Seth wakes up at the first light of dawn. Not that there's much of it here; all the windows face north, except the tiny one in the bathroom, and that faces west. But a creeping gray light finds its way into the room, different from the yellow glare of streetlights and the flash of neon, which Seth is used to sleeping through by now.
It's barely light out, still cool--the rattle of the mysteriously ailing air conditioner is silent, and his skin is only a little sweaty where it presses up against Ryan's. The bed is just big enough that they can both lie in it and not touch each other, if they care enough to stick to their sides. But the bed also sags in the middle, so caring enough pretty much entails staying awake, and right now it's sleeping time, except that Seth isn't sleeping.
His dad is awake right now, Seth thinks, watching the thin light brighten in tiny increments. It's prime surfing time, and his dad loves surfing. Seth hopes his dad is out catching a wave, laughing like a lunatic all alone with the ocean, the way Seth saw him sometimes when he followed him down to the beach in the first slanting light of the day. He remembers nights when he fell asleep to the sound of his parents shouting at each other, only to wake to their laughter, his dad coming in from surfing soaked in salt water and happiness. Seth hopes his dad is surfing, just like always.
His mom will be sleeping; she always sleeps through his dad getting up to surf. She's not a morning person, not like Seth and Sandy. She'll sleep until he comes in to wake her up--until Sandy comes. Seth won't come and wake her up. He hasn't done that in a long time. He won't do that ever again.
Seth remembers waking up sometimes, hearing his dad slip out of the house and running to his parents' room, climbing quietly into the bed, careful not to wake his mom yet. If he was quick enough, there would still be a warm spot where his dad had been lying, and Seth could curl up there, beside his mom, and pretend to sleep--only pretend, because he's a morning person like his dad, wide awake with the sun--until his dad came back and swung him into the air, startling his mom awake when he shrieked with delight.
Seth doesn't move, but he looks over at Ryan, asleep against his side. Ryan only came to bed a couple of hours ago, and he's in that dead-sleep stage where he doesn't move at all except to breathe, pressing heavy against Seth. His eyes are all smudgy and dark with the eyeliner he didn't bother to wash off, and below that they're grey-purple and bruised. Ryan doesn't sleep enough. His mom doesn't sleep enough either, Seth thinks. And just like when he was five, he's got to lie quiet and still and wait--but not for his dad to come and catch him. That's never going to happen again. For all the crap Ryan gives him about being skinny, he's pretty sure he's way too big for his dad to toss in the air, and has been for a while.
His dad is surfing, Seth tells himself. His mom is sleeping just like Ryan is sleeping, because she needs to sleep just like Ryan needs to sleep, or maybe because his dad is always careful not to wake her, just like Seth is being careful not to wake Ryan. Some things don't change, some things he hasn't screwed up. His parents' lives must be the same. They must.
Seth looks around the little room where he lives now--Ryan's room, where Seth stays over, really. The kitchenette, the card table and two chairs. His own bag, with most of his stuff in it, in case Ryan ever decides it really is time for him to leave, and the rickety dresser that holds Ryan's clothes and assorted stuff. On Seth's side of the bed is the bathroom, and as he watches the brightening light glints off the shiny locks attached to the outside of the door.
Too bright; he looks away, across the boneless slump of sleeping Ryan to the outside door. Four locks on the door, all done up and double checked before Ryan came to bed. That's one of Ryan's Things. So is turning off the air conditioner before he goes to sleep. Seth had almost gotten used to sleeping through hot, un-air-conditioned nights when he came to stay with Ryan, and Ryan goes to sleep so late that it's not too bad. Seth likes to tell himself he's forgotten what central air is like.
Seth knows Ryan doesn't let people come up here--except him, Seth. All the locks on the door--Seth is behind them already. He could unlock them if he wanted to, no matter how many times Ryan checked before he went to sleep. If Seth was quiet enough he could get up, open them all and take off, run all the way down to the ocean and leave Ryan asleep behind an open door. The knife Ryan always carries in his right boot is on the milk crate next to Ryan's side of the bed, and so is the leather cuff Ryan wears on his right wrist. The knife shines in the light like the locks on the bathroom door, and Seth is hypnotized.
He wouldn't even have to open the locks. He doesn't have to leave it for someone else to do. Ryan is asleep right now, his head tipped back against the pillow, his throat bared, his arms squished between his body and Seth's. Seth could reach across him and grab the knife. He could do it himself, he could kill Ryan right now, just like that, a flick of his wrist and the hot gush of blood. Not because he wants to, just because he could.
The very thought makes him cold inside. He doesn't want to. He doesn't want to hurt Ryan. He doesn't want to hurt anyone. He's always hurting people, and he doesn't mean to, he doesn't--but he must mean to, because he keeps doing it, and it's not like aliens are controlling his body.
The skin of Ryan's throat looks soft, and Seth wants to touch it, but he curls his fingers back, because his fingers could do anything, anything at all--it's a new day, that's what his dad used to say, a whole new day, full of possibility, you could do anything. Seth shoves his fingers into his mouth and bites down, and the pain brings tears to his eyes, but at least he knows where his fingers are, at least he's not doing anything stupid. But he can't stop staring at Ryan's throat, thinking about the blood, thinking about Ryan's eyes flashing open as Seth screams and stabs, and he presses his other hand over his own eyes, his fingers curling, digging in, slipping on tears and pressing harder, harder.
He must be quiet. Ryan is sleeping, and he must not kill Ryan because it would make a mess and Ryan just did laundry yesterday, just washed the sheets, so they're all freshly bright and scratchy. Seth presses his face into the pillow, and the pillowcase smells like off-brand detergent and bleach, and it scrapes against his thin skin. His fingers are shaking with the urge to do something when they must do nothing, nothing, and his teeth grind on skin and bone, all gristle, no meat. It's barely light and Ryan only just came to bed. Ryan doesn't sleep enough and Seth doesn't eat enough; his stomach is growling now like an animal, it could kill to eat--
Seth isn't aware of making a sound until Ryan yanks his hand from his mouth, and then he can feel his mouth moving, ragged half-choked sounds tearing out of his throat as Ryan rolls him onto his back, pinning his arms. Ryan always catches him the same way, pressing his hands flat to the insides of Seth's elbows, like he wants to cover the marks, or like he wants to push himself into Seth's veins instead. Seth wishes Ryan could, wishes he could get a hit of Ryan and be--the opposite of high, be Ryan, be cool and calm and sleeping instead of this. Ryan's mouth covers his, Ryan's teeth against his lips, Ryan's tongue shoving inside, and Seth knows it's not a kiss, or not only a kiss. Ryan has to shut him up somehow, and his hands are full.
Ryan's hands push harder, so hard Seth can feel the throbbing pressure in his veins, his hands going tingly and numb, and Ryan's knees are pressing down on Seth's legs, and Ryan's not letting Seth breathe. He just has to be still and let the Ryan-hit wash through him. When he finally gasps in oxygen it's better than H, straight to the bloodstream--alveoli, he can see the diagram on the test, coloring the arrows red and blue--and he's pinned to the bed as much by the rush as by Ryan, who's staring at him with wide blue eyes ringed in black and gray, catching his own breath.
Seth can see words forming and failing in Ryan's panting mouth. He doesn't ask what the hell is wrong with Seth. They both already know what's wrong with Seth. Seth is a junkie, and Seth is a hustler. He's failed even at that, even at selling his ass for smack. He was such a fuckup of a junkie that Ryan had to get him cleaned up, or maybe such a half-assed junkie that he let Ryan get him cleaned up. Either way he's nothing now but the mostly-clean mostly-ex junkie who gives cheap blowjobs in the park and sleeps in Ryan's room. That's what's wrong with him.
Ryan only asks questions he doesn't know the answers to, so he doesn't ask what's wrong with Seth. He says, in a ragged voice that reminds Seth of how little sleep Ryan's gotten, "Where does it hurt?"
Seth shakes his head, bites his tongue on the impulse to say everywhere, because everywhere means he's jonesing hard, everywhere means he needs a hit badly enough to beg Ryan to let him, and a hit would make this stop but that's not the problem right now, or that's the whole problem. Ryan slides one hand down from Seth's elbow to his wrist and squeezes it tight. "Show me where it hurts," he says, and Seth knows Ryan means he won't let Seth's hand do anything but point.
Seth raises his hand and touches his fingertips to the skin of Ryan's throat. He can't quite feel it--his fingers are all pins and needles from the tightness of Ryan's grip--but it gives under his touch and Ryan doesn't pull his hand away. Ryan frowns and says, "I'm fine, Seth. Where are you hurting?"
Seth shakes his head again and presses harder, until Ryan pushes his hand down. Ryan's frown catches on Seth's fingers and he sits up, pulling Seth's hands into his lap to check the tooth marks. For a moment Seth remembers his mother looking at the fingers Seth burned or banged or scraped, remembers her kissing every little hurt till it was gone. For a moment Seth expects Ryan to do the same, but he only rubs each separate indentation with his finger, frowning harder, and finally says, "It's okay, you didn't break the skin."
And Ryan thinks that's it, that the crisis is over, but that isn't it at all, his fingers don't even hurt, his fingers aren't the problem, they're just a symptom. "I lack impulse control," Seth says sharply, and Ryan's eyes widen. He's always a little surprised by Chatterbox Seth, even though Seth's always been a chatterbox--or maybe he's failing at that now, too, failing at everything. Failing fast. "I'm totally unpredictable, man, even I don't know what I'm gonna do next. You shouldn't leave me loose when you sleep, you shouldn't trust me like that, I'm not--"
"I don't trust you any further than I can throw you," Ryan says, and there's a little smile in his eyes, but he sounds like he means it. His voice sounds harder than his skin. He's harder on the inside than he looks on the outside, hard like the knife, like the locks. Maybe--just maybe--he's safer than Seth thought.
Seth squirms until Ryan's hands tighten again on his arms and Ryan shifts his weight back over Seth. The words have started now--Chatterbox Seth is here--and Seth can't stop talking even as Ryan presses him down and down. "You talk tough, but you were sleeping--I could have done anything, Ry, I could do anything, you can't--you shouldn't leave me loose like that, we both know I'm totally unstable. You might say you don't trust me, but you act like you trust me and you shouldn't--"
"So, what," Ryan says tightly, shoving at Seth as he speaks, "I should lock you up at night? Tie you down?"
Seth shuts up all at once, at that, and Ryan hears what he's suddenly not saying. He looks at Seth and then looks over to the milk crate on his side of the bed, where the leather wrist cuff is lying. Seth licks his lips, and Ryan says, "Okay, okay, fine," and reaches over to grab the wrist cuff, catching Seth's hand again before he's even realized Ryan let go. Ryan slaps the cuff around his wrist and yanks it tight through the buckle, fastening it at a hole two beyond the one that's worn with regular use. It grips Seth's wrist tightly, as tight as Ryan's hand.
Ryan sits up a little, shoving Seth hard into the mattress. "You couldn't make it halfway to the door before I caught you," he says. "So don't even try to get out of this bed."
Seth nods, biting his lip. He closes his eyes and focuses on the feeling of the cuff on his wrist, the way it holds on to him even as Ryan himself gets up off the bed, leaving Seth loose, untethered, so light and wild he could just float away--but the cuff on his wrist says he wouldn't get far. He hears Ryan's footsteps, the opening and closing of a drawer, and then Ryan jumps onto the bed, half-tackling him, knocking the air from his lungs. Seth's eyes open wide and he gasps, but Ryan doesn't even look up. He fastens the other cuff around Seth's left wrist, running his tongue over the bite marks on Seth's fingers, and then pushes Seth's hands up over his head.
Seth sees the rope, and tenses, pushing up convulsively at Ryan, but Ryan's ready for him and pushes back hard, kneeing Seth in the gut, knocking out the little air he's managed to get into his lungs. Seth can't resist any more effectively than a flopping fish as Ryan threads the rope through the D-rings on the cuffs and ties them to the bedframe. Seth struggles and fights, but the knots hold, and Ryan sits back with his weight on Seth's thighs, watching. Seth bucks, and Ryan rides it out easily. Seth opens and closes his hands, fists clenching, fingers scrabbling, but it doesn't matter, he's held fast, by the rope Ryan tied and by Ryan himself, looking down at Seth impassively. Seth can't do anything to anyone now.
He starts to trust that after a while, falling still, knowing the cuffs are there even if he doesn't fight them, that Ryan's weight on him is a steady thing. Seth stares at the ceiling, trying to catch his breath, as Ryan lays down again, half on top of Seth this time. Ryan's forearm settles lightly across Seth's throat at the same time Ryan's dick presses against Seth's hip, and Seth looks down and meets Ryan's calm blue eyes. "The thing is," Ryan says casually, "now I'm awake. And I really need to get back to sleep somehow."
"Oh," Seth says, pushing his hips up. "Oh. Well, by all means--"
"Shut up," Ryan says flatly, but his hands are only a little rough--only just exactly as rough as Seth needs them to be right now--as he pushes Seth over onto his stomach. He kneels up and yanks Seth's boxers down, and when Seth tries to be helpful, kicking them off, Ryan smacks him on the ass hard enough that Seth almost makes a really embarrassing noise, and sort of chokes on his own breath, stopping it. So "shut up" also means "hold still" today. Seth doesn't think he's going to pull that off for long, but he gives it a shot, burying his face in the pillow and waiting.
He hears Ryan rummaging through the stuff on the bedside table, the pop of the top of a bottle of lube and the rip of a condom packet. Seth wants to spread his legs, but he's busy holding still, curling his toes and pressing his knees into the mattress. Ryan takes care of it for him, shoving his thighs apart, and Seth can feel latex on Ryan's index finger. Ryan is careful. Seth thinks he's probably this careful with everyone, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he were more careful with Seth. He knows where Seth's been. Approximately.
Ryan moves between Seth's legs and pushes them wider, then yanks the pillow from under Seth's face and shoves it under his hips. Seth hits the mattress nose-first, and he doesn't quite taste blood, just tilts his head down so it's his forehead against the mattress and he has a little bit of room to breathe. His dick is hard, pressing down into the scratchy pillowcase, the hard pillow made of rubbery foam. He doesn't thrust into it, because he doesn't really want Ryan to hit him again, but he knows that's not actually going to deter him once Ryan starts touching him. Seth doesn't do much these days, in his professional capacity, that gets him off. He hasn't so much as unzipped his pants for a john this week. He jerks off in the shower when he remembers to, but mostly he waits for Ryan.
The lube is cold on his ass, and Seth jerks away--which means shoving his dick into the pillow, and he never really appreciated the pillow being so stiff until right now, because it feels so good pressing back against him--and Ryan smacks him again with his left hand at the same moment he pushes his right index finger into Seth.
Seth does make an embarrassing noise then, somewhere between a squeak and a whine--more startled than hurting, really. Ryan's left hand stays on his hip, holding him still, while Ryan's finger twists inside him. The condom feels strange, sliding around on a single finger, and Seth twitches and forces himself to relax, waiting for it to get better. That much he can depend on, with Ryan: it may start out weird, but it always gets better.
Sure enough, Ryan's left hand lifts away, and there's another squirt of cold lube--Seth's ready for it this time, and doesn't make a sound, just shudders all over, and his dick appreciates the motion if nothing else--and then Ryan gets a second finger into the condom and into Seth's ass. Two fingers is way better, pressing deeper, opening him wider, twisting and pushing and when Seth moans it sounds just like the porn he used to try to watch on the scrambled channels when he was a kid, and Ryan shoves his fingers in harder, nails it, and Seth couldn't care less what's under his dick. This time when he can't help thrusting it's up, onto Ryan's fingers, and Ryan's left hand comes down on the small of his back and holds him still while Ryan's fingers keep working in him.
Seth's toes curl, and his fingers claw at the wall, and he's shivering and thrusting, pleasure rushing up his spine, his thighs tensing. He's vaguely aware that he's babbling--at least, he thinks the Oh God oh God yes oh God please sounds more like him than Ryan--and then another squirt of cold freezes him in place for a second, just as Ryan slides a third finger in. Seth tries to hold still then, but it's too late. Ryan's fingers move inside him and Seth's whole body wants Ryan's fingers in the worst possible way, his ass tightens around them and his hips push up to them, his balls are pulling in just to be near them, all the blood in his body pounding closer. He presses his mouth against the mattress, but all that gets him is a tongue full of the taste of cheap detergent and cotton. He turns his head aside to breathe, gasps in air and that's it, he's coming, his dick jerking wet between his belly and his pillow, and he's lost the power of speech and is just making noises now, and Ryan's fingers still don't quit, stroking him through it and out the other side, until Seth's body stops straining toward them. Until Seth goes still. Seth closes his eyes, panting, and waits for what's next.
Ryan's fingers pull out of him, and Seth bites his lip and breathes through his nose, which just gets him a lungful of the smell of his own sweat. He feels wide open--is wide open, the air is cold on the crack of his ass, which means he must be running at about a thousand degrees--and then he's not cold anymore, because Ryan's dick is pushing into him, Ryan's thighs are pressed against his, Ryan's body is settling over him like a blanket.
Ryan is--oh, God--definitely harder than his throat would lead you to believe. He's heavy enough to hold Seth down, even though dick is better than fingers and Seth wants it, pushes up into it. He remembers to stop biting his lip and takes another deep breath just as Ryan stops, buried all the way in, all his weight on Seth, his toes against Seth's heels and his chin on Seth's shoulder. He fucks Seth slowly, and Seth listens to him breathing through gritted teeth, stays quiet so he can hear it. Ryan never does make much noise. Seth breathes in synch with him, in time to the slow thrust of Ryan's dick in his ass. His own dick is hard--again, still, but he can go slow now, echoing Ryan's motions, mirroring, meeting. It feels almost as good as heroin.
Ryan's hands close over the insides of Seth's elbows like he heard the thought, and Seth loses the sound of Ryan's breath as Ryan's mouth presses against his throat, sucking at the skin. Seth's throat is soft, and Ryan can do what he likes to it now; Seth is at his mercy. But Ryan only kisses him, stinging harsh kisses that he'll carry for days. Ryan only makes Seth bleed under his skin. Ryan won't let Seth break, not all the way.
Seth moves against Ryan, waiting for him to break, just a little, and Ryan's hands tighten on Seth's elbows as he thrusts harder, and then harder again. Ryan bites at the point of Seth's jaw, and Seth's mouth falls open, but no sound escapes. His hips snap up, and Ryan starts moving fast, pushing up with all his weight on his hands, pressing his elbows against the mattress, slamming hard into Seth, grinding Seth's dick into the wet pillow with every motion. Seth still comes first, gasping, "yeah, okay, okay, okay--"
Ryan finally makes a noise, a single satisfied, "Ha," as Seth shudders under him, and his dick jerks inside Seth, and Seth can feel him shivering as he comes. He pulls out slow, but moves quickly to get rid of the condom. Seth is still trying to catch his breath when Ryan tips him onto his side, takes the wet pillow and tosses it on the floor. Ryan settles back on his side, facing Seth, their heads on the same pillow, yawns and closes his eyes.
Seth flexes his hands, waiting to see if Ryan will think of it, and then cautiously says, "Uh, Ry?"
Ryan opens one eye, and Seth waves his hands. He sees Ryan's gaze flick up from Seth's eyes to his hands, and Ryan mutters, "Picky, picky," but he reaches up one hand over Seth's head to loosen the knots. He only takes Seth's right wrist from the rope, retying the left lower down, so the blood won't drain from it.
Seth bends his right wrist cautiously in the confine of the cuff. It still feels like he's being held onto, and he's too distracted by that sensation to notice that Ryan's feeling around on the milk crate until Ryan holds up Seth's cigarettes and lighter in front of his face. Seth smiles and says, "Hey, thanks," and, wow, he's hoarse. Seth manages to get his cigarette to his mouth, but Ryan lights it for him.
Seth squirms onto his back and blows smoke toward the ceiling--Ryan doesn't smoke, doesn't like to kiss Seth when he's been smoking--and beside him, Ryan murmurs, "Don't set the bed on fire, okay?"
"Yeah," Seth replies, glancing sideways at Ryan, halfway back to sleep beside him. Seth taps ash off the side of the bed, making a mental note to clean it up later, and tugs experimentally at the rope holding his left wrist to the bed. He's tied tight. Safe and sound. When Ryan rolls against him, sound asleep and heavy, Seth stubs out the cigarette against the bedframe and tosses it after the ash. It's not really morning yet, and anyway he can't get out of bed. He closes his eyes and breathes slowly with Ryan, and slips quietly into sleep.