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It Takes What It Takes (When The Lights Go Down)

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"Move your foot two inches forward and lift up the heel just a bit—yes, right there—and tilt your chin up just a bit, we want to make that cocky vibe really clear—yes, that's perfect!" The sound of the camera snapping fills the empty common room, and Connor stands stock-still for as long as he physically can.

"Stop trying to sound uber-professional," he teases, sitting down on the couch. "Just admit that you have no idea what you're doing."

"Don't be jealous of my talent."

"Believe me, I have no reason to be jealous of you." Ryan glares at him over the top of the camera lens.

"Put your arm over the top of the couch—no, the other arm," he says instead of lowering himself to Connor's teases. "Stretch out your legs—yup, like that—wait a sec—" Ryan removes his pair of Top Gun-style sunglasses and tosses them to Connor. "Put these on and don't smile."

"Where does my other arm go?" Connor asks, flopping it around.

"Rest your hand on your lap near your knee." He watches Connor adjust his body and nods. "Now don't move." He does as he's told, so Ryan takes the opportunity to get multiple angles. Connor absentmindedly licks his lips, and Ryan is lucky enough to get a few shots of it.

"You're such a good subject," he tells Connor while squinting into the camera, who smiles softly.

"Thanks."

"Keep smiling and put your glasses on the top of your head and hold them there." He does as he's told, and Ryan sings more silent praises for his downright awesome friend. "Perfect."

"How many more shots do you need for this project?" Connor's question is honest and curious.

"Just two more outfit changes." He waits for Connor to make a noise of disapproval, but it never comes.

"As long as it's nothing embarrassing, I'm good," Connor replies.

"Depends on your definition of embarrassing," Ryan says, glancing over to the chair where he has the clothes carefully folded.

"Skinny jeans?" Ryan nods. "What, you think I won't fit in them or something?"

"No no, I just—"

"It's fine, I'll wear whatever you give me. I trust your judgment." Ryan smiles a bit.

"Well well well, aren't you trusting?"

"Isn't that a good thing?" Connor asks, tilting his head to the side like a curious bird. The dark glasses perched atop his copper-colored hair enhance the effect even more, and Ryan's smile widens.

"Sometimes." Connor disappears with one of the sets of clothes as Ryan scoots back a few feet and carefully sets down his camera. He opens the blinds of the floor length windows behind the couch, bathing the whole room in the warm afternoon light.

He looks through his photos while he waits, studying Connor's facial expressions in each one. He'd originally thought that having his friend be the model was a good idea—and Connor's fantastic at it, if he's honest with himself—but now—

"Ready for me?" Ryan sucks in a sharp breath as he looks Connor up and down.

"Yup." He strides over to the couch and waits for instruction, arms crossed over his chest. Ryan gave him a plain white, formfitting t-shirt, black skinny jeans, and a leather jacket that stretches tightly over his built shoulders. He still can't decide if it was a good or bad idea.

Connor raises an eyebrow and goes to uncross his arms, but Ryan reaches out a hand and says, "No no, stay just like that, and do the eyebrow thing too." He does as told, and Ryan's brain babbles to itself about how good he is at this, how good he looks, how much he's grown from the beginning of last school year.

"Should I sit down?" Connor asks after Ryan goes to check the photo quality.

"Um." Ryan is flustered by Connor's sharp eyes staring him down. "Yeah, sure, put on the glasses again too, and um." He holds the camera in his lap as Connor sits among the couch pillows. "Lay down—and kick off those shoes, I don't want to be yelled at 'cause there's dirt on the couch."

"Fussy," Connor mumbles, but follows Ryan's orders anyway. "Should I lay like this?" He crosses his ankles over the arm of the couch, stretching his arms and lacing together his fingers above his head as he stares at the ceiling. Ryan's gaze takes in every inch of Connor's lithe body, wondering how he'd gotten such an attractive friend-turned-roommate—one that agreed to be his subject, no less.

"Uh..."

Yeah, this was not a good idea.

• • •

"How'd you do on that project?" Connor asks, sitting down on the picnic table next to Ryan. He's holding a giant paper bag in his hands, and as Ryan watches, Connor unloads several boxes of Chinese food.

"Did you buy out the place just for lunch?" He asks with a laugh.

"I thought you'd appreciate it." Ryan nods and makes grabby hands for the white rice. "Ryan. The project." He takes a plate and loads rice, chicken with sweet and sour sauce, and lo mein noodles on it to start.

"Oh! Oh yeah, I got an A, and professor said you make a good model." That's a lie. Ryan had told his professor that Connor made a good subject, and his professor agreed with a knowing look in his eye. Ryan had flushed pink and scurried away, but the next thing he knew, he'd gotten a stellar grade on it. So what that someone knew he thought Connor was hot?

"Nice!" Connor grins proudly. "And tell him thanks, I try."

"I will." He checks his phone as Ryan scarfs down the rice.

"Jeez, chill out, the rice isn't gonna disappear on you." He looks down again as Ryan raises an eyebrow and huffs, a muffled sound that turns into a cough. "Taylor's coming to meet us, he said he's almost here."

"Wait, now?"

"Davo!" They both turn to see Taylor jogging towards them, backpack hanging off one shoulder. "Hey, Nugget, what's up?" Ryan just gives him a look and nods towards the food, mouth full of chicken. "So, which boxes are mine?" Ryan grabs the white rice and holds it to his chest.

"Not this one."

"Possessive," Taylor comments, pointedly eyeing Connor as he says it. Connor doesn't notice and chews contentedly on his egg roll. Ryan looks down at his lap, trying to control his reddening cheeks. Taylor sits across the table from Ryan, taking the box of dumplings and dumping half of them on a plate.

"So," Connor starts. "How's economics?"

"Ugh, let me tell you!" Taylor reacts immediately, "This one kid, I swear to god—does he even go here? Does he have a high school diploma? Can he recite the alphabet? Can he count to 10? Doubtful—to all of those!"

Ryan zones out as Taylor rants to Connor, who nods and comments in all the right places. The thing is, Ryan knows he's actually listening and that he cares, which is one of the things he loves about him. Likes. One of the things Ryan likes about him.

He stabs a piece of chicken and slowly brings it up to his mouth, staring across the lawn at a couple sitting in the grass under a large oak tree. They laugh and lean in for a kiss, and Ryan quickly looks away.

"Something bothering you, Nugget?" He jerks his head back up to find both of his friends staring at him. Connor looks concerned, while Taylor's mostly amused. "Daydreaming about something?" He asks with a smirk. "Or someone?" He wiggles his eyebrows, and Ryan snorts.

"You look stupid," he shoots back. "And no, I'm thinking about whether I'm going to do sepia or black and white for my next assignment."

"Yeah?"

"Eat your goddamn dumplings or whatever they are and leave me alone, I'm tired." Connor gives Taylor a disapproving look, but Taylor only snickers.

"I could leave you alone, but I'm not sure if you'd like that right now," he remarks, and Ryan shoves a larger than necessary forkful of rice in his mouth and flips him off.

"Go fuck yourself, Hallsy."

"Same to you."

"Seriously, guys?" Connor huffs, and Ryan knocks his shoulder.

"Chill out, Connor McSerious, we're just messing around," he says with a soft smile, and Connor visibly relaxes.

"Oh." Ryan faces forward again to find Taylor's eyes darting back and forth between him and Connor, and he subtly mouths, 'fuck you' before innocently continuing to eat. Taylor only beams smugly and mouths back, 'ask Connor, not me'.

• • •

"What the hell was all that at lunch?" Connor asks that night as he's laying on his bed, hands folded over his stomach and eyes on the bland ceiling.

"What the hell was what?" Ryan's legs are criss-crossed as he surfs on his phone.

"You and Taylor mouthing off at each other."

"We weren't 'mouthing off', we do that all the time," Ryan answers, "Nothing happened that's different from our ordinary problems—his problems, actually, I just have to correct him."

"Are you sure there wasn't anything wrong?" Connor asks, and they both look to each other and make instantaneous eye contact. Ryan swallows hard but doesn't look away. That's his first mistake. "Is something wrong?" Connor swings his legs over the side of his bed, now sitting across from Ryan and watching him.

"Um." Not saying no is his second.

"What happened? Is there something I can help with? Was it something in class or at work or what?" Connor's quick barrage of questions stuns Ryan into a nervous silence, and he puts down his phone and fiddles with the tie on his pajama pants.

"Well..."

"Is it something Taylor did? Or Jordan?" He pauses and looks down. "Or was it me?" Letting Connor guess at the problem is Ryan's third mistake, if he's counting—which he's trying really hard not to.

"I, uh...when you—"

"Fuck, it was me—shit, Ryan, I'm so sorry, I didn't meant to make you upset, I—I don't know what I did but I'm sure I can fix it, I'm really sorry," Connor babbles, wringing his hands and standing up. "What did I do? I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to—"

"Shut up, Connor," Ryan finally gets out, stands up, and steels himself for the worst. He takes a deep breath as Connor stares at him with anxious worry. "It's nothing you did, it's just...you're really hot, and sometimes I don't know how to deal with it." Connor's shoulders relax as his eyes drift to the window, but just as quickly, his razor sharp gaze is back on Ryan.

"Wait wait, hold up—I'm what?" Ryan knew this would happen. Mistake number four is in the books. He begs for a stutter-less voice as he repeats sadly,

"I—I think you're hot, and I don't know—"

"Fuck, Ryan, if you'd only said that months ago," Connor interrupts, grabbing Ryan's shoulders and planting his lips on Ryan's.

Ryan is abso-fucking-lutely shocked. It's the only way to describe it. Connor's lips are warm and plump and wet and they move perfectly with his, so Ryan bites down on his lower lip and tugs. Connor groans, sending vibrations through Ryan and down to his hardening dick.

If Connor can do this to him by just kissing, he can't even imagine what he'd be like if they—

"Holy shit," Connor pants into Ryan's mouth, eyelashes fluttering. "We could've been doing that all this time if only you'd—"

"Kindly shut the fuck up," Ryan interrupts, grabbing Connor's shoulders and pulling him in again.

Sure, Connor was right about lost time—but there's no time like the present, and he's determined to make up for every second of what he's lost by making out as hard and long as he wants.

Or until Connor asks for something else.