behindthec: (slash)
[personal profile] behindthec
Title: Wish I Didn't (I Don't) [1/1]
Author: [livejournal.com profile] lolab 
Pairing: Pete/Ryan
Rating: PG-13
Words: 5,010
Disclaimer: Fiction as far as I know.
Summary: Underneath it, he's the same scared kid who just wanted to escape. Only difference is location: then, it was Vegas. Now it's just his head.
Dedication: [livejournal.com profile] drunknballerina  for the lovely prompt.
Notes: This is possibly the most canonically based thing I've ever written. That said, writing in Pete's head is an utterly exhausting challenge; I hope I did him justice. Thanks again to everyone who prompted, and to [profile] falling_words  for the line; she'll know which one.






It's not what he was expecting. Then again, neither was Ryan.

It's always weird when you get an image of something you haven't thought about in months, maybe years -- especially for Pete, who tends to think of virtually everything at least once a day, week at the least. Insomnia's a bitch, but perpetual thought has its merits: like now, the sudden, long locked-away image of Ryan at the first (the only) audition, wide eyes on Brendon the whole time because he just couldn't look at Pete or he'd screw up. Pete had expected him to be awkward, pimply and not very pretty, but Ryan was a living, breathing wet dream in the rough. Like a diamond, but brighter. Brendon wasn't far off and Pete spent the song telling himself it was good for the band, good for the record sales, but every time Brendon sang the word attention (give me envy, give me malice), Ryan's eyes faltered, skittering over to Pete's.

That Ryan seems so small to Pete now as he watches him across the floor of the Troubadour, in the wings of the stage, someone's Hollywood-tanned hand tangled in his hair as he dips his head for a better angle because seriously, his tongue wasn't far enough down her throat already; now he can probably taste her last meal, if she ever actually ate. As Pete can count the ribs beneath her paper-thin tank top, he's guessing it's unlikely.

She's blonde. It makes Pete laugh. It's not funny, because it's not Keltie, and that's not surprising, which makes it even less funny, but it's so sadly Ryan that it's laughable. Pete always beats himself up for never changing in the ways he wants, until he realizes some people don't change at all, which is worse. Ross can add scarf after scarf, vest after vest, lose the make-up and find it again and lose it, but underneath it, he's the same scared kid who just wanted to escape. Only difference is location: then, it was Vegas. Now it's just his head.

Pete knows it would break his heart if he let it, but in this business, your heart breaks enough in the beginning that you eventually stop trying to put it back together. But it's easier to manage in pieces, Pete's learned. More of it to go around and hand out where it's needed.

A girl taps on his shoulder, blushing, and asks for an autograph. Pete flashes her a brilliant smile and whips out a Sharpie, complimenting her shoes as he scrawls his name across the sleeve of her shirt.

When he looks up again, Ryan's gone.

It feels like it's always been like that with him; blink too long and you miss it; suddenly they're not his baby band, they're his legacy, and he doesn't know when it happened. Blink, record deal. Blink, headlining tour. Blink, double platinum. Blink, VMA.

Maybe that's why Pete thinks it's better to sleep with your eyes open, or not at all.


+++


Before the set's even over, Ryan texts him to ask where are you but Pete waits until after Alex bids everyone farewell, drawn-out and stumbling but always smiling, making cracks about the tears dripping onto his microphone, before Darren hops onto his back and Phantom Planet exits stage right for the last time to the crowd's thunderous pandemonium. The air feels hot and humid from a thousand teenage girls' tears, and Pete feels like he can't breathe.

He's seen this enough times, but it never gets easier.

He doesn't respond until the crowd begins to thin and he starts weaving toward the stage, finally spotting Ryan in a far corner, Alex in front of him, grinning through grandiose, sweeping gestures with his hands. Judging by Ryan's starstruck smile it's the most engaging anecdote in the history of oral narration, but then Pete figures Alex could just as easily be discussing cellular mitosis and Ryan's eyes would still be glazed like a fucking Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Pete ducks behind one side of the stage, whipping out his phone, but doesn't look away, texting eyes-free with a pressing grin he can't seem to douse.

in ur venue, watchin u blush

He watches as Ryan reacts to the vibration in his pocket, as Alex pauses for Ryan to fish out his Sidekick and scan over the words. Ryan's head lifts immediately, long neck craning over the crowd and scanning wide as his lips start to curl upward even as the blush in question deepens. Alex says something and Ryan shakes his head, leaning in for a Brendon-worthy bear hug that Alex returns tenfold, lifting Ryan off his feet and swinging him from side to side before setting him on the ground and starting down the backstage corridor.

Pete makes himself visible enough and waits for his lime green Supras to announce him.

Sure enough Ryan looks down, then up, and smiles, bigger than he smiled at Alex (but who's comparing). His eyes aren't glossy anymore, and Pete kind of likes that he doesn't miss it, that Ryan can look at him without any delusions, any infatuations, and still smile as wide as he did the day they met.


+++


"Home before midnight?!" Ashlee's eyes widen as she pulls herself off the couch, swaddled bundle in tow. "You guys are seriously getting old on me."

"The after-party kinda blew," Pete explains simply, which means he was the DD and there was too much alcohol lying around to resist. "You guys are still up!"

"Not for long," she answers, yawning widely.

He bounces over to them both, kissing her on the cheek and making grabby hands for his son, who "just got to sleep, so don't go all spazzy." Ashlee is happy to oblige, gently handing him over and making a beeline for Ryan, wrapping him up in her arms.

"You look good," she says into his shoulder. "Missed you."

"Missed you too." He pulls back and holds her at arm's length, his tipsy, lopsided grin stretched lazily across his face. "You look beautiful."

She snorts. "Yeah, these dark circles are sexy as hell, lemme tell you."

"Shut up, you're beautiful."

"Yeah, shut up." Pete grins at them both, walking over to kiss the top of her head. "Listen to Ryan."

Ryan's eyes land on Bronx and he sobers at once, his eyes wide and sparkly but hard-focused as he stares at the little creature in Pete's arms, reaching out to brush a finger over the velvety skin of the baby's forehead.

"Oh my god," Ryan whispers. "He's perfect. Man, he's perfect."

"'Course he is, look at his mom," Pete winks.

Ashlee slaps him on the arm and grins. "Well, it's time for all perfect people to go to bed. You ugly fuckers can stay down here and have a sleepover."

She kisses them both and Pete hands Bronx back to her, watching as she presses her lips to his tiny nose, and he doesn't realize Ryan's watching him until she's long since disappeared upstairs.

He smiles. "What?"

Ryan shrugs. "You're lucky."

Pete thinks of the way Ryan looks at Brendon onstage and how they can make each other laugh to the point of tears; the way he calms under Jon's smile; the way he and Spencer speak with their eyes; and it infuriates him that Ryan always thinks he has to conform to someone else's definition of happiness, to the point of overlooking his own.

"So are you," Pete reminds him.


+++



"Benjamin Button, seriously? You lured me here for a chick flick?"

Pete leers wickedly from where he's bent over the DVD player, shoving his pirated copy into the slot as the machine hums to life. "Not a chick flick, dumbass. Just because it doesn't have subtitles doesn't mean it lacks cinematic value."

Ryan rolls his eyes.

"Plus I hear Cate Blanchett gets naked at one point."

"Oh, sweet."

Pete chuckles, digging around on the floor for the remote. "You've lived too many years with Brendon."

Ryan smirks. "Nah, I want to see it. I've just been avoiding it."

"Avoiding the gratuitous nudity? Gay much?"

Hunching in on himself, Ryan shrugs as he folds his knees up to his chest on the couch. "I feel like it's gonna make me even more afraid of getting old."

"Oh, lord have mercy!" Pete wails dramatically. "Don't even, man! I found my first gray hair last week!"

"Dude, that's fucking awesome, lemme see!"

"Fuck you!" Pete throws the nearest item at Ryan, which happens to be one of the dogs' squeaky toys. Ryan yelps and throws it back, laughing as he burrows further into the couch.

"This is exactly why you need to see this," Pete announces, pointing a finger at him. "It teaches that, like, age is irrelevant, or some shit."

"Your mom is irrelevant."

Pete raises an eyebrow. "That was so, so bad. Even for you. I think you need more alcohol."

"Bring it on, grandpa."

Pete throws another toy at him, the really nasty, dingy one that Hemmy's been chewing on for the better part of three years, and smiles to himself at Ryan's disgusted whine as Pete heads for the kitchen.

When he comes back, two ice-cold Coronas in each hand, Ryan's suitcase has thrown up all over the floor and Ryan's wading through the mess. He emerges with a cream colored turtleneck, looking satisfied in a way no one should over such an atrocity. Pete watches as Ryan peels off his floral button-down and tosses it to the ground, the muscles in his back working as he turns the turtleneck right-side in and lifts his arms over his head to pull it on. Pete's mouth might go a little dry at the sight, but it's not the first time, and it won't be the last, and it doesn't mean a damn thing.

It gets easier to ignore things over time when you realize you have no choice.

Ryan makes quite a scene of tugging it on, pulling the material down over his wrists, and settling into the sofa, before he finally notices Pete's staring. "What?"

Pete grins. "The fuck are you wearing, man?"

"Hey, it's cold."

"That's. That's a fuckin' turtleneck, dude."

"I'm cold!"

"You brought a fuckin' turtleneck to Los Angeles and you're wearing it."

Ryan's eyebrow creeps upward. "You got a better idea for staying warm?"

"I'm sure we could come up with something," he counters in a lecherous drawl, because some things aren't meant to be ignored. "Dude, this is too good, I gotta -- come here."

Ryan watches him the way he always does, absorbing every moment like he's storing it away somewhere, for some purpose, as Pete arches off the couch to dig in his pocket for his Sidekick.

"Dude no, no pictures, I hate you."

"Whatever, I'm your boss, you have to," Pete decides, shuffling closer to Ryan on the sofa and curling an arm around his shoulders to prevent his escape.

"Wait," Ryan wriggles out of his grasp. "This isn't fair; you have to put on that grandpa scarf you wore in the car. That thing's like, straight off the back of the TV room sofa in the old folks' home."

Pete narrows his eyes, a threat of rebellion, but snatches the scarf off the ground nonetheless, wrapping it around his neck. "Good enough?"

Ryan smiles. "Approved."

"Asshole." Pete scoots closer again, stretching his arm out in front of them and angling the Sidekick until they're both in the frame, before nudging at Ryan with his shoulder. "Hey, stop trying to hide your turtleneck! That's cheating!"

Ryan slips into a fit of giggles as Pete snaps the shot, quickly yanking at Pete's arm to see the display. "Oh, fantastic."

Pete's trapped in vibrations of over-exhausted laughter, grinning manically. "You fucking look like Charlie Bucket, man."

"You're such a pedo."

"I'm the pedo? Dude, Wonka's the one luring kids into his house with candy, okay."

"Yeah, like you lured me to your record label with double-cheese tacos?"

"...Yeah, exactly like that."

Ryan smiles, and Pete presses Play.


+++


Benjamin meets Daisy, and she's perfect in all the one-dimensional ways Pete pities people for being, in the ways that crush their appeal. Pete prefers imperfection: it lasts longer.

She reminds him of someone.

"So how's Keltie?"

Ryan works hard not to react, but the effort betrays him. Eyes stuck on the television, he takes a long, finalizing swig of his beer and sets it down with unnecessary emphasis on the coffee table.

"She's... good. We're in one of those places again where she's like, 'do what you need to do, I'll be here when you're done.'"

"Does the 'doing' include people?"

Ryan meets his eyes. "I didn't fuck her. The girl at the show, I didn't -- we just."

"You don't have to explain, man."

Ryan shrugs in a scrunchy, twisted way, closing in further on himself and tugging the blanket up higher on his knees. "I think I feel guilty that she's always there to come back to."

"She's pretty gracious."

"She's amazing," Ryan says, and it sounds completely sincere.

"So," Pete prods, fingers squeezing tight around the neck of his bottle, condensation weakening his grip. "Why she isn't enough? Why is it always someone else who looks like her, meaningless and cheap?"

"You know why; don't patronize me with rhetoric," Ryan chides. "It's escape."

"What are you escaping?"

Ryan huffs, bitterly overeffected for his twenty-two years. "What's not to escape?"

Pete won't lie; he digs the moments Ryan gets clouded with emotion, smothered in his own drama. It makes him so much easier to play but harder to break, and Pete likes the challenge, the dichotomy.

"Music," he says finally, and Ryan looks at him. "You can't escape music, because music is part of you. And it's a better escape than sex."

Ryan turns back to the screen, his lips twitching. "Maybe you haven't been having the right kind of sex."

"Maybe you haven't been playing the right kind of music."

Ryan smirks. "Is that an insult?"

"Would you care if it were?"

"Yeah. Everyone cares. They're lying if they say they don't."

Pete nods. "Then it's not an insult."

"Why?"

"Because you're honest. And your music's honest. Don't ever escape honesty. It's always willing to let you go, but it's not always willing to take you back."

He can feel Ryan's gaze on him, evaluating but wary, and Pete's glad Ryan looks at him that way now; no longer glassy eyes and racing heartbeats, yes-man answers sprouting from dull infatuation.

Ryan says, "Okay."

On screen, everything's running backwards and Pete's head starts to spin.


+++


"Poke."

It feels like there's a delay between the time Ryan says it and the time he's pressing the end of one index finger to Pete's bicep, but Pete realizes that's just the foreign disorientation of having his eyes closed with intent. He opens them to find Ryan's, close (too close), clear and flashing in the glow of the screen.

"Still with me, grandpa?"

Pete smiles groggily. "Man, I haven't slept in a month."

Ryan smiles back. "You never sleep."

"Yeah, but. It's worse. Like." He tries to push himself back up to something resembling seating, but gives up halfway and flops back against the sofa. "I'm used to not sleeping, but Ashlee's not, so. Usually I get up when he starts crying. She says I don't have to, but it's not so bad. It's nice having someone to be awake with at least, y'know?"

When he turns his head, Ryan's watching him in a way he hasn't seen in years. It's glazed-over and reverent; only difference is it's clear, free of sugary misconceptions: it doesn't make Pete feel guilty.

"That's really sweet," Ryan says.

Pete shrugs. "I love them. We do what we can for the ones we love."

Ryan turns back to the film, arms wrapped tightly around his knees. "I wish I could say I'd do that for Keltie."

"Well, I don't think you love her."

Ryan stiffens palpably, but Pete doesn't regret it. It's the truth, and Ryan knows it. There's never room for bullshit between these two, not with their egos filling all the space.

"That's a pretty strong statement to make," Ryan points out, but he sounds far more impressed than pissed.

Pete shrugs again. "I think you love the person that she is -- I mean, who doesn't, she's great. You love how much shit she puts up with. How forgiving she is. But I don't think you show her the kind of love a relationship like that requires. And it's not... it doesn't mean you're a bad person, it's just. I dunno if you could show her that kind of love; I don't think she's the right person for you."

He meets Ryan's eyes. They're flooded with fascination, and Ryan blinks it away.

"Then who is?

"Uh..." Pete smiles. "That's... where my advice shortcircuits."


+++


It's always the most random things you find out about someone, things you have in common that don't seem to mean anything, but could if you tried.

They both have this weird way of splitting their minds into two during a movie, unable to kill the conversation but somehow still absorbing the essentials of the film. They'll break from it at the same times, unplanned and uncanny, pausing to take in a moment on screen that begs their full attention.

"You're so young," Daisy tells him, and Benjamin replies, "Only on the inside."

"See?" Pete pokes Ryan's arm, over and over like a kid. "Age is relative."

"Yeah, but your scarf isn't," Ryan grins.

"Look, Ross, at least my scarf isn't floral, or striped, or silk, or fucking, I don't know, paisley, or like, one of twenty fucking thousand that you own -- "

"Shut up!"

" -- And probably, like, model in front of the mirror, trying to figure out which one goes least with the given outfit, so you can like, challenge societal standards of fashion."

"Whatever, Peter Pan."

Pete spares him a toothy grin. "You enjoying Neverland Ranch?"

Ryan laughs so hard his head ends up in Pete's lap. He leaves it there, and Pete tries to forget everything he thought he'd forgotten.


+++


"I was thinking how nothing lasts," Benjamin says, "and what a shame it is."

Daisy looks thoughtful. "Some things last."

"See, fuck cinema, okay," Pete barks suddenly enough that Ryan lifts his head from Pete's lap, retreating to his own side of the couch. "That's a totally romanticized lie, but you buy it because it sounds nice and you want to believe it and because Cate Blanchett said it. The only permanence in life is impermanence."

Ryan looks at him, brow creased. "What about love? Theoretically at least?"

"We all die. You can't love from beyond the grave."

"But you said in life," Ryan counters with a triumphant smirk. "That's not in life. You're slipping, Wentz. Goin' soft on me."

"That's such a lie." Pete tilts his head, too tired not to accept the inviting plush of the couch, and drops his cheek to the upholstery, his smile landing crooked. "You know I'm always hard for you."

Ryan smiles, huge and bright, and this time, Pete can't forget.


+++


You'd think seven beers between them would be enough to take the edge off when the L word strikes, but Pete feels the air tensing, tighter than the grip Ryan's fingers hold on his blanket.

"We're meant to lose the people we love,," the film tells them. "How else would we know how important they are to us?"

"That is the most depressing thing I've ever heard in my life."

Pete snorts. "It's fucking bullshit, is what it is. If you don't know how important someone is while they're alive, you don't deserve to have them."

When he looks up, Ryan's watching him, both dogs curled up in front of him on the floor. He's nestled into the couch like he's part of it, like he belongs here with the blanket, beside the thick blue drapes veiling the night-black window behind them. Like he fits in with the soft, predictable angles of the room, his own sharp and uncertain, a necessary contrast. Pete tries not to think of how those angles would fit elsewhere, how they might fit so well they'd lock, and Pete would be trapped for good.

Pete can't read him this time, but it doesn't worry him. It's better this way, not seeing, not having to be afraid of what he might find. But even the train of thought makes him cringe, because Pete's never one to fear falling into someone else's head.

Maybe it's because, this time, it'd be too much like falling into his own.

"What do you think people want?" Ryan asks finally, punctuating through lazy gestures with his long-empty bottle. "Out of life, I mean. Ultimately. Do you think it's love?"

Pete smiles. "Well, you would. Moulin Rouge fanboy 'till your dying day'."

Ryan flips him off, and Pete tries not to watch how the rest of his fingers tighten on the bottle to compensate for the one extended.

"I think..." Pete says, "I think all anyone really wants in life, even more than to be loved, is to be understood. I think that attracts us to someone more than anything else, having someone who just, gets us, inside and out."

Ryan considers for a moment, and grins, sleepy and lopsided. "That's pretty deep from someone who managed to get a line about Supra into his lyrics."

"Oh, oh!" Pete bellows, his whole face laughing as he falls back against the cushions. "Says the dude who's written entire songs about drugs, Mr. Green fuckin' Gentleman. Swear to god, you try any harder to be John Lennon and you're gonna get shot."

It's too good for Ryan not to laugh, and he does, silently, eyes crinkling at the corners as he doubles over practically into Pete's lap. Pete smiles at him, prying his empty bottle from Ryan's tired fingers and setting it on the floor. Too lazy to pull himself back up, Ryan settles against Pete's shoulder. The position's awkward, trapping the majority of their limbs, but it's easy enough for Pete to reach up and card the fingers of his free hand through Ryan's hair. It's shorter now than the last time he ever did this, not coifed and heat-straightened but wavy and natural, like a child's. The comparison does nothing to help Pete forget all the reasons he stopped letting this happen.

"You've always understood me better than anyone."

The words are spoken into the sleeve of Pete's sweater, but he can feel the humid heat of Ryan's breath on his skin, pushing through the fabric.

"Well," Pete says quietly, "that must make me the sexiest person in the world to you, then."

It's half joking, half not, and all fear.

Ryan lifts his head, and it's a bad move because it brings them so, so close, close like before, and before was always too close.

He smiles and says, "Like you weren't already."

Pete smiles back, and it must be as bright as he fears, because Ryan seems suddenly awake, his lips still stretched contentedly as he sits back up, placing a mature distance between them. He props his elbow on the back of the sofa and rests his chin in his palm, and the movement lengthens his neck, setting his jawline at just the right angle to beg attention. His smile dissolves to something darker, but it doesn't disappear.

"When I was seventeen I had a wet dream about you."

Pete laughs, hard, inappropriate and drunken, but it's funny, because Ryan is oh, so drunk.

"I am not," Ryan huffs, because, wow, Pete is notorious for unexpressed thoughts.

"Drunk enough," Pete says. "You're allowed to pretend you forget all this tomorrow."

The smile drops altogether then, and Ryan's eyes suddenly looked pained. "Don't patronize me."

Pete sighs, staring down at his lap, his own twitchy fingers. "I'm not. I'm playing defense." For a moment the air's so, so heavy, but in all the good ways until he adds, "If you even think of making some crack about tackling..."

Ryan falls off into silent laughter again, and like that, the moment's successfully dissolved. "Your turn."

"My turn?" Pete smiles. "For what, drunken confessions?"

"Yeah."

"Okay. Right." He sucks in a breath, and it makes him dizzier than the alcohol, too much oxygen to fuel too many thoughts he's trying to force back. "Serious?"

"Go for it."

Pete stares him down, eye to eye, and bites his tongue. It's like stage fright, only with a thousand more butterflies, and too many of them flying further south than they're allowed.

He won't.

But he will.

"Right," he repeats. "'Of All the Gin Joints' is about you."

He hadn't realized he was going for shock value, but Ryan's instantly sober, his face so tense that it's spilled over into an eery calm, expressionless.

Pete tries to breathe, but his racing heartbeat has other plans for his nerves. He just admitted one of the seven things he's sworn he'd never admit to the seven individuals in question, and he's missed the acceptable length of pause where he could claim kidding. Instead he's hovering in that moment of hyperawareness: like when you stub your toe or bang your shin really hard, and for a tiny, split second it doesn't hurt yet, but you know, you just know, by the time you think about it, the pain receptors will have caught up and it's going to hurt like a motherfucker and you know it's coming, that there's nothing to do but wait.

The split second passes, and his heart sinks into his stomach.

"We never even -- " is Ryan's deadpanned response, and Pete can almost hear the energy drained from his voice to accommodate all the gears turning in his mind. "The line about..."

Pete shrugs. "Wishful thinking?" His heart starts to settle, because hey, he's in this far; might as well ride it out. "I wrote it last-minute. We almost didn't record it, but Patrick said I had to. He told me I was a coward if I didn't."

Only then does he look up, and it's not even intentional, just a natural inclination for eye contact. Ryan doesn't look any different, only, maybe older. There's nothing in his eyes to suggest anything but acceptance. Not even surprise.

"So," Ryan says slowly.

"There was..." Pete starts, trying to remember how he used to repeat it to himself. "There was every, conceivable, reason, why we couldn't."

"I know." Ryan swallows. "Do you actually remember any of them now?"

Pete smiles. Too much film has romanticized them. This is where he says "no" and they fall into each other's arms. Does art mimic life, or...

"Yeah, Ryan. I remember every single one."

"Good," he smiles. "Don't forget them."

And Ryan kisses him.

It's not a real kiss, it's 'our lips are going to touch now, so don't move,' and Pete doesn't. His eyes close, and that makes it a little too real (funny, how we become more aware with each sense that escapes us). He moves his mouth for a moment, barely parted, and it's over.

There's no panting breaths, no kiss-swollen lips, just Ryan's eyes on his, too big and too close.

"Just this?" Pete whispers, not a question as much as a warning, but Ryan nods. It's enough confirmation. Pete tips his head, hands gliding around Ryan's waist to tug him closer, and their mouths lock.

He doesn't know how or when Ryan manages to get into his lap, knees on either side of Pete's thighs, fingers molded around the curve of Pete's shoulders. It hurts how well Pete's hands fit around Ryan's tiny, tiny waist; how this doesn't feel like the first time at all; how "gay above the waist" sounds so, so far away with the way Ryan's hips are working soft, tight little circles into Pete's. He bites down on Ryan's lip to keep back his own moan, but it backfires, and Ryan whimpers into his mouth.

Somewhere upstairs, Bronx screams bloody murder.

Pete's smiling even before they break apart. "Do you believe in signs?"

Ryan huffs a breathless laugh, pulling back and watching him, pupils blown and breath short. Pete starts to lift Ryan off him, legs already tensing wearily under the premise of having to walk all the way upstairs, when Ryan splays a hand over Pete's chest.

"I'll get him."

"I -- what?"

"Will he let me hold him?"

Pete blinks. "I -- yeah, he's great with strangers but -- dude, no, you don't have to -- "

"No, no, I want to."

"Ryan -- "

"Hey." Ryan slides his hand up Pete's chest, fingers pressing flat against his lips. "We do what we can."

Pete blinks again, but before words return, Ryan's climbing off him, straightening his clothes as he starts up the stairs. Pete listens, antsy and unable to shake the feeling of obligation, but it's only seconds before the crying subsides.

He can't help whatever force pulls him off the couch, trudging up the stairs carefully, avoiding the one that squeaks as he rounds the corner of the hall that leads into the nursery. The door's wide open, a beam of muted hallway light spilling over Ryan's beanpole figure, his back to the door, Bronx nestled in his arms.

"Yeah?" Ryan's whispering. "You like that song? Tell you what, kiddo, I'm gonna hang out with you tonight, okay? We're gonna let daddy sleep, how's that sound?"

Something clenches in Pete's chest, and this time it isn't nerves.

He turns around, padding back through the hall and down the stairs, collapsing on the couch. His head lands on the blanket, and it overwhelmingly smells like Ryan. Pete sits up, folds it into a square, and places it in the armchair.

Maybe not everything lasts. Passion subsides, delusion lifts, and infatuation clears.

But this.

Maybe this could stay.


fin.

 

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Colin

May 2009

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