“Your shower isn’t working.”
“It is! Let me–”
“No! I mean I can figure this out.”
“Are you sure?” The sound of knuckles light against the door. “You pull and twist to the left for warm water–”
“Got it. I’m fine!”
If he had said anything else you didn’t hear it, not with the rush of water from the shower. His shower. His bathroom. His house and last night his bed. Why? You asked yourself again, flattening your forehead against the wall as warm water fell and wrapped around you like an overwhelming hug. “Why?” This time out loud and with a little groan trapped in your throat.
You made a grab for the shampoo–his shampoo–and started slathering it through your hair. It smelled of mint and something else, something sharp yet sweet. It smelled like him, and his pillows and his sheets. You laughed, you couldn’t help it. This was so absurd. He was your friend, had been for a quite some time. Friends don’t sleep together. You didn’t do that. Not this. Whatever this was.
You weren’t even drunk last night. Neither was he, though that was a rule he’d always had. To not drink beyond a bottle or two when he’s with you, because he was always insisting on driving you home.
Last night didn’t feel any different from all the other times you spent together. It was a movie night this time. You dragged him to watch this hyped up indie romcom, then you had dinner and drinks after. The two of you talked, you more so than him at first. He liked asking questions better, he’s always said, and hearing your answers. Well last night you wanted answers too, so you started asking, teasing. Why aren’t you dating these days? Or are you? Who is she? What are you not telling me? And then he kissed you, so slowly, so deeply, and when his fingers clasped your jaw and you kissed him back you knew the answers were right there.
His soap had the same scent as his shampoo. You were sure to smell like him once you stepped out of his bathroom. You were sure to bring the scent of him home. You turned off the shower–no trouble this time–and reached for the towel, fluffy and white, freshly-laundered from the feel of it. Brought out just for you, you knew.
This wasn’t just panic you were feeling. You realized this as you put last night’s clothes back on. It was the weight of a bigger question, one neither of you had asked before. He must have never asked because he knew you weren’t ready. And you never asked because he was the warmest person you knew, the kindest, the most sincere, the most willing to watch your romcoms with you and bring you pizza and take you to the doctor when you wouldn’t go by yourself and just always be there, you didn’t even need to ask. And you yourself knew you weren’t ready, because you feared you weren’t worthy.
You’re just going to go, you decided, staring yourself down in the mirror. There was no time to even dry your hair. You better leave now. He might have more things to ask and you just didn’t have any of the answers.
You shuffled out of the bathroom, meaning to grab your bag from his room and call out your goodbye from the door. The smell wafting from the kitchen stopped you mid-step. What is that? Is it–? No. He wouldn’t. It’s too perfect.
Your body had turned of its own accord to the direction of the kitchen. He was walking toward you, apron tied around his trim waist, spatula in one hand. One eyebrow lifted, one corner of his mouth pulled up, like he knew exactly what you were thinking. Like he was saying you getting away with it.
“Hey.” He bent over and his lips brushed against yours. It felt familiar, and right, even more so than it did last night. It felt like the promise of so much more.
“Thanks, um, I–” You were stammering, dear god. Get it together, self. This wasn’t a stranger. This was a man you knew.
What was the question again?
His hand found your elbow, then his arm slid around your waist. “We’re having pancakes, okay? You like pancakes, don’t you?”
He was leading you onward, away from escape, but in small, slow steps. No rush. He was always like this, wasn’t he? Always asking, gently prodding. Never impatient for the answer.
“I’m making coffee,” you burst out. “Because we both know you suck at it.”
“Yes, please.” He laughed and put the hand with the spatula up in mock surrender. His other hand stayed secure on your waist. “You know I need you.”
In a spark of comprehension, you did. You were the one he dragged into his football games, until after watching just once you proclaimed yourself his number one fan and he couldn’t get rid of you if he tried. You brought him coffee and loved his dog and indulged his irrational book hoarding behavior. You were there for him too, always. He never needed to ask.
Maybe this was the right question after all. Maybe the answer had always been there.
“Okay, coffee. I got you,” you said. You wrapped one arm around his waist, and another. This hug, his embrace felt overwhelming, but also perfect and yours. “Yes to pancakes.”
White Night and the slumber party that followed for the prompt.