Degrassi: TNG | Peter/Riley | PG-13 | ~2,287
In which Riley needs help studying for exams, Peter is jealous, and Anya is no help whatsoever.
A/N: For the hs_bingo prompt ‘exams’. Inspired by Riley’s line in 10x18: “I’ve only had four crushes in my life. Three of them turned out to be gay and the jury’s still out on Peter.” Set post 10x18 but AU from there.
“I hate exams,” Riley says dropping his head onto the counter and groaning.
“Dude, you think you’ve got it hard? Wait ‘till you hit college,” Peter says, sliding a coffee mug over the counter into Riley’s hands and nodding goodbye to a couple of customers. “So, besides hating on school, how’re things going?”
Riley shrugs. “Okay I guess, I mean, football’s pretty good and my grades are okay.”
“And the other thing?” Peter asks and then wonders whether he can. They haven’t talked about it in a long time, probably too long, and between school and college, football and work, they’ve not had a whole lot of time to hang out.
“Yeah,” Riley says, sighing. “Not so great. It’s like nothing I do is right, you know?
“Believe me,” Peter says, “that doesn’t have anything to do with gender.”
Riley grins at that, the one that pulls up half of his mouth and causes dimples to appear on his cheeks, and Peter can’t help but return it.
He’s missed spending time just the two of them.
“Hey,” he says when they’ve been quiet too long, “I could help!”
“Um, Peter dude, no offense but your relationship record is even worse than mine,” Riley says and Peter frowns.
“No,” he says, “I meant with the exams. I took a lot of those courses last year. I could, like, tutor you or something.”
“Do you have time?” Riley says uncertainly. “You have work and your own studying…”
“Sure,” Peter says, “no, it’ll be great. It’ll give us a chance to hang out, too.”
“Yeah,” Riley says, and he looks relieved. “Yeah, that would be awesome. Thanks.”
“No problem, my friend,” Peter tells him cheerfully, holding out his fist for a bump. “Meet me at mine after practice tomorrow and we’ll hit the books.”
“So, wait, this Sylvia Plath chick stuck her head in an oven? That’s screwed up,” Riley says, eyeing his copy of The Bell Jar distrustfully.
“Yep,” Peter says, looking through Riley’s list of essay topics and underlying the best ones. “Here, I think these should be okay.”
“No problem,” Peter says, taking a gulp of his soda. “So, hey, you still having trouble with the guys on the team?”
“Nothing I can’t handle,” Riley says, not looking up, and Peter wishes he were still at Degrassi, still a part of Riley’s day to day life so even if he couldn’t stop the crap he could still just be there, be his friend.
“Well, you know I’ve got your back,” Peter says, and Riley smiles into the pages of his book.
“Anytime dude,” Peter says. “Anytime.”
Peter’s not stupid – he’s perfectly aware that the way his heart lodges somewhere low in his ribcage whenever Riley’s around isn’t just a coincidence – but it’s happened so gradually that he has absolutely no idea when it started. He’s not the same person he was back then, not so terrified at the idea of change because, hey, his life seems to be nothing but right now, and, yeah, it’s a little weird to go from eyeing up the way the Power Squad look in their uniforms to watching the shape Riley’s mouth makes when he smiles but he’s not going to freak about it, has been through too much genuinely bad crap in his life to find this more than mildly confusing.
He thinks maybe he’s matured, and then wonders just how many guys Riley’s practiced kissing since that day in his apartment and just how much he’s matured, and -
“Have you seen Riley?” Anya asks, leaning over the counter to get his attention, and Peter freezes, aware of the blush that’s starting to flood over his neck.
“No. Riley? No. What? Why?”
“Uh,” Anya says, looking at him like he’s crazy, and jeez, could he be anymore ridiculous? “I wanted to ask him about the math homework, but I’ll just go do it by myself. At home.”
“Right,” Peter says, but she’s already leaving, giving him a suspicious look over her shoulder, and great, that’s all he needs.
“I’m taking a break,” he announces, dropping the dishcloth in his hands into the sink and pushing through into the back room. If he’s going to obsess over Riley, he might as well do it in private.
Peter’s late for his shift, too much time spent upstairs at Above the Dot fixing things for the night’s entertainment, and by the time he changes clothes and slides behind the counter with an apologetic wince to his coworkers, Riley’s already there, talking with some dark haired guy in a grey sweater.
“What’s up guys?” Peter asks casually.
“Peter, this is Zane,” Riley says, and Zane brings up his hand in a wave.
“Hi,” he says, and Peter knows he’s being irrational but he hates him already.
“Hey,” Peter says, picking up a cloth and drying a glass a little too roughly.
He’s being completely ridiculous but he can’t help it. Riley’s supposed to like him, to still be holding on to some sort of crush that makes him awkward and adorable, and it’s not fair that he’s looking at Zane like he’s the best thing to ever happen just because Zane happens to be gay.
“So, do you still need some help with that math assignment?” Zane asks Riley, leaning in too close and smiling secretly, and Peter wants to stab him with a fork.
“Nah,” Riley says, “it’s cool. Peter helped me finish it last night.”
Ha, Peter thinks, and he has to fight back the self-satisfied grin that wants to emerge.
“Cool,” Zane says, giving Peter a strange look he chooses to ignore. “I’ll see you at practice then.”
“Yeah, see you.”
“Bye,” Peter says cheerily, and Riley raises an eyebrow at him as Zane leaves. “What?”
“Nothing,” Riley says, “you’re just acting a bit weird.”
“No I’m not.”
“Okay, sure,” Riley shrugs. “So, wanna hang out later? Play some video games, get a pizza?”
“Yeah,” Peter says, “sounds great.”
He kind of wishes Zane had hung around to hear their plans, and then decides he probably needs to bang his own head against something before he gets the urge to stick his tongue out at the guy next time.
Peter’s really not sure when he became so pathetic.
“So, hey, did you ever find Riley about math?” Peter asks when Anya comes into The Dot after school, books spilling out of her arms and onto the counter as she sighs in relief.
“What? Oh, no. It’s cool, we just study together sometimes that’s all,” she says. “Can I get a caramel macchiato please?”
“Sure,” he says, grabbing the syrup and a clean mug. “So, you haven’t seen Riley at all today?”
“No,” she says, dragging out the word. “I mean I saw him in the hallway but I haven’t spoken to him. Why?
“It’s nothing,” Peter says, shrugging. “We were just supposed to hang out last night and he didn’t show. I wondered if he was ill or something.”
Anya frowns worriedly. “I don’t think so, I mean, he looked okay. Maybe I should call him.”
“Nah,” Peter says. “I’m sure he just forgot. Maybe he was hanging out with Zane or something.”
“Yeah. Or, you know, not. Whatever.”
She stares at him for a long moment unblinkingly and then her mouth falls open.
“Oh my gosh,” Anya says, eyes wide. “You like him. You like Riley.”
“What? No I don’t,” Peter says, wishing the ground would swallow him whole when it doesn’t even sound convincing to his own ears.
“You do,” Anya says, and she sounds way too happy about it.
“Tell anyone and you might find that your coffee contains arsenic,” Peter hisses, looking around carefully to make sure no one’s listening in on their conversation.
“Oh please,” Anya says, rolling her eyes. “I’ve kept Riley’s secret long enough haven’t I?”
“Yeah, I suppose you have,” he says, and then brightens. “So, hey, I don’t suppose you could find out if he still –“
“No,” she says, cutting him off. “Nope. No way. I am not getting involved.”
“Come on Anya,” he says, leaning over the counter and giving her his most persuasive look. “Please.”
“Yeah, no,” she says, “sorry but those puppy dog eyes of yours may work on most people, but I am immune. You’re going to have to do this the hard way.”
“So you’re just going to do nothing?”
“Oh no,” she says, grinning. “I’m going to sit on the sidelines and watch in hysterics.”
“Great,” Peter says sarcastically. “Thanks.”
Anya laughs, taking a sip of her drink happily. “You’re welcome.”
“Hey,” Riley says, sliding into a stool. “I’m really sorry about last night.”
“Huh?” Peter says casually as if he doesn’t know what Riley’s talking about, as if he’s not waiting on edge for the answer.
“My mom made me stay home and help her with all this stuff for my cousin’s wedding,” Riley goes on, grabbing a menu and scanning it slowly, unaware of Peter’s huge internal sigh of relief. “Did you know there were different shades of white?”
“Tough break,” Peter says, laughing, and grabs Riley a soda from the fridge. “Want to hang tomorrow? I have an assignment to finish tonight but you could come over for breakfast before school?
“Sure,” Riley says, grinning. “Anything to escape the dramas of wedding planning.”
“I come bearing juice,” Riley says when Peter opens the door for him, kicking off his shoes next to the front mat and dropping onto the couch perfectly at home. It makes something hot and pleasant settle in Peter’s chest, and he has to shake himself to dislodge it.
“Awesome. Bacon and eggs okay?”
“Dude,” Riley says, “anything that’s not my mom’s health food cereal crap is more than okay.”
“Great,” Peter says. “Give me ten.”
When Peter comes back with their plates, juice glasses balanced precariously under one arm, Riley’s snoring lighting, his head turned into the couch cushions and his arms crossed loosely over his chest.
The way Peter’s heart constricts is actually painful.
“Hey,” he says quietly. “Wake up. Food’s done.”
“Huh?” Riley says, blinking up at him. “Oh, right. Sorry. Thanks.”
“Late night?” Peter asks, digging in to his own food and watching the way Riley seems to attack his with gusto.
“Just not a morning person I guess,” Riley says and Peter’s imagination begins to take him places he really wishes it wouldn’t right now.
They’re pretty much silent until their plates are wiped clean and the juice is all gone, and Peter knows all too well how easy it would be to get used to this.
“Look,” Riley says after they’ve dumped the dishes in the sink. “I just wanted to say thanks for helping me with the studying and listening and everything.”
“S’what friends are for,” Peter says, bumping his fist into Riley’s shoulder and wishing the smile on his face didn’t seem quite so fake.
“Yeah,” Riley says, “but, you know, some friends wouldn’t.”
And Peter’s suddenly struck with how much and how little Riley’s changed; he’s still the same lost guy who doesn’t know where he fits in, only now he’s trying to work out how to be that guy alone, and Peter –
Peter kisses him.
They’re the same people in the same place but it’s not really familiar; too much time has passed, too much stuff has happened, and Peter can barely remember who he was back then and at the surprised noise Riley makes Peter wonders if he’d want to if he could.
He wraps his hands in Riley’s shirt, pulls him closer and feels the way Riley’s mouth – jeez, Riley’s mouth – moves under his. Riley’s broader than him, has more muscle, and it’s an odd sensation to feel firm skin beneath his hands when Peter’s used to curves but not as weird as he’d though it’d be.
“I have to go,” Riley says after a moment, pulling away.
“No,” Peter says, and he can feel the way his heart drops. It’s too late, Riley doesn’t feel the same way he used to, Peter waited too long and now –
“My exam’s in, like, twenty minutes. If I don’t leave now I’m going to be late.”
“Oh,” Peter laughs. “Oh. Yeah, go.”
“Wait, you thought I was ditching you?” Riley asks, brow furrowed.
“No,” Peter says. “Maybe.”
Riley rolls his eyes. “You’re so stupid.”
“Yeah,” Peter says. “So I’ve been told.”
Riley grabs his bag, shoves his feet into his shoes and struggles into his jacket.
“I’ll see you later?” he says on his way out the door, and he sounds uncertain, like Peter wasn’t the one to take the first step this time and hope that Riley felt the same way too, like he’s still unsure of what that means.
“Yes,” Peter says. “Definitely. Now go, and good luck!”
As the door closes behind him, Peter laughs at how much it echoes and contradicts who they used to be.
Peter’s pretty much spent the afternoon sitting on his hands, waiting for his phone to ring, and he’s so lost in that that the knock on his door makes him jump.
“Hey,” Riley grins when he opens it.
“How’d it go?” Peter asks, and he wants to touch him so much it feels like an actual itch in his fingertips.
“Pretty good,” Riley says, shutting the door behind himself.
“Yeah?” Peter says, taking a step forward until they’re almost, almost touching.
“Yeah,” Riley says, and he smiles at Peter, a new sort of smile filled with mischief and promises that makes heat flood through Peter’s veins. “I thought we could celebrate.”
Peter thinks that might be the best idea he’s heard in months.