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Caught in the Middle Life

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Part 1

 

It was a bright sunny afternoon almost five years ago when Matt received the worst phone call of his life. He was on his way for a job interview for an international publication when his mobile went off and the person on the other line delivered the words he'd hoped would never plague his pitiful existence.

Michael's dead. Car accident. Lily critical. Baby premature.

Everything was a blur after that. He couldn't remember how he even reached the hospital in Boston from that street in New York where he was at when the call came. All he knew was that that call cost him his career, gave him new responsibilities and removed his brother from his life.

Therefore, he couldn't be blamed for glaring at his mobile phone and refusing to answer it on a bright sunny afternoon years later.

"You know, Mr. Phillipe, the phone won't magically give you the message from the caller," a voice from the left side of the room commented which made Matt shift his glare from his mobile phone to the owner of the voice. His hazel eyes met with his best friend, Blaire Weber's, one perfectly plucked eyebrow arched in question.

Matt's eyes widened in disbelief and exclaimed, "You have got to be kidding me!"

He saw Blaire roll her eyes in exasperation and walk towards his direction, "Oh please Matt, I'm not buying that phone-ringing-on-a-sunny-day-brings-bad-news phobia of yours anymore." She picked up the mobile phone, took a glance at the caller's name and snorted, "I knew it! Answer your damn phone Mattie, you can't hide from your editor forever."

"Fine," he shouted before snatching the phone from his friend. He inhaled deeply before answering the phone. "What do you want?"

"Your article. And is that the proper way to greet your superior?" a deep male voice answered from the other line. Matt closed his eyes and counted from one to ten, willing himself to calm down and hide his irritation lest Damien Rivkin, his editor and personal demon from hell decided to use his 'I'm-your-boss-and-I-can-fire-you' tone on him. "I'm sorry, I was trying to rush it so I could send it before the messenger arrived but I still need more time to polish the content," he lied and was met with silence. The wheels on Matt's mind were working overtime, formulating other excuses for his boss' probable rebuttals.

"Polishing the content is an editor's job and in this case, that would be me," Damien replied in a voice Matt always heard Damien use when he was talking to someone he thought to be stupid. Past experiences of exchanging words with Wilsburrow Weekly's resident gray-eyed devil made Matt bite his tongue.

After what felt like an eternity of waiting, he finally heard Damien sigh in defeat. "Alright, I'll just ask Brandon to look it over before you run it through," Damien conceded quickly which made Matt look at his mobile phone skeptically.

Damien Rivkin admitting defeat? He must have done something really good that day to make lady luck take his side for once.

"Oh great," he replied a little too enthusiastically. He almost whooped in joy but remembered he was supposed to sound apologetic and grateful. "I'll forward the draft to Brandon before I leave the office today."

"Good," Damien replied, "I need to go now, they're announcing my flight."

Matt nodded which made Blaire snicker. "Okay", he said, realizing how stupid he must have looked nodding to someone on the phone. He rolled up a piece of paper with his free hand and threw the wad at Blaire's direction which she avoided and in turn stuck her tongue out at him. He rolled his eyes and tried to bring his attention back to his boss's last minute instructions.

"Don't try to run my department while I'm not around," he heard Damien say. "That's what Brandon is for, and for goodness' sake Matt, try not to make trouble for Brandon. He's already got his plates full with the Olympics coverage, okay?"

"I won't," he replied. More like I'll try, he thought, grinning smugly at the prospect of two whole weeks without his slave-driver of an editor ruining his days in the agency. He vaguely heard Damien mutter a reply but didn't bother asking the oh-so-perfect editor to repeat it; likely his ears would turn red from the earful he might get about being attentive.

He opted to remain quiet, though he was itching to retort. Instead he smiled and wished Damien a good conference, swiftly ending the call before the other man could utter another word. Once the call ended, he let out a whoop and did a victory dance, his antics making Blaire laugh and reminding him that he wasn't alone in the room. He made his way towards his friend, reached for her hand and pulled her into a series of twirls, lifts and shuffling that should have resembled a dance and ended up draining the energy from both of them.

They settled down on one of the sofas adorning the cozy lifestyles department office and tried to catch their breaths. Matt leaned back and closed his eyes in contentment. He opened one eye lazily and arched his brow in question when he felt Blaire studying his face intently.

"I was just thinking," Blaire replied, running her hand through her long black hair. "It's been two years since you first started to work as a freelance writer for Wilsburrow Weekly…"

"Almost. My two year anniversary's not until Thursday next week," he interrupted.

"Minor detail," Blaire dismissed. "As I was saying, that's almost as long as having Damien as your editor."

"Your point?" he asked.

"My point being, before I was interrupted," Blaire continued, "is that it should have been long enough for you to get over your childish hullabaloo towards your oh-so-hot boss."

Matt snorted and reached for the mirror on top of the side table. He looked at his reflection and smoothed out some of the wayward locks of his dark brown hair from his forehead. "The length of time spent with someone is neither a good measure nor an assurance that two people working together will have a healthy professional relationship," he quipped.

"Point," Blaire agreed. "But honestly Mattie, what's wrong with Damien? He's good looking, intelligent, and charming. Not to mention rich, being the lifestyles editor and youngest brother of the owner of this newspaper?"

Matt shrugged, "I dunno, he just gets into my nerves most of the time."

Blaire's eyebrows rose in mockery, and Matt shook his head and chuckled. "Okay, so he gets on my nerves every time," he corrected. "What's with you anyway? I don't really understand how you can see all those good traits you say he has when everyone's practically shaking with fear when he's around."

"It's not fear, it's respect," Blaire replied.

"Whatever," he replied nonchalantly. "He's not here so I won't waste my precious time thinking or talking about him." He stood up and went back to his workstation with Blaire right behind him. "Besides, it's seldom I get a column released without him breathing down my neck every freakin' minute. So I will make the most out of it," he continued. "Did I also mention I get to celebrate my two year anniversary Damien-free? I bet Brandon's gonna allow us to have a mini-party if I mention it."

"Yeah, he might, knowing him," Blaire concurred. "Speaking of Brandon, how are you going to make him run your article with minor revisions? He's almost as strict as Damien when it comes to editing."

"No worries." Matt smiled at his friend. "Brandon's easy to distract, and I just have the perfect distraction for him."

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

If there was one thing Blaire was good at, it was matchmaking. And right at that moment the two guys' sitting two tables from her were oozing with sexual tension. Now if only she could take one step towards them…

"Don't even think about it," Matt cut through her thoughts. She looked behind her and raised one eyebrow in question as if daring her friend to stop her. "Oh please Blaire," Matt rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Your eyes are shining with mischief, leave those two guys alone."

"But Mattie," she whined and whirled the bar stool to face her friend while Matt, who stood behind the counter, continued to wipe the shot glasses clean. "I need to have another project and those two," she inclined her head towards the direction of her new prospects, "are like clay that needs an expert hand to mould them into an exquisite work of art."

"Yeah right," Matt replied while continuing his work and effectively ignoring Blaire, who stuck out her bottom lip in a pout that should have made Matt give in to her whims. She sighed in defeat and resigned to drinking her margarita when Matt didn't even spare her a glance. She was startled when she heard the sound of glasses shattering followed by a string of curses pouring out of Matt's mouth.

"I'm so sorry," Dolph, the resident bartender apologized before stooping to pick up the shards of glass.

"It's alright Lambert, I got it," Matt said, brushing Dolph aside to take over the chore. "Blaire, can you get these papers over to Brandon? Tell him I'll join him in a few."

Blaire raised her eyebrow in question at her friend's irrational request. Why take over cleaning then send me over to Brad with his article?

Matt's eyes flicked towards Dolph and it was then that Blaire noticed that Dolph had been throwing furtive glances at Brandon. Something flashed like the proverbial light bulb in Blaire's head and she quickly put two and two together. With a quick wink at Matt, she picked up the papers and shifted into her devious side.

"Oh shoot," Blaire blurted, steeling herself against the bar counter with a feigned twitch on her face. "I have to go the ladies' room." Her eyes caught sight of the beer bottle Matt placed over the wooden surface. She took the bottle and pushed it along with Matt's article into Dolph's hands, saying, "Will you be a dear and bring these over to Brad?" And when the shy bartender looked at her with eyes wide as saucers, she shoved him toward the area where Brandon sat. "Tell him I'll be right over. I'll just… well, it's a girl thing."

Matt chuckled behind her, and she gave him a grin. "Two can play this game Mattie dear. Too bad I'm better than you," she tossed her hair haughtily and left.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

In all his four years as a sports editor for Wilsburrow Weekly, Brandon Manilow had never had a problem revising an article. Whatever the topic, wherever the place or whenever the time happened to be. If someone placed a piece of literature in front of him, by the time he finished reading there would at least be one note that would indicate he had run through the whole thing. So why, for the life of him, couldn't he finish editing Matt's measly seven page, double spaced, Courier New, font twelve draft?

"Do you need a refill for your coffee?" Dolph asked, his voice soft and timid.

Brandon looked up from the paragraph he was reading and smiled at Dolph. "No thank you," he replied. "You know, you don't really have to stay here. I bet you have better things to do that to wait on me hand and foot."

A blush tinged Dolph's cheeks, which Brandon had always found extremely adorable on Dolph. He couldn't help but stare at the bartender a little longer than he should have. He hadn't realized how long he'd been staring until Dolph coughed a little too loud for it to be natural. "Are you alright?" Brandon asked Dolph, getting up to reach out and feel Dolph's temperature. His touch seemed to have made the attractive young man's face turn a deeper shade of red. "Are you feeling under the weather? Do you feel hot?"

"Definitely hot - I mean - yeah, I think I'm burning up. Umm I mean - ah, running a temperature - oh I think Matt's calling me! Sorry, uhm, Tony will take over. Yeah okay," Dolph stuttered while backing away from Brandon and dumping the carafe to a startled Tony.

Cute, Brad thought to himself when he saw Dolph careened towards the kitchen as if a pack of vultures were at his heels.

"Poor guy," he heard Tony whisper and cluck his tongue before refilling Brandon's cup with coffee.

"What do you mean?" Brandon asked while casually browsing over the article and dumping a spoonful of sugar in the black concoction, hoping his voice did not betray his curiosity.

"Oh just that Matt sometimes likes to tease Dolph with his hopeless crus-ouch!"

"His what?" Brandon looked up from the paper he wasn't really reading, startled by Tony's outcry. But it wasn't Tony whom his eyes landed on. Nope, definitely not Tony. Not unless Tony had morphed into someone else in a span of seconds.

"Sorry about that." Blaire smiled and placed the carafe back on the heating pad before taking a seat beside him. Brandon looked at Blaire suspiciously, her flirtatious smile making him wary.

"So Brandon dear, how's Matt's article going?" she asked leaning unto him in a seductive manner. Brandon didn't mind at all; Blaire knew well that he batted for the other team. But a little voice inside him was telling him to put a respectable distance between himself and the mischievous woman.

It's not as if she doesn't know I'm gay, he thought. But isn't it weird that she still flirts with me?

Brandon shook his head to clear unwanted thoughts and caught Blaire's smirk out of the corner of his eye. He was immediately on guard: being at the end of that type of smirk never bode well for him. He was proven right when Blaire asked, "I was wondering. Why do you think Damien hasn't made a move on Matt when there is clearly sexual tension between them?"

Of course, Blaire choose to drop the question right when Brandon was taking a long sip from his cup, making him choke on a laugh. It was a given that the manipulative woman would take advantage of the situation and conveniently scoot closer to him on the pretense of rubbing his back to help soothe him. It was just his luck that the nearest person to help clean the mess he made on the table was Dolph.

Brandon glared at Blaire, who conveniently ignored him while continuing her 'ministrations' until after Dolph left. "Oh Blaire Genevieve Weber, you are so dead," he said through clenched teeth.

Blaire just smirked at him, "Why? Everybody knows we're both looking for the same type of partner, take note. We're both looking for a man to fill the other side of the bed. No one would even dare think we're romantically inclined..."

"Blaire..." Brandon sighed. For someone who claimed to be a genius, Blaire could be really daft sometimes... or perhaps just pretending to be daft... His eyes widened at the realization, and Blaire grinned smugly.

"Oh, tell me you didn't!" he exclaimed.

Blaire's grin widened, "Okay I won't tell you that I made Dolph think that you've decided you're better off straight than gay and that we're in the process of rekindling our passionate relationship."

Brandon took a deep breath - no make that five really long breaths - to calm down. "You win, what's the catch?"

"I knew there was a reason why I agreed to be your girlfriend even knowing that you're gay!" Blaire enthused which only made Brandon roll his eyes. "Okay, okay, I want you to help me get Damien and Matt together."

"Huh?" Brandon replied, his mind working on overdrive. Matt and Damien together? Hmmm... interesting.

"Don't tell me you didn't notice?" Blaire asked, incredulous.

"I did, but never thought much of it," he answered. "What does that have to do with me?"

"Whether I will set things straight with Dolph will depend on your decision," Blaire replied, which made him snort. "And it will help your beloved cousin a lot. You know, help ease up the sexual frustration." Blaire tapped her forefinger on her lips as if contemplating, "And lower the chances of heart failure among us."

This time Brandon laughed out loud. Trust Blaire to make the most altruistic act sound selfish. "In the end, it all came down to you."

Blaire flipped her hair, "Of course! So we have a deal?"

He pretended to think for a moment then shook Blaire's hand when the beginnings of a pout threatened to mar his friend's lips. He had always been weak against that oh-so-cute pout. "Okay great!" Blaire exclaimed enthusiastically as she stood up. "Come on, join us at the bar."

Brandon shook his head in disbelief and followed Blaire who started to pester Matt. He found himself discretely checking out Dolph as the night wore on, and after his third beer things started to go fuzzy. He must have been imagining things but Dolph seemed to be spending a lot of time inside the kitchen rather than tending to customers?

It wasn't until he was in the comfort and safety of his apartment the morning after that he remembered Matt's article he was revising the night before. He couldn't find the material, so he phoned Matt to ask. The latter replied that he was in the process of rewriting the article based on the revisions. He found it weird that he never remembered finishing proofreading the story, much less give it back to Matt for the final draft, but decided to say 'what the heck'. It wasn't as if Matt would deliberately lie to him, right?

Of course, when he was summoned to Drake's office a week later with an angry Damien on speakerphone that he realized Blaire and Matt were in cahoots all along. Then lady luck seemed to have favored the two very much as he'd never had the time to reprimand them for what they had done as Brandon suddenly found his hands full with the Olympic coverage.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

"Two articles! Two articles, Brad! Two freaking articles!" Damien's voice rose with each word he uttered from the speakerphone. Drakkon "Drake" Rivkin did not hide his amusement at the interaction between his supposedly level-headed baby brother and his cousin. Though there wasn't really much interaction since the conversation had been through the phone with Damien fuming all the way from New York. Therefore Damien's outbursts - more like tantrums - did not affect him as much as before. Proof of his cool demeanor could be seen in the fact that he had been playing a game of chess with Brandon through their iphones since the call started.

"Are you even listening to me?" Damien yet again. Brandon looked up from his phone and rolled his eyes before hitting the mute button. "Yeah, yeah, I let two of his articles slip unnoticed. That was my fault. Look, I had my plate full with the Olympics coverage, Okay? Besides, something good came out of it. People actually liked what he wrote so now they want more articles from him. You're getting another column, so I don't really understand why you've got your boxers in a twist?"

"Panties," Damien automatically replied, which confused both Brandon and Drake.

"You're wearing panties?" Brandon asked stupidly.

"Idiot! I'm correcting your sentence. It should be panties, not boxers, dimwit," Damien replied, irritation evident in his voice.

"Okay, Mr. Perfect, whatever you say," Brandon conceded while rolling his eyes in exasperation.

Drake cleared his throat and spoke, "Play nice, Damien. Brandon did his best despite his busy sched." Drake saw his cousin mouth a 'thank you' at him and continued, "Besides the articles you were raving about gave you another column, what's wrong with that? If you asked me it's a win-win situation."

"You don't understand. It's Matt! He's a good writer, I know. But he lacks tact. He… he just writes what he wants without thinking of the consequences-" Damien started to rant but Drake cut him off.

"Oh please Damien! Don't tell me you're threatened by a freelance writer?"

Silence answered Drake's question, which made him laugh. Imagine that, Damien Rivkin threatened? "I won't replace you even if he turns out better than you," he teased, and Brandon's laughter rose in the background.

"Oh please." Drake heard Damien snort and he could just imagine his brother rolling his eyes at them. "As if a mere columnist could overthrow me," Damien continued.

"If that's the case, why pray tell are you dead set against Matt having a regular column?" Brandon asked.

Drake heard Damien sighed before his brother answered. "He'll never sign a regular contract with us. He has other obligations. Besides, he wouldn't be too happy working with me more than the required one article per week."

"So it all boils down to sexual tension," Drake replied sagely.

"Really?"

"There is no sexual tension between us!" Brandon and Damien stated at the same time.

Drake grinned, amused. "Oh come off it Damien, I'm not blind. You two argue like an old married couple. The tension's all there and I've seen the looks you've been giving that kid. Last time you acted this way was with Keanu."

"You're right," Brandon added, "I remember, I thought you were gonna marry him, what with living together for two years and such."

Drake nodded in agreement and continued, "Admit it little brother, you're interested in him. You're just hard on him - no pun intended - so you can ensure that he will always notice you."

"Are you two done with your stupid assumptions?" Damien asked. He didn't give the two men time to reply as he continued, "first off, I don't have a thing for Matt. I find him too stubborn for my liking."

"Keanu was stubborn as well," Brandon argued.

Damien seemed to have ignored Brandon, "Second, I'm not saying he's not good, but I don't think he's ready to handle a column all his own." Damien paused, perhaps waiting for any rebuttals, and when none came he went on with "I know I don't have a say in it anymore so I'll just take it, but know that if this project flops I'll be the first to say I told you so." Then the line went dead.

Drake stood up and took his and Brandon's coat from the rack. He handed Brandon his coat when the sports editor approached him. Brandon smiled and said, "I guess that went well?"

Drake shrugged and adjusted his tie, "Probably, don't think about it much." He opened the door and motioned for Brandon to go first, "Now come on, we have a party to go to."

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

The party, it turned out, was for Matt's second year anniversary. And perhaps now his promotion, if one could call it that. Almost everyone who was still at Willsburrow Weekly was present in the pantry, which was artfully decorated with colorful confetti and hand-drawn banners. Drake observed Matt from afar. He was starting to have real and concrete doubts about Damien's emotional maturity.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Blaire asked as she joined him.

"I prefer a kiss, sweetheart," Drake replied, the corners of his lips curved up smugly when Blaire automatically blushed a deep red. He loved teasing Blaire because he was aware that he was the one childhood crush that she never outgrew. He heard Blaire cough to get his attention. Raising an eyebrow, he let her know wordlessly that she had his undivided attention.

"I just want to say thank you for giving Matt a chance," Blaire said. She lightly tapped her fingers on the table and continued, "I'm surprised that Damien agreed to it."

"Oh believe me, he doesn't like it one bit," Drake replied. "You won't believe all the things he said to make me change my mind."

"I can actually, knowing those two," Blaire said, laughing. "I'm telling you, it's sexual tension. I'm good at sensing these things."

He smirked, "I know."

Blaire smiled and took a sip of her beer. They spent the next few minutes in companionable silence until Blaire's mobile phone rang. She answered the phone and gestured to let him know she was leaving to take the call somewhere more private. He nodded and waved his hand in response before going back to observing his newest regular column writer.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Damien had always been a patient man. He knew if there was one thing he could be proud of, it was his ability to remain understanding and calm for a long period regardless of how annoying a person was. So he couldn't for the life of him understand why his self-control almost always went out the window when it involved a certain writer named Matt.

A day had not even passed since he'd reported back to work after coming back from the conference, and already the peace and quiet of Willsburrow Weekly had been shattered with them at each other's throat. Maybe it was all because Damien was too proud to admit that for once, Matt's idea was great. Damien sighed, remembering the way Matt had slammed the door hard when he stormed out of Damien's office. It wasn't like Damien wanted to make life hard for the young man, who, according to Blaire "had had his share of life's miseries and does not need more from him, thank you very much." It was just that there was this little monster inside his head that kept on telling him that Matt's angry face looked utterly hot. And Matt's piercing look just sent his imagination haywire. If only he could make those eyes look at him with lust instead of irritation...

"O-kay, bad Damien!" he scolded himself, as if saying it out loud would make it unreal. He groaned as he took a seat and gently massaged his temples. As much as he hated to admit it, Brandon, Drake and Blaire were right. He found Matt interesting and attractive. So much for being adamant about not having a crush on his stubborn subordinate.

"Please tell me that sound you just made means 'I forgot my wallet' not 'oh crap another shouting match with Matt on an article due tomorrow'", Drake spoke, making Damien lift his head. Damien had to roll his eyes when he saw his brother striking a silly pose by the door.

"Cut the crap Drake, no one's gonna take your picture so quit standing there like some model, it looks awful," Damien teased and watched as Drake made his way towards Damien's desk, leaving the door to his office open.

"Is it really that hard to close the door behind you?", he said when Drake sat on one of the chairs in front of his desk.

Drake simply shrugged in response. "I know, I know. I'm just saving myself the trouble of standing up to open the door again when Riu decides that he wants to grace you with his presence."

"Riu's here? When did he arrive?" Damien asked, immediately feeling his mood lighten at the mention of his seven year old nephew.

"Last night, and of course the first thing he asked was where his 'cool Uncle Damien' was," Drake replied, his annoyance evident in his voice. "I don't know what you've been feeding him, but I'm starting to resent your closeness. He's my son, he supposed to be closer to me."

A knock prevented Damien from answering his brother, and both men turned to see Blaire standing by the open door. Damien motioned for Blaire to come inside. "Here's the layout for the lifestyle section for the Thursday issue," she said as she handed a folder to Damien. "And no, Matt hasn't gone home yet. He's revising the article you wanted. Honestly Damien, would it kill you to accept his ideas once in a while?"

Drake snickered and stopped when Blaire turned to him, eyes narrowing dangerously. "As if you're any better. You can't complain if you're not making an effort. Try going to the park with Riu instead of dumping him on Damien's care every Sunday. Where's that kid anyway?"

It was Damien's turn to snicker when his older brother gulped before telling Blaire that he'd left his son with Brandon and Keanu. Damien watched his older brother cower under Blare's gaze and felt himself shiver when Blaire turned her piercing 'if-looks-could-kill' gaze towards him. He smiled nervously and heaved out a sigh of relief when Blaire left the room. He turned his attention towards Drake, whose brows were furrowed in concentration.

"You know, Blaire's the only woman I know of who has a big crush on you but can still keep you in line," Damien commented.

"Because she knows I'm not interested in her," Drake replied.

Damien leaned back and studied him intently. Drake met his gaze and raised an eyebrow as if challenging him to say otherwise.

"Whatever you say bro, whatever you say" was the noncommittal response Damien offered, and he felt the corner of his mouth curve up into a smile when Drake stood up and left his office.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

"I don't understand him at all!" Matt ranted as he paced in front of Dolph. The bartender kept nodding while his boss continued to rant on how rude, manipulative, inconsiderate and evil Damien was, regardless of knowing that he happened to be Dolph's childhood friend. Dolph covered his mouth with his right hand to hide his yawn. The ranting was getting old, and he'd gotten so used to it, he'd probably memorized Matt's usual lines by now.

"Are you even listening to me?" Matt asked as he faced his friend, his eyes narrowing in disapproval when he realized that he did not have Dolph's undivided attention.

Dolph smiled apologetically, "I was, but I think I started to doze off after 'Damien is so inconsiderate'."

He heard Blaire snicker beside him and gently jabbed her with his elbow. Unfortunately, the slight warning did no good as Blaire's snicker turned into full blown laughter. Dolph rolled his eyes and looked at Matt for help. He burst out laughing as well as he saw the confused and clueless expression on the Matt face.

"O-kay," Matt asked, "Is there a private joke that I don't know of?"

"Nope," Blaire said in between giggles. "It's just that you must have ranted to Dolph a lot for him to answer that way." She took a deep breath and smiled at Matt before she continued, "I mean Dolph practically told you that he had stopped listening right after you mentioned Damien."

Dolph smiled sheepishly at Matt and muttered a 'sorry'.

"Do I always rant about that dick?" Matt asked and slid on the stool beside him.

Dolph shrugged, "Not really, it's just… well… whenever you're fuming it always has something to do with Damien. So I guess yeah." Dolph roared with laughter when Matt groaned and buried his face in his hands, his face colored with embarrassment.

"I'm sorry, it's just that whenever I see him, he just... I don't know - he makes my blood boil!" Matt blurted out, throwing his hands in the air in exasperation.

Dolph and Blaire exchanged knowing looks. "Are you sure it has nothing to do with something not work-related?" Blaire said and Dolph could tell she was trying to sound suggestive.

"What else could it be?" Matt asked, his face lined with what Dolph presumed was utter confusion.

Blaire just rolled her eyes, "Oh please, you weren't born yesterday, Matt. I can see the way your eyes devour his body when you think no one's looking."

"Excuse me?"

Blaire was about to retort when Dolph raised both his hands to stop them. "Okay, that's enough," Dolph stated and added before Blaire could protest, "and you may have been trying to suggest that they have this… this unresolved sexual tension. But the bottom line is Matt has this unhealthy hate obsession with Damien."

He looked at his two friends, challenging them to contradict him. Thankfully, they both decided to stay quiet and listen to him. "Honestly Matt, one would think that after working with the man for two years you'd be immune to him already. So yeah. I think I'll have to agree with Blaire on this one, unresolved sexual tension. Like the weird relationship you had with that bartender we had three years ago."

"Lukas? Oh yeah I remember that," Blaire stated. "You were always bickering, until you discovered kissing each other senseless was way better. Just like you and Damien, all that's missing is the kissing."

"She's right Matt," Dolph cut off before his friend could protest. He slung an arm around Matt's shoulders, "Don't take this the wrong way, but have you ever thought of listening to Damien for once? Or tried really hard to talk to him without this notion that he's out to humiliate you?"

Matt just looked at him and shrugged. Dolph sighed and stood up, "Think about it man, would it really hurt to try and be civil to each other?"

When Matt didn't speak, Dolph nodded at Blaire and they both turned around to leave, giving their friend some space. They were almost to the door when Dolph, unable to resist, turned around and said, "Or if that doesn't work out, you can always take lessons from Lukas and just kiss Damien when he least expects it."

 

Part 2

 

Matt looked around in panic, his eyes growing wide in fear when he realized that his four year old nephew had gone missing. Stupid! He berated himself, trying hard not to pull on his hair in frustration. His eyes scanned the area hastily in search of the wayward toddler while walking as fast as he could towards the nearest police car stationed in the park. He caught a familiar silhouette through the left corner of his eye and drew his undivided attention. He sighed in relief when he saw his nephew, Luke, together with another boy running after a black Newfoundland. He uttered a silent prayer of gratitude before walking towards the place where the boys had stopped, petting the Newfie.

He took a deep calming breath as he approached the children, eyes trained on the dog and relaxing his stiff stance, hoping he would not be regarded as a threat by the animal. "Luke," he called out when he was approximately five or six steps away from them. His nephew turned around and beamed at him.

"Uncle Matt!" Luke exclaimed and bolted towards his direction. Matt automatically caught his nephew and whirled the laughing toddler around before setting him back on the ground. He fretted over the boy for a few minutes, stopping only when he was satisfied that his beloved nephew was not harmed in any way. He then put on a stern face and started to scold him. "Lucas Ryan Phillipe, how many times do I have to tell you not to run off without telling me where you're going?"

Luke tilted his head to one side in that cute manner that toddlers do when they're confused and Matt felt his resolve melt. "But I told Uncle, Luke is going to see the dog," Luke replied, his hazel eyes - so much like Matt's own - growing wide. "And when I looked back, Uncle's missing."

Matt's eyes' widened in disbelief. He couldn't believe that after all the panic he'd been through for the last fifteen minutes, Luke had managed to turn the tables on him with his oh-so-innocent remark. He wanted so much to rebut, however, the boy and the dog that were with Luke earlier approached them. "Is everything alright Luke?" the boy asked when he saw the look on Luke's face.

"Luke's fine," Matt answered for his confused nephew. "I'm Matt, Luke's uncle."

"Oh! I'm Riu," the boy introduced himself as he shook Matt's hand then turned to Luke, "You found your missing uncle!"

Matt hit his palm against his forehead in frustration and did not bother correcting the boys' assumptions. He could almost feel a headache building when the Newfie barked and ran towards someone or something behind him. He turned around, instinctively hovering in front of the children in a protective stance. Matt saw a familiar blond man kneel and ruffle the fur on the Newfie's head.

"Uncle!" Riu shouted gleefully, running to join the man and dog. He felt Luke tug on his coat, silently asking for his permission to follow his friend. He nodded and the toddler ran after them.

Of course, being the loving and protective uncle that he was, he had no choice but to go after his nephew. As the distance between him and the man lessened, he grew even more familiar and Matt realized what a bad idea this would turn out to be.

There in all his Sunday casual wear glory was the bane of his career - no, make that his existence - Damien Rivkin.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

It was surreal. Like a bad dream that you couldn't wake up from until the person who was hell bent on annoying you had their fill of making your life miserable. Come to think of it, he might have been dreaming as the number one person on his list of annoyances happened to be sitting beside him, casually sipping from his can of soda. Matt shook his head to wake himself from his musings. How a peaceful day in the park bonding with his nephew turned into this awkward soda sipping session with his editor.

"So," he heard Damien start. He looked at his boss and nodded to let Damien know he was listening. Damien cleared his throat. "You always bring your nephew here on a Sunday?"

"How'd you know he's my nephew?" Matt asked. "He could have been my son."

"Aside from the fact that you told me just now," Damien answered, "Luke told us his uncle was missing."

"Oh, I see. Yeah, we always hang out on Sunday. Lils help out in the soup kitchen after hearing mass, we wait for her here so we can have lunch together," Matt explained and Damien nodded. Another awkward silence followed. Matt glanced at his watch and saw that it was almost ten minutes before lunch. It meant that Lily, Luke's mother and his sister in law would be arriving soon. He stood up from and turned to Damien. "Would it be alright if I left Luke with you for a while? I need to get some stuff from my car."

Damien nodded in response. Matt walked towards the parking lot and came back after a few minutes carrying a big picnic umbrella, a blanket and a basket.

Matt dropped the things he was carrying beside Damien and had to explain what those were for when Damien looked up at him quizzically.

Matt felt himself blush, never having realized how cute Damien looked when he had this clueless expression spreading on his face. "That's for lunch, we're having a picnic."

"Oh," Damien replied, and his face lit up, perhaps in understanding. "If that's the case, I guess Riu and I should get going. That kid might insist on staying if he finds out you're having a picnic. He always wanted to have one."

"You can actually join us if you like," Matt blurted out before he could stop the words from slipping out of his mouth. He mentally slapped himself on the head for inviting them, but he was a sucker for subtle guilt trips.

"Are you sure? I don't want to get my nephew's hopes up. He has not been out on picnics since his parents divorced two years ago," Damien explained.

"Oh that's not good! Kids should have family picnics once a week!" Matt raged then stopped when he realized how stupid he must have looked with his face turning red with anger. He blamed it on the paternal instincts he developed from raising Luke.

"But… we don't want to impose," Damien replied but his tone sounded way too pleased instead of apologetic.

Somehow, for reasons unknown to Matt, he enjoyed listening to that tone of voice coming from Damien. "You're not imposing, trust me, there's plenty of food for everyone. And besides, I doubt if we can pry these two brats apart."

"You're right," Damien agreed and Matt's eyes widened in disbelief.

Damien's brows furrowed in confusion, "What's wrong?"

"You, you, you…" Matt stuttered, not believing what he heard. "Damien 'My Personal Demon from Hell' Rivkin actually agreed with me?"

"Okay, I know it's weird for me to agree with you, but did you really think I'm your personal demon from hell?" Damien asked.

Matt's eyes widened some more, "Oh shit! Please tell me I did not just say that out loud."

Damien laughed, "Yes, you did."

Matt groaned and rubbed his face with his hands trying not to believe that he'd just told his editor what he thought of him and wracking his brains for something to control the damage when he heard Damien laughing. He looked up and was fascinated by the sight of the usually stoic man laughing his heart out. There was something about Damien losing his strict demeanor that a corner of Matt's crazy mind found utterly adorable. Unconsciously, Matt smiled and finding the situation funny, he joined Damien in laughing. It wasn't until they heard Lily clear her throat and their two nephews and the dog came running towards their direction that Matt realized they haven't started preparing the picnic spread.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Damien casually sipped his soda while he watched Riu entertain Lily, Matt and Luke with his stories. He'd never thought it would be possible but he was quite enjoying himself. He thought that staying within close proximity of Matt for a long time would have resulted in the third world war but they were both still alive and actually behaving like normal humans would. He smiled when he thought of how Drake or Blaire would react when they find out that he willingly spent a peaceful afternoon with his stubborn subordinate. His mind must have drifted somewhere else as he didn't realize that Matt had been trying to get his attention until Riu tugged at his jacket.

Damien looked at his nephew, one eyebrow arched in question. Riu made a gesture towards Matt. He was surprised to find Matt smiling at him, his hazel eyes twinkling in amusement. Damien cleared his throat before asking, "Yes?"

Matt's smile widened and Damien couldn't help but reflect on how good looking Matt was. "You want some chocolate crinkles?"

Now if there was one thing Damien couldn't resist, it was pastries. So when Matt offered him the treats he gladly accepted. Biting into one, Damien was very glad he did. The crinkles were amazing, with a soft shell and chewy chocolate perfection in every bite. His face must have shown how much he liked the dessert because Matt subtly placed one container in front of him. "These are good," he said after eating his fifth cookie. "Where'd you buy them?"

"They are, right?" Lily beamed. "I've been telling Matt to put his talent to good use and open up his own bakeshop. But he's so adamant at helping at the bar."

"Because it's my duty to help out," Matt replied as he started cleaning up. "Besides, it's just a hobby, a stress relief that I don't intend to share with anyone else except those who are worth my time."

Unconsciously, Damien's smile broadened, he felt extremely happy with Matt's words. "Then I should thank you for letting me have a taste of your creation."

Matt blushed and smiled shyly, "It was nothing."

Damien saw Lily smile at them before moving to help Matt clean up. Damien silently took the disposable cups and dropped them on the trash cans located a few feet away from their picnic site. When he joined Matt and Lily after disposing the trash, both the little boys and his dog were with them. It seemed to be the cue that the day had come to an end for them.

"Uncle Damien, can we come back next Sunday and watch the softball game?" Riu asked as soon as he joined the group.

"I'm sure your Uncle Brandon will be glad to accompany you," he replied.

"Oh, you won't be able to join?" Matt asked him. For some reason his tone sounded a little disappointed.

"Cat and I have an appointment on that day," he explained, which made Matt pout.

"Oh I see, you have a hot date," Lily teased him.

"Oh no, Cat's my dog," he replied. He pointed to the Newfie who was listening to the conversation because she'd heard her name.

Matt snorted, trying to stifle his laughter while Lily giggled. "You named your dog Cat?" Matt asked, chuckling.

"Her name's Catherine, it's just her nickname," he defended himself although he did find it funny now that he thought about it.

"Whatever." Matt dismissed as he took a deep breath and smiled at him. "Drop by if you get off early, I'm sure Cat won't mind. And we'll be happy if there's one more person cheering for our team."

Damien returned the smile. "Sure."

Matt nodded and picked up the picnic basket. "Alright, we're off. See you around."

Damien nodded in acknowledgement and watched as Matt, Lily and Luke walked towards the parking lot. He smiled when Riu tugged at his jacket and started to demand for ice cream. He glanced at the trio's retreating figures once more, his eyes lingering on Matt. Maybe, just maybe, his hopeless crush might not be as hopeless as he thought.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Damien frowned as he circled a word he knew Matt intentionally wrote to irritate him. Trust the stubborn writer to disregard their baby step towards tentative peace in favor of getting one over his 'evil' editor. He spent a few more minutes editing - more like butchering - Matt's article and took a break when he thought that the paper was red enough to make him smile.

The article wasn't really bad, there weren't a lot of mistakes and even Matt's sarcastic tone was down by half. It seemed as if they had found a tentative truce after that Sunday picnic. But Damien, being the overbearing editor that he was, decided that he liked the color red on Matt's article. Come to think of it, red would actually look good on Matt. A red pair of hot tight boxers.

"Whoa! Bad Damien!" he exclaimed as he shook his head, trying to dispel the naughty thoughts.

"How bad is bad Damien?" Brandon asked as he stepped inside the office.

"Bad enough to throw you out if you won't keep your nose out of other people's business," he replied while Brandon took a seat on one of the chairs in front of his desk. Brandon just grinned at him and proceeded to make himself comfortable. "Is there anything in particular you need from me?" Damien asked his cousin.

Brandon turned around and his grin widened. "I just heard from a very reliable source that the reason why you and Matt aren't out to get each other's neck for the past two days was a Sunday date with him."

"The source being?"

"An adorable nephew named Riu," Brandon replied and beamed when Damien's right eyebrow twitched. "Aha! Blaire was right! Sexual tension! So how was it?"

Brandon never had the time to duck and avoid the rolled up piece of newspaper that Damien threw at him. "Idiot! We were just in the park."

"Kinky!" Brandon exclaimed after ducking to avoid the newspaper.

"The kids and Lily were there," Damien stated, as if it explained everything. However, Brandon seemed hell bent on teasing him.

His cousin made gagging noises, "Oh man, that's gross! How can you corrupt the kids?"

That did it, to hell with appearances. Damien lunged at Brandon and tackled him to the ground. A mini-wrestling match ensued, both men trying their best to pin the other to the ground to claim victory.

"Oh please, not in the office! And that's incest!" a voice from the door exclaimed making both Damien and Brandon stop. They both turned to look at the direction of the door and saw Keanu Faria, Brandon's sports correspondent and Damien's ex-boyfriend looking at them with an amused expression on his face.

Brandon grinned at Keanu while Damien just raised his hands in defeat and looked at Keanu hopefully. "No bad news please."

Keanu smiled at him. "Depends."

Damien and Brandon stood up. "Spill it," Damien prodded.

"Okay. I was about to go out for lunch when I saw someone at the reception area that I feel you need to be properly warned about so I decided to drop by," Keanu rattled in one breath.

Damien's brows rose in amusement, "And who would that be."

"Someone from your distant past I know you'd rather not see," Keanu replied.

Damien's mind was working overtime, browsing through his list of ex-lovers he did not wish to encounter. He turned towards Brandon as if asking for his opinion. There was only one and he'd already spent two weeks in New York trying to avoid her, though he'd been rather unsuccessful. Surely Keanu wouldn't mean…

"Damien!" someone with a sultry voice called from the door.

Damien stiffened, took a deep breath before he turned around to greet the least person he wanted to see. "Mitch."

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Matt woke up early on Sunday morning, feeling that the day would be memorable and life changing for him. He couldn't ignore his instinct so he found himself looking at the mirror wearing skinny jeans and a tight shirt that made him look as if he was going to a club instead of a softball match he just shrugged it off.

The thought never crossed his mind again as he was concentrated on winning the softball game, which they did eventually. It wasn't much later when they were having a picnic with Lily, Luke, Riu and some of the staff from Wilsburrow Weekly and Luke's Corner did he finally figure out what that gut feeling was about. He smiled when Brandon announced that Damien was on his way to join them for lunch and sulked when he finally saw his boss approaching their picnic site with a pretty and sophisticated looking lady hanging on his arm. He pointedly ignored Blaire's comments of ruined date plans and continued handing out dishes to anyone who wanted to eat.

Of course, it was Blaire's turn a minute later to ignore Matt's snickers when Damien introduced Blaire as his girlfriend to Mitch, the woman he arrived with. "Want a Danish honey?" he heard Damien ask Blaire and tried to stifle his laughter when Blaire pointedly replied 'no' and shrugged off Damien's arm that was draped around her shoulders.

Damien caught Matt's eye when he passed him a bottle of soda and mouthed a 'help me'. He nodded in acknowledgement, then he stood up and told the others that he needed to use the restroom. He heard Damien asking to be excused. Matt shook his head and continued to walk towards the direction of the restrooms and went about his business.

He found Damien a few minutes later sitting on a park bench near the restrooms smoking. "I didn't know you smoked," Matt said when he approached Damien. "Only when I'm stressed out," Damien replied, "want a puff?"

Matt declined. "This occasion is stressful enough to call for a cigarette break?"

He saw Damien grimace which prompted him to sit beside the man, "Who's Mitch, by the way?"

"An ex-girlfriend from college," Damien replied before taking a long drag and blowing it in the opposite direction. Damien stubbed out the cigarette and threw the butt in the trash bin before facing Matt. "Who wants to be my present."

"Oh I see," Matt replied and realized something. "She doesn't know you're gay?"

"Good guess, Einstein." Damien reached out and ruffled Matt's hair. "I just wish I'd introduced a 'boyfriend' instead of Blaire so she'd leave me alone."

"Then why didn't you?"

"For obvious reasons," Damien eyed him as if he was stupid and it irritated Matt but he decided not to retort and just waited for Damien to continue. "First off, I can't use Dolph, Brandon will kill me. I obviously don't know the others there so I can't just randomly point to a guy and say he's with me, so Blaire's the safe bet."

"You have a point," Matt agreed although he was a little disappointed that Damien didn't even mention his name.

"I did think of telling her you're my guy," Damien said so softly that Matt would have missed it if he hadn't had his full attention on Damien.

"Then why didn't you?" he asked.

Damien laughed, "Do I need to state the obvious? With our history, I doubt it would be very convincing, though it was hilarious when I thought about it."

Matt laughed as he tried to imagine how he would have reacted, probably worse than Blaire's temper tantrums. "Yeah, you're right." When Matt realized that Damien was studying him intently, he felt compelled to ask, "Do I have anything on my face?"

"No" was Damien's quick response. "You um… you have a beautiful laugh. Do you know that?" Matt gulped when Damien raised his hand and traced the contours of his right cheek, finger brushing lightly against his skin. An involuntary shiver ran down Matt's spine and made him close his eyes when he felt Damien's touch.

"I told you they were dating and made that lame restroom excuse so they can spend some quality time together." Matt's eyes snapped opened when he heard Blaire's smug voice behind them. He was about to turn around and deny the statement but never got the chance as he found his lips locked in a kiss with Damien.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Damien knew it was ten kinds of wrong to take advantage of people who only wanted to help you. However, he was a firm believer that when an opportunity came your way, you needed to grab it with both hands . So when he saw Blaire and Mitch approach them and heard Blaire's remark, he didn't think twice and kissed Matt.

However, when Matt didn't respond to his kiss, he doubted he made the right move. Although he couldn't say that he didn't enjoy it; Matt's lips were as soft as he had imagined them. Damien reluctantly broke the kiss and looked into Matt's hazel eyes, expecting to see anger reflected behind them. He was surprised to find a hint of confusion instead.

He saw Matt lick his lips, then he met his gaze as if asking him 'what's next?', subtly lowering his gaze to Damien's lips. He felt Matt shift a little closer to him and hesitantly slide his arms around his shoulders, his hands carding through his hair, gently pulling him for another kiss.

Damien shivered as he leaned in and exchanged light butterfly kisses with Matt. His left hand gently caressed Matt's back as his right arm tightened its hold on Matt's waist.

"Ahem." Blaire mock coughed to get their attention and Damien broke the kiss again. He let go of Matt reluctantly so that they could both face Blaire and Mitch. Then he quirked an eyebrow at the girls and was astonished when Matt asked Blaire, "What do you want? Can't you see we're busy?"

Damien almost gave Blaire the evil eye when he saw the smug look on the woman's face as she spoke, "I'm sorry," although her tone did not sound apologetic at all. "Didn't mean to interrupt, but the cultural program will start in a few minutes."

Matt stood up and Damien followed his lead. He ignored the knowing and questioning looks from the others.

"Ignore them," he told Matt as he felt him fidgeting. Matt relaxed and smiled at him, casually leaning against Damien. Almost reflexively, Damien wrapped his arms around Matt while they watched the children's song and dance number, ignoring the gasps he heard.

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Matt was a happy camper when he woke up Monday morning. The incident with Damien still confused him but he decided not to fret about it. He liked the feeling it gave him. It was true that they hadn't got a chance to sort it out yesterday as Damien still had to bring Mitch, who seemed annoyed and downright murderous, back to her hotel, but the look that Damien gave him before he entered the car was enough to quell his doubts.

He whistled as he prepared their breakfast. French toast, bacon, eggs, orange juice and milk for Luke. He was setting the table when Lily and Luke joined him in the kitchen. If she noticed any changes on Matt's demeanor she didn't point it out. She just helped him set the table. They ate in silence, apart from the occasional chatter from Luke. It wasn't until they were doing the dishes that Lily asked Matt about Damien.

"So… you and Damien, huh?" Lily took the last plate from Matt and toweled it dry before putting it back on its proper place.

Matt shrugged nonchalantly but the smile on his face betrayed what he was feeling, "I'm not really sure what 'you and Damien' means."

Lily raised an eyebrow, "Aren't you dating?"

"Hell no!" Matt replied. Though I now wish we were, he thought, thinking of the kiss they'd shared before continuing, "It was just an act to get rid of the annoying ex-girlfriend."

"Really? From what I saw, it seemed too real to be an act," Lily replied, her forehead creased as if trying to remember how Damien and Matt acted the day before. "I don't know Matt, either you two were putting on a really good show that managed to convince even us yesterday, or you two were unconsciously showing your feelings for each other."

Matt took a quick glance at his sister-in-law's facial expression and decided that if there was someone he could actually talk to and get an honest unbiased opinion from, it would be her. So he asked, "Um, Lils, don't you find it weird that after complaining about Damien for nearly two years I suddenly find myself, um, comfortable around him?"

"Hmmm." Lily remained silent for a while, looking contemplative. "Not really. Cliché as it may sound there really is a thin line between love and hate. Sometimes we subconsciously hate those people we know we could love because we're afraid to give them the power to hurt us."

Matt realized he must've looked totally baffled when Lily laughed at him.

"I know it doesn't make sense, but since when did love ever make sense?" Lily reached out and ruffled his hair affectionately. "I'm not an expert, but I saw the way Damien looked at you while you weren't looking, and believe me, he wasn't acting at all." Lily glanced at her watch, "You better get ready for work."

Matt watched Lily leave the room and tried to decipher what she meant, but gave up when his head started to hurt. Whatever. Let Damien sort it out. With that, he left to get ready for work.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Damien was in a murderous mood. He had barely slept after Mitch insisted that he join her for a drink, claiming that it was the least he could do for breaking her heart. He thought it was just polite to agree, but he was now paying for his mistake with a major hangover.

He couldn't even remember how he got home from the hotel. But his answering machine told him that Brandon was demanding for a new shirt to replace the one he'd vomited on last night. So he assumed that his cousin was probably the one who'd been kind enough to ensure he got home safely. Though how he'd known that Damien needed help remained a mystery.

Damien was nursing his third cup of coffee when Matt magically appeared out of nowhere. A look of disappointment crossed his face when he saw Damien. "Hon, not now, I feel as if an elephant sat on my head," Damien complained then dropped his head on the table.

He heard Matt say, "Your fault for drinking too much", then there was some shuffling for a while before he felt something cold pushed in his hand. Damien looked up, gave Matt a 'what-the-fuck' look. Matt's lips curved into a smile before answering, "Drink that, its better," gesturing at the bottle of ice cold water sitting in Damien's hand in place of his coffee. "And here," Matt took something out of his lunch bag and handed it to Damien. "Eat up before you take any painkillers. The meal's loaded with sugar and carbs. Then go home and rest. Call me if you need someone to drive you home, okay. How'd you get here in the first place? I'll tell Brandon you went home early, they shouldn't have let you report to work in your condition."

Damien's mind barely registered half of what the young man had said. Although he was sober enough to comprehend that he was supposed to eat whatever it was inside the food container and drink the contents of the bottle. He took off the lid and was pleased to find pasta with Alfredo sauce and a few pieces of garlic bread. He took a bite of the bread and helped himself to the pasta. It was delicious!

Feeling a little better, he ate with gusto. As Damien's mind cleared a little, he remembered that Matt wasn't too happy with Damien being drunk earlier. But he must have said something right since Matt had become amiable. Damien made a mental note to call Drake and advise that he and Matt would need to go home early; he had a feeling that Matt wouldn't be returning to the office after giving him a ride home.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Matt lips curled in displeasure as his eyes scanned the contents of Damien's fridge, which was filled with take-out boxes and ready-to-eat microwaveable dishes. He clucked his tongue in pity. He closed the fridge and moved towards the living room. Then he picked up the phone and dialed Luke's Corner's number and ordered a decent lunch for him and Damien. But when one of the morning shift waitress started to ask questions unrelated to his order, he hurriedly ended the call, cursing Dolph and Lily for their mutual love of gossiping about his oh-so-exciting and non-existent love life.

He plopped down on the sofa and closed his eyes as he waited for Damien to finish the cold shower he'd recommended to get rid of that hangover. He must have dozed off because when he opened his eyes, Damien was sitting on one of the solo sofa chairs watching him sleep, the lunch he ordered spread out on the coffee table in front of them.

Damien smiled at him. "Had a good nap?"

Matt nodded, trying to rub the sleep off of his eyes. "How long was I asleep?"

"Not more than half an hour I think," Damien replied, handing him his lunch. They ate in silence, then later cleaned up the mess after they had their fill. Afterwards Damien offered him some coffee, which Matt accepted, so they found themselves in the kitchen, waiting for the coffee maker to fill the carafe with their much needed caffeine.

Matt sat on one of the comfortable dining chairs while Damien leaned on the center island, his arms crossed over his chest. Matt shifted uncomfortably in silence, feeling the tension that blanketed them. He wished he'd stayed in the living room instead of following Damien to the kitchen. He was contemplating leaving when Damien finally cleared his throat.

Matt turned towards Damien and arched an eyebrow in question. The lifestyles editor cleared his throat once more and asked, "So what happens now?"

"Sorry?" Matt pretended to be clueless, wanting to make sure that Damien was referring to what he thought.

"This," Damien said, gesturing between the two of them. "Us."

"Is there even an 'us'?" Matt was consciously holding his breath. Heck, he'd even felt those butterfly things in his stomach.

"Of course. There's always been an 'us', ever since we first laid eyes on each other" was Damien's response while he sauntered over to Matt. "Whether we're trying to kill each other or kissing each other silly, there's always been an 'us'. I have to admit though; I like the feeling of this new 'us'. If you know what I mean."

Matt lowered his head in an attempt to hide the smile that was trying to split his face in two. He took a deep breath before looking up and answering, his gaze meeting Damien's cool gray eyes. "I like this new 'us'."

"Good" was Damien's response, his palms pressed against Matt's cheeks. Matt's head tilted when Damien leaned in but held his breath when Damien paused, Damien's lips merely a hair's breath away from his own. "Because I'm afraid I'm becoming quite addicted to this," Damien said, his voice barely above whisper. Matt never had a chance to ask what Damien meant because Damien's had swooped down and pressed his lips against Matt's. And Matt could only gasp, his heart nearly stopped, as if a ball of heat was dropped inside his chest. But when Damien deepened the kiss, whatever weight that had settled in Matt's heart melted away and Matt floated in a world where only him and Damien existed.

 

Part 3

 

"That's your third beer. Aren't you on an alcohol diet or something?" Dolph asked Damien as he placed a bottle of beer in front of his friend.

Damien's eyebrows rose in surprise. "I didn't know you were my keeper?"

"I'm not." Dolph leaned forward and continued to speak in a conspiratorial voice when he saw Matt move towards their direction. "But your boyfriend is my boss and he'll fire me if you got drunk."

"If I didn't know that you're head over heels crazy over another editor from Wilsburrow Weekly, I'd be kicking your ass out the door right now>" Matt soon joined them. Dolph winked at Matt before turning around to get a beer for the writer and almost dropped the bottle when he saw Brandon slid on the bar stool beside Matt's.

'Oh fuck!' Dolph eyes widened in panic, praying to every saint he knew that Brandon did not hear Matt's remark.

"Don't worry Dolph, I'll hire you if this heartless guy throws you out," Brandon said and then winked at him. Dolph felt his face heat up. He quickly kept himself preoccupied with taking the orders from Tony, who Brandon greeted, "Yo Tony, how's the wife?"

Dolph didn't hear Tony's answer as he turned around to continue his task. Dolph moved as swiftly as he could, alternating between mixing cocktails and calling out orders to the kitchen, despite his nervousness at having Brandon so near. He was quite surprised that he still managed to go through the list of orders without breaking a glass or two. Which probably surprised Matt, since he seemed to be studying Dolph's movements with an amused expression on his face. He discreetly glanced at his watch while he gave the tray full of beer bottles and cocktails to Tony.

Matt stood up and whispered something to Brandon. Dolph heaved a sigh of relief when the two cousins left the bar and headed towards the door that led to the back alley. Probably to smoke.

"I take it you still find Brandon's presence overwhelming?" Matt asked as he took over mixing some of the drinks written on sticky notes lined up in front of them after donning on an apron. Dolph shrugged and added a slice of lime on the cocktail he was mixing before handing it over to Matt, then grabbed a martini glass to complete another drink. He was baffled when Matt took the glass from him, called Tony and another employee, then gestured for him to go to the lockers. He heard Matt ask Tony to watch the bar while he and Dolph took a break.

Dolphmade his way to the lockers and sat on one of the benches while he waited for Matt, silently berating himself for letting his shyness get the better of him. He looked up when he saw the door open and Matt walked in. Dolph watched Matt lock the door and make his way towards his direction and sat beside him.

"Talk to me."

"I dunno." Dolph rubbed his face with his palm in frustration. "Every time I see Brandon, my heart just… you know… and… and I go all nervous and start to act like… like what I did earlier." He turned to face Matt. "It's really stupid, but I can't help it. You think it has something to do with the hero-worship I had for him in high school?"

"Hmm…" Matt's forehead was creased and Dolph realized that his friend was in deep thought. He waited and studied the expression on Matt's face. After what seemed like an eternity, Matt looked at him and spoke, "You're probably right."

Dolph eyed Matt cautiously and tilted his head , urging his friend to continue. Matt pursed his lips in concentration as if trying to find the right words. "Well,,, you don't seem to have self-esteem issues. You're just, uhm, awfully shy. So I guess, it must be the hero-worship thingy. Blaire did say you started liking Brandon after the bully incident. "

Dolph felt his cheeks grow hot from embarrassment as he remembered the incident. He was a high school sophomore at that time. He and Blaire were running late for class when someone tripped him and started taunting him. He had never been strong enough and had confidence issues so he was an easy prey for the school bullies. Blaire was furious and about to lash out at them when Brandon appeared and told the group of bullies 'to leave the lower years alone or else'. That was when his hero-worship and crush for the editor triggered.

Apparently, Brandon was threatening enough that the group left them alone for the whole duration of high school. Or probably because Brandon's friends practically adopted him and Blaire to their group after Blaire became Brandon's girlfriend for a year.

"Earth to Dolph."

Dolph lowered his gaze and rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, "Sorry, I spaced out I guess."

"I can see that," Matt replied, the left corner of his mouth curved in a half-grin before his face turned serious. "Listen Dolph, you're my friend and you helped me a lot with the Damien problem. So I'm just returning the favor because I really want to see you happy."

Dolph opened his mouth to protest but stopped when Matt held up a hand to silence him.

Matt took a deep breath and carried on. "You subconsciously seem to think that you don't deserve a chance with a person like Brandon and projecting it physically so you could justify the thought."

Dolph was stunned, he never thought of that. And a part of his brain is telling him that maybe Matt is right.

Matt must have sensed his inner turmoil because his friend's hand was slowly rubbing his back as if to comfort him and continued to speak in a soft yet clear voice, "Everyone deserves a chance to be happy, Dolph. You're a great person and really handsome. Damn if I wasn't with Damien already, I'll definitely chase after you. So don't even think for a moment that you are not enough for Brandon. You don't know what you're missing while you're looking at the world through a horse's blinders."

It was Dolph's turn to take a deep breath. "Thanks. You really thought hard about this huh?"

"I did, so don't you dare disregard what I just said or so help me I am going to lock you and Mr. Sports Editor in a closet until you learn to deal with your issue," Matt mock scolded and made both of them laugh.

They were interrupted when the door opened and Tony's head popped from the small opening. "Are you guys done with your heart to heart?"

Dolph saw Matt's left eyebrow rise in amusement before his friend answered. "Yeah I think so, why?"

"Well, aside from needing extra hands at the bar, there are two really worried newspaper guys asking for the two of you," Tony replied.

Dolph and Matt chuckled at Tony's explanation but stood up nonetheless and followed the waiter outside.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Brandon took a swig from his beer bottle and tried not to ogle Dolph when he could. He glanced at his wristwatch and noted that the establishment will be closing in fifteen minutes. He turned around and scanned the room. There were a handful of patrons still lingering and the employees who were on closing duty, including Dolph. If he wanted to push through with his plan, he had to get his act together.

"Want me to help?" Matt asked, startling Brandon.

Brandon looked at Matt warily. "How long have you been there?"

Matt shrugged. "Doesn't matter. Look, we're closing in less than a quarter. If you want Dolph to go with you to that annual gathering, I suggest you get your butt off that chair and ask him now. He's at the back alley taking out the trash."

Brandon stared at Matt, who took the beer from him and made shooing motions with his hands at him. "Go go go, don't keep the guy waiting. Heaven knows he's waited enough." Then Matt gently shoved him, giving him no choice but to stand and walked towards the back alley.

His heart pounded and the two and a half bottles of beer he had earlier did not help boost his confidence at all. But he was feeling lightheaded and there's this pleasant buzzin his head. Based on experience, he had never been a good speaker when he's feeling up in the clouds. So the idea of talking to Dolph and asking him out on a date while experiencing these symptoms does not bode well for him at all.

Brandon's steps faltered and the hand that was reaching for the doorknob stopped in mid-air. 'This is a bad idea,' he thought as he started to turn around but fate seemed to have other plans for him when the door opened and he found himself staring at Dolph.

"Brandon? Is the - hey!" Dolph started to ask but didn't finish because Brandon shoved him back towards the alley.

Brandon closed the door and turned around to find Dolph looking at him with furrowed brows. 'At least he doesn't think I'm a sex maniac out to molest him,' he thought as his eyes roamed through Dolph's body, stopping at parts that seemed to awaken certain interests in him. He quickly averted his gaze and took a deep breath to calm his raging hormones.

"Are you alright? You look flushed," Dolph asked in a low voice as he walked towards him and placed a hand on his forehead to feel his temperature. "You don't feel hot but you're definitely tipsy. Why don't we sit over there?" Dolph took his hand and led him to the bench where he and Damien sat earlier, though the presence of a bench in a back alley baffled Damien and him.

He turned towards Dolph and asked, "Uh, why is there a bench here?"

"Matt's idea. Most of the employees take their smoking break here. He thought it'll be more comfortable if they have a proper place to sit on," Dolph replied as they sat down. "Do you feel faint? Do you need water or something?"

The corners of Brandon's lips curved up in a smile. He liked how Dolph fuss over him. It gave him a warm fuzzy feeling in his chest. He shook his head and smiled at Dolph. They sat in companionable silence. Each lost in his own world, until Dolph cleared his throat to catch his attention.

Brandon shifted a little to face Dolph to let him know he had his undivided attention.

"You know, this is really funny," Dolph started which made Brandon lift his eyebrows in question. "I have this really weird habit of falling all over the place when you're around. You don't have any idea how many plates and glasses I've broken all throughout my stay here in Luke's Corner."

"Really?" Brandon asked, amusement evident in his voice. "That explains why you always seem to disappear when I'm stationed at the bar."

Dolph scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "Yeah, that was me hiding."

"Why?"

"Coz I get this little flutters in my chest when you're around," Dolph answered in a voice that projects sincerity.

"That's weird because I feel the same way when I see you." Brandon smiled when he saw Dolph blush. He cleared his throat and waited until Dolph looked at him straight in the eye. "So, are you - you know - feeling nervous right now?"

Dolph laughed and the slight crack in his voice gave away his feeling. "A little. Why?"

Brandon nodded as his eyes slowly studied Dolph's face. "Because I am seriously contemplating on asking you out for dinner tomorrow night and it helps boost my morale to know I'm not the only one who's nervous at this moment."

Brandon smirked when he saw Dolph's eyes widen in surprise and Brandon watched certain emotions flit through those expressive eyes before finally settling on a calm smile.

"I do hope you're no longer contemplating," Dolph said as he stood up and brushed the dust off the back of his jeans. Brandon followed suit but the movement of Dolph's hands diverted his gaze towards Dolph's jean clad ass and he visibly gulped at the tantalizing sight.

It took all of Brandon's self-control not to reach out and give the ass a squeeze. He averted his gaze reluctantly back to Dolph's face and blushed when he realized that Dolph was smirking at him. It did not take a genius to know that Dolph knew what he was looking at earlier.

"Why? Am I too late?" Brandon asked in low voice, feeling as if his heart would stop beating if Dolph answered 'yes'.

"No, not really," Dolph replied, the corner of his lips curled up teasingly. "It's just that I can't accept an offer that's not definite."

Brandon watched Dolph walk away. It took exactly a minute before Brandon's Dolph-induced, lust-addled brain was able to decipher Dolph's words. 'Oh fuck! He said yes!' he thought as he bolted after Dolph to finalize their dinner plans.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Damien smiled when he saw Brandon ran after Dolph. He stood up from his seat and walked towards the manager's office to look for Matt. He knocked thrice and asked, "Matt? You there?"

The door opened slightly and heard Matt say "come in" so Damien did and locked the door before turning around to talk to Matt. But was Matt had his back turned. He ambled towards Mat, wrapped his arms around Matt's waist, and brought Matt closer, resting his chin on Matt's shoulder. "Something wrong?"

"Nothing," Matt leaned against him and Damien saw that Matt was holding a sheet of paper. Damien gently bit on the shell of Matt's ear before scanning the contents. His embrace tightened as the meaning of the letters became clear.

"Damien, you're hurting me," Matt whined while trying to break free from Damien's embrace.

Damien released him unwillingly and carefully watched Matt stroll towards his desk. Damien followed and planted himself between Matt's parted thighs. Matt's hands automatically draped on his shoulders as Damien leaned forward to envelope the younger man in his embrace.

Damien remained silent, letting the younger man bask in the comfort of his arms. "How long have you been getting these letters?"

"Three months," Matt murmured.

Damien took a deep breath to calm himself. He wanted to yell at Matt but that won't help at all. "You've been getting those threats since we became a couple and you didn't tell me because…"

"Because it's nothing," Matt answered and shifted back a little. Matt looked at him straight in the eye. "And I know you'll act all tough and overprotective. Though I appreciate the concern, it makes me feel like shit. I'm a guy, Damien, I can take care of myself."

"But Matt, the one who wrote this letter could be serious," Damien said through clenched teeth, angry at his boyfriend's stubbornness.

"They haven't tried anything," Matt countered. "So please don't dwell on it. I don't want us fighting over such nonsense. Heaven knows we've fought enough. Please."

Damien opened his mouth to protest but stopped short when he saw Matt's lower lip stuck out in displeasure. Damn! Damien's shoulders sank in defeat. "Okay. I won't, but if I see that the threats aren't as useless as you think. I'll interfere whether you like it or not. Got it?"

Matt rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Alright, whatever you say."

Then Matt playfully rubbed their noses together. "Now can you forget about that dang letter and kiss me?"

Damien did.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Matt bit on his fisted hand to keep from moaning. He was trying so hard to remain silent because having his four year old nephew walk in on them on the living room sofa, with his cock inside his's mouth, would be very traumatic. And embarrassing. But he was having a hard time suppressing his moans as Damien's fingers massaged his inner thighs. Matt looked down and cursed at the sight of Damien's head bobbing between his legs. He felt his balls tighten, he knew it wouldn't take long.

"I'm… ugh… co… ming," Matt panted thrust his hips up to bury himself deeper into Damien's mouth.

Damien placed both hands on Matt's hips to restrain his movements before taking Matt's cock deeper into his throat. Then Damien hummed. The vibrations around Matt's cock and the fingers massaging his hips proved too much for him. Matt's hands found purchase on the back of the sofa as he cried out Damien's name. Then he shot his load down Damien's throat.

Matt groaned when Damien let go of his spent cock. He reached out and pulled Damien up for a kiss. Their lips met in light, fluttery movements before Damien's tongue swiped at Matt's bottom lip and deepened the kiss. Matt suddenly found himself laid on his back on the sofa. He hummed in satisfaction when Damien lay on top of him and dropped small kisses on his face.

Matt licked his lips when he felt the unmistakable bulge in Damien's trousers. He wrapped one hand around Damien's waist while the other slowly made its way to Damien's belt. He slowly undid the buckle and reached for zipper of Damien's jeans, pulling it down as slowly as he could. He chuckled in glee when Damien growled as his fingers finally wrapped around Damien's erection.

"Fuck." Damien breathed out when Matt slowly moved his hand up Damien's cock and made a circling motion at the head before moving back down. He continued his slow movements until he felt Damien thrusting desperately into his hand, begging for release. Matt's heart swelled at the realization that he had the power to make Damien come undone.

Matt stroked faster as Damien leaned down to meet his lips in an open mouthed kiss. Damien's breathing was becoming ragged.

"Oh shit, Matt, I'm…" Damien hissed in his ears.

Matt felt Damien's cock throb in his hand as ribbons of cum shot out. Air ripped out of Matt's chest when Damien collapsed agaimst him. His hands crept around Damien's waist and Damien pushed his hands beneath Matt's tightened his hold regardless of their awkward position. They lay there, enjoying each other's warmth in post-orgasmic afterglow.

"You better take a shower," Matt said after some time.

"Can I just stay like this forever?"

Matt can't hide the smile that graced his lips. Unfortunately, their nephews would wake up from their afternoon nap anytime soon. That is - God forbid - if they haven't been roused by their uncles' afternoon play.

"Forever is a long time Damien," Matt answered and gently prodded Damien so that Damien would budge. "And unless you want to scar our nephews for life, I suggest you get up and take a shower before they stumble out of bed and ask why your hand is on my cock. God help me but I'll castrate you if I'm forced to explain the birds and the bees."

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Damien woke up to the sound of giggling noises. He reluctantly opened his eyes and was met by the sheepish looking gazes of Riu and Luke. He glanced at his watch and was surprised to see that it was almost eight in the evening. He must have been really tired to sleep for four straight hours when he only meant to doze off for a few minutes. That means he's missed out on giving the kids their afternoon snack - and Lily probably walked in on him snoring on the sofa! Damien groaned as he rubbed his face. He's utterly useless as a babysitter - speaking of which - the two kids were still giggling, and it was becoming a wee bit suspicious.

"What's so funny you little monsters?" He asked.

"We're not monsters!" Riu and Luke answered at the same time, then looked at each other and grinned before exclaiming in chorus. "But you are!"

"Oh really? Then you better run coz this monster's gonna get you!" Damien replied and roared as the children screamed and ran towards the direction of the small hallway leading to the front door. Damien laughed as he caught Luke and tickled him. He let go of Luke when Riu rescued Luke from his clutches. They were at the height of their catch-and-tickle game when Matt, Dolph, Brandon, Blaire and Drake arrived.

Luke and Riu scrambled towards the adults screaming for them to hide them from 'Damien the monster'. Damien shook his head and faced his friends and was surprised when they all burst out laughing.

He saw Brandon take a deep breath before he asked, "Is it Halloween yet?" which of course, prompted another round of laughter, this time though he can also hear Luke and Riu's high pitched giggles.

One of his eyebrows rose in question. "Is there something wrong with my face?"

He felt irritated when the only response he got was another round of laughter. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and tapped his foot impatiently when no one seemed eager to answer him. Finally, Matt led him to the nearest bathroom.

Damien's eyes widened in disbelief when he saw his face in the mirror. His face was turned into a child's canvass, specifically, a seven-year-old and a four-year-old's living canvass of doodles and stick figures. His eyes had flowers drawn around, his left cheek had a deformed bear, his nose had lines that he thought must have been whiskers and his right cheek had two boy stick figures that suspiciously represented the two culprits. Of course the names beside the stick figures were a dead giveaway.

Damien's eyes narrowed when he heard a suspicious sound resembling stifled laughter coming from behind. "You think it's funny?" Damien asked in irritation as he turned around to face Matt.

Matt arched an eyebrow at him and grinned. "I don't think it's funny. I know it's funny that's why I'm laughing."

Damien bent over the sink to wash his face. Thank God they used water based paints. When he was done and sure that there aren't any paints left, he rubbed his face dry and turned to face Matt, who seemed to have calmed down. Matt eyes twinkled in mischief as he strutted his way towards Damien. Damien shifted his gaze from Matt's body, knowing full well that Matt is deliberately swaying his hips to distract him.

"Damien," Matt whispered in his ears, his pitch lowered in a seductive timbre.

Damien bit his lower lip between his teeth to distract himself from Matt's actions. But when Matt's hand found it's way inside his shirt, Damien lost his control and kissed him.

"Mmmm," Matt hummed as he broke the kiss. "Come on," Matt said and held his hand, intertwining their fingers before pulling him out of the bathroom.

Riu and Luke hid behind Blaire when Matt andDamien stepped into the living room. Damien glared at them, grinning inwardly when he heard them squeak and cower at his mock glare. Only to stop when Blaire's threw him an 'if-looks-could-kill-you're-dead' glare.

"So you finally realized we're not going to a costume party?" Brandon asked from his position behind Dolph, who was sitting on one of the solo sofa chairs.

Damien rolled his eyes and decided to ignore his cousin. Instead, he opted to listen to Blaire and Matt's conversation. He heard Matt ask Blaire. "Are you sure you can handle the weekend shifts? Don't you have any work that day?"

Blaire waved her hand in front of him, as if to dispel his worries. "Don't worry about it Mattie, I have Tony and Drake helping me out. Just enjoy your vacation, okay?"

"Alright," Matt finally nodded and turned to Luke. "Be good alright? Don't give Aunt Blaire a headache." The child nodded and reached out for a hug to which Matt obliged before handing Luke back to Blaire.

Damien glanced at the wall clock. "Matt, we have to go."

Matt nodded at him and reached out for his hand. Damien turned to Drake who gave him a thumbs-up sign. He smiled gratefully at his brother and Blaire, the unspoken message clear, before he gently pulled Matt out towards the door to join Dolph and Brandon.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Matt took a swig of his beer as he sat down on one side of the bench of the picnic table set up on the backyard. They were currently at a bed and breakfast owned by Damien and Brandon's friend, Kevin Hunter. He looked around and smiled. It wasn't a big place, with only seven bedrooms in total, four of which are the only ones available for guests and is located at the second floor of the house. However, the warm and cozy atmosphere of the cabin type décor gave Matt a homey feel and helped him relax.

Matt placed the beer on the table and stretched out his arms, trying to ease the cricks and tension some of his muscles and joints accumulated during the one-hour drive from Wilsburrow to Westborough. It was the Labor Day weekend and apparently, Damien and Brandon's small group of friends always spend that weekend on Kevin's place, to hang out and catch up on each other's lives. And since Dolph and he were currently considered Brandon and Damien's other half, the invitation was extended to them.

"Mind if I join you?"

Matt looked up and saw Keanu looking at him and scoots over to give Keanu space to sit on. "No not at all."

Keanu smiled. "How are you? I hope these guys didn't scare you."

Matt chuckled. "I'm good. Same goes for Dolph I think. Though they seemed to have embarrassed Brandon a little too much," he stated as he remembered all the teasing the other three guys did when they saw Brandon and Dolph together.

Keanu coughed as he choked on the beer he was drinking.

Matt gently rubbed Keanu's back. "I know. It was hilarious when they all exclaimed 'finally' when Dolph entered the house. Was it because Brandon brought somebody to the party or because it was Dolph he brought along?"

"It's the 'Dolph' aspect," Keanu replied. "Brandon always brought different people during these gatherings. But everyone knows about Brandon's feelings for Dolph. They're all waiting for him to have the courage to ask him out. So it was a big relief and celebration when it was Dolph who finally accompanied Brandon to this gathering."

"I see," Matt replied, taking a sip of his drink and asked as casually as he could, "What about Damien?"

Keanu turned to look at him and grinned, "Fishing for info eh?"

Matt felt his face heat up in embarrassment. "I was that obvious huh?"

"Sort of. But the answer to that other question is no. Damien never brought anyone to these gatherings, that's why you didn't get teased. He'd always told us that when he does bring someone along, it'll be for keeps."

Matt's eyes widened. "You mean?"

"That you're one lucky guy for Damien Rivkin to consider spending his life with? Yes you are," Keanu answered with much sincerity that Matt felt his heart race.

"But you and him?"

Keanu shook his head. "I knew you will ask that. No, I don't count. We're friends before anything else and broke up right before these gatherings started. But our relationship's not a joke, two years is way too long for stringing someone along. We just weren't meant to last. We're better off as friends - I think."

Matt nodded in understanding and studied Keanu who was looking at Damien's direction. Matt does not want to sound suspicious but despite the declaration Keanu stated, he can't help but feel as if Keanu was lying. Judging from the longing gaze Keanu gave Damien.

"Do you still love him?" Matt asked hesitantly, his voice so low it can barely be heard.

Keanu's answering laugh sounded a little off to Matt, but then again he can't be certain. He waited until Keanu's laughter subsided before fully facing the other man, looking him straight in the eye. Matt was shocked at the pain he saw reflected on the other man's eyes before it was gone.

"I never stopped loving Damien," Keanu replied.

Matt gasped at the revelation and felt his chest tighten he can hardly breathe.

"Easy there," Keanu crooned while rubbing Matt's back. "He's my friend, it's a given that I should love him. I won't try to steal him from you, 'coz if I could, we're probably be married by now. So don't worry your pretty little head over it okay?"

"But -" Matt protested but was silenced by Keanu resting his forefinger on Matt's lips.

"But nothing, okay?" Keanu reiterated then leaned down to whisper in his ear. "Now I'll go ahead and leave while you go do cuddly mushy stuff with Damien. A bit of fair warning though, he looks jealous."

Matt looked up and saw Damien approach them. Keanu stood up from his place and faced Damien.

"If I didn't know that you still love me, I'll be wringing your neck by now," Damien teased as a way of greeting but Matt had a nagging feeling that Damien meant it as a threat as well, knowing what a possessive bastard his boyfriend was.

Keanu laughed and placed a hand on Damien's shoulder. "Oh you haven't changed you possessive monster! Don't worry, I was just telling him how lucky he is to have you."

"Isn't he?" Damien replied, which made Matt roll his eyes. "Did he even listen to you? He's quite stubborn you know?"

Keanu grinned, "He did actually, he's not that bad."

"Really now?" Damien asked, his eyes twinkling with mischief.

"Oh please, I know how to listen," Matt responded as he stood up and wormed his way into Damien's embrace which forced Keanu to take his hand off Damien's shoulder so that Damien can properly maneuver Matt so that both of them were facing Keanuu.

Matt sighed as he leaned back into Damien's chest while Damien clasped his hands in front of Matt's stomach. Matt must have been paranoid but he's a little uncomfortable when it did not seem as if Keanu had any intentions of taking his hands off Damien's shoulder earlier. It must have been due to the confession he heard earlier that's why he's feeling the green eyed monster's prodding's in his heart. It doesn't help that Keanu was looking at their intimate position with an unidentifiable emotion.

"Is that so?" Damien asked as he tightened his embrace making Matt lean further back, bringing their bodies closer together. "Maybe if I ask Keanu to talk to you about moving in with me, you'll say yes," Damien said.

Damien was nuzzling Matt's left ear that the meaning of the words were lost on Matt until he heard Keanu.

"Three months and he's already asking you to live with him? Damn! He's really serious. Two years with me and it never crossed his mind. What do you have that I don't?" Keanu exclaimed in envy that Matt and Damien both looked at him with puzzled expressions.

Matt saw Keanu's expression change to mortification as the other man realized what he had said. Keanu looked at them with a sheepish expression before stuttering. "Uh-am, I need to uh - go - I mean - leave you - to talk. Bye!"

And they watched in amusement as Keanu bolted inside the house as if a pack of hungry wolves were after him.

Matt was still pondering on Keanu's actions when Damien placed a wet kiss on his nape. Matt couldn't help the soft moan that escaped his lips. He had half a mind to scold Damien as his boyfriend knew it was one of his sensitive spots. The response he gave must have encouraged Damien because Damien placed more open mouthed kisses, occasionally biting at area between his neck and shoulder blades, licking the back of his ears while his left hand boldly stroked Matt's cock to life through his jeans until Matt felt as if he'd been transformed in a puddle of goo.

He felt Damien move his right arm in front of his waist to pull him closer so that Damien was supporting his weight while he continued his ministrations. Matt bit his bottom lip to stifle his moans when Damien thrust into his jean clad ass and Matt felt his boyfriend's erection through the barriers of clothing while Damien's strokes became faster.

"So," Damien breathed on his ear, sending shivers down Matt's spine, and stopped his actions before asking, "You want to move in with me?"

Matt groaned when he felt all movements stop. He desperately thrust forward to make Damien resume, but Damien wouldn't budge and continued to whisper words into his ears in a silky tone. Matt forced his lust-induced mind to comprehend the words - move in - together - and he growled as he forced the words out, "This is blackmail."

Damien chuckled, the deep rumbling of his voice sending pools of heat to his lower belly. He whimpered when Damien's left hand stroked his thighs, waist, hips - ghosting over his erection for a brief moment before resting on his left hip. "Shhh, I know, say yes and I'll continue. I promise I'll make it worth your time."

"Damn," Matt groaned out. He knew it wasn't fair, to give his consent under the circumstances, but fuck he needs to come. Matt was about to reply when he heard someone exclaim. "Guys, we have compa- HOLY CRAP!!! Damien!"

Matt felt Damien's body stiffen at the same time as he did. Matt's face was red like a ripe tomato. He tried to move away from Damien's embrace in order to salvage a little of his dignity but never had the chance when a familiar irritating female voice he had never hoped to encounter again cried out in a staged whisper. "Really Damien, never tagged you as one for public sex. Get a room will you?"

 

Part 4

 

Matt woke up feeling sore all over – not the bad kind of sore – more like 'I've-had-a-good-night-and-was-thoroughly-fucked' type of sore. He felt the corners of his lips turn up in a smile when an arm draped around his waist and a warm naked body met his equally naked back.

Damien trailed butterfly kisses on his neck. "You awake?"

"Hmmm…"

"Want a repeat of last night?" Damien asked which made Matt burst out laughing when the scene from the backyard came to mind. Damien maneuvered their positions so that Matt was lying on his back with Damien on top of him. "What's so funny?"

Matt took a deep breath to calm himself. "I just remembered the look on Dolph and Mitch's face when they saw us last night. That was really funny, especially Mitch's reaction when you carried me like a sack of potato telling her what a good idea her suggestion was. Which reminds me, repeat that caveman antic again and I'll castrate you."

Damien just snorted before leaning down to give Matt a chaste kiss. He was disappointed when Damien immediately broke away after the gesture and rolled over to get out of the bed. Damien did some stretching, while Matt blatantly ogled his boyfriend's unclothed body.

"If you're done staring at my perfect physique, might I suggest we continue this in the shower?" Damien's eyebrows wiggled suggestively as he reached out for Matt's hand.

Matt grasped Damien's hand and let his boyfriend pull him into a standing position, "That, is the best suggestion I've heard all morning."

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Brandon eyed Damien contemplatively. It was almost lunch time and Damien was in charge of the grill. They had spent the morning at beach and just got back fifteen minutes ago to prepare for their backyard lunch barbecue. So far, nothing untoward happened, not that he was wishing for unfortunate events. But given the history of the people that surrounded him at the moment, he wouldn't be surprised if the rest of their vacation turns in one big drama. He continued to stare at his cousin until Damien turned his attention towards him.

"Out with it," Damien replied while flipping one of the burgers on the grill.

"A little bee told me you're turning your bachelor's pad to a lover's nest…"

"News do travel fast."

Brandon's eyes widened but quickly regained his composure, silently handing the serving dish where Damien can place the patties that were already done. "You already made up your mind? In three months?"

"Does time really matter? If it does, I'd say it started two years and three months ago."

Brandon sighed. "I guess you're right. I just want to make sure you're not rushing things."

Damien handed the serving dish back to him. "I'm fine, no need to worry alright?"

Brandon nodded and they continued with their task. They engaged in small talks once in a while but they mostly worked in companionable silence. Brandon nudged Damien when they were placing the last batch of patties on the serving dish when he saw Dolph and Matt head towards the kitchen back door. Damien just rolled his eyes at him while he waved at the two men who didn't seem to have noticed him.

A movement in the balcony that was above the door where Dolph and Matt entered caught his attention. He narrowed his eyes to have a better look but the balcony was empty. 'It must have been the curtains,' he thought to himself and turned around to follow Damien to help prepare the picnic table. He had barely made ten steps when he heard Dolph shout 'Matt look out!' followed by a sound of something shattering.

Brandon abruptly turned around, his heart hammering on his chest, and was met with the sight of Dolph hovering over Matt protectively - a broken pot of plant dangerously close to Matt's face – lying innocently beside them. He started to walk towards the two men, right behind Damien (though he couldn't remember how Damien ended up in front of him when Brandon remembered running ahead) to check if Dolph and Matt were Hurt.

"Is Matt okay?" A female voice asked from somewhere above him which made Brandon look up and saw Mitch leaning over the balcony – where the potted plant was originally located – peering over them, her voice sounding worried.

Brandon looked at Damien who was helping Matt stand up and reached out for Dolph's hand first before looking up again to answer. "He's alright. Just a little shaken I think."

"Are you sure?" he heard Keanu ask and he saw him join Mitch at the balcony. "Hold on we're going down." Then Mitch and Keanu's heads disappeared from the balcony railings. The two emerged from the door after a few minutes with Keanu repeating his question to Matt.

"I'm fine," Matt reassured them, although his voice shook a little. "Dolph was able to grab me out of harm's way right on time."

"Oh good," Mitch breathed out a sigh of relief. "I didn't think I'll make it on time to avoid the pot from falling over. By the time I reached the balcony it was on it's way down."

"Nobody asked," Keanu commented.

"I know" was Mitch's aggravated response. "I was just explaining…"

"Like I said, nobody asked," Keanu said then continued when Mitch looked as if she was going to argue again. "The pot dropped, Matt was just standing there at the wrong time. As far as I'm concerned, it was an accident."

"Fine," Mitch acquiesced, although in Brandon's opinion, her body language and tone says otherwise. Though Mitch seemed to have realized what Keanu had implied and did not utter a word again throughout lunch, which luckily, went on without any event.

However, the shadow he saw minutes before the incident kept replaying on his mind. It did not help that Mitch was the first person he saw on the balcony and that she was acting defensive earlier. Brandon had never been quick to judge but he can't help but observe Mitch all through lunch.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

"Hey," Dolph greeted as he sat beside Brandon on the couch. It was eight in the evening and some of them were relaxing in the living room after eating dinner. Damien and Matt were getting cozy on one of the lover's chair near the fireplace. Kevin and his wife Marsha went out while Keanu was helping one of their friends, Ricky wash the dishes. Mitch was talking with Charles, another friend of Damien and Brandon.

Brandon looked up from the cocoa and smiled at Dolph, who returned the gesture and waited until Brandon had placed the mug on the coffee table before scooting over and tucking himself comfortably at Brandon's right side. He sighed in contentment when Brandon's fingers carded leisurely on his hair, gently massaging his scalp and lulling him to sleep. "Don't fall asleep on me," Brandon whispered placing a kiss on top of Dolph's head.

"Hmmmm – I might if you keep up with that," Dolph replied which made Brandon chuckle but did not stop his finger's movements. Dolph relaxed further into the warmth and closed his eyes while he listened to the comforting noises of the people around him. After sometime, he heard Charles bid everyone goodnight, and he can no longer hear Mitch's incessant chatter. Although he heard Matt tell Damien he's going outside to get the chocolates he left in the car. When his eyelids started to feel heavier with sleep, Dolph stood up and took Brandon's empty mug and told him that he'll refill the mug.

Dolph almost bumped into Ricky on his way to the kitchen who told him that Keanu was already asleep when he asked and that the cocoa was in the thermos if he wanted some. He smiled gratefully at the man who bid him goodnight.

The first thing that Dolph noticed when he reached the kitchen was that the back door was open. Then he remembered that there was a shorter, although a bit darker path, that lead to the garage from the backyard and just assumed that Matt used that door and left it open.

When he returned to the living room he was met with Mitch yelling at Damien and an unconscious Matt sprawled on the sofa. Brandon was tending to Matt and Ricky was helping him replace the wet clothes on the unconscious man with dry, clean ones. Charles has about two blankets and a medicine kit ready.

"I'm telling you, I just went to the garage to get the spare battery for my mobile phone and saw him sprawled on the ground," Mitch yelled at Damien. "If I wanted him dead, I wouldn't have bothered dragging him to a dryer and warmer part of the garage and just left him to die of hypothermia! Fuck Damien, use your fucking brains for once! I'm not the only ex-lover who's with you this week!"

"I fucking know that!" Damien hollered back, his face twisting in anger.

"What happened here?" Keanu asked when he was standing beside Dolph. The man looked like he just got off bed. Dolph must have been looking at Keanu for quiet sometime because Keanu cleared his throat and said, "I heard someone shouting."

Dolph nodded in agreement, although it baffled him how someone on the second floor could hear the noise when he himself who was just in the kitchen barely heard them. Not wanting to dwell on the thought, Dolph shoved it to deepest corner of his hindbrain. He offered one of the mugs he was holding to Keanu who gratefully accepted the drink, wincing when his hand accidentally brushed against Keanu's ice cold fingers.

When Mitch walked by them, huffing, Keanu said something like, "Probably guilty. Poor Damien."

"You mean Matt?" Dolph wasn't sure if he heard it right. "Isn't Matt the one who's injured."

"Yeah, him too," Keanu said, then he placed the empty mug on the coffee table beside them. "I'll just go check on Damien – and Matt."

Dolph nodded and observed Keanu from afar. For what? He doesn't have the slightest idea.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Damien was seething with anger. Who wouldn't when the first thing you hear at ten in the morning was your boyfriend involved in a car accident? He paced around the small waiting area of the hospital, passing the time while they waited for Keanu and Matt leave the ER.

Brandon said as he approached Damien and steered him towards a chair and forcefully made him sit. ""Can you quit making a hole on the floor? You're making me dizzy. You need to calm down. The doctors said it wasn't serious just a minor scratch. Nothing to fret about."

"They were in an accident Brandon," Damien replied evenly. "I have every right to fret about –"

"Oh please, they ran right smack into a lamp post. One block away from Kevin's bed and breakfast."

"But –"

"Quit whining you drama queen," Damien heard Matt tease him. Damien stood up to meet his boyfriend in the middle of the room. Damien fussed over Matt for a few minutes, checking for any bandages and was relieved when he found none. Matt was fine. So was Keanu.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Damien asked as he took Matt's arm and guided him towards the chair he was sitting on earlier. He waited until everyone was settled before he started.

Matt rolled his eyes. "I'm fine. We – or rather I – was trying to avoid a stray cat and lost control. It's totally lame, I wasn't even speeding. And the brakes just failed to work."

"I told you so," Brandon said in a sing song voice which made Damien glare at his cousin.

Damien was confused. He was sure he had the car checked before they left. He did not realize that he had been thinking hard until he heard a cough coming from behind him..Damien turned around and looked at the man who caught their attention. The man approached Damien and introduced himself, "Detective Jake Robson."

"Damien Rivkin." He shook the man's hand and glanced at his friends. They were all looking at the detective and the brown package he was holding curiously.

"You must be wondering why I'm here," Detective Robson asked.

Damien nodded along with everyone.

"Well, the initial report I received two hours said faulty brakes. But the mechanic who was repairing the car called me and said the brakes weren't faulty," Detective Robson explained, looking at each man carefully. "He says it's been tampered."

Damien heard Matt gasped beside him. He immediately pulled Matt closer to his body.

"And he gave me this. He found it in the trunk," Detective Robson donned on a pair of gloves before he opened the package and took out the material inside. At first glance it looked like a white rag covered in oil and grease, but on closer inspection, it was a woman's beach coverall.

Damien's breath hitched.

"Is that…" Keanu asked, his voice trailing off.

Damien hand clenched into a fist. "It's Mitch's, I saw her wearing this yesterday at the beach and before they left earlier, she claimed this was missing."

"Oh that – bitch!" Keanu exclaimed angrily.

"I know how you feel," Damien replied empathically Before addressing the detective. "What I want to know is why are you doing this?"

"I knew you'd ask that. I'm Marsha's cousin. She told me you're her husband's friends and begged me not to file a report yet until I've talked to you. She was under the impression that it's just a misunderstanding between friends. I do hope that's the case."

"Yes it is," Damien replied as he caught Brandon's gaze. "We appreciate the gesture. We'll take it from here."

Detective Robson looked at him straight in the eye, "I hope you understand, if things go out of hand. I will be forced to step in."

Damien met the Detective's gaze. "We do. We'll call if it can't be settled among us."

"Good. Tell Marsha she owes me one."

Damien waited until the detective figure walked out of the main doors before facing his friends. "This is getting out of hand. This needs to stop The conversation with the detective must be kept between us. Trust me, I have a plan."

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Brandon looked at his watch, it was a quarter past five in the afternoon. Nobody but him and Damien knew what the plan is, so they were quite relieved when Keanu and Dolph both said that they will volunteer in accompanying Kevin and Marsha downtown to buy food for dinner – after Damien and he advised that they will go on a hiking trail. Ricky and Charles were both off to go fishing at the lake.

So when Mitch told them she isn't going anywhere because she's beat, he breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was falling into places. So after everyone left, they also 'left'. But in truth, they just drove out to downtown and feigned going to wherever it is but in truth they drove back to the cabin to spy on Mitch. And it did not turn out to be a failure when the saw Mitch leave the house. Everything was perfect – until Damien and him both remembered they forgot to bring any camera's to back up their testimonies.

That's where Brandon found himself going back to the cabin to get his iphone which he forgot in his haste to leave. Times like these he curses Damien's preference for non-camera capable phones. He was almost to the house when he saw Kevin's car outside the cabin.

'Weird, but I thought they went out to buy something,' Brandon thought and on instinct hid himself on a dark corner and waited for whoever brought Kevin's car back. Brandon held his breath when Keanu stepped outside the house, looking at his right and left suspiciously before getting inside the car and driving off.

Brandon slowly exhaled and waited until he was sure that Keanu won't return and ran as fast as he could inside the house. He coughed when he was met with a not so thick smoke inside the house. He placed a hanky on his nose and made his way to the first floor common restroom. He immediately picked a pail that's half-full with water and placed an empty one under the faucet and turned on the tap. He carefully but swiftly walked towards the direction where there is a thick concentration of smoke coming from.

He was surprised to find himself in the living room where a burning log was placed on the rug in front of the fireplace. How the log got in there in the first place he has no idea as the fireplace itself has a screen mesh and gate to avoid instances such as these. He immediately doused the burning log with water and returned to the restroom to get a refill and back to the living room to douse the fire. It took him three trips before he was completely satisfied that it was fire safe. He opened the windows wider to air out the place and went upstairs to his room to get his phone. He was waiting for Damien to answer his phone while he walked towards Damien and Matt's room to wake up Matt.

It took three rings before Damien picked up. Brandon did not waste any time and said, "Get back here, we got the wrong guy. I'll explain later."

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Matt felt really ridiculous wearing a male nurse's uniform but it was part of the plan so he had no say in it. Although he wished whoever it was that they were waiting for better arrived soon because he does not have the heart to turn away another person asking for a nurse's help.

"You okay there?" Detective Robson asked.

"It's just uncomfortable, knowing I can't interact with the others."

"I know what you mean."

Matt smiled, he had a really clever disguise that goes with the uniform, a black wig and big nerdy glasses. His role is the nurse-in-charge of his badly burned body which is placed on the ICU ward, not the burn unit area so no one had any idea what happened. Not even Dolph. Just him, Damien, Brandon, Mitch and the officer who they convinced to go along with their plan.

Matt inhaled deeply when the doors opened and revealed Dolph, Keanu, Kevin and the others. He saw Dolph head towards Brandon and gathered him in his arms for comfort while Keanu bolted straight to Damien crushing him into a tight bear hug. Matt clenched his fist at the possessive gesture.

"Oh I'm sorry Damien," Keanu said, irritating Matt to no end when Keanu tightened his embrace on his boyfriend.

"I'm sorry as well, I can't believe it, I just wish… he wasn't in pain much," Damien replied in a voice that was supposed to be anguished but is currently sounding more irritated than anything.

"Yes, yes, I know. Death because of fire is the absolute worst," Keanu replied which earned a gasp from Matt and Brandon. Dolph and the others were confused because they have no idea what happened as Damien didn't elaborate. So it was a big puzzle why Keanu knew when he was supposed to be with them at that time.

But Keanu didn't seem to realize while he continued ranting, "I hope Mitch gets a life sentence for this. What was she thinking? Setting the house on fire. I bet she used the logs, it's easy to use – like – uhm – Damien, why are you looking at me like - "

But Keanu never finished his sentence because Damien already tackled him to the floor, hands around Keanu's neck, strangling him.

Matt and the others sprang into action and separated the two of them. In the chaos that occurred, Matt did not realize that he had lost his wig and glasses until Keanu called it to his attention.

"Matt? I thought you were dead, I thought you –" then Keanu stopped, his gaze roaming around the room, like he was taking note of the expressions on everyone's faces. Keanu's eyes widened in disbelief when he saw Mitch sitting crossed-leg on the bed where Matt's body was supposed to be then Matt saw the realization dawn on Keanu's face. Keanu made a high pitched laugh that sent goosebumps on Matt's skin.

"Oh I knew it! You set me up! You fucking set me up!" Keanu screamed, his accusatory gaze boring into Damien's. "You knew I would ramble and rant off anything when I accomplished what I want and you took advantage of it! Fuck you Damien! You're the reason I did all of this! What does he have that I don't huh?"

"Kean-" Damien said softly, taking a step towards his friend.

"Don't you fucking coddle me! I'm not a child!" Keanu snorted. "Was he a better lay? Was he more challenging? Answer me! Don't you freaking look at me with pity you asshole!" Then in a burst of speed that must have been borne out of desperation, Keanu ripped the handgun from the detective's - who was right beside him – holster and aimed the nozzle at him. "If he's the reason why we can't be together, I have no qualms killing him."

Matt was frozen in his spot, heart hammering in his chest, he silently prayed. Oh please, please God, I don't want to die.

He felt more than saw everyone take a careful step back while Damien took one step forward. "Kean, let's talk this over alright?"

"No! Don't take a step forward or I'l shoot you," Keanu warned, now aiming the gun at Damien.

"You can't, you love me too much," Damien replied smugly as he continued walking towards him stopping only when he was a feet away from Keanu.

Matt held his breath in fear for his lover.

Keanu smirked, his eyes glowing with murderous intent that Matt felt his heart dropping with every beat. "You're right. But I don't love him," Keanu aimed the gun back at Matt. "Say goodbye."

Then everything turned into chaos as somebody pushed him to the ground hard, the sound of the gun firing off was the last he heard as a silent cry of 'Damien' passed his lips before everything went black.

 

 

Epilogue

 

"Lukas!" Matt enthusiastically greeted his friend while dragging a reluctant Damien through the dirt path of the summer camp where Lukas is working. Matt continued walking until they reached the tall black haired man. Matt hugged Lukas while Damien nodded at Lukas stiffly. Matt rolled his eyes, even after nine months of living together, his partner can be quite irritating in his jealous streaks. "How are things?"

"Doing great, Keanu's been a big help around. The kids absolutely loves him," Lukas replied, his eyes shifting towards the direction where Keanu was giving the children instructions on whatever activity they were about to do.

Matt beamed. "That's really great! Is it alright if we talk to Keanu for a bit?"

"That's fine. Hey Keanu! Someone wants to talk to you!" Lukas shouted to get the other man's attention.

Matt saw Keanu look at them before handing over his clipboard to a kid that looks a bit older than the rest before running towards them.

"Matt! Damien! How are you guys?" Keanu asked excitement evident in his voice as he gave each of them a brief hug.

"We're doing good, how bout you?" Damien replied for the two of them.

Keanu smiled, his eyes shining brightly. "Oh I'm doing great! The kids were great; we did this bonfire last night and sang to our heart's content. Did you know that Lukas has a good singing voice? Matt probably did but you didn't Damien – but – I don't think that's what you wanted to talk to me about."

Matt scratched the back of his head, unsure how to go about answering the question with Damien beside him. "Uh yeah, Lukas did have a good singing voice. Ouch! Hey, that hurt!" Matt turned to glare at Damien who wearing an innocent, too innocent expression on his face which made Keanu laugh.

"Oh you two never fail to amuse me. Don't mind him Matt, tell me what's going on."

Matt visibly swallowed when Keanu turned his full attention to him. He unconsciously reached out for Damien's hand which his boyfriend obliged and gave his hand a light squeeze for encouragement. He took a deep breath and said, "We're getting married two weeks from now and we'll be really honored if you can be one of the groomsmen."

Keanu's expression was blank, then it turned thoughtful before smiling. "Of course I'll be happy to be one of the groomsmen. Can I bring Lukas over?"

Matt smirked, turning a little to the left as his eyes searched for his friend. He found Lukas among the group of children Keanu left earlier and whistled appreciatively. He felt Damien squeezed his hand harder than he was used to but ignored it in favor of teasing Keanu further. "So Lukas? Not bad, not bad at all."

Keanu face was red like a ripe tomato, shaking his head vehemently. "No, we're just friends."

Matt saw Keanu glance at Lukas before turning his gaze back at him. "So can I?"

"He's also invited so you know."

Keanu nodded, "So I guess I'll be seeing you in two weeks?"

Matt and Damien both nodded in agreement.

"Great! I need to get back to my class now, before they get rowdy and make my head hurt," Keanu said.

"Okay, we'll see you," Matt replied.

Keanu turned around to leave and barely made five steps when Matt saw him snapped his fingers as if he forgot something and turned back to look at them, "For the record, I'm really happy for you guys. I'm glad you two ended up together." Then Keanu ran towards his group.

Matt felt Damien circle his arms around his waist and leaned back into the familiar warmth of his lover. He smiled when Damien leaned in and whispered in his ear, "For all it's worth, I'm glad as well."

"I do too," Matt replied before turning around and draping his wrists on Damien's shoulders. He leaned forward until he was a hair's breadth away from Damien's lips and whispered, "I love you, kiss me."

"I love you more." Damien responded and kissed him like there was no tomorrow. Just the way Matt liked it.

 

Fin