by Sara H
Sometimes it's the stupid little things that let you know you're in love.
|Joey's in love with him, plain and simple; there's no way around it. He can practically feel it thrumming through his bones, setting his skin on fire even as they sit in this dark and dingy bar, chattering away about nothing. There's an outdated song playing from the jukebox in the corner, something that probably topped the charts back when they were still wearing baggy pants and carrying around skateboards, and the drink in Joey's hand is making his skin clammy because it's the middle of August and this shitty student bar hasn't had a working air conditioner since 1996. There are a couple of wasted sorority girls living it up at the next table, shouting something about Thirsty Thursday even though it's a Sunday night, and the guy who's running the bar tonight is that pretentious asshole from Joey's Irish Lit class who thinks he knows everything there is to know about James Joyce.
Joey's pretty sure he's falling hard for Michael.
Michael and his stupid perfect hair and his stupid perfect teeth and his stupid perfect skin and his stupid perfect (utterly irresistible) accent. (Michael's English, and, while Joey knows there are worse things to be than an Anglophile, it's becoming a bit of an issue for him. Cute boys with accents notwithstanding, he's given up coffee wholesale and taken up tea of all things. How humiliatingly unAmerican.)
“And so I think it'd be fun to check it out next weekend,” Michael's saying.
It isn't until Michael clears his throat and raises an eyebrow at him that Joey realizes he's lost the thread of their conversation completely and is literally sitting there swooning like a twelve-year-old girl. Oh my god. Joey shakes his head once, twice to clear it.
“Sorry, what?” he asks, running a hand back through his hair and desperately trying not to look as flustered as he feels.
Michael laughs, and goddammit that dimple. “The football match? Next Saturday? I was saying we should try to go. It's the first of the season and all, so I thought we'd do it properly. Invite some people, get a bit of a party together, do that thing where we sit in the car park and drink beer.”
“Tailgating,” Joey says. “It's called tailgating. Wait, but like real football or your kind of football?”
“American football. With pads and helmets and lads knocking each other senseless and all,” Michael clarifies, nodding sagely as though he's just explained the inner-workings of the game. “It'd be fun, yeah? And besides, real football, my football doesn't start its season until March. But don't think you're getting out of going to at least a few matches with me. If I'm willing to put up with four hours of glorified rugby players in protective gear, then you're damn well going to watch some real sports come spring.”
Joey can't help smiling at him, even as he shakes his head and rolls his eyes in fond exasperation. “You realize you'd get punched for saying that to any other guy at this school, right?” he asks, knocking back the rest of his drink and signalling the pretentious asshole at the bar for another.
“Well, then I guess it's a good job I'm sleeping with you and not any other guy at this school, then, isn't it?” Michael asks, his eyes twinkling in the fluorescent blue light coming from the neon bar signs.
“Cheers,” Joey agrees, raising his new drink before taking a rather indelicate gulp of beer. “Though I haven't actually promised that you won't be forced to sleep on the couch tonight if you don't start doing some serious back-pedalling on that 'glorified rugby players' thing.”
“Ah, I was afraid you'd say that! Which is why I got...” Michael trails off as he starts digging through his bag, which is slung over the back of his seat. “This!”
Joey can't quite hide his laugh as Michael straightens up victoriously, holding what is probably the most hideously garish version of a football jersey that Joey thinks he's ever seen in his life (which is actually saying something, since Joey grew up in San Francisco and is accustomed to Raiders fans causing bedlam in Oakland every Sunday). It's emblazoned all over with their school colors (red and blue), but in a shocking zig-zag pattern that wraps around the body of the thing and up the arms, and, quite honestly, Joey thinks Michael would probably get less looks if he just showed up to the game naked. Not that he's at all unimpressive when naked, but like, this shirt is just...wow.
Joey shakes his head with his mouth open slightly, at a loss for words, but Michael's looking at him expectantly, so he feels like he should probably say something. All that comes out, though, is, “Where did you find that thing, anyway?”
Michael lets out a short bark of laughter, his grin spreading wider across his face as he drops down from his barstool and holds it up against his chest. “In the campus shop! I'll admit, it was on extreme discount, but I'm poor as dirt and it was all I could afford. But I know how much you love football, and we hardly went to any matches at all last year, so I thought...now that I have the shirt, we have to go, right?”
“I am not going anywhere with you dressed in that shirt,” Joey tells him firmly, even though he's smiling again.
“It's hideous, isn't it?” Michael asks gleefully, setting it on the table as he climbs back onto his seat. “Worth it, though, if it makes you happy. But I won't wear it if you really don't want me to.”
Joey sighs in exaggerated hardship. “I think we might be able to work something out,” he says, and yeah, he's definitely in love.