[identity profile] clayangel.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] wl_fanfiction
Title: Seldom Second Chances
Author: Clay
Pairing: Ryan/Colin
Rating: NC-17 (for earlier chapters)
Summary: When a freak accident drops an impossible opportunity in Ryan's lap, it's up to him to decide whether to squander it, or to change his fate by going after the one thing he's always wanted.
Word Count: ~2900
Prompt & Author's Notes: I apologize for my continued lateness in posting. I'm sure you don't care about the details, but it'll probably keep happening through the final three installments, so I wanted to apologize in advance. Again, for the Thon Prompt 33: Strangled by the red string. As always, betaed by [livejournal.com profile] asuka14.



Chapter 12a


Ryan stared at the lake. The phone had slipped under the surface with barely a splash, leaving nothing more than a few quickly dissolving ripples to show where it had once been. He took a slow step forward, sheer disbelief leaving his mind an utter blank. It couldn't really be gone. Any second it would resurface, or Colin would reveal that he'd never actually thrown the phone—that the whole thing had been some sort of cruel trick. Ryan just couldn't wrap his mind around the idea that he'd never hold the phone in his hand again, so he stood and looked out over the water long after any evidence of it had disappeared.

A low, hollow laugh finally pulled Ryan's attention away from the lake.

“You are unbelievable,” Colin said quietly. He shook his head, then closed his eyes and lifted a hand to massage his right temple. “Look,” he said, “I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that; it was out of line, but...I'll buy you a new phone, okay?”

“When?” Ryan asked. His voice was rough, and he cleared his throat as he gestured to the lake. “In twelve years? That was an iPhone, Colin! It's not even invented yet!”

Colin frowned, dropping his hand back down to his side. “I said I was sorry.”

“Well you sure as hell don't sound it!”

“And you're still more worried about a stupid phone than the fact that I'm in love with you. Forgive me for not being more sympathetic.” Scoffing, Colin turned away. He paused briefly, as though he wanted to say more, but instead he just shook his head and started back toward the cabin. Ryan, however, wasn't about to let him go that easily.

“Do you know what you've done?”

With a heavy sigh, Colin stopped and turned back to face him. He crossed his arms over his chest and met Ryan's gaze squarely. “Enlighten me.”

That,” Ryan emphasized, pointing to the lake again, “was the way home, and you just threw it in a fucking lake!”

For a split second, Colin looked mollified, but then he sucked in a breath and lifted his chin defiantly. “What are you talking about?”

Ryan laughed, sounding almost manic, then scrubbed his hands over his face. “Well, I'm about 99 percent sure the stupid thing brought me here.” He dropped his hands and looked back at Colin. “It can't be a coincidence that I watched a video of that game of Party Quirks and then time traveled to that exact moment. And you came here when you touched that phone. It's all connected. All we have to do is watch a video of the future, and we can go back.”

But Colin didn't look convinced. His brows drew together in a look that was half consternation and half pity. “Ryan, you've watched lots of videos on that thing. You're still here.”

“But, I didn't—”

“What? Smash your head on a neon light?” Colin asked. He uncrossed his arms and spread them wide. “Well, I never did that, either, but here I am.”

“Yeah, but...” Ryan looked back at the lake. It was still and quiet. “That was the connection,” he said. He couldn't take his eyes off the water, a small part of him still hoping to see the phone bob back into view. “It was the only thing that made sense. It was my way back.”

“Your way back,” Colin said quietly. “Of course.”

Ryan barely heard him, and after a moment Colin spoke again, louder this time.

“Since when have you wanted to go back?”

It was a valid question. Ryan knew he hadn't been trying very hard to head home, but that didn't mean he wanted to relive the next decade. He'd always wanted to go back, even if it was back to the future where his wife was leaving him and Colin hated him. He'd had lofty ideas of changing the future for the better once he'd realized it wasn't all a dream, but all he'd done was make things worse. Colin's cold indifference would have been like a sunny day compared to the bitterness Ryan heard in his tone now.

Suddenly, something new occurred to him. He took his eyes off the lake as he turned back to Colin, studying him for a moment before saying, “Did you do it on purpose?”

Colin shook his head in confusion. “Did I do what on purpose?”

“The phone.” Ryan once more pointed to the lake. “You threw it in the lake on purpose.”

Now Colin was starting to look annoyed. “I already apologized for that.”

“No,” Ryan said. There was something in Colin's eyes now, something that told Ryan that Colin knew exactly what he was inferring. Ryan started toward him slowly. “You wanted to get rid of it.”

“Obviously,” Colin shot back. “And I’m sorry; I don't know what else you want me to say.”

“You don't want to go back.”

That, for some reason, seemed to startle Colin. He took a step back, his eyes widening almost imperceptibly. “What?”

“To the future,” Ryan insisted. “To 2013. You don't want to go back.”

The look on Colin's face told him he was right. “That's—”

“I'm right, aren't I?”

Colin snorted. “Well, according to you you're always right.”

“Don't change the subject,” Ryan demanded. He was close enough now to touch Colin, and he prodded him in the chest with his forefinger. “You threw the phone in the lake because you don't want to go back to the future. Admit it.”

“And what will that prove?” Colin snapped, shoving Ryan's finger off him as he continued to back toward the cabin.

“So you admit it?”

“No!” Colin said. He stopped his back-stepping, holding his ground and he stared Ryan down. “I threw the phone away because you're an asshole.” Ryan opened his mouth to speak, but Colin was continuing. He moved toward Ryan and lowered his voice, never breaking eye contact as he said, “But you're right. I don't want to go back.”

For the briefest of moments, Ryan felt vindicated. He'd been right, and he wanted to gloat, but the look in Colin's eyes stopped him.

Colin was standing close enough that Ryan could feel the heat of his body. He watched Ryan earnestly, all the anger, all the bitterness, all the coldness gone from his face. Suddenly he just looked sad, and in that moment, Ryan understood everything. He understood why Colin went off touring with Brad. He understood why he'd become so cold. He understood why he threw the phone in the lake. He might not have known the details, but the result was always the same.

All I do is hurt you.

When Colin spoke now, Ryan listened.

“Do you know why I stopped trying to figure out why we were here?” Colin asked. Ryan gave a slight, nearly imperceptible shake of the head, and Colin’s mouth twisted into a wry smile. “No, you wouldn’t because when I tried to tell you earlier, you thought it was more important to say your part than to let me finish my sentence.” He turned, then, and finally made it back to the cabin. Instead of going inside, however, he took a seat on the porch steps and looked up at Ryan.

“Ryan,” he said, “I stopped trying to figure out why or how we got here because I was having fun with you. Even that stupid mugging. You haven’t had two minutes to spare for me in almost a decade, but suddenly here we were—hanging out again. We were friends again. And for some stupid reason that was more important to me than anything else.”

He licked his lips, and looked away. His eyes were trained on the trees, perhaps, or the moonlit lake, but Ryan wasn’t sure he was seeing any of it.

“Is that why you were so mad at me?”

“Mad at you?” Colin asked, genuine confusion furrowing his brow as he looked back to Ryan.

“At the taping,” Ryan clarified. “In 2013. You wouldn’t even talk to me.”

“Ryan, I wasn’t mad at you. I was trying to keep my distance. I told you I didn’t want to fall for you again.”

“Oh. Right,” Ryan said. He had a thousand questions, but he held his tongue. Colin was already convinced that he was more interested in hearing himself speak than listening to Colin’s answers, so he hoped that silence would encourage Colin to continue. He moved forward and sat on the steps alongside him, but he made sure to keep space between them as a show of respect; he had to assume that cuddling was the last thing Colin wanted just then. Colin watched him warily, speaking again as Ryan took his seat.

“It’s not like I’m not happy,” he said, almost to himself. “With Luke and Deb, and touring with Brad and everything. I know my life is amazing.”

“Then why don’t you want to go back?” Ryan asked before he could stop himself.

Luckily, Colin didn’t take offense. He looked back out over the water and continued talking quietly. “I want to say that it started the day we met. But it didn’t. Not really.” He folded his arms over his knees and leaned forward. It reminded Ryan of a pill bug curling up in a protective ball. “Back then I didn’t want to have sex with you. I didn’t want to be anything other than friends. You were my best friend, and then I met Deb, and she was my other best friend, and it was perfect.”

He sighed, then, and sat up, arching back to stretch his bones before curling forward again.

“I never questioned the fact that I was straight. I never wanted to have sex with a man. I mean…” He shrugged. “I guess I wondered what it might be like, especially after I moved to L.A., and it just seemed so much more prevalent, but I had a wife and a baby and a career I couldn’t get off the ground, so there wasn’t much time for anything else.

“And then Whose Line came along, and I was spending more and more time away from Deb in London, and…”

Suddenly he laughed, and when Ryan looked at him, he was flushed pink. He cast his eyes downward and lowered his voice until it was just above a whisper. “And then I met Greg.”

Ryan’s jaw dropped. “You had sex with Greg.”

Colin blushed harder until Ryan was sure his cheeks would turn purple. “It wasn’t…it wasn’t like that. We were high or drunk or something, and I barely even remember the first time. I was really, really stoned.”

Ryan’s eyes widened at ‘first time,’ but he let Colin go on without interruption.

“I was young and horny, and it didn’t mean anything. And it was only a couple of times one summer, and then it never happened again, and…and honestly, it just wasn’t a big deal. We don’t talk about it much, but not because we’re ashamed. It’s because it’s not even a thing. It’s like we’re talking about…” He pursed his lips as he thought, then said, “Like a funny movie we saw together…or a party we went to or a prank we played on Dan. It was just something that happened, and then it was done, and it wasn’t even worth mentioning after that.” Colin’s cheeks were finally starting to regain their normal color. He sucked in another deep breath and looked back out at the lake.

“The show kept going, and Greg and I got to be really good friends at the same time that…” He paused again. It was longer this time, and Ryan could see what looked like distress on Colin’s face, written in the set of his mouth and the distant look in his eyes. He scrubbed his hands over his face, then smoothed his hair back, and through it all, stoutly refused to look Ryan’s way. “At the same time that you and I were growing apart.”

He let that sentence sit there for a moment, hanging in the air between them. Ryan wracked his brain, trying to remember just when that had been, but he couldn’t. In as far as he’d been concerned, their relationship had stayed the same from the moment they’d met up until present day. It was only Colin’s behavior that had changed. But he didn’t argue; he continued to listen.

“You had your L.A. friends, and I had my friends in Toronto, and we never saw each other outside of work. You were getting burnt out, and you were sick of playing all your games with me, and—and I understood that, I really did, but…”

“But what you thought,” Ryan said, realization hitting him, “was that I was getting burnt out on you

Finally, Colin looked back to him, and their eyes met for the first time in minutes. “I knew that wasn’t the case,” Colin said. “Logically, I knew it had nothing to do with me, but what else could I think? Come on, Ryan, you’d stopped worrying about me a long time ago. You wanted what was best for you. I don’t know what happened to you, but I don’t think you’ve done anything to help anyone but yourself for a long time.”

That stung, and Ryan didn’t agree, but he couldn’t think of a single argument against it just then.

Colin was continuing. “But in the end, I think it was a good thing. I realized that I was good enough to make it on my own. I’d always been good enough, and if you didn’t want me around, then I could take care of myself. I had to live my own life.”

“And that’s why you went on tour with Brad.”

Colin nodded. “But that didn’t mean I didn’t want to stay friends. I tried to stop by when I was in town, but I never knew when you were in Los Angeles or when you were in Washington, and you never answered your phone or called me back, so I stopped trying. We’d see each other at shows every once in a while, and it was like old times, but it was just for a night, and then it was done, and I learned not to get too invested.

“And then we did Improvaganza, and…” Colin looked away, laughing bitterly. He dropped his head into his hands. “Fuck, Ryan. That was when I realized it. That was when I looked at my life, at my son and my wife and my career, and I realized that none of them held a candle to standing on stage for two stupid minutes with you.

“That was when I realized I was in love with you.

“And I hated myself for it. After everything that had happened, I still needed you. And that was when I started wondering what it would have been like if I had kissed you back in Toronto, or if I had told you about my thing with Greg—what would you have said? Was I the only one thinking these things, or did you ever wonder about what it would have been like with me? We’d kissed so many times on stage, but they were never real kisses. Not like tonight.

“I had dreams Ryan. Night after night on the road with Brad, I’d have these stupid dreams about kissing you, touching you, fucking you, and then I’d go home and sleep with my wife, and suddenly it wasn’t enough anymore. And then we got word about them bringing Whose Line back, and all I wanted to do was run away from you.”

Colin laughed again, and he was back to sounding hollow, defeated. He slowly rose to his feet, then looked down at Ryan. For a split second all Ryan could see in Colin’s eyes was a hate filled, burning glare, but then it was gone—a trick of the light—and Ryan thought that maybe he just saw in Colin what he knew he deserved. In reality, Colin wasn’t angry; Colin didn’t hate him. He just looked tired. He looked finished.

“But I can’t run away from you,” he said, “and I can’t go back.

“Maybe I can’t change the future, and maybe we’ll just end up exactly where we did the first time, but at least if I stay here I get another couple of years on stage with you before it all goes to hell again.” With a shuddering sigh, he looked up and away. Ryan watched him, at a loss for words, and then suddenly Colin said, “I have to get out of here.”

“Wait—” Ryan was on his feet in a matter of seconds, but Colin was already moving to go into the cabin.

“No, Ryan,” he said, spinning and putting a hand up to stop him. “Please. Just…let me go, okay? I know what you’re going to say: it’ll be different this time, or you love me too, or you can work on the things that upset me, but I don’t believe you. You have always been too wrapped up in your own drama to make room for anyone else.”

“That’s not true!”

Colin smiled at him deprecatingly. “You don’t even realize it, do you? Do you know what you said not twenty minutes ago when you were yelling at me for tossing the phone in the lake? You said it was your way back. Your way, not ours. I’m just an afterthought.”

He left Ryan, then, pushing his way into the cabin. The door closed after him with the finality of a coffin lid falling shut.


To be continued...
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