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

Part 3/9

Continued from here.


It's been an exceptionally slow Wednesday so far. Brendon supposes it's because tomorrow is Thanksgiving, but he's not thinking about that. It'll be a normal day of work for him tomorrow, and he isn't thinking about his mother's turkey and the whole family grouped around the table, isn't thinking about laughter and warmth and the sound of forks scraping over porcelain.

At least he'll have the whole Friday off. He could use the money, but just the thought of a whole day to himself, nothing to do but sleep and eat and sleep some more, it's enough to make his knees go weak. Three hours more today, and then eight tomorrow. He can do that.

"Brendon?" Haley asks, and he blinks tiredly and pulls himself back into the task at hand.

"Yeah," he says, "sorry. Anyway, in order to clean this, you just lift the lid and take this thing here out, right? Just use water, no soap or anything, or it'll make the smoothies taste funny." He's distantly aware of the doorbell, but he clicks the filter back into place before he looks up.

A moment later, he almost wishes he hadn't. After all, it's not like he's been trying to forget about Ryan and Ryan's hands and the choked, helpless noises he made while humping Brendon's leg—Right, yeah. It's not like Brendon's been trying to forget about that for the better part of today's shift. And today's classes. Not to mention last night.

How the fuck has this become his life?

"Hey," Spencer says, obviously smiling at Haley while simultaneously pretending not to do just that. If he were anyone else, it might be cute. As it is, Brendon bites back a groan.

"I'm going to take my break," he tells Haley, "need some fresh air," and he doesn't know why his voice rises to carry to where Ryan is standing still and unreadable with Spencer. "If you need me, I'll be out in the back alley."

She gives him a slightly surprised nod. "Yeah, okay, sure."

Brendon turns on his heel and tells himself he doesn't want Ryan to follow. It's not like they have a… thing or whatever. They don't. They just sort of fell a few times, and the other's mouth happened to be there to catch them. Brendon just needs some fresh air, that's all.

He lets the backdoor swing shut and leans against the rough concrete of the wall that separates the opposite house from the small alley. It's just a connection between one road and the next, hardly ever frequented and bereft of any charm, overflowing trashcans beside the backdoor of the smoothie shop. Brendon squares his shoulders, shifts his weight and tips his head back, glaring up at the clear sky. It's times like this that he wishes he smoked.

Not that he could afford it.

He's just about done with his monologue on how he really doesn't want Ryan to come out here, twelve minutes left of his break, when the back door creaks open and Ryan peers out uncertainly. Brendon straightens and gives him an unimpressed look. "Couldn't wait till Tuesday, or what?"

Ryan doesn't answer right away. He closes the door behind him and steps out into the alley, and it's pretty random for Brendon's mind to notice how Ryan's t-shirt is so tight and scene that it rides up to show a slice of white skin above the waistband of his black jeans. Brendon has always liked contrasts.

Ryan's flat voice shakes Brendon out of his musings. "What, you're assuming that every detention's going to end now with spunk in your pants?"

"Pot, meet kettle." Brendon makes his lips curl. "If I remember correctly, you were the one who got so loud I had to shut you up with my mouth. Seems like it's been a while. Girls not putting out for you, Ross?"

"Well, you see," Ryan says smoothly, stepping closer. Brendon doesn't budge. "I just thought a homophobic Mormon boy would pose more of a challenge."

"Fuck you, asshole," Brendon hisses out, and then his fingers curl in Ryan's t-shirt and he pulls him in with enough momentum to make Ryan stumble, catching himself with his palms flat against the wall, one on each side of Brendon's head. Brendon hopes it fucking hurt. He surges forward and Ryan leans in and their mouths meet harshly, teeth clicking. Ryan forces Brendon's head back against the wall, pressing his whole body back against it and that shouldn't work because Ryan is nothing but skin and bones and, this close, cheekbones and lashes and eyes of a strange honey-colored brown.

Brendon shuts his eyes and brings one thigh up between Ryan's legs. Ryan makes a deliciously raw noise in the back of his throat, and Brendon will totally throw that at him later, nice to know you're gagging for it, Ross, but right now, it goes straight to his cock and when Ryan grinds against him, a slow roll of their hips, Brendon has to bite down on a moan himself. Fuck, he's not going to give Ryan the satisfaction of letting him see just how much he's getting to Brendon.

Ryan sucks Brendon's bottom lip into his mouth and Brendon adjusts to the pressure. The rough concrete wall is digging into his back, chafing his skin, and the t-shirt is old and Brendon isn't certain how much more of this it can take, and fuck, but he really couldn't care less.

"Your apron is stupid," Ryan utters randomly.

"Your face is stupid," Brendon shoots back, shoving his hips forward and his leg up, and Ryan slumps forward a little, panting wetly against Brendon's cheek.

"Your mom's face is stupid," Ryan says weakly, and it could be funny, almost, except for how it makes Brendon's stomach clench helplessly. Then one of Ryan's hands slides into Brendon's pants and oh, Jesus, they're in a public place, people could be walking by any moment, and still Brendon tips his head back, shoulders dragging over the wall, and yeah, that was his t-shirt tearing, all right.

"My break," he gets out somehow. Ryan's fingers curl around his cock. Brendon is achingly hard by now, and in all honesty, he's probably been hard since Ryan poked his head out of the door, or maybe even since Ryan walked into the shop, or possibly even since he woke up this morning. Therefore, it's no surprise Brendon almost curses when Ryan runs one finger around the head.

"Your break?" Ryan supplies, sounding smug.

"I have to be back in, like, five minutes, or Haley will come looking," Brendon manages. He's pretty proud it's coherent and not too breathless, despite how Ryan's now rubbing his thumb over the slit of Brendon's cock, and oh God, Brendon will never be able to look at Ryan's hands again without feeling his cock twitch. In retaliation, he rubs his leg up against Ryan's groin and is rewarded with another choked noise.

"I told Spencer," another stifled gasp, "I had to go use the bathroom. He might be wondering already."

"Probably is," Brendon says.

"Yeah." Ryan nods, lips dragging over Brendon's cheek, and squeezes Brendon's cock once before he takes his hand out of Brendon's jeans and steps back. Brendon opens his eyes, and okay, he's not far enough gone to protest, but it takes him a moment to loosen his grip on Ryan's t-shirt. The skin on his left shoulder blade stings.

"I should get back inside," Ryan says evenly. His pupils are slightly widened, though, and there are two bright spots of color high on his cheeks.

"You should," Brendon says. He lets go.

Ryan stands silent for a few seconds, then he inhales audibly and nods, turning around to the backdoor. He tugs at the handle, but of course it doesn't open. Ryan throws a questioning glance at Brendon over his shoulder, and Brendon pushes away from the wall. "It's locked," he says. "What did you think?"

He could refuse to unlock the door and force Ryan to go back in through the front door, tinkling bells entailing awkward explanations to Spencer. Yeah, Brendon could. Instead, he unlocks the door for Ryan, their shoulders brushing as Ryan squeezes past him to go back inside without another word or glance. Brendon waits another minute before following, stopping to get a jacket out of his bag and put that on under his apron, covering the ripped shirt. He tells himself he only let Ryan back in to spare himself the humiliation of Ryan caving to his best friend's questions and tell Spencer in great detail just what he's been up to.

Spencer seems like the type to defend his friends' honor. Not that Brendon's sure that it's Ryan's honor that's at stake here.

When he gets back to the front, Ryan and Spencer are already gone, and Haley is smiling slightly to herself. She looks up at Brendon's return, but if she realized that those were the same guys that asked after Brendon a couple weeks back or so, she doesn't mention it. He's almost grateful for that.


The t-shirt really is ripped. It's only an inch-long tear, but it's right at his shoulder blade and pretty obvious in the mirror, when he twists his head around to get a better look at it.

He pulls the shirt over his head and tosses it aside. On his shoulder blade, matching the tear in the t-shirt, is an angry red cut where the concrete chafed his skin. He runs a finger over it and it stings, but the sensation also makes him shiver with an echo of Ryan's fingers wrapped around his cock. Brendon sighs and drops his head. Fuck, he really has no idea what's happening here.

His stomach growls to remind him that he hasn't eaten since the morning. Brendon glances down at his half-hard cock, then bites down on his lip and resolutely leaves the bathroom, turning the light off. There's still one of Kara's containers left. He heats it up and even remembers to water the plant, flicking one of the leaves while the heavenly scent of soup slowly begins to fill the kitchen. The weight behind Brendon's forehead subsides a little. Four days without school, and the day after the next without having to see even a single piece of fruit. He hasn't played his guitar in what feels like years, although it's probably been only a week.

Later, he sits cross-legged on his bed, watching the pilot of Dark Angel with Jessica Alba while spooning his soup. Even though he's come to realize that he's more into smooth chests than breasts, he loves watching her whirl over the screen, black leather and cat-like grace, dark hair and serious eyes.

Brendon thinks he might need a vacation.


His eight hour shift goes by pretty quickly, surprisingly, uneventful and easy, and when he gets back to the apartment he's still alert enough to play his guitar for a while, put on August And Everything and tries to play along with as many of the songs as he can. He goes to bed early out of boredom, and as a result he wakes up earlier than expected.

It's weird, the prospect of being alone in the apartment for a whole day. Brendon's used to having to go to work or school (or detention; his back stings, where it scraped against the wall) and the twenty-four hours with nothing to do stretches out aimlessly in front of him. At first he kind of thinks he'll be bored, but then he spends nearly five hours catching up with every bit of schoolwork he's fallen behind on. By the time he's done his stomach is growling and his neck and back are stiff from bending over his laptop (a handy Christmas present from the year before last, and if he sits in a certain corner he can pinch the neighbor's wireless).

His mind is fogged and sluggish, so he pulls on his shoes and his jacket and heads outside for a walk to clear his head. He's considering catching a bus into the inner city to do some window-shopping and stop by his favourite record store, but he's just made it to the bus stop when he remembers that most of the shops will be shut. He hesitates, then heads for home.

Actually, he thinks, the prospect of most of a day left at home with nothing to do is pretty awesome. He can lie in bed all day and watch movies, catch up on sleep. He's forgotten what it's like to not be exhausted and it might be nice, he muses, to wake up for school and not want to die. With this in mind, he crawls into bed in his t-shirt and underwear upon arriving home and sleeps for nearly four hours.

He's woken by his phone buzzing insistently on the floor, vibrating round in persistent circles. He scrambles for it, clumsy with sleep, and answers just in time, mumbling, "H'lo?"

"Hey," Kara says. She's whispering – Brendon thinks a little meanly that it's early enough in the day that she'll have to hide away if she wants to call him without the rest of the family noticing. Especially considering they're all going to be there; Brendon's stomach does a slow, nauseous roll, thinking of them all there. He curls down further under his heap of blankets. "What are you up to?" Kara asks.

"Not much," Brendon says, and yawns. "M'not working, so I did some homework."

"Good for you," Kara says, and she does sound really pleased. "You're doing really well, Brendon. Listen, I'm still waiting to talk to Mom and Dad about college—"

"Yeah," Brendon says. "It's okay, I'm saving a bit, too, and there's scholarships I can try for."

"You'll get them," Kara says, and Brendon will never say it but he loves that about her; her automatic, immediate belief that he can do whatever he wants. He tunes back in to a slight ramble about how his other sister almost ruined the turkey, and then, "What are you eating for dinner?"

"Um," he says, doing a mental inventory of his cupboards. "Cereal, I guess. I think I'm all out of everything else, unless there's some Ramen somewhere. Thanks again for the soup, though, it was great."

"Don't mention it," Kara says, oddly formal. She sounds suspiciously close to tears and Brendon makes a face at the wall, feeling guilty and mean; he should know when to lie, damn it. Kara's the best and kindest person in the world but he thinks he should learn to keep shit to himself.

"Anyway," he says brightly, "I'm going out with some friends tomorrow, so I think we're going to do a big lunch thing then. Probably won't be very healthy, but whatever."

"Oh," Kara says. "Oh, that sounds great. I'm glad you're not working all through the holiday. Who are your friends, Brendon? That guy Brent?"

Brendon's disinterested lab partner? Sure, why not. "Yup," he says. "And a couple of other guys, too. It'll be fun."

"Sure it will," Kara says. "Sure, so, have a good time."

"You, too," Brendon says. "Happy Thanksgiving, I love you."

"Love you, too. Happy Thanksgiving," Kara says and hangs up. Brendon puts the phone back down by the mattress, pulls the covers over his head, and goes back to sleep for the day.


Ryan hates holidays. They inevitably seem to reduce him to a petulant three year old stomping around his room, pissed off at being on his own because his friends are spending time with their families. He and his dad are reduced to ghostlike figures that sit in different rooms and shout about mealtimes through the hallways, glowering at the walls. Fuck, Ryan hates holidays.

Ryan doesn't even get the point of them. Spencer and Jon are busy all weekend, not just on Thanksgiving itself, and it's a silly thing, to think you have to leave certain days exclusively for blood relatives. By Saturday he's worked himself into a really annoyed state, and even bumming around on the internet doesn't work him out of it, especially when Spencer IMs him with how you holding up? Ryan's not taking any goddamn sympathy, not even from Spencer, so he logs off without replying, pulls on his hoodie and grabs his keys and wallet before announcing to the silent house that he's going out.

He catches the first bus he sees. He got a car (if you could call it that) a few months ago but parking is always ridiculous and he's honestly not sure how long it's going to hold up. He catches the bus and plugs in his iPod and scowls at other people because he's damned if he's not going to spread his bad mood.

When he gets off the bus in the city, he's honestly not wandering anywhere in particular. It's nearly six and most of the shops are closing, but he stops and picks up the new issue of the Rolling Stone and an ice cream which freezes his tongue but tastes good, and mostly it's just nice to be out of the oppressive (and sometimes smelly) atmosphere of his bedroom.

The Smoothie Hut is right at the top of the street he normally walks up, anyway, so it's not like he's heading directly for there. When he gets there, though, he can't help but glance in the window and then he stops still and stares, because Brendon's leaning against the counter, flicking through a magazine, and, what? Shouldn't he be with his precious little family?

He doesn't understand, but before he's even made up his mind about the best course of action he's stepping through the door, pushing it open with that annoying little jangle. Brendon says, without looking up and sounding really bored, "We're closing in five minutes."

Ryan doesn't say anything, and Brendon looks up and then freezes. They stare at each other for a moment and then Brendon narrows his eyes, says, "What do you want?"

"Why the fuck are you working?" Ryan blurts out without meaning to, and Brendon stiffens, back perfectly straight.

"It's a job, Ryan," he drawls. "The concept is pretty simple."

Ryan swallows and looks away. The silence stretches on, awkward, and then finally Brendon repeats, "What d'you want, then?"

Ryan's quiet for a moment, tries to answer it himself, and then he raises his head and says, "You're closing in five minutes?"

Brendon presses his lips into a tight, white line. Then he shakes his head slightly, corner of his mouth twisting into an incredulous, crooked smile. "You've got some nerve," he says, and Ryan hunches his shoulders defensively. Brendon looks at him tiredly, like it's taxing just to look at Ryan. He says, "Okay, whatever. I'll be out in two minutes."

He turns around and disappears through the doors behind the counter, and Ryan goes back outside, leans against the wall and waits. He feels jittery, skin crawling, and he feels overly conscious of the material of his hoodie against the bare skin of his arms, the denim of his jeans.

Brendon appears minus the stupid apron but still wearing an equally stupid lilac t-shirt. He folds his arms in front of his chest and says, "So. Hi." Ryan blinks and then rolls his eyes, smirking at Brendon and Brendon bristles.

"I'm kind of cold," Brendon says sharply. "And I wanna go home, so can we get this over with?"

"Um," Ryan says, because he hasn't actually thought this far ahead. "You want to go around the back again?"

Brendon blinks at him in disbelief. "Are you serious?" he says. "Fucking – you gonna pay me, too?"

Ryan begins, hotly, "I wasn't—" and Brendon cuts him off with a harsh laugh, pulling on a hoodie over his t-shirt.

"Yeah, whatever," he says. "We'll just – we can't go to your place?"

"Uh, no?" Ryan says, giving Brendon an incredulous look. "My dad's home."

"Fine," Brendon says. He looks away, down the street, tapping his fingers on his arm restlessly. He looks a little bit frantic, almost like he was before he kissed Ryan but different, too, and he runs his hand through his hair once, twice, before he turns back to Ryan and says, again, "Fine." And then, "We'll go back to my place."

Ryan laughs. "What," he says, "And avoid the whole Mormon household?"

Brendon looks at him, eyes dark, face carefully blank. "I don't live with my parents," he says.


The bus ride to Brendon's place is silent. Brendon looks out the window, and he looks furious, so Ryan doesn't say anything, even though he has a million questions: why don't you live with them? Is it like that kid in our English class whose parents pay for him to have an apartment in the city? Do you like it? Is it fun? Were you working because you were lonely? Why are you lonely, why are you on your own, why don't you have any friends—

Brendon looks at him and says dismissively, "You look really dumb with your mouth hanging open."

Quick, hot anger rushes through Ryan; why are you such an asshole, he thinks, and he says nothing. Brendon leans forward, anyway, all up in Ryan's personal space to press the buzzer to stop the bus, and Ryan stays still, doesn't move.

It's raining when they get out, and Brendon looks up at the sky and swears under his breath. Ryan pulls his hood up over his head and Brendon follows suit, walking a few paces in front of him. The area is kind of dodgy, dilapidated buildings and lots of graffiti, and Ryan tries not to look around with obvious wide eyes but thinks he fails, especially when Brendon looks over his shoulder at him and snorts, mouth twisting.

"Need me to hold your hand?" he coos sweetly. "I won't let the big bad neighborhood hurt you, don't worry—"

"Shut up," Ryan mutters. "You're the one who lives here, what the fuck."

Brendon hunches his shoulders up and doesn't respond, just pushes open the door of one of the apartment buildings (no key to get in the front door, Ryan notices, trailing behind him) and up the stairs to the fourth floor. He pauses outside a door for a moment, glancing back at Ryan, and Ryan shoves his hands in his pockets, looks back at him.

Brendon laughs mirthlessly. "I don't know why I'm doing this," he says, and unlocks the door, pushing the way inside.

Brendon's apartment is tiny and smelly in a different way to Ryan's room – less teenage boy, more dampness and stale air. Ryan counts two rooms: a tiny little kitchenette with a shaky table that looks like Brendon picked it up outside of someone's house before the garbage men got there and an older looking fridge that opens into a slightly larger space, a living room with a laptop open in front of a large mattress with rumpled blankets on it; and a little door leading into what Ryan presumes is the bathroom. He looks around him and then back at Brendon, who is standing in the middle of his kitchen, arms folded, eyes dark and angry, chin jutting out defiantly.

For lack of anything else to say, Ryan asks, "How long have you lived here?"

"Since the beginning of the year," Brendon says slowly, like he's waiting for the catch. The words resound in Ryan's head and he thinks, that long? and then thinks about how this year, they'd stopped fighting whenever they happened to run into each other, or when one of them had pissed the other off. He looks at Brendon and thinks, this year you came looking for me.

"Okay," he says.

Brendon says, "So," and Ryan crosses the floor to him. He feels awkward for a moment but Brendon moves at the same time, heading straight for him, grabbing at him and tugging him in close. He bites at Ryan's lip, fingers rough and bruising on Ryan's sides, and Ryan thinks it's strange, how this is a holiday, this is meant to be a cheerful time, and yet Brendon's shitty, lonely little apartment is still the place he'd rather be.

They're standing, pulling at each other, halfway between the front door and Brendon's mattress. It's distantly funny how Ryan is convinced that by now, he can almost read Brendon's mood by the way he's kissing. Brendon is biting down on Ryan's lower lip, rough and harsh, no sense of finesse whatsoever as his teeth sink in almost enough to draw blood, and Ryan shouldn't know this because he doesn't know Brendon, but it's a pretty good indicator of Brendon's frustration. Or maybe Ryan's reading too much into this. It's not like he cares.

He twists his fingers in Brendon's hair, pulling until Brendon makes choked noises of pain and pulls back to glare at him. "You're the one biting me, assface," Ryan says, unfazed. He bends his head to suck at the skin below Brendon's jaw, and this time, the sounds Brendon makes aren't of pain. Ryan smiles and stores them away for later, next time Brendon tells him he's too loud.

It takes him a moment to realize that right here, now, it doesn't matter how loud they are. The muffled noise of a television from the neighboring apartment makes it through the thin wall, and Ryan pushes Brendon down onto the mattress while grey light fills all the corners of the room.

The bed gives underneath them, too soft and worn-down to bear the weight of two bodies very well, laptop sliding onto the floor. Brendon, apparently used to it, just rolls with the dip and somehow manages to sprawl on top of Ryan, grinning down at him with a kind of smug satisfaction that's almost enough for Ryan to want to punch him. Instead, he grabs Brendon's head with both hands and forces him down, kisses the grin right off Brendon's face until they're both panting and rocking against each other.

Brendon turns his head away for a greedy breath. Ryan watches the sharp line of Brendon's shoulder, his throat, and wonders how often Brendon gets a decent meal. Since Ryan's father is rarely in any shape to consider any kind of nutrition that doesn't come in bottles, Ryan's gotten pretty good at just helping himself to his father's wallet to do grocery shopping. His pride forbids him to take any more than he strictly needs, and while he doesn't have Spencer's natural ability to make something tasty out of whatever ingredients he gets his hands on, it's usually edible. So, Ryan eats. He's just naturally skinny.

With Brendon, he's honestly not so sure.

He skims his palm down Brendon's back, the ripples of Brendon's spine standing out sharply through the thin cotton. For a moment, Brendon seems to arch into the touch, then he shakes his head and narrows his eyes, face hovering inches above Ryan's. "What, Ross?" he asks, voice tight.

"Nothing," Ryan says. He takes his hand away like he's been burned, and then they're kissing again, the wet sound of it mingling with the muted noise of the television.

It's Brendon who reaches between them this time, and Ryan holds his breath when Brendon's fingers sneak past the waistband of his jeans, into his underwear, Brendon's arm twisted awkwardly to make it work. Ryan makes an embarrassingly needy sound when Brendon's curls around his cock. He closes his eyes so he won't have to see Brendon watching him intently, clearly gauging Ryan's reactions, possibly storing them away to use against him later. Ryan's not going to give him the satisfaction.

Still, he finds it hard to keep his hips from twitching into Brendon's grip when Brendon rakes a nail along the length of Ryan's erection. It's quite obvious from the hesitant curl of his hand that he hasn't ever done this to anyone else, and that shouldn't be a turn-on, but it kind of is. At least it means Brendon can't make fun of Ryan for his inexperience.

"Oh, fuck this," Brendon mutters suddenly. Ryan slits his eyes open to find Brendon's brow furrowed.

"I think you're moving a little ahead of yourself, there," Ryan says, and he's pleased that his voice is perfectly flat.

Brendon gives him a dark look and lifts himself up onto his knees, balancing on one hand to undo the zipper of Ryan's jeans, and wait, what? "The angle is killing my arm," Brendon says, tugging at the jeans and the boxers underneath. Ryan lifts his hips up without pausing to think. Brendon pushes the cloth down Ryan's thighs, and Ryan nearly sighs when Brendon's hand curls around him again, almost misses Brendon's, "And getting you off just isn't worth risking a cramp."

"Yeah, fuck you, too," Ryan mutters. In response, Brendon's grip tightens, almost too much, and fuck, fuck, but it feels good when he slowly loosens it again.

Ryan undoes Brendon's pants mostly for something to do with his own hands, other than fist them in Brendon's hair, maybe push Brendon's head down, which would be just far too close to begging. "What are you—" Brendon begins.

"It's called a handjob," Ryan interrupts him, and when he gets Brendon's pants and underwear down and squeezes Brendon's fully hard cock, hot and the head already slick with precome, Brendon gasps out a curse and sinks down. Their hands brush before Brendon nudges Ryan out of the way and curls his hand around both their cocks, only his fingers don't cover enough, not nearly enough, and Ryan turns his head into the pillow that smells like Brendon, and shit, it's not like Ryan even wants to know what Brendon smells like, but that sickly sweet scent of fruit and boy fills his head anyway, mixing with the dizzying rush of spiraling down, down.

Ryan covers what Brendon can't with his own hand, their fingers overlapping as Brendon rolls his hips, the combined friction of his thrusts and their moving hands almost too much stimulation. Ryan bites down on the inside of his cheek to keep quiet, eyes squeezed shut so tightly he sees sparks, and counts out Brendon's jerky motions in his head so as to distract himself just a little, five six seven, cling to the edge just a moment longer, ten eleven, so he won't embarrass himself, thirteen, and he nearly chokes in relief when Brendon comes warm and sticky over both their hands.

He's pretty sure he groans out something intelligible when he lets go, but at least, he thinks, blackness exploding behind his lids, at least he didn't come first. They're even.

They lie panting, catching their breaths, for what might be a few minutes, but is probably no more than one. Brendon is the one who moves first, rolling off Ryan and lifting his hand up to his face, inspecting it. "That's kind of disgusting," he announces.

Ryan snorts. "It's yours as much as mine."

Instead of replying, Brendon wipes his hand on Ryan's t-shirt, and since Ryan is stunned into stillness for just a second, he doesn't scramble away fast enough. "What the fuck," he grits out, catching Brendon's wrist and squeezing until he can feel bones shifting beneath his fingers.

Brendon's eyes narrow, his hand turning white in Ryan's tight hold. "Since you thought it was perfectly alright to destroy my t-shirt last time we met under," he pauses for a dark chuckle, "much the same circumstances, I thought it only fair to return the favor."

"I destroyed your t-shirt?" Ryan asks, despite himself. He loosens his grip just slightly, and God, what? It's not like he cares about how Brendon probably can't afford too many new clothes, if the state of his apartment is any indication.

"Concrete and cotton," Brendon says evenly. "You make the calculation, if that isn't too much of a challenge for you."

"Oh, fuck you," Ryan says. He lets go and pushes himself into a sitting position, tugging his pants and underwear back up his thighs, zipping the pants up with one hand.

"Wow, that was witty," Brendon says, still lying on his back with his softening dick on display, like he couldn't care less. Ryan maybe hates him for his nonchalance. Well, for his nonchalance, amongst other things.

"Company's rubbing off, I guess," Ryan says. "Which is my cue to leave. Have a nice evening, or whatever."

Brendon smiles, utterly cold and fake. "Whatever, Ross. You too."

Ryan stands near the door for a moment, looking down at Brendon and his carefully relaxed posture, and he's torn between not wanting to return to his father's house and not wanting to be here any longer, in this shitty little apartment with a guy he can't stand, even though the sex isn't half-bad.

Brendon raises a brow. "Waiting for a goodbye kiss?"

Ryan shakes his head and finally turns away. "No," he says. "Thanks for the offer, but no, thanks." He doesn't wait for a reply, just opens the door and steps out into the dark hallway. The light switch glows a few steps ahead, and Ryan takes a deep breath and starts walking.


The moment the door falls shut, Brendon releases a breath and closes his eyes, rubbing his clean hand over his face. Just, shit. What the fuck was he thinking, taking Ryan back to his apartment, allowing him that glimpse into his life. Brendon doesn't want his pity; he's doing just fine without people walking on eggshells around him, thanks.

At least Ryan didn't dwell on it.

Brendon listens to the fading footsteps down the hallway outside, the creak of the third step on the staircase that barely makes it over the neighbor's daily dose of soap operas. Only then does he get up, glancing down at his groin with a mixture of emotions he can't quite make sense of.

Well. So now he knows what it feels like to have another guy's cock in his hand, and to feel that guy's cock rubbing against his own. It's… pretty damn amazing, in all honesty.

Brendon exhales around a sigh and shimmies out of his pants and underwear, slightly soiled even though they weren't quite in the direct line of events, so to speak. Another two items to add to his growing laundry pile, then.

He turns the music on as he walks over to the kitchenette, tossing his t-shirt onto the floor when he notices there's a stain on it as well. The refrigerator breathes cold air over his naked body and he shivers a little. There's no food left except for a chocolate bar some customer forgot at the Smoothie Hut yesterday. It's pretty pathetic, as far as dinner goes, but Brendon just can't work up the energy to get dressed and spend money he doesn't have too much of anyway at the grocery store around the corner.

Instead, he slides under the covers fully naked and retrieves the laptop that tumbled onto the floor earlier. Since Brendon's mattress isn't high above floor level, nothing seems to be broken and it boots without complaint.

There's a wet spot on the mattress. Brendon looks at it for a long moment before he determinedly covers it with the blanket. It takes him a long time to go to sleep and even then, and for the rest of the weekend, he sleeps restlessly and wakes up hard and aching, which is only marginally better than lonely. In any case, alone in his apartment, both things amount to much of the same.


Ryan's bad mood, if possible, grows over what's left of the weekend. He gets a little bit lost heading home from Brendon's place, ends up panicking and getting off two stops too early, and then walking back into the city to catch the bus home from there. By the time he gets home, he's cold and damp from the rain, and his mood doesn't improve over time.

Lost or not on the way back home, he remembers the way to Brendon's apartment, remembers the bus to catch and the street to get off at, and he spends most of the weekend trying to force himself to stay home. It would be ridiculously pathetic, he knows, to turn up uninvited, and it'll look too much like he wants to see Brendon – which he doesn't – rather than just getting off.

He ends up jerking himself off a ridiculous amount over the weekend, and there's a slow, lingering heat in him that flares up at the thought of Tuesday. It's ridiculous to look forward to detention and Ryan's not, but he can't deny he prefers this version of hating Brendon to the one that sent him home with black eyes and a split lip.

Spencer calls on Monday and asks if he wants to go the movies with him and Jon, celebrate the fact that they have the day off school for a teachers’ in-service, but Ryan ends up turning him down. He can't quite decide why; he feels unsettled, restless in a way that sitting in a dark theater and chucking popcorn at Jon's head isn't going to satisfy. He thinks about going to the Smoothie Hut again, wonders how often Brendon works there, how much he earns (he looked so skinny). He doesn't go, of course. He's not that dumb, he doesn't want Brendon to get any more ammunition against him than he's already got.

Jon picks him up for school on Tuesday, clearly having talked his mother into letting him borrow the car again. Spencer's hunched grumpily over a thermos that Ryan guesses has coffee in it in the passenger seat so Ryan slips into the back.

"What's up?" he says, automatically, and Jon grins at him.

"Spencer's having his customary post-holiday weekend hissy fit," he informs Ryan. Spencer glares.

"It goes so fast," he says. "Why the fuck does it always go so fast? I don't want to go to school."

"Yeah," Ryan agrees, mindlessly. Jon smirks at him in the rear-view mirror.

"Look on the bright side, Spence," he says. "At least we don't have detention."

Spencer laughs, cheered, and Ryan rolls his eyes and repeats, "Yeah." In his lap, he twists his fingers together, white-knuckled at awkward angles.


Brendon's not in Biology. Ryan doesn't know what it means that he notices right away, looks at the classroom and thinks wait, what? but he does. Brent looks bored and annoyed, the way you do when you're going to have to end up doing an experiment by yourself, and Ryan almost, almost asks him if he knows where Brendon is. Ryan's itchy and half-hard from thinking about Saturday, and he'll be really fucking pissed if Brendon's decided not to show up.

Jon notices, too. He rolls his eyes and says, "Hey, looks like we might actually manage to have a class free of jerkishness."

"Um," Ryan says, and laughs. Brent looks at them, cheek resting in his hand, tapping his fingers on the table and clearly listening, but doesn't say anything in Brendon's defence. Ryan thinks of Brendon's fierce, defiant expression standing by the kitchen table of his apartment and swallows hard, looks away. He thinks, maybe the beating each other up thing was better, after all.

"Ryan?" Jon says, frowning.

"Uh, sorry," Ryan says. "Drifted off, sorry, what were you saying?"

"If you've got the worksheet from last class," Jon repeats. "You took it home, remember?" He sounds amused but his eyes linger on Ryan's face, unreadable, and Ryan takes the opportunity to search through his bag and avoid Jon's gaze. He wonders if Jon's been talking to Spencer, if they've been discussing him behind his back. A fierce, hot anger rises inside him but he clamps it down; he has an awful feeling he's been more tempted generally to get pissed at people for no reason. He can save useless anger for someone he's sure will always hit back.

He's all ready to be pissed off at Brendon upon going to detention and finding him absent from that too, but Brendon is there, already sitting in his corner by the time Ryan arrives. Ryan says hi to Wentz and then closes the door behind him, leaning against the wall. Brendon looks up at him, kind of wary, and Ryan feels his mouth twist into something ugly automatically.

"Where the fuck were you today?" he asks abruptly, and then wants to kick himself. Seriously.

Brendon raises his eyebrows. "Miss me, darling?" he asks, but his words lack the customary venom. He sounds tired; there are dark shadows under his eyes. Ryan remembers, vaguely, the antibiotics sitting in the middle of Brendon's kitchen table, the other girl at the Smoothie Hut saying he was at the doctor's.

"I think it's fucking unfair that you get away with skipping as much as you do," Ryan says.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," Brendon groans, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the wall. "Coming from you, that's the most hypocritical thing I've ever heard. And I don't. That often, anyway."

"Whatever," Ryan says. He looks at Brendon uneasily for a moment, hands flexing at his sides. Brendon catches sight of them and scowls.

"Fuck you," he says. "I think I've been your right hand for long enough."

"Yeah, okay, man," Ryan says. "I bet you managing to hold out for about three seconds is a sure sign of you having a bad time."

"Don't flatter yourself," Brendon says, sneering. "You think it's your particular presence that does that?"

"I figured just your general immaturity," Ryan says smoothly, and sinks to the floor, reaching for a pile of files. Brendon's eyes are dark watching him, whether he wants to admit it or not, and Ryan can wait. It'll be more gratifying when Brendon comes to him, pulls him close. Brendon doesn't even respond, so Ryan guesses it won't be long.

They work in silence for a while. Ryan refuses to look at Brendon, waits with his skin prickling and his dick half-hard, trying not to rub his hand against it as is the temptation, or worse, crawl over to Brendon and into his lap. After nearly fifteen minutes, though, Ryan's had enough of ignoring him, and he looks up and then stops, gaping.

Brendon's fast asleep, head fallen back against the wall, body slumped carefully into the corner. His hands twitch a little on the denim of his jeans as he mumbles something and Ryan starts across the room to wake him up, laugh at him, upset the files that Brendon's started sorting. Instead, he ends up sitting a bare foot away and staring at Brendon's smooth face, his eyelashes dark against his skin.

Ryan doesn't want to look after Brendon, the guy's a shit and Ryan fucking hates him, but he can't quite bring himself to wake Brendon up. Just because Brendon looks kind of peaceful, for the first time in forever, like he's not fighting with everybody in the world and himself on top of that.

In the end, he reaches out and grabs the pile that Brendon was sorting, and he sorts through them extra fast, keeping one eye on his phone for the time and another on the door that Wentz could walk through at any moment. He's not sure why he's doing this, but he gets on a roll with the files and ends up managing more than enough for the two of them on a slow day, and so, whatever, it gets done and Ryan doesn't care if Brendon sleeps if it stops him from bitching at Ryan for a little while.

Five minutes before it's time for them to leave, Ryan orders the files he's been working on neatly and crawls back over to Brendon's corner. He hesitates for a moment, says, "Urie. Urie, hey, hey, Brendon," and then, when he doesn't wake up, reaches out tentatively and touches Brendon's shoulder. He curls his hand around Brendon, feels the bone underneath cloth and skin and shakes him kind of gently, to avoid getting smacked in the face by someone waking up.

"Hey," he says. "Hey, it's time to go."

Brendon stirs slowly, eyelashes fluttering against his skin. He mumbles something, low and groggy under his breath, and Ryan leaves his hand where it is, the cotton of Brendon's shirt warm against his skin. Brendon's eyes are clouded for a moment, staring up at Ryan in a dreamy kind of way until he suddenly snaps awake.


It's been months since Brendon's been woken by anything other than the shrill alarm of his battered cell phone, and he's generally not someone who needs a lot of time to regain a sense of his surroundings. When Ryan shakes him awake, it takes Brendon several slow blinks to even identify the guy bent over him because his first sluggish thought is, vanilla, and his second is, wow, hot, and only the third is Ryan when it clearly should have been the first.

The simple fact is enough to make him suddenly, irrationally angry. Screw Ryan Ross and his stupid fucking pity just because he thinks he knows a thing or two about Brendon's life now. He doesn't.

Brendon shoves him away with both hands flat on Ryan's chest, enough momentum for Ryan to go stumbling into a cabinet, the dull metallic clank echoing in the stuffy room. "What the—" Ryan hisses out, straightening. Brendon glances down to find Ryan's hands curled into fists and he quickly rolls to his feet and arranges his expression into a sneer while tiredness still pulls at the corners of his eyes.

"Waiting for something?" Brendon asks. He barely recognizes the ugly tone of his voice, smug and deceptively confident. Ryan will come to him, he knows that Ryan will. Ryan always has.

Ryan pushes away from the cabinet. "For you to fucking grow some—"

The door opens right into the sentence. Wentz' eyes quickly sweep the room, from Ryan to Brendon, the ever-present grin never wavering. Brendon loosens his stance and raises his chin. "Your time's up," Wentz says, almost pleasantly. "Seems like you made some good progress today."

Brendon glances at the piles of records to his feet, and it's true. There are neatly sorted stacks where none used to be. When he raises his eyes, Ryan isn't looking at him. "Can we go now?" Ryan asks, tone petulant.

"Sure, Ryan." Wentz' smile turns slightly less manic and more genuine when he waves Ryan off. Ryan picks up his back and turns towards the door without a sideways glance, shoulders hunched up, and he pauses only when Wentz adds, "And oh, Ryan? Brendon? I'd hate to find the both of you fighting in the parking lot on the way to my car."

"Sure thing," Ryan says flatly, and then he's gone.

Wentz watches him go for a moment before he turns his head, and Brendon realizes he has yet to move. He makes himself take the two steps towards his back. "Brendon?" Wentz says from behind him.

Brendon stills and consciously fights not to tense. "Yes?"

"William—Mr. Beckett," Wentz corrects himself, "told me he has yet to receive the essay you promised to hand in today."

It's not what Brendon expected, so he picks up his bag and nods, not quite looking at Wentz. "Yeah, I. I'm sorry, I had to work yesterday, and didn't get a chance. I swear, he'll have it tomorrow." Which means at least four hours of work before Brendon can finally curl up in his bed and fight the latest burst of his flu with even more pills.

"Alright," Wentz says, and for a moment, he seems on the verge of adding something. Brendon waits for only two seconds before he slips out of the room.

When he gets outside, the sun is glaring down from a clear sky, and Ryan is long since gone already.


They don't share any classes on Wednesday, but when Brendon goes past the teacher's room to hand in his shitty excuse for an essay after his first class, he notices Ryan and Jon tucked away into a corner of the corridor, right beside the lockers. They're too involved in whatever it is they're discussing, heads bent close, so when Brendon stands just two feet away to retrieve his chemistry textbook, they don't even notice him there. He shifts a little closer, close enough to catch Ryan's reverent, "They make me sick, and I was running late so I couldn't get rid of them and I wasn't about to miss Trig, you know how Bryar is about that."

"Alright, alright." When Brendon glances over, Jon's placed a gentle hand on Ryan's shoulder. Brendon blinks and tries to quench the memory of Ryan's hand, warm even through the t-shirt, and fuck. For that short moment when Brendon was still half-asleep, it had felt good. Brendon bites the inside of his cheek while Jon adds, "I'll cover for you, okay? You'll be back for History?"

"It's not that far," Ryan says. There's a momentary pause before he adds, quietly, "Thanks."

"Sure thing," Jon replies easily, and Brendon maybe hates him a little bit. He quickly hides his face behind the door of his locker when Jon glances up, but when Ryan sets off down the corridor in the opposite direction from Jon, Brendon follows with the vague notion of being alone with Ryan to find out what kind of stupid rebellious thing Ryan is up to this time, or finish what they started yesterday, or to—God, whatever.

Ryan leaves the school grounds without any obvious sign of hesitance, walking down the street at a brisk pace, and Brendon almost misses it when he turns into a small side street. Brendon picks up his steps and rounds the corner to find Ryan a small distance ahead.

"Hey," Brendon calls out. "Hey, Ross!"

Ryan whirls around, eyes wide and surprised. Brendon advances slowly and waits for something, a jab, anything that he can respond to by swinging out. Nothing comes.

Brendon frowns and takes another step forward. "Cutting school?" he asks slowly. "Really, what would Way say?"

Ryan's eyes narrow. He lets the backpack slide off his shoulder, nudging it out of the way with the heel of his foot. "Nothing, unless some asshole rats me out."

"Huh." Brendon smiles.

"Did you follow me here?" Ryan asks unnecessarily. Instead of a reply, Brendon widens his smile and shoves at Ryan's shoulder to make him stumble back a step, against the rough wall of a house that's clearly seen better days. Reverse positions, Brendon thinks in exhilaration, moving forward, and he doesn't see it coming when Ryan grips his upper arm, nails cutting into the skin hard enough to break it while Ryan's other hand punches Brendon in the stomach.

For a second, Brendon gasps for air before he twists away, back around to shove his palm against Ryan's throat while evading the kick Ryan tries to deliver to Brendon's kneecap. He's successful until Ryan hooks his leg around Brendon's calf and Brendon stumbles and falls, Ryan going down only a blink of an eye later, gasping, one hand pressed to his throat.

"You fucker," Brendon grits out, and he tries to buck Ryan off only that Ryan shoves him into the ground at the same time and their hips knock together and shit, Brendon is hard and so is Ryan and this is fucked up on so many levels, but Brendon lifts his head off the ground and closes his eyes when Ryan's mouth covers his.

Distantly, he's aware that they're in a quiet street, alone only for the moment, but when he wraps one leg around Ryan's waist and rubs up against him, there is pretty much nothing that could matter less to him.

"Fuck you," Ryan hisses, but that doesn't stop him from shifting so that their dicks slide together, the friction of the denim between them nearly painful. It's utterly graceless, frantic and hurried as they twitch against each other, and Brendon thinks he hears footsteps from around the corner, drawing closer. He draws Ryan's bottom lip into his mouth and squeezes his eyes shut, his whole perception narrowed down to the brighthot sparks that explode in his stomach and spread until he can feel them even in his toes.

Maybe, if there were people other than Ryan who touched Brendon, Brendon wouldn't be quite so easy. As it is, he tilts his hips up for a better angle and arches his back off the ground to get closer, releasing Ryan's bottom lip from between his teeth. It's only a moment later that Ryan bites down on the skin below Brendon's jaw, sucking gently, but with an insistence that is nearly certain to leave a mark. Brendon swallows down Ryan's name before it can fully formulate on the tip of his tongue and comes.

He's not quite sure how far behind Ryan is, but by the time Brendon slits his eyes open, Ryan is jerking against him, hips stuttering erratically before he releases a long breath and stills, forehead pressed to Brendon's cheek. Brendon lifts one hand off of the ground and rests it on Ryan's shoulder blade, only realizing what he's doing a moment later.

To his surprise, Ryan doesn't comment.

They lie motionless for what might be another minute, and the footsteps were apparently only Brendon's overheated brain because they're still alone, just the two of them in a quiet little side street. Eventually, Ryan rolls off, scrambling to his feet a little awkwardly and pushing one hand through his hair, looking at anything but Brendon.

Despite the heaviness of his limbs, Brendon gets up as well. His jeans chafe against his softening cock, even more uncomfortable now than this morning, when he couldn't find any clean underwear. "Well," he says, rather aimlessly.

Ryan shrugs, face blank. Something clinks inside his backpack when he bends down to pick it up, adjusting the strap on his shoulder. Brendon is about to ask what he's got in there that has him hunch his shoulders, eyes just daring Brendon to make a comment.

Brendon doesn't. "I'll see you around," he says evenly, turning around, and he's proud he doesn't stumble when he walks back towards the school. His jeans stick to his skin, but when he checks for any outward sign as soon as he's rounded the corner, there are none. No one will be able to tell what happened just from looking at him.


Ryan's throat still hurts from Brendon shoving it when he gets down to the depot and drops the empty bottles off, and he touches it gingerly, hoping it's not bruised. He feels unreasonably tired, thoughts sluggish and head heavy, and he kind of wants to collapse facedown somewhere and just sleep, but he still has to go to school and he can't really afford to skip many class anymore, not this close to the end of the year.

His underwear is sticking uncomfortably to his skin, but Ryan tries not to think about that. He's done thinking about Brendon, anyway.

He runs through the rest of the day on auto-pilot, even though it makes Jon and Spencer look worried at lunch. He says, "Just tired," as explanation and he is, he guesses, although there's no reason for it – he just feels exhausted and pointless at the moment, not sure where he stands with anything.

Spencer reaches out and rubs the back of his neck just slightly, and Ryan raises his head, smiles sleepily at him. He looks up by accident and then back down just as quickly, but by then it's too late, and he spends the rest of lunch with the uncomfortable knowledge that across the cafeteria, Brendon is glaring at him.


Ryan's never liked school at all, but it's still slightly weird to have the last few months of it going by so fast. Before he can quite work out what's going on it's December, and he's got Friday detention again. Soon, he thinks, it'll be the Christmas break, and then it'll be exams and pretty soon he'll be graduating and out of here for good.

He's willing to admit – to himself, at least – that the prospect is maybe just a little bit frightening.

Brendon is late coming to detention, still wiping crumbs away from his mouth when he skids in the door, and Ryan looks up and rolls his eyes. He's still weirdly tired, can't even be bothered saying something calculated to piss Brendon off, so he just ignores him, sitting down and sorting idly through files.

Brendon doesn't say anything, either; when Ryan looks over at him he's staring out the window, not even doing anything. Ryan thinks about picking a fight but decides against it; doing anything with Brendon these days is just too much fucking effort. Nothing can ever be simple, nothing ever happens that Ryan doesn't find himself stressing or getting angry about afterwards, and Ryan's so tired.

He goes home and his dad's drinking again, home early from work and stumbling around in the living room. Ryan goes upstairs to his room and locks the door. He lies on his bed to start reading a book for English before he heads over to Spencer's for movie night, and then falls asleep almost by accident. He doesn't wake up until his phone buzzes, Spencer and Jon wondering where he is.

Ryan texts back, on my way, and leaves it at that because really, he doesn't even know.


It takes Haley's exasperated question about what's eating at him for Brendon to realize how jittery he is during his Sunday shift, has been all through the weekend and probably since Friday, possibly even since walking away from Ryan on Wednesday. He tosses the rag towards the sink and tries to stop twitching in place when he tells Haley that it's nothing, he's just in that state of mind where he's so tired that he turns restless.

She doesn't reply right away, and for a moment, Brendon thinks she's just going to let the issue drop. Then her gaze quickly sweeps over the few customers scattered about the place, no one seeming in need of immediate attention. She leans her hip against the counter and turns towards him, tone uncertain. "So, uh, Audrey mentioned that you live alone?"

Brendon could shoot her down with a short, scathing comeback, and she'd never ask again. Instead, he exhales through his nose and looks away from her curious expression. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah, I'm. I moved out, early summer. It was probably better that way."

"Wow." She pushes a strand of hair back behind her ears in what's probably a nervous gesture. "That sucks. Do you… Do they pay for anything, your parents?"

"My sister made it so I could still use the family healthcare insurance," Brendon says.
"That's about it."

"I'm sorry," she says, quick and soft, and Brendon's about to tell her that really, that's great but pity doesn't pay his rent, when she adds, "You're very… strong, you know? I don't think I could do that. I'd probably sleep on their front porch and beg them to take me back or something, if they ever did that."

It's not like the thought never crossed Brendon's mind. She sounds genuine, though, like she really means it, so he lifts one shoulder in a half-shrug and doesn't contradict.

"Oh, by the way," she says, her tone much lighter, and Brendon feels almost grateful. "I totally forgot, that guy, um, Spencer? He was back yesterday, before your shift. Asked about you, if you were working, and we talked for a while. He's nice."

"Is he?" Brendon says flatly. He wonders what made Spencer come in here, what made him ask about Brendon. It's hard to believe Ryan would share his dirty little secret with anyone; he's probably inventing tales about their detentions to entertain his friends so that they won't suspect anything.

"Well," Haley says, uncertain again. "I thought so. I thought you knew him?"

"Not very well," Brendon says, and he thinks about Spencer's hand gently rubbing the back of Ryan's neck, thinks about Ryan leaning into the touch. Thinks about how he doesn't want that even a tiny little bit.

Continues here.
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