Title: Then Again (The O.C.)
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
Feedback to: jfc@freeshell.org
Archive: Mailing list archives only--others please ask permission!
Category: Vignette, romance, Seth POV
Spoilers: Set before the cereal scene in "The Gamble"
Rating: Strong R for language/imagery
Pairing: Seth/Ryan (eventually)
Summary: Evidence

DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me. The O.C. is the property of Josh Schwartz, Dave Bartis, Doug Liman, and McG, Warner Brothers Television, Hypnotic Productions, and the Fox Network. This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a sequel to "So Not", which can be found on my webpage at http://jfc.freeshell.org/stories.html - Enjoy!

DEDICATION: To my main enabler, Tiff

COPYRIGHT: (C) Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, October 13, 2003, jfc@freeshell.org

Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.


It is a completely ordinary day here in the slums of Newport Beach, which means it's absolutely glorious outside. The sun is glinting off the surface of the pool, there are about eight little clouds decoratively arranged around the sky, and the breeze is from the precise direction to ruffle one's hair attractively no matter where one stands.

Speaking of which, I would very much like to see it ruffle the hair of one person in particular--Ryan Atwood: my dad's stray puppy, our new houseguest, my new obsession. He's not out here, which is a damned shame.

Okay, maybe "obsession" is too strong a word. He's my friend, which is a rare and wonderful thing. I'd gotten really used to being the odd man out all the time, the weirdo bookworm dork who had to find his own entertainment because none of the other kids would play with me. After all those years, now Ryan seems to have fallen into my life, for a little while anyway, and improved it considerably. A guy could get used to his company...

I may have had a couple of provocative dreams about the guy, but we're just friends, y'know? I do *not* have sexual feelings for him. No how, no way. Just... no. He's so much unlike any of the so-called "normal people" around here that I couldn't help but be fascinated by him. He's got real depth, beyond mere appearances, and while he may not be familiar with some of the culture around here, he's ready to appreciate the kinds of things that are important to me. Cool. The fact that I want him beside me all the time is not about anything but that. Trust me.

Towards that end, it is glaringly apparent that this pool has an alarming lack of Ryan in it, so I must rectify this situation immediately. Luckily, I know where Mom hides the extra key to the poolhouse...

The hinges on the door are kept well-oiled, so my sneak attack is unannounced. This is for the good, as I don't really expect to find him asleep--after all, it *is* seven o'clock already--but the room is quiet. A quick scan of the perimeter yields nothing, so I survey the bed itself.

The comforter is lumped in the middle such that I'm not really sure if he's in there or not. I tiptoe up to the edge of the frame and stand there motionless, the pulse pounding in my ears drowning out any tiny noise, so I wouldn't hear him unless he were snoring. On the count of three, I pounce, diving headlong onto the lumpy covers of the bed and tickling... nothing.

As if to underscore my error, just then the shower is turned on in the adjoining bathroom. "Oh," I say to myself, out loud, flopping back onto the coverlet before I am tempted to toss it over my head in embarrassment. I guess I can wait till he's done to see if he wants to take a dip anyway.

There's nothing to read within reach of the bed, and for some reason, the idea of switching on the GameBoy or iPod or anything noisy that Ryan borrowed from me does not appeal right now. Instead, I stare at the ceiling and let the rhythm of the water lull me into a dream state. To my surprise, I can hear him humming a tune. Wow. Ryan sings in the shower. My mind's eye conjures up a picture of him holding a microphone and crooning the Pearl Jam number he's currently half-muttering under the shower spray, and I have to smile. He has his eyes closed, I imagine, and wails out the high notes right on key, just as he does even in half-voice like now.

It must be because I'm listening to him so closely that I notice when his voice shifts. Instead of a warbling countertenor note, he emits a deep, throaty groan. My ears prick up, kind of against my better judgement, and I can't help devoting my entire attention to what I hear.

He groans again, then inhales sharply. The next noise I hear might even be a cry of pain, whereupon the pictures of rockstar Ryan in my head dissolve to images of Ryan sick and needing my help. Hesitating only until I hear another moan that makes *me* hurt, I lunge up off the bed and stride bravely to the bathroom door.

Glancing through the gap where the door hasn't quite closed all the way, I almost burst in and ask, "Are you all right?" However, what I see inside stops me with one hand gripping the edge of the door and my mouth open to speak, but even *I* can't say anything for the moment.

There is Ryan, naked and pink and wet, pressing his hip against the pebbled glass of the shower enclosure door, motionless except for the rhythmic jerking of his right arm. His volume has decreased, possibly because the echo doesn't carry this close to the room, but I cannot overlook the fact that he is *saying my name* over and over, in intense concentration, almost exactly in concert with the pumping of his hand. I can't quite see for myself, but I know automatically that he is masturbating, and apparently thinking of me as he does it.

At once I am stumbling backwards, my feet keeping me upright only through basic sense memory, because were my movement conscious, I'd have fallen flat on my butt at this thought. As silently as possible, I scramble down the steps to the entry level of the small shelter and back out the main door, relocking it and rehiding the key in its space behind the molding. Leaning against the outer wall of the poolhouse, I finally come to a stop and close my eyes tight, panting just a little.

This looks like a job for Captain Unobservant and the Oblivious Twins. Have I been ignoring something obvious about Ryan? Has my fascination with him not been all one-sided like I thought? Am I just kidding myself about how I feel about him?

He must not have heard me, because I am still alone next to his private domain. Feeling my heart slow to something closer to its normal rate in my chest, I take the opportunity to tug at my pants so they don't feel so uncomfortably tight. Maybe an early-morning dip in the pool with Ryan would be a bad idea, because I don't think this hard-on is going to go away, especially not with him half-naked beside me, or with the image of him completely naked and touching himself burned forever onto my brain. Perhaps I'd best dash up to my room to find some neutral reading material to enjoy over breakfast, so I have something in my hands when I see him again and can hold myself back from grabbing him and just rubbing myself all over him...

What was I saying about its being an ordinary day? I was wrong. I think this just might be the most amazing day of my life...


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