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[personal profile] ohnoitsshirley
well, it's been a year (that doesn't surprise me)
jon/ryan, pg, 4,342 words
college au. a story about second chances.
thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ashlein for hand-holding. thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ericaplease and [livejournal.com profile] cmonkatiekatie for most excellent and speedy betas. (and [livejournal.com profile] foxxcub for running the challenge!)
written for [livejournal.com profile] lifeslushlips for the [livejournal.com profile] drawn_to christmas exchange. i hope you like it. there is a distressing lack of porn (and angst), but at least it's a pairing you wanted? and an au! it's technically December 9th, and if I don't do this now, I'll forget before work tomorrow and I'll feel lazy after and it'll be a horrible cycle.
yes, i know, only i would steal a song title from a christmas song by wham. don't judge.

The coffee shop on campus is packed full, and Jon briefly weighs the pros and cons of actually going in. Con: it's hot and stuffy and there probably won't be anywhere to sit. Pro: coffee is delicious, and Jon'll need about ten shots of espresso if he plans on pulling the all-nighter he needs to pass his final tomorrow. So the pro wins out. Jon steps into the back of the line. There are at least six people in front of him and they all look agitated, ready to get their coffee and get out.

Before Jon can blink there are four people behind him. The baristas are getting drinks out as fast as they can. Jon remembers being in their position, so he tries not to get frustrated by the wait. The other people in line aren't as forgiving.

Once he finally gets up to the counter and orders his venti americano -- two extra shots of espresso, cream and sugar -- he sets about looking for a place to sit. He kind of wants to procrastinate today. There are no free tables, but he spots someone familiar in a back corner with his nose in a book, making notes in the margins. Ryan was Jon's roommate freshman year, and while they hadn't gotten along at first, they eventually became friendly enough. Not enough to fight to be roommates sophomore year or to hang out regularly, but they still say hello sometimes.

And Ryan has a table.

Jon walks up to the table and pulls out the chair, sitting down as he asks, “Mind if I –?”

“You already are.” Ryan says. It takes him a while to look up from his book. “Oh, hi, Jon.” Jon vaguely remembers that sometimes, when Ryan started concentrating on something, he would lose focus on everything around him. Sometimes he'd forget Jon was even in the room.

Jon laughs, drumming his hands on his coffee cup. “Wow. Two years and some things never change.”

“Hm.” Ryan looks up. “Oh, Jon. When did you get here?”

Jon laughs again, loud this time, rolling his eyes. “What the hell are you studying, man? Whatever it is, must be intense.”

“Oh, it's just history.” Ryan closes his book, putting a pen in to mark the page. “Final tomorrow. Why aren't you studying?”

“Pulling an all-nighter, dude. You know how it is.” Jon shrugs. “What've you been up to?”

“Studying.” Ryan looks down at his books. “You know, the usual.”

Ryan had actually studied freshman year. Jon didn't study much at all, but he still managed to pass things. It used to drive Ryan up the wall. Jon thought it was kind of hilarious, actually, but Ryan never agreed.

“Right,” Jon says. His coffee is getting cold. “Are you going home for winter break?” Freshman year, Ryan hadn't. He'd just said there was nothing in Las Vegas for him anymore, and Jon was happy to let it drop. He'd thought about inviting Ryan to come to his place for Christmas but he didn't think Ryan would say yes.

“No.” Ryan doesn't offer any more of an explanation, and Jon doesn't ask. “Are you?”

“I am home.”

“Right, right. I forgot.” Ryan nods. “You're from Chicago.”

“Yeah,” Jon says. He doesn't know why, but it kind of bothers him that Ryan didn't remember that. He wonders what else Ryan doesn't remember about him. “Well, I should go," he says. "You know, all-nighter and all. Have fun with your History book.”

Ryan nods and opens his book again. Jon waves half-heartedly and fights his way back out into the cold.


Jon runs into Ryan again the day after finals end.

He's buying Christmas presents now because he's trying, really trying, not be here on Christmas Eve this year, as per usual. He gets distracted by a display of scarves. They remind him of something, but he can't really remember what. He picks a particularly ugly one up -- it's all floral patterns and bright colors -- and wonders why anyone would own such an ugly thing.

“I like it.” Jon jumps at the voice, looks over and sees Ryan standing next to him, studying the scarf in Jon's hands. “Is it for you? You don't really seem like --”

Jon throws the scarf back into the bin. “What? No, no. Just shopping for Christmas presents. I think my Aunt already has something like that, though.”

“You can never have too many scarves,” Ryan says, shrugging. He picks up the same scarf that Jon just put down.

Jon almost laughs at that, but he's too busy realizing what attracted him to the scarves in the first place to really find the humor in it.

“Anyway,” Ryan says, putting the scarf down, “I should probably save my money.” He looks over at Jon. “What are you doing here, anyway? Don't you have somewhere to be? Somewhere with your family or whatever?”

“I live in Chicago.” Jon says. He can't keep track of how many times he's told Ryan. “Remember?”

“Oh. Oh, right. You're shopping for Christmas presents.”

“What are you doing?" Jon asks. "I thought you didn't have family here.”

“I'm buying something for my friend, Spencer. I can send it to him.” Ryan shrugs. “And I know people here.”

“Right. I didn't mean to imply – I mean, you have friends. I know that.” Jon feels bad for suggesting that anyone to buy presents for. The air feels kind of tense and awkward now, and Jon doesn't know what else to say. He also feels like he should apologize for assuming. He doesn't really think before he asks, but it suddenly seems like the thing to do. “Hey, do you want some coffee? It's on me.”

“Oh, sure.” Ryan nods. “As long as you're buying.”

Jon laughs. “Yeah, I'm buying.” He knocks his shoulder into Ryan's. “I just have to pay for some things,” he says. Ryan nods and follows Jon as he goes to the registers.


“So, what are you doing for Christmas? I mean, if you're not going home.” Jon and Ryan are sitting on a sofa in the back of the mall Starbucks. It was the only place free, and they're pushed close because there are two people on the other end. It's not so bad, except Ryan has a fucking boney elbow.

“Staying here. Doing what I'd do any other night. All of my friends are going home.” Ryan says, shrugging. “It's no big deal. Just another day.”

“But it's Christmas,” Jon says. He loves Christmas. He loves the music and the stupid sweaters and the decorations, and he can't understand how someone just doesn't love Christmas. “Christmas is awesome.”

“Christmas was never a big deal for me.”

“You should come to my house," Jon says. "My mom cooks a huge meal and we hang out. It's fun.” He doesn't really know what makes him extend the offer now, when he and Ryan haven't said more than a hello to each other every now and then for the last year and a half. But Ryan's sitting next to Jon and they're having coffee, talking about Christmas and it seems like the thing to do.

“Spence says the same thing to try and get me to come home every year," Ryan says. "It doesn't work for him either.”

“Well, you know, if you change your mind, my number's the same as it was before.” Jon's pretty sure Ryan doesn't have his number anymore, but he figures it's worth a shot. “I'll be around.”

Ryan shrugs and stands up, muttering something about needing to study somewhere without any distractions. He's almost out the door before Jon can bristle apologize for being so distracting.


On Christmas Eve, Jon is sitting at the kitchen table, pretending to help his mom with some sort of pudding. He's not really sure what he's supposed to be putting in it, but he'd mostly volunteered so that no one would ask him to do anything else. Jon's batch usually gets thrown out, anyway. His mom is getting some of the things ready for tomorrow while Jon's dad hangs out upstairs, pretending to wrap gifts so that he doesn't get roped into helping. Jon had to learn the avoidance technique from someone. His brothers somehow managed to get out of the frenzy of Christmas Eve this year, and Jon's planning to glare at them for it tomorrow.

His cell is sitting on the table in front of him, but Jon isn't really expecting any calls or anything. Everyone he knows is busy, off spending time with family or doing things that are equally dull, so Jon's a little surprised when his phone rings and the number on the display is one he doesn't have programmed into his phone. He considers letting it go to voicemail -- and the look his mom is giving him tells him that might be a good idea -- but Jon glares at the pudding and picks up the phone anyway, shrugging apologetically.


“You said I could call." Jon doesn't recognize the voice right away, but the person goes on before he can ask who it is. “I mean, if you're busy, I can –"

“Ryan?” Jon asks. He's a little surprised Ryan called. He's even more surprised that Ryan still has his phone number.

“Yeah," Ryan says. "Wait, you're busy, aren't you? I should have called earlier.”

“No, it's cool," Jon says. "Really. I told you that you could call.” He wants to ask why the hell Ryan still has his number. But he doesn't.

“Yeah,” Ryan says. Jon can hear him holding his breath. There's a small puff of air and then: “So, I kind of don't want to be alone tomorrow.”

Jon doesn't really know how to respond. He's surprised to hear from Ryan in the first place and even more surprised that Ryan actually wants to take him up on his offer. He rests the urge to pull the phone away from his ear and stare at it and stumbles over his words. “Uhm, okay.” Jon wishes he would have known earlier. His mom's going to be annoyed by the addition of an extra person on such short notice, but Ryan sounds sad and Jon told him it would be okay. He doesn't know why, but the idea of upsetting Ryan is a lot worse than the idea of making his mom angry. “Yeah, totally," Jon says. "We can add another place setting for dinner tomorrow.”

Jon's mom glares at him, but he brushes her off, shrugging one shoulder and pushing back from the table. He heads up to his room. “We eat at, like, threeish? If you can make it by then.”

“Okay.” There's a brief pause and then Ryan says, “Thanks, Jon.”

“No problem, man." Jon smiles. "The more the merrier and all that.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Jon can hear someone talking in the background and then Ryan mutters, “Bye, see you tomorrow,” just before hanging up. Jon doesn't go back downstairs. He pretends to clean his room instead.


There's a lot going on when Ryan shows up. Two things, in particular, are happening. One: Jon's brothers are fighting over what channel to leave the television on. The remote is getting tossed around and stepped on and hidden, and no one appears to be winning just yet. And two: Jon's parents are arguing over whose fault it is that the pie stayed in the oven too long. Jon is thankful for the excuse to “show Ryan around the house.” He doesn't really. He just takes Ryan up to his room and says, “Thank God. I needed a break.”

“Is it always this exciting?” Ryan sounds unimpressed, but that could just be Ryan. For all Jon knows he's really ecstatic right now.

“Nah,” Jon says. “The pies have never gotten burnt before. Usually my brothers give up after two minutes and settle on A Christmas Story. Must be because you're here. They need to impress company by being total assholes.” Jon grins. “It's cool that you made it.”

“Yeah, well.” Ryan sits down on Jon's bed and kicks his feet at the ground, digging his toes into the carpet. “The heat in my apartment died last night, so it was either take you up on your offer or freeze to death. I chose life.” There's a hint of something in Ryan's voice -- maybe it's amusement, Jon can't tell. Whatever it is, it tells Jon that he wasn't really a last resort, and it makes him sit down next to Ryan.

“Well, I'm glad anyway. I was going insane down there.”

“So, this is probably weird, but.” Ryan digs through his messenger bag until he pulls out a small, badly-wrapped package. “Just, like, thanks for inviting me or whatever," he says. He puts the package down between them and looks down at his fingers. “I mean, I know we don't really know each other anymore, if we ever really did in the first place. It's something small.”

Jon's kind of surprised. He takes the box in his hands and stares in awe at the terrible wrapping job. He says, “Thanks, man, you didn't have to. I just thought it would suck for you to spend Christmas alone.”

“Thanks anyway,” Ryan says. “You can open it.”

“I don't know. I don't want to ruin this fantastic wrapping paper. I mean, wow, is it professional or did you do it yourself?” Jon grins, bumping his shoulder with Ryan's.

“Shut the fuck up, Walker. I remember many things that, if I ever repeated them, could get you kicked out of school. Don't think I'm afraid to use my ex-roommate knowledge.”

“Yeah, okay.” Jon shakes the box at his ear. “What is it?”

“You'll have to open it to find out, jackass,” Ryan says.

Jon grins and then tears into the paper. It's nothing big, just a coffee mug, plain black with a little Christmas tree on it.

“Since you love Christmas so much you want to marry it or whatever," Ryan says. "And I remembered that you're an asshole if you don't drink nine cups of coffee every morning.”

“That's not true,” Jon says, offended. “I can survive on seven cups, thank you very much.” He smirks and then nods. Jon sobers before sincerly thanking Ryan. “Thanks for this. It's awesome.”

“It's not much,” Ryan says, shrugging.

“It's cool. I mean, I didn't get you anything, so.” Jon sets the mug on his bedside table. “Anyway, we should go downstairs. Mom will start yelling soon if I don't.”

They go downstairs, and Ryan is quiet for most of the evening. He's polite and answers questions about his college major and his hometown, but he doesn't go out of his way to start conversations, and Jon eventually starts to wonder why he even came -- he assumes it wasn't just to give Jon the awesome coffee mug -- but he tries not to dwell on it. Ryan came because his apartment is cold and because he didn't want to spend Christmas alone. It's not like Jon really thought there was another reason. He and Ryan had barely been friends even when they were living together.

Not long after dinner, when everyone's sitting in the living room arguing over which lame Christmas special to watch, Ryan stands and says, “I should go. Thanks for inviting me.”

It comes out of nowhere. Jon considers trying to get Ryan to change his mind, but then Jon remembers what he's been having to remind himself all night. They were never really friends.

“Bye, man. Call me or something,” Jon says. “We should hang out, like old times.” Old times were really quiet evenings spent studying in the dorm, not saying anything, and the occasional brushed-off party invite. Jon's pretty sure that this time, a lame Christmas mug is just a lame Christmas mug.


Spring classes start back up a few weeks later, and Jon already hates most of his schedule. He's at the point now where he just wants to graduate, get a job and be done with school forever. He has a quiz tomorrow, but Jon's hanging out with Tom and Tom's band instead of studying, watching them pretend to practice. He's kind of bored, though, because Tom keeps ignoring him to pick on Sean, and Sean keeps telling Max he's going to quit if Tom doesn't knock it off. Jon is mostly jealous that he doesn't really fit into this part of Tom's life anymore. He thanks whoever needs to be thanked when his phone rings.

It's Ryan. Jon's -- well, Jon's in shock. He hasn't really heard from Ryan since he rushed out of the house on Christmas Day. Jon dodges out of the room (Tom doesn't notice, and neither does anyone else) to answer his phone.

“So there's this lecture tonight,” Ryan says. “It's on Literature and the American Dream, and it's probably going to be boring and you'll hate it, but you should come anyway because the person I was going to take backed out and I don't want to go alone.

It's the weirdest invitation Jon's ever received, and it comes from someone Jon never expected to go to a lecture with, but something compels him to say, “What time?” instead of fuck no or something equally rude.

“Seven," Ryan says. "I mean, it's cool if you don't – “

“No, no," Jon says. "Hey, that's cool. I kind of need an excuse to get out of here, anyway. Want to meet somewhere?”

“Just in front of the English building is fine. At, like, 6:45?”

“Cool, yeah. Totally.” They say their goodbyes and Jon goes back inside to tell Tom he's got other plans, that something just came up.

“But, dude, we're hanging out," Tom says. "What the fuck?” He looks more offended than Jon expects.

“Rain check, dude. Next week.” Jon rushes out before Tom can argue, but he does hear him bickering loudly with Al about something before the door closes. Jon figures Tom isn't too angry.

Jon has a couple of hours, but he smells like beer and pot and ass, so he needs to change if he's going to be presentable. Jon isn't sure why he really cares. Ryan's seen him in much worse, but it seems different now. Jon feels like he should at least attempt to look halfway decent.

He makes it to the building by 6:40, and Ryan isn't there yet. Jon sits on the steps, picking at his jeans, and he waits. And waits. And waits. Or at least it feels like he waits forever. Ryan shows up what feels like hours later, but he's really only ten minutes late. “Hey,” he says. There's something like a smile on his face. It's a different kind of smile than Jon is used to, and he isn't really sure what to make of it.

“Thanks for coming," Ryan says. "I know it's last minute and all.”

“No problem, dude.” Jon pushes himself up and goes inside with Ryan. They find a couple of seats in the back and sit down.

The lecture is boring -- not that Jon expected a lot of excitement -- but Ryan seems really into it. He's taking notes and everything. Jon half watches Ryan out of the corner of his eye. He's never noticed before that Ryan's hair curls a little at the ends. Jon doesn't remember those curls. Maybe they're new. He doesn't remember Ryan's fingers being so long, either. Not that he's spending a lot of time looking at Ryan's fingers.

Jon turns to look straight ahead, but he can't focus. The lecturer isn't very interesting.

It seems like days before it's over and Ryan turns to him, saying, “So, how far do you live from here? I could walk you.”

Jon blinks a couple of times, trying to focus on Ryan instead of whatever he was just thinking about. He actually can't remember what it was.

“What was that?” he asks.

“I could walk you home, if it's not far from here,” Ryan says again. “Are you okay? Were you that bored?” He seems kind of worried, and Jon doesn't have the heart to say that he was bored out of his mind.

“No, not really," Jon says. "It was okay. There were certain parts I liked.” He doesn't need to mention that the parts he liked mostly involved stealthily staring at Ryan's face when he was so deep in concentration that he didn't even notice Jon was watching him. “Yeah, I live close to here,” he adds, answering Ryan's first question and ignoring the curious look on his face. “Right off campus.”

“Cool. Lead the way.” Ryan smiles, a nice smile that Jon's not sure he's ever seen. “I'm, like, twenty minutes away. It kind of sucks for early classes, but I like it.”

“You can head home if you want," Jon says. "I mean, I can make it to my own apartment.”

Ryan frowns. “Oh, yeah," he says. "I guess, I mean. I was just – Yeah. Cool, thanks for – “

“Hey, you can walk with me if you want.” Jon doesn't know what's up with Ryan, but he figures Ryan might need someone to talk to or something.

Ryan nods a little and they walk on in silence. Jon leads the way. It's a little awkward, not like the long, comfortable silences the had back when they shared a dorm room. Now it's weird, and Jon isn't sure how he feels about it. Hearing from Ryan was pretty weird in general, but Jon doesn't mind. It's been nice to see him again. He figures it might be nice to actually attempt a friendship this time.

When they get to Jon's building, Jon stop and says, “So, we're here.”

“Oh," Ryan says. "You're right. That wasn't far at all.”

“Yeah. It's pretty awesome.” Jon grins. “Thanks for inviting me, dude.”

“Yeah, it's not a – Thanks for coming,” Ryan says. They just sort of look at each other. Ryan looks vaguely nauseous.

Jon grins.

“Right, so don't – “ Ryan leans in really close, and Jon feels a sudden wave of something -- nerves or elation or something he can't quiet pinpoint -- wash over him, and then Ryan's lips are pressed against his own and he can't really think at all. Ryan is kissing him, and Jon is rooted to the spot.

When Ryan pulls back, Jon stares at him. He can't stop staring. How had he never noticed how attractive Ryan was before?

“Wow, okay," Ryan says. "I'll just – That was awkward. Sorry. I'm sorry.”

Jon blinks. His breath hitches, and he can't really get his voice to work. “Wait. What?” He doesn't really know what just happened. “Was this a date?” he asks.

“Kind of?" Ryan says. "I don't know. Not if you're freaking out. I just thought – “ Ryan shakes his head. “I don't know. I thought I'd give it a shot.”

“I'm sorry,” Jon says. His heart his pounding and his ears are sort of buzzing. Plus, he feels kind of dumb for not realizing it before now.

“No, hey, it's my fault. I assumed you'd be into it. I'm sorry.”

“No,” Jon says. “No, I'm sorry. That was pretty much the shittiest kiss since kisses were invented, and it's my fault. Can you try it again?”

“Really?” Ryan blinks.

Jon nods and steps closer. When Ryan leans in to kiss him again, Jon kisses back. This time Jon curls a hand around Ryan's bicep and pulls him closer. He's never thought about doing this, not ever. The entire time he lived with Ryan -- and even after he'd moved -- Jon had never thought about kissing Ryan. He kind of regrets that now because he feels like they could have been doing this a lot more, a lot sooner. It's a fucking awesome kiss.

He pulls back.

“Yeah?” Ryan says. He looks kind of stunned.

“Wow, so.” Jon sighs. “That's why you rushed out on Christmas. I totally brushed you off.” Jon kind of feels like shit. He says, “I'm sorry, I didn't realize – “

“It's not like I said anything.” Ryan pulls a little further away. “We should do this again, though. Maybe next time I won't be dumb enough to take you to something that bores you to death.”

“It wasn't that bad,” Jon says, but it's kind of obvious that he's lying. “Okay," he admits, "I was bored, but it was fine. I'm glad you asked me.” He grins. “In fact, I'm so glad that I'm willing to go out of my way to make sure you get home safe. Want me to walk you home?”

“Are you sure?" Ryan asks. He's looking at the ground, and he sounds kind of distracted. He seems nervous. "It's kind of far.”

“Whatever," Jon says. "This is my hometown, remember? I can hack this cold weather like the native I am.”

“Yeah,” Ryan says. He smiles, nodding. “Okay, you can walk me home.”

“Awesome.” Jon grins. “Lead the way, man.”

Ryan steps ahead, and Jon follows.

He feels like this might be the beginning of something.
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