Blood In The Water
by Ishafel

These kids are like fucking sharks, ready to attack at the first sign of weakness. This is not self-defense, the way it was in Chino; this is cannibalism. Ryan understands it but he doesn't like it; a part of him has always hoped for friendship the way they portray it in the movies. Butch and Sundance, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. This is the way it used to be for him and Trey after their dad left and before everything went to shit. This is how he'd always thought it was for rich people. That was the problem: Trey had gone under and there had been no one to throw him a life preserver. There had been no Sandy for Trey the way there had been for Ryan; they always saved the pretty ones first, the smart ones, the ones they can use. Ryan knows a user when he sees one.

Sandy wants something from him, and maybe it's weed like A.J. or handjobs like Mark who was their first stepfather but most likely it's something complicated and difficult. Most likely it's something he isn't getting at home, something he wants from Seth and can't get, which probably rules out sex. This might seem like a good thing on the outside but sex is an easy thing to give, sex is nothing next to emotion because when sex is done it's over but giving Sandy what he wants could hurt for a long long time. Sandy wants valediction maybe, to know he's done something right, even though he must be a pretty crappy father to have ripped Seth apart the way he's done. Sandy wants a second chance at life and he's chosen Ryan because he figures if Ryan's survived this long he must be hard to destroy.

Seth, on the other hand, Seth is simple, easy, almost a pleasure to please, because Seth wants a friend as much as Ryan does; he wants all that gay riding off into the sunset bullshit, just Ryan and Seth on a beatup dirtbike and a skateboard respectively, the last two cowboys in California. Seth is so desperate for friendship that he'll do anything, absolutely anything, to keep Ryan around. This is after Ryan has attracted the eye of the girl Seth thinks he loves, and Christ he knows better than to get close to a bitch like Summer, who'd be happy to castrate him with her teeth. This is after Ryan's burned down the stupid half-built house of Kirsten's, and after he's gotten Seth grounded for the rest of his natural life.

And still Seth was perfectly happy to be here, giving Ryan the best blowjob of his life in some shitty public bathroom three blocks from the boardwalk. He might not be in to this, Seth—in fact Ryan knows he isn't, despite the slightly fey quality he has—Ryan knows very well what it looks like when someone does something because they have to and not because they want to. Fey is one of those SAT words that attracted Sandy to him, and while he is wondering where he'd be if he didn't have a gift for standardized tests, he gets distracted and comes in Seth's mouth.

He almost apologizes, even though he isn't sorry; it seems unfair to have taken advantage of Seth just because he's reluctant to take advantage of Marissa. But apologizing will hurt Seth the way even the cruelest words don't. Ryan wants to hurt him, but only a little. He thought once that he was a shark himself but maybe he was wrong. Besides it's not really fun to cut Seth down, even ifit means that Seth goes home feeling good and Ryan goes home feeling like trash. Seth is hard to hurt unless you love him because it's hard to think of anything awful to say to him or about him he hasn't heard, hasn't thought of himself. If the Newport Beach kids are sharks Seth is a fish out of water and everybody knows it, most of all Seth.

When Ryan's caught his breath and zipped his pants and Seth's washed his hands they head out without another word, walking quietly and companionably down the dark empty streets. Halfway home Seth stops and throws up quickly and noiselessly on the sidewalk and Ryan stands three feet away feeling sorry for himself. He may not be a shark but he knows who he's been acting like; ever since he came to Newport Beach he's been a dead ringer for good old Luke and it's one thing not to like himself but it's another to hate himself. So he does apologize to Seth, after all, and Seth turns the same old smile on him, radiant that Ryan's bothered to notice him and maybe just a tiny bit relieved.

He can see why they call Seth queer and pansy, because there is definitely something different about the kid, but Ryan knows enough about differences himself to know that Seth wants love and is willing to pay for it with sex, it's not a gay thing at all it's more like autism. Which makes Kirsten and Sandy, but particularly Sandy who's apparently never heard the old adage about people in glass houses throwing rocks, all the more culpable.

Which makes Luke, most probably, a faggot. Which makes Ryan what? All the bad things they've ever said he is? Because here he is, with a kid who could be a buddy the way Butch and Sundance are buddies. And there's a Trailways bus to Austin in less than four hours, but Seth could be with him on it, if Ryan asked him to come. If Ryan asked Seth would follow him anywhere and that is reason enough not to ask. Even in Chino they knew what blood in the water meant.


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