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if my love were an earthly knight

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It's okay for Mike to wander off into Chicago because he was born and raised here, and he will stick to that story when he has to call Bill and have him come bail him out of jail for public drunkenness or pay for his train ride home when he gets mugged. Their friendship is based around the promise of saving the other when they're trashed and wandering the streets late at night, and Mike's pretty sure that it being New Year's Eve (or day, now, since his cellphone is telling him it's half past three) and Bill having a beautiful girlfriend to have sex with after their annual Classy to Trashy party won't change that.

Basically, Mike's okay to be out here, at half past three, wearing a tuxedo t-shirt and Sisky's too-small green velvet blazer and purple skinny jeans that he didn't show up to the party in. It's not his usual look, and he thinks the pants might belong to Brendon because they show his ankles and his hips are barely holding them up, but at least he's making great strides towards goals like remembering his own address.

He's trying to piece together everything that happened between his first shot of tequila and his last shot of vodka when he’s knocked straight off his feet by a kid in chain mail.

Maybe the weed mid-party was a bad idea.

“Oh, no,” the kid says, falling to his knees next to where Mike is lying on his back. He’s got big brown eyes, cartoon deer style, but he also has what looks like a legit sword hanging from his hip. “Oh, god, I’m sorry.”

“Do you have a sword?” Mike asks.

“Yes,” he replies. “Do you know how to use one?”

“Nope,” Mike says.

“We should probably run, then.”

Mike doesn’t have a chance to say anything before he’s being pulled to his feet and tugged down the street. The whole world spins around in front of him, and by the time he’s reoriented himself, they’re on a different block and. . .yeah, there are horses behind them. Horses with people riding on them, and Mike’s pretty sure there are more swords, and he’s too drunk. He is too drunk for multiple swords to be happening in this situation.

“Is this a LARPing thing?” Mike gasps out, and the kid tightens his hold on Mike’s hand.

“I don’t know what that means,” he gasps back, “but probably not.”

“If we’re actually going to die, we should head for that El station,” Mike continues. “I’m pretty sure horses aren’t allowed on the train.”

He pulls instead, so they’re taking a sharp left and then running down the stairs. Fate’s on their side; a train’s just pulled up, and the attendants are drunk and making out, so they can hop the gate and get inside. From behind them, there’s the sound of yelling, but Mike also thinks that horses can’t climb down stairs. That seems like a real thing.

As the doors close and they pull away, Mike sees three people in terrifying metal masks standing on the platform, swords drawn. He might not have any idea of what’s going on, but he’s pretty sure they’re villains.

“Well,” he says, shaking his head and turning to face the kid, who’s sitting next to him. “I’m Mike. That was a nice escape scene.”

“Kevin,” the kid replies, and he smiles this bright-ass smile that makes Mike feel even drunker. It also makes him smile back.

“You might want to tell me what’s going on,” Mike continues. “And speak clearly and slowly, because I am kind of convinced that this is some sort of alcohol poisoning induced hallucination.”

“It’s a long story,” Kevin says, earnestly. “Maybe you could get me somewhere safe first?”

Mike leans up to look at the map, since he didn’t bother to notice where they got on, what with the evil knights and everything. They’re not so far from the stop near his apartment, though. He’s tempted to go to Bill’s instead, just in case Kevin is actually a criminal with a fondness for elaborate plots and comes back later to rob him, but then Kevin has the doe eyes on full force and it just makes Mike want to get close enough to count his freckles.

Oh, and he’s bleeding.

“Fuck, man, your shoulder,” Mike says, and Kevin flinches, hand automatically coming up to brush against the cut through his chain mail, showing blood soaking the white shirt sleeve underneath, and Kevin’s starting to look pale like he’d temporarily forgotten about it.

“Yeah,” he gasps. “Uhm, stab wound, you know.”

“No, not really,” Mike says, fake cheerful to hide the fact that he‘s just now really starting to panic. He shrugs off Sisky‘s blazer and gives it to Kevin so he can try to stop the bleeding. “I think maybe we’re going to a hospital instead.”

“I can fix it myself, it’s fine,” Kevin says, quickly. “I just need somewhere they won’t look for me, please.”

Mike takes a deep breath.

“Okay, but only because I‘m not in my right mind,” he says, and Kevin sighs and sinks against his shoulder.

“You’re my hero,” he says, fervently, and there’s nobody else on the train, so nobody will ever know that Mike blushes.

*

In half an hour, Kevin is standing shirtless in Mike’s tiny bathroom, and Mike is already on his second cup of coffee. Caffeine and the large gaping wound that’s getting blood all over his sink are going a long way towards sobering him up. Kevin is cleaning it as best he can with nothing but a handful of toilet paper and some vanilla scented antibacterial hand soap, and Mike thinks he’s probably wincing too much for the guy who’s totally flesh wound free.

He’s starting to wonder whether he should just call an ambulance when Kevin pulls out a small flask from his sword hilt (the sword was abandoned on Mike’s kitchen table on the way in, the armor in the bathtub) and carefully pours out a small amount of liquid onto his shoulder. Slowly, the bleeding stops, and the skin shifts and starts to pull back together, until all that’s left is streaks of blood and a long pink scar and deep purple bruises.

“Oh,” Mike says, faintly. “Oh, okay. And what’s that?”

Kevin glances over his shoulder.

“You won’t believe me,” he says.

“I’m feeling very open tonight,” Mike promises.

Kevin huffs out a laugh. He touches fingers to the scar for a few moments before he turns around and walks past Mike. He’s still not wearing a shirt. Mike is very aware of this.

Kevin says, “They’re phoenix tears,” and Mike watches him go into the kitchen and get a mug of coffee before he follows.

“Of course,” he says. “Phoenix tears. Like from a phoenix.”

“I told you,” Kevin says, leaning into the kitchen counter, favoring his shoulder. He sounds amused. “You don’t believe me.”

“Uh huh,” Mike says, dropping down onto one of his shaky chairs. “Tell me a story.”

Kevin palms his mug, staring down at it. His hair is a mess, curls everywhere, touches of blood at his temples. He needs to shower and probably sleep forever, and Mike should convince him to do that, but he really needs to know what’s going on in case those people manage to find them. He’s been entertaining a fantasy about some offshoot of the mafia, like the awkward second cousins who really like renaissance fairs but will still fuck you up, and then Kevin says, “What do you know about faeries?”

“Very, very little.”

Kevin moves carefully to sit across from Mike at the table. His face has softened out from how tense it was before, and he looks tired and pretty in the dim light. For a second, Mike just wishes that they were meeting under circumstances that don’t involve swords and the question: what do you know about faeries?

Then, Kevin starts to tell him a story about being taken from his home when he was very young. He says he was taken to a different world, a world held apart from this one but that often gets mixed up, intertwined. He tells Mike about Faerie, about magic, about everything humans have caught wind of and written stories about and how it’s barely a fraction of what’s there to write about. He tells Mike that he was originally from New Jersey.

And Mike believes him.

“So, changelings. Those are actual things.”

“Theoretically, there’s a fey kid living the life that should have been mine right now,” Kevin says. “I mean, it’s not guaranteed. Sometimes, they don’t make it in the human world or they’ll manage to remember enough to find their way back, but there’s a chance.”

“Right, right.” Mike pauses. “Okay, now why are you here? And being stabbed and stuff.”

Kevin bites his lip. He’s leaning back in his seat now, and Mike’s so interested in his story that he’s not even really that distracted by the thin dark hairs across his chest or the faint tan and scattering of freckles over his collarbones. He’s just distracted enough that he hasn’t offered Kevin a shirt yet, though

“Every year, the people of Faerie have to offer a, uh,” Kevin starts, then makes a face before finishing: “a sacrifice. To Hell.”

“Shit,” Mike says. “Hell exists, too?”

“We don’t actually know anymore than you do,” Kevin says, almost smiling again, “but we still offer sacrifices to it, so.”

And then Mike catches back up.

Shit,” he repeats. “They were really going to kill you.”

“They were probably just going to maim me tonight,” Kevin says. “Sacrificial offerings have a lot of ceremony involved. Lot of pomp and circumstance, pre-slaughter.”

“I would imagine,” Mike says. “Fuck. I’m glad you ran into me.”

Kevin’s eyes flicker up to meet his, almost shy under dark eyelashes, and he says, earnestly, “You have no idea.”

They finish a pot of coffee and keep talking until the sun‘s up. Mike learns that, despite being all fancy and quasi-magical, Kevin’s actually a giant dork. He tells bad jokes and can’t stop moving and laughs too loud. For someone who’s on the lamb from some faerie bounty hunters, he’s surprisingly low key. Kind of sweet.

It’s six AM when Mike gets up to offer Kevin his bed for the night, and Kevin stands to move closer and say, hesitantly, “Do you know what knights in shining armor usually get in faerie tales?”

He has a hand on Mike’s arm, sliding up to curl fingers around his elbow, and Mike’s stomach flips. He says, “Like, medals. . .of bravery? Land grants?”

“Virginities,” Kevin offers, and he blushes this time, which is adorable. “Well, maidenheads. And it’s a little late for that, but. . .” He leans in to press his lips to the corner of Mike’s mouth, moving so they’re standing pressed against each other, chest to chest. Mike returns the kiss for a moment before he pulls away, just enough to meet Kevin’s eyes, which are darker now, half-shut.

“This isn’t some weird obligatory thank you thing, is it?” he asks.

“No,” Kevin replies, mouth close to Mike’s ear. “It’s just some weird, I hope you want to do this as much as I do so I don’t look stupid thing.”

“In that case,” Mike starts, then slides arms around Kevin’s waist and kisses him again. They kiss the entire way to the bedroom, stopping for long enough that Mike gets Kevin pressed up against the doorframe in the hallway, one hand tucked into the waistband of his pants and the other on the wall.

“This is,” Kevin gasps, “this is nice.”

Mike laughs into his open mouth, biting gently at his lower lip.

“Thanks, I try,” he says. “Now, uh. Would you like to see my bedroom?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Kevin murmurs. “Yes, please.”

Mike fumbles behind him to open the door and they stumble inside, and Kevin makes a sudden quick move to get Mike underneath him on the bed. It’s dark in the room with the curtains closed, but Mike can catch a glimpse of the same brilliant smile he saw earlier, on the train.

They move slower, once they get out of their clothes and it starts feeling desperate, necessary. It’s been awhile since Mike’s been with someone like this. Actually, he’s sure he’s never been with someone quite like this. A small part of him wants to call Bill and tell him that, yeah, he actually isn’t getting laid on New Year’s, thanks very much. The rest of him wants to focus on Kevin, though, and his hands and his mouth and his stupid perfect face. They move together in a ridiculous, romantic way, like they’ve been waiting to touch each other like this for longer than they’ve even known each other, like they want to make it last. Mike suspects there's magic involved.

When Mike comes, he gasps out Kevin’s name like it’s already familiar, and Kevin says his name back, over and over.

“So,” he whispers, later, when Kevin is half asleep and half on top of him, “can you do magic?”

Kevin laughs, burying his face in Mike’s neck.

“Not really? Not like real faeries, at least,” he offers. “I mean, everyone can use magic if they really need it. It’s just part of the earth.”

“Hmm,” Mike says. He was going to make some joke about how he’s pretty sure they just made their own magic, but he’s pretty exhausted, so he just presses a kiss to the top of Kevin’s head and goes to sleep instead. In the morning, he will probably worry more about the fact that he just slept with someone he met less than three hours ago who is being actively hunted by mystical creatures on horseback, and he will probably also do some googling and realize that he’ll probably have to save Kevin again if this goes any farther. He might not be a girl or a virgin or have the ability to bear Kevin‘s illegitimate love child, but he thinks faerie tales are probably different when you’re twenty-something and living in Chicago, anyway, and he already feels like he would risk his life to keep Kevin alive. He practically already did.

He’ll figure it out in the morning, though. He might still be a little drunk right now.