"Ohhhh-kay, I can do this," Roy said encouragingly to himself as he paced back and forth in his flat. "It's not that bad. All I have to do is find the films, and put one in the DVD player...and figure out how to tell my heterosexual best mate that I'm in love with him. That's no problem."
He attempted to believe his self-placating words for approximately six seconds before hurling himself at the phone and frantically dialing Jen's number.
"Hello, IT, have you tried - bloody hell, I mean, hello?" came Jen's voice from the other end.
"Code Maroon, Jen, we have a Code Maroon!" Roy shouted frantically into the phone.
"Code Maroon?" she asked, confused and a bit exasperated. "Roy, do you really think I've got nothing better to do than memorize your and Moss's silly, color-coded emergency system?"
"But it's Code Maroon, Jen, it's like the most important one!" he replied frustratedly.
"Can't you just tell me?" Jen whined.
"The whole point of the color-coded emergency system," Roy explained, annoyed, "is that in the event of an emergency, precious time can be saved by simply stating the color of the emergency instead of having to explain all the details of the emergency itself. It's so simple, Jen!"
"And you realize that explaining this to me every time you try to utilize the system does, in fact, take three times as long as just telling me the problem in the first place?"
"Just look it up, it's Code Maroon, right there in between Code Magenta and Code Mauve, all right?"
"Fine, fine," Jen conceded, and Roy knew wherever she was, she was rolling her eyes. "Let me see, let me see, Code Cerulean, caller of the code has gotten his or her head stuck in a bannister; Code Lavender, caller of the code has accidentally become a cult leader and may be indicted for murder - these really do run the gamut, don't they Roy?"
"Would you just find it, Jen?" Roy shouted, his panic only increasing.
"All right, yes, here we are, Code Maroon: the caller of the code wishes to declare his or her love to another party and is having a full-scale freak-out."
"See, Jen, simple?" Roy said impatiently, "Now, since this whole mess is your fault to begin with, for God's sake, help me, woman!"
"All right, calm down, Roy, I'll help," Jen said quickly. "How long do we have?"
"An hour, oh God, Moss will be here in an hour, Jen!" Roy panicked.
"Man up, Roy," Jen said commandingly, "This is no time for hysterics. Now, let's just forget that it's Moss for a second, as that thought seems to turn you into a useless puddle, and just pretend that you've got a regular date with a girl tonight. What is the normal protocol for when Code Maroon is called?"
"Well, that's the point, isn't it, Jen? It's never been called before, so I don't know how to respond!" Roy was trying very hard not to hyperventilate.
"Wait, never? Neither you nor Moss has ever had to tell someone that you loved them?" Jen asked incredulously.
"Of course not!" Roy shouted, "Have you met us? I've only managed to get a girl up to the apartment once or twice, and that has always been more than enough for her to suddenly remember that her crocodile's having emergency surgery or she has to get up early because she's moving to Yemen in the morning. This going on a date with someone who isn't phased by my weirdness is totally new territory for me!"
"It's all right, Roy, we'll figure it out," Jen said as patiently as she could manage. "Now, first things first, I'm going to need you to try and clean up that disaster area you call a flat so that it is at least somewhat fit for habitation by humans. This means dishes cleaned and put away - you know, like in a cabinet - trash in the bin, and for God's sake try and corral that sewer rat living under your sink. Nothing spoils a romantic evening faster than an unexpected rodent attack."
"Well, I think you're being a little hard on Winston," Roy said defensively as he rose to begin tidying the flat, keeping the phone cradled to his ear, "But fine, point taken."
Ten minutes, three full waistbins full of refuse, and an impressive amount of frantic scrubbing later, Roy's flat came closer to resembling a place of residence than it had at any point since he had begun renting it three years previously. Unfortunately, the panic had not subsided.
"Now, isn't that better?" Jen asked - a bit condescendingly, Roy thought.
"Well, sure, Moss is at much lower risk of contracting an asbestos-related illness, or being savaged by an abnormally large rat," Roy conceded reluctantly, "But that's not going to salvage the date if I try to talk to him and all that comes out is a high-pitched squeaking noise."
"You've talked to Moss a thousand times, Roy," Jen said, a bit exasperated, "Why is this any different?"
"Oh, it's so different, Jen!" Roy exclaimed. "I mean, before he was just Moss, regular old Moss, my best mate, working at the next desk over. But now, oh God now, he's Moss, my Moss, the unknowing object of my accidental adoration, and everything he does or says is wonderful and terrible and layered in secret meaning!"
"Whoa, okay, calm down," Jen said quickly. "Just breathe, Roy."
Roy took a couple deep breaths, which made him feel a little better, before he said despairingly, "This is hopeless, Jen. What the hell am I going to do?"
"Roy," Jen said gently, "You're not starting from scratch here. You're Moss's best friend, and whether he feels the same way or not, he still cares about you."
"But that's the point, Jen!" Roy panicked, "What if I ruin that?"
"Roy, I have two words for you: Cowboy. Up."
"But..Jen..I mean..." Roy trailed off.
"Cowboy. Up," Jen repeated, her unyielding tone leaving no room for misinterpretation. "You just gotta push past all these "feelings" that you're having, put down the phone, and go seduce the pants off that curly-haired nerd!"
The combination of bossiness and inspiration that Jen was exuding gave Roy the confidence to call out a quick, ""I will, thanks, Jen!" before hanging up the phone. He was even feeling almost calm, almost himself again...that is until the shrill and unexpected peal of the doorbell caused the now all-too-familiar feeling of panic to leap once more into his chest.
"Roy?" Moss called out cheerfully from outside the door, "Hullo, Roy! It's me! And by me, I mean, of course, Moss!"
"Oh, hello, Moss!" Roy shouted back, silently cursing himself for letting his voice go too high yet again. "Just give me a quick sec, okay?"
"Not to worry, Roy," Moss replied, "I'm in no rush."
"Oh, good," Roy called back, before muttering fiercely to himself, "Sound like a man, damn it, a man!"
He swung open the door quickly and nearly slammed it in Moss's face when he felt his stomach begin to do little flip-flops at the sight of him. Luckily, the sheer terror which accompanied the flip-flops froze him in place for long enough that Moss could skip through the door with a cheery little wave before depositing himself on the sofa.
"Well, Roy, are you ready to go to a galaxy far, far away?" Moss asked eagerly, apparently quite oblivious to any changes in Roy's demeanor.
"Oh yeah, great," Roy stalled, "Just let me make us some popcorn first."
"Popcorn is essential for a proper movie-going experience," Moss agreed.
As he turned to place the popcorn in the microwave, Roy was suddenly struck by a wild, joyous thought: what if he'd been hallucinating the whole thing? Could have just been stress, he mused, and was nearly ready to laugh at himself for being so silly, when he turned round and nearly upended the popcorn bowl upon finding Moss standing only a few inches away from him and looking expectant.
"Excuse me, Roy," Moss said, still showing no signs that he thought the terrified look on Roy's face in the least odd, "But could I have a glass of milk, please? My throat always gets quite dry when I have popcorn."
Bollocks, thought Roy, as he realized that at that moment, he wanted nothing more than to fling the popcorn bowl aside and give Moss a big kiss on the lips. So, probably not just stress, then, no, he decided despairingly. Not trusting himself to respond in a normal voice, Roy settled for nodding swiftly, his face frozen in a terrified smile.
In response, Moss toddled past him to fetch a glass from the cabinet, filling it exactly three-quarters full with milk before replacing the bottle in the refrigerator and returning happily to the sofa.
Roy took a deep breath and strolled into the living room, he hoped nonchalantly. After plopping himself down on the opposite side of the two-seater from Moss, he immediately placed the bowl of popcorn between them, not trusting himself not to do something stupid, like try and snog Moss before the yellow script had even stopped moving up the page.
"Roy," Moss said, leaning over a bit while keeping his eyed glued to the screen, "Have you ever wondered if George Lucas intended Star Wars to be a metaphor for America gaining their independence from us?"
"Wait," Roy said incredulously, "You're saying you think we're the Evil Galactic Empire?"
"Think about it, Roy," Moss said, swiveling to fix him with his patented wide-eyed look, "Aren't we?"
Before Roy could think of what exactly the appropriate response to that was, Moss had returned his attention to the film itself and was munching his popcorn while concentrating hard.
Barely five minutes had passed before Moss spoke again, "Roy?"
"Yes, Moss?" Roy asked, momentarily distracted from his burgeoning panic attack by the sheer absurdity of Moss's previous line of questioning.
"Do you think Darth Vader felt self-conscious about his heavy breathing?" Moss mused in between bites of popcorn. "I mean, it had to have been slightly socially awkward for him. If he called someone up on the telephone, they might well have thought he was some sort of pervert!"
"You know, I...I don't know, Moss," Roy replied honestly.
Moss seemed to once again be satisfied with leaving the question unanswered, as he turned his focus back to Roy's abnormally large television set.
The next two or three hours passed very much like that, with Moss asking absurd question after absurd question about everything from the source of Princess Leia's distinctive hairstyle to whether or not what Chewbacca spoke was actually a consistent language, until eventually Roy found what had before been all-consuming hysteria dimmed down to the occasional blip of alarm.
So it was that when it came time to say goodnight, Roy truly believed he had managed to suppress his attraction to Moss enough to be able to interact with him on a daily basis without it being too weird. That is, until Moss kissed him again.
Roy was just about to give him a manly clap on the shoulder and a kinda cool, kinda casual, "Hey, man, see you tomorrow," when Moss suddenly pressed him against the wall of his flat's little foyer and crashed his lips down on Roy's. He kissed him just as wildly as he had that first time in front of the police cars, and Roy was no better equipped to respond to it with anything other than shock the second time round. He had only begun to register that Moss was behaving vaguely like he was actually trying to use his legs to climb through Roy into the wall behind him, when Moss pulled back, gave Roy his typical cheeky smile, and said, "Thanks, Roy! This has been a lovely date. See you tomorrow!"
It took Roy nearly a full minute to actually react to Moss kissing him silly and calling the evening a date, as he pried himself off the wall and went running after him, who by this point had made it a good ways down the stairs.
"Moss!" he called into the stairwell, "Come back!"
"Oh, hullo again, Roy!" Moss asked pleasantly, looking up, "Did I forget something?"
"Did you forg-" Roy sputtered, "Oh, would you please just come back up to the flat?"
"All right, Roy, if you insist," Moss replied, skipping back up the stairs and walking right past Roy into the flat.
"Okay, Moss," Roy said as calmly as he could manage, still reeling a bit from the kiss, "Why don't we sit down and have a bit of a chat?"
"If you want to, Roy," responded Moss good-naturedly, "I mean, we have been chatting all evening, but I'm always up for a really good chat."
"Good," Roy said, sitting on the two-seater and motioning for Moss to join him. "Now, why don't we start with what made you believe this was a date?"
"Let me think," Moss said, his eyes drifting to the side as if he were genuinely trying to recollect. "Well, you remember when I kissed you earlier today?"
"Do I remem- Moss, it is not every day that I snog my best mate after accidentally committing a felony, so I think it would be fair to say that I remember, yes!"
Moss completely missed the sarcasm, per usual, and continued, "Well, Roy, it is my understanding that when people kiss and then see a movie, it constitutes a date. Now, though I will concede that the order is generally reversed, I believe that the principle still holds."
"But Moss," Roy interjected animatedly, "That only works when the two people kiss because...oh well, you know...because they feel a certain way about each other..." He couldn't believe he was actually sitting on a sofa trying to explain love to Moss.
"I feel a certain way about you, Roy," Moss retorted. "I feel a very particular way about you, indeed."
"Not like friends, Moss," Roy insisted, "It's more...I don't know...animalistic than that. I mean it's not like you kissed me because you...wanted me...in that way, it was just so we wouldn't get arrested."
"No, it wasn't," Moss said matter-of-factly.
Whatever further argument Roy had been preparing flew completely out of his mind when he heard this. "Wait - what?"
"I didn't snog you so we wouldn't get arrested, Roy," Moss said, as if the idea was beyond silly. "I'm not a complete ignoramus. I mean, you said yourself, there was a rather large stack of bins
Roy grew pale as he asked tentatively, "But you can't mean...I mean you don't..." He found himself suddenly and completely unable to speak further.
Moss fixed him just as suddenly with his patented doe-eyed gaze and said quietly, but firmly, "Yes, I'm afraid...I love you, Roy."
This was the point in the conversation at which the room went a bit blurry and began to go rapidly in and out of focus. The next thing Roy knew, he was on the ground beside the couch, a pillow having mysteriously materialized beneath his head. His eyes gradually focused on Moss, who was standing a few feet away speaking to someone on his mobile.
Moss caught sight of him and whispered, "Hold on, Jen. I believe that Roy has regained consciousness."
Roy stared into Moss's wide eyes for a couple more moments before struggling quickly to his feet, not really wanting to find out what Moss would consider medically helpful in this situation.
Though he never broke eye contact with Roy, Moss briefly pressed the phone to his ear once more before proffering it to Roy with a firm, "Roy, Jen wishes to talk to you."
"Why did you ring Jen?" Roy whispered fiercely, knowing he was in for an earful.
"Well, I did try Emergency Services first," Moss replied, "But I couldn't get the number straight. I got as far as 0118 999 881 99, but I just kept getting Sweden, so I packed it in and phoned Jen instead."
Roy let out an exasperated sigh before reluctantly taking the mobile from Moss and bringing it t his ear with an over-casual, "Oh, hi Jen, how are you?"
"What is wrong with you, Roy?" Jen's voice demanded from the other end of the line. "Moss says he loves you, and you go and faint on him! This is what you wanted, for God's sake!"
"But, you don't understand Jen, he doesn't...I mean not really!" Roy sputtered defensively.
Jen heaved a labored sigh and said, "Put me on speakerphone, Roy."
"But Jen, you don't have to-" Roy objected.
"Speakerphone!" she demanded so sharply that Roy immediately hit the button and placed the phone on the counter between himself and Moss.
"Hullo again, Jen!" Moss said cheerfully at the phone.
"Yes, hello, Moss," Jen said a bit impatiently before diving right in. "Now, Moss, I think Roy is worried that you don't fully comprehend what you're saying."
"That's absurd, Jen!" Moss insisted to the phone. "Why would I say something I didn't understand?"
"Okay, boys," Jen said with another sigh, "We're going to do this painstakingly simply. I shall ask you each a couple questions, and you must each answer honestly - all right?"
"Affirmative, Jen," Moss said immediately, while Roy settled for shuffling his feet a bit and muttering, "Fine..."
"Now, Moss - do you care about Roy?"
"Oh yes, definitely," Moss replied.
"And Roy, do you care about Moss?" Jen continued, her voice taking on the patient, waiting tone of a primary school teacher.
"Well, yes, of course I do! He's my best mate in the whole world," Roy said with a little smile at Moss, who gave him an enormous grin in response.
"Good," Jen said positively. "Now, Moss, did you enjoy snogging Roy?"
"Yes, Jen," Moss said firmly, "I enjoyed it very much indeed. In fact, I enjoyed it enough to enact a repeat performance this evening."
There was a muffled sound from the other end of the line that sounded to Roy suspiciously like a suppressed giggle before Jen went on, "And Roy, did you enjoy snogging Moss?"
Roy felt Moss and Jen's attention on him, and he blushed in spite of himself as he murmured, "Yeah, no, it was...it was great."
Moss gave him another enormous smile as Jen exclaimed, "Well, for God's sake, then, there's no problem, you silly blighters! Congrats, you love each other. Now stop chuntering on to me and go do something about it! In fact, take the day tomorrow to sort it out - knowing you two, you'll need the extra time." A click and a dial tone followed this declaration, and Moss somewhat bashfully slipped the mobile back into his pocket.
"So..." said Roy, unsure how to start, "What do we do now?"
"Well," said Moss, "We could pop in Episode 5 and have a bit of a snog, if you'd like."
Roy found himself feeling calmer and happier than he had all day - hell, than he had in months, really - as he said, "Yes, Moss, I think I'd like that very much."