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fellas, is it gay to kiss your bro?

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It didn't happen when Talay first met Perth.

That was normal for Talay, he was usually too self-absorbed for anything like that anyway; and moreover, he was running late that day.

That was his fault too, because he had stopped to buy a coffee before heading to the shoot, and then it had begun to rain, and you tend not to notice too much when you're drenched from head to toe with a coffee that's gone cold in one hand; especially things that are so gentle, so quiet, so small.

"Small," was the first thing Talay thought when he met Perth. The meeting really wasn't anything special, because he couldn't really read the guy.

This tiny man was supposed to play his love interest in the new series he was going to act in, and Talay had no problem with that, of course, but after a few sips of his now-cold coffee, his mind whirred: Will we even get along?

Talay's question would be promptly answered within a week, actually, even less than that — because it seemed like Talay and Perth clicked instantly: starting from niche interests to the same kind of humor; soon Talay would have somebody that laughed at everything he said. This comforted Talay, because he didn't have to try too hard to make his new friend laugh.

Perth simply seemed to find Talay hilarious.

They got along well, too well, in fact. The rest of the cast was fun too, Talay thought, even though he was a little bit intimidated by Cooper.

By the first month of filming, Talay had made a name for himself as the prankster of the crew, and his favorite target was happy-go-lucky Poy, even though the younger always had Cooper as silent protection.

Talay loved making people laugh, and the cast genuinely enjoyed his jokes, much to his relief. He'd tease them, they'd tease him back, and his good friend Perth would just laugh along, never partaking in either, but helping Talay pull off his pranks once in a while, if Talay whined hard enough.

One day though, randomly, after "borrowing" Shane's shoes and hiding them in a closet, Talay realized something that made him feel uncomfortable.

It was the first time he felt this silent discomfort tug at his chest, as he watched Perth laugh at Shane attempting to beat him up. The way Perth's eyes would crinkle, the way his face would light up, the way he'd be a little out of breath from laughing at Talay — it all dawned on him at once.

And Talay felt that uncomfortable, silent tug in his chest, and found himself thinking that it'd be nice if Perth always found him this funny.

Talay and Perth had many things in common; an insatiable appetite was one of them. So they'd randomly go out to eat after every day of filming. Kind of an unspoken tradition, really; sometimes joined by other cast members, and sometimes, just the two of them.

Talay accidentally let slip one day that it was kind of better when it was just the two of them.

He was drunk, and very happy, and Perth had the annoying habit of making Talay feel too comfortable; so comfortable that Talay, just for a second, stopped holding himself back, and said what he thought.

And Talay quickly realized what he had said, feeling that similar knot in his chest.

Perth had laughed at this, which made Talay feel like he wanted to disappear into his seat, but then Perth said, very softly, "Yeah, I think so too," and it was suddenly too quiet in the restaurant, and Talay felt like the lights around them somehow got dimmer.

The food was great.

Carpooling with Perth was another routine Talay had fallen into. Every morning he'd drive Perth to work, and drop him off, and Talay absolutely loved complaining about it, because it would make Perth profusely apologize and blush a really nice shade of pink, and Talay could laugh at him.

But sometimes Talay would think about what would happen after they were done filming, when Perth didn't need Talay to drive him anymore. and Talay's chest would hurt again.

"Isn't it a little weird?" Talay had asked Perth, after the first reading of the script.

Perth slightly tilted his head to a side, confused, "What is?"

"Well... Bro, like... isn't it a little strange playing ... uhm... two guys that like each other..."

Perth laughed, "two guys that like each other? You mean lovers?"

"Well yeah!" Talay said, embarrassed, "I mean we'd never feel like this in real life! Don't you feel weird?"

Talay thought he saw Perth's smile falter for a second, but he must've imagined it, because Perth quickly replied, smiling brightly, "it's not a problem. After all, it's just a job, right?"

It's just a job.

It's just a job.

It's just a job.

A job where Talay has to kiss Perth.

He couldn't sleep the night before. Why was he overthinking this? He had been acting all his life; a kiss was literally the easiest scene to film.

But it was with Perth.

Which was absolutely fine! Because Talay had kissed boys before. It was totally not a big deal.

But it was with Perth.

And Talay remembered never wanting the car rides to end, never wanting their mini dates to end, never wanting the filming to end, never wanting what they had to end.

But it was getting closer now, the wrap-up was just a few days away.

And he had to kiss Perth tomorrow.

The knot in his chest had returned; this time, even more painful than before, as if eating him whole, swallowing him, his thoughts, and his heart.

Talay spent the entire night playing dead by daylight.

And by daylight, he looked dead, and the knot was still present, annoying as ever.

Thank heavens for makeup artists, who cursed Talay for not taking care of himself. But Talay wasn't listening, because from the corner of his eye he was spying on his partner, who had just entered, radiating the same glow that made Talay want to dig his own grave and bury himself alive.

Thank god for makeup artists, because after they were done with Talay, nobody could tell he wanted to immediately find a cliff to jump off of.

And thank god for coffee, because Talay had three entire cups of it already, and he was ready to deliver his scene.

He shouted his head off, and pushed Perth back so hard that Perth fell, but the director said it was a great shot, and so they continued.

Yelling.

Yelling.

And Perth asks "Why?" again.

Talay can't see Ram anymore, because that's just Perth in front of him.

And Talay wants to kiss Perth.

And so, he does.

It's furious, angry, passionate, sad — and something Talay has thought about every day since he got to know Perth.

Perth's lips are soft and Talay wonders if his are too.

They put their heads together to breathe, just like the script says, and Talay can't look at Perth.

He's too scared to open his eyes.

But then Perth kisses him again, and Talay loses himself, opening his mouth involuntarily as Perth quickly deepens the kiss, and Talay feels like he's going to cry because it just feels so good.

It feels too good.

Too real.

And neither of them hear the director say cut.

*

"Wanna go get burgers?" Perth asks Talay after they're done filming for the day.

Talay is scared, and he can still feel Perth on his lips, but he nods anyway.

The praises for their kiss scene is the talk of the set that day, "the best kiss we've seen this year," they said, and Talay really couldn't help not taking the compliments.

Because that wasn't acting.

That was Talay being Talay.

And this realization was making him not be able to eat, even though he was so, so hungry.

"Are you okay?" Perth asked after watching Talay poke at the lettuce again, only having taken one bite.

"What? Yeah!" Talay said, quickly faking enthusiasm, "Why wouldn't I be?"

Perth shrugged in reply, going back to his burger.

So, it didn't happen when Talay first met Perth.

It wasn't love at first sight, it wasn't a special spark that swept Talay off of his feet and left him stranded in the middle of the ocean.

It happened with every laugh, every look, every joke shared. It happened because of Perth's weird sense of humor, and giggles, and the way he made Talay feel just so fucking comfortable.

It happened gradually, so slow that before Talay could even notice what was happening, he had fallen in love with Perth.

"Bro," Talay breaks the silence. There are people around them; not too crowded, but not too quiet either.

"What?" Perth mumbles, his mouth full of food.

"I am in love with you."

Perth doesn't choke; instead, he stares. And then he finally swallows his food.

"I..." he begins, but Talay cuts him off, a new wave of energy rushing through him; maybe it's adrenaline, maybe it's all the coffee he had drunk throughout the day finally catching up:

"No, not like a bro. Like two guys who like each other — lovers. Like lovers, or likers, I guess, but I don't know. But what I do know is that I like you and I have wanted to kiss you since forever which is so lame and weird but I have, and I feel like I will be lying to you if I don't tell you this. I know it's just a job, and I respect that and I respect you and I respect my mom too — but I can't keep this a secret anymore, because it's messing up my vibes, bro! And if you don't wanna be friends with me anymore that's whatever but you'll always be my best bro and —"

"Talay, please shut up," Perth begs. There's a smile on his lips which scares Talay even more, and so Talay continues:

"No, I understand that too! I don't want to embarrass or inconvenience you with my feelings. I would never do that to you, bro. Just know that we can still be friends and I am so sorry —"

"TALAY," Perth snaps at him, "I understand. I love you too. Romantically. Now please eat, you look like you're going to pass out."

Talay stares at Perth, quiet and unmoving for the first time in his whole life.

"Ok. Cool," he manages to say after a while, and quickly begins to eat his food, as Perth smiles at him from across the table.

The food really is great.

*

Bonus:

"LOL bro why's everyone staring at us."

"Idk somebody was yelling about being lovers a few minutes ago."

"I was yelling?"

"You were yelling."