Pairing: Ryan/Brendon, Spencer/Jon (Frank/Gerard, Pete/Patrick, Gabe/William)
Disclaimer: As real as my love of broccoli
Summary: Ryan doesn't want to know the names of the people who come into the Laundromat. He doesn't want to know what makes Tattoo Guy talk to Guy Who Never Showers. He doesn't, but a new customer might just undermine all the work he's done to distance himself from the world. (20,427 words)
A/N: Um, more fics for the panicolympics are up! You should go read and comment :] This is linked in three parts.
The Laundromat is open twenty-four hours, seven days a week. People can be found inside it at all hours of the day and night. They are the weirdest people and they wash the weirdest things, but most people don’t make any comments.
It only has four workers, one for the day shift and one for the night. They each work four days and three days alternately. They’re really only there to make sure no one breaks into the coin machine and steals any money. They are also there to fix the coin machines when they break – and they break a lot.
One day worker is named Pete, and he spends most of his shift reading magazines and bothering the customers that come in, ribbing them for conversation, drawing them into long arguments about who the greatest bass player in the world is. He maintains it’s Jerry Only while most people have no idea who that is.
He leaves around seven at night, though, and the second night worker comes in, a large book or textbook tucked under his arm to keep him awake all night.
He smiles awkwardly at Pete, whom he secretly admires for all his knowledge about music, as he enters and Pete shoots up from his stool behind the tiny desk in a second.
“Ryan!” Pete cries, making a beeline for him and Ryan flushes when Pete grabs him and drags him to the chair. “Thank God, you’re here!”
“Really?” Ryan asks nervously as Pete lets go of him and grabs his jacket.
“Yes!” He shoves Ryan behind the desk and grins at him. “I got a date!”
Ryan stares for a second. “A what?”
“Well, not a date,” Pete amends. “This guy, Patrick, I’ve totally been working on him for weeks, and he finally, finally –” Pete looks like he’s in Heaven and his voice squeaks a little. “—told me about some performance he has tonight, so I have to go. And it starts in, like, thirty minutes, and you’re kind of late!”
“Oh.” Ryan knew it had to be too good to be true. “Right.”
“Right!” Pete is stuffing his arms into his jacket and twirling around as it gets stuck, but Ryan doesn’t help and merely watches moodily. “So I’ll see you tomorrow at seven!”
“Don’t be late!” Ryan yells as Pete careens out the door, barely missing a little old lady coming in with her delicates.
Sighing, Ryan sinks down on the stool and frowns at his books. The top one is a Biology textbook and Ryan would like nothing more than to toss it in the washer with someone’s clothes and watch the paper disintegrate.
Instead, he looks at the clock on the opposite wall and sets his watch alarm for twelve hours from then.
Around ten o’clock at night is when the weird people start coming into the Laundromat. There’s the guy who has little cobras stitched into all his underwear, the guy who makes conversation with the Cobra Guy, as Ryan calls him, the girl who wears so much eyeliner Ryan is sure that she single-handedly keeps the eyeliner companies in business. There’s the guy who looks as though he never showers, although he does do his laundry an awful lot.
There’s the guy with all the tattoos who talks to the guy who never showers and gives him huge smiles that make it feel like it’s not the dead of night.
Ryan tries to ignore most of them because they’re all freaks in his opinion.
He is pretty sure one of them is a hustler, but he couldn’t say which one because they all seem that way. He’s betting it’s the guy who doesn’t shower.
He spends most of his night attempting to study, but usually ends up doodling and falling asleep around four AM, even though he’s not supposed to, but no one is ever there between four and six in the morning.
His best friend comes in some times if he can. Ryan is usually bored out of his mind after the first two hours and Spencer swings by to make his life a little less boring.
“I hate school,” Spencer says when he clomps into the Laundromat around nine-thirty. He drops his overly-heavy bag near the counter and folds over it as though he’s dying.
The only people in the Laundromat are two old women and the guy who doesn’t shower, but he’s curled into one of the hard plastic waiting chairs and scribbling on a pad of paper.
None of them pay any attention to Spencer, who lifts his head from his arms and stares at Ryan.
“You’re supposed to pity me,” he points out, standing up and hopping onto the counter.
“Sorry,” Ryan mutters uninterestedly. He’s still too preoccupied with Pete having a date. Not that Ryan really wants to date him because, in all reality, Pete is a little creepy. Almost as creepy as the guy who doesn’t shower.
Spencer frowns as he looks at Ryan. “What happened?” he asks tiredly, hopping off the counter and pulling up one of the hard, plastic chairs.
“Pete,” Ryan grumbles and Spencer suppresses a groan.
He’s heard enough about Pete to last him a lifetime.
“Yeah? What did he do this time?”
“He has a date tonight.”
Spencer pauses. “Oh. I’m sorry.”
Ryan shrugs moodily. It isn’t as though he’s ever made a move on Pete, or even indicated that he likes him. Ryan isn’t even sure that he does like Pete. He just admires him, him and his amazing taste in music. Maybe Ryan hates him a little.
“Well,” Spencer says, shrugging. “At least you can stop thinking about him, and talking about him,” he adds not so quietly.
Ryan rolls his eyes and grabs his book, shoving it up to his face and ignoring Spencer for a while as punishment.
Spencer just sits back in the chair and pulls out his notebook to do some homework.
The two women have finished their laundry, and put it in their baskets to go home. Only the guy who doesn’t shower is left, but Ryan knows that the Tattoo Guy will show up soon.
Ryan doesn’t know any of their real names and he doesn’t want to. Cobra Guy can keep talking to Guy Who Looks Like Girl for as long as he wants and Ryan will never ask either of their names.
Pete likes to know people’s names so he can be more personable in his bothering.
“Whoa, who’s that?” Spencer asks suddenly and Ryan lowers his book.
It’s nearly ten o’clock, but this isn’t one of the regulars. This guy almost looks normal in his worn jeans and faded tee shirt. His beard looks scratchy and Ryan internally scoffs as he catches sight of the flip flops the man is wearing.
“Dunno,” he mutters, hoisting the book back up as Spencer continues to stare.
Flip-Flop Guy, as Ryan immediately names him, looks around the Laundromat, scanning the many off-white machines and the coin machine in the corner. Picking a machine in the middle, he sets down his bag of clothes and prepares the machine.
Spencer is still watching him even as the door to the Laundromat opens and Tattoo Guy arrives, right on schedule.
Ryan hates to admit that he knows everyone’s schedule.
Tattoo Guy and Guy Who Never Shower always do their laundry on Tuesdays and Fridays. Ryan thinks Guy Who Never Showers comes in specifically so he can see Tattoo Guy. Tattoo Guy always smiles at Guy Who Never Showers when he arrives and always picks a machine next to his.
Cobra Guy and Guy Who Looks Like Girl do their laundry on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Ryan thinks they plan it out too because they usually put in their laundry together and then disappear for the hour it’s in the spin cycle and come back looking extra happy.
Ryan has never seen Flip-Flop Guy before, but Spencer seems to like the look of him.
Lowering the book, Ryan sees Tattoo Guy smile at Guy Who Never Showers and plop down in the adjacent seat, leaning in to look at whatever Guy Who Never Shower has been writing or drawing since he put his laundry in.
Guy Who Never Showers looks nervous as Tattoo Guy leans over his shoulder and smiles at something, speaking into his ear.
Ryan just looks away, frowning at Spencer, who is still watching Flip-Flip Guy as he tries to figure out the machine.
“Spencer,” Ryan hisses and Spencer glances at him.
“I was not.”
Ryan arches a skeptical eyebrow and Spencer scowls.
He looks at Ryan for a second and then sighs. “You’ve already nicknamed him, haven’t you?”
Ryan shrugs. “Flip-Flop Guy.”
Spencer rolls his eyes. “They do have real names, you know.”
“To other people, maybe,” Ryan clarifies. “But not to me. Call him John Doe if you want. I don’t care.”
Spencer just sighs and goes back to staring at John Doe (or Flip-Flop Guy as Ryan stubbornly maintains in his mind).
Flip-Flop Guy glances up and catches Spencer’s eyes on him. Spencer blinks and looks quickly away, missing the small smile on Flip-Flop Guy’s face.
Ryan sinks into his book again, letting Spencer make a fool out of himself by staring at Flip-Flop Guy, and ignoring the quiet conversation of Tattoo Guy and Guy Who Never Showers.
At eleven o’clock, the door opens and another person Ryan has never seen walks in. It’s a guy about his age wearing painted on jeans and a too-small tee shirt that rides up when he pushes the door open with his feet and picks up his laundry basket from the ground.
Ryan isn’t surprised. He sees everyone on “laundry day” and their clothes are never the best. He’s seen people come in in only a pair of boxers and a basket of laundry. He’s seen everything in this business.
So the guy in the tiny tee shirt isn’t exactly shocking. What’s shocking is that he managed to fit that ass in those jeans. Ryan can’t help staring as the boy heads to a machine just inside the door and sets his basket down on the ground, bending over as he does so and providing a perfect view for Ryan.
“Hey, you think—” Spencer stops as he turns to find Ryan staring across the room, his mouth hanging open slightly. Frowning, Spencer leans in and Ryan jerks back.
“What?” Ryan asks sharply, quickly tearing his eyes from the guy who has now moved to the change machine.
Spencer pauses a second, thankfully not looking to see what Ryan was staring at. Instead, he just leans in and lowers his voice.
“You think John Doe is gonna be here much longer?”
Ryan forces his eyes to the guy with the facial hair and gives him a look. He’s sitting in one of the chairs, reading one of the tabloid magazines they have lying around the Laundromat.
“I don’t know. Why? Thinking about talking to him?”
“Just because you don’t talk to your nicknamed people doesn’t mean I can’t.”
Ryan shrugs. “Thinking about inviting him for coffee?”
Spencer just sighs and rolls his eyes. “Never mind.”
Ryan just sits back and reaches for his book. Before he can pick it up, though, another person appears at the counter and Ryan freezes as he realizes it’s Guy With Nice Ass.
He stares for a second as he takes in the boy’s face, lingering on his full lips and dark brown eyes. Spencer is frowning at Ryan beside him as he doesn’t say anything for a moment.
“Can I help you?” Ryan finally asks, realizing what he’s doing.
The guy quirks a smile and Ryan does not find that hot, not even a little bit. “Yeah, the change machine swallowed my money.”
Ryan groans. He hates fixing that thing. Instead, he sighs and fumbles with a set of keys in the drawer under the desk.
“How much did you put in?”
“A five,” Guy With Nice Ass says, leaning forward on the counter and Ryan definitely does not check out the way his ass sticks out even more when he does this.
“Right.” Ryan pulls out a little cash box that’s full of quarters and unlocks it, counting out five dollars in quarters and handing it to the boy.
Spencer is watching the interaction closely and Ryan is already scowling at what he’s going to say.
“Thanks,” the boy says with a smile that’s almost as big as Tattoo Guy’s smile. Then he turns and Ryan has to stop himself from staring at his ass as he walks back to his machine.
He turns to Spencer to find a knowing smirk on his face. “Over Pete yet?” he asks and Ryan scowls.
“I didn’t like Pete.”
“No, no,” Spencer agrees. “You just worshipped the ground he walked on. Hero-worship at its best, ladies and gentlemen.”
“Shut up.” Ryan shoves Spencer’s shoulder but it doesn’t do much good since Spencer is bigger than him.
“He does have a nice ass,” Spencer comments, now checking out the boy as he puts his laundry in the machine.
Ryan rolls his eyes and turns away, determinedly not looking at Guy With Nice Ass. Instead, his eyes fall on Tattoo Guy, who is really close to Guy Who Never Showers and whispering something in his ear that has Guy Who Never Shower’s eyes widening. Maybe he’s not a hustler, Ryan thinks, if something whispered in his ear gets that kind of reaction. Unless Tattoo Guy just told him he was going to kill him, but Ryan doesn’t think that’s the case when Guy Who Never Showers blushes and his mouth twists up into what might be considered a smile.
He swears he sees Tattoo Guy lick Guy Who Never Showers before he looks away and tries to focus on his book. The weirdest people come in after ten on any night.
Spencer is still watching Flip-Flop Guy but the guy doesn’t seem to notice as he turns the pages of the magazine with Britney Spears plastered all over the cover. He looks up, though, as his machine buzzes and stops. Setting down the magazine, Flip-Flop Guy stands and starts moving his things to the dryer.
Spencer hesitates and Ryan realizes that he never fixed the coin machine.
Cursing to himself, Ryan sets down his book and grabs the repair kit from behind the counter, heading over the to coin machine and taking out his key to open it.
Spencer hesitates, glancing after Ryan, and then rises from the hard chair, wandering over to where Flip-Flop Guy is punching buttons on the dryer. Spencer pretends to be looking through the spread of magazines on the folding table nearby.
Flip-Flop Guy glances at him once and their eyes meet briefly. Spencer stares and Flip-Flop Guy shoots him a friendly smile before heading back to his same seat and picking up the tabloid.
Spencer stares at the table for a second, knowing he’s being stupid. He grabs a magazine and moves over to Flip-Flop Guy.
“You wouldn’t be interested in trading, would you?” he asks and Flip-Flop Guy looks up, meeting his eyes, slightly confused.
Spencer holds up the magazine he grabbed and realizes about a second too late that it’s a woman’s magazine. He suddenly feels very stupid and hopes that his flush isn’t visible to the really hot guy in front of him.
Flip-Flop Guy pauses a second, taking him in, and then laughs a little as though it’s a joke.
“Sure,” he says, holding out his magazine and trading it with Spencer.
Spencer stands there for a second, and Flip-Flop Guy just kind of smiles at him as though waiting for something more.
“You’re going to be here for a while,” Spencer says, glancing at the dryer that reads forty minutes.
“Guess so.” Flip-Flop Guy just smiles and waits.
“Do you maybe want to get a cup of coffee while you’re waiting? There’s a Starbucks right around the corner.”
Flip-Flop Guy pauses, staring up at Spencer and Spencer is beginning to panic. Flip-Flop Guy isn’t gay, is he? Oh God.
Just as Spencer is preparing to make an awkward excuse to leave, Flip-Flop Guy smiles.
“I’d like that.”
Spencer isn’t sure he heard right, but he doesn’t care. Flip-Flop Guy is rising, the magazine forgotten on the chair. Spencer stares for a second before nodding.
“Okay,” he agrees and tosses his magazine along with Flip-Flop Guy’s, leading the way out of the Laundromat.
“Do they break a lot?”
Ryan hits his head as he jerks back at the voice next to his ear. “Shit,” he curses as he runs into the coin machine door. Rubbing his head, he looks around for who spoke.
It was Guy With Nice Ass, and he’s currently smiling at Ryan, not remotely apologetic for making Ryan hurt himself.
Ryan just tries to ignore the throbbing pain and shakes his head as he turns back to the machine.
“Why don’t you guys get new ones?”
Ryan frowns. He doesn’t care if this guy does have an ass crafted by Michelangelo himself, he’s being annoying. “Because I don’t control the spending.”
Guy With Nice Ass tilts his head to the side curiously. “Do you always work here?”
“Yes.” Ryan scowls.
He has worked at the Laundromat for nearly two years, always the night shift. He works all night, sleeps all morning, and goes to classes in the afternoon. It’s a system he has gotten down as time has passed.
The boy still has his head tilted curiously, watching as Ryan jimmies the machine. It’s a very complicated process involving a screw driver and a lot of muffled cursing.
“I’ve never seen you before.”
“Well,” Ryan says through gritted teeth as he shoves the screwdriver in deeper and pushes at the machine. “I’m always here.” He pulls back, wiping the light sheen of sweat off his forehead. Sometimes he hates his job.
“Do you know Pete?” Guy With Nice Ass asks as Ryan sighs.
“Yes,” he replies, glancing around the Laundromat.
Spencer and Flip-Flop Guy are gone and Ryan frowns for a second. But Spencer’s bag is still sitting by the counter, though, so he must not have gone far.
Tattoo Guy is still smiling at Guy Who Never Showers while Guy Who Never Showers nods and mutters responses. Otherwise, there’s no one else in the Laundromat and Ryan knows that Crazy Hair Guy will show up soon. He usually comes in around midnight. Sometimes he’s with Pinkazoid, or the girl with the insanely bright pink hair and pink makeup. Ryan swears she bathes in pink water or something.
“Oh, so you’re Ryan,” Guy With Nice Ass says, his face lighting into a smile and Ryan frowns.
“Yeah,” he responds slowly, turning back to the coin machine and sticking his head inside to avoid any more conversation with this guy.
“Pete talks about you a lot.”
Ryan pauses, his head deep inside the machine. He remains there. “He does?”
He can’t see, but he thinks Guy With Nice Ass is nodding. “Yeah, he says you’re an English genius or something. He says you and Patrick should get together and write songs.”
Ryan scowls at the mention of Patrick and continues working on the machine.
“Well, Pete’s a little out there.”
Guy With Nice Ass laughs, and Ryan wonders if he should change his name to Guy With Great Voice. He shakes his head, though, and tries to focus on fixing the stupid machine in front of him.
“Yeah, he is,” Guy With Nice Ass agrees. “But he can be pretty smart too.”
“Uh huh,” Ryan just mumbles, finally unjamming the machine and crawling out, hoping he doesn’t have any grease on his face. He hates when that happens. Closing the door, he locks it and struggles to his feet. “Well, I’m going back over there now,” he says and Guy With Nice Ass just smiles as he goes.
Ryan sinks down in his chair and puts away the repair case. Sighing, he tries not to glance at Guy With Nice Ass again as he lays his head down on his arms, trying to ignore the dull pounding from where he hit his head on the door. His eyes feel hot and he closes them, just for a minute, just to rest.
He misses the way Guy With Nice Ass watches him sink down and smiles to himself.
Ryan twitches, mumbling something into his arm.
Ryan jerks back, lifting his head from where it’s been sitting on his arm for God knows how many hours. He has a crink in neck and it hurts as he turns it. Blinking, he realizes that it’s light outside and Pete is standing in front of him.
“What time is it?” Ryan asks, rubbing his eyes and looking around. The Laundromat is empty and everything looks fine.
“Seven-thirty,” Pete replies, ushering him out of the chair.
Ryan pauses to think, rubbing the back of his head where there’s a bump rising under his hair. He stops as he looks at Pete.
“And you were asleep,” Pete replies. “I won’t tell if you don’t.”
Ryan just shrugs and allows Pete to push him from out behind the desk. Ryan still feels really tired as he gathers his unread textbook and bag. He notices that Spencer’s things are gone and he wonders when he came back and when he fell asleep.
Pete just takes the chair and reclines back in it, watching Ryan stuff his things in his bag.
“What happened last night?”
“What do you mean?” Ryan asks, swinging the bag over his shoulder and thinking longingly of his bed where he’ll get to sleep for another six hours before he has a class.
“You don’t usually fall asleep with the lights on full blast. Usually you turn off the back half.”
Ryan does find it vaguely odd that Pete knows that about him, but he just shrugs. “Coin machine broke; Guy With Nice Ass was asking too many questions.”
“Guy With Nice Ass?” Pete asks, his curiosity peaking. “Who is this guy?”
Ryan shrugs. “A guy with a nice ass? Who do you think? I don’t know their names.”
Pete just shrugs in response and kicks his feet up onto the desk. “What did you do to make you tired?”
Ryan sees the glint in Pete’s eye and frowns. “Nothing. I was just tired.”
Pete grins mischievously. “Sure you were.”
Ryan just sighs and doesn’t reply as the first early morning customer walks in. Ryan should already be gone.
“Hey, Ryland,” Pete greets the lanky guy loping in. The man nods back.
Ryan just watches the guy go to a machine he has probably dubbed as his. Most customers like to use the same machines each time.
“I need to go home,” Ryan says, turning back to Pete, who just looks up at him.
“Okay,” Pete agrees. “I’ll try to figure out who this Guy With Nice Ass is.”
“Whatever,” Ryan mutters, really only wanting to sleep more. “See you later.”
Pete nods, distracted as a girl he greets as Vicky T enters the Laundromat. Ryan holds the door open for her and then takes off into the crispy morning air.
“His name is Jon.”
Ryan stares into his coffee. He hasn’t had enough yet today. When he got home, he’d spent most of his time trying to catch up on homework that he’d forgotten to do the night before because he’d fallen asleep about three hours ahead of schedule.
“Who?” he asks dully, reaching for the sugar and adding more.
Spencer is sitting across from him at the coffee shop on campus, a macchiato in his hands and an arched eyebrow on his face.
Ryan nods. “I know. John Doe. We already said this.”
“No.” Spencer sighs, rolling his eyes. “His name really is Jon, Jon Walker.”
“Oh.” Ryan knows he should be paying attention, but he’s really only thinking about sleep right now.
“Are you even listening?” Spencer waves a hand in front of Ryan’s face and Ryan pushes it away half-heartedly.
“Yes, I’m just tired.”
“Well, you were asleep when I got back last night. What happened?”
“Nothing. I fixed the coin machine.”
“Did you talk to the new guy?”
“Guy With Nice Ass?” Ryan mutters. “Yeah, sort of.”
Spencer rolls his eyes at Ryan’s nickname. “Well, what did you say? Did you tell him you want to bend him over one of those machines and see what his ass is really made of?”
“Spencer!” Ryan exclaims, his eyes shooting open faster than the caffeine kicked in.
Spencer just laughs. “That woke you up.”
Ryan glares and takes another sip of his too-bitter coffee. “He just asked if I always worked there. He knew who I was.”
Spencer nods and pauses. “How was Pete today? Not too gushy about his date, was he?”
Ryan shrugs. “No, but he was mostly just trying to get out of me who Guy With Nice Ass is. I don’t know who he is and I don’t care.”
“You don’t care?” Spencer raises a skeptical eyebrow and Ryan knows what he’s thinking. “Come on, Ry. That guy is hotter than anyone you’ve been with in the past six months.”
Ryan is a little insulted to be honest. “That is not true.”
Spencer scoffs. “Kyle?” he asks. “Shane? Rob? Quentin?” He ticks off the list. “I still can’t believe you dated a guy named Quentin.”
“Well, at least I didn’t meet him over a box of soap suds. Is that what you want to tell your grandchildren, Spence? That you met the love of your life in a Laundromat? Your eyes met over the spot remover with extra bleach and it was love at first sight.”
Spencer scoffs, hitting Ryan’s shoulder. “We got coffee. That was all.”
Ryan just rolls his eyes, drinking his coffee that is now more luke-warm rather than hot.
“That’s all for now,” he murmurs.
Spencer just ignores him. “Well, what about Nice Ass Guy?”
“Guy With Nice Ass,” Ryan corrects idly, stirring in more creamer.
“Yeah, whatever. What about him?”
Spencer gives him an obvious look. “He does have a nice butt, as is obvious from your nickname. And he talked to you, so he must not hate you.”
“What a reassuring thought,” Ryan mutters.
“I think you should ask him out.”
Ryan laughs. “And I think you should get over this meeting people in Laundromat phase of yours because it just doesn’t happen.”
Spencer just gives Ryan his best skeptical expression that has Ryan rolling his eyes because he knows that Spencer is right. “They do. Look at Tattoo Guy and Guy Who Never Showers.”
“That’s just coincidence.”
Spencer just sighs, knowing he won’t get Ryan to admit he’s right, at least not aloud. Stirring his coffee, he looks at Ryan.
“Then I guess we’ll just have to wait until he has more dirty laundry.”
“Everyone always has dirty laundry,” Ryan replies, reaching for the sugar and pouring more into his coffee.
Guy With Nice Ass doesn’t come back for several days. Not that Ryan expected him to. Most people do their laundry every couple weeks, maybe once a week if they wear a lot of clothes or are washing sheets.
Flip-Flop Guy, or Jon, as Spencer insists Ryan call him since they know his real name, hasn’t come back either. Ryan doesn’t care, but he’s getting tired of Spencer asking him every night if Jon has come by.
“No, Spencer,” Ryan huffs on the fifth day this happens.
It’s nearly ten-thirty on Wednesday and Cobra Guy is already there, humming to himself as he sorts through clothes slowly, almost inanely slowly, as though he’s waiting for something. Ryan knows he’s waiting for Guy Who Looks Like Girl to show up so they can sneak off somewhere while their machines go.
Ryan watches Cobra Guy throw a bright purple hoodie in his machine for colors and moves back to Spencer, who is frowning.
“I just want to know,” Spencer defends himself, scowling at Ryan.
“Well, I don’t care,” Ryan replies, hefting up the book he’s supposed to be reading for one of his classes.
Spencer rolls his eyes and looks around the Laundromat. Cobra Guy is still alone and humming under his breath.
“So Pete hasn’t figured out who Guy With Nice Ass is?” Spencer asks finally, turning back to Ryan, who frowns.
“No, and it doesn’t matter.”
“You could just ask the guy next time you see him.”
Ryan sighs and puts down his book. “I don’t want to know.”
Spencer just gives him The Look. It’s the look that means Ryan is being stupid. Ryan hates The Look. He’s been getting it ever since he was in middle school and told Spencer he liked Sarah Jones.
“Shut up,” he grumbles even though Spencer said nothing.
Spencer sighs tiredly. “Come on, Ry. He was cute, and even you couldn’t stop staring at him.”
“Well, did you see the color of his shoes?” Ryan shoots back, knowing it’s a useless argument. Spencer is the one who judges people based on shoes, which is one of the reasons why he can’t figure out why Spencer likes Flip-Flop Guy so much. Flip-flops are the rejects of the shoe world, one step above Uggs and Crocks. At least, that’s what Ryan says.
“And his ass.”
Ryan glares. He doesn’t need Spencer telling him he needs to date some guy he doesn’t even know. He doesn’t want to get involved with anyone, especially anyone from work. They’re all freaks.
He glances over at Cobra Guy to see that he’s holding up a pink tee shirt with a black cobra stitched into the front. His point exactly.
As he watches, Guy Who Looks Like Girl enters and Cobra Guy smiles at him. The greeting they share is quiet, a nudge as Guy Who Looks Like Girl takes the machine next to Cobra Guy and smiles back.
Ryan just turns away, uninterested, and picks up his book again.
Spencer shakes his head and grabs his notebook, working on a paper that’s due in a few days.
The Laundromat is silent except the thump of machines, water swishing inside. Cobra Guy and Guy Who Looks Like Girl’s conversation is covered by the sound and Ryan isn’t surprised when they leave a few minutes later, hands brushing against each other as they pass through the door.
Half an hour later, Spencer announces he’s leaving.
“Okay,” Ryan mutters into his book and Spencer just rolls his eyes, grabbing his bag and leaving Ryan alone in the Laundromat.
Ryan hardly notices that Spencer is gone. Cobra Guy and his friend haven’t come back yet, so Ryan is alone. He is struggling through Anna Karenina, trying to keep all the Russian names straight and remember who is doing what. The professor wants to “discuss” the book on Friday, and Ryan is only half-way through.
The door to the Laundromat opens and Ryan ignores it. It’s probably just Cobra Guy and Guy Who Looks Like Girl. It’s about the time they usually return to change machines. He doesn’t look up, then, when the door shuts and he hears footsteps inside.
The book he’s reading is not particularly interesting. Ryan isn’t into tragic romances even if there are underlying themes of morality and skepticism. There are just too many Russian names.
As he turns the page, he glances up. He freezes for a second as he catches sight of Guy With Nice Ass standing at a machine.
Realizing he’s staring, again, Ryan jerks his eyes back to the book and tries to ignore Guy With Nice Ass. It doesn’t work very well when Guy With Nice Ass finishes pressing buttons and then heads over to the desk behind which Ryan is hiding, his book up high.
Guy With Nice Ass clears his throat and Ryan lowers the book slightly.
“Change machine broken again?” he asks, trying to sound bored, and he thinks it works because Guy With Nice Ass glances at the machine.
Ryan pauses, the book falling further. “Then what are you doing?”
“Talking to you,” Guy With Nice Ass replies, smiling slightly, and Ryan is sure it’s some sort of trap.
The boy laughs, and Ryan does not consider renaming him to Guy With Nice Laugh. He frowns instead, his book still open as though he intends to keep reading it.
“Because we’re the only two here,” Guy With Nice Ass says. “And because I get bored watching the clothes spin in circles.”
“Just pretend you’re watching modern art,” Ryan mutters, hitching the book back up.
The boy smiles. “I’d rather watch you.”
Ryan frowns. “Okay, well, you can watch me read. I need to finish this.”
The boy takes the chair that Spencer left – and that Ryan is going to kill him for leaving later – and sits down. “What are you reading?”
Ryan groans internally. He hates talking to customers. He’s happy to sit behind his little desk and ignore everyone as long as they don’t steal anything. There’s not much to steal except quarters and laundry soap.
“Anna Karenina,” he replies shortly, flashing the boy the title.
“I’ve never read it. Is it good?”
Ryan hopes Guy With Nice Ass will just leave him alone and go back to his laundry.
“Why are you reading it?”
Ryan puts it down angrily. “Why are you asking so many questions?”
“You aren’t,” Guy With Nice Ass points out. “Someone has to.”
“No, someone doesn’t,” Ryan replies firmly. “You could leave me alone.”
The boy sighs, but doesn’t look put-out. “Why don’t you want to talk to me?”
“Because I’m working.”
The boy glances around at the dismally deserted Laundromat and raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, it’s a real zoo in here.”
Is he trying to be sarcastic? Ryan thinks, annoyed. Ryan is the king of sarcasm.
Instead of replying, Ryan picks up his book and hides behind it, hoping that when he lowers it, the boy will be gone.
He isn’t, though, and Ryan growls to himself.
“What do you want?” he asks finally.
The boy shrugs. “To talk to you.”
Another shrug. “I’m bored and you seem cool.”
Ryan groans aloud this time and the boy just looks at him curiously. He doesn’t seem perturbed by Ryan’s unenthusiastic response, though. He just tilts his head to the side again and smiles.
“So, Ryan,” he says, using Ryan’s name which Ryan notes immediately. “What do you do?”
“What do you mean?”
The boy shrugs. “Like, when you’re not working.”
The boy frowns for a second, then smiles again. “Okay, what else?”
“Go to class.”
“What classes?” Guy With Nice Ass looks excited and sits up a little more.
“Analysis of Russian Lit.” Ryan picks up the book slightly. “Creative Writing, Non-Fiction Writing.”
“Are you an English major?”
“Yeah.” Ryan picks up the book again, hoping that is the end of the conversation. He is sadly mistaken, though, when the book is plucked from his hands by Guy With Nice Ass. “Hey,” he protests.
Guy With Nice Ass turns over the book slowly as though reading it upside down will help him understand all the Russian names.
“It looks confusing. You must be smart.”
“Sure,” Ryan mutters uninterestedly. He just wants his book back so he can finish reading it.
Guy With Nice Ass pauses, looking at Ryan for a minute before handing the book back.
“Pete says you’re really smart.”
“Yeah?” Ryan doesn’t admit that he wants Pete to like him, just a little bit.
“Uh huh.” The boy nods. “He also said you’re stubborn.”
Ryan scowls and grabs his book, propping it up resolutely in front of his face. “Maybe that’s a good thing.”
He hears Guy With Nice Ass’ laugh but doesn’t look. He hears the chair scraping but stares resolutely at the same page he’s been on for the past half an hour.
Ryan doesn’t reply, but peeks over his book as Guy With Nice Ass goes back over to his machine and pulls out an iPod. Ryan huffs to himself and just lifts the book higher.
Ryan pushes the torn piece of paper back at Spencer and tries to look interested as the professor strolls past, lecturing about zygotes. Spencer gives him a look.
Did he come in last night?
Ryan rolls his eyes and scribbles a response.
No, Flip-Flop Guy didn’t come in. Fuck, stop asking.
I didn’t mean him. I meant your secret crush.
It’s Ryan’s turn to scowl as he reads what Spencer wrote.
I don’t have one. Dunno who you’re talking about.
Spencer leans over as the professor reaches the platform below them, still rambling about genes.
“Just admit you want to fuck this guy.”
“I do not,” Ryan hisses back and turns to glare at the person in front of them who turns around to shush them.
Spencer scoffs. “Please. Just look at the nickname you gave him.”
“You know what nickname I give you?” Ryan asks, annoyed. “Shut The Hell Up.”
Ryan just flips off the annoying girl and sinks down into his chair, Spencer sighing beside him.
“I’ve failed you, Ryan.”
Ryan looks up at Pete and frowns. Pete has just arrived for his morning shift after a very long, boring night in which Ryan read the entirety of Dracula and had nothing more exciting than a transvestite coming into wash his—her—Ryan isn’t completely sure—sparkly, pink dress.
“Failed me?” he repeats.
Pete nods gravely, ushering Ryan out of the chair. “I don’t know who Guy With Nice Ass is.”
Ryan rolls his eyes. “That’s okay. I don’t care.”
“But you do!” Pete cries. “You gave him this nickname, it must mean something.”
Ryan swears he’s going to change Guy With Nice Ass’s nickname to Guy Who Screws Up Everything In His Fucking Life as soon as he gets the chance. Maybe that’s a little long, though. He’ll settle for Annoying Guy.
“No, really,” he insists. “I don’t need to know who he is. I don’t want to.”
Pete waves his comments off. “Everyone needs a little mystery in their lives. This is good for you!”
Ryan groans. “Pete, I don’t want—”
“Never fear, Ryan!” Pete cries, striking a super hero pose that has Ryan rolling his eyes. “I will discover the name of this boy and you will get your chance to test out his famed behind!”
Ryan buries his face in his hands as Pete continues talking about how he’s going to find out who this guy is.