Two

“It’s raining,” Jem says mournfully, glancing out the window of his spacious bedroom mournfully. The sky is a faded grey color, torrents of raining falling to the ground and hitting the pavement with a sound like machine-gun fire.

“So?” Tay says, glancing up from the video game he’s been playing with Emery for the past half hour with a puzzled expression before returning to it with a sharp jerk of his hands and a loud curse. “You fucking cheater!”

Emery cackles as he kills Tay’s character for perhaps the thirteenth time in a row and Jem has to fight the pout that wants to appear on his lips. Before Tay gets a chance to respawn, Jem sprawls himself over both of their laps. “I’m bored!” he declares.

“Oof! Get off!” Emery grunts, pushing half-heartedly at Jem’s ass, which has landed in his lap.

“I don’t wanna,” Jem says, smiling in a way that turns his eyes into crescents. He knows it’s an expression neither of the others can resist for long and he uses it to full effect. “This is my house and I want you to play with me!”

“We’re not five, Jem,” Tay says, but he’s grinning as he reaches down to start playing with Jem’s hair, twisting the silken strands into lopsided spikes. Jem’s hair is pink right now, to commemorate the fact that it’s spring and pastels are in, and he thinks he’ll keep it this way for as long as he can maintain it. Considering the money his father let him play with, he thinks that could be for quite a while—daddy never could say no to him, unless the question was if he can spare time for him of course. “What would we even play?”

Jem purses his lips as he considers this. Usually, he would suggest they go to the nearby park and play on the playground, but seeing as it’s raining and he’s already taken a shower, that seems ill-advised. Plus, he’s always been prone to getting colds and the last thing he wants is to have a red, stuffy nose and a swollen face. That was decidedly not a pretty look on him.

He glances around his rather spacious room, taking in the dark curtains (black satin—pastels may be in, but black was so much better at blocking the light out after a long night partying with his friends) and the random bits and bobs his father has purchased over the years to try and assuage his guilt over how little time he actually spends with him. There’s actually quite a few lamps and pieces of furniture, places that could definitely be used as good hiding places. “What about…hide and seek?”

Emery ceases his attempts at shoving him off, a slow grin filling up his face. “Really?” he asks, sounding rather excited. “I haven’t played that since I was little.”

“That’s ‘cause it’s a kiddie game,” Tay says, wrinkling his nose, but years of exposure has taught Jem how to read Tay and he can see in his eyes—even with his honey-colored bangs covering them—that he’s intrigued despite himself.

“No, it’ll be fun,” Jem says, pushing up out of their laps and sitting on his knees facing them instead, blocking the television. “We’ll even make it more interesting.”

“What do you mean, ‘more interesting’?” Emery asks, frowning slightly.

“Nothing bad, don’t worry, Bunny,” Jem says. He’s probably the only one that can get away with calling Emery that without getting shoved for it, but he uses this power sparingly, not wanting to wear it out. He supposes it’s because he’s one of the few who has never meant it as an insult or a tease; rather, it’s a term of endearment.

Tay hums. “Kind of disappointing actually,” he says, “I was hoping it could be at least a little bad.”

Jem laughs. “Sorry, TayTay. Anyways, what I’m thinking is this: blindfolds.”

“Kinky,” Tay says, eyebrows shooting right up into his hair.

Jem rolls his eyes but he can’t help but notice the slight blush on Emery’s cheeks and he isn’t able to resist a joke at his expense; really, Emery is just too cute. “Not like that—you’ll give Emery a heart attack.”

“Will not,” Emery grumbles, looking sullenly down at his hands.

“As I was saying,” Jem says, tugging Emery’s hand into his to make him look up again. “We should blindfold the one who’s it, so that they can only use sound and touch to find the ones who are hiding. The thing is, the people who are hiding can’t move from their spot the whole time. They can shift and twist their bodies any which way, but their actual position cannot move. You’ve got to find both before the next round can begin. Got it?”

Emery glances at Tay, a brief wordless conversation passing between them, and then they both look at Jem before Tay shrugs. “All right, let’s play.”

Jem woops joyfully, happy that his game has been accepted. “Now to decide who’s it…the usual method?”

They all grin at each other before balling their hands into fists to play Paper, Scissors, Rock. In the end, the first unlucky soul is Emery, who pouts. “I usually win…”

“Better luck next time,” Jem sing-songs.

He quickly climbs to his feet and runs over to his bedside table to pull out not only a sleeping mask but a long, silken black scarf as well. The scarf likely had cost more than half of Emery’s wardrobe, which should make Jem feel guilty for using it in such a frivolous manner but it doesn’t. It was his father’s money, and it means very little to him. He’d rather use it for fun.

His feet are light as he scampers back over to Emery. “Ready?” he asks.

Emery nods and Jem sets the mask over his eyes carefully. Tay comes over and helps him tie the scarf around Emery’s head, too, with Jem having to stop him in exasperation when he nearly suffocates the younger boy in his attempts to prevent him from seeing and ‘cheating like he always does.’

Eventually, it’s done to everyone’s satisfaction and Jem spins Emery around a few times before tucking him into a corner. “Count to ten,” he whispers, then quickly slips away as Emery begins the count. “One…two…”

Jem looks around his room, sees Tay attempt to dive under his bed before realizing that it doesn’t have an open bottom. He isn’t deterred, though, and instead tucks himself under the mattress itself. It looks honestly ridiculous, the bed slanting at a steep angle and one of Tay’s feet just barely hanging out of one corner.

“…six…seven…”

Jem tries not to curse under his breath before dashing to the first place that presents itself: the nightstand. He nearly knocks a bag of prescription sleep medication and diet pills off the surface in his haste to stand on top of it, which would have ended the game before it even started. It’s not quite as stupid as Tay’s chosen spot, but it’s a close second and Jem has to bite his lip to stop from laughing at his own terrible planning.

“Ten!” Emery says triumphantly and then he starts moving forward, arms outstretched. His face—what little of it isn’t obscured by the scarf—is intent with concentration, head tilted slightly for any sound.

Wouldn’t want to disappoint, would he? Jem grins wickedly and reaches slowly to pick up the bottle of water he always keeps on the nightstand next to his meds, still holding back his laughter as he tosses the thing clear across the room.

Emery’s reaction is priceless, his head snapping to the side. He stumbles in the direction of the bottle, knocking his shins against the television stand in his haste to get there. Jem winces slightly, hoping it doesn’t hurt too bad, but what’s a bruise or two for the sake of fun?

Emery himself only makes a soft sound of pain, but he doesn’t stop for more than a second. Before long, he’s kneeling on the ground feeling up a lamp as if he expects it to turn into a person at any moment. Ha, as if any part of him could ever be that skinny…

Eventually Emery realizes that the lamp is not, in fact, a person, and gives up. “Come on…” Emery hisses, obviously losing patience as he continues rooting around the room. It’s another few minutes before he even comes close and Jem just knows he’s about to get caught out. Honestly, he wouldn’t mind at this point. His legs are getting tired from standing on top of the nightstand so carefully; he wonders how Tay is holding up under the mattress.

Jem holds his breath as Emery gets close to the bed, so close to brushing Tay’s exposed foot. In the end, however, it isn’t the foot that gives Tay away. Instead, it’s a sneeze.

Emery is on the noise in a second, immediately jumping on top of the bed. To Tay’s credit, he doesn’t make a sound as Emery’s weight lands on top of him and Jem watches, amused, as Emery begins crawling around the bed and then swatting his arm out in a semi-circular motion, expecting to find him on top of it. “What…” Emery says when he doesn’t find Tay right away. Then he bounces a little, crawls off, crawls back on again. “Why’s it slanted funny?”

Jem is trying so very hard not to laugh out loud, but a strained sort-of wheeze is coming out of his throat despite his best efforts and Emery hears that. Ignoring the slanted bed for the time being he turns suddenly and hooks a hand around one of Jem’s ankles. “Got you!” He knows he’s going down and the best he can manage is to shift so that he falls on top of the bed instead, half on top of Emery and both of them on top of Tay where he still hides under the mattress.

The poor boy does make a sound then, a muffled ‘oof,’ and both of them are off the bed in a scurry, Emery all but flipping the mattress onto the ground so he can grab a hold of Tay and haul him down.

“Dammit,” Tay laughs and Emery immediately pulls off his blindfold. His cheeks are red and eyes bright, smile wide in his victory; his hair is a mess, of course, the black strands sticking up at odd ends.  Jem decides he loves that look on him.

“Got you both,” he says, “Am I the best or what?”

“You’re right, you are the best,” Jem laughs, “But next time maybe you should ask the lamp out before you grope it like that.”

Emery grabs a pillow that fell on the ground when he’d flipped the mattress off the bed and smacks Jem in the face with it.

“Oh, it is so on!” Jem says, grabbing a pillow of his own.

“Pillow fight!” Tay declares.

The three adolescents descend swiftly into a pillow fight. They are teenaged boys, so of course it gets out of hand quickly. At the end of it, two lamps, all of the cushions on his couch, three framed paintings, and his favorite unicorn figurine are on the ground along with a few feathers from where his pillows had split their seams somewhat in the violence.

The boys are on the ground, too, chests heaving as they lay atop their mess—a tangle of limbs with Emery’s head resting just above Jem’s hip and Jem on top of Tay’s left arm. Some of the feathers are stuck to their hair, but Jem finds he doesn’t much care.

With a contented sigh, Jem turns his head to look at the window. He hadn’t even noticed, but apparently during their games the sun had come out, the rain no longer falling from the sky in a torrent. Before Jem can mention it, however, Emery has grabbed his phone from his pocket and snaps a shot of all of them as best he can at his current angle.

Usually, Jem likes to pose for his pictures. He likes to be prepared because photos can be so unflattering, but as Emery passes the phone up at him to get a look, Jem finds that he loves the picture. His head is turned slightly, obviously still looking out the window, and there’s a soft, unguarded expression on his face that he barely recognizes. Tay, having apparently noticed that Emery was taking the picture, has leaned in slightly, giving the camera his trademark boxy grin and a peace sign with his fingers. Emery is barely in the picture, really just a head, but his facial expression makes up for it—his teeth are bared in what might be a smile or a scowl, but his eyes are twinkling and his noise is wrinkled and Jem knows it’s an expression of joy.

“I love it,” Jem declares. “I wish we could stay just like this, forever.”

“We can,” Emery says. “That’s why I took the picture. Moments don’t last, but pictures are forever. Now, every time we look at the picture, we can relive the moment.”

The words are surprisingly wise for one so young, and Jem can’t help but smile fondly down at him.

“Both of you are such girls,” Tay says in mock disgust, but Jem turns his head to nip playfully on the inside of his arm. The other yelps. “I’m gonna get you for that!”

And with that, the game is back on.

 

 

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