A/N: Sorry this has taken so long. I have no excuses.
Chapter 8: Easter (James') Sunday
Friedy is currently in the process of trying to drag me to James' house for their annual Easter party. His parents throw a barbeque and my whole family is always invited. I'm in my bedroom, but unfortunately my door doesn't lock. Friedy and I have always gotten along so that's never really been a problem before. It figures that it's all because of James that I'm currently sitting on the floor with my back against the door to counteract Friedy's pushing from the other side.
A split second later I'm flying away, pushed by the now open door. Great, now my parents are home. Now I owe Friedy because of that stupid bet. I don't even remember how high the stakes got before now.
"What are you doing?" my father's voice booms through my room.
I ignore him. He's never paid any attention to what I was doing before. I don't know why he'd start now.
He storms into the room and uses the front of my shirt to lift me up and stare straight into my eyes. My father is not a violent person, he would never hit me, Friedy or our mum. But he does realise that the best way to get me to pay any attention to him at all is to get in my face. And unfortunately, he's still bigger than I am.
"Get dressed," he commands. "We're going over to the James house."
He doesn't have any right to tell me to do anything. He stopped being a father a long time ago. I don't know when the last time he even looked at me was.
"I am not going over to see anyone by the name of James," I state, daring him with my eyes.
My father looks at me. Really looks at me. And for the first time in my life, he gives me advice.
"Look son," he says, sounding so stereotypically fatherly that I'd laugh in his face if he didn't seem so serious. "When you're as old as I am, you're going to have regrets. Sometimes you regret things that you could never have changed. But mostly you regret decisions. And the decisions you regret most will be the ones where you did nothing. Or where you avoided making a decision at all.
"I can't make you go over there. It has to be your decision. And I want it to be a decision that you can live with. Can you live knowing that you let a lifetime's worth of friendship slip through your grasp?"
If he expects me to take his shitty advice he can eat it. Where does he get off? He's never around and then all of a sudden he's telling me things that I don't care about. Of course I know I'll regret things someday. But that day is not today.
Dad releases my collar and leaves the room.
But part of me wonders how he knows about regrets. Did he lose a friend? And how did he know that James and I were arguing in the first place? Perhaps my father was never as distant as I'd always thought him to be. Maybe he'd just been waiting for me to come to him. Maybe he was just waiting for me to screw up, and he'd always thought I was okay.
Making a decision I wonder if I'll regret later, I take my father's advice. I start rummaging through my closet. James is going to regret ever saying anything last night. I'm going to see to it.
x X X x
I don't specifically ignore James once I get to the party, but I feel like he should be the one to apologise to me if we're ever going to get past this. However he behaves today is going to determine whether or not we can salvage our friendship. I've stopped hoping for anything more than that.
Friedy and I are sitting on some chairs that have been lined up beside the house. I'm sipping a Coke and she's finishing up a sausage in a piece of bread, slathered with a good amount of tomato sauce. Without saying a word, she leaves the seat beside me, brushing crumbs off her lap, to talk to some of James' cousins. Someone immediately sinks into her vacated seat and I can't help but feel that this is a setup.
"We need to talk," James says quietly.
I roll my eyes. "You mean you need to talk."
"I guess I should apologise first."
I refuse to make eye contact with him, but I can see him twisting his hands together in his lap, a sure sign of his nervousness.
I snort. "You reckon?"
"We've been fighting all week," he prefaces. "And I think it's my fault."
"Thank God." I say it to get a rise out of him. It's Easter Sunday, he'll be feeling his most Christian today.
He ignores it. "I couldn't work out what I was feeling," he explains. "And I blamed it all on you." He takes a breath and gets to the point. "I like you, Stetson. And I've always thought that you were a pretty attractive guy."
It's a good thing I've given up on him. He likes me and he thinks I'm 'pretty attractive'. He might as well have just said "Stetson, I'm flattered, but I'm just not that into you." God he makes me feel like such a girl.
"So why were you shitty to me all week?" I ask.
"At first I was jealous," he says. "Since we've been at uni you haven't slept with anyone, and I thought that was a sign that you'd changed. That you were maybe finally starting to feel the same way about me that I'd always felt about you."
If I was speaking, that would have cut me off mid-syllable. I'm speechless. Wow. He'd liked me for as long as I'd liked him. Longer maybe. And I'd hardly dared to hope.
But the story isn't over yet. Jealousy is no reason for him to be mean to me. And, as ridiculously sentimental as it's going to sound, I can't have a relationship with a guy that's going to do that. Irrational jealousy. And then taking it out on me? And bloody well confusing me in the process.
"Then when you ruined my date I really hoped. And you kissing me didn't help either," he continues.
"I liked you, you loser," I admit. "I didn't think you'd react well to me telling you that. Especially not when you'd just told me you had a date. You didn't even believe me when I told you I was bi."
He winces. "It was like some weird dream. I didn't think it was real. Thought that maybe somehow you'd worked out that I liked you and were just teasing me."
"I can't believe you'd think that I was like that. I thought you of all people knew me better than that. I can't believe you'd think that I would play with your feelings like that."
"Stetson you've teased me every single other time you've known I liked someone else. Why should it have been different just because it was you?"
He had me there. He didn't have the benefit of knowing that I did actually like him. I might have teased him just so that I didn't feel ridiculously awkward. And, looking back on it now, I'd probably only teased him so much because I was jealous.
"You're right," I agree.
He nods. "Mostly I was too scared to hope, and at the same time I was hoping every time you did anything. I thought I'd proposed a real date. That you'd take me on a proper date. Then you made it clear that you weren't taking it seriously so I got pissed off at you when I was just pissed off at myself for hoping. I thought I was so stupid. Then there actually was a date and it didn't suck so I hoped again. Then I saw you with that girl and I jumped to conclusions."
The way he told it, it was like his whole week was one twisted game of 'Fortunately, Unfortunately'.
"She thought you and I looked hot together," I state.
"Then I was pissed off at myself again and I took it out on you." He pauses, trying to work out what went next. "Then on Friday I was so embarrassed that I didn't want to speak to you. Then Friedy came over and said some things that made sense."
"Friedy?" Meddlesome child. "I should have known she'd do something. Since she was convinced that we were both in love with each other."
"Well she wasn't far off. Anyway, that's why I went to the party that night. To tell you."
"But I was already drunk."
"And with a couple of girls, that was what really did it for me. But yesterday morning I realised that I shouldn't let that get in my way. So I thought maybe it'd work if we pretended that nothing had happened."
"That did work," I say. "But I still don't get why you were so stupid last night. If you liked me like you said you did, why didn't you say anything?"
"I was scared," James admits. "I was working myself up to it. I'd already hoped and been disappointed so many times during the week. I wanted to make sure that you meant what you said."
"You let me walk away."
"I was in shock. I thought that if either of us was ever going to confess to being in love with the other it would be me. Stetson, I'm sorry I've been such an idiot. It'd kill me if we couldn't get over it."
I look him square in the eyes and all I see is him pleading with me.
"James, we're already over it." Did he think I'd just sit through his crappy explanations if I wasn't going to forgive him?
James kisses me to seal the deal, and I let him, caught up in the fact that this is the first time he's ever been the instigator. When I feel like it's gone long enough to make him feel secure, I pull away.
"But if this is going to work," I say. "You have to agree to try not to be like that anymore. I mean, if you're going to be insanely jealous we're going to have to work on that."
James nods. "I don't think that's going to be a problem anymore. Not if you're going to be my boyfriend."
Boyfriend. A word so gay that I can't help embracing it.
"And so that you don't have to be jealous, I'm going to try to tell you what I'm thinking more often."
James smiles. "Me too."
I smirk. "So, right now I'm thinking that we should kiss. And I don't mean like some wimpy kiss with no tongue. I mean deep-throated, spit swapping, 'we're bound to get mono or meningococcal from it' kissing."
And disgusted, he shuts me up by following my instructions, with more than a little inventiveness on his part.
Friedy's wolf whistle breaks the moment and I realise that our families have been watching the entire thing. James' parents look confused. My mother looks amused. And my dad is definitely shocked. I guess that's not what he'd thought my decision was about. It was good to know that he didn't read me as well as all that.
I smirk at Friedy, and go back to kissing James. I can't say that we got together in the best possible way, but I can't say that I want to go back, either. Together is going to be so much more fun.
x X X x
A/N: There's an epilogue to come… if you can call a chapter that takes place a day later an epilogue. And an appendix of every single story of James' possible conception as told by his parents. But since I have to write them, I don't anticipate them coming out too soon.