I’m such a jackass.
Gonna waltz in unannounced without respondin' to a single one of his texts all night.
Good. Maybe that’ll make this… easier.
A large part of Rhett dunks straight into nerves the second he’s near the dorm hall. He keeps checking over his shoulder, like Link could be hiding in one of the dying shrubs by the front doors, spying and ready to jump Rhett the second he reappears on campus. Link wouldn’t make a scene like that, though. Not in public.
The elevator opens and Rhett lets out a breath when it’s empty—a few seconds more to think of what to say. He huddles in and hits the button for their floor, hugging his jacket around himself and tapping his foot for the slow ascent.
Maybe it would be better to not say anything.
Maybe I can just go in, pack a bag, and that’ll be enough.
He would know what that means.
It’s a prudent thought. It also lumps hard in Rhett’s throat and begs his lip to tremble, so he bites it still and lets his vision burn on the gray-checked floor tiles.
This is all so stupid.
Maybe… Maybe I can apologize again. Or make it up to him somehow.
“You’re really all over the place, McLaughlin,” Rhett mumbles to himself, pocketing his hands. The shaft dings and the doors re-open to his floor. “Spent the night ignoring him, he ain’t gonna hear y'out.”
In solitary silence unbefitting student housing, Rhett trudges down the hall as he has hundreds of times before, pausing at their door to listen. No sound comes from within. Throat tight, fingers jittery, he pulls his dorm key from his pocket and slots it into the lock, willing his breathing to a rhythm that could pass for normal. He makes a show of it—turns it in the tumbler more than he needs to, just to give Link a chance to prepare himself—but when the door finally opens, the room is empty.
The lights are off, and even with the afternoon sunlight pouring in the window, everything is dim and gray—not at all like the “home” Rhett’s come to know. It’s missing its vibrance.
That’s ‘cause he’s not here.
Rhett steps in, shutting the door behind until it latches softly. Once upon a time he’d come back and Link had been hiding in the closet, and all at once it’s upsetting and a relief that that isn’t the case this time. Pacing to the desk, Rhett acknowledges his laptop on his bed, placed with ironic care into the mess of sheets.
Maybe he’s at the gym.
Spinning slowly, Rhett sees Link’s mesh work-out bag on the floor beside their mini-fridge.
Giving his phone a check to ensure Link hasn’t texted him, he plugs it in on the desk and settles onto his bed, taking in the rest of the room. Link’s backpack is missing, and for some reason that’s far more reassuring than if he’d left it behind.
We don’t have class, but h e could be at the library. Or in a study room somewhere.
A deep inhale refreshes Rhett’s mind and body. If Link’s not here, he can at least relax for a minute. He’ll make quick work of gathering his things up if he comes back.
Absently, Rhett picks up his laptop and opens it—everything looks normal. Same old login screen. Battery’s not as low as he’d expect it to be, which is a nice surprise, at least. It feels weird to type on a large keyboard again (funny, how just a little distance will do that), but Rhett enters his password.
He’s greeted with the Drive screen of his documents.
Jesus. I really didn’t even bother to exit out of this.
At the very top is his “Journal”, perfectly blameless and entirely a product of Rhett’s desires. Arguably, the worst decision he’s ever made.
This fuckin’ thing.
Selecting it, Rhett right clicks and stares at the little trash can icon beside the command “remove”. His cursor hovers over it, turning the selection gray, and that little bit of impulsive effort lifts a weight off his heart.
Yeah. I should.
It’s effort wasted, but why hang onto it? This one stupid file has controlled my life. Might have cost me the person I love most in the world.
Chewing his cheek, Rhett takes a second to brace himself, and the instant he clicks “remove” is the same instant his eye catches one of the document’s details on the side bar:
Last Modified: 11:47 AM by me
But then the file is gone.
“Wait— wait,” Rhett breathes, weightless with shock. The pop-up at the bottom of the page— 1 file removed. Undo?— Rhett barely catches it in time. The document reappears, and Rhett gets to ogle over the details once again, running a hand through his hair at the close call.
Edited by me this morning?
Panic burns up his spine, unannounced; it’s a fuse nearing the base of his skull, and it commands him to come to terms with horrible, terrifying realizations:
Link read this.
He read it, and changed something about it.
There’s a note in there telling me what a sick fucking creep I am, and that’s why he hasn’t texted me again—that’s why he didn’t want to be here when I got back. He’s probably in Buies, either too hurt to speak or telling our parents what a twisted sicko I turned out to be, and—
“Fuck.” A thin sweat breaks over Rhett’s forehead, ice cold and sweltering. His entire body enters a state of limbo as he double-clicks on the file. It loads, and the same page as ever pops up. His first entry. Swallowing down wave after wave of nausea, Rhett scrolls to the bottom of the document, slowing as he nears it, petrified to see what’s waiting for him at the end.
He could click out. Vanish from campus—the knowledge alone that Link had seen this and read it, had responded is more than enough to qualify as a waking nightmare.
I have to know.
Rhett gets to the end of the last dream he’d recorded.
And there, below it, is definitely something he hadn’t written. He has to begin reading it three times before he gets enough courage to go past the first few words.
This is Link—or “L”, I guess. That’s what you’ve been calling me throughout this, isn’t it?
I know I shouldn’t have looked at your computer. In your private files, specifically. But you freaked out about it last night, and then you didn’t respond to any of my texts. I was angry, and felt like you owed me an explanation for why you’ve been such an ass lately. I saw the title “Journal” and couldn’t resist peeking.
I got… way more than I bargained for.
Rhett has to stop—he has to try and control his breathing, has to place a hand over his heart to stop it from bursting out of his chest, has to get up and pace to expel some energy, but that doesn’t work either, and he sits right back down and runs his hands through his hair with tight fingers, numb all over.
But it’s like trying to look away from a car crash. He has to see the damage—has to know the extent of it before he can begin recovering.
If it’s any consolation, I didn’t read everything. It was too much. Once I realized what was going on, I skimmed over most of it. But I read enough to understand what’s been going on.
We don’t have to talk about it.
I understand now why you ran off and didn’t respond. I still wish you hadn’t accused me of stealing your computer, but I can see how paranoid you’d be with… THIS in your files.
I feel sick. And I don’t know if it would be better or worse if you were here. I wanna talk to someone about it, but you’re normally that “someone”. I talk to you about everything. So I don’t really know what to do.
I don’t even think talking about it would make it better.
I think it would be best if we don’t see each other for a while.
Yeah—there it is. There’s the guillotine, there’s the executioner’s ax that’s been held in the air for far too long by tired arms, its falling aided by the weight of the world. Stomach knotting into jagged rocks, Rhett forces himself to keep reading.
And that’s… fine. That’s a thing we can do, give each other space. Right? We clearly need it.
I do have one favor to ask.
A thousand assumptions flood Rhett’s head: don’t text me, don’t call me, don’t look for me, don’t contact me in any way, delete this file, find a new place to live. Forget my name. But the truth is far, far more jarring:
Share this doc with me.
I know it’s not okay. And you know it’s not okay either, clearly.
But if you can use this as an outlet to write down fantasies you’ve had about me, then I should be allowed to do it, too.
These—these aren’t fantasies, they’re dreams. They all happened when Rhett was unconscious, the first few were even out of his control. They’re not—they’re not daydreams Rhett had woven in his free time just for fun. What the fuck does he mean, “I should be allowed to do it, too”?
Link’s… Link’s been fantasizing about Rhett? Like, he and Rhett together? Physically?
No. No, he just means fantasies about people in general. Rhett re-reads the last paragraph before continuing, unaware of anything else in the world.
And if you say “no” to sharing it with me, that’s… fine. Doesn’t seem fair, since we’re apparently in the same boat, but I would understand. I can always just make my own.
But… while I have yours, I’ll share one I revisit a lot.
And considering that some of the stuff you’ve written about us so far is pretty, uh… intense… you shouldn’t judge me for it.
This has to be a misunderstanding. Rhett’s reading this wrong, or Link had written it wrong—but it’s hard to argue with words right there in front of him, and Rhett is completely captive. At the mercy of whatever Link is about to put between them. The tables had turned so quickly.
Sometimes I think about what it would be like if there were two of you.
There would still be you, as I know you. The “real” Rhett. The one who sees me strictly as a friend, and who gets so terrified by the notion of being together that you keep a journal where you can just… shut those thoughts out, ‘cause you don’t want them.
But in the same way you have a Link you mess around with in your head, sometimes I like to fantasize that I have another Rhett, too.
The other Rhett exists at the same time as you. You both walk around as two separate people, and can talk to each other. The main difference is the only difference: he wants me.
And every time I play it in my head, the story goes the same way. The three of us are at a party, or studying in the dorm. And then the other Rhett… he gets flirty.
This is freakin’ embarrassing to write, how did you do this?
He starts kissing me.
Holds my face in his hands, kisses down my neck. And I love the feel of his beard on my skin. It’s exactly like yours, but it’s not yours, so don’t… don’t hate me, or anything. (I thought this would be a safe place to start sharing, but now I’m not sure. You’ve probably stopped reading already.)
Not a chance in Hell.
Rhett can’t stop reading, and he can’t stop going back to double-check that his brain isn’t piecing things together wrong, ‘cause the broken record in his head is dizzy and warbling he wants me? on repeat. It’s—it feels impossible, like this is an elaborate prank of some kind—but that’s not possible either, is it?
If we aren’t alone, we find a place to be alone. Me and the other Rhett, I mean. And uh
Well. No point trying to be polite. You weren’t, in your entries.
It always ends with me shoved up against a wall.
Rhett lets out a quivering exhale and his lids fall low. A wave of warmth envelops his cheeks as he reads.
His big hands that are exactly like yours are all over me. Hard on my waist, squeezing my hips, running up through my hair. They go anywhere they want to… but they usually stop searching once they find my pants.
Fuck, sometimes it’s my ass. Groping me and pulling our bodies together. Other times it’s my dick, rubbing me and pressing me into the wall.
The other Rhett is real good with his hands. They’re big, and you think they’d be rough… heck, maybe they are. But they’re soft on me. (Not gentle. There’s a difference.)
And it goes a bunch of different ways depending on where we are, but the last time I had this fantasy, he turned me around and pushed my chest into the wall. Pulled my shirt up so I felt it tickle my lower back. Then he just… pulled my pants down, planted kisses on the back of my neck and told me how handsome I was.
He is. God, he is—Link is the most handsome, the most beautiful, the most attractive. He has to know he is, but to want to hear it in a fantasy, too? To need that to feel good? Rhett would tell him that. He’d drench him in praise and compliments, ‘cause Link’s gone his entire life without hearing how drop-dead gorgeous he is, and who will do that for him? No one else deserves to have that right, do they? Rhett knows. Rhett knows better than anyone, it should come from him.
He shouldn’t do more— at least I can recognize that —but it’s too much to be able to read this confession without some form of relief. So, Rhett palms himself just long enough to push down his arousal, overwhelming as it is.
I’ve, uh. Experimented, a few times. With my fingers. But that doesn’t feel close to the way I imagine it when the other Rhett pushes inside of me. He’s
God, I’m blushing
Just like you.
Rhett blushes, too—sighs shakily and tries to ignore the pleading twitch under his fingers.
And he fucks me standing up, with his hands on my shoulders to pull me onto him. Sometimes he bends me over a sink or a bed, but he’s always needy and it drives me wild, man. Just… best friend to best friend, ignoring this tangled web of shit we’re in? It’s so fuckin’ hot.
But there’s a reason there are two of you in these stories. ‘Cause usually... this is the part where you walk in. You, you. The Rhett reading this.
Chest still, hand still, heart still, Rhett reads faster than he’s read in his entire life.
And you get jealous and don’t like that I’m having sex with the other Rhett. But instead of getting angry or breaking us apart, you… uh
You join us.
That can mean a lot of different things, but it always means the two of you get competitive, and… well… you can imagine the kinda stuff that leads to, right?
I can’t believe I’m writing this down. But I’ve come this far, so:
It means that sometimes I’m on my knees on the floor between you, sucking off one and jacking off the other, but both of you want my mouth.
Sometimes I’m on a bed with my head over the edge, with one of you fucking my ass and the other fucking my throat.
Sometimes you both give me head at once.
Sometimes… shit, I think this is my favorite.
Sometimes I’m between you two. We’re all sitting and the other Rhett is behind me, inside of me—
The other Rhett gets to be inside of him for his favorite one…?
—but me and you are chest to chest, and I’m in your lap, and
And you’re stroking us at the same time
And we’re kissing, Rhett. You’re kissing me, and I’m kissing you, too.
“Oh, fuck,” Rhett whispers, resolve nearly torn to shreds.
And we always come together. Every single time. ‘Cause we’re in it together, fucking your hand together, and
God, I’m hard. Right now, writing this, I’m
Jesus Christ, Rhett. You get to me so much that I think about you every freakin’ time I masturbate.
What are we going to do?
That’s where it ends.
What does he mean, “what are we going to do?” This is—it’s perfect. He wants Rhett, and Rhett wants him, so they can just be together, holy fucking shit, this could really happen. Frowning and scrolling back up, mind a muddled mess of exhilaration and confusion, he revisits the beginning and reads. It’s sobering, in contrast to how Link had unraveled upon sharing the fantasy.
“I feel sick.”
“I think it would be best if we don’t see each other for a while.”
“The one who sees me strictly as a friend, and who gets so terrified by the notion of being together that you keep a journal where you can just… shut those thoughts out, ‘cause you don’t want them.”
That’s it. That part, that’s where Link is horribly mistaken about everything: the purpose for the journal’s existence, Rhett’s behavior lately, his paranoia—all of it, Link had misunderstood. “I do want those thoughts,” Rhett whispers, blinking and scanning over the page. “I want him. How could he ever think I…?”
He might not have mentioned where he was going, but Link had never asked Rhett not to talk to him. He’d simply said they need distance, and Rhett’s trembling as he rips his phone from its charger, ready to set that straight.
I’ll—I’ll call him, and we can meet up somewhere and talk, and I’ll explain everything.
Hitting the call button over Link’s text log, Rhett crushes his phone to his ear and worries back and forth across the floor. The line is silent until the first ring.
A familiar ringtone answers from the hallway, right outside the dorm door.
Rhett freezes, head whipping up to stare at the shadow of feet beneath, ears straining.
The handle unlocks—the phone’s still going off—and the door opens to Link staring at the lit device in his hand, oblivious to his roommate.
“Shoot,” Link mutters, lowering his bag to the floor and hitting the lights. It’s only when he pulls his lips thin and accepts the call that he straightens and sees Rhett, startling back against the door.
“Welcome home,” Rhett breathes, lowering his phone.
Link’s eyes dart between him and the open laptop—recognition flashing over those light blues. Once his gaze settles on Rhett, he puts his cell down on the mini-fridge and swallows.