Chapter 2: Movie Cuddles
Kendrick cursed as he watched his team be demolished. There was no way he would spawn in time, and not much he could do even then. Maybe defend the core for a few extra seconds, but that was about it. Hopeless. He hated this map and his team had pressured him into a role he wasn’t used to playing, so things hadn’t looked good from the start. He picked his hero last, and even though he warned them he didn’t do support well, he was stuck with it.
He needed to get more friends to play, he thought. He was sick of the matchmaking that kept pairing him with such lame players. He was right on the brink of Grand Master but not quite there, and as such he sometimes got paired with good players but usually got stuck with a wide variety of players who, like him, weren’t quite good enough. The quality of players at this level varied too wildly; then again, the matchmaking wasn’t great at any level. But the only person he might ask was Bastian, and Bastian was terrible. It wasn’t just that he was a beginner and hadn’t memorized the maps and heroes; he couldn’t even get the basics down. He tried, though, even though he clearly didn’t enjoy it. Maybe he should take up basketball, Kendrick considered. There was a good chance he would be better at basketball than Bastian was at HotS.
As the health of their core plummeted and his whole team was wiped, a string of curses from one of the players on his team scrolled by. He’d been fairly toxic the entire game and with a sigh, Kendrick reported him. The game ended and he exited before the abuse continued. Some people just didn’t know how to lose. He didn’t like losing, and he did agree that two of the other players sucked, but he didn’t feel the need to insult them.
He considered another game, then exited. A bad note to end on, but he’d been losing a lot today and didn’t feel like starting a streak. Maybe tomorrow he’d get some better players, better maps, and he could start making up the lost points from today. He glanced at his watch. Bastian should be done with practice soon and headed home. Maybe there was time to meet up. They had a project coming up and he could ask to work on it.
He hated that he had to keep coming up with excuses to spend time with Bastian, but the man was obstinately blind to Kendrick’s flirting. He thought back to the costume Bastian had been looking at in the store the other day and grinned. He wished Bastian would wear something like that. His smile faded. He wished Bastian would look at him as more than a friend. They were so different in so many ways but it just made Kendrick like him more.
His crush on Bastian had started the first time he saw him in class. He was incredibly tall, with gorgeous black hair and a perfect complexion. His features were strong and elegant, and there was a grace in all of his movements that became a thing of beauty on the court. Kendrick had started going to quite a few games just to watch him move. And after a while, Bastian had warmed up to him. Kendrick hadn’t known he was gay at the time but when Kendrick came out to him, Bastian had surprised him by reciprocating the action. He strongly suspected Bastian had never told anyone else and was honored by Bastian’s trust, though he wanted more than just trust.
He sent a text inviting Bastian over to study and wondered if this time Bastian would realize that his flirting wasn’t teasing, as he seemed to assume, but actually meant. Kendrick wanted to be more obvious about it but if Bastian didn’t realize it was real flirting, then it meant he didn’t see him that way and Kendrick didn’t want confirmation of that disappointing fact. But maybe if Bastian knew he meant it, his view would change. Maybe. An unlikely maybe, Kendrick thought with a sigh. Bastian was stuck on that straight football player and that wasn’t likely to change anytime soon.
That was the real reason Kendrick didn’t like going to parties with Bastian. He wasn’t much for parties anyway, but seeing Bastian drooling over that jock really got on his nerves. He was amazed Aaron hadn’t noticed yet. Or maybe he had, and just hadn’t said anything. Kendrick wasn’t sure how jocks handled that kind of thing. All he knew was that Bastian was hell-bent on staying in the closet. But everyone on the team loved him; surely they wouldn’t start hating him just because he was gay. Kendrick couldn’t really do much to convince him, though, because Kendrick himself told as few people as possible. Most of his friends knew, but also knew to keep quiet. He didn’t want his parents finding out because they would probably disown him, and he couldn’t afford to stay in college without their help.
After several minutes, he got a reply from Bastian and grinned. He was coming over. Kendrick quickly got everything clean, scooting his empty soda cans off the desk into his recycling and stowing his dirty plates in the dishwasher to be out of sight. He didn’t actually use the dishwasher much, as it left a chalky white residue on his dishes that never really went away, but he did hide dishes in there sometimes. Once, he had thought he had somehow lost all but one plate only to realize – days after reusing the same plate over and over again – that he had just put all his other plates in the dishwasher. He liked having it, though. He liked having an apartment in general. It gave him more privacy to be himself, and he loved decorating and redecorating it.
His glittery pumpkin was prominently displayed on his desk and he wondered if Bastian would even notice it. He was blind to things sometimes, not noticing the care with which Kendrick arranged his apartment. Kendrick didn’t mind; it was cute how oblivious he could be. Except when it came to Kendrick’s feelings. He hated how oblivious Bastian was to those.
There was a knock at the door and he let Bastian in. As always, Bastian had a bright smile on his face and Kendrick couldn’t help but flirt as he let him inside. Bastian rolled his eyes but didn’t protest. He never protested, which meant that Kendrick could continue flirting even if he knew Bastian didn’t fully understand. They sat on the couch, Bastian with his laptop and Kendrick with his tablet, and started talking about the project. It was fairly simple. The teacher had given everyone the option of doing it alone or in small groups and he and Bastian had opted for the latter. Bastian had suggested working together, which pleased Kendrick, especially since he knew Bastian wasn’t looking for help getting a good grade. He got good grades on his own, as did Kendrick. Anytime there were group projects, they tried to work together, since they both held up their ends of the partnership and their resulting projects always got good grades. Neither of them slacked off, and Kendrick never had to worry about doing all the work as usually happened in groups.
As they discussed the different options for displaying the information – Kendrick’s favorite part of any project that had a presentation – he eyed Bastian. Bastian’s hair was slightly damp; he must have showered right after practice and not dried it completely. It looked quite enticing. He wondered what it would look like completely wet, with droplets of water clinging to the soft hairs before dripping down to his nude body, running down his neck and back and lower… Kendrick blushed and tried to focus. He fantasized about Bastian quite a lot, but tried not to do it when the man was right in front of him. He didn’t want Bastian to realize. Or did he? Maybe if Bastian knew Kendrick loved thinking about him and his body, he would be more open to Kendrick’s advances.
“What’s wrong?” Bastian asked. “You went all quiet.”
“Oh, sorry,” Kendrick said with another blush. “Um, yeah, I think that shade of blue highlights the differences on the bar chart better.”
Bastian looked at him oddly and Kendrick hoped he didn’t realize why he had stopped talking. They were in the middle of deciding on colors to showcase their results, and normally he was completely engaged in this. But Bastian didn’t say anything, and Kendrick didn’t either. He didn’t know what to say. They got back to work and soon had everything finished. Bastian looked like he was getting ready to leave, and Kendrick decided to seize his chance.
“Do you wanna stay and watch a movie or something?” he asked, feeling very bold even though they watched movies together frequently and this wasn’t an especially bold request.
“Sure,” Bastian said without hesitation, and put his laptop away. Kendrick wasn’t sure what to pick and they went through Netflix together, arguing about what to watch. Finally, they settled on an anime – Kendrick’s choice – and after the usual complaint about subtitles, Bastian relaxed into the couch. Kendrick knew he didn’t actually mind the subtitles, he just like commenting on them. After all, Bastian frequently requested foreign shows and had a weakness for Korean dramas. The bickering was part of their ritual and had no malice. It reassured Kendrick, actually, because it was one of the few ways that Bastian teased him. It was so hard to tell what Bastian thought about him sometimes, but when he laughed and complained and grudgingly gave in to whatever show or movie Kendrick wanted, it reassured him of the strength of their friendship.
The anime was decent, but not great, and as they laughed at the ridiculousness of it, Kendrick glanced at Bastian. He was relaxed and laughing and enticing. Without thinking, Kendrick leaned into him. They were sitting next to each other and fairly close, but not intimately close. Now, Kendrick leaned against him, cuddling against his side. He kept his gaze fixed on the screen, hoping Bastian wouldn’t realize he had ulterior motives in this. Bastian stiffened in surprise, and then, shockingly, wrapped his arm around Kendrick’s shoulders. Kendrick stifled his joy. Bastian was holding him. Cuddling with him. He had never been happier.
He didn’t push for more, though he was tempted. He just cuddled the rest of the movie, still laughing, though a little breathlessly now, still commenting on the anime, still acting like nothing had changed even while knowing that everything had changed. Did Bastian realize what he was signaling by doing this? Probably not. He was so incredibly oblivious sometimes. He might not realize that holding Kendrick like this indicated interest. Maybe he thought it was just more comfortable. He hoped not. He hoped this meant something.
When the credits began to scroll, Bastian glanced at his watch and drew in a sharp breath.
“Shit,” he said, sitting up and letting go of Kendrick. “I have early practice tomorrow. I need to get home.”
“Yeah, of course,” Kendrick said. He wondered if that were true or if Bastian was just finding an excuse to leave quickly. No, probably not. He and Bastian said goodbye and Bastian headed out, backpack slung over his shoulder. Kendrick locked the door and returned to his desk. Maybe he should play a game. He was in a much better mood; surely that would impact his playing. But it wouldn’t give him a better team, he thought glumly. No, he didn’t want to spoil his good mood. Bastian had held him for almost half a movie. His heart was still beating erratically.
An idea sprang into his head and he opened his browser. He wanted to do something for Bastian, something that would please him and also reveal Kendrick’s feelings. And something that Kendrick wanted, too. He started searching for bunny costumes for men. Sexy costumes, just like the ones for women, but designed for a man’s body. As he searched, a smile spread across his face. This was a great Halloween present. He just hoped Bastian liked it.