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And They Were Quarantined (Oh My God, They Were Quarantined)

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His options were limited on such a short notice at the time, but he never should have agreed to inhabit the third floor of a walk-up apartment. But really, save for the initial move, it hadn’t been an issue until then. Three flights was nothing when going to and from work. It wasn't even that bad when he was carrying groceries. A little inconvenient? Sure. 

But there was a difference between carrying a carton of milk or eggs, worrying about dropping them, and this:

Carefully, painstakingly carrying piece by piece of computer equipment from the trunk of his sedan to his living room, cradling each piece as if it were a frail, premature baby. If it wasn't anxiety-inducing enough, Kyle was haunted with the knowledge that his work wasn't only requiring him to take home his work computer and other equipment to ensure his WFH output was as similar to his in-person, they were also going to leave him to foot the bill for any damages that occurred.

As if desktop computers weren't ridiculously fragile and literally the worst option for this kind of transportation between locations. But they were insistent that he did his work on their devices, and truth be told, he didn't want to do work on his personal laptop if he didn't have to. He'd at least packed the system unit in a secure box, and as he set it—fortunately the final item—against the living room wall in the meantime, he was confident that it was probably fine.

Still, he was left with a major problem: "I still have no fucking idea where to set this up."

His roommate, all six-foot-four of his tan, muscular, and hopelessly, frustratingly straight roommate, tossed a glance over his shoulder from the kitchen sink, where he’d just finished rinsing a coffee cup. “Take the kitchen table.” Craig said it as if it weren’t even a subject of debate.

“Oh. I couldn’t do that,” Kyle replied, “It’s your place. You should have the table.”

Craig turned around, and leaned against the counter. “Dude. Did we not just sign a new lease for next year. It’s as much your place as it is mine. Besides, I already have all my shit set up in my room.”

”Seriously? All that stuff even fits in there?” Imagining two huge monitors and several… Well. He didn’t actually know what sort of equipment Craig’s job entailed. Drawing tablets, maybe—Kyle hazarded a guess that was what engineers dealt with—shoved into Craig’s minimalist, tiny room made him feel close to anxious.

Craig raised a brow, as if there was something amusing about this situation, but for the life of him, Kyle had no idea what could have been even slightly humorous about this. Granted, Craig was a hard read, but... "Yeah? I'm good to go."

"Aren't you concerned that you're not going to be able to focus in there? That's a room where you sleep and rela—"

"Nope. Not at all."

Kyle knew that was a disaster waiting to happen. After all, it was exactly why he couldn't work in his own bedroom. But there was no point in arguing with it: the kitchen table was prime real estate; the last thing he wanted was to convince Craig that working in his room was a bad idea and subsequently having to share the table. "Alright. I'll set up in here, then. I'm anticipating a lot of conference calls, so I'll make sure the monitor and camera are facing the wall." His coworkers didn't need to see Craig existing in the kitchen or something.

“Sounds like a plan, man.” Craig’s long legs took him across the kitchen to the fridge in a few strides, where he opened it to pull out a beer and crack it open. “Heh. That rhymed.”

“Don’t you have to work? Drinking on the job, tch. ” Kyle hoped his sarcasm came across as intended.

"Oh yes," Craig responded with equal sarcasm. "How could I forget that abiding by workplace standards in unprecedented circumstances is so important."

Kyle scoffed in response. "Routines actually are helpful, but you do you. I don't actually care if you day drink."

"Good. 'Cause I'm not even going to bother wearing pants, either."

Kyle laughed, thinly. “Good plan. I don’t know if it’d work out if I tried that myself, but maybe it’s worth a shot.” Damn it. Why was it that Craig always said shit like that to Kyle, always with a dumb smirk on his face? Did he know that Kyle had been battling a mild crush on him more or less since he’d moved in? Did he know that even the sheer idea of being quarantined in close quarters with Craig made Kyle’s crush get worse and worse with each passing day? No, he couldn’t—there’s no way that Craig would continue to even speak to him if he knew.

Maybe it was a straight guy thing. Just not having a care in the world about who they said what to. He knew for a fact that his own straight best friend had shared dick pics in the group chat they had with some other guy friends. Maybe it was the same concept.

But Craig didn't seem like the type. Or he at least didn't seem as much of a fuckboy in comparison to Kyle's friends. He had a give-no-fucks attitude, sure, but before he even knew Kyle well at all, he'd helped out when Kyle's ex tried to pull some shit... "Why not? Just don't stand up while you're on a video conference." Kyle's response was an noncommittal sound, deciding now was the best time to get the desktop setup.

“Well. Let me know if you need help with any of that.” Craig shot him a nod, and began to head down the corridor to his bedroom. A couple steps into his journey, he paused, and turned around. “Kyle.”

“Hm?”

“We should watch something later. If you want. They’ve got new stand-ups on Netflix.”

"Oh, yeah, sure. I'm game." It wasn't out of the question to watch stuff on Netflix together, but it wasn't generally something planned out. Rather, it was one of them getting caught up in what the other was watching in the living room. But the promise of something to watch later was nice, and meant that he had something to look forward to after getting his makeshift 'office' set up in a manner that would be most conducive to productivity.

The process didn’t take terribly long—it wasn’t like it was hard to set up a desktop computer and his printer/scanner combo—but the problem came when he tried to connect to WiFi. Not only did his computer fail to connect, but it appeared as if there were no option to actually find wireless networks, even after going into the settings. And despite Craig’s offer to help, Kyle didn’t feel right asking him to step away from his own work for this.

Groaning, he dialed his boss. Who, of course, didn’t answer, leaving Kyle no choice but to leave a voicemail. Rolling his eyes at her chipper mailbox greeting, Kyle tried to put on his best professional voice. “Hey, Christina. This is Kyle Broflovski in Accounting. I’m having some issues connecting my desktop to my home WiFi, but I wanted to let you know that other than that, it’s all set up. I’m going to put in a ticket with IT from my personal device. If I don’t hear from them today, I guess consider me out of office and I can use vacation time if needed. Alright, well, take care.”

He stared at his phone for a moment after hanging up. Maybe emailing IT could wait. He darted a furtive glance around the room, as if Christina herself was hiding around the corner, about to swoop out and admonish him for slacking off. Then, with a sigh, he settled onto the couch, and turned on the television. It wasn’t long into his first episode of Terrance and Philip on Hulu that Craig emerged from his room. True to his promise, he was clad in a hoodie and boxer briefs, and Kyle had to force himself not to stare.

“And you got all judgy at me for drinking a beer. Wow. Napping on the job.” Kyle didn’t miss his good-natured smirk.

“Do I look asleep to you?” Kyle grinned. “Nah, my computer won’t connect to the internet. I figured I’d just chill until IT emails me back.” It was a half-truth at least.

“Hm. Mind if I take a look?”

“Knock yourself out, dude.” Kyle kept his gaze locked onto the television, which was just as well. He didn’t want his eyes to linger too much on Craig’s toned thighs, not to mention his ass. It was only a couple minutes, a few clicks, until Craig let out a humming sound. “Looks like you need an ethernet cord connected to the router. Probably something with your company’s security, the computer doesn’t have WiFi enabled or whatever.”

Kyle scoffed. “Oh. Well that’s nice. Glad they told me about that when I took everything.”

Craig snorted, but it wasn't an ugly sound coming from him. Go figure that even his snorts sounded cute. Kyle almost wished he could hate him, but instead he forced himself to focus even more intently on the television as he listened to what Craig was saying. "That figures."

"For real. It's whatever, I can just drive to the office to get one tomorrow if I need to." It was amazing how quickly he'd just given up on being productive today, which meant his future endeavours at home were surely promising.

"And break the stay-at-home order?" Craig's voice was closer now, and that awareness resulted in him glancing over to an eyeful of Craig's thighs.

Kyle cleared his throat. "To a location where no one else is supposed to be? I'm sure it'll be fine."

“Mm, I dunno. Wouldn’t want you to get hauled off to jail for virus crimes.” Craig leaned against the other end of the sofa, mercifully hiding those thighs, and his rather sizable bulge.

Kyle would be a liar if he said he wasn’t slightly disappointed, but allowing himself to check out his straight boy roommate like that would just make him feel like a guilty piece of shit in the long run. This wasn’t his first rodeo with crushing on a guy he didn’t have a chance with, but this time he’d be damned if he let that ruin the good thing they had going. He scoffed. “Yeah, I don’t think it works like that. I think it’d technically count as essential.”

"You're really pushing it there, Broflovski." Craig gave him a sideways glance that made it clear that he wasn't serious. But really, Kyle knew he'd be fine making that drive if he needed to take it.

"Think so? Well, if I get arrested, I'll make sure you're my phone call."

"Wow, you really think I'd bail you out? You wish."

“Never gonna get a better roommate, just saying.” Kyle gave Craig an exaggerated glare. 

“You got me there.”

Silence fell between them for a bit, and for as much as he wanted to focus on watching Terrance and Phillip, Kyle was consistently aware of Craig in his proximity. He couldn't take it; he had to keep talking. "Did you give up on working?"

Craig scoffed, shifting where he was but otherwise remained planted. "I finished what I needed to do ages ago."

“Oh.” Kyle gave him a bemused look. He had a feeling their respective work from home experiences were going to be rather different; he could already foresee his superiors using his constant connectivity to the office to their advantage, and shuddered at the thought. “Well. Wanna have some beers or something?”

“Speaking my language.”

Getting to his feet, Kyle headed to the kitchen to pull out a couple bottles of craft beers. The bottle opener was a magnet on the fridge door, so it was clearly in view, and it would have only taken him a moment to pop the tops off and head back to the living room. But he needed a moment. To ground himself, to steady his breathing, and remind himself he needed to get a grip.

It was a redundant thought, a mantra at this point, but he didn't need to ruin this decent living situation with a stupid crush on a roommate who would never be interested in him. Kyle needed this reminder, because it wasn't just the fact that crushing on a straight man was pointless. More importantly: if he fucked up so badly that things soured, it could affect other relationships in his life, since Craig was a friend of his best friend's friend.

"You get lost in there?" That pulled Kyle out of his head, and he finally opened the bottles.

"Keep testing me and you're getting a juice box instead, Tucker."

“Just throw some vodka in with it and we’re good.” When Kyle returned from the kitchen, he found Craig sitting on the opposite end of the sofa, long legs crossed atop one another and outstretched onto the ottoman.

“Careful. There’s no Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during quarantine, dude.” Which was a lie.They existed, just not in person; Kyle knew that his best friend, Stan, would be attending them via Zoom.

There was that snort again, the one that should've been rude and ugly but instead it made Kyle's heart all aflutter again. He hated this. As he passed the bottle over to Craig, Kyle did his best to suppress that shit back up. Maybe if he tried hard enough, he could make it disappear entirely. "You cool with watching Terrance and Phillip? If not, we can switch it to Netflix." Kyle knew T&P was an acquired taste for a show, after all.

Craig’s smile was crooked yet fond after he took a sip of his beer, wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his hoodie. “I loved this show as a kid. I’m fine with this.”

“I didn’t know that!” Kyle’s cheeks flushed in his inability to control his enthusiasm. “I mean. I don’t remember you telling me that.”

Craig shrugged. “It was a popular show. Gets a bad rap nowadays.”

"You're telling me," Kyle said moments before tilting his bottle up. "My mother still cites it as the reason I 'turned out this way,' like it completely corrupted me as a kid." He couldn't help but roll his eyes. Sure, Terrance and Phillip spoke crudely and farted on people, but that didn't ruin him. It wasn't like he went around farting in people's faces. Never had, never would. But he didn't want to dwell on that. There were plenty of more positive things to think about concerning his two favorite comedians. "Have you ever gotten to see them live? I finally got to when I was in college, when their Uncle Fucker tour went to Ft Collins."

"For real?" Craig's face lit up, and Kyle would be damned if the broad grin spreading across his face wasn't exactly what he needed in that moment. "I saw that when they came to Iowa City."

"No way." Kyle returned the smile. "You know, sometimes I forget you went to school in Hicksville. But wasn't it amazing?"

"Hey." Craig jabbed Kyle's shin with his pointer finger. His legs were once again outstretched on the sofa—which meant his feet were mere inches from Craig's bare legs, and the thought of accidentally-on-purpose brushing against them made Kyle's head swim. "It was a good school, dick. But yeah, it was so great."

For the next half hour or so, they spent their time exchanging their respective Uncle Fucker tour stories, which quickly segued into tales of dumb shit they did at college. It didn't come as a surprise that they'd both had their fair share of shenanigans. Kyle's friends being who they were, it was a miracle that they never got arrested while wandering around town drunk in the middle of the night to Waffle House.

Craig's just seemed otherworldly. Or maybe Kyle was just putting his college stories on a pedestal because it was Craig. "—and that's how I woke up in the middle of a corn field."

Kyle laughed. He didn't often laugh, especially given the current situation in the world, but here he was, laughing at this. "Isn't that most of Iowa, though?"

Craig shrugged. "Some of it's soy."

Snickering, Kyle rose to his feet. "I'm getting another beer. Want one?"

"Why don't you just bring the rest in here? Then we don’t have to get up again." Kyle narrowed his eyes at Craig, but before he could say anything to the contrary, Craig cut him off. "Don’t think about tomorrow, because I know that’s what you’re doing. We don't have to worry about being hungover in the office, or looking nice, or any of that shit. Might as well take advantage."

"Alright." Kyle could argue against it, but he really didn't want to. It was selfish of him, but he wanted to spend as much time with Craig, getting to know him, as much as he could. There was no harm in doing it this way, right? He fetched the remaining four beers from the six pack in the fridge.

It wasn't much, but liquor stores were considered an essential business, so it wasn't like there was going to be a shortage of booze. When he returned, he passed two of the beers to Craig and settled back in his spot. Craig had opened Netflix, scrolling through the new arrivals, which in and of itself Kyle knew was something that would probably take longer than whatever they actually wound up watching. Popping the top off, he stretched his legs out again, just in case that maybe, Craig might touch him. "Anything interesting?"

"Not really." Pausing in his scrolling, Craig glanced at him, sideways, and Kyle knew it had to be his imagination playing tricks on him when he thought he noticed Craig giving him a once-over. God, how pathetic was he; it was as if he was projecting all his covert eye-fucking of his roommate onto him, or something. Craig cleared his throat, and Kyle quickly swigged his beer, distracting himself with the taste of fancy lager as to keep Craig from noticing him staring at his long throat. "I don't want to watch anything too, um. Involved. Nothing that I have to think about," Craig continued, eyes trained on the television. "I'm sort of sick of thinking about shit. You know?"

"No documentaries, got it," Kyle responded. He could go for something a little mindless himself. The last thing he wanted was to get stuck in his head any more than he already was. Anything to distract him from his stupid crush. "Definitely think our only choice is some quality standup."

"Oh. Yeah, I guess I said that earlier, didn't I." His voice sounded absent, almost. Craig handed Kyle the remote without another word, and cracked open another beer for himself. Kyle made short work out of picking a random new stand-up, and settled into the couch. He grabbed the soft fleece throw that was draped over the back of the couch, one his mother sent him for Hanukkah last winter. His mother. Ugh. He should really call her. But not then. Not yet. Draping the blanket over himself, he pulled it up to his chin, and adjusted his posture so he was propped up enough on throw pillows for him to easily be able to not only balance his phone on his chest, but also take swigs of beer without spilling it all over his face. If that happened, Craig would undoubtedly never let him hear the end of it.

Craig made himself comfortable by sitting where he was. Maybe he was a little rigid. Was he made uncomfortable by Kyle stretching out as he had? Some straight guys were like that... So Kyle bent his legs a little, curling into the couch more as he watched the show. He felt Craig looking at him, so he made certain to keep focused on the television, only returning those glances when he knew that Craig wasn't looking at him. Kyle finished his second beer, moved onto his third.

The show was probably halfway through, but the beer-induced fatigue hit him suddenly and rapidly. It wasn't that he was a lightweight...he just didn't drink often. His beer was precariously balanced on his chest, fingers wrapped around the base of the bottle, not entirely aware that his grip was loosening until Craig reached over. He wrenched the bottle from Kyle's hands, and leaned further across him to set it aside on the end table.

"Careful, Kyle, you don't want to get beer everywhere." He nudged at him, and Kyle straightened, only to end up leaning against him.

And it wasn't until he woke up with his face buried in his roommate's chest that Kyle even realized he fell asleep. At first, he figured he was still sleeping. That the deep, steady breaths of Craig's own slumber that messed with Kyle's curls on each exhale were just a very pleasant dream. That the strong arm wrapped securely around Kyle's shoulders, the warmth radiating from Craig's body, the softness and the light, citrus cologne scent of Craig's sweatshirt against Kyle's face were a beginning to another one of those realistic fantasies from which Kyle usually woke up sweaty and shamed. But as his eyes adjusted to the now-darkness of the living room—Craig must have shut off the lamp, Kyle figured—and the darkness of his greyed-out television screen after his PS4 shut itself off when the Netflix program finished, he realized he did not have to wake up again.

Warm and comfortable, Kyle couldn't deny himself. He was feeling indulgent, and even in this state he knew this was probably the closest he'd ever get to his ridiculously attractive roommate. But it wasn't comfortable in the long term. His posture was bad, and the couch was old enough that there were firm parts digging into him. It was with heavy regret that he detangled himself and got to his feet. "Craig, you should go to bed too." It was a stage whisper, and while he got a grumbled response, Craig made no effort to move. Tugging a blanket from the back of the couch down, Kyle at least made sure Craig had a blanket before making his way to his own room.

 




Remembering that liquor stores and dispensaries remained open and essential was what got Kyle through his first week of working from home. Granted, he only drank during weekends, and only smoked or did edibles once in a very, very blue moon, but perhaps right then would be a great time to increase his consumption of both. It’d at least alleviate the stress, he figured. He didn't know what he expected while working from his kitchen table, but being busier than he'd ever seemed to be in the office definitely wasn't it. 


He went into the experience well aware that his boss would be breathing down his neck, but he didn't realize just how irksome and oppressive it would get. When he was in the office, it was just that—his boss could get a little bit suffocating and cheerfully tyrannical, yes, but at least when he was done for the day, he was done. He definitely hadn't anticipated that she’d bother him after five p. m. every day thus far.

He hadn't figured that he'd be almost more exhausted than he'd been while his company was still operating in person, either. After he'd managed to shake himself free from his work duties, Kyle was lucky if he got in a full Netflix movie before falling asleep. He had, of course, allowed himself a brief moment to consider that perhaps his early nights weren't simply due to work. He considered, maybe, that it was avoidance. That he didn't want to think about the fact that he was scared. Scared of getting sick. Scared for his mom, for his friends. Scared that things would never be good again. Worried that this couldn't be his normal, not for much longer; he'd go insane. But those thoughts were not to be dwelled upon. Either way, falling asleep near seven on a nightly basis meant that he hadn't had an opportunity to bring up the week's earlier events to Craig.

It wasn't that he was avoiding Craig, not really. He saw him throughout the day, particularly around meal times. Being set up in the kitchen, he saw when Craig came in to top off his coffee, to grab something for lunch. It was obviously no fault of his own that Kyle's breaks were at completely different times, and with his headphones on and gaze trained directly at the computer monitor, he made it clear that he was busy.

And he was. It wasn't like he was lying about that.

Around dinner was a little more normal, reminiscent of the pre-stuck-at-home times. They cooked or they got takeout, but their interactions were superficial, limited to the food or the show they were watching. That night was no different, except for the look Craig gave him as he was packing leftover Chinese into containers, stacking them neatly in the fridge. "It's Friday. You gonna stay up with me, or bail out again?" The way Craig quirked his brow was like a challenge, or maybe something else Kyle wouldn't quite place, but he felt a little called out.

"I guess I can try to stay up a little longer."

"Good. I'm gonna watch Top Gun . Got some stuff to make old fashioneds when I went out yesterday if you want any."

"Did you wear gloves and wipe everything down?" Kyle blurted it out before he could stop himself, cringing at how much he sounded like his mother. "I mean. You're not sick or whatever, are you?" He raked his hand through his closely-cut curls sheepishly.

Craig stared at him, and Kyle couldn't quite place the expression. It was almost hollow, almost fearful, yet almost surprised. Perhaps even a little fond, although Kyle assumed that to be wishful thinking on his part. "Oh. Yeah. I mean, no. Not sick. Yes to the other stuff." He closed the fridge, leaving his hand on the handle and diverting his gaze to the Red Racer magnet that Kyle remembered being on the fridge when he moved in. "I have masks, too, um. Even though they said don't wear them, I just." He cleared his throat. "I'm thinking maybe we should, so I did. If you want one, or whatever, help yourself. Anyway." Craig drew a breath, steadying his voice back to his normal monotone from the pinched tone it was taking before. "Drink?"

"I might take you up on that next time I have to go out." Which was to say: he absolutely would be using a mask next time he had to leave. As cooped up as he was, Kyle also hoped that he wouldn't have to go out any time soon. They were well stocked up with most things they would need long term, so there was that. But he knew there were going to be circumstances where he would eventually have to go... But, the last thing he needed to do was ruminate on that too much. Instead, he focused on the more immediate things: a movie with Craig, and booze. "Yeah, a drink sounds nice." 

Craig nodded, and grabbed a couple glasses to make their drinks.

They'd remained relatively quiet during the first half of the movie, but by the time the homoerotic volleyball montage began, Kyle was on his second drink, and Craig finishing up his third. It was like a barb to Kyle's heart that Craig rose with a groan the moment it started. "I'm gonna make another."

"Okay."

Craig stared at him. "So, pause it?"

"Oh. Right. I just assumed that you didn't want to see this part." How else was he supposed to interpret that? Craig choosing that exact moment to get up and leave? That had to be some internalized homophobia. He supposed he couldn't be surprised at all that a straight guy would be uncomfortable with that scene. But he paused it all the same.

Craig scoffed as he entered the kitchen to make his drink. "Why would I want to miss the best part?"

"What!?" Kyle jerked his head toward the kitchen, glad that Craig couldn't see what was undoubtedly a stupid look on his face. He could hear bottles and glasses and ice being moved about as Craig clumsily fixed himself another. "You sure you're good on the drink?" Craig asked as soon as he'd returned.

Kyle's second old fashioned was almost completely full, and he tipped it in Craig's direction, indicating that he was indeed fine. Craig, of course, took that as a cheers, and nodded at him quickly before tipping his beverage back before sitting down on what had become his end of the sofa. "Really, though." Craig set his drink on the end table closest to him, and grabbed the remote from the coffee table to resume the film. "This scene is hilarious. I wonder what would happen if they made this movie nowadays. Would they have the balls to pair Maverick off with Goose? Or, uh...." He made some vague gesture in the air. "What's his name? Val Kilmer."

"What, do you want my professional gay opinion or something?" Kyle really didn't know what to make of this whole thing. Wouldn't a straight guy be more down to watch some slutty movie like Wild Things instead? Kyle's own friends never shut up about the threesome scene, especially when they were all back in high school.

Craig just stared at him. Again. But this time it was a longer stare. Eventually, he drank some of his drink and looked back at the television. He didn't say another word for a while, and the sheer awkwardness of the situation meant that Kyle took the opportunity to all but chug his drink.

"I'm gonna. Uh. You don't need to pause it." Kyle quickly disappeared into the kitchen, and grabbed bottled water out of the fridge. Craig made his drinks very strong, and Kyle knew he wouldn't be able to handle another one. Kyle let himself linger in there longer than was quite necessary, leaving the fridge open and allowing the cool air to cover his face. Despite the lingering aroma of sesame chicken and beef lo mein coming from their refrigerator, it was quite peaceful, almost grounding to stand there like that. Or maybe he was just drunk. Or, if not drunk, he was just... ugh. What was Craig's deal?

Apparently there was just far too much that he didn't understand about Craig, and it was sort of unsettling. But he couldn't just hang in the kitchen forever. Get a grip, Kyle, he told himself, and returned to the living room. Craig was watching the movie, so Kyle sat back down in his spot, hands twisting around the bottle as he stared at the television.

They finished the movie without another word, although Craig made it through another drink—beer this time. Corona Extra. Had Craig bought that because it was ironic, or because it was on sale? Kyle supposed it didn't matter. It was just beer. Neither one of them were dumb enough to think they could get the virus from beer, of all things. Kyle contemplated, for a moment, getting one for himself, but decided against it. He wanted to hold onto their supply as long as possible, so neither one of them would have to leave the house unless absolutely necessary.

Kyle glanced over at Craig, and as the credits rolled, he saw Craig chewing on the inside of his cheek, fists clenched around his corona bottle. As nervous? Awkward? As he felt right now, Kyle couldn't refrain from speaking. "We can watch another movie if you want." He didn't know what else to say to him, but clearly a distraction was still needed.

"Okay." Craig focused on the label of his beer, peeling back the clear plastic with his fingernail. "I don't really care what." Kyle didn't, either, so he picked the first thing he saw in the recommended for you section—Step Brothers. It was an okay movie, but it didn't appear that Craig was interested in paying attention to anything right then. He just kept his attention on the label of his beer. "Kyle." His voice cracked when he spoke.

"What's up?"

As tall as Craig was, he looked kind of small right then, move vulnerable than Kyle had ever seen him. If that weren't true enough, it was even more obvious when he spoke. "...I'm scared. Really fucking scared."

Kyle remained quiet. There was still more to be said, he could tell, and the last thing he wanted was to rush Craig and add to his anxiety and everything else.

He cleared his throat. "It was, you know, kinda nice. Cuddling with you. Would you mind, if we did. Just til I fall asleep?" Kyle's heart felt caught in his throat. It was a confusing request, but they were confined to their apartment. It didn't mean anything more than affection starvation in a scary time.

"If we both wash our hands first. But maybe in your room? This couch is shitty to sleep on."

"I, um." Craig snorted out one of those ugly laughs that Kyle had no business enjoying so much, although it was obvious there wasn't any actual humor behind it. "I have a twin. I don't know if that's gonna, like, be any better in terms of room."

"You're twenty-eight years old, and you have a twin bed." Kyle grimaced as soon as he said it. Sarcasm likely wasn't welcome right then, as much as Craig seemed to adore dry humor under normal circumstances. "Shit. Sorry, I was trying to be funny, and—"

"Don't say sorry." Craig smiled at him. "How do you think I fit all my work shit in there? It was free. It used to be Clyde's."

Kyle wrinkled his nose. "Sick, dude."

“You’ve been in my room though?”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t pay attention to your bed!” Kyle barked a laugh. It was true, if only because if he paid enough attention to Craig’s bed, his already overactive imagination, at least as far as his roommate went, might start running wild.

Craig shrugged in response, and Kyle was left still trying to wrap his mind around Craig willingly sleeping on a twin sized mattress. "But seriously. You bring girls home to that?" Not that he'd ever seen Craig bring anyone home since he moved in. He went out with his friends when that was still allowed; there were times, few and far between as they were, when he didn’t come home until the next morning, but—

The question was met with a roar of laughter that resulted in Craig coughing into his elbow. He wasn't sick. Kyle knew he wasn't, but Craig must have understood the expression he bore, because he was reassuring. "I'll take a shower and change clothes first."

Kyle didn't object to that. "Okay. Um. I have a queen bed. I don't mind if we're in there, we can still watch stuff. Or we can stay out here. Totally up to you."

Craig shot him a small smile. "Set up your laptop or whatever. Just. Gimme a few." He left his empty beer bottle on the side table when he left, making a beeline to the bathroom. The doorway of it was in clear view of the living room, and Kyle allowed his eyes to follow Craig down the hallway, keeping focus upon his tall, lanky form until he disappeared, closing the door behind him.

Kyle cleaned up the living room, and once the booze and bottles were taken care of, he scrubbed his hands and arms up to his elbows, and headed to his room. He showered that morning and hadn't left the apartment, so he had no qualms about changing into pajamas, then sat on the side of the bed. Setting his laptop on his nightstand, he booted up Netflix and bode his time until Craig was ready to join. This was a mental health cuddle, practically a planned bro cuddle. He shouldn't have such nervous anticipation in the pit of his stomach, and yet...

As he waited for Craig to finish up in the shower, Kyle scrolled through Netflix, not actually giving the various selections much regard. To him, it didn’t matter much what they watched. He surely wouldn’t be able to pay attention to anything whatsoever once Craig was in his bed.

He settled on planning to put on a TV show that he was sure both of them had seen far too many times. It meant that it would eventually stop on its own, and also that if he or Craig couldn't focus on it, it wasn't a loss. Making that decision eased his nervousness, until the point where Craig appeared in his doorway. 

Even in an old t-shirt and shorts, he looked unfairly attractive. His hair was a mess, like he'd merely rubbed a towel on his head to dry it but otherwise didn't bother to comb it, and even that was hot. Which is the last thing you need to be thinking about, Kyle reminded himself. This was emotional support, nothing more or less. And really, he felt awful for noticing, especially when Craig actually looked nervous and exhausted as well. 

"Hey, dude. You can make yourself at home."

“Hey.” Craig perched on the side of Kyle’s bed, back stiff, like he was afraid to move, afraid to get too close despite being the one who asked for this in the first place. 

“You okay?” 

Craig nodded, slowly, and carefully lowered himself onto the bed. “Little too drunk. I drank too much too fast.”

"Want a piece of bread?" 

Craig considered for a moment, and after hesitating, nodded. Kyle took it upon himself to get up to head to the kitchen. It wouldn't hurt for him to have something in his stomach too, just in case, and hydration was also important. 

It only took a moment to grab a couple slices of potato bread and bottles of water, but when Kyle got back to his room, Craig had already scooted properly against the headboard. "Just, uh, try not to get crumbs everywhere." Generally the prospect of eating in bed completely repulsed him, but he could make this one exception.

Craig nodded, slowly, and just as slowly nibbled on his bread while Kyle picked out a movie. "Sorry," Craig mumbled as he washed down his bread with a hefty swig of water. 

Kyle couldn't help but reach out to pat his thigh—over his shorts, of course; he didn't want to give the wrong impression. Or, in his case, the right one. "No reason to be."

Craig nodded again, and for a while conversation halted. Which was fine, Kyle decided, as he started the show on Netflix. After he finished his bread, Kyle drank a little more of his water and set it aside. 

Shifting so he was a little more comfortable propped against his pillows, he moved the laptop to rest against his knees so it was a little more easy to see. It wasn't long after that, Craig shifted and leaned against him.

Although he pressed his side flush against Kyle's, and rested his damp head on Kyle's shoulder, Craig's body remained relatively rigid at first. Kyle wondered for a moment if this was a good idea... surely Craig was realizing that he was in his openly gay roommate's bed. Maybe he was one of those straight dudes who thought all gay guys were out to hit on him, that they were predators, and that line of thought was beginning to take hold. Kyle hoped not, and in the back of his mind knew Craig wasn't; he'd been chill about Kyle being gay since the day he moved in. It was never much of a topic of conversation between the two of them, not really, beyond Kyle's occasional derisive comments about his ex. 

Those thoughts somehow made Kyle feel worse. If Craig knew how he felt, how much he wanted this, how much he'd been thinking about being close to Craig again since the other night, that would just prove all the stereotypes correct, wouldn't it? Just what kind of person would that make him? What kind of person was he for doing this, for torturing himself like this in the first place? 

But Kyle all but forgot about those thoughts when Craig let out a shuddered sigh, and he felt the other man relax, almost melt, against him. His face buried into Kyle's chest, Craig sighed again. Or maybe it wasn't a sigh. Maybe it was more of a... cry? Which was wildly uncharacteristic coming from someone as stoic as Craig Tucker. Whatever it was, it was short, and content, but almost mournful underneath. 

Kyle wrapped his arm around Craig, trying to focus not on how broad his back was, how warm his skin felt underneath his threadbare t-shirt and how much he wondered what it would be like if he were to snake his hand up the back of it, but simply on the act of rubbing Craig's shoulders. "You're alright." 

"You smell nice," Craig murmured against his shirt, almost inaudibly.

Kyle felt his cheeks burning something furious, and he was relieved that the only light in his bedroom was coming from his laptop, and that Craig wasn't looking at him.
"Thanks," he said, trying to sound as light-hearted as possible. Something like that shouldn't have been a big deal, and it was stupid to make it out to be anything more than an offhand comment.

"Is this show okay? I can change it if you want. I know not everyone likes mockumentaries about the day-to-day occurrences in local government."

He felt Craig's arms loosely around him, tightening some as Craig rubbed his face against Kyle's shirt, as if to subtly dry his eyes. "Parks and Recreation is fine, Kyle. Honestly."

"If you're sure—"

"Yes. I like this show." Craig angled his face up to give Kyle a slightly annoyed, and maybe a bit fond, glance. It would've been impossible to miss the red rimming his eyes, the prominent dark circles underneath them. "Can we like… I'm kinda cold, can I..." Craig pulled at the comforter beneath them.

"Oh. For sure." He probably should've thought about that before he moved the laptop off his nightstand, but he didn't. Kyle moved the laptop right back to where it was and got up so he could move the blankets back.

It meant that Craig got up too, and in the following moments, they were both lying on Kyle's sheets, with warm covers on top of them. What Kyle needed, quite desperately, was for his brain to shut down. What he got instead was Craig scooting close to him again.

Kyle was on his back, in a prime stare-at-the-ceiling position, and with Craig resting his head on his shoulder again and an arm outstretched across his chest, Kyle thought for sure his heart was going to burst.

Even though Craig was straight. Even though Craig didn't like him in the same way. Even though Kyle knew that if Craig could socialize with whomever he preferred socializing with, this wouldn't have been happening.

As the episode ended, and another began, Craig's breathing gradually steadied and deepened. Kyle found himself stroking Craig's back with longer strokes, holding him tighter, closer. Burrowing into his damp hair and inhaling the minty scent of that expensive, organic shampoo he used.

It was about half gone, Kyle had noticed that morning. He wondered if Craig would be able to purchase it again in time. Would he be able to find it, or would he have to switch to something else? The thought made Kyle's stomach flip, and he wasn't sure why. 

He was sure Craig was asleep when he heard him let out a tiny snort, an almost-snore.

It was a good thing Craig was sleeping, because it meant that Kyle could sleep. But the thing was, he couldn't. Not when he wanted to. He watched another episode of Parks and Rec, then two more, and after that he lost count. As much as he was trying to relax, he was just too tense, too worried about doing something weird in his sleep. 

Like what if he wound up spooning Craig in his sleep, and Craig wound up weirded out in the morning? It meant Kyle was stuck in a sleepless loop until finally exhaustion overtook his own worries. 

Turning on his side, facing away from Craig, was what finally helped him fall asleep. But what he wasn't expecting at all, was to wake up with a warm body pressed against him, an arm around him, and being able to feel Craig breathing near the back of his head.

Within seconds, the hot breath tickling the back of Kyle's neck made his skin tingle, causing a surge through his body. Morning wood was one thing; that at least was something to be expected. But deliberately getting a hard-on from being platonically spooned by your heterosexual roommate, fighting with and coming so, so close to pressing your ass against him to see if maybe he had one too... well. That was another thing entirely.

Either Kyle was a terrible person, or his brain hadn't caught up with him yet that early in the morning.

Craig shifted. Maybe it was just a shift in place, but it felt like he was moving closer. That was all the confirmation that Kyle needed, that he was a terrible person. Somehow that made him feel harder.

He didn't know what to do. If he got up, he might wake Craig. He could go take care of it, but if he jerked off, wouldn't that be rewarding himself for being so revolting? But if he laid there, it was only going to get worse, and no matter what, he ran the risk of Craig seeing.

If he extracted himself from Craig's arms as gently as he could, perhaps there would be a possibility that he'd go unnoticed. And he was moments away from attempting to do just that, when Craig shifted again, and his arm tightened around Kyle's middle.

"Mmh," Craig groaned against his ear, and Kyle swore he about came in his pants. Shame and arousal flooded him, and he bit his lip to hold back a moan. Craig stirred, and Kyle could feel a yawn. "Hey."

Kyle was afraid to speak. If he spoke, he'd give himself away. How would he be able to face Craig, knowing that he'd know that Kyle was so turned on right now? He'd have to move out, and there was no way he could let himself engage in such a major change in the middle of a pandemic.

But it was obvious he was awake, so he swallowed. "Morning."

"G'morning." Craig yawned again, and loosened his grip before rolling over to his back. Kyle exhaled a sigh of half-relief, half-regret. "I have a headache."

"You pounded back five drinks in two hours," Kyle retorted, his mouth feeling dry.

"Are you saying I have a problem?"

Kyle snorted. "Your words, not mine." He needed to get away from this situation, though. He was firmly staying on his side just in case, but that could only work for so long. "I need to shower."

"Oh." Kyle couldn't quite place the tone of Craig's voice. Whatever it might be, Kyle was probably misinterpreting it to suit his own sick needs. "Sure. Go for it."

"Don't forget to take some medicine," he said, trying to distract himself from the awkwardness of the situation. As he heard Craig grunt in response, Kyle quickly slipped out of bed, and hoped that as he grabbed clothes to change into and head for the hall, it wasn't obvious how hard he was.

He made it to the shower as quickly as he could, and shut his eyes and tried to think of anything other than the guy who caused this as he made short work of bringing himself off into the shower drain. That was, naturally, an exercise in futility. As Kyle bit back the sounds of his orgasm, all that was on his mind was the feeling of strong arms around him, the smell of mint shampoo and fresh cologne, and the ghost of breath on the back of his neck.

Shit. This was going to be a weird weekend.

Kyle didn't know what to do about it. He tried not to act oddly, but he felt so awkward around Craig, that he found excuses to be on his phone, or on his computer, or otherwise just keeping himself busy that he wouldn't have to face the potential conversation of finding out whether or not Craig saw his boner.

The fact that he couldn't leave made the whole thing worse, he felt like he was going to go insane. He needed an outlet, a distraction, something. Which of course meant talking about the whole thing with one of his also assuredly queer friends, who had little more to offer than, aw jeez, Kyle, are you sure this fella isn't gay?

Kyle went away from that conversation feeling more confused than ever before, and the only thing he could think of to distract himself was to lock himself in his room and play video games. And that was how he spent the rest of the weekend, on his personal PC, only speaking to Craig when they ran into each other in the kitchen.

Eventually, something was going to have to give, one way or another.


 

And something did give.

It was a Tuesday morning. Kyle was sitting at his usual spot at the kitchen table, working. In the periphery, he saw Craig come into the kitchen, and his body language was tense. But Kyle had his headset on, on a Zoom conference call, and Craig did nothing to get his attention.

Kyle didn't see him at lunch, or at dinner, and they didn't have the sort of relationship where they just checked in on each other. Or, well. Kyle might've checked in with him if he hadn't felt so awkward about everything.

Instead, he left a plate of food in the fridge for Craig, and moved to his room to play Stardew Valley. He could forget the shitty situation in his reality and instead of focus on a simpler, more honest life, where he could farm, fish, and woo the cute basement-dwelling boy who liked frozen tears. 

A knock on his ajar door caught his attention, and after replying with come in, a visibly upset Craig was watching him from the doorway. "What's wrong?"

Drawing a breath, Craig stepped over the threshold, and immediately perched on the edge of Kyle's bed. Rather than the stilted stillness he exhibited while in that same place last weekend, his shoulders sagged, and, after just a moment, he raked one of his hands down his face, then resting it in both hands, elbows anchored against his thighs. "Fuck. I touched my goddamn face. I can’t stop doing that. " Craig laughed sardonically, dryly. "Um. Sorta got laid off today."

"What?" Kyle immediately discarded his laptop, and scooted closer to Craig. "I don't understand. You're an engineer. Doesn't that count as...you know, essential?"  

Craig shrugged. There was a sort of helplessness in that gesture that Kyle hadn't seen from him before. "It's not going to be forever. I’ll get my job back when they’re ready, and I'm salary, but..." It wasn't the money that was the devastating thing for Craig. That was one thing that Kyle understood at a personal level. 

Not working meant too much idle time to worry, and there were many things to worry about these days.

"Dude. I'm so sorry." Kyle felt lame; he knew more than anyone that sorry wouldn't fix anything. Sorry wasn't even a band-aid over the wound. But he'd rather say that than say nothing at all.

Craig's brows knit. "I just. Don't know what I'm going to do with my time. I don't want to sit around thinking about...." He swallowed, and took a shaky breath. "So, I have a sister. Tricia, she's twenty one. She's back in my hometown, South Park. About an hour out."

A lump formed in Kyle's throat. "Is she..." He stared at the carpet as he inched closer yet, and placed a tentative hand on Craig's shoulder. He didn't know if it was the right thing to do, if Craig would shrug it off and tell Kyle to go wash his hands, but Craig just let it happen. "Is she sick?"

"No." Craig shook his head, slowly. "Not yet. But she works in a retirement home, giving out meals. Putting herself through nursing school that way..." He trailed off, blankly staring ahead. "It's bad, Kyle. I've never been anxious. I'm not like that, but now I am. I guess. And it sucks shit. Work made it suck less, is all."

This was the most Craig had ever said to him about his personal life, and Kyle was stunned silent for what was probably far too long. But he didn't know what to say. He didn't know how to fix any of this, because he couldn't.

He couldn't keep Craig's sister safe. He couldn’t give Craig a job to keep him busy enough so he wouldn't worry as much. Kyle could unload on him too, but would that really help?

He didn't even know if pulling Craig into a hug would help more than the shoulder pat, but he tried anyway, wrapping his arms around Craig's broad shoulders. "I'm sorry. If I could fix everything so none of this was happening, I would."

"It's fine," Craig said, faintly, his tone making it obvious that things were anything but fine. "It's." Craig's shoulders stiffened, then sagged again as he leaned into Kyle's hug. "It's going to be fine. It has to be fine." With a stuttered, uneven breath, Craig rested his head on Kyle's shoulder, silken black hair tickling his nose. “Doesn’t it?”

"Yeah." Kyle rubbed Craig's shoulder, and hated himself more than ever for his inability to hold himself back from nuzzling into his hair. "It's fine."

He knew neither of them believed it.

 




Craig drank a lot. It wasn't a secret to Kyle that Craig liked to drink, God knew they both liked to pound them back on a normal weekend, it was just that without a job or a reason to keep a schedule, there wasn't a reason not to drink. It wasn't like he was blackout drunk, nor was it reminiscent of the lengths Stan used to go to.

But Kyle noticed, and he wasn't really sure what to do to help Craig. It was the same limbo he'd been stuck in since the night Craig came into his room to talk. Of course, Kyle was still beholden to his 9-5, so the time he could dedicate to this endeavour was limited anyway.

Except today, he worked through his lunch, so he felt justified in finishing at 4, and when he didn't have to commute home, that made a difference. He found Craig in the living room, beer in hand, watching some show Kyle hadn't thought about since the 90s.

"Do you wanna play a game or something?"

Kyle thought maybe it would help. It would be something to get Craig away from his particular spot on the sofa that by then may very well have been getting permanent indentations from Craig’s ass where he’d sit for the better part of the day, even if it was just essentially across the room, to the half of the kitchen table that wasn’t laden with Kyle’s office equipment. That is, if they elected for a board game. But maybe Kyle could at least get him to switch spots with him for some video games.

Craig shot him a smirk. “You mean like. Monopoly or some shit?” He snorted, and shifted on the couch. The fleece throw Kyle had tucked him into the night they first cuddled was sling around his shoulders, an old fraternity shirt that sported a dotting of tiny holes around its stretched-out collar hung loosely on his frame.

The mention of that game, however, took Kyle’s attention away from Craig’s exposed collarbone. “Oh god. Definitely not that game.” He huffed. “My ex loved that one, but what he loved even more was using it as an excuse to be an anti-Semitic dick to me.”

Craig made a face, one that clearly expressed how much he hated hearing that. But Kyle didn't know if the anger was from the principle of the thing, or if it was personal. He wanted it to be the latter, but he still wasn't sure.

Even though not long after they'd first met, Eric had found out where he moved and showed up to start shit. The resulting fight had involved Craig intervening, and when the whole truth came out, Craig had—

"I'll still kick his ass for you, Kyle. Just say the word."

There was a certain earnestness in his tone, and it sent butterflies fluttering in Kyle's stomach. Craig was such a good friend.

He must’ve let out a noise, because Craig was shifting in his seat again, turning to face him. “I’m not joking. I still can’t believe that fucker had the audacity to show up here.” Craig sipped his beer. His voice was more animated than usual, a bit louder. “My ex is crazy as shit too, did I ever tell you that?” He furrowed his brow. “I mean. Crazy in the ‘wow, someone needs help’ way; I don’t wanna sound like a dick or anything. Not a bad person, just… not good for me.”

"We have more in common that I realized, sort of." Kyle didn't quite know what to say. He didn't know Craig's ex, and he certainly didn't want to make assumptions about her. Or talk about her extensively. He cleared his throat. "I was thinking more along the lines of a video game. Maybe Mortal Kombat."

Craig’s face lit up, his crooked, tipsy smile causing Kyle’s chest to ache. “Oh. Hell yeah, man. Are you done already? What time is...” He cleared his throat, and glanced at his phone. “Oh. I didn’t realize it was Friday already.”

"Time's hard to keep track of, it's okay," Kyle said, hoping that offered some reassurance. He grabbed the remote and a couple controllers, and offered one to Craig. Once he settled into the game, it would be a little easier to get his mind off things. For both of them, hopefully.

“You’re goin’ down, Broflovski,” Craig grabbed a controller. Something heavy and threatening in the tone of his voice, as exaggerated as it was, made Kyle bite his lip.

“We’ll see about that.”

To Craig's credit, he was an excellent gamer. They went head to head, playing round after round. Craig won some, Kyle won some. At one point, Kyle slipped. He couldn't help it. There'd been a night recently where he'd watched Black Mirror.

And combined with everything else going on... well, was it really his fault that his thoughts drifted?

What really didn’t help matters was the fact that they seemed to drift closer together with each round, to the point that their thighs were flush against one another. Part of it was the sofa. It was getting along in years, and had a tendency to swallow people up, and sink in the middle.... but the couch—which Kyle had a suspicion cost about much as Clyde’s hand-me-down twin bed that lay in Craig’s room, which was to say, absolutely nothing—didn’t account for Craig bumping Kyle’s shoulder with his own at the end of their next round.

“Nice one.”

He didn’t move away.

"Thanks."

But the contact was a distraction that only got worse as time went on. It was some kind of psychological warfare. Was it intentional, or had Craig accidentally honed in on the one thing that ensured that it was difficult to focus on anything but everywhere they were touching? It was torture.

How much more could he take? Apparently not much, because somehow Craig had managed a one-hit KO.

"You're off your game, Broflovski." Kyle scoffed.

"Oh, shut it."

Craig snorted, and tossed his controller onto the coffee table. “Wanna order pizza? I can buy.” He reached to grab his phone from the end table, and Kyle was unsure if he was lazy, or just enjoying keeping in contact with him. Either way, it was infuriating in the best way.

“Dude. No. I can’t ask you to pay right now.”

Craig leaned back against the couch, head tilted toward Kyle, so his face brushed against his shoulder. "You wanna wine and dine me, Kyle?"

Kyle snorted as a way to blow off the comment. "I still, you know..." Have a form of income.

“Yeah, yeah.” Craig stared at the game’s looping menu, setting his jaw, and sucking a breath through his nose.

“Oh, dude. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—“

“No, you didn’t, I just... wanted to do that while I still can, you know?”

Kyle quirked a brow in his direction. “What, pay for my pizza?”

Craig shrugged, finishing off what was left of his drink. The walls were up, and instead of continuing the conversation in a way that was helpful, he got up to get another drink. "I don't like onions."

Kyle sighed, and opened up his phone app. He really didn't get what the issue was, aside from reminding Craig that he was furloughed. But it still sat heavily upon him.

Craig nonetheless plopped upon the sofa just as he had before, this time with an extra beer for Kyle. He handed it to him without a word, and started flipping through Hulu.

“What’s your opinion on ham and pineapple?” Kyle asked it more to diffuse the tension than anything else.

“Can you even have ham?” He scrolled through the list of channels, reached the end, and scrolled back up.

“It’s a pandemic, dude. I wanna have as much of the forbidden shit as I can before this thing takes me out.” Relief flooded him and Kyle grinned when he heard Craig’s scoff, saw the smirk that came along with it. “Yes, I can have it. I don’t keep kosher.”

“You’re not gonna die from this.” He swigged his beer. “But excellent point. I actually love it.”

"Cool," Kyle responded, making his way through the menu. "Garlic knots, obviously. And wings?"

"Habanero or fuck off."

He laughed in response, and finished up the order. "It'll be here in half an hour. Somehow they're supposed to do contactless delivery. Do like, ding dong ditch pizza?"

“Guess so. Hopefully it won’t involve either one of us walking down the stairs.” Craig stretched his arm out, resting one of his arms along the back of the couch. "Figure out what you want to watch?"

“Oh. I haven’t really thought about it. I thought you were looking.” Kyle crossed his legs, knee-over-ankle, facing Craig. He was suddenly conscious of both that—he’d read as a teenager, in one of his mom’s trashy ladies’ monthlies that she kept in the bathroom magazine rack, that it was an indication of sexual attraction if someone crossed their legs in your direction; did Craig know that, too?—and the fact that his hair brushed against Craig’s arm when he allowed his head to drop on the back of the sofa.

Craig didn't move his arm, so while Kyle was hyper-aware of the proximity, Craig didn't seem to notice. Or care. It was hard to tell which it was. "I don't really care. Could always watch Community."

"That'll work," Kyle responded, for lack of his own preference.

Craig nodded, switching on the show. It was evident that he was staring at the screen, yet not watching it, what with how he was shifting in his seat, fiddling with the label on his beer—a fancy lager, this time. “Ugh.” He sighed.

Kyle quickly turned to face him, his ear brushing Craig’s arm in the process. “What’s wrong?” Internally, Kyle cringed. He may as well have added a honey to the end of that, with how simpering he sounded.

“Just thinking how annoyed I am we can’t go to the gym anymore. Gonna have to work out in my room or some shit.” He took a large swallow of beer. “You work out too. What are you gonna do?”

Kyle frowned. "I guess I could still go on runs, with a mask on and maintaining social distancing but," he couldn't help but grimace. "I don't know. I kinda hate the idea of it." Like what if he ran into someone's sneeze?

But something had to be done. He needed to do something about his excess energy and...because he was used to working out, the lack of being able to just made him feel weird.

“God, right? Everyone is gonna be at the fucking parks at this point.” He pressed the appropriate button to skip the intro on the next episode. “Maybe we could, I don’t know. There’s body weight stuff. Seems like you at least do squats so you might be able to show me a thing or two if we work out here.”

Kyle raised a brow at him. "What makes you think I do squats?" It was an honest question, one that he expected an answer to. But before Craig could answer—if he even intended to—the doorbell rang.

"Must be the pizza," Craig commented, hurling himself up to get their meal.

“I’m gonna fuckin’ destroy this food,” Craig quipped, unceremoniously dumping the pizza boxes, wings, and garlic knots onto the coffee table, and himself onto the butt-print on his couch cushion. “I figured like, I dunno. A week or so more of eating this shit and then I’ll go back to caring about what I look like.” He opened a box, and grabbed a slice. “That is, if I don’t have my job back by then.”

There was a positive to Craig existing in a semipermanent state of tipsiness, and it was that he actually talked.

Kyle stared at the food boxes for a moment, lest he stare at Craig too much. After a moment, he got up to get plates so they could pile their food on something without getting grease everywhere.

"I don't think you need to worry about how you look," Kyle said, hoping his attraction for Craig didn't leak through his voice. "But hopefully you'll be able to work again soon."

Making a noise of affirmation around his mouthful of food, Craig nodded. He swallowed with a hearty swig of his beer, leaving Kyle wondering why watching Craig wipe the corner of his mouth with the back of his wrist was so alluring. "I used to not have to worry at all." Craig groaned. "I was so skinny when I was in college. Never worked out, never played sports."

The comment was one that had Kyle glancing over, a little more fully. Hopefully it was one Craig didn't notice, but they couldn't talk about Craig's body without Kyle looking. "I used to play basketball."

"Is that so?" Craig gave him a once-over, and Kyle blushed furiously. While it was comforting to know that Craig was secure enough in his masculinity to look at another man like that, it still made Kyle feel sort of slimy. If Craig knew how much Kyle wished Craig would look at him like that while on top of him, holding his wrists down, snapping his hips while he—

Kyle shook his head. "I wasn't very good."

"I'm sure you were great."

"I really wasn't. I mean, sometimes I do pickup games but I haven't been on a team since high school."

"But I bet you were first string. Varsity." 

Kyle frowned. Craig wasn't wrong but, "What gives you that impression." What he received in turn, though, was a pointed look that he couldn't quite place.

"I mean, look at you." Craig arched a brow, which Kyle noticed was bushier than normal. Did Craig wax his eyebrows? Kyle supposed they were normally rather well-maintained.

Come to think of it, he was generally a pretty put-together kind of guy. His hair, cut in a neat undercut, was usually impeccably styled, yet now growing out, sticking up at odd angles. Craig also tended to dress nicely and stylishly for work, in perfectly tailored slacks and neat button-downs, sports jackets, or sweaters. Even when he wasn't working and simply hanging around the house in common areas, it was a rare occurrence for him to be quite as slovenly as he currently was. Even if the basketball shorts did wonders for his bulge.

Look at me? Kyle thought, Look at you, Craig.

It was weird that he didn't date. A guy like Craig had to have a girlfriend. Maybe he played the field, maybe he thrived on dating sites and short-term hookups. Or maybe it was the opposite. Maybe he was really religious and waiting for marriage or something. Kyle recalled that Craig mentioned something about going to Christmas mass with his family, the last time he was home for the holidays. Yeah. Maybe that was it. He swore a lot for a future pastor or whatever it was Catholics did, but hell if Kyle knew what they actually got up to.

Although, the mental image of Craig in one of those priest’s collars made Kyle’s face prickle with a shameful heat. Yikes. He quickly buried that inside before he could dwell on that any longer.

"I do every day, but I'm not entirely sure what you mean." Especially right now. He could feel the mango habanero sauce burning against the corner of his mouth, and quickly reached for a napkin.

He just didn't get what Craig was getting at. How could someone who was so fit, who had such a meticulous appearance compliment him? Kyle felt grubby right now, but even aside from that, it just went over his head entirely.

"I know it's just Domino's but this food is so good." Sometimes, the best thing to do was just change the subject.

"It really is," Craig agreed, munching on another slice. "I'm glad we got this. Stretches out grocery shopping a little longer."

Kyle didn't miss the subtle catch of Craig's breath, the furrow in his brow. "Hey, if you want, I can go next time."

Craig's shoulders slumped, and he nodded. "I want to say that it'd be better if it's only one of us potentially exposing ourselves but... If you don't mind."

"I don't. It's fine, dude." He was apprehensive about venturing out, but he had two eyes and could see just how much all of this was affecting Craig.

Motivated just as much by desire to calm Craig as he was by wanting to feel the warmth of his body under his hand, Kyle reached out and gave Craig's shoulder a squeeze, allowing his hand to linger. Craig leaned into the touch, which was enough permission Kyle needed to rub him there, just slightly, gently. He hated how much just that simple gesture made his stomach feel like it was going to drop out.

"Thanks," Craig said, simply, quietly. And with that, they finished their meal, giving most of their attention to the television, and sharing a few remarks, here and there, about the goings-on on screen.

There was a sort of easiness that came with this. They had similar tastes in television and games, and there was something soothing about Craig's voice. Or really, Kyle just liked his voice and liked listening to anything he had to say.

Eventually, exhaustion caught up with him, and he got up to brush his teeth and get ready to lay down. He probably wouldn't sleep right away, he often wasn't that lucky, but being ready to lay down was better than passing out on the couch.

He hadn't realized Craig was doing something similar until a little after Kyle settled on his bed. There was that familiar knock, and Craig in the doorway.

"Do you mind...?"

Craig leaned against the doorway, shirt riding up as he scratched at his hip bone, exposing the kind of lower-v on his abs that drove Kyle wild. His hair was combed, his face looking red and raw. It was debatable whether or not that was caused by exfoliation—Kyle knew Craig had a bunch of expensive skincare—or crying.

“Come on in.”

There was no pussyfooting around it. Once Craig entered the room, he immediately slid under the blankets and scooted right up beside Kyle. The sudden warmth was welcome, and Kyle let himself lay down too.

"Wanna watch something, dude?"

"Eh." Craig shrugged. "If you want. Could always listen to something, too. It's whatever you want." Although their legs weren't touching, Kyle could tell Craig was rubbing his feet together, as he tended to do while he was getting comfortable. Craig released a lengthy exhale, and pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders. "Your bed is really comfortable, dude."

Kyle's cheeks burned. "Thanks."

Craig hummed, the sort that happened when one was exhausted but surrounded by comfortable blankets, and warmth. Kyle opted for a podcast, one he enjoyed but didn't care about enough if it continued playing after he dozed. He was tempted to turn onto his side and face Craig, but instead, he laid on his side facing the opposite way after hitting the lights.

Although his room was on the side of the building facing the courtyard, the outdoor lighting of which was set to turn off after ten p. m., and his curtains were securely drawn, and therefore nearly pitch-black save for the faint sliver of a glow that was their hallway's night light shining through the crack of his door, the darkness in his room somehow felt blinding.

He tried to concentrate on the rise and fall of Craig's breath, deep enough that he may have been asleep, but unsteady enough that he probably wasn't.

"I feel bad," Kyle confessed to the darkness of the room. He was quiet, enough that if Craig was sleeping it wouldn't disturb him.

"Why?" He was awake. Kyle felt Craig's arm wrap around his chest in a friendly yet comforting manner.

"I feel like I'm taking advantage of you."

His heart caught in his throat the moment he said it. There was some small part of him that was hopeful for Craig to be fast asleep, that if Kyle received an answer at all, it'd come in the form of a noncommittal, sleepy grunt, if anything. Instead, Craig propped himself on his elbow, and Kyle rolled on his back. Despite the darkness, Kyle could see, in his peripheral vision, Craig's eyes shining.

"What? Why?"

"Because I know you're upset and vulnerable, given the situation with your job, and this fucking virus, and—" It all rushed out like word vomit until it got caught in his throat. But he couldn't leave it unfinished like that. "—and I like having you in here."

He was met with silence for a moment, Craig's expression impossible to read in the dark. "You're not taking advantage."

"Are you sure? Because, I mean, you're so—"

"You're not.'" Even in the darkness, Kyle could decipher Craig's hesitation—it was in the way his mouth opened and shut, the sharp breath he inhaled, like he was about to start talking, but decided against it. "Don't worry about it."

Something about that response weighed heavily on Kyle, but he didn't know why or whether to say anything. Instead, he nodded. "Okay." Even though he was probably going to worry about it. "But, uh. You can be here any time you want, then. I don't mind."

"It helps." Craig lowered his head to the pillow, curling his arm underneath it. "Sleeping here, with you."

It made his heart ache in a bittersweet way. "I'm glad. I've slept better on the nights you've been in here."

"Can I." Craig's arm slowly, tentatively encircled Kyle's chest, and he pulled him close. Surely he felt the hard pounding of Kyle's heart. Kyle wondered what he thought it meant, wondered if Craig realized what exactly he was doing to him. "I don't know what it is, but this is just..." He exhaled, and, underneath the covers, his foot grazed against Kyle's. An accident, surely, or he thought nothing of it. "Thank you."

His cheeks burned and his heart throbbed, and he could feel the length of Craig's body against his. He was warm, and it felt so nice. Even if it was just a friendship cuddle. "You don't have to thank me."

"Mm." Craig nodded, silky hair brushing Kyle's chin. "So. Kyle..." he trailed off, into a yawn. "Shit. I think I gotta pass out."

Whatever he was going to say was left unsaid, and while Kyle was curious about what it was, he wasn't going to pry it out of an exhausted man. Not when he was also tired. For once, he let it go, and let himself rest.

Kyle slipped easily into a deep, dreamless sleep. Rather than grumbling, and feeling an irritated pounding in his head from being roused prematurely by the insistent beep of his phone's alarm, sunshine streaming through the bedroom curtains awakened him, and he woke rested.

And warm, Very warm, although it wasn't unpleasant. This due to Craig's arms around him, once again. The expansion of Craig's broad chest with each deep, even breath could be felt against Kyle's back as Craig's body pressed close to his...

Really close. Close enough for Kyle to feel that, in his sleep, Craig was hard.

He should move away. Kyle knew that was the right thing to do, but... He couldn't bring himself to it. Part immobilized by how mortified he felt, but mostly because his body immediately responded.

Morning wood was normal, but getting an erection because your straight roommate had one pressed against the cleft of your ass wasn't.

Shame washed over him, and he finally shifted in an attempt to move away, but Craig's arm around him tightened.

Fuck, was he grinding? That was even worse. After all, he was Kyle, a lanky Jewish man and Craig was probably dreaming about Jennifer Lopez or whomever straight men were into these days.

It wasn't a violation of consent, or anything, if Kyle were to press back against him... right? If it was just that? Because even though Craig was sleeping, even though Craig was probably—no, definitely dreaming of someone else, he was the one who, for all intents and purposes, caused this. And it wasn't as if Craig was keeping perfectly still—no. Quite the opposite, actually.

Although he simultaneously let out a snore, right into Kyle's ear, Craig was moving his hips in impossibly slow circles, his erection hot and hard through their respective pajama pants. On those rare occasions Craig would roam about their apartment in basketball shorts, or, even better—or worse, either was fitting—boxer briefs, Kyle had stolen enough glances to figure out that he was probably hung, but all of the sneaky sidelong peeks at his roommate's flaccid bulge couldn't have prepared Kyle for just how huge he felt.

If Kyle wasn't wearing these pajama pants, he was certain that Craig's dick would slide between his ass cheeks. It didn't, but he could imagine how that would feel. These movements were already teasing, so it wasn't hard at all to imagine the skin on skin, and it made him feel like his skin was on fire.

In a good way. Good similes were hard to come by so soon after waking up.

A moan escaped his lips, and he'd barely had time to register the soft mmmm against his ear moments after, before he was clasping his hands over his mouth with a gasp.

Fight or flight kicked in, and Kyle all but fled his room to shower.

Waiting until the water was hot enough to step underneath it was a near-Herculean task, given that he couldn't remember the last time he was this turned on. As steam filled the bathroom, he palmed at his dick, biting his lip as if he'd moan again, as if this time it would be loud enough for Craig to be able to hear it from the other room.

God. What would he think if he did hear? He'd probably pack up all of Kyle's shit himself, toss him to the curb in the middle of a global pandemic. Somehow, though, the guilt, the embarrassment, the shame that permeated every bit of Kyle's very being only served to make this hotter.

And when he stepped under the water, he wasted no time in squeezing a hefty dollop of conditioner into his hand, pumping himself with unrestrained vigor. He thought about that moan, that sleepy, surely involuntary sound of contented pleasure that Craig hummed against his ear. If this was a perfect world, an alternate reality, Craig would have pulled Kyle's pants down. Would've lubed him up, stretched him out, shoved that long, thick cock right up his ass and—

"Oh, fuck," Kyle groaned, and just as quickly sucked on his lip, biting it to shut himself up as he came, hips twitching.

At least he hadn't moaned Craig's name.

He lingered in the bathroom after he finished in the shower. He styled his hair, brushed his teeth. Even if those things didn't count as lingering by definition, it was by virtue of just how much he didn't want to run into Craig.

He couldn't hide out in there forever, so when he had no reason to remain in the bathroom, he headed back to his room. Much to his simultaneous relief and building anxiety, Craig was no longer in his bed.

He'd probably heard Kyle, and was disgusted with him. Bracing himself to face the music, he got dressed and found both the living room and kitchen to be exactly as it was left last night. None of his things were packed up or thrown or otherwise out of place.

Nothing to worry about, then, so he made a pot of coffee and set about deciding what to cook for breakfast.

As Kyle rifled through their pantry, as he opened and closed the refrigerator several times, regarding all of the food they had—so much, and none of it looked appetizing—he was overly-conscious of Craig's movement in the other rooms of the apartment. He heard him pad down the carpeted hallway, and to the bathroom, then some music being switched on through Craig's phone—pop music, as he always listened to when he'd shower—then the rush of water, then Craig pulling back the curtain and stepping in.

Kyle's stomach fluttered with the unlikely thought that Craig could be doing the same thing he’d done. That Craig could be thinking of him, too.

With a groan, he decided on pancakes, and began pulling ingredients from the shelves and refrigerator. If he made pancakes for Craig, would that at least somewhat make up for him being a complete and utter fucking creep in his bed that morning? He knew Craig liked his pancakes, especially when he put blueberries in them. He tried to keep the thoughts of making Craig breakfast every morning, for the rest of his life at bay, but sometimes Kyle couldn't help it. Sometimes he liked letting his imagination get ahead of itself.

Either way, suppressing those sorts of thoughts was made all the more difficult when Craig walked into the kitchen, wearing nothing but an open zip-up hoodie and a pair of impossibly small, black boxer briefs.

"Morning," Craig said casually. It was a tone that indicated that Craig wasn't aware of what happened, or he wasn't making a big deal out of it.

Kyle wasn't sure, but as he glanced over at him, Craig stretched his arms overhead, and Kyle had no choice but to quickly turn away to flip the pancakes he had on a skillet. "Good morning." The lump in his throat was so big he was surprised he managed to get that out. "I, uh, hope you're hungry."

He heard Craig open the fridge, undoubtedly to pull out the pitcher of cold brew. "Yeah, I've worked up an appetite."

Kyle shot him a confused look. "Yeah. Me too. I mean, um." He cleared his throat. There was no way that Craig meant that in remotely the same way as Kyle. "It's been a long time since dinner, after all."

"Mhm." Craig hummed as he poured himself a cup. How that man always preferred iced coffee to hot was beyond Kyle's understanding. Nothing got Kyle going in the morning like a good half a pot of hot coffee. And Craig always added so much milk with his, it may as well not be coffee at all.

As tempting as it was to rehash that discussion, one they'd had countless times , Kyle knew it was best to focus on these pancakes. Get them done, eat, and...as much as he questioned what would follow, he was fairly certain he would be locking himself up in his room again.

"Um, can you grab the maple syrup from the fridge?" The first set of pancakes was almost done. Maybe Craig would eat and be gone by the time he finished with the second batch.

"Oh. Yeah, totally." Craig did, setting it on the countertop by Kyle, then leaned against it, crossing his arms. His hips jutted forward, alluringly. He was obscene, really. Kyle had half a mind that Craig was playing the long con, that this whole experience would turn out to be an elaborate prank at Kyle’s expense. "Did you wanna eat together?"

Kyle struggled to keep his gaze on the skillet and inevitably glanced to Craig's crotch. The view made his mouth water more than the promise of pancakes. "I'd hate for your food to get cold. This might take a while."

"It’s fine by me." Craig's eyes were such an interesting shade of blue. They'd looked grey more often than not the last few weeks, but then? Then, they were shining their normal cornflower shade, glancing at Kyle in some sort of inquisitive, almost profound manner that Kyle couldn't quite put his finger on. "It was nice eating with you last night." He shifted, crossing his legs as his posture sagged a bit more. Kyle still couldn't pull his eyes away from his bulge. "Last night was, um. Really nice, actually. I needed that. Thanks."

He needed to shake himself out of this. Craig was going to notice that he was a disgusting pervert and... Kyle cleared his throat. "I'm glad it helped."

Not wanting to burn the pancakes, he shifted so his entire body was pivoted away from Craig. He could get through this. And then they could eat, since apparently Craig was willing to eat cold pancakes, and then Kyle could make his great escape to his room.

They ate with minimal conversation, and Kyle was just about to dart away to his room when—

"Wanna game some more? We can use my Switch. Mario Kart?"

Craig was too fucking cute for Kyle to say no.

He nodded curtly, biting on the inside of his cheek. "Sure, give me a second." That second was spent on the bathroom, brushing his teeth, but also on getting up the nerve to handle being around him.

It didn't help that once they did get to gaming again, Craig was soon pressed against him.

And, this time, there was something about it that felt... different. Like it was more than just one or both of them looking for some solace from the uncertainty and fear of what faced them outside of that apartment. The air around them felt heavy, charged; Craig's bare leg pressing against Kyle's thin lounge pants made his spine feel like it was hooked up to a car battery, shooting shocks up and down the length of his back.

Was this still his imagination, or was he downright crazy? Had quarantine already driven him mad enough that he was convinced that Craig felt it, too? Something about the rise and fall of his chest, the way his breath caught when Kyle tentatively leaned against his side...

"Fucking blue shell bitch." Craig grumbled as he waited for Laiktu to drop him off at his previous spot on Rainbow Road.

Kyle jabbed him in the side with his elbow. "I might actually beat you this time."

"Fat chance," Craig quipped, and the race continued. And it was extremely obvious how into the game Craig was. When the course veered, Craig leaned along with it. Which meant that he leaned against Kyle. Often.

It was distracting. A welcome one; Craig was warm and smelled nice. But it was affecting his focus. "Stop cheating, Craig."

"Not my fault you're so distracted by me." Craig said it so nonchalantly, and it was coupled with a bump of his shoulder against Kyle's own. It sent Kyle careening off the side of the course himself.

"It is when you're using dirty tactics." Such an accusation was fighting words, so naturally he shoved his shoulder right back at Craig.

Craig shoved him, lightly. And Kyle shoved him back. And Craig followed suit, then, after Craig took a moment to pause the game, it quickly progressed into an all-out shoving match.

It started light, and playful, little shoulder-to-shoulder leanings. But that didn't last long, Craig being the first one to push Kyle in the chest, with his large, open palm. Kyle retaliated, elbowing Craig hard enough for him to wheeze, and took the opportunity of Craig being doubled over to shove him onto his side of the sofa.

The resulting glint in Craig's eyes hit Kyle right in the groin, causing him to catch his lower lip in his teeth, to stifle a groan; he just looked so... predatory. God, Kyle was sick. They were just roughhousing. It was just... normal stuff. Dude stuff. Nothing that should've turned Kyle on as much as he was in that split second when Craig glanced at him with a toothy grin, and shining eyes.

But Kyle didn't have a chance to tamp down his arousal, to pinch himself and will his sudden half-chub away before Craig pounced.

Craig pinned him. Kyle shoved. They rolled off the couch, with Craig landing on his back and Kyle on top of him in the most unfortunate manner: with his hips pressed against Craig's thigh.

Kyle's cheeks burned brightly as he realized he was hard. He was hard and his erection was pressing against Craig's leg. He wanted to die.

"Kyle," Craig said. He couldn't read his expression because Kyle refused to look at him. "You know, I—"

But before he could finish whatever he was going to say—probably a completely valid condemnation of this horrible biological response—Kyle's phone went off, playing the Ofra Haza song he had set specifically for when his mother called. He scrambled off of Craig with a frantic I have to take this and scurried to his room as he answered his phone.

 




Craig rapped on Kyle's bedroom door, gently, a couple hours later.

"Come in," Kyle said, miserably, hoarsely. It was a small blessing that he hadn't cried, not yet, but he surely looked a mess, with pillow marks on his face, and bloodshot eyes with a new layer of dark circles underneath him. He stared at the ceiling, unblinking, his hands folded upon his abdomen while Craig sat on his bed. Feeling it sag next to him made Kyle's heart ache.

"Are you okay?" Craig's voice was barely above a whisper.

Kyle shook his head. Silence hung between them. Craig wasn't the type to ask if he wanted to talk about it, but Kyle knew he'd listen if decided to. "My ma's sick."

"Shit," Craig responded. "COVID?"

"Fortunately not. Diabetes. I know it's not a death sentence, and it's manageable. She wasn't even too upset about it. She was, you know, explaining it in that frank way that older people do? And then it hit me." Kyle took a deep breath, trembling in his voice. "She's going to die one day. She could die soon. She could die without me ever being able to see her again."

Craig didn't say a word. Instead, Kyle felt him stretch out next to him, then sit up; he heard the rustle of blankets as the throw folded at the foot of Kyle's bed was carefully draped across his body. Then, he found himself encircled by those arms, in a comforting embrace that was quickly becoming the only familiar aspect left in Kyle's life. He shuddered.

Silken hair brushed against Kyle's cheek. "Hey." Craig rubbed his shoulder, slowly. "It's gonna be..." He hesitated. "You're okay, h—" He felt Craig stiffen against him, for just a moment. "You're okay, Kyle. She's okay too."

"I know, it's just—" He couldn't bring himself to finish the thought verbally. He was too raw and too worked up to explain how much the news, combined with the fatalistic line of thinking, had affected him. Instead the floodgates opened—or rather, leaked.

He wasn't full on sobbing or anything, but he couldn't keep the tears in, silently streaming down his cheeks were it not for the occasional sniffle. Kyle needed to apologize for this display, especially since he was bound to get part of Craig's shirt damp, there was no way around it.

Maybe in different circumstances, maybe if he weren't actually cooped up, with the thought of illness constantly looming over him, he might've handled this better.

But before he could speak, he felt Craig press a kiss into his hair.

It was as if a dam broke. Kyle sobbed, shoulders shaking and chest quivering as tears poured, right onto Craig's t-shirt. When did he change clothes? Kyle supposed it didn't matter. The tears came in waves—just as he thought he was finished, Craig would kiss him again, and something raw and uncontrollable would bubble in Kyle's chest. He'd muffle a wail in Craig's chest, which only caused Craig's lips to press against his hair again, and again.

He didn't deserve this sort of affection. Craig was too good of a friend, even after everything. Even after what his body did earlier during their roughhousing. Somehow, that just made him feel worse, and his anguish just continued. "I'm sorry—"

"Ssh, you have nothing to apologize for."

It felt like someone twisted a knife made of ice into his sternum. He did. He really, really, really did. The way he was letting Craig interact with him, lay with him, joke with him, all the while harboring this attraction, this ridiculous crush, and now he had the audacity to unload onto Craig like this, to burden him with his bullshit when Craig had his sister, his family, his own life to worry about?

"I'm sorry, " Kyle repeated, heaving a sob into Craig's soft t-shirt, feeling his abdomen spasm with hiccups. "It's not—not fair, none of this is f-fair." He could feel that snot was running down his nose. Craig's shirt would be ruined.

"It's not fair," Craig agreed. His thumb stroked a comforting motion on his back. "That's life. But you're tough as nails, Kyle. You're going to be okay."

"It's not just that, not at all, I'm not being fair to you."

Craig inhaled sharply. "I think you need to try to sleep."

"Stay?" Kyle hated himself for asking. Hated the childlike desperation in his quavering voice.

"Of course." It was breathed against his forehead, murmured so softly that Kyle would've thought he was imagining it if it weren't for the way Craig's breath made his curls move.

Kyle chose not to think about any bigger implication to that response, that simple word. He didn't sleep, but he did close his eyes. He concentrated on the steady rhythm of Craig's heartbeat, of his breaths. There was something so grounding about him; had been since the day Kyle moved in. Even if he hadn't thought about Craig like this back then, there was a comforting stability about the man that put Kyle so at ease. When Kyle moved in last year, he'd thought he was at his worst, coming down from the aftermath of a relationship full of mind games, manipulation and crazymaking, but Craig hadn't cared. Craig had listened to him, had offered him unbiased advice, had even gone as far as to chase Kyle's ex off their property when it came to it.

If Craig could handle that, and not go running away, and still want to be Kyle's friend, then maybe he could handle a crush. Maybe he wouldn't freak out. And it was with thoughts of maybe that Kyle brought himself back, that he willed his breaths to even out.

And, all the while, Craig continued stroking his back. His hair. His shoulders.

"Are you okay?" Kyle asked it after what felt like forever, softly. "Your sister, your parents. I don't want to burden you when I know you're not..." He gulped. "I know it's hard to handle any of this. I know how scared you are." When Craig didn't respond right away, Kyle continued, words tumbling from his mouth. "And now I get it, Craig, I really get it. Everything is so... uncertain. Everything is just too.... ugh. " He huffed something resembling a laugh at his inability to find the right words.

Craig's hold around him tightened. He still didn't say anything for a moment, but when he did, his words were soft. "I'll be fine." Which was probably a confirmation that he wasn't okay, but he didn't say it. "It is ugh. But right now, I want you to let me worry for the both of us, alright?" That made Kyle's heart seize up, and he felt utterly speechless. It was a kindness he hadn't been offered in...surely not in his entire adult life.

"Alright." Kyle angled his head enough to be able to look at Craig, who was fixated on the ceiling, but shifted, making eye contact with Kyle. His eyes were shining, and red, and Kyle's heartbeat caught in his throat with the thought that Craig had also cried.

Nevertheless, Craig offered him a tight-lipped smile. "Want something to eat? Some water?"

"Water and... I don't know, crackers or something." He knew he needed to eat something, and Craig did too, but for the life of him he never managed to have an appetite when he was this upset. The thought of putting anything in his stomach that was more spiced than unsalted matzo made his stomach churn.

"Alright." Craig pressed another kiss to his hair, and left the room. When he returned, it was with drinks and snacks on a bright orange tray that Kyle assumed he (or someone) stole from a Del Taco.

"Golden Oreos, nice," Kyle remarked, mustering up a smile, and his ability to sit upright. The cookies were one of many snacks on the tray, adjacent to a plate of carrots, crackers, and plain hummus. Had Craig remembered Kyle's favorite cookie the last time he’d gone shopping, or was it just a coincidence? He reached for one, munching slowly.

Craig breathed a laugh. "Yeah. You know, junk food is surprisingly easy to come by at the grocery store. You should be in the clear for more when you go next week." He cleared his throat before sitting. "If you go. I can still go."

"I can go, I told you. It'll be okay. You stay here."

Craig nodded, offering him something of a small smile. He looked exhausted and drained, but it was a cute smile all the same. Kyle still felt guilty about it, but he had also exhausted himself about it that he felt more numb than anything. "I can put something on my laptop," he offered between bites of his cookie. Something other than silence in the room would probably be beneficial. 

Craig nodded again in agreement. But as he stretched his arms overhead, he offered an alternative. "We could also move the TV in here." He gestured toward Kyle's dresser that faced the foot of the bed. Only his wallet and keys were on it, and it was large enough to function as a TV stand. "It'd take me all of five minutes."

"That's not a bad idea. But we shouldn't make a habit of eating in here." Kyle delivered it rather unconvincingly, and Craig must've believed that less than Kyle believed himself, as he let out a light chuckle. 

"Give me a few. Just... Stay here and rest. Eat." A less observant person would miss the minute lean Craig's face made towards Kyle, and the seconds of hesitation before he drew a measured breath, just as subtly, and walked out.

But Kyle noticed. And he was too shocked to dwell on what it might mean.

Kyle settled back, leaning against the headboard and his pillows made a point of making himself eat even just a couple bites of something that wasn't just Oreos. It didn't take long for Craig to move the TV and related equipment to Kyle's room and hook everything up. And while Kyle was more than capable of doing all of that himself, it was admittedly nice to have Craig do it. "I should just leave all the techy stuff to you."

"Happy to do it," Craig said. He was correct in that he barely took any time at all to set up the television, and get Netflix pulled up, and a movie going. Craig plopped down rather ungracefully onto the bed, before burrowing under the covers and reaching for some snacks. 

Kyle was once again unaware that he'd even drifted off until he was awoken, paradoxically, by Craig switching off the bedside lamp. "H—" he yawned, "How long have I been asleep?"

"Not long," Craig's voice was soft, as if not to disturb Kyle from his slumber, even though he was half awake. "Go back to sleep." Kyle didn't remember when he began using Craig's chest as a pillow, but Craig's arm was around his back rubbing small circles which was effective in lulling him back to sleep.

While drifting off, Kyle was vaguely conscious of a pair of lips whispering a soft goodnight against his ear.