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baby, be gentle (it's my first time)

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Never in his life has Jared been kissed. Almost seventeen years on this bitch of an earth and the most he's gotten is pecks on the forehead from his mother, expressions of sentiment that he grimaces at despite being starved for touch. The issue comes to a head on a Thursday afternoon as he and Evan sit on his bedroom floor, poring over their Geometry textbooks- Evan had called an emergency study session for the test the next day.

Things are getting uncomfortable. For one, Jared's painfully aware of the soft pressure of Evan's knee against his, like his entire being has been narrowed down to the half inch where they're not even in skin-to-skin contact. For another, Evan's biting his lip with this concerned look on his face, and all Jared wants is to kiss him, tell him that the answer is five pi- but he can't. Unless. Unless.

Even though he knows the answer- if he can't get kissed, then Evan probably can't, either- Jared clears his throat and asks, “Um. Hey, Evan?”

Evan's face relaxes slightly as he glances up at Jared. “Yeah, what is it?” he asks in return.

“Ah. Have you ever, like…” Oh, this is so fucking stupid. Who asks this shit? “It's nothing, actually.”

Evan fixes him with a flat stare. “You're always getting on my case for doing that. What were you going to say?” Possibly in a display of seriousness, he closes his textbook, using his green notebook as a bookmark of sorts.

Jared gives him an equally flat stare, but he can’t keep it up for too long- Evan’s eyes are too pretty. Damn him and his homosexual tendencies. “It’s stupid, seriously. You don’t wanna hear it.”

“Well, now I wanna hear it even more.” Evan places an elbow on his knee- the same knee that’s touching Jared’s- and rests his chin in his hand. “C’mon, Jared.”

Ugh, those stupid puppy eyes. Jared’s not certain if they’re on purpose or if that’s just the look Evan always has- he does look rather like a kicked dog sometimes, so it’s all too fitting- but they get him anyway. He clears his throat, runs a hand through his hair. “I was just gonna ask if you’ve ever kissed anyone.”

Evan snorts, and it’s clear that he’s trying to feign nonchalance, but his cheeks are tinged the slightest shade of pink at the question. “You know the answer to that.” He scratches his cheek and looks away.

Shit, he didn’t mean to embarrass him. It is sorta cute to see him blush, but there’s this little niggling sense of guilt every time he pokes fun at him or whatever. “Well, I dunno,” Jared says, “maybe you kissed someone and didn’t tell me about it. I mean, surely you’ve got other friends.” Oh, dammit, what’s he doing?

Evan shrugs, shoulders nearly going up to his ears, and says, “Not really.”

All Jared can do is say, “Oh,” and resume studying.

It’s nearly ten minutes later when Evan speaks up. “So, um…” He bites the inside of his cheek, then asks, “Why d’you ask?”

“Huh?” Jared asks back, though it’s not as if he’d said anything in the interim.

“I mean-” Evan inhales deeply. “I mean, why would you ask about the kissing thing? Like, you know I don’t- I’ve never, um, kissed anyone. So why ask? I thought you were going to brag, but…” He pauses, looks at Jared with a slight cock of his head. “But you didn’t.”

Jared leans back, balancing himself on outstretched palms, and says, “I was just curious.” What he wants to say is that he’s deathly in love with Evan and it’s about to kill him at any second, but he couldn’t possibly do that.

“Oh.” Evan licks his lips, which definitely doesn’t help Jared’s whole situation. “Um. What about you? Have you ever…?” His eyes dart around the room, and Jared can’t help but think fondly of it: leave it to Evan to not even be able to say the word kiss.

There are loads of things Jared could do right now. He could not answer. He could say “yeah, like, five times, loser”. Or he could tell the truth, and get what he really wants. He shakes his head, and, steeling himself, says, “No.”

“Oh,” Evan says again. “That… sucks?”

“Mm-hmm.” Jared glances down at the books, then back. “I was just wondering if you, y’know, knew what it felt like. But, if you don’t, then…”

“Yeah, no, I can’t help you,” Evan says, voice dwindling. Oh, shit, is this a sensitive topic? Jared’s done it again: pushed him too far, made him spiral.

“It’s okay,” he assures him, because he doesn’t want to fuck this up by being a dick. The whole thing is a charade anyway. He clears his throat and makes a valiant effort to look as confident as possible- jaw held high, chest puffed out slightly, shoulders squared- before asking, “Do you wanna figure it out?”

“Uh… yeah, of course I do,” Evan says, blinking. “Who doesn’t want to be kissed?” He squirms a little, adjusts the hem of his shirt. It’s pretty dorky, and Jared eats that shit up.

“I mean…” Jared sighs and rolls his eyes, attempting to bring some sort of control back to himself. “Do you wanna figure it out together. I mean, since neither of us is gonna get kissed anytime soon, probably. Summer camp isn’t for another two months.” As if he would get kissed at summer camp. The thought almost makes him laugh at himself.

Evan blinks once, twice, again; his lips are parted slightly, and it’s all Jared can do not to lean in and kiss the life out of him, answer or not. “I… um. I don’t- I didn’t know you’re gay,” he says, “or bi, or- or whatever.”

“Doesn’t have to be gay if you don’t want it to be,” Jared says, and shrugs. “I don’t think there’s any substantial biological difference between male and female lips.” It’s taking everything in him not to break character. Good God, this whole cocky persona thing he’s got going on is getting to be a hassle, but he can’t let down his walls now of all times.

“Uh. Okay. Um.” Evan is silent for almost an entire minute, and Jared’s got half a mind to shake him by the shoulder, ask him if he’s okay. Then, he answers. “...I think… well, that’s fine with me. If you wanted to kiss me.”

Jared rolls his eyes again. “I think you’re misunderstanding this concept,” he says. It physically hurts to do this and not tell Evan his real feelings, but if he knew, he would never agree to it. “It’s not like I’m dying to kiss you or some shit like that.” (Liar.) “I’m just saying, this is mutually beneficial.”

“Well, that’s fine, too. Whatever it is.” Evan bites down on his bottom lip and slowly lets it slide out of the grip of his teeth. Again, Jared finds himself unsure if Evan is trying to be as tantalizing as he is or if it’s just a coincidence that everything he does is simultaneously adorable and hot.

“Alright. Cool.” Jared’s mouth quirks up into a smile, but his face falls again as he realizes that he’s got no idea what on fuck’s green Earth he’s doing. He scans Evan’s face for a moment, coming back and back and back again to his lips, then sighs. “I’m just gonna… go for it.” He closes his eyes and leans in, and, miraculously, he doesn’t drop dead before his lips meet Evan’s.

He’d love to say that Evan tastes like… sandalwood and flowers and something uniquely Evan like in all those fanfics he used to read that helped him realize his sexuality, but it just sorta tastes like mouth. Still, Jared’s heart is pounding in his chest so hard he thinks it might give out, and it’s not made any easier when Evan places a hand on his shoulder. Oh, God, oh, fuck. This can’t be real. Sure, it doesn’t mean anything, but he’s actually for real kissing his giant gay crush: Evan Hansen.

Evan pulls away first, and Jared has to resist chasing his lips; instead, he opens his eyes to find Evan blushing furiously. “Well. That was- that was, uh, it was something,” he stammers out. “I mean, it wasn’t bad. You’re actually, um…”

“Damn good at kissing?” Jared finishes for him, as if he hasn’t gone red, too. “Of course I am. It’s the Kleinman charm.”

Evan rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling, and Jared’s not sure he could love him any more than he does in this moment. “Yeah, sure,” he says. “No, um… I mean, it wasn’t bad. Not that I have any frame of reference. Just… it was good.”

“Well. That’s… good.” Jared huffs out a laugh and runs a nervous hand through his hair. It drives a knife into his chest to say, but he does it anyway: “Now, let’s pretend that never happened.”

Evan’s smile slips into a nigh imperceptible frown for just the slightest moment before it turns back into a nervous upward curve. “What never happened?” he asks, and Jared’s heart nearly breaks.

“Nothing. Nothing happened at all.”



Evan’s not sure when Jared fell asleep, but when he glances away from the TV- turned to some random channel; he’s pretty sure the movie is called Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead- there he is, breathing slowly, head on his shoulder, hair brushing against Evan’s cheek. He’d just figured he was getting affectionate, but no, the guy’s out cold. So now his crush is lying on him. Great.

Normal people would be absolutely delighted by this. And, sure, Jared is nice and warm, and his hair is, like, unbearably soft. But Evan isn’t most people, and he is about to flip his shit. Should he wake him up? Should he leave him be? And how’s he supposed to deal with the warm feeling that’s creeping from his chest to his extremities, drawing a blush into his face? It’s uncomfortable, almost, no matter how much he relishes the touch.

Evan swallows. Okay, he can deal with this. He can! He just has to act natural, be himself- wait, no. That’s for social interactions. This is something else. This isn’t even an interaction- it’s not even anything, so why’s he making a big deal out of it? It’s just Jared. It’s just Jared. It’s just… the guy he’s had a crush on for half a year. Asleep on his arm.

Making a strenuous effort to tear his eyes away from Jared, Evan looks back up at the TV. It’s sort of a boring movie, not really his type- 90s movies never caught his attention very well. Slowly, carefully, Evan grabs his phone from the front left pocket of his khakis and navigates to Opera with one shaking thumb. Dont telmpm the babyysiters dead, he manages to type in- it’s hard to work with one hand- and finds that it got a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. No wonder. But, then again, 93% of people liked it, so he’s probably just a pretentious weirdo. Great.

He glances back at Jared.

Jared doesn’t move.

He stares at Jared.

Jared doesn’t move.

Wikihow to tel lsomeone u wnt to kiss them

Oh, God. Oh, God. What’s he doing? This is ridiculous. If he could only not overthink, if he could only act normal, if he could only ignore the way Jared’s warm breath puffs against against the crook of his neck-

But he can’t do any of those things. Evan sighs, resigned to the fact that this is his life from now until Jared wakes up.

He glances back at his phone. How to French Kiss. No. No- God, no. Call him a wuss, but Evan’s always been intimidated by the concept. Besides, who wants a tongue down their throat? Not him. How to tell your crush you like them. That’s closer. Evan skims through the article- be brave, hold yourself accountable, et cetera, et cetera. He’s never going to use it, can’t tell Jared about this stupid crush of his.

Except, what if he did?

Evan doesn’t particularly have any hope for the future. His family’s broke, so there’s no way he could go to NYU like he always wanted to- not that he has the grades to get in, because his fucked-up brain’s also got executive functioning problems, and when it’s past a deadline, he gets too nervous to ask for an extension, which means he doesn’t get one, obviously, that was so unnecessary to say-

Calm down. He needs to calm down, as Jared reminds him so often. Jared, who’s still asleep on his arm; Jared, who’s begun to snore; Jared, who’s the boy Evan’s been waiting for since he was a kid, and has just this year… found. And he can’t give up on that little bit of hope that glimmers there, that one singular positive voice in his head that says, maybe you mean something to him.

There’s so much he wants to do with him. Show him the state park where he’s interning, maybe, or go to a cute little restaurant together, or. Well. Plenty of things. He wants to do them all with Jared.

And then, Evan gets an awful idea. A truly terrible one. It’s not a sin to maybe kiss him on the crown of his head, right? It’s not like it’s on the lips. He’s not… sexually assaulting him or anything. He just needs to turn his head and pucker his lips. Easy-peasy. And it’s not like he hasn’t kissed Jared before- Jared was, in fact, his very first kiss, and still the only person he’s kissed to date. So it’s not like it’s that weird.

But, since Evan is an excellent self-saboteur, he needs to test some things first. If Jared wakes up during them, then, well, it wasn’t meant to be. First, he shrugs the shoulder Jared’s rested his head on. Jared’s head lolls a bit, but he doesn’t wake up; instead, he just frowns in his sleep. When his expression returns to normal, Evan clenches and unclenches his fist, almost hoping that Jared will wake up just so he won’t have to do what he so desperately wants to. But, he doesn’t, so Evan takes a deep breath in, sighs it out, and goes in for the kill.

Jared’s hair is softer than it looks- fluffy, even. It tickles Evan’s face, and he nearly sneezes on him, which is probably the least endearing thing he could possibly do, and would most certainly wake him up. He senses a strange urge to apologize for even having the thought. It’s weird, because he’s weird. Here he is, kissing a guy’s head while he’s passed out, like, is that not weird? Is he not a freak? Is he-

Jared stirs.

Evan freezes like a deer that’s wandered into a monster truck arena and has four different pairs of headlights trained on it. It’s that bad. He swallows in an attempt to ease the dryness of his mouth, but it doesn’t help.

“Hey,” Jared mumbles, and Evan’s heart lurches. “Did I pass out on your arm?”

“Uh. Just for a few minutes,” Evan says, though it felt more like an hour. “You didn’t miss much. It’s… not really a good movie.”

Jared adjusts his skewed glasses so they’re straight on his face and says, “Huh? Oh, yeah, that movie sucked. We shoulda watched Beetlejuice.”

“You always want to watch Beetlejuice,” Evan says, and actually manages a non-nervous laugh. Well, he’s still nervous, but his laugh isn’t. So, that’s progress. He dares to glance back at Jared, back to the boy he just kissed (like an idiot), and finds him staring at him. Actually, he might not be staring, but he’s definitely looking, which is also nerve-wracking. “Uh. What is it?”

“Nothing,” Jared says. “You’re just… you’re kinda shaking. You can’t be that nervous over this movie; it’s not even scary.” He snorts and leans back against the arm of the couch, and Evan finds that he misses the contact more than he can say, no matter anxiety-provoking it is.

“I’m not nervous,” he lies, and attempts to will himself into not shaking. It doesn’t work. “Just- we can watch Beetlejuice, it’s fine. I’ve just gotta, um, go to the bathroom.” Before Jared can get another word out, Evan stands up and vacates the room, speed-walking toward the bathroom.

He doesn’t actually have to piss, obviously. Well, he sort of does, but that’s not the point. Evan plants his palms on the vanity and stares at himself in the mirror. In a matter of moments, all his insecurities about his looks crush him- he looks like a cartoon character came to life but still had cartoon-y facial features. Ridiculous. Off-brand. He squeezes his eyes shut tight and takes in a deep breath, then lets it out in a shaking sigh.

When he’s feeling better, more stable, he opens his eyes and stares at his reflection again. He swallows once, twice, again; then, with tentative lips, mouths the thing he’s always wanted to say but never had an ounce of the guts:

I love you.




Jared’s not entirely on board with this whole party games thing, mostly because it’s way less fun without alcohol. Still, it’s their first sleepover in a long time (that’s what Evan calls it, anyway; it’s really just an overnight hangout, whatever), and if Evan wants to do party games, well. He’ll just have to grin and bear it, won’t he?

“Okay, truth or dare?” he asks, actually feeling comfortable in his feigned casual disinterest for once.

Evan’s got his back against the headboard of Jared’s bed, and he’s staring up at the ceiling; Jared can practically hear the gears turning. “Um… okay. Uh. Dare.”

Jared had sorta been hoping that Evan would say truth, because he’s far better at thinking of those, but whatever, a dare is still fun. He flops back against the mattress, grunting a little when he hits it, then says, “Dare you to… uh… eat cereal with ketchup in it.”

He smirks when Evan gags and says, “That’s disgusting! And a waste of food.”

“A waste of my food,” Jared corrects. “So it’s fine. Don’t even worry about it. I could give you a question, though, if that’s what you’d like…”

Evan groans and runs a hand through his hair; Jared tries and fails not to stare at how it fluffs up around his fingers, to not imagine what it’d be like to run his own hand through it.

“Fine,” Evan says, and slides out of bed, misery coming off of him in waves. “But you’re coming with me.”

Jared shrugs, though internally, he’s grateful for every second he gets to spend with Evan. He follows him downstairs like a shadow, not speaking until Evan asks, “Truth or dare?”

“Hm? Um, dare, I guess,” Jared answers. Evan’s dares are usually pretty tame, since he’s too afraid of making people uncomfortable to really go anywhere deep with him. Not that Jared wouldn’t do anything Evan would ask of him, since he’s fucking whipped, but Evan can’t know that.

“Alright, um…” Evan opens the cabinet and stands on his tiptoes to grab a box of Honey Bunches of Oats off the top shelf. The sight of his midriff, uncovered as he stretches, has Jared’s heart and lungs doing their shit wrong. “How about… I dare you to kiss-” He clears his throat, cutting himself off. “Um. Dare you to kiss your cat on the lips.”

Jared gasps, faux aghast. “Well, shit, Evan, I never knew you were into that. Nasty boy.”

Evan pauses, box in hand, and rolls his eyes. “Get your mind out of the gutter, dickhead.” After setting the box on the counter, he opens the fridge to retrieve the ketchup. “If you don’t want to do it, you’re free to get a question,” he says, echoing Jared’s earlier sentiment.

Jared strongly considers it, honestly. It’s not that he doesn’t love his cat, he’s just also, like, not a freak. Still, he shudders to think of what questions Evan would ask. Sure, he could lie, but lying to Evan always felt… wrong. Even keeping these feelings back feels like a sin, even though it’s what he has to do.

“Jared?”

“Hm? Oh.” Jared shrugs. “Yeah, fine, I’ll do it.”

Midnight typically hangs around on the couch in the family room, curled up in a ball against the arm. As Evan pours cereal into a bowl and squirts ketchup into it, Jared heads for the couch; sure enough, there she is, sleeping soundly. “Do I have to do it in front of you?” he calls to Evan.

“Uh, obviously,” Evan calls back. “Otherwise, how could I be sure you did it?”

“Fiiiine.” Turning his attention back to Midnight, Jared adds, “Sorry, little one.” He scoops her up in his arms, earning him a startled little meow, and hauls her out into the kitchen.

Evan’s face is screwed up into a nauseated expression as he takes a bite of the cereal-ketchup concoction. (Jared does not envy him.) “This is absolutely disgusting, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” he says. “You’re a menace.”

Giving Midnight a scritch on the forehead, Jared says, “Hey, you’re the one who refused to do a truth. You dug your grave, now lie in it.”

Evan takes another bite, nearly gagging, then says, “I could say the same to you. C’mon, kiss her so I’m not suffering by myself.”

“Alright, but if you get off on this, I swear to God I’ll castrate you,” Jared replies. He shifts Midnight so he’s holding her under the armpits, which she’s definitely not a fan of, if the way she kicks at his wrists means anything. “Sorry, kitten, but I gotta,” Jared mumbles, then gives the cat a tiny peck on her little kitty lips. It’s pretty gross.

“Well, that was sorta anticlimactic,” Evan says, and sets the bowl aside. (Jared doesn’t blame him; two mouthfuls is more than enough. It’ll make him gag, himself.)

“Well, Jesus, Evan, sorry I didn't make a full-on porno starring me and my fucking cat,” Jared says, rolling his eyes as he lets Midnight hop out of his arms.

Evan grimaces and carries the bowl over to the sink, setting it down with little fanfare. “Yeah, whatever. Now, truth or dare?”

“Uh, actually, it's your turn,” Jared says, crossing his arms as he leans back against the counter. “Truth or dare, yourself.”

“Oh.” Evan ponders it for a moment, still standing over the sink, expressionless. “Um… truth, I guess.” He squirms, and Jared almost feels bad for what he's about to ask.

“Okay,” he says. “How's this- what's the worst thing you've ever thought about Zoe Murphy?” Not that he wants to hear it. Lord knows he doesn't need to hear anything more about Zoe Murphy this, Zoe Murphy that… But it's fun to see Evan all riled up, and hey, at least he'll know what Evan's into. Not that he should be thinking about him like that, just…

“Uh. You know, I don't really…” Evan blinks, glances away. “I'm not really crushing on Zoe anymore.” He tugs at the hem of his shirt in that way that Jared can't get enough of for some stupid, gay reason.

Why's he so nervous? Jared cocks his head and narrows his eyes, analyzing Evan, but his sketchiness reveals nothing. “Okay, well,” he says slowly, “in that case, I'm changing the question. Who are you crushing on?”

Why does he torture himself? He'll make fun of Evan like he always does, but it just masks the pain that flits around in his chest. It's stupid, at its core- he'd rather not know. Not prying, though, isn't like what Evan thinks he's like, so he's what he has to do.

Evan freezes, and, just as Jared expected, flushes a delightful shade of pink. It’d be cute if it wasn’t because of someone else. (Because it’s gotta be someone else, right?) “Who says I even have a crush?” he asks, and the words are confident, but his voice is shaking a little.

“Uh, me, because you always have a crush.” Jared snorts a huff of laughter. “You’re for real going to pretend like you don’t have one?”

Evan unfreezes and turns to Jared with a frown. “I don’t, Jared, okay? I don’t have a crush on anyone.”

Huh. Well. Maybe that’s a good thing. Jared just shrugs and says, “Yeah, sure, alright. Now, hit me.” He taps his foot, impatience building. This needs to get more interesting, or he’s gonna lose his mind. It’s not that Evan’s boring, it’s just that he’s too consistently afraid to say what he’s really feeling. And Jared gets that! He gets it more than anything, but it doesn’t make for a good game of truth or dare.

“Uh, okay,” Evan says. His voice no longer shakes. “Truth or dare?”

“Truth,” Jared answers, sticking his hands in his pockets. What’s the worst that could happen?

“Who’re you crushing on?” Evan asks, fixing Jared with a quirked eyebrow. “If you are.”

You, Jared wants to say. It’s always been you. It’ll only ever be you, because God knows nobody else even likes me, he wants to say. Can you kiss me again, like that first time? he wants to say.

He doesn’t say any of it. Instead he shrugs and answers, “Just this girl from camp. Uh... Rachael.”

Evan hums at the new piece of knowledge, crossing his arms. “What’s she like?” he asks, and there’s a quaking in his voice that Jared doesn’t know what to make of.

“Um.” Jared scans Evan up and down, taking in all the little things he loves about him. “Well, she’s sorta shy, but she’s opened up to me. She’s got these pretty eyes, too, kind of… a color that’s hard to describe.” This is safe. This feels safe. He can tell Evan all the things he wants to, and he’ll be none the wiser. “She’s got this sandy hair, right? And it looks really soft.” He clears his throat, wills himself to not glance away. “I think I love her.”

Evan’s eyes widen. “Wow. That’s pretty intense, Jared.”

Jared cracks a raw smile, clenching his fists inside the pockets of his jeans. “Yeah,” he says, “I suppose it is.”



Evan can do this. He can! He really really really can do this. He just has to ask his big giant gay crush out to lunch. Just four little words: “You wanna get lunch?” He can totally do that. ...Yeah, right.

He stalks with his hands in his pockets through the halls of Cassadaga Valley High, tempted to walk on the opposite side of the school from where he knows Jared will be. But if he wants to live with himself the next day, he’s gotta do this right now. Jared should be near the math classrooms, since he has calc for fourth period; resigning himself to another day of being unable to choke out his words, Evan hangs a left and walks down the long hall toward the aforementioned classrooms.

“You wanna get lunch? You wanna get lunch?” Evan whispers to himself like some sort of deranged parrot as he squeezes through the throng of students. He hates crowds. They’re loud, smelly, hard to get through, and overall, immensely overstimulating. So, when he comes out on the other side and spots Jared coming out of his classroom, he nearly crumples with relief. “Jared!” he calls, trying not to seem too enthusiastic, trying not to look like the weirdo he is.

Jared looks up and over at Evan, and there’s that smile of his, that cocky little grin that always has Evan breathing upside-down and sideways. “Hey, Evan,” he says, stretching out the first syllable. “How’s it hangin’?”

You wanna get lunch? “Not much,” Evan says. “Wait, I mean- I mean, it’s good. It’s hangin’... good.”

Jared barks out a laugh and says, “‘Not much’. Right, okay.” He clutches onto the straps of his backpack and looks out around the crowded hall. “So, what’s up? Thought you ate your lunch in the bathroom. Have you resorted to eating it in the hall now?”

Evan stares at him flatly. Why is he in love with this guy, anyway? He’s sort of a dick. Still, he’s good-looking (if not conventionally) and funny, and also pretty much his only friend, so… that’s pretty much the recipe for a crush. “No, I’m not eating in the hall,” he answers. “I just- um. Do you- do you wanna get lunch?” He cocks his head and gestures over his shoulder with his thumb. The doors to the school aren’t anywhere near him, but he’s pretty sure Jared will understand what he means.

“Uh, yeah. I wasn’t planning on skipping it or anything,” Jared says, one eyebrow raised in a look of confusion.

Evan’s palms, he realizes, are beginning to sweat. Actually, they’ve probably been sweating for a long while now, and he’s just now noticing. He wipes them off as inconspicuously as possible on his khakis, then says, “No, I meant- well, I was wondering if maybe you wanted to, I don’t know, go out to lunch? Like, to Dairy Queen or something…”

Jared snorts, as per Evan’s expectations. It’s what he says next that throws him for a loop. “What, like a date?”

Evan puts a finger to his lip and hisses, “Dude, not so loud!” (Jared just smirks.) “It’s not- it’s not a date, Jared. I’m just asking if you wanna get a Blizzard or something.” He glances away, first at the ground, then at the ceiling. “I thought it might be nice to, y’know. Not spend lunch just looking at your laptop.” Oh, shit, was that the wrong thing to say? Maybe Jared’s insecure about that. He always looks content to just be sitting by himself at lunch, but…

Jared doesn’t seem to be offended. If anything, Evan thinks he might just see the slightest hint of a smile on his face. But that has to be his imagination, right? The expression vanishes in a second when Jared shrugs and says, “Sure, why not? But you’re paying.”

Evan frowns and scratches his cheek with two nervous fingers. “But I just… I told you it wasn’t a date. Why would I pay?”

“Because freelance coding only goes so far,” Jared says, despite most assuredly knowing that Evan doesn’t have a paying job right now. Still, these are the things he has to put up with if he wants to spend time with Jared. He’s a bit difficult, a bit of a dick, but he’s Evan’s difficult dick.

“Fine,” Evan says, “but you’re driving.”

 

The drive to the local Dairy Queen isn’t any more eventful than it usually is- there are no big confessions of love or anything- but it still feels electric. It’s not that Evan’s getting some sort of love vibe from Jared (though God knows he wouldn’t be able to pick up on it if there were; he wouldn’t know people liking him if it kicked him in his notoriously tiny nuts). It’s just that his presence, so so close to him, has Evan on edge, like every inch of him is filled with nervous static. And, when Jared leans out the window at the drive-through to give the orders, his ill-fitted shirt rides up over his decidedly soft-looking hip, which has Evan blushing like an idiot for a couple moments.

Seeking desperately to avoid any questions, Evan digs into his chicken strip basket as soon as Jared parks (it’s sort of their weird little tradition to eat in the car rather than inside), but Jared comes up with one anyway.

“So,” he says through a mouthful of popcorn shrimp- he’s never been one to eat kosher, much to his mother’s displeasure- “why today?” Evan draws out the chewing and swallowing process as long as he possibly can, but after about ten seconds, Jared’s nudging him and asking, “Evan? You alive in there?”

Evan sighs, running a greasy hand through his hair and probably getting little crumbs in it, like an ass.  “Yeah, I’m alive,” he says. “I just… I don’t know. I mean, there’s no reason, really. Can’t a guy just go out to lunch with his friend and have it not be a big deal?”

An odd look flits over Jared’s face for a moment- almost crestfallen- but again, it’s gone in an instant. “We’re family friends,” he reminds him. “It’s different.”

Oh. So he means that little to Jared. Crestfallen himself, Evan clears his throat and says, “Okay. Well, cool.”

If Jared feels bad about hurting his feelings, he doesn’t show it, but he does clap a hand on his shoulder and say, “Well, hey, thanks for paying. I owe ya one.”

At the touch, Evan’s hit with a full-blown wave of affection. Jared’s an asshole; is barely even his friend, apparently; and yet, Evan can’t help but find himself endeared by almost everything he does and says. Good God, he’s in deep.

Unbidden, images flash into Evan’s mind: leaning over and kissing Jared, knocking the basket of shrimp from his hands; taking control of the wheel and driving off into the sunset (at noon. Right.); telling him just how he can pay him back for buying lunch for them. It’s times like these that he longs to be bold, or if not bold, then at least normal. But here he is, frozen in one spot as he says, “Yeah, um, it’s fine, you don’t… owe me anything.”

And so he sits there yearning, not telling him, never telling him. No, he can’t ever tell him.



Jared fucking hates prom season. The halls are always clogged with straight people promposing (what an ugly word) to each other, reminding of just how crushingly alone he is- or, rather, would be without Evan. It’s still lonely, but… at least he’s got one scrap of light. But then there’s the whole issue of their relationship being entirely platonic, which, frankly, is killing him. Plus, Evan’s straight, he’s pretty sure, which is absolutely fantastic.

It’s when he’s over at Evan’s house one day after school, just dicking around playing video games, that an idea hatches in Jared’s brain. It fills him with a sort of nervous heat that he fears will seep out and infect Evan- in a bad way. Like he’ll know, just from him existing near him, that he’s gay as hell. Okay, he already knows that- he came out a few months back- but specifically gay for him. And, of course, there’s no quicker way to get hatecrimed than to let a straight guy know- or even think- you’re crushing on him. But, if he pulls this off very carefully, he can get exactly something he’s always wanted with Evan being none the wiser.

“Oh, shit,” Evan hisses as his character gets shot in the head and falls gracelessly to the ground. “Man, I don’t know why you’re making me play this; I suck at it.” He lets the controller slip from his hands, where it lands in his lap (which Jared, frankly, is dying to sit in. Which is ridiculous, right? Why’s he so fucking touchstarved?)

When it occurs to him that he hasn’t responded, Jared shrugs and says, “I dunno, man. It’s the only thing there is to do in this shithole, unless you wanna watch me go to town on some CSS.”

“Uh.” Evan blinks, licks his lips; Jared almost has a heart attack right there and then. “What’s CSS?”

“Cascading style sheets, it’s… a coding thing,” Jared says weakly. “Um, not the point.”

“Oh. Okay.” Evan is silent for a while, just staring at the TV, which displays the GAME OVER screen. “So…”

“Let’s try again,” Jared says, even though he doesn’t really give a shit about this game. It was a birthday gift a couple years back, well-intentioned but boring. He starts it up again, reloading at the beginning of the level, and halfheartedly attempts to take down the hordes of enemies that come rushing at them.

It’s another half hour before one of them says anything besides a few yelps and snarky comments (mostly from Jared). In the meantime, he’s come up with a plot.

  1. Suggest a break, which will be easy, because he does actually want one, and Evan seems like he does, too.
  2. Bring up the subject of prom. This will probably make Evan spiral, since it’s not a great time of the year for him either (solidarity in loneliness).
  3. When Evan looks all downtrodden, like a puppy that got trampled by a horse, bring up the prospect of going to prom.
  4. Try to avoid getting kicked in the nads.
  5. Specify, if he doesn’t seem jazzed about it (like that would ever happen), that it’s a stag sort of thing.

Easy enough, really- so then, why’s his heart beating so fast at the thought? Jared wills it to calm down, to stop making his chest ache, but it doesn’t help. Instead, he closes his eyes shut tight and says, “Hey, you wanna take a break?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Evan says, and drops his controller unceremoniously onto the old, stained carpet. “Does your mom have any snacks around?”

“You know it,” Jared says, and stands up. If he were less of a wuss, he’d pull Evan up with him, take him by the hand and squeeze it, but he doesn’t. Instead, he just stretches, joints creaking, and adds, “She made this, like, peanut butter cup dip that’s really good with crackers.”

“Oh, sweet,” Evan replies as he pushes himself up and follows Jared out of the room. “I mean, literally.”

As they walk down the stairs together, Jared shivers at the feeling of Evan’s eyes on his back. Is he staring? That’s silly; of course he isn’t. Pushing the thought away, he steels himself for what he’s going to say next.

“You look kinda… on edge,” Evan says as they enter the kitchen. “Are you alright?”

Jared opens the fridge to take out the dip and swallows back a, Yeah, I’m about to ask my longtime crush out to prom and I sure hope he doesn’t punch me in the dick. Instead, he shrugs and says, “Yeah, I’m fine. Just thinking about finals. I know they’re not for another month, but…”

Leaning back against the counter, Evan quirks an eyebrow and asks, “Since when do you stress about school?”

It’s a valid question- Jared’s bright enough that he can sort of just coast and still get As and Bs, at least in STEM courses like calc. “I dunno,” he says. “Probably because it’s senior year, and I don’t wanna lose my scholarship.”

“Oh. Yeah, fair.”

There’s silence for a minute, then, as Jared sets the bowl of dip on the counter and grabs some Ritz crackers from the cabinet. Finally, he takes a deep breath, then says, “So. It’s prom season.”

As expected, Evan’s face falls, and he directs his gaze to the bowl, staring holes into it. “Yeah,” he says, “it is. You, uh, gonna go to Rachael’s prom?”

Jared can’t help but huff out a snort of laughter at that. “What, you still remember her? I totally made her up.”

“Oh. You know, in retrospect, that explains a lot.” Evan clears his throat, glances back toward Jared. “Y’know, given the whole…”

“The gay thing,” Jared finishes for him. “Yeah. Um. No, it’s just… I had a crush on a guy, and I didn’t want you to know.” Not technically a lie, just an omission. “Anyway, I was thinking… did you wanna go to prom with me?” He spits out the last few words like they’re poison, trying to get them as far away from himself as possible.

Evan blinks; then, his eyes, go wide, and he stammers out, “What? I- um. I mean, you don’t-”

Well, obviously he wasn’t really going to go for it. Who would want to go to prom with him? “No, I meant, like, going stag.” Looking away, Jared forces a laugh, though it aches. “I know you’re straight, Evan.”

“I actually. Um.” Evan bites down on the inside of his cheek, then says, “I’m bi, actually? I don’t know why it took me this long to tell you, but… just for the record. I’m not straight.”

Holy shit. Holy fucking shit. This is the best news Jared’s gotten all day. Obviously, he’s still hopeless- again, there’s the question of who the hell would want to go to prom with him of all people- but at least he’s not going to get freaked out if Jared makes a move. Not in a homophobic way, at least.

“Uh, Jared? Were you going to say something? Don’t leave me hanging.”

Oh, right. Jared shakes his head to clear it (it doesn’t work) and turns his gaze back to Evan. “That’s great. I mean, that you’re open about it,” he says. “Uh, welcome to the liking boys club.”

Evan smiles, then, and it nearly kills Jared. “Hey, thanks,” he says. “I really… really appreciate that. You’re the only one who knows except for my mom, so.”

“Oh. Well, cool,” Jared says, although there’s plenty of other things he wants to say. That’s a relief, because I’m gay for you, for one. In that case, will you kiss me?, for another. But he’ll be damned if he could get the words out, so instead, he asks, “Anyway, prom?”

“Oh, yeah.” Evan’s smile just widens, and it takes Jared all his strength to stop from just keeling over and dying right then and there. “I’d like that, actually. Like, a lot.”

“Cool. Great.” Unsure of what else to do, Jared just shoots Evan with a pair of finger guns and gives him a little smirk. “Then, I’ll pick you up at 7:00.” It’s not everything he’s ever wanted- no promise of kisses or slow dances or anything of the sort- but still, he’s taking Evan to prom. Maybe things aren’t all bad.



Hey, Jared, can I talk to you? / I just wanted to say that you’re sorta my best friend, and you mean a lot to me. / I was wondering if you’d want to go out sometime? Like, romantically?

It’s an alright script, but he can do better. Evan stares down at the piece of paper he’s been writing on, sighs, and crumples it up. This has to be perfect, otherwise Jared will never go out with him. Not that he would anyway- who would? He’s a mess, a ball of anxiety in the shape of a boy. (Not even a boy- he’s turned eighteen; now he’s a man. He hardly feels like it.) Trying to push away the catastrophizing, Evan puts his pencil to the next sheet of paper.

Hey, Jared, I’ve sorta got something to say. / You’re my best friend, really, like a br

Okay, no. If he were like a brother to him, he wouldn’t be asking him out. Evan erases the last three words and tries again.

and I wanted you to know how much you mean to me. / Jared, I have a crush on you.

Should he say his name? Would it be weird to just inject it into the conversation? Evan crosses out Jared’s name on the paper and sighs, pressing the balls of his hands to lidded eyes. What a farce. He’s never going to be able to tell Jared how he feels; what’s the point?

The doorbell rings, shaking Evan out of his nervous anti-reverie. Heaving a sigh, he opens his eyes again and drops the pencil to his desk, then folds up the paper and puts it in his pocket. The doorbell rings again, and he hurriedly exits his room and descends the stairs, reaching the front door right as Jared’s hand moves for the doorbell for a third time.

“Hey,” Jared says as Evan opens the door. “Am I late?”

Evan shakes his head and answers, “Nah, Mom just left a few minutes ago. You’re good.” Heidi had disappeared off to another of her night shifts, which, instead of being nerve-wracking, instead gave Evan the opportunity to have Jared over without being interrupted. He can’t risk her walking in on them while he’s trying and failing to confess his feelings to him; he’d never live it down.

“Cool,” Jared says, and lets himself in, sneaking past Evan. “You got anything to eat? Didn’t like what my mom made for dinner; sorta banking on you having something.”

“Uh. I can order a pizza,” Evan says, turning back to the kitchen table, where a twenty dollar bill lies on the shining wood. “That sound good?”

Jared shrugs. “Hey, as long as I’ve got something in my stomach, I’m good.” (Evan makes a measured attempt to not think about Jared’s midriff, which he’s always thought was adorable, for whatever gay reason.)

“Cool. I’ll go… order that,” Evan says, but Jared just shakes his head.

“I know how you get on the phone,” he says. “Let me order for you.” The words are kind, but they’re masked by that persona Evan knows he puts up: a cocky grin, a clap on the shoulder, an addition of, “God knows you couldn’t do it yourself.”

Evan sighs, feigning exasperation. “Alright, fine.”

As Jared orders the pizza- large veggie, since, unlike Jared, Evan eats kosher- Evan takes the opportunity to look over his script. It’s simple enough, no giant monologues, but will he be able to get the words out? Not in a million years. Still, it’s… worth a shot. He can’t bear this game anymore- pretending he doesn’t feel anything but friendship, pretending he doesn’t want to pin Jared to the couch and kiss him until his lips are numb.

“What’s that?” Jared asks, again wrenching Evan away from his mind.

Evan jerks away and sputters, “It’s- I mean, it’s nothing, just- something my therapist wanted me to write-”

Jared raises one eyebrow. “Oh?”

“Yeah, it’s, um, it’s silly, now that I think about it-”

And then, in one heartstopping motion, Jared snatches the paper from his hands.

Evan’s life flashes before his eyes. All the times he hung out with Jared, all his panic attacks in the halls, all those taco nights, that time his dad left- it’s all right in front of him. His chest seizes, and he rubs his sternum, trying desperately to work air into his lungs-

And why’s Jared blushing?

“Wow, um.” Jared clears his throat,  staring down at the paper he holds in one shaky hand. “I didn’t know you felt this way about me.”

Evan takes a step back, cursing himself for being such an idiot. Did he really think this would work? That Jared wouldn’t just get freaked out? He didn’t really think he’d be able to do it tonight; it was just a fantasy, just something he needed to write out. “I, um. I’m sorry,” is all he can choke out. “Look, I can go if you want, or I guess since it’s my house, you can go-”

“What?” Jared blinks, sets the paper on the table. “Evan, I… I don’t mind. I really don’t.”

Oh. Huh. “That’s. Well. That’s good,” Evan says, and clears his throat, fiddling with the hem of his tee. “That’s, um. That’s a relief.”

“Actually,” Jared says, taking a step closer, “it’s… really good. It’s a good thing.”

Evan can’t believe his ears. This can’t be happening. There’s no way this is happening, and yet Jared is taking his hand, and yet he’s squeezing it, and yet he’s- holy shit, he’s cupping his cheek with his other hand. The tenderness of it all nearly kills Evan, driving an arrow into his heart, but miraculously, he doesn’t drop dead.

“Evan? Are you alright?” Jared asks, and it occurs to Evan that he hasn’t been breathing.

“Yeah, I’m alright,” he says, and sucks in a deep breath. “I’m- I’m more than alright. I just…” He squeezes his eyes shut tight for a moment, then opens them again, taking in Jared’s features with eyes that only have room for love. “I just, I guess I never thought you would reciprocate it, and I wasn’t ready to tell you because I thought you’d just, I dunno, hate me, maybe, or want to leave. Um. But you don’t.”

“Of course I don’t,” Jared says. “Evan, I’ve had a crush on you for ages. Years, I think. So, this is just about the best day of my life.” He breathes a sharp laugh and brushes Evan’s cheekbone with his thumb. “Will you sit down with me?”

“Y- ah, yeah, of course,” Evan says, and, with the obedience of a well-trained dog, lets Jared lead him by the hand to the family room couch. Tentatively, he sits down against the arm, and Jared sits next to them, his right shoulder brushing Evan’s left.

“So,” Jared says after a few moments of silence. “You like me.”

“Very much,” Evan agrees. He leans into the touch, allowing himself this one indulgence. “I mean, I think… I think I might love you, Jared.” The words are heavy on his tongue, dripping from his lips, but he can’t hold them back; now that he’s able to say what he really feels, there’s no stopping him now.

Jared’s blushing again, a grin on his face that’s so different from the usual- so vulnerable, so unique. It’s like nothing Evan’s ever seen from him before. “I love you, too,” he says, voice quivering just the slightest bit. “Um. You know when we were playing truth or dare, and I brought up that girl, Rachael?”

Evan nods. He remembers the exact feeling in the pit of his stomach when Jared told him about her: a disgusting, guilty pang of jealousy that hit him like a war’s worth of bullets. “Yeah? What about her?” he asks, though he knows what’s coming.

“All that stuff I said about her… it was about you,” Jared says. “Your hair, man. I’ve always wanted to touch it- it looks so soft, I can’t deal with it.” He laughs, glancing away at the floor. “That’s stupid, though, I mean…”

“You can touch my hair,” Evan says. What he really means is that he desperately wants Jared to play with his hair; to run his fingers through it; to tug it, even- no, calm down. Not yet. The thoughts are swept away when Jared cards a gentle hand through his sandy hair, and Evan closes his eyes, relishing the touch like he’s relished nothing else.

“Wow. It is pretty soft,” Jared says, and his smile must be infectious, like a happy plague, because Evan’s grinning now.

“Do you think, maybe, um.” Evan clears his throat, unsure of how he’s going to get these next four words out. “Could I kiss you?” he finally asks, barely above a whisper. It’s ridiculous, how he can’t ask these things even though he knows Jared likes him back, but that’s just his cross to bear, as his therapist puts it.

“Absolutely,” Jared breathes, and then his lips are on Evan’s, an echo of that day two years ago, awkward, young lips pressed together- but so much better this time. How did he go so long missing Jared’s lips? How did he survive?

In the end, it’s Jared who presses Evan to the couch and kisses the life out of him. With his eyes shut tight, Jared is the only thing he can feel, filling his lungs and his heart and every inch of his body. “Is this okay?” Jared asks a couple minutes in, as if Evan hasn’t been kissing back with everything in him.

“Better than okay,” Evan answers, and grins. “Actually, um. If you want-”

The doorbell rings.

“Ah, hell,” Jared says, a low grumble, and falls back the opposite way on the couch. “What a cockblock.”

“Hey, at least we’re getting pizza out of it,” Evan says. “Besides, I guess this is, um.” He scratches the back of his hand, then continues, “I guess this is sorta like… our first date?”

Jared’s mouth ticks up into a grin, and he closes his eyes for a moment before looking at Evan with an expression that screams adoration. “Yeah,” he says, “I guess it is.”

The doorbell rings again, and Evan sighs. “I’ll go get it.”

Jared leans in for one last kiss, a chaste one to his forehead, and says, “Okay. To be continued?”

“Yeah,” Evan breathes. “To be continued.”