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A Whole Lot of Trying

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High up on the list of things that Ryan doesn't understand about Nate is how he can live in LA and choose to live so fucking far from the ocean. Ryan's wife has been in Thailand for six days when he finds himself at Nathan's house. Nathan lives in the hills now, and Ryan can't see anything from his bedroom window but palm trees and burnt red rooftops.

Ryan greets him with a hug, and Nathan nearly crushes his ribs. Ryan bursts into the theme from The Jeffersons.

Nathan tackles him to the polished hardwood floor.


Two days later, Ryan's still there. He's gotten his ass kicked at Gretzky's NHL '06, and sorted through the mess in Nathan's kitchen. Nathan comes in, looking for beer, and finds Ryan up to his elbows in dishwater. Nathan scratches the back of his neck.

"I have a girl that comes in to do that, you know. Twice a week."

"It's obviously not enough," Ryan says, and wonders when he started sounding like Nathan's mother.

He hasn't spoken to Nathan's mother in a while, but she still sends him cards at Christmas. Last year she sent cookies too, with red and green sprinkles.

"You calling me high-maintenance?" Nathan asks, and belches.

Nathan's the most high-maintenance person that Ryan knows.


On the third day, Ryan wakes up with a hangover, next to a brunette whose name he doesn't know. He remembers telling Nathan to wear the blue shirt, but not too much after that. He thinks the brunette's name might start with a C. Cecilia. Camille.

She's got a nice ass.

"Candace," she tells him, with no trace of annoyance. "I'm a friend of Nathan's."

Everyone's a friend of Nathan's, which is why Ryan stopped hanging out with him so much.

"What's your problem?" Nathan is making breakfast, getting eggs and butter all over the clean kitchen counter. "You had a good time, didn't you?"

"Sure he did." Candace is helping, dicing strawberries and eating them as she goes. "I had a great time." She winks.

Nathan laughs.

Ryan puts on a fresh pot of coffee.

"You could just go home," Nathan says to him, over dinner, which is pizza and beer. Ryan can feel his diet going to hell just standing next to Nathan. "If I'm making you so fucking miserable."

It takes half an hour to convince Nathan that he's not making Ryan miserable at all. Just the opposite.

"Stop being such a cranky bastard then," Nathan tells him, and grabs Ryan's uneaten pizza.


One of the things Ryan had forgotten about Nathan is how fucking handsy he is. While Ryan's watching TV, while he's driving, he's got Nathan's hands on his shoulder, on his knees, and if he's not careful, down his pants.

"Cold!" he yells, swatting Nathan's hands away. Nathan just laughs.

Nathan doesn't always realise how hard he's grabbing, either. Ryan has bruises.


On day sixteen Ryan wakes up next to a brunette and a blonde, and he remembers both their names, though not which is which.
Nathan is out of coffee. Ryan borrows the keys to Nathan's Audi, and drives to the store. When he gets back, Nathan is on the couch with the blonde. She's giggling, and Nathan has his hand up her skirt. Ryan realises he hasn't yet asked where RuthAnn is, if she got tired eventually too.

"I think it's time for me to go home," Ryan says.

Nathan looks up at him, very seriously. "Okay," he says quietly, and goes back to what he was doing, like Ryan isn't even there.

"Hey." The brunette comes down the stairs, wearing a shirt that Ryan guesses Nathan's never going to see again, or even remember he owned. "Any chance you could drop me off in Santa Monica?"


Ryan goes home. It's quiet. He's back on his workout schedule the next morning. His wife calls when she can get to a phone, which isn't often.

"I've been hanging out with Nathan," he tells her.

There's static on the line. "Oh, yeah?"

"It's not like that."

"Sure it's not," Alanis says, in a tone that's not comforting at all. She's about to go to bed. His day is just beginning.


When Ryan calls, a few days later, Nathan picks up the phone almost before it rings.

"You miss me," he says, and in Nathan-speak that means he misses Ryan. Ryan pretends not to hear it.

"Do not."

"Do too."

"Uh huh."

"Nuh uh."

The conversation lasts like that for twenty minutes.


On the twenty-seventh day that his wife is out of the country, Ryan wakes up next to Nathan. In Nathan's bed, in Nathan's house, with a window facing into the mountains, and the smell of coffee wafting up from downstairs.

"You missed me," Nathan says, and his hands are everywhere, on Ryan's cheek, brushing his beard, on his mouth, framing a nipple and lying easily against sensitive skin.

"Maybe a little." Ryan's not fully awake. He shifts his head on the pillow, glancing around, but it's just the two of them.

"You should stay a bit," Nathan tells him.

"Yeah?" Ryan asks.

"Sure. My kitchen's a mess."

Ryan grabs him in a chokehold. By the time Nathan calls time out, they're both on the floor, tangled in the sheets.