Lex Fucking Luthor
Ryan was out on a date.
Seth lay in bed, staring at the patterns of light on the ceiling. He couldn't sleep. It might help if he closed his eyes, he supposed. But when he'd tried that, the Cohen thin eyelids worked against him, and he felt the light drenching every pore of his skin.
His mom turned the light on every night that Ryan stayed out late, so Ryan wouldn't stumble into the pool or something. No one left lights on for Seth, of course; Seth was never out late enough to warrant it. Good old stay-at-home Seth. Some things had returned to the way they were--the sucky ways, not the good ones.
Ryan had left around seven, leaving Seth to his own devices. Tonight, his devices had included the X-Box and the DVD player: one game of Halo, openly played, and one episode of Smallville, covertly watched.
The Smallville watching thing was a... thing. Summer had once let on that she had the hots for Lex, and Seth--devotee of all things Summer--had swallowed his reflex ire over the Dawsonification of a great (albeit namby-pamby) cultural comics icon.
At least Summer hadn't expressed a love for Superman himself. While Seth secretly admired (and highly identified with) Clark's infinite capacity for acquiring random, unearned guilt, there was a shallowness, an almost vapid quality to Clark that Seth found unappealing. Lex, now... Lex possessed a certain villainous joie de vivre that--
No. He was not lying in bed thinking about the charms of Lex Fucking Luthor.
This was all Ryan's fault. If Ryan had just stayed home, Seth wouldn't have suffered through another episode of that damned show and its damned Krypto-hypnotic bald man.
Yep. It was Ryan's fault when Seth pressed play on the remote, and it was Ryan's fault when he trawled the boards on the internet, looking for spoilers. Seth was only half-way through the first season, but he had to know--had to know--if Lex and Clark made it through, stayed friends. They didn't really stand a chance, based on canon, but the show screwed up so many other things, he had a secret hope that it would really last between them.
Depressed by the spoilers (and the bad spelling of everyone on the internet), Seth turned off his computer and went to bed.
And lay awake.
And blamed Ryan.
And Ryan's damn date.
And the damn light.
And the Cohen thin eyelids.
The light went out, plunging Seth's room into darkness.
"Finally," Seth muttered, and rolled over.
But instead of closing his eyes, he rolled on out of bed, and went downstairs to the pool house.
He knocked and entered, to find Ryan bare-chested in the bathroom, brushing his teeth.
"You're back!" Seth said. "I wasn't sure--I saw the light go out and thought maybe we blew a fuse or something, so I came down to make sure that you were here and not gonna be, you know, stumbling into the pool in the dark."
Ryan rinsed and spit, and used the back of his hand to casually wipe his mouth. Seth had to admit, Ryan was the kung fu master of the casual masculine gesture. He even made dental hygiene look manly.
"Yep, I'm back," Ryan said.
"That's good. 'Cause we have school tomorrow. And you don't wanna be tired."
"I know, Seth." Ryan turned the tap to hot and let the water run.
"Yeah. Yeah, I knew you knew. I was just worried. You know, not even worried. More like concerned." Seth rubbed one eye as though overcome by weariness. Or the confusion from being weary. One of those. "So, did you have fun tonight?"
God, he sounded just like his mother, sometimes.
"It was fine. We just hung out at her house. Watched some TV." Ryan pulled out a wash cloth and felt the water. "Not hot yet."
"Oh? What'd you watch?"
Ryan winced slightly. "Smallville."
"Look, Seth, I know how you feel about Smallville."
"You do? You know how I feel about Smallville?" Seth asked, narrowing his eyes. For a minute, he wondered how he did feel about the show.
Ryan looked skyward. "I think it's something like 'abominated pastiche of a stale character...' Except you used more words." The water finally started steaming, and Ryan ran his washcloth underneath the stream and soaped up.
"Damn right I used more words," Seth said, nodding.
"It's not a bad show. I think you might even like it."
Seth froze his face in a false scowl. "How so?"
"Well, tonight--" Rayn began washing his face, and his next few words were muffled "--there was a big fight. I think Lex and Clark are enemies now. It's cool."
Seth bit his lip and shook his head. "No."
"No? It's back to the original story. They're enemies, like they're supposed to be. I thought you'd approve." "I can't believe you, Ryan! You're happy about the break up of their friendship?! They were like brothers, man."
Ryan gave him The Look, over the top of his washcloth.
"Don't give me The Look," Seth said. "Aw. Too late. Ok, stop giving me The Look."
"Actually, I don't think they were anything like brothers, Seth."
"Fine, friends, whatever. It doesn't matter. Do you want them to split up?"
"I haven't actually--"
"That's not cool, Ryan." Seth tucked in his lips and shook his head slowly. "Lex is lonely. He was raised in a hostile environment, with no one to count on. Then Clark shows up, and it's great! Lex has a friend. Clark trusts him, and likes him, and listens to him. Lex has a chance to break out of this horrible, lonely life that his family forced upon him, and it's all because Clark believes in him. I can't believe the writers take that away from him, and I can't believe you think it's cool."
"I can't believe you watch the show," Ryan said, drying his face.
Seth felt a blush creeping up the back of his neck. He tried to look nonchalant. "Yeah. Well. Summer's really into it."
"Of course not."
Ryan just nodded, turned and brushed past Seth on his way out of the bathroom. The hair on Seth's arms stood up when Ryan touched him. He followed Ryan into the main room.
Ryan pulled down the bedcovers, wearing a troubled expression. "Look. Seth." His face was half in darkness, but his eyes were bright from the reflected light of the bedside lamp. "It's not going to happen to us."
Seth wanted to believe him; he looked so earnest standing there in the lamplight.
"It already did, once," Seth said, unhappy to do the reminding but feeling it had to be done.
Ryan shook his head adamantly. "What happened... it didn't change the way I feel about you."
Seth felt a small thrill of fear. And excitement. Fearful excitement. Excited fearfulment? He ignored it, and he stopped trying to define it before there was a grammatical catastrophe. Anyway, it didn't matter. Ryan meant that exactly as he said it. Ryan was never about subtext.
"Feel about me? What, like we're brothers?" Seth asked.
"Actually, I don't think we're anything like brothers," Ryan said.
Seth frowned. "I can accept that," he said. "I mean, you already have a brother. I've never tried to push you into a declaration of fraternal feeling before, and I'm sorry--"
"Seth." Ryan stepped forward and grabbed his wrist. "Shut up."
Seth caught his breath when Ryan touched him. "Shutting up. There's nothing I even want to say. So I'll shut up. Any second now--"
"Shut--" Ryan pulled Seth closer to him "--up."
As Ryan's mouth met his, Seth couldn't help but admire Ryan's technique. He hadn't seen the kiss coming, but he wanted it more than he'd ever wanted anything.
Feeling the rasp of Ryan's stubble against his lips, Seth realized Ryan was right.
They were nothing like brothers.