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Lucidity

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When you come back,
could you check for a
package at the front
desk?

The tracker says
'delivered’ but I don’t
wanna get up lol

Sure.

What’d you order?

Don’t laugh

Tea

Tea…? Like teabags?

Yeah

Read online that this
blend is supposed to
help with sleep

Oh, cool! Yeah, I’ll
check.

Be back in about an hour.

 


 

A heavy thud shakes the dorm door, startling Rhett’s attention from a Comedy Central Roast. He turns it off and hops up—knows that bump is the telltale greeting of Link with full arms requesting entry. The delivery should’ve just been a padded envelope. Rhett opens up for him, and the envelope isn’t even in Link’s hands: it’s clamped in his teeth, his arms laden with groceries. Rhett gapes at him as he waddles into the room and unloads, lowering the haul to the floor in a careful avalanche of gray plastic.

“Dude,” Rhett says, and while Link’s untangling his limbs from the thickets of bags, he swivels his head up and barks at Rhett from his clenched jaw, requesting freedom from his chew toy. Rhett takes the envelope from him, wincing at the spitty bite mark at the top. “Did you just ask the person at the front desk to put it in your mouth? Nasty, man.”

“You got a better idea?”

“You could’ve asked them to put it in one of the bags.”

“Oh. Didn’t think o’ that.” Link shakes out his arms and frees himself, grinning to gloat over the haul he’s dragged in. “Only took one trip. I knew I could do it.”

Considering the mess in the floor, Rhett eyes him. “You know we’re good on food, right?”

“I know. But I had an idea.”

Something impulsive, no doubt.

“Okay...”

“This is how we’re gonna hang out today, since neither of us could think of anything.”

“We’re gonna eat...?”

“Better. We’re gonna have—” Link hunches down and fights to retrieve a clear plastic container, holding it aloft and showing off the quaint pastries within. “A tea party!”

“Oh, gosh,” Rhett groans. “I tell you I bought some tea and you really go all out, huh?”

“C’mon, it’s just a joke. But it’ll be fun, also! Half-joke, half-fun.” Beaming, Link kneels and ravages through the bags like a pirate sorting booty, tearing away sack after sack and piling boxes on boxes on boxes.

“Did you clear out Kroger’s bakery?!” Rhett cries, watching helplessly as the small hill of sweets turns into a peak of regret. “ And your bank account?”

Link glares at him, testy, and gathers up all of the plastic to shove into the foot of their closet. “Gotta spend money to have fun. C’mon, brother, get into the spirit of it! What’s done is done, we’re havin’ a tea party!”

“And are we inviting the entire floor to join us?” Rhett tears open the envelope in his hands and dumps the box of special blend into his palm, holding it up to say This. This little thing caused this.

“Heck naw. This is a me-an'-you thing,” Link declares with a laugh. “And I promise there’s some reason to it—all the stuff I bought is s’posed to promote good sleep.”

Rhett reaches down and snatches a box from the top of one of the stacks. “Macarons?” he reads, frowning and glancing at Link.

“Made of almonds, which are good for sleep,” Link recites with a smile.

Rhett checks the label of the one beneath it. “Cherry puff pastries.”

“Cherries! Also good for sleep. Somethin’ about circadian rhythms, I read,” Link trails off in thought, and Rhett pulls a face.

“And so instead of just buyin’ cherries, or almonds, you loaded up on desserts made with ‘em?”

“Hey—desserts make ya sleepy, too.”

...Hard to argue with that.

“Link, this is absurd.” Rhett steps over the pile on the way to their coffee maker atop the mini-fridge. He nudges his mug beneath and hits the brew button, pops open the tea and dumps one little bag down into the cup. “I know I like food, but if Sue saw how much you just spent on what’s essentially an adult play-date, she’d be pissed.”

Link’s done being scolded, though. He grabs their paper towels and takes a seat next to Mount Carbohydrate, lording over his loot. “What sounds good? We’ve got doughnuts, doughnut holes, beignets, petits-fours, bear claws, cupcakes, crepes—”

“You sound like a speed run of the Great British Baking Show.”

“Muffins, strudels, baklava, cinnamon rolls—”

“I’ll just have my tea, thanks,” Rhett sighs, watching steaming water fill the mug and carrying it over to sit on the edge of his bed.

“Don’t be such a freakin’ buzzkill, man. Look at all this!” Link picks up a box and tosses it to Rhett’s feet, the pastries inside bouncing. “Walnut rolls!”

Rhett stares at it and blows on his steeping tea. “Lemme guess. Walnuts promote good sleep, too?”

“Yeah! I wanted to help,” Link says, now near a mocking pout. “Please just humor me and eat some of it.”

“If I eat one, then I’m endorsing this,” Rhett spirals a hand over the rest of Link’s bad decision.

“What about… a coconut macaroon?” The box lifts into the air on a steady hand and floats over to Rhett in a crawl, Link wiggling his eyebrows. “I know you like coconut.”

“Link, you don’t even like coconut, why’d you buy a whole box?”

Ignoring him, Link tears through the tape and pops it open, selecting one in delicate fingers and raising it to Rhett’s chin. “Smells good. Looks pretty tasty.”

“No,” Rhett leans away, careful not to spill his tea. “Git outta here, man.”

“Ooooh, looks so good,” Link grins. “Open wide!”

Why’s—god dammit, he’s at my feet tryna feed me?

“Link, st—” The confection gets shoved into Rhett’s mouth with a triumphant cackle. Rhett very nearly spits it out onto Link’s face.

Then, he tastes it, the soft crunch of shredded coconut unfurling on his tongue.

It is pretty yummy.

When he bites down, glaring at Link, he wishes the guy didn’t look so damn pleased with himself. “See? Actin’ like I’m torturin’ you, man. It’s good! I’m excited to try some of this stuff. Don’t think I’ve ever had a…” He turns and inspects a container. “ Kringle before.”

“Look like pretzels,” Rhett observes around his mouthful before swallowing. 

“Right? Welcome to international culinary class, fools,” Link warbles, setting about popping open the rest of their haul. “C’mon, bring some pillows and blankets down here. Ain’t a tea party unless we’re fancy in the floor.”

Sighing, Rhett sets his tea a safe distance from everything and does as he’s told, mumbling about crumbs in his sheets. When all is spread out and available, he takes his first sip of the blend and hums. It’s actually a nice pairing for dessert flavors. That’s lucky.

“Alright,” he clears his throat, “Let’s see… gosh. There’s so much of it. I dunno what to try.”

“Don’t think about it,” Link instructs, passing off another treat to him and stuffing one in his own mouth. “Jus’ eat.”

So, Rhett does. This one is a soft cream-filled roll tasting of lemons and decadence. That one is clove all over and a bit spicy, flaky to the touch, leaving their fingers sticky with honey that they both suck clean while Link peers over at Rhett and laughs. It's all a baseline of bread and crystallized sugar finding its way down their throats, and the ones with wet fillings or baked extra-moist are a welcome bit of relief in the expedition. Link's right there with Rhett, in everything they try; even the cherry cordials—which, by all accounts are a candy and shouldn’t be sold at a bakery—Link digs into, sinking the fruit onto his cupped tongue and wrapping his lips around it to pop off the stem. 

“You don’t like cherries,” Rhett reminds him, watching the small bulge in his cheek, and Link shrugs.

“Chocolate helps. How’s the tea?”

“Pretty good. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…” Chuckling, Rhett wipes his hand on a paper towel, staining it with cocoa. “This is pretty nice.”

“Well, you’re welcome.” It’s worth the shot to his pride to see Link grin from ear to ear. He gazes back out over their feast, in which they’ve hardly made a dent, trying to select one like a present on Christmas morning. “What’s next, you think?”

“I dunno. Gettin’ pretty full,” Rhett says into his mug, and Link balks.

“Bull crap. You’re Rhett McLaughlin, I know for a fact you could eat half of this and still accept an invitation for drive-thru.”

That might be true. Still.

“I’m full on sweets,” he specifies.

“I’ve never heard you say that once in your life.”

“Link, if I keep eating, you’re gonna keep eating. And you go to the gym every day.” Sounds stupid, but it’s the truth; concern about Link’s normally-spotless diet is likely the reason he’d been hesitant in the first place, he admits to himself. “I don’t want you givin’ grief to your body.”

"Huh." Thankfully common sense can still pierce Link’s determination. “Well… I bought this for you,” he says, surveying all of it. “I can just… watch you enjoy it.”

Rhett grimaces at him.

“I’m serious! I’d love to see how much damage you could actually do, if you weren’t worried about me keepin’ up.” Link fishes out a cookie and holds it out to him. “Here. Keep goin’.”

“You really don’t wanna watch me gorge, buddy.”

“I kinda do?” Like a laugh will make that confession less bizarre, Link giggles and waves the cookie around like a carrot in front of a horse. “I don’t think you’ve ever had the opportunity to like, sate yourself. Completely. Always gotta worry ‘bout payin’ for it, or leavin’ enough for other people, or not lookin’ like a bottomless pit in polite company. But this? It’s already paid for, it’s just us in here, and I want to see you eat it.” With a mischievous smirk, Link bobs his head. “I know you, man. Can’t tell me you’ve never thought about what it would be like to really put it away."

Mug held to his lips, Rhett considers the immense fare left, some deeper part of him actually resonating with Link’s reasoning. There’s… something there that he finds thrilling, if he’s being honest. Probably how oddly indulgent and sensual Link’s making the whole thing sound—like there’s inherent naughtiness in letting go. But he’s also making it sound like a challenge, and damn, if Rhett doesn’t always fall for that.

“Fine.” Rhett drains his mug as Link claps, far too excited. The moment he’s done with his tea, he opens his mouth wide for the cookie. Link hesitates, eyes wide, before pushing it into Rhett’s mouth, thumb grazing his bottom lip.

“You can at least choose what I have to eat,” Rhett suggests, chewing. “That way it’s not totally boring for you.”

Even though Link looks like he wants to say something, he doesn’t, and selects a beignet to hold up to Rhett’s mouth.

Why are his eyes brimming like that?

“Don’t gotta feed me,” chuckles Rhett, and Link huffs a laugh to match. 

“These are my favorite. Chocolate-filled.”

Glowering from the corner of his eye at being dismissed, Rhett parts his lips and Link gently shoves the pastry in as far as it will comfortably go. The eye contact is… weird. Weird and intense, so Rhett sets his gaze to the floor and chews, pushing the rest of the dough into his mouth. It is good. The chocolate is soft and mousse-like, bursting out from the middle and coating his tongue.

Link smiles. “You’ve, uh… got some powdered sugar,” he says quietly, pointing at his own cupid’s bow, but when Rhett moves to wipe his face, Link catches his arm. “Leave it. No point cleanin’ up when you’re in the middle of eating.” Then he spins and judiciously selects another morsel, missing the way Rhett watches him, curious and near-blushing ‘cause he’s being messy and Link—ever the neat freak—for once, doesn’t care.

If this is part of some fun game for him, that’s fine. It’s a small price of dignity to pay to make him happy.

An apple strudel is next, and this time when Link proffers it to Rhett like he’s paying dues, Rhett lets go of his qualms and bites clean it in half, right out of Link's hand. The apple filling spills out, more syrupy than fruity, running warm down his chin, coating Link’s fingers. They both give a little “oop” of surprise, followed by snickering. And Link might have said no paper towels, but that doesn’t mean Rhett can’t reach up and collect the sticky mess with his fingers before it reaches his beard, pushing it up into his mouth. He licks it down—can feel Link’s eyes on him, hopefully not judging—before beckoning the other half of the little pie. 

Link stays quiet when he brings it to Rhett’s lips. In an impulsive bid to be funny Rhett sticks his tongue into the opening, flicking it up to toss it back.

With a breathy huff Link picks out more things, gets a conveyor belt smorgasbord ready; rolls and cupcakes and cookies, one by one he smiles and pushes them up into Rhett’s space, barely giving him time to finish chewing the last one before starting the next. Rhett’s trying not to laugh, and the pure glee on Link’s features says much the same—but after a cinnamon-y snickerdoodle, he holds up a hand for them to stop, and Link’s smile fades fast.

“What's wrong?”

“Gonna—s’dry,” Rhett complains, and Link is up in an instant to fix him a glass of water. “Link, I didn’t—”

“You’re not full yet, man, I can tell. Just be sure to take little sips so ya don’t fill up on water.” He hands the drink off and Rhett finds himself obeying—though why, he can’t explain.

“Eugh. Sugar and water.”

“Sorry. I’d’ve gotten you milk if we had any. Aren’t you having fun, though?”

“Are you?” Rhett shoots back, staring up at him from the floor. Link blinks, lips pressing thin, then nods a bit faster than necessary.

“Yeah. I dunno, it’s like… I dunno,” he flounders, focusing on the food again. “You’re enjoyin’ yourself. I like that.”

Ears tingling warm, Rhett takes another long sip and sets it aside with an exaggerated ahh. “What now?”

And the process continues. Link picks and chooses what Rhett eats—often re-visiting desserts he’s had two or three times already—and if Rhett didn’t know better, he’d guess Link was selecting things he knows he'll enjoy, but he himself wouldn’t: muffins with banana and chia seeds, orange Milano-style cookies, cream puffs filled with pomegranate seeds. Almost like this is the only way he could possibly render enjoyment from these foods, by watching Rhett down them in big, greedy bites.

When a peanut-butter-icing cupcake finds its way into the rotation, Link holds it up in near impatience, his own mouth hanging open, attention hawklike on Rhett’s sugar-stained lips. 

Rhett crosses his eyes to look down at it. “You should eat this one. You love peanut butter.”

“I’ll eat one of the other ones,” Link compromises, unflinching.

“Link, c’mon, man. It’s—”

“I wanna see you eat it,” he interrupts, stern, and when Rhett draws his head back to gauge his reaction, Link still doesn’t budge. “Wanna see you pretend to like it as much as I actually do.”

At this, Rhett reaches up to pluck the cupcake from Link’s grasp. He holds their gaze and shoves the entire thing in his mouth, pushing in the crumbling treat with two fingers as Link’s eyes snap from Rhett’s to watch the confection disappear. Like he's showing Rhett what to do next, he closes his mouth and swallows.

Enjoy it as much as he does. Hah.

“Mmmm,” Rhett groans in his throat, and Link sits up straighter, sight flicking between his mouth and his eyes.

“Yeah...?”

Jesus Christ, I was kidding.

“S’pretty good,” garbles Rhett, and Link gives him that stupid, doofy grin again.

Once Rhett’s managed to gulp it down (it’s not as dry as he’d thought it would be—that icing was fluffy and light), he sighs and licks his fingers clean, leaning back on his hands. There’s a tightness in his stomach, strange and pretty unfamiliar, and he lets out a small belch that tastes like sugar, laughing. “Okay… I think I’m full.”

“You think?” Link echoes, not derisive or sarcastic. Genuinely curious. “Can’t fit any more?”

“‘Fit’ is a weird way to think about it. I’m sure I could, but…”

“Just a few more. Yeah?” Link nods to the array left. A sizable amount of it has gone past Rhett’s lips—

Did I really do all of that?

—but Link clicks his tongue. “Tell you what—if you can do an eclair, I’ll let you stop.”

“Let” me stop?

Fine.

“‘Kay. Waistband kinda hurts,” Rhett admits, toying with it a bit, and Link tilts his head to stare at the spot curiously. 

“Now those are words I never thought I’d hear you say. Think you can keep goin’ if you take off your pants?”

“Link, Jesus Christ—”

“Kidding! I’m joking,” he insists, already opening the chocolate eclairs and pulling one out. “Here.”

He presents it, patient, and it takes all of Rhett’s self-control not to nab the phallic dessert from him so he can be in control. Would that make Link feel robbed of the big finale? Instead, Rhett closes his eyes and opens wide, taking it back, biting soft and letting the cream inside swim on his tongue. God, the inside is chocolate mousse, and it's drizzled in chocolate? It’s—

“That’s so rich,” Rhett smiles, letting his eyes flutter back open, shaking his head. 

“You like it?” asks Link. His hand’s having trouble holding it steady. Arm must be tired.

“Mmhm. C’mon, last bite.”

And then it’s over, and Rhett lets himself rest against the side of his bed, running his hands over his stomach and exhaling a long, tempered breath.

“Wow,” Link remarks, and when Rhett blinks up at him, he’s gazing out over the leftovers. “You ate like… two thirds of it, Rhett. So much food. How ya feel?”

“Full,” Rhett says definitively. “Never been so full. I might need more tea before bed, I think all this bread might’ve soaked it up in my stomach.”

“Lemme see,” Link jerks his head back in reference to Rhett’s shirt. Cocking an amused eyebrow at him, Rhett lifts up his hem, and… yep.

His stomach is round,  pressing hard against his pants and begging to be done. “Oh.” Rhett slips a thumb under his waistband and pushes it down, sliding it to his pelvic line, and his tummy takes that space gratefully, the red line from strain left over.

“Holy crap,” Link murmurs, mesmerized. “You’re… you’re huge. I didn’t know you could put away that much. I mean, I did, obviously,” he motions at their messy surroundings, “but to see it like that? God, all that food is just right here?” He iterates with fingers spread in a light touch on Rhett’s tight stomach, and Rhett shies away from it, trying not to giggle.

“Oh, gosh, don’t—I’ll pop.”

“You look like you’re pregnant, Rhett,” Link hushes with a small smile, breathless.

“With a food baby, yes. I am definitely gonna give birth.”

The smile falls from Link’s face and he puts distance between them again, licking his lips. Rhett nudges his water towards him, but Link waves it off. “I just… can you imagine how big you’d be if you always ate like that?” he laughs, and Rhett lets himself imagine it, drunk off food.

“I’d be enormous, dude.”

“Tall and big.”

“Thick. With two c’s.”

Link goes quiet. When Rhett cracks an eye to judge his reaction, he’s not smiling anymore. He’s got his head bowed the other way, chewing on a nail and probably debating how the hell they're gonna store the rest of this bounty.

For a while, neither say anything. Rhett pulls his shirt back down with a groan, and Link tugs his knees to his chest.

“Why don’t you go take a shower? You’re a messy eater when you let go, I think you need one.”

“Yeah?” It’s not a bad idea. Rhett could definitely use some cold water over his sated stomach to delay passing the fuck out. “What're you gonna do?”

“I’ll clean up here. Don’t worry ‘bout all this,” he says, clearing his throat. “Go shower. Take your time.”

“Sure. Thanks.” With some difficulty, Rhett stands—shit, if he doesn’t actually feel kinda like he's pregnant, too. He gathers his things for the bathroom, glances at Link, who hasn’t moved. Maybe he wants to pig out too, once Rhett isn’t watching. 

Smiling, Rhett heads to the door, stopping halfway out and poking his head back in. “Link.”

Link’s head whips up. "Hm?"

“Thanks for… this. Thanks for throwing me a tea party,” Rhett says, wiping his chin clear of debris. “This was fun.”

“My pleasure, man,” Link smiles back.

And Rhett lets himself out.