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it seems like we are going anywhere

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The fluorescent bulb that lights up the stretch of hallway before Brian’s door is flickering slower than usual, and his sleep-deprived brain latches onto the pattern of it as he fumbles for his keys. Off, on. Off, on. He can feel the pounding in his head sync up to the sickly white beat. Off, on. Off, on. Find your keys. Front pocket? Back pocket. Unlock the door. Right? Left.

Off, on. Off, on.

He reaches up to rub at his eyes and immediately winces at the feeling of thick greasepaint. His fault for going digging through the darkest, dustiest corners of the costume shop closets. His fault for pulling out the half-used jars of makeup that had probably been sitting there since before he was born. His fault for nodding eagerly when the TA asked to use his face as a swatch board. He’s touch starved and in constant need of upperclassman approval on the best of days. Throw a few too many late-night rehearsals into the mix and apparently he’ll whore out his own face if you ask nicely enough. It helps if you’re the really cool senior that keeps dropping by his Dramaturgy class. It helps if your nails are always painted a shimmery shade of teal and your hair is really shiny. It helps if you always smell like peppermint and vanilla and rarely spare your incredibly valuable attention for wide-eyed freshmen like Brian.

The key finally decides to fit all the way into its lock and Brian stumbles into his room. Well, his room that’s not his room. Brian grew up with siblings. He’s used to sharing, but there’s just something a little too... off. about sharing your bedroom with a stranger. Especially if that stranger seems to avoid eye contact at all costs and only answer questions in clipped, if friendly, sentences. Especially if that stranger spends half his time wearing soundproof headphones and humming along to his music like he doesn’t even know he’s doing it. Especially if you’re pretty sure you recognize the songs he’s singing and you’d really like to see if asking him about it can make his face light up like it did when he saw your honestly pathetic CD collection. The only thing Brian can say for sure about Jonah is that he’s got a nice voice. And his smile is contagious, on the rare occasion he gets to see it.

And, apparently, when Brian spends his fifth night in a row out late at rehearsal, he takes the opportunity to light up.

“Jesus,” Brian coughs out. He’s speaking more in reaction to the smell of the room than at Jonah, who’s hanging halfway out the window when Brian walks in. Jonah jumps, banging his shoulder loudly on the sash and somehow managing to shout “ sorry! ” even louder. There’s definitely a joint in his hand as he pulls himself back through the window, hiding the thing guiltily behind his back like some kind of cartoon cat caught making a grab for the canary.

They stare at each other for a moment. Well, Brian stares at Jonah. He’s not sure if he should be mad about the weed or the way Jonah seems genuinely afraid Brian might rat him out, because, like, c’mon. Jonah, for his part, stares at the floor, although he keeps sneaking glances up at Brian. There’s a funny look in his eyes, like maybe there’s something wrong with Brian's hair, or something on his face.

“Are you wearing makeup?” Oh. That. Brian feels his headache come back full force.

“I was… helping a TA.” Maybe Jonah can fill in the blanks there in a way that makes sense. Brian definitely can’t. “You don’t have to say anything. I was just going to change and then get it all washed off.” Jonah shrugs and casually stubs out the joint in one movement that’s way more fluid than Brian expected from how very much their room smells like weed. Huh. Maybe that’s his secret. Maybe he just needs to smoke every once in a while to properly crawl his way out of his hermit shell.

“Nah, you look pretty.” Jonah cuts his own self off with a strangled sort of noise and turns so red that Brian feels a stab of concern for his blood pressure. Maybe he should tell him to relight the joint. “I mean- You look- It looks. Um. Not… bad,” he finishes lamely.

“Thanks,” Brian says, and the panicked pitch of his voice surprises him. He can feel his face heating up under the layers of grease. “I doubt I’ll be able to get it all off, so I guess I’ll stay pretty for a little longer.” Was that flirting? Is he flirting?? With Jonah? His head won’t stop pounding.

“I can help.”

“What?” The weed really must be helping, because Jonah’s answering shrug is almost convincingly nonchalant.

“If you want me to, I mean. I used to help my sister get her makeup off after school shows.”

“I didn’t know you had a sister,” Brian says, which doesn’t matter at all. This night is quickly spiraling wildly out of control, and Jonah is looking at him expectantly with his sweet, sleepy eyes. Brian’s pretty sure they’ve never made eye contact for this long before. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Jonah says, and he gives Brian a shy little smile. Brian parks his ass in his desk chair because suddenly he’s feeling a little dizzy. It’s probably lack of sleep. Jonah ducks under his bed so he can rifle through his shower caddy and Brian takes the opportunity to gulp down a few deep breaths. In, out. In, out. He’s shared a room with Jonah all semester. He’s seen him shirtless. He’s seen him sleep-ruffled and mumbly. Seeing him stoned shouldn’t be any harder.

Jonah finds whatever he needed in his shower caddy and drags his own chair over to face Brian’s. There’s something intense in his eyes, but the way he moves is more relaxed than Brian’s seen him all term.

“Hold still,” Jonah says, and that’s all the warning Brian gets before Jonah’s hands are all over his face. It would be kind of panic-inducing, a little heart-flutttery, except Jonah’s smearing something cold and goopy all over Brian’s cheeks.

What is that? ” Brian jerks away, nearly tipping over the back of his chair. “What are you putting on me?”

“It’s lotion,” Jonah says. He’s got his hands up like Brian’s face is still between them. “It helps break up the foundation. Or something. Sierra explained it to me, but I didn’t really listen.”

“Why do you have lotion in your shower caddy?” Brian demands. Jonah blinks, and then gives him a slow smile.

“Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answers to.”

Oh my god. Was that a joke? From Jonah Scott?

“Ew,” Brian says, kind of offended by how unoffended he is. “You don’t have anything else you could use? Soap, maybe?”

“It’s not the same. I heard lube works too.” There’s another pause, and this time Brian notices the blush creeping up Jonah’s neck.

“Do you… have lube?”

“No,” Jonah says, and the strangled note is back in his voice. “I don’t- do you want me to help you or not?”

“Okay,” Brian says. “Just. Minimize the jizz lotion, okay?” He leans forward in his chair again, putting his face between Jonah’s hands. It’s less unpleasant this time, now that he knows what to expect. The way Jonah slides his thumbs across Brian’s cheekbones feels almost tender. The way he runs his fingers under his jaw definitely is. Jonah’s got his lips pressed together in a flat line, the way he does when he’s completely focused on an essay, and huh. Brian’s not sure when he started noticing what Jonah did with his lips.

“Do you usually let your TAs put makeup on you?” Jonah asks, and his voice is so soft Brian almost doesn’t catch the question.

“No. I mean, they’re TAs. I guess I let them do whatever they want. After-hours theatre gets kind of crazy, you know?” Jonah’s smile turns wry.

“Right. I forget how theatre kids are.” Brians snorts at that, but Jonah’s fingers brush across his forehead and the sound morphs into something like a dreamy sigh.

“How theatre kids are?”

“You know,” Jonah shrugs. “Loud, energetic. You’re always doing something. Always talking, socializing.”

“Not your thing?” Brian feels like he’s finally figuring Jonah out.

“Not my thing,” he confirms. Jonah leans back in his chair, looking satisfied.

“Am I back to normal?” Brian asks, and the laugh is not reassuring.

“Oh, no. You look like you got a facial from like, five guys at once.”

“Just from you,” Brian answers, because fuck it. His heart is pounding more than his head now, and he kinda wants to see how much of Jonah’s shell he can crack open in one night. He’s definitely never seen Jonah turn so red so fast before. He makes a kind of non-answering squeak and then dives for something else in his shower caddy. Jonah comes back with a washcloth in hand and a face like a tomato.

“You should let your TAs fuck with your face more often,” he says, and Brian hums as Jonah sets to wiping all the shit off his face. His movements are a little more focused this time.

“Would you help me take it off again?” Brian asks, leaning his face into Jonah’s palm, because if there’s one thing he’s learned from theatre kids it’s how to be unashamedly needy.

“If you wanted me to,” Jonah says softly. He puts down the makeup-caked washcloth but his eyes stay locked on Brian’s. Brian can feel the silence stretch between them, and he breaks the moment with a ragged breath.

“Do I look normal now? Not so pretty?”

“You always look pretty,” Jonah says, and it’s the slightest edge of sadness that sends Brian over the edge, pulling Jonah to him by the collar of his raggedy-ass t-shirt and pressing their lips together. For a long moment Jonah doesn’t move, and then he’s sliding a hand down to Brian’s waist, the other one tangling in his hair, and he’s kissing him back full-force.

Maybe it’s the heavy scent of smoke still lingering in the room, or maybe it’s the press of Jonah’s broad palm against Brian’s back and the insistent tug in his hair, but Brian’s spent a fair amount of his freshman year slutting around campus and none of his makeouts have felt quite this good. Jonah’s a little sloppy on the finer details, but that doesn’t stop him from sliding his hands down to Brian’s ass and pulling him firmly into his lap. Brian lets out an involuntary moan which Jonah echoes enthusiastically. He leans back a little, lets Brian straddle him completely, and that must be just a little too much for their standard-issue dorm room desk chairs because suddenly they're tumbling backwards onto the dorm room floor.

Jonah lets out an “oof” as he hits cold tile, wrapping his arms around Brian so he has no choice but to land straight on Jonah’s stomach. Even with the wind knocked out of him, Jonah’s got nothing but a goofy smile when Brian wriggles back enough to check that he’s okay.

“I’ve been wanting to do that since September,” Jonah says once he’s got his breath back, and Brian hasn’t taken the time to figure out when he developed this crush but apparently it was far enough back that the idea of Jonah mooning over him for months just makes his stomach go all fuzzy. 

“Was it okay?” Brian doesn’t notice his own goofy smile until he hears it in his voice.

“Hurt more than I was expecting,” Jonah wheezes, probably for effect. Brian rolls his eyes and this time Jonah lets him squirm free and flop down on the floor next to him. 

“Alright, won’t do it again,” Brian says, and Jonah whines, definitely for effect.

“What if I promise not to hotbox the room again?”

Definitely not then,” Brian says. “If you think I’ll just make out with you whenever and you won’t have to share your weed-”

“I still have half a joint left,” Jonah says, jumping up to retrieve the stub from the chipped coffee mug he’s been using as an ashtray. Brian kicks at his ankle because he wasn’t done talking, dammit .

“Are you only going to make out with me when you’re high?” He puts every ounce of theatre-twink whine as he can into the question. It’s an all-cards on the table kind of night. Jonah’s probably seen him cry to the Billy Elliot soundtrack. If he doesn’t know how annoying Brian is by now, that’s his own fault. Jonah pauses by the window, looking thoughtful.

“I get anxious a lot. Like, a lot,” he finally says. Brian props himself up on his elbows, because this seems like a thing he should listen to. “I don’t- I like you all the time, but you can be scary.”

“Scary?” Brian sits up fully now, and Jonah crosses the room to sit next to him.

“I guess I don’t know what to say to you half the time. Or I do, but I’m too embarrassed to say it.”

“Like what?” Brian asks, and Jonah squints like he’s trying to remember.

“Like I really fucking hate your shorts.”

“My shorts?” Brian doesn't have to feign the affronted look.

“The Maryland ones. They’re hideous.”

“They’re my culture-

“But I really like the way you look in shorts.” Jonah runs a hand tentatively along Brian’s knee as he says it, not meeting his eyes.

“And that’s something you can only say when you’re high?” Jonah shrugs. “Jonah, I was in your lap like, five minutes ago.”

Jonah hums at that, considering it.

“I guess that’s true.”

“I always want to ask you what music you’re listening to,” Brian says leaning into Jonah’s shoulder. Jonah blinks.

“You do?”

“I like how excited you get when you talk about music.” Jonah looks down at his lap, and Brian realizes he’s holding the stub of his joint.

“Okay,” Jonah finally says. “Okay, so, tomorrow? Ask me what I’m listening to. And we can, I don’t know-” Jonah waves his hand vaguely. “We can talk. And makeout, and stuff. But tonight?” He reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a lighter. He holds it out to Brian like he’s fucking proposing. “Tonight, will you smoke this with me and sit in my lap again?” He says it like a joke, but there’s earnesty in those sleepy eyes.

“Yeah, that sounds good,” Brian shrugs and lights the joint.

 

---

 

“Hey, Brian?” Jonah’s voice comes through the dark, soft and tentative.

“Yeah, Jonah?” Brian says, trying no to sound too groggy.

“Now I’m anxious about picking a good song to talk about tomorrow.”

“I like the Backstreet Boys,” Brian offers, because it has to be nearing four a.m. and he can’t think of much else.

“Jesus christ,” Jonah says, and it sounds soft enough that he might be talking to himself. “Okay, nevermind. I’m not anxious anymore.”

“Fuck you,” Brian says gently.

“G’night Bri.”

“G’night Jo.”