Word Count: 1,299
Summary: Don kind of liked the laundromat.
Don balanced his laundry basket on top of the coin-acceptor between the two washing machines he'd started, and began sorting. He dropped colors into the one on the right and whites into the one on the left, shaking his socks out before they went in. Charlie had informed him a few months ago, in exactly the same way he occasionally announced some grand mathematical revelation, that you could wash darks and whites together if you just put the machine on cold. Don had kept a straight face somehow, reminding himself who'd done Charlie's laundry all through college, back when Don was scraping quarters together and stuffing two weeks' worth of clothes into one load. He was an adult now, and he did it the right way, the way his mom had taught him.
Two loads took the same time as one at the laundromat anyway, and these days he could come up with all the quarters he needed. It was pushing two in the morning, and his hands moved on autopilot, the colors of his clothes seeming stark under the fluorescent light. He was exhausted, and he'd have liked to skip the laundry run and go to bed, but his last few weekends had evaporated. He was out of clean clothes, and he wasn't about to go into the AD's office tomorrow morning and try to explain the last thirty-six hours while wearing yesterday's socks.
He'd had to throw out yesterday's socks, anyway. The blood had set, and there was no point trying to save them.
Don could have taken the laundry to his dad's to do--crashed on the couch during the spin cycle, and woken up in the morning to coffee and all his laundry finished and folded for him in the basket--but he'd spent enough time there lately. Anyway, he kind of liked the laundromat; it was a little bit like being on a stakeout, the sense of getting work done by sitting and waiting. And he'd never seen anyone get shot in a laundromat.
His mom had told him that, actually, when he was fifteen and didn't want to learn about how to use bleach. No man ever got shot doing the laundry. At least not if he did it right. Don had never seen her proven wrong.
An unfamiliar flash of color in his hand stopped Don short, fist clenched in a wad of orange and brown over the right-hand washer. Don shook it out, even though he knew exactly what it was, after the first second of dazed confusion. The t-shirt was brown, with an orange collar, and a stylized dragon breathing flames stenciled on the front, also in orange. It was soft, a cheap t-shirt already washed a dozen times, and creased all over from having been crumpled up somewhere.
He’d found it stuffed down behind the couch cushions, close to two months ago. Charlie had come over one night, and they’d barely bothered with a beer before Charlie was climbing on top of Don, his quick fingers, still chalk-dusty, sliding under Don’s clothes. Don had pushed Charlie’s button-down off his shoulders and then laughed at the dragon shirt, though he’d seen it before and it wasn’t the worst of Charlie’s t-shirts, not by a long shot. Charlie had tackled him flat, grinding against him and stealing his breath with slow wet kisses, and it had been a long time before Don had gotten around to peeling the hideous t-shirt off of him. He'd dropped it behind his head as Charlie rocked against him, both of them a breath away from coming in their pants--
The flow of water into the right-hand machine shut off abruptly, jarring Don out of the memory. He looked up quickly, but the laundromat was nearly deserted: there was a girl sitting on top of a machine two rows over, listening to headphones and staring into a thick, glossy-paged textbook, and a tired woman sitting in a plastic chair by the wall, but no one was looking at him. Don looked down at the t-shirt and then dropped it back into the empty basket, and the basket onto the floor, before slamming the lids shut on both washing machines.
It had been a week and a half since he'd seen Charlie anywhere but at the office or across the dinner table, and now Don was half hard just thinking about him. The taste of his mouth, all vending-machine coffee and candy, and the startled-happy look he got on his face every time Don kissed him back, like he thought Don wouldn't, like maybe he'd imagined all the times before.
Don shut his eyes for a second, trying to steer his thoughts anywhere that wasn't Charlie, but they wouldn't go, and his worn-out laundry-day jeans felt uncomfortably tight already. Keeping his hands firmly at his sides, Don turned away from the washers and sat down on the floor with his back to the machines, drawing his knees up to hide himself.
He glanced over at the laundry basket beside him, resisting the temptation to reach over and pick up Charlie's t-shirt. It looked conspicuous there in the basket all by itself; he ought to get up and toss it in with his clothes, fold it and give it back to Charlie the next time he was around. Don didn't move, though. Charlie's t-shirt had been at the bottom of Don's laundry basket for weeks now, and he still hadn't washed it.
He tried not to think about why not; it made him think too much of serial killers and rapists, keeping trophies. He and Charlie were like a serial crime. The first occurrence had been situational, and then the thing took on a life of its own, recurring over and over, at accelerating intervals. Intensifying. Each instance only whetted the appetite for more. There were patterns, rituals. Charlie always kissed him first; Don always whispered, "You're sure?" before he undid Charlie's pants. Charlie always grinned and put his hand over Don's, urging him on.
Don shut his eyes and let his head fall back against the washer, listening to the rhythmic slosh of the water through the cool metal. Serial killers took trophies to stake a claim, and Don didn't need a t-shirt to tell him that he owned a piece of Charlie. He'd owned a piece of Charlie since he was five years old, and by now Don owned lots of pieces of Charlie. Too many, that was the problem, and the only thing that made it even a little bit okay was that Charlie had owned just as many pieces of him for just as long. So it wasn't that he needed Charlie's t-shirt on top of everything else; it was just that he was the same as Charlie, though he didn't see it on his own face.
It was so easy, most of the time, to be brothers. To be just like they'd always been, for all of their lives that they were normal, to sit across the dinner table or across a desk, to tease and argue and work and play. At times he thought it couldn't possibly be real, this other thing they had; and then Charlie would show up in the middle of the night, and wait maybe ten minutes before reaching for Don, and it was all real, all right there again in his hands, and Don was as happily shocked by it as ever.
They had to be careful, though, and more than that they were busy. They couldn't be together often, not like that, and the rest of the time...
Don reached over without looking, until his fingertips were just touching Charlie's shirt.
The rest of the time, he had his dirty laundry to remind him.