|The Lamp-Eater (Ryan/Brendon)
||[Apr. 14th, 2009|09:21 pm]
Happy birthday, scoradh! I wasn't sure what to write for you, but I think that you like magical creatures? This one is for you ♥
Bandom (Panic at the Disco) | Ryan/Brendon | 2,000 words | PG
Summary: Whatever the creature in the streetlamp is, Brendon's never seen one before. (Set in the Drink Me 'verse.)
Warning: Real Person Fiction
Disclaimer: I don't know any of the members of Panic at the Disco. This is a work of fiction, written with affection and no intention to offend.
"That?" Ryan said, stopping and staring at Brendon. Brendon stared back innocently. "That is not charming. You should know."
Brendon grinned around his mouthful of street vendor pie. He could feel his cheeks bulging. Ryan made a pained sound and turned away. "I'm pretty sure that family you talk about is a myth," he said. "You were raised by wolves, right? You can tell me, I won't judge."
Brendon swallowed most of his food down and threw his arm around Ryan's shoulder. "I'm always charming, Ross," he grinned.
"If you just sprayed food on my scarf I will gut you," Ryan said evenly.
Brendon discreetly checked for crumbs, craning his neck back. Eh, there were maybe a couple. It was practically dark; Ryan would never notice.
The lamps had already flickered on all along the way. The horizon was still light, but the thronging crowds had begun to fade into twilit anonymity, except where the lamps cast warm haloes.
"You should meet my family some time," Brendon said, leaning on Ryan's shoulder. "Mistress Wolf. Master Wolf. My adorable baby wolfcub sister. You'd love them, honestly."
Ryan turned in the circle of Brendon's arm. He was dark-eyed and too serious as he ignored Brendon's joke. "You'll take me home to meet your family around the same time I take you to meet my dad," he said. "Never."
Brendon felt his eyes widen, hurt. He looked away. "I've taken you home lots of times," he said. "My family just don't happen to live there."
Ryan shook his head. "Yeah," he said. He shook Brendon's arm off, irritable. Brendon narrowed his eyes at Ryan's back.
He was distracted a moment later when the lamp just above him winked out. He blinked, craning up.
He kind of loved the lamps along the main thoroughfares. He had possibly spent a couple of evenings just sitting up on the ledge of a low window, watching as the little clockwork wheel ran slowly down as dusk came on. It was worth it for the moment that the wheel clicked and sparked and the oil caught in the lamp well, flame licking up into the glass guard and then settling, yellow and sedate.
Brendon squinted, trying to see what had happened to this lamp. He thought he could see a small shadow at the bottom edge of the glass guard. There was a scraping iron sound, and then the scrabble of claws and something was falling, tumbling towards the ground.
Brendon ducked forwards to catch it as it fell. He grunted as he absorbed its momentum, then stared down at the creature in his hands.
"What?" Ryan said from behind him. "Hey, what is that?"
"I'm ... not sure?" Brendon said. The thing was curling up into a ball in his hands, making a pitiful retching noise. It didn't look all that strange – not compared to some of the creatures Vicky-T kept – but whatever it was, Brendon was sure that he'd never seen one before. It looked a little bit like a squirrel, only striped black and white – the white stripes stood out in the dimness – but it also had wide amber eyes and scorch marks around its small muzzle that looked as though they went back months or years. Brendon lifted his thumb and stroked at its ears, mindful of teeth, but it only shook and made another retching noise.
"Oh," Ryan said. He was leaning his chin on Brendon's shoulder. "I think it's sick."
They would have asked Victoria if she recognised the creature from the lamp, but she was away for three days, travelling to meet a phoenix dealer.
"Do you think it's going to die?" Ryan asked quietly. They were sitting on the front stoop at the library, underneath the night light that lit up the returns slot, going through the bestiaries Ryan had checked out a few minutes ago. They'd made it barely ten minutes before closing. The lamp creature was curled up in a basket Brendon had got from the potions store. It was still shivering and occasionally throwing up nothing at all, and looking more and more bedraggled.
Brendon hoped that whatever it was, it wasn't too suggestible. What if Ryan asking that gave it ideas?
A second later Ryan blinked, leaning closer to his page. He looked excited. "Hey, I think I've found it," he said. "No, definitely. Look, Brendon. It's a lamp-eater!"
Ryan was still leaning close over the book, frowning as he read. Brendon had to squeeze up to his shoulder to read alongside him. LAMP-EATER, the book said. New urban species of the last fifty years.
"They really eat lamps?" Brendon asked, nonplussed. He glanced down at the basket, where the squirrel creature – the lamp-eater – was curled up tight and not looking like anything that would nibble on iron and glass for fun.
"It says that they're extremely susceptible to impurities in lamp oils!" Ryan said. "They get sick really easily." He looked up, blinking and focusing on Brendon. "That has to be it. It's been eating impure lamps."
Brendon choked down laughter. "Oh, man," he said. He reached out and stroked down the black-and-white fur on the lamp-eater's shivering neck. "Sorry," he said to it, speaking low. "That wasn't really funny. You're totally miserable, aren't you?"
The lamp-eater didn't like being jolted up seven narrow flights of stairs to Brendon's room in the shore towers. It made distressed sounds and threw up more nothing. Brendon felt guilty every time the basket bumped against a wall or corner.
"Hey, there," he murmured. "Not far now."
Ryan was ahead of him on the stairs. When Brendon slipped into the room and set the basket down on the end of his bed, Ryan had already moved the lamp on Brendon's bedside table to the windowsill. He stood in front of it, his head tilted to the side. Brendon wanted to slide his hand over the nape of Ryan's neck under his hair, so he did, stepping up behind him. Ryan leaned back into him. "I'm still not seeing it," he admitted. "It eats lamps?"
Ryan curled up on the bed next to the basket while Brendon began purifying a bowl of lamp oil. He didn't have much potion-making apparatus here at home – that was what the shop was for – but Gabe had given him a basic set-up when he made him journeyman. It was enough for something so simple.
Ryan watched him do it with inquisitive incomprehension. Brendon was stupidly charmed by how clueless Ryan continued to be about the basic processes of potion making, given that he worked in a potions shop. But he seemed to believe that it somehow happened on another plane from the one he existed in.
He lost interest after a few minutes and stretched out on the bed, staring past Brendon out of the window at the dusk coming down over the docks. The covers were rumpled under him, tangled at his knees and slipping in worn red folds off the side of the bed to trail on the floorboards. They were the same colour as the blankets Brendon bundled over the windows when night came down, to keep out the chill. Those were tied back at the moment so that the pale sky and the sound of gulls and waves and the distant chatter of the dock workers below could spill into the room. The orange scarf Ryan had tied up over the windowsill was fluttering in the breeze that had picked up.
It was nearly too dark to work by the time Brendon finished. He decanted the oil into his beaten-up brass lamp and set it upright. Then he picked up the lamp-eater, which squirmed weakly in his hands, and set it down on the sill by the lamp. It sniffed at the base for a moment, then squeaked a bit and looked at him. It tucked its nose under its brushy tail, ignoring both them and the lamp.
Brendon and Ryan looked at each other blankly.
Ryan uncurled himself from the bed and padded over. He gave the lamp-eater an uncertain look, then picked up Brendon's tinderbox and coaxed a spark into the oil well. Yellow flame licked up against the glass guard, making the window ledge suddenly warm and rosy-coloured.
The lamp-eater lifted its head, ears pricking up. Its wide eyes reflected twin yellow flames. Then it uncoiled and leapt onto the side of the window frame, claws clinging to the wood as it leaned crazily in towards the flame. It sniffed over the top of the guard, seeming unconcerned about the new scorch marks it was adding to its muzzle. Then it leaned in further and swallowed the flame down.
It looked over at Brendon and Ryan and licked its lips, a curl of oily black smoke escaping its mouth.
Brendon laughed. Ryan leaned in, striking a light again, and the lamp-eater leapt to the other side of the window frame, craning its neck out and swaying with the flame for a moment before swallowing it down once more. It chewed off a bit of the wick as well, this time.
They lit the lamp another four times before the lamp-eater dropped down to the sill, stretching out on its belly around the base of the lamp. Its eyes were slitted. It gave a tiny, satisfied burp.
Ryan and Brendon grinned at each other. "Coolest pet ever, Ross?" Brendon asked. "Because I'm thinking so." He looked back at the lamp eater, which looked as though it had never been ill in its life. "Do you think it will stay?" He could hear how wistful he sounded.
Ryan was leaning against the window frame, his fingers curling in the soft bunches of blanket tucked to the side. "I don't think anything would leave here if it had the choice," he said quietly. Then he blinked and seemed to register what he'd said. He looked up, his cheeks pink. "I mean –"
Brendon grinned stupidly at him. "Uh uh. That, you don't get to take back."
Ryan rolled his eyes. "Oh, shut up, I wasn't going to." He dropped onto the bed. Brendon waited until he looked comfortable and then flopped on top of him, his head resting heavily on Ryan's stomach. Ryan gave a soft Oof and flicked at Brendon's forehead, but didn't push him off. A moment later he was threading his fingers through Brendon's fringe.
Brendon mumbled his approval, watching the lamp-eater on the windowsill. It had begun to groom itself.
"It is home here, you know," Brendon said after a moment. He wriggled, self-conscious. "I mean – I don't think of my parents' place as home. It's here. With – with me and you."
Ryan's fingers stilled for a moment. "I don't live here," he said, his voice neutral.
Brendon fidgeted with the hem of his shirt. "You could," he said. When Ryan didn't say anything, he twisted around, leaning on his hand. He used the other to tuck his hair back, away from his mouth. "I mean," he said. He licked his lips. "I mean, if you wanted to."
Ryan was looking at him, wide-eyed. Brendon couldn't tell what he was thinking. Brendon laughed, the sound nervous. "I don't mind if you move in just to be with my incredibly cool pet. That would be all right."
Ryan's mouth quirked. The tension slipped out of him as he ducked forward and kissed Brendon. Brendon let out a breath of relief, curling his hand in Ryan's hair.
"Maybe," Ryan said against his mouth. Brendon could feel him smiling. "If – I mean, you really?" He kissed Brendon again. "Maybe. I don't – my dad – I'd need to. To talk about it, I think."
Brendon knew it wasn't simple. Even though Ryan seemed to live in a state of cold war with his father in the house they shared, it wasn't simple. Or it wasn't simple especially because of that, perhaps. Brendon grinned anyway, suddenly sure and giddy.
"You're going to say yes, I can tell," he said. He grinned and rolled Ryan over, kissing him before he could reply. Ryan curled a hand in the back of his jacket and kissed back.
"Maybe," Ryan whispered again. "Since you have a lamp-eater and all."
Click the drink me tag for the other stories in this 'verse.