Kiss. Angst. Rinse. Repeat.
by zahra

If Seth were a Siamese fighting fish, he would not be an alpha male. He thinks the whole letting himself get dumped in between commercial breaks of 'Alias' kind of proved that point.

Of course, Seth's pretty sure he wouldn't be a beta fish either, because it's not as though he didn't try and change Summer's mind; he's just not sure he tried as hard as he could have.

Dating Summer was like getting his first bike after begging for months: the novelty wore off when he got a skateboard six months later. It wasn't that Summer's novelty wore off, as much as Seth was worn down enough to see that he didn't particularly like riding bikes.

Seth is much more of a skater.

Not that the boarding has anything to do with the fish. The point is that if Seth were a fish, he would still be Seth, neither alpha nor beta, just Seth. Only in fish form.

Naturally, Seth doesn't tend to think of himself as a fish all that often, but that's not the point. The point is that Seth can't be counted on to think that rationally right now anyway, because he's not quite right in the head after being dumped.

Summer dumped him four days ago -- that much is pretty damn clear. Seth has fish issues; that much is clear, too. After that, things begin to get muddled.

Things would be easier if Seth could find someone to talk to about the fish and the dumpage, but Ryan's been working, or with Marissa, and Seth sure as hell isn't going to go to Marissa and ask her for sympathy. He could just suck it up and talk to Ryan, finding time in his staggering schedule of doing nothing and doing more nothing, but seeing as Summer seemed to think that Ryan was the problem, that's probably not Seth's smartest course of action.

As Summer explicitly told him when she dumped him, "You have more issues than my step-mom. At least get your sexuality straight before you start experimenting again, okay?"

And that had been that.

Or not.

Seth had been quite certain about his sexuality for the first sixteen years of his life. Right up until he'd begun dating Summer, which admittedly had also coincided with Ryan setting up shop in the guesthouse. That was neither here nor there, however, because Ryan was with Marissa and they were happy together. Plus, they'd been through a lot what with Marissa being herself and Ryan trying to be obliging about that. Seth didn't want to interfere if Ryan thought he was happy. Not that Seth thought he could interfere at any rate, because he was very much not a Marissa. And even if Summer was pretty sure Seth wasn't all the way straight, he was pretty sure Ryan was.

Summer had known exactly what to say to push Seth's buttons though, and her parting shot had been no different. The fact that she had been laughing when she said it didn't bother Seth in the slightest, because strangely enough he could tell she wasn't being malicious about it.

She was just being brutally honest, the way she always was.

So Seth had let it go, and when she'd called him the next day and referred to him as "Just Jack," he'd had the grace to tell her to fuck off in the nicest terms. The relationship may have been over but the snarking remained. And so did Summer's words.

Which was probably why it was a good thing that Seth hadn't really spent much time with Ryan in the Post-Dumping Misery that he was currently embalming himself in. As much as Seth would have really liked to commiserate, or at least complain, being near Ryan when Seth was feeling newly outted might've turned out to be a Very Bad Thing. Clearly Seth was confused. Okay, he was always confused, but this maybe/most likely gay thing was going to take some getting used to. At least a few minutes or days or hours. At least longer than an episode of 'X Men:Evolution'.

Seth needed to be sure he had thought about this enough. He'd spent so long convincing himself that he hadn't been thinking about Ryan that way, period, that finally admitting he might've been siphoning off Summer vibes and turning them into Ryan vibes was going to be like having an anvil dropped on his head.

When Ryan had first arrived, Seth had been fascinated by his novelty. Like there was a new fish in his tank. He had stared openly at everything Ryan did, and yes, sometimes he may have been a bit too touchy-feely, but after a year of living together Seth was pretty sure he had curtailed what he'd come to realize were his less-than-straight habits. He'd stopped brushing against Ryan every time they sat together at dinner. He didn't try and kick Ryan under the kitchen table, which might have been a bad attempt at playing footsie. He hardly even rubbed his knee against Ryan's when they played Gran Turismo together.

These were changes Seth had purposefully made though and maybe the effort of not doing these things had been what Summer had picked up on.

Maybe she'd just grown tired of finding Seth lying on Ryan's bed reading comic books every time she came over. Or maybe... just maybe she'd caught the way Seth's eyes lingered a little too longer on Ryan every time they glanced at each other.

Whatever Summer had been trying to get Seth to do, Seth was pretty sure it didn't include his getting up way early, which in his case was before ten, and trudging out to the guesthouse unannounced. Seth also doubted that Summer wanted Seth to sit down on the edge of Ryan's bed and wake him up just to ask if he thought Seth was straight.

Seth knows that Summer didn't mean for him to kiss Ryan in all his sleepy, messy-haired glory, and then run away because he couldn't think of anything else to do.

Yeah, Seth's pretty sure Summer hadn't intended for him to do any of those things.

If Seth were a Siamese fighting fish, obviously none of this would have occurred.

 

It was pointless for Seth to think of Ryan being a fish because Seth would never have a crush on a fish, and the events of this morning had pretty much proven that Summer was right, and Seth should now refer to himself as "Just Jack."

Except that standing in the bathroom, now, and dripping all over the floor, Seth didn't feel particularly gay, but that was probably because he wasn't near Ryan.

The facts were pretty plain, though: Summer dumped Seth because he had Ryan issues, thereby causing Seth's Castle of Denial to fall on his head because of said issues. Persuant to said issues, Seth kissed Ryan. Then he ran away, while still in his pajamas, like a punk bitch (thank you, Donnie). Seth then spent the morning trying to sail to Hawaii because Tahiti was just way too far away, and Seth hadn't even been wearing shoes when he left the house.

Eventually, however, Seth got hungry and had to come home. Plus, he needed a shower, and the breeze on the water was freezing things that had no business being frozen. Sadly enough, Seth's shower had been pretty detrimental to his state of mind. He'd washed off salt and sand and whatever sort of repression he'd found in the water. He'd been left with the stark realizations that a) he'd kissed Ryan b) Ryan did indeed suffer from morning breath like the rest of the world and c) he was going to have to live in the bathroom for the rest of his life because he could never face Ryan again.

There were obviously worse places to live. Seth would always be clean for a start, but as he drew fake Kryptonian symbols on his fogged up mirror, the realization that he was clearly cracking up slapped him in the mouth like a slippery fish.

It was a good thing he wasn't in the boat anymore, as he probably would have capsized and drowned on a sandbar. Yes, that would've been next to impossible in a catamaran, but if it was possible and involved doing something stupid, Seth was pretty sure he could do it.

Seth kind of felt like he was drowning at that moment anyway, and he stepped away from the sink to crack open the window and let in some air. He began to feel strangely oxygen deprived, and took large gulps of air, much as he figured a goldfish might.

Seth had absolutely no idea how he got mixed up with the fish analogy, but he suspected it had a lot to do with living in Newport, and maybe when he went off to Berkeley in the fall he'd become more eloquent.

Not that he wasn't already fully versed in several languages: Babble, Skater, Orange County and the all-important Geek Boy. But. If Seth were better able to converse and understand what other people are saying, then he might've been able to defend himself better against Summer when she had called the minute he got home from his impromptu trip. Her perceptiveness was way creepy and mixed in with her strangely vitriolic/hysterical/amused "Oh My God, Seth, If I Didn't Adore You, You Would be Twelve Kinds of Dead" diatribe, it was no wonder that Seth was this close to calling the local psychiatric hospital.

He should never have picked up the phone on his way to the bathroom, but it wasn't his fault that Ryan and Marissa had broken up, was it?

As far as Seth was concerned, that news really was sad, because Ryan was crazy about Marissa, and she obviously made him happy. At least that's what Seth had thought, but maybe she hadn't because otherwise they wouldn't have broken up, right?

Seth couldn't see Ryan making anyone unhappy. So that obviously would have been a good time for Seth to feel jealousy, but who needed to be jealous over somebody they didn't have to compete against anymore?

Not that Seth had even known he was competing until four days ago.

Now if only Seth were a girl... Well, no.

If Seth were a girl then Ryan probably wouldn't have stormed into the bathroom after Seth had gone back to talking to himself in the mirror.

Seth clutched automatically at the towel loosely tied around his waist. Now would not be a good time for gravity to pick a fight with his lack of wrapping technique. However, if Seth were a girl then Ryan might not have stared at him like a triple bean burrito with extra guacamole and nachos on the side.

Seth had never thought of himself as terribly attractive. Terribly mouthy, sure, but hot? No. He'd left the hotness thing to Ryan. However, he highly doubted that Ryan would have kissed him if he didn't like him at least a little bit.

Ryan's mouth was warm, and his tongue was hot and slippery. He tasted of mint Oreos and milk, which reminded Seth that Ryan had had the day off work today. They'd made plans to go to the Skateboard Museum in Long Beach, which Seth had forgotten after his morning coming-out performance.

So while Seth was off trying to sail to Maui, Ryan had been sitting around the house, waiting and possibly brooding about Marissa.

Seth just sucked. He couldn't have picked a better day to accost Ryan in his bed? Unless that was why Ryan was kissing him, in which case kissing him back was bad. If Ryan was just looking for sympathy, Seth had enough issues of his own, be they fish, gay, or whatever.

Seth pulled away because he was pretty sure that Ryan was straight.

"Dude, don't do this because you're upset about Marissa," he said, pushing past Ryan and going to his room, damning fish the whole way.

 

Seth was pretty sure that he wouldn't last long as a Siamese fighting fish. For starters, he couldn't seem to pick the right fights at all:

He'd argued with Summer when she dumped him, even though he knew she was right: they made much better friends than anything else at all. He'd enjoyed her company and her snark. He'd even enjoying kissing her, but it didn't begin to compare to kissing Ryan in all his morning breath glory, even though Seth had run away like a girl afterwards.

Then, despite his aborted flight to Hawaii, and the pep talk he'd given himself in the shower, he'd still bailed when Ryan had tried to make a move. If Ryan had been trying to make a move, which he probably hadn't considering that he'd just broken up with the girl of his dreams.

Point of fact, Ryan was probably really torn up, which was exactly why he had kissed Seth, and obviously none of this made any sense at all.

That was why Seth had resorted to hiding, well, not under his bed, but pretty damn close.

He hadn't been reduced to measures like these since his mother had tried to make him wear a bow tie to his first country club dinner.

Except there was a lot of dust under Seth's bed, and he coughed several times before giving up and getting to his feet. He couldn't spend the rest of the summer hiding underneath the bed; if nothing else that would require some cleaning and that was just never going to happen.

Everybody had to stand for something sometime.

The dust made Seth sneeze. He blew his nose and dusted off his shirt, before climbing over the bed and leaving his room for less allergenic pastures. Ryan wasn't in the living room and the kitchen was deathly quiet, which meant his parents must be working late. A real shocker.

The sliding door was already unlocked, and the grass tickled Seth's bare feet as he padded across the lawn to the pool house.

The door wasn't even shut all the way, and it swung open when Seth pressed on it lightly. Ryan was stretched out on his bed, listening to Seth's iPod and reading '1602'.

Seth hesitated at the doorway, just watching for several seconds. He was still startled when Ryan acknowledged him without looking up.

"Hey," he said, pulling the earphone away from his right ear.

Seth's smile didn't come naturally. "Hey."

He stepped into the room, shutting the door behind him but still hovering away several feet away.

In the animal kingdom the strategy was known as "fight or flight."

Seth was undecided.

He stuck his hands in his pockets to keep the fidgeting down to a minimum, trying to ignore the tinny music coming from the dangling earpiece. It might have been Radiohead.

"Do you like it?" Seth said, gesturing to the iPod. "That mix I made for you?"

Ryan shifted on the bed, closing the comic book but not actively creating extra room for Seth. "Yeah. I'd never listened to some of these bands before."

"I'm a big fan of pretty much everybody there: Death Cab for Cutie, Radiohead, Em, Gang Starr, N.E.R.D., Johnny Cash, Jeff Buckley, The Stones, Weezer, The Flaming Lips, Spoon, Radiohead... I mentioned them already, didn't I?" Seth babbled.

"Yeah. Seth, about "

Seth cut him off. "You broke up with Marissa today."

Ryan was quiet, but he pulled the earpiece out of his left ear. "You heard?"

"Summer."

"Figures."

"Well, yeah," Seth said. "You didn't think she could keep that to herself, did you? You must have her mistaken for somebody with discretion."

"You used to date her," Ryan said pointedly.

"Which is how I know." Seth paused. "How did you know we broke up?"

"Marissa."

"Ah, the Ex-Girlfriend Hotline."

Ryan's lips twitched. "Were you going to say something, or was I supposed to guess why you were avoiding me?"

"Dude, I wasn't. I mean I was. But it wasn't... It wasn't like that." Seth's hands itched in his pockets. Now was so not the time for some therapeutic hand waving. "It's not like it was a bad breakup. I didn't have to fight her for my comic books."

Ryan tilted his head to the side and fingered the small iPod. Seth refused to let his mind wonder what Ryan's fingers might feel like.

They were quiet for several seconds, until Seth began to rock back and forth with the strain. "Why did you --" he began, before thinking better of it. "Did it have anything to do with this -- Was it my fault? Because, dude, if it does, is, I'm so sorry. Even if it didn't, I'm still sorry, I had no right and, uh yeah, okay. Don't hate the game, hate the player."

Seth's diatribe finished off lamely. As far as he could tell he had even less idea of what he was trying to say than Ryan did.

Ryan moved a lot faster than Seth would ever have given him credit for. He was off the bed and across the room before Seth could get his hands out of his pockets to ward him off.

Ryan's face was strangely blank as he spoke. "What makes you think it was your fault?"

"Did somebody else kiss you this morning?"

Ryan's lips twitched. "You think this was about that?"

"It wasn't?" Seth shot back automatically.

He really had to get a time delay on his mouth.

Ryan blinked. "It was... but it's not your fault."

Seth's hands came up so fast he almost poked himself in the eye. Covering his face with his hands, he spoke with a muffled voice. "Brilliant, thank you. That's me Relationship Destroyer, extraordinaire. Batman and The Punisher get their techniques from me. I'll be here all week long providing tips, try the house cereal, it's straight from the box."

"Seth," Ryan's lips twitched, again.

For somebody who had probably just had his heart broken there was a distinct lack of distress going on.

Seth, on the other hand, was about to be the youngest person in Newport to suffer from a heart attack. He was sure of it. "Dude."

"Seth," Ryan repeated.

"Ryan."

Seth wrinkled his nose when Ryan peeled his hands away from his face.

"Get over it, Seth. It's not your fault," he said pointedly.

Seth snorted. "I beg to differ."

"Well, I don't."

"Again, I ask, did somebody else employ their super-stealth this morning to sneak into your room and kiss you? Did they sneak in and suck your brain out instead?"

"I wasn't asleep when you snuck in."

Seth was dumbfounded.

"I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your super-stealth could use some work." Ryan carried on, "And Marissa and I broke up a couple days ago. We just didn't say anything because you and Summer had just broken up, and we figured one crisis at a time was the max."

Seth gaped. "Wow, that was... very grown up you. Did I step into a bad nighttime drama by mistake?"

Ryan blinked, but didn't say anything. Eventually Seth spoke up again, his voice strangely low. "So. It's not my fault?"

"No."

"So, I didn't make a move on my otherwise involved, very straight best friend?"

"If you take out the involved and very straight part, then yes."

"Huh."

Seth's brain began to whirl. "Why did you break up, then?"

"She said we had issues."

Seth sniggered. "Of course you had issues, that's why you broke up."

Ryan stepped closer. "Not her and me, you and me."

"Ah." Seth sniffed. He couldn't smell the smoke, but he felt fairly sure that his brain was on fire.

Ryan stepped closer again. He was somewhat shorter than Seth, and he had really long eyelashes without the benefit of mascara. Seth sighed to himself, only he would notice something like that.

"Do you want to know what kind of issues?" Ryan said.

Seth stepped back, running into a pane of thick glass. "No. I am thinking no."

"Are you sure?"

"No?"

Ryan stepped directly into Seth's space, effectively trapping Seth against the glass, like a fish stuck in a bowl.

Ryan's breath was warm against Seth's face, and Seth's eyes darted around wildly. He was not an alpha male, and all this testosterone was making him lightheaded. He leaned back and hit his head on the door.

"You left really fast this morning," Ryan commented.

Seth just nodded. "I, um, yeah. Yeah."

Ryan leaned forward, and Seth's turned away slightly. His eyes shuttered closed at the feel of Ryan's lips against the shell of his ear. "You left me in the bathroom."

Seth's eyes shot open. "I thought you were confused," he said straightening up, and thereby gaining several inches over Ryan. He'd never realized Ryan was so short. Or not short, just not tall. Seth's brain began reciting all kinds of prurient things regarding smaller men trying harder.

Ryan's expression seemed very unconfused. "Not about you."

His tone was confident, but he seemed strangely still as Seth towered over him. Okay, Seth wasn't actually towering, but he sure as hell felt like it.

He leaned in to brush his lips against Ryan's, and Ryan's eyes closed at the first touch.

Seth pulled away long enough to swipe his tongue along Ryan's lower lip. When Ryan's lips parted, he dove in willingly. Kissing Ryan was like swimming in warm water, and Seth kept pulling away just so he could dive back in over and over again. Once upon a time Seth's enthusiasm would probably have made things worse, but he'd found that a little experience went a long way. Rather than continually pushing for Ryan to respond, he took things at a much more leisurely pace.

He tilted his head accommodatingly when Ryan's hands found their way to his hair, and he banged his head against the glass again when Ryan's lips moved to his neck. Ryan's hair was soft against Seth's cheek, and he wondered why the hell he'd been in denial for so long.

No wonder Summer had dumped him.

Ryan's chest was warm against Seth's body, and Seth's hands, which had been twitching with nervous energy, hooked into Ryan's belt loops, aligning their bodies. Seth felt Ryan shudder when their hips came together, and he thrust against Ryan reflexively.

Eventually, Seth pulled away to breathe, craning forward slightly to rest his forehead against Ryan's. His eyes remained half-closed as Ryan's fingers stroked the back of his neck.

"Are you going to run away, again?" Ryan asked as Seth rested his weight against the door.

Seth snorted. "Without the benefit of a model house, no. Besides, if I move right now I might faint like a girl, so, I'm definitely thinking no."

Ryan laughed against the soft spot behind Seth's left ear.

They were silent for several seconds more except for the sounds of shifting fabric and bodies as Seth's arms slipped from Ryan's belt loops to his back pockets.

Ryan moved slightly, and Seth thought he was breaking away until his hips brushed against Seth's erection in a very promising way.

Seth cleared his throat and shivered when Ryan's lips brushed his ear again. "Are you attempting to grope me?"

Seth froze. "A little groping could go a long way," he suggested eventually.

Ryan's hips thrust against him, and Seth bit his lip. "Remember that the next time you try to slip away from me."

"Fish are slippery like that," Seth said.

Ryan pulled back and stared. "What?"

"Never mind," Seth said. "My fish-keeping skills suck anyway."

 

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