Marshall L’Hime tripped over the massive pile of Mountain Dew cans and sent them bouncing all over the apartment. The second time this week, damn.
He blamed it on his bud Tye who kept coming over and stealing all the recycling bin bags. Marshall just got done with a shift at Gamestop, and hell if he was going to the Circle K just for plastic bags. So he left the cans where they were and hoped nobody tripped over them later.
He could smell the gamer sweat emanating from the living room, and that level of rankness couldn’t have been anything but his roommate RJ Ragnell. Or the kitchen sink, which hadn’t been cleared out in two or three weeks, but it was probably RJ.
He stepped into the living room and made an exaggerated wafting motion over his face. “Dude!” he shouted. “What the hell’s going on here? You getting into League again?”
But when he looked, he realized that RJ wasn’t playing some action-packed game… He was playing Animal Crossing. Dug the Nintendo Gamecube out of the closet just for this.
A cute little human character giving some apples to an otter, and some twinkly sound effects. Blocky outdated graphics. A soft drum machine beat, and RJ even humming along.
“Dude…” Marshall couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t even accept it.
RJ realized that Marshall was here and jumped in his seat. He bolted over to the Gamecube, pressed the power button, and then changed the TV input to cable, where Spike TV played a rerun of COPS.
Then he grimaced to himself. “Damn, Mr. Resetti’s gonna hate me,” he grumbled.
“Who the hell is Mr. Resetti?” Marshall asked.
“N-nothing,” he said. “Uh, just some guy who kept sniping me in COD. Which I was playing online just a minute ago.”
“On the Nintendo Gamecube.”
“Yeah, obviously,” RJ said. “Where do you play your COD games?”
Marshall rolled his eyes. “Bro, on the Xbox 360, like any other self-respecting man. Like, bro.” He yanked a stray, half-full, half-fizzy can of Mountain Dew off the coffee table and drank it. “I can’t believe you were playing Animal Crossing. Is this what you do when I’m at work?”
“No, I was just…” RJ’s head sunk to his chest. “Yeah, bro. Just playing Animal Crossing. I’m, like, updating my sister’s profile, or whatever.”
“And so you reek of gamer stank because…?”
“Because I was playing Animal Crossing for the past nine hours,” he admitted.
Marshall could hardly stand it. His own best bro, his roommate, had betrayed him by playing a girly girl game and not trying to improve his own K/D ratio. “I thought you were trying to go pro. Can’t go pro with Animal Crossing, can you?”
“What, are you g–” He stopped himself before he made the fateful accusation.
Marshall looked around at their apartment. Posters of Gears of War and those beefy infantry soldiers. A figurine of Goku from Dragon Ball flexing all his muscles as he powers up into Super Saiyan 2. A bunch of UFC memorabilia. Stone Cold Steve Austin’s autograph framed, hanging on the wall.
This house was kind of…
He stopped thinking about that, and then realized that there was literal trash literally piled up in all parts of the apartment.
“Bro, when’s the last time we cleaned up in here?” Marshall asked.
“Uh, probably that time you had that chick over. Pip or whatever.”
“Oh, yeah! She was so hot. Completely smoking.”
“I thought you two were cousins or something,” RJ said. “Since you didn’t bang.”
“We totally could have. I was so gonna bang her, but, like…” Marshall trailed off as he failed to come up with a good reason. He didn’t even remember it, honestly. It just never happened even though Pip was totally into him.
Then he looked at RJ and remembered why. The whole night, he was hanging out with this chick, and they were playing Mario Kart Double Dash together on the couch while his roommate just had to sit there and eat hot pockets on the fold-out chair by himself. Every time Marshall was totally going to make a move, he’d look at RJ, and he’d just feel bad. Like he was chicking up the place just by having this girl over, and if he kept doing it, RJ would never forgive him.
RJ, with those beautiful blue eyes, and that curly blonde hair, and–
“You okay, bro?” RJ asked. “Kinda staring off there.”
Marshall snapped back into reality. “Yeah, yeah. Just thinking about, uh, cleaning the house. Want to do it?”
“Do it?” RJ snickered. “I did your mom last night.”
“Not THAT kind of doing it, and you know what I mean. This apartment looks like a Trubbish puked all over the place.” He only remembered the Pokemon Trubbish because he just finished playing Pokemon Black last week, and somehow he got a Trubbish into his main party by the end. He really loved that cute little dude.
Oh no, was Pokemon a girly girl game too…?
“Yeah, let’s clean, I guess,” RJ said with a slightly defeated expression. Clearly, he wanted something beyond cleaning, but Marshall couldn’t tell what.
RJ moved up closer to him, peering into his own brown eyes like he was trying to examine their luster to sell them as gems. He looked curious, almost playful.
But then Marshall took a sniff and pushed the dude back. “Bro, actually, I’ll get to cleaning. You can take a damn shower.”
“Right on, bro.” He went towards the bathroom, then stopped. “You gonna be okay out here on your own?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“You don’t want to, like, clean the bathroom or anything?” RJ asked.
“Bro, what do you mean? While you’re taking a shower? That’s a little…”
Before Marshall could say anything else, RJ went into the bathroom and closed the door. Click to lock… then another click to unlock.
For some reason, Marshall was blushing like crazy, and he had no idea why.
RJ was just going to take a shower like he did once every three or four days. Nothing special. Right now, he’d just be stripping his clothes off, his shirt hitting the floor and showing off his abs, and then his gym shorts sliding down his slender legs. Nothing different than any other time he took a shower, probably.
Marshall didn’t see anything interesting about it, which is probably why he kept thinking about it so much.
Oh yeah, he needed to clean.
Surprisingly, it was not a very long time before the house was in a much better state. After he crushed all the Mountain Dew cans and shoved them into the recycling bin, after he alphabetized the Xbox 360 game cases, after he washed the dishes, after he vacuumed the carpet…
Wait a minute, it had been two hours, and he realized the shower was very much not going anymore. Where the hell was RJ?
He knocked on the door. “Bro, RJ. You alright in there?”
“Yeah,” he said through the apartment’s very thin walls. “Just taking a bath.”
“A bath?!” Marshall shouted in disgust. “Bro, you aren’t allowed to take baths!”
“Baths are gay!”
The word was said.
The entire world was shattered on the broken tension that had been building up for this whole evening.
He accused his best bro RJ of gaydom.
Now the concept was out there, and it could never be retracted.
“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Marshall added.
A long moment passed.
“…Marsh, why don’t you come in here?” RJ asked. “Door’s not locked.”
“I want to see you, bro.”
For some reason, despite all the social norms in his body telling him no, Marshall did it. He turned the knob on the door, opened it, and walked into the bathroom.
There he was. RJ Ragnell, looking at him with the most disappointed expression he’d ever seen on a dude. Fully clothed, sitting on the edge of the bath that did not have any water in it. Arms crossed.
“You really thought I was taking a bath,” RJ said. “Like I’d ever.”
“Yeah, I know! But you were playing Animal Crossing, so, like, you know? You’ve gone all cocoa puffs on me. Gay and whatever.”
“And YOU cleaned the house for two hours. Ruining the gamer scent with all that damn febreeze. Don’t think I didn’t know about the air fresheners. That’s super gay.”
“Wait a minute, why didn’t you help me clean if you weren’t actually going to take a shower?” Marshall asked.
But RJ did n’t answer that and instead followed-up with a new question. “How long have we been together?” RJ asked. “Roommates, I mean.”
“Bro, I don’t even know. Metroid Prime 2 just came out, I know, because we played the multiplayer all the time.”
“The answer is seven years.”
“That’s not normal,” RJ said. “We moved in together so long ago that my little brother’s already finished two tours in Iraq. Neither of us has ever had a girlfriend the whole time. Dudes don’t do this normally. There’s something up between us, and we gotta settle it out.”
Marshall and RJ stared at each other uncomfortably for some time in silence. Neither of them wanted to say anything to break it, because they knew they were about to cross a threshold from which they could never return.
RJ stood up and came up close to Marshall, and opened his mouth to speak–
But Marshall put a finger over his mouth, a gentle touch on his lips. He decided he’d have the first word.
“You’re my Master Chief, bro,” he said softly.
“Ha, I was about to same the same exact thing.”
“Not really,” RJ said. “I was just gonna do this.”
Smooch. Their lips met, and Marshall’s scraggly five o’clock shadow met RJ’s one-week mini-beard. So warm, so mildly hairy.
The moment probably lasted forever. Yeah, definitely.
Their hands clasped together, and stayed that way even after their faces moved apart.
“Dude,” Marshall said. “Bro. That was so gay.”
“The gayest thing I’ve ever done,” RJ said. “And that includes that time we watched Brokeback Mountain together as a dare.”
“I’ve never forgotten that night. I never will.” Marshall leaned in and gave him another kiss.
After all these years, all this time, the simplest answer was, in fact, the greatest one. Marshall and RJ were roommates for life, bros forever, and dudes in cahoots. Now they would be all these things and so much more. Perhaps they could be… Boyfriends.
“Why don’t we take this to the bedroom?” RJ asked. “Your bedroom.”
“I didn’t clean the bedroom yet.”
They rushed into Marshall’s bedroom, where the bed was stacked with clothes pulled out of the dryer but never folded. A full mountain of cargo pants and t-shirts shirts and boxer-briefs.
Marshall threw RJ on that mountain and kissed him passionately.
“Bro, I love you.”
“I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry, huh?” RJ asked.
“Like the movie.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, bro,” Marshall said. “Just keep making out with me.”
They continued to kiss, and RJ wrapped his arms around Marshall’s back. Wouldn’t let him go for anything, not even–
“Wait!” Marshall shouted, breaking away from the make out session. “I got a one-on-one clan battle with Tye in fifteen minutes on Guardian. He keeps telling me Bumper Jumper sucks and Green Thumb is the only real way to go. I’ve got to ruin him for it.”
RJ laughed. “Oh, you better beat his ass. I’ll cook some Totino’s Party Pizzas and watch you win.”
And thus it was that Marshall and RJ would begin their domestic life together, seven years into their domestic life together. The house was clean now, but it would become piled up with Mountain Dew cans in no time, just how the two bros liked it.
They lived happily ever after until the end of their days, or at least until Marshall became a millionaire off his company stock in 2021 and accidentally entered the world of corporate finance. Then everything got way too bro to handle.
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