The thing is, Johnny's her friend, but Alissa doesn't expect Johnny to stick with her tonight. Johnny loves the Russians, and he's been fluttering around all week trying to make sure no one feels neglected, or doing what he's probably doing now - hanging onto Evgeny's arm, listening open-mouthedly enough to elicit a few tongue-in-cheek comments from certain people who aren't as witty as they think they are.
She'd thought at least Charlie and Meryl would want to hang out tonight; but Charlie called off and said he'd be staying in his room to 'get a good night's sleep' before the Free Dance and the Gala tomorrow. It's bullshit, they're far in the lead and lest they both fall twice, they'll get gold. Anyway, everyone knows he'll spend the evening ordering room service and having loud, messy phone-sex with his boyfriend.
Meryl might have promised she'd come along, but she really likes Deividas, who asked her to go sightsee with her (again) and Alissa doesn't want to get in the way of that, never mind that those two are long past the get-to-know-each-other phase. She does have the pictures from last year's Cup of Russia that didn't end up on icenetwork, after all.
She just wants to go eat sushi. She hates going out to eat alone. Jeremy, she decides, is going to pay for not being here.
It's just a little bit pathetic, sitting on the steps; the situation leaves no other consequence, though. The next person who comes down these stairs will be assaulted with a demand they will be unable to resist.
The next person who comes down the stairs is two people. Patrick's face lights up when he sees her and he waves awkwardly, but his arm's hooked with Taka's, and, like, no way, she thinks. They have way too little bff time as it is together, and she learned in Korea once Patrick loosened up around her that there's almost no person on the planet he enjoys spending time with more. Aside from maybe Yu-Na and Paul. And Johnny, if he's not being bitchy. And Joannie's dirty jokes. In French.
"What are you doing?" Takahiko asks in slow and careful English, smiling too.
"Waiting for someone," she tells him.
Patrick gives her a doubtful look. "Charlie's not coming," he finally says. Then his face scrunches. "Or, like, he's coming. But not..." he waves his hand and flushes.
Alissa has to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from curling up in a little ball of laughter. "It's fine," she says. "Where are you guys going?"
Patrick gives Taka half a hug. "Taka sneakily managed to finagle an invite out of Johnny for an exclusive sort of food place around here that is supposed to rock our socks off. And I got us tickets to the ballet." He lets go and gives her a curious look. "You want to come?"
"No, no way." Alissa shakes her head. "I told you, I'm fine." She's not stupid, she knows what a date looks like, even if it's maybe between friends (or not, she's not going to presume). She'd love to go, if she's honest, but she didn't butt in between Meryl and her man, and she plans on sticking to her principles with Patrick and Takahiko, too. Even if she's lonely and hungry and loves the way Patrick is awkward but hilarious and Takahiko laughs more (and more genuinely) than a lot of people she's known in her life. "Go," she says instead, shooing them in the direction of the reception. "Don't worry, I'll know my knight once they arrive to sweep me off my feet and feed me."
Patrick rolls his eyes, but he nods and mouths a thank you at her, looking sympathetic, and grabs Taka's hand pulling him along, explaining to him - because Taka looks very clueless - what exactly a knight is, and that no, it's not the time of the day where you go to sleep.
Alissa leans back against the railing. She just closes her eyes for a second, because she's not really tired as much as exhausted. That doesn't mean she doesn't fall asleep anyway, and gets cruelly jerked out of her dreams when someone flops down beside her on the steps.
"Shit," says, turning her head to find herself eye-to-eye with Brandon.
"Sorry," Brandon apologizes awkwardly, rubbing his palms against his thighs. "Uhm. I didn't mean to startle you."
Alissa runs her hands over her face. "It's okay," she says. "Hi?"
Brandon says, "Hi!" back, waving like a total dork (and blushing because he just waved, awesome) and then blurts, "Were you sleeping on the stairs?"
Alissa nudges him with her elbow. "Shut up. I was waiting."
"You know." She shrugs. "Something." Her stomach rumbles, making her uncomfortably aware that she still hasn't eaten dinner. She's slept for half an hour. On the stairs. She doesn't even know.
"Hungry?" Brandon asks, and he sounds like he's maybe, carefully putting a toe in a sea of hot ashes, afraid to get burned. It makes her feel a little numb, and a little stupid, because oh. But before she can stop herself, she feels a nod coming on, and says, "Starving."
"What - uh. What." His voice breaks. He chortles, half-choking on his tongue. It's incredibly awkward and he probably knows it too, because he keeps staring at his knees and at her knees, but not at her face (and not at her boobs, thank god, because then she'd have to punch him and Jeremy would laugh at them both for the next two hundred years, damnit). "What would - like. I mean. Anything in particular you'd like to eat?" He scratches the back of his neck, still not looking at her.
"I was in the mood for sushi," she admits. "Before." Because she misses Jeremy. Already, and they've been apart for like, a week or maybe two. She knows all about codependency. She feels like they shouldn't be embracing it the way they do. Maybe.
Brandon's biting his lip. Then he says, "I. There's a place. I don't think they have, like. Probably no sushi. But it's Russian?"
Alissa stares. "No kidding."
Brandon turns red again, from his neck up over his ears and his eyebrows to his hairline. He jumps to his feet, looking embarrassed enough that he's probably going to die from the blood to his brain, and she immediately backtracks, because she didn't want to be mean, she's not usually, god, she just -, "I like Russian food," she quickly adds. "We can go if you want."
"Really?" He sounds surprised.
"Unless you just meant to trade on restaurant recommendations, in which case -"
"- no. No. I'm hungry. Totally."
Alissa smiles and stands up, too. Her bones creak and she pulls a face. "Cool. Let's go."
Brandon blinks. But then he smiles back and lets her lead the way.
"What. Am I doing?" Alissa asks Jeremy later that night over the phone.
Jeremy has not stopped laughing in the last ten minutes. He sounds like a starving hyena. The thought reminds her of food, which reminds her of eating, which reminds her of the delicious dinner she had, and that it was nice once Brandon got over the initial fear of making a fool of himself with every word he spoke. Possibly, after the conversation on the stairs, he figured that ship had sailed.
"Jeremy, shut up," she says and falls back into her pillow. Meryl's still not back, which means at least one of them's getting lucky tonight. "I'm going to make fun of your phone sex skills if you don't stop laughing right now."
Jeremy stops laughing. "What about my phone sex skills?"
"Apparently, they elicit reactions from Charlie that penetrate the walls so that innocent Canadian little figure skaters can hear what you're up to."
"What? Which - no, don't tell me, I don't want to know. I'm not responsible for Charlie's sounds!"
"So he was having phone sex with his other boyfriend, then?"
"Funny, Alissa. Very funny."
"You were the one laughing at me!" she points out.
"That's because you are oblivious to the world around you, ha ha ha," Jeremy says, starting to cackle again.
"I don't know what you're talking about. Anyway, it's not like I'm, you know. Interested. Or anything."
"You're not?" Jeremy sobers up.
"No! No, I'm not. He's like, fifteen, and - and -"
"Eighteen, actually, turning ninteen this year," Jeremy tells her. "And he's a lot more mature than other people."
She coughs. "You mean, you."
"I did not say that. No one said that. I am very mature for my age. Boys my age still pee in their pants sometimes. That hasn't happened to me for a good year now!"
"Shut up, really, but. He can't even drink legally yet."
"So couldn't you, till last year."
"I can now."
"He can, too."
"Well, he can. He doesn't though."
"Because it's illegal!"
"Because half his family got almost killed in a car accident that involved a drunk driver on the highway."
Alissa feels stupid. "Oh."
"Also, he's not just in for your boobs."
"No, I'm serious, he's like. He likes you."
"He hasn't talked to me till tonight. Not once. I would remember if a dorky junior had come up to me sometime in the past few years to try and get in my panties."
"Which is exactly why he hasn't talked to you till tonight, see. Because everyone knows you're scathing and hard-ass and sort of hilariously cruel to all the straight boys in figure skating, because you know they're all horny and sex-crazed and - oh, wait. That's not just the straight boys. Good thing gay boys don't have these problems. We just fall madly in bed together and decide the next day whether we want to spend the rest of our lives together, and if the answer is yes, well, hooray, and if not, uh, I guess some people end up running back to their hotel room naked with just their dirty pants clutched before their crotch. But that's life."
"No problem. And also, you might want to know he's a Boy Scout."
"And I think he might have that thing where he waits with sex till marriage -"
"- ha ha, you are not funny!"
"No, I'm kidding. He's friends with Adam Rippon. No way is he still a virgin."
Alissa stares at her phone for a little while before she just cracks up. Then she changes the topic.
"So. You like Jessica Alba, huh?" Alissa asks the next day, sitting down next to him at breakfast casually. She's smooth like that. He didn't even notice her until she's there, and then his eyes widen and he hunches his shoulders a little. Charlie, who's sitting next to him, gives Alissa a narrowed-eyed look and then smirks.
"Yeah. I - I mean. Not. I liked Dark Angel. And. She's on Entourage sometimes."
Alissa hums. "At least you don't just blurt 'She's hot in her underwear'," she grins.
"She is," Brandon admits and turns red.
"I am in complete agreement with you there."
Charlie's grin grows. "Both your taste sucks."
"Says the person doing Jeremy," Brandon mutters, which makes Alissa laugh.
Charlie opens his mouth in protest.
"Lalala," Brandon says, clapping his hands over his ears. "He's like, family, I'm not talking about this anymore."
Alissa pulls one of his hands off his ear. "I was actually going to eat something," she proclaims. "There are cornflakes. And then we should go watch Mr. Taste win a gold medal."
Brandon stares at her open-mouthed before realizing it might be disgusting to her and closing it with a snap. He nods.
"Cool," she says, heading off towards the buffet. "Be right back."
Charlie sticks his tongue out at her and watches her sharply. When she returns, Meryl and Deividas have joined their table, and there is no way Meryl gets away with no teasing after not coming back to their room last night. Brandon is a little quiet by her side for the rest of breakfast, but whenever she looks over, he's watching her, corners of his mouth curled up.
"That's just precious," Johnny says to her when Brandon gets up during ice resurfacing to get her a hot chocolate because her hands are cold.
Alissa glances at him suspiciously. "What is?"
"Nothing." Johnny seems to be laughing at her. "Nothing at all."
"I don't want to threaten, but -"
Johnny purses his lips. "It's just... Brandon?"
"What about him?"
"I thought it was just, like. A baby-crush."
"Adam," Johnny says, as if that makes any sense.
Alissa leans over and pinches his arm. It must hurt even through the denim of his jacket and he stares at her, gasping.
"What?" she demands. "Speak in whole, English-language sentences, JWe, or I will fuck you up." She cocks her head to the side. "Russian would work too."
"I just mean," Johnny says and gesticulates. "Adam likes to tell me about his friends. And Brandon's had a crush on you forever. And -"
"They didn't have any with extra cream," Brandon says from behind them and they both whirl around, flustered and embarrassed, but he acts like he didn't hear anything, or maybe he really didn't, and sits down on Alissa's other side. "I got you the regular sort. Hope that's okay?"
Alissa finds herself growing warm all over when she takes the cup and smiles a thank you.
They don't watch the gala. It would be too depressing, as neither of them gets to actually participate, because they're both losers who fucked up their jumps.
"We're both losers who fucked up our jumps," Alissa tells Brandon once they're outside the rink. "We deserve to go shopping."
"I wasn't that bad," Brandon defends himself. "Torture is not approriate punishment for my long program!"
Alissa pulls at his arm. "Come on. It'll be fun. I'll buy you a coffee at Starbucks and you can tell me which tops look nice on me."
Brandon looks pained. "I have no taste," he says. "Charlie's absolutely right."
"But, you get to watch me hop around in skimpy dresses!" Alissa tries.
Brandon's pained expression turns even more pained. "I am not wearing appropriate pants for this," he mutters, possibly not meant for her ears.
She doesn't hide that she did hear, because she cannot contain the laughter, and he stuffs his hands in his pockets, but he seems mildly pleased that she finds his jokes funny.
The third shop they're in, she finds a whole collection of funky hats and Brandon groans the moment he sees them. He's been surprisingly patient until now, as she went through half a wardrobe of jeans to find some that'll show off her butt, through about a dozen flowery tops and then helped her pick out a shirt with a dirty slogan for Jeremy to wear on his next official skating banquet, possibly in front of the ISU officials at the GPF.
"Just five minutes?" she asks. "Then you can help me pick out a dress."
"I'm tired?" he tries.
"Come on. You can sit down in a few minutes. Read one of the magazines while I look. They have great magazines."
"They have gay magazines," Brandon mumbles, and then looks up worriedly. "Not that that's a bad thing. Or, like. That was not an insult. I -"
"- it's fine." Alissa touches his shoulder. "Help me pick out a hat, and then we'll go get subs and talk about how the new Transformers movie is going to suck more than the last one did."
Brandon cheers up. "I'm all for that."
Alissa grins. "I know."
The first two or three are horrible. Brandon stays close and watches as she fits them back and forth, trying to get them to look somewhat okay, and ends up mostly repeating, "I don't know, okay? It looks fine."
"No, it doesn't." Alissa shrugs and puts this one aside, picking up the next in line. "You're like, Adam's friend, right?"
Brandon nods. Then smiles widely. "And no, I haven't."
Alissa looks at him innocently from beneath the hat's rim. "Haven't what?"
Brandon rolls his eyes. "He's not actually that big a slut."
"Okay, fine. He probably is, but like. We're just friends."
"How about this one?" Alissa turns to him and bats her eyelashes.
Brandon looks away. "It's fine."
"Not this one then." Alissa sighs and puts it down. "So, have you ever?"
"Fooled around with a boy?" Alissa says, like duh. What else. Brandon twitches. She's not looking at him, exactly, but she catches it out of the corner of her eye.
"Have you?" he finally asks after a pause.
"What?" Alissa smirks. "Fooled around with a boy?"
"No, I mean. With girls."
"Sure." She groanes. "God, this one looks stupid. Okay, last three." When she looks at Brandon, he's staring. "What? I like girls fine."
"Right." He nods, reddening. "I. This one's nice."
He steps closer, until there's barely an inch of space seperating them, and when she turns to him, he pushes the hat a bit to the side so that it sits queer, and he's warm, emitting heat from his face. He's barely two inches taller than her, which is nice. She doesn't feel like getting a neck crick when she kisses him, and wow, okay, that thought came out of nowhere. Hm. She doesn't know who she's kidding.
Brandon says, "You look pretty in all of them," and, realizing how that sounded, winces with embarrassment.
It's sweet, in a half-mortifying, cringe-inducing way, not horrible, necessarily, but it might be better if she shut him up now before it can get out of hand. She gives a hiccup of a laugh, catching his eyes and then brushes her lips against his.
"Oh," he says, and her stomach turns from nerves. Or maybe because it feels okay, despite all her reservations and doubts and it's not like she needs to think about all of that right now, right in this moment, because Brandon's leaning down again and pulling the hat off so he can kiss her without it getting in the way.
"Oh," she says when he parts a minute later. She frowns. "That's... fine, I guess."
"We can look at the dresses later?" Brandon says hopefully.
"Food and talking now," Alissa agrees and kisses his cheek. She's buying the hat, though. Brandon's clutching at it like he never wants to let it go.