Shawn Collins took a deep breath, and wondered how many times he had already read the paragraph before him. Absentmindedly, he ran his hand through his hair and then tried once again to focus his eyes and mind on the page of his law text. After glancing at the clock he realized the same two pages had been in front of him for the last twenty minutes, and he didn’t even know what subject he was reading. He had finals in two days, and he didn’t have time for distractions, yet distracted he was.
If he ever managed to study and pass his exams he’d be graduating with a bachelor’s degree at the end of the month. Which, he was forced to accept was part of the problem. He had taken his undergraduate studies at a local collage, fully against the wishes of his parents. Now that he had begun to seriously pursue becoming a lawyer they wanted him to finish at Yale, and he had been accepted.
Money wasn’t an issue, his parents had more then enough on their own, and his grandmother had left him a sizable collage fund when she passed away. It was his leaving that kept gnawing at him. Yale was on the east coast, and his life had always been in
Three of them, Ethan, Tony, and Will he had known since childhood. Their parents knew his own, and therefore their living arrangements had been fully acceptable by all parties. They were still fairly close knit, and perhaps of the three he was closest with Tony. He seemed to share the most in common with him, and they were both studying law; which would give him one friendly face at Yale. Ethan would be done with school after graduation, he had only attended to please his parents, and Will would be going on to medical school.
The other two, Jack and David, had been educated alongside them since elementary, but they had never even properly spoken until their senior year of high school. After an accidental scuffle that had almost come to blows he and Jack had surprisingly become fast friends, and wherever Jack went, David did. Of course, in the case of collage it had been more of Jack following David. David was the resident bookworm in their household; and if it were not for him Jack wouldn’t even be graduating, not that he seemed to care one way or another. He would be the first to admit that the only reason he had even attended collage was because David had. When Jack wasn’t at home he was at his part time job in a garage fixing cars. An odd choice, anyone who knew him would agree, but he loved it.
Shawn tapped his pencil impatiently alongside his desk. It should be easy to study right now, the house was uncharacteristically quite. Jack was working, Will and Ethan, the party animals, were both in class, and David was having a late lunch with his girlfriend Emily. This only left Tony, who was also home, but submerged in his own studies in his room. They were, after all, both facing the same tough finals.
What was it about leaving that agitated him so? It would be sheer heaven to escape his parents’ watchful gaze, and they wanted him to go. Tony expected that they would get a small place together, and the two of them had already shared a room for four years, he was an ideal roommate. They wouldn’t have the constant coming and going of the others and could focus solely on their education, which was what one needed to do to survive Yale. Distractions made it difficult to achieve the necessary grade to get a top spot in a firm after graduation.
It wasn’t Yale, that much he knew; and it wasn’t leaving
Will and Ethan wouldn’t be there with their crazy antics at all hours. He smiled, Hell, they are the ones that always seem to have beer. They knew just when a cram session was too much, and how to get anyone to close their text when it was really sleep they would need to pass an exam. Of course, they were the first ones there to celebrate when midterms and finals came back with passing grades.
David was always useful for those cram sessions, or when an assignment just didn’t make sense – even if he had never taken the class. Perhaps even more valuable was the fact that you could always go to with a problem, even if you just needed someone to listen. In that aspect, he didn’t always have the answer, but just knowing you could turn to him was a comfort they had all taken for granted. Whatever you told David, you knew he wouldn’t breathe a word of it to anyone, even Jack.
And Jack. Jack was carefree, and yet always there with a helping hand, as long as it didn’t pertain to schoolwork. He was also the one that managed to keep the household reasonably clean and tidy. He didn’t do all of the housework on his own, but he did more than his own fair share. After he had spent over an hour to clean the kitchen while you studied it made you feel guilty if you couldn’t take three minutes to take out the garbage. An apartment with only Shawn and Tony to clean was going to become a disaster zone almost immediately without him to rein them in. Jack was so, Jack; hard to describe, and even harder to forget.
That was when realization dawned, as he sought for words to describe someone that there weren’t words to describe – least of all ones that matched these feelings that were rising inside him. Leaving the others wasn’t what he feared. He would miss them, of course, but they had simply reached that point where it was undeniably time to grow up. But the thought of leaving Jack – that was what caused the ache in his gut. That sense of sheer loss and despair.
He tried to search his memories, to pinpoint exactly when Jack had ceased being a simple friend and had suddenly become so much more. Try as he might he didn’t know when it had happened. Every memory he looked back on now seemed to already contain these feelings. As if he had always known. Perhaps he had.
Finally after running his hand through his hair once more, he closed the textbook, completely giving up on studying and instead began to pace the living room. His acceptance of this sudden attraction presented several issues if he decided to act upon it. The very thought seemed maddening to him, and yet inaction even more so.
Thankfully, one thing he need not fear was that this crush – or whatever it was, was not someone that couldn’t return it. Jack had been open about his sexuality since before Shawn had properly known him, in fact it had been one of the things that had in a round about way led to their friendship. At the time Shawn hadn’t told anyone his own feelings, not even his friends, and he still hadn’t told his parents. Once they accepted Jack, and frankly, everyone in their high school knew, it had been a lot easier for Shawn to tell them. Jack wasn’t flamboyant, and he certainty didn’t fit any stereotypes, people knew because he had never attempted to hide it. When he had found his latest lover the world knew. They were the only two that shared this preference in their little circle of friends, giving them a bond that the others could never really understand. He swallowed, and then froze in mid-pace, but would Jack understand this?
It was a risk he didn’t know if he was willing to take. Losing Jack forever would tear at him for the rest of his life, and would likely cost him David as well. Even if some divine power intended for them to share a life together, he didn’t see how it was remotely possible. It was too late for him to simply walk away from Yale, and he didn’t see how Jack could follow him there.
Really, worrying about how to make a relationship work that didn’t even exist was getting a bit ahead, and he knew it. However, this knowledge didn’t stop him from doing so. First he had to figure out how to tell Jack, or rather, if he was going to.
As if on queue the front door opened, and David walked in. He looked at Shawn a little oddly before closing the door.
He froze, was he really that transparent?
In response David walked across the length of the room and ruffled his hair like a small child. Shawn recoiled; he loathed having his hair touched.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this,” he paused, as if trying to select the most appropriate word for the situation at hand, “Disheveled, not even after one of your all night parties.” David didn’t approve of drinking, but aside from the various good-natured jokes he dropped now and then he had never berated the others for doing it. Even Will and Ethan, which Shawn gathered must have been quite difficult for him. “Honestly, your hair is a mess.”
Appalled, Shawn attempted to smooth the ash brown locks back to where they should have been, but judging by the look on his friend’s face he was clearly not succeeding.
“Seriously, Shawn, what’s going on?”
He hesitated; he didn’t like to discuss men with anyone, except rarely someone else that shared his tastes. Of course, the only person he would have felt comfortable sharing this with would have been Jack – if Jack hadn’t been the one that was the center of the issue.
“Your room?” Shawn finally asked, “Mine’s already occupied.”
David nodded, “Sure, there’s plenty of light out, so I wouldn’t expect Jack home from the garage for a few hours, at least,” he chuckled, “If he was only that enthralled with schoolwork Jack would surprise us all.”
Well, he’s currently surprising one of us, at least, Shawn thought humorously as they made their way down the hall.
With Jack’s almost compulsive tidiness, which made little sense when one put into account that he always came home covered in grease; the room he shared with David was easily the best kept in the household. David had once told him that even if he had been a complete slob the room would be spotless, because Jack wouldn’t allow even a sock to remain on the floor when it should be in a hamper.
David took up residency on his bed, and under normal circumstances Shawn would have taken the one across from him, but it was Jack’s, and right now that didn’t seem like the appropriate choice. That left the floor, or the single wooden chair David kept at his desk. He pulled the chair out, and sat down in it backwards, draping his arms across the back and exhaling audibly.
“Well?” David prompted.
Shawn glared, “This isn’t easy, you know.”
“Actually I don’t know; which is why we are in here,” his tone hadn’t changed, you had to know David to pick up when he was joking – sometimes it took one of Jack’s grins to let the entire room know. Clearly he was trying to help, but Shawn wasn’t in the mood for his not-so-witty remarks. Maybe he didn’t want help. Maybe it would be more convenient to simply pretend that he didn’t have this sudden reaction towards Jack.
“Don’t be an ass.”
“You can leave, if you’d rather.”
No, he didn’t ‘rather’. He needed David, because if he didn’t tell someone he was going to lose his sanity. If it wasn’t David it would have to be Tony. Tony was a good friend, he accepted him, but somehow he thought discussing an attraction to Jack would be a bit too much for him. He couldn’t imagine trying to explain this to Ethan or Will, which left only David.
“It’s Jack,” he blurted.
Shawn lowered his eyes, and took a deep, almost ragged breath, “Look, you know I have been dreading the end of the term, and Yale, and all that bull shit that goes with it,” he paused to search for more air, “Well, I finally figured out why and now I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do about it, alright?”
“And ‘it’ is Jack?”
David’s voice was so damn certain, even if the words had been formed as a question, and Shawn realized he felt a little ill as his stomach turned. He continued to advert his eyes, looking at someone and saying it aloud seemed impossible.
“Yes,” he mumbled.
“Look, Shawn,” his voice had softened, any hint of teasing gone from him. “It’s a bit hard for me to hold a conversation with you when you seem to be having one with yourself and your shoe simultaneously while trying to pretend I’m not in the room. Look at me, will you?” Reluctantly Shawn met his request, and David continued, “What is it about Jack?”
“Don’t make me say it.”
“You want me to say it? Because if what I think you’re trying to tell me isn’t what you want to say it’s going to get damn uncomfortable in here for the both of us.”
Shawn rapped his fingers across the back of the chair, and threw caution to the wind, “I think I like him, I mean really like him.” He was so naïve when it came to relationships, he could count the number of men (and women for that matter, because there had been a time when he hadn’t quite wanted to believe what his body was telling him) that he had kissed on one hand. He had never been shy, before, but after, once he admitted to himself he wasn’t like everyone else; he suddenly was reserved with those he didn’t know. Ask him to stand up and give a speech or hold a debate and he could command a room, but throw him in a social situation and he could become a mumbling idiot; and it was worse if he was there without someone he knew. On the rare days that he was honest with himself he knew it all boiled down to the fact that he still wasn’t comfortable in his own skin.
Shawn had expected David to be surprised, but there was no sign of shock in his features, but he didn’t toss out his classic ‘I know’, either. This left Shawn trying to puzzle out his thoughts on the situation. You always expected David to know – even when he didn’t.
“How bad?” he asked.
“I don’t know, I just know I don’t want to leave this – whatever it is – undone to go traipsing off to
“If you feel that strongly, then you need to tell him.” The fingers froze.
“It’s Jack,” Shawn told him, referring to the obvious.
“All the more reason to tell him, if you don’t then you’re going to spend a very long time playing ‘what if’. Trust me.”
“And if he doesn’t feel the same?”
“Then you’ll know, it is Jack,” David repeated, and Shawn reflected ‘It’s Jack’ was becoming a mantra. “He isn’t going to hate you for it. The worst it will do is feed his ego.” He was trying to calm him, and Shawn was halfway appalled that it was working. In some weird twisted way he felt as if David was giving his approval – and Shawn shouldn’t need David’s approval, he shouldn’t need anyone’s. David was also irrevocably right, Jack wasn’t likely to berate him over a confession – and then Shawn would know. If Jack thought he was crazy he could somehow pick up the pieces, being on the other side of the country would have to make that easier – and if he didn’t – Shawn pushed the thought away. He wasn’t going to start thinking about that until he knew.
Voices floated in from the hallway, even through the closed door. Ethan and Will were home, and judging by the decibel of their words they were not bringing a quiet evening with them.
“Sometimes I think those two are caged animals,” David muttered. “Look, I’m going to round them and Tony up and get out of here for a few hours. You’ll have the place to yourself, you can clear your thoughts and then talk to Jack when he gets home.”
He hadn’t left room for further discussion, and even if he had, Shawn couldn't find reason to argue.