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

Part 5/9

Continued from here.

---


The rest of the week gets steadily worse; Brendon's getting hardly any shifts, because the management have gone and hired a bunch of Christmas casuals, who'll get fired after the holidays are done and for now work more and get paid less than Brendon, and he's already regretting splurging on Sunday for the take out food (and then wasting some of it on Ryan fucking Ross). He's slipped from an A to a B in physics, which isn't going to look good on college applications and means he's going to have to work harder over the Christmas break to get back up to date on that, his apartment refuses to retain any heat whatsoever, and to top it all off, Jason and all his friends from Brendon's old church corner him again and start talking earnestly about forgiveness and Christmas spirit and coming home. It's still a cold shock to realize that he's actually sort of looking forward to detention.

But Friday afternoon comes, and Ryan isn't there.

The other Mr. Way is, though, the principal's kind of spacey brother who works in the admin office, and he looks blankly at Brendon and then says, "Oh, hello. Time to get started?"

"Where's Ryan?" Brendon demands, folding his arms. "I won't do it if he doesn't."

"Sick," Way says, looking absently down at his notes. "His father called in this morning. You're still expected to do your work."

Brendon slams his hand against the wall uselessly as he goes in, furious and skin itching for something, for anything. "Fuck this," he mumbles, but starts sorting anyway, because he doesn't have a choice, because it's the last day of semester and the last detention and the work is almost done, because he doesn't have anything better to do.

When he comes out, the older Mr. Way has joined his brother, and smiles at Brendon. "All done?" he asks, and smiles when Brendon nods. "Nice work then, Brendon. I'm sorry you had to finish up today on your own, but there shouldn't have been much left."

"It was alright," Brendon mumbles, staring at the floor. "It was kinda unfair."

"We can't help Ryan being sick," Mr. Way says. "Hopefully next term you two will be able to control yourselves a bit better."

"Sure," Brendon says, shifting his bag from shoulder to shoulder, and resists the urge to add whatever because, really. He doesn't think their principal is that naïve. (He thinks about Ryan's mouth, Ryan's hands, and swallows hard.)

"Okay, then, Brendon," Mr. Way sighs, looking kind of regretful. "I'll see you next semester, then. Have a good vacation."

"Yeah, thanks," Brendon says, sidling out past him. "You too. Bye!"

---


He walks into his apartment, drops his schoolbag, looks around, and then walks out. It's too fucking – he doesn't want to be home tonight, not when he feels jittery and cheated out of something. He considers the show Haley told him about, a pop-punk college band playing close to where he works, and then he thinks fuck it and hops on a bus heading back towards the inner city.

The show is five dollars at the door and Brendon thinks, this is a waste and pays it anyway. He hasn't been to see live music in ages, and the first band is already on, so he shoves his way through, up to the front. It's not particularly good music, but it's loud and right there in front of him and the drummer is pretty awesome, so Brendon catches the beat in his bones and moves with the crowd.

It's been way too long, he thinks, pushing his face up to the lights, jumping to get a mouthful of air, wincing when someone's elbow glances off the side of his face. He even starts to like the music a little, in the same inevitable way he always does, because the lead singer is really charismatic and even manages a little bit of funny patter between songs, out of breath and sweating. Brendon thinks, yeah, this was a good waste of five bucks.

Someone shoves up hard against him from behind, harder than usual, and when Brendon turns his head they grin a little sheepishly and shout an apology. Brendon smiles at them and then, out of the corner of his eye, he catches a glimpse of dark hair and eyeliner and a mouth he knows too well. He moves before he's even aware of thinking, elbowing his way through to the side and throwing a punch. It's badly balanced and off-centre in the rush of the crowd, but it slams against Ryan's mouth hard enough, and Ryan stumbles backward. Brendon thinks grimly that he's got Ryan's attention now, at least.

Ryan looks at him, hard and angry, and he shoves back at Brendon, and the middle of a semi-hardcore mosh is definitely not the place to do this; when Brendon attempts to punch him again, the crowd shifts and they tumble out towards the edge, badly aimed fists connecting just often enough for Brendon to feel dizzy, vision a little blurry when Ryan's fist thumps awkwardly at his temple.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Ryan shouts, baring his teeth. "Fucking little psycho!"

"Yeah?" Brendon yells back, throat feeling raw, voice harsher even than he means it. "Where the fuck were you today? I had to finish the whole goddamn thing by myself!"

"Oh, have a cry," Ryan snarls, and Brendon swings out blindly against him again.

A big, burly guy shoves at him in an annoyed kind of way and says, "Leave it, you two," and Brendon turns on his heel and walks away, towards the wall, away from the heaving crowd and Ryan.

"Hey!" Ryan yells, and then he's up next to Brendon again, face twisted in fury. "Don't you fucking walk away from me—"

Brendon swings around and grabs at Ryan's shirt, tugs him in close and bites at his mouth. He's already really sweaty from the crowd, his shirt damp and sticking to his skin, but Ryan isn't at all; his skin is just hot to the touch, feeling like it's burning against Brendon's hands. Brendon wonders stupidly if maybe Ryan only just got here, but then Ryan's shoving him backwards, letting Brendon bump into people who jump out of the way, annoyed, until Brendon's pinned up against the wall, Ryan's hands on either side of him, trapping him in the tiny space.

They kiss hard, biting and licking, and Ryan is pressed up so tight against him that Brendon can't even worm a hand in between to grope at Ryan's dick, which he supposes is probably a good thing – this venue is pretty dodgy, but there's still only so much that they can get away with. Ryan bites his lower lip hard enough that Brendon gasps, back arching up even closer towards him, if that's possible, and Ryan takes one hand away from the wall, smoothes it over Brendon's side, and sucks slowly at his lip, almost conciliatory. Brendon doesn't know what to do with that, so he just hooks one leg out and around Ryan's, balancing a little awkwardly, breathing hard into Ryan's mouth.

Something buzzes unexpectedly against Brendon's thigh and he jolts, almost falling when Ryan pulls back suddenly and tugs his phone out from a too tight pocket. He answers and says immediately, shouting above the noise, "Sorry, sorry, where are you—" and then, "I'll be there in a sec."

He looks at Brendon and then leans in close, mouth hot on Brendon's ear. "I have to go," he says, clearly. "I have to – I'm meeting friends here, I can't just pull out on them—"

"Sure, whatever," Brendon says. His mouth tastes strange to him; he pushes out and away from Ryan's body warm against his and walks away, too conscious of Ryan's eyes on him. He doesn't feel like dancing to the band anymore, and when he looks up once he sees someone else watching him, heading towards him, and Brendon turns sharply for the door. Instead, he goes outside, out into the cold, fresh night, and walks a few paces before he stumbles and sits down heavily on the edge of the pavement, tapping his feet in the gutter.

Fucking waste of five dollars, he thinks dully, and ignores the ache in his throat, his gut, the lingering feeling of Spencer Smith's eyes burning into him.

---


"Did I just see Brendon Urie walk out of here?" Spencer asks before he's even really by Ryan's side. He looks as amused as he look curious, and Ryan doesn't know why that bothers him. From an objective kind of view, the whole thing probably is kind of amusing. Still Ryan isn't laughing.

"Yeah," he says, and then, when Spencer merely continues studying his face, Ryan jerks his chin towards the mass of dancing bodies. "Come on, let's go."

Spencer's hand on his shoulder stops him, and Ryan remembers suddenly, sharply, that moment in the cafeteria, with Spencer's hand on his neck and Brendon glaring from across the room. "So did you fight?" Spencer asks, too loud into a weird lull of the music. "Or did you kiss?"

Ryan slumps against the wall and tips his head back. For some reason, he doesn't really want to see Spencer's grin right now. "We kissed," he says dully. "And then you called, so I sent him away."

"What, and he just left? Without a fight?" Spencer leans his hip against the wall, raising a brow. "Wow, Ryan, kind of an asshole-ish thing to do. I mean, even for your standards."

Ryan makes his voice sharp, but he doesn't look at Spencer. "Because you'd have wanted him to join us here, right? Yeah, I'd rather not have you bitching at me all day tomorrow."

"I hardly know the guy," Spencer says. "I just know he got you more riled than pretty much anything else these days. Until," his grin is audible, "you exchanged fists for mouths, or whatever it is you do."

Ryan bares his teeth. "You want details?"

"Thanks, no." Spencer shakes his head, but the grin doesn't fade. "I'm just saying, I heard Urie's a mouthy little bitch, but it's not like I spent enough time with him to know for sure. And getting kicked out by your parents should give you some leeway, I guess. It's not like we don't let you get away with some shit because of your dad."

Ryan squints up at the strobe light, sparks dancing through his vision when he blinks. "Where's Jon?" he asks.

"Went to find Cassie," Spencer replies. "Unlike you, he doesn't tell his dates to go away when his friends show up."

"It wasn't a date," Ryan hisses, and he isn't sure Spencer even understands him over the music, the thumping bass vibrating in Ryan's bones. "I didn't know he'd be here, okay? We just ran into each other." Almost literally, he thinks a little wryly, and then winces; his jaw still aches where Brendon landed a hard punch. Stupid little shit, he thinks, and doesn't, doesn't, doesn't feel guilty about not showing up to school and detention today. He and Spencer and Jon always take the last day of semester off, it's tradition, and he's not going to change that just because of Brendon fucking Urie.

Spencer shrugs and studies Ryan's face for another long moment before he nods. Ryan breathes out a relieved sigh.

"Let's go," he tries again, and this time, he doesn't wait for a reply, just sets off for the thickest throng of people. He knows Spencer will follow.

---


Usually, Brendon's pretty good at distracting himself. Despite the temporary holiday workers, he manages to get shifts that carry him through the weekend, and the time he doesn't spend with a blender is spent catching up on his school work.

Monday is bustling with commotion at the Smoothie Hut, a constant flow of last minute Christmas gift shoppers trying to stock up on vitamins before the big feast tomorrow. Brendon drowns his thoughts in the tiring routine of smiling at customers and getting the mix of fruits just right, and even though he's working with Haley and some temp, he's barely aware that he isn't alone. When he gets home that night, he locks the door and falls straight into bed, too tired even to brush his teeth.

Tuesday, though… Tuesday. The stores are open until noon, so Brendon joins the mass of extremely last minute shoppers, lets them push him from store to store and looks at things he can't afford, for people who no longer care.

Come to think of it, this probably wasn't such a good idea.

Brendon spends nearly two hours in his favorite music store, flicking through new releases while an album he doesn't recognize plays low in the background. He's amongst the last people to leave, and when he steps out into the street, the city is nearly deserted already. Cheap Christmas lights twinkle in store windows, and it's really not that cold, but Brendon draws his jacket tighter around himself.

The neighbor's TV is off when Brendon gets home. He prepares some instant soup for only himself, humming a cheerful Christmas carol under his breath until he has to stop because his eyes are stinging. Kara's plant sits dry and reproachful on his table, and he empties a glass of water into the pot and tries not to think about how Kara's surrounded by family, won't be able to call for another day, at least.

"Just the two of us, huh?" he asks the plant. There's no reply.

The soup tastes stale and watery, and Brendon puts it into the refrigerator after just a few spoonfuls. He's still cold, so he wraps himself in blankets and sprawls on his stomach on the bed after kicking the TV into action.

Predictably, there's nothing on but stupid, bright Christmas specials, with laughing families and glittering Christmas trees and Sandra Bullock finding love while her alleged fiancée sleeps for the umpteenth time. Brendon lasts through about ten minutes before he realizes he's biting his lip hard enough to break skin, blinking rapidly to keep the tears at bay.

He throws a shoe at the TV, and for once, something in his life actually goes right and it hits the power switch, plunging the apartment into blessed silence. Brendon rolls over onto his back and stares up at the graying ceiling.

The wallpaper comes off in one corner. He thinks he should do something about it, but he can't bring himself to move. All he manages is to tug the blankets higher up, over his nose, breathing in the faint smell of sweat and sex that still clings to the covers.

He could do laundry; the Laundromat should be deserted today. Alternatively, he could jerk off.

He doesn't move and continues to stare up at the ceiling, eyes watering from the effort of keeping them open, until there's a knock at the door.

It takes another two knocks before he can even roll up to his feet, trying to work out if there actually was a knock, and he's not imagining it or hearing something else, and then a moment of stupid hesitation as he wonders who the hell is even there. Brendon can't think of any reason why anyone would be here (it's not his mom and dad, he thinks, as he gets up and pads to the door, swallowing against the tight feeling in his throat; it's not his mom and dad), and he still can't think of any reason why when he opens the door and finds Ryan Ross clutching a white plastic shopping bag.

Brendon stares. Ryan glares at him, shifts from foot to foot, and finally says, "You gonna invite me in?"

"No," Brendon says automatically, but he moves aside slightly and lets Ryan come in, closing the door behind him. Ryan dumps the bag down by the doorstep and looks at Brendon's rumpled bed and then back at Brendon. Brendon has an uncomfortable feeling his eyes might be red. He folds his arms and snaps, "What the fuck are you doing here?"

Ryan looks at him blankly. Brendon thinks with sudden fierceness that he hates that, that he doesn't care if Ryan's furious at him or annoyed or whatever, just as long as he isn't ignoring Brendon, just as long as Brendon can still affect him in some stupid, immature way. Brendon's sick of not being noticed, so he tilts his chin up a little cockily and says, "Seriously, man, it's pretty lame how—"

"Oh, shut up," Ryan says, looking impatient. Brendon opens his mouth and Ryan kisses it, swallowing the beginnings of a word.

Brendon makes a hungry, frantic noise and pulls Ryan in, and Ryan lets him, Ryan always lets him, Ryan gives back as good as he gets. Brendon hooks an arm around Ryan's neck and it could be almost, almost real except that he tightens it too much, hard around the back of Ryan's neck, and Ryan gasps and Brendon thinks that maybe, maybe later, there'll be bruises.

Ryan shoves Brendon backwards and they move awkwardly, tripping over each other's feet, unwilling to break apart. Ryan's hands roam all over Brendon, like he's unable or unwilling to settle, and Brendon arches into the touch despite himself. He thinks, yes, a fierce roar in his ears that just amounts to affirmation, yes, this is what I want, and then he stifles that thought by biting hard on Ryan's lip and they tumble backwards onto Brendon's bed. Brendon grunts in pain when his back hits the mattress kind of hard, and Ryan accidentally elbows him in the stomach, but he can't quite bring himself to care, shoving a leg between Ryan's thighs, rocking up hard against him.

For a moment, Ryan pushes back down, and then he draws back slightly, breaking away from Brendon's mouth to fumble with the zip on his jeans, pushing his pants awkwardly down mid-thigh. Brendon copies him and then it's better, rocking together again. Ryan licks his palm and slides it around both of their cocks for a moment, and then the friction is even better, and Brendon can just, stop thinking.

"Ryan," he mumbles, almost by accident, and Ryan shudders above him, arms trembling where he's propping himself up slightly, and Brendon appreciates it, because Ryan's heavier than he looks. Then Ryan's coming all over their stomachs. He falls forward slightly, panting wet and open-mouthed against Brendon's neck, and then he slides a hand down and finishes Brendon off. It doesn't take long.

Ryan rolls off and to the side and then Brendon turns slightly towards him, knows this could be taken as weakness, that Ryan could do a hundred variations, equally awful, of shoving him away right now, and kisses him again anyway. Ryan doesn't push him away, though, just reaches up and tangles a hand in Brendon's hair, tugging it a little sharply, and they kiss sloppy and kind of desperate. Brendon rolls closer, half on top of Ryan, even though his dick is still too sensitive, sensory overload, and Ryan murmurs something incoherent and arches up against him, hand still in Brendon's hair, fingers stroking slightly at his head, almost gentle.

Eventually, Brendon needs to breathe properly and when he moves off, Ryan shifts out from under him, pushing his hips up into the air to wriggle back into his jeans. He doesn't seem very concerned by the come on his stomach which is, Brendon thinks, really gross, but then, Brendon can't quite be bothered to do anything about it, either. Instead he pulls his jeans up as well, and glances at Ryan warily, waits for him to get up and leave.

Instead, though, Ryan bites his lip and says, "I, I bought some stuff. To eat, I mean. If you're hungry."

---


Brendon's oven is quite possibly the most temperamental cooking appliance (is an oven an appliance? Ryan doesn't know) Ryan's ever had the misfortune to encounter. It's not like he's an amazing cook (that's Spencer), but he's gotten pretty good at cooking for himself and his dad, sometimes, and he's gotten vaguely confident. He is beginning to think that this confidence was severely misplaced, and that it's possible he just hasn't met a worthy opponent just yet.

Brendon's oven is a worthy opponent, much like Brendon. He thinks that if he burns Brendon's apartment down by accident, Brendon will probably, like, rip out Ryan's throat with his teeth.

Brendon wanders over and says, "Oh, yeah, you have to have the timer on for it to work at all."

Ryan blinks at him. "I don't need to time it," he says. "I know how long it takes."

"Yes," Brendon says, sounding incredibly bored. "But you've still got to have the timer on. Or it just won't heat up."

"That's fucked," Ryan tells him. Brendon shrugs and goes and turns the TV on. Ryan listens absently, fiddling with the dials, as Brendon flicks through all the channels, where, judging by his low snarling at the set, he is apparently trying to find something not Christmas related.

"Uh," Ryan calls out. "You know you're not gonna find anything, right?"

"Shut the fuck up, Ross," Brendon snaps, and Ryan smirks, turns back to the oven.

After a few adjustments, he decides that it'll have to do and puts the frozen meals in their aluminum packages in there, closing the door with a creaking sound that makes Brendon look up. He's turned the TV off, but he's still crouched in front of it, bottom lip drawn into his mouth, like if he concentrates really hard he can make something good appear on the screen. Ryan stares at him, suddenly awkward.

"It'll take about fifteen minutes," Ryan says.

"Right," Brendon answers. His voice sounds surprisingly rough. Ryan nods and looks down and Brendon says, "Fifteen minutes – you wanna just—"

"Yeah," Ryan says. It's better than talking, anyway. He doesn't like Brendon; the last thing he wants to do is talk to him. He walks over, almost awkward, and up close, Brendon still looks so tired, exhausted. Ryan moves without thinking, reaches out and traces the dark circles under Brendon's eyes, wonders were you crying? or were you just about to—and Brendon shudders under Ryan's fingers, looks down.

Fine, Ryan thinks, feeling his cheeks heat up with embarrassment, and he leans forward and kisses Brendon, mouths open and warm and Brendon curls his hands in the fabric of Ryan's shirt on either side and tugs him down until they're lying side by side on the mattress, making out kind of lazily. Brendon sucks on Ryan's tongue and Ryan pushes his hips forward instinctively, half-hard but not in a hurry for anything right now, and mostly they just lie close. Ryan thinks, maybe this is contentment, and then feels sick and angry with himself.

It doesn't seem like that much longer when the buzzer of the oven goes off, so Ryan's kind of glad that they have the timer to remind them, in the end. He gets up and gets the meals out with a tea towel to protect his hands, and Brendon pulls out cracked plates and divides the potpie down the middle. It's not huge, enough for a large slice for each of them with no leftovers, and Ryan takes a seat at the table a little uncomfortably.

They eat silently for a while, Brendon eating fast again. Ryan thinks of half a dozen disparaging remarks to make about it but doesn't end up saying anything. He can't be bothered fighting, he thinks. He already hates Christmas enough.

Brendon looks up as if he can read Ryan's thoughts and says, "No, seriously, what are you doing here?"

Ryan bristles. "I don't know," he snaps. "Certainly not for the pleasure of your company."

"You came here, Ross," Brendon points out, sharply. "Let's not be a complete hypocrite, huh?"

"If you even know what that means," Ryan mutters sullenly, spearing a bit of pastry with his fork. Brendon shoots him an annoyed look and Ryan swallows hard, says, "I was bored. I. There was no one to talk to."

"Your dad not there?" Brendon enquires casually. Ryan digs his nails into his palm, forces himself to look normal. Brendon knows too much, he thinks.

"No," he says. "He's not. He's not at home very often."

"Who works on Christmas Eve?" Brendon asks, studying a point on the wall to the right of Ryan's ear intently.

"I didn't say he was working," Ryan tells him. He adds, fast and harsh, "Mind your own business, Urie," but Brendon just rolls his eyes, and they eat the rest of the meal in silence.

After they're done, Brendon says, "You gonna—"

"I have dessert," Ryan interrupts. He stares at the floor, can't bring himself to look at Brendon's face. "It's only, like, store-bought frozen cobbler but I mean. It's hot. And self-saucing or whatever. If you want some."

Brendon doesn't say anything for a long time, and when Ryan finally dares to glance up Brendon looks pale, and torn between fury and something more raw and unhappy. Ryan meets his gaze and Brendon says in a quiet rush, "I don't need your fucking pity—"

"It's just cobbler, Brendon," Ryan says.

Brendon releases a noisy breath. "Okay," he says. "Okay, fine, sure. Cobbler. Great."

---


The cobbler's really good, even if Brendon doesn't admit it out loud. Instead he clears away their plates and says, "You wanna, like, watch a movie or something?"

Ryan gets up comfortably enough and wanders over to the small pile of DVDs by Brendon's laptop. He roots through them with his head bowed, and Brendon looks at the line of his neck and his back and clenches his hands into fists for a moment in his pockets, tries not to think about anything at all. Eventually Ryan picks out Ocean's Eleven and waves it with this weird, hopeful expression at Brendon, like Brendon's going to say no or something, and Brendon nods and looks away while Ryan loads it. He goes over to the counter, and then he frowns at the plastic bag that Ryan had brought the food in, because there's still clearly something in it, and—

"What the fuck?" Brendon says.

Ryan turns and Brendon holds the now empty plastic bag in one hand, and a packet of condoms in the other, something strange churning in his gut. Ryan stares at him. "Uh," he says. "I just—"

"You've got some fucking nerve, Ross," Brendon tells him coldly, and Ryan stands up, looking embarrassed and defiant

"Whatever," he says harshly. "It's not like we don't do stuff, and I just – I wasn't even going to ask. I just bought them in case."

"In case what?" Brendon asks. He walks closer. There's something tight and dark in his chest, and he thinks his voice is rougher than usual, which is a little embarrassing. "You want to fuck, Ryan?"

Ryan licks his lips, and Brendon's gaze drops to his mouth automatically. "If," Ryan says, and stops. He clears his throat. "If you want to."

Brendon looks at him, mind buzzing. Ryan is very close; he's almost standing on Ryan's toes, and he can feel Ryan's breath on his face, warm and smelling like the berry sauce on the cobbler. Brendon says, "Yes. Yes, we can do that."

"Okay," Ryan breathes, and he reaches out like he's been waiting for it and pulls Brendon into a kiss, knotting his hand through Brendon's hair. Something in Brendon is cheering automatically, because, seriously, sex, he's not going to die a virgin, the world is good again, but there's something else, too, strange and new in him, and he wishes Ryan wasn't so fucking rough when they sink to the ground, pushing the laptop away impatiently.

Brendon pulls his shirt up over his head, throwing it somewhere aside, and then helps Ryan with his, tugging it up over his head, and can't help smiling at Ryan when he emerges from the tangle of material, hair sticking up in a few directions. It doesn't take too much longer for them to get their pants off, and then Brendon realizes they're naked for the first time, Ryan long and lean above him. Ryan trips his fingers down Brendon's ribs, smiles tentatively down at him (and that feels new, too) and then leans down to breathe in his ear, "Spread your legs."

Brendon sits up so fast that their heads bang together hard. "What?"

Ryan stares blankly at him. Brendon can't believe his nerve. "Well," he says, in that stupid fucking monotone, "I mean, you were the one who liked it before—"

"You were sucking my dick before!" Brendon says, a little hysterically, scrambling away. He stands up, puts his hands on his hips, and tries to look intimidating despite the fact that he's naked and hard. Ryan narrows his eyes and stands up, too. "I tend to like most things when someone's sucking my dick!"

"Okay, well, whatever," Ryan says. "You've had the experience, so I think it's only fair that—"

"—you have a turn," Brendon cuts in. "Seriously, Ross, what the fuck, I'm not going to—"

"And I am?"

Brendon glares. "You're the one who wears eyeliner."

"So what?" Ryan says. He sounds vaguely high-pitched. At a less crucial time, Brendon would probably find it kind of hilarious. "That doesn't make me the girl, what the fuck is wrong with you?"

"Shut up," Brendon says, scowling. "Shut up, shut up," and then Ryan lunges forward and punches him in the stomach and Brendon throws himself at Ryan. It's a vague blur of limbs and pointy elbows and if it wasn't for the fact that he's still kind of hard, Brendon's sure he could inflict some serious damage, but as it is they go down onto the mattress and fight seriously for about thirty seconds before Ryan tightens his grip on Brendon's hips and rocks up against him, and Brendon drops his head and groans and fuck, there is possibly, Brendon thinks, something quite seriously wrong with them.

Ryan's a little distracted, so Brendon sucks his fingers into his mouth, and then drops them down to trace a wet finger around the pucker of Ryan's hole. Ryan gasps and goes very still, and Brendon smirks down at him, darkly satisfied.

---


"Well," Ryan says, a little while later. "This is rocking my world."

Brendon glowers at him and wriggles his fingers a little more. They're coated liberally in lotion and he's doing his best, he honestly is, but so far Ryan hasn't done very much at all except wince and screw up his nose once in a while and, of course, offer the most fucking annoying commentary the whole time.

"Shut up," Brendon says. "I'm trying."

Ryan huffs, propping his chin in his elbows, shifting uncomfortably. He doesn't really seem to be in much pain, but there's certainly no sign of any enjoyment, either. Brendon crooks his fingers a little desperately, trying to find that weird place inside him that had felt so good the other day. He's starting to think that maybe Ryan's just good enough at blowjobs that he could methodically whack Brendon over the head while he did it and Brendon would still enjoy it.

"Seriously," Brendon bursts out in frustration a little while later. "Maybe this is your fault, maybe you just have a weird ass—"

"Oh, come on," Ryan says dismissively. "This is about as sexy as you sticking your finger up my nose—"

"Maybe it's not – maybe I just need to," Brendon says, and looks down at where his cock is brushing up against his stomach, hard and leaking a little under the condom. Ryan sighs and sits up higher on his hands and knees, making a magnanimous and annoyingly condescending gesture that Brendon interprets as something along the lines of get on with it then, moron.

"Okay, okay," Brendon says, and gets up on his knees, sliding his cock along Ryan's ass. Ryan makes a small, uncertain sound and Brendon grips onto his hips, says, "Alright, Ryan, I'm just – okay?"

"Fine," Ryan says, in a small voice. Brendon swallows hard and then pushes his cock into Ryan's ass slowly, pressing against the initial resistance. It's – he groans a little bit because shit, Ryan's so tight, hot and clenching around him, and Brendon's hands are trembling on Ryan's hips. Ryan breathes in sharply and says, "Fuck. Fuck."

"Good?" Brendon asks, tentatively.

"It fucking hurts, you fucking asshole motherfucker," Ryan snaps, and Brendon draws out slowly and then pushes back in again. Ryan shakes his head, and what Brendon can see of his face is slowly turning red.

"Okay, just, just wait," Brendon says, and after a while, small, steady pushes, Ryan seems to be in less pain. He still doesn't seem to be having any fun, though after a while he recovers enough to start being a complete jerk again.

"Oh," he says, in a dull, emotionless voice, "oh, harder, oh, faster, Brendon, yes."

"Shut up," Brendon pants.

"How can I," Ryan says, deadpan. "You're the best fuck in the world. I am going to write poetry about this moment. I'm just warning you, I might cry in a second."

Brendon grits his teeth and doesn't answer, but Ryan keeps offering up stupid little comments the whole time, and the only thing that Brendon can be thankful for is that with Ryan being such a loser, it's kind of hard for him to get in the right mood to come right away, which he had a feeling might be a problem at first.

Brendon's back is starting to get a little stiff, so he pulls almost all the way out and adjusts his angle slightly before pushing back in, and Ryan sucks in a breath and stops bitching. Brendon feels horrible for a moment, thinks, I really don't want to hurt him.

He leans forward to ask, before he can stop himself, "Hey, are you—" only that movement bring him deeper, and Ryan gasps and looks over his shoulder. "Oh," Brendon says, looking at Ryan's dark, hot eyes, and Ryan's hardening cock, and then he repeats mindlessly, "Oh." He does it again and watches Ryan's eyes slip shut, Ryan sliding forward helplessly onto his forearms and making this small, obscene little noise when Brendon pushes in again, and fuck, Brendon's not supposed to feel this ridiculously grateful, this elated. He doesn't really want to think or feel much about Ryan at all; he has a vague idea that that might be bad for him.

Instead, he leans forward again (Ryan shudders underneath him and moans, voice raw and louder than normal in Brendon's apartment) and presses his forehead to the back of Ryan's neck, closes his eyes and moves his hips in tiny circles, deep inside Ryan, until Ryan is gasping softly with each shift and Brendon can't help kissing him, mouth warm and wet on the top of Ryan's spine.

---


They must have fallen asleep. Brendon doesn't remember much, just that they lay panting for a while, until Brendon pulled out, knotted the slippery condom and drew the blankets up over both of them.

Now, daylight filters through the old, ragged curtains. Beside Brendon, not quite close enough for their skin to touch, Ryan's chest is rising and falling evenly, his breathing nearly inaudible until Brendon starts listening for it.

He props himself up on one elbow and glares at Ryan's peaceful face, cutting off the confused stream of he stayed, why did he stay that floats through his head. Brendon's about to shake Ryan awake with a rough hand, tell him to get the fuck out of his bed before Ryan can leave without his prompt – and then Ryan's forehead creases in an unhappy frown, and somehow, that reminds Brendon of Ryan's expression at the mere mention of his father. Maybe the man's still out on some bender or just passed out on the couch, sleeping it off.

Brendon drops the hand back down to the mattress. He doesn't feel like getting up anyway.

For a few long minutes, Brendon settles back into the blankets. The apartment is as drafty as ever, though, and they fell asleep naked, and now that Brendon's awake, it's impossible to go back to sleep when there are light shivers running along his skin. Ryan is, for once in his life, warm, the fucker.

Very, very slowly, inch by inch, Brendon shifts closer. He doesn't want Ryan to wake up and think Brendon's doing this consciously, so he moves carefully, waiting for a beat after each tiny motion, eyes hard on Ryan's face. Then he's finally pressed up against Ryan's front, and Brendon's slightly hard, an automatic reaction by now, but it's easy to ignore for the moment.

He slings a leg over Ryan's hip, holding his breath. Ryan exhales, inhales evenly, and Brendon's warm now, wonderfully warm and comfortable, and he falls asleep thinking about how usually the only warm thing in his bed is him, and that's not so good, his skin burning fever hot. Nothing like this, nothing like comfort.

---


Waking up is something like a low-level shock. Ryan's not the type of person who wakes up and is instantly lucid, so he's disoriented at first, and there's someone plastered hot and too-close against his back. "Spencer," Ryan grumbles, shoving one elbow back because what the fuck? Spencer is usually better at respecting Ryan's boundaries. Also, why are they naked?

Behind him, Brendon groans.

Ryan's eyes fly open, body stiffening instantly because, okay, fuck, what's he doing sleeping loose and defenseless in Brendon's bed? "The hell?" he asks into the sudden silence.

Brendon rolls away from him. It's what Ryan wants, really, it is, only his skin is a little sweaty where Brendon was snuggled up to his back – snuggled up to his back – and now that Brendon's gone, the skin is cooling. Ryan nearly shifts into him.

"I don't know," Brendon says, tone biting. "It's my bed, so you tell me what you're still doing here."

"Oh, fuck you," Ryan manages. It's weak, yeah, but he's just not a morning person. So whatever. He rolls onto his back, glancing at Brendon's shuttered face. There are a million things Ryan thinks he should say, but nothing comes to mind. They lie in silence.

Ryan closes his eyes, just for a moment. Tiredness still clings to his lids, makes them heavier than they can possibly be, and next to him, Brendon isn't saying anything, pointedly tense and rigid and naked. Ryan fights a yawn and inhales the almost familiar smell of damp walls and sweaty sheets.

---


Ryan must have drifted back into sleep. When he wakes up, the apartment smells of grease and fried eggs.

He sits up, blankets falling down to his waist, and rubs a hand through his tangled hair. Brendon glances over from the kitchenette, bent over the stove, and he's wearing nothing but a pair of boxers even though the apartment isn't what would be classified as comfortably warm on any kind of scale. The knots of his spine are sharply defined. Ryan fists the blanket in his hands.

"What are you doing?" he asks.

Brendon's look is unreadable. "Scrambled eggs," he says.

"Oh." Ryan nods and scans the room for his boxers. Then he remembers he brought a spare, just in case. They should still be in the bag by the door. Even though he feels oddly exposed, he pads across the room naked, the dull twinge in his ass reminding him sharply of what they did last night.

First time on Christmas Eve. Shit, they're so fucking cliché.

When Ryan glances up, Brendon is watching him with dark eyes. Ryan swallows. "There's enough eggs for both of us, I guess," Brendon says, his tone even, blank.

"Yeah?" Ryan doesn't allow his face to reveal anything. He pulls the boxers out of the bag and quickly steps into them while Brendon never looks away. Ryan stands undecided for a moment, near the door, and then he walks over to the stove, leaning over the dark-brown mess that's supposed to be edible, Brendon uncomfortably close, so close it makes Ryan's skin itch, and he's not about to step back if Brendon isn't, is not about to give Brendon the satisfaction, hell no.

Calmly, Ryan stretches around Brendon to grab a fork, and his elbow brushes Brendon's bare stomach. Ryan tries not to smile when Brendon's almost jumps under the touch. He spears a bite of scrambled eggs – and nearly spits it back out.

"What?" Brendon asks darkly.

Ryan shakes his head, and then he looks at Brendon's face, too pale and thin in the morning light. Not about the family, Ryan thinks, don't ask why his mom didn't taught him better, and what he eventually says is, "Nothing. Just astonished you can't even get a fucking scrambled egg right. I mean, it's not that hard, you know? Don't burn, and don't oversalt."

For a long moment, Brendon merely looks at him, like he can read every single one of Ryan's stupid thoughts. Ryan keeps his chin up and his gaze straight. Suddenly, Brendon grabs the pan, turns and dumps the contents into the trash. "Fine," he says, tone scathing. "You do it, then. Asshole."

"Fine," Ryan replies unoriginally.

"Fine," Brendon mocks. Ryan pushes him away from the stove, somewhat gentler than he intended. To his surprise, Brendon gives in after just a moment of resistance, stepping out of the way and crossing his arms. Ryan sets about cracking the eggs into a bowl and pointedly ignores the realization that he's making breakfast. That it's the morning after Christmas, and he stayed the night, and he's making breakfast for Brendon and himself.

Whatever.

---


Ryan's eggs are, Brendon will admit grudgingly, a little better than his own. He'll never say it aloud, although he's pretty sure he can work out a way for it to go to his favor; Ryan the pretty little housewife, maybe, Ryan paying him for— and then he realizes that brainstorming ways to piss Ryan off is maybe too lame even for him. He stays silent, scowls at his plate, and wonders how long Ryan's going to stick around.

A while, apparently; Ryan gets up to take his plate over to the sink and Brendon moves after him without even thinking, crowding him against the counter until Ryan turns around, kisses him, and then they end up jerking each other off right there. When Brendon rinses his hand under the tap Ryan looks at him with dark eyes and says, "Missed a spot," and sucks two of Brendon's fingers into his mouth, and Brendon manages to think faintly about how ridiculous it is, what stereotypical teenagers are, before Ryan is pushing him down against the mattress and they're making out again.

To Brendon's total horror, he accidentally falls asleep again, half crushed by Ryan's weight, and when he wakes up Ryan's still there, lying next to him and reading. Brendon squints at the cover blearily; it's one of his books, he thinks, but he hasn't read it.

"What's that?" he asks groggily, and Ryan turns his head.

"It was on your table," he replies evenly. "It's yours, isn't it?" He tilts the cover and Brendon reads A Prayer For Owen Meany, blinks at it.

"Uh, yeah," he says. "I think my sister gave it to me. I haven't read it."

Ryan says, fiercer than Brendon would have expected, "You should, it's really good," and then he flushes and shrugs one shoulder, turns away. Brendon tries not to stare.

They stay silent for a while, until Brendon finally asks, voice harsh, "Aren't you going to leave?"

Ryan closes the book and puts it off the mattress. He's slow about the movements, moving with an awkward kind of languidness, if that even makes sense, and it takes a while before he turns properly to meet Brendon's gaze.

"I was thinking," Ryan tells him, "that maybe I could. Just stay here. Again."

"The night?" Ryan nods, and Brendon cocks his head, mouth twisting. "I'm not a fucking home for wayward boys, Ross."

"If this is your idea of charity," Ryan retorts quickly, "then you're even more messed up than I thought."

Brendon shrugs, and keeps watching Ryan, considering. "If you stay," he says slowly, "can I fuck you again?" He winces a little bit at how it comes out, a question, but just saying I'm gonna fuck you is too – Brendon's not threatening him. He's just wondering.

Ryan doesn't seem particularly put out, though. Instead he starts to smile, grin growing stupidly over his face, like he can't help it, dark and wicked and promising.

"I was kinda hoping," he says, and Brendon laughs despite himself.

---


Spencer texts Ryan when Ryan's gone out to get them KFC for dinner ("Good old Colonel," Brendon says, dryly, "Keeping up the traditional Christmas dining,") and then, when Ryan doesn't reply in five minutes, he calls him.

"Seriously, Spence," Ryan complains, when he picks up. "I was just paying for shit, I was gonna reply in a minute."

"Yeah, whatever," Spencer says, no bullshit. "You alright?"

"Why, what do you mean?" Ryan drawls. "You're just too subtle for me, Smith, it's hard to follow the twists and turns of conversation—"

"Okay, then," Spencer interrupts, and Ryan can practically hear his grin. "What's put you in such a good mood?"

Ryan hesitates, switching his bag to the other hand. "Nothing," he says, eventually. "I hate this fucking holiday. You know that."

"Too late to change now, dude," Spencer tells him. "Is your – is your dad good, today?"

Ryan swallows and then, before he can lose his courage, says, "I don't know. I haven't seen him since like. Yesterday morning."

Spencer's quiet for a long time. "Are you at Jon's?" he asks finally.

"No," Ryan says, defensive for no reason. "And you know I'm not, so don't fucking give me that – don't be so fucking condescending—"

"Ryan," Spencer says, quietly. "What are you doing?"

Ryan pushes his hand through his hair, squeezing the phone between his cheek and shoulder. "He's. It's like, it's just another day for him, too," he says. "It's just… everyone's got family, except – so it's like we can just. You know. Fuck around. Whatever."

"You stayed the night?" Spencer asks.

"That was an accident," Ryan says, and doesn't mention what they're doing tonight, but Spencer's already too quick for him.

"And what are you doing now?"

"Nothing," Ryan says, too fast, and Spencer is pointedly silent. Ryan groans, says, "Getting dinner, okay, but—"

"Ryan."

"Seriously, Spencer!" Ryan explodes. "Will you fucking get off my back already! What do you want me to do? I can't hang out with you." Spencer sucks in a harsh breath, and Ryan's already regretting saying that, but it's too late now, and he breathes in once, heart hammering around in his chest, and then hangs up.

He takes the stairs to Brendon's apartment two at a time, and ignores the buzz of his phone.

---


It's late when Ryan wakes up, but not dark, light from the street leaking in through windows without curtains. Ryan props himself up on his elbows, breathing hard, the remnants of a nightmare drifting slowly away, and Ryan feels cold all over, shivering uncontrollably, teeth chattering. He doesn't know where he is; the room feels dark and alien, and very unwelcome, something cold and full of hatred lurking in the shadows.

And then the warm body next to his rolls closer, half sitting up as well. "Ryan?" Brendon murmurs, sleepily, and Ryan doesn't say anything, can't, heart sitting somewhere full and afraid in his throat, but Brendon doesn't really need him to. Instead, he leans in and rubs his nose against Ryan's cheek, seemingly instinctive, mouth open and breathing against Ryan's cheek.

He nuzzles at Ryan's chin and Ryan leans into him without thinking, searching blindly for some sort of familiarity. "Hey, hey," Brendon says, drowsy, words blurring together. "Chill out, you're here, it's alright," and he kisses Ryan a little awkwardly, a wet, sucking noise in the dark night.

Ryan slips back down onto his stomach, and then shifts on his side, moving in close to where Brendon is warm and familiar and smells like boy. He thinks something weird and disconnected about this being bad in the morning, this weakness, but it's comforting, and Ryan falls asleep again pretty quickly.

---


When Ryan wakes up, Brendon has already left the bed, sitting at the table as he shoves the remnants of last night's takeout into his mouth. He glances over when Ryan stirs, his expression giving nothing away. Ryan averts his eyes first, sitting up and running a hand through his hair as he looks around for his underwear. Some rarely used muscles protest to any movement he makes.

"Morning," Brendon says eventually, tone reluctant.

Ryan flicks his eyes over, then away. His boxers are in front of the TV, and he feels weird about crossing the floor naked while Brendon's somewhat dressed in a pair of boxers and a shirt. Then Ryan's annoyed at himself for feeling weird. It's just Brendon.

He throws the covers off and gets up while Brendon watches evenly. "My ass hurts," Ryan tells him.

"And why do I care?" Brendon says.

"Because it's your fault, moron." Ryan steps into his boxers and grabs his shirt from the floor. Brendon's apartment is really fucking cold, always drafty, and with the slightly damp walls, it's a wonder Brendon doesn't have cancer yet, or something, whatever.

"Come on, it's not like you weren't gagging for it." Brendon gives him a look filled with contempt. "You want me to kiss it and make it better, or what?"

Ryan straightens, squaring his shoulders. "Well, you try having a dick up your ass, let's see how much your ass hurts after."

There's a significant pause while Brendon puts his fork down. "Okay," he says.

---


"You know," Brendon's voice is tense, "it felt kind of better when you were sucking my dick, and it was only one finger."

Ryan raises his head, enough to shoot Brendon an incredulous look. "I thought you weren't going to complain?"

"I wasn't going to complain if you did this right," Brendon mutters. His face is drawn tight, teeth chewing on his lower lip. The sky is grey outside, painting Brendon's skin in pale colors. Ryan crooks his fingers before he pulls them out, trickling more lube onto his hand. When he twists them back in, Brendon's still too-tight around him. At the rate they're going, Ryan won't get to fuck Brendon for another week.

The thought makes him turn his wrist and shove in a little too hard, touching a spot he's been brushing up against before, but suddenly, Brendon gasps, eyes closing, mouth falling open. "So this is right, then?" Ryan asks, repeating the motion.

Brendon slits his eyes open for a glittering glare. "Shut up," he grits out. "Shut up and do that again."

Ryan pulls his fingers out. Brendon's gathering up a storm of insults, it's easy to tell from the expression on his face. He bites them back when Ryan pushes his fingers back in along with a third, and the angle is awkward because Brendon refused to get on hands and knees, but at least this way, Ryan can watch Brendon's face. He jerks his wrist and Brendon twitches back into it.

The lube makes strange, slick sounds with each glide. Ryan spreads his fingers and Brendon's looser now, much more relaxed despite how tense his arm muscles are from gripping the sheets. "Hey," Ryan says softly.

Brendon props himself up on one elbow, scrunching up his face, and Ryan kisses him, twists his fingers and swallows Brendon's gasp. "Yeah," Brendon mumbles, low and rough.

"Okay?" Ryan asks.

"Yeah," Brendon repeats. Then he bites down on Ryan's lower lip, almost hard enough to break skin before he pulls back with a determined expression. "Get on with it already."

---


Ryan pulls out before his cock softens and discards the condom on the floor. Brendon makes a disgruntled noise of protest, pushing his hips forward plaintively. Before he can work up any kind of irritation, Ryan ducks his head and swallows Brendon down, flattening his tongue against the underside while he fondles Brendon's balls. It doesn't take more than that for Brendon to come in his mouth, slick and a little sour.

Since fucking Brendon is kind of amazing and Ryan plans on doing it again, preferably soon, he swallows. Brendon makes a rough, choked noise, and a little more liquid floats into Ryan's mouth.

Afterwards, they lie side by side on the mattress. Ryan doesn't notice their arms are touching until Brendon shifts, then sits up to beat the pillow into a comfortable shape before lying back down, glancing sideways at Ryan.

"How's your ass?" Ryan asks, his tone less provocative than he planned.

"Fine," Brendon says. Ryan wonders if that was a backhanded compliment. It's Brendon, though, so it probably wasn't.

One edge of the pillow is close enough for Ryan to use, so he rolls onto his side and settles in for a nap, sweaty and somewhat gross, the covers smeared with dried come in several place. Of course, that's when his phone buzzes with a text message.

Brendon groans. "Can't you just microwave that fucking phone?"

Ryan thinks about saying that it's a device enabling him to keep up with friends, but then, Brendon wouldn't know about that, would he? Ryan bites the inside of his cheek and grapples for the phone, flipping it open. He's uncomfortable aware of Brendon's eyes on his face.

brnch @ jn? prnts r gne, Spencer writes. brng mlk. dnt b n asshole.

"What kind of language is that?" Brendon asks. "Is that even English? I thought only twelve-year old bimbos wrote texts like that."

Ryan turns his head, frowning. "What do you care?"

"I don't," Brendon says flatly.

"Well." Ryan sits up, the covers falling down to his waist. It's suddenly cold again. "Whatever. I should go. I kind of fought with – anyway."

"Sure, yeah." Brendon's voice is furious. "Right, yeah, because when precious Spencer calls, you come running."

"What?" Ryan asks. His fingers clench around the phone, and he drops it onto the mattress.

"So, considering you just fucked me and seemed pretty into it, I take it Spencer doesn't put out?" Brendon is glaring, his forehead creased, and when Ryan looks down, he notices that Brendon's hands are clenched into fists. It doesn't make sense.

"Spencer is straight," Ryan says slowly.

Brendon's head jerks up. "He's what?"

"Straight," Ryan repeats.

"Oh, that explains it, then," Brendon says. "I guess that's pretty frustrating, yeah, having a crush on a straight guy, seriously, how stupid are you? So I guess a fuckbuddy's a good way to let off some steam, then, right? Except for the buddy part, I mean."

Ryan stares at Brendon, and all he can hear is, I'm not cheap. "Are you jealous?" he asks.

The knuckles of Brendon's hands whiten. "Why the fuck would I be jealous?"

"I don't know," Ryan says. "Spencer's like my brother, you fucking freak. He's definitely not—I don't have a crush on him."

"Oh." Brendon deflates visibly, but the frown doesn't fall from his face, and I'm not cheap, Ryan thinks, and fuckbuddy.

He clears his throat. "You want to come along?" he asks. "I mean, whatever. It's just brunch at Jon's place, but there's more than enough food, probably, so it's not like it matters if there's one person more. Spencer's waffles are pretty good."

"Why would I want to have brunch at Jon's?" Brendon asks, his tone dismissive. "It's not like I even know the guy, besides knowing he's one of your wonderful friends, so chances are I won't like him."

"Fine," Ryan says, and it's not like he cares, fuck. Brendon can do whatever the fuck he wants, so if he prefers to rot to pieces in his shitty little apartment, then Ryan's not going to stop him. "Stay here, then. You're the one who ate the leftovers from last night, so there's nothing edible anymore, is there?"

Brendon turns away, staring straight at the wall. The display of immaturity is almost enough for Ryan to want to shove him, just for the sake of it. Instead, Ryan scrambles out of bed and gathers his clothes while Brendon sits still and rigid. Ryan's about to pocket his phone when Brendon asks, everything about him screaming reluctance, "Did you say waffles?"

"Yeah," Ryan says, perfectly flat.

Brendon turns his head, just slightly. "Yeah," he says. "Okay."

Ryan huffs out an impatient breath. "We need to buy milk on the way. That too much for you?"

Brendon lifts one shoulder. "There's still some in the fridge, I think."

"Okay," Ryan says. He thinks about texting Spencer a warning that he isn't coming alone, but he can't figure out what to write. It's not important, anyway.

---


This was a dumb idea, Brendon thinks, when Ryan pulls his crappy car into Jon's driveway. This was a really, really dumb idea, and he's a fucking idiot. He scowls down at the milk in his lap and, when Ryan doesn't move to get out of the car, waits for it.

Ryan doesn't disappoint.

"These are my friends," he says, hesitant under the coldness in his voice. "If you could, like, not be a complete asshole, that'd be awesome."

Brendon smiles sunnily at him. "I'll see what I can do," he says, airily, taking his seatbelt off and pushing his hips forward so he can stretch his back. Ryan blinks, gaze unfocused for a minute, and Brendon's grin widens before he opens the door and jumps nimbly out of the car.

"Seriously," Ryan warns when he gets out, and then he's walking up the drive. Brendon hesitates for a moment and then Ryan turns around and looks at him impatiently, until Brendon falls into step beside him (he's not going to walk behind him). He wants to fold his arms or something but he's holding the goddamn milk, so he settles for shoving one hand in his pocket and clutching the milk with unnecessary force. Ryan looks at him and raises one eyebrow, and Brendon glares. He fucking hates that Ryan thinks he can look down on Brendon.

"Who says brunch, anyway?" Brendon asks conversationally, when they reach the door. "My grandma says brunch. Do you guys have tea parties, too? Do you dress up your Barbie dolls?"

"Your grandma has Barbies?" Ryan asks, and then a foggy shape appears behind the door and Ryan lifts his chin and smiles. It is, Brendon muses with vague delight, possibly the worst fake smile Ryan's ever had. And the guy is really, really bad at acting.

Spencer opens the door, and stares at Brendon. Brendon tilts his chin up defiantly and stares back and for a moment Spencer just stands there, barely moving, before he turns to Ryan and says, "What the fuck?"

"We brought milk," Ryan says, shrugging, and pushes past Spencer. When neither Spencer or Brendon move, he looks carelessly back over his shoulder and asks, "You two coming?"

Brendon shoves the milk gracelessly at Spencer and walks through, restraining himself from knocking his shoulder against Spencer's. He's nearly seventeen years old, he tells himself, firmly. He'll get through this – this stupid brunch without incident, and then he'll go home and try to work out how he can play coming along as a direct attack on Ryan. Maybe he'll break a vase on his way out.

Ryan leads them into a kitchen; not really that big or even particularly neat, but still about twice the size of Brendon's whole apartment. There's big doors made of glass that all the light floods through, and pots and pans and a big fridge and a couple of cupboards open that are packed with food. Brendon's not an idiot, and he lived in a normal house for nearly sixteen years, but it still catches him off-guard for a moment. He's not used to it; something that's not his empty kitchen, or the dim, poky one that he only saw for a moment before Ryan's hand tightened around his wrist and dragged him past, away from the empty bottles on the table.

Jon looks up from where he's pulling ingredients out and onto a counter. For a moment, his eyes widen, but he doesn't say anything except for, "Morning. You two have a good Christmas?"

Brendon swallows hard. Ryan glances almost nervously at him and then says, "Yeah, you know. Whatever. You?"

"Pretty cool," Jon says, and then he grins and says, "Oh, wait here," and ducks away.

Spencer sighs, looking long-suffering. "Be grateful you've only just got here," he tells Ryan, avoiding looking at Brendon completely. Brendon rolls his eyes and leans back against a wall. "I've been subjected to the Look How Adorable parade all morning."

"What's adorable?" Ryan asks, and then Jon appears in the doorway cradling the tiniest kitten in the world to his chest.

"Clover is!" Jon says, beaming. "Aren't you, honey?" Clover yawns and curls up in Jon's palm, and Ryan's face practically lights up. It's pretty adorable, Brendon will give them that, but Ryan's reaction seems a little extreme, especially when he swoops down and seizes the kitten from Jon before retreating to a chair and ignoring them all in favour of petting it and whispering in its ear.

Brendon blinks at him, and then Jon turns and says, "You like pancakes, Brendon?"

Ryan looks up. "I thought we were having waffles."

Spencer narrows his eyes. "I'm always making you waffles, Ross," he says, and he sounds weird. Brendon blinks, and then realizes that Spencer's trying not to laugh. "I am not your bitch."

"My kitchen bitch," Ryan says, and the corner of his mouth is twitching. Brendon tries not to stare. "Come on, Spence, I helped you with your essay the other day—"

"That was in repayment for more waffles!"

"Um," Brendon says quietly, because Jon's flicked an amused glance to him. "I like pancakes."

"I promised him waffles," Ryan says hotly, jerking his head in Brendon's direction. "I said that you made good ones!"

"Oh, well, if you promised him," Spencer says, eyes darkening, and Brendon kind of wants to die a little bit. This was such a bad idea – he's got no fucking, he can't do anything, not here, not in their home.

"Brendon and I are having pancakes," Jon announces, cutting over the two of them. "I'm making lots of batter, but if you two keep being losers, we're going to eat your share, too." He turns to Brendon, and says in an almost bizarre, dignified voice, "Brendon, will you please get the eggs out of the fridge?"

"Uh," Brendon says, "Sure," and does so. Spencer watches him closely, as if Brendon's likely to smash the eggs on the floor in a fit of rage. Brendon tries not to hunch his shoulders.

"Seriously, Spence," Ryan says, sounding more and more childish with the minute. "You're so fucking mean. I wanted waffles. Why the fuck do you think I keep you around, anyway?"

"I don't know why you worried about me being an asshole to them," Brendon says without thinking, "when clearly that's your default mode." Ryan gapes at him, but Jon bursts out laughing and Spencer smiles a little reluctantly. Brendon puts his hands in his pockets and rocks back and forward awkwardly, thinks, well, at least there's pancakes.


Continues here.
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