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Someone knocked on the door.

He's here. Immediately, Delsin's heart leapt to his throat. He must have had some deer in the headlights expression to match his thoughts because Fetch took one look at him and rolled her eyes.

"Want me to get it?" she offered, hopping off the couch.

"No, I can—" Delsin started, standing.

But Fetch was already walking away, curiosity and excitement gleaming in her eyes. 

"Too late!" she sang, and then she disappeared around the corner.

Uncertainly, Delsin hovered above his seat, unsure if he should sit and look casual when Desmond came in, or if he should be standing. Would that be weird? Was it already weird since he wasn't answering the door? Would sitting down make him look like an asshole?

"Hey, welcome!" he heard Fetch greet. "You must be Desmond! Delsin's told us so much about you," Fetch said, the shit-eating grin on her face audible. 

Delsin's scowl dropped from his face at the sound of Desmond's voice.

"Thanks," Desmond said warmly, sounding amused. "Nice to meet you...?"

"Everyone calls me Fetch. Don't ask."

Hm. Maybe I should just make a run for it. Delsin wasn't even sure where this sudden bout of nerves was coming from. It felt so high school to be this hung up on the fact that Desmond was about to be in his living room, in his home, but he couldn't help it. He really, really liked him.

Eugene was watching him and Delsin's panic was causing a mirror expression on his face. 

"Be cool," Eugene hissed, like the secondhand embarrassment was manifesting itself physically between them. 

"I know, you're right." 

Delsin heaved a deep sigh to steady himself and rose to his full height. "I'm cool. I'm totally cool," he said quietly, pumping himself up. 

Fetch rounded the corner in the next second, eyes knowing as they alighted on Delsin, enough so that he had to resist the urge to give her a noogie. 

"Your guest brought company," she announced, stepping further into the living room with a grand gesture behind her.

Desmond came around the partition and Delsin didn't think he imagined the way his entire expression brightened. 

God, I love him. 

Behind Desmond, two people came close to flank him, looking around at their surroundings curiously, drinks in hand. Although, they weren't complete strangers; Delsin recognized them as the two who alternated picking Desmond up from work. He'd always seen them at a distance, but this was going to be the first time he officially met Desmond's roommates.

They were certainly a pair. Not to say that they were crazy in appearance, but between the girl with the headphones, dressed in stream-lined, athletic wear and the red-head, posh and with a mild expression on his face as he considered them all with a cool gaze, altogether they looked less like a group of friends and more like the random people who were only in the same place when they were riding a bus or in line for coffee. 

Desmond gave a little wave that had no business being as cute as it was. "Hey," he said.

Just the sight of him chased Delsin's nerves away, replaced with a wave of fondness so strong he felt momentarily paralyzed by it. 

"Hey," Delsin returned, smiling. He gestured behind him. "Make yourself at home. Mi casa es su casa and all that."

"Thanks," the girl said happily, stepping forward with her hand outstretched. Delsin shook it, surprised by how hard her grip was. "I'm Rebecca, the fun one."

"The deluded one, perhaps," the red-head said, revealing a surprising British accent. He didn't offer a hand, only adjusted his glasses as he met first Delsin's eyes, then Fetch and Eugene's. "I'm Shaun, the only one with common sense in our happy troupe."

"The dramatic one," Desmond clarified with a teasing smile.

"I believe you have me confused with yourself, Desmond."

Shaun stepped away to where Rebecca was introducing herself to Fetch and Delsin used the opportunity to sidle close to Desmond, who greeted him with an apologetic smile.

"Sorry for inviting people over to your place without asking," he said, chagrined. "They kind of insisted..."

Delsin shrugged easily and took Desmond's hand in his. "Hey, the more the merrier, right?"

"Glad you think so!" Rebecca interrupted cheerfully, flouncing back to Desmond's side. "It didn't really matter how you felt about it since we were coming anyway, but it's nice to know the welcome mat extends to us, too."

Beside him, Desmond groaned, covering his face with his gloved hand. "Rebecca..."

"Appalling manners aside, we didn't come empty-handed." Shaun held up the paper-bagged bottle in his hands and pulled out something brown and expensive-looking. Rebecca waved her own case of beer. 

"Ooh!" Fetch swooped in and plucked the bottle from Shaun's grip. She whistled as she appraised the label. "And you brought the good shit, too!" 

In Delsin's humble opinion, Shaun looked too stuffy to tolerate any sort of rude language, but he didn't even bat an eye. In fact, he seemed smug in the face of Fetch's praise as he casually stuck his hands in his pockets.

"Well, it is a party, after all," he said loftily. "It won't do not to get pissed on anything less than decent liquor."

Fetch looked up at him and grinned, an omen of ill things to come if Delsin knew anything.

"Oh, I like you."

Delsin shook his head, smile wry. 

"So you've met the trouble-maker, Fetch," and she bowed with a flourish in Desmond's direction. "And this sweet, angelic, completely respectable guy in the hood is Eugene."

Shy from the sudden attention, Eugene glanced over at them all, barely letting his eyes land on the three new guests.

"Uh, h-hi," he said, hand barely raising from his lap in a limp wave.

"Hi," Desmond returned, smiling that warm, infectious smile of his that seemed specifically created to put people at ease. Eugene wasn't immune to it either if the way he straightened a bit from his gargoyle hunch over his controller meant anything. 

"Is that Heaven's Hellfire?!" Rebecca suddenly dropped to the floor beside Eugene, eyes on the TV. 

Eugene blinked. He looked a little flustered, as he always did whenever a girl spoke to him, but he nodded. "...yeah. You play?" he asked tentatively, expression that specific sort of wary whenever he expected to be ridiculed for being a 'nerd'.

Rebecca shook her head mournfully. "Nah. I mean, I used to, but work's kept me away. I haven't even touched it since the..." she tapped her chin in thought, "the third update, I think?"

"The third?!" This news was apparently shocking enough to break Eugene of his near-crippling shyness. His eyes practically bugged out of his head. "Oh my god, it's gotten so much better! Look, even just the improvements on the A.I.—"

From there, Eugene descended into a familiar rant/lecture on his favorite game and all its merits, but Rebecca at least seemed genuinely interested, asking questions in turn and nudging Eugene into giving her a practical demonstration. Lasers and inhuman screeches filled the living room, competing with volume with their loud, excited conversation.

"Well, we've lost Rebecca for the night," Shaun observed drolly. 

"Let's crack this bad boy open," Fetch suggested, holding up the bottle she still hadn't given back. She shot Shaun a sly side-eye. "I don't think Sweatervest here can actually hold his liquor. Looks all talk to me."

Shaun smirked darkly, and expression that screamed, Challenge Accepted.

"Well, I certainly can't turn down the opportunity to make someone look like a complete fool."

Fetch's returning smile was savage. "Oh, is that what's about to happen?" she asked, walking past with a dangerous glint to her eyes.

"Simply an observation of fact," Shaun said, following her, and they disappeared into the kitchen.

Delsin blinked, then looked at Desmond, who wore a similarly bemused expression.

"Well," Delsin started.

"Yeah," Desmond agreed. "I'm glad everyone's getting along...? I just wasn't expecting it to go so well," he said, laughing lightly.

"Me either, but I'm glad. Beats it being awkward and shit." He snaked an arm around Desmond's waist and dropped a quick kiss on his cheek. "Welcome," he said.

Desmond smiled up at him, naked fondness in his gaze. "Thanks."

Delsin looked around, to Eugene and Rebecca on the floor, Shaun and Fetch just visible past the partition in the kitchen, and the myriad of drinks sprinkled around. "Okay, we need food to balance out all of this alcohol." Especially if Fetch really was about to start up some drinking competition.

Pizza was the unanimous decision, but Delsin almost regretted it once he got everyone's orders.

Veggie for Rebecca; Hawaiian for Fetch; macaroni for Eugene; chicken and bacon ranch for Desmond; and Neapolitan for Shaun, with added black olives.

Delsin looked around at them all, thumb hovering over the call button for the local pizza joint.

"What's wrong with you people?" he asked, disgusted. 

Desmond scoffed and elbowed him. "Like you can talk, Mr. Hamburger Pizza."

"It's good!" Delsin argued, defensive. 

"It's weird," Desmond decreed. "Just eat a hamburger, weirdo."

Delsin shook his head woefully. "You have no idea how stupid you sound." 

Desmond punched his arm, although that didn't stop him from laughing, and Delsin drank it up, grinning.

Delsin gave Desmond a quick tour and his chest puffed in pride when Desmond complimented his home, especially the balcony. Which was probably a little dumb, it wasn't like he built the place, but his home was the result of his work, and he was proud of it. He'd earned his place here. 

After that, everyone settled in the living room and it was...good. Really good. It was impossible not to like Desmond, so he'd never worried about that, but it was still so satisfying to see how easily conversation flowed between his friends, the way Fetch gave him a subtle nod when no one was looking that spoke volumes of her approval. 

Even better was how well Desmond's friends meshed, too. Eugene seemed genuinely happy talking to Rebecca, although Delsin would bet his last dollar that a pretty intense crush was being fostered with every passing second; looked like he'd have another 'aim for level one before taking on the final boss' advice session in his near future.

Shaun and Fetch...he didn't know what to make of them. To passerby, they seemed like destined mortal enemies from the way they bickered and tried to out-drink each other, but the image was ruined by their smiles, Fetch's wide and delighted, Shaun's smaller, but no less pleased. They seemed to get no better pleasure than being assholes to one another. Masochists. Or maybe, sadists? 

"Introducing our friends to each other might not have been a great idea," Delsin murmured into Desmond's ear. 

Desmond was squished into the recliner with him since the couch was now a Shaun versus Fetch warzone. He was half-sprawled atop Delsin and looked pretty comfortable, sagging against Delsin's side and part of the chair's arm, especially with Delsin's arm holding him close securely. One leg dangled over Delsin's lap and he bounced it absently as Delsin spoke.

His brown eyes were considering as he glanced at Shaun and Fetch.

"You might be right," he agreed wryly. "I've never seen Shaun smile so much. It's kinda creepy."

"I'm more worried about Fetch."  They watched as she drained her beer, tossed it in a tight circle to catch it by the neck of the bottle, and used it to point at Shaun with emphasis. "That look on her face? The last time I saw it, she blew up a building. I'm not even kidding."

Desmond chuckled around a swallow of beer and when he lowered the empty bottle Delsin tugged it out of his grasp.

"I'll get you another," he offered. "Hop up for a sec."

Desmond smiled. "Thanks." 

"Anyone else need a refill?" Delsin asked when he managed to untangle himself from Desmond. 

Pretty much everyone shouted their agreement and Shaun rose from his seat on the couch.

"I'll help. I need a break from babysitting certain children who are far in over their heads," he said with a smirk, jerking a thumb in Fetch's direction. She responded by blowing a raspberry, but pushing his glasses up didn't disguise Shaun's smile half as well as he probably hoped. 

Delsin took everyone's empty bottles and led Shaun into the kitchen. 

"Drinks are in the fridge," Delsin said, pointing with his foot. He made a beeline for the trash can and heard the fridge door opening behind him as he let the bottles cascade from his arms.

"The challenges of our work have taught Desmond some...bad habits," Shaun suddenly said behind him, apropos of absolutely nothing.

Bemused, Delsin faced him. "Uh..."

Shaun didn't spare him a glance. He retrieved another six-pack and set it on the counter. From the living room, sounds of explosions greeted them, Rebecca's encouraging, disturbingly graphic shouts of advice and Fetch's laughter. 

When Shaun finally met his eyes, they were dark and hard and serious to a fault. Delsin's what the hell are you talking about died on his lips. Whatever this was, it wasn't the nonsensical ramblings of a drunk. He held his tongue and waited.

He was rewarded a moment later when Shaun affected a casual air. He tucked his hands into the pockets of his slacks and rested the small of his back against the counter. He crossed his legs at the ankles.

"I'm sure by now you've noticed how...different Desmond is, yes? How disinclined for indulgence he can be."

"...Yeah," Delsin answered, unsure where this was going but trusting there was a point. "Seems like he thinks the world will end if he has too much fun."

Shaun frowned, dark eyes darting away for a moment. A strange expression crossed his face, gone too quickly for Delsin to decipher before Shaun's seemingly default placidness hid it away.

"Yes. Well. Desmond certainly hasn't had an easy time of it, especially lately." He crossed his arms, eyes going distant. "Rebecca and I, we've tried out best, but it's not always enough." His voice lowered a bit, probably in deference to Desmond's proximity just in the other room. "Two people alone can only do so much. Especially with someone as stubborn as Desmond Miles." Shaun's lips thinned in a frown. "Especially when he's given up on himself."

That...was a lot to unpack. Delsin frowned, beginning to feel the stirrings of a familiar frustration, the same one he always felt around Desmond whenever he'd carefully dodge any mention of his past.

Shaun sent him an almost sympathetic look.

"I'm not making any sense, am I?"

"I But I get the gist, I guess." Nothing Delsin didn't already know, that was for sure. It was glaringly obvious Desmond had more than a few skeletons in his closet. Even more obvious was how much he beat himself over it. Delsin wanted nothing more than to help him, to ease that burden, but Desmond had to let him in first. 

Shaun's eyes narrowed. 

"Do you now?" 

Shaun kicked off the counter and stepped closer, and for a posh guy in a sweater-vest, it succeeded in being intimidating. Just a little.

"I'll be frank. Desmond's been hurt before. Some of them people he expected it from, and some not. I played a part in it myself," Shaun admitted, gaze flitting momentarily to the ground. "It took me far too long to see that Desmond was more than just a lazy sod with delusions of grandeur."

Delsin's brows rose; it was hard to believe Desmond could ever give that impression.

Shaun's eyes rose again, a little softer. "Rebecca and I, we've noticed a change in him these days. He's...happier. He's getting a little more rest at night and he seems...settled, in a way I've never seen before," he said, tone thoughtful. 

"Desmond..." Shaun's lips pursed. "He's been in a dark place for some time. He doesn't think we know. I'm sure he doesn't want to worry us," and an edge of frustration leaked into his words, such a mirror of Delsin's that he felt an instant kinship, "But we do." Shaun shook his head. "It never ceases to amaze, honestly, how much a bloke can hate himself for the most basic of human needs."

It was Delsin's turn to look away then, affected by the truth of those words. Desmond was the warmest, kindest, most selfless person Delsin had ever met, but it was clear that showing himself even an ounce of that kindness was abhorrent to him. It killed Delsin to have it confirmed that Desmond thought so little of himself.

Shaun seemed affected by it too. He heaved a deep sigh and seemed to visibly shake himself from whatever memories were playing behind his eyes.

"What I'm getting at is that we're trusting you, I'm trusting you, not to bugger this up." He glared at Delsin, as if daring him to make a mistake. "Desmond has done more for the—he's done a lot of good," Shaun hedged, visibly biting back his words, "and he deserves that much, at least."

Asking about that little slip-up was pointless, he knew. "...yeah. I understand," Delsin said, quiet and serious.

Not everything, obviously, but what mattered. He knew better than to try and question Shaun since he seemed to be just as cagey as Desmond about his past, but he'd still spoken up about this. Still wanted Delsin to know Desmond wasn't just messing around with him, at least. The feeling was mutual. "I just want a chance," he answered honestly. "That's all."

Shaun watched him with eagle-eyed scrutiny, trying to discern the smallest hint of doubt. But there was none to find, Delsin knew, and after a tense silence, Shaun relaxed marginally with the slightest inclination of his head.

"Then I'll leave it to you, then," he said, slipping seamlessly into his usual nonchalance. 

Delsin smiled. "Thanks."

Shaun smirked. "Don't thank me yet," he said mildly. "One toe out of line and I'm afraid you'll find me right back here," he said cheerily, "To personally castrate you."

And suddenly there was a knife in his hands, glinted wickedly in the light as he gave it an absent twirl that spoke volumes of careless, effortless skill. The look he shot Delsin above his glasses sent a very real chill down his spine.

Shaun, however, seemed to dismiss him entirely from his mind, as if the conversation had never happened. The knife was tucked away in its mysterious hiding place, he swiped the case of beer from the counter, then sauntered out of the kitchen without another word.

...Jesus. Despite the fact that Shaun was just a regular human, Delsin found himself actually feeling threatened. Maybe it was because Shaun just didn't seem the type to have a knife on him. A pocket protector, sure, maybe even a protractor. Between Desmond's fighting skills and this little display, it made Delsin wonder, more than ever, exactly what kind of secrets Desmond had.

It also helped explain why Shaun and Fetch got along like a house on fire. The thought made him feel vaguely queasy, imagining the kind of trouble they could get up to. He and Desmond really had to keep them apart...

With an explosive sigh, Delsin swiped another beer from the fridge and popped the cap with a flick of his wrist. He gulped nearly half of it in one prolonged swallow and steeled his nerves with it. 

Since he wasn't a jerk and didn't actually have any plans to break Desmond's heart, he didn't have anything to worry about anyways. It was just a shovel talk from a concerned friend, that was it. Plus, he might have even gotten a little approval from Shaun somewhere in that conversation, a feat he suspected wasn't easily gained. He'd take what he could get.

Internal pep talk executed flawlessly, he'd barely taken a step out of the kitchen when he bumped firmly into another body.

"Whoa!" he said, catching—Desmond—by the shoulders. He smiled, lecherous, eyebrows wiggling. "Well, hey there."

"Oh, sorry," Desmond apologized, wry. "Just—Shaun came back and you didn't..."

Delsin's grin grew even more mischievous. He looped his arms behind Desmond, carefully angling his beer away. 

"Aw, did you miss me?"

Desmond colored adorably and glared up at him, though a smile tugged his lips despite himself.

"You're unbeli—"

Unable to resist that cute scowl anymore, Delsin claimed Desmond's lips in a slow, lingering kiss. It wasn't even their filthiest one, but he took his time with it, enjoying the feel of Desmond's body pressed close, the warmth of his skin and the slick, hot slide of their tongues. Desmond tasted faintly of pizza. 

Delsin pulled away after a moment with one last loud, obnoxious smack and released Desmond in an instant, smirked to see how Desmond stumbled, still dazed from the impromptu, thorough makeout. 

"Missed ya too, babe," Delsin said. He spun around and walked backward for a few seconds, just long enough to send Desmond an impudent wink. 

To Delsin's delight, Desmond shot him the bird in response, but he couldn't hide the exasperated smile on his lips. He shook his head.

"You're lucky you're cute."

"I am, aren't I?"

Drinks refilled, the night went well—almost weirdly so. For all that most of them were meeting for the first time, it felt like they'd all been friends forever, everyone settled in so quickly. Rebecca was surprisingly funny and she shared a few stories about her extreme snow-boarding days that had Delsin on the edge of his seat—although Shaun and Eugene looked vaguely nauseous. Fetch was happy, he could tell, but there was also something Delsin wasn't used to seeing, a strange quiet that would overcome her when Shaun's attention was elsewhere. Delsin caught her eyes once when it happened and she flushed and flipped him off.

Oh. The shit-eating grin that stretched his lips made her blush harder and she made a point of looking away, ignoring him.

"What's that face for?" Desmond asked. They'd resumed their aggressive cuddling on the armchair and Desmond was somehow even more boneless than before, sprawled across Delsin's lap like a lazy cat. He'd lifted his head up from Delsin's shoulder to better see his face and his hand came up to catch Delsin's chin and angle his face closer. He tapped Delsin's smile with a curious finger.

The temptation to embarrass Fetch was strong, but he really liked this apartment and didn't think it needed an explosive, neon makeover. His hand slipped beneath Desmond's shirt to rest against the heated skin at the small of his back.

"I'll tell you later," he murmured into Desmond's ear.

Desmond shot him a look that said that his wandering hand hadn't gone unnoticed, but he didn't complain or tell him to stop, only settled right back where he was. The easy acceptance made desire flare in an electric shock through his system, made him want to push it, but this wasn't the time or place. Not yet, he told himself. Not yet.

Another hour or so passed where they chilled and drank, buzzed but not yet drunk, stomachs full of greasy pizza and laughter. Eugene even gave Rebecca his controller and they laughed—probably too hard—at how bad she was, falling off cliffs and getting killed by the supposedly easier enemies. He'd never seen Eugene smile so wide.

Catching his breath, Desmond nudged Delsin. "Bathroom?"

"Down the hall, second door."


Delsin's hands twitched the moment Desmond's weight left him, itching to drag him right back. 

Easy there, boy. To distract himself, Delsin straightened up in his chair, dug into his pocket for his phone. His eyebrows flew up to see the time, he hadn't even noticed...

He glanced around the room, thinking to gauge everyone's energy levels, but caught Fetch's eyes almost immediately. Something about his bearing must have alerted her, because understanding washed over her face.

She set her half-drained beer on the coffee table and came up behind Eugene in a few quick steps. She shoved at his shoulder lightly and he twisted to look up at her, surprised.

"Time to head on home, buddy," she said, eyebrows rising significantly.

Eugene's mouth opened, closed, and he glanced between Fetch and Delsin. 

Finally: "Ah. Uh, right. Yeah." 

Eugene made quick work of turning off his game and unplugging everything. Rebecca watched, bemused, as he coiled cords and stuffed the console into his backpack.

"You're leaving?"

"Yep," Fetch called. She met Delsin just as he stood and gave him a quick hug and a pat on the back, as well as some embarrassingly knowing eye contact. "It's a little too warm in here for my tastes."

"Really?" Delsin shook his head and hugged her back. "Thanks," he said, quieter.

Fetch smiled, this one small but warm. "See ya, D."

"Bye, Delsin," Eugene said, shouldering his backpack. Delsin held out his fist and Eugene bumped it after a split-second of hesitation and a warm smile. Even now, these small overtures of friendship seemed to take him by surprise.

Shaun stood as well and when Delsin glanced his way he was looking away from the hallway Desmond had disappeared into, expression thoughtful.

"Yes, I daresay it's time we left as well," Shaun agreed, idly rubbing his hands together as if wrapping up his work. "Come along now, Rebecca, some of us have work in the morning."

Delsin walked everyone out, waving and calling goodbyes, but Rebecca stopped in the doorway.

"Wait, what about Des—"

"He's a big boy," Shaun said, unsubtly ushering her out. "I think he can manage to find his way."


"I'll take care of him," Delsin assured her. 

Rebecca blinked up at him and Delsin saw the instant she understood.

"Oooooh." She grinned, her expression downright lecherous. "I bet you will!"

"That's quite enough of that." Shaun pushed her, exasperated. "Are you actually a child?"

Rebecca cackled and Shaun shook his head, looking very much like a beleaguered parent in that moment. His dark eyes met Delsin's for just a moment, a reminder of their earlier little chat, and then he left, Rebecca playfully elbowing him as they went down the hall and around the corner—and out of sight.

Delsin closed the door behind him with a slow exhale to steady himself, half-of it from nerves, the other half from excitement. 

He finally had Desmond all to himself. He barely knew what to do with himself, the thought was so overwhelming. Oh, but he had ideas... 

Abandoned drinks and pizza boxes littered his living room and the kitchen, the typical post-party refuse. He should clean it up and get it over with so he wouldn't have to deal with it tomorrow.

Be responsible, or have a little fun. Decisions, decisions...