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But Julian, I'm a Little Bit Older Than You

Title: But Julian, I'm a Little Bit Older Than You
Part: 7
Series: The Best Moves
Disclaimer: Wholly original work.
Characters/Pairings: Julian, Riley, Full-Cast.
Rating: MA overall.
Summary: Sometimes relationships end just because they do, and sometimes magical things happen just because they can. And sometimes starting over isn't the worst thing in the world.
Notes: -

"For a few weeks," Julian said, wincing as he stood on Riley's front porch. "Please?"

"Of course," Riley replied, stepping aside to let Julian into the house. "There's no way you could have known that your aunt was heading to spend Christmas with her family."

"I just don't think I'm good to be alone right now," Julian admitted. The interior of the house hadn't changed at all since the last time he'd been there, aside from the addition of a small white sparkling Christmas tree on a table near one window.

Riley closed the front door and put his arm around Julian. "I'm glad you came. You're quite welcome to stay here as long as you need to. I admit that settling you in might be a little interesting, but we can handle that."

"If it'll be a problem..." Julian wanted to shrug away from Riley, but he smelled good and was comfortable and really there was no reason to.

"Not at all," Riley said quickly, leading Julian towards the stairs. "I doubt that Leah managed to get the tour in the other day, so I suppose I'll give it to you now. She's also rather taken over one of the spare rooms as a sewing room, which leaves you a choice of either the smallest bedroom, which is pretty small, or the attic, which is quite nice for being an attic."

"Anywhere," Julian said softly. "Leah and I managed to fit everything in my car, so..."

"She also said you didn't have any furniture," Riley commented. "That might be the difficult part for a day or two. I know there's an extra bookshelf in the basement and the spare room has a tiny closet. I'm just not sure about a bed. I had picked one up for a guest room, and then Leah ended up being a bit of a permanent guest."

Julian couldn't help a little chuckle as he followed Riley up the stairs. Amongst other things, the way the stairs curved would make it difficult to get anything up and down. Of course, he didn't need anything aside from a single bed, either. Or a sofa, even, or cot for the time being.

"I could see about a cot," he said. There was a window at the other end of the upstairs hallway that was letting in enough light to see by, which was a surprise. Normally, upstairs hallways tended to be dark. He knew Aunt Cathy's was.

"Only if that's what you prefer," Riley said with a little frown. "A bed won't be an issue, but it'll take a day or two to arrange. Until then, you can sleep in Leah's bed and she'll sleep with me."

"That won't be weird?" Julian questioned, hoping it definitely would be.

"It should be," Riley said with a sigh. "But she's decided she likes my television best and has taken to falling asleep watching movies, so I'm stuck with her most nights anyway. Thankfully, at least she doesn't snore."

At the other end of the hallway, Riley opened a door and gestured for Julian to step inside. Honestly, he was expecting smaller from what had been said. Maybe this was one of those houses where the inside was somehow larger than the outside. But it really wouldn't be bad for a single bed and a couple of bookcases and a dresser. He'd need a dresser...

"It's nice," Julian said as he continued to look around. The lone window looked over the backyard, which wasn't large, and over an alley and the rest of the neighborhood. The walls were a somewhat obnoxious shade of blue, but they could probably be painted at some point. Not that he thought Riley should paint for him, or that Riley might not like that shade of blue...

"Walls are kind of a weird color," Riley admitted. "Everything in here was really bright when I bought it. I've sort of toned down rooms as I use them. After years of apartments and stuff, I never thought I'd like beige but I'm not partial to this, either."

Julian smiled. His apartment with Arden had been shades of beige with bits of white and brown. Nice and neutral. So yeah, he knew.

"This isn't bad, though," Riley continued. "Master bedroom was burgundy, Leah's room has a mossy green and the sewing room still bright yellow, though Leah wants to get that chalkboard paint and paint boards on all of the walls so she can write on them."

"Chalkboard paint?" Julian questioned. He'd never heard of it.

Riley nodded. "Yeah, it's green-black and it erases, like a real chalkboard. If it works, I might put some on the cupboards in the kitchen."

"Neat..." Julian stuck his head in the closet. Not large, but not bad. Maybe if he got some of those metal cubes he'd seen at the store, he could go without a dresser for awhile. If he hung up all his shirts and just used the cubes for underwear and socks, that might not be so bad.

Considering all his possessions fit in his car, and his car was quite a bit smaller than the room, as far as cubic feet went, he was pretty sure he'd be good. Even with a bed and some shelves, which could also be planks and bricks if Riley had any of those. He'd sort of always liked that style, though Arden was a little more upscale.

"What are you thinking?" Riley asked him, from closer than Julian realized he was.

"I'll need to pay rent," Julian replied quickly, even though that wasn't at all what he was thinking. But it was the first thing out of his mouth.

Riley shook his head. "I don't think that's what you were thinking. Not with the look that was on your face."

"About Arden," Julian admitted. He couldn't lie to Riley. Not well, at least, and not when Riley caught him with those endless eyes. "When I'm going to stop being able to think of myself in terms of Arden."

"It takes awhile," Riley replied as he turned to look out the window. "Maybe a really long time, maybe not so long and maybe for at least part of you, forever. For a first love, it was a long one."

"Yeah..." Julian realized he'd never heard either sibling really talk about relationships, just that Leah wanted to find a cute boy someday and Riley... No, Riley had never mentioned anyone. He flirted, sometimes unabashedly, with waitresses and salesclerks and anyone else around, but Julian really didn't think it ever meant anything. Not after the first few times, at least, when he'd had his suspicions.

"Did you...?" he began, before trailing off. It wasn't really the sort of thing that was polite to ask about, after all. Not to someone who was willing to take him in very nearly off the street and talk like he was going to be there for awhile.

"Mmm?" Riley looked at him again, before nodding. "Yes, a few people. But no one for awhile."

"I didn't mean..."

"Nothing wrong with asking," Riley replied. "If you're going to live here, and I don't mind if you stay for awhile, actually - far better to have more people here more often - you're going to see or hear some things you want to ask about. And both Leah and myself are pretty much open books."

"I suppose I am too," Julian replied, trying to smile. "But I'm like 96 pages of double-spaced large font right now. And you've read most of me already."

"Not really," Riley admitted. "I don't think I know much of anything about you. But we should bring some boxes in and look for bookshelves in the basement and now that I think about it, there might be a cot down there too because I had one in the back of a closet at my last place and I don't remember throwing it out."

Julian followed him back out of the bedroom, peeking into the other rooms as he passed, but trying not to be terribly nosy. There were more doors than he thought there should be, but Riley didn't offer an explanation yet. Maybe linens...

Sighing, Julian realized he didn't have any of that. Not a single towel or sheet to his name. He had one blanket that was definitely his, but it was more the sort that went on a sofa than on a bed.

"What's wrong?" Riley questioned, pausing on the stairs.

"I don't own any towels. Or sheets. Or anything," Julian admitted. "I didn't even think about that. I just grabbed my toothbrush and comb and stuff from the bathroom. I mean... maybe I bought some of that stuff once but I don't think of it as really being just mine... And I only wanted to take my things."

"We can help you with that stuff," Riley replied. "Leah went pretty crazy with linens when she moved in, since she had about what you did. I'm sure she'll be quite willing to share."

"I'll have to pay rent," Julian repeated, before that notion could get lost.

"Of course," Riley replied. "But renting a room is a bit different than having an apartment. And I'd just assume work out something less financial and more mutually beneficial."

Julian's mind immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion, but luckily Riley didn't see his expression.

"Like housework?" Julian asked softly.

"Exactly. Lawn-mowing, hedge-trimming, all that," Riley said with a grin. "If you're around when the lawn is visible again. There's a snowblower for this weather, so don't worry too much about that, and Leah seems to like sweeping the steps for whatever weird reason."

"I can cook," Julian ventured. "I've been learning."

And yes, the more he thought about it, the more he remembered that Aunt Cathy had mentioned spending a few weeks of December with her relatives, who were luckily not also his. But that had been back more than a month before.

"Excellent," Riley replied, leading Julian through the living room, dining room and kitchen to the stairs down to the basement. It looked like someone had once tried to finish it and then given up midway. But it didn't feel damp or dark or crowded, which Julian thought generally common to basements. As a child, he'd never really liked his parents' and had always told Jeff and Sherri that monsters lived in it.

He'd have to tell Sherri that he'd moved...

"Fuck!" he exclaimed, midway down.

"Something else you lack?" Riley asked. "We can cover it."

"I'll need to give Kevin your phone number in case he needs me for work," Julian replied. "I don't have a cell phone... I'll have to tell Aunt Cathy too."

"We'll get you a cell phone," Riley said quickly. "Not that I don't mind you using the house phone, but cell phones aren't terribly expensive any more."

"No?" Julian wasn't entirely sold, but the money he would be saving on everything else would make it possible.

"You lived with someone who worked for the phone company, right? How would you not know..." Riley trailed off. "I'm sorry... that was uncalled for."

Julian shook his head. "It's okay. Maybe Arden didn't want me to have one. I... I think maybe things have been going on for longer and he was just keeping me in the dark. He always said they were too expensive and a waste of money."

"Just don't beat yourself up for it," Riley said as he started turning on lights. In a contrast to the rest of the house, the basement was a bit ramshackle. Boxes were piled everywhere and there were random pieces of furniture all over.

"It's a mess," Riley admitted, offering a little smile. "If you're feeling industrious, you're welcome to figure out how much of this is mine, Leah's, if either of us need it, if it came with the house..."

Julian slid onto one of three slightly-rusty folding chairs and sighed. "Sure. But I'm not going to stop beating myself up. I'm dumb and tried to be smart and I just feel like I don't know anything at all."

"It happens to everyone," Riley replied. "You just have to keep all the good moments in your heart and let the bad ones turn to ash and blow away in the wind."

"You think Leah has a candle for that?" Julian questioned. He also spotted a bookcase that looked to be in decent shape.

"Yes," Riley replied with a little chuckle. "And I think that one came with the place."

Julian scrambled over a couple of boxes to get to it. It was shallow, which was perfect, and not terribly large but a good start. It had a few dents here and there, but overall not bad.

"You don't need it?" Julian asked as he awkwardly picked it up and tried to hand it out to Riley. Luckily, Riley caught it easily and practically swung it up with one hand.

"Don't think so," Riley replied. "I got some nice ones from a sale down the street right after I moved in and if Leah didn't grab this one by now, she's outta luck."

No sooner had Riley moved towards the stairs than Julian spotted the cot, dark green and folded up beside a card table. He grabbed it, feeling a little bad about Riley hauling the bookcase all on his own. Except that Riley didn't seem to be having any trouble with it.

And on unfamiliar stairs, the cot alone was a bit troublesome.

A minute later, with cot and bookcase in the room, it looked quite a bit smaller but still liveable.

"Maybe an end table, too," Riley commented. "And then there'll be absolutely no room for you to walk."

"It's not that bad," Julian replied. "When I lived with my family, my room was pretty small. But it was my own, which was the most important thing."

"No sharing with your brother?" Riley questioned.

"Nope. I don't know how I got that lucky, either," Julian admitted. "We moved when Mom was pregnant with Sherri and while the bedrooms in the new house were smaller, it meant that Jeff and I could each have our own space. And we were pretty different even then..."

"As you may have noticed, Leah is quite a bit younger than I am," Riley said. He moved the bookcase a few inches to the left and then back again, seemingly unsure exactly which spot would leave room for anything else. "I was already a teenager, and wasn't really interested in a younger sister then."

"But you're close now."

"My mother has done what she could to trick us into being very good friends, if nothing else," Riley said with a smile. He glanced out the window. "It's snowing again, but not hard. You think we can get all your stuff into the living room, at least?"

Julian nodded. "Probably in just a couple trips. There really isn't much. I actually got a few too many boxes and ended up just leaving them at the apartme-- At Arden's place."

"Do you think he'll come after you?" Riley asked. They headed down to the living room.

"Probably," Julian admitted. "He'll try to be sweet and make promises, I'm sure, but... even if he did, I don't think he'd actually change. And now that I know he can do this, I'll always suspect he is, y'know?"

"Yes," Riley said. "I do. And nothing healthy can come of that."

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