Riz knows everything’s about to go horribly wrong when he hears the van door click shut behind Kristen.
Riz quickly unbuckles himself and clamours over the backseat to get to the sliding door Kristen just left through, but the latch doesn’t give. He squints through the dirty glass window and sees Kristen’s on the other side, her hand under the handle and keeping it shut, but then… Why is she chanting?
A searing pain hits his palm and Riz yanks his hand back with a hiss. The burn is already fading when he looks at it, but a small, blue, celestial rune is still burning on the latch, dull but getting brighter as Kristen keeps speaking, and it’s then that he really starts to panic.
There’s a rustle behind him as something moves, and then there’s the pressure of Fabian’s hand on his shoulder. “The Ball, what’s—” Fabian starts, and then Riz whips around to look at him, and he pulls back with a jolt. “Whoa!”
Riz wonders what he must look like to Fabian right now, with his hackles raised and his ears pinned back against his skull. He can feel the fur just beneath his collar starting to peek out the back of his shirt as it stands on end, the fur along his tail and spine following soon after as he tries to make himself look bigger. He knows his eyes are doing that weird slit thing they do when he gets mad, and normally Riz would be more worried about looking like this in front of Fabian, but—
“They’re locking us in,” he snarls, fangs flashing white as they catch the light, and Fabian blinks.
“Wait, what?!” He sputters, but Riz doesn’t have time to figure out what the blank look on his face (or the blush that quickly follows suit after) means before he’s moving.
Riz kicks off the wall , and in a flash of green, starts to ping around the van like the silver ball in a pinball machine. He checks the door across from Kristen’s first and finds Fig, repeating the same incantation and trying not to smirk. Riz glares before pushing off the glass with a growl, and Fig sends him off with a wink. He scrambles over the center console and gets to the passenger side to see Gorgug, and even with his shoddy pronunciation, Riz knows that doesn’t matter when he’s still beat -2 to +5 in the strength department.
Finally, Riz turns to the driver’s side, and his eyes immediately latch onto a gap between the door and the glass, where the window isn’t rolled up all the way. He already knows the gap is too small for him to fit through, and he’s mentally calculating how many points of piercing damage he’d be willing to take by breaking through when Adaine speaks.
“Riz.” Adaine stares, cold and calculating.
Riz stares back, pissed and less calculating. “Adaine.”
Their eyes lock, yellow versus blue, as an entire conversation passing between them through the glass. A whole battle transpires between them as they stare, one where empires rise and fall, where mountains crumble, where hundreds of thousands of people are lost—
And then Adaine smiles and sticks her tongue out at him, all smug and self-satisfied, and Riz is suddenly intimately familiar with the Cain Instinct Aelwyn speaks of so fondly.
“Adaine,” Riz spits, still gripping the edge of the window as she continues casting the spell, and the only thing that keeps him from clawing at the glass is the weird feeling of it against his nails. “This isn’t funny, let us out!”
She decidedly does not. “Riz, as your dearest, smartest, and only-est sister, please trust me when I say that this is for your own good.”
Riz leans in close to the glass, suddenly hyper aware of where Fabian is arguing with Fig less than two feet away in the backseat. “Locking me in an old, smelly van with my best friend and crush of two years is for my own good?!”
“Not chill, my dude,” Zaphriel hums somewhere from the dashboard, sounding vaguely discontent.
Riz and Adaine whirl on the gem in unison. “Shut up!” They hiss, and the light from the sapphire has barely dimmed before they’re back at each other’s throats again.
Her head whips back around to him. “And yes!” She snaps, and the magic funneling through her fingers suddenly shoots into her, and Riz watches as her eyes go supernova and start to crackle with electric blue energy. She huffs and closes her eyes, magic rising from the corners like steam as she counts and does one of her breathing exercises. When they shoot open again, they’re back to normal.
Excess magic is still clinging to her eyelashes as she presses on. “Riz, I’ve only known about your crush for a few months, but watching you pine over Fabian and then beat yourself up about it isn’t exactly fun for me either.”
She says it with a heavy sort of sigh, and any fire that was burning in him is instantly extinguished. Riz looks away, ears pinned back. “If this is about me talking making you uncomfortable by talking about it, you could’ve just said—”
“It’s not. ” She says, voice stone, and Riz looks up to meet her eyes. “This is about you being my brother, and about me wanting you to be happy.” She glances over to where Fabian is still bickering with Fig, and crinkles her nose up as if in disgust, and even with the shitty circumstances, he can’t help but smile. “Even if your taste in men is objectively bad.”
“Okay, as touching and as sweet as that is, and much as that wants to make me cry, I’m still pissed at you,” Riz says, matter of fact, and Adaine nods in acknowledgement.
Riz perks up, and his ears follow suit as he turns on a dime, going all wide eyed and cutesy. “So you’ll let me out?”
“Oh, absolutely not.” She smiles innocently before her brow furrows deep in concentration, and Riz is helpless to stop her as Adaine’s eyes pool with light. This time they’re blinding white instead of blue, and when they blaze even brighter, he’s forced to close his eyes or lose his corneas. When Riz opens them again, the rune on the handle has settled on a deep cerulean, and Adaine looks absolutely thrilled. When he gives a lukewarm attempt to try the lock, the rune flares, burning that same bright white as Adaine’s eyes before, and she squeals.
Adaine does a little celebratory dance and Riz groans, thumping his head so hard against the glass, it rattles. He’s hoping the pain or the blunt force trauma will knock loose some perfect, brilliant plan that’ll get him out of this, but no idea comes to mind, and Riz plops down in the seat, defeated.
“You need to talk to Fabian about this, and if you don’t do it now, I can’t guarantee you ever will,” She says, tapping her temple and Riz curses under his breath. “A concussion isn’t going to get you out of this, either, Riz.”
Given the circumstances of locking your best friend/self proclaimed brother in a van, Adaine is being more than reasonable about this, and Riz hates that she’s right, because he still kinda wants to ram his skull into the glass until it shatters… or until he has to start making death saves. He’s not especially picky.
“Can you at least tell me how you’re gonna keep us here? What if we starve?” He says, eyeing the Hangvan’s old antenna. Riz could probably reach it if he stuck his arm out the window and really stretched for it. Maybe he could use it to pick the lock—?
Adaine puts her hand on top of it and pushes down until it’s completely retracted back into the car. Fuck.
“If you starve in here, it’ll be your own fault and you know it.” Riz huffs, and she continues. “The doors won’t open until you confess your feelings to Fabian, and since Zaphriel inhabitants the Hangvan, he’ll hear it. He’ll notify Gorgug, who will notify me , and I’ll drop concentration on the spell to let you out so you two can come inside and eat a burger, or something.”
“So what you’re saying is the spell lasts for an hour—”
“First of all, I made this spell myself, so you don’t know how long it lasts, fuck you,” she says, counting on her fingers. “Secondly, if you make me wait more than hour in a crowded, noisy diner just so you can tell Fabian you’re gay for him, I’ll hex you.”
Riz is briefly distracted by the fact that Adaine technically made a spell for him, because that’s literally one of the most thoughtful things anyone’s ever done for him, holy shit—
But then he remembers that it’s being used to force him to confess to his straight best friend, and that rebellious fire kick back onto high, and Riz says—
“You know what?” He jabs a finger against the glass with a glare. “I think I’ll do both of those things. I’m gonna make you sit in there for however long this spell lasts just to waste your time, and then I’m gonna starve just to spite you and ruin your stupid, dumb, parent-trap plan.”
Adaine glares right back. “If it’s so stupid, then why did it work?”
Riz goes to answer—
And nothing comes out.
The smile on Adaine’s face only gets wider and smugger as the silence stretches on, the frustration on his face more obvious and comic. Riz goes to speak more than once, either to defend himself or to disprove his sister, or both— just to shut his mouth with a click of his teeth when he can’t find an answer.
When Riz finally gives in with a pent up snarl, Adaine’s so full of pride, he’s surprised she’s not glowing with it.
“Gods, I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming,” he groans, the sound turning to a growl halfway through. “Fuck, I’m so stupid! I mean, I knew you were planning something, but I thought it was because my fucking— my birthday’s next week. I thought it was just a surprise party, or-or that you were working with the others to figure out what I wanted, I don’t know, something normal. ”
And not, you know, locking him in a car with his best friend who he's in love with . That was an oversight on his part, obviously.
"I mean," Adaine says, glancing at something over his shoulder, and it's only then that Riz realizes Fabian is climbing over the center counsel to join him in the driver's seat, which is. Fine. It's fine and totally normal and cool and chill that Fabian's first instinct isn’t to move him, but to just—
Climb into the same seat as Riz and crowd him in against the door, that’s totally normal, totally chill, totally fine, Riz is cool.
(He is not .)
Riz scrambles to grab his tail before Fabian can accidentally plant his knee on it and— okay, wow, he just has a front row seat to Fabian’s… everything, huh? Fabian has an arm braced against the door jam, his whole body sort of covering him like a shield, and Riz is appreciating the benefits of his position in a completely platonic, not romantic way at all, thank you. He has his left knee on the seat keeping him balanced, the other planted firmly on the floor, and Riz is squarely sat between his legs and having a heart attack.
“Adaine, get us out of here!" Fabian yells, banging his fist against the glass, and Adaine replies, and Riz knows the conversation keeps going, because he can definitely hear people talking—
But pinned between Fabian and the door, he literally couldn’t make out the words to save his life. Riz is sitting with his knees curled up against his chest so he doesn’t accidentally touch Fabian, and he’s too distracted trying not to accidentally ogle his pecs and/or abs to pay attention to anything they’re saying. Fabian has his letterman tied around his waist as opposed to actually having it on and conveniently covering his biceps, and Riz has never hated his black, form-fitting tank top more than he does in this instance right now.
There’s a tap against the glass next to his head, and Riz jumps, and cranes his neck to look out the window.
Adaine is there, crouching so she can be at his eye level, and gives them both a once-over. Adaine takes in the way Fabian is looming over him, the way Riz is perfectly tucked in against his body, and she cocks a brow at him.
"I think this is a pretty decent present, Riz.”
Riz feels his heartbeat kick into high gear, and close quarters be damned, he spins around face her.
“Adaine,” he pleads, claws digging into the rubber seal along the window. “Adaine, don’t do this, you need to let me out now, this isn’t funny anymore—”
“You know what you need to do,” she interrupts, and Riz feels his stomach sink as Adaine stands.
“Adaine, let us out!” Riz shouts, trying not to sound frantic. But there’s no heat behind it, and Riz knows they’re done for when all she does is wave goodbye. He watches Adaine and the rest of the Bad Kids funnel into Basrar’s Soda Fountain, and are greeted by the djinn, and Riz lets his last shred of hope melt between his fingers.
He’s very busy creating a mental sticky note so he doesn’t forget to take Adaine out of his will when Fabian says, “We need to talk.”
Riz gives a full body shudder at that, for multiple reasons; the very vast and terrifying implications of that one sentence, the serious way in which Fabian said it, the fact that Fabian was so close when he said it that Riz could feel it , not just the heat of Fabian’s breath on his ear, but the vibrations from his voice—
“I, um,” Riz fumbles, his face an emerald green as he turns to face Fabian, which is a mistake. They’re still sharing the driver’s seat, and Fabian is still very, very close, and Riz is nowhere near his right mind enough to trust himself to not be stupid. His ear still feels like a live wire, like the tremor of Fabian’s voice is running through his nervous system, the excited, nervous energy flooding him from head to toe, and just because Fabian spoke a little close to him.
“O-okay, okay, yes, we can talk, just—” Riz stutters, quickly pressing a hand to Fabian’s chest and pushing him back so he can fucking breath , fuck “—we can talk, but can you, could you get in the other seat or something first, you’re just—”
Fabian gives him a look that tells Riz he has no idea what he’s talking about, and Gods, he’s really gonna die like this, isn’t he?
Riz turns his head away, too embarrassed to look at Fabian head on as he mumbles, “You’re just… really close.”
And he is, the heat from Fabian’s body covering him like a blanket, his scent overwhelming. Riz can tell his face is burning, and fuck , his eyes must be the size of saucers right now. He has one clawed hand instinctively curled around his tail, the other just barely resting on Fabian’s chest, and Riz is really hoping he doesn’t look as turned on as he feels.
Even with his ears pinned back and his heart drumming in his ears, Riz can practically hear the gears turning in Fabian’s head as he looks down at them, as he takes in the utter lack of space between their chests, and Riz can almost hear the clunk of everything falling into place as Fabian finally realizes how undeniably… intimate, their position is.
“Oh, um,” Fabian blushes, and Riz feels the butterflies return with a vengeance. “I, alright, let me—”
Fabian carefully and wordlessly pulls away until Riz finally has enough space to actually think, and he gives a sigh of relief. That electric feeling is still wreaking havoc on his ear, and Riz grabs it with his trembling hand just for something to do while Fabian gets settled on the passenger seat.
It’s silent for a while as both of them try not to think about how they were just breathing the same air only a few seconds ago, and it’s only when Riz glances at Fabian that he remembers what Fabian said about talking, and his hands are instantly clammy. Riz has no idea what Adaine told Fabian, what his expectations are, what he knows —
He risks a second glance at Fabian, just to scope out the scene, and finds Fabian already staring back.
Riz is fucked.
“Yes?” he says, and Riz winces when his voice cracks. Fabian fits him with a weird look, eyes narrowed, and he tries not to squirm.
“Are you okay? I know we just got locked in a van by the rest of the Bad Kids, but you’re acting really weird.”
“Well, I mean, no,” he says, furrowing his brow and resisting the urge to grab and nervously wring his tail out like a towel. “I’m pretty mad at Adaine and I’m gonna steal her jacket once we get out here and throw it in a fountain, but other than that, I’m not really sure what kind of behavior constitutes as ‘normal’ in a situation like this.”
“Well, I’m not exactly thrilled about this myself,” Fabian huffs, and Riz tries not to take it personally. The pang in his chest that follows after lets him know he’s failed. “It’s a stupid prank, but it’s nothing to get pissed about.”
“Wait, what? What are you talking about?” A prank?
“I mean, this is annoying, sure, but Adaine said we just have to talk to get out?” Fabian says, looking at him like he’s expectantly, and Riz feels his stomach drop. “She said you’re supposed to tell me something…?”
“Did she… say anything else?” Riz asks, already imagining the worst case scenario. “Anything specific?”
“What? No, The Ball—” Fabian groans, a frustrated hand raking through his hair “—I don’t get what’s so complicated about this, all I know is that Adaine said you’re supposed to tell me something and that we’d get out as soon as you said it, so what’s the problem here?”
“Nothing!” he snaps, too quick, too mean, and instantly regrets it. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that,” Riz goes to touch Fabian, reaching for him on reflex, before he thinks better of it. He starts picking at his claws instead. “Or, I-I did, but not like that, I was just—”
“Stop talking.” Fabian clarifies, and Riz snorts. Fabian rolls his eyes as if Riz is the one being dramatic, then pinches the bridge of his nose like he just got a migraine. “Okay, I’m obviously missing something here, and whatever it is has to be important to you, or we wouldn’t be fighting—”
“We’re not fighting.” Riz half-heartedly protests, and Fabian gives him the driest, deadest look in Solace.
“Riz, in all the time we’ve been friends, the closest we’ve ever come to a fight is the time Adaine and I found you passed out on the floor of your office because you hadn't eaten in two days, and this feels just like that.”
“It was a time sensitive case! And besides,” he says, quickly pushing past the way Fabian is gearing up to give another lecture on the importance of a balanced diet and self care. “There’s nothing to say. Whatever Adaine thinks we need to talk about isn’t nearly as important as she thinks it is, and there’s no reason to talk about it.”
Riz waits for Fabian to snap back with something clever or witty or charming, but Fabian says nothing. Instead, he looks at Riz like he’s trying to pick a lock or break into a safe, and Fabian’s focus on him, the undivided attention, flusters Riz more than he’d like to admit.
He’s sure Fabian is somehow about to see right through him and crack this case wide open, gut him like a fish and tell Riz I’m sorry, gently break his heart in two—
Instead, he says, “Okay.”
“Okay?” Riz blinks, and Fabian nods. “Just like that? You’re not gonna push me on this?”
“I mean,” Fabian drawls, dragging out the vowel sounds. “If whatever this is is really as unimportant and trivial as you say it is—”
“—Then I don’t see why we can’t talk about it.”
Riz barely suppresses the urge to growl, the sound rattling around low in his throat but not coming out, “Fabian—”
Riz looks up, surprised and wide-eyed, just in time to see Fabian reach out and take his hands across the center console. His thumbs stroke across scarred knuckles, scars left over from his time in the palimpsest a year ago. Fabian’s hands are so, so much bigger than his, and Riz shudders when they clasp with his.
“Please talk to me.”
“I-I can’t.” Riz can feel his heart racing, brain whirring on overdrive. Gods, is this actually happening?
“Why not?” he says, and Riz turns away before Fabian can meet his eye.
“It’s nothing, it’s stupid,” Riz chokes, and— God, fuck, all Fabian did was say his fucking name, he can’t cry right now, he can’t—
“Tell me anyway?” he asks, just this side of pleading, and out of the corner of his eye, Riz can see how earnest Fabian is, how honest, how hopeful—
And he breaks.
“Fabian, I like you—” Riz sniffles, and Gods , he hates how small he sounds—“and I mean, I really, really like you.”
A few seconds go by where Fabian says nothing, and Riz feels his hands start to shake.
“I didn’t- I didn’t mean to, it just happened—” Riz rambles, swiping at his cheeks as the tears come down harder, anything to fill the silence—“I can stop, I’ll get over it, we don’t have to talk about it—”
“I want to,” Fabian says, and Riz blinks. And then he’s laughing, loud and hysterical.
“You-you do?” he hiccups, smiling wider as Fabian’s hand comes up to cast away a stray tear, and Riz can’t help leaning into the touch, just a little.
“I do,” Fabian says in a rush, like Riz might change his mind if he’s not fast enough, and then he laughs, something between a chuckle and a sob. He presses a hand to his own eye, wiping away tears that haven’t fallen yet, and when he smiles, Riz sees his own relief reflected back at him.
“Gods, Riz, of course I wanna talk about this, I want you—”
“Can I kiss you?” he says, and Riz is already quietly cursing himself because, fuck, it would’ve been way more romantic to just kiss Fabian instead of asking like an idiot and ruining the moment
But… hearing Fabian say his name, hearing Fabian say that he actually— that he wants him, it’s—
Well, it’s. A lot. It’s something, and Riz won’t call it love because he’s sixteen and stupid and he doesn’t know for sure, but—
Riz feels something in the way he stares at Fabian sometimes. In the way his eyes hone in and focus, in the way his pupils dilate , like he’s trying to see more of him. Or- or more than Fabian? It doesn’t really make sense, but Gods, it happens all the time, just this rush of feeling down his spine, and sometimes it’s so strong, it makes him shiver, makes every hair stand on end, like his body knows something he doesn’t.
It’s overwhelming and heady and- and, honestly, terrifying, but in a good way, and Riz doesn’t want to call it love if it’s not, but—
When Fabian smiles at Riz, all flustered and pretty, he’s pretty sure he knows.
“Riz?” Fabian says, and this time, when his hand comes up to cup his cheek, Riz leans into it the touch without thinking.
Fabian’s lip twitches, but otherwise, doesn’t tease him. Instead, he asks, “Are you okay? You kind of zoned out there.”
Riz nods, tilting his head as Fabian’s hand goes from his cheek to his hair, and Riz has to actively resist the urge to purr. “I’m good, I was just… thinking, you know.”
“Just thinking?” Fabian asks, raising a brow at him, and Riz gasps as blunt nails drag against his scalp, that purr tearing from his throat. “Care to share with the class?”
“I, um, maybe later?” Riz mumbles, his voice barely more than a rumble as Fabian continues to scratch behind his ear. “I-I kinda wanted to try for that kiss I mentioned, maybe?”
“Yeah?” Fabian’s hand comes around the back of his neck, fingers still playing in his curls, and Riz is pretty sure he could die right now and he’d be fine with it. Well, he’d be a little disappointed if he died before he got to kiss Fabian, but—
“Riz, you’re doing it again.” Fabian says, bringing Riz back with a gentle squeeze to the nape of his neck, and Gods , this needs to happen before he actually kicks the bucket.
“Right, sorry—” Riz says, a little strained, and Fabian snickers, the bastard—“Fabian Aramais Seacaster, would you please do me the honor of being my first kiss?”
Fabian leans forward, forehead bumping into his, and Riz feels more than sees Fabian’s smile when he says, “I’d love to.”
It’s not the best first kiss, by far. Fabian is still sitting in the passenger seat, and has to uncomfortably twist so he can kiss Riz properly, and Riz is too nervous to do anything more than gently press his lips to Fabian’s.
They break apart for a second, a few inches between them as they pant and stare. Riz licks his lips on instinct, trying to taste him, and Fabian locks onto it, briefly tracking the movement with his eye before they’re both leaning in to try again.
The second kiss? Much better.
This time, Riz is brave enough to take Fabian’s face in his hands and clumsily guide him in the kiss, and Fabian follows him, just as eager. Their noses bump before they find their stride, and Riz has to keep from smiling so he doesn’t accidentally break the kiss. When Fabian shifts in his seat so he can press closer, his hand comes up to settle on Riz’s waist, and Riz feels the full body shudder that racks through him all the way to the tip of his tail.
Riz tilts his head to deepen the kiss, and their teeth click as he leans in—
And then there’s a gasp, the taste of copper, and Riz is jerking back in horror.
“Shit, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I just,” Riz stutters, flushed dark green and absolutely mortified as blood trickles from Fabian’s lip. Riz reaches out as if to touch it, before thinking better of it, instead picking at his claws as Fabian blinks.
“I completely forgot about my fangs, I didn’t realize I was getting so, um… into it.”
Fabian doesn’t say anything, just swipes at the cut with his thumb, smearing red across his lip. Fabian stares at the blood on his hand like he can’t believe it’s there and, fuck , did Riz just break his boyfreind, he hasn’t even had him for an hour—
“I’m not gonna lie, I know you’re freaking out right now, but that was way hotter than I thought it’d be.”
Riz would be flustered if he wasn’t so worried about the fact that Fabian’s bleeding from his lip like a faucet. He steps forward, guilt momentarily forgotten in the need to fuss over Fabian, and wipes away the blood threatening to drip off his chin with the white sleeve of his shirt.
“Cass, Fabian, that’s-that’s very sweet, but this is serious, you could need stitches—”
Fabian wordlessly raises an eyebrow at him, and drags his tongue across the cut. Within seconds, it’s sewn itself shut, the skin better than new, and Riz feels only a little embarrassed for overreacting.
“Right, magic,” Riz says bashfully, and Fabian nods, humming as he tries to pull Riz into his lap. Riz lets him. “Okay, I mean. It’s good that you can do that in case of emergencies, but I don’t really wanna make a habit of cutting you open ever, Fabian.”
“Why not?” Fabian whines as he nuzzles against his neck, and Riz kind of hates the way his ears perk up at the sound of it. “Riz, it’s literally so hot, you can’t just say no—”
There’s a pulse of blue light from the dashboard as Zaphriel suddenly chimes, and both of them tense before Riz remembers the locks, and turns his head just in time to see the rune right next to them disappear in a puff of magical smoke.
“I guess,” Riz starts after a few seconds of silence, turning to Fabian with a shy, nervous smile. “We should probably head inside before they get suspicious, right?”
“I mean, that’s what—” Fabian says, nonchalantly resting his hands on either side of Riz’s waist. “Ten minutes?”
And Riz gets that feeling again as Fabian’s fingers play with the edge of his shirt, that rush of maybe-love down his spine, and he leans in to kiss Fabian, soft and chaste against his cheek.
“Five minutes, tops,” Riz says, and laughs as Fabian plants a kiss on the corner of his lips.