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i know i'm just a friend to you

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Taylor gets shocked as Ebs climbs into bed after cleaning up, mumbling, “Jesus Ebs, fucking static, watch it with the socks on the carpet,” mildly despairing that he got it up for a guy who thinks sex with socks is in any way appropriate. He sinks down into what he can tell is going to be super fucking epic nap before he can hear an answer, if there is one.

When he wakes up, he feels amazing, better than he usually does after a nap with Ebs, even - and the dude is a champion napper, so it’s always pretty goddamn great. The pleasant dreaminess of sleep is just clinging to him, but not dragging him back down. He looks over at Ebby, who’s a bit wide-eyed.

“What is it dude?” He yawns out, sitting up and rolling his shoulders.

“We’re- I think we’re bonded? I think we’re bonded, dude.”

Taylor tentatively puts his hand on Jordan’s forearm. He gets tingles down the back of his spine, and goosebumps raise up on his skin. He may not be the smartest guy around, but he did have to take a health class in school (well, sort of, anyway), and that’s the classic sign of a bond settling. So-

“Dude, we totally are” They lock eyes for a solid fifteen seconds before the staring makes them burst into laughter.

“Hallsy, bro, this is super sick, I’m so glad it’s you,” Jordan manages through fading fits of laughter

It feels like there are champagne bubbles in his stomach, floating up through him. “Totally man, it’s awesome.”

“Now we’re gonna be, like, bros forever!” Jordan’s grinning at him so hard his whole face is scrunching up. Taylor loves that expression, but it’s not making him as happy as it usually would. He had thought maybe- but, no. Obviously not.

He says softly, “Yeah dude, we’re so lucky.” He smiles back at Jordan, shoving down the longing in his chest.

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It’s like all the chick flicks he’s ever made fun of have come back to haunt him in some sick form of karma. His brain now insists on reading intent into gestures he knew were one hundred percent platonic a week ago. You’d think it would remember that, considering that he’s been telling himself that he wasn’t looking for signals for literal fucking years, but nope, guess not. It’s not fucking cute, and he needs to stop.

It’s not like intends to ever bring it up. Before this stupid soulmate shit he wasn’t going to, and logically (logically, he thinks, maybe a little hysterically) this doesn’t change anything. Not with Jordan’s reaction, anyway.

_______________________

The worst thing about it is how it comes out. (Okay, there are a lot of worst things, but this is one that usually cracks top 5, top 7.) He doesn’t have any excuses to fall back on; they aren’t drunk, it isn’t in the heat of the moment, it isn’t afterglow pillow talk. He just says it stone cold sober in broad daylight as they’re sprawled on the couch watching TV. It’s not even a romantic show, for fuck’s sake.

“Hey, we should live together next year, be roomies again.”

Jordan hums noncommittally as he fiddles with the recliner level, “Oh yeah dude, that could be cool.”

“I just love you, dude, y’know?”

Ebby’s mouth quirks up and he looks over at Taylor, “I know dude, same.”

Some insane impulse makes him continue on, despite already regretting that choice as the words come out of his mouth. “Like, I really love you, bro. I miss you. We hang out all the time and it’s never lame. We’d be awesome.” Then, because why not, he apparently he loves making things awkward, “Together.” Silence. Ebs has suddenly become really interested in the garbage they’re watching. Jesus, Taylor’s never been the dude who throws up with nerves, but he might be about to start.

After a minute Jordan swallows and says lightly, “Yeah Hallsy, we’re bros, you’re a beauty.”

After that fuck-up, things are tense and quiet until Jordan finds an excuse to leave, saying he’ll text. His mother raised him right, so Taylor walks him to the door. Jordan hesitates for a second before dragging him in and clapping his back gently. They’ve literally never had a more awkward hug, not even after the first time they hooked up. Taylor feels sick. This blows.

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Of course, Ebs doesn’t text, because who fucking would after their friends with bennies hookup turned out to be a clingy loser. He knows he stepped over a line. Jordan’s never been super weird about them fucking, never gotten all ‘no homo’ on him, not like some hookups he’s had with other players. But Jordan dates girls, girls who are soft and smart and smell like flowers and look good next to him in pictures. Not exactly Taylor-like.

The thing is, soulmates don’t work out all the time, that’s just a fucking fact. Sure, some of them fall disgustingly in love, but plenty of soulmates meet and decide they don’t fit together romantically. Some aren’t even friends. A bond doesn’t have to mean anything. They’re not the end-all be-all of all relationships. The bond’s just a happy buzz in the back of your mind when your soulmate is around, a thrill of recognition. It doesn’t hurt you to ignore it.

He needs to get a goddamn grip. This shouldn’t be different than any other hookup realizing someone caught feelings and establishing a boundary. Taylor’s not new, he knows how it works. Granted, he thought he and Jordan were too tight for it to happen like this, but hey, that’s life. Taylor can be cool about it. He can be super fucking chill.

So, Taylor doesn’t text him either; he’ll let it die down for a bit and then he’ll start damage control. He figures that by training camp he will have salvaged a reasonable approximation of their friendship, even if it doesn’t hold up to close examination.

Then he gets traded.

[Text message from Ebs: Hey, this sucks T. You know I have your back. Call me if you want to talk]

[Text message from Ebs: At least we don’t have to worry about the thing now, eh?]