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The fire started a long time ago but the heat only gets to Mac at the end of Frank Day. Him and Dennis are the only ones left in the bar (and possibly the only ones left alive- whatever Dee, Charlie and Frank were talking about doing as they left seemed pretty questionable). 

“Hey.” Dennis says after a too many minutes of silence. “I’m sorry about... you know, Country Mac.”

“It’s okay.” It’s not okay. “I’m just sad he’s burning in Hell.”

Dennis laughs his ass off at this. Mac wants to yell at him but he’s too fucking tired, so he calls him an asshole and settles for a weak punch in the shoulder. His arms feel worn out and static-y. Frank Day was exactly as hellish as he’d expected.

They haven’t even taken down Country Mac’s funeral poster. Every time Mac closes his eyes he feels weird and thinks of bagpipes and dead cousins and failed karate moves so he tries not to blink too much. (It’s not hard. Maybe he inherited his father’s eyes.) He’s focused on the ceiling instead, the way the lights flicker every once and a while. Dennis is standing next to him, and his breathing is coming out in little flickers too. He’s grumbling about something now, voice low and pained.

“Shit, those crabs cut up my hands.” 

Mac looks down and yeah, he’s right. Blood is running down Dennis’s fingers and pooling his palms. Almost like some kind of Jesus. Luckily, Mac’s got his back. He has plenty of knowledge on this situation. 

“Spit on your hand. The antibodies in your spit will stop the bloodflow.”

 “That doesn’t sound medical in the slightest.”

Mac closes the gap between them, and reaches out to grab Dennis’s wrist. And Dennis lets him grab his wrist. It’s the little things. “Here, I’ll spit on it for you.”

“No way!” Dennis yanks his arm back, but doesn’t step away. “If anyone’s DNA is getting in my blood, it’s gonna be mine." 

“Suit yourself.” You can’t save people from themselves.

Another few minutes and Mac feels the quiet starting to get to him. He feels raw, like one of the wounds on Dennis’s hands, and it’s not long before he’s bleeding out words.

“Did you really mean that stuff about how I’m not a badass?” Shit, not those words. But it’s too late now, they’re swinging in the air between him and his roommate, and when they swing back the answer is going to hurt.

“Wanna get hammered?” Dennis says, and that’s the best answer he could’ve possibly gave.

“Dude, of course.”


 It’s at least midnight, Mac thinks, maybe later. The clock is blurry and they never even replaced the batteries so technically the bar is stuck eternally at 2:00 in the afternoon. Whatever, he’s gotten drunk at 2:00 in the afternoon before. And sure, Mac’s drunk but Dennis is trashed, trashed enough that he actually picked up the phone when Dee called. It takes Mac a while to realize why.

“Have you been drinking hard liquor this entire time?” Mac squints at the Aristrocat bottle on the table between them. Dennis nods and that makes him even more confused. “Why?”

“Less calories, bro.” Dennis winks, and Mac’s heart feels like it’s full of angry street dogs. “Here, have some too.”

“I’m not trying to lose weight.” Mac says, composing himself.

Dennis arches an eyebrow and downs another shot. “You should be,” he says, voice heavy with vodka. "Don't you wanna be twenty forever?"

Mac hates it when Dennis arches his eyebrow like that and says stuff like that. He feels self-conscious until he takes another sip of beer, and then things feel okay again.

“You’re my best friend.” Dennis slurs a couple conversation topics later. Things are becoming more okay by the minute.

“I know.”

“Am I your best friend too?”

“Dude, you’re so drunk.”

“No... c’mon, say you’re my best friend. Say it.”

Mac snickers at how serious Dennis sounds. “You’re my best friend.”

“And best... best friends tell each other everything, right?”

“Uh, right. Duh.” 

“Then why haven’t you told me you’re gay?”

Mac almost chokes on his sip of beer. “What?”

“You heard me.” Dennis seems frighteningly sober all of a sudden. “I’m really doubting our friendship right now, Mac.”

Mac’s face feels hot. He touches his face momentarily to check and yeah, his face is actually heating up. “Why would you even say that?”

Dennis laughs, a bitter and short sound. “Why... you’re really asking me why? Dude, man, you’re so in love with me it’s ridiculous.” 

“No, it’s not, and no, I’m not!” Mac almost screeches. He hopes that sentence makes sense to Dennis because it sure as hell doesn’t make sense to him. “You’re so vain. You think everyone are... is, is in love with you-”

“You tried to kiss me.” Dennis says, weakly slamming a bloody hand on the table. “You’re denying it with the same mouth you tried to kiss m’with. This guy...” He says to no one in particular. “Is fucking unbelievable.”

Mac just keeps shaking his head, even when the room starts to spin. “Let’s go home,” he says after his vision is blurry enough that he can’t see Dennis’s smirking face.

“Fine by me.”

But getting home is harder than expected. Dennis can barely walk and Mac’s not doing much better. After several minutes of stumbling around on the dark street, Mac’s hand finds Dennis’s hand and he grips on tight. They fit together, somehow, perfectly manicured nails digging into calloused flesh.

“For the record, I’m not doing this cause of... cause of your gay conspiracy or anything.” Mac says, letting go of Dennis’s hand and putting an arm around his waist. “I just don’t want your head’ta split open on the sidewalk.”

 “Sure.” Dennis mumbles against Mac’s shoulder. His voice is barely there, just a vibration.

“Brains on the pavement is bad for business, dude.”

“Mhmm.”

It’s a miracle that they make it home with both heads intact. Mac drags Dennis into their shared apartment and the moment he drops him on the couch, it feels like coming up for air. In the flicker-free lights, Mac is suddenly aware of the sweat under his arms and the beer spilled down his shirt. Country Mac would be proud. (Country Mac would be proud of the beer stuff, not the holding-hands-with-another-guy thing). (Okay, he’d be proud of that too, but Mac doesn’t want that kind of approval).

“I think you’re gay.” Mac sits down heavily on the couch beside Dennis. He’s been planning out what to say the whole walk home, getting himself all jazzed up about it. “That’s why you’re saying I’m gay, it’s because you’re gay and you’re projecting.”

“Oh no, you caught me.” All of the slurred speech can’t hide the underlying tone of smug. “I’m so super gay, dude.”

“Don’t make fun of me. How many guys have you-” Mac is grossing himself out. “Come on to? Maybe more than chicks, I bet.”

“One.”

“Bet you’ve- what?!” Mac’s vision swims. Those dogs are back, barking loudly in his chest again. He can’t breathe. He’s underwater, he’s in another universe, he’s buried alive.

“Yeah, in college.” Dennis’s eyes droop closed as he talks. Like he’s trying to remember. Remember having sinful sex with another man. “It was college, man. Everyone experiments.”

“I didn’t.”

“Dumbass. You didn’t go to college.”

“Well it’s good I didn’t! I might’ve strayed from the flock, like you.”

Dennis smiles, but it’s not a nice smile. His teeth might as well be knives. “Oh, there’s no ‘might’ in this scenario.”

Mac wants to leave but his feet won’t move. “I’m- you- you’re gay.”

“Jesus, man, y’gotta label everything? It was a party, I was about this drunk, there was a cool guy there, we fooled around. Doesn’t mean I only like dick.”

Mac swallows a whimper. “What did it feel like?”

“What?”

“This college beefcake, when you... you... did things... what was it like?”

“Fuck, dude. Like kissing a girl, but not. Why d’you wanna know?” It sounds like a question, but Mac knows it’s not a question. Dennis has already decided the answer in his head: Mac wants to know because he’s a total homo.

“I can’t handle this right now.” Mac can’t look at Dennis. “You’re gonna go to hell, dude.”

Dennis leans in. “And you’ll be right there with me.” And all at once, Mac is aware of a hand on his thigh, and Dennis is close enough that Mac can see red branching in his eyes, smell the whiskey on his breath, feel the warmth of his mouth as he speaks.

Mac could cry. But he doesn’t cry, because men (especially badass, straight, straight, STRAIGHT, men) don’t cry. Instead, he shoves Dennis down hard on the couch and stands up, swaying a bit but ultimately staying on his feet. He stops mid-step just before reaching his room and turns around.

“Roll on your side before you go to sleep.”

Dennis offers him a weak thumbs up. Mac shuts himself inside his room, and prays in front of every mini-crucifix until he can’t speak anymore.


Mac trudges into the kitchen at 3:00 P.M. with a head full of coals. It seems like every year his hangovers get worse. The only thing that makes him feel momentarily better is the sad form of Dennis on the couch, sitting up with his face buried in his hands. While making himself breakfast (his choice is a classic cereal), Mac makes an effort of being especially clumsy with the silverware. The sound of metal against ceramic stings his ears, but it’s worth it hearing Dennis groan from the next room. 

He strolls into the living room as nonchalantly as possible, and settles on the opposite end of the couch.

“What the hell happened to my hands?” Dennis asks. His voice still sounds sleepy, still sounds kind of drunk. Mac wonders if this is how his voice sounded the morning after he did bad things with that college guy, if he talked in a low and regretful tone like this.

“Frank made us go crab-grabbing, remember?” Mac says, spluttering out milk as he talks. “Oh, dude. I think today is Dee Day. We already missed like half of it.”

Dennis shrugs. “Eh, whatever. It’s gonna be sad as shit anyway.”

“Yeah, so sad.”

Dennis is grumbling about something again. Some mornings Mac can hardly keep up. “I can’t believe you let me fall asleep in my shirt. Look, it’s all wrinkled.” He grimaces. “And I think a spit up on it at some point during the night.”

“What was I supposed to do? Take off your shirt before you went to sleep?” Mac gives a little laugh.

“Uh, yeah. I’ve done that for you hundred of times.”

Mac loses his appetite the second he hears Dennis’s words. How many nights did Dennis take off his shirt? Smooth his hands over his torso as he did, pat down his hair? Did he take a second to look, or did he just put Mac to bed without thinking? Did he tuck him in? He has too many questions now.

“Hm, I must’ve browned out during all that stuff.” Mac says instead.


But Mac can’t spend all day wallowing. After doing the laundry because Dennis wouldn’t shut up about his shirt, he sets out on a mission. He goes to the bar first, but it’s just Dee and Charlie yelling over each other about Dee Day so he gets out as soon as possible, grabbing a beer on his way out. 

He’s got martyring on his mind. He hadn’t been able to think straight since the confession Dennis made to him last night. Sometimes Mac feels like he was born without a pause button. When things get stuck in his brain, he has to think about them on repeat until they go away.  He considered telling Dee about what happened because she would absolutely humiliate Dennis about it, but right now hostility won’t help. If he wants Dennis to admit (and then immediately renounce) his homosexuality, he’ll have to play nice. If there's anything he learned from the real estate business, you don’t catch many flies with vinegar. 

He would go to the priests at the local church about this issue, but he doesn’t want to tell them how gay Dennis is. Everyone knows priests talk to God, and if God knew what sinful things his roommate was doing... Dennis might never get his soul back. (And Mac’s pretty sure there’s a part of the Bible about the Heavenly Father hating tattle-tales).

So he finds the closest thing to a priest he knows, curled up in an alleyway and spooning a possum corpse.

“Hey, Cricket!” Mac says, kicking the sleeping lump on the ground. “Wake up!”

“What?” Cricket springs up.

He’ll never get used to that goddamn face. Cricket’s remaining eye twitches around in its deep socket, and the skin on his fingers is practically melted against the bone. The guy looks rough. But nonetheless, Mac sits down and confesses Dennis’s sins for him, surrounded by grime and rats and trash. It’s a very unorthodox service.

“I’m confused at what you want me to do.” Cricket says. “So... Dennis is gay? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes, he’s totally gay. Remember how he teabagged you all those times growing up?”

“So did you.”

“That’s not... that doesn’t matter.”

Cricket hums in agreement, picking at a nasty scab on his neck. Flecks of blood are just one new addition to the already grim mess of fluid on his collar. “Look, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not a priest anymore. I don’t even believe in God. And that’s partially your fault.”

“No, it’s completely Dee’s fault. C’mon, Cricks. Tell me how I can show Dennis that the mistakes he made in college don’t have to send him to hell.”

“So when you say college mistakes-”

“I mean, committing sinful acts with another man. Try to keep up.”

Cricket laughs shrilly and claps a scum-stained hand on Mac’s back. “Everyone experiments in college. Hell, I was trying to become a priest and I still tried it out.”

“What?”

“What I’m saying is, Mac, I think you’re overreacting.”

“I’m not overreacting! You don’t get to tell me I’m overreacting!” Mac leaps to his feet in an instant, and Cricket shrinks back against a trashcan in fear. “I’m surrounded by homos and you’re all gonna send me to hell!”

He takes off down the street, not really sure where he’s going. He can just barely hear Cricket in the distance behind him, shrieking.

“Mac! Mac! Wait! You said you would pay me!”


Mac prays to heaven and back that night but it’s no use. When he dreams, he’s in the dorm room of a college he never went to. He’s lying on cheap sheets he’s never slept in. And Dennis is on top of him, palms pressed against his wrists, lips pressed against his neck. In the dream Mac is laughing because his neck is ticklish, and Dennis turns the kiss into the a bite to shut him up. He can’t breathe. Then he’s a ragdoll, limp in someone else’s strong arms, he’s on the couch in his apartment, and this time he’s the one on top, and Dennis is looking at him the way he looks at pretty girls on the street. “You earned this.” He’s underwater. He’s in the newest sex tape, and this isn’t wrestling, and Rick Astley is playing drowsily in the background, and someone else’s fingers are probing his mouth, and Mac is so so happy. He’s in another universe. Dream Dennis’s hands travel lower, and lower, until his slender fingers feel ticklish against Mac’s crotch, but this time Mac’s not laughing. He’s buried alive.

Mac snaps awake like a rubber band pulled too tight. He sits up in his bed, eyes furiously scanning the dark, and moves his hand between his thighs only when he’s sure no one else is there. He’s so wound up he barely has to touch himself before he’s finished, feels his body relaxing with a soft groan. He brushes his teeth with the lights off that morning, because he can’t bear to look at himself in the mirror.

“I’m not going to dinner tonight.”

“What?”

“I said,” Mac says curtly, folding his arms over his chest. “I’m not going.”

“Mac, it’s our monthly dinner. You have to go.” Dennis gets up from the couch to stand in front of him and Mac takes a few steps back. He keeps the distance between them far enough for comfort.

“I don’t feel good.” That’s at least half true.

“I planned my outfit a week in advance, I reserved us a perfect table, and you’re telling me you can’t come? Seriously, dude, what the hell?”

Mac shrugs noncommittally. This gets Dennis really going, something behind his eyes shifts, his expression turns colder. (It’s subtle but Mac’s known him long enough that he knows the signs to look for. He thinks of it as a survival skill).

“Fine. Fine, that’s okay. I’ll tell you what-” Dennis is scrambling over to the closet now, pulling a jacket roughly over his shoulders. “I’m gonna go out, I’m gonna find the hottest girl in Philly, take her to dinner, and then I’m gonna bring her back here and bang the shit out of her. You can sit in your room and listen, and feel like an asshole. Happy Monthly fucking Dinner.” He slams the door behind him with these words. Alone in the apartment, Mac finally feels like he can breathe.


Dennis keeps true to his promise. It seems like he makes an effort to be twice as loud, and Mac plays right along and listens, sitting in his room and hating himself for getting hard. He doesn’t sleep a wink that night. Instead, he wonders how the Monthly Dinner went without him, if the girl persuaded Dennis to eat dessert, if she wore two colognes and did her hair good, if she and Dennis laughed till they couldn’t breathe, if she stole the tip that Dennis left for the waiter. She couldn’t have been like Mac. No, no one could be like Mac. 

For the first time in a long time, working at Paddy’s actually feels like work. It’s a rainy day and every loser on the street seems to be taking shelter inside the bar. Mac is stuck bartending while the rest of the gang huddle near the back, watching for updates on the weather. He knows Dennis is still mad at him, because he can hear them talking about last night. No subtlety exists within this group.

“Oh, so Mac missed your big weird date. You guys missed my entire goddamn day.”

“It’s not just that. He’s been acting like a dick all week. And Dee, we don’t care about you, so why the hell would we care about an entire day dedicated to you?”

“C’mon dude, he’s probably still sad about Country Mac. That guy was pretty badass, I’d be sad if I lost him too.” God bless Charlie.

“And he got his ass kicked in that karate tournament.” Goddammit, Frank.

Mac leaves the bar in a huff. Maybe if he gets home, he can catch some sleep before Dennis gets in his head again.


The McDonalds were too poor to afford Catholic school, so Mac trudged his way to public school every morning instead. But some days he’d skip school and head over to St. Thomas Aquinas. He’d camp outside a classroom window and peek his head in every once and a while, pretending it was him swathed in those Oxford shirts, bright and clean, singing hymns until lunchtime.

One day he stayed so long he fell asleep. The groundskeeper found him slumped over a snow-covered bush and even though he pretended to be lost, it was clear the story was bullshit.

“Look son, I understand you wanna learn about God,” The groundskeeper had said. “But you ain’t welcome here.”

Mac used to imagine that school as heaven, and sometimes he still does- an impossibly clean place, where girls strut around short plaid skirts, boys wear velvet blazers and there’s a cross on every wall- but a place he isn’t welcome all the same.


If Mac dies right now, he’ll go to hell. 

The first thing he does when he gets back to the apartment is head to Dennis’s room. He forgets why the second he steps through the doorway, so he just flops down on the bed. The room still smells like sex, and sweat, and Dennis’s cologne. Mac wrinkles his nose but he kind of likes it, so he doesn’t leave.

He needs to watch a women get fucked now, because all sorts of bad thoughts were coming to his mind and he needed this, needed to get some balance in his brain. So he does what he always does when he needs porn- he goes through Dennis’s sex tapes.

There are a lot. There are too many, really. It’s upsetting how many girls Dennis has banged. Mac flips through the tapes one by one- Chelsea was a good one, but he’d seen it too many times. Gloria, Ruth, Jewel (Mac was 99% sure that had to be a hooker), Caroline...

It isn’t until he comes across one labeled ‘Jeremy’ that his heart skips a beat. Holy shit, Dennis has banged more than one dude. He knows this information should either make him feel self-satisfied (he can imagine the “I knew you were gay!” conversation will be delicious) but instead he feels sick and kind of excited, and kind of sick that he’s so excited. He’s slipping it into the tape player as fast as he can, he turns the lights down low, and watches his roommate bang a dude.

The tape was only rated 3 stars, so Mac isn’t expecting anything special. And he’s right. Dennis enters the room with some total jerkoff guy. His physique is disappointing- all sharp angles and elbows, not a lot of muscle. They’re both clearly drunk, hands sloppily moving over each other’s bodies, and Mac covers his eyes when they kiss.

“I’ve never been with another man before,” says Jeremy. His voice is crackling in the low audio quality of the tape. Mac wonders how many guys Dennis has done this too- taken them in, showed them a new and sinful side of sex. It’s terrifying to think about, so he stops thinking about it.

“It’s okay,” Dennis says. “I’ll teach you.”

Mac starts to wish he’d brought some beer back from the bar, because he doesn’t know if he can handle this sober. But still, he finds himself staying on the bed (the same bed that Dennis apparently banged this dude in) and making no effort to remove the tape.

Typical Dennis shoves Jeremy down between his legs almost immediately. Mac studies Dennis’s face, watching as his mouth twitches with pleasure and then... disappointment.  Dennis gets a grip on Jeremy’s hair and drags him back up.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault. Here- let me show you how it’s done.”

Mac is now watching Dennis Reynolds go down on a guy. God, he looks so into it- mouth open as wide as possible, occasionally breaking away to kiss and bite at Jeremy’s thighs. Mac finds himself ghosting a guilty hand over his own dick, imagining what it would be like to have Dennis’s wet, warmth mouth swallowing it whole. It’s all happening so fast he doesn’t even think about it. He’s reduced to pure instinct now, and that instinct is screaming at him to rub one off on Dennis’s bed.

Eyes still locked on Dennis’s low resolution mouth on Jeremy’s low resolution cock, Mac licks his palm and promptly rams it down his boxers. He feels so sick about it all he’s not sure if he’ll come or vomit first, but it’s a risk he’s willing to take. In his mind, he’s getting the full Jeremy treatment, one hand gripped in Dennis’s curls, listening to Lionel Richie on full blast. It doesn’t take long for him to climax, and when he does it may be the best orgasm he’s ever had. (And he’s had plenty of orgasms- even one with Dennis’s mom).

The guilt comes in as soon as he opens his eyes. He almost trips running over to the TV and ejecting the tape. Then he runs to the bathroom and strips down, cleaning himself off, making himself pure again. He wipes down Dennis’s bed next, just to make sure nothing suspicious remains. He washes his hands until they hurt but he can’t wash away the thoughts, as they play over and over in his mind like a bad infomercial. (And Mac has experience with this- he didn’t have cable growing up, so sometimes him and Charlie would stay up late, get high, and watch the informercial channel until they’d memorized every ad).

He wanders back into his own room in a daze. He doesn’t even bother with the bed, just settles on the floor with his back against the wall, tracing circles on the ground with a lazy finger. The afternoon rain has turned into a fierce night storm, and Mac can hear thunder above his head. The sky sounds angry. There’s a small part of him that thinks him getting off on the Jeremy tape and this storm are linked somehow, but it’s only a small part so he doesn’t think about it too much.

Hail Mary, full of grace.” He starts shakily. He doesn’t remember a lot of the specific Shakespeare-looking language, but he knows the gist of it very well. “The Lord is with you. Ble ssed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” A deep breath, and he continues. “Holy Mary, Mother of God... pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” His voice cracks on the last word and that’s all it takes for the dam to break.

Mac’s had panic attacks since he was a kid. Like hangovers, they seem to get worse every year. He feels this one coming but it still scares him when it finally hits. His chest is tight in a way no doctor could diagnose- like the very soul inside of it is constricting, not just the muscle. He bites down on his lip until it almost bleeds, he skitters his fingernails across the floor in time with the thunder, because that repetition is the only thing keeping him grounded. He’s shaking with the effort to breath... soaked in dread and sweat... if he dies now, oh, he’s definitely going to hell. For a second he thinks he this might actually be the end.

“Mac?”

Mac’s entire body tenses. Dennis is standing in the doorway, only illuminated by the lightning flashes coming from the window. Dennis, Dennis, it’s all his fault- he’s the one who made Mac sick, who made him think bad thoughts.

“Don’t come any closer.” Mac warns, but the shakiness of his voice makes any semblance of a threat disappear.

But Dennis does come closer. “Bro, are you okay?”

“Dennis, don’t.”

He’s still walking.

“Stay right there!”

“Woah, okay, okay.” Dennis puts his hands up in mock surrender. “I’m gonna stay right here. What’s going on?”

Mac says nothing. He’s not sure if he can speak right now, and he’s not sure if he even wants to talk to Dennis after what he just went through. Dennis is speaking from the same mouth that who-knows-how-many men have shoved their dick in. His words are dirty, unclean.

“Is this about Country Mac?”

“No,” Mac is surprised at how rough his own voice sounds. He swallows thickly and tries again. “No, it’s not about Country Mac.”

The sound of footsteps brings his attention to the ever-approaching form of his roommate. This time he doesn’t even try to stop him, and Dennis leans down on knee to be level. Mac is breathing so fast, and he’s breathing in Dennis- the scent of him, the very breath escaping his lips. A hand comes to rest on his shoulder, and he swats it away with a vengeance.

“Shh, hey. Hey. Look at me.” Dennis tries to get his attention. “It’s okay. Just breathe.”

“I’m fine.”

“Bullshit.” Dennis says. “We’re blood brothers, remember? I know when you’re messed up about something. So I’m gonna ask you again- what’s going on?”

Mac can’t meet Dennis’s eyes. Instead, he lets his head thump back against the wall and looks up, anywhere but Dennis, panting heavily.

“If I tell you, you’ll, you’ll think I’m...” Mac can’t finish the sentence. The word is on the tip of his tongue, but it hurts too much to say.

“Oh. I think I know what this is about.” The smugness in Dennis’s voice is audible, leaking into his words like poison. "Is this about that college guy?”

“I thought...” Breathe, Mac thinks. So he breathes before continuing. “You didn’t remember that.”

“Oh, I didn't. But Cricket stopped me on the street today and told me about an interesting conversation you two had. He also said something about you owing him money?”

“Shit.” Mac says, both in response to Dennis being right and him being in debt to Cricket.

“That story probably got you thinking about all kinds of things, right?” Dennis says. His voice is still so soft, almost uncharacteristically so. The way he talks when he’s speaking to a pretty girl. And Mac is definitely not a pretty girl.

“Yeah, it did.”

"Oh yeah?" A smile that should be calming but isn't. "What kind of things?"

Mac can't answer, doesn't answer, won't answer.  Dennis hops to his feet and glances down expectantly. “Mac, can you stand up for me?”

So Mac stands up. His chest is still heaving and he shrinks against the wall, his face too close to Dennis’s to handle. He looks at Dennis with eyes that must be wide and feral, given Dennis’s reaction.

“Shh, Mac, it’s okay. I’m gonna make this all go away. Just put your hands on my hips.”

“I can’t.” Mac says. His breath feels frozen in his lungs. He’s stuck. But Dennis takes his hands and guides them down. His hips are solid under Mac’s shaking fingers.

“Keep them there.” So Mac does. “Good boy. Now, I’m just going to put my hands-” he slides them up Mac’s arms, until he reaches his shoulders, leaving shivers where ever he touches. “Right here. Okay?”

Mac nods furiously. Dennis slowly lets go of one of his shoulders and instead cups the side of his face. Mac leans into the touch hesitantly.

“I’m going to count to three real slow, and then I’m going to kiss you. Got it?”

The words don’t even register in Mac’s mind. But all the same, he nods.

“Okay, okay.”

“One... two... three.”

Dennis leans in and Mac can’t do it, no, he can’t. He shoves Dennis away and scratches at the wall behind him, breath racing.

“Woah, dude, what?” Dennis is saying words, but Mac can’t hear them. He feels warm arms around him (male arms, fuck). “What’s wrong? Talk to me, bro.”

Mac bites back a sob. He buries his face in Dennis’s chest, in Dennis’s scent. It feels like home and he hates it. Home isn’t supposed to be like this. “Dennis...”

“Yeah, buddy?”

Mac thinks of what he wants, what he’s always wanted, the bad things he thought about every night in high school- and then he thinks of his dad, and what he’d say if he saw his son like this, in the arms of a guy he almost kissed, a guy he wants to kiss more than anything. And he thinks of all the work he’d put into to being a badass, and how it could all be undone with one mistake. He thinks of the college experimentation he never got, because he couldn’t afford it, he thinks of the Catholic school education he never got, because he couldn’t afford it. He thinks of what God would think right now, what Jesus and Mary would think, what his mom would think... and the next words come out as natural as breathing.

“I don’t wanna be a faggot.”

Dennis makes a little gasping noise and then laughs, a low laugh. A mocking laugh. “Oh, Mac, you’re too far gone for that.”

“What?”

“I’m just saying what we both already know,” Dennis says, breath hot (too hot). “You agreed to let me kiss you with almost no hesitation. Sounds pretty gay to me.”

Mac’s anxiety turns red hot, turns to anger. But that’s okay. He can work with anger. This emotion is good- it feels grounding, it feels safe. He plants two hands in the center of Dennis’s chest (tries not to think about how a heartbeat thuds under his palms) and shoves him away.

“This is all your fault!”

“Is it?” The softness is gone from Dennis's voice.

“Yes! Yes, it is! You got in my head with your evil homo talk, and, and, your face touching, and all that cool stuff you can do with your dick. I’m so fucking pissed at you, dude.”

“I don’t think you’re really mad.” Dennis says, but he takes a few steps back anyway.

“Oh, I’m very mad.”

“No.” Dennis says matter-of-factly. “No, Mac. You’re not mad at all. You’re scared.”

“W-what?” Mac tries to change his stance, look more intimidating. He doesn’t think its working because Dennis is still looking at him with the same grim amusement.

“Yeah, you’re terrified because you know you wanna bang the shit out of me. You know I know you better than anyone else. You know you need me. You know you can’t even admit that to yourself. And that terrifies you, doesn’t it?”

Mac doesn’t say anything. He can’t say anything.

“See, you can’t even deny it. I’ve caught you. But I’ll give you one more chance, Mac. Tell me you know you’re straight. Tell me how you’re not scared at all. Tell me...” Dennis grins. “Tell me you think you’re going to heaven.”

“I, I, I... I’m not...”

“I knew it.”

Mac sees Dennis’s smirking smile, and then he sees red. The next thing he sees is his own fist pulling back from punching his roommate right in the face.

“I hate you so much!”

Dennis doubles over momentarily. “I think we both know that’s not true.” His words sound nasally. A flash of lightning reveals why- he’s cupping his nose in one hand and blood is gushing down over his lips. Mac’s stomach twists at the sight. He feels a little proud and a little sick. (The Ghostbusters would never do this to each other).

“Do you need me to prove it?” Mac steps forward, grabs the back of Dennis’s neck.

“Oh, please do.”

So Mac does, if only because he was asked so nicely. He smacks that smile right off his roommate’s face. For a moment Dennis looks surprised, the great Dennis Reynolds is out of his depth for once- but Mac’s survival skills kick in seconds later. He notices the way Dennis’s expression changes, the way he shifts his jaw. The way he looks at Mac. It’s not too surprising when a fist comes barreling his way, slamming him in the chin.

Mac is so full of adrenaline it barely even hurts, but he retorts anyway with a tackle. The two of them land on the ground, their combined weight slamming against the floorboards, and the dance begins. Mac is on top of Dennis and his hands are tangled in Dennis’s hair, ramming his head on the floor, Dennis is flopping around and hitting him in the side over and over. They flip over, and Dennis is holding Mac’s wrists down like in the dream, and he’s biting at his neck like in the dream, but this time there’s no Rick Astley playing, just the sound of heavy breathing and thunder. At some point Mac's rosary falls off his bedside table and he cringes at the sound of beads rolling all over the floor.  But Mac manages to pin Dennis down again, and he’s gripping his throat hard when the realization hits- Dennis isn’t moaning in pain.

Mac lets go. Lets himself tumble off. He watches Dennis sit up in front of him, hair a mess and blood running down his face. He looks like a monster but he’s still smiling.

“You’re enjoying this?” Mac splutters. “You’re so sick, dude.”

“So are you.” Dennis’s voice comes out like he’s still being choked.

“No, no-”

“You so have a boner right now.”

“Do not!”

“Then what’s this?” Dennis trails a hand over Mac’s crotch. All at once, fire strikes in Mac’s belly and he grips the collar of Dennis’s shirt to pull the other man close.

Mac thinks of what he wants, what he’s always wanted, the bad things he thought about every night in high school. He thinks of his dad, and what he’d say if he saw his son like this, so close to a guy he almost kissed, a guy he wants to kiss more than anything. And then he thinks, fuck it, and kisses Dennis Reynolds.

This is not a nice kiss, not a soft kiss. This is as much an act of violence as a punch in the face. Mac hears Dennis’s confused noises turn into groans and he pulls back, feeling full of power.

“I’m not straight,” he says, voice hitching on that last word. “I’m scared. And I’m not going to Heaven. Are you happy? Is that what you wanted to hear?”

“Be careful, Mac. Jesus might hear you.”

This time Dennis kisses Mac. His entire mouth tastes like blood, and he moves his mouth around like he wants to swallow Mac whole (and Mac might just let that happen). The lightning has died down so they’re completely in the dark, a mess of murmured curses and kisses, over and over, kisses. Mac gets to his feet and pulls Dennis along with him. He wants to sit on his bed but that feels too final somehow, too intimate, so he opts for something else.

“Tell me I’m better than that guy in college.” Mac surprises himself with how desperate he sounds as he pins Dennis down against the wall, a different kind of anger guiding him movements this time. “Tell me I’m better than Jeremy.”

“I knew you watched my sex tapes.” Dennis says. He gestures toward his throat and dips his head back, like he’s presenting it. “And you’ll be better than both of them the second you get your hand back here.”

Mac, a good follower to the end, complies. Dennis’s throat feels warm and fragile in his hands, so he gives it an experimental squeeze. He can feel a heartbeat against his fingers, a heartbeat that grows quicker when he leans in to start another kiss. A heartbeat that grows more quicker when Mac starts a steady, needy grind against his thigh.

Dennis seems so blissed-out from the hand on his neck that he barely reciprocates, but Mac doesn’t mind. He has free reign to explore the parts of Dennis’s mouth he’d never admit to thinking about- he even licks his teeth a bit, just to try it- and when he pulls away, he feels the string of stubble on his jawline. It’s a sharp contrast to the softness of Dennis’s lips. Mac wonders if he’s wearing lipgloss, cause it sure tastes like cherry glaze. Like kissing a girl, but not.

Dennis finishes first, coming in his pants like a fucking teenager. Mac feels a certain sense of pride- Dennis got off on being with another dude first, making him the more gay one. He lets go of Dennis’s throat but continues to rut up against him.

“Shit, Mac, that’s- that’s a sensitive area right now,” Dennis pants, voice barely there, but Mac is too far gone to hear him. He continues until the fireball deep inside him explodes and he’s collapsing against Dennis with a groan of defeat, his entire body aching.

They both slip down to the floor, backs to the wall. Mac didn’t realize it earlier, but he’s been crying. Warm tears are slipping down his face, snot is gathering in his nostrils. It’s a quiet kind of crying. He spits in his hand and rubs it over a particular bad scratch on his arm. Antibodies, work your magic.

“Still think you’re going to hell?” Dennis says after a few breathless minutes of silence.

Mac feels the slow slide of come down his pant leg. Mac looks over at Dennis and sees the bruises on his neck, the bloody drip of his nose, his swollen mouth still hanging open a bit. All at once, he feels the sudden and crushing guilt of becoming the kind of person he’d always wanted to protect Dennis from. He licks his lips, and can only taste cherry lipgloss and blood.

Still think you’re going to hell?  When he grabs Dennis’s hand and the other man grips back tighter, Mac can finally answer.

“I think I’m already there.”