Summary: A recovering bulimic in need of a serious change of scenery, Isaac leaves L.A. with his gregarious drug dealing boyfriend Vaughn and arrives in the crumbling city of Pittsburgh. His new apartment may not be much to brag about, but his metalhead landlord Omar is certainly an oddity, his passions including Dungeons and Dragons and breeding tarantulas and snakes for exotic pet lovers online. Despite being terrified of anything lacking any or in possession of too many legs, Isaac feels as if Omar could be the panacea to his crazy, fucked-up life. Soon he'll have to make the choice between the monsters that control his past or the flock of creepy crawlies guiding him toward something better.

Warnings: Eating disorders (bulimia), sexual situations that may or may not be dub-con (and d/s), emotional/mental abuse, some mass amounts of hurt/comfort/angst, drug use. Arachnophobes beware! :D

Chapter One

Isaac had made an appointment to look at an apartment in Point Breeze, and he showed up expecting the landlord to be the usual type, the "usual type" being a minion of a real estate company. Then again, looking at pictures of the apartment online, it would make sense that no real estate company would have much interest in a one bedroom apartment located above what he assumed was some sort of pet store. Like most buildings in Pittsburgh, it spoke of a past glamor that it had never regained. Pittsburgh was catching up, it seemed, but in a city that had once enjoyed the wealth and commerce rivaling New York City and Los Angeles, it would probably never be what it once was when big steel had ruled. Of course, it was much cleaner than it was back then, so at least people could be poor and healthy these days.

Isaac paused getting out of the car, as he was cautious of the man loitering near the front door. Point Breeze wasn't exactly the safest of places, but there were worst locations too. Perhaps Isaac should just go back to Vaughn's place and try again. He coud find cheap rent elsewhere for sure . . .

Unfortunately, the person by the door spotted him just as he considered slipping back into his car. The man waved, forcing Isaac to wave back. Was this . . . was this his landlord? Surely that couldn't be right. He'd had some crazy landlords, most of them back in L.A., but none of them looked like a guy who had just wandered out of a death metal concert.

"You Isaac?" the man asked as he approached. His hair was long and wavy, reaching about mid-back, his goatee grown to match. At least it looked clean, but Isaac couldn't help but eye the studded leather bracelets, the faded black T-shirt, the ripped jeans, the scuffed combat boots, the tattoo sleeves on both arms.

"Um, yes."

The man grinned and held out a large hand. On top of his appearance, he had to be around six-foot-four. "I'm Omar. Nice to meet you."

"Hiiiii," Isaac replied, wincing as the word drew itself out. He hesitated before shaking Omar's hand. "Uh, this place looks . . . interesting."

"It looks a lot nicer inside," Omar replied. "It's been renovated and everything. You said you're from L.A.?"

Isaac nodded.

"Well, it's probably not as nice as anything in L.A.," Omar said with a laugh. "It's still an old building, so it has its own personality. But the kitchen is new and the bathroom's been redone. Me and my buddies fixed it up this spring, just a weekend thing we wanted to do."

Isaac could only nod again.

"Anyway, I'll show it to you."

Isaac followed Omar to the front door. The aparment was on the second floor above the pet store. Isaac finally took the time to read the sign, which said "Mr. Fright's Exotic Pets."

"This place noisy?" Isaac asked, pointing to the sign. It didn't look like a well-frequented shop, as the windows were a little cloudy.

Omar laughed. "No, not really. It's not a store people just come in to browse. Most of my sales are done online."

"Wait, you run this place?"

"Yeah. I live in the other apartment." He gestured with his head toward the door on the other side of the shop entrance. "I'm as close as you need me to be."

"Oh." Isaac wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing, considering this guy was probably in a metal band. Isaac's expression must have been transparent, because Omar laughed.

"I'm quiet, promise," Omar said. "I used to play guitar but got out of it. I just run this shop now. One day I'll show you around."

"Sounds great." Even Isaac didn't believe himself.

"You an animal lover?"

"Uh, I had a dog in L.A. A Chihuhua."

Omar made a face as he dug through the million different keys on his key ring. Isaac frowned.

"What's wrong with Chihuahuas?"

"Nothing, I guess." Omar shrugged as the lock clicked and he pulled the door open. "Anyway, if you ever need me to repair anything, you know where to find me. It's pretty much as convenient as you can get." He gestured toward the staircase. "Up you go."

The staircase was narrow and the carpet looked about as old as the building, so Isaac held tightly to the railing, in fear of falling through. He wasn't so hot about the staircase, but he'd wait to judge until he saw the place.

"At some point I'll be purchasing a new carpet for this stairwell, but it's not at the top of my priority list . . ."

Isaac paused at the top of the steps and then peered around the arch that opened up into what looked like a living room. He was shocked to find a rather elegant fireplace, as well as a wall of mahogany shelves. On the other side were big windows looking out onto a porch, which didn't have much of a view. Twenty feet from the railing was the backside of another house. Isaac was shocked to find that it didn't look too bad. He'd been expecting some run-down crap, because that's what six hundred bucks a month would get you in L.A.

"The kitchen's through there." Omar pointed to a doorway beyond the fireplace. "Then the bathroom, then the bedroom. It's a pretty simple layout."

"Does the fireplace work?"

"You probably shouldn't use it. City codes and all." Omar shrugged. "But it's nice if the power goes out." He gestured toward the kitchen, so Isaac led the way.

"Kitchen's redone, like I said. New counters, new stove. The dishwasher and fridge are kind of old, but they work fine. I wasn't going to replace appliances that worked. The dishwasher's loud though. I can hear it in my apartment when it's on." He chuckled. "You cook?"

Isaac nodded. "Nothing fancy but . . . yeah, I cook."

"Me too. Maybe we'll share recipes." Omar laughed and pulled open the fridge to let Isaac look inside. It was a small fridge, probably a good thing. After showing Isaac all of the nooks and crannies of the kitchen, Isaac was led to the bathroom, which was nothing glamorous but nothing to scoff at either. His only complaint was the size. Luckily the large bedroom made up for it.

"You pay gas and electric, I'll pay everything else. The gas is pretty efficient; it's a small apartment. I guess coming from L.A., you aren't used to winter?"

"Does it get that cold?"

"Sometimes. I mean, I'm originally from Minnesota, so I don't think it's that cold, but I'm sure you'll be bitching when winter rolls around." Omar laughed. "You said you have a Chihuhua?"

"No." Isaac swallowed. "She died before I came here."

Despite his scorn earlier, Omar looked legitimately empathetic. "Geez, I'm sorry. That sucks."

Isaac nodded, afraid he might start tearing up again. "Maybe I'll get another one. You allow pets?"

"I shouldn't. Tenants trash places."

"I'm pretty neat." Understatement of the century.

"I can't help but believe you. I guess you can have a dog if you keep the carpets clean. A cat would be better though. A cat or a rat or something."

Isaac wrinkled his nose. "No rats."

"But rats are awesome! I had one a few years ago, awesome little bugger." Omar then reached over to slap Isaac's arm. "Hey, I can't lecture about pets, can I? I run a pet store. Of sorts."

"You make it sound shady."

"Not shady. Just unusual. You can check it out if you're afraid I deal cocaine out of my basement or something."

Isaac shook his head. "I believe you. I guess you just don't look like the type."

"Oh, I look like the type." Omar stepped forward and opened the closet. "This big enough for you?"

Not really. "I'll manage."

"So why'd you come to Pittsburgh from L.A.? Isn't L.A. the city of angels?"

Isaac snorted. "It's expensive and I couldn't get a job. I heard Pittsburgh has a film industry." Well, and Vaughn. But Isaac didn't want to mention him, especially since he knew how metalheads were about gay men.

Omar perked up. "Yeah. You act?"

"Uh, well, I guess. A little bit. In my spare time. For a while my day job was make-up. I did it for some low budget films, but it doesn't really pay well and work is sporadic. Figured there might be work to be had out here."

"You find anything yet?"

Isaac shook his head. "I've got a few interviews set up though. No worries. I've got the first three months rent already ready for you."

Omar nodded, suprisingly cool with this. "Alright, well, you do what you can."

By the end of the tour, Isaac decided that he had misjudged Omar. Despite his height and appearance, he seemed like a very agreeable guy. Now that Isaac had adjusted to his looks, he could even admit that Omar wasn't too bad looking. Isaac didn't really go for beards or long hair, but he had to admit that Omar had gorgeous eyes. And a nice voice.

Isaac frowned at himself. Vaughn would be pissed if he knew what Isaac was thinking. Then Isaac chided himself for such bizarre paranoia. How the hell would Vaughn ever know anyway? Vaughn couldn't read minds.

"So what do you think? You like it?"

"It looks great. I'll take it."

"Really? You don't need time to think about it?"

Isaac shook his head. "No, it's the best place I've seen so far for the price. And I need a place to stay ASAP, so I can't be picky."

"Awesome! Why don't we hop next door so that I can grab the lease?"

Isaac nodded and they went back downstairs to the sidewalk. The skies were cloudy once again, and Isaac lamented to learn that this was a common occurrence in this city. He suffered a sudden bout of homesickness, but decided that the past was in the past. Vaughn had moved out here and had asked Isaac to come with him. This had been Isaac's decision.

Omar's apartment was a furnished version of Isaac's own, with some alterations. Omar had excused himself for a moment, leaving Isaac to wait in the living room. He yawned, just before he saw something move out of the corner of his eye. He turned and caught a glimpse of what looked like a—

"Oh my God!" Isaac shrieked, nearly falling down the steps as he jumped backward. He scrambled to right himself, then decided to descend down the steps anyway, hiding behind the railing that stood between the living room and the stairwell. Omar came rushing out.

"Hey, what—" He paused and looked down at Isaac crouching on the stairs. "You okay?"

"There is a fucking huge ass snake on your couch," Isaac wheezed, his voice unnaturally high. "Oh my God."

Omar stared at him a second, then started laughing.

"What's so funny?" Isaac snapped.

"It's just Delila. Hang on, let me get her. You can meet her."

"No fucking way," Isaac replied. He usually didn't get fresh with people he barely knew, but this was different. "I hate snakes."

Omar ignored him and crossed the living room to pick up what appeared to be some sort of boa constrictor. Boas were that big, right? Jesus Christ, she was huge. Omar had to pick her up with both hands, and even then she hung down in a loop between his hands until he guided her around his neck and shoulders. Isaac's throat clenched as she slithered around Omar's throat. Did he have any idea that the snake could choke him? Or bite him!

"You just haven't met any snakes," Omar finally replied, stepping closer. "Delila's a sweetheart."

Isaac squealed under his breath as Omar approached, ducking down another step. "I'm serious. I don't like snakes."

Omar stopped, sighed, and shook his head. "Ignorance becomes fear, I guess."

"I'm not ignorant!"

"Have you ever even met a snake?"

"No. I don't need to. They're terrifying."

"Hmm." Omar pressed his lips together a moment, then shrugged. "Well, we'll work on it. Hang on, I need to grab the lease still."

Isaac held a hand to his heart as Omar vanished, trying to regain his breath. Of course Omar would be the type to have a snake for a pet. Suddenly it dawned on him what type of "exotic pets" Omar might be selling online. His skin crawled at the thought of snakes writhing just a floor beneath him. Maybe he'd have to find another place.

Omar returned sans-snake, the lease in his hands. When he saw Isaac still huddled on the stairwell, he leaned over the railing and looked down at him with a smile.

"You gonna be okay?"

"Shut up," Isaac muttered. "I just don't like . . . creepy crawly things."

"Oh, you're from L.A. alright."

"This has nothing to do with where I'm from."

"Yeah, but aren't you Californians prissy and stuff?"

Isaac swiveled around to glare at him. "I am not prissy."

Omar lifted his eyebrows. "You owned a Chihuahua and did make-up on film sets."

"None of that has to do with being prissy." His eyes narrowed. "Look, I'll just say it right now. Yes, I'm gay. There. Is that what you wanted to know?"

"I never said you were prissy because you were gay. Honestly, I don't give a shit about that." He held out the lease. "You still want to live here?"

Isaac stared at the paper, then back up at Omar. Well. He did have nice eyes, even if he was a pit of a prick. And now Isaac knew that if Vaughn showed up, Omar wouldn't be threatening to call any cops.

Isaac reached out and took the lease. "Got a pen?"

Vaughn lived in an old Victorian home in Shadyside, something left to him by his parents before they'd moved to their dream retirement home in Costa Rica. That was why Vaughn moved back to his hometown. Well, and because several people in L.A. wanted him dead.

Vaughn was sitting on the couch watching TV when Isaac got home, one hand resting beneath his belt while the other held a joint. He looked over at Isaac when he heard the door slam.

"Where you been?"
Isaac pulled off his shoes, then wrinkled his nose. "Ugh, why are you smoking that shit in here?"

"My house, my rules." Vaughn lifted the joint to his lips, took a drag, kept his eyes on Isaac. "Where you been?"

"Apartment hunting. I found a place."

Something crossed Vaughn's face, but it was subdued. Luckily he was pretty docile when he was high. "Told you that you can fucking live here, geez. House is big enough."

Isaac bit his tongue. It was Vaughn who told him that he should probably find his own place. Isaac was willing to live with Vaughn, even though Vaughn made it as difficult as possible. The sex was great, but all the crap that they did between sex was what drove him fucking crazy. He wanted to date Vaughn, but he couldn't do that when they lived in the same house. Isaac loved Vaughn far more when he only saw him every other day.

"Well, I think my own place will do me good."

"You need a job."

"I'm working on that."

"I got a job for you."

Isaac frowned. "I told you, I don't want to peddle your drugs anymore. Ever since that guy threatened to skull fuck me—"

Vaughn grunted. "Well, you know how those people work. All talk, no walk."

"I don't want to do that anymore. I never wanted to do it in the first place." Isaac sighed and pushed his hair back. "My landlord seems nice."

"It's a dude?"

Isaac frowned. "Yes, Vaughn. I don't want to fuck every man I meet, FYI."

Vaughn grumbled under his breath before pulling his hand from beneath his belt and grabbing the remote to turn off the TV. "You said he was nice."

"He is. Jesus. Go smoke another one."

Vaughn stood and approached Isaac. For a second Isaac feared Vaughn might turn mean, but instead he just held out his joint. When Isaac attempted to take it, Vaughn pulled it back and waggled a finger. Rolling his eyes, Isaac leaned forward and sucked on the joint held between Vaughn's thumb and forefinger. He let the smoke swirl around his mouth and throat for a good five seconds before slowly exhaling.

"I could really use a good fuck right now," Vaughn muttered.

"Good luck with that." Isaac attempted to move past him, but Vaughn caught his arm and yanked him back. They spent another three seconds glaring at one another before Vaughn grabbed Isaac's jaw and forced a kiss on his mouth. Isaac, full of pride, fought him for a few seconds before inevitably giving in and jumping him. They made out against the foyer wall for a few minutes before Vaughn dropped the used joint into the nearest ashtray and used both hands to cradle Isaac's ass. This was why Isaac was drawn to Vaughn from the beginning—the power, the passion, the hint of danger. It wasn't an easy relationship, but Isaac never underestimated the importance of good sex. They'd met in a gay bar during Isaac's college "slut phase", when Isaac was drunk enough to consider a sloppy kiss foreplay. Isaac blew him in a bathroom stall (such a gay cliché) and then followed him home for night of adult entertainment. To be honest, Isaac wasn't sure if their relationship had graduated beyond that, but he couldn't stop.

"You gonna suck my dick?" Vaughn whispered.


Vaughn chuckled and bit Isaac's lower lip. "Fucking bitch."

"You can blow me though."

"What do I get if I do?"

"My ass, maybe."

"Fine. Fair trade." Then Vaughn decended to his knees right there in the foyer and unzipped Isaac's pants. He used his hand on Isaac's hip to position him against a wall so that when the euphoira hit, Isaac had something to lean on. He wanted to grab a fistful of Vaughn's hair, but he'd gotten a crew cut just a week ago. So Isaac settled for wrapping his hands behind Vaughn's head and controlling the tempo that way. Vaughn didn't seem to mind, probably because he was high.

Vaughn didn't suck Isaac to completion because Isaac was always too sensitive afterward to handle further fucking. Right when Isaac thought he might explode, Vaughn stood, grabbed his arm, and pulled him into the living room.

"Pants down, ass up."

Vaughn kept lube in pretty much every room of the house, and since sex was almost daily, there wasn't much preparation needed. Normally the weed slowed him down, but today he had to be particularly horny, because it took less than a minute for him to gather supplies and undo his pants. Isaac assumed his favorite position over the armrest of the couch, resting his arms on the nighstand. Sometimes it was good to be used, just so he didn't have to think or even participate. He could just experience th joy of Vaughn's dick and relax. He let out a muffled moan as Vaughn hastily slipped inside.

"Jesus," Isaac muttered. The pain was good. It kept him sharp.

Vaughn loved to talk dirty, even if Isaac's replies were half-hearted. He liked hearing it but didn't so much like participating. Vaughn could pull it off; it felt fake in Isaac's mouth. So he just let Vaughn swear and taunt, let him smack his ass and pull his hair. It felt good, it felt wonderful. All the stress mounted on him slipped away with each thrust of Vaughn's hips.

Afterward, Vaughn fell asleep and Isaac went to the fridge. Luckily after sex, his temptation to binge was low. So he just grabbed the milk and drank straight from the carton. He spotted the usual shopping bag in which Vaughn kept his crack. Vaughn used to use it before he met Isaac; now he just sold it. Isaac hated it when Vaughn sent him on errands for that stuff. Crackheads were bullshit crazy. His life had been threatened by at least three of them.

Isaac's moved to the fridge and deposited the milk on the bottom shelf. Before closing the door, he paused and eyed the container of Mountain Dew cans inside. It was really the only thing Vaughn kept stocked, since he was trying to replace his alcohol addiction with caffeine. If Isaac touched them, Vaughn would be pissed.

Isaac slammed the fridge door shut and leaned his forehead against the freezer compartment. Pittsburgh was his fresh start. No more drug peddling, no more binging. He was going to be a motherfucking adult for once in his life. He had to prove his mother that he could survive on his own.

Isaac took a deep breath and left the kitchen, deciding to follow Vaughn's example and take a nap. Job applications could always wait.

A/N: For the first time, based in a city I know. Aha. Also, if people who read this could please leave a comment saying they're reading it, since I don't want to keep this up if no one is reading it.