||[Mar. 13th, 2005|11:59 pm]
I like you.
|[||Tags|||||fic, the oc||]|
|||||Lapse - Kris Nichols||]|
Gee, it sure is neat that I waited until the middle of the season to write fic for last summer's hiatus. This is what I've been meaning to write ever since I saw the season two premiere. It is dear to my soul, so I hope you like it.
This is for plainsong_x, a little. :>
Title: Seth and Luke's Big Gay Adventures in Portland
Fandom: The O.C.
Pairings: Seth/Luke, Seth/Ryan
Summary: There was a point, Seth felt, in which everything in his life had gone wrong. He estimated that it was roughly a day after he'd been born.
Disclaimer: Josh Schwartz, man, not me.
Distribution: Silverlake, my site. Otherwise ask.
Timeline: Takes place between seasons one and two, but I bet you caught that.
The taste of beer, Seth decided, was definitely growing on him. It had taken a few tries, or— he squinted at the table in front of him- about six cans, but he had reached the point in his life where he was okay with drinking beer. Not even in Portland for a month and Seth was already growing as a person.
"So I'm going, like, hiking in the mountains with my parents. They said it'll make us a more spiritually functioning family unit. Whatever. You know?" The stoner kid sitting next to Seth on the couch turned to him expectantly. Seth got the feeling that something more had preceded this. Possibly this was the source of the pleasant background buzz that had soundtracked his ruminations on beer.
"Yeah man, I know. Parents," Seth said obligingly. He knew the kid had introduced himself at one point. He searched his memory. Some weird name. Melvin? No, Marvin. No, that wasn't right either.
"Parents," the stoner (Mervin?) agreed, and lapsed into silence.
It was impressive, really, Seth's ability to attract the one other kid that seemed like he didn't belong at this party. It was like a gift. Seth had known the party would be great when Luke had parked him on the couch with a six pack and told Seth to find him when he finished it off. That had been an hour ago. Maybe more.
(He thought perhaps this was the result of a brief discussion regarding their alcohol preferences that he and Luke had engaged in, that went something like-
Luke: I like beer.
Seth: I like bellinis.
Luke: You like what?
Seth: It's, you know, champagne. With peach schnapps. Sometimes raspberry.
Luke: You're a girl.
Seth: Fair enough.
- which had resulted in Luke deciding to teach Seth how to drink like a man. Beer was the first step. Seth wasn't sure about what came after. Whiskey, maybe? Motor oil?)
Spark of a lighter next to him. Seth glanced over as the stoner (Miles? Mason?) lit up and offered him a joint. Well, it was an ideal time to try new things.
"Hey, Cohen. What, I leave you alone for five minutes and you're smoking up without me?" Luke sat down on the couch next to him. He looked a little drunk. No, Seth corrected himself, he looked a little blurry because Seth was drunk. Luke looked fine.
Seth squinted at him through the smoke as the stoner passed the joint over to Luke. "Yes. You've caught me."
"Just in time," Luke said, inhaling deeply. He passed the joint back to the stoner.
Seth watched, squished uncomfortably between them, as they handed it back and forth over him.
"Having a good time, Cohen?" Luke said, nudging him. A tall, pretty brunette walked by and ran a hand up Luke's chest, offering a flirtatious hello.
"Not as good as you're having." He watched the girl walk away. The place was crowded with girls like her. Not excessively skinny and blond like the girls in Newport, prettier, and the guys all looked like Abercrombie models. Which was probably why Luke fit right in. "How is it that you're not even in school yet and you're already one of the popular kids?"
Luke shrugged. "You hang out. You meet people."
"Right. See, I never meet people like that."
"You don’t hang out. You read comic books all day and mope about Ryan."
"Hey!" Seth paused. "Sometimes I mope about Summer."
Luke gave him one of those looks that was meant to stand in for a snappy rejoinder. Ryan still did those better than anyone.
"I was moping about her today! She doesn't want to talk to me anymore."
"After you ran away and left her alone? Really?"
"Shut up." Seth slumped moodily into the couch. He wanted another beer. And a different life. "Where's the rest of the beer?"
"In the keg over there." Luke gestured vaguely behind him. "Unless you're going to be mopey drunk, in which case it's in the water faucet."
"Funny. You're really a funny guy, Luke. I'm not moping. I'm relaxing."
"You've had a seriously relaxing summer, then."
"Can we stop talking about Summer?" Seth closed his eyes.
"She just doesn't get that it wasn't about her."
"Yeah," Luke said, raising his eyebrows significantly. "It was about Ryan."
"It's more complicated than that."
"Okay, so maybe it's not more complicated than that."
"Whatever, Cohen. I'm not here to judge. Are you ready to go?"
Seth let his head fall forward in an approximation of a nod. He was ready to go. But not back to Newport. Just, away. Even though the couch was really, really comfortable.
"It's still kind of confusing that we're friends," Seth said as they walked out the door and into the bracingly cold midnight air. He was leaning into Luke, a little. Standing had maybe not been such a great idea. Walking was shaping up to be just as bad. Luke had a hand on Seth's elbow, steadying him. That was maybe a little confusing, too. Not the fact of it, but. The way it was kind of enjoyable.
Okay, so, Seth Cohen, kind of gay? Not really a revelation, in the sense of at all. Luke, though. Seth was mildly unimpressed with himself.
They walked home in silence. Possibly Seth was leaning a little more than was strictly necessary.
He watched, propped up against the wall, as Luke got out his keys to unlock the door.
"Hey Luke?" Seth said. There was a streetlight right behind Luke's head, causing a weird halo effect. Like he was some sort of preppy angel. "I'm glad, though. That we're friends."
Luke looked momentarily confused. Seth realized that possibly Luke wasn't still on the same page Seth had been on before their half hour walk. "Right, Cohen. I think you should get some sleep." He opened the door, pushing Seth lightly forward.
Seth went to bed. When he woke up the next morning, all he remembered was the stoner on the couch and stumbling into the doorframe of the guest bedroom before he passed out fully dressed on top of the covers.
So maybe there were a few weeks in there where all Seth did was lie on the bed, stare at the ceiling, and think about how much his life sucked. Sometimes he would read a little. There were occasional breaks for playing PS2 with Luke. But for the most part, Seth stayed in his room and wished he had some sort of artistic talent. Angst like this was best expressed in song, but while Seth considered himself emo, it was more a label implying a lifestyle choice than the ability to rhyme about his inner pain.
The party was Seth's first big introduction to the Portland social scene. He felt that it had failed, as far as introductions went.
Seth looked up, or more accurately, over, from where he was lying on the bed. He had been staring up at the ceiling for an undetermined amount of time. It was stucco. There was one patch that looked like a demented clown face.
"Ward," he said, then, "Hey. Like Ward Cleaver."
Luke stared at him for a moment, then went on as if Seth hadn't said anything. "Get up. We're going out."
Seth shifted closer to the edge of the bed, then paused. "Out where?"
"To get jobs."
Seth moved back to where he was.
"Cohen, get up."
Seth considered that one.
"Get up or I'll sit down and we'll talk about your feelings."
Interesting tactic. "That would hurt you more than it would me."
"I've been hanging out with chicks for years. I've learned to be sensitive."
Seth narrowed his eyes. Luke met his stare, eyebrows raised. It was a clear challenge.
"I miss Ryan," he said boldly.
Luke walked into the room, and sat down on Seth's bed. "Tell me all about it."
"That's actually all there is to tell." Seth sat up. "Or-" He paused, looked at Luke. Couldn't do it. "No. That's about it."
"Of course you miss Ryan," Luke said, clapping Seth on the shoulder. Seth made a rather undignified 'oof' noise. "You're not going to cry or anything, are you?"
"No," Seth said, then thought about it. "No," he said again, more decisively this time.
"Good," Luke said. He sounded relieved.
"Don't worry, buddy, I’ll keep all my emotions bottled up where they belong."
"You suck at this. You're not sensitive at all."
Luke looked at his knuckles. "It's been awhile since I've hit someone. I wonder if I should be staying in practice."
"You know what I've been thinking I need?" Seth hopped off the bed. "A job."
"Good," Luke said. "Me too."
The summer went on. They worked at the marina by day, and there seemed to be a party every third or fourth night. It was just like the summer before, only without the drama. And the Ryan. (The two, Seth imagined, were likely related.) And sure, he enjoyed the parties. The lack of punching and melodrama was counterbalanced by the copious amounts of alcohol he no longer had to sneak. He still didn't have any friends except for Luke, but Seth was used to not having any friends. It wasn't hard to fall back into that. It wasn't fun, but it wasn't hard.
"Come on, Cohen, lighten up," Luke would say at each party, handing him another beer.
Seth did need to lighten up. He was beginning to miss Marissa, for god's sake.
So when shots were passed around at the End of July party, he took one. Then he took another. Then, possibly, another, followed by some haziness, and then something about singing loudly along with the Franz Ferdinand record playing on the stereo. And then going into Luke's room when they got home, because he couldn't sleep. He'd tried for at least two minutes. Almost two. Maybe.
"So, tequila," Seth said conversationally, stumbling only slightly as he entered Luke's room. "Tequila is not very good. I mean, it's great, except for the fact that I can't sleep. And I feel like I’m on methamphetamines. Or what I imagine methamphetamines would feel like." He paused, proud of his ability to pronounce methamphetamines. That was like, four syllables. No. Five.
"Seth," Luke said, switching on his bedside lamp and squinting at him, "I think you have a problem."
"I do," Seth agreed. "I’m in love with Ryan."
Luke blinked. "I was gonna say a drinking problem."
"Yes," Seth said. He walked over to Luke's bed and slid downward until he was on the floor leaning against it. "Possibly that too." He tucked his head between his legs in the vain hope of regaining his equilibrium. "Say something."
Luke coughed. "So you really are a queer."
"Thank you, Luke, your sensitivity is appreciated. As usual."
"No, I mean, I don't care. Except that Ryan is kind of like your adopted brother, which is creepy."
"Hmm, yeah, speaking of creepy, didn't you sleep with your ex-girlfriend's mother?"
Silence. Seth risked a look up. Luke looked tired, more than anything, and Seth suddenly felt like kind of a jerk. "Hey, sorry," he said awkwardly. "But let's not throw stones, huh?"
"Yeah," Luke said, after a moment. "But you and Chino?"
"Not anymore. Or, I guess, ever, now that he's back home."
"Yes. Yes, it does, in fact, suck. If you're going to fall for someone, I recommend it not be your adopted brother." Seth sighed. Then, liking the way that felt, he sighed again. Inhale, exhale. Seth began to feel tired.
"Cohen, don't fall asleep on my floor."
"'M not falling asleep. I was resting my eyes."
"Hey." Luke's hand was on Seth's shoulder, shaking him a little. There were a few freckles on his knuckles. Weird. Seth reached up, and touched them. "Hey," Luke said again. "Quit it. I'm not Chino."
"Yeah, but you're kind of like my adopted brother now," Seth said, not really quite sure of what he was talking about. Luke's hand was warm. He kept trying to count the freckles, but they were blurring together, and kept disappearing every time he blinked. Which was often.
"You just said that was a bad idea."
"I have those a lot," Seth said. His eyelids kept fluttering shut. "I'm not very good at this."
"You need some sleep," Luke said, carefully extracting his hand from Seth's grip. He pushed Seth forward gently, until Seth stood up, swaying a bit.
"Sleep. Right." Seth nodded. "I'm just going to sleep. Now." He left the room, and soon enough collapsed onto his own bed. At least Luke knew that he was- well, whatever he was. Not gay. Bi, maybe. Ryan-sexual.
Right. Great. Luke knew he was queer. Out of the closet and into the hell of drunken regret. Seth would have patted himself on the back, had he any energy to spare for ironic gestures.
"So, you know what I'm thinking I should start doing?" Seth asked, leaning against the counter. Three o'clock, and activity at the marina had hit a lull. Luke was eating a sandwich, Jane was doing a crossword puzzle in People, and Amanda was painting her toenails with glitter polish.
"Taking action instead of talking so much?" Luke suggested.
"Giving me a five-letter word for 'forgettable 2003 skateboarder movie'?" Jane said. She squinted at the crossword.
"Letting me paint your nails with gold glitter?" Amanda offered.
"Thank you, no, gold's not my color. I'm thinking I should start drinking less."
Jane erased something on the puzzle. "Less than what?" she asked.
"Just less. I'd like to remember more of this summer than angst and beer."
"Sounds like you need less angst, and more beer," Amanda observed.
"Cohen doesn't need more beer," Luke said.
"I don't need more beer," Seth confirmed, nodding.
Amanda shrugged. "At least you won't remember the angst."
Seth looked to Luke for help on that one.
"He won't remember anything else, either," Luke said. "Although that might be a good thing."
Seth frowned. "Point. Are we talking me out of this or into it?"
"I'm not sure." Amanda capped her polish. "Maybe you can decide tonight at Lily's party."
"If you're not getting drunk, then I will," Luke said. "It's a few miles out, I'll let you drive."
"Just what I've always wanted."
"You can pick us up too," Jane said.
"Seth Cohen: Sober Chauffer Guy. Got it. I'm liking the new role." Seth drummed his fingers on the countertop. After a minute, Luke absently flicked at Seth's hand. Six freckles, Seth could see now in the daylight. He stopped drumming.
Right, okay. Sober Chauffer Guy for life.
The upside to going sober at parties like this, Seth thought, was that you got to watch and laugh at all the stupid shit that people did under the influence. People were hanging all over each other, loud and giggly, and speaking with accents that Seth knew weren't native. There were a few intense matches of beer pong happening, and an impromptu game of Spin the Bottle in the corner.
The downside, of course, was that he was too sober to participate. Maybe he would pretend to be Irish just for the hell of it.
Luke had, as usual, disappeared into the ether. Amanda and Jane were playing doubles beer pong. There was no sign of Mervin/Marvin/Mason the stoner.
This party sucked, Seth decided. And Luke sucked, and Amanda and Jane sucked, and sobriety sucked. It was too hot inside. He headed for the backdoor.
The backyard was vast, at least an acre of manicured lawn with some sort of garden in the far corner. The patio wasn't too crowded, but there was a small group of girls taking a cigarette break and the smoke was making his eyes water. He walked around to the side of the house.
Luke was sitting alone on the grass, drinking, his back against the wall.
"Oh," Seth said, surprised. "Hey. There you are."
"Were you looking for me?"
"Well. No. But here you are."
"Sit down." Seth did. "You could have probably had one, you know. It wears off after like an hour."
"Ah. Yes. Good to know now."
Luke shrugged. "Whatever. For next time." He leaned his head back, eyes closed.
"You all right?"
"Think I might join you on that drinking less thing. I probably didn't need that last one."
"You seem okay."
"Yeah. So you're, like, in love with Ryan." Luke's head lolled to the side, and he looked Seth in the eye.
"Okay, I lied. You really are drunk." Seth scratched his head. "And you want to discuss this further?"
Luke closed his eyes. "No, man, hey, I get it. Chino. He had that, you know, sort of broody Russell Crowe thing. I can see where you'd be like, gay for him."
"And here I would have pegged you for a Brad Pitt kind of guy."
Yes, sobriety could definitely have its upsides. "No, this is fun. Let's keep bonding over our crushes on Ryan."
"But it's not just Ryan, right? You really are gay?"
"Well, no, I wouldn't say-" Okay, sudden, unexpected presence of Luke's mouth against his. Kissing him. Luke was kissing him. More importantly, Seth was kissing him back. Just, automatically, because that's what Seth did when someone kissed him; there had been so few that he'd never wanted to not kiss someone back. And this was kind of okay, Luke kissing him, because Luke was kind of a good kisser. A little aggressive maybe, but there was the guy thing to consider, and- Luke was kissing him. Wait, wait, wait.
"Hey, so, um," Seth said when Luke finally pulled away. He stopped, realizing that he hadn't really thought beyond that. He could hear the sounds of the party happening around the corner.
"We can just forget that ever happened," Luke said. It sounded less like a suggestion and more like an order, or like Luke was trying to Jedi mind trick him or something.
"Totally, I've already forgotten. I'm sure that happens all the time. Although, what just happened, I'm not sure. Because of the forgetting." Seth was nodding a lot, he was aware of that. He adjusted his rhythm a little to match the bass from the music inside. Probably he would always associate the Beastie Boys with kissing Luke from now on. Which, speaking of kissing Luke- he had just kissed Luke. Right. Okay. "I'm going to go forget somewhere else," Seth decided, and got up and walked away.
On the way home, Luke turned up 50 Cent really loud and stared out the window, saying nothing. Amanda and Jane were curled against each other in the backseat, laughing and singing along, but Seth was so distracted by Luke that he couldn't even concentrate on the Sapphic gigglefest. Maybe Seth really was gay. Okay, probably not. But he was moving toward having some sort of feeling about kissing Luke, aside from a neon rainbow blinking question mark. It really hadn't been that bad. Actually, he'd liked it. Or, he liked the memory of it.
He looked sideways at Luke as they pulled up to the house, the car suddenly quiet in the absence of Amanda and Jane and 50 growling about finding him in some sort of club. Luke did not look back.
Seth caught the front door just as it was swinging shut and tried to close it quietly behind him. Luke had already disappeared, probably to go have a sexual identity crisis. No, wait, Luke was probably going to go pass out, it was Seth that was going to lie awake in gothic torment about hooking up with the wrong pseudo-foster brother.
Except that Luke was in Seth's bedroom. "Um," Seth said.
"I'm drunk," Luke said.
"I respect that."
"That means I won't remember this in the morning."
Which was a bit off-putting, as far as pick up lines went, but Seth hadn't expected even that much, so he was kind of okay with it. Because Luke was kissing him again, and Seth was okay with that too. Liking it, in fact. Luke's hands were on him, on his waist, pulling him closer, and it was- interesting. Not like kissing girls at all. Hotter. Luke had him pushed up against the wall like he was going to escape or something, which Seth was really not planning on doing at this point. Or, ever. It was really, really hot in this room. Luke was kissing his neck.
And Luke's hand was suddenly down Seth's pants, which was, um, unexpected, and also- Seth closed his eyes- really good. Also impressive, considering Luke was pressed against Seth so there was barely any room for him to get in there, but he was making a real effort at it, which Seth appreciated. On an academic level, at least. Because although his brain was remaining almost scarily coherent, the rest of him was too busy focusing on the fact that it felt fantastic, and also Luke was hard against Seth, oh god. And Seth was probably expected to- oh god.
Okay, right, reciprocation was the nice thing to do and it wasn't like Seth didn't want to, but it was kind of a big step to go from first kiss with a guy to jerking each other off in the space of about two hours. Like, a majorly big step, Seth thought as he reached into Luke's jeans and found- wow, okay, no wonder Luke got all the ladies, and actually, let's not go any further with that line of thinking. Stroking up and down, tentatively, trying to do what Luke was doing to him because that seemed to be working pretty well in the making Seth feel fucking great department.
Luke had his mouth on Seth's neck, the fingers of his other hand digging into Seth's skin beneath the collar of his t-shirt. Seth thought he might be bruised in the morning. Right, the morning, in which he would have to face Luke again, knowing, as of that moment, what Luke looked like when he was coming. Which he was, eyes open and looking at Seth, and then Seth was coming too. Not necessarily because of the look, but not not because of it either. Just- Luke. Right there, forehead resting against his, mouth red from kissing Seth. Oh, god.
It seemed like Luke wanted to say something. Probably something important, but instead he just wiped his hand off on his jeans and pushed himself away from Seth, and then left the room.
After awhile, Seth moved away from the wall. He had planned on a night spent lying awake in gothic torment. He saw no reason to change his plans now.
At seven a.m. Seth gave up on trying to sleep and walked into the living room, cringing when he saw his reflection in the hallway mirror. Gothic torment was really not his color.
Carson was already up and eating a bowl of cereal at the kitchen table. He put down the sports page and raised an eyebrow at Seth. "You're up early. I figured you and Luke had been out all night."
"What? Out all night doing what?" Seth looked around the room, as if the refrigerator or possibly the stove might have the answers. "I mean, no. I just couldn't sleep. So I'm up. Can you hand me the comics? I'm dying to know what that Dilbert's gotten up to now."
"So you had fun, then?" Carson asked, handing it over.
"Yep. Fun. Tons of fun, actually. Too much to recount here."
"Relax, Seth, I don't need to know."
"Nothing to know! Hey, look, Cathy's getting married. Good for her." He flipped through the comics. Family Circus, he felt, was lacking something. Entertainment value, possibly. He wanted a bowl of cereal. "Pass the Wheaties."
"Hey, Dad, do we still have any-" Luke looked up, stopping in the hallway and staring at Seth.
"Have any what?" Carson asked.
"Nothing. Sleep." Luke turned back around. A few seconds later, his door closed.
"What was that all about?"
"I couldn't tell you. Kids these days, huh? Who knows." Seth looked very determinedly at the newspaper in front of him. He felt something throbbing on his neck. It was either a hickey or his conscience trying to crawl back into his body.
Less than a week later, and Seth was doing a really good impression of someone who had not even remotely hooked up with his ex-best friend's ex-girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. He worked. He stared out the window at the water. He thought about Summer. He thought about Ryan. He snarked at appropriate intervals. It was a good show all around. Luke wasn't talking to him much. That was fine too. It wasn't like his and Luke's relationship revolved around frequent intense conversation. At least if they weren't talking to each other then there wouldn't be anymore making out.
Not that Seth didn't want to make out with Luke again. Or that he did. Or- anything, really.
He kind of did, though. Really. But there was this frustrating lack of parties happening, which Seth took as a personal insult since he'd been going to these stupid parties all summer and now where were they when he needed one? It had been five whole days since the last party, which was some kind of record, Seth thought. Luke had been keeping to his room a lot. Seth had resorted to playing Grand Theft Auto with Mr. Ward. Carson. Whatever, Grand Theft Auto was a game most assuredly not meant to be played with authority figures.
At least it was Wednesday, which meant a stack of new comics. He was in the middle of Astonishing X-Men when the door opened.
"So I've been thinking," Luke said, coming in and closing the door.
"Um. What about?"
Luke looked at him. There was a Look happening. It was getting to the point where Seth was going to say something regrettable just to fill the silence, but then Luke was kissing him. Which made it difficult to speak. Or focus on anything aside from Luke's lips. Maybe also his shoulders, and the way that Luke was pushing him back onto the bed. Aggression, awesome. Seth was beginning to appreciate that. He subtly pushed his comics onto the floor, hoping they would land okay. Although maybe Luke was worth a few creased covers.
Luke looked at him. "Cohen," he said.
"Don’t you need to be drunk for this?" Seth said, hoping to forestall any comics-related inquiries. He peeked over the side of the bed. They had landed fine.
"So what if I don't?" Luke said. He sounded a little breathless. It was hot.
"Nothing, just checking. Um. You could keep kissing me."
Luke kept kissing him, and it was good, and confusing in a different way than before. Drunken making out was one thing, but this was like, a sober, friendly hookup. Or something. Not that Seth was complaining, just- puzzling, was all. Also, it was still kind of early, and Luke's dad was still up. And so, somewhere around the house.
"Hey, um," Seth said, and then got distracted by the way Luke was kissing his neck. "Um, your dad is around. Somewhere. He could like, walk in."
Luke pulled back. "Could we not talk about my dad right now? Or ever, when we're doing this?"
"Well, I mean, if it's pertinent- which it is right now, I think, and also, has it occurred to you that there might be some sort of connection between you and your dad? What with the whole kissing guys thing?"
"No," Luke said. "Never." He moved away from Seth to lie down heavily on his back. "Because that would be weird."
"Right. Weird. As opposed to, you know. This. Which isn't at all, in any way, weird."
"You're right. This is weird. It's a bad idea."
"Funnily enough, that's not really where I was heading in bringing this up," Seth said, stalling as Luke climbed out of the bed and made to leave.
"Nevermind, Cohen. Forget it." The door clicked shut behind him.
Seth stared at the closed door. His mouth was still a little tingly. There was a point, he felt, in which everything in his life had gone wrong. He estimated that it was roughly a day after he'd been born.
Seth looked blearily up. Luke was shaking his shoulder. "Hey," Seth said. "What's up?"
"I'm pretty sure I was wrong before," Luke said. "Scoot over."
Seth did, and Luke joined him under the covers. Luke's skin was cold, and he smelled like the night air. "Have you been outside?"
"I was thinking a lot. Out on the deck."
"What were you thinking about?"
"How I need to stop thinking."
"Okay, cool." Seth nodded. "Thinking about what?"
"Nothing," Luke said. "Shut up." That wasn't really a suggestion, though, because Luke's lips were suddenly on his, which was obviously where this had been going since Luke walked in, and Seth's sleep-addled mind had just been a little slow in reaching that conclusion. Luke was warm against him, and he felt really good. Better than the blankets, and again, very different from when he had been with Summer. Probably very different from how it would be with Ryan. Yeah, really time to stop thinking in those terms. Time to focus.
In the morning, Luke was still there, in his bed, which was equal parts weird and nice. Mr. Ward went to work early, and the marina didn't open until ten, so they had a little bit of time to lie around. Seth stretched.
Yeah, it definitely wasn't too bad, waking up next to Luke. The sun was shining in, and Luke looked all golden, shirtless and tan like a shot from an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog, or a softcore gay porn mag (although, kind of the same thing, right? Oh, Seth, that was too easy). Luke opened his eyes, and Seth pretended to be looking out the window.
"What's up," Luke said.
"The sun." God, it was like he was physically unable to be cool, ever. Not even when waking up to a half-naked advertisement for reasons to come to America.
"Come on, Cohen." Luke rolled over and buried his face in the pillow. "Even I could do better than that."
"It's early, I'm not warmed up yet. We're going to be late for work." He set his palm between Luke's shoulder blades, feeling the warm skin there, because he could. Because Luke was hot, and in his bed, and that was awesome.
"Hey," Luke said, looking up at Seth, and then tugged him down for a kiss. Seth was pretty sure he was the winner of the universe at this point. Luke was a good kisser, too, Seth had forgotten about that part. And his jawline was really nice to kiss.
So apparently Seth was mooning over Luke now. That was just great. It was always interesting to scale new heights of lame in his personal interactions. Obviously his growing fondness of Luke was just another manifestation of his thrilling ability to fall for anyone that showed him a bit of attention.
That's all it was, Seth thought as Luke pushed him back onto the bed. He just liked being liked. Especially by Luke.
That was all.
It was sort of ironic that of everything in his life, his big gay affair with Luke was actually the least stressful thing he had to deal with. After being in love with his best friend and sort of adopted brother, it was nice to be with Luke, especially since being with Luke was basically just like being friends that made out and did other really enjoyable things late at night. Not that he didn't like Luke a lot- because he did- but it wasn't the same sort of soul-wrenching love, or whatever, that he'd felt for Ryan, or even Summer. It was just nice.
Nice, like when they were at yet another party, and Luke got a little tipsy and dragged him off to make out beneath one of the crazy tall pine trees that were just randomly in people's backyards, or when Luke gave him a blowjob and was actually pretty good at it, and when Seth found that he really liked returning the favor.
Summer was ending, and there were Issues popping up everywhere, mostly involving Newport and school and the fact that he didn't want to return to either, but it was easy to forget those things when he was with Luke, and they were just hanging out, or doing whatever. It was easy, being with him. Maybe almost too much so. Seth worried they might be due for some angst sometime soon.
Late August, sitting outside on the porch and having a few drinks with Luke. Seth wasn't thinking of anything in particular, and it startled him a little when Luke spoke, breaking the quiet.
"Hey, this doesn't, like, count, does it, Cohen?"
Seth took a drink of his beer, then another. Luke was looking at him expectantly. Seth breathed out. Took yet another drink. "No, Luke. Of course it doesn't count."
What this did or didn't count as was not something that Seth was entirely clear on, but that was another discussion for another time. Like, for example, never. This was supposed to be easy. Discussing their relationship, or whatever, that wouldn't be easy, Seth knew.
"'Cause this is, you know. Kind of gay." Luke gestured at...something. Possibly the aura of 'kind of gay' that surrounded them like a shining invisible rainbow. "And I'm not gay."
"Not even kind of?" Seth asked, more to see what Luke would say than because he was really interested.
"I think it's just you," Luke said. "Maybe Ryan."
"So, basically any guy you've ever been friends with. Like actual friends, not friends like you play water polo together and go to the same parties and bond over your bright futures as leaders of the new Aryan race."
"What are you talking about, Cohen?"
"I'm not actually sure."
Luke moved his chair a little closer. "So stop talking."
"Okay." And yeah, that was fine. Luke kissed him, and then stood up.
"Let's go inside."
But it was kind of hard to really get into it when Seth kept thinking about how it didn't count, whatever that meant. Maybe (probably) it was stupid, but Seth kind of wanted to count. He didn't need to be like, a big meaningful part of Luke's discovery of his sexuality, but he wanted to be something. He just didn't want to have to, like, tell Luke that. Because that would be even more discussion, which- no. Avoid.
That was the last night Luke slept in his bed. Seth figured that probably meant something.
They were both full time at the marina by now, taking on the last of the late summer crowds, and hanging out with Amanda and Jane when they weren't working. Seth's parents were calling all the time, and he was looking into getting his G.E.D., maybe finding an okay job until he could move out on his own. And then- something. He wasn't sure what, but he was moving toward having a plan. It didn't leave too much time for hookups that didn't count, although they still did, on and off. Maybe more off than on lately. Luke seemed distracted a lot, and Seth was fine with waiting until Luke decided to say whatever was on his mind.
He was still enjoying the hookups, after all. Didn't seem too smart to mess up a good thing until it was absolutely necessary.
Seth started to get a little suspicious, though, after Luke had gone off with Amanda for lunch and come back looking a little too mussed to have gotten just a sandwich. Luke appeared at his door later that day and walked in, standing against the wall instead of going for Seth's bed like he usually did.
"Look, so," Luke said, and Seth felt a stab of foreboding. Luke had his serious face on. It looked weird. "Amanda and I are kind of a thing now."
"A thing. Okay, that's cool. Uh, congratulations." Which was, of course, not really what Seth meant to say. Seth really wanted to ask if that meant something in relation to their...no, Seth couldn't even think the word. The thing they had which involved hooking up on a fairly regular basis. Because if Luke had Amanda and Seth had Jane (which he didn't, but she was cute, and she liked him, and it appeared to be up to him to make the next move) then Luke wouldn't need Seth, and Seth wouldn't need Luke. Not that he did need Luke. He needed Ryan, actually, but he was pretty sure that was irrelevant at that point. Because Ryan was in Chino. Which was several hundred miles and a world away.
"So we should probably stop. You know." Luke raised an eyebrow. "You know."
"I know. Okay." Right. At least Luke didn't actually say it.
"I think Jane likes you though. We could double date."
"Awesome. I'm just going to-" Seth made hand motions in the direction of his room, in lieu of finishing that sentence, because had he kept speaking it probably would have involved such phrases as "No, I'd rather not go on a double date with my ex whatever and his girlfriend" and "I can't believe this is how you're breaking up with me" and "I can't believe I'm thinking of our relationship as something which could be broken up, or even, in fact, a relationship" and also "I'm going to go listen to Bright Eyes until I'm firmly convinced that as much as my life sucks right now, it could be worse; I could be Conor Oberst."
He took a detour before Bright Eyes and went with Wilco as his Soundtrack of Pain. At least things weren't quite dire enough to warrant Elliot Smith yet. Maybe later, when he got to thinking about Ryan. Seth grimaced at the ceiling. It could be worse, it could be worse, it could be worse. He could be- he stared at the ceiling some more, thinking. Okay, it could be worse in theory.
He wanted to talk to Ryan. Call him up and tell him the whole thing, and maybe Ryan would understand loneliness and needing somebody and how sometimes really weird things just happen, but they make sense, and then they stop, and suddenly everything is like it was before, only it sucks even more. Maybe he could like, cry. And then Ryan would drop everything to come see him, and when he saw Seth he would understand without Seth even needing to say anything. Maybe he would put his hand on Seth's shoulder, and then slide it up until it was cupping the back of his neck, and then he'd look at Seth and-
Seth cracked one eye open and scrolled through his iPod playlist. Elliot Smith, XO.
He closed his eyes.
He tried not to think anymore.
Ryan walked in five days later, and Seth didn't say any of the things that he'd meant to. Enough time with Ryan and he didn't want to say anything anymore. They played video games and made pointless small talk and ate Carson's really good cooking. Seth missed alcohol.
It was hard when Ryan was there to forget that he had left, and the fact was a constant sting. But Ryan had missed him, and he had missed Ryan, and Luke mostly stayed out of their way, an admirable act of discretion on his part. A few difficult days and then Ryan was walking out the door to the rhythm of Seth's feet tapping against the railing. It wasn't supposed to go like that, and then it didn't, because sometimes life actually decided to cut Seth a break. He didn't even push it, didn't even go for the hug, because they didn't need it. Really.
And a little later, when Ryan wandered into Seth's room as he was packing, Seth didn't even say anything. He just waited.
Ryan's voice, when he spoke was low, scratchy, like he hadn't used it much. "It wasn't about you, Seth. Leaving." Lower, then, until Seth could barely hear him. "I didn't want to leave you."
"I know," Seth said, because he did, honestly. Now.
"You should," Ryan said, and stood up. A brief, hesitant moment, and then his eyes flicked up and he was pulling Seth into his arms, a crushing hug that Seth hadn't been prepared for. His heart was suddenly racing, and he held on, clutching Ryan back. A little too long, maybe, and then they both pulled away.
A sudden knock on the door, and then Luke was looking in. "Taxi's here. You all packed, Cohen?"
"Almost there," Seth said.
"I'll start taking this stuff to the front," Ryan said, and ducked out.
"Hey, so," Seth said. He zipped his last suitcase and started dragging it out.
"Yeah," Luke said, following him to the front door.
"Yeah," Luke said again, after a pause. He looked like he was going to say something else. Seth waited. Nothing was forthcoming.
"Well, see ya 'round, buddy," Seth said. He knew this was the appropriate place for the standard guy hug with optional manly pat on the back. He glanced at Luke. It didn't seem like a wise idea.
"Yeah. On IM or something." Luke nodded again.
Ryan chose that moment to walk back in, saving them from further descent into inanity. "Luke. It was good to see you." Ryan nodded at him, then turned to Seth. "You ready?"
Seth picked up his duffel bag. "Yeah," he said. "I'm ready."