“Am I allowed to— May I— What can I—” Billy made a soft, torn noise and scuffed his sneakers against the grass. He shifted from foot to foot, practically dancing in place as his hands lifted, stilled, fluttered down again. Then up, as if he couldn’t stop himself, just to freeze all over again.
He wants to touch you, he thought with a barely concealed shiver. Then, he wants permission to touch you.
Teddy let the strap of his bag slide off his shoulder. It hit the ground with a muffled whump, just a few dirty t-shirts and balled-up jeans making the canvas keep its shape. He wet his lips and studied Billy’s face, expecting…
He had no idea, still, even after all this.
Change, he supposed. Some sign that things were different. Three weeks, six days, eight hours. There should be some measure of that time on Billy’s face, in his eyes, but everything… It was all the same, down to the bone. The frenetic energy of him, the angle of his jaw, the way he looked up through his lashes, then away, fast, as if some of Tommy’s impatience had rubbed off on him.
But his bottom lip was bitten red and there was a dark line between his brows. That was different. And the way he reached out compulsively before forcing himself to pull away again and again, as if their bodies were magnetized but he couldn’t quite let himself give over to inevitability…that was different, too. Even when they were barely more than strangers dancing cautiously around each other, Billy had never been afraid to touch.
Teddy drew in an uneven breath and shifted his stance, watching the flinching hope and fear and anxiety flickering over Billy’s face like minnows in still water. Finally, Billy rolled his shoulders and dragged his fingers through his hair with a hitching sigh. His eyes darted up, then away. “You’re gonna have to help me here, T; I’m kind of freaking out.”
“Yeah,” Teddy said. His voice was hoarse, as if he hadn’t spoken in days. (Three weeks, six days, eight hours.) “I can tell that.”
Billy drew in an annoyed breath, then let it out between his teeth, long and shaky, when Teddy’s hands dropped to his hips. He jerked his chin up, eyes flaring wide; Teddy could feel him practically trembling with the desire to pitch himself forward into his arms.
“Go ahead,” he murmured, thumbs hooking into the loops of his jeans. “I want you to.”
Billy shook his head once, sharp. “You want me to,” he echoed on a breath, stepping in—slotting against Teddy’s body like the jagged ends of something broken becoming whole again—and carefully wound his arms around his neck. He was trembling all over. “You sure?” Then, as if afraid of the answer, “Um, how was the Southwest?”
“Good.” Teddy dropped his chin, letting their foreheads lightly butt together. “Pretty warm and dusty.”
“Oh, well, yeah: desert. Um, see anything cool?” Meet anyone, he could have said. Probably was saying, if Teddy was reading through the words right.
He shrugged a shoulder, one hand untangling from Billy’s belt loops to slide to the small of his back, then up his spine. He felt out each vertebra with his fingertips, relearning the feel of Billy, the reality of him back in his space, sharing his breath. “Nah. Nothing worth staying over.”
Billy shifted and shivered against him. Each of his (too-quick) breaths puffed against Teddy’s mouth, and his eyes dropped again and again, as if he was arguing with himself over what came next. Teddy soothed a big hand up and down his spine. They had a lot to talk about—a lot to put to rest for once and for all—but there was time. Later, he thought, thumb rubbing against the dip of Billy’s spine. Later is good.
For now, there was just this.
Billy, naturally, was the one who finally broke the silence. “May I,” he began, pulling away to watch Teddy’s mouth.
“Yes,” Teddy said. The word was lost against Billy’s mouth, sudden and fierce against his; he made a low noise and dragged Billy close. Arms around Billy’s waist, Billy’s arms around his neck, mouths clashing for a moment before he tipped his chin and they fell into a kiss as right and familiar and good as…as any cliché of coming home.
Yes, Teddy thought, parting his lips at the first swipe of Billy’s tongue. Yes, he thought, feeling fingers tighten in his hair. Their bodies pushed together, swaying, denim rasping and tongues slicking wet and hot over and over again, and all Teddy could think was a broken mantra of want, spiraling up and out of him in grateful ululations:
Yes, yes, yes.