Identical

"So yeah, I don't think we can hang out later because my mom wants me to— the fuck?"

Okay, so I wasn't really listening to Tommy's explanation for why he was yet again unable to spend time with me this weekend. I was really just staring at him. He's so fucking gorgeous, he demands staring; with his honey-brown eyes, the wavy mess of chocolate-colored hair, his smooth, soft skin...

I wipe the drool off of my lower lip (what drool? It wasn't drool! Holden Stewart does not drool over Tommy!) and then I direct my gaze away from Tommy and more toward the reason for his exclamation of "the fuck?". Because I doubt his mom would encourage him to do anything involving the word "fuck".

Sadly...

Maybe I can convince her otherwise?

...

On the floor below Tommy's locker, there's a folded up piece of paper with Tommy's name written on it. With a heart replacing the O.

It's the day before Valentine's Day.

The note...the heart...

This can mean only one thing.

"TANNER!" I shout.

And I take off running in the direction of my best friend's stalker's locker with the full intention of killing him. I told him to lay off, dammit! Tommy's friggin' mine!

"Hey! Holden!" Tommy calls from behind me. "Come back! It wasn't—"

But I don't hear the rest of his sentence, because I've tripped over the slippery surface of the linoleum hallway and gone sliding into someone.

Three guesses who it is.

If you guessed Tanner Matherson, you are correct!

If you didn't...really, why do you even bother?

"Get the hell off of me, freak," a scathing voice snaps, and since all I can see are his shoes, I just see those shoes take a leap away from me. And my face. That now feels bruised and delicate from hitting the floor.

Damn you, gravity!

I groan and hoist myself up from the ground, brushing off my khaki pants and straightening my blue-and-white striped button-down.

And then I look up and into the eyes of the devil.

Tanner.

He leans against his locker with a smirk on his face, his dark brown hair that's almost the same exact shade as Tommy's falling in his eyes. He acts like he's all that. Hmph. My opinion is that he spends too much time on his appearance because he knows that he can never win Tommy over with that awful personality of his.

Or that would be the expected explanation, you know, if you brush off the fact that Tommy's glaringly straight, and nothing is going to change that.

Notice how I said "nothing". I didn't say "no one". Because you're looking at him, baby! I'm the one who's going to bring Tommy over to the dark side of rainbows and boy love and all around squee.

Is this a realistic goal?

Hell no.

But is it worth trying?

Why the hell not?

"Sorry," I mutter quickly.

Tanner sneers at me. "Whatever, prep."

I glance down at my clothes and then at his. "We're wearing basically the same thing, prep," I counter coolly.

We basically go to a preppy school. And while there's no uniform, they might as well just issue one, because they have strict dress codes here. No jeans. No spaghetti straps or short skirts for girls. Only black or khaki pants are allowed. Only button-down or polo shirts are allowed. No denim at all, period- shorts have to be khaki or black.

So Tanner and I are kinda wearing the same thing— khaki pants, striped button-downs, and black Chucks because they're as cool as you can get while still remaining generic. We're the frickin' American Apparel school.

I love American Apparel, don't get me wrong. Those sweatshirts? Hell yes!

Tanner just sneers at me again when Tommy comes running up to my side. I ignore my best friend's presence and tell Tanner, "Keep your cooties away from Tommy, okay? If he finds another little love note from you in his locker, then I'll beat you up. I told you once, I'll tell you again: he's mine."

I'm almost growling. I'm so menacing! Fear me!

Tanner blinks. "Love note?" He laughs heartily and says, "Listen, Holden, I know you might sink to the level of behaving like a sixth grader and put love notes in Tommy's locker, but I have much better ways of getting what I want." He winks at Tommy.

Tommy, for being the straight dude that he is, has always seemed to be okay with the fact that his two best friends want in his pants badly. Today is no exception, what with us fighting over him and all. He just laughs and shakes his head.

"I don't know why you two bother," he sighs.

Tanner shrugs and turns back to me. "You. You actually think I put a love note in Tommy's locker?"

I furrow my brow and blink hugely. "You didn't?"

"No, he didn't!" Tommy then exclaims. "I was trying to tell you, but you ran off before I could tell you that it was from Amy, that girl in our history class."

I feel my cheeks heat up in a blush. Oh. Of course. Tanner's too cool and smooth to shove random love notes into Tommy's locker.

Tanner starts laughing loudly, sputtering some crap about "haha, you're an idiot" to me while he chokes on his own amusement.

Jackass.

"Well, at least I'm not a jerk like you!" I shout. "You don't have to laugh at me!"

He just laughs louder.

Rarrgh.

And I stomp off.

Tommy and I have been best friends forever, since the beginning of time, yadda yadda yadda. It was kind of natural that when I realized I was gay it was because of him— and it was him that I fell for and have been dying to have ever since about seventh grade.

And then Tanner came along in eighth grade, about three years ago, and he took over Tommy and his life. Tommy has always a little bit different than me, in terms of our interests— he does a lot of sports, and by "a lot" I mean just that. He plays soccer, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, baseball, water polo, you name it. I'm just on the basketball team with him. Needless to say, with all of his sports it's difficult to hang out just the two of us sometimes. And I'm in advanced classes while he's in grade level ones.

But when Tanner came to our school, Tommy met his identical twin, separated at birth, perfect match/ new best friend. They look the same— but don't ask me why I find Tommy utterly gorgeous and think Tanner's repulsive. They're both in the dumbshit grade level classes. And Tanner plays every single fucking sport that Tommy plays. Soccer, hockey, lacrosse, baseball, water polo...The only difference is that Tanner doesn't play basketball anymore. I got onto the team the year that he did.

The next year he quit.

He tried to convince us that he had an injury. We all know he just couldn't stand me. I don't know why the fuck he couldn't. How could you not stand me? I'm so loveable and happy!

He's jealous, of course. He's jealous that I've been closer to Tommy since day one, since he decided that he wanted to love Tommy more than me.

But he'll never have him!

Never!

EVER!

Tommy. Is. Mine.

Back off, Self-Tanner.

"Holden Stewart!"
Slap.

Ow. The wet towel stings my arm as I lean against it, sleeping against the kitchen table.

"What do you want, crazy?" I grumble, looking up from my napping position and glaring at my mom.

This time she hits my head with her dishtowel.

"It's almost Valentine's Day!" she snaps. "I know it's hard for you to get a date because you're gay and all, but it was easy for that boy in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist! So if you don't stop pining after Tommy and get a real relationship, at least humor your mother and go downtown to some nightclub and get a date! I will not have you moping on Valentine's Day!"

I blink and grin, sliding down from my chair and slipping on my sweatshirt. "Well, sure. I'll head down to the soup kitchen and get me a nice handsome hobo. Maybe we'll even adopt a child and name her after you!"

Mom smiles and shakes her head. "Sweetie, you know I'm joking. But as your mother, I hate seeing you all desperate for a boy. I want you to be happy, and hoping that a straight boy will show up on the doorstep with roses won't make either of us happy. You're good-looking. I'm sure there's someone out there that likes you that you could be interested in. Someone besides Tommy."

She's been trying to get me to forget about Tommy ever since she used her psychic mom skills and saw that we'd never really be able to be together. She doesn't want me to "chase the impossible".

She gives me a sympathetic smile, smacks my forehead, and bribes me with an extended curfew.

But all I can think about is Tommy.

"Holden!"

Tommy scurries towards me, sliding along the linoleum. He slips to a panting stop in front of me, and I give him a puzzled look while I close my locker.

"Yes, darling?" I ask sweetly. "Have you decided to be my valentine?"

Tommy brushes off my pet name and my offer, instead grinning and saying, "I got you a date for tonight."

I blink. I stare.

A date?

A date for me?

A date for me for tonight? A Valentine's Day date? Roses, chocolate, the whole shebang?

Probably not. I'm a highschooler, after all. We can't afford roses.

"You did what now?" I finally ask.

Tommy slings his arm around my neck and nods. "I got you a date. I set you up with someone."

"Who?" I ask cautiously.

He snorts and shakes his head. "I can't tell you."

"But why?" I whine. "I don't even want to go on a date, let alone with some random person I don't know! The only person I'd go out with is you."

I throw in a pout and some puppy dog eyes- they usually work on Tommy.

But when he meets my gaze, something's different. His eyes are almost cold. Not mean, but distant and a little icy.

Yikes.

He turns to face me and puts his hands on my shoulders. "Listen to me, Holden. I know that I've been relatively okay with the fact that you like me. But it's getting to the point that you need to realize that I'm never going to be interested in you in the same way. I value our friendship so much. I just...," he sighs and runs a hand through his hair, glancing away from me for a second, "...I can't risk knowing that you might let this go too far and then hurt yourself or what we have just like this. Okay?"

I blink again. He seriously...he just confronted me about the fact that I like him. That it's getting to be too much. So he's actually giving it thought...Wow. I don't know what to think. And even though I agree with him, I can't just stop liking him...

"Tommy, I..."

"Please, Holden." His grip on my shoulders tightens. "I'm straight, and nothing's going to change that. It's time that you move on and find a guy who likes you. That's why I'm doing this- setting you up. If it blows up, okay. But just give this a shot."

I puff my cheeks full of air and then exhale, not caring that I blow my nasty post-cheese sandwich breath into Tommy's gorgeous face.

"Fine."

"Thank you," Tommy says cheerfully, tugging me in the direction of our first class.

"So who is it?" I ask curiously, shoving my hands in my pockets and staring down at the floor.

"I can't tell you."

My shoulders slump. I hate not knowing what I'm getting myself into. Especially on a blind date...a gay blind date. What if he's setting me up with some drag queen? What if he really does hate me for liking him and he's getting revenge? What if...

No.

The horror!

What if...

What if it's a girl?!

No. Tommy wouldn't do that to me.

"Does he know it's me?" I ask.

Tommy shakes his head. Oh, thank God. I don't want to show up like some loser while the other guy knows exactly what he's getting. But then...if he doesn't know it's me, then how did he get the guy to agree?

"Are you sure it'll work out?" I ask with a sigh. "We don't know who we're going out with. What if it totally explodes?"

Tommy shrugs. "If it does, then sorry. Blame me. But I don't think it will. You two have identical taste in guys."

And with that, he runs off.

Doesn't he know that we have the same first period class?

Weirdo.

"Tommy, you never told me where I'm going to meet this guy for dinner," I complain, gripping my phone in my hand and banging my head on my pillow in frustration. "How am I supposed to go through with this if you just run off and expect me to scour the city looking for some random guy?"

Tommy laughs on the other end of the line and says, "I'm dropping you off, stupid. I need to make sure you actually find the guy."

"But I have fabulous radar and top-of-the-line gaydar. I'd be able to tell who it is without you there."
Lie. I'd probably find some hot guy and spend ten minutes flirting with him until his girlfriend showed up and gave me an awkward look or a slap.

"Whatever. I'm picking you up in an hour, okay?"

And he hangs up.

GAH!

I didn't actually care when, doofus! I care where! What am I supposed to wear? Crisis! Fashion emergency! Clothing conundrum! Style disaster!

Jeans.

Green polo.

Chucks.

Tada!

When Tommy shows up at my house, I yell goodbye to my mom, who yells back some shit about stranger danger and protection.

Tommy laughs. Loooser. He's just jealous because I'm a wimpy guy (not girly!) and likely to get raped, whereas he's all tough and sporty and likely to be the guy coming to the rescue.

"So you're going to dinner with this guy— just casual, a diner or whatever— and then a movie. If you last that long. Okay?" Tommy confirms, gripping the steering wheel of his tiny but expensive BMW with both hands because he knows that I freak out if someone drives with only one hand on the wheel. Safety first!

"Fine," I grumble.

"Hey, you're the one who said that your mom wants you to get a date. And besides, wouldn't you rather possibly get a boyfriend than sit at home and eat See's truffles that you bought for yourself?" Tommy says lightly.

"A truffle is a mushroom," I reply.

Tommy turns to look at me with an expression that could literally be described in terms of chatspeak smilies. You know that one with the lowercase "o" and the upper case "O"? o.O? Yeah. It's like that.

"..."

"It is!" I whine.

Tommy just snorts and continues contributing the conversation with nothing more than a couple of ellipses.

We park downtown outside of some crowded diner that I've never heard of. It smells good inside, though, so I can't really complain. Everyone's all smiley and happy and it's so...fun-looking.

I don't know how a restaurant can look fun, but this one does.

"Soooo...Where is he?" I ask, craning my neck and looking around.

"I believe he's behind you," Tommy replies.

I turn around, and I instantly want to do two things: Hit my best friend for lying, because this certainly is not my date; or two, hit my best friend for setting me up with him.

"Tanner?" I hiss when Tommy's pseudo-identical twin/other best friend steps inside the diner. "No! You're not serious, are you?"

Tanner, who hasn't seen us yet, just dodges his way through the crowds standing in the middle of the floor and goes up to the counter to order something to eat.

It can't be him.

But he's the only person in here that I recognize! And this can't be a coincidence!

But Tommy just stares at me.

"Tanner?" he asks incredulously. "Why...," he starts laughing now, "why the hell would I set you up with him? You two hate each other."

Big sigh of relief.

Thank God. But then who...?

"But you said that we have identical taste in guys," I point out. "That would mean you."

Tommy rolls his eyes. "Thanks, but no. It's Carl, the curly-haired guy over there in the booth," he says, pointing over at some boy who, I grudgingly admit, is pretty cute. Dimples, soft-looking hair, pretty eyes...Not familiar, but I'd give him a shot.

"Oh." I feel so embarrassed that I actually thought it was Tanner. Tommy wouldn't do that to me.

"Tommy?" curly-haired Carl calls hesitantly. Tommy grins and pulls me by the sleeve over to CHC (curly-haired Carl).

"Hey, Carl. This is my friend Holden." He pats my shoulder and shoves me down into the seat across from CHC. "You kids have fun."

And he walks out of the diner, leaving me to my doom with a cute guy that I know absolutely nothing about.

"Um, hi," I mumble.

"Hi," Carl mumbles just as quietly.

"I'm Holden."

"I'm Carl."

"I know. Tommy told me."

Carl gives me an odd look. "...I know."

"Then why did you introduce yourself again?" I ask.

"Because you introduced yourself again," he replies, giving me a cheeky smile.

"That's because...eh, I've got nothing. What school do you go to?" I say, and we order milkshakes and hamburgers.

Carl and I do have a lot in common, and I like him. We spend most of the date just talking about random crap and joking around and learning pointless things about each other. Isn't that what you're supposed to do when you first meet someone?

"I'll pay," Carl offers, or more like insists, when we're done.

My shoulders slump as I reluctantly let him pay for my dinner. Although I guess it's nice, since I'm a little short on cash anyway.

"Do you want to go see a movie or something...?" I hesitantly offer while we wait for the waitress to bring the check.

Carl nods, giving me a half-smile. "Yeah. Sure. Anything good out?"

But when I open my mouth to speak, it's not my voice that we hear next.

"What the fuck? Carl?"

Tanner's standing a few feet away from our booth, his jaw dropped and his eyes trained on the guy across from me. Carl waves at Tanner, who just blinks.

"H-hey, Tanner. Been a while, hasn't it?" Carl says weakly.

Tanner's eyebrows shoot up to the ceiling. "That's an understatement, and I kind of hoped it would be a little bit longer than a while before I saw you again. I was thinking more like 'never'."

Uh-oh. Tanner knows Carl. And Tanner evidently does not like Carl.

Disaster!

"What am I missing here?" I chime in.

Tanner's head snaps towards me and he instantly snaps, "What the hell are you doing here with him?"

"Should I not be here with him?" I retort.

Tanner laughs hollowly. "Yeah. Unless you like being in the company of cheating, lying bastards."

What. The. Fuck?

"Huh?" I say dumbly. Carl looks suddenly nervous, and he stands up quickly, crossing his arms and staring Tanner down. Which is hard to do, because Tanner's way more intimidating.

"Are we back to this, then?" Carl says softly. "I never meant to hurt you. You got in the way. It would've been a lot easier if you'd just minded your own fucking business."

Tanner's eyes flash dangerously, and I feel so utterly confused that I speak up again. "What the hell is going on? How do you two know each other?"

"Tanner's my ex," Carl replies, without letting his eyes leave Tanner's.

Tanner snorts and adds, "Yeah, I made the unfortunate mistake of dating this jackass freshman year. He treated me like shit and apparently had a boyfriend the whole time- and he hooked up with some other guy in addition to both of us. Lead him on for a week before the guy found out that Carl had two boyfriends. I found out and I dumped him. His other boyfriend found out about me and put me in the hospital."

Shit.

"I thought you got hurt in lacrosse," I reply, "not from getting beat up."

Tanner gives me a sarcastic smile. "Nope. I got beat up." He turns suddenly serious and adds, "And fuck if I'm gonna let that happen to Tommy's best friend, to you...rivalry or not."

"Wha-?" I barely manage to gasp as Tanner snatches me by the sleeve and tugs me out of the diner.

"Tanner! Stop!" Carl calls, but Tanner just shouts, "I'm not letting you hurt anyone again!" before slamming the door in a stunned Carl's face.

"What the fuck?" I snap once we're on the sidewalk and on our way to the parking garage nearby. "What did you do that for?"

"He hurt me badly," Tanner says through clenched teeth. "I won't let him do that to anyone. Not even you."

"Maybe he's not like that," I say defensively. "Maybe he was like that with you because you just weren't good enough for him."

Tanner doesn't reply to that and instead takes out his car keys, scanning the filled parking garage for his car, which I happen to know is a bright blue little sports car with a white racing stripe down the top. He got it for his birthday this year.

And I didn't just know that.

"Where the hell are you taking me?" I grumble, once we're in his car and pulling out of the garage. Tanner's rocking out to 3OH!3, which is his favorite band.

I didn't know that, either. Really.

"Your house, unless you've got other plans," Tanner says with raised eyebrows. When I don't say anything, he just nods and continues with, "Why were you with Carl, anyway?"

"Tommy set us up," I reply quietly. That's kind of embarrassing. "He said that I needed to forget about him 'cause he's straight."

Tanner laughs slightly, but it's not a mocking laugh- it's almost empathetic. "He gave you that talk, too, huh?"

"Oh. Y-yeah. I guess he's sick of both of us, then," I reply.

"Seems like it." He gives me a wary look out of the corner of his eye and says, "He told me that...that I should...that I should go out with you."

Ew! What the fuck? Tommy thinks that Tanner and I should go out together? What the hell? Yuck! Yuck, yuck, yuck!

"What?" I hiss. "Has he not seen us around each other? Is he fucking insane? I knew I shouldn't have listened to him. Maybe you're right after all. Going on that date was a bad idea..."

Tanner laughs nervously. "Yeah." He scratches his head and then coughs. "Um, how exactly did he get you to go out with Carl?"

I shrug and tap my fingers on the dashboard, watching the cars pass us while Tanner tries to maneuver his way out of the garage. "I don't know, really," I say truthfully. "He wasn't gonna let me say no, and I figured it wouldn't be that bad, because he said we both have identical taste in guys..."

"Maybe he just said that to get you to go," Tanner suggests, flipping to a different song on the radio and finally getting us out onto the street.

"Maybe. What were you doing there, anyway?"

He shrugs one shoulder and shakes his head. "Tommy said he and some guys were gonna go there for dinner and then see a movie. But he called me and told me that something had come up."

This is sounding very, very suspicious.

"So he just left you," I state. "Weird. It's like he...lured you there."

Tanner gives me a curious look out of the corner of his eyes. "What are you getting at?"

"It's like he wanted you to be there alone," I whisper ominously, before bursting into giggles. "Ha. Yeah right."

Without warning, Tanner pulls over to the side of the road and puts the car in park.

"H-hey- what're you doing?" I stutter, pressing myself against the door and gripping the handle, preparing myself to leap out if it's necessary.

"Tommy told you he was setting you up with a guy with the same taste in guys as you?" he asks, or more like demands.

I nod timidly, not liking where this conversation is going.

Tanner growls a little and then snaps, "When he told me that I should go out with you, he said that we'd be good together because we 'have identical taste in guys'. He fed us the same fucking line." He clenches his jaw and glares at me, expecting me to fill in the not-so-missing pieces.

"Are you saying that...," I pause in mortification, "...Tommy's trying to set us up?"

Tanner nods slowly. "I think so."

No.

No, it can't be true.

I think the pre-Valentine's Day nonsense is getting to my head. Tommy would never do this to me.

"Well, um..." I laugh meekly. "We'll have to tell him that it didn't work."

Another sharp nod. "Definitely not."

We sit there in silence for a moment, staring at each other.

And then Tanner leans over and pulls me into a rough kiss.

"Thompson!" I call cheerfully, running up behind my best friend and jumping on his back.

"Ow! Damn it, Holden," Tommy exclaims, shoving me off. "What's gotten into you?"

"Well," I begin, pausing dramatically and sliding into step with the previous object of my affections. "I was planning on telling you today that your evil plan didn't work, but I've had to alter that and am now here to tell you that your evil plan did work."

Tommy blinks and just ogles at me. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Oh, please." I roll my eyes and jab him in the chest accusingly. "You know perfectly well what I'm talking about."

"Are you talking about last night with Carl?" he asks, his expression changing from smug to knowing to innocent in quick succession. Oh, he so knows what's up. Liar. "Are the two of you...?"

"Honey, we both know that you are making up total bullshit right here," I blatantly point out. "You were never trying to set me up with Carl."

"Oh, really?" He smirks and crosses his arms, waving at a group of girls who walk past. One of them, holding a pink envelope, stares nervously at my best friend before squeaking a little and scurrying off. Oh, the terror of trying to give guys valentines on that fated fourteenth of February.

"Yes, really."

"And so, if I wasn't trying to set you up with Carl, was there someone else?" Tommy asks, still innocent as ever but not able to keep that smirk off of his lips.

"Good morning, lovers!"

An arm slings itself around my shoulders. Ahhh! It's alive!

I turn to look up into the smiling face of Tanner.

"Hey," I say softly, pulling Tanner down for a quick kiss. His lips brush mine ever so slightly before he abruptly pulls away and stares at Tommy.

"Tommy, your scheming ways have finally paid off," he says. "But just so you know, we were so on to you the whole time."

I scoff and sarcastically add, "Oh, totally. I knew from the very beginning that you were going to try to set me up with Tanner. Well, how fucking nice for you, because it worked."

Tanner smirks and pulls me a little closer. I rest my head on his shoulder and sigh.

A wide grin splits Tommy's face as he says, "I never tried to set you two up."

Tanner and I immediately stiffen up and then simultaneously say, "What?"

Tommy nods solemnly. "You did this all on your own."

"Ew." I make a face. "Are you trying to tell me that you played mind games with me so that I would magically find that I've been harboring a deep, passionate love for Tanner since day one?"

Tanner snorts. "You definitely were not harboring a deep, passionate love for me, that's for sure."

Tommy then bursts into laughter and holds his hands up, palms out. "I'm kidding, guys. I did it on purpose. At least now you'll finally leave me alone because you'll be too busy sucking face to hit on me."

I blush horribly and then squeak when Tanner presses me up against the lockers.

"Speaking of sucking face...," he murmurs, ignoring Tommy. Tommy sighs and waves at us, walking away.

"Um, 'sucking face' is one of the least appealing terms you could have chosen," I point out, smiling sweetly at Tanner. "Choose something different. Or better yet, don't say anything."

Tanner's smirk grows and he presses his lips to mine.

A/N: Yes, I am fully aware that it is not Valentine's Day. Or even close. Leave me alone. I wrote this back in February and forgot about it and now decided to post it.

Haha, I had a lot of fun writing this. Definitely my favorite short thing I've done- it's a different style than what I usually do. You might not be able to tell, but I can. XD

View and review,

Ryette.