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The List

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What he hates so much is the fact that it's so cliché that he's seen it in York's shitty movies about a hundred thousand times over.

It goes like this.

Girl meets boy. Girl likes boy. Boy is one of the following: a) not interested; b) a prick; c) actually in a relationship; d) oblivious. Girl still pursues boy, with help of their best friend, who is male. Male best friend has always been in love with girl. Girl hasn't noticed because of one of the following: a) not interested; b) oblivious; c) best friend never said anything.

Story ends one of two ways. Girl is with first boy. Girl realizes what best friend always was to her and is with best friend.

Wash wishes it was that simple.

* * * * * *

Were they a romance movie he thinks they would start right after York breaks up with Carolina. Start with a black screen, and Wash as a voice over. Asking what happened this time. And York would talk about how the girl of his dreams—they were always the girl of his dreams—had left him for another woman. Which was all well and good because Kimball was a really nice lady, but come on, again ? And Wash would tease lightly that he has a bit of a track record. The screen would pan down, through a ceiling or something, and into York and Wash's apartment where they're sprawled on the couch together, drinking beers.

“Now nothing weird happened with Connie.”

“Except it turned out she was using you to make Dakota jealous,” Wash points out, tipping his bottle at York.

“Okay, there was that,” York allows. “But come on, Allison...”

“Had three boyfriends, of which you were the one she spent the least with,” Wash sighs. “And she said you were the worst in bed.”

“Right,” York groans, throwing his head back and staring up at the ceiling.

York's legs would be, are , in Wash's lap, and Wash knows he should move them. That he's long since come to love the gentle warmth of their skin pressed together, even through fabric. His hands want to ghost along York's leg, massage away the pain of rejection inch by inch and kiss his neck and...

But if they were a romance movie you wouldn't know that just from the screen. You'd see the ever growing list of bad choices. The laundry list of bad girlfriends, even a bad boyfriend or two—seriously why had he even considered that one night stand with Reggie—until at last Wash would, does , set his bottle aside and say something utterly stupid.

“What you need is a good old fashion romancing,” Wash declares, and maybe his bottle hits the table a little too hard.

“I don't have the energy to romance someone right now,” York sighs, shaking his head. “All that energy, all that planning and...”

“No... What you need is someone to romance you ,” Wash interrupts him. “Someone who will pamper you . Someone who will make you feel, for lack of a better comparable term, like a princess.”

York laughs.

That's where the scene would end, Wash thinks. It's not where it actually ends. It ends with Wash looking down the couch at his friend, smiling soft and unseen, enjoying his mirth. It ends with a resolution that won't be seen in the movie because, well, that's part of the twist, isn't it?

* * * * * *

The next scene that Wash is subject, the next one that is written with him in it, takes place at six in the morning a week later. Cut to him shuffling into the kitchen, poking the coffee pot, getting down the bagels, rooting around in the fridge. Maybe linger for a moment on him considering cream cheese versus jam—and no judgment for that, home audience—before he selects the cheese, pulls back, closes the door, and screams like a little girl at the strange Asian man standing in his kitchen, drinking his coffee.

“Who the fuck are you?” he demands.

“Who the fuck am I? Who the fuck are you?” the man answers, sounding patently offended.

“I live here, so you kind of owe me an answer first,” Wash counters.

The other man, Felix as Wash will learn later in the movie and as the viewers already know, is York's rebound one night stand. They met at the bar last night, York asked him back, and Felix had jumped at it. What the movie doesn't show is that York fell asleep with a smile on his lips, and Felix... well, Felix was Felix.

“Fucked your roommate.”

The movie, of course, would be censored. Felix would be played up as more eloquent. After all, he is the rival love interest.

Wash glares at him, and Felix plays with an apple and the tension is of course broken by the entrance of York. Who Felix kisses the sleepy cheek of, probably just to see the way it makes Wash cringe. York smiles, though, and Wash says nothing, just takes his bagel—uncut, untoasted, unslathered in delicious cream cheese—back to his room to get ready for the day.

The viewers get to see Felix make out with York. The viewers get to see Felix give York his number. The viewers get to see how sweet and affectionate Felix is when he wants to be.

They don't get to see the way the bagel bounces off of the bedroom wall when Wash throws it.

* * * * * *

It's just one night. That the way the movie works, see? One night of Felix, York never calls him, and they go back to normal.

For three days. For precisely three days.

Because on the fourth there are flowers at the door. Flowers with explanation. Just a vase and a bouquet and a card saying 'York' and signed 'Your Admirer.'

The movie doesn't show you how many hours Wash poured over arrangements online. The movie doesn't show how long he glared at that 'would you like to leave a message' screen. How many permutations of confessions he typed out that had to stop because of a character limit. How at last he had banged on his keyboard in frustration, and accidentally hit confirm with just the message 'York.'

It does show the florist hand writing 'Your Admirer.'

It doesn't show that there was a mix up with making the cards. That all Wash sent was 'York'.

The movie plays up how York gets back from work and finds the flowers there. It doesn't talk about how Wash raced home to get them so he could present them and sit York down and talk.

It doesn't mention that the soft, affectionate smile Wash gives York when he gets home and hears his best friend going on and on about his secret admirer is there because he can't bear to burst that bubble just yet.

Besides, he'd said York needed romanced, right? Why not him? Why not like this? Why not be the mystery secret admirer.

* * * * * *

The audience knows going into the movie what happens next. It would be in the previews. It would be in the ads and hell, it's the premise of the movie. The flowers keep coming, all signed as York's 'Admirer'. A white board goes up in York's bedroom, discussing possible origins. Pros and cons of who it might be. Long lists, bullet-points, all carefully arranged.

The audience only knows that this isn't like York because of the way Wash comes out and says it when they're in York's room discussing 'The List' (and there you go, movie's title drop moment, neatly delivered).

“Oh come on, Carolina just broke up with you.”

“But she's romantic as all get out, so this could be her,” York argues, and Wash rolls his eyes.

“She left you for Vanessa,” Wash sighs, throwing up his hands in defeat. “They're happily involved. Geez, how dense could you be?”

It hurts, he thinks, that his name never occurs on the board. That there's a lot of points under Felix's name. Hell, even Dakota's twin brother is on the list which makes no sense because a) he's never gone out with York, b) he's married, and c) he lives three states over.

Wash doesn't say that he still spends hours on the flowers every week or so. Still is so careful in selecting specific blossoms for color and style and when they're in season. He even found a website that talks about all the different meanings of flowers and sometimes builds messages into the bouquets.

But his name never goes onto the board.

* * * * * *

He doesn't hear what's on the phone call. What he knows is that when York hangs up and comes out of his bedroom, he's dancing.

“That was Felix,” York explains when Wash finally gets him to stop. “He wants to take me out to dinner.”

Wash stares at York in shock. “What?”

“Felix asked me out,” York grins.

“How did that even...”

Wash sits back as York points at the board and explains how he's been calling people about it and referencing the flowers and Felix... Felix got all smug. Felix preened. Felix...

Oh dear god.

The camera would be on York. It wouldn't register the horror on Wash's face as it hits him that the worst has happened.

And when the flowers come the next morning with a card that says 'Looking forward to seeing you tonight -Your Admirer,' well, Wash wants to find Felix and punch him in the face.

* * * * * *

The difference, he supposes, is that in a movie he would speak up. In a movie Wash would grab the receipts and shove them in York's face. In a movie he'd tell York the meanings of the flower messages. In a movie he'd push Felix down the stairs.

Okay, maybe not that last one.

Instead he stops sending flowers. He watches them still come anyway. Waits for Felix to get bored through the first week. Through the second week.

Listens to York declare, yet again, that he's finally found the one on the third week.

Watch them make kissy face through a group movie night in the fourth week.

Politely backs out of the fifth.

Accepts a job offer out of town on the sixth.

They'd been pushing him for a while now. Courting him like he'd tried to court York.

At least the company signed their name.

* * * * * *

In a romance movie you always know the story is going to take the right turn. It's going to put your protagonist with the right person in the end.

It might not be until the last minute.

It might not be until the last second.

But it happens.

Wash has seen York's shitty movies a hundred thousand times over. Even when you're sad you know it's the way the story has to work out.

But he also knows that in the scene at the end where the best friend or the protagonist is waiting in the airport, the other person shows up just in time to stop them.

He fidgets at the check-in counter. He fusses all the way through security. He clenches his fists and hates himself while he sits and waits at his gate.

They call his group and he stands. Grabs his rolling bag. Shoulders his carry on. Grips his ticket.

No voice. No shout of stop. No one there to stop him.

He boards, and never looks back.