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A Night to Remember

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It was a chilly evening in late February, and Link was waiting in his truck after the first playoff basketball game of the season. He would usually wait by the school’s entrance for Rhett to come out from the locker room, but it was cold out and he wanted to get the truck warmed up before he had to drive Rhett home. Sitting alone in the cab, he ended up lost in his thoughts and jumped when he heard a knocking on the passenger side window. For a moment his was scared, until he realized it was just Rhett and leaned over to unlock the door. As Rhett got situated, Link tried to fill the silence by talking about the game.

“Sucks that we lost, doesn’t it?” he asked, not really thinking.

“Yeah.” Rhett responded shortly. Link knew Rhett blamed himself for the lost game; he missed the last shot and they lost by one point, keeping the team from going further in the playoffs.

Instead of continuing to talk, Link began driving towards Rhett’s home. Usually they had no problems holding a conversation, especially after a game. Even if they lost, Rhett would tell Link all about how much his team had practiced, and ask him if he saw the awesome shot Rhett made. But tonight, he had nothing to say. Whenever Link would say something, he responded in an annoyed tone with the shortest answer possible. Link was getting tired of it, so he turned off onto a side road and stopped the truck on the shoulder.

“Man, it was just one game! So what if you missed the shot and lost the game? You still have all of next year! It’s not that big of a deal, Rhett, you’re being a big baby!” he snapped at Rhett, only realizing how loud he had gotten when he finished speaking. Rhett had been staring out the window for some time, but now he turned his head towards Link, eyes huge and full of unshed tears. Before Link could apologize, Rhett’s head was in his hands and he was shaking, tears falling down his thin face.

Link was at a loss for what to do. He didn’t expect to see his best friend break down in the passenger seat of his truck. He got the feeling this wasn’t just about the game.

“I’m sorry Rhett, I didn’t mean to be so rude, it’s just you weren’t talking and I thought you were just pissed about the game, man. Don’t cry.”

Rhett continued to sob into his hands, not looking up at Link.

“This isn’t about the game, is it?” he asked quietly, wanting to confirm his suspicions. Rhett shook his head, still unwilling to look up. His tears were letting up a bit, but he was still shaking.

“Is everything okay at home? Is that what’s wrong?” Rhett shook his head again, so Link continued with a different question, “The team? Are they having problems?” He heard a slight snort from Rhett, almost as if he was laughing at Link’s question.

“No.” he muttered, running a hand through his hair but keeping his face towards the floor.

“Is there a girl that’s got you all messed up?” Once again, Rhett shook his head no, but his tears resumed.

“I’m so stupid!” he said to himself, almost inaudibly, “God, I’m such an idiot!”

“You’re not stupid, man. Seriously, what’s eating at you? You can talk to me, Rhett, I’ll listen.”

“No! I can’t talk to you, you don’t understand! I can’t tell you!”

Silence overtook the cab of the truck. To Rhett, it might have seemed like Link had given up on asking questions and was going to let it go, but the truck remained parked, Link making no move to begin driving again.

The two sat in the darkness, neither speaking, for what seemed like an eternity but was really less than five minutes. Rhett’s tears were finally drying up for good, and he lifted his head to rest on his hand while he resumed his position looking out the window, trying to wipe the remaining moisture from his face. The quiet atmosphere was suddenly broken when Link whispered something so quietly Rhett couldn’t tell if he dreamed it or not. Looking over at the boy confirmed he had in fact not been hearing things, because Link was hunched over, picking at the skin of his fingers, his head turned to look up at Rhett with shiny eyes.

“Am I the reason you’re so upset?” He looked like a puppy who had just been kicked across a room.

“Why would you think that? No!” Rhett immediately exclaimed, followed by, “Well, not entirely, I guess.”

This statement only made Link cry harder, thinking he had somehow ruined a decade-long friendship. Rhett assured him it wasn’t anything bad, but he couldn’t believe him.

“If it’s not bad, then what is it?” he asked between sobs.

There was more silence in the truck until Rhett finally spoke.

“Link, I missed the shot because-” he paused to take a deep breath, “-because I was thinking about you. I-I like you, Link.”

Link laughed a little, a choked sound because of his tears. “Of course you do, man. We’re best friends, we can’t hate each other.”

“No, Link. Like, you know how I can’t keep a girlfriend? It’s not because I’m not trying, it’s because I can’t think of them like that. In that way. Those girls just don’t do it for me, not when I see you every day of my life.”

“Wha-what are you talking about, Rhett?” Link stuttered out, voice shaky, staring straight at his friend.

Trying to avoid looking at Link, instead playing with the fabric belt across his lap, Rhett finally muttered, “I like you, Link, the way I’m supposed to like girls. I understand if you don’t want to ever see me again.” He unbuckled his seatbelt and reached for the handle to open the door. “I can walk the rest of the way,” he stated, sounding utterly defeated.
He was stopped by a hand grabbing his arm.

“No, Rhett, please don’t go.” Link almost whispered to the other, keeping his hand firmly around the larger boy’s forearm.

“But don’t you hate me now?”

“Rhett, I could never hate you. And besides, why do you think I’ve been single for so long?”

“Are you saying…” Rhett trailed off.

“Yes.” Link stated simply, leaning over on the seat and pressing his lips against Rhett’s.

The action took Rhett by surprise, but he didn’t pull away. Instead he slid himself over until he was pressing Link’s small body against the metal door, hands firmly on his shoulders.

Finally, the kiss was broken, only to give the two space to breathe. Faces still only inches apart, Rhett breathily asked his next question.

“Do you want to sleep over tonight? We don’t have school tomorrow, and I’m not ready to just let you go home alone.”

~~~~~~~~~

They agreed to call Link’s mom when they got to the McLaughlin house, and since she told Link he could stay, Diane set up some pillows and blankets on the floor of Rhett’s room for Link to sleep on. For some reason, he felt that he wouldn’t be using those too much. The two boys, after eating sandwiches for dinner, spent the next few hours talking and goofing around, seemingly forgetting all about what happened back in the truck.

Around 10, Rhett got up to go to the bathroom and change into his pajamas. When he came back, Link reminded him he didn’t have any other clothes to wear to bed.

“I don’t want to sleep in my jeans, man, and it’s too cold out for just boxers.”

Rhett gave him an old pair of pajama pants to put on, and although they technically fit, the pants dragged on the floor and hung low on Link’s thin waist. After Rhett’s parents declared they were heading to bed, Link turned off the light, leaving only the bedside lamp to illuminate the room.

Rhett took his shirt off and flung it over a chair in the corner before climbing onto his bed and getting comfortable. He rolled onto his side and looked at Link, who was still standing in the middle of the small room. After noticing that Rhett was patting the bed beside him, Link too pulled off his shirt and crawled under the covers, snuggling up to Rhett’s warm body.

The two boys lay facing each other, Link already half asleep and Rhett staring at Link, wondering how someone could be so perfect. Finally the taller boy sighed, causing the other to open his eyes.

“I don’t even care about the game, Link. This was the best day of my life.”

“Mine too, Rhett, mine too.” Link sleepily replied, taken by surprise when Rhett connected their lips once again. He slowly moved one hand to the back of Link’s neck and the other to rest on his lower back, keeping the smaller of the two pressed tightly into him. He begins to rub patterns onto Link’s back with his fingers, making the boy giggle and break the kiss.

“It tickles!” he exclaimed, squirming in Rhett’s arms. He tickled Rhett’s sides and soon they were having a full-blown tickle fight, made even more humorous by the fact they had to be almost silent because Rhett’s parents were sleeping.

The fight only ended when Link felt his body being pressed into the mattress by a large weight.

“Oh no,” he whispered, rolling his eyes.

“I’m dead.”

“No! Come on man!”

“I’m dead.”

“Get off!” Link giggled, not really in serious pain.

“Can’t, I’m dead.”

“Fine,” Link finally decided to give in and let his body go limp under Rhett’s. It was pretty warm and cozy, after all.

Eventually the taller boy rolled off and settled for wrapping his arms around Link’s torso. Link laid his head on Rhett’s chest, the two friends, as close as ever, fitting perfectly together. Both fell asleep, smiles permanently painted on their faces.