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Spin the Bottle

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Rudyard glowers at Georgie from across the circle. It's her fault that he's in this situation to begin with.

She dragged him out to this stupid party at an overly fancy house belonging to his worst enemy, Eric Chapman - and now she's conned him into playing Spin the Bottle with her, Chapman, and about twelve other sniggering, smirking idiots from their year.

She only wanted him to play so that Antigone would join in too, and then she might have the excuse for a quick snog. She's so transparent.

Georgie raises her eyebrows back at Rudyard and sticks out her tongue slightly. "All right, Eric, it's your turn. Spin the bottle," she says.

Next to her, Vivienne Templar giggles hopefully and stares at Chapman as he twizzles the empty Coke bottle lying in the middle of the circle. Urgh, they're all so transparent. Teenagers. And yes, Rudyard is fully aware that he's one too, but that doesn't mean that he needs to go round acting like... like...

Rudyard's train of thought is cut short as he realises that everyone else in the room is looking at him, a good half of them smirking. The Coke bottle points unerringly towards him, like a harbinger of doom.

"Rudyard!" says Chapman cheerfully, because he's always bloody cheerful. Two places to his left, Petunia Bloom loses the battle with laughter and lets out a cackle.

"Hah! Oh my god, this is great. Sorry, Eric."

"What for?" asks Chapman, still with that infuriating little smile. "Looks like it's me, Rudyard. I'll try to make this quick."

There's an apology and something like nervousness written in his expression, but Rudyard chalks it up to not wanting to be seen kissing the loser of Year Ten in front of everyone. He wants to make some kind of witty and cutting retort, but he can't seem to move or say anything. His face feels like it's on fire.

Suddenly, too soon for Rudyard to prepare himself, Chapman is leaning across the circle and pressing his lips gently to Rudyard's. They're soft - of course they're soft - and Rudyard thinks he can taste a hint of mint Chapstick before Chapman pulls away again. There's a smattering of sarcastic applause from the circle of inane asses, and one person wolf-whistles.

Chapman is still smiling, and his cheeks are pink - which makes him look even more infuriatingly goddamn attractive than he did before. Not that Rudyard fancies Chapman or anything. But it's hard not to notice that he's bloody perfect.

Rudyard brings his fingers to his lips - he wants to make a show of scrubbing them to show how repulsed he is by what just happened, but instead he just touches them gently and then quickly drops his hand. Pathetic. Across from him, Georgie looks unbearably smug.

"All right, show's over everyone, someone spin the bottle again," says Desmond Desmond, who isn't running the game, but likes to feel important anyway.

The bottle spins, and more giggling idiots kiss. Georgie doesn't get her chance to snog Antigone - instead, the bottle lands on Chapman. She gives him a chaste kiss on the cheek, her expression daring anyone to object. Rudyard is reminded vividly of the five minutes they dated in Year Eight, after which Chapman pined after her like a lovesick puppy for an entire year.

Not long afterwards, the game comes to an end as people become bored of Spin the Bottle. "Let's play something else," says Vivienne Templar, twirling a strand of bleached blonde hair around her finger. "What about... Truth or Dare!"

"Urgh, for the love of God, not Truth or Dare," Rudyard complains, but his protests are drowned out by general excitement from the rest of the group. Predictably, Eric Chapman is all in favour.

"That sounds like a great idea!" he says, sickeningly earnest. He probably heard Rudyard and decided to stick the boot in just to spite him. "It's a timeless classic."

Who even says things like that, anyway? Rudyard looks for Antigone to share an exasperated glance with her - they both hate party games (and generally being social) - only to find that she's cosied herself up next to Georgie, and the two are holding hands. Traitor.

"Why don't you go first, Eric?" suggests Marjorie Smith. There's an evil little glint in her eye. Chapman, of course, is blitheringly oblivious to whatever she might be plotting, and gives her a dopey grin.

"Sure, okay."

"Truth or Dare?"

"Dare!" says Chapman, because of course he does.

Rudyard sees Marjorie share a triumphant little look with Vivienne over the tops of everyone's heads before she says, "I dare you to make out with Rudyard. 'Seven Minutes in Heaven'. I'll set a timer."

"Absolutely not!" Rudyard cries angrily, lurching to his feet. He's had enough of this public humiliation. Marjorie gives him a catty, evil smile; everyone else looks smug and amused, except for Georgie, who looks thoughtful, and Antigone, who looks sympathetic.

Rudyard doesn't look at Chapman.

"You had your fun with Spin the Bottle - ha ha, let's all make Mister Popular kiss Rudyard Funn, eww - but I'm not going to stay here and be humiliated by you... pack of hyenas any longer. I'm leaving."

With that, he storms dramatically off in a random direction. He can hear whispers and laughter behind him, but no-one calls out, 'Stop, Rudyard!' or 'Come back!' or 'We didn't mean it!'

Especially not Mr. Perfect Chapman.

It doesn't take Rudyard long to realise two things: one, he left his coat behind with his bus pass in the pocket, so he can't get the bus home; and two, even if he did have it, he has no idea how to find his way out of this stupid maze of a house. The room they were in had about three different doors, and Rudyard left through the nearest one, but now he's found himself in a completely unfamiliar, plushly-carpeted corridor. He storms down it, making a couple of random turns to left and right before he slows, realising that he's getting more lost with every step he takes. But he can't turn back around, so he keeps walking, until he eventually slumps down against the wall and sits there, staring up at what might be a painting of one of Chapman's ancestors.

He wonders how long he needs to sit here before it'll be safe to go back and escape. Maybe all night.


Eric stares in dismay at the door that Rudyard just indignantly stormed out of. He hadn't meant for playing Truth or Dare to result in this. He really did think it sounded like a good idea. But Rudyard, well, he has a bit of a persecution complex, and he's convinced that the whole class is making fun of him at all times.

He's not always wrong, but Eric doesn't think they mean much by it.

He tries not too think to hard about pressing his lips to Rudyard's in the circle, about the way that Rudyard had gently touched his mouth afterwards, almost wondering. That way lies madness.

He shakes himself out of the reverie and finds Georgie giving him an unusually hard look. He hasn't seen that look from her since she dumped him in Year Eight after he tried to read Shakespeare poetry to her off a Kindle.

"What?" he asks.

"Eric, I dare you to go after Rudyard. Now," Georgie orders him.

It's not the kind of order that you think twice about obeying. Eric's feet move almost of his own accord as he follows Rudyard out of the door he just left through.

Once out of the door, however, Eric is presented with a perplexingly empty corridor. How fast does Rudyard move? He's on the shorter side - enough that Eric would have to duck his head a little to kiss him if they were standing up, his mind unhelpfully supplies - but surprisingly adept at sprinting. Eric had tried out for the athletics team just so that he could train with Rudyard (and watch Rudyard training in his running kit, his mind again puts in), but football practice had wound up clashing and well, Eric was team captain. So that put paid to that.

Eric turns down a few more random corridors, trying to think like Rudyard and work out where he would go if he were trying to get away. He's so focused on thinking like Rudyard (or thinking about Rudyard) that he almost trips over him.

"Rudyard!" he exclaims in delight. Okay, you're being a bit too obvious. Try to tone it down.

Rudyard doesn't seem to have noticed Eric's tone, however. "Oh, Chapman. It's you," he says with intense dislike. He's the only person who actually calls Eric by his second name. "Look, you can save yourself the effort - I'm not going back to be humiliated by you and your cronies. I'll just wait here until the party's over."

"They're not my cronies," Eric says, a little hurt. "I promise, I'm not here to try and bring you back. Or make fun of you. If you want to leave, that's your choice."

"So what are you here for, then?" demands Rudyard. "Come to gloat? Or did someone put you up to this?"

Eric hesitates. He's not wrong, but Georgie only gave him an excuse to leave and go after Rudyard. He'd wanted to follow him, talk to him, try to make it up to him.

"Was it Georgie?" Rudyard asks shrewdly.

"I-"

"Yeah, I thought as much," says Rudyard, his mouth twisting in displeasure. He unfolds his skinny frame and gets to his feet. "Well, you found me and talked to me, so your conscience is clear. You can go back to your fanbase now and leave me alone."

"I'm not doing this just to - Rudyard, wait," says Eric desperately as Rudyard starts to walk away down the corridor.

Rudyard stops, but doesn't turn around to look at him.

"Why do you hate me so much?" Eric asks. It's not what he meant to say, but it's been on the tip of his tongue for ages. Every time Rudyard glares at him across the classroom, every time he ignores him at break when Eric tries to involve him in a game. And tonight, when Rudyard had shown up at his house unexpectedly with Antigone and Georgie, and then barged his way past without so much as a hello, disappearing into the kitchen.

"What do you mean, why do I hate you?" Rudyard demands, wheeling around. "You hate me! You always have done! Mr. Perfect Eric Chapman with his football captaincy and his perfect away record - you're too good for the athletics team, but you try out anyway just to show me up! Or what about that time you sweet-talked Mrs. Crusoe into letting you have the part of Oberon in the Year Nine production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and I got stuck being Bottom?"

"In fairness, Georgie was playing Titania," Eric mumbles. He can't deny that one did happen.

"And now," Rudyard finishes in anger, stalking back over to Eric and glaring up at him, jabbing one finger into his chest, "you've come after me to stick the boot in further after your friends humiliated me with Spin the Bottle. What, did kissing me not disgust you enough?"

"You..." Eric doesn't even know where to begin with Rudyard's diatribe. He's got it so, so wrong. God, is this what he's been thinking this whole time? "You've got it all wrong, Rudyard. You have no idea- I'm not trying to humiliate you-"

"Right, hardly even have to try, do you, because it's so easy-"

"Will you just- will you give me a minute?!" Eric bites out in frustration. Rudyard looks surprised, falling mercifully silent for a few moments. But then he smirks.

"Wow, never thought I'd see the Great Eric Chapman lose his legendary cool-"

"Rudyard!" Eric bites out in frustration. "Look, I didn't try out for the athletics team to 'show you up' - I actually wanted to spend time with you."

In running shorts, his mind supplies helpfully.

Rudyard stares up at him, his mouth slightly ajar. For once - for once! he seems lost for words.

"And as for tonight," Eric manages, his face bright red with embarrassment. "I... liked kissing you."

There is a ringing silence.

Eric realises he's squeezed his eyes shut, and opens them. Rudyard is still staring at him dumbfounded, an attractive blush beginning to spread across his cheekbones. He opens his mouth, and then closes it again. It takes a few more minutes for him to recover his voice.

"You're lying," he says unsteadily, accusingly.

"Rudyard-" Eric begins in frustration. God, even when he's trying to spell out his feelings in the plainest of terms, Rudyard doesn't want to hear it. He should just give up now, but damn it, this is the first time they've been alone together since... well, ever. He doesn't want to surrender this intoxicating nearness. "Rudyard, why would I lie to you about that?"

"Because this is a set-up, and there are hidden cameras, or, or - a group of your buddies is hiding around the corner ready to point and laugh at me," Rudyard insists angrily, swivelling his head to left and right as if hoping to catch them in the act. Eric doesn't bother pointing out that there are no corners near enough to them both for it to be worth it.

"They're not my 'buddies', Rudyard. I don't even - I don't even really like most of them," Eric confesses. "I just... make friends with them and charm them because that's what's expected of me. And they all suck up to me because of my money."

"Oh, boo hoo. It must be so hard to be filthy rich and have people falling over themselves to get to know you," Rudyard says scathingly, and Eric winces. He knows the Funns aren't well off - both of them receive bursaries to attend the school. He might be friendly with Ms. Scruple in the secretary's office. She likes to gossip.

"And anyway," says Rudyard, squinting suspiciously up at Eric. "You never charmed me." He says it as if it's the flaw in Eric's argument instead of the central thesis.

Eric laughs a little bitterly. "No, Rudyard, I never charmed you. I guess that makes you the exception to the rule - well, you and Georgie. Figures that the only people I really like are the ones who reject my advances."

There's a beat of silence before Eric realises what he's said, and then wonders if it's possible to physically stuff the words back into his mouth. Rudyard takes half a step back, looking stunned. Eric braces himself for a swift rejection.

"You.... like... me?" Rudyard says slowly, as if he's repeating a foreign language.

Eric sighs. In for a penny, in for a pound.

"Yes, Rudyard, I do in fact like you. A lot. Just as I wasn't lying when I said I enjoyed kissing you. It was... something I've been thinking of doing for a long time."

Rudyard is still squinting up at him, but he hasn't backed off any further. Instead, he closes the half a step between them again, and then draws a little closer. Eric's heart starts to beat wildly.

"Prove it," Rudyard says softly, his eyes on Eric's mouth.

"What?"

"Prove it," Rudyard says again, challenging, looking straight up into Eric's eyes. "Prove you enjoyed kissing me."

"All right," says Eric, and cups his hand gently behind Rudyard's head. When Rudyard doesn't move to pull away, he leans down and captures the other boy's mouth with his.

Rudyard kisses him back tentatively at first, clearly unsure of himself, but after a few light, clinging kisses, he suddenly finds his confidence, surging up to recapture Eric's mouth and sending him stumbling back into the far wall of the corridor. Eric lets out a little 'oof' of air before returning Rudyard's kiss as passionately - almost violently, not that Eric is complaining - as he gave it. He winds the hand at the back of Rudyard's head into his dark curls and tugs, just slightly. Rudyard gives an absolutely obscene moan and tilts his head back, mouth opening slightly. Eric seizes the advantage, sliding his tongue into Rudyard's mouth to explore it. Rudyard moans again, a little helplessly, and then retaliates by pressing his hips more firmly up against Eric's. Oh good god.

Eric breaks away to gasp for air, leaning the back of his head against the wall. Rudyard smirks, which looks devastatingly sexy on him, and delivers a few biting kisses to Eric's lower lip. Eric looks down at him, counting the smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose from a recent outdoor athletics practice. They stand out all the more vividly against his flushed skin. He is ridiculously beautiful.

"What?" Rudyard asks, a little uncertainly. His cheeks tint darker, and he looks suddenly self-conscious.

"I'm just thinking of how crazy I am for you," Eric replies. Maybe the honest truth will persuade him.

Rudyard flushes darker still, and seems about to pull away, but then he leans his forehead against Eric's chest instead. "I don't know what the hell you see in me," he says, slightly muffled.

Eric strokes his hand lightly through Rudyard's curls, at a loss for how to express himself. "Rudyard, you... You challenge me, and you surprise me, and you never once fell for my stupid charm act," he says, looking up at the ceiling in the hopes it will help the words come. "You see people for who they really are. You and your sister fight tooth and nail, but you're always there for each other. You're funny, and blunt, and ridiculous, and never boring. I just can't take my eyes off you."

He looks down at Rudyard to find him giving him an odd sort of half-smile. It's even more endearing than his regular smile (which Eric has only ever seen in very rare, unguarded moments).

"I've decided that I actually quite like Spin the Bottle," Rudyard tells him.

"Oh, really?" Eric asks lightly.

"Yeah, it's not all bad after all."

"But you don't want to go back and play it again?" Eric checks, half-jokingly.

"No, I think I'm fine right here." Rudyard stretches up on tiptoe (not really necessary, but Eric loves it anyway) and threads his fingers through Eric's hair. "How long d'you think we have before anyone comes looking for us?"

Eric thinks about Georgie daring him to go after Rudyard. She ought to be able to keep the others busy for a while. "Oh, ages and ages."

"That's good," says Rudyard, pulling Eric's mouth down towards his. It's the last thing either of them says for some time.