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Keep Your Secrets Close to your Chest

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Ryan’s life was going fine until Spencer got a boyfriend. It wasn’t that Ryan was jealous (he was a little jealous, because Spencer was a year younger than him and it just wasn’t fair). It was just that Spencer’s boyfriend was over all of the time, and Ryan felt like he was third-wheeling. It was okay when they were out getting dinner at the cafeteria, or hanging out in the library. It only sucked when the three of them were in Spencer and Ryan’s dorm room together, because Ryan could tell that they wanted him to leave.

 

Ryan left, usually. He had a chair in the study room reserved for him. It was nice. He just wished that Spencer could go over to Brendon’s room for once, and not the other way around.

 

Spencer and Ryan started dating in October, and survived winter break. It wasn’t any better when everyone came back from break, though. Something must have come over the two of them while they were separated, because Ryan started getting a lot of “hey, Brendon’s coming over and we need the room, can you be somewhere else for like an hour or two” texts from Spencer. Ryan wouldn’t mind, except that one of his classes involved partner projects and another involved group project. Ryan was spending way too much time dealing with other people when he needed to be working on his own assignments.

 

Still, he responded with “yeah, sure” every time Spencer texted him. Good for Spencer, getting laid on the regular.

 

Ryan was thinking about that, and how he’d seen Brendon earlier with a hickey on his neck, and how weird that was, when he came into his creative writing class. It was an intro to creative writing class, and Ryan was only taking it because it would help get him enough credit hours for his major.

 

Ryan was pretty sure he was the best writer in the class, but that didn't matter, because he still had to get partnered up with someone so that the class could learn how to revise and think critically. Or whatever bullshit the professor was using to make people work together.

 

He sat down next to a tall guy with messy brown hair and soft blue eyes. He looked tired, but it was also two in the afternoon and the classroom was stuffy. Ryan pulled out his spiral notebook and a pen and acted like he was doing something interesting. Really, he was just writing the same lyrics over and over again. It was better than talking to people, especially people he didn’t know well.

 

“Do you know who you’re partnering with for this project?” The guy beside Ryan asked. Ryan should have put in earbuds.

 

He looked up. “Um, no. Why?”

 

“I don’t know,” the guy said. He rubbed at his neck. Objectively speaking, he was pretty cute. The poem he’d submitted for the class workshop had been unnecessarily heterosexual, though, so Ryan wasn’t even going to consider it. “I thought you had a cool writing style, and I liked the poem you submitted in the workshop. I thought maybe we could be partners?”

 

Ryan considered it. Even though the poem had been really straight, it had still been good. He shrugged. “I guess. I’m not really good with straight people’s writing, though. I can’t relate to it.”

 

The guy lowered his voice. “I’m not straight. I’m just not super out about it.”

 

Ryan felt like an idiot, and he felt his face heat up. He turned away for a moment to cover it, and closed his notebook. “Oh. Okay, I’m an ass.”

 

“It’s fine,” the guy said. He was smiling when Ryan turned around. He had a really nice smile. Somewhere, Spencer was laughing and calling Ryan a sappy romantic. The guy ran his hand through his hair, twisting it with his fingers. “I’m Dallon, by the way. In case you forgot my name like you did with Lacie last Tuesday.”

 

“I remembered,” Ryan said, blatantly lying. “And I’m Ryan, in case you forgot.”

 

“You’re hard to forget,” Dallon said. Ryan stared blankly at him. Was Dallon flirting, or was Ryan just desperate? Dallon rubbed at the back of his neck. “I meant, your writing. You’ve got a really distinct voice. It’s, um, I really like the stuff you write. It’s different from everyone else’s, in a good way.”

 

“I’m openly gay and angry, dude, of course it’s different.”

 

“Right,” Dallon said. He turned away from Ryan, and Ryan went back to writing the same lyrics over again. He switched to a different song, though, because this one wasn’t working and Ryan didn’t want to think about anything for the next few hours.

 

Ryan’s back was to the windows, but as he and Dallon waited for the class to start, he heard rain pounding down. Ryan frowned. He hadn’t brought a jacket, but this was his last class of the day so he could always just stay in the building until the rain died down a bit. Or he could just suffer through the rain all the way back to his dorm and hope that Brendon wasn’t there so that he could complain about being soaked to Spencer.

 

The rain didn’t stop at all during the class. It was hard, and loud, and the wind outside was howling as well. Ryan glanced over his shoulder about five minutes before the class was supposed to end, just to see if maybe the noise was from the wind instead, but no. Rain was still pouring down. The few people who were outside looked miserable.

 

“Alright, before I let you all go, remember that you need to have chosen your editing partner by the end of class Thursday, because I’ll be handing out your first assignment on that day,” the professor said. People were already putting their things in their bags and getting ready to leave. “If you don’t have a partner, I’ll pick one for you, but this is not a project you can do on your own.”

 

She looked over at Ryan when she said that part, like she knew that Ryan hated group work. She was right, and he did, but the joke was on her because he already had a partner. Admittedly, Ryan knew absolutely nothing about Dallon, but he was better than someone random, and if Ryan remembered correctly, his poem hadn’t referenced God or religion at all. Too many people in this class were religious. Ryan was tired of hearing Christians talk about how much they loved God and were proud of their religion.

 

It wasn’t like Christians were ever attacked for being Christian. Ryan couldn’t imagine how much these people would whine if they were gay instead. That was what actual oppression felt like.

 

“Hey, so I know it’s still raining, but do you want to grab coffee or something and wait it out?” Dallon asked as he and Ryan were leaving the classroom. Ryan didn’t know what this guy’s deal was. Just because they were working together didn’t mean they had to be friends. Just because they were both two gays in a heterosexual world didn't mean that they had to be friends either, but Ryan did want coffee and he didn’t want to have to walk all the way back to his and Spencer’s dorm in the rain.

 

He shrugged. “Sure. Do you have an umbrella or anything, or are we both going to get soaked?”

 

“Yeah, I left it by the door,” Dallon said, pulling on his backpack straps. Ryan followed Dallon out of the building, sending a quick text to Spencer to let him know that he hadn’t drowned and was getting coffee. He didn’t mention that he was getting it with someone else. He didn’t want Spencer to think that Ryan and Dallon were actually friends and not just school project partners.

 

They had to walk closely together so that they wouldn’t end up soaked. Dallon was ridiculously tall, and Ryan wasn’t even that short. Ryan found himself on his toes, trying not to seem that short in comparison to Dallon. He didn’t have to act tall, though. Dallon’s opinion of Ryan didn’t matter. They would just be partners for this project, and at the end of the semester Dallon would forget about Ryan and Ryan would go back to having only a few friends, Dallon not included.

 

The campus Starbucks was predictably crowded. Dallon and Ryan got in line anyway, not really talking to each other. Ryan looked around, hoping that there would be an open table somewhere on the main floor. He knew that there were six whole floors in the library and that one of them would have an empty spot for Dallon and Ryan to sit, but Ryan was hoping that they’d be able to stay on the main floor.

 

“I forgot how crowded this place gets,” Dallon said. “Maybe this wasn’t the best place to go for coffee.”

 

“Well, we’re in line now,” Ryan said. “But if we can’t find anywhere we can just sit on the floor or something. It’s college. It’s not like anyone is going to care that much.”

 

“Sounds good,” Dallon said. They fell silent again until they got up to the counter, where Dallon ordered first and then Ryan. They paid for their own drinks. There were about ten people waiting in front of them, so Dallon asked Ryan for his phone number and then went in search of a pair of seats for them. Dallon texted Ryan with a location a few minutes later, and then Dallon and Ryan’s drinks came up.

 

Ryan grabbed both drinks and headed to the place that Dallon had found. It was half of a table, with three sorority girls at the other end. It wasn’t the worst place to try to get to know someone. Ryan would have preferred somewhere more secluded in case Dallon turned out to be a really weird person and Ryan needed to get out quickly.

 

“It was the best I could find, sorry,” Dallon said.

 

Ryan handed him his coffee. “It’s okay. It could be worse, probably.”

 

Dallon smiled. He had a really pretty smile. Ryan realised he needed to get laid if he was starting to swoon over his writing partner. It wouldn’t be hard to do. Ryan was (somewhat) attractive, and there was a good number of people in the area that Ryan was willing to sleep with.

 

Ryan sat down across from him and took a sip from his coffee even though he knew it was going to be too hot. “So, what kind of stuff do you do when you’re not in writing class?”

 

“I’m in a band,” Dallon said. “Kind of. It was more of a high school thing, but we never actually ended it so I use it more as a fun fact than an actual point on my resume. I also draw, sometimes. Usually comics and fanart and stuff like that.”

 

“Cool,” Ryan said. He meant it. He wasn’t super into comics, but it was interesting that Dallon could draw. Theoretically. Ryan had obviously never seen any of Dallon’s art, so the guy could have been lying. “Um, I’m not that talented. Most of what I do is write and go see a bunch of concerts. I can play guitar, and at one point I wanted to be in a band but then my dad died and I had to pay for the funeral.”

 

“Oh,” Dallon said. “I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s okay,” Ryan shrugged. “I didn’t really like him.”

 

“I picked that up from the things you wrote,” Dallon said. “No offense to the other people in our class, but I don’t think they give you enough credit for what you do. You’re bearing your soul to a bunch of strangers, and everyone keeps telling you to be nicer about it.”

 

Ryan shrugged. “I’m used to it. I’m not a nice person.”

 

“You don’t have to be,” Dallon said. “I wish I could be more honest in my writing. There are a lot of things I’ve never written down before.”

 

“You can always lie and say it’s about someone else,” Ryan said. He knew that wouldn’t work, though. They had to read their writing out loud in class, and if Dallon’s voice wavered when he was talking about his personal secrets, everyone would know. Ryan couldn’t hide his emotions when he read stuff out loud. He didn’t see why Dallon would be able to, unless Dallon had secret powers.