Ryan noticed that they'd stopped just as it was about to crumble around them - their relationship, so desperately fought for, slipping through his fingers almost like it hadn't been at all.
It was mostly his own fault, he knew, for not paying better attention. But college was different than high school, there was not nearly as much time, and then there were dissertations and presentations to prepare and he had friends now, real friends, not ones who pulled him into their lives to screw him over and leave him behind. Friends he could discuss things with, things he was interested in, like the latest historical romance movie he'd seen (because secretly, Ryan was a sucker for them, as much as he otherwise enjoyed the action flicks) or the interesting bits of his drawings that he did for his classes.
It was just a lot to take in, that first year, and it passed so damn quickly and then the second year and... and yes, they lived together - Seth had insisted that they couldn't live apart, not after spending the summer holidays beforehand apart already, with Ryan doing an internship in Berkley; but that apparently didn't count when it came to actually keeping a relationship afloat.
Ryan only noticed when Lucas point out, rather crudely, that he fucking needed to get laid already.
"You've been getting more irritable lately, man," he pointed out, slapped Ryan's shoulder. "That boyfriend of yours cut you off or what?"
"No," Ryan'd said, blinking and then, again, "No." It wasn't like that.
It was just... no time, and exhaustion, and when he came home in the evening after classes, he was so hungry and tired that all he wanted to do was to make himself a pizza or spaghetti or whatever they had in the fridge, throw himself on the couch and watch some TV or start on the homework he had for his next class.
Seth wasn't quite as busy, or so it looked, but he... well, he had another routine than Ryan. He loved to sleep in late, his classes didn't start till ten anyway, so mornings were out, and he came home in between to eat, so dinner together was skipped in favour of Seth staying out later to study in the library. And by the time Seth got home, Ryan usually was either so deeply engrossed in his work that he couldn't pay attention, or so sleepy he hardly noticed when Seth slipped onto the couch next to him and cuddled up, drawing him close, kissing his neck.
There were so many things they weren't doing anymore.
He had visual arts and design computing later, in exactly half an hour, actually, and he couldn't skip that, it was important, but he did have time to call - they'd done that in the beginning, he remembered. Ryan bit his lip and thought - how could he have forgotten? How could he have not noticed until now?
Quickly, he got out his phone and scrolled down his list to the name, "Seth" in bright letters and was about to ring him when he realized he had no idea what to say. What was he supposed to say? 'I'm sorry we haven't been a couple lately, just two people walking around each other in an otherwise cold apartment'?
He took his thumb off the call button and stared at the grey sky, clouds passing by, and he knew it was going to start to rain in about ten minutes, so he'd rather be inside by that time. Still. Still, he had to do something.
Deliberately slow, he pressed the button finally - silence was better than nothing after all - and heard it ring, once, twice.
Fourth time, Seth picked up, breathing a bit harder than normally. "Ryan?" he said. "Is everything okay? Are you all right?"
"Everything's fine," Ryan said hoarsely. "I just..." he swallowed. "You don't mind me calling, do you?"
There was a stunned silence for a few seconds, then he could hear Seth smile. "No, man. No, I... I don't. At all."
"I -" Ryan waited, but there was nothing, so he pressed on, "I miss hearing your voice. Babbling at me."
Seth gave a little sound. "I miss you too."
"We don't even call each other anymore," Ryan mumbled. "I thought - you can call, when I'm not in class. Always. You know that, right?"
"I'm sorry," Seth mumbled. "I forget, most of the time. I think about it, a lot, but then something strange comes up or there's nothing to say..."
"That was the wrong thing to say, wasn't it," Seth whispered. "I'm sorry."
"No, it's fine. It's... it doesn't matter. We don't have to - just, let's just talk, okay? I don't - I just missed your voice."
And they did talk, until Ryan had to leave. He noticed the difference, but not consciously, the way his shoulders were slumped more often than not, the way he was just so much less happy here than he'd been at the beginning. At least now, he felt lighter, almost like it was going to be okay.
He would make sure that it would. Shit like this - it only happened once. Or so he hoped.
Ryan ate and went to sleep immediately after he came home, just past four. Two hours, he told himself, just till Seth came home, and maybe, he would be less exhausted afterwards and they could... do something. Talk some more, sit together and watch a movie, read some of Seth's new comics together or play the playstation that was sitting below the TV, gathering dust.
But he must have not heard the alarm, or he'd turned it off without waking up, because he awoke not to the annoying ring of it near his ear, but to a soft mouth on his shoulder, tongue licking his collar bone.
"Hey," he mumbled, feeling a bit more rested. He could have easily slept a few more hours.
Seth was sitting on the edge of the bed, leaning down, and he smiled at Ryan. "Evening. Are you okay? You're not going to be sick on me, are you?"
"No, no." Ryan shook his head. "I was just... I just needed to lie down for a while."
"It's okay." Seth grabbed his fingers. "I - hey, can I -?"
"'f course," Ryan mumbled, embarrassed. "You always can."
So Seth gave him a brilliant smile and dove under the covers with him, beside him, glued his skin to Ryan's side, his stomach flat and a bit cool where Ryan put his hand under his shirt.
"We probably shouldn't have sex straight away," he mumbled, always the bright one.
"I know," Ryan said. "I know, but we won't let it happen again, I won't, I - we'll find a way to fit our schedules around each other and -"
"I'll - I'll try to get out of the bed a bit earlier," Seth said softly and kissed Ryan on the mouth. "You're always up around seven, and I can... just get up with you and go to sleep for an hour or so after you're gone. I just -"
"I don't want us to, like, grow apart."
Seth kissed him again, deeper this time. "But maybe it would help me to wake up better if I had some incentive..." he grinned.
Ryan touched his nose with his finger, then moved it smoothly down his jawline, over his neck, before he buried his hand in Seth's hair at the back of his head and drew him closer, kissed him, opening up underneath to let Seth's tongue sneak into his mouth, touch to his own.
They kissed, always, but not like this, not for a while. Not with the promise of more lurking behind, not with the way Seth's hips were rocking a bit against his hand, his side.
"We can have meaningful discussions after a cup of coffee," Ryan grinned finally, seperating them with a gasp.
Seth keened a little at the loss and threw off the cover, pulling his shirt over his head. "'s not what I meant," he rolled his eyes. "And you know it."
"We should talk more," Ryan said earnestly.
"I always do all the talking anyway," Seth complained, kissed Ryan's ear. "And get out of that shirt, I want to make passionate love to you, we haven't had any sex for almost two weeks now. No long love-making session for three, I think. How could this happen?"
"We haven't really talked for a good few months," Ryan pointed out. But he did let Seth pull his pyjama top over his head, and helped him with his pants. Out of his pants, better. And then out of his underwear too.
"We can do that after. We can shower together and talk in the shower."
Ryan smiled. "We can do that."
"Are you just gonna look at it, or are you gonna do something about it?" Seth laughed when he caught Ryan looking, just taking him in. "Nothing much changed since the last time you pushed me against a wall and fucked me, you know."
Ryan tumbled him down onto the bed then. "Enough of the verbal abuse already," he grinned. "I get the point. You're talking."
Seth wiggled his eyebrows. "I am. I can keep talking, too, but I have no idea if that'd make you as happy as touching you and kissing you and letting you come inside me would make you."
It wasn't as much an invitation as a prerogative, really, not that Ryan would take it for granted. He kissed, and touched, sliding his tongue between Seth's lips and into his mouth, licking him, nibbling on his bottom lip, waiting for Seth to reciprocate, his hands caressing Seth's chest, his waist, his hips.
"You've gotten skinnier again," he mumbled. "Can feel your ribs."
"Can always feel my ribs," Seth said against his mouth, pulled him down by placing his arms around Ryan's neck. "Not much incentive to eat when you're not there to bug me about it, is there?"
"I'll eat, I'll eat. Can you - oh, yes - oh, oh, oh, Ryan," he groaned, squeezing his eyes shut as Ryan finally took his cock in his hand and caressed the tip with his thumb, jerking him off slowly.
"Please," Seth moaned. "Don't tease?"
"Okay," Ryan agreed, moving against him. He was still wearing his pyjama bottoms, but Seth was wriggling and squirming beneath him, legs falling open and rocking up into the touch and Ryan was pretty sure he'd lose them sometime in the next minute.
"Can you - I want you to fuck me now, 'kay?" Seth said into his neck, breathing harshly.
"Kay," Ryan said gently. "Let me just get -"
"Hm-hm. Where it always is."
Nightstand, top drawer, he found the lube and the condoms, and grabbed them, got back into bed, taking off his pants and underwear as he went. He still thought it was a little weird, the fact that Seth was always, always staring at him like he was special somehow, one of the world wonders, for all the stars in Seth's eyes, but that was Seth for you, Ryan figured. Seth loved so passionately, with so much fervour and enjoyment. Sometimes, it scared Ryan a bit how much he loved.
It didn't matter that for every bit Seth loved, Ryan loved him back that little bit more.
"D'you want to flip?" Ryan asked, running his hand up Seth's inner thigh, fingers drawing a straight line and back down again until he had a pattern that made Seth writhe beneath his caresses.
"It's fine, I think," Seth shook his head. "Just get me a pillow - yeah, like that." He pushed it under his butt, waited until Ryan was over him again for another kiss, letting him slowly move his fingers against his ass.
Seth was warm inside, as always, pliant to the touch, and it hadn't been that long yet, since the last time, not months, or even years, but Ryan still marvelled at the feeling of tight heat and the smooth clench of muscles.
"Is this okay?" he said into another kiss, and another, and Seth loved kissing, had always loved it, and they'd have to do it more often, just... lie on the couch and make out or something. At least here, Sandy and Kirsten couldn't stumble upon them and make embarrassed noises or (in former case) mortifying jokes.
"Hm-hm," Seth nodded. "'s brilliant. Can you - it's okay, I'm ready, I swear, want your dick now, kay thanks?" He seemed a little bit dazed from all the stimulation, mouth slightly open, breathing harshly, eyes out of focus, pupils dilated as he gave those whimpering little moans of pleasure that meant he was trying very hard not to come on the spot.
Ryan knew that if he was to lean over and lick that spot behind his ear in this moment, Seth would come apart in a second, mewling against his neck as he came. Ryan didn't think Seth would be thrilled about that, though, so he just took his lower lip in his mouth and sucked lightly.
"Ryan," Seth muttered, impatient. "Please?"
"One second. Just..." he put on the condom, threw away the wrapper and slicked himself up, relieving some of the pressure at the same time. He was hard and it was an effort not to come immediately, what with Seth making those sounds and moving against him, eager, flushed, fingers clenching at Ryan's back.
He slowly pushed inside Seth, closed his eyes so he could concentrate without the look in Seth's eyes to make him lose control, without the additional stimulation of Seth's lip turning white where he was biting down on it, trying to relax against the penetration.
And then he was sheathed and he groaned, because it would be hard enough as it was to keep from coming without Seth suddenly rocking his hips up into him, clenching around him, finding his lips to kiss him, tongue and teeth and licking along Ryan's tongue just as Ryan retaliated with a shove of his own.
"Oh," Seth breathed out, eyes huge, and Ryan kissed back, desperately, hotly, burying himself in Seth's mouth, and then he thrust once, and again, and Seth hooked his legs around Ryan's waist and worked along, forceful, with more drive than he looked like he could have.
It was a game, after that, a back-and-forth of shoving into his body and drawing out, as fast as he could, making Seth gasp every time their hips found together, and Ryan tried to keep going as long as he could stand, tried to drown in the heat and tightness eternally, if possible, but Seth didn't let him, played back like a skilled musician with everything his body gave him, and Ryan didn't quite know what to do, because he had to keep himself off Seth so he wouldn't crush him, but that meant he couldn't touch Seth's cock, which wasn't strictly necessary, but would make the orgasm better.
Seth took care of that on his own, finally. He went as long as he could without, just feeling Ryan inside him, then he took one arm off from around Ryan's neck and slid it between their bodies, slender fingers closing over his own cock, yanking a few times, every single jerk making his breath hitch in the back of his throat, perfectly timed with the rhythm of Ryan's cock driving into his body.
He came a few seconds after it, muscles freezing up, clenching, a gasp of not-quite-surprise, and it pretty much did Ryan in as well, hitting him like a punch in the gut with its strength. He needed long seconds, maybe even minutes, riding it out, every new thrust making Seth's oversensitive body scream with pleasure.
"Wow," Seth muttered into his sweaty neck, and then, again, "wow," because it had been really good. Ryan agreed there, no question.
"We should do this more often," Seth deadpanned after a good five minutes had gone by and Ryan was slowly starting to breathe again. He could have sworn he had forgotten there for a few moments.
"Yeah," he coughed. "Yeah, we - more often. But -"
"Yeah, I know. Talk. We're not going to become one of those couples that only live by the sex, you know." Seth raised his left hand and caressed the side of Ryan's face, gentle touch, thumb rubbing against the corner of his puffy red lips. "It's never going to happen, you know. I love you. It wouldn't ever - we could end up one of those couples who love each other to death but don't have sex anymore, I guess, but the loving -"
"Hm-hm." Ryan tilted his head and sought the touch. "Love you too, Seth. You're - it's not fair. I just - sometimes, life gets in the way. It shouldn't, but it does." He knew he sounded frustrated.
"Not us," Seth promised. "We might have our little lows, but we're family already, Ryan. It's like we're practically married."
Ryan snorted. "Are you trying to say something here, Seth?"
Seth grinned. "We might as well, you know. Just to... close the deal, so to speak."
"Oh, you and your wholesome domestic life," Ryan grinned.
"Don't you want to?"
There was mostly laughter in Seth's voice, but there was a split moment where Ryan thought he heard vulnerability, as always when Seth was waiting for someone to slap him down. Not frequent these days - he was more confident here, more himself, especially because of people, friends, his parents, accepting him the way he was - but sometimes, still, when something had the capability to hurt this much.
"I'd love to marry you, Seth. I just have to admit, I was... waiting for something like a ring, and a bended knee before you popped the question."
Seth raised his eyebrow, put his forehead to Ryan's. "We just had fantastic sex, we're both still sweaty and you still have your dick in my ass. What's more romantic than that?"
"Barbarian," Ryan grinned, kissed Seth's lips softly. "Of course, now that I know the answer, I'll make sure I have all the things taken care of before I ask you."
The words made a hilariously happy expression flash over Seth's face, which was all Ryan really needed to see anyway.
"But first," he said, "shower."
"Yes, definitely. Shower." Seth groaned when Ryan pulled out and got rid of the condom. "Gross."
"Hm-hm." Ryan said. "Don't be a baby. Go get the water hot, I'll clean this mess up."
"Together, huh?" Seth grinned.
"Yeah." Ryan smiled back, sheepish. "Morning-sex together, showering together, evenings together, from now on. And if we can make it, we'll have lunch. I don't care about timetables. Whatever goes."
"Oh, I love it when you take charge like that," Seth leered.
"Shut up and turn on the water, perv," Ryan half-glared, since he was half-laughing.
"So when will I be getting that ring?" Seth smiled.
"Shush," Ryan grabbed his shoulders and kissed him deeply. "It'll be a surprise."
He wasn't sure he was going to make it so quick - these things needed some time, after all - but they'd been together for almost three years now, known each other for almost six. Maybe Seth was right. It didn't matter that it wasn't legal or whatever. The only thing that mattered was that it would make Seth happy to have that sign, that bit of metal that said, we belong to each other, forever.
~~ written in February 2008