Rolling Blackouts

They sat in the semi-dark in Jack's living room, groaning about the heat even as they guzzled the last of Jack's dad's cold beer. It would be hours, maybe even days until Francis came around again to catch them drinking underage, but since the rolling blackouts that had settled into the Northeast may indeed be hanging around for the same length of time, they felt no need to worry and no guilt at all.

Ryan wiped the sweat off his neck with a bare hand for the fourth time that night as he lazily watched his other friends lounge on the various mismatched pieces of furniture in Jack's meager apartment. Jack himself was sprawled in an old recliner, only half-dressed as he fisted a Budweiser in one hand and used the September 1992 issue of Playboy in the other to fan his bare skin. Tony sat backward in a wooden kitchen chair, drinking and trying to flip worn playing cards into a tiny wastebasket as he bitched about the lost wages from the early closing at work today. Sean said nothing, looking as inexpressive as ever despite the situation, perhaps vexed by the heat but mellowed enough by the alcohol buzz.

Ryan's gaze wandered to Michael, who occupied the other half of the couch Sean sat on. Michael opted to keep his flimsy undershirt on, but hours of oppressive heat and no air conditioning had left it drenched in sweat and stuck to the ridges of a finely-cut body. Ryan took in every detail with pleasure, happy with the results but displeased with the added heat that coursed through his body at the sight.

"It's so hot," Michael whined as he tried to tug at the clinging garment, "I'd give anything for even an hour of cool air or a swim at the public pool."

Tony snorted. "Why they gotta shut down a stupid pool ‘cause there's no power? You don't need light or power to swim."

"They got those pumps and shit," Jack muttered, "Gotta run those or the pool gets gross."

"So? At least it's cool."

"It'd be disgusting."

Tony laughed, "Ain't we all hoity-toity now? I'm tellin' ya—Dave's been influencing you. You woulda never cared about a clean pool before."

"Lucky asshole," Jack grumbled, "I gotta stay here and he gets to vacation in Oregon, where the weather ain't killer. He should be here to suffer with us."

If anyone wanted to call Jack out on his true intentions, no one bothered.

Ryan returned his gaze to Michael, who was now pouting.

"I spent all day outside working," Michael sighed, "All I wanted to do was come home and cool off and enjoy the evening. Now everything is closed or off and it's HOT."

Ryan felt for him, and sincerely wished there was something he could do, despite the fact that he liked the way that sweat looked on Michael's body. He liked when Michael was happy, though he was still unwilling to really try and figure out why this was. All he knew at the moment was that the thrill he got from making Michael smile and laugh would greatly outweigh how uncomfortable the depth of summer was making him feel. He was, however, just as lacking in ideas to make this happen as he was in comfort.

His gaze flickered back to Sean, who tossed his empty bottle into Tony's waste bin.

Suddenly, he was up one idea for both causes, and it may not take much on his part at all.

*****

"I can't believe you just have this lying around. You've really saved my ass, Sean; my roommate would flog me if I couldn't replace the part."

Sean shrugged him off, "I find it handy to have stuff like this on hand, just in case."

"Yeah? Like what?"

He regarded Ryan curiously, then spoke carefully, "You know, things."

Sean led him to the back of the garage to a large toolbox. He rummaged around for a moment, then passed along the part Ryan had asked for.

"There ya go. Don't worry ‘bout paying me back right away."

"Pay? What do you want?"

Sean grinned. "I'll think of something."

Ryan spared a look around the garage quickly as Sean led the way out again.

"Where'd you get a street sign from?"

"From a street. Where'd ya think I'd get one?"

"And the old DJ equipment?"

"Friend."

"What the hell is this?" Ryan commented, lifting a large, oddly shaped wrench.

"Fire hydrant wrench. Department issued."

"What? How'd you get something like that?"

"I have sources."

"Is it legal to have this?"

"Not really."

*****

Ryan headed Sean off when he went back to the now tepid refrigerator for a third beverage.

"I need a favor."

"Oh yeah?" Sean gave him a look, "What kinda favor, and what's in it for me?"

"A minor favor. I need to borrow something."

"You ain't getting my car or nothing."

"No, no," Ryan shook his head, "Do you remember that time when we were in your garage and you gave me that part to fix my roommate's Playstation?"

"Why the hell would I remember that?" Sean asked before he slammed the fridge door shut. "Damn. No more beer."

"Well, we were in your garage..." Ryan continued, undaunted.

Sean flung open a few cabinets and began to search through them, mumbling. "Jack's old man is drunker than a group of frat boys on Spring Break. He has to have something 90 proof or higher hidden somewhere."

"...And I saw that you had that fireman's wrench..."

Sean clapped a hand over Ryan's mouth. "Christ, you idiot! Announce it to the world! Who have you told?"

"No one!" Ryan insisted, "I just brought it up because I want to borrow it."

"Jesus, what for?"

"What do you THINK I'd want it for?"

Sean blinked, then sighed, "I want to go on record to say that what you have in mind is STUPID, and if you get caught and rat me out, I swear on my Mother's grave that I will make you regret it for the rest of your life."

"No snitching, I promise. I'm not even going to get caught."

"Yeah, sure. What're doing to make this worth my while?"

Ryan thought about what he might offer up as payment.

"I think my roommate has half a bottle of Grey Goose he stole off of a friend. It's yours if you get me the wrench."

Sean thought about this, then nodded. "Alright, but you get the booze now."

Ryan grinned. "Done." He dashed into the living room, coming to a halt in front of Michael, who was pressing a still mildly cold bottle to his forehead.

"I have a great idea to cool you off," Ryan told him, "Meet me at the corner in fifteen minutes."

Michael sat up straight as Ryan beelined for the door. "Where are you going?"

"You'll see. Fifteen minutes!"

*****

Michael was at the corner in exactly fifteen minutes, so Ryan didn't have to wait long. While he was glad that no one had decided to tag along and find out why he and Spot had disappeared briefly, he was a little curious as to why.

"Where's everyone else?"

Michael shrugged. "Tony and Sean decided to try their hand at a drinking game with the Vodka you brought. Jack figured out that the phone lines still work even though the power is out. He's currently whining to David about the bad circumstances here. Good thing he has that old-ass rotary phone."

Ryan just smirked.

"So...what's this big idea of yours?"

That's when Ryan showed him the wrench.

Michael's eyes widened. "What IS that, and where'd you get it?"

"Fire hydrant wrench. Don't matter where it came from," he answered with a grin.

"I...isn't that illegal or something?"

"Only if we get caught. I'm willing to bet cops got better things to do than to roll around the neighborhood looking for people tryin' to get cool. With blackouts, don't they gotta worry about robbers or something?"

Michael shrugged a response, looking eager for anything that could cool him off. Ryan looked at the tool, then at the fire hydrant a few feet away. He probably should have had the foresight to ask Sean just how this thing worked, but it couldn't be that hard, right? He looked at the bolt on the hydrant, fit the wrench in place and pulled.

Nothing happened. Michael stifled a giggle.

Ryan took another go at it, with some extra force. It moved a little.

After a few rounds, small spurts of yellowish water began to dribble out around the sides of the bolt.

"Ugh," Michael wrinkled his nose. "Smells like rotten eggs or something."

Ryan glared and went back to work. "Quit your bitchin', I'm doin' this for you."

Finally, the bolt was off, and the water was flowing freely, though with not as much force as Ryan expected. It was nothing like the time he saw the fire department putting out the fire at old Mrs. Whittaker's place when he was 12. The hose hadn't been put on properly and the water must've gushed out at a hundred miles an hour then. This water flow was more like something from a really powerful, big garden hose. All in all, it was perfect.

The water had almost immediately run clear and the smell was gone, so Ryan turned to Michael and gestured with a grin.

"You are officially the best. Ever," Michael said, and all but dove into the cool water. "MY GOD, IT IS SO AWESOME," he declared, standing directly in the flow, letting himself become completely drenched.

Ryan's stomach did a backflip at Michael's words of gratitude, and all of a sudden, he realized he was having a hard time tearing his gaze away from how the water spray traveled down Michael's body, and he noticed that Michael's head was now tilted back and his eyes were closed. He was clearly enjoying himself.

No sooner had Ryan mustered up the inclination to join Michael in the water than the unmistakable short burst of a police siren announced an unwelcome visitor.

"Shit!" Ryan cried, and reached for Michael's hand without a second thought. "Come on!"

They took off running in the opposite direction of the patrol car, Michael's hand in Ryan's left hand and the wrench in his right. Silently thanking the powers that be that he knew the neighborhood so well, they darted in and out of people's lawns and dusty side roads until he felt they weren't in danger of bring caught.

They came to a stop on a quiet road, against the side of a house that had been empty and unsold for the better part of a year. Ryan leaned against the white paneling and panted, trying to catch his breath.

"Sorry," he muttered, once he was able to speak.

Michael seemed to recover almost instantly from their sprint, and Ryan chalked it up to his fit physique.

"What're you sorry for?"

"Told you we wouldn't get caught. Made you run from the cops. Sorry," he repeated.

Michael let out a laugh, robust and cheerful. "But we didn't get caught. Don't apologize. You kept your promise," he punched Ryan lightly on the arm. "Besides, that was awesome. You shoulda gotten in it, too. So cold. It was perfect." He caught Ryan's gaze with his own. "Seriously. Thanks."

There was that stomach backflip again, and Ryan became very aware of how close they were to each other. "You're welcome," he managed in a whisper before tentatively brushing his lips against Michael's. He jerked back quickly to gauge the other boy's reaction, cursing himself for acting on such an impulse, and was surprised to see Michael's eyes had fluttered shut and a faint smile played on his face.

"Wow," Michael murmured, opening his eyes.

"I...um...sor—" Ryan started, but Michael cut him off.

"I said, ‘don't apologize'," he said, before leaning in to kiss Ryan again, which Ryan returned with pleasure, a jolt of pleasure and happiness running up his spine. He let the wrench he was holding fall to the ground as he instinctively reached his hand up to rest on Michael's waist.

It was hard to tell how long they stayed like that, bodies pressed up against one another against the side of the abandoned house, lips locked as if they were meant to never be apart. Finally, the sound of a car alarm in the distance brought them back to Earth and they pulled apart.

"Perfect," Ryan echoed Michael's sentiments from earlier, and Michael smiled.

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