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Michael goes to the school with the best swimming programme in the country.

It's not like everyone there is a swimmer, obviously; it's still a highschool and all. It's just, swimming is kind of a big deal.

It's pretty much the only reason, Michael suspects, that people there really know who he is. Or well, that he's popular.

It's just, he's been on the fast track pretty much his whole life, pushed from one milestone to the next and ducking in and out of school so much for meets and championships that he pretty much has his own semester breakup, dictated by whatever schedule his coach and his mom draw up for him.

Because of that he maybe possibly doesn't have the most finely-honed social skills.

It's what he likes to tell himself, anyway-- better than accepting that he's just a slightly awkward kid with too-long-for-everything-but-swimming limbs who never really knows what to say, and always will be.

It's probably partly true, anyway.

Some people think it's weird, the way he has so little time that's his own (read: none), the way he spends more time following orders than ignoring them, which is apparently not what you're supposed to be doing at sixteen.

Whatever. Michael doesn't really care; you don't get to the Olympics by being a normal kid.

Or so he thinks, anyway, until he meets Ryan Lochte.

 

He hears about the new kid before the rest of the school because of how he has practice at five in the morning, and all anyone's talking about is the transfer from Florida who'll be joining the team.

It's not like he pays a huge amount of attention. He's pretty good at keeping the focus turned inwards on himself, when it comes to swimming, and he doubts he'll have much to do with the guy outside of that.

 

Despite his foreknowledge of the new kid's arrival, when he settles in for first period Michael's pretty sure he would've cottoned-on pretty quick anyway.

It's hard to miss the guy standing at the front of the class with a backpack slung loosely over one shoulder, waiting for the teacher, but even if he were slouched at the back with his legs kicked out beneath one of the desks, like Michael currently is, Michael thinks everyone would know he was there anyway. Would know that he's new, because anyone who wears neon green sneakers with the shoelaces untied, slightly too-big looking cargo shorts and a t-shirt that reads SIMON SAYS YOU SUCK in huge red letters would have some kind of douchey, recognisable notoriety.

Michael hopes he's not actually a douche. Like, it won't be the end of the world, but it'd suck to have one on the team.

Also Michael likes to think he's a generous person, in terms of wanting the best for other people. (Apart from in the pool, obviously). It'd suck for the new guy too if he's an asshole.

 

It turns out the new kid's name is Ryan-- Ryan Lochte-- and he talks exactly like Michael expects someone from Florida would talk.

Also exactly like someone who wears what he's wearing would talk.

That is to say, he falls kind of languidly into the empty seat next to Michael and looks over at him with a crooked smirk and a quirked eyebrow and says, "'Sup, dude?" in this slow, lazy drawl.

"Hey," says Michael, smiling kind of awkwardly.

"You're on the team right?" says Ryan, giving Michael an assessing once-over.

"The swim team?" Michael blinks.

"No, the cheerleading squad." Ryan rolls his eyes. "Yeah the fucking swim team, dude."

"Oh," says Michael. It's kind of hard to tell whether Ryan's a douche or just very…something. "Yeah."

"Sweet," says Ryan, tipping his head back to close his eyes at the ceiling.

Michael turns back to face the front of the class, and that's that.

 

It's a lot easier to figure Ryan out in the pool than it is in the classroom.

Just…he's good. Really fucking good. When Michael heaves himself out of the pool at the end of the after school session he lags behind a bit to watch Ryan swim the last few of his timed laps.

He can't see the clock but he doesn't need it to know that Ryan's swimming a fast fucking time.

He's got this easy, focused backstroke technique, and this fucking killer underwater style that Michael really needs to ask him about sometime, because shit.

Michael doesn't realise he's standing all spaced-out like an idiot until someone claps a wet hand onto his shoulder and says, "Admiring the skills, dude?"

"Huh?" says Michael. It's Ryan, water sluicing all down his chest and onto Michael's toes. He shakes his hair out like a dog and gets fresh droplets all over Michael's face, too.

"The sweet moves," clarifies Ryan.

"Oh," says Michael. "Yeah, you're pretty good."

Ryan laughs. "Don't compliment me too hard, man, I might fall over."

Michael shakes his head. "I wasn't-- I mean, it was a compliment. We should race sometime."

Ryan looks at him, head tilted. "Fuck that noise," he says. "Do people skate in Baltimore?"

"I-- what?" says Michael.

"Oh my God, you don't even know what a skateboard is, do you?" says Ryan.

"Of course I know what a skateboard is," says Michael.

Ryan smirks at him. Michael realises belatedly that he's being fucked with.

"Shut up," he says, flushing.

"Hey, you've got some game!" says Ryan randomly, and slings his towel over his shoulder with a grin, heading for the changerooms.

Michael honestly has no idea what to think.

 

The next morning in class Ryan's rolling a skateboard under his feet. He's in the same chair he picked yesterday, and Michael's not about to break from tradition by sitting somewhere else, so he takes his usual place too, which now apparently comes with a bonus Ryan Lochte on the side.

It's still too early to know exactly how he feels about that.

Today Ryan's wearing a t-shirt that says does your face hurt? cuz it's killing me and he looks at Michael seriously when he sits down and says, "Skateboard," like he's talking to a grade-schooler.

"Shut up," says Michael again.

Ryan grins hugely. "Don't be like that, baby. If you're nice I might even teach you how to use it," he says.

"I'm always nice," says Michael. "I don't really want to skate though."

"Then shit, man, I don't know if we can be friends anymore." Ryan shakes his head.

"We're friends?" says Michael. He means it to come out kind of scathing, but mostly it just sounds curious.

"Jeah," says Ryan, nudging the board across the aisle and under Michael's desk.

Huh, thinks Michael.

 

He's not exactly sure how or why, but basically from the moment Ryan follows him home that day after training, skating along behind him as Michael walks the short distance to his place, they're friends.

"Seriously," Michael says, watching a bit incredulously as Ryan attempts to do a flip and crashes onto the sidewalk, "I have homework. And you're going to break something."

"I don't break, I bend," says Ryan, climbing to his feet and picking up his board. He makes a truly ridiculous face and then grins like a maniac.

"Okay, sure," says Michael. "I still have homework though."

"But I'm hungry," says Ryan. "Feed a bro before you dump him for lameass books, come on."

"I," says Michael, and then gives up, shaking his head.

They eat leftover mac and cheese and strawberry poptarts in Michael's kitchen, and it's weirdly easy, Ryan sitting across from him and looking around curiously with his mouth full, skinned elbows knocking on the table as he twists and talks in random half-sentences that don't make a lot of sense.

So, whatever. Michael's pretty much used to other people making decisions for him.

He's not going to argue if Ryan really has decided to be his friend. Probably.

Unless he reveals some actual douchiness hidden behind all the obnoxious t-shirts and dudebro skating, but he's looking okay for now.

 

It turns out Ryan's ridiculously easy to be friends with.

He likes Lil' Wayne just as much as Michael, he tries to out-eat him at lunch instead of making fun of how much he piles onto his tray, and he does actually wind up teaching Michael to skate, a little, even if he's such a lameass teacher that Michael ends up tackling him into his backyard pool instead of doing what he says.

(Seriously though, what kind of constructive merit is there in, "Your fucking feet are too big, dude, I'ma have to cut your toes off, Jesus.")

 

It's kind of surprising and also really not how popular Ryan turns out to be.

Like, yeah, they're friends, but Michael is…Michael, and it's kind of hard to gauge these kinds of things because of how he's usually so out of whack with the general school population.

Not necessarily in a bad way, but just, sometimes Michael wonders how well he'd fit in if it weren't for swimming.

It's not a really productive or useful line of thought though; like, Michael honestly can't imagine not swimming. It's what he is.

Ryan sits with him and the rest of the guys on the team at lunch, and pretty soon Michael has a sort-of ordered list of things Ryan has going for him: the way he takes jokes as easily as he makes them, all laid-back whatever, dude shrugs; the really fucking stupid, usually random and always hilarious things he says; his completely nonchalant attitude to classes; his immediate and considerable contribution to the swim team; his crooked grin; his dimples.

The last two are more reasons for why he's so popular with the female contingent, but hey, Michael can be observant when he wants to be. Or something.

 

One of the more surprising upsides of being friends with Ryan is that Michael realises he has time.

Not a whole lot of it, but still, between swimming and homework and swimming and school and swimming and sleeping and swimming, Michael is coerced into actually having fun.

It's kind of awesome.

He also breaks the law-- or is an accomplice to breaking the law, he's not really sure exactly how that works-- for the first time in his life.

"No, seriously," Ryan tells him, "People do this all the time, I've seen it."

"If they do it all the time, don't you think everyone else has caught on?" Michael frowns.

"You have, like, the totally wrong perception," says Ryan.

"Perspective?" says Michael.

"Whatever." Ryan waves a hand. "My point is, you're looking at shit from down there, and I've got the sweet-ass view from all the way up here."

"You know I'm taller than you, right?" says Michael, grinning.

"It's a metaphor, dude," says Ryan.

"Wow, big word." Michael rolls his eyes.

"Fuck you, we're doing this," says Ryan. "Stop being such a pussy. You don't even have to get out of the fucking car."

That's how Michael ends up at the nearest McDonalds drive-through window with Ryan streaking though on foot to snatch his meal from the poor attendant's hands.

"Jeah, motherfucker!" he whoops as he hurdles over a hedge and disappears around the corner.

 

"That was so not worth the five bucks we saved," says Michael as he bites into his freebie burger.

"Lies," says Ryan, stuffing half his serve of large fries into his mouth in one go. "Everything tastes better when it's snatched from the jaws of oppression. Fuck tha police, man!"

Michael stares at him. Possibly Ryan has been watching too many ghetto cop shows. "You got something against McDonalds?" he says after a moment.

"Hell no," says Ryan, closing his eyes and making a blissed-out face as he swallows his mouthful of fries.

"Then what-- "

"Fun, Mike," says Ryan. "It was fun."

Michael grins. "Yeah," he says, bumping the fist Ryan holds out to him. "Yeah, okay, it was."

 

Miraculously they don't get into trouble for that, but Ryan does get Michael his first detention ever.

It's not the worst-- he doesn't make Michael take the fall, or anything, but it kind of sucks that they both end up having to skip afternoon training to sit in a silent classroom and pretend to do homework.

Especially for something as epically stupid as turning up five minutes late to first period with paint splattered all over their clothes.

It is, of course, all Ryan's fault.

Or well, okay, maybe like, five per cent Michael's as well, but really, when Ryan Lochte accosts you in the changerooms with paintball pellets, what else is there to do but fight back?

Michael's not a pussy, no matter what anyone (okay, Ryan) says.

Now he has the stains on his t-shirt and the detention slip to prove it.

Yeah, coach is going to be so fucking pissed, Jesus.

The actual detention experience is not as bad as it could have been though. Michael takes solace in that. Ryan sits at his assigned desk sprawled out smugly like the total d-bag he is, smirking and not even glancing down at his homework. He spends the hour and a half flicking scrunched-up bits of paper at Michael instead.

Michael manages to get some homework done, even if he is twitching to retaliate the entire time.

He settles for smiling kind of stupidly instead.

 

It's weird how quickly Michael's life has gone from Without Ryan to With Ryan.

Like, he doesn't think about it tonnes-- he doesn't think about much apart from swimming and occasionally school and food and, you know, normal shit-- but it's there nonetheless, this kind of huge distinction between then and now. His life before the advent of Ryan and his life after it.

Like-- like the stuff they learned about in history class, like BC and AD, except it's BR and AR, and really a whole lot more relevant to his everyday life.

It's kind of fitting, in a way, that Ryan is his own fucking historical period, or something. Michael's never met anyone who embodies that whole sense of hugeness and impact and influence more.

 

The first big meet of the year comes two and a half months after Michael meets Ryan, although it feels like a lot longer.

It's in California, and Ryan is pumped, to put it lightly.

"Fuckin' Sunshine State, man, this is gonna be legendary!" he shouts at the airport.

Michael smiles awkwardly at everyone giving them weird looks.

"We're going to compete," he says.

"Yeah, and we're going to be legendary," says Ryan, giving him a blank look.

"Oh," says Michael. He's not above being suspicious though.

For good reason, it turns out, when Ryan cracks up and says, "Hey, I'ma find us some pot."

"We-- what-- you know they do drug tests," Michael splutters.

Ryan gives him a shit-eating grin.

Right. Of course. Michael rolls his eyes at himself. He should really know better by now. "I hate you," he says.

"I'm the love of your fuckin' life man, don't front," says Ryan.

Michael cuffs him across the back of the head.

Ryan goes to rugby-tackle him, and they make it onto the floor, sprawled out with limbs everywhere, before coach rolls his eyes and tells them to get the fuck up.

 

Michael and Ryan are roommates at the hotel they're stationed at. It's weird; Michael knows he's changed a bit since Ryan moved here, like, he doesn't think in a bad way, he's still topping his times and winning his races, but he wouldn't have thought his coaches would see it the same way.

They do though, as far as he can tell. Coach won't put two people in a room together if he thinks they're going to get up to too much shit, so letting Michael and Ryan share is simultaneously maybe a show of good faith, at least towards Michael, and a little bit worrying, again for Michael. Like, when even your coaches think you need to loosen up, that's food for thought, right?

Whatever. It's a stupid thing to dwell on, so Michael lets himself enjoy it when he stretches out on his bed, blinking at the ceiling, nonplussed and kind of stupidly happy at the same time, listening to Ryan check out the room while he freestyles something about water and gators and bitches.

It must be a Florida thing.

 

His schedule is stupidly heavy, but it's not like he isn't used to it. He's swimming the 100 and 200 butterflies, 200 free, the 100 and 200 IMs, as well as every relay they can slot him into.

Ryan's is pretty intense too-- he's got the 100 and 200 backstroke, both IMs, and a fuckton of relays as well.

Michael actually makes the mistake of thinking he won't have time to get up to any stupid shit.

 

"Whazzit?" he mumbles blurrily, struggling to sit up. At first his muddled brain supplies earthquake, but pretty hot on the heels of that thought is Ryan being a dickhead.

"Get off me," says Michael, shaking Ryan's hand off his shoulder. "We have competition tomorrow, dude."

"I know," whispers Ryan. "We're going to set our alarm, come on."

Michael groans. "Ryan," he says, "I know clocks are complicated, but can't you just figure it out for yourself?"

"Fuck you," says Ryan easily. "I have a much better system than a clock." He scoffs. "Get up, bitch."

Michael groans again and rolls heavily out of bed.

He knows Ryan won't shut up until he does, so, messed up as it sounds, going along with him is probably the best way of ensuring he gets back to sleep as soon as possible.

"Alright, alright, what are we doing?" he says, rubbing at his eyes.

Ryan grins, bright and startlingly white in the dark room. "That's the spirit, Mikey," he says, and holds up a-- a plastic bucket, okay, looking wicked.

"Where did you even get that?" says Michael.

"Room service, dude, they can get you anything you want. I could probably get, like, coke and hookers if I wanted."

"I really, really doubt that," says Michael.

"Is that a challenge?" says Ryan, smirking.

"No," says Michael vehemently.

Ryan laughs. "Keep your fucking pants on, mom, jeez," he says. "Come on, let's do this shit."

"Do what," says Michael, following Ryan blankly into the bathroom.

"Here, fill this up," says Ryan, shoving the bucket into his chest. "But only like, halfway."

Comprehension may be starting to dawn a little. "Seriously?" he says.

"Jeah," says Ryan. "Classic prank, dude. Plus I wasn't lying-- it's legit the best alarm clock a dude could ask for. Trust me, I've done it a million times."

"Of course you have," mutters Michael, but he's grinning, a little giddy with it, and starts filling the bucket.

"Sweet, bro," says Ryan approvingly. "Okay, come on, let's go."

They sneak out into the hallway, and Michael watches Ryan produce a roll of duct tape and some thick-ass string from his pocket.

"You couldn't do this alone?" says Michael, even though, he's not going to front, he's glad Ryan asked him.

"Nah, I need your freaky-ass shoulders to stand on," says Ryan.

"Oh, well, good to know I'm needed," says Michael, rolling his eyes.

"Hey, you're an unvaluable part of this stealth operation," says Ryan, pointing at him.

Michael grins. Invaluable. "Okay, come on then," he says.

Ryan grins back and proceeds to tape the string to the bottom of the bucket with probably far more than is actually necessary, but Michael applauds his caution.

"Okay," he says, biting down on his lip and frowning slightly as his eyes flick from Michael to the bucket to the top of the doorframe, trying to figure out the best system.

"Duck, dude," he says in the end, and Michael does, hands closing over Ryan's thighs as he settles himself astride Michael's shoulders, the bucket clenched between both hands.

It doesn't take long at all for him to secure the handle above the door, and then Michael sets him down so he can tape the other end of the string wherever he thinks it'll get them maximum soaking action.

"See?" he says, stepping back to admire his handiwork and throwing a manic grin at Michael. "Best alarm clock ever."

"We'll see," says Michael, but he's holding back a really stupid smile.

 

It turns out that Ryan, as usual, was right.

Michael's jerked awake in the morning by some seriously unearthly shouting coming from next door, and some pretty impressive swearing.

Ryan's already losing his shit in the other bed, choking on his laughter and trying to muffle the noise in a pillow.

"I fucking told you!" he hisses gleefully at Michael.

And yeah, okay, Michael cracks up too, and it's a pretty awesome way to start competition.

 

After that even Ryan doesn't have time for anything else but the pool.

It's-- it's a really awesome meet, honestly. Michael wins every race he's entered in, and Ryan wins everything but the two IMs he has against Michael, where he places a narrow second.

It's actually kind of nice, to have some real competition. Michael can't remember the last time he felt genuine pressure in a meet like this.

The one thing he makes sure to do, apart from, you know, win, is watch Ryan in his individual races.

He's glad he does, because it's one side of Ryan he hasn't seen yet-- hadn't even realised he had, or at least to this extent.

Ryan's just, when he's standing on the blocks, he's just so serious, so focused, and Michael's not sure what he expected, exactly-- maybe a bit of a cocky grin to psych out the competition, or some mucking around as he walks out, but there's nothing, just the calm set of his face and the measured stretch of his limbs before he dives into the water.

It's kind of fascinating. Kind of addictive, in a way, like, who knew there was just so much to Ryan, really, that first time he walked into Michael's classroom.

 

That's the actual swimming side of things. The other thing is there are lots of cameras around, because the meet is mostly full of Pan Pacific and eventual Olympic hopefuls.

Ryan is interviewed, because well, why wouldn't he be. He's won or silvered in every race he's been in.

Michael watches, kind of dumbfounded. It's amazing and a bit horrifying at the same time; kind of like a car wreck with some really baller explosions.

Like, they ask him something about Baltimore compared to Florida, and Ryan says, "You can't compare the G-spot, man. It's like, cream of the cow, you know what I mean?"

Michael's not sure anyone does.

He turns away before he can hear Ryan say anymore; before he crashes his interview to slap a hand over his mouth or, like, shake his hand.

 

Their last race is the 100 medley relay. Ryan's swimming the backstroke leg, and Michael's doing the butterfly.

They win by about a mile, and they're still running high when they make it back to their room, even after the medal presentations and the interviews and the raucous bus ride to the hotel.

Michael can't wipe the grin off his face. He says, when the door slams behind him, "Fucking awesome end to the meet, dude. You seriously need to coach me on your underwater technique, you-- "

Ryan drops to his knees in front of him.

"Um," says Michael. "What?"

"I'm gonna blow you," says Ryan. "Don't freak out, okay?"

Michael opens and closes his mouth, but nothing actually comes out. Huh. He'd been meaning to say something.

Ryan smirks up at him through his hair and licks his lips, and then his hands are on Michael's sweatpants, tugging them down with his boxers all in one go.

"Wait," says Michael, "Wait-- " but then Ryan's sucking the head of his cock into his mouth, and he kind of forgets how to speak.

He's a teenage boy, so even though he wasn't hard his dick jumps and gets all the way there pretty much as soon as Ryan's got his mouth on him.

It feels-- fuck, Michael probably wouldn't have the words under normal circumstances to describe how it feels, and he certainly doesn't now. He's never actually had sex, he doesn't have time, okay, and he thought his right hand was doing him pretty well up until now, but he pretty much immediately realises how wrong he was.

It's just, there's all this heat and tightness and suction, and like, Ryan's really messy, and objectively he probably doesn't have the greatest technique or whatever, but what the fuck does Michael know about that, and more importantly, what the fuck does he care. Ryan goes at him with all this enthusiasm and tongue and spit, and Michael can feel the never-really-gone adrenaline surging beneath his skin again, and this awesome swooping feeling low in his stomach, like something's been tugged from him, like Ryan's doing it with his mouth through his dick.

"Dude," says Ryan, pulling off suddenly. Michael just stares at him, mouth open and probably the stupidest expression of all time on his face.

"Dude," Ryan continues, "Like, I don't think you want to explain to coach why he has to front a bill to get the door repainted."

"Huh?" says Michael.

"Your hands," says Ryan, and Michael realises he's got them pressed against the door in some kind of claw-like grip, nails digging into the wood.

"Oh," he says, lifting them and then kind of hovering because well, where the fuck else is he supposed to put them?

Ryan rolls his eyes. "I don't have this hair for nothing, you know," he says, and oh. Oh.

Michael settles his hands tentatively in Ryan's curls, and like, tries really hard not to tug too hard when Ryan goes back down on him, but he's not sure how well that works out.

Ryan doesn't stop though, and Michael realises suddenly that he's not going to last much longer, and like, what is the etiquette there?

It's probably rude not to let Ryan know, so he tightens his hand a little and says, "I'm going to-- "

It sounds like Ryan's trying to say something, which doesn't really translate because he still has Michael's dick in his mouth, but it also feels really fucking spectacular, and that's it, Michael's gone.

Ryan coughs and when Michael looks down, breathing like he's just swum another fucking IM, he's got…shit, that's Michael's come caught on his chin, the sides of his mouth.

Ryan wipes the back of his hand across his mouth and says, "So like, I know I got you by surprise there, so you don't have to, but it'd be really fucking awesome if you could help me out."

"Huh?" says Michael stupidly.

"With my dick," says Ryan.

"Oh," says Michael, and lowers himself down to join Ryan on the carpet, nearly kneeing Ryan's chin in the process.

"Fucking watch it, man," says Ryan, laughing and pulling Michael on top of him.

"Um," says Michael, fumbling to get his hands inside Ryan's shorts, "I've never actually…before, so-- "

It's kind of weird, like, Ryan's his friend and also a dude and suddenly out of nowhere Michael's got a hand on his dick, but Ryan just gave him his first ever blowjob and fair's fair, right?

"Just fucking do it," says Ryan tightly, and yeah, okay, Michael does.

The angle's weird, and it jars his wrist a little, but it helps that like, Ryan has a dick-- which, obviously, shut up-- and Michael kind of knows what to do with it.

Like, he knows what feels good, at least for him, so mainly he tries to go with that.

It seems as good a plan as any, and it's working for Ryan, at least if the pleased noises and breathless swearing is anything to go by.

When he comes he arches his hips upwards and Michael just…can't stop staring, at all of it, the sharp, lithe cut of Ryan's hipbones, Ryan's dick in his hand, Ryan's come messing up his t-shirt.

He rolls to the side after a few moments of blinking like a moron, because he's probably really heavy and like, he's trying to be considerate here.

When he chances a glace Ryan's grinning all blissed-out at the ceiling, and he says, "Fucking jeah, motherfucker. You wanna go get some food?"

"Um," says Michael. "Okay."

Whatever, he's pretty fucking hungry, and if Ryan doesn't want to talk about it, they don't have to.

 

It's weird, after. Like, Michael's never really thought a lot about sex, apart from in a kind of abstract way whenever he jerks off. Even then it's mostly perfunctory.

But like, now he's actually had sex, and he really has no idea what to think about it.

Like, it was fucking awesome, he's not confused about that bit.

Mainly he's confused about everything else. Ryan and Ryan being a dude and whatever.

Along with the whole not really thinking about sex (or not thinking about it properly, he should say, he's a sixteen year-old guy and all) went not thinking about his sexuality.

Like, does this mean he's gay? Bi? He doesn't fucking know. He thinks a lot of girls are pretty, but he can also see that Ryan, with his crooked wet mouth and his curls and his lithe, tan body, is hot too.

Maybe it's a Ryan thing then. But if it's a Ryan thing that would logically mean that he wanted to do it again, which…okay, yeah, he does.

He decides it's probably best to stick with the 'it's a Ryan thing' theory. Like, Ryan's his best friend and a pretty awesome dude, and bonus blowjobs are even awesomer, right?

 

The flaw in this plan, he realises a while later, is that it depends kind of a lot on whether Ryan wants to do it again.

Turns out he doesn't actually have to wait that long to find out though.

Only until the next time Ryan comes over, and they race each other in Michael's pool, and for once Michael doesn't care about pacing himself or saving it for training or potential injuries and just goes all out, and so does Ryan, and they're exhausted and panting and laughing like crazy when they stumble upstairs to dry off and change, and Ryan just pushes Michael against the door and kisses him fast and sloppy and uncoordinated, one thigh pushed up between Michael's, and there's all this wet slippery skin, and they just kind of rub against each other until they come.

"Hey," Ryan says after, blatantly stealing the first shower even though it's Michael's house and he totally gets first go, screw the whole guest thing, Ryan doesn't count, "Hey, do you think it'd be douchey if I got an Olympic rings tattoo before I make the Olympics?"

"Um, yes," says Michael from where he's wiping himself off with a towel.

"Really?" says Ryan. "But it's like, positiveness, like, if I get a tattoo I have to make the Olympics or I'll look like an idiot."

"You already look like an idiot," says Michael absently. "But don't do it."

Ryan hums. "You could get one," he says, brightening. "We could go do it today man, I'll hold your hand if you're gonna be a pussy about it."

"I'm only sixteen," says Michael. "My mom would freak out."

"No she wouldn't, your mom's cool," says Ryan.

"Not that cool," says Michael.

"Stop hating on your mom, that's not cool," says Ryan.

"How 'bout you stop talking about my mom while you're naked," says Michael.

"Throw in a Bic Mac and you've got a deal," says Ryan.

Michael sighs, put-upon, and tries to hold back a grin until he realises Ryan can't see him. "Yeah, okay," he says.

 

He's showering in the changerooms at school, which he usually doesn't because of how close his own private shower is, but Whitney has a date tonight and he knows from experience that she's probably already holed up in there and will be for the foreseeable future-- but yeah, he's showering and he's pretty sure everyone's left by now except then Ryan's there.

"Yo, mofo," he says, smirking at Michael.

"What, you rhyme now?" Michael rolls his eyes.

"Why, that your thang?" says Ryan, putting on a stupid accent and raising his eyebrows.

"Totally," says Michael.

"Nice one, Phelpsicle," says Ryan, grinning.

"Oh my God, don't ever call me that again," says Michael, which is stupid, he realises as soon as he says it, because now Ryan probably won't call him anything else ever.

Sure enough, Ryan looks inordinately pleased with himself.

"Ugh, shut up," says Michael. And then, "Dude, why are you here?"

"For sex, duh," says Ryan, crowding in close to Michael.

It's…interesting, to say the least. Michael's starting to realise that sex with Ryan always is. Ryan blows him and Michael ends up slipping when he comes, nearly braining himself on the taps and probably incredibly lucky that Ryan's reflexes are quick enough that he doesn't, like, bite Michael's dick off in shock.

"Dude, you are the lamest," says Ryan, laughing himself stupid.

His hair is wet and plastered to his forehead, his lips are pink and puffy from sucking Michael's dick, and Michael wants to wipe the shit-eating smirk off his face.

Obviously the best way to do that is to make him come, so he tugs Ryan up and jerks him off with soap-slick hands, and Ryan's dumb pretty face goes even dumber than normal, slack and blissed-out.

 

Even though he's kind of between major championships, Bob's not letting Michael slack off much.

Or at all, really.

"This is where you make it or go back to being ordinary, kid," he says.

So, yeah, Michael's already eating and sleeping and breathing and swimming next year's Nationals and Pan Pacific championships.

It's kind of exhausting, but also incredibly awesome.

Like, sometimes it's hard to remember that he already has world records and world championship medals, and even harder to think about what he might end up with.

He tries not to dwell on it too much. He's been coached on all that psychological shit.

Ryan's also training hard, but Michael's not actually sure whether he's planning on qualifying for Nationals. He could, but there's something about him, Michael doesn't know, he just gets the impression sometimes that Ryan's taking his time, that he's unhurried in a way Michael never has been.

It's completely foreign to him, really. He doesn't know what it feels like to be without this constant sense of pressure, of having to win every race and better every time and make every major meet. Ryan just…yeah, he works fucking hard too, but he's got this attitude like everything will work out for him, like he's got time and he'll get there eventually. Like everything he does is because he wants to, whether it's practice at the asscrack of dawn or spending an entire day in front of the TV eating McDonalds. Michael's honestly not sure 'has to' exists as a concept for Ryan.

He's so sure of himself, and it's not like Michael isn't, but he feels like Ryan just is whereas he has to work his ass off for that same certainty.

Has to prove it to himself and everyone. Ryan doesn't seem to need that.

 

Thanksgiving rolls around in this sort of haze of swimming and school and Ryan.

It's times like this he thanks God or his sisters, really, that he has swimming, because stupid as it sounds considering how much time he spends in the pool, it actually helps him focus on everything else, and seriously, he's not sure he'd be getting his grades without it.

He has four days off for the holiday, no homework or swimming or anything, and it's like…he doesn't even know, he's just looking forward to sleeping and food and hanging out with Ryan.

 

"Dude," says Ryan, climbing in through Michael's window just as Michael's waking up. Ryan has freaky timing like that sometimes.

He's also recently figured out how to climb up to Michael's upstairs bedroom using some horrifying combination of plumbing and awning and shrubbery that Michael really doesn't want to know about.

He's been taking advantage of it pretty regularly.

"Gngh," says Michael, still not quite awake.

Ryan shoots him a you're such a loser look, and then grins.

Michael blinks. "What," he says, "The fuck is that?"

"You like my bling?" says Ryan, grinning some more. It's a little blinding.

"Did you get braces or something?"

Ryan scoffs. "Hell no, dude, it's a grill. Pretty sweet, right?"

"Um," says Michael.

"Whatever, don't be lame," says Ryan, pulling the grill from his mouth and slipping it into his pocket.

"Is it-- where do you even get one?" says Michael.

"Special order." Ryan smirks. "It's not real though. When I'm rich it'll be all diamonds."

Michael doesn't really know what to say to that, so he goes for, "Oh my God," again.

Ryan hurtles forward and tackles him back into the sheets. It descends into a wrestling match, which Ryan wins because hey, he had the advantage, and Michael just woke up. He emerges breathing heavily, victorious, pinning Michael's wrists above his head, and he ducks in without hesitation to kiss Michael messy and warm on the mouth.

"You're not going to, like, blow me with that thing in, are you?" says Michael when Ryan moves to bite his neck.

Ryan lifts his head, considering. "Not unless you want your dick shredded," he says.

"I'm good," says Michael hurriedly.

 

Michael's woken at 4am the first day he's due back at training not by his alarm, which he was expecting, but by something hitting him in the face, which…well, he guesses he was sort of expecting, in an abstract, I'm-friends-with-Ryan-now kind of way.

"The fuck," he mumbles, struggling to sit up.

Ryan's following his missile through the window, obviously, and Michael makes a face at him before he checks out what Ryan actually threw at him, which…he fumbles and blushes.

It's a packet of condoms, and lube.

"Um," says Michael.

Ryan jumps onto the bed and says, with this really stupid serious face, "It's time."

"Not if you say it like that, Jesus," says Michael, rolling his eyes. He's maybe stalling a little bit.

"Isn't that what chicks like? I'm trying to be serious here," says Ryan.

"Yeah, you might have missed this," says Michael, "But I'm not a chick."

Ryan widens his eyes in mock surprise and then laughs. "You wanna?" he says, and fuck, Michael kind of hates how very occasionally he'll just cut right through the bullshit.

"I," he says. "Yeah, I mean, I get to fuck you, right?" He puts on a smirk.

"Hell no," says Ryan. "I bought this shit, I get to use it."

"Dude, I have to be at training today," says Michael.

"So do I," counters Ryan.

"You don't have Bob though, dude, if I'm-- if it-- he'll know something's up."

"Aw, you think I won't make it good, baby?" Ryan smirks.

"I'm taller though," says Michael, "So I should get to go on top, right?"

"What kind of sense does that even make, bro," says Ryan. "What, you think if you manage to bag some like, six foot something supermodel, she should get to fuck you with a-- a strap-on or something just 'cause she's taller?"

"No," says Michael. Goddamnit.

"So," says Ryan.

"So," says Michael.

They stare off for a long moment.

In the end Ryan rolls his eyes. "We don't have time for this shit, okay. Rock paper scissors?"

Michael bites down on a sudden urge to laugh hysterically. Of course he'd end up rock paper scissoring for sex with Ryan. "Yeah, okay," he says.

Ryan holds out a fist solemnly. Michael mirrors him.

Michael wins.

"Fine." Ryan tips his head back to make a face at the ceiling. "I'm not gonna complain, I'm not a pussy."

Michael's starting to grin so hugely it's actually hurting his face a bit.

"That is not a good look for you, MP," says Ryan. "You know what to do, right?"

"Of course I do," says Michael. He's not lying. Mostly.

"Okay," says Ryan. He shoves Michael aside to like, lay down with his head on Michael's pillow, and then crosses his arms behind his head, looking at Michael expectantly with a smirk playing about his mouth.

"Asshole," says Michael, pushing Ryan's legs apart to settle between them. This bit at least is sort of familiar. He's blown Ryan like this before.

"You gonna get me naked?" says Ryan. His mouth's gone all crooked. Michael leans down to kiss it.

"Get yourself naked," he says.

"Pushy," says Ryan, leaning up on his elbows. "I like it."

Michael ducks a grin into the collar of his shirt as he strips it off while Ryan twists and contorts out of his clothes.

By the time Michael's done Ryan's already lying down again, fisting his cock lazily.

Michael stops and just stares a bit stupidly.

"You good, big boy?" says Ryan, smirking outright now.

"You need to stop watching so much porn," says Michael, shaking himself out of it.

"You need to get fucking moving," says Ryan.

"Shut up," says Michael. He uncaps the lube and pours some onto his hand, not meeting Ryan's eyes, aware that he's being watched unabashedly.

"I'll shut up when you-- oh."

Fuck. Michael may have pushed that finger in too quickly; he goes to pull out but Ryan reaches down to grab his wrist and says, "No."

"Is it-- " Michael bites down on his lip. Ryan's face is screwed up, and it doesn't look good, yet, Michael doesn't think, like, he looks mostly uncomfortable and a little bit assessing.

"It's," says Ryan. "Just, I dunno, move it a bit."

"Okay," says Michael, and does, slowly.

"Like, bend it," says Ryan. And then, when Michael does, "Yeah, fuck, like that."

Michael lets out a breath. "Okay," he says. "Um."

"Gimme another one," says Ryan.

"You sure?" Michael raises an eyebrow.

"Fucking give it to me, dude," says Ryan, and shit, okay, that's kind of hot.

Michael works another finger inside him, and Ryan hisses, hips twitching like he's trying to get comfortable.

"Is that-- "

"Bend them again," says Ryan, so Michael does.

"Fuck," says Ryan.

He looks like he's relaxing a little, so Michael dares to press in a little deeper, and like, scissors his fingers a bit.

"Fuck," says Ryan again.

"Good fuck or bad fuck?" says Michael, swallowing.

"Good fuck, Jesus," says Ryan.

"Awesome," says Michael, and feels about as accomplished as when he broke the 200 fly record.

"Fucking-- come on," says Ryan, but Michael feels a bit more with it now, so he says, "No, be patient," and Ryan says, "Fuck you," voice wavering a bit.

Michael wraps his hand around Ryan's cock as he works his fingers, which is only half-hard now, but Michael's pretty impressed with that, actually.

Like, if someone had their fingers in his ass, he doesn't know if he could get it up at all.

Ryan kind of, spits out half a swearword and arches up into Michael's hand, getting back to completely hard pretty much straight away.

"Stay quiet, dude, my parents are in the house," says Michael.

"Then fucking hurry up and do it," says Ryan tightly.

Michael says, "You need three fingers, I'm not doing this with two."

"Fuck, I told you, I'm not a pussy, I can take it," says Ryan, gasping as Michael twists his fingers around his cock.

"No," says Michael, and presses in with a third finger.

"Fucking fuck you," says Ryan. His eyes are all glassy and his lips are wet, and Michael has to really fucking apply himself to focus on fingering him open. Fucking Ryan, seriously.

"How's that," says Michael, watching the way Ryan's relaxing by increments, like, he's still wound-up as shit but in a good way, Michael thinks-- or well, hopes.

"Yeah," says Ryan vaguely, which isn't really an answer, but it seems positive, at least.

"Good," says Michael.

Ryan presses down on his fingers and kind of twists his mouth like he's thinking-- or trying to think-- and then says, "No more fingers. Your dick's not bigger than three."

"Fuck you, aren't you supposed to be telling me I've got a big dick?" Michael laughs.

"I can't lie, baby," says Ryan, smirking.

"Fine," says Michael, because if Ryan thinks he's the only one who can be an annoying shit he's got another thing coming.

He pulls his fingers out, all three of them abruptly, and Ryan says, "Jesus, dude, fucking warn me or some shit."

Michael just shrugs and focuses on getting one of the condom packets open, which isn't as easy as it sounds when you're as achingly hard as he is and like, about to fuck Ryan Lochte.

He gets it on eventually and glances up to see Ryan watching him-- or watching his dick, whatever-- with this kind of slack expression, mouth open.

"You look, like, dumber than usual," says Michael conversationally. It only comes out a little bit shaky, which he's inordinately proud of.

Ryan's eyes snap back to his face and he sticks his tongue out. "Screw you, you really want me to tell you what you look like right now?"

"I," says Michael, slicking himself up and then leaning back over Ryan, "Look fucking hot right now."

"You look like a really sweaty dork," says Ryan.

Michael rolls his eyes and then, like, just goes for it, taking his dick in one hand and guiding it into Ryan.

Ryan says, "Shit," when Michael pushes the head in.

"Fuck, oh God, Jesus," says Michael. "Please tell me it's okay, I can't-- "

"It's okay," Ryan grits out, shifting a little. Michael holds himself in place with the most effort he's ever exerted in his life, it feels like.

"Yeah?" breathes Michael. He can feel the sweat beading on his forehead, running down his face.

"Jeah." Ryan quirks a smile. "Do it, keep going."

"Okay," says Michael, and pushes the rest of the way in agonisingly slowly, because he can feel how tight Ryan still is, oh man can he feel it, even after the three fingers.

"Bottom's up, dude," says Ryan, grinning manically when Michael's in as far as he can go.

"Oh my God," says Michael, half about what Ryan just said and half about the way it feels.

It's like…fuck, he doesn't even know. He's thought about what it would be like, obviously, and moreso since he and Ryan started this...whatever it is they're doing, but. It's just more-- more everything. Tighter-- so fucking tight-- and hotter and better than anything he'd expected.

He also didn't realise how hard it would be to do. Or well, how hard it would be to focus. Like, he's trying to figure it out himself, and then he's trying to make it good for Ryan-- 'cause it would fucking suck if this was so awesome for him and then shitty for Ryan. It's almost impossible to get himself coordinated though; to find some kind of rhythm with the way Ryan won't stop moving, to not thrust in too hard or fast, to get the angle right, to get a hand on Ryan's dick.

He manages in the end, somehow-- or at least to get his hand on Ryan again. He's not sure about the rest.

It's a pretty considerable feat though-- the arm he's got holding him up is shaking with the effort, and he's also proud of the way it makes Ryan choke on, "Fuck, fuck," and start looking like he's having an okay time.

"How is it," Michael manages to breathe out, "Like, do I need to change the angle, or-- "

"Fuck, you psycho," pants Ryan, "I'll give you a fucking bullet-point report later, just-- more."

"That's not really constructive," says Michael, but he tries to like, press in firmer with his hips, not too fast, maybe dragging a little, because it feels fucking sweet and hey, maybe it does for Ryan as well.

"Fuck, that's like, a dick," says Ryan, squirming a bit.

"Um," says Michael. "You knew I had a dick, right? That's the second time you've sort of called me a chick today."

"Is it?" says Ryan vaguely. "Well, if the hat fits-- "

"It's shoe, you moron," says Michael tightly.

"Huh?" says Ryan.

"God." Michael gives up and pushes back in, faster than he'd intended but still not too fast, he doesn't think.

Ryan says, "Yeah," brow furrowed a little bit, and that looks kind of like a challenge, and Michael lives off challenges, so he pulls out again and tries to shift the angle, thinking about what he did with his fingers earlier, and then pushes back in.

"Yeah," says Ryan again, except this time it's with his eyes all huge and blue and trained unseeingly on the ceiling, and that looks like a good thing so Michael sticks with it and just tries to find a rhythm.

He does, and it's not perfect, kind of awkward and jerky and his arm is shaking so bad and he keeps forgetting and then remembering that he's trying to jerk Ryan off at the same time, so it's all slow and then fast and probably like, really frustrating for Ryan, but it also feels so fucking good, better than anything, and he has no idea how long he's been inside Ryan but it feels like forever, which also means that it probably won't be much longer before he's coming.

"Ryan," he says, kind of desperately, trying to speed up his hand, "Are you going to come, 'cause I-- I need-- "

"Do it," says Ryan randomly, and like, Michael's not sure what he means, but it tips him over the edge anyway, and he gives up all attempts at control of any kind and just grinds in as he comes, feeling it shake out of him, all the way down to his bones and the tips of his fingers and toes, all excruciating tightness and just fucking…pure amazingness.

"Fuck," he says, letting his arm give out and collapsing onto Ryan.

Ryan gives him maybe three and a half seconds before he says, "Dude, dude, I need to come."

"Yeah," says Michael. He doesn't really feel like moving, maybe not ever again, but Ryan did just let Michael fuck his ass, so it's the least he can do, really, to sort of drag himself heavily down Ryan's body and take his dick into his mouth.

"Fucking-- yeah," says Ryan, fisting a hand in Michael's hair and pushing up unashamedly with his hips.

Michael just lets him do it, partly because he's kind of offline right now and partly because Ryan can do whatever he wants and it's pretty awesome anyway.

He lifts a hand to like, press back against Ryan's hole, just experimentally, and pushes the tip of one finger inside, and he didn't mean it to do anything but Ryan swears and comes pretty much straight away.

Michael chokes on it, caught by surprise, coughing as he pulls off and trying to swallow, mostly so he can breathe.

"Shit," he says, when he thinks it's safe, "Was that like, revenge for not warning you earlier?"

"Yeah, I had it all planned." Ryan rolls his eyes. "Fuck."

"Yeah," says Michael, pulling himself back up the bed to collapse next to him.

They lie like that for a bit, just trying to catch their breaths, arms brushing.

It should probably be awkward or…something, Michael's not really sure how it's supposed to work, but what actually happens is Ryan rolls his head to grin lazily at him and then slaps his chest and says, "Go make yourself pretty for training, dude, you look like you just had some dirty fucking sex."

"Yeah?" says Michael. He grins and heaves himself up, pulling on his boxers. "You look like you just got fucked."

"So I look awesome then," says Ryan. He tucks his tongue into the corner of his mouth and adds, "My turn next."

Michael ducks his head, cheeks heating up all over again, and mumbles, "Yeah, okay," as he escapes to the bathroom.

 

The weather starts getting colder then, and Ryan starts wearing these stupid oversized hoodies to school, which…okay, they're actually not that different from the ones Michael wears, but they look stupider on Ryan. But like, not in a bad way, if that makes sense.

Not many things with Ryan do though. Or well, nothing about him makes sense on its own, but all together it's a pretty awesome package.

Things are pretty much the same, anyway, in the wind up to winter break. Michael keeps training, keeps trying to stay level with his grades, keeps hanging out with Ryan, keeps having sex with Ryan.

It's…well, it's pretty awesome.

He tries not to think about it beyond that. Like, he figures it's similar to swimming, in a lot of ways. He doesn't want to psych himself out or lose his momentum or overthink and choke.

And like swimming, it's working out pretty well for him. So far, at least.

When Ryan comes over now they don't swim in Michael's pool a whole lot, partly because it's too cold and partly because they do enough swimming anyway.

Ryan does materialise one day with a pair of shitty remote control boats though, and they sit on the edge of Michael's pool with their feet in the water and proceed to try and beat the shit out of each other's boats. Also each other, between stabbing at the remotes.

The boats actually stay pretty much intact, although Michael ends up tumbling into the pool with Ryan, trying to get him to cry mercy by dunking him underwater and beating him around the head with the remote. Ryan plays dirty though and tugs Michael's shorts down mid-dunk, and Michael has to quit beating on him to pull them back up.

Normally he wouldn't bother but his mom's home and he doesn't want to get in trouble for (or be seen, for that matter) swimming naked in the pool.

Again. (It's a long story; he doesn't like to talk about it.)

Ryan tugs them down again in his room after though, and blows him, which Michael's always okay with, because Ryan has some fucking mouth on him, and it shouldn't be possible but it's better every time.

 

The sucky thing about being so close to vacation is that there are also shitloads of papers due.

Michael ends up pretty much barricaded in his room a week before school's out on a self-imposed homework marathon.

Of course, Ryan ends up bulldozing through Michael's carefully set-up barrier, which consists mainly of his mom guarding the staircase.

It probably isn't the greatest plan; Michael's mom, for some unfathomable reason, loves Ryan.

"Dude, I'm doing this because I care about you," says Ryan.

"What?" says Michael.

"This has got to stop," continues Ryan.

Michael just stares at him.

"Like, you're hurting the people around you, Mike. Or something."

"Or something," echoes Michael blankly. "What am I doing, exactly?"

"You haven't sucked me off in like, a week."

"Oh my God," says Michael. "Seriously?"

"I saw this on Jerry Springer, dude, it's totally legit," says Ryan, and Michael bursts out laughing.

In the end Ryan doesn't push for the blowjob, just drags Michael out to his car and drives them to the nearest burger joint.

"Wait," says Michael, feeling like he hasn't quite caught up, "What's this got to do with blowjobs?"

Ryan rolls his eyes. "You're pretty fuckin' dumb sometimes, Phelpsicle, you know that?"

"Fuck you, I am not," says Michael.

Ryan grins and flicks a straw wrapper at him. "I'm like, sealing the deal," he says.

"What?" says Michael.

"Sweetening you up," clarifies Ryan not very clearly. He leans closer and adds pointedly, "For blowjobs."

"Oh," says Michael, and takes a minute to translate that particular example of Ryan-speak. "Wait," he says finally. "Is this-- is this a date?"

"Fuck you, it's burgers and blowjobs," says Ryan, and there's a bit of a flush in his cheeks, but his eyes are bright when he meet's Michael's, a bit challenging.

Let it never be said that Michael can't rise to a challenge.

 

They don't have a lot of time to figure it out, though, if there is even anything to figure out. Michael's not sure. Like, have they been dating all along? Or maybe something's supposed to change now that he knows. In a way he kind of hopes not; he's pretty amazingly happy with things the way they are. If that's what dating is like then it's actually pretty cool.

Anyway, Ryan's heading back to Florida pretty much the minute school breaks for Christmas vacation.

Something about not being able to spend Christmas away from his grandma, who is, he tells Michael, "The bitchingest grandma ever, dude, you should meet her sometime."

He comes over before he drives out to the airport with his family.

"You're coming back though, right?" says Michael, and immediately feels like the biggest girl ever. But it's just-- Ryan is changeable like that, and who knows, maybe he's just as likely to stay in Florida as he is to come back after Christmas like he planned. Or maybe Michael is just super paranoid, but it doesn't hurt to check.

Ryan just grins though. Sometimes he's weirdly considerate. "I'll bring you back a baby gator," he says.

"Cool," says Michael, trying to inconspicuously release a breath he didn't realise he'd been holding. "I always wanted a pet."

"Call it my Christmas present," says Ryan.

"Deal. Here's yours, by the way." He throws a plastic bag at Ryan, trying and mostly failing not to blush. He hasn't wrapped it or anything girly like that, thank God, but still.

Ryan actually rips the bag in half trying to get to the present, and then he shakes out the t-shirt with this stupid goofy grin on his face.

"Fuckin' sweet, dude," he says, laughing.

"I thought you could wear it in interviews," says Michael, watching Ryan prod at the letters spelling out Trophy Husband. "To make people feel better about what you're saying."

"You calling me dumb?" Ryan narrows his eyes.

"No," says Michael. "I'm calling you pretty, duh."

Ryan shakes his head and goes right back to grinning. He strips off the t-shirt he's wearing right there, and Michael can't help the way his eyes drop to take in Ryan's chest, the muscles lining his ribs, or the way he's a bit disappointed when it's covered by Ryan pulling on the new shirt.

"I have to split," says Ryan. "I was gonna blow you as like, goodbye or whatever, but if I'm late my parents will like, kill me."

Michael grins. "It's cool," he says. "You can blow me when you get back."

"You blow me," says Ryan, smirking, and goes to like, slap Michael all manly on the shoulder, which is…it's fine, it's not like they do shit like lingering hugs or hand-holding or even kissing that much, even if they are maybe sort-of dating now.

"Fuck you," says Michael, and Ryan's smirk gets even bigger as he turns towards the door.

"I will, when I get back," says Ryan. "My turn, remember?"

"Hey, are you going to nationals?" blurts Michael before he can think better of it.

It's weird, how he hasn't wanted to ask or like, confirm it, how much he's been counting on this fantasy of Ryan just being there, wherever.

How much he wants him there. How vital this whole thing is starting to feel.

Ryan just shrugs and throws him a blinding grin. "I'll see you 'round, dude," he says, turning.

"Wait," says Michael.

Ryan stops and looks back at him, raising an eyebrow.

Michael steps forward and catches one of his wrists, pulling him around and kissing him.

Ryan freezes for a moment.

Then he smirks and says, "You're such a girl," against Michael's mouth.

Then he kisses back.