Riley groaned as his arms flailed around his sides, searching for the cheap duvet that felt starchy against his skin. His fingers came upon cold air and the loud banging continued, somehow seeming louder this time. It took him a few seconds to realise that the noise wasn’t a horrendous hangover but was actually coming from outside his apartment door. A few gruntled words tumbled out his mouth and he stumbled to the door, his wings trailing on the cold floor behind him. It was almost midnight and no one ever came around here. He was going to tell this shitty salesperson or neighbour (oh, God, if it was the cranky bitch next door…) to fuck off to llama land. No, the llamas don’t deserve them.
“What?” he deadpanned as soon as he flung open the door, staring at the person with half-opened eyes. His brown hair was a dishevelled mess, sticking up at random angles and his entire back hurt from being squashed against his wings.
“You look like shit.” The other person pushed past him, waltzing into his apartment as if they owned the place before Riley could even tell who it was. “Ew, this place is gross. Now I’m glad you never invited me here.” Riley huffed, recognising the incessant voice immediately. One glance to his left proved his suspicions. Small, white curls of hair poked their way through the living room, stopping to pick up his crumpled jacket from the floor and placing it on the back of the sofa once he realised there was nowhere else.
Riley rolled his eyes, letting his door close on its own before flopping face first onto the small sofa in the middle of the room. “What are you doing here?” His whine was muffled by the sofa fabric but Wren seemed to understand him all the same.
“Well, I haven’t seen you for three days and like the good friend I am, I got worried.”
A slight frown dug into the sofa. Since when were he and Wren friends? He settled for the next best thing and rolled to his side so he could see where his ‘friend’ was. “How did you know where I live?”
Wren didn’t turn to him and instead continued to rifle through the various pieces of garbage on the kitchen counters that were tucked neatly in the corner of the room. It was a very small room, doubling as both the kitchen and the living area. Riley didn’t even have a table to eat on; he instead stood by the fridge, leaning against the counters if he ever happened to eat at home. There was a reason he spent so much time at Arvin and Remi’s place. (Remi was also a fucking good cook and he liked to freeload. Heaven knows his wallet thanked him for it every day.)
“As I said, I’m a good friend so I asked our other friends,” Wren answered but Riley was still wondering when Wren had joined their inner circle. Sure, their little band of thieves and misfits had grown considerably in the last few months and he doubted he could even call them that anymore. They were more an organisation. An alliance. He was happy for Kiera. She was finally getting everything she wanted.
But still, when the fuck had this guy joined their gang?
Riley scoffed and pushed his face up so he was sitting. He needed a second to adjust his wings and ensure that they were behind the sofa comfortably. “Why are you here?” he asked again, each word drawn out and hanging in the air like a hammer over their heads.
“I’m here to help,” Wren murmured as he rolled his eyes, scratching his elbow with gentle fingers. His voice was low and dry. Riley didn’t like him but he was too tired to do anything. He’ll just wait until Wren got bored and left, reporting to the rest of the group that he was, in fact, alive. Spontaneous disappearing wasn’t unheard for Riley but he tried not to make it a habit. It had been a while since his last one and only Arvin knew the real reason behind them. He also suspected Kiera knew but somehow she knew everything. He didn’t mind as long as random strangers (Wren was basically a stranger) didn’t turn up at his flat. Wren wasn’t looking at him anymore and instead grimaced as his eyes darted around the room. His fingers twitched at his sides and he gulped. As amusing and joyful as it was to watch as Wren squirmed in front of him, Riley wanted to be alone. He needed to get this guy out.
“I don’t need any help.” Riley’s teeth gritted and he stood up. He loomed over Wren who seemed to shrink back at the sudden closeness. “Fuck. Off.” Wren let out a mousy squeak when Riley grabbed his upper arm, dragging him over to his front door.
“Hey! Wait!” Wren struggled a little, his feet skidding against the floor but he was a skinny bitch, almost rivalling Arvin. The thought of Wren’s face on a body of a straggly strand of hair almost made him laugh. “Riley, stop!” Wren shoved at his chest and Riley finally did, one hand clenched around the doorknob. He glared at the white-haired boy, ice in his eyes but Wren stared back, his mouth pulled taut as he frowned fiercely. He straightened his back, trying to seem just a little bit taller. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work.
“Riley, no.” He repeated, his voice much steadier. “You haven’t talked to anyone in three days. Three whole days! That’s not okay! And everyone’s worried but at the same time they’re not worried and I don’t understand!” Wren had pulled away, his arms flapping around frantically as his voice got louder and louder. “I don’t understand how they can just leave you alone like this so that’s why I’m here! I’m here to check on you because I bet you haven’t left your house, have you?” The fierce gaze was back and a cold finger was prodding at his chest. Riley wasn’t too sure what to do. This wasn’t the type of meltdowns he was familiar with. Arvin’s meltdowns due to grief and loneliness was something he could handle. Remi’s meltdowns about his epic daddy issues and family heartbreak he could do. Heck, even Kiera’s existential crisis’ he could get on board with. This, however, was something completely new. “I bet you haven’t eaten, have you?” Another prod, much harder this time and a matching frown to go along with it. At this point Wren was almost snarling. “You haven’t slept either, have you?” Riley lifted a hand to his eyes, suddenly self-conscious of the dark eye bags he knew were prominent.
Wren huffed and a low groan of frustration built up in his throat. He threw his arms up high in the air. They landed on his head, smooshing his curly hair into a mess similar to Riley’s yet somehow he could pull it off. That didn’t make Riley jealous. Wren had to take a moment to catch his breath. His cheeks were slightly flushed from talking so fast.
Riley was still standing by the door. He felt too awkward to move. Or really do anything. It seemed like Wren could shatter at any moment. “You done?” Wren nodded, still out of breath. Then he started to push Riley towards the only other door in the apartment; his bedroom door. “Uh, what are you doing?”
“You need to take a shower. Um, your place smells a bit… musty.”
Riley raised an eyebrow. “Are you telling me I smell?”
“No! I’m just saying maybe freshening up a little will make you feel better.”
“I’m not the one who just had a meltdown.”
Wren crossed his arms. His angry-but-really-not-angry-because-Wren-can’t-look-angry frown was back and he pursed his lips. “Just do it.”
Riley sighed. “I can’t afford the water bill.” His ever-continuing money problems were not a secret. Half the gang were in the same boat. Ay, this is what happens when you’re on the run from multiple governments and trying to do the right thing!
“I’ll cover it,” Wren said easily and Riley couldn’t stop the tiniest bit of hate from leaking into his brain again. He forgot Wren was a rich kid. No one knew of his affiliations with the group and somehow the magick government thought he was just a normal human boy. He said he didn’t have magick, was just related to it, but Riley couldn’t help but feel that he was lying. “Just go.” Wren sighed, exasperated, and shoved him into his room then quickly left. Riley blinked, not exactly sure what happened but picked up the stuff he needed from his cupboard anyway. He opened the door to the closet bathroom. The design of the flat was a bit weird as the only toilet was only accessible from the bedroom (and only other room aside from the living room/kitchen) but the place was cheap and it was the only place Riley could afford. He glanced at himself in the wonky mirror. No matter what he did, it wouldn’t hang straight. Yeah, Wren was right. He looked like shit. He sniffed his shoulder. Okay, he didn’t smell bad but his eyes were puffy from the lack of sleep and his face was drained of colour. If Wren was going to be paying his bills, he was going to take full advantage of that.
He wasn’t too sure how long he spent in the shower but when he stepped out his skin felt fresh, and only a little pruny. He quickly grabbed his clothes and threw on his open back tank top before opening the door into the main room again. The zing of lemons brushed his nose. Damn, he thought as he stared, his mouth hanging open slightly. The dark wooden floor grinned back at him, sparkling in the flickering artificial light. There was no dust or dirt or unexplainable stains from before he started living here. His sofa also looked glorious. The dark green was plush and vibrant. He didn’t even know it could be that colour. His beige jacket lay neatly on its arm.
The front door clicked and Riley jumped when Wren’s head peaked through. Milky white eyes met his brown ones and Wren grinned. He shuffled in, juggling three large bags of stuff. “Hey! You’re still alive! I thought you died in there.”
“You said you were paying so I’m making sure it’s worth it.” He shrugged and watched as Wren struggled to his kitchen, not helping with the bags in the slightest. “Did you clean my place?”
Wren nodded. “Mmhmm. Sorry, I was going to clean the kitchen and get started on dinner but I couldn’t find any bleach or cleaning supplies in general, although you have a weird amount of knives. Like, there’s a drawer just filled with knives and no chopping boards or anything.” He started putting stuff into his fridge, ignoring the chicken beer pushed to the back. “So, do you feel better?”
Riley couldn’t believe this guy. He just cleaned his place while he took a shower and was acting like that was a totally normal and not at all creepy thing to do. His eyes scanned the room once more and he could admit that his place looked better than it had ever been. Still, cleaning someone’s place without permission was weird. “Why did you clean my place?”
“Do you feel better?” Wren asked again, closing the fridge door.
“Why does that matter?” Wren had started pulled out a purple bottle of… something and had started cleaning again. “Hey! What? No, I-” Riley snatched the bottle from his hand, accidentally knocking over a tub on his counter. Behind it was a little bag of chips in a greasy McDonald’s paper bag. Little flecks of green and white peaked out from the top of the packet. “Oh,” he said sadly. “Five day old fries, why you go mouldy on me?”
Wren’s face blanched. “Ew!” He stumbled away, doubling over as his face turned a little green. Riley stared at the chips, no longer a sunshine yellow colour but more the colour of death. He sighed. He’d forgotten about them in his misery.
Wren shook his head violently, as if that would delete the image from his brain. “This is why I’m cleaning your place!” He turned around and his eyes caught a glimpse of the chips once again. “Oh, my God! Ew!” He almost retched and moved away further, now nearing the sofa.
Riley snickered. “Oh, I see. You’re a clean freak, a germaphobe.”
“Oh, believe me. If I was a germaphobe I would never had stepped foot in this place. Or this building for that matter. Wait, Riley, what are you doing?” Wren watched in horror as Riley picked up the chip bag, his face stretched into a wicked grin. “No, no, no! Don’t you dare!” Riley moved closer and Wren stepped back before bounding around the sofa. It was the only thing in between them.
Riley’s eyebrow quirked up. “Are you scared?”
Wren wanted to say ‘no’ but no words came out and he took another step back, eyes trained on the grease-soaked bag in front of him. That was a mistake as Riley leapt over the couch, using his wings for balance and to block Wren’s way. Multiple things thumped onto the floor, including the lamp in the corner and Riley’s jacket as they both clashed against the wall, the mouldy fries inches from Wren’s face. His eyes widened as they slowly got nearer.
“HEY!” The gravelly voice of an angry lady echoed through the wall, following by loud banging of what probably was her fists. “Stop with the sex! Some of us are trying to sleep here!”
“At least some of us are getting sex!” Riley yelled back and Wren couldn’t stop his face from flushing a brilliant red. He couldn’t move his head either because the mouldy fries were right there. Riley smirked. The angry lady neighbour’s huffs could be heard through the walls and she hit it again, yelling something obscene but Riley ignored her, instead going to slump onto the sofa that had moved only slightly in the kerfuffle. Wren felt his shoulders relax as the chip bag moved away. He willed his face to return to its usual paleness. It wasn’t listening to him. “So,” Riley chirped, the ghost of a smile on his lips. “What’s for dinner?”
“U-uh, right!” Wren completely forgot about that and rushed off. He wasn’t very good at cooking but of the very limited things he could make, he was decent. His eyes shot up when Riley appeared, throwing out the mouldy fries (thank God) and helping to clean as he cooked. It was weirdly domestic and Wren wasn’t too sure what to do with that. Although, he guessed he started it but he thought Riley would stay in his weird mood and basically be a little bitch the entire night.
They both sat on the sofa as they ate spaghetti as neatly as they could. “This was a packet sauce, wasn’t it?” Riley was the first one to break the silence. His eyes gleamed as he slurped up the pasta.
Wren frowned a little. “So what if it was?”
This seemed to amuse him further. “You can’t cook, can you?”
Wren huffed at that. “I can certainly cook better than you!” The fridge was empty when he looked through it and there wasn’t much in the cupboards aside from a packet of, um, a certain something that he decided was best to just ignore. So, he walked down to the 24-hour convenience store nearby. To be honest, the quality and range of their goods wasn’t too different from Riley’s kitchen. He picked up the best thing he could find.
Riley snorted but didn’t say anything more as he piled more food into his mouth. He seemed ravenous.
The silence continued for a bit of a while, which usually Wren was okay with. He was naturally a quiet person. Not because he was shy or anything but just because he didn’t have much to say, but when Riley was around he always felt obligated to speak. “When was the last time you ate?” Riley glanced at him and shrugged; his only answer to his question. He got up after a few minutes and Wren could hear his dishes clatter in the sink. He gingerly followed behind him, dumping his own plate and fork. “Oh, by the way, there’s a meeting tomorrow evening. I’m not too sure where but I’m sure they’ll be a text or something from Kiera. Will you be coming?”
Riley stuffed his hands into his sweatpants pockets. “Probs not.”
“Okay, that’s fine.” Wren awkwardly grasped the front door handle, unsure whether or not he should leave. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.” He smiled and swung open the door.
“Wait.” Riley’s voice rang out behind him. “I said I’m not going to the meeting.”
Wren couldn’t stop a small smile from creeping onto his face. He had his back turned so it was fine, Riley couldn’t see him. “Yeah, I know.” He closed the door. A stout woman from the next door down glared at him and he grinned at her. She jumped when she saw his eyes and disappeared behind her door. He pulled the thin denim jacket around himself. It was dark and probably freezing cold outside. He should have brought a jacket. Shivering, he made his way down the grungy steps (the elevator was broken) and out into the early morning air. He’d be back tomorrow, maybe with something other than a packet meal.