As Ryan lay slumbering – a word so chosen more because it heavily implies the idea that he was drooling, which he was, in copious amounts – the rest of his acquaintances weren't so well off.
Detective Sean Galloway, for instance, was putting in many hours of work flipping through various mugshots, looking for the guy on the video. They'd managed to clean the shot up enough to tell that the guy had a rather common prison tattoo on his shoulder (the man was wearing a tank top), so he should be in the system somewhere – the question was where. His partner, Michael Brown, was being absolutely no help at all, as he was too busy mocking Sean for his earlier arrest. Also, too busy flirting with the ladies working night shift at the front desk.
Little Zack Galloway was also asleep, dreaming a particularly odd dream that had him driving a cherry-red convertible down a road lined with candy-cane trees, his passengers being a lion (looking suspiciously like Simba from the Lion King) and a snake (which took after Kaa from the Jungle Book). Zack was a very happy little five year old.
Back in the city, Ryan's old partner on the police force, Peter Adessi, was interviewing a middle school English teacher who had arrived at the school to find a dead body lying on her desk. It was not going very well, as the conversation was going like this:
“Please, continue. What did you notice about the body?”
“He was dead.”
“...yes, I gathered that.”
Of the children of Peter Adessi, the youngest, Jenny (now fourteen years old and a complete hellion) was at a friend's birthday party, trying her damnedest to convince the other girls that a bit of breaking and entering would be the perfect mood-setter for the event; his other daughter, Melissa, was leaning over the edge of a boat, trying not to throw up yet again; and the eldest, Petey, was supposedly out bowling with some friends – in reality, he was practicing his new hobby of choice, the art of parkour. He didn't tell his father this because he didn't think that his father would be too happy with his only son using the city as an obstacle course (he would be right).
As for the other two on vacation in the capital of the United States, the teenagers named Kittredge Maddox and Otto Kowalski? Well, maybe we should let them tell it...
“Um. Um. Uh...” My brain seemed to have stalled, and I wasn't actually too interested in in re-starting it at that exact moment. Because, well... “Pete, he never, uh, mentioned what kinda bar it was, did he?”
Otto gave him a vaguely amused look. “Most surveys state that approximately five percent of the population has had at least one homosexual experience,” he said. Which I translated to, 'No, Kit, Petey did not say he was sending us a gay nightclub.' Over the past year, I have become very good at translating Otto-language to English.
I'm still not good at Otto-predicting, however, which is why I was surprised when he shrugged at me and continued into the nightclub (which we had lied to my guardians about, claiming it was open to minors; it's actually a twenty-one and over club, but I didn't think letting a former cop know that we had fake identification). I grabbed him by the arm (and thanked him for humoring me by stopping, because he could have just as easily kept walking and dragged me along, as he could quite easily bench press me, and I would find it hard to bench press a rabbit). He turned to me, and merely lifted an eyebrow.
Repressing the urge to call him Teal'c, mostly because I was trying not to become Ryan and therefore pretend to have something resembling self-control, I hissed, “What're you doing?”
Otto seemed rather exasperated with me (as much as Otto can exhibit any emotion, that is). “Was your purpose of going to this nightclub, before you knew the type of club it was, to 'hook up' with someone?” I showed even further self-control by not pointing out he sounded like an old man in his seventies.
“Well, no,” I admitted.
“Then why should the sexual orientation of fellow clubbers matter?”
I had to admit that he had a valid point there, so I dropped my hand from his shoulder and followed him into the club, our fake IDs getting only the most cursory glance before we were waved in.
The music was loud, the club was dark and crowded, and I had possibly had more alcohol than I'd intended to when the night began. Seeing as I had intended to drink nothing, and was now a few drinks past that, it was less of a possibility and more of a certainty, but everything was kinda blurry and out of focus and not quite as important now. The sound system was blaring one of those ubiquitous dance songs, high energy and loud and fast and you had to be dead to not be dancing (or, part of my mind noted, you had to be Otto, who was leaning against the bar chatting with the bartender). I was having the time of my life, having found a guy around my age who was just as into the dancing as I was, and I wasn't even feeling guilty about not having thought about my girlfriend once today.
The music switched to a slow song with hardly any transition, leaving a few of us who'd had a bit too much to drink still jumping around. Laughing, my dance partner grabbed my arm and pulled me into the embrace of slow-dancing. I went along with it because, well, why not?
We had danced for barely five seconds when a hand came down on my shoulder and yanked me away from the guy. Thinking that this was the guy's boyfriend or something, and intent on telling him that if he didn't want his boyfriend dancing with other guys, then... well, actually, that's as far as my thought went. Which could have ended badly, so maybe it was a good thing that it was actually Otto on the other side of that hand. It was also really a shock. I sort of just stood there and gaped at him as he dragged me off the dance floor, and then out of the club.
The air outside shocked me out of my stupor (not from cold, given that D.C. in the middle of the summer was hot and muggy even at night), and I yanked my arm out of Otto's grip and whirled on him. “What the hell was that about, Otto?” I snapped at him, upset that he had ruined my fun.
Otto ignored me, the bastard. “I think it's time we went back to the hotel,” he said in that infuriatingly calm way he has about everything.
“I don't wanna!” I said, crossing my arms to show how serious I was about my decision.
Otto quirked a half-smile and started dragging me along the sidewalk. After a few blocks, I decided that he wasn't going to be giving up and I couldn't stop him, so I might as well go along with it, and started walking of my own accord. I was still pouting, of course.
The hotel wasn't too far from the club Petey had sent us to, which was a good thing, given that the subway system didn't exactly run all hours of the night, as nice as that would be. It was still far enough for me to half-way sober up, though. Another thing my mind cursed Otto for.
By the time we navigated the lobby, made it up the elevator and to our room, I was well into a decent sulk. Otto slid the key card through the reader and opened the door, and I stomped past him, kicking my shoes into a corner of the room and going over to the sink to brush my teeth (I've always been very concerned about dental hygiene). I managed to calmly brush the half of my teeth before finally turning around to glare at Otto (who was sitting on his bed, carefully undoing his boots), and snapping, “Why the fuck didn't you let me dance? I was having fun!”
He looked up from his laces, calmly (always calmly) removing the boot from his foot before standing up and strolling across the room to look at me, very seriously. (I was remembering, now, that although Otto had been matching me in drinks, he also had more mass than me, which – if I remembered my health class right – meant that he wasn't quite as effected as I was.)
He got right up in my face, pushing back my hand that was still holding my foamy toothbrush, sort of brandishing it as a weapon. He stared me straight in the eyes, half-growled, “This is why,” and then kissed me, hard.
I was too shocked to respond for a second, but then I got over it and started kissing him back, pressing up against him and grabbing the back of his head, tangling my fingers in his hair. It took all of thirty seconds for me to get his shirt off, helped by the fact that he'd chosen to wear a button-up that day (helped, because it meant I didn't have to break off from exploring his mouth to pull the shirt over his head). We stumbled around until we hit one of the beds, and then we stumbled onto the bed.
It was very different than kissing Melissa – partly because I had only ever kissed her when both of us were sober, partly because Otto was a guy and Melissa wasn't, but I think it was mostly because they were just different people. I don't think kissing any other guy would be the same as kissing Otto, and no other girl would be the same as Melissa. You could tell a lot about people by the way they kissed, I mused – not for long, though, because then Otto started to do this thing with his tongue, and it was way distracting. In a good way.
I woke up the next morning and immediately wished I hadn't. What was the phrase Otto had used back when we first met? Ah, right. I feel like I just had a frontal lobotomy performed with a graduated cylinder.
Oh. Shit. Otto. Despite the throbbing pain it gave me, I cracked my eyes open enough to glance around the room. Right. One Otto, definitely missing. I groaned and started to cover my head with a pillow, when my eyes scanned across the bedside table and found a glass of water and a bottle of aspirin. “Oh, hallelujah,” I said, and regretted right after that. I thought just being alive was painful? Yeah, that was heaven compared to the rhythm my brain was beating itself to death with after I spoke. That it, I was never drinking again. As soon as I felt human again, I would write that pledge in my own damn blood.
I downed four aspirin, ignoring the fact that you weren't really supposed to take more than two unless directed to do so by a doctor. I was in pain, damn it! Far more pain than most people got, of this I was completely certain at that moment.
Despite the pain, I wasn't able to get back to sleep. So while I waited for the aspirin to kick in and relieve me of at least a fraction of the pain, I had nothing to do but think (which also hurt my head, but I hadn't ever learned to meditate, despite Pete trying to teach me, so I couldn't not think).
It didn't take too much thinking to remember that Otto and I hadn't gotten any further than the making out stage the previous night (this recollection was helped by the fact that while my shirt was missing, my pants were still firmly in place). But that was bad enough. I mean, I had a girlfriend. Who I'd just cheated on with my best friend. And, my brain piped, who has a cop for a father! And I bet he doesn't flinch while shooting guns like Ryan does, either.
The edge of the bed dipped down and I cracked my eyes open once again (not nearly as painful this time, thank God, it seemed the medication was kicking in). Otto was sitting on the corner, smiling at me. Which, well. Was a little frightening. Otto Kowalski, as I know him, doesn't smile. Every once in a blue moon he will grin, and sometimes he does a facsimile of a smile that fools a lot of people, but he doesn't truly smile. It's not a characteristic that is native to your average Otto.
The smile was enough to startle me out of my stupor. “Last night, I mean, we can't-” I blurted out, knowing what I wanted to say but not actually how to say it. “I mean, I have a girlfriend,” I finished weakly, staring at the hotel bed's sheets. After a long moment of silence and no movement, I risked raising my eyes to look at Otto.
His smile was gone, and in its place was a particularly odd look that I didn't really want to question too deeply, because I was a little afraid what the answer would be. I opened my mouth to say something else – what, I didn't know – but was cut off by his hand, which he held up to stall any argument. “So?” was all he said, in that same calm voice he uses for everything under the sun.
I was starting to get really sick of that voice. “'So'?” I snapped at him. “It's not exactly written in the Bible that 'Thou shall cheat on your girlfriend by making out with your best friend while on vacation', that's so.”
This argument seemed to just amuse him. “Considering our backgrounds, I think that God should just be happy we're not serial killers,” he said dryly. I stared at him, wondering what the fuck that was supposed to mean. He sighed. “We were both orphaned as small children. I was raised by a drug maker who, as soon as I was old enough, enlisted me as a drug runner to his various clients. You were raised first by a succession of rather horrid foster parents including a set that abused you, and then by a convict and a jackass.”
Well, when you put it that way... I decided that I was just going to not think about this for a while – maybe magical fairies would come in the meantime and fix it all, or give me a solution. Because, fuck me, in spite of everything rational, logical, and moral, I really wanted to kiss him again. Avoidance was a good technique to resolve issues, right? Strangely, my psychology class was escaping me at this moment.
I kicked Otto off of my bed and then got up. My blinding headache was down to normal levels by this point, although I was still mentally standing firm by my pledge to never ever drink anything even vaguely alcoholic again. Ignoring Otto, I put a shirt on, considered my jeans, and decided they could last another day of wear. What? Not like you've never re-worn a pair of pants before washing them.
I got all of my things ready for the day (today, according to our schedule, was the Washington Monument and any other monuments or statues in the same general area) and then – still ignoring Otto – crossed the room to knock on the door connecting our room to the grown-ups and the brat.