the claw-foot Lady (softlyforgotten) wrote in word_plays,
the claw-foot Lady
softlyforgotten
word_plays

Part 6/9

Continued from here.

---


Ryan and Spencer are talking out on the back porch with their heads bent together, bare centimetres apart. Brendon tries not to stare, or look pissed or anything. Ryan said Spencer was straight and anyway, Brendon doesn't give a shit. He's not going to go back out there, though; he helped Jon carry in dishes because his mom ingrained certain habits in him that he can't get rid of, and it seemed polite. Jon tells him not to worry about the dishes, they'll do them later, but he casts a look outside and rolls his eyes.

"Guess we'd better wait a minute," he says. "When they're not just communicating via eyebrow it's generally pretty important."

"Communicating via what?" Brendon asks absently, bending over the CD collection. There's a lot. He wonders if these are Jon's and his parents', or whether Jon's got a whole other set back in his room. Brendon wishes he'd had the time to grab more of his own CDs before he moved out.

"Eyebrow," Jon repeats. "It's kind of sad, really. They have whole conversations that I don't even notice." He grins, warm and ridiculously charming, and Brendon keeps his eyes on the CDs, crouching down to look at the lower shelves. It's too weird, he thinks, to have Jon all… all friendly, like he's never glared at Brendon as he leads Ryan away.

"I still don't know what I'm doing with them, really," Jon continues, nice and easy, and Brendon glances up, surprised. Jon smiles at him. "I think they just keep me around for my kittens."

"Plural?" Brendon asks, without meaning to.

"Yeah, Dylan's around somewhere," Jon says. "He's pretty big now, though. It's cool he has a friend."

"Friends are nice," Brendon says, absently. There's a signed copy of Ziggy Stardust. Whoever Jon's parents are, they're seriously cool.

Jon pauses and then says, "So how long have you and Ryan been like…"

Brendon looks up, wary. "You don't really need to say it like that," he says, voice cold. "We're not dating. I don't even like him."

"I was just wondering," Jon says, quietly.

Brendon shrugs, turns back and lingers over a copy of London Calling with distracted longing. "Almost two months," he says, and when he looks up Ryan's standing next to him, face unreadable.

Brendon doesn't know just what it is he expects – Ryan laughing at him, probably, for being stupid and weak and too easily affected – but it's certainly not Ryan just looking at him for what feels like forever. Then Ryan's gaze suddenly flicks down. "Good album," he says in his usual monotone, and it takes Brendon a moment to figure out he's talking about London Calling.

"Yeah," Brendon says. He's uncomfortably aware of Jon watching from the sidelines. "I've been meaning to get that, but can't find a cheap copy." Wow, way to draw attention to how much of a loser he is, great. He puts the CD down a little defiantly. "Not that I want it that much, anyway," he adds. "I heard it so much, I'm kind of sick of it, actually."

When he looks back up at Ryan, Ryan quickly looks away. From over Ryan's shoulder, Spencer is watching sharply, his blue eyes too interested for Brendon's liking. He manages to hold Spencer's gaze for only four seconds, maybe five, before he averts his eyes.

Fucking… Ryan Ross and his stupid fucking precious friends.

"Let's go," Ryan says suddenly. Brendon is scrambling to his feet before he realizes how potentially embarrassing that is, just jumping when Ryan tells him to, but Ryan is already walking towards the front door and didn't even notice.

Spencer makes a low, considering noise. Brendon ignores him, squares his shoulders and follows Ryan to the car. At least the pancakes were good.

---


Ryan supposes that all things considered, it could have been more of a disaster. There was a certain chance of Brendon picking a fight with Spencer, or being an ass even in the face of Jon's niceness, just for the sake of it. So, yeah. It wasn't so bad.

Ryan turns his face into the cool breeze and closes his eyes, just briefly. Beside him, Brendon is kicking some gravel along the path. "You want to drive us back?" Ryan asks without glancing over.

"Really?" Brendon stops walking. Ryan pretends not to notice, just keeps moving towards the car until he hears Brendon's quick footsteps behind him, catching up. When he holds out his keys, Brendon accepts them, fingertips brushing Ryan's palm. It's the kind of thing Ryan doesn't think he should notice.

He climbs into the passenger seat while Brendon fiddles with the seat position and the mirrors, leaning back. He doesn't really let people drive his car; it's old and temperamental, and Brendon's the last person who will treat it the way it should be treated. Ryan has no idea why he even offered.

Once Brendon puts the car into motion, it takes Ryan approximately five seconds to deeply, genuinely regret his decision. "Jesus Christ," he hisses, one hand on the dashboard. "There's such a thing as too much gas, did you know?"

Brendon turns his head for a broad grin, and Ryan's stomach is churning. With dread, he's sure.

"Keep your eyes on the road," he says, voice sharp. "For fuck's sake, who taught you to drive?"

"What makes you think I didn't just learn this from The Fast and the Furious?" Brendon is looking at the road now, but Ryan can see his grin widen in profile. For just a moment, Ryan almost falls for it. Then he remembers running into Brendon once, outside the driving school, back when Brendon was still wearing stupid shirts proclaiming the greatness of God and whatnot.

"You took class," Ryan says.

Brendon snickers, seeming unnaturally happy, almost carefree. "And what makes you think I passed them?" He takes a sharp turn, and Ryan isn't entirely sure he bothered to look into the mirror. Ryan clenches his jaw.

"At this point, I'm really just praying I'll get out of here alive."

Brendon's reply consists of a snort. They're both quiet for a while before Brendon says, while they're waiting at a red light, "I did pass, you know?"

Ryan squints up at the streetlight. "So it's not just The Fast and The Furious, then?"

"Nah." Brendon shakes his head and shifts in the seat. "They do have some cool moves, though."

"Yeah." There's another moment of silence. The light switches to green and the car shudders back into motion just as Ryan adds, "Did you know there's a new one coming out next week? The third, I think. The trailer looks kind of bad."

"Tokyo Drift?" Brendon nods vaguely. "Yeah, I don't know. Might be fun, though."

"Yeah," Ryan says. "Might be." He waits, but Brendon doesn't say anything else, and after a moment he looks out the window and zones out.

He's surprised when they pull up at Brendon's building, unclenching his fingers from where he was clutching the seat. He ignores Brendon's amused look.

"Got us here alive, didn't I?" Brendon asks.

Frowning, Ryan grabs the keys from his hand and locks the car. "I'm not letting you drive again," he says. "Ever."

Brendon laughs, and suddenly he has Ryan backed against the car, out here where everyone can see. Ryan swallows and raises his chin. With another, quieter laugh, Brendon shuffles another few inches closer, cups the back of Ryan's head and pulls him into a kiss. Ryan thinks about pretending to resist, but somehow, he just can't be bothered.

He thinks he should go home soon.

Instead, he slides his tongue into Brendon's mouth and wraps one arm around Brendon's waist to tug him forward so that they're pressed stomach to stomach, leg to leg. Ryan feels Brendon's chest expand on a deep breath, and… he really doesn't want to go home.

---


Brendon unlocks the door to his apartment, his dick pressing uncomfortably against the fly of his jeans. Stupid idea, to start this sort of thing outside. Brendon pushes inside, and Ryan follows somewhat hesitantly.

When Brendon turns to give him an impatient look, Ryan is standing near the front door, glancing around the room. "I should probably go home," he says.

Brendon's throat doesn't tighten. He nods and his voice is even, careless. "Yeah, whatever. This place is too small for people anyway, and it's not like you're paying rent."

Quickly, Ryan's gaze finds his before it skitters away again. "Yeah," Ryan echoes. "And, I mean. I don't have clean clothes anymore, so."

There's a Laundromat around the corner, Brendon wants to say. He doesn't. Just nods and leans back against the wall as he watches Ryan gather up his things from the floor. There's a used condom next to the bed, knotted, and Brendon can't wait to throw it away and air out the apartment.

Ryan hesitates at the door, so briefly that Brendon wouldn't have noticed if he weren't watching closely. "What?" he asks flatly. "You want a kiss goodbye?"

"No." Ryan shakes his head, and then he pulls the door open, slips outside and is gone.

Usually, Brendon's apartment is too small, barely enough room to fit even the few things he managed to take with him. It still feels strangely empty when he crosses over to the kitchen. Kara's plant greets him with reproachfully yellow leaves.

---


Ryan drives home and says hi to his dad, who doesn't ask where he's been. He showers and stands for a long time under the hot spray, head tilted back, eyes closed, before he reaches for the soap, and even then – although it's gross – he only gives it a cursory swipe over his skin before he puts it aside.

He dresses in fresh clothes that only smell of laundry detergent and reads half of the book he needs to finish for English, and then he goes back downstairs and heats up some frozen lasagne and reads the rest of it. After dinner, he goes back to his room and attempts to start his essay, and then goes online and surfs around aimlessly for a while. A few people talk to him on AIM, but most of them are only a few lines of conversation before the pauses get longer and longer, and after a while, when it becomes clear that neither Spencer nor Jon are coming on, Ryan logs off.

His dad is banging around downstairs; Ryan guesses he's drunk again, going by the low, jumbled blur of curses when something smashes. He flips his phone open, and then shut. It's half past eight; he's been home for seven hours and fifteen minutes. He doesn't know what Brendon's number is. He doesn't know a lot of things.

Ryan gets up and pulls his backpack out from under his bed, empties the schoolbooks he hasn't taken out yet onto his desk. He shoves in three changes of clothes, and seven pairs of underpants, and he thinks he remembers seeing a Laundromat, so he digs up a handful of quarters from his desk drawer, too. The bag isn't full, so Ryan adds a few movies and then he goes downstairs and puts in two packets of popcorn that you put in the oven, a half-full tub of vanilla ice cream, and a loaf of bread.

Ryan calls out to his dad, "I'm going to Spencer's!" and doesn't wait for a response. He walks out of the house. He drives.

When he opens the unlocked door, Brendon smiles.

---


"Seriously," Brendon says, a little smugly, when they're both lying boneless and half-naked on his mattress. "Were you even gone twelve hours?"

"I bought food," Ryan says. He'd snap it, but he's a little smug himself at the moment. "So shut the fuck up."

"I'm not a whore," Brendon says, but almost lazily, not with the same dark unhappiness in his eyes as he used to be. Ryan thinks I'm not cheap, and then yawns and stretches sluggishly, arching his back a little, conscious of Brendon's gaze on him.

For a moment, they're quiet, and then Brendon huffs a laugh. "Alright," he says. "What food'd you bring?"

"Popcorn," Ryan says, "and movies," and he smiles into the mattress at Brendon's expression.

It's a quiet kind of night, to Ryan's surprise. They don't touch while they watch the movie, but halfway through the second one, Brendon apparently gets bored of the story and rolls half on top of Ryan in order to kiss him. It's a little weird, making out while Brad Pitt shoots things in the background, and though he's hard, Brendon doesn't really push to do anything more. Ryan pushes Brendon's hair back from where it's tickling his face, and then for some reason it seems easy to let it stay there, smoothing his hair back behind his ear again and again, letting his nails drag just slightly over Brendon's skin. Brendon pushes back into the touch, and for a moment the kissing turns kind of shitty while they both grin.

At half past two in the morning, they eat the ice cream out of the tub with spoons. Brendon looks tired; he says, "I have to work tomorrow, fuck," and Ryan shrugs, wondering aloud who gives a shit. Brendon summons the energy to give him a dark glare, but Ryan can see what it's lacking, and he leans forward, licks the vanilla out of Brendon's mouth.

---


The next morning, Brendon shakes him awake at nine and Ryan struggles into a sitting position with some difficulty. There's dried toothpaste on the corner of Brendon's mouth, and his hair is wet from a shower. He's wearing his gross Smoothie Hut uniform, and Ryan gives in to his first instinct and laughs groggily, says, "You look ridiculous."

Brendon scowls. "Get the fuck up," he snarls. "I have to go, I'm not leaving you here alone."

"Like you have anything worth stealing," Ryan scoffs, but he stands up anyway, and pulls on a pair of jeans. He's damned if he's going to lie around half-naked while Brendon's fully dressed. He rubs his hands across his face and says, "What time does your shift start?"

"Not till eleven," Brendon says, and Ryan gapes at him, drawing himself up, ready to throw a small tantrum. "But," Brendon continues, almost warily, "I need to go and buy some new shoes. Mine are almost worn through."

Ryan glances down; Brendon's wearing black lace up leather shoes, and they do look scuffed and worn out. The only other ones Ryan's seen him wearing are the battered Converse he wears at school, and he feels that faint, uncomfortable prickle at the base of his spine, the one that always gets there if he thinks too long about Brendon's circumstances.

"Okay," he says, and then he swallows his pride the way Brendon did a moment ago and asks, "Can I come with?"

Brendon looks at him impassively. "Yeah," he says, and they go.

Ryan drives them into the city, a few blocks away from where Brendon works, and they head into the basement of one of the big department stores, because Brendon says there's a sale on or something. For a while, they had walked in almost companionable silence, but then Brendon had pointed out a girl in a ruffled pink party dress and said, "Dude, aren't you gonna go get pissed at her for stealing your outfit?" and off they'd gone.

"Shut the fuck up," Ryan hisses. "Seriously, you're so fucking immature, I can't believe you—"

"Oh, coming from the guy who chucked a fit over not getting waffles," Brendon says, sneering, and Ryan folds his arms and glares. Seriously, just when he's starting to – no, whatever, he never likes Brendon.

"I'm sorry," Ryan says, "Do you even remember what waffles taste like?"

It's not a very good response, and when Brendon goes white and stops still in his tracks, Ryan worries for a split second that maybe it was too close to the bone anyway, maybe Brendon doesn't cope with that shit as easily as he makes it look – and then Ryan looks up, and there's a man standing a few paces away from them, staring.

Brendon shifts just slightly, and it takes a few seconds for Ryan to connect that with the fierce bite of pain around his wrists; he looks down, and Brendon's holding on tightly, fingernails digging into Ryan's skin.

The man clears his throat and steps forward, slowly, and there's something so stupidly familiar about him, even his voice, when he says, "Hello, Brendon."

Ryan has spent the past four years of his life learning exactly how to affect Brendon Urie; the first time they fought, when they were freshmen, Ryan slammed his fist hard enough into Brendon's nose that he cried, red-cheeked and as angry as he was hurt, clutching onto his nose. Ryan has punched Brendon and bit him and kicked him in the balls; he has sucked him off and kissed him and fucked him, and he has never made Brendon's voice sound like it does at this moment.

"Hi, Dad," Brendon says.

Ryan glances at him; he looks exhausted, wrecked, and Ryan can't help shifting his hand around, twisting until Brendon's grip loosens enough, and Ryan slips his hand up and threads their fingers together. It's silly of him, he knows, Brendon will use this against him, they're not even, even, whatever, but he knows this only beneath the frantic, furious buzzing that seems to be taking up most of his head, and it does not seem to matter so much.

In front of them, Brendon's dad only looks uncomfortable. He clears his throat, and his gaze flicks down to their joined hands; Brendon doesn't seem to notice, but Ryan tilts his chin up, lips twisting into a harsh line. Something ugly and fierce stirs inside him – nobody, he thinks, nobody gets to look at Brendon with such casualness, not even Ryan looks at him like that, and Brendon doesn't live with his parents, hasn't since the beginning of the year, and not once, not once did Ryan properly think about it enough to realize that it means Brendon hasn't seen his parents since the beginning of the year.

"How – how was your Christmas?" Brendon stammers after a moment, and Ryan wants to tighten his grip on Brendon, tug him away. You're going to miss your shift, he could say, or, we need to buy those shoes, or, I don't want you to look like that, I'm sorry, I know this isn't what we're about but I can't stand you looking like that.

"Very nice, thank you," Brendon's father answers. "James and his wife came down to stay. They're about to have a baby."

Brendon looks stricken. "Oh," he says. "Oh, I would have liked to." He stops, and Brendon's dad looks sympathetic for the first time. It's not enough for Ryan.

"Brendon," his father says, gently, "you know all you have to do to—"

"I can't," Brendon says and he sounds so raw, miserable. He stares at his dad as if he can't get enough, eyes huge and hungry. "I can't, Dad, you know I—"

"I don't know anything, Brendon," his dad says, carefully, and he glances at Ryan and Brendon's hands again. "Except that this little fit of rebellion has certainly – well." He stops, awkward. "How was your Christmas, anyhow?"

Brendon swallows hard. "Lonely," he says, eventually, and Ryan ducks his head. Brendon's dad bites his lip, and Ryan thinks, stop trying to fucking avoid confrontation and just – he needs – and then that ugly feeling is back, because Ryan thinks no, no, I don't want him to need you.

"I'm sorry to hear that," his dad says, and Brendon nods quickly, head bobbing up and down.

"I have to," he says. "I mean, I uh, I have work. My – Ryan's giving me a lift," he adds, jerking his head quickly towards Ryan, and Brendon's dad smiles a little.

"Nice to meet you, Ryan," he says. Ryan meets his gaze and stares, hard and cold, and Brendon's dad looks pissed off, like a parent dealing with an unruly child. Ryan wants to smash him in the fucking face.

"Let's just go," Brendon mumbles, talking to him for the first time. "Let's just, Ryan, can we go?"

"Yeah," Ryan says, "yeah."

"It was – say hi to everyone?" Brendon asks, turning back to his father. "Please? Tell them I like. Love them. And you."

"I'll tell them," his dad says. Brendon nods, and then turns and Ryan tightens his grip, and practically pulls him out of there, walking fast across the floor to the escalators, keeping an eye out for public bathrooms or something, anything he can drag Brendon into, make him be okay again the only way Ryan knows how.

He settles for the empty fitting rooms, pushing Brendon into a cubicle and following behind him. Brendon looks at him wide-eyed, and Ryan says, roughly, "Hey, hey," and kisses him almost softly, sucking Brendon's bottom lip into his mouth, trying to remember how Brendon did it that day at Ryan's house, when Ryan was tired and upset about his dad, and Brendon knew how to touch him.

But Brendon pulls away. He says, "I don't," and then stops, swallows, tries again. "Can we just, I should go to work. Please."

He has never said please, not to Ryan, not once, not when he kissed him or fucked Ryan's ass or his mouth, and now that he is, Ryan hates it.

"Yes," he says.

---


Brendon isn't quite sure how he's going to make it through his shift. He gets there right on time, Ryan silent in the driver's seat, looking straight ahead. His knuckles are white around the wheel, and Brendon glances away and pushes the door open. "Bye," he mutters.

Ryan asks, "What time d'you get off?"

Brendon turns his head, just enough to make out Ryan's profile. His face is unreadable, and Brendon remembers, just for a moment, how he looked in the dim light of the changing cubicle, helpless and intent, more than Brendon could handle. Too much, too much.

"Six," he says quietly, and then he walks towards the back entrance and doesn't glance over when he hears Ryan pull away from the curb. Ryan's bag is still in Brendon's apartment. Ryan's bag is still there, and so is Kara's plant, only that Brendon hasn't seen Kara in months, doesn't know when he'll see—Fuck.

He kicks one of the trashcans beside the entrance and slips through the door.

---


His shift passes in a daze. Brendon is fairly certain he gives all the right answers, blends the right fruit, smiles at the customers and even talks to Haley about something for a while, but it's all distant, like it's someone else going through the motions. He feels dizzy.

When the next guy comes in to take over from Brendon, Brendon's surprised to realize that it's dark outside. He hands over his apron and nods a faint goodbye. Something hurts when he moves, but he thinks it's only his too-tight throat.

Ryan's car is parked right beside the alley.

Brendon halts his steps for a second as the white rush behind his forehead intensifies. Then he blinks, and his vision clears slightly, objects less frayed around the edges. Ryan is leaning against the side of the car, head tipped back to study the sky while a cigarette dangles loosely from his fingers. Brendon inhales deeply.

He takes a step forward, out of the alleys shadows. "You know that smoking's shit for your body, right?"

Ryan startles, almost dropping the cigarette before he gives Brendon an unimpressed look. "Didn't know you cared."

"I don't," Brendon says. He approaches, leaning against the car beside Ryan, their shoulders almost close enough to touch. Brendon snatches the cigarette from Ryan's unresisting hand. The first drag is bitter and sharp, definitely nothing Brendon wants to get used to, but the tickling sensation in his throat eases his breathing. He coughs a little before handing the cigarette back to Ryan.

"Pussy," Ryan comments, but his tone is mild, almost nonchalant, so Brendon doesn't bother to reply.

"You're here to pick me up from work?" he asks instead, turning his head for a fake smile, his tone mocking. "Wow, that's so sweet of you. You'd make such a good boyfriend, really."

Boyfriend. The word catches in Brendon's brain, makes him remember the derogatory curl of his father's mouth at the sight of his son holding hands with another boy. Brendon clenches one hand in his stupid work shirt and sets his jaw. So what if his father thinks he's dating Ryan, so what? It's not as if it makes a difference.

Beside him, Ryan snorts. "Because you have so much experience with them?"

"Fuck off," Brendon says curtly, glancing at the sharp jut of Ryan's hipbones, visible even beneath Ryan's t-shirt. It's easy to focus on Ryan. Easier.

"Wow, that was witty," Ryan drawls. He shifts, and maybe it's intentional because it draws attention to the flatness of his stomach.

"You're not worth the energy," Brendon says, somewhat weakly.

Ryan snorts out another laugh. When Brendon looks over, he finds Ryan studying him for a moment, eyes dark, and Brendon fights the urge to lean in and kiss him. Then he doesn't know why he bothers; Ryan has no ground to call him weak, not anymore, not when Ryan's the one who spends more time at Brendon's apartment than in his own room.

Before Brendon can make a move, though, Ryan flicks the cigarette butt away. It lands on the pavement, glowing orange for a moment before it extinguishes. "I thought we could drive out into the desert," Ryan says. It sounds as if he's about to add something else, but when two seconds pass, then three, Brendon shrugs. He's tired, his whole body sagging with it.

"Okay," he says. Ryan's smile flickers for a moment, and then it's gone. When he pushes away from the car to walk over to the driver's door, Brendon shivers briefly at the loss of warmth by his side.

---


They don't speak during the drive. Ryan looks like he knows where they're going, and Brendon doesn't have the energy to ask. Funny how two months ago, he never would have considered getting into a car with Ryan.

It doesn't seem funny, somehow.

When Ryan pulls off the main road onto a small sand path, Brendon sits up in his seat. The headlights of the car paint the ground in a surreal white, leaves and branches reaching for them as the car hobbles over potholes.

"It's a dead end street." Ryan's voice is low in the darkness. "Used to lead to a barn, but it burned down, I think. Sometimes, I come here when my dad—when I don't feel like going home."

Brendon doesn't reply. He wouldn't know what to say anyway, because everything he could say would make him recall his father's shuttered face, the distance in his eyes. The branches knock against the sides of the car.

"It's nothing special," Ryan adds, after a moment. "Just, like, it's a good place to get away, you know? Better in the summer, though."

Why are you doing this? Brendon wants to ask. He doesn't, though. He doesn't want to hear about how Ryan's sorry Brendon is living such a shitty life. He's just fine without pity, thanks.

The car pulls to an abrupt halt, and Ryan must have been here a number of times because Brendon probably would have missed the low stone wall that suddenly cuts the path off. It's only about a foot high, leading up to a patch of grass, only the blackened remains of a building rising from the ground. Ryan switches off the lights, and suddenly, it's dark and silent around them. A cricket chirps somewhere in the distance.

"Hey," Ryan whispers, turning his head.

Brendon swallows and blinks. "Hey," he replies, voice catching in his throat somehow. He doesn't want to think about all the reasons for that, so he leans over the separation and drags Ryan into a kiss.

It's uncomfortable with the gearstick pressing into his stomach, but Ryan tastes of smoke and chewing gum, and that's better, so much better than the sour taste Brendon's had in his mouth for most of the day. When Brendon pulls Ryan closer, Ryan comes easily, almost as if he's handing control to Brendon for the moment, only that doesn't make sense. Brendon squeezes his eyes shut so tightly he sees bright sparks behind his lids. He shudders when Ryan's tongue tickles the roof of his mouth.

"Backseat," Ryan suggests, after what might have been minutes or hours because Brendon lost all sense of time.

"Yeah," he mumbles, "okay," but Ryan is right there, so Brendon tilts his head to suck Ryan's bottom lip into his mouth, twining one hand in Ryan's hair and stroking over the short curls at the base of Ryan's skull.

"Backseat," Ryan repeats, but he sounds less determined now.

Brendon pulls back, just a few inches, and watches Ryan's eyes flutter open slowly. He looks confused for a moment, eyes wide and black in the dark interior of the car. With a smile, Brendon scrambles over the seat into the back of the car, and he doesn't feel tired anymore, he feels awake and focused, warm even though the heater of Ryan's car is broken and he's been shivering since this morning.

Ryan is wearing only a t-shirt over his jeans, so when he squeezes through the gap between the driver and the passenger seat, Brendon uses the opportunity to get his hands on warm skin. Under his palm, he feels Ryan's spine shift as Ryan dips his head to kiss him again.

"Scoot back," Ryan says, lips moving against Brendon's jaw. One of Ryan's hands slips between Brendon's thighs to part them, make room for Ryan's body.

Brendon thinks he should protest – after all, he's not some girl Ryan can fuck in the backseat of his car. Then Ryan undoes the zipper of Brendon's jeans, one-handed, and cups Brendon's half-hard dick through a layer of underwear, and right, right, it's quite unlikely Ryan's mistaking him for a girl. Brendon sinks back against the door and spreads his legs, pushing his hips forward, just a little. The metal is cold against the back of his neck, where the sweater ends. "You got stuff?" he asks.

"Yeah." Ryan twists his hand at the wrist, forcing a faint gasp from Brendon. He flicks his gaze down to find Ryan's fingers startlingly bright against the dark cotton of the boxers, and Brendon remembers gripping Ryan's wrist too-tightly this morning, remembers the expression in his father's eyes and how his father's assumption wasn't even too far off the mark.

"Good," Brendon manages, and he's surprised at the determination in his own voice. Ryan stills for a blink of an eye, tilting his head as if for a question. When Brendon jerks up against Ryan's palm, Ryan exhales on a long breath and leans down, settling between Brendon's thighs and pushing him further against the door. Brendon drapes one leg over the backrest.

Ryan hits his head on the ceiling while trying to grab his wallet from the driver seat, and Brendon stifles a laugh. "It's not funny," Ryan says evenly. He curls his fingers around Brendon's erection, and oh, fuck, that's not fair.

"You're a fucking cheater," Brendon replies, slightly belated.

"Well," Ryan says. "You bite."

"And you scratch like a girl," Brendon returns. "And pull hair."

Ryan's thumb swirls around the head of Brendon's cock, and Jesus Christ, that's really fucking unfair. Brendon doesn't quite manage to still his hips. The grin Ryan gives him is triumphant. "Yeah," he says, "but I'm not the one currently laid out on the backseat of my car, begging to be fucked."

"I'm not begging, dickface," Brendon tells him. He's not, and Ryan's an asshole for suggesting it. Not that this is news.

Ryan's grin doesn't waver, a flash of brightness in the dark. "I could make you."

"Oh, really," Brendon says, as evenly as he manages with Ryan fondling his cock.

Ryan leans forward, their mouths almost brushing. "Yes, really."

Brendon whines and arches up, sick of, of fucking playing. He's always on guard, he can never – he's sick of constantly thinking and making sure to present the best face to the world, the one people should see, and he's pretty sure that slipped irrevocably this morning with his dad (fuck, why did Ryan have to be there – and, and, thank God he was). Ryan makes a surprised kind of noise but takes advantage of Brendon pressing his hips up higher to let go of his cock and drag his jeans down, past his knees; Brendon squirms, kicking them off as best he can, and while he's doing that, Ryan gets his fingers slicked and slides one into him with almost no warning, and yeah, this is good, this is what Brendon needs.

"—why?" Ryan asks, and Brendon hadn't even realized he was talking. He swallows hard and pushes himself down, cups a hand around the back of Ryan's neck to pull him down. He means to kiss him, he does, but instead they end up with their foreheads pressed together, Brendon panting wetly against Ryan's cheek.

"Why what," he manages to gasp out, and Ryan looks a little bit breathless himself, eyes dark, twisting his finger in Brendon, deep in to the knuckle. Brendon bites down on a moan, closing his eyes, arching up again; he can't stop moving, something itchy and awful squirming its way out from his skin, and he's kind of grateful for Ryan's weight over him, even though Ryan must be uncomfortable, stretching his hand down like that.

"They – you moved out," Ryan repeats. "Is it because they found out you were gay?"

Brendon grins up at him, baring his teeth. "Who says I'm gay?" he asks, and then groans when Ryan finds the right spot, twisting his finger just right. Ryan laughs, this weird little huff of amusement, and he's looking down at Brendon in this surprised way, eyes bright in the dim light. Brendon groans and pushes up again, pressing his cock against Ryan, and says, "Okay, okay, do it—"

Ryan looks startled. "I haven't," he says, and flushes, and Brendon will have to remember that, at some stage, that talking about the mechanics of sex makes Ryan blush, but he can't quite think of anything to say about it right now. "I mean, it's only one finger."

"Doesn't matter," Brendon says, and means it, every part of him desperate and wanting and he needs Ryan to fuck him, now, needs him inside, needs something to shut up his stupid, racing mind. "Just, come on, come on, now, fuck me," and Ryan lets out a startled kind of gasp, mouth red and open, and then he pulls his finger out and pushes his jeans down and slides a condom on, faster than Brendon would have thought possible for him, only he doesn't want to think about that now, not when Ryan is urging his hips up and pushing his legs further apart and then pressing his cock against Brendon's ass and oh God, yes, this is what Brendon needed.

It hurts a lot, more than the first time, even, and Brendon flings one arm out into open space and curls the other one up around Ryan's neck for a moment, and then down, clenching in the fabric of his collar. Ryan's wearing a stupid yellow shirt with a v-neck that Brendon's pretty sure he's seen in the ladies department, but right now it feels warm with Ryan's body heat and soft under his fingers. He tugs on it and squirms back on Ryan's cock, and then he shifts around until he can wrap his legs around Ryan's waist and that's better, it hurts less, and Ryan tilts his head down and moans, "God, you're so—"

"Ryan," Brendon says, and it comes out garbled and stupid, "Ryan, Ryan," and he doesn't think he's ever said Ryan's name properly like this before, not so raw and Brendon knows even as he says it that he sounds too fucking obvious. But he also thinks that maybe Ryan Ross being an asshole is not so much the worst thing that could happen to him, not when his dad looks at him like Brendon's a pitied stranger, and Ryan's name spills out of his mouth over and over again, and fills Brendon's head until it's the only thing there, and things are okay, for a little while.

He's surprised when he comes first; it had been painful, more so than usual, and his thoughts had been racing so much that he'd barely noticed when Ryan first got a hand on his cock, stupid as that sounds. Still, he comes before Ryan, tightening around Ryan's cock, and he surprises himself again by saying, "No, no," and hauling Ryan forcibly back down to him when he goes to pull out.

When Ryan comes, he presses his face against Brendon's shoulder and Brendon touches his hair, without thinking, combing his fingers through the soft curls starting at Ryan's neck. He needs a haircut, Brendon thinks, and then Ryan sits up and pulls out and Brendon winces and scrambles back into his boxers.

The neck of Ryan's shirt, Brendon notices, is all stretched out, hanging loose and awkward, baring Ryan's collarbones more than usual. Brendon swallows hard, and ducks his head, a little embarrassed now.

"Hey," Ryan says, and touches Brendon's hair, the side of his face, his neck, almost awkwardly, hand rough and almost patting. It takes all of Brendon's willpower not to lean into it; Ryan's sitting close, but after being fucked it feels like a long way away, especially since they've both struggled back into their jeans. "Hey, you okay?"

Brendon looks up, eyes dark and angry. "Why wouldn't I be?" he asks coldly, and Ryan flinches. Brendon thinks it's unfair, how quickly Ryan changes, how easily he goes from the cocksure asshole waiting outside Brendon's work to this, someone shadowed and incomprehensible, someone with bruises darkening around his wrist where Brendon hung on.

"Your," Ryan says, too soft to be heard, and he swallows hard and tries again. "Because like, your dad and—"

"And what?" Brendon snarls.

"And I'd be sad," Ryan says, in a quiet rush. "That's all."

Brendon blinks at him; Ryan is staring fixedly past Brendon's ear, out the window. Brendon thinks, hey, at least I don't have a motherfucking alcoholic as a guardian, but doesn't end up saying it. Instead he says Ryan's name again, small, and Ryan looks at him and Brendon folds towards him. It still doesn't feel very close at all, really, and a hated fuckbuddy is not any kind of substitution for family, but Ryan's arms are tight around his shoulders and they sit there in the dark for a long time.

---


In between two afternoon shifts at the vintage store and a shopping trip with Spencer and Jon that runs straight into their regular Friday movie night, in between going home to change clothes and never finding his dad there, just before he leaves for another night at Brendon's place, in between friends and work and sex and Brendon, it feels like Ryan blinks and suddenly it's New Year's Eve.

A friend of Jon's is throwing a party while his parents are on vacation, a house filled with drunk, stumbling teenagers. A few girls on the makeshift dance floor are exaggeratedly moving their hips, pretending not to be aware of the leering guys on the edges, too cool to dance, but not too cool to lean their shoulders back against the wall and throw covert glances at low necklines. It's the kind of cliché high school movie situation that makes Ryan cite his gag reflex. He finally leaves the smoke-hazy room to catch a breath of fresh air, outside on the terrace.

He has no idea where Spencer and Jon are – although Jon's probably off somewhere with Cassie – but when Ryan digs out his cell phone, the display shows him it's shortly after ten. The thought of another two hours of this bright, superficial cheerfulness is almost unbearable.

Brendon's probably alone in his apartment, watching movies on his half-broken laptop.

Ryan tips his face up at the dark sky, the city lights too bright to reveal more than the brightest stars. He closes his eyes and inhales deeply, slowly, and then he selects the text message menu and sends a quick leaving to Spencer. He turns it off so he won't have to read Spencer's reply.

It's more a relief than anything else to close the garden gate behind himself. The drive over to Brendon's place isn't a long one, only five minutes, three stoplights and a few drunks ambling over the street without paying the traffic any mind. When he pulls up near the building, he turns the engine off and sits in the cooling car for another two minutes, head tipped back against the seat. The silence feels almost physical, and even the raucous laughter drifting out of one open window can't dispel it. It takes Ryan a moment to realize that Brendon's apartment isn't really dark; there's a dim flicker of unsteady light.

Ryan's breath stutters and stumbles in his throat, and he has to swallow once, deliberately, for things to go back to normal.

---


Brendon thought the familiarity of Singin' In The Rain would lull him into a comfortable state of sleepiness. Instead, it only makes him feel lonely.

Going through the transition of the old into the new year alone shouldn't bother him. It was his own decision to be honest about what he could and couldn't believe in, his choice, and even if it makes his own father look at him like he's a stranger worth nothing but pity, it was still his choice.

He tries to hum along with the music, but his voice sounds choked.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if Ryan were here. It's just… Ryan's warm, at least, even if it's just a physical thing. Brendon shakes his head and dismisses the thought. Ryan's at some stupid party thing with his stupid friends, and while he looked almost guilty when he mentioned it this morning, Brendon changed the topic before Ryan could ask him along. He wouldn't fuck Ryan either (let Ryan fuck him), if he thought it was about pity.

On the screen, Gene Kelly sings about his lucky star, and Brendon's about to slam the top closed. He almost misses the quiet knock on the door. It was there, though. He did hear someone knock. He's not expecting company, though, no one's around, not even the guy next door with his noisy TV.

Another knock.

Slowly, Brendon unfolds from the mattress, shaking the covers off. He tells himself it's an axe murderer, or Jehovah's Witnesses, certainly not anyone who matters. It's hard to convince his happy-beating heart of that, though.

He opens the door while Gene Kelly is still singing, joined by Debbie Reynolds, and Ryan is standing there with his hands in his pockets and his face blank. The gratitude surging through Brendon is frightening, so he keeps one hand on the door, blocking the way, and says, "You smell like cold cigarettes. It's disgusting."

Ryan lifts one shoulder, glancing at Brendon, then at the half-open laptop quaking about lucky stars and poor mortals. "Lots of smokers at the party, kind of boring."

"So that's why you're here?" Brendon asks, and still he doesn't move.

"Yeah," Ryan says, then shakes his head. "No."

"No?" Brendon repeats, questioning, and he can't quite hide the lost note in his voice. The next thing he knows, Ryan's pulling him close, and Brendon lets go of the door so he can clutch at Ryan's shoulder, steady himself while he somehow drags Ryan into the apartment, the door falling shut behind them.

They barely make it to the bed before they're grinding against each other, Ryan's t-shirt hanging off one arm and Brendon's jeans shoved down to his knees. Brendon closes his eyes and arches his back and feels warm for the first time that day.

---


"Singin' In The Rain is lame."

"Shut up." Brendon can't even work up the energy to turn his head and glare at Ryan.

"No, seriously. It's so lame." Ryan props himself up on his elbows, stretching out on the mattress while he reaches for the laptop. "Don't you have any decent stuff on that? Like… I don't know."

When Brendon finally does manage to roll over, Ryan is frowning at a list of folders, his profile sharply outlined by the light from the screen. Brendon inexplicably short of breath, even if it's just for a moment. "I have all of eleven movies on there, Ross," he says. "Most of my stuff was on DVDs, and I didn't have a chance to pack much when I left."

Ryan's gaze skitters over to him, then away just as quickly. "Well, you need more. This is just sad." He pauses. When he speaks again, Brendon thinks there's a trace of delight to Ryan's low voice. "Shaun Of The Dead! It's at the movie theater now, right? We should go see that."

"It's a quarter to midnight." Brendon is careful to keep his eyes on the screen.

"Oh." Ryan appears to hesitate, then he snaps the laptop shut and sits up, every motion sharp, and Brendon suddenly wonders if Ryan will grow out of that, if he'll turn out graceful and lovely with his dark hair and honey-brown eyes, or if he'll stay an awkward, uncertain teenager forever. Either way, Brendon won't be around long enough to tell.

"Is there a roof terrace or something?" Ryan asks into Brendon's thoughts.

Brendon gives him a pointed look. "Does this building look like it has a roof terrace?"

Ryan glares back. "Whatever, you know what I mean. A roof? A trapdoor so we can climb out? Something?"

"I don't know," Brendon says.

"You're the one who lives here."

"Fuck off." Brendon turns his back to Ryan to grab his boxers from the floor, slipping into his t-shirt while he adds, "Besides, I'm happy if I get six hours of sleep. We don't all get a healthy allowance, asshole."

"I only get that if my dad doesn't drink it away," Ryan shoots back. He sounds tight and unhappy, not as loose as when he went through Brendon's movie collection, and it's ten minutes to midnight and Brendon suddenly feels exhausted.

"Sorry," he mutters.

He can sense Ryan stiffen without even turning around. A moment of silence passes, then Ryan clears his throat. "Yeah, whatever. Let's check the roof, or we'll miss the show."

Brendon nods and doesn't trust himself to reply.

They both slip back into their clothes quickly, Brendon digging up his battered sneakers from under a pile of laundry that also contains a t-shirt and two boxers that belong to Ryan. Then they leave the apartment, Brendon locking the door even though it's more of a gesture considering the wood is about to fall apart anyway.

The elevator doesn't work so they climb the stairs, their footsteps creaking and echoing in the deserted stairway. On the highest floor, they find two doors, one of them locked with a door plate, the other ajar. When they push it open, the dust swirling through the air nearly makes Brendon choke. Next to him, Ryan holds up a hand to cover his mouth, coughing a little, but he takes a step into the dark room anyway.

It's drafty, smelling of rotting wood and dusty isolation material, but there are two tiny windows showing rectangles of the sky. Ryan kneels down in front of one, tugging at the handle. "Some help?" he asks, not bothering to turn his head.

Brendon sighs and joins him, their shoulders and hands overlapping as they both push to turn the handle. It moves sluggishly before it gives, and the sudden lack of resistance has Brendon tumbling into Ryan, both of them sprawling on the wooden floor. Dust rises and settles, and Brendon laughs softly, helplessly. When he raises his head from Ryan's chest, Ryan is close and smiling. It's perfectly natural to kiss him, so Brendon does.

They miss the countdown. When they eventually sit up, dusty and a little breathless, Brendon's brain is buzzing with half-formed ideas he doesn't feel ready to face, and the first fireworks are exploding green and red in the sky.

"C'mon," Ryan says, crawling forward to stick his head out of the open window. Brendon squeezes in next to him, their cheeks pressed together because there really isn't enough room. It's more comfortable once Brendon wraps an arm around Ryan's shoulders. Ryan throws him a brief, questioning glance.

"Easier," Brendon huffs out.

"Oh," Ryan says, then, "Right," and he leans into Brendon's body.

They don't speak while fireworks brighten the sky, a thousand shimmering stars that sizzle for a moment before they fade. Even through the hissing and crackling of the explosions, Brendon can feel Ryan's breathing, quiet and steady under his palm.

---


The trouble with New Year's, Brendon thinks, is that after it's over, the rest of vacation transforms into an increasingly slipperier slope, and the days pass faster than ever. Brendon's existence is – embarrassingly enough, and though he'll never admit it – reduced to the two constants of work and Ryan, and the rest of any day slips past when he's not looking, sand between his fingers. He's getting a little spoiled, he thinks, the first bearable vacation in a year, and going back to school is something he'll only do grudgingly, when before this he had just wanted to get it over and done with as soon as possible.

Still, he's looking forward to Ryan fucking going home and getting out of his hair for a while. Ryan doesn't even pretend to leave anymore; Brendon will come home from work and Ryan will be walking up to his apartment at the same time, backpack – presumably filled with clean clothes – slung over one shoulder in that innately annoying way Ryan has, and he'll fall right into step beside Brendon and start rambling about how moronic Brendon looks in his work clothes, or wondering aloud in a bitchy sort of way exactly when Brendon's going to wash the sheets, as apparently they're fucking gross.

Ryan laughs, clear and true, smiling up at the ceiling in wordless response to something Spencer has said on the phone. Seriously, Brendon thinks, what the fuck is it with those two, and he swallows hard and wraps his hand around Ryan's foot, without pausing for thought, curving his hand under Ryan's sole, running it along the arch of his foot, Ryan's skin cold to his touch. Brendon concentrates on the book open in his lap. He's behind in the homework he was meant to do these past few weeks.

"Anyway, I'll call you later," Ryan says, and sits up properly, hanging up and pulling his foot away from Brendon's grasp. A moment later, he pushes Brendon's book aside and crawls half into Brendon's lap, kissing him sloppy and graceless. Ryan came home from a shift at his clothing store pissed off and tired, the straight line of his back radiating fury. He had chucked a bright, barely worn t-shirt at Brendon's face, said, "There," with no small amount of venom, and stalked off to call Spencer.

Now, he pushes Brendon down onto his back and spreads himself over him, heavy and annoyingly pointy on top of him. Brendon will call him on it later; for now, he kisses Ryan back, hums pleased in the back of his throat at the lazy roll of Ryan's hips.

Ryan breaks away just slightly, their faces still close together, breathing raggedly, and Brendon mumbles without meaning to, "You bought me a t-shirt?"

Ryan goes tense, pushing himself up until he's hovering over Brendon. His elbow isn't digging into Brendon anymore, at least, Brendon thinks, and tries not to squirm under Ryan's scowl. "Whatever," he says sharply. "It was on special and I – I ripped that thing of yours, once, so. Now I don't owe you shit."

"Okay," Brendon says. It comes out almost peaceable and he thinks maybe he should have made it ruder, drawled it out, made Ryan flush, angry and embarrassed. It does the trick, anyway, and Ryan sinks back down on top of him and kisses him again, which, after all, Brendon likes a lot more than when Ryan talks.

"I don't owe you anything," Ryan says, fierce against Brendon's mouth, and Brendon closes his eyes and arches up blindly into Ryan's touch.

---


On the Friday night before school, Brendon says, "I am so fucking behind," and Ryan looks up at him from A Prayer For Owen Meany, raises an eyebrow. Brendon is quieter and quieter these days, waiting for Ryan to pick a fight before he gets angry, and even then his responses lack the usual life-or-death feel that used to have him swinging out blindly, Brendon, who has never gotten into a fight with another kid all through the time they'd been at school (although it's not, Ryan thinks, as if he has, either). He looks tired all the time, worn out and weary in a resigned kind of way, like he is slowly and inevitably losing something. Ryan doesn't know what it is, in Brendon's head; belief, or motivation, or maybe a fight.

"Behind in what?" he asks. It comes out quiet and calm, and Ryan wonders at what's going on, something heavy and afraid knotting in his stomach.

"School shit," Brendon says, and groans, stretching his arms up, leaning against the wall. "I've still got two sets to do for Trig, and I haven't even started physics yet."

"Boo hoo," Ryan says, idly, but then sits up slowly, mouth twisting into a grimace. "Me too. I've got a huge fucking essay to write." Brendon scoffs quietly at that, but Ryan ignores him, not in the mood for a fight. He says, slowly, "I think maybe… I should go home, and like. Work on it, I guess. This break has been kind of lazy."

Brendon looks stricken for a moment, eyes wide and surprised, and Ryan ducks his head. He doesn't understand how Brendon can be so unreadable most of the time, nearly all of the time, only to occasionally give glimpses of insight into what he's thinking that just frustrate Ryan more. He wishes Brendon would fucking control himself; Ryan's head is cluttered enough without adding the frightening, alien concept that Brendon wants him here.

"Don't cry, or anything," he says roughly, and Brendon pulls himself straight, rolls his eyes.

"Sorry," he says. "I was just trying to work out how I could possibly manage to keep an apartment clean and with food in it all by myself. Oh, wait, I do that already."

"Fuck you," Ryan says, glaring and pushing himself up to his feet, grabbing his backpack from the ground. He makes his way around the apartment, gathering his stuff, wondering how it managed to spread all over the place like this. "It's not my fucking place."

"Yeah," Brendon says, folding his arms and glaring at Ryan. "But I've been forced to put up with you all this time anyway."

"Oh, sorry," Ryan retorts. "Did you develop some kind of moral objection to getting laid for the first time in your life?"

"It's not the first time," Brendon begins, with almost automatic anger, but Ryan raises his eyebrows with his best patronizing face on, and Brendon falls blissfully silent, blushing.

"Alright, then," Ryan says, smirking, and picks up the phone on Brendon's kitchen counter.

"That one's mine," Brendon tells him.

Ryan sighs heavily. "I know, moron." He dials his number on it, waits for his phone to ring and then hangs up, knowing Brendon's number will be in missed calls. Then he programs his number into Brendon's phone, under ryan ross.

When he looks up, Brendon's watching him with an uncertain expression. "What?" he snaps. "I'm bored of hanging around your shitty place waiting for you to come back and open it, and I'm sure as fuck done stopping by your work." He pauses and then meets Brendon's impassive gaze straight on, scowling at him, something twisting in his gut. "Unless you've had enough with this – thing, that is."

"No," Brendon says, quiet and clear. "No, I'm good."

"Fine then," Ryan says, and tosses Brendon's phone back on the counter a little too hard, reaching and slinging his backpack over one shoulder. He pauses at the door, though he doesn't know why, what he's waiting for. They haven't really done anything today; Brendon worked in the morning, was gone before Ryan woke up, and when he got back, Ryan had just started watching Fight Club. Now, he looks at Brendon's mouth, Brendon's hands twisting in the hem of his t-shirt, and has to bite back, God, I want you to fuck me.

"Hey," Brendon says, suddenly. "You – you really wanna see Shaun of the Dead?"

Ryan tilts his head and regards Brendon squintily, waiting for the trap. "Yeah," he says slowly, grudgingly.

"The theater around the corner is playing it," Brendon tells him, staring in a determined way at a patch of plaster to the left of Ryan's ear. "We could go see it on, uh, Sunday night, maybe. If you wanted to – to do something before school starts. Uh."

"Oh," Ryan says. "Oh. Um, yeah, okay."

"Alright," Brendon says, still not looking at him properly. "Eight o'clock, then? I'll meet you there."

"Sure," Ryan says, and waits until he gets downstairs and into his car before he starts to smile.


Continues here.
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