“Why are your beds shoved together?”
“Oh, Alfred gets scared sometimes, is all. He forgets to put his back before class.”
“Dude, that’s kinda gay.” Gilbert pauses for a moment. “Do you guys snuggle?”
“Oh course not,” Matthew says, blushing and looking away.
“Oh you do! You totally do! That makes it hella gay. Look, bro, I know you’ve got the biggest boner for this guy but if he’s like cuddling you while he sleeps, it’s probably mutual.”
Matthew shakes his head and jabs him with a pen. “Shut up. I don’t have a boner for him.”
“Well not right now at least,” Gilbert says with a grin. “But I’m sure you do pretty often. ‘Sides you’re just dodging now. I think he likes you too.”
“Nawww, don’t try getting my hopes up.”
Gilbert throws a shoe at him. “Come on, dude, have you ever slept cuddled up to someone you didn’t want to fuck at some point in the near future??”
“Well,” Matthew starts but Gilbert cuts him off.
“When you’re a kid doesn’t count either.”
Matthew sighs. “Well no but…”
Gilbert rolls his eyes and messes with Matt’s hair. “Yeah me neither. I mean sure cuddling is great but cuddling in bed usually means I’m intimate enough to want other stuff as well.” He wiggles his eyebrows. “If you know what I mean.”
“Maybe,” Matthew says, sounding exasperated and perhaps a bit hopeless. “But Alfred isn’t you.”
Alfred didn’t date much in high school. Really he had never been all that interested. Sure, he’d been to prom with a pretty little lady on his arm, and he’d went out a few times on meaningless one time dates. In the long run though, those dates had been just for fun, and they had never went anywhere.
Perhaps that’s why he’s so hesitant to put the moves on his adorkable shy roommate. It’s also why he’s looking to his brother for advice.
“Awwwww c’mon! Help me out, Artie. You’re like the gayest guy I know.”
Arthur gives him a long suffering stare and sips his tea. “Because I’m the only one who’d put up with your insensitive shit, you twat,” he says with a sniff. “And besides, I’m bisexual, I’ll have you know.”
“Yeah yeah you told me. I’m just kidding anyways, jeez,” Alfred says, waving his hand. “Just help me out will ya?”
“You’ve got him in the ‘cuddling each other in bed’ phase without even trying. I’m not sure what sort of advice you’re looking for.”
“I need to know how to be romantic! Or, like, put the moves on him or something.”
Arthur thumps him soundly on the back of the head. “Just act natural. Every time you over think things you do something stupid.”
Alfred pouts at him, but his brother is probably right. Act natural. Yeah!
When Alfred gets back, he invites Matthew for an afternoon of Lord of the Rings and snacks. A good break from studying and just have some fun for a few hours. Their beds are still pushed close together from the night before, and Alfred proposes that they stack all the pillows together to make a nest.
Matthew thinks it sounds like a wonderful idea. It’d been a long day of studying for Matthew- Gilbert is fluent in German but not the best tutor. He gets distracted too easily, and sometimes he tries to teach Matthew dirty words without telling him the proper meaning of them. An afternoon of chilling out with Alfred sounds like a perfect break from that.
“I’ll pop some popcorn, and you get the pillow nest ready?”
Alfred grins and does so. “Can I hang my extra sheets up and make a fort over here too?”
“Uhhhh I guess so,” Matthew says. “I can help if you want?”
“Naw man, I got this.”
Fifteen minutes later, they’re settled into a mass of pillows with Spider-man sheets hung up around them with the TV just barely inside the ‘tent’ they’ve created.
“It’s like we have our own little planet, Mattie,” Alfred tells him as he wraps his arms around Matthew’s shoulders and draws him close.
“Y-yeah… our own little planet.”
Matthew blushes but settles into his hold. It isn’t unusual for Alfred to be overly affectionate, and he decides to just bask in it without examining it too closely. They have a popcorn fight at one point- purely Alfred’s fault of course. As far as Matthew is concerned, tickling someone was not an invitation to shove popcorn down the back of their shirt.
But still, they’ll have to clean their beds of popcorn before they sleep now.
When they finally settle down Alfred doesn’t immediately pull Matthew back into his arms. Disappointment is heavy in his chest- Matthew had been the one who ruined the moment with the tickling after all.
Then suddenly, Alfred finds Matthew’s hand, and he slides his fingers through Matthew’s. Alfred holds his hand tight and acts as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to hold hands with someone out of the blue. On the one hand, it’s incredibly intimate and romantic. On the other, well, it’s Alfred, and he always seems to be a step behind in understanding social nuance. It might not mean anything at all.
In the end, Alfred is acting as though it’s so normal, and so Matthew acts that way as well. His hand is so strong and warm, and Alfred lets Matthew lean against his shoulder. Well, why should he complain about that?
‘Act Natural’ to Alfred basically meant ‘do what you want so long as the other person seems into it too.’ As calm as he is acting, Matthew holding his hand is making his heart race with excitement. He decides to push his luck.
“Hey why don’t we leave our beds together and sleep on the pillow mountain tonight??”
After a long quiet moment, Matthew squeezes his hand and nods. “I’d like that.”
As they have done several times now, they sleep curled close in each other’s arms.
Alfred wakes up first in the morning again with popcorn in his hair and Matthew’s face buried against his chest. Heart beating fast, he drags him closer and imagines to himself that this is what heroes must feel like when they hook up with their one true love at the end of the story.
But making it to happy endings like that require time and patience, and Alfred has never been very good at waiting. What he really wants to do is wake him up with a kiss, but he decides that it’s that’s coming on too strong too fast.
Maybe he’ll do that tomorrow morning instead.