucas, naturally, rolls his eyes right back.

He doesn’t expect Yann to understand. He hasn’t been heartbroken since Emma in high school, and that just isn’t the same. Lucas was with this guy from the time he was eighteen until now, and he’s nearing twenty-one. He dedicated three years of his life to a guy who was willing to give it all up for some girl, a girl that he worked with, a girl that would suck his dick in the office while Lucas was at home making them dinner. Yann has never had to find out via an accidental butt-dial voicemail that his significant other was fucking someone else.

Not to invalidate Yann’s pain or anything. It’s just different. Emma and Yann were teenagers when it happened, but Lucas is an adult. They’d made plans for the future, they’d talked about marriage and kids. Lucas had thought Gabriel was his forever. He’d gone ring shopping, for fuck’s sake.

They make their way to the biography section, and Lucas busies himself with organizing all of the books leftover. It’s finals season, and pretty much every Parisian student had come through the library for biographies. Yann stoops down to help him and, presumably, to argue his case further.

“You don’t have to hook up with anyone, if you don’t want to,” Yann amends, and Lucas just shoots a glare at him. “But the boys and I are tired of watching you sit in your apartment all the time. You need to go out and have fun, get drunk and dance and stuff. You know as well as I do that it would be good for you to let go for a little while, shake some stress out of those tiny shoulders.”

Lucas glares again, punching Yann in the arm. Yann just laughs. “Fuck you. Insulting me isn’t exactly helping your case.” He grabs a biography on da Vinci and slips it in the right place before sitting back on his heels. “Whose party did you say it was?”

“Daphné’s, for her birthday.”

“And everyone’s going?” He asks, and Yann nods. Lucas groans, scrubbing his hands over his face. He knows he’s going to fold. He knows that Yann won’t leave him alone until he agrees to go, no matter how much Lucas fights it. “I really don’t think that partying is going to help—”

“Excuse me?” A voice interrupts, and Lucas is reminded (rather abruptly) that he’s at work and actually has a job to be doing. Lucas shoots up, smiling as politely as possible at the customer to ask what they need help with, and trying to act like he wasn’t just talking about partying. “I was just wondering where I could find The Waves by Virginia Woolf? I searched the fiction but I couldn’t find it.”

“Woolf is going to be just across the aisle here, on the second bookshelf to the left. The books are sorted alphabetically by surname in that section, so just look for the Ws. Should be on the second shelf from the top, if I’m not mistaken.”

The customer smiles brightly at him, and Lucas can’t help but smile back. It’s kind of contagious, the way he smiles. “Thank you.” And then the customer is gone, so Lucas turns back to Yann and scowls at him.

“You’re going to get me fired,” Lucas snaps, and Yann just laughs. Like Lucas can afford to lose this job. (He can’t. His father stopped paying his rent when he turned eighteen, and he’s completely on his own.) “If I agree to go to this stupid party, will you leave me alone and let me work?”

“Yes.”

“Fine, I’ll go.”

Yann cheers way too loud for a fucking library, and Lucas shushes him aggressively. They get a few angry stares from some students behind them, so Lucas smiles apologetically.

“I’ll be over at 7pm,” Yann grins, putting the last of the books down and patting Lucas on the shoulder. “I’ll see you later, Lulu.” And then Yann is gone, too, and Lucas is left with nothing to do but shelf books and think of what he’s going to wear to the party later.

The rest of his shift is agonizingly slow, but Lucas almost doesn’t mind. It’s not as though there’s usually a lot to do—it is a library in the digital age, where all of the information in books is available in PDF form—so Lucas is pretty used to the boredom, by now. If he’s working the desk, he usually does homework. If he’s shelving, he usually wanders the shelves and tries to find a book he hasn’t seen before. If there’s really no one around, sometimes he’ll even sit down to read a book himself.

By the end of his shifts, he’s usually pretty ready to go home. But not tonight. Tonight, when 5:30pm rolls around, Lucas is dreading leaving. He knows he has to go home and shower and get ready to go to the stupid party that Yann had talked him into. Really, he’d much rather sit at home and watch Netflix in his pajamas, and he doesn’t understand why his friends think a party is a superior alternative.

(Or, okay, he does. But that doesn’t mean he agrees.)

So, he dawdles with the shift change, thanking God when his relief is ten minutes late. But in the end, he still has to leave eventually, and he makes his way out the door by 6pm.

The walk home from the library isn’t very long, so Lucas takes his time. He listens to music and tries to get himself into a partying mood, like the ones he used to get in when he was in high school. He used to be a party animal, then. He and the boys would go out every weekend, get fucked up and then spend Sunday night detoxing before school. He’d make out with girls and pretend to go further, and he’d lie about how drunk he was and what he did.

It’s where he met Gabriel, actually. At a party. He was a friend of a friend, and they’d spent the night dancing together and Lucas kissed him first. They started dating really quickly after that, and he made Lucas so happy that he didn’t need parties anymore. Gabriel didn’t really like them, so Lucas didn’t go. They were never fun, if Gabriel wasn’t there.

All things considered, he supposes it’s not that surprising that partying is his friends’ idea of getting him to move on from Gabriel. They’re reintroducing him to the fun he left behind when they started dating. Lucas hadn’t noticed it, at the time. He hadn’t noticed how Gabriel isolated him, how he kept Lucas from parties and from his friends and from Mika. They spent most of their time together, at Gabriel’s apartment, and when they weren’t together then Lucas was alone in Gabriel’s apartment. He didn’t want to be anywhere else.

It’s embarrassing to look back on. It’s embarrassing to think of how he let Gabriel control him without even realizing. How Gabriel made him want things that he’d never want otherwise.

Just the thought of Gabriel makes Lucas crave a shower even more, so he takes the stairs two at a time when he arrives home. The apartment is blissfully empty, perfect for Netflix, but Lucas doesn’t give in to temptation. Instead, he goes to take a shower, and then he moves to his bedroom and tries to pick an outfit. Something his seventeen year old self would wear, almost.

Yann and the boys show up before Lucas can decide, and they look impossibly disappointed to see him sitting in a towel on his bed. Lucas wishes he could explain that it isn’t as pathetic as it looks, but he figures it isn’t entirely the truth.

“Bro,” Yann asks, “what are you doing?”

“I don’t know what to wear,” Lucas murmurs, and the boys sigh heavily. It makes Lucas’s stomach twist uncomfortably. “I haven’t dressed to try and impress strangers in a long time.”

Arthur steps in, and takes a surveying look at Lucas’s closet. Lucas knows that Arthur couldn’t care less about Lucas’s clothes, and figures that he’s probably just trying to save them all from enduring another Gabriel spiral. Lucas is both thankful and embarrassed in that regard.

“Wear these,” Arthur says, tossing a pair of black skinny jeans to him, “with this.” He passed Lucas a white t-shirt that says Désir on it. Lucas looks at it, and thinks of how ironic it is that Arthur picked out one of the few shirts that Gabriel didn’t buy for him. “Roll the sleeves on it. And wear your boots.”

Lucas gets dressed while the boys pregame in the kitchen, and then reluctantly goes to join them. It takes some convincing on their part, but before long, Lucas is three beers in and so relaxed that he can’t remember why he ever thought that going out tonight would be a bad idea.

Basile is going on and on about Daphné and how excited he is for her party. Normally, Lucas ends his rambling pretty quickly, but he’s intoxicated enough in the moment not to care. Basile is obsessed with Daphné, is the thing. He fancies himself some sort of romantic, the type that can sweep her off of her feet. And sure, Daphné is a little out there, too—but she’s still way out of Basile’s league. She’s made it clear on many occasions that she only finds Baz’s advances creepy, though he never catches on. Even when the boys try to tell him, he still doesn’t get it. Lucas stopped trying.

They’re all single, now that Lucas and Gabriel have broken up. And it hits him that this is the first time in ages that they’ve all been single at the same time, all eligible wingmen and all available for hookups. It makes Lucas a little sad, in a way, to think of how they’re all in their twenties and not any closer to getting married now than they were in high school.

He needs more alcohol. Sad drunk Lucas is never a good time.

“When is the party, anyway?” Lucas asks, interrupting Basile’s story of the sex dream he’d had a few nights prior. Yann and Arthur both seem to be delighted for the change in topic, sitting up straighter.

“It just started,” Arthur informs him. “We should probably start walking over there, before any of us get too drunk to make the trip.”

They gather up all the beers, each taking turns interrupting Baz whenever he tries to launch back into his sex dream story. They stumble out onto the street ten minutes later, probably disturbing all of the Parisians trying to relax before bed, but not really caring. Even Lucas doesn’t care. It’s the first time he’s felt uncontrollable in years, and he’s drunk on the feeling as much as on the alcohol.

The walk to Daphné’s is just on the annoying side of far away—not far enough to need public transportation, but not close enough that walking is okay. It’s the type of distance where one would normally take a bike. If they were sober.

Yann and Lucas hang back as Arthur and Basile trailblaze forward, singing stupid songs loud enough that it echoes off of the walls. Lucas is sure that they’re disturbing the city, and he feels his cheeks heat as strangers stare, but he doesn’t say anything. Yann was right, he needs to let go. And he needs to let go even when he’s sobering up.

“I’m glad you decided to come out tonight,” Yann says, and Lucas looks up at him curiously. “I’m serious. I hated seeing you all depressed and shit. It’s good to see you having fun again.”

Lucas scoffs, shifting his gaze back to Arthur and Basile. They’re currently having a dance battle while walking, and it’s so ridiculous that Lucas can’t even laugh at them. “I would hardly call this fun,” Lucas teases, to which Yann laughs. “I’m glad, too. You’re right, I needed this.”

“I’m usually right.”

“So humble.”

Yann winks, “Always, baby.” And there was a time where a word of affection like that would make Lucas melt, but today, it doesn’t have any effect at all. Lucas doesn’t know when that stopped happening—whether it was during or after Gabriel—but it scares him a little. “We’ll have fun. And as soon as you want to go home, just say the word. The DD, that’s me by the way, is at your beck and call tonight.”

“How did I ever get so lucky?”

“I ask myself that everyday,” Yann grins. “I ask how you got so lucky, that is.”

Lucas rolls his eyes again, but it’s fond, and soon he and Yann are the ones being too loud. They’re giggling and shoving each other, risking the survival of all of the beers, but Lucas doesn’t care. He doesn’t care. God, he can’t remember the last time he didn’t care about something.

The party is in full swing by the time they arrive, and it takes a lot of effort to maneuver through the crowd to drop the beers in the kitchen. Basile and Arthur disappear instantly—for the same reason, more or less—but Yann lingers, eyeing Lucas like he wants to make sure that he won’t skip out if left unattended.

“Wanna dance?” Lucas offers, and Yann’s grin is blinding. They grab new beers and then force their way onto the makeshift dance floor, renewing their buzzes before losing themselves in the music. And it’s fun, dancing with Yann without worrying about what boy may be watching them. He’s not trying to pull and he’s not trying to stay on his boyfriend’s good side, either. He’s just… He’s free.

It’s like being in high school again. Lucas doesn’t even remember the last time he went to a party like this (university maybe?) but he supposes Daphné’s birthday is as good of a reason as any to act like they’re teenagers again. Half of the people in this room probably have 9 to 5 jobs they have to wake up for, but there’s people doing shots and dancing to shitty pop like there’s no tomorrow, and the whole thing is kind of overwhelming. Twenty is far from old, but Lucas has never felt so young.

Lucas presses his back to Yann’s front, laughing when Yann’s hands find his hips. They’re not so much grinding as they are pretending to, giggling with each other as they dance. He and Yann have never really danced together like this before, or at least they didn’t in high school, and it’s more fun than Lucas anticipated. If he’d danced like this with Yann in high school, it probably would’ve just lead to a week of confusing feelings and bad decisions.

“There’s Daphné, we should go tell her happy birthday,” Yann tells him, practically yelling in order to be heard over the crowd. Lucas nods in agreement, so they stop dancing and start making their way over to where Daphné is standing with Imane and Alexia.

Daphné grins when she sees them, pulling them both into a tight hug. “I’m so happy that you boys came! I wasn’t sure if you would!” She directs the second part to Lucas, and if he wasn’t tipsy he probably would’ve been embarrassed. As it is, he just smiles and nods along. “I can’t believe we actually have all of our friends under one roof again!”

“All for you, Daphy,” Lucas winks, and Daphné blushes. “Happy birthday, by the way!”

“Thank you!”

She hugs Lucas again, and he lets her. Another thing that high school Lucas probably wouldn’t have let happen.

“So,” Daphné continues, “how’s life been for the two of you? I feel like it’s been so long since we’ve talked properly!”

Lucas can’t help but feel like this isn’t the time for such conversation, alcohol considered. But he doesn’t say that out loud. He just leans against the wall to make himself comfortable, and to show Daphné that he’s listening. He chats with her about school and his home life and everything, even long after Yann excuses himself to go find a girl to hook up with. Lucas would never admit it, but he’s always sort of liked hanging out with the girls. Especially Imane.

Once Daphné gets distracted by other people coming up to tell her happy birthday, Lucas turns to Imane. It doesn’t take long for him and Imane to easily fall back into their old routine, teasing each other as they catch up. They talk about all the dumb shit they pulled in their biology class, and how they bonded through Lucas’s coming out and Imane’s struggle at the end of her second year. It’s easy to look back and laugh, now. Lucas is oddly proud that they’ve come so far.

Soon, a couple of boys come up and tap Imane on the shoulder, effectively cutting off his and Imane’s conversation. Lucas sees the way her face hardens as she turns around and then softens as she sees who it is, and he quickly deduces that one of the three boys must be her boyfriend. Lucas has yet to meet him, so he perks up and establishes himself right behind her.

“We just wanted to check up on you,” the boy in the middle is saying, and judging by Imane’s fond exasperation, Lucas figures that’s the boyfriend.

“Well, I’m fine. Just talking to Lucas,” Imane explains, turning to face Lucas. “This is my boyfriend, Sofiane, by the way. And my brother, Idriss. Idriss, Sofiane, this is Lucas.”

Lucas reaches out to shake their hands, and then looks at the third boy. Imane hadn’t introduced him, and Lucas can’t figure out why, because they’re all clearly friends. The third boy shifts awkwardly, holding out his own hand and telling Lucas, “My name is Eliott.”

“Ah, yes, Eliott! I’m sorry, I didn’t see you,” Imane interjects, to which Eliott just shoots her a kind smile. “Lucas, that’s my brother’s friend Eliott. Eliott, my friend Lucas.”

“Nice to meet you, Imane’s friend Lucas.”

Lucas grins back at Eliott, partially because he’s so fucking beautiful—seriously, the longer Lucas looks at him the more beauty he realizes—and partially because Eliott’s smile is contagious. Lucas can’t look at him smile and not smile back, he’s pretty sure it’s impossible.

“You, too, Eliott.” He turns back to Imane, only to see her enraptured in some argument with her brother and Sofiane. He rolls his eyes and glances at Eliott instead. “I’m guessing this is something that happens a lot.”

Eliott nods, “Especially since her and Sofiane started dating. You have no idea.” His tone is both bitter and teasing, but the mirth in his eyes gives him away. Lucas can tell he’s only pretending to be annoyed by it, and it makes his heart warm. “Well, since we both got ditched… Want to come upstairs with me?” At first, Lucas is taken aback by the directness of it, but then Eliott is pulling a blunt from behind his ear and waving it at Lucas invitingly. “Any friend of Imane’s is a friend of mine.”

And, well, Lucas definitely isn’t one to turn down free weed.

They try not to draw attention to themselves as they slink up Daphné’s stairs, for more reasons than one. Mostly because they don’t want to get caught smoking weed in a room they shouldn’t be in, but also to avoid any rumors. The last thing Lucas needs right now is to actually have a rebound one night stand, no matter how beautiful Eliott is.

And Eliott is beautiful. Lucas realizes it more and more the longer he lets himself look. And it’s much easier to see up here, where they can be alone and Lucas can look at him properly. He’s got a contagious smile, of course, but also a cutting jawline and sturdy shoulders and the fluffiest, softest looking hair that Lucas has ever seen. He doesn’t look like all the boys Lucas is used to seeing.

The way Eliott’s lips curve around the joint is a revelation in and of itself. Enough to make Lucas’s pants grow slightly tighter. Enough to make Lucas remind himself that he doesn’t need a one night stand.

“I never would’ve pegged you and Imane as friends,” Eliott says, making Lucas snap his gaze back up to Eliott’s face instead of at his collarbones, where they’re peeking out of his shirt. Lucas flushes, and hopes Eliott doesn’t notice.

“We get that a lot.”

“You two do seem to have similar personalities, though,” Eliott murmurs, exhaling a billow of smoke. He passes the blunt to Lucas, and then leans back against the window frame. They’d found refuge in what Lucas thinks is the guest room, perched in front of a grand window with a bench. Lucas was on the bench, while Eliott had found a way to sit on the windowsill and was using it to his advantage, staring down at Lucas as if he isn’t already much taller. His gaze feels heavy, like he’s trying to analyze Lucas piece by piece. “Not that I know your personality, really. But from what I’ve seen.”

Lucas nods, “Makes sense. And we are pretty similar, I suppose.” He glances up at Eliott and cracks a small smile. “But you shouldn’t go around telling her that. She might kill you.” They both chuckle, and it crackles through the room like something so much more. “I’m kind of surprised we’ve never met before. I’m over at Imane’s a lot.”

“I’m not over as much anymore,” Eliott explains, accepting his blunt back and finally looking outside once more. Lucas can’t decide if he’s relieved or disappointed to have the weight of Eliott’s gaze off of him. “I used to go over a lot, though. It was like a second home to me. The boys and I are just… growing apart a bit, I guess.” Eliott shrugs it off like it’s no big deal, but the way he dips his chin to his chest says otherwise. Lucas wishes he knew Eliott better, so he’d know what to say to get him smiling again.

“It happens,” Lucas says, quite eloquently. “But it’s not always a bad thing. And, hey, maybe you will fall back into your rhythm soon. You never know.”

“I guess.” Eliott takes another hit and then hands the blunt back over, and then his eyes are back, boring into Lucas’s soul. “But enough about me. Tell me about you. Tell me about why you spent the night dancing with your friend and looking like you didn’t want to be here, whenever he wasn’t watching.”

“Was I that obvious?”

“Just a little.”

Lucas groans, burying his face in his hands. Only he would be the killjoy that can’t even pretend to enjoy his friends’ birthday parties. It’s a wonder he even gets invited anymore. Hell, it’s a wonder that he even has any friends anymore. He would’ve given up on himself a long time ago.

“I wanted to be here for Daphné, I swear I did. I just… I don’t know, I haven’t really been in a partying mood recently.”

“I get that,” Eliott nods, offering up another warm smile. Lucas, once again, wishes he knew Eliott better—if only to learn how to make him smile. “I have times like that, too. Even if the parties are fun, I always go home feeling drained and like it was pointless to even go.”

“Exactly! Ugh, thank god I’m not alone.”

Eliott shakes his head, “Of course not. No one is ever alone.” He hands Lucas back the blunt, and Lucas takes a long drag. “So… That guy you were dancing with, was I right to assume he’s just your friend?”

At first, Lucas doesn’t understand the question. Who else would Yann be to him? But then Lucas picks up on the tone, and on the weird look clouding Eliott’s expression. “Yeah, yeah. He’s not my boyfriend. Yann is as straight as they come.”

“Ah,” Eliott nods. “So… Are you as straight as they come?”

Subtle. “Not since high school, no,” Lucas teases, and he delights in the way it makes Eliott laugh. Eliott’s laugh is almost as pretty as him. “What about you? Here alone?” Also subtle.

“Not alone. I’m with you,” Eliott winks, to which Lucas just rolls his eyes. Eliott laughs again. “My girlfriend and I just broke up a couple months ago. Don’t get me wrong, though—definitely not straight.”

“Good to know.”

Eliott looks down at the blunt that Lucas is handing back, and rolls it between his fingers a few times. There’s a new expression on his face when he glances back up—a heady one, that makes Lucas’s pants tighten all the more, and makes his head spin a little. Lucas doesn’t remember the last time that someone could make him dizzy with just a look.

“There’s not much left,” Eliott murmurs, holding the joint up as proof. “Want to split the last hit?”

“How, exactly?”

Eliott just raises his eyebrows playfully, slides off of the windowsill and onto the bench, then takes a long pull and raises his fist to his mouth. Lucas knows he should say no: Eliott is just a stranger (a pretty one, but a stranger nonetheless) and Lucas really, really doesn’t need to get involved with anyone right now.

He blames the weed when he leans in, and inhales the smoke that Eliott blows through his fist.

He blames the alcohol when he knocks Eliott’s hand out of the way, stops centimeters from Eliott’s lips and asks, “Is this okay?”

He blames Eliott for the way he nods, and closes the space between them.

There’s no one to blame for how they kiss after that, for the intensity and how they lick into each other’s mouths like they’re chasing the taste of weed, or the way Lucas crawls into Eliott’s lap and the way Eliott hooks his hands around Lucas’s thighs to pull him in. There’s no one to blame for the way they start rutting against each other almost simultaneously, Eliott’s pants growing as tight as Lucas’s have been.

If only Yann could see me now, Lucas thinks, as he settles closer to try and shift their hips together even more.

“I promised myself I wouldn’t have a one night stand tonight,” Eliott mumbles against his lips, and Lucas very nearly laughs. Nearly. What a fucking coincidence.

“Me, too,” Lucas breathes. I barely know you. I don’t even know your last name. “My place or yours?”

Eliott huffs a laugh. “My roommate is gone for the weekend.”

“My roommates are home.”

“Mine, then.” Eliott pulls back to smirk at him, and then they’re both scrambling to put the blunt out properly and make their way downstairs.

Lucas finds that he no longer cares whether or not people see him leave with Eliott—he doesn’t care about Yann or the girls or anyone. All he cares about is Eliott’s hand in his, Eliott pulling him out the door, and all of Eliott’s whispered, dirty promises. It really is like being seventeen again.

“Come on,” Eliott encourages, when Lucas lags a little bit behind. “The faster we get there, the more time we’ll have. I want to take you apart properly.”

Lucas nearly moans at just his words. This will be way too easy. I’ll finish way too fast. I don’t even know him. I don’t need a rebound. This is a bad idea.

Lucas doesn’t care, be it because of the alcohol or weed or just being so damn horny, so he follows eagerly.

Chapter Text

When Lucas first wakes up, he almost goes right back to sleep. He’s in a bed that smells like something ( someone ) new, there’s a heavy arm draped around his waist, and he’s still blissed out from the sex last night with absolutely no hangover symptoms. It’s peaceful, refreshing almost, and Lucas doesn’t want to wake up yet. He wants to live in this bubble for a while longer. So, he rolls over, peeking his eyes open just a little bit—so he can see Gabriel.

It takes three seconds for it to register that the man in bed with him is not Gabriel, and another five to remember the stranger’s name. Eliott. Oh, God. Oh, fuck. What the hell did he just get himself into?

As much as Lucas wants to jump away from the touch and out of the bed and immediately run as far away as possible, he forces himself to stay still. He’d never be able to leave without conflict if Eliott woke up. He’s going to have to sneak out.

Slowly, he turns back over, and then keeps rolling until he’s out from under Eliott’s arm. He waits a long few seconds to ensure that Eliott is still snoring, and then quietly creeps out from under the covers. As soon as his feet hit the floor, he’s moving lightning quick, pulling on his clothes as fast as possible. He’s just stumbling into his socks when he realizes that his phone is missing, and he’ll have to search the room for even longer.

Lucas glances at the clock on Eliott’s nightstand. It’s nearing 9am, and he has no idea if Eliott is a morning person. He seems like the type—bubbly, happy, warm, smiles at everyone and everything no matter what—so Lucas figures he doesn’t have much time. He stumbles back to the bed and digs underneath his pillow and then under the sheets and, when he comes up with nothing, he kneels down and searches underneath the bed. It’s there that he finally finds his phone, but no sooner does he get his hands on it than the bed above him creaks with movement.

He freezes in place, straining to listen for any signs that indicate Eliott is awake. It really would be his luck—his one night stand waking up right in the middle of him trying to escape. Eliott is so sweet, he seems like the type to offer him breakfast and maybe even ask him out on a date whether he really wants to go out with Lucas or not, just to be polite and make it seem like Lucas was more than a one night stand. Lucas knows he isn’t. Eliott said the words himself, just last night: I promised myself I wouldn’t have a one night stand tonight.

Lucas wouldn’t be offended. He doesn’t want a relationship. Not now, maybe not ever again. But he’d be way too nervous to turn Eliott down. He doesn’t know if he could ever put a frown on Eliott’s face without suffering from guilt for the rest of his life. He’s pretty sure disappointing or hurting Eliott is a sin, or something.

When he thinks enough time has passed, he slowly raises up to see if Eliott is still asleep. He finds that Eliott’s back is to him now, but his breathing is still even and he’s super still. Lucas breathes a sigh of relief and then pockets his phone and ducks out of the room.

His feet barely hit the sidewalk pavement before he’s calling Yann, breath coming way too quickly for how fast of a pace he’s trying to maintain. He’s panicking. He’s not even really sure why he’s panicking—he didn’t make any commitments, and he probably won’t ever see Eliott again. There’s nothing to freak out over.

But as soon as Yann answers, the words are slipping out before Lucas can stop and rationalize them. “I’m freaking out,” Lucas blurts, clutching the phone tightly to his ear. “I just woke up in some fucking stranger’s apartment and I don’t even know where the fuck I am. Fuck, I told you I didn’t want to go out!”

“Lulu, breathe,” Yann soothes, and Lucas tries to even his breathing. He sees a bus stop ahead of him, so he starts making his way over. “You hooked up with someone, so what? It’s not a big deal. People have one night stands all the time, it doesn’t mean anything.”

“Of course it didn’t mean anything,” Lucas snaps, but his mind keeps flickering back to the night before. He keeps thinking about Eliott’s hands, and his dick, and God, his fucking tongue. “But that isn’t the point. I told you I wasn’t interested in sleeping with anyone.”

“You’re the one who went home with him, Lulu. If you didn’t want to, or if you didn’t want to sleep with him, you should’ve said no.” Yann pauses, and then adds, “Wait, he didn’t force you or take advantage of you, did he? How drunk were you?”

Lucas shakes his head before realizing Yann can’t see him. “Pretty drunk and pretty high, but so was he. It was consensual. Actually, uh… I kissed him first, so. I made the first move.” He groans, flopping down at the bus stop the second he’s close enough. “Fuck. I’m fucked.”

“Yeah, you were,” Yann teases.

“Shut the fuck up,” Lucas snaps. He thinks about Eliott again, wonders if he’s woken up yet. Wonders if he’s noticed that Lucas is gone. “I’m at the bus stop now. What if he woke up and realized that I left?”

“Does it matter? It’s one night stand etiquette to leave before the other person wakes up, isn’t it?”

“I don’t fucking know, Yann! I don’t go around having one night stands all the time.”

Yann laughs over the line, and Lucas only scowls even more. Of course Yann would think this is funny. He’s the one who wanted Lucas to hook up with someone in the first place. There’s no way he’d ever understand that Lucas is having a crisis because he just fucked someone who wasn’t Gabriel for the first time in years and he’s kind of having a meltdown about it because it’s scary. It’s scary to move on, and it’s scary to do it with someone that Lucas could actually see himself developing feelings for.

The whole thing is kind of stupid, really. He doesn’t know Eliott, beyond the obvious. He knows what Eliott sounds like when he comes, but he still doesn’t even fucking know his last name. Lucas shouldn’t be thinking about him beyond the sex they had last night. He shouldn’t be thinking about moving on with him, he shouldn’t be thinking of what feelings could develop. He shouldn’t think about how Eliott made him feel, even beyond the sex. He shouldn’t be thinking about how Eliott smiled.

It shouldn’t be a big deal. It isn’t a big deal. Lucas doesn’t know why he can’t get that fact to sink in properly. “I think I just need to go home and clear my head,” Lucas murmurs, over the top of Yann’s laughter. “I’m probably just overthinking things.”

“Per usual,” Yann muses. “Don’t worry about it, bro. Like I said, everyone hooks up sometimes.”

Not me. “Yeah. The bus is pulling up, I’ll call you later.” They both say their goodbyes, and then Lucas ends the call. He stands up, then, and boards the bus as soon as it stops. It’s pretty empty, so he picks a seat in the back.

As he sits through the ride, he hovers over his and Imane’s message thread. Part of him wants to text her and ask her to meet up, so he can find out more about Eliott. The other part of him is embarrassed about it. Imane will know why he’s asking—she always seems to know those sorts of things—and that’ll just humiliate Lucas. He’d never be able to live it down if Imane got the idea that he was into Eliott, and then caught wind from her brother that Eliott didn’t feel the same. And he’d never want to put her in such a tricky situation, either.

But at the same time, he wants to know. He wants to know what kind of person Eliott is. He wants to know if Eliott is competitive, if he sleeps over at Imane’s a lot, if he and his girlfriend still talk, what kind of foods Eliott likes to eat, and if there’s any possibility that their night meant more to him like it did to Lucas. Wants to know if he woke up feeling as though he was missing something, similar to the way Lucas had felt like he was leaving something behind. Wants to know if Eliott felt the connection, too. If it felt like more without explanation.

It’s stupid. Lucas is being stupid. It was just a one night stand, nothing more. And besides, a boyfriend is the last thing Lucas needs right now.

He closes out Imane’s contact and pulls up Manon’s instead, typing out a quick message to her. Are you home?

Her response is almost immediate. Yeah. The door is unlocked. ❤️

Lucas tucks his phone in his pocket and tries to calm the beating of his heart. It’s just a one night stand. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a one night stand. It doesn’t mean anything. He repeats it over and over to himself, like a mantra. He tries to clear his mind until that’s the only thing left.

True to her word, Manon’s door is unlocked when Lucas gets there. She greets him with a small smile and a warm mug of tea, and Lucas nearly melts just at that. But he manages to hold it together enough to join her on the couch, and whisper that he doesn’t really feel like watching TV.

“Did something happen?” She asks, her voice soft and quiet. It reminds Lucas of how Eliott sounded, when they sat on the windowsill the night before.

“Yeah, kind of,” Lucas murmurs, staring down at his tea. He moves it a little in his hand, watches how it swirls in the cup. “I went home with someone after Daphné’s party last night.”

“Okay,” Manon nods. “How do you feel about that?”

Lucas shrugs. “I don’t know. I didn’t want to hook up with anyone, originally. But he and I, we just… We went to smoke, and one thing led to another. I made a move on him, actually.” He swallows hard, and then tries to take a sip of tea. But even that small bit of liquid makes him a bit nauseated, so he puts the cup down on the table. “He was just different, Manon. I really liked him. As hard against hooking up as I was, he made me forget that. And I tried to explain it away as him just being really hot, but I can’t stop thinking about him. Not since I left his place this morning.”

“It’s okay to be attracted to him, Lucas. There’s no, like, right time to move on after a breakup. If you really like this guy, then that’s okay.”

“I’m not in a relationship type of headspace, Manon. There’s no way I could be a good boyfriend right now, and… I don’t know.”

“There’s no shame in letting it remain a one night stand, either. If you don’t want to see him again, you don’t have to.”

“I do want to see him again,” Lucas admits, and Manon nods like she already knew that. “I do. I just don’t know if a relationship is a good idea. Hell, I don’t even know if he feels the same about me.”

“If you never try, you’ll never know.” She reaches out to touch his hand, squeezing a little when Lucas turns his palm so she can hold it. “What’s his name?”

“Eliott. He’s friends with Imane’s brother.”

Manon smiles, “That’s a hot guy name. You should ask Imane to organize a way for you two to ‘accidentally’ meet again. That way you can see each other and find out how you two feel, without you having to put yourself out there to make a move.”

Would Imane even do that for me? She’d laugh in my face. “Yeah. I’ll think about it. In the meantime, though, do you mind if I take a nap? I didn’t sleep much last night, and I need a clear mind.”

“I’m sure you didn’t,” Manon teases, to which Lucas rolls his eyes. She sounds exactly like Yann. Why is Lucas friends with these people? “You’re always welcome to stay, Lucas. I’ll just go do some homework, come get me if you need anything.” She kisses his forehead and then walks over to her bed, while Lucas settles on the couch and closes his eyes.

*

Lucas goes to work later that afternoon, after a long nap at Manon’s and a quick lunch back at home. He’d turned down offers of plans with the boys after work in order to officially make dinner plans with Imane. After sleep and food, Lucas’s clear mind had decided that talking to Imane was the best thing to do. She’s the only one that could possibly help Lucas get over this stupid crush—help him nip it in the bud, before it blooms into something bigger.

Do you want to go to dinner with me after I get off of work? Anywhere you want, I’ll pay!! Lucas sends the text and then turns his phone off, practically throwing it onto the circulation desk. He’s not sure why he’s so nervous, but he’s bitten three nails down to the nub before Imane responds.

What do you want?

Lucas swears. Imane knows everything. He swears he’s not that transparent with anyone else, but Imane always seems to have the innate ability to see right through him.

Just to talk, it’s been a while. You can meet me here at 7pm? :)

He can feel the suspicion from miles away when Imane responds with, Whatever you say, Lucas. See you at seven.

Naturally, he spends the rest of the shift freaking out about it and nearly cancelling the plans. He thinks of every possible way to say hey Imane, that guy that you introduced me to—Eliott—he’s a really cool guy and I was hoping maybe you could tell me more about him? and promptly decides that all possible ways are both creepy and embarrassing. Anything he could say would simply make Imane narrow her eyes at him in that way that she does, and she’d ask him why he wants to know about Eliott and then stare at him until he answers truthfully.

Not that he’s really all that worried about her knowing, honestly. She may give him a hard time, but he knows that Imane would never seriously mock him or anything. And she’d probably be really helpful. But Lucas can’t swallow the fear that what he’s doing is too much, and that he’s just going to make an ass of himself over someone who was just looking to fuck. Lucas practically threw himself at Eliott, for fuck’s sake.

There’s just not even really a point to it, other than to calm Lucas’s mind. Even if Eliott did feel the same, Lucas isn’t up for a serious commitment right now. He’s not even sure that he’s up for a casual commitment. All rhyme and reason should be telling him to forget about Eliott. He doesn’t know why he can’t stop thinking about him.

At 6:58pm, the bell above the library door rings. Lucas looks up from where he’s just finishing up checking a student’s books out, and offers her a small smile before turning back to the student. Once she’s left with her books, Imane walks up to the circulation desk with her arms folded and her eyes already narrowed. Lucas should’ve known she’d come locked and loaded.

“Is this about Eliott?” Imane asks, without any preamble. Lucas’s eyes widen in shock, and his mind scrambled to understand how in the world Imane knows about him. As transparent as he may be to her, there’s no way she could tell that from just a few texts and one glance at him. “I heard from Idriss. Apparently he saw you two leave together, and then when he asked Eliott about it this morning, Eliott started talking about you.”

Lucas has a lot of things he wants to say, but what comes out is, “Eliott was talking about me?”

Imane rolls her eyes. “Idriss didn’t say much. Just that Eliott was asking him about you, like if Idriss knew you and stuff. I figured you were coming to me to ask the same sort of questions about Eliott.” She scans him over a couple of times and then leans back, tilting her chin up in appraisal. “My assumption is correct, isn’t it?”

“Maybe,” Lucas admits, wincing when Imane rolls her eyes. “I’m sorry. I know it’s weird and creepy, and I’m sorry if you feel like I’m using you, I just… I’m kind of freaking out, here.”

Imane sighs, shifting her weight between her feet and then cutting a look at him again. “Go clock out, then. You promised me dinner, and I’m not going to wait all night.”

They walk to the restaurant in awkward silence. Lucas isn’t really that surprised. He’s way too nervous to just start asking questions, and he knows that Imane won’t offer any information unless Lucas asks for it. He presumes that’s to respect Eliott’s privacy—or possibly just a way for her to get Lucas to start begging and making promises, like promises to pay for her dinner.

Imane picks an Italian restaurant that’s close to Lucas’s apartment, and they sit in a booth towards the back. It’s relatively private, and Lucas wonders briefly if the staff thought that he and Imane were on a date. I should start dressing gayer. I want to give off gay vibes.

“So,” Imane says, interrupting Lucas’s thoughts of tight jeans and rolled sleeves, “what did you want to know about him?”

“Anything,” Lucas shrugs, a little sheepish. “I don’t know. I don’t really know anything about him.”

“Are you into him?”

“In a way. But I don’t think I’m ever going to see him again.”

Imane cocks her head, and stares at Lucas. Her eyes are so fierce and hard that Lucas feels like she’s staring directly into his soul. “If you don’t plan on seeing him again, then why do you want to know about him?” She asks, and Lucas just shrugs again. It’s like that’s all he can do, say he doesn’t know. “He’s two years older than us, he went to school with my brother, he’s into graphic design, and he’s one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. He’s the type that would do anything for you.”

“Is he a morning person?” Lucas murmurs, thoughts flitting back to earlier that morning, when he’d left before Eliott woke up.

“He is,” Imane confirms. “Sometimes he’d make his friends breakfast before they woke up. And he always made enough for me, too. He said that any sibling of Idriss’s is a sibling of his.”

Any friend of Imane’s is a friend of mine. “Oh. That’s nice of him,” Lucas grits out. His throat has suddenly gone dry and tight, like there’s an inisbible first holding on. “Do you, um… Do you know if he’s still talking to his ex-girlfriend or anything? I’d hate to find out that I got in the middle of something, since we… you know. After the party.”

“As far as I know, he hasn’t spoken to Lucille in a long time.” Imane leans closer, folding her arms and resting them on the table. “Are you jealous, Lucas?”

“Jealous? What are you talking about? I barely know the guy.”

“It sounds like you two got pretty well acquainted last night,” Imane retorts. Lucas’s cheeks heat, and then it spreads across his face. He’s positive he must look like a tomato. “Do you want his number?”

Lucas shakes his head, “No. I don’t know. I mean, I do, but I wouldn’t have the guts to text him first. Not without knowing for sure that our one night stand meant nothing. I really can’t get myself tied into a relationship.”

“You like him enough to consider a relationship with him? Lucas, you two just met last night.”

“...I know.”

“Oh, my God.” Imane scrubs her hands over her face while Lucas cowers. He knows he fucked up, but he isn’t quite sure how, and Imane doesn’t seem too keen on sharing. “Lucas, you need to talk to him and figure out what’s going on. Either you two like each other or you don’t, and my brother and I are not your postal service.”

“I don’t even know what I’d say.”

Imane snorts, “Anything. You’re just telling a boy that you like him and want to go out sometime. I don’t understand what’s so difficult about that.” She snatches Lucas’s phone from where he’d tucked it under his napkin, and then takes advantage of his lack of a password to open his phone. Mental note: add a passcode so your friends can’t do stupid shit on your phone.

She hands it back as quickly as she’d taken it, and Lucas finds himself staring at the contact name Eliott with the phone number right beneath it. Right there, in his very hand, Lucas holds the key that could either lock or open their relationship. It’s extremely terrifying.

“Text him,” Imane says. “Clear everything up, and then you can move on and you won’t be obsessing over it. Okay? You wouldn’t be freaking out so much if you’d talked it out with him this morning, before you made the walk of shame home.”

“I’ll have you know it was a very dignified bus ride of shame.”

“Oh, right, forgive me.” Imane digs into her plate of pasta then, and Lucas accepts that as the period at the end of the conversation. He has all the answers he needs, pretty much. All he needs now is courage.

For the rest of the meal, Lucas asks her about work and about Sofiane. He delights in the way the topics make her eyes soften and light up, like she’s talking about the only things in the world that matter. It makes Lucas overwhelmingly happy to see Imane so blissfully in love, such a contrast to how she’d been in high school. He always knew that she had a soft side, and it was so nice to finally see it. Sofiane is her kryptonite: no matter how badass Imane thinks she is, Sofiane has the power to melt her right down into a puddle.

Lucas is pretty sure he’s never seen her happier.

After dinner, Lucas walks her home, trying to search his mind for the right thing to say. He wants to wish her a good night and to congratulate her about finding Sofiane again, but he doesn’t know what to say about the other part. He doesn’t know how to go about thanking her for giving Lucas the possibility of communication.

“Just make sure you text him, okay?” Is all Imane says, when he tries to thank her on the stoop of her house. “Your thanks can be that, since I won’t ever have to listen to you pine over him again.”

Lucas figures it’s a fair trade.

*

“Did you text him?” Yann asks, once again back in the library annoying the fuck out of Lucas. He’s not shelving this time, instead he’s working the circulation desk like he had been the night before, and Yann had jumped on the opportunity to sit next to him and distract him from checking people’s books out.

It’s honestly like he’s on a personal mission to get Lucas fired.

“No, I didn’t,” Lucas admits, and Yann gives him an unimpressed glare. “I didn’t know what to say. I mean, it’s not normal to text your one night stand, is it? Especially if they’re not the one who gave you their number. It just felt creepy and weird, I don’t know.”

“You just say that Imane gave you his number and ask if he wants to go grab a coffee or something. That’s not creepy, that’s shooting your shot.”

Lucas rolls his eyes. “The only way that isn’t creepy is if he’s interested in me, too. And we have absolutely no proof that he feels the same way.”

“No proof? You two literally had sex two days ago, and he’s been asking Idriss about you. Why would he ask about you if he wasn’t interested?”

“To make sure he didn’t fuck some crazy stalker guy or something? I don’t know. We didn’t talk much before going back to his, and it’s normal to want to know about the person you stuck your dick in.”

“I didn’t need details,” Yann teases, prompting Lucas to shove his arm. Yann just laughs, pushing Lucas in return. “I’m just messing with you. You’re thinking way too hard about this, man. The worst he could do is say no.”

“He could also say yes, and think it’s a date.”

“Is it not a date?”

Lucas scoffs, “No, it’s not a date! You know I’m not looking for a relationship, Yann.”

Yann gives him a quizzical look, eyebrows furrowed and mouth dropped a little open. Lucas shifts uncomfortably under his gaze, knowing exactly what Yann is about to say. He knows because he knows how stupid it sounds. He knows he sounds ridiculous, for wanting to reach out to someone he slept with for seemingly no reason. If he doesn’t want a relationship or another booty call, there’s no reason to reach out again.

Lucas can’t help it, though. He has a crush, and he can’t stop thinking about Eliott. He just wants to see him again, be next to him again, hear his voice again. He knows it’s dumb, but he can’t bear the thought of never seeing Eliott again.

“So your plan was to text your one night stand and ask him to be friends?”

Yann’s voice is incredulous, and Lucas feels his cheeks heat up. “No. That’s why I haven’t texted him yet, Yann, don’t be ridiculous.” He opens the return drawer just for something to do, so he doesn’t have to look at Yann’s judgment anymore. “I might not ever text him. I can’t think of a good reason to.”

“Hit him up when you get horny,” Yann winks, making Lucas fumble the stack of returns he’d been holding. The noise of all the books falling startles the few patrons in the library, and Lucas gives them all the most apologetic smile he can manage. “Bro, are you usually like this? How do you still have this job?”

“Bro,” Lucas scowls, “you’re the one doing this. You’re going to get me fucking fired.”

“No, I won’t. You’re being dramatic. And anyway, you’d be bored here if I wasn’t— Oh, shit, someone’s walking up. Talk to you later Lulu.” And then Yann is gone—thank fuck—so Lucas puts his customer service face back on and smiles up at whoever is approaching the desk.

His smile falters when he sees Eliott standing there, smiling at Lucas nervously, bouncing on his toes with his one hand shoved in his jacket pockets. He looks so nervous and Lucas can’t place why, because Lucas isn’t the type of boy that can make boys nervous. He never made Gabriel nervous.

Lucas forces the professional smile back onto his face, trying to hold back his own nerves. He doesn’t want Eliott to think that he caught feelings, nor does he want Eliott to think that Lucas isn’t happy to see him.

Eliott is clutching two books in his free hand, and he nervously hands them both over. “I, uh. I wanted to check these out,” Eliott murmurs, and Lucas feels his heart begin to sink. Maybe Eliott wasn’t here to see him at all, and it was just unlucky coincidence that he happened to walk into the library where Lucas works.

“Yeah, no problem. Can I just see your library card?” Eliott holds it up for Lucas to scan, and then hands over his books so he can scan those, too.

“So,” Eliott says, clearing his throat and rocking back on his feet again, “I, uh. I didn’t exactly picture you working in a library.”

Lucas laughs, “You didn’t see me being friends with Imane, either. You need to work on your people-reading skills a bit, don’t you?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Eliott chuckles. He still sounds impossibly nervous and can barely hold eye contact, even as Lucas hands him back his books. “Um, while I’ve got your attention, though… I was wondering if—and feel free to say no, it’s totally fine—but I was wondering if you wanted to come over and watch a movie tonight, maybe. If you want. Or we can go out and watch a movie, if you’d prefer that. Whatever you want. If you’re interested. It’s totally fine if you’re not.”

For a long moment, Lucas just stares at him. Not only because he has no idea what to say, but also because he can’t believe this is actually happening. He never thought Eliott would actually feel the same, much less come all the way to Lucas’s place of work to ask him out.

Unless…

“Is this a booty call?” Lucas asks, because he has to know. Not because he’s opposed to the idea—he’s definitely not—but because he doesn’t want to make himself look stupid by assuming Eliott is interested in him romantically.

“What? No! No, of course not! No. I mean… Not that I don’t want to have sex with you, I mean, we had a great time. Or I did, at least. And, like, I wouldn’t mind having sex again but it’s not my end goal, I just— I’m really making this worse, aren’t I?” Eliott asks, smiling a little as Lucas starts to laugh. “I’m sorry. But, uh, no. I was just asking if you wanted to watch a movie. If, you know. If that’s okay.”

Lucas nearly chokes on his spit, eyes bugging out of his head as he realized Eliott is serious. And not only is he serious, but he’s fucking nervous. He’s nervous to ask Lucas out. Lucas. After how confident he was the night of the party, it’s fucking weird to see him so shy and scared.

It’s beginning to feel like he’s stepped into The Twilight Zone.

“I hope you don’t think it’s weird that I showed up here,” Eliott barrels on, clearly made even more nervous by Lucas’s evident shock and silence. “I actually come here sometimes, but I… I asked Imane if there was any way I could contact you without creeping you out, and she said you worked here, and that I should drop by. The plan was to pretend I came here totally by coincidence, you know, but uh. I guess I spoiled that by now. Is that creepy? I’m sorry, I just really wanted to see you again. Not because of the sex, although I swear that was good and all, but I also just really like you. Maybe that’s weird, I mean we barely know each other and—”

“Eliott, relax,” Lucas interrupts, giggling a little when Eliott blushes and starts rocking on his feet again. “It’s fine. I actually got your number from Imane. I was going to text you but never could figure out what to say.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. But, um. There’s something we need to talk about, regarding the whole date thing. I get off in thirty minutes, maybe then I could come over and we could talk and, if you’re still interested after that, watch the movie you were talking about?”

Eliott grins, “Yeah, of course. Yeah. Okay. Great. I’ll see you in half an hour, then?”

“You could send me your address, if you want.”

“No, I’ll pick you up and walk you there. Half an hour. Promise.” He smiles again and then hurries out of the library, seemingly unable to wipe the smile off of his face.

It makes guilt swirl in Lucas’s stomach to know that he’s going to wipe it right off later.

*

Eliott’s apartment looks exactly like Lucas remembers, though he notices more about it now that he’s paying attention. It’s clean, for the most part, messy only with art supplies and a few articles of clothing here and there. There’s obscure paintings and movie posters on the wall, and there are some hand-drawn pieces scattered about, which Eliott claims to be his own. There’s also scented candles everywhere, and Eliott lights three of them. His roommate is, apparently, out for the night with his girlfriend, giving the entire apartment to themselves.

They sit on the couch, with two cups of tea between them. Eliott still seems impossibly nervous and tense, but Lucas can’t laugh at him for it anymore because his own stomach is torn up in knots. He hates to do what he’s about to do, but he knows he has to. He has to set the boundary with Eliott before they get wrapped up in something there’s no coming back from.

Eliott breaks the silence first. “You said you wanted to talk to me about something?” He asks, and Lucas nods wordlessly. “Should I be worried?”

“No, it’s nothing bad,” Lucas murmurs. Eliott relaxes a little, leaning back on the couch and shifting his body towards Lucas. “I just… Um, I just wanted to clarify something. Is this a date?”

“Do you want it to be?” Eliott asks. Lucas levels him with a look, and Eliott blushes again. He’s beautiful when he blushes, but it makes Lucas think of how pink his cheeks had gotten right before he came—which should really be the last thing on his mind. “It was intended to be one, yes. It’s what I had in mind when I asked you.”

“Then you should know, Eliott, that… That I’m not dating right now. And it has nothing to do with you, I promise. It’s just that I just got out of a long-term relationship, and the breakup was really hard. I’m not really in a relationship place right now. I’m sorry. I totally understand if you don’t want to just be friends, but if you do, then I’m more than willing to. Be friends, I mean. I really do like being around you, and I want to get to know you better and spend time with you. I’m just not ready for anything more right now.”

For a long couple of seconds, Eliott doesn’t say anything. His gaze flickers between his tea and his hands, and Lucas feels himself start to panic. Eliott is going to tell him that he doesn’t want to be just friends, and Lucas is going to have to leave with his tail tucked between his legs and never see Eliott again.

He starts to stand up, wiping his hands on his jeans. “I’m sorry, I’ll just go. I really am sorry, Eliott.” He turns to leave, then, only to end up with Eliott’s hand on his wrist, pulling him to sit down on the couch again.

“It’s okay,” Eliott replies, and he’s finally making eye contact. He looks earnest, if not also a little disappointed. “I mean, I don’t mind being your friend. I promise. Like you said, I just want to get to know you. Being friends is okay. More than okay. I’m a great friend, I’ll have you know. The best.”

“My best friend is Yann, actually,” Lucas teases, making Eliott rolls his eyes. He’s smiling again, though, and that’s all Lucas cares about. “I’m glad you’re okay with being friends. I really didn’t want to leave.”

Eliott laughs a little bit, reaching out to touch Lucas’s arm. The touch burns and crackles like fire, but Lucas forces himself to ignore it. “I’m glad you didn’t leave. And I’m glad you didn’t just reject me at the library.” He takes his hand back, and then nods towards the television stand. “Do you still want to watch a movie?”

“Yeah, sure. What movies do you have?”

Eliott gets up, going to a drawer and opening it. He pulls out DVD after DVD (who even watches DVDs anymore?) until finally holding up three options. There’s Romeo + Juliet, Call Me By Your Name, and Casablanca. Lucas has to bite his tongue to keep from teasing him for his film choices—seriously, doesn’t Eliott have any action movies—and just shrugs to let Eliott know that he should pick.

He ends up picking Romeo + Juliet, and Lucas once again has to force himself not to say anything about it. Eliott puts it in the DVD player and then sits back down on the couch, much closer to Lucas than he was before. So close that their thighs are just touching.

Lucas decides not to say anything.

“This is one of my favorite movies,” Eliott says, after about twenty minutes of watching the movie in semi-awkward silence. “It’s really romantic, don’t you think? And, you know, it’s always nice to look at Leonardo DiCaprio.”

That much is true, at least. “I can’t say I’ve ever thought of Romeo and Juliet as the epitome of romance,” Lucas murmurs, watching as Romeo moves about on the screen. “To me, it always just seemed really cliché. And, more than that, it’s really creepy.”

“How can it be cliché? This was written before tragic romance became a cliché.”

“Still,” Lucas argues, to which Eliott gives him an offended glance. “I’m sorry, I just don’t see how a relationship that lasted less than a week and caused multiple deaths is something to idealize.”

“Oh, come on, Lucas. You can’t be that jaded to romance.” Eliott pulls his legs up on the couch, and turns to face Lucas even more. They’re so close now that Lucas can smell his cologne. “It’s true love. They’re meant for each other, like soulmates, and they’d rather die than be apart. And their relationship didn’t cause the deaths, the stupid feud between the families did. If anything, their families caused Romeo and Juliet’s deaths. They were kids, they should’ve been allowed to love each other.”

Lucas snorts. “There’s no such thing as true love, Eliott. And there’s certainly no such thing as soulmates. You can say that I’m jaded or cynical or whatever, but it’s the truth. Love always ends, one way or another.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Eliott begins, voice teasing but also soft and sincere, “but I think that’s just the breakup talking.”

“It’s not. I’ve never believed in true love. If people stay married for a long time, it isn’t because of fate. It’s because they made the choice and worked hard at their relationship. They made the choice. People aren’t just, to use your words, ‘made for each other’. That isn’t how the universe works.”

“Are you telling me, Lucas Lallemant, that you really don’t believe in soulmates?”

He knows my last name. It steals Lucas’s breath right out of his lungs, leaving him helpless to do anything other than gasp out, “Yes.”

Eliott hums, and suddenly he seems much, much closer than he was before. When Lucas can breathe again, all he inhales is pure Eliott, and it’s dizzyingly heady. “I’ll have to change your mind on that, then. Shouldn’t take me too long. I can be very persuasive.” He winks at Lucas and then, as quickly as he was there, Eliott is suddenly a safe distance away again.

Lucas can still feel the heat of their thighs pressed together, though.

They sit in silence again, but it’s much more charged than it had been, electricity replacing the awkwardness. Lucas feels like he’s stretched too tight in his skin, and his fingers and feet keep tapping with pent up energy. All he wants to do is reach out and touch, to take Eliott apart under his ministrations and make him come again.

All thoughts of Romeo + Juliet fly out of his mind, and are quickly replaced with flashbacks to two nights ago. Suddenly, all he can picture are his legs around Eliott’s waist, the heavy press of Eliott inside him, the hot taste of Eliott’s tongue in his mouth. He can feel his pants growing tighter and tighter with every second that passes, and he’s beginning to panic because he and Eliott are sitting so close that it’s only a matter of time before Eliott notices.

“This is my favorite scene,” Eliott whispers, and Lucas tries his hardest to focus on what’s happening. He tries to watch as Romeo and Juliet spend their wedding night together, but it does nothing to remedy his situation. All he can focus on is Eliott, always fucking Eliott.

And it terrifies him, how much space Eliott is taking up in his mind after only two days. It makes him feel a bit silly for mocking Romeo and Juliet for their quick relationship when he’s feeling so strongly for Eliott after only forty-eight hours. No matter how much he tries to tell himself it’s just the excitement of new attraction that’s making him feel so obsessive, it just won’t settle in his brain. No amount of rationalizing can stop Lucas from thinking that this time is different.

It’s fucking terrifying. Lucas’s heart is pounding for more reasons than one, and he’s torn between wanting to run for the hills and wanting to fuck Eliott into the mattress. As scared as he is of getting hurt, he’s just as scared if not more to lose Eliott. He shouldn’t be this scared of losing someone he barely knows. None of this should be happening.

Just as Lucas starts to get really riled up, only seconds away from getting up to excuse himself to the bathroom, Eliott shifts. He moves so their thighs are no longer touching, and Lucas’s body stops burning from the inside out at the loss. He can’t find it within himself to be relieved, despite how quickly it clears his head.

And then Eliott’s hand is on his thigh, and it all comes rushing back.

Lucas’s head snaps up, and he looks at Eliott incredulously. But Eliott isn’t even paying attention to him. He’s just staring ahead at the movie, seemingly enraptured. If Lucas wasn’t able to see the quick rise and fall of Eliott’s breathing, he probably would’ve believed that Eliott was genuinely unaffected.

Eliott’s hand doesn’t move for a while, and Lucas knows it’s because he’s giving Lucas a chance to push it away. He’s testing Lucas’s resolve, seeing if he was serious about just being friends. It’s like he knows that Lucas is losing his mind with lust, like he knows that Lucas wants nothing more than to kiss him again. Maybe Lucas is more transparent than he thought.

Part of him wants to push Eliott’s hand away. He knows it would be for the better. He’s not in the place for a relationship, and he’ll continue to be firm about that. No matter what happens between them, they will never be an official couple. And Eliott needs to know that. Lucas needs to push his hand away and make it clear that nothing is ever going to happen between them because Lucas is fucked in the head and can’t trust love, and he needs to leave Eliott the fuck alone because it isn’t fair to lead him on.

A bigger, more selfish part of him is horny and desperate for Eliott’s touch. That part wins. Just as Juliet’s body is being moved, Eliott’s hand slides up and settles over the bulge in Lucas’s jeans. He waits this time, too, but Lucas isn’t having it. He thrusts his hips up to rub against Eliott’s palm, which Eliott takes as the encouragement it is and begins to rub Lucas off through his jeans.

For a while, Lucas thinks that’ll be enough. He thinks he can do with some quick handjobs and then they can move on with the movie and go back to how it was. But then he starts going back to two nights ago once more, and his skin itches and crawls, and he can’t take it. Before Romeo can even find Juliet’s body, Lucas is straddling Eliott’s lap and searing their lips together.

Everything happens in a blur from then on. They grind against each other until it’s unbearable, and then they start ripping clothes off and tossing them haphazardly around the room. Grinding through just their underwear also quickly becomes not enough, and Eliott carries Lucas to his bedroom without even bothering to pause the movie.

They don’t make out for long before Lucas is flipping them, pressing Eliott into the pillows and straddling Eliott just as he had before. He kisses down his chest and then slides off Eliott’s briefs, and swallows Eliott down in one practiced movement. The sensation makes Eliott thrust into his mouth, which Lucas takes with such grace and ease that Eliott actually begins to fuck Lucas’s mouth. Lucas welcomes the weight of Eliott on his tongue, and pulls out all the stops he knows of, trying to make the best blowjob he can.

All in all, Lucas is happy to get Eliott off with just his mouth. It ends up being Eliott who pulls Lucas off his cock and breathes out, “I wanna fuck you.” And Lucas, still slowly going out of his mind, is in no place to turn that offer down.

Lucas sinks down onto Eliott’s cock then and there, after only a couple of minutes of sloppy fingering. The stretch burns a little, but Lucas gets off on it. He gets off on the way Eliott can fill him up and stretch him out like no one ever has before, and he tells Eliott as much. For a moment, they both think the admission will make Eliott shoot off way too early, but Eliott manages to get a hold of himself and instead he just starts to fuck up into Lucas.

Between the sinful undulations of Lucas’s hips mixed with his unforgiving bounces and Eliott’s rough jackknifing thrusts, neither of them were ever going to last that long. Thankfully though, neither of them seem too keen on dragging it out, either. So when Lucas moans out that he’s close and please, Eliott, fuck me harder, baby, please, I need it, Eliott takes it in stride and fucks him harder. He even wraps his hand around Lucas’s dick and jerks him off in time with his thrusts.

Lucas comes first, practically screaming out Eliott’s name as he spills between them. He doesn’t even finish going through the aftershocks before Eliott is flipping him over and fucking Lucas to chase his own orgasm, thrusts rough and sloppy. He follows shortly after, and comes with a whimper of Lucas’s name, whispered right into the crook of Lucas’s neck.

They lay there for a few minutes after, trying to calm down and catch their breath. Eliott is collapsed half on top of Lucas, their arms and legs are still tangled around each other, and cum is drying between them; yet neither of them want to move. Lucas finds that quite terrifying, too.

“I’m serious, Eliott,” Lucas whispers out, when he thinks he has enough breath back to actually speak. “This doesn’t change the fact that I just want to be friends.”

Eliott nods, swallowing hard. “I know. It doesn’t have to change anything. We’re just friends.” He looks up, rests his chin on Lucas’s pec so they can make eye contact. “Friends who fuck sometimes.”

“Yeah,” Lucas laughs, still breathless. He brushes Eliott’s sweaty hair out of his eyes, and tries not to think of how his stubble is really quite painful on the skin of his chest. “Friends who fuck sometimes.”

More silence, but it’s not awkward. It’s comfortable, really, to just listen to the sounds of Eliott’s breathing mixed with the soft audio still coming from the TV in the other room. Lucas doesn’t feel out of place here, he actually feels like he’s just come home after a long trip—like he’s safe and warm and not alone anymore.

Terrifying.

“Hey, Eliott?” Lucas whispers, as the fear creeps up his spine and threatens to chill his bones. You can’t do this, this is stupid, you’re being stupid, you’re only going to get hurt, what the fuck are you doing, why are you so stupid? “What’s your last name?”

Eliott chuckles a little, so Lucas does too, just to seem blasé. Like he’s not freaking out.

Eliott knows his name, so it’s only normal for Lucas to want to know his. If they’re going to be friends, then it’s normal to want to know his name. They’re not strangers anymore, they’re friends. Just friends. Friends who fuck sometimes, sure, but ultimately just friends. There’s nothing to be afraid of. There’s no reason to want to run from this. There’s no reason to want to hide.

You’re just going to get hurt.

“Demaury.”

Chapter Text

It’s remarkable, how quickly Eliott goes from a stranger to the one person Lucas knows better than anyone.

That isn’t something he’d say out loud to someone else, especially Yann, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. It only takes a couple of weeks for them to become attached at the hip, and only a couple of months for them to go from Lucas and Eliott to LucasandEliott—like you can’t have one without the other. And it’s true enough: Lucas can’t remember the last time he did anything without Eliott either by his side physically or by his side metaphorically (typically via constant text message updates).

Once again, this is not something he’d say out loud, but it’s remarkable how quickly Eliott becomes his best friend.

Do you want to come over? Eliott’s text reads, and Lucas twitches with the urge to text back that yes, yes he absolutely does. But he can’t say that. He’d promised the boys that he’d hang out with them tonight, after a lot of guilt-tripping that was, quite frankly, highly unnecessary.

Lucas knew they were only being dramatic when they said that they hadn’t seen him in three months, but he caved anyway. He wasn’t oblivious, he knew how much he’d been bailing on the boys to hang out with Eliott. He always felt shitty about it. But he couldn’t help it. He always wanted to be with Eliott, and everything Eliott wanted to do always sounded so much more fun than whatever the boys had planned—even if all Eliott wanted to do was nothing. Just being next to Eliott was fun, really.

Somewhere deep down, Lucas figures there’s something more going on with that. But every time he thinks about it, he just pushes it down harder and drowns it with cheap wine. It usually works.

“Is that Eliott?” Arthur asks, making Lucas startle when he looks up. “I’ll take your expression as a yes. What does he want?”

“Nothing,” Lucas lies, pocketing his phone. He’ll have to respond to Eliott later, when he isn’t being scrutinized by the boys. “He was just asking if I was busy. Which I am, obviously, so.”

“And you want to leave to go hang out with him, don’t you?”

Lucas scoffs, “What? No. Why would I want to ditch you guys?” And it’s not even really a lie. He doesn’t only want to hang out with the boys because he feels guilty, of course. As he’s spending time with them, he’s realizing that he really did miss them. He may be close with Eliott now, but these guys are still his friends, and they’ve been his friends for years. Lucas would never drop them for anyone.

Basile rolls his eyes. “That’s all you’ve been doing for the past three months, bro. Apparently your boyfriend is more fun to hang out with than your best friends.” He’s teasing, but Lucas can hear the underlying sincerity in his tone.

“First of all, he’s not my boyfriend. And secondly, that’s not true. I like hanging out with you guys. I’m sorry that I’ve been spending a lot of time with Eliott, I know that’s shitty of me. I promise I’ll time manage a lot better.”

“No one’s mad at you, Lulu,” Yann interjects. Relief floods through Lucas when he steps in, because Yann knows more than the other boys. He doesn’t know about Eliott and Lucas’s arrangement, of course, but he knows about Lucas’s feelings for them. He’s known since the beginning. And it’s nice to know that he understands—especially considering how often Yann left him out when he was dating Emma. If anyone understands, it’s him. “We just miss you, bro.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Arthur says, “it’s not a big deal. Like you said, you just need to time manage. We’ll hang out more, and you’ll still have plenty of time to hang out with your boyfriend.”

“Not my boyfriend.”

Basile and Arthur continue to tease him about Eliott being his boyfriend, but Yann doesn’t join in. Lucas figures he knows why: because Yann doesn’t want to give anything away. He doesn’t want the boys to know that Lucas has (or had) real feelings for Eliott. And Lucas appreciates that, tries to make eye contact with Yann to convey that.

They crack open the beers soon enough, and then settle down in front of the TV to play video games. Lucas plays two rounds of FIFA before he’s passing the controller off to Basile, and then he sits on the bed and observes. He spends some time making comments and getting super invested in the game—just so he can be sure that none of the boys get suspicious when Lucas takes out his phone again.  

He has five more texts from Eliott, four of them consisting of just question marks while the fifth and final just says, I’ll take that as a no, I guess?

Lucas bites his lip and quickly types out a response, eyes flickering up every now and again to make sure none of the boys are watching him.

Sorry, I’m with the boys, haven’t really been on my phone. They’ve been on my ass recently about spending too much time with you, so I have to give them my undivided attention or else they’ll get needy.

He presses send and, almost immediately, Eliott’s read receipt pops up. Lucas watches the typing bubble show up and disappear four times before Eliott’s reply comes through.

Ah. Sorry about that, I didn’t know I was taking away your time with your friends.

There’s a sad emoji on the end of it, and it kind of breaks Lucas’s heart.

It’s not your fault. They’re just being dramatic, I promise.

Eliott responds, Maybe you can come over after? You can spend the night if you want. I’ll even make you breakfast in the morning :D

Talk about an offer I can’t refuse. I’ll text you when I’m on the way.

“Lucas.”

Lucas looks up from his phone to see Arthur staring at him, extending the controller to him. Lucas pockets his phone again and accepts it, taking his turn. It’s easy to win against Basile, so before long, Yann is taking Basile’s place.

“Texting him again?” Yann whispers, when they’re sitting close enough together that the other two boys won’t be able to hear.

“No. Mika was just… asking when I’d be home. Manon was making dinner or something.”

“You don’t have to lie to me,” Yann says. “You get this look on your face when you text him. It’s okay, you know. I know you like him.”

Lucas shrugs, shifting his focus back to the game. As much as he wants to confide everything in Yann, he knows that’s dangerous. He knows he needs to just shove it all down and focus on being friends with Eliott. After all, that’s what he wanted.

“That’s irrelevant. He and I really are just friends.”

“You two just being friends doesn’t make your feelings for him irrelevant,” Yann murmurs, making Lucas bristle. He’s sure Yann can feel how he tenses up, and by the way Yann sighs, he knows that Yann can tell he’s closing up. They’ve been here before—Yann has been dealing with Lucas’s crazy relationship bullshit since before they’d even had their first kisses.

It isn’t their first time doing this, but Lucas is sure that Yann is over it by now. Lucas is, too. He wishes he knew how to stop it, how to allow himself to open up to risk and vulnerability. As it is, though, he’d rather die than let anyone take a hammer and chisel to his stone walls. They took way too long to build, and besides, the last time he let someone in, it didn’t end too well.

They focus on playing the game after that. Or Lucas tries to, at least. Yann ends up winning so Lucas passes off the controller and immediately takes out his phone again, fingers trembling as he types a message to Eliott without even reading Eliott’s earlier response.

Actually, I think I’ll be with the boys all night. Rain check, though? After work tomorrow?

This time, he puts his phone across the room and leaves it on Do Not Disturb.

*

The phone rings four times before the line picks up, and Lucas can’t help but smile into the receiver as he hears the quiet, “Hello?”

“Hi, I’m trying to reach Eliott Demaury.”

“That’s me.”

“Hi, Mr. Demaury, I’m Lucas and I’m calling from the public library. We have record that you currently have two overdue library books, and I wanted to warn you that, if the books aren’t returned by the end of the day, we will start charging you a late fee.”

For a long moment, Eliott’s end of the line is quiet. Really quiet. But then he’s laughing, so bright and so beautiful, that Lucas has to cover his mouth with the receiver to hide the fact that he’s giggling, too. The library is much too full this afternoon for Lucas to be caught fucking around on the clock.

“I see,” Eliott chuckles, “and what books do I have checked out again?”

“You have The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood and Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf currently checked out under your name.”

“Hmm. I have to return them by the end of the day, you said?”

“Yes,” is all Lucas replies, “the end of the day.”

Eliott clicks his tongue, like he’s thinking really hard about it, and Lucas finds himself giggling again. He knows that, if any of the boys were here, he’d never hear the end of the fond look that’s undoubtedly taken residence on his face. But he’s alone right now, save for the library patrons (but they’re not paying him any mind). So Lucas lets himself smile and laugh into the phone.

“Alright. I’ll be there within the next hour.”

“Sounds good, Mr. Demaury. I look forward to seeing you,” Lucas grins. Eliott makes a quick, snarky remark, something explicit that Lucas can’t repeat, which makes him giggle once again. “And for that, you should also bring a snack to the circulation desk. Preferably chocolate. Our librarian on duty deserves it, since he’ll have to spend his time shelving your late books and waiving the late fee you’ve already built up.”

Eliott gasps, “I thought you said I wouldn’t have a late fee if I brought my books back today!”

“Yeah, because I’ve already paid off your late fee for the past couple of days,” Lucas explains. When Eliott stays quiet, Lucas quickly adds, “Don’t freak out about it, it’s not that big of a deal. Just hurry up and get your ass down here, my shift ends in forty-five minutes and I really want a snack.”

“Your wish is my command, babe,” Eliott laughs, and Lucas feels his heart flutter. Babe. “See you in a bit.” Lucas returns the sentiment and then, even long after Eliott hangs up, holds the phone to his chest. Babe.

He called me babe.

To pass the time, Lucas busies himself with going through the drawer of returns in between checking people out. He feels like he’s going on autopilot as he does, his mind going on a loop of babe babe babe babe babe, Eliott’s voice echoing through his skull.

When the bell above the door rings about forty-five minutes later, it takes all of Lucas’s strength not to jump up immediately. Instead, he acts as though he wasn’t waiting, looking up from his ‘work’ distractedly. (Despite the act, though, he’s unable to hide his smile when he sees Eliott walking up to him. Thankfully, Eliott is smiling, too.)

“Here are the books you so rudely called my personal cell phone to find, Mr. Librarian,” Eliott sighs, pushing both books across the desk to Lucas. “And here’s my payment for the late fees.” A bag of Michokos follows the books, which Lucas accepts gratefully.

“Thank you, Mr. Demaury,” Lucas teases, attempting (and failing) to wink. It’s a little embarrassing, but worth it for how it makes Eliott giggle. “I’m just about to clock out, if you wanted to come to my place.”

“And you couldn’t text me and ask me to come over like a normal person?”

“Your books were overdue!” Lucas exclaims, putting Eliott’s returns in the drawer. He’ll let the next librarian put them away. “Besides, you usually walk me home anyway, so what’s it matter?”

Eliott rolls his eyes as Lucas clocks out and then crosses to the other side of the circulation desk. In the background, Lucas hears the next librarian come through the staff room, so he starts to lead the way out of the library.

“You’re so spoiled,” Eliott says, sighing and then draping an arm around Lucas’s shoulder. Lucas lets himself lean into the touch, just a little. “So, what are we going to do once we get to your apartment, Lulu?”

“Lulu is reserved for Yann only,” Lucas warns, to which Eliott only laughs and tightens his grip around Lucas’s shoulders. “But, uh. Whatever you want. My roommates are out of town.”

Eliott hums, glancing over at Lucas and wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. Lucas laughs, digging his elbow into Eliott’s side and whispering for him to grow up. “Sex is pretty grown up, Lucas. One of the most adult things we could do, actually. And, coincidentally, one of the most fun. If you’re up for it. It’s been a while.”

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“A week and two days,” Eliott replies, smiling mischievously, “but who’s counting?”

The second they get through the apartment door, Eliott has him pressed against the wall. Lucas laughs into the kiss but responds eagerly to it, because it has been a week and two days, and Lucas is only human. He kisses like he needs it to breathe, and when Eliott’s hands make their way to Lucas’s thighs, he doesn’t hesitate to jump up. Eliott holds him there against the wall and thrusts against him, until Lucas can’t bear the feeling of the jeans between them, and is begging to go to bed.

Eliott doesn’t oblige immediately. He puts Lucas down and cradles his cheeks, kissing him senseless—and it’s a damn good kiss, but he wants more. He tries to put a thigh between Eliott’s legs, only for Eliott to completely dodge it and just keep kissing him. It’s infuriating.

“Eliott,” Lucas whines, “I thought you wanted to fuck.”

“I do. But we have all the time in the world.”

“Maybe so, but my dick might fucking explode if you don’t touch me in the next three seconds.”

Eliott snorts, “Don’t be dramatic, baby.”

Baby. Lucas gulps, tries to fight the moan that’s suddenly desperate to break free. Baby, baby, baby, baby. How did we go from babe to baby?

Say it again.

“You’ll be okay,” Eliott continues, as he trails wet kisses down Lucas’s jaw towards his neck. “Be patient. I know you can. You can be good for me.”

Part of Lucas wants to laugh. He wants to smile and laugh and tease Eliott because be good for him? Really? What next, am I going to be your good boy? He wants to laugh, to poke fun. But the other part of him finds it so unbearably hot, finds himself spreading his legs wider and begging Eliott to please, please just touch him, without actually saying the words.

Because he wants to be good for him.

So he lets Eliott kiss him senseless, takes what he’s given and doesn’t complain. When Eliott finally starts walking him to the bedroom, he fights to maintain composure. And, when Eliott pushes him back on the bed and then moves to hover over him, Lucas doesn’t ask for a mile. Rather, he takes the inch and lets Eliott keep kissing him, and doesn’t breathe a word about how sticky his boxers have become.

“You’re a good kisser,” Eliott breathes. His lips trail away from Lucas’s lips, but hesitantly, like he can’t bear to part from them. They make a wet trail down to his collarbone and, once Eliott pulls Lucas’s shirt off, they continue to make their way down his chest. “So beautiful, baby. I want to taste you. Can I do that?”

“Fuck, please. Yes. Please.”

Eliott moves the kisses lower and lower, stopping at Lucas’s waistband. He pops the button and then, in one movement (though a slow movement), he pulls down Lucas’s jeans and underwear. Lucas flushes instantly, thinks how unfair it is that he’s completely naked and Eliott is still wearing a jacket, and he wants to say as much—has the statement on the tip of his tongue.

He doesn’t get the chance, though, because Eliott is kissing him again. On his hips this time. There’s precome smeared all over Lucas’s pelvis and if he was in the right state of mind, he’d probably be embarrassed. As it is, though, he’s too far gone to care about how he looks and can only think about how Eliott’s lips continuously trail tantalizingly close to where Lucas so desperately craves them.

Instead of flipping Lucas over to lick him out, as Lucas had presumed he wanted to do, Eliott starts licking at the precome smears. He moans as he goes, as if it tastes good, and Lucas knows there’s no way it does. It must taste salty, and even tangy with sweat from his skin. But Eliott isn’t complaining—quite the opposite, really. It makes Lucas squirm.

“Eliott,” Lucas breathes—his lungs are beginning to burn, his chest concaving as if there’s a lead weight sitting on his chest, “please. I need you to touch me, I need you. Please.” He’s beginning to feel deliriously desperate, vision fuzzing out at the sides and mouth running way too dry. He’s not sure how much more he can take, and they’ve only just started.

“I know, baby. I’m going to give you what you need.” He swallows Lucas down then, after extensive preamble, and Lucas can’t even moan. All of the breath has been ripped out of him.

Eliott knows how to use his tongue. Lucas has been made aware of that fact countless times over the past three months. Despite their arrangement, they lean more towards friends than lovers—though, at times like these, Lucas questions why. Every time he gets to have Eliott like this, he wonders why they don’t do this more often.

Lucas gets close embarrassingly fast, but he doesn’t have to say it. Eliott seems to know. He pulls off and trails his kisses all the way back up until he can plant them firmly on Lucas’s lips, like he’s planting seeds, like he wants them to bloom.

He expects Eliott to reach for the lube and condoms, but Eliott doesn’t. He just keeps kissing Lucas, like he can’t get enough, like Lucas is ice water and Eliott is parched, like they’re two lovers meeting each other for the last time, or perhaps the first. Lucas tries his best to take it in stride, tries to kiss Eliott with equal fervor, tries to be good. But his mind is swimming with want, and something heavier, and suddenly his skin is too tight for his body and it’s like he wants to press fast-forward on this moment when they’ve only been stuck in slow-motion.

“Eliott, seriously,” Lucas begs, and he’s sure the desperation is seeping into his voice now, and he’s sure that Eliott will respond.

And he does, but not how Lucas expects. He doesn’t lube up his fingers to stretch him out, or even reach down to touch his dick. Instead, he pulls back completely and, with a little furrow between his eyebrows and a deep frown settled on his face, asks if Lucas is okay.

The worst part about it is that the answer is no.

He isn’t, because this feels like lovemaking, this feels like body-worshipping, this feels like an intimate moment between two people who love each other body and mind, this feels like a moment that’s about pleasure beyond orgasms, this feels like way more than Lucas ever signed up for and it’s heavy, heavy, heavy, crushing his chest piece by piece until he’s turned to dust and left with nothing to hide behind, nothing left to use to pretend he doesn’t want this more than anything in the world, nothing—

And it’s too much, but he doesn’t say that. He just flips them over and tells Eliott yes, and he grabs the lube and sets to work on opening himself up. He’s in control, now.

“Baby,” Eliott moans, slightly conflicted, torn between pleasure and concern, “are you sure you’re okay? We don’t have to—”

“I told you, Demaury, that my dick was going to explode if you didn’t touch it. This is my response to my dick almost fucking exploding.”

It’s a lie, and he’s sure that Eliott knows because Eliott always does. Lucas knows Eliott better than anyone, but there’s a flip side to that: Eliott knows Lucas better than anyone, too.

So, to distract him, Lucas grabs his hand and puts it behind him, so Eliott can touch where Lucas’s fingers are disappearing inside of himself. It works, makes Eliott moan and close his eyes like he’s the one who can’t take it anymore.

Lucas gets him naked and then gets a condom on him, and then lifts up on his thighs so he can ride Eliott. But Eliott stops him, flips them over, and lines himself up without any hint of teasing. Lucas is grateful, but his skin is still thin and stretched, and he still feels seconds away from exploding.

“Please,” Lucas begs, and then Eliott pushes in.

He’s had Eliott inside of him more times than he can count—even been inside of Eliott a few times, too—but it’s a religious experience every time. Lucas is the antithesis of religious, but he feels it whenever they’re like this, feels everything spiritual and holy and he wonders if there’s some poetry in that, in the way that Eliott fucking him makes him want to write hymns made of moans and read gospel comprised of everything dirty that Eliott’s ever whispered.

His rhythm is slow, too slow, so Lucas works to make them faster. He fucks back as much as he can, wraps his legs around Eliott’s waist and tries to use that position to move Eliott’s hips. “We have all the time in the world,” Eliott tells him when he realizes what Lucas is doing, but it doesn’t feel that way. Lucas feels like he’s following a timer, or a ticking time bomb, or maybe both.

“I can’t take it anymore, I need to come,” Lucas begs, his hands scrambling against Eliott’s back, undoubtedly leaving angry scratch marks in their wake. “Please, please, I’ve been good, please.”

“Okay, baby. Relax. It’s okay. I’ve got you. I’m gonna make you feel good.”

Finally, Eliott picks up the brutal, rough pace that Lucas is so used to, and Lucas screams out his pleasure. He doesn’t want to think about why going slow makes him panic, he wants to allow himself to be consumed in the pleasure Eliott is giving him, he wants to lose himself, wants to let Eliott make good on his promise to make him feel good.

With every slap of skin on skin, Lucas’s chest unwinds, and he barrels closer and closer to his orgasm with every passing second.

Eliott slips his hand down between them and jerks Lucas off in time with his thrusts, and it only takes six strokes for Lucas to cry out his climax. In the back of his mind, he’s embarrassed that he didn’t last longer, but more so he’s relieved that all of the tension is finally released and the only feeling left in his body is pure euphoria. Eliott follows soon after, and then pulls out and collapses next to Lucas, leaving Lucas feeling empty and cold—actually a bit of relief.  

“That was so good,” Lucas breathes, “so fucking good. How do you always know how to fuck me right?”

Eliott hums, “Because I know you.” He scoots closer, pulls Lucas into his chest and buried his nose in Lucas’s hair. “Remember that, Lulu. Remember that I’m the only one who knows how to fuck you so good.”

“Don’t call me Lulu,” is all he says. He doesn’t know what else to say, when what Eliott said sounds like something… more. Something different. “Get me a rag, Eliott, what the fuck.”

“So needy.”

Eliott climbs out of bed and leaves the room to get rid of the condom and get Lucas a wet rag, so Lucas takes the opportunity to dig his phone out of the pocket of his discarded jeans. He scrolls through countless texts from Mika and settles on the one he finds from his father.

Hi Lucas. I just wanted to remind you that it’s your mother’s birthday today. Please have dinner with her, it would make her happy. I’ll deposit $100 for you if you do.

Lucas scoffs, locking his phone and tossing it back onto the floor with his clothes. His father never gave a fuck about his mother, and he doesn’t give a fuck about Lucas. And Lucas has too much self respect to ever forget how his father cut him off, how his father left him, how his father left his mother. He has too much self respect to accept love in the form of bribery anymore.

If only his father could see him now: laying in bed, covered in cum, waiting on a boy he could probably fall in love with if only he let himself.

After Eliott comes back and they both get cleaned off, they lay in Lucas’s bed in a comfortable silence, somewhere between asleep and awake. Eliott is on his back and Lucas is on his stomach draped half across Eliott. Eliott’s fingers run up and down the line of Lucas’s spine, leaving a trail goosebumps behind. Lucas’s eyelids are heavy but he can’t quite fall asleep, and it seems that Eliott can’t either.

“Are you awake?” Eliott asks, and Lucas whispers out that he is. “I wanted to ask you something.”

“Okay.”

“You know my brother?”

“Yeah.”

“He’s getting married this weekend, and I… When he sent his invitations out, I panicked and said I had a plus one. My entire extended family is going to be there and I got really nervous thinking about all the questions they’ll have about my ex-girlfriend, you know. So I thought that if I brought someone else, they wouldn’t ask me about her because most of my family actually has tact. The thing is, I don’t actually have anyone to go with, so I was wondering if you’d go? And pretend to be my boyfriend, maybe? I know— Before you say anything, I know that it sounds like it could get messy, but I swear it’ll be fine. I just need you to keep their stupid, invasive questions at bay. And there’ll be good food and alcohol, and it’s in Lyon so you’ll get a nice vacation out of it.” A small pause. “What do you think?”

Lucas pauses, tries to clear his mind and actually think about the offer. Thinks about sitting at a wedding with Eliott; holding his hand, kissing his cheek, introducing himself as the boyfriend. He thinks of the inevitable slow-dancing and the cake and the lovesick smiles that Lucas won’t be able to hold back after too many glasses of champagne. He wants to go to the wedding with Eliott more than anything, and that, perhaps, is the main reason why he knows that he shouldn’t.

He sighs, turns into Eliott’s chest and closes his eyes. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Eliott,” he murmurs, trying to ignore the way he feels Eliott’s breath hitch. “I’m sorry. I just… I really don’t think it would work out. Besides, it’s not enough notice with work, I don’t know if I’d be able to get the time off. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to apologize,” Eliott whispers back. There’s a sad twinge to it that pulls at Lucas’s heartstrings, makes his head start to swim again. “I know it’s stupid. My family can just be a lot. Like, I love them, of course, but they can be suffocating. You know how it is.”

“Not really,” Lucas whispers. And he’s not sure why he’s telling Eliott this, but suddenly, he can’t bite his tongue. “My family and I aren’t on the best terms. I don’t even know the last time I went to a family event.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Even when I did see them, it wasn’t good. We’ve never gotten along.”

“Is that why you live with Mika?” Eliott asks. “If you don’t mind me asking.”

Lucas nods. “Yeah. I moved here when I was sixteen, just after my dad left. He, um. He was cheating on my mom with some girl he worked with, and just walked out on my mom and I. And my mom, she’s… She’s not well, and I couldn’t deal with it on my own, so I left her too. I’ve always hated myself for leaving, but I was so young. There was no way I could’ve helped her. But that guilt kind of ruined my relationship with her, and my dad ruined our relationship when he picked that girl over us, and even more so when he pretty much cut me off, so. My family is pretty much Mika, Lisa, Manon, Yann, Arthur, and Basile. Mostly Mika and Yann, they’ve done a lot for me. I don’t know where I would be without them.”

“That’s better than nothing,” Eliott whispers. His gentle fingertip drawings have gone from straight lines to swirling curves and dips, and Lucas feels himself inching closer to sleep. “Sometimes our found families are the best ones for us. You know? Because they don’t have to love us, but they do anyway, because they want to. I’m really glad you found that. You deserve it. And I know it’s not my place, but your dad is a piece of shit.”

“Yeah, he is. If I never had to see him again, it would be too soon.”

“Your mom, is she better now? Is she doing okay?”

“As far as I know,” Lucas murmurs. “She’s schizophrenic, so it fluctuates. But she had a brief stay in a psych ward that really helped her, got her on some medications that have been really good for her. She’s been stable for about a year now.”

Eliott’s fingers freeze. “Oh. Well, that’s good.” A small pause, one that makes Lucas look up and try to meet Eliott’s eyes—but Eliott is looking away from him. “Lucas, I… I’m bipolar.”

“Oh. Okay.” Lucas shifts again, closes his eyes and snuggles in closer. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”

“Okay. Well, I still love you. It doesn’t change anything.” Lucas feels Eliott’s fingers start to move again, and it makes his whole body shiver. “And listen, I know you’re a grown ass man and you’ve got your shit under control, but if you ever need anything, I’m here for you. No matter what it is. I’m just a phone call away.”

“Thank you,” Eliott whispers. “Same for you, by the way. Anything you need, I’m here.”

Lucas hums, wraps his own arms tighter around Eliott’s middle and just holds him. It goes beyond what he’s comfortable doing as a friend with benefits, so he tries to forget the fact that they’re both naked and remind himself that he’s doing this as Eliott’s friend. Because that’s what they are, most importantly. Friends. Best friends, though he’d never tell Yann that.

At some point, Lucas falls asleep. He doesn’t dream of anything and, when he finally wakes up an hour later, he doesn’t feel as though he’d slept at all. The only reason he’s positive he did is because he woke up alone in bed and, if he were awake, he’d have known when Eliott got out of bed.

Lucas climbs out of bed, pulling on his boxers and a pair of Eliott’s sweatpants. He decides against borrowing a hoodie and instead pulls on his own t-shirt, and then pads out of the room, quietly peeking around corners to see where Eliott had gone.

He finds him sitting on the couch, sipping tea and rapidly texting someone. There’s a furrow in his brow that Lucas doesn’t like seeing, similar to the concerned one he’d had earlier, so Lucas immediately makes his presence known by dropping down next to him and resting his head on Eliott’s shoulder.

“You left me,” Lucas pouts. “I got cold.”

“Poor baby,” Eliott teases, locking his phone and putting it on the coffee table. Lucas moves to lay his head in Eliott’s lap, knowing it’ll goad Eliott into playing with his hair. (It works.) “I just got thirsty, so I made myself some tea. Didn’t want to wake you up. Don’t worry, I haven’t been up for very long.”

Lucas moves so his face is turned towards the television, rolling his eyes when he sees that Eliott is watching Titanic for the millionth time this month. “Honestly, Eliott, what the fuck is with you and Leonardo DiCaprio?”

“It’s not my fault he has lead roles in all of the best movies!”

“Are you sure you don’t think they’re the best movies because Leonardo DiCaprio stars in them?”

Eliott scoffs, “I’m offended that you would even try to insinuate that I judge movies based on their casting. It’s like you don’t even know me at all!”

It’s ironic, really, because they both know that they know each other better than anybody should know people after only three months. They know each other on a deep, almost scary level.

“But fine,” Eliott goes on, “we can watch something else. In fact, I think it’s about time you finally watch Call Me By Your Name. Get off of me so I can put the movie in.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“If you get off of me, I’ll get some wine out of the fridge and we can get wine drunk.” Lucas still doesn’t budge. “I’ll also get some food.”

“Ugh, fine. But you better bring chocolate.”

He allows Eliott to get up, and then sits back on the couch and checks his phone again. He responds to Mika’s thousands of texts to confirm that Eliott actually is over, and then goes to his and Yann’s text thread. About half an hour ago, Yann had texted to ask if Lucas wanted to go to a party with them tonight.

For a brief second, Lucas feels guilty, and wonders if he’s spending too much time with Eliott again. But he thinks back to how much he’s told Eliott no to plans recently, and decides that he can hang out with whoever the hell he wants, and right now, getting wine drunk with Eliott sounds much more fun than pretending to enjoy a stupid party and cheap alcohol.

No, thanks. I’m with Eliott tonight.

Just as he presses send, Eliott’s phone goes off with a text. At first, Lucas ignores it, but then Eliott’s phone goes off again and again and again, like someone is texting him back to back. Lucas isn’t proud of it, but it piques his interest enough that he leans over to pick his phone up off of the coffee table, justifying it by saying it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve answered each other’s phone before.

It’s a bunch of texts from Sofiane, which is hardly surprising. Lucas doesn’t intend to read them, honestly he doesn’t, but as he goes to put the phone back down, another text from him pops up and his name catches his eye.

Are you sure Lucas is even worth all of this? He’s leading you on, and you don’t deserve to be walked all over like this. You deserve better.

Ouch.

He puts the phone back down and sits back again, trying to fight the nausea that builds in his stomach. If getting wine drunk didn’t sound appealing before, it definitely does now.

Eliott returns from the kitchen with a bottle of red moscato, two wine glasses, a bag of potato chips, and Lucas’s bag of Michokos from before. Lucas forces a smile on his face as he accepts the food and his wine glass, whispering out a small thank you. He pours the wine while Eliott puts the movie in, and gulps his entire first glass before Eliott even turns around. Thankfully, Eliott doesn’t notice.

There’s only one blanket, so they cuddle up underneath it. Lucas normally likes cuddling with Eliott, but it all feels a little wrong now, because he read that text when he shouldn’t have, and it hurt like a bitch, and Eliott tried to make love to him today, and Eliott wanted him to be his wedding date, and Eliott is drinking that wine so quickly that he clearly wants to get drunk and Lucas can’t figure out why. He can’t figure out what went so wrong that’s making him panic, and what’s making Eliott panic, and why Sofiane is telling Eliott that Lucas isn’t good enough.

You always knew it was true. Eliott has always been way too good for you. You’re never good enough for anyone, that’s why they all leave you in the end.

Another gulp for Lucas is a finished glass for Eliott.

Elio, Elio, Elio. Eliott, Eliott, Eliott.

“Did he just masturbate with a peach?” Lucas asks, because it’s the first opportunity to break the tension he’s had this whole entire movie, and he just wants to stop feeling so weird about everything.

Eliott doesn’t respond at first, just giggles into his wine. He’s on his sixth glass already, and he’s just drunk enough that Lucas can’t even imagine letting him go home tonight. It’s moscato, thankfully, because anything more alcoholic would’ve had Eliott passed out by now.

When Eliott does respond, his words are slurred and makes Lucas’s heart drop. “Maybe it feels good. Have you ever tried it?” He asks, and Lucas shakes his head. “Hm. Maybe we should experiment with food someday. Peaches and whipped cream. You can jerk off with a peach and I’ll cover myself in whipped cream, and then we can blow each other to lick it off.”

“What the fuck? That just sounds sticky. No way we’re doing that.”

“You always say no to my ideas,” Eliott whines, pressing pause on the movie and then turning to face Lucas properly on the couch. “First the wedding, and now peaches and cream. Why do you always say no? Don’t you wanna do stuff with me?”

“Of course I want to do stuff with you, just not that stuff.”

“That’s boring. I wanna do everything with you.”

Baby, be good for me. “I want to do almost everything with you,” Lucas placates, reaching out to take Eliott’s wine glass and put it down on the coffee table. Thankfully, Eliott doesn’t try to throw a temper tantrum about it, apparently too focused on Lucas’s betrayal. “Just not everything. I’m sure there’s some things you don’t want to do with me.”

“Nope. Nothing. I would do anything with you, if you wanted. That’s what love is, Lucas. Love is doing everything with someone. Don’t you love me?”

“Of course I love you.”

“Yeah, but you don’t love me love me.” Eliott pouts, and moves so he’s laying in Lucas’s lap. Lucas takes it as the same cue he’d given Eliott earlier, and starts to play with his hair. “I’m in love with you, you know.”

Lucas laughs a little uncomfortably. “You don’t know what you’re saying, Eliott. You’re drunker than I thought you were.” We have all the time in the world.

“I’m not that drunk,” Eliott argues, closing his eyes and leaning into Lucas’s touch. If Lucas’s heart wasn’t in his throat, it would probably be skipping beats. “I’m just drunk enough to be brave. To have the courage to finally tell you. I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time, but I was always scared that you didn’t love me back. I know you said you didn’t want to date me, and that’s okay, I just wanted you to know I’m in love with you. I want to be your boyfriend.”

“Eliott…”

“I was gonna tell people at the wedding that you were my boyfriend,” Eliott continues, and God, Lucas was becoming so used to the shy Eliott that he’d forgotten how confident he was when he’s drunk. This confidence is different from the party, though. This isn’t hot confidence, it’s vulnerable confidence. Stuff he wouldn’t be saying if he didn’t drink. Deep, dark secrets. “I do that sometimes, you know. Tell people you’re my boyfriend. When I know it’s someone I won’t ever see again. I’m sorry.” Eliott turns his face so he’s buried more in Lucas’s shirt.

“You what?”

“I’m sorry,” Eliott repeats, voice soft and muffled by the fabric of Lucas’s t-shirt. “I know you don’t like it. I just wanted to know how it felt. I like being your boyfriend. It’s scary to know that I won’t ever be. But I try, because I don’t wanna lose you. I’m scared of losing you.”

I’m scared of losing you, too.

I’m even more scared of loving you.

“Come on, Eliott, lets get you to bed,” Lucas murmurs, trying to stand Eliott up. Hopefully it’ll change the subject, and Eliott won’t tell him these things anymore.

“But Lucas—”

“If you still want to talk when you’re sober, then we can. But for now, we need to get you some water and then get you to sleep. Okay?”

“Okay.” Eliott stumbles after him, back into the bedroom where Eliott had tried to make love to him, and Lucas helps him under the covers. “You’re a good friend, Lulu.”

Only Yann. Baby. Babe. “Thank you. I’m going to get you some water, okay?”

Eliott nods. “Okay.” Lucas turns towards the door, head swimming and hands shaking, when Eliott speaks again. “Lucas, keep thinking about the peaches and cream. I think it could be really hot. You might change your mind if you think about it.”

“Yeah, okay,” Lucas agrees, voice tight and panicky, “I’ll think about it. I promise.”

Chapter Text

Avoiding Eliott becomes something of an art form. 

The first day was rather easy. He slept on the couch and woke up before Eliott, leaving him aspirin and water on the nightstand alongside a note saying he had to be at work early. He didn’t, really, but he picked up an extra shift just so he didn’t have to lie. When Eliott texted him to ask when he got off so they could hang out, Lucas texted Yann and made plans right then and there, just so—once again—he didn’t have to lie when he told Eliott he was busy. That part was simple, nobody suspected anything. 

It got significantly harder after that. Lucas didn’t realize how much time they actually spent together until Lucas found himself alone all the time. The boys didn’t seem to notice, but Lucas figures it’s because they were too excited to start hanging out with him more to realize that there was a distinct lack of Eliott Demaury. Lucas wishes he had the capacity to care so little about Eliott. It would make everything so much simpler. 

It took two days for the drawings to start. Eliott sent him photos of drawings every morning and night, and sometimes tagged him in photos of them on his Instagram. They were always doodles of a raccoon and a hedgehog, and the raccoon was always sad and asking what he did. Lucas hated the way it made him feel, and found himself wishing all the more that he never grew so fond of Eliott. 

He knew that he wouldn’t be able to get away with it for long, so he started inviting Eliott over again. Only, he made sure they were never alone. He only ever invited Eliott to hang out with him and the boys or him and the girls. This way, Eliott couldn’t corner him to ask what the fuck was going on. At least, not without exposing their whole arrangement to everyone, which Lucas knew he would never do. 

It worked, but only just enough. Lucas still catches Eliott giving him sad and confused looks all the time, and it still hurts. No amount of avoidance will ever make it stop hurting. 

But Eliott leaves for Lyon in two days, and Lucas is, admittedly, a little excited for the reprieve. 

“Is something going on with you and Eliott?” Yann asks, sitting next to Lucas on the couch. The apartment is crowded, because Lucas has his friends over and Manon has hers over, but it’s nice. Everyone is dancing and talking and drinking and just getting along in general, like high school all over again. 

“What makes you say that?”

“You’ve been avoiding him,” Yann replies simply, making Lucas choke on his drink. Lucas is drunk, but not drunk enough for this. “You’ve hardly been subtle. I wasn’t going to say anything, I was going to wait for you to come to me, but… I don’t know, I got tired of you two making sad puppy dog eyes at each other across the room.”

Lucas rolls his eyes, “I don’t make sad eyes at him, Yann, what the fuck.” Immediately, he contradicts himself, glancing over to where Eliott is talking to Manon and Daphné. He looks beautiful tonight, if not a little sad, and Lucas wants nothing more than to go over there and kiss him until he smiles. But I’m not his boyfriend, and it isn’t my place. “He asked me to be his date to his brother's wedding this weekend. Not, like, an actual date. Just his plus one.” He decides to leave out the fake dating part, because it’s none of Yann’s business. 

“I take it you said no.” Lucas nods. “Why?”

“It wouldn’t have been a good idea. Me and Eliott at a wedding together? Sounds like a textbook case of dumb bitch activities.”

Yann snorts into his drink, making Lucas collapse into giggles alongside him. He supposes it is all kind of funny, from an outsider's perspective; even if it does feel, to Lucas, like his heart is being ripped out of his chest. 

“Maybe you’re right,” Yann allows, glancing over at Eliott too. Eliott hasn’t noticed them looking, but Lucas can’t imagine why. Lucas can’t ever bring himself to stop looking. Surely Eliott knows that by now. “At least, somewhat. I do think it would cause some crazy romantic tension and you’d probably end up doing something you don’t want to do, but I also think you should do that thing you don’t want to do.”

“And what is that thing, exactly?”

“Opening up to Eliott. Letting him in.” Yann shifts his gaze back to Lucas, and Lucas hates how soft and sincere it is. “He loves you, man.” Yann, you have no fucking idea. “I don’t know why you won’t just let him.”

Lucas sighs, picking at his beer bottle label. For all his time spent avoiding Eliott, he really didn’t anticipate getting stuck in this conversation anyway. “He told me he loved me the other day,” he murmurs. Yann tenses up beside him, making Lucas wince. “He was drunk off of, like, five glasses of moscato. It was really funny, he’s such a lightweight. And, uh, he told me that he’s in love with me and he’s been wanting to tell me for a while but he was too scared. Scared of losing me, or whatever. I don’t think he realizes how scared I am to lose him. Like, he’s everything, you know? He’s so amazing, and he’s everything I’ve ever wanted, and that terrifies me.”

“I think that your problem is that you don’t think of yourself as someone to be scared of losing. And I get it. You’ve been hurt by so many people who claimed to love you, and it only makes sense that you’d lose sight of your worth. But it’s still there, you know. Eliott would be lucky to be loved by you. I think he knows that. You need to know that, too.”

“Yann, this is supposed to be a fun night in, not a therapy appointment.” But Lucas’s eyes are wet, and he wants to lean over and hug Yann until he sees in himself what Yann sees in him. 

Yann shrugs, “I’m great at multitasking. Besides, you’re not having any fun just moving around like that. You look like you need a hug.” He pauses, and then smiles, “Do you want a hug?”

Lucas doesn’t answer, just lunges forward on the couch and hugs him tightly. It’s a bit awkward considering their sitting positions, but Lucas doesn’t care. He just presses his face into Yann’s shoulder and clings to him, trying to breathe through the tears that are threatening to fall. 

They’re interrupted by the weight of somebody sitting to Lucas’s right. When they pull apart, Lucas isn’t surprised to find that it’s Eliott, and he’s pretty sure that Yann isn’t surprised either. He wipes his face of any stray tears and then tries to smile at Eliott despite how much emotion is still lodged in his throat. 

“Is everything okay?” Eliott asks, one hand falling onto Lucas’s thigh almost absentmindedly, like it belongs there. Lucas tries his hardest not to flinch. 

“Yeah, everything’s fine, man,” Yann answers for him, tapping Lucas’s other thigh. “We were just talking about Lulu’s birthday this Friday. He gets a little emotional and sentimental about these things, especially when he’s drunk.”

“Oh, fuck off,” Lucas snaps, but he’s smiling properly now. 

“Okay,” Eliott says slowly, like he doesn’t quite believe (or understand) what’s going on. “Um, Yann, is it okay if I talk to Lucas alone?”

Part of Lucas wants to beg Yann not to go, but he knows Yann wouldn’t listen. So he doesn’t even try to keep Yann from agreeing and, when he disappears into the kitchen, he tries his best not to glare. 

“Lucas?” Eliott says, and Lucas sighs, turning to look at him once again. “Um, is everything okay? Not, like, right now, but I mean with us. Are we okay? Because I feel like you’ve been avoiding me and I don’t know why. If I did something, can you please tell me so I can fix it? I’m sorry if I did fuck something up. I do that sometimes.”

“You didn’t fuck anything up, Eliott. Relax,” Lucas interrupts—partially because he wants Eliott to stop panicking, but also because he’s started panicking. Eliott is talking like he has no idea what he said, like he doesn’t even remember. It makes Lucas’s stomach spin. “How much do you remember?”

Eliott shrugs, “Not a lot. I remember that we had sex and you were acting really weird, and it was freaking me out. I remember you fell asleep. I remember making tea before you woke up, and I remember us watching Call Me By Your Name. And I kind of remember you putting me in bed, and I remember waking up alone. And then you’ve been acting even weirder ever since.”

He doesn’t remember. He has no idea he told me he loved me. He doesn’t know that he told me everything. 

“Oh,” Lucas replies dumbly, his mind and stomach both swirling on different axises. He feels like he might be sick. “Oh. Okay.”

“Why? Did something happen that I don’t remember?”

“No,” Lucas says, way too quickly to be believable. Eliott’s disbelief is all over his face, making Lucas’s stomach twist up even more. “I, um, I’m sorry but I think I really am drunker than I thought. But hey, I promise you that everything is good between us. Okay? There’s nothing to worry about.” Lucas stands, his palms are getting sweaty and he can feel his face flushing with how close he is to throwing up. 

Eliott stands up, too, putting a hand on Lucas’s shoulder. “Lucas, are you okay? You look like you’re about to be sick.” Realization dawns over his face, probably registering the meaning behind Lucas’s words I’m drunker than I thought, and he immediately grabs Lucas’s hand and starts pulling him to the bathroom. 

Lucas doesn’t even try to fight it, stumbling behind Eliott through his own apartment. The second his knees hit the tiled floor he’s bending over the toilet and emptying his stomach of a good amount of the alcohol he’d consumed. It’s not a side of himself he’d ever wanted Eliott to see, but then again, Eliott is intimately acquainted with his asshole, so he figures there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. 

Eliott rubs his back in circles, whispering sweet nothings to comfort him. Lucas appreciates it, especially when he slumps back from the toilet and Eliott doesn’t hesitate to hold him. 

“Better out than in, yeah?” Eliott teases, and Lucas rolls his eyes. Leave it to Eliott to use paraphrased Shrek quotes to break the tension. “I’m going to get you a wet cloth, some water, and some bread, okay? We need to sober you up.”

Lucas doesn’t move from his spot on the floor while Eliott’s gone, but honestly, he isn’t gone for long. He returns in record time, thankfully without any of Lucas’s concerned friends in tow. He gives Lucas a slice of bread and a cup of water and watches as he eats and drinks, not satisfied until they’re both gone. Like a mother. Like a boyfriend. 

And it’s too much, so Lucas does what he knows best: shuts him out and cracks a joke. “I take it back, I am mad at you,” he mumbles, sliding down further on the floor so he can tilt his head back and rest it on the lip of the bathtub. At Eliott’s alarmed expression, he elaborates, “I should’ve known you were a bad influence. When I was dating my ex-boyfriend, I was basically sober. We hardly ever drank. And not only was I drunk when we met, but just this week I had to take care of you while you were drunk and now, days later, you’re having to take care of me. You’ve corrupted me.”

“I can’t say I’ve ever been called a bad influence,” Eliott admits, sitting closer to Lucas and pulling him in for cuddles again. Lucas doesn’t fight that, either, because he still doesn’t feel good and he wants the comfort. “But I’ll have you know that I’m not even really supposed to drink, because it can fuck with my medications. And it’s just, like, not good in general for my mental health. So if you wanted to stay sober with me, all you had to do was say so. I don’t mind being the only sober one at the party, but it’s always nice to have someone else sober too.”

Lucas hums, “What about smoking, then? You had weed the night we met.”

“I’m not supposed to smoke either.” Lucas rolls his eyes, making Eliott laugh guiltily. “I know, I know. I don’t do it much. But a little bit is okay, I think. I just want to feel normal sometimes.”

“I get that. Wanting to feel normal, I mean. I don’t ever feel normal.” He looks up at Eliott once, and then settles in closer, resting his head properly on Eliott’s shoulder. “I guess it’s completely different for you, I have no idea what that’s like. But after my ex and I broke up, it started feeling like everyone was looking at me different. And then I realized I felt different. My friends even started saying they saw changes, from how bad he fucked me up. The Lucas you know is completely different than the Lucas I was before Gabriel. You probably would’ve liked that Lucas better.”

Eliott scoffs. “I doubt that. I happen to like this Lucas very much. For the record, though: that’s bullshit. High school Lucas and current Lucas, while different, are both still you. You’ve just been through shit that helped you grow as a person. We’ve all been through shit. Nobody is the same person they were when they were fifteen and, honestly, I’m pretty sure everyone would much rather be their 20-something year old self than their fifteen year old self. Fifteen year olds are cringey as fuck. I used to wear mismatched Converse.”

“I would pay to see that,” Lucas laughs. Eliott laughs with him, and Lucas may be drunk, but he’s pretty sure Eliott kisses his hair. “But I disagree. I would much rather be fifteen again and do it all over. I wish I’d never wasted years of my life on Gabriel. He didn’t deserve that from me.”

“What happened with you two?” Eliott whispers. He doesn’t apologize or say that Lucas doesn’t have to tell him, which Lucas oddly appreciates. He’s letting Lucas decide where to take this conversation, whether to answer or not, without giving him a suggestion. He’s letting Lucas take the reigns. 

What the hell. “He cheated on me. He had this office job with a law firm, and he worked with like six other people his age as, like, interns I guess. He worked really crazy hours the longer he worked there, and I always figured it was just part of working with lawyers, you know? Late nights and early mornings and stuff. And maybe I’m just really oblivious, but other than that, there were no other signs that something was going on. He never acted different around me, he and I were still happy, talking about our future, talking about marriage and stuff. And then one day I was sitting at Yann’s and I had this eight minute voicemail on my phone from him. So I go into panic mode and call him back, like, twenty times without even listening to the voicemail. He didn’t pick up so I listened just to see what was going on, you know, like maybe he was in the hospital or something. But, uh. It was eight minutes of him fucking some girl over one of the partners’ desks.” 

“Oh, shit,” Eliott says, and then promptly puts his hand over his mouth like he hadn’t meant to say that out loud. “I’m sorry. I just… Wow. That’s so fucked up, I’m so fucking sorry. You deserve so much better than that.”

“So everyone tells me,” Lucas mumbles. “I confronted him about it when he got home, and he basically made the decision to kick me out before I could kick him out. And, like. I was really alone after he left. We’d just moved in together and he’d completely isolated me from all of my friends, and from Mika. But his name was on the lease. So he told me that I needed to be the one to leave. I felt so bad asking Mika if I could come back after I basically ghosted him. Mika always says it wasn’t my fault and that he knew Gabriel was controlling and manipulative, but I’m a grown ass man and I should’ve made the effort. Anyway. It really fucked me up. I told myself I’d never let that happen to me again. I’d never let anyone take me from my friends, never let anyone hurt me, never let anyone cheat on me, and never let anyone make me feel worthless.”

Eliott’s hand has started stroking Lucas’s hair, and Lucas can’t decide if he wants to lean into that touch or lean further into Eliott’s embrace. I’m so in love with you. “Good. That’s good. And Mika’s right, it’s not your fault. None of it is your fault. Gabriel is just a fucking dick and you didn’t deserve that.” He definitely kisses Lucas’s hair, this time. “You’ll find someone who’ll love you properly, Lulu. I promise. And you’ll spend the rest of your life with them and all of the bad shit you’ve gone through won’t matter anymore. You’re going to be so loved, and that person is going to be the luckiest man in the world to love you.”

Funny, Yann just said the same thing. He was talking about you, Eliott. Are you talking about you, Eliott?

“I’m tired of talking about it. But thank you.” He pulls out of the embrace and then tries to stand up, whispering another small thank you when Eliott stands and helps steady him. “I feel better now, but I think I’m done drinking for the night. Can we sober up together?”

Eliott’s smile is blinding. “Of course, baby. But you might want to brush your teeth first.”

*

The Friday before Eliott leaves is Lucas’s twenty-first birthday. Lucas hates his birthday. It feels very Chandler Bing of him—in the same way that Chandler hates Thanksgiving, Lucas hates his birthday. It doesn’t do anything but dredge up bad memories of his childhood, ones that he’d worked for years to try and repress. 

Anyway, because of that, he never does anything for his birthday, really. Mika usually makes him breakfast, and the boys will come over and hang out, and sometimes Manon will bake a cake or they’ll buy one, but that’s usually it. And Lucas likes it like that, he likes that his friends want to celebrate but do it in a way that he’s still comfortable with. He likes that they never push it and try to throw surprise parties or make a big deal out of his birthday. It works. Lucas is comfortable.

That’s why he knows something’s up from the moment the boys walk through the door at dinner time. He’s still full off of Mika’s birthday breakfast (that he technically ate for late lunch because of another perk of being the birthday boy: sleeping in) and just wants to relax and play FIFA, but he can tell by the nervous glances and the way they won’t sit down that there’s something else going on, and something they aren’t sure Lucas will be happy about. 

“What is it?” Lucas demands, making Arthur and Basile startle. “Seriously, I can tell something’s going on, you three are hardly subtle. You might as well go ahead and tell me so I can yell at you now rather than later, save us all the trouble.”

“It’s got nothing to do with us,” Basile protests, to which Arthur elbows him in the stomach and whispers for him to shut the hell up. Lucas quirks an eyebrow, suspicions only increased. “I mean, um. Get dressed, we’re going out for your birthday.”

Lucas frowns. “What? No. I’ve already eaten and it’s too early for partying, so there’s nothing else to go out for.” When none of the boys acquiesce, Lucas’s frown deepens. “You guys know I don’t want anything too big for my birthday. You know I hate that stuff.”

“It’s nothing big,” Yann reassures him. “It’s just something a bit different than normal. And it requires going out, so please get dressed. I promise you’ll like it. Have I ever lied to you?”

Lucas squints at him. “Yes.”

“Okay, well, I’m not this time. So hurry up, get dressed.”

Lucas gives in, but not happily. He groans and throws his controller onto the bed, and stomps the entire way to his wardrobe. He knows he’s being a bit childish, but it’s his birthday, he’s allowed. The boys sit on the bed while Lucas goes through all of his clothes to try and pick an outfit that’s casual enough to not draw attention to himself but nice enough that he’ll look okay in photos, if this outing involves taking Instagram pictures. (If the girls are part of it, it’ll definitely involve Instagram pictures.)

He decides on the pair of black skinny jeans he wore to the party he met Eliott at, and a black and white short-sleeve button up that Mika affectionately calls his ‘lesbian shirt’. Mika actually bought it for him, and Lucas has worn it exactly once. It’s a bit out of his comfort zone, as far as fashion goes, but he figures his birthday is as good a reason as any to try it out again. 

When he looks in the mirror, he doesn’t hate it, so he slips on his black boots and then tells the boys he’s ready when they are. 

They’re, of course, wrapped up in a game of FIFA. 

Lucas really hates his friends. 

He sits back down on his bed and takes out his phone, sending a quick text to Eliott. I swear you’re the only friend I have that I actually like. 

Eliott’s response is immediate. I’m telling Yann. 

You wouldn’t, Lucas responds. They’re the worst though. They’re trying to actually make me do stuff for my birthday. 

What assholes. Trying to make your 21st a good birthday?! Why are you even friends with such terrible people?!

Lucas rolls his eyes, laughing softly. You’re an idiot. I wish you were coming with us :(

I wish I was too. I have to pack though :( But you’re coming over for dinner, right? 

Lucas had almost forgotten about that. He was nervous to try Eliott’s cooking—the last time Eliott cooked for him, he’d nearly gotten food poisoning. Of course I am. I can’t wait. Hopefully this doesn’t take too long. 

Eliott replies, The birthday sex is going to be the highlight!! 

At that, Lucas actually has to turn off his phone and close his eyes. He and Eliott haven’t slept together since the day Eliott said he was in love with him, and Lucas is getting a bit restless. Just the thought of Eliott spoiling him tonight is enough to make Lucas have to take a breather and actively force himself to not get hard. He will not get a boner in front of his friends, he won’t. They’d never let him live it down. 

When he’s calmed down enough to check his phone again, there’s another message waiting for him. I might have a surprise up my sleeve ;)

Lucas nearly groans out loud. Eliott is such a fucking tease. He’ll have to get him back for that later. 

Don’t tease me on my birthday, it’s rude. 

Another immediate response, Sorry baby :D

“You ready, Lucas?” Yann asks, prompting Lucas to lock his phone before any of them can see the screen. If Yann notices, he doesn’t say anything. 

“Yeah, I’ve been ready. You guys were the ones fucking around,” Lucas complains, following the boys as they start heading out the door. “You better prepare yourselves for an evening of me bitching.”

Arthur laughs, “Sounds like a normal day.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Lucas laughs, punching Arthur in the bicep. “If I’m so annoying, why do you keep being friends with me?”

“Because we love you, Lulu!” Baz exclaims, draping an arm around Lucas’s shoulders. He doesn’t even have the time to remind him that Yann is the only one allowed to call him Lulu because Baz starts rambling again. “This is going to be the best birthday yet, just you wait. You won’t be complaining for much longer.”

“Basile!” Yann scolds. 

“What? I didn’t even say anything,” Basile whines, moving away from Lucas and walking up next to Yann so he can plead his case. Lucas is helpless to do anything but shake his head in disbelief. I really hate my fucking friends. 

“Anyway, bro,” Arthur says, “I promise this isn’t that big of a deal. We just thought you might want to do something different for your birthday. We’ve done the same thing every year since high school, you know? We’re adults now. It’s time to change it up.” He looks down at Lucas’s shirt, then, and feels the fabric between his fingers. “I like this shirt on you. You look very gay today.”

Lucas laughs, “I’m so glad you said that. I’ve been trying to figure out how to give off more gay vibes and I really didn’t want to have to resort to asking Mika for fashion tips.”

“Trust me,” Baz says, suddenly right back at Lucas’s side, “you give off tons of gay vibes.”

“Then how come none of you knew I was gay before I came out?” Lucas teases. 

Basile just rolls his eyes. “Heteronormativity. Duh.”

“That’s… actually not a bad answer,” Lucas admits, reaching out for a fist bump. Basile looks like Lucas just made his day—maybe even his week, honestly—and bumps their fists together. 

“Who knew Baz could actually be smart?” Arthur asks, and Basile takes advantage of his already clenched fist and punches him in the arm. “So, Lulu—”

Yann interrupts, “Only I can call him that.”

“Okay, Lucas,” Arthur amends. “Do you have any plans with your boyfriend tonight?”

“I wasn’t aware that I had a boyfriend.”

“You and Eliott are practically dating. You two act more like a couple than Emma and I did when we were dating,” Yann says, to which Lucas rolls his eyes. 

“Well, minus the sex,” Baz adds. 

Yann smirks. “Yeah, minus the sex.” He winks at Lucas, and Lucas looks away. He can feel himself blushing, and he doesn’t want Arthur and Basile to notice. Basile probably wouldn’t think anything of it, but Arthur definitely would. If he saw Lucas’s red cheeks he’d know what was up immediately. 

“If you must know, my friend Eliott and I are supposed to have dinner later,” Lucas says, trying desperately to save it before things get worse. “But I might cancel on him if this bullshit takes too long.”

“It won’t,” Yann grins. “Trust me.”

“I know you’re not dating him,” Baz says, “but do you have feelings for him? You two flirt all the time. I’m pretty sure he likes you.”

Lucas rolls his eyes. “I already know he likes me. If you’ve forgotten, Baz, he and I slept together and then I rejected him. But, yeah, we’re just friends.”

“Hmm. Okay.” Basile doesn’t sound convinced, but Lucas forces himself to let it go. If he gets too defensive, it’ll be too obvious. 

They walk for longer than Lucas anticipated walking at night on his fucking birthday, and when they finally stop, it’s in front of a locked gate. Great. Trespassing for his twenty-first birthday. So much more fun than sitting at home playing FIFA and stuffing their faces. 

Yann sets to work on opening the lock, which he does with ease—like he’s done it before. Then he pulls open the gate and all the boys step back, while Yann gestures for Lucas to go ahead. 

“What the fuck? You really think I’m about to lead the way in this stupid fucking trespassing adventure? Are we in The Goonies now, or have you guys just lost your mind?”

“Lulu, just trust me, okay? Go,” Yann encourages, opening the gate even wider. “We’ll be right behind you, we just want you in front to see it first. Oh, and you might want this.” He produces a flashlight out of fucking nowhere, and hands it over. 

Lucas glares at him, but then moves forward with small, tentative steps. As soon as his feet his dirt rather than the pavement, he turns back to the boys, only for them to wave him on. So he keeps going, walking through the trees and trying to catch a glimpse at whatever the hell the boys are trying to show him. 

He’s not stupid. He knows the second he hears the gate close behind him that the boys aren’t following him. But he trusts them—or, trusts Yann at least—so he just huffs and keeps going. Whatever they have him walking towards must be worth it, if they’re forcing him to do this on his birthday. They’re not the type of people to pull these kinds of pranks. 

At least, he hopes they’re not. 

It’s eerily quiet the entire walk down, and Lucas isn’t ashamed to admit (to himself) that he’s a little scared. The dark just freaks him out, okay? He flicks on the flashlight and does a quick scan of the area around him, just to be sure that there’s nothing lurking behind any trees. 

Eventually, he comes to a clearing. He looks away from the tree line and, as soon as what he’s looking at registers in his mind, he feels his breath catch and his jaw drop. 

There’s a large railroad bridge in front of him, dark and abandoned enough to be spooky looking. Definitely nowhere that Lucas would choose to come alone, especially at night. But he’s not alone. Standing in the clearing is Eliott, with a smile bright enough to light up the darkness that’s started to descend around them. And behind him, underneath the bridge, is a picnic blanket covered with pillows, and a basket that’s presumably full of food. There’s a few candles lit, but Eliott is holding three flashlights, too. 

“Happy birthday,” Eliott smiles, glancing behind him once and then turning back to Lucas. He looks more nervous than Lucas feels. “I, uh. I know you don’t like when people make a big deal out of your birthday, but I couldn’t help myself.”

Lucas is still at a loss for words, frozen to the spot and gaping. Eliott laughs at him, coming forward to grab his wrist and pull him to the blanket. They both sit down, Lucas still stiff from the shock, while Eliott is practically buzzing with excitement. 

Eliott grabs the picnic basket and pulls it into his lap, and then starts emptying the contents to show Lucas what he’d packed. “So, I got a baguette, of course. Some Brie de Meaux and some saucisson à l’ail, to go with the bread. A bowl of strawberries, because they looked good as hell in the store and I have no self control. Michokos, of course. And then some non-alcoholic sparkling rosé, to avoid any repeats of certain events earlier this week.” He lays all of the charcuterie out on the blanket, and then grabs a projector that Lucas hasn’t noticed originally. “And I brought this, so we can watch a movie. Basically, I brought the dinner we were going to have at my place, here. To change things up a little. Do you like it?”

“I love it,” Lucas blurts, because it’s the only words that he’s been able to coherently string together. “I don’t know what to say, I… No one’s ever done something like this for me.”

“Really?” Eliott asks, and he sounds genuinely surprised. “Well, I wanted to do more, but I knew you didn’t want anything big. Your friends helped me come up with this, actually. It’s similar enough to what you usually do that hopefully you’re still comfortable, but also a bit bigger, to celebrate more. I’m really glad you like it. I was really nervous you wouldn’t, because this is the first birthday of yours that we’ve spent together, obviously, so I didn’t have a frame of reference.”

“Seriously, Eliott, it’s amazing. I don’t even know how to thank you.” Eliott smiles again, and Lucas seriously wonders if they even need the flashlights. “It’s beautiful. And very… romantic. I, um. As much as I love it, Eliott, I need to be sure that you know I’m still not looking for anything more than what we have right now. I’m sorry if that is—”

“No, no, of course not!” Eliott interrupts, and Lucas can just barely make out the blush on his cheeks. “I can see where you’re coming from, with the candles and the food choices and everything, but I swear romance wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to do something nice and kind of fancy. And the location is just… This is somewhere I’ve been coming for a while, when I want to be alone. No one else knows about it, but you know everything about me, so I wanted you to know about this place, too. Which I’m just realizing also sounds very boyfriendy. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to come off that way.”

Lucas shakes his head, “No, it’s okay. It’s perfect. Just as long as you know where everything stands.” Lucas smiles, and then reaches for the bottle of sparkling rosé. “Let’s pop this open then.”

Eliott pulls two plastic champagne flutes out of the picnic basket and holds them up while Lucas pours the rosé. They both make a toast and then collapse into giggles as they drink it, putting on posh English accents and holding their pinkies out as if they’re not having a picnic under a railway bridge in the dark on a Friday night. Lucas settles back on the pillows and nibbles on the saucisson while Eliott sets up the projector with whatever movie he’d brought. 

When Eliott finally leans back with him, the movie comes up on the concrete above them. Lucas immediately recognizes it as Sixteen Candles, and he smiles over at Eliott. “Finally, a movie I actually like,” he teases. Eliott scoffs and shoves Lucas’s shoulder, but he’s smiling too, like he can’t help it. “Thank you for this, Eliott. As creepy as laying under a bridge to watch a movie is, I have to admit it’s much nicer than sitting at yours doing the same thing.”

“Creepy? What about this is creepy?” Eliott laughs, facing Lucas properly now. “Are you afraid of the dark or something?” Lucas doesn’t respond, and he sees the way mirth glints in Eliott’s eyes at the silence. “Oh, my god, you are!”

“I am not,” Lucas huffs. “I’m just not particularly fond of it.”

“Lucas Lallemant is afraid of the dark.”

“I’m not!”

“You’re not afraid?”

“Not afraid.” He turns his head fully now, so he and Eliott make full eye contact. It’s heavy, considering the romantic circumstances and sexual tension between them, and Lucas finds himself overcome with the urge to lean forward and kiss that stupid smirk right off of his face. 

Eliott laughs, “Not afraid. Fine, I believe you.” He sits up, severing the unbearable tension, and then climbs off of the blanket altogether. Lucas props himself up on his elbows curiously. “Then I guess you would agree that it’d be much easier to watch this movie if we blew the candles out, hm?”

Lucas has too much pride to protest, but Eliott doesn’t back down either. He blows out all of the candles and then comes back to the blanket, reaches for the flashlights, and turns all but one off. With the remaining one, he shines light in Lucas’s face and cocks an eyebrow. 

“Should we turn this off, too?” He asks. 

Lucas shrugs. “I don’t care. You can if you want to.” He tilts his chin challengingly and, as bravely as he can manage, repeats, “I’m not afraid.”

Eliott clicks the flashlight off, and they’re suddenly bathed in darkness. The projection gives off more light now that it’s the only source of light, but it’s very faint. Faint enough that Lucas can only barely make out the shapes of the picnic basket, charcuterie, and Eliott beside him. It makes panic raise in his chest just slightly, but he refuses to back down. 

Unfortunately, so does Eliott. Lucas sees him lay back down, so Lucas follows suit. If Eliott notices Lucas lying much closer to him than before, he doesn’t say anything. Lucas manages to make it through a good bit of the movie with nothing more than a slightly increased heart rate, until he hears branches snapping like somebody’s approaching, and he immediately curls into Eliott. 

Eliott just laughs, flicking on a flashlight and turning it on Lucas. “Not afraid?” He asks, and Lucas flips him off. 

“Fine. Maybe I’m a little afraid.”

“That’s okay,” Eliott murmurs, putting the flashlight aside and pulling Lucas further into his chest. “I’ll protect you from all the monsters and bad guys.”

“Ugh, fuck off.”

“Make me.”

“I might.”

“Oh yeah? What are you going to do?”

Without any more warning, Lucas climbs on top of Eliott, straddling his waist and pinning his arms right next to his head. Eliott bursts out into laughter, which Lucas promptly cuts off by grinding his hips down into Eliott’s. 

“That’s how we’re playing it, huh?” Eliott asks, to which Lucas just rolls his hips again. Eliott tips his head back and groans, but he doesn’t fight Lucas—he doesn’t even try and pull his hands free. “Well, well, well. The bottom becomes the top,” he teases, and Lucas just rolls his eyes. 

“Please. This is called power bottom, baby.” Eliott moans again, even though Lucas didn’t even move, which makes Lucas flush from head to toe because he knows Eliott probably moaned because Lucas called him baby. 

Now you know how I feel. 

Lucas leans down and starts sucking a mark onto Eliott’s neck, right where his collarbone sticks out from the collar of his shirt. Eliott moans the whole way through it, even plants his feet on the ground so he can roll his hips up into Lucas’s. But Lucas isn’t having it. He raises himself up on his knees so he’s just out of Eliott’s reach, and delights in the desperate whine it draws out of him. 

“Don’t tease,” Eliott whimpers, sounding desperate and slightly pathetic. If Lucas wasn’t intimately aware of just how much Eliott liked to tease, he’d probably feel badly. But as it is, he has way too many memories of being edged until he cried, so he just smirks and moves to suck another love bite. “Lucas, please. Fuck, please.” Lucas can feel his hips canting up into nothing, and it makes his head spin with arousal just knowing that he’s the only one who can get Eliott this riled up this quickly. 

He moves down Eliott’s body, pressing light kisses through the fabric of his shirt. When his hands are forced to leave Eliott’s wrists, he whispers out, “Keep your hands up there.” He almost doesn’t expect Eliott to obey, so its a pleasant surprise when he makes it all the way down between Eliott’s legs without Eliott touching him. 

Birthday privileges. 

Slowly, he unbuttons Eliott’s jeans and drags the zipper down. He slips his hand into the opening and adjusts Eliott’s dick in his briefs so it’s bulging out at the front of his jeans, in the perfect spot for Lucas to continue his teasing. Eliott is rock hard and there’s damp patches on his white briefs—which, by the way, leave absolutely nothing to the imagination, especially since the wet patches have turned translucent—that Lucas licks at. He nuzzles his face against Eliott’s bulge and then moves his kitten licks to it, topping it off with an open-mouthed kiss right over the head. 

Eliott is writhing now, scrunching up the blanket in his fists with his efforts not to touch Lucas. It makes Lucas impossibly smug to see his effect on Eliott, to know how horny and turned on he can make someone else. Knowing someone else is attracted to him, and wants him just as desperately. Lucas doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to that feeling. 

“Shit, please,” Eliott begs, tilting his head up to look down at Lucas. “Baby, please please please. Your mouth feels so fucking good.”

“I haven’t even started yet,” Lucas teases, running the tip of his finger along Eliott’s boner through the fabric. Eliott bucks up into the touch, but Lucas keeps it feather light. “I haven’t even gotten your underwear off and you’re already acting like you could come.”

Eliott groans and tosses his head back once more, making Lucas giggle. “Because you’re a fucking cocktease. Driving me absolutely insane.” 

“You know, a cocktease is someone who makes you believe they’re going to fuck you and then doesn’t. Not only is that an offensive term, Mr. Demaury, for a variety of reasons that include slut-shaming and misogyny, but it’s also highly incorrect. I was promised birthday sex and I intend to make good on that promise, as long as you intend to make good on that promise.”

“I do, you know I do,” Eliott breathes. “But not here. I can’t fuck you here.”

Lucas snorts. “Oh, but you’re more than willing to let me suck you off here?”

“It’s your birthday, Lucas. I want to make this the best sex you’ve ever had, and that will not happen on the fucking ground.” He looks up again, and huffs a laugh. “So much for Sixteen Candles.”

“Yeah, we really are awful at watching movies. Somehow, I always end up with your dick in my mouth.”

Eliott props himself up on his elbows, his shoulders shaking with laughter. Lucas finds himself laughing, too, not only at the movie thing but also at the whole situation. They’re laying on the ground, surrounded by the most stereotypically Parisian picnic, with a movie playing, and Eliott’s dick almost out. They can’t keep their hands off of each other long enough to have a romantic evening. 

As if reading his mind, Eliott says, “You’re always the one who initiates it. I swear, it’s like any time we act too much like a couple, you remind me what we actually are.” It’s said lightheartedly, like a joke, but it makes Lucas’s heart freeze for a moment. 

Because he’s right. Lucas panics in the face of romance and feelings, and deals with it by making it sexual. He’s done it since day one, and Eliott has let him, because Eliott knows it’s the only way he’ll ever get to have Lucas. 

And Lucas shouldn’t even know that. Eliott doesn’t know that Lucas knows he’s in love with him. He doesn’t know that Lucas knows how badly he’s been hurting Eliott, and worst of all, Eliott doesn’t know that Lucas has let this go on anyway. He’s continued sleeping with Eliott despite knowing his true feelings because he’s too scared to face up to his own feelings, but also too selfish to let Eliott go. 

Lucas glances back down between them, at the see-through boxers that make his mouth water all over again, and he shoves those thoughts to the back of his mind. It’s his birthday, he can deal with the guilt and the self-hatred later. If Eliott wanted to leave, he could. If he wanted to end this, he could. Lucas isn’t leading him on. He’s been honest with Eliott from the start. Eliott is doing this because he wants to. 

“What are you waiting for, then?” Lucas asks, zipping Eliott’s jeans back up and then redoing the button. “Give me the best sex I’ve ever had.”

Lucas doesn’t tell him that any sex they have is the best he’s ever had. Because no matter how much he denies it, he is afraid. 

*

Eliott is only leaving for the weekend, but as Lucas stands with him to wait for his train, he finds himself tearing up. He knows it’s stupid, so every time it happens he forces himself to either look away or bury his face in Eliott’s jacket. He’s pretty sure that Eliott has no idea what’s going on. 

Lucas feels impossibly stupid, because Eliott literally asked Lucas to be his date, and Lucas was the dumbass that said no. And even though he knows he did it for the right reasons, his stomach still twists with regret. If he could go back, he’d say fuck it and agree. Two days of pretending to be Eliott’s boyfriend while being at an upper class wedding in Lyon? Why the fuck did Lucas ever say no to that?

“I’m excited for the break,” Eliott says, resting his cheek on the top of Lucas’s head. He hasn’t questioned Lucas’s clinginess once, not even now that Lucas is practically wrapped around him like a koala. “Work is exhausting. I’ll miss you, though. I don’t know how I’m going to sleep alone.”

“Me either,” Lucas admits, snuggling closer into Eliott’s chest. “Don’t go.”

Eliott sighs, rubbing Lucas’s back gently. “I asked you to go with me, Lulu. You’re the one who said you didn’t want to,” he murmurs. Lucas doesn’t even bother to correct his nickname usage. He’s too sad. “I’ll FaceTime you so we can talk until we fall asleep.”

“That’s not the same thing as cuddling, dumbass.”

“You know, you’re really feisty for someone who can’t fall asleep without being cuddled.”

Lucas narrows his eyes, and then looks up at Eliott just to be sure he can see Lucas’s expression. “And you’re really rude for someone who wants to FaceTime me so we can talk until we fall asleep.”

“Touché,” Eliott laughs. When Lucas presses his face back into his jacket, Eliott kisses the top of his head. It all feels very boyfriendy, and like maybe they’re crossing a line, but Lucas doesn’t even know where the line is anymore. It’s so blurred now. Especially after last night, after the picnic and the multiple rounds of birthday sex that ranged from rough to sickeningly sweet. 

Lucas didn’t even chicken out of lovemaking this time, which is extremely terrifying, the more he thinks about it. 

They stand in silence for a few more minutes, just cuddled up together like the annoying couples that Lucas usually complains about. He feels himself tearing up again when he hears a train approaching, and he tries to burrow even further into Eliott, like he’s trying to mold the two of them into one person. 

“My train is here,” Eliott murmurs, and Lucas just shakes his head and holds Eliott tighter. “Baby, it’s only two days. I’ll be back Monday at lunchtime and you won’t even know that I was gone.”

“Don’t be stupid, of course I’ll know you were gone. I’ll miss you.” He sniffles again, and then pinches Eliott’s hip when he hears Eliott laughing. “Don’t laugh at me when I’m sad, Eliott, it’s rude.”

Eliott carefully detaches Lucas from his chest, and then cradles his cheeks between his palms. It’s embarrassing, because Lucas knows his eyes are still teary, but Eliott just gives him this warm, lovesick smile and gently wipes his tears before they can even fall properly. 

“This isn’t goodbye,” Eliott reminds him, voice soft and smooth and full of the love that Lucas has been trying so hard to deny. “I’ll be back on Monday and we can spend all day cuddling. I promise. And I promise to FaceTime you, call you, and text you as much as possible. Okay?”

Lucas nods miserably. “Yeah, okay.” He sniffles again, still embarrassed, but Eliott just smiles and wipes his cheeks again. “Have fun in Lyon. Send me pictures, I bet you look really hot in a suit.”

“Promise,” Eliott laughs. And then he’s leaning in for a kiss, and Lucas has half a mind to turn so it lands on his cheek, but he just… doesn’t. He lets Eliott kiss him, and he kisses back, and then they’re—well, kissing. It’s undeniably boyfriendy to kiss goodbye like this, with absolutely no way for Lucas to spin it into something platonic. This is love.

It’s the scariest thing Lucas has ever experienced, of course. But his fingers aren’t only trembling with fear, and the fear isn’t the only thing that exists. There’s something else there, too. Something warm, and sweet, and safe. Something like relief. 

Eliott pulls back first, but then he presses one last kiss to his lips and then two to his nose. Lucas accepts them all, even places one of his own onto Eliott’s cheek. And then they’re whispering goodbyes again, and Eliott is pulling his duffel bag over his shoulder and starting to head for the train. 

I love you, Lucas screams, but not out loud. 

He wants to say it out loud. 

Eliott pauses, right before boarding the train, and spins on his heel. He quickly walks back to Lucas, kisses him three more times, and then pulls something from his bag and shoves it into Lucas’s hands. One more kiss and then he’s gone, really gone, on the train and then off to Lyon for two days. Lucas wishes it didn’t feel so horrible to watch him leave. 

Before Lucas leaves the train station, he sits down on a bench to collect himself. He looks down at what Eliott had given him, and it makes him smile despite all of the feelings fighting in his brain—Eliott’s jacket. His favorite one; a black one with a zipper, the sleeves slightly loose from Eliott pushing them up to his elbows all the time. 

Lucas has no shame in smelling it, because it smells like Eliott, and Lucas is in love with Eliott. 

He pulls out his phone, and opens his messages with Yann. He types and deletes the message fifteen times, before looking at the jacket and finally deciding to press send. 

I think I’m going to tell Eliott I’m in love with him. 

Chapter Text

“I’m just saying,” Eliott teases, “that if you got on a train to Lyon within the next hour or two, you could be here in time for the wedding to be over and we could sleep together. In more ways than one.”

Lucas rolls his eyes, glancing over at his computer. Eliott’s face fills the screen, but it’s still not enough, because he wants Eliott to actually be here. “I’m not spending money on a train ticket just so you don’t have to sleep alone. Honestly, Eliott, you’re suffocating me.” He glances back down at the pink tube of mascara that Mika had supplied him with, twisting the wand uncomfortably. “I don’t know how to use this shit.”

“You’re the one who cried at the train station, baby,” Eliott grins. Lucas raises the finger at him without breaking his death stare at the mascara—though the sound of Eliott laughing is almost enough to make him break it. “Just, like, brush your eyelashes with the spooly end of the wand. Or ask Manon to do it.”

“I don’t need Manon to do it. I can figure out how to use fucking mascara.”

Lucas finally untwists the cap all the way and then raises the wand to his right eye, trying to stop his hand from shaking. Figuring out how to curl his eyelashes was traumatizing enough, he doesn’t need to poke his eye with mascara to add onto it. He gently swipes the mascara wand over his eyelashes until he’s satisfied, and then moves onto the left eye. He gets a few smudges on his eyelid that he quickly removed with a cotton swab, but other than that, he’s pretty impressed with himself. 

He turns back to the computer, batting his eyelashes dramatically. “What do you think, Eliott? Am I pretty?”

Eliott hums, “You're always pretty. But, if you must know, yes. You have really pretty eyelashes already, so the mascara looks amazing. Every girl you see tonight will be jealous of you.”

“As they should be.” Lucas caps the mascara and puts it aside, and then glances at the rest of the makeup Mika had laid out. He’d been feeling particularly confident when he told Mika he wanted to try some makeup for clubbing tonight, but now that he’s actually staring at it, he’s starting to choke. “Maybe the mascara is enough for tonight. I’m a bit out of my element with all of this stuff.”

“Well, you look good,” Eliott reminds him. Lucas thanks him quietly, and hopes that his blush isn’t obvious with the shitty FaceTime quality. “So, where did you say you guys were going tonight? A party or something?”

“No, we’re going clubbing. Mika supposedly found this really cool gay bar that he wants to take us to, as kind of a roommate outing. But Manon invited all of her friends, which means Daphné invited Basile, which means Basile inevitably invited Arthur and Yann.”

“Why didn’t you invite your friends?”

Lucas shrugs, “I don’t know. I’ve never been to a gay bar with my friends before. It’s not like I feel uncomfortable talking about my sexuality or about boys with them, it’s just… Not something we’ve ever talked about doing. I guess I wasn’t sure how comfortable they’d be, and didn’t want to find out.” He glances up at Eliott with a shy smile, and shrugs once more. “I’m deathly afraid of rejection, and all. So I never really wanted to take the risk to find out.”

“Makes sense. But it sounds like fun, I hope you enjoy yourself. And if it all works out, we can go to gay bars more often!” 

Lucas moves away from the computer again, pulling clothes out of his closet. He sorts through at least eighteen outfits before deciding on one that he likes the most, and he holds it up in front of the camera for Eliott to see. 

Eliott’s opinion is the only one he cares about, anyway. 

He holds up a pair of ripped blue jeans and another ‘lesbian shirt’ that he’d actually stolen from Eliott himself. Eliott gives him the thumbs up, so he dresses quickly, retucking the front of his shirt at least fifteen times and unbuttoning and rebuttoning at least thirty times before feeling satisfied. 

“It’s unfair that you look that good while I’m not there,” Eliott complains. “I’m literally about to have to go out there with a boner.”

Lucas snorts. “Really? You’re hard from helping me pick out an outfit to go to a gay club?”

“No, I’m hard from you wearing my shirt. And from seeing you undress.”

“You’re too easy.” Lucas pulls on his usual boots, and then starts fussing with his hair. The more he stares at the mascara, the more he likes it, but also the more insecure he feels. He wishes Eliott was here, too, partially so Eliott would whisper compliments to him all night. 

Eliott just laughs, and settles back to continue watching Lucas get ready. Lucas doesn’t mind the silence, really. They spend enough time in person just enjoying each other’s silent company, so it’s not weird to do it over FaceTime, too. Just knowing that he can speak to Eliott is enough. 

As the silence runs longer and longer, Lucas tries to think of something to say. Tries to figure out if now is a good time to tell Eliott his feelings, if it would be inappropriate to close out their FaceTime with a blurted out I love you! He knows it’s better to say it in person, but he’s so tired of holding it back. 

Eliott breaks the silence first. “So…” He begins, his voice right and a little awkward. “Um, are you trying to pull tonight?”

Lucas knows why he’s asking. He knows because he remembers Eliott saying he’s in love with him. He fights the urge to giggle, and instead just turns to the camera so he can look Eliott in the eye and say, “No.”

“Oh.” Eliott doesn’t sound surprised, but he does sound relieved. “Okay. I was just, you know. I was just curious.”

“Mmm.” Lucas turns back to the mirror and finishes up his hair. When he’s satisfied, he sits back down in front of the laptop and smiles lovingly at Eliott’s picture. “I miss you.”

“I miss you, too. But I’ll see you Monday.”

“Yeah, yeah. I won’t even know you’ve been gone and all that.” Eliott chuckles, and Lucas can’t help but smile. “I should get going, Manon will be here soon.”

Eliott pouts, but doesn’t argue. “Okay. Call me tonight, though, yeah? Or text me, at least. So I know you’re okay.”

“I’ll probably stay sober,” Lucas murmurs, to ease Eliott’s mind. Eliott has seen Lucas’s most recent track record with drinking, and Lucas knows it isn’t good, so he isn’t surprised that Eliott is worried. It warms his heart, really, to be shown how much Eliott genuinely cares. “I’ll call you. Have fun at the reception.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

It’s Lucas that disconnects the call, and it’s honestly one of the hardest things he’s ever done. The thought makes him laugh at himself, shaking his head. He never would’ve thought, even months ago, that he’d be so distraught over ending a FaceTime call. It’s so fascinating how things can change so quickly, and how the things you never knew you wanted become the things you so desperately needed. 

He stands in front of the mirror to mess with his shirt one more time, when an idea pops into his head. Well, really, an image pops into his head: the image of Eliott sitting in a reception hall in Lyon with a boner. Which then forms into the idea that leads him to untuck his shirt and undo all of the buttons, pop the button and pull down the zipper on his jeans, and reach into the front to pull his dick up so it sticks out of the open zipper. He’s not hard, but it doesn’t really matter, because the boxers are tight and when he puts his hand on his dick, it kind of looks like he is. 

So, he angles himself so the outline of his dick is visible despite being partially covered by his hand, and leans slightly backward so the shirt opens and reveals his chest. Using his free hand, he opens Snapchat on his phone and takes a quick picture. He stares at it for a few minutes before embarrassment fills his veins—he and Eliott have never sent pictures before, due to Lucas’s aversion to it (he’s always been extremely anxious about sending nudes out of fear of them getting spread), so he doesn’t know why he thought to do it now. He locks his phone and tosses it onto the bed, and then fixes his clothes. 

Just as he’s done dressing, Mika bursts into the room, nearly giving him a heart attack. Mika looks him up and down twice before smiling and giving him two thumbs up. “You look good, Lucas. Very gay.” He walks over to him and undoes one of his buttons, making Lucas roll his eyes. “There. No boys will be able to resist you.”

“I’m not trying to hook up with anyone tonight.”

“Why? Because of Eliott?”

Lucas’s natural instinct is to deny it, but he forces that urge down. “Yes,” he grits out, and the delighted smile that graces Mika’s face makes it worth it. 

“Too bad he’s not here to see you,” Mika tuts, adjusting his shirt again and then stepping back. “Especially in that mascara. He wouldn’t be able to keep his hands off of you. Come on, we have Ubers waiting for us.”

He starts to head out the door, and Lucas makes a snap decision. “Uh, Mika?” He blurts, and Mika stops and turns around, giving him a kind and questioning look that eases a bit of Lucas’s nerves. “Um. Eliott and I, we’ve been… We’ve been sleeping together? Which I’m sure you know, I mean, we’re hardly subtle, I guess. But I have feelings for him, and I haven’t gotten the chance to tell him. And we’re not exclusive, we’ve been really clear about it. But I want to be. I don’t want to tell him over text, though, but I also don’t want him to sleep with anyone at the wedding, you know? So I had the idea to… Send him a picture. Only, I’ve never done it before, so I was wondering if you’d… If you’d use your expertise to tell me if it’s any good.”

Between himself, Manon, and Lisa, they’ve probably approved at least five hundred of Mika’s nudes. Lucas has seen Mika’s dick hard more than he ever wanted to. So he’s not surprised when Mika agrees, already holding his hand out for Lucas’s phone. 

Despite his burning cheeks, he grabs his phone and unlocks it, handing it over to Mika. Mika stares at it for a couple of minutes, rotates the phone a couple of times, and then gives Lucas an impressed look. 

“You took this on your first try?” He asks, incredulous. When Lucas nods, Mika lets out a low whistle. “It’s really sexy. You look really good. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, the Snapchat camera is amazing. And you do look damn good in that outfit. I promise, this will keep you on your boy’s mind all night.” He hands the phone back over and then gently touches Lucas’s shoulder. “Hey, I’m proud of you, you know. You’ve come a long way from the sixteen year old who couldn’t even say the word ‘gay’.”

“You’re just happy I asked you to approve a sexy picture.”

“That, too,” Mika grins. “My gay guru advising has really come full circle!” Lucas shoves his shoulder, but he’s laughing, and it makes Mika smile. “Okay, come on, the Ubers really are waiting.”

As soon as Mika is out of the room, Lucas turns back to his phone. He adds the caption, I miss you ❤️ and then sends it. His heart is pounding in his chest, so he quickly puts his phone on Do Not Disturb and resolves to avoid checking his phone for at least several hours, because he’ll need time to recover from showing Mika that picture before he can handle the potential embarrassment of Eliott’s reaction. 

When he emerges into the living room, he finds Manon, Mika, Lisa, Imane, and Alexia waiting on him. They quickly inform him that everyone else is meeting them there, and that they really need to get going before their Ubers get pissed off. 

They race downstairs, filing into the two cars. Lucas gets stuck in the car with Alexia and Imane, which is fine, except he knows Imane is about to ask a ton of questions about Eliott. Normally, he doesn’t really mind talking about him with the girls, but right now all he can think about is Eliott opening that fucking picture. 

“How’s Sofiane?” Lucas asks Imane, just to get the conversation flowing and, hopefully, get their minds away from Eliott. If they were ever there. 

“He’s good,” Imane nods, a small smile crossing her face. “He’s been talking about taking me on vacation with him. To Turkey.”

Alexia leans over, “Ooh, that sounds like fun. You could use a baecation.” 

“It would be fun. I hope it works out,” she agrees, and then she turns back to Lucas. “What about you, then? How are you and Eliott?”

He should’ve seen that coming. “Uh, we’re good. Still just friends,” he says, laughing a little uncomfortably. “He’s in Lyon for a wedding right now, so.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. He told Idriss that he was going to ask you to go with him, but now he’s going with Lucille?”

Lucas’s heart sinks. Lucille. “Like, his ex-girlfriend Lucille?” He asks, and Imane nods slowly. “Oh. I didn’t know he was taking Lucille. I thought… I don’t know what I thought.” He’d thought that Eliott would just tell his brother that he’s not bringing a plus one. After all, it’s his brother, surely arrangements could’ve been made last minute. He didn’t need to take fucking Lucille. Why didn’t he tell me?

“There’s nothing to worry about,” she says gently, as if reading his mind. She always seems to know the situation, always seems to know more than everyone else. “He and Lucille were in a really toxic relationship. They’re not good for each other, and they both know that. Eliott would never go back to her, and she’d never go back to Eliott. Besides, he’s way too in love with you to even look at her that way. I promise. You should hear the way he talks about you.”

“Or see the way you two look at each other,” Alexia cuts in. Lucas looks over at her instantly, and finds that she’s completely sincere. “Honestly, it’s kind of gross. I’m a little jealous.”

Lucas fights the urge to cry. This mascara is not waterproof, and he doesn’t need raccoon eyes in front of all of his friends. “He deserves better than me. He shouldn’t have had to spend months waiting around for me to get my shit together. It’s completely unfair to him, the way I’ve taken advantage of him,” he murmurs. And he’s not even sure why he can say this stuff to them when he spent months trying to admit it to himself, but he supposed it doesn’t really matter anyway. Imane already knows. 

“If he wasn’t happy being your friend, he wouldn’t be. Eliott’s been through a lot, Lucas, and he wouldn’t put himself in a situation he wasn’t happy with.” Imane touches his hand gently. “I promise you, everything is fine. You should tell him you love him. He loves you.”

“I know. He told me,” Lucas admits. Imane doesn’t seem surprised—rather, she seems pleased. 

They don’t talk about it anymore after that, but Lucas doesn’t mind. He knows, now, that he is definitely going to tell Eliott how he feels. And they can live happily ever after, and Eliott will never hurt him like Gabriel did.

When they arrive at the club, the rest of Manon’s friends as well as Lucas’s friends are standing outside waiting for them. The bouncer seems incredibly annoyed when all eleven of them walk up to him, but they all make it in, and the group splits into two—some going for drinks, some going to dance. 

Lucas joins the group going to dance. He follows Imane, Daphné, Basile, Yann, and Lisa to the dance floor, and they find their way to the middle rather quickly. The club is absolutely packed tonight, but it just makes it all the more fun to dance and jump around like idiots. He doesn’t know any of these people, probably won’t ever see them again, and most of them aren’t even sober enough to remember. He can let loose and be himself, and he loses himself in it rather quickly.

For the most part, he dances with the girls. They’re all over each other and all over him, and it’s so much fun that Lucas wonders why he ever thought he needed alcohol to have a night out like this, when all he really needs is his arms around Alexia and Daphné while they dance to Madonna and Kylie Minogue. 

“Will you go to the bar with me?” Daphné yells in his ear, while they’re pressed so close together that, if they were in any other club, people probably would’ve thought they were together. Like, chest-to-chest close. Closer than Lucas ever thought he’d be to Daphné. “I’m dying of thirst, I need some water!”

When Lucas looks around, he doesn’t see Basile anywhere, and he’s kind of thirsty anyway, so he agrees. He guides her through the crowd with a hand on her back, just so he doesn’t lose her. Daphné is small and is usually a ball of anxiety, the last thing he needs is to lose her in a crowd of gay men in various stages of undress. 

Somehow, they manage to find two empty stools at the bar. Sitting down is a tremendous relief on Lucas’s feet. They’ve been dancing for almost an hour and forty-five minutes, now, and the time had gone by in such a blur that he hadn’t realized how tired he was until he sat down. When the bartender comes over, they both ask for water, and Lucas decides to take advantage of the wait to finally check his phone. 

There’s five notifications on his screen, four of which are from Eliott. 

srodulv took a screenshot!

Snapchat from srodulv

Eliott Demaury — iMessage (2)

srodulv just posted a photo

Lucas decides to open Snapchat last, in case Eliott decided to take a risqué picture of his own. The last thing he needs is for Daphné to look over and get an eyeful of Eliott’s dick or something. Lucas is almost positive he’d be more embarrassed than Eliott would be, but still. 

So he opens the messages first, and they make him flush both with happiness and arousal. The first one reads, That picture was easily the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. I wish you were here. And the second one says, Please don’t hook up with anybody else tonight. 

It almost makes Lucas want to laugh. As if he’d ever want to fuck anybody else when he’s already landed the hottest man on the planet.

Lucas responds with a heart and a wink emoji, and then closes out his messages. He decides to check Instagram next, because Eliott might’ve posted a picture of him in a suit, and that’s something that Lucas absolutely has to see, otherwise he might actually die. 

When he clicks on the notification, he can physically feel his heart fall. It is a suit picture, but it’s more. It’s Eliott standing on the balcony of some fancy mansion, with his arm around one of the most beautiful women he’s ever seen. His hand is on her hip, like it belongs there, low and dangerous. She’s leaning into him, her hand resting on his stomach, almost possessive. Worst of all, though, is how he’s kissing her cheek, and how in love she looks. Alexia had told Lucas, back in the cab, that he should see the way they look at each other. Lucas can’t see his own expressions, obviously, but he’s pretty damn sure it looks exactly like hers. 

He knows it’s Lucille. She isn’t tagged and he’s never seen her before, but he knows. 

The caption reads, Always my wedding date ❤️

There’s already ten comments underneath it, and Lucas is apparently a glutton for punishment, because he reads through all of them. Every single one is a different way of saying how cute of a couple they are, and Eliott has liked every single one. He isn’t even correcting them, saying they’re not actually together. It’s not like Lucas was expecting Eliott to say he has a boyfriend, because he doesn’t. Lucas is painfully aware of that. He just thought that Eliott would see comments like you two are the absolute cutest, I’m so happy you’re back together!! and respond by saying they’re not back together rather than just liking the comment. 

Lucas’s blood runs cold. Not two hours ago, Eliott was screenshotting Lucas’s Snapchat and saying he missed him, and then thirty-six minutes ago decided to post a picture with his ex-girlfriend and act like they’re still together? Like Lucas wouldn’t see it? Like it wouldn’t rip Lucas’s heart right out of his chest?

“Oh, fuck,” Daphné says, pulling Lucas out of his reverie. When he turns to look at her, she’s on her phone too, open to the same Instagram post that he is. “Lucas… I thought you two…”

“Yeah, so did I,” Lucas mumbles. And it’s not really fair, he knows that, but fuck. 

“I’m sorry,” she says, reaching out and holding his left hand in hers. “Do you want to go outside and breathe? I’ll sit with you, if you want. Or if you want to be alone I can make excuses to our friends. Whatever you want.”

It strikes Lucas, then, how good Daphné is. He’s always kind of disliked her, or at least been annoyed by her, and it makes him feel guilty to think about. Because she’s so good, so fucking kind to everyone—if not ignorant at times—and Lucas knows exactly what Basile sees in her. 

“I think I want to be alone,” he tells her, and she nods, squeezing his hand. “Thank you.” She doesn’t say anything else, just kisses his cheek and then disappears back onto the dance floor. 

Lucas closes his eyes and rests his head in his hands. Fuck. He should’ve gone to that fucking wedding. All he did was practically throw Eliott at her. She was probably already invited, honestly, because she and Eliott have history. History that he and Eliott don’t have. She probably knows all his family, and they’re probably all friends, and she probably still goes to reunions and Christmases and she probably goes to dinner with Eliott’s mother. 

Eliott loved her. Eliott loves him, sure, but he loved her too. Probably still does. And when you put Lucille and Lucas head to head, they don’t measure up. The winner is clear, and it’s not the boy with commitment issues and abandonment issues and daddy issues and so many other issues that he can’t even admit his own feelings. 

Fuck. That’s all Lucas can think, given the loud people and the louder music. Fuck, fuck, fuck. 

“Hey,” a man says, and Lucas tilts his head up to face the stranger. He’s attractive, at least objectively, about Lucas’s age, and clearly well on his way to being drunk. “You look way too sad to be in a gay bar while Britney Spears is playing. Do you want to talk about it?”

Lucas snorts, “Uh, no. Not really.”

“Good. Talking isn’t really my thing. How about a drink, then?”

For a second, Lucas considers saying no. He’d intended to stay sober tonight, after all. But he thinks of why he wanted to stay sober, and the jealousy and bitterness and hurt fills his body once again, so he nods. “That sounds like one hell of a good idea. I’m Lucas, by the way.”

“Benoît,” the man grins. “Nice to meet you. Now, let’s get you fucked up enough to forget about him.”

He starts with shots. He does a lot of them, too many of them, until he loses count. And then he does a couple more. After that, he starts drinking beers, and dancing with Benoît. As fun as it was to dance with the girls, it’s much more fun to dance with Benoît. There’s heat to how their bodies are pressed together, and Lucas can grind his hips the right way, until he can feel Benoît’s arousal pressing against his ass. 

It makes him feel good in a really twisted way. He doesn’t care that he turns Benoît on, really. But it makes him feel good to think of Eliott, who’s probably in Lyon fucking Lucille in his hotel room. Or, worse, sitting up all night with her talking, admitting he still loves her, and coming back on Monday with the news that he and Lucille are going to try it again. 

Maybe he’s spiraling, but he’s also drunk off of his ass, and he saw the way she was looking at him. Lucas isn’t stupid. He knows love when he sees it. 

So, when Benoît starts leading him towards the bathroom, Lucas doesn’t fight him. He stumbles behind him, and lets Benoît press him against the gross wall as soon as they’re inside. 

Benoît is drunk, but not as drunk as Lucas, so he takes over the grinding. He’s hard as a fucking rock still, but Lucas’s dick won’t cooperate. He doesn’t know if it’s whiskey dick or just his dick being fucking loyal or whatever, but he quickly grows frustrated with it, and it’s clear that Benoît is too. 

“I’m sorry,” Lucas slurs, wrapping his arms around Benoît’s neck. “I don’t usually have this problem, I’m… I’m sooooo drunk.” He giggles a little, dropping his head forward onto Benoît’s shoulder. “Eliott would be so mad at me.”

“Eliott? Is that the boy you were sad over?”

“Mhmmm,” Lucas nods. “I love him, and he loves me, but we’re in a fight. Because he’s at a wedding and not here with me, and he’s at the wedding with fucking Lucille and he didn’t even tell me!”

Benoît groans, pulling himself away from Lucas. Lucas doesn’t even try to pull him back, just slumps against the wall and focuses on not throwing up. “You have a boyfriend, man?”

“No! No, no, no. Eliott and I just love each other, but we’re not boyfriends.” The thought makes Lucas tear up, and suddenly, he’s crying. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have kissed you. I love Eliott, not you. I love him.”

“You’re way drunker than I thought,” Benoît sighs, coming forward and wrapping an arm around Lucas’s shoulders. Lucas tries to hug him, but Benoît just pushes him back. “No, man, we’re not doing anything if you have a boyfriend. I’m just going to get you home before something bad happens to you, okay? Not every guy in here is gonna be like me. We’re going to go outside and I’m going to call an Uber, and you’re going to tell me your address so I can get you home. Okay?”

Lucas nods and slurs out, “Okay.”

Benoît fights his way through the crowd, practically dragging Lucas outside. He only barely manages to keep Lucas from hitting his head as he sits on the curb, and then he stands up and calls an Uber while Lucas sits there and cries. 

It’s not his finest moment. 

The Uber comes quickly, and Lucas barely manages to say his address and hear the driver warning him not to puke in the car before he passes out, head against Benoît’s shoulder. 

Somehow, Lucas isn’t entirely sure how, Benoît manages to get him up the stairs to his apartment and then inside, and even helps him get into his bed. He asks Lucas where water and Advil are, and he brings them back to Lucas’s room dutifully. He forces Lucas to drink an entire glass of water and then refills it and leaves the second glass on the nightstand for the morning. He also places a trashcan next to the bed, just in case. 

After all of that, Benoît sits on the edge of the bed and asks for Lucas’s phone. 

“So I can text your boyfriend,” Benoît explains, as Lucas hands it over. “He’s probably worried sick about you. Did you go out with friends, are there more people I need to text?”

“Mika… and Daphné,” Lucas slurs out. “Mika is my roommate. He needs to know. Daphné is… She’s the nicest girl ever, Benoît, you should meet her. You can’t date her, though, she’s dating Baz.”

Benoît doesn’t respond, he just types out quick messages and then leaves Lucas’s phone on the nightstand, plugged into the charger. He leans down and kisses Lucas’s forehead, before laughing quietly and shaking his head. 

“You need to learn your limits, Lucas,” he says, sounding a lot like Mika. “Not everyone in the world is as nice as me.”

“Okay. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Get some sleep, alright? And call your boyfriend in the morning.”

*

Lucas wakes up at 9am to a pounding headache and his phone blaring on the nightstand. At first, he just groans, shoving the pillow over his head and trying to pray for the ringing to stop. His head throbs with every sound the phone makes, and he’s pretty sure he’ll throw up soon if the pain doesn’t ease off. 

But the ringing is incessant, starting again even after every call goes to voicemail, and Lucas is forced to pick it up. 

“Whoever this is better talk quickly because I am hungover as fuck right now,” Lucas snaps, because the only person who would call this early on a Sunday morning deserves to hear it. 

“Lucas, what the fuck?” It’s Eliott, and he sounds absolutely pissed. “I’ve been texting you all night and calling you for over an hour. What the hell happened last night?”

Lucas groans, trying to think back. He remembers dancing, and he remembers going to the bar with Daphné. Then he remembers seeing the Instagram post, and agreeing to drinks with that guy, and dancing with him, and kissing him in the bathroom, and… Oh, fuck. 

“I just went out, okay? You knew that. Nothing happened, jeez.”

“Lucas, I got a text at two in the fucking morning saying that you got super drunk and that some guy named Benoît brought you home.”

“Okay? I was drunk and got home safe, I don’t see what the issue is.”

“Who the fuck is Benoît?!”

Lucas hisses at how loud Eliott’s voice is, and pulls the phone away from his ear. He doesn’t respond until the throbbing subsided just a little bit, enough that he doesn’t feel seconds from projectile vomiting. “Look, can I call you back? I feel like shit right now and you yelling at me isn’t helping.” He doesn’t wait for an answer, just hangs up the phone and sets it aside. 

Fuck. 

After a few minutes, Lucas forces himself to get up. He takes the Advil and drinks the water, and then goes to take a shower. None of his roommates are up, but it’s hardly a surprise considering it’s nine in the fucking morning. Nevertheless, he takes advantage of it and makes himself the greasiest breakfast he thinks he can stomach, and eats it all before returning to his bedroom.

The food on his stomach helped a lot, so Lucas decides to FaceTime Eliott. He opens his laptop to set it up and then, before doing anything else, checks his phone. He checks Instagram first, to see if Eliott had corrected anyone in the comments yet—and he hadn’t. Then he finally opens the Snapchat Eliott had sent him, and finds only a black screen with several heart eye emojis, which makes him roll his eyes. 

Finally, he opens their message thread. He doesn’t bother reading all of the concerned texts that Eliott sent, so he scrolls up until he finds the text that Benoît sent. 

Hey bro, I’m Benoît, just wanted to let you know I got your boyfriend home safely. He got way too drunk at the club tonight so I called him an Uber and got him in bed. You might want to talk to him in the morning. Whatever fight you two are having, he cried about it for ages, went on and on about how much he loves you. Just so you know. 

Lucas closes his eyes. Of fucking course. Of course Benoît had to run his big ass mouth, of course he had to assume that Eliott was his boyfriend despite Lucas’s denial, and of course he had to say Lucas was in love with him. No wonder Eliott was so frantic to talk to him. 

Even though he really doesn’t want to, Lucas starts the FaceTime call. It doesn’t take long for Eliott to pick up, and he looks like he hadn’t slept all night. Lucas can’t help but wonder if it’s because he spent the night with Lucille, one way or another. 

“So, are you going to explain?” Eliott demands, and it makes Lucas bristle. He folds his arms over his chest defensively. 

“What do you want me to explain?”

“Who’s Benoît? What the fuck happened last night? How did he get your phone? Where the fuck were Mika and Lisa? I could go on.”

Lucas rolls his eyes. “Benoît is a guy I met in the club last night. I got really drunk and I was completely gone, so he brought me home. I gave him my phone so he could text you, Mika, and Daphné to let you guys know that I was okay. I didn’t tell him to say all of that shit about us fighting or whatever, and I certainly did not tell him that you were my boyfriend. And Mika and Lisa were dancing, I was the one that got separated from them.”

“I thought you weren’t going to drink.”

“I changed my mind. I’m allowed to do that,” Lucas snaps. Eliott flinches at his tone, and if Lucas wasn’t so hurt, he’d probably feel bad. He knows Eliott is only worried about him, but still. He probably wasn’t too worried when he was with Lucille. 

“Why didn’t you just tell him to take you to your friends? Any normal person would’ve done that. Why wouldn’t he just bring you to your friends instead of taking you home and then texting them? That doesn’t make any sense. That’s how bad shit happens, Lucas.”

“I was drunk. I probably couldn’t have even gotten him to my friends, and I was alone when he approached me. I’m fine, anyway.” And then, to stir the pot, he adds, “And what do you care? I didn’t realize you were my father now.”

“Oh, I’m sorry for giving a shit about you, Lucas.”

“I saw that picture of you and Lucille,” Lucas says, because Eliott’s jabs are going into dangerous territory, and Lucas doesn’t want to say something he’ll regret. “Last night. I didn’t know you were taking your ex-girlfriend to the wedding in my place. In fact, I distinctly remember you saying you wanted to show your family that you weren’t with her anymore.”

Eliott actually looks a bit embarrassed and guilty, and it brings a sick sense of pleasure to Lucas to see it. “She was already invited anyway,” Eliott explains. And yeah, Lucas figured that. “We just decided to go together to avoid questions that way. Everyone knows we were just there as friends.”

“Oh, that’s why every comment under that post was about how cute of a couple you two are? Don’t play with me, Eliott.”

“Lucas, you know that I wouldn’t get back together with her. She and I aren’t good for each other, and our relationship was horrible towards the end. I don’t want to be with her.”

“Do you love her?”

Affronted, Eliott breathes, “What?”

Lucas leans forward, and makes sure to put emphasis on each individual word. “Do you still love her?” He knows that every ounce of anger and jealousy is dripping from each syllable, but he doesn’t care. He feels like shit, his feelings are hurt, and he’s so in love with Eliott that he’s starting to choke on it. 

For a long few moments, Eliott seems to flounder for an answer. Lucas gets it. It’s not an easy question, and in the face of anger, it’s probably even harder. Lucas watches as countless emotions fly across Eliott’s face as he scrambles to find the words, only to settle on anger. 

Looks like we’re really going to start fighting now. 

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Eliott snaps, leaning closer to the camera as well. “Does it matter? It’s not any of your business, first of all. And you don’t have any right to be mad at me over it. You don’t get to sit here and demand that I tell you personal shit about my relationship with my ex-girlfriend. We’re not dating, you’ve made that abundantly clear.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that I’m fucking tired of this.” Eliott pauses, like he hadn’t meant to say that part, but then he just shakes his head and keeps pushing on. “I remember telling you that I’m in love with you. And I know you didn’t say it back, and I know that you picked up a shift to avoid me the next morning, and I know that you avoided me for days afterwards. And I know that you’ve flirted with me nonstop ever since. You’ve acted like my boyfriend for months, only to remind me time and time again that we’re not boyfriends. And I’m so fucking tired of it. You don’t get to fuck with my feelings and act like my boyfriend whenever you feel lonely.”

Lucas winces like he’d been slapped, and honestly, it feels like he has been. Imane’s words come back to him, all that shit she said about how Eliott wouldn’t stay in a friendship he’s unhappy with, and he thinks about how she was wrong for the first time. 

“I made it clear from the beginning that I didn’t want a relationship. Friends with benefits was your idea, Eliott. And I’m sorry that I couldn’t return your feelings when you wanted me to, but you don’t get to be angry at me for that. That isn’t fucking fair.”

“No, but I can be angry over how you act like a possessive asshole because I posted a picture with my ex who happens to be my friend, and I can be angry over how you take advantage of my feelings for you, and I can be angry that I’m fucking in love with you and you can’t even be decent enough to not tell random guys that you’re in love with me when it’s total bullshit.”

“Fuck you, Eliott.” It’s not bullshit. It’s not, it’s real, it’s so real, tell him tell him tell him—

“No, Lucas, fuck you. I’m done with this friends with benefits shit. It ends now.”

“If you didn’t want to sleep with me anymore, you could’ve said that. Our friendship wasn’t built around the sex,” Lucas snaps, because he has to say it. “You can’t blame me for our arrangement, Eliott. That was a mutual thing. And actually, you initiated sex more than I did, so you can’t be mad at me for going along with it when you knew that it wasn’t going to go farther. I was open and honest with you the whole time, apparently it was you that wasn’t.”

Eliott scoffs. “You’re right. I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at myself. I’m mad at myself for going along with this stupid friends with benefits bullshit when I should’ve known it’d end up like this.”

“End up like what?”

“With you trying to act like my boyfriend without the commitment. Getting jealous, possessive, sleeping with me, cuddling with me, all of that bullshit without any commitment. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve been sleeping with somebody else the whole time. I bet that’s what you were doing with Benoît, honestly. That’s what Sofiane has been trying to tell me. That you just wanted to fuck me to get back at your ex, and that you’ve probably been fucking other guys too, and that’s why you keep reminding me that we’re not dating. You want me all to yourself because you’re a selfish dickhead, but you can sleep around because your boyfriend cheated on you and that somehow justifies being an asshole to anyone who cares about you.”

Lucas sees red. “Fuck you. You actually fucking think of me like that? After knowing me for months? You were my best fucking friend, I told you everything. And you still think that I’m the type of person that would…” He clenches his fist, tries to resist the urge to punch a hole through the screen. “Honestly, Eliott, do you really think so little of me?

“Lucas—”

“Don’t answer that.” And Lucas hangs up. 

And then he starts to cry. 

He cries so hard that he has to make use of the trash can that Benoît had left for him, emptying his stomach of his entire hangover breakfast and probably his heart, too. 

*

The Monday morning that Eliott came back to Paris, Lucas was forced to stay at Yann’s. Yann blocked Eliott on all of Lucas’s social media, and then forced Lucas to stay over for a few days just in case Eliott decided to pop up at Lucas’s apartment.

When he’s finally allowed back home, he barely gets out of bed for a week straight. He goes to work and he eats and he showers, but that’s about it. He’s aware of how Mika and Lisa look at him, but he can’t bring himself to care, and he can’t bring himself to change anything. 

His friends have taken to babysitting him. They try to act like that’s not what they’re doing, but Lucas is sad, not oblivious. He doesn’t say anything about it, though. He knows they mean well, and honestly, being alone probably isn’t the best thing for him anyway. So he pretends he doesn’t think it’s weird that Imane just wants to hang around and watch TV with him, or that Lisa is actually interested in what game he’s playing, or that Alexia wants to come over. He pretends he doesn’t recognize their pity, because he’s kind of afraid to lose it. He’d rather their pity than their apathy. 

On a Friday two weeks after Lucas’s birthday, Manon asks if Lucas wants some company. Lucas knows that all of her friends are going out, and he wants to tell her that she doesn’t need to babysit him because he’s twenty-one and she deserves a night out with her friends. But she follows that text with another saying that she and Emma are in a fight, so he says that she’s always welcome over. She doesn’t live there anymore, but she’s an honorary roommate. Always will be. 

Lucas likes her company the best, he thinks, because she doesn’t make him do anything. She’ll cook for him but she won’t make him eat it, she’ll sit with him but she won’t make him speak, she’ll suggest different things to do but she won’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to. It’s more encouraging, really, than being forced. He finds himself taking a shower in preparation for her to come over, which is a development in and of itself. 

When she arrives, Lucas has already pulled blankets and pillows to the couch and poured two glasses of Manon’s favorite wine. She hugs him gratefully, and then they curl up together under the blankets and sit in silence while Manon looks through what shows are playing. 

“Do you want to talk about your fight with Emma?” He asks, and he feels Manon stiffen against him. “You don’t have to. I’m definitely not one to complain, all things considered.”

Manon shrugs, “It’s kind of stupid. She said something about… About you, and how we should be forcing you to go out and stuff. I told her that you’re hurting, and she said that I’m not a good friend if I’d rather watch you hurt then do something to help you stop hurting.” She turns to look at him, and gives him a sad little smile. “I know you’re a little biased, but you don’t think I’m enabling you, do you? I just don’t think that forcing you to go out is conducive to you feeling better. I think you need to hurt for a little while. Hurting is important.”

“Hurting is important?”

“Well, yeah,” Manon shrugs. She turns away like she’s embarrassed, but doesn’t stop talking. “If we never got hurt, we’d never grow and learn. Hurting shapes us, you know? Builds our character. And I think it’s important to feel hurt, and to let yourself feel it for as long as you need to. Rushed recovery isn’t real recovery. Hurt as long as you need to hurt, and then stand up and brush it off and promise yourself that you’ll never allow yourself to feel that kind of hurt again. Like with Charles, for example. I let myself hurt, and then promised myself I’d never let anyone hurt me like that again. But I’d never have learned that lesson if I didn’t feel the hurt in the first place.”

Lucas mulls it over for a second, and then shakes his head. “I don’t know. Gabriel hurt me, and now here I am months later, hurting over another guy.”

“But not for the same reasons.”

“I guess not,” Lucas allows. Gabriel had cheated on him. Humiliated him, lied to him, took advantage of his love. And he’d lashed out on Eliott because he was scared that Eliott was doing the same thing, and now here he was, hurting. All because he didn’t want to let himself feel the same hurt twice. “You make a good point, actually. You’re very smart.”

“Could you tell Emma that? She doesn’t seem to agree with you.”

Lucas wraps his arm around her shoulders and pulls her in for a hug. “She does. You two just have different opinions on how to help, and that’s okay. She’ll get over it, and you’ll be best friends again in no time. I promise. In the meantime, let’s drink this shitty wine that you like and watch the shitty reality TV that I like, and forget about all of the other bullshit.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” Manon laughs, clinking her wine glass against Lucas’s. 

Mika and Lisa get home a couple of hours later and promptly join in on their movie/trashy TV night. Lucas stopped drinking after his third glass, but he doesn’t mind watching the other three get wine drunk. Especially Mika, because he’s a hilarious drunk, and it’s nice to laugh when your world feels like it’s crumbling out from underneath you. 

Instead of going home when it gets too late, Manon insists on staying over and keeping Lucas company. So they settle into Lucas’s bed together, and while he and Manon weren’t exactly the most cuddly friends, he finds that he doesn’t really mind when she curls into his side. It makes him wonder if his life would be any easier if he was a straight boy who could date girls like Manon. He wonders if, when he moved in with Mika or even when she started hanging out with Emma more, he would’ve developed a crush on Manon. 

Maybe somewhere, in some parallel universe, there’s a straight Lucas in bed with his girlfriend, laying exactly like this. Maybe he’s happy. 

He doesn’t sleep much that night, but unfortunately, he still has to force himself to get up at 6am for an 8am shift at the library. It’s harder than he anticipated to climb out of bed and go take a shower, but he forces himself to do it, just so his friends won’t give him any more concerned glances than they already do. 

The breakfast he makes is nothing compared to the ones Manon makes, but he knew it wouldn’t have been worth it to wake her up. Manon gets awful hangovers when she drinks wine, and he didn’t want her to suffer through that just because he’s selfish and hungry. So he forces down the bagel he makes and then heads out, careful to shut the door quietly to avoid waking anybody up. 

Opening shifts at the library can be really peaceful, and one of Lucas’s favorite shifts to work. He likes being there when it’s completely empty and quiet, and he’s alone with nothing but stacks and stacks of books. Sometimes he puts headphones in and listens to music while he shelves all of the returns from the night before, but most of the time, he just enjoys the peace and quiet. 

This morning, there’s hardly any returns in the drawer, so Lucas decides to do them later. He fulfills all of his other opening duties and then sits behind the desk and waits for the first patrons of the day to come in. 

He checks his phone quickly, while nobody is there, and finds one text waiting for him. From his father, of all people. 

Hi Lucas. It’s been a while since I’ve heard from you, and I was wondering if you wanted to go for lunch this afternoon. We can go anywhere you want to, any time you’re free. I’ve cleared my schedule just in case, so let me know.

For a moment, anger runs through him, quick and hot. He forces himself to close his eyes and breathe through it, to tell himself that his father is only trying to reach out to him, not guilt him. His father just wants to see him for lunch, and he cleared his schedule to make sure he’d be free so Lucas wouldn’t get flakes on (again). That’s all it is. His father is trying to do better, like Lucas has always begged for him to do. 

Once he calms himself down, he replies, Sure. I get off of work at 2pm, if you want to meet somewhere at around 2:30pm? 

His dad’s response is immediate. Great! Just let me know where you want to meet!

Admittedly, in spite of every negative emotion he’s ever harbored for his father, the reaction leaves a smile on Lucas’s face. 

The first wave of university summer students make their way in around 9:30am, forcing Lucas to put his phone away and actually work. Since he’s the only one working, he ends up running around the library more than usual, helping with tech questions and book locations and returns and checkouts. It’s the busiest they’ve been on a Saturday morning in ages, which Lucas takes to mean there’s some exams coming up. 

He’s too busy to do any of the returns until the clock hits 1:30pm. All of the students have left and the library is mostly full of families and older women now, which means a significantly calmer workload. Lucas starts loading the returns onto the cart—since there’s too many to carry on his own—when he pulls a Virginia Woolf book out of the drawer. There’s only one person who ever checks out Virginia Woolf, and knowing that makes Lucas’s hands tremble around the book. 

It’s Night and Day, one of the few Virginia Woolf books that Lucas has actually read. Just seeing it, knowing that he and Eliott have both held this book and read it, and knowing that maybe Eliott thought of him while he read it, makes Lucas forget all about his job. 

He goes back behind the desk, setting the book aside and grabbing a notepad and a pen. He’s no artist, but he does his best to draw a hedgehog sitting at La Petite Ceinture alone, surrounded by peaches and cans of whipped cream, under a sky full of stars. He also draws a thought bubble, inside of which he does his best to illustrate a raccoon. 

Below the picture, he writes, In case you ever foolishly forget: I am never not thinking of you. 

He puts the pen down and then stares at the drawing for a few long moments, before folding it up and putting it inside Night and Day. He returns the book and then checks it out to himself, and decides he’s going to leave it on Eliott’s doorstep, and then maybe Eliott will understand that Lucas loves him, too. 

Just as he’s standing to pull the cart of returns behind the desk, someone clears their throat. Lucas looks up and is surprised to see his dad standing there, just as awkward as Eliott had looked a long time ago, standing in that same place. 

“Oh, hi. I didn’t realize you’d be coming here,” Lucas says, pulling the cart behind the desk and then moving back to face his father. “I thought we were meeting at the restaurant at 2:30.”

“You never told me where you wanted to go,” his dad explains, and Lucas flushes. Oops. “I figured we could just walk there together. If that’s okay with you?”

“Yeah, yeah, of course. Just let me clock out and then we can go.”

He doesn’t take his time clocking out, mostly because he wants to get this lunch over with. As much as he wants to keep a positive attitude, meeting with his father never ends well, and Lucas is going through enough as is. 

With the book tucked under his arm, he leads his father out of the library and onto the sidewalk. They decide on which restaurant to go to, but other than that, their walk is awkwardly silent. 

It’s really difficult to try and be okay around his dad. He never knows what he can and can’t say or talk about, he never knows if his father is just trying to see him or if he’s there to tell him bad news about his mom, he never knows if this is the time his dad is going to tell him that he’s found someone else and he’s getting married and he wants Lucas to be the best man. (Lucas thinks he could stomach a marriage, he might even be able to attend the wedding, but he doesn’t think he’d ever be okay with being the best man.)

He thinks his dad knows, on some level. He’d have to be pretty stupid to not realize how abandoning Lucas had impacted him, how it destroyed his trust and his self-esteem. He has to understand Lucas’s anger, and accept that it will probably never fade away completely. If he hasn’t accepted that already. 

It’s weird, to be so torn between wanting his dad to love him and also never wanting to see him again. 

“Who’s the book for?” His father asks, and Lucas nearly trips as he’s startled by the sudden conversation. “I saw you put a note in it, figured it was for someone. Also, you don’t really strike me as the Virginia Woolf type.”

You don’t know me. “It’s, uh, for this, um. This friend— I mean, this boy that I’ve kind of been seeing.” He immediately bites his lip and waits for his dad to make that face that looks like he’s bitten a lemon, the same face he always makes when he’s reminded that Lucas is gay. Lucas never usually wonders if that topic is safe to talk about—it never is. 

“Only kind of been seeing?” His dad says, looking over at him. There’s a smile on his face, which throws Lucas for a loop. “So, is he your boyfriend?”

“No. I wanted him to be, but we got in a fight before I could tell him how I feel. The book is because he loves Virginia Woolf, and the note I put inside of it is like half apology, half me telling him how I feel.”

His dad hums, and then stays silent for a moment, like he’s thinking. Lucas doesn’t know what he expects his father to say next, but he definitely didn’t expect him to ask, “What’s his name?”

It’s the most interest he’s shown in Lucas’s life in six years, which should make Lucas sad. But Lucas is pathetic enough that the shallow question of what’s his name is enough to make him smile as if the last six years never happened. Like he’s a ten year old again, begging his dad to love him; or a fifteen year old, begging his dad not to leave. 

“Eliott.” Lucas smiles. “Eliott Demaury.”

“Eliott,” his father repeats. “Well, if everything works out, I’d love to meet him. If that’d be okay with you.”

Lucas thinks that it would be Eliott that would object to meeting Lucas’s father, out of pure spite for what he knows Lucas’s dad did to him. But he doesn’t say that. His dad is trying, and really, that’s all Lucas ever wanted. “Yeah, okay. If things work out. I’m kind of beginning to think that they won’t.”

“Why is that?”

“I don’t know,” Lucas shrugs. It’s a lie. “I thought he was perfect for me, you know? He is perfect for me. Ever since I’ve known him, he’s made me the happiest I’ve ever been. He knows everything about me, and he doesn’t judge me or think I’m annoying. He wants to know everything about me. But I’ve also been the saddest I’ve ever been since I’ve known him, because even though I knew I had feelings for him from day one, I kept him at arm's length. I was just scared to get hurt again. Still am, I guess.”

They’ve made it to the restaurant by the time Lucas is done word-vomiting, which puts a halt on the conversation for a while. They make their way inside, sit down and place their drink orders, and then start scanning the menu. Lucas waits for his dad to say something, but he doesn’t, so he gives up hope. 

His dad wouldn’t know what to say, anyway. All he ever did was hurt Lucas’s mom. He doesn’t know what true love means any more than Lucas does. 

When the waitress comes back, they place their entree orders and then hand her the menus. Lucas takes a long sip of his lemonade, begging the God he doesn’t believe in to somehow turn it into wine, when his father finally speaks again. 

“I know that I don’t know much about your life right now,” he begins. His head is ducked down like he can’t make eye contact, like he’s ashamed or embarrassed. It makes Lucas’s heart constrict. “And I know that’s my fault. I didn’t just leave your mom, I left you, and that was wrong of me. I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing at the time. I thought I could make the effort to see you and talk to you and you’d know that I love you more than anything, but it didn’t happen the way I thought it would. I tried, Lucas, I really did. But it’s hard to deal with a divorce and also try to get through to a teenager that’s already decided that everything’s your fault.”

“It never felt like you were trying, dad.”

“I know. At least, I know that now. But I guess it was easier for me to keep you at arm’s length after we separated, because I thought that’s what you wanted. I thought it would help. But all I’ve done is teach you to keep people at arm’s length. All I’ve done is teach you that the people who love you are going to leave you, and they won’t look back. Lucas, my son, I know I haven’t been the best at showing it, but I always looked back. Leaving you was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I wish I could do it differently, but I can’t.”

“No, you can’t,” Lucas affirms. His eyes are teary now, and he wants nothing more than to hold Eliott’s hand. Instead, he just squeezes the book between his hands and tries not to rip the binding. “We can’t change anything that happened and there’s no use trying to. We can’t just forget it, either. It happened, and we’re going to have to deal with that for the rest of our lives.”

His father nods. “I know. You shouldn’t have to carry that weight on your shoulders. I shouldn’t have put it there.” He looks up, finally, and Lucas sees that he’s crying, too. It doesn’t make him feel any better, but it also doesn’t make him feel any worse, so he figures that’s something. “But you need to know something, Lucas. I know I hurt you, I know I let you down, and I know I’ve messed up as both a husband and a father. But just because I disappointed you doesn’t mean that everyone will. Don’t learn from my behavior, don’t look towards it for answers. What I did was messed up, and it was awful, but it doesn’t define you. It was my mistake, not yours. You’re a good person, Lucas, a lovable person. One of the kindest, most deserving people I’ve ever known. There is nothing wrong with you that is making you unlovable. There is nothing wrong with you that is going to make people leave you. Don’t let that mistake define your life when it was never your mistake to carry.”

“Everybody leaves eventually.”

“No, Lucas, they don’t. The right people will stay. Anybody who leaves you wasn’t good enough to be in your life, anyway.” His father swallows hard, and adds in, “Me, included.”

Tears start slipping down Lucas’s cheeks and he swipes at them quickly. They’re in a fucking diner having a six-years-overdue heart to heart, for God’s sake. The last thing he needs to do is start bawling right in the middle of people trying to enjoy their lunches. 

Lucas excuses himself quickly, hurrying to the bathroom. He locks himself in a stall and shakily pulls out his phone, pulling up Eliott’s contact. He hovers his thumb over the call button—he needs to hear Eliott’s voice, Eliott needs to calm him down, he just needs Eliott—but then decides against it. He needs Eliott, but Eliott doesn’t need him. You’re a selfish dickhead, and you’re an asshole to anyone who cares about you.

He calls Yann instead, and cries out in relief when Yann picks up. “Yann, I think I’m having a panic attack,” Lucas grits out, his breath coming out in short, wet gasps. 

“What’s going on? Where are you?”

“Lunch with my dad,” Lucas whimpers. “I thought it would be a good idea, but he’s just— He’s just, like, apologized and admitted to being a shit dad and he keeps talking about how I need to let people in and, fuck, Yann, he asked what Eliott’s name was. He’s never done that before, he’s never… He’s never cared before.”

“Just breathe, Lulu. Sit down, put your head between your knees, and breathe with me. Can you do that?”

Lucas can. He follows Yann’s careful instruction and breathes his way through the breakdown, until he’s left with nothing but embarrassment over freaking out. Honestly, his dad is saying everything he’s ever wanted to hear and this is how he’s reacting?

Yann doesn’t let him spiral, though. He talks Lucas down and reminds him that his father isn’t evil, he’s just made mistakes like everyone does. 

“I fucked up, Yann,” Lucas mumbles, when he can breathe properly again. “I fucked everything up with Eliott. He’s right, I’m a selfish asshole who let my stupid fear of commitment turn into something ugly. I took advantage of him and I hurt him and, damn it, I love him. He doesn’t even believe that I love him.”

“You didn’t fuck anything up. You were honest about your feelings. You weren’t in the place for a relationship and Eliott knew that. Sure, the entire thing was messy, but the blame isn’t solely on you. He hurt you, too. He kept pushing his feelings for you even though he knew you weren’t ready for that, and he got angry at you for not reciprocating. Neither of you are blameless.”

“Can you come over? I’ll text you as soon as I leave the restaurant. I just need to talk to you face to face. I still want to tell Eliott that I’m in love with him.”

Yann sighs, and Lucas knows he doesn’t want to do it. He’s protective, and he hates Eliott for hurting Lucas. Lucas knows that. But he also knows that Yann would do pretty much anything for him. “Yeah, okay. See you soon, Lulu.”

“See you soon.”

Lucas emerges from the bathroom stall and stands at the sink to wash his face. He resolutely does not look himself in the mirror, though. He doesn’t want to see how awful he looks. If it’s anything like how awful he feels, he’s better off not seeing it. 

The food is on the table when Lucas sits down again, so he immediately starts digging in. His dad is giving him these cautious, worried looks, and Lucas decides that he’s not going to let this happen. He and his dad have had a good afternoon, and he’s going to keep it that way. 

“So,” Lucas begins, “how's work?”

As suspicious as his father looks at the question, he doesn’t question anything. He just starts talking about work and telling stories, and Lucas listens and asks questions in all of the right places. They keep the conversation light, and it makes the lunch pass a lot quicker than any meal he and Lucas have shared since the separation. For once, they actually have a good memory. 

For the most part. 

His dad pays for the meal, and then offers to walk Lucas home. Lucas decides he doesn’t mind, so they talk sports pretty much the entire walk to Lucas’s apartment. His father asks if he’s still living with the same people, and Lucas says that he is, which makes his father go off about how thankful he is for Mika. For taking care of his son when he’d failed to do so, and for showing Lucas so much love and acceptance, and (surprisingly) for playing a role in Lucas’s journey to self-acceptance. 

Lucas never thought he’d see the day his father said he was happy that Lucas accepted his sexuality. He finds himself looking to the sky, just in case there’s pigs flying. 

At the doorway, they both stop, facing each other awkwardly. Lucas doesn’t know how to say goodbye, not really—they’ve only done it once, and that was not exactly a model situation. So he stands there and waits for his dad to make the first move. 

“You forgot to bring the book to Eliott,” his dad says, instead of goodbye. It almost makes Lucas want to laugh at the irony. 

He looks down at the book in his hand, and sighs heavily. “Yeah, I guess I did. Maybe it’s for the best. It would’ve broken my heart if I saw this book in the returns drawer tomorrow morning,” he jokes. But his dad doesn’t smile, he just stares at it curiously. “What?”

“I still think he should see it,” his father explains, shrugging slightly. “It seemed important to you. And… And I don’t want you to press self-destruct on this relationship with Eliott just because you’re scared. Eliott isn’t me, Lucas. He’s not leaving you, you’re just pushing him away. So you need to show him that you’re not going to push him away anymore, that you’re ready to let him in. That you’re not scared anymore.”

“I hate when you’re right.”

His father laughs triumphantly as Lucas positions the book in front of him, staring at it for half a moment before deciding what to do. He takes a quick picture of the front cover, then opens it up and takes the note out. He flattens the folded note and puts it over the top of the book, and takes a picture of that, too. His drawing skills are terrible in comparison to Eliott’s—especially with that horrible camera quality—but it serves the purpose well enough. 

Yann blocked Eliott on all social media, but he never blocked Eliott’s number. Lucas never asked why, because he was scared that it was accidental and that, if Yann knew he’d forgotten to block his number, he’d force Lucas to do it. He’s grateful for that now, because he opens up his texts to Eliott and sends both pictures. 

He waits a few seconds after that, just hoping to see Eliott’s read receipt pop up. But it doesn’t come, so he slips his phone back in his pocket and faces his dad again. 

“Thank you,” Lucas murmurs. “For lunch, and for… For your apology. It meant a lot to me.”

Lucas’s father just nods, leaning in for a hug. Lucas two weeks ago would’ve shuddered at the very thought of hugging his father, but present day Lucas leans into the embrace and pretends he hasn’t been craving it ever since he was sixteen years old and living in the basement. 

When they split, his father adds on, “And please go see your mother. I was serious about depositing $100.” His tone is teasing, but Lucas knows he’s serious. 

“I will,” Lucas nods. “I promise.”

And then his father is leaving, and Lucas is left standing on the doorstep with a fuckton of information to process. After all, it’s not everyday that his sort-of-absent father takes responsibility for his actions and apologizes to him for all the pain he caused. Lucas needs time to process. 

He walks into the apartment, his head still whirling, only to be greeted by the sound of a heated argument going on in the living room. He can hear Mika’s voice the loudest, and he has to fight the urge to roll his eyes. 

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. 

He nearly makes a beeline for his room, but then he hears more voices. Manon’s. Yann’s. Lisa’s. Basile’s, which is highly unexpected, because what the fuck is Basile doing here? Lucas didn’t invite him, and Yann wouldn’t have. 

Something is wrong. 

Lucas drops the book on the table by the door and rushes into the living room, where he finds everybody on their feet and yelling at somebody. But there’s so many people that Lucas can’t quite tell who’s yelling at who.

Manon spots him first. “Lucas! Lucas, fuck, I’m so sorry,” she rushes out, hurrying over to him. Yann and Basile are hot on her heels, but Mika and Lisa continue arguing. “It was Basile’s turn to— Uh, I mean, Basile wanted to hang out with you today. He didn’t know you were going to lunch with your dad, so I told him that he could just hang out here until you got back. Mika and I were napping and then we heard this knocking at the door. Really insistent, like the fucking cops or something. So we hurried to get up and answer it, but Basile got there before we could and—”

“I swear I didn’t know,” Basile interrupts. “He told me that you two had talked and that you told him to come over! Sure, I thought it was odd, but you’ve been really weird these last few weeks so I didn’t know if—”

Yann interrupts this time, “We’re trying to get him out, Lucas. He hasn’t been here long. We were trying to get him to leave before you got back but he’s fighting us tooth and nail.”

“Who?!” Lucas finally manages, his head spinning more and more as he’s hit with every single voice on top of one another. “Who are you talking about? What’s going on?”

“Gabriel’s here,” Manon whispers. 

Lucas’s heart sinks to the bottom of his chest. “He’s what?” Lucas asks—breathes, really, or wheezes even, because it’s barely more than an exhale. 

But he doesn’t wait for their explanations. He pushes through them, and past Mika and Lisa, until he finds himself standing in front of the one person he’d never see again. Gabriel, of all people. Sitting on his couch all smug, like he belongs there, like he isn’t coming back to fuck up Lucas’s life six ways to Sunday all over again. 

Lucas thought Eliott Demaury was the last thing he needed, but he was wrong. This is the last thing he needed. 

“What the fuck are you doing here?” He demands, and Gabriel stands up. He looms over Lucas, always has, but Lucas doesn’t find it scary anymore. Especially not with five of his friends standing right behind him. 

“I just wanted to talk to you.”

Lucas scoffs, “We’ve done enough talking. There’s nothing for us to talk about. And even if there was, there’s no way in hell I’d ever want to waste my breath on a conversation with you ever again. Get the fuck out.”

“Please just hear me out,” Gabriel begs, his smug arrogance from earlier crumbling into what seems like nerves. If Lucas didn’t know better, he’d probably believe it. “I fucked up. I made a huge mistake, and I know it’s probably too late, but I owe you an apology. A real one. Just, please? I miss you.”

Behind him, all of his friends start arguing again, telling him to get out before they call the police. Lucas knows he should feel the same way, knows he should be yelling at him and telling him that no apology would ever change anything. But the conversation with his father lingers in his mind, and Lucas is so, so tired of holding grudges. 

“Okay,” he finds himself saying. He’s almost as shocked as his friends are, judging by how loudly they protest, but he pushes on. “You have ten minutes, no more. And then you’re leaving.”

 

Chapter Text

Lucas clears the room of everybody except himself and Gabriel, just so they can talk without interruptions. He knows that all of his friends are in Mika’s room with their ears pressed against the door to listen, but he can’t really stop them. He’d want to listen in, too. 

Gabriel sits in the armchair so Lucas sits on the couch across from him, and leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees. Lucas has never seen Gabriel nervous, but he seems to be now: pulling at his ears, wringing his hands, and avoiding eye contact. It gives Lucas a sick sense of pleasure to see Gabriel so uncomfortable and nervous around him. Gabriel may have humiliated him, but at least he knows that he doesn’t scare Lucas anymore. 

“What did you want to say?” Lucas asks expectantly. Gabriel startles at the sudden breach of silence, and then rubs his hands on his jeans like he’s trying to get rid of the sweat. “I’m serious, you have ten minutes. And that goes fast. So you better get talking, if you’re going to.”

“I didn’t come here for an argument,” Gabriel says immediately, which alerts Lucas to the fact that this is probably going to turn into an argument. “I just wanted to talk to you. I miss you. And I regret everything, I wish I could take it all back. It was the dumbest mistake I’ve ever made.”

Lucas snorts, “That wasn’t a mistake. You had to have planned that shit out. You don’t just bend someone over a lawyer’s desk and stick your dick inside them in the heat of the moment, Gabriel. You’d lose your job if you were caught. You planned it and you’d probably been talking to her for weeks.”

Gabriel sighs, still not looking Lucas in the eye. Always such a fucking coward. “It was a stupid mistake,” he repeats, “and I’m sorry. I want to fix it. I want you to come home.”

“You’re the one who kicked me out.”

“I didn’t kick you out. You were leaving me, Lucas, what was I supposed to do? I cheated on you. It wouldn’t have been right for me to beg you to stay. I didn’t want to manipulate you like that. It just so happened that I had nowhere else to go, and you had this place. You were packing before we even got to talk about that, anyway.”

That’s not how Lucas remembers it at all, but he decides to write it off as a stupid misstep. He was all over the place that night, absolutely destroyed, so he’s not really surprised that he was the one who made the decision to leave. And Gabriel is right about one thing—begging Lucas to stay would’ve only made things worse. 

Except that it probably wouldn’t have. 

“I wanted you to want me to stay,” Lucas admits, his voice small and tiny. Gabriel won’t look at him, and it’s only spurring him on. “I wanted you to beg me to stay and tell me you loved me and tell me you were sorry. You didn’t say any of that, you didn’t care. All you did was make me feel worthless and fucking stupid. I dedicated years of my life to you only for you to let me walk out the door like none of it even mattered. I moved in with you, I gave up friends for you, I gave up a social life for you. And you couldn’t even find it within yourself to, you know, not fuck the first girl who’d have you.”

Gabriel bristles at the last sentence, and Lucas wonders which part bothered him. The part about him not caring about Lucas enough to not cheat, or the part where Lucas insulted the girl he’d slept with. Lucas would put money on the fact that it’s the latter, and that Gabriel cares more about defending her than he ever did about loving Lucas. 

“I never kept you from your friends and your social life, Lucas. I have no idea why you and your friends keep insisting I did.”

“Once we moved in together, I was nothing more than a housewife. All I did was sit in your apartment with you. We never made plans with anybody, and if I ever talked to any of my friends you got jealous and you guilted me until I stopped talking to them.”

Gabriel gapes at him. “What the fuck are you talking about? If you hung around the apartment while I worked, that’s not my fault. And if you never made plans with your friends because you felt as though you couldn’t do so without my permission, that’s also not my fault. I never once intended to make you feel guilty for having a life, and I’m honestly offended that you’d even insinuate that. You’re the one who wanted to stop partying so much, you’re the one who wanted to move in with me, and you’re the one who never made plans with your friends. I never told you that you weren’t allowed to have a life outside of me, Lucas, because that’s fucking ridiculous.”

Lucas’s mind begins to swirl with confusion. Gabriel is painting a completely different picture than the one Lucas remembers, and as much as Lucas wants to trust himself, he finds himself scrambling. Maybe it had just been a lot of misread situations and miscommunications. Maybe Lucas had been the one to isolate himself from his friends, and then maybe he blamed Gabriel because Gabriel was his reasoning for doing it in the first place. Maybe he just confused motive with instigation this entire time. 

He shakes his head in a weak attempt to clear it. Gabriel is manipulative, he reminds himself desperately, he’s twisting things. 

“Did you come here to insult me?” Lucas asks meekly, his brain still swirling. “Because that’s all you’ve done so far.”

“No, I came here to fix things. To remind you how fucking good what we had was. You know it was good, Lucas. You were happy.” He gets up from the armchair and sits next to Lucas on the couch, so close that their thighs are touching. Lucas tries to scoot away, but his hip presses into the arm of the couch and Gabriel only presses closer to him. “I’ve seen that guy you keep posting on your Instagram. Eliott. Are you two together?”

Lucas blinks, hard. “N-No.”

“Good,” Gabriel murmurs. His voice has taken a sultry lilt to it, and it’s the exact voice that used to make Lucas want to jump his bones. It still kind of does, if he’s honest with himself, but it’s conflicting with the ice that suddenly settles in his veins. “You know how jealous I can get. I saw you with him and all I wanted was you back in my bed, away from him.”

“So that’s why you came? You didn’t want anything to do with me until you thought that somebody else did?”

“No,” Gabriel rebukes. “I didn’t realize what I’d let go until I realized I might’ve lost you for good. He’s hot. Eliott. Way too hot for you.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

Gabriel doesn’t answer, just does that Cheshire Cat smile and leans in closer. “Come home, baby. I know you miss me, too.” His hand rests on Lucas’s thigh, and Lucas’s brain scrambles even more. He wants to pull away, feels his body completely rejecting the touch, but he feels frozen. Afraid to reject him. “You belong with me, Lucas. Don’t pretend you don’t know that. Don’t pretend I’m not all you think about. Don’t pretend you didn’t know what you were doing, posting pictures with that guy where I would see them.”

Lucas wants to argue that nothing about his relationship had anything to do with Gabriel, but he’s pretty much swallowed his tongue. His hand keeps creeping higher up on his leg and Lucas’s hand is aching to shove him away, but he can’t. Why can’t he move? Why can’t he tell Gabriel he doesn’t love him, doesn’t want to be with him, and only ever wants Eliott to touch him?

Maybe it has something to do with Gabriel’s manipulation and gaslighting. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Lucas can’t even tell Eliott that stuff. 

Just as Gabriel’s hand gets close to extremely dangerous territory, they’re interrupted by a knock on the door. The abrupt sound melts the ice around Lucas and finally enables him to move, and he immediately shoots up and off of the couch and away from Gabriel. His entire body feels like it’s crawling with spiders, from Gabriel touching him. 

“B-Be right back,” Lucas stutters out, and then he hurries to the door. He hopes it’s Arthur or Imane, someone, anyone who will want to see one of the people currently locked in Mika’s bedroom. It’ll give everyone an excuse to disperse, including Gabriel. 

He unlocks the door with shaky hands, and pulls it open quickly. He opens his mouth to say something to whoever’s there, but feels himself freeze once again when he locks eyes with Eliott. 

Holy fuck. Eliott. 

Eliott is standing there, looking extremely nervous but also extremely happy, and holding a bouquet of red roses. Lucas gapes at him, re-swallowing his tongue. 

“Hi,” Eliott whispers out, his voice trembling around the simple word. “I, uh. I got your message. The pictures. And I— Fuck, Lucas. Can I come in?” He looks down at the roses like he’d forgotten he had them, and then he holds them out a little. “These are for you.”

“Eliott, I’m so happy you—” He cuts himself off as he realizes he’d been opening the door to let Eliott in. Into the apartment where Gabriel is currently sitting on the couch, where he’d just come onto Lucas only moments before. Lucas quickly closes the door as much as possible, making sure Eliott can only see his body through the crack. “Fuck. I’m happy you’re here, Eliott, honestly. But now is a bad time. A really bad time. Can I call you? Please? Or come over later? I just, I’m busy right now.”

“Yeah, okay,” Eliott nods. He looks confused, but supportive as always. “Um. You should really take these roses, though. They need to be put in water.”

Lucas hears footsteps behind him, and he turns to see Gabriel approaching. Lucas’s heart starts beating out of his chest. To take the roses, he’ll have to open the door wider, and then Gabriel and Eliott will see each other. Eliott probably wouldn’t recognize him, but Gabriel definitely will, and he’s exactly the type of asshole who would ruin this for Lucas. 

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. 

“Please, Eliott, you have to go,” Lucas rushes, trying to close the door further. “I’m really sorry, I promise I’ll explain later. I promise. I’ll call you, okay?”

“Eliott? I finally get to meet the infamous not-boyfriend?” Gabriel asks, voice always so fucking loud, and Lucas flinches. 

So does Eliott. 

“Who is that?” Eliott asks, lowering the roses and furrowing his brow. “Lucas, what the hell is going on?”

“Nothing, I swear. Please go, Eliott,” he begs, feeling slightly hysterical. “Please. I promise I’ll explain.”

“Lucas—”

They’re interrupted by the door being forced open. Lucas’s fingers hurt from losing his grip on it, but all he can focus on is how Eliott’s eyes widen and then how his face falls when he sees Gabriel. He stares for a minute before looking at Lucas, so fucking confused and hurt, and Lucas wants to cry. 

“What’s going on?” Eliott asks. 

Before Lucas can answer, Gabriel is stepping forward and extending a hand to Eliott. “Hi, I’m Gabriel, Lucas’s ex-boyfriend. I’m sure you’ve heard about me.” Eliott doesn’t shake his hand, he just nods to confirm he has heard about Gabriel, and his entire face hardens. “Lucas and I were just having a chat. You know, about maybe starting things up again. That’s how I knew who you were, I had to make sure the boy on his Instagram wasn’t a boyfriend. I’m sure you understand, Eliott. I don’t want anyone getting in the way of what’s mine.”

Lucas bristles, and shoves Gabriel backwards into the apartment. Gabriel stumbles a little but doesn’t let it phase him, just continues staring at Eliott with that dumb smirk on his face. “That is not what’s happening,” Lucas insists. “He came over here to talk to me, and I— Well, I let him stay for a bit to talk, but only because—”

“You don’t have to tell me,” Eliott interrupts. His face has hardened so much that Lucas can’t read it for his true feelings, and he won’t even look at Lucas, and that’s so fucking scary. Lucas knows everything about Eliott, always. And it’s terrifying to suddenly know absolutely nothing. “It’s none of my business. Like he said, I’m not your boyfriend. You’re entitled to talk to whoever you want.”

“Eliott, please look at me,” Lucas begs. His eyes are burning with tears that start to fall when Eliott only stares at the floor. “I swear this is a big misunderstanding. I love you, Eliott, I’m fucking in love with you. That’s why I sent you that picture, that’s what I’ve been— I’ve wanted to tell you since you were in Lyon, but then things went all pear-shaped. I was stupid and I fucked things up and I’m really, really sorry. Please just look at me.”

Eliott does look at him, but he doesn’t look happy, he doesn’t look relieved. He looks betrayed. “We’ll talk later, okay? I should go.” He doesn’t listen to any more of Lucas’s protests, just starts off down the hall without looking back. When Lucas tries to chase after him, Gabriel hand secured itself on his arm, and he’s always been much stronger than Lucas. 

Lucas stops fighting when he sees Eliott throw the roses in the trash can at the end of the hall. 

When he turns, he sees all of his friends standing there, and he wonders how much they saw. Enough, apparently, because Manon immediately starts walking towards him while Yann and Basile make their way to Gabriel. 

“This is all your fucking fault,” Lucas snaps at Gabriel, while Manon pulls Lucas into her arms. He doesn’t fight the hug, but he doesn’t calm down either. “You’re such a fucking asshole. I’m not yours and I don’t fucking want to be. You’re a lying, cheating, manipulative asshole and the only reason you’re even here is because you can’t stand the fact that I love someone who isn’t you. Someone who’s actually good for me, someone who actually respects me and cares about me.”

“I cared about you, Lucas,” Gabriel argues. 

“No, you didn’t.” Manon hugs him tighter, and tries to pull him away. “You only cared that you had me all to yourself. You only cared about controlling me, keeping me on your side while you fucked your coworkers and god knows who else. Fuck you. Get the fuck out and don’t come back.”

Gabriel doesn’t get to argue his case further, because Yann and Basile are practically forcing him out the door, and while Gabriel is stronger than Lucas he’s definitely not strong enough to take on two pissed off guys. Manon and Mika, in the meantime, take Lucas to Mika’s room and try to hug all of the pain away. It helps, but it doesn’t fix anything. Not when the one person he really wanted a hug from just fucking left. 

Mika keeps saying things, all of these sweet and supportive things like how Eliott will come around, but Lucas doesn’t know anymore. Lucas said he was in love with him and Eliott left anyway. There’s nothing else for him to say. He could apologize up and down, six ways to Sunday, and it wouldn’t matter. Lucas ruined this. Just like he ruins everything else. 

It’s just this thing he does. He ruins everything he touches. His friendships, his romantic relationships, his family relationships. If he didn’t hold such a grudge against his parents, maybe he’d have a relationship with them. If he didn’t act like a fucking dickhead with commitment issues, maybe he’d have Eliott. If he was a good enough boyfriend, maybe Gabriel wouldn’t have cheated and they could have a good, healthy relationship. Lucas doesn’t even know how he still has the boys, especially Yann, considering how selfish and mean he was. 

Mika tucks him into his bed and tells him to sleep. Manon, Basile, Yann, and Mika all stay in the room, watching him and whispering, but Lucas can’t even find the energy to care. He just pushes his face into Mika’s pillow and cries until he’s asleep. 

*

Lucas spends the next three days in bed. His own bed, not Mika’s. People keep coming over to babysit him, but Lucas does even less interacting this time. It gets to the point where he locks his door and forces them to babysit from the living room—or in Manon’s case, from outside of his bedroom door. He eats, but not much; he showers, but only once; and he sleeps, but way too much. He doesn’t text anyone back and he doesn’t respond when they talk to him unless he absolutely has to. 

He knows it’s not good for him. He knows he’s being pathetic. But he can’t help it. His entire world came crashing down around him in the span of a week and a half, and it was crushed to nothing in one day. He simply doesn’t have the energy or the motivation to get out of bed when all he does is cause everything to go to hell. It’s not easy to think about, but part of him truly believes everyone would be better off without him. 

Not in a final way. Lucas could never do anything like that. He just… He just needs to get away from everyone for a little bit. He needs to leave everyone alone and let them live their lives without having to babysit him through his crisis. And once he feels like he has his shit together, he can come back, and he can be their friend rather than their burden. 

He spends the entire third day thinking about that. Thinking about sneaking off in the middle of the night, leaving nothing but a note for Mika and Lisa on the fridge. Nothing permanent, just a small breather for everyone. He’s sure it would be a relief to all of his friends if they could go at least twenty-four hours without having to deal with more of Lucas’s bullshit. He honestly doesn’t know how his friends can even stand him. 

So, that evening, while Arthur watches movies in the living room, he packs a bag. He packs enough clothes for six days, and figures that he can wash them if the stay ends up being longer. He fits everything he can into his suitcase and then puts it by the door, and starts thinking of where he can go. He doesn’t really have any close friends that live outside of Paris to stay with, so he rules that option out. And he doesn’t want to go out of the country, so that rules out his family in Morocco and his family in Holland. 

So, that leaves his mother. His mom, whose family has a house in Colmar. Over 200 miles from Paris, and over 200 miles from all of this bullshit. Over 200 miles from Eliott. 

He checks the time, and then texts his mom. Hi mom, I hope you’re doing well. I was wondering if anyone is using the house in Colmar right now? I could really use a few days away from everything. 

While he waits for a response, he texts his manager. Over the past three days, he’d only been scheduled once, and he got someone to cover that shift. So he doesn’t feel too guilty when he lies to his manager and says that his mother isn’t doing well and that he won’t be able to work for a week while he cares for her in Colmar. It works like a charm.

About twenty minutes later, his mom’s response comes through. Hello Lucas, so lovely to hear from you! I actually just came out to Colmar this past weekend, and I’m up here for the month. You’re more than welcome to join me! I can send you the money for the transportation!

Normally, Lucas would shudder at the idea of spending so much time alone with his mother. But that thought alone makes his stomach churn with guilt, especially after talking to his father, so he decides to stop being so selfish. His mom couldn’t help everything that happened. None of it was her fault. She’s always been the best mother she knew how to be and was capable of being, and it’s time Lucas makes the effort to be the best son he knows how to be. 

Sounds great, I’ll come up tomorrow morning. Don’t worry about the money, I’ve got it covered. Can’t wait to see you. 

Her reply is instant, I’m so excited to see you!! I love you!

He doesn’t reply, but he figures it’ll mean so much more if he can say it in person. 

In the morning, he’s due to leave just after breakfast, which doesn’t happen until almost 11am. Mika leaves Lisa in charge of Lucas, which means she just goes to stay in her room, leaving Lucas the perfect opportunity. He scribbles out a quick note that he’s going to stay with his mother in Colmar, and then leaves the address as well, just in case. He folds it so it props up and leaves it on the counter, where Lisa will definitely see it. And then he slips out the door, his heart in his throat. 

His train leaves from Paris-Est at 12:45pm, and then heads for Strasbourg. He spends the entire train ride listening to music and absolutely refusing to check his notifications. He can feel his phone buzzing, and he knows it’s Mika and Lisa and Manon and probably Yann and Basile and Arthur, but he doesn’t want to talk to them. He just needs space and time to figure his shit out. Last time he bothered someone with his shit before he had it figured out, he lost them. Not only that, but he hurt them. He isn’t sure he’ll ever forgive himself for doing that to Eliott. 

When they arrive at Gare Strasbourg at 2:40pm, there’s a fifteen minute wait until departure. Lucas takes the time to call his mom and let her know that he’s on his way, but she doesn’t pick up. He leaves a voicemail and hopes that she hasn’t forgotten he’s coming. 

The next train leaves at 2:55pm, and Lucas spends that ride in silence. He stares out the window and tries to do anything but think. He’s tired of thinking and hurting. 

They arrive in Colmar at 3:25pm, and Lucas feels the weight lift off of his shoulders the moment he steps out of the train station. He takes a bus to his mother’s house, and as he walks up to it, he feels a weird sense of nostalgia come over him. He hasn’t visited Colmar since he was young, when his parents brought him here for Christmas. Colmar has such a Christmas town vibe and Lucas remembers being obsessed with it, being convinced that père Noël probably lived in this town, too. 

He tries not to throw up as he knocks on the door and then waits patiently for his mom to answer. She’d never called or texted, so he’s a little worried that she may not answer. 

But the door opens rather quickly, and Lucas finds himself enveloped in a hug before he can even take in the sight of his mom. Lucas doesn’t mind, though, instead just smiling and hugging her back. He buries his face in her shoulder and tries to pretend he’s six years old again, begging her and his father to let him put out reindeer food. 

“It’s so nice to see you, Lucas,” she murmurs, pulling out of the hug but keeping him close so she can look at him. “I’ve missed you.”

“I missed you, too,” Lucas smiles. “I’m sorry I haven’t visited enough. These last few months have been kind of… Well, kind of crazy.”

His mom frowns. “Come in, sweetheart. Talk to me about it. I’ve just made some tea, we can sit in the garden and talk.” She ushers him inside, and then hurries him into the kitchen. He abandons his suitcase by the door and resolves to bring it to his room later. 

She brings two cups of tea outside, insisting that the July weather was too lovely to take for granted. They sit at a small wrought-iron table and sip their tea, and his mom asks what’s going on that’s caused Lucas so much stress. 

Lucas doesn’t even know where to start. 

“It’s kind of a long story,” he admits, fiddling with the handle of his teacup. “You remember Gabriel and I breaking up, right? It kind of messed me up for a while. And one night, Yann convinced me to go out, because he was tired of seeing me so depressed. So we went out, and I… I met a boy. You should see him, Mom, he’s beautiful. And he’s sweet, and caring, and so… He’s just the best person I’ve ever met. You’d love him. His name is Eliott.”

“Eliott… Hm. Can I see a picture of him?”

Lucas nods, pulling out his phone. He has hundreds of pictures of Eliott that he’d compiled over the months, and it’s almost impossible to pick just one. But he finally decides on one of them together, Eliott giving him a piggyback ride, Lucas’s lips pressed to his cheek while Eliott just smiles. 

His mother smiles at it, and then smiles up at Lucas. “He is very handsome, Lucas. Are you two…?”

Lucas shakes his head, “No. Not for any good reason, though. He told me a while back that he was in love with me, and I rejected him even though I’m in love with him, too. I really love him, Mom, but I messed it up and now he hates me.”

“Hates you? I doubt that, baby. Nobody goes from being in love with someone to hating them without reason.”

“He has reason,” Lucas mumbles. But he can’t tell his mom that he was regularly sleeping with Eliott or anything, so he can’t tell her why. “You’ll just have to trust me on that.”

“You know, baby, your whole life you’ve always put the blame on yourself. You blamed yourself every time you and Yann got in a fight, every time your dad and I got in a fight, even for our separation. You’re not the malicious person that you think you are. You’re not always at fault. Sometimes things just don’t work out, and it’s nobody’s fault.”

Lucas just shakes his head, because there’s a lump in his throat and he doesn’t want his mom to see it. He didn’t come here to unload on her and force her to deal with his shit, he came here so he could stop being a burden on people. It’s his own fault that he lost Eliott. He’s right to blame himself. 

His phone buzzes on the table, but he doesn’t reach to pick it up. He only wants to talk to Eliott, the one person in the world who probably wants to talk to him the least. 

“What about you, Mom?” Lucas asks, looking up at her and forcing the tears away. “How have you been?”

His mom doesn’t seem surprised at the change in topic, and takes it in stride. “Really good, actually. I’m going to therapy regularly, and they think my medications are finally correct. I’ve been stable for a pretty long stretch of time, so… I know I’m not cured or anything, but this is the closest I’ve felt to it in years.” She smiles at him, reaches out to touch his hand. “I mean, we’re in Colmar, aren’t we? My doctors never would’ve approved this trip if I wasn’t able to handle it. I mean, I probably would’ve come anyway, but my therapist was very supportive!”

That pulls a laugh out of Lucas. A real one. The first real laugh he’s been able to manage in quite some time. He uses her grip on his hand to pull her into a hug again, closing his eyes and breathing in her smell. She still wears the same perfume that she did when he was younger, and it’s still just as comforting now as it was then. As independent as Lucas had been forced to become, there was always a small part of him that so, so desperately needed his mom. 

She hugs him back in equal earnest, running her hands across his back. She’s a bit more dainty and fragile than Lucas remembers, which makes him think about mental health clinics and hospital stays, but he forces that thought away. This is a good thing. She’s okay. She’s more than okay, and so is he. Or, at least, he’ll get there. 

When they pull back, she pushes the phone towards him. “I think you should call your friends. They’re probably worried about you.” She stands and collects his and her teacups, and then makes her way back inside. “Whenever you’re ready, just come get me. We can take a trip to the markets.” And then she disappears inside, while Lucas just stares after her. 

Just like Imane, his mom just seems to always know. 

Resigned, he picks up his phone and scrolls through the notifications. Aside from the multitude of missed calls, he has: 55 unread texts from Mika, 42 unread texts from Manon, 26 from Yann, 24 from Arthur, 16 from Emma, 7 from Basile and 2 from Lisa. He responds to Lisa first, simply saying that he’s fine. The same with Emma, Basile, and Arthur. 

Then, he moves onto Yann. He hovers his finger over the call button before deciding against it, and simply typing out, Don’t worry about me, I’m fine. I just needed some space to breathe. I’m with my mom in Colmar for a few days, that’s all. Promise. ❤️

He copies and pastes that text to Manon and Mika, and then puts his phone back down to wait for the flood of more incoming texts. He knows there’s no way that Mika and Yann, and possibly even Manon, will let him get away with that answer. Especially once Mika and Manon figure out that he’d sent the same text to the both of them. 

In the meantime, he leans back and enjoys the sunlight. Summer in France is always beautiful to him, but outside of the hustle and bustle of Paris it’s… different. Everything feels a little bit calmer, almost as though he’s stepped into some warped reality. It’s almost enough to make him never want to go home and face this shit again. 

But then Mika texts back, and Lucas knows there’s absolutely no escaping it. 

You can’t just leave like that. We had no idea where you were and Lisa didn’t even see the note. I'm the one that found it just 45 minutes ago. Everybody was worried sick about you, Lucas. 

Guilt hits him like a punch in the gut. Even when he’s trying not to be a burden, he still manages to fuck that up, too. 

I’m sorry, he replies, that wasn’t my intention. I just needed some space, and to spend some time with my mom. I need to breathe a little. I can’t breathe without him.

He feels so stupid typing and sending that for someone else to actually read, but he pushes that feeling down. Mika and Yann are the two people he knows, without a doubt, would never judge him for something like that. Besides, Mika knows Lucas’s emotional struggles quite intimately. Their first meeting, for example. 

Mika responds, I understand that, Lucas, just maybe text me next time so we know you’re not dead? We even got Eliott involved. 

Oh. 

Oh.

Oh, fuck. 

If Eliott knows he’s missing, then Eliott might think that Lucas ran to get away from him. There’s no way he knows that Lucas is suffocating without him, that Paris feels too small for Lucas when he’s not holding his hand. 

He can’t hurt Eliott anymore. 

What did Eliott say? Lucas asks. 

Mika doesn’t respond by text. Instead, he calls, and Lucas has never answered a call so fast in his entire life. 

“What did Eliott say?” Lucas asks, by way of greeting. 

Mika sighs into the receiver, “Imane just texted him to ask if you were with him, and he said no. And then he asked Manon if you were okay, I guess he got Manon’s number from Imane or something. And Manon explained that you were missing, and Eliott went out to go looking for you. Apparently he had some grand idea on where you probably were. That was an hour ago, before I found your note. I haven’t called to tell him that I know where you are, I should probably—”

“He went looking for me?” Lucas asks, and his breath tightens around his throat like a noose. “Damn it, Mika, I— I left Paris to try and get out of everyone’s hair. All of you have had to babysit me through this stupid bullshit and I was tired of making all of you feel badly, and now I’ve gone and caused you all to send out fucking search parties. I’m so sorry.”

“Lucas, it’s okay. Don’t freak out. We all knew you were probably okay, and… For the record, we’re not babysitting you. We care about you and we want you to be okay.”

“That’s why you all take shifts watching me?”

Mika falters. “Okay, I know that sounds and probably feels like babysitting, but it was never intended that way. Like, nobody feels burdened by it. A lot of people actually volunteered.” He pauses, and then adds, “I realize that doesn’t actually sound any better. I’m sorry. We just want to make sure you’re okay.”

“Well, I’m okay,” Lucas sighs. “My mom is waiting on me, though, so I should go. Please call Eliott and tell him that I’m fine.”

“Of course, babe. When will you be home?”

“I don’t know. A week or so,” Lucas responds. He really doesn’t know when he intends to go home. However long it takes to feel like a normal, functioning human again. “The end of July at the absolute latest. My mom is only here until then.”

Mika hums in understanding. “Okay. Stay safe, Lucas, and please text us every now and then so we know you’re not dead. Eliott, too.”

“Okay, Mika. Goodbye.”

Lucas knows that Mika is aware that Lucas will not be texting Eliott updates. He figures that Mika didn’t push it for several reasons, but the dominant one being that Manon will probably keep him updated, now that they’ve exchanged numbers. Lucas can’t decide how he feels about that. 

He tucks his phone into his back pocket and then heads inside, greeting his mom again where she’s washing dishes. She starts going on and on about the markets and how she and Lucas can pick up some food to cook together for dinner, just like they used to when he was little. 

He remembers being little and standing on a chair next to his mother at the stovetop, watching her stir pots and everything. He remembers being eager to learn and help, and feeling so proud every time his dad loved one of their dishes. 

Of course, he also remembers the night that she put her hand on a burning hot pan and burned the flesh right onto it. He never cooked with her after that, and he didn’t live there much longer. 

He pushes that memory out of his mind and follows his mother out the door and down the cobbled road to the market. 

For once, he leaves his phone at home. 

*

Lucas wakes up the following morning to the smell of breakfast cooking, and it’s almost enough to make a whole new kind of weight settle in his chest. He’d spent the whole night alone, feeling like the worst human being ever, but in the morning light he’s starting to just feel sad again. He’d take feeling sad over feeling helpless any day. Especially sadness that’s diluted with nostalgia. 

He rolls over in bed and grabs his phone, unsurprised to find it absolutely free of notifications, other than one message from Manon asking if Lucas wants her to wash his sheets while he’s gone. Lucas says yes, and promises to pay her back, and then shuts off his phone and puts it in the drawer. He needs a cleanse from everything, phone included. 

Eliott had gone to La Petite Ceinture to look for Lucas the day before, like Lucas knew he probably would. Basile had found him there, and apparently Eliott had asked him not to tell Lucas. But Basile told Daphné, who told Manon, who told Lucas. And really, Lucas can understand why Eliott didn’t want Lucas to know that Basile had found him alone, crying under the bridge and thinking he’d been too late to help Lucas. He understands how that’s embarrassing. But also, knowing Eliott threw everything aside to run to Lucas’s aide when he thought Lucas really needed him… It only makes Lucas love him more. 

And it breaks his heart more than anything else, knowing that Eliott had thought he was too late. No matter what Lucas does, he can’t stop hurting everyone. Including himself. 

But he tries not to think about it. It was all a misunderstanding, and Lucas didn’t do anything maliciously. Maybe his act of ‘selflessness’ was a little misguided, but still. His good intentions were there, and that counts for something. At least, that’s what he tells himself. 

He rolls out from under the covers and pads into the bathroom. He grabs towels from under the sink and then sets the shower as hot as it will go. Lucas swears by hot showers, pretty much. It’s the most instantaneous stress reliever he’s managed to find—the hot water practically melts the stress out of his body. Even if it only lasts for a little while. 

He’s hard when he gets into the shower. It’s annoying more than anything, because he hasn’t done anything since the last time he and Eliott did something and really, he can’t remember the last time he’s gone that long without an orgasm. But he knows that a cold shower wouldn’t do him any good, knows he has to get off if he wants it to go down, but he’s not even in the mood. 

But he’s also not in the mood to walk downstairs with a hard-on, so. 

Lucas washes his hair and his body in an attempt to see if waiting it out will help, but it doesn’t. If anything, he only gets harder, because he thinks about Eliott the whole time. Thinks about how the shower is definitely big enough for the both of them, and how if they came up here alone, they could be as loud as they wanted. He gives in, and wraps a hand around himself. 

He comes with Eliott in the forefront of his mind, but he doesn’t really feel satisfied. 

The breakfast his mom has prepared is all spread out on the table when Lucas gets downstairs. There’s way too much food for only two people, but it kind of makes Lucas want to cry, because he hasn’t seen this much food since he’d had to start paying for his own groceries. He thanks her profusely and then eats as much as he can possibly stomach. 

Afterwards, his mother goes for a shower and leaves Lucas to himself. He settles in front of the television but can’t find anything good to watch, so he goes out to the garden instead. He sits back on one of the chairs and closes his eyes, basks in the sunlight and the sound of the birds chirping all around him. It’s peaceful and relaxing, and works almost as well to ease his muscles as the hot shower. 

He didn’t intend to fall asleep again, but the next thing he knows, he’s being jolted awake by his mom’s hand on his shoulder. 

“I don’t want you to burn,” she explains, her voice soft like she doesn’t actually want to wake him up. “If you want to go back to bed…”

“No, I’m okay. Um. What did you want to do today?”

His mom shrugs, “I don’t know. I thought I’d leave the plans up to you, baby.” She rubs her fingers through his hair, gently scratching at his scalp, which really doesn’t help the whole not falling asleep thing. “We could go wine tasting, do an afternoon tour of the Alsace villages, or just go explore. All sorts of tourist things. There’s Base Nautique…”

“Do you think…” Lucas hesitates, leans into the touch of her hand. “Do you think we could just stay in today?”

“Of course, baby. Why don’t you come inside and we can spread out on the couch and watch a movie? I’ll even let you pick.”

Lucas agrees, and follows her into the living room. She sets up blankets and pillows on the couch while Lucas roots through the movie selection. He tries not to think about all of the options Eliott has, tries not to think of Casablanca or Memento or Pretty Woman, and he definitely doesn’t let himself think about Call Me By Your Name. Thinking of all of that would be counterintuitive to his cause.

He ends up picking Les Émotifs Anonymes, because it feels like the romcom sort of day, and he thinks it’s something his mother will enjoy. He puts the DVD into the player and then settles into the couch with his mom, delighting in the way she lights up when she sees the movie he’d picked. 

“I love this movie,” she grins. “There’s really nothing better than a sappy, romantic film for a day in. At least, in my opinion.”

Lucas smiles, “Mine, too. But don’t tell Yann I said that.” 

“Can I tell Eliott?”

“Mom…”

She waves her hand. “Sorry, sorry. Sore topic, I know. I just think that if you two truly love each other, it’ll all work out, is all.” She rests her chin in her hand and turns completely away from the movie, which is so familiar and so his mom that the nostalgia creeps in again. “Have you talked to him since… Since you ‘gave him a reason’ to hate you?”

Lucas shrugs. “I guess. Yes and no. Like, he had reason to hate me before, and then we talked and almost made up, and then I gave him more reason to hate me. I don’t know, Mom, I really messed up.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” She asks. “I know you’re not great with opening up, especially with me. And I know I’ve missed a lot of your life, baby, but I want you to know I’m still here for you. Completely and totally. No judgment at all. All I want to do is love you and help you, baby.”

For a moment, Lucas lets himself think about it. He thinks about how he’d opened up to his father just recently—granted, about very different things, but still—and figures he can do that with his mom. After all, like she said, all she wants to do is help. And if there’s anyone he can trust to talk about this without any judgment whatsoever… Well, it’s Mika, but his mom, too. 

And Eliott, but that’s not exactly an option. 

He presses pause on the movie, and then turns to face her, too. He tries to act casual about the happy look in her face, and powers through to actually talk about his feelings. “Eliott and I were, like, best friends. We were together all the time, and we told each other everything. Like me and Yann, but close in a different way, because of our feelings for each other. Anyway, we got in a fight that pretty much ended our friendship. And we didn’t talk for over a week, until I sent him this message basically telling him I had feelings for him. And he came over with roses and stuff, but… Gabriel was there. He’d basically forced his way in to ‘talk to me’ and then he said some shit to Eliott and everything got all messed up again. I told Eliott that I was in love with him, but I don’t think he believed me. Not with Gabriel there. I even told him that I’d call him to explain everything, but... I don’t know. And now I’m here and we haven’t talked since.”

“He hasn’t texted you or anything?”

“No.”

“Hm. Did you ever call him to explain?”

“No.”

She scoffs, reaching out to gently smack the back of his head. Lucas lets out a noise of protest, then rubs the back of his head and gives her his best what the fuck? look. “Lucas, baby, you have to call him! That’s probably why he hasn’t reached out. If you told him that you were in love with him with Gabriel standing there, I think he’d realize that you weren’t, like, seeing Gabriel. He’s probably just waiting for your explanation, and wants to give you space.”

“I don’t know, Mom…”

“Well, I do,” She interjects, reaching across Lucas to grab the remote. “We can talk more about this later, after you’ve called Eliott and talked. In the meantime, lets watch Jean-René and Angélique fall in love over chocolate.”

Admittedly, Lucas doesn’t watch the movie very much. He’s seen it before, anyway. All he can really think about is how his mother managed to convince him that talking to Eliott is a good idea in less than five minutes, meanwhile it’d taken him months just to even admit it to himself. Honestly, it seems like he’s been missing out on more than just home-cooked meals since he moved out. 

It’s obvious that his mom knows the effect her words had on him, because she keeps giving him these sideways glances and half-smirks that he pretends not to notice. He knows that she’s waiting for him to excuse himself to go call Eliott, but that’s simply not going to happen. Any conversation he’s going to have with Eliott is going to take careful planning, so he can ensure that everything is on the table. He doesn’t want any more secrets and misunderstandings. 

Okay, seriously, his mom has to be a witch. If he’d only had this mindset from the beginning, he wouldn’t be in this situation, and she’d managed to undo months of self-doubt and insecurity in thirty fucking seconds. And she barely even said anything. 

He mulls over what he wants to say while the movie goes on and, by the time it ends, he has a pretty good idea. So while his mother goes to make lunch, Lucas picks out another movie, and then decides to send Eliott a text. That way Eliott can think of everything that he wants to say, too. 

And doing it like this is probably better than doing it in person. While Lucas knows that face to face conversations are usually healthier, he also knows how that usually ends with him and Eliott. Lucas gets caught up in Eliott’s eyes (fuck him and his gentle, loving gazes) and freaks, which makes Eliott freak, and then they have sex. This way, that won’t happen, because they won’t actually see each other. (And Lucas will not engage in phone sex in the same house as his mother. He has boundaries.)

Hi Eliott, he types, his fingers shaking as they tap the screen. I was wondering if you were busy tonight. I’m sure you’ve heard that I’m in Colmar with my mom, and since I’ve been here I’ve had some time to think and I really need to talk to you about everything. I was hoping I could call you tonight? Just let me know. 

He sends the text and then puts his phone on silent, then on Do Not Disturb, and then he shoves it between the couch cushions. His heart is practically pounding out of his chest from sheer nerves at how Eliott will respond. 

His mom returns from the kitchen with two sandwiches and some chips, along with two sodas. Lucas presses play on the next movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and tries to pretend he doesn’t hear every single one of Eliott’s criticisms in the back of his mind. 

And he fails. Epically. 

“Eliott would lose his mind if he knew I was watching this movie,” he murmurs, about twenty minutes in. “He’s a movie snob. Fancies himself a director. He actually wrote this one movie called Polaris, and he had a whole fundraiser to actually produce it. It was a really deep story, really good. Anyway, he’s super picky about what movies he watches and, in turn, what movies I watch. He updates my Netflix list with movies he thinks I should watch.”

His mom laughs, turning to face Lucas. She has the brightest smile on her face, like she can’t believe what she’s hearing. “He updates your Netflix list and yet you two aren’t dating? Honestly, Lucas, if you don’t call that boy then I will. I’ll even send him train tickets to get here.”

“I’ll call him,” he promises. “I’ve already texted him and asked if he’s free tonight, so. We’ll talk.”

“Good. And when it goes well, I promise not to say I told you so.”

Lucas narrows his eyes, “Oh, whatever. You know as well as I do that you’re going to rub it in my face every chance you get. If he and I get married, you’ll probably still be bringing it up at the wedding.”

“Of course I will! If you two get married, it’ll be because I was the one who encouraged you to call him!”

Lucas rolls his eyes, but it’s fond, and negated by the wide smile on his own face. For the first time ever, he actually sees himself in her, in the way she smiles and the way she laughs. They’ve always had a pretty complicated relationship, or at least it feels that way, and because of that he’s felt a weird disconnect between them. He doesn’t feel that so much in the moment. Just then, he truly feels like they’re mother and son, and the last damn near ten years of his life never happened. 

They don’t talk more after that, and Lucas doesn’t drift off. They just watch the movie and laugh at it together, making little snide comments here and there. And then they watch a third movie after that one, and then a fourth. They just sit and bond in a way they haven’t gotten the chance to since she got sick. 

And it’s nice. So nice that Lucas feels a little disappointed when, after the fourth movie, she says that she wants to go for a quick walk before it gets dark, just to stretch her legs from sitting on the couch all day. But Lucas doesn’t complain, just tells her to be safe and then, when she leaves, he does the dishes. 

But there aren’t that many dishes to be done, and he finishes quickly. So he keeps working. He puts off checking his phone by completing chores that probably don’t even need to be done, just so he doesn’t have to look at Eliott’s reply. Because Eliott could, without a doubt, break his heart right now. And it’s a scary fucking thing to give someone that kind of power. 

After sweeping the kitchen floor, he’s officially out of things to do. So he goes into the living room, sits on the couch, and digs his phone out from the cushions. There’s two messages, both from Eliott. 

The first one says, I’ve been waiting for you to reach out to me. I hope you’re okay. And of course I’m free for you, call me whenever.

The second one reads, I’ve missed you. 

Suddenly, Lucas is really glad his mother isn’t there to rub it in his face. 

He tries to smother his smile and puts his phone away again, ignoring the way his fingertips ache to respond. He needs to be calm and rational about this. Talking to Eliott is the single most important thing he has to do right now, and he needs to do so calmly and maturely, which won’t happen if he can’t get a handle on himself. 

So he puts his phone away again. When his mom comes back from her walk, they change clothes and go out for dinner. They find a lovely little bistro nearby, with servings so large that they actually split a serving of beef cassoulet and still manage to have leftovers. After dinner, they go for another walk down the cobbled streets, and reminisce about childhood Christmases and birthdays, and they get deep about their relationship and Lucas promises that he won’t ever disappear on her again. 

He feels like it’s a promise he can keep. He’d felt so abandoned by his father, and he hadn’t realized he was doing the same thing to his mother. And he won’t do that anymore. This whole trip was about bettering himself, and that’s probably more important than any self improvement regarding him and Eliott, and even regarding him and his friends. Lucas needs to build that relationship with his mom, love her and be there for her in the same way she did for him over the past two days without question. 

She’s always been selfless like that. The best mom that Lucas could ever fucking ask for. And she needs a son who treats her like she deserves, since her own husband couldn’t even do it. Lucas has to step up and be enough to fill the supportive role for both of them. 

It’s just past dark when they get back to the house, and his mother says that she’s going to read and then go to bed. Lucas thinks it’s rather early for sleep, but his mom only winks at him, and he takes the hint. He knows she just wants to give him time to call Eliott. 

But he’s a notorious staller, so he doesn’t do that immediately. Instead, he takes a long time getting ready for bed, including taking his second shower of the day. He gets snacks from the kitchen and makes it through two and a half episodes of Friends before he even considers going back upstairs. And even then, he fucks around on his phone for another hour. 

By the time he finally runs out of things to procrastinate with, it’s just past midnight. He unlocks his phone and pulls up Eliott’s contact, pressing the call button before he can talk himself out of it. Then he lays back on his bed, puts the phone on speaker and rests it on his chest, and he listens to it ring. 

And, most importantly, he tries not to panic. 

Eliott picks up on the third ring. “Hi, Lucas.”

“Hi,” Lucas responds. He can hear how soft and timid his own voice is, and it makes him cringe. He can only imagine what Eliott is thinking upon hearing how terrified Lucas sounds. “Um, I just wanted to call and… Explain, I guess. I promised you an explanation and then didn’t give you one.”

“Okay. I’m listening.”

“You know everything that happened with Gabriel,” Lucas murmurs. “You know how manipulative he can be. That day, what you saw, it wasn’t what it looked like. He got Baz to let him into my apartment while I was at dinner with my dad, so he was already there when I got home. And he really wanted to talk to me, and I knew better than to agree, but my dad and I had just had this heart to heart about forgiveness and stuff, so I had an emotional lapse in judgment. And the whole talk was complete bullshit, and he kept coming onto me even though I was clearly uncomfortable, and… That's when you showed up. I didn’t want him to see you because he’d already made comments about not wanting you in his way, and I knew he’d say some dumb shit. You know, dumb shit like I don’t want anyone getting in the way of what’s mine. He’s an asshole. I kicked him out right after you left, and then I went full panic mode. And now I’m here. So, that’s my explanation.”

For a long few moments, Eliott is quiet. So quiet that Lucas worries that the call either dropped or that Eliott hung up on him. He even pulls the phone away from his phone twice to make sure they were still on the call. Which they were. So Lucas doesn’t push it, and instead just waits Eliott’s quietness out. 

Thankfully, it doesn’t last too long. “I trust you. It did look really weird, but you’re right, I do know your history with Gabriel and I trust that you wouldn’t get with him again.” A pause. “But you should know that my main concern with him being there wasn’t even our relationship. I was worried about you. I was so angry because I thought you were getting back into shit with him, but I couldn’t say anything because it wasn’t my business. That’s why I stormed off. It was kind of a dick move, and I’m sorry.” Another pause, and then, “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course. Anything.”

“You said you’re in love with me,” Eliott breathes, and yeah. Lucas knew this was coming. “Did you mean it?”

Without any hesitation, Lucas tells him as sincerely as he can manage, “Yes. I meant it. I’m in love with you, and I’m so sorry it took me so long to accept it. It doesn’t— It doesn’t have to mean anything, but I wanted you to know.”

“Did you love me when I told you I loved you? When I was drunk?”

“Yes, I did,” Lucas confirms. “But I hadn’t admitted it to myself at that point. I was still terrified.”

Eliott laughs. “I was, too. Absolutely terrified. But I couldn’t hold it back anymore.” He sighs, so heavily that it actually makes the line squeak. Lucas braces himself for what’s next. “I owe you an apology, Lucas. For so much. For what I said to you the morning after the wedding, and for everything after that. You didn’t deserve that. I was just so mad at you, and I felt so… I don’t know, betrayed, I guess? And hurt? I felt like you were jerking me back and forth and I just, I snapped. And I said some things I didn’t mean, and I’m really sorry.”

“Okay.”

“And… Look, this probably sounds like an excuse or a guilt trip, but this is me trying to be completely transparent, okay? I didn’t sleep at all the night of the wedding. I was up all night calling and texting you, and your friends, and just freaking out. I didn’t sleep for five days straight. And for a week after that, I could barely get out of bed. Actually, when I showed up at your door with the roses, I was still really out of it. I couldn’t eat, or shower, and the fact that I managed to get out of bed and go to your apartment was really surprising.”

Lucas swallows audibly. “What are you trying to say?”

“That I’m sorry I didn’t come to you sooner,” Eliott whispers. And he’s the nervous one now, voice shaking and almost too fast, like a rapid heartbeat. “I was just really scared. And really angry and hurt, but mostly scared. Either way, I know it doesn’t excuse what I said to you and it doesn’t excuse me not reaching out to apologize sooner, but I hope it explains it a little bit. If I was in my right mind, I would’ve called you within an hour to apologize. Well, actually, I wouldn’t have said it at all, but you know what I mean. I was convinced we were better off without each other, and then you sent me the drawing and I realized how stupid I was being.”

“I’m in love with you,” Lucas reminds him. Because he knows Eliott needs to hear it. “And I forgive you. I said and did some pretty fucked up things, too. And I’m sorry, too. Neither of us are blameless.”

“I forgive you. And, God, I love you, too. So much.”

“We need to work on our communication if we want this to work,” Lucas explains. “I know the last few months have been really hard on you, and on me. Mostly because of fear. And if this is going to work, we need to talk to each other about those insecurities and fears. We can’t let it escalate to the point where we hurt so badly that we hurt each other. We can’t let fear control us. Otherwise we’ll just pull each other down like two people drowning, and our struggling will only make us sink faster. Again.”

“Lulu,” Eliott says, slowly, and Lucas can hear the smirk in his voice, “did you just quote Les Émotifs Anonymes to tell me we need to work on our communication?”

Lucas giggles, “Hey, it’s applicable! Mom and I just watched it.”

“You’re so cute, baby.” Lucas hears rustling on Eliott’s end of the line, and it immediately gives him the mental picture of Eliott in bed, too, curled around his phone and smiling at it like a dopey idiot. “I feel like we still have a lot to talk about.”

“Yeah, we probably do. Might be better to do it in person, though. I don’t think going in depth about our trauma and insecurities over the phone is really conducive to a good start to this… Whatever this is.”

Eliott hums, “Yeah, whatever this is. I know what I’d like it to be.”

“What’s that?”

“I want you to be my boyfriend.” Lucas can hear his smile again, and it makes him warm from the inside out, like he’s basking in the sun in the garden. “You don’t have to decide now, if you want to wait until we’ve talked through everything in person. But just so you know where I stand. I love you, I’m in love with you, and I’ve wanted to be your boyfriend ever since we shotgunned at Daphné’s birthday. Well, before that, really. Ever since I first saw you.”

Lucas grins, “Before? When exactly did you first see me?”

Eliott clears his throat awkwardly, and Lucas smiles so hard that it hurts. “Uh, well, I saw you over at Imane’s one day a couple of months before Daph’s party. You’d just broken up with your ex, and you two were pretending to study while really talking about your relationship and gossiping about Imane and Sofiane. You didn’t see me, but I saw you. You’re all I saw, actually.” Lucas shifts to lay on his side, and he closes his eyes, pretending that Eliott’s soft voice can wrap around him like a blanket. “I begged her to tell me your name, and to introduce me. But she never would. And one day you came over again, and I overheard you two talking about Daph’s party. So I had to convince Sofiane and Idriss to bother her until she invited us to the party, and then I spent all night waiting for you to show up so I could introduce myself properly.”

“You’re such a stalker.”

“Maybe,” Eliott allows. “But I don’t regret it. And I don’t regret being friends with benefits, either. I know some fucked up shit has happened along the way, but I’d gladly go through it again just to hear you say you love me. That’s all I ever wanted. You’re all that’s ever mattered.”

Lucas melts. He feels his eyes well up with tears, and he reaches out to touch the phone as if it even compares to reaching out to touch Eliott’s cheek. “I love you,” Lucas whispers. “And I know we still have a lot to talk about, and I know I wasn’t harboring a crush for months, but… I’m with you. I want to be your boyfriend. I want you to be my boyfriend.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Lucas tells him. “I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life. I’m in love with you, and a lot of fucked up shit happened, but we’re here now. And all that matters right now is how fucking in love with you I am, and how much I wish you were next to me.”

Eliott laughs, and Lucas can hear the wetness in it even across the garbled, tinny phone line. At least he’s not the only one crying. “I love you, too. And I wish I was there. When do you come back?”

“The end of the week,” Lucas promises. “On Saturday. I’ll book my train for Saturday.”

“And then you’ll come over?”

“And then I’ll come over.”

“And then we can have sex?”

Lucas laughs, “Sure, we can have sex. After we talk.” He pauses, and caresses the phone again. Thank God none of the boys are here to see this. “I’ve missed that, too, by the way. I know that sounds awful in comparison to love declarations, but baby, I jerked off in the shower this morning and it was my first orgasm since the last time we had sex.”

Eliott gasps, and then groans. “Lucas, you can’t just say that shit. It goes against every instinct to hear that you’re sexually frustrated and not do anything about it.” A pause, and then another, smaller groan. “Now you’ve turned me on.”

“You screenshotted that picture I sent you on Snapchat while you were in Lyon,” Lucas teases, smirking. “Isn’t that enough?”

“It's amazing, baby, but I’m really tired of just jerking off to your picture.”

Lucas groans, this time. He’d been joking when he brought up the picture, he didn’t expect that Eliott actually jerked off to it. “If I can’t say shit like that, then neither can you. One month, Eliott. One month. I’m already hard just from you saying that, that’s how long it’s been.” He’s not lying, just slightly exaggerating. He’s not fully hard, but his dick is definitely starting to take interest.

“Fuck, me too. It’s been so long.” More rustling, and Lucas has the sneaking suspicion that he’s not just shifting positions this time. “Baby? Do you think— It’s totally fine if you say no, I know things are still rocky and we haven’t talked, but maybe we could—”

“Just shut up and get your hand on your dick,” Lucas hisses, getting up from the bed and ensuring that his door is locked. Then he lays back down and pushes his shorts and boxers down to his ankles. 

“Are you touching yourself?” Eliott asks. 

“Not yet. Do you want me to?” Lucas whispers. He doesn’t need to ask if Eliott is touching himself, because Lucas can hear the slick sounds of it already. It makes his mouth water, reminds him how long it’s been since he’s had Eliott’s cock in his mouth. 

Eliott whimpers. “Yeah, my love. Touch yourself for me, please. Wanna hear you. Been so long.”

Lucas, always eager to please, follows instructions immediately. He spits into his hand and then circles his hand around his dick, moaning softly at the feeling. It’s already so much better than the shower session, and Lucas doesn’t know if that’s because he can hear Eliott’s moans or if it’s because Eliott can hear him. Maybe it’s both. 

They don’t talk a lot, mostly just moan into the phone and whisper quiet praises and swears into the phone. Lucas knows when Eliott’s close by the way his moans increase in pitch and frequency; and desperate to catch up, Lucas works his hand faster. Eliott begs Lucas to come, to let go, to let me hear how good you feel, and Lucas feels like a wire pulled taut and ready to snap. 

Eliott comes first, and Lucas knows when that happens because the line goes silent. Lucas comes just three strokes later, to the thought of Eliott laying in bed in Paris, jerking off to Lucas’s sex noises. 

Once they’ve both cleaned up and evened out their breath, they resume their previous positions of laying down next to the phone and saying sweet words to each other. It’s always been this way between them, but Lucas is just happy that it means something now, and he doesn’t have to deny it. He can be happy. 

“We’re a mess.,” Eliott laughs. “A fucking mess. I can’t believe we just did that. I love you so much.”

“I love you,” Lucas replies easily. He can’t believe how fucking easy it is. He can’t remember what he was ever afraid of. “I should go to sleep. You know how tired I get after I come. And it’s late, anyway. You have work in the morning.”

Eliott sighs, “You’re right. Thank you for calling, Lucas. And for forgiving me. I promise, once we work everything out, you won’t regret the decision to give me a chance. I can feel it.”

“I didn’t make the decision to love you, Eliott. That just happened. And it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Don’t doubt that.”

“Okay,” Eliott breathes. “I love you.”

“And I love you. Sleep well.”

And then they hang up. And Lucas really does intend to go to sleep, but even after sending Eliott a million goodnight texts and plugging his phone in, he still finds himself staring at the ceiling, a stupid smile on his face. He doesn’t think he’s going to sleep at all, tonight. 

The best part, he doesn’t even care. 

*

“I’m happy you two worked it out,” Lucas’s mom says, wrapping Lucas up in a tight hug. They’re standing outside of the Colmar train station, waiting for Lucas’s train back to Paris, and they’re both embarrassingly teary-eyed about it. The last five days that Lucas had spent with her were amazing, and he hates to leave. “When I get back to Paris, I expect you to bring him over for dinner so I can meet him.”

Lucas nods, “Of course. You’ll love him, I promise.”

“I know I will,” she murmurs. “I’d love anybody who makes my baby this happy. You deserve it, after everything you’ve been through.”

“I love you,” Lucas tells her. 

His mom lets out an audible sob into his shoulder, so Lucas holds her tighter. He doesn’t even want to think about when the last time he’d really said that to her was. “I love you, too, sweetheart. Make sure you call me every now and then, okay?”

“I promise.”

“Good.” She pulls back and wipes her eyes, and then pats Lucas’s shoulder. “Get going, then. You’ll miss your train if you stay out here any longer.”

Lucas nods and hikes his bag up on his shoulder, fully prepared to walk into the station. He ends up surprising both of them by pulling her in for one more bone-crushing hug, and whispering four times more that he loves her so much more than she knows. And it’s true. For the first time in years, he’s able to say it. 

She kisses his cheeks and then practically pushes him into the station, so he goes, and he doesn’t look back because if he does he knows he’ll want to stay. So he just keeps walking, and doesn’t stop until he’s seated on his train. 

It’s a thirty minute ride to Gare Strasbourg, which Lucas spends napping. He and his mom has spent the last few days doing all kinds of touristy things, and then he’d stay up all night talking to Eliott. Another first: the first time in a long time he didn’t sleep for a happy reason. 

For the train ride from Gare Strasbourg to Paris-Est, Lucas texts Eliott. He doesn’t plan on even stopping by his apartment when he gets back to Paris, all he wants to do is go to Eliott’s and be held. He doesn’t even care if they talk or not first (as terrible as it sounds, Lucas knows their talk will go well, because it’s them and he’s pretty convinced they’re soulmates or something, because who else would still be together after all this shit?), he just wants cuddles and kisses and for Eliott to say je t’aime like, fifteen thousand more times. 

The Paris-Est station is unsurprisingly busy when they arrive, forcing Lucas to fight through the crowds to get outside and get an Uber to Eliott’s. He tries to make his way through the groups of people while also texting Eliott to inform him that he just got off the train and is currently headed to call an Uber. 

He doesn’t expect Eliott to text him, I know. I can see you. 

Lucas stops in the middle of the station, and starts looking around. All he can see is hustle and bustle, and not one single glimpse of Eliott. And Lucas could pick Eliott out in a crowd any day. 

Eliott doesn’t say anything else, so Lucas tentatively keeps walking. He walks until he’s almost out the doors, but freezes when he hears someone call his name. 

And there’s Eliott, right in front of the doors, holding up a big sign that says MY IDIOT BOYFRIEND in glitter, with tons of stars and peaches drawn around it. It’s the dumbest thing Lucas has ever seen, and he’s so embarrassed that this is happening in public in the middle of a rush hour, but he also doesn’t care. 

He drops his bag and runs for Eliott, launching himself into Eliott’s arms the moment they’re close enough. Eliott drops the sign and lets out a loud oomph noise, but catches Lucas all the same, and spins him around in happy circles. 

They kiss like they haven’t kissed in a million years and might not ever kiss again; uncoordinated and almost too passionate, especially for being in public. But Lucas doesn’t think these types of kisses have to be good, practiced kisses. As long as there’s love. 

Which, God, there is. There’s so much love pouring out of the both of them that they’re probably making a mess of the train station. There’s people staring and pointing and annoyed people making rude comments, but it doesn’t matter. None of it matters. All that matters is Lucas and Eliott. 

“I missed you,” Lucas whispers. “I love you so much. So fucking much.”

“I love you more, baby. Fuck. Don’t ever run away again, okay? I love you.”

Lucas nods, “I won’t. I promise. I’m yours. I’m yours, I’m yours, I’m yours.” I’m sorry I didn’t say any of this sooner. You deserve the world and I’m only just now figuring out how to give it to you.

“I love you,” Eliott murmurs. “Come on, my idiot boyfriend. Let’s go back to my place. We have a lot of missing time to make up.”

Chapter Text

Eliott.

Despite the fact that it was only 4pm and Eliott really hadn’t done anything today, he found himself nearly falling asleep as soon as Idriss took over his controller. He and Sofiane had come over to hang out hours ago, and all they’d done is sit around and play FIFA and GTA. Granted, they never usually did much anyway, but Eliott was bored. 

He watches as Sofiane kicks Idriss’s ass in FIFA, and then lets his eyes slip closed. He can only watch so much simulated soccer. “Can’t we go do something?” He asks, grabbing the drawstrings of his hoodie and pulling them tight so the hood covers his face. “I’m bored of playing video games.”

“Like what, man? I’m broke,” Idriss says. 

“Ugh, I don’t know,” Eliott whines. “Just something other than this. We could go for a fucking walk or something.”

Sofiane snorts, “A walk? You don’t need us to go for a walk, bro.”

“Isn’t Imane going to be home soon, anyway? Shouldn’t we be getting out of her way?” They don’t really run from Imane anymore, but Eliott still tries to use it as an excuse. Her and Idriss shared a small apartment now, and even though their parents aren’t around to kick Idriss and his friends out when Imane needs to study, old habits die hard. 

Idriss sighs and checks his watch. “You’re right. She’s supposed to be bringing some guy over, too.” When Sofiane immediately jerks up, Idriss rolls his eyes. “Bro, chill. It’s a guy she’s been friends with since high school. Apparently they share a literature class and they’re studying together.”

“All the more reason to go do something!” Eliott exclaims, freeing his face and sitting up. “It’s Paris, there has to be something to do.”

“It’s Paris. There’s nothing to do,” Sofiane mumbles. 

Eliott rolls his eyes and slumps back into the couch and covers his face again. Whatever. If he can’t convince them to go out, he may as well get a good nap out of it. Imane’s father bought this couch and while it wasn’t cheap, it was definitely comfortable. 

He listens to the sounds of Idriss and Sofiane arguing with each other for the next twenty minutes, all while trying to at least doze a little. He and Lucille were up all night the previous night, and not even for a good reason. No, Lucille just liked to wait until 1am to bring up stupid shit for them to fight about. They’d fought for hours before Eliott had to get up and go to work in the morning. He was so fucking over it. 

The boys keep telling him to just break up with her already, but Eliott knows that it’s not that simple. They’ve been dating since high school, except for the year Lucille went abroad and they mutually decided that they needed the space to ‘find themselves’. In that year, Lucille fell in love with Johannesburg and, somehow, fell even more in love with Eliott. She’d called from the airport before her flight home begging him to be there when she arrived, because she loved him and knew it was him she wanted to spend her life with. Eliott had spent that year being amazing, until he was absolutely miserable. He’d been wonderful at first, until he had the worst episode of his life, even worse than the one from high school. He imploded and exploded and he never breathed a word of it to Lucille. 

She’d been angry, of course, when she found out. They fought for weeks over it. Eliott regretted ever going to the airport for her. In spite of the episode, being apart felt good. He felt like he could breathe again, felt like a weight had been lifted off his chest. But the episode reminded him of why he needed her, why he loved her, and it sent him running right back. He’d shown up at the airport with flowers and chocolates and tried to ignore how foreign it felt when they kissed. 

Lucille even looked different. She was tanner, had lighter and longer hair, and looked like she spent the last year outdoors. She looked happy, radiant. Eliott had known that she thrived without him, too. He wondered what made her come running back, because he knew it couldn’t have been love. Not when they were both so good without each other. 

But he never asked. They just got back together and then they fought every single day ever since. It hasn’t stopped. This week, they’re fighting about what a lazy, useless piece of shit Eliott is letting himself become. Not in so many words, of course, but still. Eliott can hardly handle being at home anymore. 

He knows he should break up with her, but it’s just so much easier to hang around with the boys again and pretend that nothing’s happening. Because he knows he needs her. 

“Imane just texted me, she’s on her way up,” Idriss says. “So we’ll have to be quiet while she and her friend are studying.”

“Quiet,” Sofiane laughs, “as if.”

Idriss laughs, too. “I don’t know, man, I think Eliott is passed out over there. If you and I can stay quiet, we’ll be fine.”

A few more moments of silence pass before the door clicks open, cutting through the relative silence in the room. Eliott doesn’t sit up, just continues pretending to be asleep while Imane and her friend come in and greet the boys. They all whisper, presumably for Eliott’s benefit, and he fights the urge to smile. 

The sound of footsteps retreats towards the kitchen, and everything stays quiet for fifteen more seconds before there’s the loud scrape of a chair. Eliott can hear Imane scolding her friend for being so loud, so Eliott plays into it, sitting up and rubbing his eyes as though he’d been awakened. He’s out of view of Imane and her friend, but Idriss notices and rolls his eyes. 

“You woke him up, Imane!” He calls. 

Imane calls back, “That was Lucas!”

“Sorry!” A boy’s voice says. Eliott figures that Lucas is her friend. He has a nice voice. A pretty one. One that makes Eliott want to see him. 

“We should just go find something to do,” Sofiane sighs, pausing the game and putting his controller aside. “Or else the whole afternoon is going to be us yelling at each other like that. Let’s just let them study.”

Idriss narrows his eyes. “You’re just saying that because you have a thing for my sister,” he accuses, making Sofiane avert his eyes. Eliott knows Idriss is mostly teasing, but even he could hear the slight edge in his words. 

“Let’s go do something,” Eliott murmurs. “I can’t even sleep in peace here. There’s got to be something we can do.”

Idriss finally agrees, so he and Sofiane set to work putting the video games away. Eliott excuses himself to the bathroom, skirting by the doorway to the kitchen on his way. When he peeks in, he can see Imane and Lucas sitting there, and he finds himself doing a double take. 

Because wow. Eliott can’t see all of Lucas from this angle, but from what he can see, Lucas is fucking beautiful. His hair looks soft and seems to be defying all laws of physics, and he’s wearing these skinny jeans that make his thighs look delectable, and he’s so tiny that Eliott just wants to cuddle him. Lucas is talking, too, and everything that comes out of his mouth leaves Eliott drooling just because of his voice. 

They’re not studying. They’re talking about some boy named Gabriel that Lucas had apparently broken up with, voices hushed and attention so rapt that they don’t even notice Eliott standing there. Which is both a blessing and a curse, because Eliott lingers to stare despite the guilt he feels over eavesdropping. 

“Are you coming, Eliott?” Sofiane calls, shaking Eliott out of his stupor. 

Eliott darts out of the way of the doorway before Imane and Lucas can look up, hurrying back into the living room despite the fact that he never did make it to the bathroom. 

Fuck. Lucas is so fucking pretty. 

But he doesn’t let himself think about it. He’ll probably never even see Lucas again, so he’ll just have to move on and forget that the pretty boy ever existed. 

*

He can’t stop thinking about Lucas. 

It’s been four days, and Eliott is obsessed. He regrets not taking a longer look at Lucas in person, because he’s stuck swooning over Lucas’s Instagram like a fucking creep. Even Lucille has noticed the difference in how quiet Eliott is and how deep in thought he seems to be. 

It eats him up, really, knowing that she’s concerned while he’s only thinking about someone else. 

But it’s boiled over now, and Eliott can’t help himself. He goes over to Idriss’s under the pretense of wanting to play video games, but he has an ulterior motive. He knows that Imane is there, knows because Idriss had warned him about it. He knows she’s studying, and that she’s alone this time. Which means that Idriss won’t bother her, and that if Eliott pretends to go the bathroom and then somehow ends up sitting in the kitchen with her instead, Idriss won’t ever have to know. 

He sticks it out playing video games for a little while, though he loses drastically every time. Idriss makes fun of him for it, but Eliott only pretends to be bothered. He isn’t really. He knows it’s only because his mind is elsewhere, and that on any other day, he could kick Idriss’s ass at Call of Duty. 

It takes him forty-six minutes to gather the courage to excuse himself. He walks slowly, and makes sure that Idriss is focused on a new single player game before dipping into the kitchen and sitting opposite Imane. 

The funny thing is, she doesn’t even look surprised to see him. She doesn’t even look up from her textbook. 

“Hi, Eliott,” she murmurs, flipping to a new textbook page and putting a purple sticky note on it. “What’s up?”

“I was hoping I could get your help with something,” he whispers. “Idriss can’t know about it.”

Imane looks up, her eyebrows furrowed. “Okay. What do you need help with?”

“Um. Okay. So, you know that boy that you were studying with a few days ago? Lucas?”

“Yeah.”

Eliott swallows. “I… He was really cute, and I want to know more about him. I want to know him. Could you introduce us, maybe? Please? I’ll owe you one. Hell, I’ll owe you twenty.”

Imane narrows her eyes, and then leans her elbows on the table. Eliott can’t help but squirm under her gaze. “You want me to introduce you to my friend because you think he’s cute?” She asks, and Eliott nods once. “Why? So you can flirt? You have a girlfriend, Eliott.”

“I know,” Eliott sighs. “I know. But Lucille and I… We’re not good for each other. We’re not happy anymore, and we haven’t been for a long time. I’m going to end it soon, I swear. I just need to find the courage. You know me, Imane, I wouldn’t make a move on Lucas before I broke up with her. I couldn’t do that to her, not after everything.”

“And I won’t let you do it to him. He just got out of a really bad relationship and the last thing he needs is a boy who’s been in a relationship with a girl for ages trying to get with him.” She looks back down at her book and then adds, “The last thing he needs is you.”

It stings, but he knows she’s right. Eliott does this. He gets obsessive about things, and hyperfixates on them. He knows that Imane’s loyalty is to Lucas, if they’ve truly been friends since high school, and he understands her fear that Eliott will get bored of him and move on. 

But it still hurts. 

“I just want to know him,” Eliott repeats. 

“Break up with Lucille, and then we can talk about it. Okay? But until that happens, I’m not subjecting you or Lucas to that. He’s a good person, Eliott. A good friend. I can’t let anything else hurt him right now.”

“I don’t want to hurt him, Imane.”

“No one ever does,” Imane says, “but somehow, he still always manages to get the worst of people.” It’s cryptic, and he knows Imane won’t go into any more detail, but suddenly all Eliott wants is to know who the hell could ever hurt Lucas. And he doesn’t even know the guy. 

Not yet. 

He nods at Imane. “Okay. I’ll break up with her, and then we’ll see. Deal.” He smiles at her once, and then stands up. “Thank you.”

“You’d better hurry up, or Idriss will get suspicious.”

*

Eliott looks up at the library and tries to keep his heart from beating out of his throat. Three months and one breakup later, and Eliott had finally convinced Imane to give him some access to Lucas. It hadn’t been much, just a simple hint that Lucas works at the library, but Eliott ran with it. 

Except that he forgot to think this through, because now he’s standing in front of this library with no idea how he’s going to go in there and charm a fucking stranger. It’s like he’d forgotten that he’s the one who’d been obsessively pining over Lucas for months. Lucas never even saw him at Imane’s, and probably has no idea who Eliott even is. 

Fuck it. He’ll figure it out. 

He walks in before he can change his mind, and then pretends to be looking for books while he’s really looking for Lucas. He doesn’t see him at the circulation desk, which makes him figure that Lucas is probably walking around somewhere. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because this means he has more time to think and it’s more likely that Lucas is alone, but it also means that Lucas could literally be around any one of these shelves at any point. 

Books. Obviously he’s going to start with talking about books, they’re in a library. That’ll be his opener. He can ask Lucas to direct him to the Virginia Woolf novels, and then they can make small talk. Eliott will find something they have in common, and they’ll talk more, and eventually they’ll both be so wrapped up in conversation that neither wants it to end and they’ll exchange numbers and keep talking and live happily ever after. 

If Eliott could just find him. 

He knows where Virginia Woolf is. It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. After all, it’s a library. It’s organized and categorized and Eliott has literally walked by her books three times now. But he still doesn’t see Lucas. 

His phone buzzes in his pocket, so he stops in his tracks and pulls it out to find a message from Sofiane waiting on him. Want to hang out? Idriss and I are going skating if you’re down. 

Sorry, I’m busy. Maybe later?

Video games tonight? Sofiane replies. 

Eliott replies with a thumbs up and then tucks his phone in his pocket once more. When he looks up and then down the aisle, he sees two boys on the opposite side. They’re kneeling by a stack of books, clearly wrapped up in a conversation and oblivious to the world around them. 

And despite only seeing it once, Eliott thinks he could pick that hair out of a crowd. 

He takes a deep breath and psychs himself up. All he has to do is walk up to Lucas and ask where Virginia Woolf is. It’s not a big deal, it’s Lucas’s job. He probably gets asked stuff like that all the time, so he won’t think Eliott is weird. It’s fine. 

He forces his feet to move down the row towards where Lucas and the other boy (Eliott recognizes him from Lucas’s Instagram as Yann) are kneeling. Lucas is stacking books, apparently, but doesn’t seem to be getting much work done based on how he gesticulates so wildly as he talks to Yann. Eliott figures he’s about to interrupt an argument. 

“—helping your case. Whose party did you say it was?” Lucas is saying, when Eliott gets within earshot. Eliott makes himself walk slower so he can not-so-shamelessly listen in.

As Lucas puts a book on the shelf, Yann replies, “Daphné’s. For her birthday.” And Eliott nearly cheers. Eliott knows Daphné. She comes over all the time to see Imane, and while they’re not exactly friends, Eliott knows that Daphné knows him. To the extent that she’d greet him in public and call him by name if they ran into each other, probably. 

God truly is real. 

“And everyone’s going?” Lucas asks, sounding so defeated that Eliott nearly wants to laugh. Yann nods, making Lucas groan so adorably that Eliott thinks he might combust. He pauses as he finally reaches the boys, and tries to get the courage to speak. “I really don’t think that partying is going to help—”

“Excuse me?” Eliott blurts, right as Lucas is mid-sentence. He’s a little horrified with himself for interrupting, honestly, but he couldn’t help it. It was as though the words just came out of him before he could talk himself out of speaking; like his brain was trying to stop him from chickening out last minute. 

Lucas startles, quickly standing up and giving Eliott the most apologetic smile Eliott’s ever seen. It melts his heart to see it, and he nearly returns the smile. 

(Okay, he does return it. Whatever.)

And fuck if Lucas isn’t more beautiful close up like this. Eliott feels his mouth run dry and his cheeks heat up, and all he can do is smile like a fucking dickhead. 

“I was just wondering,” Eliott forces out, his voice a little scratchy from how dry his throat is, “where I could find The Waves by Virginia Woolf?” He pauses for a moment before adding, “I searched the fiction but I couldn’t find it.” Because he doesn’t want Lucas to think that he’s the type to interrupt an employee without even attempting to find the book on his own first. 

Lucas grins, and Eliott knows it’s just customer service, but he feels himself falling in love anyway. “Woolf is going to be just across the aisle here, on the second bookshelf to the left. The books are sorted alphabetically by surname in that section, so just look for the Ws. Should be on the second shelf from the top, if I’m not mistaken.”

Eliott nods jerkily, smiling even harder. God, Lucas probably thinks he’s a freak. “Thank you,” he manages, before quickly running off before he can make even more of a fool of himself. 

Well. So much for charming Lucas and making him fall desperately in love. 

He grabs his book and heads for the circulation desk, checking out with the other librarian working today. If he strains hard enough, he can still hear Lucas and his friend talking from between the stacks. 

As he leaves, he texts Sofiane that he’s actually on the way, and tries not to let himself get too sad about it. 

After all, he knows Daphné. If he can get an invitation to that party, he can see Lucas again and do it right this time. He just has to get Imane on his side again. 

*

“Why did you want to come to this party so badly, man?” Idriss asks, leaning against the wall and surveying the crowd. “Hanging out with Imane’s friends doesn’t exactly sound like your usual idea of fun.”

Eliott shrugs, “I don’t know. I just thought maybe it’d be fun.” When Idriss gives him a look that says he definitely isn’t buying it, Eliott folds. “And I heard there’s a chance that her friend Lucas might be here.”

Sofiane rolls his eyes. “You and that guy. You’ve been drooling over him for months and he still doesn’t even know your name.”

“But he will. Tonight.”

“Are you sure it’s a good idea?” Idriss asks, clearly trying to intervene before the teasing goes too far and they get off topic. “I mean, you just got out of a relationship, man. A rebound isn’t worth it.”

Eliott shakes his head. “He won’t be a rebound. I swear. As of right now, I just want to get to know him a little bit. We probably won’t even talk that much tonight, I’ll just introduce myself and get his Snapchat or something. I’ll start slow.” At Idriss’s disapproving look, Eliott links their pinkies together. “I promise. No one night stands tonight, especially not with Lucas. You have my word.”

“I’ll hold you to that, Demaury. Because he just got here.”

Eliott doesn’t even try to be subtle with the way he turns around and immediately starts looking for him. Sofiane immediately begins cackling, but Eliott tunes it out, scanning the room for any sign of the hair that Eliott has grown so fond of. 

It takes a while, but he finally spots him standing with Yann again. They’re talking and dancing a little, making their way to the dance floor. 

Eliott’s mouth runs dry again. If he thought Lucas looked good at the library, he looks even better now. His skinny jeans hug his legs in all the right places, his hair is immaculate, and the smile on his face lights up the entire fucking room. And, fuck, his shirt. It says Désir on it, and Eliott can’t help but laugh to himself at the irony of that. 

Basically, Eliott would gladly get on his knees for that boy right here right now, crowd be damned. 

But Sofiane is right. Lucas doesn’t even know his name. 

“You should go talk to him,” Sofiane says, but it’s just a few seconds too late, because Lucas and Yann are walking to the dance floor now. Eliott watches as they immediately press together and start grinding, laughing the whole time. 

Jealousy pangs in his stomach, twisting and making him run hot. Part of him knows that the guy is probably just a friend, because Imane had mentioned Lucas’s breakup before, and she probably wouldn’t have told Eliott about the library or invited him to the party if she knew that Lucas was seeing someone. She wouldn’t let Eliott interfere. Besides, Yann has been on Lucas’s Instagram for years, and they’re obviously just best friends.

But still. What if Imane doesn’t know? What if this is a new thing, and this is their first outing together? It wouldn’t be unheard of, best friends falling in love. 

“Who’s that guy?” Idriss asks. “Don’t tell me he has a boyfriend, bro.”

Eliott shakes his head, “No, I’m pretty sure they’re best friends.” But they all watch as Lucas grinds in time with the song, and as Yann grips his hips and whispers something in his ear that has Lucas practically crying with laughter. Eliott’s heart pangs again. 

“We don’t dance like that,” Sofiane murmurs. 

“Because you two are straight boys with toxic masculinity,” Eliott teases, to which he gets rewarded with a punch from Idriss. “Kidding. But seriously, just because you two aren’t as tactile as they are doesn’t have to mean anything. They could just be touchy.”

Idriss shrugs, “Could be. But I don’t recall Lucas ever being that touchy.”

“Why would he be touchy with Imane?” Sofiane rebukes. 

“Let’s just get me drunk,” Eliott sighs, interrupting the argument. “If I’m going to spend the night watching him dance with some other guy, I’m going to need to be fucked up for it.”

Eliott knows he’s not supposed to drink. And he doesn’t, generally. But sometimes he just wants a beer to relax. And other times, like tonight, he just wants to feel normal and get fucked up like everybody else. He doesn’t want to feel different. He especially doesn’t want to feel that way on top of how shitty seeing Lucas and Yann is making him feel. He’ll deal with the consequences later if he has to, but he has to get drunk for this. 

Sofiane and Idriss don’t drink, but they happily encourage Eliott. They provide him with some beer to get buzzed and then, when he’s decided he’s ready for more, he does two tequila shots. He’d do more, but he might have to work in the morning and he doesn’t need a killer hangover. 

Oh, how lovely it would be to be 17 again, able to drink without a hangover. What Eliott wouldn’t give to stop growing up. 

When they make their way back out of the kitchen, Idriss spots Yann and Lucas talking to Imane. He wiggles his eyebrows at Eliott and then drags them over, tapping Imane on the shoulder and effectively ending the conversation. 

“Just talking to Lucas,” Imane is saying, smiling so lovingly at Sofiane that Eliott’s stomach swirls with jealousy. He tries not to think of Lucas or Lucille when he sees that. “This is my boyfriend, Sofiane, by the way. And my brother, Idriss. Idriss, Sofiane, this is Lucas.”

Eliott watches as Lucas shakes their hands, and then he steps forward. Imane gives him a guilty look instantly, like she hadn’t noticed him there behind Sofiane. Which Eliott doesn’t doubt. He and Imane have been really annoying ever since they got together. 

Maybe he wouldn’t have thought it was annoying a few months ago, but he’s become single and bitter.

“My name is Eliott,” he tells Lucas, trying actively not to hyperventilate when Lucas shakes his hand. 

Lucas’s hand is as small as the rest of him, and Eliott wants to scoop him up and hold him and protect him from everything. 

“Ah, yes, Eliott! I’m sorry, I didn’t see you. Lucas, that’s my brother’s friend Eliott. Eliott, my friend Lucas.”

I already know that. “Nice to meet you, Imane’s friend Lucas.” Lame. So fucking lame. Why am I allowed to speak?

Lucas smiles. “You, too, Eliott.” He turns back to Imane, only to falter when he finds that Imane is wrapped up in Sofiane and Idriss. It makes Eliott laugh, which makes Lucas turn back to him with a sheepish smile. “I’m guessing this is something that happens a lot.”

“Especially since her and Sofiane started dating. You have no idea.” Charm, Eliott. This is your second chance, and you might not get another one if you fuck this up, too. “Well, since we both got ditched… Want to come upstairs with me?” He watches as Lucas’s eyes go wide, and his blood immediately rushes to his cheeks. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He rushes to grab the blunt from his ear and holds it out with shaky fingers. “Any friend of Imane’s is a friend of mine.”

At that, Lucas smiles, and Eliott thinks he really might be in love with this boy. “Lead the way, Eliott.”

Eliott could get off on the sound of his name from Lucas’s mouth, if he wanted. 

Lucas leads the way upstairs, and Eliott tries his best not to be obvious with the way he checks out Lucas’s ass. It’s just that… If Lucas’s thighs looked so damn good in those jeans, he knew that his ass had to look sinful. And he was right—his ass looks amazing, and Eliott’s jeans tighten. Fuck.

They find a back bedroom with a window, where Eliott props himself on the windowsill to light the joint. Lucas sits on the bench and watches him, his eyes searching Eliott like he’s looking for something. Eliott almost doesn’t want him to find it, for fear that he won’t like what he finds.

“I never would’ve pegged you and Imane as friends,” Eliott says, desperate to find something to break the silence between them. He takes a hit of the blunt and holds the smoke in his lungs for a long few seconds.

Lucas shrugs, “We get that a lot.” He keeps staring as Eliott blows the smoke out, and then eagerly accepts the blunt when Eliott offers.

“You two do seem to have similar personalities, though. Not that I know your personality, really. But from what I’ve seen.” Why do I have to be so fucking awkward?

Lucas smiles a little, seemingly to himself at first, but then he makes eye contact with Eliott. Eliott nearly forgets where he is, and nearly leans in. “Makes sense. And we are pretty similar, I suppose. But you shouldn’t go around telling her that. She might kill you.” The way he talks about Imane makes Eliott warm on the inside, because he’s obviously so fond of her, and Eliott remembers how rough Imane had it in high school. He’s glad that she worked things through with everybody, and that she has a friend like Lucas. “I’m kind of surprised we’ve never met before. I’m over at Imane’s a lot.”

Eliott shrugs, “I’m not over as much anymore.” He looks out the window, thinks of how close he and the boys used to be. Sure, they were still pretty close now, but that was after years. And it’s still not really the same. “I used to go over a lot, though. It was like a second home to me. The boys and I are just… growing apart a bit, I guess.”

“It happens. But it’s not always a bad thing. And, hey, maybe you will fall back into your rhythm soon. You never know.”

“I guess.” Eliott rolls his shoulders back, and decides that this isn’t how the night should go. They shouldn’t be talking about Eliott’s failures as a friend. They should be flirting, Eliott should be charming him into exchanging numbers or something. “But enough about me. Tell me about you.”

They talk for a little bit longer after that. Enough that Eliott finds out about that Lucas doesn’t really like parties, that he and Yann aren’t together, and that he’s definitely not straight. Just enough information to get Eliott’s hopes up, and get him excited that this might actually work out. He feels a little triumphant, and wants to run downstairs and flip Sofiane off, just to say I told you so.

But nothing’s happened yet, so he thinks. He has to get this from casual flirting to actual flirting, the type that can’t be construed as platonic or a result of intoxication. The type of flirting that won’t leave Lucas wondering, and won’t leave Eliott wanting more. He has to make a move. He has to make his intentions clear, so Lucas can either reject him. Or, hopefully, so Lucas can smile that cute smile of his and take it in stride.

So, he does the only thing he can think of. “Want to split the last hit?” He asks, and his heart is thrumming its way out of his chest and veins, so much so that Eliott is genuinely worried that he might go into cardiac arrest.

But Lucas agrees.

And before he knows it, he has a lapful of Lucas, and they’re kissing and grinding like they didn’t just meet half an hour ago. Eliott can’t help but moan into the kiss when Lucas settles in closer, making their dicks drag against each other just right, and there’s serious concern that Eliott might come in his pants.

And then Lucas is asking, “My place or yours?” And they’re out of the house faster than they went upstairs. Eliott doesn’t even care about his friends or Lucas’s friends, and he doesn’t care about anybody seeing them, he just cares about Lucas’s hand in his and the way he practically sits in Eliott’s lap on the bus.

They go to Eliott’s, because it’s closer and his roommate is gone for the weekend. He and his roommate aren’t even really friends, they just kind of cohabitate, so Eliott probably would’ve suggested his place even if his roommate was home. But as it is, Lucas seems super excited about the empty apartment.

Part of Eliott feels stupid. He’d promised his friends that he wouldn’t try to hook up with Lucas, after all. And they are both fresh out of long term relationships. Eliott knows he shouldn’t be doing this, knows he should just pretend to be way too drunk so Lucas decides it’s a bad idea. It’s not too late to back out, to ask for Lucas’s number and just go on a date like normal people.

But Eliott’s never been the poster child for making good decisions. 

He has Lucas pressed against the wall the second they cross the threshold of his apartment, and Lucas doesn’t even hesitate to respond with equal enthusiasm. Eliott braces his hands on the wall by Lucas’s head while Lucas sets to work on taking both of their shirts off, and then popping the button of Eliott’s jeans.

“Shit, you’re so fucking hot,” Lucas says, unzipping Eliott’s zipper and then working his jeans down to his thighs. Eliott nearly comes on the spot as Lucas drops to his knees and hooks his fingers into the waistband of Eliott’s briefs. “Is this okay?”

“Yeah, fuck. Please.”

And then Eliott knows nothing but the tight, wet heat of Lucas’s mouth. Lucas sucks dick like he was born to do it, like he has a degree in it. And Eliott genuinely thinks he might, with how he bobs his head and works his tongue like a fucking professional.

He knots his hands in Lucas’s hair and tugs on it, revelling in the way it makes Lucas moan around his dick. He knows he’s in danger of coming way too early, but he can’t find the resolve to tell Lucas to pull off. Not when it feels this goddamn good.

His forehead hits the wall so loud it makes Lucas jump, but he doesn’t let it falter him. Eliott tugs on his hair to bode him to keep going, and it works, and Lucas pulls off just enough to swirl his tongue around the head and use his hand on the rest.

“Do you wanna fuck me?” Lucas asks, his hand working Eliott’s cock slowly, just to keep him interested. His voice sounds so fucked out and as much as Eliott wants to wreck it further, the thought of being inside Lucas is too much to turn down.

Eliott nods, so Lucas stands up and works the button on his own jeans. Eliott has enough sense to remember that they’re still in the doorway, so he tugs Lucas’s wrist and leads him into the living room. They don’t make it to the bed, but they do make it to the couch, where Lucas shoves Eliott to sit. Eliott takes off his jeans while Lucas removes his own, and then he has a lapful of Lucas again.

“We need lube,” Eliott reminds him, and Lucas groans, dropping his head to Eliott’s shoulder in defeat. “We don’t have to do this. I can just…” He works his hand between them, wraps both their dicks in his hand.

But Lucas is having none of it. “No. Where’s your lube and condoms? I’ll get it.”

“In the bottom drawer of my nightstand. My room is that one.”

Lucas disappears into Eliott’s bedroom and then reappears just as fast, with Eliott’s embarrassingly full bottle of lube and one condom. He puts them on the couch cushion next to them and then takes his spot on Eliott’s lap again, sealing their lips together.

After a few moments of kissing, Eliott reaches out for the lube so he can finger Lucas open, but his fingers only find the condom. He pulls back to investigate, and realizes that Lucas is getting himself ready, and he’s already three fingers deep. The look of pleasure on his face is stunning, and Eliott sets a personal challenge to make Lucas make that face one million more times before the night is over.

“Fuck me,” Lucas mumbles, wrapping his lubed-up hand around Eliott’s dick and positioning it at his hole. “I’m ready.”

It’s a miracle that Eliott doesn’t shoot off the second Lucas sinks down on him.

*

Eliott stares up at the library once again, taking several deep breaths. As badly as his last visit to this library went, he honestly can’t imagine this one being any better. If anything, he expects it to be one million times worse. He expects Lucas to take one look at him and hide, to think Eliott is insane for not leaving their last encounter as what it was: a one night stand.

But he can’t help it. Now that he’s had a taste—literally and metaphorically—of Lucas, he can’t just let it go. He needs to know if this can go any further. He needs to know if Lucas wants that, too.

He forces himself to walk into the library, and starts walking the stacks in search of Lucas again. He doesn’t find him, so he goes to the Virginia Woolf section on his own, and picks up two books. If Lucas isn’t shelving, he must be working at the circulation desk.

Yann is sitting there when Eliott walks up. It makes his heart sink in his chest to see him, because all hope of having an actual conversation with Lucas is gone if Yann is there. He’d never put Lucas in an uncomfortable position like that.

But then Yann is gone, and Lucas is smiling at him. But it’s not a good smile. It’s one of those tight, sticky-sweet ones that you give to people when you don’t want them to know that you’re not actually happy to see them. Eliott did his time as a barista, he knows a fake smile when he sees one.

“I, uh. I just wanted to check these out,” Eliott murmurs, fighting to keep the nervousness and dejection out of his voice.

“Yeah, no problem,” Lucas smiles. “Can I just see your library card?”

Eliott hands it over and then shifts uncomfortably. “So, I, uh. I didn’t exactly picture you working in a library.” He cringes at his own words, and at how stupid he sounds. Honestly, how did he manage to get a god like Lucas Lallemant in his bed (and his couch) when he can’t even function like a normal person?”

“You didn’t see me being friends with Imane, either. You need to work on your people-reading skills a bit, don’t you?” Lucas teases. And he’s laughing, actually laughing, so Eliott forces himself to relax a little bit. This is good, this is progress.

“Yeah, maybe,” he allows. Now or never. “Um, while I’ve got your attention, though… I was wondering if—and feel free to say no, it’s totally fine—but I was wondering if you wanted to come over and watch a movie tonight, maybe. If you want. Or we can go and watch a movie, if you’d prefer that. Whatever you want. If you’re interested. It’s totally fine if you’re not.”

For a second, Lucas doesn’t answer. He just stands there, looking absolutely stunned, and Eliott feels like an asshole. Of course Lucas wouldn’t want to go on a date with him. They just slept together, that’s it. Lucas doesn’t want him beyond that. Who would?

“Is this a booty call?” He asks finally.

And Eliott is horrified. And embarrassed. “What? No! No, of course not!” He rushes out, his cheeks flushing. “No. I mean… Not that I don’t want to have sex with you, I mean, we had a great time. Or I did, at least. And, like, I wouldn’t mind having sex again but it’s not my end goal, I just…” Jesus Christ, Eliott, shut the fuck up. “I’m really making this worse, aren’t I? I’m sorry. But, uh, no. I was just asking if you wanted to watch a movie. If, you know. If that’s okay.”

Lucas chokes. Chokes. God, Eliott really has fucked this up.

“I hope you don’t think it’s weird that I showed up here. I actually come here sometimes, but I… I asked Imane if there was any way I could contact you without creeping you out, and she said that you worked here, and that I should drop by.” Eliott doesn’t know why he’s rambling about this, out of everything for him to ramble nervously about, but here he is. Sabotaging himself. “The plan was to pretend I came here totally by coincidence, you know, but uh. I guess I spoiled that by now. Is that creepy? I’m sorry, I just really wanted to see you again.” Lucas’s question of Is this a booty call? hits his mind again, and he barrels on, “Not because of the sex, although I swear that was good and all, but I also just really like you. Maybe that’s weird, I mean we barely know each other and—”

Finally, Lucas puts him out of his misery, interrupting with, “Eliott, relax. It’s fine. I actually got your number from Imane. I was going to text you but never could figure out what to say.”

And, well. That’s some information that Eliott wishes he would’ve known before he absolutely humiliated himself. It’s also information that makes it suddenly makes sense that Imane told Eliott where Lucas worked. She never would’ve told him that if Lucas hadn’t gone to her for the same thing.

Holy shit. He likes me, too.

“Really?”

“Yeah. But, um. There’s something we need to talk about, regarding the whole date thing. I get off in thirty minutes, maybe then I could come over and we could talk and, if you’re still interested after that, watch the movie you were talking about?”

Eliott can’t keep the smile off of his face. Lucas actually likes him back. “Yeah, of course. Yeah. Okay. Great. I’ll see you in half an hour then?”

“You could send me your address, if you want.”

Eliott almost laughs out loud. Lucas just admitted that he likes Eliott back, and he expects Eliott to be able to just go home and wait for him? Hell, no. “No, I’ll pick you up and walk you there. Half an hour. Promise.” He smiles again, just because he can’t help it. All he can think about is kissing Lucas and holding hands and being his boyfriend.

No, he doesn’t think he’ll ever stop smiling.

*

“Hold on,” Sofiane says, leaning across the table and resting his elbows on it, just to get closer, “he said what?”

Eliott blushes a little, looking around the room to ensure that nobody’s listening. In hindsight, talking to his friends about this in the middle of a fucking restaurant wasn’t the best idea. “He just said that he’s not dating right now, because his last relationship ended badly and he’s not, like, in that place.” 

“Okay. And you responded with…?”

“Agreeing to be friends?”

“No, no,” Sofiane interjects. “That’s not what you said a second ago.”

“I don’t see why it’s such a big deal!” Eliott exclaims, to which Sofiane rolls his eyes. Eliott looks at Idriss for help, but Idriss just shrugs and leans back in the booth, folding his arms. Great. They’re both against it. “We’re just friends with benefits. People do that all the time, it’s not that serious.”

Idriss sighs, “Eliott, you’ve been pining over that guy for months. You’re going to catch feelings, if you haven’t already, and it’s just going to end up with you getting hurt. You know that.”

“I do not have feelings for him. All the feelings I had for him were physical attraction, and that’s it. And that’s all it is now. We’re friends.”

“Yeah, and you’ll stay friends,” Sofiane points out. “You’ll stay friends, even when you want more. Even when you find yourself so desperately in love with him that it hurts to pretend you only want to be his friend. And you’ll stay friends with him anyway. Eliott, this is a bad idea.”

“Well, if it’s a mistake, then it’s my mistake to make. But I really don’t think—”

“Are you even hearing yourself?! Bro, listen. You’re going to catch feelings. And Lucas? He’s either going to catch feelings and leave you, or find out that you caught feelings and leave you. There’s no scenario where this works out in your favor. Not if he’s really that terrified of being in a relationship,” Sofiane argues. 

Eliott hates that they’re right. He knows that they are, he’s not that naïve. He knows that Lucas is using him, and that they’ll never have what Eliott wants so desperately. But he doesn’t care. He just wants Lucas, in whatever way Lucas will have him, and if this is how it has to be then so be it. Eliott would rather get hurt by Lucas than never get to know what it feels like to be with him. 

Besides, he’s an adult. He can handle himself. He knew what he was getting into when he agreed to being friends with benefits. He knew the risks, and he knows it’ll come back to hurt him one day. But he’s a big boy. He can handle it. He doesn’t need Sofiane and Idriss to be his babysitters. 

“You’re being pessimistic,” Eliott murmurs, instead of admitting that they’re right. He’d never admit that to them. 

Idriss shakes his head, leaning closer to Eliott like Sofiane. “We’re being realistic. I know you don’t want to hear it, but this sort of thing never ends well. Someone always ends up getting hurt, and we don’t want to see you hurt again.” He reaches across the table and touches Eliott’s hand, like he really wants to drive his point home and make Eliott see. “You’re his rebound, Eliott. Someone to mess around with so he can get over his ex. And then he’ll find someone he really wants to be with, and he’ll leave you. That’s how this always ends. And you deserve more than that, okay? You know you do. You deserve more than someone who only wants you to help them forget about someone else.”

“Idriss is right,” Sofiane agrees, his voice suddenly much softer and kinder. “You deserve someone who wants to love you as much as you love them. You love so hard, Eliott. You deserve someone who can offer you the same thing. And I’m sorry, but a guy with a broken heart isn’t that. You can’t fix him, and you shouldn't have to.”

“I knew what I was agreeing to,” Eliott reminds them. He picks at his food, which he’d barely even touched. They’d agreed to go out before Eliott decided to tell them about their agreement, and now he kind of regrets it, because he’s lost his appetite. 

“That’s the worst part,” Sofiane says. 

He’s right. Eliott knows he is. But he can’t make himself accept it, not when his phone buzzes in his pocket every few minutes and Eliott knows that it’s Lucas. 

And it’s not even anything dirty, it’s just Lucas being his friend. He’s live reacting to a movie that Eliott has recommended to him. Eliott has been dying to read the texts for the last hour that they’ve been in this restaurant, but he hasn’t looked once. And he won’t, not now that he knows how Sofiane and Idriss really feel about the whole thing. 

He doesn’t know what he expected. Like, he never expected Sofiane and Idriss’s complete support. He knew he wouldn’t get that, not after his breakup with Lucille and everything. They’d be protective no matter what the circumstances. They’d probably still be judging Lucas if he and Eliott had already gone on a few dates and were talking about becoming official. But he also didn’t expect them to be so adamantly against it. 

He knows he shouldn’t be mad at them for just wanting the best for him, but he can’t help the bits of frustration he feels. He just wants them to understand that he’s an adult and that he can make his own decisions, and that their support is needed more than their criticisms. 

“I don’t need you two worrying about me,” Eliott mumbles, forcing himself to eat more of his pasta. When the waitress comes back, he’ll need to get a takeaway box. “I didn’t tell you because I wanted advice or opinions. I just wanted you two to know what was going on for… I don’t know. I don’t know what I was thinking, I guess I just thought you two would be happy for me.”

Sofiane sighs. “It’s not that we’re not happy for you, bro. We’re just concerned. We want you to be okay and happy, and to have that with someone who deserves you. And we just don’t think that Lucas is good for you right now. And, honestly, you’re probably not good for him right now.”

Imane’s voice comes rushing back to him. You’re the last thing he needs right now. “Fuck you, Sofiane,” Eliott snaps, putting his silverware down and abruptly standing up. “Here’s the money for the bill. Any change can be her tip.” And then he’s gone, out of the restaurant despite his friends calling after him. 

He gets that they don’t understand, but he wishes they’d at least try. He wishes they’d just give Lucas a chance. They’d see that Lucas isn’t the type that would ever hurt Eliott, not on purpose. They’d see that he and Lucas are good for each other, so fucking good, and that everything would be okay. 

But whatever. If they don’t want to support him, that’s their prerogative. 

He calls an Uber to pick him up, and then he opens his messages with Lucas. He smiles down at his phone like an idiot as he reads all of Lucas’s reactions to the movie, because Lucas is so fucking cute and dramatic and Eliott wishes he’d spent the afternoon watching the movie with him rather than hanging out with his friends. 

Want to come over to mine and watch another movie? I’ve got a real tearjerker in mind ;) He sends to Lucas, biting his lip to try and tamp down his lovesick smile. 

The reply is almost instant, Yes!!! That movie made me too angry, a good cry sounds amazing. See you in half an hour?

Absolutely. <3

Maybe going to his friends was the wrong idea. He’d gone to them for validation that what he was doing with Lucas wasn’t actually that big of a deal, and instead they’d just thrown every insecurity in his face. Out of concern, of course, Eliott knows that. They weren’t mean, or anything. They were just being honest. Eliott didn’t want honest. He didn’t want protectiveness. 

He shouldn’t have gone to his friends for that. 

When the idea pops into his head, he acts on it immediately, before he can talk himself out of it. He needs this. He needs to talk to someone who can be objective, or at least, give an opinion that isn’t founded in worry for Eliott’s well-being. 

Hi, I know this is random, but can we talk? I have something on my mind that I really need your opinion on. You’re the only opinion I trust for it, right now. Hope you’re doing well. And he presses send. 

No going back now. 

He glances back at the restaurant as his Uber arrives, and thinks of Sofiane and Idriss in there. He wonders if they’re trying to rush the bill so they can rush out and apologize, or at least stop Eliott from leaving so they can talk. But he knows the most likely option is that they’re in there talking about him and how stupid he’s being, and how he’s just going to get his own heart broken. 

Oh, well. If Eliott wants to get his heart broken, so be it. It’d be an honor for Lucas Lallemant to break his heart. 

*

Eliott stares down at his sketchbook, at the page that’s been blank for the last three days. He’s meant to be working on his newest project for work, but he’s just been so blocked. All he can think about these days is Lucas.

He knows that isn’t healthy, all things considered. They’ve been hanging out for months, sleeping together every now and then, and Eliott is doing exactly what everybody said he’d do. He’s falling in love. He is in love. 

Maybe, if he’d seen it coming, he could’ve stopped it. But he didn’t. He never saw it coming, there weren’t any warning signs. It was like he just woke up one day and thought, Oh, yeah, I’m in love with him. Somewhere between lazy pizza nights and late night FaceTimes when neither of them can sleep, Eliott fucked up and let himself fall in love instead of keeping it platonic. And now, it’s all he can think about.

Most of the time, he can ignore it. He can push it down to the bottom of his heart and pretend that everything is fine, that he doesn’t ache every time Lucas calls him his best friend, that his fingers don’t twitch every time they’re too close, that he doesn’t want to kiss him goodnight and good morning every day.

But then it comes to times like these, the times that Eliott wouldn’t expect Lucas to preoccupy his mind, and he realizes how fucked he is. Because he’s meant to be designing the front cover of a fashion magazine, a cover that his project manager is expecting by the end of the week (and the client is expecting by the end of the month), and all he can think about is drawing little hedgehogs and raccoons. Or drawing Lucas as is, a portrait of him when he’s asleep, because that’s when he’s most beautiful.

Lucas is going to get him fired.

Fuck. Think. He taps his charcoal pencil against the binding of his sketchbook, willing ideas to come to his mind. He needs to draw it out before he can even start putting it onto a digital format, and there’s just not enough time for that. He’s running out of fucking time.

A break. He just needs a quick break, and then he can come back with a fresh mind and whip something up. It doesn’t have to be perfect—perfection can come later, after his project manager approves the rough design. He just needs something right now. Anything.

He closes his sketchbook and leaves the room, heading into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. At this rate, he’ll be pulling an all-nighter, so he’ll need it. He puts the cup into the Keurig and then places the mug under it, and then waits, leaning against the countertop and closing his eyes. He forces himself to breathe, to relax.

His phone starts buzzing in his pocket, and a sense of dread fills his body. He almost doesn’t check it out of fear that it’s his boss, and that he’ll start demanding a status update and Eliott will have to lie again. 

It’s just that his work is never late. He’s usually the one to turn projects in early, just so he can get started on the next one. He loves his job, and he’s good at it. It’s not normal for him to feel so out of his element.

In the end, though, he begrudgingly pulls his phone out of his pocket and looks at the caller ID. It’s a number he doesn’t recognize, so he answers, “Hello?”

“Hi, I’m trying to reach Eliott Demaury.”

Eliott’s brows furrow in confusion. Could this be his client calling him? Did his boss pass his number on so that the client could harass him, too? “That’s me,” he says slowly, bracing himself for the inevitable ass-chewing he’s about to receive.

“Hi, Mr. Demaury, I’m Lucas and I’m calling from the public library,” the voice says, and Eliott’s body floods with both more confusion and relief. “We have record that you currently have two overdue library books, and I wanted to warn you that, if the books aren’t returned by the end of the day, we will start charging you a late fee.”

Eliott sags with relief, squatting down until he’s sitting on his kitchen floor listening to his coffee brew. Thank God. Thank fucking God. He’s never been more relieved to hear Lucas’s voice. “I see,” Eliott breathes, laughing in spite of himself. “And what books do I have checked out again?”

Lucas hums. “You have The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood and Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf currently checked out under your name.”

At that, Eliott glances over at where the books are resting on the table by the front door, still unread. He hasn’t had the time to read them between all of the projects he’d been struggling with, but he’d meant to get around to them. And now they were overdue? Damn. He’s more behind than he thought.

“Hmm. I have to return them by the end of the day, you said?”

“Yes, the end of the day.”

Eliott sighs, looking over at his bedroom, where his work desk is sitting and waiting on him. Where his blank textbook and unused computer is waiting on him. “Alright. I’ll be there within the hour.” Maybe, Eliott figures, this is the break he needs. Maybe he just needs to spend some time with Lucas to get it out of his system.

“Sounds good, Mr. Demaury. I look forward to seeing you.”

“I’m sure. I can’t imagine you call everyone who has overdue books. I know why you’re really calling me: you’re horny.”

Lucas scoffs around a laugh, “And for that, you should also bring a snack to the circulation desk. Preferably chocolate. Our librarian on duty deserves it, since he’ll have to spend his time shelving your late books and waiving the late fee you’ve already built up.”

Already built up? Has it really been that long? “I thought you said I wouldn’t have a late fee if I brought my books back today!” Eliott really can’t afford a late fee right now, he really fucking can’t.

“Yeah, because I’ve already paid off your late fee for the past couple of days,” Lucas says. Oh. “Don’t freak out about it, it’s not that big of a deal. Just hurry up and get your ass down here, my shift ends in forty-five minutes and I really want a snack.”

Eliott laughs, and leans into the phone like it’s Lucas’s hand. God knows he could really use that right now. “Your wish is my command, babe. See you in a bit.” He waits for Lucas to say goodbye and then he hangs up and puts his phone back in his pocket.

Above him, he can smell his coffee, freshly brewed and probably still steaming. He thinks about texting Lucas that he’s actually really busy, that something came up with work and that he won’t be able to hang out today. But just the thought of going back to that sketchbook makes Eliott frustrated, so he decides against it.

He dumps his coffee in the sink and then goes to change clothes, pulling on a nicer pair of jeans and a hoodie. Then he slips into his shoes and heads out the door, only five minutes after hanging up, because he knows that if he lingers too long then he’ll change his mind.

He stops by a shop on the way to buy chocolates, and then speed-walks his way to the library. He’d just missed the bus and waiting for the next one would take longer than it would take for him to walk, but he needs to hurry and make it before Lucas’s shift ends. Bringing chocolate to some random librarian would just be weird.

When he finally does make it to the library, just seeing how happy Lucas is to see him is enough to pull Eliott out of his sour mood. “Here are the books you so rudely called my personal cell phone to find, Mr. Librarian,” Eliott says, sighing dramatically. “And here’s my payment for the late fees.” He hands Lucas the chocolate, and then leans over the counter just to be closer to him.

“Thank you, Mr. Demaury. I’m just about to clock out, if you wanted to come to my place.”

You have no fucking idea how much I need that distraction right now. “And you couldn’t text me and ask me to come over like a normal person?”

“Your books were overdue! Besides, you usually walk me home anyway, so what’s it matter?”

It matters that I have a deadline to meet, and I can’t fucking do my work because you’re all I can think about and you don’t even feel the same.

Eliott doesn’t say that. He just rolls his eyes and leads Lucas out of the library, putting his arm around his shoulders and teasing him just like normal. Because that’s how this has to be, if Eliott doesn’t want to lose Lucas. He’ll have to act normal.

*

Eliott can’t act normal. 

Not right now. Not when he has Lucas like this, spread out beneath him, so desperate and so beautiful. All of their sex is so rushed and rough, and Eliott doesn’t want that now. If he never gets Lucas any other way, he wants to make the most of this. He wants to take this slow and feel him out, make a memory out of his body and the way he sounds when Eliott makes him feel good.

They’re mostly just kissing for now, but Eliott knows Lucas isn’t happy about it. He’s been thrusting his hips up every thirty seconds, trying to grind their hips together and get friction. But Eliott won’t let him. They have all the time in the world, and Eliott wants it to last.

“You’re a good kisser,” Eliott tells him. He starts to make his way down Lucas’s body, leaving a line of kisses in his wake. He takes his time, committing every inch of pale skin that his lips touch to memory. “So beautiful, baby.” He doesn’t know where baby came from, but the way it makes Lucas flush from head to toe is so heady that he knows he won’t stop. “I want to taste you. Can I do that?”

Lucas moans, and Eliott has to close his eyes. Another memory. “Fuck, please,” Lucas begs, his hands knotting in Eliott’s hair and then pulling. “Yes. Please.”

So Eliott makes his way down, and counts his lucky stars that he gets to have Lucas like this. If he can’t have Lucas the way he wants, then at least he can have him like this, at least he can taste Lucas and make him moan and beg, and at least they can cuddle after. At least Eliott can pretend.

Eliott strips him down, and when his dick is finally free, Eliott almost loses it. The evidence of Lucas’s arousal is spread all over his hips, tempting Eliott in the filthiest way. He’d planned to get Lucas on his stomach, spread his legs and taste his rim, but this changes all the plans. Eliott can’t look at Lucas’s dick all hard and leaking and not give it attention. It’s probably illegal.

When he swipes his tongue through the first pool of precome, Lucas startles so badly that his entire body shakes. And it doesn’t stop, because the shock turns to pleasure, and he writhes under Eliott’s tongue like he doesn’t know what else to do with his body.

“Eliott, please. I need you to touch me, I need you. Please.” His voice is so high-pitched and desperate that pride runs through Eliott’s veins. Because he did that. He drove Lucas to the point of near oblivion, he made Lucas beg.

Who is Eliott to say no? This is, after all, the worship of Lucas’s body. Eliott showing his love in the only way he’s allowed to. “I know, baby. I’m going to give you what you need.” And then he lowers himself over Lucas’s cock, closing his eyes and savoring the taste and the smell and the welcome weight of him on his tongue.

He doesn’t stop until Lucas is close, and then he just kisses his way back up to Lucas’s lips, making more tiny memories. Lucas’s body is so fucking beautiful and Eliott wants to kiss every single inch of it.

Lucas doesn’t seem to share the sentiment. “Eliott, seriously,” he whimpers, and he sounds so far gone that Eliott has to stop.

“Are you okay?”

Lucas doesn’t answer. Not with his words, anyway. He just flips Eliott over and takes control, fingering himself open and trying to open a condom at the same time. The whole thing is concerning, like maybe Eliott pushed it too far, but Lucas just denies it and keeps going.

And, well. Eliott knows when his affection isn’t wanted. And he did promise to give Lucas what he needed.

So, he flips them back over and sinks in, and gives it to him. He thrusts to hit Lucas’s prostate, slow and calculated, just enough to satisfy him but not too much that Eliott starts to lose himself. He doesn’t want to lose himself. He wants to be here, present in the moment, and make Lucas feel his love whether he knows that’s what he’s feeling or not.

But Lucas isn’t up for that either, so Eliott gives in. He can’t force Lucas to accept love that he doesn’t want.

So he fucks him good and hard, and when it’s over, he holds him close and tells him, “Remember that I’m the only one who knows how to fuck you so good.” Because that’s all he has to say. It’s all Lucas will let him say, to get his point across. 

Even if Eliott has a million other things he wants to say.

*

“You know, we’re going to see each other in Lyon this weekend. This couldn’t wait until then?”

Eliott shakes his head, and doesn’t meet her eyes. Instead, he stares at his coffee, and at his shoes through the gaps in the wrought-iron table. “No. I first texted you about him months ago, you know. I wouldn’t have done that if it wasn’t important,” he murmurs.

They’re outside their favorite coffee shop, one they used to frequent all the time years ago. Before things went bad. Eliott thinks this is the first time in years that they’ve actually sat at a table outside and took the time to drink their coffee together.

Lucille sighs, and Eliott sees her foot start tapping against the pavement. “I don’t understand why you need my opinion on your romantic escapades, Eliott. I’m glad we’re to the point where we can be friends again, but you have to realize how weird this is for me.”

“I do, and I’m sorry. Like I said, I wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t important. You know me better than anybody else.” He finally dares to look up at her, and the first thing he notices is that she’d dyed her hair a little bit lighter. And her earrings are different. Eliott has never seen that pair before. “And you wouldn’t be here if you really didn’t want to be. You could’ve said no and I would’ve been okay with that. You know that.”

Lucille shifts and looks away, and Eliott knows he’s called her bluff. “I want you to be happy, Eliott. That’s important to me,” she tells him. “That’s always been important to me.”

“I know.”

“What did you want to talk about?”

“His name is Lucas,” he whispers, averting his eyes again. He knows he needs to be careful in what he tells her. They may be friends, but he refuses to be cruel. He doesn’t want to hurt her any more than he already has. “I’m in love with him, Lucille. But he doesn’t love me back. And I… I knew that falling in love with him was a bad idea, because the first thing he told me when I first asked him out was that he wasn’t in the right place for a romantic relationship. But we stayed friends and fuck, Lucille, I’m so in love with him that it hurts just to be around him.”

Lucille’s face shifts from cautious to sympathetic, and she reaches across to take Eliott’s hand in hers. “I’m so sorry, Eliott. I know how much that must hurt,” she says gently, and her voice is so familiar and kind that Eliott’s eyes well up. “Have you talked to him about it?”

“Kind of. And by that, I mean that I got drunk and told him I was in love with him and that I wanted him to be my boyfriend.”

“Oh, Eliott…”

“And he just brushed it off. He told me we could talk about it when I was sober, but I saw his face, Lucille. He doesn’t love me back, and he doesn’t want to date me. God, fuck, he looked scared. Like I’d told him I killed someone.” He shakes his head, and wipes his eyes on the back of his sleeve. “That was last week. He’s been avoiding me ever since. Lying to me about being busy, and never hanging out with me alone. I think he thinks that I didn’t notice. But I do, of course I do. And now I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to lose him.”

Lucille takes a sip of her coffee, and then hums like she’s thinking. Her comforting hand never leaves Eliott’s. “I think that this doesn’t have to wreck your friendship, if you really want to keep him in your life. Not if he’s a good person. You were drunk, you know? You could just say you didn’t know what you were saying,” she suggests.

“Is it bad that I kind of want him to know I’m in love with him?”

“No, of course not. It’s probably better that you’ve gotten it off your chest,” she quickly reassures him. “But you don’t have to let it change anything. Just talk to him. Tell him that your feelings are real, but you don’t want to lose him as a friend, and go from there. Honesty goes a long way for the both of you. And if he’s truly your friend, he won’t let it change anything, either.”

Eliott sighs, bouncing his knee nervously. He’s so torn between wanting Lucas to know and forgetting that it ever happened that he doesn’t know where to go from here. He doesn’t want to lose Lucas as a friend, but this lie is weighing so heavily on him that he doesn’t think he can live with it anymore.

Wait. Forgetting it ever happened.

“What if I tell him that I don’t remember anything?” Eliott asks suddenly. “That way, he knows I love him, but nothing will change because he doesn’t know that I know that he knows.”

“Try saying that three times fast.”

“I’m serious.”

Lucille replies, “It could work. But are you sure you want that, Eliott? This whole thing just sounds like a recipe for heartbreak.”

You don’t know the half of it. You don’t know that I know what he looks like when he comes, and when he’s so lost to pleasure that he lets go of himself. “I can’t lose him, Lucille. Losing him is the only thing that could break my heart beyond repair. If I have to live with being in love with my best friend, that’s fine. I can handle that. I can’t handle life without him.”

A small, wistful smile crosses her face, and she quickly looks away like she doesn’t want Eliott to see it. It makes guilt squeeze his stomach, and he wants to apologize, because he’s maybe gone too far. But Lucille speaks before he can. “You’ve always loved so hard, Eliott,” she whispers, brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes and meeting his gaze. “I think that’s going to be your fatal flaw.”

“Fatal flaw?”

“It’s a literary term! I thought you’d know it, being the tragic film buff you are,” she teases. Eliott rolls his eyes and gently kicks her shin, making her laugh. She has a beautiful laugh. Eliott’s always thought that, and loved it about her. “It’s a secret weakness of a hero. One that leads to his downfall.”

“My weakness is love? I don’t see how love is a weakness.”

“You’re a hopeless romantic, Eliott,” she sighs. “You wouldn’t.”

Eliott sips his coffee again. “Will you be my date to the wedding?”

Lucille gives him a sad smile, like she knows that he’d asked Lucas to the wedding and gotten rejected. “Of course, Eliott. Like I said, your happiness has always been important to me.”

*

Are you sure this is a good idea? Eliott sends the text to Yann nervously, chewing on his fingers while he waits for the answer. The picnic is all set up, and now all he has left to do is wait. Baz had said that they were on the way, and he’s only getting more nervous by the second. 

After all, Lucas hates his birthday. Everyone who knows Lucas knows that. And the more Eliott learns about Lucas, the more he understands why. And as much as Eliott respects Lucas and his boundaries, he also can’t just let Lucas’s birthday go by and not do anything. It goes against Eliott’s nature.

But that’s why he’s so nervous. Well, that and because he’s so scared that Lucas will remember that Eliott is in love with him and think that this picnic is going too far. Eliott wouldn’t be surprised if his attempt at a nice gesture blows up in his face.

His phone buzzes, and he checks it quickly. But it’s not Yann. It’s his project manager, texting him yet again about their project. Their client had extended the deadline to the end of July, thank God, but his manager had been up his ass about it ever since the extension agreement. He’d sworn at Eliott multiple times, and made multiple threats/promises that Eliott’s job would be on the line if the magazine cover wasn’t perfect.

Basically, if the client doesn’t love it, then Eliott will be unemployed.

I expect a status update before you leave for Lyon. With photos for proof. Your word doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, Demaury.

Eliott rolls his eyes and deletes the text. Fuck that guy, and fuck this job. 

His phone buzzes again, and it’s actually Yann this time. Stop worrying so much. Almost there.

He puts his phone down on the picnic blanket and waits.

He hears them before he sees them. Well, really, he hears Lucas.

“What the fuck? You really think I’m about to lead the way in this stupid fucking trespassing adventure? Are we in The Goonies now, or have you guys just lost your mind?”

His voice is far away, but he’s complaining so loudly that his voice is carrying. Eliott can’t help but smile at the sound of his voice. He’s even cute when he’s complaining, honestly. It’s no wonder Eliott fell in love with him.

Before long, he sees Lucas’s flashlight, and eventually Lucas. He stands up and goes to the center of the clearing, wiping his hands on his jeans nervously. Lucas just has to notice him now.

It’s obvious when he does, because his jaw hits the floor. Eliott smiles, because he loves Lucas so goddamn much, and takes a few steps closer to him. “Happy birthday,” he grins, turning back to the picnic and then facing Lucas again. “I, uh. I know you don’t like when people make a big deal out of your birthday, but I couldn’t help myself.”

Lucas just gapes and doesn’t say anything, but Eliott knows it’s out of happiness and not anger. Thank fuck. He quickly grabs Lucas’s wrist and pulls him to the blanket, forcing him to sit down and take everything in. Eliott talks him through the shock, explaining everything he’d brought and why he’d brought it. 

Lucas gets over the shock, eventually. At least enough to speak. He thanks Eliott a million times, tells him how much he loves it, and teases Eliott like nothing is different. And Eliott is so thankful, because all he wants to do is make Lucas happy. That’s all he cares about. 

He cares more about Lucas’s happiness than he does his own.

*

The ceremony is gorgeous, as expected. The only complaint is that he’s a little warm in his suit, but that really isn’t their fault. Eliott’s always hated wearing suits. And, really, what’s the point of wearing this one if Lucas isn’t here to see him in it?

Maybe he’s still a little bitter that Lucas didn’t come with him. Whatever.

Lucille is next to him, holding his hand to keep his nerves at bay. Eliott doesn’t even really know why he’s nervous, and he and Lucille keep laughing about it. After all, it’s not his wedding. He can’t even convince Lucas to be his boyfriend.

“I love weddings, but I hate suits,” Eliott laughs, tugging on his tie. “I can’t wait to take this off at the reception.”

“Same, but with my heels,” Lucille giggles. She looks gorgeous, in a cobalt blue dress that fits her like it was made for her, and silver heels that look more expensive than the wedding ceremony itself. Eliott can’t stop staring at her, admiring her. “I have to tell you something.”

“Okay.”

“I’ve been seeing someone,” she whispers, squeezing his hand a little. “It’s been like two months now. Her name is Gemma, and she’s from America. I’ve never met anyone from America before.”

Eliott raises his eyebrows, “Really? Never? Are you sure you live in Paris?”

Lucille shrugs, laughing a little bit. “I know, everyone says that. But, uh, she’s really lovely. I think you’d like her.” She pulls their hands into her lap, and gives Eliott a soft smile. “I haven’t told anyone yet, not even my mom. But I thought you should know.”

“I’m honored that you trust me enough to tell me. I’m happy for you, Lucille.”

“Can I say I’m happy for you, too?” She asks. “Have you and Lucas worked anything out since we talked?”

Eliott shrugs, “Sort of. I mean, we had a talk a few nights ago and then I did something for him for his birthday on Friday. And he wants me to FaceTime him later. But we haven’t advanced romantically. I don’t think we ever will.”

“Eliott, you seriously have to talk to him.”

“I can’t lose him, Lucille. I can’t.” He looks around the room, makes sure that nobody is listening, and then leans in close so only she can hear what he says next. “We slept together on Friday.”

“What?!”

“And it wasn’t the first time. It wasn’t even the tenth time. We’ve kind of been hooking up.”

“Oh, my God, Eliott. If I’d known that, it would’ve changed everything I said to you,” she scolds, dropping his hand and then lightly smacking his shoulder. “You’re just asking to get hurt at this point. What the hell were you thinking?”

Eliott shrugs, “I guess I was thinking that I could control myself and not let it go too far.”

“You’re so far past too far that I can’t even see you anymore,” she snaps. “Seriously, Eliott, you need to think about this. There’s no way that you’re happy sleeping with him and not getting anything else. You’re in love with him. I know you, Eliott, and I know this has to be eating you from the inside out. You don’t even see how much more you deserve.”

“Lucille, I—”

Lucille interrupts him. “Spare me the bullshit, Eliott. I know you.”

“Fine, it sucks, okay? Every time he reminds me that I’m not his boyfriend, it feels like a fucking knife in my heart. I can’t even see him smile without feeling like I can’t breathe. And it sucks to know he’ll never love me back, because I love him so much that sometimes I think it’s all that exists in me. I don’t know how to live without it. But I also don’t know how to live without him, so I stay. I’m not being dramatic when I say I don’t want to lose him.”

“You deserve so much more, Eliott. Why can’t you see that?”

“Because I love him,” Eliott shrugs. “And that’s my fucking weakness, isn’t it?”

Lucille doesn’t get to respond, because the music starts up, and the groom makes his way to the end of the aisle. Eliott tries to pretend he didn’t just spill his guts to Lucille, and tries to pretend his heart isn’t moments from cracking. He tries to just watch the ceremony and be happy for his brother. 

But even when the bride is walking down the aisle, looking absolutely breathtaking, Eliott can feel Lucille’s eyes on him.

*

Eliott tries not to smile too hard at his screen as he watches Lucas apply mascara. Lucille is sitting on the other side of the hotel room watching him, and he knows what she’s thinking. But he hopes that she’ll hear Lucas and she’ll understand, she’ll see how good they are together and how happy Lucas makes him.

“Maybe the mascara is enough for tonight. I’m a bit out of my element with all of this stuff,” Lucas says, turning back to the camera. Lucas has naturally long eyelashes, and the mascara makes them look so much better than Eliott ever thought possible.

The word pretty pops into his mind, but he doesn’t dare say that out loud. “Well, you look good,” he murmurs, and Lucas blushes so much that Eliott can see it through the shitty camera. “So, where did you say you guys were going tonight? A party or something?”

Lucas snorts, “No, we’re going clubbing. Mika supposedly found this really cool gay bar that he wants to take us to, as kind of a roommate outing. But Manon invited all of her friends, which means Daphné invited Basile, which means Basile inevitably invited Arthur and Yann.” He rolls his eyes, but it’s so fond that it kind of loses its effect.

“Why didn’t you invite your friends?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never been to a gay bar with my friends before. It’s not like I feel uncomfortable talking about my sexuality or about boys with them, it’s just… Not something we’ve ever talked about doing. I guess I wasn’t sure how comfortable they’d be, and I didn’t want to find out.” He smiles, but it’s so shaky and shy that Eliott just wants to jump through the computer screen and give him a hug. “I’m deathly afraid of rejection, and all. So I never really wanted to take the risk to find out.”

Eliott nods, “Makes sense. But it sounds like fun, I hope you enjoy yourself. And if it all works out, we can go to gay bars more often!”

Lucas doesn’t respond, just starts getting dressed. Eliott gives his opinion when prompted, but mostly he just looks up at Lucille. She just gives him a stern look, mouths You need to talk to him, and then she slinks out of the room without a sound.

Eliott sighs heavily, looking back at Lucas on the screen. He’s tucking his shirt in and swearing quietly at himself as he messes up, and it’s so fucking cute that Eliott just can’t do it right now. They need to talk, but not right now.

*

The reception was fun. Lucille didn’t hound him about Lucas, and instead they just talked about random shit and laughed until their stomachs hurt, and then they spent the rest of the night dancing like they didn’t have breakfast plans with Eliott’s family the next morning. Eliott had been so relieved to just let go and have fun, and he didn’t even think twice about posting on Instagram.

But it’s morning now, and he regrets everything about the night before. Because there’s a text from a random guy on his phone, Lucille keeps talking about Lucas again, and he’s staring at a very hungover Lucas on FaceTime and he is livid.

“I thought you weren’t going to drink,” Eliott snaps, his mind reeling with all of the information that Lucas just gave him. Honestly, why in the hell would Lucas think it was a good idea to let a fucking stranger drive him home when he was too drunk to even stand up?

Lucas frowns. “I changed my mind. I’m allowed to do that.”

“Why didn’t you just tell him to take you to your friends? Any normal person would’ve done that. Why wouldn’t he just bring you to your friends instead of taking you home and then texting them? That doesn’t make any sense. That’s how bad shit happens, Lucas.”

“I was drunk,” Lucas repeats, like Eliott is stupid. From her place on the bed, Lucille snorts quietly. Eliott doesn’t even spare her a glance. They were meant to go to breakfast half an hour ago, and Eliott knows that she didn’t know what she was interrupting when she came to his room this morning so they could go to breakfast together, but still. She has no right to act all high and mighty. “I probably couldn’t have even gotten him to my friends, and I was alone when he approached me. I’m fine, anyway. And what do you care? I didn’t realize you were my father now.”

Eliott almost loses his shit. Almost. “Oh, I’m sorry for giving a shit about you, Lucas.”

“I saw that picture of you and Lucille,” Lucas says suddenly, completely out of the blue. It even takes Lucille by surprise, and she snaps her head up when she hears her name. “Last night. I didn’t know you were taking your ex-girlfriend to the wedding in my place. In fact, I distinctly remember you saying you wanted to show your family that you weren’t with her anymore.”

At that, Eliott blushes. He flickers his eyes up to Lucille for a second, but she just waves him off, lets him know that it doesn’t hurt her feelings. Eliott remembers that she has a girlfriend after that, and realizes that she probably wants to separate herself from Eliott, too.

“She was already invited anyway. We just decided to go together to avoid questions that way. Everyone knows we were just there as friends.”

“Oh, that’s why every comment under that post was about how cute of a couple you two are? Don’t play with me, Eliott.”

Eliott’s mind is reeling. He wants to spit Lucas’s question right back in his face, wants to ask him why it even matters. Since they’re not fucking boyfriends, and all. “Lucas, you know I wouldn’t get back together with her. She and I aren’t good for each other, and our relationship was horrible towards the end. I don’t want to be with her.”

“Do you love her?”

Lucille even gasps at that question.

“What?” Eliott asks.

“Do you still love her?” Lucas repeats.

Suddenly, all Eliott sees is red. After months of being in love with Lucas and getting nothing in return, getting the silent treatment multiple times, being treated like a boyfriend and then repeatedly reminded that he’s not… Eliott is angry.  

Every word that Sofiane, Idriss, and Lucille have ever said comes rushing back. Every word about Lucas taking advantage of him, hurting him, using him as a rebound, all of it. And Eliott realizes they were right. Lucas is jealous of Lucille, and for what? Because he thinks they’re dating? What right does Lucas have to that anger, if he doesn’t want to date Eliott? He just wants Eliott for himself, so he can have sex when he’s horny and cuddle when he’s lonely. 

He knows that Eliott loves him. He knows that Eliott wants to be his boyfriend. He knows, and he continues using him anyway. Eliott is a rebound, a fucking rebound. Lucas doesn’t care about him, doesn’t love him. Eliott is a distraction, someone for him to use until he finds someone that he actually wants.

Eliott is so angry—more at himself, for letting it get this far. For letting himself get jerked back and forth, and hurt again and again.

But also at Lucas. He’s so fucking angry at Lucas.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” He borderline yells. His hands tighten on his thighs just for something to grab, and he feels his fingernails through the fabric of his dress pants. “Does it matter? It’s not any of your business, first of all. And you don’t have any right to be mad at me over it. You don’t get to sit here and demand that I tell you personal shit about my relationship with my ex-girlfriend. We’re not dating, you’ve made that abundantly clear.”

Lucas frowns. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

And fuck, Eliott can’t pretend anymore. “It means that I’m fucking tired of this,” he blurts out. “I remember telling you that I’m in love with you. And I know you didn’t say it back, and I know that you picked up a shift to avoid me the next morning, and I know that you avoided me for days afterwards. And I know that you’ve flirted with me nonstop ever since. You’ve acted like my boyfriend for months, only to remind me time and time again that we’re not boyfriends. And I’m so fucking tired of it.” He takes a deep breath, tries to stop himself from saying what he says next, but fails. “You don’t get to fuck with my feelings and act like my boyfriend whenever you feel lonely,” he adds, because it’s all he’s been thinking about.

Lucas winces, but then quickly hardens his face. “I made it clear from the beginning that I didn’t want a relationship,” Lucas reminds him, his voice low and deadly. “Friends with benefits was your idea, Eliott. And I’m sorry that I couldn’t return your feelings when you wanted me to, but you don’t get to be angry at me for that. That isn’t fucking fair.”

It’s condescending as all hell, and reignites the angry fire in Eliott’s stomach. How could I have been so fucking stupid? “No, but I can be angry over how you act like a possessive asshole because I posted a picture with my ex who happens to be my friend, and I can be angry over how you take advantage of my feelings for you, and I can be angry that I’m fucking in love with you and you can’t even be decent enough to not tell random guys that you’re in love with me when it’s total bullshit.”

Lucille looks up again, and Eliott can see the shock on her face out of the corner of his eye. And, yeah, he understands. He’d had the same reaction when Benoît told him that Lucas was in love with him. And he’d let himself get his stupid hopes up. He knew it was bullshit.

It was all fucking bullshit.

“Fuck you, Eliott.”

“No, Lucas, fuck you,” Eliott snaps. He feels hysterical, and so close to breaking down that he just wants Lucille to leave and Lucas to hang up so he can fall apart alone. “I’m done with this friends with benefits shit. It ends now.”

Lucas argues, “If you didn’t want to sleep with me anymore, you could’ve said that. Our friendship wasn’t built around the sex.” Can’t you see that I don’t want to be friends? I don’t want to be your friend, being your friend is ruining me. “You can’t blame me for our arrangement, Eliott. That was a mutual thing. And actually, you initiated sex more than I did, so you can’t be mad at me for going along with it when you knew that it wasn’t going to go farther. I was open and honest with you the whole time, apparently it was you that wasn’t.”

Eliott is beginning to feel like he could pull all of his hair out. Of course Lucas would blame him, because Lucas is never at fault. It’s Eliott that fell in love, it’s Eliott that blurted it out, it’s Eliott that was dumb enough to center his entire happiness around a boy that doesn’t even love him. 

Honestly, Eliott is beginning to wonder if Lucas even likes him anymore. 

“You’re right. I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at myself. I’m mad at myself for going along with this stupid friends with benefits bullshit when I should’ve known it’d end up like this.”

“End up like what?”

“With you trying to act like my boyfriend without the commitment. Getting jealous, possessive, sleeping with me, cuddling with me, all of that bullshit without any commitment. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve been sleeping with somebody else the whole time.” Eliott doesn’t mean it. He really, really doesn’t. But he’s just so fucking angry, and he wants Lucas to hurt. He wants Lucas to feel even a fraction of the hurt that Eliott has been carrying in his heart since the first time they slept together. “I bet that’s what you were doing with Benoît, honestly. That’s what Sofiane has been trying to tell me. That you just wanted to fuck me to get back at your ex, and that you’ve probably been fucking other guys too, and that’s why you keep reminding me that we’re not dating. You want me all to yourself because you’re a selfish dickhead,” and oh, God, why can’t he stop, why won’t he stop talking, “but you can sleep around because your boyfriend cheated on you and that somehow justifies being an asshole to anyone who cares about you.”

Fuck.

“Fuck you,” Lucas exclaims. “You actually fucking think of me like that? After knowing me for months? You were my best fucking friend, I told you everything. And you still think that I’m the type of person that would… Honestly, Eliott, do you really think so little of me?”

Eliott is beginning to wonder if he ever knew Lucas at all. He wonders if he even knows himself.

“Lucas—”

“Don’t answer that.”

Then the call ends, and Eliott feels himself begin to fall apart. 

Lucille climbs off of the bed, and then kneels in front of the chair that Eliott is in, her hands coming up to his cheeks. “Eliott, sweetheart…” 

“All of you were wrong,” Eliott chokes out. “You all kept saying I deserved more. But you were wrong. This is what I deserve.”

*

There’s been knocking at his door for the last twenty minutes, but Eliott can’t bring himself to get out of bed. He hasn’t really gotten out of bed for the last week, not even to work. He’s pretty sure he’s out of a job at this point, even. He hasn’t checked his phone to see even that much.

He misses Lucas so much it hurts.

He thinks that it probably shouldn’t hurt so much to love someone. It never hurt to love Lucille, really. Sure, he did get hurt in their relationship, but actually loving her was easy. Especially in the beginning. They were together because it just felt like it made sense. Like, they were in love, and the next logical thing would be to be together. And stay together. 

Nothing makes sense with Lucas. Eliott never knows where they stand, how Lucas is feeling, or how he can act around Lucas. It all confused him, drove him absolutely insane until it all boiled over and he just… Exploded. 

He regrets every second of it, of course, but he also thinks that it was inevitable. Everybody was telling him that he wouldn’t be able to go on like that forever, and he should’ve believed them. He should’ve known that everything would go to shit eventually, because he couldn’t just pretend forever. He’s never been a great actor. 

But he still misses him. 

The knocking gets louder. So loud that Eliott is beginning to worry about a noise complaint. And that is what gets him out of bed, finally. 

He stumbles to the door, pulling it open enough to glare at Sofiane and Idriss. 

Except it’s not Sofiane and Idriss. It’s Imane. 

“Please don’t close the door,” Imane rushes out. But after seeing her, that thought hadn’t even crossed his mind. “Can I come in? Please?”

Eliott doesn’t respond, just opens his door so she can come in. Imane leaves her shoes at the door and then follows him into the kitchen, taking him up on his offer for tea. She sits on one of the barstools and, for a little while, just watches him move around the kitchen as he gets the tea ready. 

In fact, it’s Eliott who speaks first. 

“My roommate will be home soon,” he murmurs, wrapping the string of the teabags around the handles of the teacups. “So if you wanted this to stay private, we should make it quick. And I promise that’s not just an excuse to make you go away so I can get back in bed and wallow in depression longer.”

He means it as a joke, but Imane doesn’t laugh. She actually frowns. “Are you doing okay, Eliott?” And he knows what she’s asking. She’s asking if this is an episode. If she should be more concerned than she already is. 

“As well as I possibly can, all things considered.”

“Right.” She shifts in her seat, folding her hands carefully. “I’m here to talk about Lucas. And before you tell me that you don’t want to talk about him, I just—”

“Is he doing okay?”

Imane blinks. Three times. “Oh. Um. I guess it’s like you, he’s doing as well as he possibly can, all things considered.” She purses her lips and looks down at her hands, and Eliott thinks this is the first time he’s seen her lost on what to say. “That isn’t what I wanted to talk about. What I actually wanted to talk about was everything before that. Before the wedding, even.”

Eliott nods, despite his confusion. “Okay.”

“Do you remember what I said to you, when you first started asking me about Lucas?” She asks, and Eliott thinks back. He remembers her saying that he was fresh out of a breakup and that she wouldn’t let him hurt Lucas, and he says as much. Imane sighs. “I also said that he always manages to get the worst of people.”

“Oh. Yeah, I remember that.”

“I know that he got the worst of you, after the wedding,” she says gently. “But I also think that you got the worst of him. And I think that you’ve been getting the worst of him, for a little while now. And everybody’s been checking on Lucas, making sure he’s okay. And I get it. I know he’s hurting. But… Has anybody checked on you, Eliott?”

He doesn’t expect the tears to hit him so hard so suddenly, but without warning he’s seconds from crying right there in his kitchen. “Not really,” he admits. “I, uh. Sofiane texted me a couple of days ago, but…”

“You shouldn’t have said what you did. But I understand why it happened. I understand why you blew up. You’re a good person, Eliott, you need to remember that. Just because you said some bad things doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

Eliott turns around so Imane doesn’t see him cry, pretending to be preoccupied with the tea. He pours the boiling water with shaky hands, and spills a lot of it on the counter. 

Fuck, when did he become such a mess?

“I’m sorry if I’m making things worse,” Imane murmurs. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay, too. I know how it feels to be hurting, and I know how it feels to be hurting alone.”

“I’m in love with him,” Eliott says helplessly, trying to clear up the water with a paper towel. It’s already soaked through, but he still keeps trying to wipe up more. “I know it’s stupid, but I am. And all of this is my fault, because everybody warned me that this would happen and I didn’t listen.”

“It’s not your fault. You took a risk for a boy you really liked and it is not your fault that he didn’t return your feelings. You’re never at fault for that.” Eliott turns to give her the tea, and Imane accepts it without even looking at it. “But… He does feel the same.”

“No, he doesn’t.”

Imane leans forward and forces eye contact. “He does, Eliott. I can’t tell you how I know or what I know, nothing more than that. I shouldn’t even be telling you this, but… Look, I promise that he has feelings for you, too. I can’t say he’s in love with you, but he doesn’t just have platonic feelings for you, either. He’s one of my closest friends, Eliott. I know him, and I know how he acts when he has feelings for someone.” She looks down at the tea, and swirls a little. Eliott knows it isn’t quite steeped yet, so he forces himself not to sip it despite the awkwardness he feels. “Just talk to him. I know it’s hard to get in touch with him right now, but find a way. He really needs to hear from you.”

“I’m blocked on everything,” Eliott sighs. “And I can’t just go over there. His roommates would kick me out before I even made it past the door.”

“Not just his roommates. All of his friends are practically standing guard right now.”

Eliott laughs humorlessly, throwing up one arm in exasperation. “See? There’s nothing I can do. He doesn’t want to hear from me.” He sips his tea, and cringes a little at the taste. Still not steeped, and needs milk. “I have other stuff to worry about right now, anyway. I’ve been on the verge of losing my job for the past two months.”

“What?!”

“Yeah, I know. I haven’t even told anyone this, besides you, now,” Eliott mutters. “I’ve just been so distracted by everything. I’m supposed to design a cover for a fashion magazine by the end of the month, and I have basically nothing. And my client originally wanted it in June, but gave me the extension, so… I have to get it done by next week or I’m fired.”

Imane gapes, “Shit, Eliott. All of this on top of everything with Lucas? Why haven’t you told anyone? Idriss, Sofiane, me? Your family?”

“Told anyone what? That the past few months I’ve done nothing but destroy my entire life? Left my girlfriend for a boy who doesn’t love me, wrecked my friendship with that boy because of my stupid feelings, drifted away from my only two friends because I spent too much time on that boy, and now I’m about to become a failed graphic designer because I let myself get distracted by that boy? I can’t tell my parents that, they’d freak out.”

“So you’ve just suffered in silence? Did you even tell Lucas about it?”

“No, of course not. He doesn’t need to worry about me on top of everything else.” Eliott grabs the milk out of the fridge and adds it to his tea. When he offers it to Imane, she just shakes her head, so he puts it away. “If I lose my job, I’m going to have to move out of this apartment. I’ve got some money saved up, but not enough to pay the rent and still live. So my parents will find out when I have to move back in with them, and then I’ll search for more work.”

“Fuck, Eliott. You know, you don’t have to sit here and watch your life fall apart. You can ask for help.”

“Ask who?” Eliott shrugs. “I’m alone, aren’t I? You said so yourself.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“But it’s true. I’m alone. And it’s my fault that I ended up that way, so it’s my responsibility to get myself out of it.” He pushes himself off the counter, and dumps the rest of his tea down the drain. “Thank you for checking on me, Imane. It means a lot to me.” He comes around to give her a hug, and does his best not to cry on her shirt. 

Imane hugs him tighter. “You’re not a bad person, Eliott,” she whispers. “And you’re not alone, either.”

*

Somehow, by the grace of God, Eliott manages to submit a finalized cover to his project manager on the last Friday before the end of the month. It’s not his best work, nowhere near it, but he’s just happy to be done. He’s happy that his client has something that looks good, and something to print in August. 

His job isn’t in the clear, though. He’d been called into a meeting this morning, Saturday morning, and basically threatened again. Told that he was skating on thin ice, and that he has to be on the very top of his game if he wants to keep his job. Basically, in a nutshell, Eliott is on probation and even one fuck up will cost him his job. 

Needless to say, the walk back from the meeting wasn’t a happy one. Eliott kicked at every single rock on the sidewalk and swore at himself in his head until he was convinced he should just quit. He’s a shitty graphic designer anyway, and if they truly don’t want him there, he should just leave while he still has his pride. 

But he can’t afford to do that. So he’ll have to kiss ass and work his way back into his boss’s good graces. 

He’s making his way up the stairs to his apartment when his phone vibrates in his back pocket. At first, he ignores it, but it vibrates a second time almost immediately after and curiosity gets the better of him. He stops in the middle of the stairwell and turns on his phone to find two messages from Lucas. Two photos. 

And it’s so overwhelming that Eliott just… He just can’t. Not on top of everything right now. He slides his phone back in his pocket and takes the stairs two at a time, until he’s back in his apartment again. 

His roommate is sitting in the living room with some friends, and Eliott forces himself to greet them all before retreating to his room. They won’t miss him. He and his roommate barely talk to each other as is, so there’s no point in pretending that he’s friends with his friends. 

He locks himself in his bedroom and sits at his work desk. There’s countless crumbled up drawings of hedgehogs and raccoons scattered around it, and Eliott’s hands itch with the need to draw more. It’s almost his therapy, drawing the things he can’t put into words. 

But he knows the only thing that will calm him down is reading Lucas’s messages. He has to bite the bullet. 

It’s two pictures. One of a drawing of a hedgehog sitting under a bridge and a starry night sky, surrounded by peaches and cream, and thinking about a raccoon. Below the drawing, in Lucas’s terrible handwriting, are the words In case you ever foolishly forget: I am never not thinking of you.

The next photo, which was sent first, is a picture of the book Night and Day. 

Eliott nearly starts weeping. This is Lucas reaching out. This is Lucas’s way of saying he’s sorry, that he misses Eliott too, that he has feelings for him too. Eliott’s heart starts going double time. Imane was right. Fuck, Imane was right. Fuck. 

He leaps up out of his desk chair and goes flying right back out of his apartment, surely leaving a bunch of confused people in his wake. But he doesn’t care. He can’t care about anything other than the fact that Lucas has feelings for him. He wouldn’t have drawn peaches and cream otherwise, because that’s what Eliott said to him. Eliott said to think about the peaches and cream, and Lucas did, and now they could finally have the happily ever after he’s wanted for so goddamn long. 

Maybe it’s naïve of him to forget everything that happened and forgive him just because of a simple drawing. But maybe it’s love. 

On the way, he stops by a florist to get a bouquet of roses, because Lucas deserves that. Eliott doesn’t have the mindset to draw him a picture in return, so this will be his gesture. Giving Lucas flowers will be his thank you. 

He wonders if anybody’s ever bought Lucas flowers before. 

The entire bus ride to Lucas’s apartment is way too fucking long, and Eliott can barely sit still. He’s tapping his leg and fiddling with the roses, even though he knows that touching them will just make them wilt. He can’t help it, though. He’s letting himself get excited and hopeful, because it feels safe this time. After months of nothing but confusion, this is the clearest, most straightforward message that Lucas has ever given him. He’s not confused anymore, and he doesn’t know what to do with that. 

He practically sprints the rest of the way to Lucas’s apartment, and he’s completely out of breath when he arrives. He doesn’t have to buzz in, thank God, because a lady lets him in behind her. He takes the stairs three at a time and then jogs to their doorstep, and raises his hand to knock. 

This whole thing just sounds like a recipe for heartbreak. 

The thought makes him hesitate. Lucille knows him better than anyone. She’s seen him through everything, literally everything. She just wants him to be happy, and she said she was sure that this couldn’t make Eliott happy. That he’d only get hurt in the end, and he didn’t deserve that. 

For a second, he considers the fact that she was right. He thinks about how badly he was hurting for so long, how much he and Lucas chipped away at each other until there was barely anything left but exposed nerves. 

But it’s worth it, Eliott thinks. If they had to go through all of that bullshit to get here, then so be it. Lucas is worth it. 

So he knocks. 

The door opens quickly, and Eliott smiles when he sees Lucas standing there. Lucas grins back, so fucking bright, and Eliott loves him more than ever in that moment. 

“Hi,” Eliott murmurs. “I, uh. I got your message. The pictures. And I— Fuck, Lucas. Can I come in?” He remembers the roses, suddenly, and extends them like an olive branch. “These are for you.”

For a moment, Lucas looks delighted, and starts opening the door. “Eliott, I’m so happy you—” He quickly cuts himself off, and then closes the door until Eliott can only see him through the small space that’s open. “Fuck. I’m happy you’re here, Eliott, honestly. But now is a bad time. A really bad time. Can I call you? Please? Or come over later? I just, I’m busy right now.”

Eliott is confused, of course, but he nods in understanding anyway. “Yeah, okay. Um. You should really take these roses, though. They need to be put in water,” he mumbles, his cheeks heating  with embarrassment. 

“Please, Eliott, you have to go,” Lucas begs, beginning to shut the door more. “I’m really sorry, I promise I’ll explain later. I promise. I’ll call you, okay?”

Eliott opens his mouth to respond, but the first syllable dies on his tongue when he hears a voice from behind Lucas. “Eliott? I finally get to meet the infamous not-boyfriend?” The man asks, and Eliott cringes. What a lovely reminder. 

“Who is that?” He asks Lucas. When Lucas just flinches and looks away, Eliott’s heart starts pounding for an entirely different reason. “Lucas, what the hell is going on?”

Lucas gives him a desperate look. “Nothing, I swear. Please go, Eliott. Please. I promise I’ll explain,” he pleads. But Eliott isn’t going anywhere. 

“Lucas—” He begins, only to be interrupted by the door opening wider to reveal a man that Eliott has never seen before. “What’s going on?”

The man steps in front of Lucas, extending his hand to Eliott. “Hi, I’m Gabriel, Lucas’s ex-boyfriend. I’m sure you’ve heard about me.” And Eliott definitely has. He doesn’t shake Gabriel’s hand, because fuck that guy, but also why the fuck is he here? “Lucas and I were just having a chat. You know, about maybe starting things up again. That’s how I knew who you were, I had to make sure the boy on his Instagram wasn’t a boyfriend. I’m sure you understand, Eliott. I don’t want anyone getting in the way of what’s mine.”

The way he talks about Lucas is absolutely revolting. It genuinely makes Eliott sick to his stomach, and he’s sure it shows on his face. He can’t stand to hear him talk about Lucas like he’s something to be owned, or controlled. It’s no wonder Lucas broke up with this dickhead. God, if Lucas is actually considering getting back together with him…

“That is not what’s happening,” Lucas tells him, shoving Gabriel back. “He came over to talk to me, and I— Well, I let him stay for a bit to talk, but only because—”

“You don’t have to tell me,” Eliott tries to soothe, still staring at the absolute prick behind Lucas. He looks so fucking smug and Eliott just wants to hit him for ever hurting Lucas. “It’s none of my business. Like he said, I’m not your boyfriend. You’re entitled to talk to whoever you want.” He really only says it to placate Gabriel. He knows how much this guy intimidates Lucas, and the last thing he wants to do is make this worse. They can fix it later, when Lucas calls. Eliott can talk him out of giving Gabriel another chance then. 

“Eliott, please look at me,” Lucas begs. Eliott is suddenly aware that he’s fucking crying, and yet Gabriel is still smiling. He has to look at the floor so he doesn’t get too angry. “I swear this is a big misunderstanding. I love you, Eliott, I’m fucking in love with you. That’s why I sent that picture, that’s what I’ve been— I’ve wanted to tell you since you were in Lyon, but then things went all pear-shaped. I was stupid and I fucked things up and I’m really, really sorry. Please just look at me.”

Eliott does. He tries his best to give Lucas a comforting look, but he’s pretty sure only his anger comes across. He hopes Lucas knows the anger isn’t for him, but rather for the asshole behind him. 

“We’ll talk later, okay?” Eliott promises. “I should go.” He turns around before he can change his mind, and clenches the roses so hard in his fist that he can feel water in his palm. He refuses to turn around despite Lucas begging him to, because it’ll only go bad. It’ll make things worse with him and Gabriel. Eliott needs to let them figure things out. 

He ends up squeezing the roses so hard that he breaks the stems through the middle, so he throws them out in the bin at the end of the hall.

*

Eliott waits for Lucas to call. 

And he waits, and waits, and waits. 

He knows he could call first, but he wants to give Lucas his space. He knows that whole thing with Gabriel couldn’t have been easy for him, and he wants to give Lucas time to sort through everything and reach out to Eliott on his own. It’s what Eliott would want, if the roles were reversed. 

So he waits. And he waits for three days. 

*

On the fourth day, Eliott gets a call. He jumps at his phone, immediately assuming it’s Lucas and they can finally talk. But it isn’t Lucas, it’s Imane. Eliott’s stomach sinks immediately, when he sees Imane’s name. Something inside of him just knows that something is wrong. 

Tentatively, he answers, lifting the phone to his ear. “Hello?” He murmurs, and hopes his voice doesn’t tremble too obviously. 

“Eliott, is Lucas with you?” She sounds panicked, which makes Eliott instantly start to panic. 

“No? Why, is he supposed to be?”

“Shit,” Imane groans. “No, we just… Mika said he’s missing. He just disappeared out of nowhere, and there’s some stuff of his gone, too. We have no idea where he is, we were hoping he’d gone to yours since none of us have seen him.”

Eliott stands up immediately, running out to the hall to slip on shoes. “What do you mean he’s missing? How does a twenty-one year old boy who shares an apartment with two other people just disappear?!”

“I don’t know, but Mika is really freaked out,” Imane sighs. “Do you have any idea where he might be?”

La Petite Ceinture. Eliott has told him that’s where he goes to be alone. Maybe Lucas went there to be alone, too. 

“Maybe. I’ve got to go, Imane. I’ll call if I hear from him.” He hangs up without warning, and then runs out his door. Once his feet hit the pavement, he pulls up his messages with Manon. 

Is Lucas okay? He asks. 

Manon’s response is immediate. I have no idea, I haven’t seen him. Do you know anything?

Nothing. 

He went missing this morning, Manon responds. Lisa was supposed to be with him, but she fell asleep and he left. If you have any idea or if you hear from him, please let us know. He won’t respond to any of us. 

Of course. I think I know where he is. 

Where?!

Eliott types back, Yann, Baz, and Arthur know. 

He doesn’t have the time to explain La Petite Ceinture to her. The boys will have to do it. In the meantime, Eliott needs to get there before Lucas decides to do something stupid. 

He’s not sure that Lucas is suicidal or anything, but Eliott has been there before. He’s been the one that disappeared without warning, and went ghost on everybody who tried to contact him. He’s been there, and he can’t let Lucas be there. He simply won’t let it happen. 

So he runs faster than he ever has before, in broad daylight in the middle of Paris. He knows he’s getting bizarre looks, and everybody probably thinks he’s on drugs. But he isn’t thinking about that. All he can think about is getting to Lucas before something bad happens. 

He doesn’t bother fumbling with the lock on the gate, instead just hopping the fence. He twists his ankle on the way down, and it hurts like a bitch, but he doesn’t let it stop him. He runs on the hurt ankle all the way down the path until he gets to the clearing, where he stops and looks around for any sign of Lucas. 

He finds none. He’s too late. 

He’s too late. 

The realization hits him like a ton of bricks, and he collapses right there on the mess of leaves and twigs, and he cries. There’s nowhere else Lucas could possibly be, and if he’s not here, God only knows… if Eliott has just gotten here a little bit sooner, maybe he could’ve…

He draws his knees to his chest and cries into them, cries until he can’t anymore. 

That’s how Basile finds him. Curled in a ball on the ground, crying. It’s humiliating, but Eliott accepts the hug that Basile gives him anyway. 

“He’s okay, Eliott,” Baz whispers, pulling Eliott closer into his chest and rubbing circles on his back. “He’s fine. He went to Colmar to be with his mom. Apparently he left a note and Mika only just found it. He’s called Lucas and talked to him and everything. He’s completely fine. Everything is okay.”

Somehow, knowing that Lucas is okay only makes Eliott cry harder and cling to Basile tighter. Thankfully, Basile doesn’t even flinch, just makes himself more comfortable and holds Eliott tighter in return. 

“Everything’s okay, man,” Basile whispers again, when Eliott’s sobs lull. “He’s okay, and you’re okay. Everything’s okay.”

*

Lucas calls the next day. 

He explains everything with him and Gabriel, and Eliott doesn’t have the heart to tell him how angry he’d been. “I was worried about you,” Eliott murmurs. “I was so angry because I thought you were getting back into shit with him, but I couldn’t say anything because it wasn’t my business. That’s why I stormed off.” It’s not the whole truth, but it’s part of it, and that’s enough. Lucas doesn’t need the added guilt of knowing everything. “It was kind of a dick move, and I’m sorry.” He pauses for a moment to gather the courage to add, “Can I ask you something?”

Lucas responds instantly, “Of course. Anything.”

“You said you’re in love with me. Did you mean it?”

“Yes, I meant it.” Eliott closes his eyes and breathes in the pure relief. The most relief and happiness he’s felt in months. “I’m in love with you, and I’m so sorry it took so long to accept it. It doesn’t— It doesn’t have to mean anything, but I wanted you to know.”

Eliott could sob with how happy he is. “Did you love me when I told you I loved you?” He whispers, but he’s smiling now. He couldn’t care less if Lucas said no. “When I was drunk?”

“Yes, I did. But I hadn’t admitted it to myself at that point. I was still terrified.”

“I was, too,” Eliott tells him. “Absolutely terrified. But I couldn’t hold it back anymore.” He sighs, then, closing his eyes once more. He can feel tears swimming in them. “I owe you an apology, Lucas. For so much. For what I said to you the morning after the wedding, and for everything after that. You didn’t deserve that. I was just so mad at you, and I felt so… I don’t know, betrayed, I guess? And hurt? I felt like you were jerking me back and forth and I just, I snapped. And I said some things I didn’t mean, and I’m sorry.”

He makes more apologies, because he has a lot to apologize for. He refuses to be one of those people that Lucas sees the worst of and then leaves. He won’t treat Lucas like that. Lucas only deserves the best, including the best of Eliott. And that’s what Eliott wants to offer him. 

He knows there will be more times that the worst of him comes out, if they end up dating. More fights, more crying, and probably some episodes. But it won’t matter, then, because Lucas will know the best of him. And he’ll know the best will come back and make up for all of the bad things. 

They talk about everything. Apologies, secrets, love declarations. They talk about so much that they somehow end up with their pants around their thighs and their breathing heavy into their individual receivers, but Eliott thinks that’s to be expected. It’s them, after all. This is how they began, and now it’s their middle. 

*

Eliott stayed up all night making the poster with Idriss and Sofiane. He’d gone over to play video games and make amends, because he missed them. And he wanted them to know he missed them, and that he values their friendship so much more than he’d been letting on. 

Idriss and Sofiane forgive him, of course. Really, they insist that there was nothing to forgive, because they knew that Eliott was going through shit. They’d just wanted to give him space and time to figure shit out, and they’d figured he’d reach out again when he was ready. 

Unlike the first time, they’re both extremely supportive when he tells them about Lucas. The sign is Idriss’s idea, actually. They spend the night playing FIFA and doing arts and crafts, until Eliott has the perfect cheesy sign to greet Lucas with. He spends the night on their couch and eats breakfast with them and Imane, and it’s like nothing ever changed even though their entire world has shifted completely. 

Maybe some things don’t have to change. 

Idriss drops him off at the train station just in time to meet Lucas. He doesn’t even make it past the front doors before he sees Lucas turn the corner, so he sets up there, and smiles so wide he feels like his entire face is going to crack. 

When Lucas finally sees him, the world stops. 

Eliott finds himself with his arms full of Lucas, and he holds on so tightly that he’s sure Lucas is wondering if Eliott will ever let go. 

(The answer is no.)

*

That night, they lay in Eliott’s bed, sweat still cooling on their skin from the past three rounds of sex. The first two had been rough and desperate from missing each other, but the third had been slow. Sensual and loving, and all the things that Lucas never wanted before. 

Now, they were finally sated, cuddled up together and near sleep despite the fact that it’s near dinner and they really should go eat something. 

Well, Eliott is near sleep. 

Lucas, apparently, isn’t. 

“Baby,” Lucas whispers, pulling Eliott tighter into him and tracing one finger over his face. It tickles, but in the good way. The way that would usually lull Eliott right to sleep. “Baby, are you awake?”

Eliott grumbles, “I am now.” But he doesn’t open his eyes. 

“I just wanted to tell you something.”

“Hm?”

“Baby.” His voice is stern enough that Eliott sits up a little, rubbing his eyes and then giving Lucas his full attention. Lucas smiles at him, and leans in for a long, sweet kiss before he goes on. “You’ve changed my mind.”

Eliott blinks for a moment, thinking that it’s the sleepiness that’s confusing him. But still, his mind is blank. “What do you mean?” He asks finally, and Lucas just smiles at him again. 

“On our first date, I told you I didn’t believe in true love or soulmates. And you told me that you’d have to change my mind,” he explains. Eliott smiles at that, as memories of Romeo + Juliet and some of the best sex he’s ever had comes rushing back. “Turns out, you are quite persuasive. You’ve changed my mind.”

Eliott can’t help himself. He crashes their lips together and kisses the life out of Lucas, because fuck if that isn’t the sweetest thing that anybody’s ever said to him. It mends every last stitch of his previously broken heart, and he finally feels whole again. 

“I love you,” Eliott mumbles against his lips. 

Lucas laughs into the kiss, like the cutie he fucking is. “I love you,” he whispers back. And he isn’t bullshitting this time, saying it to some random guy when he’s drunk and then denying it later. He means it. 

Chapter Text

epilogue — five months later

When Lucas arrives at the coffee shop, Imane is already there, sat at a table in the back with two coffees and two muffins in front of her. She smiles when she sees him, which tempts Lucas to tease her, but he chooses not to. They’ve been getting along so well now that he and Eliott have figured things out, and he doesn’t want to push it.

“Hi,” Lucas smiles, dropping into the seat across from her. “How are you?”

“Bored from waiting on you.”

Lucas rolls his eyes and reaches out for the coffee cup, cradling it in his hands. The heat feels amazing against his chilled skin. “It’s fucking freezing out there,” he explains, when Imane gives him a weird look. “And I let Eliott use my gloves on his way to work this morning, since he stayed over at mine and didn’t bring his.”

“How cute,” she deadpans, but Lucas can see the light in her eyes. “So, everything is good between you two?”

At that, Lucas’s smile involuntarily widens. He can’t help it. Just thinking of Eliott makes him happy, so much happier than he thinks he’s ever been. It makes him feel impossibly stupid for ever denying his true feelings and fighting a relationship. If he’d known how good it would feel to be Eliott’s, he would’ve run to him from the start.

He supposes all things happen for a reason. Maybe, if he and Eliott hadn’t gone through all that bullshit, their relationship wouldn’t be as good as it is. Maybe Lucas would keep a stranglehold on his feelings and push Eliott away. Maybe Eliott wouldn’t tell Lucas about his bipolar and something bad would’ve happened. Maybe they would just fight more, or be less compatible. 

Still, though, he can’t help but wonder how everything would’ve turned out if he’d just let Eliott take him on a real date in the beginning. He can’t help but wonder what they could’ve had if they’d just skipped all the bullshit.

Either way, he wouldn’t trade what they have now for the world. He’d go through it all again one million times over if it meant he got to wake up next to Eliott everyday.

“Yeah, we’re good,” Lucas nods. “Really good.”

“That’s good. I’m glad everything worked out between you two,” Imane tells him. Lucas must have too much of an endeared, satisfied look on his face, though; because she quickly hardens her expression and adds, “I was tired of Eliott’s pining anyway, it was getting annoying.”

Lucas nods, but he doesn’t actually believe her. “I’m sure.”

“Fuck off.”

“What about you and Sofiane?” Lucas asks, sipping his coffee slowly. It’s good coffee, made just how he likes it, and Lucas wonders how in the hell she knew his coffee order. 

Imane shrugs, “We’re good. Just as good as we’ve always been.” She comes across as casual and blasé, but Lucas knows her better than that. He can tell how happy she is, and how just the mention of Sofiane melts her heart.

“Can I see the ring?”

Imane doesn’t hesitate to hold out her hand, letting Lucas look at the ring on her finger. It’s modest, nothing too flashy or gaudy, and absolutely beautiful. Lucas looks up to tell her as much, but instead catches her beaming with pride and love, her gaze stuck on her ring. Lucas bites his tongue, and lets her have her moment.

When she pulls her hand back, she seems a little bashful, like she’s embarrassed of Lucas seeing her so soppy. “Keep your eye on your mail for the invitation,” she says, and Lucas has to bite his tongue again to keep from teasing her about inviting him to the wedding.

It warms his heart, really, to know that she wants him there. He imagines that if someone told sixteen year old Lucas and Imane about their current friendship, neither of them would believe it. But here they are now, one being invited to the other’s wedding, and asking each other about their relationships. It’s funny how time changes things.

They move on to talk about that after a while. How much things have changed, that is. They talk about Chloé from Lucas’s second year, they talk about Imane’s riff with the girls in second year, they talk about Gabriel, they talk about Sofiane, they talk about Eliott. Imane tells Lucas how proud she is of him, for overcoming so much at so young and still managing to be the type of person that believes in love. Lucas returns the pride (and the love), telling Imane how proud he is of her for being so strong all the time, even when it’s hard.

It’s really sappy, all things considered. After all, Lucas and Imane’s friendship was built on teasing each other. (Well, really, it was built on blackmail.) But it feels good, after everything, to have this moment with each other.

“I was thinking that you and Eliott could come over to Sofiane’s for dinner one day,” Imane says, when they’ve finished their coffee and muffins and Lucas is walking her home. “He’s been getting closer to the boys again, so… I think we’re long overdue for a double date. A real one.”

Lucas gasps dramatically, dropping one arm around her shoulders and then placing the other hand over his heart. “What is this? The Imane Bakhellal wants to have a double date with me? Me, Lucas Lallemant?”

“Don’t push it, or I’ll take it back,” she warns, but she’s laughing and leaning into Lucas’s touch. He figures this would be a pretty weird sight for their sixteen year old selves, too. “I just think it’s about time we mesh our friend group together. You’re already close with Idriss from being over at my place all the time, so you and Sofiane need to get to know each other better.”

“I can’t believe it took five months of Eliott and I being together for you to finally want a double date.”

Imane shrugs, “I had to make sure you two were solid. Things have always been really touch and go.”

“Not anymore,” Lucas says, firmly. Confidently. “We’re solid now. I love him, and I don’t want to let him go again. I won’t let him go again.”

“Good. He deserves that.” She slides her arm around Lucas’s waist, and leans into the touch even more. “You do, too. You deserve each other. I can’t think of two people better for each other than you and Eliott.”

Lucas doesn’t really know how to respond to that—not without crying, anyway—but thankfully, he doesn’t have to. They stop at Imane’s door and she invites him in, which he accepts. He follows her silently up to hers and Idriss’s apartment.

When they open the door, the smell of pizza hits them like a ton of bricks. Imane turns to him and rolls her eyes, making Lucas laugh as they make their way in.

They find Idriss and Eliott sitting on the couch, a demolished pizza between them as they play Fortnite. Lucas and Imane both roll their eyes this time. They part ways, then: Imane heading to the kitchen to make tea and Lucas heading over to the couch.

Eliott’s eyes light up when he sees Lucas walking over. He tips his head back so when Lucas is behind the couch, he can lean down and press their lips together in an upside-down kiss. “Hi, baby,” Eliott grins, kissing him once more before lifting his head up and focusing on the game again. “I didn’t know you were coming over.”

Lucas leans against the back of the couch, resting his chin on the top of Eliott’s head. “I wasn’t planning on it, I just walked Imane home. To be fair, though, I didn’t expect to see you either. Thought you were at work,” he murmurs. “Having fun?”

“More now that you’re here.”

Idriss gags from his spot on the opposite end of the couch, but Lucas can’t even laugh. He already feels soft and happy from talking with Imane, so he doesn’t try to hide the way Eliott’s sweet words affect him. Instead, he just presses a kiss to Eliott’s hair. And then another, and another, and another.

“I love you,” Lucas murmurs, because it’s true.

Eliott tips his head back again, smiling at Lucas properly. “I love you.”

*

Lucas, personally, is of the opinion that the day shouldn’t start before 9am. Honestly, even 9am is pushing it for him. Lucas’s ideal day would start after noon, maybe even after 1pm if he’d gone drinking the night before. But definitely no earlier, because early starts are awful. Mornings should be dedicated to sleeping, cuddling, sex, and breakfast in bed. Not to work, coffee, and soft goodbye kisses.

But he’s been awake since 8:30 this morning. He’s had the feeling that something was off for the past week or so—ever since Lucas found Eliott at Idriss’s when he was meant to be at work. Eliott’s just been acting… weird. Different. And now, it’s 8:34am and Eliott was meant to be awake half an hour ago. He’s meant to leave for work in fifteen minutes. But Eliott’s alarm hadn’t gone off, and Eliott is still sleeping soundly.

He reaches out, gently pushes against Eliott’s shoulder. For a few moments Eliott doesn’t even react, but then he begins to snuffle and stir, until finally his eyes open and meet Lucas’s. “Good morning,” he rasps out, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

Lucas frowns. “Yeah, good morning. It’s half past eight, you know. You’re late for work.”

“Oh.” Eliott turns onto his back, grabbing his phone and checking the time on it. “Hm. I guess my alarm didn’t go off. Thank you, baby.” He kisses Lucas’s cheek once and then slowly climbs out of bed and stumbles to the bathroom, with all the urgency of a sloth.

Yeah, this is weird. Eliott isn’t at all concerned that he’s late. Like, at all.

Lucas gets out from under the covers, pulling on the pajama pants he’d dumped on the floor the night previous. He doesn’t bother with a shirt, instead grabbing Eliott’s hoodie from the desk and slipping that on, padding out to the bathroom.

Eliott had left the door cracked, and Lucas pauses just on the other side of the door, watching through the crack as Eliott opens a pill bottle. Eliott shakes one pill out and lets it rest in his hand for a few seconds before he swallows it dry. Lucas figures it’s his lithium, and his heart aches a little, because he knows how much Eliott hates taking it. When he begins to recap the bottle, Lucas gently taps his knuckles against the door to announce his presence before he opens the door and steps in.

He closes the door behind him and then sits on the toilet lid, staring up at Eliott. Eliott doesn’t look surprised that Lucas followed him, and just continues going about brushing his teeth. Lucas should’ve expected that.

“Eliott, is something going on?” Lucas asks, his voice as gentle and soft as he can get it to be while he’s so worried. Lucas has always had anxious tendencies, so it’s no surprise that he feels ready to vibrate with anxiety now. 

Eliott glances over at him. “What do you mean?”

“You’ve been acting weird lately,” Lucas shrugs, pulling the sleeves of the hoodie down over his hands. “I’m just worried about you. It’s not like you to be so… unconcerned about being late for work. And, like, when I found you at Idriss’s instead of at work like you were meant to be? I don’t know.”

At that, Eliott sighs around his mouthful of toothpaste, tearing his gaze away from Lucas’s to spit into the sink. “Can you start the shower?” Eliott asks, and Lucas nods, turning to reach into the shower and turn it on. “Do you want to join?”

“Sure,” Lucas agrees. He wants Eliott to know that this isn’t a fight, that Lucas isn’t angry or trying to accuse him of something. He’s just concerned, is all, and wants to make sure that Eliott is okay. “If something is wrong, you don’t have to tell me, but… I’m here, you know? If you want to talk about it.”

Eliott pulls his sweatpants and briefs off, dropping them on the floor to pick up later. He gives Lucas an expectant look, so Lucas stands and strips his own clothes off, starting with the hoodie. 

“You look good in my clothes,” Eliott comments, as Lucas drops the hoodie and then sets to work on his pajama pants. “You look better in them than I do, I think.”

Lucas blushes, stepping closer to Eliott and wrapping his arms around Eliott’s waist. Eliott accepts the hug easily, his arms wrapping around Lucas and his face burying in Lucas’s neck. The room is already warming up from the shower steam, but Lucas feels as though he was freezing cold until Eliott touched him and warmed him right up. 

Goddamn it, this man’s made me cheesy as fuck.

They pull apart and then step into the shower. Eliott doesn’t start talking, he just grabs the shampoo and starts to wash Lucas’s hair. Lucas doesn’t push. He trusts that Eliott will come to him when he’s ready, especially now that Lucas has shown that he’s noticed the changes in Eliott’s behavior and promised that he’s there for Eliott. Whenever Eliott needs him.

They take turns washing each other, rotating who’s standing under the water and who’s doing the washing. The room is warm enough that it’s not too bad to be the one that isn’t under the water, but that doesn’t stop Lucas from closing his eyes and sighing in relief every time it’s his turn and he gets to warm up.

He’s in the middle of one of his turns when he feels Eliott’s lips against his collarbone. Lucas doesn’t open his eyes, just turns his neck and steps a little to the side, granting Eliott easier access and keeping him out of the water spray so he won’t drown or something.

“I have something to tell you,” Eliott mumbles against his skin.

Lucas nearly shudders at how it tickles. “What’s that?”

“I quit my job,” Eliott whispers, so quietly that Lucas almost doesn’t hear him. When the words do register, though, Lucas finally opens his eyes and glances down at where Eliott is mouthing at his skin. He’s shocked; partially because he knew how much Eliott loved being a graphic designer, and partially because he’d been expecting the words You’re so fucking hot with every fiber of his being that he’s not entirely sure how to respond now. 

“When?”

Eliott sighs. “I put my two weeks in three weeks ago. My last day was last week, last Friday.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to worry you,” Eliott admits. “I just… I’ve basically been on probation for months, you know? And I just got tired of being threatened all the time, like, I got tired of hearing my boss tell me over and over again that I should be fired. And then I just started thinking. I used to love my job, you know, but I’ve been so unhappy the last few months. To the point where I couldn’t even look at my sketchbook. And I hate that. I hate that my art has become something I don’t enjoy anymore, all because I decided I was going to start doing it for other people instead of for myself.” He pauses, pulls away from Lucas’s neck enough that they can look at each other. “Does that make sense?”

And Eliott looks so soft and fragile that Lucas can’t help but put his hand on Eliott’s cheek, just to give him a bit of comfort. “Of course it does, my love. You shouldn’t do anything that doesn’t make you happy. Life is too short for that,” he murmurs. “Do you know what you want to do now?”

“Yeah. There’s an opening at an art studio a couple of blocks from here, to teach a kids’ art class. I don’t need a teaching certification or anything, since it’s not really, like, a school. And I’ll probably end up doing more birthday parties than actual classes, but… I don’t know, I think I really like the idea of teaching children.”

“That sounds perfect for you,” Lucas nods. “I love the idea of you finger painting with a bunch of little kids. You’re so good with them, and they always love you.”

Eliott grins, but buries it back in Lucas’s collarbone. “But I don’t know if I’ll get it or not, so I’m a bit low on funds right now. I can’t really afford to stay in my apartment, so I was thinking… I mean, if you don’t think it’s a good idea, I can always move back in with my parents, but… What do you think about moving in together? We could get a little one bedroom apartment somewhere, one that we both can afford even while I’m still looking for work, and we could just— I don’t know, I think it would be nice. What do you think?”

Lucas is pretty sure his heart explodes in that moment.

All he can do is think about how nice it would be to live with Eliott. To wake up next to him everyday, go to bed next to him everyday, eat breakfast together everyday (naked, if they wanted to), to have sex without worrying about being overheard, to share a shower without being scolded for hogging the bathroom, to cuddle on the couch and watch movies without being interrupted. It all sounds so lovely, and Lucas can’t believe he hadn’t come up with that idea first.

“I think…” Lucas murmurs, his hands coming up to play with Eliott’s wet hair, “I think that’s the best idea you’ve ever had. And I also think that if I don’t get my mouth on you in the next twenty seconds, I’m going to cry.”

Eliott laughs, bright and happy, and Lucas holds him tighter. We can have this everyday. We can be this happy everyday, all the time. “I’m so happy you want this, too. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks,” Eliott admits. He pulls back, cups Lucas’s cheeks and kisses him senseless. “Thank you for being so supportive. It means so much to me. More than you know.”

“I love you,” Lucas reminds him, kissing him once more. “But, seriously, let me suck you off before Mika starts knocking. Honestly, Eliott, you can’t just ask me to move in with you and expect me to be able to keep my hands to myself. It’s like you don’t even know me!”

*

The library is eerily quiet for a Monday morning, but Lucas doesn’t mind. He’s been making his rounds shelving books in peace, working faster than he’s been able to for quite a long time. The only thing keeping him from working properly is Yann, who keeps showing up uninvited.

Oh, well. At least Lucas can’t get fired for it, since the library is empty.

“Have you two found an apartment yet?” Yann asks, picking up a stack of books that Lucas points to and the following him down the aisle.

Lucas nods, smiling over his shoulder. “Yeah, we just found one last night. We still have to talk to the landlord and stuff, but Eliott is pretty sure we’ll get it. It’s a one bedroom apartment not that far from where I live now, and really close to where Eliott is teaching.”

“I forgot about that! How’s that going?”

They stop in front of the biographies, setting the books down and then shelving them. Yann is at the library so often, these days, that he even picks up books and shelves them himself. “Really good, he loves it. He comes home covered in paint every single day, with a million stories of how he got so messy, and the smile doesn’t leave his face for hours. He loves those kids like they’re his own, I swear.” Lucas laughs a little, shaking his head at the mental image of Eliott coming home covered in dried rainbows.

“That’s good. That’s really good.” Yann places a biography about Anne Frank on the shelf and then stands up straight, turning to Lucas. “What about you, man? How are you?”

“Amazing,” Lucas replies honestly. “I’ve never been happier, Yann. I can spend all weekend with him and still miss him the second we part. It’s like I can’t get enough of him, I love him so much. I know that sounds crazy, and maybe this is a little too soon, but I really think he could be it for me. I just don’t think I could ever be this happy with anyone else.”

“So it was all worth it, then? Everything that happened?”

Lucas nods, “Yeah. More than worth it. I’d walk through hell and back again just to love him. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.”

“And to think you didn’t even want to go to Daphy’s party, bro,” Yann laughs, punching Lucas in the shoulder. Lucas just rolls his eyes, laughing along quietly. “I was right. The party, a stiff drink, and a stiff dick was good for you.”

“As disgusting as you are,” Lucas sighs, “you were right. More than. It wasn’t just good for me, it’s arguably the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“You’re such a sap.”

Lucas shrugs, putting the last book on the shelf and then picking up his stack again. Yann follows immediately, trailing behind Lucas as they make their way to the romances. There’s eleven John Green novels in their stacks, but Lucas doesn’t mind this time. At least they’re easy to sort.

“We’re going to Colmar this weekend,” Lucas informs him. When Yann gasps, Lucas just laughs. He’d expected that reaction. “I know. He and I are meeting my mom down there. It’ll be the first time they’ve met. Eliott is so nervous, it’s really cute.”

“Wow, man. It really is serious, then.”

“Of course it’s serious. I love him, and I really, really do think he’s it for me.” He puts Looking for Alaska on the shelf, and then turns to face Yann. “I know we’ve only been together for five months, but if he asked, I’d marry him in a heartbeat.”

“This is coming from the guy who spent months denying that he even wanted to be Eliott’s boyfriend.”

Lucas shrugs, smiling a little shyly. “I love him, Yann. I know I keep saying that, but… I denied it for so long. I don’t want to deny it anymore.” He shelves The Fault in Our Stars. Maybe, he thinks, John Green was onto something when he wrote Augustus declaring his love for Hazel in spite of all the odds stacked against them. Love is so worth it. It’s worth everything . “What do you think, though? If we got married, should I take his name? Lucas Demaury? Or should I stay Lucas Lallemant?”

Yann laughs, wrapping an arm around Lucas’s shoulders. Lucas knows what Yann is trying to say—he knows that Yann is saying I’m so happy for you. Lucas is happy, too.

“Demaury.”