PG-13 | 14,000+ | Teen Witch AU
Ryan/Mike Kennerty, Spencer/Jon, Gabe, Brendon, Pete, Gerard, Gaylor
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One) he almost coughed up both his lungs; two) he gets fucking chatty when he’s high, apparently, and he’d lectured Disashi for god knows how long on Dostoevsky, of all things; and three) he’d told Gaylor he’s, “No lie, no lie, seriously, a witch.” They’d had a good laugh over that one.
Huge thanks to insunshine and audrey1nd for the excellent betas, and to natacup82, because I wouldn’t have written this without our excessive squeeing over 80s movie AUs, and to eckerlilas, who totally didn’t help me cast this, no way, of course not. Honest.
This is completely ridiculous and stupid and hardly sticks to the movie prompt at all. I hope you like it anyway.
Whether It’s Wednesday Or A Saturday Night
There are worse things that could have happened, Ryan thinks, tapping his fingers idly on the desk. Sure, Gabe’s an unbelievable asshole, and his stepmom won’t stop shoving food at him, but his dad looks happy, so that’s something? He’s sure there are worse things. Like getting sucked up into a whirling tornado vortex or getting torn apart by rabid wolves.
Ryan snorts to himself. He sinks down lower in his chair, yawns and closes his eyes.
“Are we keeping you awake, Mr. Ross?”
Ryan pops one eye open, then the other, then straightens up with a sigh. It’s History. Nothing in the world can keep Ryan awake in History. Mr. Lacey stares him down, but Ryan keeps quiet. Lacey is sort of a prick, and Ryan knows he’ll just be in deeper shit if he answers him.
When Lacey gets bored with Ryan, Spencer flicks the back of Ryan’s head and tosses a piece of paper onto his desk. Ryan rolls his eyes, flattens out the crumpled mess of college rule.
your mom, it reads. Ryan bites his lip and scribbles, your mom’s wooden teeth, before folding it into a neat triangle and tossing it back over his shoulder.
“All I’m saying,” Brendon says, legs jittering so hard Ryan can feel the vibrations through the lunch table, “is that I don’t know why we’re not more popular.”
Spencer sends a skeptical look towards Brendon’s Capri Sun.
“Oh, fuck off, I’m awesome,” Brendon says, then waves at Jon Walker, who grins at him and waves back.
Spencer turns bright red, which is, god, oh so typical, and Ryan just wonders where Brendon gets his nerve.
“You, Ryan.” Brendon shoves his bag of chips towards him, since he knows Ryan’s stepmom keeps packing him stuff like pasta and apples and beef jerky. “You’re a step away from hot. If you’d only maybe open your mouth and talk once in a while.”
“You talk enough for all of us,” Spencer says dryly. He sends Ryan a what-the-fuck-is-Brendon-on? look, and Ryan just shakes his head.
He’s pretty sure Brendon’s just working himself up to ask Victoria out. Again. For the third time that month. And Brendon’s really lucky she thinks he’s kind of amusing, or there’d be more of a mess to clean up than, “My broken heart, geez, Vicky’s killing me here, Ryan Ross!”
“Oh hey, VickyT,” Brendon says, “Victoria, Vick, wait up,” and then he’s out of his seat and halfway across the lunchroom before Ryan can blink.
“He’s sort of a masochist, right?” Spencer asks.
Ryan shrugs. “He’s right, though,” he says. “About us being unpopular?” Because, shit, they’re pretty cool. Well, maybe not Brendon. Brendon’s sort of too spazzy to be cool, but Spencer? Totally cool. Spencer always has the best shoes and he plays fucking awesome drums, and Spencer should be super popular, but he’s not. He’s always stuck hanging out with Ryan, because Ryan’s stepbrother is an asshole who spreads fucking awful rumors about him.
“Hey, we’re not, like,” Spencer bumps their feet together, “social outcasts or anything.”
“Gabe told the entire lacrosse team I wear girl’s underwear.”
Spencer freezes with his sandwich in front of his mouth. He blinks, slow, then cuts off a bark of laughter.
Ryan rolls his shoulders, says, “Go ahead, dude. It’s funny.”
“It’s funny ‘cause it’s true,” Spencer says, corners of his eyes crinkled up.
Ryan flips him off, but he’s smiling.
Ryan jerks his head up, eyes wide. “Um. Hi.” Ryan has no idea what to say.
Mike – Mike fucking Kennerty, god, can Ryan be any more of a jackass, just standing there staring at him? – smiles a little and, Jesus, he’s. He’s sort of really, really hot. Too bad Keltie’s there, hanging all over his shoulders.
Keltie’s nice and all, she’s always been pretty sweet to Ryan, but Mike’s kind of perfect. He plays lacrosse – which, yeah, thanks, Gabe - and guitar in an actual band. That has, like, gigs and stuff. He’s sort of everything Ryan wishes he could be.
Brendon knocks an elbow into Ryan’s side, and Ryan flinches, slides Brendon a glare, because that’s going to bruise, asshole, and then he glances back at Mike, who’s still standing there with this dopey grin, and Ryan maybe thinks those rumors about him and Gaylor and Ritter are true.
“Um,” Ryan says again, and Keltie rolls her eyes, presses a kiss to Mike’s temple.
“I’m meeting up with Cass, okay?” She flashes Ryan a smile, then bumps her hip into Mike’s and says, “Call me later.”
“Sure,” Mike says, and turns and gives her this soft look, and Ryan thinks, that’s love, and a little bit of his heart sort of deflates.
Ryan sucks at love. He’s had one girlfriend, and that ended in total fucking disaster. And then he’d dated Brendon for three months, two of which he wasn’t sure he was going to survive. Brendon’s kind of manic and demanding.
“Yeah, so,” Mike scratches the back of his neck, grin turning slightly sheepish. “You’re passing English, right?”
Ryan swallows. “Well, hopefully.” He’s getting straight A’s so far, but he’s so not going to make an even bigger geek of himself by pointing that out.
“Do you think you could maybe go over the notes for Camus with me? I’ve got band practice pretty late this week, but next Monday would be cool, you know, if you’re free?”
Ryan’s trying not to let on that he’s flailing like a little girl inside. It doesn’t help that Brendon’s practically dancing right next to him. “Sure, yeah, that’s awesome,” Ryan says, and immediately wants to slap himself. Awesome?
Mike just bobs his head, though, and says, “Thanks, man, I’ll owe you one,” and Brendon starts poking his ribs with pointy little fingers as soon as Mike turns the corner in the hallway.
“What the fuck,” Brendon says. “Mike Kennerty?”
“Shut up,” Ryan mutters, ducking his head so his hair sweeps over his eyes. He turns back to his locker and starts shoving books into his open book bag.
“You know he has orgies with Ritter and Gaylor, right?”
“Shut up,” Ryan says, but his lips are twitching, because orgies? “I’m pretty sure he’s dating Keltie, Brendon.”
“Who’s the biggest beard to ever beard.”
“Oh my god, you didn’t just say that out loud,” Spencer says, coming up behind Brendon and slapping the back of his head.
“Ow, hey.” Brendon rubs a hand through his hair, sending Spencer a pout. “You’re abusive, Spencer Smith. You’re lucky I know it’s ‘cause you love me with all your heart.”
Ryan thinks maybe Brendon has some issues.
The best is that instead of a car, Ryan has a Huffy ten-speed. He fucking loves it when it’s raining. Halfway home from school it starts pouring, and Ryan can’t even really see where the hell the sidewalk is. He pulls off under an awning, squishes close to the storefront and shakes his hair out of his eyes.
Something bangs against the pane and Ryan jumps, steps right into a giant puddle, soaking what little skin had still been dry. “Fuck.”
“No loitering!” a guy yells through the window, then his face presses close, nose smushing into the glass, and he says, “Wait, hey, I know you,” and then he disappears.
The rain doesn’t let up, not even a little. Ryan’s contemplating just trudging home anyway when the door behind him jingles open, and the guy from the window is gesturing him inside.
“Come on, it’s fucking teeming puppies, dude, get in here.”
Ryan curls his fingers into the strap of his messenger bag. “Um.”
“Oh, right. Stranger danger, good thinking.” The guy reaches out a hand, says, “I’m Pete Wentz,” and then when Ryan automatically slips their hands together to shake, Pete pulls him inside before he can fully yelp, “Ryan.”
The shop is really dark and eerie, and he reads the neon sign in the window backwards. “Fortune telling?” He doesn’t remember ever seeing that from the outside, and he takes the same route home from school every single day.
“I’m, like, a fifth gypsy, man. Coffee? Tea? Towel?”
Ryan blinks at him. “I don’t have any money,” he says.
“I’m not gonna make you pay for a fucking towel.” Pete rolls his eyes. “You’re dripping all over my aubusson.”
It smells like old incense and wet dog, and there’s a stuffed canary on a gilt stand staring at him from the corner of the room with beady black eyes. It makes Ryan’s skin crawl. “Your stuffed bird is staring at me.”
“He’s not stuffed, dude, he’s fucking stubborn,” Pete says, voice rising at the end as he glares over at the bird.
The canary – not stuffed, apparently, but weirdly stoic – twists its head a little and gives a short whistling chirp.
“Oh, come on,” Pete says to the bird, “this is totally not my fault.” The canary harrumphs – actually harrumphs, Ryan hears it – and then hops around so its back is to them.
Honestly, Ryan’s wondering why he’s never heard of Pete’s House of Crazy before. “No, really,” Ryan says, “I think I should just. Go.” He backs away from Pete, but Pete catches his wrist, and it isn’t like Ryan’s scared. Pete’s just overly intense, like maybe he’d tie Ryan to a chair and make him watch Golden Girls reruns. Or talk to his bird.
“Dude, I know you,” Pete says, pressing a palm flat against Ryan’s chest, right over his heart. “I know you.”
Ryan glances down at the spread of his fingers and says, “That’s kind of inappropriate touching.”
“Whatever.” Pete drops his hands, though, holds them up and takes a step away from Ryan. “Look, this is how it’s going to work, okay? You do something for me, and I do something for you.”
“That doesn’t make you sound any less creepy,” Ryan points out, crossing his arms.
“Here,” Pete says, and he’s grinning, like maybe Ryan’s one big joke, and Ryan briefly considers the possibility that Pete’s somehow in league with Gabe. “Hold on.”
There’s a lot of junk in Pete’s shop, Ryan thinks, watching as he sifts through drawers, cabinets, boxes. He’s got about fifty million lamps, most of them covered with dusty scarves, dozens of little knickknacks littering every available surface. Digging into a small carved box, Pete yanks on something and says, “Aha.”
Pete wraps a thick chain around his wrist and dangles this amazingly ugly necklace in front of Ryan’s face.
Ryan stares at it. “It’s a necklace.”
“It’s yours.” Pete grins, teeth glinting yellow in the lamplight. Seriously, there is nothing about this situation that’s not skeezy. Ryan isn’t sure why he’s even still there.
“Thanks, but I’m not really in the market for jewelry,” Ryan says. Yeah, a fucking amulet the size of his thumb is going to go over real great, especially with Gabe.
“You should be,” Pete says. With a straight face.
Ryan thinks, okay. Okay, it’s fucking pouring out, and he’s sixty-three percent certain Pete isn’t going to chop him up with a butcher knife and stick him in his freezer, so he might as well hear what he has to say. “Okay,” he says with a little shrug.
Pete’s grin ratchets up into a fucking beam. “Awesome.”
Pete bullies Ryan into changing - he’d texted, might get eaten. send help in hr. gypsy on 4 street, to Spencer when he’d been in the bathroom, just to be safe - so Ryan’s wearing nearly worn-thin sweatpants and a soft t-shirt, athletic socks pulled all the way up over his calves, and his toes curl over the bottom rung of the chair as he sits at Pete’s kitchen table, cupping a steaming mug of tea.
Pete’s bustling around, the tiny plump canary perched on his shoulder. He sets out a plate of cookies, and everything’s gone from creepy to surreal. Pete’s kitchen is sort of brimming with 1970s avocado-colored appliances.
“So,” Ryan says, eyebrows arched.
“Dude, seriously, you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this.” Pete pushes the necklace across the Formica at him. “You, Ryan, are magic.”
“Magic,” Ryan echoes. “What, like I’m a wizard?”
“Witch,” Pete corrects him. “Don’t let gender stereotypes get you down, man, witches have a completely different magic set than wizards.”
“Right, of course.” Ryan nods, nibbles on the end of a cookie, then thinks better of eating anything Pete’s served and spits it into a napkin as discreetly as he can. “So is that all?”
Pete shakes his head. “Aren’t you curious about your awesome powers? Look, look,” he points to the plate in the middle of the table, “these aren’t cookies. Well, okay, they are, obviously,” Pete backtracks, “but they’re not.”
Ryan doesn’t say anything, since there really isn’t anything to say.
Pete frowns down at the plate, narrows his eyes at it. The canary chirps, and Pete pulls a face. “Whatever, Lunchbox, that’s not why. Seriously, this aging shit is crap.”
Ryan rubs a hand over his face, sighing. Pete doesn’t look very much older than himself, but whatever. “Pete.”
“No, hey, give me your hand.” Pete reaches out, tugs the mug out of Ryan’s fingers and mashes their joined hands down onto the plate of cookies.
“Ow,” Ryan says, giving Pete a pointed look.
“No, watch.” Pete stares hard at the plate. Nothing happens.
Ryan sighs again, starts to pull his hand away. “Pete—”
“Ryan.” Pete’s nails are kind of starting to dig into his skin.
“Pete,” Ryan says tightly. This is getting slightly ridiculous. “I have to get home.” By his estimate, he has about fifteen minutes before Spencer shows up with— Something. His dad’s tire iron maybe, or Brendon’s industrial size bottle of mace, or Bob - Brendon swears Bob’s a ninja - who owns the music store five blocks down.
They stare at each other. Pete’s eyes get dark, dark, dark, and his smile gets even wider, and Ryan sort of. Doesn’t blink. Pete says, voice low, “These aren’t cookies,” like he’s fucking serious, no joke.
Ryan deadpans, “You have got to be kidding me,” but Pete just keeps staring, and then Ryan’s fingers start tingling, a buzz burning in the center of his palm, and the cookies are. The cookies are fucking gone. Like, the entire plate, and there’s a stack of cash just sort of smoking there, and Pete is crowing like a lunatic.
“Dude, yes, this is so going to buy me those boots! And that jacket with the,” he makes some hand motions that might mean fringe, and Ryan tries not to think that’s kind of cool and fails, because fringe is sort of ironically awesome, “and that Tiffany style lamp at Pottery Barn.” Pete starts ticking off hundreds and cackling to himself.
Ryan thinks it’s definitely time to get the hell out of there.
“Hey,” Pete says when Ryan pushes back from the table. “The necklace, right? You did something for me, I do something for you. Just. You’re magic. This’ll let you do whatever you want to do.”
Whatever I want to do, Ryan thinks. He’s not sure he believes it, but he palms the necklace, curling his fingers over it, metal biting into his skin. “Okay. Thanks.”
The rain doesn’t let up in the morning, so Ryan bums a ride to school with Gabe – Gabe’s mom practically forces them into the car together – and mainly it sucks, because Ryan’s going to have to walk home in the afternoon.
Still, his day goes pretty smooth.
For the first time all year, Mike Kennerty seems to realize they have the same fourth period study hall.
“So, really,” Mike says, sliding into the seat across from Ryan’s, “how do you survive living with Saporta?”
Ryan’s smile blooms before he can help it. “Hi,” he says, and shrugs, because Gabe’s sort-of friends with Mike, they run in the same circles, so he can’t say anything too damning without it getting back to Gabe. Instead, he says, “Gabe’s not so bad.” Ryan means it, too. Mostly. Gabe’s a ginormous jackass but he’s not McCracken or, like, Flowers.
Mike laughs. “Yeah, okay.” He reaches out, tugs on the ends of Ryan’s scarf, and Ryan can’t fucking believe it, because it’s almost like Mike’s flirting with him, and Ryan can see Keltie over his shoulder, making this little nose-wrinkling face at them.
“You’ve got some snazzy outfits, Ross,” Mike says, fingers still tangled in the fringe of Ryan’s scarf.
Ryan’s almost entirely sure Mike isn’t mocking him. He says, “Thanks?” and then, “I think Keltie wants you,” because Keltie’s gone past nose-wrinkling and into pursed lips.
Mike glances over his shoulder, sends Keltie a little wave, and then he pins Ryan with this incredibly earnest look, leaning forward a little onto his forearms. “Can we meet at your house on Monday?” he asks.
Ryan can think of a million reasons why that is such a bad idea, beginning and ending with Gabe, but he nods anyway. “Yeah, sure.”
Brendon’s bitter that he’s stuck on wardrobe for about five seconds, and then he’s all over Gerard.
Ryan loves being on wardrobe. He works well with Gerard, because Gerard says he likes Ryan’s flare, and Ryan likes how Gerard’s imagination is never as dull as the clothes he wears – Ryan’s not sure he owns more than one pair of pants, and he dyes his hair pitch black, and he showers maybe once a month, if that, but his sense of color is amazing, and his stitches are tight and always neater than Ryan’s, which is a hard feat to accomplish, considering Ryan’s prowess with a needle – plus, he’s super tolerant of Brendon.
Gerard’s older than them by a good six years, but he’s sort of an aimless artist, and Mr. Schechter always ropes him into helping out with the school plays.
If you ask Ryan, he looks sort of miserable.
“We’re going for dreamy, okay?” Gerard’s sitting cross-legged on the stage, a giant sketchpad on his lap. There are zombies and vampires dressed in gauzy outfits, peasant skirts and wide-necked shirts, all soft, light colors and summer linen. Ryan just ignores the blood and nods.
“I like the breeches,” he says, and Gerard beams at him.
Ryan thinks it would be pretty awesome if Gerard was always that happy, since he sort of lights up the room with his smile.
Brendon leans over Gerard’s shoulder. “Way cool, Gee,” he says. He points at a hideously oozing beast clad in a low-cut corseted number with pink bows rimming the waist. “Can Spencer wear that?”
Spencer is the only one of them that actually ended up with a part in the play. Considering he hadn’t really wanted to try out in the first place, he’s pretty pissed off at them. Ryan thinks he’ll make a really great Beatrice, though.
Schechter says they’re going old school Shakespeare, but Ryan’s pretty sure they just didn’t have enough girls who could actually, you know, read the part.
Spencer’s growing a beard in protest, but he still shows up for practice every day.
Jon Walker and his crew are bards, though – which’ll be something; something entertaining, at least, since the self-proclaimed JWalk, Sisky Business and Tomrad are sort of total clowns when they’ve got an audience - and Ryan can tell Spencer’s more excited about hanging around near Jon than he is embarrassed by the prospect of wearing a dress. A very pretty dress, apparently, if Brendon has any say about it.
“I don’t know,” Gerard says thoughtfully, scratching his chin.
“Maybe without the bows,” Ryan suggests. Bows might be a little much for Spencer to swallow. It’ll be hard enough getting him into the boning.
Gerard nods. “Right, right.”
“So you’re saying I have to kiss Andy,” Spencer says from the end of the stage, talking with Mr. Schechter, and Ryan thinks maybe he hadn’t meant to say it that loud.
Tomrad wolf-whistles and Spencer turns bright red.
“Aw, Spencer Smith,” Jon says, idly strumming his guitar, “don’t worry. Butcher’s awesome at kissing.”
The Butcher’s lying on his back in the middle of the stage - breathing in the atmosphere, he’d told them, getting a feel for the room’s presence, since the Butcher’s a transfer; Ryan’s really curious about how he got his name – and he holds up a thumb without moving the rest of his body.
If possible, Spencer turns even redder, but he just fists his hands on his hips and gives Jon this total bitchy glare, and Ryan rolls his eyes.
Jon keeps smiling. He strums another chord, and Sisky hooks a chin onto his shoulder, sings, “Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,” and Spencer flips him off.
Spencer walks his bike next to Ryan until they get to the main drag, and then he cuts across the park to get to his house and Ryan trudges down fourth all by himself.
Technically, Gabe could have given him a ride home, since lacrosse lets out around the same time as play practice, but, one) he didn’t want to have to deal with any of Gabe’s buddies, and two) he thinks Gabe would’ve just blown him off, anyway. Walking is the less humiliating choice.
When he hears a car idling next to him, he doesn’t look. He’s not actually under the delusion that Gabe will go away if ignored, but he figures it’s worth a shot. Then the horn honks, and Ryan jumps and he finds himself not looking at Gabe’s bright red Le Baron, but at a pretty hideous Toyota Camry. Ryan thinks it’s brown, but it’s kind of hard to tell.
“Need a ride?”
Ryan leans down and spots Mike smiling at him. That’s getting a little weird. Ryan’s not going to pass up a ride, though, because it’s, like, another twenty minutes on foot to his house.
He opens the passenger door and slides in. “Thanks,” he says, settling into the bucket seat and dropping his bag between his feet.
Mike just nods. He’s got his lacrosse jacket on. He’s got his hair pushed behind his ears and his fingers tap the steering wheel as he pulls back out into the street. His radio’s on, but its so low Ryan can’t hear what it’s tuned to, and Ryan fidgets a little with the strap of his bag, feeling awkwardness tighten his chest.
He stares straight ahead, mind racing, and he starts picking at the nappy pills on the bottom of his wool vest – his grandfather had some kick-ass clothes, really, plaid is totally coming back this year – silently willing Mike to say something, anything, about the freaking weather for fuck’s sake.
“It’s getting chillier earlier,” Mike says, and Ryan blinks.
“Uh. I guess.”
Mike slides him a sideways smile. “Winter in Jersey, man. Brown slush and black ice.”
“Right,” Ryan says, and his fingers are tingling and his stomach flips.
And then Mike says, “I read that short story you wrote for The Sampler. I’m not sure I got the whole thing? But I liked it a lot, with the giants and the dying fairies.”
“It’s a metaphor for our declining economy,” Ryan says, then thinks about punching himself in the face.
“Yeah, um. I thought maybe it was something like that. Or about fairies.” They’re at the last stop sign before Ryan’s street, and Mike turns to look at him, eyes smiling, and Ryan can tell he’s kind of making fun of him, but not in any, like, mean way. “It was good, though.”
“There’s something different about you, Ryan Ross,” Mike says. He reaches over and squeezes Ryan’s arm, and Ryan drops his gaze, stares dumbly down at his hand. “I just can’t put my finger on it.”
Ryan rubs the back of his neck, feels the thin-linked chain of the charm Pete gave him, and suddenly Ryan feels weirder, like maybe this is something he made happen, except for the fact that he still thinks Pete’s out of his mind, and that he’d slipped something into Ryan’s tea that night.
“Hey, Ryan,” Mike says. He leans towards him a little, and Ryan can’t turn away, can’t do anything but hold his breath and look into Mike’s brown eyes and think, oh my god, he’s going to kiss me, and that’s pretty fucking awesome. Ryan really, really wants Mike to kiss him.
A car behind them honks, and Mike jerks back, blinking rapidly. “Okay,” Mike says as they turn, pulling up in front of Ryan’s house. “That was, uh.”
Ryan just flashes him a quick, tight grin, and reaches for the door handle. “Thanks for the ride.”
“Mike Kennerty,” Gabe says, sticking his head around Ryan’s half open bedroom door.
“Mike Kennerty,” Gabe repeats, “who I’ve seen naked on more than one occasion. Plays lacrosse, sucks at English and History, the guy you’re in love with.”
“I.” Ryan’s face turns red. No slow flushing pink, just instant, embarrassing red, and Gabe laughs.
He tilts his head back, laughs, and says, “Dude, I’m so good. I pulled that out of my ass.”
“Gabe.” Ryan shakes his head. “Please don’t say anything.”
Gabe presses a finger to the end of his nose. “Oh, I’d love to keep this a secret, little Rossy. I truly would.”
Gabe isn’t evil, Ryan thinks, but he loves, loves, loves stirring up trouble. And tormenting Ryan.
“What do you want?” Ryan asks desperately, and one of Gabe’s eyebrows goes up.
“Really?” He leans the side of his forearm into the door frame. “I don’t know, this is pretty sweet gossip. You know how Bill loves—”
“Anything,” Ryan says, because he knows Bill, and if Bill finds out the whole fucking school will, too.
“Well, that’s a hasty offer.” He stares at Ryan, and Ryan does his best to stare back, to not wish he could stuff the words back down his throat, because anything is totally dangerous territory with Gabe. “Spencer Smith,” Gabe says finally.
“You want my best friend,” Ryan says flatly.
“Spencer Smith.” Gabe grins this sort of impressively smarmy grin. “Not necessarily for best friend duties, unless there’s something about your relationship I’m missing.”
“Gabe. Spencer’s not—you can’t,” Ryan shifts awkwardly on his feet, clenches his fists in impotent anger, because it’s not like he can take Gabe, who’s almost eight feet tall. “You can’t.”
“Oh, I can,” Gabe nods. “The choice is yours, of course.”
“You can’t,” Ryan repeats tightly. Gabe’s a slippery asshole snake, and Ryan usually just takes it, but Gabe’s grinning like he’s won, like he’s finally broken Ryan, and Ryan just snaps. He just pushes all his anger up and out, palms tingling, and then he’s coughing a little from all the smoke.
“Holy fucking fuck,” Gabe says, only his voice is tiny, overlaid by weird, wet hissing, and Ryan’s staring down at an actual snake where man-sized Gabe used to be, like, seconds before. “What did—fuck, Ross, this is awesome.”
Ryan blinks. He probably should’ve seen that coming.
Problem number one, though, Gabe’s not just a snake, he’s a fucking cobra, and Ryan’s pretty sure once he figures that out people will start dropping like flies.
Problem number two, Ryan has no idea how to change him back.
And holy fucking fuck, Ryan’s a witch.
The last thing Ryan wants to do is visit Pete again, but he’s pretty sure Pete’ll be somewhat helpful with Gabe. As much as he appreciates Gabe’s sudden lack of interest in his private life, other people might miss having him around. Bill, maybe. Possibly VickyT.
“So I might have turned my stepbrother into a cobra,” Ryan says when he steps into the shop, spotting Pete hunched over a box full of iridescent beads.
Pete pumps a fist in the air. “Yes!”
“You hear that, Pattycake?” Pete’s canary chirps and whistles and swoops over to land on Pete’s head. Its chest’s puffed up, and it bobs its head into Pete’s hair, making this low, low chirrup. “Dude, I know,” Pete says. He gets to his feet, careful not to jostle it.
Ryan lifts up the box holding Gabe – and, wow, had that been fun trying to wrangle Gabe in there – and asks, “Can we get back to my problem?”
“Dude, I shed,” Gabe hisses through the cardboard. “How tasty is that?”
“Animal transformations are a little tricky,” Pete says eagerly. “We’ll do Patrick first.”
The bird chirps again, and Gabe hisses, “Do I smell chicken?” and Ryan suddenly thinks maybe Pete isn’t as crazy as he’d feared. He’s pretty much off-his-rocker, yeah, but at least Ryan gets the canary thing now.
“Come on.” Pete beckons Ryan towards the stairs winding up to his above-the-shop apartment. “We’re going to need orange rinds and some ramen noodles.”
Patrick, it turns out, is a short redheaded dude with a blinding expanse of white skin. Pete slaps a hand over Ryan’s eyes, but it’s kind of already too late. Patrick’s naked body is burned into Ryan’s brain. He’s got a pretty hot body, too, so it’s not like Ryan’s going to have nightmares or anything.
The first few minutes all Ryan hears is loud, angry chirping and Pete near-chanting a litany of, “Sorry, sorry,” and then suddenly Patrick’s voice cracks on “—ucking irresponsible, oh, thank fuck, I thought I was gonna be chirping forever, Jesus, Pete, give me some sweats or something here.” He seems to run out of steam, and Ryan hears heavy panting breaths, and Pete’s fingers curl in and bite a little into the skin of Ryan’s temple.
“Okay, so, um. Why don’t you wait downstairs?” Pete says, turning Ryan around roughly and then pushing him towards the hallway.
Ryan absolutely does not peek over his shoulder before making his way out of the room, he absolutely does not.
In the shop again, Ryan ignores the thumping above him and pulls out his phone. He checks the time, figures it isn’t too late, then texts Spencer, meet me at bryars inan hr. He kicks the side of Gabe’s box, says, “You’re not going to kill me when I fix this, right?”
“Ross, whatever, I’ve got bigger things to focus on. Bigger things,” he stresses, and Ryan’s not even gonna ask.
Spencer meets Ryan at Bryar’s Music, even though it’s only an hour before his weekday curfew. Ryan knows it’s half because Ryan asked him to, and half because of Jon Walker – who’s almost always there; it’s like a second home, as far as Ryan can tell - and Spencer’s raging crush.
They’re leaning against the front counter, elbows on the glass, since Bob’s in the back at the drums with the Butcher and Jon, who’s laughing, hair falling across his forehead, and, okay, Jon’s hot if you’re into the scruffy, unwashed look.
“So I turned Gabe into a snake,” Ryan says absently.
Spencer rips his gaze off of Jon for a split-second and arches an eyebrow at him.
Ryan’s lips twitch. “He’s all better now.”
“Okay,” Spencer says, and he obviously isn’t taking Ryan seriously, which is fine. He just can’t call Ryan on lying later when he inevitably figures it all at.
Ryan’s contemplating how he can bleach his eyeballs after seeing Gabe sans clothes - that part had been traumatizing; watching Gabe trying to fit into some of Pete’s tiny jeans and hoodies had been horrible, too – when Spencer suddenly grips his wrist and says, “Oh my god.”
“Jon just, like, smiled in this general direction.”
Ryan bites his lower lip, because Spencer is so cool and collected about everything except Jon Walker, and it’s kind of hilarious. He bumps Spencer’s shoulder. “You should go talk to him.”
“Yeah, no. He’s too much awesome for me.” Spencer’s grinning when he says it, though, so Ryan thinks he’s mainly joking.
“The force of his awesome is a little overwhelming,” Ryan agrees, and he swallows a laugh as Bob eyes them warily, making his way back up to the front of the store.
And then the door jangles open and Brendon spills inside. “Bob.”
“Urie.” Bob slides onto his stool behind the counter.
“Ryan. Ryan and Spence,” Brendon says, draping himself over the glass display case. “VickyT punched me in the stomach.”
“Victoria’s my new hero,” Spencer says.
Brendon pulls a face, then asks, “Bob, if you were a girl you’d totally date me, right?”
“Oh, that’s a lie. You’re such a liar.” Brendon shakes his head, tsking.
Bob doesn’t look all that put out about the accusation. It’s hard to read Bob’s face, though. Ryan thinks maybe he’d have the same fuck-off expression if he were eating a bagel or bludgeoning someone to death.
“Hey,” someone says behind them, and they all swivel around to find Jon and the Butcher. The Butcher’s got a brand new pair of drumsticks in his hands.
Ryan shoves Spencer over and out of the way, since he’s pretty much frozen solid and mute, and they might joke about Jon’s out-of-control awesomeness, but Spencer’s crush is getting ridiculously debilitating.
Spencer surprises pretty much everyone, though, when he says, “Oh, hey, I have those.”
The Butcher twirls one between his fingers. “Yeah?”
“Favorites,” Spencer says, nodding, because even though he’s found his voice, he apparently still isn’t all that articulate. Ryan’s so proud.
Jon says, “Hidden depths, Spencer Smith,” leaning towards him a little, and Spencer’s eyes go wide.
“Jon Walker, JWalk, seriously, if you were a girl, would you go out with me?” Brendon asks, and for once Spencer looks entirely relieved for the interruption.
Jon shrugs, slips his hands into his pockets. “Sure.”
Brendon bounces a little on his feet. “You’re my new favorite, okay? Okay.”
Jon smiles; a teasing one, one that’s on the edge of laughter. He winks at Spencer. “But why do I have to be a girl?”
Ryan watches Spencer take a full step backwards, bumping into the edge of the counter with his hip, and seriously. Seriously, something has to be done.
Ryan usually spends Friday nights at Spencer’s house watching old movies, and then they meet Brendon at Ray’s Diner the next morning for breakfast.
Gabe’s being weird, though, so instead of staying over at Spencer’s, they’re both stuffed into the Le Baron’s backseat with this guy Nate and VickyT, and they end up at some sort of bonfire deep in the middle of the woods.
“The cobra has arrived,” Gabe shouts as he climbs out of the car, and a crowd of guys whoop back at him, and Ryan thinks, oh fuck, we’re at a jock party, and he thinks maybe they’re going to get killed.
He grips Spencer’s arm tight. “We’re going to get killed.”
Victoria smiles at them around a cigarette, but doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t really help Ryan relax.
Bill drapes an arm across Spencer’s shoulders, says, “Spencer, my boy, come, let me show you the wondrous joys of keg stands, the decadent ways of the beer bong, the burning caress of cheap vodka straight out of Chislett’s hip flask.”
“Um.” Spencer sends Ryan a shrug, then lets himself get pulled along.
Ryan stuffs his hands in his pockets and trails reluctantly behind them.
Three hours later, Spencer’s passed out in the back of the Le Baron. Ryan’s holding a plastic cup of watery beer, making small talk with Nick Wheeler – and why the hell Wheeler’s there, Ryan isn’t sure, since Wheeler’s a music geek and has his mom write notes to get him out of gym, which is more than Ryan’s ever done to avoid physical fitness - and he looks up at a yell, spotting Gabe standing on top of a stump in the middle of the clearing.
“You call this a fucking party?” Gabe shouts. He tosses what looks like his lacrosse jacket into the bonfire, holds his hands up and out and says, “The cobra demands more beer,” and then he sort of stumbles down and disappears into the horde of drunken teenagers.
Wheeler goes, “Huh,” and, “So your stepbrother’s a little—”
“I should go find him,” Ryan says, because he can still hear Gabe’s voice above everyone else’s, and he’s pretty sure he just said something along the lines of, “How much for the little girl?”
“No, hey, wait.” Wheeler curls a hand around the back of Ryan’s arm. “You seem all right, Ross.”
“Okay.” Ryan’s had a lot of classes with Wheeler before, but they don’t really know each other.
Wheeler smiles, and then Ritter – and Ryan knows for sure it’s Ritter because he’s shirtless, with RITTER written across his chest in marker or lipstick or something - swoops out of nowhere and tackles Wheeler onto the ground.
“Say uncle,” Ritter says, straddling Wheeler’s chest, knees pinning his arms.
“Get off me, you jackass.” Wheeler’s laughing, though, and not struggling much, and Ryan feels kind of awkward just staring down at them.
“Yeah, they’ll be like that for a while,” someone says into the back of Ryan’s neck, and Ryan’s had just enough beer to make everything slur together as he spins around, unsteady on his feet.
Mike catches his arm, grins up at him.
“Thirteen-year-old girls? Yeah.” Mike laughs.
Ryan bobs his head, takes a sip of beer.
Mike shifts on his feet and says, “So, um. I didn’t mean to, like, freak you out the other day.”
“You, what? No, you—you didn’t,” Ryan says, and now he’s stuttering, wow, this is possibly his most uncool moment ever in a life of uncool.
“Kennerty, dude.” Gaylor plasters himself against Mike’s back, chin digging into his shoulder. “Mike, little buddy—”
“Fuck off,” Mike says, elbowing Gaylor in the stomach, but he’s grinning.
Ryan’s always been a little wary of Chris Gaylor. Gaylor doesn’t actually go to school, like, ever. Rumor is that he shows up for midterms and finals, but Ryan can’t figure out how any of the teachers let his attendance slide, why they still manage to pass him each year.
Gaylor’s eyes are droopy at the edges, smile vague, but he says, “Ryan Ross, take a stroll with me,” and Ryan isn’t sure what’s more startling, the suggestion or the fact that Gaylor knows who he is.
“Oh, no,” Mike says, but he doesn’t make any move to stop him when Gaylor lurches forward and grabs Ryan’s wrist. “You’ll never give him back.”
“Come with us, then,” Gaylor says, then to Ryan, leaning in to tug on his jacket, “Christ, Gramps, tell me that’s authentic tweed.”
Ryan tries to squirm away, says, “Hey, don’t—”
“Chill, Ross, it’s a total fucking compliment. You’re like this weirdo, bohemian—oh, your scarf.” Gaylor leans even further into Ryan’s space, holds the ends of his scarf up in the firelight. “Your scarf has fucking tiny giraffes on it, how do you even exist? Mike, Mike, how does this guy even exist?”
“I don’t know, man,” Mike says good-naturedly, and the heat on Ryan’s cheeks is completely justified by the nearby fire.
“Let’s go, let’s introduce you to Travis,” Gaylor says. “Travis needs to see this shit.”
Ryan isn’t sure he wants to go anywhere with Gaylor, but then Mike’s laughing near his ear, and he says, “Hey, hey, just a handshake, right?” and Ryan finds himself wedged into the back of a shit car so thick with smoke he can hardly see.
At some point, Ryan and Spencer get back to Spencer’s house, and he’s pretty sure it wasn’t Gabe who’d dropped them off.
Ryan is drymouthed and hungry, and Spencer is barely coherent, huddled under a mound of blankets on his bed, and Ryan texts Brendon, were dead go on without us, and ducks back into his sleeping bag.
It’s not that Ryan doesn’t remember the night before. It’s just that there are only a couple very vivid moments that stand out. One) he almost coughed up both his lungs; two) he gets fucking chatty when he’s high, apparently, and he’d lectured Disashi for god knows how long on Dostoevsky, of all things; and three) he’d told Gaylor he’s, “No lie, no lie, seriously, a witch.” They’d had a good laugh over that one.
Ryan’s really hoping Gaylor doesn’t remember.
His cell beeps and he reaches a hand out blindly for it, and while answering Brendon’s, im so sad so sad u guys suck, his phone beeps again, flashing a number he doesn’t recognize.
He hits okay, reads, yo sabrina ive got ur magick scarf, and groans into his pillow. Son of a bitch.
Groping for his necklace, he thinks if there’s ever a time for this to be true, for all this magic shit to be real, the whole Gabe-turned-cobra thing to not be some sort of aberration or a hallucination brought about by close contact with Pete Wentz – it’s not all that farfetched, Ryan thinks - he needs it to be now. He needs Gaylor to not remember anything Ryan said, because how embarrassing is that?
He squeezes his eyes shut and wishes hard and he feels—nothing. Nothing at all. He lets out a frustrated sigh.
When he goes to snap his cell shut, though, he freezes, and Gaylor’s message starts changing. Letters scrambling, fading, until it just says: ive got ur scarf. Ryan smiles, because that’s sort of completely awesome.