Their brains work differently; even someone without Ryan's high test scores could see that. Seth talks as he thinks, babbling his way through the process, on a mission to share anything and everything that crosses his mind. There's not much of a stopgap between his brain and his mouth, unlike Ryan, who censors everything. Words are dangerous sometimes. So is throwing a punch, of course, but he's been trying to cut down on that lately. Censoring his words, censoring his actions. Seth doesn't.

It doesn't mean that Ryan thinks any less, just that he's less likely to share what he's thinking. That's the difference. It doesn't mean that he doesn't turn things over in his head and try to figure them out, whether it's his AP physics course or, oh, say, Seth's insistence that he really needs to get back with Marissa. Seth's determination that they do get back together, even though it's not what his own girlfriend wants. But then again, Ryan thinks, it's not the first time Seth hasn't considered Summer when making a decision. He remembers Summer phoning him at Theresa's, the utter bewilderment when he told her Seth wasn't with him.

A possible if not particularly likely explanation begins to creep into his brain. He debates whether to follow this path of thought further, to explore it, but in debating it half his brain is already wandering down this way, putting pieces together and seeing if they fit. Alex is a piece, and refusing to think about Marissa and Alex in any way other than as jerk-off material even though Seth has never been into the whole idea of lesbians like most guys are, it fits in somewhere in an imprecise way. The edges don't meet up, don't fill the gap entirely, but it's definitely a piece, it definitely belongs.

If, hypothetically, Seth's motivation is in fact what Ryan suspects it might be, Marissa getting back together with him would serve two purposes. Ryan would be in a relationship, and there would be no more gay couple so tightly entwined in their lives, no more reminder of non-heterosexuality. Things would be safer, put into neat little boxes that couldn't be disturbed. SethSummer and MarissaRyan and no danger of ever forgetting about these attachments, no danger of falling into a new routine that might involve any kind of potentially romantic SethRyan.

Of course, it's just a theory, just a thought, just something that exists inside his brain, and this is why Ryan is grateful that he does censor his thoughts. These thoughts are the sort that could, would, have repercussions.

When Seth walks into the pool house, Ryan stops thinking the dangerous thoughts and the wall goes up. His face gives away nothing. He hasn't thought enough about this to say something, hasn't decided whether or not anything should be said in the first place. There's no reason for him to say anything. He can just keep quiet for now, because there's no need to share these thoughts with Seth.

Until Seth starts pushing him about Marissa. Push, push, push, talk of asking her out or maybe the four of them could all go out together at first and what does Ryan mean he doesn't want to rush things when it's obvious that they're meant to be together, and that's when he snaps.

"Stop," Ryan says, and it's firm enough and loud enough to shut Seth up.

Seth holds up his hands. "Okay. Fine. But you know the two of you are eventually going to get back together, it's only a matter of time –"

"This isn't about me and Marissa," Ryan says, and he knows that he's just entered that stage where the censoring doesn't work anymore, and it doesn't matter if he might not be right, objectively speaking, because he feels right.

"What? Okay, that's funny, 'cause I thought it was."

Ryan doesn't let even a second lapse before speaking. "It's about you and me."

Those words hang in the air before Seth fills the silence. "What, like I need you to have a girlfriend just so we can talk about stuff? Well, yeah, maybe, but –"

"That's not what I meant." He won't stop now, now that he's started. And there's an uncertainty in Seth's eyes that reinforces his belief that he's right about this. "It's never been about Marissa and you know it."

"Don't tell me what I know, Ryan," Seth says, and he looks angry now. He gets it.

Ryan moves closer, no idea of what he's going to do, just moving, but Seth pushes him away. Ryan knows that he's stronger than Seth, knows that he could easily take him in a fight, but it's the surprise of it that makes him stumble, almost fall.

"I mean, I try to look out for you, try to have your back, try to help you and Marissa get back together because that's what you both want and it's so obvious, and all you can do is –" He waves his hands around. "Just get out."

"It's my pool house," Ryan points out.

"Get out," Seth repeats. He looks like he might cry, and that makes Ryan pause, realise what's actually going on, start to think again instead of just act. The thought of Seth being close to tears because of what Ryan has done is horrendous. Being punched, kicked, pummelled for an hour or two – that'd be easier. This hurts much more.

It's hard to think when acting quickly is required and it's easier to act on instinct. Damage control, he thinks. He needs to fix this.

"It's okay," Ryan says, moving towards him again, slowly, like approaching an animal that's easily scared away.

"No, Ryan, no, it's not fucking okay," Seth retorts. "It really, really isn't okay, and I'd appreciate if you would just – get the hell out of here."

"Seth –" It's becoming harder and harder to keep thinking when there's this overwhelming sense of having completely destroyed whatever he and Seth have, so Ryan stops thinking and worrying and contemplating and analysing, and leans in. Leans in and presses his lips against Seth's own, and feels Seth kissing him back, and when the kiss ends, Seth still won't look at him. Ryan still holds on.

"Summer's gonna kill me," Seth murmurs into Ryan's neck.

Ryan thinks that this means it's going to be okay, but then Seth looks at him, unsure. "I mean – you did just – "

Yeah, Ryan thinks, he did just. Huh.

"I mean, why would you unless you – right?" Seth is teetering between confusion and confidence, now, between not knowing what it means and being sure of what it does. "Unless that was just your way of proving something, but –"

"You know what?" Ryan says, interrupting him.


"You think way too much," he says, and his hand is on Seth's neck, ready to pull him in for another kiss.

- end -