Ray hesitated in front of the door. This was dumb. It was arguably a breaking of their unspoken rules of privacy. He and Ryan didn’t ask stuff directly, certainly not in actual words. They just, you know, took what they were given when they were given it, let the other know they were there and would listen and would care. It was a good system. One that resulted in Ryan knowing things about Ray no one else ever has and maybe ever will. Ray likes to think it also goes vice-versa. But this was bugging him. Bugging wasn’t even the right word for it, this was eating at him, slowly and surely, every second of every day, and making him hollower and hollower by the minute. He needed to get this addressed.
The worst part was he seemed to be the only one who didn’t know who it was – who on earth did Ryan like? He knew the guy too much and knew the tells too well to not know his attitude was definitely the result of some kind of crush. Ray’s been through it too himself, he knows exactly what stage Ryan’s in: smack dab in the thick of the finally-having-accepted-he-likes-them-but-not-yet-met-with-the-crushing-reality-that-to-have-anything-happen-would-require-the-mortifying-ordeal-of-being-known zone. Ray zoomed past that post like a couple months ago and has landed in the knows-Ryan-will-never-return-his-feelings-but-will-enjoy-his-time-with-him-nonetheless-if-bittersweetly position on the rode o’ heartbreak. Recently it’s felt less like a road and more like an ouroboros, but the metaphor still stands.
Every time he tried to get info out of the others, they gave him this frustrating look of, “I know, but I won’t tell you, and it’s withering that you don’t already know,” as they swore they knew nothing of the sort. Which, honestly? They can go fuck themselves about that. Why are they all such assholes about this? There’s literally no reason to be, especially since Ray’s been so careful to hide his feelings so there’s no way they can know he has, like, a personal investment here.
So now he’s here, last resort. Actual, verbal communication. He’s already tried to talk himself out of it, told himself Ryan would tell him if and when he wanted to. He wasn’t owed this information. It was probably someone he didn’t even know (didn’t want to think about if that would hurt more than knowing them). It didn’t matter who it was, he was going to be happy for the guy anyway. Be there for talking about it no matter how much it hurt. Keep his heart hidden and let Ryan be happy – Ryan deserved to be happy.
And yet, Ray still wants to know. He just- he just wants to know, is all. So… you know. He guesses he’ll just… ask. Politely.
Ray took a deep breath and knocked on the door, some part of him wishing Ryan wasn’t actually home even though he knew for a fact he was.
There was a grunt from the other side of the door and Ray finally properly steeled himself. “Yo,” Ray called. There was a moment of shuffling sounds and then the door was unlocked and there was Ryan. His hair was a little mussed in its bun, the permanent bags under his eyes were no worse than usual, his t-shirt looked soft and his jeans were the dad-est thing Ray’s ever seen a serial killer wear in his life. Like usual, Ryan stepped aside and just let Ray into his room, not a word needing to be said.
When had this become their usual, Ray wondered. It’s not like they did anything when they hung out. Mostly Ray slouched improperly on some piece of furniture and/or floor. Sometimes tapping at his phone or DS, sometimes staring off into space while he fidgeted with something. Ryan’s room was quiet. In Ryan’s room Ray felt like he could relax. Ryan’s room had plants and blank walls that he wasn’t responsible for thinking about customizing. It was definitely weird that Ray found the idea of decorating or even properly living in his room stressful, but he did. Those pressures weren’t in Ryan’s room.
Plus, Ryan’s room had Ryan – doing something on his laptop, tapping away on a phone, tinkering away at something on his desk, reading a book like some kind of literate person. Sometimes Ryan would put on a movie and Ray would wander his way over and find himself leaning on him to watch it. Sometimes Ray would bring his switch and demand Ryan try to beat him in Mario Kart.
Sometimes Ray would knock and Ryan wouldn’t be doing so good, but for some reason he still let Ray in, as if having Ray there was better than not. Ray still hasn’t figured out why, but he does his best during those times to just quietly be there. He’d leave if Ryan asked him to, go if Ryan didn’t open the door. But Ryan never shooed him out. It’s just their usual.
Or, at least, it’s their current usual. If Ryan’s interested in someone, well, he really wouldn’t need Ray moping around to cramp his style. Probably wouldn’t be at the penthouse that much either anyway, and Ray’s not so desperate as to break into a guy’s room (not yet at least…). Ray takes a moment as he enters the room to mourn their usual, something he didn’t even realize he’d had to do till just now.
Yeah, Ray’s going to end up taking all of this super well. This is such a super good idea. He’s so fucking smart and good at things, Jesus Christ.
Ryan closed and re-locked the door – a motion one should typically fear when done by the Vagabond, but somehow being locked in a room with Ryan was probably Ray’s #1 pick for top-ten-places-that-give-him-emotional-and-physical-security. Ryan returned to where he must have been before Ray knocked, on the bed doing something with his computer. Ray always found it kind of funny (kind of cute) that no matter where Ryan was sitting, he always had perfect posture. Ray was positive that if he managed to make it to old age he’d pay for his slouching in back pain, but Ryan would be good to go for years. If they make it to then.
Ray considered, just for a moment, chickening out and just living with not knowing. Just enjoy this day and the next until it was over. But the gnawing in his stomach hadn’t let up for a single second and he knew he couldn’t do that.
Ray leaned against the desk and crossed his arms lightly, a flimsy physical barrier to the hurt to come. The distance between the two of them was a few feet, but somehow it felt like a chasm. Ryan looked up from his laptop for just a moment and then again, taking in Ray’s posture. That was another thing – Ryan could read him like a book. Ray could hide anything from anyone, but for some reason Ryan could always see right through. There wasn’t a point to putting up a façade for him, so Ray found himself not doing it. Now Ryan watched him, waiting for Ray to be ready to say what was on his mind. Ray studied the carpet.
Well, have to start this thing off one way or another.
“So, I, uh, heard you started to get interested in someone…” It was blunt, for sure. Not Ray’s usual beating around the bush, saying everything but what he wants. He doesn’t have to be direct, Ryan somehow catches his drift no matter what, but in this matter, he doesn’t know how else to say it.
Ray finally tore his eyes from the carpet to look at Ryan. Ryan’s face was in a red-hot blush and he stared owlishly at Ray. Well, there’s his answer, there’s his confirmation. As much as Ray knew that Ryan must surely like someone, some part of his heart was holding out for him to be wrong, for Ryan to have absolutely no interest in anyone. But the look on Ryan’s face makes it clear that he’s got a crush, and honestly probably a real doozy of one too.
Ray’s heart crumbles into dust in his chest. He wants to leave right then, go back to his stupid room and just not come back out. But still his morbid curiosity needs to know: Who? Who gets to have Ryan when Ray can’t?
“Must, uh, be a pretty good looker, to get your attention and all…” Ray mumbled to the floor.
And then, Ryan scoffed. Scoffed! And suddenly Ray looked up at him, now red in the face (from embarrassment or indignity, Ray wasn’t entirely sure).
“Well aren’t we full of ourselves?” Ryan said, still red in the face and now looking at the carpet himself. What?
“What?” Ray said, confused.
“What?” Ryan said, now looking up again in confusion, but it was a confusion as to why Ray was confused, which just confused Ray more.
“What do you mean?”
“Well you just called yourself good looking, so…” Ryan trailed off, now looking anywhere else once more. Huh?
“… No, I meant the person you like?”
“Right,” Ryan said, brow furrowed and looking up again, “You.”
“What?” Ray said.
“What?” Ryan said.
“What?” Ray said again, and for half a second, he thought it was clicking. Then his brain decided to immediately short circuit, however, so he lost it.
“You didn’t know already??” Ryan asked, confused. Know what? What would he know already? Know that Ryan liked him?
What? What!? What?
Ray didn’t really process it, he didn’t have time, he felt defensive. His one working brain cell decided that responding was more important than processing.
“No!! How was I supposed to know if you didn’t tell me!!” Ray shot back, because that was a fair point, actually.
“I-I thought that was why you were here!”
“No! I just wanted to know who it was I needed to be jealous of!” Ray’s last braincell needs to shut the FUCK up and stop being honest. But it’s pointless because his stupid self decided Ryan is safe enough for no façade. Idiot.
“Jealous? Why would you need to be jealous?”
Now it was Ray’s turn to scoff, “I! Because! The guy I like liking someone else is something to be jealous about!” Can he make it any more obvious?
Ryan was about to say something back but then he seemed to stop, the wheels in his head screeching to halt. They rewound until he came back with an unexpected sentence, looking at Ray with an unplaceable emotion that looked a lot like hope mixed with whiplash, “Wait, you like me?”
“Wha- I- Well,” Ray sputtered, somehow growing redder in the face by the second. This was all going downhill so fast and the breaks were yet to be found, “Y-yeah, of course I do!”
“What do you mean ‘of course’, I didn’t know!” Ryan said – not angry, just, Ray doesn’t know, he supposes flustered? That’s definitely how Ray felt.
“W-well- Now you do! And I didn’t know you liked me, so there!” Great come back, Ray. You showed him.
“Yeah, well, now you do!” Ryan said, equally as eloquent and now crossing his own arms. He looked damn near a pout too.
Ray buried his head in his hands. How had this gone so bad so quickly. There it is, suddenly out in the open. He told Ryan he liked him. Now everything was definitely ruined. Their usual was definitely done forever effective immediately and he still didn’t even know the answer to the question he came in here for.
Somewhere deep in the recesses of Ray’s brain a miracle occurred. What was thought to be the last-remaining brain cell stumbled upon one of its own kind. Shocked by the discovery of one-another, they wasted no time in producing what was long regarded as an extinct species within the confines of Ray’s mind – a single coherent thought.
Ray looked up from his hands at Ryan, wracked by his revelation. “Wait…” Ray said, finally catching on, “Y-you like me?”
Ryan looked like he was about to start the cycle over again when he caught the look on Ray’s face and suddenly softened. Softened the way Ray couldn’t help but notice only ever happened around him. Could he actually…?
“Well, yeah,” Ryan said, and Ray had never seen a more earnest man in his entire life. “Of course I do.”
The chasm between them somehow crew deeper, yet Ray suddenly wanted nothing more than to cross it. There’s no way, though, no way he could have this.
His arms uncrossed themselves. He squeezed the edge of the desk.
“W-well, th-that’s good.” Ray fought to keep himself looking at Ryan as he spoke. Fear and trepidation and hope and yearning built his heart back up. “B-because I like you too.”
“Y-you do?” Ryan asked, and now ray couldn’t help but smile, because here they go again. Ryan being nervous made Ray calmer. You don’t get nervous over things you don’t mean.
“Yeah,” Ray said, his voice now soft. “Of course I do.”
There was a quite moment of silence, more in awe of the moment than anything else. They just watched each other, not knowing what to do.
Ryan rose from where he’d been sitting on the bed and suddenly the chasm collapsed into absolutely nothing and Ray was walking the three steps to him without even thinking about it. Ray’s arms found Ryan’s shoulders and Ryan’s hands found Ray’s face and they stood there a moment, looking at each other – so close, the way Ray’s wanted to be a billion times before. Could they really? Were they really allowed? No way, Ray was tempted to think, they don’t get fairy tales. Do they? Ryan’s blue eyes washed out those thoughts and left nothing behind but unmistakable want.
“Can I kiss you?” Ryan asked, the ghost of his whisper rolling over Ray’s lips and raising goosebumps.
It was so fast for them, neither liked to plunge headlong into things. Both needed things to be taken slowly.
And yet Ray felt like they’d already done that part. They already have gone slow. They already know each other. They already trust each other. Ray’s waited so long for this. Ray wondered if Ryan has waited for this. The look in his eyes says it all – yes.
Ray smiles. “Of course you can.” And then there isn’t a single inch between them.