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“Come with me,” Buddy asks, voice bright with excitement.

“Are you serious?” Sharrod asks, pausing in the process of tying Buddy’s bowtie.

“Yes.” Buddy nods enthusiastically.

Sharrod shakes his head. “No.”

Buddy’s face falls. “Why not?”

“You know why,” he answers as he adjusts the bowtie in to perfect symmetry.

Buddy reaches up to catch his wrists, stilling his hands. “People come with their friends all the time.”

“If they're from the same club,” Sharrod sighs.

“So! I want you to be my date. Not a player from another club. Just my date,” Buddy pleads.

Sharrod pulls his hands away. “What's gotten in to you? You know we can't. I'm sorry,” he steps back, “I'll see you at the after party.”

Buddy stills and they look at each other for a moment. “Fine. Whatever.” Buddy turns on his heel and leaves.

---

Sharrod sits down heavily on the bed, running hands through the hair he'd spend half an hour perfecting. He isn't even sure why he's upset. He managed to put their argument, if it was really an argument, out of his mind for most of the evening. This was made easier by James calling him, not half hour after Buddy left, stressing about Quade and whole mess Twitter had gotten him in to and coming up with a thousand and one worst case scenarios of which Sharrod had calmly proceeded to dissuade him. Really, even if Quade left Union, this is a big if, because Sharrod knows Quade loves Rugby, he would surely tell James first. Sharrod is sure James would be one of the biggest factors in whatever decision Quade makes. And Sharrod have no idea why James thinks Quade moving to league (if he ever does) means Quade wants to break up. James gets some very strange ideas in his head at times. It's one of the things that makes Sharrod so fond of him. James is very hard not to love. After their conversation, which ended with James deciding to support Quade no matter what 'because that's what a good boyfriend would do', Sharrod got ready to go to the Brownlow after party. But the lag time between getting ready and waiting for his ride, few of the boys from his club are going together, Sharrod's mind started to wander. Naturally it got stuck on one point.

The genuine hurt in Buddy's eyes as he left.

It was the sensible thing to do, to refuse him. Of course it was. Buddy sometimes forgets they live in the real world. Sharrod always feels like the bad guy when he has to remind him. Why can't Buddy just understand that the world would never be as forgiving as he hopes?
That being able to play footy isn't all it takes anymore. And the old cliché about guys wanting to be you and girls wanting to be with you is the one rule all their managers believe in. It wouldn't matter if Buddy can kick a goal from any angle on the ground, it wouldn't matter if Sharrod somehow becomes the best midfielder going around, if the public and the media gets one whiff of what they are to each other, they would lose everything.
He sighs and collapses back on to the bed. Sometimes he thinks he is too pessimistic. Maybe he's like James, always coming up with all the ways things can go wrong but without James's innate ability to ignore the things that doesn't fit in to his world.
He sits up when he hears the car pull up outside, glances at the mirror and tries to bring some order to his messy hair. He gets in the car with a hello to all his friends and slight apprehension about the night.

---

Buddy sits through the Brownlow, fixing a smile on his face every time the camera focuses on him. All in all it's a nice night, although nothing very eventful happens. The Adelaide boys get a bit rowdy at the end but it's nothing like the old days when things really got wild. Now it only happens at the after party.
He feels slightly guilty for walking out on Sharrod like that. He didn't mean to get so upset. It's just he had this image in his head of them together, of being allowed to do this one thing and not be crucified for it. But he knows Sharrod is right. Knows Sharrod is only looking out for him. So it is with a guilt laden heart that he walks in to the gala room at Crown, eyes searching for that familiar face. He spots Sharrod, sitting with his Collingwood friends and is about to head over when Sharrod looks to up and finds him. Sharrod is laughing at something Daisy had said and Buddy heart lurches almost painfully in his chest at how beautiful he is. At how familiar this is. Sharrod's laughter subsides until there is only a gentle smile on his face as he stands up and walks over.

"Hey," Sharrod says, tilting his head to look up at him. The lighting in the room is not enough to see properly and the music is too loud, so Buddy steps closer.

"I'm sorry." Buddy is close enough now to see the frown crossing Sharrod's face.

"No," Sharrod says, getting distracted for a moment by the Selwood twins walking past them practically glued together, "no, I shouldn't have gotten so worked up. I'm sorry."

Buddy lays a gentle hand on Sharrod's arm.

"I know I don't make it easy for you. I just wish sometimes we could…" he trails off when Sharrod steps even closer so that they're practically sharing the same space.

"I know," Sharrod smiles at him, "I wish that too."

Buddy grins, fights the urge to kiss Sharrod right there and instead throws a comfortable arm around his shoulder.

"You gonna introduce me to all your friends?" he asks as they walk towards Sharrod's group of friends.

Sharrod laughs. "You probably know them better than me anyway."

It turns out to be a good night. Everyone is relaxed and having fun and getting drunk. That is until two of the Saints boys get in to a heated argument about weddings and misunderstandings and 'why the fuck do you think I haven't signed yet? What do you think I'm waiting for?'. Followed by a stunned silence and the sounds of a hundred people reaching for their phones at the same time. Buddy watches Nick Dal Santo practically running out of the room and puts his phone right back in his pocket. Sharrod looks stunned and Buddy draws him closer. Sharrod doesn't resist and leans back against Buddy on the couch.

"I hope they work it out," he says and feels Sharrod nodding beside him. The noise level gradually gets back up and Buddy tries not to envy all the boys that get to drink tonight. But being a Grand Finalist has its own rules. Absolutely no alcohol. And a curfew. Which he is almost about to break. Right on cue Sam Mitchel walks past his table, giving him a significant look as he leaves.

Sharrod stands up before he does, getting confused looks from the mostly inebriated boys at their table.

"I'm taking him home," Sharrod explains to rest of the table as Buddy reluctantly stands up. The other boys nod. Daisy grins.

"’Taking him home’," Daisy sings out. Sharrod playfully swipes at his head. Daisy ducks, laughing.

"Since I'm the one who's going to be driving, I think I'm the one taking you home," Buddy says as they walk out.

"You don't have a licence." Sharrod points out.

"You didn't complain last time and," Buddy shivers in the cold wind from the Yarra," you're drunk."

Sharrod draws himself up. "I'm not drunk," he says with great dignity, which shatters when he curses as a particularly strong gust of wind hits him front on.

"I'm still driving," Buddy says as they reach the car.

"If they catch you…"

Buddy grins. "They won't."

Sharrod fiddles with Buddy's iPod as they get on their way. Switching through songs seemingly unable to choose one that he likes. Then suddenly he laughs, making Buddy look over in surprise.

"Really? Gangnam Style? Do you even understand what he's saying?" Sharrod asks, laughing.

"Hey!" Buddy says indignantly. "Music isn't about understanding words. It's about…" Buddy pauses.

"It's about?" Sharrod prompts, laughter still in his voice.

"It's about how it makes you feel."

Buddy feels Sharrod's eyes on him. He stops at a red light and looks over. Sharrod smiles at him, soft and thoughtful, and looks away in to the night.

The light turns green and as he releases the brake, he glances sideways at Sharrod who is now looking down at his hands, folded in his lap. Buddy's breath catches at the long lashes cast in to relief by the lights from the street. At the small smile at the corner of Sharrod’s lips. At the certainty that he never wants to give this up.

"Like I'm lighter than air," he says and he is not talking about music.

 

The End.