My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time;
they are indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and disloyal,
so that no one trusts me. I am always looking away.
Or again at something after it has given me up.
— Frank O’Hara
Mac is a sucker for kissing.
(Dennis should have known that after the first time, when they were sixteen and drunk and making out in Charlie’s basement. Dennis had been merely fooling around, trying to see whether his charms would work on a repressed Catholic kid — but Mac was so eager, so pathetically into it that Dennis freaked. He could picture the situation spinning out of control, them doing something dangerous and irreversible, the whole school knowing and judging for years afterwards. Gay above the waist was one thing — some girls were into that shit, actually, or so Dennis had heard — but gay below the waist was a reputational disaster of ungodly proportions.)
(And, Jesus, Mac would be just the type to rat him out for social capital. Which is why Dennis nipped that session in the bud and got himself a girlfriend the next week.)
Anyway, kissing is the easiest way to get Mac distracted, and that’s the reason for Dennis’s current involvement in said activity. Like Julius Caesar so many centuries ago, he’s multitasking — jerking Mac off, trying not to blow his load, kissing, and thinking. His brain is in full-on overdrive mode, calculating whether this… predicament is a blessing or a disaster, whether it will upset their dynamic or improve upon it. He can’t help but open his eyes every once in a while to get a better read on the situation, only to be confronted with Mac’s mug, way too close for comfort and wearing a mildly alarming expression of dopey bliss.
Dennis honestly never understood the appeal of sucking face, but if this works for Mac, so be it. He fists Mac’s dick with a little more vigor, feels Mac try and match the tempo. They keep bumping arms on the downstroke. Also, Dennis’s hand is cramping, and he’s growing less and less coordinated. His fallible body cannot keep up with his superior brain; it’s betraying him in so many different ways, but he’ll be damned if that stops him. Not here, not now, not when he finally has Mac at his complete and utter mercy. Mac, who has stopped with the kissing and is now panting into Dennis’s neck.
(The entirety of this situation is Mac’s fault. They’d been watching a movie with a lengthy, classy, juicy dong-hanging scene and they both got way too interested. That got them into an argument over which one of them was more of a homo, and the only way to arrive at a definitive answer was to jack each other off and see who’d come first, thus becoming, as Mac explained, “the more gay one.”)
This is not a fact that needed further proof, but Mac is the more gay one (the only gay one, rather). He stills and spills into Dennis’s hand, face buried in Dennis’s neck. The victory is marred by the small fact that Dennis now has to sit and wait for Mac to finish him off, with Mac’s jizz on his palm and no tissues visible in the vicinity. Fantastic.
“Well,” Dennis says, trying to get his breathing back to normal. “I think that settles it. One of us is an open-minded, sexually experienced adult and one is a gay guy with the self-control of a teenager.” He jabs Mac in the ribs with the hand that’s still clean. “You have to get me off, like, now.”
Mac laughs, a braying, unpleasant sound. “Uh, no thanks, bro. You do it, if you’re so experienced.” He stands up, stretches, grins. “Looks like I’m not the loser after all.”
And he darts out of range before Dennis can wipe his hand on Mac’s shirt.
It’s their monthly dinner night and Mac is being a stubborn bastard.
“Bro, I don’t want to wear the slacks. They are, like, way too tight. All the homos will be staring at my ass and then they will — ravish me and tell me I’d been asking for it. All cause I was dressed like a slut.”
Dennis bites back the instinctive retorts — that Mac is, in fact, kinda slutty, and also watches way too much gay gangbang porn — and tries to play the role of a protective date. Friend. Partner. Whatever.
“I swear on my Range Rover that I will safeguard your virtue from any, and all, “homos” who will attempt to “ravish” you. Your formless, ancient, disgusting pants may indeed scare them away, but they will also fail to be popular with the ladies. Unless, maybe, you’re not interested in picking up chicks?” Dennis tries not to laugh. Mac and chicks, there’s a thought. “Cause if you are looking to get laid, I tell you, the slacks are the way to go.”
Mac is nodding now, thoughtful. “Okay, okay. I see what you mean. There’s nothing really gay about asses, right? Chicks have asses, too.” He shucks off the offending pants (treating Dennis to a view of lean, nicely muscled legs), drags the slacks on, twists around a bit to check out how they sit on him.
“You look really good, Mac.”
“I do?” Mac puffs his chest out, runs a nervous hand through his hair, laughs.
“Oh yeah, baby boy. I’m telling you, I’d totally tap that,” Dennis says. He’s not lying; it’s unfair how sexy post-ephedra Mac is, when all he does is eat junk food and drink cheap beer. Dennis is way more considerate about his diet, yet he’s the one who’s soft around the stomach. He’s actually starting to regret his insistence on getting Mac dressed up; he can already imagine how sallow and unfit he will look next to his roommate when they go out, how pitiful and unattractive.
Mac, meanwhile, is blushing a furious shade of crimson. “You would? Tap this?” He gestures vaguely at himself. His ears are red. Dennis guesses Mac’s chest is flushed, too, and he’s probably hot under the collar, maybe even chubbing up a bit. God, but he’s so easy.
Well, it’s not like Dennis is much better. The entire dinner he daydreams about having Mac for dessert later in the evening, naked and leaking and desperate under him. He plies Mac with wine, laughs at all of his terrible jokes, touches him on the shoulder, the elbow, the cheek, tries not to fume when he openly flirts with the waiter. By the time they leave, Mac is relaxed and brimming with affection, wrapping himself around Dennis like a grabby octopus, smacking wet kisses onto Dennis’s cheek. The sloppy manhandling would be annoying if it were anyone else, but this is Mac, and Dennis is — charmed, chest tight with an emotion he doesn’t want to examine too closely.
Once they stumble into their apartment, it feels like the most natural thing in the world to press Mac against the wall and kiss him again and again. Mac makes tiny whimpering noises, hands fluttering uselessly before settling on Dennis’s ass and tugging him closer. Mac’s already half-hard, just from this, which at his age is frankly embarrassing. Dennis could probably make him come in his pants, but he’s not really feeling it today; they’ve had a fantastic evening, and he wants things to be good for Mac, if only this once.
He pulls away, and Mac tries to chase his lips. Typical Mac, settling for sappy, childish stuff like kisses when he could be having — something better. “Stay here,” Dennis orders, putting a hand on Mac’s chest. “Don’t move.” Mac looks at him, dazed, blinking slowly, eyes heavy-lidded. Maybe he’s more drunk than Dennis thought. Oh well. Mac has never fallen victim to whiskey dick, and that’s all that matters right now.
Dennis fishes the wallet out of his jacket, rummages in it, pulls out a condom. This, finally, gets him a reaction. “Bro, no,” Mac protests feebly. “You know the Church says…”
“Mac,” Dennis says. Sometimes he marvels at himself, how he can have the patience of a saint when dealing with shit like this day in and day out. “The Church can suck my dick. Or your dick, in this case. Save me all the trouble. Actually, you know what? The Church says no blowjobs, so.” Mac seems to be processing all this new and vital information. Dennis sighs. “Dude, I know you have ten thousand STDs. My mouth is not going anywhere near your diseased dick without this.”
There are splotches of color on Mac’s cheeks: humiliation or arousal, probably both. “Okay,” he huffs. “Okay, fine, whatever. Just — please.” He won’t meet Dennis’s eyes, but he’s still standing by the wall as instructed, and he hasn’t touched himself, hasn’t pushed the slacks and boxers down.
Dennis does that for him, noting how there’s a wet spot on Mac’s underwear, already. Fucking ridiculous. He kneels before Mac, rolls the condom on. His head is buzzing. Looks like he did misjudge the quantity of wine after all.
Dennis wraps a loose hand around the base of Mac’s dick, tries not to cringe at the smell of latex and just goes to town. He builds up a steady rhythm from the get-go, skips all the teasing and the fancy tricks; it’s not like Mac should be all that hard to impress. Plus, it’s a good idea to save something for next time. Anyway, tricks or no tricks, Dennis is really good at sucking cock; at college, nobody ever complained, even if they did later call him names behind his back. Hypocrites.
Whatever. He’s not thinking about terrible college sex, not when he has his best friend coming undone under his ministrations. Mac’s trying to remain still, like Dennis ordered, but his hips keep giving involuntary, shallow thrusts. One of his hands has come to rest in Dennis’s hair, not pushing or pulling, just there.
Dennis palms the swell of Mac’s ass and gives it a squeeze. It’s nice and firm, with a bit of a jiggle to it — fun to touch, doubly so when Mac responds with a full-body shudder and a bit-off groan. This reaction gives Dennis an idea, the sort of thing he probably wouldn’t try if he wasn’t buzzed and riding a massive ego-trip high: he sneaks his fingers into Mac’s crack, finds the pucker and strokes it, then pushes one finger in, experimentally.
He’s not actually expecting Mac to come from that, but then again, Mac has always been full of surprises. Unpleasant ones, mainly.
Dennis pulls off. Above him, Mac is wide-eyed and shame-faced. “Oh fuck, bro, I’m so sorry. This was not smooth. Not cool at all.” Mac buries his face in his hands, slides down the wall till he’s sitting bare-assed on the floor, slacks and boxers still somewhere around his knees. “Can we try this again later? I swear I’m not always this quick. But, like, you can’t blame me. You’re way too good.” Mac’s tone turns accusing. “Really good. It’s like you go down on guys all the time.” He gives Dennis a stink-eye from between his fingers.
Dennis grimaces. His sex life is in no way Mac’s concern, and he’s not the one sneaking off to The Rainbow all the time for a quickie. But because Dennis is a generous, magnanimous god, he chooses to disregard nearly everything Mac has said. “Yeah, we can do this again.”
Mac uncovers his face. “Really?” His eyes look a little damp at the corners. “I’m not gay though. Just so you know.”
Dennis shrugs. “I know. A mouth is a mouth. Chicks give head.” But with a lot less enthusiasm, he adds mentally. He doesn’t want to argue with Mac. He wants this conversation to be over so that he can lock himself in the bedroom and pull one off. Blowing Mac definitely got him all... enthusiastic.
Mac notices. “Dude,” he crows, incredulous. “Do you have a boner right now?” He erupts into laughter, clearly delighted. “Dude, you totally do! My dick was just that good, huh?”
“The absolute best — look, can we just admit we both enjoyed this? And help me out instead of laughing like a jerk.”
“Yeah, okay.” Mac’s grin is huge and mischievous. “I could help. Yeah, I’mma save you with my magic dick.”
“I don’t need any more of your dick today. Magic mouth is fine by me.”
“Sure, sure. But I’m not gay.”
“Yeah, good. Neither am I.”
Mac is finally standing up, discarding the condom, getting dressed. He’s still running his mouth, the mouth that should have been on Dennis’s dick already. “Guys in the army do this all the time and they’re not gay. They are real full-blooded American heroes.”
“I know, Mac.”
“Also, guys in prisons. Not heroes, but definitely badass.”
“I, um.” Mac hesitates. He’s blushing again. “You know, what you did with your finger? I liked it.”
“I could tell,” Dennis says drily. His patience is running thin, erection flagging where he’s taken it out. The mood’s not helped by the contemplative way Mac’s been looking at it, less like he’s turned on and more like he’s running Dennis Junior through a ranking system.
“Except I’m not gay.”
Mac’s continued denial is a game both of them play remarkably well. Their list of things that aren’t gay grows larger day by day. Dennis is sure he can eventually convince Mac that taking it up the ass isn’t gay, either, because only a real macho dude would be okay with the stretch and the discomfort.
As if reading his mind, Mac drones on. “Carmen told me tons of guys like butt stuff. Not just the homos. Straight guys, too. But most of them aren’t man enough to admit it.”
Dennis tries not to think about what Mac and Carmen did together in bed, to have had talks like that. (Thin, fit, confident Carmen. Carmen who used to have, according to Mac, a fantastic dick and perfectly symmetrical balls).
“Yeah, Mac, you’re man enough, not gay — whatever, suck me off, goddammit.”
One condom and two avowals of straightness later, Mac obliges. The visits to The Rainbow have evidently been in vain, because there’s zero finesse to his technique: he’s not timing the motions of his hand and mouth too well, and definitely overdoing it with the drooling. Inexplicably, Dennis finds that hot. If he doesn’t look down, he can try and put a different face to all that excess energy and saliva, pretend it’s some big-breasted chick like Jackie Denardo sucking him off.
If he does look down, he’s treated to the sight of his best friend down on his knees, pink-cheeked and looking entirely too smug for someone with a dick in his mouth. And yeah, okay, Dennis can work with that. The Jackie Denardo fantasies will wait.
Dennis’s favorite thing about a night spent drinking is the morning after, when he wakes up loose-limbed and slightly hungover, head heavy but brain quiet, the world around him muted, comforting, soft around the edges. Mac, who drinks less because he’s a lightweight, typically makes them breakfast: eggs (sunny-side up), bacon, maybe some French toast. It’s the sort of greasy diner food that Dennis wouldn’t normally touch, but on these mornings, he gives himself a pass: Mac has told him time after time that they need to restock on fuels after drinking, that it’s biology and common sense, and Dennis is inclined to believe him.
Today, they eat in contented silence. Mac is smiling around his cup of coffee, body language radiating happiness, hair mercifully devoid of product. It looks soft and fluffy, and Dennis wonders what it would be like to reach over and ruffle it, just like that.
The night before, they’d been so tired and wasted that they passed out on Dennis’s bed in the midst of some half-hearted groping. In the quiet of the day, with the sunlight hitting Mac just so, Dennis can feel the sharp pangs of a wasted opportunity.
They are both too groggy and lazy to do anything after breakfast except sink into the couch. Mac brings them beers from the fridge (“Hair of the dog,” he mutters) and sags, warm and heavy, into Dennis’s side. It’s so cozy and domestic that Dennis feels an irrational amount of optimism at the sudden thought of getting a little more physical right here, right now.
He slings an arm around Mac’s shoulders, brushes his hand through the (indeed, delightfully fluffy) hair, rubs small circles behind Mac’s ear. Dennis tries to be very gentle and so very deliberate. A couple of minutes in, his ploy seems to be working: Mac’s breathing has become uneven, the hitches in it obvious. I’m doing this, Dennis thinks gleefully when Mac gives a particularly audible swallow. And I’m not even anywhere near his dick.
Mac is so responsive that it’s actually turning Dennis on. He feels hot all over, and while he started this... seduction on a whim, he now realizes he really, really wants Mac to reciprocate. Fuck, he’d settle for a half-assed handjob, even. But for that to happen, he needs Mac to do some work and not simply sit there and take it.
To speed things along, he moves his hand to Mac’s bare thigh and slides the fingers up, up, up. This feels like high school all over again, trying to get some stuck-up prude worked up enough to agree to second, third base. Dennis never really liked foreplay, but it’s a strategically sound move where sex is concerned, and for Mac, he’s willing to make the effort.
Mac, for his part, leans even further into Dennis, tucks his head under Dennis’s chin, paws clumsily at Dennis’s dick. His eyes are shut tight, there’s a worried crease between his eyebrows, and his breathing is still weird.
Dennis feels irritated. He’s really trying here, with all the touching and the nonsense, and the least Mac could do is look like he’s enjoying it. Dennis pushes the anger down, kisses the top of Mac’s head, whispers: “Hey, baby boy. You’re doing so good. Wanna move this to the bedroom?”
Mac is ridiculous about praise — so needy, so greedy for scraps of affection and approval, ever since their high school days — and the words seem to break his defenses down. “Okay,” he murmurs into the crook of Dennis’s neck, so quiet that Dennis feels rather than hears it.
Mac giving in like this is — big. Momentous. It should feel like victory. Instead, Dennis suddenly feels like shit. Regret is already settling in his gut, all before they’ve done anything. They aren’t drunk enough for plausible deniability. There will be no convenient excuse to explain this away. This is nothing like their typical frantic fumbles in the dark. Not a crime of passion, not dudes being bros, not them getting caught in the heat of the moment. This is calculated, premeditated, fully consensual sex, give or take. The sort of thing adults do when they are together-together.
It’s still too early in the day, and the sunlight that floods the bedroom does nothing to hide Dennis’s physical imperfections and Mac’s near-panicked state. Both of them are in their breakfast attire of boxers and bathrobes and neither makes any move to undress. Dennis tries to remember whether he weighed more or less when they last had sex. He doesn’t think he will survive it if Mac gets disgusted at his love handles.
Mac seems anything but disgusted. His hands tremble where he's fumbling with the bathrobe belt. He looks reverent and terrified all at once. He looks all set to go through with this. Miraculously, unexpectedly, finally, he’s going to give himself to Dennis on a silver platter.
Just like in a vampire story, things that looked okay in the comfort of the dark turn to ash once light hits them. Dennis wanted a fun, convenient, uncomplicated fuck. Not — this. Not Mac smiling sheepishly, looking at him with such tenderness. Dennis can see naked devotion and gratitude written all over Mac’s face. He’s pretty certain Mac is seeing none of that reflected back.
Dennis’s black, black heart lurches wildly in his chest. He is drowning. He is sixteen again, kissing a soft-eyed, greasy-haired, ridiculous boy on a couch in Charlie’s basement (the first boy he kissed, the first kiss he liked; a glorious explosion of Technicolor in a world of drab greys, dizzying, sickening, overwhelming.)
He’s twenty-three, offering that same boy to share an apartment with him; thirty-one and rolling his eyes at a love confession, thirty-six and avoiding PDAs. All this time, he thought he was standing on the edge of a precipice, hyper-aware of the danger awaiting him. The truth is that he’s long run off the cliff and there’s nothing but air beneath his feet, a split second left until gravity kicks in and he plummets to his death.
This thing they are going to do (are doing, have done) is too real, too human, too much to handle. Dennis feels everything. Dennis feels nothing. He is a dump of toxic waste, and Mac will touch him and get sucked in. He’s an empty void, a trick of the light, a mirage, and Mac will simply pass through him if he reaches out. If Mac comes any closer, he will see that Dennis is fake, fake, fake, cold, heartless, entirely unfeeling. A walking corpse.
Mac will see that, and Mac will leave, and Dennis can’t let that happen. He needs to play his cards right, to spin this to his advantage. Deep down, he knows that Mac only hangs around because Dennis has been dangling an unspoken promise of more more more before Mac’s nose since the very first day they met. As long as they exist in a weird grey area, as long he keeps Mac waiting and wanting, there will be something that makes Mac stay.
At any rate, he’s being too neurotic about this. It’s all good, all according to plan, and he did want this five, ten minutes ago. He doesn’t need to feel jack shit, doesn’t need to think except with his dick, doesn’t need to do anything but diligently copy Mac’s touches and kisses.
It’s not a whole lot of work, allowing a natural disaster to run its course.
“Dennis,” Mac mumbles, nuzzling into his neck. “I love you”.
That’s it. That kills the mood completely. Whatever afterglow Dennis felt is dead and buried and already decomposing, all thanks to those three words. Trust Mac to be so stupid, irrational, hotheaded, to ruin everything so thoroughly with his lack of brains.
Dennis can feel Mac’s frantic heartbeat from where he’s plastered to Dennis’s back. He is clearly scared shitless, as he should be. How dare Mac bring love — “love” — into this? When he can’t admit he’s gay, when he can’t offer anything Dennis can’t find elsewhere, when he knows that Dennis doesn’t have feelings? Why does he have to say it out loud, as if Dennis was blind and had never noticed for himself? How dare he expect any reciprocation, any reaction other than anger, when they’re not even in a relationship?
How is he stupid enough to ask for anything extra, when Dennis is already giving him more than he deserves?
Dennis counts in his head, one two three. He extricates himself from Mac’s embrace, stands up, moves toward the bathroom.
“I’m gonna wash up again,” he says. “I think I didn’t get it all off the first time.” There’s still a chance to salvage this situation. He will pretend he hasn’t heard anything, and they will go on as usual.
“Aren’t — aren’t you gonna say it back?” Mac says in a small voice.
His expression is open and unguarded; eyes sad, bottomless, pleading. He looks young, lost, weak. And Dennis hates weakness.
Dennis’s chest constricts. In the dark gaping hole where his feelings used to live something stirs, dark and ugly, completely devoid of mercy.
“No, Mac”, the beast hisses, in Dennis’s voice. “I’m not gonna say it back. Even someone as irredeemably stupid and deluded as you has to know that these are big fucking words. You don’t just throw them around. You have to mean them. So I’m gonna say them to my wife, when I have a wife. Or to my billionaire boyfriend, or to Chase Utley, or whoever. I’m not gonna waste them on a pathetic, worthless, PIECE OF SHIT CLOSET CASE! GOD!”
Dennis darts into the bathroom and slams the door behind him, and then he turns on the faucet and sobs.
Yeah, Dennis hates feelings.
He still lets Mac sleep in his bed, sometimes. Especially now, in the winter, when their heating is shot to shit and the apartment is freezing like the Ninth Circle of Hell.
They fight all the time during day hours, but at night, they slot together perfectly. In bed, Mac’s weight is warm and familiar and comforting next to Dennis. This is what Mac has become to him. A warm body. Dennis is not sure when it all went south, when one of the few good things in his life turned so twisted and corrupted, when Mac went from best friend to main irritant.
There are nights when Dennis can’t fall asleep, not even with Mac spooning him from behind. Mac, of course, is always out like a light the moment they’re done banging. He is a man of simple needs. Outside of his prolonged sexuality crisis, he’s probably never had much in terms of internal conflict. He has no dreams, no ambitions, no troubling thoughts to keep him tossing and turning in the night. He could probably be content with what they have. He’s steadfast and predictable in his affections, even when Dennis hurts and belittles him.
Dennis should have known a fuckbuddy situation could never work for them. This is precisely what the D.E.N.N.I.S. system is for, to avoid shit like this. Well, it’s definitely too late for Step 6 now; he and Mac look to be stuck together forever, like a pair of conjoined twins or something equally abhorrent. The system is in dire need of editing. Step zero: don’t get attached to your drug dealer.
Dennis stares at the ceiling and thinks about the future, the way he and Mac could grow old together just like this — drinking, marathoning action movies, running scams, having sex. The mental picture of them thirty, forty years on, grey-haired and wrinkly, trying to coax each other’s dicks to life on this same bed... it’s sickening. There’s nothing spectacular about building a life together with your high school weed guy, the only person needy and stupid enough to spread his legs for you regularly with no complaint. It’s a setup that reeks of desperation from both parties involved.
Maybe, a tiny voice within Dennis says, this is the best you’re ever going to get.
He waves the thought away.
Sleep doesn’t come until morning.