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The Aftermath

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After filming the video with Shane, their entire crew stays over for lunch since Ryland orders takeout. 

They talk some more, and Shane is super sweet and understanding and the conversations are lighter once the camera stops rolling. Grayson appreciates that a lot since he feels like total ass.

When they get to the house and it’s just him and Ethan alone, Grayson feels like he can finally breathe. He can finally let all of his guards down and faceplant on his bed the way he wants to. Which he does within fifteen minutes flat. 

He naps for almost two hours and wakes up feeling all kinds of groggy and hung over even though he hasn’t had anything to drink. At all. He remembers feeling like this right after his dad died - this bone-deep exhaustion and pain radiating inside his entire body, but especially in his head. This pounding that would come and go seemingly whenever it pleased, with no outlet. 

The house is silent and the lack of sound weirdly matches the hollow feeling in his chest. He feels like he’s been scooped out clean and there’s nothing left inside of him. He’s raw. He’s just a cavern now, nothing in there but echoes of old memories.

He idly texts Ethan to ask him what he’s up to and gets no response back. 

After another half an hour of mindless swiping on his phone, his stomach grumbles, so Grayson heaves himself out of bed and drags himself to the kitchen. On the way there he spots Ethan sleeping on the couch with the TV on super low, an infomercial playing in the background. 

He’s curled up into a ball, so Grayson grabs a blanket from the closet and throws it over him. Ethan’s eyelids flutter open for a brief moment and then close again, his head burrowing down deeper into the cushion. The swell of affection blossoms so achingly sweet in Grayon’s chest at the gesture that he can’t help but lean down and kiss the side of Ethan’s forehead, his hand resting lightly on the top of his head. 

It’s easiest to be affectionate towards Ethan when he’s comatose, because then Grayson doesn’t get his grumbling and frowning and whining. 

Anyway, Ethan doesn’t stir and Grayson doesn’t expect him to. 

In the kitchen, he finds himself frozen in front of the fridge for a solid fifteen seconds before he decides on making the both of them pastrami sandwiches, since they went shopping yesterday for groceries. He can’t imagine cooking anything in the state he’s in. 

The entire time he cuts the tomatoes, shreds the lettuce, and dices the onions, Grayson’s got the strangest sensation of not being there for any of it. Of being completely displaced and lost in that scene. Removed from the room. Totally out-of-body and somewhere else, somewhere far away, long ago. Another lifetime maybe. 

As he’s finishing up, he catches sight of Ethan stumbling into the kitchen with a yawn and heavy, slitted eyes, going for a glass of water. Grayson didn’t hear him wake up. 

“Sup,” E says, sipping at his water slowly, glass held protectively to his chest like a toddler, as he eyes the sandwiches that Grayson is plating. Grayson throws him a quick look in acknowledgment before taking their plates to the table. “Bring me water, will you,” Grayson asks, and Ethan does. 

They both sit down like their bones are old and creaky, and Ethan lets out a dry laugh before saying, “Man, today was fucked. I feel weird as shit.”

Grayson snorts into his glass and comments, “Weird does not begin to describe how I’m feeling, bro. It’s, like, I’m feeling a million things and nothing all at once.” 

Ethan chews slowly and swallows his bite, before he hums, “It’s like everything is muted.” 

“Yeah.” 

Grayson gets lost in his thoughts again as he eats, picking at his food a little, his hunger dying down for some reason. He startles a bit and looks up from his plate when Ethan’s voice cuts through the silence to say, “This is going to sound super fucking cheesy, and, you know, maybe even cringe, but… I think we need to talk to each other more.” 

Grayson blinks at him in confusion. “What? We constantly talk to each other.” 

Ethan raises an eyebrow at him and pops a tomato into his mouth. “Like, about serious things. Emotional things.”

Grayson catches on and looks away from him. “You mean, like about vulnerable topics. Like today.” 

“Like today,” Ethan agrees, quietly. 

When he looks back at Ethan, he realizes just how shitty and drawn he looks, how pale. How fucking tired. “You look like shit, bro,” Grayson half-jokes to lighten the mood a little, and Ethan’s mouth quirks into a half-smile. “Yeah, I was gonna say the same. About you.” 

Grayson chuckles and picks up their plates. “We probably look like we got run over by a semi, a couple of times. Roadkill.” 

Ethan hums again in agreement, hands placed flat on the table for a moment to lift himself up before he goes to the medicine cabinet to take out his meds. Grayson eyes this silently as he washes the dishes, tries not to freak out.

Ethan’s doctor said that he should go back for a check-up once his last refill is done. Grayson hopes the results come back fine, come back absolutely fucking perfect, so that they're both done with all of this bullshit.

Because Grayson sometimes feels like he can’t stand it, can’t physically stand Ethan being sick, or hurt, or not one hundred percent. It tears at him, it guts him, it makes him feel so afraid that he leaves the room sometimes when Ethan reaches for his meds. The most insane and irrational fear goes through him, like he might lose Ethan. It’s stupid and he tells himself that, when he catches the dark thought slithering around inside his head. 

“It’s nuts but I think I’m going to go to bed, dude,” Ethan says, as he puts the dishes away that Grayson hands to him. It’s only eight o’ clock, but Grayson gets it. 

“Yeah, me too. I just want to, like, sleep, at least for the next few days. Just sleep. Only sleep,” Grayson admits, voice low, and Ethan squeezes his shoulder for a few seconds before he disappears down the hallway. 

As Grayson gets ready for bed, some of the emotions and feelings, the ones that are muted, are stuck in a limbo where they’re not quite there, start to bleed through and right into him. “Fuck,” he whispers, pain and panic from earlier in the day crashing into him in waves. The fear of losing their fans over their decision and the ever-present pulsing of the grief mingle together into a toxic combo and Grayson sits down hard on his bed before he falls over. Before he can’t stand up anymore. 

Any other time, he would ride this out by himself, he would breathe through it and let it pass, or cry in an effort to lessen the feelings somehow, but he suddenly doesn’t want to. He can’t, he can’t fucking do this by himself anymore. 

It feels fucking terrifying to go to Ethan like this and show him how fucked up he is and feels, since he hasn’t really done it since he was a dumb fucking kid.

He’d only go to his dad, when he felt like total shit in the past. It was the same for Ethan.

It feels too raw, to see the same look mirrored in Ethan’s eyes. To see them both fall apart. 

They’re supposed to catch each other when the other one is weak - who’ll catch them if they both fall? 

Grayson breathes through the initial surge but manages to get up and go down the hallway and into Ethan’s room, eyes glassy and unseeing and makes out the light from Ethan’s phone glowing from his bed. Ethan drops it onto his chest and says, “Hey, what’s up?” Voice a little hushed up, from the darkness of his room.

Grayson blinks once, twice, and feels like turning back around, chest tight, but before he does, Ethan sits up in bed and says, "Come here." Grayson stays frozen for two more seconds before a couple of tears escape and he can't help but sniffle, feeling like a fucking pussy, a total crybaby. If Ethan judges him, here and now, Grayson vows to kick his ass in the morning. 

Ethan doesn't make a smart comment, though. He doesn't act like a dick at all. As soon as Grayson's head hits the pillow, Ethan scoots over next to him, and his hands hover for a moment over Grayson before he murmurs gruffly, soothingly,  “Hey, hey, it's ok, Gray.” 

Grayson stays stiff, and bites down on his bottom lip to stop the trembling, blindly looking up at the ceiling as his vision swims with tears and rolls down the sides of his face. He clears his throat, which is absolutely no use, to confess, “I’m trying this new being-vulnerable-around-each-other bullshit thing we just talked about.” He risks a glance at Ethan, gulping down the boulder-sized rock stuck in his throat, and finishes wetly with, “So far it sucks.”

Ethan’s warm hand immediately goes to his chest, right over his heart, and that finally breaks any remaining resistance that Grayson has and he suddenly curls into Ethan as he completely breaks apart with a low whine, his wet face pressing into Ethan’s hair and neck, his hands clutching at the side of Ethan’s sweatshirt. Ethan noses at him and presses a steady stream of reassurances to Grayson’s forehead with his lips. 

“I've got you, bro, I’ve got you.” 

Grayson cries.

He cries for a long time maybe, he can’t really tell. Grayson will also never tell Ethan, but this is the safest and most loved that he has felt all year. Like, he actually feels whole and not like a shell of a person.

It’s grounding and it shouldn't feel that way, as he's falling apart completely, but maybe that's what happens when you're with someone you love and trust with your whole life. 

Ethan continues holding him and hugging him, whispering words of comfort to him, even as his own voice begins to waver and he starts choking up. 

Grayson looks up at that and drags his t-shirt up to wipe his face down, before he pulls Ethan to him by the back of his neck. Ethan hides his face in Grayson's chest and shakes apart. Grayson runs his hands down his trembling back for what feels like forever, placing urgent kisses on his head, wherever he can reach, fingers tightening and relaxing, over and over, as they both run out of energy and then fall onto their backs, finally empty. But in a good way. In a solid way. 

Life is so fucking strange.

Grayson grabs a couple of tissues and hands a few to Ethan. 

Sleep starts pulling at Grayson, then, but he blindly grabs for Ethan’s wrist, and says, “It's like the whole world fucking ended in January and we had to pretend that it didn't, all this time.” 

“It was so fucked up, Gray, what we did to ourselves,” Ethan says with a sigh. 

“Yeah.”

They fall asleep shortly after that and Grayson doesn't head back to his room during the night.

It feels good. Steady and solid and right. Best sleep he’s had in a long while. 

The following night, he senses Ethan get into bed with him and wakes up to him spooning one of his many pillows. Grayson blinks away the confusion and lets a small smile out, takes a pic of him. 

The night after that, Ethan gets into his bed again just as Grayson is drifting off. Ethan turns onto his side facing away from him and Grayson mirrors him and throws an arm around Ethan's waist. Let's out a sleepy, contented little sigh and snuggles closer with his face rubbing against Ethan's soft sweater. Ethan scoffs and tries to turn around, but Grayson tightens his hold. 

“We are not spooning, Grayson. What the fuck,” Ethan tries to say with total irritation, but actually sounds tired more so than anything else. 

“My bed, my rules, asshole,” Grayson murmurs, bumping his head lightly against the back of Ethan’s and Ethan finally relaxes and stops fighting him. 

Grayson falls asleep with a smile.

They continue doing that, sharing a bed, until they don’t have to. Until all the parts that were broken and cracked and hurt heal up. 

So when a week passes and they’re back to normal and in their own rooms again, after almost a month of sharing one bed, Grayson has to hide the stupid smile that threatens to break all over his stupid face, when Ethan crawls into bed with him one night. 

He’s not a little bitch. He’s not. Grayson will keep the distance and not do any of the cuddly shit that they’ve been doing, in order to, like, reestablish some normal boundaries. If they ever had any of those to begin with. 

It’s just that it’s nice, waking up to the person that you love the most in the entire world in the morning. 

When he wakes up in the morning to Ethan’s arm thrown across his chest and his hair fanning in his face, Grayson promises to himself that they’ll work it out somehow. 

Grayson doesn’t know what that entails, and a small part of him doesn’t want to know, actually, so he nuzzles his face against Ethan’s, resting a hand on his arm to keep him there, and falls back to sleep. 


~End