By DCJ and KMB
Chapter Four

I was hanging from a tree
Unaccustomed to such violence.
Jesus looking down on me
I'm prepared for one big silence.
How'd I ever end up here
Must be through some lack of kindness.
And it seemed to dawn on me
Haemoglobin is the key.
- 'Haemoglobin,' Placebo

It was two weeks later, and Reilly's friend was due to arrive by plane that Saturday. It was Tuesday after school, and Reilly was taking Dainton thrift shopping. He still hadn't told Dainton why they were there, or what they were doing.

Moving through the afternoon crowd, Reilly made his way toward the back of the rather large store where the furniture was housed. He began inspecting beds.

Dainton wandered through the odd shelves yawning to himself. He was content to follow Reilly around for now, but his curiosity was growing. He followed him as he looked at some beds, and took the opportunity to nick one for a second, curling up catlike, but keeping his shoes off it. "What we doin' looking at beds?" he asked.

"Huh?" Reilly looked over at Dainton. "Oh... thought we'd get an extra."

Dainton snuggled into the bed and smiled. "You're so clever."

Reilly flushed, feeling guilty. "Uh... Dain, there's something I need to talk to you about," he said quietly as he sat down on the edge of the mattress Dainton was laying across.

Dainton sat up, looking concerned. "What's up, baby? You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Reilly said, not looking at Dainton. "It's just... I've mentioned to Lajah about you, just... not who you are to me."

"Oh.... well... why don't you tell him now?" he asked.

Reilly sighed. "I don't know how he'd react to that. I was kinda hoping... that you wouldn't mind pretending-- just while he's here-- that we were just roommates."

Dainton reached across and squeezed Reilly's fingers. "I don't wanna upset your friend," he said. "It'll be hard, but I'll do it for you. Can I still... be with you sometimes?"

"That's awesome. Thanks," Reilly said, sounding relieved and pretending he didn't hear the last part. He squeezed Dainton's fingers back for the smaller half of a moment before letting go and standing back up. "Anyway, I thought we'd get another bed for one of us to sleep in while he's here. Or he can take it and I can sleep on the couch; whatever. Sound okay?"

"Can we afford another bed, baby?" Dainton asked. "Anyway, I'll take the couch. You need better sleep, you work." And he wasn't sleeping much anyways.

"Yeah, one of these second-hand ones, sure. They're not that bad." Reilly shrugged. "We'll discuss sleeping arrangements when he gets here, okay?"

"Okay... but you're not sleeping on the sofa," he said, not going to debate that.

Reilly stuck his tongue out at Dainton behind his back. "Later, Dain."

Dainton pouted. "Okay... but you're not!"


Saturday dawned cold and bright, a strange amalgam if ever there was one. Reilly sat on the floor by one of the flat's windows, which was cracked slightly as he smoked his fifth cigarette that morning. He'd been up since three a.m. and hadn't been able to get back to sleep. To say he was nervous about his friend's arrival would have been an insult.

Reilly knew he had changed a lot since he'd last seen Lajah. When he had moved away, Reilly had still had both his parents. He hadn't become jaded yet. Contrary to what Dainton knew, Reilly had not always been the loudmouthed jackass he used to be in school. He'd been a happy kid. He'd had a good childhood.

All of that had fallen apart when his dad up and left him and his mom, though. After such a betrayal, and at such a crucial age, Reilly didn't want to trust anyone. He grew apart from his mother, though he still loved her deeply, but the pain he saw in her eyes every day was too much for his adolescent mind to take.

It was probably about then that he began haunting the school grounds after hours, and had little patience for anyone. He was thrown out of his classes more often than not, and began drinking and smoking steadily by the time he was fourteen. He felt like he had no one to turn to. His only real friend, Lajah, wrote letters full of happiness and love. Reilly couldn't return the sentiment feeling as empty and lost inside as he did; and when his mother died, things only proceeded to get worse.

Meeting Dainton had been a windfall for Reilly. At first he was the perfect scapegoat because he didn't take any of his crap, and then he became the perfect everything when they fell in love and became a couple. Reilly knew he adored Dainton, though he kept it quiet to the outside world. He was still so gunshy about being openly... whatever he was. He didn't know if he was gay or bi now. So many things had changed in so little time, Reilly continually surprised himself by knowing which way was up most of the time.

Which brought him back to Lajah. Though Dainton had readily complied, Reilly felt guilty for even suggesting they keep the nature of their relationship a secret. He was too afraid, however, of Lajah's reaction, and that easily overrode the guilt. Reilly knew it shouldn't have, and he knew he should have been proud of his love for another person after years of thinking he'd be alone forever, but his own insecurities kept him tied. It was the same feeling of inadequacy that had made him stop writing to his best friend so long ago. He had actually been surprised when Lajah had hunted his address down and rekindled their correspondence.

Reilly's letters back were guarded at best, and now as he sat staring at the pink clouds drifting across the horizon, he tried to remember if he had written anything substantial at all. He knew he had mentioned Dainton, though only in passing, he was sure, and was fairly confident Lajah wouldn't be able to glean anything from his short, terse notes. But he loved hearing from Lajah, reading about all his adventures and where he'd be traveling to next. They made Reilly feel like nothing at all had changed, though so much had.

Putting out his cig, Reilly sighed and got up. He walked over to the bed and stared down at Dainton, sleeping peacefully for once, which had been a rare occurrence lately. He glanced over at the new bed, situated awkwardly in a corner of the studio apartment, and rubbed at his rough, unshaven face. He needed a shower and a shave, and to stop smoking so damn much, but all that could wait. Right then, he just wanted to crawl in bed and spoon Dainton, kissing the back of his neck.

Which was exactly what he did.

Dainton had been sleeping blankly, nothing moving in his mind to disturb his dreams and make his body get up and wander about in the middle of the night without his knowledge.

Maybe because he was too worn out from the complete lack of restful sleep and practical aerobics he'd been doing while he 'rested' recently, but that was neither here nor there. The point was, there was only one thing that he would have let live after waking him up, and that thing was Reilly.

He barely felt the arms go around him, not physically anyway although a little warm feeling curled and gooed inside when Reilly did, but he did feel the kiss on the back of his neck. He woke, breathing in deeply and yawning softly, turning with his eyes closed to snuggle into Reilly's front. He pressed his forehead into his lover's chest and stilled again to sleep, hugging him back.

Reilly's smile was gentle as sand as he felt Dainton turn and curl into him. Dainton held on like Reilly was important, and that, above all, was what made Reilly love Dainton as much as he did. Reilly felt needed when Dainton was around. He felt like someone could finally depend on him, and not the other way around. Dainton made the fist of anxiety in Reilly's gut loosen with just the smallest gestures. It made Reilly fall in love with him over and over each time.

It also made him horny as fuck.

Smoothing back Dainton's hair, Reilly leant down and kissed his forehead, leaving a trail of mouthprints across his smooth, not-yet-furrowed brow to his earlobe. When he reached that he sucked it into his mouth, biting it lightly. His lower body nudged at Dainton, already up and willing.

Dainton drifted in sleep a little as Reilly kissed his forehead sweetly, but began to wake up as his lover's mouth moved along. He could feel Reilly getting harder against him, and that turned him on too like it was some weird command. He moaned very, very gently, nearly soundless, when Reilly chewed on his ear, and reached his hand down the length of Reilly's body to his thigh, before curving it down and stroking softly at his lover's dick in little laps.

Dainton's feathery touch along the ridge of his cock through his pants made Reilly hotter than anything. His hands suddenly became possessive, and they brought Dainton flush against him, fingers dipping down to squeeze his ass as he murmured his delight between laps at Dainton's neck. "Want you," Reilly breathed. "So bad..."

Dainton was still sleepy and drowsy but he was doing his best to push that away. His head tilted automatically for Reilly and his breathing turned to moans, pushing his body against Reilly's as he rubbed his hand more firmly against Reilly's dick. "Then take me," he told Reilly back, his voice low and almost obscene with sleep and lust which turned Reilly on even more, his own answering moan coming out like a helpless plea. He kissed Dainton like he didn't know how to do anything else, the passion within him mounting to uncomfortable levels. He had just thrown the blankets back and rolled Dainton onto his back when the viciously betraying doorbell rang.

Reilly sat up and back from Dainton like the sound had been a gunshot, and couldn't have cursed bad timing more.

Dainton had been ready for some serious submission when Reilly moved away from him. He made a protesting sound, looking over at the door and guessing that it must be his boyfriend's best friend, then turned around and curled back in on himself, half burying back under the covers and appearing to go back to sleep. Really, he was keeping himself out of the way in case that was Lajah should the reunion be hard enough for Reilly. He thought it was better he face Lajah alone first, without Dainton distracting them both.

Reilly understood, and got off the bed to retrieve a t-shirt when the doorbell rang again, impatient.

"I'm coming!" he yelled irritably at the door, and padded over to it on bare feet. Unlocking it, he wrenched it open and glared at the person on the other side.

The first thing he noted was that Lajah was tall, almost as tall as Reilly himself, and as lean as he had been as a kid. His hair was just as dark and straight as it had always been, only now reaching longer past his shoulders, spilling over one in a waterfall of black silk where it wasn't cropped about his face in side-sweeping bangs. His deep brown eyes were laughing as he leaned to one side of the doorway, his travel bag clutched in the opposite hand. "You don't see me in how long and you greet me like this?"

Reilly grinned in spite of himself, and moved to grab Lajah with one arm in a friendly hug. "What the fuck are you doing here already, man? Your flight's not supposed to land for another couple of hours."

Lajah stepped inside and grinned as well, the smile eerily mirroring Reilly's own. "What can I say, the pull of finally seeing your sexy body was too strong, I had to come early." At the drop of Reilly's grin as something akin to shock hit his face, Lajah chuckled and shook his head. "No, my flight was early. Thought you wouldn't mind if I showed up a bit before schedule. Don't worry, I wasn't hitting on you or anything."

Reilly laughed, though the sound was forced. "Good to know," he murmured as he took Lajah's bag before he could set it down and put it on the couch.

Lajah followed him as he surveyed the studio apartment. "Nice place, Rei," he said amiably. "You haven't done too bad for yourself."

The grin was back as Reilly stood next to Lajah and looked around himself. "Yeah, I like it." He spied the lump of covers that was Dainton and bit his lip. "That's my, uh, roommate lying there unconscious, or possibly just hiding." He flashed Lajah an uncertain smile before addressing Dainton. "Hey, Dain, you fall back asleep?"

Dainton snuck a peek at the new guy without him noticing. He made a bit of a face hearing what Lajah said, but he'd never been too bothered by Reilly being hit on by anyone else, or anything of that sort. He loved Reilly. Even if his lover cheated on him, he'd still love him.

He moved a bit in the bed when Reilly introduced him, hating that he couldn't tell Lajah, 'look, your best mate is my boyfriend and I know parts of him you will never see.' Instead he sat up, his mussed blond hair even wilder with bed head. "Yes," he said groggily, but he smiled at Lajah. "Hey."

Reilly's mouth quirked at Dainton's reply, and he wanted nothing more than to go back to that bed, smooth down that hair, and make love to Dainton all day long. He'd taken off the weekend because of Lajah's visit, and now that he was here, Reilly wanted him to go away-- if just for a few hours.

Lajah's gaze was warm, if curious, as he nodded his head at Dainton. "Hello, nice to meet you." The timbre of his voice was low but inviting, like a hearth fire. "Reilly's told me a lot about you. I'm Lajah."

Dainton tilted his head a little, curious, in Reilly's direction. "He has?" He smiled back at Lajah. "I need to hear more about you from you, I'm afraid. Reilly's told me some things, but well... you know how he is."

"Oh, really?" Lajah arched one dark eyebrow at Reilly, who just rolled his eyes and otherwise ignored him. He offered Lajah a seat, who sat gratefully and began pulling off his boots. "I walked the whole way here," he said with a sheepish grin as he rubbed the sole, a spill of blue-black hair falling over one shoulder to obscure his face from Dainton's view.

Reilly watched Lajah for a moment without saying a word, his hands on his hips. Finally, he just shook his head and walked casually over to the bed, and Dainton. "You gonna get up anytime soon, or am I gonna haveta make the bed with you in it?" His back was to Lajah, and he risked giving Dainton a lecherous smile and wink.

Dainton was worried that he'd said something wrong about Reilly not mentioning Lajah to him, especially when Lajah seemed to hide behind his hair-- he was worried about the fact that the other boy had walked all that way too-- but when Reilly smirked at him like he did, he knew it was okay.

He shook his head, made a sleepy little 'mm' noise and fell back into the bed, snuggling the pillow and drawing his knees up to his chest a bit.
Lajah looked over as Dainton fell back in the covers, and finally voiced the thought that was whispering in the back of his mind. "You two sleep in the same bed?" He nodded over to the other bed, the one Reilly had bought just earlier that week, pristine and untouched in the middle of the room.

Dainton tensed up in fear that their ruse would be seen through and from remnants of worry about being bullied for being gay. He thought fast though, the same self-preservation modes coming in to play that he'd used when Reilly had been his torment. "No, Ry's just anal," he said, not moving, making himself appear as relaxed as possible, his rusted defences crashing back into place.

His body language didn't change, but something that had crawled, raw and bloody from the wreckage of Dainton's psyche after his stress had reduced him to the shaking panicky mess that had thrown Reilly and him together, that cowed and beaten thing that had come out and didn't so much stand tall as twitch nervously in the naked light of love was shoved right back in and hidden under a thin layer of metaphorical soil.

Reilly had stilled when Lajah asked that, but relaxed at Dainton's quick comeback. Keeping up the charade, he tossed a nasty look at Dainton. "Yeah, at least one of us keeps this place clean."

Lajah watched silently, his eyebrows raising with passing second. "Uh... didn't mean to start anything between you two, just making an observation." He swung his gaze over to Reilly and gave him a reprimanding look. "Leave your roommate alone, man. It's not like you were the cleanest of kids when we lived together."

Dainton stuck his tongue out at Reilly, and the playful love was obscured-- he was playing maybe too well. "It's not like he's anal about anything other than his bed," Dainton said, waving a hand. "He just has me cause I'm cheap labour. I always did tell him he was stunted at twelve." He laughed and smiled at Lajah. "He was a pig when he was younger, too?"

Objectively, Reilly could admire and appreciate Dainton's acting skills. It really did seem like they'd gone somewhere in the past-- maybe not as mean or biting, but definitely not how it had been just before Lajah had unexpectedly shown up. Subjectively, however, Reilly felt betrayed, and the hurt entered his face. He wasn't nearly as good at this as Dainton.

Lajah's attention was back on Dainton, so he missed Reilly's face. He smiled at Dainton, easy like pie, his face even more handsome. Flicking his hair back behind his shoulder in a practiced arc, his warm eyes twinkling, he said, "Oh yeah. Reilly couldn't keep anything clean. Our room was a mess, and so was he, usually." He tossed a grin Reilly's way. "He hated bathing, and would just sit in the tub, sulking the whole time. If I didn't bathe him, he would probably be dirty still today."

Nowhere did Dainton show that he was upset by the idea of Reilly being with Lajah like that. He didn't even flicker. "Yet more dodgy dealings that I didn't know before I agreed to being your roomy, Reilly," he said dryly. "You should come with a disclaimer."

Reilly's face twisted, and he turned away to begin messing with the dishes int he kitchen sink. "It wasn't even like that, McDevitt, so shut it. I was, what, five? So don't even go there."

Lajah laughed, the sound as warm as his gaze, making Reilly scowl at him. He stood up and followed Reilly into the kitchen nook, leaning against the counter like he owned the place. "You should come with a disclaimer," he teased, then his face got serious. "You've changed quite a bit, haven't you?"

"And you haven't changed at all," Reilly replied, keeping his face and voice neutral.

Dainton watched them both then raised an eyebrow. "You must have been a tall five year old, Lajah,"

Lajah raised his eyebrow again, a gesture that was really starting to aggravate Reilly. "I've changed," he said like it was obvious, though his voice was soft.

Reilly, hands buried in soapy water to his forearms, scoffed softly as he looked back down at what he was doing. He had been washing the same glass for the past minute and a half without realizing it. Disgruntled, he slammed it back down into the sink, thankfully not breaking it, but satisfied by the loud sound it made. He grabbed a hand towel and dried his hands off, backing up from the sink and turning abruptly. The sound of the door slamming as he left the apartment was almost as loud.

Bewildered, Lajah chased after Reilly without a thought to Dainton or anything else. He glanced outside as he pulled the door open and spied Reilly leaning next to it, against the brick of the apartment, smoking a cigarette. Lajah could see how wound up he was by the way the cigarette shook as he brought it to his lips twixt his thumb and forefinger.

"You alright?" he asked quietly, all the teasing and bravado between them gone, reverting back to the comfortableness that once existed between them.

"No, I'm not fucking alright," Reilly replied, though there was no heat to it. He sighed, shakily, and put his head in one hand, massaging his temple. "It's just-- seeing you, it's great, Lajah, it is. I'm glad you're here. But it's also brought back a lot of old memories I thought were buried deep. Memories of... you know..."

"Your mom," Lajah murmured, understanding immediately and placing a comforting hand on Reilly's shoulder. Reilly responded by leaning into it, until his head rested against Lajah's neck and the tears could slide down surreptitiously.

"It's not just my mom... it's my dad, too. I mean, yeah, he was a total fuck for leaving us like that, but when he was with us, he was a pretty alright guy, you know? It's so hard to hate someone you love." The statement had a double meaning as Reilly thought back to how he and Dainton had gotten together, though Lajah couldn't possibly have a clue about that.

Lajah's hand was soothing as it rubbed circles into Reilly's lower back. "I don't know," he answered. "I wish I could say that I do, but honestly, only you know your own pain. But I'm sorry for being the catalyst."

Reilly fisted a hand in Lajah's shirt, keeping him where he was, already afraid of the implications of Lajah's words. "Don't go," he said softly, out of sorts with himself.

Lajah held Reilly close and lay his head on Reilly's red curls. "I won't."


Dainton had suppressed his flinch when Reilly stormed out, and forced himself to stay in bed while Lajah followed. After a few seconds, he sat up, legs crossed before him, and sat very quiet and still, trying to hear anything from where he was on the bed.

He heard nothing.

He hated this. That should be him out there with Reilly, not Lajah. He hoped his boyfriend was okay.

He frowned deeply for a second, then schooled himself back into the apathetic mask he'd used at school so much. He had to be better at this. He had to start pretending he barely tolerated Reilly instead of loving him until it made him feel like his guts were falling out through his side.

He suppressed everything warm and hot about his feelings for Reilly and tried to kill everything else. It wouldn't be so hard with Lajah, who was a stranger, but with Reilly... he hid anything that could feel in his feet, so he couldn't feel how much it would hurt.

It was several minutes before the door opened again, admitting first Lajah, then a tentative and scowling Reilly. Reilly was staring down at the floor; he couldn't look at Dainton, not and keep up the charade. God, he wanted nothing more than to wrap himself around his boyfriend. It was the only time he ever felt really safe anymore. Trying to think back to what he would have done without Dainton around, he flopped back onto the sofa and pulled a beer from the ever-present minifridge. The gesture was lacking because usually, Reilly was sitting on the couch drinking a beer with Dainton curled up next to him. Damn, he needed to talk to Lajah soon. He couldn't take this much longer, and it was only an hour into Lajah's visit.

Dainton watched Reilly come in and impressed himself by not attacking Reilly in an attempt to beat away whatever sad thoughts had been in him to make his face look so tearstained; well he would have been impressed had he not been playing the apathy card.

He stared coolly back at the two as they walked in, then got up, pretending to be as bored as he wasn't while he grabbed some clothes to wear.

Reilly motioned for Lajah to sit down; Lajah hesitated, glancing at Dainton like he was afraid he was interfering in something. "Still have any of the pictures from back on the reservation?" he asked Reilly.

Reilly rubbed at his hair, suddenly so very tired. "Yeah, they're..." he trailed off, remembering. 'Shit, they're under the bed, Dain's bed supposedly.' He watched Dainton get up and gather clothes with a detached air. "They're, um... somewhere. Stuff gets moved around a lot. Hey Dain, you know where that shoebox I keep around disappeared to?"

"How the hell should I know?" Dainton asked calmly. "You should take better care of your stuff rather than expecting me to run around after you." He grabbed a stray sock and left into the bathroom, closing and bolting the door, which he leaned against blankly for a second before stripping to shower.

Reilly frowned as the bathroom door shut. The lock sliding home sounded loud in the silence of the apartment. Reilly briefly wished he'd had the foresight to turn on the stereo.

Lajah looked at Reilly, a puzzled expression on his face. "He doesn't like you much, does he?" When Reilly didn't respond, he continued, "It's funny, from the impression I got from your letters, you two seemed much closer."

Sighing, Reilly combed a hand through his hair and turned away from the bathroom door. "Yeah, well, give him some time. He'll grow on you." 'I hope,' he added silently.

Lajah glanced toward where Dainton had disappeared again, chewing on his lower lip in contemplation. "Can I ask a personal question?"

Reilly froze, but made certain to keep his face very, very neutral. He didn't like where this was going at all. "I guess."

Pausing a good minute in deliberation, Lajah eventually asked, "Was that a scar I saw on his arm? I couldn't help but notice..."

Reilly's mouth opened to reply, but honestly, he didn't know what or how much to say. "Yes," he finally replied, "but if you want to know any more, you'll have to ask him about it. It's really not my place to tell."

Lajah nodded in understanding. "Is he okay, though?"

Reilly couldn't help the soft look that slipped onto his face. "I hope so. I'd like to think so." He avoided Lajah's direct gaze and instead hefted Lajah's belongings and walked them over to the spare bed, setting them down. "You'll be sleeping here."

"Are you sure? I can always take the couch," Lajah protested.

Reilly shook his head. "No, that's for me, and don't worry. It's a really comfortable couch."


Dainton ran his hands through his hair in the shower a few times, then stood with the water beating down on him, his hands over his face, covering his eyes. He didn't know what he was doing. He had to be this cold to Reilly; if he showed any kind of warmth at all he was sure he'd slip up, and then where would they be? He couldn't lose Reilly. The idea nearly made him choke on his own tongue.

No. This was the only way.

He got clean and dried himself down in the shower, dressing in his usual jeans-tshirt-hoodie combo with the big white sports socks on his feet before he tidied up after himself (and he'd said Reilly was anal-- hah!) and left the bathroom.