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What Are Friends for?

W

CW: Foul language, drug use, alcohol use

“You fucking killed me again!” Ty tossed his controller down, throwing his hands in the air at Lawrence. His roommate—best friend—certified moron, really—just smiled at him.

“Ah, sorry, fishy. Let’s reset it and you can try again.”

“No,” Ty grumbled, kicking at the coffee table, “I’m not going to let you lose on purpose, Laz. I don’t accept your pity-death.”

Lawrence laughed lightly, and Ty hefted himself up off the sofa, heading for the kitchen. “Going out for a smoke,” he grumbled.

“All right, hang on a second.”

Ty stepped out into the cool of the late September evening, glancing down at the street below. Night had already fallen; Phobos was racing across the sky. Demos had yet to rise. Ty tapped out his joints, then flicked his lighter a couple of times.

The apartment door squealed shut as Lawrence stepped outside. Ty lifted an eyebrow at him; he rarely bothered to come with Ty, because he rarely bothered to smoke outside of social situations.

Ty cupped his hand over the flame as he pressed the lighter to the end of his joint. It caught, and he inhaled deep, then exhaled smoke to the sky. Lawrence put his hands in his pockets.

“You, uh, follow me out here for a reason?” Ty asked, hopping up on the cement railing.

“Figured I’d partake.” Lawrence reached for the joint, then frowned when it flickered out. Ty flicked the lighter again, and his roommate leaned in gratefully.

“Why?”

“Hm? Oh. Well, you do it enough, figured I could probably stand to do it a little more.”

Ty hummed thoughtfully, then accepted the joint back. “That’s a first,” he muttered, “in …” He rolled his eyes, thinking back on how long it had been since he’d first met Lawrence. “Like, five years.”

“Really?” Lawrence said, then jammed his hands in his sweater pockets. “It’s been that long?”

“Mm,” Ty agreed, eyeing him. “Five years since I barely got through astronomy by the skin of my teeth.”

“That class is so easy,” Lawrence murmured, closing his eyes and tilting his head just so.

“Maybe for you.” Ty took another hit, then passed the roach back.

“Five years and I’m still teaching it,” Lawrence muttered.

“I’m still in school.”

Lawrence leveled him with a look. “So am I.”

Ty jostled his elbow. “Yeah, okay, but that’s different. You’re doing a fucking doctorate, I’m still doing my goddamn bachelor’s.” Ty picked at his nails. “I am so up to my eyeballs in debt.”

Lawrence eyed him again. “You know my offer stands.”

Ty glared at him. “And you know my answer. Laz, I can’t ask you to pay for everything. You already act enough like some kind of … sugar daddy.” He made a face and Lawrence laughed. “It’s not funny if it’s true!”

Lawrence laughed again, then shrugged. “I’d still be paying astronomically high rent if you weren’t here, so what does it matter?”

Ty lit another joint. “It matters because you’re not my sugar daddy.”

“I could be,” Lawrence said, waggling his eyebrows, and Ty looked away, fighting the flush that threatened to creep up his spine, onto his cheeks.

“You could be a whole bunch of people’s sugar daddy, you jerk.”

“My own personal harem,” Lawrence chortled. “Just what I’ve always wanted.”

“Douche,” Ty said, mostly to keep them from lapsing into an awkward silence.

Though silences between them hadn’t been awkward in a while. Ty wasn’t entirely sure when his self-consciousness had melted away, but he guessed it had to be sometime during his first year living with Lawrence. It was hard to be self-conscious around a guy who routinely walked through their house naked.

Lawrence’s phone rang just then, obnoxiously loud. “Is it Dylan?” Ty asked flatly. “It’s Dylan, isn’t it?”

Lawrence held up a finger, then adjusted the phone. “Hey Dyl,” he said.

“I knew it,” Ty hissed.

“Tonight? Mm, okay. Yeah. All right. Sounds good.” Lawrence must have hung up; he pocketed the phone. “Sorry, fishy, Dyl and I are gonna hit the movies.”

“Cool,” Ty replied, swallowing his heart as it sank back into his chest. “I’ll just chill here. Alone. Maybe play the viola at eleven o’clock and—”

Lawrence groaned. “I swear, if we get one more noise complaint, Tydeus …”

Ty waved a hand lazily. “Go on. Get. Don’t keep your man waiting.”

Lawrence smacked him on his way by, then headed off downstairs. Ty peered over the concrete as his roommate passed by below. Lawrence waved. “See you later! Stay out of trouble!”

“Me? Trouble? I wouldn’t dream of it.”

Lawrence grinned at him, and he grinned back, holding it until Lawrence had disappeared into the shadows. Slowly, Ty let his feet hit the concrete again, heart and smile sinking along with him.

He smoked two more joints, tried to lose his thoughts in the wind playing in his hair.

It wasn’t like Lawrence knew, wasn’t like he was dating Dylan to hurt Ty. He had no idea Ty liked him like that and that was how Ty wanted to keep it. He was best friends with Lawrence, and he’d heard too many stories about friends fucking up their relationship by getting romantically entangled.

He couldn’t risk it.

He drifted back inside, fell asleep on the sofa to the sounds of a romcom that he’d blame on Val later.

It was three in the morning when he woke up again, this time with a crick in his neck and light blaring into his eyes. He twisted around and glared at Lawrence, who smiled tersely. “Sorry.”

Ty squinted at him, then sat up further. Lawrence looked away from him, then ducked into the kitchen.

“Laz?” Ty scrambled off the sofa. He paused in the doorway of the kitchen. “Laz, what’s wrong?” He peered at the clock again. The movie should have ended hours ago.

Lawrence poured himself a drink, knocked back the shot. He shook his head. Ty shifted uneasily. “Did … something happen?” he ventured cautiously.

Lawrence sniffed, then inhaled, as though steeling himself. He turned about, leaned on the counter. He was smiling, but Ty could see the red of his eyes, the blotchy quality of his skin.

“He dumped you,” Ty concluded, allowing himself to sink into one of the chairs at the table.

Lawrence licked his lips. “Yeah,” he agreed finally. “He did.”

“Fucker,” Ty hissed, gesturing for Lawrence to bring him the bottle.

Lawrence did, grabbing an extra glass. Ty poured out two shots, then lifted his glass. “Finally, we can go to the bar again and get hit on by women who don’t know the definition of ‘gay.’”

“You never get hit on by women,” Lawrence muttered.

“I know,” Ty drawled, an amused smirk coiling around his lips. “Except that one time. With the lesbians.”

“Oh my God, the lesbians. I forgot about that.” Lawrence was laughing now, which was a definite improvement. “They honestly didn’t believe you’re not a chick.”

“Not even when we got naked,” Ty sighed. “Idiots.” He tossed back his drink.

“Weren’t they back like, the next week too?”

“Uh-huh.” Ty poured himself another drink. He needed it, if they were going to go through his sexual past. “They were all embarrassed and shit too.”

“Then they started hitting on Val.”

“I forgot that part.”

“What about that one time … with the mustache guy, who—”

“No, no, stop. You know too much, I can’t take it.”

Lawrence laughed into his drink. He finished it, then put his head in his hands. He hung there for a moment, and Ty watched, waited. “You gonna be okay?”

Lawrence exhaled. “Yeah. Bedtime though.”

“Cool.” Ty grabbed the glasses, dumped them in the sink. He filled up another glass with water, grabbed a bottle of painkillers. He followed Lawrence to his bedroom, then settled the glass on the nightstand.

“Thanks, fishy. You always take such good care of me.”

“What are friends for?”

Lawrence gave him a curious look, almost like he wanted to say something more. Then he changed his mind and rolled over. “Night, fishy.”

“Night, dumbass.” He closed the door, then stood in the dark of the hall for a moment, staring at the ceiling.

He was stupid to want anything more when this was so much more than enough. He wished, for a moment, that there was a way to go back to before—when it had truly been platonic. Things had been so easy then. He’d give anything for it to go back to being that way. Carefree and breezy.

He’d just have to quash his heart and hope he could learn to be satisfied again.

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By Cherry

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