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Learning to Crawl

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He really, really wasn’t trying to be loud.

 

In fact, he was putting as much effort as he could manage into keeping his voice level. It wasn’t doing much good as it shakes, rises and dips along with his indignation, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

 

As it was, Link was already six minutes into this conversation and was slowly but surely losing any and all ability to give a shit about how loud he was being. He really couldn't give two fucks if everyone outside of the administration office could hear him.

 

“But I don’t want a roommate.”

 

This is pushed out through gritted teeth this time, considering the bored looking woman at the administrations desk didn’t care for the first thousand times he said it politely.

 

“Yes, Mr Neal, we’ve established this,” she answered dismissively, not even looking up from the computer screen in front of her. “But here we are.”

 

“I applied for a single room,” he hissed out, trying and failing to keep his composure. “That means one room, ONE room, just me.”

 

“I’m aware of the definition of a single room, Mr. Neal,” she answers him mechanically, “But space is short, and Mr. McLaughlin has been assigned to your room-“

 

“I don’t care!” He’s being petulant, he knows this. And, yet again, he can’t really find a single fuck to give. “I applied last year! And I was approved! Why-“

 

“I’m sorry, Mr.  Neal.” The receptionist doesn’t seem to hear what he has to say, just drones on over his complaining. “It’s a double room, he’s been assigned, if you have any objections feel free to fill out the form to change rooms and we will see what we can do-“

 

“Whatever,” Link cuts her off. He would honestly feel better if she even flinched at the rough tone of his voice. He snatches the form from her manicured hand and turns to sulk away back to his double room when his footing fails beneath him and he realizes the floor is rushing up to meet his face.

 

He miraculously catches himself on the counter-stopping before he can totally eat shit-and he turns, more aggravated than ever to see what the fuck he just tripped over.

 

Turns out it’s a pair of checkered vans, casually crossed over each other at the ankle as the owner of the shoes sprawls out languidly in his chair not six feet from where Link threw his tantrum. Link’s eyes trace from the shoes to endlessly long legs connected to a boy slouched in his seat, hood over his face and body totally relaxed.

 

“Watch where the fuck you put your feet,” Link snarls out, too far gone to bother with manners.

 

Checkered Vans doesn’t answer, simply raising a hand from where his arms are crossed to casually flip the bird towards Link without even looking up.

 

Link is about to flip. If he’s being honest, he wants to tear Checkered Vans a new one. But he remembers he’s in the middle of the admin office, composes himself and just scoffs loudly enough so Checkered Vans and the receptionist can hear him. He settles his rage by storming out as loud as possible.

 

By the time he gets to his double room, he’s relatively calmer than he has been all morning. He’s still mad, mind you, but he’s relaxed enough to fall onto the disgusting couch in the middle of the dorm room. It’s sticky with old leather and smells like shoes, but it chills Link out enough that he manages to forget Checkered Vans and the receptionist who refused to help him.

 

He doesn’t notice that he slips into a doze, snoring lightly into the dusty air. He’s awakened by the sound of something heavy hitting the floor and the low grunt of someone dropping said heavy thing.

 

It takes him a moment to get back to himself, snorting unattractively as he sits up straight. He can’t really focus on what’s going on, he’s been fighting his worsening vision for months now. He's way too insecure for glasses. All he can see is someone in the doorway to the bedroom, shoving a pile of boxes into the room.

 

He doesn't have a lot to go on, the light is doing weird things to the silhouette of who Link can safely assume is his new roommate. All he can assess from where he's still half sprawled on the couch is that he's tall, even taller than Link is. Link stands rather tall at a proud six feet, this other guy was just downright ridiculous.

 

He stands slowly, figuring he should at least say hi or something. He stumbles over his bag, still dropped unceremoniously in the middle of the living room where Link abandoned it before he’d stormed off to bitch out the housing office.

 

“Fuck!-“

 

His sputtered curse catches the attention of his roommate and when Link looks up from steadying himself he’s immediately caught in the gaze of wide green eyes that for some annoying reason sends Link’s heart rate racing.

 

Link tells himself that it’s because he’s tall-and fuck is he-he’s taller than Link originally thought. He towers over Link, head slightly bent in the doorway. Short, dusty blonde curls peek out of the hood he’s wearing and there’s a messy scruff on his face.

 

It takes Link an embarrassingly long time to realize that while he’s been staring at the boy for a solid ten seconds with his jaw on the floor, the boy is staring at Link with a glare and a scowl.

 

“Uh, hi,” Link tries, voice strained and cracked from sleep.

 

The boy offers nothing beyond the twitch of a single eyebrow. He doesn’t even move from where he’s leaning on the doorway with his arms crossed.

 

“I’m-“

 

“The guy who didn’t want a new roommate, yeah, I got that.” The snarl comes out colored with a southern drawl that catches Link’s attention instantly.

 

“Oh.”

 

 Um.

 

Links eyes drop to the floor, trailing down the legs of the jeans his roommate is wearing where they catch on a pair of checkered vans.

 

Well, shit .

 

He should apologize, he knows he should. But beneath the quelling and flat gaze of his new roommate his tongue feels thick and clumsy.

 

His earlier rage is gone, replaced by a burning blanket of embarrassment that covers the back of his neck. Of fucking course, too. He had to be saddled with the one person on earth who not only watched him throw a tantrum in the admin office, but then also got bitched out on the tail end of it.

 

Way to go, Neal .

 

“Link,” he finishes lamely.

 

His roommate levels him with a glare and doesn’t offer his own name.

 

Link doesn’t ask. Checkered Vans stares at him for another two full minutes before pushing off the doorway and turning back to finish unpacking his stuff.

 

It takes Link four more hours to learn that his roommates name was Rhett. Rhett James McLaughlin. And the only reason he knew that was because Rhett had left his registration papers strewn on the counter in the kitchen.

 

Rhett left a lot of things lying around.

 

It took Link four hours to learn his roommates name. And those four hours are all that was needed for him to absolutely hate him.

 

He hadn’t really bothered to even explore the dorm space he’d been assigned when he’d gotten there, too pissed off to care before he’d left to find someone to fix it. The kitchen was small, the living room cramped. He hadn’t seen the bedroom yet, trying his hardest to avoid Rhett if he could help it.

 

Instead, he has silently fumed as he surveyed the space and wonders how, while he’d napped on the couch, Rhett had managed to entirely spread himself over the entire area. There are somehow already two pairs of shoes abandoned in the middle of the floor, a jacket tossed nonchalantly over the stained coffee table, three water bottles on the counter along with Rhett’s registration papers and a myriad of boxes unevenly stacked in the hallway.

 

It makes the back of Link’s teeth itch.

 

It’s not OCD exactly, but Link likes things neat, and clean. Like any normal fucking person would. And the fact that Rhett had lived here for a stunning six hours and it was already this messy made Link want to scream.

 

Or at least straighten the boxes.

 

He doesn’t dare though, instead resigning himself to stay on the couch, listening to Rhett move around in the bedroom, glaring holes into the unevenly stacked boxes. He finally admits defeat when the sun begins to set, casting odd shadows onto the ugly carpet and he remembers that class starts tomorrow and he really can’t spend all night sulking on the couch.

 

So he sulks to his room, telling himself to chill, to not make a scene or snap at Rhett or do anything to bug him-

 

Oh hell no.

 

“Why do you get the bottom bunk?”

 

Rhett’s green eyes flick to him for a second where he’s lounging in a pile of laundry strewn all over the bottom bunk, a used science textbook open in his hands. If he’s at all offended by the harsh tone that Link uses, he gives no reaction.

 

“Cause I want it,” Rhett drawls after letting the silence drag on for a second too long.

 

Link bristles. His teeth grind together as he fights the fit that’s brewing.

 

“So that means you just get it? I live here too, ya know.” His voice is already trembling at the end.

 

“Well you slept jus’ fine on the couch, so if it’s really that big a’deal you can jus’ sleep there,” Rhett answers, a smirk tugging up on the side of his mouth as he smugly settles back into his laundry. He idly flips a page of his textbook like he’s already won the argument.

 

Link stands there with his mouth gaping open at the fucking audacity this asshole has before sputtering, “What-what the crap? Who the hell died and made you king-“

 

“Well if ya want it that bad,” Rhett cuts him off and lowers the textbook a fraction of an inch so he can pierce Link with those stupid eyes once again, “come and take it from me.”

 

Oh, fuck this guy.

 

Link vaguely entertains the idea of throwing something at Rhett’s stupidly smug face before remembering the unpleasant fact that they have to live with each other for the next year. And Rhett was waaaaaay bigger than he was. Link may be angry, but he wasn’t stupid.

 

Also, it was barely the first day. Maybe Rhett would get that stick out of his ass once classes started.

 

Settling with the slightly less petty version of expressing his anger, Link instead remained silent, changing for bed and folding his clothes before putting them away because he’s not a fucking Neanderthal. If he slammed his dresser drawers loudly to signify that that’s what you’re supposed to do with your clothes, not sleep on them, he doesn’t comment on it.

 

Link can feel Rhett’s eyes on him as he changes, can feel them as he cleans up after himself. He still feels them until he switches off the light, not bothering to ask if Rhett was even done reading the book still in his hands and sending the room into darkness.

 

He can’t help the childish urge to make as much noise as possible as he climbs up to the top bunk, punching his pillow in half hearted frustration and flopping down hard enough to make the entire frame rattle. He doesn’t even bother making his bed, too drained to care and curling up in his just comforter.

 

He lets out a loud sigh to top the whole thing off.

 

After twenty seconds of the heaviest silence Link’s ever heard in his life he hears Rhett chuckle, hears the sound of the book closing and being tossed casually to the floor. Link rolls his eyes into the darkness as he listens to the sound of Rhett wiggling around still on his fucking laundry and getting comfortable before the room is plunged into silence once again.

 

Link is exhausted despite his nap on the couch, his short interactions with Rhett sapping all the energy he’d had for the day, and he feels himself drifting off. He’s finally somewhat comfortable and he’s almost there, almost asleep when his eyes shoot open as he hears it. A groan leaves  his throat and he suddenly wants to cry.

 

Because of fucking course Rhett snores.


Turns out it wasn’t just the beginning of classes that stressed Rhett out into being the biggest dick on the planet. He was actually just like that.

 

It was taking a bigger toll on Link than he was even comfortable admitting to himself. Studying was a nightmare for one thing. Rhett seemed to have absolutely no problem with turning the volume up on the tv as loud as he could get away with whenever Link tried reading in the living room, barely sparing Link an irritated glare whenever he cleared his throat to get his attention.

 

“I’m readin’ over here.” He tries to keep it neutral, he does. He doesn’t even throw in a rude word or anything.

 

“And I’m watchin’ the game,” Rhett drawls back, eyes stubbornly glued to the tv.

 

Link had learned on the third day of living with Rhett that pushing the argument was a lost cause. Dead on arrival. Completely fucking useless.

 

It hadn’t even been anything important, but Link was stressed and the fact that he’d instantly tripped over those stupid checkered fucking vans as soon as he’d stepped through the door after classes that day was enough for him to snap-

 

Is it really so hard to move your fucking shoes out of the way?

 

-And instantly get dragged into what he now considers the longest two hours of his life. The argument- no it was a fight, who was he kidding. The fight that had ensued after that nearly had Link ready to shoot himself. He called Rhett a sloppy bitch, and Rhett had hautily called him an uptight twink, and if that didn’t just wind Link up like all get out. He’d gotten so worked up, screaming and spitting and wringing his hands in a frantic burst of seething anger and Rhett hadn’t reacted at all. He’s simply sat there on the couch, mouth quirked up in that irritating ass smirk as Link screamed himself hoarse. Rhett continues answering in clipped one word answers in a frustratingly calm voice until Link had run out of steam and went to bed.

 

All he’d gotten in response to the well aimed kick he gave the offending shoes was the same smug chuckle. He didn’t hear the one he got when he slammed the door.

 

So, Link stays quiet, either finding sanctuary in his headphones and Walkman or just dealing with it.

 

Honestly, he could always just go to the bedroom, he could. But the constant disarray and overwhelming aura of Rhett that the other boy had managed to permeate around the entire dorm was enough to make him twitchy with anxiety.

 

Truth be told, he’s always wracked with anxiety around Rhett. Something about the way he moves-all long limbs and slow, careful hands. Or the way he sits completely still and pins Link to his seat with those condescending green eyes makes Link feel like all the air has suddenly vacated the room.

 

It makes him hate Rhett even more. He could deal with the messiness and and snark, at least he’d put in a better effort to deal with it if Rhett didn’t tug on every single nerve ending in Link’s body. It’s irrational in its entirety, and the fact that Link is fully aware that it’s bullshit thank you very much, makes it all the more frustrating that he can’t seem to keep his shit together around Rhett. He hates the fact that Rhett could wind him up into a stuttering and hateful mess with a few monosyllabic answers and an artfully raised eyebrow.

 

Link tries his hardest to avoid any and all altercations that Rhett seems determined to make happen. He’s not always successful. They wind up at each other’s throats more often than is entirely comfortable and the first week crawls by at a sluggish pace.

 

The annoying thing is though, he feels like he could probably like Rhett if he wasn’t the biggest asshole this side of the Mississippi. He sees the games Rhett plays late into the night and he plays all the same ones. He sees the teams Rhett keeps up with and could easily become a fan.

 

The fact that Rhett seems to feel the same hostility towards Link stings in a way Link doesn’t want to think about.

 

He walks into their dorm when a class was cancelled two weeks later and finds Rhett sprawled out on the couch, a battered guitar in his hands as he crooned out a Merle Haggard song that was one of Link’s favorites.

 

He froze in the doorway, one hand still on the knob and the other floating pointlessly by his head where he was reaching to take off his hat. Rhett’s eyes were shut and his head was tilted back, the long line of his throat working slightly as his low and scratchy voice filled the room with words that Link knows by heart.

 

It sends a flash of heat straight through Link. His palms are sweating and he knows his mouth is just hanging open stupidly. His gaze falls on Rhett’s long, delicate looking fingers strumming the strings blindly, looking nothing like the brutish headache Link’s come to think of him as. He can’t tear his gaze away from his fucking hands, and he’s still caught in them when Rhett finishes the song and opens his eyes.

 

Other then that, thin eyelids fluttering open to watch Link with a dark and piercing look, Rhett doesn’t move, still leaning back with his head tilted on the arm of the couch. His fingers strum out the ending chords, dancing through the notes quietly as he lets the music fade into the air that is slowly suffocating Link.

 

Link stares. Rhett still gives no indication that he intends on moving. It’s hours, days until Link can force himself to swallow, the click of it too loud. It’s another eternity before he can breathe again, much less speak.

 

And when he can, his voice is completely, embarrassingly wrecked, a thin and thready mimicry of his normal tenor. Rhett doesn’t move an inch, seemingly content with watching Link struggle and waiting for him to snap himself out of it.

 

“I uh- I love that song,” Link wheezes out. “That was, real good man.”

 

It’s far and wide the nicest thing he’s ever said to Rhett since they met, and he’s aware of how stupid the words sound when they fall to floor, rough and brittle. He has no fucking clue why he feels like he’s on fire still, hand still hovering near his head and chest tight enough he can feel his heart flutter with the lack of oxygen.

 

Rhett finally nods, a slow and calculated movement with eyes still half mast melting Link against the door. Link can finally move, shocked like an electric hum and he pushes off the door, all the energy flooding him with something that feels like adrenaline. He’s painfully aware that he’s both talking way too fast and nearly tripping over his own feet as he’s stumbling to the bedroom.

 

“Real cool, man. Didn’t even know ya could play. Be nice’ta have some music round here sometimes. Uh, I got homework so if ya need me just-“

 

He doesn’t have to finish the sentence, mercifully reaching the bedroom and slamming the door with more force than he needs to, hands shaking with nerves he still doesn’t understand.

 

It takes him an embarrassingly long time to realize-after he spends a lengthy ten seconds hyperventilating with his back against the door- that he’s hard, almost painfully so. His cock pressing against the tight denim of his jeans and throbbing for attention.

 

God it’s been weeks since Link’s masturbated. One of the perks of sharing a room with Rhett was that his sex drive had all but plummeted, too preoccupied with the constant irritation that seemed to be all Link was capable of lately.

 

Not to mention the sound of Rhett snoring wasn’t exactly the hugest turn on for him.

 

But now, there’s a burning wave of arousal clouding his head, unable to clear it of the sight of Rhett’s long, careful fingers and they way they had so casually played the strings of his ugly old guitar. His head is filled with Rhett’s low, crooning voice singing out a melody from his childhood and drowning out all rational thought.

 

He doesn’t even stop to think about it. His trembling hands falling to hastily undo his jeans, shoving them and his boxers down to his knees and taking himself in hand.

 

The low groan he lets out is criminal, even for him and he has to clamp down on his lip to stop the rest of it from getting out. He’s already wet, damp, sticky, and so hard it’s nearly painful. He begins to stroke himself-harsh and fast- and gosh, he’s never felt this out of control before; has no idea where this is coming from and he can’t even stop the images that bombard his mind as he touches himself.

 

Strong and slender fingers, big sturdy hands, how they delicately handled everything even though they looked like they could crush anything beneath their heavy weight. That deep, soothing tenor, like dark honey with a scratch to it that sets Link on fire. Those endless, endless green eyes that Link can never read, the way they opened slowly to pierce Link like they can see right fucking through him-

 

That does it.

 

His orgasm hits like a goddamn freight train, feeling like a kick to the solar plexus as his body seized up with pleasure, sending static shocks of ecstasy rolling down his back and legs. His hips rocking on their own accord. He can dimly feel his own come hitting his stomach as his vision fades in and out.

 

It’s over faster than he’s ready for, and he slumps against the door, sinking to sit against it. His skin feels hot and flushed, and he’s filled with such a deep seeded shame that he couldn’t even remember the high he’d just fallen from.

 

His breathing sounds too loud in the silent room, his heartbeat thundering around his ears.

 

Outside the door, Rhett begins to sing again.


He can’t look Rhett in the eye for almost another week.

 

It’s torture honestly, because for some god forsaken reason, Rhett seems to be on a mission to completely wear out his guitar and is constantly playing it at all hours now. He also seems to find Link’s discomfort absolutely hilarious. There’s a mischievous twinkle in his eyes when Link gets back from the gym and finds Rhett back on the couch day after day.

 

For two days after, Link is paralyzed with fear that Rhett knows, that he heard him jerking off to the memory of him playing with only a paper thin door between them. He finally concludes that he didn’t, that he has no idea given how Rhett doesn’t change his behavior in the slightest aside from his newfound obsession with his guitar.

 

It saves Link some panic, but there’s still plenty of that going on in his head regardless.

 

He’s straight. He’s always been  straight because that’s all you can really be in Buies Creek. There wasn’t really any choice there, and if you deviated from that people would talk. And whisper and stare and make strange faces when you went out in public.

 

Or worse.

 

 It was never anything Link had ever thought about, it was always just... like that. He liked girls. He’d always liked girls. He was normal, for crying out loud.

 

But as much as he repeated it to himself it did nothing to ease the ten thousand pound weight that he’s been wearing like a necklace for the last week. He hasn’t masturbated since, despite the fact that listening to Rhett singing in the next room makes his cock stir in his pants when he’s trying to do his homework. He can’t force himself to think about it and feels vaguely nauseous when he gets too close to it. He flat out refuses to even entertain the notion that he’s attracted to Rhett, even inside his own head.

 

Especially inside his own head. He swears Rhett can read his mind. The way his eyes stare straight through him as he watches him nervously pace the dorm like a cat watching a mouse freak out before it decided it wanted to eat him. He couldn’t think about it, positive Rhett would take one look at him and see it written in bold letters across his face.

 

He manages a week and thanks his lucky stars that Rhett seems just as content ignoring Link as Link is ignoring him. They manage six days of silent cohabitation to the soundtrack of Rhett doing irritatingly good Merle Haggard covers when it breaks.

 

And of course it breaks and of course it’s Link who breaks it. He tries not to, he really does, but he’s wound like a fucking top and he’s been on edge for days and honestly cleaning up after yourself is not fucking rocket science. If he wasn’t so annoyed he would be embarrassed that all it took was a stray McDonalds bag and a few stray fries on the counter to break his silence.

 

“Fucking really?” The words are the first spoken between them since what Link’s been calling “the incident,” and they sound overly loud in the room as Rhett’s fingers still on the guitar strings.

 

Rhett still has the drink from said McDonalds meal on the coffee table in front of him and leans forward deliberately, maintaining casual eye contact with Link the entire time as he picks up the drink and finishes it, slurping on the ice obnoxiously and shaking it for good measure before throwing it. It sails in a graceful arc and lands on the floor directly next to the trash can, clattering on the tile and Link knows he did that on fucking purpose.

 

Of course he fucking did that on purpose and there was no fucking way it could have been that perfect. Like that would have been a perfect shot and of course it fucking lands directly next to the goddamn trash can.

 

Link stays where he is for way longer than he’s proud of, mouth agape and blinking intelligently as Rhett watches him calmly.

 

“Oops,” Rhett finally says once Link is about to start screaming. There’s a smirk on his face and a tilt to his head, almost like he’s begging Link to say something else.

 

It’s takes willpower that Link genuinely didn’t know he possessed to exhale, close his eyes and count to ten.

 

He doesn’t speak to Rhett for the rest of the night.

 

Weird as it sounds, it makes Link feel slightly better and less nervous about the whole Rhett thing. Gay or straight, there was no fucking way Link could possibly be attracted to someone as infuriating as Rhett. He wasn’t that much of a masochist.

 

Also, you can’t call it attraction when all you want to do is shove a pillow over their face until they stop fucking snoring.


“I’m uh, going to a party.”

 

Link really has no idea why he’s even telling Rhett this, standing awkwardly in the doorway in what could be called the laziest costume known to man; a pair of cat ears and some sloppily drawn on whiskers. Rhett looks equally confused, one eyebrow cocking up quizzically.

 

Link had to begrudgingly admit that Rhett hadn’t been... painfully rude during the self imposed quiet game they’d been playing for longer than Link was able to keep up with. He’d been, dare Link say it, halfway nice. He hadn’t made nearly as much of a mess, and nothing awful had happened since the whole McDonald’s Mexican standoff. Still he really has no clue what possessed him to speak to Rhett in the first place, much less follow it up with-

 

“Somewhere close by, I think it’s on campus. Wanna come? Might be fun.”

 

That was a fucking lie though. He’d been invited by some girl in one of his classes. A loud, annoying girl who Link had literally never spoken to but still managed a brief nod when she’d pressed the flyer to his chest with her sharp manicure. It would most certainly not be fun.

 

Why he’d even nodded was still way beyond him, but he’d been so fucking stressed between trying to keep up with his coursework and walking on eggshells around Rhett the idea of a party sounded like a goddamn godsend. He had  been completely blindsided too, so preoccupied he hadn’t even noticed it was almost Halloween.

 

And maybe he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about Rhett in ways he really shouldn’t, hadn’t been able to stop remembering his voice and the way his dexterous hands looked handling that ancient guitar. But whether he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about him or not, he had been able to stop himself from furiously jerking off any time Rhett did anything slightly alluring, had managed to stop blushing up to his goddamn ears when Rhett would change for bed. He considered it progress. Inviting him to a party didn’t cross any lines, he was his roommate for fucks sake. Some people were even friends with their roommates.

 

“M going to a party too.” Rhett finally answers, closing his eyes and leaning back against his pillow, one arm coming up to cover his face.

 

It’s a clear dismissal and Link swallows nervously, trying to convince himself that he’s not a little bummed out by it. “Oh, yeah. Um. Next time.”

 

It sounds lame to his own ears and he can’t even be mad that Rhett doesn’t bother with an answer passed a bored sounding hum before Link shuts the door behind him.


“Well, aren’t you pretty.”

 

“Yes, I am.”

 

It’s weird, cause it’s another guy who’s leaning into his space, with his weird blonde buzz cut and his mismatched eyes and Link thinks he really should have a bigger problem with this, should’ve spit out a “dude, I’m straight” or something to the effect, not tossed his head back like a proud thoroughbred and taken the compliment.

 

Maybe he’s just drunk.

 

He’s definitely drunk .

 

Or maybe he’s not thinking clearly.

 

Oh, certainly not.

 

But for some reason the only problem with this is that the boy's eyes are a weird mesh of blue and grey, and all that can pass through Link’s addled mind is that they’re not-

 

Green

 

- the right color at all. The way they gleam down at him is predatory. That’s nothing new, but it’s missing the fire that Rhett’s eyes-

 

I don’t even like Rhett

 

-get when he and Link square off for another pointless argument in the living room. They send shivers down the back of Link’s neck, but not in the way that he’s used to.

 

Also his hair is stupid. It’s all wrong. Too light and too short. It’s missing something. Like dishwater curls...

 

This is all very stupid. Stop thinking about Rhett for sobbin’ out loud.

 

But the boy is still talking somehow, his mouth moving too fast for Link to keep up with and his words are lost in the thrum of the music.

 

Link had  been right, this was very much not fun. He had arrived way too early and in result had drank way more than he’d intended to. He had already ran into everyone he knew, had already had all the pointless conversations he’d needed to have about classes and other bullshit and had already shaken off the loud girl who’d invited him in the first place.

 

Which landed him right where he was now, crowded into a corner with a pushy blonde who clearly didn’t know the meaning of personal space who was still talking loudly in his ear.

 

“-seen you around campus, thought you looked way too good to be a student, maybe a hot teachers aid or something-“

 

Link isn’t even paying attention to what he’s saying, staring somewhere past the boy's shoulder at the lights bouncing off the wall when he feels the cold press of a drink into his unoccupied hand.

 

“What? Oh.” Link tries, tongue thick and sluggish with alcohol as his hand fumbles for the cup. “I already-“

 

“I know, but I thought I’d save ya the trouble of getting to the kitchen for a new one.” Buzzcut winks sloppily, swaying closer to Link and paying no mind when Link shrinks back against the wall.

 

“No, no it’s fine-“ Link tries another step back even as Buzzcut presses the cup harder into his hand. “I think I’ve had eno-“

 

“Oh no-no-no, it’s a party,” Buzzcut drawls out. “It’s a party gorgeous, don’t be a buzzkill. It’s only one drink.”

 

He’s way too close now, completely looming over Link with the hand holding the drink, twining his fingers around Link’s and trapping his hand there. The other hand comes up to the wall to cut Link off from the rest of the party and there’s alarm bells ringing in Link’s head now when he speaks again.

 

“I already said-“

 

“He already has a drink.”

 

What the-

 

Link blinks twice when he hears the rough voice behind him. It takes a second to place it, but it’s definitely him. The same voice that told him he was going to another party that night.

 

“Excuse me?” Buzzcut snarks back, eyes raising to stare over Link’s head at the intruder but not making any move to back off.

 

“I said he already has a drink.” Rhett speaks loudly again, floating a couple inches above Link’s ear and he feels him step closer so his shoulder blades graze the edges of Rhett's chest. “So why don’t you take a real quick sip of that one instead?”

 

There’s a heavy venom in Rhett’s voice like Link’s never heard before and he watches Buzzcut shrink back slightly, too scared to turn around. 

 

“I already have one,” Buzzcut says feebly, raising the can of beer in his other hand, eyes still trained several inches over Link’s hair as he takes two quick steps back. Link can finally exhale the breath he’s holding once the air in front of him is clear.

 

“Yeah that’s what i thought.” Link feels Rhett take another step closer, his back coming into full contact with Rhett’s front and he shivers, feeling Rhett’s body envelop him in the first touch they’ve ever shared. “Look bud, he’s clearly not interested.”

 

“He looked to me like he was pretty interested.” Buzzcut looks angry now, if still a bit scared, and draws himself up to full height.

 

Link feels Rhett do the same behind him, his head looming over Link’s own and he has to contain the full body shudder that the scent of Rhett’s proximity does to him. 

 

“He looked terrified and you’da seen that if you had any semblance of social skills, but since you clearly don’t lemme help ya out there. Fuck off, yeah? Take a breather from trying to drug my roommate and go find someone else to awkwardly hit on.”

 

A hand comes up and grabs at Link’s hip roughly, tugging him back against the body behind him. Link goes with the touch immediately, not even thinking as he leans into the warmth of Rhett’s touch. He catches his own foot on the way back and stumbles, the hand not holding his drink flying down and catching Rhett’s sturdy thigh for balance. Rhett makes no movement past tightening his grip on Link.

 

Buzzcut must see something in Rhett’s eyes that Link can’t, and his eyes flicker to the hand Rhett has possessively clinging to Link’s hip before he shrugs, mumbling something about Link not even being that hot anyways before he takes the drink he’d offered back, slinking off into the crowd.

 

Link feels Rhett’s chest move with his heavy breaths and revels in it for a split second before Rhett’s hand slips off his waist and he turns around, finally, and finds Rhett staring after the guy with a murderous expression, darker than any glare he’s ever thrown Link even during their worst fights. The lights catch Rhett’s sharp cheekbones and cast shadows under his eyes that make him look mean and dangerous, tall and menacing the way he hovers over Link.

 

Heat flares up in his stomach and he can feel it climbing up his face as his heart flutters in overdrive. The way Rhett’s chest moves with heavy breaths he’s still struggling to get a grip on makes Links palms itch with the urge to reach up and feel it, the strong muscles of his wide chest and the heartbeat that he can only dream is going as fast as his own.

 

He can’t move, he can barely breathe. The way his head is spinning makes everything slow and sleepy, and he almost manages to open his mouth to thank Rhett when Rhett looks down at him.

 

Link is very drunk, so he convinces himself that he’s only imagining the way Rhett’s eyes soften minutely.

 

“I, uh-” Link can’t get the words out.

 

“I watched him spike that drink.” Rhett leans down and speaks loudly into Links ear, the faintest scent of the beer he’s been drinking wafting over Link. “Didn’t know who it was for, but didn’t want ya gettin mixed up in all that.”

 

There’s a ball of ice lodged in Link’s voice box. He manages a shaky nod, which seems to be enough for Rhett.

 

“Watch yerself, Neal,” Rhett says, a hand coming up and squeezing Link’s bicep twice. Link’s body instinctively sways closer, his shoulder bumping Rhett’s before the other boy lets go. He can feel the touch burning through his sweater even as Rhett steps back, nodding once at him before disappearing back into the throng of the party.

 

Links pulse never really returns to normal after Rhett’s exit, and it keeps him feeling floaty and on edge for the rest of the night until he finally decides to call it. He doesn’t bother to say bye to anyone before placing his plastic cup down on the first flat surface he sees and fights his way towards the front door.

 

He stops once he reaches it and looks back and realizes he’s looking for Rhett, his mind catching on before his eyes do and he pointedly ignores the disappointment when he can’t see Rhett’s curls over the crowd

 

Musta headed home already.

 

He firmly tells himself that he is most certainly not upset about it and begins the short walk home, tripping over his feet every few steps and already beginning to feel the hangover he’d no doubt have in the morning.


He makes it home by some other miracle.

 

The lights are all on when he opens the dorm door and he squints into the light, blurry vision made all the worse with the alcohol still swimming through him and it takes him a long moment to focus on Rhett where he’s leaning on the counter.

 

Link freezes when he sees him, standing in the doorway like an idiot as Rhett’s glare bruns right through him.

 

“Hey," he manages, shifting his weight.

 

Rhett doesn’t answer, still staring right through him.

 

The air feels instantly too heavy as Link is assaulted with the memory of Rhett’s solid body behind him and he exhales through his nose. The tension is so thick he could cut it with a freaking butter knife and he speaks, if only to break the stifling silence.

 

“Thanks for that, back there.” He can hear how slurred his words come out, can feel how badly he’s swaying. “Really saved my ass, no pun intended.”

 

Rhett doesn’t react to the joke, standing like a giant statue with the same stony expression on his face.

 

Link can’t get a read on him, so he plows on.

 

“Better get ta bed ya know? Gonna be hungover as shit tomorrow-“

 

He lets his sentence die where he leaves it, heading towards their room. He stumbles slightly, horribly off kilter from how much he drank but he still firmly holds himself straight.

 

He doesn’t even see the flurry of movement before Rhett catches his arm, spinning him around until his back slams against the wall of the hallway and all the air is forced out of him in a huff as Rhett crowds into his space, trapping him there.

 

“What the fuck man-“ Panic and confusion catching Link a second too slow as Rhett envelopes him.

 

Rhett doesn’t answer, instead staring at him darkly where he is, dark green eyes pinning him to the wall as one hand curled around Links bicep and his feet planted squarely on the carpet. Link is frozen, doesn’t even know how to move when Rhett steps into the space of his spread thighs, standing so close their hips could touch if Link pressed forward even an inch

 

Like he’d ever have the courage.

 

Instead he stays frozen, breathing hot and heaving into the space between them that’s steadily shrinking as Rhett moves in closer, a large hand coming up to press against the wall next to Link's head and the other one catching on the studded belt at Links hips in a mimicry of his protective movements earlier that night.

 

“Rhett-“ Link is barely able to gasp out his name.

 

Rhett doesn’t move, his face stilling an inch from Links and Link huffs out a long breath and meets his eyes

 

And completely freezes. Rhett’s eyes are so intense, completely black blown out irises barely contained by a ring of green as Rhett’s emotionless face hovers scant inches from Link's.

 

Link can smell the beer on his breath again as his body flares hot, flames licking up his body until he can feel the blush in his goddamn forehead. Rhett’s scent invaded all of Link’s senses, shorting out his brain and all he can think is fuck he’s handsome, was he always that handsome?

 

Finally, finally he lets go of Link, his fingers releasing one at a time like he’s reluctant to break the contact and then steps back, keeping up his smoldering stare deep into Link's eyes before he turns and disappears into their bedroom. Link hears the creak of the bed springs as he sinks into the bottom bunk.

 

The dorm falls into silence after that.

 

It takes him way longer than he’s proud of to peel himself off the wall and into his room to go to bed, the sound of Rhett snoring suspiciously absent even as he climbs into his bed and drifts off.

Chapter Text

Link was gonna kill him.

 

And that would be that. Link's life would end right there and he'd rot away in some prison for the rest of his fucking life and at the moment he's strangely okay with that because he was going to fucking strangle Rhett.

 

It wasn't the first time he'd been in this exact position either. Hell it wasn't even the first time this week. Night after night he'd found himself here, twisted up in his sheets with his pillow over his head while Rhett snored away four feet below him, fast a-fucking-sleep and sounding like rocks in a goddamn blender. Link idly wonders if it's possible to make yourself snore louder on purpose, not even thinking for a second that if it was possible Rhett wouldn't jump at the chance to be even more annoying,

 

The rational part of him that manages to stay sane around Rhett knows he's being a child about it, knows that he's stressed from midterms and he's just being dramatic. It doesn't stop him from grinding his teeth together when Rhett coughs in his sleep, leaving blissful silence in its wake before starting again with the snoring, even louder than before if it was even possible.

 

Link rolls over, pressing his pillow to his ears and not bothering to stifle the groan he lets out, knowing nothing short of the goddamn apocalypse would rouse Rhett at this hour.

 

Granted, keeping Link awake with his monstrous sleep apnea wasn't the worst thing Rhett had been guilty of in the last few weeks. The snoring was almost forgivable in the wake of the fucking whiplash Link was still feeling, that and the confusion at what the hell Rhett was playing at.

 

It had started immediately after the Halloween party, after the staring contest in the hallway that Link barely remembered through the drunken haze but still refused to let himself think about. He had woken up with what he'd willingly argue was the worst hangover in human history, drool drying on the side of his face and the whole nine yards. He hadn't even managed to sit up fully in the top bunk before he'd felt a hand on his shoulder, too gentle for how badly it had startled him.

 

The shock he felt was unparalleled by anything he's felt in his life when he'd turned and found Rhett standing next to his his bed, their heads at eye level with each other and Rhett's expression unreadable. There had been a beat of unbearable silence before Rhett had raised a hand and held a water bottle aloft, expression still unchanged.

 

Link had reached out and taken the peace offering, and Rhett nodded once before he went off to shower, leaving Link to watch him leave.

 

When he’d returned, Link hadn’t been doing much better. He’d moved from moping in bed to moping on the couch, staring unseeing at the tv as it blared old cartoon reruns. Rhett had paused in the doorway for a split second before plopping down on the other side of the couch.

 

Link was still way too out of it to even acknowledge the other boy, not even looking over at him when Rhett cleared his throat awkwardly.

 

“Hmm.” The disinterested hum was all he could offer.

 

“I uh-“ Rhett sounds, shy. And it’s weird enough to actually prompt Link to turn his head and stare at him, ignoring the throbbing in his head that the motion prompts.

 

“I’m kinda hungover too. Gettin’ too old fer this shit.” Rhett runs a hand through his curls almost self consciously, glancing at Link once before locking his gaze back to the tv. “You look a little better.”

 

It’s more words than Link’s ever heard Rhett string together without an insult peppered in, and for once, Link finds himself completely speechless. 

 

On the one hand, fuck this guy, he’s been nothing but rude as all hell since Link stepped into the dorm-

 

He had a valid reason you arrogant prick

 

And on the other hand, Link was still inexplicably drawn to him, all but yearned to hear his voice directed at him. And here he was, speaking to him like...like a normal fucking person. 

 

-Like all Link fucking wanted-

 

Shut UP

 

His first instinct is to snap at him, tell him to fuck right the goddamn hell off because that’s just how he and Rhett talk to each other.

 

But not today apparently, and then again; gift horse, mouth.

 

“I don’t feel much better,” Link mumbles, the safest answer he could think of.

 

Rhett chuckles once at that, leaning his head on the back of the couch and swiveling to face Link. “Yeah I was jus’ tryin’ to be nice. Ya still look like shit.”

 

Link turned to fix Rhett with a sarcastic and wide eyed stare that broke when he blinked, the light too bright to keep it up. “You? Bein nice? And yer head didn’t explode?”

 

Rhett laughs then, tossing his head back and letting the sound ring out loud and echoing around the apartment. Link’s mouth goes dry watching the other boy's throat work around the sound.

 

Get a fucking grip.

 

“Eh you're gonna be fine if yer already back to bein’ a neurotic little brat," Rhett huffs out at the end of his laugh, turning his sparkling eyes back to Link.

 

Link is too far gone to do much more than scoff, leaning back into the couch and tilting his head to mirror Rhett’s position on the couching and facing him dead on. “Go fuck yourself man,” he says, ignoring how his words slur together and focusing on the smile it illicites from Rhett.

 

“Maybe later.” Rhett snickers again, turning back to the tv and setting lower into the couch, clearly gearing up to stay. “I’ll let you watch if yer lucky.”

 

The actual fuck?!

 

Link doesn’t answer, facing back to the tv and letting Rhett’s joke die where it lands, not wanting to rock the boat and break the amicable grounding he’s suddenly found himself on.

 

And then later that day, Rhett locked Link out of the dorm when Link had gone out to do laundry and Link had to listen to the asshole laugh at him for a solid ten minutes before he unlocked the door to let him in.

 

“Fucking seriously?” Link spat out once Rhett opened the door.

 

“Sorry man, didn’t know you were out there.” Rhett choked out, still laughing at his own hilarity and looking completely unrepentant. 

 

So that effectively ruined the soft feeling from the morning. Link hadn’t even known whether to continue the fight or drop it, choosing the latter solely based on how good a mood Rhett remained in for the rest of the day.

 

But then the rest of the week followed in the same pattern. Rhett would be shockingly nice, followed by Link trying in kind to return the sentiment before it was shattered by Rhett reverting to his normal ways, dragging Link into another argument about something else pointless or just winding Link up so much they ignored each other for the rest of the night.

 

It finally stressed Link out so much that, while in line at the McDonald's on campus, with Rhett's clipped words from that morning still fresh in his head-

 

“There’s no need to be that loud in the mornings. Other people sleep Neal.” 

 

Rhett was still groggy, half asleep, and wrapped up in his blankets as Link got dressed for class.

 

“And other people get up on time for class.” Link was still pissy from being kept up all night with Rhett’s snoring, and he didn’t even feel bad about snapping back at him.

 

Rhett had rolled his eyes, wrapping himself back up in his comforter and shoving his head under his pillow. “Dick.”

 

-that he heard himself ordering for two, instead of just himself. 

 

It took the entirety of the walk back to convince himself that he wasn’t doing anything weird. It was a peace offering, if anything. 

 

And even then his voice shook when he’d unlocked the front door and found Rhett lounging on the couch.

 

“I got you a burger, ya know, for waking’ ya up this mornin’,” Link says, dropping the bag on the table in front of Rhett before he could lose his nerve. Rhett’s eyebrows climbed to his hairline, head tilting curiously before his long arms unfolded to investigate the bag. Link drops on the couch beside him, pointedly not looking at him and trying to get his hands to stop shaking through willpower alone. 

 

It was just a burger, Link thinks frantically, feeling the blush start to climb up his throat as he watches Rhett paw through his food. 

 

Locate some goddamn chill, Neal. 

 

Rhett pulls out and then takes a bite of his burger, shooting Link a half smile that softens his face more than Link even thought was possible. The blush he’d been fighting wins out and he speaks, just to kill the tension.

 

“I had to walk back from the library with it, so it might have soggy buns.”

 

 “Soggy Buns,” Rhett mumbles with his mouth full. “That was my nickname in high school.”

 

It’s the dumbest and most ridiculous thing Link’s ever heard and catches him so off guard he doesn’t have time to stop the bark of laughter startled out of him. He’s giggling so hard his eyes are watering, and when he finally opens his eyes Rhett grins at him around his next mouthful of burger, and it sets Link’s stomach off all over again. 

 

“You’re weird,” is all Link managed as he fought off another round of giggles. Rhett shrugged modestly, his body relaxing further into the couch as he kept eating.

 

Great. He’s good looking and funny

 

Rhett snorts loudly in his sleep, and the sound of it startles Link out of his musings and he peeks over the side of the bed. The clock next to Rhett’s bed blinks 2:13 happily at him and he decides enough is enough. Time to commit a fucking felony.

 

He makes no effort to be quiet as he climbs down to the floor.

 

Rhett’s sprawled on his back, one arm extended over his head on the pillow and the other resting on his belly, the tattered wife beater he sleeps in riding up his torso and, well, fuck.

 

There’s a strip of skin showing just above the waistband of his pajama bottoms, white and freckled and Link feels his stomach drop out to the floor. It really wasn’t fair that as much of a dick as Rhett was he still managed to be sweet at times and enticing and still have the ability to put Link through as much of a sexual crisis as he has been.

 

And yeah it’s right there looking white and tasty and inviting and Link wants to lean down and run his tongue across and then push the shirt up more and maybe-

 

No

 

It is  2 o’clock in the fucking morning, and Link really cannot afford to stay here and salivate over an inch of skin on his sleeping roommate because, well for one that makes him a creep. 

 

And two, he’s not gay goddammit. He’s straight, he’s normal. Rhett is annoying and he does not like him and he's really getting sick of having this argument with himself, thank you very much.

 

But even as Link watches, Rhett exhales in his sleep. Sighing softly and cutting through all the snores before moving his arm and tilting his face towards Link. The soft moonlight filtering through the blinds catching his sharp cheekbones and Link thinks he’s almost beautiful like this.

 

Rhett’s face is smooth of all the stress Link never realized he carried and he looks young and vulnerable. His curls are tousled on his pillow and Link suddenly wants nothing more than to run his hands through them. 

 

Jesus Christ.

 

Now Link is more irritated than ever. He had every intention of coming down here and smacking Rhett in the face with a pillow and telling him in a few choice words to shut the ever loving fuck up so he can get some sleep; he has a fucking test tomorrow. But now, faced with the picture of Rhett sleeping peacefully aside from the noise pouring out of his mouth, Link is once again stuck. He’s-

 

NO, fucking no-

 

He cannot, absolutely cannot let himself feel this way for Rhett. Rhett is annoying and loud and crass and rude and honestly really insensitive and downright mean and Link can't handle it. If he was going to be gay (which he’s not) he would not fall for someone this awful because he has standards and he-

 

 fuck all of this

 

So instead of smothering him with a pillow or at the very least waking him up, Link does what he honestly wants to.

 

 He reaches out and touches the warm and soft skin of Rhett's upper arm, not letting the heat soak through his hand so he can savor it and as gently as he can, pulls Rhett towards him.

 

The other boy willingly follows Link's phantom touch, rolling over and re-adjusting himself. Both of Rhett's sturdy arms wind beneath his pillow and he snuggles into it.

 

The snoring stops.

 

 If Link stays down there, watching Rhett sleep for another two minutes before he manages to drag himself back up to bed in the now peaceful silence that echoes around the room he doesn’t think too much about it.


Rhett is in a very good mood the next morning.

 

Well, at least as good a mood as Rhett gets in the morning. He’s definitely not a morning person, as far as Link has learned. He’s tired and grouchy the instant his alarm goes off, and really not in the mood for conversation. He’d rather sit and grumble about the early hour or simply go back to sleep, throwing a few barbs Link’s way before he wraps himself up back in his comforter. 

 

This morning, however, Rhett is already awake, making coffee in the shitty little machine that lives on their counter and he’s offering a steaming cup to Link before he’s even awake enough to register it.

 

Link pauses, eyeing the cup suspiciously. “Did’ja spit in it?”

 

“Oh yeah. Nice and wet,” Rhett says with a leer, waggling his eyebrows. 

 

Link takes the cup with an eye roll, knowing by now that Rhett was more than likely kidding but still inspecting the coffee heavily before taking a sip.

 

“Why the hell are you awake this early? You dun even have class today,” Link asks, eyeing Rhett over the rim of his coffee mug.

 

“Not much really. ‘m all caught up on homework, did all ma reading.” Rhett stretches, arms raising high enough to brush the ceiling. “Might just bum out all day here.”

 

“Lucky bastard.” Link himself still had one more final, and he was so nervous about it his hands were already shaking. “I got one more test and this dang coffee’s gonna kill me.” 

 

He determinedly keeps his gaze on the counter, and not on the bumps of Rhett’s ribcage where they peek into view as the other boy stretches.

 

“Eh. You’ll be fine. Plus you got my spit in yer coffee.” Rhett sends a shit eating grin over the counter to match Link’s horrified stare. “Maybe you’ll absorb some of my intelligence through that.”

 

Link giggles at that, high and stupid despite his best efforts, and even Rhett manages to laugh along side him.

 

Link left for his his classes that day feeling lighter than he’d ever had, like maybe Rhett was coming around to him; repressed weird gay thoughts or not.

 

And again, with most things related to Rhett, it didn’t last long.

 

In fact, it only lasted until Link got home from his final class that day. An hour late.

 

An entire hour late, having gotten caught up in a discussion with his professor about something or other. The sun was already down, wind was tearing across campus like the apocalypse, threatening snow. 

 

Link was already in a mood when he'd finally reached his dorm, completely fed up with the weather and school and anything that involved brain activity altogether, wanting nothing more than to collapse on his gross ass couch and watch tv until his brain melted.

 

And instead, he’d opened the door and had found a completely destroyed apartment, shoes and clothes thrown everywhere, almost deliberately with what seemed like every dish they owned lying prone in the sink. 

 

All he had been able to do was release a defeated huff, eyes sweeping over the mess as anger and a blinding rage roared up in his and his voice returned.  

 

“McLaughlin!” Link screamed out, fully intent on making Rhett pay for what he’d done.

 

Silence meets Link’s ears, his cry echoing round the empty apartment and the anger radiating around his head intensifies. Seriously? Right when he finally thought he was getting somewhere with Rhett he still manages to find ways to piss Link off even when he’s not in the fucking apartment. 

 

He debates leaving the dishes there, waiting for Rhett to return to let him know just how he feels about this.

 

But one look at the crusting plates and soggy cereal floating in one of the bowls is enough to make goosebumps rise on the back of Link’s arms. 

 

The nerve of this fucking dude.

 

Link can’t handle it. He really can’t, the mess makes him so uneasy he can’t even sit still.

 

So he washes Rhett’s gross dishes. It’s honestly more irritating that cleaning relaxes Link in this weird way and that by the time he’s nearly done with them all and he finally hears Rhett’s key in the door, he’s really not even that upset anymore. 

 

And that relative calm lasts him exactly ten seconds.

 

Rhett sways up to the counter and leans against it, arms crossed and smug grin already plastered on his face. 

 

“Lookit you bein’ a good housewife,” Rhett says in a teasing tone dripping with honey, and yeah, yeah that’s about all Link can handle.

 

“A good house- the fuck, Rhett? You’ve been here alone for like four hours-“

 

“Miss me already?” Rhett drops his face to rest in his hands, still smirking up at Link.

 

“And you’ve managed to completely destroy the place!” Link plows on, refusing to break and give Rhett the satisfaction.

 

“You finished early! You can’t be mad, you said I had ‘till five!” Rhett laughs out, neck flushing pink as he giggles. 

 

“I am an hour late!”

 

“Are you?”

 

“This isn’t funny!” Link hears his voice catch on the last word.

 

“This isn’t funny,” Rhett mimics back without missing a beat.

 

Link’s blood boils. “Seriously, who the flying fuck raised you!” 

 

“Your mom.”

 

“Oh yeah, real fucking mature Rhett-“ Link is still washing the dishes with way more force than necessary, water sloshing onto the counter and over his forearms. “Is it really so hard to clean up after yourself? I’m not your fucking maid-“

 

“Really?” Rhett cuts him off with a shit eating grin. “Cause ya look like the best damn housekeeper I’ve ever laid my-“

 

“Fuck you!”

 

“Maybe when you’re done,” Rhett chuckles out, still looking way too pleased with himself.

 

Take a day off Rhett, Link thinks savagely as he watches the other boy laugh at his irritation.

 

“God do you ever shut the fuck up!?” Link lifts the glass he’s currently washing and slams it against the counter for emphasis, taking Rhett’s silence as a good sign. “You are without a dang doubt the worst person on this goddamn planet-“ 

 

He trails off as his rant loses steam and he realizes Rhett isn’t even looking at him anymore. He’s staring at the counter, eyes wide with shock and mouth slightly open.

 

Link is about to scream again, ask him what was so dang interesting that he couldn’t even listen to him when he pauses.

 

My hand hurts.

 

He follows Rhett’s line of vision and catches sight of the hand that he’s slammed onto the counter. The glass he was holding is in two pieces, and there’s a gash across his palm. His hand is resting in a steadily growing pool of his own blood, staining the counter he’d just finished cleaning.

 

He’s more outraged at the mess at first, the wild thought about how annoying it’s gonna be to clean up and he releases the glass, fingers peeling away when he catches sight of how bad the cut really is and he stops again as his vision begins to blur at the edges. 

 

He looks up at Rhett slowly, like he’s underwater. Rhett’s head is glowing in a weird halo of light from the hallway and Link’s head is spinning. What was he gonna say?

 

“Oh.”

 

It’s all he manages before he realizes he’s falling. The last thing he hears is Rhett shouting his name before his vision goes entirely. 


It comes back to Link slower than he’s honestly proud of.

 

The room is still hazy when he finally comes to, blinking slowly in the dying sunlight. The first thing he’s aware of is that he’s warm, not overly warm but comfortable, like someone’s thrown the ratty blanket that lives at the end of the couch over him. The very next thing he’s aware of is the cold feeling on his forehead, and the fact that the apartment is strangely quiet but he can hear something moving around in the next room.

 

He groans once, a release of tension in his head and the movement in the next room stops, letting Link relax enough to fall back asleep.


When he wakes again, the next thing he's aware of is someone holding his left hand hostage. The feeling is soft and warm and it takes him a year and half to open his eyes fully to see who's caressing his knuckles softly like they were made of glass. 

 

It rattled him to his core to see that it’s Rhett, sitting on the floor next to the couch he’s apparently been laid down on. Rhett’s eyes are trained on the tv, an old movie playing at a volume way too low to register to Link. Rhett’s lower lip is tugged between his teeth, and when Link lets his eyes travel down his own arm he finds his hand trapped between Rhett’s in the other boys lap. Rhett’s fingers run over the back of his hand and down his palm, the movement almost unconscious as Rhett seems completely checked out. 

 

Link freezes, eyes still half open as he watches Rhett’s fingers dance over his hand. His heart is currently making a valiant effort to climb up his throat and out his mouth, and he has to remind himself to take a heavy, shuddering breath to stop the headache that’s flirting with his temples.

 

Link’s sharp inhale catches Rhett’s attention and Rhett snaps his head around to meet Link’s eyes, expression panicked and eyes wild like a child with his hand caught in the fucking cookie jar.

 

“Oh! Hey man, welcome back.” Link feels Rhett drop his hand as the other boy stands, pacing in a tiny circle around the couch, his body tight with nerves. “Kinda freaked me out there fer a sec.”

 

“Wha’ happened?” Link slurs out as best he can, Rhett still blurring around the edges.

 

“You fuckin fainted.” Rhett's voice is hard around the words, his eyes dropping to the floor. “Scared the hell out of me.”

 

Link nods blankly, watching Rhett wring his giant hands out nervously and his eyes flutter closed, too dizzy for the moment to keep his eyes open.

 

The sound of footsteps coming closer drag Link back to the land of the living, and he opens his eyes to watch as Rhett crouches down by his head.

 

Link feels all the air leave the room in one soft exhale. Rhett's looking at him too softly. Too sweet, and the entire illusion is shattered once Rhett lays a hand across Link's forearm in what is surely meant to be a comforting gesture. 

 

“You feel in’ okay tho?” There’s no voice lent to Rhett’s question, the whisper wafting over Link’s heated and flushed face.

 

It leaves Link's head spinning even more than it was when he first woke up. He manages a shaky nod, the rest of his body too shocked to move still, even as Rhett raises a hand. Link can see the other boys fingers trembling slightly as they move through the air, and he watches them as long as he can until they land on his face, so gentle along the line of his throat.

 

He’s just bein’ nice, he’s just bein’ nice.

 

He tries to repeat this to himself even as Rhett’s thumb moves in a sweeping motion over the corner of his jaw. It’s not doing any good, the feeling of Rhett’s hand on his face is too much as it sends a searing flame down his front all the way to the pit of his stomach. 

 

It awakens something deep in Link, something that he feels has been building for awhile, the thing he’s always ignored when he screams at Rhett or watches him sleep. Whatever it is, it’s loud and heavy now, and it pushes Link up till he’s propped on an elbow, Rhett’s hand faltering and falling off his jaw to flutter back to the other boys lap.

 

“I was real worried, Link. Never seen anything like it.” Rhett speaks to his chest, chin tucked down as his eyes scan the floor in front of the couch.

 

Link never gets a chance to answer as Rhett rises too fast for Link to follow, beginning a quick stride around the room as he talks too quickly.

 

“Like you just went down, I wasn’t even really tryin’ to piss you off I was just messin around, I really didn’t think I’d upset you that much  and I’m real sorry-“

 

Rhett's words don't really register around Link's addled mind and he watches Rhett pace the room. He’s overly fixated on Rhett’s strong thighs as they move in his jeans and he chalks it up to the possible concussion. His hand feels cold and empty now, and he flexes his fingers, missing the feeling of Rhett’s hand in his own and in a rush of bravery he sits up on his elbow again, ignoring the rush of blood in his head that sends a wave of dizziness through him and he watches his hand reach up. His fingers stretch out and his arm raises up towards Rhett, a silent plea he hadn’t even admitted to himself that he hadn’t realized he’d been wanting to ask for.

 

Rhett freezes in his pacing, eyes wide and guarded. His arms are still wound around his skin middle and his eyes train on Link's outstretched hand. Time stands still for Link, all kinds of thoughts flitting through his head. Ranging from Rhett straight out punching him, to him walking out of the room, to the admin office, to demand another roommate; a roommate who doesn’t want him the way Link suddenly wants to feel all of him. 

 

It takes a year and half for anything to happen, the two of them caught in a Mexican standoff and Link seriously thinks he’s a heartbeat and a half away from cardiac arrest when Rhett finally moves.

 

It’s a minute movement, undetectable if Link wasn’t staring at him like his life depended on it. Rhett’s eyes soften, and his shoulders lower a fraction. Link can hear his lungs expand with each strangled breath and he feels like he’s about to hyperventilate when Rhett finally reaches one hand out, shaking and nervous to place his hand in Link’s outstretched palm.

 

Link feels the heat of Rhett’s hand in his before he realizes his fingers have closed around Rhett’s, clutching his hand in a desperate grasp and he’s yanking Rhett towards him, sitting up too fast and watching the distorted vision of Rhett sway towards him.

 

Rhett lands heavily on the couch beside him, and Link scrambled to his knees, watching every tick of the other boys face. Rhett’s eyes remain locked on their entwined hands, his chest curiously even with calm breaths even as Link’s own breath fights its way out of his lungs.

 

Rhett moves first, free hand coming up to run through Link’s hair.

 

Link decides in that instant that that just won’t do, and he reaches out to catch it. His hand closes around Rhett’s thick wrist and Rhett inhaled sharply, just as stunned as Link is by his own bravery.

 

Link moves out of his own jurisdiction at that point and swings a leg over Rhett’s, straddling him in a move that leaves him breathless and lightheaded in its ballsiness and he isn’t even sure of it until Rhett exhales, hot and heavy in a breath that warms Link’s collarbones.

 

Rhett lets him settle on his lap, hands firmly planted in the cushions on either side of him. It’s warm, and it’s nice, and it sends Link’s heart racing.

 

But.

 

But this isn’t what Link wants though. He feels uncomfortable, nervous and fidgety and he squirms, sure that at any second Rhett’s gonna say screw this whole being nice thing and shove him off. He’s still not sure where Rhett stands on all this, can almost convince himself that Rhett’s just letting him because he fucking fainted on him.

 

Rhett doesn’t though, instead his hands lift, finally, land on Link’s hips, the pressure of them sure and grounding. Rhett's fingers dig into the soft flesh of Link's waist and it makes Link's head spin.

 

"What do you want?" Rhett’s rough whisper floats to Links ears and he whines unconsciously, grinding down.

 

Link blinks heavily as he watches Rhett’s eyes drop down to half mast, Rhett’s hips shifting beneath him. 

 

“I want-“ He doesn’t even know. He doesn’t know what he wants. He feels easy, like some slutty girl giving it up to the first guy who’s nice to her.

 

He swivels his hips in a slow, cautions circle. He feels Rhett grind up against him. His head spins. Rhett shoots forward suddenly, pressing his face against Link’s. His stubble scratches Link’s cheekbone and it takes willpower he didn’t know he had not to shudder against the feeling.

 

"I asked what you want," Rhett growls against the side of his jaw, breath fanning out over Link's jaw and sending a wave of shiners down his back, willpower breaking finally. 

 

"I don’t know." Link can't even focus, his entire world narrowed down to the feeling of Rhett breathing against his throat. 

 

Rhett pulls back and his hands come up to frame Link’s face, one large hand winding into the short hair at the back of Link’s neck and the other curling around Link's jaw.

 

The air has turned to stone.

 

“What do you want?” Rhett grinds out again, eyes hard and flashing something Link can’t identify.

 

“I, I-“ Link stutters out.

 

Rhett takes the decision out of his hands, and tugs him down and presses his mouth hard against his own in a possessive kiss. 

 

Link almost faints again.

 

Rhett opens his mouth up, roughly licking deep into his mouth as Link struggles to catch up. He’s never been kissed like this before, like he’s being consumed, as Rhett takes what he wants from him. He’s trembling from nerves and from want, fingers dancing shakily along the sides of Rhett’s face as he tries to follow the instructions Rhett’s body gives him.

 

Just like that, yes, take it, good.

 

One large hand comes up and cups the back of Link’s skull, holding him in place as Rhett’s other hand reaches up to hold his jaw. Rhett tugs at Link’s chin, forcing his mouth open more as he plunges his tongue in, deep and hot. Link feels the fingers at the back of his neck tighten to press sharp nails into the tender skin there and he whines, high and desperate into Rhett’s mouth. 

 

The answering growl that Rhett lets out at the sound would be enough to make Link’s legs give out if he were standing. Rhett's moves both hands up the sides of Link’s face to wind into his hair, tangling in the short strands and tilting his head where Rhett wants him. Link goes easily, willingly, arching up into the feeling of Rhett’s mouth, his hands.

 

When Rhett pulls away with a wet noise Link doesn’t even get time to open his eyes before Rhett attacks his throat, bruising the skin with hot, open mouthed kisses with too much teeth and Link cries out, mouth dropping open and head falling back to offer more of himself to Rhett. His hands twist into the fabric of Rhett’s sweater, stretching the fabric beyond repair when Rhett bites down hard into his collarbone.

 

The shock of pain goes straight to his cock and his hips jerk forward on their own accord, grinding down into Rhett’s crotch clumsily. All at once he feels Rhett's hard on against his own arousal and all conscious thought leaves his head.

 

He gives himself to Rhett then, letting his body sway forward to melt into Rhett’s and feeling his hips move of their own accord, grinding down onto the other boy's lap as Rhett’s breathing hitches and he yanks his mouth off of Link’s neck to catch his lips in another bruising kiss.

 

Link finds himself windmilling as the room spins around him and suddenly he’s on his back, the carpet itchy on the back of his neck as Rhett hovers above him. He has no idea how they even got off the couch and onto the floor, but he really can’t focus on that right now. Not when Rhett has one hand sliding down his body, ghosting up his leg to tug his thigh around his waist. Rhett lowers his hips then to Links, lining up the matching hardness in their jeans and breathing hotly against Link’s face as he dry humps him into the carpet. 

 

It’s too much, too much, and too hot and Rhett is too heavy and Link can't get away from it and he realizes with a flash of sheer terror that he’s about to come in his shorts on the disgusting carpet beneath his roommate. 

 

He tears his mouth away from Rhett’s, feeling Rhett latch onto his clavicle even as his hips rise up to meet Rhett’s thrusts. “Rhett, no please, I can’t-“

 

“You can,” Rhett huffs out against his chest, licking a solid stripe of Link’s neck that makes his dick throb against Rhett’s stomach.

 

“I’m gonna-“ Link’s about to come, can feel the stirring of his balls and the heat at the base of his spine. He’s terrified, the idea of the release here, at Rhett’s mercy too much for him. He’s never wanted anything more in his life but the brick wall seems too high to jump. “Please don’t make me-“

 

Rhett lifts himself off of him then, and Link wants to shout out in frustration. He was so close, and he needs Rhett back on him now. 

 

“I’m not gonna make you do anything.” Rhett runs a hand possessively down the side of Link’s face in a gesture that sends the fire burning in Link’s chest into overdrive. Link leans into the touch, biting at Rhett’s thumb as he runs it over his lower lip.

 

“Do you want it?” Rhett’s growl reverberates through Link like a hurricane.

 

“I want it-“ Link barely chokes the words out as Rhett’s hand circles his throat for a split second before it runs down his chest to his belt. “i just can’t-“

 

“You can’t, or you don’t want to?” Rhett cuts him off, winding a hand around his hip to tug him against his body again, wringing another whine out of Link.

 

Link’s head is spinning, and he catches the side of Rhett’s head to tug him into another kiss. Rhett tilts his head away, Link’s lips landing uselessly on Rhett’s ear and Link is about to cry, so tightly wound he can’t stand it

 

“I want it-“ he chokes out, his voice thin and needy and unrecognizable to his own ears. He knows in that moment he’s never been more honest, has never wanted anything more in his fucking life. He could cry, he wants it so badly. “I want it, please I’m sorry-“

 

Rhett stares down at him with wide green eyes for a beat, until he seems to take pity on him. 

 

He lowers himself down again, wrapping Link’s leg higher on his hip.

 

“Take what you want, go on,” Rhett growls in Link’s ear, his other hand winding through Link’s hair to guide his face to his throat.

 

What he wants

 

The permission gritted out through Rhett’s teeth is too much for Link to handle, and his mouth acts on its own accord, tongue flicking out to lick at Rhett’s Adam’s apple lightly and relishing in the whine it drags from Rhett. His hips are still moving, writhing against Rhett’s body and the sensations  are carrying him higher than he can manage, the cries and whimpers falling out his mouth faster than he can regulate them.

 

He’s only carried higher by the sounds coming from Rhett. Deep, guttural noises that sound like they’re being pulled from his very soul as Rhett works him over, hands sliding up Link’s body to grasp at his face, his arms, his ass, to the thigh that’s wrapped around him. 

 

Link’s dangerously close, his entire body on fire and he tries to say this, tires to push it out of his mouth, but the only sounds he can produce are high whines and gasps, his fists useless as they pound and grasp at Rhett’s broad shoulders and Rhett doesn't seem to mind at all. If anything the other boys hands pull him closer and his hips grind down harder and Link’s vision goes white.

 

The world tilts off its axis for a moment, and the floor wobbles dangerously beneath Link.

 

Rhett’s still moving on top of him when Link’s floats back into consciousness. He tilts his head back and hears the reedy whine leave his mouth as Rhett growls into the side of his neck, breath coming faster and heavier into Link’s hair as his hands leave bruises on Link’s hips. Rhett grinds down against Link’s spent dick and he lets out a weak cry from over sensitivity.

 

It’s instantly answered with a low and throaty groan as Rhett’s hips stutter in their movements, one hand coming up to twist into Link’s hair to yank his head back and Link feels Rhett come, feels the spasms wrack his body against his own and the warmth that joins the answering wetness in his jeans.

 

Rhett lets himself fall, boneless and heavy in a graceless slump directly on top of Link. The air huffs out of his lungs and ruffles an errant curl over Rhett’s ear. The world shifts back into orbit, and Link drags in a heavy breath, feeling every ounce of Rhett’s weight on top of him as all the tension bleeds out of Rhett’s limbs.

 

It’s a year or an hour before Rhett finally moves, having fallen into a rhythm of breathing in tandem with Link on the floor. Link’s hands have migrated to Rhett’s broad shoulders, running the barest if fingertips down the goose pimpled flesh. He’s pretty sure Rhett’s fallen asleep. His legs are numb and there’s a twinge in his right shoulder that’s building towards intolerable. 

 

He refuses to move, though. His hearts still going a thousand beats a second and he’s sure Rhett can feel it. The tangy musk of Rhett and their combined sweat is still clouding his head and the way Rhett’s slow even breathing warms his throat is enough to make Link never want to move again.

 

When Rhett does lift himself off Link, the sun has long set, and the shadows from the lights left on in their bedroom play along the sharp angles of Rhett’s face. He doesn’t meet Link’s eyes, just gets up slowly, fingertips trailing over Link’s biceps as he stands. 

 

He leaves Link on the floor and walks straight out of the dorm, his shoes somehow still on and the door clicks softly behind him. Sounding like a gunshot in the silence around them.

 

It takes Link far too long to get up. When he finally admits defeat and heads to bed, Rhett still hasn’t returned.