"Peter, hurry up and show me the picture," Colin insisted.
"Let me catch my breath," he hissed, dumping off his bag onf the table and plopping onto the red velvet couch at Schwartz's.
Asks Tom, "Do you guys want a caffeine reboost?"
"Please," Colin said, pushing my cup toward his pitcher of hot coffee.
"How can you drink hot coffee in this heat?" Kevin piped up.
"It's caffeine," Tom said. "Hot OR cold, it does the job."
"Amen," Colin said, gulping down the steaming hot liquid. "Now quit hogging the pictures and let me see them."
"Yeah, quit hogging them," Tom added in, putting his pot of coffee down on the table and sitting next to Peter on the couch.
The door opened and in walked Brandon, also known as Produce Guy.
"Thank god, honey," Peter said, giving Brandon a quick kiss on the lips. "Save me from them!"
"Are you guys picking on my little Petey again?" Brandon asked mischieviously.
"Only because he has something we want," Kevin answered.
"You want to know whether or not your picture from the party turned out all right, huh?" Brandon inquisited, then said, "I assure you guys that you look great."
Peter smacked his forehead.
"You showed Brandon the picture?" Kevin said melodramatically. "Before US?"
"Oh, don't wet your pants Kevin," Peter responded. "Brandon was there when I picked up the film."
"Well, hurry up and show the damn picture," Colin said impatiently.
Peter opened his backpack and took out an envelope. Tom grabbed it out of Peter's hands and fished out the pictures.
"Boring...boring," Tom said, tossing pictures aside.
"Hey, those were pictures of our trip in Tahoe!" Peter interjected.
"Precisely," Tom responded and continued, "Boring...boring...boring...A HA!"
"Let me see," Colin said.
We crowded around Tom as he held up the picture.
"I look decent enough," Kevin commented. "Just don't show Mark."
"Deal," Colin said. "Only if you don't show it to Elliot."
"Well," Tom said. "I don't mind letting Dale see this."
"That's because you look fuckin' gorgeous," Kevin said slyly.
"Hey, what can i say?" Tom replied. "I'm just photogenic."
"Indeed you are," Peter agreed and yanked the picture out of his hand. "And Brandon and I are off to the opera."
"Boring..." Kevin said, rolling his eyes.
"Well, we enjoy it," Brandon said smiling. "You guys still coming over tomorrow night?"
"And your hubbies too," Peter added. "We're cooking for eight."
"I'm there," Colin said. "And Elliot."
"Count us in," Kevin said.
"Dale will go anywhere as long as there's food and a party," Tom replied.
"Ok then, seven-thirty," Peter said while grabbing his backpack.
We nodded and Peter and Brandon left for their opera.
"The opera..." Tom muttered.
Kevin made a disgusted face, and Colin snorted with laughter, Tom refilled my glass with luke-warm coffee.
"Mark," Kevin said.
"Yeah, Kev?" he said sleepily.
"What do you think about the opera?"
"The opera?" Mark asked. "I don't know, I guess it's a boring show with fat people singing, why?"
"I don't know...it's just Petey and Produce Guy go to the operas...and I just wonder if we're ready for, ya know...operas."
"Or you're just thinking whether or not we're ready to go to the next level?" Mark retorted, with a twinkle in his eye.
"Yeah..." Kevin muttered.
"What IS the next level?" Mark asked.
"I don't know..." Kevin said, averting Mark's stare.
"You DO know," Mark said teasingly as he began to tickle Kevin.
Kevin squirmed and kicked, "Ok...ok, I'll tell you."
"I...uh...um...I want you to uh...um...."
"Just spit it out, silly," Mark said.
"I want you to move in with me."
Mark sat in contemplative silence.
"God, Mark, say no or something, just don't sit there silently," Kevin said. "You know how silence drives me crazy and makes me nervous and it makes me babble...kinda like now....and..."
"Yes," he said finally.
"What?" Kevin asked.
"Yes, I'll move in with you."
Kevin gave Mark a quick hug, and Mark drew Kevin into a long kiss and said, "We'll start packing tomorrow."
"Want to call in Chinese tonight?" Elliot asked, flipping off the television set.
"Whatever you want," Colin called out from the bathroom, "Just let me reapply some deodorant."
"I don't think the freshness of your armpits will help us decide on dinner," Elliot said dryly.
"Just freshening up," Colin insisted. "Now I smell refreshed and clean, no?"
Feigning a whiff, Elliots said, "Yes, it smells almost delicious to eat. Let's have your deodorant for dinner."
"Now you're mocking me," Colin said. "How about we just order a pizza?"
"Now you're mocking my ideas too?" Colin said, lifting an inquisitive eyebrow.
"Of course not," he replied. "Pizza's good."
Colin made a call to the local pizzeria and ordered a pizza.
"I want a pizza with pepperoni, sausage--
"Uh, cross out on the sausage then, pepperoni and ham..."
"Sorry, cross out the ham, so pepperoni and peppers and onions--"
"--um, ixnay on the onions..."
"Hang on," Colin said irritably, "You want to order the pizza?"
"All right," Colin said. "So pepperoni, peppers, and olives--"
"Um...about the olives..."
"Oh damn it," Colin said, hanging up the phone. "Forget dinner, I'm going to sleep."
Dale stumbled in loudly and threw his keys on the coffee table. Tom woke up from the couch and rushed to Dale.
"Dale, honey, where were you?" Tom said, unbuttoning Dale's shirt.
"I had...some...fun..." Dale slurred. "I didn't want to be cooped in another Saturday with YOU..."
Those words stung Tom as he loosened Dale's shirt.
"I see," Tom said, averting Dale's condescending stare.
"You're...just...a popper...i mean...pooper," Dale said.
"Your breath reeks of beer," Tom commented. "I'm just going to sober you up with a nice cup of c--"
"--fuck your coffee," Dale said. "I want vodka, straight up."
"That'll be the last thing I'm getting you," Tom said.
"Fuck you coffeeboy, what, now you won't give me what I want?"
"Watch your mouth," Tom growled.
"Give me the god damn vodka," Dale said, pushing Tom.
Dale attempted to punch Tom, but Tom avoided Dale's sluggish arm movement. Dale fell onto the couch and within minutes, he was out cold.
"God, I just can't take it anymore," Tom said, in between sobs. "But I love him."
"Does he know this?" Kevin asked.
"No, he's too afraid to commit to anything," Tom replied.
Peter piped in, "God, it's like dating a teenager."
"Seriously," I mumbled.
"He says the most hurtful things when he's drunk," Tom explained. "But I find myself forgiving him time after time, because he WAS drunk, and he had impaired judgement."
"Then you're just egging him on to drink," Peter said.
Colin and Kevin nodded slowly in agreement.
Kevin suggested, "You should tell Dale that he either quita drinking or he's going to lose you."
"Will that work?" Tom said, wiping his tears.
"If he cares about you enough, then he'll try his best," Colin responded.
"Ok," Tom said, "I'll talk to him tonight, well, assuming he's home."
"That's my boy," Colin said, giving Tom a tight hug.
"I've got some news too..." Kevin said.
"What is it?" Colin asked.
"I asked Mark to move in with me."
"Like to fill up that vacant room?" Peter inquisited.
"Uh...no, as in...WITH me, MY room," Kevin replied slowly.
Peter shrieked, Colin hugged Kevin, and Tom refilled all our cups with hot coffee.
"You finally took a big step," Peter said.
"Well, ever since New Year's, Tom here has taught me a lesson," Kevin said, nudging Tom.
"I'm still going to hell for that one," Tom said.
"Don't worry about going to hell," Colin stated. "Because we'll be right there behind you."
Kevin threw a pillow at Colin, and Peter and Tom just giggled.
"Will ya keep it down?" some grouchy man said in a corner.
Kevin just roared in laughter, the rest of them followed suit.
"Honey, are you almost ready?" Peter called out. "I need to take a shower too, and I need someone to watch the stove."
"I'll be right out," Brandon called back.
"Well, hurry," Peter called back. "They'll be here in an hour, and if Tom had anything to do with it, they'll be early. REALLY early."
"All right," Brandon said, appearing in the kitchen.
His head was slicked back from the wetness of his shower, and he had an invigorating fragrance.
"You know how sexy you look with your hair all slicked back?" Peter said quietly, hugging Brandon.
"That's why I did it," Brandon said, giving Peter a kiss. "Wow, you smell, time for a shower!"
"Shut up," Peter said, smacking Brandon on the chest. "Watch the stove."
Peter hurried into the bedroom and turned on the shower, Peter chuckled and began stirring the pan contents.
"Dale," Tom said.
"Yeah, Tom?" Dale said.
"We need to talk," Tom said, taking a deep breath.
"About what, Tom?" Dale asked, straightening his tie.
"Say no more," Dale said. "I realize I was a bit tipsy last night...and I apologize."
"It's not just that..." Tom said.
"I might of said some things that I didn't mean," Dale said. "I'm sorry, honey."
"Dale," Tom said, inhaling another deep breath. "I love you."
Dale's jaw slightly dropped from surprise and remained speechless. Tom avoided his stare and walked out of the room.
"Honey, talk to me!" Elliot pleaded. "I said I was sorry."
"It's fine," Colin said cooly. "You'll just have to order your pizzas by yourself."
"So I'm a picky eater," Elliot said, throwing his arms up in frustration. "You can't hate me for that!"
"I guess not..." Colin muttered, giving Elliot a small grin.
Colin leaned in to give Elliot a hug and a kiss on the cheek, "Maybe I'm just childish."
"Or just a drama queen."
RING, rings the phone.
"Hey, El, your phone is ringing."
"Colin, get it for me, will ya?" Elliot said. "I'm going to get something out of my bedroom."
Colin picked up the phone, "Hello?"
Elliot returned and saw the color drained out of Colin's face.
"Who is it?" Elliot mouthed to Colin.
Angered, Colin replied and handed Elliot the phone, "Your girlfriend."
Colin walked out of Elliot's apartment.
"Kevin," Mark said. "Where should I put this painting?"
"What painting?" Kevin asked.
"This one of dogs playing poker," Mark responded.
"You're kidding me, right?"
"No, my brother got this painting for me, I was thinking we could hang it here in the living room."
"Uh..." Kevin said. "How about...we don't hang it up."
"You don't like it?"
"It's not that...it's just...that...it wouldn't look right in my living room."
"YOUR living room, YOUR bedroom, YOUR kitchen!" Mark yelled.
"What?" Kevin asked, confused.
"You rejected the statue for the bedroom..."
"Mark, it was of a nude woman...it was tasteless!"
"Ok...my toilet brush for the bathroom..."
"Mark, it didn't go with the rest of the bathroom..."
"You didn't want my George Foreman grill in the kitchen..."
"Mark, I...uh...it's so big...and awkward looking..."
"See?" Mark said, frustrated. "You've complained about everythign I own...and nothing goes with YOUR stuff...it's not yours anymore...if I'm moving in...it's going to have to be OUR stuff."
Mark threw his arms up in anger and went into the bathroom, "Well, I'm going to go take a shower in YOUR bathroom."
Mark slammed the door, and Kevin just sat there, flabbergasted.
"Act happy, don't say a word," Tom warned Dale.
Dale was still speechless. Brandon opened the door, "Hey, guys, early as usual. Come on in!"
Tom and Dale flashed a smile and entered, Brandon closed the door.
"I said I was sorry," Elliot said. "I can explain everything."
"What?" Colin asked hotly. "That you've been two-timing and worse, with a GIRL!"
"You see, I--"
"I DON'T want to hear your excuses, Elliot!" screamed Colin.
"Don't make a scene," Elliot muttered.
"Fine, act happy when we get to Petey's," Colin said. "I don't want you to ruin their big dinner."
Elliot could not even utter a reply. Colin pressed the doorbell, and Peter answered the door, "Hey, guys, just in time, come in and get a drink."
Peter let Colin and Elliot into the door and closed it behind them.
Kevin walked slowly, Mark trailed behind angrily.
"Let's just act happy tonight for Peter and Brandon's sake," Kevin said.
"Fine," Mark said. "Press the damn doorbell."
Kevin pressed the doorbell and Peter opened the door, "Late as usual, come on in!"
Mark and Kevin entered and Peter closed the door. Peter walked into the kitchen and pulled Brandon into a corner.
"Something is wrong," Peter said.
"What do you mean?" Brandon asked.
"I know them, something is definitely up with all of them," Peter replied matter of factly. "They don't seem like themselves and can't you feel the tension?"
"Now that you mention it...sort of," Brandon agreed. "Well, let's just put out the salad, and we'll see."
The four couples chewed their salad quietly.
"Well," Brandon started. "How was the move, Mark?"
"It was--OUCH!" Mark winced in pain.
Peter looked at Kevin and thought, he must've kicked him under the table.
"What was that?" Brandon asked, oblivious to Mark's wince of pain.
"It was fine," Mark mumbled, reaching down to sooth his leg.
"Well, I see that we're done with our salads," Brandon said. "Let me get your plates."
"Thanks, honey," Peter said audibly. "I love you."
At that moment, Dale choked on his crouton.
"Dale, you ok?" Peter asked, concerned.
"He's fine," Tom said roughly, patting Dale on the back. "He's just peachy!"
Brandon gave Peter a 'you're on to something' look.
Meanwhile, Colin sat quietly, poking at his greens with his fork.
"You should eat something," Elliot said quietly.
"And you should stop picking at your food and don't tell me what to do, you're not my GIRLfriend," Colin replied quietly and cooly.
Peter flashed Brandon another look.
"I'm going to go help Brandon with the main course," Peter said uneasily. "Excuse us."
Peter rushed Brandon into the kitchen, "Now do you believe me that something's up?
"I believed you from the beginning," he said assuringly. "I don't doubt you for a second, they're your best friends."
"Well, it's MY duty as a best friend to meddle," Peter said.
"Oh NO, it isn't," Brandon said. "Don't you dare get into their business!"
"Hey," Peter said, grabbing the pork roast, "What are best friends for?"
"Good pork roast," Elliot commented.
"Thank Brandon here," Peter said. "He made it."
The other five muttered their appreciation and praise.
"I'm suprised you actually like the roast," Colin stated. "Being such a picky eater and all."
"Will you drop it?" Elliot hissed. "You said to talk about this later."
"Maybe you should talk about it now," Peter said casually.
Brandon kicked Peter...except he missed and kicked Mark.
"Why did you kick me again?" Mark said angrily to Kevin.
"I didn't kick you," Kevin retorted.
"I'm sorry, I kicked you," Brandon said.
"See?" Kevin replied. "I didn't kick you, the first time was me."
"Just slap me next time instead," Mark said. "It'll hurt less."
"Oh...don't give me that invitation," Kevin said.
There was an awkward silence.
"I just love these yams," Dale spoke up, chewing thoughtfully.
"Nice to know you can love things," Tom responded automatically.
Dale once again choked on another object, and Tom kept slapping forcefully on Dale's back.
"Take it easy there," Peter said. "You want to keep Dale alive, not dead."
Dale muttered something along the line of thanks and continued to eat his yams.
The four couples sat in awkward silence as Brandon cleared the table.
"Let me help," Mark said.
The others jumped in to offer their services.
"Uh...I can handle it by myself," Brandon said uneasily. "Thanks."
"I insist on helping," Mark said. "It's not like I get to do much at Kevin's."
"That is IT!" Kevin said, standing up. "Thanks for dinner, Peter and Brandon, I'm going to go back to MY apartment."
"I'll come by in the morning to pick up my stuff!" Mark yelled.
"FINE!" Kevin screamed back.
Kevin picked up his coat, opened the door, and left. Mark picked up his plate and Kevin's setting and took it the kitchen quietly. The other two couples looked uneasily at each other...hoping for an interruption.
"Who wants pie?" Peter offered hopefully.
"What kind of pie is it?" Elliot asked carefully.
"Banana cream," Peter answered. "Is that all right?"
"He doesn't like bananas," Colin spoke up dryly. "And he's lactose-intolerant."
Elliot looked at Colin surprisedly, "I didn't realize you knew all that."
"And just when I thought I had you all figured out, I'm right back at square one," Colin said sadly.
"Oh, honey," Elliot said, wiping a tear from Colin's face.
"I'm...sorry," Colin choked out. "I'm going to skip dessert and call it a night, thanks, guys."
Colin opened the door and closed it quickly.
"What happened?" Peter asked, concerned.
"I'll have to tell you later," Elliot said. "There's a guy out there that I love very much, and I'm going to chase after him."
"There ya go," Brandon said. "Run safely."
Elliot opened the door and jogged outside, the door closing behind him.
"I'm surprise you didn't choke after Elliot said he loves Colin," Tom said, unamused.
"That's because..." Dale said slowly.
"Spit it out," Peter urged.
Brandon slapped him on the arm.
"Here," Dale said, reaching into his pants pocket and getting out a small box.
"What is it?" Tom asked.
"It's a ring," Dale answered. "I got it a week ago to show you how much I love you...but I chickened out."
"Then why did you stand there like an idiot when I told you that I love you?" Tom asked.
"Because no one has ever told me that they loved me," Dale responded. "So...I was just a little taken back. But Tom, I love you too. I want you to take this ring to know how much I love you."
"Oh, Dale," Tom said, tears welling in his eyes. "I love you so much."
Tom leaned in to give Dale a long, passionate kiss.
"Get a room, guys," Peter said, feigning disgust.
"I think we better get going too," Tom said. "We have a lot to talk about."
"Good night," Brandon called out.
"G'night, guys," Tom said, giving Peter a kiss on the cheek. Then whispered, "Thanks, Petey, I love you."
"Colin, wait!" Elliot cried breathlessly.
"Elliot, just leave me alone," Colin sobbed loudly.
"Colin," Elliot said, catching up to Colin. "Just wait a second. Look at me, Col."
"Colin, just look into my eyes," Elliot said.
Colin complied and looked into Elliot's sparkling blue eyes.
"There's no one in this world I care for more than you," Elliot whispered assuringly. "That girl on the phone was my sister. She calls every so often to check up on me and she knows that I'm gay...so she plays mean tricks on me by telling people she's my girlfriend...when we're really related."
"You mean she's your SISTER?"
"I don't have a girlfriend, Colin," Elliot said. "Just an adorable and handsome stud for a boyfriend."
"You're sooo cheesy," Colin said, laughing and sniffling.
"You want to go back to my place?" Elliot offered.
So Colin and Elliot walked arm in arm back to their apartment building.
"Mark, come out of hiding," Peter said.
"You're going to have to face Kevin sooner or later," Brandon chimed in sternly.
"I prefer later, thank you," Mark replied.
Peter went into the kitchen and pulled Mark out to the dining room.
"I know you're mad," said Peter. "But you can't solve anything unless you go confront Kevin, he's stubborn, but he's not ignorant."
"Ok," Mark said uncertainly. "I'll see you guys later."
"Um...Kevin?" Mark said, peering his head into the room.
"I'm in our kitchen," Kevin replied.
"Our?" Mark responded, walking into the kitchen.
"Ta-da," Kevin sang proudly. "Behold the new and improved, did i mention plugged-in, George Foreman's lean, mean, fat-reducing grilling machine!"
"Wow," Mark said, smiling. "It's better than new."
"That's because I washed it," Kevin stated. "And as for the dogs playing poker painting, it's going to have to go in the sitting room...I don't think I can handle cooking and staring at it."
"You don't have to do this, you know," Mark said, still smiling.
"I know," Kevin replied. "But I asked you to move in, and now, this is OUR place."
"Our place," Mark echoed. "I like the sound of that, our place."
"Well, that was another eventful dinner," Peter said, chuckling. "Are you going to come to bed now?"
"Just a second, I have to type up some memos for my boss," Brandon said.
"Isn't it frustrating to work TWO jobs, as an office assistant and a checkout clerk?"
"It gets me the money, doesn't it?" Brandon said, furiously typing out the content of the memo.
"I just don't want you to burn out," Peter said, concerned.
"I know, sweety, it's just that I've been doing this for almost two years...and I'm starting to get a hold of it," Brandon said assuringly. "Plus, I'm bound to get a promotion soon at either work place."
"And maybe we can save up enough money and get a house out in the suburbs...and we can have a white picket fence...and a station wagon...and..."
"...mm...picket fence," echoed Peter sleepily.
"Peter?" Brandon called.
Brandon turned around and found Peter sleeping soundly on their bed. Brandon lifted Peter and turned him so that his head would hit the pillow, pulled up the comforters, and turned off the light. Brandon strained his eyes to keep his focus on the bright lap top screen, when Peter appeared groggily with a portable lamp in his hand.
"You're going to go blind," Peter mumbled.
"I'm going to go to bed now anyways," Brandon said.
"Good," Peter grumbled, pulling Brandon with him to bed.
They both crawled into their warm bed and positioned themselves into a tight embrace. Peter pulled the comforters over their head, and they both slept soundly through the night.
T H E E N DNext Chapter Previous Chapter