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how we live now

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It's only a couple of hours but it manages to feel like pretty much the longest couple of hours of Charlie O'Brien's life. He's spent his entire life avoiding ending up in exactly this position, watching a lot of his mates bend over backwards to conform to some stupid fucking stereotype. In school, he was the kind of kid who stayed out of trouble. He played rugby and football. He took girls to the pictures and then talked to their dads about West Ham. He loved being a copper and his nan was so fucking proud of him.

His nan's still proud of him. Maybe.
Even after this.

Charlie hates small spaces. He hates the windowless breathlessness of it. The inevitability. he was never, ever going to end up like this.



In the back of the car, his hands are still shaking finely. Jack and Jess aren't paying attention. Tom reaches out and hooks one finger around the base of Charlie's thumb, just for a second, before he lets him go.

He settles down by the time they leave the base but, by then, they've already decided without having to discuss it.

Wherever they go, they're going together.


Tom's place isn't exactly what Charlie was expecting. Honestly, he doesn't know what he was expecting, but it wasn't this small, modern place with fairylights wrapped around the furniture and framed nerd posters on the walls. Charlie's used to his nan's house (a shoebox, but beautifully decorated - they might not have that much but his nan's always been proud. Like a lot of women of her generation, she knows the difference between poor and low).

Tom's place is open plan and clean, a wide, low bed visible through an open door, the bathroom beyond that.

"What?" says Tom, in the process of shrugging out of his hoodie.
"I dunno," says Charlie, caught in the act of picking up a model spaceship (he thinks it's either Trek or Wars, but he wouldn't want to make a guess). "Just realising that I don't know that much about you, I guess."
"Ah, but that's the point, isn't it?" asks Tom, tugging his shirt up over his head and dropping it on the floor. "Got to maintain the eternal, glorious mystery."

In the low-light from the lamp, Tom is pretty fucking gorgeous, ruffled hair and all of that bare skin. He steps in, closing the distance between them and Charlie finds that his hands are still trembling. Tom grabs both of them, threads their fingers together and holds on tight before he leans in and kisses Charlie, firmly on the mouth. Charlie's very aware of still being fully dressed, his chest pressed against Tom's bare skin.

"It's okay," says Tom, murmurs, tip of his nose brushing against Charlie's cheek. "I've got you, okay? You're safe with me."

There's a part of Charlie that feels like he ought to argue with that, assert himself, somehow. Of course he's okay. It was only a couple of hours. But his hands are still shaking and, somehow, the primitive fear of being locked away and forgotten won't leave him.

So he just swallows and nods and leans into Tom's touch. He can't explain it - he doesn't really want to. He's glad that, somehow, Tom seems to understand.

They fumble their way towards bed. Charlie never went to to University and he's pretty sure that Tom didn't, either, but, somehow, he'd still been imagining some kind of student pit with take-away boxes and sheets that hadn't been changed in recent memory. Somewhat surprisingly, Tom's bed is wide and white with patchwork thrown across the foot and too many pillows.

"What?" says Tom, catching him looking. "Sleeping is pretty much my favourite thing."

Charlie has literally never been less interested in sleep.

Tom takes over. He unbuckles Charlie's belt slowly, pulling it off his trousers one loop at a time. Charlie's already intensely aware of his cock, the snugness of his jeans, the closeness of Tom's bare skin. He lifts his arms and Tom drags his shirt up over his head, leans in and presses a trio of kisses against Charlie's bare collarbone.

"C'mon, mate," says Tom, unbuttoning Charlie's jeans and pushing them down towards the floor. "I know exactly what you need."

It's weird - trusting someone this much, this completely. Especially when it's someone like TomTom.

But here they are.

Charlie stretches out on his back on Tom's insanely comfortable bed - naked, waiting, until Tom squirms out of his trousers and then swings his knee across Charlie's thighs, straddling him. Charlie finds himself distracted by the flat of Tom's belly, the arch of his cock. Charlie's broader through the shoulders, maybe, but Tom's chest is solid and smooth. Tom leans down to kiss Charlie, an arm on the pillow on either side of his head. It's a slow, sloppy sort of kiss, the sort of kiss you give someone you're sure of, someone you know you want to crawl inside of and stay. Slowly, carefully, Tom guides Charlie's up over his head, presses them against the pillow. Charlie arches an eyebrow.

Tom grins.
"Trust me," he says.

Millions wouldn't.
But Charlie leaves his hands where they are.

They kiss for another few moments. Charlie's had no shortage of girls (and boys) in his bed but he doesn't think he's ever been kissed like this, never so untidy and yet completely sincere. Tom's skin is insanely hot against his, the flats of thighs, his hands against Charlie's chest.

"C'mon," says Charlie. "You can fuck me."
He wants it. Possibly more than he's ever wanted anything else. His fingers twitch, but he doesn't move his hands. Just knowing that Tom put them there specifically is enough to make his cock twitch.

"Wait," says Tom. He grins and then he scrambles off the bed. "Just wait. Don't move."

He doesn't, not an inch. He just lies there, hands up over his head, breathing shallowly as he watches Tom move around the room, watches Tom pluck a scarf off a hook on the wall.

"Yes!" he says, stretching it between his hands. "This'll do."
"What do you think you're going to do with that?" asks Charlie, as Tom swings his legs back across him, settling himself back down. He leans forward and slips the scarf across Charlie's eyes.

"Just breathe," he says.

The blindfold (it's his first time) is disorientating, little bit weird. He's more aware of Tom, of the rhythm of his breathing, of everywhere they're touching. It's not like he doesn't trust Tom completely; he'd trust Tom with his life. He lies still and tries to breathe as Tom moves over him, fingers ghosting against his sides, the insides of his spread thighs. When Tom bends over him and just breathes across his cock, Charlie swallows back a moan but only just.

What the blindfold does is narrow his focus - suddenly, all that he's aware of is Tom, and it's like the last twelve hours just melt away. He's nothing but hot skin and heartbeat and want. He's shrunk down to his most useful size, aware of nothing so much of his cock and the fabric of the pillow against the backs of his fingers and every, single time that Tom's skin brushes against his.

Behind the blindfold, he closes his eyes and breathes.


He ends up with his legs hitched high, spread wide to frame Tom's thighs. Pressed deep, Tom gives him a moment to adjust. It's been a while and Tom's cock feels almost too big. It's all that he can think about.

(He's not about to say that to Tom. Tom's impossible to deal with at the best of times. Tom's already got enough self-confidence for both of them).

But it does feel good. It feels so fucking good.

His fingers itch to touch Tom but he leaves his hands where they are and, instead, imagines it - sliding the flats of his palms over Tom's freckled shoulders, down to his narrow waist, grabbing his arse to pull him even closer. Charlie works out, works hard for what he looks like; Tom is narrower, leaner, and Charlie would be lying if he said that he didn't love the way Tom feels under his hands.

His fingers curl loosely into fists that have nothing to do with hate.

Tom fucks him slowly, carefully. It feels like their hearts are almost beating in time. It helps, somehow, feeling that in sync with someone else. He's felt this before with Tom. It occurs to him that this is, maybe, what being in love feels like.

It helps, too, to be reminded that the last twelves hour haven't changed anything. Not anything fundamental, anyway.

Tom can't keep up that slow, aching pace for long though - he loses himself a little bit and Charlie feels it happen. He groans softly, rhythmically, every thrust coaxing a new sound out of him. His fingers flex and relax, still against the pillow, but then Tom kisses him and Charlie sighs against his mouth.

He comes first, a beat or two ahead of Tom, so he watches Tom's face as he gets closer and closer, as something inside him winds tighter and tighter and then he comes, head falling forward until his forehead rests against Charlie's lips and everything is still except the tremble of Tom's shoulders. Charlie finally moves. He lifts his hand off the pillow - one of them rests against's Tom's side, hand pressed against his ribs and the other catches the back of his neck. It feels like those two points of contact (three, those three points of contact, because Tom's still pressed inside him, unwilling to move) are all that's holding the world together.

"You could stay, if you want," says Tom, coming back to bed still naked, pressing himself in against Charlie's side. They're starting to get comfortable like this, starting to know where they fit properly. Tom's fingers play idly against Charlie's skin, low on his belly, tapping like they're resting against keys. Like he could hack Charlie like he hacks everything else, crack him open, understand him one line at a time.

Which wouldn't be so bad.

He shakes his head.

"I just want to lie here for a bit," he murmurs, pressing his nose against the pillow, threading his fingers with Tom's and pulling his hand in close. What he figures will happen is he'll end up going back into work, sooner or later - because the idea of Jack sitting on his own is kind of unbearable but, right now, he doesn't want to be anywhere but here.

"I'm gonna take a shower," says Tom, but Charlie shakes his head.
"Don't. Not yet."

It seems almost miraculous when Tom's head hits the pillow again.
It's enough.

(The one thing that he's sure of is that he could do this forever. Not this exactly, not indefinitely, but he wouldn't ever want to be more than a couple of steps from here).