Chapter 10: Risks
Nate waved as Simon dropped Alex and himself back home; his legs didn’t feel like they belonged to his body and he was sure he must look like a Thunderbird with no strings attached as he rushed inside the house. Simon had been right, he was feeling too hot, clammy even, and the room seemed to be spinning slightly as he flopped onto the sofa and stared at the ceiling.
“Want something to drink?” Alex’s voice made Nate jump a little. He’d been silent the whole drive home and Nate had almost forgotten he was there.
“Tea, please.” The redhead closed his eyes to shut out the spinning room, “And some aspirin. They should be in the cupboard above the sink.”
Alex returned with the tablets and tea and sat beside Nate. He almost spilled his drink into his lap when Nate suddenly spoke, eyes fixated on his mug.
“So…” he ran his hand through his tousled ginger mane, “Sorry about all that. I don’t usually start dates off by having a full-on panic attack.” He was going to continue with something witty to try and make light of what had happened at the mall but noticed Alex’s white-knuckled grip on his own cup and wide, frightened eyes. “What?” Nate placed his own mug on the floor, “What’s wrong?”
The wide eyes turned slowly to look up at Nate as a pink blush peppered Alex’s cheeks.
“’A date?’ We were on a date?”
Nate’s teeth clamped down so hard that his eyes watered and heat spread from his chest to the top of his head. His mind was suddenly racing, filled with questions and confusion, conflicting emotions and an overall sense of something being released, like a floodgate opening. Wave after wave of uncertainty washed over him until finally his mind became clear and everything seemed so obvious. He felt like an idiot for not noticing it before.
“I think so.” Nate turned to face his companion and gently traced his thumb along the scar on Alex’s chin, “Would you mind if it was?”
Alex’s baby blues looked away in an attempt to avoid Nate’s intense gaze but he could still feel those emeralds tunnelling into his soul, testing his self-restraint and prickling his skin. He’d tried to avoid this conversation since the moment he’d realised he liked the redhead as more than just a landlord or friend. The last time he’d voiced his feelings for another man – the first and only time – he’d received eight new scars and some broken ribs, courtesy of his step father. He felt now was different though, he felt calm and hopeful and most of all safe.
With some force, Alex brought himself back to the present moment. ‘Would he mind’? Of course he wouldn’t bloody mind! It was Nate who was uncertain right? Alex chewed on his lip and gripped the larger hand of his friend which rested on his chin. Surely this was a joke? His feelings weren’t being reciprocated, of course not.
“Don’t mess around, Nate.” The emeralds seemed to lose a little of their sparkle as Alex continued, “I’m not here just to satisfy your curiosity.” Much to his own annoyance, Alex’s voice cracked and he had to clear his throat before he could continue, “You don’t know how I feel and-“
A long finger pressed against Alex’s lips, silencing him. The older man sighed and smiled warmly.
“I’m not saying I know exactly what it is I want, I’m just saying that I’d like to try it,” he rolled his eyes and almost pulled at his hair, “Hell, I don’t even know what ‘it’ is! All I know is that I feel like I felt when I had a crush on Tiffany Lester in school but like, a hundred times worse. I want to take care of you, be with you…” His lips pressed together in a thin line and his eyebrows almost touched as he stared intently at Alex, “Most likely in a gay way.” Nate nodded like he was totally pleased with the way he’d chosen to voice his feelings but all Alex could do was stare back.
After a few seconds he couldn’t hold it in any longer, Alex burst out laughing, great guffaws as tears spilled down his cheeks. Nate looked hurt and terribly confused.
Alex gasped between bursts of laughter, “I’m sorry… You just looked so serious… ‘Most likely in a gay way’, no shit Sherlock!”
This time it was Nate who laughed; he smacked Alex’s arm and folded his across his chest and huffed, bottom lip jutting outwards.
“Well sorry if that’s not the right way to do it! I’ve never confessed to a man before!”
The laughing subsided and a small smile spread across the blonde’s face.
“I wouldn’t mind at all.”
“You wouldn’t?” The redhead looked relieved yet somehow anxious as his mouth gaped open. “Right, well… I honestly don’t know what to do now. I hadn’t thought this far ahead.”
“Can we start slow?” Alex asked, “That way, if it doesn’t work out, neither of us will be disappointed.”
Nate nodded and Alex smiled but neither of them acknowledged the fact that they would be utterly
destroyed if something went wrong.
That night in the shower, Nate was trying to piece together the day. It was certainly one he would never forget, what with his decision to ask Alex out (he felt like a stupid teenager) and his ordeal in the lift. The water on his hands felt strange and he realised that he was still trembling, perhaps from the tension of confessing his feelings but most likely from facing his worst nightmare in the shopping mall. Suddenly the glass walls of the shower felt too constricting, too enclosed and he fumbled for the handle to slide open the door.
His heart was starting to race, he could feel it beating hard against his chest, and his shaking
hands were clumsy as they reached for the door, missing every time. The water was still beating down on him, steaming up the shower and making his breathing even more ragged. Shit, Nate thought as a black ink seemed to seep into his vision, I’m gonna pass out if I don’t get out right now.
Just as the redhead felt his knees weaken and darkness overtake his sight, the shower door slid open with a loud clatter and he fell outwards onto something softer than the floor but awkward nonetheless. Slowly, he opened his eyes to find Simon holding him upright, t-shirt soaked through and green eyes focused with worry.
“Jesus, Nate what the hell.”
“Si?” His words felt far away, like he was throwing them rather than using his tongue to speak them, “Why are you here?”
Simon pushed Nate’s damp hair away from his eyes and held the top of his brother’s arms firmly so he wouldn’t topple over.
“I came to check on you and Alex said you were having a shower. How many times have I told you to have a bath after you’ve had an attack? Pillock.”
Simon rolled his eyes and ruffled his twin’s hair, “Come on, let’s get you some clothes. Your dick’s pressed up against my leg and its making me uncomfortable.”
“S’bigger than yours.”
“In your dreams little brother.”
Once in a t-shirt and some boxers, Nate felt a little more alive; he stepped into the living room where his brother, Kyle and Alex were watching some idiot eating worms on TV. Kyle was sitting on the older twin’s knee on the armchair and seemed to be turning a lovely shade of grey. He was thankful when Nate distracted them from the worm buffet.
“Nate!” Kyle smiled, “How’re you feeling?”
“I think I’m okay now, thanks. That won’t be happening again any time soon.”
“Shame,” Kyle pressed his palm to the wet patch on Simon’s t-shirt, “I kinda liked the wet t-shirt look.”
“Do you want food?”
“We ordered pizza,” Simon spoke as his eyes remained on the television, “No peppers, no onions, no tomatoes.”
Nate gave a weak thumbs-up and plonked himself down beside Alex who shuffled a little closer to absorb some of the heat left over from Nate’s shower. He tensed when Simon suddenly raised his arms in the air and clapped loudly.
“OH!” Simon held out his hand to Kyle who was looking extremely agitated, “Pay up, loser!”
“No way! I can’t believe you were right!” Kyle adjusted his glasses and dug into his pocket for some notes, which he handed to Simon reluctantly.
“Twins,” he wiggled his finger between himself and Nate, “We know each other.”
Utter confusion had clouded Nate’s already exhausted mind and he was in no mood for riddles.
“What are you going on about?”
“I won the bet,” Simon replied, deadpan.
Simon stretched and patted Kyle’s head like an obedient puppy before gesturing towards his brother and Alex, “That you two would do the deed.”
Nate heard Alex’s mouth fall open and before he knew it he was on his feet, pointing the remote at his brother like a sword, ready for battle.
“We haven’t- What are you talking about?!”
“Oh come on, Fuckleberry Finn, it’s written all over your faces!”
Alex shook his head so hard that his hair flicked into his eyes, making them water.
“You’re wrong. We haven’t done anything yet-“ Before the words escaped his lips he knew he’d regret them. He wanted to swallow them back down and melt into the sofa but Simon was too quick.
The older twin was already on his feet, almost sending Kyle flying into the TV, and pointing at his brother.
“So you are an item! I knew it!”
“No, we…” Did he really want to deny it? And to his brother of all people. No, Nate decided, he wasn’t ashamed of anything, why should he pretend otherwise? “Yes, alright, fine.”
Simon turned to Kyle, who’d managed to pick himself up, and smirked evilly,
“Knew we’d weasel it out of them.”
The penny dropped and Nate saw red, “So there was no bet?! You tricked us?!” He launched at his brother just as the doorbell rang and instead of tackling Simon to the ground, his target moved to answer the door and Nate ended up on Kyle, almost head-first in his crotch. Simon opened the door to a very bored looking delivery boy whose eyes almost bulged out of his pimple-covered face when he saw Nate and Kyle tangled on the chair. Simon took the pizzas and paid him before shutting the door in his face, oblivious to the fact that the boy looked utterly traumatised. He clicked his tongue at Kyle as he handed Alex a pizza.
“Now, now. I won’t take ‘I thought it was you’ as an excuse this time, Kyle.”
A cushion launched at Simon’s face as Kyle shoved Nate away from him,
“That was one time!”
With pizza already shovelling into his mouth, Nate returned to the sofa beside Alex and Simon sat crossed legged on the floor next to his love. He could see Alex was dying to ask what had happened at the aforementioned time and so Simon turned on his best ‘storyteller’ voice, smiling as he watched Kyle’s ears turn red beside him.
“Kyle here has mistaken us for each other a few times but only once when it actually mattered.”
“Do we have to have this story?” Kyle waved a slice of pizza towards Alex and Nate, “We just found out they’re having a thing, that your brother’s gay and you want to talk about me?!”
Simon waved off his comment like it didn’t matter, “I’ve known he’s gay for ages, that’s old news,” Nate looked like he wanted to ask something but the older twin continued, determined to continue his story. “Anyway, Alex, as I was saying, Kyle here has only mistaken Nate for me once when it really mattered. I don’t know how or why, as I’m clearly the better looking one but anyway, it happened.
We’d been dating for about six months and Kyle had been allowed to ‘sleep over’ at our house, wink wink nudge nudge. Anyway, it was the morning after and I was in the shower when I heard this massive squeal like a stuffed pig.”
“I did not squeal!” Nate interjected, “It was a manly yell.”
“He squealed. I came running out the shower wearing nothing but a smile only to find my boyfriend and brother necking on in my room!”
Kyle almost choked on his pizza, “We weren’t ‘necking on’! It was over before it started!”
Simon ruffled Kyle’s hair, knocking his glasses clumsily, “They were on my bed, Nate looking like he’d been told that Santa’s not real and Kyle looking dazed as fuck. He’d just woken up, see, and didn’t have his glasses on. Even if he’d had them on, at that age me and Nate were pretty much the same person so it wouldn’t have made much difference. He’s blind as hell without his specs and had thought Nate was me and, well, gave him a morning snog.”
“It was an innocent mistake!” Kyle groaned.
Alex was smirking, trying not to laugh.
“So,” the blonde turned to Nate, “I’m not the first male you’ve kissed?”
Simon’s laughter bellowed off the walls and Nate hoped an asteroid would fall from the sky and bury them right there and then.
The evening continued with the four men laughing and joking into the early hours of the morning; Nate fell asleep at around one and Simon and Kyle took that as their cue to leave. Before the older twin left he caught Alex alone in the kitchen as Kyle grabbed their coats. The blonde looked a little uncomfortable with just the two of them in the small space but stayed nonetheless, sensing Simon had something to say.
“You know Nathan’s pretty confused at the moment, right?”
It took a moment for Alex to understand he was talking about Nate as he nodded slowly.
“I know. I’m not expecting too much.”
Simon sighed and ran his hand through his red hair, resembling Nate more than ever for a split second, “I’m not saying he doesn’t have feelings for you. In fact, this is the most I’ve ever seen him falling for someone. And if he means it, if he loves you, it could get pretty intense. You okay with that?”
Alex felt his chest tighten a little. He wanted it to get intense, he wanted to love Nate and be loved back as much as his heart would allow. Before he knew it, tears were running down his cheeks and he swiped at them quickly.
“I’m totally fine with that.”
He smiled through the tears and Simon smiled back before giving him a lanky hug and a soft punch on the shoulder.
“Take care of my little brother, okay?” He met Kyle at the front door and looped his arm around the smaller man, “See you later, Alex!”
Simon’s goodbye stirred Nate from his sleep and he slowly opened his eyes, groggy and stiff from sleeping on the small sofa. He stretched, bones cracking, and winced as his knee twinged.
“You’re lucky to have such a nice brother.”
Across the room, on the armchair, Alex was smiling at Nate. He reminded him of some old man who used to read stories on the TV when he was small and it made him chuckle. He gestured for Alex to sit beside him and he did, arms touching as he dared to sit as close as he could. Nate wrapped his arm around the blonde’s shoulders and hugged him closer, inhaling the sweet smell of his shampoo and faint scent of peppers from the pizza. Alex looked up at the taller man as they sat together, holding each other properly for the first time. It didn’t feel too strange. Perhaps a little odd but nothing compared to how it felt not being able to be so close. It felt warm and safe in Nate’s arms and somewhere Alex didn’t want to be torn from.
A huge yawn that almost engulfed Alex informed Nate that he should probably go to bed; he kissed the top of the blonde’s head and got to his feet, albeit a little wobbly as his knee almost gave way under his weight.
“Time for bed, I think.”
“Yeah…” Alex stood up and followed Nate into the hallway. As the redhead started to ascend the stairs, Alex grabbed the bottom of his t-shirt and spoke with his eyes plastered to the floor,
“Can I… I mean, if it’s too weird just say so but…” He was struggling to find the right way to say it and was thankful when Nate grabbed his hand and pulled him up the stairs silently.
Nate’s bedroom was a little larger than the one Alex was using downstairs; it was a light shade of brown with a plush cream carpet and a large king-sized bed in the centre. Two bookshelves filled one wall, occupied with horror novels, science books and a couple of autobiographies by people Alex had never heard of. He perched himself on the edge of the bed and waited for Nate to finish using the bathroom.
“I am knackered.”
Nate flopped face-first onto the bed and crawled under the covers like some sort of aquatic creature that was making its way back to the sea. Alex tried to calm his racing heart as he joined him under the sheets and lay on his back, staring at the ceiling, knuckles turning white as he gripped the duvet tightly.
“Mind if I turn the light off?” Nate asked, voice sloppy with tiredness.
Alex swallowed loudly as the light went out and lay silently for almost a minute before the light flicked back on, suddenly flooding the room.
“Christ,” Nate breathed, “You weren’t expecting something to happen were you? Because I am so tired and honestly would not know where to start if you wanted to do something kinky.”
And just like that the tension dissipated. Alex felt his muscles relax and he smiled at his bed buddy before lifting his hands from under the covers.
Nate noticed that Alex was wearing one of his t-shirts and suddenly remembered why they’d gone to the shopping centre that morning. With all of the commotion in the lift he’d totally forgotten their original purpose.
“You still have no pyjamas!”
“I’ll get some tomorrow, it’s okay.”
“I’m at work tomorrow though,” Nate yawned loudly and his protests seemed to calm a little, “I wanted to go with you too.”
“Do you want me to wait until you have a day off to get them?”
“Don’t be daft,” Nate’s eyelids were drooping and he sounded almost drunk when he spoke again, sleep overtaking his thoughts, “Just make sure they’re sexy…”
Alex leaned over his sleeping love and turned off the light.
“Weird day,” he whispered to himself.