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False Pretenses

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“Seriously?”

Dylan raises an eyebrow at Tyler’s unimpressed expression, but he doesn’t lower his hand. The roller her’s holding and the paint bucket by the blank wall are speaking for themselves.

“You said you needed help with a housewarming party,” Tyler says, the tone completely blank.

“Well, I can’t really have one if the house isn’t ready, can I?” Dylan challenges, waving the roller at Tyler.

“You had the house for a month,” Tyler says, not reaching to take it from Dylan. “I thought you had people for this.”

“What, because I’m a super Hollywood hotshot, and I have people for everything?”

“Well, don’t you?”

There’s a hint of a smile in Tyler’s tone and face now, a teasing edge that makes Dylan smirk back at him.

“Ah see, they’ve all been too busy getting me dressed and giving me sponge baths. I forgot to add painting and general household duties to their contracts,” he says. “Too many personal duties for them to attend to. Like when I don’t feel like my hands can handle the exertion…”

He moves his wrist in a jerking-off motion and then grins harder when Tyler’s cheeks turn crimson at the suggestive gesture.

“But why me?” Tyler asks instead of acknowledging what Dylan’s implying. Therein lies madness, he thinks.

“Because you’re about the only person who’s not gonna judge me for seeing the house in this state. Or for wanting to paint that wall—” Dylan waves across the room “—yellow.”

The room falls into utter silence where normally both of them would already be laughing, but Dylan is clearly too busy trying to get a read on Tyler’s face, and Tyler isn’t sure if Dylan’s joking or being completely serious. Both of them are an option, and Tyler lifts an eyebrow in question a few beats later, still unsure of how to take Dylan’s comment.

“Oh my god, your face!” Dylan doubles over in laughter. “I had you there for a moment, didn’t I?”

“Ass.”

“Dick.”

Tyler chuckles at the familiarity of that exchange, then crosses his arms and waits for Dylan to stop laughing.

“Now come on, help me paint. Please?” Dylan pleads. “I really kind of asked you because I knew no one else would. Besides Jules, but she’s back in Boston again.”

“Lucky her,” Tyler grumbles. “What if I can’t stay?”

“Wait, were you going to just show up at my housewarming and then immediately duck out?” Dylan says, looking offended.

Tyler splutters and immediately tries to defend himself.

“Well, no, obviously, but what if I couldn’t stay long? I would definitely stay as much as I could, but what if I had places to go…”

“So then you can stay a little bit and help?” Dylan questions, leaving very little space for a no.

“Fine,” Tyler gives in. Like he was even going to refuse.

“I knew you couldn’t resist my pretty face,” Dylan grins at him, and Tyler finally grabs the roller to avoid having to answer and saying something he can’t take back.

When they start painting, Tyler only spares a moment to think of the clothes he’s wearing — he did think he was coming to a party, after all — but then decides not to worry as they dip their rollers into the paint and start on the first wall.

It would go faster if there were more people, but they still make good progress, and the wall is soon covered in a fresh layer of white paint. Dylan brings out a couple of beers after, and they take a break on the plastic-covered sofa in the middle of the room. It squeaks under their weight and then makes noises that turn both of them into giggly teenagers for a while.

“Right, so, do you need to go?” Dylan asks when they stop moving.

“Nah,” Tyler says, then takes a swig of his beer. “I think we can get this done today,” he adds, glancing at the walls around them.

“You don’t have to, I can…” Dylan tells him, looking a little guilty. “I didn’t mean to lure you in under false pretenses.”

Tyler lifts an eyebrow at him.

“Okay, fine, I did. But you still don’t have to stay,” Dylan says. “Not if you’ve got better things to do.”

“I’m good. I can help.”

Another few beats of silence pass and Tyler keeps his gaze on the blank wall — he’d be quipping about watching paint dry, but there’s tension in the air like there hasn’t been between them in a long time. Then there’s a brush against his cheek, and he freezes before carefully turning to Dylan. As he does, Dylan’s finger brushes across his skin and it feels damp.

“You’ve got a little…” Dylan says weakly, then starts chuckling. “Well, a bigger smudge of paint than you had before you moved.”

Tyler frowns and swipes at his cheek with the back of his hand, then turns his glare at Dylan.

“At least it’s not yellow?” Dylan half-asks, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he clearly tries to hold back laughter.

Tyler moves with very deliberate and slow movements, Tyler puts down his half-empty bottle, gets up off the sofa, and heads for the paint. He keeps glancing back at Dylan, who hasn’t moved from the sofa.

“You wouldn’t dare,” Dylan says still smiling, as Tyler walks back to him, roller dripping paint all over the plastic on the floor.

“You wanna bet?” Tyler challenges, taking another step closer.

That’s what gets Dylan to put his own bottle down, and with a dexterity that catches Tyler off-guard, throws himself over the back of the sofa and ducks behind it, laughing.

“Oh, that’s how you’re gonna play it?” Tyler asks, smirking. “You think you’re faster than me?”

“I’ve had plenty of training,” Dylan says, backing away as Tyler moves to walk around the sofa.

“So did I,” Tyler tells him, and he moves faster.

“I’m younger than you,” Dylan taunts as he hops back over the sofa.

“You’re still going down.”

“You have to catch me first!”

Dylan’s laughing, but then Tyler jumps over the sofa too, takes two long strides to catch up with Dylan, and swipes out with the roller, catching the side of Dylan’s arm with it.

“Asshole!” Dylan yells, then ducks away and to the other roller. “This is war!”

“Oh bring it!” Tyler laughs and rushes as far away as he can while Dylan is grabbing the roller.

“Chicken! Come and fight me!” Dylan calls to him, armed with the other roller that he’s managed to dip into the paint again.

A few minutes later, there’s barely a spot in the room that’s not covered in drips of paint, and Tyler is sprawled on his back on the sofa, with Dylan on top of him, paint dripping from the roller onto Tyler’s shirt.

“Fine, fine, you win,” Tyler says, catching his breath. “This time.”

Dylan chuckles as he scrambles off, then Tyler watches him do a little victory dance, roller raised above his head.

“You’re getting paint on your hair,” Tyler tells him, slowly lifting himself off the sofa. “I mean, not that it makes that much of a difference anymore,” he adds as he walks closer, and reaches out.

Before he can stop himself, he brushes away a drop that’s running down Dylan’s forehead, and his fingers linger on the side of Dylan’s face.

“Oh,” Dylan says a few beats of silence later.

“I…”

“Oh, you idiot,” Dylan grins. “You could’ve said something.”

Tyler blushes and tries to duck his head, but then Dylan is there, fingers lifting Tyler’s chin up, and leaning in.

“Yeah?” Dylan asks quietly.

“Yeah,” Tyler breathes out, and then they’re kissing.

It’s sort and gentle like they’re both still trying to make sure that the other one is okay with it. And Tyler is so very much more than okay with his lips moving against Dylan’s, with the feeling of Dylan’s palm on his jaw, the other gripping and tugging on his paint-splattered shirt. He’s so very okay with his own fingers slowly slipping into the short hair above Dylan’s neck, his other hand on Dylan’s shoulder that’s so much more firm that he was used to it being.

He would also be very okay with them falling back on the sofa, with losing the layers of clothes that are keeping him from the heat that he can feel radiating off Dylan’s body, with…

Slow, he reminds himself, and he pulls away a little, catching his breath.

“Oh.” Dylan lets out when their lips part. “Wow.”

“Yeah,” Tyler says, afraid of what else he’d blurt out if he let himself speak.

“So, uh,” Dylan starts, pausing to meet Tyler’s eyes and then to look over the paint damage on both of them. “I think we both might need a shower. I’m sorry about your shirt.”

“No, you’re not,” Tyler replies, smiling, his cheeks still burning.

“You got all… pretty,” Dylan says, glancing at the shirt again.

“Are you saying I’m not anymore?” Tyler teases, surprising himself with his boldness.

But it feels like he can; like it’s allowed now. Like the way Dylan’s hand is still holding on tight to his shirt is a permission to do what he’s always wanted to, to not hold back on how much he wants to flirt with Dylan.

“I wouldn’t think you of all people would need to fish for compliments.” Dylan grins at him, and he looks so happy, so content that Tyler’s heart soars because Dylan’s looking like that at him.

“So, shower?”

It’s a deflection, a distraction from saying too much, too soon, but he says it knowing that maybe he won’t have to wait too long to tell Dylan everything.

“Come on,” Dylan moves his hand down, finds Tyler’s and links their fingers. “I’ll show you.”

And with the first step towards what he assumes is the bathroom, Tyler wonders if maybe it’s all going to happen faster than he is hoping for.