In retrospect, Matthew isn't quite sure how he survives the next few weeks.
There are a few reasons for this, and by the time February comes around, he can recite them by memory – the classes (ridiculously hard now that they were in second semester, all the professors seeming to think that one semester of college had prepared them to write their dissertations), the weather (cold and miserable and perpetually icy – not even snowy, just icy), and the indignity of combining the two, walking to class in below zero weather –
And there was, of course, that other thing.
The thing from last semester.
The thing with Gil.
The sexuality thing.
Three weeks into the semester, and Matthew still isn't sure what, exactly, to do about it.
Of all the things to worry about – and of all the things to worry about Gilbert – he'll admit it feels fairly trivial, fairly selfish to be worrying about this when Gilbert comes back every other day wrung-out and shaky from therapy sessions. If there was anything to be worrying about, it was that, whether his roommate is fine and not whether he wants to hook up with him –
Well. Maybe not. But still. In terms of priorities, his roommate's health ranks much higher than any potential romantic he might have had –
But the problem is that was that most of the time, Gilbert seems, well, fine. Not that Matthew trusts that much, these days – but it's easy to forget that, these days when he is so distracted with work and Gilbert is so determined to not talk about it.
The attraction thing might have played a part in the distraction, too.
Most of the time, it isn't something he thinks too much about; he has work, after all, schoolwork but also jobs and internships now that first semester is over and words like "future" and "finances" have started to hang over his head. And even then, in the little time he has left, most of the time, it'll be fine. They'll sit, in their room, on separate beds – Gilbert doing his analysis homework and Matthew struggles through his Natural Science work – the lights above them faded yellow, Gil click-click-clicking his pen as he ponders a proof. Or it'll be on the carpet together, fresh popcorn between them and Game of Thrones playing on the old TV in front of them. And it will be fine – a new and respectful distance between them, of course, but with Joffery Lannister's descent into a lower form of life occurring in front of them ("Implying he wasn't one already?" "An even lower one, then"), easy enough to forget –
And then something will happen, Gilbert's wrist brush against his as he reaches for popcorn or Matthew will look up and Gilbert's face will be suddenly there, skin so pale in the blue light of HBO and so close Matthew could just lean up and –
Except, well, there was the part where he still didn't know if he was gay.
Admittedly, it would explain a lot of things – why his crushes in high school had always been so short-lived, why he'd never felt particularly bad about his lack of prom dates while his brother came home with girls on his arm every week – or would it? Had the idea, once implanted in his head, grown so that he only thought he was gay, like some sort of self-imposed hypnosis?
Except, well, that train of thought could as easily be denial, some sort of mechanism to cover an attraction he could not accept – except that idea, too –
Sometimes, Matthew hates being a psych major.
Francis would know, Matthew realizes with a jolt of chagrin, Francis, with all his experience and surprising insight would have no problem, know exactly what he felt and what to do –
Except that these days, Francis seems far too busy to [talk with Matthew on matters of the heart] – or to, really, talk at all.
Thesis work, he had said, shrugging his shoulders and smiling apologetically when Matthew had asked why he hadn't seen him on campus – "que," Antonio had said, smile lightly teasing, "you're sleeping with people for research now, hmm?"
To which Francis had only smiled quickly, waved a hand before disappearing to god-knows-where.
"O Dios mio," Antonio had said, eyes wide as he had watched Francis hurry off, "I can't remember the last time – creo que – he might actually be in love this time. Bien," he had said, smile softening, "I hope it works out for him."
Which, of course, is exactly why Antonio would not worked for this – he was just too nice, would have heard all of Matthew's complaints out and sent him off with a heart-felt wish that it all worked out. And Matthew, as much as he would have loved Antonio for doing it, knows that is not what he needed – not reassurances and calls to follow his heart, but rather the ability to find out what exactly that fickle organ wants in the first place.
Lovino would have been his next option – for all his scowling and lack of a thought-to-voice filter, he had quite the history on him, too, at least according to the rumors going around. Many of which, come to think about, had come from girls with decidedly bitter attitudes towards Lovino –
Except that, these days, Lovino, like Francis, seems preoccupied by his own romantic life.
In a way, Matthew supposes he should have seen it coming: the initial awkward meeting, the weeks of forced interaction, the lazy afternoons spent in cafes and the slow warming of relations – then finally that, that sudden night with Michelle appearing dressed up and Lovino seeming to see her for the first time – really, it was like something out of a rom-com. Matthew knew the shape of this story; he knew what would happen next.
Which, however, didn't make it any less painful to watch.
It'd been a Friday night, the next time he'd seen Lovino. There'd been a campus event, an outdoor concert-party-barbeque deal hosted by student government that Gilbert had (naturally) dragged Matthew to, on the premise that a friend of a friend of his brother's would be in the openers and it'd only be good to show support, you know? And Matthew, quite ready for a break from his mounting essays and just-maybe-possibly considering the possibilities of close proximity with his just-maybe-possibly crush, had agreed, expecting cold and claustrophobia and possible resolution of that daunting sexuality question.
None of which, besides the cold, he had gotten.
What he had gotten instead, in the surprising emptiness of Washington Square, was the realization, hitting him between half-way methodic warblings of indie rock, that Lovino's reputation as a flirt was well-deserved.
Because Lovino had been there too, smelling like he'd taken a shower in cologne and wearing for some inexplicable reason a pinstriped suit and suspenders. And next to him – dressed in blue pajama pants, hair like she'd just walked out of a shower, and looking just as dazed as Matthew felt about Lovino's sudden loss of fashion – so was Michelle.
And Matthew, hand still tentatively trying to sneak towards Gilbert's, had seen them there, Michelle folding her arms and tapping her feet while Lovino gave off attraction like they were radio waves, and had thought oh dear.
If this had been a rom-com, this would have been the moment it happened, the climax to all the sexual tension woven through the plot – it would have been it, the pivotal scene where the protagonists, opposites in personality but still two sides of the same soul, slowly and over the course of a remixed pop song realized their overwhelming attraction to each other –
As it was, all the songs were Radiohead covers (most chosen, it seemed, to be as deliberately depressing as possible), and Michelle, in spite of all of Lovino's heroic efforts to act as a proper male protagonist, had seemed completely unaffected.
And, watching Lovino aggressively flirt with her while Michelle became increasingly confused, Matthew couldn't help but cringe a little inwardly. It was, he had realized, less of a rom-com and a little more like Sexual Tension: The Musical.
For quite a few of the parties involved, actually.
No, Matthew decides, asking Lovino was completely out of the question – even if Lovino, in the morass of his own romantic distractions, would have been capable of providing some insight, Matthew would still have felt terrible doing it, bothering Lovino when he had so much on his plate. Not even mentioning, of course, the sheer amount of judgment Matthew knows he would have to prepare himself for – he could see it already, the shock surprise what in Lovino's eyes as he told him –
No, asking Lovino was out of the question. Absolutely so.
Which left just himself.
And that was, of course, no help at all.
The thing was –
The thing was, Matthew doesn't know. He doesn't know because it'd never happened to him; because he'd never dated anyone or really, thought of dating anyone; because – outside of a few crushes – he'd never been attracted to anyone really, substantially, and certainly no one male –
Inexperience, he decides. That was the whole problem of it, the reason behind the confusion that had been plaguing him since winter break. Which would mean, of course, that the best way out of it was to try again, test the hypothesis with all the rigor of the scientific method –
Except, how exactly, did you go about doing that? Telling your roommate hey, due to events that occurred last semester, I may be physically attracted to you – can we kiss, just to check?
Well. Well –
"I just don't get it," Matthew says.
"Huh?" Gilbert says, glancing over from his bed. "What's up?"
"It's just," Matthew says, shrugging his shoulders as he leans back, "we started this new unit a few days ago, right? About bonding. I mean," he says, turning to his roommate, "it's physics, yes, but it's the beginning of the unit, and the questions the professor's giving us, they're just ridiculous – stuff about ionic and covalent bonds as if we were supposed to know all about them already."
Matthew sighs. It was a Friday night; even when it had been senior year and he had swamped with applications and AP tests, he had never spent three hours on a Friday night working on science homework. Core science homework, at that.
On the other side of the room, Gilbert has put his book down, is staring at Matthew with a decidedly strange expression.
"What?" Matthew asks.
"It's just," Gilbert says, waving a hand as he sits up, "you got through high school, right? Didn't you take the ACTs or whatever –"
"Just the SAT, actually."
"Yeah, well, okay, that's fair, but whatever – your school made you take science, right? Because this is like, basic basic shit, roomie. Didn't you have to cover this in high school chem or whatever bullshit course you had to take?"
"Humanities person," Matthew replies, "freshman physics, sophomore bio, then AP Environmental Science junior year. We weren't too strong on the sciences at my school," he adds somewhat apologetically.
"But you covered that, right? Like, you know about ionic and covalent bonds, right – okay, so there're metallic ones, too, but they're probably too fancy for Core Natural Sci. But ionic and covalent bonds – you had to learn that somewhere before, right?"
"Junior year was a long time ago," Matthew says, then, seeing Gilbert's reaction, adds, "um. Probably? Um, I know what they are, and even if I've forgotten a lot of it, it's not too hard to pick up on. Not really. The TAs are good, and I'm not having any trouble on any of that – it's just figuring out how they work, really –"
"Okay," Gil says, lifting his hands in defeat; too late, Matthew realizes he had been rambling (and since when did he ramble, since when did he carry so rudely on like that?), "okay, fine, I get it. You're fucked."
Matthew begins to protest, then realizes Gilbert is right and merely nods, looking slightly abashed.
"S'not your fault," Gilbert says, shrugging as he walks over. "Public school system, No Child Left Behind and all that shit – fucked you over, okay, whatever, Bush administration screwed us all over – shit, you really don't know any of this? Fuck. Okay," he sighs after a moment, putting his hands on the table, "fine, whatever – I can work with this. Let's go from the start, okay?"
"Okay," Matthew says – not so much because he wants to spent another hour or so on the topic, but because well, Gilbert is there. Leaning slightly on his chair, elbow nearly brushing his elbow, the faint freckles across his nose visible in the light –
"Right," Gilbert says, "so you've got ionic and covalent bonds. Most of the tif me, ionic are a lot stronger than covalent – 's all about electronegativity. Ionic bonds, the difference in electronegativities between elements 's a lot higher, so the attraction between them's that much stronger..."
A/N: I meant for this chapter to be uploaded two weeks earlier, but well, life ^^; Thank you for staying with the story, nonetheless, and I hope you all had wonderful Februaries!
I also feel the need to issue one of those vaguely copyright-esque statements that views expressed in this work belong to the characters and do not necessarily reflect those of the author - which is to say that, as a college kid who grew up in an incredibly liberal city, Gil is probably going to have a certain set of politics ^^