A/N: Originally I was just writing a collection of drabble stories that would have all been grouped together in one place as chapters. Then some of the stories got kind of long and some of the stories kept adding to themselves, so they all were posted individually.


The figure sat on the concrete edge, watching the few cars that were passing below at this time of night. The hair was a ratty distance between ear and shoulder, obscuring the face that peered down beyond the sitter's knees to the hard pavement and speeding cars. The shoulders were hunched, probably because it was cold and the person didn't look to have more than a light coat on, worn baggy, and a skirt—it must have been a girl.

Shaun wasn't one to shove his nose in another person's business, but if he walked away now and later read in the news about how some girl had jumped off the overpass, he was sure the guilt would haunt him. And he was walking that way, so it wouldn't be hard to hesitate his steps, like he was, and lean against the barrier slightly, "You okay?"

She looked over, except the sharp features didn't seem quite feminine and Shaun second-guessed the gender assignment. The shoulders shrugged in the bright green windbreaker she was wearing and the head turned back to look at the traffic, "What's your name?" The voice was soft, but recognizably male.

"Shaun. What's yours?"

The guy in the skirt sighed, swinging his legs around to the other side of the barrier and standing. He was tall, all legs, making the skirt he was wearing seem indecently short, although it covered the important bits. He shoved his long white hands into the pockets the skirt had. "Can I walk you home?"

"I don't think that's—"

"Please?" he asked, face an open book of pleading, blue eyes mostly obscured by his dark blond hair, lips gray in the darkness.

"Um, sure," he stupidly agreed. It's not like he had to go into his apartment complex, and the guy wouldn't know which apartment number was Shaun's. Plus, the stranger was tall, at least three inches taller than him, but didn't seem to have much of anything but bones. Shaun was confident he could get out of a tight situation, if it came to that. He started walking.

The guy walked beside him, head tucked to the wind, "M'name's Tristen."

"So, are you, uh," Shaun started and failed miserably. "Skirt?"

"It's my sister's," the narrow shoulders shrugged, "my boyfriend burned all of my stuff."

"Oh," Shaun fiddled with the edge of his sleeve. So he was gay. He was the first openly gay guy he'd met, having just moved to the city from his very rural town. Oddly enough it wasn't the first guy he'd seen in a skirt; that was Jacob after 6 beers and a shot of tequila. "Couldn't you have borrowed pants?"

"She's not as tall as me. And I don't really care," another shrug. "It's like a girly kilt, really."

"Yeah, sure," Shaun shoved his hands in his back pockets, wondering why this guy wanted to walk with him. Maybe he just needed a reason to not stare off the overpass anymore. He squeezed his thin wallet to his backside and stared at the sidewalk. "So why'd he burn your stuff?"

"He was insane. Possibly clinically. I always attract those," he laughed, humorless. "I got back from class and he'd set our apartment on fire. Thankfully it was only in a four-flat building, but still." He shrugged. "Poof."

"Yeah." He moved his hands into his coat pocket to fiddle with whatever junk he'd left there. Two coins, a button and a condom Jackie had given him. Jerking his hands out, he rubbed his fingers together.

"So how long've you been in the city?"

"Am I obvious?" he asked, biting on his lip.

"A little. You got the city walk down, but you've got an accent and just seem too timid."

"Oh," he was about to put his hands back in his pocket when he remembered why he'd taken them out. He shoved them in his pants instead.

"So, you a fag?"

Shaun winced at the word, "Why would you ask that?"

There was a grin when Tristen said, "I'll take that as a yes then."

His face was red and he clawed his fingers against his leg.

"Are you embarrassed?" Tristen chuckled, "You are a country boy, aren't you? What, you think I'll think of you poorly?"

Shaun shrugged.

"Worried I'll hit on you?" he teased.

He clamped down on his lips hard enough to bring blood to the surface and he muffled a yelp in surprise.

"You okay?" Tristen shrieked and jumped a foot away, "You're bleeding!" Shaun looked up and saw he was shaking and pale and thought it was a bit of an overreaction for a small cut. He sucked his lip into his mouth.

"It's just a nick, it'll stop soon," he started sucking again, pressing his tongue against the cut.

"I just have a…thing with blood," Tristen was still walking as far away as possible, staring into the road. Shaun didn't say anything until he was confident his lip had stopped. He rubbed the blood off his chin with his hand.

"It's okay, it's done."

Tristen glanced over, and seeing it was true, returned to walking a reasonable distance away. "That's not a good way to get someone into bed, y'know."

"I wasn't trying to get you into bed."

"Then why'd you stop?"

"I thought you were a girl!"

"And why's the gay kid trying to pick up girls?"

"I'm not a kid," Shaun shouted, sounding exactly like a kid.

"Okay, you're not, but if you're single…" Tristen let the sentence trail with euphemism.

"You know what, I don't think I want you walking back with me anymore."

"Hah," he snickered, "You're blushing like a virgin!"

This just made him turn three shades darker.

"Oh geeze!" Tristen grabbed his shoulders, making them face to face, "You are? Holy shit, aren't you a bit old—"

Shaun twisted away, nearing a color indicative of heart attacks. "Shut up."

Tristen slung his arm over Shaun's shoulder, pulling him just tight enough to the side to give him ideas, "Well, y'know, if you're looking for a first, I'm free."

He shoved him away, "I'm not going to sleep with some floozy in a dress."

"Aww, I'm hurt."

"I'm sure you are," he snorted, "since you're so obviously broken up over your last ex."

Tristen stopped and Shaun kept going, a few steps, before peeking over his shoulder. The taller boy was frowning, staring down at his sneakers. "You don't know."

"What?"

"Nothing," he growled, stepping up beside him and waiting for him to walk on.

"Sorry," Shaun muttered, continuing toward his apartment.

The silence strung on for a while, then Tristen said, "Thanks for letting me walk with you."

What could he say to that? "Yeah, well you bullied me into it and I've regretted it since." All he did was say "please" that didn't really constitute bullying. So he said something he hadn't wanted to say at all, "Were you going to jump?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "My sister would have been pissed if I ruined her skirt. But maybe I would have just broken my legs, if I didn't get hit."

"Still wouldn't have been good for the skirt, I'd think." Possibly the dumbest thing out of his mouth that night.

"Yeah, you're right. Guess it's good I didn't do it then," he laughed, dry and crackly. "She owes you one, now."

"Right." They were by the tracks now and another block would be his apartment. He picked up the pace a few strides, then slowed down again. Tristen raised a brow but didn't say anything. "Where are you staying?"

"Inviting me up?"

"No, just, are you going to be okay getting back? Are you staying with your sister?"

"Yeah," a smile twitched on his face, "until my insurance money comes through and I can get a new place. Looking for a roommate?"

He was in fact, but not going to admit such to a man who changed moods faster than people blinked, "Can you get home safely?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine. Thanks, again."

"Sure. Well, this is my place, so….bye." Shaun unlocked the front door, making sure it was locked behind him and thudded up the four flights to his flat. Once inside, door locked behind him, he breathed—huffing from the run. He leaned on the wall, staring at his couch with its stitched up cushion and the bookshelf full of old library books. The mousetrap was still empty. He shuffled in, throwing his jacket over the back of the chair and hurrying into his bedroom where he flicked on the space heater by his bed, hoping to warm the covers before he got in.

Aside from the bed and its pile of blankets, the bedroom was sparse. There was a second hand dresser with his clothes, and clothes piled on top and a poster in a cheap plastic frame for his favorite band. He shoved his shoes under his bed and headed into the bathroom where he brushed his teeth, relieved himself, and washed his face with the cheap soap that dried his skin.

He stripped down to his boxers and crawled into the warmed sheets, reaching out with his toe to flick off the heater and burrow deeper, waiting for the shivering to stop and the body heat to build. With a sigh, he closed his eyes, not thinking about the strange boy he'd met that night. Not wondering if he'd gone home or if he'd ended up jumping after all. Just sleeping.


His intercom squawked, and he jumped, tripping over his own feet as he went to answer it. Compressing the button, he wavered, not sure how close he had to stand, "Hello?"

"Shaun?"

"Yes?"

"Finally. Hi, this is Trish, I'm Tristen's sister, can I come up?"

Tristen? Oh, the guy from last night. He wiggled his finger on the button, "Why?"

"Okay, how about this? I'm coming up, so answer the door when I knock, yeah?"

The line went dead. Surely she couldn't get through the locked front door? Though most days people didn't bother locking it until after dark, so it may not have been locked. He bit his lip and stared at his door, somehow still being startled when there was a knock. He peeked through the hole.

Someone wearing so much pink and purple should not have been intimidating, but somehow she pulled it off. Her hair, dark blonde like Tristen's, had streaks of purple and was spiked in a small Mohawk. She had a lot of spikes and pins worked into her clothing, which was mostly black, in addition to the purple plaid skirt she had on and the pink striped knee-highs. Her face looked all business though.

He opened the door, keeping the safety latch in, "Yes?"

"Hi," she smiled, still serious, but friendly. She didn't look so scary when she smiled. "I'm Trish, and my brother said he met you last night, and I just wanted to check it out."

"Check…it…out?"

"Yeah. He's a bit weird sometimes, so people get creeped by him, but he's harmless. Just wanted to see if you called the cops or not."

"Um, no?" he said. The thought never crossed his mind. "Is he okay? He was upset yesterday."

"Yeah, well, as okay as you can be when your ex torches your habitat. He says you're new in town, looking for friends?"

"Um…" he was, but he wasn't sure if Tristen was the kind of friend he wanted to make. Suddenly Trish was pushed from view and Tristen's pleading face appeared.

"Please?"

"Uhg," Trish shoved him over again, "you're not supposed to seem desperate, dumb ass."

"Um, okay," Shaun finally answered and Tristen was there, grinning.

"See, he's great. So shy and cute." He probably would have said more, but Trish's hand stopped him.

"Here's his cell number, and mine, if you want to hang out some time."

"Unless you're free right now," and Tristen's fingers were through the door, undoing the latch, before Shaun could respond. Easy as that the lanky boy was stepping inside. He was wearing pants today, charcoal gray jeans over the same sneakers as the day before. Instead of the hideous windbreaker he had on a periwinkle blue hoodie with NOH8 written across the front.

Shaun stumbled back as he made his way in, and stared wide-eyed at the taller boy's back, until his sister sighed and gave him a "sorry" look.

"You don't have very much."

"I just moved in," he complained, closing the door behind Trish. It wasn't completely true, he'd lived there a month. He just didn't have money for spending on things that he didn't need. He was well fed and dressed because his parents sent him gift cards with specific amounts. They had this idea that if he had spending money he'd use it to buy drugs.

"Right," Tristen poked the couch with a look of distaste.

"And I've only gotten one pay check so far."

"Oh!? Where do you work?" His eyes were bright blue in the sunlight, which poured through the bare windows.

"Giovanni's on 3rd," he admitted.

"Oh! That's right by Trish's place. That's a long way to walk for work."

"It's not that bad," he shrugged, "I normally ride my bike, but I blew out the tire."

"I know someone who could get you one cheap," Trish offered, sitting on the armrest.

"Th-thanks," and he blushed a deep red. He was so distracted he didn't notice Tristen had vanished. He panicked as he saw the flash of periwinkle vanish into his bedroom. "Get out of there!" He scrambled over and found Tristen looking appraisingly at the poster.

"Good tastes, although I see no CDs or players."

"I have an MP3 player and everything's on my laptop."

Tristen's brow was cranked when he turned around. "But you don't have a kitchen table."

"I had the computer when I lived with my parents," he shrugged, walking out of his room and relieved that Tristen followed. "Your names are really similar, why would your parents do that?"

"They are actually the same," Trish said, watching the two with scrutinizing eyes. "Mine's Tristan too, but with an 'a'. It's just too confusing, so I go by Trish."

"We're twins, and our mom has a really weird sense of humor," Tristen offered. "And our dad was out of the picture by then, so she had free reign."

"Oh," Shaun eyed the bowl of noodles still soaking in the hot—or now lukewarm—water on his counter. "Do you mind if I eat?"

"No, it's our fault for intruding," she gave a meaningful look to her brother, who looked properly scorned.

"Sorry, I mean, I just—right, we'll let you eat. Sorry." He scuttled passed the couch toward the door. Trish met him there, rolling her eyes as Shaun lingered at least three yards from them. Tristen also noticed and gave a very awkward wave goodbye as he stepped out the door.

Trish sighed, "It was nice to meet you. Feel free to stop by after work sometime if you want, we're at 613 on 4th, apartment 7."

And then they were gone. Shaun locked the door and went back to his noodles, slumping into the couch while sodium-fused broth dripped down his chin.


And that started it all. Tristen began dropping by after his classes, probably filling all the time he'd normally be spending with a boyfriend. Shaun got the impression that he focused on one person intensely, so he didn't have a lot of other friends. Shaun didn't mind, it was nice to have someone to talk to, even someone as weird as Tristen.

"So why are you living on your own then?" Tristen asked, looking up from the book he was reading for class. Shaun was on his laptop, researching the closest and cheapest schools he could attend.

"When I told them I was gay they wanted me out of the house, so I wouldn't pervert my siblings. They gave me some money and here I am."

"Well that's sucky," he snorted, dropping his eyes back to the book. Shaun didn't respond, just browsed prices. They seemed achingly out of reach. It wasn't that his parents wanted him to fail; they just didn't want to spend money on him when they had four younger, perfectly straight children to tend to. Well, Lucy might not have been straight, but Shaun wasn't talking.

Financial aid wouldn't be a problem, he was pretty sure he was over qualified, but even so, he'd probably need a scholarship. Did community colleges offer scholarships? He sighed, closing the notebook and slipping it on the floor beside him.

"What are you spending your next pay check on?" Tristen asked, not looking up from his book.

"Not, it's going in the bank with the rest of my meager funds so I can afford heat in the coming months."

"Oh." Tristen shifted, fingering the edge of his book.

"Why?"

"I was going to see if you'd want to go out and see a movie, or go to a club, something fun that young people should be doing. But I know you won't let me pay. Maybe it could be an IOU."

"I could probably afford at matinee."

"How about we go to a Friday night showing and I cover the difference," he looked up, blue eyes wide and sparkling, as they always were in the sun. Shaun sighed and Tristen grinned, "Please?"

"Okay, fine," and he tried to look annoyed, but he could feel a little grin on his face. He was rather tired of being stuck in his apartment, even though he knew he could go over to their place, it felt weird. He was a little worried that Tristen was aiming for something a little more than friends out of this, but it wasn't really something he could control, was it? He'd face it when he needed to.


It was just after 11 PM when he knocked on their door. He'd worked a ten hour shift because his boss had asked and he needed the overtime, but he was too exhausted to ride his bike home. He leaned on the door frame, his eyes half closed.

Tristen opened the door, his burst of greeting instantly held back, "Uh, you okay?"

"Can I just crash on your floor for a few hours?"

The thin boy nodded, motioning him in and closing the door behind. Shaun shuffled off his shoes, amazed at how warm it was inside, before curling up on the soft carpet and falling asleep.

"You're going to let him sleep on the floor? Why didn't you at least put him on the couch?"

"He just kinda dropped there. I don't think I can move him without waking him."

"Well at least give him a pillow and some blankets, he's going to freeze."

Shaun was vaguely aware of a pillow being slid under his head and several blankets being tucked around him. Long fingers stroked through his hair; it could have been either of them.


They were running, laughing, hand in hand, because Tristen's legs were longer and he kept pulling Shaun along. They were running because it was drizzling and they were going to be late for their movie. They were holding hands and Shaun was aware of how warm Tristen's touch was and how they clung to each other desperately as they sped down the sidewalks and he wondered if this is what falling in love was like.

They made it to the theater in time, sweating and wet, panting as they ordered their tickets and handed over wet money that had been folded in their front pockets. The ticket guy gave them a disapproving look, but handed them their change and their tickets and they stepped inside.

It was warm, and they were no longer running; their hands hung uselessly by their sides. Tristen wanted popcorn, so Shaun stood by him while he was ordering, glancing around the theater and the range of people in it. A couple with a little girl, likely there to see the latest Disney flick. A group of teens, not much younger than him, all paired off, holding hands and laughing as they got their tickets checked. An older couple just leaving, walking side by side, barely touching but sharing smiles so warm. A mother and daughter. A father and son.

"Shaun?"

He looked up to Tristen, who was offering out the popcorn, brow raised.

"No thanks," he shoved his hands in his pockets, fingering the pennies there. "Which theater is ours?" he asked as his eyes searched the listings.

"Six, there." Tristen led the way and Shaun trailed behind slightly, looking at the people milling, ordering snacks, enjoying their evening out. He rubbed his thumb against the pennies mindlessly. "You'right?"

"Yeah, just looking forward to the movie," he plastered a smile across his mouth. "I heard it's doing so well they are already talking sequel."

"Always ruining a good thing," Tristen laughed easily, his hair flipping as he shook his head, the light glittering off his multiple piercings. "Like that movie with the pirates. Brilliant. And then they had to go and give it a plot!"

"Yeah," Shaun mumbled. He kind of liked that movie.

"I love when the lead man's all," and Tristen did a very good, very flamboyant impression of what happened in the movie.

"I hate when faggots have to be so damn obvious about it," a guy sneered to his two friends as they passed by the opposite direction.

Tristen rolled his eyes and walked on but Shaun stopped, "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

The guy turned and faced down at Shaun. He was only a little taller than him. "Oh, what, did I offend the faggot's friend?"

"Yeah, you did. Maybe you should keep your mouth shut."

"Or what, you're gonna shut it for me? Hah! Why don't you shut your faggoty friend's mouth—with your cock!" He and his friends laughed. Shaun did not.

He jumped. More of a leap, actually. His knee slammed into the offender's groin and he wrapped his arms around the guy's neck, using his weight to drop them to the ground. The guy was still giving a slow squeal from the first hit when the two punches to the face happened. An instant later Tristen was dragging him off, into the dark theater. Their feet stumbled, tripping on each other and they thumped to the floor, long thin arms still wrapped around Shaun's chest.

Heavy breathing. He was shivering now, coming down from the high.

"What the hell was that?"

Shaun pulled away, standing, then bashfully offering his hand out to Tristen to help him up. He took it, standing, wary eyes locked on Shaun. He shrugged, "We should find seats."

Tristen agreed, still looking cautious as they found two seats on the aisle. He leaned over, the previews just starting, and whispered, "Where did that come from?"

"After the movie," Shaun hissed back, hoping he'd forget.

Sighing, he agreed. But Shaun noticed that his arms were tucked in tightly to his sides and he didn't have his popcorn anymore. That was his fault. No, it was that stupid ass's fault. Shaun huffed, sinking down in his seat and glaring at the screen.

The movie was good, he guessed. He wasn't really paying attention, completely focused on how still Tristen was. How was it possible for him not to move at all? Was he breathing? Shaun listened. Yeah, he could hear shallow breathes rhythmically entering and leaving. He shoved his hands in his hoodie pocket, rubbing his fingers raw until the movie was over.

Instead of getting up to leave, Tristan just looked over expectantly. He hadn't forgotten.

"I'll pay you back for your popcorn."

"This isn't about the popcorn."

Shaun sank down farther, staring at the credits. Most the people were emptying out of the theater. "I don't like assholes like that."

"I'm not sure anyone does, but that doesn't mean you attack them. I mean, where the hell'd that come from?"

Could he explain that it was the only way for him to survive in school? His parents hadn't known until after graduation, but his peers had smelled blood on him young. He'd heard every name and insult. At least until people stopped calling him things, knowing about his temper. The school tended to sweep it under the rug, not wanting to make an issue of the gay kid getting harassed. "Sorry."

"Shaun?" Tristen sounded worried and Shaun stood, walking out so fast he was almost running, not checking to see if his friend was following. His heart was beating irregularly in his chest as he stepped outside, the rain colder and heavier now. He bolted.

He was good at running. He didn't have long legs, like Tristen, but they could go forever. His calves were made of springs, his coach had joked, thrusting him farther with each step until he was leaping like a rabbit and all the other runners were going to go hungry that night.

Wet didn't describe him by the time he was half way home, and he still had another five miles to go. He didn't have money for bus fare, Trish had offered to pick them up, but he didn't want to see her, or Tristen. He shivered, breathing harder than he should have for having only run five miles. The bench he collapsed on was as wet as he was.

A car pulled up to the curb and the door opened. The swish, pop, and distinct pound of rain on thin plastic. He looked up.

Trish was standing with a bright purple umbrella over her head, walking slowly toward him. Her clunker still rumbled behind her and in the passenger seat was Tristen, looking pale and terrified. Shaun looked down as the rain stopped hitting him. She was close enough that he could feel the warmth radiating off of her. "How about we get you home?"

He nodded, standing, hugging his wet clothes to him as she led him back to the car, opened the door for him and secured it behind him. The seats were plastic, but warmed. He shivered again.

"Buckle up," she said. He did. Then they were driving. The purple umbrella was beside him on the floor, dripping drops of paint that went clear when they hit the air. He wiped the water off his face, even though more dropped down from his short hair. Five miles seemed especially long, but not as long as the previous five. She stopped outside his apartment.

"Thanks." He got out. His body was cold and stiff, even sitting in the warm car, but he glanced back, hoping—and yet Tristen's pale face was staring out the foggy window, wide eyes watching him. He winced and turned away, going through the front door and then running and not stopping until he was in the bathroom, sitting in the tub, letting the shower spray hot water down on him.


Work understood him calling out. They didn't want sick people handling food. He hung up the payphone and headed back into the complex, huffing as he made his way up the four flights and back into his bed, shivering still, even with the space heater running on high. He reached out and grabbed a tissue, blowing his nose for the thousandth time, which just sent him into gut-wrenching, hacking coughs.


All his blankets were now on the couch, where he was wrapped, the space heater still facing him, the box of tissues nearly empty with the discards all by the one leg of the couch. He didn't want to think about what he'd do when he was out of tissues. He supposed he'd use a blanket and just wash it. His nose was so sore he didn't want to think about touching it.

He sniffed, turning the page of the discarded library book. He was reading it, even though he'd read it a hundred times, because it had a happy ending and he wanted to feel that wonderful joy, so when he'd put down the book he'd realize that happy endings didn't happen. He turned the page.

The rapid knock made him wince. Only Trish knocked like that. He carefully set down the book, splayed to mark his page, then wrapped the thickest of the blankets around his shoulders as he crept to the door, opening it but keeping the safety latch in.

"Shaun…what the hell, open the door."

He didn't answer, just shuffled back to the couch and re-burrowed. She let herself in, almost slamming the door behind her. He pulled the blankets to his nose and watched her with puffy eyes.

"Sick huh?"

Nodding, he looked at her Mohawk, which wasn't gelled up, and her really thick boots that made her as tall as her brother.

"Are you going to tell me what happened? Tristen's been a fricken ghost since the movie, and you were out running in the damn rain, serves you right getting sick. Dammit, did he hit on you?"

He shook his head, eyes slowly making their way to hers.

"Then will you tell me what the fuck is going on?"

"You should ask him." His voice was rough from coughing and sneezing and other such unpleasantness.

"I did. He said you beat some guy up that called him a fag, and then when he asked you about it, you ran."

"That's what happened." He closed his eyes, they felt dry and hot.

"And what exactly made you think running in freezing rain was a good idea?"

Running in the freezing rain wasn't a good idea, but running, running as far away from Tristen before his friend could see how disgustingly violent he was, that was a good idea. He wanted someone to have a good memory of him. "I shouldn't be friends with him. I'm sorry."

"Are you kidding me? Are you doing this just to be an ass? Please tell me there is a good reason."

"I—I'm violent." Wasn't that obvious?

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph. You punched a guy who called your friend a name, that's not the worst kind of violent around. You need to get out of your fucking shell and apologize, because…" she hesitated long enough for his eyes to open to her. "Because we all have parts of us that aren't that great, yeah? Friends don't ditch each other just cause of that, yeah?"

"But—"

"No. No buts. You have two days to get better and then you better show up on our doorstep with an apology. Understood?"

He nodded.

"Good. Now get some rest. And stop reading this crap," she toed the book on the floor, "It's bullshit." She rolled her eyes and walked out, locking the door behind her. Shaun reached for a tissue.


Two days later, after a short work shift, he tapped lightly on the door. No one answered, because no one heard it, because it could have been mistaken for mice walking on linoleum. However, the door did open and a handsome Latino man was backing out the door, leaving a lingering kiss on Tristen as he did. Shaun jumped to the side so he wouldn't get stepped on, then watched as the kiss slowly broke. He looked away as they said their goodbyes and he didn't glance from the corner of his eye to watch the Latino leave.

"Hey." Tristen looked something between happy and anxious and Shaun had a feeling he knew which one he was causing.

"Hi. I just wanted to say sorry for how I behaved. If you still want me to be your friend, I'm your friend."

"Of…of course I do! Come in…" his words fluctuated as much as his face did, excited, worried, happy, nervous. Shaun stepped in, slipping off his shoes. Soft jazz music was playing and the couch looked laid on.

"He your new boyfriend?"

"Yeah, Julio," he shuffled into the living room, plopping on the couch. It looked like he might have winced, but Shaun wasn't really paying attention to every minor flick of emotion on his face.

"Well that's good, yeah?" That must have been a habit he picked up from them. He sank into the seat beside Tristen, hands pressed against his knees.

"Yep. I'm hoping he'll let me move in with him, so I can get outta Trish's hair."

"Oh." Oh. Shaun didn't know why he had thought that Tristen would still want to move in with him. He was violent and lived in near slum conditions. Julio didn't look like he lived on the skirts of the ghetto. "Well, if not, you can always stay with me, if you want."

"Really? Yes! I mean, I don't want to intrude or anything, but can I?"

Shaun nodded, still not looking up from his knees.

"Can I buy us a kitchen table?"

He nodded.

"And maybe a second couch?"

He shrugged.

"There's only one bedroom though. Maybe we should move into a two bedroom—"

Shaun sighed, "Are you dense? Do you think I'd pick up a roommate if I could afford a two bedroom? It was stupid of me to offer, you should just see if Julio has room for you, he probably wouldn't like you sharing a bedroom with another guy."

Tristen just nodded and Shaun hated how his hair fell over his eyes, like he was trying to hide his disappointment when it was written all over his soft pink lips. Shaun stood, tugging on his sleeves, "I'm looking for a roommate because I want to save as much money as I can for school, y'know? And most of my paycheck goes to rent already and I can't imagine paying for one class, let alone one semester.

"I guess I just need someone who is in a situation as desperate as that who doesn't mind a bedroom with only enough room for beds and dressers. Everyone at the restaurant already has a place, but if you know anyone…"

Tristen wrapped his long arms around Shaun in a very warm and friendly hug. There was nothing romantic about it, Shaun told himself. "I'd rather if you didn't punch everyone who said nasty things, but thank you for punching the guy in the theater." And then the hug was over and Tristen was sitting back on the couch.

Shaun took his place beside him, more relaxed, "So when did you meet Julio?"

"Last Saturday at the club."

"Oh. Um. I'm happy for you." He was sure there was no relation between the two events.

There was a knock, and then Julio opened the front door. Shaun jumped, even though they weren't doing anything, because he was always jumping.

"Hola again. I think I left something in your bathroom," he walked in and down the hall, getting whatever it was and returning to the living room. "Gracias." He leaned down and kissed Tristen with more fervor, and more tongue, than was necessary in front of other people. Shaun thought he saw a grin before he looked away to the plants sitting on the window sill.

"Adios mi cabra." Julio left with a wave. Shaun swallowed his annoyance at the pet name. Tristen looked happy with his hair all mussed up.

"Well, I should go," he stood.

"So soon?" Tristen looked up.

Yes, now, because he was angry and he didn't want to hurt Tristen. He nodded briskly, "Yeah, I need to make dinner for tomorrow and stuff." And stuff, the perfect alibi.

"Can I walk you home?"

Shaun shrugged, turning to the door, "I rode my bike."

And like that, he was gone.


Tristen ended up moving in a week later.

Julio said he didn't have the space, even though Tristen pointed out he had more space than Shaun, to which he replied that their relationship, "wasn't to that level yet."

Tristen bought a second couch and a kitchen table and took the bed he'd had at Trish's and they made it fit in Shaun's—their—bedroom. Trish bought them an aloe plant and a small stand for it, named it Cornwall and gave detailed instructions on how to care for it.

"Want to order pizza?" They were both spread out across their respective couches, resting from moving everything. Trish was sitting on the floor reading one of Shaun's books, an amused smirk on her lips.

He was about to offer to cook them all something, when he decided this one time he could splurge and order out with them. "Sounds good."

Tristen was up and searching the kitchen for menus. Trish rose a brow and Shaun shrugged, slipping out of the chair to tell his friend that he didn't have any menus.

"How can you not have menus?"

"I don't order out," he reminded him. "But I know Giovanni's number, and their menu, if you want something other than pizza. And I get a discount." He smiled blushingly.

"Discounts are amazing!" Tristen glomped Shaun with a roll of laughter, then released him, smiling excitedly. "Trish, what do you want on yours?"

They decided on two mediums each with a half topping they liked, plus plain. Shaun placed the order using Tristen's phone, ignored his coworkers ribbing about finally ordering something, and went back to his couch where Trish was now lying. He perched on the armrest, "It'll be here in twenty minutes."

To pass the time, they played Egyptian Rat Screw. They had all just bashed knuckles when there was a knock on the door. Tristen and Shaun raced to see who could get there first and when Shaun pulled open the door, Tristen smacked into him, stumbled and used him and the door for balance.

Kyle was standing there with two pizzas. He grinned at Shaun, then looked over to Tristen and the smile vanished, "You're dating him?"

"No, just roommates," Shaun said, surprised.

"Yeah, until he climbs into your bed in the middle of the night." Kyle offered out the pizzas and took the money. Shaun juggled everything because Tristen had vanished. "Well good luck with that," Kyle motioned with a roll of his eyes, as if Shaun were making the biggest and most obvious mistake of his life.

"Hey, lay off him, okay?" There wasn't much force behind his words, but he knew Kyle to be a pretty up and up kind of guy, so he couldn't help but heeding his advice a little. He knew Tristen was a little off sometimes.

"Sure, whatever. Enjoy your pizza."

Shaun was glad when he left, closing the door and dropping the pizza on the kitchen table. Tristen was grinning like nothing had happened, but Trish was watching Shaun, of that he was sure. They forewent plates in favor of the direct method and for a while, the incident was forgotten. Until Tristen went to the bathroom.

"He may actually try to crawl into bed with you, but it's not like you think. He gets night terrors and being close to someone helps him sleep. Yeah?"

"Sure," Shaun nibbled on his crust, "has he had a lot of boyfriends?"

"There is no way I can answer that. He used to not be so bad, and then after Tony he just kind of hopped from one to the next, like he couldn't be without one. Thus his bad taste in men."

If he had wanted to reply, which he didn't, he didn't have a chance; Tristen came back and they went back to laughing like they were before.


He awoke, aware of warm skin sliding against him, trembling. He didn't open his eyes, he barely broke from his dreaming, his hands fumbled out, and, finding shoulders, pulled Tristen into a tight embrace.


Tristen was still asleep when he woke up. He got out of bed, trying not to disturb him, took care of things in the bathroom and got dressed. He was just finishing his bowl of cereal when there was a knock on his door and he abandoned the bowl in the sink to go answer it.

It was Julio, looking suave and fresh as a magazine cover. "I'm here to see Tristen."

"He's asleep," Shaun informed, not inviting him in.

"Well then, perhaps you can take care of me," and he was stepping in, close to Shaun, pressing his rather evident erection against Shaun's hip.

He stumbled back, one hand still gripping the door as he did or else he'd have fallen over, "Get the fuck off me."

Julio grinned and turned, heading across the small apartment, already stripping off his shirt.

"Hey, I said he's asleep!"

"I know, I plan on waking him up," the shoes were discarded and Shaun saw the pants being undone as the door closed. He hoped Tristen had gotten back into his own bed, but it didn't seem very likely. Shaun plopped down on the couch, but when the noises started—and they did—he grabbed his headphones and read.

He didn't really notice Julio leave, even though he looked like he just had sex and had a pompous grin on his face. Shaun just kept his eyes on his book, while Tristen showered and did whatever it was he was doing. When he came out of the bedroom, he kept his eyes on the book, even though he hadn't turned a page in ten minutes. Tristen was walking funny and Shaun pulled out his headphones, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Tristen fluttered a smile, cheeks turning red. "Um, sorry about that. I, uh, changed your sheets."

"Right, thanks." He was about to turn back to his book when Tristen flipped his hair and he saw it. The little blotch was just peeking out from the collar. He nearly tipped the coach over he jumped off it so fast, darting across the room and clasping his friend's shoulder and sweeping the hair aside. A bruise was forming. Not a hickey, a bruise. He tugged down on the shirt as Tristen struggled and saw the crescent shape around the back of his neck.

"Get'off!" Tristen shoved him, frowning.

"Did he do this to you?"

Tristen yanked his shirt away, "We like it rough, back off. A fucking virgin like you wouldn't know good sex if it was offered on a silver platter."

"Whatever," Shaun pulled back, shoving his hands into his pocket. He went back and thumped onto his couch. He stared at his socks. It was a stupid idea to let Tristen move in with him. And what did he care if his boyfriend was rough? He didn't.


He was sitting on Trish's couch, drinking tea, because it's what she drank, not talking. When he'd appeared, she had started off normally enough, but when he wasn't answering, she made him tea, sat him down and was sitting in silence with him, getting up once and a while to take care of things, but always returning.

The tea was half gone and cold now, but it didn't matter, because he didn't like tea. He was sitting there because Tristen had gotten back and had more bruises and had once again told him to mind his own business, so instead of going to beat up Julio, Shaun was sitting at Trish's.

"You and Tristen have a fight or something?"

Shaun shrugged.

"You guys never come around anymore," she pouted, trying to switch the mood.

"I work a lot." Partially true. He was picking up as many hours as he could so he wouldn't be there when Julio was. And when he wasn't working he'd hide at the library, where the librarians kept teasing him that he could take out books, he didn't have to read them on the premises. Truth was, he felt more comfortable reading at the library these days. "I'll try to stop by more."

"And my brother?"

"He's with Julio most the time."

"Is that why you're avoiding going back?"

"He's not over right now." Because he'd just left. Though maybe he came back for more. Maybe it wasn't a big deal. Maybe he just needed to get laid so he'd stop running from his own apartment. "I should go. Sorry for bothering you." He handed her his mug and left, left her watching him go, wondering what was going on.

Instead of going back to his apartment, he went into Giovanni's and waited for Kyle to get back from a run. By the time he did, Shaun's hands were sweating and he kept them shoved in his pocket.

"Hey, what are you doing back?"

"You get off soon, right?'

"Ten bleedin' minutes. Why, gonna take me up on my offer?" he flashed a grin, expecting the same decline as he always got.

"Yeah." He flushed.

"Seriously?" he received a nod in response. "I'll see if I can get off early then." He vanished into the manager's office and then reappeared a minute later, tossing off his hat and apron. "Let's go."

Shaun followed him out, his heart playing some song he wasn't familiar with. "Want to go to your place?"

"Yeah, no offense, but I'd rather not see Tristen."

"Yeah," he agreed, not adding that he didn't want to see Tristen either.


Kyle was a considerate lover. He had them shower together, lathering Shaun until he was gasping and begging but didn't give in. He let Shaun top first, which was short lived with how far he'd been pushed, and then while he was still in the glow of orgasm, Kyle slipped his oiled fingers in, getting him used to the feeling before taking his turn. It was sex, and it was good, but it wasn't love.


When he got back to the apartment, Tristen was sitting on his couch, hugging his knees. His blue eyes went wide (no longer sparkling in the sun, since it was dark and they had curtains now). "Where were you?"

Shaun shrugged, "Out" and headed to their bedroom. He was debating showering or just going to sleep, and wavered in the doorway.

"But where? Julio said you didn't bother him, and Trish said you left hours ago."

He snorted and began stripping as he headed for his bed; he could shower in the morning. "What are you, my mother?" There was a gasp behind him, probably as Tristen saw the marks Kyle left. Then he left the room and Shaun went to bed.


Tristen's hands were cold when they touched him, clinging, sobbing in his night terror sleep. Forgetting the anger and annoyance, Shaun pulled him close, rubbing his back until it stopped, and then just holding him. The dark blond hairs tickled his nose, but he didn't mind as the trembling became deep breathing and the clawing fingers relaxed. He closed his eyes to go back to sleep.

"Shaun?"

"Hmm?" he mumbled, not bothering to wonder when Tristen woke up, sometimes he would hold perfectly lucid conversations in his sleep.

"Who'd you sleep with?"

"Kyle."

"Oh." Silence followed and Shaun drifted off again. "Can I give you a blow job?"

"What?"

"I know Kyle doesn't, so I thought you might like one."

"No, your boyfriend wouldn't like that very much. Go to sleep."

"Okay."


And then, everything was okay. Julio stopped coming around as often (but Tristen was out of the apartment more). Bruises kept appearing, but Shaun kept his mouth shut. Nearly every night they slept in the same bed, to the point that they just fell asleep that way so neither would have to be disturbed in the middle of the night when Tristen crawled into his bed.

The peace couldn't last forever.

Shaun was just getting back from work. He was tired and grumpy, since two pies had been destroyed right at the end of his shift, because of the new guy's stupidity. He kicked his shoes off, wondering why the music was playing so loudly.

"No! N..No!" Tristen's voice wasn't loud with passion or lust, but fear, and when Shaun rounded the bend, he saw why. Julio was straddling his naked boyfriend, grinding his clothed crotch against his ass cheeks while using a knife to carve something into Tristen's lower back.

"Get off him!" he shouted over the music, making Julio's head jerk up (but his hand remained steady).

"Why? Care to join us?" He picked up the blade, red with blood on the tip and made a "come hither" motion.

Shaun went, but more like a bull than a cow. Julio was good with a knife, but not expecting the other man to do anything, so they were both flat out on the floor before he had a chance to respond. Trying to fend off blows with one hand, the other, holding the knife and restrained at the wrist, twirled the handle the other direction and stabbed it into Shaun's arm.

The surprise came when he didn't jerk away at this, even as the blood made his grip slippery. Julio cursed as several punches got through and used his strength to shove Shaun off him, jumping to his feet and landing several kicks before the boy on the ground grabbed the leg and bit.

Julio cursed, jerking his leg back and reaffirming his grip on his knife. Shaun didn't see this, all he saw was an opening and he jumped off the floor, smashing him backward into the wall, unaware of the knife digging into his shoulder. When the blade twisted his body seized and jerked back and Julio pulled it out and ran. Shaun dropped to the floor.

Tristen screamed.


"I need you to put pressure on this!"

Tristen whimpered. Shaun opened his eyes, thinking the ceiling was rather dirty. "He doesn't like blood."

"I know," Trish snorted, tightening the bandage on his wrist, "Can you put pressure on your shoulder while I finish this?"

He nodded, trying to find his free arm and put it on his shoulder, but it seemed awfully heavy. When he finally got it there, he wasn't sure he was doing any good. "Are you okay Tristen?"

"Yeah," he murmured from what sounded like behind the couch.

"You need to stop dating douche-bags," he pointed out. Or at least he thought he did.

"You should date him," Trish said.

"He's not interested in me," Shaun said. Except he thought that Tristen said it too. That was kind of funny. Except he couldn't really laugh. There was a pounding.

"EMTs, open the door!"


When he woke up, he was sore and the world seemed kind of blurry. He went to move and felt someone against him. Tristen was taking up any spare room on the hospital bed, arms wrapped around Shaun's legs, sleeping.

Shaun smirked. Even in the hospital he was being used for a security blanket. He tried to shift, to sit up without disrupting him, but found it difficult with only one arm. Grunting, he managed to half sit, propped on his pillows and gasping. That was a lot more work than it should have been.

Tristen stirred, eyes blinking, slowly looking up. Somehow he jumped vertically but landed outside the bed, smiling wide, "You're awake!" And darted from the room. He waited, counting the second before Tristen ran back in with Trish, "He's awake!"

"I see that." She freed herself, with an amused smile, sitting down in the chair beside his bed. "How do you feel?"

"Not too bad. Kinda hungry."

"I'll get you something!" Tristen dashed from the room.

He sighed back into the pillows, half closing his eyes, still watching Trish. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah. We reported Julio; he won't be bothering us anymore."

"Good," he let his eyes close.

"Aww, I brought him crackers."

He opened them again, "I'm not asleep." He went to lift his arm but found there were a lot of wires attached. "Uhg. Could you feed me?"

Tristen nodded, sitting on the edge of the bed and placing a cheese and cracker sandwich to his lips. He opened his mouth, just a little, nibbling on the end while watching his friend. Tristen smiled and Shaun opened his mouth, leaning forward to take the whole cracker, and the tips of the fingers holding it, into his mouth, sucking gently before the cracker was released. He leaned back, chewing, eyes closed.

Through this process the crackers were devoured. Trish left to get him a drink, but was taking a long time about it. Tristen was still on the bed, fiddling with the empty cracker bag. "Is your back okay?"

"Huh?" he looked up, wide eyes blue, dark crescents under them. "Oh, yeah. I'm…I'm sorry. He wasn't very nice, I should have dumped him. It's my fault that you're in here," his gaze returned to the trash.

"No, it's his fault. He stabbed me. He was cutting you."

"He wanted to make me his. Is what he said."

"Idiot," he sighed, reaching up and grabbing Tristen's neck, dragging him down against his chest, tangling them in the wires when he hugged him. It made his shoulder ache, but that's what drugs were for. "You need someone nicer than that."

"Like, someone who would protect me and keep me from jumping off overpasses?"

He smiled, rubbing Tristen's back. "Yeah, someone like that."


His face was red as he asked the doctor, "Um, we'd like to get tested. I mean, there was blood on the knife and, um, you never know, right? Just to be safe, right? For, uh, everything."

The doctor did not look the least bit surprised. He just smirked as he took the samples and went to deliver them to the lab. Tristen tried to resist, but by the time Trish came back from getting clothes for Shaun, her brother was already asleep against his stomach.


"My arm's fine," he insisted, using his good one to pull Tristen back to the bed and his bare chest. "See?" He said, not wincing when a hand pushed a little too hard against him.

Tristen slid onto him, linking their legs and using his arms to keep weight off Shaun's chest. They hadn't kissed yet, but this intimate proximity seemed normal from all the nights of terror. "Okay, I'll give you everything you what," he whispered, about to lower his lips for their first kiss.

A hand stopped him. Shaun's hand covered Tristen's mouth, while he shook his head. "No, give me everything you want."

He slid the hand from his lips, crossing the short distance to gently press pink kisses. The kisses grew deeper and Shaun's hand brushed down his chest to tuck his fingers in the back of Tristen's pants He held him still while arching his hips up with a delicious groan that was cut off when Tristen shifted. He yelped and his lover jumped back to supporting his full weight on his hands, inadvertently pushing into his hips. "Sorry."

"No, you're right, I'm too sore." He moaned as Tristen shifted against, and then off, him. "You make it especially hard to do what's best for my recuperation, you know."

Tristen settled beside him, trapping Shaun's good arm under his head. "Will you let my medicine heal you?" He kissed his shoulder, flat hand slowly moving down Shaun's chest, tugging on the strings that tied his pants.

"Yes," he whispered, closing his eyes as the hand pushed passed the barriers. A whimper escaped as long slender fingers wrapped around his erection. He tried to be as still as possible, but it was hard when Tristen was touching him and every time he twitched a little too hard a shoot of pain would run through his back and Tristen would kiss his shoulder. He came too easily and he flushed, watching hotly when his lover slid down to lick his stomach clean.

"Tristen?" he whispered, aware of how husky his voice sounded. God that mouth was beautiful.

"Yes?" he looked up and Shaun pushed the hairs from his eyes.

"I don't care how much my arm hurts." He let his fingers run over the sharp jawbone, pulling him up for a kiss with the lightest of touches. "Will you come in me?"

Tristen shivered, carefully pressing down on the right side of Shaun's chest, "I…" he whimpered when Shaun reached between them, just rubbing his thumb along the bulge. "God, yes, let me get the lube."

He stumbled over to his bed and proceeded to curse.

"What's wrong?"

"I seem to be out of condoms."

"Are you fu—check my coat pocket." He hoped to all that was good that it was still there.

Tristen returned, grinning, the golden wrapper shimmering almost. "Do I want to know?"

"I'll tell you after," Shaun growled, eyes skimming down his long body. He still wasn't moving. "Please?"

He was moving then. Clothes were shed on the way over to his bed and Shaun's pants were discarded just as unceremoniously. Shaun's legs were up as quickly as Tristen was between them, leaning down for kisses while slick fingers readied him, pressing in until he was bucking and squirming, "Please."

Tristen gave him what he asked for, pushing in slowly while Shaun gasped beneath him. His oily fingers skimmed up the muscular chest to swirl around the nipple, the other arm being very conscious to keep his weight off the lover beneath him whose gasps were not completely pleasure. "Are you okay?" he asked, fingers stroking softly as he pushed it in a little farther.

"Yes," his good arm reached up grasping Tristen's shoulder and tightening--his hand, his legs, his ass. Shaun watched, completely turned on by the sight of him moaning, his arm almost giving out. "I've never been better." And then he said it, one last time, "Please."

He started moving, hesitantly, letting Shaun adjust until he was mewing soft pleads of harder, faster, more. They were lost in one another, in their passion and unity, Tristen only aware that he couldn't hurt him, Shaun barely aware of any pain at all.

Tristen came first, burrowing deep and then moving once, twice, thrice at that angle that made Shaun whimper until he spilled on himself again. He pulled Tristen down, ignoring the pain as their lips met and fed hungrily off one another. It was Tristen who pulled away, pulling out and discarding the condom before returning to his side. "Are you okay?"

"I've wanted you since you crawled into bed with me to stop the terrors."

Fingers danced over his stomach and chest, up passed the bandages to hook behind his neck. "I wanted you when you stopped me from jumping and let me walk you home."

"I didn't realize it was a competition," he trailed his fingers over Tristen's arm.

"No, I just…" He glanced up and saw Shaun's grin, the imitated it. "Jerk."

"100%"

"Well, you must be a crappy one, cause what kind of jerk lets me top?"

"What?"

He looked down, stroking his thumb along Shaun's pulse, "I haven't topped since Tony. He said I shouldn't and that I was awful at it and if I ever topped the guy would break up with me. He threatened to if I didn't promise him to always bottom."

Shaun snorted, closing his eyes with a blissful grin, "What an idiot. He doesn't know what he's missing. And now he never will." He shifted and made a face, "Though I'm glad I'm on bed rest, I think I'm going to be a little sore."

"Sorry," Tristen mumbled, but he didn't look especially sorry. Shaun didn't care, he wasn't the least bit sorry either.

"Ah well, I'll have my revenge once I've got both arms back."


After dinner and a movie at Trish's, they threw popcorn at one another until everyone was drunk on laughter, lounging on the floor, gasping for breathes and shouting out whatever came to mind. It was a celebration of Trish's promotion and Shaun's acceptance at university.

"Bugger all, you guys need to leave, I need my beauty sleep."

Shaun stood, laughing, making comment about no amount of sleep helping before dropping his hand down to Tristen with a smile, "Can I walk you home?"


The end.

A/N: Yes, that ended abruptly, but I didn't really want to write out all the in between stuff just to get to the last scene.