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Steady Me

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It’s half one when the doorbell rings. Half one in the morning, that is, and so hot he thinks he might melt - Ed’s landlord had promised to have the heating fixed three days ago, and maybe they could have avoided this whole problem with some more careful planning but his brand new (or maybe reused? Recycled? Upcycled?) boyfriend had texted offering to cook and one thing led to another and honestly? He really can’t bring himself to be upset about it.

 

He takes extra care to be quiet as he slips out of bed (and is eternally grateful he realises that he needs to put on at least some underwear then rather than, say, after answering the door) and really, he’s managing this entire situation pretty well right up until he opens the door and comes face to face with Ed’s mother. Ed’s mother who despised him when they last spoke, who he hasn’t seen in years since he practically told her she was awful to her face while he was breaking up with Ed, her son, one of the rightful lights of her life, and he’s totally naked except for a thin layer of sweat and a pair of her son’s designer underwear.

 

There’s a few moments of thick, awful silence whilst he tries to think of something, anything to say.

 

“Oh.” And ok, maybe filling the silence isn’t going to fix this horrible, awkward tension. “You’re here.”

 

“It’s, er, good to see you.” He offers awkwardly. Tries again for something more sincere. “You’re looking well.”

 

“I need to speak to Ed.” Perhaps it’s a sort of kindness that she’s chosen to ignore his attempts at niceties. “Thank you.” She adds, stiffly, as he hastens to step aside and let her in. He’s not quite sure why she says it, but it catches him a little off-guard all the same.

 

“Oh, of course, I’ll just—”

 

“Harry? It’s the middle of the night.” Ed’s voice, cracked with sleep, announces him moments before his arms wrap around his midriff, and there’s really no justifying the horror that jolts through Harry’s stomach at the idea of his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s mother in one room with him again for the first time since… “Oh. Hi, mum.”

 

Ed sounds equal parts drowsy and dry, always just a little defensive around Jane, but to Harry’s relief, he doesn’t pull away (curse and jerk away like he used to, like he’d been burned, like he’d be burned), doesn’t do anything but refocus his attention on his mother with a drawn-out sigh.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Edward, I need to speak with you. Privately.” And the way her eyes slide from Ed to him is pointed, certainly, but it’s not quite hostile.

 

Ed stares at her, and for a moment Harry is sickeningly sure he’ll challenge her to say whatever it is she came for right there on his doorstep, but he just sighs again and steps aside, pulling Harry with him, to let her in.

 

“I’ll just—” he pauses before he slips away, presses a kiss to Ed’s cheek even though he’s not sure he’ll get away with it. Eyes crinkling with the beginnings of a soft smile, Ed lets him go.

 

“Go back to bed,” he says gently, and he’s not looking at Jane as he does. “I’ll only be a minute. Right, mum?

 

Jane’s lips press into a thin line, marking the battlefront of her diplomatic silence. He hopes for both their sakes that she hasn’t brought bad news.

 

“I’ll see you in a minute, then.” He agrees, because he has to say something under the warmth of Ed’s gaze, make some mark against the significance of being treated like an actual human being right in front of Ed’s mother. “Night, Jane. It was lovely seeing you.”

 

Despite all of that it’s a relief to be away from the combination of them, a relief to crawl back between the uncomfortably warm sheets that smell of detergent and Ed’s expensive shower gel (the horror that comes with the idea of being naked only a couple of unlocked doors away from Jane wins out over the sticky discomfort of the heat). The low, indistinct buzz of their voices is strangely soothing, almost enough to send him back to sleep before it cuts out with the shut of the front door. Then Ed pads back into the room, already pulling off his clothes again, illuminated briefly by the light flooding in through the crack in the door. In the moments before he flicks the switch off and shuts the door, a bitter storm rolls across his face, then he joins Harry in bed and wraps his arms tightly around him, burrows his scowl into Harry’s shoulder.

 

“Ed?” Harry murmurs. Ed makes a soft, irritated sound in response. “Are you alright? What did she say?”

 

“Nothing,” Ed snaps, harsh like he used to be. He breathes in deeply and tightens his grip. Grasps desperately at one of Harry’s hands, right by his own. “...We’ll talk in the morning, just…”

 

“Alright.” He agrees after a moment. Unease twists in his stomach at the familiarity of the situation, impossible to ignore, but it’s not the same as last time. It’s not, and Ed is trying so very hard to be better and really, everything else can wait a little while. “It’s alright.” And it is, despite the past and Jane and even the heat making it impossible for cuddling like this to be comfortable. It’s alright as long as he can tug Ed a little closer, squeeze the hand in his and press a kiss to his hair. As long as they can steady each other.

 

He lets the silence stretch and settle for so long that he’s not sure if Ed’s even still awake when he speaks again, the words grown too loud in his head to be ignored.

 

“You’d tell me if it was serious?”

 

Ed hums noncommittally, half asleep already, then, distress tugging at his tone: “Of course.” He kisses Harry’s shoulder. “We’ll talk in the morning. Promise.”

 

Harry nods, more to himself than anything. It’s not easy to fall asleep like this, discomfort pressing in on all sides from the sweaty tangle of the sheets to the persistent fingers of worry wrapping around his heart, but it’s no great hardship. Not when his boyfriend’s wrapped around him like this, probably asleep already, and there’s absolutely no reason for him not to trace idle patterns across all the bare skin he can reach, to cover Ed’s forehead in kisses until he runs out of space.