Simon sinks down beside Cameron on the sofa as he’s done so many other Wednesday evenings, snatching up a handful of the immediately-offered crisps the moment he’s seated, and like Cameron doesn’t move his eyes from the TV. This is their favourite show; in fact, it’s what got them talking in the first place back when he’d first started working at the car services two years ago. Him in his pristine suit for his role as administrator sticking out like a sore thumb amongst all the casual jeans and t-shirts all around him, as Cameron welcomed him with an extended, grease-smeared hand to shake.
“Can you believe she did that?” Cameron says in exasperation, bending to grab the bottle of beer he’s got down on the floor by his feet, and giving Simon a quick flash of his back as his t-shirt rides up. He shouldn’t even notice, Simon tells himself, forcing his eyes elsewhere; Cameron’s couch is a wide two-seater but they’re wedged in close enough that for him to even see that glimpse of skin he’s had to turn his head for it, and Simon lies to himself that he’s even made that effort.
Instead he nods in agreement, forces his eyes on the screen and not to the way Cameron’s wriggling beside him. “Yeah. She never learns.”
“This is like the fifth season; I don’t know why I ever think she will,” Cameron groans, sinking a little further into the sofa, then nudges the bowl of crisps wedged between them against Simon’s thigh. “Take. I’ll eat them all if you don’t.”
“You said you didn’t get time for lunch today,” Simon points out.
“I hate MOT days,” Cameron says, grabbing another handful of crisps and shoving them in his mouth. “Especially when they try and argue about what’s wrong with their cars.”
“What about that guy demanding a service?”
“Jake dealt with him,” Cameron laughs, and Simon laughs with him, thinking of how any customer becomes tongue-tied and weak-kneed in Jake’s presence. He might be one of the best, most giving people Simon’s ever met in his life, but he certainly doesn’t look like it; a little under six feet but heavily built, solid muscle, with full sleeve tattoos on both arms and another up the side of his neck, and a scowl that morphs into a warm smile for anyone that knows him, but a glower for those that even think of pissing him off.
“I’d feel sorry for them, but—”
“Guy was a dick,” Cameron says with a dismissive wave, giving Simon the view of his own tattoos that once again he struggles to snatch his eyes away from. But then both their attentions become fixed on an unexpected reappearance of a character, and their conversation turns to improbable plotlines, rumours about the actors, and speculation about how the series finale might turn out.
“We’ve got what, three more episodes to go?” Cameron asks, and Simon nods in answer, his words too caught on the thought of the long stretches of Wednesday evenings of the hiatus that he won’t be spending with Cameron to say anything out loud.
He wants to suggest a rewatch, to have a reason to not interrupt their routine. Simon’s been sinking further into this crush he’s got on Cameron for months, and the thought of not having him to himself for a few hours each week makes his stomach drop. Then curse that he’s even entertaining the word crush.
It had crept up on him slowly, though, with Simon not even realising that his eyes lingered on Cameron in his overalls as he worked as often as they did, until one day Cameron had turned suddenly and caught him doing it, and he’d had to make up a poor excuse for why he was looking at him so hard. And then it was difficult not to notice: dirty-blond hair kept short at the back and a little longer on top, that he is forever making messy for tugging on when working on a difficult car; constant stubble that Simon can’t snatch his eyes from on the days when he’s left it to grow in a little more; mischievous eyes that are forever crinkled with how much he is always smiling; and the few hugs they’ve shared giving Simon the opportunity to feel the solid muscle of Cameron pressed up against his own.
“You okay there?” Cameron asks with a gentle nudge against his arm, calling Simon’s attention back from where his mind’s been wandering and leaving him begging his cheeks not to be raging with blush.
“Yeah,” he says awkwardly, once again attempting to focus on the screen, thankful when the ad break finishes and he has to pay attention. But then his mind is wandering again, this time to an even worse reality than their show’s hiatus, that he’s been excessively trying not to think about. Cameron’s talking of leaving, going to work with a garage nearer to his childhood home as his parents are getting older, and since he’s an only child feels the need to be closer to them, instead of the five hours away he currently lives.
Nothing is set in stone yet, of course, and Simon is talking about it in terms of a year or so from now, so he has time to prepare. Or get over this crush at least, Simon thinks, adamant that he’s not concentrating on the heat of Cameron’s shoulder pressed up against his own now they’ve finished that bowl of crisps and there’s nothing between them but a thin strip of cushion.
“You sure?” Cameron asks, and when Simon allows himself to look, it’s to see an expression full of concern. “You’ve been out of it since you got here.”
Simon is riddled with guilt, and furious with himself for being so transparent. He can’t tell Cameron that he’s been retreating into himself since mid-morning, since Becca, their post-woman, arrived and spent several minutes by Cameron’s side, laughing and joking, and quite possibly flirting. His stomach’s been off all day just thinking about it, and Simon is furious with himself for being jealous, and possessive—and now obvious—on top of that. So he pastes on what feels like a sickly smile, and nods back.
“Yeah, sorry. I had a few difficult conversations with a couple of suppliers today, and then the spreadsheet I was updating crashed and lost me an hour of work, and—”
“So your day’s been as shitty as mine then,” Cameron finishes for him with an affectionate smile. “You know what this means?”
“More beer,” Cameron declares, leaping up and leaving Simon smiling after the thud of his footfall, running back to the sofa and throwing himself on to it just a few seconds later. “Did I miss anything?”
“Nothing,” Simon assures him, draining the bottle he was almost finished with to accept the freshly uncapped one and clinking it against Cameron’s own.
“How would you feel about maybe a marathon session when this is done?” Cameron asks then, nodding towards the screen. “If your theory about how they’re going to leave us hanging really happens, I’m gonna need to rewatch from the beginning. Thought maybe, if you want to, we could make a weekend of it or something.”
Simon’s heart is not hammering in excitement at the thought, nor is his stomach knotting with the idea that perhaps he’ll get to stay over for this marathon, stay wedged up next to Cameron on this very sofa for an extended period, and maybe—
“Hey,” Cameron says, and Simon jolts at the gentle bump of his fist against his knee. “What’s going on with you?”
“Nothing,” Simon denies, smiling harder in panic.
“It’s nothing,” he insists, nodding towards the TV. “We’re gonna miss it.”
Cameron stares at the side of his face for another moment and Simon pleads with himself not to look back at him, but then Cameron is relenting with a soft huff and turning to look as well. They sit in companionable silence until the next ad break, and then Simon doesn’t trust himself to be in the same room with no distraction, so makes excuses to use the bathroom. When he returns, Cameron has shrugged into a sweater, and as he sits back down Simon pleads with his body not to react to the way Cameron all but snuggles up beside him.
“Too cold for the heating, but I’m still cold,” Cameron tells him, and Simon nods, thinks of the other friends he sprawls out next to and up against and how those incidents don’t mean anything more than friendship and trust, fights not to read more into Cameron’s warmth against him than there is.
“Maybe it’s the workshop,” Simon suggests, “if you were out doing MOTs all morning with the wind blasting through—”
“Maybe,” Cameron agrees, but then the episode starts up again, and they both become thoroughly engrossed, yelling at the screen when a plot twist blows out any of the theories they’ve been discussing, and leaving them sank back in the sofa half in a daze.
It takes them a minute, but then they’re turning into one another a little as they always do when the episodes have finished, and they’re predicting what to expect next week, already looking on Cameron’s tablet at the fan theories posted. And by the time they’ve finished discussing the show, they’re so comfortably leaned together, that Simon doesn’t want to move. Not that he generally does anyway when he’s like this with Cameron.
“Didn’t you say you’ve got an early start tomorrow?” Cameron asks then, and Simon’s pulling back a little, stomach dropping for it already being time for him to go home.
“Only by a few minutes,” he says, but daren’t let himself stay. “A courier’s delivering some paperwork we needed signing.”
“That’s not so bad.”
“Well, I know I’ve got an engine tune up at nine. A panel to get sprayed and back into shape at eleven for an insurance claim. Two services that I know about, probably more—and whatever else we get in.”
“You day sounds a lot busier than mine already,” Simon smiles, turning a little more away.
“Just different busy to yours,” Cameron shrugs. “You don’t have to rush off.”
“You’ll want to get ready for tomorrow though,” Simon says before he can talk himself into staying longer and risk convincing himself into doing things he knows will be unwelcome. “Shower, and stuff.”
“And you saying I smell?”
“What? No,” Simon denies, turning back at the disgruntled tone of Cameron’s smile only to find him smiling at him.
“Simon,” Cameron says, reaching out to gently shove against his arm, “what’s with you tonight, huh? You’re… it’s like you’re only here in body.”
Simon is riddled with guilt, wishing away his feelings for Cameron so they can go back to being friends. Or that he can go back to only thinking of Cameron as a friend, he amends, yet again turning to Cameron with a false smile.
“You don’t need to be sorry,” Cameron says, smiling so gently at him, that Simon has to back away to stop himself leaning in to finally discover how that smile tastes. “I just… you’d tell me if anything was wrong, wouldn’t you?”
“I’d hate to think you didn’t trust me, or something. Or that you’d… I don’t know, have something on your mind and not feel like you can share it with me.”
“It’s not that,” Simon denies, “it’s not that at all.” Though it is, Simon knows it is, and he’s turning himself in circles trying to be something to Cameron without being what he wants to be to him.
“Then what is it?” Cameron asks softly, following Simon as he backs away, and squeezes his shoulder, his thumb swirling out in a gentle circle. Simon’s eyes dart to it automatically, then up at Cameron’s face, alarmed when he’s shifted a little closer and is staring back at him in expectation.
“Please, Simon,” he says. “What kind of a friend would I be, if I didn’t ask when I can see something’s up with you?”
Simon’s stomach drops at the word friend, his eyes falling to Cameron’s chest, because he can’t bring himself to look him in the eye.
“I need to go,” Simon says, making to stand, but Cameron lightly drips on to his wrist asking him to keep where he is.
“I did something to upset you today, didn’t I?”
“When I came to see you this afternoon you looked so pissed off with me, I thought I’d messed up on an order or something,” Cameron continues, and Simon is captivated by the feel of his fingers still gripping around his wrist.
“And then I thought, I couldn’t have done. Because if I had, you’re never quiet about it when you tell me,” Camerons says, ducking until Simon can’t avoid looking back at him.
“So what did I do?” Cameron asks, and he looks so contrite even though he’s done nothing wrong that Simon only just about stops himself from surging forward and pulling him into a hug.
“Nothing,” he says, shaking his head and determined that he’s going to go home and get rid of this crush on Cameron once and for all—if only he can work out how.
“Simon,” Cameron sighs, but he’s still smiling at him, and Simon feels lost as he teeters on the edge of the sofa, knowing he has to leave for both their sakes, but not quite able to. Cameron is so easy to be with, so undemanding, and such a good friend; Simon would hate to lose him over this.
“I should go,” Simon says, but his eyes are drawn to Cameron licking his lips, and though it’s an innocent gesture probably to chase away the saltiness of all the crisps they’ve eaten, Simon can’t help staring. Which is ridiculous, he tells himself in the next breath, alarmed for the way Cameron’s eyes grow wider as though he’s caught him doing it.
“Please tell me.”
“Please,” Cameron whispers, and Simon’s heart starts racing frantically as Cameron’s own eyes dart down to his mouth. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“You won’t want to hear it.”
“You won’t,” Simon insists, but it doesn’t stop him from leaning a little closer to Cameron. And Cameron doesn’t make any move to pull back.
“Try me,” Cameron says again, and there’s challenge in his voice as well as nervousness, excitement, maybe even a little expectation. Simon’s eyes fall again to Cameron’s lips, and this time when he watches his tongue dart out to flick over them Simon convinces himself it’s deliberate.
He holds his breath, tells himself it’s worth it even if it does make things awkward between them; at least Cameron will then know why he has to stay away from him, and why they’ll have to start avoiding each other at work. He leans in, presses their lips together and demands to himself that he pulls back. But his fingers clearly don’t get the message for the way they automatically curl around the nape of Cameron’s neck, fingertips digging into the hair there as he ducks and angles in.
It’s only a few seconds, but then common sense decides to come calling, and Simon pulls back in alarm, horrified at what he’s done. This friendship has come to mean so much to him over the two years he’s known Cameron, and now he’s thrown it all away because he couldn’t keep his thoughts straight in his head.
Simon braces to be yelled at, shoved to the floor, even to receive a fist to his face, despite Cameron never having shown even an ounce of violence towards anyone in all the time he’s known him. He sucks in another breath, and tells himself he has to look him in the eye.
If there’s a way to describe the look on Cameron’s face that Simon can simplify, it’s startled. His mouth is gaping open a little, and his eyes wide and round, his fingers twitching as though to reach out to him, though Simon doesn’t know to do what. But then Simon watches as that gaped open mouth begins to turn up into a smile, and his eyes crinkle up in that way Simon’s never been able to look away from.
But Cameron’s not interested in what he has to say. He’s reaching out and grabbing Simon’s face, pulling him closer, and initiating a kiss that’s far more enthusiastic than the one he’s just given him. Cameron leans back against the sofa pulling him with him so they’re pressed together, and Simon’s just noticing the pleased little hums falling from his lips, and the way his thumb continually sweeps over his cheek, when he realises what’s happening. He pulls back with soft gasp and stares, watching Cameron’s brow furrow a little in protest, and his hands already reaching for him to come closer again.
“Simon,” Cameron says, reaching out and taking his hand, which Simon offers up in a daze and watches mesmerised as his thumb continues to swirl over the back of it. “Simon, I—”
But Simon’s lost any sense of reason now, and he’s toppling forward, cupping Cameron’s jaw, and kissing him harder, his other hand down and wrapping around his waist, eyes closing as Cameron’s hands loop around his back to pull him closer still. It’s a sweet kiss, unloaded, though full of promise, and as they tentatively explore each other’s mouths Simon allows himself to sink further into it, all thought of the consequences of what’s happening disappearing with every hum falling from Cameron’s lips.
When he pulls back a little later, Cameron’s smile for him is that crinkly-eyed mischievous one that Simon thinks is probably the very reason for the beginning of this crush. Cameron reaches out to hold his hand again, either needing the anchor, or trying to anchor him; either way Simon stares at it, considers that he’s already home and sleeping, and this is one of those infuriating dreams he has to wake disappointed from.
“So,” Cameron begins to say, then doesn’t appear to want to add anything. Simon fears confessions about it being a mistake, a thanks but no thanks, and a hundred other things. But then Cameron is sitting back from where he’s been slumped against the sofa and is withdrawing his hand from Simon’s only to wrap him up in a hug. “Well, this is a little overdue.”
Simon goes to pull back to look at him with all the surprise he’s feeling, but Cameron just pulls him right back in, pressing a kiss to the side of his head. “Cameron, I—”
“I guess you’re the last one to realise I’ve been crushing on you for months,” Cameron laughs, pulling back, and to Simons astonishment, blushing. “Ever since we went to that barbecue at Jake’s.”
Simon thinks back, remembers the brown shorts and black t-shirt Cameron had been wearing vividly, as much as the open smiles, the easy conversation, and the beginnings of feelings that he’d denied having for a while. “I didn’t—”
“I don’t exactly broadcast my, uh, personal life at work,” Cameron continues. “But I’d have thought by now with all the time we’ve spent together, that you’d have noticed that I… well, if you didn’t notice how hard it is for me to keep my eyes off you, then at least you’d realise I was—that at least you’d realise I was into guys.”
“Becca,” Simon blurts out stupidly, though his mind is already going over moments in so many of their conversations, and a lot of things slot into place beginning to make sense.
“Becca,” Cameron repeats with a small shake of his head in confusion before his eyes widen again. “Becca. Our post lady?”
“She’s… well, she’s beautiful. And married. And I can’t say I don’t find women attractive too sometimes, but she’s… she’s not who I’m interested in. Never have been.”
Simon replays seeing Cameron and Becca together earlier in the morning and views it from an entirely different perspective, feeling silly. “And you—”
“I’ve been thinking of only you for a solid six months now,” Cameron smiles, “probably longer if I think about it. I was kind of working up to you having a reason to being here longer, so I could maybe work up the courage to ask you out.”
“Marathon,” Simon blurts out with a brief glance towards the TV.
“Yeah,” Cameron says, ducking his head, and blushing. “I mean, I want that too. And I’m not gonna pretend I didn’t plan and replan how I’d ask you, or let myself get carried away with the idea of having an excuse for you to sleep over—”
“But I’d really, really like it, if you’d let me take you out. Get drinks, dinner—anything you want.”
“I’d love that,” Simon tells him immediately for the hesitant look he’s giving him that’s saying he’s worried he might turn him down.
“You would?” Cameron asks, his smile growing even wider. Simon huffs under his breath then surges forward to kiss him again. Cameron sighs into it, thumbs sweeping in circles over his waist as he tugs him in. And this time when they pull apart they stay closer together, leaning in for repeated quick kisses and losing themselves to them until Simon’s phone beeps, and he’s groaning, pulling back, though still holding on to Cameron.
“My sister. Tara,” he says, quickly reading her message then shoving the phone back behind him in the cushions.
“Is she okay?”
“Wants me to babysit tomorrow so she can go to book club.”
“We’ve got some stuff to work out,” Cameron says with a soft smile, leaning in to kiss him then shaking his head in disbelief as though he doesn’t believe he’s doing it. “Like work, and… stuff.”
“Eloquent,” Simon teases, laughing even as Cameron leans in to kiss him again. Cameron wraps his arms around him and draws him closer, not pulling back until they’re both breathless.
“Like I was saying; I know we’ve got a lot to talk about,” Cameron says, reaching out to swirl his thumb over Simon’s bottom lip that feels as kiss-bruised as Cameron’s looks.
“We do,” Simon agrees, smiling back at him. “But?”
“But nothing,” Cameron says, lacing their fingers together and studying their hands for a second before looking back up at him with an even wider smile. “Friday. You free?”
“I am now,” Simon tells him. Cameron sighs, and looks back at him in triumph.
“Gonna let me take you on a date?”
This is not how Simon thought his evening would be ending. Not even close to anything he’d let his mind wander to. But Cameron’s staring back at him in nervous expectation, and Simon’s heart starts skipping at the sweetness of it. There’s only one way he intends on answering, and as he leans in to kiss him, Cameron hums in approval. Pulling him closer until they’re sinking deeper into the sofa cushions, and telling Simon he’s going home no time soon.