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14 June 2009 @ 08:40 pm
Bandom fic: Lessons in Finding Unicorns (1/2)  
Bandom fic: Lessons in Finding Unicorns
Ryan/Brendon, NC-17, 22,000 words
In this story (the bastard lovechild of The Borrowers and Honey, I Blew Up the Kids), Ryan has to deal with his deep-seated fear of Discovery by humans in an entirely unexpected way. While trying - and failing - to rein in Brendon's irrepressible adventurous streak, Ryan discovers the dread dangers of maverick human scientists. And cupcakes.

a/n: A bajillion thanks to my criminally patient betas, murklins and allyndra. Endless gratitude is also due to oddishly, without whom this fic would never have been started, let alone finished. I should probably add some homage to the sources that inspired this, namely the Borrowers, the "Honey, I..." franchise and, most of all, Terry Pratchett's Nome series. (Dorcas rocks!) Um, sorry?

Find my ignoble squee about the art and soundtrack for this fic here!



LESSONS IN FINDING UNICORNS

Up the airy mountain, down the rushy glen
We daren't go a-hunting for fear of little men

~ WILLIAM ALLINGHAM

It was Jon who rescued Brendon, Jon who found him shivering in the shadow of the trashcan on one of Old Mr Wentz's Kentucky Fried Chicken nights. Therefore, it was Jon's fault whenever Brendon got into trouble. True, Brendon's genius for getting into trouble far outshone Jon's minor talent in that area. But Ryan liked to spread blame around with a big spoon.

Ryan didn't think of himself as physically threatening, but when he massaged two fingers into the space under his left eyebrow Jon shied back. The guilty soft-shuffle of Jon's feet gave it away even if the lip rolling between his teeth didn't, and sometimes Ryan really wished Jon had more subtlety. Or more willpower when it came to informing Brendon that going out in broad daylight, alone was not, in fact, the most fantastic idea anyone had ever had.

"There are rules," said Ryan. He said it mildly, but Jon's soft-shuffle sped up into a wannabe tango.

"He said he came here to escape rules?" offered Jon. Ryan's fingers started doing figure of eights across his temple, but all he said was, "Really? I thought it was the chicken."

Spencer sniggered - Spencer, lolling back on what he considered to be 'his' spool, even though Ryan was the one who found it and appropriated it for the very reason that there were still a few gold strands clinging to it. Ryan shouldn't complain; Spencer had built him a proper desk out of matchboxes and spent half his time stealing Old Mr Wentz's tobacco papers and shaving down pencil leads so Ryan could write. At that moment, however, Ryan wasn't inclined to be fair. He was inclined to be angry.

"Let me know when he gets back," said Ryan. Jon nodded eagerly.

Ryan kept his spine straight until he got through the slice of red taffeta that divided his room from the living area. It was the only thing he'd brought with him from the Other House. As soon as he was past it, however, his shoulders slumped. He let himself fall backwards on to his bed and indulged in the melodrama of covering his face with his hands.

There was a soft rustle as Spencer followed him. It had to be Spencer - Jon wouldn't dare, and Brendon ... well, Brendon thought he was above rules and personal space, but he made so much noise Ryan always knew he was coming and could take appropriate measures. These usually consisted of being wherever Brendon wasn't, and thanking providence that Old Mr Wentz was so deaf he played silent movies at full volume.

It wasn't that Ryan disliked Brendon. His first feeling had actually been pity for the sopping-wet creature with big eyes shadowed by sweeps of hair. Ryan didn't have vast reserves of sympathy for anyone other than himself, but he let Spencer use the special tea and didn't object when Jon made a little fire to dry Brendon out. In fact, his whole attitude towards Brendon was one of not being annoyed when he had every reason to be, but Brendon never appreciated this neutrality as anything but a sin against active adoration.

"He won't get caught," said Spencer, with what Ryan thought was unwarranted faith.

"Come on," he said. "Of all of us, he's the most likely to get caught. He was wearing pink ribbon yesterday, did you see that?"

"He took it off before he went out," said Spencer. He had the grace to flush a little when Ryan raised his head to stare at him. "Um. I mean?"

"You knew he was going out," said Ryan slowly, "and you didn't stop him?"

Spencer shrugged. That was the good thing about Spencer: he didn't believe in apologies or excuses. It was also his most irritating trait.

"Why didn't you just go with him?" said Ryan. "Take Jon, too. Visit that animal next door while you're at it - don't think I haven't heard Brendon whispering about taming it, because I have. He's ridiculous, and so are you. Now please leave."

"Ryan..."

"Urgh," said Ryan, eloquently, and buried his face in the pillow Jon had stitched. Jon never revealed where his talents at needlework came from, but that didn't stop them all from reaping the benefits. Right at that moment, though, Ryan would very much have liked to shove a needle through Jon's eye.

He lay there while Spencer got up and left. He didn't move until he heard Brendon's triumphant bellows, at which point there were embroidered roses imprinted on his face. Ryan's internal debate about whether he should go and confront Brendon now, or leave him a while to stew, was decisively trumped by Brendon storming into his room and yanking him up from the bed. Ryan was not especially tall, but Brendon was tiny, which made his strength even more incongruous.

"You've gotta see, Ross, you've gotta see," he babbled excitedly - and very well, Ryan would sometimes admit to being borne along on the riptide of Brendon's enthusiasm.

The living room was gone. In its place was something huge and yellow, with pink bits lurking on its lofty pinnacle.

"Did you," said Ryan, trying to gather his belief into a coherent sentence, "Borrow a whole cupcake?"

Brendon nodded proudly. "It has pink icing, Ross. I thought you'd like that." Ryan didn't interrupt to wonder why on god's good earth he had thought something so ludicrous, because for once he was interested in the rest of the story. "It was fine, Old Man Wentz will never miss it - there were loads of them on this huge-ass plate."

"More than one cupcake?" Ryan looked around for Spencer to share a frown with, but his view was blocked by outlying regions of cake. Ryan remembered the last time Old Man Wentz had had cake. It was stale Battenburg, and it seemed one of the neighbours had given it to him. Ryan knew what cupcakes were, from the Old House, although he'd never have had the audacity to steal a whole one. Cupcakes and Old Man Wentz, however, did not fit.

"Yup. There were all colours. And huge bunches of flowers everywhere. And the worktops were white instead of brown!"

"That's what happens when you clean them," said Ryan absently. Then his mind caught up with his mouth. Spencer rounded the edge of the cupcake liner with difficulty, squeezing between it and the wall.

"Old Man Wentz cleaned something?" he laughed. "The last time that happened was ... when? He got some kind of police notice?"

"It was their community thing," muttered Ryan, "because he hadn't mowed his lawn in five years. This is not good."

"Look, even the Old Man has to wash a plate sometime," began Spencer, but Brendon broke in.

"There were new plates all over the table too," he said, literally bouncing with superfluous energy. He seemed to have twice the amount allotted to normal people. "Pale pink ones with roses on them, and a lace tablecloth. It was pretty."

"Oh," said Ryan, and Spencer finished with, "Shit."

+_+_+

Ryan much preferred creeping around at floor level. There were a limited number of things that could happen there: you could be accosted by rats, you could electrocute yourself on the multicoloured wiring humans loved to stuff their walls with, you could get lost, you could suffocate in a dust bunny, or you could make enough noise to risk Discovery. Once you started climbing upwards, the risks were the same, but you added 'falling to a messy and broken death' to their number.

It made a twisted kind of sense that Brendon revelled in exploring. Ryan acutely remembered the day they thought they'd lost him - well, Jon lost him, because he didn't understand that when Ryan said 'Keep an eye on him,' it really meant 'Never let him out of your sight, and go to the bathroom in pairs.' Brendon turned up the next night, covered in grime and grinning to both sides of his face. Ever since, it had been impossible to stop him expanding his geographical knowledge by the most hazardous means possible.

It was coming in handy now, of course. Brendon shimmied up pipes and wires and stray bits of wood that he'd apparently tied on for the purpose, with the dexterity Ryan had previously only seen in certain breeds of spider. Ryan's progress was much slower, hampered both by his fear of falling and his inability to detect where Brendon was putting his feet and why.

"I've seen snails that go faster than you!" Brendon called down.

Ryan could well imagine it - another thing Brendon adored was going outside, a place purpose-built to hide a hundred things that could eat you, stamp on you, or both. Ryan wasn't entirely sure what a snail was, but judging from Brendon's tone it fell even lower on the popular list than grumpy pseudo-group leaders who were dubious about the risk-benefit ratio of stealing unwanted food in broad daylight.

Ryan just gritted his teeth and fumbled for the next piece of brightly coloured rag Brendon had wrapped around a cable. Brendon himself was swinging from a plane of wood. He reached down a hand in time for Ryan to see it and grab on. Brendon's strength surprised Ryan yet again, as instead of tumbling into space Brendon heaved the two of them on to the little platform, mostly upright. Gravity shoved Ryan on to his knees and Brendon went down with him, giggling. Brendon liked falling over, and had the bruises to prove it. He was always trying to inveigle Ryan into wrestling matches, which Ryan politely declined.

"Are you okay, Oh Ancient One?" asked Brendon, shoving his face into Ryan's and crossing his eyes. Ryan pushed him back impatiently and brushed off his trousers. They were made from one of Old Man Wentz's tartan ties and Ryan was justifiably proud of them.

"Where's this peephole, then?" he asked.

He felt annoyed, as he always was when he spent more than five minutes in Brendon's unalloyed company. It had taken them the best part of an hour to get this high up, Ryan enduring Brendon's taunts disguised as encouragement all the way. Plus, Brendon's hand had felt dry and warm when he wrapped it around Ryan's - capable, which wasn't a word easily associated with Brendon - and Ryan had to tamp down one of those worrying flitters in his stomach that had started when Brendon arrived and were getting worse every day.

(Spencer's favourite place in the house was a crack in the skirting board that allowed him to see Old Man Wentz's television, but Spencer said the only medically-related programme he'd seen involved naked girl humans getting water balloons shoved up their chests. If Ryan died of this flittering disease, it'd be Brendon's fault, which was at least a comforting thought.)

Brendon jumped up and swung aside a button that he'd duct-taped to the wall. It revealed a sizeable hole, which Brendon or Ryan could easily have slid their heads through, if that was anyone's idea of a good time. Actually, it probably was Brendon's idea of a good time. Ryan sighed and wondered if he'd have to make another addition to The List of Shit Brendon Isn’t Allowed to Do.

The hole was just above the mantelpiece in Old Man Wentz's den. The last time Ryan had seen the den, watching Friends re-runs with Spencer behind the skirting board, it was brown. There’d been several shades of brown - in fact, every possible one had some representation - but it was not a room into which colour rushed where cleaning products feared to tread.

Now, Ryan couldn't hold back a small noise of dismay. The plastic covers on the couches were gone, revealing them to be a gunky shade of orange; there were rugs on the floor instead of a layer of newspapers; and the table, usually only an approximate shape under stacks of US Weekly, beer cans and ashtrays, was bare of anything but a bowl of artfully arranged fruit. Ryan's mouth watered - it had been years since he’d had a banana - but his higher brain continued freaking out. This was wrong. This was change. Change was never good.

Before Ryan had any time to adjust, or snap at Brendon for nudging his shoulder against Ryan's to get more of the view, the kitchen door opened and two strange humans walked in.

Ryan would be the first to admit that he didn't have much to do with humans. Spencer didn't mind them; he treated them as big, moving dispensers of food and television. Jon thought they were kind of cute. Brendon probably wanted to marry one. But Ryan hated them. He hated having to rely on them, to be scared of them, to be watchful all the time. So he mainly stayed away. His version of Borrowing was low-impact and needs-driven. He'd seen Old Man Wentz a few times, and he knew the people in the Old House too well, and he could name some characters in the television programmes Spencer had an encyclopaedic knowledge of. But he'd never seen any humans like these.

The girl human was pretty, pretty enough to put even Brendon in pink ribbon to shame. Her long red hair had a ripple to it and her yellow dress made Ryan think of sunshine, which he'd seen maybe twice in his entire life. The boy human, on the other hand, was extraordinary. His hair was blue - Ryan didn't even realise human hair came in that colour - and stood up straight from his head. He was wearing a white hoodie with tiny green hearts all over it, pink jeans and gold sneakers. Ryan's mouth fell open, and he didn't even realise until Brendon shoved a finger under his chin to push it closed.

"It even smells like him," said the boy human. If Ryan concentrated hard, he could follow human speech - Spencer was an expert, but he wasn't here. He only had Brendon, trying to distract him by pulling faces and wriggling his hand between Ryan's arm and his side, because that was the kind of thing Brendon did. Ryan just clamped his arm down more tightly and listened hard.

"Babe, we've talked about this," said the girl human. "You said yourself the best thing was to sell."

"That was before I saw it again." The boy human made a face Ryan recognised as being borrowed from Brendon's repertoire, when he thought he was being denied something he deserved. This occurred at least three times a day. "I used to come here every summer when I was a kid. Did I ever tell you that? For two weeks, I'd eat nothing but Lucky Charms and takeout and watch sports. I didn't even like sports. And the first time I watched porn was when Pop fell asleep in his chair and I got the remote from under him. He woke up in the middle and all he said was, 'I've seen that one before. It's average.'"

The girl human put out her hand and rubbed his arm with it. Ryan would have done the same, in her position. "You know," she said, "there's no rush. I mean, we could take a couple weeks, stay over. Clean more. See how you feel then."

The boy human turned a beaming face on her. "Could we?"

"For you, babe, I will buy more Lysol," she said.

"And scrub sponges!" said the boy human enthusiastically. He took her hand as they left the room.

"So what'd they say?" asked Brendon, before the door had even properly closed. A wave of irritation washed away the mild glow Ryan was feeling.

"Weren't you listening?" he snapped. For an instant, he imagined Brendon even looked taken aback, but he was clearly mistaken. A second later, Brendon was beaming and hugging Ryan's head, for no reason Ryan could see.

"I was admiring the decor!" he said. "Is it good news or bad?"

Ryan wrenched his head out of Brendon's vice-grip. Absent-mindedly smoothing down his ruffled hair, he said, "I don't know yet."

+_+_+

Spencer was wearing an uncharacteristically guilty face and a moustache of cake crumbs when Ryan and Brendon returned. There were also a number of toothmarks on the nearest edges of the cupcake.

"What?" said Spencer, who knew what the little twitch in Ryan's eyebrow meant. "We can't even move in here. It was the sensible thing to do."

"No, the sensible thing to do would be to return it before the humans realise it's missing," said Ryan, "but we can't do that now, because it looks like it's been attacked by very neat rats, and we need a de-infestation as much as we need Brendon's doppleganger."

"Hey!" said Brendon.

"Harsh," said Jon, who was lying on what floor space was left. His beard was innocent of crumbs, but his belly was even rounder than usual.

Ryan couldn't decide which of them to glare at most. Spencer was the natural leader of the group, but he much preferred taking a backseat and remaining best buddies with the other two, while Ryan put up with Jon's lazy asides and Brendon's ... everything. "I'll tell you what's harsh," he said. "Some relatives or something of Old Man Wentz are moving in here. And they're young. You know what that means."

"Sex?" offered Spencer.

"This house could do with some," said Jon wistfully, as if he didn't come from a house that provided ample opportunities for indulging in that activity every hour of the day. Jon used to live in the house next to Old Man Wentz's, which was owned by two humans who did nothing but scream at each other and throw furniture all day long. Jon said you could nearly sit on the table and drink their beer without them noticing, and from all accounts that was exactly what Jon and his friends did. Ryan still didn't know why, if it was such a great place, Jon chose to remain here and snipe at Ryan, even if he did find Spencer and Brendon entertaining.

Spencer blushed and did an aborted waggle with his tongue, at the same time. Ryan tacitly chose to ignore this.

"I meant Discovery," he said, "as you very well know. We're going to have to take some extra precautions."

Brendon sagged over a bottle cap. "What, more? This place is already the Rule Emporium as it is."

"No one's making you stay," snapped Ryan.

There was a drop of a pause, which should have been filled with another 'harsh' from Jon, or Spencer scowling. In fact, all that happened was that Brendon went white and looked at the floor.

"As I was saying," continued Ryan, but he knew he'd lost his audience. Jon was on his feet, leaning over to pat Brendon's shoulder. Brendon shrugged him away: Brendon, who demanded a daily quota of hugs and sulked interminably if it wasn't fulfilled. Spencer rose too.

"My parents sent a message," he said, truculently breaking off another chunk of cake and talking with his mouth full. "I'm going to see them tonight." He didn't invite Ryan to come along, which was how Ryan knew Spencer was mad at him. It wasn't fair - Spencer complained about Brendon to Ryan just as much as Ryan did.

"Whatever." Ryan angrily shouldered past Spencer. "I'm going to bed."

"Take some cake!" Spencer called after him. "Brendon got it for you, after all."

Ryan swore under his breath. And didn't take any cake.

+_+_+

Ryan lay on his back, head on his arms. He was in the violet haze between dozing and true sleep, and enjoying the fact that the accusing voices in his head - who sounded like Spencer, multiplied - were soothed into submission. He barely heard the quiet, "Ryan?" and when he did, assumed it was Spencer. So he just smiled and mumbled, "Yeah, come in, loser."

The weight sinking into the bed was different - Spencer just flopped heedlessly against Ryan's legs. Ryan cracked open an eye and felt his heart sink, because there, indeed, was Brendon. He looked unusually subdued, hands folded in his lap, but Ryan wasn't fooled. He'd feel sorry for Brendon, and the next thing he knew Brendon would be abseiling down the kitchen cupboards and into Old Man Wentz's porridge.

All the same, Ryan struggled on to his elbows and scraped the hair out of his eyes. "Well?" he said. "What do you want?"

"I'm sorry I've caused you so much trouble," said Brendon quietly, "and if you want me to, I'll leave."

Ryan drew in a breath of air and forgot how to let it out again. He had enough presence of mind to turn his head and cough on to Jon's pillow instead of Brendon's face, but Brendon didn't look terribly reassured by this. Instead, he thumped Ryan's back so hard that any remaining pockets of oxygen were instantly dislodged. Ryan writhed away from him and managed to suck in a breath on his own.

"That is not," Ryan panted, "what I meant. Asshole. There are rules for a reason. Or do you want to be kept in a cage for the humans to look at you for the rest of your life? That is what will happen. You've seen their television."

Brendon was quiet, his hand still hovering in the vicinity of Ryan's lower back. Ryan scooted sideways a little; he didn't want to risk getting another wallop from Brendon's tiny but magically powerful fist.

"Did you..." Brendon made a little sound, halfway between a laugh and hiccup. "Did you ever wonder where I came from? Before here, I mean?"

Ryan stared at him. "Sure, plenty of times. I just didn't think it was polite to ask." And I don't want you to ask me the same question, he added mentally.

"Well, I told Jon. And Spencer, eventually." Ryan felt a dart of betrayal. "But I asked him not to tell you, so don't look like that."

"Like what?"

"Like you're going to take him Borrowing tonight and push him into the blender." Brendon's mouth twitched.

"I would never do that," Ryan hastened to say. "Threaten, yes; do, no."

"I'm so reassured," said Brendon. "Anyway, Spencer's ultimate peril aside ... I ran away from home."

"I gathered as much," said Ryan dryly. "Considering the lack of escorts and the rain and everything."

Brendon didn't look at him. His attention was focused on a loose thread on Jon's pillow, which he seemed intent on working even looser. "My ... my family, we lived in a really big human house. It was way bigger than this one. One of the humans collected old human things, what are they called..." His brow furrowed, and Ryan bit down the urge to intrude with a suggestion. "You know what I mean, anyway. One of the things the lady collected was toys. Dolls, mainly. She had this huge, huge dollhouse. And we lived in it."

"You...?"

"Lived in it, yeah." Brendon's fingers worked even faster at the thread, which was giving up any semblance of resistance. "We made like we were dolls, you see? We wore the same clothes during the day. She hardly ever looked at us, but we never knew when she would, so we had to sit very quietly all day and not move far from where we were 'supposed' to be in case she came. At night, then, we could go out. One day I didn't come back till the next night and my parents were furious. They said I'd risked everything and that I wasn't worth the trouble I could get them into and so - I left. I just left."

Of its own accord, Ryan's hand came down over Brendon's and settled the frantic flutterings. After a few seconds, Brendon even consented to release the bedraggled thread. "I wandered in the rain for ages and ages, and then I smelled chicken ... so you're right." Brendon smiled, a hollow, wan ghost of his usual grin. "I did come here for the chicken."

"I'm glad you told me," said Ryan, as softly as he could manage. "I wish you'd felt you could have told me sooner, but. I don't want you to sit still all day. I just don't want you to get caught, either. I don't want any of us to get caught, but I'd even miss you if you were gone." A little life returned to Brendon's smile. "Maybe not the singing in the morning. But yeah."

"You love my morning sing-a-longs, don't even front." Brendon bounced up from the bed. Ryan repressed a small sigh. "C'mon, it's nearly night and we have to go."

"Go where?"

"To return the cupcake!" Brendon laughed, as if this answer was so obvious Ryan questioning it could only be a joke.

"I - Spencer's eaten half of it," said Ryan hopelessly.

"Yes, but just wait! I've cut bits off to make it neat again. And that way you can even have a taste before we bring it back."

Ryan stared at Brendon's face, bright with glee and not a little silliness. The little flitter started up again, stronger than ever. Ryan realised he'd told the truth: he would miss Brendon if he was gone. He'd miss him a lot.

That was why he let Brendon grab his hand and drag him to the cupcake, instead of shaking him off with a grunt.

+_+_+

Ryan's preferred route to the kitchen was, predictably, through a gap in the floor's linoleum. For once, Brendon didn't even attempt to argue him into a more adrenaline-producing method. Ryan guessed that hauling the cupcake back through the tiny, dusty tunnel without mangling it too badly was enough to silence even Brendon. For a while.

When they reached the end of the tunnel, Ryan could see the yellow fluorescent light from the kitchen illuminating the spiders' graveyard ahead. He wasn't bothered by it; Old Man Wentz habitually left the lights on wherever he went. From Ryan's limited observation of the species, humans weren't all that observant - otherwise they'd have noticed Borrowers long ago - so they probably needed all the help they could get. He turned around to tell Brendon to get ready, only to find Brendon licking the palm of his hand.

"Brendon!"

Brendon guiltily snapped his hand behind his back, but not before Ryan spotted the vestiges of pink icing on it. "Well, someone had to eat the bit I cut off!" he defended himself. "If you weren't gonna."

"I told you, I'm not hungry." Ryan wasn't. He and Jon had Borrowed a whole slab of cheese not even a week ago, and Ryan was happily living off the rind. "Besides, I don't like sweet things. I have no idea why you thought I did."

Brendon mumbled something that sounded like 'Spencer.' Ryan rolled his eyes. Brendon hadn't been there long enough to realise that Spencer's favourite pastime, after watching television and minding Ryan, was messing with people's minds. Ryan would have loved to probe what other lies Spencer had been feeding Brendon about him, but now wasn't the time.

"What do you like, then?" Brendon wanted to know. Ryan stopped in the middle of uncoiling the twine, because he had to think about it.

"Being safe," he said slowly. An image - his father - screamed into his mind, but Ryan stamped it down; physically stamped it down, banging his foot so hard it raised a little eddy of dust. "Knowing that we have enough food to last us, that we're not going to freeze ... yeah. I like that."

"But do you ever like things just for you?" persisted Brendon. The light through the hole fell oddly on his face, rendering his usually transparent expression unreadable.

"What, like cupcakes?" said Ryan. Brendon smiled, not abashed in the slightest. "I try not to. Things like that are only dangerous in the end."

"Oh," said Brendon, in a tiny, glassy voice. But he set to with a will when Ryan handed him the grapples, which Spencer had fashioned from paperclips, so Ryan wasn't too worried about Brendon's emotional state. He perked up anyway when the time came to actually emerge.

Ryan had never taken Brendon Borrowing with him before - although in this case they were technically Returning. Brendon had only been with them for a comparatively short time, and Ryan felt less need for variation in his diet and occupations than Jon and Spencer. In all honesty that was just an excuse. Ryan had a mortal fear of Discovery, one which no one else seemed fully to grasp, and he felt Brendon posed the biggest risk in that regard.

But their beginning was auspicious. True, Brendon put on a 'stealth face', which resembled nothing so much as aggravated constipation, but his tread was light and he blended with shadows almost as well as Ryan. Ryan let him swing the grapple-hook, feeling Brendon's strength might be of use. He was rewarded in his faith, because Brendon got it first try. Even Spencer couldn't do that.

They shimmied up the dank side of the cupboards, in the strip of space between them and the wall. Brendon went first, as he knew where the cupcakes had been last. Ryan still didn't entirely trust him not to go tap-dancing across the sink when he got up there, so he extorted Brendon breathlessly to wait for me at the top.

"I know," said Brendon. "What do you think I'm gonna do?"

Ryan said nothing, for fear of giving him ideas.

Half-way up, a terrifying sound stopped Ryan in his tracks. The twine burned between his palms. The booming sounds, the echoing footfalls - they meant humans, incoming.

"Brendon?" he squeaked.

"Just keep going," Brendon's whisper floated down. "I think they're in the next room."

Ryan felt himself backslide as sweat popped on his hands. Brendon gained several inches on him. He could go back down, but - and going up was just as bad. Ryan closed his eyes and clung on, frozen. He might have stayed there for all eternity, except that Brendon was there, suddenly, sharing the same bit of twine. His feet were balancing on Ryan's feet, and he held on by just one hand - the other snaked around to Ryan's waist. His touch was overly warm and clammy, and Ryan couldn't remember when anything had felt so good. He breathed in the Brendon-smell, gingery over a layer of sweat.

"Ryan," Brendon breathed in his ear, sounding almost like he was singing. "Ryan, Ryan. You can move, okay? You can move with me. Give me your hand."

"I'll fall off," said Ryan dreamily.

"No way, dude," said Brendon. "Not on my watch. Give me your hand. Yeah, like that."

Brendon's skin against his was warm and somewhat damp. Brendon lifted Ryan's hand and wrapped it around the twine at head height. It meant that he let go of Ryan's waist, which Ryan was somewhat sad about.

Little by little, Brendon edged him up the twine, humming an endless and not entirely coherent babble of reassurance. After a time, Ryan could open his eyes. Not more than a crack, but it was enough to see Brendon's teeth plunging into his lower lip - a tic Brendon got when he concentrated, and subsequently a rare sighting.

"I'm going to go over first and pull you up," said Brendon at last.

"No," said Ryan. He thought he only said it inside his head and expressed it through his hands instead, which were gripping Brendon's very, very tightly. But either he said it aloud, or Brendon could read his mind.

"I won't let you fall," said Brendon. "But I have to let you go."

Ryan opened his eyes all the way and locked gazes with Brendon. In an attempt at sincerity, Brendon opened his eyes wide enough to show white all around. He looked like he'd just been bopped on the head, but Ryan felt happier anyway.

He nodded, once. In an instant Brendon slithered away and over the top, with a final kick of his purple boots. Ryan's heart sped up, but before panic could inflate it further Brendon's arm and head were back over the side, both waving in a slightly frantic manner.

"I've got my legs around this ... thing," he panted. "I don't know, it's heavy. Come on."

Ryan did actually know how to swing over the side of a counter without help. But he let Brendon yank him up all the same, scraping his belly hard in the process. Once he was there he curled up and breathed into his hands. At one point he even thought Brendon put an arm around his shoulder. A second later, a bang resounded in the room, and it was filled with loud, frightening, human voices.

"Quick," said Brendon. "Grab the other -" He threw the grapple at Ryan, who just avoided a permanent facial scar. Brendon whisked the slack through his hands and even as the voices grew louder, the cupcake bounced over the edge of the counter. Ryan was now galvanised with fear instead of paralysed with it, so he yanked out the hook on his side of the cupcake. A shower of crumbs caught in his hair, eyelashes and shirtfront, but he didn't even care.

Brendon tugged the cupcake further along the counter. Ryan pushed along with him until he remembered that this direction was human-wards. "What are you doing?" he said, too shrilly for his own liking.

"The plate is just a little way along!" said Brendon. "Won't it be weirder if they find it by itself -?"

Ryan didn't answer; instead, he pushed.

His brain was in too much of a high alert to process what the humans were saying; he caught a word here and there - Gabe, laboratory, snakes, cute - but they didn't sink in. After what felt like a million mile sprint, he spied the other hillocks of cupcakes in the distance. They were blue, orange, yellow, green: every colour except pink. Ryan had hoped that the loss wouldn't be that noticeable - maybe humans weren't great at math. Now he hoped they weren’t great at colour recognition.

They heaved the cupcake over the side of the plate. Brendon threw himself down bodily to prevent it toppling over and bringing the other cupcakes with it. Ryan grabbed hold of the frill and provided some leverage from the other side. It wobbled, but held. Ryan sunk to the plate to catch his breath, which was way ahead of him and doing its utmost to evade capture.

"- cupcakes!" bellowed a human voice, intruding on Ryan's brief moment of serenity.

There was no time to run. Ryan shoved Brendon's feet further into the morass of cakes and jumped in after him.

"That's perfect," continued the voice - male, if Ryan was any judge. He was scared to look, but more scared not to, which was why he saw a blur of searing purple and two large hands descending from on high to pick up the plate.

Ryan thought he'd become well acquainted with vertigo during his trip up the twine. In fact, that was only a brief encounter compared with the deep and meaningful relationship they developed during the heady swoop up, down and on to the kitchen table. He squeezed Brendon's ankle, mostly to ensure he hadn't slid off. He didn't dare to say anything.

"Are you sure this will work?" said a female voice Ryan recognised. The next voice that spoke he also recognised, but it sounded enthused rather than limply doubtful.

"Dude," it said, "will the table be big enough to hold it afterwards?"

"Sure!" said the purple voice, much nearer to Ryan. He winced; the voice was so very loud. Even louder than normal human voices, except when they were turned up on the television because Old Man Wentz had lost his hearing aid again. "I'll set it low this time."

As if in slow motion, the hand reached down and the fingers grasped for the pink-topped cupcake target. Unthinkingly, Ryan shoved Brendon - hard - so that he fell among the wilderness of scorched cupcake liners. The bottom of the pink cupcake was rising, in preparation for leaving Ryan totally exposed to human eyes. He acted without thinking, and plastered himself to the bottom of the cupcake as it rose.

"I'll just set up the metre," said the purple voice. He dropped the cupcake lightly enough, but the impact when it pressed Ryan to the table was jarring. He rolled slightly, clutching his stomach.

"Oh wow, there's totally a pixie on my table," said the other male voice brightly.

"Don't try and distract me," warned the purple voice. "Ready? Three, two -"

"Actually, that does kind of look like -" said the female voice.

"ONE!"

Ryan felt an insatiable urge to stretch. It was like having a very pert and persistent itch, except the feeling was warmer, and everywhere. It also made his eyes water madly, so he shut them.

His first clue should have been the shouting swirling around him. For one thing, they were shouting things like: 'What the fuck, Gabe, why is there a man on my table?' and 'I told you there was a pixie in the cupcake!" and "This is one really freaky stripshow. Like Little House on the Prairie meets Third Rock from the Sun" and "You are not helping, Gabe." For another, it wasn't human-level; it wasn't insanely loud. It was only as loud as when Brendon sang over-enthusiastically or Jon and Spencer got into a debate over which brand of corn chips was the best.

But the thing that really got him, that clued him in to the flipped-out utter weirdness of the situation, was the cupcake sitting on his lap. It was tiny. He could hold it in his hand. He also wanted to eat it.

He looked up into the faces of the three humans, which were variously angry, surprised and faintly lecherous, but mostly and most astonishingly not very large.

"What happened?" said Ryan. "Why am I suddenly human sized?"

"So you're an alien, then," said the blue-haired human, "not a pixie?"

"What's a pixie?" said Ryan. He realised he was lying on the table, his feet sticking out over the edge. He attempted to swing them to the floor he knew was way down below him, but maybe closer than he thought, but he misjudged it and fell off the table completely.

The last thing he heard before sinking gratefully into the black arms of oblivion was a tiny, distressed voice crying, "Ryan!"

+_+_+

Ryan woke up hurting all over, with one exception. His forehead was being dabbed with a cool, soft cloth, and it felt divine. Divine enough for Ryan to open his eyes to investigate further, and immediately regret it. The muscles lying dormant sprang up and clamoured for attention all at once. Ryan made a burbling noise.

"Take it easy," said the woman. She had very clean nostrils. "You hit your head pretty hard."

"Huh?" said Ryan, which the woman took as general rather than specific confusion.

"Don't try to move," she warned him, as he tried to sit up. "You may have injured your back. How do you feel? Does it hurt anywhere?"

"Everywhere," said Ryan. "Where's Brendon? He has to tell Spencer what happened to me."

A frown marred the woman's features. "Where do they live, sweetie? Are they nearby?"

"They're here," said Ryan.

"Oh. Right." The woman sucked in her lower lip, in a gesture so reminiscent of Brendon that Ryan wanted to cry. "We'll, um. We'll tell your friends where you are soon, okay?"

"Hey!" The blue-headed man popped into view over the woman's shoulder. "Pixie-dude! You're alive!"

"He's obviously concussed," said the woman. "Possibly - well, he's talking about people who live here? Who are not us?"

"Ash, he's a pixie," said the man. "He's not going to make sense."

"I'm not a pixie!" Ryan protested. "I mean, I don't think."

"Try not to get agitated," advised the woman. "Now, I want you to follow my finger."

"Follow it where?" said Ryan, bewildered. The man laughed.

"He's fine. Listen, I'm Pete Wentz and this is my wife, Ashlee. What's your name?"

"Ryan," said Ryan.

"And how did you come to be on our kitchen table, Ryan?"

"We were trying to Return the cupcake," said Ryan. He decided the truth would be the best thing. He was well and truly Discovered now, and his only hope was to throw himself on the humans' mercy. Plus, his brain felt all shaken to pieces. "Brendon Borrowed it for me because he thought I liked cake - Spencer is such an ass - but I was afraid you'd notice. Especially since it was the only pink one. So we brought it back and a big purple man picked up the one I was hiding behind and suddenly. I was big."

Pete pondered this for a second, his eyes slanted to the ceiling. "So, like," he said slowly, "before, you were - small?"

"Well," Ryan bristled, "not small. Just not human-sized."

"And are there more of you small people around?" asked Pete. His mouth was bouncing from smile to pursed lips like an over-energized rubber band. Ryan tried not to look at it and concentrate on the question instead.

"There's only four of us here," he said, "but Spencer's family and a bunch of others live in the apartment building, and Jon's friends live next door, and there was the Old House. But it got knocked down."

"And you live - where? Under the floor?"

"Of course not," said Ryan, with dignity. "We live in the walls."

The door crashed open, revealing the purple man. Even in proportionate dimensions, his use of the colour purple was both vast and illegitimate. He was carrying in his arms a head-sized cupcake. A human-head-sized cupcake.

"I told you!" he said breathlessly. "I told you it wasn't a fluke! Look at the size of this thing!"

"Awesome!" said Pete. "We can have it for dessert."

"But what does this mean?" said Ashlee. "Tiny people are living in our walls! They could be peeing on the wiring!"

"Oh, no way," said Ryan. "One of Spencer's little sisters tried to do that once and she got in so much trouble. Everyone knows the story of Silly Timmy and the Exploding Body Parts."

"Wow, I ... can picture that so clearly," said Ashlee. "It's reassuring and completely not, at the same time. Did you say another - uh - not-human-sized person came with you to steal the cupcake?"

"Return it," said Ryan. "And we don't steal, we Borrow."

"So what, you were gonna give us back the cupcake after it was eaten?" said Pete. "Thanks. I really appreciate that."

"It's only stealing if you take it out of the house," Ryan explained. Honestly, humans were so dim.

Pete and Ashlee exchanged a look. "But what about the others? Your family?" Ashlee pressed.

Ryan's mind shut down, the way it always did when someone mentioned 'family' - or worse, 'fathers' - in connection with him. "I have no family," he said, his voice skimming over the icy depths the sentence covered.

"But you said - those other people," said Ashlee. "Brenda?"

"They're my friends," said Ryan. "Brendon was with me when we Returned the cupcake. I don't know what happened to him. I got Discovered. It's all my fault. I swore I would keep them safe - I got mad at Brendon so often - and in the end, I'm the one the humans captured."

"Oh, sweetie," said Ashlee. "You're not our prisoner. In fact, it sounds more like you're our lodger."

"Yeah, you totally owe us rent, man." Pete bellowed out a terrifying laugh.

"Guys?" said Gabe. "This cupcake looks good."

"Of course it does," said Pete, looking nettled for the first time. "My cupcakes are always awesome."

"You didn't let me finish," said Gabe. "As in, it's good that it looks good this size, because I haven't invented the reverse-transcriptor yet."

"In English, that means what?" asked Ashlee.

Gabe gestured at Ryan with a fistful of cake. "That the man-alien-fairy here is stuck like this. I can't turn him back."

"I'm stuck being human?" said Ryan, faintly.

"It's not all bad," said Pete. "I mean, you won't have to live in the wall anymore."

"The wall is my home. And now I can't even fit inside it." Ryan kept gasping. He wondered if there were less air to go around now he was human-sized.

"If I were you," said Pete to Gabe, "I'd get cracking on the reverser thing."

"The original model took me five years to prototype!"

"Look, never mind that now," said Ashlee. "First of all, Ryan, you need a nice bath and a hot meal."

"A bath? What's that?"

"Huh, we sure ... have a long way to go," said Ashlee.

"Yeah, and dude," said Pete, sounding vastly amused, "are you wearing booties?"

+_+_+

Ashlee showed him to the bathroom, both of them wobbling a bit as Ryan tried to get used to new dimensions and how his feet could take a day's walk in one step. His shoulders ached from bumping into things.

The bathroom was a revelation. Of course, Ryan washed - more than the rest of them did, but they all went and stood under the leaky pipe at least once a week. Ryan had tried to start a clothes-washing rota in the same place, but it hadn't taken. Brendon and Jon between them made new clothes when the old ones got dirty enough to stand up on their own. Although Ryan was now the best at making clothes, he hadn't been brought up with those kinds of skills, and additionally he got overly attached to things he'd owned for a long time.

The idea of a whole room devoted to nothing but bathing was balm to Ryan's rattled soul. Ashlee, spying his interest, pointed out the shelves of good-smelling lotions and unguents that belonged to both her and Pete (Pete's shelf was considerably more crowded), and generously offered him the use of any that took his fancy. Indeed, she seemed to be pushing certain items to his notice, ones called 'shampoo' and 'conditioner' and 'shower gel.'

Dirt was a lot more noticeable at this size. Ryan noted with chagrin that his fingernails were black and Ashlee's were snow white. He'd never known anything above a certain level of grubbiness, and the humans' state of hygiene was completely alien to him.

When Ashlee left him, having charged him with detailed instructions for working faucets and plugs, he poured a little 'strawberry shortcake exfoliating scrub' on to his wrist and rubbed it in. It bubbled slightly, releasing delicious scents. It was when he got bored of watching it and ran the tap to wash it off that things really started to happen. A patch of pale, pale skin appeared, and got bigger as he gingerly lathered the soap higher on his arm. Soon, the sink was filled with murky water and Ryan's arm was white to the elbow. Ryan was amazed; he'd always assumed he was a light brown colour.

The possibilities of a whole bathful of potion-filled water now loomed before him. Excited and impatient enough to forget his troubles, Ryan managed to get the plug in the hole and start filling the bath. He deliberated for a time, then decided on pouring a little of every bottle into the bath. He took especial care to sample each of the shampoos and conditioners - of which there were several - seeing as Ashlee had been at pains to point them out.

The water turned a pleasing shade of golden-pink as a result, so Ryan turned his attention to his clothes.

Although his head was in turmoil, it had also sped up to the max when it came to taking in details. He'd seen what the humans were wearing; it wasn't like what he was wearing. Brendon had brought a few things with him - like Borrower-sized top hats and a pair of purple boots - that were unusually well fitting. However, most of what they wore was cobbled together from scraps of material and their sewing skills. Ryan pulled off his tunic and wriggled out of his pants. He released the drawstring on his soft shoe-sacks - what did Pete call them? Booties? - and carefully unwound the scarf from around his neck. It had been a birthday present from Spencer, whose parents had sent him two ribbons that he used to plait together into a scarf. It was Ryan's most prized possession.

He put the pile on what Ashlee had called a toilet. She hadn't gone into details, but Ryan assumed it had the same use as the pile of woodshavings near the porch. It was everyone's favourite job to change those.

Stepping into the bath was a bliss unlike any Ryan had ever known. He closed his eyes and sunk down until he was completely submerged. His skin revealed itself to be pale everywhere, and his hair pliant and soft instead of slightly stiff. He thought he must have fallen asleep, because he woke drooling on to the side of the tub. The water was cold.

Someone had come in while he was in the bath - naked - because his clothes were gone. In their place was a soft white shirt and loose, shapeless trousers, with a lime-green furry robe. Ryan's brain wanted to think a lot of things, but there just wasn't room. All he could see was that Spencer's scarf was gone.

He pulled on the clothes, which felt faintly warm. The house seemed silent. The creakings and low rumblings that Ryan was so used to, that were part of his daily life, were either gone or inaudible at this distance. It sounded empty and very cold.

He pressed the green robe to his face before he put it on, slumping inside of it. Although Ryan was taller than the humans - and how weird was that? - the robe reached the floor, the sleeves skimming his knuckles. He liked the fact that he could hide inside of it. It even had a hood, so he could pull it low across his forehead.

He shuffled downstairs, into the once-brown living room. It still looked oddly clean, but also untouched, like maybe Ashlee and Pete hadn't been in there recently. It took a while for Ryan to orient himself; there was so much skirting, he had no idea where their hidey-hole was. He eventually sat down in Old Man Wentz's La-Z-Boy, because his head was always in view when they watched television from the spyhole. The chair wrapped him up like a friendly hug - Ryan could see why the Old Man liked it. He let it relax him for a few seconds before he got down on his hands and knees and crawled to the skirting board.

"Spencer?" he called. The television wasn't on - hadn't been on, come to think of it, for days and days - but Spencer might still be there. He kept a stash of peanuts nearby, and it wasn't far from their home. Surely they could hear him, if he called loudly enough?

"Spencer? Spencer? Jon! Brendon! C'mon, you guys! It's me!" Ryan rubbed a hand over his eyes, which were getting too blurry to let him see the little sliver that showed where Spencer should be. "Please, you guys. It's Ryan. I got - there was an accident, but please. You guys. Please. Don't leave me here alone."

"Ryan, there you - oh god, sweetie, what's wrong?" Ashlee knelt beside him. Her arms slipped over his shoulders and rubbed soothingly. She smelt amazing, like the kitchen when Old Man Wentz heated up cookie dough in the microwave. (Brendon had once wanted to go inside the microwave and sit on the spinny thing while it was on. Only Spencer pointing out that what happened to food in there would invariably happen to Brendon prevented him. Brendon, who saw what happened to Ryan and was gone and wasn't answering him. Who'd left him behind.)

"They aren't answering," Ryan choked out. His eyes were two slits held together by a film of tears. "Why won't they answer? It wasn't my fault, but maybe they ran away. That's what happens when you get Discovered, you know? Everyone else leaves, everyone else runs away. It happened to my dad. But why'd they leave me? I never thought they'd do something like that."

"It's okay, it's okay," said Ashlee softly, not stopping her gentle circles. "There's a reasonable explanation for everything if you look hard enough. But I'm going to put you to bed, with a nice hot drink. You've had a long day."

"I used to tell Brendon to go away!" said Ryan. "When he first came he had nightmares and he crawled into bed with me and if he woke me up I'd kick him out. And now I'm all alone."

"You're not," said Ashlee firmly.

"Who else is there?" mumbled Ryan.

"Me, for one," said Ashlee. "And I'm pretty sure Pete wants to adopt you. It's our fault this happened, and even if that weren't true, do you think we'd turn you out of a house that's yours as much as ours?"

"I want to go home," said Ryan, piteously, and so softly he wasn't sure Ashlee heard. He wasn't sure he wanted her to.

+_+_+

Ryan was woken by a faint susurration. It reminded him of the sound of water rushing through the pipes, only it was coming from his chest.

As he gradually drifted to the surface of consciousness, the sounds became more distinct. One was soft and punctuated, one was almost like a groan, and the last was an incessant buzzing that a mosquito would have rejected for being too annoying. It took Ryan a little while to realise the sounds were actually voices.

"It is, it is!" buzzed the loudest. "I don't care, look at his face!"

"Spence, did we fall asleep in front of the TV again?" mumbled Ryan sleepily.

The sounds fell silent. Then -

"I told you!"

Ryan felt a series of tiny tugs on his shirtfront. Then came a not-insubstantial weight on his collarbone. Ryan hoped it wasn't one of the beetles getting over-friendly again. He raised his hand to swat away the offending object, only to find that it ducked.

There was an offended wail of "Ryan!" It sounded like Brendon, coming from very far away. Ryan quickly scrubbed his sleep-slick eyes and focused on the light coming in from the window.

The light. From the window. He was abroad in daylight -

And then the events of the last few hours came slamming back to him. "Brendon?" he called. "Where are you?" He made to move, assuming Brendon was somewhere in the wall. A yell made him freeze.

"Look down, you idiot!" said Brendon. Ryan looked down. And down. His face was practically in line with his neck before he caught sight of Brendon, who immediately used the change of position to rest his elbows on Ryan's chin, smirk, and say, "Hi."

"Brendon." Ryan couldn't think of another word.

"C'mon, it's okay." Brendon turned around, exposing the back of his tufty head, and gestured with one windmilling arm. There came another set of jabs across Ryan's chest, and Spencer and Jon hovered into view.

"You guys," said Ryan, "you found me."

"Yeah, it took some doing." Brendon tried to strike a pose, discovered how precarious his balance was on Ryan's collarbones, and grabbed Ryan's chin again to keep from falling. "This house is big on the inside."

"I looked for you." Ryan let a shade of accusation dim his tone. "I looked for you in the television room."

"Yeah," said Spencer, "because the first thing that occurred to us when Brendon said you'd been kidnapped and mutilated by humans was to watch some TV.."

"Oh."

"Jackass," added Spencer, and patted Ryan's jaw.

"So," said Jon, "what happened? Where is the mutilation I was promised?"

Ryan spread his arms a little and tried to communicate via his eyebrows the whole 'made huge as a tree' thing. The eyebrows worked when he was four inches tall, but there was now a strong possibility that Jon couldn't actually see them.

Jon waited patiently for the answer, so Ryan eventually huffed and said, "They made me grow about six feet."

"Huh, man. That sucks."

"Yes," said Ryan, "I know."

"So when are they turning you back?" said Spencer. "Do they know what you are? Are the pest men coming?"

"I don't know, yes, and no," said Ryan. "Ashlee and Pete are ... sort of nice. Okay, Gabe is insane, but I don't think he actually lives here."

"They're humans," said Spencer. "I never thought I'd hear you say that about humans."

"I didn't really have a choice," said Ryan. "They haven't locked me up yet, and they gave me food and there was this awesome thing called a bath, you guys, we really have to -"

A knock sounded at the door. "Ryan?" came Ashlee's voice. "Are you all right? You sound like you're talking to yourself."

"Quick." Ryan cupped his hands and, after a minute hesitation, Jon and Spencer climbed in. Brendon scrambled up on to Ryan's shoulder instead; Ryan didn't have the time to argue.

He carefully and gently put his friends on the floor, where they scampered into the shadows under the bed. "Bren?"

"I'm staying with you," said Brendon.

"Fine," said Ryan, "but you're going in my pocket."

Brendon gave a gasp of protest, but it was no match for Ryan's supersized fingers. He plucked Brendon out of the folds of the dressing gown with two fingers and plopped him into the pocket, not letting go of Brendon's collar until he was sure Brendon had a good grip. Only then did he feel safe enough to open the door.

"You have to turn it, remember?" Ashlee's voice sounded amused, even as Ryan's bemused rattlings became more frantic.

"Oh. Right." Ryan turned the doorknob as hard as he could, and was rewarded by a faint click and the door swinging open.

Ashlee stood there in a grey dress with little blue flowers tossed all over it, and blue strappy shoes. Ryan could hear Brendon draw in a breath, and knew what he was coveting. The only thing Brendon admitted to missing about his old life was the shoes.

"Are you all right?" repeated Ashlee. Her head was on one side, as if that were a better angle at which to survey the mystery that was Ryan.

"Fine, thanks - I just woke up. I was a bit confused, I mean. The mattress." Ryan flushed and halted.

"Oh, you - don't have a mattress?" Ashlee looked a little shocked. "I guess - where would you get a mattress, huh? Anyway. It's morning now. Pete's made pancakes. You should come down if you're hungry - and even if you're not. Pete’s pancakes should not be missed."

"Okay," said Ryan. He had no idea what pancakes were, but the smell wafting up the stairs was mouth-watering.

"And before I forget!" Ashlee reached into a frilly basket at her feet. "I got Gabe to wash your clothes - I felt it was the least he could do. And I put in some others that might fit - you're very tall, Pete's won't do, so I asked William for a few loans."

She held out a pile of clothes that reached halfway to Ryan's head. On the top, shining softly in the sunlight, was Spencer's scarf.

"I - thank you," said Ryan. He took the pile and bent his head, rubbing his cheek across the familiar ribbons, worn smooth from much loving.

"I guess that means a lot to you, huh," said Ashlee. She turned the ring on her left hand, smiling.

"Do you mind - maybe, could I change first?" asked Ryan hesitantly.

"Of course!" said Ashlee. "Although, we don't stand on ceremony here. Come down to breakfast in your pyjamas if you like." She reached around and shut the door for him. "See you in a bit!" floated through it.

"Did you see her shoes?" asked Brendon rapturously, popping his head out of the pocket.

"Yes, sublime," said Ryan. "I'm putting you down now so you can go home."

"Didn't you miss us?" protested Brendon.

Ryan didn't care to tell him how much; how much he still did, because being this tall kept him as far away from them as ever. However, he was deeply regretting having revealed their existence to the humans. A human-sized Borrower wasn't of much interest, but a Borrower-sized Borrower was. He hoped to fix the situation somehow, and that involved Brendon not being in the vicinity, using the inopportune moment to complement Ashlee on her choice of footwear.

"I need to talk to the humans about fixing this," said Ryan, tactfully side-stepping Brendon's question.

"I won't stop you," said Brendon. "I just want to make sure nothing else bad happens to you."

"Oh yeah? What are you going to do - bite their ankles?"

"It might work." The sad thing was, Brendon sounded serious. Ryan sighed and picked up him by the scruff again.

"Ryan, no!" Brendon sounded genuinely distressed.

"I have to take you out, I'm changing," Ryan explained. "And don't look!"

"It's like you don't trust me at all." Brendon settled into the pillow on which Ryan placed him and put his hands over his eyes. "See?"

Ryan's answer was to drape the dressing gown on top of him. His yells were muffled, but it would take him ages to find his way out. It wasn't that Ryan didn't trust Brendon not to peek; it was just that he didn't trust Brendon not to peek.

He'd thought the pyjamas fit well, but it was nothing to the other clothes Ashlee provided. The trousers were dark blue and narrow, almost narrower than his legs; and the t-shirt clung to him and said 'Mongoloid Porn Inferno' in dripping red letters. There were sock-sacks too, the same white as Ashlee's nails and teeth, but they were too small for Ryan's new long, thin feet. He left them be, and turned around to see Brendon's head just visible under a fold of the gown. His hair was a static halo, and he was beaming.

Ryan made a strangled sound, and Brendon just grinned wider. "Nice view," he remarked. "Sory I didn't get to see more of it, is all."

"You're a terrible, terrible little - fiend," said Ryan. "Just for that, I should leave you behind."

"But you won't," said Brendon. He sounded so confident even Ryan believed it.

Ryan put a palm flat on the pillow next to Brendon. Unhesitatingly, Brendon clambered aboard. His hands felt different to his feet, small soft pads against Ryan's skin. Ryan hooked his elbow against his chest to guard Brendon from falling. "Where am I going to put you?" he wondered aloud.

"What about down there?"

"Where?"

Instead of answering, like a normal person, Brendon dropped from Ryan's palm by one hand. Before Ryan could so much as grab at him, Brendon climbed down Ryan's belly by grabbing handfuls of shirt and came to rest on the white belt.

"Down there," said Brendon. He kicked a little at the material underneath the belt - and seriously, even Brendon couldn't be that clueless. "There's a space down there." He put a hand on Ryan's stomach and used the other to point behind the zipper, beaming out innocence at a hundred watts.

"Seriously," said Ryan firmly, and swooped Brendon up again. Brendon just laughed and whooped. Ryan put the dressing gown back on and slipped Brendon into the pocket, not quite as carefully as before.

"Cheeky," muttered Ryan to himself. His only answer was a giggle and the feeling of a tiny finger poking him in the side.

Ryan took a deep breath, opened the door on only the second go, and went down to face the humans.

Part Two
 
 
Current Mood: nervousnervous
Current Music: song 2 // blur
 
 
 
kaseyjaydekaseyjayde on April 26th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, this is sooo good!
You have thought up quite a great story, I am soo excited to read the next part =D
Also, I love the way you write, its fabulous.