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Ash wasn’t entirely sure when it had started. One evening, Augus simply turned up after the lights were out and slid into his bed and then turned over and fallen asleep. It wasn’t quite like him, but it wasn’t uncomfortable and Ash hadn’t asked about it. If there was one thing he knew not to do – it was look a gift horse in the mouth. 

One morning they’d woken up tangled, and Augus’ hard on had been pressing into the small of Ash’s back, but as soon as Augus realised it was dawn and where he was, he’d disappeared without saying anything else and acted like everything was normal.

So Ash left it.

Two months later, Augus had crawled into Ash’s bed when all the lights were out, tucked himself against Ash’s back and fallen asleep. It was still dark when Ash was woken by breathing against his neck and a hand stroking down his side and Ash thought about asking questions but…well…

He was a predator, and he was nothing if not an opportunist.

Ash rolled over under the heavy cloak of blankets and pressed his lips to Augus’ mouth like they’d been kissing all their lives. Behind it, the unfailing confidence that they could weather absolutely anything, and the sluggish lazy heat that came from lax movements on a bed, both of them half asleep, and Augus’ mouth warm and open against his. Ash was surprised when Augus didn’t try and take control of the kiss, but even that disappeared beneath touch and longing.

When he leaned back, opened his mouth to say something, Augus placed fingers on Ash’s lips and then licked at his jaw instead. His tongue clever and pointed, which seemed appropriate, given Augus’ inclination towards wit and sharp words. Ash let his mouth fall open wide enough that two of Augus’ fingers fell into wet warmth, and then he sucked them down, rubbing his tongue up against the undersides of them as Augus hissed and then made a low sound against Ash’s neck, pushing his body closer.

Ash had no expectations, and after ten minutes of kissing, breaths shared, Augus pressed his face into Ash’s neck and wrapped an arm around his chest and left it at that.

Ash stayed awake for an hour later, hard in his boxers and thinking about what it might mean.

They didn’t talk about it during the day, and Augus appeared to be acting as though everything was normal. Ash could take a hint.

From then on, almost every time Ash visited – and he did seem to find himself visiting Augus’ lake a little more often now – at least once, Augus would come into his bed. But only when the lights were out. It was something they never really spoke of, and even as Ash learned how to become far more familiar with Augus’ body than he ever thought was possible, it was a secretive thing that required the darkness to come to life. Augus like a candle beneath his hands, turning to flame beneath his mouth.

And if Ash was a candle beneath Augus’ hands too, he didn’t mind, it turned out.

It didn’t always progress past kissing. Sometimes it didn’t even become kissing at all, just Augus wrapped around him and clinging, and Ash with his eyes closed and pretending to sleep and savouring.

It must have been two years later when Ash finally crept to Augus’ room, the house dark, smelling faintly of astringent herbs. He slipped into Augus’ bed unsure if he would find rejection there, and as he got onto the firmer mattress, Augus turned into him, fast asleep, murmuring in contentment.

Ash smiled, kissed his forehead, soothed Augus’ back as their damp hair touched. It didn’t really matter when it had started. He only knew he wanted it to continue.

Chapter Text

‘You don’t ever do this?’ Ash said, stumbling down shallow sand dunes onto the soft, squeaky shore. Gwyn following with a little more grace, which felt strange. Ash was the graceful one wasn’t he? Not on sand dunes, apparently.

‘What? Walk along a beach in the human world? No.’

‘You’re missing out,’ Ash said, turning and smiling at him. ‘The lights in the distance of the cafes and restaurants, the fact that it’s practically deserted anyway because the time of year? It’s awesome, man, I love it.’

‘Not to mention the storm coming in on the horizon?’ Gwyn said, getting into the spirit of things. He loved the knotted tight energy of storms, the release of lightning, the brontide in the distance.

Ash led Gwyn down to the lapping waves that were encroaching upon the shore. The tide was coming in. The water was frigid.

‘What storm?’ Ash said, looking out into the horizon.

‘You can’t feel it?’ Gwyn said, looking down at the ground. ‘The thunder of it?’

‘You can?’

‘Give it some time then, perhaps you’ll feel it too,’ Gwyn said.

Ash pressed his body up against Gwyn’s side, and Gwyn rolled his eyes when he felt Ash’s hardness pressing into him.

‘I’m feeling something,’ Ash murmured, and Gwyn laughed, unable to help himself.

‘No,’ Gwyn said, still laughing. ‘That might work on humans. It doesn’t work on me.’ 

He felt another very distant vibration of thunder in his feet, in the air around him, he shivered. Ash was leaning even closer so that Gwyn had to spread his legs slightly to brace the weight of him. As he looked out into the horizon, hearing the crash of waves, Ash wrapped a possessive hand around Gwyn’s waist. His other hand delved quickly, deftly, into Gwyn’s pants.

Gwyn opened his mouth, and Ash’s lukewarm hand was already on him. Already wrapped around him and moving.

‘This works on you,’ Ash purred.

‘That would work on anyone,’ Gwyn said, his voice choking as he reached for Ash’s hand to pull it out of his pants. Ash was far too good at what he was doing, and Gwyn was in the human world and it was public and-

And Ash’s fingers dug painfully into Gwyn’s waist and he refused to let go of Gwyn’s cock, so that all Gwyn achieved was a sore, sharp tug on his own cock when he realised that Ash was acting like he was practically fused to him.

‘Ash,’ Gwyn said.

‘Shut up,’ Ash said amiably. ‘Let’s wait for your thunderstorm. Don’t act like you don’t love it.’

‘We’re in public,’ Gwyn hissed.

‘Huh, are we?’ Ash said, as his hand squeezed tighter against Gwyn’s cock, moved faster now that it was fully hard. There was an edge of discomfort, the sensitive skin at the head of his cock brushing against his own pants, and Ash seemed perfectly aware of it. ‘I think you like public too. Remember that time in the pub?’

‘No,’ Gwyn said, blushing hot and absently reaching out and clutching at Ash’s shirt.

‘No? You don’t remember that? Cuz I seem to recall it pretty well actually,’ Ash said, laughing. ‘You with your legs kicked apart in front of that bathroom sink and that dirty as fuck mirror and stretched open on hand lotion? Man, that was a good night.’

Gwyn coughed and shifted haplessly, because Ash wasn’t letting up at all.

‘Ash, honestly. Do you want me to- I didn’t bring a change of clothing.’

‘Devastating,’ Ash said, curling closer to Gwyn’s frame, the arm around his waist more a bar of strength than something affectionate now. ‘You’re hot when you’re flustered.’

‘Ash,’ Gwyn said in that particular patronising way that he knew Ash hated. Ash rewarded him by pinching the head of his cock, and Gwyn jerked at the pain of it, then hissed when it turned to heat in his lower belly. He wasn’t happy that Ash had figured out that side of him, because he was merciless about it. ‘Ash,’ Gwyn tried again. Ash grasped the head of Gwyn’s cock and deliberately rubbed the tip against the fabric of his pants, over and over again, until Gwyn squirmed and bit down noises and Ash finally let off and took up an easier rhythm. Not that it mattered now, heat stoked inside of him, thunder rumbling in the distance, pain turning into the need to come. His lower back felt heavy with it.

‘Yeah,’ Ash said thickly, when Gwyn felt his balls beginning to draw up towards his body, tension coiling tight inside of him. ‘Come on.’

Gwyn held off for as long as he could, still somewhat mortified that anyone could come along and see them. Even if it was past midnight, he could still hear people around. He knew they weren’t the only ones on this beach. Facing the waves didn’t lend him any sense of privacy at all. The water was up to his ankles now, pushing further and further into the shore.

‘I like it when you hold off,’ Ash said, smiling against Gwyn’s jaw, ‘but enough’s enough now, yeah?’

Ash sped up the movements of his hand Gwyn cried out before he could stop himself, tension pulling unbearably tight before it finally snapped and he spilled hot and wet against the inside of his own pants and Ash dragging it out as he always did, until Gwyn was trying to tug his arm away and Ash wasn’t listening.

A rumble of thunder that was loud enough that Gwyn heard it, even as he gasped for breath.

‘Oh hey,’ Ash said, biting at Gwyn’s jaw, finally pulling his hand out of Gwyn’s pants and licking at his palm before dropping it. ‘Look at that. Thunderstorm’s coming in. Guess you did know what you were talking about after all. So. You ever given someone a blowjob on the beach?’

Gwyn rolled his eyes and finally succeeded in pushing Ash away from him, only for Ash to clutch at Gwyn’s arm and roll back in a wrestling move. They both fell down onto sand, into shallow water, Gwyn straddling Ash, and a wave splashing into them seconds later.

They both started laughing at the same time, a rumble of thunder passing through them, and Gwyn leaning down to kiss Ash, far more free than he ever felt back in his own realm.

Chapter Text

‘Darling, you’re panicking,’ Gulvi said quietly, and Augus nodded and forced himself not to laugh, trying to blink the absolute darkness away. He had night vision, damn it. The only time it was ever this dark was when he- when they were- when-

‘Gwyn won’t be able to find us here,’ Augus managed, too scared to even reach out and feel where the walls might be. His mind was already shrieking for light, the word echoing inside of him, his breath echoing around them.

‘He’s been down here before,’ Gulvi said, sounding far more calm than anyone had any right to.

It was also the confirmation he didn’t need, the one she shouldn’t be able to provide.

They were back in the underworlds.

Welcome home.

Augus covered his mouth with both of his hands and squeezed his eyes shut. He kept the pressure up until bits of light began to flare in his own vision. False. Entirely untrue. They weren’t safe here. Weren’t safe anywhere down here.

There was no fresh water, no natural ecosystems that he understood. He wasn’t aware of pressing back until he stumbled into a body, and then two hands were around him and he shrieked.

‘La! Augus!’ Gulvi said, her voice sharp and cracking, even though it wasn’t quite a shout. ‘It’s me, darling. Remember?’

‘Don’t leave me here,’ Augus said, opening his eyes and hating the nothing he was seeing in front of him. Not even glowing fungi down here. There could be slurchers all over, just watching them. Just…waiting.

‘Mm, I can’t decide if I’m disgusted or pleased that you’re falling apart,’ Gulvi said, her voice low and quiet. Below that, an undercurrent of fear. Augus shook his head, close enough to her body that she’d feel the gesture. He couldn’t handle it at all if Gulvi became too afraid. He needed…he needed something.

Light.

The word kept repeating and he felt himself mouthing it over and over and then made himself stop because at this rate, he’d be cracked apart and a wreck and the Nightingale wasn’t even here.

But somewhere down here. Waiting.

‘Gods,’ Augus rasped, sinking to his knees.

‘Augus?’ Gulvi said in surprise. ‘What are you-?’

She dropped down into a crouch beside him, her hands went around his shoulders and they didn’t feel sticky or cold or alien and so his flinch wasn’t as bad as it could be.

‘I can’t stay down here,’ Augus said, staring up blindly where he thought her face might be. ‘I can’t. I can’t, Gulvi. I can’t. I-’

‘How repetitive,’ Gulvi sighed. ‘Gwyn has been down here before. I have my knives. You have your…utter breakdown. I’m sure that might serve some purpose – I’m nothing if not resourceful. We’ll manage. Yes? Oui?’

‘Oui,’ Augus murmured, shuddering.

The shuddering continued, until the ground around them was shaking and the walls were trembling and the movements weren’t coming from Augus at all. They both stiffened and Gulvi was alert, her wings pushing forth a gust of air.

In the distance, they heard a growl. A deep, unearthly thing that rippled through the air more viciously than any growl Augus had been able to utter. He felt his gut turn cold and then hot, his hands went limp, there was white hazing at the corner of his vision which in the total darkness made him realise he might be passing out.

‘Little pony,’ Gulvi said, her voice low and urgent, ‘stay here with me, darling. I still owe you at least one stabbing. I’ll not leave you down here while I owe you that much.’

‘Promise me.’

‘I swear it,’ she said, standing beside him, a calf and knee and boot connected to the weak line of his back.

‘You’re…you’re not going to let me forget this though, aren’t you?’ Augus said, indulging the belief that they’d somehow get out of this mess and Gulvi would mock him mercilessly for his weakness and it was almost- it was almost good to imagine. What little awareness he had left that wasn’t devoted to terror, went towards trying to picture it. The mocking.

‘Not at all,’ Gulvi said, and he could hear the smile in her voice. ‘Darling, you forget, I am chaos. I am nothing if not likely to upset the order of things. If the order of things down here is that we’re likely to die, let me tip the scales in our favour.’

The growl came closer and Gulvi tensed at his back, even as he whimpered and realised his eyes were running hot. Tears. Pathetic. The Nightingale would never have-

But he’s not here.

Augus looked up towards the ceiling of whatever network of caves they were in as though he could see Gwyn somewhere above them. And then, fumbling for his pocket, he shoved numb fingers within and found the crystal and clutched it and sent the loudest blast of need he possibly could.

Now…now to only wait and hope that Gwyn would find them and that they would be alive for the rescue; because the monstrous creature was coming ever closer, its growls flavouring Augus’ fear, turning his mind to a blank machine capable of only one word.

Light.

Chapter Text

Augus got home and already knew that Gwyn was there, because the mat he had just inside the door to wipe his shoes was slightly askew, and didn’t that just aggravate all of Augus’ ideas of how everything should be just so in his home.

Not only that, but Gwyn’s shoes were then dumped akimbo, socks lying bunched up nearby, a magazine half open on the coffee table. A magazine about athletics. Augus had only thought they were useful for a quick wank which was never as much fun as watching actual porn but still did the job. But apparently, no, they were also read by…athletes.

Disappointing. Gwyn swore he never actually wanked to them, but Gwyn’s wank ratio was shockingly low for someone who could go all night if he was pushed to.

That’s some refractory period. I grew out of that when I was eighteen, and apparently he just gets better with time.

He was brought up short in the kitchen, hand still on the keys he’d rested on the counter, when he saw the bottle of Talisker on the counter. It was Ash’s bottle, and Gwyn had found it in the past and had a snifter or two. It looked like…from the lack of glassware in the sink, that Gwyn had been drinking straight from the bottle again. The stuff reeked.

‘Gwyn!’ Augus shouted, taking off his peacoat and hanging it over a chair, taking his black satchel upstairs with him as he took the stairs two at a time, seething. His shoes clicked on the polished wood. After the week he’d fucking had, Gwyn wasn’t supposed to use his key to come in and use Augus’ house as some kind of unlicensed bar.

He threw open his bedroom door and then stopped, staring at the half-naked Gwyn who was sitting cross-legged on the black sheets of his bed, hunched over a mobile phone with his tongue stuck between his teeth and the familiar noises of Angry Birds sounding from the speakers.

Augus tilted his head, and Gwyn shook his head and then laughed quietly.

‘I can’t look up yet, I’m so close to finishing this level.’

‘Three stars?’ Augus said, putting his satchel down, toeing off his shoes and walking over to the bed. ‘Because if you’re not getting three stars on those levels it doesn’t count. Are you drunk?’

‘Hello,’ Gwyn said, looking up at him and dropping his phone. ‘Maybe a little.’

‘Did you come from training?’

‘Work,’ Gwyn said, smiling in a way that was in no way endearing. Augus shoved him – not hard enough to knock him over, but hard enough to show he wasn’t impressed. ‘Aw, Augus. It’s just a little whiskey. Ash will never notice.’

‘Ash will notice,’ Augus said, laughing in spite of himself. ‘Because it’s Talisker. Why can’t you just get a cheap fucking bottle of Jim like the rest of them?’

‘Because it’s so nice,’ Gwyn said, his voice slipping into a faint croon. ‘I’m not…really drunk. Just…pleasant. Pleasant to be around. Good company.’

He was pronouncing every word with the painstaking attention of someone who wasn’t quite sure if they’d pronounce the words properly if they stopped concentrating. It made his already quaint, upper class diction even quainter.

Augus straddled him – still dressed in his work pants, his work shirt – and started undoing his tie. Gwyn watched him with a sparkly warmth in his blue eyes. His lips twisting up into a smile.

‘Hello,’ Gwyn said again.

Fucking hell,’ Augus said, rolling his eyes.

‘Tipsy,’ Gwyn said, by way of explanation.

‘That’s one word for it,’ Augus said. ‘I hope you realise I’m not going to kiss you now. Because you’re going to taste like that filth.’

‘Oh,’ Gwyn said, his eyes going very wide. ‘No, actually, I thought of that. After last time. I ate some toothpaste.’

‘You mean you brushed your teeth?’

Gwyn squinted at him, and then shook his head. ‘No…I’m certain that I ate some. It was minty.’

Drunk,’ Augus said emphatically, looping his tie around Gwyn’s wrist not to anchor it to anything in particular, just to provide a handle he could yank on to express his displeasure. Gwyn rolled his head and looked at the wrist, the silk around it, and blinked in that sleepy way that meant he was content.

That didn’t warm Augus’ chest, because Augus was angry, and he was trying very hard to hang onto that.

‘I may have eaten too much toothpaste,’ Gwyn said. ‘M’not hungry anymore. You didn’t have much toothpaste left.’

Augus had nearly an entire tube of Colgate left, and after a few seconds he started chuckling, unable to stop himself. Gwyn laughed too, and Augus pulled the tie around his wrist several times until Gwyn stopped.

‘It’s not funny,’ Augus said. ‘You don’t even know what I’m laughing at.’

‘I like it when you laugh,’ Gwyn said. ‘Can’t I just want to join in?’

‘Oh god,’ Augus groaned, dropping his forehead to Gwyn’s chest. ‘Oh god, I’m going to fuck the cute right out of you.’

‘You think I’m cute?’ Gwyn said happily. ‘Aw, Augus.’

‘Why are you in such a good mood?’

‘I wasn’t,’ Gwyn said seriously, nodding with wide eyes, ‘but then I found the Talisker and everything changed. And now you’re here and everything’s better.’

‘We’re going to talk about what caused this later on.’

‘Yes, Mum,’ Gwyn said seriously. ‘We certainly are. And then you’ll lecture me and spank me and put me to bed without dinner?’

‘All…of those things may actually come true,’ Augus said, ‘but don’t compare me to Crielle again. I think my balls just crawled back up into my body. And I need them.’

‘For babies,’ Gwyn said, seriously.

‘Yes, you idiot, for fucking offspring. That’s exactly what I meant.’

‘I like it when you’re snippy,’ Gwyn said, leaning up to kiss Augus’ lips and missing, grazing across his jaw instead. ‘Snippety snappy.’

Augus muffled a laugh into Gwyn’s neck, because now Gwyn was sounding like a muppet, or a character from The Labyrinth, and he was supposed to be- fuck, wasn’t he supposed to be angry? That’s right. Gwyn wasn’t supposed to use his house as a bar. That’s…

Augus squirmed when Gwyn started licking at his ear. Not with any finesse or expertise. But lapping at it wetly. Like a dog. It felt good and disgusting all at the same time.

‘Get off me,’ Augus said. ‘If you make my ear smell like whiskey, I swear-’ And then his eyes widened and he tilted his head. ‘Actually, you did eat rather a lot of toothpaste, didn’t you?’

‘Minty fresh,’ Gwyn said decisively. ‘Let me show you. And then…that whole…fucking the cute right out of me sounded like fun.’

‘Didn’t it?’ Augus said, smiling and biting Gwyn’s lower lip, pinning Gwyn’s wrists to the bed and deciding that maybe – just this once – it was okay that Gwyn got into the Talisker.