What It Takes

Levi likes Johnathan. A lot. He thinks he’s cute and funny and endlessly interesting. Johnathan thinks that maybe he might like Levi too, but he has a hard time believing that Levi likes him back, despite all the hints. Slowly, Levi begins to realize that if he wants to show Johnathan how he really feels, it'll require a much bolder move than his easy, soft spoken nature usually allows.

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3. Chapter Three: One More Tomorrow

 

    Levi had thought, or maybe just hoped, that something might have shifted in his and Johnathan’s relationship after that night on the couch. He foolishly let himself imagine that maybe it would become a nightly tradition for them to stay up watching late night TV until he fell asleep. The thought of Johnathan maybe becoming more and more open with Levi, telling him about his day or what was on his mind was exciting and horribly stupid. 

    Nothing changed. If anything, there seemed to be more distance between them than ever before. It wasn’t that Levi had stopped trying to talk to Johnathan, but instead, it seemed that Johnathan had somehow been giving him even fewer opportunities than before. If he had seemed closed off a few days ago, that was nothing compared to how he avoided everyone in the following week. 

    It took several days before Levi was able to corner Johnathan in the kitchen. Lately, he had been snatching food from the kitchen and hurrying back up to his room like a thief. Levi hoped to God that it hadn’t been he who made Johnathan too uncomfortable to be around in his own house. 

    Levi walked into the kitchen to find Johnathan staring at the microwave as if it had personally offended him, tapping one foot impatiently on the ground. He glanced over his shoulder as Levi entered, and he seemed to jump a bit as he turned. “Oh, um, sorry, I’m almost done. Just, uh, forty seven more seconds.”
    Trying to stay casual, Levi gave a half shrug. “It’s fine, take as long as you want. What are you making?”

    “Ramen,” Johnathan replied shortly. 

    “In the microwave?” Levi asked, moving to the fridge and pulling out a pack of tortillas. “We do have a stove, you know.”
    Johnathan shifted back towards the microwave. “This is quicker.”

    Because spending an extra two minutes outside the kitchen might just kill you, Levi thought. “Is that what you’ve been eating this whole time?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “These past few days,” Levi explained, pressing a block of cheddar cheese down the sharp facets of a cheese grater. “We wondered what you were eating since we never saw you at mealtimes.”

    “We?” Johnathan asked as the microwave beeped. He pulled out the steaming hot bowl of soup. 

    “Well, I did anyway,” Levi replied.
    Johnathan let the bowl cool on the counter for a moment, staring at it. “Yeah, I’ve mostly been eating Ramen.”

    Levi paused in his grating. “Nothing against Ramen, but do you want some real food? I’m making quesadillas.” 

    Testing the temperature of the bowl, Johnathan shook his head. “It’s okay, I just made this. You don’t have to go to more trouble.”

    “It’s no trouble,” Levi insisted. “I’ll just make two instead of one.” Johnathan hesitated. “You can’t live on Ramen,” Levi pointed out. “You need protein and, like, other stuff.”

    “Convincing argument for the other stuff,” Johnathan deadpanned. “Especially since cheese doesn’t count as protein.”

    Levi turned around, opening the refrigerator and waving a container of chicken at Johnathan. “But chicken does, doesn’t it?”

    “Where’d we get that?”

    “Hayden brought home a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store yesterday,” Levi informed him as he layered some slices onto two tortillas. Johnathan didn’t say it, but Levi took the fact that he was still standing there and letting his soup go cold as indication that Levi had won the argument and a quesadilla was in order. “I knocked on your door, but you didn’t answer.” You never answer

    “Oh,” Johnathan said simply. There was a long silence in which Levi busied himself with the food, not looking up until Johnathan said quietly. “Sorry.”
    Levi almost said it was okay out of reflex, but it wasn’t. The more Johnathan shut him out, the harder it would be for Levi to help him out of whatever dark place he had fallen into. “Do you want to hang out tonight?”

    “Hang out and do what?” 

    As Levi gently lifted one of the tortillas into a skillet, he replied, “I don’t know. Whatever you want. We could go somewhere.”

    Johnathan frowned. “I don’t really feel like going out.”

    “Okay,” Levi said easily. “Then we’ll stay in. Watch a movie or play Halo or something.”

    After a moment of deliberation, Johnathan replied, “I’ll pass, but thanks.”

    “Why, do you have homework to do?” Levi asked. He knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t help it. 

    Johnathan looked a bit relieved that Levi was giving him a way out. “Yeah, loads.”

    Levi, however, had no intentions of letting him out at all. “Mind if I join you? I’ve gotta take a calc class this semester and I suck at math. Cyrus told me you’re really good at it.”

    “I’m a political science major,” Johnathan replied, as if that discounted his math skills.

    “A political science major who’s good at math, apparently,” Levi replied smoothly, transferring the first quesadilla onto a plate and sliding it towards Johnathan. Jonathan abandoned the now cold bowl of soup on the counter and sat down at the table, pulling his plate over. 

    “Thanks,” Johnathan said, referring to the food, not the compliment. 

    Levi just nodded and set his own tortilla in the pan. He watched it, flipped it, and by the time he turned around to grab his own plate, Johnathan’s was empty. 

    “So, I’m going to go, uh, get started. Just knock on my door whenever,” he said, putting his plate in the sink. 

    “Okay,” Levi replied. Johnathan may not have waited to eat with him, but at least he was letting him come study. And Levi wasn’t lying; he did need the help. 

    Johnathan left, and Levi ate in the quiet kitchen. It might not be the perfect situation, but it was a start. After finishing, Levi cleaned up the kitchen, dumping Johnathan’s neglected soup down the sink. Then, he grabbed his books from his room and headed over to Johnathan’s. He knocked a few times, and there was silence. Levi frowned, but just as he was about to knock again, Johnathan opened the door. 

    “Sorry. Come on in. Or do you want me to come downstairs?” Johnathan asked solicitously. 

    Levi shrugged. “Here’s fine. I mean, unless you want a change of scenery,” he said with a hint of humor. 

    Johnathan climbed on his queen sized bed where he had papers and books already strewn across the covers. Pulling them into a tighter circle around himself, he made room on the opposite end for Levi, who closed the door, then sat a little awkwardly on the edge of the bed. Johnathan eyed him. “You can come up, I don’t bite.”

    Really? Levi thought as he shifted further onto the mattress, folding his legs up indian style. “So, uh,” Levi began eloquently, “whatcha working on?”
    “Oh, just, you know…” Johnathan replied vaguely. “Poli sci. So what do you need help with?” he asked, almost impatiently. Levi figured he was probably hoping to get this over with as quickly as possible.

    “Um, I think it’s like inverse derivatives?” Levi guessed. “I’m not quite sure what’s happening. I’m a little lost.”

    Johnathan snorted. “It’s only like the third week.”

    “Hey, not everyone is good at everything like you,” Levi said defensively, only realizing in the pause that followed how complimentary that had come off. “I prefer pictures and colors to numbers,” Levi tried to continue as if nothing he said was at all out of line. 

    Johnathan’s face was unreadable. “Yeah, well, integrals are easy once you get the hang of them.”

    Levi flipped open his math book. “It’s hard to get the hang of something you can’t even do.”

    “Let me see what you’re working on,” Johnathan instructed. Levi handed over his notebook without a word. “Ok, here, try one from your homework and I’ll walk you through if you get stuck.”

    “Ok.” Levi accepted his notebook back and looked at the problem in the book. He copied it down, aware of Johnathan’s eyes on him, and with that kind of pressure, he didn’t get any farther than re-writing the problem. “Um…”

    To his credit, Johnathan didn’t seem too annoyed, although he nodded as if he had expected that, which probably wasn’t much better. “Okay, so let me see the problem.” Levi handed the notebook back. “What you have to do is-“ Johnathan began, trying to turn the notebook so that they could both look at it, but, being that they were facing each other and still several feet apart, it didn’t work well. “Do you want to come over here? It’ll be easier.”

    Do I? Levi laughed to himself. Of course. He nodded, and Johnathan shoved the remainder of his papers into his textbooks and tossed them on the floor. Still, Levi made sure to keep a respectful distance as he scooted over to lean against the headboard next to Johnathan. 

    “Ok, so here’s what you have to do…”

    It took about a half hour before Levi was able to do a problem on his own, but he thought it nothing short of a miracle that he was not only able to concentrate enough with Johnathan sitting next to him but that he was actually beginning to understand the information. “Why don’t you try the rest on your own?” Johnathan suggested after Levi had successfully completed a problem. 

    Levi tried to ignore the sinking feeling in his chest. That’s my cue to get out. Nodding, Levi closed his book, sandwiching his notebook inside, and shifted to get up. 

    “Wait, where are you going?” Johnathan asked, looking almost disappointed. 

    Levi paused. “I thought- If I’m going to do the rest on my own, I don’t need to bother you any more. I can do it somewhere else.”

    Johnathan studied him for a second, then seemed to make a decision. “Or you could, you know, do it here. In case you need help.” He reached down and picked up the first textbook his hand came in contact with, holding it up as if to make a point. “I have some reading to do anyway.”

    Hardly believing his ears, Levi settled back to his earlier position and opened his book again. He had to hide his smile as he copied down the next question. Johnathan, too, opened his book, and when Levi glanced over, he looks absorbed in whatever it was saying. Levi found that the silence between them wasn’t uncomfortable, but, instead, encouraged him to work. After all, if he didn’t continue to answer questions with the soft rasp of his pencil on the paper, Johnathan would undoubtedly ask what was wrong. Levi had no idea how he would answer that one. 

    Levi steadily worked through his problems - or, the math ones, anyway - and when he came to the last one, he had the wild impulse to move onto the next night’s homework just so he could stay and keep working. The thought of doing more math than absolutely necessary was absurd, though tempting. In the end, though Levi decided against it, afraid of overstaying his welcome. He knew that this whole situation with Johnathan needed to be taken with baby steps. 

    Closing his book for the final time, Levi looked over at Johnathan, who glanced up from his book. “I’m done,” Levi said. 

    “Really?” Johnathan asked. 

    Levi nodded. “Thanks for your help.” 

    “Sure.”

    Forcing himself to leave his comfortable spot on the bed, Levi gathered his things and headed for the door. When he looked back briefly, Johnathan was fiddling with the edge of one of his pages, his eyes on his fingers rather than the text. Levi didn’t know what possessed him, but he blurted, “I have a test on Friday.” Johnathan looked up at him. “If you’re not busy and you don’t mind, do you think you’d help me study for it?”

    Johnathan looked at him for a second, then nodded slowly. “Yeah, okay. I can do that.”

    Levi felt an instant sense of relief. “Thank you. So, same time tomorrow, then?”

    “Yeah, that works.”

    Levi gave him a quick smile. “Cool. Goodnight.”

    “Goodnight,” Johnathan muttered. His eyes were back on his book before Levi had even closed the door behind himself. 

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