The Opposite of Isolation (2020)
Summary: Romance is the last thing Peter expects when he and his relatively new housemate get trapped together in the C-19 lockdown.
Warnings: Lightly implied sexual content, Male/Male, Transgender character, Trans Male character, Trans Peter. Getting to know each other, developing friendship, domesticity, awkwardness. Discussions about queerness. Possibly demi-sexual Sam. Confessions of attraction. Hesitation. Super awkward! Cake. Who doesn't love cake? Kissing. Happy ending!
CW! menstruation (non-graphic) - trans character experiences menstruation during lockdown.
“Oh, hey.” Peter shuffled awkwardly around the small kitchen to make room for Sam as he prepared his lunch. Sam was tall and broad, muscular from his three times a week at the gym, though it didn’t seem excessive on his large frame. Sam was fresh from the shower, dampness still clinging to his the short curls that sat atop his fade, the citrus scent of his shower gel lingering.
The kitchen wasn’t small, enough room to move around each other, but they had rarely used it at the same time before. This navigation was new, and entirely not helped by how the forced proximity was making it hard to ignore how attractive he found his housemate.
Sam had only moved in three months ago and whilst it was going okay, it felt like they were still practically strangers. Peter usually spent evenings and weekends either playing console games to unwind from his busy job, or out hiking to blow out the cobwebs. Sam, it turned out, worked odd shifts as he spent most days studying at the University, then evenings working as a bouncer at one of the gay clubs in town. Sometimes he pulled occasional shifts as a barman, including at weekends for festivals and events.
In the time they’d been living together, they’d barely even seen each other, and that had been working out well.
It wasn’t as though they didn’t get along. The few times Peter had found himself having dinner at their small kitchen table, whilst Sam was making himself something to take with him for his shift at the club, it had been pleasant. They just had never really made the time to purposely hang out.
Initially, Peter had wanted to fill the empty room with another queer person. It just felt like it would make life easier, not expecting to have to explain being trans to another member of the community. And Brian, his previous roommate had been gay, they’d gone partying together a few times. But he’d known Brian for years, and they’d still be living together if he hadn’t got the job offer up North that he just couldn’t turn down.
That had left Peter with either having to pay the whole rent on his own, which he could maybe do, but it would be tight. Or get a new roommate.
He had planned to put up an ad on gumtree, but when he’d mentioned it to a couple of friends one of them mentioned a friend of a friend looking to move out of a student house share. He was straight, as far as they knew, but worked the door at one of the gay bars so must at least be cool about it all. Peter
Sam had come over for a drink, checked out the place, liked it. Peter had liked him, he seemed like a nice guy. And he could completely empathise with Sam’s desire to move out of a student house share. It was something he’d organised through the university and being a, slightly, mature student trying to finish up a Masters, was not compatible with an otherwise Freshers household.
So far so good.
But now they were in a forced isolation with each other and little more than strangers.
“You want me to-” Peter indicated the adjoining living room, separated from the kitchen by a small, well placed dining table. Sam shook his head.
“Nah, you’re okay there. I just wanted to grab a drink.” Sam pulled a bottle of cider from the fridge and the magnetic bottle opener from the door. After he popped the cap and took a long gulp, he held up the bottle. “You want one?”
“Huh? Oh, um. Sure.” One wouldn’t hurt? No different than the occasional lunchtimes at the pub with colleagues.
Peter wasn’t someone, usually, this distracted. Or this nervy. He wanted to believe it was just because they were now having to share the same space when before they had moved seamlessly around each other. He really, really wanted to convince himself it wasn’t because he found his 6ft tall, broad shouldered, neatly bearded flatmate ridiculously attractive.
But it was hard to convince himself of that when he had so clearly been mesmerised by Sam’s bobbing Adam's apple as he knocked back the cider.
Sam didn’t seem to have noticed, opening another cider and passing it to Peter before wandering over to sit at the table.
“Do you have any board games or something? I feel like I need to do something other than looking at a screen. It’s making me space out.” Sam asked, looking wistfully out the window.
They had always greeted each other pleasantly, but this was only the second conversation they’d had since the lockdown started a couple of days earlier. And the first conversation they’d had been mostly Sam trying to reassure him that between the furlough pay he was getting from the club, and his student finances, he could still afford his half of the rent.
“Um, I think so? Somewhere.” Peter replied, a little hesitant.
“Oh, shit. You’re still working, huh?” Sam winced, clearly worried he might have said something wrong.
“Yeah, but it’s cool. We can do board games one evening.” Peter smiled, encouragingly.
Sam nodded, returning the smile. “That sounds good.”
The conversation concluded, silence fell between them until Peter said, “Okay, well I better get back to my desk.”
“Of course, um. You want me to make you some dinner tonight? I’m making pasta, I can make some for you too. So you don’t have to worry while you’re working.”
“Oh. Um, that would be nice. Thanks.”
Sam’s smile widened and he gave a little nod. It made Peter feel a little flutter in his belly.
Peter didn’t really want to admit it, but the highlight of his days soon became his lunch break, when Sam would bring him a sandwich and sit on the edge of his bed and chat for a bit. And, maybe dinner? When Sam would come to his room, tell him to stop working and get him to the table for food, board games and conversation.
“Favourite movie?” Sam asked, swallowing down some of the home made bread he’d cooked earlier that day. The crust was a bit thick and tough but Peter wasn’t about to complain.
“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Peter replied with a flourish, mimicking the way Guy Pearce said it in the movie.
Sam cocked an eyebrow, clearly not getting the reference. “Huh, I’ve never seen it.”
“You should.” Peter enthused. “I saw Jason Donovan in the stage show once, too. It was pretty good. I have the DVD of the movie, and some microwave popcorn in the cupboard.”
Sam grinned, Peter’s joy infectious. “It’s a date, Petey.”
Peter’s stomach did a flip at the word date, and the unexpected nickname. In an effort to seem completely nonplussed by either, Peter nodded and then shrugged. “Sure, sounds cool.”
Movie night became every other night, as they introduced each other to movies the other had never seen. The popcorn only lasted the first three movies and it went on the shopping list they’d made for when they really had to do a grocery run.
The cider and beer had run out too, leaving them only a couple of bottles of spirits but no mixers. So it wasn’t even like Peter could blame that for the ease of conversation or the way his cheeks heated when Sam would say something nice. Like when he’d compliment the movie choice or sit a little closer to Peter even though he no longer needed to do so to reach for the popcorn.
The easy domesticity they had fallen into became all the more ingrained by the day.
Peter spent nine-to-five logged into his work, only stopping for lunch that Sam made. And in the evenings Sam would make them dinner whilst Peter set up a movie, or a board game. A couple of nights they cooked together, moving around the small space in sync and laughing as they joked about the amount of couscous they were getting through.
They watched To Wong Foo, which Peter freely admitted to being a poor knock-off to Priscilla and wasn’t even sure why he had the DVD. But it had come up in conversation and Sam had been curious.
The same curiosity lead to them streaming the first season of Queer as Folk. The UK version, though Peter had the US ones on DVD and was ready to go with them too.
It was strange, and he enjoyed it. When he’d watched these shows originally, he’d been on his own. In the case of the UK version he’d been younger, hiding in his bedroom and not wanting his parents to know what he was watching. His secret education.
And now sharing it with someone was nice. Watching them freely and with company, wasn’t something he could have imagined all those years back.
The credits to the first episode rolled and Peter didn’t move onto the next one, getting up to get them some drinks before settling back on the sofa.
Sam let out a thoughtful sigh and Peter looked at him to realise he was frowning.
“You want me to put on something else?” He asked, a little nervous that maybe he couldn’t share this with his housemate after all.
“Huh? Oh, no. No this is cool. I was just thinking about something.” Sam replied, still looking pensive.
Sam looked at Peter intently, moving on the sofa so that they were near as facing each other, Sam’s long legs knocking against Peter’s. “Can I use the word queer?”
“Oh, um.” Peter was surprised, and his reaction made Sam wince. “Um, maybe? What’s the context.”
Sam frowned, looking a little concerned that he might be causing offence. “My housemate is queer. Something like that?”
“Um, maybe not. Unless it’s to other queer people in a queer environment and you’re pointing out your ally status.” Peter replied, frowning himself as he thought it over. “I guess it kinda depends on context.”
“Okay.” Sam nodded, “How about I’m queer?”
Peter nodded back, mirroring Sam. “Yeah, if a queer person wants to call themselves queer then of course!”
“No, I mean…” Sam paused, looked away. Looked back. He sort of winced and there was the slightest hint of colour on his cheeks. “Maybe I’m queer?”
“Oh.” Peter blinked. “Oh! Um, you um… You think you might be-”
“Bisexual. Or something. I don’t know.” Sam looked uncomfortable, shifting in the chair and looking away again.
“Oh. Okay well, I’m here if you want to talk, but don’t think you have to work this all out right now.” Peter replied gently. Memories came back of some of his formative university years, where meeting other queer people had made him think about his own queerness more. It had helped him better understand who he was and how he identified.
“It’s not like I’ve had much experience with women…” Sam shrugged, looking a little less uncomfortable but sounding as though he were trying to make excuses. As if one was needed.
“It’s cool. You don’t have to justify anything, least of all to me.” Peter held up his hands, and gave a gentle smile, which he was glad Sam returned.
“Would you mind if, I mean, I guess I’d like to talk about it. If that’s cool?”
“Sure, of course!” Peter replied, and they both fell silent. When it became clear that Sam was struggling to put any of it into words, Peter picked up on where he left off. “It’s not really about experience. It’s about attraction. Are you attracted to women?”
“I guess? I mean, I never really thought about it. I have been attracted to a woman. Once. Well, a girl. We were both fifteen at the time and um. Yeah. We dated on and off through school.” Sam paused, a little embarrassed as he admitted, “We lost our virginity to each other.”
“She’s the only person you’ve been with? You’ve been celebate ten years?” Peter asked, reevaluating a lot of what he had assumed about the confident and friendly guy in front of him.
That seemed to break the slightly tense atmosphere. That and rumbling chuckle that Sam released.
“No, I’ve been with plenty.” He grinned and shook his head, before sobering again. “But you asked who I was attracted to. I was attracted to her. I guess because I got to know her? I liked her as a person and then the sexual stuff just kinda came with that. But I didn’t really think about it at the time. Or since. Or until now I guess.”
“You weren’t attracted to any of the women you’ve slept with since?” Peter had to admit to being a little surprised, and took that moment to acknowledge something he knew well, everyone experienced attraction differently.
Sam shrugged, “Didn’t really know ‘em. Just um, got off with them. Hook ups. I like to orgasm, I just didn’t really care who with. Or if it was with anyone at all or alone. Never really felt the connection.”
“And that makes you queer.” Peter replied, thoughtfully.
“Was that a question?” Sam turned completely back to him again, looking at Peter intently.
“No. Okay, well it’s not for me to say. But that sounds a lot like my friend Carl who is demisexual. He’s only sexually attracted to people that he has formed an emotional attraction to.”
“And he’s gay?”
“No, he’s bi. But that doesn’t matter. He doesn’t experience sexual or romantic attraction in the same way as what is considered the ‘norm’.” He made quotes with his fingers around the word. “So I’d consider him queer. If there are two boxes, if we break it down really simply, and one is cis-hetereosexual, then the other box is queer.”
“Okay, then I guess I’m queer. Because of that. If I’m, um, what d’you call it?”
“Demisexual. But it’s a spectrum, sexuality I mean. Google it and go from there, see what resonates with you.” Peter suggested, wanting to be helpful but not wanting to come across as an absolute authority on something that was variable on top of variable.
“Okay.” Sam nodded. “But I guess also because I like you.”
“Oh. Huh?” Peter wasn’t sure he understood what Sam meant. Which clearly Sam read in his expression as heat rose in his cheeks and a sheepish grin spread across his face.
“I mean, I’m attracted to you. And you’re a guy. So I guess I’m not all that straight.”
Peter wouldn’t say that he woke every morning regretting not pursuing Sam after he said that he was attracted to him. But it did play on his mind a fair bit.
Instead of replying that he was attracted to Sam too, he had chosen the sensible option. After a moment of gobsmacked silence he’d suggested that maybe they should talk about it another time. Given that they were currently holed up there together and it would suck if things got awkward in lockdown.
Sam had agreed and apologised, which Peter had waved away. No need to apologise.
And neither of them had mentioned it since.
Everything had gotten back to normal. At least this new normal of Sam working out in the mornings, making lunch. Reading in the afternoons or playing console games until Peter finished work for the day and they would eat together and hang out.
Only now there was a strange atmosphere where they both seemed hyper aware of if they were standing too close to each other. When they sat on the sofa in the evenings, they both rather tensely kept to the opposite ends of it and tried not to move.
By the fourth day this had become the new, new normal, so it was a surprise when Peter finished work for the day to find Sam had laid the table with a batch of fresh pancakes, with some of the frozen fruit from the freezer made into something of a sauce. One candle topped the pile.
When Peter walked in from his room, he stopped and took in the sight of the pancakes and Sam stood in the kitchen, with a frying pan in hand and a streak of batter down his t-shirt.
He blinked. Sam stopped and blinked back.
The moment of silence was broken when Sam quickly explained “I can’t bake cakes. Actually, I don’t know if we even have the ingredients for cake.”
“We have the ingredients for pancakes?” Peter asked, not quite sure why that was the first question to mind.
Sam winced and shook his head, “Nah, I found one of those pre-mixed, just add milk, things in the cupboard.”
“Oh.” Peter nodded, “I forgot that was there. Why did you want to bake a cake?”
“I thought we should celebrate.” Sam smiled, placing the frying pan into the sink and then making a flourishing gesture towards the table.
“What are we celebrating?” Peter asked, making his way to the table and studying the stack of fruit and pancakes that he now realised vaguely resembled a cake.
“Yeah, um, we’ve been isolated for three weeks now and neither of us have gotten sick. So I guess we’re okay? Felt like that was something worth celebrating.”
“Oh! I hadn’t even really, um, that’s cool.” Peter grinned up at Sam and didn’t miss the way his cheeks went a little pink. Peter took in the sight for a moment before pulling himself away. “This looks great. Thanks.” Peter looked back down at the pancakes to spare Sam’s blushes, as much as he enjoyed them.
“No worries, Petey.”
New, new, new normal was better.
After the pancakes they moved on from the awkwardness back into a more comfortable routine.
For two days.
And then the weekend arrived.
Peter slept in at the weekend. Before the lockdown, he’d have been up bright and early, perhaps gone on a hike or swimming. Maybe meet a few friends for lunch. He liked running errands Saturday mornings before it got too busy and then having the rest of the day to chill or hang out in a beer garden.
None of that was happening anytime soon. And working from home was weird, it was hard to separate week from weekend, so he made the point to have a late morning to differentiate. Which just resulted in him feeling grotty from oversleeping and in desperate need to brush his teeth.
He normally had a shower in the evenings, but life seemed totally off kilter in these days of never leaving the flat. It felt like all bets were off when it came to routines, with no real sense of whether they would even get back to normal once this was all over. The world felt irrevocably changed, and nothing spoke to that more for Peter than a midmorning shower on a Saturday.
Peter was still yawning when he went to the bathroom, cleaned his teeth, then jumped in the shower. It was perfunctory but at least made him feel like he’d blown out the cobwebs, even if he did still feel sleepy. He was still a little drowsy when he opened the bathroom door and found Sam on the other side of it.
“Oh, shit I’m sorry. I thought it was free.” Sam was wide eyed, looking completely mortified at seeing Peter in just the towel around his waist.
It wasn’t like this hadn’t happened on occasion before. It was impossible to live with someone without running into them once in a while coming from the shower. And the same was true the other way round. Peter had seen Sam topless plenty of times when he’d come straight from doing weights in his bedroom out to the kitchen for a drink or something. This was nothing new.
Except now it was. Because now Sam had told Peter he was attracted to him, and Peter had tried to make sure things didn’t get awkward. But looked like that was going to happen regardless.
“It’s cool.” Peter protested, undeniable enjoying the blush that rose on Sam’s cheeks even as he himself winced.
Sam’s eyes flicked down for the briefest moment, looking at Peter’s lightly haired chest and then snapping back up to his eyes. He caught the petrified expression on Peter’s face.
“I uh, I didn’t mean to, um. I’ve made things weird.” Sam groaned.
“No, it’s not, um.” Peter swallowed and wrapped his arms around his chest, very conscious of what Sam might see there. He didn’t want to do this, not yet. Maybe not at all. And definitely not like this.
Peter found himself reminded of that saying, that you don’t just come out once in your life and that’s it. You have to come out over and over, sometimes multiple times in the same week. And Peter was glad to have reached the point in his transition where he didn’t have to come out as trans as often as he once had. He passed as cis and could live stealth if he wanted to, and sometimes it was just easier that way.
Everyone that he cared about knew. Everyone that he wanted to know knew. Or at least that had been the case.
It wasn’t as though he had deliberately intended to keep this from Sam. It just wasn’t how he wanted to introduce himself to people, it wasn’t the first conversation he wanted to have with every new person in his life. And really, who had the right to know? Not coming out as trans to people wasn’t a lie, not even a lie by omission. It was no one else’s business unless you were sleeping together. That had always been his guideline.
It’s no one’s business unless you’re bumping uglies.
Peter took in a sharp breath.
He liked Sam, he liked him a whole lot. And knowing that Sam liked him made this harder not easier.
What if it made things more awkward?
What if it made things uncomfortable?
What if it made things unsafe?
They were locked down, he wasn’t even sure what he’d do if things weren’t safe. Where he would go. He tried to think of where the closest police station was, or which of his neighbours might not freak out at the lack of social distancing if he went running to their door. So many of them were elderly, he didn’t want to scare them.
He was sure Sam wasn’t a violent man, and his experiences with him so far had shown him as nothing but open minded. But there were people who identified as LGBTQ+ who were transphobic. There were still people in this world who literally got away with murdering trans people on the basis of ‘Trans Panic’.
Peter liked Sam a lot. He trusted him as much as he could for someone he had known a short time. He wanted to trust him completely, but this was not the time or the place to do that.
Peter pulled on a smile and waved Sam off as though it were nothing, “It’s fine, honestly! Don’t sweat it.”
Things had been tense since the shower.
Friendly, and sort of back to ‘normal’, but there was a distance between them that Sam had set in a clear effort to make Peter comfortable.
It hadn’t taken much for Peter to realise that Sam felt bad about confessing his attraction and thought that all this tension and weirdness since then was a result of that confession. The one that he must have assumed that Peter didn't return given that Peter was still silent on the subject.
And Peter wasn’t sure of how to reassure him that there wasn't a problem, without admitting his own attraction. Which, inevitably, would surely lead to more awkwardness.
If he did admit it then there would come a point where he should probably tell Sam about being trans. And there definitely didn't seem a good time for that.
It felt like a very awkward and unnecessarily tense, but nonetheless necessary vicious cycle.
Despite the feeling of now yo-yoing back and forth in the development of this friendship, Peter was sure he could weather it until the end of the lockdown. Once things, hopefully got back to normal, and they could think about exploring their attraction without being trapped together. And Peter could explain everything somewhere neutral, away from the flat. At the pub maybe, where one or both of them could then head to friends for the night instead of back to the flat together if Sam wasn't cool about Peter being trans.
Yeah, he could definitely weather it.
Or at least he would have, if Monday morning he hadn't woken up in excruciating pain and with a slamming headache.
"Oh fuck, no." Peter groaned and then choked out a little sob.
It was rare these days that he experienced periods like this. He hadn't properly menstruated in years, but every few months he'd get a real shitty one. Maybe not much blood, but the abdominal pain, a headache brought on by the hormonal fluctuations.
Peter curled into a ball, as though that would stop the pain, and lay there trying to breath through it, until his alarm went off.
"Shit." Peter muttered, taking a moment to rally himself and stretch out his arm to grab the phone from his bedside and cancel the alarm. He took a few more deep, steadying breaths, before tapping out a message to his boss, letting him know he was calling in for the day. Then he dropped the phone, not expecting it to slide off the end of the bed and thud to the floor.
He moaned and curled up all the more, trying to will the pain away.
Peter wasn't sure how long he’d been lying there by the time he realised that he just had to get up and grab some painkillers. But it took a short while more to force himself to do so. The pain made him grit his teeth as he finally pulled himself from the bed and lumbered towards the bathroom.
He peed, the relief of the pressure feeling like it might help for a moment, but then he was gripped by pain again. After he washed his hands, holding himself up against the sink, he fumbled with the cabinet and managed to find some of the strong painkillers his doctor had prescribed specifically for this. For when his endometriosis didn't give a fuck about the gender of the body it was crippling.
Peter took several deep breaths before stumbling back to his room and back into his bed. He took the painkillers with gulps of the water he'd taken to bed with him the night before, then settled back down.
After an age, during which it felt like his entire abdomen was contracting with pain, Peter drifted back off to sleep.
It was hours later when a hand gently shook his shoulder.
"Peter, are you okay? Should I call a doctor? Can you breathe okay?"
Sam's voice was comforting, steady. He wasn't panicked, he was calm and supportive.
Peter shook his head, "It's not the virus." The words came out raspy and Peter moved so that he could reach for his water again. Before he could get it, Sam picked up the glass and passed it to him, his hand hovering as though ready to catch it if Peter's hand was unsteady.
"Okay, that's good. But are you sure you still don't need a doctor? You look really pale."
Peter took in a shuddering breath and shook his head. "Don't worry, this has happened before. I'll be fine." He deflected.
Sam frowned, his concern abundantly clear. "Is there anything I can do?"
Peter winced, there was but he hated to ask Sam. The pain was a little better, maybe he could get out of bed and sort himself out, but as he tried to move Sam put a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Stay in bed, what do you need? Food? I was making lunch and realised that I couldn't hear you tapping away in here. You want a sandwich?"
Peter nodded, "Sure, that would be good. But also… There's a hot water bottle in my closet," His hand shook a little as he pointed the direction. Sam stood and walked over, opening the door and then awaiting further instructions.
"On the shelf." Peter said, and Sam looked up, spotted the above rack shelf and the water bottle immediately. That much was clear from the way his frown eased and his lips turned up into a small smile.
"This?" Sam asked, a light tease in his tone as he held up the plushie hot water bottle cover shaped like a unicorn.
Peter nodded, too tired and uncomfortable to even begin to feel embarrassed. "Please?"
"Of course, I'll bring it back with a sandwich and some juice or something. Orange?" Sam asked, his words so soft that it was all the more endearing to Peter. This gentle teddy bear of a man taking care of him was everything he hadn't known he needed.
Peter nodded off again for a short while and then Sam was back at his side. A plate with a sandwich and a glass of juice were now on the bedside and the unicorn was in Sam's large hands.
He hesitated for a moment when he saw Peter had woken up, and then pulled back the covers just slightly and slid the hot water bottle into Peter's hands and against his belly.
Peter let out a shaky breath at the look of understanding and reassurance in Sam's face.
They were silent for a moment as Sam backed up, rocking back onto his heels and away from the bed but not standing, not leaving. Peter clutched the warmth to him, for comfort as much as pain relief as he watched Sam's expression go through a whole tumult of emotions.
Finally Sam looked at him with absolute determination and said, "My sister gets cramps real bad. She used to be like this for days sometimes."
Peter drew in a shuddering breath, tears pricking at the corners of his eyes. And he knew he should be scared, or wary at least. And when Sam reached out a hand he did flinch ever so slightly. Sam caught that and looked pained, hesitated, but then he persevered and stroked his hand gently across Peter's forehead, pushing back the hair there.
"You want me to run you a bath? Might help." Sam offered, slowly stroking Peter's hair as he might a child in discomfort.
Peter held back his sob as he nodded, and then Sam stood and left.
When the door closed the sob came out, followed by tears. Every kind of emotion rolled through him, some he couldn't even name. But mostly relief and the draining of that healthy fear he was sure all trans people carried with them.
Sam didn't come back in when the bath was run, simply knocked on the door to let Peter know it was ready, and then left him in peace.
“Why 'Peter'? Actually, am I allowed to ask that?” Sam asked before taking another bite of toast and winced.
It was Wednesday and Peter felt mostly better. Good enough to start back at work and well enough to have breakfast with Sam beforehand.
He hadn't planned on it, but Sam had practically hovered over him the last day or so, making sure he was okay and he had everything he needed. He wasn’t going to turn down breakfast together. Peter couldn't remember the last time anyone had taken care of him when he was sick. At least not since he'd been a child.
Breaking his own routine Sam had insisted he make them both breakfast, to set Peter up for the day if he was going to start working again.
The attention had been nice, and until this moment Sam hadn't again broached the realisation he'd had about Peter.
Peter knew he could withdraw from this, and he was sure Sam would allow it. If he said he wasn't comfortable discussing it. But he wanted to be. He wanted to be comfortable talking about this with Sam. He wanted them to be at that point, where he already was with his other close friends. Something he really wanted to start counting Sam amongst.
“No, you can't." Peter replied with a light tease. "Though seriously, no you probably shouldn't ask people that unless they start that conversation."
"Shit," Sam muttered and looked away. "Sorry, I wanted to be supportive, let you know I support you. I'm saying this all wrong."
Peter let out a chuckle, resisting the urge to reach out and ruffle Sam's hair. "It's okay, we're friends so I'll let it slide. This time."
Sam looked at him, concerned that Peter was unhappy. His face softened into a smile when Peter grinned and winked at him.
"Why Peter? Um, I named myself after my favourite trans icon. Peter Parker.”
“Spiderman? But he... is he trans?” Sam asked thoughtfully, looking as though he was trying to recall every fact he'd ever known about the web-slinger.
“Maybe.” Peter shrugged, grinning from ear to ear as he took a bite of his own toast.
“Do they say in the comics he is?” Sam asked, clearly still trying to recall anything and everything he knew about from the movies and comics.
“Do they say he isn’t?” Peter asked, winking at Sam.
Sam broke into a wide and joyous smile.
“This is really good.” Peter said as he scooped the last of the mug cake up on a spoon.
When he looked up Sam was smiling. This warm, soft smile full of both pride and joy and moments later was joined by a blush over his skin.
“Where did you learn to make cakes in a mug, with like, basically no ingredients?” Peter chuckled, pausing as he swiped his finger around the inside of the mug to get at the remnants.
Something he stopped immediately as soon as he realised Sam was watching him sucking his fingers clean. Peter’s own cheeks heated then and they both shared a slightly awkward chuckle.
“My sister sent me a link. She knows I like to mess around in the kitchen and she…” Sam trailed off, his blush darkening all the more. “I might have mentioned that you have a bit of a sweet tooth.”
“You talked to your sister about me?” Peter tried to keep the surprise out of his voice, but it then came across as defensive.
Sam winced, “Oh, only in passing. She’s been checking in, making sure that we’re not about to kill each other. I mean, we hadn’t really lived together that long before the lockdown.”
Peter smiled and nodded, at which Sam seemed to relax.
“Isn’t it weird that this feels normal now?” Peter voiced the thought as it came to him.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a shock to the system not spending everyday with you when this is all over.” Sam admitted, and then his eyes went wide as he looked at Peter. “I mean, because it feels normal now. To do that. To live together. I mean…”
Peter waved a dismissive hand, “Stop it.” He chuckled and then stood from the table and started into the kitchen with both his and Sam’s empty mugs.
He started the hot water running and filled both mugs to soak, not hearing over the sound of the water, that Sam had followed him.
“If this lockdown goes on much longer I’m going to have to start borrowing your gym equipment.” Peter chuckled and shut off the water. He turned just as Sam went to step past him, and suddenly they were almost pressed together in the small space.
“Sorry, I didn’t see you-” Peter started, raising his hands in placation, which only resulted in them hovering just over Sam’s chest.
Peter let out a shaky breath, biting on his lower lip as he looked up into Sam’s wide eyes. He looked like a bunny caught in the headlights, his eyes flicking down to Peter’s hands as though he was expecting contact to be made, and then to Peter’s lips. He didn’t miss that.
His own eyes did the same and he knew Sam could see he was trembling as they stood there, a moment away from an embrace.
“Petey,” Sam started, breathless. “You like me too, don’t you? I’m not misreading that? I get that you don’t want to explore that right now, maybe never. But… am I misreading it?”
Peter shook his head and against all better judgement, let his hands settle on Sam’s chest. He could feel the man’s heart thundering under his finger tips.
“You’re not misreading it, I like you a lot.” Peter found himself admitting, but then he shook his head and went to turn away as he said, “I’m not good with these things, not trusting.”
As he started to pull away Sam placed his hands over Peter’s, holding him there against his chest.
“You can trust me. I get why you are wary, but I promise. I won’t hurt you.” Sam spoke gently, his nervousness there despite the determination in his tone.
“I don’t want things to get weird between us.” Peter voiced his concerns quietly. Not wanting to derail this, though he knew he probably should. Okay, so maybe Sam had no issue with him being trans, but that wasn’t the only concern. What if it all fell apart and they couldn’t stand to live together any more? What if they were in lockdown for months and hated each other?
“I understand.” Sam replied, nodding. “I’m wary too but, I just. I want you to know this isn’t something I’m taking lightly. And if you want, we can wait until the lockdown is over, and then maybe we can go on a date? I would really like to take you on a date, if you’re into it.”
Peter nodded, relieved, though disappointed. Regardless of that sensible voice in his head, there was wholly too much of him that just wanted to throw caution to the wind and spend the rest of the lockdown wrapped up in Sam’s arms.
Silence settled between them and Peter lost the internal struggle with what was sensible.
“Can I kiss you?” He asked quietly, swallowing hard and breathing heavily. .
Sam looked nervous. He didn’t look like a man that usually worked as a bouncer several evenings a week. Even so, he nodded. “I’d like that.”
Peter closed the space between them, his arms sliding from Sam’s chest up around his neck. Sam leaned down as his own arms went around Peter’s waist, pulling him closer until they were flush against each other.
Their lips met in a soft press that stole Peter’s breath even before Sam’s hand ran up into Peter’s hair and held him there as their lips parted for each other.
By the end of the week, intense make out sessions had happened more than once.
More often than not there were touches, small gestures. When Peter would come grab a coffee whilst working in his room, Sam would slide his hands around him and pull him back against his chest as he went about making the coffee.
When watching TV in the evening, Sam would play his hands through Peter’s hair.
The casual intimacy that seemed to land fully formed between them, was something Peter had never experienced before. And now he wasn’t sure he could ever live without it.
Every night Sam kissed his cheek when he said goodnight. Sometimes he’d turn into the kiss and they would have a longer goodnight moment. And that was nice, it was comfortable. Peter wasn’t sure he was ready for more than that whilst they were still locked down.
Even so, when he went into Sam’s room on Friday night to keep him company as he tried to complete a difficult level on the game he was playing, he didn’t want to leave.
He snuggled down into the bed with a book, glancing frequently at the game, especially when Sam let out grunts of displeasure or little cheers of delight.
Peter had no idea he’d nodded off until, the room now quiet and dark, Sam took the book from his hands and climbed into the bed next to him. He pulled Peter into his arms and they fell asleep together.
Saturday morning they explored further than just kissing, any hesitation lost to the moment.
Each night thereafter, Peter found himself in Sam’s bed.
It was a wordless agreement. And not because they were both avoiding talking about it, but because there seemed a silent realisation that it didn’t require any discussion. Peter was welcome in Sam’s bed, and he went there willingly.
Sunday night they were both comfortably sleeping in their boxer shorts, as had been both their habits before the unexpected change of sleeping arrangement had made them both self conscious.
Monday morning they woke with Peter’s alarm to get up and get ready for work, but both hesitated, not wanting to pull away from each other. Sam turned on the TV, switching to the morning news, as though looking for an excuse for them not to move just yet.
The updates on the potential extension on the lockdown was the main news item. An extension on this strange new, but welcome, reality. More social distance, more isolation.
He should hate it, he knew. He should be feeling the need for all this to be over and life to go back to normal, and yet he wasn’t.
Sam sighed and lay his head against Peter’s chest, his fingers playing lightly over the trail of hair from navel to boxers that it had taken years on testosterone for Peter to grow. It was comfortable, warm.
Peter had a strong sense of adoration from Sam, and he returned it wholeheartedly. There was a temptation to be caught in the moment, to sink into the ridiculousness of the situation as though it were a corny romance movie. And, try as he might to keep a level head, there was no denying that falling for Sam would be way too easy.
“What’s the opposite of isolation?” Sam asked, his voice rumbling through Peter and heavy with his sleep.
“What do you mean?” Peter asked, realising as he spoke that he probably should get up and clean his teeth. Where was the line between enjoying time in bed together, and not wanting to expose Sam to morning breath?
“Like, the word. Is there a word that is the opposite of isolation?” Sam continued, his lips pressing to Peter’s chest as he spoke, sending a shiver through Peter.
“Um, freedom, I guess, in the current context.” Peter closed his eyes, enjoying the attention Sam was paying him way too much to start his forage for toothpaste. “Or you mean like closeness, instead of being isolated?”
“Huh, um. That’s not what, um. I meant that this doesn’t feel like isolation, being here with you. Just feels… good. Feels like I can be myself with you. It’s nice.” Sam’s words came out like a confession. He pulled his head up from Peter's chest and propped himself on an elbow to look at him. As though searching for a sign that he had said too much and scared Peter off.
Which felt impossible to Peter by this point.
“Isn’t that freedom?” Peter shrugged, thinking back on coming out. On being able to be himself and live as himself. It had been a freedom he hadn’t known existed or had realised was missing.
“Yeah, I guess it is.” Sam replied, his mouth curving into a lopsided grin before leaning in to kiss Peter.
Peter sighed and let Sam pull him into his arms. Toothpaste be damned.
The only thing of importance in that moment was to explore the opposite of isolation.