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Deran wakes before his alarm for the first time in his life. He can't remember falling asleep, a blink between him wondering when the morning would come, and then suddenly it's there. A glance at the clock shows that it’s still twenty minutes before he can reasonably wake Craig without expecting to get his ass beat.

His focuses on the pictures tacked to the wall across from his bed, from magazines and a few ill-begot library books, all of them with the edges torn. Most of them are of the great surf spots of the world: Puerto Escondido, Pipeline, Supertubes, Fuerteventura, the Gold Coast, Zuma, Manu Bay, Lima, Hossegor, Maldives.

A couple of them are from movies; Bodhi and Johnny Utah stare back at Deran in the dim blue light coming from the cable box tucked under his TV. He's jerked off under their gaze near-daily since he turned twelve. Most days, he can even work up the nerve to keep their eye contact. The wall his bed is pushed up against has a poster of Blue Crush, positioned so that he couldn't get a good look at it even if he wanted to.

Deran slips his hand under the covers after he checks the time again, wraps his fingers around his dick. Last year he realized that sleeping naked kept his brothers from barging into his room at all hours. It's something he doesn't plan to ever stop doing, even now that it's an unseasonably cold winter for Oceanside and the world outside of his blankets has the tips of his nose and ears a little numb. His eyes catch on Bodhi's as he works himself, but it's not long before they're slipping closed.

His fantasies are piecemeal, Eric San Miguel from his history class, Paul Walker and Michael Early's eyes, the whole of Danny Davis any way Deran can have him, the ginger guy from that war show Pope's always rewatching thanks to Baz having gotten him the boxset a few Christmases ago, Shaun White with his shirt off and his hair down, a guy he saw waiting for the bus downtown. Deran thinks about their bodies, their lips, their voices, their dicks, their hands on his dick, him fucking them, them fucking him, kissing —

The clock finally ticks into an acceptable time to get up once just as he finishes jerking off. Deran rubs his come into the skin of his stomach as he makes his way into the bathroom. He lets the shower run as he does a half-assed effort at brushing his teeth, staring at his reflection in the mirror to see if there are any new hairs on his face to shave.

He gets into the shower and under the water, does little more than a quick wipe-down, focusing on his stomach, groin, under his armpits. He dampens his hair and then wrings it out without washing it properly. He'll be in the water for most of today if he has anything to say about it. No point in wasting product.

Deran’s so amped up that he almost forgets to dry off after he steps out of the stall. He takes a towel to his hair and scrubs at it until it stops dripping, leaving it in a tangled mess that twists in all directions. He grabs his brush from off his desk and bends in half, so that his head is down between his legs. He stares at his dick as he roughly works the tangles out, wincing, but not gentling the motions of his strokes from root to end. Grabbing the tie that he keeps around his wrist, he puts his hair up in a bun as he maintains the position, hair resting tight and high atop his head once he stands straight again.

He puts almost no effort into to getting dressed beyond what function the clothes themselves serve. Socks, jeans, henley, pullover hoodie, black denim jacket, Vans. He looks at himself in the mirror and hopes that none of the colors clash too badly. They're driving up to Klamath, and Deran knows himself well enough to anticipate that he's not going to weather NorCal in the winter any better than he does in the summer, and pulls on a lightweight parka, just in case. He grabs his duffle, packed days ago, and stuffs another wetsuit into the main compartment, just in case. He stored two boards in Craig's car the night before, and he's tempted to bring a third.

Deran closes his bedroom door as quietly as he can. Each step he takes in the hallway is measured to be as silent as possible. He focuses on putting out good vibes into the universe, thinking positive thoughts, so that they'll be returned his way. He doesn't want to see his mother. He won't see his mother.

The door to Craig's room has a lock, but he never uses it, too stupid to think that far ahead and too vain to ever experience embarrassment at an inopportune visitor. Deran closes it behind himself and sees that his brother is still dead to the world, snoring loud enough that Deran's surprised he didn't hear it out in the hallway.

"Craig," he says, voice coming out in a hiss. "We gotta head up north now, fucker."

Craig doesn't react to his voice at all.

Deran sits on the bed and grabs a loose handful of his brother's hair, pulling it away from where it's curtained over Craig's face. "C'mon, you promised. Wake the fuck up."

"No." Craig groans. "Fuck you."

Deran stands again and starts pulling the blankets off of Craig, saying, "Fuck you, man. You're the one that offered to drive me. You know the drill, get your fat ass up already."

"I'm up, you fucking bitch." Craig brings his hands up to run over his face, letting out another groan.

"Look, I even brought you breakfast," Deran says. He stuffs a hand into the pocket of his hoodie and retrieves a bottle of pills. Adderall pilfered off a kid from his chemistry class, Ryan. Ryan's openly gay and a total nerd, unabashedly, with a capital-t Thing for Deran, that has him giving Deran discounts on the pill racket he's running. Deran wouldn't, not in a million years, but he's not one to turn down a hookup with actual brand names, especially when he's only gotta smile to get the price to drop down like it's his own personal copay.

Craig shakes out two and swallows them dry. He rolls his neck in a circle and all his vertebrae crack and pop. "God," he says, "What I wouldn't have given to have a Ryan when I was still in school." He finally gets up from the bed and starts pulling clothes off his floor, bringing them to his face for a sniff, casting off the ones that don't pass muster. "D'you ever let him suck you off? I bet you'd get free pills for the rest of your goddamn life, and you'd be getting your dick sucked."

Deran shifts on the bed, looks at the floor, rolls his toes in his shoes. "Fucking gross. I'm not about to pimp myself to some fag just for a fix."

Craig's head pops out through the top the shirt he's tugged and, and he shrugs. Deran watches him put on a pair of shorts and then a thick zip-up hoodie, impatient. Craig taking his sweet time to toe on his shoes feels like a special form of torture.

He takes it upon himself to snatch up Craig's bag from where it's half-hidden beneath a pile of clothes on the floor, hefting it onto the opposite shoulder where he's got his own. "C'mon, let's go. And be fucking quiet, I don't want Smurf acting like she gives a shit and seeing us off."

"I don't even think she came home last night, dude," Craig says, and Deran tells himself that he's relieved to hear it.

Deran tosses their stuff into the bench of Craig's truck and then hops into the passenger seat, pulling the seatbelt across his chest in a rough tug.

They manage to pull onto the 5 before four, a full hour earlier than he had let himself even dream of. It's got to be a good sign, Deran thinks. Put good vibes out into the universe and the universe sends good vibes back your way.

They hit Tulare and Craig pulls off the 99 to swing into Visalia so they can pick up some food while they refill the tank. Somehow Craig knows a hookup in the area, and when they're pulling back onto the freeway it's with a fresh handful of fat joints stashed in the glove compartment.

Deran holds off on lighting one up until they hit Redding. He tokes up a few times and shoves his seat back as far as it'll go, does a lazy, half-ass yoga routine right there in the cab of the truck as his brother drives, working the stiffness out of his limbs.

"You excited?" Craig asks. He holds his left hand out and Deran slips the joint into his fingers.

Exhaling slowly through his nose, Deran blinks himself back into his body. "I'm something."

Craig laughs. "Okay, Mr. Too Cool for School. Your ass better win, is all I'm saying. I didn't drive all this way not to have to lug some ugly-ass trophy home.”

"I'll do my best," Deran says, and reaches his right hand between them, wiggling his fingers.




Deran comes in second. He half-knows the guy who got first, recognizes the name from the circuit but finds himself unable to put a face to it. It could be because he's high.

His sets had gone amazing, and he doesn't have a single regret about how they went down. The judges gave him unanimous Excellents; the dude who beat him was just a little more excellent than him.

"Hey!" Craig's voice carries across the beach. After the interviews and the ceremony, Deran had lost sight of him. There's no way for him to keep his phone on-hand while he's surfing, so Deran had gone back to the truck to wait for his brother to eventually reappear.

Craig has his arm thrown around some dude, talking loud enough that Deran can hear the noise of it, but not enough that he can make out the actual words that he’s saying.

"Dude," Craig says, turning to face Deran once they reach his truck. "Adrian here got first place!"

Deran recognizes Adrian's face from around Oceanside and it slots into place with the name inside his mind. They've talked before, he's sure. In passing, two different sets of friends and a slight age gap that's kept them from ever actually getting to know one another.

He's jerked off to the thought of Adrian before, is the first thing that Deran’s still-stoned mind supplies him with. Adrian's body fills out his wetsuit perfectly, and Deran's noticed. He noticed before, clearly, down in San Onofre where they all practice in between events, and he's noticing now, as Adrian stands in front of him, with his suit unzipped and pushed down to his thighs, neoprene shaped tight to the muscles there, the dark grey almost blinding in contrast to the white, freckled span of his skin.

Deran can't help the way that he folds into himself, shoulders coming up to his ears, voice dropping to a lower register. "Hey," he says to Adrian. "Congratulations." He sticks his hand out awkwardly between them.

"Aw, Deran, no need to get jealous." Craig uses the arm around Adrian's shoulders to shake him a bit, slapping Adrian's chest a few times with his free hand. "Adrian had a sick fucking set, bro. No shame in losing to it it."

Adrian ducks down a little to meet Deran's eye as he takes his hand. There's an awkward smile on his face but it reaches his eyes. "Sorry?" It comes out like a question, but the gentleness there makes Deran feel like he's in on the joke, and not the butt of it.

"Dude, shut up," he says to Craig, shoving at his brother's chest. Craig's arm dislodges from around Adrian's shoulder and Deran isn't exactly upset with that result. "Seriously, dude, congrats. It was a sick set. I'm not, like, jealous or whatever. Ignore this idiot."

When Adrian laughs it sounds good. Really good. Deran steps closer without really thinking about it.

"Thanks, then." Adrian smiles at him. It's even better than his laugh.

"D'you need a ride back?" Craig asks. "We're doing a turn around tonight, if you wanna hitch on. We got the room."

They absolutely don't, not with their shit taking up the already limited space in Craig's extended cab. It means that on top of Adrian's gear, he and Deran would probably have to share the passenger seat. That would be dangerous. Deran's not sure he would remember to complain, just to keep up appearances. Still, he hopes that Adrian says yes.

"Wow, man, thanks. I drove up with some friends, though. We're gonna stay up here for a couple days. But seriously, that's really cool of you." Adrian smiles at both of them.

Craig shrugs, like it's no big deal to him, and Deran supposes that it isn't. Craig's just being himself, friendly, even moreso when he's high. Deran feels like punching someone's fucking lights out even though he has no idea what he actually wanted to have happen. Being stuck in a small space with his brother and a dude he's jacked off to for almost a full-half day, what a riot.

Unless, maybe, if Craig took something more intense than the weed they'd smoked on the way up while he was waiting for it to be Deran's turn, then they're probably going to have to stop for a hotel around Sacramento. Craig probably would’ve found some local chick, gotten his own room, meaning that Deran and Adrian would need to share. Deran stops thinking about it all then. He breathes in deep and rolls his lips into his mouth.

"Any time, dude," Craig says. "See ya’ later."

Adrian startles when Craig pulls him into a hug, but he returns it without missing a beat. He catches Deran's eye over Craig's shoulder and laughs at the eye-roll Deran aims at him. "See ya’," Adrian echos.

Craig pulls back, heads to the driver’s side door, fishing the keys out of his pockets. Adrian points at Deran and says, "Congrats on second, by the way. In case I forgot to say earlier. I can't believe I edged you out. You were great."

Adrian extends his hand much more naturally that Deran had. Daren tries to be smooth when he leans in towards Adrian, shaking it in the space between their bodies. "Thanks," is all he can think to say. It's like all he can manage is not looking awkward, or not sounding awkward, never both.

"Later, Deran," Adrian says, once Deran lets go of his hand. "See you around." He gives a little wave and then heads back to the beach, where everyone is still milling about.

"Uh, yeah," Deran calls out. "See you!"




One of the jobs they pulled a few months back finally has the heat die down enough that they can fence what they stole, and so Deran doesn't get as much water time as he'd like. Craig and he are on grunt duty, like always, breaking their backs to shift antique furniture on and off of trucks all day. Spring's moved in early this year, leaving Deran sweaty and pissed by the time noon rolls in and they're due for lunch.

When he finally does get a chance to head to the beach, bailing from the house early enough that even Smurf wasn't up and in the kitchen, Adrian's there. Deran knows that all signs point to Adrian having been there more often than not. He hadn't known Adrian then, hadn't spoken to him. Now that he has, a part of him is mortified to take up the same space. Craig had practically forced the guy to speak to Deran; Deran's sure that the whole see you later thing had been politeness and nothing more, in retrospect.

He keeps his head down and makes plans to head further down the coast once he's actually in the water, away from where Adrian and his friends are waiting for things to hit head-high.

"Hey, Deran!" Adrian shouts, and there's that decision made for him.

Deran turns and smirks the way he's seen Baz do sometimes. He walks over and prays that for once in his life he'll manage to do two things at once. "Adrian, hey," he says.

Adrian introduces him to his friends, and they all seem nice enough. They're older than him, like Adrian is, but only by a couple of years, so it doesn't feel like whenever he's been around Craig's friends, or worse, Pope and Baz’s.

"Wait, Deran Cody, right?" one of them asks, putting some stress on the last name. "As in Craig's little brother, yeah?"

Deran's used to it, even around guy's whose asses he's kicked on the circuit. He's about to agree, ask if the guy lost his virginity at one of Craig's legendary parties or something, when Adrian cuts him off.

"Naw, as in the kid who took second at that QS 4000 a couple weeks back. Y'know, the one you didn't even get past the first heats for."

Everyone laughs except for Deran, who stares at Adrian for a few seconds before he can force himself to cough out the semblance of one.

Adrian's friend doesn't seem any worse for wear at the drag, and everyone looks at Deran with a little more respect. It's strange. Strange not to see people feeling like their power's been taken from them, barely hidden hostility or worse trapped behind their eyes, waiting for revenge. They all seem — like they're having fun. Like things are simple.

It's freeing enough that Deran doesn't think twice when he tosses his arm over Adrian's shoulder. "What," he says, "you the president of my fan club or something?"

"Or something." Adrian's hand comes up to rest on the curve of Deran's waist. Deran can almost feel the heat of his palm though the thick press of his wetsuit.

All of them get a few solid rides under their belt before the kooks start showing up and taking over the beach, putting an end to the day.

Adrian pulls him aside once they reach the shore. "John's having a party tonight, if you wanna come?"

"Um, yeah," Deran says. "Sweet, awesome."

When Adrian smiles it's like he's laughing at Deran a little bit. "Totally," he says. "Here, gimme your number and I'll text you the address."




The party is what he expected. About the same as the ones his friends from school throw, except it seems like the booze for this crowd was easier to obtain. It's nothing compared to the ragers that happen almost weekly at Smurf's, and for some reason Deran finds it almost calming. The music's pretty chill, for one thing, actual surfer scene stuff and not the usual shit he'd listen to.

He doesn't see Adrian anywhere when he comes through the door. Two girls that he’s never seen before corner him not long after that, asking questions about his surfing. After a round of lazy introductions he realizes that they're on the women's QS hunt themselves, and that none of this is their attempt to run a line on him. He keeps taking peeks over their heads throughout the conversation, on the lookout for someone he'd much rather be talking to.

A hand comes out of nowhere to rest in the small of his back, hot breath ghosting by his ear. "Hey Deran," Adrian says. Deran can just make out the freckles on his face from of the corner of his eye, where Adrian's manifested himself. It's only the years of living with asshole older brothers that saves him jumping out of his skin and embarrassing the fuck out of himself.

"Already cornered him for an interview, Dani?" Adrian says to his friend. To Deran, "I see you met Daniela and her shadow. They run a —"

"A zine," Deran finishes. "I heard."

"Have you?" Adrian's hand is still firm on his back, warm. "You got anything to drink yet?" Deran shakes his head. "Let's get you set up, then."

Deran follows him into kitchen, where Adrian fetches them both a bottle of something out of the cooler there. Almost everyone is in the main room of the apartment, and it's a small party to begin with. There's a few stragglers in the kitchen on the opposite wall from Adrian and him, and it's quiet enough that Deran feels a need to eat up the silence.

He clears his throat and says, "This music, it's, uh."

"Before you start talking shit," Adrian says, "Just know that I'm the one in charge of the playlist tonight."

Deran laughs. "I didn't know you had such a thin skin, man, shit."

"My music taste didn't clue you in?" Adrian asks, handing Deran a bottle. "I'm sensitive as fuck, dude."

Deran raises his eyebrows at Adrian as he twists off the cap and takes a sip. Adrian does the same, the shape his lips take over the neck making Deran keep on drinking, knocking back half in one gulp that does nothing to fix the sudden dryness in his throat.

Adrian waves him to a hallway in the back of the kitchen, that leads them to a series of doors. Deran follows him through one of them that ends up being a bedroom.

"Should we be in here?" Deran hates it when people fuck around with his shit during one of his brother’s parties. It's conditioned him to pay that sort of consideration forward, hoping that karma will send it back his way.

"It's my room," Adrian tells him.

Deran hadn't known that. "John's your roommate?"

"Did I forget to mention that?" Adrian's smile is like a ghost, barely there on his face, like he doesn't mean to smile at all. His tone tells Deran that he's an idiot for not figuring it out on his own, and maybe he is.

What Deran has figured out is that Adrian's too nice to call him an idiot to his face, just to embarrass him for the sake of it. It takes the sting out of the embarrassment that threatens to cloud his mind, the anger that always lurks just beneath it. "You did," Deran says.

"My bad." Adrian takes a seat on his bed and Deran follows him further into the room, sitting on the rolling chair in front of Adrian's desk. There's pictures covering Adrian’s walls, too, but most of them don't look like they're from magazines. The few that are have actual frames around them, like they mean something.

"You like taking photos and shit?" Deran asks him, bottle rising up to his lips.

"A little," Adrian says. "I didn't take most of these though, Ben did. It's his thing."

Deran isn't sure if he's met Ben yet, but it doesn't really matter. He nods and sets his drink down onto Adrian's desk, instantly regretting having done so. He isn't sure what to do with his hands, doesn't know what to say.

Adrian hooks his foot into the circular bottom of the chair and rolls Deran closer to him. Deran watches this happen from almost outside himself, like it's happening to someone that isn't him. Adrian rests his hands on Deran's knees once he’s in front of him.

"You dating anybody?" Adrian asks. All Deran can think to do is shake his head.

"Sweet," Adrian says, smiling a little. Then he leans in and kisses him.

Deran spasms away, jolting back hard enough that the chair nearly tips backwards. Adrian's hands firm up on his thighs and keep him upright. "What the fuck," Deran says. He means for it to come out firmer, more definite, but it sounds almost like a whisper.

"Uh." Adrian moves his hands into his own lap, leaning back so that there's more space between their faces. "Sorry? I thought, well, shit."

Reaching behind himself blindly for his drink, Deran's fingers eventually hit paydirt and he brings the bottle back to his mouth and kills the rest of it it in one long swallow. He drops the bottle on Adrian's nightstand when he's done, wiping his mouth the the sleeve of his hoodie. "Why would you think—"

"Oh, I don't know, Deran," Adrian begins to say, but then he cuts himself off. His tone's mean, what Deran's used to, and to have Adrian stop himself from going there feels like the tide coming in while the wind's just left the water dead. "No, like, it's fine. Seriously if you aren't into me, it's whatever. Sorry. I'm an ass, I shouldn't make you feel shitty about this."

Adrian makes like he's going to stand. Deran beats him to it. "No," he says. "I—I, just."

Deran bends to kiss Adrian, so much force behind him that it pushes Adrian flat onto his back on the bed, Deran following him down. He kisses him hard, lips firm.

Adrian frees his hands from where they're trapped between them and places them on Deran's face, long fingers tangling in his hair. Deran feels himself, the kiss, being gentled. Adrian opens his mouth to Deran's and his tongue is so warm. Suddenly he feels hungry, and he can feel it in Adrian too, the way they lean into one another. Deran opens his mouth wider to Adrian, steps onto the bed using his knees, so that he's sitting in Adrian's lap, grinding down on him.

"I'm into you," Deran says. He hates how it sounds like a confession.

"Is this your first time?" Adrian asks, gentle, and Deran hates that even more.

"I've never — with a girl." Deran's proud of the confused look that passes over Adrian's face, relishes it. He's not some pathetic stereotype, isn't in denial about what his life is. He isn't some stupid kid. "Put up a front for my family, get myself out of it before shit gets too far. Been with a few guys on the circuit, though."

Deran shifts up so that he's sitting on Adrian's lap properly, no longer looming over him. He tucks his hair behind his ears, watches Adrian move so that he's raised up on his elbows under Deran. "That's why I..." he trails off, not wanting to admit to what he did, that he freaked out. He continues on, ignoring it. "Usually it's guys who are from fucking Mexico and Australia who wanna hook up. Dudes I don't gotta see again. I thought you and me were just, like, buddies or whatever."

Adrian lets out a long laugh and drops onto his back again. His hands slide under Deran's unzipped hoodie, under his shirt, settling in the blocky curve of his waist. "That it, Deran?" he asks. "You wanna be my friend?"

"Fuck no," Deran says. He wastes no time in getting Adrian's dick out. He gives himself a minute to get used to the weight of Adrian against his palm. Deran runs his fingers over Adrian’s balls, through the copper-bronze of his pubic hair. Once Adrian's nice and hard, Deran fishes himself out of his pants, already thick and throbbing, the tip leaking.

He jerks them both off, can feel Adrian's gaze on him as he works them within his hand.

"You ever sucked dick?" Adrian asks.

Deran looks up to meet his eye and shakes his head, the stride of his hand not faltering, not missing a stroke.

"Deran, if you blow me I promise I'll make it worth your while."

Eyes flicking back down to Adrian's groin, Deran knows that he doesn't need the promise. Doesn't mean he doesn't appreciate it.

While Adrian crawls up the bed to his pillows, Deran kicks his pants off and then pulls Adrian's the rest of the way down. They've still got their shirts on, Deran still has his hoodie on, but he can't find the patience in himself to waste the time it would take for them to get properly naked.

He fists the base of Adrian's cock and takes as much of it into his mouth as he can, gagging after the first couple of inches. Spit pushes past the seal of his mouth down onto his hand, and he uses it to work what he isn't able to fit in his mouth. He doesn't focus on the noises he's making, the state of himself, instead zeros in on the taste and feel of Adrian in his mouth. It’s better than he thought, and Deran’s thought about this a lot.

A hand twists in his hair and tugs, a progression of strength until it stings enough that Deran pulls off to squint up in Adrian's direction, eyes clouded with tears. "What the fuck," he says. His voice is a goddamn mess.

"Are you okay?!" Adrian asks. He's blurry, but Deran can still make out how red his face his. He certainly can feel how hard he still is. "You sounded like you were fucking choking to death, man, Jesus."

"So?" Deran runs a hand across his mouth, pissed at having been interrupted. He really felt like he was hitting his stride for a second there. "Does it look like my ass is dead?"

Adrian's short fingernails manage to dig into the flesh of his shoulders when he hauls Deran up to him, devouring his mouth. "Oh my god," he says each of the words between kisses. He kisses Deran a few more times before using the grip on his arms to shove Deran back down the bed, reuniting Deran with his dick.

"Sorry," Adrian says. "Fuck, nevermind."

Deran tucks his hair behind his ears again, resumes his hold on Adrian's dick. "Fucking seriously, dude," he says, and then gets back to work, gagging anew as he sucks deep around Adrian's dick.

When Adrian comes in his mouth, Deran does his best to swallow, but most of it ends up dribbling down onto his hand. He uses his clean one to reach behind himself and awkwardly pulls the hoodie and shirt off, realizing that he might of made a mistake when he tries to fish his wet hand out without getting Adrian's come on everything. Once he's finally naked he rubs the mess on his chest like he does when he's by himself, sure that he'll be able to take a shower sometime before he leaves.

He reaches down to take care of himself, his hand quickly slapped away by Adrian's, a wild look in his eyes. He pushes Deran onto his back, takes the entirety his dick into his mouth in one go, even though Deran's longer than him.

Deran's eyes practically roll into the back of his head as Adrian keeps his promise.




They hang out pretty regularly after that. They don't get to hook up as much as Deran would like, between him having family shit, and Adrian working.

Usually Deran's able to hang back after everyone's done surfing for the morning. Practically everyone they ride with has a job or school that they're dedicated to arrive on time to, which leaves a little time for Deran to corner Adrian in a shower or bathroom stall and work on his dick-sucking skills.

"Is it bad that you crying on my dick sorta gets me hot?" Adrian asks the question directly into Deran's mouth, kissing him deeply, so that Deran can't answer right away.

"Fuck you, I wasn’t crying." The tears are still wet on his cheeks. "I’m, just, like, leaking."

"Is that supposed to be better?"

"What if I just never sucked your dick again?"

Adrian laughs and kisses him again, pushing Deran's hair out of his face and taming it behind his ears. "You'd die."

Deran hates that he's probably right.

As they do up their shorts, Adrian makes the noise he always does when he's remembered something, turns to look at Deran again as he adjusts himself in his denim. "Hey, a couple of us are going up to Bear Valley this weekend. You wanna come with? It'll be more fucking around than skiing, but I doubt you'd have a problem with that."

Deran tells Adrian that he'll run it by Smurf and get back to him. When they split up Adrian nuzzles him a little instead of kissing him, and something about it drives Deran wild.

He has to go on this trip, otherwise he may break his fucking wrist from all the masturbating he'll be doing instead.

"Hm," Smurf says, not looking up from the folder she's flipping through when he asks her for permission to go. "Alright. Go ahead and grab a couple hundred from my purse, so that you’ve got spending money."

Deran knows better than to prolong this more than he needs to. He moves to the counter and fishes though her wallet, grabbing two hundred dollars and not a cent more.

She calls out to him as he's leaving the kitchen to head back to his room, "Have fun, baby."



On the drive up it's just Adrian and Deran in Adrian's car with everybody's gear and baggage, overflow from the Jeep ahead carrying the rest of Adrian's friends.

The traffic once they hit LA is a nightmare, and the app on Deran's phone says that the Grapevine won't be much better.

They talk to pass the time, Adrian telling Deran about his mostly useless parents and how surfing is something that he actually wants to make a career of. Deran's good, but he has no idea where surfing is going for him. Mostly he uses it as a way to get away from Smurf, if only for a little while.

"So, like," Adrian says, and it sounds like he's hedging. His left hand goes from one o'clock on the wheel, to his lap, to the gearshift, and then back to the wheel, near five o’clock. In the time it's taken for this to happen, they've inched up maybe two feet through traffic. "What's the deal with your family, anyway? You're rich, right? But, I mean, no offense and it's not like I can cast any stones, but you're all total white trash. Your mom win the lotto or what?"

Deran thinks about the lie he usually tells, about his mom just being an amazing businesswoman. Sometimes he says that his dad was a high roller who lived too hard and kicked it, left behind enough for Smurf to make some good investments. Every version of the lie is an effort to make himself seem like the most useful of all his brothers, the one that turned things around for them.

He doesn't want to play that game with Adrian, though. He's never been able to talk about how he really feels about Smurf to anyone. Julia's probably the only one who'd get it, and she's long gone, not that it’s saved her. She’s still haunted by their mother in spirit, strung out as she is.

So he tells Adrian. Tells him about the jobs, skirts around just how fucked up his mom is, and he can tell from some of the expressions that cross Adrian's face that he's reading between the lines of what Deran doesn't say just fine.

"Oh," Adrian says, once Deran's been quiet for a while. "That'"

Deran can't help laughing. "No, it's awful."

Adrian laughs too. "I'm glad you said it, because the whole time you were talking I thought it was fucking tragic, then it kept getting worse." He shifts over into the carpool lane once it looks like things are finally starting to pick up, and they may have a means of escape. "So what, you guys are like your mom's henchmen, or some shit?"

Sighing and running a hand through his hair, Deran shrugs. "I bet henchmen have a fucking union, at least. It's fucking Backstab City in my house."

He watches as Adrian's hand unsticks itself from the wheel and reaches over to pat Deran on the leg closest to him. "I hate to tell you this, babe, but if I have my way you're definitely getting stabbed in the back at least once on this trip, so I hope you weren't expecting an escape."

Deran's face heats up. "Don't fucking babe me, asshole" he says. His dick's starting to get hard. It isn't worth a second thought for him to undo his fly and pull himself free.

"Deran," Adrian says. His eyes flick rapidly between the road in front of them and where Deran's working himself over in his lap.

"What, can't focus, babe?" A large part of Deran has been aroused since Adrian picked him up hours ago. He knows that this won't last long. "Sure would be a shame to die like this."



Deran's phone starts vibrating just outside of Modesto. His heart drops when he sees Pope's name flash across the screen.

"Family emergency," Pope says. If it'd been Baz, Deran would have hung up on him.

After the calls done, Adrian asks him what's wrong. Deran is aware that he's curling in on himself, physically shutting himself off. "Can you drop me off at the Amtrak?" Deran asks.

"What?" Adrian starts shifting leftwards, pulling across the spanse of the freeway. "Is everything okay?"

"Just family shit, man." Deran feels a million years old as he says it. He should have known Smurf would pull something like this. Have a good time, she'd said. Deran hates that bitch with all of his heart.

Adrian's phone starts vibrating when his friends notice him pull of the turnpike into town. Adrian has Deran thumb in his lock code and dictates to Deran what he wants to have sent back to them. "Just say that something came up," Adrian says. Deran types it into the screen.

They park once they reach the train station. "Is there even a train going down there soon?" Adrian asks.

Deran pulls the schedule up on his phone and sure enough there is, the last one for the day, even, leaving in a little under thirty minutes. He doesn't bother to hold back his snort of disgust at just how well Smurf times her bullshit.

Deran walks to the little printer kiosk and Adrian follows him, hands shoved deep into his pockets.

"You just want me to drive you back?" Adrian asks. "I can bail; the guys won't care, seriously."

A pressure starts to build behind Deran eyes, stinging. Deran swipes aggressively across his nose, snorts. "Nah, man, it's fine."

He doesn't know any of the Modesto fuckers milling around them from Adam. He wants to kiss Adrian goodbye, be more than a little boy being called back to his fucking mom without putting up a fight, but for all Deran knows, Smurf sent Baz or Pope to tail them the entire trip, ready to drag Deran's ass back home if he tried to act hard in front of his friends. Deran can’t risk it. He feels like a complete and total coward.

Instead opts for brushing his fingers against Adrian's on the platform when the train pulls up. His heart races when, at the last second, he finds some semblance of his nerve, pulls Adrian into a hug as Adrian hands Deran's bag to over him.

Pope is there to pick him up when Deran reaches Bakersfield, saving Deran from a bus connection. They drive back in silence.

Once everyone is gathered in the living room, Smurf walks in like it's any other day, carrying in a goddamn appetizer tray to hold them over for the thirty minutes it's going to take dinner to finish, she says.

It was all a test to see how fast the could regroup, just like Deran knew it would be. He's furious. Self-preservation fails him, and he lets it show on his face, looks at Smurf with all the hate in his heart.

"Baby," she says, "if you wanna going skiing that bad, I'll pay for us all to go up there. There's no reason to throw a tantrum."



They start planning another job, one that's a bit more involved than the last few they've run. It keeps Deran busy. He misses a QS event and feels a little sick to his stomach over it.

He manages to get down to the beach a few times, but he can't seem to get his schedule to match with Adrian's. Sometimes he does manage to catch sight of John and Dani and the rest, but Adrian's never with them.

Deran hasn't texted him in a while, embarrassment stopping him from replying to the messages Adrian sent him while he was up in the mountains, after Deran had returned home, a feeling that's morphed into a black, bubbling mass of shame from having acted like a little bitch for letting the radio silence it draw out as long as it has on his end. Adrian hasn't bothered to send him anything since. Every night Deran stares at their conversation and wills himself to say something, anything. The words never come.

There's only so many spots with decent surf, and eventually he does run into Adrian. Only Adrian isn't alone.

There's some guy next to him, leaning in close and smiling at whatever Adrian's saying. He's big, bigger than Adrian, or him. The guy could probably give Craig a run for his money, but that doesn't stop Deran from wanting to charge over there and punch his goddamn lights out.

Adrian spots him. Lifts a hand, waves slightly, but doesn't make like he's going to get up. Deran wants to turn around, act like he didn't see him, ignore Adrian completely. He feels like a fucking tool, staying up at night worrying that Adrian's pissed at him while Adrian’s just —

Deran swallows it all down as best he can and raises a hand back in Adrian's direction, unable to muster up anything close to a friendly expression on his face.

He grabs his shit and heads home, calling the day a wash. There's no way he'll be able to focus in the water like this, isn't in the mood to have Adrian and his new fucking boyfriend or whoeverthefuck watch him eat it.




Deran qualifies for the West Coast Championship, finally feels like things are coming together for him for the first time in a while, if ever. Even Smurf actually seems proud of him. She gives him a pass on jobs for a while. Sometimes Pope and Baz go out to the beach with him as he gets some practice time in. Their advice is total shit, nonsense that Deran doesn’t even pretend to entertain, but the attention’s nice.

Sponsors start to court him. He's high enough in the rankings that the WSL shelled out the cast to put him up in a hotel, even though Avalanche is well within driving distance.

Adrian's there. Deran's seen him around town here and there, but it's been a year since they actually talked beyond casual greetings. He's changed phones twice in that time. The conversation thread he'd had with Adrian has moved with each one, a regret that nags at Deran like a rotted-out tooth.

Deran asks around as casually as he can about who's staying with who. Deran’s sharing the room with a guy he's pretty buddy-buddy with on the circuit. Turns out that Adrian's with Zach, another friend of Deran's. He pulls out his phone and texts him, makes up a lie about a prank war with Adrian that Deran's losing. Zach agrees to swap rooms with him without any more questions asked, wishing Deran luck with his conquests.

He grabs his shit and heads over to the new room. When Deran opens the door he sees that Adrian's already inside.

"Hey," Deran says. He throws his shit onto the unoccupied bed. The sheets look like they've been hastily remade, but other than that it's serviceable.

Adrian had been fucking around on his phone when Deran had first walked into the room, but now it rests, face down, on the bed. He watches Deran. "So Zach suddenly packs up without saying anything, and then you arrive," he says. It doesn't sound like a question.

"Don't know anything about it, man." Deran is careful not to make eye contact. He pulls out his dopp kit and walks it into the bathroom. "Got a text asking me if I'd switch," he calls back behind him. "Wasn't like I had unpacked yet, so I did."

He can practically see the accompanying eye roll when Adrian says, "Sure, Deran."

The TV is on but it's set to mute. It has Deran hyperaware of any noises that he makes as he reenters the bedroom and settles on his bed.

"So, um," Deran says. "How have you been, man? It's been a while."

"It has."

Deran feels awkward, wants to look at anything besides Adrian. Except. Except looking at Adrian has always been the last thing from a chore, and Deran hasn't had an opportunity to in a while. He regrets not getting pictures of them together. Just, smiling, or whatever. Maybe Ben has some lying around, wouldn't mind giving Deran a print.

What Deran wants most is a picture of himself with Adrian's dick in his mouth. But, well. Beggars and choosers.

He decides to stare at Adrian's chest. He's got an ESPN t-shirt on with a black hoodie that's about two sizes too big. It’s familiar.

"Is that mine?" Deran asks, breaking the silence.

Adrian looks down at himself and shrugs. His face flushes a little, under all the freckles, and make his lips look redder than normal. "Maybe," he says. "I don't remember."

Deran scratches at his scalp, shoves his hair behind his ears. "It was, uh, it was a hand-me-down from Craig."

"That would explain the size. I guess you must have left it in my room or something."

He can vaguely remember wearing it as he'd left the house on the day of the ski trip. Around the first hour of being stuck in traffic it had gotten too hot. Deran's duffle was overstuffed already, and Adrian's bag had been right in the middle of the bench behind the passenger seat where Deran sat. He hadn't thought twice about unzipping it and shoving his shit in there.

Deran doesn't mention any of this.

"Are you, like, single or whatever?" he asks.

Something in Adrian's face shutters. "What do you care?"

He hates Adrian for making him spell this out. It's easier when he doesn't have to think about it. When it just happens. He's hooked up with a few guys since Adrian. Not in the circuit, just around. Nobody he knows. Nobody he wants to know, or ever see again.

"Because I wanna get off," Deran says.

Adrian laughs. It's not the one that Deran likes. This one is mean, brittle. "Y'know what, Deran?" he says. "Sure. Why not."

He watches as Adrian gets up and crosses the short distance between their beds. Adrian settles himself on top of Deran's lap, his own thighs just bracketing the outside of Deran's. The position has his face a little higher than Deran's, so that Deran has to look up.

Deran wants to kiss him. He tips his mouth up and nips at Adrian's bottom lip, sucking it between his own. His hands come up to rest on Adrian's thighs.

Adrian isn't kissing back. Deran pulls away and says, "What's the matter?"

Adrian shakes his head. His hands are resting by his sides. Besides sitting on him, Adrian isn't touching Deran at all. "This doesn't seem like getting off," Adrian says.

Deran's face flushes, hot and embarrassed. Anger surges up inside him. His hands ball up into fists on Adrian's thighs, uses them to shove against Adrian's chest, toppling him onto his back.

He crawls on top of Adrian and bites at his neck. Adrian's hands come up to shove at his shoulders, forcing Deran's face away from him. "Don't you leave marks on me, you little shit," Adrian spits.

They wrestle, shoving at one another, never pulling back far enough to get an actual swing in. Deran feels like he'd die if his body was more than a few inches from Adrian's. He's hard, and he can feel that Adrian is too.

Eventually he gets the upper hand and worms his arm around Adrian's middle, flipping him so that he's face-down against the bedspread. Deran wastes no time in tugging down the mesh shorts covering his legs, so that Deran has access to his ass. He spits into his hand and gets a pair of fingers inside of Adrian.

"Don't even think about it," Adrian warns. Deran isn't careful when he yanks his hand away, frustration mounting at how Adrian's treating him. Like Deran's a fucking dildo, beholden to whatever Adrian wants.

He gets off the bed and makes for Adrian's bag, searching around until he finds a tube of aloe vera. His dick leads the way, jutting out in Adrian's direction as Deran frog-walks back to the bed. "D'I need a condom?" he asks.

Adrian looks at him over the curve of his shoulder for a long moment. Shakes his head. Deran keeps eye contact with him as he pops the cap and squirts the tube into his hand. He jacks off a little, until his dick is practically dripping with slick and then pushes into Adrian, a firm press inward, until he bottoms out.



Deran gets his first tattoo to celebrate how he does at the WCS. A bunch of them do, and it's fun. Adrian begs off the actual process, but he still comes along for the ride.

It hurts more than Deran expected. He hisses right on the onset, blinking hard to clear away the water he can feel wanting to creep into his eyes from the first press of the needle to his skin. He's one of the last to get into the chair, the rest of their friends itching to leave already, find a dive bar that doesn't care that a little less than a third of them are actually over eighteen, or that there’s only two that're actually twenty-one.

Adrian's head peeks in from the door leading into the front of the shop. He wanders in through it, close to where Deran is in the chair. Deran's still hissing. The artist doesn't seem to care in the least, working in clean lines and wiping away the inky blood as it comes to the surface.

He startles as Adrian takes his hand. His eyes dart up to Adrian's, finds that Adrian isn't even looking at him, instead staring off into the distance. Deran squeezes his fingers and keeps his eyes trained on Adrian's face to get him through the rest of the pain.



Pope's given the chance to run point on a job that he came up with; it goes off without a hitch. Baz decides to throw a banger and it seems like all of Oceanside's shown up and crammed into the back of Smurf's house.

Even Adrian shows up. Deran spots him from where he’s lounging out on a couch next to Craig. There's a girl drawing patterns on the arm nearest to her, tracing the tattoo that Adrian had been there to help him through.

Deran springs off the couch and heads Adrian’s way. He drags a hand through his hair and wishes that he had something to tie it back with. He hadn't expected to see anyone here that he'd want to impress, had actually been hoping for the opposite. He regrets it the lack of effort he put into making himself look even slightly attractive.

"Adrian," he says. "Hey."

"Deran, hello." Adrian smiles at him a little, a shadow of one Deran likes. It's polite, distanced. They haven't seen one another since Rip Curl down in Baja, where Deran had won even though there were a couple of guys competing who were already pros.

They'd hooked up, which has become a thing for them, kind of. Quick, rough sex while they're out of town and total avoidance back home. It's not what Deran wants, but he takes what he can get.

ESPN had interviewed him, and Deran had fucked it up a little. Awkward and coming off young, green. It wasn't the end of the world, but Deran had felt embarrassed at the time.

Adrian had found him in a shower stall after it was over and blown him. Deran had returned the favor, putting all his emotions into it, drawing it out until his knees ached and had indents from the pattern of the tiled floor.

A guy Deran knows vaguely through Baz rolls up and says hey. "That brunette you were with earlier, man," the guy says. "Ho-ly shit. Have fun getting it wet in there, dude. You surfer shits really live the life."

Deran lets out a strained laugh. "Hate the game, dude," he says. The guy leaves as suddenly as he came.

Adrian pats him on the shoulder, a quick tap of contact. "Well, have a good night, Deran," he says, and then walks away.

He loses track of Adrian over the course of the night and tells himself that it's for the best. He sticks to Craig, wandering off into the kitchen when Craig fucks off to hook up with the girl that had been flirting with Deran earlier. Deran's nowhere near as fucked up as he wants to be, and he's hoping that one of Craig's skuzzy friends will be able to hook him up.

Craig finds him before he can find a line of anything worth doing. "Yo, dude. You didn't tell me Adrian was a two-beer queer."

Deran looks where his brother's pointing, sees Adrian half in some dudes lap, laughing his head off.

He looks fucked up. Way worse than Deran's ever seen him, and something seizes up in his chest. "The fuck he is," Deran says, a denial. "Looks like somebody slipped him something."

The distance between the kitchen and patio has never felt bigger but Deran feels like he eats up the space in seconds. His hand grabs Adrian's forearm hard, hefting him to his feet. Adrian sways and nearly takes the both of them down.

"What the fuck did you take?" Deran asks, demands of him.

Adrian blinks a few times. "Fuck you."

"Uh, you know this guy, Adrian?" the guy whose lap Adrian had been in asks.

"Yeah, I'm his fucking sponsor," Deran snaps. "Dude's an addict. C'mon buddy, let’s get you home."

He drags Adrian away from the party and into the garage. Adrian stumbles a bit but makes it out onto the street without eating asphalt. "Where's your car?" Deran asks. Adrian's silent. Deran reaches into the pockets of Adrian's jeans and fishes out the fob. A pair of lights flash a little ways down the block when he taps the unlock.

Adrian isn't accommodating as Deran tries to get him into the passenger side, but eventually he manages. He pulls the door closed with a slam as he drops down into the driver's seat.

"Didn't know the party was here," Adrian mumbles. "I wouldn't've came if I knew."

Dear lets out a long breath, turns the engine over. The air conditioner kicks in. Deran switches it off. "What am I supposed to say to that?" he asks.

Adrian shifts in his seat, sitting up properly. He grabs his seatbelt, carefully, clicks it closed across his waist. "So what's up with you anyway, Deran? Word is that you had a real shot of going pro. I thought you were supposed to be getting out of your family's shit.” Adrian stops to suck in a breath, blows it out hard from deep in his chest. “That bank robbery the other day, they said there were four dudes."

Pulling out into the road, Deran's quiet. "Yeah," he says after a while. "Well."

Adrian's laugh is mean when it comes. Grating. "Yeah, well."

The rest of the drive is quiet. Deran parks the car and throws the keys into Adrian's lap, ready to turn right back around and walk his ass home, but Adrian stumbles on the curb and nearly brains himself on the sidewalk as he tries to get himself out of the passenger seat.

"Fuck," Deran says.

He jogs back and helps Adrian stand, half-carries him to the door of Ben's little condo. Adrian hadn't asked how Deran knew where he was staying, and Deran isn't about to share that he always asks around about Adrian whenever he runs into Adrian's crew, greedy for any information that he can get.

Adrian hands him the keys again when they reach the door, Deran shoulders it open once he's got the lock undone. "You got a room?" Deran asks. Adrian nods and points deeper into the darkness of the house.

The place turns out to only have the one bedroom. Deran tells himself that Adrian must be house sitting while Ben's off on assignment somewhere. He doesn't want to think about any alternatives, so he doesn't.

He flips the light on when they cross the doorway, drops Adrian down onto the bed. He doesn't waste time in taking off Adrian's shoes, undoing Adrian's belt. Adrian's hands grab his, stilling them. He looks at Adrian and jolts when he runs his fingers through Deran’s hair. Their faces get close but Adrian doesn't kiss him, nuzzles him instead.

Deran sighs and brings a hand up to the back of Adrian’s head. He scratches Adrian's nape gently with the pads of his fingers. "Hey," he says. "What'd you take?"

Adrian pulls back a little. There's a smile on his face. "I'm not sure."

Deran pushes him down again, finishes getting him undressed. Adrian grabs hold of his hand once he's done, preventing him from pulling away. It's a loose grip, but when Deran tries to pull away it tightens into a vice.

"My skin hurts," Adrian says. Deran has to laugh.

"Sorry, buddy, but I'm old hat. I can tell it's not that kinda trip."

He really, really wants to kiss the pout off Adrian's face. He doesn't.

"Lay with me until I fall asleep." Adrian's pleading voice could get Deran to move a fucking mountain with his bare hands. "Besides," he continues, "you owe me."

That's true in more than one way. Deran kicks his shoes off and climbs into the bed. Adrian fights with him a bit until he pulls his tank top off over his head. When Adrian lays his head down on his chest, Deran can tell from the quiet way that Adrian’s breathing that he’s listening to Deran’s heartbeat.

He looks around the room to give himself something to do that isn't boring a hole into Adrian's face with his eyes, realizes that there are pictures on the bedside table nearest to them. He shifts a little to grab them, jostling Adrian's position on his chest. He laughs over Adrian’s bitching at him for moving.

Deran balances the stack of photos against the top of Adrian's head, looking at them one by one.

"Ben told me to go through his externals while I was here. Pick out any I liked," Adrian says. His voice is soft. Deran's going to stay with him until he falls asleep, then head back to the house. He doesn't want Craig or anyone else asking questions.

He doesn't want to deal with Adrian in the morning, when he's sober and not loved up on whatever's coursing in his veins that has him ready and willing to stand Deran for a change.

The pictures are of waves, surfers riding them as little dots that don't compare to the vast blue. There's some that are clearly of Adrian, of John and Dani and a few other of their friends. There's a picture of Adrian and Deran on the beach, just talking. It's hard to find any defining feature to give a date or place, but something in Deran says it's San Onofre.

"This one's of us," Deran says. He keeps his voice quiet, in case Adrian's fallen asleep.

Adrian's still awake. He hums quietly, like he knows exactly which picture Deran's talking about. "We were happy. I'll print you out a copy too, if you want."

Deran swallows, thick. "Yeah," he says. "That'd be great."

Adrian doesn't get the picture to him the next day. Or the day after that. It's fine.

Scuttlebutt that Deran's heard says that Adrian's really going for it this season, with sponsors and everything. Deran makes the WSL's rankings his homepage, checks to see if Adrian's name cracks into the top 50 for North America.

The sponsors that've been buzzing around Deran for years dry up after he flames out of his last few QSes. He starts to wonder why he even bothers, makes a conscious decision not to register for the event happening early next month. It's fine.

Smurf's got him and Craig doing grunt work every night, stakeouts for another heist job. In the morning she makes him run around town collecting rent.

It's fine.



The last person Deran wants to see when he steps out of East Mesa is Smurf, but there she is. Craig bounds up to the gate where Deran's standing, gives him a hug before leading him back to her. She cuddles Deran to her chest and strokes his hair.

"It was awful having two of my angels away from me," she says. "Deran, don't you ever do something stupid like that again. You're too old for this shit."

"Sorry, mom."

He gets into the back seat of the car without complaining about it, and they pull out into the main road towards the freeway going north. The jail had forced him to buzz his hair down when he'd first been admitted and five months of growth now sit awkwardly atop his head for his trouble. He can’t stop tucking phantom strands behind his ears out of nervousness.

"Where's Baz?" he asks.

"On assignment," Smurf says. He doesn't ask any more questions.

She puts him on rent collection when they're back home. His parole officer isn't somebody they've greased in the past and Smurf doesn't want the family getting looked at too much while they're in the middle of a job, not with Pope off doing time and keeping them firmly on the local beat’s radar.

Deran tells his P.O. that his family is a bit of a trigger for him, that he's thinking about going down south to get away from them, ensure that he stays on the up and up, talks about thinking about giving surfing another try, that kind of shit. The guy's sympathetic and tells Deran that he'll look into getting Deran clearance for international travel.

Each day kind of runs together. Smurf's got her tenants terrified enough that the checks and money orders are given up without much drama. By mid-week there's only the businesses left, and he heads down to Tao's with his surfboard in the back of the jeep, figuring that he might as well get a few sets after he collects since he’ll be down there anyway.

Adrian's out in the front, putting up a sign for surfing lessons. It's like a punch to the gut. When Adrian kind of smiles at Deran, Deran returns it.

"Well,” Adrian says, “you sure filled out.”

Deran feels a grin start to spread across his face. He doesn't remember the last time he actually smiled. It's nice.

"Inverse correlation to your hair though, huh?" Adrian points at Deran's head as Deran drops his chin into his chest, smiling down at his feet now.

"It's not great, I know," he says.

Adrian hums, his considering one. Deran looks up, catches the aborted movement of Adrian's hand between them. His fingers tense and relax a few times before he steps closer and scratches a hand against Deran's scalp.

"I dunno," Adrian says. "I kinda like it. Feels sorta military prep school."

They both laugh a little. Deran steps a closer, slightly. Adrian lets his hand drop. Their eyes catch. Deran knows that he should probably step back, that people here know him, know his mom. He stays put.

"I should probably get back to work," Adrian says. It doesn't sound like he's all that sure about it.

"Uh, yeah." Deran points to the door. "I'm just here to collect the rent. You work here now? Puttin' down roots again or what?"

Adrian's expression shutters. "We'll see. This one of Smurf's buildings?"

Deran tries to tuck some of his hair behind his ear and feels like an idiot for it. "Uh, yeah. But it's legit, obviously."

"Cool," Adrian says. "Well, I'll see you around, Deran."

Deran steps inside, grabs the check from José without the usual smalltalk and leaves, surfing plans forgotten.

At night he lays awake in bed at Smurf's house. She'd rented out the apartment he'd kept in one of her complexes not long after he’d gotten arrested, even though he hadn’t been gone all that long. The pictures are all still on the wall in his room, torn even more from roughhousing with his brothers, slightly faded by the light that's never been shy about blinding the room from the windows.

The next morning he heads to Tao's, bright and early. Adrian's there. He looks a vaguely surprised to see Deran.

"Hey, man," Adrian says. "Something wrong?"

Deran shakes his head. He paces a little, trying to come up with words to voice what he wants to say. He picks up a little tin of turtle wax and invites himself to work one of the in-process boards set up, working it into the resin.

"Hey, so, I know you just got back." Deran's speaking down at the surfboard rather than to Adrian. He knows that he sounds as awkward as he feels. He keeps going, working though it. "But what do you think about skipping off for a couple weeks? I gotta get the fuck out of here."

He takes peeks at Adrian as he moves up the board. He wishes that he still had his hair. This was easier when he had bangs to hide behind.

Adrian's visibly confused, but when he speaks he doesn't ask any of the questions that are clearly running through his mind. "Never had a job I couldn't quit."

Deran lets out a slow breath. He stops waxing, taps his hands on the board a few times out of nervousness, a rhythmless beat. "Awesome," he says. "I'm thinking, like, Belize, or some shit."

He watches Adrian step closer to the board. "Didn't you just get out of jail?"

Deran ignores the question. Instead he focuses on what it means that Adrian knows that. Hardly any of the people Deran hung out with knew that he was locked up. Adrian really must have asked around to’ve found out what was up. Maybe he even went to Craig.

It means something. Deran knows it does.

"I've got the money to front you, if you're strapped," Deran says.

Adrian rolls his eyes. "I can pay my own way, Deran."

Deran's grin is a little sharp as he steps around the board and enters Adrian's space. "So you're in?"

The toes of their shoes are touching. Deran can smell the mint gum that Adrian’s got in his mouth, a brand that he’s been loyal to since they were kids. It’s comforting, the things about Adrian that haven’t changed. Deran hopes that he’s one of them, still, a habit that Adrian won’t break.

“Something tells me that I shouldn’t.” Adrian isn’t moving, but Deran doesn’t care for the look on his face.

There’s this part of him, the Deran who feels embarrassed by everything he does, that wants to stop while he’s ahead, hasn’t made too much of an ass of himself, save himself from being played, or worse.

He’s not about to beg Adrian to take a fucking vacation with him, is what that part of him says. Deran’s tired of listening to it, remembers when Adrian used to be the one person who he never had to factor that part of himself against. The whole point of getting away is to see what his life might be like without his family, the genesis of that part of him. Would Deran even need it anymore, when he isn’t around the person who made it a necessity in him in the first place?

“It’ll be simple,” Deran says. “I’ll be good.” He closes the space between them, doesn’t allow himself the chance to think twice or look around to check their surroundings, even though he knows that they’re the only two people in the shop right now.

The kiss isn’t their best, Deran wound up far too tight at the thought of getting caught. He pulls back after a few passes of their tongues against one another, makes sure to stare straight into Adrian’s eyes. “To you,” Deran adds, in case it wasn’t obvious.

Adrian genuinely looks shocked now, more than the spark of surprise that he’d shown when Deran had walked through the door.

“Alright,” Adrian says, after a beat. “Y’know what, Deran? Yeah. I can do simple.”

Deran gives him a smile, nervous.

Adrian returns it. It's the one of his that Deran’s always liked the most, the one that’s even better than his laugh.