Author's Note: This was written at the prompting of a friend, who pointed out (very astutely) that the characters of Cole and Cooper from "Were the World Mine" had a notably ambiguous resolution to their interlude while under the influence of the Pansy(TM). Not only were they the only pairing to have a love scene in the film, but unlike the rest of the couples who were temporarily paired off, when the spell is lifted they are neither awkward nor uncomfortable with each other. Thus, this story was born. It has since spawned both a sequel and a universe (likely to total out somewhere between 4-6 fics in the end). Many thanks to the various parties who have had a hand at looking this over, as well as those who have decided to cheerlead. For everyone's convenience, I'll be publishing the stories both independently and in a combined edition titled "Semantics."
Author's Note #2: For the purposes of this fic-series, the boys graduated from high school in 2007. All involved were 18 on-or-before the night of the senior play, albeit not necessarily in their right minds. If you'd like to see a trailer of the film, you can find it at the official website (.com).
The first thing to understand about Cole Bochner and Cooper Stevens is that they were not, are not, and never will be boyfriends. If asked, they'll cheerfully admit that they've slept together (or, at least, Cooper will. Cole spent too long trying not to think about the implications that went with that revelation to be able to joke about it comfortably). But, as any college student can tell you, sex does not mean "relationship," and Cole and Cooper have never had that kind of relationship. They're best friends, and occasionally they drink too much and wake up naked in Cooper's dorm room, and that's more than enough for them. They don't need the drama, and more importantly, they're not Timothy and Jonathon.
Timothy and Jonathon were boyfriends, in the traditional romantic sense of the word. High school sweethearts, they'd fallen in love while working on the senior production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and never looked back. Cole and Cooper had also logged a monumental first the weekend of the production, if one cared about those sorts of things (which they didn't). While a large portion of the weekend surrounding the senior play was a blur, the after-party was a blur of a different sort - the kind involving moderate-to-large quantities of Gray Goose and Captain Morgan. The advantage of having parents who were gone most weekends was that Cooper had the opportunity to host the best parties in town. They'd woken up the next morning naked, with hangovers bad enough that whatever awkwardness there might have been was lost in the dash for the bathroom.
That had been a few weeks before the end of the school year - the end of high school. They'd written it off as "one of those things" and gone back to hanging around like they always had, a tradition dating back to Cooper's sixth birthday. If things occasionally happened, like late nights lubricated with beer and the odd margarita (and always at Cooper's house, because Cole's mother insisted that they sleep with the door open like they were five), it was just two friends having a good time. They dated now and then, but never seriously, because that was more effort than it could possibly be worth (once, Cole had even drummed up the courage to ask Becky out. Cooper had known it would end bloody, what with Jonathon leaving her for Timothy and all, but he'd done his duty and encouraged his best friend. He'd been proven right after two dates and an hour trying to get something pink and sticky out of a silk tie. That had been an interesting night, and an even more interesting morning. He'd learned a lot, and really, who said "no" to a blow job, right?). In general, though, that summer was filled with mind-numbing jobs, the summer soccer league, and the biweekly parties that Cooper hosted when his parents were both out of town (and the occasional night of really bad movies washed down with a few bottles of beer - Cooper's parents were cool like that, and let him and his friends drink in the house so long as there was a 2 beer/2 shot max for the night).
It being the internet age, when they all went their separate ways for college nothing changed. The rugby team had a Facebook page, and everyone had G!Talk anyway, so 1,000 miles barely made a dent in things. While Jon migrated to the East Coast to slog his way through Boston College, with Timothy unsurprisingly nearby in Amherst, both Cole and Cooper stuck closer to home. For Cooper, Northwestern had everything he wanted and the best scholarship package; for Cole, his mother had made it clear that he wasn't going more than 200 miles, so he'd ended up at Notre Dame because it gave him the most breathing space.
With a mother like Cole's, you ended up going one of two ways - you were a Mama's Boy, or you chafed quietly and got out the moment you could hit the pavement. Cole fell under the latter description, or at least he wanted to. However, "hitting the pavement" was a relative term, and his father was useless at best when it came to pushing back against his mother's "family declarations," so it was a gradual process. Notre Dame had been the first step, but it was a limiting factor as well - even with the scholarships he'd qualified for, it was still upwards of $30,000 a year, which meant being the good son for four years until he'd earned his degree. He could do that. Head down, grades good, and date just enough to let his parents know they'd get grandchildren eventually. Piece of cake.
Shockingly, it actually did work like that. He landed in Dillon Hall, did his part in Rivalry Week that fall(and got a sprained ankle for his troubles), joined the Jewish Club(he considered it a valid self-defense against his mother's inevitable questions about his social life), and spent the rest of his life bouncing between the various libraries on campus. His parents had let him take the Outback with him, which was awesome, but it being South Bend, there really wasn't all that much to do even off-campus, whether or not he had the time to spare (which he didn't). He and Cooper bitched and moaned at each other about their respective courseloads, teased Jon mercilessly about being a lovesick fool, and somehow muddled through their respective first semesters. When Thanksgiving break came around, Cole was only too happy to hit the road for home. Having some sense of self-preservation, and a vague notion of Cooper's (lack of) ability to be packed and ready to go on anything resembling a schedule, Cole didn't even bother to grumble about having to spend Tuesday night in Cooper's dorm room because Cooper had to turn in a paper Wednesday morning. The fact that there'd been far more groping and far less writing that occurred that night was a minor detail at best, and one which could easily be ignored. After all, Cole was sure that there'd been an open beer can somewhere on that floor of the dorm.
It was the next morning before it occurred to Cole to ask where Cooper's roommate was, eying the neatly made bed on the far side of the room with no small amount of trepidation. Cooper just shrugged, stretching his arms over his head before settling back down onto his side of the too-small mattress. "Beats me. I think he left last Friday, but we don't really talk much."
It was on the way to the bathroom, when Cole's brain was finally capable of processing more than "I turned in that paper, what if it wasn't good enough?" and "How long has it been since I slept?" and "Wow, shouldn't have had that coffee" and "Cooper's arms got bigger, that's kind of hot" and "I need to get laid more often" that he noticed the stickers on the door. "Hey, Coop? There something you want to tell me?"
Cooper, who was still lying in bed and showing no signs of moving anytime soon (despite the fact that they were supposed to be on the road in under an hour), didn't even bother to open his eyes. "Don't think so."
Cole eyed the stickers again, the Gay and Lesbian University Union one in particular, before stepping back into the room and closing the door behind him. "You sure about that?"
Cooper did open his eyes at that, squinting in the sunlight. "Um, yeah? Why, you find a bong or something? Because I told Jimmy to quit leaving that shit around in here."
Cole resisted the urge to ask what else Jimmy had been leaving around that Cooper hadn't thought to mention, because that wasn't what he was getting at. "Since when are you gay?"
Cooper propped himself up on his elbows, a confused look on his face. "Um, I'm not? This" he gestured between the two of them, "aside, I kind of tend to stick with the ladies. Less fuss, and less risk of someone breaking my nose again."
Cole blinked, because sure, Cooper was cool with Jon and Timothy, but they'd been friends with Jonathon somewhere around forever. Being cool with a gay friend was one thing, being this chill about how 'I sleep with girls, mostly, but not always' was something quite a bit different, and certainly not how Cooper had put things when Cole had dropped him off in Evanston in August. "So what's with the club sign on your door?"
"Oh, that. It's mostly just a social group, trips down to Chicago, that kind of thing. Being closer to the city means access to all kinds of awesome things. Next spring, I am totally dragging your ass to some of the fetish festivals. Because I want to go, and there's no way I'm going alone." Cole opened his mouth to argue, because really, all he needed was for his mom to learn that he'd been to a fetish festival and he'd be back at U of I, Kingston Campus faster than he could say auto-erotic asphyxiation. Cooper didn't give him the chance. "Don't worry, we'll hit a museum or something, too. Trust me, you'll like it."
And that was how Cole found himself at the International Mr. Leather show the following May. And marching with the Pride Parade the following summer (because somehow, Cooper had accidentally signed him up as a volunteer after insisting that Cole get the weekend off of work). After that, Cole gave up the fight and just cleared his schedule when Cooper called and said he'd found "something you'll love. Trust me." Because the thing was, Cole did trust Cooper. Sure, they screwed around with each other (literally and figuratively), but they also had an understanding that went back to the fifth grade - when one of them said stop, they stopped. Whether it was teasing about how Cole's Dad had moved to the city and was never coming back (Cooper learned later, through a round of tears which both of them would fiercely deny had ever occurred, that the term divorce had been thrown around the Bochner living room more than once after Cole was supposed to have been in bed. Cole's parents had worked things out, but Cooper never joked about the subject again), or the first time Cooper had tried giving Cole a blow job and nearly choked himself before admitting that it wasn't as easy as it looked. They were friends.
While he always had a good time, Cole was also always vaguely on-edge at the events Cooper dragged him to. It was easy for Cooper, because he had a not-quite-rotating-door of girlfriends to casually drop into conversation if certain assumptions were made. Despite his best efforts, Cole didn't have that. Sure, he dated a little, but it never really seemed to go anywhere. After three years of ending up "better off friends," he just wrote the dating scene at Notre Dame off as a no-win situation and dug even deeper into his studies. It wasn't that he found the assumption that he was gay offensive - Jonathon was gay, and he was the most manly guy that Cole knew. But Cole didn't think that he was gay, and if his mom ever got the idea he might be, well, there was a strong possibility that he'd be scrambling to come up with upwards of $30,000/year all by his lonesome in a hurry. His education was too important to screw around with on the off-chance that his preferences ran to more than just the occasional accidental night fucking around with Cooper. He didn't push the issue with girls because he was worried about what he might learn, and even though (as Cooper liked to put it) "a blow job was a blow job, why be picky?" it was just as easy to "accidentally" date only girls who were interested in waiting until marriage.
Cooper never teased Cole about his concerns, and he always steered clear of Cole's love life when they chatted - either online or in person - which Cole appreciated immensely. There were some things that just weren't worth dealing with while one was balancing a completely-and-utterly-insane load of chemical engineering courses. He could have opted for an extra term or two; while tuition was expensive, his parents would have understood the fact that some courses were only offered in one or two section chunks and freshmen just didn't get into certain classes the first time around. But they'd put down more than enough money on his education as it was, and the minor suspicion that he might not like girls as much as he thought he did was getting more and more persistent the closer he got to being financially independent. He was going home less, spending his breaks in Evanston with Cooper or driving to various grad schools to talk to their admissions people about funding options. Apparently, an unweighted 3.75 GPA and some volunteering experience in minority-focused fields, along with the internship he'd landed in Chicago the summer before his senior year, led to some sweet grant offers. The "unlimited minutes" package for his cell phone was worth every penny that spring, between the calls to Cooper and Jon and his parents. Some things were just easier to discuss on the phone.
Cole never got the chance to ease his parents into the (apparent) change in his romantic preferences, or even to sound them out on the topic. While he knew where his mother stood, being just this side of the line between Reform and Orthodox and carrying plenty of old-school baggage with her just for the hell of it, his father's position was a bit murkier. David Bochner had been effectively out of the house since Cole was twelve, working in Chicago and only coming home on the weekends. Cole hadn't realized what was going on when the first affair occurred, but he was old enough to recognize the signs by the second and third times. His parents would fight, and his Dad would go all quiet, and then he'd stop coming home for a few weeks. Then, one night, he'd just be back as if nothing had happened, and Cole was too grateful to have him back to ask. Cole's mother never said anything about why her husband was gone for a month at a time, made no attempt to explain. The one time Cole made the mistake of asking, he'd ended up spending a month with his Aunt Rachel, who'd married a Rabbi and believed that children should be seen and not heard. Even if you were 14 and had already had your Bar Mitzvah, you were still a child in her house and should close your mouth and roll up your sleeves. He'd never brought up the subject again.
So, it was possible that Cole's father might have taken the news that his son would not be taking a bride in the near future with a grain of salt and a strong dose of patience. At least, he might have if Cole had been given the chance to explain things to him. Instead, his parents got their dates mixed up and drove down for commencement a day earlier than he was expecting them. "Cole, are you up, dear? I- Cooper?"
It was an awkward situation all around, made worse by the fact that neither Cole nor Cooper could effectively duck out of the immediate line of fire due to the lack of certain essential articles of clothing. They were saved from having to even attempt an explanation (and Cole knew that particular responsibility lay solely with him) when Cole's mother (predictably) took the vocal offensive, turning her back on the bed with her son and his best friend and instead lighting into her husband. "David! Do you see this? Do you? This is what happens when you send a boy to a Catholic university. I told you he shouldn't have been so far from home. But did you listen to me? No." She raised her right hand, poking David hard in the chest. "This is your fault. You're his father. You need to fix this! I will not have my son thrown out of Temple because he didn't have a strong enough male influence. Do you hear me?"
Cole took advantage of his mother's distraction to pull on a pair of boxers and stand. It took him two tries to cut into her tirade. "Mom. Mom! First, you need to step into the room and close that door. I refuse to have this discussion in front of the rest of the dorm." He crossed his arms and stared at her until she did so. "Second, this is not Dad's fault. It's not your 'fault'." She opened her mouth again, and he held up a hand to cut her off. "And it most definitely is not Cooper's fault. This is the twenty-first century, Mom. Yes, I've had sex with Cooper. Yes, I liked it. No, we're not getting married. No, he's not a girl. And yes, that means I'm probably gay. Now, I was up for a large portion of the night doing things I'm sure you don't want to hear about, and I need at least two cups of coffee and a shower before I'm having anymore of this discussion. I'll meet you downstairs by the main doors in half an hour. If you're not there, I'll understand."
Cole's mother blinked dumbly at him for a minute before pulling herself together. "Now, wait just a minute, here. I'm-"
"Leaving." David cut in, startling both Cole and his mother. "Because I need something a lot stiffer than coffee before I'm going to have this conversation, any of it. And because while I might not understand everything that's going on here, I do know that Cole is an adult capable of making his own decisions." He took his wife's arm and pulled her toward the door. "Even the bad ones." David turned, shooting Cooper an indecipherable look before nodding once in Cole's direction. "We'll be at the hotel tonight, and we'll be at commencement tomorrow. And then we'll talk when you get home."
Cole swallowed hard and nodded. "Later, Dad." He waited until the door closed before unclenching his fists, wincing as he realized that he'd left deep half-circle marks in his palm. He took a shaky breath, carefully easing himself back down onto the bed where Cooper still sat, sheet bunched around his waist and back braced against the cinderblock wall that seemed to be an inescapable feature of dorm rooms everywhere. Cole took a second breath, easier than the first as Cooper's hand settled gently onto his back and began to move in circular motions.
Cole choked on a laugh, recognizing the hysteria for what it was and unsure if he should let it out to play or bury it somewhere in the darkest corners of his mind. Spared a moment to wonder if that would even work. "I'll live, I think." He shivered once, the movement claiming his whole body before it subsided. "Sorry you had to see that. This wasn't how I wanted them to find out." He leaned back into Cooper's hand, allowing his eyes to slip closed for a minute before they snapped open as another concern emerged. "Wait, what about you? I mean, you date girls. You like girls. Mom's probably going to call your mom and tell her that you're some kind of a pervert or I've corrupted you or something."
Cole was surprised to see Cooper shrug, obviously unconcerned. "My parents know I'm not quite arrow-straight. They seem to be okay with it, you know? I mean, if I told them we were getting married it might be different, but we're not exactly Jon and Timothy, you know?" Cooper shook his head, his expression shifting to one of disbelief and fond amusement. "Still can't believe Jon's actually planning to ask him. I mean, I get it and all - they're moving for his law school program, and he wants to give Timothy concrete proof that he understands the commitment being made, but still."
Cole nodded, relieved, and allowed himself to lean into Cooper's touch just a bit more. "I don't want that."
"Just so you know, I mean. I'm not your boyfriend, I don't expect anything like that. All the same, I'm glad you're here." Cole shifted around, scooting until he was lying down with his head resting on Cooper's thighs.
"You're my best friend, man. Nowhere else I'd rather be." Cooper lightly slapped Cole's shoulder. "And besides, you still give the best head I've ever had. I'd be a fool to turn down an offer like that."
Cole gave a breathy chuckle, rolling over so that he could get a glimpse of Cooper's face. "Is that a request?"
Cooper squirmed, slouching further down against the wall. "Well, if you're offering..."
Cole ran his hand up the length of Cooper's leg before gently grasping the sheet and pulling it down. "Now, how could I turn down such a heartfelt and poetic request like that?" He shifted again, sitting up to get into a more comfortable position. "Why, I might think you had designs on my virtue, using fancy words like that."
Cooper rolled his eyes. "Oh, for fuck's sake, just get on with it."
Cole grinned, but his response was cut off by the ringing of a cell phone, the musical sequence specific to just one of his friends. If it had been anyone else, he'd have left it to voicemail. But this was Jon, who'd spent far more time on the phone with him than was healthy helping him to sort out his grad school options and sexual orientation (and there was a term he most definitely was not comfortable using yet, wasn't sure he ever would be). With a groan of frustration that was emphatically echoed by Cooper, Cole leaned over the side of the bed to find the source of the noise. Once it was located, he tapped the answer key and put it to his ear. "This had better be good."
"He said yes!!"
Cole blinked, looking over at Cooper for a hint as to what Jon was talking about before it dawned on him. "Wait, that was this weekend? What happened to waiting until summer?" It was May. May definitely did not count as summer in Cole's book.
"I was going to, but then I accidentally left the ring over at his place and it was this whole big mess because he still thinks I see him as being a girl or something, even though he knows that's not true, and I know, sometimes I really suck at being romantic, but it just sort of slipped out and, um, he said yes!" Jonathon was going a mile a minute, which was unusual for him. But then, Cole supposed it wasn't every day that you successfully proposed marriage, so he could cut the man some slack.
"That's awesome, Jon. Congratulations. Hey, Cooper's in town for grad, why don't you tell him your big news?" Cole shoved the phone into Cooper's hand, ignoring the sour expression he got in response.
"Jon? Hey, what's up? Really. That's great. Look, I've got to run. Cole will call you back later, okay?" Cooper snapped the phone shut, turning his attention back to Cole as he resettled on the bed. "Now, where were we?"
Cole pretended to think it over. "Hm. Let me see..."
Several hours later, sated and drowsing in the late-morning sun, Cooper felt the need to break the contented silence. "So, I've been thinking."
Cole snorted, rolling over onto his side to fully express his skepticism. "I thought I smelled something burning."
"I'm serious." Cooper punched him in the shoulder, just hard enough to make Cole lie back down, grumbling under his breath. "So, you're going to U of M Twin Cities in fall, right?"
Cooper tucked his hands behind his head, then decided he didn't want them there afterwards and crossed them over his chest before finally settling on tucking just his right hand behind his head. "Well, you see, I got this job offer from a lobbying group in Saint Paul. And I'm thinking of taking it."
Cole blinked, because of all the places Cooper could have been going, this had not even been in the top ten. "What happened to starting your masters at Ohio State?"
Cooper shrugged, carefully studying the ceiling. "It's a really good job offer, and it looks a hell of a lot more interesting than an MA program in political science. Cheaper, too."
Cole propped himself up on one elbow, studying his not-lover for clues as to why the fuck he was doing this, bringing it up now of all times. "Really."
"So, I was thinking, I mean if you'd be interested, that maybe we might want to get an apartment together. Save money, roommate you already know, that kind of thing."
"Are you asking me to move in with you?"
"What? No. Of course not. I'm just suggesting a mutually beneficial arrangement. You know, good for both of us. I mean, moving to a new city is always easier if you know someone there, right?"
"I do know someone there, remember? Nate transferred to the U of M two years ago, and he's taking an extra year on his BS."
The change in Cooper's expression was subtle, but then Cole had known him a long time. "Right, I'd forgotten about that. Well, good. That's good, I-"
Cole placed gentle fingers over Cooper's mouth to silence him. "I didn't say no."
Cooper reached of and grasped Cole's hand, pulling it away. "You didn't say yes, either."
"I don't want you doing this for me, Cooper. If you make this choice, it needs to be for you. You're my best friend, and I can't risk losing that. I won't. So if you can tell me, honestly, that this is for you, I'll say yes."
Cooper released Cole's fingers, and gently cradled his friend's face with both hands. "I'm not doing this just for you." He pulled Cole down, taking a moment to savor a kiss. "And I won't lie and say I'm doing it just for me, either." He shifted, urging Cole to rest more fully atop him. "I'm doing this for both of us, because I'm sick and tired of only sleeping with you when one of us has vacation."
Cole's eyes widened, surprise and cautious optimism apparent in everything from the line of his jaw to the light creases in his brow. "Really?"
"Yes, really. Is that enough for you, or do we have to attempt to discuss our feelings?"
Cole shook his head in reflex, leaning down to halt the flow of words with a kiss. "It's more than enough, and you damn well know it."
~ Finis ~