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Darby looked at the pill his hand. For some reason, he'd wanted to do this sober, but the numerous failed attempts had forced him to give up on that. As he downed it with some beer he wondered if this would be enough, and if maybe he shouldn't have shared the other one with Pat. He didn't know why it was so important to him that Pat knew this. Objectively, it wasn’t. And if Pat knew, he would see Darby differently, treat him differently. Even if he didn’t want to distance himself, they would grow apart. They already were.

He was torn out of his thoughts by Pat leaning heavily onto him, his head almost in Darby’s lap as he reached for a beer. Right. This was why. Maybe Pat only needed to know that the attraction was mutual, and not that Darby was …. That he …. Fuck. How was he gonna tell Pat when he couldn’t even say it to himself? And why was he so sure that Pat was attracted to him? This was just who he was, he’d always acted like that. What if he was trying to set him up? Manipulate him into revealing this so he could go out there and tell everyone. Maybe not the most rational thought he’d had, but it was a possibility he had to consider.

If he had a button that could kill him instantly, he would’ve done this long ago. But those didn’t exist, unfortunately, and he didn’t have a solid, thought-out suicide plan right now. If even the slightest thing went wrong, he would have to live with the pain for days, maybe weeks before he was finally able to die. Making sure he had a certain way out before he did this seemed like a good idea. He could put it off until then.

Pat interrupted his thoughts again, bringing up a show they’d been to and they fell back into a comfortable routine, an easy conversation that flowed out of him and put his worries out of his mind. But now it had lulled to a stop, and Darby was thinking again. Or, not thinking. Acting on impulse. Well, it was just a question. It didn’t have to imply anything.

He slid his hand down, close enough to Pat’s to feel the heat from it, but not quite touching. "So, do you like me?" He turned around to face him. "You know how I mean."

Pat shot him an indecipherable look, then looked up again. "Yeah."

The response didn’t calm his racing heartbeat. He flopped onto his back, shifting and twisting and readjusting, but he couldn't find a comfortable position. So he sat up. He'd expected hearing that answer would make things easier, yet he sat there, frozen. The words were stuck in his throat, and he just couldn't force them out. And maybe he didn't have to. He didn't have to do anything about this. Maybe living with the regret of missed opportunity was preferable to getting through five minutes of awkwardness.

He stood up. It was stupid, so fucking stupid. He still had to respond somehow. His legs only carried him to the other side of the bed, where he sat down by Pat's legs.

Pat pulled himself in a sitting position as well. "I'm sorry." His eyes met Darby's, only for an infinitesimal amount of time before he looked down again. "Can we just forget this ever happened?"

Darby processed the words with a delay. Pat was giving him an out. Or at least he could treat it that way. All had to do was nod. It’d be so easy. Nothing would change, not in the long term at least, things would eventually go back to normal. But he couldn't. A shiver ran down his spine, followed by a wave of nausea that sent his hand flying up to cover his mouth. It shook as he lowered it again. He stared at the floor, his gaze remaining fixed on it even when he put one leg on the bed to turn towards Pat.

He had to tell him. And he couldn't. If he did, their relationship would never be the same again. Wasn't that what he wanted? Why did this have to be so hard? Maybe actions would come easier than words. It would be over quicker, at least. He slid closer and started leaning forward. It felt like he’d crossed miles already, but the distance hadn’t changed. The nausea hit him again and he faltered. This was a terrible idea. He shrunk back, slumping once again in his previous position.

This would be easier if Pat would do something. Anything to show he thought it was okay. To give him the courage he so desperately lacked. Or maybe it would only tear him up even more. Maybe it would make him fall apart. Fuck. If he did this, there would be no going back. It wouldn’t be just a few minutes, he’d have to live in fear forever. The risk of being found out increased with each new person he told, and this was no different. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Pat. Of course he wouldn't divulge this with malicious intent. But slip-ups happened, and Pat wasn't very good at keeping secrets. Darby could keep it to himself, he’d been doing just fine that way so far. He never had to date Pat, he never had to date anyone, for the rest of his life. It wasn't fair, but it wasn’t like he’d planned on it lasting long anyway.

He took a shuddering breath, prompting Pat to hesitantly place his hand on his knee. Darby flinched away from it, a reflexive reaction that he regretted only a fraction of a second later. He needed the comfort and support of that touch more than anything right now. But he couldn’t get it back, not anymore.

His mind circled back to that one thought that provided a way out of this mess, out of any mess. If it went wrong, he could always kill himself. He knew where to get the drugs. He could steal the money. He’d have to, no one would be willing to give him free stuff anymore if they knew, they wouldn’t look up to him anymore. They wouldn’t respect him. They wouldn’t want to help him escape their torment. But he would. He’d steal the money. Buy everything he needed, and OD. He could do that. It wouldn’t take more than a week. The tension in his body dissipated as he formulated the plan. Spurred on by relief, he inched his hand closer to Pat’s and clung to his fingers. The tight grip that met his quieted his worries just a little more. Right. He could always kill himself. Taking a deep, shaky breath, and squeezing his eyes shut, he steadied himself as much as he could in preparation for what he was about to do. He grabbed the edge of the mattress with his other hand as he leaned forward and crashed his lips onto Pat’s.

For one horrible moment, everything was still. Darby froze, he’d hoped that Pat would take it from there, but Pat didn't move. Darby’s eyes shot open and met the equally wide eyes of his friend. Or was he still? Somewhere between the moment when he started to pull back and when he realized that he could never see Pat again, he became aware of Pat’s hand on his back. It drew him in with determination and its owner exerted a solid, deliberate pressure on his lips. Darby slumped and let himself be guided closer. He moved his arm out of the way, using its newfound freedom to work his hand from Pat’s thigh up to his chest. He pushed him down, leaning in to follow, when Pat held up his hands around his waist to stop him.

"Uh ..." The warmth radiating from Pat’s hands abated as they started to tremble. "Do you…? Are you ...?"

Darby sat down where he was straddling Pat and drew his arms towards himself. "Don't ask. You already know." Looked down. "Don't make me say it.” Fiddled with his hands. “I don't wanna talk about it."

Pat ran a hand up his side and nodded. He then pulled him down, slipping a hand under his shirt as he did so. Darby used the opportunity to kiss him again, to close his eyes so he didn't have to see the pity in Pat's. It helped soothe his misdirected anger. At least for now. For now, the movement of the hands on his back chased away his fears and the slide of their bodies as they moved against each other ignited a fire inside him.

He flipped them over, wrapping his legs around Pat’s waist to pin himself under his weight. When Pat pushed into him, all doubts he’d had disappeared. Whatever it had taken to get here, it had been worth looking into those warm, dark eyes as he moved inside him, the smile on his face as Darby pushed back to meet him, his hand tangling into those curls as he pulled Pat down to fuse their mouths together over and over. It had been worth the pleasure that washed over him as they almost simultaneously came apart and it had been worth the sweaty body crushing him afterward as a warm breath tickled his neck.

When they separated, their fingers still intertwined, it dawned on Darby that he’d never thought about the after. Or rather, that he’d never really thought at all. “Now what?” he asked, with a scowl and a knot twisting in his stomach.

“Well, what do you want?”

Darby shrugged. Once again, he was finding it hard to get the words out. A mumbled, barely audible, “More,” was all he could say.

He only knew Pat had heard him when his answering “I’d like that,” came.

Darby let out the breath that had been choking him. He smiled, only for a second before it disappeared again, his gaze fixed on their hands. “We can’t tell anyone. I can’t. If …” A sob escaped him. “If you want something else, then we can’t do this.”

“No, I agree.” Pat squeezed his hand. “I agree with you.”

Another relived sigh was the only response Daby gave before he pulled him close. Countless worries and fears lurked just below the surface, and he hoped sleep would consume him before they did, that he would at least get this night before he had to face them all again tomorrow.