The Distance Between
a The O.C. story
by dirty diana
Oodles of love and smut to sf for the beta. This is the most alternate of alternate universes, and I have no idea where it came from, or if anyone really wants it. In fact, I'm a bit scared of it. But still. Here it is.
Professor Cruz cleared her throat, a sign that she was finally winding down. Seth looked up from the doodles he had been making in his spiral notebook, and forced himself to tune back in. "Mid-term grades will be posted early next week," she said into the microphone. "Thursday, we will finish up chapter eight."
"Can't wait," Seth murmured underneath his breath, as the room started to spring to life, rustling papers and shuffling feet. He stood up, picking up his notebook and text, unzipping his backpack, emblazoned with the UCLA logo in blue and gold.
The only other person sitting in his row was a guy he didn't know. A blond, in black jeans and a white t-shirt. Very James Dean, Seth thought, as the guy moved through the aisle in his direction. Then stopped, and cleared his throat.
Seth glanced up, and smiled hello. "Well, that lecture was interesting, wasn't it? Kind of like how going to the dentist is interesting."
The stranger was good-looking, or he would have been if his face hadn't been harsh, set in hard lines like it had been that way forever. His eyes were an intense grey blue, sharp like Summer's right before she snapped into a rage blackout. Seth didn't particularly like the way that he was staring.
"What's your name?" the stranger asked, with a voice that was rough as sandpaper.
Seth attempted another weak smile. "Seth. Seth Cohen."
"Seth Cohen, you're standing in my way."
"Oh." Seth glanced down, as if surprised by stubbornly motionless feet. "Sorry."
The stranger kept staring at him. "Move?" Spoken with a question mark, but barked like an order.
Wow, this was just like being back at Harbor, Seth thought. Asshole. Quickly he shuffled aside. "Yes. Sorry. Nice talking to you, hope we can do it again sometime," he added, to the blond's disappearing back.
Summer was waiting for him outside the lecture hall. "Mmmn." Summer made a lascivious noise in the back of her throat, watching the stranger vanish into the crowd of students. "Who's that?"
Seth followed her gaze. "I don't know. He's in my class."
"He's really hot. You should find out if he's gay."
"I doubt it," Seth said. "He seems the opposite of gay to me. Like, sullen. Morose, even."
Summer rolled her eyes. "Cohen, seriously."
"Summer, seriously." Seth mimicked Summer's snappish tone, easy after years of practice. "I don't think that guy even likes people."
"Hmmmn." Summer stared off in the direction the man had walked. "That's definitely too bad. Coming to the caf? I didn't have time for breakfast. I'm so hungry, I'm gonna pass out soon. I need carbs, like, right now."
Seth didn't take it for granted, being friends with Summer now. And being friends with Summer was definitely better than being not-friends with Summer. He knew that from experience. She'd been furious with him for six months after they broke up, then another three after he came out and didn't tell her first. He hadn't even realised that they were friends again until he walked out of AP Biology one day and found Summer defining tolerance for half the water polo team.
She'd said almost exactly the same thing that day, broke off mid-speech and asked him if he was hungry.
On Friday like on every other day, his alarm went off at nine am, with a beep beep beep and then KROQ blasting too loud from the clock radio. Seth was well into his second year at UCLA, and his days had developed a pattern. A wake up, study, go to class, have lunch with Summer, go to class, study more kind of pattern. The pattern was vaguely broken every now and then, when he paused his rut to yell at Luke about the dishes and the spilled Coors on the floor. And then on Fridays and Saturdays when Summer dragged him to sorority parties as part of her ongoing Perfect Husband quest.
Which was great for Summer, but didn't leave Seth with a lot of time to spend performing a perfect husband search of his own.
He fell out of bed, put on some coffee, and stumbled hazily into the shower.
He went to the library in the morning, and saw Summer for lunch. He had eighteenth century literature at two-thirty, then he walked down the hill to the psych building to get his mid-term grade.
Seth's gaze traveled down the list posted outside the professor's office, searching for his student number. B. Not the A- that he had been hoping for, but still not too tragic. He wondered if the professor would let him do an extra-credit report, if he asked her nicely.
He heard a creak as the stairwell door swung open. Seth turned around. It was the guy from class, Mr Rebel-without-a-cause.
Seth would have tried to ignore him, but there was no one else in the hallway. "Hey," he said.
"Hey," was the curt reply.
"Here to check your grade?" A pretty dumb question, Seth knew, but it was received with only a shrug.
"Yeah." There was a pause, blue eyes staring at him. "You're in my way again."
"Sorry." Seth moved aside swiftly, clearing his throat. "It looks like she low-balled the entire class."
His classmate scanned the list, and winced. "Yeah."
"There's always the final," Seth pointed out.
"I guess. I'm still not caught up to the class I missed last week."
"I have the notes. You can borrow them. Um...I mean, if you like."
"Yeah?" The stranger looked at him, probably seeing him properly for the first time, Seth thought.
"Sure. They're at home, but I only live about three blocks off campus. We can go get them now, if you want."
"That would be great, actually." There was a pause. "I'm Ryan, by the way."
"Seth." He shook the outstretched hand.
"Yeah," Ryan said. "I know."
There was music from the stereo blasting heavily through the apartment, a bouncy pop-punk song that Seth could hear before he opened the door. "Luke! Luke!" Seth yelled, to no response, as he banged on Luke's bedroom door. He swore underneath his breath as he entered the room, hopping across a floor littered with magazines and empty beer cans, to shut off the ear-piercing sound.
When he went back into the living room, Ryan was still standing by the front door, hands in his pockets. "Looks like your boyfriend's not home," he said.
"My boyfriend?" Seth shuddered. "Dude, now I'm going to need therapy to get rid of that image. No, Luke is just my roommate. He's okay. Sometimes he's an ass, but sometimes he's not. He's got a girlfriend, she goes to UC Santa Barbara. That's probably where he's gone."
"So we're alone?"
"I guess so." He paused. Ryan was still standing by the doorway, as if he was afraid to come in. Seth gestured to the couch. "You can, um, sit. I'm going to have to look for the notes, it might take a moment. You want something to drink?"
Ryan sat gracefully on the couch. "No, I'm fine."
"Okay. I'll be right back."
Seth's poli sci notebook was on his bedroom floor, beside his desk, underneath a stack of old issues of Justice League. He moved the comic books aside, and picked it up.
"You can just bring them to class on Wednesday," he said.
"Okay." Pushing aside a couple of Luke's empties, Ryan put the book on the coffee table. "Thanks a lot."
"You can, um, sit." Ryan smiled slightly, and it turned out that he had a very nice smile, sweet and slightly crooked.
Seth sat. There was a stack of magazines on the third seat, old issues of Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone and SFX, forcing him to sit right next to Ryan, Ryan leaning back on the couch.
"Sorry about the mess," Seth said. "It's Luke's turn to clean, which means that it probably won't get done, like, ever. Unless I yell at him. Or unless I tell on him to his girlfriend and she yells at him. That might actually work better. But she doesn't like coming down here when it's a pigsty. Not that I'm much better, or anything, but I least I pick up when it's my turn. But when Luke got an apartment right beside campus, I couldn't turn it down. No driving, you know? Driving in Los Angeles is such a pain in the ass. Even the Batmobile couldn't get through traffic here. It's like..."
Ryan cut him off, with one warm hand on his thigh. "Do you always talk this much?"
Seth thought about it. "Pretty much, yes."
Ryan looked at him for a moment, then leaned forward, and kissed him. Seth's lips parted, accepting the kiss as Ryan's soft, craving tongue slid inside his mouth. Ryan held onto him, with hot, certain hands, cupping his neck, and pushed him down onto the couch. Seth's head hit the magazines, most of them tumbling down onto the floor.
"Oh." Seth made a slight moan of surprise.
Ryan drew up, looking at him carefully through pale, hungry eyes. "Okay?"
"Yes. Yes, definitely."
Ryan bent to kiss him again. Ryan's weight was warm and heavy on top of him, as impatient hands traveled down the length of Seth's back, pushing underneath his sweater.
"Oh," Seth said again, as Ryan's fingers caressed the smooth hairs of his lower belly.
"Still okay?" Ryan asked him breathlessly.
"Ryan," Seth explained, hands moving across the pockets of Ryan's blue jeans, fingers pressing into flesh. "If you stop every time that I say something, this is going to take forever. Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing. I'm just saying."
Ryan was laughing slightly, an easy rumble that Seth could feel against his skin. "Yeah, okay." Then he went back to kissing him, hot desperate mouths and their hips rocking together, sharp, static friction. They broke apart briefly as Ryan pulled off his shirt, exposing a solid muscular body. Seth ran his hand curiously down the taut, scarred skin, slipping a hand into the front of Ryan's jeans.
Ryan let out a stifled gasp against Seth's open mouth. Seth's fingers slid inside Ryan's underwear, finding his cock, stiff and swollen. He tugged, just slightly, and Ryan groaned.
Seth's other hand undid Ryan's fly, pushing his jeans down. Ryan froze, and jerked against him. His hands moved to undo the zipper on Seth's jeans, fingers and thighs bumping against Seth's own. Seth moaned, thrusting abruptly as his throbbing cock met the warm skin of Ryan's palm.
Their motions began to match each other, hands sliding back and forth in a quick fervent rhythm, Ryan's hips pressing forward between Seth's spread thighs. Ryan's kisses were becoming deeper and faster, relentless, low throaty moans dripping into Seth's mouth.
Seth let out a long sigh, and came stickily inside Ryan's hand. Ryan thrust against him, groaned, and climaxed in one hard, violent shudder.
Seth had Summer's phone number at her Santa Monica apartment on speed dial. He picked up his cell, and pushed one, send.
"Cohen," she said automatically as she picked up. "What's up?"
"Summer, I need help. I think I might be a slut."
"Seth," she answered, "you're making less sense that usual. What happened? Did you finally, finally get some?"
"Um, if by 'some', you mean wild awesome sex, then yes. Yes, I did."
Summer let out an ear-piercing squeal. Seth held the phone away from his ear. "What? When? I saw you at lunch. When between lunch," there was a pause as Summer looked at her watch, "and eight pm did you find time to have sex? And a guy to have sex with?"
"You remember that guy from my Political Science class?"
Summer took a moment to think about it. "Sir-Scowls-a-Lot? Wow. I'm impressed. He seemed a little out of your range."
"Wow, thanks," Seth said sarcastically. "I can always count on you to raise my self-esteem."
"No, it's great. I'm happy for you. Not to be gross or anything, but were you, you know? Careful?"
"I said I was a slut," Seth answered. "I didn't say that I was an idiot."
Summer heaved a slow, exasperated sigh, a sound she usually reserved for particularly slow store clerks, and clueless bank tellers. "Seth. You had fun. You did have fun, right?"
"Yeah, so then it's all good. It's college. You're supposed to be having fun. Not just studying all the time."
"So I'm not a slut?" Seth asked her.
"No. You're not a slut. Are you coming to the game tomorrow? Marissa and Luke said we should all go."
"Sure. You know how I live for football."
"I'll see you," Summer said, and hung up.
Ryan wasn't in class the next Tuesday, or on Thursday. Seth wondered as made highlights in the text if Ryan was avoiding him, then decided that Ryan didn't seem like the kind of guy who was afraid of anything, especially not Seth Cohen. And even if he was, purposely failing Political Science 104 seemed like a drastic measure.
It was a good thing, Seth thought, that he wasn't a slut. He wasn't particularly good at this one time thing.
But then Seth didn't have time to worry about it anyway, because finals were approaching pretty fast, and Summer was freaking out about her latest candidate for Perfect Husband, and his parents were calling every other day not-so-subtly trying to figure out if he had declared his major yet. Which he hadn't.
And then the week got worse, because he drove to Venice Beach on Friday morning to check out the latest at his favourite comic book store, and then he got caught in traffic on his way back, and then he was late for eighteenth century lit, and then he locked himself out of his car, and Marissa was so going to kick his ass. And get Luke to help her.
"Shit." Angrily Seth kicked the metallic green doors of his VW Passat, a graduation present. He hopped quickly backwards, as the pain bounced through his knee. "Fucking shit shit shit shit."
Seth spun around in surprise, at the sound of the familiar voice behind him. "Ryan. Hey."
"Hey," Ryan answered back easily. "You okay here?"
"Not really." Seth gestured to his car with a frustrated sweep of his right hand. "I'm supposed to swing down up to Santa Barbara and pick up a friend, and I should have left a half-hour ago, but I couldn't because there were line-ups at the photocopiers, and now I've locked my fucking keys in my car."
"Exactly." Seth sighed.
"You want some help? I might be able to get it open."
"No," Seth told him quickly. "I mean, thanks, but you don't have to do that. I'm going to call triple A."
"You're gonna wait forever," Ryan pointed out. "It's no problem. I kinda owe you one."
"Well." Seth paused. "That's true."
Ryan knelt down and opened up his backpack, pulling out a slim metal ruler. "Just give me a moment," he said.
The door was unlocked inside ten minutes. Ryan opened the car door, and lifted Seth's keys off the driver's seat. "There you go."
"Wow. Thanks a lot." Seth took them from him. "You look like you've done that before."
An unnamable expression crossed Ryan's face, and disappeared. "Once or twice."
They stood there for one weird moment, being passed by honking traffic and hurrying students, looking at each other.
"I guess you better get going," Ryan said finally.
"You want to come?" The words flew out of Seth's mouth before he could stop them.
Ryan looked faintly amused. "What, to Santa Barbara?"
"Sure. We could stop somewhere, get something to eat. I know a great place in Ventura, best crabcakes on the Pacific Highway."
"Thanks for the offer." Ryan looked slightly embarrassed. "But I think that's probably out of my price range."
Seth frowned. "Well, Ryan, I don't know how they do it where you're from, but generally that the guy asking for the date pays."
Ryan raised his eyebrows. "Date?" he asked.
Seth blushed slightly, but it seemed too late to backtrack. "Yeah. Or you know. Whatever."
Ryan seemed to freeze for a moment, considering this. "What about your friend?"
"I'll call Marissa and tell her I'm running late. I locked my keys in my car."
"So," Seth said, as he drove towards the exit for the highway, "I didn't see you in class this week." He tried to sound casual. Not as if he'd been saving a seat or anything. That would have been lame.
"Yeah, I know. I had to work."
"That's a pretty shitty job," Seth said, "if you can't get time off to go to class."
Ryan shrugged. "Yeah. But I can't really afford to lose that job. If I do, I'll be in a lot of trouble."
"With your parents?"
"My parole officer."
"Oh." Seth paused. "Oh."
"Yeah," Ryan said.
"So what's it like in the big house?"
Ryan blinked stonily at him.
"Wow. I'm sorry," Seth stuttered, flustered. "That was like, really rude. Sometimes the link between my brain and my mouth moves a little faster than I'd like."
"Yeah," Ryan said. "I noticed."
"It's something that I'm working on."
"Don't. It's cute."
"Cute?" Seth repeated.
Ryan smiled, with his eyes mostly, creasing around the edges, making Seth realise that Ryan doesn't smile nearly often enough. "Yeah."
The restaurant that Seth stopped at was right on the water, with a view of the sun setting red gold over the sailing boats.
"Inside or outside?" the hostess asked.
"Inside," Seth said, at the same time as Ryan spoke.
"Outside. Sorry," he added, glancing at Seth apologetically. "I'm kinda craving nicotine right now. But I can wait till after dinner, I guess."
The hostess was smiling at them, amused. Seth shook his head. "No, it's still pretty warm out. Outside is fine."
He watched Ryan strike a match and inhale on his Marlboro Light, blowing perfect smoke rings upwards as he studied the menu.
"I have no idea what to have," he said.
Seth nodded. He and Marissa and Luke and Summer came here pretty often, and he hadn't bothered to open his menu. "You should try the lobster, it's awesome."
"I've never had lobster."
"Well, you should definitely try it then."
"I'm not sure I'll even know what to do with it."
"No problem. You happen to be looking at a champion lobster eater. I'll walk you through it."
Ryan smiled, again. Seth was starting to really like that smile, gettng used to it. "Okay," Ryan said.
Their meals came quickly.
"So, Ryan, are you second-year?" It seemed kind of stupid to be making small talk, a little late in the game, but Seth didn't know what else to talk about.
Ryan shook his head, as he studied his lobster. "I'm not really...I'm not a full-time student. Maybe next year."
"Oh." Seth sipped his iced tea. "Are you from LA?"
"Oh, Orange County. Me too. Newport Beach."
"I've never been there," Ryan said.
Seth shrugged. "You're not missing much."
"It's probably better than my neighbourhood. Nicer."
"Yeah." Seth was silent for a moment, pouring ketchup liberally over his fries. "Ryan, do you mind if I ask you a personal ques..."
"I stole a car." Ryan said it quietly, matter-of-factly.
"Oh." Seth paused. "Um..."
"Yes." Ryan stared at him, and his face was a hard mask, unreadable. "I don't usually talk about this."
They hit the UCSB campus at about nine'o'clock. Marissa met the car, putting her overnight bag in the trunk, and climbed into the back seat.
"Marissa, Ryan, Ryan, Marissa. She lived next door to me in Newport," Seth explained.
"Hey, nice to meet you." Marissa smiled hello. "Seth, what's with the silence in here? Put some music on."
"Sure." Seth hit the buttons on his CD player, and the disc changer whirred loudly. "Ryan, you like the Clash?"
Ryan shrugged. "Actually, I'm not all that into music."
"Seriously?" Marissa asked. "That's kind of weird."
"It kind of is," Seth told him. "But it's okay. We'll work on that."
Luke was irritated when they got back to LA, playing John Madden on Seth's X-Box while he waited for them. "Where were you guys? I was worried."
"Seth had a problem with his car," Marissa said, and reached up to kiss him. "Hey."
"Hey," Luke said, kissing her back.
Seth began the introductions. "Luke, Ryan, Ryan, Luke."
"Hey, man." Briefly Luke shook Ryan's hand. "Are you guys, you know?" Luke made a vague stabbing motion with his arm.
Seth snorted. "That was very subtle and inoffensive, dude. And totally our cue to disappear, so you crazy kids don't stay up too late, okay?"
"Try not to make too much noise," Luke said, as Seth propelled Ryan in the direction of his bedroom.
"Yeah, same to you," Seth answered. Marissa blushed.
"Sorry," Seth said as he closed his bedroom door behind him. "It's kind of messy." Quickly he pushed manga and textbooks off his unmade bed.
"It's okay," Ryan said, drawing Seth towards him with one easy hand in the curve of his neck. Ryan's hands on Seth's body moved Seth towards the closed door, pinning him gently against the cool surface.
Seth twisted his fingers in the belt loops of Ryan's jeans, sliding underneath his shirt. Ryan's mouth captured his, impatient, tasting faintly of salt and cigarettes.
Seth sighed, hips thrusting slowly against Ryan. Ryan's hands moved down his body, leaving traces of heat, stopping at the front of his jeans. His fingers stroked carefully back and forth, over Seth's growing hardness, through the rough fabric.
"Do you mind?" he whispered.
"Um, no," Seth whispered back, breathless. "No minding. Begging, maybe, but no minding."
Ryan unzipped Seth and fell to his knees on the floor. Lightly his hands stroked the inside of Seth's thighs. Seth groaned as the hot, wet vacuum of Ryan's mouth took him in. Ryan's fingers gripped the base of his cock, mouth moving in a lazy, persistent rhythm. Seth bit back another loud moan, as all the heat in his body rushed towards the centre of him.
"Dude," Seth managed hoarsely, as his world exploded inside Ryan's mouth. Ryan swallowed him down, and stood up.
He took hold of Seth with strong arms, erection pressing into Seth's thigh. "I know it's kind of soon," he began, with a whisper. "But I'd really, really like to..."
"Fuck me?" Seth asked. "Yeah."
"Yeah?" Ryan asked him?"
"Yes. Sure. How's now? Does now work for you?"
Ryan smiled gently, and tugged Seth towards the bed. He undressed them both in a hurry, easy fingers pulling away pants and shirts and throwing them onto Seth's messy floor. Their naked skin rubbed together, as Ryan kissed him.
Then Ryan's body moved behind him, curling naturally around Seth as he rolled onto his side. Seth reached into his bedside table, pulling out a half-used bottle of lube and a condom package.
Ryan's slippery fingers pushed gently against the opening to his body. Seth made a low gasping sound, as Ryan's index finger slid part of the way inside him, and then out again.
"More?" Ryan asked him softly, his breath warm on Seth's bare skin.
"Please," Seth whispered.
Ryan's finger moved inside him again, pushing harder and further. Seth moaned, as Ryan slid out again, then inside again, over and over. A second finger followed, Seth arching and pushing back against him.
"Ryan," he murmured impatiently.
"Yeah, okay," Ryan whispered. Slick hands held onto Seth's waist, and then he thrust gently into him. He let out a low, breathless moan as he entered Seth, hips driving carefully with a slow, easy rhythm. Slowly the motion became more erratic as he moved inside Seth. Ryan moaned again as control slipped away from him. Seth groaned with him, letting the fever wave wash over him.
Suddenly the world stopped moving. Ryan was perfectly still, for just a moment. Then his fingers tightened on Seth's skin, and he came.
Ryan was still asleep, when Seth woke up, twisted in the sheets on his bed. He looked completely different when he was asleep, Seth thought, more relaxed and less scary. Less scared.
He had just put the coffeemaker on when his phone rang.
"When were we you going to tell me that you had a boyfriend?" Summer's voice demanded.
"I don't know," Seth said. "Maybe as soon as I get a boyfriend. Summer, have you been taking the good drugs again?"
"Don't try and smoke me, Cohen. Marissa just called me. She told me everything."
Seth glanced at the clock above the oven. Ten. "Listen, I know I'm awesome and fascinating and everything, but you guys really have nothing better to do on a Saturday morning than talk about me?"
"We had to talk. We're going shopping later. And she told me all about your trip to Santa Barbara with Mr Short Blonde and Handsome."
"He's not that short."
"I'm not judging. When are you going to introduce me?"
"I was thinking of, um, never. Wait, let me think about it. No, definitely never."
"Well, hurry up and make him your boyfriend. Otherwise someone wittier and more attractive might snap him up, you know?"
"Yeah," Seth said. "Too bad I don't know anyone who fits that profile."
Summer made a kissing noise into the receiver. "Admit it. You love me madly."
"Sure. You're the best hag any fag could have."
Summer smooched him again before she disconnected. "Later, sweetie. Seize the day, okay?"
When Seth hung up, Ryan was coming out of his bedroom, already fully dressed. "I gotta go," he said, half-apologetically. "Work."
"Yeah, okay," Seth said.
Ryan came into the kitchen to kiss him goodbye, fingers pressing into his hips and holding him tight.
"So. I'll see you in class on Tuesday?" Seth asked.
"Yeah." Ryan smiled slightly, and his mouth was hot and hungry like the first time that they kissed. "You will."