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Pretend Boyfriends

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1.

The first time someone asks Raleigh and Chuck if they're dating, they stare at each other and sputter out a denial. But the person doesn't look convinced.

The fifth time, Newt's the one doing the asking, and they're all in the mess hall. It pulls them up short. They share a look and don't have to say a word, because they know exactly what the other one is thinking – and it's something along the lines of what the hell?

They deny it, just like they have the first four times, but, Newt doesn't look convinced either.

In fact, no one around them looks convinced.

So after a quiet, intense conversation – filled with muffled laughter – they realize that they can have fun with it.

Herc eyes them at the lunch table the next day, very obviously not commenting on how close they're sitting, and goes back to his meal. There's a moment of silence, and then Herc's gaze snaps up again when Chuck asks Raleigh to please pass the bread, pookie.

Raleigh almost ruins it by laughing.

He holds character with a simple of course, snookums, and passes the basket of dinner rolls.

The names are ridiculous – and grow more ridiculous until Chuck's eyes flash with promised retribution after Raleigh calls him sugarbuns – but the silence at the table is deafening.

Herc looks from one to the other before he finally settles on Chuck. Who just looks back with the most innocent expression he can manage. Raleigh's free hand drops beneath the table and reaches over to squeeze Chuck's leg in silent support.

The way Raleigh's arm moves is not missed by Herc, and his eyebrows draw together. The impending explosion is cut off by Max pawing at Herc for a tidbit of meatloaf.

Raleigh and Chuck manage to hold it together for the rest of the meal, but they're laughing so hard by the time they reach Raleigh's quarters that they have to support each other.

 

2.

Chuck has a sixth sense about when someone is going to walk around a corner. It doesn't matter where they are, what they're doing, he invariably reaches out to catch Raleigh's hand, lacing their fingers together two seconds before the other person appears.

The first few times, nothing is said.

And then Chuck escalates it.

He crowds against Raleigh, shoving him against the wall, one hand tight on Raleigh's hip. And Raleigh wants to ask what the hell, dude, but then he hears the footsteps. Chuck's breath huffs against Raleigh's skin where he has his face buried against the curve of Raleigh's throat, and all Raleigh can do is smile helplessly (and swallow his own laughter) at the looks they receive from the J-Tech girls that walk past.

Their little displays happen more than once. Often enough, in fact, that one night when Striker's crew chief gives them a dark look over dinner, Chuck suggests they sit at a different table.

But the afternoon that Tendo catches them is the absolute best, because Chuck goes from holding Raleigh's hand, to leaning against him, to licking the side of his neck all in the space of ten seconds. Chuck's tongue against his skin is so unexpected that Raleigh's voice cracks when he tells Tendo they're just heading out for the afternoon.

Tendo tells them to get a room.

Raleigh promises violent payback after Tendo vanishes around the next corner, but Chuck just slides down the wall and curls into a ball, his whole body shaking in silent laughter.

 

3.

Mako's the one who catches them in the supply closet.

Raleigh's not sure if it had been his idea or Chuck's. Not that it matters, because Chuck's very loud and exaggerated moans are accompanied by more than a few fuck yeahs and right there, like that, and God, Raleigh, harder. It all has Raleigh laughing so hard he almost can't stand.

Though he's pretty sure the fact that he's gasping for breath just helps the charade.

But he can't stop laughing, so Chuck puts a hand over his mouth and keeps moaning. And begging. It's the begging that does it.

Raleigh's in tears on his knees, curled in a tight ball as Chuck kneels beside him and keeps a hand tight over his mouth.

They're both disheveled and sweaty and breathing heavy when they emerge. Raleigh's eyes are bright, Chuck's hair is a complete mess, and Raleigh has a stubble burn along the side of his face from where Chuck pressed in and threatened to kill him in his sleep if he didn't stop bloody laughing, you wanker.

They stumble out of the tiny room, straightening their dog tags and tucking their shirts back in, and come face to face with Mako.

She stares at them with her mouth open.

Then Chuck slings an arm across Raleigh's shoulders, winks at her, and kisses Raleigh's cheek as he admits that that was fucking amazing, lovemuffin.

Mako blushes to her hairline.

 

4.

As good as they are at avoiding Herc, it still takes him less than twenty-four hours to corner them in one of the busier hallways.

They're standing close, heads together as they whisper about what they should do next. And because they're in public with an audience (who have all clearly heard about the supply closet incident), Chuck is holding Raleigh's hand. But then Herc appears at the end of the hallway.

It's amazing – and more than a little disturbing – how quickly the people around them vanish.

Chuck doesn't miss the way Raleigh shifts until he's almost but not quite behind Chuck.

The first words out of Herc's mouth are a demand to know what the hell is going on.

Raleigh – proving himself the idiot that Chuck already knows he is – asks for clarification. And shifts just a little further behind Chuck.

They receive a lecture, accompanied by Herc's most withering glare, and an order to keep their private 'activities' private or they'll find themselves confined to separate quarters. Herc's not going to have them running around all over the Dome and making a spectacle of themselves.

Chuck – proving that he's not much smarter than Raleigh – says that they're not actually sleeping together.

Herc's stare turns glacial as he reminds them of the supply closet.

Well, that wasn't them sleeping together, Chuck points out (because self-preservation has never been one of his stronger traits), because they weren't actually sleeping, it was a, a.

Quickie, Raleigh supplies, and Chuck nods as Raleigh steps completely behind him.

It's probably a good thing Herc can't actually kill them.

 

5.

The first time Chuck leaves Raleigh's quarters at dawn, they (for once) don't plan it.

Heeding Herc's warning (for a few days at least), they've opted to hide out in Raleigh's room and plot. Said plotting had involved a bad movie and more than a few beers.

Raleigh's not even sure what time it is when he rolls off the sofa and nudges Chuck awake, but it's early.

And leaning against his doorframe, watching as Chuck takes his Walk of Shame (he's even wearing one of Raleigh's shirts because one of the beers had ended up on his and it's more of a Strut of Pride anyway), Raleigh thinks they might have to make a thing of it.

Especially when he sees Mako peeking out of her door.

He waves, grins, and goes back to watching Chuck swagger down the hall.

After that, Chuck wandering the halls in the pre-dawn hours – or Raleigh, because they decide it's only fair to swap up rooms now that Chuck's not rooming with Herc anymore – is a common sight.

It doesn't stop the amused (and still scandalized) looks they receive, especially when Chuck starts wearing Raleigh's sweaters and Raleigh wears nothing but his boxers and Chuck's bomber jacket back to his own quarters one morning.

Really, Raleigh thinks, they couldn't have done this better if they had planned it.

 

+1.

Weeks turn into a month turns into two months. By now, virtually everyone in the Shatterdome has caught them in the hallway or walked in on them in a compromising position.

More than one person has threatened to make them pay for a lifetime of therapy because, God, no one needs to see that. It doesn't matter that they're always dressed.

Raleigh and Chuck still laugh about it because the expressions are priceless.

But then Raleigh realizes that Chuck holds his hand even after the witnesses have passed them in the hallway.

And Chuck notices that Raleigh's arm stays across his shoulders even when it's just them.

Neither one says anything to the other, but they don't stop, either. Instead, Chuck makes excuses to hook his ankle around Raleigh's beneath the table in the mess hall, even when no one else is paying attention. And Raleigh finds reasons to touch Chuck when they're talking, his fingers brushing lightly across warm skin that's dotted with freckles.

Herc notices that they're quieter now, more comfortable in each other's skin, and that the outrageousness has stopped. He doesn't say anything, either, just smiles as he watches them and hears Chuck's unrestrained laughter as Raleigh grins from ear to ear.

And the first time they end up in bed together on purpose, there's no hysterical laughter or faked moans. And there's no beer. Just the two of them and quiet words and easy touches and lazy kisses.

Chuck does laugh when Raleigh finds a ticklish spot by accident, but it's a soft, contented sound, and Raleigh kisses him until they're both dizzy from lack of oxygen. Raleigh asks if they're really dating now, and Chuck says that yeah, he reckons they are.