Chapter 1: Pretenses
Peter’s arm around his hips is mocking in its familiarity. He always does this, clings tighter after they’ve broken up. Pulls out his parade of pet names, all darling and sweetheart, kisses him on the cheek pointedly before the delighted eyes of their many guests. Peter is either easily caught up in the euphoric loneliness of another failed marriage, or he’s a laughably poor actor.
Or he could just want Elias back. But that’s far from the point of any of this.
He’d been utterly pathetic, that’s why Elias is doing this for him. Practically begged Elias not to leave him right before his annual family reunion. Should have made him beg, honestly, it would have been entertaining if not gratifying, but Elias has always been tragically overindulgent. And Peter was telling the truth, his family did like Elias far better than him, and returning to them empty handed would make for a miserable evening. Deserved, after the way he’d treated Elias, but a cruel fate nonetheless. Elias has always been popular with in-laws. He likes to think it’s because he’s a good listener.
So he divorced Peter, and yet here he is. Adorning his arm. Smiling at his cousins. Laughing politely at his father’s dry commentary on the menace of social media. His soft heart is going to get him in real trouble one of these days.
“You don’t need to pull such a sour face every time no one is looking at us,” Peter says, and Elias is glad there’s humor in his voice, because if Peter wasn’t having a good time, Elias couldn’t resent him for it.
“Oh really. So you suggest I enjoy you forcing yourself on me at every opportunity? Your family will remember we’re together even if you’re not actively swallowing my tongue, you know.”
“You enjoyed it two days ago.”
“We were married two days ago,” Elias hisses from between his teeth, still in control enough to make sure no one is within earshot.
“Oh my love, I didn’t realize you were such a prude. Doesn’t it make it feel more exciting, not waiting til we tie the knot?”
Elias fixes Peter with his coldest stare. Peter responds with a lopsided grin. He slides a hand around the back of Elias’ neck and tugs him closer.
“You’re so cute when you’re angry.”
“Well that explains why you seem to constantly be making me that way.”
Peter reaches out and snags a spring roll off a passing hors d'oeuvres platter. His eyes sparkle with laughter as he brushes it against Elias’ lips. Elias keeps his mouth firmly closed, uninterested in whatever game Peter is playing. But Peter doesn’t let up, pushing the spring roll more insistently into Elias’ mouth, pulling at his lips with the edge of it. Out of the corner of his eye, Elias sees Peter’s mother watching them with a critical gaze.
Elias sighs through his nose, closes his eyes, and opens his mouth to let Peter feed him. When Peter’s fingers linger past his lips he closes around them and sucks gently, opening his eyes to lock his gaze with Peter’s own.
“You’re too good to me,” says Peter, barely above a whisper. Elias hums in agreement. He is too good to him. But Peter’s fingers tastes like sweet and sour sauce, and his eyes are bright and warm, and he truly is a terrible actor, but only at pretending not to love Elias.
Chapter 2: The Etiquette of Communication
Original Prompt: Peter trying to give Martin dating advice on dating a Beholding Avatar
Elias’ office has a wall of floor to ceiling windows that overlook the entrance to the Archives. Martin supposes he shouldn’t be surprised, considering Elias’ penchant for watching. They suit him, though. Now that it’s his office. Sometimes he can catch a glimpse of Jon moving in or out, keep an eye on him, assure himself he’s still alive. Sometimes he wonders what Jon would think if he looked up and caught Martin staring. Would he be happy? Would he be scared?
Jon never looks up.
“Still pining, eh?”
Martin stumbles back from the window like a child caught up after bedtime. He turns back to the room where Peter is smiling in that distant friendly manner of his. “You didn’t say I couldn’t look at him.”
“Oh no, I’m not angry, Martin. In fact it’s a rather good sign. I encourage it.” Peter steps closer to Martin and settles into existence like a cool breeze. “Nothing lonelier than being in love.”
Martin looks back out the window, but Jon is gone, hurrying off to some dramatic rendezvous or seeking out some dangerous research. “Like you would know.”
“Oh but I would. I’ve loved with the best of them. Properly dramatic and bodice ripping, I assure you. I’d put Harry Met Sally to shame.”
Martin feels like he should be surprised by Peter’s references, but he’s just tired. He can’t help the curling jealousy in his gut. Why can Peter do it so easily, distance himself, be so flippant. Martin would give anything to be able to just enjoy his life and stop caring so much. It’s never brought him anything but pain.
“You know,” Peter says, lowering his voice conspiratorially, “I said you can’t talk to him. I never said you can’t date him.”
Martin leans forward until his forehead bumps into the cool glass of the window. “Peter, can you please just leave me alone?”
“I’m being serious. Plenty of perfectly lovely relationships don’t contain any communication at all.”
Peter rests a hand on Martin’s shoulder and the cold sinks into him, settling in his stomach and leaving his fingertips numb. Peter’s words bounce hollowly in his chest.
“What is that Jon of yours? More than anything else.”
“Smart?” Martin says, not really trying. Peter laughs and for a moment Martin thinks he will leave it there.
“No. He’s curious. That’s the way with all those eye types.”
“Towards learning, yes.” Peter pushes a bit on Martin’s shoulder, forcing him to turn away from the window and look him in the eyes. “Tell me, Martin. Why do you think he’s interested in you now? Why all of a sudden does he miss you, when he’s never even thought of you before?”
So Peter was watching. Martin closes his eyes but he can’t shut out the cold. “You’re punishing me for talking to him?”
“Nonsense. I’m simply trying to help. Offer some friendly advice from when I was in your shoes.”
“In my shoes?”
“In love with a watcher.”
Martin’s eyes fly open. Peter is smiling almost wistfully, and Martin’s mouth moves without sound for a moment before everything falls together. “Elias?”
“Have you heard of leaving someone on read? A wonderful invention, I wonder if my patron didn’t have a hand in it.” Peter chuckles. “That always drives Elias crazy.”
“I’m sorry,” Martin leans back against the window and shakes his head, “can you slow down a second?”
“You see, Martin, Jon doesn’t actually like you.” The hit, when it comes, doesn’t hurt as much as Martin thought it would. The upside to spending so long telling himself that Jon will never love him. An upside to knowing it’s true. “What he likes is a puzzle he hasn’t figured out yet. The one thing he can’t have.”
“So what?” Martin laughs, cold and empty. “You’re telling me to play hard to get?”
“Precisely. If you were to give yourself to him perhaps you’d have a few days of happiness, but once he learns all there is to know he’d get bored and move on.” Peter takes his hand off Martin’s shoulder and taps him on the chest twice, over where Martin knows his heart is. “But keep him guessing, keep him wanting more, and he’ll always be chasing you. You’ll have all the power. And you’ll have him. For as long as you want him, that is.”
Martin knows he should be arguing, but he cannot find the strength. Everything Peter has said is hauntingly possible. It turns Martin’s stomach and he just wants to leave, to get away from Peter and pretend he never heard the words that are burrowing into his brain and sprouting doubt and hatred.
“Is that all, Peter? Because I really need to get back to work.”
“Buck up, Martin. This is good news!”
“How is this good news?”
“You can have Jon and still fulfill our purpose.” Peter shrugs. “I figured you’d be happy.”
Peter laughs and pats Martin on the shoulder again before turning away. “You’re so hard to please.”
Martin turns back to the window, but Jon isn’t there. The entrance to the archives looks so small from here, and so far away.
“Oh, and Martin? One more piece of advice.” Martin doesn’t turn around, just presses his fingertips to the cold glass of the window. “Don’t let him bring a recorder into the bedroom.”
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Chapter 3: Drown
Original Prompt: Up against the wall kisses for Jon/Elias
This one has a Jon who is a selkie and also most of the mature rating on this collection belongs to this piece. Violent ideation and a non-explicit sexual situation.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I believe it’s traditional for a man to carry his new bride over the threshold.”
“I’m not your bride,” Jon spits, and reaches up to his throat to rip away the silk tie that has been choking him all night. Buttons clatter to the ground around his feet as he shreds the top of his shirt, until it hangs in tatters around his collarbone and he can finally, finally breathe again. He steps forward into the bedroom before Elias gets any funny ideas about picking him up.
“No need to be so eager.” Elias doesn’t sound nearly as upset about the shirt as Jon hoped he’d be, and he can feel his gaze on his back. Jon can always feel Elias’ gaze. It burns like the iron ring on his finger.
The wedding was long. So many rituals and eyes on them, and Jon had been hot in his jacket and uncomfortable in his shoes. And the whole time, at every turn, Elias had had his hands on him. A firm guiding touch on the elbow or at the curve of his back, grasping him by the wrist or pulling his face in closer. A little reminder that he couldn’t escape. A little reminder of who owned him. By the end of the evening, Jon was dizzy with thinking about Elias. He consumed his every thought, wondering where he was or what he was going to do or what he would want next. He had stolen his skin and now he stole his mind. But when they’d finally kissed at the altar, Elias had pulled back too quickly. A chaste peck, too short to register, too short to even try and bite back.
Elias turns around from carefully arranging his suit jacket on a hanger and fixes Jon with a smile. “Has anyone told you it’s impolite to stare?”
Anger flushes red through Jon’s cheeks. “Has anyone told you?”
“You’re a human now, Jon.” Elias puts away his jacket and flicks away a speck of lint Jon can’t even see. “Use your words.”
Jon growls and shifts his weight, clenching and unclenching his fists. He can’t tear his eyes away from Elias. He wants to win back ground. He wants to assert himself. He wants to gouge proof of his strength out of Elias’ smug expression.
“I want to taste you.”
Elias cocks his head and catches the tip of his tongue curiously between his teeth. “Go on.”
“I want to bite out your tongue and make you beg for mercy through the bubbling blood in your throat.” Elias takes a step towards him and Jon does not look away. “I want to sink my claws into the fat of your stomach and feel the heat inside you as it ebbs away. And I want to look you in the eyes when I do it.”
Elias steps forward again, and again, until Jon is crowded back against the wall of his bedroom panting with want. The flowers braided into his hair make a soft sound as they crumple. A thin trail of saliva slips from the corner of Jon’s mouth and he lets his tongue loll out over his teeth. Elias smells like the church and like sweat and like everything that has been dancing tantalizingly in and out of reach all evening and Jon wants.
“That’s not all, is it?” Elias presses a thigh up between Jon’s legs too hard and Jon whines, surprised by how much he wants to grind back against it.
“N-no. No.” Jon reaches out and grabs Elias’ shoulders, bunching his shirt in his fists. “I…I want to watch you drown. I’ve done it before. Drowned people. I want to see you thrashing beneath me. I want to see the moment you realize I won’t save you.”
Elias is smiling and Jon wants to see him shattered. Wants to break his damnable composure. He tightens his grip on Elias’ shirt and pulls him in closer so that he can lick a long, slow line up the side of his neck.
“I want to sink my teeth into the beating pulse of your throat and swallow.” Jon can feel his own breath bouncing back off the curve of Elias’ neck. He opens his mouth wide, razor sharp teeth inches from closing down. Jon almost lets himself imagine how sweet it would be before the compulsion freezes his muscles and he is pulled back by invisible strings.
“Oh, Jon,” says Elias. He puts a hand on Jon’s shoulder and presses him back against the wall. “Such delusions of grandeur.”
Jon swallows his spit and tries desperately to push forward again, but Elias is too strong. He forces Jon flat against the wall, thigh working his legs open wider as his other hand gently cups Jon’s throat.
“I wonder.” Elias brings his other hand to meet his first and presses down on Jon’s windpipe tight enough to leave Jon lightheaded. “Are you still enough of an animal that you recognize a collar?”
Elias leans in closer, increasing the pressure on Jon’s throat, and kisses him hungrily. Jon’s chest flutters, desperate for air. His hands scrabble weakly at Elias’ shirt. His vision narrows until his world is nothing but Elias, nothing but Elias’ taste in his mouth and hands around his throat and heat pressing into his skin.
He is drowning, and Elias will not save him.
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Chapter 4: Visitation
“Funny meeting you here, Jon, considering I specifically denied you visitation rights.” Elias looks exactly the same behind a desk or on a prison cot. His body is thinner, maybe, his hair a little grayed with stress, but his eyes are exactly the same, and it was always his eyes Jon focused on. Maybe it’s the nature of their god. Or maybe it’s just the nature of Elias’ impossibly endless eyes.
“Not that it isn’t an impressive testament to your development,” Elias continues, with the same smirk he always wears in Jon’s memories of him.
“Shut up. I have questions.” Jon steps further into the cell, leaving the door swinging loose behind him.
“You’re going to have to pick one or the other. It’s rather difficult to talk and be silent at the same time.”
Jon’s face contorts with rage and he barely holds himself back from grabbing Elias by the face and slamming him into the wall behind him. Instead, he just steps forward and glowers, trying to be as intimidating as possible. “Tell me what is happening to me.”
Elias shakes his head and tuts. “Wrong question. Try again.”
Jon bristles. “What does that mean?”
“It means try again.”
“What do you want from me?”
“Closer.” Elias holds out a hand and Jon steps forward without thinking and takes it, as if he can pull Elias’ secrets through his skin.
“How do I stop?” Jon rasps, his voice dropping low. Elias shivers a little but still shakes his head, and Jon changes the question. “Why can’t I stop?”
“Oh, Jonathan. Wouldn’t it be easier if that was what you wanted to ask?”
Elias tugs on Jon’s hand and he collapses too easily into Elias’ lap. He tries to convince himself that it’s not really him, that he’s being compelled, that a monster has its grip on him, but it’s a losing battle. When Elias curls his fingers into Jon’s hair, he knows the real answer he came for. He leans forward and buries his face in Elias’ neck, mumbling into his skin.
“Tell me not to stop.”
Elias smooths his hand down from Jon’s hair, tracing all the way along his spine. Jon closes his eyes and pushes further into Elias’ neck, as if this could truly cut him off from the world and give him peace.
“You are the Archivist.” Elias pulls Jon up until they’re staring into each others’ eyes. “This is what you do. To make you stop consuming stories would be to make a river stop flowing to the sea. If you could stop, you wouldn’t be you anymore, and it would be a shame to see something so beautiful die.”
“And I’m proud of you, Jonathan.” Elias cups the side of Jon’s face, smoothing his thumb along his cheekbone. “You’re doing so well.”
Jon closes his eyes and leans in, just barely brushing his lips over Elias’.
“And?” He whispers.
“And I made you into this. It’s all my fault.” Elias smiles into Jon’s mouth and nudges his nose to the side to gain a better angle. “I’m the big bad wolf, there was nothing you could have done to stop me.”
He cannot stop himself from kissing Elias. It is a compulsion. It is an inevitability. It is bigger than either of them. Jon can almost convince himself he hears the singing snap of spiderwebs. But of course, he doesn’t. The universe didn’t orchestrate this, Jon did. He chose to lean in. It was Jon who craved the warmth of a murderer’s mouth.
Elias is the first to pull back, and Jon is pleased to feel him slightly out of breath beneath him. He looks at Jon with more naked love in his eyes than Jon has felt in years, and he doesn’t regret coming here.
“Tell me,” Jon says, not because he is the Archivist, but because he is weak and human, “was that true? Did you do this to me? Was there no other path I could have taken?”
Elias brushes the hair away from Jon’s forehead and says, “Sometimes we are happier without answers, Jon.”
And for once in his life, Jon agrees.
Chapter 5: Imagine the World has Ended
Original Prompt: One Small Kiss, Pulling Away For An Instant, Then Devouring Each Other with Peter and Elias
There is everyone else in the world, and then there is Jonathan Sims.
Imagine the world has ended, like everyone is so convinced it’s going to, in a nuclear armageddon or some such nonsense. Imagine you’re the only person left alive in that horrid, irradiated wasteland of a world. To stave off the all-consuming boredom you might make stories out of the cockroaches that skitter all about the place. Maybe you feel a bit of paternal instinct towards the cockroaches that live nearby, you separate them out from the rest of the cockroaches, give them little cockroach names and begin to recognize them by distinct cockroach features. Maybe one has a half cut off antenna, another has little cockroach freckles, and perhaps another has markings all over its abdomen and you think humorously that they’re his cockroach tattoos.
You might watch them, follow the minute dramas of their lives, which has the most food or which is fucking which other, as some form of primitive entertainment. They’ll never be able to reciprocate as, of course, they are cockroaches, who can’t possibly conceive of the complexity of the human mind, whereas you can look down and see their whole lives laid out before you, but it is a far more enjoyable pastime than anything this dead world has to offer. You may even pick a favorite cockroach, root for him, enjoy hanging around and watching his struggles and triumphs. Maybe you drop him little bits of food, crush a few of his enemies, and he starts to recognize you, follow you around, because even his tiny brain can comprehend patterns, and you find it slightly charming. It’s almost like having a pet.
Now imagine you’re wandering the wasteland one day and you see another human. A man, a real person, walking towards you. And you lock eyes, and he speaks your language, and you finally, finally, are not alone. Tell me, would you now spare a thought for your favorite cockroach?
“You could have just said no,” says Peter.
“Fine then.” Elias taps the back of his pen against the top of his mahogany desk. “No, Peter, I’m not interested in continuing our relationship.
“So, a cockroach, huh.” Peter leans back in his chair and crosses his hands behind his head, not looking at all like he intends to leave after Elias’ rejection. “I like half of that. Am I the one with the little tattoos?”
“It was just a metaphor, Peter.” Elias presses a hand to his temple and pushes against the beginnings of a headache that is pulsing just below the skin. “Something to help you understand how unnecessary you are to me. I’ve found you do better when things are spelled out for you.”
Peter waves a hand, amiably. “No no, I get it. You’re happy with your little Archivist. I’m happy for you. Doesn’t seem like he’s on the same page though.”
Elias frowns. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh, I’m just saying, that it seems like your beloved Jon would rather fuck a certain freckled cockroach.” Elias fixes Peter with his coldest glare, but it’s never worked on him. Peter’s already frozen through.
“I am patient. He will come to me. He will realize I’m the only one who can ever truly understand him, connect with him—”
“Oh Christ, Elias, boring! Have you always been so boring?” Peter pushes himself to his feet and Elias tilts his chin just enough to maintain eye contact. He won’t give him the satisfaction. Peter paces forward and plants both his hands on Elias’ desk, leaning forward over it. “Why spend so much time torturing yourself when it’s so much more fun to let me do it?”
Peter leans forward even more until he is over Elias’ shoulder, whispering in his ear. “I know just how you like to be tortured.”
“You Lukases. Spoiled rich kids. Did no one ever teach you how to handle rejection?”
“Nope.” Peter grabs Elias’ chin in one hand, fingers pressing almost painfully into the fat of his cheeks. “And I always get what I want.”
Elias doesn’t have to fight to keep his expression disinterested. “I don’t have time for this, Peter. Some of us have jobs.”
“That’s the problem with cockroaches. Just can’t get rid of them.”
Elias rolls his eyes. He definitely picked the right metaphor. Damned persistent, that’s Peter.
“Let’s play a little game.”
“It’s a metaphor game. You’ll like it. And if you win, I’ll leave.” Peter lets go of Elias’ face and stands up straight, holding his hands up innocently. “No strings attached. You can focus all your attention on your darling Archivist.”
Elias sharpens his glare, trying to see through whatever ploy Peter is so clearly setting up. “I don’t think you know what a metaphor is.”
Peter shrugs, unbothered. The glee in his grin says he already knows Elias is going to say yes, and Elias hates that he’s right. A chance to finally get Peter off his back is one thing, but if the game has a winner then it’s going to be Elias. Elias doesn’t lose.
“Fine. What’s this game.” Elias crosses his arms.
“You invented it.” Fog begins to pour from the cracks in Peter’s smile, and a sinking feeling in Elias’ stomach whispers that he might have made something akin to a mistake. “I call it, ‘Imagine the world has ended’.”
Elias has more experience with the choking, endless expanse of the Lonely’s domain than most, but it has never felt so cold before. He’s been tossed into it once or twice, occasionally during one of Peter’s snits but more usually as some kind of sensory deprivation play, but Peter was always there contrasting the emptiness with sensation, the cold with his relative warmth. It has been a long time since Elias was trapped in the fog well and truly alone.
But Elias is no mere human victim who would run around like a chicken with its head cut off. He is powerful, and he is patient, and he knows Peter doesn’t have the authority in his family to get away with actually disappearing the Head of the Magnus Institute, so it’s merely a waiting game. He sits down on the ground he can’t see and ignores the coiling discomfort in his stomach over the fact that he cannot See anything. This is temporary. This is Peter. He always gets bored of his games too quickly, and he can’t ever hold off on bugging Elias for more than a day or two. In no time at all, he will come crawling back.
Five days later, Elias cannot feel his tongue. No matter how he wraps his arms around himself or burrows underneath his jacket he cannot get warm. He gave up on his meditative sitting days ago and took to pacing in tight, anxious circles. He cannot See Jon. He cannot See his Institute. Anything could be happening back there and he doesn’t know, can’t control it, can’t stop it. What if something got in he hadn’t intended. What if something Jon isn’t ready for attacks. Where in the goddamn hell is Peter Lukas. This is not a game, this is a kidnapping. A few days ago, Elias had screamed his name into the fog until his throat bled. Now, summoning the effort to speak seems impossible.
Two weeks later, Elias has cuts on his cheeks where his tears froze to his skin. Peter gripping his face in his office seems like an impossibly distant memory. Had it been warm? What did warm feel like? Elias tries to remember. The world has ended and he is alone.
“Well now, this is a sorry sight.” Elias can barely crane his head up to see Peter standing so impossibly far above him.
“Pe…ter?” he croaks out, tearing open his frozen throat to force the words through.
Peter crouches down beside Elias and smiles. “It’s me. Your favorite cockroach.”
The surge of anger in Elias’ chest is beaten out by sheer overwhelming relief.
“Are you ready to play the game?” Peter winks and Elias cannot respond, just stares up at him with naked horror at the fact that apparently they haven’t started yet. Peter seems almost giddy with anticipation. “Remind me again how unnecessary I am.”
Peter leans forward and presses his lips to Elias’ own. It is chaste, a schoolboy peck, and he pulls back immediately looking pleased with himself. Even just that tiny brush of contact spread like fire through Elias’ face. Someone else’s heat, someone else’s breath, it is almost overwhelming and he launches himself forward without hesitation, closing the space Peter put between them. He kisses hungrily into Peter’s mouth, chasing the warmth, wraps his hands around the back of his neck and feels the pulse points bright and vibrant under his fingers. It is like coming alive again and all he can think about is getting closer to Peter, deepening the kiss, sliding his frozen tongue against Peter’s burning one, wrapping his body around Peter’s like a thrall.
Peter pulls back out of the kiss, panting a bit, and they are back on the floor of Elias’ office. The sounds of the world flood in and Elias flinches a bit at the overstimulation. Peter kisses Elias’ jaw and sucks gently on the skin below his ear and Elias swears Peter’s mouth has never felt this good before.
“You lose,” says Peter.
“This doesn’t prove anything,” says Elias, but right now he cannot stand the thought of being anywhere that isn’t entangled with Peter Lukas.
I would have named this Cockroach but wouldn't you know it I've already written a story called cockroach I'm horribly predictable.
Thank you for reading! I'm @apatheticbutterflies on tumblr.
Chapter 6: Subtext
Original Prompt: Exhausted parents kiss with Peter and Elias
Peter knows all of Elias’ sighs. He likes to collect them, keep them on shelves in his mind to be taken down and admired when he is away on long trips at sea. There’s the short, sharp I’m about to correct what you just said wrong sigh, the tired but affectionate I’m pretending to complain but please don’t stop, Peter sigh, the deep, genuine if I have to explain this simple concept again I’m going to beat you to death with a pipe sigh that usually comes with closed eyes and a scrunched brow, and of course, Peter’s personal favorite, the I hate everyone in the world right now except you sigh.
The sigh Elias gives him now is…well, it’s a doozy. Somewhere between the classic get the hell out of my Institute I’m trying to do my job and the more favorable if I don’t talk to a genuine adult about my frustrations soon I’m going to have an aneurysm. In Peter’s experience, he only counts as an adult in Elias’ book about sixty percent of the time, but it’s a risk he’s willing to take.
“What’s wrong, darling?” Peter lets his fog trail off behind him as he steps fully into Elias’ office and runs a soothing hand along his husband’s shoulder blades. Elias fiddles with the papers on his desk, but leans back into Peter’s hand, so he can’t be too upset about the interruption.
Elias closes his eyes, and for a vulnerable second he almost looks as exhausted as that mess of an Archivist of his. Peter makes a mental note to buy him some of those fancy floral face creams he’s been seeing so many adverts for. Maybe one that smells like dahlias or something. He’ll ask a shop girl which one’s best, they’re bound to know.
“Now is a really bad time, Peter,” Elias says.
“I recall you saying the same thing the third time I proposed to you, but we still made it work then, didn’t we?” Elias snorts out a breath that is almost a laugh and Peter grins as brightly as he can, situating his smiling face in front of Elias’ eyes just as he opens them. “There we are, that’s better. Now go on, tell me what’s wrong. Is it that same…what was it, scheduling snafu from last week?”
“The meeting with the accounting firm that overlapped with the auditors? No, luckily that particular disaster is behind me.” Elias pushes two fingers into the space between his eyebrows. That means headache. On his way out, Peter will send in Rosie with a glass of water. Elias forgets things like hydration frightfully easily. He’s got too much on his shoulders. Speaking of, Peter slides his hand up Elias’ back to his shoulder and steps around behind him. Slowly, he presses his thumbs deep into the muscles of Elias’ back and begins to give him a massage.
When he slides his hands up and works at the back of Elias’ neck, he’s rewarded with a breathy little sigh that is almost a moan. It says what would I do without you? and it keeps Peter warm on his long, cold journeys.
“So what is it then? Because your shoulders are quite unhappy.”
“It’s Melanie.” Elias leans back into Peter’s hands and drops his chin to his chest, letting out all his breath in one huge exhalation of I work with literal children.
“The new girl?”
Elias nods loosely. “She’s on her way here now to murder me.”
Peter’s hands stop moving for a second before he regains his composure. “I guess I can see why it might be a bad time for my visit.”
“Would you like me to come back after you’re dead, then?” Peter leans forward and kisses the top of Elias’ ear. This time, Elias laughs genuinely, and beneath Peter’s hands a bit of the tension spills away.
“I wasn’t planning on letting her succeed.”
“Oh, you are a cruel boss. And after she worked so hard?”
“Maybe I’d be more inclined to if she had. Her methods are frightfully incompetent.” Elias shrugs Peter’s hands off his shoulders so that he can swivel his chair around to face his husband completely. “Sleeping pills. In a coffee.”
Peter lays a hand over his chest and gasps in mock horror. “No.”
“They’re not even fully dissolved.”
“Well.” Peter runs a hand through Elias’ hair, scratching lightly at the base of his skull. “That is frankly insulting. Would you like me to duel her in your honor? People still duel, right?”
Elias hides his smile by turning his face into Peter’s arm and kissing him on the wrist. “You really ought to spend less time on that ship of yours.”
“But if I did, how would you miss me?”
“Fair point, Captain Lukas, fair point.” Elias guides Peter’s hand off his head and interlaces their fingers, dropping their joined hands into his lap. “But I still think my aggrieved husband with a pistol is more of a third strike kind of punishment.”
“Well, I’m here when you need me.”
Elias looks up at Peter with a soft kind of smile, and then his eyes get distant and Peter knows he’s Looking somewhere else. He comes back with a bitten off curse and a loose, tired sigh that tells Peter Melanie is down the hall.
“I’ll be out of your hair then.” Peter leans down and presses a quick kiss to Elias’ lips. Could use lip balm. They might have some at the same place they carry fancy face cream. Worth checking. “Please don’t kill the children while I’m gone.”
“I’ll do my best,” Elias says, and lets out a tiny sigh through his nose. It is soft, and yearning. It says I wish you could stay. Peter wraps it up, memorizes it, and tucks it away for another time.
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