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It’s raining when Gavin gets out of his car, the drops big and relentless, and he pulls his hood up over his hair with a quick jerk of his arm. He kicks the door shut behind him with his heel, the tell-tale tones of the automatic lock echoing into the street as he makes his way up the drive. The house is big and old and, in his opinion, a little creepy. But that’s also kinda fitting. It would be weird if they lived in some perfect little matchbox house with a white picket fence and begonias.

There’s a single yellow light bulb on the right side of the porch glowing from within an old wrought-iron fixture. Gavin glances at it as he knocks sharply on the thick wooden door. He can’t fucking figure out what it’s supposed to be. He thought it was a lion, but something about it is off. Maybe a gargoyle? The rain is bouncing off the concrete just beyond the awning of the front porch and speckling his shoes.

Gavin’s about to knock again when the door opens suddenly and there’s Connor. He’s wearing a sweater with a large crescent moon in the center and Gavin only notices because he’d seen Niles wear it the week before. Connor’s face is carefully blank and he’s holding something in his right hand. Actually, someone. Elvira’s nose twitches in the cold air and she twists in Connor’s grip, trying to free herself from the chains of man. Behind him, Gavin can see a collection of wires and pliers and plating on the coffee table in the living room, a documentary about snow monkeys or some shit playing quietly on the tv.

“Oh. Gavin,” Connor says, and Gavin can tell Connor was expecting him. His tone is tinny, empty, exceedingly polite. It makes Gavin grind his teeth and shove his hands into his pockets. Connor turns away and calls into the house. “Niles, your dinner is here.”

“Fuckin hilarious.” Gavin rolls his eyes and shifts his weight, setting his jaw and pushing past Connor into the house. Connor tenses for a moment and then closes the door. Gavin hears the deadbolt slide slowly into place and that sound does something inside him. Niles’ territory. Niles’ rules.

“You decided to show up.” Gavin pauses, looking up from untying the laces on his boots to see Niles standing near the top of the stairs, just out of the shadows, his lips a tight line. His hands drape easily over the thick wooden railing, his nails a collection of intimidating red points against the grain. Gavin looks up at him, knowing that alone probably does something for him.

“It’s raining,” Gavin barks, shrugging and shoving his hands back into his coat pockets. “Traffic gets all fucked up when it’s like this.”

Niles rolls his eyes, as if Gavin had control over metropolitan traffic and just refused to exercise it for the sake of being difficult. “You didn’t check the forecast this morning?” He leans forward slowly, resting his chin on his hand and his elbow against the railing. Niles blinks slowly, the tips of his nails denting the flesh of his cheek just so.

Gavin scoffs. “No, I fucking did not.” He starts towards the staircase, shoving his hands further into his pockets. Niles watches him, unmoving, only his eyes following. His back extends slowly as Gavin climbs the steps, Gavin’s hand finally slipping from his pocket to grip roughly against the wood. “I don’t have to worry about melting like the fucking Wicked Witch of the West. Sorry you can’t relate.”

Niles gives him a look, folding his arms as Gavin reaches the stair three below his. Gavin can hear Connor shuffling around in the living room beneath them, actively ignoring the situation unfolding on the stairs. Niles finally sighs, letting his arms drop as he turns curtly and drifts up the rest of the stairs like some kind of perpetually disappointed poltergeist. Gavin follows behind him, his own footfalls thunderous in comparison.

The hallway leading to Niles’ room is dark and covered in carefully arranged frames filled with insects and dried flowers. The sconces along the wall have low-watt bulbs in them, the vintage kind that are shaped like candle flames. Gavin feels like he’s stepped into some sort of museum/haunted house hybrid. Niles still isn’t looking back at him or speaking and Gavin is wondering if being half an hour late is going to have him leaving the house with less fingers. Or toes. Or testicles.

Niles pushes his door open with one fluid motion and he steps over the threshold without hesitation, crossing the room to sit in his computer chair. There’s a video project on his screen, one of Connor’s. Gavin can tell because Connor is in the middle of gesturing towards something down a dark hallway in the still frame, tinted green by the night vision. Hank is visible behind him, looking gruff and imposing as ever. Niles immediately starts tapping hotkeys and saving his progress, ignoring Gavin as he sits heavily on the bed. Niles’ comforter is silky and dark, a pattern of gray pentagrams on black. Gavin slides his hand over the fabric, the sound of his skin against the fabric barely a whisper.

“Are you really that fuckin’ mad at me?” he grunts when Niles pulls up a chat client and starts typing into it. “I’m not gonna apologize for something I can’t control.”

“Quiet,” Niles says, his tone a perplexing combination of patience and dislike. He continues typing, each click of the keyboard a pinprick against Gavin’s skin. Gavin stays quiet. He finds a quarter in his pocket and presses it against his thumb, flicking it into the air and catching it. The quarter clinks against his thumbnail, smacks satisfyingly into his palm.

Clink, smack.
Clink, smack.
Clink,

Gavin jumps as Niles’ fist closes on the quarter inches from his face. He blinks, looking past the hand to Niles’ face. Niles does not move. He blinks slowly at Gavin, his eyelids moving over the glassy surface of his eyes like hands sliding down thighs. Gavin forgets how to breathe.

“I’m concerned about your hearing, Gavin,” Niles says softly. His voice is a spider slowly crawling out of its den. “You’re usually more obedient than this.”

Niles drags the knuckles of his fist down Gavin’s chest. Gavin’s heart pounds beneath it. He can’t look away from Niles’ face. He feels Niles flat his palm against Gavin’s. The quarter is warm from his grasp.

“Be good while I finish up,” Niles says. His nails bite into the flesh of Gavin’s wrist. Gavin swallows.

Niles turns away from him, sliding back towards the computer and typing as if nothing happened. Gavin looks down at the quarter in his palm. George Washington’s single eye looks back at him.

The cuckoo clock in the kitchen below them calls out the time. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.

Gavin remembers how to breathe. He tucks the quarter back into his pocket. Niles closes out of the chat client and turns around slowly in his chair, steepling his fingers against his chest. He holds Gavin’s gaze again, eyes half-lidded.

“I’m not angry,” he says simply.

Gavin blinks at him. “Then why are you being such an asshole?”

Niles lets himself smile, a small, poisonous thing. It does not reach his eyes. “Because you like it, Gavin.”

Gavin scoffs, picking at a loose string on the comforter and avoiding Niles’ gaze. He jolts when Niles’ bare foot taps against his. His toenails are painted black, his skin cool even through the fabric of Gavin’s sock. He looks up and Niles is there, chin resting on his hand again, the same little smile playing at his lips. Gavin’s throat tightens. Niles’ eyes drop to the v of his shirt, to the dip of his collarbones.

“Would you like to play with me, Gavin?” Niles asks, quietly. His face falls back into indifference, but his tone is strangely gentle. A genuine invitation.

Gavin scoffs, scrubbing his hand against the back of his neck as his chin drops to his chest. “Why d’you gotta say it like that?” He can’t make himself look up. “It’s fuckin’ embarrassing.”

Niles’ fingers curl under his chin. The dagger tips of his fingernails press into the skin there and he forces Gavin to meet his eyes, unblinking. Gavin swallows hard and feels the muscles of his tongue flex under the points against his skin.

“Am I embarrassing you?” Niles murmurs. “I thought you liked me.”

Gavin groans. “I do like you.”

Niles blinks slowly again, his index finger extending towards Gavin’s throat, the nail carving a hot little red line. “What’s embarrassing, then.” Niles tilts his head, drawing close enough to press his mouth to Gavin’s. But he doesn’t. “You don’t like when I fuck you? You don’t like when I cut you open?”

Gavin’s dick twitches in his pants. Heat crawls up his throat.

Niles presses the pointed tip of his finger to Gavin’s windpipe. He grinds the enamel of his nail in slowly. “It seemed to me that you liked it very, very much.” His breath is hot against Gavin’s face, his voice low and predatory and dark. “Have I made a mistake?”

“No,” Gavin manages. His voice sounds alien, like he’s some kind of puppet and a ventriloquist is throwing their words into him. “You never make mistakes.”

Niles scoffs, his face twisting into a genuine, lopsided smile. He releases Gavin’s face and taps his cheek with his hand twice, gentle little slaps that leave Gavin longing. “Good boy. Take your clothes off.”

Gavin hurries to comply as Niles stretches and stands, pushing his computer chair back beneath his desk. Gavin pulls his shirt over his head and Niles slides open the door to his closet, tapping a finger against his lips. Gavin shoves down his pants and Niles pulls out a small, black box. Gavin is completely hard in his boxers and he clicks his tongue at himself, not surprised but disappointed.

Niles turns back as Gavin slides his underwear down his thighs, his cock bobbing as the elastic passes it. Niles crosses the room slowly, watching Gavin’s face as Gavin sits again, fighting to keep from covering himself. Niles has seen all of this before and still he feels self conscious. It’s hard not to when Niles is always so composed, so calculating. Niles reaches him and slowly drags his fingertips up Gavin’s chest, his throat, to grip his chin again. He yanks Gavin’s head up and presses a soft, careful kiss to the corner of his mouth. Gavin’s eyes drop closed, his own hands digging into this thighs. Niles licks over his bottom lip, bites it gently. His canines press sharply against Gavin’s flesh. He can’t keep a small sound from escaping his throat.

“What’s in the box,” Gavin manages when Niles pulls away, smoothing his hand through Gavin’s hair. His fingers grab a fistful and twist, Gavin gritting his teeth as his head is pulled back to bare his neck.

“Does it matter?” Niles sounds bored. He taps the long, flat side of the thing against Gavin’s cheek, letting it rest there. Gavin meets his eyes, brows drawn together. “You’re always so damn impatient, Gavin. You’re lucky I like you.”

Niles lets go of his hair with a shove and Gavin falls back, bracing himself on his elbows as he bounces against the mattress. Niles’ knee lands a breath away from Gavin’s crotch as he leans over him, pressing his hand hard into Gavin’s chest until he gives in and lies flat against the fabric. Niles adjusts above him until he’s straddling him, his thighs pressed to Gavin’s, and he opens the box. Gavin swallows.

Long fingers. The glint of steel. Gavin’s dick feels impossibly hot where it lays against his thigh. Niles draws a sleek black knife from the velvet interior of the box. The blade of it is narrow, about six inches long, the handle sleek and textured like bone. It’s incredibly Niles.

Niles places the knife on his sternum, knowing well that Gavin will not try to move to grab it. The metal is cold against Gavin’s skin and he welcomes it, anything to cool the heat of his own blood coursing through him. Niles closes the box and gently traces his fingers over Gavin’s ribs, his expression as apathetic as it was when he’d been typing away at his computer. His nails tickle Gavin, but he doesn’t dare laugh. The knife moves up and down with the air moving in and out of his chest. Niles draws lines down Gavin’s torso with his fingertips, and Gavin knows them well: the outlines of his muscles, places where Niles could cut him open and take him apart. He shivers.

Niles finally plucks the knife from his chest, reaching into his back pocket and pulling out a little paper packet. He tears it open with his teeth and pulls out an alcohol wipe, carefully swiping it over the knife. The sight makes Gavin’s entire body flash hot, then cold. Niles feels him tense under his thighs.

“Would you prefer I didn’t?”

The question is completely genuine. Something inside Gavin’s chest relaxes. He shakes his head. “I’d prefer if you did.”

Niles laughs softly, tossing the wipe on the floor behind him and pressing the flat part of the blade against Gavin’s sternum. “You know what to say if you want to stop.”

Gavin nods once, sharply. He does not want to stop, not at all. Niles leans over him and kisses his mouth slowly, and Gavin melts against the bed. He kisses back and Niles lets him, licking into his mouth and coaxing Gavin’s breath out of him like he’s trying to draw out his soul. The blade slides against Gavin’s chest, climbing up towards his collarbones as Niles bites at his upper lip and pulls. Gavin groans, tilting his neck back as Niles presses the flat of the blade against his adam’s apple. He swallows hard, the metal bobbing with his throat. Niles kisses his chin and leans back, lazily tapping the knife against Gavin’s skin.

He lifts the knife to Gavin’s face and Gavin fights the urge to flinch, Niles tracing the very tip of the thing over the scar on his nose. “I’ve always liked this,” he says, tilting his head slightly like Gavin has seen Connor do a hundred times at work. This feels different. Where Connor is a Labrador, Niles is a hawk. Niles presses the flat of the blade to his cheek and pushes Gavin’s face to the side, leaning down to lick at his neck. Gavin shivers, hands clenching into fists where they lay, anticipation climbing up his spine. He knows what’s coming, but he doesn’t know when, and being in the dark terrifies and delights him. Niles keeps the knife pressed to his cheek and bites down into his neck, dragging his teeth over the skin.

Gavin groans, body jolting under Niles as he bites down again. His tongue works slowly over each mark after he pulls away and Gavin’s neck goes hot and cold with the warm saliva cooling in the air. Niles removes the knife from his cheek and presses a kiss there, his free hand coming up to rest on Gavin’s throat and he uses it to push himself up, flipping the knife in his other hand easily. Gavin can still breathe, but it’s less effortless. He watches the metal flash in the air as Niles flips it again.

In a single, fluid motion Niles has the flat of the blade pressed to his nipple, pressing hard, and Gavin bucks up against him, trying to get any sort of friction on his cock. Niles has positioned himself just so it’s impossible for him to find satisfaction and the hand around his throat tightens, squeezing as Niles flicks the blade away from his skin.

“Hold still.” Niles’ tone is deadly serious and Gavin complies.

Slowly, his gaze flicking between Gavin’s chest and his face, Niles brings the knife to Gavin’s skin. He presses down gently and Gavin feels the bite of steel to the left of his sternum, his breath catching in his chest. It’s hot, it’s insanely hot, and he can see a shiny smear of wet on the blade as Niles lifts it again. “Does it hurt?” Niles asks, clinical, like they’re in a fucking doctor’s office and Gavin is just another patient. He hates that it riles him up.

“Yeah, it fucking hurts,” Gavin snaps, the pain duller than it had been initially but still very present.

“Shall I stop?” Niles asks.

“Don’t you fucking dare.”

Niles smiles, grip tightening again. He dips the blade back into Gavin’s skin. Gavin struggles to hold still. It hurts, but it’s also Niles, and the precision of his movements, the care behind them, the perfectly smooth gesture of it all is so stupidly gratifying and enchanting that Gavin can’t find it in himself to be ashamed. He loves it.

Niles hums idly as he presses the sharp edge in again, further than before, Gavin losing the struggle to remain still and jerking at the sensation. Niles’ free hand moves from his neck to his chest, holding him down. He leans down and presses his tongue to the cuts, dragging it slowly over them. Gavin grunts, struggling against his grip, the heat of it too much to bear. Niles leans up and licks into his mouth and Gavin can taste the tang of his own blood. When Niles pulls back there’s a smear of red on his lips that, coupled with the dark hair, the thick lashes, the pale skin and dark clothing, makes him look like the monsters Connor spends his free time chasing.

“How should I fuck you?” Niles wonders aloud, and Gavin knows he’s not allowed to answer. A bead of precum slips down his dick and he can feel himself start to tremble. He’s so hungry for it. The cuts on his chest throb dully. He’s worried that he’ll come the second Niles touches him. Niles traces the edge of his areola with the tip of the knife, careful little circles, and considers Gavin’s face. Something changes suddenly in Nile’s expression and the blade stills.

He rises from the bed, setting the knife carefully on his desk before undoing the button on his pants and slowly pushing them down, his underwear with them. Gavin watches, frozen, body begging him to touch his own cock while he brain shrieks at him to keep still. He’s relieved to see Niles is as hard as he is, the skin of his cock red under the silver metal embedded there. Gavin is frustrated that he keeps his stupid turtleneck on. He knows Niles’ nipples are pierced, he’s seen them before, and being denied the sight is a punishment in itself.

“Get on your knees,” Niles says, his voice calm and almost conversational. Gavin scrambles to comply, breathing heavily as he looks at his own fingers spread out against the bed. One of his nails is half black from when he’d slammed it in the car door last week. There’s a cigarette burn on his wrist. Niles’ hand on his ass makes him jump and his fingers curl towards his palms. Niles trails his fingers lightly over the curve of it before slapping hard with his palm. Gavin jolts again, barking out a grunt. Niles rubs his thumb over the spot before withdrawing his hand slowly, the light pressure of his fingers making Gavin’s flesh tingle.

It’s so quiet. Gavin can hear his heart thundering in his ears, the breath barely shaking in and out of his lungs. The air is still. He can’t hear Niles move or breathe. A silent fucking spectre planning Gavin’s unraveling. Goosebumps crawl up his back.

Niles’ hand lands hard against his ass again and Gavin moans, dropping his head down between his arms. Niles hits him twice in quick succession, exhaling in a disappointed little huff. “Posture, Gavin.”

Gavin yanks his head up, blinking and swallowing hard.

“Breathe, Gav.” The words are gentle. Gavin breathes.

He feels Niles’ hands grip his thighs, forcing his legs further apart. Niles’ fingers press closer to Gavin’s hole, spreading gently. His hold is so firm but so careful, like Gavin might break if he grabs too hard or pulls too long. There’s a sudden wet heat at his entrance and Gavin’s legs immediately start to tremble, his cock twitching hard. Niles licks into him mercilessly, breathing hotly against his skin, and Gavin groans loudly. God, he really wants to touch himself. He wants to see Niles between his legs. His groan breaks as Niles bites down on the spot he’d slapped earlier, shaking his head lightly before releasing the flesh.

Niles’ tongue returns to his entrance, working against him in a way that makes precum drool from his cock. His mouth hangs open as he pants. He jolts as cold metal presses to his inner thigh, his back arching. Niles drags the knife up, tongue still working, until the flat end of it drags over Gavin’s balls and down the other thigh. He should be embarrassed by the noise that escapes him when the steel touches him but he can’t bring himself to be, more concerned with getting any sort of attention on his cock.

He exhales heavily when Niles’ mouth leaves him. He hears a bottle pop open and moments later Niles is pressing a finger into him, swift but careful, and Gavin bites his bottom lip hard. Niles is ruthless, stretching him quickly and adding another finger, working him open like it’s his fucking job. The fact that Niles can pull him apart so easily should bruise his ego but instead he’s grateful for it, grateful that there’s someone he can trust so much that he can give in like this.

“Listen carefully,” Niles says, leaning over Gavin slowly. Gavin tenses. The blade of the knife is pressed to his cheek as Niles whispers to him over his shoulder. “I’m going to fuck you.” Gavin exhales shakily. “I need you to stay perfectly still. Or you will get cut.”

“Fuck,” Gavin breathes. Niles’ cheek is cool against the nape of his neck.

“Do you understand?” The question is patient. It doesn’t need to be.

“I got it,” Gavin tries to snap, but Niles sits back and presses the tip of his cock against Gavin’s hole and his voice breaks. Niles sinks in slowly, too slowly, obviously taking his time. Gavin wants to buck back into him. He wants to cling to the blankets and fuck himself stupid on Niles’ cock. But Niles asked him to do things because Niles knows how to make him feel good, how to make him fall apart in a way that has him feeling some kind of decent for days afterwards. He holds still.

Niles bottoms out and sighs softly. Gavin can feel the weight of him against his back, and the blade is pressed to his neck at an angle that will cause damage if he jerks around too much. He swallows hard and feels the edge bite into his skin, not enough to cut but enough to make it real. His arms have started to tremble. Sweat drips down the nape of his neck.

“Be good,” Niles says, voice guarded. He pulls out slowly, then snaps his hips forward.

Gavin whimpers, holding himself as still as possible against the force of Niles’ thrusts. Each move away is slow, almost painfully so, and he slots into Gavin with devastating force. He’s not making it easy to keep still because, it’s Niles. Nothing is easy. His pace increases slowly, his free hand pressing hard into Gavin’s hip, his nails cutting five stinging points where they land. Gavin realizes he’s drooling and bites his lip hard, his chin cold and slick.

Niles’ hand moves up to his hair and yanks his head back, hard, and Gavin grunts, splitting his lip on the edge of his canine. The knife presses harder to Gavin’s throat and Niles fucks into him relentlessly, his own breath leaving him in short bursts that carry quiet moans. Those small sounds twist Gavin’s stomach, make him fight back a whimper as his tongue brushes over the cut on his mouth. He’s so full, the piercings on Niles’ cock rubbing against his insides with each movement.

If he were to slip up and cut himself open, it wouldn’t be the worst way to go.

The hand holding the knife shifts and Niles is pressing the blade to Gavin’s cheek, panting against his ear as he puts his free hand on Gavin’s chest, his palm over the cuts. He presses his nails in there and Gavin cries out, the pain curling into something closer to pleasure. He jerks his head and feels the sting of the knife against the skin of his face, hot blood sliding towards his neck. Niles holds him harder, his weight solid against Gavin’s back.

“Do you want to come?” Niles breathes. Gavin’s whole body prickles.

“Yes,” Gavin grits out.

“Do you think you can come without me touching you?” Niles murmurs, dragging his wet palm down Gavin’s front, smearing blood over his navel. He rests his hand just below it, pushing Gavin up into his thrusts.

“I don’t know,” Gavin manages. It’s not a lie. He’s too far gone to lie.

Niles clicks his tongue softly, biting the shell of his ear. “I know you can, Gavin.”

Gavin whines, full on whines, limbs trembling from the weight of Niles, the heat of Niles, the sensation of Niles filling him.

Niles draws the edge of the knife across Gavin’s throat and adjusts the angle of his hips just so, his pinky barely pressing to the base of Gavin’s cock.

“Come for me.”

Niles hips snap against him once, twice. The metal cuts into his throat. Tiny jolts of pain spread across his skin, heat blooming in their wake. The feeling makes Gavin keen and Niles presses the head of his cock just right against Gavin’s prostate, sliding roughly past it, and Gavin comes undone.

The knife is pulled from his throat and he’s barely aware of it falling onto the bed, Niles pressing his hand to the shallow red line across his throat as he fucks Gavin through his orgasm. He feels Niles follow a few thrusts later, his nails scrabbling against Gavin’s stomach as he groans and fills him up, impossibly hot. Gavin struggles to breathe, to keep his limbs from giving out beneath him.

And then Niles slows, pulls out, and guides Gavin gently onto his side. Gavin tips onto his back, feeling his own mess between his skin and the comforter. He wrinkles his nose at the sensation, but he’s too exhausted to move. Niles is placing the knife on his desk, his back to Gavin, and Gavin lets himself stare at Niles’ legs, his ass, his skin pale and flawless save for one mole peeking just below the hem of his shirt on his left hip. Niles pulls a pastel colored box from one of the desk drawers and turns, sitting hard on the bed next to Gavin and making him bounce slightly.

“Aren’t you a pretty picture,” Niles purrs, opening the box of wipes and pulling one out with a flick of his wrist. Gavin looks down at himself, at the blood streaking his chest and stomach, the three cuts just over his heart that make a perfect little “N.” He throws his head back and groans, rubbing his face. The cut along his throat throbs dully.

“You are such a hopeless fucking romantic, you know that?” he says, glaring at Niles as he starts to wipe the blood from Gavin’s skin. There’s this impish curve to Niles’ mouth as he does it, his gray eyes flashing to Gavin’s face for barely a moment before he looks back to his work.

“You love it,” Niles murmurs, his voice warm. He gently tilts Gavin’s head back and swipes the wipe over his throat, his touch exceedingly gentle. “You love me.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Gavin closes his eyes, letting his hand drift to curl against Niles’ thigh loosely. “No idea why.”

Niles scoffs at him and slaps his thigh, not hard enough to hurt. “Ungrateful. That’s what you are.”

Gavin laughs, a quiet little huff. The smile feels strange on his face. He lets his eyes drift open. He’s clean, Niles finishing up with himself and balling the wipes into a neat little clump that he throws towards the garbage can near his desk.

He misses. Badly.

Gavin hisses out a laugh again and Niles nudges him with his foot, fighting to keep his own tiny smile at bay. He pulls a fleece blanket from the shelf above his headboard and wraps Gavin in it, pulling him up against his chest as he lays back against the pillows. Gavin feels like he weighs three million pounds. The blanket is impossibly soft against his skin and Niles rubs little circles into it, kissing Gavin’s head softly.

“Did you have fun?” Niles murmurs. Gavin catches the apprehension in his tone.

“I mean, yeah.” His voice is quiet, too. Gravelly. “I always have fun with you.”

Niles hums softly against his hair. Gavin melts a little further into his blanket cocoon.

“You’ll have to cover your neck at work,” Niles says. “Do you need to borrow a turtleneck?”

Gavin groans. “Was this just a way to get me to wear your shitty clothes?”

Niles smacks him through the blanket and Gavin laughs. “My clothes are not shitty. Your clothes are shitty.”

“They sure are,” Gavin agrees. Niles chest rumbles with his quiet laughter.

Quiet engulfs them. Niles’ screensaver blinks across the room, a collection of stars against a dark background. A comet zips past. His chest rises and falls beneath Gavin, slow and even. The tea kettle whistles distantly in the kitchen and calm seeps into Gavin’s bones.

Calm.

A bizarre concept.

“Stay,” Niles whispers.

“Can’t imagine going.”

——————

Connor’s unimpressed when Gavin comes down the stairs the next morning. He’s eating cereal at the counter, taking even bites of a banana between each spoonful. What a goddamn weirdo.

“Good morning,” Connor says, and the forced politeness of his tone makes Gavin bristle. “Would you like a ride to work?”

“I have a car,” Gavin says, but it’s lacking the usual vitriol.

“Carpooling is good for the environment,” Connor says, no trace of irony in his voice. He looks at Gavin, unblinking, and takes another bite of banana. “And Niles is going to want his shirt back.”

Gavin looks down at the black turtleneck clinging to his frame. He looks back up at Connor. Connor’s face is unreadable.

“Fine.”