Odessa Castle almost seems to have grown since Gremio last saw it. It’s absurd, really, a castle expanding on its own, because it’s not that it’s gotten any taller or wider or deeper, just emptier first and fuller after. They’ve cleared away the rubble on the topmost floor, the second is crowded with merchants and gamblers, and there are so many former Imperial Generals that they need an enclave all to themselves, with a rose garden on the roof.
But all this room, and Gremio’s not sure where his place is.
Everyone’s done such a good job in his absence. The walls are painted and the laundry is done and the cooks have already told Gremio, it’s fine, rest, but really resting is something he’s never liked to do and has done enough of these last two years, but that’s not the sort of thing one says to people. All things considered. That. But it leaves Gremio wandering the halls of a fortress he’ll be leaving tomorrow, and he’s already mistook the Young Master’s room once for the old one, and if everyone else has things well in hand there’s nothing to do but see to the Young Master’s comfort. He’s on the fourth floor now, or he should be, in the room that bears the standard.
He’s not, when Gremio gets there: the room is unlocked but empty. The Young Master hasn’t made his bed properly, so Gremio tsks and sees to that. The sheets don’t smell quite the same, but then, whoever is doing the army’s laundry now must have soap of her own, so Gremio doesn’t think twice about it. He smoothes out the blankets, layers the pillows, rights the frame off its angle against the uneven stone wall. But everything else is neat, as if the Young Master doesn’t really live here at all.
“Well, that’s done,” he says to no one in particular, and dusts the windowsill, straightens a curtain.
But even if he said it to no one in particular, someone responds, with just a hoarse awkward whisper of his name.
“Young Master,” Gremio breathes, “I -- well -- what happened?” but he’s already rushing at Gremio like he’d have to break through a wall to get there.
Gremio’s back meets the windowpane at the same time his mouth meets the Young Master’s. It doesn’t knock the wind out of him, but the words keep coming even after Gremio’s not quite sure what they are, though a distinct you’re kissing me might have made it off Gremio’s tongue and onto the Young Master’s before it quite makes it to Gremio’s brain. It’s stalled. Frozen. The Young Master is kissing him. Ardently. It’s rather definitely happening, right this very second, against the window, in his room, on the fourth floor of a castle on Lake Toran where there used to be a zombie dragon in the catacombs and that was two years ago and now there’s a young lady there who can teleport people with a mirror and the Young Master is kissing him.
And by the time that thought takes hold at the base of Gremio’s brain, it’s already too late for him to start kissing back, because the Young Master has started kissing Gremio’s neck, and it’s very difficult to think at all. The Young Master is heavier, not taller than he was but harder, wirier, stronger, strong enough that he’s pulling Gremio away from the window and toward what must be the bed because all of a sudden Gremio is mostly horizontal and sinking into sheets that don’t smell quite the same as they used to. Nothing is quite the same as it used to be. Clearly. He says so. Or he thinks he says so, his tongue is additionally occupied and the Young Master is an ardent kisser indeed, and the way he’s holding Gremio’s hair and jaw make speaking and kissing a tangled mess.
“The door,” Gremio finally manages, “did you shut the door? Oh dear, who’s guarding you if I’m in here, and we’re --” It hits him. “We’re --”
The Young Master nods. The door’s closed. He closed it, even. He meant this. He wants this.
And Gremio’s place is here. Here, under the Young Master’s weight, and his kiss and his hands and the pressure of his need, and Gremio has to hold on if he means to accept it, so he does. The Young Master’s hair is soft, clean, cooler than his skin; Gremio has run his fingers through it before, but those were comforting gestures, consoling, and these aren’t. The Young Master’s bandana is askew now, and Gremio thinks for a moment that he should right it, but then it slips off into Gremio’s hand and Gremio sets it aside so it doesn’t wind up on the floor or anything, though if it stays on the bed it might -- oh dear.
Oh dear. This.
But kissing is wonderful, not strange and definitely not unwelcome, whatever reservations Gremio has about whether the Young Master knows what he wants and really wants Gremio, and he does have those reservations and he might say a few things about them but no, kissing, kissing makes words go utterly unheeded. Kissing back makes them start to go unsaid.
Then the Young Master’s hands slip, or shove, or one of those, past the waistband of Gremio’s pants. That, ah, well. That stops the kissing and starts the words right there.
“Young Master,” Gremio says, firmly, or as firmly as he can when there’s a definite squeak to his voice and the words rush out of him like bees out of a dented hive, “I’m not sure that’s terribly appropriate and besides, I’ve only just gotten back and you’re still young and I’m still your servant and I know we’ve all been through so much, and. Um. Young Master. It’s. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s --”
The Young Master’s hand twitches, shivers, against Gremio’s thigh.
Gremio looks him in the eyes.
“Please,” Tir says.
All Gremio can do to that is nod, and this time, kiss him first.
There are words, after that: apologies when a piece of clothing tugs the wrong way on its way off, and breathless laughter when Tir’s hands find one of the places Gremio is most ticklish, and Forgive me, Young Master, it’s been a while just before Gremio lowers his head to kiss Tir intimately. And there are reservations, after that, and concerns, but Gremio stammers through them and lets Tir reassure him that yes, this is what he wants, and it’s good for Gremio to want it too, and good to feel this, to feel alive and alive together.
When they finish, Tir for the second time and Gremio for the first, the bed creaks, loud enough to echo off the stone walls and into the silent hallway, and Gremio’s heart is beating so fast it rattles the bars of his chest. Tir, beneath him, is fighting to breathe, and Gremio holds him, instinct and years of love demand it, but Tir’s eyes aren’t the Young Master’s eyes of nightmares and loneliness, the same way his arms and his skin and his wants aren’t those of a little boy anymore. He holds tight to Gremio with need but no adulation, no childish demands, just the needs of a young man who knows what and who he desires.
It’ll take more time than this to accept, but Gremio is more than prepared to, even if he’s too speechless and breathless to make the promise he wants to make.
Tir swears it first.