The first thing he noticed was the smoke, shortly followed by an almost unbearable heat. Even with his eyes shut, he could see the flickering of the flames as they licked their way underneath his bedroom door. The crackling of burning wood filled his ears. He could hear her laughter from outside the room.
Malik woke with a start, sweating and shivering. He hadn’t had that dream in a while.
When it had happened for real, he’d climbed out of the window back through the front door and managed to extinguish the flames before they caused too much damage. In his dreams he wasn’t always so lucky.
Maybe it was his nerves that had caused the dream to return. After all, it was a big day for him. He slid out of bed and stretched. He should probably get ready.
He hadn’t worn this since his last job interview. He’d managed to get the position at the hospital, but in all honesty he really hadn’t enjoyed it. He’d only done it to make his mother happy. Now she had vanished, he was living away from home and he was going to take control of his own life.
“Wow, Mal. They’re going to have to hire you if you turn up looking like that.”
“Too low cut?”
“It looks really smart. I hadn’t even noticed the neckline.” Lor said with a grin. That last part might not have been completely true, but the first was at least. “Breakfast should be ready soon.”
Malik smiled back. They’d fallen into a comfortable routine over the last couple of months. Lor would be in his second trimester soon, and the cravings were starting to really kick in. It meant that their meals were often slightly bizarre, but he was a wonderful cook. It was better than he’d eaten back home, that was certain.
“What are we having today?”
“Pancakes. That way you won’t have to deal with the things I’ll be putting on my portion.”
Malik grimaced at the thought. “Thanks. I think I’ll pass on the sauce.”
“Thought you might.”
His phone buzzed, and he reached into his pocket.
“It’s just a confirmation of the interview time. Thank goodness, I thought they were cancelling on me.”
“Why would they do that?”
“They might have found someone amazing already.”
“I believe in you. Now, can you help set the table? That way we’ll be able to start whilst they’re still hot.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
There was a bunny playing the piano on the screen, and Lor didn’t know when he’d ever been more confused. What in the world was going on? Did children really watch this?
He felt a faint buzzing against his leg, and picked up his phone. He tried to always carry it with him despite the complete lack of pockets in his clothing – that was the one thing he would have done differently if he’d been the designer. Pockets.
Guess what? I got the job!!!! They want me to start tomorrow x
His heart filled with warmth at the message. Malik had been debating leaving his previous job for a while, and it had taken a lot of courage to leave. Now he was on the track to his dream job.
He couldn’t remember when they’d started signing their texts with ‘x’, but it made him smile every time. If only they actually were kisses.
“Hey guys. You’ll never guess what. Malik got the job! He’s having to start as a tech support line person, but I don’t think he’ll stay that way for long.” Lor looked around before going on, quieter this time.
“I’m really proud of him. I want him to be happy. I just don’t want him to leave. When he starts earning more, he’ll be able to get his own place. I know it’s selfish, but I like having him around. I like him.” He hesitated. “I really like him. But he deserves better than me.”
Lor smiled at the sound, putting down his watering can.
“I’m in the garden!”
Malik jogged around to the back of the house and wrapped Lor in a bear hug, before remembering that he had to be gentle and loosening his arms slightly. “I cant believe they actually hired me. I thought I’d have to wait at least a week before they got back to me about it.”
“They’d have been idiots not to hire you, Mal.”
… and done. Malik closed the document with a sigh of satisfaction before leaning back in the chair. That should make things go a bit smoother tomorrow. He’d been worried that he wouldn’t be able to finish it before falling asleep, but he didn’t regret the way he’d spent the afternoon. A Simton Abbey marathon in the back garden with Lor was pretty much the best way he could have hoped to spend the time.
Lor was a wonderful listener. He’d been worried that his friend would be bored hearing about the interview, but he’d even asked questions. He seemed to be genuinely interested.
He decided to check the delivery website whilst he was there. The last few bits for the nursery should be arriving soon, and they needed to make sure someone was at home.
Malik stopped in his tracks. He’d just thought of this place as home.
That was a bad idea. He knew he couldn’t stay forever, as much as he wanted to. Lor would find someone some day and he’d need to leave. He rested his head in his hands and sighed.
It would be so much easier if his feelings were purely platonic. He’d been doubting his sanity from the moment he’d agreed to live here – being around one’s crush 24/7 was not an easy thing. Still, Lor had needed him.
If there had been no signs that his affections were returned, he’d have accepted that. It was those moments when he caught Lor watching him with that same look on his face that made him hope.
He’d tried to move on from his feelings during their school years. He’d dated guys and girls, hoping that one of them would be able to take that place in his heart. He’d even kissed a couple of them, but never more than that. It had just felt like he was leading them on, and the guilt had stopped him.
He’d finally accepted it that day in the park, when Lor had been in his arms.
Malik shook his head to clear his mind. This wasn’t helping anyone.
Still, as he looked at the rose next to the computer, he smiled. Things were pretty wonderful right now. He’d just enjoy it while he could.
“Mal? Mal! You’ve got work in an hour, are you- mmmmph!”
Lor had stepped through the dining room door at the same time Malik had stood up, and they’d crashed into each other, Lor’s lips pressing against the other man’s cheek. Lor had managed to catch himself, only to be taken by surprise at how close they still were. Their lips were almost touching… He was about to lean in when his senses returned and he flushed, backing away a step.
“I’m sorry, I should have watched where I was going.”
“It’s fine, Lor. And I’m almost ready for work, don’t worry. I’ll do the dishes then I’ll head out.”
Five minutes later, he heard the call from the living room. “I’m off! See you later!”
“Have a good day!” Lor shouted back, and he heard the door close and the key turning in the lock.
That had been close, he thought to himself. He needed to be more careful.