um, just to let you know – the sex gets pretty graphic.


Colin's in his office, staring sightless at the tux still hanging on the wall, lost in the burr of stiff slick fabric against mindless fingertips as he runs the tie through his hands over and over, his thoughts tangling and ticking around each other, when Ryan sticks his head in through the open doorway.

"You're really not coming?" Ryan says, and he sounds resigned and just a little bit surprised.

"What, did you think I was just going to follow you over there on a string?" Colin says, looking up at him, coiling the thin strip of tie over the knuckle of one thumb, around the hollow of another wrist by touch, and he has the most absurd flash of childhood memory: Matthew, the youngest O'Connor boy, and a little wooden dog he used to pull around behind him as he trailed his big brother, the wooden legs bobbing as the toy's wheels turned.

He's not sure why Ryan sounds surprised, anyway – Colin said, he told Ryan he wasn't going to this dinner, couldn't waste time at a pointless awards ceremony, no matter what recognition their boss was supposed to be getting.

"You know, it probably wouldn't hurt you to follow my lead once in a while," Ryan says, pulling Colin's attention again as he leans against the doorjamb, crossing his arms over his chest, and Colin thinks distractedly that Ryan should dress up more often, that the tux is a good look on him, cummerbund nipping in his waist and hiding the soft little belly they're both developing – Ryan maybe more than Colin, even though Colin is behind a desk more.

He hunches over further in his chair at the thought and studies Ryan for a moment, taking in the line of his black jacket, the way it broadens his shoulders – even if he is ruining that line, hands practically shoved up under his armpits like that, and creasing the shirt, too, if he's not careful. Colin remembers a wine-dark burgundy version and velvet lapels and a really fucking wide bowtie, along with Ryan's betrayed look as Colin stood open-mouthed on the O'Connor front porch, picking him up for their double-date to the junior prom, before they set off to collect Jessica Ferguson and Kelly…God, what had her name even been, the gangly blonde who sat behind Ryan in study hall and got him through Macbeth and Othello with a passing grade and probably had three kids and a job at Pendleton Elementary and a husband walking a beat up at the EOCI, by now?

Ryan had more hair then, Colin remembers – and Colin did, too – but what he really remembers about that night is that it was the first time he'd thought Ryan looked like a grown-up. He'd already known Ryan was kind of a grown-up, in some part of his head, had watched him make Sloppy Joes for Matty and Ted and Annie on the nights when Mr. O'Connor was on swing shift up at the EOCI and Mrs. O'Connor was working late down at the office of the lumberyard, had watched the way Ryan held Matty on a skinny sixteen-year-old hip and wiped his nose with the cuff of his sleeve, had seen the way he leaned over Annie's homework at the dining room table, guiding her through the first steps of fourth-grade long division. But Colin always felt like all that only emphasized how young Ryan was, too young to be taking on whatever responsibility he was shouldering.

No, that night of junior prom, the night of the otherwise outrageous tux and glitter and balloons and too many beers in a hotel room rented on someone else's dad's credit card – that was the night Colin stood on a doorstep and looked at Ryan and paradoxically saw the man lying just under his skin, the man he'd become, the man he would become, as Ryan gestured at his monkey suit and made a face at Colin like a kid being forced into his Sunday best. He saw a man with broad shoulders and capable hands who would wrap his jacket solicitously around Kelly Whatsername in the chilly spring darkness as they left the prom for the hotel where the afterparty already was gearing up, a man who would meet Colin's eyes as Colin surfaced briefly from a make-out session in the hotel suite, who would hold Colin with a hot gaze over Jessica's shoulder as her fingers slid along the zipper of Colin's rented pants, until the door of the bathroom slammed shut, cocooning Colin and Jessica in what little porcelain-tiled privacy could be had at an after-prom kegger.

There were later moments, moments when Colin watched Ryan on the basketball court, sure hands cradling the ball for a shot, watched him take the grocery bags out of his mother's hands, face firming against her protests, watched him in the boxing ring during afternoon practices and weekend matches, muscles shifting under bare skin in his shoulders and back – but that night was the first time, Colin thinks, before he shakes himself out of it. He realizes he's looking at Ryan now like he'd look at a woman, with the same kind of appreciation and interest and speculation, banked hunger tingling in his cheeks and his thighs and the palms of his hands, and he tightens his fingers around the tie still threaded through them, scratchy against the suddenly sensitized skin over his lifeline, his heart line, palms moist with the memory of tongue and teeth and hot flesh against them.

Ryan cocks his head and one hip, smile twitching at the corner of his mouth like he knows what Colin is thinking – of course he knows what Colin is thinking – and Colin looks back, raising an eyebrow as he shifts to sprawl in his chair, pushing far enough from the desk to stretch his legs out under it, because two can play at that game.

"C'mon, Colin," Ryan says, the familiar drawn-out drawl of their childhood threading through his words, inflected with a darker, more adult edge now. "What's the problem? Why won't you come party with me?"

And Colin knows, he knows there's no way he's going to outwait Ryan, he knows that by now. No one would ever believe it, the way Ryan gives in to him on a daily basis, on everything from the restaurant where they'll eat dinner to what movie they'll watch, from which bills to pay first to how to best treat the flu – the way Ryan gives in enough to make Colin feel guilty sometimes, although never at the frustrating moment Colin is actually pushing for what he wants. Ryan'll make him fight for it every time, it seems like – the guy's a goddamn rock when he wants to be.

He looks at Ryan now, leaning in the doorway, and he knows: Ryan doesn't feel strongly enough to not give Colin his way most of the time, but that doesn't mean he can't outwait Colin if he wants to, like bedrock, like the ground under Colin's feet. For all Colin knows or can guess, Ryan waited since they were seventeen for what he wanted, so Colin is pretty sure the guy will stand there and wait for another twenty, thirty minutes.

And so Colin gives, again, the way no one would ever believe he does, the way he only ever does for Ryan – the way he has to be broken down to, with anyone else.

"Come in here," he says. "And shut the door."

He pretends he's not avoiding Ryan's gaze as the story spills out, his discovery of Lizzie and Elliott in Elliott's office that afternoon.

"What you get for not knockin'," Ryan says when Colin finishes, and Colin finally looks over at him again, where he's seated himself on the couch across the room, hands on his knees, carefully upright like a kid trying not to crease his good pants, but he's got his head tilted to the side like he's studying Colin, and he's smirking.

Colin rubs both thumbs across the tips of his fingers, remembering the clean damp skin of Ryan's flanks just out of the shower under his own hands, and he clenches his fists, narrowing his eyes at Ryan.

"Really?" he says, leaning forward to rest his elbows on the desk top, tie crumpled in one palm. Its tail trails through a pile of mauled paper clips and scatters a handful onto the floor with tiny tinkling sounds. "I should learn how to knock? That's all you've got for the guy who just caught his ex-wife in his boss's lap? She was in his lap, Ryan. In his office."

"Look at it this way," Ryan says, philosophically, palms up and shrugging. "At least she was already your ex."

"Thanks for the sympathy," Colin says, leaning back again, smoothing the tie through his fingers.

"No problem," Ryan says. "To tell you the truth, I'm just surprised Lewis unmelted enough for whatever it was to happen."

It's always like that, Colin's noticed, she's always Lewis, or Elizabeth, drawn out – El-ee-zah-beth, almost – so proper Colin could think it's mocking, although he knows Ryan well enough to realize it's Colin being mocked. But it's never just "Lizzie," not from Ryan, and he wonders if Ryan would be so formal if he'd known her as more than the liaison to Elliott's office, more than Colin's ex, if he'd known her for the almost three years she and Colin were married, the two years before that, all the time she'd tucked her hand inside Colin's jacket pocket on their shared morning subway commute, grown basil and oregano and rosemary in boxes on the north-facing kitchen windowsill of their apartment, face smudged where she'd scratched her nose as she poked around in the dirt. He wonders if it would be different if Ryan had been there the time she'd faced off Mike Adler in a rage, squaring off against six feet and two hundred and fifty pounds of asshole the time Adler broke the restraining order his ex-wife had taken against him, pounding on the poor woman's door, two doors down from Colin and Lizzie's apartment, drunk at three a.m. He wonders if it would change anything if Ryan had seen her all those times she'd lie around in bed with Colin on Sunday mornings, reading the arts section of the paper and letting him feed her his special doctored-up scrambled eggs.

Well, maybe not.

"You jealous?" Ryan asks, getting up from his perch on the edge of the sofa cushion, moving to peer through the blinds, and Colin thinks he's avoiding eye contact as much as Colin did during his own confession.

Colin shifts in his chair, taking a mental poke at his emotions, trying to figure them out, reduced to an impatient sound that makes Ryan grin at his struggle for words. What is he feeling? Not jealousy, exactly, but…what the hell, anyway?

"What do you think they talk about?" he says suddenly, out loud, before he can stop himself, and Ryan makes his own impatient sound, kind of a snort, and turns away from the blinds he's just pulled closed.

"Not you," he says.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Colin says, because it's not like he can just come out and admit that's exactly what he wants to know. He's got to save some kind of face.

Ryan just gives him that disbelieving look, the "why are you bothering to feed me this bullshit" look, the same one he's been pulling on Colin since they were eleven years old.

"Okay, fine," Colin says, under the weight of that look. "What do you think they say about me?"

"The same thing I say about you," Ryan says. "That you're a pain in the ass."

"Thanks a lot." Colin knows he sounds aggrieved at what should be a joke, at what should lighten the mood, at something that should earn some ribald response about Ryan's ass, but he can't help it. He's off-balance and out of sorts and he's just looking for some goddamn sympathy here, and is that so hard?

"Maybe it's not all about you, Colin," Ryan says, moving to perch himself against the desktop beside him, and if Colin really wanted to be a dick, he could laugh at that, because that's rich, coming from Ryan.

Colin's not trying to be a dick, though – at least, he's not trying very hard.

"What?" he says, instead. "You think they're happy together? You think this is a good idea?"

"You think too much," Ryan tells him, shaking his head. "Maybe we could all use a little romance around here."

"There's something in the air?"

"Maybe," Ryan says, and he's leaning in now, one hand on the arm of Colin's chair, and he smells like cheap soap and musky cologne with a hint of starch and whiskey.

"Well, it sure ain't love," Colin says, and okay. Maybe he's trying a little bit to be a dick.

Colin's not sure why Ryan puts up with him, sometimes – he's self-aware enough to admit that. He remembers that impassive look on Ryan's face, twelve years old and sitting at the end of a church pew, both of them in black and something still terrifying about funerals, even funerals for old ladies, for grandmas who'd lived into their seventies. He remembers the way Annie had leaned into Ryan's side, half-asleep and cranky from the mourning that permeated the air of the O'Connor house, and Colin still had been young enough to take Ryan's hand on the other side. He remembers the way Ryan's face had crumpled, just a flicker of emotion, before firming back into stoicism, never turning to meet Colin's gaze even as he tightened clammy fingers hard around Colin's own, and Colin is still thankful, in some small way, the old lady had gone ahead and gone then, in the summer of eighty-one, not four or three or even two years later, when Colin would have been too much of a teenage boy, too self-conscious, too far past whatever instinctive empathy of childhood drove him to take another boy's hand in public.

"It's something Ginny used to say," he says now – Ginny, who he had a ring for, back in the day, back before she went on vacation and married a goddamn gondolier and never came back, and what the fuck is his life, anyway?

"In case you hadn't noticed, I'm not Ginny," Ryan says, and he sounds wry.

"No," Colin says, looking back at him, and he can't help the little smile that pulls at the corner of his mouth. "You're not."

Ryan's not Ginny, although there's some ways he reminds Colin of her – or maybe she reminded Colin of Ryan: the same quiet capability, the levelheadedness and the loyalty, the way both of them would drop off to sleep like shutting out a light – the sleep of the just, maybe, or just of exhaustion. Colin could look over in the darkness and monitor the soft rise and fall of their breath, blocking out the busy thoughts in his head and lulling himself to sleep as he matched his own breaths, long and slow, to theirs.

He laughs suddenly, and Ryan raises an eyebrow before getting up and heading for the door, and Colin wonders if he's being abandoned to his fate for the night, wonders if – and how – he's fucked up this time. Lizzie complained plenty of times about his apparent lack of tact, his habit of blurting out whatever was in his head at inopportune times, and on his better days, he manages to realize when he's just committed some sort of social ineptitude. On his best days, he even manages to care, some. But he can't figure out what was wrong with the last thing he said, this time, and all he does is watch until Ryan turns the lock on the door, shutting the two of them in.

Ah, Colin thinks then.

The thing about Ryan is, Colin's not actually sure a lot of the time what the hell is going on inside his head. Yeah, Ryan's dependable – Colin's always pretty sure he knows what Ryan's going to do, which way Ryan's going to fall. It's one of the reasons he trusts Ryan with his life, when he comes down to it, one of the reasons it sends him reeling when something slides off-kilter, when the ground shifts beneath his feet. But he knows what Ryan's going to do simply because he knows Ryan.

What Colin usually can't figure out is why Ryan does whatever it is he does.

He likes to think he's got a pretty good grasp of psychology, generally, but a lot of the time, he doesn't have the least idea how Ryan makes the decisions he does, how Ryan gets to the places where Colin instinctively understands they'll meet. He supposes the why isn't all that important, really, in most cases. What's important is how often they get to the same place together.

"Get undressed," Ryan says, interrupting his thoughts, and it's Colin's turn to raise an eyebrow, because okay, then. Right. This is where he realized Ryan was going, even if he couldn't figure out how Ryan was getting there, but seriously? In Colin's office?

He keeps his face bland, because that's always been a failing of his, a stupid power play he knows he's pulling even as he does it, guilt mixing with the perverse pleasure in denying someone the reaction Colin's pretty sure they're looking for, but he never can seem to stop himself. It used to drive Lizzie fucking nuts.

"Taking charge?" he asks Ryan, who snorts again.

"Somebody's gotta get you into that monkey suit," Ryan says, and well. That's actually not what Colin was expecting.

So, not making it to the same place this time, then.

Although "get undressed"? What kind of cocktease is Ryan playing at?

Colin studies Ryan leaning back against the door, and he can tell Ryan's not going to take "no" for an answer again, that he's pretty sure this is all bullshit about Lizzie and about Elliott – you either really love your job or you really hate your boss, his voice repeats in Colin's head – and Colin can tell Ryan thinks talking about it has exorcized it or at least mitigated it.

"You gonna help me?" he asks Ryan, though, pretty curious to see how far Ryan will take this, catkill curious, maybe.

"Yeah," Ryan says and takes a step toward him, face determined, hot gaze flickering down Colin's body and back up to meet his eyes. "I'm gonna help you."

Colin abruptly shifts mental gears again because okay then. Maybe his first evaluation wasn't so wrong after all. Ryan's close now, really close, still smelling of starch and warm cologne and the faintest hint of sharp whiskey, close enough Colin can feel heat coming off him in the chilly air of the office. He remembers the first time he noticed Ryan, really noticed him, not the first day of school that year, starting sixth grade and junior high, but two weeks later when some seventh-grader tried to take a Hershey's bar and a bus seat from a couple of elementary school kids on the Westside bus that all the schools used, when Ryan got himself punched in the face standing up for the pair and then kicked off the bus for his chivalrous trouble. That's not fair, Colin remembers telling the bus driver, and he remembers the bored impatience in the driver's voice when she told him to sit down and be quiet or he'd be kicked off next. He remembers the butterflies in his stomach and the heat in his cheeks and the righteous anger flaring in his chest when he'd gotten off at the next stop anyway – not his stop, still twenty minutes from his own stop – and waited for this kid to trudge up to him on the sidewalk, backpack hanging low on his shoulders, head down and eye already coloring up, kicking a rock along. They'd been eleven years old, and you wouldn't know it to look at him now, but Ryan had been the unlikeliest of White Knights, smaller than Colin, then, short and wiry but fast when he'd been jerked out of the quiet watchfulness he'd already developed, even as a kid.

Colin reaches out now and traces a fingertip along the arch of Ryan's brow, under his left eye where the bruise spread that day, and Ryan's face tilts toward his hand. He's still shorter than Colin, but he's broader, more solid now, and Colin remembers the shock of Ryan rolling them over in bed, manhandling him, blanketing him, and the way his own hips pushed up mindlessly, his dick rubbing in the hollow of Ryan's hip, the head skidding sticky against Ryan's skin, pulling a helpless moan out of him. Ryan had joked about it, but Colin thought about Tina, who was a tough bitch, solid, with a lot of muscle under the soft layer padding her hips and tits, about Ginny, who spent her days wrestling around sometimes deadweight bodies. Even Lizzie was a healthy girl, rounded and curved and solid. Colin generally has a type, he thinks, and it's usually the pin-up girls, the playboy models, the ones with some heft and strength and substance to them, no matter what jokes Ryan's made about his indiscriminate pussyhound tendencies.

He takes one more step into Colin and slides both hands up under layers of sweater and t-shirt, up Colin's sides, over his ribs, fingers chilly against Colin's skin, and Colin yelps and stumbles back – because that's cold, damn it – bumping into the edge of his desk and sitting down hard.

"Shut up," he says as Ryan barks out a laugh.

"You're getting a little flustered there, Colin."

Ryan's breath stirs hot against Colin's face as he leans further in, the faintest hint of whiskey lingering, just enough to take the edge off, to make careful, considered Ryan a little bit reckless, maybe, and two can play at that game, Colin thinks again. He shifts against the desk, sprawling wider, settling himself, legs spread to brace himself, head tilted to study Ryan, and lets a smirk play at the corner of his mouth.

"I'm just getting warmed up," he says. "Like your fucking hands."

Ryan laughs again, a sudden spontaneous sound that's broken off as Colin tugs at his tie and it comes loose – a real tie, in a real bow, no shortcut clip-on – and Colin uses it to reel him in.

Slouched on the desk now, Colin has to tilt his head up to kiss Ryan. It's slick and sharp and hard, frustrated and demanding and greedy, Ryan's mouth opening immediately over Colin's, nothing tentative in this kiss. They're past that, past the bumping of noses and clash of teeth, past the hesitant touches and furtive press of lips against a shoulder, the nape of a neck, the intervening week when either and both of them felt their cautious way toward this, afraid they'd be denied. They're even past the careful way Ryan pulled Colin over him in bed, sliding slow and tentative inside him after slicking the way with tongue and fingers and spit and lube, hands cradling Colin's hips as he pushed up into him, Colin's fingers fisted in the sheets at Ryan's shoulders as he leaned forward to bury hot breath and surprised moans in the curve of Ryan's neck.

"Wait," Ryan says – gasps, really, words spilling over Colin's lips – and his fingers clench under Colin's sweater, fisting in the cotton of his t-shirt now. He presses his free hand over Colin's roving fingers, flattening Colin's hand against his stomach.

That was a six-pack, once, Colin remembers, muscles flexing and moving smooth under damp, hot skin in the boxing ring, at weekend practices, and he can feel Ryan take a deep breath under their hands now, and for fuck's sake, some small still-rational part of Colin's brain says, Ryan better not be stopping. He makes a greedy, impatient sound against Ryan's throat.

"Give me your hands," Ryan says, and Colin blinks at him, because what?


"Give me your hands."

Ryan holds out his own hands, palms up, waiting patiently, and Colin knows by now, he knows there's no way he's going to outwait Ryan, and so he does it, holds out his hands, palms down, hovering above Ryan's, not touching but close enough he can feel the presence of Ryan's fingers, some kind of invisible charge still in motion between them. Ryan raises his own hands so their palms meet, and his fingers curl around Colin's wrists, tighten for a brief moment, but he doesn't look up, doesn't meet Colin's eyes now as he turns Colin's hands over and smoothes his thumbs down into the wells of Colin's palms, fingertip pads rough against the sensitized skin, against the memory of tongue and teeth and hot flesh. His fingers are rough but not calloused, not much – they're not the hands of a mill worker or a lumberyard wrangler or even someone like Colin's dad, who had his hands in the dishwater as well as the till at the diner. They're just the hands of a guy, a guy who plays basketball, who pushes a pencil when he's not shaking the hands of corporate businessmen, a guy who doesn't really worry much about lotions and creams and manicures – just a guy, a man – but they're capable hands, strong enough to hold the world, Colin's world, on its foundation, apparently.

He watches Ryan looking down at their hands, watches him studying his own thumb as it smoothes over the life line on Colin's left palm before Ryan lets go and digs around in one of his pants pockets.

"Don't," Ryan says, finally looking up when Colin tries to pull back his hands, and there's something commanding in the tone, hot gaze holding Colin, and then Ryan pulls out a plastic strip, something that looks like a garbage-bag tie. It's only when Ryan runs it through his fingers that Colin realizes it's one of those double-cuff zip strips, and Colin blinks kind of stupidly, kind of stunned, as Ryan loops the plastic around his wrists, and he realizes, distantly, that his breath is pulling shallow in his chest. A curious kind of excitement spirals in his belly as Ryan tightens the strip – not too tight, not tight enough that it digs in or pinches – and it's definitely the catkill kind of curiosity. He wonders what the hell Ryan's doing carrying this around in his tux pocket, whether Ryan's just that much of a Boy Scout or whether he planned this, because Colin knows what's coming, knows they're really getting ready to do this, knows what they're getting ready to do. He's not some dumb teenager any longer, and besides, they've done this before. Well, not this, precisely, not on the desk or on the couch or up against the wall, behind locked doors and closed blinds with their coworkers out-of-sight-out-of-mind like children put to bed before Mom and Dad can fuck in the living room, but Colin's no virgin to this, not in any way, not even with Ryan, and he knows what's getting ready to happen.

Ryan runs a finger under one cuff, between the plastic and Colin's skin, tugging lighly before he drops his hands and steps away, not far, but enough to give Colin some breathing space.

Fucking Ryan and his fucking Gordian knot solutions, Colin thinks wryly.

Hit 'em hard, Ryan's voice says in the back of his head, and it's an echo of Memorial Park, thirteen years old and the sting of a scraped knee under his old jeans, breath misty and white in the damp chilly air, drying mud itchy on one elbow and the other flag football team facing them across brown autumn grass like handfuls of straw. Ryan always did think almost any problem could be solved by barreling straight down the middle, Colin thinks now, and he huffs a laugh, but there's another part of his head that's looking down Ryan's hands, skin pale from Irish ancestry and bad nutrition and a life under florescent lights.

Ryan's left enough space for Colin to roll his hands, even if he can't slip out of the tight plastic easily, and Colin turns up both palms experimentally, studies the tracery of blue latticework lying under the thin skin on the inside of his wrists, bisected hard and sharp and clean now by the black line. The edges of the plastic aren't as keen as they look, but Colin could still manage to do himself some damage if he strained or yanked against them, he's pretty sure.

Something hot and heavy coils low in his stomach, in his groin, at the thought, at the idea of a sharp edge and the dull ache of bruises and the tacky feel of blood under the press of Ryan's fingers, over his wrists, sliding between their skin. He tests the plastic, pulling slow but steady against its grip, testing the boundaries of this, and he feels it scrape over the point of one wristbone.

"Do you trust me?" Ryan asks, and the words pull Colin's focus up, back again.

He's never been that kinky, really. It all seemed vaguely ridiculous, whips and chains and leather, and a lot of work just to get laid. He's mainly been into the vanilla sort of kink, he knows enough to realize it – tying Lizzie's hands together with one of her silk scarves or blindfolding her with his tie, getting accidentally elbowed in the nose and tumbling onto the floor in mood-killing shock as her suddenly worried voice spilled over the edge of the bed or breaking down into shared laughter halfway through, ending up lying sprawled on the bed trying to catch his breath until she kicked him in the shin and threatened him with bodily harm if he didn't help her undo these knots right now. There was that assistant state's attorney who wanted to handcuff him to her bed a couple of times, but not with real handcuffs, not the kind that would chunk down heavy on the table in the O'Connor kitchen when Ryan's dad would pull them off his utility belt at night. No, Rachel's handcuffs were just the kind used for play, and they were only playing when they used them, fake fur lining the inside of the cuffs, cast in some kind of light metal alloy that might as well have been plastic – disposable, a sham, a pale shadow of the real thing.

"Colin?" Ryan says, and it's worked before so Colin steals the same tactic from Ryan's playbook, again – hit 'em hard – tucking two fingers into the front of Ryan's dress shirt and tugging him in, shutting him up with his mouth.

Ryan pushes back, shoving Colin back onto the desk, and there's a fucking stapler or something under Colin's shoulder, digging in. He squirms, which presses him against Ryan, and he can feel Ryan hard against his thigh through layers of dress pants and denim, can feel Ryan's hips roll and press into him, and it's like some kind of electric bolt straight to Colin's own dick. Ryan's shoving Colin's t-shirt up and over his head, and damn it, the goddamn cuffs are in the way, Colin can't shake the shirt off from around his wrists, muffling his movements, tangling in his hands above his head, and he scrabbles for some kind of hold on the desk, some kind of balance, Ryan already kissing and licking and nipping his way down his chest, tongue and teeth at work on Colin's skin while his hands – solid, capable, practiced fingers – tug open Colin's pants.

Should have done this on the couch, Colin thinks wildly, Ryan's hand curves around Colin's dick, thumb rubbing harsh over the sticky head, and Colin's spine snaps into an arch, heels hitting the side of the desk with a solid thunk, play turned against him. He grits his teeth, trying to hold in the noises Ryan's hands are suddenly pulling out of him, and he swears, a long low steady stream of imprecations and curses that has Ryan's lips curving against his skin.

"That's no way to talk, Colin," Ryan says, leaning up over him, leaning in to whisper low in Colin's ear, and Colin arches again, rubbing his bare chest against the starched front of Ryan's shirt as Ryan turns his head, fingers firm against Colin's jaw, and kisses him hot and slick and almost brutal before he pulls away and drops to his knees.

Ryan's still in that damn tux, Colin realizes, and he should be careful, he's going to get those pants dirty, he thinks vaguely, and there's a flash of memory, a hotel suite, glitter and balloons and Ryan's eyes hot on him, holding his gaze as a door closed between them, as Colin's hips rolled, pressing his cock into the palm of Jessica's hand. He wants to sit up, wants to watch Ryan on his knees, remembers the way his dick looks with Ryan's lips stretched around it, but he can't get up, can't get his goddamn arms under him, tangled in his t-shirt and sweater, held fast by Ryan's stupid zip-strip cuffs.

"Fuck," he spits out, and Ryan laughs again, a warm puff of air over the head of Colin's cock, pulling an involuntary writhe out of Colin's hips, and then Colin's sliding into moist heat, feeling Ryan's tongue flatten against the underside of his cock, all the way down in one long gliding motion, and Colin thinks his spine might come out through his dick.

He almost falls sideways over the edge of the desk when Ryan wraps a hand around the base of his cock, and Ryan stands back up to lean over him, putting one hand on Colin's heaving chest, over his racing heart for a moment before he moves to press on the tangled mess of fabric binding Colin's hands above his head. The weight stretches Colin out, holds him down and taut and still.

"I need you to be still, Colin," Ryan says – murmurs, almost – leaning in, lips moving against his cheek, and he presses a quick kiss to Colin's mouth, teeth coming out to drag across Colin's lower lip before he slicks his tongue over the sting. "Can you be still for me?"

"I don't know, Ryan," Colin says, slanting a look over at him, eyes narrowed. "Are you going to fuck me yet?"

"Still got a smart mouth, don't you?" Ryan says, but the words sound contemplative, almost affectionate, and he presses his thumb against Colin's lower lip now, uses it to pull open Colin's mouth and glides the pad along the edge of Colin's teeth before he leans in for another sucking kiss, thumb sliding damp with Colin's own spit down to the corner of his jaw as Colin tilts his head into Ryan's hand.

Ryan manages to get Colin's pants all the way off one leg, still trailing from his left ankle, before he loses patience and kneels at the edge of the desk again. Colin's never seen anything wrong with liking sex, he's a sex-positive kind of guy, and so he's got no problem spreading his legs easy as you please to let Ryan do whatever he wants down there with his tongue and fingers. It's not like it's the first time Scott's had somebody's fingers up there, one girl in grad school couldn't keep her fingers out of his ass while she was blowing him, and he remembers Ryan's tongue from two nights ago, opening Colin up, and his hands pulling Colin's hips back, up and off the bed, keeping him from rubbing his dick against the sheets, and he remembers how wide Ryan felt when he finally slid in, like a fist, like he'd reached inside Colin the only way he could. He barely had to get his hand around Colin's dick before Colin was coming like he was sixteen again, and what other man would Colin trust like that? Of course it was Ryan, it's always been Ryan, who else could it have been?

Ryan pulls his mouth away before he adds a second finger, damp and dragging against delicate flesh, and licks up toward Colin's balls. He's got his free hand curved around Colin's thigh, thumb rubbing soothingly over fuzz and skin as he hums almost absently to himself, a low vibration that shakes something loose inside Colin's chest, and Colin flexes aching fingers inside their cocoon of cotton and wool above his head, desperate.

"For God's sake, Ryan…"

His voice breaks, thready and strained, and maybe that's why Ryan relents. There's a third finger suddenly, and Ryan's mouth, Ryan's throat opening and sliding down his cock. Colin convulses, muscles and tendons strained to breaking, hearing a folder hit the floor, a sheaf of papers fanning out across the office as he comes, turning his face into the tangle of cloth bundled around his hands to muffle the cry trapped behind his teeth.

That's when the sudden knock on the door yanks his heart out of his chest, lifts him straight up off the desk in shock – almost through the ceiling, it feels like – and sends him scrabbling among papers, for equilibrium, sucking in a gasp of air. Ryan makes a tight muffled choking sound and Colin can feel him startle, down on the floor, fingers tightening around Colin's thigh, shoulder bumping his knee.

"Shit," Ryan finally manages to say, low and raspy, and Colin has a flash of morning sunlight filtered through dusty blinds onto damp skin, a sagging towel, teeth marks in Ryan's chest.

"Walker? Are you still in there?" says a female voice through the door, through the blank closed blinds.

"Howell? What the fuck do you want?" He knows he sounds impatient, but he thinks he's got a good reason, here.

"I wanted to know if you've got the paperwork approving my vacation for next month."

Ryan's got his forehead pressed to the inside of Colin's thigh, and when Colin looks down, he sees Ryan's shoulders shaking. It takes Colin a moment to realize he's laughing.

"You need to come back later," he calls, and he cuffs Ryan in the head with his tangled hands, shimmying away on the desk top as Ryan presses a retaliatory bite into the hollow of his hip. "This is not funny," he adds, hissing under his breath and kicking Ryan in the side, earning a pinch low on his hip in response.

"Walker, my grandmother is gonna be pissed if I'm not there for my grandfather's seventhy-fifth birthday," the voice through the door says impatiently, and Colin can see her shadow shift against the blinds.

"Howell, Jesus Christ, I'm getting ready for the dinner. I don't have my pants on in here."

"Walker, that is more than I needed to know." She sounds vaguely horrified and so young it makes Colin feel tired.

"Then get out of here, and leave me alone. Jesus." Colin falls back on the desk, hands draped above his head. "This is not as sexy in the aftermath," he informs the ceiling.

"I don't know what you were talking about, lying to Howell like that." Ryan's voice is still low and hoarse, and a shiver runs over Colin's skin at the thought of how it got that way. "You've got your pants on. Halfway. You've just got your dick hangin' out."

Colin's got his mouth already open to snap out a sharp retort when he rolls his head and looks down at Ryan, who's looking up at him, and Ryan licks slick, swollen lips, bringing up a hand to swipe across the bottom one with the back of his wrist.

Ryan raises an eyebrow at him expectantly, then grins, lips stretching wider as Colin remains speechless. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Colin notes that Ryan rolled up his sleeves, at some point, but most of his higher thought processes are sidelined by the sight of Ryan's mouth, Jesus Christ. Colin's not sure he's ever going to be able to look at it without getting hard, from now on. He struggles to sit up again, wincing against the twinge in his back as he twists, because he's getting too old for this kind of thing, and once he's upright, he rests his hands – both of them, still cuffed together – on Ryan's chest, raising two fingers to run along Ryan's bottom lip. Ryan licks out at them, warm, wet, and Colin slides them all the way in, watching them glide in and out between Ryan's lips the same way he's watched his dick stretch Ryan's mouth. A remnant of lust curls through him, too faint to really act on.

"Get up," he finally says, reaching down and hauling Ryan to his feet, already starting to feel weird about having Ryan down there, head pressed against Colin's knee.

They can't find scissors, of course, and Colin struggles back into his t-shirt and sweater, trying to untangle them from the plastic cuffs, getting wool and cotton untwisted and settled around his neck as Ryan digs through the desk drawers, muttering under his breath about Colin's idiosyncratic filing tendencies. Colin spends a couple of minutes hopping around on one foot before he sits – okay, falls – onto the couch to get his jeans turned right-side out, shimmying them back up around his hips from where they've been trailing, still attached to his ankle.

"Those are the wrong pants," Ryan says, looking up, and he points to the tux still hanging against the wall.

"Was this supposed to be some kind of bribe, O'Connor?" Colin makes a face like they're thirteen again.

"No," Ryan says, getting up from Colin's chair, brandishing the snub-tipped regulation scissors he's finally managed to unearth in the back of the middle drawer, scissors that always remind Colin of kindergarten and the smell of glue and the rough silk feel of construction paper against his fingertips. "The bribe is the way I'm going to let you fuck me, after."

He grabs the plastic between Colin's wrists, hand fisted and pressed to Colin's for a moment before he starts sawing away, face down and intent on his work as the scissors slide cold against Colin's skin. He lays a kiss against each wrist as he cuts them free, pulling Colin's hands to his face, and Colin swears he feels a wet swipe of tongue tracing the blue latticework of veins under the thin skin of his right wrist, and his stomach hollows out, breath catching like he's been punched in the gut.

"What about now?" he asks as he shakes out his freed hands, rubbing a thumb across the tender spot where his yanking pulled the plastic rough over one point of bone. He thinks he'll be keeping his sleeves rolled down for a couple of days, and there's a flush of heat in his chest, his groin, as he remembers the rough red patch on Ryan's chest – beard burn – disappearing under the black uniform shirt as Ryan buttoned it up two mornings ago.

"Ah, there's no time for that," Ryan says, stepping back and tossing the scissors into the mess on Colin's desk.

"What? No, that's not fair," Colin says, and Ryan rolls his eyes in familiar response.

It seems like Colin's been saying that his whole life, about everything from his curfew to weekend homework assignments to migrant workers' rights to the banning of same-sex marriage, and Ryan's been rolling his eyes and backing him up. Life's not fair – that's been Ryan's mantra from the time Colin met him, elven years old and standing on the sidewalk with the school bus disappearing around the corner, curiously adult, parroting his mama Colin would discover, and Ryan's continued to say it, all the time, every time, right before he turns around and tries to set things to Colin's idea of rights nevertheless, letting Colin's passion drag him along.

Lizzie had loved that about Colin too, in the beginning – his passion for justice, his desire to make the world a better place – but she'd eventually gotten tired of it.

"Nobody's keeping score, Colin," Ryan says now, like when Colin tried to get him in bed that first night, the first night since they were seventeen, when Ryan broke off their kisses.

Colin gets that, now. But still he kisses Ryan, shutting him up with his mouth, pushing back, pushing him against the wall of the office, licking inside his mouth, and when Ryan reaches up a hand, fingers against his jaw, Colin tilts his face into the touch even as Ryan opens to Colin's mouth.


a/n: i wanted something dark and intense and depressing, but ended up with a character study. how did that even happen? oh well.