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Bad Timing

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‘I should stop listening to Brian.’ Tim sighs. Why the blonde thought it was a good idea for him of all people to audition for Kralie’s student film is a mystery to him. That it’s most definitely a bad idea becomes apparent the moment he sits down and Kralie asks him for his name.

For a few seconds he doesn’t react to the question, instead glancing in Brian’s direction. His friend is grinning encouragingly and holding his thumbs up. Tim rolls his eyes at the other’s antics and turns back to the wanna be director.

The brunet has an annoyed scowl on his face and is exasperatedly tapping his fingers on the table next to him. Tim smiles apologetically, or at least tries to, and raises his hands. [Tim] he signs, holding his breath in expectation of the inevitable questions and subsequent rejection.

Kralie’s reaction to him using ASL is the same most people have. He stares for a moment, then his eyes narrow. “What’s that?” he asks, intently staring at Tim.

Tim turns to Brian again, trying to convey his need for help with his eyes alone. The blonde raises his eyebrows, but comes over to stand next to Tim. “That’s ASL.” he casually says and lays his hand on Tim’s shoulder, “Tim’s mute.”

Kralie rolls his eyes and scoffs. “I know what ASL is. I’m just confused as to why you thought I’d want a mute actor.”

Tim was expecting it, because of course the brunet wouldn’t want someone who can’t talk in his movie, but it still stings. A lot. It brings back memories of being rejected by the other kids on the playground and at school, having only his brother for company.

“’Cause he’s a great actor. And he’s a musician too. You’ve been complaining about not finding anyone to do the soundtrack.” Brian’s voice snaps him from his dark thoughts. A wave of happiness crashes into his heart. Only his brother’s ever stood up for him before. To have an actual friend who’s not bound to him by blood is amazing. Tim struggles to remain professional and not smile like a loon.

“Alright.” Kralie gives in with a sigh and hands Tim a page of his script, on which a few lines are highlighted, “Show me what you’ve got.”

Tim happily takes the piece of paper and reads through the marked lines a few times. Then he puts it on the table and acts.

***

It’s been five months since the audition and three since shooting started. Tim didn’t get a role in the movie, but Alex wanted him to be his audio technician. A guy called Toby ended up getting the part, as the main character’s best friend, he had auditioned for.

At first Tim was a bit bummed. To play a role in a movie had sounded kind of fun. But all the jealousy he might have felt was gone the moment he first saw Toby act. The guy is good. Really good. Something you wouldn’t expect when you first meet him. He’s awkward and gangly, keeps twitching and has a pretty bad stutter. That is until he starts playing a role. Then he’s suddenly a completely different person.

Tim can’t help but stare in awe every time the transformation happens. And he’s not the only one. Alex clearly admires Toby’s skill as well, though the bespectacled man does his best to ‘stay professional’, as he puts it.

Unfortunately staying professional apparently means scolding his crew and demanding reshoots until everyone is about to have a mental breakdown. Tim himself has been on the receiving end of enough telling-offs to last him a lifetime. Because of that he contemplated quitting on more than one occasion, but then he sees the stress in Alex’s eyes and the frustration written all over his face and he’d find himself unable to abandon the man.

“Hey! Tim! Are you even listening?”

Alex’s annoyed voice startles Tim out of his thoughts. His eyes focus on the irate man and he bites his lip, embarrassed. [I’m sorry. I didn’t sleep last night.]

A sigh leaves the taller man’s mouth. “Then why are you here? I told you to stay home if you’re not feeling well.”

Tim can’t help the small smile that quirks up his lips at the sentiment. He’s really not good with crowds, especially when he’s cranky after too little rest and/or a conversation with his mother. That’s something Alex had to learn the hard way, when one day Tim had a panic attack on set after a particularly bad night.

[I’m fine. Just a little absent minded.] Tim reassures the man.

“You sure?” Alex asks, sceptical worry in his voice.

Tim nods and places the taller man’s hand on his chest to demonstrate the calmness of his heart beat. [Yeah. I’m okay.] he signs, but Alex doesn’t seem to notice, too focussed on their physical contact. The warmth of his fingers seeps into his skin and suddenly Tim feels very flustered, his cheeks heating up in embarrassment.

“Uhm g-guys? I h-hate to interrupt, but the weird guy’s b-back.”

“Again?!” Alex whirls around to face Toby, who’d appeared behind him, “Where?”

The rage in Alex’s voice shocks Tim. He’s never heard him that angry before, not even when Jay knocked over a camera and ruined an entire day’s worth of footage as well as the camera itself.

“O-over there.” Toby points in the general direction of the forest that’s close to today’s shooting location.

Before Alex can start storming off to confront the ‘guy’, whoever that was, Tim cautiously puts his hand on the taller man’s shoulder. Alex turns to face him, eyes blazing. “What?” he snaps.

[What guy?]

For a second Alex’s face scrunches up in an angry snarl, before realization replaces it. He sighs. “You’re not on set that often, so I guess you wouldn’t know. There’s this weird tall guy that keeps turning up and watching us from afar, but every time any of us want to confront him he runs off. It’s really creepy and annoying.”

[I’ll come with you.] Tim insists. He has, unfortunately, experience with creeps and maybe that’ll come in handy.

Alex eyes him warily, but then nods and walks off, Tim following after him. “W-wait!” Toby calls and jogs to catch up with them.

As they get closer to the rest of today’s crew, Brian, Sarah and Seth, Tim spots something at the edge of the forest. It’s a tall figure, mostly concealed by the shadow cast by the trees around it. Tim narrows his eyes. Something is familiar about the person.

Suddenly the person turns around, bending a branch so it won’t hit them, and for a short moment all Tim can see is white. A shiver races down his spine and he’s hit by nausea. A white, faceless mask. A nightmare.

The world spins around him and he stumbles, barely catching himself. With shaking hands he fumbles for his phone and selects a certain name in the messaging program he has open. He sends a text, probably riddled with typos.

“You okay? You look pale.” A warm hand touches his shoulder and when he looks up his eyes meet Alex’s. Tim shakes his head no. [I know that guy.] he signs as the bespectacled man guides him to the nearby pavilion to sit down.

“You do?” Alex’s expression turns sour again. Tim nods. [He used to stalk me when I was a kid. I thought he was in jail, but-] he hesitates, hands unsurely hovering in front of him, [I guess I was wrong.] The realization that the nightmare of his past isn’t over yet hits him and tears gather in his eyes, threatening to fall. He bites his bottom lip to keep from crying in front of everyone.

A growl snaps his attention back to Alex. The taller man looks like he’s about to murder someone, eyes blazing and body shaking with tension. He mumbles something Tim can’t quite hear and shuffles on the bench they’re sitting on, like he wants to get up, but can’t quite bring himself to.

“H-h-he’s gone.” Toby walks up to them, nervously fidgeting a bottle of water between his hands. “Here.” he hands Tim the bottle, a muscle in his right cheek twitching. Tim takes the offered beverage and forces himself to smile in thanks.

“Tell me about it.” Alex suddenly pipes up, now visibly more relaxed.

Tim knows he could pretend to not know what the bespectacled man is talking about and Alex would probably leave him be; he’d never forced Tim to reveal things he didn’t want to. But for some reason he wants to share his past, at least part of it, with these people, his friends.

He sets the bottle on the bench next to him and raises his hands, about to start talking, when suddenly the loud engine of a motorbike coming closer can be heard. Seconds later a sleek black Kawasaki slides into the parking lot, coming to a halt next to Tim’s beat up Mercury. “Tim!” the rider calls as he hastily gets off his vehicle. He runs over to them, taking his helmet off. “Tim! Are you okay? Where is the creep?”

Tim ignores Alex and Toby’s gasps as they see the newcomer’s face and instead answers his identical twin’s question: [I- He’s gone. For now...] Marty sighs and runs a gloved hand through his hair, the gel he usually uses to keep his short mane under control causing it to stand up in spikes. “Motherfucker...” Tim’s brother curses under his breath, “I thought we’d finally gotten rid of that freak...”

Tim throws his twin a pained smile and motions for him to sit next to him. He glances at Toby and then turns to Alex, who were quietly watching the entire time. [This is my brother Marty.] he introduces, [Marty, this is Alex and Toby.]

Marty grins and holds out his hand for Toby to shake. “I’ve heard much about you.” he grins. The twitchy man takes the offered hand and smiles nervously. “T-tim’s made me out to be am-mazing, I hope.” he chuckles uncomfortably, his cheeks a little red. An amused laugh escapes Marty’s mouth. “Of course. Miracle man Toby!” he snarks and then turns to greet Alex.

The tallest of the four, however, isn’t paying attention, instead he’s focused on a spot a little ways into the wood, a look of cold contemplation on his face. With a small frown Marty drops his hand, muttering something about rude people under his breath.

“S-so.” Toby’s cautious voice suddenly fills the relative silence, “Since when have you two k-known each other?”

Tim just- stares, his face probably mirroring Marty’s look of disbelieve. “We’re… twins…” his brother slowly enunciates, his brows furrowed in confusion.

“A-ah.” Toby’s face turns a bright scarlet, “Of c-course. I kn-kn-kn-knew that.”

Marty raises his eyebrows. “Mhm.” He puts his right hand into the pocket of his leather jacket, probably to play with the ball of rubber bands he keeps in there.

Toby hangs his head in shame, still blushing furiously. “S-stupid.” he mumbles, “A-always so stupid.”

Tim reaches out to lay a comforting hand on the poor guy’s shoulder, when suddenly Alex speaks up. “You wanted to tell us about that stalker guy?”

Tim swallows hard. He did, didn’t he? With a sigh he looks to Marty, inquiring his brother to be his voice. Having spoken for him many times before the other man immediately knows what he’s wordlessly asking.

“We were twelve when we first saw the creep.” Marty starts, an expression like he bit into a lemon on his face.

They’d been at the playground way past their curfew, too immersed in their games to notice the sun dipping below the horizon. Only when it became difficult to see the rungs of the ladder leading up to the play castle did Marty realize that they should’ve headed home long ago.

He informed Tim of his discovery and the other boy nodded sadly. [Can I at least go down the slide one last time?] his brother asked, looking at him with those sad, big eyes that are just so damn hard to say no to. “Alright.” Marty agreed, “But then we gotta go. We’re already in for one hell of an ass whoopin’.” They both cringed at the thought of mother’s paddle.

Tim quickly shuffled up to the top of the play castle, ran across the rope bridge to the entrance of the slide and froze.

“Is something wrong?” Marty called out, worried because his brother hadn’t immediately gotten onto the slide like he usually would. To his further concern he could make out Tim shaking his head and pointing in the direction of the field separating the playground from the suburb they lived in.

With slightly shaky hands Marty made his way up the play castle to see what had his brother spooked. The wooden rungs slightly creaked under his weight and the cool evening wind made the young boy shiver. He’d never been afraid of anything besides mother, but right this moment he couldn’t shake the heavy dread weighing down his stomach. He had this feeling that something horrible was going to happen.

The moment Marty reached his brother’s side, he grasped the other boy’s clammy hand, the contact offering at least some comfort. Cautiously he peered over the railing of the play castle. There, in the middle of the field, stood a tall man, blankly staring at them. He was dressed in a black suit. His shaggy brown hair was combed over the bald spot that had formed on the top of his head and an out of place pink scarf hid the lower half of his face from view.

Slowly the man started to walk in their direction. A flash of panic gripped Marty’s heart and he ran back over the rope bridge, dragging his brother with him. “L-let’s get out of here!” he panted, almost falling off the ladder as he hurried down it. At the bottom he waited for Tim, nervously fidgeting in place. As soon as the other boy’s feet touched the ground they were off again.

The shortest way home would be through the field, but since the strange man was coming from there, they had to take the long road that cut through the wooded parts of the public park and then go back around through a quiet upper class neighbourhood. Since it was late the streets were deserted, lights only in some windows. A dog loudly barking as they ran past a tall iron wrought fence startled Marty so badly he tripped, bringing Tim down with him.

The pain in his knees and palms brought tears to his eyes, but when a glance back the way they came revealed the man still following them, he held them back and scrambled back to his feet. His hand once again found his brother’s and they were moving.

Marty could hear the other boy’s quiet whimpers over his heavy breathing and angrily bit down on his lower lip. If only he were bigger and stronger, then he could protect them both. Never before had he wished so badly to be a grown up.

Somehow they managed to get home without the man ever catching up to them. Later in his life Marty would look back and wonder whether the man purposely didn’t snatch them that night so he could find out where they lived. Considering the many years of him stalking them that followed, that was most likely the case.

But on that day the little boy was just glad to be safe. It didn’t even matter that mother brought out the paddle to punish their tardiness. At least that was a pain he knew.

***

From that day on Marty and Tim kept seeing the tall man everywhere. Somewhere along the line he ditched the scarf and started wearing a white, featureless mask. For years their mother didn’t believe them whenever they brought the issue up to her. It was only when a sixteen year old Tim one day spotted him through the window during a biology lesson and broke down crying in the middle of class that the authorities were contacted.

Five months later the brothers were informed that the stalker had been apprehended. They never found out who it was or why he followed them.

Once Marty stops talking a heavy silence falls over the pavillion. That is until Alex suddenly speaks up. The taller man’s words cause Tim’s breath to catch in his throat. “We should just shoot him.”

Tim furiously shakes his head. [No way.] he hastily signs at the same time as Marty shouts: “Are you crazy?!” and Toby starts stuttering incoherently. Alex shrugs his shoulders. “From what I can tell that guy’s not gonna go away unless we take care of him. We gotta do something before that he does something unforgivable. I have a family reunion at my uncle’s coming up and his neighbour owns a bunch of guns he never properly locks up.”

It’s moments like these where Tim wishes he could scream. That he could shake Alex and tell him every reason why that would be a terrible idea. Instead he takes one of the taller man’s hands and lays it on his chest. [You don’t need to kill anyone. I’m going to be fine. I promise.]

For a long moment Alex just stares at him, expression unreadable. Tim’s starting to feel really uncomfortable, when suddenly the taller man nods. “Okay.” he says, “But if that creep tries to do anything, I won’t hesitate.”

“Yeah me neither. Nobody gets to touch my baby brother.” Marty growls.

Tim whips around to glare at his twin. [I’m older than you.] he signs, frowning.

“Only by about an hour.” Marty replies, rolling his eyes, “And I’m taller. Obviously that makes you the baby brother.”

Tim sighs, knowing there’s no arguing with Marty when he gets like that. The guy is even more stubborn than him, which has led to many a feud in their childhood. He still remembers that one time when Marty insisted that he get to play on the gameboy they got for their birthday first. It ended with the console broken and neither of them able to play.

Still he can’t help but sign [Think whatever you want.], one of his eyebrows raised in obvious sarcasm. The resulting scowl on his brother’s face is definitely worth it.

“U-uhm. Are w-we gonna go back to f-f-filming now? I mean the w-weird guy’s gone, it’s getting late and I still have a r-r-r-report to finish.” Toby interjects, nervously smiling.

Alex nods and gets up. “Yeah we should get back to filming before it gets too dark for the scene.”

Tim shares a look with his brother, silently asking him what to do next, who just shrugs. “I’ve been wanting to see what you’re up to all day anyway.” he drawls, “Might as well stay here and watch for a while.”

“Yeah. Sure. So long as you stay quiet and out of the way during takes.” Alex agrees. Then he jogs over to Brian, Sarah and Seth, who are quietly talking amongst themselves, occasionally shooting Tim and Marty looks. Marty grins and rubs his hands together, somehow managing to look like a cartoon villain. “Well then. Show me what you’ve got!”

***

Somehow it becomes normal that Marty would randomly show up during their shoots and watch them. After the second time he starts bringing snacks to appease an exasperated Alex. After the fifth time Toby started receiving special treats from him. In addition to the flirting.

Contrary to the way he acts, Marty doesn’t like many people. In fact, he dislikes most of them. When Tim asked him why, he didn’t answer, but he suspects it has something to do with their stalker and the way their mother disregarded their worries. To see Marty trying so hard to get everyone on set’s, especially Toby’s, approval warms Tim’s heart. Maybe his brother will finally find friends?

“Tim my man!” Brian suddenly sits down next to him on the fallen tree he’d been perched on for the last hour and throws an arm around his shoulder. He’s been watching Brian and Toby act out a pivotal scene in Alex’s movie, while the director filmed and Marty cheered them on from the sidelines, but as he sunk into his thoughts it seems he missed them stopping and the blonde coming over.

[Hey.] Tim signs and smiles.

Brian grins and drops his arm. “I’m so tired.” he yawns, “I wish Alex would give us some slack. It’s not like we’re professional actors or anything.” He gestures to where Alex is going over the script with Toby, pointing to several things on the page and then gesticulating wildly as he explains his vision.

There’s a crease between the bespectacled man’s brows and his eyes are narrowed. His gestures are wild and abrupt. He’s obviously stressed. Tim wonders if he should offer to give him a massage. His back must hurt with how stiff he looks.

“So have you finally confessed?” Brian interrupts his train of thought.

Tim feels his cheeks heat. [Wh-?]

The blonde rolls his eyes. “Have you told Alex you wanna smooch him. Informed him you want to take a ride into Alex town. You know. Jump his bones.”

Tim shoves his cackling friend, face probably redder than a tomato. [What the hell, Brian?!] The blonde catches himself before he falls off the tree and rubs a mirthful tear from the corner of his eye, his chuckling dying down. “Seriously though. You should tell him. It’s getting annoying to watch you two moon at each other from across the set.” Brian says, now looking serious.

Tim sighs. [And how am I supposed to do that? I’m not good with words… and stuff. I’m gonna end up saying something stupid and he’ll hate me.]

Brian puts his hand on Tim’s shoulder and rubs it a little, “Hey. It’s gonna be okay. I mean. Have you read this thing?” he waves Alex’s script in front of his eyes, “If you go full cheese you can’t go wrong. Just tell him something like: Dear Alexander. Whenever mine eyes spye thine buttox me thinks: I wanna bend you over the nearest table.” The blonde cracks up again and this time Tim does shove him off their perch.

Seeing the look of shock and betrayal on his friend’s face, Tim can’t help but let out an amused giggle. [That’s what you get for being an idiot.]

Brian props himself on his elbows and grins. “Am I at least a lovable idiot?” he snarks and gives him an exaggerated innocent look.

[Of course.] Tim confirms overly serious and then holds out his hand to help Brian off the ground. The blonde grabs it and starts to pull himself up, when an angry yell causes both of them to freeze.

They get to their feet and jog over to Alex, who’s staring at a particular spot in the woods. “It’s him again.” the bespectacled director growls when he notices them coming up to him. Tim’s eyes follow the taller man’s gaze and, truly, there he is. Upon seeing the white, faceless mask a wave of cold dread floods his body and he instinctively reaches for the arms of the men next to him. His fingers cling to soft fabric and flesh, probably causing pain, but right at that moment he doesn’t care.

Tim doesn’t know why the stalker scares him so much. The man never did anything but watch him and his brother, but seeing him makes Tim want to crawl into bed, under his blanket and never come out again.

“That’s it!” Marty’s sudden shout tears Tim from his stupor and he whips around to see his twin storming their way, “I can’t take it anymore!” Before any of them can react, Tim’s brother pulls the gun Alex started carrying a few days ago from where it’s holstered under his hoodie and starts running in the direction of the woods, cursing and shooting at the masked man.

The stalker turns and runs. Then he stumbles and falls. He doesn’t get up again.

A moment of shocked silence passes over them. It’s surreal; it almost feels like time has stopped. Blood rushes loudly in Tim’s ears and he knows he should feel something, but there’s this void in his chest. He can see what happened, but it’s impossible to grasp.

“Holy fuck…” Brian’s whisper tears through the silence like a knife through skin. Suddenly the world starts moving again, the wind too loud in Tim’s ears and the chitter of insects thunderous. The breath rushes from his lungs and he becomes acutely aware of how tightly his hands are clawed around Alex and Brian’s arms. He tries to loosen his grip, but his fingers won’t cooperate.

A rustling sound causes Tim to look up. Marty is turning around to them, a look of helpless shock on his face. His mouth opens and closes a few times, before he seems to give up on talking and questioningly holds up the gun by the hilt, fingers as far away from the trigger as possible. His hands tremble so badly he almost drops it, which seems to spur Brian into action.

The blonde stiffly walks over to Tim’s twin, somehow managing to get free from Tim’s death grip, and pries the weapon from him. He secures the offending item, then stores it in the holster at Alex’s lower back. The blondes swallows audibly. “We should, uhm, probably take a look?” The man’s voice is hoarse and breathy, like he’s just barely holding himself together.

Tim, finally having regained his motor functions, nods. Out of the corner of his eye he can see Alex, Marty and Toby reluctantly agree as well.

Warily the five make their way over to the treeline. The first step into the underbrush is like entering a new world. The thicket keeps the wind from entering the forest and the floor is spongy, covered by a thick layer of leaves and branches. Every step crunches the fallen foliage.

After a few seconds Brian, who’d been leading their small party, suddenly stops, causing Tim to almost run into him. Curiously he peers around his friend.

The man lies face first on the ground, one of his arms bent at an unnatural angle beneath his thin body, the other spread above his head like he is calling for help. His left ankle is twisted outwards, the black pant leg having ridden up to reveal pasty pale skin. A bug is making its way up the white dress shoe, stopping at the sole to inspect the crease between the heel and the flat part.

Tim is half tempted to keep looking at the insect, not wanting to see the damage his brother did to the stalker, but he feels like he owes it to his twin to at least take a peek, so he forces his gaze to the back of the prone man’s head. The wound itself is not visible, the only thing betraying that he’s been hit is the blood matting the shaggy grey hair around the base of the skull. A small rivulet is trailing down the side of the wrinkly neck towards the adam’s apple.

What really gets Tim, though, is the stillness of the man’s chest. There is no movement indicating life, not even a slight twitch. Nothing. A sudden wave of nausea hits him and he has to turn away to empty the contents of his stomach.

Warm hands appear to hold the hair out of his face and a gentle voice starts talking to him. It takes Tim a moment to realize that Alex is trying to calm him down. “Hey. It’s okay. We can just go back and let the others deal with this mess.” he says and strokes Tim’s back.

[But-] Tim starts to protest, not wanting to leave them hanging, but he’s interrupted by Toby: “It’s o-o-okay. R-really. We’ve got i-i-it.” Tim’s still reluctant, but Alex insistently tugging on his arm and the thought of having to look at that still chest again eventually persuade him.

[If you nee-]d help after all, just tell us, he tries to say, but Marty, Brian and Toby already have their backs turned and don’t see it. With a silent sigh Tim lets himself be dragged to the clearing they’d been filming on. It seems like a lifetime ago that he’d watched Alex tearing at his hair in frustration at Brian and Toby goofing off. He wishes himself back to that time.

Alex sits Tim down on the same log he’d used as a chair for most of the day. The bark is rough under his skin, a few of the cracks wide enough that he can force his fingers in and tear it off the wood in chunks.

A water bottle appears in his field of vision and he looks up to see Alex wryly smiling at him. “To get rid of the taste.” he mumbles. Tim nods and takes the proffered item, unscrewing the cap and taking a tiny sip. It’s only when the cool liquid touches his tongue does he realize how parched he is. With a few deep gulps he empties the bottle.

Slowly he lowers his arm, gaze fixed on the empty plastic container, but not quite seeing it. His mind keeps bringing up the image of the fallen man in the forest. The blood dying the grey strands of his hair a reddish colour.

“Hey,” Alex’s warm hand on his shoulder brings Tim back to reality, “breathe.” With a start he notices he’s been holding his breath and takes in much needed oxygen.

For a few minutes they sit in silence, Alex gently massaging Tim’s arm and Tim staring at the bottle. Then: “You know. There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.” the taller man says quietly, his hand stopping its ministrations. Tim can feel it tremble where it holds onto his elbow.

He turns to look Alex in the eyes, giving a small nod, an indication that he’ll pay attention to what the other man has to say. “Uhm. I-” the brunet’s voice breaks. He shuffles and his arm tenses. “I-” Alex takes a deep breath, a look of determination entering his eyes, “Dear Timothy. Whenever mine eyes spye thine buttox me thinks: I-” he stops, seems to reconsider his word choice, then continues, “I like you.”

Tim can’t help the chuckle that escapes his lips. [Brian’s been talking to you.] he signs, a small smile quirking up the corners of his mouth. Alex’s cheeks turn rosy. “I- maybe?” Tim quietly chuckles at the taller man’s embarrassment.

Then the sight of the dead body flashes before is eyes again and his mood plummets. [Why couldn’t you have waited for tomorrow to confess.] he laments and Alex’s face falls. The man opens his mouth, probably to apologize, but Tim interrupts him: [Now the best and worst things that have ever happened to me are on the same day.]

For a moment Alex just stares, mouth agape. “Y-you mean-?” he stutters out when he wakes from his stupor. Tim smiles and lays the brunet’s hand over his chest. [I like you too, dummy.]

A smile unlike any he’s ever seen on the surly man takes hold of Alex’s face. “Then will you be my boyfriend?” he asks, his fingers creasing Tim’s shirt as he leans forward. Tim nods. With an excited squeak Alex wraps him up in a tight hug, whispering incoherent happy noises.

Tim lays his hands on the other man’s back. He knows that this day will cause nightmares and panic attacks in the years to come, but with Alex by his side, he thinks, he might be able to get through this. Still, he can’t help but roll his eyes at Alex’s bad timing.