The cold can of coke was a shock against the dark, swelling welt on Bikky's right cheek. He hissed, flinching partly as he glanced up to see who was watching out for his good looks.
“Carol said you sounded like you were going to get into it again today,” Rai said, handing off the can as Bikky reached for it. Bikky held it against his face at a slightly different angle, and groaned. He might have felt sorry about telling Carol about his basketball woes over the phone – since he'd blown his knee a week into March, he'd been in rehab and healed up great, but now there wasn't even space on the bench for him - but she'd been the number one love of his life and official dream-girl since he was a little kid, and he could never bring himself to regret talking to her.
“I’m surrounded by rich OC motherfuckers,” he grumbled. Rai arched an eyebrow, and Bikky’s expression broke into a grin (which hurt, but was worth it). “Yeah,” Bikky said again, staring straight at his best friend, “suh-round-dead.”
“Well, look at you getting into fights and not at all perpetuating a stereotype.” Rai folded his arms over his chest, bunching up the cable knit on his wine-colored sweater.
“Says the super-smart Asian kid with the industrial-strength trust fund and obligations to the family business. It ain’t even a regular thing,” Bikky said, and scoffed.
He flexed his hand experimentally, eyeing a gash over the second and third knuckles on his left hand. Bikky hissed, sucking his teeth as he shook out his arm from the shoulder. “Man, my three-point’s gonna be off now.”
Rai nudged Bikky’s bag, an overstuffed duffel that might’ve had a Lakers logo, with the toe of one brown leather loafer. “Come on. Tell me about it. The rehab thing?”
Bikky pulled the can away from his face and cracked it open, taking a long drink. “Sort of,” he said, pulling the shoulder strap of his duffel across his body. He stayed sitting on the paved campus walkway. Rai shifted his weight to one side and put his hands into his pockets, waiting.
There had been this guy, in his same year, who wasn’t in on scholarship but was good enough to play off-the-bench - like Bikky. They’d been in competition for a while, but this guy had been getting by on more talent than diligence and Bikky had put the work in - Rai’s tutoring had kept his grades up-to-snuff while Bikky had been training his hardest. Bikky’d been the one to get the call-ups during the important games, but after he tore up the cartilage in his knee, that guy had been gloating. He'd made it obvious he thought that spot on the team should be his, just because he'd always planned it would be.
“He told me I shouldn’t have bothered,” Bikky said, his voice going hard and uncharacteristically cold. “Like, he didn’t say it outright, but he didn’t like no poor-ass mixed boy showing him up. I finally got sick of him, took it out on his stupid face.”
“That lanky, ginger guy?” Rai guessed, “kinda looks like a horse? I’m supposed to help him with Trig.”
Bikky gave Rai the finger, and jutted his chin out. “Fuck him,” Bikky said, and spat.
“Think he heard you, here comes the ugly fucker,” Rai said, indicating a place in the middle-distance over Bikky’s shoulders with his eyes. He knew the guy’d said something else, something specific - and in the back of his mind, knowing Bikky, he could already guess what it was. Something about half-breeds and low-quality product. Rai’d been told once before that things made in China weren’t reliable - that hadn’t been well-received by him or his brother.
The guy - Denny, Rai thought his name was - had a big bandage over his left hand, a split lip, and what looked like at least one tooth missing from his front right lower jaw. Spotting them both, he made a series of rude gestures. Bikky’s normally expressive face was a mask of indifference, as he slowly got to his feet. At his full height, he was more than a head taller than Rai now. His size alone made him casually intimidating, and Bikky knew it.
Bikky put one hand in his pocket, and tipped his head to one side. His thick, coarse blonde hair fell in front of his eyes, obscuring the dark skin of his face and the mottled purple of the shiner Denny had given him. Bikky didn’t need to say anything for Denny’s shoulders to visibly tense up. He didn’t need to pull one shiny white lower incisor from his pocket and flip it into the air like a coin, either.
“That’s cold, brother,” Rai said, and grabbed Bikky by the strap on his duffel bag, pulling him away from the now emphatically gesticulating Denny. He wasn’t yelling anything, which had Rai guessing that he’d bitten his tongue when he’d lost his tooth. Bikky keeping it, Rai thought absently, might possibly be his bad influence. It was the kind of thing Lau and the family organization would be impressed by. Bikky let himself be dragged, draining the cola and tossing the can into a blue bin as they went.
LA wasn’t exactly the best town for Bikky, but he’d wanted that basketball scholarship since he was fifteen, and Rai knew how hard he’d worked. Of course he was angry, of course it was causing trouble. Of course, Carol was still in New York, taking classes and working and keeping Ryo from turning completely into an empty-nester. Rai had gone to LA at the same time - for work, yes, helping the family strengthen their west coast connections and working through his second master’s degree (at twenty, but the truth was that he’d hoped to have his second PhD by now, so he couldn’t feel entirely pleased with himself) - and knowing that Bikky was going to be in school nearby had made the decision a lot easier.
In the parking lot, out of sight of Denny, Carol conveniently rescued Bikky from having to think about the consequences of riling him up again. Bikky’s cell phone went off, chirping some Korean girl-group pop-song about kissing that Carol’d had on loop the previous summer (the last time they’d gotten to see each other). Rai focused on getting Bikky and his things into the car, and the two of them across town, while Bikky told Carol about how tough and hot his new bruise made him. From the sound of Carol’s laughter, Rai was guessing that she’d give Bikky a hard time about losing his pretty-boy looks.
“Hey, I’m not the one with the soft skin and the hairless upper lip,” Bikky said into the phone, laughing and nudging Rai’s arm with his elbow. Right on the mark. Rai scoffed, and elbowed Bikky back, in the ribs.
Carol and Bikky flirted for the twenty minutes it took to get to Rai’s LA condo - a loft conversion that looked like a shoebox next to his family’s place in New York, but still made Bikky feel like the only reasons he should be there were to fix, install, or steal something. Without thinking, he hunched over, trying to look smaller and friendlier - until Rai jabbed him in the ribs again, and he made a soft uhng sound.
Rai could hear the way Carol’s voice rose and fell. “Ooooooooooh,” she said, voice crackling with electronic distortion but clear enough in the big open entryway to Rai’s place. He unlocked the door, while she asked, “What are you two boys getting up to without me to watch? Is your bromance intensifying? Are you bonding over your wounds? Is he patching you up?”
Bikky dropped his bag by the shoe rack, kicked off his Nikes and made a bee-line for the kitchen, laughing into the phone. “No way, that guy’s fucking vicious. He’d use the stuff that stings.”
Over the sound of Carol’s laughter, Rai called, “He’s right, I would!” He was headed for the big, comfortable couch he and Bikky occupied for everything from study sessions to game tournaments. Bikky giggled, retrieving a couple of beers from the fridge and carrying them over to the couch. Whatever Carol was saying, it had his ears turning a slightly darker, redder shade of brown.
“Not fair to me, girl, when you put it down like that,” he laughed, clicking the volume toggle on his phone down a few bars. Rai couldn’t hear Carol’s voice, even with the tv muted. He’d put the Heat game on the widescreen, and set the in-picture to a Chinese business-news channel. He and Bikky hit the cushions almost in unison. Bikky stretched one long leg out, propping his heel up on the coffee table and pushing it out of Rai’s reach.
Bikky’s grin widened, and he looked over at Rai. Rai watched him, brows rising. “Nah, he can’t hear you,” Bikky said. Rai rolled his eyes, turning his attention back to the television.
Bikky arched his back, shifting his hips a little as he settled in, handing the beers over to Rai. Rai opened them, and Bikky took a long gulp of his before pressing the cold bottle against his sore cheekbone. Rai shook his head, stifling a laugh, and took a drink.
“You got my hands full now, girl,” Bikky said, “How’m I supposed to handle that?”
Rai tipped his head back on the couch cushions, watching Bikky squirm for a moment before he reached over.
“O-oh,” Bikky said, “yeah, I guess I could ask him to give me a hand. Don’t know that he’d take me up on it.”
“Sure you don’t,” Rai snorted, but left his hand on Bikky’s thigh. It wasn’t the first time Carol had suggested they fool around while she was on the phone - Rai didn’t need to hear her half of the conversation to guess at what she was saying. They didn’t usually like to encourage her or Lass when the girls joked about how close their boyfriends were - it wasn’t like Rai or Bikky were queer, or anything.
“Oh, come on girl, now that ain’t fair,” Bikky said, putting a little growl into his voice. He spread his legs a little wider. Rai took another drink, and brushed his hand over the growing bulge in Bikky’s jeans. “Yeah?” Bikky asked, “Tell me about it, baby girl.”
Rai bit down on his lower lip, swallowing a comment about how he would never, ever be anybody’s baby girl. It didn’t stop him from unhooking Bikky’s belt and opening his fly. Bikky groaned into the phone and closed his eyes. “Yeah, I wish I was there to help you out of ‘em,” he said.
With slender, uncalloused fingers Rai reached into Bikky’s boxers and pulled him out into the open. The cool air and the hot contact made Bikky shiver. Bikky set down his beer and buried his fingers in Rai’s hair.
“You gonna suck me, baby?” Bikky asked, voice low in his chest.
“Fuck no,” Rai said under his breath, and stifled a groan when Bikky tugged his hair in retaliation. Rai slid his thumb over the head of Bikky’s cock, fingers holding tight around the shaft. Rai smiled to himself. Maybe.
Whatever Carol said, it made Bikky’s cock jump in Rai’s hand. Bikky moaned and laughed, “I’m gonna lick you ‘til you’re crazy for me.”
Rai exhaled heavily, and gave Bikky a firm tug followed by a long series of slow strokes. Bikky’s conversation quickly devolved into a series of grunts and fuck yeah, girls. Rai set the pace for them, jerking Bikky in an uneven rhythm. Bikky was just reaching over to start rubbing Rai through his pants when Rai heard Carol laugh again.
“Oh, no, Cal, don’t tell me that,” Bikky groaned - an unhappy groan, this time. “Please, girl, you’re killin’ me!”
Bikky turned up the volume again, and Rai gave him a squeeze.
“I can’t help it if Ryo’s home early, big guy,” Carol said, in an entirely self-satisfied purr. “If it hurts, you’ll just have to get Rai to kiss it better.”
“Not for nothing, he ain’t gonna kiss it.”
“Tell him I said to kiss your face, then. And take pictures! Lass will want to see that,” Carol giggled.
Bikky shifted his hips upward, and wagged his eyebrows at Rai. “Hey, bro,” Bikky said, a little more loudly than before, “Cal says you should kiss it ‘til the swelling goes down.”
“That's the gayest thing you've ever said to me,” Rai said flatly. Like he didn’t have Bikky’s cock in his hand, like he wasn’t rubbing the base along the underside, near his balls where he liked it.
“It’ll just be the once! Not like it’s a regular thing, boys ,” Carol said, “You work on convincing him Bik -- Oh, crap! I gotta find my panties before Ryo gets upstairs!”
The line went dead with her laughter in their ears. Bikky tugged on Rai’s hair again. “Just this once,” he said, “Come on, I’m dying here.”
“No pictures,” Rai said, taking Bikky’s cell phone and shoving it under the couch cushions. “And it won’t be -- “
“Yeah, fine, whatever, just put your mouth on me already, fuck -- “ Bikky said. Rai leaned over, swiped his tongue over the slit at the head of Bikky’s dick, and shut him right up.