"Um." James pauses the show in the middle of a speech by Admiral Adama. Mike looks over at him, blinking as he pulls focus away from the screen.
"Do you like me?"
Mike seems to hesitate, even though he knows it's been coming to this for a while.
"Yeah. I think you're really friendly, and supportive, and a really good actor." He wants to make sure James is asking what he thinks he's asking.
James shakes his head, a small smile creeping in to his otherwise-serious expression. "No. I mean like."
They look at each other for a while until Mike tears his gaze away and focuses back on the frozen image on the screen. "Yes."
He can hear James shifting next to him, and when he looks over, James has moved closer, and seems to study his face. "Me, too."
Relief washes over him. If he's being honest, he'd been dreading this conversation, wondering if he'd started making James uncomfortable. He'd rather have James as a friend than run the risk of scaring him off.
"Okay. What... what now?"
"Can I kiss you?"
Mike doesn't bother responding, closing the remaining distance between them, and James lets out a quiet yelp as their lips meet. But the surprise doesn't last long, as James leans into it, pushing Mike back against the couch, his hand finding the back of his head.
It's needy, the culmination of what feels like months of desire, and when they break, Mike needs more than a moment to catch his breath.
"Do you want to... be my boyfriend?" His voice is shaky, and it's not just the kiss that's still lingering on his lips.
James pulls his hand away, and he wonders briefly if he did something wrong, but as James looks at him, he realizes James is just nervous.
Mike nods, suddenly nervous too, watching James' adams apple as he swallows. "Can I kiss you again?"
James leans in this time, and it's slower and softer and he doesn't think he'll ever enough of this.
"You don't have to come."
Mike looks over at James. His expression is neutral, and he wishes he knew what he was thinking. "Do you not want me to come?"
James shrugs and pulls on his coat. "You don't have to come," he repeats, and Mike decides it means he doesn't mind if he tags along.
"I haven't seen the Lizzes' apartment before."
They walk together in silence, and Mike's question of whether he should hold James' hand is answered when James holds his out, an eyebrow raised as if asking permission.
He takes it, feeling more than a little happy at it.
They arrive at a plain-looking house a bit off of campus and James hits one of the buzzer buttons. Mike tries to swallow the lump in his throat as they wait. He's not sure why he's nervous, exactly, but James squeezes his hand, and that helps.
The door opens and Liz beams at them. "James! And Michael!"
She goes in for a hug and Mike releases James' hand. She notices the movement and stops, confusion on her face quickly turning into a grin.
"Jameson! You got a boyfriend?!"
James cringes and draws his coat tigher around himself. "Yes." Mike suddenly realizes why his stomach had started feeling a little queasy on the way over.
"Michael! Tell me everything! How is he in bed?"
"Um." Mike resists the urge to reach over and try to offer some sort of reassurance. "My lips are sealed?" He decides that was the wrong thing to say, because they haven't actually done anything yet, and it's just going to invite more questions.
"Around his cock, maybe." She's still grinning, looking between the two of them.
James holds out the tupperware container they'd come to return. "Here."
She takes it without looking away from Mike. "Is he good? This is his first time with a guy, right? Is it his first time with anyone?"
"I plead the fifth." He's not sure if it would be rude to just turn around and leave, but James turns away from the door. "And I think we should go..."
James holds a hand out behind him, and Mike takes it, letting himself be pulled away from the door.
"Bye James and Mike!"
They walk back to James' apartment again in silence, but it's uncomfortable this time, and Mike doesn't dare look at James' face. "I'm sorry."
"Not your fault." It should be reassuring, but it's a little more curt than he'd like.
"I should have realized Liz would make a big deal of it."
James stops walking and shakes his head. "She would have any time. Now maybe Q&A won't be so bad."
"Except for Dan."
James nods and seems to sigh, and they start walking again. "Yes."
"You should come visit sometime. I can take you to my favorite pub... uh, or restaurant."
James swallows his bite of chicken and nods. "Ok."
"This is the longest I've been away from home. I kind of miss it." James' fork stops halfway to his mouth, and he looks at Mike, as if a thought just fell into his head. Mike isn't sure he likes that look. "Are you okay?"
James shakes his head. "Yes," he says before taking the bite of food.
"Do you not want to visit the UK, sometime?"
James shakes his head again, chewing for what feels like an eternity before swallowing. "Would be nice. What are plans after graduation?"
"Oh. I don't actually know, yet. I'd always assumed I would move back home and find a job there, but I'm not tied to that idea. Depends what there is here."
He doesn't want to mention that he'd stay for James. He isn't sure how James would take it, and doesn't want to come across as too clingy. Besides, there would be so many other variables like finding a job involved.
James nods, looking a little less contemplative but no less concerned. "Ok."
Mike changes the topic to James' new play, not wanting to delve further into... whatever just happened.
It hits him a few days later, in his dorm room, that James had probably started thinking about them long-term, and whether Mike would be sticking around.
He resolves to bring it up again, in conversation. To say how his pipe dream has always been to attend college in the US to find a reason to stay, or a person to stay for. To try and convey somehow that the what there is includes James, and in some way, always has.
Something's different, he thinks as James lets him into the apartment and he kisses him quickly.
He sits at the counter as James busies himself in the kitchen, finishing up the food. He doesn't want to pry, having learned that things are always easier if he lets James bring up topics in his own time.
James sets a plate down in front of him and sits next to him, but he's leaning away, almost subconsciously, and Mike can't help but think that's a bad sign.
"Thanks for dinner," he says instead. Even though James never makes anything too fancy, he still appreciates the break from campus food. And the company.
James just nods, staring at his own plate of food as Mike takes a tentative bite. Mike watches him pick up his fork and pick through the pasta.
"What's wrong?" He can't help it anymore. James shakes his head and sets his fork down.
"For what?" he asks, but he's pretty sure he knows where this is going.
"I wasn't ready." James picks up his fork again, as if needing something else to focus on. "It's not you."
"Oh." He doesn't want to ask the question, even though he really should, because he really doesn't want to hear the answer.
Thankfully, James clarifies on his own. "I think we're better as friends."
"Oh," he repeats, his throat suddenly dry. "Okay. I... I understand." He stops, squeezing his eyes together. "Did I... push you, too much?"
"No. Not you." James sounds sincere, at least. "You were good. Just... think I shouldn't be dating right now."
"Okay." If it were coming from anyone else, he's not sure he'd believe it, but he feels like James has always been honest with him.
"Sorry. Should have let you eat first."
"No. I'm sorry I... asked. I should have let you eat first, too."
He glances over at James, and he seems to be smiling, gentle but filled with regret. "It's ok." James digs his fork into the pasta again, actually spearing some this time.
"Should I go?"
James looks at him with surprise. "No. If you don't want to. Can still eat and watch Battlestar."
He's not sure if it's a great idea at the moment, but he's pretty sure he'd rather be here with James than off on his own, even if it's going to be hard.
"I'd like that, if you're sure that's okay with you."
"It's okay," James says, but after they've finished eating and are sitting on the couch together, Mike's hands twitching with the unconscious need to be touching James, he isn't quite sure he believes it, yet.
But it will be, he thinks, trying to convince himself of it as much as he knows it's true.
Even if he can't have James like that, he's still thankful they're friends.