Redundant Disclaimer: I don't own Levi jeans, but I do own everything else in this story.
"Clean Up!" is my take on one of those organizational shows they show on home improvement networks. The show has a designer, Ian Llewellyn, an organizer, Cherie Johnson, and a carpenter, Ryan McKenna.
Ryan liked sanding. He finds the rhythmic back and forth relaxing and trance-like. Freeing his mind from the sun's unrelenting assault.
He heard a choked noise behind him, pulling him back to reality and then, "Ugh! Put a damn shirt on! Nobody wants to see that!"
Ryan released an annoyed hiss. Christ, what is with this guy? All he's ever done is ride me, and not in a good way. He stopped sanding the bookcase he was making, slowly stood up and turned around to face Ian.
Ian, the resident designer for "Clean Up!" and the resident pain in Ryan's ass. Ever since Ryan started working as the show's carpenter three months ago, Ian has been a total asshole to him. At first Ryan tried to figure out what went wrong, but eventually had to conclude that Ian is simply a bastard. Which is a shame really, because Ian's an adorable bastard. He's about half a foot shorter than Ryan's six feet, with so-dark-it-must-be-dyed black hair and bright eyes that vacillate between aqua green and greenish blue. Overall, his face has a definite elfin, impish quality to it, a very pretty elf-imp hybrid, mind you.
Thankful for the sunglasses that hid his eyes. Ryan pulled the black bandanna off his head to wipe the sweat off his face. He talked through the bandanna in both a childish effort to annoy Ian and so he wouldn't have to look at his pretty face for too long.
"In case you hadn't noticed, it's a fuckin' oven out here, thanks to the heat wave we've been enjoying this week."
He was done wiping his face, but still stalled looking at Ian by staring at the show's trailer over Ian's left shoulder while he tied the bandanna back on his head. Transfixed by the bright orange and green logo of "Clean Up!" Ryan sneered, "Unlike you, all nice and cool in the air conditioned trailer or house, I'm out here sweating my balls off. So yeah, I took my shirt off, if I could get away with it I'd take my jeans off too!"
Ryan finally veered his vision to Ian to catch his reaction. He looked absolutely disgusted. Ryan was doubly annoyed by the sight. Annoyed at the stupid straight boy for acting like his shirtless existence was some assault on his masculinity and annoyed at himself for futilely hoping for something else.
"Please don't," Ian sneered back. "I don't think America's housewives could take it! They'd probably pass out on their couches!"
"Jesus, are you jealous?"
Ian froze as though he had just been caught stealing, but quickly shook it off. "Don't be stupid. I'm not interested in your fat, insipid housewives. You're welcome to them."
'Fat lot of good they'd do me,' Ryan thought irritably. "Did you just come out here to harass me about taking my shirt off or do you have an actual reason for being out here? 'Cause in case you missed it," Ryan turned half around to gesture at the bookcase, "I'm busy." He ended his little speech by folding his arms across his chest, widening his stance and staring down dismissively at Ian.
'Stupid, big, tall bastard. Stupid, big, tall, straight bastard,' Ian amended internally. Ian was pissed and as usual in these situations, he didn't have any control over his mouth. "Of course I have a reason to be out here," he snapped up at Ryan. "It's not like I would willingly seek out your company, unless I had to–"
"Well, get on with it then." Ryan snapped back before turning around, picking up the sandpaper and viciously attacking any edges of the bookcase not already sanded into smooth submission. He wished Ian's rough edges were as easy to file down.
"The thing is . . . ," Ian started out haltingly which immediately set Ryan on edge. 'Christ, he better not tell me he needs something else done. I still have to finish this and make a desk too. Not to mention installing them and all the last minute things that magically become my responsibility.' Ryan refused to look up. He kept sanding away along the bookcase; he didn't want to make this any easier on Ian.
"Look," Ian started again in a much more assured voice, "I couldn't find the right coffee table for my design so you'll just have to make me one. Here," he absently threw a folded piece of paper down on the bookcase, it landed on one side briefly before fluttering down to rest inside the bookcase, "this is the design for it. Call me if you have any questions," Ian sounded bored as he turned to walk away.
Ryan became as still as the hot air around him while inside he seethed.'Un-fucking-believable!' "When the hell am I gonna have time to make that?!" he yelled at Ian's retreating back.
Without turning to face him, Ian kept walking and raised a hand in the air flicking it back and declaring, "Not my problem."
"Fuck!" Ryan kicked viciously at the red air compressor, glad for his steel-toe boots. There went his hope of getting some sleep tonight. He reached into the bookcase and snatched up the paper, angrily unfolding it so he could study it. Begrudgingly he had to admit, it was a good design. In fact, all of Ian's stuff is good, which is why he's on the show. That and the fact that he's pretty damn cute and can be quite charming when he wants to. Unfortunately, the closest Ryan got to that side of Ian is when they're in front of the camera, and not always then either. Their producer, Michael Brown, recently warned them that they better start getting along because everyone, and especially him, was sick of it.
If it were up to Ryan, he'd have no problem getting along with Ian, or really, simply ignoring him. However, the more Ryan tried to ignore Ian, the worse Ian treated him. Recently, Ian had upped the asshole ante by acting like an even bigger shit. During the course of the last couple of shows, Ryan started to get the sneaking suspicion that Ian was trying to either get him fired or force him to quit. Each time coming up with last-minute projects that suddenly were essentials he had failed to mention at the start. Last show Ian had shown up just as Ryan was getting ready to leave for the night with a demand for an armoire that suddenly needed to be built, the show previous to that Ian needed a small faux wall built in the dining room and now this coffee table.
Ryan narrowed his eyes at the drawing. 'Oh, hell no. Wood inlay top with a . . . is that a . . . yes, it is – fuckin' secret compartment for storage! Christ, that arrogant bastard is trying to kill me. He'll be lucky if he gets four legs and a top!'
Ryan angrily crumpled the design in his writing fist and stomped off to confront Ian.
Ryan's previous job was as a behind-the-scenes carpenter for the sitcom, "Daddy Loves Daisy." One of the show's producers, Elizabeth, was friends with Michael and suggested that Ryan try out for "Clean Up!" At first Ryan wasn't interested, unlike the vast majority of young people moving to the City of Angels, he didn't have any starry-eyed dreams of becoming a famous actor. Ryan just wanted to get out of Nebraska and thought he'd give the sun and sand of Los Angeles a try. Sure, he took a couple semesters worth of drama classes in high school, but he was never cast in anything. Ryan always built the sets. After high school he continued to build sets for local theater companies before he moved west and did the same type of work in L.A.
He hadn't planned on auditioning for "Clean Up!" until he saw the pay scale, a significant increase from his "Daddy Loves Daisy" salary, and watched a couple episodes of the show. It galled him to remember now that the thought of working with Ian was the other factor that had him auditioning for the show. He'd been more intrigued by Ian than he had been by anyone in a long time. He figured it could only be better face-to-face. He was wrong.
The first time he was supposed to meet Ian was during the weekly Monday morning meeting. Ryan had been nervous. He was starting a new job, meeting lots of new people and, most importantly, meeting Ian in-person so he had made a conscious effort to look nice that day. Wearing his best pair of 501s and a cotton candy pink slightly tight polo shirt with his curly, boring brown hair gelled off his face, Ryan felt pretty good. That feeling dissipated when Ian failed to show up for the meeting.
Fifteen minutes in to the meeting Ian strolled in late with a 'to go' coffee cup in his hand. He meandered slowly to his empty chair, gracefully sat down, shot Michael a beaming smile and declared, "Sorry I'm late, the toast wouldn't cooperate this morning." Michael just huffed and waved him off, trying to get the meeting back on track. Ryan was totally charmed.
Being late to every single meeting is just one of the things Ryan has learned about Ian after three months of working with him. Offering pointless and ridiculous excuses for his tardiness was another. Another thing, a knife-in-the-gut thing that Ryan knew about Ian, was that his screen saver was a picture of him, his lovely female counterpart and a cute little girl. They're holding onto each other and smiling like their world is comprised entirely of rainbows and puppies.
The meeting progressed with Michael and a production assistant, Melissa, giving everyone information on the next house they would be tackling. Ryan kept trying to sneak surreptitious glances at Ian who was either transfixed by his own crotch or was texting someone. Suddenly all the phones in the room except Ryan's and the new girl next to him started buzzing with vibrations.
"What the hell?" Michael demanded as he snatched up his wiggling phone from the conference table and read the text aloud, "'Who's the new hottie?' Jesus, Ian, you come in late after the introductions of the new members of our staff and then interrupt the damn meeting so you can make a love connection!"
Ryan glanced over at Ian who was blushing. 'Even more adorable,' Ryan thought to himself while secretly hoping that he was the "new hottie" Ian was texting about.
Michael jerked a thumb in Ryan's direction, "This is Ryan McKenna, the show's new carpenter." Ryan smiled brightly at Ian trying to convey interest with his body language. "And this," Michael continued pointing at the girl next to Ryan,"is Cathy Vogt. She's joining the make-up department while Janice is on maternity leave. Happy now?" Michael didn't wait for a reply he just steamrolled on with the meeting.
Ryan threw open the trailer's door, stomped up the stairs and slammed it behind him. The force of which rattled the trailer's windows and a water bottle tottered off the counter, rolling under a table. He ran his eyes over the small space until they settled on Ian relaxing languidly on one of the brown, upholstered benches, idly sipping iced tea.
Ian merely quirked an eyebrow at a fuming Ryan before inquiring, "Was my design too difficult to comprehend? You know," he confided conspiratorially to an uncomfortable-looking Cherie, "I've repeatedly implored Michael that we need a carpenter who can follow simple directions," Ian sighed while stirring his tea, "I just do not have time to explain over and over again, 'you position the nail pointy side down and hit it with the blunt side of the hammer.'" Ian finally looked up from his drink and smirked at Ryan.
"Fuck. You." Ryan bit out.
"Uh, guys," Cherie cut in nervously, "I, I'll just uh give you some privacy." She then bolted out the door.
"Congratulations! You scared her off with your tough man routine." Ian said snidely.
"It's no routine." Ryan said slowly and clearly. "I've had it with you treating me like your little bitch! If you want that goddamn coffee table, you'll have to make it yourself!"
"Are you refusing to build that coffee table?" Ian asked incredulously. When Ryan merely nodded tersely, Ian crowed, "Oh! Michael's going to love this."
Ryan simply shrugged and said easily, "He may. He may also love the fact that I think you've been sabotaging me these past couple of weeks." He paused to gauge Ian's reaction - his red mottled face looked sufficiently angry. "But I know he loves my fan mail and the viewers they represent 'cause he's told me so." Ryan concluded smartly, clearly pleased with himself.
Ian jumped to his feet, but before he could say anything the trailer door was thrown open with another jolting bang.
Michael stomped up the stairs. "What are you two bickering about now?" he demanded with his hands on his hips.
Ian happily rushed to tell Michael, "Ryan here, you know our carpenter, refuses to make a coffee table that is essential to my design."
"What Ian here, "Ryan jumped in before Michael could respond to Ian, "you know the show's asshole, is conveniently forgetting is that he just now told me about the coffee table. I still have to finish the bookcase and make a desk and god knows what else. I just don't have time to do it. Two shows ago he suddenly needed a faux wall so I stayed all night to do it. Then last show he needed an armoire at the last minute which also required me to work through the night. I'm seeing a pattern here and I don't appreciate it. So yeah, I'm not making the damn coffee table."
Michael gazed back and forth between the two for a minute before calmly asking Ryan, "How long would it take you to build it?"
"That coffee table?! He's just trying to torture me with it, he made it purposely complex," Ryan ran out of steam when he saw Michael gazing at him totally unaffected, ". . . it would probably take a day."
"Okay." Michael turned his attention to Ian, "Is it absolutely necessary that it be as 'complex' as it is?"
Ian scoffed, "It wouldn't be complex to a real carpenter."
"Just answer the question."
"No, I guess not."Ian said sullenly, eyes focused on the dingy brown carpet.
"Alright. This is what you two are going to do. Ian you will make the coffee table and Ryan you will stay and help him."
"Wh-what?!" Ian spluttered.
Ryan was too shocked to say anything, but his reaction would have been similar to Ian's.
"Just think of it as bonding time. Ian, maybe it'll give you pause the next time you decide to spring a last-minute project on Ryan."
By the time Ian deigned to wander over to Ryan's work area, Ryan had finished the bookcase and was well into the desk.
Ryan looked up as a shadow was cast over his line of vision. "What are you wearing?"
Ian surveyed his outfit perplexedly. He was wearing a tan summer suit minus the jacket and tie. "This," he indicated with a sweep of his hand.
"You're going to get dirty. It'll probably be ruined. Go change."
"I don't have anything to change into, this is it."
"Fine. All the supplies are in there," Ryan jerked his head in the direction of the tool trailer. Having dismissed Ian, he picked up the nail gun and continued working on the desk. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ian troop up to the trailer and then five minutes later start dragging out sheets of birch plywood.
He huffed the wood over near Ryan and asked, "Do you have my design still?"
Ryan colored slightly, but felt confident that his already hot face covered it. "Kinda. It's in the trash over there."
Ian wrinkled his nose, "Delightful."
He felt a little childish for tossing Ian's design, so he suggested, "You won't have time to build that anyway. Just build a nice, basic coffee table."
"Sure, but I still need the dimensions I gave you. I can at least use those."
"Oh, I have those."
Ryan reached behind him in the scrap wood stack, pulled out about a foot of leftover two by four and quickly sketched out a simple coffee table using Ian's dimensions. He handed it to Ian,
Ian looked skeptically at the rough drawing. "Are these right?"
"Yeah, I'm good at remembering numbers, but feel free to rummage through the trash if you don't believe me."
Ian glanced back down at the wood, "No, no this is fine."
They worked separately for about an hour. Ryan was surprised to note that Ian seemed to know what he was doing. The only noise between them was the radio Ryan had tuned to a popular rock station.
Tired and feeling tightness in his shoulders, Ryan stood up and stretched out his back. He glanced over at Ian and saw that he had taken off his blue dress shirt, leaving him in a sleeveless undershirt. Ryan had never seen this much of Ian before and the sweat soaked undershirt left little to the imagination. He forced himself to look away before he had another problem to add to his list.
"Trying to increase your fan mail?" Ryan sneered. He wasn't usually one to start with Ian, but he felt inexplicably annoyed that Ian didn't seem to need his help.
Distracted, Ian looked up and absently swiped at the sweat on his forehead with the back of his wrist, "What?"
Ryan gestured vaguely at Ian, "You committed the terrible crime of taking your shirt off."
'Okay, little Ian doesn't wanna play anymore.' Ryan felt like pouting, but tamped it down. "I'm gonna grab some cold water from the trailer, you want any?"
Ian didn't bother sparing Ryan any attention, "Sounds good," he said into the slowly forming coffee table.
Ryan gave himself a pep talk about not instigating anything with Ian while he got water. 'We have to get along,' Ryan told himself, 'if we're going to continue working together. I'll be damned if that little asshole is going to drive me away from my job.'
The rapidly descending sun painted the sky in lavenders and orange crushes. Even though it was a sunset and not the stereotypical sunrise, Ryan still felt the inexplicable hope that a new beginning promises. He assured himself that he wouldn't be petty. They would each work on their projects and then go their separate ways.
"Here ya go," Ryan placed the water bottle on the ground next to Ian.
"Thanks." Again, Ian didn't bother looking up so it appeared that he was thanking the coffee table for miraculously providing him with water.
They continued to work under the floodlights in edgy silence for another hour.
Ryan measured a cut he needed to make on piece of trim. Once done, he tucked the pencil back behind his right ear only to have it fall off and onto the ground. Bent over at the waist to pick up the pencil, he heard, "Ow! Motherfucker!" behind him. Still bent over, Ryan craned his head around to see what happened. Ian was nursing his left thumb in his mouth. Jesus, Mary and Joseph I so didn't need to see that right now, or ever really.
"What happened?" Ryan stood up and was at Ian's side in seconds.
Ian looked annoyed to have him so close so Ryan backed up a little, feeling hurt. "Nothing," Ian mumbled around his thumb, looking inexplicably more annoyed.
Ryan's compassion fled in the face of his overwhelming hurt. He lashed out at Ian. "Oh, sor-ry. I didn't realize you still suck your thumb. Now that I think about it though, it makes sense since you are such a baby."
Ian angrily popped his thumb out of his mouth. "Well, I'd rather be a baby than a preening attention whore! Stop showing off, the cameras are all gone for the night!"
Ryan was totally confused, had he missed something? "What?"
"Cut the act! First you take your shirt off and you're all glisteny and sweaty in the sun parading around in front of everyone! Then you show off your other assets, bending over every other freakin' minute! Just stop it! I'm trying to work here!"
"What are you talking about?! I told you already! I took my shirt off because I was dying, not so I could get more camera time! And I'm only bending over when I need to, like to pick up this goddamn pencil," Ryan shoved the short pencil in Ian's face -- Ian backed up immediately, "not because I'm trying to wave my ass in the air! Jesus! If your heterosexuality is so fragile that you can't stand being around other males, then maybe that's something you need to think about -- seriously."
"That's not funny." Ian appeared even more angry than before.
Ryan was done dealing with his crazy co-worker. "Yeah, I agree. Get some help," he turned around to go back to his work space when Ian latched painfully onto his forearm wrenching him back around to face him.
"That's not fuckin' funny," Ian repeated glaring at him, "you know I'm not heterosexual. Stop throwing my sexuality in my face."
"Wh-what? . . . Don't mess around -- that's not funny! And I'm sure your wife or girlfriend or whatever would agree."
"Replace 'wife' and 'girlfriend' with 'husband' and 'boyfriend' and then we'll talk, until then get your stupid, homophobic face out of mine!" Ian threw Ryan's arm away from him and started to turn away.
Ryan's next words caught Ian mid-turn, "I may be stupid, but even I'm not dumb enough to be a homophobic homosexual! I'm not sure what you're trying to say, but let me be clear – I. am. gay. I have sex with other men. Understand?"
Ian wore a combined expression of shock and hesitant hopefulness, "You're really gay?"
Ryan rolled his eyes, "Yeah."
"Christ, yes! I thought it was pretty damn obvious . . . at least in Nebraska it was . . . " Ryan paused as something clicked in his head. "Wait a minute, are you saying you're gay too?"
"Duh. If you think you're 'obvious' then, I'm a freakin' Judy Garland drag queen with her hair on fire."
"Oh . . . How could you not know I was gay? I wore a pink shirt when we first met!" Ryan exclaimed as though that explained everything.
"So? So does Michael and he's dating Melissa. So does my straight brother-in-law. It's not some homosexual indicator."
"It is where I'm from," Ryan felt too embarrassed to make eye-contact so he stared at his boots as they made circular patterns in the dirt.
"Why did you think I was straight? I mean, look at me, I'm practically a walking cliché!"
Ryan still refused to look up, seemingly fascinated by his boots. "Your screen saver and all the other pictures of the three of you all over your office. Who are they?"
"Idiot. That's my sister and niece. I still can't believe you thought I was straight, and neither will anybody else when I tell them." Ian chuckled to himself briefly before asking, "Wasn't the fact that I asked you out a huge negative in the straight column? "
Surprised, Ryan jerked his head up, "What? No, you didn't."
"Yes. I. Did."
"Well," Ryan arched his eyebrows, "you must really suck at it then because I would have said yes."
All of a sudden Ryan started laughing. "What?" Ian asked defensively.
Ryan limited his laughter to a huge smile, "You are such a brat. So you've been an asshole to me this whole time just because you thought I rejected you?"
Ian blustered for a second, "Yeah, well you . . ." before trailing off and hanging his head, "Yeah." he admitted weakly.
"Come here, brat. I think you need a good spanking."
Ian looked up to see Ryan still smiling at him with his arms outstretched and rushed into his arms.
So, so what'd you think?! This is my first ever oneshot dealie! I'm glad I did it, even if it's not very good. Yep, yep first oneshot under the ol' belt. Let me know if I should invest in a bigger belt so that I can fit more oneshots around my waist . . . or something like that. Thanks for reading.
Uber thanks to xanthofile for beta-ing.