Thanks to everyone who reviewed. I decided to finally update before I faded into online oblivion. But, this chapter's kinda rough. Apologies if its too shoddy. Oh yeah, any references to things real or fake are coincidental…please don't steal it, I'm usually happy to share. Rated R for subtle and not-so subtle implications of violence, adult situations, and m/m slash.

Tradeoff- Chapter Two

Waking up in the morning, with your newfound boyfriend fast asleep on top of you is a wonderful thing. Especially when the morning is really the afternoon.

The exam period was almost over. I sighed, dreading the thought of summer. Snapdragon would go home, and I would be here missing him. I wondered what my parents would think of me. 'How was your semester, Adrian?' 'Fine, Mom, I finally met the man of my dreams, but he had to go home.' 'Man? Did you say man?'

Fuck. That wasn't a conversation I was looking forward to at all. Was it some unspoken rule that you had to come out to your parents after you had sex? I sure as hell hoped it wasn't. Between Mom crying and Dad throwing a fit, or perhaps a heavy object, it would be too much for me to deal with.

I turned my head towards the phone. One quick call would do it. 'Hi Mom, I'm gay' and then it would all be over. I wouldn't have to worry about the 'did you meet a nice girl', or the 'so how was school, boy?' with my father winking and elbowing my side.

Snapdragon yawned, stretching his cute mouth before blinking at me. "What time is it?"

I stretched beneath him, enjoying the sensation of his body pressed against mine. We had kicked off our blankets in the night- my only covering was his gloriously naked body. Well, it was glorious except for the few bruises. Fucking Paul.

I smiled. "It's after noon. Think we should get up?"

Snap nodded. "I need to get clothes. I'm totally naked."

I smiled again, kissing his nose. "That's fine with me. I could get used to this."

He nipped at my collarbone, pretending to be angry. "Come on, seriously. Go see if the fuckhead's in our room."

I groaned and wriggled out from beneath Snap. "Task master."

He slapped my ass. "You know you like it."

I tried to grumble, but I couldn't help smiling. I tugged on a pair of jeans and a loose t-shirt. To hell with presentation or underwear- I was just checking to see if fuckhead was in.

Opening the door, I heard nothing. I peeked outside, conscious of how bizarre I probably looked, before popping next door. The door was open, and I stared in, timid. Paul's posters, mostly rock bands and the obligatory half-naked woman covering a wall, glared back at me, but there was no sign of the fuckhead. He was probably writing an exam, and I made a wish that he'd die of a severe paper cut to the face.

I walked back to my room, satisfied. Snap was safe.

I shucked my jeans as I walked into the room, closing the door as an afterthought. To hell with modesty: if people caught a sneak peek at my ass, it probably brightened their day. "Room's empty, babe," I announced.

Snapdragon didn't so much crawl out of bed as he poured himself down on the floor, where he padded over and wrapped his arms around my knees. "Thank you, sweetheart," he said, in an affectionate yet mocking tone.

"Dickhead," I chuckled. "You should go now. I'm gonna grab a few more z's, come join me when you're done."

As I peeled off my t-shirt, Snap looked up.

I'm not sure if it was a half-second later or a full second later, but either way, I'm glad he didn't go right then. Holy Jesus oh fuck, thank you God.

When Snap finally did go to get his clothes- thankfully, the fuckhead was still gone, I pulled some duds on and left my room, heading towards Christine's. With Paul out of the building, I had no reason not to deal with it.

There's nothing quite so imposing as a Resident Assistant's door when you have something important to talk about. Sure, it was easy to chat with Christine about classes or just pop into the lounge or whatever, but she…she was too flighty, too fun. So the thought of talking to her about a case of residence violence, especially between her boyfriend and…well…my boyfriend, didn't exactly inspire me with confidence.

I was saved from having to knock on her door when she opened it for me. I thought it was a good omen, given that had I decided to knock, it would have been an overly reckless bashing on her face. "Whoa, Adrian, you scared me. What's up?"

I summoned the courage to cough out a handful of words. "I need to talk to you."

Apparently, RA's can switch from fun to serious at the drop of a hat, because that's certainly what happened with Christine. "Sure. Come on in."

She closed the door behind me. There was no escape. I was numb as Christine guided me towards a chair. "Please, grab a chair. Make yourself at ease," she commanded, taking a seat opposite me.

"Um…see…" I faltered. Damn it. Was I supposed to make a speech? Was I supposed to give evidence as if I were on trial? "Paul hit Rowan last night."

Christine has really delicate eyebrows. The kind that require painstaking detail to wax. And I'm fairly certain that one of them shot over her head when she heard me. "Really?"

"Yeah," I replied, somewhat annoyed. 'No, Christine, I shat my pants to pull a prank regarding your boyfriend. Because I'm that much of a prick.' "He did."

Christine nodded, cringing. "Damn it…I should have known. Mediation was pointless."

"Why did you even do it, then? Why didn't you switch their rooms or just kick him out?"

Questioning an RA's decisions is like playing with fire. Some like to receive feedback. Others want you to realize that you are a maggot in their eyes, and that they own you, and will deal with you as they see fit. After all, they have the training, not you, and to question them is to invite a horribly bloody death. For a second, I was certain Christine was going to murder me.

Instead, she drooped like a wilting flower. "Because I…I really wanted to make it work. I don't know, maybe I thought they'd get along better eventually."

I know we're supposed to respect RAs. But I sure as fuck hated Christine right now. "You just didn't want to deal with it yourself, right?"

She shook her head, vehemently trying to ward off the truth. "No. Paul's his own responsibility. He shouldn't have done that…wait, why are you telling me this? Where's Rowan?"

"Napping in my room," I said. Funny, that was easy to say.

Christine nodded, and a smile of relief crawled across her face. "I'm glad we have people like you on the floor, Adrian. I'm glad I could teach you guys how to solve your problems."

I blinked. Excuse me? 'I said he was napping in my room, you stupid bitch!' I roared mentally. "I don't think you understand," I said slowly. "He's napping in my room because he doesn't feel safe in his own."

Christine sighed. "What do you want me to do? Mediation hasn't worked…"

"How about doing your job and evicting Paul instead of fucking him senseless?"

Fuck. I said that instead of just thinking it. Oh shit. Please God, be merciful and smite her before she tears me a new one.

Christine shot me a glare. "What was that?"

Without another word, I walked out. I was sick of Christine's blatant favoritism. Solve conflict my ass- fucking one party doesn't do shit all to the other party.

Wait. I was drawn into this. Paul hit my boyfriend. His girlfriend, who was supposed to do her fucking job, was instead fucking up. Or around. Or even sideways in the shower. I normally didn't care, but this time I did. But…who the fuck do you turn to when your RA is against you? I really shouldn't have insulted her. Damn it.

Fuck that, I told myself. I wasn't remorseful. Christine can fuck herself, fuck Paul, or clusterfuck a pair of pylons in the handicap shower stall for all I care. But there was someone who might give a damn about this situation.

You know how in video games, sometimes the bad guy is just a minion of the secret last boss? Well…the Residence Life Manager is kinda like that. He was in charge of the building. The RAs were his minions. I wasn't sure if he'd be entertained at my antics with Christine, but even if I did crapped on, it'd probably be better if I told him than Christine. At least I'd be honest in the entire thing. But what was I going to say? 'Christine's fucking a resident and he beat up my boyfriend.' No, that would never work. He'd just shake his head. Or he'd bite my head off. Ask any resident- they'll gladly tell you that RLMs have the capacity to unhinge their lower jaws and devour you.

Before I knew it, I was on the first floor at Ryan's door. Ketonia's really fucking sweet to their staff- RAs get huge rooms and the RLM gets a swank apartment to himself…though I suppose dealing with batshit residents all the time made it less of a perk and more of a prison. I raised my fist to knock, then noticed the doorbell.

Decorum outranked principle. After my fight with Christine, I was raging mad…but I shouldn't just rage at the RLM. That wouldn't help. So I rang the doorbell, and heard tinkling chimes. Who has tinkling chimes for a fucking doorbell? I bet Ryan's twice as gay as I am, even if I do trade blowjobs with an incredibly cute Snapdragon.

If RAs are weird in their capacity to be your friend and disciplinarian all in one, then RLMs are twice as weird. Ryan was in his early thirties, with both ears pierced, and he dressed like he was the fat kid in junior high who could beat anyone else in video games- he wore a bright yellow shirt with anime designs, and blue basketball shorts. Make that four times as weird. I was intimidated just looking at his clothes.

"Hey, Adrian. What's up?"

His ability to know my name before ever seeing me scared the crap out of me. Seriously- what the fuck? "Um…I need to talk to you."

Somehow, talking to Ryan was a hell of a lot easier than talking to Christine. I told him the story of how I talked to Christine- I even wound up admitting half the things I said to her, and many things I thought about her but never said. He smiled at one point, but I decided not to press it- comparing our floor to Babylon and Christine to the whore thereof was an analogy I wanted to make, but, to sound like my mother, 'I found it prudent to not do so'. For some reason, I wound up telling him of my involvement in all of this- from hanging out with Snap to holding him in the shower to what happened after that. I refrained from describing what Snap and I did- I mean, there's certain things you just don't tell your RLM. He's like a surrogate father, for God's sake, and I sure as hell wouldn't tell my Dad that I had a floormate's cock in my mouth.

Ryan eyed me carefully. "I like you."

Oh God. Please, God, don't let him be gay. Don't make my RLM hit on me. I don't want to have to wriggle around under his body just to get Paul kicked out. "I beg your pardon?"

"I like your sense of justice and honesty, Adrian. You're a good man."

Don't let this be where he tells me to run along and that he'll take care of everything, I thought. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying I like your willingness to defend fellow residents, even if it means going up against people who you trust. I'm sorry things didn't work out with you and Christine…"

"Hold it right there," I interrupted him. This sounded like a form letter, processed through voicemail. "Don't you dare take her side. She totally sided with Paul. She bitched out of discipline so that she wouldn't have to report him. He should have been gone by Spring Break, and instead, I'm getting the 'sorry, but' routine?" I locked eyes with him. "I'm not leaving this room until you tell me that Paul's history, and Christine along with him."

Ryan looked at me, sizing me up. I felt the rage boil and dissipate off me- if Ryan was reading my aura, mine was more flaming than his cartoony shirt.

"I'm not going to fire Christine this late in the term. We have a week left," Ryan said after a moment. "But I'll look into this matter with Paul and Rowan myself."

"So Christine's going to get away with her inability to do her job?"

"No. Are you familiar with the honorarium we give RAs?"

"The what?"

"Never mind. Suffice it to say that a part of their pay is dependent upon their doing an exemplary job, and she won't be getting that. But for now, I think I need to speak with Rowan."

"Can we go do it now?" I asked.

"Sure."

The trek to the top of Ketonia Hall never seemed longer. Ryan insisted on taking the stairs. I discovered that my voice echoes in the stairwell, especially when I ask about how many more godless flights we had to ascend. As we neared the top, I heard commotion coming from 6th floor.

Students were milling around my door. I heard banging and shouting going on. Holy shit. I saw Christine's face amongst the people there, with a cold smile.

"What's going on here?" Ryan thundered. Chrikie- for an ambiguously heterosexual man, he sure had authority. I noticed Christine immediately shrink away, though not unnoticed by Ryan.

The crowd parted, and the noise stopped. I noticed then, two people balled up on the floor. Paul, towering over Snap. As Ryan approached, Paul gave Snap one last punch to the ribs.

If you can't give them credit for intelligence, you can at least roll your eyes at their stupidity.

"I sincerely hope you're ready to leave residence," Ryan said.

The crowd oozed in closer, now that the focus was shifted. I stood behind Ryan as Ryan faced Paul. We made eye contact, and I smirked at the bastard. Putting a hand to the side of my mouth, so that Ryan couldn't see, I mouthed the word cocksucker and shot him the bird. The best part of it was he couldn't do a thing.

"Paul, let's go have a chat." Ryan beckoned. "Christine, you come along too."

No protest issued forth. Paul shot me a glare as he stood up and walked away with Ryan. I shot Christine the bird and mouthed the word whore at her.

"Adrian just called me a whore!" Christine exclaimed.

Ryan kept walking. I grinned and mouthed it again before attending to Snap.

"So…what the hell was all that about?" asked James, one of the stragglers. He and I had endured first year chemistry together as lab mates, and I humoured his obsession with hockey on Monday night because he humoured my obsession with beer.

I groaned. "Let's go to the lounge." Might as well deal with all of the conversation hubbub at once.

Snap trailed off to his room, mumbling about checking his wounds and saying he'd join in later. I could only watch him walk away as I walked into the lounge with everyone else. What the hell was that? I mean, I can understand taking care of yourself, darling, but I'm nobody's press secretary.

"So…why the hell are you the one telling us this, Adrian? What the hell just happened?"

Facing a barrel of about eleven people is scary. I lived with these people all year, and I'd probably live with some of them next year- what if they hated me? There was Karen, the bio student I watched bad movies with, and Helena, the hot Carmen Electra lookalike English student that kept taking me out on coffee and cheesecake dates. Holy shit- I had a boyfriend, and a dating girlfriend on the side. What the fuck was I about to do? I desperately wished for a knitting needle: I wanted to commit residential seppuku on the spot.

"Um…Paul and Snap haven't been getting along…ever. So a lot of the time, Snap would crash in my room and…"

"Who the fuck is Snap?"

"Obviously it's Rowan, you fucking clown-ass."

"Eat me, James."

I blushed. "Rowan would crash with me. But last night, we got back late…"

"So it was you two making noise last night," Karen glared. "I had an exam this morning."

"Sorry, Karen. I didn't mean to disturb you."

She shrugged, someone sneezed, and I continued. "Snap and I got back late. And Paul hit him. I found him afterwards, and took him back to my room."

"Aww, that's so sweet of you," Helena smiled at me.

I smiled tightly. I think I was going to break her heart. "Um…well…"

"And then this happened?" someone interjected. "The fight?"

"Well, before that…I slept with Rowan." Oh shit. I didn't quite mean to blurt that out. It just sort of happened.

"What?" Karen yelled. "You fucked him?"

"Well, not technically," Snap said, entering.

"Nice entrance," I said sarcastically.

"So…the two of you are gay, then?" James asked, nervous.

"Yeah, I guess so," Snap said, his eyes on the ground.

Helena stood up in a huff. Oh crap. She was going to kick my ass. I opened my mouth, but she silenced me with a look. Damn…too bad I was gay. "Snap, pick your eyes up from the fucking floor. You look like you're ashamed of him. Adrian threw his fucking neck on the line for you, he took care of you when Paul was an ass, he even went up against Christine, and now you're staring at your shoes? Fuck right off. You should be staring at him, and wonder how you got so lucky."

I thought for certain she was going to cry. Instead, she turned to James. "Pay up."

What the fuck?

James grumbled and pulled out his wallet. "We kinda had a bet. I thought you were as straight as the next guy. Helena disagreed."

"What?" I acted offended. "Helena, you were leading me on?"

"Please, Adrian, I could tell you had a hardon for Snap from day one." There were snickers from the others. Helena was capable of making a scene. "But seriously, people, it doesn't matter. I think it's cute."

"I don't," James grumbled. "I mean…fuck this, I need to pack." he shook his head and walked out.

"I guess I just lost a friend," I said quietly.

The drama over, the crowd dispersed, and I walked back to my room. I knew I'd have to deal with this shit back home eventually, but…I thought in university, in a place like Halifax, people would be more understanding. I guess I was wrong. Dumbasses exist everywhere.

I'd been lying on my bed, in self-deprecation, when the door opened and Snap walked in. He looked relieved, jamming his hands into the pockets of his gold-coloured cords. "You okay?"

"No problem here," I replied. "It's just hard to realize that someone I was friends with totally ditched me because I'm a cocksucker."

Snap laid down next to me. "Bummer."

I wrapped an arm around my little bundle of joy. "Don't worry about it. You're more important."

We lay there, just enjoying each other's company with the occasional caress or pat. "Thanks for talking to Ryan earlier today," Snap said after awhile. "I don't know if I would've been able to."

"I didn't want to kill Paul, so that was the only thing I could do."

Rowan smiled at me, locking the door, before he pushed me back onto the bed. He kissed my forehead, then the top of my nose. "Thank you. No one's ever done something like that for me before."

He had just made it to my lips when Christine knocked. "Rowan, are you in there?"

"We're busy, go away!" he shouted, peeling off his shirt.

"Rowan, I need to talk to you."

"Talk to Ryan!" I called back, slipping out of my clothes.

By the time we were down to our boxers, she was opening the door.

Christine quickly regretted opening the door- especially when Snap's boxers hit her in the head.

I don't think I've ever heard a door close faster in my life

A week passes quickly when you don't think about it. My exams were over, and Snap's ended the second last day.

It was one of those awkward silences, where we had run out of small-talk filler, and already had sex, and were obviously avoiding talking about what we needed to talk about. Instead, I was helping him pack for his flight back to Ontario.

Snap looked at me. He knew he had my attention even though I only looked at him out of the corner of my eye. "Um…"

"Yes?" I asked as I continued to strip the bed.

"Adrian…we need to talk."

I paused, dropping a half-folded sheet. "Yeah, I guess we do."

Snap bit his lip. "I got a letter yesterday. I got accepted into physiology."

I grinned. "Congrats. That'll put you down in the Tupper building, right?"

Snap sighed. "No…it's at a university back in Ontario, closer to home."

"Oh," I said. "That's nice." I picked up the sheet and folded it again, absent-mindedly.

And then I doubled over on the bed as if he'd fired a harpoon into my abdomen. "What? You're going back home?"

"I talked with my folks, Adrian. They think it's for the best if I'm closer to home."

"Why?" This couldn't be happening. I just started dating this beautiful man, and now he's leaving me?

"My marks have been going to shit since I came to Dal."

"But that's because your roommate was a fuckhead! You did fine on your last exam!"

Snapdragon shook his head at me, sadly. "Adrian…"

I tried, really hard, not to cry in front of him. Failing that, I collapsed into his arms. Well, I suppose it was only fair, given that it was usually the other way around.

"Come on," he said, sitting me on the now barren bed. "I'm not leaving because of you. You're the main reason for me to stay…but it's out of my hands. My parents are paying for my education, and if they're only paying for me to study at home, then I have no choice. I can't come here without money."

"Then live with me. We'll get jobs and live in a shitty little studio apartment," I sniffled. "We'll eat ramen noodles and drink tap water, I don't care. But don't leave me, Snapdragon, don't leave me…"

Snap silently shook his head and caressed my head while I babbled about how perfect it would be if we just stayed here and lived in a dingy one room apartment, with a pet cat and an air mattress and a brood of cockroaches in our walls. I sounded like I genuinely believed that I could do without food, heat, and running water, if only he wouldn't leave me. Eventually, I stopped convincing myself and fell back into random crying, alternately cursing him out and begging him to stay.

We didn't have sex before he left. It was a numb goodbye, on a sunny day. God damn the fucking sun. I wanted there to be thunder and lightning and a rainstorm when he left. Instead, it was all sunshine and happiness, and any second now I expected to see Bambi and his mother go frolicking across the sunlit pavement into the cool shade of the manicured oak tree growing across the motherfucking street. Because that's just how ironically painful the experience was. I hugged him tightly, the way my rib cage hugs those vital organs in my chest, and took his bottom lip between my own. We held the kiss for awhile, and then he climbed into the cab and drove off, giving a sad wave. I didn't notice if there was a rainbow in the sky, but it wouldn't fucking surprise me if there was.

Ryan noticed my distress as I walked back into the building. "Adrian?"

'Shove it, anime-boy', I thought nastily. Instead of saying that, though, I asked him what he wanted.

"I know it's kind of late and putting you on the spot…but…"

I looked up at him. "Yes?"

He beckoned me into his office and handed me a sheet of paper.

Holy shit. It was a Resident Assistant contract.

"What the fuck?" I bit my tongue. I shouldn't have been swearing.

"Christine was going to be a returning RA. Instead, we've terminated her future employment, which leaves us an RA short. When I was telling you I admired your integrity and character a week ago, I wasn't just buttering you up for going to bat for Rowan."

I cringed as he spoke Rowan's name. It's not like I hated the guy…it just hurts to remember that a week ago I was convinced I'd be living with Rowan my whole life, and suddenly he's gone. Like, not even ten minutes ago.

"So you're interested in employing me in her stead?"

"Yes." Ryan's eyes held a cool gleam. "Normally, we don't do this. In fact, I don't know if anyone's ever done this before. RAs usually go through a screening process…but I've taken the liberty of checking your record and your transcript, and you are an amazing student."

I blushed. I was an Arts geek.

"Don't be modest, Adrian. You're the exact type of student I'm looking for to be a Resident Assistant."

"But…I'm gay," I blurted out stupidly, as if he didn't know.

"So? We have gay RAs all the time," Ryan said.

"Oh." I said sheepishly. There's my backwater mentality again, demonizing anything different from the norm- even if I was the outcast.

"Well, you'll still have to go through the training…and the other RLMs will probably want to grill you…but I still want you to be an RA. So tell me, Adrian…are you willing to do it?"

I looked at the sheet of paper. I was agreeing to come back to a place that held memories for me. Memories of Rowan. I closed my eyes.

Could I do it? I mean, Science students can sit behind their beakers and gloat about their disciplines, but an Arts degree wasn't exactly easy, either. Could I actually do it?

And then I thought of Christine, and all the other RAs like Christine. RAs who bent the rules and just fucked half their floor if they so wanted. I didn't want her slot to be filled by a copycat. I wanted to know there was going to be an RA with a sense of justice…if you can call our discipline and mediation 'justice'.

Finally, there was the money. My parents would be so thrilled that I was doing something with my life instead of being a financial leech.

"I'll do it!" I shouted suddenly, startling Ryan.

He smiled. "Good to hear. Sign right there. Put your university email address there. And over there, put your mailing address."

I filled out the requisite parts of my life history as he pointed to the various headings on the sheet. It was like an exam- I half expected him to roll it up with a rubber band, then slide a condom over it and fuck me with it when I was done. "Now what?"

Ryan looked at me quizzically. "I'll contact you in a few weeks. Until then, you have twelve hours to get out of Ketonia."

"What?"

"We're closing," he grinned. "Now go enjoy your summer."

I walked into my room, looking around. It's amazing how stuff just accumulates over two semesters. I had a stack of DVDs from Video Difference, a few posters from the poster sale, and my bed perched atop a sea of unwashed laundry.

I looked at the change dish I had on my desk, praying for quarters. Crap- a small population of pennies swarmed around a lone nickel, but that was it. Wait a minute, I'm certain Mom sent a care package with quarters in it…and like the dumbass I am, I devoured the packaged cookies and other sweets she sent and threw the package into a box of other random crap.

The box was on the floor, at the foot of my bed. I started clawing through it, hunting for the package of quarters. I tossed out a book, an essay with a giant A- marked on the cover, and then I struck gold. The familiar package was laid bare, and the roll of quarters peeked out from the hole I'd eagerly torn when I was searching for nibbles. I hauled the package out, wondering if anything had spilled out beneath it.

I dropped the package in shock, staring down into the box. Shakily, I pulled out the black CD case. I hadn't lost it after all. I could've sworn I'd left it downtown, and instead…here it was, buried beneath a Chips Ahoy! bag.

All of that searching…for fucking nothing.

Go figure- the thunder and lightning and rainstorms happened as I was loading my things into the back of my parents car. Despite it all, I managed to shake Ryan's hand, give hugs to the few stragglers I knew who were still around, and check out with a minimum of fuss.

"So, meet any nice girls?" Dad asked.

I bit my tongue.

"Oh, Scott, don't be like that," my mother scolded. "How was your semester?"

"It was great," I smiled.

"Any big news?" Dad was persistent. He kept expecting me to tell him a few girls were pregnant. Fortunately, I had a kid brother who would no doubt be able to do that in a year or two, taking the burden off of me.

"Ryan asked me to be an RA next year," I replied. Hey, if you're too much of a chickenshit to tell them the big big news, you might as well tell them the big news, right?

"I mean…"

"That's wonderful!" Mom exclaimed. "That's good news! You'll be able to have more spending money now, since your summer job won't be going towards school quite so much."

"We don't get paid quite that much, Mom. See…"

"Make a right, Scott."

"Lisa, I know how to drive."

"I know, dear, but we're supposed to turn here."

Just to spite her for her needling, Dad deliberately missed the turn. Not that it mattered, he could take the turn at the next intersection, but it started a bickering match.

I sighed, turning up my headphones. Maybe things were going back to normal. I'd be going back to a small town where I was the only gay kid and where my parents squabbled amicably because it was the best way to communicate. But I'd soon come back to Dal, and to Halifax…although not to Rowan.

But even if it was a rainstorm right now, there'd be a rainbow after it soon. I touched the fading hickey on my collarbone, thankfully hidden by my shirt, switched the CD in my discman, and re-read the contract I had signed with Ryan.

Things were definitely looking up.