Those Soft Skin Boys
by HYPERFocused

When Seth is with Luke, which admittedly is not so often anymore, Luke feels powerful. Strong. Seth does whatever Luke wants, whatever he makes him do. Luke never knows what will come out of his mouth. Orders for Seth to kneel, or to get the fuck away from him. Luke likes it when he can make Seth choke a little. Seth just takes it, like he doesn't have a choice.

Sometimes Luke gets angrier than he wants to. Can't control himself. When he was younger, his mother took him to a Psychiatrist, who put him on meds, and made him work on his anger management. It didn't help much. The drugs just made him feel separate from the world, like he was under a layer of gauze. Made it hard to breathe. Nothing could touch him, and he touched nothing. When he got old enough to decide for himself (that is, when his mother stopped smashing the pills and putting them in his cocoa), he stopped taking them. Told himself he could handle the anger, not take it out on anyone important. It didn't take him long to learn that that feeling of separation had nothing to do with his pills.

Right now, nothing makes him angrier than Ryan Atwood.

He's not sure if he's angry because Ryan is taking over the lives of his girlfriend, and the kid nobody knows he's fucking around with, or because Luke wants him for himself. He can tell the guy's not completely disinterested. He can also tell that Ryan won't take his shit.

Ryan makes him feel completely out of his element. It makes no sense, because the kid doesn't belong here, has no history with any of these people, but it's Luke who feels like a stranger.

Luke sees Ryan, Seth and Marissa all sitting together, laughing over burgers and fries. Obviously she didn't listen to him when he told her to stay away from them. Ever since Ryan's appearance in O.C, she's been acting different. She used to defer to him, do what he wants. Now she says "you don't know him, Luke. He's a good guy." She insists she's not interested in Ryan - that way. "He's had a hard time. He could use a friend."

"Stay away from him," he tells her. Both of them. He can tell Ryan is feeling smug and superior under that pissy facade. Stupid little shit. Seth looks at him like he knows exactly what Luke is thinking, and he probably does. Sees the same hunger in himself. The only difference is, Ryan leans in and touches Seth like he doesn't mind a bit. He barely looks at Luke.

Luke can change that. With just a nod to his own friends, they're crashing out of the restaurant, and chasing Seth and Ryan to god knows where. They don't catch them, but Luke knows he will, later. He just has to keep an eye on Marissa. He's supposed to be doing that anyway.

He certainly isn't thinking about Ryan. Ryan's tight white T-shirt, and the way his leather jacket must be catching his scent in the August heat. The way he hasn't noticed Ryan's jeans are holding him in. The way Ryan doesn't look at him. The way he looks at Seth, instead.

No, Luke just looks at Marissa, at the way her barely there curves are still too much for him. He likes angles now, but hers aren't sharp the way they should be. She's bony, but that feminine roundness still shows. She's supposed to soft and full, anyway, even if that's not what he wants in a lover.

He's sitting at her kitchen table, shooting the shit with her parents. Everyone's acting like their usual selves, but he can feel the falseness underneath. It's like everyone's lying to each other. An unsafe foundation. When she walks in, Luke can tell he isn't near the first thing on her mind. He asks her to spend the day on the water with him, and is neither surprised nor disappointed when she says no. There are things that are expected of both of them.

When he saw Ryan and Seth and Marissa at the model house the first time, it was all decked out like they'd been playing a good game of Fort. Everything but the tent made of sheets. Instead, they're obviously using Seth's old tent from Boy scouts. The kid can probably tie every kind of knot.

He's just a little bit wasted when he goes back that night. There's a faint golden glow. Coming closer he sees it's a roomful of candles. He sees Marissa leaving. So much for her not being interested that way. It feels really good when he beats the crap out of Ryan. He doesn't know who he's more jealous of, and he tells himself he doesn't really care. But he still goes back in and drags Ryan out of there.

At the party afterward, his friends are all worried things went too far. He won't admit he is, too. The remembered smell of vanilla candles mixed with paint fumes makes him a little sick. He isn't having any fun.

Ryan isn't dead on the sidewalk when he goes back to the house. He's just standing there, like he expected Luke to come back. When he coughs, Luke feels it in his own chest.

He hops into Luke's truck, and doesn't say anything for a long while. Luke isn't that surprised when he starts to unzip his pants. "This is what you want, isn't it?" he says.

Luke doesn't reply, just nods. There isn't really anything to say.

"Fine. This isn't happening again. And you'll be leaving Seth alone from now on. He doesn't deserve your shit." Ryan's hands are angry, and it isn't all that good. Luke finally understands how Seth must have felt with him. It's too fast and too rough, but he comes with an embarrassing amount of enjoyment.

Back at Seth's house, there's really no protecting himself anymore. The cops lead him away in handcuffs, as he tells them what they want to know. Ryan looks back at him like he expects him to lie, but Luke isn't going to do that, anymore. That isn't how they do it in the O.C.


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