Chapter 8: Ego (redacted)

Riley pressed his body down on top of Tony’s and just spent a few minutes kissing him. He nibbled on his lip ring and smiled when Tony moaned and opened his mouth to allow a deeper kiss. They were on his bed and he was so glad to be home.

Tony had thrown him concerned looks since they’d walked into the front door. But how was he supposed to explain to him that his family had disowned him? When Tony asked him why, what would he say? “Well, my mother is still bitter about your parents and freaked when I told her I wanted to be with you?” He could just see Tony taking that to mean that there was something wrong with him, when the truth was that there was something wrong with Layla.

“Riley?”

“Yes, baby?” He nibbled some more.

“Now that we’re home…” Tony didn’t finish his sentence but Riley knew what he meant.

He sat up and grinned. “Yes, baby.”

“Riley?”

“Hmm?” Tony was making figure eight patterns on Riley’s stomach and it was driving him insane. Tony’s hands on his body was both soothing and arousing all at once. Riley turned his head towards Tony’s voice, but didn’t open his eyes; he was too exhausted.

Riley lazily thought back to their lovemaking. It had been mind-blowing. There had even been a moment where he wanted to bite down and mark Tony, create some kind of physical, lasting proof that they were finally together. He hadn’t though, for a couple of reasons: One, Tony and he had never discussed biting during sex – he could imagine Tony’s horrified response – and two, he’d wanted to mark Tony out of displaced anger. Apparently, there were a lot of experiences that Franco had denied to Tony and when that look of sadness had crossed his lover’s face, he’d gone territorial. Jealousy was never a good reason to mark anyone.

“Have you been with many men?” Tony asked.

Riley chuckled. “Is this really the conversation you want to have right now?”

“I guess not, sorry.”

Groaning, Riley opened his eyes and looked down at Tony; it was too early for this. The sun was barely up! “Go ahead baby. Ask me your questions.”

“When did you realize you like guys?”

Riley shifted and settled more comfortably, wide-awake now. This was clearly going to be a long conversation. “When I was fifteen. At first it was very confusing, I liked girls but there was this one guy,” he reached down to stroke Tony’s hair and smiled, “that I just couldn’t stop watching and fantasizing about.”

Tony smiled sadly, “So you like both men and women?”

Riley rubbed a hand over Tony’s shoulders, noticing the sudden tension. Uh oh. He answered cautiously, “I find both attractive, yes.”

Tony tried subtly to pull away but Riley held him close, unwilling to lose his warmth and weight. He’d had fantasies of them lying in bed like this, talking and touching freely. Tony stopped struggling and seemed to shrink into himself instead. He stopped rubbing Riley’s belly and wouldn’t look up at him anymore.

As Riley watched, Tony’s skin began to take on a tint. Damn it, he was changing again. Riley had noticed that Tony only changed when he became extremely agitated. Once with Franco at the club, again when he’d had trouble with his dad’s blood samples and now. “Tony, look at me!”

“What?”

He didn’t even realize…“Anthony, whatever has you so stressed out, we will deal with it. But you are changing again. You need to calm down, okay?”

Tony glanced down at his body in alarm. “This can’t be happening right now! I’m so sorry Riley.”

He started to get up, but Riley stopped him. “No, don’t move. Just take a deep breath. In. Out.” They lay there, Tony half turned, Riley half panicked, and they just breathed. In and out. After five minutes, Tony’s skin became skin again and Riley sighed in relief. They had to figure out how to stop this. But first he needed to figure out the cause for this episode. “What’s wrong baby?”

“Nothing.”

Riley snorted but said nothing.

Sighing, Tony said, “I knew you liked girls; you dated plenty in high school. I just didn’t realize you still did.”

Riley frowned. This was about his past relationships? “It’s not…it’s more complicated than that Tony.”

“I don’t like women, Riley.” Tony said slowly, softly. “I never will. If that’s a problem for you then let me know now.”

Riley finally let Tony go and leaned up on his elbows. Tony watched him, anxiety in every line of his body. What was he so scared of? Smiling, trying to look as calm as possible, he said, “You gotta help me out here Tony. I don’t think I understand.”

Tony fiddled with a loose thread on the bed sheet. “It’s just, how do you know that one day you won’t get bored with men – with me, and decide you want a woman? I mean, what if you want kids or something. I can’t…”

Riley watched as Tony started to blush, “What?” he asked, his smile growing wider. He didn’t so much find the conversation funny, it was the same the argument his mother had. She wanted grandchildren, but Riley had already thought about it and he’d made his decision. He wanted Tony. He was smiling because Tony was just so damn cute when he blushed.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t presume that you’d want to start a family with me. We aren’t even…” He trailed off, his face practically red now.

“I think it’s safe to make that assumption. I want to be with you. Only you. No other men, no women. Just you.” He tilted Tony’s head up so they were eye to eye. “Okay?”

He saw the doubt flicker then fade from Tony’s eyes. “Okay.”

A few hours later, he and Riley had showered, dressed and ate, but had made no moves to leave the house. Instead, they cuddled together watching television in Riley’s living room. Tony had to admit it was nice not having plans for a change. He’d had to borrow one of Riley’s shirts. It was a little loose around the shoulders and arms. He never realized how broad Riley’s upper body was until now. He liked wearing the shirt. He liked being held by Riley. It made him feel safe. Stable.

“You know, you never answered my question.” Tony rested against Riley on the couch staring at the fashion magazines on the coffee table. It was a very feminine touch. Had he been serious with a woman recently? Tony had noticed several things that clashed with Riley’s personality – at least the Riley he’d grown up with. But if he’d been with a woman, then it made sense that there would be softer accents in his home.

He felt Riley lazily stroking his hair. “What question babe?”

“How many people have you been with?” He knew it was an embarrassing thing to ask, maybe even rude, but he wanted to know. Riley seemed so comfortable with who he was and what he wanted. Tony had only been with Franco – and now Riley. He needed to know.

“Including high school?”

Tony nodded.

“Six women, three men.” He laughed. “Don’t think too poorly of me Tony.”

Although he was laughing, Tony knew that Riley was embarrassed. Three men? “So you like women more?”

Riley sighed and said, “No Tony. It was just easier not to compare the women to you.”

Tony sat up and stared at him. “What do you mean?”

Scrubbing the side of his face, Riley leaned forward and said, “I have been attracted to you since we were in high school. I dated girls, I liked girls, but I wanted you. It drove me nuts. When you left to come here, I was a bit lost without my best friend. I went to APU the next year, tried to date – epic fail by the way – and mostly focused on school. I was trying to get up the nerve to tell you how I felt the night you met Franco. Things just went downhill from there. I told myself that you were never a possibility anyway. We were just friends, you saw me as your brother. I dated a couple of people, mostly because they were there and they reminded me of you in some way. But, they weren’t you.”

Tony sat stunned. He’d had no idea that Riley felt this way and honestly, he had thought of Riley as family up until a few months ago.

“Say something. I just bared my heart to you.” Riley laughed again. He laughed when he was anxious, always had.

“I don’t know what to say.” Tony began, “I don’t…I’m not…”

“It’s okay babe, don’t worry about it.” Riley cut him off, his smile dimming a little and Tony felt like he’d just ruined a perfectly good day. He rubbed at his chest and looked away. What was he supposed to say? “You know what? I promised that I would do something about the pallor you’ve been sporting lately. Let’s go to the beach.”

“But it’s April!” Tony protested.

“So? I’ll keep you warm.”

Riley stood up and held a hand out to help Tony to his feet, kissing him as he rose. Tony leaned in, wishing he could say all the things that were running through his head, but he couldn’t. He wouldn’t. He’d done that once before and he’d been hurt. This time…this time it would be different. He would make sure that Riley wanted this; wanted him, before he put his heart out there again.

He was tired. He’d been working on that stupid nanite machine all morning. Two years ago, when he’d first learned that Tony wanted to create a sentient robot, he’d thought it was cool. Until he’d found out why. Tony wanted something perfect and loving, the ultimate machine. Riley had started calling it the PLUMbot.

He didn’t know who he was pissed off at more, Tony for still working on the thing even though he had a perfectly loving human as his partner now, or fucking Franco for hurting Tony so badly that he’d decided a robot was better than putting himself out there again.

Franco. That fucking asshole, Franco. Would they ever have a moment when that piece of shit wasn’t in their lives?

He worked on the breathing exercises that Caleb had taught him and got angrier. He required breathing exercises now. His wolf was so lost without a pack that his temper, moderate even at the worst of times, would now flare up at the littlest trigger. Like now. Breathe in. Fucking robot. Breathe out. Fucking Franco. Breathe in…

“Riley?” Tony sat down next to him, sounding worried. When he didn’t say anything, just kept breathing, Tony tried again, “Riley, what’s wrong?”

Tony reached out to touch him and Riley growled, warning him off. If Tony touched him now, he’d lose it completely. “Not now, baby.” Breathe out. “I need a minute.” Breathe in…

Tony nodded and waited patiently by his side.

After a few minutes, Riley felt calmer. He really couldn’t keep doing this. There had to be a better way. “I’m sor -”

“Riley, I -”

They stopped and stared at each other. Shaking his head, he said, “Go ahead, you first.”

“I just wanted to let you know that I’m sorry. About the PLUMbot, I mean. I don’t need it anymore, you know that, right? It’s just – I want to finish at least one of my projects.”

Riley smiled a little. Well, there was that. Tony had yet to finish a single thing he’d started in the last two years – except for the hoverboard that they made for Alistair’s birthday last year. He could understand that, accept that. He smiled wider. “Okay. Thank you for sitting with me. I’m not usually this volatile.”

Tony gave him a light punch on his shoulder. “You have been a jerk lately. What happened to our daily lunches? Did your kitchen burn down?”

Laughing, Riley said, “You want me to order a pizza?”

Tony shook his head and stood up. “No. I think I want to eat outside today. Come with me?” He held his hand out, waiting for Riley to grab it.

Riley stared at Tony for a few minutes, noting the changes in his personality, even in his attire. He was smiling, wearing a green shirt underneath his black jacket, jeans and boots. The dark makeup was still there, but Riley thought it was sexy, so that was okay. His best friend seemed happier, like the old Tony used to be, maybe even a bit more so. He grabbed the offered hand and hoisted himself up. “You think we’ll get in trouble if we sit with our feet in the pool?”

“Riley, I am King of the Lab. I can do whatever I want!”

Riley laughed again. God, he loved this man. He pulled Tony in for a kiss and said, “Yes, Your Highness.”

Chapter Seven | Chapter Nine

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