The street is quiet when Ryan pulls up at the right address and turns off the engine. The house in question is made out of red brick and set in a garden so overgrown that Ryan almost gets eaten by the hedge when he makes his way through the gate. He opens the front door, walks inside and does a quick scan of the interior. There is glass on the floor in the living room, a few windows broken in their frames, debris and dust everywhere.
“What do you think?”
Brendon shows up from around a corner, hands in his pockets, looking tense. Ryan looks around again. The walls in the living room are splattered with dark brown, contrasting sharply with linoleum floors in a horrible shade of eggshell.
“I’m thinking that the people who lived here probably shot their interior decorator,” Ryan says with a smirk. “And if they didn’t, they should have.”
Brendon smiles. “Just wait until you see the bathrooms.”
“Rose pink, orange and more brown,” Brendon says, shuddering. “No bodies in the tub, though, so that’s a plus.”
They walk around the house together. It’s two stories, four bedrooms. Or, what used to be four bedrooms—the wall between two of the upstairs ones looks like it’s been on a violent date with a sledge hammer.
“Yeah, I know, it’s pretty bad,” Brendon says, carefully stepping around a pile of drywall. Ryan nods thoughtfully.
“So, why this place?”
Brendon takes his hand and leads him back downstairs.
“Come see the garden,” he says. “There’s a greenhouse in the back. It’s shaded by the trees now, but we could use it to house beetle colonies. Or ants. A private lab kind of thing. Maybe even have a couple of beehives down by the hedge.”
The garden at the back of the house is just as overgrown as the one in front. They enter through a door in the kitchen, stepping into what Ryan guesses used to be a vegetable patch.
“My mom grows flowers,” Brendon says. “She doesn’t know the traditional meanings, but she chose one for each of us when we were born and always says that happy flowers make a happy home. The first thing I noticed when I came here were the dandelions.”
Ryan nods, smiles. The dandelions in question cover the entire lawn. Yellow symbols of faithfulness, happiness and love, growing in grass so high it nearly reaches Ryan’s knees. There are other things as well: blossoming clover; a small grove of apple trees; honeysuckle growing wild all over the hedge separating the garden from the neighbours’. Brendon leads him around the corner to the side of the house, and Ryan stops short, breath catching in his throat.
The entire wall is covered in ivy.
“I know this house needs a lot of work,” Brendon says. “And it’ll probably take us forever to fix it up—especially with how many hours we put in at work—but. This is what I want. And I thought of a lot of different ways to do this—to ask you—and then this wall was right here, and it kind of says everything I want to say, so...” He trails off and waves his hand in the general direction of the mass of green growing across the bricks. “What do you think?”
Ryan looks at the wall. It really is a perfect metaphor. The ivy is thick and gleaming, beautiful. It climbs freely all the way to the roof, but doesn’t look like it’s trying to swallow the house. Instead, it makes the house look stronger, red brick shining clearly through the leaves, and Ryan thinks that this—this life he never expected to have—is just full of things he never knew were missing.
“Yes,” he says, feeling a smile spread on his face and turning into a laugh when Brendon attacks him, pulling Ryan into his arms and kissing him hard enough for both of them to lose their balance for a moment.
“Yeah,” Ryan repeats, moving a hand to Brendon’s face and angling it up for another kiss while pulling Brendon closer. “I’d love to.”
Brendon makes a small, almost pained sound and breaks the kiss momentarily, burying his face in Ryan’s neck. “I’m gonna make you so happy,” he vows, tightening his grip until all air is gone from Ryan’s lungs. “Fuck, you just wait. I’ll make you think you walk on clouds.”
Ryan smiles, hugs Brendon back, too many words filling him up and finding none at all at the same time. He takes Brendon’s hand, leads him over to the wall and picks two leaves—one for each of them. His own is large enough to wrap twice around his fourth finger, and when he looks down at Brendon’s hand, Brendon’s fiddling with the stem of the leaf, trying to make a knot.
“Here, let me.”
Brendon holds out his hand, and together, they make a loop for the stem to run through, tugging it tight. Brendon weaves the fingers of their left hands together, pulls Ryan close and tilts his face into a kiss that feels brand new and familiar all at once.
Ryan runs his free hand up the length of Brendon’s spine, pulls him a little closer still.
Words feel quite unnecessary after that.