by Kuroobaa (クローバー)
illustrated by cloverbloom
Really. The hyperbolic reaction may have been something like throwing the first thing he can grab across the room, preferably straight to his boyfriend. But Tyler’s not into theatrics so he only manages to blurt out, “You’re going to do what?” He stares at Kevin incredulously and hates the way Kevin’s acting so nonchalant about this—this preposterous idea.
“It’s just for publicity, Ty. You know how it is,” Kevin says with a shrug then lifts the mug filled with hot coffee to his lips like they’re in the middle of a simple discussion about the weather.
“Exactly. I know how it is and this could either backfire or blow up in our faces.” Tyler has seen it happen to other couples. It’s unsettling to think that if Kevin pushes through with this plan, then Tyler has to start accepting the possibility that he might lose his boyfriend in the process. “God, Kev! I don’t want us to be another Brad and Jennifer.”
“Babe.” Kevin sets his mug on the kitchen counter then hugs Tyler from behind. He presses his lips against the sensitive spot behind Tyler’s ear and Tyler feels a shiver run down his spine. “That’s not going to happen. Don’t you have faith in me? I’m not going to let this affect us in any way. I promise,” Kevin says in a soothing manner while trailing kisses down the side of Tyler’s neck.
“It’s not that I don’t have any faith in you but… but it’s with Megan Flaux!” Tyler belatedly realizes he sounds like a whining child but he doesn’t care. He has every right to whine and be worried and throw tantrums or whatever. How else should he react after finding out that Kevin’s stupid manager thinks it’s a good idea for Kevin to pretend-date Megan just because she and Kevin are doing a movie together?
The bread slices pop out of the toaster and Tyler grabs it, drops it on the plate and twists around to face Kevin. “So what? Are you kidding? She’s like one of the most ethereally beautiful women in Hollywood right now. And she’s sweet and nice and sensual. Who wouldn’t want to date her for real?”
Kevin lifts an eyebrow and stares at Tyler as if Tyler has grown another head. “It’s not like I’m going to fall for her, Ty. I’m gay.”
“You’re bisexual,” Tyler reminds him then Tyler drops his shoulders in defeat. “Fine. It seems you’ve already made the decision. I guess there’s nothing I can do to change your mind.”
“Hey, I didn’t make the decision. Karen did,” is Kevin’s abrupt defense.
Tyler knows that’s plausible because Karen can be such a manipulative bitch but he still says, “It’s not like she can force you on a fake date with someone,” just to show Kevin he’s still upset. He crosses his arms tightly over his chest, putting a barrier between him and Kevin. “She must have consulted you first before giving Megan or her manager a final word.”
Kevin tilts his head, eyes glistening with a hint of mischief. “Is this going to end up in a rough make-up sex?” His lips twitch in a lopsided smile that always, always manages to ease off Tyler’s ire. “Because we can drop this discussion right now, forget about breakfast and go back to bed so I can fuck you senseless.”
Tyler decides to push his worries aside and enjoy the way Kevin’s sucking on his neck and the way Kevin’s hands are kneading his ass.
The whole dating thing with Kevin and Megan explodes in the media just a couple of weeks after they started filming ‘Romancin’ in Chattanooga’. The public eats it up like it’s a real deal. Despite vowing not to look at rag mags, Tyler ends up grabbing copies of ‘Chatmates’ and ‘Hush Mush’ and some decent entertainment magazines out of curiosity.
The pictures are convincing. There’s even a couple where Kevin and Megan are on a lip-lock and Tyler spends about half an hour staring at the picture, wondering if it’s fake, if it has something to do with the angle or if Kevin and Megan are indeed kissing.
“You’re going to get a migraine for that.”
Tyler drops the magazine then realizes that hiding it is pointless since Carsen had seen him reading it. He’s been too engrossed poring through the articles written about Kevin and Megan that he didn’t even notice Carsen has crept inside the trailer.
Carsen picks up one of the tabloids, tutts and says, “Does this mean the boyfriend’s cheating on you? Or is this one of those staged relationships just to get more audience for the film?”
“It’s a sham.” Tyler pushes himself up from his seat then stretches with his arms above his head. He feels the slight pop in his back, the strain on his muscles easing up a little. “Is it my turn yet?”
“Nah.” Carsen shakes his head. “They’re redoing the scene with Chelsea and Rick. It was too windy when they filmed the scene earlier that it didn’t look good on the screen.”
“Bummer.” Tyler blows a fringe of his reddish brown hair off his forehead. Much as he loves outdoor shoots, the unpredictable L.A. weather often makes filming complicated.
“So…” Carsen leans against the wall. The uneasy way he shifts from one leg to another makes him seem anxious about something. “Since you’re boyfriend’s away, you wanna grab some dinner with me later?”
Tyler worries his lower lip, contemplating whether he should go to dinner with this undeniably handsome heartthrob or sulk in his apartment alone. “Can we have Chinese?”
Carsen’s face nearly splits in two when he smiles. “Of course. ”
Tyler’s relationship with Kevin isn’t really public even though they’ve been together for two years. Kevin isn’t completely out of the closet but he’s not exactly hiding his sexuality either: his family knows about it, at least. Tyler, on the other hand, is more open to the people around him.
When his manager, Lila, hears the news about Kevin and Megan, she doesn’t waste time expressing her concern. Tyler thought it best to tell Lila the truth before she misconstrues the whole issue so he agrees to meet her for lunch.
“I think it’s a brilliant scheme,” Lila says as soon as Tyler’s done relaying the entire story in the most concise way possible. “Not saying it’s a good idea but it can help sell the movie. I gotta hand it to Karen. She certainly knows her game, knows what fans would want.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Tyler says with feigned bitterness.
“You should do it too, you know.” There isn’t any trace of hilarity or mockery in Lila’s expression and her seriousness unnerves Tyler.
“Pretend dating.” Lila starts talking about the T.V. series Tyler’s doing, reminds Tyler that ZX Network is already working on getting his character, River, hook up with Carsen Grade’s character, Brian. “Fans have actually given a ship name for your characters, you know. Briver. Cute, isn’t it?”
Tyler so doesn’t like where this conversation is going.
It seems Tyler is unable to escape the constant uproar in his life. Given that Lila is also Carsen’s manager, she takes advantage of her position and plants this pretend dating shenanigan into the guy’s head. So Carsen’s been badgering Tyler about it since.
“I have to ask Kevin,” Tyler tells Carsen when Carsen brings it up again.
Carsen looks stunned – probably not expecting that Tyler will actually take it into consideration. He arches an eyebrow and asks, “Why should you?”
The query takes Tyler aback and he’s quick to react, saying, “Because he’s my boyfriend?” with the last word taking on a questioning pitch
“Well isn’t he dating Megan Flaux?”
“Pretending. Pretending to date Megan,” Tyler emphasizes, maybe to convince himself more than Carsen. Kevin’s been calling less often for the past three weeks and Tyler’s actually beginning to worry. The headlining relationship between Kevin and Megan seems to be a larger-than-life issue that sometimes Tyler wonders if it’s turning out to be real. “And Kevin told me about it before they started with the whole scheme, so I think it’s just proper that I talk to him about this.”
Kevin doesn’t sound all too pleased with idea when Tyler calls him later that day but Kevin agrees without having Tyler to put up a fight.
Rumors spread like wildfire, Tyler discovers. It’s not really the first time Tyler goes out to dinner with Carsen. They’ve hung out countless times as friends – had lunch and dinner and sometimes played tennis at the sports club – but it’s different when their respective publicists actually send a handful of paparazzi on their tail. The next day, pictures of their rendezvous are printed on every tabloid imaginable.
Kevin calls two days later, asks, “Should I be worried?” and Tyler just laughs and laughs until he hears Kevin laughing along with him.
“Don’t be silly,” Tyler says in defense but his heart isn’t really into placating Kevin’s qualms. “So when’s your next break?”
“Monday actually.” There’s some rustling noise from Kevin’s end and Tyler thinks he hears a faint moan that sounds womanish just as Garth starts barking. “What is Garth’s problem?”
“He just wants to go out.” Tyler leads the Beagle through the kitchen and the dog dashes to the backyard the moment Tyler pulls the door open. “So are you coming home on Monday?”
There’s a pregnant pause that lasts about a minute – maybe more – before Kevin sighs audibly. “Afraid not, babe. We’re on break from filming but we have to do some photo shoots for the movie.”
“Oh,” is all Tyler could say initially, then, “okay,” and he tries not to sound disappointed but the slight twinge in his chest is not that easy to ignore. “Maybe I’ll see you in the next two weeks then?”
“Sure, babe.” Kevin seems distracted, or maybe Tyler’s just imagining it. “I’ll call you if I can.”
“There must be dozens of sites and blogs created for us,” Carsen remarks one afternoon, a touch of amusement evident in his voice. His fingers are making tap tap noises while he types vigorously on his laptop. “Not just for Briver, some fans are actually shipping us both. There’s a group that calls us Tysen and another that calls us Carser.”
Tyler hates to admit it, but he’s actually enjoying this, enjoying the attention they’re getting, enjoying Carsen’s company, and that’s exactly what he tells Carsen.
“I like spending time with you too, Ty,” Carsen says in almost a whisper. The softness in Carsen’s deep blue eyes makes Tyler’s heart stutter at first, then his heartbeat picks up pace, beating rapidly like Tyler is some teenage girl with a crush.
Being with Carsen makes Tyler miss Kevin less. In fact, he doesn’t even notice that he hasn’t seen Kevin in little over a month.
When they’re having dinner at the Ivy on Valentine’s day, Tyler finds himself studying Carsen from across the table, awed by how regally handsome his costar is.
Carsen leans closer to the table. “Is there something on my face?”
“Hmm?” is Tyler’s initial reaction and then, “oh,” when he realizes he’s been caught staring and he feels his cheeks burn, his eyes dropping on the table, keen on memorizing the patterns on the table cloth.
“I don’t mind, you know,” Carsen says in that familiar baritone he only uses when he’s flirting, and lately, that seems to be all the time. “I like it when you look at me.”
Tyler feels his cock twitch beneath his pants, glad he’s wearing something lose. Fuck! He’s so screwed.
After dinner, they head over to the beach, strolling along the quiet shore with their hands entwined. There are paparazzi following them – flashes from their highly advanced cameras slicing through the darkness – but Tyler forgets about them for a moment, long enough for him to imagine how it feels if this isn’t a pretense at all.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, Carsen stops, tugs Tyler close and kisses him.
Lila stares at the tabloid page, one eyebrow higher than the other. “Well, this looks convincing.”
Tyler’s amazed by how crisp and clear the photo is, despite the backdrop of darkness. He needs to get whatever type of camera that paparazzo used. Damn. What am I thinking? He shakes his head, presses the heel of his palm against his temple to ease a non-existing headache and says, “I don’t even know how that happened.”
It’s true though. One minute they were talking about the script for the next episode that they’d be filming and the next minute, Carsen’s hot mouth was on his. The kiss wasn’t long but it wasn’t chaste either. It wasn’t rough or possessive but more like their lips were just getting acquainted, but it certainly did things to Tyler that made him—is still making him feel that he has cheated on Kevin.
Kevin doesn’t seem affected though when Tyler calls him. “Ty, I know it’s all for show,” Kevin says without a tinge of jealousy but that’s not enough to appease the guilt that’s clawing at the back of Tyler’s brain.
“Maybe I should pay him a surprise visit,” Tyler tells Lila later that day.
“Right. You need to get laid,” is the only response she offers then she’s helping him find the next available flight to Tennessee.
Tyler gets to Chattanooga at seven something in the morning. He calls Karen to make sure Kevin’s not on the set then. “He won’t start filming until one,” she says then promises not to spoil Tyler’s surprise.
The spare key to Kevin’s temporary apartment is right where Karen says it should be so Tyler slips inside as discreetly as he can. His ears catch the distinct sound of someone moaning. Tyler’s thinking of hightailing out of there, probably in the wrong place, but his legs seem to move on their own and he makes his way to what he presumes is the bedroom. The door’s ajar so Tyler just cocks his head and peeks inside.
It feels like someone has just shoved an anvil straight into his belly. There on the bed is a very naked Kevin on top of a very naked Megan.
“Shit! Tyler? What are you…?” Kevin’s voice yanks Tyler out of his stupor and before Kevin can hop out of bed, Tyler manages to dash out of the apartment, ignoring Kevin’s “wait, Tyler, let me explain!”
Tyler spends the next three days in a friend’s place. Kendra is fierce enough to keep Kevin away, which isn’t really a problem since Kevin has only tried to contact him twice since the incident.
Thankfully, Kendra doesn’t dote on him because when she asks, “How are you holding up?” Tyler admits that he’s actually not hurting. He’s more shocked than hurt.
Lila helps in finding him a new place and pretty soon he’s moving into this gorgeous unit in a villa near the beach. By some twist of fate though, Carsen lives a block away.
“At least Carsen can drop by any time to keep you company,” Lila deadpans but Tyler catches a glimpse of the smile she’s trying to repress. “Somebody needs to keep an eye on you while you’re not filming.”
“I’m not a child,” Tyler bites out.
Carsen drops by every so often to bring him chicken soup (“I’m not sick, Cars,” Tyler says, appalled) and a bouquet of flowers (“I’m not dying either!”) and Carsen’s Xbox (“Awesome! Let’s play.”)
Carsen’s presence is a welcome distraction and Tyler doesn’t even try to deny that it’s exactly what he needs. Before Tyler knows it, he’s tearing off a two-month sheet from his wall calendar and thoughts of Kevin are left buried in the pages of Tyler’s history.
They fall into a routine – Tyler and Carsen, sometimes doing something spontaneous and out of the blue like this trip to Mexico. After sampling some enchiladas and quesadillas, they both try out the famous Mexican brew.
A few bottles of beer and several shots of Tequila later, they both stumble back to the room they’re sharing at this little motel they found earlier. Tyler’s pretty sure he’s not smashed though, not to the point where he won’t remember a thing the next morning. He’s still very much conscious to know that Carsen is half carrying him, that… that he’s giggling – about what, he’s not sure.
“You’re equally amusing when drunk,” Carsen says when he eases Tyler onto the bed. “Cute, too.”
“I’m not cute and I’m not drunk.” Tyler doesn’t hear himself slur so yeah, he’s still sober – sober enough that he’s aware he’s tugging at Carsen’s shirt, aware that he’s kissing Carsen, aware that they’re both stripping their clothes off and aware that Carsen’s talented tongue is licking a trail down Tyler’s torso.
Tyler bucks when Carsen takes him into his mouth. God, Carsen’s mouth feels heaven against his cock.
“Fuck,” Tyler hisses when Carsen takes him deeper, fighting the urge to start thrusting. He curls his fingers against the soft curls of Carsen’s dark brown hair, coaxing Carsen to move.
When Carsen starts bobbing his head between Tyler’s thighs, sucking and tonguing and oh, oh… Tyler feels every trace of intoxication leave his body. Sounds Tyler barely recognizes as his own rumble through his throat. It doesn’t take long before Tyler’s crying out his release.
Once Tyler can feel his legs again and his muscles are no longer twitching, he slides down Carsen’s body to reciprocate, taking Carsen’s erection in his hand and giving a few strokes first then he wraps his lips around the head of Carsen’s cock.
Tyler listens to the sound Carsen’s making and soon he finds the right technique, the right rhythm and soon, Carsen’s blowing his load down Tyler’s throat, Tyler’s name falling from Carsen’s lips.
The next morning, Tyler wakes up with a massive headache. It takes about a couple of minutes for him to slip out of the momentary disorientation and the second he remembers what has transpired the night before, he so wants to hit his head hard against the wall.
Shit, shit, shit.
He quickly collects his clothes and makes a beeline to the bathroom as soon as Carsen starts to stir awake.
Carsen is sitting on the edge of the bed with his boxers on, thank goodness, face pinched as if he’s trying to recall where he is, when Tyler ambles back into the room. Carsen lifts his head up, flashes a weak smile and says, “Mornin’.”
“Last night shouldn’t have happened,” falls out of Tyler’s mouth and he wishes he can swallow the words back when a frown frames Carsen’s face.
“Look Tyler, I—”
“You better get dressed. We have to get back early.”
No matter how hard Tyler tries, he feels awkward around Carsen so he tries to avoid the man over the next few days. His efforts are futile though when they’re on the set but Tyler manages to survive a couple of weeks more playing an immature game of hide-and-seek with Carsen. It’s not that he regrets what happened. He’s just scared to acknowledge the emotions that have taken control of his heart where Carsen is concerned.
Tyler’s reprieve from the pretend dating scheme doesn’t go unnoticed. Lila soon invades his private sanctuary, armed with a weapon of intervention.
“What happened between you and Tyler?” she asks with a clear hint of resoluteness that Tyler recognizes so he knows it’s pointless to brush her off. He tells her about Mexico.
The next day, someone comes pounding on his door and Tyler’s not surprised to see Carsen standing at his doorway but he’s not expecting Carsen to hold up a tabloid. The header reads: ‘Carsen Grade and Tyler Kenwick call it quits.’
“I don’t know about you,” Carsen says, “but I’m ready to deny this rumor.”
Tyler heaves a shallow breath, his silent shit-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into sigh and steps aside to let Carsen in.
“I don’t know, Carsen. I mean… do you really want to go on playing this stupid game, pretend that you’re interested in me?”
The look that crosses Carsen’s face makes Tyler’s heart seize. There’s sadness in Carsen’s eyes and honesty and something else Tyler’s doesn’t have a name for.
Carsen takes three strides to bridge the wide gap between them, gaze locked into Tyler’s. “Who says I’m pretending?”
“I….” The words melt on Tyler’s tongue and he stands there gaping at Carsen, trying to find a sign of insincerity in Carsen’s eyes.
“I stopped pretending the moment I kissed you at the beach, Tyler.” Carsen takes another step towards Tyler. And another. And another. Carsen’s close enough that Tyler can feel the warmth of Carsen’s breath against his face. “And I’m hoping that what happened in Mexico doesn’t just stay in Mexico.”
“I don’t want you to be a rebound boyfriend or something,” Tyler says softly. Carsen’s proximity is making him feel lightheaded.
The cocksure attitude Carsen exudes when he asks, “Am I a rebound?” weakens Tyler’s resolve then Tyler’s shaking his head, taking short, shallow breaths.
Carsen pulls him close, whispers, “Hey,” his thick arms closing in around Tyler’s shoulders. “It’s okay, Ty. Everything’s going to be okay.”
The pre-awards party is already in full swing by the time Tyler and Carsen arrive.
They would have gotten there earlier but Carsen’s hands were all over Tyler that Tyler was cajoled into having sex and ruining the clothes they were wearing in the process.
Lila bounds over to them, exclaiming, “There you are! I was half expecting that you guys wouldn’t be able to make it. What took you so long?”
“Traffic was heavy,” Carsen says but judging from the way Lila rolls her eyes, it’s obvious that she doesn’t buy his excuse.
“Well, you boys have fun.” She gives them a little wave with her fingers then pivots on her heels and glides gracefully over to the nearest group of people.
Carter leans closer, lips close to Tyler’s ear. “Why don’t we just say hi to the people we know so we can leave and go back to your place or mine?”
“Tempting,” Tyler teases and he rubs his ass against Carsen’s crotch for good measure.
Tyler whips his head around when he hears an all-too-familiar voice call out, “Tyler?” and doesn’t sense any pang in his chest like he has always feared he might feel when he sees Kevin.
“You look great,” Kevin says. Not even Kevin’s alluring smile has any effect on Tyler anymore. He hasn’t seen his ex for ten months but if feels like a decade for Tyler.
“Thanks,” is Tyler’s perfunctory response. He presses further into Carsen’s side when Carsen rests his arm around Tyler’s shoulder.
Kevin waves a finger between Tyler and Carsen, saying, “So… you two are still at it,” which makes Tyler go “huh?” with his brows furrowed. Kevin’s smile grows wider, his teeth showing. “I see you two are still pretending you’re in a relationship.”
Oh, Tyler thinks. Oh. And he so wants to laugh, to guffaw because clueless Kevin is just hilarious.
Tyler slides his hand in Carsen’s, feels Carsen give a light squeeze. “We’re not really pretending,” Tyler says. “Not anymore.”
“Oh.” Several emotions settle on Kevin’s expression: confusion, hurt, disappointment and there may be a bit of resentment. A feeling of triumph bubbles in Tyler’s chest. “I’ll uh… I need to go find Megan,” Kevin says, slowly creeping away from them. “I guess I’ll see you around.”
Tyler doesn’t watch Kevin leave. He lifts his eyes to Carsen, glad that there isn’t any trace of uncertainty on Carsen’s face. “Let’s stay for a while, just an hour, then we can get out of here.”
“Anything you want,” Carsen says then presses his lips against Tyler’s, kissing him softly, gently, like a silent promise.
Tyler thinks he hears several cameras going off. He doesn’t mind, doesn’t care. He doesn’t have to worry if their kiss looks convincing enough, not anymore, because this? This is real.