There was a tingling sensation in the pit of his stomach, like blood returning to a numb area, and the strange, yet pleasurable reaction trickled down his body, warming his veins and causing his toes to curl. All this from a simple, single kiss placed delicately to Nicky's pulse, right under the sharp of his jaw. The contact had lingered a moment, a few seconds, and it was enough to ignite the man from within. Nicky blindly reached out to embrace the person who elicited such an emotion within him. He circled an arm around the figure's back and a hand up into the short cropped hair. It was fine yet bristly. He raked his fingers through the mane, too short to tangle in, and immediately he knew.

Rod, his roommate, was planting a gentle affection to his throat, but there was an acceptance within him as if he wasn't surprised in the least, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, and so he wrapped his arm tighter and held the head firmer, and buried his face in the cook of the other man's neck and sighed in complete contentment.

Nicky's eyes fluttered gently open in the hazy gray of the early dawn. The molten sun had yet to crest the New York skyline and the living room was drenched in a bleary, dreary colorlessness. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. The memory came back to him in an instant and he placed a hand over the side of his neck as if feeling for the residual kiss. He rubbed over the spot gingerly, almost mournfully, before raising up on the sofa, propping his incline on his elbows. He looked across the length of the couch, over the plush arm, and to the closed door beyond which lead to the bedroom the two of them had shared up until recently.

Ricky, Rod's new boyfriend, was sharing that room now. He felt like he wanted to be upset with the new-comer but in truth, he really couldn't be. Ricky was a gosh-darn likable guy! He was fun! He was funny! He was playful but responsible and got along famously with Nicky, despite the fact that him moving in lead to Nicky being booted from his room and left to sleep in the living room. And the fact, of course, that Nicky now had to vie for Rod's attention.

Nicky and Rod had been friends since the first day they met in college and roommates only slightly less as long. And all that time, all those long years, Nicky had Rod all to himself. But Nicky sighed as he looked at the closed door and convinced himself the only thing he missed was his room.

*kiss!*

Nicky opened his eyes again, rudely awoken by a sloppy kiss to his forehead and came face to face with his mirror-double.

"Morning honey, I made your favorite!" Ricky joked, dodging Nicky's frantically swinging arms as he thrashed about, scrubbing his forehead as if Ricky had dripped acid on it.

"Ricky, dammit!" Nicky groused as he sat up on the sofa.

"Hey, Doppelganger, you slept in again. I'm about to run the vacuum cleaner." Ricky walked into the kitchen and picked up a piece of toast from a plate on the table. Nicky joined the other man in the kitchen, grabbing his own piece of toast that Ricky had prepared for him.

"Rod's at work already?" Nicky asked, partly making small-talk.

The crisp slice of bread hung from Ricky's mouth jelly-side up as he stirred copious amounts of cream and sugar into his coffee. He tried to answer through his breakfast but the nod of his head was all the answer that mattered. Nicky sat down at the table, eating sluggishly while he watched the new roommate move about the apartment, picking up a clutter of newspapers before plugging the vacuum into the wall-socket.

Dark brown hair, an olive complexion, and bright, wide hazel eyes; Ricky and Nicky were like twins, except that they weren't related. Ricky's muscles flexed under his skin, tightening and stretching as he glided the vacuum cleaner back and forth over the carpet. His lack of sleeves accentuated his build and Nicky found himself wondering if he wore sleeveless shirts so much to show off his muscles or because his muscles were so big that most shirts with sleeves were uncomfortable to him. Nicky looked down at his own physique with a little bit of disappointment. And then he ate another piece of toast.

The noisy machine whirred to a stop, the cacophony winding down into silence and suddenly everything sounded too quiet, like cotton had been shoved into their ears.

"I'm going out on the fire-escape for a smoke." Ricky said, pulling a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket and tapping them in his palm before shaking a single smoke from the package and taking it between his lips.

"I thought you were quitting." Nicky pointed out.

"Nah," responded Ricky, "I just told Rod that so he'd stop nagging me about it." He walked to the window near the computer desk and slid it open, preparing to crawl out.

"I'm gonna tell Rod." Nicky called out. That stopped Ricky in his tracks. He ducked back in, cigarette still hanging loosely from his mouth, un-lit. He placed a hand on his sharply jutting hip and huffed in a very effeminate manner.

"Better not."

"He's gonna find out sooner or later."

"Later preferably. Look, I'm not hurting anything! I smoke outside so I don't stink up the apartment! And I brush my teeth and use mouthwash so I don't smell like it. And I don't do it very much. One or two cigarettes here at home and two or so while I'm at work!" Ricky's defensive tone was turning into more of an imploring plea for mercy. Nicky waved his hand dismissively.

"I'm not really gonna tell. But you still shouldn't go around lying to Rod."

"A little white lie now and then keeps a relationship happy. If I told the truth exclusively, we'd just end up arguing all the time like you two." Ricky laughed as he climbed back out the window to enjoy his smoke.

Nicky made himself comfortable on the couch, wadding up his blanket and pillow and shoving them to the side. He flipped on the television. "Oh, no way! Plinko! How lucky am I!"

A minute or so passed before Ricky poked his head back into the window.

"Dude," he started, a puff of smoke billowing from his mouth. He frantically tried to swish at the cloud to dissipate it. "Could you bring me my coffee. I left it on the table in the kitchen." Nicky craned his neck back and groaned.

"Just wait and drink your coffee when you come back in. You'll be done with your cigarette in like five minutes." And with that he turned his attention back to the television, a long haired woman screamed ecstatically as her dollar-sign-adorned disk plinked down into the $1000 slot. Nicky made a little cha-ching motion with his fist.

"Nicky, you're so fucking lazy," Ricky said as he ducked back out, took a long drag off his cigarette before flicking the remains far and away off the side of the metal balcony.

Ricky plopped down next to Nicky, coffee in hand and eyes on The Price is Right.

"You suck."

"You swallow."

"You wish."

The two chided absently. A moment of muteness settled between them for a second before Nicky quirked his lip in a sneer, fanning his hand.

"Your breath smells like cigarettes."

"So? I don't kiss you, so why do you care?" Ricky shrugged.

"You kissed me this morning!" Nicky responded irately.

"Don't act like you don't like it." Ricky smirked playfully.

"Not from you." Nicky pouted without thinking.

"Oh yeah, sorry I'm not Rod."

"What did you say?" Nicky's tone turned serious, soft, almost concerned. The playful air stolen from the moment Ricky held up his hands in defense.

"I was just joking, jeez!"

Nicky let the comment slide, didn't pursue an explanation, but inside he couldn't get the comment out of his mind. Why out of all the people he could have used, why Rod? He could have said Pamela Anderson or Beyonce or, hell, even Kate Monster! Why did he say Rod?

"Why do you smoke anyway? You know it's killing you." Nicky muttered, not entirely sure where his sour mood was coming from today.

"You mean besides the fact that I'm addicted to the nicotine?" Ricky began sarcastically. An unamused stare from Nicky prompted him to elucidate. "Because I like it. I'm used to it. And I think it sucks when people try to tell me I can't have something that I want. It's like, I need it, whether it's bad for me or not."

Nicky nodded and looked back toward the television. The two sat unspeaking for a time. Nicky was in deep contemplation while Ricky seemed content to watch a blonde GI win the showcase. He held his mostly empty coffee cup out toward the television as if giving it a cheers. "Drew Carrey, you have ruined this show for me." And with that the well-cut man stood from his seat, seemingly oblivious to his friend's inner struggle. "Buddy, I'm gonna take a shower, so if you have to take a piss do it now. I need to get ready for work."

"Oh, uh, yeah." Nicky responded, taking Ricky's good advice and closing the bathroom door behind him. "Hey Ricky, can I ask you a question?" he called from within.

"Don't talk to me while you're pissing! It's gross!"

"You're gross." Nicky muttered.

"Just wait until you come out of the bathroom and then you can ask me a question."

Nicky exited, approaching Ricky, wiping his hands on his pants. "What? It's water! I just washed them!" Nicky responded to Ricky's wide-eyed gape of disgust.

"Okay, so what did you want to ask me?" Ricky leaned on the kitchen counter.

"How did you know you were gay? Just curious." Nicky stuck his head in the refrigerator, searching out a can of Sprite, but also using it as a way to avoid looking the other man in the eyes.

"Probably when I was in the 6th or 7th grade. I always had to make myself not look at the other guys in the locker-room after football practice. I mean, if you're gay, you're always gay, even from the beginning. But it's not until you get a little bit older that you kind of label yourself. It's dumb, but that little title we adorn changes our lives and who we are. Why? Oh my god, Nicky, you're coming out! To me! That's so awesome. I mean, I always kind of knew, but still… After work I'm buying you a drink!" Ricky had gone from reminiscent to ecstatic in the blink of an eye.

Nicky, who had found his beverage and taken a swig during the interim almost choked on the carbonated fluid, spitting it out in a spray all over the interior of the fridge. He coughed raggedly as he tried to shake his head, vehemently attempting to assure Ricky that was NOT the case.

"No," he coughed and cleared his throat, "I'm not coming out…"

"Trust me, buddy. This is a safe environment. You couldn't come out in a better place than in an apartment you share with two other gay guys!" Ricky interjected in a mislead attempt to quell Nicky's bashfulness.

"No, that's not what I mean. I'm not gay, Ricky. I'm not coming out. I was just asking. That's all. Curiosity, small talk, what ever you want to call it. I don't really care that much. I was just wondering."

Ricky nodded, giving a slightly disbelieving "Mmhmm." He wrapped one arm around his middle and rested the elbow of the other arm on it, flicking the wrist back in a very Cruella Devil kind of posture. It seemed that Ricky always switched from burly, manly mode into surly diva mode when he was being either defensive or facetious. "Dude, you're so deep in the closet you're finding Christmas presents." Ricky said, smacking his lips as he pushed his way past his roommate to make his way to the shower.

"Pssh, how long have you been waiting to use that one?" Nicky challenged.

"Like, ever since I first moved in!" Ricky laughed, closing the door.

Despite himself, Nicky had to laugh too. As long as he didn't think on it too much, it was benign enough of a statement. As long as he didn't consider the inexplicably painful longing he seemed to feel now that he had to share Rod with someone else. As long as he didn't acknowledge how unfair it seemed that he had known Rod longer and yet the other man, the new-comer, got so many more privileges, so much more… intimacy. Nicky shook his head. Heavy thoughts like that could wait. Now it was time for the Hundred Thousand Dollar Pyramid.