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Roads Left In Both Of Our Shoes

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When Ryan finally gets to see Michael after the medley, Michael's still got that dumbstruck look on his face, like it still hasn't sunk in. He pulls Michael into his arms and rubs his back.

"You did it, Mike. Fucking hell, you guys were amazing."

Michael's hand comes up to tangle in Ryan's curls, but Ryan can tell it's a reflex. He's too overwhelmed right now; maybe he has a right to be, but if Ryan never pulled him out of his own head, he'd probably be trapped in there forever.

"Hey," Ryan says when he pulls away. "Are you free to go? You wanna get out of here?"

Michael just nods and doesn't make an attempt to move, so Ryan leads him by the hand, pulling him away from the crowds and cameras and a hundred different languages being spoken all at once.

They end up on the streets of Beijing, their hands still brushing as they walk. It's no less crowded out here, but it's the good kind of crowded, the kind that breeds anonymity even though Ryan knows they stand out like a sore thumb.

"This is insane, huh?" Michael says after a couple of minutes. He's looking at Ryan now, turning that intense gaze on him. "It's like... I don't even know. It's weird."

Ryan laughs. "Yeah. Yeah, it's a little crazy. Feels good, though."

"Yeah." Michael fiddles with one of the zippers on his jacket. "You heading back to Florida next week?"

"I was planning on it. Why? You planning to kidnap me in the dead of night so I can't abandon you to the wolves?"

"Nah," Michael says. "I was just thinking. Like, we can train anywhere, right? So. Yeah."

Ryan gives him a sideways look. "C'mon. What are you really asking me?" He has a pretty good idea, but this is huge, and he wants to hear the words out of Michael's mouth.

"Fuck, don't make me say it." Michael lets out a sound that's not quite a laugh, like he can't believe he's even standing here. "Fine. Do you want to come live with me or not?"

Ryan can't stop the grin that spreads across his face. "You want me to live with you?"

"It's... it's time, right? I mean, I don't even know if you want to, but if you do... I'm cool with that. My mom and Bob are cool with that."

The idea that Michael even talked to them about this—hell, that he admitted talking to them about this—is more than he can deal with. They've stopped moving, and Ryan pulls Michael out of the path of people and presses him up against the nearest building. He rests his forehead against Michael's, breathing in sweat and chlorine.

"I'm cool with that, too," Ryan murmurs. He wants to kiss Michael so much right now, but they're in public, so he settles for curling his hand around the back of Michael's neck. Michael pushes him away after a couple of seconds, glancing around. He's grinning, though, and that's enough.

"Yeah, okay," Michael says. Ryan hasn't seen him smiling this hard ever, not for medals, not for world records, not for anything. It's a little much to take in all at once. "You, uh. You ready to head back now?"

Ryan pulls Michael in again and wraps an arm around his shoulders as they walk. "Sure. We can do that."