Having spoken simultaneously, both men abruptly fell silent. Ryan toed the crumpled blankets scattered on the carpeted floor around the couch. Sunlight shone bright through the window blinds, illuminating the room amply. It was afternoon by now; their phones lay on the table, notifications long ignored from the night before. A pair of console controllers were abandoned in front of the T.V., neighbored by the culprit of the current unease of the situation: empty glass bottles from the night before. Ryan hadn’t laid a hand on them, but Jeremy absolutely had.
“Fuck, uh- you go first,” Jeremy said haltingly. Ryan cleared his throat and fiddled with the thread unraveling in the stitch of the pillow he’d been sleeping on.
“I’m sorry,” Ryan blurted out. “I shouldn’t have let you- you were drunk, and-”
Jeremy held up a hand and smiled uneasily. “Dude. Calm down. It’s not like we had sex or anything, right? Unless you’re not filling in everything from my memory gaps.” He stared pointedly at Ryan.
“Right. It never got that far.” That was completely honest.
“It was just a kiss, right?” Jeremy pressed. Ryan gulped, intimately aware of Jeremy’s presence distractingly close.
“Right. But still- You were probably just joking around, and I took it too seriously for a bit,” Ryan said, sighing heavily. His gaze shifted to Jeremy’s eyes, which were nerve-wrackingly unreadable. “How much do you remember?”
A frown crossed Jeremy’s face, and his expression looked far away. “We… we were playing Siege. I had a shot every time we won a match. I was having a really good time, and at some point we stopped playing, and… That’s all I remember. Clearly, at least.”
Ryan nodded. “You were very drunk at the end of it. So you, uh- you started getting really affectionate, which isn’t that weird. I know you’re like that around some people.” Ryan squeezed his eyes shut, trying to leap over the mental hurdle that was embarrassment. “You kissed me, and it was late at night, and I was sleepy and wasn’t thinking very clearly, and I got too into it and kissed back and it was sort of making out and I’m sorry-”
Jeremy was touching his fingers to his lips, and his brows were screwed together in concentration. “Shut up for a sec, Ry.”
Ryan clamped his mouth shut, thoughts running in overdrive. He desperately wished the situation would be resolved and over with, and they could get back to their regular Battle Buddies dynamic. He’d been nursing his crush on Jeremy for months now, having realized it after years of close friendship. However, even after he realized, he vowed not to let it get in the way of the already wonderful friendship they had. The last thing he wanted to do was make everything awkward and drive Jeremy away, and here he was right now doing just that because he had to blab about the truth of a kiss that was probably a joke from his drunk best friend.
“Wh- huh?” Ryan said, thoughts scattering to the wind besides a vague feeling of anxiety.
“Why’d you kiss back?” Jeremy said simply, his tone sounding like he already knew the answer. Fuck.
“I…” Ryan sighed, resolving himself to an uncomfortable conversation and a hopefully positive outcome in which he hadn’t messed up their entire friendship. He spoke carefully. “I caught feelings. I know- it’s some cliche ‘fall in love with your best friend’ thing, but I couldn’t help myself. I really enjoy all the time I spend with you. A lot. But- uh- I never expected anything more than what we’ve got! I’m completely okay with how we are, being friends is more than enough and I don’t want to make things any more--”
A hand went up, and Ryan took it as the cue that Jeremy was going to speak. “Ryan. First things first- I’m sober right now. You see me? Sober Jeremy here.”
Jeremy’s eyes were focused and clear, and Ryan nodded.
“There’s a thing you gotta know about Drunk Jeremy. Two things, actually. One: Drunk Jeremy is a lot dumber than Sober Jeremy, so he doesn’t watch what he says or does as much.”
Ryan bit the inside of his cheek, quashing any unhelpful, intrusive ideas that Jeremy would magically admit feelings for him back. This wasn’t a movie, for fuck’s sake. He was under the impression the other man was straight, anyway.
“Two,” Jeremy continued. “Drunk Jeremy is a bad liar. Drunk Jeremy likes to tell the truth. And yes, that includes actions.”
It felt like the cogs in Ryan’s head stopped moving, and he couldn’t do anything but stare blankly at his friend like a goddamn moron.
“Wuh?” Ryan managed. How eloquent, a small, remaining rational part in the back of Ryan’s head commented. Jeremy bunched up a pillow between his arms, and scooted closer to Ryan.
“Come on, man. Just…” Jeremy paused, struggling to find the right words. Rather than speaking, he instead reached to grab both of his friend’s hands before Ryan could react. A hot blush creeped up Ryan’s neck to his cheeks, and he vaguely hoped that his fair skin didn’t betray him in making it starkly visible. Jeremy leaned in, and the look he gave Ryan pierced him to his very core. His mind blanked completely, and he felt like it was last night again, except Jeremy’s eyes were focused and determined and reaching his damn soul.
“What I’m trying to say is I meant it, buddy,” Jeremy said quietly, and he closed the distance between their mouths.
Ryan froze, as if his body briefly forgot how to be a human. His stiffness must have been offputting for Jeremy, because the other man began to draw away. Just in time, Ryan’s arms reached up to pull him back in, and he tilted his head to return the kiss. Jeremy sighed into the kiss and likewise pulled Ryan closer to him. The soft, warm touch of their lips against each other offset the drag of stubble and facial hair along each man’s jaw, creating a strangely pleasant dichotomy of sensation. Ryan’s brain was short-circuiting, but that hardly mattered when his heart felt like it was soaring in his chest and his body felt charged with electricity. While last night’s kiss had been exhilarating in its spontaneity and admitted sloppiness, the kiss now felt tender, yet wanting, and even with half a brain working Ryan felt the kiss spoke what a thousand words couldn’t.
Finally, the two broke apart to breathe properly, and a wild grin was sprawled across Jeremy’s features, his eyes sparkling. “God, we’re idiots,” he breathed, and he rested his head on Ryan’s chest.
“No kidding,” Ryan said, gingerly wrapping his arms around Jeremy before settling comfortably. “We could’ve been doing that this whole time?”
“Guess so. And to think it took Drunk Jeremy to fucking make the first move,” Jeremy groaned, burying his face in Ryan’s shirt. “Ryan, pal. You smell nice.”
The wide smile on Ryan’s face didn’t even slip, and he hummed. “Well, good, I better! I’ve spent years finding the perfect laundry detergent.”
Jeremy snorted. “Of course you would.”
The moment of quiet that followed was so immensely different from the silence of mere minutes ago that Ryan felt like he was floating in clouds from the relief in his chest. He waited any moment for the dream to pop, for the joke to end, and for the perfect outcome to turn out to be yet another fantasy. But it didn’t end.
“Why were you so nervous about it, anyway?” Jeremy wondered. “You weren’t even the one to start it, drunk or not, and it was just a kiss. We do that shit all the time with coworkers.”
Ryan turned his attention to the popcorn ceiling. “It’s a bit different when it’s just two of you at an apartment, without any cameras or incentive to do it for the content or anything. And when you’re completely sober and the other guy is almost blackout drunk. And I thought-” Ryan stopped and faked a cough.
Jeremy twisted around to look at Ryan. “You thought what?”
“I thought you were straight,” Ryan mumbled. Jeremy stared for only a second before laughing it off.
“Oh my god, dude. Is that really part of why you were so sorry about it? That’s fucking stupid, and also really sweet that you cared about that,” Jeremy added, smiling nervously as he added the last bit. “I’m bi, just so you know.”
“Huh. Me too,” Ryan said dumbly. “So is this a thing now?”
“Aw man, at least take me to dinner first! I thought you were a gentleman, Haywood,” Jeremy joked.
“Oh, I will,” Ryan said seriously, and he saw Jeremy redden slightly. “How about steak, next Friday?”
“Ohh, you motherfucker, you already know the way to my heart. It’s a date. And, Ryan?”
“Yeah?” Ryan asked.
“You said earlier that you ‘fell in love with your best friend.’ Is that… is that true too?” Jeremy said carefully, keeping his tone light. Ryan bit his lip and squeezed Jeremy’s hand.
“Yeah,” Ryan whispered. “I meant that, too.”