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KH AU:: Through Thick and Thin Ch. 2

Chapter 2 of the epic DilAel college AU bromance, featuring Dilan/Rudol and Aeleus/Ienzo. Enter Lumaria and L'Erena. They're such a fun lot to write about. I'm having a blast with this.

The chapter that I'm really excited for, though, is Ch. 4, so hopefully Ch. 3 will go smoothly enough that I can start working on the fourth chapter, which is when things really start to get exciting. But I have a feeling that smut is going to work its way into Ch. 3, so we'll see how long that takes me. xD Sex scenes are a challenge to write, put it that way.

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"You owe him how much? Rudy, where the hell do you think you're going to come up with all that money?"

It was the day after he had joined forces with Dilan and Aeleus in crashing the Zeta Beta Tau frat party, and Rudol was spending his Thursday afternoon the same way that he always did: hanging out on the lawn outside the College of Arts and Sciences. Like every other Tuesday and Thursday after his Probability and Statistics class (which he actually quite enjoyed; he had always had a bit of an aptitude for numbers, but clearly this talent did not extend to managing his own finances, as past events had shown), he met up with his two closest friends, L'Erena and Lumaria, after their respective classes had adjourned. Unlike most days, however, Rudol had important news to share. He confided in them the secret of his gambling debts, and judging by L'Erena's reaction, they weren't taking it well.

"I hadn't quite gotten to that yet," he admitted, scratching his head.

Lumaria looked up from where he was manicuring his nails, bright blue eyes peering out from beneath cotton-candy pink fringe. "And I suppose you want us to help you pay it back?" he said, unable to hide the vestiges of skepticism in his voice.

Rudol cast him a wounded look. "Of course not. What kind of friend do you take me for?"

Lumaria merely hummed noncommittally, as if he knew something that the other didn't.

"Look, I can admit that I'm not the most… scrupulous of people, but I haven't sunk quite that low, thank you. Give me some credit, at least. And it's really not that big of a deal," Rudol maintained. "I've won more than that before. You two are blowing this way out of proportion. I'll just have to step up my game, that's all." He attempted to use the same weak argument he had conceived last night to try and convince himself that the amount of money he owed was nothing. He had managed to delude himself into believing that it was true, but unlike himself, his two closest friends didn't appear to be buying it.

L'Erena and Lumaria exchanged glances. "Or you could get a job," L'Erena said.

"There's an opening at the nursery I work at just outside the city," Lumaria added. "I could put in a good word for you." He brightened up and clapped his hands together excitedly. "We can be coworkers! It'll be fun!"

"Sorry, mate, but babysitting plants all day doesn't sound too appealing to me," Rudol said breezily. "Manual labor isn't really my thing."
Lumaria deflated somewhat. "Well, I like it…" he muttered.

"Besides it's not like I have time for a job anyway." Rudol snorted at the thought. It was inconceivable to him. "No, I'll just do what I do best. A coupla games and a bit of luck, and I'll be golden."

"Yet you have time to gamble away all of your life's savings," L'Erena pointed out, leaning forward on her elbows and fixing him with a look.

"Would you quit nagging? I have it all under control," Rudol said, annoyance marring his voice. It was starting to aggravate him, this apparent lack of confidence that the two of them had in him. They were his best, and perhaps his only, friends. He had a multitude of acquaintances and casual buddies, but Lumaria and L'Erena were the only two who knew (and accepted) everything about him, flaws and all. However, that didn't keep him from being exasperated by their well-intentioned slights.

L'Erena gave up and didn't press the matter further. "Fine, whatever," she said. "Look, I'm busy tonight, but I'll come with you on Friday night when you go out to keep you from doing anything stupid. Like losing even more money because you don't know when to stop."

"I know perfectly well when to stop," Rudol retorted indignantly. "Just because you're afraid to take a gamble every now and then doesn't mean that I must as well."

Lumaria sighed, blowing his bangs out of his eyes. "Just promise you won't do anything foolish, 'kay? Pinky promise?" he asked, holding out his pinky fingers expectantly.

"And I'm coming anyway," L'Erena reminded him. "Deal?" She hooked her finger with Lumaria's and held up her left pinky for Rudol to take.

"Deal." The three of them interlocked pinkies and shook on it.

The touching moment was soon interrupted by the sound of a cell phone vibrating, and the three broke apart and automatically reached for their respective phones. Rudol's turned out to be the culprit, and he flipped it open to find a text message from Dilan.

Dude, where did you disappear to last night? We couldn't find you anywhere.

Ooh. Yeah. After being abducted by an irritated bookie and his gang and finding out that he owed upwards of $1500, he'd forgotten all about Dilan. Well, it wasn't like he didn't have an excuse, he reasoned as he texted him back, fingers flying expertly over the keyboard.

Well, I always have been good at hide-and-go-seek. Maybe you just suck at finding me.

Dilan's response was near immediate; clearly, he also had his phone on hand.

I never liked hide-and-go-seek.

Rudol grinned to himself.

What, is tag more your thing? I'll be at the coffee shop at 3:00 sharp. Catch me if you can.

You're on.

Then let the games begin.

He ended his text with a virtual wink and snapped his phone shut, looking up at his two friends. "Well, I'm off," he said airily and climbed to his feet. "Got a coffee date." He slung his book bag over his shoulder and lifted his hand in farewell. "Catch you later."

"Yup, see you around."

"Bye, Rudy!"

The two of them watched as Rudol left, ducking around the corner to head for the local café. Once he was out of earshot, L'Erena heaved a dramatic sigh and looked up at Lumaria, who appeared to be upside-down from her vantage point where she was sprawled out on the grass.

"Lulu, what are we going to do with this kid?"

"I haven't a clue," he replied, studiously examining his thumb. "There's not much we can do other than be there for him, since he's clearly not listening to our advice. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Who knows, maybe he'll surprise us and win it all back, and that'll be the end of that. Do you have a nail file I can borrow?" L'Erena gave him a look. "Never mind, stupid question. You know, Rennie, you should really let me do your nails. Your cuticles are horrendous. No wonder you haven't found a girl yet." He critically eyed her hand.

"I really don't think that girls are going to care about my cuticles, of all things," L'Erena said, rolling her eyes.

"Well, you should at least get rid of that hideous, chipped yellow nail polish. It's so not flattering."

"Lulu?"  

"Mmm?"

"Shut up."

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To be honest, Dilan was feeling a small twinge of regret over the way he had left last night's frat party without finding Rudol first. Although, in all fairness, Rudol was the one who disappeared without a trace and never bothered to find him afterwards. But still, he felt kind of like an ass for not even texting him until just thirty minutes ago. Now, he glanced down the street, keeping an eye out for the telltale sign for Good Karma, the relatively undiscovered hangout place favored by those who didn't care for the chain corporations that dominated the city. Good Karma was a small, local coffee house tucked away in the corner of a relatively quiet street, an unusual setting in the bustling city. It had an artsy, bohemian vibe about it that Dilan didn't normally go for, but Rudol chose it, and he wasn't about to argue. Besides, he owed him an apology anyways.

Fortunately, it appeared that Rudol bore no grudges. Dilan stepped into the tiny café, the bell attached to the swinging door jingling merrily, to find him sitting at a small table and playing with his phone, his chair tipped back as if he had nary a care in the world. The blond glanced up and beamed at him, sending his chair back on all fours with a bang and tossing his cell phone back into his bag.

"So, we meet again," he greeted.

"Yup," Dilan agreed, taking a seat in the comfortable chair opposite him. "Listen," he began, wanting to get the awkwardness that came with apologizing over with, "sorry about leaving like that last night without even finding out where you were first."

Rudol blinked at him, then laughed in surprise. "Why are you sorry? If anything, it's my fault, not yours."

Well, at least he didn't take any offense to the fact that his boyfriend essentially chose Aeleus over him, which made Dilan feel a little better. Rudol always had been easygoing and not easily ruffled. He opened his mouth to reply when a waitress sauntered up to them, pulling out a pad of paper and a pen from her apron.

"G'afternoon, boys," she said cheerfully. "What can I get you today?"

"I'll have a milky way mocha cappuccino. Extra cinnamon, if you have it."

"Just plain black coffee, thanks."

  She jotted down both of their orders and, sticking her pen through the loose bun of red hair piled on top of her head, bustled over to the next table with the promise of a quick delivery.

Dilan and Rudol eyed each other.

"Bore."

"Pussy."

"Honestly, I don't understand how you can drink plain black coffee. It's disgusting and far too bitter." Rudol pulled a face.

"Dude. That's not even coffee you're drinking, it's a freakin' melted candy bar in a cup!"

"Well, then I suppose we'll just have to agree to disagree on the matter."

"Works for me. But yeah, what happened last night anyway? You were right behind me, then I looked back and you were gone."

"Yeah, sorry about that. Some guy that I know literally pulled me away. Couldn't find you afterward 'cause it was too damn crowded. I gave up in the end and just left." Rudol waved a dismissive hand, evading the topic and avoiding details. Instead, he quickly changed the subject. "So, how did the great heist go? Were you successful?"

Sufficiently distracted, Dilan forgot his original question and broke out into a grin. "Hell yeah."

As he recounted their exploits, the waitress returned with their respective coffees and left the bill on the decoupaged table surface. Rudol sipped his cappuccino, savoring the sweet, foamy drink, which tasted of mocha coffee, chocolate, caramel, and the faintest trace of cinnamon. Heaven. "This," he pronounced dramatically, "is an orgasm in a cup."

Dilan rolled his eyes and chose not to comment, instead taking a sip of his own black coffee. None of that overly sweet, disgusting crap for him, thanks. He preferred his coffee strong and slightly bitter, as a man's drink should be.

Rudol set his porcelain cup back down on the table and frowned at the receipt, his brow furrowing slightly. "Hang on," he said, digging around in his messenger bag for some cash to pay his half of the tab. "I know my wallet's in here somewhere…" Unable to find it, he sighed and moved his cappuccino so that he could empty his bag on the table to search for it more thoroughly. A year's worth of debris spilled out, including two handfuls of condoms, a multitude of rumpled papers, and several boxes of cigarettes in varying stages of use.

Dilan raised an eyebrow and picked up one of the thin foil packets. "Jesus, Rudy. Got enough condoms here? S'not like I don't have any of my own, you know."

"I'm a regular Boy Scout," Rudol answered, shuffling through a pile of papers. "Always be prepared. Anyways, you know that the Planned Parenthood reps are always near the plaza handing out samples at the end of the week. I like freebies."

Dilan grunted in comprehension and watched as Rudol continued to pick through the mountain of junk he had accumulated. A black leather playing-card case caught his eye, and he picked it up, interested. He opened it and tipped out a pack of cellophane-encased cards into his hand. "Huh," he said, turning it over to look at it. "How come these aren't opened?"

"Hmm?" Rudol looked up from his search, and his eyes widened. "Don't open those!" he hissed, lunging across the table to snatch them out of his hands and very nearly knocking over his coffee in the process. "That's a mint-condition deck of Jerry's Nugget playing cards, still in their cello wrapper," he whispered reverently.

Dilan blinked at him, uncomprehending. "So?"

Rudol nearly had a conniption. "So? You— you just don't even know— you don't even know just how much these cards are worth. They were made back in the '70s and nothing today can even begin to compare to them." He shook the deck of cards to make his point. "Jerry's Nugget playing cards were made on thick, one of a kind pasteboards, embossed, and finished with a dip coat technique. Not only are they rare, but they're also incredibly high quality. Opening them, let alone using them is practically a crime against nature."

"Then… if you never use them, why do you carry them around? What's the point of even having them?"

Rudol gaped at him. "Spoken like a true heretic. I have plenty of other decks of decent-quality cards to use, but these are my baby. Every collector's dream." He gazed wistfully at his most prized possession and carefully slipped them back into their leather case. "But I suppose people like you wouldn't understand, because to you, everything has to have a practical purpose."

"Okay, okay, forget I said anything." Dilan lifted his hands in defeat. "How the hell do you even know all of this?"

"I am a veritable fountain of information when it comes to this sort of thing, Dilan."

"Your parents must be so proud." Dilan smirked.

"Oh, I'm sure they are. Of course, my mum would rather that I devote more time to my studies, but what does she know? You only live once; might as well enjoy it."

Dilan laughed softly. "Heh. Maybe if you did what your mommy tells you, you wouldn't have bombed that last midterm we took."

"Well, that is hardly my fault," Rudol said indignantly. "How the bloody hell am I supposed to remember fifty Hindu words off the top of my head, let alone be able to apply them to a multitude of concepts like that?"

Before Dilan could answer with a suitable quip, Rudol's phone went off, blaring loudly.

"I want your psycho, your vertigo stick. Want you in my rear window, baby you're sick. I want your love. Love, love, love—" Rudol scrabbled for his phone and quickly snatched it up, holding up his middle finger in response to Dilan's uncontrollable snickering. "Hullo?" he answered, turning to the side for a bit of privacy. "Oh, hey Lulu. Grabbing a cuppa coffee.  Why? What do you mean Even— Okay, okay, calm down," he said, attempting to override a hysterical Lumaria. "Look, I'll be right over. Yeah. Yes. Right, see you in a few. Bye." He hung up, shaking his head.

"Nice ringtone," Dilan commented, still smirking. "It suits you well."

"Oh, shut up, would you? It's catchy. And you wouldn't know good music if it slapped you in the face. Lady Gaga is revolutionary."

"Whatever you say, Rudy," he answered in a placating tone.

"Precisely. Now, I hate to cut this short, but I really have to split. My friend's having a personal crisis." He rolled his eyes to show his unwillingness to leave. "And after all that, I still can't find my fucking wallet. I must have left it behind earlier…" he mulled, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "Tch. Now what on earth am I supposed to do?" He stared at the price total on the bill and bit his lip.

"Never mind, I got it." Dilan stepped in, pulling out his own wallet to pay for Rudol's coffee.

Rudol's face lit up. "Really? You're a lifesaver, thank you." He finished sweeping the rest of the junk that littered the table back into his book bag and leaned in to kiss Dilan on the cheek. "I'll make it up to you," he whispered in his ear and winked, still grinning from ear-to-ear.      

Dilan watched the blond's retreating back as he left, the door to the café swinging behind him. He paid for his drink and Rudol's and stood up, the chair scraping against the floor. He genuinely didn't mind paying for Rudy's coffee as well as his own, but he was starting to run low on cash. He'd have to make a pit stop at the ATM to withdraw some funds from his savings account. He sighed, tossed a two dollar tip on the table for the redheaded waitress, and began the long trek to the bank.

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The quick trip to the ATM turned into a small marathon of miscellaneous chores, including a quick trip to the grocery store to restock the fridge – dining hall food got boring after a while, even to those with bottomless pits for stomachs such as himself and Aeleus who would gladly eat any dish served (asides from the vegan entrées; he drew the line at tofu). Finally, three-and-a-half-hours after he first met up with Rudol, Dilan was able to plop down on the sofa and flip through the channels of their small, 14" television for something interesting to watch. Landing upon what he considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time, he clasped his hands behind his head and sat back to watch Fight Club. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, someone knocked at the door at that very moment.

Dilan grumbled and hit the mute button on the remote, calling out irritably, "It's open!" The door was unlocked, and he was too lazy to get up and answer it properly.

The door swung open tentatively, and Rudol poked his head into the room. "Is this how you always greet your guests?" he inquired.

"Nice to see you too, Rudy."

A smile played on Rudol's lips as he crossed the threshold. "Hi," he said, approaching the couch where Dilan was sitting. "Sorry for abandoning you earlier like that. It was an emergency of the romantic variety."

"Yeah?" Dilan scooted over to make room for his boyfriend to curl up next to him on the couch.

"Mmm. I really should stop responding to Lulu's periodic freak-outs. He's one of my best friends, but he's too sensitive for his own good and that, coupled with a moody geek of a boyfriend who exhibits signs of PMS, leads to a lot of fights. Which means that Rennie and I have to be there for him with a tub of strawberry ice-cream when he gets into these states." His lips twisted into an odd smile as he mindlessly played with the piercing in his left earlobe.

"That's nice of you," Dilan said, perfectly aware that he was being woefully inarticulate. Still, he felt strangely touched that Rudol chose to share this piece of his life with him; the blond never was one to talk much about such personal matters, and confiding in Dilan about his relationship with his friend was a rare, significant encounter.

"Yeah," Rudol said. "But that's what friends are for, right? At least this had a happy ending. Last I heard, the two of them were snogging in the hallway by the elevators. Lulu has no shame."

Dilan snorted. "Like you do."

Rudol flashed him a grin. "At least I can admit it," he said cheerfully. "But on a different note, what're your plans for the weekend?"

"No clue." He shrugged. Most plans weren't made until the morning before; neither he nor Aeleus were big on long-term planning. "I'm free whenever, if that's what you're asking. You?"

"Can't do tomorrow night," Rudol said and reached into his pocket for a pack of Marlboros. "I'm playing Blackjack with the boys. But I'll text you when I'm available, yeah?"

"Sure." Dilan watched as Rudol tapped the carton against the palm of his hand, tipping out a single cigarette. "Don't even think about it," he warned. "If you blaze up in here and the smoke detector goes off, I'm kicking you out."

"Relax, I wasn't going to actually light it," Rudol replied, smoothly sliding the cigarette back into its package. "Anyways, is Aeleus home?" he inquired casually, eyes scanning the small, cramped apartment.

"Nah, he's still stuck in class."

"Excellent." Rudol grinned widely. "Because I've come to collect on that little I.O.U. of yours."

Dilan smirked and folded his arms, leaning back into the couch. "Oh yeah? Let's hear it."

"Well," Rudol drawled, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "Payment through oral gratification has always been an idea that appealed to me. So," he concluded, dropping his voice conspiratorially, "I want you to suck me off."

"I'm all for it, but I'm gonna have to take a rain check on that one. Aeleus gets out at 7:00, and it's 6:55 right now."

"I can be quick."

"Sorry, Rudy, but I'm not about to risk getting caught. It's not all about the sex, you know."

Rudol looked thoroughly put out for a split second, as if he was going to argue, but the expression vanished before it could register in Dilan's mind. "Oh, fine. But I still owe you for leaving you with the bill earlier. Can I make it up to you with a kiss, and we'll call it even?" He gave him a lopsided smile, and Dilan could feel himself yielding.

"I think I can handle that," he answered and leaned in, sealing the distance between the two of them.

Of course, with Rudol, a kiss was never just a kiss. He never did things halfway, whether it was impulsively deciding to get a new piercing, cleaning up at poker, or, yes, kissing. With him, it was all or nothing, and the next thing Dilan knew, Rudol had pulled him down on top of him, and they were kissing as a gun fired soundlessly and shouts went unheard on the muted television screen in front of them.

Unfortunately, giving it his all also meant that Rudol was liable to casually slide his hands down the other's back and cop a feel, and Dilan had to move his groping hands when they strayed into forbidden territory, as prudish as it made him feel. It wasn't as if he didn't want it—god, no, he wanted it more than anything else at the moment, but he knew, he just knew that if Rudol went there, he'd give into the temptation and end up going further than he should. He wouldn't be able to rein himself in, and the last thing he wanted was for Aeleus to come home to find his roommate and his boyfriend banging on the couch. He had too much dignity for that.

"Okay," Dilan said, pulling away. "Okay. Time for you to get going. Ae'll be back in a few."

"Fine," Rudol relented, stretching out catlike on the couch before swinging himself up into a seated position. "If you insist." He leaned over Dilan, one hand teasing at the bottom of his shirt.  "But, you know, I'm sure Aeleus wouldn't mind steering clear of the bedroom for fifteen minutes or so…"

Dilan playfully smacked him on the ass with a roll of his eyes and jerked his head at the door. "Oh, get out of here," he said, but he couldn't help but crack a smile.

"Alright, alright, I see you're eager to be rid of me." Rudol hopped off of the couch and slung his bag over his shoulder. "But, hey, you know where to find me if you change your mind…" He began walking backwards to the door, raising his eyebrows suggestively and lifting his hand to his ear to mimic a phone. "Call me," he mouthed, a predatory smile on his face, before finally leaving the room.

The door shut behind him with a click. Dilan shook his head despairingly and resumed watching the satisfying ending of the movie. The credits had just started rolling when Aeleus arrived home, carrying a bag of fast food. Sitting in a three hour lecture that cut into dinnertime with no food allowed in the lecture hall was, to say the least, brutal.

"Yo, Aeleus–" Dilan began, but stopped when he caught sight of the look on Aeleus's face. He had been friends with Aeleus long enough to know when something was wrong, and the tenseness in his actions and the way his brows knit together were a clear indicator that he wasn't in the best of moods. Dilan frowned. "What's up?"

"Nothing," Aeleus grumbled and pulled his dinner out of the paper bag. He'd already eaten the majority of his French fries on his way home and now took a large bite of his cheeseburger. "Just some stupid thing that happened with Ienzo earlier."

"Trouble in paradise?" Dilan joined Aeleus, pulling out one of the three chairs at the tiny kitchen table and straddling it.

"You could say that."

"Tough break, man," Dilan said sympathetically. "You gonna eat that?" He pointed at the remainder of the French fries. Aeleus shook his head and slid the grease-stained container across the table. "What happened, anyway?"

"Like I said, it was stupid." He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "So, I had stopped by Ienzo's room before class to say hi – and wipe that fucking smirk off your face, I know what you're thinking – when some Flaming Oceans song comes on the radio. So he runs over to the radio to turn it up, which kind of pisses me off because, dude, we were busy. Then I tell him, 'Sometimes I think you like that Myde guy more than me. Why don't you just go run off into his arms then?'" He paused to bite into his burger again.

"Yeah?" Dilan prompted, shoving another fry in his mouth.

"Yeah, so he just flips his hair and goes, 'Oh, please.'" His voice took on a sarcastic tone as he mimicked, "'As if the great Myde, lead singer of Flaming Oceans would ever notice someone like me. Besides, if the tabloids are right, he's already found himself a flame.'" He dropped the mocking voice and scowled. "Not what I wanted to hear. Who the fuck says that to their boyfriend?"

"I never liked the kid," Dilan said through a mouthful of fries. "Listen, Rudy's busy tomorrow night. I'll buy you a drink."

"Can't," Aeleus said dully. "I've got a ten page paper due by midnight tomorrow night and I haven't even started writing it yet. I'm gonna be living in the library the whole fucking night."

"Damn. That sucks." Dilan finished off the last of the fries. "Okay, about Ienzo: stick it out, man," he advised. "It was a dick move of him to pull, yeah, and I don't like him that much, but you do. Everyone's got their flaws, and he probably didn't even realize that he was being a total ass about it." It took him every ounce of willpower he possessed to refrain from making a comment about why this was, implying that Ienzo was an antisocial freak, but his self-control prevailed. "See how it goes, and talk to him if it still bothers you later."

"Wow," Aeleus mused. "That was actually kind of deep. I didn't know you had that much of a brain."

"Shut up, asshole. Are you finishing that burger or not?"