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Follow My Lead

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"Are we sure about this? I don't feel it's right." Cam spoke queasily.

"Absolutely. It's the only way they will stop hounding us. I mean, if you are not up for it, I can easily find someone else. I'm just sick of getting bullied." Mitchell replied and at the back of his mind, he was sure he would find someone else to go along with his plan if Cam won't agree. 

But he was hoping it would be Cam as this ought to bring the most shock to their friends. It was obvious to everyone that the pairing of these two was not ideal at all. Whether their friends would possibly berate them with questions of how things are going with them or if they choose to dismiss this relationship immediately, at least Mitchell will be part of a new narrative. One where he's interesting enough.

"Okay, I'm in. It will be a nice acting exercise for me. It's been a while since I've flexed my thespian muscles." Cam finally agreed.

"Relax, we won't be performing dramatic scenes or action-packed scenarios. It's only simple pretending. No harm at all." Mitchell replied with a bit of an annoyance. Ah, if he only knew what he's getting into. 

"Do we need to rehearse? I think we should rehearse or talk about boundaries." 

"Okay, what are you willing to do?" 

"I don't think we should full-on kiss in front of our friends. It's gonna be weird. Just a kiss on the cheek is fine, right?" Cam asked.

"Yeah but they won't believe it, won't believe us, BUT... you can blame it on me, how I don't like public displays of affection. That should work. Maybe hugs are fine. Just minimal."

"Hugs are nice. I love hugs but don't worry I won't hug you unless it's necessary. Oh, and holding hands?"

"We kinda need to. But only when necessary. When they're looking at us or… we'll sort everything once we are in the moment. So see you tomorrow at the party, ok?" Mitchell hurried the conversation to finish as he did not want to overthink this. He gestured Cam towards the door. 

Moments ago, Mitchell was sure about all of this but during the brief planning, he felt it could have been possible for him to suddenly tell Cam that the plan is off. It's becoming too real too fast? He dismissed the thought and told himself it's been a while since he's had a relationship. This was a normal reaction of his brain - mixing nostalgia with current stress while having thoughts of a more relaxed state in the future once the plan is in motion. Nothing was wrong.

Cameron was thrilled to get an acting role in the form of this hullabaloo. It's been a while since he had a public performance. It didn't bother him at all as he viewed this as a character he needed to sell to an audience - his dear, dear friends. Mitchell seemed to be determined to make it work so everything looked right so far.

 

***

 

They arrived at the party and told everyone they’re dating. 

“So how is this happening?” Pepper asked with a condescending tone. 

“When you know, you know,” Mitch replied in a vague tone while he tapped Cam’s shoulders. 

“We didn’t even know this was possible. We always snark at each other when we come in here but then, we started talking, went on a couple of dates, one thing led to another... we just didn’t want to tell anyone until we’re sure.” Cam answered more convincingly. Cam thought that if Mitch can’t sell this story, then it’s up to him to make sure it’s believable. Cam had always taken acting seriously as he had dreams of acting professionally but life had other plans for him. 

“He’s right. That’s exactly how it happened. We are sooooo in love.” Mitch added as he slipped his hand to Cam’s hand. Cam was surprised but kept on the acting mode as he saw that Longinus was looking at him.

“You have to know we are all rooting for you two. But surely, you also know what the entire room is thinking about this sudden revelation of love that you spring on us?” Longinus teased. Mitch and Cam became nervous and their hands became stiff as they continued to hold hands. 

“That this is all fake and you just wanted us to stop bullying you for staying single.” Pepper confidently answered as if solving a murder mystery. 

“Okay, that hurts me! To be accused by our dear, dear friends in such a dismissive way--” 

“And are you guys so up in your high horse that you look down on Mitch and I as we choose to celebrate our love with you? You know what, we shouldn’t have said anything. Mitch, we’re leaving.” Cam stood up and dragged Mitch to stand too as they were still holding hands. 

“No, wait! Guys, what is wrong with you? How can we do this to our beloved friends? They are happy and so we should be happy for them too.” Ronaldo sided with the two and asked them to stay as Pepper approached his friends.

“Okay, no need to be dramatic! Cam, Mitch, I apologize, and please stay. We were just... shocked, aren’t we all?” Pepper agreed with his boyfriend, Ronaldo. He knew he would suffer for this later if he continued this undermining spree. 

“That is true. It’s all so sudden and you have to admit this is an unlikely alliance--” Jotham chimed in. 

“Alliance? This isn’t a war. Is it really hard to believe that I finally let myself go and opened myself up for love?” Mitch spoke as he placed his head on Cam’s shoulders. To further sell the story. Nothing more, he thought. 

“I sure hope you are opening yourself up for more than just love, honey.” Pepper taunted Mitch. This was one of his many talents.

“I think what we could take away from this... is... I am that good.” Cam retorted playfully then the group replied with their “Ooooohhhhh” remarks. 

Mitch was surprised by Cam’s choice of words and he looked at him with a quizzical brow. He tried not to roll his eyes as this won’t sell the story. Maybe later when things get more settled.

He then slapped Cam’s arm. Cam was forced to clarify, “Okay stop it, you guys. What I meant was I am the only one who was able to crack this redhead which by the way, his hair’s not red. It’s strawberry blonde. Know the difference.”

“See? He knows me so well. How can I not swoon and fall for this man, huh? Anyway, enough about us, tell us gossip.” Mitch spoke and hoped the topic would be changed.

The rest of the night was full of storytelling and games. They all huddled in the living room and it turned out that on this particular night, more people showed up so there weren’t enough seats. 

“Hey you two lovebirds, come over here,” Ronaldo called them over.

Mitch and Cam immediately noticed that there’s only one seat available on the couch and they both knew what had to happen. Mitch froze but Cam was too eager to keep up the pretenses a.k.a. acting as he called it. 

“Come on, let’s go to the couch,” Cam spoke as he pulled Mitch’s hand and walked to the couch. He then sat and asked Mitch, “Hey babe, come here. Sit on my lap.” Mitch hesitated but he perfectly understood they would be found out if he didn’t do this. After all, this fake dating thing was his idea and Cam even had second thoughts initially. 

“Of course, I can’t get my hands off you. I don’t even know how we are out and about instead of staying in.” Mitch replied as he sat on Cam’s lap. Cam then put his right hand on Mitch’s thigh and none of them flinched. Somehow they both felt comfortable and safe with this. It was as if they’ve been doing this for a long time. It was as if this should have been happening all along.

Longinus started telling a funny story about his boutique. As everyone was listening and laughing, Mitch didn’t even notice that he was unconsciously placing his right arm on Cam’s neck as a half embrace. Cam didn’t pick up on it and he was also unaware of how he started to hug Mitch in the waist. This went on for a few minutes as Longinus recounted the highs and lows of owning a boutique, and everyone was engrossed.

Mitch was the first to recognize how physically close he and Cam got. He looked at the plump face of the man he’s hugging and saw how adorable Cam was while laughing at the story. He can’t help but smile at what he was witnessing. Such pure joy emanating from Cam’s face that he never saw before. If this was a movie, the way Mitch looked at Cam would be one of those iconic moments that would be turned into a gif by the fans. This gif would be re-posted, stared at, and loved by the fans. 

He slowly removed his arm and Cam caught on to that. Cam looked at Mitch’s eyes and they had this eye contact for a few seconds. They both felt a mix of tension and comfort. Mitch broke the eye contact and spoke, “Do you want a drink? I’ll get us some.” He stood and walked away. Cam was left with an awkward feeling on how things happened fast. Mitch was relieved to be walking away from the situation as he felt embarrassed about how he just stood and left.

 

***

 

Mitch offered to drive Cam home as they now had to use one car, to keep up the pretenses. And well, it saves the environment too. They didn’t talk during the drive and they let the radio play instead. When they arrived at the destination, before Cam could get out of the car, Mitch asked, “Hey, so far so good, right? We’re selling it well. Again, thank you for agreeing with this.”

“Yeah, we’re good at this. We did what we had to do to give life to this story.” Cam replied with a relaxed smile.

“I love how much drama you put into this simple charade. Are we really giving life to a story?” Mitch inquired with a hint of feeling absurd in his voice.

“Go big or go home.”

“Which by the way, I have to say...me sitting on your lap... that was something,” Mitch spoke in a teasing and confused way.

“I’m sorry if you felt weird about that, I --”

“I didn’t say I felt weird. That was okay. The moment needed it, to make this believable. I just realized that we probably need to do more things like that, to further sell the story, right?”

“Yeah, definitely. Were you uncomfortable when uh, well I didn’t realize I was hugging you.” Cam asked hoping he wasn’t overstepping boundaries.

“No, that’s fine. Things like that will happen for sure. We probably have to kiss at some point , well maybe let’s tell them I’m certainly not into P.D.A.”

“Okay yeah, that will work. I only asked if you felt weird because you suddenly stood up and left in the middle of Longinus’ tales of the retail world.” Cam added the last bit, and flapped his hands as he spoke, to ease the possible tension that his question was leading to.

“Oh, that. No, I wanted to get a drink. There were so many people at this party and it was kinda warm in the house, right?” Mitch replied hoping he sold it well. The truth was, he did sense some tension and he’s more a flight kinda guy. Maybe that’s why most of his past relationships failed. 

“It was hot in there, yeah. Okay so, uh, in the future, you can just tell me what you wanna do. You are the director of this thing and I am but an actor. Although it’s more of a collaboration between directors and actors, do you agree?”

“I agree. Don’t worry, we’ll figure things out. From tonight, it seems we’re good at improv and reading each other’s minds so I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

 

If they only knew what that phrase would mean later on.