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four times he falls in love, and once he wishes he wasn't

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i.

Ryan rolls with the dip of Brendon’s lumpy spring mattress and his lips collide with Brendon’s in a way that could look like an accident if it weren’t so totally on purpose. Brendon exhales, his breath tasting like toothpaste, and doesn’t pretend to hesitate. Not an accident. They know better.

Ryan kisses him until his lips feel sore, his mouth tired, his lips red, and Brendon huffs laughter and says, “Thanks.”

“Thanks,” Ryan repeats, sounding out the word like he’s never heard it before.

Brendon’s mouth meets his again and it’s less graceful, more dirty and wet, and Ryan’s fingertips dance under Brendon’s shirt and tap across his ribs, playing the keys for his audience of one. Brendon laughs, and Ryan can taste liquid gold on his tongue.

“Yeah, you.” Brendon stops and shivers a little and Ryan likes that but can’t figure out why. “You kissed me. Finally. Been waiting for you to.”

“Finally,” Ryan repeats again, and for once he’s taking Brendon’s words and turning them into less eloquent thoughts, but Brendon doesn’t seem to mind.

He just smiles that wide grin and traces the knobs of Ryan’s spine with one hand. Like he’s figured it out, already laid claim to this place.

Ryan kisses him again.

...

ii.

Every star that night is reflected in the cold black water, the white-capped waves crashing onto the sand. Ryan cranes his neck as far as he can and everything out there, for miles and miles, is the same velvet black and dark blue, the world blending into itself and all the colors becoming one.

Brendon’s voice is by his left ear, saying, “C’mon, pussy,” and Ryan stares after him, Brendon’s naked body dashing across the surf, leaving indents of his bare feet in the sand that get washed away by each wave. Ryan could write about that. The way that the sea claims every mark Brendon tries to make.

Brendon lets out an animal sound, a roar or a scream, something wild and feral with no words, his arms raised above his head. Ryan shivers, though it’s not cold. It’s warm and humid, the air tasting like salt, and every feeling in his body rises to the surface, as if demanding to be felt.

Ryan follows Brendon out into the water. He keeps watching him, the way he tosses his head back and loses himself into the night. Somewhere, beyond their bubble, Spencer laughs and Jon sits with his hands and feet buried into the sand. They’re different here, Ryan thinks. Everything is different here. The world becomes a solid color and every song becomes one note.

Brendon splashes into the water and Ryan thinks, very clearly, even with his head filled with crashing waves, that the way the moon catches his wet hair is something he’ll remember forever.

Brendon says, “God, I could live like this.”

Ryan hadn’t known they weren’t already living.

...

iii.

Beneath him, Brendon is more than beautiful. Words haven’t been invented yet to describe it.

Ryan traces the lines of Brendon’s body, first with his fingertips and then with his mouth, Brendon’s head twisting back onto the pillow, the noises coming from deep within his chest even though Ryan’s barely touched him. It shouldn’t feel like this. Like he’s been stripped bare, like every part of him is exposed, like Brendon could reach inside his mind and grab a hold of his biggest secrets, sort through them like a disorganized file drawer.

Ryan’s breath is shaky. He doesn’t mean it to be. He says, “You look so good,” because that’s the best he can come up with, the limitations of the English language becoming all the more obvious.

Brendon flushes, like Ryan’s words mean anything, like they’ve ever meant anything, but Ryan still remembers first meeting Brendon, this kid with thick frames and a bad haircut, who looked at him like he could paint whole worlds with his words. Ryan liked that about him, when they first met, the way Brendon believed in his words. Brendon had a way of looking at Ryan, this look that meant he would go anywhere if Ryan’s words would guide him there.

Truthfully, Ryan’s a pretentious fuck, a too-smart kid with access to a thesaurus, using big words with thick syllables when small words could get the point across just as eloquently. Brendon believed in him, anyways.

Ryan says, “I wish you could see yourself.”

It’s not meant to be sexy, but Brendon’s cock twitches anyways. Ryan only means to be honest.

Ryan’s hand skids down Brendon’s chest, feeling the warm, stuttered heartbeats, then down to his stomach and the coarse hairs that lead to his cock. He wants to pretend he has coordination when he presses two wet fingers against Brendon, who coughs out this noise from his throat, his eyes squeezed shut. Coming apart without ever having been touched.

Brendon says, “Ryan,” in this voice, and Ryan feels like he’s won something precious, and the feeling travels through his veins, warm and alive.

...

iv.

It’s chilly outside and the warm gust of air is almost a relief when Brendon slides open the balcony door, wrapped in a sheet, his hair sticking up in all directions. Ryan only manages one glance at him before his cheeks flush with heat, because he still isn’t used to it, the sleepy, well-fucked look Brendon has in the mornings. Ryan is bad at confronting his own choices.

“Morning,” Brendon yawns, scratching his neck where there might be a few bruises. He hadn’t complained. Ryan had only wanted to leave some kind of claim on his skin.

Stupid.

Ryan is writing, and the words keep pouring out, every thought he’s had in the past several months smeared across the page in black ink. He doesn’t know if he’s ready to tell Brendon. That he’s been writing songs about the curve of his spine. He’s not quite so brave.

The sun is barely coming up over the buildings and Ryan definitely feels the chill in his bones. “Morning,” he manages. It’s quiet. He doesn’t want this to go away.

Brendon wraps the sheet tighter around himself. “We don’t ever have to go back, you know.”

Ryan avoids looking at him. “I know,” he lies. The aching feeling in his chest yawns larger. Brendon is here but tomorrow he’ll be so far away from here. Brendon is here, but tomorrow Ryan will be there. Two different wavelengths. Intersecting lines never to meet again. Ryan wants to write that down.

The air is still cool when Brendon slides open the door again. He says, “It’s warmer in here,” and his tone leaves the perfect amount of room for insinuation. Ryan looks up at him. He knows the invitation.

The world is so beautiful before the sun rises. Before anything penetrates their little bubble. Everything is so much prettier when there are no consequences.

...

v.

He considers calling, but he can’t hear Brendon’s voice. Sometimes he’ll see things and he’ll think to himself that he has to tell Brendon about it, later, and then he remembers. It’s not his fault. You spend enough time with someone and they start to feel like an extension of you. Ryan can separate his life cleanly categorized into Before Brendon, During Brendon, and After Brendon. He’s currently working on the last part. He’s only human. He’s decided it’s fair.

So the phone doesn’t ring. And he doesn’t call. It’s mutual, he reasons, but he knows that it’s not. How fucking glad he would be if Brendon would call him. How fucking glad.

Pathetic and useless. He’s tired of useless feelings.

Somewhere, far away, someone says, “This is what you wanted,” and it is. It is. He wanted this, but no one told him how fucking stupid he was for wanting it. Someone should have.

He catches himself humming a familiar tune, a song about the curve of his spine, the dip of his nose, melting ice-cream headaches and fractured bones, and he has to stop himself, because those times are neither here nor there, from During Brendon, and he just can’t exist in that world anymore. Isn’t allowed to. Shouldn’t, even if he could.

Brendon does not call, and the phone never rings. Ryan keeps humming along.