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It began with a beer.

Oliver leaned against the wall, holding his bottle, watching the chaos swirling around him. He'd told Jenkins he had a paper to finish, but that hadn't stopped the guy from closing Oliver's laptop and dragging him downstairs, insisting that no roommate of his was gonna miss out on a tri delt party. Jenkins was kind of an ass sometimes, but he was funny when he drank, so Oliver had just laughed and let himself be pulled. But then Jenkins had disappeared, and Oliver was still new here, and he didn't really know anyone, didn't know what to do. So he just stayed where he was, sipping his beer, quietly surveying his surroundings. Okay, never liked that couch anyway. Wow, is that a funnel? I wonder where that girl's shirt went? Oh, it's on that guy's head. Huh, who brought the --

"They don't bite, y'know." Oliver whipped his head around, startled. But it was just Lewis, the other new guy, the one who talked all the time, who always seemed to be laughing. He was laughing now, his hands up. "Sorry! Man, didn't mean to scare you."

"I wasn't scared." He took another sip of his beer, waiting for his heartrate to calm down.

"Just thirsty, then." Lewis was grinning, and Oliver smiled back. It was kind of hard not to, with Lewis.

"Whatever. Like I didn't see you more freaked out every day of pledge week."

"Pledge week is over, my friend. We are full fledged Kappa Alpha Deltas now, and I have no memories of the distant past."

"Or two weeks ago."

"Same thing." Lewis was reaching around behind him, and Oliver edged away, looking back to see Lewis pull a strange-looking beer out of the cooler on the floor. "Buckham's?" Oliver asked, tilting his head to read the ugly brown label. "What is that?"

"You can take the boy out of North Carolina, but you can't take the North Carolina out of the boy. Try it." He handed the bottle in his hand to Oliver, then leaned down again to grab a fresh one for himself.

Oliver dutifully set aside his own bottle and took a sip. He couldn't help but make a face when he did. He would have been embarrassed about that, but Lewis just laughed again, a raspy cackle that made Oliver grin in spite of himself.

"It's an acquired taste. As in, acquire some taste and you'll like it."

"Oh, really," Oliver said, laughing. "Or is this what you acquire when you're already so drunk you don't know what you're tasting?"

"Fuck you," Lewis said cheerfully, taking a long swig. "Where the hell have you been, anyway?" he asked when he was finished, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "I was looking for you. Party's been raging for two hours already."

"Had to study." He kind of liked that Lewis had been looking for him. But that was stupid. So he shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. "Didn't know these things were required."

Lewis's eyes had shifted out over the crowd, but they turned back now. Looking puzzled, dark brows furrowed. "Not required. Just fun. What the hell else is the point of joining a frat?"

"Yeah, I know. Beer, buds and babes, right? So Jenkins keeps telling me."

There was a funny look on Lewis's face. "Well, two out of three for me, but whatever. The beer's still good."

It was Oliver's turn to look confused. "What do you --"

"Hey, Lewis!" Lewis accepted a bear hug from a burly and very drunk senior, and they staggered off together, laughing. Oliver shut his mouth, leaned against the wall again. Everybody was drunk, nobody was making sense. He set down Lewis's weird brew and picked up his own bottle again, tilting his head back to quickly drain it. It was time to start catching up.

***

He kept running into Lewis around campus. Eating lunch, walking to class, hanging out at the house.

After a while, he realized it was because he kept looking for him.

***

"You again, huh?"

Oliver looked up, smiling at Lewis as he sauntered into the kitchen. "Us again." He shrugged, rinsing off the plate in his hand and sticking it in the drying rack. "We do tend to get stuck with a lot of the shit work, don't we?"

"That's what comes from being so dependable." He stretched his arms over his head, yawning. It wasn't that early, which made that kind of weird. Which was why Oliver watched it.

"Well, that and the fact that we're the only two sophomores in the house right now."

"That too." With a sigh, he picked up a dishtowel and took his place, drying and stacking one dish after another.

"Hey Lewis, can you hand me the --"

"Will you just call me Kyle already? I feel like we're in the army or something the way everybody keeps last-naming each other."

"Kyle?"

"Yeah, Kyle. My name. That is what my friends tend to call me."

Oliver laughed. "Okay. Kyle." They went back to washing, and Kyle went back to talking. And Oliver listened, smiling through every word.

***

Kyle's head was in his arms, and his arms were on the desk. "Nngggh," he groaned, banging his forehead forward a little. "I am never going to understand organic chemistry. I am so going to fail this test."

"That's what you always say," Oliver said absently, not looking up from his own book. "And you always do fine."

"Fine is not going to do it, Oliver. Fine is going to lose me my scholarship. Not to mention med school."

"Would you relax? The fate of your career does not hang on this one test."

"Man, are you kidding me? Look at this!" The mattress bounced as Kyle landed next to Oliver, laying his own book on top of the one Oliver had been focused on. "Do you understand this? There is no way I'm going to get this by tomorrow!" He brought the heels of his hands to his temples, exhaling in frustration. "My brain hurts."

"Hey, it'll be okay." The bed was kind of crowded with Oliver on his stomach, so he rolled onto his side. He didn't mean that as an invitation for Kyle to lie down, but somehow he wasn't really surprised when he did. "Y'know, you need a break. Or no, you need a beer. Or --"

"I need to get laid," Kyle muttered, rubbing his eyes. "Fuck, it's been months. That can't be healthy."

"Uh, I guess." Oliver laughed a little, but it wasn't his usual sound.

Kyle noticed and lifted his hands, looking at him. "How long has it been for you?" There was no judgment in the voice, just curiosity. "I don't think I've ever even seen you with a --"

"We're not talking about me." He rolled onto his back too, staring up at the ceiling. Eventually, he was sure, Kyle would stop staring at him like that. "Okay," Oliver continued, trying to get the conversation back on track somehow. "So you need a girl. Well, there's that coffee shop waitress who was checking you out last week when we were --"

"Oliver," Kyle said, and now the voice was just confused. "Um, that's not what I said."

Oliver turned his head, trying to puzzle this out. "What? You said you needed --"

"To get laid." Kyle was staring at him now. "You saying you didn't know that I'm gay?"

Suddenly, Oliver's stomach dropped about a foot. His jaw fell with it. "You --" He closed his mouth, swallowed, opened it again. "What?"

"I'm gay." He said it like you might say I'm Episcopalian. He even shrugged. "I thought everyone knew."

Oliver's mouth opened, but no sound came out. And then the door to the room opened, and Oliver leapt off the bed faster than he ever had in his life.

If Jenkins noticed, he didn't say anything.

Kyle didn't either.

***

It was cool, though. They were still friends. Oliver knew his parents would freak if they knew he was hanging out with a gay guy, but he didn't have to be like that. He never had agreed with all that.

And they didn't have to actually know.

***

"Oliver! There you are!" Kyle came rushing into the gym, out of breath, his cheeks flushed from the cold. His coat was even still buttoned.

Oliver grinned. "Where else would I be? It's Wednesday."

Kyle rolled his eyes. "Of course. God forbid you switch workout day with laundry day. The universe would cease to exist."

"No, just my part of it." He finished his second set and set the weights down, picking up his towel to blot the sweat off his face. "What's up? You look all... I don't know..."

"Happy. This is me happy. No, fucking overjoyed, over the moon, ecstatic, fucking -- gah! There's a reason I'm not an English major."

"You did manage to get fucking in there twice."

"Hey, a couple of fucks always makes me happy. ANYWAY." He grabbed Oliver's upper arms, his eyes still lit up, grinning wide.

"Hey!" Oliver protested, squirming. "Your hands are cold." Actually, he didn't really mind that. But it seemed like the thing to say.

Kyle ignored him anyway. "Listen to me! Ask me why I'm happy."

"Why are you --" Realization suddenly dawned, and Oliver stopped squirming. "Oh! Did you get your org chem gr--"

"A-MINUS, BABY!"

Oliver hooted to the ceiling, grabbing Kyle and pulling him into a tight hug. "That's so great, man! I told you!"

"Hey, you're getting me all sweaty." Now it was Kyle who was squirming. But not very hard.

"Deal with it. You've been complaining to me about that damn class for months." Months of lounging on Oliver's bed, studying late into the night, dragging Oliver to his room for beers and company when Kyle's roommate was over at his girlfriend's place. Which was always. Which worked out pretty well, actually.

Kyle was laughing, hugging him back. "I know, I know. I owe you big. Specifically, I owe you a night of getting seriously trashed, enough to block out any brain cells not strictly required for the rest of our finals."

Oliver didn't let go. Luckily, Kyle didn't seem to have a problem with that. "Sounds good to me."

***

By the time they got back from the bar, it was past two in the morning, and Oliver was in an awfully good mood. So much so that he didn't even mind that Jenkins had put a necktie on the doorknob again, kicking him out of his room 'til morning. After all, Kyle's room was right down the hall, and his roommate was gone again. So he just laughed when Kyle grabbed his arm and dragged him down the hall, saying something stupidly funny. Kyle was really, really funny.

Which didn't really explain why when they got into Kyle's room, Oliver crawled into Kyle's bed instead of the empty one on the other side of the room. But Kyle didn't seem surprised that he did. And when the lights were out, and the laughing stopped, it just felt natural to pull the warm body next to him a little bit closer. To put his mouth on those lips he'd been staring at for months now, to touch that tongue with his own, to press their bodies together until Kyle groaned in that raspy, sexy way he had, which just made Oliver want to kiss him even harder.

Everything was kind of blurry after that. There had been an awful lot of alcohol. But he knew Kyle was wearing too much clothing. And Kyle seemed to think he was too.

***

He didn't see Kyle for three days. Not that he was avoiding him. He just had a lot of studying to do. And the library was a better place to do it than the frat house. He wasn't sure why he'd never thought of that before.

***

"Hey, Oliver."

Oliver looked up, blinking, shifting in his seat. "Hi." His voice cracked a little. He cleared his throat. "Hi."

"You said that already." Kyle's voice was calm, even. He had a plate of food in his hands, and Oliver was alone in the house common room, a mostly full plate of his own in front of him. But Kyle didn't try to sit down. After a moment, he turned away.

"Wait!" Kyle waited. But he didn't turn around. "Don't you -- I mean, do you want to sit down?"

Slowly, Kyle turned to face him. "Do you want me to?" The eyes weren't sparkling now. Oliver was having trouble reading them, which was kind of new.

"Well, sure." Damn. When did it get so awkward? "There's plenty of room."

"Yeah, I see that." He paused. "That's not what I asked."

Oliver was having trouble with words. But when Kyle turned to go again, he found them. "Yes," he said quickly, and Kyle stopped where he was. Oliver cleared his throat again, and then spoke more quietly. "Yes, I want you to."

For a minute, Kyle just looked at him, and Oliver wasn't sure if he would sit down or not.

But he did.

***

They had each other's cell numbers, so they stayed in touch during semester break. Kyle could talk forever, and Oliver liked to listen. They talked about their families, their class schedules, their Christmases. Everything except what happened that one night.

When school started again, they still didn't talk about it. Oliver was relieved. Everything was cool again. Kyle was his friend, his best friend. He didn't want things to get weird. Didn't want Kyle to get the wrong idea.

And then one Friday night a week into the new semester, Oliver had a few beers and then knocked on Kyle's door in the middle of the night. Except he wasn't quite as drunk this time, and this time, he remembered. He remembered covering Kyle's body with his own, devouring his mouth, pinning his hands to the mattress. Remembered the feeling of hard cock against his hip, and how his mouth was watering when he got rid of the pajamas that were standing in his way. Remembered how much better that cock felt when it was pulsing bare in his hand, when he was stroking it, sliding his fist over it, pumping it until Kyle cried out and clung to his shoulders, calling out his name. Definitely remembered the feeling of Kyle's rough callouses twisting over his dick, the hand somehow stronger than his own, jerking him faster, better. Remembered how Kyle watched him the whole time with those dark, serious eyes, whispering things that Oliver had only imagined in his dirtiest fantasies. And how Kyle kissed him at the end, bit down on his lip just as Oliver toppled over the edge, working him all the way through it, staying close when the shudders finally, finally subsided.

He remembered everything.

Which was why he snuck out before Kyle woke up.

Again.

***

They didn't talk about it. They never did.

***

"Hey." Kyle looked up at him, smiling, and Oliver smiled back. Which was how it always worked. "You made it."

"Yeah," Oliver said, dropping down to sit on the grassy bank next to Kyle. A few twigs brushed into the lake when he did. "Good directions. I didn't even know there was an eastern entrance."

"Too many freshmen on the western side. The cool kids hang out over here."

Oliver laughed. "Oh, really."

"Yup. We'll make an exception for you, though."

"Jerk," Oliver said, giving Kyle a playful shove to the shoulder.

"Definitely. So where were you?"

"Huh?"

Kyle held up his wrist. "We said seven. It's almost 7:20. Unprecedented for Mr. Punctuality."

"When did I get a new last name?"

"Oh, what, like Fish is so much better?"

Oliver just grinned at that, looking over the water. He was happy to see Kyle, and he didn't really want to ruin it. "Wow, look at the sunset. It's really --"

"Pretty, yeah, orange, pink, great. You gonna answer my question?"

Should have known that wasn't going to work. Oliver stayed where he was, still facing the lake. "My mom called." He wasn't smiling as much any more.

"Oh."

"Yeah."

Kyle was quiet for a minute. Oliver picked up a rock, skipped it out over the water. "How'd that go?"

"Fine, I mean... y'know. Fine." He didn't say that she'd asked if he was seeing anyone, again. Didn't say that she asked if he was going to church. Didn't say a lot of things. He skipped another rock.

"Bet I can do better."

Now he looked at Kyle, confused. "Huh?"

"You got 3 skips that time. Bet I can do 5."

Something released in Oliver's chest, and he smiled. "You're on," he said. He picked up another rock. "What's the bet?"

"Wait, wait, we need liquid refreshment first," Kyle said, turning around. Oliver noticed for the first time that there was a cooler parked behind him, and laughed out loud when Kyle plucked out two beers and handed one to Oliver. Buckham's. Of course.

"This stuff again?"

"Buckham's is the One True Beer. You will come to understand this in time."

"Doubtful." Actually, he had started to like it a little. But Kyle didn't have to know that.

"Okay, that's the bet, then. Winner picks the beer for next time."

Next time. He uncapped the bottle and took a long drink, hoping it would cover his grin. Kyle's gaze was fixed on his mouth when he lowered the bottle. Which he liked, kind of a lot. "You got it," he said.

***

"It doesn't bug you, or anything?"

Oliver looked up at his roommate. He was confused, for a minute. "What?"

"Lewis." Jenkins nodded towards their door, the one Kyle had just walked out of. "Y'know, the whole gay thing."

Oliver's stomach tightened into a hard, tiny, impenetrable knot. "What do you mean?"

"What do you mean, what do I mean? Doesn't it bother you that the guy's a fag?"

The knot got tighter. Oliver felt his face getting hot, so he stood up, gathering some laundry off the floor. "Why should it?"

"I don't know, man." Jenkins was leaning back in his chair now, his hands behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. "I mean, people can do whatever they want, I guess. But shit, man, keep it away from me." He shuddered, then laughed, loud. Oliver laughed too.

What else could he do?

***

"Oh, God." Oliver's head was back, his eyes closed, one hand whiteknuckling the headboard while the other clutched tight to Kyle's hair. He was trying not to pull, but God. God.

Kyle made a sound, a moany, growly sound, and bobbed his head a little faster. Sucking a little harder. Jesus, so good.

Biting his lip to try to keep control, he bucked his hips up a little, desperate to get deeper into that mouth, into that heat. Kyle's hand was tight around the base of his dick, stroking him as he sucked, and it disappeared all of a sudden, and Oliver looked down, a question in his eyes. What's wrong? he meant to say, but it came out more like "Whnngh?" because just as he did, Kyle opened his eyes and then opened his throat somehow, swallowing Oliver down, keeping his eyes locked with Oliver's the whole time.

Oliver's brain short-circuited. His entire dick was wrapped in tight, wet heat, and Kyle was still sucking him, gazing up at him with those eyes that seemed suddenly a thousand shades darker, all heat and want and lust and yes. YES.

Everything tightened. He felt his balls lifting up into his body, and he tried to choke out a warning, but Kyle stayed where he was, and then he hummed, Jesus Christ, and Oliver shouted something unintelligible and came hard, suddenly, his hips lifting off the bed as everything surged up and out of him and on and on and on.

Kyle was choking. Distantly, Oliver realized he still had Kyle's hair in a death grip, and he released it quickly, panting out an apology as Kyle pulled off, coughing, wiping his mouth.

"It's okay," Kyle said, shaking his head, still out of breath.

"I'm sorry." It was hard to form words, but he pawed at Kyle's limbs, tried to pull him into his arms. "I'm sorry, so sorry, Kyle, I didn't mean to --"

"Oliver, I'm fine." He was smiling now, and he lay down on top of Oliver, and Jesus he looked hot with his lips all swollen and his hair sticking in every direction. Oliver just wanted to kiss him, so he did.

There was a surprising flavor in Kyle's mouth. Traces of something salty, something slippery. Oliver suddenly realized what that was, and he abruptly broke the kiss. "God," he said, or groaned. That should probably be gross, tasting himself like that. It wasn't.

Kyle was kissing his neck, his hands moving firmly over Oliver's skin. Oliver could feel Kyle's erection rubbing against his belly, and after a moment he figured out that Kyle was moving his hips, grinding it against him. He put his hands on Kyle's hips, stopping him, and Kyle looked up, surprised. As if he hadn't even realized he was doing it. "Sor--" he started, but Oliver covered his mouth with his own, swallowing the word. He rolled him over quickly, and Kyle's breathing hitched as he landed on his back, his eyes wide now.

Oliver pushed his body down, dragging his abdomen slowly and firmly against Kyle's cock. He didn't really know what he was doing, but he knew it was important that he be on top, that he control this. He shifted back, careful to keep his own oversensitive cock out of the way, and then did it again, watching Kyle's face. Kyle's eyes had closed, and he was making a whole new set of sounds now, higher-pitched, desperate.

Covering his whole body now, Oliver snuck a hand between their bodies and wrapped his fingers around the hard flesh he found there, squeezing it tightly. Kyle gasped. "Please," he said, the voice very different, more like a whimper. His fingers were so tight on Oliver's back that they hurt a little, but Oliver absolutely did not want him to ease up. He stared at Kyle's face as he gave the cock in his hand a long, slow pull, and then another, and then another. "Oliver," Kyle moaned, lifting his head off the pillow, touching their foreheads. "Please." So he let go, jerking him suddenly at a rough, rapid pace, and Kyle clutched him harder, moaned louder, and then his whole body tensed up as he shot onto Oliver's hand, onto both their stomachs. Oliver's gaze was fixed lower now, watching him come, watching the last spurts pulse out of his... friend.

Or whatever.

He stayed there for a while, covering Kyle like a blanket, eyes closed, sticky hand trapped between them. Kyle was like a koala after sex, all clutchy and cuddly and limbs wrapped everywhere, so he knew staying just like this for a while would be expected. Which was definitely why he did it. Every time, he lingered like this, every part of their bodies touching, exchanging soft, lazy kisses until Kyle opened his eyes again and smiled. That was Oliver's cue to sit up, reach for a towel, get them cleaned up. And then it was time to go.

Only Kyle wasn't playing by the rule book this time. "Stay," he said, a hand firm on Oliver's arm when he tried to stand.

Oliver looked at him, confused. "What? Why?"

"Because I want you to. Because you want to. C'mere." His voice was still all raspy, all post-sex sleepy, and he tugged Oliver onto his back again, curling into his arms. Oliver stayed still, not sure what to do. "I love you, Oliver," Kyle said, and then he was asleep. And Oliver stared at the ceiling, Kyle's weight pinning him where he was, farther from sleep than maybe he'd ever been in his life.

He didn't want to disturb Kyle. He tried to stay still. But there was a loud sound going on in his head, and his skin was hot again, and he had to go. So after a few minutes, he turned Kyle gently over, easing out from under him as quietly as he could. Maybe he could make it out of the bed without Kyle waking up at all.

He thought he had managed it, until he was standing there in his underwear and one sock, hunting for the other one, and realized Kyle's eyes were open, watching his every move.

"Okay, so I said it," Kyle said. His voice was a lot clearer now. Maybe he wasn't quite as drunk as Oliver had thought.

"I --" He stopped. There had to be words that followed that, but he had no idea what they were. "I can't find my sock," he finally said.

"Should I say I didn't mean it?" The room was dark, but Oliver could see Kyle's eyes. He could read them pretty well by now, but at the moment, they were a mystery. "Would that make it easier?"

Oliver's throat was dry. He swallowed, but it didn't help. "Make what easier?"

"Your little play. This show you put on. Pretending we're just friends. Pretending you're... I don't know. Straight, I guess."

"I'm -- I don't know what you mean. I'm not pretending anything." He really needed to find his sock. He stumbled upon his jeans, and pulled them on instead.

Kyle didn't laugh, exactly. It was more like a snort. "Really. Where does Jenkins think you are right now?"

Oliver yanked his t-shirt over his head. "I have to go." He already had his hand on the doorknob.

"What, until the next time? Until you're drunk and horny again and need a convenient mouth to stick your dick in?"

That stopped him. He gaped at Kyle, or whoever this new person was who had taken Kyle's place. "Kyle, what the hell?"

"Fuck it. Forget it. Good night." Kyle turned away from him, pulling the covers up to his chin. Oliver stayed where he was for a while, trying to think of something to say. Eventually, he gave up, and just walked out the door.

***

They still didn't talk about it. But they didn't talk about anything anymore.

After the third time Kyle turned his back when Oliver approached him, Oliver quit trying.

***

It began again with a beer. Or six. Enough to make it seem like a good idea for Oliver to knock on Kyle's door in the middle of the night again, then to push the door open when Kyle didn't answer.

"What the hell are you doing?" Kyle was sitting up, his voice cold. He hadn't had anything to drink, and Oliver kind of wished he had.

Oliver took a few steps in, stumbling a little as he approached the bed that he hadn't seen in a month. "I want --"

"You're kidding me." There was no humor in the voice, and Oliver stopped where he was, swaying a little.

"Not that," he said. He was aware that his words were slurring. He really needed to sit down.

Kyle folded his arms over his chest. "Not what, exactly? Can you even say the word?"

"Kyle..." He grabbed the corner of the desk next to him, steadying himself. Kyle opened his mouth to say something else harsh, but Oliver just spewed words right over it. "I'm a shit. I'm sorry. I don't know what..." His voice trailed off, and he looked at Kyle for help. But Kyle, for once, was quiet. "I miss you," he finally finished. His cheeks were kind of warm.

They were quiet for a while. Kyle didn't say anything. But then he did. "Come here," he said, the words a sigh, everything softening. Oliver nearly tripped in his eagerness, and he climbed under the sheets, pulled Kyle close, moved in for a kiss. But Kyle turned his head away.

"No," he said quietly. "Not that."

He lay down on his side, turning his back to Oliver. But then he took Oliver's arm and pulled it over himself, tugged so that Oliver scooted forward, molded his front to Kyle's back. And that was good. That was pretty great, actually. Oliver wrapped his arm securely around Kyle's waist, closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of Kyle's skin.

"Good?" Kyle's hand was stroking his arm. Softly.

"Yeah." Better than good. He let out a breath, curled a little closer. "Thank you."

Kyle's hand kept stroking. Once, twice, three times. "Yeah."

***

They were back to normal, sort of. Except they didn't pretend anymore, when they were alone. They quit using words like "friend." When they were alone.

Kyle told his friends about them, but only the gay ones. Oliver didn't tell anyone. He spent a lot of nights in Kyle's room, and sometimes he slept there.

Usually he didn't.

***

Junior year was better than sophomore. They had fewer chores around the house, more free time to hang out. Oliver got picked as a walk-on for the football team, and Kyle came to a lot of his games. They had a lot of post-game celebrations in Kyle's room, just the two of them, just their hands and their mouths and their tongues. Oliver gave his first blow job there, on his knees with Kyle's ass pressed against the door, Kyle's hands on the back of his neck, urging him on. He wasn't expecting to like that, but he did. A lot. Actually, it was kind of the hottest thing that had ever happened to Oliver in his life.

An hour later, he did it again.

***

It was late, very late, and Oliver's chest was hurting. He bit his lip, trying to keep still. Trying to keep from waking Kyle. It didn't work.

"Wha--?" Kyle turned over, rubbing at his eyes. When he saw Oliver's face, he blinked them wide open. "Baby, what is it? What's wrong?"

Oliver wanted to answer, but he had to get his breathing under control first. "Nothing," he finally said, a choked sound.

Kyle's hand was on his face. Oliver closed his eyes. "I'm here, baby," Kyle whispered. "They're not."

He kept his eyes closed. His parents' faces were so clear he could practically smell his mother's perfume. "I can't --"

"I know. I know." The voice was soothing. So was the hand. "It's okay."

"If they ever found out." He couldn't even say it. His eyes were getting wet, damn it. He couldn't open them.

"Shhh." There were gentle kisses on his eyelids, two hands cupping his face. "You're a good son, Oliver. You're a good man."

Oliver clenched his jaw, hard. He wrapped his arms tight around his boyfriend, pulling him closer in. And he cried.

***

He was embarrassed about it, in the morning. But Kyle cut short his apology with rolled eyes and a "Don't be an idiot," and that was the end of that.

Until the next time.

***

The dark made it easier to talk. Sometimes, at night, curled close in Kyle's bed with all the lights off and the silence heavy around them, they did.

"When did you know?" Oliver's voice was soft. His hand stroked Kyle's chest softly, petting him. It grounded Oliver to feel him there.

"About me?" With Kyle facing away from him, Oliver could barely hear him. The words were just loud enough.

"Yeah."

"I don't know. Always, I guess." Oliver didn't say anything. He kept up the slow motion of his hand, pondering this. "Making out with Johnny Crandall in the seventh grade was a pretty clear sign."

Oliver's stomach tightened. He bit his lip, staying quiet.

"But it didn't start there. I don't know when it started."

"You always knew."

"I think so, yeah. I dreamed about men. I thought about them when I, y'know." He shrugged quietly. "I didn't know what the word was for it, is all."

Oliver nodded, a barely-there motion. Kyle rolled over, laying a warm hand on Oliver's face, studying him. Oliver's hand slid from Kyle's chest to his back when he rolled, but he didn't stop the soft stroking.

"What about you?"

The question surprised him. It shouldn't have, really, but it did. He opened his mouth to answer, but he didn't have any words. So he closed it again. He didn't say anything, and eventually Kyle kissed his cheek, whispering something Oliver didn't hear. When he laid his head down on Oliver's chest, Oliver could breathe again. He circled Kyle's warm body in his arms, squeezing him in. When he spoke again, the words seemed weirdly loud. "Johnny Crandall, huh?"

Kyle lifted his head, a familiar teasing grin playing across his face. "Oh yeah. Showed Johnny a real good time." Oliver couldn't control his face, and Kyle laughed.

"What are you laughing at?" Oliver grumbled.

"You, you dork. Tell me you're not jealous of a twelve-year-old."

He tried to roll away, but Kyle straddled him, pinning him down. "I'm not jealous," he said. Kyle's hand was under his chin, trying to lift it up so their eyes met. But Oliver nudged his head away. So Kyle sat back a little, still holding Oliver's wrists.

"You don't have to be," he said. Oliver could hear the grin in his voice even if he couldn't see it.

"I'm not."

"We never did anything more than kiss. I didn't get off with another person 'til I was sixteen."

Oliver really wanted to sit up now. He pushed at his wrists, but Kyle stayed where he was.

"Oliver. Come on. I have a history. You have a history."

And with that, it really wasn't funny anymore. Oliver pushed harder, and Kyle fell off him, only barely managing to stay on the bed as Oliver quickly stood up.

"You do, don't you?"

It was dark in the room. Which was the only reason why Oliver stood still, why he wasn't already getting dressed.

"Hey." Kyle's voice was softer now. He was standing too, a hand warm on Oliver's bicep. "It's okay."

"It's late. I should go." He didn't move.

"Yeah, right." Kyle tugged his arm, and all of a sudden he was on his back in bed again, and Kyle was crawling all over him, kissing his chest. Oliver's hands were already on Kyle's back, running over all that warm skin, holding him there. Kyle's mouth found his, and they kissed, and they kissed some more. And Oliver's body decided it wasn't really that late after all.

"Hmm," he sighed, as Kyle's hand wrapped firm around him. He kissed him again, savoring the flavor.

When the kiss broke, Kyle moved his mouth to Oliver's ear, whispering into it. "There's a lot I haven't done too, y'know."

Oliver blinked his eyes open, turned his head, stared at him. "What?"

"I've never... y'know." Suddenly, those dark eyes looked almost shy. Oliver moved his hand lower almost without realizing he was doing it, cupping one perfect cheek, letting a finger drift to an opening he'd never touched before.

"This?" he whispered. The finger lingered there, not pressing, just resting.

Kyle swallowed, then nodded.

"Why not?"

Kyle's lips pressed together, and then he looked away. And then he kissed Oliver again, all tongue and strength and wetness, and Oliver forgot his question.

Which, he figured out later, was maybe the point.

***

"There you are! God. I was getting ready to leave."

"Sorry," Oliver said, plopping down heavily on the grass. "Got stuck in the computer lab."

Kyle didn't say anything. Oliver always knew he was in trouble when Kyle didn't say anything.

"Look, I'm sorry. This program I'm working on is half my grade, and I just got caught up in --"

"I know."

Uh oh. "Kyle..." He placed a hand on Kyle's shoulder, but Kyle shook it quickly off.

"I had shit I needed to get done too, y'know. This bio final is eating my ass."

Oliver snickered. "Sounds like fun." But Kyle fixed him with a cold stare, and the laughter quickly stopped.

"It's not funny, Oliver."

"I'm -- I'm sorry. I am."

Kyle didn't say anything. And then he stood up. Oliver took a deep breath, watching him. He had a feeling he knew what was coming.

He was right.

"Do you get that we're not going to see each other all summer? Again?" Oliver nodded. It was safer than speaking. "Do you even care?"

"You know I do."

"No, I don't. I don't know what the hell you --" He stopped, staring away. "We only have a little bit of time left. Just these few hours we can grab by the lake, and you fucking blow me off."

"I wasn't blowing you off, Kyle, I --"

"And it's not like we're living together." Shit. There it was. "It's not like we can meet up in our fucking room. Because one of us decided it wouldn't be a good idea for us to be roommates."

"Kyle." He swallowed. "We've been over this. It's just easier for the house if --"

"If what? If we go on pretending? You think they don't know?"

Oliver looked away. Some of the brothers had pretty obviously guessed. They weren't idiots, after all.

"This isn't about KAΔ. It's about your parents. It's about you."

He couldn't find the words. He looked up at Kyle, hoping he'd get it anyway. "I just... I just need more time."

Kyle gazed at him, very serious, and then he dropped down on his knees. "I know this is hard for you," he said. His hand was on Oliver's face. It was warm, and felt awfully good. "But it's hard for me too. This... whatever. The pretending."

"It won't be forever," Oliver whispered. Kyle's mouth was very close, so he kissed him. Kyle let him, for a minute. But then he pulled back.

"You promise?" The eyes were so hopeful, so sad. So beautiful.

Oliver nodded, and kissed him again. And this time, Kyle kissed him back. When it ended, he sat down slowly, then turned around and leaned back between Oliver's legs, tucking himself into his usual spot. Oliver wrapped his arms around him, kissing his neck. His heart was beating easier now, like it always did when he had Kyle there.

"Okay," Kyle said quietly. Oliver squeezed him a little, and Kyle sighed. He still sounded sad.

"You okay?" He kind of didn't want to ask it. But he had to.

"No." He paused. "I'm thirsty."

Thank God. Oliver smiled, then released an arm to drag over the cooler he'd brought with him. The smile broadened into a grin when he heard the surprised cackle Kyle let out when he saw the beer Oliver pressed into his hands.

"Buckham's?" He laughed again. "You won last time! And you bought Buckham's?"

"Okay, so it's pretty good," Oliver said sheepishly.

There was more laughter, and more kissing, and the serious stuff was over.

For now.

***

It was a long summer. Oliver flipped burgers, saw his high school friends, went to church every Sunday with his parents.

And thought about Kyle an awful lot.

Sometimes, he thought about kissing him, touching him, rolling around in bed with him. When he let himself fantasize about pushing inside his body for the first time, when he lay in bed alone and jerked himself furiously while he imagined what that would be like, that incredible pressure, that heat, that feeling of actually being inside of Kyle, he came so hard he scared the dog awake two rooms away. It was a good thing his parents were out that night.

But other times, he thought of Kyle's smile, Kyle's deep brown eyes, Kyle's infectious laugh. The way his face looked when the moonlight reflected off the surface of the lake and hit him just right, lighting him up and making his skin glow.

They talked on the phone a few times a week.

It wasn't enough.

***

Seniors had a fair amount of pull in the KAΔ house. Enough for Kyle to wrangle himself a single room. It had a very comfortable bed, as Oliver discovered their first night back at school.

"Oliver," Kyle moaned, breathing the word, trying so hard to be quiet for him. Oliver kept sucking, fluttering his tongue under the crown. He'd been dreaming about this for three months, and fuck, he wanted to hear Kyle make some noise.

Sliding a finger into his mouth to wet it, he decided it was time to put another of his dreams into action. Kyle didn't even notice the finger until it was all the way under him, tickling his entrance, pressing ever so gently against it. Then he lifted his head. And stared. And nodded.

Oliver pulled off, careful to keep his teeth covered, keeping his finger where it was. "We don't have to," he whispered.

"Yes."

"I mean, if you're not --"

"Yes. Oliver. Yes."

Oliver licked his lips, gazing at him, making sure. And then he eased the finger forward, slipping it inside.

"Oh," Kyle gasped, and the muscle tightened around Oliver's finger. Oliver froze. But Kyle just swallowed, shook his head, then opened his mouth again, panting. "It's okay. Just... don't stop there."

"Do you want me to --"

"In me." Oliver clenched his jaw. He managed to restrain himself from humping the mattress to get some relief, but it wasn't easy. He refocused and pushed the finger a little further in, and Kyle made that sound again. It was a really, really good sound.

"Kyle."

"Oliver." His head was back again. "Your mouth. Please."

Licking his lips again, Oliver used the hand that was still wrapped around the base to guide Kyle's cock back into his mouth, sucking on it with renewed vigor. His finger was all the way inside now, and he curled it, searching, searching...

"Ahh!" Kyle's back arched, and he slapped a hand over his mouth. He gasped, twice, and then removed the hand and spoke in an urgent whisper. "Oh my God, right there, baby, yes..."

Oliver withdrew his finger just a little bit and then pushed it back in, right against that same swollen spot. Kyle groaned so loud that Oliver looked up, worrying he'd hurt him. But the expression on Kyle's face was not one of pain.

"Yes," he panted again. "Harder."

God. He drove the finger in harder now, and Kyle moaned, so he did it again, again, again. He was still sucking, and he could feel the skin getting tighter under his lips. He didn't need the warning, but Kyle squeaked it out anyway. And Oliver pulled off just in time to watch. Kyle came explosively, arching his back, Oliver's finger buried deep inside, Oliver's hand jacking him through it. He came and came and came, and his ass clenched around the finger so hard it almost hurt, and the only thing Oliver could think about was what that squeeze would feel like on his dick, and then he couldn't take it any more. As soon as Kyle stopped convulsing, he eased his finger out and wrapped his hand around himself, jerking himself frantically as he kneeled over his boyfriend. Kyle's eyes opened just before he came, and he smiled, and then Oliver spilled onto Kyle's stomach with a desperate groan, mixing their wetness together.

He collapsed forward, drained, spent. They lay together for a long, long time, just breathing. When Oliver finally opened his eyes, Kyle was tracing his face with one finger, his eyes soft, tender. "I missed you," he said quietly.

"I love you," Oliver said back.

He meant to say I missed you too. But the other thing was just as true.

***

Oliver was pacing. From one end of his room to the other, then back again, and again, and again. He couldn't stop talking, which was unusual for him. "I just don't get why they're here. They live a thousand miles away. Why would they --"

"It's parents' weekend." Kyle's voice was calm, soothing. He sat on Oliver's bed, watching him. "They're supposed to be here."

"They've never come before! They live a thousand miles away!"

"You said that." Oliver sat down on the edge of his bed, exhaling in a frustrated rush, and Kyle scooted up behind him. "It's your senior year," he said, stroking Oliver's arm. "You're starting in the game this afternoon. They probably didn't want to miss that."

"I know, but..." His words trailed off. He bit his lip, staring at nothing.

"Look, it'll be okay. It's two days. You can handle it." There was a mouth on Oliver's neck. Just a sweet kiss, nothing sexual, nothing too much. Oliver still felt it like a bolt of electricity all the way through his body. "Where are they now?"

"Huh? Oh, they... Mom wanted to take a nap at the hotel. They drove all night to get here." Kyle kissed his neck again. Oliver closed his eyes. "Can we talk about something else?"

"Sure." He paused for a minute, then laughed. "Now I don't know what to say."

Oliver turned around, smiling for the first time all day. "Kyle Lewis, at a loss for words?"

"Maybe." He was grinning that gorgeous grin again, but it faded after a moment. "There is something I've been wanting to talk to you about, but now isn't the time for it. But I... I don't know. I can't seem to think about anything else now."

"What is it?" Kyle looked different now. Kind of nervous. Which was weird. Kyle was never nervous.

"I just, I've been thinking... I mean, I know we've never... but I think I'm ready to..." He blew out a breath. Oliver shook his head, confused. "I bought us something," Kyle said. He hesitated, then pulled the something out of his back pocket.

The something that turned out to be a box of condoms.

All the blood in Oliver's body surged immediately to his dick. "Oh my God," he said, vaguely aware that his voice had dropped an octave.

Kyle's eyes met his. Dark, clear, sexy. No nervousness anymore. He licked his lips, and then it was all over. Oliver tackled him, crashing their mouths together, grinding his hips forward as Kyle wrapped his legs around Oliver's waist. Kyle moaned, kissing him back. His hands were everywhere, all over Oliver's back, groping his ass, pulling him in closer. And Oliver couldn't seem to touch enough of him. He pulled off Kyle's shirt, let Kyle do the same for him as he tugged at Kyle's belt, still rubbing them together, kissing everywhere he could reach. Kyle moaned again when Oliver's hand slid inside his pants and grabbed him, and Oliver covered his mouth again, addicted to the flavor.

Which was when he heard the gasp.

He spun around, pulling off of Kyle, actually falling off the bed in his rush. He knew that sound, knew who had made it. As he sat on the floor, chest heaving, looking up, he saw that he was right.

"Mom," he managed. His voice was hoarse.

"I... I forgot my gloves." She was very, very pale. And she was looking at Oliver in a way she'd never looked at him before. Her gaze shifted to the bed, and Kyle scrambled off it.

"Excuse me," he muttered, stumbling out of the room, holding his pants up with one hand. Jesus, his fly was still undone.

Oliver stared at his mother, his mouth open, wondering what on earth to say.

But before he could figure it out, she was gone.

***

When it broke, it broke with a beer.

"Oliver! Oliver, wait!"

Oliver kept his head down. Kyle kept shouting his name, running after him. Finally, he caught up and grabbed Oliver's arm. Oliver shook it quickly free.

"Oliver." He was still out of breath. "What -- God, I've been looking for you all over. Where have you --"

"I have to get to the library." He was still walking.

"Are you kidding? Wait, stop. Stop." He grabbed Oliver's arm again, and Oliver shook it free again, more roughly this time. When he did, he turned quickly and looked Kyle in the eyes.

"Don't touch me," he said, loudly. Kyle just stared, his mouth open.

"Oliver. Are you okay? Did your mom --"

"Leave me alone." He tried to turn to go, but Kyle stepped right into his path, blocking him. "Leave me alone, Kyle. I mean it."

"Are you pissed at me?" He sounded bewildered. Oliver tried to step around him, but Kyle jumped into his way again. "Hey. Baby --"

"Don't call me that." Kyle blinked at him, and Oliver shifted his backpack. "Get out of my way."

Kyle reached out an arm, tentatively. "Oliver, what the hell --"

"Are you deaf?" Oliver was shouting now, knocking Kyle's arm roughly out of the way. "Get away from me! Stay the hell away from me!" Kyle's face wore a new look now. Confused. Hurt. Oliver couldn't look at him. He looked down, and noticed for the first time that Kyle had a six-pack of Buckham's in his hand. "You and your stupid fucking beer," he said, the words spilling out in spite of him now. He was all hot inside, furious, ready to burst. "It's disgusting, you know that? Disgusting. Just like you."

Kyle took a step back. Oliver couldn't stop yelling.

"You disgust me, Lewis. You're a freak and a loser and you're trying to make me just like you."

"You already are." The voice was quiet. Somehow, that enraged Oliver even more.

He grabbed a bottle out of the cardboard carrier and threw it, hard, smashing it on the sidewalk quite some distance away. "I am nothing like you. You got that?" He wanted Kyle to get mad back, to yell. To say something. But he didn't. "I never want to see you again." He couldn't look at those eyes any longer, so he spun around and stormed off before Kyle had a chance to respond.

His nose held the smell of Buckham's all day.

***

A lot of years. A lot of beers. A lot of loneliness.

He still thought of Kyle, more than he meant to. More than not at all, that is. He wanted to regret that last fight. Wanted to take back some of the things he said. Especially because a lot of it wasn't true.

Most of the time, he didn't think about it. He was a cop now, really a cop, and he loved his job, and he was pretty decent at it. The first time he drew his gun, the adrenaline thrumming loudly in his ears, shouting down the suspect until he caved and put his hands behind his head like Oliver told him to, he understood that he was maybe actually good at it. Even when the job did involve more than sitting behind his computer, which is what it mostly was. He didn't mind that, because that was when he was great at it.

He got teased, sometimes, for not dating much. That was nothing new. The guys on the force were a lot like Jenkins, a lot like every other frat boy and guy's guy he'd ever met. He laughed along with their jokes, looked at the women they looked at. Dated a few of them. Not too many. Not that he was bothered by that.

"I am the job," he'd say, because he heard that in a movie once. It got him some respect, sounded good enough to be believable. Who had time for a girlfriend? I am the job.

Every once in a while, he bought a lot of Buckham's and got drunk alone.

Those were the times when he thought maybe none of it was true.

***

And then there he was. Back in Llanview, like he'd never left. Dark eyes and dark hair and God, so beautiful, even in his dingy old workout clothes, even sweaty and out of breath and staring at him with no warmth at all.

"I never thought I'd see you again." The words were out before he could stop them. He wanted to say a lot more, but he didn't.

He really wished Kyle would go away.

He also really didn't wish that at all.

***

He fought with Kyle, again and again and again. Pushed him away, pushed everything away. Until he couldn't anymore. Until he quit being an idiot, finally. Finally. Until he finally opened his eyes.

"I'm gay." He wasn't expecting the words. Which was weird, since they'd come out of his own mouth. For the first time, ever. "I'm gay."

Maybe more weird was that nothing happened. He didn't catch on fire, or anything. Didn't stop breathing. It was easier to breathe, actually. And then he saw Kyle and his boyfriend together again, and remembered why he couldn't.

He didn't try to change that, at first. Kyle had moved on. He was happier that way. He even told Oliver that, once Oliver found he couldn't not try. "It's not going to work," he said. "The timing's off." The worst part was that he looked so kind when he said it. So fucking kind.

Oliver had never fought for anyone before. He was starting to figure out that there had never been anyone, not really. Not anyone but Kyle. He fought for Kyle because he had to. He didn't know how not to.

When he actually succeeded, Oliver was more surprised than anyone.

***

Kyle's hair smelled good. It always had. Oliver had forgotten that, somehow. He buried his nose in it, inhaling deeply, pulling Kyle a little closer. He somehow couldn't get him close enough.

"Hey, hey," Kyle complained. Even though Oliver couldn't see his face, he could hear the grin.

"Deal with it," Oliver murmured into his hair. Kyle sighed, curling in a little closer. He was tucked in Oliver's arms, naked chest angled across naked chest, strong arm draped over Oliver's waist. A perfect fit. Oliver stroked Kyle's back, letting his hand drift a little lower.

"I don't know about you, pal, but I'm not nineteen anymore," Kyle informed Oliver's nipple, dotting it with a gentle kiss. "Much as I'd love to, I don't think I'm capable of a fourth round."

Oliver smiled, cupping the cheek he found. "Me either. I just... I don't know. I like touching you."

"Mmm." Kyle wiggled a little closer, which shouldn't really have even been possible. Oliver kissed the top of his head, his gaze lifting lazily to the three empty condom wrappers on the nightstand.

"Kyle, can I ask you something?"

"Hmm?" The voice was sleepy. Which was understandable. They'd been making love for hours, and it was almost three a.m.

"I always wondered. Why hadn't you ever done that?" Kyle lifted his head, blinking at him. "We never did that, in college. Neither of us ever had. And I mean, I know why I hadn't done it. I'd never done anything. With anybody."

"I know."

"But you had. You had a few years of sex under your belt before we got together. So how come..."

Kyle rolled onto his back, staying close, looking up at the ceiling. His hair was ruffled and messy and perfect. "I don't know. That seemed... different, somehow. From all that other stuff. I guess I wanted it to be..." He rolled his eyes. "Special. Don't laugh."

"I'm not." He wasn't. He ran a hand through Kyle's hair, and Kyle turned his head, looking at him. "I wanted that, so badly. When I thought about it..." He swallowed. "You have no idea."

Kyle smiled again, stroking Oliver's chest. "I think maybe I do."

Oliver kissed him, surprising him, pressing their lips together and holding him there for a long time before he finally pulled back. "I'm so glad we finally got here," he whispered, his eyes still closed. "I'm so sorry for --"

"Stop." Kyle's finger was on his lips. He opened his eyes, and that face was very serious. "No more. No more apologizing."

He breathed, for a while, and finally spoke again. "I love you."

"I love you too." Kyle kissed him softly, and then smiled. And then stretched out an arm, reaching over Oliver to pluck his half-full bottle of Buckham's off the nightstand.

"Some things never change," Oliver said, stroking his lover's back again, smiling.

"Like your love for North Carolina beer." Kyle was grinning now, teasing him. So Oliver took the bottle out of his hands, taking a long swig.

"Yeah, like that," he said, wiping his mouth. Kyle laughed and took the bottle back, finishing it off. Oliver watched him, still touching his skin. He couldn't seem to stop touching his skin. "It's kind of appropriate, somehow," Oliver said. "That we should ring in our happily ever after with a bottle of Buckham's." Kyle placed the bottle back on the nightstand, his brow furrowing slightly. "What?"

"Nothing," Kyle said thoughtfully. "It's just... happily ever after comes at the end of the story. Right?" Oliver held his gaze, not saying anything. "And this isn't the end. It's the beginning."

Oliver smiled. Except that wasn't quite the word for it, because he'd never smiled quite like this, quite as big as this, with quite as much behind it. He didn't know what the right word was, but he didn't care. He just pulled Kyle close again, holding him, kissing him. His lips tasted like Buckham's and happiness and Kyle, the perfect combination.

So it began with a beer.

Again.

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