Mike Newton considers himself a good boyfriend, really, he does. He's usually the type to say 'I love you' if prompted by his girlfriend, or close his eyes when they kiss, or wait in his car while she walks to her door.
Today is the big exception.
Today, as Jessica sits in the passenger seat of his pickup and says 'I love you, baby,' Mike anxiously stares at his clock and mumbles 'yeah, yeah, cool.' As she leans in to kiss him, his eyeballs stay glued to his dashboard and he watches the seconds tick by, one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi. As soon as she leaves his car, Mike guns it, and is gone before he can see Jessica crossing her arms and pouting.
It is 3:32 and Mike has only one thing on his mind: Halo 3. He is running calculations in his head, grateful that he took a math class this year. Adding the numbers together again and again, checking and rechecking his clock, Mike knows he is going to be seven to nine minutes late.
Six excruciating minutes later, Mike pulls into his driveway, yanks the keys out of the ignition and runs toward his front door. Thankfully, it's open, and he races to his room, but stops three steps short, realizing that he left the door to his car open and forgot to lock it.
He swears loudly to himself, not caring if anyone else in his house hears, as he runs back to his car, roundhouse kicks the door shut and presses the lock button on his remote. He sprints back to his room and turns on his X-box, slips on his headset and searches for Eric's screen name.
Eric beats him to it, and Mike is prompted to accept the chat. A second later, he and Eric are connected.
"Dude, where have you been? I've been waiting here for like, twenty minutes or something, and all these stupid dudes have been asking me to join their game. Do you know how annoying that is?"
In response, Mike pants heavily into his headset for a few seconds, then gathers enough energy to mutter "Sorry, man. Jessica was dragging so bad when I was driving her home. She was trying to get me to go in her house to help her pick out this dress or something for this party or something."
"Ew!" Eric says, disgustedly.
"What? That's not bad, is it?"
"No, no, no. There's a hair in my peanut butter."
Mike's face skews into a look of revulsion. "First of all, why are you eating peanut butter?" Mike pauses for a second, then amends, "You know what, never mind, I just don't even want to know." After shuddering, Mike searches the screen to find another pair to beat at a game of Halo Capture the Flag.
Eric scoffs. "Yeah right, I'm not eating it. Not anymore." There's silence for a second between the two of them, then Eric continues, "Halochamp73 and xMasterofBrutalityx just invited me to a game, you down?"
"Hell yes!" Mike says, smiling. "Let's show these dorks how it's done!"
Within seconds, Mike is transported to a new screen, a barren battle zone with a figure dressed the same standing next to him. They play for a couple of minutes, the lead switching between teams. Out of nowhere, Mike blurts out "I'm really glad we have each other, man."
The line goes silent for a while, though the game rages on.
"Yeah, I know what you mean, bro. I'm glad that you're my teammate and not Tyler or anyone else."
Mike stops fidgeting with his controller for a second and nods his head. "Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's really good to play Capture the Flag with you, especially after hanging out with Jessica for a while. I mean, I love her and all, but nothing comes in between me and my bro, Eric."
"I feel you, man. I really do." Eric pauses for a second, then adds, "I love you, bro."
Without hesitating, Mike replies, "Bro, dude, I love you, too."
Both Mike and Eric have stopped playing and are both silent for a while longer.
Then, out of nowhere, a member of the opposing team pops up and kills Mike with a plasma grenade.
When he regenerates at the team base, he finds Eric's player there, waiting for him.
"What the fuck was that, bro?" Eric asks.
"Fucking other team dude! I stop playing for one fucking second, and they think they can take the flag!"
Then, a new voice interrupts their conversation. "Yeah, I hate to come in between you lovers and what not, but we're trying to play a game here." Mike's jaw drops, and his cheeks turn red. "You know, I can appreciate the bromance of the whole situation, but honestly, it's no fun to pwn you guys if you're not even trying."
In response, Eric sputters out, "Whatever dude, we were clearly winning before you pulled that dick move!"
"Yeah!" Mike adds, for solidarity.
Both members of the other team laugh, and the other teammate replies, "Yeah, okay, you go ahead and believe that."
Mike thinks about retorting with something clever and biting, but before he can say anything, the battleground is gone, and he is back at the home screen.
"What the hell?"
Mike's jaw drops, but he manages to answer, "They quit on us, dude."
"Whatever, they were stupid anyways." Mike is still flabbergasted by the whole situation, when Eric continues, "You know, I meant what I said, dude."
The line goes silent for a few seconds. Then, "That I love you, bro."
Mike thinks about what he has just heard and nods his head slightly.
"Yeah, bro, I love you, too."