It was only poker with the guys, Chris reassured himself as he took the steps up to Ortu's porch two at a time. He jiggled the doorknob and let himself in when he found it unlocked. Poker with the guys. Normal. Just like every other poker night they'd had for the past ten years.
Except on an ordinary poker night, the guys wouldn't all be people he'd had sex with a mere twenty-four hours earlier.
He followed their muted voices through the house and down the basement stairs. His whole body felt like a spring that kept winding tighter. Hopefully seeing them all again in a non-naked context would be what he needed to chill out about this whole thing. They had agreed, in advance, that it would be very chill.
"Yo, my ass is just killing me. Is your ass killing you, Chris?" Nick asked as soon as Chris's head cleared the ceiling.
Chris exhaled and slid into the empty chair between Ortu and Nick. Joking about it was chill. He could do joking.
"No one fucked you, Nick, why would your ass be killing you?" Ortu asked.
Nick rolled his eyes. "From all of the thrusting. And holding those positions, I guess. Gay sex is much more athletic than you'd think."
"You need to work out more if you thought that was athletic sex," Adam said.
Chris had the feeling he walked into an argument that had been going for some time. "So, who else woke up this morning feeling ridiculously bisexual?"
The room fell completely silent. Chris glanced around the table. Nick and Ortu were both looking distinctly confused; the tips of Adam's ears had gone pink and he seemed to be avoiding Chris's gaze.
Adam cleared his throat and broke the silence. "Still one hundred percent gay, here."
"I don't feel any less hetero," Nick chimed in, shrugging.
"Same," Ortu agreed.
"Not even a little? Wow," Chris said. "I figured it was a natural consequence."
"Michelle and I talked about it before," Ortu said. "You can bang some dudes one time and it isn't necessarily like, a referendum on your whole identity."
Nick nodded. "When I gave Jeremy Olson a handjob in junior year I thought I was bi for almost an entire week before I realized it didn't work that way."
"Wait, you did what?" Adam said.
"It was a dare," Nick said. He turned to Chris. "Look, if you're worried about it, go download some gay porn and see if it does anything for you. It's probably just leftover sex pheromones or something."
Chris opened his mouth — whether to pass it off as if he'd been joking or to dig the hole deeper, he didn't know — when Ortu surprised them all by saying, "If you actually are bi, that's totally cool, too."
"I'll keep you all updated on that," Chris said.
"Cool." Nick grinned. "I never got to help someone come out to themselves before. Maybe," he added, after a quelling look from Adam. Chris smiled at him gratefully.
"You do that," Ortu said, passing Chris the deck.
Chris cut the deck and handed the cards back to Ortu to deal. If no one else was having a sexual identity crisis over this, maybe it was just leftover pheromones, like Nick said. He'd give it a few days to clear his system, and then he could be just as normal about this as everyone else was.
Without his permission, Chris's glance slid toward Adam again. Maybe it was just the heat in the basement, but Adam's cheeks and the back of his neck had gone a distracting shade of pink.
"Anyone want a beer?" Adam asked, pushing his chair back abruptly. Nick and Ortu both raised their hands innocently, and Adam beat a quick retreat upstairs.
About twenty seconds later, Nick looked up as if just startled out of a deep concentration. "You don't think we're making it weird for him, do you?"
Chris looked between his two friends, both wearing almost identical expressions of puzzlement. "It was supposed to be a chill, no strings attached anniversary orgy among friends. We could try letting it rest for a while. See how it goes."
"Gangbang," Nick corrected automatically. "Technically we were all boning down on Adam, so it was a gangbang."
For no reason he could fathom, Chris felt his own face start to heat up.
"We could not talk about it anymore tonight," Ortu offered, magnanimously.
Mercifully, no one brought the gangbang up again for the rest of the evening. Chris was glad to see how easily they slipped back into their familiar rhythms, despite his nagging feeling that everything was slightly, irrevocably different now. He felt like something out in the world had shifted, but maybe it was just his own point of view. Now he knew what Ortu's sex noises sounded like and what Nick's face looked like when he came, after all. And Adam...he carefully avoided thinking about Adam.
He got home no later than on any other poker night, as if the world was actively trying to prove that nothing had changed. He fed the cat and brushed his teeth, then slid gratefully between the sheets.
His brain wouldn't shut up. After about half an hour, he turned the light back on and got his tablet out. If he couldn't fall asleep and he couldn't stop thinking about it, he might as well try Nick's stupid porn idea and settle the question once and for all.
One hour and several very enlightening videos later, he was pretty sure he hadn't been joking about being bisexual. Their friend group had weathered Adam coming out; there was no reason they wouldn't be able to take this in stride. Chris turned the light out and pulled the covers up to his chin. Everything would be fine.
In the space between dreaming and sleep, his sense memory was tugged back to the night before. The press of sweaty bodies, jockeying around to find positions that worked, probably too many high fives.
Adam's hand, hot against the bare skin of Chris's hip, his thigh, pulling him closer. Chris, covering Adam's hand with his own. He drifted off to sleep smiling, his mind a happy blur.
One of his arms was asleep when he woke up, and Millie was walking back and forth across his pillow, stepping on his hair and hitting him full in the face with her tail at every pass. For a few moments he allowed himself to indulge in nostalgia for when he was still dating Rachel. At least when she stayed over, she'd make him close the bedroom door and this wouldn't happen.
The cat started meowing into Chris's ear. He groaned and levered himself up, shaking out his numb arm.
"Alright, alright, I'll feed you," he said. Millie jumped off the bed and ran off down the hall. Not for the first time, he wondered if she could understand English.
Breakfast was kibble for the cat, and slightly too-milky french toast for himself. He'd made the rookie mistake of slicing up the bread before checking how many eggs he had left. He added eggs to the grocery list and surveyed the inside of his fridge while the french toast fried. A trip to the grocery store certainly wouldn't hurt. He wasn't meeting the guys for the baseball game until two, and if he picked up some burgers and buns, they could probably fit in some pre-game tailgating at the park.
Chris sent the guys a picture of his basket while waiting in the checkout line in the grocery store. After a second, he also texted tailgating y/n????? in case the giant thing of beef and sixteen-pack of buns wasn't clear enough.
yyyy great! came in from Adam, followed a second later by Nick's HORNY FOR IT
not as horny as i am for ur momma, Ortu texted.
Dude!!!, Nick texted back almost immediately, followed by a more sedate, not cool bro.
guys that's not even how yo mama jokes work, Adam texted.
Chris grinned and then had to put his phone away because it was his turn in line. The group message had about twenty new lines of argument on the purpose and structure of yo mama jokes by the time Chris got out to the parking lot and checked his phone again.
cool, see you all at the park, he sent.
Half an hour into the game, Chris was still waiting for it to get weird.
Not bad weird, necessarily, but four friends having a gangbang to celebrate their friend's one-year coming out anniversary wasn't normal by any stretch of the imagination. Nor was finding out you weren't straight as a result of said friendly gangbang.
Everything stayed resolutely normal, though. The ribald jokes, the shushing each other because people's kids were there, Ortu's nephew getting called out and them booing the umpire with more enthusiasm than was strictly called for at a youth rec league baseball game, pointing out hot dads to Adam and telling him he should get their number — all completely, reassuringly normal. Chris could almost convince himself that none of it had happened, except that he found himself checking out the hot dads a few times, too. In retrospect, he really should have realized sooner.
"I think I'm genuinely bi," Chris said, between innings.
"That's cool," Ortu said.
"Welcome to the not-straight club," Adam said, grinning a little sheepishly.
Ortu had to poke Nick before he looked up from his phone, and then Chris had to repeat himself. "Called it," Nick said, and then gave Chris a fistbump.
"I guess I didn't expect that to go quite so smoothly," Chris said.
Ortu patted him on the back. "We've had practice," he said.
That was apparently all there was to it. Chris half expected at least one of them to make him go over it in more detail before the game was over, but no one did.
"You doing anything after this?" Chris asked Adam when they were all milling around near the parking lot after the game. An ice cream truck had parked nearby and attracted at least half of both teams and a few of the parents. Chris had to step out of the way to avoid being run over by a knot of eager ten-year-olds. Adam laughed.
"Why, do you have plans?"
Chris shook his head. "We could get takeout, watch a movie?"
Adam grinned and craned his head to where Ortu was giving his nephew a flurry of high fives. "Cool. I gave Ortu a ride here but it looks like he'll be tagging along with his family. Let me check in and I'll meet you back at your place, yeah?"
"Yeah, cool," Chris said, smiling.
Chris got back to his house a few minutes before Adam. The late afternoon sunlight slanted through the windows in the living room, lighting up the dust motes on the TV.
Chris checked the fridge to make sure he'd remembered to stock up on soda, then started loading his breakfast dishes from the sink into the dishwasher. When he moved to the living room and realized he was contemplating getting out the vacuum and giving the couch a once-over for cat hair, he stopped himself. Here he was, treating Adam like an out-of-town guest or something, like someone he had to impress. Adam had been here a million times, he knew all about the dishes and the cat hair.
As if to prove a point, Chris heard a car pull up in the driveway, and a minute later Adam walked in without knocking. He scuffed off his shoes and flopped down on the couch, tipping his head back against the cushions. Something tight in Chris's chest unclenched at the sight.
"Ortu got home ok?" Chris asked, sitting down next to Adam and toeing his own shoes off.
"Yeah. He went with Lisa and Jordan and the whole gang, they were talking about getting pizza with some of his buddies. I think Lisa was angling for an excuse to split the bill."
"Post-baseball pizza," Chris said. "Remember when that was us? Looking back, I don't envy any adult who volunteered to take us."
Adam smiled. "Yeah, we were little terrors. Remember that time at Village PIzza you opened the jar of parmesan and dumped the whole thing onto the pizza? Your mom made you go up and apologize for wasting their condiments."
Chris laughed. "And I never wasted another public condiment again in my life. That made quite an impression."
"Wait, so wasting private condiments is okay? Is that where all my green olives went that time?"
Chris tossed a pillow at his head. "Olives aren't even a condiment!"
Adam took the pillow as if he had asked for it and nestled further into the couch. "You don't deny it, then."
Chris strongly denied it, and did so anytime the Green Olive Incident came up, but he let Adam change the subject to what movie they wanted to watch. He could give Adam grief about his weird definition of a condiment on another day.
They watched a hilariously awful horror movie on netflix, gradually shifting closer together so they could clutch at each other in fake terror at every predictable jumpscare, until they were almost sharing one cushion on the couch. Chris noticed, but saw no reason to point it out or move. They ordered food when the movie was over, then started another one because it was still early.
Chris paused the movie when the food arrived, then got them plates and napkins and a roll of paper towels from the kitchen. It was cooler in here, and dark now that dusk had finally fallen. Through the doorway to the living room, Adam looked like he was sitting in a pool of golden light.
Chris shook his head to clear it when he found he'd paused in the doorway, just watching. He had to clear the air, damn it, not get even more weird about things. He put the plates down on the coffee table and sat down, half a cushion farther apart than they'd been sitting a minute ago.
"So, hey," he said. It sounded louder than he had meant it. And much less casual.
Adam paused with a chicken wing between the container and his plate. "Yeah?"
Chris cleared his throat. "I just wanted to check in with you about the other night?" Because I put my dick in you and found out I was really into it, his brain supplied, unhelpfully. "Because that was kind of a big deal, I guess. You good?"
Adam laughed a little. "You know, you're the third person to ask me that. No one else went to the trouble of making it into a whole movie night though, I'm flattered."
"Oh," Chris said. He busied himself putting food on his plate so he wouldn't have to look at Adam. "What'd you say to Nick and Ortu?"
"That I had fun and I hoped they did too, and I'm glad we didn't manage to talk ourselves out of it. It doesn't have to be a big deal if we don't want it to be, I'm good."
"Great, good," Chris said.
Adam picked at a seam on the couch. "How about you, are you good?"
Chris swallowed. "Yeah, of course. No big deal, right?"
"Right," Adam agreed.
"Cool," Chris said, and with that topic successfully settled, he started the movie up again.
Millie jumped up on the couch to sit with Chris and Adam as soon as she realized they had food, and by the time the credits rolled, Chris realized the space between them had shrunk again. The cat was a happy squished up loaf between them, and Chris was slouched down, his head resting mostly on Adam's shoulder. Reluctantly, Chris stretched and got up.
Adam stayed to help him clean up, bringing dishes into the kitchen and throwing out the empty takeout containers.
"Bye, Maleficent," he said, stooping to scratch the cat's ears on his way out. "Bye, Chris." He caught Chris in a brief one-armed hug and was gone.
When Chris realized he was standing in the open door watching Adam's taillights pull away down the street, he shut the door and went back inside.
For the most part, Chris liked his job. Days like today, though, that had the audacity to be long and also boring, made him wish he had chosen a more energetic career path. Mountain climbing, maybe, or kindergarten teacher. He checked his email, got up and lingered over fixing himself a cup of coffee in the office kitchenette, then sat down and made a to-do list. No arrangements of the list items made them come out less boring, or less time consuming.
Chris looked at the clock on his computer. Only three-thirty. It felt like seven o'clock. If he wasn't getting out of here anytime soon, it couldn't hurt to go take a quick walk. The fresh air might even help clear his head.
The air outside the office was warm and smelled like rain on hot pavement. It was drizzling in a misty sort of way that looked like the sun would burn through any second, but hadn't quite managed it yet. Chris wandered in the general direction of Main Street without any particular destination in mind besides the need to stretch his legs. Within a few minutes, he found himself standing in front of the shop where Adam worked.
The bay door was open, so Chris wandered in. It would be nice to stop in and say hi, if Adam was even working today.
Adam walked out from the back and suddenly Chris felt more awake than he had all day.
"Hey," Adam said, happy and a bit surprised. "What're you doing in this neck of the woods in the middle of the day?"
Chris grinned. "Just had to stretch my legs for a second. I wasn't sure if you'd be here, I only have a minute before I should go back."
Adam smiled and shook his head. "I don't know how you do an office job, man. Everything about what you just said would kill me."
"The average working person changes careers six times before they retire. I've still got plenty of time to learn car repair. Or wilderness guiding, maybe."
Adam laughed. "Is that a real statistic?"
"No idea," Chris said. He bit his lip and suddenly had a flash of Adam's eyes fluttering closed as he bit his lip right in the middle of the gangbang, the small dent of teeth on skin the only thing Chris could focus on in the midst of trying to figure out where it was okay to put his hands.
"It sounds like something they make up to convince college kids to just pick a major and finish it," Adam said, oblivious.
Chris forcibly banished the image from his mind. This was why people didn't have gangbangs with their childhood friends. "Probably," Chris agreed. "I know I don't want to stay at the same boring desk job my whole life. I'll go try a different boring desk job, at least."
Adam laughed again and Chris looked down, inordinately pleased over nothing.
There was a suspiciously loud thump from the back of the shop and a moment later Adam's boss leaned around the open hood of a car to call out, "Wrap it up with your boyfriend there, Adam, Mrs. Hanson's oil isn't going to change itself."
Adam rolled his eyes and called back, "It's Chris! You've known him for like three years."
There was a decidedly grumpy-sounding clank. "Is he going to help with the oil change?"
"I should go back," Chris said.
"You should stop by more often," Adam said. "Maybe Al will actually learn who you are."
"Worth a shot," Chris said, smiling. Adam grinned back and then they were just standing there, smiling at each other and not leaving.
"Well," Chris said, after what felt like a full minute but was probably closer to a couple seconds.
"See you," Adam said at the same time, and Chris turned and ducked out onto the sidewalk before things could get weird. Had that been normal? How did they usually say goodbye to each other? For the life of him, Chris could not remember.
Two days later, Chris was still chewing over it. He'd gone over to help Ortu and Michelle put together centerpieces for their wedding, but it had gotten late and Ortu had said they couldn't let him go without feeding him.
Chris stood at the counter chopping vegetables for salad with Michelle and replayed Adam's boss calling him your boyfriend — the flutter in his chest, the way he walked back to the office on a cloud. He admitted to himself, very quietly so as not to make it worse, that he might have a bit of a crush.
He dumped the cucumber into the salad bowl and rolled that around in his head. He got some carrots out of the fridge and started peeling them into the sink. He couldn't remember the last time he'd genuinely had a crush on someone. It seemed novel, in a way.
Of course, he couldn't say anything to Adam about it. They'd covered that ground pretty extensively last summer.
Maybe this was all just a side effect of figuring out he was into guys, Chris reasoned. As soon as he realized it was a possibility, the crush part of his brain latched onto the first available guy and due to some poor timing, it happened to be Adam. Increase the variety of available guys, and maybe the crush would just kind of organically transfer to someone better. Or someone more available, at least.
"You're awfully quiet," Michelle commented. "Did we fry your brain with wedding talk? It takes surprisingly little to get there, believe me."
Chris finished chopping the last carrot and dumped it in the bowl. "Thinking about dating guys, actually."
Michelle made a politely interested noise. Ortu must have already briefed her on Chris's potential bisexuality. "Any particular reason?"
Chris shrugged. The whole thing with Adam seemed too personal to share, even though nothing happened and nothing was going to happen. "Never really tried it before," he said. "Nobody here expects anyone to be bi. It's easy to just...not."
Michelle shook her head knowingly. "This town, right?"
After they'd had dinner and sent him home with leftovers, Chris sat down on his couch with his phone and Nick's list of gay hookup apps from when Adam came out. He'd go out on a date with one guy, just to say he'd done it. Just to see what would happen. Or at least hook up with one guy; dating seemed like a lot to wade into all at once.
He'd gone through a few highly uninspiring profiles when the cat jumped up on his lap and rubbed her face on the screen. He had to keep gently bopping her head out of the way so she wouldn't accidentally swipe any of the profiles on his behalf. He'd learned the hard way that touchscreens were not species-specific.
After going through nearly all the available men within a thirty-mile radius, he gave up and went to bed. There'd been a few guys he thought might be worth a shot in a detached, academic way, but no one he felt overwhelmingly interested in dating. Maybe he was on the wrong app. Or lived too many hours away from the right city. All the dorky, sweet guys who were into hockey and had really cute smiles had to be out there somewhere.
The pavement was still slightly damp from the shower the night before, and even though the sun was up it hadn't yet burned the water off the cars that were parked on the shady side of the street. The morning sunlight made the neighborhood houses look soft and closer together, as if the sharp angle of light compressed distance. Chris loved running in the morning; it always felt just the tiniest bit like running through an alternate universe.
He jogged up alongside Adam. "You about ready to cool down, or could we do another mile?"
"Keep going," Adam said, grinning, and Chris flashed him a thumbs up before adjusting his stride to keep pace. The view had been a bit distracting back there. He was supposed to be finding some dude who would actually date him, not feeding this pointless crush.
The fact that finding some random, abstract person to date — male or female — held about zero interest for him right now was irrelevant. He owed it to himself to meet a few guys and see what happened, at least.
They ran another wide lap around the neighborhood without talking, though Adam did bump Chris's shoulder and grin at a couple of the cutest dogs they passed. The light was full daytime-bright by the time they came to a stop in Adam's back yard, and it felt like it was going to be a hot day. Chris collapsed gratefully on the short grass and just breathed. A minute later, Adam sat down next to him and pressed a bottle of water into his hand.
"Thanks," Chris said. He stayed on his back for a second more, then levered himself up to a seated position and drank almost half the water in one go.
When he put the bottle down, he thought he saw Adam's eyes dart away from him. The hopeful flutter in Chris's chest gave a squeeze, and Chris hastily tamped it down with cold logic. There was no reason to think Adam had been looking. And even if he had been, even less reason to think he meant anything by it.
"Seems like it's going to be a hot one today," Adam said idly, shaking out his arms and falling into a stretch.
"Yeah," Chris agreed, following suit. He adjusted his position so he wouldn't have to stare at Adam's legs two feet away.
Chris switched sides and then moved on to the next stretch. After a minute, he cleared his throat. "Can I ask you for some gay advice?"
"I don't know if I'm the biggest expert out there, but I'll give it a shot," Adam said.
"So terms of dating dudes, where do you even start? Like, for dating girls there's this whole...runway leading up to it, like I've been figuring out what girls I want to go out with since middle school. Gay dating is this huge uncharted territory." Chris paused, then added, "I dunno man, don't answer that if it's too awkward."
Adam got up and squinted at Chris. "Are you asking me how to know what kind of guys you're into?"
Chris considered. "Maybe? It's weird to be back at square one with this stuff, I guess. Pretty much any pointers would be useful."
"Don't get nachos if you want to make out in the car on a first date," Adam offered immediately.
Chris chuckled. "That only seems applicable if you're trying to date people who are weirdly squeamish and hate talking about farts."
Adam shrugged. "Well, it could happen."
Chris started on his last stretch. He was staring at the grass when Adam said, "Honestly though, you just have to figure it out. I'm probably not the best person to ask, I haven't really been successful at dating myself." He sounded wistful.
Chris frowned."No, that helps. I'm probably getting too much in my head about it."
"That's supposed to be my thing," Adam said, smiling.
"Okay then, I'll just boldly go and ask out the first hot guy I see today. Confidence is sexy, right?"
"Super sexy," Adam deadpanned.
Chris absolutely did not thrill a tiny bit at hearing Adam call him sexy. He picked up Adam's empty water bottle as he turned to go inside. "Dating is the worst."
Adam clapped him on the back. "Tell me about it. I'm still trying to figure out what to do about Ortu's wedding. RSVPing with a plus one was way too optimistic."
"Ugh, same," Chris said. He threw the water bottles in the recycling bin by the sink. "Rachel said we'd still be friends, but going with her just seems awkward. And everyone else I know is already invited."
"I'll probably just end up bringing some weirdo from tinder who ends up ruining everything," Adam said dolefully.
Chris hid a laugh behind his hand. "If you find a random date, I will too. Maybe they'll cancel each other out and ruin nothing."
"That sounds like the premise of a bad rom-com," Adam said.
"Yeah, they'd definitely bring about twice as much ruin. Ruination squared, even."
"You know, we should just go together," Adam said.
Chris very distinctly felt his heart skip a beat. He fought to keep his voice even. "Yeah?"
"Totally." Adam grinned, warming to the idea. "You get a no-stakes practice dude date, I get to stop stressing about springing a wedding on an unsuspecting internet person, everyone wins."
Chris breathed out. "Yeah, perfect. What are best friends for?"
It must have been his imagination that Adam looked uncertain for a split second, because when he blinked Adam had his same warm smile. "It's a date, then. You'll come over before and help me pick out my outfit, right? Don't want to embarrass myself in front of everyone's grandma."
"Pff. Grandmas love you, they'd still think you were a nice young man if you showed up in jeans."
The corner of Adam's mouth quirked up. "Do I take that mean I shouldn't go in jeans?"
"You are hopeless," Chris said. "Your sense of style is no worse than mine, and you know it."
"It is though. I have about two shirts that I pick based on which one is clean. You always look so—" he lifted his hand toward Chris in a wordless gesture. "Put-together."
Chris scuffed the toe of his running shoe against the floor. He felt warm all over and was sure it must show. "I've got to go shower before I solidify. We still on for hockey later?"
"Yup," Adam said, and fistbumped Chris as he headed out.
Chris fled to his car before he could really examine his motivation for doing so. That was all just normal levels of banter and touching, he was pretty sure. God, he had to get this crush under control before it jeopardized their friendship; that would be truly unbearable.
Chris forced himself to send messages to two of the guys with the least offensive profiles before heading back to Adam's for the game. When he got there, Nick was already sprawled out on the couch nursing a bowl of chips, and Chris found himself relax. Normal friend time was exactly what he needed right now.
Ortu arrived soon after and they all piled onto the couch in time to watch the puck drop. Chris found himself wedged between Ortu on one side and Adam on the other. Adam had draped his arm over the back of the couch and Chris slotted into his side perfectly. He allowed himself briefly, for one minute, to feel sad that Adam could be as handsome and nice and perfect and good as he was, and Chris wasn't allowed to be with him. He was also solid and warm against Chris's side and he smelled good; it wasn't fair. What would be less fair would be assuming Adam wanted more even though he had specifically said he didn't, though, so Chris let the allotted minute pass and then focused on the game.
"Fuckers!" Nick shouted as their team got a penalty with only seconds until the end of the half.
Adam groaned loudly. "No, come on!"
Chris grinned and let himself get caught up in insulting the ref who'd made the call.
As they went their separate ways at the end of the game, Chris reflected that it had been two solid hours without any inappropriate thoughts about Adam. Except for that one. Well, small steps.
I went shopping, Adam texted on a Wednesday afternoon, just as Chris was leaving work. Then, before Chris could start typing a reply, can you come over
Chris sensed a muted desperation behind the texts, so he wrote yeah be there in 15 and turned his car toward Adam's place.
"I stopped and got doughnuts on the way," he said, letting himself in. "It sounded like an emergency."
When there was no reply, Chris called out, "Adam?" and headed deeper into the house.
"In here," Adam called from the bedroom.
In the bedroom, Adam had three shirts and two pairs of pants spread out on the bed. There was a shopping bag on the floor and the closet was open. Adam was pacing restlessly between the closet and the bed.
"Are those doughnuts?" he asked as Chris walked in.
"It sounded like you might need them," Chris said, offering the box.
"You are a genius, man. My blood sugar is nonexistent right now." Adam took two doughnuts at once and balanced the box absently on top of a pile of clutter on his dresser.
Chris surveyed the clothes on the bed. "So. You went shopping?"
Adam nodded. "For the wedding. I was seventeen the last time I went to a wedding, I don't have anything that would even fit me now. But I've been looking at the new stuff so long I can't even tell if any it would work, either. Help?"
Chris took a minute to consider, then took Adam's suit jacket out of the closet and picked the only shirt and pair of pants that didn't either clash or look too bland against it. "There you go," he said. "You should probably return the others, if you only got them for this."
"Thank you," Adam said, taking the outfit.
"What's this actually about?" Chris asked. "I've never seen you get so worked up about clothes."
Adam rubbed the back of his neck. "Ortu getting married, I guess. None of us have ever been married before — he and Michelle have been together forever, but it just feels like everything will be different. And I'm afraid all his aunts will ask me to dance and I'll step on their toes. I just don't want to mess it up."
"I get it," Chris said. Nick was Ortu's best man, but in name only. Practically, they were all giving him away.
Adam broke off half a doughnut and ate it slowly.
"Does it have anything to do with having to come out to a ton of old people who've known you since you were a kid?" Chris hazarded.
"Maybe?" Adam said.
"You don't have to if you'd rather not," Chris pointed out.
"I don't think I'd actually mind if they all knew," Adam said. "But they're all going to ask and I'm going to have to explain that yes, I really am gay a million times — maybe that's part of it."
Chris nodded. "Just part?"
Adam let out a shaky laugh. "The other part is honestly worrying about stepping on people's toes."
Chris felt an overwhelming wave of fondness for Adam. "You don't have to come out to or dance with anyone you don't want to. Weddings are supposed to be fun."
Adam rolled his eyes and started putting clothes back in the closet. "I'll feel better if I'm prepared. You can't complain, you took that ballroom dancing class that time. You can't know the dancing anxiety of the truly unprepared."
"Come to the living room and help me move the couch," Chris said, before he could put too much thought into it.
"What?" Adam said, but followed Chris into the living room anyway and helped him push the couch and the coffee table and the recliner against the far.
"I'm teaching you how to dance," Chris said, standing in the middle of the cleared space.
"I don't," Adam started, crossing his arms.
"Look. I can't come out to Ortu and Michelle's relatives for you, but I can get my toes stepped on for an hour and make sure you don't do it to anyone else."
Adam looked at the ceiling and let out a shaky breath. "Yeah, ok. What do I do?"
Chris pushed down the thrill of anticipation that shot through him at that. This was platonic dancing as a favor, between friends. If he couldn't keep that straight in his own head, he had no business making the offer in the first place.
"You're thinking grandma dances, right? Not a meet-cute on the dance floor with a hot cousin of the bride?"
Adam huffed out a laugh at this. "Michelle doesn't have any hot cousins."
"Okay, just slow dances, then. Those are the easiest ones," Chris reassured. He walked over to Adam and gently uncrossed his arms. Adam held them out awkwardly, and Chris stepped into his space.
"Isn't there supposed to be music?" Adam mumbled. Chris arranged his Adam's hands on him and shook his head.
"Right now you're just going to learn the steps. Once you know what to do with your feet, then we can try it with music."
He guided Adam into the clear part in the middle of the room, and talked him through the steps a few times, tugging him gently along. Platonic, Chris reminded himself; it was frustratingly hard to remember his priorities with Adam so close. Adam held himself carefully, and made each step with a tiny furrow of concentration between his brows. Adam only stepped on Chris's toes once but managed to trip himself twice. He apologized profusely each time and by the third time, Chris was stifling giggles.
"You're doing great," he said, after a few trouble-free minutes. "Once more around the room and then we can try it with music."
Adam really was doing better. He wasn't relaxed at all, but he was moving more confidently, anticipating the steps as Chris talked him through them.
"I'm going to let you lead for real now. No more pulling you along," Chris said.
Adam swallowed. "You were?"
"Maybe just a bit," Chris said. "Want some music?"
"Yeah, okay," Adam said. It felt like he let go of Chris somewhat reluctantly as Chris stepped away. Chris pulled up the closest song he had to a wedding slow dance tempo on his phone, and stuck the phone in his back pocket.
"Ready whenever you are," Chris said. Adam took his hand and drew him in, and started to slowly but competently lead him in a waltz around the living room. Chris felt a tiny bit dizzy, and mostly like he wouldn't mind doing this all afternoon.
By the second round, Adam's steps were becoming more fluid. Almost involuntarily, Chris narrowed the small gap between them and let his arms close around Adam's body, gathering him closer. They were too close to the same height for Chris to lean his head on Adam's shoulder, though the second he thought about it, something inside him did a slow flip of want. He rested his cheek against Adam's instead. The warm rasp felt shockingly intimate.
Adam made a tiny sigh, barely audible against Chris's ear, and Chris could feel all the tension flow out of him. He nearly melted into Chris's embrace and suddenly Chris could feel how rigidly he'd been standing, how carefully he'd been holding himself apart. They danced on for a few more steps before they both lost the rhythm and slowed to a stop. Chris didn't let go. Adam sighed again and buried his face in Chris's neck.
Chris still felt punchy from before, and his blood was rushing through his veins at lightning speed. He opened his mouth without knowing what he was going to say and heard, "Last summer." He paused, the words hanging between them.
"Mmm?" Adam asked, his mouth pressed against the bare skin of Chris's neck. Chris felt the sound radiate from the single point of contact through his whole body, warm and buzzy. He suddenly felt very brave.
"If I wanted to kiss you again now, would you stop me?"
Adam raised his head to look at Chris. His eyes were bright and his cheeks were flushed. "No," he said. "I didn't want to stop you then," he added.
"But you did," Chris said. He couldn't stop staring at Adam's mouth.
Adam closed his eyes and leaned further into Chris's hold, boneless and warm. "I wanted to kiss you more than anything, fuck. But more than that I wanted us not to lose what I had — to be friends again, be normal, whatever. You were too important."
"Fuck," Chris said. "Adam."
Adam made a tiny wordless noise and it was the easiest thing in the world for Chris to tilt his head and press his parted lips softly to Adam's. Adam's mouth was soft, and as warm as the rest of him; his lips tasted faintly of the waxy menthol scent of chapstick. Chris felt something like electricity unfurling in the pit of his stomach. He dug his fingers into Adam's shoulder and deepened the kiss, Adam's lips opening greedily to meet him.
They were both breathing heavily by the time they parted. Chris scratched his fingers through the fine hairs at the nape of Adam's neck and leaned his forehead against Adam's forehead.
"We've both been idiots, haven't we," he said once he caught his breath.
Adam laughed ruefully.
"Me, especially," Chris admitted, wincing. "Sorry about the no-homo freakout last year and the...everything."
Adam kissed him until his head was spinning and then grinned. "Looks like you got over it pretty well, in the end."
Chris felt the corners of his mouth tug up and then he couldn't stop smiling even if he wanted to. "I guess," he said. He slid his hand up under the back of Adam's shirt and nipped down along the line of his jaw to his throat, just because he could. Adam made an inarticulate sound and Chris kissed back up the same path, taking his time.
"If we're really doing this," Chris said, after Adam had captured his lips and they'd made out for what felt like another hour, "Do you think we could take another shot at having sex? Without our two straight friends joining in, this time?"
Somehow Chris's shirt had come most of the way off without him quite realizing how, or when. Adam's hands were on his chest and sides, hot and rough and restless. Adam ducked his head and laughed, startled. "Yes, please," he said emphatically.
Chris grabbed two handfuls of his t-shirt and reeled him in again. "Can I say one thing before this goes on too long and I get settled and scared of ruining it by accident?"
"We should make a pact to just say things. Worrying about ruining things hasn't really served us very well up until now."
"Okay," Chris agreed, easily. Adam's hair was getting long; he tucked a strand behind his ear and then got absorbed in kissing his neck. Adam whimpered and Chris could feel his knees buckle.
"If you're going to say your thing, you'd better say it fast," Adam gasped.
"You're great and I love you a lot and I'm gonna make it up to you for being so oblivious before," Chris said into Adam's ear, all in a rush.
Adam's arms came up around Chris and he held on tight. "I love you too, you idiot. Now come on."