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Something's got me and I just can't seem to choose

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Metallic purples and reds sweat through the walls and from the ceiling, beats pulse through the bodies on the dancefloor like they're what's keeping them alive. Some of the beats, Ronan recognizes: The Chemical Brothers, deadmau5, Die Antwoord. The speakers are at full capacity and distort the rest. He prefers his own stereo at Monmouth Manufacturing.

Ronan channels the energy of the writhing mass in front of him by relaying it to his fingers, drumming them against the countertop. The whiskey in his glass vibrates.

He doesn't want to be here. He wouldn't be here if he hadn't sworn to keep Kavinsky away from Cabeswater. He wonders what Gansey would say if he could see him now.

For a while now, Kavinsky has been dancing with a pair of girls, or more accurately, they've been dancing with him and he's been judging their moves. Kavinsky is a condescending prick like that. Occasionally, he pushes his way back to the bar to top up their drinks and annoy Ronan.

Like he is doing now.

Ronan turns his back. He doesn't twitch when Kavinsky clamps a hand on his shoulder, squeezing tight, and yells into his ear, "Having fun yet?" His breath carries the smell of beer and weed. Ronan's hand clenches, his heart thuds a dangerous beat, but he would not punch Kavinsky for invading his space here. Mouths to ears, that's the only way to communicate in here; the voracious music swallows everything else. This is not the place for words, it's a place for actions, moves, getting swept up in the tide.

Kavinsky slams a bill on the counter and gestures the barkeep to pour them two shots. Ronan watches the jutting arc of his throat bob as he downs his shot in one smooth motion. Kavinsky's grin is sharp and stinging. He leans in again.

"You know where you can keep an even better eye on me, Lynch?" he asks. Ronan ignores the tickle of warm breath against the shell of his ear and empties his shot glass. "On the dancefloor. Come on, dance with me."

Ronan's drink nearly goes down the wrong way. He raises an eyebrow at Kavinsky. "I don't dance."

"You do now," Kavinsky says and tears him off his barstool.

Hitting the dancefloor is like walking into a rolling wave: you see it approaching and you brace yourself for the impact, but it still manages to rip you off your feet when it crashes over you. The bodies around him pull him into their sway, fill him up with the electronic beating of their unified pulse, keep him afloat so he doesn't lose his footing.

Kavinsky's hand burns like an anchor through Ronan's leather wristbands, and like an anchor aweigh, it leaves him at the mercy of the currents around him when it releases its hold, only to be replaced by something slighter, softer, unfamiliar. Something ill able to ground him against the torrents rending his insides.

Bodies buoy around his on all sides, but there's one in front of him doing it intentionally. Large eyes look up at him, flirtatious and inviting, slim fingers skim his bare arms and hook behind his neck. It's one of the girls Kavinsky has been dancing with, if he's not mistaken. Up close, they all look different, especially in the strobe lights.

The air is close, too thick to breathe, and Ronan's throat is tight, dry, itching. He needs another drink. His eyes dart around for an exit. They land on Kavinsky. Kavinsky, whose hands are on a girl's hips, brushing the sliver of skin beneath her shirt. Kavinsky, whose mouth is forming soundless syllables against the girl's neck. Kavinsky, whose expression says, Disappointed? Wanted it to be me?

Ronan scowls. This has been a crap idea. He shouldn't have let Kavinsky drag him here. Shouldn't have let Kavinsky go in the first place. But Ronan is not a jailer, he can't lock Kavinsky up all day and expect him to behave, to not dream and drain the ley line. It's against his nature. Hell, if it were Ronan, he'd have shredded the shitty motel wallpapers and the inside of Kavinsky's car.

He waits for his dance partner to turn her back and slips back to the bar. Just in time to save him from the image of Kavinsky making out with his girl. Not something he needs to see. His head is pounding in counterpoint to the throbbing bass. He needs something strong to burn his throat, his thoughts.

This is a night for nightmares, he can feel it. Scratching beneath his skin, looking for a way out. His next two drinks don't change that.

He makes his way toward the bathroom. The floor beneath him feels gelatinous and trembling under the subwoofers. The toilets are in the basement, and walking down the stairs resembles descending circle after circle into hell. Along the walls, lovers or casual hookups kiss and grind, buyers and sellers swap pills for money, and the ones done partying are sprawled out on the steps, spittle trailing down their chins. No one pays them any heed.

The bathroom is no less crowded. A guy checks out his junk while he's pissing. A couple is fucking two cubicles over. Glassy-eyed mannequins stare into the mirrors, comb their hair, and do lines of fine white powder. Ronan thinks of the residue on his dash, the nightstands, every suitably flat surface. Of pupils with no irises, lascivious grins, and black plastic flecks on sweaty skin. He washes his hands but doesn't feel any cleaner.

Upstairs, he gets another drink. Now that he's lost track of Kavinsky, it's impossible to spot him in the sea of bobbing heads. Electric blue and green searchlights map out their topography, but Ronan's eyes ache too much to focus.

He starts when someone jostles him from the side.

"Ashley was disappointed you left so soon," Kavinsky says with a smile both lazy and smug. In the purple glow, his face is a mask, bones protruding sharply from his hollow cheeks, his hair is tousled and there's lipstick on his shoulder and tanktop. "She thought you're hot. You should've hooked up with her. What a waste."

The name reminds him of angry texts and phone calls he'd deliberately missed. "Her name was Ashley?"

"Oh right, my bad. I'm not used to playing wingman to repressed queer boys. Give me a second, I'll be right back with a Gansey look-alike."

Ronan doesn't doubt it. Kavinsky possesses the magnetism of a chain-reaction collision; one smile from his hooded eyes and they'd be dancing, one touch of his heated fingers and they'd be grinding their hips together, one whispered promise and they'd—Mouths pressing against necks, fingers teasing skin, moans from inside bathroom stalls. Shit.

Ronan catches Kavinsky's wrist. "Let's go."

Kavinsky is too far to hear, but keen enough to read the resentment Ronan wears like a raincoat. He leans close, mouth to ear. "You can go if you want. I don't need a babysitter."

Ronan is too drunk to argue, too shaky to fight. He'll need his strength in case the night horrors come. And he needs to leave in case he passes out any time soon. Maybe it's better Kavinsky stay here. "Fine."

He shoves Kavinsky off and struggles to his feet. He empties his dregs in his tumbler and pushes his way outside, back to his car. No one stops him. Why should they? Maybe he's better off this way.