once again, the sex gets graphic.


The Walker house is slightly less shabby in its blue-collar gentility, and there aren't any spare kids running around – Ryan's heard his ma sniff about birth control and Church teaching often enough to know she doesn't really approve of Colin's parents – but the real reason they come to Colin's after school is because Ryan's dad is on graveyard shift up at the EOCI this week, and he'll still be home and might be asleep.

He also might not be asleep.

They sprawl on Colin's rumpled bed in the bloody light of an early-winter afternoon – Ryan tired of homework first but Colin didn't last much longer, talk of homecoming football scores and bonfires and dancing tempting him from his books. Jessica Ferguson's got a friend, Kelly, who apparently thinks Ryan is hot, and Colin might be able to hook him up. Ryan couldn't care less about that, and he's pretty sure Colin knows it by now.

He turns his head from blank contemplation of the books on Colin's nightstand – On The Road stacked atop a well-thumbed version of To Kill a Mockingbird, which they had to read back in ninth grade, and Ryan's already lost his own copy – to watch Colin playing with his basketball as they lie there. He's tossing it up and catching it with his fingertips, and Ryan's pretty sure he's going to drop it on his own face soon anyway, so he reaches over and bats at it. It goes careening off into a corner of the room, and Colin grabs for him with a sharp bark of laughter and a challenging grin, and they wrestle.

"Oh yeah?" Ryan finally says mockingly, collapsing on top of Colin, pinning him, and Colin makes a pained sound.

"You should be on the wrestling team, not the track team," Colin says, and Ryan smirks until Colin shoves at his shoulder and then starts poking and finally surrenders all dignity and tickles until Ryan squirms.

"Stop that," he says, and they go over in a breathless tangle of scrambling limbs, reminding Ryan of nothing so much as being eleven years old and touch football and the scrubby grass in the park staining his elbows and getting in his hair.

They end up facing each other on the pillow, Colin fetched up against the wall. Ryan's room at home is papered with posters of Rocky Balboa, Page and Plant onstage with Robert's threadbare jeans slung low and clinging like a second skin, but here they're under the eye of a tattered John Lennon, of Farrah and of Logan 5. Logan is kind of creeping Ryan out from over Colin's shoulder, so he studies Colin's face instead. He suddenly doesn't feel eleven years old at all as Colin hesitantly slides a hand up his side, under his t-shirt. The touch against bare skin clenches Ryan's breath in his throat like a fist.

This doesn't happen all the time, but there's always the chance that it might.

"You okay?" Colin asks, his eyes searching Ryan's face, and Ryan knows he means more than the playful scuffle.

Ryan rolls over on top of him and settles between his thighs again. They've already kicked their geometry books off the end of the bed, and Colin's chemistry text gives a sold thunk hitting the floor as the bed shifts again under Ryan's knees. Rod Stewart's on the radio, telling him that tonight's the night, that everything's gonna be all right, and Ryan almost laughs…or maybe he almost cries. He's not sure.

Colin tastes of Pringles and Dr. Pepper and something bittersweet, like hope just out of Ryan's reach. He's long and gangly under Ryan, although sometimes Ryan thinks he can see the loping grace lying in wait in the muscles beneath Colin's skin, the lean sensuality under the awkwardness as Colin draws up one of his knees, bracing it against Ryan's left hip, caging him between the wall and Colin's denim-clad thigh. But it doesn't really matter that Colin still doesn't have the coordination to lay-up a basketball more than six times out of ten without tripping over his feet, because Colin's smart, the kind of brilliance that lights up in flashes like the heat lightning Ryan can see when they're out past the EOCI, further south, on down at Crow Creek on muggy summer nights. Colin's the kind of smart they give you scholarships for. He's going to leave Pendleton, and it probably won't be long from now, either, so Ryan's trying to burn the memory of the sharp angles of Colin's hipbones into his fingertips and the sound of Colin's contented hums into his brain so he'll still have something left when Colin's gone.

Colin's moving under him now, sharp little jerks of his hips against Ryan, and Ryan shoves Colin's t-shirt further up, pulling away from his mouth and sliding down to breathe in Colin's musky smell mixed with the scent of Brut still lingering in the hollows of his body. He can see shivers chase across Colin's skin, and he rests his forehead against Colin's stomach, waits until he feels long fingers comb through his hair. Committed to action now, the hands touching him hold no hesitation.

I want to suck you. Ryan doesn't say it out loud. He doesn't ask permission – they don't talk about this. They just do it, a handful of times, usually in Colin's room, one time in Ryan's, quick and furtive, almost as dangerous – with all the people who come tromping through the O'Connor house – as the time they'd done it in Colin's rattletrap Nova, fumbling through layers of clothes, Colin's fingers chilly and shockingly intimate against the warm skin of Ryan's lower belly as he slipped his hand inside Ryan's pants, Ryan blind and gasping with his head back on Colin's shoulder, feeling Colin's curious gaze on his face almost tangibly, like the press of fingertips, but too gone to care what he might be exposing.

He can feel himself turn red with embarrassment sometimes, when he's alone and he thinks about some of the things he's done. While it's happening, he'd crawl, or beg, he feels…wanton, is the word he's looking for, maybe, even though it feels too much like a word in one of those romance novels his ma sneaks into the house and tries to hide so no one will know she reads such things. But Ryan wonders if there's anything he wouldn't do, and it scares him when he thinks about it later.

He never feels that at the time.

He feels breathless and out of control but also powerful and…and hungry. The hiss of Colin's indrawn breath echoes the sound of his zipper as Ryan pulls it down. He slides lower to breathe on Colin's cock through his underwear.

Colin's already hard, and there's a damp spot where he's leaking precome, and his hips jerk again, almost in time with Ryan's panting breaths. He makes a strangled sound as Ryan pulls down his briefs and touches him. The head of his cock is red and glistening, and the skin of the shaft is tender under Ryan's fingers, and Ryan can't resist, he just can't. He ducks his head and sucks in the tip, playing with it with his tongue. His scalp stings as Colin's fingers clench in his hair, pulling strands tight.

"Ow," Ryan says, pulling off, and Colin's a little frantic, a little glazed. Ryan can almost hear him thinking – Oh my God, get back here! – but politeness holds and "Sorry, I'm sorry," is what comes out of his mouth, even if it is a little breathless. He runs his fingers along Ryan's jaw, pats his cheek, and Ryan's struck by a wild desire to turn his face into Colin's hand, to nuzzle the curve of his fingers and lay a kiss in his palm.

They don't talk about this, and it's separate from what goes on out there, outside the bedroom door, and Ryan is just beginning to resign himself to the knowledge that an awful lot of the rest of his life will be lived in stolen moments behind closed doors. Colin will walk out of the room and go back to the girls, but Ryan won't be able to.

He takes Colin's hand and presses it into the bed, running a finger under Colin's metal watchband, and he has a sudden terrible thought of tying Colin up, locking him down, finding the spare set of his dad's handcuffs in his parents' bedroom and clicking them shut around Colin's wrists. He settles for pressing his thumb into the hollow of Colin's wrist, hard, feeling the tendons shift as Colin arches and hisses again, a pained, avid sound.

Ryan hooks his other arm under Colin's knee, getting a shoulder under Colin's thigh and snaking up a hand to hook Colin's leg over his back, and he clenches his fingers into heavy denim as he nuzzles into the open fly in front of him, letting the scent fill his head. He's got Colin spread out, laid open, and even though all he has left to use is his mouth, he's getting better at that. He may not be Jessica Ferguson, but he can still make Colin squirm.

The cock feels thick in his mouth, heavy on his tongue, and his lips stretch taut as he works his way down. Colin's saying things like "God, yeah," and "there" and "Ryan," a litany of low broken sounds that fall apart even as they pass his lips. Ryan's hard inside his own jeans, twisting against the painful press of his zipper, feeling the seam of his pants against his aching balls. He thinks he might come just from listening to Colin, just from tasting him, from feeling Colin sticky against his lips, but it doesn't take long for his jaw to start aching, and he's afraid now of hurting Colin. He lets go of Colin's wrist and finishes him by hand, jerking him expertly and watching his hips corkscrew frantically.

Ryan looks up through his eyelashes to watch Colin's face as Colin comes over Ryan's fingers and his own stomach, and he raises his hand to his mouth to taste, salt and faintly bleachy, before dragging the back of his wrist across his lips to wipe his mouth. He feels a tug on a lock of his hair and looks up again to find Colin watching him, eyes half-closed, lips red where he's been worrying them with his own teeth.

"What?" Ryan asks.

"C'mere," Colin says.

Colin will do stupid things if it means helping someone. He always wants to fix everybody, even though he doesn't always know how. Ryan knows this. He also cares just enough and just little enough to let Colin do what he's going to do, to grab this while he still has the chance. He remembers his dad's story about the black Irish, the Spanish armada washing up on the shores of Ireland and learning to survive in a foreign land, taking up a foreign tongue. Survival is in Ryan's blood, and he'll grab this lifeline and hold on for as long as it will tow him, even if it doesn't take him all the way to shore.

Ryan's finally started to fill out – it seems like his shirts are always just a little too tight across the shoulders – but he's afraid it's going to be too little and too late to be the kind of football player he'd need to be, and he still doesn't have quite the burst of speed he needs to propel him over the finish line first, and he's beginning to believe he's going to be here, in Pendleton, forever. He's not dumb, he knows he's not – he's smarter than Colin in some ways, because Colin's got no common sense. Ryan's ma always says Colin would go out in the rain without a hat, and he would, if Ryan didn't look out for him. But Ryan's not the kind of smart you need to be to get money for college. Colin talks about community college and getting jobs and renting a place together, but Ryan can see his future, and a lot of it is right here, in this town where his parents and his parents' parents live, where they've earned a living from the immovable stone structure of the mental hospital turned prison and from the endless stretch of timberlands before that, sugar maple and black cherry and red oak that put down the same kind of roots as Ryan's family.

They're an awkward fumbling tangle of elbows and knees in all the wrong places until Ryan gets himself sorted out, and then he presses his face into the curve of Colin's neck and gives himself up to Colin's hand, coming quickly and quietly, making stifled little sounds into the heat of Colin's thin chest and the soft cotton of his t-shirt that's maybe a little damp with Ryan's tears. He's too used to having too many people and not enough privacy around him during stolen moments, and he's unwilling or unable to cry out even though they're alone in the house.

It's always fast, and Ryan wonders sometimes what it would be like to be able to curl up and fall asleep afterward, Colin's lanky form wrapped around him and pressed against his back. But he can't stay – Colin's mother would invite him to eat here when she gets in from work, he knows, but he needs to get home. Ma will be getting dinner ready soon, and she'll need help with the youngest boys. As soon as he thinks he can bear it, he'll sit up and put himself together, take the tissue Colin hands him, arrange himself inside his jeans.

But for now, he can steal just a minute longer to lie here, feeling Colin's breath against his cheek, looking out of Colin's window at the skeletal fingers of the bare trees in the back yard, stark against the sky. He thinks he has to.


a/n: guess i just wasn't able to let go of these guys. and seeing how colin narrated the last piece, it only seemed fair to let ryan have a say in this one.