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Dramatis Personae

Ryan, Steve


"Maybe you could give me some tips, then."


<PRV> Black House - Ridgewood

This stately townhouse has a cheerful yellow brick exterior, its front entrance spectacularly inaccessible but affording residents a commanding view of the quiet street below. Inside it's bright and airy and almost entirely empty of furniture. It has the pristine, sterile look that comes with professional renovation, but here and there the obvious custom touches -- whether from the previous residents or at the new owner's request -- shine through.

The first floor is expansive, with a longish open floor plan that's quickly falling out of fashion. One entire wall of the living room consists of tessellated geometric mirrors, reflecting the truly massive and functional fireplace and even larger mosaic stone hearth. Beyond this the dining room and kitchen are conjoined; the space left for the as yet absent dining table looks vast and strange. A small half bath is tucked at the rear of this space, beside which the back door leads down into a small backyard with a patio sheltered by a quaint little pavilion and a strip of a garden along one side.

The staircase winding through the heart of the house is lit by a generous skylight, and runs parallel the main hallway of the second floor, which joins two comfortably sized bedrooms room, with an expansive and luxurious full bath in between and not one but two hallway closets. On the top floor is a massive bedroom with as much glass as wall and its own full, if smallish, bathroom. French doors one one side of this attic room lead out onto a roof deck, whose stairs lead own into the backyard far below.

It's a lovely summer's evening, the showers that sprinkled throughout the day easing up as night fell to leave the city air fresh and clean. The french doors of the big attic room are thrown open to welcome in the cool, damp air and the last beams of daylight fading into splendid colors in the west as the skies clear. Steve has stripped down to a white A-shirt and black jeans as he finishes hammering a support bracket to keep a wooden rod -- four feet long, as big around as his forearm -- secured perpendicular to the wall at around waist height. He settles his bandaged right hand on the rod and shakes, causing it and the stud that supports it to groan in protest. "That about secure enough?" Even as he asks, he's stepping back to admire his handiwork.

Ryan is in just a black kilt, pink and purple and blue paneling visible between its pleats, and a ribbed black undershirt. He leans up against the post after Steve shakes it, resting his weight on it and then pulling himself up. Settling down on the bar, legs swinging below it. "He's a lot lighter. We're probably good." His eyes sweep the room in some satisfaction. "Well. If I were a bird, I'd be just about set to move."

Steve returns the hammer to a battered red steel toolbox sitting on one of the platforms they'd installed earlier on the other side of the room -- beneath the scattering of custom stickers the rainbow stenciled 'Chimaera Art Space!' can still be read. "I was sort of under the impression you might like at least a few pieces of actual furniture first. I can help with moving those, too, if you like." He frowns suddenly, thumbing the closed latch of the toolbox. "What is your timeline, anyway? You're about to get a lot busier."

"Psh. Bring in some blankets, what more do I need." Ryan rocks idly forward and back on the long pole, fingers wrapping tight around it. "Oh, maybe a hammock. The patio would be nicer with a hammock." His jaw tightens at the question, mouth pulling into a slow grimace as he tips fully upside down, hands splaying down against the floor. "Eugh. Yeah, it's going to be a clusterfuck. I mean, I have some breathing room between now and release but --" He shakes his head. "Enough time to get this place furnished, figure out what security will look like, settle in comfortably before shit gets nonsense in the fall. Which -- I say like that's the future and not, uh, a month and change from now."

"A month and a half from now is still the future." Steve smiles, leaning back against the wall and crossing his arms over his chest. "And I'm sure we can at least arrange for some blankets and a hammock between now and then." He tilts his head to one side, studying Ryan. "Is there -- any other way I can help? I know Luci and Alma have your security handled, I'm not trying to horn in on that, just..." His muscular shoulders hitch up slightly, not casually enough to disguise the tension beneath the shrug. "I have a bit more free time than you do, and I'm happy to be of use."

"Feel like Luci's got kind of my entire life handled, sometimes." Ryan unhooks his legs from the wooden rod; the gracefulness of his neat arching backbend is somewhat compromised by the kilt flopping down over his face. "Not that I'm complaining, I mean, he handles it way better than I do, but --" He thwumps to the floor after, not actually bothering to rearrange his clothes. His words are just a little muffled under the stiff fabric. "Your schedule could be busier, if you want. I mean, there's gonna be like three thousand different events I gotta go be seen at, probably I should do right by you and bring you to at least a few."

Steve doesn't seem too worried about Ryan's amateur acrobatics. "-- but?" He lowers himself to the floor on one knee, somewhat more gracefully. Reaches out to twitch the flap of Ryan's kilt from his face. "I ah...had been meaning to talk to you about that, actually. Not -- going to events, but..." He grimaces, scrubbing at his cheek -- flushing faintly red -- with the back of his gauze-covered hand. "I mean that maybe it's a good time for us to think about separating."

Ryan's brows quirk up as Steve looks down at him. Then hitch higher. For a moment he's silent, fingers pressing down harder against the dust-sprinkled floor. It takes a few beats before a crooked smile curls across his face. "Holy shit. Are you breaking up with me?"

Steve's blush only deepens. "Yes. I...don't think it's very fair to you, and besides, I'm bound to slip up in a way that will embarrass us both, sooner or later." He looks down. Chews on his lower lip for a moment. "I'm sorry if I'm -- I've ah, never done it before."

"Huh." The vague tremor that passes through the floor is faint enough and brief enough it could be easy to miss. Ryan lifts one hand, rubs it slowly against his cheek. "Never actually saw myself being on this end of a -- dumping." He smooths his hand down over his kilt, pressing the fabric slightly more into something like modesty. "You're doing fine, I think. Probably? I don't really know how to measure that. Not really a lot to compare it to."

"'Dumping' makes it sound --" Steve's lips press together thinly. "I hope you know you are one of my dearest friends, and I've had -- a lot of fun, doing this with you." He swallows hard. Blinks. Blushes harder. "Oh, gosh. Maybe you could give me some tips, then. Even if it's only your own experience of this other end -- I do value your wisdom."

"What," Ryan answers on the quiet edge of a laugh, rolling himself smoothly up onto one elbow, "from the wealth of experience I have in how to end factitious relationships? We should probably ask Luc -- what am I saying, knowing him I bet he's already got the press release waiting."

"I know this was play-acting, but -- I still want to be respectful about it. Figured you at least have a wealth of experience with the actual relationships." He chuckles suddenly. "His factitious breakups are professionally produced." Brows wrinkling. "I suppose ours will be, too -- you're right, he has outlines for an amicable separation as well as a more ah...unpleasant one."

Ryan's smile fades, a faint touch of pink creeping into his cheeks. "Uh --" Now he pushes up the rest of the way, moving to lean back against the wall that Steve had vacated. His leg stretches out in front of him, one elbow resting across his knee. "Never really been the dumper either, no."

Steve tilts his head slightly, perhaps sensing in Ryan's hesitation or body language. Averts his eyes slightly and settles down onto his trailing foot, a more relaxed posture. When Ryan finally replies, his eyes snap back up, wide. "Oh!" He blushes even deeper. "I'm sorry, I -- don't know why I ever believe anything the media says about you." He picks at the edge of the gauze wrapped around his hand, working a single thread loose. "Feels kind of like I've -- led you astray somehow. Not quite the blind leading the blind, but it sure isn't far from it."

Ryan's head tips back against the wall, his eyes fixing up on the ceiling. "It's not all lies," he protests lightly, "I am actually a mutant, you know." His fingers squeeze down against one shin. "Astray? Why? I mean --" Now he looks back at Steve, crooked smile returning. "It was fun, right?"

"I've heard rumors to that effect," Steve allows, solemnly. "It's not just that the news implies you've gone with a lot of folks, you also just seemed so suave and confident, like --" He runs his left hand through his hair. Sucks in a deep breath. "-- like my first --" Breaks off again. Shakes his head, short and quick. "I guess I just felt like I've made light of something that...maybe should have been more than. This." He reaches out and covers Ryan's hand with his own, rough and warm. "But, yeah. It was a lot of fun."