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Jay was never the one who called or texted first, unless they’d made plans and he was asking where the hell Mike was. This had been true for several decades, but sometimes Mike still fantasized about Jay calling him needing a favor or a ride or just wanting to talk. The cursed flip side of this was that Jay always answered when Mike called, always hopped to it if Mike was asking him for something or outright making a demand, and would stay on the phone for hours late into the night if he could tell Mike needed to keep hearing his voice until they were both falling asleep. 

This should have translated to Jay occasionally reaching out to him, Mike felt. But it didn’t happen until they were in their forties, at least that Mike could remember, and when it finally did Mike hoped he could stretch the incident into a full twenty-four hours of great shit, if he could hold onto Jay for that long. His standing record was three days. 

“Is your power out, too?” Jay asked when Mike answered his call. 

“Nope,” Mike said. Of course Jay thought if something was happening to him it must also be happening to Mike, though they lived twenty minutes away from each other. “How long since you lost yours?” 

“I dunno, a couple of hours, since the wind picked up--” 

“I’ll come get you,” Mike said before Jay could ask, spoiling the fulfillment of his own fantasy because he wasn’t willing to wait. 

“You don’t need to come get me.” Jay was immediately defensive, his tone going snotty like Mike was being ridiculous. “My car’s still working.”

Mike said nothing, fuming and waiting, this time, for him to ask for whatever he wanted.

“I thought, maybe-- We could go to work, get some things done, and if my power’s not back on by the time we’re finished--” 

“Fine,” Mike said, overly eager again. The post-holiday season made him soft and occasionally shameless. It was so grey and frigid, so ‘fuck you’ at the movie theaters with nothing to look forward to, and the Packers clinching their division had only made him anxious about what came next. “I’ll meet you there in ten minutes.” 

Jay grunted in agreement like he was the one doing Mike a favor. He was usually in a better mood. Mike figured something else was wrong, beyond the power outage, and knew he’d never hear a word about it. He wrenched himself out from under the many layers of blankets he’d been huddled beneath on his couch and got dressed to go out in a hurry.

It was late, a Sunday night in early January, and there was fresh snow in the forecast, some already piled on the ground from a Christmas storm. Mike’s garage was cluttered with stuff his ex still hadn’t picked up since she moved out five years ago and plenty of his own junk that he didn’t have anything to do with at the moment but maybe someday would, if he made a movie or something. His car was in the driveway, thoroughly frosted. Jay lived in an apartment closer to town and paid for a space in the attached parking deck. He’d get to the shop first, even though Mike lived closer. 

Mike put on the radio while he waited for the car to heat up enough to get the windshield cleared. The pickings were slim as he browsed through the stations, something he hadn’t bothered to do in a while. His drives to work were brief, and same for the grocery store and the few other places he went since he’d stopped hanging out at bars. He wasn’t a big traveler, by car or otherwise. Work was home and his house was where he slept, everything else was incidental. He scanned past the sports talk guys who made him wince even when he agreed with them and landed on an old song that he hadn’t heard in a long time, something he was surprised to hear getting radio play. All the independent stations had been bought out at least a decade ago, or so he’d thought. He couldn’t remember the name of the band but he knew the lyrics: where did all these people come from and how soon can they leave

Jay was parked around back at the shop when Mike got there. They had a security bell on the door that toned in every room of the place, installed after someone almost walked in on them doing something they shouldn’t have been years ago. Mike found Jay in the office, wearing his ski cap and buttoned-up coat. He’d turned on the heat, but the place was still freezing. He glanced up from his computer and gave Mike a nervous look, shoulders lifted, like he knew Mike had expectations for this occasion. 

“Want one?” Mike asked, lifting the two beers he’d gotten from the fridge on his way in.

“God.” Jay grinned. He lifted his gaze from the bottles to meet Mike’s eyes. “Sure, why not.”

There wasn’t all that much work to catch up on, so they mostly talked and drank beers, sitting together at Jay’s computer, Mike’s chair pulled over close to his. Jay showed him videos and laughed at his reactions. The place warmed up, and Jay took off his ski cap, unbuttoned his coat. His hair was a mess of static, spiky and fluffy. 

“I should call my neighbor,” Jay said when Mike reached over to pat his hair down for him, smoothing it into an approximation of the swoop that he could never get right when he tried to fix it the way Jay did. Jay was staring at the computer screen but letting him do it. 

“Your neighbor?” Mike said. He pulled his hand back into his lap. 

“To see if the power’s back.”

“It’s probably not. Just come home with me. I have that toffee you like.”

“I don’t need to be eating that toffee.” Jay licked over his teeth, pressed his lips together and squinted at the video he had paused on the screen. “I guess there’s a storm coming or whatever,” he said, mumbling. He sounded even more tired than he looked and had bags under his eyes. Sometimes he had trouble sleeping. 

“Yeah, a big storm,” Mike said, though he hadn’t been paying attention to the weather reports. “Bet they’ve got a lot of people without power. No way you’re getting that back before the morning.” 

“I could sleep here--” 

“We’re too old for that.” Mike stood up and gave Jay a look when he finally lifted his face to peek up at him. They were too old for sleeping on the couch at work and for many other things, but sometimes Jay still looked like the kid he’d been when they met, when he was waiting for instruction. “C’mon, I’m tired. You drive.” 

Jay stood and buttoned up his coat, holding Mike’s gaze as he did so. It felt like a warning, and futile in the way that most of Jay’s were. Mike smirked down at him. He knew exactly what he looked like when he was sizing Jay up, and that a lecherous mood made him strangely handsome. He wasn’t sure how it worked but counted it as his greatest gift. 

“No,” Jay said. “You drive.”

“Okay, but I had two beers.” He’d finished most of Jay’s along with the one he got for himself.

“I-- May have a had a few before you got here.” 

“Yeah? You must have chugged ‘em quick.”

“I was already here when I called you. Stoppp,” Jay said, sort of sobbing on the end of this as he pushed Mike toward the door, begging him not to inquire further. “Just-- Let’s just go, I’m too tired for this shit.” 

Mike knew what he meant and decided not to push it. Instead, he’d lay his traps. He drove home with the radio off and watched from the corner of his eye as Jay fell asleep, slumped against the passenger side door and huffing in irritable little breaths whenever he startled awake again. 

“When’s the last time you actually slept?” Mike asked when they were trudging up to his front door together, snow swirling down and melting on their shoulders. 

“I dunno,” Jay said. He’d left his ski cap back at the shop, and the wind lifted his hair, separating it into golden chunks in the glow from Mike’s front porch light. “I’m actually-- I’m fine.”

“I know you are. C’mon.” 

Mike’s house was dark, and he snapped the porch light off after locking up. He was not a fan of having lights on after nightfall in winter, aside from the glow of the TV or his computer. His ideal schedule was rising with the sun and going to bed not long after it set. This made him a near-hibernator in winter, when he could get away with it. He watched Jay puttering around the kitchen and examining the various deposits of clutter and mess. 

“Looking for this?” Mike asked, pulling the tin of toffee from the top of the fridge. 

“No,” Jay said, but he took it and ate some, standing there while Mike watched. Mike’s sister made the stuff every Christmas and mailed it to him as a gift. It stuck to the teeth but was worth it, buttery and snappy with a layer chocolate and nuts on top. 

“Am I making you a drink to go with that or what?” Mike asked. “Can I take your coat, sir?”

“Just--” Jay moaned and shoved the toffee tin into Mike’s outstretched hands. “Get that away from me. Can I borrow a toothbrush?” 

The one that’s yours is still here, Mike didn’t say. He nodded and put the toffee away before leading the way upstairs. 

Jay finally took his coat off as he followed Mike down the hall and through the master bedroom, where that toothbrush waited for him beside Mike’s, in a cup by the sink in the en suite bathroom. It was rare that they ended up at Mike’s house, but Mike kept all the Jay artifacts he could collect in place, ready to be reactivated. He could say the same for the whole arcane design of his life, and was way past feeling sorry for himself about it. How many people in his position ended up with the person they wanted at their side the whole time anyway? He considered himself clever, if lonely and kind of insane. 

He let Jay take his time in the bathroom with the toothbrush and whatever else he had to do to get ready for bed. There was a bottle of face wash that he’d left there a long time ago, but it was in a drawer somewhere. Jay looked a little disoriented when he emerged, and Mike knew it was an act. Jay never ended up anywhere he didn’t intend to, despite how he liked to pretend that all his decisions had actually been Mike’s. 

As if reading this on Mike’s smug face, Jay wrinkled his nose before snapping off the bathroom light, throwing the whole room into wintery darkness. Mike was stretched out in bed, wearing the t-shirt and flannel pants he slept in. He’d brushed his teeth before Jay called, so his breath was a combo of mint and beer. Jay wouldn’t kiss him, at least not right away, but he did go straight for the bed once he was down to his t-shirt and boxer shorts, and only shuffled the spare pillow around for a few seconds before sliding over to settle against Mike’s body heat in the dark. 

“Oh my god,” Mike said, unable to help it as he tugged Jay into his arms, his eyes fluttering shut for the feeling of Jay’s hair against his face. “You smell so fucking good! Evil.” 

“It’s not evil-- What?” Jay laughed authentically and rolled over, letting Mike spoon him from behind.  

“Mhm, it must be.” Mike rubbed his nose against the back of Jay’s neck, gloating already. All he needed was about a tenth of what he wanted to feel like he was winning this game. “I know you’re wearing something, Jay. Some fragrance. Did you put it on for me?”

“Fuck off, it’s my soap. I’ve told you.” 

“It’s like-- Licorice. But sweeter. And darker.” 

Jay grumbled into the pillow he’d hugged to his face, but Mike could tell he was pleased. His ass was the warm, soft center of the universe, snuggled back against Mike’s thighs. He’d never come over wanting a cuddle before, if that’s what this was. Mike was reveling in it, grinning in the dark with his eyes closed and squeezing Jay against him every time he fidgeted in Mike’s grip. 

Mike could feel that Jay was awake, his heart pounding under Mike’s forearm. Possibly it was just the sugar from the surprising amount of toffee he’d shoved in his face while Mike stood watching, hungry for something else. Mike reached up to stroke his fingertips over the front of Jay’s throat, which sometimes calmed him down. He’d always loved the tiniest, most secret things about Jay that were impossible to discover unless you’d gotten as close to him as Mike had. He tended to believe he was the only one who’d ever had even this much of Jay, but that was just a belief that he was too cowardly to investigate. If others had crossed into this territory, Mike didn’t want hear about it. It had been hard enough seeing Jay evince zero jealousy when Mike almost got married. He loved the way Jay’s sharp little beard hairs and the sturdy muscles of his throat shifted under his fingertips when he swallowed. Stuff like that. 

“If the world really was ending,” Jay said, as if Mike had suggested it might be, “Where would you go? If you could pick one place you hadn’t seen yet.”

“Uhh,” Mike said. “Disney World?”

“That’s not funny.”

“It might not be a joke. Where else is dark enough? If the world’s ending? The worst of humanity packed in shoulder to shoulder in a place like that. It’d be kind of perfect. Where would you go that’s so much better?”

“I don’t know. How could I pick? I’ve hardly seen anything.”

Mike felt like he was being blamed for this. It wasn’t entirely unfair, though he’d never asked Jay to mirror his own disinterest in adventuring elsewhere. Jay could have taken side trips that were more ambitious than the local ones that Mike had admittedly resented. He still could, now more than ever, since they were slightly less poor. Maybe that was what had gotten him thinking about it. They were both more uncomfortable with the opportunities that money presented than they wanted to admit. 

“The world’s not ending,” Mike said, though it did feel like doors were slamming shut all over the place, and maybe faster than he’d expected. “You’ve got plenty of time.” 

“No-- You don’t get what I mean.”

“I rarely do.” 

“I’m talking in my sleep, anyway.” Jay rolled his hips back, getting comfortable and probably not intending to be seductive. Mike had to bite the tip of his tongue pretty hard to keep from popping a rude boner right into the cozy cushion of Jay’s backside. “G’night. Thanks for the candy.” 

“What am I here for if not to fatten you up and ruin your teeth.”

Mike winced after saying this, but Jay laughed like he didn’t mind. There was never any telling how the subject of teeth would go, or getting fat and growing old together.

Jay was a finicky sleeper, but he always passed out quickly if he had Mike’s arms around him, as if to avoid the embarrassment of being caught there. Mike had been twenty-nine years old the first time it happened. He’d been waiting to hold Jay’s tiny body against his for eight years, for one definition of waiting. For this reason, and also because they were both incredibly drunk, he’d lost his fragile composure and had sobbed onto the top of Jay’s head, hard enough to wake him and break the boozy spell they’d been under, which was the absolute worst thing he could have done and one of several reasons that he didn’t get his arms around the little bastard again for another two years. 

Mike dreamed that he was chasing Jay through a series of movie sets that represented alternate realities. It was a familiar dream, also kind of the story of his life. There was music playing, John Williams-level brilliant scores that moved him to continue even when Jay kept evading him, the music cheering him on toward what sounded like it had to be a satisfying conclusion. Jay had once called him a liar when he said that his dreams had soundtracks. 

“Why would I lie about that?” Mike had asked, nearly flinging himself onto the table where they sat across from each other at some bar, back when there were bars after work and other people crowded around them like an audience they both pretended not to pity.

“The things you choose to lie about baffle me,” Jay had said, his eyes shining with drunkenness. He was grinning like he thought he’d finally landed a great punchline at Mike’s expense. 

Mike was speechless in response, so maybe he had, but it felt more like he was telling on himself when Mike cherished this remark in his memories. If Jay spared even a thought for Mike’s honesty, or lack thereof, it meant that Mike was there inside his squirrely mind after all, maybe running on a merciless hamster wheel just like Jay did in Mike’s. 

At four in the morning Mike woke up and crawled over Jay to get some water. Since Jay had allegedly finished more beers than he had, Mike wasn’t surprised when Jay stirred awake and accepted the plastic Packers cup he’d brought back to bed. Though it probably wasn’t necessary, Mike helped Jay hold it to his lips while he gulped water from it sleepily. Jay’s mouth was wet afterward, so Mike had to kiss him, and when he found Jay’s lips were also hot and soft he licked in past them and sought Jay’s even hotter, softer tongue, for as long as Jay would let him lap at it. 

“M’tired,” Jay said, but when Mike backed off and settled down to sleep again Jay wedged himself in tight against Mike’s chest and curled into Mike’s hold on him like he was happy, too, about having been kissed. 

Mike didn’t dream again after that. He slept in what felt like two minute intervals, waking to rub his scratchy cheek against Jay’s beard or pet his belly under the blankets until he grunted and shifted back to get Mike to stop. The bucking motion of his hips only succeeded in getting Mike hard, but he could blame the oncoming morning for that, too. 

“I guess you think I’m gonna do something about this,” Jay said, reaching back to grope at Mike’s dick through his boxers. He still had his eyes closed, his head on the pillow.

“Do whatever you want with it,” Mike said. “Go crazy. Surprise me.”

Jay laughed, just a little at first and then harder, in a kind of moaning delirium that made Mike want to lick him all over. Mike was laughing, too. His favorite thing in the world was to laugh wildly at his own jokes after Jay found them funny, like he’d been granted permission. He thought maybe a soulmate was the only person who could give you that kind of complete permission to feel proud of yourself. 

“Too cold,” Jay said when Mike tried to peel off his t-shirt. 

“You are not.” Mike could feel how warm Jay was, right up against him. 

Jay whined but allowed Mike to remove the shirt and roll him onto his back. He got self conscious about how obsessed Mike was with his squishy little pecs, but only at first. Eventually he’d be moaning for Mike sucking on them. Mike held off for the time being, kissing Jay’s mouth instead. Jay sighed and closed his eyes again while Mike pressed his tongue into the familiar heat of him. He was so warm inside, too. 

Mike was leaking into his boxers, trying to get them off with one hand while they were still kissing. He still got a massive thrill when Jay looped his arms around his neck to keep him in place. Jay had once told him he didn’t see the point of kissing except as an aesthetic in a movie, something to visually communicate romance to an audience. He thought kissing wouldn’t exist in real life if people weren’t trying to feel something real by mimicking what was really just a narrative trick. That was many years before Mike tried to kiss him. Mike had wanted to say it was criminal for someone with a mouth like Jay’s to say kissing couldn’t be real. He didn’t say anything, just shrugged and bided his time. 

Jay was hard, too. He grunted and rubbed himself against Mike’s palm when Mike reached down between his legs, possessive and squeezing along the length of his stiff dick, then lower. Jay’s eyelashes fluttered when Mike pushed both hands into the legs of his boxers to grope his thighs. He had fat thighs and cute tits, and more hair on his chest than Mike once would have thought he could love. It was funny to him that Jay was in several ways the physical inverse of what he’d been when Mike fell in love with him, which was proof that nothing about what he looked like had ever mattered that much, although Mike also felt like he was being relatively objective whenever he reevaluated Jay’s current physique as perfect, for him. It just always was, whatever was going on. 

“You’ll rip the seams,” Jay said, muttering this against Mike’s mouth when he pushed his hands up higher into the leg holes of Jay’s straining boxers, curling his fingertips into the meat of his thighs. 

“Isn’t it about time I just ripped your underwear off, Jay?”

“No. It’ll never be that time. Here-- Careful! I like these ones.”

Of course Jay had worn his favorite boxers to the shop before calling Mike and asking if he wanted to come in to work, as if Mike ever turned down that excuse. Or maybe he had, when he was younger and more stubborn, during the bad times. In some sick, hindsight-only way those were also the best times, when his longing almost killed him. It had made him feel like the main character of everything they all did back then, because nobody else was suffering as much or as privately, though in the past couple of years everybody he was still on speaking terms with had told him they’d known the whole time. He’d still been alone with it. 

When Jay was newly naked he always got bashful. He chewed his lip underneath Mike, looking up at him, his hands kneading at the bedsheets while Mike let him squirm for a few seconds. He wanted to say that if Jay let himself do this more often he might not still act like a teenager about it, but mocking him when he was vulnerable generally didn’t go well. 

“What are you doing?” Jay asked, reaching for him. “Come on, I’m freezing.” 

Mike took his t-shirt off before spilling down onto him. He’d managed to kick free of his boxers, so they were both fully naked as Jay reached around Mike’s sides to pull the blankets back up over them, trapping their combined body heat inside. 

“Am I crushing you?” Mike asked, though he knew he was and that Jay liked it. 

“You’re fine,” Jay said. He’d lifted his legs up around Mike’s sides under the blankets, clamping him in place, and shifted his hips to hump his dick against Mike’s gut, possibly without realizing it. Maybe the fact that he’d never had sex as a teenager was the reason he still sort of did it like he might have back then, like he was both amazed and embarrassed by everything. 

“What do you want?” Mike asked, though he knew Jay came to him for sex at times like this, when he could count on both of them being half asleep or drunk or delirious from work, because he didn’t want to talk about it. 

“Mhm, I dunno,” Jay said. He pulled Mike down for more kissing to avoid the question. He seemed to be saying, with the way he opened his mouth under Mike’s: whatever you want, obviously. 

“Remember when you said kissing was fake?” Mike asked. 

“It is,” Jay said, and he snickered when Mike’s eyebrows lifted. “Shut up.” 

Mike actually found it sweet, how Jay reverted into a mumbling adolescent when he was turned on, so he didn’t mock him for it any further. He ducked under the blankets to suck Jay’s dick, pressing his thighs down to the mattress while he did it because he loved the way they shook with Jay’s attempts not to thrust into his mouth. 

“You can fuck my face, you know,” Mike said, sticking his head out from under the blankets to say so.

“No,” Jay said. He was all red-faced, breathing heavily with his lips parted. “I can’t.”

“You-- What?”

“I’d come,” Jay said, and he rolled out of Mike’s grip to yank open the bedside table drawer were he knew Mike kept lube. “You already make fun of me when I finish too fast, so.” 

“Like you care when I make fun of you.” He knew Jay secretly hated it, not as his friend but as whatever else they were. He’d seen the way Mike was with other romantic partners, on edge in a way that made him seem worshipful and always afraid to say the wrong thing. Why not me, he probably thought, why don’t I get that, because he really believed he gave Mike so much of himself that he deserved to be romanced, too. 

“Here.” Jay sat up and pushed the lube into Mike’s hand, leaning forward to kiss him. “I’m gonna--” 

He rolled onto his front, came up onto his elbows and peeked back over his shoulder at Mike. Jay liked starting out that way, with his ass curled out and his face buried against his folded arms. That was usually how he came, while trying to hide the fact that he was drooling for the feeling of Mike’s dick pounding into him, then Mike would flip him over so he could finish while looking at Jay’s wrecked face and hair, and the wet corners of his open mouth. 

Mike gave Jay a slap on the ass when he peeked again back again, like he didn’t understand why Mike wasn’t getting on with it. Jay grunted and glared at him. 

“I see how it is,” Mike said, flicking open the lube. “Just me servicing you, got it.”

“Oh-- God.” Jay rolled over halfway, up on one elbow. He pushed his hair back the way he did when he knew he looked good, pressing his chest out. “Do you want me to suck your dick?”

“Nah,” Mike said, already gripping his cock with a lube-wet hand, slicking it up. He was ready to be inside Jay that other way, shoulders to ankles. “I’m just teasing. Get that ass up for me.” 

Jay sniffed but obeyed, turning his face back down and lifting his hips, showing Mike where he wanted him. Mike knew he was blushing furiously. Even in the dim morning light that spilled in around the borders of the blinds he could see Jay’s ears burning. Once Mike was most of the way inside him, both of them groaning for how good it felt to succumb to that sinking, clinging pressure, Mike licked one of Jay’s burning ears, then the other. Then he was settling in all the way, balls deep, huffing happily against Jay’s shoulder. Jay was shaky underneath him, his hips already edging back like he might get more of Mike into him.

“Goddamn,” Mike said. Jay always felt like the first time. He waited for as long as he could before coming back for more of this, but that wasn’t why. 

“Unh,” Jay said, swiveling his hips greedily. “Yeah.” 

He rarely said more than that while Mike fucked him, though a few times when they’d been drinking Mike had goaded him into something resembling role play. If he was meaner he could have taken Jay to so many dark, secret places within himself, but his biggest flaw was that he’d always been too protective of Jay to do anything dramatic, no matter what Jay did to him. 

“Fuckin-- take it,” he said, grinding this out past clenched teeth when he was really slamming into Jay, their bodies making smacking sounds that could have been heard on the first floor, if anyone else was around. 

“Guh-odd,” Jay said, his voice muffled and rough as he got his face rutted into the mattress by the force of Mike thrusting into him. Jay was meeting it with off-rhythm desperation, his cock twitching in Mike’s grip every time Mike hit the right spot, all wet across the tip and leaking over Mike’s fingers. Fuck yeah Mike always made him come fast.   

Mike wanted to be the place where Jay went when the power went out in whatever way. For entirely selfish reasons, he aspired to be the light and heat that Jay needed to survive, even if he resented needing it. Jay would be happy not to need anything: food, booze, affection, approval, certainly sex, and probably to be perceived at all by anyone. He did love being included in things, showing up for people when they expected him to, and being asked to do a difficult job perfectly, but he dissolved into watching movies like nobody else Mike had ever met because he didn’t like that he couldn’t live in them, not as a character but as pure feeling or aesthetic, every resulting emotion intentional and meticulously composed. 

He was the opposite of composed when he came in Mike’s hand and around his dick, and Mike loved being allowed to witness it even more than he loved how good the pulsing spasms of Jay’s body felt on his cock. Jay moaned through it, eyes shut tight against Mike’s bedsheets, and he turned his face back when Mike kissed at the corner of his sloppy mouth. Mike was too close to pull out and flip him over. He felt Jay’s tongue sliding out against his, straining to reach his mouth at the awkward angle, and bear-hugged him around the chest as he unloaded into him.

“Oh,” Jay said, squeaking this out when Mike gripped him too tight, overcome. “Muh-- My ribs, ah--!” 

“Sorry, sorry.” This had happened before. Mike eased his grip and kissed Jay behind his ear, trying to breathe through how powerful he felt while his dick kept emptying into Jay. He moved his lips to Jay’s throat, where he could feel Jay swallowing big gulps of air that Mike’s arms had denied him. 

“Fuck,” Jay said, flattening himself down underneath Mike’s weight. This made his ass tighten up even more around Mike’s dick. Mike whimpered, abruptly oversensitive. Jay snickered. “Now I’m awake,” he said, complaining. 

“You can go back to sleep,” Mike said. He pulled out with a wince and clapped Jay on the ass again after he had. “I’ll do all the work. It’s my bed.”

Being reminded that he was in Mike’s bed made Jay go quiet in a worrying way. Mike went into the bathroom to get a towel and wash his hands, also his dick. He hadn’t done any fingering and Jay was squeaky clean, but he would send Mike right back out of the bed if he didn’t perform these rituals. Mike preferred to drop right to sleep after a good fuck. He returned to the bed with the towel, one corner dampened the way Jay liked it. 

He wanted to mop at Jay himself, but Jay snatched the towel from him and took care of it, his eyes averted while Mike watched, the cold in the room starting to reach him again. Before he could get barked at for gawking, Mike turned away and grabbed a sweatshirt from the floor. 

“Here,” he said, offering it in exchange for the towel that Jay passed back to him. 


Jay took the sweatshirt and put it on. He’d never objected to wearing Mike’s clothes or letting Mike steal his, back when he wore baggy shirts that had fit Mike in his leaner years. It was the one type of intimacy he just took at face value, for some reason. 

Mike got back into bed and spooned up around him, curling his legs in behind Jay’s. Jay had sweated a little while being fucked, and he smelled even better than he had when he first lurched into Mike’s arms. Mike licked at his neck, indulging himself. Jay sighed and let him do it. 

“Pick someplace to go,” Mike said.


“If the world’s ending. You still have to pick.”

“No-- The point is, I can’t.”

“Sure you can. Where do you want to go, Jay? What do you still need to see?”

Jay flexed in Mike’s grip and made an irritable noise, but Mike didn’t need to lift his head to know that he was smiling. He liked it when Mike listened to what he said and cared an inappropriate amount, especially if Mike repeated random comments Jay had made years earlier, usually to win an argument. 

“You still have to pick for real,” Jay said. “I don’t believe you’d go to Disney World. You’d rather die.”

“Well, if I’m gonna die anyway. With the world ending and all. Why not be on Pirates of the Caribbean? And you’re next to me,” Mike said, using the arm he had tucked across Jay’s chest to rock him a little, as if they were on a boat ride in the dark together. “And you’re eating a, uh. A churro! Yeah. And blaming me for how I picked the worst place to be at the end of the world.”

“I don’t think they let you take food on the rides.”

“Oh my god. You fucker.” 

Jay was grinning when Mike lifted his face to check. He had his eyes closed, and his cheek was resting half on Mike’s bicep, half on Mike’s pillow. 

“It’s the end of the world, Jay,” Mike said, though it wasn’t, quite. “All food-related rules at Disney World are off.” 

“Fine. Okay. That’s exactly where I’d be, you’re right. And it would be your fault.” 

Mike rested his head back down on the pillow beside Jay’s, not sure if he should be offended by Jay agreeing to blame him for everything even in hypothetical scenarios. Somebody had to be the one to make the bad decisions. Jay just wanted to stand there until the end of time, blameless as a film reel, waiting to be recorded upon. 

They slept again, and when they woke it was offensively bright outside, sunbeams intruding into Mike’s bedroom even with the blinds trying to block them out. In Mike’s old apartment his ex had put up blackout curtains to help him sleep, but they had worked too well and at one point he felt like he’d slept through several months of his life while Jay ran the business without him. Then she left, took the curtains with her, and there was a whole year during which Mike felt he’d stumbled in Jay’s direction, blinking, half awake, coming back to life like a monster. Finally he just pushed Jay up against the wall during a fight at work and kissed him, daring him to have a reaction that was anything other than the one Mike wanted. Jay had gone onto his knees to get Mike’s dick out of his jeans, which was a massive relief, though it had also felt like his way of avoiding meeting Mike’s eyes or having to say anything after kissing him back. After Jay had swallowed Mike’s come and Mike had jerked him off while pinning him to the wall, they worked together peacefully for several more hours without mentioning what had happened, then went home separately. 

That was almost five years ago, and things had continued in a similar fashion since then. Mike nuzzled at Jay’s cheek and considered saying something like, do you want to help me break a lifetime record? All you have to do is stay here in bed with me for four days. He knew that kind of lazy resignation was Jay’s nightmare, so he got up to make him coffee instead. Jay came downstairs ten minutes later, wearing nothing but Mike’s sweatshirt and a pair of his socks. 

“Oh shit,” Mike said. 

Jay halted in mid-stride. “What?”

“That outfit. That’s a fuck me over the kitchen table outfit, Jay.”

“It’s not an outfit!” Jay looked down at himself to double check. “I’ll go back up and get dressed if you can’t restrain yourself,” he said, trying to be flirty. He was fucking terrible at it when he tried, but when he was just being an oblivious dweeb people lost their minds over wanting him, no one more than Mike. 

“Why should I restrain myself?” Mike crossed the kitchen to press a mug of coffee into Jay’s little hand, which was dwarfed by the sleeve of Mike’s sweatshirt. “We could stay here and fuck all day,” Mike said, looming over him. 

“We’re too old for that,” Jay said. “I have things to do.” 

“Like what?”

“Just-- Things, Mike! Errands, and I need to call my brother and find out if I should go see my dad.” 

Jay made a face after saying so, like he’d just confessed some weakness and that was Mike’s fault, too. Mike wondered if his power had really gone out. Jay didn’t divulge many details about anything he was going through outside of work, but Mike had understood through vague comments over the past few months that his father was having some kind of health problem, and that Jay’s unemployed brothers were handling it, and that Jay felt guilty. 

“Oh,” Mike said. “I could come with you. On the errands. On the-- Any of that.” 

Jay recoiled. 


“Because-- Fuck you! I don’t know! I want the company.” 

Jay rolled his eyes and sipped from his coffee.  

“You want to come pick out tile with me, Mike?” he asked, dropping into a seat at the kitchen table. Mike was still picturing putting him over it, tugging up the back of that sweatshirt and fucking him with olive oil or something. 

“Tile?” Mike said, slightly dazed. “Huh?”

“I’m redoing my bathroom.” Jay shifted in his seat, maybe feeling some reminder of what Mike had done to his ass just a few hours earlier. “So, yeah. Boring stuff.” 

Mike was indeed bored by the thought of bathroom tiling. He had never ‘redone’ anything in his house. It was just as it had been when he bought it, kind of sagging in spots but comfortable enough. He sat across from Jay at the table. 

“I’d love to go to Menards and look at tile with you,” he said, deadpan and kind of menacing while Jay stared at him. 

“Who says I’m looking at Menards?”

“Where the hell else would you look? I need a couple of things from there anyway.” 

Jay sighed like that was typical. 

“What’s for breakfast?” he asked. “Do you have food here?”

“Of course I have food here, it’s my fucking house, we’re in the kitchen.”

“You eat takeout for every meal. I’ve known you for twenty-two years and I’ve never even seen you make toast.”

“I just made your fucking coffee, smart ass.”

“Yeah, that’s literally the only thing I’ve ever seen you make, other than gin and tonics.”

To prove a point, Mike made toast for both of them, with butter and everything. The bread was stale and well past the expiration date sticker on the bag, but Jay ate it anyway. 

“I’m gonna take a shower,” he said when Mike was rinsing dishes in the sink, wondering how long he could make this domestic streak extend. Maybe a big storm really would come, trapping them inside, but he’d never been lucky like that. 

“Wait,” Mike said.

Jay paused in the kitchen doorway, turning back toward him with an expression of open curiosity that made Mike’s heart stutter. His sweatshirt hung almost to Jay’s knees, the sleeves long enough so that only his fingers poked out. Even his socks were too big for Jay, slouching down around his ankles. Jay’s hair was all fucked up, the fringe hanging limply. It was Mike’s favorite style on him.

“I want to take a picture of you like this,” Mike said, holding his hands up.

“No way.”

“Just mentally! Okay. Done.”

Jay narrowed his eyes, snickered and spun on his heel, heading for the stairs. Mike lingered over the mental picture of him with that sweatshirt hanging over his bare thighs, really committing it to memory. Jay had never wandered around his house half dressed before. He felt pretty confident Jay didn’t even wander around his own apartment half dressed. 

Mike didn’t bother with a shower, just pulled jeans and a hoodie on over the boxers and t-shirt he’d been wearing downstairs and waited for Jay to emerge. Jay seemed serious about getting out and starting his errands. He dressed without giving Mike’s seductive looks any acknowledgement. 

“Are you really coming with me?” Jay asked as he buckled his belt. 

“Uh-huh,” Mike said, surprised he was actually being invited. “I care a lot about what your bathroom looks like. I got some real good memories there.” 

By which he meant they’d fucked in Jay’s shower, once. Jay gave him a knowing look of annoyance, then smiled like it was a good memory for him, too. 

“You don’t get to have any input,” he said. “You can just help me carry things.” 

“Story of my life!”

“Oh, right. You’re so full of shit.” 

Jay was cheerful in the passenger seat while they waited together for the windshield to clear. It didn’t take long, with the sun out. Jay’s car was still parked at the shop, so Mike would have had to drive him there anyway. He might as well be along for errands, and Jay didn’t mention his car as they headed for the store. 

The front entrance of Menards had shelves full of Christmas stuff on discount. They both liked Christmas, and also decorating, though Mike really only liked it in theory. He liked it when other people decorated for him, but picking out the decorations was actual fun. Their cart was half full of green and red junk by the time they wheeled it to the bathroom fixtures area, and the wall-length display of differently colored and shaped tile samples made Mike happy in a childish way, similar to all the glittery Christmas stuff. Jay explained that the octagonal tiles looked more upscale and therefore were more expensive. Anything other than unattractively large squares was more expensive, Mike learned. 

“Why are you remodeling your bathroom anyway?” Mike asked when they’d moved on to faucets without actually picking out any tile. There was a specialty store in West Allis that Jay wanted to visit before he made a decision. 

“I’m thinking of selling my apartment,” Jay said.

“Oh?” Mike felt immediate panic. Any change in Jay’s life not authorized by him seemed like it could potentially ruin everything and made Mike want to reclaim control of the situation. Maybe Jay had a point about things being his fault. “How come?”

“I’ve told you about the noise problems on that street. It’s only getting worse.” 

“Well-- Where are you gonna move to?”

“I dunno, maybe a little farther from the city. I used to like being able to walk to concerts and bars and stuff. Now it’s like, if that ever comes back I’ll just be too old to care.” 

“It’s already back,” Mike said, though he wasn’t sure, he never went out. Even being in Menards felt like something they were barely getting away with. “Isn’t it? Kind of? And what the hell do you mean you’ll be too old? Wasn’t the last concert you went to before all this that one with your sixty-seven-year-old mother in Madison?”

Jay looked up from the faucets and stared at Mike like he was nuts. 

“That was for her birthday,” he said. “And she’s sixty-four. What are you even doing, trying to convince me to stay in the city?”

“No! I don’t know. Just move in with me. You can put whatever type of tile you want in my bathrooms.” 

Mike waggled his eyebrows as if this was innuendo, to cover for the fact that he hadn’t been joking about the other thing. 

“You know, I might have to,” Jay said. He turned back to the faucets, picked up a box with one inside and shook it, like he’d forgotten what he was doing. “Just if my place sells fast. Apartments in the city are going for a lot right now, which is part of this. And then I’ll have to find a new place. So, if you’re really offering--”

“Jay, of course I’m offering. Oh my god. We’re gonna be roommates.” 

Mike couldn’t help beaming. The mask he had on concealed this to the casual observer, but he knew Jay could see it in his eyes. Jay did his self-conscious snicker thing, as if he was amused by Mike’s enthusiasm and not relieved or touched. If anything about Mike agreeing to this surprised him, he hadn’t been paying attention for the past twenty-two years. 

They drove to West Allis, but the specialty tile shop was closed. Being in that part of town was a good enough excuse to go to the deli counter at their favorite cheese shop, and they placed a to go order that was embarrassingly big, even to Mike. It seemed like they needed to stock up for something.

“Is there really a storm coming?” Mike asked when they were driving back to his place with the food. “I think I just made that up.”

“What-- When?”

“Yesterday! Or was it you who said that?”

“Mike,” Jay said, in the way he sometimes did, scolding him with his name. “I don’t know, I have to check the forecast. I didn’t expect the sun to be out today. My power’s probably back.” 

“No,” Mike said, forbidding him from ending this interlude. Weren’t they moving in together, basically? “Or, I dunno, but I’m not driving all the way into the city with all this food. It’ll get cold.”

“I didn’t ask you to! Calm down.”

“I’m calm!” Mike shouted, rapidly getting irate in the exact way Jay had detected. Everyone on the road was driving like an asshole, and the guy in front of him was pointlessly braking again. “Goddamn this fucker,” he said, his palm hovering over the horn. 

Jay was laughing when Mike looked over at him. At first this only pissed him off more, then he laughed, too, kind of hopelessly, in the key of whining. 

“Is this fun or emotional torture?” Mike asked. “I can never tell, when I’m with you.” 

“Yeah, no kidding. Back at ya. Watch out, jesus, you’re following too close.” 

Being told how to drive was something Mike would only tolerate from Jay, and in the moment he found it extremely heartwarming. Arriving back at the house felt different than it ever had before. He’d always considered his house kind of dismal, probably because he’d bought it for someone who’d stood frozen in the foyer two days after they moved in and told him she couldn't do this anymore, but walking inside with Jay, carrying the Menards bags while Jay carried the food, made it seem more like a place where he could actually live. 

They ate in the kitchen as the sunny weather disappeared outside, thick clouds moving in by mid-afternoon. Jay glanced around with a critical eye while chewing, and asked Mike when he’d last scrubbed his backsplash. 

“What’s a backsplash?” Mike asked.

Jay snorted, then started laughing hard when he saw it was a serious question. Mike threw a fried cheese curd at him. 

“Stop!” Jay said. He groaned and retrieved the curd from the floor with a snarl. “This is like a frat house, you know. A frat house for one.” 

“It could be a frat house for two. Do you need me to help you remodel your bathroom? Tear out the old tiles and stuff like that? Let’s get this apartment sold!” 

“I do like the idea of you doing physical labor for me,” Jay said. “But I can’t help picturing it as you just taking a crowbar to everything, busting a pipe and flooding the building.” 

“You’ve obviously given this some thought,” Mike said. That joke at his expense was a little too well-crafted. 

Jay shrugged. He was eating more than he usually did in one sitting. Winter made him want to fatten up and hibernate. They had that in common. 

They ordered a movie on one of Mike’s streaming services after lunch and settled in on the couch to watch it. Mike was asleep within twenty minutes. 

“I didn’t wake you up because I knew you’d hate it anyway,” Jay said when the credits were rolling. He was curled up against Mike’s side, looking dozy himself. Snow was coming down pretty hard outside. “My car’s still at the shop,” Jay said when he followed Mike’s gaze to the window. 

“Looks like you’re stuck here,” Mike said. He was fuzzy enough from sleeping to be frank.

“Mhm,” Jay said, still watching the window and still tucked up against Mike’s side, with a blanket covering their legs and their feet up on the ottoman. They had at least another few hours before the roads would get bad. 

Mike flipped to cable and found a weather report. He turned the volume down low enough that they could only hear a hint of the announcer’s voice as he gestured to a big green cloud that represented heavier snowfall creeping closer to Milwaukee. The text across the bottom said they could get an accumulation of up to eight inches. 

“Well, the choice is yours,” Mike said, grabbing a handful of Jay’s hair so he could turn Jay’s gaze in his direction, gently. “You want to venture out into that eight inches, or stay in here with this one?” 

He lifted his hips to make the joke more obvious. Jay just blinked at him.

“Your dick is bigger than eight inches,” Jay said, as if he was offended not on behalf of Mike’s dick but because he was man enough to take it and didn’t want to lose credit for a single inch. Then his face got red. “Is-- Isn’t it?”

“I don’t fucking know,” Mike said, honestly. “Probably not? Get the tape measure.”

Jay sighed and put his cheek on Mike’s chest again. They both stared at the TV, which had gone to commercials. Mike combed his fingers through Jay’s hair until it got staticky and pieces stood up on their own. 

“I’ll call my brother tomorrow,” Jay said. “He’d have texted, anyway. If anything-- If everything wasn’t-- The same.”

“You’re right,” Mike said. He cupped his hand around Jay’s head, wishing he could free him from caring what anyone else thought about him, presently or ever. He knew it was another kind of selfishness, but what else was loving somebody, really? Jay didn’t have any gel at Mike’s place, so his hair felt extra soft. “Let’s watch another movie,” Mike said. “I’ll stay awake this time.”

“I won’t, unless you make some more coffee.” 

“Comin’ right up, then.”

Mike wanted to make the coffee fancy somehow, so he stuck some candy canes leftover from the holidays in the cups before bringing them into the living room. Jay was looking at his phone, frowning. He snorted and grinned when Mike passed him his cup, and dropped the phone onto the blanket. 

“We should make a fire,” Mike said, though his fireplace hadn’t been cleaned in a while. Like, years. Also, he had no firewood, but he was certain he could find some things around the house that he was willing to burn to keep Jay warm. 

“Maybe if the power goes out,” Jay said, as if he understood Mike’s thought process completely. He patted the couch. “This is the first time I’ve had a sweetener in my coffee in like ten years.” 

“Is that a thank you, or are you just bragging?”

“Umm, probably both. No, it’s thank you. Thank you.”

He batted his eyelashes at Mike after saying so, leaning up against his side again. The dull winter light from the window, brightened by snowfall and combined with the glow from the TV, made his eyes look supernaturally green for a few blinks. Then he turned away and blew on the surface of this candy-sweetened coffee. 

“Cheers,” Mike said, clicking his mug against Jay’s. “Happy new year.”

“That was like a week ago.” Jay craned his neck and kissed Mike’s jaw. The softness of his lips reminded Mike that he needed to shave. “Happy new year,” Jay said. “I think we’ve got at least five more before we have to plan that trip to Disney World.” 

“Oh god,” Mike said, shaken up a little by how dark Jay was, really. He was impressed, too, laughing under his breath. “So you agree to be there with me, whenever it happens?”

“Uhh, duh. That’s like the most obvious part of the question. Why do you think I’m so invested in what you’ll pick?”

Mike put his arm around Jay and did everything he could to memorize the moment, so intent on not yet moving beyond it that he had no idea what was going on in the movie Jay had put on, and his coffee went cold before he’d even taken a sip. That was okay, though. He didn’t like coffee, had only made it for Jay, and Jay could tell him what happened in the movie later. Mike would rather hear it from him, anyway.