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I'll Splatter Colour On This Grey

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The snow is falling in thick flakes outside the window and the morning light is spilling in, preventing him from going back to sleep. He should get up and close the curtains, but it feels like more trouble than it is worth. Instead he sighs and rolls over, buries his head under a pillow. It’s not like he has any reason to get out of bed.

It’s January. It’s been four months.

Underneath the pillow, he frowns. Is it still January? Suddenly sick and disgusted with himself, with this fucking lethargy, he throws the pillow off, reaches for his phone.

February 2.

He throws it back and it makes a dull thudding sound as it hits the wooden surface of his nightstand. He should get out of bed.

And then he should eat something and get dressed. Get out. Work out. Meet his friends. Talk and laugh. Go out and do something other than getting drunk and fucked. Flirt and charm and have sex. Fall in love.

And bring his brother back from the dead.

The pillow is replaced and whatever his frustration at his own apathy sparked is gone, ignored as he sleeps another day away.

What are worse than the days he can barely get out of bed are the restless days. The days when he can’t sit or stay still, when is body is buzzing with this sick kind of energy he doesn’t know how to deal with. It is an itch inside his bones, and it makes him pace and think and hurt.

His cousin got pretty bad when they were teenagers. She cut herself. He never really understood how she could to that to herself. He understood that she wasn’t well and that she had to deal with it somehow, but he still had trouble grasping what exactly made you able to bring yourself to put a razor against your own skin, to deliberately hurt yourself. He understands it now. He doesn’t do it – can’t, won’t, doesn’t dare; he doesn’t know – but he can understand the why and how. There are so many things beneath his skin and inside his head that he needs to get out and has no means to get rid of. And so many more things he can never rid himself of, never allow himself to lose.

He doesn’t cut himself. Instead he goes to the gym, where he hammers at his body until the physical exertion cancels out everything else, until he is exhausted enough to sleep.

He changes his pyjama pants for sweats, dumps a fresh t-shirt and underwear and a towel into a bag, throws it over his shoulder and jog down to the gym. He puts on his headphones, turns up the volume, and runs on the treadmill until nothing exists but the pounding music in his ears, the steady beat of his foots against the machine and the faster beat of his heart, his ragged breathing and his body howling for mercy. He is in better shape now than he was back then, before, when he trained with Oenomaus five to six days a week.

When he finally gets off the treadmill the sweat is pouring and he can barely stand up. He should hit the showers and go home. Instead he goes over to the dumbbells, picking up the heaviest he could possibly handle in his current state. If he is lucky, he might even get a full night’s sleep out of this.

There are days when the restlessness cannot be helped by working himself almost into a coma – days when he can barely stand the thought of even leaving his apartment, days where hiding for the rest of his life seems the only viable option. There are days when the guilt and the rage burn to hot in his veins that he scare himself. He wishes he could fight; he needs an outlet, some release for all the pent up emotions inside of him.

He calls Oenomaus, even though he already knows what he is going to say.

“You know that’s not my decision,” Oenomaus says, at least sounding regretful. “You’re suspended until June.”

“Fucking bullshit,” Agron says, losing patience with himself, Oenomaus, the whole fucking world – everything. “That bastard fucking provoked me, and how long was he suspended? Not even a fucking week!”

“You broke his nose in two places, Agron.”

“He was a fucking MMA-fighter, same as me. He’s fucking meant to be able to take it.”

“Not outside the ring,” Oenomaus says and Agron wants to rage at his calm, wants to fucking break it. “We can’t have fighters with anger management issues, you know that. If you hadn’t quit your therapy sessions halfway through you would have…”

“Don’t fucking start, dammit,” Agron says. There is no way in hell he will go back to that shrink, to that room. “Not happening.”

“Then there is nothing I can do.” Then Oenomaus softens, his voice growing sympathetic. “I know it’s hard, Agron. I know you miss him…”

“Don’t. Start.” Agron says, voice clipped. “Just don’t.”

Duro lives inside his head these days, haunting him. He doesn’t need other people bringing him up – he does that fine on his own.

“You should come to training, though,” Oenomaus says after a beat of silence.

“Yeah,” Agron says. “Maybe I will.” He won’t, and they both know it.

The restlessness grows until Agron wants to scream from it. The daylight is too bright, everything too clear and he wants to tear himself apart just to avoid the hellhole that his life has turned into. He can’t bring himself do actually do anything – just the thought of getting his shit together enough to go out makes him weary.

He needs to do something. Anything. Whatever it takes to stop this feeling of things crawling under his skin. But he can’t. He doesn’t know why, but he just can’t.

So instead he lies on the couch watching stupid TV-shows, and the only thing he can think about is Duro and the fact that his brother is dead and that it has been four months and that it’s never getting any easier, that Agron can’t allow it to get any easier. He doesn’t deserve it.

Agron killed his brother. Maybe indirectly, maybe through circumstances that were really outside his control, but the fact remains – his brother would have been alive had Agron not been such an idiot. Duro would still have been here and his usual annoying, wonderful self if Agron hadn’t got them tickets to California for a surfing trip, if Agron hadn’t gotten bored with the surfing and went up on the beach, if Agron had been paying attention to his brother rather than flirting with that hot guy lying next to him.

Agron still remembers the commotion that suddenly had started up, lifeguards running down the water, the curiosity mingling with a disconnected kind of concern that he had felt, thinking that some stranger had accidentally swum too far out or something, and the sickening realisation as they brought a life-less body hurriedly out of the water and Agron had recognized it. It took a while, even though he stood close. Duro was never that still – he was full of life, in constant motion, filled with his annoying energy.

But no more.

They had tried to revive him, but all their efforts were futile. Agron had caused his brother’s death.

“It wasn’t your fault,” that shrink he had been sent to for beating up a rival fighter had said repeatedly in the locker room. “It was an accident.”

“That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t brought him there, if I had stayed with him, if…”

The ifs are endless.

But eventually something she said got through and Agron found himself one afternoon at Donar’s place, most of his friends gathered there, laughing and enjoying himself like his brother wasn’t rotting in the ground. And when he had realised that, all hell had come crashing down around him. He had quit going after that – and had his suspension pro-longed as penance – because this pain and all the memories were all he had left of his brother and he couldn’t afford to let them go. Ever.

It takes almost a week before Agron resolves what to do. It is sudden, but he knows that he has to do it. For Duro. For himself.

He doesn’t know how long it has been since he exchanged his sweats for jeans or put on shoes, but it’s a while. The bleak winter sunlight glares him in the face as he steps out, and he almost regrets it. Almost.

The tattoo shop is open – thank fuck for small mercies – and he steps inside, taking the photo he brought with him out of his pocket. Behind the counter is a dark-haired, heavily tattooed young woman typing away at a computer with one hand and drawing squiggly, twisting circles on a notepad with the other. She looks up when Agron comes through the door.

“Hi,” she says.

“I’m here to discuss a tattoo,” Agron says.

“Good,” the woman says, “because if you wanted a hamburger you would have been at the wrong place. What do you want to do?”

Agron lays the photo on the counter. It’s one of Duro, of course, taken on his last birthday. Agron swallows. “This. Over my heart.”

“He better not be some guy you met yesterday at a bar,” the girl says.

“He’s my brother,” Agron says, only barely avoiding to clench his teeth. No other tattooist he’s ever gone to have been this nosey – the guy Agron got his first tattoo from had just grunted when Agron told him what he wanted and gestured towards the back of the shop.

“Fine.” The girl stands up. “Strip.”

Agron raises an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

“Strip. I need to see the skin you want inked.”

Agron shrugs and pulls his t-shirt off just as a guy walk out of another room. He blinks at Agron for a second before turning to the girl.

“Dima? Why is a man stripping in my shop?”

“It’s your birthday, isn’t?” Dima smirks at him.

“Not funny,” the guy says.

“He wants a tattoo,” Dima says, nodding at the photo. “Over his heart. I’m just checking the skin out.”

“No, you’re not,” the guy says. “Get out of here and go buy us some coffee or something.”

The girl leaves, still smirking, and the guy turns towards Agron. It seems like he has some trouble keeping his eyes from flickering down Agron’s body, and Agron is completely fine with that, because shit. There are gorgeous men and then there are men like this. Agron has never really had a type before, but he does now: this guy.

“Apologies,” the guy says. “She is a terrible receptionist, but I’m alone in the shop today and I need someone to man the counter while I work. I’m Nasir.” He offers his hand and Agron shakes it.

“Agron.”

“So, you want this over your heart?” Nasir asks, picking up the photo.

“Yeah,” Agron says.

Nasir eyes his chest. “It’s a shame you already have ink on your right side, ‘cause that would have been easier. But I guess you want it over your heart for a reason?” He waits for Agron to nod. “I’m sure I can work around the scarring.”

“I didn’t realise it would be a problem,” Agron says.

“It shouldn’t be.” Nasir looks down at the photo. “It just limits the working area somewhat. But we’ll solve it. And you’re free to put your shirt back on,” he adds, sounding almost regretful.

Agron does.

Nasir goes behind the counter and checks something on the computer. “I have a slot in about six weeks,” he says.

Six weeks?” Agron feels the hopelessness settle back in, abruptly; he hadn’t even noticed that it has lessened. He can’t wait six week. Six weeks is fucking ages. He will have gone out of his mind completely by that time.

“Yeah. I might get a cancellation, but it’s a pretty big piece and I need some time to sketch it so I can’t squeeze you in just anywhere. Sorry.”

“But…” Agron clenches his fists at his side. “That’s a long time. I…” He trails off. Six fucking weeks.

Nasir looks at him for a moment, and Agron’s desperation must be completely obvious because he says: “Tell you what. I have some time tomorrow night. We could do it then.”

Agron shakes his head. “No, you shouldn’t have to do this in your spare time. Six weeks works.”

Nasir looks at him for a moment longer before writing something on the computer. He grabs a card and a pen of the counter and writes something down, hands it to Agron.

February 12, 17.30 PM it says, in a small, precise scrawl. It’s underlined twice.

“Gratitude,” Agron says.

“You’re welcome.” Nasir smiles softly. “I’ll hold on to this.” He taps the photo with one finger. “See you tomorrow.”

“See you,” Agron says and steps out of the shop, back into the winter sunlight. It doesn’t seem to hit him quite as hard in the face this time. Small mercies.

Chapter Text

Nasir drags the razor carefully across Agron’s skin, leaving it smooth in its wake. Agron looks at the stencil lying on the table beside him, amazed with the work Nasir has done. It’s perfect, down to every line, and Agron can’t wait to get it on his skin.

Nasir is methodical and efficient, hands quick but careful, and soon the stencil has been replicated on Agron’s skin and the hum of the tattoo gun fills the room.

“I’m not sure we’ll get this completely done tonight,” Nasir says. “I might have to go back and add some highlighting later.”

Agron just nods.

“Is this the biggest piece you’ve done?” Nasir asks, spreading antiseptic over Agron’s chest.

Agron’s gut is twisting with anticipation; it’s weird to experience something this strongly that isn’t guilt or sorrow. “No. I have a wolf on my calf. It’s slightly bigger.”

“Then this will be a piece of cake,” Nasir says teasingly, smiling, and then he begins.

Agron closes his eyes at the familiar pain the first few minutes, revels in the white-hot, buzzing burn in his skin. His endorphins kick in quickly, dulling the sharp edge of it and he sucks in a deep breath, relaxing.

He opens his eyes to Nasir leaning over him where he lies supine on the table, eyes fixed and intent on his work, hands manoeuvring the machine with skill and care born of long practice. His hair is tied back in a messy bun, and he is wearing a tank top, revealing his dark, wiry arms – one blank, one tattooed Maori-style. The hand not holding the machine pressed against the middle of Agron’s chest, stretching the skin, warm even through the latex of the gloves.

“So,” Nasir says after a long while, just as the pain is starting to get worse and Agron focuses on him again. He is a great distraction. “Tell me about him.”

It sounds intimate, the way he says it, but then again, having a guy leaning over you and carving a permanent portrait into your skin is pretty intimate too.

“My brother,” Agron says. “Duro.” He closes his eyes again, but not against the physical pain this time. He remembers them getting their first tattoos together – Agron had waited two years just so they could to that – Duro a crow feather on the inside of his arm for some reason and Agron got a Metallica-quote across his right pectoral: so tear me open, but beware. Duro has continued it as his second tattoo, in the same place: there’s things inside without a care.

So much they has done together. And from now and onward, everything Agron does he will do alone.

“I’m sorry,” Nasir says, wiping the excessive ink off before putting the needle back against Agron’s skin, apparently reading Agron scarily well. “Was it long ago?”

“About four months,” Agron says.

“Shit.” Nasir’s voice is low.

It goes quiet after that, Agron focusing on the burn of the pain, the feeling of Duro’s face getting etched into his skin, remembered forever. The pain is safe; it is okay to give himself over to it, to not feel anything else but it for now.

He looks at Nasir, glorious in the yellowish overhead lights and his utter concentration, admiring his strong features, his ink, the way the tank top stretches delectably across his torso. He can allow himself this, this silent pleasure, in all its bittersweetness. Had it been before, he would be dropping bad pickup-lines and even worse word puns like verbal tics, teasing and laughing, trying to charm Nasir into his bed, into his life.

Now this is just another thing that Agron doesn’t allow himself to have. He taints things now.

“There you go,” Nasir says, hours later, and Agron looks down at his chest as Nasir wipes it off one last time, all red and puffy, skin burning.

He sits up slowly and Nasir pulls off his gloves, hands him a mirror.

The ink looks fucking amazing, black lines in sharp contrast against Agron’s skin. It’s well made, softly shaded and blending beautifully into Agron’s skin, or will, when it heals the starkness fades. It looks exactly like Duro.

“Gratitude,” Agron says slowly, eyes still on the reflection of the tattoo in the mirror.

“You’re welcome.” Nasir starts cleaning up the clutter on his working desk, puts away the machine and corks the ink bottles.

“And gratitude for doing this outside working hours,” Agron says. “It means a lot.”

“Yeah, I got that.” Nasir smiles sadly, eyes downcast, and Agron wonders who he had to watch die. “You need to come back for some highlighting and touching up. I have an opening in little more than a week. Would next Wednesday work for you? At…”

“Yeah,” Agron interrupts, because it is not like he has any plans in life. “It works.”

Nasir looks at him for a second. “Good,” he says before putting a new pair of gloves on and taping Agron’s tattoo up.

 

“How are you holding up?” Spartacus asks, offering him a beer.

“Fine,” Agron says, tones clipped, accepting the beer bottle. He isn’t fine – he’s feeling choked. He is so fucking tired at their probing questions, their pitying looks, their careful touches, their attempts to make him feel better. He doesn’t want to feel better, he never will feel better – his brother is fucking dead and he will never come back to life. Neither will Agron.

He takes a sip. It’s Mira’s birthday and he isn’t quite a bad enough friend to skip it. Never mind that she would hurt him if he had tried. She was vicious before – her getting together with Saxa hadn’t really improved matters.

“That’s good,” Spartacus says, looking at him dubiously. “We’re having a training tournament down at the gym next weekend – you should come. If not to participate, then to watch me beat the crap out of Crixus.”

“We’ll see,” is all Agron says, even though watching Crixus take a beating was one of his biggest pleasures in life before, second only to beating Crixus up himself. Spartacus drifts away from him shortly after. Agron is relieved.

His tattoo has started healing and it itches something fierce – he cannot scratch on it, but he can scratch at the skin around it and he does, pulling down the collar on his tee to get better access.

“What have you got there?” Naevia asks, stopping beside him on the way to the kitchen to get another drink. “Did you get a tattoo?”

Agron hasn’t told them – mainly because it all went so fast, but also because it is… his. “Yeah.”

“Let me see!” she says, loud enough for the others to hear.

“See what?” Gannicus asks.

“Agron has got a new tattoo!” Naevia replies. “Come on, show us.”

Agron pulls of his t-shirt, his friends’ eager eyes on him, to show off the ink. It has started flaking a little where the black is the most solid and it doesn’t look as good as it will once it is healed, but it still looks right, there on his chest.

The room falls silent and his friends’ smiles fade a little bit.

“It’s beautiful,” Mira says eventually. “Who did it?”

“I went to that tattoo shop a block away from my place, you know, Inkheart, or whatever it’s called. That guy did it. Nasir.”

“Ooooh,” Mira says, grinning. “He did mine too!” Mira has a gorgeous clutter of autumn maple leaves on the inside of her upper arm. “He’s pretty hot, isn’t he?” Her grin widens.

“I guess,” Agron says, taking a swig of beer, feigning nonchalance.

“That short, dark-haired guy?” Donar asks. “Chadara’s friend?”

“Obviously Chadara’s friend.” Mira rolls her eyes. “She works at his shop, doesn’t she?”

“Who is Chadara?” Agron asks.

The whole group shots him weird looks, ranging from exasperated to sympathetic.

“My girlfriend,” Donar says.

Shit. But he doesn’t quite have it in him to care. He just nods.

“We could set you up,” Mira says.

“Me and Chadara?” Agron tries for smart-assness. “Would Donar like that? Hell, would I like that, you think?”

Mira throws a popcorn at his face. “You and Nasir. You’d be so cute together.”

“No, thanks.”

“But…”

I said no.” Agron’s voice is harder than he intended and Mira almost visibly flinches.

“Okay, fine.” She holds up her hands as if in defence. “Be miserable,” she adds, mumbling, as he pushes past her to get out on the balcony to smoke. He catches Donar shooting her a reproachful look.

He feels ashamed. It’s her birthday after all.

After he’s had his smoke, he goes inside and finds her alone in the kitchen, bringing out plates for the cake. He enfolds her in his arms, suddenly starving for human contact as well as in desperate need of her forgiveness and she pats his back, kisses his cheek.

“You need to stop punishing yourself,” she says, but he pretends not to hear, just continues holding on to her for like she is all keeping him tethered to reality until the others start drifting into the kitchen in search for dessert.

“Mira told us that you got a new tattoo.” There is a short pause. “Of Duro.”

“Yes.” Agron is fiddling with the hem of his shirt nervously, which he has done since he picked up the call from his father.

“She said it looked just like him.”

Agron looks down at his chest, even though the ink is covered by cloth. “It does.”

His father sighs. “Was it really a good idea, putting it there? You will see it every day for the rest of your life. Maybe it’s time to let it go.”

Agron gets angry. It’s even easier these days, than it was before. It is always there, simmering just beneath the surface and it is a relief to be able to direct it at someone else. “’Let it go’? Let it go? You’re telling me… what? To fucking forget about him? To let him go? As if he… he never was? Is that what you’re fucking…”

“Agron,” his father says sternly and Agron falls silent. “Not him. This. Your pain and guilt. It wasn’t your fault. And don’t you dare accuse me for wanting to let Duro go ever again. We miss him just as much as you do.”

More guilt. One of these days it will swallow him whole.

“I know you do, Dad,” Agron says, lump in throat. “I just can’t… You know I can’t… let it go. I…”

“It was an accident, Agron.” Those words, replicated endlessly. Everyone has told him, over and over again.

“I brought him there, Dad.”

“Yeah, and he was happy, Agron. He was with his brother in California, surfing…” His father’s voice grows dangerously brittle but doesn’t break. Maybe he too is out of tears. “He was happy,” he repeats.

He died choking on seawater, Agron thinks but doesn’t say. Alone. “I have to go, Dad,” he says instead. “Tell Mom I said hi.”

“I will. Love you, son.”

“Love you too.”

The tattoo is healing well. Agron prefers it raw, the sting of it every time he moves a constant reminder of what it stands for. But it is healing, and taking the pain in his skin with it, leaving the deeper one, temporarily masked, intact, its strength renewed.

Chapter Text

On Wednesday, Agron goes back to the tattoo shop to have the final touches made on the tattoo. The place is more crowded than last time he was here – there is another woman behind the counter this time, her hair an artificial shade of electric red and her tattoos a vibrant, swirling mosaic of colour, making an appointment with a guy who has by far too many tribals. Dima is lying on a couch reading, while Chadara – Agron used Facebook to update himself about his friends life a little and there was like fifty thousand pictures of her and Donar together, how the hell could he even have missed that – and Nasir is working on their respective clients. The sound of buzzing tattoo guns fill the air, coupled with pounding music – Slayer’s “Angel of Death”, if Agron is not mistaken.

Nasir gives him a small smile when he catches sight of him and apparently he is just finishing up on his client, because within a few minutes the tattoo gun is shut off and the tattoo is being covered by cling wrap.

“Julie!” Nasir shouts when the guy the redhead was talking to left the shop. “Can you turn that horrible music off?”

“Nope,” she yells back, exchanging an amused glance with Dima.

“It’s my shop!”

“Yeah, but I’m manning the counter,” Julie shouts back before turning to Agron. “Do you have an appointment?”

“He is Nasir’s,” Dima says before Agron has a chance to open his mouth. “Client, that is,” she adds belatedly, smirking at him.

“Just sit down,” Julie says. “Nasir is soon done. Dima, scoot.”

She does, but only with a lot of complaint and when Agron sits down he gets her feet dumped in his lap.

“So you’re the reason my brother spent his birthday party sketching,” she says without lowering her magazine.

“I guess?” Agron says, feeling a little guilty. And also surprised – he had no idea Nasir and Dima were siblings. They don’t seem that much alike.

“I insisted, Dime,” Nasir says, walking out into the front of the shop. “Don’t blame him.”

“Don’t call me that!” she hisses at him.

“Get your feet off my client,” is all Nasir says in response, but Agron can see the faint smirk on his lips. Ah, there is the sibling resemblance.

Nasir leads him back to his working space, which he cleans up with almost scary efficiency and speed, and it doesn’t take long before Agron is on his back on the table, Nasir intently studying the tattoo.

“It has healed well,” Nasir says. “And the lines all look fine – it’s just some highlighting that’s needed. You ready?”

Agron nods and the machine start up.

Dima has abandoned her magazine to watch her brother work, peering over his shoulder. It seems like it should be distracting, but Nasir is apparently used to it.

“He’s really good-looking,” she says, indicating the tattoo. “He isn’t single by any chance?”

“He’s…” Agron swallows, his throat suddenly seizing up. He is dead, a voice chants in his head. Dead, dead, dead. And he will never be anything else ever again.

“Dima, get the hell out of here,” Nasir says, taking his eyes and the machine of Agron’s skin long enough to glare at her.

Dima has the grace to look chastised. “Sorry,” she mutters, slinking away to battle Julie for the right to choose music at the computer.

“I’m so sorry,” Nasir says, back working on the tattoo. “She’s a bit…” He grimaces, and that tears at Agron as well, for how often hasn’t he tried to explain Duro’s unpredictable, weird-ass behaviour to strangers he’d inadvertently insulted? He doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry and it’s not like he can do neither.

“Not your fault,” he mutters.

Two nights later, Agron decides to go out and get drunk.

He barely has time to get inside the club before he’s regretting it; there is bodies pressing against him all around, the air is thick with the smell of sweat, alcohol and perfume and the music makes his head pound. All he wants his to get completely shitfaced and find someone to go home with. Tonight is not a good night for loneliness – the restlessness is crawling in his blood again and it’s either this or smashing his head against his living room wall.

A girl tries to pull him into a group of people dancing as he presses through the moving crowd towards the bar, but he brushes her off impatiently. He sees a guy eying him, but when Agron tries to meet his eyes, he turns away.

Fucking hell.

There is a perfectly nice gay club just a few streets down, but Agron doesn’t go to that place anymore.

When they had just moved to the city (away from home, together – Saxa always said mockingly that they might as well have been born as conjoined twins for how they never strayed more than three inches from each other) Agron had just broken up with his latest boyfriend and Duro had found and dragged him to the closest gay club to cheer him up.

“See what an amazing brother I am?” Duro had said as they stepped inside. “I give up my own chances of getting laid just to help you get in someone’s pants. Am I the best wingman of all time or what?”

“You wouldn’t have any chances in a regular bar either,” Agron had told him with a grin, causing Duro to stick his tongue out at him.

Much later that night, Agron had found him making out with a guy in the men’s room. Duro had had beard burn all over his jaw and neck for a week.

“He kind of looked like James Hetfield,” he’d said afterward, shrugging. Agron was terribly jealous.

After that, Duro insisted on coming along every time.

“What the fuck is he doing here?” Barca had grumbled one time when Agron showed up, Duro in tow.

“This place is great for my ego,” Duro had told him, ordered a shot and downed it. “Now, if you excuse me I’m going to go out on the dance floor and let hot guys feel me up.”

Agron is never going back there again.

He reaches the bar eventually. Where Nasir of all people in the fucking world is standing pouring drinks.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Agron shouts, trying to make himself heard over the music.

Nasir turns from his last customer. “Hi!” he yells. “I’m covering for Dima – she’s sick! You’re getting a drink?”

“Yeah!” Agron shouts back. This is fucking ridiculous. Is he getting old or is the volume in here stupidly high?

“I’d appreciate if you didn’t order anything more complicated than a beer or something that can be poured from one bottle!” Nasir shouts. “I’m horrible at this!”

He look rather ragged – his braided hair is messy, like he has spent the evening raking his hands through it, and there are stains of different origins on his shirt.

“Beer works!”

The look of pure relief on Nasir’s face makes something twist in Agron’s stomach. He ignores it, pushes it into the dark where it belongs.

Agron gets his beer and when Nasir busies himself with another customer – who orders something complicated by the look of exasperated terror on his face – he turns around, loses himself in the sea of bodies.

Large amounts of alcohol helps, he thinks as he downs another shot, unsteadily putting the small glass back down on the bar before heading back out on the dance floor. It dulls all the sharp edges that is Agron’s reality, temporarily lulling his grief and guilt to sleep.

It makes other things wake to life, though, and he finds himself constantly looking over to the bar where Nasir is serving drinks. His braid is completely disintegrated by now, the mass of hair falling around his shoulders and framing his beautiful face. The topmost buttons of his shirt is undone in the heat of the club and there is a faint sheen of sweat glinting there that Agron wants to lick away. Badly.

The room swims around him as he moves more or less in time to the beat of the music. There is a guy in front of him, one arm slung over Agron’s shoulder and the other wound around his waist. They are more grinding up against each other than dancing, even as Agron’s eyes keeps flicking to the bar.

The guy he is dancing with is gorgeous – blonde hair artfully styled, blue eyes, a well-muscled body beneath his clothes. Agron craves sex so fucking badly – to lose himself in someone else, to drown everything he doesn’t want to feel in meaningless pleasure, to be touched and held in something that is not sympathy or comfort. He needs something to mask his loneliness.

But it’s not going to happen with this guy. As he less than graciously excuses himself, he can feel an illogical, drunken anger building inside of him. It’s not the first man he has snubbed tonight – he can’t seem to focus properly on anyone and that is all Nasir’s fault. Agron hates him for being here, for standing behind the bar all night being painfully beautiful and everything Agron cannot allow himself to have. Agron could have been in bed with either of three handsome men right now if it weren’t for him, for the way he fucks with Agron’s brain.

He stumbles towards the bar, ready to give Nasir a piece of his mind. Fucker cannot just stand there being all hot and gorgeous. It’s not fucking fair. Agron doesn’t need more things messing with him right now.

“Water?” Nasir shouts when Agron collapses down on a bar stool in front of him. He doesn’t wait for an answer, just slides a glass clinking with ice towards Agron. “Having fun?” he asks.

“No,” Agron says sullenly, taking a sip of water. He might spill a little down his chin. “It’sch all your fault, you, you…” But what Nasir is eludes his intoxicated mind and he trails off, frowning at Nasir.

“My fault?” Nasir looks taken aback.

“Mhm.” Agron gestures at him. “Have any idea how hot you’re, man?” He is sluddering and Nasir is suddenly looking even more confused. “Hm? D’you? Like fucking hellll. You’now? You’ve ruined me for lllife. I’m never getting fucked ‘gain. And that’sch. Your. Fault. And your schtupid hothnesch.” And with his case satisfactorily made, Agron empties his glass of water and stands up. There got to be someone in this goddamn club that he can fuck. He’s just going to have to switch the damn light off or something.

Agron’s head feels like it’s splitting in two when he reluctantly wakes up. He groans and is about to turn over to go back to sleep forever and ever, when a voice asks: “Awake?”

He raises himself up on one elbow, blinking blearily in an attempt to be able to focus. Nasir is standing in the doorway, looking less than amused with a glass of water in one hand and a bottle of painkillers in the other.

Agron looks around. On the beside table there is a pile of books, while the walls are devoid of Metallica and movie posters and the floor of strewn clothes. This is not his bedroom.

“Um,” Agron says. Everything is a complete mess inside of him. Did he have sex with Nasir last night? Part of him is horrified because he wasn’t supposed to do that, and the other part is brutally disappointed for not remembering it. How the fuck could he possibly forget something like that?

He has a vague memory of yelling at Nasir for being hot, though. Agron wonders if Nasir possibly could be so kind and go away and let him die in his bed in peace. Probably not.

“So, um,” Agron croaks out, “about last night…”

Nasir hands him the water, shakes out a couple of pills into his palm and hands him those too. “Drink it down.”

Agron obliges and then sinks back against the pillows. He should get up and get the hell out of Nasir’s life, as soon as he has apologised. And when his head feels a little less like it’s going to explode.

“I guess I was an ass last night,” Agron mutters, not quite able to meet Nasir’s eyes.

Nasir frowns. “I’m not sure,” he says slowly. “You got extremely drunk, then yelled at me in German for five minutes before wandering off and sticking your tongue down some guy’s throat. He dragged you into the bathroom, the manager threw you both out, and I had just ended my shift so I took you home to sleep it off. I tried to get your address out of you, but no such luck.” Nasir shrugs, looking a bit sheepish. “You were very drunk. I don’t know if you’d rather gone home with that guy, but…” Another shrug. Then he hesitates, takes a deep breath. “Not that it’s any of my business, but how are you, really? I mean, you lost your brother four months back and from what I’ve seen you aren’t exactly… fine.” He winces, maybe at the word choice, maybe at the question.

Agron does not know, does not care. The anger, so familiar its sickening, rises up in the face of Nasir’s pity on sheer reflex. “Of course I’m not fucking fine,” he snaps. “Not to mention hung-over and very much not fucking laid. Thank you very much.”

“My fucking apologies,” Nasir snaps right back, his awkwardness forgotten as his anger flares as quickly as Agron’s - dark eyes blazing, and even obscured by his own anger, Agron finds that hot, “for taking you home, giving you the bed and undressing your drunk ass while you were groping me.”

“Yeah, well, maybe you would have done me more of a service by fucking me,” Agron mutters. “More fun for everyone involved.”

“Yeah, because you really seemed in a good enough state to make it fun for me last night,” Nasir says. He bends down to pick something off the floor, and a second later Agron’s jeans hit him straight in the face. “Get dressed and get out. Preferably twenty minutes ago.” With that, Nasir turns and leaves the bedroom.

Agron pretends to glare at his back as an excuse for blatantly ogling his ass. Hell, who is he kidding. He’s fucking multitasking.

Then he throws on his jeans and heads home, ignoring Nasir ignoring him on the way out through the door, to pass out in his own bed.

Chapter Text

Agron and Mira are having lunch at one of those put-together-your-own-salad-cafés – Agron’s is made up of meat and cheese with some pineapple thrown in for good measure – when Mira says: “I’m thinking about asking Saxa to move in with me.”

“That’s nice,” Agron answers noncommittally as he chews on a piece of chicken.

“Do you think she’ll agree?”

“Hm?” Agron looks at Mira where she’s sitting across from him. There is something nervous in her posture.

“Are you even listening?” she asks, and the nervousness is instantly exchanged for impatience. And, then, a second later she softens, remembering the source of his constant moodiness and inattentiveness. Agron wish she would yell at him. This fucking constant understanding irks the hell out of him.

“Sorry,” is all he says, trying to look contrite. Soon, everything will go back to normal as far as they are concerned and he can have his grief in peace, safely hidden from their concern.

“If I ask Saxa to move in with me, would she say yes?” Mira asks, looking both anxious and elated at the prospect.

Agron looks down at his salad, his heart suddenly pounding in his chest, blood rushing in his ears. What the fuck does it matter? he wants to ask her. Nothing matters. We’re all going to die. There is no point.

“Agron?” Mira’s voice is equal parts concerned and annoyed, but he doesn’t hear her. He is clutching his fork so hard the metal cuts into the meat of his palm. The sudden sense of futility hits him hard, consumes him. He sees his whole life laid out in front of him, empty of meaning. It will all end and nothing matters.

He forces his hand to open and the fork clatters down on the table.

Mira is staring at him. “Agron?” Her voice is faint. “Are you okay? Come on, talk to me.” She reaches across the table, grasps his wrist in her hand.

Her touch helps marginally. It is something to hold on to, something real. Agron can’t remember the last time someone touched him. Was it when Nasir covered his tattoo in cling wrap and carefully taped it to his skin after fixing up the highlighting? Agron doesn’t know. Her fingers feel almost too warm against his skin.

“Ask her,” he says and picks his fork back up. “She will say yes.”

Mira looks at him for a long moment, but lets it go. She takes her hand off him and resumes eating. She keeps sending him long, probing looks, though, and Agron curses himself.

The walls are closing in on him.

He hasn’t left the apartment for two days and his phone is shut off. He doesn’t need their worry or sympathy. He needs his brother back. Oh, fuck, how he misses him. Beneath all the fury, all the guilt, all the apathy, there is the giant, heavy loss – it feels like a severed limb, phantom pain in a part that’s missing from him. He misses his brother. He misses their constant teasing, his laughter, all his irritating habits – like how he never capped the toothpaste when they lived together, and always drank straight out of the milk cartoon and then complained about Agron doing the same. He misses having someone always by his side, someone he can always count on.

He remembers them being kids, Duro constantly getting into trouble because he knew Agron would get him out of it in the end.

He remembers when Duro was fifteen and got his nose pierced while drunk and how fucking terrified he was when he woke up the next morning and realised that there was no way in hell he could hide that from their parents.

He remembers them moving into their place and how they hadn’t actually started unpacking for a month and a half, instead digging around in boxes while swearing profusely every time they needed something.

He remembers late night video game-marathons, endless, escalating practical jokes, throwing parties and getting angry complaints from the neighbours.

He remembers kicking Duro out once they more drove each other up the wall than enjoyed each other’s company and then spending just as much time together anyway with Duro’s place being only one block down.

He forces himself to remember, keeps poking at the gaping wound to ensure that it never heals.

Agron has never really gotten the point of coffee shops – throwing out two dollars on coffee you can make cheaper and better at home for anything other than extreme caffeine fix crises is just plain stupidity as far as he is concerned. Still, he finds himself at the coffee shop right across the street from his apartment after another tough workout, driven out of his home by the restlessness crawling in his blood. He is seated at a table by the door with a cup of overpriced coffee in front of him, his fingers shaking from exertion and the cold that seemed to have lodged itself permanently in his bones these days, playing and losing Wordfeud against Lugo.

It is not his most dignified moment.

Bored with the game – it has to be set up or something, how come he gets no fucking vowels at all? – he looks up just as the door opens and Nasir of all people steps inside. He doesn’t see Agron, just heads over to the counter. It seems like he is something of a regular, because the barista doesn’t even ask what he wants before she starts preparing it.

Nasir’s hair is put up in a bun, the column of his neck revealed. At the bottom of it is a something in Arabic tattooed, tantalizing against his golden skin and Agron’s gaze locks on it. He wants to know how that patch of skin would taste.

Fuck, does he need to get laid.

He isn’t angry with Nasir any longer; it evaporated as soon as he stepped out of his apartment. He isn’t able to stay angry with anyone but himself – hell, he isn’t able to hold on to anything that isn’t self-hate anymore.

Nasir turns, a takeaway mug in hand, and catches sight of Agron.

“Hi,” Agron says before his brain gives his tongue permission to do so.

“Hi,” Nasir says.

Awkward silence reigns for a moment, until Agron says: “I should probably apologise.”

Nasir nods. “You probably should, yeah.”

Again, silence.

“Well,” Agron says. “That was my apology.”

Nasir snorts and blows at his coffee. “No, it wasn’t.”

A wave of irritation washes over Agron. “Take it or leave it,” he says, crossing his arms.

“Fine.” Nasir turns and walks out the door.

Agron stares after him. A peculiar feeling rises inside of him and it takes him a long time to identify it: a twisted kind of delight. At what, he is not sure.

Agron stares vacantly at the television, only registering a smear of green and pinpoints of colour moving across it. His friends suddenly cheer and he almost starts at the sound.

“Yes!” Spartacus shouts, throwing a fist into the air. “Finally! They’re going to fucking win this, I tell you!”

Crixus snorts and Spartacus throws a pillow at him.

Once upon a time, Agron saw a point in watching these games. He cannot really understand why now – it’s men with gigantic shoulder pads running back and forth, wrestling and tossing a ball back and forth. There is no point. He squeezes his eyes shut at his thoughts. He can feel himself zoning out completely, the lethargy setting in again. Desperately, he turns to Donar. “So, how’s Chadara?”

Donar gives him a questioning look before reaching out to grab the bowl of Cheetos out of Saxa’s lap, ignoring her protests. “She’s fine.”

“I guess you met at the shop?” Donar has almost as much ink as Agron, and a new piece was added just months ago.

“Yup,” Donar says through a mouthful of Cheetos.

“It’s Nasir’s shop, right?”

“Yup,” Donar says again after swallowing.

Agron misses the looks his friends are exchanging behind his back, and how Mira makes a victory sign.

“They know each other well?” he asks.

“Best friends,” Donar says. “Did each other’s first ink and everything.” Donar suddenly smiles in an unbearably satisfied way that can only mean one thing. Agron makes a face. So apparently Donar and Chadara gets kinky on their tattoos. He did not need to know that.

“He’s got a lot of ink?” he asks, giving up the pretence of this being about Chadara completely.

Donar gives him another look. “I don’t know. Newsflash: he’s not the one I’m sleeping with.”

“Of course not,” Naevia says from where she is curled up next to her Crixus. “He’s way out of your league.”

“Hey!”

Naevia laughs at Donar’s affronted face.

“Why this sudden interest, Agron?” Mira says, throwing one arm around Saxa. Her eyes are glittering and how desperately she wants him to get better makes him feel bad.

He doesn’t deserve his friends, he thinks even as he regrets his decision to bring Nasir up. Damn his mouth. Now they will never let this go.

“I dunno.” He plunges his hand down into the Cheetos bowl, fishes out a fistful.

“You should go for it,” Mira says.

“No, I shouldn’t,” he says. “Nasir’s not interested,” he adds impulsively. It’s not like it’s not true – in hindsight, he wonders, a bit ashamed, if most of his anger didn’t stem from finding himself unwanted in Nasir’s eyes. It hurt, even if it wasn’t surprising. He is broken. It’s not worth the effort needed to mend him.

“How do you know? You asked him out or something?”

Agron just shrugs.

“Oh, honey,” Mira says and Donar pats him consolingly on the back.

“It’s a step in the right direction, though,” Spartacus says.

Agron looks around the room at his friends. They all look happy. Relieved. For him. He’s feeling sick. They think he is getting better. He is never getting better. Duro isn’t coming back.

The attention is shifted back to the game, and when his friends cheer as their team scores another goal, Agron joins in, if a little belatedly. It is, he thinks as he catches Mira smile at him, so much easier to just pretend.

Chapter Text

Somewhere along the road Agron stops calling Oenomaus to nag about not getting to fight. When he thinks of it at all now – his victories, the adrenalin rushing through his body, the intensity of the fights, the sheer fucking joy of pressing himself to the limit, of how every bruise and scrap and hurt was a badge of honour – it seems bleak and faded, like those memories belong to someone else, a story someone has told him and that he is starting to forget.

“I need some time to be alone, to think things through,” he tells his friends when they call and they accept that and backs off, because they think he is improving.

And, Agron realises as he is lying supine on his couch staring up at the ceiling as if it holds the secrets to the universe, fighting to breathe as the waves of hopelessness washes over him, submerging him, maybe he did too for a while.

He wants too. Fuck, does he want to getter better. He can barely remember what it feels like, life being good; cannot imagine how he would live without this heavy weight around his neck dragging him down.

But fuck if he doesn’t want to, so badly it fucking hurts.

And, at the same time, nothing scares him more.

He is shaking, cold in the bleak winter air and his loneliness, and he realises that he is wearing nothing but a pair of jeans, his feet bare. There is a blanket hanging folded over the armrest of the armchair to his left, but that is too far away.

Time passes, but he is disconnected from it, suspended in his misery.

A knock on his door startles him out of something that is not quite sleep, and he sucks a deep breath into his lungs.

He knows he should get up – and not only because someone is standing on the other side of his door waiting for him to open it. But knowing this and actually getting his body to obey him are two different things. He doesn’t want to and he feels paralysed, feels like his limbs are weighted down with lead.

It takes another knock before he manages to take control of himself enough to heave his body off the couch and stumble to the apartment door, his mind still clouded with not-quite-sleep and the lethargy he has been gorging himself on these latest… hours? Days?

He does not expect finding Nasir there when he opens the door, and he blinks at him.

Nasir looks pissed, until he takes in Agron’s state. Agron realises he is still in those jeans and not much else and probably looks like he has crawled straight out from hell, half-alive.

“Agron.” Nasir is frowning at him, but not in any way that can be interpreted as angry. “When were the last time you ate?”

Agron opens his mouth to answer, only to close it again. He raises his hand to scratch beneath his pectoral – that fucking tattoo is still giving him a little bit of itching hell – and almost startles at how protruding his ribs feel beneath his fingers.

“I…” he says, trailing off. He really doesn’t know.

“Get inside,” Nasir says, stepping inside Agron’s apartment and taking his shoes and coat and gloves off. He walks into Agron’s kitchen and Agron follows him, confused.

Nasir sighs as he surveys the meagre contents of Agron’s fridge and grabs the menu from the Chinese food place down the street that’s sitting on the door instead.

Agron lets Nasir order for him. It seems easier.

“I haven’t apologised yet,” Agron reminds him as Nasir is getting glasses out of his cupboard.

He gives Agron a look over his shoulder. “I know.”

“What are you doing here?”

Nasir turns to face him. “Why did you tell your friends you asked me out and I said no? Donar glared holes in my back when he came by the shop the other day, and when I passed Mira in the street later she didn’t even say hi. I had to ask Naevia what was up, and even she was upset with me.”

Agron groans and drags a hand across his face. He had almost forgotten his little charade as well. “To get them off my back,” he confesses without really knowing why. “All they want is for me to move on. And I can’t,” he mumbles, the frustration raw in his voice. “So I told them that. About you. To make them happy.”

Nasir studies him for a long moment, still holding a glass in either hand. “You must be in pretty fucking bad shape if getting snubbed by a guy is interpreted as a happy occasion by your friends,” he says. Then he winces. “I’m sorry. Of course you are.”

Agron doesn’t know what to say to that, so they are silent until there is another knock on the door, announcing the arrival of their food.

“I didn’t mean for my friends to get angry with you,” Agron says once they have sat down to eat, picking at his noodles. He doesn’t know what to do with this – Nasir is here, in his apartment, feeding him, and Agron is conflicted. He wants him to stay and he just wants him to leave.

“They’re rather protective of you,” Nasir says.

“I guess.” Agron stabs one chopstick into a piece of meat. Agron doesn’t need anyone protecting him. He was the protector, the one that always kept Duro safe. Until he failed him.

“Why are you doing this to yourself, Agron?” Nasir asks softly after a while.

“The fuck do you care?” Agron asks, part earnestly, part angrily. Gods, Nasir confuses the hell out of him.

He expects Nasir to snarl something back or maybe leave. He doesn’t expect him to lay down his chopsticks and say: “Do you know how many tribals I ink each month?”

Agron frowns in confusion. “No.”

“A hell of a lot.” Nasir is silent for a short moment before continuing. “There are a million different reasons why people get tattoos. Most of them are good. Some are bad. But then there are tattoos that people gets that are…” He shrugs. “They’re special. You remember them. You’re aware of the fact that somewhere out there someone is walking around with a small piece of you under their skin and that it means the world to them. And when you do these tattoos, it’s hard to just let it go afterward. When people come in and get these kind of tattoos – in remembrance, in celebration, as a survival tactic, whatever, it doesn’t really matter – I always wonder about what happens with them. If they get out of the hell they’re in, if they hold the promises they make to themselves. And you’re everywhere lately,” he adds, sounding almost frustrated, as if it is a hardship to see Agron’s face at every turn.

Agron can’t summon up enough energy to care.

He chews slowly at his food. It has probably never taken him this long eat before. It seems like every bite grows in his mouth and he has to fight to be able to swallow it. He shoves his plate away half-done, but Nasir makes him finish the meal.

“I should leave,” Nasir says at last once they’re both finished. He gets up and suddenly Agron definitely does not want him to leave.

He follows Nasir out into the hall. “Gratitude,” he says, when Nasir turns to open the door. “And apologies. For everything.”

“You’re welcome,” Nasir says and gives him a small smile. “Bye.”

The door closes behind him.

Slipping back into his near catatonic state is easy, familiar. He realises how much effort it takes to maintain a life, and happiness, and how easy it is to make it crumble.

There is a Friends marathon on the TV and he watches without really registering anything. He used to be unable to sit still, to stay in.  He didn’t have Duro’s restless energy, but he was never one to stay at home alone for too long. Now boredom is lost to him.

The knock on the door is just as unexpected as it was yesterday.

“Hi,” Nasir says, standing there with a tin foil-covered plate in his hands.

At least Agron has gotten rid of his less than clean jeans and put on a fresh pair of sweats this time. “Hi.”

“Can I come in?”

Agron steps back and accepts the plate as Nasir hands it to him. “What’s this?”

“Broccoli pie.”

“Broccoli pie?” Agron echoes.

“Yeah. This is my lunch hour. I need to be back at the shop at one.”

“Okay,” Agron says.

He puts two pieces of pie on two plates and put one into the microwave, watching as it circles in there, not really noticing the beep signalling its heated up.

“Agron,” Nasir says and Agron finds himself and takes the plate out before putting in the next.

“This has no meat in it,” Agron says after the first bite, glaring down at his piece of pie as if it has personally offended it.

“I know that,” Nasir says. “I made it.”

“But I eat meat.” Agron pokes at a broccoli with his fork as if it is some kind of alien spore.

“So do I,” says Nasir. “Just not all the time.”

“That’s weird,” Agron says but he has already lost track of the conversation, absently shoving another bite of pie into his mouth.

Nasir doesn’t even bother replying.

They sit there in silence, eating pie without meat, for the remainder of Nasir’s lunch break.

It feels oddly nice and Agron is trying to figure out how he feels about that.

Stop this, he doesn’t tell Nasir. I don’t deserve nice things. But he thinks it.

Chapter Text

His apathy is a panzer. It’s thick and unyielding and however much it hurts it keeps himself safe from further harm. Beneath it, he picks at the gaping wound left by Duro’s death and stops dreaming of better days.

Nasir makes it harder.

Agron does not know when he became a permanent fixture in his life – or in actual flesh at least – but he is. He comes by more and more, to eat, talk, or watch a movie. Sometimes Nasir sits sketching while Agron flips through television channels as if he actually expects to find something he wants to watch. Agron has even stocked up his fridge. Kind of. At least there are more in there than ketchup and beer now.

“I have popcorn,” he says.

They’re watching Gattaca, on Nasir’s insistence. He claims it is the only good SF movie ever made. Six months ago, Agron would have argued himself blue trying to make him realise how utterly and completely wrong he is about that. How quickly such things become unimportant.

Agron had told Nasir he had never watched Gattaca, and Nasir had decided to rectify that immediately.

It’s good, Agron supposes. He has trouble focusing – his thoughts wander.

“I could eat popcorn,” Nasir says. “Should I hit pause?” he asks as Agron gets up from the couch.

“No, that’s fine,” Agron says. He puts the popcorn bag into the microwave and starts opening his cupboards to find a suitable bowl. He finds a bag of peanuts that he throws in the trash. Fuck knows how long that has been lying around.

When he sits down on the couch again, placing the bowl of popcorn between them, Nasir says: “Don’t you like it?”

“It’s good,” Agron says.

Nasir grabs a handful of popcorns. “Tell me the protagonist’s name.”

Agron is silent. “It’s not bad,” he tries, after a while.

Nasir laughs a little at that.

Agron cannot help but turn his head and watch him, sitting on Agron’s couch with his legs pulled up under him, picking at the popcorn kernels in his hand, choosing one and popping it into his mouth. He shouldn’t look so comfortable on Agron’s couch, in Agron’s apartment. He hates himself for not making Nasir leave, for keeping him here – eventually at Nasir’s expense.

Nasir smiles at something in the movie, and suddenly an image of Duro, eyes vacant and with sand in his hair, dried salt on his lips, flashes before Agron’s eyes and he turns away, finding it hard to breathe and hoping that Nasir won’t notice.

“So you lied about asking him out,” Mira says and Agron can easily imagine the disapproving look on her face just from her voice through the phone. “Why?”

“Why do you think?” he asks her.

Her laugh is cold and hard, and it makes Agron’s heart clench. “Ever the martyr,” she says and she sounds almost as tired as he feels. “We actually do care about you, you know. Asshole.”

“Fuck you,” he tells her. “You don’t know, you can’t, you just…”

“Agron, we have taken your crap for too long,” she says, her voice rising until she is almost yelling at him. “We have tried to be there for you, support you, take care of you… We know how much he meant to you. We miss him too and even more so when seeing what this has done to you!” He can hear her draw in a shaky breath and it sounds halfway to a sob. “It’s as if you died with him, Agron. You’re mourning a brother and we’re mourning both of you!”

“No,” he says. “Don’t try this guilt-crap with me. It’s not fair. Guilt is all I fucking feel. I killed my own brother!” He realises he is crying, his tears running warm down his cheeks.

“No, you didn’t! He drowned, Agron. He drowned. It was an accident. You want to beat yourself up? Then do it for something you actually did. You didn’t hurt Duro, you fucking idiot, but you’re hurting us! We’re still alive, Agron. Maybe it’s time you realise that.” With that she hangs up and leaves Agron staring at his phone for a long while. He can’t believe how much damage was caused in so short a time, with so few words. He puts the phone in his pocket before he grabs his gym bag and heads out the door to purge the pain of the call with sweat and physical exertion.

The stairs are hell. He almost regrets not taking the elevator up to his apartment after the workout. His legs are burning. He never has any energy or strength left these days. Something is sucking it right out of him, and everything – with or without killer workouts – is ten times as strenuous as they should be. He has to support himself with a hand on the rail as he takes the final few steps, and when he is finally up he sees Nasir standing by his door, lowering a hand he has presumably used to knock on it. He turns to leave and catches sight of Agron, his eyes widening.

“Jesus,” he says. “What have you done to yourself?”

“Worked out,” Agron says. “I thought I’d shower at home,” he adds defensively. He knows he’s a mess. No need to point it out. His head is swimming and his breathing is grown heavier again. He reaches one hand out to steady himself against the wall, but it is further away than he estimated and he stumbles a little. He blinks vigorously in an attempt to clear the black dots that’s dancing across his vision.

“Agron?”

Nasir’s voice sounds far away, echoing. The black dots are multiplying and he is swaying on his feet. He thinks he hears Nasir repeating his name, sounding frantic, but he cannot be sure because the world is suddenly disappearing from around him.

He comes to when someone dumps him on his bed and looks blearily up to see Saxa glaring down at him.

“You’re on your own,” he hears her tell someone. “I’m not helping you take care of him until he realises what he fucking bastard he’s been. I only came here to give him a fucking piece of my mind. Mira has cried enough for his fucking sake.”

Agron closes his eyes and a second later a cool hand is placed upon his forehead. “How are you feeling?” Nasir asks.

“Like hell.” His tongue feels a bit too big for his mouth and the words sounds slightly warped.

“Maybe we should get you to a hospital.”

“No,” Agron says. “I’m just tired.” He is – he is so very tired. He wishes he can fall asleep and never ever wake up again. He wants to rest. He is exhausted.

“You shouldn’t torture yourself like this,” Nasir says, voice low as if he isn’t sure if he wants Agron to hear it.

“I have to stay in shape.” Agron still has his eyes closed and he can feel himself starting to slip into sleep. Maybe he won’t dream this time. Maybe he can sleep properly.

“For what?” Nasir asks.

Agron frowns because he can’t really remember right there and then, only that it is important, and then sleep overtakes him and he lets himself be carried away.

Agron thought he had already hit rock bottom. He hadn’t. Mira is lost to him. And it is all his own fault. He ruins everything he touches. Even Nasir is keeping his distance now.

He sent a text: I’m going back home for a few days with Dima. See you.

Agron doesn’t bother sending a reply. Instead he goes out and gets drunk. Terribly, horribly drunk. He isn’t looking for someone to fuck this time – he is looking for someone to hurt. The aggression pounds in his blood, rising higher in tandem with his alcohol intake. He is reckless, every holed up feeling turning into rage and filling him to brimming. He rules the fucking world tonight and he is going to make it bleed.

He hasn’t been in the Arena for month and the fighting lust is drumming inside of him. It was as anger management he picked up training – sports, boxing, working out at the gym, anything. Since he outgrew his teenage years he has stopped using it as such, but he has been without an outlet for his anger for too long. He needs to take control – over himself, over everything.

He is stumbling, raging drunk when opportunity arises: a group of young men holding court on the dance floor, drinks in hand, their laughter able to discern even over the beat of the music.

It is so easy that Agron has to laugh at their silliness – a fleeting, flirty touch is all it takes to make one of them swing at him and the others to join in as soon as it is clear that Agron holds the upper hand. They outnumber him; he cannot win this, even if it weren’t for the guards already closing in to break the fight up, but that doesn’t matter.

Donar and Spartacus drag him bodily out of the elevator, and Spartacus holds him up while Donar searches his pockets for his keys. They get the door open and drag him into the bathroom. Donar helps him out of his t-shirt and pants and then he is pushed down on the cold, tiled floor and the showerhead is turned on. He yelps as the cold water hits him, sobering him up slightly. It washes the blood from him and hides the tears running down his cheeks.

“Fuck, Agron,” Spartacus says. “The only reason you’re not arrested right now is because there were eyewitnesses claiming that he hit you first. If not – fuck, you could have been suspended for life, not to mention thrown in jail!”

“What the fuck does it matter,” Agron mumbles. The water gets into his mouth and he spits it out – it comes away mixed with blood. Fucker busted his lip and nose up pretty good. He lifts his hand to feel the damage and hisses as the water hits his skinned knuckles.  “How’d you find me?” he asks, lolling his head back against the tile. He is too drunk for this. So drunk and tired. The adrenaline had borrowed him some clarity but now it’s draining out of him.

“Chadara was there with some friends,” Donar says. “She called me.”

“First Mira and now this,” Spartacus says. “You’re just dead-set on ruining your entire life, aren’t you?”

Agron thumps his head against the wall. “My life?” He laughs through the tears and the blood and it is an ugly sound. “I have no life.” The water has heated up and is almost scalding his skin and still he starts to shiver. He doesn’t know from what. In another time, another day, he would have laughed at his own melodrama, but nothing is funny about this.

“You could have,” Donar says.

“We’re all trying to help you,” Spartacus says. “But we’re starting to lose patience. Mira doesn’t want to talk to you and your own cousin has vowed to kill you if you try. Crixus…”

“Since when do I care about what the fucking Gaul thinks of me?” Agron asks.

Spartacus sighs. “And I told Nasir to stay away from you.”

That gets him a reaction. Agron turns his head to look at him. Spartacus looks challenging, as if he wills Agron to protest, to tell him and go and fuck himself and that it is none of his business.

“Good,” Agron says and looks away from him.

Eventually, they dry him off and get him into bed, and then leave him to it.

“Come on, Agron,” Spartacus says just before walking out of his bedroom, “I know how it is to mourn someone until it consumes you. It’s not worth it. I lost so much more than her in the end.”

Agron doesn’t care. He turns to lie on his side, his back towards Spartacus, and pulls the covers up to his chin.

Spartacus sighs. “Suit yourself.” And then they are gone.

When he wakes – head pounding and his lip and nose hurting, his fingers feeling stiff and tender when he moves his hands – he reaches for his phone and opens the e-mail app. He scrolls down through what is mostly unopened spam until he reaches the one he is looking for. It is sent a little more than two months ago and is opened, but he hasn’t replied to it. Yet. His thumb hovers over the e-mail for a second before he presses down. He reads through it slowly, squinting to be able to focus with his bleary eyes. It is a straightforward preposition – no strings attached.

He begins to type in his reply.

Chapter Text

He had almost forgotten was this was like, but the moment he steps into the ring it is has if he has never left, as if these last months are washed away in a tide of adrenalin and blood lust.

He is somewhat surprised that there actually is a ring – this place is better than he’d expected. It not quite what he is used to, but neither is it someone’s basement. It is rather seedy, though, and it has a bit of a reputation. This is the dark mirror image of the MMA-fighting he has been engages in – there are rules, sure, and there is a crowd. But the security is lax, the crowd is hungry and people get hurt.

It is just what he needs.

He wins his two matches easily. He was trained by Oenomaus – these guys wasn’t. They are big and tough, but their technique is sloppy and they rely more on size and strength than on any actual kind of strategy. Before he would have been frustrated – this is barely better than bar-brawls – but now he doesn’t care.

His latest opponent sends him a dark glare as he nurses his bleeding nose, his friends rushing over with tissues and water.

Agron doesn’t have any real support, just strangers cheering him on for winning them back the money they have gambled. Still he smiles, laughs madly, and raises his fist into the air. It feels good being on top of the world for once, even if just for a few minutes. This is where he belongs – where the stench of sweat and excitements lies thick in the air, where the thuds of flesh meeting flesh and angry growls and roars and shouts barely has time to silence before the next pair is up in the ring, ready to fight.

Agron steps down, grabs his water bottle off the floor and takes a long pull. Someone claps him on the back and another compliments him on his fighting style, but he doesn’t even look around, heading for the locker room – which really is a glorified bathroom where someone has put lockers and a bench – through the throng of people

“Agron!”

He stops reluctantly and turns to see Ashur smiling at him. For some reason his smile has always creeped Agron out. Hell, everything the guy does creeps him out. Everything is so fucking calculated, like he does nothing without first carefully weighing whether or not he can get something out of it for himself.

“Yeah?” he says, not even making an attempt at being cordial. He is not even nice to his friends these days, so why should he be nice to this slimy creep?

“You fought well.”

“Yeah,” he repeats, but this time it is not a question. He considers adding something scathing, about how he obviously fights well since Oenomaus decided he was worth training. But it would only backfire – after all, he is here now, too. No longer one of Oenomaus’ golden fighters.

Ashur had trained in Oenomaus’ gym too for a short while before he had been thrown out. Agron didn’t know all the details, but from what he knew he had sexually harassed some of the women, and maybe even raped one. Everyone was glad to see him go – he was a bad fighter and an even worse human being. A while after he had left and failing to find another gym, he had started this underground fighting place together with a couple of other fighters that had fallen from grace. Agron hadn’t given it much thought until after he beat an opponent up outside the ring, got suspended and found an e-mail from Ashur in his inbox one day.

“I’m guessing it feels good to be back? I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist!” He laughs. “You’re as if made for this. And rules were never your strong point, was it? Good thing there are less of them here.”

Agron grits this teeth.

Ashur hands him an envelope. The house gets a cut in the wagering obviously, and the winning fighters gets a cut of that.

“Gratitude,” Agron says. He isn’t really in any need of money – if there was something his parents had taught him growing up was how to handle his economy, and he hasn’t exactly been living in abundance lately – but it isn’t like he is going to say no. His savings won’t hold up forever.

“So when will we see you next?” Ashur asks. He sounds eager.

Agron wonders how much money he’d made him tonight. “Don’t know,” he says, shrugging.

“You know,” Ashur says, “you would get paid more if you became more permanent. If we knew your comings and goings, if we had more control over your games…”

“Thanks, but no thanks,” Agron says, voice as steel. “If I wanted permanent, I wouldn’t be here.”

He leaves Ashur standing there before he has time to open his mouth again and goes into the locker room. He wouldn’t shower here even if he got paid, but he wants to get changed before leaving. He has gotten his shorts off and his jeans on but still unbuttoned when the door opens.

“You fought well,” someone tells him for the second time tonight.

Agron looks up and there is a guy standing just inside the door, still sweaty from a fight.

“Thanks,” Agron says.

The guy walks up the lockers to get out his bag, deliberately brushing up against Agron as he passes him. Agron turns, cocking his head, regarding him. The guy smiles and reaches inside his bag to get out a tank top, still looking at Agron.

He raises an eyebrow.

The guy leans against the locker. “Are we going to stand here all night?” he asks eventually.

“You tell me,” Agron says. He doesn’t really need this – not right now, not after tonight – but he is not going to say no if it’s what this guy is offering.

It’s like another fight, all grappling limbs and roughness, the guy whose name Agron doesn’t know and doesn’t give a fuck about tracing biting kisses down his neck. It’s fast and hard and it’s good because the guy knows what he’s doing, and Agron refuses to admit to himself or think about what it means that it is Nasir’s face he sees when he comes.

Agron pulls away, rolls over onto his back to catch his breath. The guy reaches one hand out, runs it down Agron’s forearm, nails scratching lightly at his skin.

“You’re pretty awesome,” the guy says.

“Likewise,” Agron says and the gut rolls on top of him, starting to kiss him again, hungry for something that he knows Agron can’t give him but tries to take anyway. Agron just closes his eyes and does the same.

Three days later he meets him in the ring. He knocks him out.

His name is Auctus and Agron vaguely remember hearing his name before – he, too, was at Oenomaus’ gym long before Agron, before he left over some falling out with Barca. It is all Agron knows and he doesn’t ask.

It is not a relationship, but it is… something. It’s sex and it helps a bit. They don’t really talk with each other, and it is pretty clear to both of them that it isn’t each other’s faces they see before them when they close their eyes. It’s fine and it gets Agron through enough nights to be worth it.

He is the only person Agron has spent time with in weeks, not counting beating people up in the ring at the underground fighting club. He got a text from Nasir a little more than a week back saying that he was back in town, but Agron didn’t reply to that one either. If Nasir isn’t going to take Spartacus’ advice voluntarily, Agron can do what he can to help him along. It’s easier now, with Auctus around. Agron doesn’t like to realise how starved he is for company, for touch, but he is. He has purposefully cut as many ties with the outside world as he can and it hurts him in ways he could never have foreseen.

They are on Agron’s couch, both of them shirtless already. It’s not really foreplay, just what’s needed to get them both going and Agron doesn’t want to think to closely about this, because there is one part of him that wants it and another that doesn’t, and then there a third part that just doesn’t give a fuck about anything. It’s disconcerting and he just wants it gone, by whatever means necessary.

Auctus is biting down hard on a bruise on his collarbone – a remnant from the fight last night – and Agron groans as the pain blossoms, welcoming it.

He doesn’t really register the sound of his apartment door opening, but he does register Nasir’s voice and sits up, pushing Auctus off him with the movement.

“What the fuck are you doing, Agron? Dima told me that she saw you down at that fucking…” He steps into the living room, catches sight of them still half-naked and kind of tangled on the couch and turns around, cheeks slightly red but not before Agron can see something that might be hurt, or disappointment, flashing in his eyes. “Down at that fucking fighting club,” he continues undeterred and Agron actually has to fight down an impulse not to grin at his relentlessness. “You’re an idiot. You could lose everything down there – get your suspension prolonged, or get hurt. Just stop it.” And with that he leaves, not even glancing at Agron over his shoulder.

When he hears the door closing, Agron collapses back against the couch, just flat out refusing to feel anything at all, and reaches out a hand for Auctus. But he deflects, gets up from the couch and finds his shirt on the floor.

“What the fuck…?”

Auctus just gives him a look, pulling on his shirt and zipping up his jeans.

“He’s just a friend,” Agron says.

Auctus just shrugs. “Apparently you could to better than me. You should.”

“Go fuck yourself,” Agron says, pushing himself up on his elbows. It’s not the rejection; it’s Auctus making a tiny teeny part of him hope that he has a chance when it comes to Nasir. That it could be something he could actually have.

“Look,” Auctus says, brown eyes earnest. They have been fucking for two weeks and this is the first time it actually feels like they’re both really present. “I don’t know how you got this bad, what fucked your life up, but you have him. At least he cares about you. And he is right – you shouldn’t go back there. It’s a bad place.”

“You go back,” Agron says. “And you have for a long time.”

“Yeah,” Auctus says like that makes his point and then he too leaves, and Agron is alone again.

Of course he is going to go back. It’s not like he can do anything else, or have somewhere else to go anymore.

Chapter Text

Agron knows he has been going too hard at himself, that his body is spent, all his energy and strength used up. It’s been a crazy month with the fights and the working out, the nights of pretty much non-stop fucking with Auctus and dousing himself with alcohol in between, and it’s even crazier now after Nasir telling him not to come back here even though Auctus is gone. It’s only been a couple of days, but Agron has squeezed as many fights as is physically possible, to Ashur’s delight. The crowd doesn’t want to see men fight fairly – they want to see crazy idiots get themselves hurt.

Agron is bruised and bloodied, but he is still standing. He is holding himself upright only from sheer will and rage, but he is still standing while his opponent is not and that is all that matters in the end. It doesn’t feel like it, but he is still standing.

Only, all of a sudden, he is not so much standing as hanging halfway over the railing to stop himself from collapsing, but fuck it, he is still the winner, he can still go one more round, there is nothing that can stop him now because nothing matters and he can go forever...

“Stupid fucking idiot.”

There are hands on him and he opens his eyes, not even aware that he has closed them, only to stare straight into Nasir’s, way too close. Agron tries to free himself as Nasir guides him out of the ring, but he is stronger than he looks and Agron is weak from exhaustion once the adrenalin begins to drain from him.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m taking you home.”

“’M not done here,” Agron says. He has one more match to go.

“That’s right,” Ashur says, appearing out of nowhere to step in front of them. “One more match and then he is all yours.” He smiles.

“Fuck you,” Nasir spits at him. His hand tighten on Agron’s upper arm and around his waist and Agron thinks that this is probably a bad time to get turned on. “Get out of the fucking way.”

“I’m sorry,” Ashur says, “but he has to go another game. People have already betted on the match. I can’t have fighters just walking out of here whenever they feel like it.”

“Fuck your matches and fuck your betting,” Nasir says. “He’s through. He’s not even fucking walking out of here, you idiot.”

“Well, he signed up for it,” Ashur says, spreading his hands as if there is nothing he can do about it.

“Ashur!” someone suddenly calls, and Auctus steps forward as the crowd parts for him. “Take whatever you lose on him out of my cut until it’s paid off. Okay?”

Ashur does not look happy about it, but he nods reluctantly and lets Nasir drag Agron outside.

“You shouldn’t have gone down there,” Agron says as he is home on his couch, hands cradled around a coffee mug. Nasir is sitting beside him, and – it feels like to Agron – silently judging him.

“I cannot even believe you,” Nasir says, sounding outraged. “It’s okay for you to go down there and get your ass kicked, but I can’t go with the intention of stopping you from hurting yourself?”

Agron ignores that and instead asks: “What was Dima doing there?”

Nasir shakes his head, rolls his eyes. “She brought a date there – to impress him or scare him away I have no idea.”

“So it’s okay for her to go down there?” Agron asks not giving a fuck about how hypocritical he is being.

“As long as she doesn’t go up in the fucking ring it is!” Nasir’s nostrils are flaring with anger.

“Why do you even care?” Agron asks, his voice too loud.

“I have no fucking idea!” Nasir crosses his arms in front of his chest and glares at Agron like it’s his fault that he’s had to drag him out of that hellhole and sit here yelling at him, and when Agron thinks about it he realises that it kind of is.

“Just because you inked me…”

“Oh my fucking god! Are you really that stupid?” Nasir glares at him before getting up from the couch. Agron thinks he is going to leave until he stomps away into the opposite direction of the door, into Agron’s bathroom. He returns after a few minutes with Agron’s first aid kit in hand.

Agron turns away, tries to turn inwards on himself, when he sees it – he got it for Duro’s sake since that moron always managed to get himself cut or scraped on something, that fucking klutz, and he hasn’t brought it out since… since. Instead he keeps some band-aids in a drawer in the kitchen.

Nasir just grabs his chin, undeterred – always so fucking undeterred – and starts to clean the scraps on his face. Agron shivers as his fingers move carefully across the split skin above his cheekbone to clean it and drags the blanket of the back of the couch to wrap around himself, pretending that he is just cold and nothing else.

Nasir puts band-aids on the worst ones despite Agron’s insistence that it is completely unnecessary – he suspects that he gets them mostly as a punishment since Nasir gets out the Spiderman ones rather than the plain – then salve on his bruises. Lastly, he gets an ice pack for Agron’s lip.

He then looks him over, and notices a cut on Agron’s shin. He sits down on the floor in front of him to clean the dry blood away and finishes off with yet another Spiderman band-aid.

He doesn’t get up immediately, but puts one hand on Agron’s knee and looks up at him, face open and raw. “Please don’t go back there,” he says, refusing to let Agron look away, keeping him there with nothing but the look in his beautiful eyes. “No more fights.”

“I won’t,” Agron says. It just spills out of him; right there and then, he his completely powerless in front of Nasir and he doesn’t even mind.

“Promise?”

“I promise,” Agron says, and Nasir looks at him for another long moment before nodding and offering him a small, barely there, smile before standing up.

“Try and get some sleep,” he says. “I’ll bring you breakfast tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay,” Agron says, too tired to put up a fight. No more fights. He has promised.

Nasir brings him bagels and juice in the morning and Agron is actually already up, making coffee. His whole body is feeling mangled – beat up. With every movement there is some part of him, however small, that aches. He can almost be glad for the fact that Nasir quite literally pulled him out of there, because he isn’t sure that he would be able to go another round today.

It feels a bit weird having Nasir there. Still. Agron has no idea what they are. Friends? Casual acquaintances? Is he some kind of charity project Nasir has taken on? He has no idea and it bothers him a little. He has trouble knowing what to do around Nasir – when he isn’t too coped up in himself to even be aware of him – and he just wants to know what’s going on here.

“How are you feeling?” Nasir asks as they dig into their breakfast. Agron even has somewhat of an appetite.

“Beat,” Agron says. “As bad as I look probably.”

Nasir looks like he is about to say something to that, but apparently thinks better of it. It looks like he is blushing a little.

The silence stretches on after that and for the first time it feels… not uncomfortable really, but like it should be filled.

“So how was your trip?” Agron asks eventually, remembering the texts he never responded to, and takes a sip of coffee.

Nasir makes a face. “It was good, I suppose. Grandma slipped on some ice and twisted her ankle pretty badly so we had to go up there and help her out for a while. She was not especially happy about it. She doesn’t like it when anyone causes a fuss over her.” He smiles and rolls his eyes.

“She lives far away?”

“Just outside the city.”

Agron nods. He feels a little like he is sliding around on thin ice – terrified of doing any mistakes, of crashing through the ice into the dark, chilling depths below. Every word feels awkward in his mouth and he is suddenly horribly, undeniably afraid of doing anything that will make Nasir disappear out of his life.

He made his promise with the intention of keeping it, but it is not easy when the restlessness starts creeping in again, kept under lock and key with the help of the fights and his state of perpetual exhaustion. Until now. He is fairly sure that he could just go down there and get Ashur to throw him into a fight. He is good and he has made himself somewhat of a name among the crowd in the few weeks he’s been there, so it shouldn’t be impossible even if Ashur is still pissed at him for walking off. He loves the profit he would get out of it too much to be able to hold a grudge.

But he’s promised.

He paces and sighs, frustrated and caged, fingers rapping impatiently against his thigh. He can’t remain inside his apartment, that’s for sure. He needs to get out of here.

He grabs his coat of the hook, but forgets his gloves so he has to shove his hands into his pockets as he steps out in the cold in an attempt to keep them warm. It’s not far, but the cold has still managed to seep into his bones when he is finally there, and snow has started falling. It’s fucking March and the weather acts like it’s still midwinter – it seems like it is currently trying to match his mood.

The shop is warm though, when he steps inside, and Nasir is leaning on one forearm on the counter, sketching something on a notepad. He looks up as the door opens, seems surprised at seeing Agron for a second before he smiles.

“Hey,” he says. “Here to get some more ink?”

“Nope,” Agron says, hands still in his pockets, suddenly feeling very self-conscious. Nasir’s working, for fuck’s sake. He doesn’t have time to deal with Agron right now. “I just though I’d… stop by.” It sounds lame even to his own ears. He shrugs, trying to smooth it over. It feels like he fails.

“Want to go out and grab something to eat?” Nasir asks, putting his pencil down.

“You have time?” Agron asks dubiously.

“A client rescheduled on me,” Nasir says.

“Well then – sure,” Agron says.

“I’m not going to apologise,” Nasir says when they are sitting at the diner a couple of blocks away from the tattoo shop and their burgers has been put down before them. “For practically forcing you out of there, I mean. I guess I have no real reason to meddle in your life, but I’m not sorry for not letting you get yourself hurt down there.”

“I hadn’t expected you to,” Agron says honestly, picking up some fries with his fingers. Oenomaus would flip if he saw him eating this, but Oenomaus has nothing to say about his eating habits anymore, does he?

“I just assumed you’d be mad,” Nasir says.

“I was,” Agron says. The only reason Nasir got him out of there in the first place was because Agron was all but completely depleted. He’s not grateful, not quite, but he can recognise and understand that Nasir made him a huge favour that night. And continues to do so.

“Not anymore?”

Agron looks up from his food at that, but Nasir’s face is unreadable. “No,” he says. “Not anymore.”

He has no idea where to go from here.

Chapter Text

Maybe the fact that he doesn’t know when the last time he left his apartment was should disturb him. The air is refreshing even though chill against his face and cold in his lungs, and the sun is shining.

Nasir is walking beside him in comfortable silence. Agron doesn’t really know what to do with him anymore. He’s everywhere now – and that’s partly Agron’s own fault, to be honest – and it feels like he’s walking a tightrope trying to keep him close but not to close, to allow him into his life without falling for him.

Nasir is walking beside him like this isn’t a sunny Saturday morning he should spend doing anything but wasting his time on a walking corpse, like he doesn’t have a real life and like it isn’t true that Agron doesn’t deserve one.

Agron doesn’t want to have to question it.

He’s growing clingy. And needy. He fights it, but it’s hard. Harder than standing down in that hellish place and taking the blows, waiting for an opening, for a chance to win. Harder than lying frozen and apathetic on his couch or in his bed. As hard as trying to keep all memories of Duro from constantly assaulting his mind.

“I don’t see why you need my company for this,” Agron says.

“Yeah, I’m starting to regret it too,” Nasir says, glaring at the commuter mug in his hand that Agron filled with homemade coffee and forced him to accept once he said that they needed to go by Starbucks to buy coffee.

“I’m doing you a service,” Agron says. “Do you know how much money you throw out on that fancy coffee crap?”

“It keeps me productive,” Nasir says. “Going out to buy it gives me a break from whatever I’m doing and clears my mind, and the caffeine keeps me energised – ergo, it makes me money.” He reluctantly takes a sip. “Uh. This has milk.” He hands the coffee to Agron with a grimace.

“Coffee snob,” Agron mutters, and he almost has to fight a smile as the disgust is replace with an affronted look on Nasir’s face. It feels like his face as nearly forgotten how to twist itself that way, and for a moment, a blink of an eye, he relaxes, wondering if, almost realises, he doesn’t actually have to fight. He can have this. He can at least try.

And then, three seconds later, Agron sees him and he stops dead in the middle of the busy shopping street, the person behind him walking straight into him without him even noticing.

It isn’t Duro. He knows that it isn’t Duro, because Duro isn’t alive and this guy doesn’t even look that much like him, not really. But there is a resemblance – thick, dark eyebrows, a nose ring, and something about the shape of his mouth.

Agron is vaguely aware of someone repeating his name and of something hard and plastic making cracking sounds in his hardening grip. The busy shopping street has turned into a swirl of sound and colour and people and all he can see is Duro’s face, Duro dying, Duro gone, even though that guy, whoever he was, has already disappeared.

He can feel himself stumble as he loses all grip on where he is and what he is doing as memories flood his mind and to breathe suddenly seems like a monumental task. Someone grabs him, fails to hold him up but helps guide him and he feels something hard and unyielding against his back. His heart is thundering in his chest.

Someone is pressed against his body, and a hand his splayed across his chest. He slowly becomes aware of how close Nasir is – intimately, dangerously so – and that he is talking to him, his voice steady and slow and in contrast to the sound of his racing heartbeat.

“You’re okay,” Nasir tells him – at least that’s the only thing Agron manages to pick out of the steam of soft-spoken, calming words.

“No,” he says, jerkily shaking his head. “I’m not.”

“Let’s get you home,” Nasir says. He sounds concern and is he isn’t taking his hands off Agron.

“No,” Agron says again because returning to his cold empty apartment, Nasir leaving him there, all alone again, is filling him with gut-deep, ice-cold dread. “Besides, you needed a new shirt.” That’s something that makes sense in the midst of this, something they were supposed to do. Something that is normal to do. Agron can pretend being normal. He’s become pretty good at it.

Then he remembers how a glimpse of the face of someone who didn’t even look that much like Duro sent him into this state and he all but crumbles again.

Nasir snorts impatiently. “That’s not important,” he says. “Come on, you need to get inside. Away from all this and calm down.”

“I don’t want to get back there,” Agron says, not caring that he sounds like a sullen four-year-old. “Not right now.”

“Okay,” Nasir says. “Just come with me.”

He lets Nasir guide him – this is beginning to feel familiar – through the streets and the people without think much about where, just focuses on putting one foot in front of the other, feeling Nasir’s hand resting on his arm, grounding him. He realises that somewhere, somehow, he has started to trust him.

It is not until he is lead up a short flight of stairs to an apartment door and Nasir brings his keys out of his messenger bag and unlocks the door that Agron realises that Nasir brought him to his apartment.

Glimpsing Nasir’s neat, clean apartment through the door as Nasir steps inside it has Agron backing a step, not wanting to go inside and… and ruin it. Bring all his shit and hell into Nasir’s home again, dirtying it with his grief and self-loathing and loss.

“Come on,” Nasir says, looking at him a little curiously. “I’ll make you cheap coffee,” he adds with a small, wry smile. He takes Agron’s hand in his, pulls him inside and sits him down on the couch before vanishing into what Agron presumes is the kitchen.

He looks around Nasir’s living room. It’s small and slightly cramped. He knows that he has been here before, but he doesn’t remember anything of what it looks like. It is not quite as neat as Agron would have believed – the books in the bookcase is standing in straight lines, as if the space between them and the edge of the shelves have been measured by a ruler, but the desk is strewn with paper, post-its, coffee mugs and various little knick-knacks. There are balled up paper in one corner, probably a result of Nasir getting frustrated while sketching. On his coffee table a couple of big, shiny and expensive-looking tattoo art books are spread out.

Cataloguing all these small details of Nasir’s life helps calm him down, gives him something else to focus on. He’s glad that Nasir has given him a minute alone to gather himself.

It doesn’t take long before he is back, though, with two steaming cups.

“I probably shouldn’t give you coffee,” Nasir says, but offers one of the cups to Agron anyway. “It doesn’t help with panic attacks.”

“Wasn’t having a panic attack,” Agron mumbles into his coffee. Nasir doesn’t contradict him, even though Agron can tell that he wants to.

After a long moment of silence Nasir quietly asks: “Have you ever tried to… deal with it?”

“What do you think I’m fucking doing?” Agron rile up immediately, the anger boiling inside of him constantly just waiting for something to lash out against. There is no conscious thought involve, no time spared trying to actually interpret what Nasir says beyond is words, what he is trying to actually convey.

Nasir sighs. “Don’t snap at me,” he says. “I’m not trying to hurt you. Or him,” he adds. “Just…” He isn’t looking at Agron, instead choosing to focus on his coffee mug, twining his fingers around it. “Is this really the best way to miss him?”

Agron gets up and moves to stand in front of the window looking out over a snowy parking lot, needing a little distance between himself and Nasir.

“Agron…”

“Don’t.” He has heard his name said like that too many times – pleadingly, as if they think they can beg him back to life.

“I just think…”

“No.” He puts the coffee cup down on the windowsill and heads out into the hall, suddenly wanting nothing more than to get out of there.

“It’s not your fault,” Nasir says to his back.

Agron stops dead. “You know nothing about that.”

“Spartacus told me,” Nasir says, sounding a little guilty as if how Duro died is a secret Spartacus isn’t quite allowed to share. “He told me what happened.”

“Did he?” Agron says and he hates what his voice suddenly has turned into, all splintering hurt and quiet rage. “Did he really? Did he tell you about how I killed my brother?”

“I…”

Did he?”

“No.” He can practically hear Nasir swallow and he wonders if Nasir is afraid of him. The though makes him sick to his stomach. There is much Agron wants to rip to shreds in this world, but not Nasir. Never Nasir. “But…”

“Did he tell you about how I thought a surfing trip would be a perfect birthday gift for him? Did he tell you how I got bored and got out of the water? Did he tell you how I was too fucking inattentive to realise that my brother was drowning not even three hundred feet away from me? Did he tell you how I was too busy getting into some guy’s pants to see how my brother was busy fucking dying? Did he tell you…” And he realises that he is crying, hard enough to have trouble breathing again, choking on his words, and Nasir has gotten up from the couch and is trying to touch or hold him but Agron is stronger and twists easily out of his grip.

“It doesn’t matter,” Nasir says.

Agron laughs at that – only it doesn’t sound like laughter, but something else, something ugly. “I killed my brother, Nasir,” he says. “I killed my brother.” It’s a chant, a charm – a thing he can hold on to in a world that no longer includes Duro, a world that he doesn’t know how to live or even function in.

He is breaking down completely in front of Nasir, but it is not until he is on the floor only barely sitting upright by the support of the doorpost behind his back that he allows Nasir to touch him, to gently cup his chin and force him to look at him.

“This will kill you,” Nasir says. “It will consume you. You will never forget him, but you can let it go. You need to let it go. He will not disappear.”

“He is already gone,” Agron says.

“Yes,” Nasir says. His other hand is resting on Agron’s knee. “But you’re not. I know how much you love him, Agron, and that you will miss him for the rest of your life. But this is not the right way to do it.”

“There is no right way,” Agron says.

“There are ways that won’t kill you too,” Nasir replies.

“What do you know about grief?” Agron asks, not really expecting an answer.

“My parents died when I was a baby,” Nasir says. “I have no memories of them. My grandmother raised me and Dima. I spent half my life mourning them. You know why? Not because I missed them – I didn’t even remember them – or because there was a big, gaping hole in my life where they should have been – I had Grandmother and Dima, I had friends.” Nasir’s eyes are so big and dark and Agron cannot look away even though he wants to. He doesn’t want to hear Nasir telling him about grief or about getting better. He doesn’t like the thought of Nasir in pain. And he knows that it will never get better, not for him. Nasir didn’t kill his sibling.

“I missed them because I thought I had to,” Nasir continues. “I got so much pity heaped upon me for being an orphan – people constantly telling me how sorry they were for me, how much it must hurt, how much I must miss them. So I missed something I never had except for a few short months of life. I missed them until I was empty inside. And every time I thought that my life was good the way it was, with Grandmother and Dima and that I didn’t need anything else, I felt guilt. And it was almost as bad as the grief. I was so guilty of being happy when my parents were dead that it almost took me over completely. Until I realised that I didn’t have to miss them with my whole being, that it was okay to be happy with the life I had and miss them for what they were – two people Grandmother and Dima love and I will never meet. I mourn because I never got the chance to know them.” Nasir goes silent for a short second. “You can’t let it consume you, Agron,” he says. “Don’t miss him because you think he should be alive and you dead. Miss him because he is no longer here and because you love him.” Nasir leans in and kisses him quickly and hesitantly on the cheek. The touch burns bright and hot against Agron’s skin through his tears as Nasir pulls back again. “You are so beautiful,” Nasir says. “Don’t let this destroy you more than it already has.”

Then he holds Agron for a long time while he weeps against his shoulder.

Chapter Text

Agron hasn’t seen Nasir for almost a week, too emotionally raw to to bear being near him for now. He needs time to recuperate, because right now it feels like he is even more of a mess than before. Something has shifted inside of him, inside his grief, and he doesn’t know yet if it’s for better or worse. There is something that has been released.

But maybe the only way out is through.

There has been complete radio silence between them, but when Agron wakes up gasping for breath five seconds after he has fallen asleep, accosted with nightmarish images of Duro who just keeps dying and dying, again and again, his dark eyes wide with dread and then empty with death, and the darkness is pressing in on him from all sides and angles, it’s Nasir’s number that his shaking, fumbling fingers manage to find on his phone.

He answers on the second ring, his voice worried. “Agron? Are you okay?”

And Agron cannot speak. Mostly because of the sense of horror the dream has left behind crushing his chest, and partly because he is suddenly flooded with a distinct feeling of embarrassment. It’s 10.30 pm, Nasir could certainly have been asleep and Agron called him in panic over a bad dream. He doesn’t even notice as he starts to hyperventilate.

“Agron!” Nasir’s voice is suddenly sharp. “Talk to me. What’s wrong?”

“I…” He forces air down his lungs. “I dreamed…”

“About… Duro?” Nasir name is said hesitantly, as if he isn’t completely sure he has the right to use it.

“He just… kept dying.” Agron squeezes his eyes shut and then opens them again to avoid having his head fill up with Duro’s dead face once more. “He died and died. I just panicked. Sorry.”

“Don’t apologise. But hang on a second.” There is a soft thud followed by ruffling noise. “I’m back. Was just getting into bed.” More ruffling can be heard Agron finds it oddly comforting. “Hey. Stop that.”

“What?” Agron asks, confused.

“Not you,” Nasir says. “It’s my cat. She has a preference for sleeping on my face. It’s probably a lot nicer for her than me.”

Agron snorts at that, and it almost sounds like a small laugh. He marvels at it for a moment – five seconds ago he was in panic, and now he’s… not completely calm, but near enough. The thought of going back to sleep still makes his stomach clench in an uncomfortable way, though. “What’s her name?” he asks. Let’s focus on the cat, he thinks. Cats are good.

“Alyx,” Nasir says. “And she’s the queen of the whole universe,” he adds with an amused sigh.

“I know what you mean,” Agron says. “I have the same problem with Mira.” And then he remembers that he has lost Mira and the pressure on his chest is back.

Nasir must sense his thoughts or maybe he starts hyperventilate again. “Agron?”

“N-nothing. I just… Fuck.”

“Do you want to talk about it? The dream?” he prods gently when Agron goes silent.

“Not particularly.” He thinks about it for a second. “Could you…? Could you talk to me for a while?”

“Sure,” Nasir says softly.

Agron shifts so that he is lying more comfortably on his side and puts Nasir on speaker so that he can put the phone down beside him on the bed. He closes his eyes again and this time it works fine. It doesn’t take him long to fall safely asleep, lulled by Nasir’s voice.

Somehow breakfast becomes some sort of standing date. Nasir comes around every day before work, more often than not bringing food with him. When he steps inside the door one Friday without knocking, Agron is by the stove making scrambled eggs and bacon and the smell of coffee draws Nasir into the kitchen like a moth to a flame.

“You’re cooking?” Nasir asks.

“Don’t sound so surprised; I have many talents,” Agron says, going for jokingly since he doesn’t want to make a big thing out of this. Making breakfast is not rocket science. He shouldn’t get a pat on his back for being able to get out of bed and scramble some eggs for the guy who has kept him fed for the last however many weeks – months? – it is. It’s just what normal, living people do.

He glances over his shoulder when Nasir says nothing in response, and he is smiling like Agron has hanged the fucking moon for him or something.

Looking at him – especially like this, all happy and pleased – hurts. He is so beautiful that Agron aches with it, beautiful and alive and a reminder of everything that Agron cannot have. He has spent so much time lately torturing himself with imaging how it would have been if they had met before, how Nasir maybe would have been his now, how he would smile at him, and kiss him, fuck him, hold him close. He wants to explore Nasir’s body, find out if he hides more ink beneath his clothes, feel the warmth of him against his own body, lick him from head to toe. He wants to hear him laugh and talk, watch him sketch in that almost obsessively intent fashion of his, wants to have him look at him like this always.

He wants to love him.

He turns back to the stove, but Nasir’s face and smile is branded on his mind. At least he can have this. He doesn’t deserve it, but it’s something.

“Need any help?” Nasir asks. He moves to stand beside Agron to be able to see what he’s making. He is close; Agron would only have to lean a couple of inches to the left to press their bodies together, to touch him. He has to tighten his grip on the spatula from doing it, so starved for touch he barely knows what to do with himself.

“It’s fine,” he says. “Just go sit down. It’s almost ready.”

He takes two plates out of the cabinet and divides the eggs and the bacon equally on them. He puts extra salt on Nasir’s eggs since nothing ever seems to be salt enough for him. He puts both plates down on the table and gets the orange juice out of the fridge. It’s freshly squeezed – he had needed something to do with his hands while waiting for Nasir to show up.

“You’re spoiling me,” Nasir says, making grabby hands for the juice. Agron doesn’t even warrant that with a response.

“What are you doing today?” Agron asks. He likes listening to Nasir telling him about his work and the shenanigans going on down at the shop. Julie, Chadara and Dima – Nasir complains often and lengthily about her working night since it means that she spends most of her afternoons at Inkheart – seems like quite a handful.

“I’m finishing this enormous back-piece I started a couple of weeks ago,” Nasir says, neatly cutting up a piece of bacon. “Seriously, the guy is huge. Bigger than you, even.” Nasir looks a bit distracted for a second and it takes a while for Agron to identify the knot of emotions forming inside of him as jealousy. “So, yeah,” Nasir continues, “his back is huge and the tattoo is huge and I hope I’ll get it done today. It’ll take hours and my back will not thank me afterwards. But it will be worth it, because if I can pull it of it’ll be awesome.”

“You work too hard,” Agron says, because he does. He doesn’t even want to know how much rearranges of his schedule it takes for Nasir to be able to have these leisurely long breakfasts with him every day.

“I just happen to love my job,” Nasir says with a slightly self-conscious smile. “Speaking of that, I really have to go or I’ll be late.” He stands up and dumps his plate in the sink. “Thank you for breakfast.”

“Do you want to come over tonight?” Agron asks spontaneously and pseudo-casually. In truth, his heart is suddenly slamming against his ribcage, which is silly for about a million different reasons.

Nasir stops dead in his tracks, on his way out into the hall, for a short second. Agron has never explicitly invited him over before; it’s always been Nasir who has invited himself.

“We could watch a movie,” Agron says.

Nasir turns to look at him and there is something in his eyes Agron cannot read, something like doubt or hesitation. But then he smiles and says: “Yes. A movie sounds good. See you tonight.”

Agron lets Nasir choose movie, because he doesn’t care. He is too busy being hyper-aware of Nasir sitting as close to him as he can without them touching on the couch, of how his hair falls over his shoulder and his eyes crinkle up when he smiles to even register what movie it is they’re watching. It’s like he’s fifteen again, alone with his first crush for the first time, and he’s terrified.

He keeps studying him from the corner of his eye. It’s a Friday night and Nasir is spending it with him, coped up in a stale living room watching a movie that’s probably not even half-good when he should be out there being fucking alive or whatever. He’s gorgeous as hell; Agron knows that he is bound to have offers. Lots of them. And from guys who aren’t prisoners in their own apartments and emotionally crippled by a death they will never get over.

Instead he is here. Why, Agron has no idea. Pity? They’ve only barely become friends, or whatever it is they are, and he is already forced to sacrifice things for Agron’s sake.

Agron imagines how their relationship would look like. Not the fairytale-version he has spent his waking nights tormenting and comforting himself with, but how it would really look like. How Nasir would be weighted down by him, drowned alongside him in his grief and guilt and anger.

He ought to push him away. Somehow. Now.

He takes a deep breath, but just as he is about to open his mouth to say something, anything, to make Nasir realise how he is wasting himself here, Nasir turns to him, smiles and says: “You’re the worst movie company ever.”

Agron closes his mouth again and says nothing. Because he’s selfish.

As is his custom these days, Agron wakes in the morning with something heavy pressing down on his chest, but this time it isn’t nightmares and fears and asphyxiating darkness, but a sleepily stirring Nasir. Agron’s arms are around him, and they’re half-lying, half-sitting on the couch in a rather uncomfortable position. Agron can feel the cricks in his neck and back as he shifts slightly.

“Morning,” Nasir mumbles and then, like it’s the most natural thing in the world, he reaches up and presses his lips against Agron’s.

It’s slow and smouldering, Nasir dragging his mouth along Agron’s, his lips gentle and dry. Then there is wetness and warmth as Nasir’s tongue licks at his lower lip, followed by teeth nipping softly. Agron breathes out heavily, shakily, and he can feel Nasir smile against him. He surges in, going from touching and tasting, to tenderly opening Agron’s mouth up with his tongue, deepening the kiss.

Until Agron finally finds himself, and breaks the kiss by turning his head away.

None of them move for several long seconds. Agron can almost hear the slow ticking of them as they pass by endlessly, and he can hear Nasir breathing in his ear.

Then Nasir’s fingers are on his chin, gently but firmly turning him back to face him and his lips are on his again. Nasir’s other hand finds its way into his hair to hold on.

He doesn’t let Agron run away.

It’s soft, careful and never-ending. Nasir’s hand moves down to curl around the back of his neck instead. Agron is too afraid to move, too afraid to shatter this. He surrenders all control to Nasir and it is horrible and frightening and wonderful and a relief all at once.

At last he chokes out a small whimper, and Nasir presses one last, fluttering peck against his lips before pressing his nose against Agron’s cheek, breathing him in.

Agron blinks up against the ceiling, torn.

Chapter Text

Agron hand suddenly presses hard against his chest, pushing him back.

“Nasir…” he says, and Nasir moves off him, off the couch, and steps back, like he’s been burned.

And he has.

It’s been months and he has fallen so hard for this man, so wonderful and beautiful even in this wretched state of grief and self-loathing he is trapped in. Nasir has seen him trying to tear himself apart, has seen him catatonic, has seen him rage and weep and scream and mourn and even in the face of his own frustration and helplessness he’s only ever loved him more for it.

It wasn’t until the first time Agron smiled at him that he had even realised that he’d fallen. Really smiled, and not in that way that made it look like it cost him something. Nasir has said something absently, something he didn’t even remember anymore, and Agron had smiled that real smiles, with dimples and everything, and it had been like seeing the sun burst through heavy grey clouds for the first time in months. It had felt like Nasir’s heart had almost stopped at the sight.

Nasir doesn’t want to fix him. He just doesn’t want to see him suffer.

“I’m sorry,” he says and he feels near tears. Reality isn’t a fairytale – love cannot cure all illnesses and kisses can’t bring people back to life. But he had hoped for more than this. For more than rejection and the vague sense of shame simmering inside of him.

“I…” Agron licks his lips and Nasir refuses to think about how for just a few seconds ago he was kissing him and that Agron must still be able to taste him.

The feeling of shame intensifies. He shouldn’t have kissed Agron at all. He should at least have stopped when he didn’t reciprocate.

“It’s not your fault,” Nasir says. It’s not. It happens. It hurts, but Nasir will get over it. Eventually.

He bends down to kiss Agron’s forehead, because it’s not like Agron doesn’t know how he feel about him now. “I should go,” he says.

Agron makes no move to stop him.

Nasir doesn’t say goodbye, because he will be back. It’s not like he’s going to let Agron lose anyone else – not if he can help it. He just needs some space.

Naevia calls him almost the second he steps into his own apartment. He isn’t quite sure were she got his number from, but they have been talking regularly for a while. At first she had only asked about Agron, but gradually they had started to actually talk and about other things than Agron as well.

It doesn’t take long before she asks how he is, however. Nasir knows that she and the rest of his friends are worried about him and he tries not to be too pessimistic. Most of the time, at last. Today he selfishly can’t.

He sighs. “I honestly don’t know,” he says. He can feel himself starting to get angry in an attempt to soothe the bitter sting of rejection and even as he finds his own selfishness repulsive it’s a relief to give in to it.

“What about you?” Naevia asks.

“I’m fed up,” he admits quietly. “And tired of watching him torture himself. I just want…” He bites his lip, sighs.

“You really do love him, don’t you?” Naevia says and Nasir almost drops the phone. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” she continues when Nasir says nothing, shocked into silence. “It’s good; he needs everything he can get. Just don’t get yourself hurt.”

Nasir doesn’t want to talk about that so he just hums in response and maybe Naevia gets it, because she doesn’t pressure him.

When they hang up, he allows himself to wallow in self-pity for a while. He had come up with a number of reasons – it wasn’t hard, exactly – for why Agron had hesitant to start something up with him, but the possibility of Agron not having any kind of romantic feelings for him and never really occurred to him. In hindsight this blatant oversight seems stupid and narcissistic, but Nasir really did think that there was something there. That there was something more than friendship between them. And when they had woken up there on the couch, tangled and mussed with sleep, Agron had been so close and suddenly irresistible in his sleepy glory.

He touches his lower lip lightly and is almost surprised by the pain of feeling unwanted. He laughs self-deprecatingly at himself, low and cold – feeling unwanted isn’t something he is used to, he suddenly realises.

He thinks about the guys he’s seen Agron with – the one in the club and the other one on his couch – and hates them both for having a part of Agron that he will never have even as he despises himself for it.

He wakes up from the first ring, as if he unconsciously has been waiting for it and he answers on the third, after he has managed to localise is phone and pull out the charger.

It’s Dima.

“Agron’s here,” she says by way of hello. Nasir can hear the noise and the music of the club filtering through the speaker along with her voice.

For a split second he considers just ending the call, putting the phone back on the nightstand and going back to sleep. He hasn’t seen Agron in days, he’s tired and hurt, and right there and then he’s had it. If Agron wants to completely fuck his whole life up, then he can be Nasir’s fucking guest.

But not even two seconds later he is out of bed and crams the phone in between his shoulder and chin to keep his hands free. “What’s he doing?” he asks, hoping that Agron hasn’t been in a fight again. Or that he’s… He shakes the thought off, and throws on the first pair of pants he can find.

“Nothing,” Dima says. “He’s just sitting at the bar, drunk as hell, looking like someone has ripped his puppy to fucking pieces.”

“Does he look like he’s been in a fight or anything like that?” Nasir asks, head stuck into his closet to find a shirt in the darkness.

“No,” Dima says. “More like someone has stomped on his heart and forced him to eat the remains.”

Dima sure has a knack for painting a pretty picture, Nasir thinks bitterly as the guilt hits him instantly and hard. This is all Nasir’s fault. He did leave him – disappeared into thin air. It wasn’t like Agron would know that he’d come back. Agron cannot read his mind – just as little as he apparently can read Agron’s.

“Will you come by and pick him up?” Dima asks. “It’s not like he’s causing problems, but just looking at him makes me so depressed I want to kill myself.”

“I’m already on my way,” Nasir says with a sigh, picking up his keys from the kitchen counter and heading out the door.

Agron isn’t completely, outrageously wasted, but on the other hand he is also very far from even close to sober.  He stumbles after Nasir placidly, muttering something in German that doesn’t really sound like a protest.

Nasir brings him back to his place instead of Agron’s apartment because he isn’t sure that Agron even has got his keys and he isn’t going to go through his pockets to find them or stand out in the cold and hope someone will open the door for them in the middle of the night. Luck isn’t exactly on his side these days. And he really needs to stop with the self-pity, because it isn’t helping anyone – least of all himself. Least of all Agron.

He forces Agron to swallow down some aspirins and drink a whole glass of water before leading him into his bedroom. They don’t talk – Agron is too drunk, and Nasir doesn’t want to either. He hadn’t expected this and he is completely unprepared for it, still emotionally raw with everything that he managed to ruin between them.

But once Nasir has manhandled Agron down on the bed – seriously, Agron is a lot of body and muscle and like a damn ragdoll in his inebriated state – and moves to go sleep on the couch, Agron grabs his wrist.

“Schtay with me?” he asks in a small voice, made even more sad by his inability to keep his syllables straight, and Nasir just cannot say no to him.

He exchanges his slacks for sleeping pants and takes off his shirt before sliding into bed next to Agron.

“Might hug you in m’ schleep,” Agron slurs. His eyes are closed and it seems like he’s already half-asleep.

“Goodnight,” Nasir says and turns to lie so that his back is against Agron, careful to keep as many inches between their bodies as possible.

He does end up getting hugged in his sleep. When he wakes up his face is mashed into Agron’s bare chest – Agron must have wrangled himself out of his tee sometime during the night because Nasir sure as hell did not go there, he’s not that sadistic – and one of Agron’s hands is tangled in his hair while the other is stroking over his back.

He knows Agron is awake. He doesn’t know how, but he knows. It’s something about his breathing. He can feel his body against his own, and it’s relaxed like Agron has never been before as long as he’s known him.

Neither of them moves, and it hits Nasir how much Agron must need this. How long has it been since someone touched him like this? Just touching, nothing else? Skin against skin, warm flesh, the comforting weight and shape of another body next to you?

Agron tenses a little bit and shifts his arm minutely, like he is thinking about moving away, or asking whether or not he should without words. Nasir slides his arm more properly around him, tightens it. Agron relaxes again.

They don’t talk.

They just hold each other and Nasir realises that Agron missed him. He is important to him. Not in the way he wants to be, but he is still his friend. And that has to be enough, even if it breaks his heart a little.

Agron’s breathing is calm and even and he is still in Nasir’s arms.

Nasir thinks, I can live with this.

Chapter Text

Agron is gasping and writhing, grappling nightmares. They’re stealing his breath and turning his skin cold and clammy and the panic seizes him, even in sleep. Again. It has turned into a horrible familiarity, these dark nights that refuses to let go of him. He shakes and hurts.

And wakes to soothing hands, to Nasir a warm and heavy weight next to him – alive and real in his bed.

Something steps on his face and Alyx meows quietly in the darkness, sounding put out at being woken up out of her beauty sleep by silly humans and their silly problems.

The shadows still linger and tears at his mind. He exhales. Inhales. It gets easier.

“You okay?” Nasir murmurs, voice slurred with sleep.

“Yeah.” Agron puts his hand over Nasir’s where it’s resting low on his chest. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” The syllables are even softer around the edges with sleep this time, and Agron can imagine how Nasir’s eyes are slipping shut as he slips back into sleep, not quite awake in the first place. Selfishly he wants him to stay awake, to make him feel less alone in the dark, to fill the silence with talk.

But at least there is Nasir’s even breathing and the sound of Alyx moving around on the pillow next to his. And Nasir’s hand is still on his chest, his palm warming and a little moist.

Being alone is no longer an option. He has latched onto Nasir, keeping close, too scared of what solitude will do to him. What it has done to him. And Nasir is always there, a comforting presence, a friend. Important. He matters. He is all Agron has left and Agron clutches at him, lest he’d be drifting.

And Nasir lets him.

Agron does not question it, or even think about it. He does the mental equivalent of squeezing his eyes shut and pretending that it doesn’t exist if he cannot see it.

He has no idea what’s changed between them, but something has. It’s as some part of the complicated puzzle that is them has slid into place and Agron knows that he is important to Nasir. In some way, at least. As a friend.

 (He doesn’t think about the kiss and what followed. It’s the big clusterfuck Agron closes his eyes against, shakes his head and goes lalala to avoid having to deal with. He doesn’t know what it means, what Nasir feels, and he can’t figure it out.)

Agron does not question it, even as it feels like they’re caught in some kind of weird as fuck wonderland where they have never kissed each other and Agron hasn’t fucked everything up.

(He dreams about it, when the nightmares does not occupy his nights. He can remember exactly what Nasir tasted and felt like.)

Nasir keeps touching him. It’s nothing more than friendly gestures – bumping their knees together whenever they’re sitting next to each other, patting his arm or thigh, hugging him. Agron reciprocates, touch-starved and so very tired of the cold. It’s just touch – nothing romantic or sexual about it. It’s a need like any other, for physical contact instead of food or water.

And Agron is a man dying of thirst.

It just… is.

Agron does not think about it, revels in it even as he pretends it doesn’t exist for fear it will stop. It so easy, almost like breathing is around Nasir – they gravitate towards each other when they’re in the same room, and their bodies fit together so perfectly when they’re pressed close. They never talk about it or acknowledge it in any way, just hold each other and breathe deep.

When Agron feels like he will break apart from sorrow, Nasir is there, on the couch, pressed up against his back, fingertips ghosting along his forearm, impossibly warm in Agron’s frozen hell. Warm and calming and alive.

When they’re outside and the world is pushing in from all angles, big and bleak and empty without Duro, Nasir’s hand finds his and twines their fingers together, keeping him still, reminding him that not all is lost.

(It’s not enough. Not remotely. Not with Nasir so close.)

He is in Nasir’s bed – Nasir on one side and a purring cat on the other. Lulled by their combined breathing and with Nasir’s flesh, however small a part of him, against his, he can – for moments at a time – forget that he is constantly, always, dying.

He brings Nasir lunch at the shop. Indian isn’t his favourite, not by a long shot, but Nasir likes it and Agron can eat it, if he must.

Dima gives him a weird look as he passes her, heading for Nasir’s work space, but he doesn’t know what it’s supposed to mean and Dima herself is kind of insane, so Agron just raises his chin slightly in hello.

Nasir is putting down the tattoo gun and stretching to straighten his back just as Agron steps through the doorway and he smiles at him and rolls his shoulders as he comes out of his stretch.

“Lunch,” Agron says, holding up the bag in his hand.

“Awesome,” Nasir says and it’s close to a groan of contentment. Agron pretends like his stomach does not swoop at that. “Can you wait out back for a while? I have to finish this up.”

“Sure.” Agron heads back to the kitchen slash office that’s the tiny room at back of the shop. He has yet to step inside without knocking something over – it’s seriously miniscule. Nasir had just snorted when Agron complained about it. “It’s you who’s like twice as big as a normal human,” he’d said.

It takes almost fifteen minutes before Nasir shows up, pulling the tie out of his hair as he walks. It falls out of the bun and down over his shoulders and Agron turns away and busies himself with getting utensils out of the drawer.

“Gratitude,” Nasir says as he accepts his cartoon of food and a spoon. He puts both items down on the table before reaching his arms up towards the ceiling to stretch again. His back bows gracefully, and his shirt rides up a little bit. “I need a new job,” he says. “Because this is killing me.” He sits down with a groan.

Agron doesn’t respond; they don’t usually talk that much, and if there is something to fill the silence between them it’s often Nasir making small talk. It’s never awkward between them anymore; it’s just Nasir talking because he knows that Agron listens even if he doesn’t reply. It’s nice.

“You’re awesome,” Nasir says gratefully as he opens the cartoon as sees the contents, and suddenly it is awkward – something chafing between them, something they both pretend to be out of sight and out of mind even though it is there, all the time.

Then they hear Dima yelling at Julie to fuck off and die for changing song on the stereo and they both smile tentatively at that, and it passes. For now.

Agron sits on the counter and eats since neither of the two kitchen chairs seems sturdy enough to hold his weight and he doesn’t want to tempt fate, while Nasir sits at the table.

“You hitting the gym after this?” Nasir asks after a while, indicating the bag at Agron’s feet.

“Yeah,” Agron says. The calendar hanging on the wall across from him catches his eye. “Is it April already?” he asks.

“Yup,” Nasir says, glancing up at the calendar. “Spring.”

April. Only two months to June. Until Agron is no longer suspended. It used to be all he could think about, getting back, but now he feels… nothing. He looks down at the bag, prods at it with a boot-clad foot. He has stopped with his mad work out regimes. He still pushes himself, and sometimes a little too far beyond his limit, but he has stopped deliberately torturing himself in there. His body is thankful, but his sleep is even more fitful with out the physical exhaustion.

Keeping himself in perfect shape, constantly pushing himself to become stronger, better, more in control of his body, has been a goal almost his entire life. Now it seems unimportant – silly game, an endless race that cannot be won or finished. Just running round and round and round.

Duro kept himself in good shape too. He didn’t quite have Agron’s determination and got bored quickly, but he was still strong and healthy.

It did not help him.

There is no point to anything.

“I hate it when you do that.” Nasir is suddenly so close, hands resting on Agron’s thighs, looking up at him, and there are so many things in his voice and eyes that Agron can’t decipher any of them. He doesn’t even try. It doesn’t really matter.

Nasir leans his forehead against Agron’s, and they’re breathing the same air and that makes it so much easier to keep doing it.

Agron closes his eyes. One of his hands take Nasir’s, his thumb pressing against Nasir’s wrist, and he can feel his pulse thrumming beneath his fingers. It makes him feel safe. Blood pumping, heart beating, breath going in and out of his lungs. Life.

Nasir presses his free hand against Agron’s chest, over his heart, like he, too, needs to ensure himself. Agron opens his eyes again, looking straight into Nasir’s, and opens his mouth to say something, anything, to keep Nasir there, to push him away, to…

“Nasir, have you seen…?” Dima bursts in through the door, catches sight of them just as they jerk apart.

“What?” Nasir says, giving her a look and returning to his seat like he wasn’t up into Agron’s space two seconds ago.

“Chadara needs a new pack of razors,” Dima says, while surreptitiously giving Agron a hard look. “Do we have any in here?”

We have nothing in here,” Nasir says, picking up his spoon again. He sounds annoyed. “You do not work here.”

“I’m your sister,” Dima says, pulling out a drawer to rifle through its contents. It’s a complete mess – Agron knows that the state of their kitchen slash office is enough to give Nasir an aneurysm sometimes, but he has apparently given up on trying to keep it orderly. “Doomed by association.”

“You or me?” Nasir asks surly.

“Found ‘em,” Dima says, ignoring him, and holds up a packet of disposable razors. Before she walks out, and while Nasir is checking something on his phone, she points the index and middle fingers of her right hand first at her own eyes and then at Agron in the universal I’ll be watching you-sign while scowling at him.

Agron does not know whether to be amused to terrified.

Agron hates Facebook. It’s ugly-looking, annoying, intrusive and a horrible substitute for in real life interaction. Also, without it Agron would not have had to know that Nasir spent last night at a party sitting very close to some man all night, both of them smiling and laughing. There are not just a few photos either, but fucking dozens of them. Fucking Dima. Agron regrets accepting her friend request.

Nasir on a date. With someone that is not Agron. Agron would be horrible at a date – sullen and non-talkative, spacing out at odd intervals and drinking too much.

This guy does not look like his brother is dead. He looks happy. And why the fuck shouldn’t he? He has the most perfect, gorgeous man in the entire universe hanging off his every fucking word. He’s tattooed, too; Agron touches his chest where the picture of Duro is hidden beneath his shirt, and wonders if Nasir has done any of them and if they were as special to him as Agron’s tattoo.

Nasir kissed him. That could have been Agron next to him. Agron tries to fit himself over the other guy into the picture and… just no. He doesn’t go in there.

Nasir finds him curled up on himself on the couch. He doesn’t sigh or shake his head or say anything, just drapes himself over Agron and holds him.

He is gone when Agron wakes up – a note on the coffee table telling him that he had to go into work – but Agron feels better.

He’s doing laundry that afternoon, which he hasn’t done in forever, and there is like a hundred sheets and pillowcases that needs to be washed, not to mention a whole fuckload of socks, so he is in a foul mood – which is completely about the laundry and not the fact that he hasn’t heard anything from Nasir in hours and that he spent long minutes torturing himself with Facebook-pictures before starting with this shit.

The doorbell rings and Agron thinks that perhaps it’s Nasir, and maybe they should get pizza for tonight because Agron has had enough with the domestic shit for one day and Nasir doesn’t want to cook after long work days.

But it’s not Nasir on the other side of the door.

It’s his sister.

“You fucking asshole,” she says, stepping over the threshold, and pokes him hard in the chest. The resemblance to Nasir is undeniable in her fury. “You are an evil, heartless… evil bastard who doesn’t deserve to lick the fucking ground beneath my brother’s feet!” She has been advancing steadily with every word, backing Agron up against the wall. “I know your brother is dead and all, and I know you’re depressed and whatnot. Bu-fucking-hu for you. I don’t give a fuck.” She stares at him, dark eyes hard and unflinching. Agron is probably gaping, too shocked to quite grasp what’s going on. “I don’t know or care what kind of hang-ups you’ve got in that pretty head of yours, but you’re going to get over them and start realising what you’re doing to him. He deserves someone good, not you leeching off him, you moron!” She takes a deep breath, nostrils flaring, and rakes a hand through her spiky hair with a frustrated noise. “I fucking get him together with a great guy – not some damn emotional wreck like you – and everything goes completely fine and then yesterday he blows him off. For you. YOU.” She pokes him in the chest again to emphasise the final word. “For some reason he cares about you,” she continues, and her voice is lower now but no less dangerous. “I don’t understand why because to me you seem like the most self-centred, egoistical bastard of all time, but that’s unimportant. Either you fucking fix this, or you let him go, okay? Or I will fuck your shit up. Understood?”

“Yes,” Agron says, mostly as a reflex.

Dima glares at him for a few seconds longer. “Good,” she says. “You don’t deserve him.”

“You already said that,” Agron says. “I know that.” He is getting angry, too. But if it’s aimed at himself or Dima he doesn’t know.

“You’re treating him like shit. You should let him go.”

“I’m not keeping him,” Agron says. It is almost true. He has tried, but he is weak and so tired of being alone. And it’s Nasir.

“You’re not really that fucking stupid, are you?” With that, and one final glower, she leaves.

Chapter Text

Nasir comes over after Agron has texted him. He still isn’t sure what, or even if, he’s going to do anything, say anything, change anything (everything), but he at least has to see him.

He spent the morning at Facebook again. At least no new pictures have been uploaded. Yet.

Agron is doing the dishes – which mostly consist of coffee cups and a glass since he hasn’t really eaten for about twenty four hours – and Nasir walks straight in as he always does, and his hand pass briefly across Agron’s back, leaving a streak of warmth in its wake, and goose flesh spreading over his bare skin. He shivers and hopes that it isn’t noticeable.

Nasir wanders out into the living room as Agron makes coffee. Nasir is always lazy and languid on weekend mornings, exhausted after a long week of tattooing, and Agron feels a little bad about getting him to come over this early. He knows that Nasir prefers staying in bed until lunch, barely even moving at all until 11 am at the earliest. He has woken up next to him enough times to know exactly how nothing but his face sticks up over the covers, and how his nose scrunches up when Agron lights a lamp or parts the curtains slightly to find his way out of the bedroom without stumbling over something or accidentally killing Alyx by stepping on her.

Agron adds liberal amounts of coffee into the maker. Nasir always needs a couple of cups to start functioning properly, he know and smiles a little despite himself as he takes the cup that has become Nasir’s from the dish rack.

Shit fuck, he thinks then, letting his forehead fall against the cupboard above the coffee maker with a dull thud, the cup clutched in one hand. He is so fucking screwed it’s not even a little bit funny.

Letting go. There is no fucking chance that Agron can ever let him go. He looks down at the cup and turns it over in his hands, the ugly-ass green enamel glinting. It’s only when Nasir is near that life seems even remotely worth living. It’s only Nasir who can give him some respite from the constant, bone-shattering ache that’s taken hold of his heart and body. He doesn’t know when he finally surrendered, but he has. Completely. Maybe it was inevitable. Nasir is his fucking life. There is no way in hell he’ll ever be able to…

He looks down at the tattoo on his chest – the very thing that brought Nasir into his life, but also a sign, a brand and a scar. It’s a reminder of what he has lost, of what he himself ruined. It’s the outward sign of the sickness housed inside him. It’s so beautiful – Nasir’s handiwork and Duro’s beloved face, so like his own and yet not – and more ugly for it.

Agron sighs, and it shudders through his body, and he hates everything – most of all himself.

The coffee is just about finished and he looks as the last drops fall down into the dark liquid. He should steel himself, fill two cups, bring them to Nasir where he’s sitting in the living room, and just… tell him to leave. And then never see him again.

Agron would never have guessed he had enough of his heart left for it to break this badly.

He just wants…

“What this?” There is no curiosity in Nasir’s voice – just annoyance, and a hint of irritation.

Agron jerks upright and turns around at his words, hoping that his face doesn’t betray his inner turmoil.

Nasir is holding up his laptop. Which is open to Facebook. To a picture of Nasir at that party, and that guy leaning in close, with his hand upon his arm, to say something that has him laughing gorgeously.

Agron bites his lip. He hopes Nasir hasn’t checked all the tabs – there is a lot of pictures open in the browser. Faced with Nasir’s anger, he feels ashamed, like he has intruded on something he wasn’t supposed to go near.

“You look happy,” he says, and even though he tries not to, he sounds like his life his over. “That’s… good.” It takes struggling, but he does get the word out. He turns back to the coffee maker, pretends to busy himself with pouring coffee, but really his hands are shaking too much for him to even try to lift the pot.

“No,” Nasir says, and it sounds like he can’t decide whether to be frustrated or sad, or both. “You do not get to this.”

“Do what?” Agron says, turning halfway back to him. He cannot look at him, but he can look at his feet. “I’m not doing anything,” he says, but it only sounds sullen and childish. This was not how it was supposed to go, even if the outcome is the same.

Nasir puts the computer down on the counter like he doesn’t trust himself with it. “You cannot be fucking jealous,” he says, almost in a shout, incredulous and indignant. “It’s not fucking fair!”

“Of course I’m fucking jealous!” Agron shouts back. He points forcefully at the computer screen. “He has that! You!”

“No, he doesn’t! Gods, you fucking idiot.” Nasir throws his hands into the air. “You pushed me away! You literally pushed me away. I kissed you, and you, you…” He falters, breathing deeply, nostrils flaring. His hair is coming loose from his braid, and Agron cannot believe that he is even real, this man, gorgeous and glorious even in his rage and disappointment as he is.

“Not because I wanted to!”

“Then why?” Nasir steps up to him, looking up at him, and Agron cringes at the hurt in his eyes. The anger is nothing compared to it. “Fucking WHY, Agron?!”

“Why do you think,” Agron says, silently. The fight leaves him as suddenly as it came and he can feel tears prick in his eyes. “I’m completely fucked up. Wrecked. You deserve someone…”

“Don’t fucking tell me what I deserve!” Nasir backs away again, almost yanks himself away from Agron. “It’s not your decision to make. It’s mine! MINE!” He yells it, spits it, at him. “Don’t you think I know? It’s bad, I know that. I’ve seen you, I know you. Don’t you think I’ve thought about this? It’s ALL I think about! I know I cannot save you, I know what you are! Do you think I would ever have touched you if I wasn’t sure?” He laughs, but it’s barely out of his mouth before it turns into a vicious sob and a gasp for breath. “Could you step out of your fucking misery for three seconds and think about me?”

He turns his back to Agron, as if he is about to walk out the kitchen door, and Agron panics, because it’s one thing if he leaves, but it cannot end like this, it just can’t, and grabs hold of him, hauling him up against his chest.

“Let me go,” Nasir hisses.

“No,” Agron says. “I don’t ever want to let you go.” It just slips out, but it is so true it hurts, and Nasir goes limp in his arms.

“Fuck you,” he says weakly, and when he starts squirming again Agron loosens his grip. But Nasir just turns in his arms to look up at him. His eyes, too, are wet. “I’m going to kiss you now,” he says, and it should have sounded aggressive where it not for the quiver in his voice. Agron’s heart is beating a painful tattoo in his chest. “And if you push me away, I’m walking out of here never to come back. Are we clear?”

Agron cups Nasir’s jaw with one hand, brushes his thumb across his cheek; his hands are still trembling. He barely even dares to breathe. “Yes,” he says; he has to clear his throat and start over before he gets it out. Such a small word, holding so much. Too much, maybe.

The kiss is a clash and a collision; it’s harsh and almost brutal and their noses and teeth knock together. Agron tries to slow it down, to savour it, but Nasir chews at his lip, greedy for more.

Nasir seems to catch up with Agron’s intention when Agron slips his tongue into his mouth, hungrily seeking more. It’s disastrous and uncoordinated, but it’s a kiss. And it’s them.

It’s not even close to perfect, and at the same time it kind of is.

Agron pulls away with Nasir’s bottom lip between his teeth, tugging gently until it slips from him, and they breathe heavily, leaning together, holding each other up. Nasir’s hands are clenched in the fabric of Agron’s sweats, right over his hips, but as the moment stretches on – endlessly, heartbreakingly, deliciously – his grip relaxes slowly until he wraps his arms around Agron’s waist instead.

They’re kissing again, and this time it works better. The frantic desperation and the hurt, like a tender bruise under both their skins, are both still there, but it’s secondary to the taste and the feel of Nasir’s mouth against his own.

Agron closes his eyes, and gives in.

It does not end.

Chapter Text

Nasir is there when he wakes up the next morning – and awake too, even; his lips dragging over the stubble of Agron’s jaw, nosing gently behind his ear.

Agron hums and stretches. “When’d you come in?” he mumbles, tilting his head up to give Nasir better access.

Just after they had finally both wound down enough to stop clutching at each other as if afraid that the other would vanish into thin air, Nasir’s phone had gone off. It had been Dima calling him and demanding that he get home for some sort of emergency, and no matter how Nasir had protested she had refused to give in. Agron had fallen asleep before Nasir came back, but he had left the door unlocked.

“Not that late.” Nasir’s pressed his face to Agron’s, bumping their noses together. “Lazy ass.”

Agron laughed a little bit, and some part of him decided that he could allow himself this – for a while. Nasir had said it himself: he cannot save him. But this is good, too. And Agron can have it – has decided to let himself have it (as if he ever could have said no, really) – as long as Nasir will stay.

“What did Dima want?”

“Never mind,” Nasir breaths against his cheek and his hand cups his chin to tug him into a kiss.

Agron returns it, but doesn’t let Nasir deepen it. Nasir makes an aggravated sound deep in his throat, but pulls back.

“Did she yell at you?” Agron asks. He realises suddenly that he is free to touch Nasir’s hair and immediately buries both his hands in the silky mass, tugging gently and making Nasir sigh.

“A bit. How did you know?” Nasir’s words are muffled against Agron’s skin.

“She yelled at me too,” Agron admits after a second of hesitation. He has already said A, after all.

Nasir freezes, and then he rises himself up on his elbows, looking down at Agron with furrowed brow. “When?”

“Day before yesterday. Why?” Agron’s hands are still in his hair and he lets his fingers through it, works them carefully through the tangles he finds.

Nasir looks at him for a long moment. He says slowly: “So when you asked me to come over yesterday…?” He trails off.

Agron looks away, silently cursing himself for bringing this up. “Yeah.”

Nasir surprises him by taking his mouth, kissing him fiercely and wetly. He bites down on Agron’s bottom lip and worries the flesh between his teeth. “I’m probably going to give you hell over this later,” he says as he pulls away, leaving Agron blinking up at him. “But right now, I’m just going to…” His words get lost in a new kiss, which is followed by another, and then another.

It turns hot and messy – deep, heavy kisses and their bodies moving against each other, sliding and rolling, Nasir’s hands going from his face to his shoulders and then down his chest, to touch and stroke and hold on to.

When he breaks away to breathe, turning his head to the side, Agron’s lips automatically finds the side of his neck and the pulse that is pounding there, so strong and vital beneath the fragile skin. It has a calming effect on him, feeling Nasir’s life rush and thrum against his lips – a reminder that Nasir is so very much alive in his arms. It can be snatched away in an instant and lost forever, but right here and now, he is alive.  

They doze off; Agron exhausted from his inner turmoil and the abrupt changes everything seems to have gone through in the last twenty-four hours. Nasir is pressed tightly against him, and when he wakes up a second time, there are dark strands of hair in his mouth from where his face is mushed against the back of Nasir’s head. He doesn’t mind.

Nasir makes low, sleepy noises – half of contentment and half out of protest – as Agron runs his cheek against his bare shoulder. He smooths away more hair with his chin, revealing the Arabic script tattooed into the soft skin right below the top of Nasir’s spine. He runs his tongue over the words and Nasir shifts back against him, his ass pressing lightly against Agron’s groin and he realises that he is half-hard, probably a result of his dreams. He doesn’t really remember any specifics, but he didn’t wake screaming or gasping, and his senses are full of Nasir – the feel of his body snug against his, his smell, the sound of his breathing and him moving a little against the sheets in his sleep – which must have naturally translated into dreams in his sleep.

He buries his face into Nasir’s hair and breathes in the scent of him. He never wants to leave this bed again. They can stay here forever, sleeping and dreaming and kissing, bodies twined into one. The outside world and all it brings with it can just go and fuck itself.

He slides one hand down to rest on Nasir’s hip and the other under his head to pull him closer into the curve of his body. Nasir stirs, but does not wake – just sighs and slumps back against Agron.

He closes his eyes and shuts the world out, ignoring the existence of anything that isn’t them. He ignores the hollow, hungry void inside of him, the cold sorrow in his bones, and all that is waiting outside, kept at bay only by Nasir’s warmth and the closed curtains. He is safe here.

He ignores the glass-sharp knowledge that it will not last and gathers Nasir impossibly closer into his arms.

“Agron, it’s 5 pm. We’ve been asleep all day.” Nasir sounds sleepy and content and he is trailing small, wet kisses all over Agron’s chest and collarbone like he cannot get enough. Agron cannot remember when he felt rested last and he smiles widely as he opens up his eyes to find Nasir leaning over him.

Nasir looks like he’s been struck dumb, and brings up a finger to trace it over one of Agron’s dimples in an almost reverent way.

“When you smile…” he says, trails off, and bends down to kiss his smile, which quickly disappears as he reciprocates.

Agron’s arms tighten around him. Nasir starts squirming, but Agron doesn’t let go, just kisses him back until Nasir laughs and says: “I really, really have to pee.”

He releases him reluctantly, and Nasir climbs off the bed, Agron’s hand remaining on his hip until Nasir takes it in his and brings it up to his mouth for one last kiss before disappearing into the bathroom.

Agron stretches out on the bed, and the spot where Nasir has lied on is deliciously warm against his back. He is still smiling. This is nothing but a reprieve and he knows it, but he takes what he can get. Right now he doesn’t care.

Nasir steps back into the bedroom and Agron lets his eyes roam over him. He is dressed in nothing more than a pair of black boxer briefs, and there is ink he hasn’t seen and wants to explore and a pierced nipple he wants to taste, but he isn’t quite ready to go there yet. He wants him so much he aches with it, but he has spent so long time using sex as a painkiller, tried to breathe some life into himself with mindless fucking, and he cannot quite figure out how to touch Nasir in any other way – yet. It’s been too long and he is still so broken.

Nasir slips into bed again and his mouth seeks out Agron’s immediately. This Agron knows how to do, because this isn’t sex. It isn’t even a prelude to sex. It’s just need for touch – not any touch this time, but Nasir’s touch.

And Nasir seems to understand because he doesn’t push, doesn’t take it too far, even though Agron can feel his half-erect cock against his hip. The kisses are deep and hungry and there are marks and bruises being sucked and left on both of them, but it stays there. It is enough.

“I think this is the laziest day of my life,” Nasir muses without taking his lips off Agron. He bites his chin softly.

Agron snorts. “Workaholic,” he says.

“We can’t all sustain ourselves on beating people up once a week,” Nasir says teasingly, his knuckles caressing Agron’s lips. His smile disappears when Agron’s hands tighten involuntarily on his shoulder. “Shit,” he says. “I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s okay,” Agron interrupts, because he doesn’t want to do this today. He lets his hand ghost down Nasir’s spine to show him that it is fine, and to remove the look of guilt on his face. He cannot help but let his hand linger on his ass for a moment before his hands travels upward again, because it is a gorgeous ass.

“I have a confession to make,” Nasir says, and it seems like it’s supposed to sound playful but there is a hint of nervousness in his voice and his eyes, as if he is afraid he will say something that Agron won’t like.

Therefore he is a bit surprised when all Nasir says is: “I’ve seen you fight. Before you came into my shop, I mean.” He smiles a little – at the memory of finding Agron half-naked before his sister in his shop, Agron guesses. “Dima dragged me to one of your matches once. But I didn’t place you until that time I ran into you at the café.”

Agron grimaces a little at that. He was an ass then, and he isn’t exactly proud.

“Was I any good?” Agron asks, fingers finding their way back into Nasir’s hair. It’s soft and lustrous and gorgeous and impossible not to touch. “Did I win?”

“You did.” Nasir puts his head down on his shoulder and moves around a little until he is comfortably plastered against Agron’s side, one leg slung over his thighs. “You were… good, yes.” His laugh is low and deep. “I’d never thought I’d like that sort of thing. But it was interesting, to say the least.”

“Why do you think I went into it?” Agron asks flippantly. “Hot, half-naked, sweaty men everywhere? Best job ever.”

“Mhm. When you start again, I demand a guided tour.” Nasir nose tickles slightly as he drags it against the soft skin where Agron’s chest meets his armpit.

“Yeah,” Agron says softly. Suddenly he misses it, acutely. Not the adrenalin and the pain and the need to push his body way beyond his limits and the sick want to inflict harm, but all the other things. The camaraderie, most of all. Countless late nights and weekend has been spent at the gym, hanging out with the other fighters – sometimes working out and more often drinking beer and just having fun, even though Oenomaus always drilled them thrice as hard as usual whenever he found out.

He smiles at the sudden wave of memories – like that time Crixus got into his head that he should run two miles on the treadmill after a few too many beers and had fallen off the second he stepped on it and Agron had laughed to hard beer at come out of his nose – but then he remembers that he has fucked all that up. Badly. Even if he goes back, it won’t be the same. Nothing will ever be the same.

He buries his face in Nasir’s neck again, needing the reassurance the beating of his pulse against his lips gives him.

“I should get going,” Nasir says, sometime later, and Agron freezes against him. “I have work tomorrow, remember? I need a change of clothes and new underwear. Not to mention a shower.”

“I have a shower, and underwear and clothes,” Agron says. He likes the sudden thought of Nasir in his clothes. He likes the thought of Nasir staying for another night even more.

“You’re a monstrous giant,” Nasir point out. “And I’m not,” he adds carefully, narrowing his eyes and daring Agron to call him small.

“I shrunk a shirt in the wash last week,” Agron mumbles into his neck. “It’ll probably fit you.”

“You think?” Nasir asks, pulling Agron’s arm more firmly around him and moving his own under and around Agron’s neck.

“Not really,” Agron replies, but neither of them moves and it doesn’t take long before they start sliding back into sleep.

Chapter Text

He can actually feel the judgement radiating off Dima as he walks into the shop engulfed in one of Agron’s t-shirts, but he doesn’t care. He knows that Agron is very far from a perfect man. He knows that he is a wreck and in mourning and that even if he wasn’t he wouldn’t be perfect, but he is the one that Nasir wants and Dima gets no say in this. At all.

“I hope he’s a good enough lay to make up for his shitty personality,” Dima mutters as Nasir puts down the latte-shaped peace offering he’s brought her as he passes by the front desk. He instantly regrets buying her morning coffee.

“You know what it is like to lose people,” Nasir had told her the day before yesterday, after he had arrived at her place and she had finally stopped lecturing him long enough for him to get a word in.

“Yeah,” she had replied. “I do, and I was a fucking menace. Only, I didn’t have his cute anger management issues. I feel for him and all, but he’s not what matters to me – you do, and he will hurt you.”

“I can take care of myself,” was all Nasir had replied to that.

He doesn’t bother putting her right – what he and Agron do together is none of her business – and walks into his workstation, sipping his own coffee.

His phone beeps, alerting the arrival of a new text.

It’s from Agron: You’ve shed hair all over my bed. Plus, my sheets smell like you.

Nasir smiles, and types in a quick reply: Sorry? Lunch at 12?

Don’t be, comes the quick reply. 12’s fine.

Good. Meet me at the shop?

Sure. <3

Nasir rolls his eyes at the heart, even as he cannot help but smile fondly, and his cheeks heat up. Right now everything just feels good. Agron actually seems, well, not quite happy, but definitely getting there. At least he is closer than he was when Nasir first met him. He doesn’t look like a corpse walking anymore and he didn’t disappear into himself once yesterday, as far as Nasir noticed, and he didn’t wake from nightmares – and that is certainly a step in the right direction, right? Even if he knows that them getting together isn’t a magical cure that will fix Agron and take away all his pain, things can still get better.

Nasir’s first client of the day is a young woman named Fiona. He doesn’t know what she’s been through because she hasn’t told him and he hasn’t asked, but she has a lot of old scars that don’t look self-inflicted and she wants a roaring lioness on her side, over her ribs and almost down to her hip.

People do heal.

The one client Nasir has in the afternoon reschedules, and he doesn’t bother fit another one into the slot, so after lunch he follows Agron back to his apartment. Agron is very bad for business, he has concluded. But he doesn’t care.

They end up on Agron’s couch, half-lying entwined and kissing lazily. Nasir has gotten Agron’s t-shirt off and busies his hands with running them all over the bared skin while looking at and admiring him. He is so beautiful, this giant, handsome man with enough anger to match his size and the potential for so much more than just that.

Nasir mourns for the man he never got to meet, for the man that Agron should have been. He tries to imagine how he was before his brother’s death stole so much from him. He kisses his throat and images him loud and boisterous, making those jokes he sometimes surprises Nasir with all the time, laughing and living.

His hands curves around Agron’s massive biceps and he sees him before him as he was that night when Nasir watched him fight – grinning and intensely focused, fighting for the fucking thrill of it and not to inflict as much hurt as he was able on both himself and his opponent.

He claims Agron’s mouth and kisses him fully and deeply, tasting and feeling him, and Agron hesitates slightly before he responds, as if he is afraid that Nasir will disappear if he doesn’t tread lightly, before delving in and groaning gorgeously against Nasir’s lips.

He pictures and longs for and is a little bit afraid of the man Agron once were, because if this is but a pale shadow of his lost self, then he must have been so fucking magnificent before that Nasir wouldn’t have survived him. But even torn open and scarred as he is, he’s still a fucking force, pulling Nasir helplessly, gloriously towards him.

Nasir doesn’t believe in soulmates or finding the ‘One’, but he do believe that he and Agron fit together in a way Nasir has never done with another person before.

He grabs hold of Agron’s hair with one hand and curves the other around his nape, suddenly kissing him like he wants to drown himself in him. Agron clutches at his back, his hands moving frantically like he is ensuring himself that Nasir actually is there.

Nasir tries kissing him deeper, tries to get under his skin. It’s thrilling and terrifying, being in love, and Nasir has always being wary of getting close enough to a person to actually need them. It’s different with Agron – maybe because Agron needs him just as much in return.

Nasir – so wary of intimacy and reluctant to entrust too much of himself to another person – just wants to let go. They will be imperfect and frustrating and even terrible together at times, but he is ready for that. He’s seen Agron at his worst. He has seen him down at the fight club, smeared with blood and kept upright by nothing else but the need to harm. He has seen him catatonic, so lost in his own mind and grief that his body barely remembers how to breathe. He has seen him completely overcome with despair and fury and fear. He does know him.

He runs his fingertips down Agron chest and kisses the hollow of his throat gently and wonders a little tiredly why he never can make things easy for himself, even though falling in love Agron is one of the best things that has ever happened to him.

Apparently Nasir is, according to Chadara and Julie that is, ‘glowing’ but not in ‘the creepy pregnant way,’ which is a pretty good thing, he guesses. Both women has spent all their free time making jokes and pointing out how much more relaxed and blissful Nasir seems to be now that he finally has ‘gotten some’ while Dima glowers at him and purposefully plays music she knows he hates on the highest volume she can get away with until she has to leave for her real job.

Nasir doesn’t care about them. He just shakes his head at Chadara and Jules’ antics and doesn’t bother informing them of the fact that all he has ‘gotten’ is kisses and cuddles and Agron’s half-naked body underneath his hands and that it was amazing, and keeps on ignoring Dima.

Even so he cannot help but think about the sex thing.

He thinks about it as he climbs into bed – alone, since he actually do need space, even though Agron probably is going to call sometime during the night to talk to him – and languidly slides one hand beneath his pyjama pants.

Even if they have been pretty much refusing to acknowledge any kind of sexual tension between them before, these last days pretty much put an end to that. He knows that Agron is physically drawn to him. He recalls the feeling of Agron’s cock pressing against his hip or thigh as his hand closes around his own, slowly stroking himself to hardness to the mental image of Agron’s half-lidded eyes and the way his lips part in pleasure when Nasir sucks on his neck and how his well-defined chest and abs feels underneath his fingers.

He assumes that Agron has certain issues regarding sex. He has no idea what Agron’s sex life looked life before Duro’s passing, but he has spent a long time sleeping around and using sex as a way to cope. Even so, Agron is probably one of the most tactile people Nasir has ever met, and it confuses him that he doesn’t seem to want more. Everything.

It’s amazing what only a small touch or a hug can do to calm Agron down even when he wakes from bad dreams or is coming back from a panic attack. And because of that, Nasir cannot help but wonder why Agron seems so reluctant (relatively speaking, that is) about taking it further. Nasir is fine with taking it slow, no problems at all, it’ll happen when they both want it and so on, but he didn’t expect that to happen with Agron. He had thought Agron would crawl as deeply as he possibly could under his skin at first chance given and never let go. He had expected him ravenous, and greedily taking everything Nasir could give him. He hadn’t thought think that Agron ever did anything without diving in headfirst, no take-backs.

He is fine with it, really. He just wants to know what it is that’s holding him back.

He pushes the thoughts away and starts jacking himself with more intent, his mind full of Agron. He has taken to sleeping in the shirt he borrowed and it smells like him still.

When he comes, he breathes Agron’s name into his pillow.

“I think we should go out,” he tells Agron. Their making-out sessions on whatever flat surface in either of their apartments that are closest are quickly becoming a habit, and Nasir thinks it’s time for a change. Not that this past week hasn’t been amazing – especially since he knows how much Agron must need it after his long, self-imposed isolation; he practically melts in his hands – but Nasir wants a whole relationship, and not just one (admittedly very pleasurable) aspect of it.

“Go out?” Agron mumbles. In the darkness of his bedroom Nasir cannot see his face, but it sounds like he’s on the verge of falling asleep. Nasir knows he won’t for a while yet, though – Agron still has trouble actually letting himself go to sleep, even when Nasir is there. The nightmares have lessened since Agron has started sleeping plastered against and tangled around Nasir, but they haven’t let up completely and Agron doesn’t usually fall asleep until long after Nasir.

“To dinner,” Nasir clarifies. “Doesn’t necessarily have to be someplace nice or fancy – just, you know, something. Tomorrow night, maybe?” He feels a small pang of guilt as he says it – Dima always as Wednesdays off and it’s really their unofficial brother-sister-time, but Nasir figures that she’ll live. They are still a bit cold towards each other, but he figures that she will understand. Eventually.

“As a date?” Agron asks, his hand finding Nasir’s under the comforter. Nasir twines their fingers together.

“Yeah.” He turns his head to kiss Agron, misses his mouth and hitting his scruffy cheek instead. He smiles, but it fades quickly as Agron’s silence elongates.

“Fine,” he says eventually. “Just… I’m not good company.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Nasir tells him very gently and this time, when he tilts his head to kiss him, he actually finds his mouth, warm and needy beneath his.

Nasir blinks a little when he meets up with Agron outside the small restaurant decided to eat at and he looks like he’s… made an effort. He has a button-down on and a pair of jeans that doesn’t look like they’re hanging together by a thread. He’s even fixed his hair, and okay, it kind of looked like he got an electrical shock and threw some hair-gel on it, but it’s still nice.

He looks deeply uncomfortable, though, fidgeting and scratching his neck.

“Hi, handsome,” Nasir says softly in his ear and kisses his cheek.

“Hi,” Agron says and mouths at Nasir’s neck for a second. Nasir smile widens a little bit – that is clearly becoming a thing.

“You didn’t have to dress up,” Nasir says after they have sat down and ordered drinks. “This isn’t, like, an official first date or anything. I just wanted to do something with you, you know.”

“Sure,” Agron says, thumbing through the menu without seemingly looking at it. “I got that. I just wanted to make this… normal?” He frowns a little at the menu like it is its fault that he has problem formulating his thoughts into words.

Nasir is realising that this was a mistake. He starts to tense up as he looks through the menu, waiting for the unavoidable moment where Agron starts going off on a rant about how Nasir deserves a normal relationship where they can do normal things and be normal with each other everywhere and not just in the safety of either their apartments or at the shop. He holds back a sigh and waits for it even as he tries to pretend that he is not.

He glances at Agron over the top of his menu and notices that he looks miserable. Nasir’s heart clenches in his chest. During these last days, he had almost forgotten how much he hates that look on Agron’s face. It’s not like he has turned into a ray of sunshine – far from it – but he hasn’t looked like he is constantly breaking apart either. Nasir wants to kick himself for bringing him out. It’s not that important, really. They could have watched some movie and ordered in.

“I’ve something to tell you,” Agron says before Nasir has a chance to suggest that they go home instead, “I just wanted to do this so that you know, and for no other reason, okay? I…” He produces a slightly wrinkled and folded paper from his pocket and stares down at it. “I got myself tested,” he says. “Just as a pre-caution. I mean, I’ve slept around and I’ve been drunk and stupid and never really cared, you know, so I thought I’d… yeah. But. I’m clean. Here.”

He hands Nasir the paper like he doesn’t think Nasir will take his word for it.

“Good,” Nasir says, putting it down without looking at it. It is good. “I’m clean too,” he says because that is also good to know.

Agron nods.

It’s a little awkward, even though it shouldn’t. They’re both adults, for fuck’s sake.

“How are you feeling?” Nasir ventures after another moment of silence. He isn’t talking about testing himself, of course, and Agron gets that.

He shrugs.

“Come on, talk to me.” Nasir touches Agron’s foot with his. He sounds more pleading than he meant to. Yesterday Agron had kissed him like he was air. He had smiled his stupid, brilliant smile. He had joked and braided small, messy plaits in Nasir’s hair when Nasir had fallen asleep on him. He had…

Nasir blinks.

“Just a bad day,” Agron says quietly.

Bad day. Right. Because Agron’s brother is still dead. Because that will never change.

Just days ago Nasir had thought: I know I can’t save him and that’s okay, even though it wasn’t. And still a part of him – a big part – had believed precisely that he could do it. Agron had smiled and laughed and cuddled with him and Nasir had believed that everything would be fine. Agron had seemed fine. But he wasn’t. Isn’t. It’s almost funny, even though it’s really, really not.

For the first time since he admitted to himself that he is in love with Agron, he’s afraid that this will break him.

He glances up at Agron. He looks small and vulnerable, and Nasir thinks about the fighting club, the workouts, the hook ups and the fact that Agron hasn’t spoken with his friends or his parents since forever.

People do heal, but not unless they want to.

“Lets get out of here,” he says and gestures for the waiter to bring them the check so they can pay for their drinks. Nasir just wants to kiss that dejected look away from Agron’s face – he feels like they both need some intimacy right now.

Back at Nasir’s apartment, in his bed, Agron presses his face against his stomach and curves in against him, like he is trying to hide himself away. Nasir strokes his hair and falls in and out of sleep, aching for him.

There are no magical cures. But it can still be fixed, some of it. He will just have to convince Agron that it is worth it; that he himself is worth it. 

Chapter Text

His life has turned into a sick, warped rollercoaster, and it seems like the ride has no end in sight. It twists and turns faster than Agron can keep up with – in the blink of an eye a good day can turn into shit for no apparent reason whatsoever.

One morning he had waken up first and spent long moments admiring the vision Nasir made sleeping, all languid and mussed, only to, with the next heartbeat, almost stop breathing for the fear of him being snatched away from him.

Sometimes it’s like walking on a minefield – either of them will say or do something, or Agron will think about something, and the memory of Duro will be brought back into acute, painful focus and what he has been able to keep at bay for minutes, hours, even a day at times, will come flooding back in to submerge him in grief.

It is always there, at the edges – in the cracks and the corners. It seeps through, no matter how hard he tugs Nasir against him, no matter how long he refuses to pull the curtains away from his windows, no matter how long he stays in bed with the comforter pulled up to his chin.

It was almost easier when he was right in the middle of it all the time. Before Nasir was there to ease some of the pain.

But at the same time, he wouldn’t exchange Nasir for anything. It seems unbelievable to him now that he was able to keep his distance for as long as he did. He’s fucking addicted to Nasir. He is the sun, spreading light and keeping the darkness at bay.

Until he leaves. For work, to get home and get a new change of clothes, to meet his sisters or his friends. To live his life.

Agron does not like that. Intellectually he knows he’s being a possessive asshole, but he really can’t help it. It is no excuse, but it is the truth. He wants Nasir to be here, with him, all the time. Forever. Because no matter how threatening all the hell and shit that is his life gets behind the barricades that he is able to put up with Nasir around, it is still better than facing it alone.

He has had enough of being alone.

As a consequence he spends more time down at the shop, because Nasir often work long days. Chadara and Julie are nice and fun and they seem to get it if he isn’t too interested in talking. Dima is another matter entirely, though, and Agron is very glad that she and Saxa don’t know each other. They would probably hate each other at first glance and then end up taking over the world together anyway.

Most of Nasir’s clients are fine with Agron being in the room as Nasir tattoos them. Watching Nasir at work is curiously calming. He is smooth and efficient in his every move, and the things he can do with his needles and inks are awe-inspiring. He specialises in realism and portraits – there is nothing Nasir cannot transfer to skin and make it look like it almost breathes and moves. It’s magic. Chadara and Julie – specialising in new school and horror respectively – are good too, but not as good as Nasir. At least not as far as Agron is concerned.

The guy Nasir is working on winces in pain as Nasir moves the needle over his skin again and again and Agron watches, mesmerised, as the black ink takes shape under his skin, clouded by blood and antiseptic salve.

He gets a sudden longing for being beneath the needle himself. It wasn’t long since he got Duro’s tattoo of course, but maybe it time for something new. He has no idea what he wants but the idea of letting Nasir loose on his skin to do whatever he feels like is an appealing one. He likes the thought of having something of Nasir marking his body permanently.

It’s only a small piece that the man is getting and Nasir finishes up quickly. He only has time to clean up his working space, wipe everything out, bring out new needles and ink and give Agron a quick kiss before his next client steps in.

Agron has no idea what she’s getting, because he is too busy watching her flirt with Nasir. It makes him half amused and half irritated. It’s fucking obvious that Nasir isn’t interested at all with the way he keeps his eyes on the needle, ignores the way she touch his arm and answers monosyllabic to whatever she says, and shouldn’t it be just as obvious that his boyfriend is sitting two feet away?

Boyfriend. He frowns a little as he realised that they haven’t really put any kind of label on what they are. That they are very into each other and exclusive is pretty much implied, but ‘boyfriend’ has quite another ring to it. They’re in a relationship. In a romantic relationship.

He is in love with Nasir.

He knows that – he has known that for quite some time, but not really. It suddenly hits him, hard, just how much this lithe, dark-haired, beautiful, irritatingly stubborn, and intelligent man means to him.

It’s too much feeling, all at once. It’s huge. All he wants to do is to flee, to run away and never stop. He isn’t even sure he can bear being in love. It’s going to eat him up and leave him abandoned in the dark. And he is defenceless against it. There is nothing he hates so much as being helpless.

“You okay?” Nasir asks after he has finished up the tattoo, the girl has left and he is busy cleaning up around a shell-shocked Agron. “You went really quiet.”

“I’m fine,” Agron says distractedly. He swallows.

Nasir takes of his gloves in throws them into the trashcan before reaching his arms up to stretch, his back arching into a curve. His spine makes protesting noises. His shirt rides up a little bit, and Agron glances at the trail of hair leading down into his pants, entranced.

Nasir reach over to steal a kiss, and Agron deepens it without thinking about it, just places his hands on Nasir’s hips and tugs him in between his legs and slides his tongue in between pliant lips.

“You were bothered by that,” Nasir mumbles, almost accusatory. “Jealousy? Really Agron?”

It takes a moment for Agron to realise what Nasir is talking about. Nasir nips at his upper lip.

“I’m not jealous,” he says even though he was. Is. “Just...”

“A bit of an idiot?” Nasir supplies, bringing one hand up to tug gently at the small hairs at the back of Agron’s neck.

He can’t contest that. “I’m just…” He licks his lips. He knows he’s going to piss Nasir off with what he is going to say next. But he needs him to know what he’s getting into. He caresses Nasir’s cheek with the back of his hand. So beautiful. And it’s not even physical – not only at least. It’s him. He is far from perfect, but so beautiful inside out.

I can’t live without you, Agron thinks. You’re everything to me and I’m so scared. Scared of losing you. Scared of everything.

“Don’t get mad,” is what he says instead. “But I think we need to…” He sighs. “You do know that we can never have a normal relationship, right? I mean, with dates or double dates or walks in the park and fuck knows what? Would you even want me to meet your grandmother?”

You think we’re going to grow old together? Live happily ever after? Nothing lasts.

“Yes,” Nasir says vehemently. Agron knew he would get angry. “Don’t be stupid. And it’s not important. You’re important. Because I really do care about you, Agron. A whole fucking lot, in fact. Do not fucking say these things.”

“But I can never be a part of your life,” Agron says, because Nasir lives in the living world, among the living people. Agron is an outcast. “I’m… separate.”

“Don’t be silly.” Nasir tugs harder at Agron’s hair, glares at him. He suddenly looks so very young – fragile. And Agron’s hands tighten on his hips. “You’re here now, right?”

“Nasir…”

“I’m not listening.”

“All I’m saying is…”

Nasir mashes his mouth against his.

Agron hasn’t talked to his parents in weeks. He hasn’t talked with anyone besides Nasir for weeks, really. He knows he should call them, to ensure them that he is alive if nothing else. But he does not want to hear their voices laced tight with worry. He doesn’t want them to tell him to forget or move on.

I lost so much more than her in the end, Spartacus had said. He had referred to the death of his wife, who had gotten severely sick quickly and died just months after they had gotten married. Agron hadn’t known him back then, nor ever met Sura, but he had been around for the big clusterfuck that had been Spartacus rebound relationship with Mira. If Mira herself hadn’t finished it, Agron would have. In one way or another. It had been like watching a train-wreck. A very, very slow and painful train-wreck.

He wonders how much like a train-wreck his and Nasir’s relationship is, and how hurt Nasir will be when he comes out of it. It took Mira almost a whole year before she had recovered enough to even consider getting together with Saxa.

And, though it is not what Spartacus meant, he wonders if his parents feel like they’ve lost two sons.

The guilt that wells up is almost comforting. It’s safe and familiar, while his feelings for Nasir are dangerous and forbidden. Not that there isn’t guilt mingled in there as well, but it’s… complicated.

There are too many could-have-beens. It would have been possible for them to have a future together. A real future. Donar found Chadara and started dating her. Nasir’s shop is only a few blocks down from Agron’s apartment. It would have been possible for them to meet under different circumstances. If Agron hadn’t killed his brother. If he hadn’t bought those fucking ticket. If he hadn’t gotten out of the water. If he had kept his eyes on the ocean.

But Agron did kill his brother. It’s like poison spreading and infecting everything or a tumour growing rapidly. Agron wish he could cut it out of his life, rip it free, but he can’t. It’s a piece of Duro. And too much of him has already gone. There is so little left.

There is a box of photographs of him hidden under the couch. Agron hasn’t brought it out in forever, but now he does. He flips through them, one by one, slowly, torturing himself with picture upon picture of the hyperactive, smiling child who grew into a slightly sullen teenager who grew into a young man with unruly dreadlocks and a nose-ring. And then nothing more.

Agron hates the world and the ocean and himself for having the fucking audacity of ending Duro’s vibrant, carefree life. He had gone on his first date with a girl named Diona just days before the trip. He had been trying to work up the courage to ask her out for months, and eventually she had beat him to it. He had rushed to Agron’s place, giddy with excitement and happiness, to tell him the news.

Fours days later he was dead.

The darkness is creeping in and his blood flow sluggishly through his veins as the pain of remembrance and the fucking guilt leaves him immobile.

Nasir is working late and then having dinner with his grandmother and staying over at hers so he won’t be coming over.

Agron drinks himself into a stupor that night.

Chapter Text

The next morning, it is a battle between wanting to have Nasir there with him, so close they can physically get and still be separate flesh, and not wanting him to see him like this at all. His head is pounding and his body aching from grief, and he is pretty sure there was a point during the night he was bent over the toilet bowl and throwing up, because his mouth tastes like shit and he is feeling shaky, like his stomach has been empty for too long.

He feels defeated.

When Nasir texts later he responds by saying he isn’t feeling too well, and that he needs to be alone for a while. Then he curls inward on himself and hides his phone under his pillow.

Sleeping helps, when he can manage it. When he blinks awake late the next day, his mind is feeling almost bloated with rest after more than a whole day and night in bed, but he is also better. Good enough to text Nasir and ask him to come over for dinner and good enough to actually go out and get groceries for said dinner and cook it. It’s nothing special – just stir fry – but it feels good to be able to compel himself to do something.

He meets Nasir in the hall as he arrives, and Nasir doesn’t ask him what happened yesterday or if he wants to talk about – he just runs his hands over Agron’s shoulders and down his chest like he is checking that he is intact and okay. He looks concerned, though, and his fingers dig a little too hard into the flesh of Agron’s arms as he leans up to kiss him.

He seems to relax a little as they walk into the kitchen and he sees that Agron has cooked. They do not talk much as they eat, but the tension dissipates slowly along with Nasir’s worry.

They end up on the couch – as they always do if it isn’t the bed – with Agron leaning back against the backrest and Nasir straddling him.

Nasir keeps touching him like he is trying to reassure himself of something and Agron feels bad about that. For the most part he is too swamped by his own emotions to remember that Nasir feels just like he does; that he too can hurt. He has spent so long not giving a fuck about whether or not he is hurting the people close to him, which makes it is hard to get used to having to take another’s feelings into constant consideration. It’s not easy, but he realises that he wants to, because Nasir is so fucking important to him.

He grips Nasir’s neck softly with both hands and slants their mouths together, liking the feeling of having Nasir on top of him, looking down at him. He tastes a little bit of desperation, but Agron is pretty sure he does as well so it’s okay.

“Hey,” he murmurs, pulling back, because he isn’t always selfish and self-possessed. He cups Nasir’s chin to make him look at him. “Hey. I care about you too – you know that, right? You’re important to me. And not because I need you, but because you mean a lot to me. Okay?”

Nasir nods hastily, frantically, and they are so close that their noses brush together and Agron tilts his head to the side to touch Nasir’s lips with his again. Nasir’s fingers curl around the back of his neck as he licks into Agron’s mouth, his lips pressing firmly against his. Agron leans back further against the couch and Nasir follows him, pressing in, darting down to bite at his pulse point before dropping another series of wet kisses against his mouth.

There is the taste of curry and coffee underneath the desperation, and slowly it is joined by the taste of Agron, as they deepen the kiss, losing themselves in each other.

One of Agron’s hands sneaks up under Nasir’s shirt and rakes his nails down his back of it’s own volition, and it causes Nasir to arch and gasp, which makes Agron repeat the motion. Nasir grinds down in retaliation, while scraping his teeth over Agron’s bottom lip and chin, and they both groan heavily at the feel of their cocks moving together, even through the restricting layers of clothing between them.

Agron just wants to slide out of his skin and into Nasir’s, wants to merge with him and let him fill up all the empty spaces inside of him.

He buries his face against Nasir’s neck where the smell of him is warm and strong, and safe, dropping light kisses against the skin there. Nasir turns his head to mouth at his temple – a curiously sweet gesture that warms Agron’s torn heart, and Agron slides his hands from his back to his front, rests his thumbs right beneath his ribcage.

Agron looks up at him. Nasir’s cheeks are slightly flushed and the shorter hairs around his temple have come loose from his braid and are framing his face. His lips are slightly swollen from Agron’s teeth and he looks fucking beautiful.

“You look fucking beautiful,” Agron says, because he should probably try and get better at using his words.

Nasir smiles and Agron reaches up to kiss him again. It’s soft, still, and Nasir seems unwilling to deepen it so Agron doesn’t push. Instead he reaches around Nasir and pulls the hair tie off the end of his braid, dropping it in the floor carelessly, and begins to unwind the three segments. He is slow and careful, letting his fingers work gently through the silky tangles and brush against the back of Nasir’s neck. Nasir’s eyes flutter close and Agron grin softens into a small, happy smile. So fucking beautiful.

He starts to comb through his hair with his fingers when the braid is dissolved, but Nasir catches hold of his face in both hands to move their mouths together again. It doesn’t take long before his lips begin to wander – first across Agron’s jaw and up over his cheekbone. He tugs at his earlobe with his teeth and Agron sighs as he lets his head fall back, granting Nasir both access and control.

He takes it willingly, shifting his hips in Agron’s lap to move closer, kissing his throat softly at first – surprising him when he bites down, suddenly vicious, and sucks a mark into his skin. He brushes his hand through Agron’s hair, trails a fingertip along his collarbone, smiles against the curve of Agron’s jaw.

And then he is lapping at Agron’s lower lip again, demanding entrance. The kiss is not hurried, but slow and smouldering, with Nasir’s lips pressed firmly against Agron’s and his tongue sweeping inside his mouth.

It’s too much and not enough at the same time, and Agron’s hands move to Nasir’s arms – to brace himself or to make him slow down he does not know. His head is swimming with Nasir’s closeness and the million ways his lips and breath and scent and hands and weight on top of and against him are driving him mad.

It’s fast and dizzying, and Nasir’s hard cock is pressing against his stomach and he tugs at Agron’s hair as he peppers his face with kisses. Agron nudges at his cheek with his chin to get his mouth on his yet again and Nasir obliges with another smile.

Agron doesn’t notice that one of Nasir’s hands has been steadily moving down his tee-clad torso, until sure, eager fingers are stroking him before pulling the zipper down. The sound is loud in the quiet of the living room where nothing but their combined breathing can be heard, and when Nasir’s hand slips inside his jeans and grabs his cock through his boxer briefs, Agron gasps and bucks up into his hands, seeking friction and more… more.

He looks up at Nasir again, but the other man is gone, moving against Agron as his fingers close around his dick, shoving his own against Agron’s stomach and gasping outright, until he suddenly stills for a second before he starts shuddering and half-collapses against Agron’s chest.

Agron is finding it hard to breathe as Nasir blinks up against him in the aftermath of his impromptu orgasm, his hand still tight around Agron and his mouth falling open slowly, like he isn’t sure what happens, but it is the good kind of breathlessness.

Nasir blinks again, a little more firmly, and sits up abruptly, letting go off him like he’s been burned, and draws back to stare wide-eyed at him. “Sorry,” he says hastily and desperately, his voice breathless but wary and laced with guilt. He looks at Agron like he is afraid Agron will yell, or bolt. “I’m so sorry.” He rubs one hand over his eyes, the other resting high up on Agron’s chest. “We’re taking it slow, I know, I just, fuck. I don’t know what happened. It just…”

Agron silences him by grabbing hold of Nasir’s hips and rising up from the couch in one smooth, unbroken movement. Suddenly all his insane workouts feel completely justified. Nasir clutches at him with a surprised gasp as he suddenly finds himself high up in the air, supported by nothing but Agron’s arms and his own legs hastily winding around Agron’s waist.

Nasir stares into his eyes as Agron carries him in his bedroom, and it’s like a scene out of some trashy romance novel, but Agron doesn’t care, because there is no pity or sympathy or frustration in Nasir’s eyes. There is only lust and wonder, and still a little bit of something guarded.

Nasir looks amazing spread out on Agron’s bed with his hair pooling around his head and all languid and lithe, and Agron feels a stab of the same worry that as kept him from crossing this line for so long. This is not a drunken, fumbling hook-up. This is Nasir.

Who just came beautifully and hard in his pants from riding Agron’s thigh.

His arms feels like they do not belong to him as he throws off his jeans and t-shirt before crawling up the bed, kissing Nasir’s stomach, chest and neck. Nasir fingers fumble as he starts unbuttoning his own shirt and Agron pulls the fabric apart to reveal more golden skin. He loops his little finger through the ring in Nasir’s nipple and tugs carefully. Nasir groans and Agron catches the sound with his mouth, Nasir huffing out a breath as Agron’s weight presses down on him.

He makes a surprised sound when he suddenly finds himself on his back, Nasir looking down at him with a small, hesitant smirk. He shouldn’t be surprised, really – he remembers how steadily Nasir had supported his bulk when he dragged him out of the fighting club, after all, but it’s completely different here, in bed. It’s hot.

“You sure about this?” Nasir asks, twining his fingers together with Agron’s and brings them up to his mouth to kiss his knuckles. Agron wonders if he can feel the scars on them against his lips, and it makes him feel… sullied. So many men he has beaten up. So many he has had mindless sex with. And Nasir reminding him that bodies are not meant only for pain.

Nasir is still talking, growing more agitated the longer Agron’s thoughtless silence stretches on. “I can take it slow. I promise. I don’t ne…”

Agron puts a finger to his lower lip, stroking slowly along it, his eyes almost crossing when he looks at Nasir’s face, because he is so close. “I’m sure,” he says softly but urgently, because suddenly every moment their bodies are not merged feels like a fucking torment. He’s been a fucking idiot, being afraid of this.

Nasir shrugs out of his shirt and Agron makes a pleased sound and tries to sit up for better access, but Nasir presses him back down with a firm hand to his chest.

“I would look at you,” he says quietly, like he isn’t sure how that will go down with Agron or like he is embarrassed by it.

Agron just relaxes against the bed and stretches his arms up a little bit. It is good having Nasir in control. Agron has so little himself these days so surrendering himself to Nasir just feels comfortable.

Nasir runs his hand all over Agron’s torso and neck erratically, as if he cannot quite decide what to touch first. His hands are warm and soft, only a little callused from pens and the tattoo gun.

He keeps his eyes firmly fixed on Agron’s body and Agron is grateful. He cannot remember the last time he had sex like this, sex that wasn’t mindless and hurried fucking, but instead about the need to get close and for the sake of deeper pleasure, and it’s intense enough to have Nasir’s hands worship him. It’s almost too intimate after too long of sordid one-night-stands and he is already panting and overwhelmed.

Nasir pulls his boxers down and off and Agron’s cock springs free, catching a little at the fabric. Nasir’s combs his fingers through his pubic hair and moves down slowly, sensuously, to swipe his tongue across Agron’s cockhead. Agron moans.

“I want you inside me,” Nasir says, and Agron throws his head back again moans again.

“Whatever you want,” he says, and meaning it. And not just when it comes to sex. “But get undressed first,” he adds because he has fucking dreamt about this since the first time he laid eyes on Nasir.

Nasir snorts a little at his impatience, but sits up to comply, and Agron probably more hinders than helps him as he shoves his hand down his pants to palm at his cock. Nasir hisses and arches, hands scrambling to undo his slacks to give Agron more room.

He bends down to kiss Agron’s chin and mouth and nose. “Agron,” he mumbles, “could we just…?”

“Just what?” Agron asks, slightly mischievously, twisting his wrist again on the upstroke.

“Get on with it?” Nasir makes a grimace, as if he isn’t terribly glad with his own choice of words, but all Agron answers is: “I told you. Whatever you want.” He keeps his eyes on Nasir’s, and Nasir seems to understand and he nods. He climbs off and lies down beside Agron, who starts to scramble around in the nightstand drawer for lube and condoms. It’s been a while since he’s used them, and he cannot quite recall how much lubricant is left in the tube and hopes intensely that he has enough for this.

In the meantime Nasir has got the rest of his clothes off, and when Agron turns back to him with the thankfully half-full tube and a condom clasped in his hand he is momentarily struck speechless.

Sweat is glinting in the hollow of Nasir’s throat, his hair is spilling thick and glossy across his shoulder, and there is ink across his side, over his ribs. Agron places a hand right below it and Nasir twists at the waist to let him see. It’s a bird in black and grey, contorted so it is mostly made up of the wingspan and some tail-feathers. Agron brushes his hand over it and down to Nasir’s hip, and inwards towards his groin. His cock is not completely soft despite his orgasm and it’s sticky with come, and Nasir gasps beautifully for breath as Agron’s hand moves closer, his fingers stroking softly and teasingly across the inside of his hip.

Agron reaches over his shoulder to mouth at his neck, and when his teeth close around Nasir’s ear the same time his hand does around his sensitive cock, Nasir’s whole body jerks back against him. It’s immensely gratifying and Agron does it again.

“Too much,” Nasir groans, and Agron immediately lets his hand slide up until it’s resting against Nasir’s lower stomach, fingers ghosting across the slightly coarse hair of his treasure trail.

Nasir rolls over onto his stomach, trapping Agron’s hand beneath him, and Agron takes the hint. He retrieves his hand and rolls on the condom before he lubes up his fingers, slipping one gently inside of Nasir. He is relaxed from his orgasm and so warm and soft inside that Agron has to squeeze hard around the base of his own cock to calm himself down a notch. He is surprised by how worked up he already is – it hasn’t usually been this fast or easy lately.

He slides another finger in and Nasir takes it, moving back against it, and the serpentine movement he makes on the bed isn’t helping at all with Agron’s overwhelming arousal. He keeps shifting his fingers until he find the spot that has Nasir gripping handfuls of sheet and burying his face in the bed gasping, and then he presses insistently at it. Agron is merciless and Nasir honest to god thrashes on the bed, rising his hips up to get Agron’s fingers deeper inside of him.

Agron slides his free hand slowly under Nasir’s hip – his thumb dragging over the curve of the bone – and takes hold of his cock again, gently tugging him back to full hardness. He makes the most gorgeous sounds, and his hips are stuttering as he struggles with trying to decide between pushing back against Agron’s hand or into his fist.

Agron kisses him between his shoulder blades, licks at the skin to taste the salt of his skin.

He almost chokes on his own groan as Nasir rolls back against him – causing Agron’s fingers to twist awkwardly inside of him, but neither of them really care – which makes his cock rub against the small of his back.

“Come on,” Nasir whispers, the last syllable disappearing in a moan as Agron rights his fingers and thrusts them deep inside, a little too roughly.

He isn’t going to say no to that, so he pulls his fingers away – twisting them as he does so to tease another deep, beautiful moan out of Nasir – and replaces them with the tip of his cock, pushing in.

It’s tight, and Nasir isn’t stretched quite enough for it to go smoothly, but he doesn’t complain. Instead he presses back against Agron, taking him in faster, and Agron spreads one hand out over Nasir’s chest to hold him firmly against him. Nasir’s ass rolls back against him and Agron forgets about going slow, just slides in the last few inches until he bottoms out and buries his head against Nasir’s nape, breathing deeply and unable to get enough air down into his lungs.

It’s hot and tight and perfect, and Agron loves the feeling of Nasir’s sweat-slick body pressing along the line of his own, how he fits against him; how Agron fits inside of him.

Nasir is trembling again and Agron tangles their fingers together, kisses his shoulder, spreading his legs a little by a nudge of his knee. “You okay?” he asks. His body is burning with the need to move, but he won’t until Nasir is ready for it. He is so fucking tight that there is no chance that there is no burn at all, but he asked for it and Agron trusts him to know what he wants.

“Yeah,” Nasir breathes. He squeezes Agron’s hand and rubs his ass against him. Agron groans. “Give it to me.”

And Agron does, surrendering himself to the slick drag of his cock inside Nasir, pulls out as much as he is able without having to let go completely of him with his first couple of thrusts, and slams back in, drawing loud sounds out of them both.

Nasir reaches a hand back and grabs hold of a handful of buttock to angle Agron better, and Agron grips his thigh to open him up more and to hold him still before thrusting in again as Nasir pushes greedily back and clenches around him.

And Agron comes like he has never got off before in his life, his hips gyrating desperately against Nasir ass and his hand grasping uselessly at his thigh, colours swimming before his eyes. He gasps and shouts and it’s the fucking best orgasm of his life, until he comes down from it as abruptly as it begun.

“Shit fuck,” he swears angrily, pulls a little too carelessly out of Nasir because he makes a low noise of protest, and flops down on his back on the bed. He is still winded from his sudden, mindblowing orgasm and his hands shake as he removes the condom, but his mood as turned sour at his body’s betrayal. He has had trouble finishing for months – more often than not simply not bothering to come at all, since it’s more work than it’s worth – and the first time with Nasir he’s done before he has barely even had the chance to begin. Motherfucking hell.

“Fuck it,” he mutters, sullenly throwing the condom on the floor. “I’m so fucking sorry,” he says to Nasir as he turns back to him. Nasir seems to be a bit confused, like it happened too fast for him to really register what was going on, and before he has a chance to reply, Agron turns him over onto his back with a hand on his hip, crawling down to suck his cock into his mouth, which has Nasir jerking and thrusting deeper down his throat, but Agron just takes it, sucking almost aggressively around him while working at the base with his hand, hellbent on getting him off as fucking well as he possibly can after that fucking fiasco.

“Agron.”

Agron ignores him, sucks him down until he gags from it, saliva and pre-come dripping from his lower-lip. Nasir’s is gasping and his hips are still moving, but he grabs Agron’s hair with both his hands and pulls him off, not particularly gently. Agron growls at him and his throat feels sore.

“Fucking stop it,” Nasir tells him sternly.

Agron tries to pull away, but Nasir doesn’t let him, exchanging his grip on his hair for one around his neck.

Agron slumps down on the bed, hides his face in the crook of Nasir’s hip. “I’m sorry,” he says again, crushed.

“For what?” Nasir asks calmly, sensibly. It’s like he is not so hard his cock of flushed a deep shade of red at all.

“For fucking this up.” Agron doesn’t add This too, because there is no need. He is a fucking failure cannot even screw his boyfriend properly.

“I came in my pants,” Nasir says, sounding incredulous, like he is amazed at Agron’s stupidity. “I have never done that in my whole life. In my pants, Agron. Like a fucking teenager.” He cups Agron’s chin, forcing him to look up at him by turning his head towards him. His eyes are soft. “So this was maybe not the most successful sex we’re ever going to have. So what?” He wipes away a bit of sticky wetness from Agron’s lips. “It definitely wasn’t bad.” His eyes glint and Agron’s chest feels a little bit lighter. “And for what it’s worth, it beats a lot of times I’ve bottomed with a guy for the first time.”

Agron frowns up at him, momentarily forgetting his own distress and embarrassment. “Really?” Fucking assholes.

“Stop being an idiot,” is all Nasir replies with a disbelieving shake to his head, “and come up here and kiss me.”

Agron complies, and Nasir smiles into the kiss like nothing makes him happier than Agron’s lips against his.

They kiss lazily for a few minutes, and Nasir seems unconcerned by his heavy, wanting cock, but Agron can feel it press against his stomach and the small twitches of Nasir’s hips and thighs as the need stirs inside of him. When he moves to take him in hand, however, he is intercepted by Nasir tangling their fingers together.

They continue to kiss, and Nasir smirks against his mouth as Agron’s cock starts to fill up again after another couple of minutes. He pushes Agron away to get a condom off the nightstand along with the lube.

Agron finds himself pressed back against the headboard as Nasir makes quick work of rolling the rubber on and slicking Agron up anew. He moves into his lap and sinks down, a blissed out expression spreading over his lovely face as he fills himself with Agron’s cock. Agron watches, entranced, marvelling at the fact that he can make Nasir feel like that. He touches his cheek with reverence and Nasir moans and rocks forward and smiles dazedly at him.

“Touch me,” his mumbles huskily and needy into Agron’s hair. “Now.”

They move slowly and languidly together, but Nasir still comes within minutes, too wind up to last any longer.

After that they still manage to keep it languorous and unhurried – Nasir pressing his palm against the wall beside Agron’s head and moving heavily over him, his other hand holding on to Agron’s shoulder as Agron kisses him and fucks up into him with small but firm snaps of his hips and when he comes, endlessly and easily, Nasir stills, rests their cheeks together and sighs contently, and Agron holds on to him with both hands because nothing is taking him away from him, ever.

Chapter Text

Agron grins sleepily as he is brought awake by a hand around his jaw, thumb digging lightly into his chin, and warm lips slanting across his with a brush of minty-fresh breath.

“Morning,” he mumbles and Nasir takes the opportunity to slip his tongue into his mouth.

Agron starts drifting off again as Nasir’s lips leaves his mouth in order to travel down his throat. He doesn’t know what time it is, but it must be early, and they didn’t fall asleep until very late last night. Two weeks of spending pretty much every minute they’ve had with each other in bed has made them well accustomed to each other’s bodies, and Nasir spent a long time last night fucking him the way Agron likes it best – sprawled out on his stomach with Nasir heavy and wonderful on top, his cock ramming deeply inside of him, teeth worrying the skin of his neck and fingers tugging at Agron’s hair to get his mouth on his.

But Nasir doesn’t seem to mind that Agron is gliding in and out of sleep, too occupied with mapping out Agron’s skin. Agron smiles lazily again and touches whatever part of Nasir it is he can reach without opening his eyes.

Two weeks of mind-numbingly awesome sex and blinding orgasms. Two weeks of Nasir jumping him within five minutes of getting through the door of either their apartments. There is nothing better than having Nasir wanting him so bad – to see his own desperate and heartfelt need and desire mirrored back at him.

Nasir even called in sick to work one day. It had been a slow day, but he’d still been terribly guilty afterwards, until Agron had promptly flipped him over and shoved his tongue into his ass. After ten minutes of thorough rimming, Nasir couldn’t have told you what he did for a living to save his life, much less remember to worry about not getting in that day.

Nasir bites down on a nipple, and Agron is suddenly awake, if not really any more clear-headed as the grogginess of sleep is quickly overtaken by lust.

He moves his hips experimentally. Sore, yes, but not too sure. Definitely not too sore, he thinks as he can feel Nasir’s cock rub and harden against his thigh.

Agron has learned that Nasir loves his thighs. Agron loves that Nasir loves his thighs, except for when Nasir blowing him because he tend to get distracted and inadvertently draw it out. It makes Agron pout because he personally considers his own cock more important than his thighs, thank you very much, but it always ends in bone-shattering orgasms so he cannot really complain about it.

He shifts his hips again, thrusting a little and suggestively against Nasir. “You can fuck me if you want,” he says.

“Tempting,” Nasir says. He brackets Agron’s face with his arms, smirking at him, and Agron pulls him down into a fierce kiss that effectively dissolves the last vestiges of sleep from his mind.

Nasir makes him feel alive.

“I may have a few other ideas,” Nasir whispers hotly in his ear, tugging and twisting his earlobe between his teeth.

Agron doesn’t say Whatever you want, because last time he did, Nasir had swatted his arm, climbed off him, laid down on his back, and spread his arms and said half surly and half seductively (and Agron is convinced that no one else but Nasir could ever pull that off): “Whatever you want.”

Nasir had let himself be coaxed out of his faked passiveness soon enough, but Agron had learned his lesson. Not that he ever was passive, but still.

The words do pass through his head, though. After all, they are true.

“Are you falling asleep on me?” Nasir asks, trailing one hand up Agron’s thigh and scratching gently with blunt nails.

“Nope.” Agron aligns their hips properly and thrusts up to roll against Nasir’s in order to have him gasp in a breath through his nose while his eyes fall shut in that charming way of his. “I’m under you,” he points out with an arch of his brow.

“Such a smartass,” Nasir admonishes. Agron glides his hand up the column of the back of his neck and into his hair. It is not as soft and silky in the mornings, all matted and slept on, but it is still just as lovely.

Nasir slides down Agron’s body – he licks across the skin of Agron’s stomach and Agron writhes beneath him – and takes the head of his cock into his mouth. He sucks at it softly, more like a caress than actual suction, and Agron groans deep in his throat and he grows fully hard so quickly he almost gets light-headed from it. He spreads his legs until his joints protest with it, and wraps one around Nasir’s back and ass, stroking a little with his calf and foot.

The touch of Nasir’s fingers are feather-light against the thin skin of his cock and despite not taking in more than less than an inch of him, his mouth is merciless and his nails are raking across the insides of Agron’s thighs.

“This is ridiculous,” Agron mutters, already feeling his orgasm build and spread in the pit of his stomach.

Nasir chooses that moment to pull off, lick his lips and swallow the saliva and pre-come gathered in his mouth, and Agron quickly tugs him up by his hands to kiss him before Nasir does something foolish like swallow down his cock or something. Agron is completely over coming pre-maturely the first time, but that doesn’t mean that he wants a repeat performance.

“I’ve changed my mind,” Agron says. “I want to fuck you instead.” He is already reaching down to grope at Nasir’s ass; cupping the cheeks and letting his fingers slide between his buttocks, because it was days since he was inside Nasir. At least twenty-four hours, and that is too much.

Nasir bucks as Agron traces a fingertip around his hole. He retrieves the lube from somewhere under a pillow and hands it to Agron. It’s starting to run low again.

He has Nasir straddling his stomach as he slides two wet fingers into him, and Nasir hisses and presses his cock against Agron, desperate for any kind of friction. Agron skirts around his prostate, playing with and stretching his rim and Nasir moves on his hand, trying to get his fingers where he wants them, and groans in frustration.

“You’re evil,” he complains.

Soon after Agron decides he has tortured him enough and pushes a third finger in and finds his sweet spot, pressing hard against it. Nasir jolts. He glares half-heartedly at Agron when he grins up at him, all too happy to know that he making this good for him.

Nasir reaches over – carefully so as not to dislodge Agron’s fingers from inside him – to rifle through the contents of Agron’s nightstand drawer. It is perpetually open, these days.

Nasir frowns and rifles some more. Agron thrusts his fingers deeper, drawing a low moan from him. He is so hot and soft inside and always responds so deliciously to Agron.

“We’re out of condoms,” Nasir says with a sigh.

“What?!” Agron only barely remembers to remove his fingers carefully in his sudden distress and twists his torso to be able to rummage around in the drawer himself with his clean hand. “Fucking shit.” He really needs to get some shopping done. “It’s okay, though,” he says. “No problem. I probably have some in the bathroom. And definitely one in my wallet. Just hang on a sec.” He cups Nasir’s hips to lift him off him, but his tightens his legs against his sides.

“We could go without,” Nasir suggests, resting one arm on Agron’s shoulder. “I mean, we’re both clean, and I’m pretty sure neither of us has any plans of sleeping with anyone else for the foreseeable future.” Agron knows he is joking, but he still does not like that thought. At all. “If you’re okay with it?”

“Yeah,” Agron says, thumbs stroking along Nasir’s hipbones and upward. “Abso-fucking-lutely.”

Agron has no problems with condoms; in fact, he has rolled his eyes at more than one guy he’s slept with who complained about them, and that one time when a hook-up told him he was too big for a condom, Agron got the hell out of there pretty quickly. He made water balloons out of condoms like everyone else when he was a teenager and those were a lot bigger than that guy’s cock.

But it is quite nice not having to bother with them, and going bare does feels more intimate. It is, as far as Agron’s concerned, only something you do in a committed relationship.

And now is not the time to think about whether or not he and Nasir is in a committed relationship – they still haven’t talked about that – since Nasir is climbing off Agron to lay down on his back, spreading his legs to tell Agron to get on with it. Always so impatient, but Agron loves it. He sits back on his feet and pulls Nasir’s ass into his lap.

He pushes in slowly, panting heavily, engrossed in watching Nasir’s face as they come together. He looks wrecked with his head thrown back and hair falling in a magnificent cascade down his back and his hands fisted in the sheets, but there is a small smile playing on his lips like having Agron sliding inside of him is the best thing in the world.

It is.

Agron places one hand on the bed beside Nasir’s head as he pushes in the last inch and just breathes for a long second. Nasir’s hands reach up to cup his face and urge him down into a hard kiss. Agron adjusts so that he is leaning more comfortably over him and Nasir legs wrap around him, feet digging into his ass and knees into his sides. His arm goes around his neck and his hands fists his hair, the slight pain dragging pleasantly in Agron’s scalp.

He pulls out a few inches, thrusts back inside. Nasir moans into his mouth and Agron does it again and again, having to fight against the way Nasir clings to him to get some room to move with every thrust and loving how tightly they are clutching each other; how Nasir takes him in, his breath scalding against Agron’s neck.

(When Nasir isn’t around, Agron wonders in the quiet how the hell he is allowed this. Why Nasir lets him – someone so ruined and tainted, and fucked-up beyond measure – even near him, and much less into his bed.)

“Wanna ride me?” he mumbles, rubbing his jaw against Nasir to feel the scratch of their morning scruff as it rubs together.

Nasir, open-mouthed and heavy-lidded, nods and Agron gathers him up in his arms and turns them over, groaning as their movements and gravity makes him go even deeper, a little worried that it is too much for Nasir.

Nasir stays still with his closed eyes for a moment to collect himself, and Agron lets his hands wander; strokes up over his ribs and down his arms, grabs hold of his hips again because they fit so perfectly into his hands. He moves Nasir carefully on him and Nasir pushes back, picks the rhythm back up.

“Sorry,” he mumbles, placing his hands over Agron’s.

Agron just shakes his head, smiling up at the vision Nasir presents. He looks like a fucking god on top of him. “Just let me watch you,” he says, like he isn’t burning up inside out with pleasure and the need to come, like the way Nasir’s movements causes his cock to slide and drag against the walls of his ass isn’t so good that Agron wants to die from it.

Nasir adjusts until he finds the best angle and then he is riding Agron ruthlessly. He gets lost in it and isn’t terribly concerned about Agron’s pleasure, but Agron doesn’t mind. It’s not like he is losing out.

He moves one hand to Nasir’s groin to close around his cock. He jacks him slowly, off-rhythm, rubs his thumb across his weeping cockhead. Nasir’s hips stutter, the pace growing slightly erratic. Agron’s other hand drifts down to where they are connected, and he circles Nasir’s rim, feeling how stretched and open he is around Agron’s cock.

He is unaware that his lips have stretched into another stupid grin until Nasir rests both hands high on Agron’s chest, bends down over him with a hissing moan and says: “Your fucking smile. You’re so beautiful.” He pushes his hips down hard and Agron’s smile distorts but doesn’t drain away as his mouth falls open to let out a growl.

Nasir cups his cheek, stroking across the cheekbone. “Yeah, like that,” he breathes.

“Nasir,” Agron murmurs, grasping his thighs with both hands in need to anchor himself, suddenly so close. “Nasir.”

“Come here,” Nasir says, takes Agron’s hands, and lets himself falls backwards. Agron scrambles to follow him, cursing as he slips out of Nasir, and they end up in a complicated tangle of limbs precariously close to the edge of the bed. Nasir’s head even hangs off it, the tips of his hair touching the floor and he laughs.

“Idiot,” Agron says fondly and pushes inside again – a little too forcefully, because Nasir’s laughter stop as he draws in a sharp breath and clutches at Agron’s forearms to keep himself from sliding down on the floor and land on his head.

“I’m going to fall off,” Nasir warns, breathlessly.

“No, you’re not.” Agron wriggles them a bit further up on the bed, bringing Nasir with him by wrapping his arms around him, and they both moan and pant at the way it makes Agron shift inside of Nasir.

Nasir spreads his legs a little wider so Agron can settle more comfortably between them and Agron pulls out all the way before thrusting back inside, which has them ending up almost where they begun and Nasir snorts.

“Come on,” Agron smiles against the sweaty skin of Nasir’s neck, kissing and tasting him, “brace yourself a little.”

“Against you?” Nasir snorts again, but he does plant his feet on the bed and Agron goes a bit more careful and holds on to Nasir a little better and no one ends up on the floor with the next few thrusts.

Nasir murmurs something in Arabic and Agron wants to ask him what it means, but he is too caught up in their bodies, letting himself get lost in the rhythm, reaches down to fist Nasir’s cock again, desperate to watch him get off before he does, because he always comes so fucking magnificently.

“Fuck!” Nasir yells and spasms when Agron wrests his orgasm from him with a particularly hard shove of his hips and twist of his hand and his come spurts warmly between them. Agron keeps himself immobile as Nasir rides it out, content with looking at him as his body turns boneless with pleasure.

Nasir stills with a sigh and his eyes flutter close again. Agron leans down to kiss him, and Nasir, sensitive from coming, starts at how it jars Agron’s cock inside him.

“Want me to pull out or finish inside you?” Agron asks in his ear, enjoying the way Nasir shudders as he licks and nips at it.

“Yes,” Nasir mumbles, hands falling down from Agron’s shoulders to rest at his waist.

Agron laughs lowly, loving that he has reduced Nasir to this. He has never seen him quite so fucked out. “Yes what, beautiful?” he asks, kissing his temple.

Nasir doesn’t answer, but he does tighten his arms around Agron.

It doesn’t take many minutes before Agron comes, shuddering and cursing his way through it.

-

There is a big part of him that is convinced that this is nothing but a very elaborate dream that he will have to wake wrong, because it does seem too good to be true.

Maybe he can simply never stop dreaming. 

-

“What are you doing?” Agron complains as he steps out into the living room to find Nasir gathering up the stuff he has spread out over Agron’s place: a notebook, a few pencils, his iPad and a pair of socks.

“I need to get home,” Nasir says, looking under Agron’s coffee table for his charger.

Agron does not like those words in the least.

“No, you don’t,” he says, wrapping his arms around Nasir from behind. “It’s Saturday.”

“Yeah, I’m aware.” Nasir leans back against him for a second before untangling himself and snatching up his charger from behind the couch. “But I’m going away on Monday, so I need to pack and…”

Agron doesn’t like the feeling of dread settling in his stomach either. Not at all. “You’re going away?”

“I didn’t tell you?” Nasir bites his lip. “I’m sorry. We – me, Dima, Chadara, Julie – are going away on a tattoo convention in Pennsylvania for four days. I’ll be home on Friday. Well, late Thursday.”

Four days. Four days.

You can’t leave me.

“Okay,” he says and his voice sounds distant even in his own ears. “Great.”

Four days.

He is already slipping, the leftover warmth from their round of morning sex dissolved as the cold sweeps through him and settles as if it never left.

It is utterly and completely selfish and it makes him a fucking asshole, but he hates knowing that Nasir has a life apart from him – even though he knows that he needs it, or he will soon be as damaged as Agron. He hates the reminder that Nasir isn’t as tied to him as Agron is to Nasir; that he doesn’t need him as much as Agron needs him. It is a proof of how fragile they are – how very, scarily easy it would be for Nasir to walk away from him. Agron isn’t capable of losing anyone else.

“You okay?” Nasir asks him, putting his hand on his arm. “Agron?”

“Yeah,” Agron says, licking his dry lips. “Yeah, I’m fine. I hope you guys have fun.” He tries to smile, because Nasir said he likes seeing him smile, but it probably turns into a grimace. Nasir frowns a little at him, but doesn’t say anything more.

Before he leaves, he pushes Agron up against the wall and kisses him for several long, long minutes. Agron ends up with a crick in his neck, but he doesn’t care, just holds Nasir to him and makes small, frustrated noises low in his throat, because it isn’t enough, will never be enough, and Nasir is leaving right now.

“I’ll be back soon,” Nasir says, reaches up to kiss his nose.

You better, Agron thinks, because I love you and don’t think I will survive without you.

He says nothing. He doesn’t want to put that weight on Nasir.

The door closes behind him and Agron slides down to the floor, trying to figure out how the hell he is supposed to make it through most part of a week all on his own.

Chapter Text

Alyx butts her head impatiently against Agron’s hand and he acquiesces and starts scratching her under her chin. He swears that her purrs reverberate throughout his entire body from where she is stretched out on his stomach.

Nasir had called him, half in panic, late on Sunday and asked him to please take care of his cat while he was gone.

“Grandma was supposed to take her, but she claims she has become allergic.” He sighed and then he lowered his voice like he was telling Agron a secret. “I think she has a boyfriend she doesn’t want me to know about. It’s probably that man who lives next door to her. She tried to convince me that he was only helping her tending her roses in March. March. It fucking snowed it March.”

Agron had been a little taken aback, and momentarily yanked out of his misery; Nasir wasn’t really a babbler, so he must be really stressed out. “Take a couple of deep breaths. And, yes, I can take care of your cat.”

Nasir had brought her over almost immediately. That was good because it meant Agron could see him again, and bad because it also meant that he had to leave again.

Alyx had seemed slightly miffed at being dumped at Agron’s apartment; he was convinced that she yowled disapprovingly at the dirty dishes in the sink.

Nasir had been stressed out. “I hate packing,” he’d said, and 0nly pecked Agron quickly on the lips before he left. “See you on Friday, okay?”

Not okay. But at least he has the cat.

“You getting hungry?” Agron asks her.

She slowly opens one yellow eye, blinks at him, and then closes it again.

“I’ll take that as a no then.”

He falls silent and the room fills with the sound of Alyx’s continued purring. She stretches a little, drags her claws over Agron’s tee-clad side. It helps, having her there.

Agron’s hand gets a little numb and during the time it takes for him to switch, she opens her eyes again and glares imperiously at him.

He chuckles a little at her. “Aren’t you a spoiled little thing,” he says softly. “He does spoil you, doesn’t he? He spoils me too.” Agron sighs. “I love him, you know. Your daddy. Didn’t think I could, but I do. So, so fucking much. He doesn’t know.”

He is lonely, he realises. More lonely than he ever has been. He’s had his family and friends there all his life.

He met Mira, Donar and Crixus in kindergarten. They let him play with them even though he was a year younger, and they kept together all through school, and then there was Oenomaus’ gym where the fighter and the trainers soon became one large extended family.

And of course he’d had his actual family there, too. Mum and Dad – and Duro. Duro was his best friend. Endlessly annoying – most of the time Agron wanted nothing more than slam his head against the wall to get some sense into him – but the best friend and brother anyone could ever wish for nevertheless. Duro was always there for him. Duro was his.

He’d been a professional fighter for a while too, training with the rest of them and even doing a few matches, but he had been shit at it. Too rash, and lacking in technique. It had been hell for Agron watching his little brother spend so much time getting beat up, and eventually Duro grew tired of it as well and quit. But he never stopped being one of them.

That is probably the biggest reason he cannot stand being around his friends anymore, Agron thinks. Most of them were never his, but theirs. With them the void, the giant, soul-sucking hole in the world, that is the lack of Duro suddenly becomes so much more palatable. There is a piece of them missing, and they are never going to fit together in the same way they used to do. Duro’s ghost lies to thickly over that friendship to ever be dispelled.

There are so many things that Agron cannot bear, because they remind him of his brother. He can barely listen to music anymore. He hasn’t said a word in German since his death. He wants to burn the suit, shoved in at the back of his closet never to be brought out again, that he wore to his funeral. There are even fucking ice-cream flavours and beer brands he avoids. Sometimes he wants to claw the tattoo off his own chest.

“I don’t ever want to forget him,” Agron tells Alyx and a tear slides down his cheek. “But sometimes there is nothing I want more, because I don’t know how much longer I can bear this.” A vicious sob wrecks through his body, and Alyx raises her head, affronted. “Sorry, tiger,” he mumbles, petting her over the back as the tears start to fall faster. “I miss him everyday. All the time. It doesn’t get any fucking easier. I still can’t figure out how it’s possible that he isn’t coming back. How can he be fucking gone? I’m his big brother – how can he go someplace I can’t? How is that even fucking possible?!” His whole body is convulsing with sobs now, but Alyx doesn’t jump off him even though she does dig her claws in a little in his shirt. “I’ve been there his whole life. How the f-fuck does he manage w-without me?” His breath stutters in his throat as he inhales, clogged up with tears and snot and sorrow. “They tell me that at least we were there and doing something together, but that’s a fucking l-lie. He was all a-alone down there. Completely. Fucking. Alone! It was dark and deep and he was probably s-so–so afraid. I wasn’t even the last thing he saw, because he was already fucking d-dead when they carried him up. He died alone and scared. I brought him to that fucking beach and I w-wasn’t–wasn’t even there when he died. He counted on me all his life and the last fucking thing he knew was that I f-fucking failed him.”

He weeps for a long time, and falls asleep in the middle of it from sheer emotional exhaustion.

He wakes with swollen eyes and his face feels stuffy and stiff with dried tears. Alyx is no longer perched on his stomach – eventually the petting must have stopped compensating for the tears and snot and the ranting. He cannot really blame her.

What woke him was the sound of his phone ringing, he realises, and he spends a long time trying to find it first on the coffee table and then on the floor and then somewhere in the couch before remembering that it’s in his pocket.

Oenomaus.

His fingers hover over the accept call-button. Yes, he wants to get back to fighting. Hell, he needs to get back to fighting somewhere down the road. He won’t survive forever without some kind of work, and it isn’t like he’s fit for anything else. Never has been, and even less so now. But he doesn’t know if he is ready to make an attempt at living again, and that is what going into work would mean.

He accepts the call. “Hi.”

“Hi, Agron.” If Oenomaus hears how thick his voice is from sleep and crying, he doesn’t show it. “Your suspension is ending in less than five weeks.”

Straightforward as usual. “Yeah.”

Oenomaus pauses for a short second. “Are you planning to come back?”

Agron heaves a sigh. “Do you honestly want me back?” he asks. He hasn’t been down in the gym in months. Beating up fighters from rival gyms outside the ring doesn’t exactly get you the best rep, either. And it wasn’t like Agron’s rep wasn’t the best to begin with.

“You’re one of my best fighters.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“The gym is my entire life,” Oenomaus says after another short pause. The words surprise Agron, because Oenomaus is usually a very unsentimental man. “I got some crap for not getting rid of you like I got rid of Ashur and Gneaus. And I would have thrown you out faster than you could blink if you had done what you did in different circumstances. You are a good fighter, Agron, a valuable asset to my gym, and overall a good person. Of course I want you back. We all do.”

“Yeah. About that…”

“I’m going to lock you into the ring with Mira and Saxa the first time you come down. You can all work it out after you’ve got your ass handed to you.”

“They’re that mad?” It doesn’t feel quite right fishing for information about his closest friends from Oenomaus, because he is first and foremost practically their boss and he usually and understandably chooses to stay out of their drama.

“Saxa wants to skin you alive and use your hide for a bedroom carpet. Mira is… well, she doesn’t.”

Agron closes his eyes at that. He should have known that Mira wouldn’t be able to stay angry at him for long. It would have been better for her if she had. “I don’t know,” he says slowly. “I want to come back. Fuck, do I want to come back. But…”

“Get your ass down here,” Oenomaus tells him. “You don’t know what it’ll be like until you do.”

“I will,” Agron says, without really meaning to. It is a reason Oenomaus runs one of the most successful MMA gyms in the country – he knows how to push you just shy of too much. He brings out the best and the worst in his fighters and tames it, makes them put all of that into their workouts, their training and their fights.

“Good. Right now I’m occupied with a few rookies, but in a week or two?”

Holy shit. “Two weeks? Yeah, that could–I mean, that works, sure. No problems.”

“I don’t know what shape you’re in…”

“I’ve been working out pretty extensively.”

“And your diet? Sleep? General health?”

Agron remains silent.

Oenomaus sighs a little. “We’re going to work on that. Eat healthy. And no fucking cigarettes – understood?”

“Fine,” Agron replies sullenly. He hasn’t really been smoking. Much.

After he has ended the call, he throws out anything that Oenomaus would label as crap out of the kitchen – which is close to everything that’s good in this world in way of edibles, because he is a horrible, evil human being – except for the chocolate chip cookies and the Peach Tea Snapples he bought for Nasir.

He really should go out and pick up some groceries – at least enough to get him through a couple of days – but it seems like he the call from Oenomaus and cleaning up his kitchen has used up all the energy he had stored, so instead he curls back up on the couch, and Alyx jumps up next to him and contorts into a warm, purring ball of fur against his chest.

“Were you asleep?” Nasir asks when Agron picks up.

“No,” he says. After a lengthy, impromptu nap, he had, rather than feeling any better, found that despicable restlessness clawing at his insides once again and gone for a long and hard nightly run. He had gotten back dripping with sweat and pumping with adrenalin, but not managed to wind down enough to sleep, not even after a long, hot shower and a jerk-off session that mostly made him miss Nasir more. “No, I was still up. Are you guys having fun?”

“Not right now.” Agron can practically hear the face Nasir makes over the phone, and his heart fucking clenches with how much he wish Nasir was here so he could see him. He has the most handsome, prettiest face there is, whether he scowls or smiles. “I’m sharing a room with Dima and she has visitors.”

“Visitors? As in more than one?” Even in his dark mood, Agron is slightly amused. And a little impressed. Plus a bit annoyed. “In the room she shares with her brother? Shit, that’s just fuckin’ low. Good for her, though.”

“Yeah,” Nasir says dryly. “My sister has an orgy in my hotel room. It’s freaking awesome. I’ve never had more fun in my entire life, here all alone with my beer.” He is silent for a second. “How are you?”

“Your cat thinks I’m a scratch pole and yet expects me to feed and pet her.”

Nasir sighs at him.

“Oenomaus called.”

“Agron.”

“Peachy fucking keen.”

“Don’t snap at me.”

Agron swallows heavily. “Sorry.”

Nasir sighs again. “I’ll be home in two days.”

“Yeah,” Agron says. He knows. He’s fucking counting the minutes here. There are too many of them.

“And I’m having Friday off.”

“I know.”

“So… Wait, hold on a sec.” There is some rustling which Agron guesses his Nasir taking the phone from his ear, and then he hears talk and some laughter.

“Sorry, but I have to go,” Nasir says, putting the phone back against his ear. “But I see you soon, okay?”

“Yup,” Agron says, trying to sound like very second of time between now and “soon” isn’t killing him. “See you.”

Miss you. Love you.

He stares unseeingly at the phone for a long while before putting it down, scooting Alyx up in both hands, and heading for the bedroom with her writhing in his arms. “Time to crash, kitty,” he tells her. “And I need some company.”

He doesn’t bother brushing his teeth, just pulls on a pair of pyjama pants he finds on the floor and gets in bed. His back thanks him for not having to endure sleeping on the couch yet again.

Alyx trots up on the pillow next to the one Agron’s lying on, looking down at him and tilting her head.

“You’re planning to sleep on my face, aren’t you?” he asks her suspiciously. “According to your dad you always sleep on his face.” He is silent for a while and Alyx lies down, twisting and turning and trying to swat the thin rectangle of light that falls through the curtains onto the headboard.

“You miss him too?” he asks her. “You miss his face to sleep on? I miss his face too, even though I don’t sleep on it. He is so beautiful, isn’t he? A not only, like, in appearance, but he has this, I don’t know, beautiful personality. So fucking stubborn, all the time.” He laughs, low and a little bit melancholic. “I think he is what keeps me alive right now. And that’s not okay, for his sake, but that’s how it is. If he left me, I could understand that and I could probably survive it. But if something were to happen to him…” It gets harder and harder to breathe and talk around the sudden lump in his throat and the tug in his heart. “If… that… I don’t think I would make it through.” He starts stroking Alyx across her back, because it’s comforting to feel her soft fur and warm, small body beneath his hands, but also because she does deserve something in return for putting up with him. “I always fall in love too fast and too… hard. Too deeply. Too crazily. But this is different. I don’t even think I have a fucking heart left – just a piece of it, maybe – and I still love him like, like, I don’t know the fuck what. He’s just… everything, you know?”

Alyx licks his face. She does know, of course. Nasir is pretty much her whole world too.

Chapter Text

After they move apart, at last, it takes many long minutes before their breathing starts to even out and their heated, sweat-slick skin dries against the sheets.

Nasir soon rolls back in close again and ends up half on top of Agron. He drags his lips against his cheek, nuzzles at him, and Agron can feel his smile.

“That was amazing,” Nasir says and laughs a little, blissfully. He kisses the middle of Agron’s chest, slides down a bit to press his lips against his stomach, feeling the muscle ripple beneath his mouth. He buries his face against Agron’s skin, hands running up his thighs, and Agron shivers at the sensation and the intimacy as Nasir breath fans out over his stomach, rising gooseflesh.

“Missed you,” Nasir says quietly.

Something that has been so painfully, tightly wound inside of Agron that not even the sex – first frantic and fast and hard, and then soft and intimate and drawn-out – could help loosen it relaxes after Nasir’s words and he shivers harder, suddenly overcome. He pulls in ragged breaths through his nose, fruitlessly trying to fight his way back into control of himself as he finally gets that Nasir is here, that he is back, that he didn’t leave him, that he isn’t gone.

“Agron?” Nasir scrambles up his body, leaning over him with worry written all over his face. “What…?”

“Sorry,” he says and yanks Nasir down against him, smoothes his hair away with one hand, and pushes his face into the curve of his neck, feeling Nasir’s pulse jump and beat against his mouth, still sped up and erratic from their love-making. He presses one hand against Nasir’s back, right between his shoulder blades, to hold him even more firmly pressed against his body, wishing his flesh and Nasir’s could just melt away and make them into one, so that they would never have to be apart ever again. He is still trembling violently.

“Agron,” Nasir whispers softly in his ear.

“I just missed you,” Agron mumbles, the words muffled. He blinks hard against the tears pricking his eyes. “So fucking much. I can’t…”

“I’m here now,” Nasir says, petting his hair. “I’m here.”

“Yeah,” Agron says, pressing Nasir as hard as he dares against him. Nasir does not complain. “Yeah. You are.”

A long while passes before the tremors fully subside and Agron can loosen his grip on Nasir. Nasir kisses his face, rubs their noses together tenderly and tilts his head a little to the side to nip softly at Agron’s bottom lip. He moves down to Agron’s throat, puts his lips to the sensitive skin and sucks a mark into it, joining the ones already there. Later, when Nasir leaves, Agron will press his fingers against the hickeys and use the slight, pleasurable pain to remind himself that Nasir is real and that Agron is his.

They hear Alyx whining and scratching at the bedroom door Agron shut and locked as they stumbled towards his bed, refusing to let go of each other even for a second, thinking that he did not wish to get cock-blocked by a cat. Even if he felt a little guilty about denying Alyx some well-deserved snuggles from Nasir, since she probably has missed him just as much as Agron did.

Nasir leaves another mark on the other side of Agron’s throat, brushes his knuckles lightly across it.

“Come on,” he says, rising away from Agron – but slowly so that the contact between their bodies remain and Agron can follow – and takes his hand in his.

He leads him into the bathroom where he turns on the shower, and as soon as he deems the water is sufficiently warm, he drags Agron inside.

The hot spray of water and Nasir’s soap-slick hands running across his body and Nasir’s wet skin under his hands in return and the slow, sweet kisses they keep trading is calming, and cleansing for both body and soul.

The height difference is much more pronounced when they’re both standing up, and they soon have to give up on kissing when Nasir, standing with all his weight on his tip-toes, slides on the slippery floor and almost falls. Agron manages to catch him, and presses him against his chest with his heart pounding.

He spends an age washing Nasir’s hair, caught up in and fascinated by the shining, wet mass it quickly turns into and the soft sounds of contentment Nasir makes as Agron massages his scalp and carefully and slowly rinse the shampoo out, before repeating with the conditioner.

Eventually Nasir, tiring of being taken care of, gently pushes Agron up against the wall of the shower to alternate between washing and rubbing and working at his muscles, trying to banish all the tension that has been lodged there.

Agron leans his forehead against the tiles and closes his eyes, letting everything that isn’t Nasir’s strong, sure hands on his flesh bleed away and become nothing, unimportant.

They don’t step out of the shower until all the hot water is used up, and they grab a towel each and help the other dry off. Agron soon let his hands fall, because it just feels so good, to relax beneath the soft scratch of the towel against his skin and Nasir’s ministrations.

Nasir tilts his head up for a kiss at the same time as he slides the towel between Agron’s thighs and Agron’s cock starts plumping up a little bit but they both ignore it, not in the mood for another round just now.

Agron returns the favour by drying Nasir’s hair. It’s thick and he doesn’t get it as much dry as less dripping, but Nasir seems to enjoy it. When he is done, he drops the towel on the floor and grabs Nasir’s shoulders, moving him back against his chest. They stand there, naked and getting a little cold as the warmth and steam from the shower dissipates and without caring, for a few minutes, letting every second drag out as long as is possible, just basking in the feel of the other’s body and happy to be together again.

“I’m so glad you’re back,” Agron says, finally breaking the comforting silence between them.

Nasir takes one of Agron’s hands, brings it up to his mouth and kisses his palm.

“You said Oenomaus called,” Nasir says as they have got themselves dressed and out into the kitchen for some food. Alyx keeps twisting around Nasir’s feet and brushing up against his legs and he has to walk carefully to avoid stepping on her but he smiles and reaches down to pet her.

“Yeah, he did.”

“And?” Nasir prompts, getting a glass off the dish rack and filling it with water from the tap.

“I’m having a training session in two weeks’ time.”

Nasir reaches over to kiss him, his free hand hand going to his bicep to squeeze. “That’s great,” he says, positively beaming at Agron. Agron can feel the corners of his own mouth turn up in response and he presses another peck against Nasir’s lips before Nasr pulls away to open the fridge.

He frowns. “Where did all your food go?”

Agron shrugs. “I’m back on my diet routine. Or will be, when I get some shopping done.”

“Diet routine?” Nasir closes the fridge and turns back to where Agron is leaning against the counter. He puts his glass down and slips his hands into the pockets of Agron’s sweatpants, slotting into the space between Agron’s legs. “That doesn’t sound fun.” He kisses the hollow of Agron’s throat.

It takes a while for Agron to respond. He is a little dumbstruck. Nasir is definitely not adverse to any kind cuddling or touching, but he is unusually touchy-feely today; not only complacent to Agron’s attentions, but making an effort to touch and be near. Agron fucking loves it, and especially after four hellish days apart. It feels good having been missed.

“Hm?” he says when Nasir nudges him a little to check if he has fallen asleep standing up or not. “Well, it’s okay. At first it sucks balls, and sometimes it feels like you would kill for some chicken wings or a fucking milkshake, but it works.” He shrugs.

They stand there in silence for a while, Agron’s chin resting on top of Nasir’s head, their hunger forgotten for the moment.

“Are you going to talk to them before you go down there?” Nasir asks softly. Almost softly enough for Agron to miss it.

Agron sighs and does not answer at first, but Nasir’s thumbs are stroking across the jut of his hipbones and his head is resting against his chest, his breathing calm and even against Agron’s skin, and Agron finds himself instinctively matching it with his own. It calms him down, too.

“I should, shouldn’t I?” he finally mutters.

Nasir nods. “You really should. They miss you a lot.”

Agron suddenly feels cold. “They do?” Nasir nods again, his hair catching a little on Agron’s still slightly damp chest. “You know that? As a fact?”

“Yeah.”

“You talk to them?”

And now Nasir must realise that there is something wrong with Agron’s tone and with the way his body tenses, because he looks up.

“Yes, I do.” He says it evenly, almost as if he is daring Agron to find something at fault with that.

Agron sucks in a heavy, shaking breath and lets it out just short of it turning into a sob. “About me?” He shoves Nasir away from him.

“Agron…”

The last days have been hard on him and his emotions are never far from boiling over, but the fury wakes inside of him with frightening rapidity. He can practically feel his blood heat up, scalding within. “Is that what you are? My fucking baby-sitter? Did they tell you how sad and lonely I was and asked you to take fucking care of me?! Is that what you have been doing? Putting up with me?” The pain is small and sharp as he digs his nails into the meat of his palms. “I thought you l… Fuck! Who else are you talking to? My fucking parents?”

“They do call me.” Nasir’s eyes do not waver from Agron’s, but he looks like he has to fight for it. “Occasionally.”

“Fuck you,” Agron tells him. “ Fuck you! I don’t need someone to spy on me! I fucking trusted you! I thought you were…” He manages, even as all sense collapse in face of his anger, to stop himself from yelling “mine”, because Agron is not a five-year-old and Nasir is not a toy someone stole from him.

Nasir looks at him for a long moment, sad and vulnerable.

“Agron, think through all that shit you just said,” Nasir says. His voice is firm but his eyes are shining. “Remember what I told you the last time you yelled at me in here. One more time, and I’m out that fucking door.” He points towards Agron’s all, a slashing moment to underline his point. One, lone tear falls, slides down to Nasir’s chin. “Don’t make me leave you. Don’t be so fucking idiotic that I have to do that. I know that you are in pain. I know that your life is shit right now. But do not accuse me of things you know aren’t true! You know that I… that I care about you. You fucking know that! Stop. Being. An. Idiot. Don’t make me leave you. Don’t do that. To me or to yourself. Just don’t.” He shakes his head despairingly.

There is a maelstrom of conflicting emotions inside Agron: shame, embarrassment, guilt, and the quickly crumpling remains of his fury in the face of Nasir’s distress.

He is ashamed of himself most of all. For all his intentions of making sure that Nasir won’t get hurt from this, it seems like all he ever ends up doing is causing him pain, over and over again.

“Agron,” Nasir says again and this time it’s pleadingly, like he needs Agron to do something or say something before he walks right out of there to never come back.

Agron really fucking needs to do something or say something before Nasir walks right out of there and to never come back.

“I don’t know what you want me to say.” Forming words is hard; his mind doesn’t want to wrap around them and then they lodge in his throat. Nasir starts shaking his head again and his mouth contorts. Agron aches. “Whatever you want me to say… Just tell me and I’ll, I’ll…” he continues, tries, cursing his temper and his giant, stupid mouth that is so much better at causing heartbreak than fixing it. “Gods, Nasir, I… I…”

Nasir almost collides with his chest and he rushes forward to hug him, and Agron takes a step back from both momentum and surprises, releases a deep, heavy breath and relief, and draws in Nasir’s unique scent with his next.

“I do trust you,” he says.

“Good.” Nasir rubs his face against Agron’s chest, and there is a little bit of wetness from his tears. “I should have told you.”

“You should,” Agron says, a bit shell-shocked at realising that he is relatively calm again. It has never been so easy to snap out of it before. “But I kind of understand why you didn’t.”

Nasir makes a dry, chuckling sound at that.

“It’s just…” Agron sighs. “It’s hard to believe that you really want this. Me.”

“I keep telling you.” Nasir rubs his unshaved cheeks against Agron’s chest a little too harshly. It’ll leave a mark and Agron likes the thought of that. He loves the marks. “I keep showing you.”

“And I keep fucking up.”

“You do.” Nasir presses a light, dry peck just shy of his nipple. “But you are in a very bad place right now.”

The “right now” part is just delusion because Agron will never get out of this, but he doesn’t say anything about it. For him it’s vanity, but Nasir may believe whatever he wants to. “Is that an excuse?”

“Well. It’s an explanation.” Nasir cranes his neck in order to look up at him. “And I really want to stay. With you.”

Agron cannot speak, so he just nods and hopes that Nasir understands.

“They worry about you,” Nasir mumbles after a moment. “You’re parents were afraid that… that you had given up. Naevia gave them my number. And Mira and Spartacus and the rest–they just needed to know that you were okay. And they’re my friends too now, actually. I don’t gossip about you, Agron, or tell them stuff that I have no right to tell. I just… keep them updated a little bit. They like to know that you’re still alive, if nothing else.” There is nothing accusing in Nasir’s words or voice, even if Agron silently think that there probably should be.

He just keeps fucking up.

“That’s why I haven’t heard from them.” Even though Agron knows that he did a lot of things wrong, even though he knows that he practically drove them away, and even though being alone was the only option for him many times, it has still hurt him thing about the fact that his friends hasn’t even tried getting in touch with him. He knows them, and they have never given up on anyone before. He thought that maybe he was too much even for them.

“Yes. They thought it was time to finally try giving you space. They just want what’s best for you. And–and they knew you had me.” Nasir looks slightly embarrassed as he says that, as if he doesn’t really consider himself that important.

Agron cups his face, thumbs at his jaw, suddenly terrified at how close he was to losing Nasir. Not on the road to or from Pennsylvania or in a freak shower accident, but by his own fear and idiocy.

“Yeah,” he says softly, throat closing up a little again. “I do have you.”

Chapter Text

“Hi, Mom,” Agron says as the call is picked up at the other end and he hears his mother’s voice say hello in German. She answers in her native language no matter who calls, arguing that it is what one says when answer the phone, so everyone should be able to figure out what it means.

“Agron!” The damn joy in her voice makes Agron cringe inwardly, because it’s a fucking phone call, and her happiness at hearing from him is only another testament to how badly he has screwed up. “How are you?”

“I’m okay,” he says, answering in English even though his mother hasn’t switched from German. Just hearing it is painful, so he won’t even attempt speaking it himself. It used to be his and Duro’s secret language when they were kids, something between them that no one else had privy to. It remained that way even after they learned that there they weren’t the only people in the world speaking German.

“I’m putting you on speaker,” Mom says. “Your father wants to hear from you as well.”

“Hello, son.”

“Hello, Dad.” He strokes his hand carefully through Nasir’s hair. He is there, a comforting weight on top of Agron, hands resting over Agron’s biceps and his head over his heart. It makes Agron feel protected and allows him to soften a bit, his usual panzer of white-hot rage and ice-cold apathy slipping, and words come pouring out.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for not returning your calls, for ignoring everything, for making you think that I…” He doesn’t finish the sentence – he doesn’t want to and neither does he need to. “I’m sorry,” he repeats instead. He wonders if that word even holds any kind of meaning any longer, with how much he has needed to use it.

They are both silent for a little while. “We know that it is hard for you,” Dad finally says. “We know.” His voice breaks just the smallest bit. “You shouldn’t be going through it alone. Come home for a while. Let us help.”

But he can’t. Home is where he and Duro grew up. Home is the place they could always return to for a warm, home-cooked meal and movie nights and safety, where they turned back into obnoxious, spoilt five-year-olds, demanding to be taken care of by their long-suffering parents, for a few days.

But now, Duro will never return there.

“Maybe in a couple of months,” he says belatedly. He hasn’t been anywhere near his hometown since the funeral. Duro’s grave is there.  He hopes no one has put any flowers on it; Duro is allergic.

He squeezes Nasir’s shoulder with his free hand, and Nasir removes it gently and takes it into his own, caressing his knuckles.

“We miss you,” his mother says, and his father agrees with a soft “Yeah.”

“I miss you too.” Something inside of Agron says clenches with how fucking much. It’s been months since he last saw them.

“If you don’t keep in touch from now on, we’ll come and get you,” his mother says, steel in her voice. “Understood?”

Agron smiles a little, even though he knows and fears that tone. “Understood.”

“Good.”

“How is Nasir?” his father asks suddenly, and Nasir must have heard his own name at least because he freezes against Agron.

Agron kisses the top of his head; he isn’t mad anymore, and Nasir doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. Nasir relaxes a little, but keeps his eyes on Agron’s face.

“He is here,” Agron says and he smiles again, involuntarily and a bit wider, because of course Nasir is there with him. Agron is beginning to realise that it is exactly where Nasir wants to be and where he will keep being. It’s a heady feeling.

“He refuses to tell us what’s happening between you two,” his mother says disapprovingly, and there is also a challenge in her voice, as if she knows how Agron likely reacted when he found out that Nasir has been keeping in touch with them and dares him to get upset about it again.

Agron snorts softly. “He is…” He trails off, looking for an adequate word. The first one that comes to mind is schatz, but he bites down on it, because… no.

Nasir lifts his head again, looking curiously at him.

“Boyfriend,” he finishes finally, even though it isn’t enough. Agron has had boyfriends; they weren’t Nasir. With them it wasn’t this.

“You hold on to him,” his mother tells him sternly. “And send us a picture. Is he handsome?”

Agron rolls his eyes at the ceiling.

It’s odd. This is the first time in more than six months he has talked to his parents about anything other than Duro’s death. That it feels like a sacrilege, like they’re ignoring both his existence and his death, Agron cannot deny, and it weighs like a lump of stone in his stomach, but it is also somewhat of a… relief. Ever since it happened, it has been hanging over all three of them, their every word, like something ready to explode and break them into pieces all over again, when all they’re trying to do is to pick them back up. This isn’t like it was before – far from it, and it never will be – but it’s something, at least.

“Yes,” he says. He cannot help himself; he trails a finger down Nasir’s nose, runs it along the contours of his mouth. Nasir puckers his lips against his fingertip in a kiss. “But I’m not sending you a picture.”

Nasir frowns up at him questioningly and Agron raises his eyebrows with a small headshake in response.

“Jokes aside,” his father says slowly, sounding a little cautious. “Don’t get upset now, Agron, but we have told you this before, and we’ll tell you again: you should go talk to someone.”

It’s like flicking on a light. A too-sharp light that burns against your retinas and fills your eyes with greying spots, half-blinding you.

“I fucking did,” he growls, completely disregarding his father’s plea to try and keep his temper in check. “It didn’t work out.”

“You didn’t give it a chance,” his mother says.

He fucking hates it when they gang up on him. Together they’re invincible, a fucking force of nature.

“I’m not talking about this,” he says and hates how much like a sullen child he sounds. He isn’t one. In this he is fucking right. “That woman was a monster. She tried to make me forget about him! FORGET.” He hates her for thinking Duro unimportant enough to ever let go of, and he laughs at her for thinking that he actually could forget, even if he did try. It’s like missing a limb. “He isn’t a fucking dirt stain you can try and wash away. Fucking bitch!”

Agron only realises that he has sat up violently on the couch when Nasir slides down to the side of him with a small noise of protest.

He touches Agron’s shoulder, his face. “Breathe,” he reminds him.

“Try another therapist then,” his father says remorselessly. He has had twenty-seven years to deal with his son’s temper, even if it has never been quite this explosive before, and he doesn’t balk. “It does help. It’s not about forgetting, Agron, it’s about letting it all out and finding a way to handle it. To make it through it.”

“I can fucking handle it!” Agron snarls, lying through his teeth. He suddenly feels acutely tired, so fucking sick to the core of everything ending up like this. He doesn’t want to get pissed off, or piss people off in return, but they just can’t fucking understand. He knows they lost a son and he knows that they too will grieve for the rest of their lives. But they weren’t there. They don’t see Duro’s lifeless eyes staring at them in their dreams every night. They didn’t kill him.

“No, you can’t,” Dad says silently, and all the fight suddenly leaves Agron – leaves him empty and hollow and small – because his father sounds so infinitely sad, and it’s Agron’s own pain reflected right there in his voice whether Agron wants to admit it or not.

“Do you love him?” Dad asks in German. Despite his family being German, he has lived in the States his whole life which means it doesn’t come as easily to him as it does to Mom, and he normally prefer English.

For a moment, Agron is confused and starting to get angry again because he thinks he means Duro – like his father doesn’t know that he loves Duro more than his own fucking, worthless life – but then he realises it’s Nasir he is talking about and that he switched so that Nasir wouldn’t pick up on that particular turn of conversation.

“I don’t know,” he says even though it’s been a very long time since he was so sure of anything. He just can’t say it out loud, not even only to confirm it – not yet. And it shouldn’t be his parents that hear it first.

“If you cannot do it for yourself, do it for him,” Dad says.

“I thought change came from within, and that you have to really want it, and all that shit,” Agron says, a little too bitterly.

“It’s better than nothing,” Mom says.

“I… I can’t promise anything,” he says. It’s the best he can do; he refuses to go back to that idiotic therapist. Or anyone else. But he can at least pretend to consider it.

“I know, honey,” Mom says gently, then falls silent for a few seconds. “But keep in touch, okay?”

“That I can promise,” he says and makes a mental note to put up a physical sticky note on the fridge. It’s sad, but it’s better than forgetting and not call at all.

They say goodbye, all three of them needing to leave off before the conversation becomes more infected, and Agron has to promise to stay in touch a second time before they hang up.

“I’m getting rid of that fucking phone,” Agron says, lets it drop onto the soft carpet and throws an arm over his eyes. Phone calls are the fucking worst, he’s come to realise.

“It could have gone worse,” Nasir says. He moves back on top of Agron, blankets him with his body. It shouldn’t really work considering that Nasir is like two thirds of his build, but it does. Nasir encompasses him, and it’s good. “You’re getting better at… You calm down faster,” he says.

Agron hums, runs his fingers down Nasir’s spine. “Do you think I should go home for a while?”

“I think that’s a decision you have to make yourself,” Nasir says. “But I…” He trails off, doesn’t say anything more and Agron doesn’t push. Instead Nasir takes his arm and pulls it away from his face.

Nasir kisses him in that slow, smouldering way that only he knows how, and Agron returns the kisses, arches into it. But when Nasir starts licking into his mouth with more intent and his hand finds it way beneath Agron’s shirt, caressing the taut muscles of his lower stomach, Agron stills and presses down on Nasir’s hand with his own to keep it still.

“Um,” he says, a little embarrassed about saying no even though he knows he shouldn’t be.

Nasir looks guilty, but smiles softly to show that he understands, and kisses Agron’s temple. “Sorry,” he says. “Got a bit carried away.”

“Who can blame you?” Agron jokes, and it’s lame as hell but it doesn’t matter because it helps with easing the sudden, slight tension.

“No one, I think,” Nasir says flippantly, but the look he gives him makes something flutter inside of Agron. He sometimes feels like a silly teenager in love when it comes to Nasir, and it’s… jarring.

He kisses Nasir lightly on the lips and then they fall silent for a while, Nasir wriggling until he is lying comfortably on top of Agron again.

It creeps up on him slowly, but he soon starts to feel caged, unable to escape that fucking phone call with the walls creeping in on him. It plays over and over in his head – the words, how quickly it went from good to bad, how impossible it was for him to even think about trying to reign himself in. It’s like verbal vomit, the ugly produce of the sickness that is the fury that he can never let go of. Never properly lay to rest.

“Nair, I need to…” He shifts beneath him, suddenly unable to lay still, to stay in here, to be comfortably enclosed in his own skin. He needs to get out, to do something. He wants to flee for a bit.

“You need space?” Nasir is on his feet fast enough to make Agron feel dizzy.

“No.” Agron pushes himself up into a sitting position. “Well, yes. I need to get the fuck out of here. I need to… I need to run.” Running is good. He can focus on keeping his pace steady and his breathing in sync, and still be allowed to flee for a some time.

Nasir looks confused, and upset. “Run? Are you going too… oh.” He nods. “Okay, you go run. I’ll… Do you want me to leave or wait here?”

“You could…” Agron reaches a hand out, entwines their fingers. “You wanna come with me?”

“I won’t be able to keep up.”

Agron just gives him a look.

“What?” Nasir sounds a little defensive. “Your legs are abnormally long.”

Agron doesn’t take the bait. “Please,” he says instead.

Agron has to keep back somewhat in order for Nasir to keep up with him, and it takes a little bit getting used to since he hasn’t done any sort of exercise without trying to give twice as much as he has in the latest months, but his body is probably thanking him for not attempting to run himself to death for once.

Nasir’s pace is smooth and even and it is easy to fall into it. Their breath makes small puffs of white into the chilly evening air, and they do not talk. But his presence keeps Agron’s thoughts from spiralling too far out of control, even if pieces of the conversation with his parents keeps flashing into his mind, causing him to cringe and want to speed up to try and get away from his thoughts.

He glances at Nasir at his side and wishes that they could just run forever through the night, the world oddly still and subdued around them.

“No,” Agron says, turning around, but the palm Nasir presses against his chest stops him.

“Yes,” Nasir says.

“They don’t want me here,” he says, voice small and hurt even though he knows he has no right, not really.

“Yes, they do.” Nasir pushes him lightly towards Mira and Saxa’s apartment door. Their apartment door. They’re living together and Agron didn’t even know that Mira actually had asked, no less actually moved into Saxa’s apartment. Fucking hell.

So much lost time.

“I should have at least called,” Agron says desperately, thinking about digging his heels into the ground to keep Nasir from leading him towards the door, but deciding against.

“That’s what I said,” Nasir says patiently. “But you thought this was a better idea.”

“I really don’t want to do this,” Agron says as they come to a stop before the right door.

He used to have a key to this door. Saxa took it with her the last time she was at his place, and he didn’t even notice until weeks afterward. She had taken the key to Mira’s old apartment as well, but that wasn’t as painful considering that no one he knows lives there anymore.

“I think you do, though,” Nasir says, and Agron doesn’t like it when he is being sensible because he is right. Even if every molecule of him is screaming to get out of there, to run home and go hide in his bed and never come out again, he does want to try and fix this. He misses his friends like hell.

Nasir squeezes his hand. “It’ll be fine,” he says encouragingly. It sounds sincere.

Agron squeezes back, takes a deep breath, lets it out in a whoosh, and rings the doorbell.

There is a short spell of silence, before they can hear Saxa let out a long string of curses. Then there is the sound of stomping steps before the door is thrown open, forcing them both back a couple of steps.

“The fuck do you…?” Saxa narrows her eyes and falls silent as he catches sight of them, or, rather, Agron. She has a sheet wrapped loosely around her that shows more than it covers – Agron guesses she threw it on more because Mira told her to than because she actually cared – her hair is tousled and her skin flushed, leaving no doubt about what they managed to interrupt.

That’s just great. Nothing’s better than a horny, pissed off Saxa.

“What do you want.” Saxa crosses her arms across her chest, her voice flat.

Agron clears his throat awkwardly. He doesn’t give a fuck about her partial nakedness, but the glare she is levelling at him is quite another matter. “Talk,” he says hoarsely.

“Saxa? Who is it?” Mira walks into view, hands busy tying the sash to her bathrobe.

Saxa looks undeceive for a moment, as if she’s contemplating whether to slam the door in their faces or answer her. Then she moves out of the way to let Mira see for herself.

Mira stops in her tracks, hands falling to her sides.

“Hi,” Agron says. Nasir is probably hurting with how hard Agron is holding on to his hand, but he doesn’t make a sound in complaint.

He is forced to let go however when Mira launches herself at him and throws her arms around his neck in order to hug her back just as hard.

“I ought to kick you in the crotch,” Mira says into his ear. “Hard.”

He laughs brokenly into her shoulder because he can’t believe how he could have lasted all this time without her.

“I’m still a bit mad at you,” she says as she lets go. “But you’re here and I’ve missed you so much.”

“I know,” Agron says and means, I’ve missed you too. He kisses her cheek.

Saxa has disappeared, probably to put on something to wear, and Nasir hovers in the doorway.

Mira looks at him over Agron’s shoulder and smiles. “Tell me about your new boyfriend,” she says and winks at Nasir.

He moves a little bit closer, clearly reluctant to intrude on his and Mira’s reunion hugging. Agron takes his hand again.

“This is Nasir,” he tells Mira with a soft smile. “And he is amazing.”

She nods, because, consider that she has met him, she already knows that. “You lucked out.”

“I did,” he says, suddenly serious again.

“Nasir,” Saxa says as she walks back into the combined hall and living room in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. “I need your help with the coffee.”

Not even trying to be subtle, she gives Agron a dark look and yanks Nasir with her into the kitchen.

Once the door swings shut behind them, Mira hugs him again. “I’m so sorry for, for abandoning you,” she says, her regret written on her face. “I just couldn’t… You were so fucking… Gods, I just didn’t know what the fuck to do.” She sighs.

“I know I wasn’t easy being around,” Agron says, rather lamely. He hadn’t really expected an apology, mainly because he had been too obsessed with faulting himself.

“No, you fucking weren’t,” Mira says, swatting his arm. “But your, your… Fuck. We didn’t expect you to be. It wasn’t that. It was the self-hate, how you constantly tried to punish yourself. I just couldn’t watch and you couldn’t stop.” She shakes her head. “Come on, let’s sit down.”

It’s a little strange, being in Saxa’s apartment and see Mira’s stuff there. Her ugly purple arm-chair that they’ve all unsuccessfully tried to make her get rid of for years (Gannicus even had sex in it once, but Mira only sent the upholstery to a dry cleaner and forced him to foot the bill) stands in a corner, beside a bookcase that’s definitely not filled with Saxa’s books. The window has curtains.

It’s almost disorienting.

“So how are you?” Mira asks as they sit down on the couch.

Agron just shrugs, not sure what or how to answer that question, or if he wants to.

“You look better,” she says. She bites her lip. “He’s been good for you, hasn’t he?”

That is something he can talk about. “Yeah, he really has.” He looks towards the kitchen, hoping Nasir has learned to handle Saxa and wondering how long it takes to make a pot of coffee.

“I’m sorry,” Mira says, voice low, causing Agron too look back at her. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you, but… I… I should have been, you know? You’re my best friend, Agron. I should have been there.”

Agron pauses for a second, not prepared for that. “Don’t be an idiot,” he tells her softly, and almost feels the urge to laugh at how often Nasir has told him the same. “It’s not your job to be there for me through everything. Not if I don’t let you. I’m the one who should apologise.”

“I agree with the tall idiot,” Saxa says, coming through the door from the kitchen with a cup of coffee in each hand and a packet of Oreos jammed between her arm and side, Nasir trailing after her, carrying two more steaming cups.

“Saxa,” Mira says in a tone of voice that betrays that her words aren’t exactly news to her.

Saxa doesn’t answer, just hands her one of the cups and sits down on the arm of the couch behind her, winding one arm around her shoulders.

Nasir hesitates, looks first at the ugly purple chair and then to the space between Agron and Mira, until Agron takes his arm and tugs him down into his lap. Agron doesn’t need the physical connection right now, but he wants it – wants Nasir to know how much he means to him. Without him Agron wouldn’t be here right now.

The silence stretches on, growing a little tense and uncomfortable. Agron steals one of the cups out of Nasir’s hand and takes a sip.

If he needed proof that Saxa only dragged Nasir into the kitchen to give him and Mira privacy, he doesn’t need to look any further. Nasir certainly did not help making this. He valiantly fights to avoid making a face, but has to whisper in Nasir’s ear, for Nasir’s sake: “Do not drink this.”

Saxa overhears, of course. “Hey! Fucker! There is nothing wrong with my coffee. Look, Mira drinks it. Asshole.”

This he can handle – this is familiar ground.

“Mira loves you,” Agron says. “Plus, she wants to keep getting laid.”

Saxa throws an Oreo at him, and it hits him square in the forehead.

He is pretty sure it means they’re good.

Chapter Text

The world feels dislocated as he watches it through the windshield of the car, and the rain that smears the view of the darkened road doesn’t really help with how out of joint he feels as they drive from Mira and Saxa. On one hand, it feels like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders. There are more people he needs to talk to, more apologies to be made, but Mira was the hardest one. In less than two weeks he will be back at the gym for the first time in months, stepping back into his ordinary life.

He isn’t sure he wants to.

Everything outside the four walls of his apartment feels vaguely frightening to him. He has made a life in which Duro is no longer around, and it’s cold and lonely and horrible, but it is his life now. Every single step he has taken out of that has been a struggle. He hates the rage and the apathy and the despair. He hates the nightmares and the moments where the sorrow lies so heavy inside of him that he cannot breathe. He hates that he cannot be even half the boyfriend Nasir deserves, or the son his parents deserve, or the friend Mira and the rest of them deserves. He hates that he is so shattered that no one can come close to him without ending up cutting themselves on the jagged pieces that remains of him.

It’s a fucking hell, but it’s his. It’s what he knows. It’s how he knows to live without Duro – the only how he can figure out or imagine.

He cannot remember what’s outside. Everything is changed. And it scares him.

“Agron?” Nasir’s voice brings him out of his dark thoughts; the rain-wet world outside the car gains a little bit of clarity.

“Are you alright?” Nasir glances between him and the road.

“Yes, yeah. Just… thinking about stuff.”

Nasir nods slowly. “I need to go back home,” he says. “I don’t have any more spare clothes, and I have to get up early tomorrow. Should I drop you off or…?” He looks insecure, bites at his lower lip. “You want to stay at my place tonight?”

“We can stay at your place,” Agron says, silently wondering what’s making Nasir act so weird. He doesn’t like it. “No problem.”

Nasir nods again and they remain silent for the rest of the drive.

“I have to call my grandmother,” Nasir says when they step into his apartment and kick of their shoes. “It’s Wednesday.” He makes a waving, slightly nervous-looking, gesture with his hands. “Make yourself comfortable.”

So Agron does, ignoring the lead-like sensation settling inside of him at the sudden change Nasir’s behaviour. He takes one of Nasir’s old tattoo portfolios with in into the bedroom before stripping down to his boxers and crawling into Nasir’s bed.

Compared to what he has seen of Nasir’s newer work, these tattoos are a little bit cruder, not quite as detailed or with the same depth. They’re still good, though, and Agron tries to keep his mind solely on the pictures of reddened, newly inked skin and away from the artist himself for a moment.

There are sketches as well among the pictures of the actual tattoos – some besides the tats they turned into, but others seem to never have been transferred from paper to skin. He guesses they’re Nasir’s personal sketches and lets his fingers trace the graphite-grey lines through the plastic covering them. He really should give Nasir a patch of skin to do whatever he wants with one of these days, he thinks. Let him mark him with something that’s more him than the tattoo he did on Agron’s chest.

Agron has always rather liked getting tattooed – not just having the final tat on his body, but also the actual process – and he can’t wait to have Nasir to do another one, to have that electric-sharp pain in his skin and Nasir’s hands upon him, both sensations twined into one.

Thinking about that is a good distraction.

At least until Nasir steps out of the bathroom – where he, if Agron interpreted the noises he heard correctly, brushed his teeth and spoke on the phone simultaneously – and changes into a worn pair of flannels while telling his grandmother something in Arabic before hanging up.

Agron closes the portfolio as Nasir pulls back the comforter and gets into bed, and twists around and stretches to put it aside on the dresser. When he turns back around, Nasir’s mouth is there, on his, and they kiss sweetly for a few long minutes, Nasir’s hand splayed out against his cheek and Agron’s fingers brushing along Nasir’s collarbone.

The Nasir pulls back slightly, clearing his throat. His eyes flicker open to meet Agron’s and they’re huge and slightly anxious.

“Can we talk?” he says, licking his lips.

A flash of panic surges through Agron, but he just nods and sits up against the headboard, thinking it best to brace himself, prepare for the worst.

Nasir takes his hand, entwining their fingers in that way that has quickly become a necessary habit and source of comfort for both of them.

“I…” he says and swallows, eyes focused on their linked hands. “You know I care about you a great deal, right?”

Agron wants to throw up, terrified and convinced that this is it, that Nasir will…

“You referred to me as your boyfriend,” Nasir says, interrupting his quickly derailing train of thought, and Agron gets irrationally angry at him for sounding so calm when his own heart is racing in his chest and his body is entering full-blown panic mode.

“Am I your boyfriend?” Nasir voice is soft and he picks at a loose thread in his pajama pants, looking down at his own lap. Agron can still see most of his face, however, and he looks vulnerable and unsure.

He blinks, suddenly confused. “I… what?”

There is a frown, a little bit of anger among the insecurity, when Nasir looks up at him. “What am I to you?” he asks. “What’s this,” he waves the hand Agron is not still holding on to between them, “to you?”

Agron blinks some more.

It hits him as he stares into Nasir’s endless eyes that he doesn’t know. Nasir doesn’t know how desperately in love and in need of him Agron is. He doesn’t know that it is his presence and his smiles and voice and his body warm again Agron’s that keeps the heart beating inside his chest. He doesn’t know that Agron wouldn’t be able function without him anymore because he has never fucking told him.

And with his next breath, he realises how fucking stupid he is. Of course Nasir knows that. That’s the part he does know. He knows Agron needs him. He knows that Agron doesn’t work properly without him.

He doesn’t want Agron to need him. He wants Agron to want him. Wants him to want him because of who he is, and not because Agron can’t survive without him.

All he can think to say is: “I love you.” Those three, small words cannot encompass all that he feels for Nasir, but it is a start.

It’s Nasir turn to blink up at Agron. He looks shell-shocked, like he would have expected anything but that.

“You’re my boyfriend,” Agron continues, desperate to make Nasir understand, because of all the valid, real the reasons Nasir could come up with to justify leaving, Agron not loving him is defintely not one of them, and he should know that. He should at least have that.

He brings their hands up to his mouth and twists his to kiss the inside of Nasir’s wrist. “You’re my, my… fuck, you’re… You mean so fucking much to me, Nasir. I love you.” He says it again, presses the words into the skin over Nasir’s pulse: “I love you.”

Then he takes his face into his hands and kisses him as deeply and meaningfully as he is able, to supplement his words.

Nasir pulls away gently, lets Agron’s lips slip slowly from between his, puts two fingers against his lips. “I love you too,” he says, both his voice and eyes so earnest Agron’s heart lurches from it.

Their mouth crash together once more and they move and twist until they are both lying on their sides, bodies moulding to and around the shape of each other, and their limbs tangling, cool skin and cold hands warming up when run over and against familiar, beloved flesh.

It doesn’t take long before they grow hard and frantic, but neither of them are willing to let go of the other, so they rub messily and uncoordinatedly against each other instead, Nasir grabbing hold of Agron’s ass with both hands to align their hips just right. Agron slings one leg across Nasir’s thigh and shoves his hand down his pants, closing around the hot, silk-soft flesh of his cock.

It’s fast and too much and not enough, all at the same time. Nasir’s hands slip in under his boxers, fingers digging into his ass, sure to leave bruises and Agron pants and moans, working at his cock with his hand while pressing his own against Nasir’s thigh.

They bring each other off almost simultaneously, panting with mouths pressed together in something that isn’t really a kiss, and afterwards they’re both sticky and sweaty, but neither of them gives a fuck. They wrap themselves up in each other, coming down slowly and letting their bodies slide leisurely into slumber.

Agron whispers “Love you” one final time in Nasir’s ear before he finally falls asleep.

Agron grunts and grumbles and doesn’t cooperate at all as Nasir tries to dig him out of the pillows he has buried his face in.

“Love,” Nasir says, a little exasperatedly, but mostly fondly, “I have to leave for work. Love.”

Agron slumps over onto his back, scowling against the light outside his bedding-cocoon. “Mhm,” he mumbles, pleased at Nasir’s pet names, if not the fact that he is apparently leaving.

Nasir kisses his slack mouth and Agron responds a little belatedly, only touches his tongue to Nasir’s lower lip as Nasir straightens up again.

“Stay as long as you like. Alyx has already had breakfast so don’t let her puppy eyes fool you, okay?”

“Cat,” Agron mutters. “She’s cat.”

“Yeah, and you’re a man.” Nasir kisses him again. “And my boyfriend.”

Agron can’t really be bothered to open his eyes, but he doesn’t need to, because he can hear the smile in Nasir’s voice. “You’re mine, too. My boyfriend. And my love.”

That earns him another kiss. “I really have to go. Bye.”

“Bye,” Agron, still too asleep to be fully disappointed about Nasir going into work. “’M gonna dream ‘bout you now.”

Nasir’s laughter follows him back into sleep, and he doesn’t wake until Alyx jumps up on his chest and demands to be fed by a series of distressed yowls, hours later.

He feels incredibly, sickeningly nervous as he steps into Oenomaus’ gym for the first time in months. It’s worst than the actual first time he stepped in here, desperately wanting to be accepted, considered good enough and given the chance to support himself on something other than some crappy, depressing nine-to-five-job.

He has no idea how he will be welcomed back considering that he hasn’t spoken with anyone yet but Mira and Saxa, and that nervousness he had expected. But he also suddenly doubts his own abilities, his position as one of Oenomaus’ fighters. He hasn’t trained here in forever. Chances are he would get his ass handed to him within seconds if he went a round with any of the fighters in there right now.

It is a highly uncomfortable and unwelcome feeling, considering that if it’s one thing he has never doubted about himself, it’s his skills as an MMA-fighter.

The place is the same, he thinks as they walk through the long corridor towards the gym. After many complaints about how depressing the corridor was to walk through – “I need a beer to even get halfway!” Gannicus had yelled at Oenomaus once – Oenomaus had ordered a series of blown-up promo pictures of his fighters. They hang all along the wall, and nowadays getting your picture up there among the rest of them is testament to becoming one of them; Oenomaus’ fighters. They are very proud of it, and Mira teases them a mercilessly.

He is indescribably thankful to see that his picture is still up.

“You’re looking good,” Nasir tells him with a smile, eyes lingering on it.

He does – he was two years younger, had a rather long streak of wins behind him, and was without the sorrow that lies so densely within him these days.

“You haven’t been here before?” he asks Nasir.

Nasir shakes his head no, and Agron is a little bit relieved.

It’s not that Agron is uncomfortable with Nasir knowing and getting along with his friends per se – quite the opposite, really – but he’s known most of them for years and some of them for decades, and now, after a few months of mostly self-imposed isolation, it feels like he doesn’t know them at all any longer. He has this weird, horrible feeling of going to meet Nasir’s friends for the first time – like he is going to be assessed and judged and running the risk of coming up lacking.

This is Agron’s territory. Such a big part of his life has been spent in here and among these people, and walking in feeling like a stranger and out of place is something he does not like. Knowing that Nasir is a stranger too helps. This has been, still is and will always be an important part of Agron’s life, and he wants to be the one to invite Nasir into it. To give him something of himself that isn’t pain or grief.

Nasir suddenly stops in his tracks.

“Nasir…?”

Nasir’s only response is to take hold of Agron’s hand.

On the left wall, the last in line, is a picture of Duro. It clashes with the other portraits since it is not a promo shot for the gym, but rather taken outside somewhere in the sun, Duro leaning casually against a wall and smiling into the camera, light catching on his nose-ring and the studs on his ugly leather jacket. In his hand is his phone, held up to the camera to show of his high score on one of those stupid, silly games he was always playing in order to pass time and to have something to do with his hands.

It’s a perfect picture of him because it’s so him and it hits Agron so hard he cannot breathe.

He fumbles blindly for something to hold on to and Nasir is there, hands settling around his neck to pull his face down to look at him, to look away from the picture.

Nasir tells him to breathe and Agron listens, pulls the air that always has and still smells faintly of sweat into his lungs, exhales, and inhales again.

“I can’t do this,” Agron says, forehead falling down to rest against Nasir’s, his eyes closed, just wanting to leave, run away, go home and never come back. Thinking he could get his even a part of life back without Duro in it was just plain idiotic.

Nasir understands, and he kisses he corner of his mouth. “Agron. Come on, hold my hand, hug me, whatever you need.” He winds both arms securely around Agron’s waist. He leans up, brushes his lips gently against his ear. “Now look at the picture.”

“No.” Agron squeezes his eyes shut harder, because that’s even worse than the thought of stepping into the gym.

“Look at him.”

“I can’t.” I don’t want to. This is what he should be, still, now, and I can’t bear to see it, because he is not.

“Agron. I’m here.”

“I can’t.”

“Look at me.”

That he can do, and does. It’s an embarrassing fucking cliché, but he could lose himself in Nasir’s eyes. He wants to, because there he would be safe.

Nasir kisses him, slow and deep, knowing all too well that it’s this rather than words that will comfort Agron.

He pulls back a little, just far enough to look at Agron, and slides his eyes up to the picture. Agron’s eyes follow his, without really meaning to, and… fuck.

It tears him apart all over again, because that’s his baby brother in that picture and everything that’s him is in that picture, and all of that is gone now. Agron is never again going to tug at one of his dreads or his nose ring to tease him. He’s never again going to download and try, and ultimately fail, to beat Duro at a bunch of stupid mobile phone games. He’s never going again to see him smile that mischievous smile and be prompted to ask what stupid shit he’s been up to now.

Because he is gone. And it breaks Agron’s heart anew every time he is reminded of it, even though he never, ever forgets it, every time a new sliver of pain is added to the rest.

When it becomes too much, he turns his face into Nasir’s hair and Nasir lets him.

“Come on,” he says softly after a minute. “Perhaps we should… Where are the changing rooms?”

“No,” Agron mumbles into his hair, torn but unexpectedly and oddly determined to go through with this. “We should go inside. I was supposed to be here at one.”

“I think they understand,” Nasir says, guiding him towards the end of the corridor. Agron turns left automatically, towards the changing room.

It’s blessedly empty and Agron more collapses than sits down on the closest bench. Nasir follows him, straddles his lap. The kiss takes him by surprise – it’s desperate and even a little bit harsh, Nasir’s hands curling around his shoulders as he claims Agron’s mouth, making him breathless all over again, but for a much better reason.

“You okay?” he asks. “Something wrong?”

Nasir just shakes his head. “It’s nothing.”

Agron catches Nasir’s hand as he climbs of his lap. “If you don’t let me run away, I won’t let you,” he says quietly.

“It’s just…” Nasir lets his eyes travel around the changing room to avoid looking at Agron. “You’re very alike, the… the two of you. I could just… imagine…” He trails off, mumbles something else under his breath, touches Agron’s face lightly, but still keeps his eyes turned away.

Agron is used to looking at the people he cares about, or thinking about them, and realise how utterly terrifyingly large the chances are that they will be taken away from him, that something will happen to them, that their lives will be cut short like Duro’s was. He doesn’t want Nasir to have to live that way.

He has no idea what to say, so he just tugs Nasir down next to him on the bench, and hugs him for a long moment.

“Okay,” he says eventually. “I think I can go out there now.”

It’s not what he had expected. It’s rather anti-climatic, truth be told, considering how much he has been alternately worrying about and longing to come back, but that is nothing but a relief.

He gets hugs and pats on the back and Crixus smacks him on the arm because he’s mature like that (Naevia smacks him with the grabbling gloves he holds in her hand in return) but other than that it’s like he hasn’t been gone for six months.

He knows his getting off the hook easily, too easily, but he doesn’t care.

It’s like coming home.

Chapter Text

Agron loosens his white-knuckled grip from around the headboard, letting out a broken moan as Nasir presses inside, and grabs hold of his face, bringing him down into a kiss. Nasir bottoms out with one long, slow thrust and Agron clutches at him, gasps against his mouth, overwhelmed by the burn and the pressure and Nasir’s body weighing him down into the mattress.

Agron whines low in his throat and Nasir shifts his hips, starts driving into him harder. He plants his hands on each side of Agron’s head and Agron runs his hands down his shoulder and around the straining muscle of his biceps.

“Gods, you’re beautiful,” Agron says in awe as he gazes up at his flushed face and hooded eyes. Nasir laughs, a small, blissful sound amidst their heavy pants, and Agron moans because, fuck, it feels good. Nasir always feels so fucking good.

Nasir bends down again so that they can kiss, mashes his mouth against Agron’s and sucks at his tongue. He pulls out as far as he is able and thrusts back inside, getting the angle fucking perfect and Agron shouts and hits his head against the headboard when he throws it back.

“Shit,” Nasir says, huffing a laugh, and then his hand is there to soothe the pain. “Should I kiss it better?”

Agron moves his hips against him, trying to take him in deeper. “Fuck it better,” he growls and Nasir shakes his head at him and laughs and reaches down to kiss his temple anyway before latching on to his mouth again.

His hands run down Agron’s neck, over his chest and down his sides before taking hold of his thighs, urging them up to clamp around his hips. They both grin at each other and Agron smooth away a strand of hair plastered to Nasir’s sweaty face.

When Nasir starts fucking him in earnest again, he closes his eyes and breathes out raggedly. He doesn’t move particularly fast, but it’s hard and deep, and Agron is breaking apart under his hands, too fragile to be able to withstand this kind of sensational and emotional overload.

Nasir mouths at his neck and jaw, and his cheekbone and finally he kisses his slack mouth, catches his upper lip between his teeth. Nasir’s hair falls over his shoulder onto Agron and tickles against his face.

Nasir pitches his hips forward anew, punching the air out of him. He loves nothing more than when Nasir gets demanding in bed, and his painfully hard cock throbs between his legs and he rubs unwittingly up against Nasir’s stomach, the rough hair of his treasure trail scratching deliciously against sensitive skin.

Nasir kisses his mouth again, but then he stills, hand going around Agron’s chin. He waist until Agron slowly opens his eyes.

“You good?” he asks.

Agron nods, hips moving uselessly, the small movements he manages to cause only making him want more. He clears his throat. “Yeah.”

“Don’t disappear on me,” Nasir says, rocking forward once more. “And kiss me.”

Agron does what he’s told, responds to Nasir’s deep, insistent kisses and winds his legs around his hips.

Nasir doesn’t relinquish his grip around Agron’s chin and he pulls back, looking deep into his eyes. Agron panics slightly somewhere amidst the pleasure that makes both body and mind lenient and sluggish, because he has no barriers when it comes to Nasir and he is still not completely used to having him so close. But Nasir keeps fucking into him, keeps his eyes on him, and it makes Agron’s blood spark and fizzle like champagne.

It’s too much, but at the same time it’s perfect, and Agron comes long and hard against Nasir’s stomach, gasping and groaning, and Nasir fucks him through it, slow and gentle, fucks him for a long time after Agron has come, and Agron rests his hands at the small of his back and moves with him.

“Never leave me,” Agron mutters in a low voice in Nasir’s ear afterward.

Nasir raises himself languidly up on one elbow and cradles Agron’s face with his other hand. His breath is hot on Agron’s cheek as he leans in close. “As long as you promise the same,” he says.

“Want a beer?” Spartacus asks, holding a bottle of Heineken out to Agron. He both sounds and looks a little wary, a little awkward. Most of his friends do, like they aren’t quite sure how to act around him or as if they’re afraid that he will snap. The three-month gap is palpable, creating a distance between them. It’s easier down at the gym when they have the training to focus on then outside it where the main purpose is they have nothing to distract them from hanging out.

Also, he has missed much.

Spartacus has a new girlfriend. Or something. Agron isn’t sure, but there doesn’t seem to be any deeper feelings there. And he isn’t quite sure why, but he doesn’t care for Laeta. Unfortunately, Nasir seems to like her, if the way he sits down beside her to chat after they’ve said hello and Agron’s been introduced to her is any indication.

Barca and Pietros’ son has grown a lot since Agron last saw him. He can walk – or at least stagger shorter distances on unsteady legs – and talk quite well. He tries to play with Janus, Varro and Aurelia’s boy, but the older child is shy and prefers to hide between his parents on the couch. Aurelia’s grown big too – Agron can’t help being very wary when hugging her hello because it looks like she might give birth any second.

Crixus and Naevia have gotten engaged, and Crixus keeps unknowingly twisting the gold band around his finger. The tension is finally slightly relieved when Agron cuffs him in the back of the neck the fourth time he refers to Naevia as his fiancé without any apparent reason. Everyone is relieved to notice that some things apparently never changes.

It’s odd, seeing how his friends has moved on in their lives, because it feels like he is standing still, frozen in that perpetual, lengthening moment after Duro’s death. And yet the world keeps spinning around him, without him, away from him.

He takes a swig of beer and moves to go sit by Nasir, despite Laeta’s presence, when Mira drags him out into the kitchen with her.

“Let’s see if we can find some Doritos,” she says, already opening a cupboard. When it comes to Spartacus’ apartment, it is as if he and Mira are still a couple, because she moves around like she owns the place. But on the other hand she does that at Agron’s place too, so maybe it’s just a friend-thing with Mira.

They do find Doritos – there is always Doritos at Spartacus’ apartment; the guy’s obsessed with the stuff – and they stay out in the kitchen, with the open bag on the counter between them, talking. A lot of people at once is something he will have to get used to, so it’s nice to take a break from it for a moment.

“Now,” Mira says, crunching on a Dorito, “I want details. Spill.”

“What kind of details?” Agron jumps up to sit on counter. Spartacus will bitch about it if he sees it, but whatever.

Mira gives him a dirty look. “You know!”

“He’s fucking awesome,” Agron tells her with a grin after a short, teasing pause. “All but fucked me into a coma before we got here.” He zones out a little, thinking about it and Mira nudges impatiently at his knee. “Hm?”

“Tell me more.”

“Pervo fuck,” Agron tells her, because she is. But he likes it, them talking about this. It’s superficial and silly, but it’s like it used to be and he likes that.

“Well, I’m not allowed to talk about my sex life, so you’ll just have to deal.”

“She’s my cousin!” Agron says, repeating the same protest for about the thousandth time.

“Yeah, and she says she’s walked in on you about a hundred times, so me telling you having Saxa go down on me is the best thing that’s ever happened to me ever would just make you guys even.”

Agron finishes off his beer and opens the fridge to get another one. “If she told you all those times were accidental, she’s lying,” Agron says and almost slides off the counter when the bottle is slightly further away than anticipated.

Mira scrunches up her nose, chewing on another chip. “Change of subject,” she says. “Is he big in all the right places?”

Agron groans. “Where the fuck do you get your lines?” He looks around for a bottle opener. “Break up with your girlfriend. She’s a terrible influence on you.”

“Don’t let her hear you say that.” Mira sticks her tongue out at him. “Is he?”

He glares at her. “He’s perfect in all places! But yeah,” he adds, as if an afterthought, “especially in the right places.”

“Uh…” They look up to Nasir standing in the doorway looking at them with a raised eyebrow. “I’m just gonna leave you to it,” he says and walks back into the living room.

They laugh, but Mira soon quiets, grows serious. “How are you?” she asks him frankly.

It’s like being dosed with a bucket of cold water, and Agron doesn’t want to go there, not now. “Sorry, but could we just… not? Please?”

Mira sighs a little. “Fine. But you need to stop running.”

“Not tonight,” he says, finally locating the opener behind a row of empty beer bottles.

When they finally emerge from the kitchen, Spartacus, Laeta, Donar and Chadara are playing Settlers, Varro and Aurelia have left, Saxa and Gannicus have gotten drunk and Nasir is talking to Pietros while Barca sits broodingly next to them. Seriously, that guy makes Crixus seem like a fucking sunbeam.

Something collides with Agron’s legs and he looks down just in time to see Mago sit down heavily on his diaper-clad butt and start to cry more from shock than actual pain.

Agron doesn’t know what to do, but he instinctually thrusts his beer bottle into Mira’s hands and picks the boy up. That only makes him wail louder, however, and Agron winces when he gets “Daddy!” yelled right into his ear.

He gladly deposits the child to Barca, who started moving across the room the moment Mago hit the floor, and the boy curls inward against his father’s chest, his sniffles already dying down as Barca tenderly cradles his head with one hand.

“Sorry,” Agron says sheepishly.

“He’s just tired,” Barca says curtly, turning his back against him to go sit back down by his husband.

Agron is a little surprised; Barca doesn’t like him much and on top of that he is very protective of Mago, so he had almost expected to be told off for making the boy cry, however accidentally.

Nasir moves over to Agron and bumps gently into his side.

“Are you and Mira done?” he asks with an arch of his eyebrow.

Agron smiles, pulls him in to press a quick kiss against his temple. “Yeah.”

He sees Mago turn around in his father’s arms to glare at him and both he and Nasir chuckle.

“By the way, is there any particular reason why Pietros and Barca doesn’t like you?” Nasir asks quietly.

“They said that?”

“Not explicitly,” Nasir says.

Agron sighs. “I may or may not once have made a comment about Pietros being Barca’s boy toy,” he admits finally. It’s not something he’s proud of, especially since Naevia had later told him that Pietros’ age was a sensitive issue. “And then Pietros punched me in the face.”

“Seemed like it served you right.”

“I guess I did.”

“Could you please just give me some fucking wood?” Donar suddenly shouts to Spartacus over the game board, causing the whole room to erupt into laughter. “Bastards!” he mutters to no one in particular.

“Settlers of Catan,” Agron explains when Nasir looks between him and Donar questioningly. “It’s a game. You need certain resources to build certain things and Donar apparently needs,” he snorts because it’s the same thing every time they play, “wood.”

“Comedy gold,” Nasir says sarcastically.

“Mm.” Agron buries his nose in Nasir’s hair and inhales.

Nasir nudges him gently with his elbow. “Don’t just stand here with me. You see me all the time. You go help Donar get some wood or something.” He grins.

Agron grimaces. “Ew.”

“Hey!” Donar shouts without turning around. “I’m hot!”

“Compared with Crixus maybe,” Agron says.

“Pigfucker,” Crixus says and glowers.

“Don’t insult my taste in men, Agron,” Naevia says. “I’m a Flyweight champion now, you know.”

He didn’t know, but he isn’t surprised. Naevia may not have been fighting for as long as most of the rest of them, but she’s damn good.

“I’ll give you wood if you go get me a beer,” Laeta says to a disgruntled Donar, causing more laughter, and he throws his card on the table and gets up with a curse.

Agron kisses Nasir on the mouth, takes another sip of beer and grins, content and happy.

They are both drunk and handsy, and Nasir actually giggles as they stumble up the stairs with eager hands groping and hungry mouths kissing whatever patch of skin they can reach.

When they reach the right floor, Agron’s fly is open and Nasir’s shirt is completely unbuttoned, Agron sucking marks into the skin above his collarbone. Nasir makes a displeased sound when Agron hooks his fingers into his belt loops and tugs him in close.

“Inside,” he says.

“You in a rush or something?” Agron teases, pressing a wet kiss against the nape of his neck and his cock against Nasir’ stomach.

“Fuck you.” Nasir shoves his hand down Agron’s pants, making him squirm, and takes his mouth in a hard, biting kiss. “I love you and I want you so get that door unlocked now.”

“I love bossy you,” Agron mumbles, fishing for the key in his pocket in one hand and letting his other find its way to Nasir’s ass for a nice grope, while Nasir is stroking him through his underwear. “I… Fuck, where the shit-fuckin’ key… Fuckin’ hell… yes, fuck…”

He finds the key eventually and gets the door unlocked.

“Couch,” he says because the bedroom is like miles away and his dick is so hard there is a risk it might break or something before they get naked.

“Last time we fell off,” Nasir reminds him. “Come on, just… Fuck you!”

Agron unceremoniously hauls him up over his shoulder, making his way to the bedroom.

“The only reason I stand for this is because I am extremely horny,” Nasir informs him from somewhere around his lower back. “I’m pissed right now in every sense of the word, but I’m more drunk pissed than angry pissed so I’ll let it slide just this once.”

Agron sets him down on the bed and then starts to divest himself of his jeans and t-shirt.

“You too,” he tells Nasir who sits there staring, and pulls of his boxer briefs, only stumbling a little as he gets them tangled around his ankles. He takes of his socks and lies down on the bed while Nasir hurries to take off his own clothes.

He stretches out on top of Agron, naked skin sliding against naked skin, and Agron sighs, guides him down into a kiss.

Nasir doesn’t waste any time in sliding down Agron’s body and taking his cock into his mouth. Agron jolts, from pleasure and surprise, and groans as he falls heavily back against the bed.

“You’re just so fucking…”

Nasir pulls off, kissing his hipbone. “Perfect?” He smirks.

“Yeah.” Agron smiles softly down and him and winds a hand into his hair. Such pretty hair. “Among other things.”

They have some difficulty with settling for a rhythm – it’s alternately fast and needy and alternately soft and slow. Nasir quickly gets three fingers into him, but then he spends long minutes carefully and lazily fucking him with them while more licking and kissing his cock than sucking it and Agron clutches the sheet in his hands, arches, and tries to keep his hips still against the bed to avoid any gagging.

Then he gets enough and tells Nasir to cut it the hell out and just fuck him already, but Nasir swallows him down properly and completely instead, working at his mouth while his fingers press and tease at his prostate and Agron comes explosively, jerking and cursing, and has to hurriedly untangle his fingers from Nasir’s hair from fear of tearing at it.

Nasir kisses his way slowly up his stomach – starts near his groin and tickles him with his mouth all the way up to his chest with soft, lingering kisses. He worries at a nipple with his teeth and Agron groans at the pleasure-pain of it, his soft and sticky cock too sensitive where Nasir’s hard flesh brush against it.

He moves further up and they kiss like they need it to breathe for a long while.

“I love you,” Nasir says and rubs their noses together before sitting up to grab the lube and slick himself up.

“Love you, too,” Agron says and shifts on the bed to help balance them when Nasir puts his legs over his shoulders. Nasir pushes all the way inside immediately and there is pain amongst the pleasure for Agron, but it just adds a sharp edge to it, makes it better.

His head still swimming slightly from too much beer, but relatively clear since he’s already come and isn’t swamped by want and need, and he lies back and looks at Nasir as he fucks into him. His eyes are closed and his brow furrowed, his high ponytail bouncing a little bit with every long, hard thrust. He is biting his lip and doesn’t make any sound except for his heavy breathing and Agron realises that the groans he hears are pouring out of his own mouth.

Nasir turns his head and kisses Agron’s calf, the sweet and tender gesture at odds with the way he is moving inside of him, pulling out just as far as he can without dislodging before pushing in again in a harsh, pounding, wonderful rhythm, and Agron loves him so much that his whole body thrums with it. And is so loved in returned that he doesn’t quite know how to deal with it, because he doesn’t deserve it, shouldn’t have it, shouldn’t… not when… When…

He gasps at a pain that is not physical, his body still pleasurably reeling from Nasir’s cock working deeply inside of him, but his mind spinning out of control.

He doesn’t realise that there are tears spilling down his cheeks until Nasir suddenly falls down against him, frantic and alarmed.

“Agron! You have to talk to me, love. Am I hurting you? What’s…?”

But Agron vigorously shakes his head no. He is still full of Nasir’s cock because Nasir didn’t have the presence of mind to pull out and it feels good, too good, because he shouldn’t fucking feel this good. He has no right.

“Agron…” Nasir is kissing his face, kissing away the tears.

Agron sobs. “I just forgot about him, Nasir. I just forgot about him. I can’t do that. He’s, he’s… How could I do that? I laughed and drank and played stupid games, and, and, now, you, we… How the fuck…?”

He is painfully disgusted, horrified and nauseated with himself for betraying Duro’s memory like this. Again. And he will do it again and again, as if he can just go on living his life while his brother is not because of him.

Nasir has gone half-soft inside of him and he puts a gentle hand against Agron’s side and pulls out.

Agron cries harder, because now he’s ruining this too.

Nasir takes his head into his heads. Gently. Always so fucking gently. Agron may be glass, but he fucking deserves to break.

“Love…”

“Don’t say that!” Agron snarls, not really at him, but at the injustice of everything that gave him this – this fantastic man that loves him – and Duro nothing but death. “Don’t fucking love me!”

“You can’t tell me to stop loving you. I wouldn’t try even if I could,” Nasir says, concerned and exasperated. “And that is not your decision to make. Get rid of me if it would make you feel better, but don’t tell me to stop loving you.”

“But…” Agron’s voice is small. “How can you? How can you even look at me? Why don’t you hate me?”

“Hate you for what, love? Grieving? Hate you for not having the magical powers to stop an accident that wasn’t in any way your fault? For being afraid and hurting? Is that what you want me to hate you for? Do you think he hates you for it?”

“Don’t.”

Nasir looks at him for a long moment. “I love you, Agron. It’s not always easy and sometimes I think you’re a complete asshole. Like when you told me about calling Pietros a boy toy. You’re not always a nice man, love. You can be cruel and harsh and you’re incapable of keeping your temper in check. But you don’t deserve this hell you’re putting yourself through. And you’re definitely not unworthy of love.” Nasir runs his thumb over Agron’s lower lip, a small, soothing touch. “You won’t lose him, love. You will never lose him. You don’t have to live every moment remembering and being in pain over him. Not thinking about him one evening doesn’t make you forget about him. You will never forget about him. He’s here.” He touches the skin over Agron’s heart, fingertips smoothing over the tattoo. “I can’t do anything but love you.” He suddenly grows livid. “So don’t dare tell me to stop loving you, because you’re it for me, okay? I know,” he says when Agron opens his mouth. “I know that it isn’t possible for you to give me the whole happy sappy relationship package-deal. And I know you think you won’t ever be able to do that. Maybe you won’t. But you’re still it for me. I will never love another man the way I love you.”

Agron breathes deeply for a minute, looking up into Nasir’s serious face. “You’re my everything,” he says eventually. “Without you… I can’t even…” He shakes his head, because life without Nasir has become incomprehensible.

“Then stop being stupid and telling me not to love you,” Nasir says softly, bending down to peck him on the lips.

“I’ll try,” Agron whispers and when Nasir kisses him again, he wraps his arms around his shoulders and reciprocates, kisses him until he tastes like Nasir and Nasir like him. And then some more.

Chapter Text

Agron wakes with his head pillowed on Nasir’s chest and fingers stroking slowly through his short hair. The sound of Nasir’s heartbeat is strong and even in his ear and it is a comfortable, calming sound.

“You awake?” Nasir asks after a moment, his hand stilling.

“Yeah.”

They had fallen asleep late, lying twined together first in silence and then talking quietly about nonsense and nothingness, just filling the space between them with words and soft, unhurried kisses.

I will never love another man the way I love you. The words flash in Agron’s mind, are forever ingrained in his heart. It’s more than he’s ever dared hope for, and fucking terrifying. Love may be a fickle force of nature, but there is always a choice involved. And Nasir has chosen to give him everything.

“Are you hungry?” he asks, trying to dispel his grave train of thought before it sours the morning.

Nasir hums and runs his fingertips down Agron’s neck and over his shoulder, sending a pleasant shiver down his spine. “I could eat.”

“We could go out and have breakfast.” Agron turns his head a little to press a kiss to his chest, tasting his sleep-warm skin. “If you want.”

“Agron.” Nasir’s hand cups his neck. “We don’t have to. I know that you…”

“Fuck me,” Agron says. He sighs, rests his forehead against Nasir’s breastbone. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to take care of me. I’m a fucking wreck, but that doesn’t mean that you have to help holding me together. I mean, you do and I want you to and need you so fucking much, but it isn’t fair that you should just give and give and be there for me while I just expect you to want to stay. This isn’t about me anymore. It’s about us. And I’m not quite sure how to cope with that, but I can try. I can at least try.” He goes silent for a second. “And I won’t even bitch about it if you want to order some sort of stupid, expensive coffee, I promise,” he adds.

Nasir laughs. “Come up here,” he says, tugging carefully at Agron’s hair. “I want to kiss you.”

Agron lifts his head and looks up at him, and just keeps looking for a long moment before letting Nasir draw him in close.

“Hi!” Laeta says brightly as they step in through the door. “Nice to see you!”

“Hi,” Nasir replies with a smile, while Agron nods at her. He let Nasir choose the place, and he had no idea Laeta worked here. It’s seems like a nice place – more a coffee shop than an actual diner and it looks more like a gigantic living room with its colourful walls and comfy chairs.

“Here for some brunch?” Laeta asks.

“Yes,” Nasir says. “I want coffee, scrambled eggs, and…” He hesitated, looks at the blackboard above the counter where the menu is scrabbled in colourful crayon. “Will I throw up if I order blueberry pancakes as well?”

Laeta laughs. “I can give you half an order. Orange juice?”

Nasir smiles. “Of course.” It’s clear he’s been here before.

Laeta looks to Agron. “And you?”

“Scrambled egg whites.” Oenomaus’ dietary restrictions are a fucking joy. “And, uh…”

“Don’t be boring,” Nasir tells him sternly. “Some fatty, sugary pancakes won’t kill you.”

“I dare you to say that in front of Oenomaus,” Agron says.

Nasir leans against Agron’s side. “It’s Sunday morning and both of us are slightly hangover from last night. Indulge.”

With the way Nasir looks at him, half-smiling and gorgeous, Agron can’t not bend down and kiss him.

Laeta clears her throat.

“Pancakes for me too,” Agron says quickly, turning away from Nasir because sometimes his self-control is pretty non-existent and Nasir’s lustful eyes and kiss-reddened lips doesn’t really help. “But without maple syrup. And some apple juice, please.”

Laeta nods as she writes it all down on a pad. “Go sit down, and I’ll bring it out as soon as it’s ready. And yes, Nasir, I’ll bring out your coffee right away, don’t worry.” She glances at Agron. “For his’ sake, if nothing else,” she adds and Nasir makes a face at her.

There are few other customers, so it is easy to find a secluded table in one corner.

“So,” Agron says as soon as they have sat down. “I didn’t know Laeta worked here.”

Nasir shakes his head. “She doesn’t. She owns this place. This and that bakery on Spartacus’ street.”

“That’s how they met? She plied him with baked goods?” Agron jokes. “Let’s hope for both their sakes that Oenomaus never finds out.”

Laeta is just then coming out with Nasir’s coffee and overhears. “I did not,” she says with a laugh. “I can’t bake or cook worth shit. I don’t really work here, believe it or not – just when we’re short on staff because I’m always around anyway. Spartacus does buy cookies sometimes, though,” she adds with a wink.

She puts down the coffee and leaves with a promise of bringing their food out in just a few minutes.

“I thought this was some sort of cosy family business,” Agron says, looking around. It is cosy. Even though he still hates coffee shops.

“It is. Or was, rather. Her mother started up the first place in Pennsylvania. Laeta is expanding.”

Nasir takes a sip of coffee and makes a blissful sound. Agron smiles at him and catches his feet between his own, rocking them a little.

“Is Oenomaus really the horrible tyrant who sees and knows everything you make him out to be? Does he frisk you for sweets every time you step into the gym? Do you get to do three hundred extra push-ups for every pancake he finds you’ve been eating?”

“Okay, he’s not that bad,” Agron says, stealing the coffee cup from Nasir and taking a swallow. Nasir looks betrayed. “But I guess the body is a temple to him, you know? And he can’t understand why we would fuck ourselves up with crap like alcohol and candy and whatnot. But he’s pretty cool as long as we follow the dietary plan at least six days out of seven. He will probably complain about this, however,” Agron says, lightly touching the marks on his neck.

Nasir’s eyes fall to them and his eyes darken slightly even as his cheeks grow red. “Should I not?” he asks.

“No.”

Nasir smiles, knowing perfectly well what his love bites does to his boyfriend, and Agron wishes every day could be like this – a lazy, seemingly never-ending Sunday morning with lots of smiles and laughter, Nasir relaxed and happy and not worrying about anything.

“Oenomaus is not the boss of me,” he says in order to chase his own dark thoughts away. “Or, well, he kinda is, but I don’t give a fuck.”

He leans over the table and Nasir meets him halfway. The kiss is probably a little too heated for a public coffee house, but Laeta, who of course manages to show up right at that moment, doesn’t seem to care, just starts putting the plates down on the table.

They pull away, a little flustered.

“Here,” she says, putting down a plate of chocolate cookies. “They’re on the house. The replacement for the sick guy just showed up, so I’m getting out of here to deal with some lovely paperwork. But I’ll see you both around, I guess.”

“Probably,” Nasir says. “See you.”

“Bye,” Agron says.

Laeta makes a little wave directed to Nasir and disappears back behind the counter.

“You don’t like Laeta?” Nasir asks, already digging into his pancakes. He sounds a bit exasperated.

“I don’t dislike her,” Agron says, salting his scrambled egg whites without tasting them. “I don’t know her. I just…” He shrugs. There are actual blueberries on his pancakes and this might just be his new favourite eating-place, plus Nasir seems very friendly with her, so maybe he best make an effort. “I guess she’s okay. At least I don’t have to worry about Spartacus breaking her heart.”

Mira and Spartacus’ relationship was rough on Agron, especially at the end. It wasn’t nice having to watch as his two best friends just kept hurting each other, unable and unwilling to let go even as they ached and suffered. Despite loving him as a brother, he despised Spartacus back then. Now he understands a little better; he cannot excuse, but he can understand how you can’t not clutch at anything that sheds even the slightest light in your darkness. And Mira certainly did. She burned herself out, and Agron is terrified of one day realising that he has treated Nasir the same way.

Nasir has said something he hasn’t heard. He takes Nasir hand in his, tangles their fingers together. “What did you say?”

“I said that it seems like they comfort each other,” Nasir says. “She lost her husband not too long ago.”

Six months ago Agron believed himself and everyone around him as good as immortal. Now it seems that death and grief is everywhere he goes. It’s not abstract any longer – something far off in the distance or the future, but here and now and painfully real.

His thumb unconsciously circles the tattoo on the inside of Nasir’s wrist, hidden beneath his shirt. Four names and four dates: Nasir’s grandmother, sister, mother and father. Two of them have both a year of birth and a year of death.

Nasir looks down, draws Agron’s attention to the movement. He stops.

“A relaxed and nice Sunday breakfast it was,” he says, withdrawing his hand. “You got it. Sorry.”

Nasir frowns sadly. “Don’t apologise. I get that you can’t just ignore it at your own choosing, Agron. That’s not what I meant, I…”

“Hey.” Agron takes his hand in his again, thinking that letting go of it was what set him off, and Nasir visibly relaxes. “I know that. I know what you meant.” He kisses Nasir’s fingertips. Their breakfast is growing cold be he doesn’t care. “But everything is always about me. I said before that it should be about us, but in order for it to be about us, it has to be about you as well. And it’s never about you. Not just you. You always get kind of lost in… this.” He gestures between them with his free hand.

“Agron. Stop saying you like that.” Nasir sighs, takes Agron’s hand in both of his. “Maybe it has to be about you,” he rolls his eyes a little bit when he says it exactly the way Agron did, “right now. I know that you can’t really imagine or hope for that, but I still…” He looks down, scratches distractedly with one nail against Agron’s skin. “I think – and hope – that you will get better, Agron. You have got better. I’m not trying to be a martyr, or your personal knight in shining armour or anything, but if it has to be about you right now and that will help you… I can live with that.” Nasir leans over and kisses him, just a quick peck. “I hate seeing you suffer, and of course there are times when this relationship isn’t easy for me, when I don’t know what to do about either of us. But it’s not a hardship, Agron.” He looks straight at Agron as he says that, mouth curled up in a small, wry smile. “I’m not here to take care of you. I’m not here for the relationship we might have a few years down the road. I’m here because I love you for who you are and not because I put up with you.”

Agron leans in closer and rests their foreheads together, so in love and grateful and happy for Nasir’s words he feels overcome with it. It’s not especially comfortable, with the table between them, but neither of them cares.

Agron laughs quietly. “And there we went and made it all about me again,” he says with a deep sigh.

“I don’t care.” Nasir kisses his cheek. “When I need it to be about me I’ll tell you, okay?”

“Promise,” Agron says sternly.

“I promise.” Nasir chuckles. “I promise to try and be more selfish, love.”

It’s not being selfish, Agron thinks, but he says nothing. Kisses Nasir instead, until he pulls away.

“And I’m going to start right now,” Nasir says lightly. “Pancakes now and kissing later, because I’m starving. And don’t you dare touch my coffee again.”

Chapter Text

There are some new fighters-in-training at the gym but Agron doesn’t really bother getting introduced to all of them. He isn’t interested in making any new friends and he guesses he’ll learn their names eventually anyway.

He immediately takes a liking to one of the new women, though, because she is good enough to give Saxa a fight as they train in the ring. His cousin has been the reigning female champion at the gym for a long while now so it’s only fair that she gets taken down a peg or two and learns that she isn’t invincible.

He and Crixus are taking turns with the boxing pads and it doesn’t take long before Agron’s arms aching, because while he kept himself in shape, he laid off all actual MMA-training during his suspension and his body sure is feeling getting back into it.

“You’ve grown weak, you lazy fuck,” Crixus grumbles, standing with his legs wide apart to brace against Agron’s punches.

It takes a lot of willpower, but Agron manages to not purposefully miss the pad and land his fist straight in Crixus’ stupid face.

“Fuck you,” is he replies instead, but he does manage to put some more strength behind each punch and Crixus grunts a little and has to adjust his position to make up for it.

“Crixus! Agron! Circuits – start with step ups.”

Oenomaus’ orders are followed by deep groans from both of them, but they do as they are told.

The step ups are followed by sit ups which are followed by biceps curls, and they’re in the middle of squats and Agron is close to collapsing because working out is quite a different thing with Oenomaus standing over your shoulder and driving you on, when Saxa yells his name.

“FUCK OFF!” he yells back, not in the mood for her teasing him right now.

“Your boyfriend’s here, fuckwit!” she calls back. “And if you don’t stop cursing at me, he’ll leave, you asshole!”

Agron turns around, and, yes, Nasir is there, smiling at him. Oenomaus doesn’t yell at him for getting distracted so he abandons his training to go greet his boyfriend.

“Hi, I’m really sweaty,” he says when Nasir reaches for him.

“You know I don’t care.” Nasir takes his face in his hands and stand up on tiptoe to kiss him sweetly. Agron swears he hears someone make an “aww”-sound in the background.

“What are you doing here?” Agron asks. “Thought you had work.”

Considering that Agron since he started up his training again now has an actual schedule, they have a lot less time together. Both their working hours are relatively flexible, but it still clashes a lot and as a result Nasir has started to spend more time at the gym. So him coming down here is not really odd, but Agron knew he has a big chest-piece to do today, because he had been adding the final touches on the sketch yesterday when all Agron wanted to do was to crawl up on the couch and cuddle.

Nasir grimaces. “The client passed out on me. It wasn’t my fault, though,” he hastens to add when Agron snorts. “I had barely touched him with the needle. He was nervous and his blood sugar crashed.”

“Agron!” Oenomaus calls, signalling that it is time for him to get his ass back into the game.

“I have to…” He gestures to where Crixus is standing waiting and glaring.

“Yeah, sure.” Nasir kisses his chin and shoos him away. “I’ll just sit here and watch then.” He grins.

Agron was afraid that Nasir would get bored hanging down at the gym, but he seems to keep himself occupied. He brings both his sketchbook and iPad and sometimes a novel, and there is almost always someone who is catching a break or is done with training but hasn’t left yet he can talk to. Agron runs over to him every chance he gets to kiss him and ignores the fond eye-rolls that go on around them.

Nasir watches a lot, too. Agron likes having his eyes on him, likes knowing that Nasir has a hard them keeping them off him. He also likes that Nasir gets to see this part of him, because this he is good at. This he knows. In here he is not the complete fucking mess that has to struggle to get out of bed and sometimes finds the simple task of putting on clothes or cooking so monumental that he wants to cry from it. Here he is strong and capable and active.

Sometimes, however, Agron catches Nasir’s attention drifting around the room. It’s not like he can blame him – there is a lot of sweaty skin and straining muscles on display, and, hell, Agron himself gets a little caught up sometimes even after years of getting used to it. But that doesn’t mean he has to like it, especially when Nasir’s eyes linger on one of the newer guys who Agron has mentally labelled ‘that fucker who smiles too much.’ He is always smiling. It’s un-freaking-canny.

He looks towards Nasir, who has just sat down on his usual spot on one of the benches and taken his iPad and headphones out of his bag. Nasir catches him looking and smiles and Agron smiles helplessly back.

“Who is that guy?” he asks Donar as they dry off after the shower.

“Who?” Donar asks distractedly, busy checking his phone.

“You know…” Agron makes an indistinctive gesture with one hand. “Mr Smiley-face.”

“Castus?”

“Yeah.”

Donar shrugs. “Don’t know. Some guy. He’s pretty good for a newbie. Also, I think he sails or swims or something. I don’t know. Something with water.” He’s typing away at his phone. “Why? Thought you already had a boyfriend.” He grins at Agron for a second before turning his attention back to the phone.

“Well, Nasir seems to like him. Looking at him at least.” Mixed and stubborn feelings swell inside of him – jealousy, anger, hopelessness.

He is busy getting deodorant out of his locker and not at all ready for the punch Donar lands on his arm and has to reach out with his free hand and steady himself. “Fuck you! Why did you do that for?”

“’Cause you’re an idiot,” Donar says frankly, sticking his head into his locker to root out his pants.

Agron glowers at him, but Donar’s gone back to his phone and doesn’t notice so it’s highly unsatisfactorily.

Nasir is distracted and only stays for a short while when he comes over the next night.

“I hate throwing parties,” he announces when he enters the door. “Especially surprise parties for my sister.” He makes the world’s most exaggerated air-quotation marks around ‘surprise’ and flops down beside Agron on the couch with a huff. “She knows we’re throwing a party, we know that she knows that we’re throwing a party, and she knows that we knows that she knows that we’re throwing a party and still we have to be all secretive and shit.” Sighing heavily he rests against Agron, kisses his throat. “Hi, love.”

Whatever unwanted feelings have been building up inside of Agron as he has been all by himself and thinking up worst-case scenarios melts away at those words. “Hi, pretty.” He strokes a hand over Nasir’s scalp, scratching lightly with his nails, and Nasir lets out a whole different sigh and leans into the touch, making Agron ridiculously pleased over the fact that he can be the one providing comfort for once. He moves a little to position them better on the couch and groans when the movement tugs at his exhausted stomach muscles.

“I’m just beat,” he says in answer to Nasir’s slightly concerned look. “And my muscles hate me.”

Nasir hums and slides warm hand under Agron’s t-shirt, traces his fingers over his abs. Agron cranes his neck to kiss him and it is silly really how fast Nasir can get him going, especially since he’s body isn’t really up for any more exertion today. But this is good, he thinks as Nasir moves on top of him, his hands on his jaw to angle his head and deepen the kiss, because it is probably exactly what he needs to dispel the last vestiges of the uneasiness in his mind.

But instead of taking it further, Nasir kisses him for a few long minutes and then just sprawls out on him, cheek pressed against his chest and one hand distractedly caressing his thigh. Bringing up his own hand, Agron touches Nasir’s face gently, lets his fingers run over the arch of his eyebrows.

“Something wrong?” Nasir asks unexpectedly.

“No,” Agron says, even though a lot of things are. He doesn’t like the thought of Nasir looking at other men and perhaps finding someone that would be better, he doesn’t like feeling like a territorial asshole, he doesn’t like that Nasir is so caught up in planning a big “surprise” birthday party for his sister, and he doesn’t like that he talks about it a lot because all Agron can think about is how important birthdays were for Duro, his own in particular, and that he will never get to throw him stupidly huge party again and how those tickets to that fucking surfing trip from hell was the last birthday present Duro ever got from him. Agron has no idea how he will be able to survive Duro’s birthday when it comes around next time.

“You sure?” Nasir asks.

“Yes,” Agron says and kisses him to shut him up. He has started to pretend to fall asleep before Nasir some nights so that he will think that he is sleeping better and he doesn’t wake him up after his nightmares anymore.

Nasir’s phone rings. He pecks Agron’s lips apologetically before moving halfway off him to answer it. “Chadara, hi… Really?” His eyes shift to Agron and he rolls them in exasperation. “You can’t take care of it? Okay, yeah. Fine. Yeah, yeah, I’ll be right there. Just give me ten minutes.” He hangs up. “I have to go. There was some decoration-related crisis or whatever. Sorry.”

“That’s okay,” Agron says.

Nasir gets off him and the couch. “You sure you don’t want to come tomorrow?”

Agron makes a face. “And ruin your sister’s party? No thanks.”

“You wouldn’t ruin it.” Nasir kisses him on the forehead.

“I don’t think she agrees with you about that,” Agron says. “I better stay home.”

“Okay.” Nasir smiles. “I’ll come by the gym tomorrow then.” He moves to leave, but Agron catches his hand, suddenly needy. He reaches up, cups the back of Nasir’s head and kisses him harshly.

Nasir blinks when he lets him go, before narrow his eyes. “Agron…”

Agron smiles weakly. “See you tomorrow.”

Nasir seems less stressed out when he shows up at the gym in the morning. Oenomaus is driving them hard today and Agron only has time for a quick hug and no talk, but he guesses that means that things are going smoothly. Nasir stays until Agron is finished and promises to wait until Agron has showered and changed.

Just as he has stepped into the changing room and started to undress he remembers that he lefts his hoodie on the floor beside the free weights. He considers just leaving it, but he usually gets cold once he stops sweating and then he’ll probably want it. He doesn’t bother putting his tank top back on before walking out of the room and towards the gym.

He hears Nasir laugh and he thinks that maybe Naevia stayed on after her work-out to talk to him or something. But when he turns the corner, it’s not Naevia Nasir is talking to, but that constantly smiling newbie – Castus or whatever. He has no idea what they’re talking about but Nasir is smiling too, and as Agron watches, Castus leans in close and wraps his fingers around Nasir’s arm.

Agron doesn’t think. All he knows that he is standing still one moment and pushing Nasir back with a palm pressed firmly to his chest and growling to Castus to remove his fucking hand the next.

He doesn’t hear what Castus answers, not really, and it doesn’t even matter because Agron would probably have hit him no matter what he’d said. Fear and anger and jealousy is twisting and turning his stomach like motion sickness and he knows there is no going back even before he has raised his fist.

Castus is not a bad fighter, but Agron have the element of surprise, size, more training and red-hot, blinding fury on his side and soon has him down on his back on the floor, overpowered, and he raises his fist to throw another punch, but his arm is wrenched back. He growls, straining against whomever is holding him.

But Oenomaus’ grip around his wrist doesn’t give and Agron finds himself pulled back, off Castus. Castus is bleeding and Spartacus is helping him off the floor while Nasir is staring at Agron, wide-eyed and furious.

Nasir doesn’t say a word to him as they get into his car and drive towards Agron’s apartment. Agron is still stinging from Oenomaus chewing him out. He isn’t welcome down at the gym for three weeks and Oenomaus made it very clear that if anything like this ever happens again, suspension would be the least of Agron’s troubles.

He has no idea whether Castus plans to press charges or not and right now he doesn’t give a shit, because Nasir isn’t talking to him – refuses to even look at him. His hands are clenched around the steering wheel and his eyes fixed on the road.

“Nasir…” he tries when they are almost there.

“Don’t.” Nasir’s voice is clipped. “The only reason I’m not yelling at you right now is because it would make me too fucking upset to drive.”

Agron keeps his mouth shut until Nasir stops in front of his apartment. He doesn’t pull into one of the parking spaces, just stops right before the front of the building. He leaves the engine on.

Agron chest feels crushed, like there is something broken inside of him. “Could you…?”

“I need to pick up the cake, blow and put up balloons, get dressed and pick up Dima before the party. I don’t have time for this, Agron.” He still isn’t looking at him and Agron’s breath is coming out in small, painful stutters.

Apparently taking mercy on him, Nasir says, “I’ll come by tomorrow after work. We’ll talk then.”

With shaking fingers Agron touches Nasir’s arm lightly, needing something to keep him from breaking into pieces, and for the first time he notices that there is blood on his knuckles. He quickly withdraws his hand.

“Okay.” He nods while trying to figure out how he will gather himself enough to be able to get out of the car. His body is failing him, going into panic-mode.

“I’m not breaking up with you.”

Agron lifts his head too fast to look at Nasir. He is still gazing out the wind-shield and he is biting his lip hard.

But the words still helps. At least enough so that he can get out of the car, all the while trying to not try to catch Nasir’s eye, and walk slowly up to the door. He keeps his head bent down and doesn’t look around as he hears Nasir drive off.

It’s a bad night.

Agron scrubs his hands with too hot water and soap until they are hurting, red and pruny, and doesn’t sleep a blink.

The next day is worse.

The aftermath is always hardest part, when the anger is gone and he is left with nothing but what he has done and disgust and hollowness.

Mira calls at noon, while at lunch, and Agron hopes she’s eating it in her office rather than the cafeteria.

“I heard what happened,” is what she greets him with. “How are you holding up?”

“I may have broken a guy’s nose. You shouldn’t be nice to me, Mir.”

With her mouth full, Mira says, “What did I tell you about being a martyr? I’m not being nice. I’m wondering.”

“Not good. Nasir hates me.”

“He does not.”

“He does.” Tears burn his eyes. He thinks about the other night, when he had stayed over at Nasir’s and Alyx had snuggled up against him and Agron had scratched her stomach until she was purring and affectionately butting her head against his chest and he had looked up to see Nasir watching him with an infinitely fond look in his eyes.

Chances are he will never look at Agron like that again.

Mira gives up. “Why did you do it?” she asks instead.

Agron doesn’t answer, because that part is the worst, really.

“Agron?”

“He was talking to Nasir,” he mumbles. “Touching his arm.”

Silence. Agron closes his eyes, waiting for it.

“You’re a fucking asshole.” She states it like a fact, without anger in her voice. “Really, Agron? Is he your property now or what?”

“That’s not what it was.”

“Wasn’t it?”

“No!” Agron takes a deep breath to keep the swell of anger down. “I just… I can’t live without him, Mir. I can’t. And I… overreacted.”

“And your idea of keeping him and telling him you love him is to punch every guy that as so much as glances his way in the face?”

“No.”

“He is not a thing. He doesn’t belong to you.”

“I know that!”

“Your behaviour would indicate otherwise.” Mira sighs. “I’m not trying to rile you up, Agron. You know I don’t. But you have to think about what the fuck you’re doing and stop making bad fucking excuses.”

“I… I know. I know that.”

“Good.” There is a clattering noise. “Gods, I’m sorry, but I need to pee and find the right PowerPoint for my next class and then get across campus before one, so I need to go. Talk to Nasir.”

“I will,” Agron says defensively. It wasn’t like he was just going to leave it like this. “Stop naming your files random letter-combinations.”

“Yeah, yeah. Talk to him. Bye!”

“Bye.”

Agron just drops the phone onto the mattress next to him. Dread lies like a stone in his stomach, cold and hard and unforgiving.

There are dark rings around Nasir’s eyes and his hair is pulled into a messy ponytail.

Agron is at loss for what to do – if he should kiss him or touch him at all, or if it’s better he keeps his distance.

“I’ve made coffee,” he says instead. “You want some?”

Nasir nods and follows him into the kitchen. Agron takes his usual cup out of the cupboard and a blue for himself and fills them both to the brim before sitting down. Nasir is tracing a vein in the wood with his finger.

“I’m sorry,” Agron says after a long while of silence during which Nasir doesn’t touch his coffee. “I acted completely out of turn and as a consequence I did something very bad. I’m so scared of losing you.” The last part he says very quietly.

“You were afraid Castus was stealing me away?” Nasir says and his voice is hard.

Agron swallows. “No. I’m afraid that you will realise that he would be better for you than I am.”

“And you thought that would help?”

He looks down at his hands. “I didn’t think.”

“No, I guess you didn’t.” Nasir sounds sad and resigned. “But you shouldn’t have to think about it. You should just know. You should trust me. And even if you don’t trust me, you shouldn’t just fucking beat up a guy for talking to me.”

“He touched you,” Agron says before he can stop himself.

Nasir actually gapes at him. “Not to get petty, but Gannicus kissed you on the mouth when we left Naevia and Crixus’ party a few weeks back.”

“Yeah, but that was…” Agron bites his lip, shuts up. That’s not the point here. “I fucked up. Badly. If I could just…” He trails off dejectedly, his shoulder sagging. He wishes he knew what to say to repair this, that he could make the damage undone by just finding the right combination of words.

Nasir slumps against the back of his chair, fingers still tracing over the wood of the table-top. “Did you sleep at all last night? Eat?”

Agron shakes his head no.

“I’m…” Nasir’s hands still.

Suddenly afraid of what he is thinking, of what he is about to say, Agron reaches over and kisses him. Nasir makes a muffled noise that may have been a objection, but in the next moment his hand is cupping Agron’s cheek and his mouth falls open as Agron licks along his bottom lip.

“You’re…” Agron can feel him swallow from where his hand is on the side of his neck and his thumb caressing his throat softly. “You’re apologising to Castus.”

“Yeah. Of course.” He plants a kiss at the corner of Nasir’s lip, before licking into his mouth, mashing their noises almost painfully together in the process.

Nasir’s hands are running over his sides, palms like brands on his skin, and his lips are hot and wet against Agron’s shoulder blades as he kisses the shape of the bone, tastes the salt of the sweat there.

But Agron just presses his ass back against him, making him groan and roll his hips forward and deeper inside of him.

“Harder,” he grunts, fingers gripping the pillows in front of him. “Harder.”

Nasir sits back up on his knees and grabs on to Agron’s hips, moving his own fast and hard, like Agron asked for. Agron bites his lip and breathes jaggedly through his nose at the pain-pleasure of Nasir fucking into him, his knees sliding and burning against the sheet with each heavy thrust.

He can barely hear Nasir over the sound of his own breathing and the blood rushing in his ears, and all he is aware of is his cock inside of him, fucking him. This is probably not what either of them wants or needs; Agron isn’t even particularly hard anymore and this isn’t really about getting off or connecting, but something else entirely.

“Harder,” he says, because he needs to feel him, needs to know that he still has this after the last horrible twenty fours hours, needs Nasir to know that there is something Agron can give him. He thought this would help, that it would mend things, but it doesn’t. With every thrust Nasir just feels further away. “Deeper.”

And Nasir complies, desperately, as if he feels it too. He moves with long, forceful strokes that Agron can feel down to his toes and it’s too hard and too deep, but Agron doesn’t tell him to stop, just braces himself against and allows the feel of it envelope him, letting out a choked-off grunt every time Nasir’s groin meets his ass with a sharp sound of flesh against flesh.

Everything just feels worse afterward, when Nasir has pulled out and they are lying next to each other on the bed without touching. Agron hasn’t even bothered moving short of collapsing down in a heap on the bed, cheek pressed against his wrinkled sheets and breathing roughly through his open mouth.

He thinks that he would be having a panic-attack if his body had been able to muster one up. He is sticky with lube and sweat and come and it gets uncomfortable fast, but he doesn’t do anything about it, just rolls himself into the comforter as if to guard himself from something.

“That didn’t really help, did it,” Nasir says after several more long, horrible minutes.

Agron doesn’t say anything. It feels like they’ve tainted something. He doesn’t know how they will come back from this. He thinks of how Nasir smiled at him before he stepped into the dressing room yesterday and wishes time would have stopped there.

“Can you look at me?” Nasir says finally.

Agron turns over slowly. Nasir looks so tired and his eyes are a little too shiny.

“This isn’t working anymore,” he says and Agron’s heart stops for a second. “You need to talk to someone. You need help. I know you don’t want to, but your insecurities are going to kill us, Agron.” And a split second later he realises what he just said and his face falls. “Jesus. Shit.” He immediately reaches out, as if on instinct, and grabs hold of Agron’s hand. “Agron, I didn’t mean it like that. It was the worst possible…”

It was and Agron shakes his head to make him stop, not in any form to deal with it just now. “No,” he croaks, his throat having seized up. “I can’t. They’ll… They’ll take him away from me, Nasir.”

Nasir just looks at him, dark eyes unreadable. “Okay,” he says finally and very reluctantly. “Then you’re going to have to talk to me. Stop pretending to be getting better when you’re not. And start trusting me. For real.”

Agron nods. He will. He will try. He can feel himself relaxing, the tightly wound knot inside of him loosening a little bit and he blinks as a sudden wave of exhaustion crashes over him. He is tired from emotional upheaval, tired from not having slept for too long, tired from how it always seem to end up like this. He wonders how many times they’ve gone through this process or something like it and how many more times they will.

How many more times they can before there is nothing left of them.

“I think we should sleep now,” Nasir says. “We’ll talk more in the morning, okay?”

“Yes,” Agron says, happy to comply. “You’re staying?”

“Yes,” Nasir says, braiding his fingers through Agron’s. “I’m staying.”

Chapter Text

Agron sleeps fitfully, wakes up every ten minutes and expects to find Nasir gone from his bed, sneaked out into the night and never to return. In the gloomy hours of early morning the sheets are soaked through with sweat and around six he gives up and gets out of bed to take a shower.

When he comes out, Nasir has migrated to the middle of the bed, spread out like a starfish, still deeply asleep. Agron pulls on a pair of sweats and bends down to kiss his forehead.

It’s too early to start breakfast, but Agron needs something to do with himself so he starts mixing together pancake-batter from scratch. By seven he has a tall pile of pancakes ready and he puts them into the oven on low temperature to keep them warm until they can be eaten.

His fingers drum restlessly against the counter-top. He wants to go out for a run, work out some of the tension in his body, but leaving Nasir to wake up alone without having resolved anything would probably be a bad idea.

Clenching his teeth, he sends off a quick text to Oenomaus, asking for Castus’ number. Oenomaus replies quickly with nothing but a string of numbers. Agron had expected questions or a condition to promise not to use it to harass Castus more but Oenomaus apparently have more faith in him than that.

He saves the number. He wishes he could call him right away and have it over with but he doubts that Castus is up this early and it is probably best not to antagonise him further.

He fiddles a bit with his phone, answers a text from Mira asking how things are going and ignores the one from Spartacus after skimming it. Dude has never got the purpose of texting – it’s for swift, short communication, not fucking essays. The tone of the text-message is rather stern and Agron thinks that Spartacus seems to need to be reminded of the fact that he isn’t everyone’s father again, but it is still nice to know that he cares.

It’s unbelievable that Agron lasted as long without them as he did, really.

He checks his Instagram account and smiles at a candid shot of a glowering Saxa captioned by Mira: Brave won out over another re-watch of Alien. It is hashtagged #grumpysaxa and #meridawouldsokickripleysass.

He assumes it is a long-standing argument and he smiles at the picture of his sullen cousin even as his gut twists. He knows that Mira and Saxa’s relationship is far from frictionless, but at least they are so freaking happy together it’s almost disgusting. He wants that. He wants a relationship where he and Nasir would bicker about which movie to watch rather than whether or not Agron needs a psychiatrist or not. 

He slides his thumb down to update Instagram to have something to do, but all his friends are asleep and no new pictures are forthcoming.

It doesn’t take long before Nasir wakes and gets up. He is rubbing eyes tiredly as he walks into the kitchen and Agron pushes a cup of coffee into his hand without having to be prompted. Anything to make this easier.

“I’ve made pancakes,” he says in a way he hope conveys that he isn’t trying to bribe his way out of talking this through.

Nasir surprises him by pushing him up against the counter to kiss him like his life depends on it, lips firm and needy again Agron’s.

“I just can’t stand that kicked puppy-look on you,” he says in response to Agron’s questioning silence. He delves in again, fingers curling around Agron’s upper arms and his tongue hot and insistent against his lips and Agron lets him lick into his mouth, groans quietly and ignores the crick in his neck he can feel coming on from standing with his head bent down.

Eventually Nasir lets Agron’s bottom lip slide slowly from between his and plants one final chaste, close-mouthed kiss on his mouth before resting his head against Agron’s chest, hands going around him to spread out over the small of his back.

“You’re confusing me,” Agron says, flustered and warmed.

“I’m feeling confused too,” Nasir says. “I’m not used to… You make me feel so much, and it’s hard to handle sometimes. I haven’t forgiven you, but I just can’t…” He sighs. “I’m afraid of losing you.”

“You don’t need to be,” Agron answers immediately.

Nasir snorts and gives him an incredulous look.

“Okay, I see your point,” Agron mutters, knowing he’s being hypocritical. “I asked Oenomaus’ for Castus phone number,” he continues, effectively changing the subject. “I’m gonna call him when I’m sure he’s awake.”

“His nose isn’t broken,” Nasir says. “But it was a near thing.”

Tightening his arms involuntarily around Nasir, he asks, “Have you talked to him directly or…?”

Nasir looks him straight and very calmly into the eyes. “Are you fucking kidding me, Agron?”

Agron shuts his mouth with an audible click.

Sighing, Nasir grabs his hand. “I’m hungry. Let’s eat pancakes.”

After they’ve finished off half of the massive amount of pancakes Agron made, they migrate to the couch and lie there closed up in their own thoughts, but close and touching, and Agron realises that Nasir wants to talk about all the shit they really need to talk about just as little as he himself does.

“Tell me about him,” Nasir says all of a sudden, echoing one of the first things he ever said to Agron, so long ago when getting ready to ink Duro and himself into Agron’s skin forever.

Unconsciously, he lifts his hand to briefly stroke his fingers over the tattoo.

 “I…” No words come out. It’s too hard. He doesn’t know how to share that with Nasir. If he wants or can to share it.

Nasir rolls onto his stomach, on top of Agron. “Come on. You love him like crazy,” he says gently. Carefully. “I want to know him too.”

Agron’s eyes immediately fill with tears and he looks away, but Nasir doesn’t. Agron can feel his eyes on him even as he locks up at the ceiling, thinking about how many hours he has spent here, mourning alone and in silence, desperately trying to hold on to every scrap of memory he has of his little brother.

“He is a fucking terror,” he says finally, unable to talk about him in the past tense and his words quiet and almost swallowed down rather than let out. “He… There is nothing he loves more than driving people up the wall. Even me. But I still love him. He’s my best friend. We got our first tattoos together,” he says and Nasir touches the line of text on his right pectoral.

Agron looks at him. “How did you know?”

“I didn’t.” The edge of Nasir’s nail traces over the small letters. “But it’s the oldest ink you have and it seems like something you would get while pretty young.” He contemplates the words for a moment. “‘So tear me open, but beware,’” he reads out loud.

“It’s fitting, really,” Agron mumbles, suddenly wondering why his nineteen-year-old self thought it was a good idea to get that particular quote as a permanent mark on his body. Then it was just fun – a good song, a cool line that sounded mysterious and vaguely sinister, and his very first tat. Now it seems like a warning: here be monsters.

“Duro had…” He has to take a deep breath. “He continued it. In the same place. ‘There’s things inside without a care.’ That’s the rest of the line. Metallica.”

“I know,” Nasir says without thinking. “I looked it up,” he adds, a little embarrassed. “After that first session. I couldn’t quite let you go.”

“I’m glad,” Agron whispers.

Their teeth clash when they kiss and it’s rough and uncoordinated and not really pleasant, but it’s not meant to be either.

Nasir is the first to break the kiss and pulls away to lie down on Agron again, pillowing his head on his chest.

“I wish it could just be simple,” he murmurs.

“Yeah,” Agron says. “I know.”

“You’d think he would have liked me?” He asks it quietly and again so very carefully, like he always has been during the few times he has mentioned Duro, respecting that he belongs to Agron but asking him to share if he wants to. If he is able to.

Running a fingertip along the shell of Nasir’s ear and making him shudder, Agron thinks about it. He thinks of Duro – crazy and hyperactive and funny and warm and friendly – and Nasir – strong and fierce and smart and dry-witted. He thinks about how Duro would tease Nasir about his height and how Nasir would glower at him. He thinks about how Nasir sprawls possessively all over him in his sleep and how Duro hates having to share Agron to the point where their parents more than once remarked that it was probably a good thing that they decided that two children were quite enough.

“Not at first.” He smiles, even though it hurts. “But after a while he would have adored you, I think. He would have followed you around and made you team up against me and got you shitty birthday presents and showed up randomly at your place to steal your food, and… a-and…” But he is crying too hard to go on, hot tears streaming down his face and he can taste their salt.

He thinks of how me met Nasir because of Duro and how Duro would have loved Nasir’s work, spent as much time as possible down at the shop hanging over his shoulder.

Looking like his heart is breaking in the face of Agron’s grief, Nasir says, infinitely softly and with the tiniest smile, “He sounds terrible.”

Agron laughs and sobs at the same time. “He w-would have forced you to t-tattoo him for f-free,” he says. “And he would have c-cursed at you all through the session, p-pissing you off.”

“You think?”

“Yeah.” Agron runs his hand through Nasir’s hair, trying to concentrate on the sleek softness of it against his skin and the way it catches the light to keep some of the worst pain away. “You have no patience with idiots.”

“Not quite true,” Nasir says, touching Agron’s mouth, first with his fingers and then his lips.

The words brings back the memory the feel of Castus’ nose scrunching beneath his fist, the look on Nasir’s face when Agron was dragged off the other man, the hurt in Nasir’s eyes that surfaces every time Agron fails to trust him.

He doesn’t know what to say in reply to that, so instead he says, “I have pictures of him. Do you want to see?”

“Yes,” Nasir says.

The pictures are still stashed under the couch, so Agron rests one arm around Nasir to keep him in place and reaches down to grab the box. It’s dusty. Agron tries and fails to remember when he last vacuum-cleaned beneath the couch.

Not all of the pictures are of Duro. Most are taken at various family gatherings or are of stuff they’ve done together with friends. Some of them are from when they were kids and Nasir immediately picks one of those up.

Duro is only one year old in that picture and Agron is almost three and they are dressed up in nice clothes. Agron remembers that moment vaguely. Their father tried to make them sit up straight on the couch and take a good photo for the Christmas card. In the picture, Duro is already sliding off the couch and Agron’s are taking off his pants to get his brand new dinosaur-adorned underwear in the picture. Dad had given up rather quickly after that.

“Gods, you’re cute,” Nasir says, eyes on little Agron.

He rifles through more photos; snorts at pictures of Agron, Duro and Mira making funny faces and one of Gannicus passed out in a bathtub, solemnly studies pictures of Duro and Agron laughing together or holding their arms around each other, smiles at the pictures of Agron with dreads.

There are pictures that aren’t in the box, of Agron and Duro splashing around in pools or lakes or the ocean as children, of them swimming or surfing or sunbathing together as teenagers or adults. Pictures that Agron got rid of, unable to ever look at again.

“You’re not that alike,” Nasir says, looking at close-up of Agron and Duro’s faces, cheeks mushed together to fit them both into the frame. “You have the same smile, though.”

“Duro takes after Dad,” Agron says, “and I Mum.”

Nasir picks up another photograph. They are spread all over the couch by now. “Is this them?”

“Yeah.” It’s a picture from when Duro was still a baby, so Mum and Dad are fairly young in it.

“I can see the resemblance,” Nasir says. He picks up yet another pictures, one where Agron still has dreads.

“What happened to the hair?” he asks.

Agron looks at the picture. It was taken during some warm summer day. Agron’s hair is neatly pulled back while Duro’s is all over the place. The dreads were a fucking pain in the ass, but they helped each other to palm roll and backcomb loose hair into the dreads. If they hadn’t, Agron would probably have got rid of the fucking things a week after he’d had them made.

The day after Duro’s funeral he had hacked them off with a pair of scissors. It had looked like shit, but he couldn’t have cared less. When it had started to grow out, Crixus had pushed him down a chair and evened it out. Agron still has no idea where he learned to handle a pair of scissors and back then that has been the furthest thing on his mind.

“Ah,” Nasir says awkwardly when Agron doesn’t answer and puts the picture back into the box. He starts gathering up more of them, putting them back.

Agron’s hands stop him. “It’s fine.” Nasir looks dubiously at him. “Well, not fine. It hurts like f-fuck, but I said we’d talk.” He shifts so he has more of Nasir pressed against him, warm against his side. “And I… I want you to know about him.”

So Nasir leaves the pictures where they are and asks questions and Agron cries and hurts and breathes jaggedly, but he does answer and talks until his voice is hoarse and he is utterly exhausted.

It isn’t easy and he doesn’t know if it makes him feel better or worse, but Nasir listens and holds him and gets to know the most important person in Agron’s life and that makes it worth the pain.

Apologising for not-quite breaking someone’s nose is not something to be done over the phone, but Agron has no wish to meet face to face with Castus again so he chooses the easy way out.

“Hi. It’s Agron,” he says when someone picks up at the other end. It sounds like pulling teeth and there is no possibility that Castus misses it.

“Hi, man.” Castus, by contrast, sounds wary, which is unsurprising considering the circumstances. The ‘man’-part ssets Agron on edge, though. They don’t know each other.

“I just wanted to apologise.” It is as if there is a stop after each word and he can’t seem to quit doing it. Fuck, he hates this. “What I did completely out of line and I hope that you are okay.” His mind is blank. “And, um, I. Yeah, I’m really sorry.”

“Apology accepted,” Castus says easily.

“Um, good.” Agron is racking his brain trying to remember if anyone has ever forced him to apologise for smashing his fist into another’s face before because he has no idea how to fucking do this. “I, uh, would totally understand if you pressed charges…”

“Nah,” Castus says. “I won’t. But if it happens again...”

“It won’t.”

“Good.”

“Yeah.” Agron clears his throat. “So. Yeah. Take care of yourself. Bye.”

“Tell Nasir I said hi. Bye.”

What the fuck…?

He disconnects the call, fighting down the anger with an effort, and walks out into the kitchen. Nasir looks half-annoyed and half-amused.

“You’re horrible at that.”

Agron shoots him a dark look as he starts to empty the dish rack, desperate to keep his hands busy. “What do you want me to do – send him fucking flowers?”

Seriously, what is Castus’ fucking deal? “Tell Nasir I said hi.” Never in a million fucking years, Agron thinks.

“Agron, why are you abusing the dishes?” Nasir says and Agron realises that he has been slamming them around a great deal more than necessary.

“I’m not,” he says, even though the cup he just put down is chipped in a place it wasn’t before.

“Your acting like a child.”

“I’m not.”

Nasir’s only reply is a raised eyebrow.

“Maybe a little bit.” Agron holds up his hand, thumb and index finger half an inch apart to show exactly how little. “But that guy fucking bugs the hell out of me, okay? Not that doesn’t make it right to punch him in the way,” he adds before Nasir has a chance to say something along those lines. “Can’t a guy just be allowed to get unreasonably frustrated without being fucking interrogated?”

“Yes, but don’t take it out on me,” Nasir says calmly.

The wind goes out of Agron and he slumps, the back of his head thumping against the cupboard. “I wasn’t,” he says. “I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry.”

Then he moves over the where Nasir is sitting. Tilting his head up with a hand on his chin he kisses him, trying to put everything he doesn’t have the words for in the kiss because even though he fucks up a lot and is unable to talk about shit he needs Nasir to know that he loves him.

Come Monday, he brings Nasir lunch at work because he hasn’t for a while. In some ways being suspended is really convenient.

There seems to be a lull at the shop when he arrives. Nasir is sitting on the counter, swining his legs and talking to Chadara who is standing behind it while Julie is stretched out on the couch, doodling in a notebook. Dima is nowhere to be seen.

“Hi, love,” Nasir says with a smile as Agron moves to stand between his thighs, hands falling to rest around his waist.

“Hi.”

Nasir smells of tattooing – ink and antiseptic – when Agron leans in to kiss him. He tugs a little at the end of his braid, smiling into the kiss as Nasir makes a very low noise in his throat.

“Okay guys, that’s enough. You’re food will get cold,” Chadara says, sounding more bemused than anything else.

“I brought sandwiches,” Agron mumbles against Nasir’s mouth.

Nasir, however, pulls back at that and snatches up the bag Agron deposited on the counter to look inside it. “Chicken sandwiches?”

Agron steals the bag back out of his hands. “Yeah, and you’re not getting one unless I get one more kiss.”

Nasir smiles, causing Agron’s knees to go weak, leans in to land the most chaste kiss ever on his mouth, and then makes grabby hands. “Now gimme. I’m hungry.” Agron hands him the bag and he opens it. “Mm, cheesecake. You’re really spoiling me, you know.”

Agron has tried to at least – letting Nasir choose stupid films with subtitles at the movies, bringing him his morning coffee in bed, giving him lazy blowjobs before he has to get up to go to work and only making him a little bit late, and brushing and braiding his hair before they go to sleep. He loves Nasir to the moon and back, but he’s shit at showing it. There are parts of him he has no idea how to go about to change, but he can at least do what little he can.

Agron leans his hip against the edge of the counter and kisses the top of Nasir’s head as Nasir digs into his sandwich. “You deserve it.”

“Ugh,” Chadara says. “I think I’m going go eat my lunch somewhere you aren’t being sappy all over the place.”

Chapter Text

“How are you holding up?” Nasir asks, dabbing carefully at Castus’ arm to clear it of ink and blood.

“Good,” Castus says, but his voice sounds strained.

Nasir just nods and starts in again, filling the blue stencil-lines with black ink. “So, pirates, huh?” he says as he works the needle along the outmost line of one of the ship.

Castus has asked him for something pirate-y and told him to make it classic-looking. Rather than making your run-of-the-mill Jack Roger with crossed bones beneath, though, Nasir had drawn a ship with billowing sails and waves crashing around it as the central piece and added a frame made up of pieces of bones and a dramatic sky as a backdrop. His hoping that he’ll be able to make the black and grey really pop and look as if the ship is moving over the waves right out of Castus’ arm.

“Yeah.” Castus twists his head, looks down on the half-finished tattoo, and smiles when he sees how far along it is. “Becoming a pirate was my biggest dream when I was a kid. I was obsessed with them. When I was old enough to realise that there are no pirates anymore, I was crushed.”

“I can imagine,” Nasir says, a little too focused on his work to be an especially fun conversationalist right now. “Just tell me if you need something to drink or anything.”

“Anything?” Castus says with a wide grin and the crooking of an eyebrow.

Nasir rolls his eyes with a smile. It’s not like he didn’t see that coming; he has long since learned that Castus never lets an opportunity to flirt pass him by. Nasir swears he even saw Barca get a little bit flustered the other day down at the gym. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been able to overhear what Castus had said to him.

Nasir digs in the needle a little harder than is absolutely necessary in retaliation. “Remember that you might end up with a smiley face instead of a ship if you don’t behave,” he jokes. He lifts the needle off Castus’ arm, and just as he dips it down in the ink cup, his phone chimes, alerting him to a text from Agron. His smile widens, even though he can’t read it from here.

Nasir is so gone for that man, however idiotic he may be at times, that it isn’t even funny.

As if he is privy to Nasir’s thoughts, Castus says, “I guess your boyfriend wouldn’t appreciate you tattooing me.”

Putting the needle back, Nasir hums noncommittally.

“Does he know I’m here?”

“I choose both friends and clients regardless of Agron’s opinion of them,” Nasir says, hoping to cut this particular conversation short.

Castus is silent for a minute. “I heard he lost his brother.”

Nasir nods. “A few months back, yeah.”

“It can’t be easy.”

Not knowing whether Castus means for Nasir or for Agron, Nasir just nods again.

“How did he…?”

“He drowned.”

“I guess that makes him afraid of losing people.”

“Terrified.” Nasir looks up at him. “Not that it is any excuse.”

“I have something for you,” Agron says the moment he steps into Nasir’s apartment before grabbing hold off his chin to pull him into a kiss.

“And explanation to why you’re half an hour late?” Nasir asks, pushing Agron’s jacket off his shoulders before tugging him in closer by a handful of his t-shirt.

Agron raises his head slightly and grins when he realises Nasir impatience for what it is. “Yes–”

Nasir muffles the sound of the word with his mouth, sucks at his upper lip and makes Agron’s breath hitch.

“I got you a key,” Agron tells him, their mouths still pressed together and muffling his words.

Nasir steps back. “As in to your apartment?”

Agron holds the key up, new and shining. “Yes.” Despite his reddened lips and cheeks, he looks suddenly nervous. “If you want it, of course.”

Nasir closes his hand around it and Agron’s hand. “Of course I want it. We should get you one to mine too,” he adds, mostly to see that smile that makes such ridiculous things to Nasir’s everything spread over Agron’s face.

Agron takes hold of his hand, turning towards the door. “I think that place is open until seven.”

Nasir stops him with a hand on his arm. “Priorities,” he says and reaches up to kiss him again, before dragging him off to his bedroom.

Nasir turns his head to the side to give Agron better access to his neck and sighs as Agron works another finger inside of him, pumping them slowly in and out.

It’s like a burn under his skin, the want, but he lets Agron take his time because he uses it so fucking well.

Agron bites down on his collarbone and twists his fingers and Nasir groans. He curls one leg around Agron’s waist, needing him closer. Agron takes his mouth, gasping against his lips, and Nasir’s fingers play over the soft skin of Agron’s neck as Agron’s tongue slides into his mouth, hot and insistent, echoing the movements of his fingers stretching him open.

Sex with Agron is always spectacular, and Nasir loves it so much the more since it is one of the few parts of their relationship that just simply works. Entwined and caught up in each other’s bodies it is so easy to ignore all problems and hardships, and focus on nothing but each other. When they come together, everything just fits into place and nothing exists or matter but the two of them.

“Agron,” Nasir murmurs, pressing a long line of kisses against Agron’s jaw, nosing up over his cheekbone. “Enough.”

Agron listens. He kisses him one last time, pulls his fingers out and lifts up a corner of the sheet to find the lube. While he is busy locating it, Nasir sits up and moves so that he is kneeling in front of the headboard, hands going up to grip it.

Agron’s body is like a furnace as he moves up behind him, reaching out on hand to grasp the headboard right next to Nasir’s.

“I love you,” he mumbles hotly into his ear.

Nasir is about to reply, but Agron guides his cock to his entrance and is pressing in, not fast but steadily, and Nasir’s hands tighten on the headboard as he throws his head back to rest against Agron’s shoulder. He doesn’t even care about holding in his moans, but just lets the sound spill from his mouth, uncaring about anything that isn’t Agron’s cock stretching him open.

Agron moves his hand up to Nasir’s chest, to roll his nipples before thumb and forefinger, while his mouth finds the sensitive spot on Nasir’s neck, teeth and tongue working at the skin mercilessly.

When he bottoms out, he enfolds Nasir in his arms and stills. Nasir is outright panting by now, overwhelmed and needing more.

It takes many minutes before Agron finally moves, rolling his hips slowly without really thrusting so as to be able to keep Nasir pressed firmly against his chest. He keeps on doing it, working into him with continued languid strokes until Nasir’s skin feels too hot and his arms are shaking with exertion and need.

“Gods,” he breathes out as Agron licks a wet stripe up his neck and bites lightly at his earlobe. “You’re so fucking…”

But right then Agron pulls out a little way more and slam back inside and Nasir forgets whatever it was that he was supposed to say.

He removes one hand from the headboard – leaving the other to help him brace against Agron’s increasingly, gloriously, powerful thrusts – to fist his cock. He leans back, resting most of his body weight against Agron and Agron laughs through a moan, move his hands to Nasir’s hips to hold him steady. Goosebumps break out on Nasir’s skin as Agron caresses his thigh, nails scratching lightly against skin lightly dusted with hair.

No one’s body has ever fitted as good against his as Agron’s does, and he thinks about Agron’s fears and jealousy and how stupid he is sometimes because there is no one else Nasir could possibly want, in any way.

Agron makes a sobbing noise as Nasir pushes back against him and Nasir can feel how that he is starting to lose control, feel it in the way his body goes rigid and the rhythm of his hips erratic and he tightens his grip on his own cock, stroking faster, trying to match the rhythm when Agron’s movements inside of him.

“You close?” Agron asks into his hair, voice hoarse and breathless. Nasir nods and Agron presses messy kisses to his temple and cheek. His large palm closes around Nasir’s hand and Nasir can hold it off no longer, feeling the familiar tingle along his spine as Agron’s thrusts manage to nail the exact right angle and both their hands jack him roughly.

“Fuck, fuck, FUCK!” he shouts as he comes and would have fallen forward into the wall, spent and boneless, if it hadn’t been for Agron’s arms still encircling his upper body.

He rests his elbows on the headboard and his forehead against the wall, struggling and failing to catch his breath as Agron goes in for his neck again, leaving beard burn and love bites in the wake of his mouth.

Nasir is always sluggish and only half-conscious after he’s come, and it takes a while before he notices that Agron is still hard inside of him.

“You’re gonna finish?” he mumbles without moving or opening his eyes. Agron should really be made illegal because sex with him is clearly a health hazard.

Agron chuckles at him and rests his chin on his shoulder, palms dragging slow and warm over the outside of his thighs. “Mhm. You okay to move?”

Nasir makes a noise that can mean either yes or no, and Agron takes hold of his hips to ease himself out.

Starting to come back to himself and knowing what Agron wants, Nasir turns around and lays his arms around Agron’s neck, grinning up at him. “Want me to ride you?”

Agron smiles and sits back on his feet, helping Nasir to settle over his lap. “Yeah.”

“You’re very predictable,” Nasir mumbles into his ear, his hand already guiding Agron back inside of him.

“And you’re very sexy,” Agron says, tipping Nasir head back to kiss his neck, right below his chin. His lips trail down and out over his shoulder as Nasir slides down on him.

Agron hisses and leans back, mouth abandoning Nasir’s neck, shifting his hips to sheathe himself fully inside of him. His eyes are halfway closed and his hands restless and roaming over Nasir’s skin, wanting to reach and touch everywhere at once. Still a little lethargic from his orgasm, Nasir is content with watching him and let Agron set the pace. He cannot believe Agron’s face sometimes, when they are like this, because the pain and loss normally etched in every line and angle is gone, banished by pleasure and love. He is never more beautiful.

Nasir is content to watch, but Agron wants more, wants him, and nips at his lip and grabs at his hips and ass, encouraging him to move. Nasir does, lifting up and sliding down hard on him while his nails rake over Agron’s back and it only last for about an another minute before Agron comes, with his back bowed and Nasir’s mouth smothering his shouts with kisses.

 

They nap, sated and lazy, and Nasir wakes first and gets out of bed to get some water. As he fills a glass from the tap, he grimaces a little at the dried come flaking on his stomach and the feel of more come and lube between his thighs, but can’t really be bothered to do anything about it. They’ll shower, later.

He returns to bed, snuggling up against Agron’s back. He lies there with his nose pressed against his shoulder, just breathing in the sweat-and-musk scent of him, for a little while before nudging him awake.

Agron immediately turns over onto his back with a tired noise, and Nasir lays his head on his shoulder, Agron’s arm curling around him.

“What’d you wake me for?” he mumbles.

“It’s half past five in the afternoon, Agron.”

Agron turns his head to squint at him. “You wanna get up?”

“No.”

It’s comfortable, just resting there in the sheets saturated with the smell of them and sex, Agron so relaxed next to him. Nasir’s foot strokes along his calf and Agron brings Nasir’s hand up, kissing his fingers.

But it doesn’t take long before they begin to get out of their post-coital slash post-nap lethargy; Agron tickles Nasir side and makes him smack his hand away and Nasir gets his phone from the nightstand to check the text he got while otherwise and more pleasantly engaged. It’s from Dima, asking him if they should drive down to Gram’s one or two days before her birthday and reminding him that they need to get Chadara a present for hers.

Nasir groans silently. There are too many birthdays; he knows too much people.

“I’m thinking about reducing my social circle,” he tells Agron, putting his phone back without replying to the text message.

Agron presses a kiss against his throat. “I hope I’m safe.”

“Just keep on doing that and you’ll be fine.”

Agron laughs and Nasir is so in love it amazes him. He didn’t even know it could feel love like this before Agron came along.

“So what have you done today?” Agron asks, rolling over onto his side to be able to look at Nasir without craning his neck. “Fun day at work?”

Inwardly, Nasir sighs. He had been hoping to put it off a little longer, but it’s probably best to just have it over with, even though he really doesn’t feel like spoiling this afternoon. “I tattooed Castus today. A pirate ship on his arm.”

Agron stills. “Castus?”

“Yeah.”

It’s curious how he almost can feel the anger radiating from Agron’s body.

“I thought I had made it clear that I’d prefer it if you didn’t spend time with him.” Agron’s voice is cold.

Sometimes it’s very hard knowing the reason for and understanding Agron’s bullshit behaviour. Nasir wants to get angry too, and lash out, make him hurt for what he does to him with his suspicions and jealousy and non-verbal accusations. Sometimes he doesn’t want to understand where Agron is coming from, doesn’t want be aware of exactly how afraid Agron is of losing him, how he clutch at him in his sleep and how agitated he becomes if he wakes up and Nasir isn’t next to him when he is supposed to be.

But he doesn’t want to hurt Agron, not really, so all he says is, “And I thought I had made it clear that you have no say in what people I am spending time with.”

“Do you think I don’t see how he looks at you?”

Nasir moves away from Agron, sits up against the headboard and pulls the sheet over his lap – not to punish him or be petty, but because he needs to stand his ground in this. “Just listen to yourself,” he says, forcing his voice to remain calm only with great effort. “What the fuck does it matter how he looks at me?”

“He flirts with you!”

“He flirts with everyone!”

Agron, now livid, sits up as well. “Can you honestly tell me that you don’t find him attractive? At all?”

Nasir looks him right in the eye, since he’s learned that it is the best way to handle these situations. “No.”

NO?” Agron roars, looking so hurt, so betrayed, that Nasir wavers, wants to take it back and kiss him and never talk about this ever again.

But he won’t. “No, love, I can’t,” he says. “He is an attractive man. So are pretty much all of our male friends.” He gives Agron a pointed look. It’s not like Agron’s eyes never stray.

“Yes, but, but…” Agron’s nostrils are flaring. “They don’t fucking look at you like that!”

“No, they don’t.” Nasir doesn’t know himself how he can stay so calm, but somehow he does, because the only way they’ll ever solve this is if Agron realises how fucking stupid he is being right now. “Love,” he takes Agron’s hand and Agron lets him. “We’re solving this now, once and for all. No, listen to me,” he says when Agron opens his mouth. “If I hadn’t met you, there is a possibility that I would have responded,” he searches for the right word and doesn’t quite find one, “favourably to him flirting with me.”  Agron tries to withdraw his hand, but Nasir holds on, determined. “But I did met you first,” he says, his tone firm. “And I’m very, very glad I did. This is the last time I say this, Agron, and if you don’t get it, then it’s your problem because at this point it feel like I’m just patching your ego up over and over again. I love you, you idiot. Castus is a handsome man and I like him as a friend, but he’s not the one I love. Why can’t you just get that?” He fails to keep the frustration out of his voice, but perhaps that is just a good thing.

Agron looks stricken and then he turns his head away, shamed.

“You’ve told me this many times. Too many,” he says finally, looking back at Nasir. “I’m sorry.”

And Nasir lets him apologise, lets him be forgiven, and Agron pulls him to his chest and Nasir cups his face with his hands, and they kiss with mouths hungrily seeking each other out. Nasir doesn’t like the expression ‘making love’ because it just sounds silly, but that’s what they do, in truth; Agron pressing him into the mattress, barely moving, keeping his eyes on him throughout and kissing him like the world is about to end.

Nasir lets his anger and disappointment evaporate and disappear, and they go to sleep in each other’s arms like they always to, Agron’s breath soft and even in his ear. He knows that this isn’t the end of it. Next time it will not be Castus, but it will be something else. But he ignores it, because for now things are good again.

Agron wakes in the morning and smiles at him, gives him a sleepy, close-mouthed kiss and then they have breakfast in bed and more sex before they move to the couch where Nasir works on some sketches for next week’s clients with Agron curled around him and handing him pens and Nasir loves him so much.

"Nasir?” Agron asks after more than an hour of almost unbroken silence.

"Yeah?" Nasir lowers the note-pad, runs a hand through Agron's tousled hair.

Agron looks down at the half-finished drawing on the page. "Would you draw something for me? A tattoo? Just... anything. Whatever you want. And we'll put it wherever you want."

Asking someone to come up with something, anything, for you to have on your body for the rest of your life it's a pretty big deal, especially from a partner. It's not about appreciating the art. It's basically Agron asking him to mark him. Whatever happens between them, Agron will always have that on his skin. "Really?" Nasir asks, fingers already itching to turn over to a fresh page and draw something for Agron. For them.

"Really," Agron says.

The key is laying on the coffe table. It glints in the light falling in from the window, lying there like a promise and evidence of a future.

Chapter Text

Agron almost always wakes up before Nasir, and today is no different. It’s late in the day, almost noon, but neither of them have work today, so it doesn’t matter that they have slept the entire morning away.

Agron got back to the gym for the second time not quite two weeks ago and it’s been good being there again. This second time around, the suspension was fucking driving him nuts. And Oenomaus has even talked to him about going some fights again soon, and Agron is really looking forward to it. It’s been too long.

He gently eases Nasir off him, rolls him onto his back, and smiles at the miniscule pout showing on his face as a result of his sleep being slightly distubed.

Agron moves on top of him, bracketing his face with his arms, and kisses his forehead, nose, both cheeks, lips and chin softly. Nasir only stirs a little, his deep, even breath soft against Agron’s mouth.

He begins moving downward, leaving kisses down Nasir’s throat, shoulders and chest. He makes a detour to take one nipple into his mouth, causing Nasir to let out a low noise and warmth spike in Agron’s stomach as a result.

Agron loves waking him up like this, slowly and teasingly, by putting his mouth all over his pliant body. One hand drifts down past the waistband of Nasir’s sleeping pants and it doesn’t take many gentle tugs before he is hard and dripping. Agron is hard too, aroused by sheer eroticism of his boyfriend in his sleeping, wanting state. He rolls his palm over the head of Nasir’s cock and Nasir whines, still asleep but only lightly so.

Nasir loves this as well – Agron made very sure of that before he did this for the first time – and he always comes so hard and beautifully when he wakes up already halfway there.

He moves down a little lower still, making Nasir twitch from wet kisses to his lower stomach and his tongue going out to lick along his treasure trail, and eases the sleeping pants off Nasir’s hips.

It takes a lot of wiggling to get them off properly and Nasir starts to shift beneath him, waking up.

“Stupid fabric-shit,” Agron mutters and throws the pants of the bed with a lot more force than necessary before returning his attention to Nasir. His cock is lying heavy against his stomach and Agron takes it in hand again, the thin skin smooth and warm against his fingers. He bends down to lick the pre-come of the head and Nasir lets out a sharp noise, hips bucking ever so slightly.

“Agron?” Nasir mumbles, voice dark and rough with sleep. Fingers card through Agron’s hair. “What’ya doing?”

Agron chuckles quietly, making Nasir twitch some more with the way his mouth is pressed against his groin. “If you can’t tell, I’m clearly doing something wrong.” He takes the head of Nasir’s cock into his mouth and Nasir’s harsh intake of breath can be heard loudly in the room.

Nasir laughs breathlessly, fingers tightening in Agron’s hair as Agron takes in more of him. “No. I would say you’re, ah, doing a… a pretty good job there.”

Agron hums and curls his fingers around Nasir’s hip to guide him into a shallow thrust. He pulls off almost entirely, tongue playing with Nasir’s slit, and lets Nasir use his grip on his hair to pull him down again. Agron swallows around him, hand going from his hip to the base of his cock. The taste of Nasir is thick and salty and intimate in his mouth and he breathes hard through his nose, trying to take in as much of him as he possibly can.

He pulls off again, swallows and licks his lips clean of spit and pre-come. It has dripped down his chin as well, but he doesn’t bother with wiping it away. His hand strokes up over Nasir’s cock, fisted loosely around him, and he presses his thumb right against the nerve right under the head.

Nasir’s eyes are dark and his chest is heaving as Agron looks up at him. Nasir smiles and scoots up a little on the bed, until he is almost half-sitting, lounging against the pillows.

“Want to watch,” he says, smile turning into a smirk, and Agron laughs, kisses his stomach, smiles into his skin because he is the best thing ever and then swallows him down again, which surprises Nasir and makes him thrust and sob.

Agron doesn’t bother with finesse, just sucks and swallows off-rhythm, but Nasir keeps on making his delicious sounds, and he gets louder and louder. Agron keeps his eyes on him as much as he can, enjoying the blissed-out look on Nasir’s face, and rubs his own hard dick against the sheets to find some relief.

Nasir wraps one leg around Agron, wiry muscles tensing against Agron’s back. Agron turns his head to bite at the soft inside of Nasir’s thigh and Nasir’s foot digs into the small of his back in response while he groans deep in his throat.

“You’re driving me crazy here,” Nasir complains half-heartedly, voice like gravel.

Agron takes him into his mouth again, one hand stroking at the base and the other going to gently cup his balls. Nasir’s legs tighten around him, thighs pressing against Agron’s face. He sucks harder, takes him even deeper, just short of gagging, while breathing in through his nose, inhaling the heavy scent of Nasir.

Nasir comes with a choked off groan, fingers yanking hard at Agron’s hair, come spilling hot into Agron’s mouth, and over his lips and hand. He keeps on sucking and licking at him as he softens, until Nasir gets too sensitive and carefully pulls him off by his hair.

Agron ends up on his back, Nasir climbing on top of him and taking his cock in hand. Agron knows he’s not going to last long, so he closes his eyes as Nasir kisses his face, the gentle touches contrasting the fast, rough rhythm of his hand. Agron fingers dig hard into Nasir’s sides and his back bows as Nasir wrings his orgasm from him, semen smearing between their heaving bellies.

Nasir rests there on top of him for a while, hand stroking lazily along his ribs, kissing him long and deep even though Agron tastes of both sleep and come. Then he checks the clock on the nightstand and moves as if to roll of Agron.

“No,” Agron mumbles, opening his eyes.

Nasir leans in close, teeth tugging lightly at his earlobe. “If we go up now, you can join me in the shower.”

“You sure you’ve got everything? Sunscreen?”

Nasir sighs and winds his arms around his neck. “Love…”

“Just because summer is kind of late and not particularly warm this year doesn’t mean you won’t need sunscreen!” Agron cuddles Nasir closer to his chest. “It’s June! And I got sunburn when we were at the park the other day.”

Nasir smiles and Agron narrows his eyes at him. They had been to the park only for a few hours and Agron had come home all pink, even though it hadn’t even been that sunny outside. Nasir had thought it was very funny; Agron did not. And, according to Nasir, it got even better when the pinkness faded away, leaving Agron with only the slightest tan but lots and lots of freckles, spread out over his face and shoulders.

“I won’t need sunscreen,” Nasir says. “I promise. It’s cloudy outside, Agron, and I will be gone for three days, not months. Plus I’m sure my grandmother has some should I need it. Also, stores. It’s something that exists. And they sell sunscreen.”

“Okay, but what about shampoo? And your fancy conditioner?”

“In my bag.”

“What about…”

Nasir kisses him, effectively shutting him up. “I know you don’t like me going away, Agron. But everything will be fine. And I’ll be back soon. Stop fretting.”

That turns Agron miffed. “I am not fretting. I am just making sure that you’ve got everything you need, like any good partner would.”

“You could just come with me,” Nasir says distractedly, slipping out of Agron’s embrace to grab his hoodie off the back of his couch and start putting it on.

Agron turns him back to face him. “I…” He cups his face with one hand. “Not today,” he says. “Next time, okay? Next time I’ll come with you, if your grandma wants to meet me.”

“Of course she wants to.” Nasir’s eyes are soft. “Next time.”

Agron pulls a few strands of hair behind Nasir’s ear. “Yeah. Promise.”

A car horn honks outside, ruining the moment.

“That’s Dima,” Nasir says, grabbing his bag. “I need to go down before she comes up here and drags me down by the hair.”

“You don’t know that’s Dima,” Agron says, arms clasped securely around Nasir again and refusing to let go. “There are tons of cars outside. That could’ve been anyone.”

“It’s Dima,” Nasir says. “She’s been waiting for fifteen minutes. I have to go, love. Take good care of Alyx. And yourself.” He kissed Agron on the mouth. “I love you and I’ll be home soon.” He kisses Agron again, all the while walking backwards towards the door, pulling Agron with him. “Don’t forget to bring the cat food with you when you leave. And lock the door. You have a key now and everything.” He smiles at Agron and opens the door behind him. “I’m going now.”

“Mhm.” Agron kisses him again.

Nasir’s phone beeps aggressively as he receives a series of texts.

“Those are from Dima,” he says.

“I’ll miss you,” Agron says.

“I know.” Nasir steps over the threshold. “I’ll miss you too.”

“I love you.”

“I know.”

One more kiss and then Nasir manages to snake his way out of Agron’s arms and closes the door in his face with “Bye, love,” and a smile and a wave.

Agron lets Alyx out of the carrier the moment he gets home and she immediately disappears, probably running away to hide under the couch. Maybe she’s afraid that Agron will start to cry on her again.

He stores away her things, and when he is done he receives a text from Nasir saying that he is halfway there and that he hates Dima’s taste in music.

More than coffee with milk? Agron types back and Nasir responds with a sad smiley, probably because of the lack of compassion.

They keep texting for a while, keeping the tone of the conversation light, which Agron is grateful for. It’s easier this time around, but that doesn’t mean he likes it. He did have the choice to go with of course, but he still isn’t feeling up to to meet the woman who single-handedly raised Nasir – especially not on her birthday. Dima has probably already told her all the horror stories she can think of about him. Not that he can blame her.

Around noon Alyx starts meowing around his feet, begging to be fed. Agron scratches her beneath the chin and pours some kibble into a plastic bowl, but not before snapping a picture of her begging eyes with his phone to send to Nasir.

Dick, he gets back.

He meets up with Mira, Saxa, Naevia, Crixus and Spartacus that evening at their customary diner. He used to be here several times a week back when… before, but this is the first time he sets his foot here in months.

They are all there when he arrives, and Gannicus apparently decided to join as well because he is sitting next to Spartacus, leaning back so that only two of the chair’s legs are on the floor.

Agron sits down beside Mira and leans over to kiss her cheek in greeting. Saxa, sitting across from him, kicks him in the shin to say hello and he kicks back.

He guesses this might be the biggest reason why he is more okay with Nasir leaving this time. It’s good – for both of them – that he has more people to rely on, now after ending his self-imposed isolation.

“I just don’t see why you two aren’t already married,” Gannicus says to Crixus and Naevia, apparently continuing a conversation they were in the middle of when Agron showed up. “I mean, you are as good as already. You’ve been together since you were both fifteen. Have either of you ever even sle…?”

“Maybe that’s precisely why,” Mira interrupts while Spartacus sends Gannicus a warningly glance and Saxa elbows him to stop him from saying something very stupid. “What’s the need of making it official, if it’s just for everyone else?”

“Exactly,” Naevia says. “That’s what we thought. But then we realised that if there is something worth celebrating, it is the fact that we,” she looks at Crixus and he looks back, “are a stable couple. Marriage may be a load of total bullshit, but at the end of the day it’s about us and what we make of it.”

They share a brief kiss, and Agron suddenly misses Nasir acutely. It’s a constant, dull ache in his chest, flaring up occasionally.

“Which means a small ceremony,” Crixus says. “Something simple.”

“But there will still be a free bar, right?” Gannicus asks and only gets an unimpressed look by Naevia in response. “What? Everyone likes a free bar!”

“Then have one at your own wedding, fuckface” Crixus says.

They waiter shows up right when Gannicus is about to reciprocate, momentarily delaying the name-calling.

“Nasir left today, didn’t he?” Mira says when the waiter has written their rather prolific order down and left.

“Yup.” Agron nods.

“How long will he be gone?”

“’Till Tuesday. His grandma turns eighty.”

“Tough,” Gannicus says, takes a large swallow of beer and does not elaborate on what it is that he considers being ‘tough.’

Agron’s phone vibrates in his pocket and he picks it up, opening up the message. It’s from Nasir: a picture of a corner of a sketch – just a few lines of it and it’s impossible to see what it’s supposed to be.

It’s Agron’s tattoo. It’s not done yet and he hasn’t been allowed to see the half-finished sketch himself, but Nasir has been sending him small snippets of it that tells him absolutely nothing.

After a few seconds he gets a text message: Almost done. We’ll do it when I get home.

Right away? ;)

Well. Maybe some food and sleep first.

Agron is insanely curious, but no matter how much he has nagged at Nasir, he refuses to tell him what he will get. “You’ll see,” is all he says with an enigmatic smile and didn’t even budge when Agron tried to bribe him with sex.

“Where’s that waiter?” Gannicus says, turning around in his chair to sweep the restaurant. “I want her number.”

Mira rolls her eyes and gives Saxa that special look that means did you seriously go out with that guy? but Saxa just grins and blows her a kiss.

“I heard that Oenomaus said that you are ready to go up in the ring for real, Agron,” Spartacus says. “Pretty great, huh?”

“Yeah,” Agron says, leaning back in his chair. He is not as desperate to get back into the ring as he used to be – needing to the kick of the fight, the adrenaline pumping in his blood and to hurt or get hurt – but it’s still going to be so fucking great to finally get back properly. “It’s pretty fucking great.”

“Just don’t get that pretty face of yours busted up,” Saxa says with a mischievous glint in her eyes. “You don’t have much else going for it, you know.”

Agron throws a coater at her, but she dodges and it hits the waiter, who gives Agron a dark look.

“Sorry,” he says sheepishly, glad that the she is arriving with the food so she doesn’t have a chance to do anything nasty with Agron’s plate.

“If you order dessert, she’s going to sneeze on it,” Spartacus says.

“Now you totally busted my chances of getting her number, man,” Gannicus complains and throws his own coater at Agron. He’s a bit unsteady on his hand and it hits the guy at the table behind instead of Agron’s head. “Shit! Sorry, dude!”

“We eat here often,” Mira says. “Just keep that in mind. I prefer my food sneeze-free.”

“Come here, kitty-kitty,” Agron says and lifts up a slightly reluctant Alyx. He scratches her beneath the chin to make her purr and she butts her head against his hand, requesting more.

“You’re sleeping next to me tonight, because I don’t sleep well alone, you know,” Agron says, divesting her on the pillow Nasir usually sleeps on before climbing into bed. “Don’t give me that look. I know you get a kick out of sleeping on people’s faces and waking them up early in the morning by scratching them. Don’t even front with me, missy.”

He can almost swear she huffs at him.

He reaches for his phone and sends of a quick night love <3 to Nasir. He falls asleep surprisingly quickly, with one hand in Alyx’s fur, and doesn’t see Nasir’s goodnight. I love and miss you until the next morning, but it doesn’t matter because it’s a good thing to wake up to.

Nasir calls the next night while Agron is just fussing around in his apartment, throwing some laundry into the washer and cleaning used plates and cups and Nasir’s sketchbooks off his coffee table.

“Hi, honey,” Agron says, keeping the phone pressed between shoulder and ear as he carries the dirty dishes into the kitchen. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing much,” Nasir says and, fuck, Agron’s missed his voice. “Lying in bed.”

Agron hums and dumps the dishes into the sink with a clatter.

“You’re cleaning?” Nasir asks.

“Yup,” Agron says. “A little bit, at least. You’ve left tons of sketches here.”

“Sorry,” Nasir says without meaning it. He knows that Agron doesn’t mind him leaving stuff around.

“Any chance I’ll find some early draft of my tattoo among them?”

Nasir laughs. “Nope. Patience, my love.”

“Do you know me?” Agron asks, picking up a tee hanging on the back of a chair to throw it in the hamper.

“All too well.”

“You having fun out there in the wilderness?” Agron says, changing the subject as he walks into his bedroom only to find Alyx spread out on his side of the bed, shedding hair all over the place. “You’re cat is being annoying again.”

Nasir laughs again, and hearing it warms Agron up inside. “Tell her hi and scratch her behind the ears from me. And I’m a few miles outside the city. There is no wilderness here, big-city boy.”

“As long as there is a Starbucks nearby I guess you would be comfortable anywhere,” Agron snipes back. He is trying to pull his jeans off one-handily, with rather fruitless results.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to get my pants off. Hold on.” After putting the phone down on the bed he manages to get out of his jeans more smoothly. He picks the phone back yp. “There. Done.”

“You naked?”

“Nasir!” Agron feigns being scandalised. “You’re at your grandmother’s house!”

“So what?” Nasir is voice is getting deeper, rougher, and Agron wonders if he’s already stroking himself, if he got hard from Agron’s voice, if he is naked or in boxers or sleep pants…

“What are you wearing?” Agron’s mouth has gone dry and it comes out like a croak.

Nasir’s laugh is like a caress. “Pervert.”

“Come on.” He can feel his own cock fill and he reaches his free hand down to palm himself through his underwear.

“One of your Metallica-shirts,” Nasir says through a gasp. “I stole it. Took it with me.”

Agron closes his eyes, picturing him spread out on a bed, the fabric of the too-big t-shirt pooling over his body and his hand around his dick, hard and flushed…

Drawing in a deep breath, he opens his eyes again only to stare directly into Alyx’s. She flicks her tail.

Agron is suddenly much less in the mood. “Uh, Nasir?”

“Yeah?” Nasir’s voice is breathy and Agron wants him here, wants to kiss him and hold him and drag more sounds out of him.

But. “Your cat is staring at me.”

“Fuck you,” Nasir groans. “Get her out of there then.”

“Okay, sure. Yeah. Good plan. Uh, hold on.” The puts the phone down again and lifts Alyx up swiftly, not giving her a chance to get away. He feels only a little bad about dumping her outside and closing the door in her disapproving face.

He quickly forgets about it though when he flops down on the bed and puts the phone back against his ear, his hand stealing down his body to close around his cock.

It’s a little weird and wistful not to have Nasir there with him, but it’s still good. They don’t talk much, mostly gets off the sound of the other’s laboured breathing and quiet moans of pleasure.

The phone feels sticky with sweat against his face and ear, but Agron doesn’t care, just keeps it pressed too hard there, coming back to himself as he listens to Nasir’s breathing slowly even out.

Grabbing a handful of tissues off the nightstand, he wipes himself off sloppily, hearing distant ruffling that tells him Nasir is doing the same.

They remain quiet for a while, still lounging in the afterglow, but mostly just missing each other.

Eventually Nasir says, “I’m not sure what time we’ll drive home tomorrow, but we’ll have dinner together, okay?”

“Okay,” Agron says.

“And then we’ll have sex.”

“Lots of it,” Agron promises.

“But he said he’d be back for dinner,” Agron insists. “We were supposed to eat together. And this is fucking way past dinner!” He is not fretting, thank you very much, but Nasir said dinner and he isn’t here and Agron is going out of his frigging mind here.

“Maybe they stayed on for longer than planned. Maybe the traffic’s slow,” Spartacus says, a little preoccupied with something on his phone and a little bit oblivious to his friend’s distress.

“Maybe he met someone better than you and took of to Vegas to elope with him,” Crixus suggests, helping himself to the crusts of Spartacus’ pizza. Donar chuckles.

“Not fucking funny, asshole!” Agron growls at him and glares at Donar, which doesn’t stop him chuckling in the slightest.

Spartacus, Donar and Crixus had showed up unannounced with pizza an hour ago and Agron has tried to drive them out because Nasir would show up any minute now and probably apologise profusely in a sexual way for being almost three hours late, but they had ignored him.

“We’ll make ourselves scarce the moment he shows up,” Spartacus had promised.

“Yeah, come on, man, you fucking owe us some bro-time,” Crixus had muttered and then proceeded to look vey uncomfortable with himself and his honesty and had tried to make himself feel better by punching Agron hard on the arm.

They had bustled into the apartment, sitting down around the coffee table and getting cutlery out of the drawer and beers out of the fridge, comfortable and familiar in Agron’s space, as if it were just yesterday they were here last.

Alyx had run off to hide in the bathroom and Agron couldn’t really blame her. He had sat down a little awkwardly on the couch and started to pick at his pizza without much of an appetite.

It’s been a long time since anyone but he and Nasir has been here and it will take some time getting used to.

“But Nasir is never late,” he says, nibbling at slice of pepperoni.

“He’ll be here soon.” Spartacus makes a cooing sound and leans over to show Agron the screen of his phone. “Look at the pic Varro sent me. Isn’t she adorable?”

It’s a picture of Varro and Aurelia’s newborn daughter, Spartacus’ godchild, in her crib in a tiny footsie pajamas with dinosaurs on it.

“Cute,” he says. She is, but he doesn’t really care about cute babies right now. Nasir isn’t responding to his texts.

“Have they decided on a name yet?” Crixus asks.

“Varro wants to call her Jade, but Aurelia thinks giving them both names starting with a J just because is stupid. She wants to name her Rain.”

“That’s much better,” Crixus says, reaching for the phone. “Lemme see.”

Right then Agron’s phone starts ringing and he almost hits Crixus in the face when he throws himself forward to get it off the table where he has been scowling at it for the past four hours.

“See?” Donar says, mouth full of pizza. “We told you he would call soon.”

“It’s not Nasir,” Agron says, his stomach twisting horribly as he looks down at the screen. “It’s Dima.”

He has no fucking idea why she would call him and Nasir should have been here fours hours ago and Agron doesn’t like this one fucking bit. His thumb his shaking as he slides it over the screen to accept the call.

“Agron?” Dima says before he has a chance to say anything and her voice is all wrong, scared and too shrill. “Agron?”

“Yeah?” he says, growing ice-cold.

Dima sobs – a horrible, wrenching sound. “I-I… Fuck. You have t-to come down here. N-now. I – They… They don’t k-know, Agron. They don’t f-fucking know.” Her voice grows vicious and she is wrecked with increasing sobs. “It’s b-b-ad. He’s… They w-won’t l-let me see h-him. I d-don’t fucking k-know f-fucking anything!”

Her voice is rising in volume, but for Agron it’s fading away, distant, as if he is about to lose consciousness. This isn’t happening, some part of him chants deafeningly in his mind. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening.

He must have dropped the phone, because both his hands are suddenly empty and Spartacus is speaking anxiously somewhere in the background and then he is being herded down the stairs, Donar keeping a steadying hand on his shoulder and Spartacus leading the way, and placed in a cab, Spartacus sliding in next to him.

Spartacus is talking to him all the way to the hospital, but Agron isn’t listening. He just sits there staring at nothing, unable to feeling anything, shut down. It’s only when Spartacus forces a tissue into his hand that Agron realises that there are tears leaking out of his eyes.

Agron is useless, dead meat walking, and has to Spartacus pull-escort him to the front desk where he argues with the nurse sitting behind it until she agrees to give to tell them what she knows about Nasir’s condition and where he is, and then leads him away again, into an elevator.

They get out after just a short ride – Agron has no idea on what floor – and a long, empty corridor stretches out before them. Agron stumbles, the connection between is body and mind not quite working, and Spartacus grabs him around the waist, keeps him upright and forces him to move forward.

They walk forever and for no time at all.

Suddenly, Agron hears Dima’s voice and it is loud enough to break through the heavy cotton-numb feeling spreading and intensifying inside of him and they round a corner, and there she is, struggling violently against two nurses and a doctor trying to hold her still and push her down into a chair. A syringe glints in the doctor’s right hand.

“NO!” Dima screams, hand going out to smack one of the nurses across the face. He staggers back and she manages to tear herself halfway through the other’s grip. “I’m not the one that needs any fucking help, you stupid shit-eating fucks!”

There is blood on her clothes and face and more is dripping from a deep cut on her arm. There are scratches across her face and her shirt is ripped, revealing a long gash across her breastbone.

Agron takes all of this in slowly, sluggishly, eyes blinking as his brain is trying to make sense of the scene. It feels like the world is moving in slow-motion. Or maybe he is.

“He’s fucking dying in there!” Dima screeches at the top of her lungs, kneeing the doctor in the stomach as she tries to get close enough to stick the needle into her arm. “Go fucking save HIM, you idiot cunts! He’s dying! DYING, you fucks! This is fucking nothing, you fucking, fucking…” She’s running out of breath and comprehension and the words dissipate into snarling as she thrashes, fighting to get free.

Agron finds himself deposited in a chair as Spartacus rushes over to grab hold of her. He wrenches her unharmed arm behind her back and she kicks at him, hard enough to make him wince. But she doesn’t have much for it; he is stronger, has her in a secure grip and has gone up against worst in the ring and probably outside it as well, and the doctor finally gets hold of her arm and pushes the needle beneath the skin, injecting her with whatever it is in the shot.

Agron watches all this as if it is unfolding through a thick sheet of glass – it is warped and distorted and doesn’t seem like it’s quite real or at least not connected to him in any way.

“Fuck you all,” Dima says weakly as the nurses all but lifts her up. “Fuck you so fucking much.” She starts crying as they carry her away, blood dripping from her arm and splattering across the floor, leaving a trail of red behind them.

Time must pass, because Dima comes back out into the waiting room, lethargic and slow-moving with whatever they injected in her veins. Her wounds are stitched up and the scratches cleaned but she still looks like she has crawled all the way through hell. She is led to a chair and pushed down and after that she doesn’t move.

Spartacus brings them both coffee and Dima just looks at the paper cup until he puts it down on a side table. Agron apparently spills some of it on himself because something feel warm on his leg.

“He’ll be okay, he’ll be fine, I know it” Spartacus says desperately, hand patting Agron’s pack. Agron doesn’t reply, because the words don’t register.

It’s another eternity that passes in the blink of an eye before another doctor comes out into the waiting room.

“He is stable for now,” he says. He looks haggard. “We’ve stopped the bleeding and closed the wound in his side. We’ve done what we can for his hand, and the rest is minor injuries. He is on heavy medication right now and won’t wake up for a while yet. But you can see him now.” He indicates Dima, who rises from her chair as if she has forgotten how her body works and she and the doctor disappears down a corridor.

Agron remain where he is, eyes on the floor.

Dima eventually comes back and collapses down into the nearest chair, curling in on herself. Her eyes are vacant.

It seems like they aren’t going to let Agron see Nasir – because he isn’t listed as family or some crap like that – but the doctor soon caves under Spartacus demands that Agron needs to seem him, pointing at Agron in his near-catatonic state to illustrate.

The doctor eventually relents, but Spartacus is not allowed in. He touches Agron’s shoulder to make him look at him. “I’m going down to the cafeteria to grab something to eat, okay? Will you be alright on your own?”

Agron must have nodded or done something to that effect, because Spartacus leaves with another comforting pat on his back.

“Through here,” the doctor says, grabbing hold of Agron’s arm to steer him to the right door before Agron has quite figured out how his feet used to works. “Don not disturb him in any way.”

Agron opens the door, fingers cold around the handle, and when he steps inside, it is as if the world snaps back into place, into horrible, crystal clear focus.

The white bandage around Nasir’s right hand is the first thing he sees. His right hand. The hand he operates the tattoo gun with. We’ve done what we can, the doctor says, whatever the fuck that means.

Nasir’s face is ashen and he looks so small underneath the hospital blanket. Frail and so dangerously easy to break. In the background the heart-rate monitor beeps away, the sounds too feeble and far in between. Agron has fallen asleep with his mouth or fingertips pressed against Nasir’s pulse point more times than he can count and the sound of it here is wrong, off-rhythm.

He moves closer. There’s a thin cut running from Nasir’s eyes down his cheek and another through his eyebrow. He is so still. Agron has to put his fingertips to Nasir’s lips to ensure himself that he is still breathing and his skin feels scarily cold against his own chilled flesh.

The sound of the monitor is eating into his brain until nothing exists but the faint puff of breath against his fingers and the age stretching between every beep. Agron’s own heart is speeding up, hammering inside his chest, as he stands there, anticipating every beep to be the last and each interval of silence is like a punch to the gut.

Beep.

He is starting to feel nauseated, his body going into full-blown flight mode. He is seconds away from hyperventilating.

Beep.

He waits for the next beep, the desperation burning inside of him, making his fingers tremble against Nasir’s lips.

Beep.

He tries to count the seconds of silence, but ends up counting the beeps instead, the beats of Nasir’s heart, panicking more and faster as he wonders if he will be able to get to twenty, thirty, thirty five, forty or if it will stop, the yawning silence growing and growing until nothing is left.

It seems to grow longer with each beat, spreading into a void, and the relief when the beep finally comes is short-lived, gone in a fraction of a second when the silence starts growing again.

Nasir doesn’t stir, doesn’t move, and when Agron reach seventy-five, he just fucking can’t anymore. He snatches his hand back. The machine beeps another time before he flees.

Chapter Text

Nasir wakes up cold. Distantly he thinks that it is starting to get annoying, how used he is to wake up with Agron furnace-like body plastered against him every morning, to the point where he wakes up fucking freezing without it.

His mind feels fuzzy and everything is very dark. There is pain, somewhere, everywhere, and soft beeping sounds. Someone is holding his hand.

It takes few minutes before he is able to figure out how to opens his eyes. The ceiling above him is too white, stark and almost blinding against his sensitive retinas.

He blinks.

Turning his head to the side is a monumental task, but he manages it only to see Dima sitting in an uncomfortable-looking chair, hands clasped around Nasir’s left one and head bent down.

“Dime?” he tries to say, but his throat isn’t too dry and incapable to get the syllables right. But he does make some kind of sound, and her head shoots up. The first thing that registers is that she is hurt; her face is scratched and there is a long row of stiches on her arm, and Nasir’s heart clenches painfully with worry in his chest.

“Dime?” he tries again, doing better, and starts to reach for her before he remembers that she is already holding his hand in a secure grip. “Wha.” He has to swallow and then manages to croak out, “What happened to you?”

That makes her burst into tears and she squeezes his hand between hers so hard that he winces.

Something very bad must have happened, he thinks, panicking, because he can count the number of times he’s seen Dima cry on one hand and all those happened before she reached the age of thirteen. He tries to move closer to her, to hold her, comfort her, but the pain lodged inside of him is suddenly shifting from numb and distant to acute and pulsating.

His left side is bandaged, he notices when his right hand instinctively moves down to clutch at the place the pain is emanating from. His hand, too, he realises as the movement makes more pain ripple through him.

It seems like there is a connection he should make here somewhere, but there are pieces missing. The last thing he remembers is driving on the highway, Dima slapping his hand away when he tries to turn of the music blaring from the car radio.

“Dima?” He squeezes back with the other, unharmed hand she is holding as hard as he is able, realising how weak he is. “What happened? How long have I been out?”

Dima only cries harder, tears smearing the black make-up around her eyes. “I h-have to tell the doctor you’re awake,” she stutters out, lets go of his hand, and rushes out of the room.

Before the door has time to swing shut, someone catches it and Naevia steps into his room, eyes widening in surprise when she sees that he is awake.

“Hi,” she says quietly, sitting down in the chair Dime vacated.

Nasir reaches desperately for her, knocking his hand into it her as she does the same. He clings to her fingers as if they can make everything comprehensible. “What the hell is going on, Naevia? Is Dima okay?”

Naevia smiles, but wanly, and she looks worn, as if she hasn’t slept for a night and done a lot of worrying in the meantime. “She’s okay. Her injures were very minor.” She takes a breath. “You were in a car accident. I don’t know the details, but the other driver was drunk. He apparently got pretty busted up.” Her eyes turn dark and her voice vicious as she tells him the last part, clearly thinking that the driver got the least of what he deserved. “You…” She, too, squeezes his hand too hard, as if to reassure herself that he is here and alive. “You’re side got cut up and they picked about thirty shards of glass out of your hand. But you’re okay. You will be okay.” Her eyes turn shiny.

Nasir lets his head fall back against the pillows. Agron must be freaking out, he thinks, feeling guilty about it even though there is no point and it isn’t his fault. “How long was I out?”

“More than twenty-four hours,” Naevia says. “But the doctors say that you only need time to heal and then you will be fine again.” She sniffles, but her voice sounds determined, as if she can make sure he is okay by sheer willpower. “And don’t you fucking dare scare us like this again, Nasir.”

More then twenty-four hours. Nasir doesn’t even want to imagine what kind of state Agron is in. “I won’t,” he says, attempting a smile. “How is Agron? Going berserk?”

Naevia bites her lip and something turns over in Nasir’s stomach.

“Is it that bad?” he asks, forcing a flippant tone into his voice.

“I…” Naevia looks down, away. “I don’t know.”

“What?” His head is beginning to throb and the pain in his side is intensifying. It’s probably the morphine or whatever it is they have given him that is starting to wear off and he wriggles a little to find a more comfortable position but it doesn’t help.

“He’s not here.” Naevia still won’t look at him.

“Oh.”

It stings, knowing that Agron cannot handle being here. Nasir knows and understands why and maybe it’s best for everyone involved that he is at home freaking the shit out instead of here, but still. He wants him here. Right now he is confused, injured and in pain and he fucking needs Agron to be here.

“He was here,” Naevia says hesitantly. “But then he… disappeared.”

“Disappeared?” The ugly feeling within him grows worse. Where the fuck are you, Agron? “What do you mean, disappeared? Where is he?”

“I don’t know.” Nasir can tell how angry she is by the hard set of her mouth. “Crixus was at Agron’s place when Dima called him and Agron and Spartacus left to go here to see you. Crixus went home to get me and when we got here they refused to tell us your fucking room number at first and when we finally got here, Agron was gone.” Naevia pauses, twiddles with a loose thread on her shirt. “Spartacus says that he went in here to see you, but they wouldn’t let Spartacus in with him so he went and bought some food and when he got back, Agron had taken off.”

“He left?” Nasir feels very hollow inside, whatever knot of worry and disappointment that had been forming fast and mercilessly turning into an empty ache.

“Yeah,” Naevia says quietly. “Mira is trying to get hold of him.”

He was here. And he left, unable to deal with it. Nasir has never needed him more, and he left. He doesn’t even know that Nasir is awake.

How the fuck are you doing this to me, Agron?

“Fuck him,” he says and tries to turn away from Naevia, but his body protests, the pain, having increased all through the conversation, shooting through him, and he curses some more between clenched teeth.

Luckily, Dima chooses that moment to return with the doctor who demonstrates how he can just click the button whenever the pain begins to surface and then clicks it twice. It doesn’t pull him under all the way, but it makes him pleasantly drowsy and the horribly empty feeling eating away inside of him ceases.

Nasir wakes up to some sort of commotion and he blinks blearily, trying to figure out what’s going on. His body is still feeling unpleasantly numb and heavy, but it is preferable to the pain.

“You can’t all go in there! Three at a time please! Hey! Listen to me! Three at a time! Can’t you people count?!”

However it is that’s shouting is completely ignored, because there is definitely more than three people in Nasir’s room, he sees when he gets his eyes properly opened, and it seems like they have no intention of leaving.

He murmurs something, his throat parched again, and makes an aborted movement, only to have hands help him into a somewhat more upright position. He leans back against the pillows as his eyes scan the room.

Pretty much everyone he knows is crammed into the small hospital room, looking both anxious and relieved. Except for Gannicus, who is snoring in a chair in a corner.

Except Agron.

Nasir’s heart feels even heavier than his beat-up body and fuzzy mind.

His grandmother and Dima, who helped him sit up, has yet to let go off him, and Dima is crying again, soundlessly.

“I’m okay,” he tells him in Syrian, wanting to keep this private between them, because they are his family and thought they would lose him like they’ve already lost too many, and he knows that they need to be reassured that they won’t lose him too, that he is still here, still alive. “I’m okay.” He hugs them both to him as good as he kind, even if it tugs a bit at the wound.

The others stay back, respecting that they need a moment and letting them have it, but unwilling to leave.

Grandma seems unable to speak, so she busies herself with pouring him some water and tipping his head back to help her drink. He is convinced that he could handle it himself, but if taking care of him makes her feel better, he might as well let her.

“Never scare me like that again,” she admonishes him finally. “I refuse to outlive either of you two, you hear me?”

“Yes, grandma,” he says, smiling a little.

Dima’s crying is growing worse, hiccupping sobs hissing from between her clenched teeth. She grabs a fistful of tissues from the table next to the bed and buries her face in them.

“Come on, Dima,” Grandma says. “Lets go get you some water.” She ignores the pitcher she just poured water into a glass for Nasir from and gets Dima to her feet. Dima is like life-less puppet in Grandma’s firm grip as she is being steered through the crowded room and out the door.

It feels like Nasir is missing something. Is Dima hurt worse than she lets on? Or has something else – something worse – happened?

The door closes behind Grandma and Dima, and Spartacus, Mira and Naevia claim the chairs around the bed, while the rest of them just press in closer around him. Saxa puts herself behind Mira and wraps her arms securely around her shoulders, glaring at Nasir like she is planning to get back at him for the distress he’s caused them by getting hurt. Crixus sits down on the arm of Naevia’s chair and Laeta sidles up to Spartacus’.

“We’re going to get thrown out any second,” Spartacus says. “We just wanted to see you. Make sure you’re okay.” He smiles warmly, genuinely relieved that Nasir is alive and soon on the mend.

“I brought balloons,” Varro says and Nasir notices that there are five colourful balloons in shape of different animals tied to the end of his bed.

We also brought balloons,” Crixus saying, glowering. “And flowers.”

Yes, there are flowers as well. It seems another table have been rolled into Nasir’s room for the sole purpose of holding all the flowers.

“So did I,” Saxa growls.

“Well, I got him books,” Mira says defensively. “You know, something he actually has use for while he’s recuperating.”

“The balloon and the flowers are symbols!” Lugo insists. “Of course he has use for them – by looking at them he knows that we wish him better! I brought grapes, too,” he says to Nasir, pointing at the side table.

“I… Thank you,” Nasir says, rather overwhelmed and still not at full brain capacity. “That’s very thoughtful of all of you. I really appreciate it.”

He does; perhaps it is the meds, or the exhaustion, or the pain that it’s still there and waiting beneath the fog, or the fact that Agron has fucked off, but his eyes clouds over form tears.

Naevia pats his right ankle and Mira his left while Spartacus grasps his shoulder lightly.

“Thank you,” he says again, a tear slipping down his cheek.

“Just get better soon,” Mira says.

The doctors expect him to make a full recovery. The wound in his side is pretty large and there will be a lot of scar tissue that may hamper him somewhat in his movements and make him feel stiff, but only to begin with, they assure him. The wounds on his face are small and the scars will barely be visible and may fade over time.

They don’t know about his hand, though. It thrums with pain whenever the meds starts to wear of, crisscrossed with cuts as it is. Most of them are small and already scabbing over, but some are deep, and while he can move his fingers without too much trouble or pain, he cannot quite close the hand or actually hold anything.

They say that they think that he will regain full mobility and use of his hand, but they don’t know. It looks good, one had said, but when he told her he was a tattoo artist she had averted her eyes.

“We will do everything we can,” she said before leaving, and he doesn’t think that she lied, but maybe that simply won’t be good enough and then it doesn’t matter. In any case, he won’t be able to work for weeks, maybe even months.

And he still hasn’t heard anything from Agron. He doesn’t want to think about it, but it is hard not to when there is nothing else he can do except sleep badly and eat the chocolate Naevia brought or the cookies Varro made him. He is already growing restless, and his mind chews it over and over again, even though he tries his damnedest to avoid it. The queasy feeling of despair and disappointment simmering inside of him slowly grows and spreads, turns into anger and sadness and the worst thing is that he can do nothing about it. He doesn’t know what he wants to do, what could possibly make this better.

He just wants Agron.

Falling asleep and remaining asleep is difficult. Nasir doesn’t like the hospital and the smells and he wants his own bed and his cat and his fucking idiotic boyfriend to snuggle up against. It is hard to find a position that doesn’t hurt – his side and hand is worst, but he is bruised all over and despite twisting and turning as good as he is able to find the best sleeping position possible it is rather futile. So he sleeps mostly on his back and wakes up a lot throughout the night and spends his days getting told by the nurses that he will heal faster if he tries to get some more sleep. It does not improve his constantly foul mood.

Even the faintest sound is enough to disturb him when he is asleep, and he opens his eyes to see Dima sneaking into his room, taking care to close the door softly behind her. It is not terribly late – sometime after 10 pm or so – but after visiting hours. Dima has been strangely absent from his bedside – everyone else he knows (except for Agron, a voice in his head cannot help but add) has been here as much as they have been able between their jobs and the nurses vigilant attempts to make them adhere to the visiting regulations, but Dima has clearly been avoiding him.

“Hi,” he says when she sits down, making her jump in the chair.

“Fuck!” Dima hisses. “I didn’t know you’re awake.”

Her face is hard to make out in the darkness to he reaches out his arm to switch on the bedside lamp, grimacing a little as the movement tugs at the wound.

“I have trouble sleeping,” he says, scooting up into a sitting position.

“Nightmares?” she asks.

“No,” he says. “Just… I want to go home.”

Her eyes glimmer. “I’m so sorry,” she says quietly, swallowing heavily.

Nasir frowns in confusion. “For what?”

Dima picks at her cuticles, like she does whenever she is nervous or distressed. They look abused, with small dots of dried blood in the corners. She is clearly avoiding his eyes; Nasir is getting fucking tired of people not looking at him while talking to him.

“I drove too fast,” Dima says. Her lower lip is trembling and she rips off a small piece skin right beside the nail of her thumb. “I never… I didn’t think this could happen. I mean, I know it could, of course I fucking knew but I didn’t… If I had I’d…”

“Hey.” Nasir scoots up a little higher, hating how trapped he feels, confined to this stupid bed, his veins pumped full of medication and his body weak and hurting. “It wasn’t your fault.” He doesn’t know and doesn’t care to know all the details around the accident, but it wasn’t Dima’s fault – he knows that much. “The other guy was drunk, Dima.”

“Yeah, so?” She glares at him, as if she is angry he doesn’t let her have her misery feast in peace. Nasir is getting fucking tired of people beating themselves up for shit they didn’t do.

“It doesn’t fucking matter what’s right and wrong on some stupid shitty piece of paper!” Dima is getting worked up and if her voice gets any louder, Nasir guesses there will come a nurse running to drive her out. “I know he was pissed out of his stupid fucking head, I know the accident is considered to be his fault, but that doesn’t fucking matter! This,” she gestures at Nasir in the hospital bed, “is what fucking matters! I could have prevented this. I didn’t pay attention and if I had you would be up and walking, not fucking scarred for life.” She is too angry to cry but the breaths she forces into her lungs sounds a little like sobs.

“If you’re just going to sit here and beat yourself up, get out,” Nasir says, nearing the end of his patience. He has spent more than twenty-four hours unconscious and days all but chained to this bed, for fuck’s sake. “I need to sleep.”

Dima opens her mouth, doubtless to say something about Agron, but apparently thinks twice about it because she closes it again.

“Not one fucking word,” Nasir says anyway. That hurt is worse and cuts deeper than any of his physical injuries and he doesn’t want her to go there, even in her own head. “You were right. Are you fucking happy?” His eyes burn and he rubs the back of his hand over them angrily. He will not cry over this.

“No. Of course not, Nasir.” She touches his bandaged hand gently, looking shamed. “I’m so sorry.”

Sorry for almost bringing Agron up or her guilt over what she had no control over, Nasir doesn’t know. Perhaps both.

They are silent for a long moment, but then he curls his fingers as good as he is able around hers.

“Mira and I take turns with your stupid cat,” Dima says after a whole minute has ticked by. “You owe us, you know. Her litter box fucking stinks.”

Nasir smiles weakly at her attempt to cheer him up with some sisterly banter. “It’s not her fault. You’re just to lazy to keep it cleaned out properly, Dime.”

“Don’t call me that, dipshit,” she says, like she always does, but her voice and eyes are soft and she presses a quick kiss to his forehead.

“Go to sleep if you want to,” she says, leaning back in her chair without letting go of his hand. The gentle stroking of her fingers over his knuckles is calming. “I’m just gonna sit here for a while, okay?”

Nasir nods and clicks the button once so that he will not wake up when the pain meds starts wearing off, hoping for at least a couple of hours of unbroken and preferably dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

In his sleep, the nightmares of Duro that has been plaguing him for months have merged with the sight of Nasir pale and still and all but dead in that hospital bed, turning it into a palimpsest of nightly dread, the images overlaid with the echoing soundtrack of sharp beeps matching a too-slow-beating heart.

On the third day, he jerks awake with the sound of it ringing in his ears and the smell of saltwater in his nose, his own heart slamming against the inside of his ribcage, realising with a sickening, painful lurch of his stomach that he doesn’t even know if Nasir is alive.

Rushing out of the hospital room and knowing nothing but that he needed to get away, far away and soon, he had at least had the presence of mind to realise that he was in no state to drive anywhere, so he took a cab down to the train station, booked a ticket, and called his parents from on-board the train. They had been surprised and concerned, but he couldn’t talk, couldn’t explain, still too much in shock and panic, and unable to even think, and much less talk, about it. He had told them he was coming and then hung up and turned off the phone.

The train ride had been hard. The cart was packed full, which was not helping his panic. His skin had felt too thin and he had been unable to meet anyone’s eyes. Someone accidentally brushing up against him on their way out had made his breathing catch in his throat. Months had been reversed in the matter of a few hours – whatever progress he had made had been all but erased, leaving him stranded in the moment right after Duro’s death again. Only this time, it was worse.

His mother had picked him up at the station and once he was back at his childhood home he had walked directly upstairs and collapsed on his old bed. His body had finally shut down completely and he didn’t wake until almost eighteen hours later, freezing and feeling like hell.

Not wanting to be alone, he had walked slowly down the stairs. His parents had been in the kitchen, preparing dinner, and clearly full of questions, but one look at him had made them remain silent. He couldn’t decide if he would have preferred getting yelled at.

He had been aware that he has done something very, very wrong and that he had managed to fuck up everything beyond repair, but he could not go there, could not think about it.

He’d eaten something, tasted nothing, gone back to bed, and slept for eight hours more.

He doesn’t know if Nasir is alive.

Everything that has been kept blocked and building up inside of him breaks loose, slams into place and a fresh wave of horror rolls through him.

Nasir might be gone, and he doesn’t know.

Nasir might be alive, knowing that Agron isn’t there with him.

Some part of him, a subconscious, cowardly part, made a decision somewhere along the way in that horrible no man’s land of chock and apathy he’d been in that this was the best course of action – because not knowing if he is alive, is at least better than knowing he is not.

He has to bite down hard on his own fist to smothers the sob that rips through him as he for the first time actually takes in what has happened during the last two and a half days.

Nasir might be gone.

It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t know, it hurts just the same. His body contorts, twists in on itself, the agony of Nasir being gone from this world all too real in his head. It should be unimaginable, but it is not.

And if he is not, if Nasir is alive and awake, then he is hurt and in pain and alone because Agron simply couldn’t take it, couldn’t handle the possibility of what this could to do himself, how much this would hurt him, and fucked off.

Self-loathing shouldn’t be new to him, but it reaches new heights as the full force of what he has done crashes down on him and he shatters beneath the weight of it.

And there will be no one there to help dig him out of this, not this time.

The sun is blaring down on him despite the early morning as he walks slowly down through the big black iron gates.

It is a rather long walk between his parent’s house and the graveyard, but he still doesn’t trust himself behind the steering wheel of a car and he didn’t want to have to wake his parents up to ask them for a ride.

It should be raining or at least cloudy, he thinks bitterly with sweat collecting on his temples and neck. It feels like the sun is equal parts making fun of and plaguing him, even though he knows that it probably couldn’t care any fucking less about him.

It looks almost exactly the same, the place holding the last remains of his little brother’s body. The stone is a little bit more weather-beaten and green grass is covering the spot that was dug-up earth the last time he saw it.

He sits down heavily on the ground before the grave. He isn’t sure why he is here. This may be Duro’s grave, Duro’s name on the stone, but Duro isn’t here more than he is anywhere else. He is gone and the ugly slab of grey stone bearing his name is just a mocking symbol of that emptiness.

Some say talking to the dead is a great comfort. Agron has never really believed it. He doesn’t want comfort, and besides, he has no idea what to say to Duro to make himself feel better. Tell him about his day? Or about the fact that he is dead and Agron is missing him so much he can only barely survive it? Rather shitty things to talk to a dead person about, really.

But now he does anyway.

“Hi, baby bro,” he says. Despite himself, he lets his fingertips rest against the stone, brushing over the date of Duro’s death. “They say this wasn’t my fault, you know,” he tells Duro’s gravestone after a long moment of quiet. Not even the rustling of leaves or birdsong can be heard. “That it was an accident. I don’t know what it was. I just know that you are gone and I brought you there and that I wasn’t there when you needed me. Seems like I did it again.” And now the tears start to come, slipping down his cheeks and dripping onto the soil. “I just couldn’t. It couldn’t happen again. Better this way, I thought. But it’s not. It’s not.”

He dries his eyes on the sleeve of his sweater, but it doesn’t do much difference. “I don’t want to know, Duro,” he says, closing his eyes against the pain, assaulting him afresh. “But I have to. If he… if he’s… He has to be alive. He just has to. Even if he hates me. Even if he never wants to see me again. He has to.”

He stays at the grave for a long while, mostly sitting, and talking just a little bit. His sleeves are wet with tears and snot when he finally rises to his feet, his legs shaky and pricking, and walks home.

The tightness around his mother’s mouth and the look in his father’s eyes makes him guess that someone has called and told them, but they say nothing. Instead they help him find a train ticket home for tonight and then drives him back to the station. They hug him long and hard before letting him board the train and it takes a lot of willpower not to cling to them and let them take him back home so that he can bury himself in his childhood bed for the rest of his life.

Alyx is gone from his apartment, as is most of Nasir’s stuff. Most, but not everything: small knick-knacks, a pair of socks, a few sketches and pencils remain and Argon struggle between the urge to throw the whole of it out the window so that he does not have to see it and the need to gather it all up and hoard these tiny scraps of Nasir’s presence in his life.

Finally, he brings his phone out of his pocket and turns it on. It spends almost a solid three minutes buzzing and beeping with all the missed calls, voice mails and text messages he has received.

The most recent attempt to contact him is from Mira, a text message sent about a day ago: What the fuck, Agron. He scans the rest of the texts desperately and he doesn’t realise that his heart and breathing has sped up again until he learns that Nasir is alive.

He is awake now, Spartacus had sent him, a little more than two days ago.

He is awake.

Agron collapses back against the couch cushions, the phone falling from his hand. Awake. Alive.

He identifies the feeling spreading inside of him like blood in water as relief. Closely hounded by guilt, but relief nonetheless.

Nasir is alive.

Upon arriving to the hospital, unsure if he should, if he can, but incapable of staying away and not giving fuck about it probably being long after visiting hours, he is close to have a heart attack when the receptionist tells him that Nasir isn’t there.

“He was sent home this morning,” he continues and Agron want to smother him for not starting at that end.

He grunts out a “Thanks,” and walks out of there, only barely resisting to flip that fucking moron off, even though he is sure it would make him feel marginally better, in a very childish and non-productive way.

He stops just outside the hospital, the doubt setting in now that he has lost his momentum. He needs to see Nasir, has to see him. Being told that he is okay from a series of text is a far cry from actually making sure himself. And he fucking has to make sure.

He still has the key, of course, but he cannot use it, not now. Instead he knocks on the door and Mira opens. Distantly, he feels thankful it isn’t Dima. She would in all probability throw him out headfirst, and, no matter how well-deserved that may be, he can’t leave until he has made sure, seen with his own eyes, that Nasir is still here, still breathing.

“Hello,” he says awkwardly.

“Hi,” she says, her face a closed off mask. “You finally pulled your shit together, huh?”

There is nothing he can reply to that. He isn’t here to defend himself. “Can I see him?”

“I don’t know.” Mira seems to consider something, chewing on her lip, and then her calm hostility slips and she takes Agron by surprise by grabbing hold of him and hugging him close. It has a distinctive flavour of déjà vu. “Stupid fucking idiot,” she says into his ear. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“I don’t know,” it’s his turn to say, hot tears swimming in his eyes. “I don’t fucking know, Mir. I screwed it up.”

“You really did.” She steps back. “We brought him home this morning,” she says. “He is still pretty weak and tired, so just… take it easy, okay?”

He nods. “Yeah. But he’s… he’s going to be okay?”

“Eventually.”

“And his hand?” He doesn’t know the full extent of Nasir’s injuries, but he knows that for Nasir, the hand is probably the worst.

Mira shakes her head. “We’ll just have to see.” She steps aside, lets Agron in. “Spartacus! Naevia!”

They come out of Nasir’s bedroom and when they see him they carefully close the door behind them.

“Hi, man,” Spartacus says. Naevia nods at him.

“Come on, let’s go out for some air,” Mira says, grabbing Spartacus by the arm. “They need some space.”

They leave, and Agron is suddenly terribly nervous. He does not know how Nasir will react, but it won’t be good and even though he knows he deserves it, he doesn’t want to see the way Nasir will look at him, doesn’t want to see him hurt and betrayed. He has already fucked up so bad too many times, but those things were nothing compared to this.

But Nasir is on the other side of that door and Agron loves him enough and owes him so he is able to walk the short distance and push the door open.

Nasir is lying on his side with his back against the door but when he hears it open he turns over – slowly and rather stiffly, freezing up when he sees Agron.

It is clear that Nasir is happy to see him and it hurts because it is also clear how hard he tries to clamp it down, to keep it from taking over the other feelings; the fury and disappointment and betrayal he probably feels.

“Hi,” Agron says, stepping into the room. Nasir says nothing, but he lets Agron sit down on the edge of the bed.

Despite being awake, Nasir almost looks worse now than last Agron saw him. It is obvious that he is in pain. There is a whole array of pill bottles on Nasir’s nightstand, but perhaps he can feel the pain anyway on some level. Perhaps he doesn’t take them. Perhaps it is all because of Agron. There are dark circles around his eyes as if he doesn’t sleep and his hair is a lank mess, pulled back in an all but disintegrated ponytail.

“You’re alive,” Agron says stupidly.

“So are you.” Nasir’s voice sounds weird when he says it, and Agron wonders if he had hoped for something to have happened – not Agron’s death, but something else, some reason for his taking off. Hoping that Agron hadn’t run away from sheer cowardice.

“Nasir…” he says, sliding down from the bed onto his knees, putting them closer to eye-to-eye. “I– There is nothing I can say or do to make this better or undone or fucking okay, but I, I… Please, forgive me. Or try. Just… I love you.” He is looking into Nasir’s eyes, but he can read nothing out. He swallows. “I love you so fucking much. If there is some way, if there is anything I can do, I’ll fucking…”

“Don’t,” Nasir interrupts. He says it silently, but Agron immediately snaps his mouth shut.

With evident difficulty, Nasir sits up to lean heavily back against the headboard. Agron’s hands itch to help, to draw him in near, to touch him, and it is a herculean task to restrain himself. He knows that he is not allowed to touch, but his body doesn’t. It’s instinct and habit to reach out and try to comfort Nasir though his touch.

Nasir is looking down at his hands, the index finger of his left hand running along the edge of the bandage on his right. “Please leave.” Even quieter this time, and whatever miniscule hope Agron has nursed is wiped out, leaving him cold and hollow and desperate.

“Nasir.” He cannot help but reach for him, and his knuckles brush against Nasir’s arm as he pulls away.

“No.” Nasir’s voice is growing firmer. “Just fucking don’t, okay? You can’t do this, Agron, do you understand? You can’t. You weren’t there – you left. And I don’t want you here now.” There is nothing but rage in him now, controlled and subdued, his voice hissing slightly between his teeth. “You know what my first thought was when I woke up? Do you?” he prompts, eyes ablaze, when Agron says nothing.

“No,” Agron whispers.

“I thought that you must be going crazy out in the waiting room. I felt guilty about this happening to me because I knew how much pain it must be causing you.”

Nasir is telling him this just to be cruel, Agron knows. And it works – the words are like lashes, cutting sharp and deep.

“I was a deluded fucking idiot, wasn’t I?” Nasir laughs mirthlessly and horribly. He is growing agitated, his carefully controlled anger cracking swiftly. “All the stupid shit I put up with, because I thought that you were actually trying, that you were getting better. But nothing matters more than your own fucking self-hate, does it?” He looks at Agron, eyes dark and scornful. “And this only made it worse, didn’t? You’re sitting here taking this because you think you deserve it, because you need to torment yourself. Fuck you, Agron.” He looks away from him and his left hand goes up to yank the hair tie out of his hair. He is probably a lot more worked up than is good for him, yanking hard again, when it doesn’t come loose right away. “Godfucking, damn it!” he swears and yanks anew, taking out all the rage and frustration he is too weak to properly convey to Agron on his hair and the hair tie.

“Hey. Here,” Agron says, hands instinctively going up to offer aid. He isn’t just capable of sitting there and watch.

With two hands and a little bit of patience, it is easy to work the hair tie out of the tangled mess. It seems like Nasir leans into his touch a little bit and Agron recalls how it had been for him in the beginning, when he had just met Nasir, and he’d realised how touch-starved he’d been. Nasir probably doesn’t have that problem, considering that his friends probably doesn’t leave him alone for more than an hour tops and they’re all tactile people, but it is not the same. Shame burns in Agron, but he is glad and thankful they’ve all been here, when he was not.

He moves to cup Nasir’s face, thumb stroking lightly across his cheekbone, careful to avoid the jagged scrape leading down from his eye. Nasir turns back to him, looking at him, but he says nothing and when he doesn’t move away, Agron’s thumb reaches down to touch his lip.

Agron wonders if there is a chance he could just lean forward and kiss him, and that they could work through this. Together.

Nasir’s hair falls into his eyes and he makes a low noise of irritation when he tries to brush it back with his bandaged hand and realises that it doesn’t go too well.

“Do you…?” Agron strokes it away from his face for him. “Should I braid it for you?”

Nasir looks down. “Agron…”

“Don’t. Just…” Agron fingers brush over Nasir’s temple, even though the errant strands of hair are securely fastened behind Nasir’s ear. “Let me take care of you? Like you did for me? At least let me do that.” He is outright begging now.

There is no protest from Nasir when Agron stands up and helps him shuffle forward on the bed. It’s a bit of a struggle for Agron to fit himself in behind Nasir while trying to avoid jangling Nasir too much, but they get it to work, used to each other and their bodies and how to fit them together.

It is not an ideal position for hair braiding – Agron has to lean back awkwardly and twist his wrist uncomfortably to be able to brush out Nasir’s hair and once he starts braiding the odd angle makes it messy and uneven.

When he ties off the end, Nasir makes no sound or movement save for leaning back heavily against Agron’s chest. Afraid even to breathe too loudly, Agron closes his eyes and soaks in the moment.

It is not forgiveness or reconciliation, he knows. It’s just something Nasir needs, this connection.

His hair is slightly greasy, unwashed for a bit too long, but Agron buries his nose in it anyway, like he always does, to draw in the scent of him.

“You have to leave now,” Nasir says when a few minutes have ticked by too fast. Agron’s hands have drifted up to rest against Nasir’s arms, warming his cold skin with the slow rubbing of his palms.

“I… Nasir,” he tries, even though he knows, clear as day, that this isn’t what the traitorous, hopeful part of him wanted to take it for.

“No. You need to go.” Nasir starts wiggling, not struggling, but clearly attempting to get away from Agron.

Agron makes it easy for him and slips out of the bed. He kind of hovers over Nasir, unwilling to leave, selfishly wishing for any indication that he hasn’t blown this completely to hell.

He loves Nasir and even though it is too late for it now, he cannot give up. “Would you…? I mean, can I see you? Just see you?”

“No.”

Agron knows the heartbreaking finality in Nasir’s tone when he hears it, but he can’t just give up. “Please. Love. Please.”

Nasir’s mouth twists at the term of endearment. “I can’t trust you, Agron. It’s done. I’m done. I know what you’ve had to deal with. I know. But this? You fucking abandoned me.” Nasir’s hands are shaking where they are lying on the duvet and he is unmistakably fighting back tears. “It would be so much easier for me if I could just hate you, but I can’t, so please just do what you do best.” He indicates the door with a small, sharp nod of his head.

After a long, dizzying walk through the city and several wrong turns he is finally back at his apartment, pacing his living room like an animal in a cage. He knows he has to do something, whatever, anything to stop or avoid the feeling of his chest caving in, crushing him from the outside in, his heart shattering within.

He doesn’t know what to do.

An ugly pink elephant figurine Mira and Saxa gave him as a gag gift once smashes against the wall in hundreds of small pieces and he howls.

He wants to hurt someone, get himself hurt. He wants to cut the pain out of himself, numb it, get ride of it by whatever means possible.

He scrambles, finds a DVD case. It makes an unsatisfactorily thump against the wall when he throws it, but leaves a dent in the wallpaper and he yells at it, the ugly mark he’s made.

He wants Nasir back. He wants to turn back time and never leave his side.

He wants to break something more, drag his surroundings down into ruin with him. Another porcelain figurine, another stupid gift, hits the wall, but the next item he gets his hand on his is phone and when he accidentally hits the button in the middle, making it light up, he pauses.

He has a picture of Nasir as background image, of course. He is lying in bed, lazy and half-asleep with only one eye open and the corner of his mouth curled into a smile, content and gorgeous after a long, slow round of morning sex.

Agron looks at the picture for a long moment, thinking, I did that. I made him that happy.

Hesitantly, he slides the phone unlocked. He grows more decisive as he opens up the list of conversations, scrolls through them quickly. Whatever it takes.

Oenomaus sent him the text ages ago and he doesn’t know if he still has it – it’s likely that he deleted it within seconds in a fit of rage… But no. There it is. He did save it, for some reason.

He glances at the watch. Perhaps it is too late to call now. But he can at least give it a shot. If he doesn’t do it right this moment, he might not ever.

He clicks on the number, making the call, and puts the phone against his ear.

Chapter Text

“So, Mr Vogt – tell me why you are here.”

Agron squirms in the uncomfortable chair, fiddles with the cuffs of his sweater. He is glad he brought it because it’s freezing in here. There is a picture of a purple dog on the wall that’s disconcerting and ugly as fuck and that’s where Agron’s eyes end up every time he looks away from Dr Please-call-me-Christopher. Fucker probably put it up for exactly that reason.

Agron remains silent, unsure of what to say. He hates this. What the fuck does he think? Because Agron likes throwing money around?

“On the phone, you mentioned your brother,” Christopher says carefully after an uncomfortably long while of silence. “And another man.”

“Nasir,” Agron says.

“Yes. Boyfriend?”

Agron looks up at that, hoping intensely that Christopher will turn out to be a homophobic asshole so Agron can justifiably storm out of here. But his face shows only polite interest.

“He was.”

“What happened?”

Silence.

“Agron.” Christopher adjusts his glasses. “I can call you Agron, right?” He waits, patiently, until Agron has nodded. “This will not work if you refuse to speak to me, and let me remind you that you are here of your own free will. Please tell me about the circumstances leading up to your and Nasir’s break-up, your brother’s death, and your motivations for seeing a therapist, or stop wasting both of our time. The door is right there.”

Agron’s eyes slide back to Christopher from the ugly painting again, surprised at the sudden directness in his tone.

“Nasir…” he begins after a short interval of silence, but then he stops, because that’s the wrong end. “My brother. Duro. He,” he breathes out heavily through his nose, “died. Six months ago, almost seven.”

“How did it happen?” Christopher prompts when Agron falls quiet again. He has his pen poised in hand and a notebook in his lap and Agron wants to know what he writes down about him.

“Drowning.” He has to force the word out.

“Could you extend a little bit on that?”

“He was underwater and breathed in seawater,” Agron says. To hurt himself or annoy Christopher, he does not know. Probably both. “He died from it.”

Christopher scribbles something in his book. The pages are thick and creamy. Agron cranes his neck to see, but the scrawl is too small.

“I was thinking more about your perspective on this,” Christopher says, unfazed. “It’s been almost seven months and your presence here suggests that you haven’t been able to deal with it properly during that time. Would you care to tell me about it?”

There is something about him that reminds Agron of Nasir – the same levelheadness and sheer refusal to let Agron get away with his bullshit. Agron doesn’t like that, doesn’t want to be reminded.

He looks down at his hands, trying desperately to escape having to look at Christopher. “It was my fault,” he mumbles.

“Your fault?”

It takes some time, lots of pauses and much encouragement from Christopher’s side, but eventually Agron has told him the whole ugly, terrible story, laid it out in front of him.

He tells him about seeing Duro lifeless on the beach and then has to stop.

Christopher allows him a moment to gather himself. “And you believe this to be your fault?”

Agron glares at him.

“Did you hold him down beneath the water, Agron?”

Agron glares harder. “No.” And because it makes him feel marginally better, he mentally adds, You fucker.

“Then, if I have understood this correctly, your part in this was buying him the tickets for the trip? Yes?” Again he waits for Agron to nod. “And then you left the water before he did?” Another nod. “And then you turned your attention away from your brother to talk to the man next to you on the beach?”

“Yeah,” Agron says, because Christopher looks like he is waiting for him to open his mouth. “Pretty much.”

“Mhm.” Christopher writes down something else. “If you and Duro had been out at someplace of your choosing and something else had happened – say that he had been shot or something like that – would you still have considered it to be your fault?”

“No,” Agron says. “But I would kill the fucker who did it.”

Christopher nods like Agron got the answer right. Like it’s a fucking pop quiz.

“You have a past of violent behaviour,” Christopher says.

“Yeah.”

“You’ve been suspended twice for violence towards another MMA-fighter after the death of your brother, is that right?”

“Yeah.”

“And none of those time have led to legal repercussions?”

“No.”

“Anything else?”

Agron shrugs; countless fights, mostly under the influence of alcohol, both before and after Duro’s death, but nothing worth going into.

“Okay,” Christopher says after another moment of stubborn silence. He makes a note in his little notebook. “Tell me about Nasir. You mentioned that you are no longer a couple.” He waits, but Agron says nothing, the lump in his throat too thick and the words in his mind too scattered.

“Did he leave you?” Christopher asks.

Agron shakes his head no. “I left him,” he says. It’s hard to admit and harder to think about. He hasn’t seen Nasir for more than a week. He knows that he is fine; Mira and Spartacus keep him updated, but it’s not enough.

“Could you please extend a little bit on that?” Christopher asks in his stupid level voice and all Agron wants to do is slam his fist into his stupid inexpressive face.

But he is here for a reason, after all.

He makes an effort to explain. “He got hurt,” he says. That painting is a goddamn atrocity. No wonder the guy keeps his back to it. “Car accident. I got down to the hospital and… they didn’t know. Then. They didn’t know then if he would make it.” The events start replaying in his head. The waiting room, Dima’s hysteria, his own quiet, catatonic freak out. “I went in to see him.” Nasir, still and wounded and alive only as long as the heart-rate monitor kept beeping. “He wasn’t… He didn’t look good. I… I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t think, I just… ran. Booked a train ticket home to my parents and left.” He tastes blood in his mouth and realises that he has bitten down on his tongue hard enough to make himself bleed. The pain barely registers, but it grounds him slightly in the here and now rather than then. “It took three days before I found out if he… if he… And then I got back. I went to see him and that was it. He told me it… we… were over. For good. He doesn’t want to see me anymore.” He slumps in his chair, defeated.

This time Christopher is the one who remains silent. Eventually he clears his throat lightly. “Tell me why you are here, Agron,” he says again.

“I want him back,” Agron mumbles.

“And you think therapy is going to achieve that? You think that is what this should be used for?”

“No,” Agron says. He lifts his head, facing Christopher. “You don’t understand. It’s not like that. I just…” He sighs. “I was better with him, you know? And I thought that was enough, that we were good. But we weren’t. He gave me so much and I hurt him bad. If we could ever…” A deep breath. “If it is possible to fix this in some way, then I can’t rely on him like that. And he needs to know that he can rely on me. I want to get better for real. If there is any chance.” It’s still hard for him to believe in. “For him and for myself. For both of us.”

Another scribble in the notebook. Agron wants to rip that fucking thing out of his hands. Doesn’t he have the right as patient to read what it says in there?

Christopher looks up from his despicable note-taking. “Well, then. Tell me a little bit more about your relationship.”

When the hour is finally up, Agron stumbles out of the building feeling wrangled. He certainly doesn’t feel better – quite the opposite – but expecting change after one hour seems rather foolishly optimistic.

Donar drove him down here and made Agron promise to call him when he was done to pick him up, but Agron doesn’t feel like it. He doesn’t want to get home quickly and he isn’t especially inclined to talk about talking about his feelings either, so he opts for walking, even though it’s going to take a while. The longer he can put off getting back to his apartment the better.

His friends’ support warms and annoys him in equal measures. He could probably not live with himself without it, because even though he is sure that they haven’t forgiven him for what he did to Nasir more than Nasir himself have, they are still his friends. Still there for him. But they are also Nasir’s friends.

Naevia had called him the day after he had seen Nasir for the last time and apologetically asked him to give her his key to Nasir’s apartment and whatever else he had left at Agron’s.

Agron had gathered it all up and fit it into a plastic bag. It had felt wrong and odd that the last physical vestiges of his and Nasir’s relationship could be fit into one plastic bag. All he had saved for himself was a few of Nasir’s unfinished and rejected sketches, hoping that he wouldn’t miss them and that he would let Agron have them even if he did.

Naevia had come by to pick the stuff up and given Agron a bag of his own stuff in return.

“I’m sorry,” she’s said and sounded like it. He had hugged her hard.

His phone starts ringing, startling him a little bit. He keeps walking down the street, considers ignoring it, but he can’t. There is a small part of him that still believes and hopes that this isn’t the end. The possibility, however small, that it is Nasir calling exists and he cannot not take the phone out of his pocket to find out.

It’s Mira.

He sighs, because he doesn’t want to speak with anyone, but he accepts the call anyway. They worry otherwise, and that’s worse.

“You promised Donar you’d call,” she greets him.

“I know. But I needed some air,” he says, not quite lying.

“You could have called him and said that.” She sighs. “How did it go?”

“Okay.”

“’Okay’? That’s all you’ve got?”

“Mira, I just spent an hour with a stranger trying to pick his way through my brain. Can we not do this right now?”

“Sure, fine.”

There comes a muffled sound in the background and he can hear Saxa’s voice, but not what she says, followed by something that sounds very much like kissing.

“I’m on the phone,” Mira says, not to him. “Stop it!” She laughs, but then quickly sobers. “Sorry,” she says to Agron. “Saxa is… I’m kicking you out of bed if you don’t lay it off!”

Saxa’s snort is audible even to him. His heart twists in chest.

“I’m so sorry,” Mira repeats and Agron can hear the distant thud of a door being closed.

“It’s okay,” he says, even though it’s not. It’s their day off; fooling around in bed all day is what they should be doing. “How is he?” he asks, like he always does.

“Getting better,” Mira says. “And restless.”

“He… He still doesn’t want to see me?”

She is silent for a short moment. “Agron,” she says gently, “I think you have stop asking that. You have to realise that’s it’s not… He’s trying to move on.”

“He’s dating?!”

It’s Castus. Fucking Castus, he has time to stupidly think, before Mira says: “Agron, he can barely walk to the bathroom on his own.”

“I know,” he says. “Fuck. I know.” It feels like he is suddenly dangerously close to crying, emotions going haywire inside of him. “Do you think he would see me if I brought him coffee?” he tries to joke and Mira laughs even though it is not funny in the least and not even really a joke at all. “Everything’s shit without him,” he says, too exhausted to keep any pretences up.

“I know,” Mira says.

“And it’s my own fucking fault.” Saying it out loud doesn’t make it feel better, but somehow he needs to anyway.

“Agron. You will get through this, I promise. It will be hell and you will hate yourself a hundred times more before you do, but eventually you will come out on the other side. And I get it that you don’t want to hear this, but. There are other men out there. He’s not your only shot at happiness, you know.”

“Isn’t he?” He doesn’t even want to imagine that kind of life ahead of him, even though he is already living it – one without Duro and Nasir. One was hard enough.

“That’s not how love works.” She sounds decisive, and she of all people should know, of course.

But it’s not true. Not for him.

“Tell me about your week,” Christopher says when Agron has sat down.

“Not much to tell,” Agron says. He is honestly not trying to be difficult – there isn’t much to tell. He’s slept too much, dreamt nightmares and, even worse, good dreams about things that aren’t real any longer, eaten too little and spent a great part of the weekend playing video games with Spartacus and Laeta.

It’s been endurable.

“Okay.” Christopher crosses his legs. “How did the exercises we discussed last week go then?”

“You mean the ones where I was supposed to act like a normal human being?” Agron says.

“If that’s what you like to call them,” Christopher replies smoothly. “While you may consider these kind of tasks ridiculous, it is important for you to establish routines in your life. Depression works in such a way that it breaks down the normal pattern of your everyday life. Attempting to build that pattern up again, even by such small measures as making the bed, cooking, going out for groceries or a cup of coffee, is a way to help you retake control of your life.”

“I make my bed,” Agron says petulantly. “When I feel like it.”

Christopher just looks patiently at him and that makes Agron realise what it is that pisses him off so much about this guy: his entire work persona is like some glossy surface from which everything slides right off. It’s not normal.

“I hung out with my friends,” he says. “We played video games.” He makes a mental note of trying to sound less like a toddler in the future. Maybe that will earn him points in the “retaking control of his life”-department.

“Socialising is good. Isolating yourself is never a good thing for anyone, but especially bad for you, I would say. Anything else in particular you want to tell me about?”

Agron deflates a little bit in his uncomfortable chair. He isn’t here to be sassy, after all. Christopher isn’t here to make him miserable. Quite the opposite, in fact. But Agron doesn’t believe that will ever happen, that he will ever truly get any better, because he has forgotten what ‘better’ feel like. The only ‘better’ he knows is what he had with Nasir and that’s not an option any more.

“Will it always be like this?” he asks, his voice small. “Will I ever not feel like I’m trying and failing to keep my head above the surface? Can it stop?”

“You don’t believe that it will,” Christopher says. It is not a question.

Agron shakes his head.

“Why not?”

“My brother is dead.” A pause. “I abandoned the love of my life and now he won’t even speak to me. Those things will not go away. They will never go away. So how can the way I feel about it go away? How would that be possible?”

Christopher’s answer is immediate. “Agron, you are not here to make anything go away. This isn’t simply about getting rid of things – that is not how therapy work. You are here to learn and develop the tools to handle what has happened in your life and how to deal with it. You are here to work through the trauma you have experienced and to find less destructive ways to come to terms with it. You will probably get rid of some things in the process – such as your guilt, for example – but that is not where our focus lies. You see the difference?”

Agron nods slowly.

“Now,” Christopher shifts a little in his seat and grasps his pen more firmly. “I know you saw a therapist right after you got suspended the first time. Care to tell me a little bit more about that and why you decided to stop seeing her?”

The shift of subject seems sudden, but it’s not, Agron realises as he thinks over his answer. “She made me forget,” he says.

“Forget?”

Agron makes an impatient sound, annoyed with himself and the words for not being enough. How do you convey what’s inside your own head so that another person may understand, no matter what kind of fancy degree he has? It’s not all neat and articulated inside of him – it’s a mess. And now he is supposed to put words on it, untangle it.

“I have days,” he says, “when I feel… okay. Days when I forget. She told me it was fine to let go. But I can’t do that to Duro.”

“Let go of what exactly?”

Shrugging, he says, “The guilt, I guess. The anger. The bad stuff. I dunno.”

“Did she tell you to let go of him?”

Agron glares down at the table between them, thinking it over. He has been so far gone back then, driven mad with rage and mourning, close to the brink of what his psyche and body could take. The glare turns into a frown. “I… I don’t know. I don’t remember. What does it matter?”

“Not punishing yourself for something that wasn’t your fault isn’t the same thing as letting go of him,” Christopher says gently. “I asked you last time if you had felt equally guilty if he had for example gotten shot in a location you had brought him to, and you told me no, but that you would have, and I quote, ‘killed the fucker who did it’.”

Agron almost grins at that – the expletives sound odd in Christopher’s mouth.

“I believe,” Christopher continues, “that your insistence that you are personally to blame for your brother’s death has not so much to do with your actual actions, but the absence of a real perpetrator. Blaming the ocean would be hard, I imagine. So instead you place yourself in that role – which wasn’t a long stretch, since some kind of survivor’s guilt is common in grieving family members – and that made his passing easier to handle since it resulted in you having someone specific to blame. Could that be the case?”

Agron abandons the innocent slate of wood that is the table top to scowl at Christopher instead.

Unmoved, Christopher says, “What happened to your brother was a tragic accident, Agron. It is not odd that you should take the blame on yourself. You probably would have even if you had not been involved in the actual event in any way whatsoever. You would have thought that it should have been you, that he should be the one still alive because he was younger than you, better than you, nicer than you – the list of could go on forever. You’ve thought all these things and more already, haven’t you?”

Grudgingly, Agron admits, “Yes.”

“If the roles had been reversed, do you think your brother would have handled it differently?”

“That’s not the same.”

“Oh?” Christopher raises an eyebrow. “How come?”

“Do you have a baby brother? Or younger siblings at all?”

“No. I have two older sisters.” A small, wry smile.

“I love my brother more than almost anything,” Agron explains, “but he’s an idiot. He always gets himself into trouble. His entire life…” He closes his eyes briefly, then powers on: “Our entire lives, I’ve been there. Taking care of him. Looking after him. I’ve been the one he can always rely on. That… day, I let him down.”

“Agron, protecting your brother isn’t your mission in life. You did not fail that day; you had nothing to fail,” Christopher says. “And I think it’s time you realised that. It is also evident that you are still very reluctant to actually go through with this. I understand that. It will take time and be hard and painful. But definitely not impossible if you are willing to put in the work. Are you willing to that?”

When it comes down to, it really isn’t a hard choice to make. If Christopher’s weird compelling blank-face wasn’t enough, Nasir certainly is.

“Yeah,” he says. “I think I am.”

Chapter Text

The bag filled with his stuff Naevia gave him has been sitting unopened in a corner for a while now. Agron can’t quite remember what’s in it, but he does know that he is running a little low on both underwear and tees. He needs to unpack it sooner or later, so he forces himself to do it, opens the bag and goes through item after item, putting them away one by one, slowly and methodically.

It’s mostly clothes. A spare set of headphones. Some DVDs. Mostly crap. Worthless stuff that had nothing to do with his and Nasir relationship really and that is empty of meaning now that they are no longer signifying their commitment to each other.

There are a few things missing. A Metallica t-shirt and his black hoodie. He doesn’t blame Nasir – after all, he kept some stuff himself – but he does not know if it makes him feel better or worse knowing that Nasir too kept some mementos; knowing that even now Nasir is still sleeping in that shirt that’s like three sizes to big for him and walking around in that old, washed-out hoodie on slow days. Frequent use had made the fabric soft and Nasir never wore anything beneath. Every chance he got, Agron pulled the zipper down to slip his hand in, teasing a nipple or running his fingers along Nasir’s ribs.

It’s probably better Nasir kept it, he thinks.

He is just throwing a pair of sock with a big hole in one heel in the thrash when the doorbell sounds. He guesses it’s Donar or maybe Gannicus coming by with some cheer-up food or something (the amount of Chinese his friends have all but force-fed him these latest weeks is starting to get ridiculous) and he sighs before going to open the door.

“Surprise,” Dima says flatly when it swings open.

“Um, hi?” Agron says, momentarily thrown. He hasn’t seen Dima since that night in the hospital. She looks a lot better now overall, but there are dark circles around her eyes and she seems… worn.

And it hasn’t really struck him exactly how much alike she and Nasir are before.

“Can I come in?”

“Do you want to?” he asks her.

She rolls her eyes and pushes past him into the living room, flopping down in his armchair.

“This is one ugly fucking chair,” she says when he trails after her.

“So I’ve been told. You want coffee or something?”

“No, thanks.”

“Okay.” He sits down on the couch. “So, what’s up?” A thought hits him, sudden and unwelcome. “Is this about Nasir? Has something happened? Is he okay?” He is already halfway up from the couch – to do what he has no idea.

“Yeah, he’s fine.” She looks at him curiously. “I…” She starts picking at her nails; he can see that some of her cuticles are ringed with blood. “I need to talk to you about something.”

“You’re not here to yell at me?”

“No.” She looks up form her nails. “I fucking despise you for what you did, and you’re a pathetic coward, but I know that you love him a lot, so it’s not like you aren’t in hell already. I don’t need to add to that.”

“Well, thank you,” he says ironically, leaning back with a sigh. Gods, she sure knows how to drive him nuts. “What do you want then?”

Back to the nail-picking. Quietly, she says, “How the fuck did you survive your brother’s death?”

Of all the things she could have said, that was what he was least expecting. “What?”

“I don’t really know any details. About what happened, I mean.” She glances up at him, quickly, and then down again. “Nasir just told me that he, that he… drowned. And that you think that it was your fault, even though it wasn’t. I don’t know what happened or how it was, but if you think that’s how it happened and you’ve been living with that all this time… How the fuck do you do it?” Her voice breaks.

Feeling confused, Agron says, “I’m not sure I…”

Dima’s hand curls into a fist and she slams it down on the armrest of the chair, her eyes squeezing shut. “I drove that car, Agron. If it hadn’t been for me…” She opens her eyes. “I drove that fucking car.” A tear slides down her cheek and she wipes it away angrily.

“Dima, that other driver was drunk. He crashed into you.”

“Have you ever seen me drive?”

He hasn’t, but Nasir has complained about it a lot. Words like “crazy” and “foolhardy” were very frequent in those rants. “It doesn’t matter. He was drunk, he was driving even though he fucking shouldn’t, it’s his fucking fault.” No one has told Agron the guy’s name and even though he’s read about the story in all the papers he could get his hands on, it doesn’t say anywhere who he is. Agron wants to rip that fucking idiotic piece of shit apart with his bare hands, so it is probably better that he doesn’t knpw.

“If I had been paying more attention to that fucking road, Nasir wouldn’t be fucking hurt and scarred for fucking life!”

Agron recognizes the way she is gasping for breath; he is all too familiar with the feeling of something crushing you so hard from the inside you cannot breathe from it and he feels sorry for her.

“They still don’t know if his hand will be alright,” she says. “He may never pick up a tattoo gun again, and that’s my fault. I don’t know how to live with that. How do I live with that?”

“You don’t,” Agron says. “Not really. It eats you up until you feel all dead inside. And then something good comes along in your life – something really good, so much better than you deserve – and you fuck it all to hell because there’s so little left if you that isn’t dead or guilt or pain. It’s not worth it. Get over it.”

“Like you’ve done so splendidly?” she snipes, and Agron recognizes that too all too easily – the anger, the need to lash out and get abuse in return. To punish yourself.

“Use me as a cautionary lesson then,” he snipes right back because he is unable to resist the temptation. “Just get over it. My therapist spoke to me about this. You know what he said? That I’m beating myself up over this because there is no one else. If there had been someone to blame for… for what happened, he says, it would probably be easier for me to get over.” He looks at her and it’s jarring how much it feels like looking into a mirror. There’s the same furious grief and self-loathing inside of her. It isn’t pretty. “You have someone to blame. Do that. Whenever you think of what’s happened, just think of that fucker and imagine a thousand different ways to kill him, if that helps. Just don’t let it destroy the good parts of your life. Don’t be that stupid, Dima. I lost both my brother and yours. Get over it.”

“We haven’t talked about it much, but I have gotten the feeling that there is some mutual hostility between you and Nasir’s sister, right? And she has not been especially supportive of your relationship, has she?” Christopher says.

“That’s right,” Agron says.

“How did it feel giving that kind of advice? Do you understand her position, her feeling in this?”

“Better than anyone, I suppose,” Agron says.

“Mhm.” Christopher flips back a few pages in his notebook, from another session probably, and reads something of what’s written there. “And how has that affected your feelings regarding your involvement in the events leading up to Duro’s death?”

Agron has been able to keep himself from squirming all through the session, but now he suddenly starts feeling uncomfortable. Fucking stupid chair. “What do you mean?” It’s not supposed to come out quite that hostile, but somehow it does anyway.

“You told Dima that this wasn’t her fault and that she should stop blaming herself for what happened or it would destroy her. If I may say so, I think you gave her sound advice. And I presume that you see that your respective situations aren’t that different. So if you think that Dima should not be blaming herself for what happened to Nasir, do you still think that you should be blaming yourself for what happened to Duro?”

“If he didn’t make you want to kill him or yourself or both, he’d be a pretty lousy shrink,” Mira had told him when he’d complained to her about Christopher a couple of days back. “If it doesn’t hurt, it means it isn’t helping.”

He copes out. “I don’t know,” he says, with a heavy sigh.

“You don’t know? Then think about it for a while. I find it very hard to believe that this talk between you and Dima hasn’t affected the way you think about your brother’s death in the slightest.” Christopher peers up from his book at him.

Agron groans inwardly and sighs again, but more softly, and leans back in his chair.

He’d never thought an hour could be so fucking long.

There is a difference between knowing that Christopher be right and feeling it, Agron thinks when he is finally back home after that eternity-long one-hour session. It’s worse than Oenomaus’ torturous three-hour work-outs. Rationally, he may be coming around to the idea that what happened wasn’t on him, but in the darkness late at night or when the absence of Duro becomes too great, that doesn’t matter in the slightest. It’s too deeply lodged inside of him, the conviction that he caused Duro to die.

He is so deep in thought that when his phone rings he doesn’t even check who it is before answering, too accustomed to getting a call from at least one of his friends or his parents after each therapy session. It’s like they’re taking shifts or something.

“Hi,” Nasir’s voice says.

At first he thinks he is hallucinating. That he misses Nasir so much his brain as snapped and provides him with auditory hallucinations to make him cope. He takes the phone from his ear to check. Nasir, it says.

“…Agron?” he hears when he puts the phone back to his ear.

“Uh, yeah. Yeah, I’m here.”

There is silence.

“How are you?” he asks finally.

“I’m getting there,” Nasir says. “I will take out the stitches tomorrow.”

“That’s good.”

“Yeah.”

Another silence.

Agron considers pinching himself. Perhaps he’s just dreaming this.

“Dima told me you were seeing a therapist.”

“She was right.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“So that’s what it took? Me almost dying for you to get your shit together?”

Agron closes his eyes. It hurts a lot, hearing that.

“Fuck.” Nasir sighs. “That was uncalled for.”

“Not really.” His voice sounds shaky to his own ears. He wonders if Nasir picks up on it.

“It was. It’s… good that you get help. How is it?”

“Okay. I guess. I think he likes making me suffer, though. Mira says it’s good for me.”

Nasir gives a short laugh, but it’s cut off abruptly and then the silence stretches out once more. Then Nasir says, “This was a mistake. I shouldn’t have called. Sorry.”

“No,” Agron says, not ready for the call to end. “Nasir, wait. Just…”

The call disconnects.

“Fucking shit-fucking hell,” Agron swears.

His phone rings again just as he has gotten in bed and turned off the light. He fumbles for it and answers it with shaking fingers.

“Hello,” Nasir says.

“Hi.” He lies back and blinks up into the darkness. Why is he calling back? Feelings of hope and acute loneliness collide inside of him.

“I… probably shouldn’t have hung up like that. I didn’t say goodbye.”

It’s sounds like some bad excuse he’s rehearsed over and over to himself, but Agron takes what he can get.

“Well. That’s fine.”

“Yeah. I mean – good. Good.”

“Yeah.”

Silence. Agron doesn’t know if it’s awkward or just… tentative. Maybe even comforting, having Nasir so close again, even if it’s only through the phone.

“So, how are you?”

“Good,” Agron says, which is more of a non-answer than a real answer, honestly. It feels like they’re just recycling words in this conversation now.

“That’s g…” Nasir seems to have realised that too. “I’m watching Hemlock Grove,” he says instead.

They had started to watch it together, only getting two episodes in before Nasir had gone away. Agron had promised not to watch it without him, but Nasir had just rolled his eyes, telling him it didn’t matter and that he should watch it if he wanted to.

Agron hadn’t watched it.

“Is it any good?”

“Nah.”

More silence.

Agron hears some rustling in the background and a soft meow.

“That Alyx?” he asks, picturing the calico cat snuggled up close to Nasir in bed.

“Yeah. She’s being cuddly on me. Hey, girl.”

Agron listens to Nasir coddling his cat for a minute. His voice is gentle and affectionate and Agron imagines that he can feel Alyx’s purring through the phone.

“I miss you,” Nasir says suddenly and Agron doesn’t react at first, thinking that he is still speaking to Alyx. Then it registers and results in a mess of contradictory feelings.

“I miss you too,” he says. “I love you.”

For a moment, Agron is almost sure Nasir will say it back, but instead he says, “I never realised how afraid I was all the time of you leaving until you did.”

Agron’s hand tightens around the phone. “I’m so sorry for that too,” he says, his voice low and feeble. “I’m so sorry, Nasir.”

He is beginning to realise, both through the distance between them and his sessions with Christopher, how hard their relationship actually was for Nasir sometimes. It is not an easy thing, to face that one of the best things in your life, also has hurt a person you love so deeply.

He thinks about the feeling of walking into that hospital room, and seeing Nasir there, and about how many times Nasir has walked into his apartment to see him all but catatonic, or woken up to Agron screaming or sobbing from bad dreams, or seen him torture himself over memories of Duro.

“I’m not trying to punish you, Agron. You know that right? Tell me you know that.”

“I know that,” Agron says.

“I want you here,” Nasir says.  “But I can’t. I can’t let you in again.” I can’t love you again, he doesn’t say, but that’s what Agron hears anyway.

“We don’t… You don’t… It doesn’t have to be like that, Nasir. You could just let me be there for you.” He knows he has already asked that, but there is a chance he might be given a different answer this time around.

“We can’t be friends, Agron. You are my…” Nasir doesn’t finish that sentence. “I can’t have you as my friend.” In a whisper, almost too quiet for Agron to pick up, he adds, “It’s all or nothing when it comes to you.” A little louder, he says, “I have to go to sleep now or Dima will force me to take a sleeping pill.” He sighs. “Sleep heals and whatnot, you know.”

“Yeah. Sleep well,” Agron says, wanting to ask him a thousand question about how he is sleeping and why he has sleeping pills and if he needs them and if he thinks that he could ever forgive him.

“Goodnight,” Nasir says and hangs up.

Agron spends a long time staring at the blackened screen of his phone before putting it back on the nightstand and turning over to try and go to sleep.

Chapter Text

“Hey.”

Agron’s voice sounds thin and far away and the sound is slightly muffled by the pillow Nasir has his phone is lying on. He put Agron on speaker so that he didn’t need to use his hands, leaving his left free to keep doodling random, awkward squiggles in the notepad propped up on his legs.

“Hey,” he says.

“How are you?”

He asks Nasir that every time, as if he actually does think Nasir’s condition could have drastically worsened during the few hours since they last talked.

“I’m fine. Tired of this crap,” he says, feeling irritated. Truth is, he is doing better and even got off his pain meds a few days ago. He can still feel it in some movements, little twinges and a stiffness that wasn’t there before, constant reminders of the fact that there is something wrong with his body, but it is nothing he can’t live with. He is still, for the most part, on bed rest and still unable to use his right hand, though.

And his left is fucking useless. He throws the pen away in a sudden bout of frustration, but not far. He doesn’t want to have to get out of bed to retrieve it.

“I want to go back to work,” he says.

“You will,” Agron says quickly. It’s funny really, how he is afraid that Nasir will have reverted back to the brink of dying every time he calls, while at the same time firmly believes that Nasir will have no trouble getting back to tattooing as soon as his doctor okays him for work.

“Yeah, if there is a sudden influx in people wanting crooked and ugly tattoos they’ll live with and despise for the rest of their lives, then sure,” he says bitterly.

“Well, maybe you should stop despairing and remember that the biggest trend in tattooing a few years back were tribals,” Agron says, well aware of how much Nasir hates that particular trend.

“Not only is it cultural appropriation, which is fucking bad enough, but they also all want the same stupid generic solid black designs,” Nasir had burst out once after an especially aggravating day at work. “It’s just glorified flash art by now, if even that.” Agron had laughed and kissed him, pulled him down next to him on the couch and worked out all the tension in Nasir’s shoulders with his warm and skillful hands.

Agron is not even here and he still can make Nasir feel better. He picks up his pencil again.

“I guess,” he says. “I wish I were left-handed.”

“I’m betting you’ll soon be,” Agron says and Nasir smiles, but it quickly fades.

He knows that he should stop doing this. He knows that he should never have initiated these calls from the beginning. It’s harmful and unfair to both to himself and to Agron. And maybe Agron deserves it, but that doesn’t make it right.

He isn’t even trying to let go anymore.

“How are you, by the way?” he asks. “Naevia said she gave you a black-eye in training the other day.”

“Yeah.” Agron laughs. Fuck, but it’s a gorgeous laugh. “In my defence, I had overslept, gotten there twenty minutes late and missed most of the warm-up. I was half-asleep!”

“Right,” Nasir scoffs, moving the pencil in large, fluid movements, trying to make his left hand used to holding it and move with it.

“She is awfully good,” Agron says. “And I look like an idiot. But it’s starting to fade.”

“Things tend to that,” Nasir says without knowing why. He’s still mad at Agron, he still feels betrayed, but he wishes he didn’t. He has lost Agron, perhaps his job and, for the moment, his mobility – he wants at least Agron back.

“I have to go,” Agron says, too sudden, in an odd voice. “I’ll talk to you. I guess. Bye.”

Nasir has barely time to reply with a “Bye” before Agron has hung up.

He throws the pencil away again – harder this time so it ends up on the floor.

Nasir is bundled up far beyond comfort on Naevia’s couch. It feels like the blanket is acting more as a straightjacket than an actual blanket and he is also starting overheat.

Fuck Naevia and her stupid boyfriend, he thinks. He has been watching old reruns of Charmed on television for two hours and is in a pissy mood.

He barely registers the sound of the door opening before someone is shouting: “Crixus, your stupid fucking idiot! We were supposed to meet up to train half an hour ago, your shit-eating Gaul!”

Agron.

Nasir can’t breathe and he makes an aborted motion, spilling coffee from the cup in his hand. Good thing it has cooled down. Serves Naevia and Crixus right, getting coffee stains on their stupid blanket.

He thinks about saying something, but before he can Agron is on his way into the living room.

“Can you at least answer me, you hare-brained moron? If you and Naevia are busy having sex, I swear I’ll fucking…” He stops dead at the sight of Nasir.

Completely irrationally, Nasir wishes he looked better. He is too hot, his hair is messy (when is it fucking not these days) and he is wearing Agron’s old Metallica-shirt.

Fuck.

“Uh,” Agron says. He is filling up the doorway, large and beautiful and Agron. And Nasir is still as in love with him as he was a month ago when Agron woke him up with a blow-job and then washed his hair for him while kissing him excruciatingly slow and then almost refused to let him leave for his trip.

Right now he thinks that he shouldn’t have left. If he had stayed, this wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have got hurt, his hand would still be functioning and he would still have Agron in his life.

No, he reminds himself. You wouldn’t. Not for long, anyway. It was doomed and you fucking knew it, because he refused to get his fucking shit together.

But he has now, another, treacherous, voice chimes in. He’s trying.

“What are you doing here?” Agron asks, still looking confused.

Nasir is too; speaking with Agron on the phone is one thing, something he can fool himself into believing is not really like holding on, but having Agron here, actually seeing him, is quite another thing.

“Change of scenery,” he says lightly. “Naevia’s at work and Crixus’s had to go help his cousin out with something, I don’t know. I’m puppy-sitting. She isn’t supposed to be left alone for too long yet.”

“Oh, right!” Agron says, suddenly looking relieved. “I haven’t seen her yet. Where is he?”

“Asleep.” Nasir manages to free one hand from the blanked-cocoon and point to the corner where Aileen is curled up on her dog-blanket.

“Whoa,” Agron says when he’s stepped around the couch to get a good look at her, leaving him uncomfortably close to Nasir. “You sure that’s a puppy? It’s huge.”

“I know.” Nasir had reacted in a similar manner the first time he saw her. He isn’t even quite convinced it is a dog. “And she’ll only get bigger.”

“What’s her name?”

“Aileen.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

Agron moves closer and runs one hand down her flank, but she doesn’t wake up. She’s spent the last hour running around all over the apartment while barking so she must have worn herself out. He pats her once more before rising from his squat and sitting down on the couch, at the outmost end of it.

Gods, Nasir wish he could just pull him in close and snuggle up next to him.

“How are you?” Agron asks, predictably.

“Overheating,” Nasir says and throws away the blanket.

Agron looks amused. “Naevia?”

“Crixus helped.”

“Fucking Gaul,” Agron says and then he apparently remembers that he too has a legitimate reason to be pissed at Crixus. “Fucker could at least have texted me or something.”

“Mhm.” Nasir leans his head back and closes his eyes, not really interested in hearing Agron go on about what an idiot Crixus is, but willing to do it anyway if it means that he’ll stay.

He’s feeling lonely.

He hates that he still loves Agron so fucking much even though he cannot even think about him without feeling the heavy knot of hurt and anger and disappointment twist horribly inside of him.

“Should I…?” Agron trails off without indicating what he is asking for.

Nasir just shrugs in response. He doesn’t know what he wants Agron to do, either.

A hand curls around his ankle, right where his pajama pants have ridden up and the pads of Agron’s fingertips are like pin-pricks of warmth against his skin.

He should pull away. He can’t cut Agron out of his life only to keep him here anyway. It doesn’t work that way. He can’t have both. He wants Agron but he can’t deal with all his shit any longer, shouldn’t have put up with it as long as he did in the first place. He should pull away.

He sees Agron move, but it’s only when he is being wrapped up in Agron’s embrace that he realises what’s happening.

Agron is holding him a little too hard – one hand is right beside the wound that is starting to become more of a scar, tugging at the edge of it, and the other is pressing against a tender spot, a bruised not yet healed. His heart is drumming double fast against Nasir’s shoulder.

Nevertheless, it’s comforting. He has never really felt small next to Agron – even though he technically is – but he likes the feeling of being encompassed in his arms.

“This is really stupid,” he says and rest his head against Agron’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” Agron agrees.

“You really have to be gone before Nae and Crixus get back,” Nasir says.

“Definitely.”

He can have this part, right? The cuddle-part. Nothing else, just hugging. It’s nice. It doesn’t have to be a slippery slope. Nasir is a grown-ass man. He can decide that for himself. Feelings are not the boss of him. He’s been in a car-crash, for fuck’s sake. He’s allowed to be a little emotionally confused. No harm done.

He doesn’t notice falling asleep, but when he wakes up he is tucked in under the blanket again and Aileen is licking his face, slobbering dog drool all over him.

It’s days before he speaks to Agron again.

He spends most of his time trying to force his hands into submission. He has abandoned trying to turn himself left-handed and is instead focusing on being able to hold a pen in his right hand again. The actually holding is less of a problem than he would have expected; his hand feels slightly off and not as nimble as he has taken for granted his whole life, but he can hold it. It’s actually doing anything with it that’s the problem. He can’t draw a line worth a damn and he doesn’t even want to imagine what holding a tattoo gun would be like. Right now he would probably do more damage than actual tattooing.

His bedroom is filled with crumpled pieces of paper, torn out of notebooks and thrown away, filled with jagged lines and distorted figures. It’s a mess. Everything’s a mess: his bedroom, his drawings, himself.

He tears out another page, throws it away, and picks up his phone.

Agron is at the top of his contact list. Every time he taps on his name it to call he knows that he shouldn’t. He broke it off with Agron because Agron couldn’t be what he needed, not with Duro and his guilt taking up so much space in his life. He broke it off because he had started to realise and finally understood the moment he woke up in that hospital and found out that Agron had started running again that this would hurt him. Badly. Nothing has really changed.

And still he makes the call.

Agron’s voice is familiar in his ear, making it easier for him to put the tip of the pen back against the paper and try to make something good come out of it. They talk mostly of nothing, make bad jokes and try to keep the conversation in safe territory.

Agron tells him an outrageous and probably not even half-true story about Donar who after things ended between him and Chadara tried to drown his sorrows in beer and moved on to make some stupid stuff and then, allegedly, feel asleep in a puddle of spilled-out drink.

Nasir laughs when he is done and then they go quiet for a long moment.

Then Agron sighs. “Fuck, I don’t even want to know what Christopher would say if he knew about this.”

It takes Nasir by surprise, how sudden and overwhelming the jealousy cutting through him is. Who the fuck is Christopher? When did Agron get a new boyfriend? And why the fuck does he keep accepting these calls from Nasir if he has found someone new?

“Christopher?” he asks and it is a struggle to keep his voice carefully neutral.

“My therapist.”

Oh.

His fucking therapist. Who Agron is on a first-name basis with. Great. He doesn’t want to feel jealous – he doesn’t have the right – but he does. Brutally.

“He doesn’t believe in helping patients while they call him ‘Doctor’,” Agron continues, as if he can read Nasir’s mind. “Creates distance or something like that.”

He shouldn’t feel this relieved either. If Agron would have found someone else – good for him. Nasir doesn’t have anything to do with that anymore.

“You haven’t told him?” He has to ask.

“No.”

“Why not?”

Agron sighs again. “Because I don’t want it to stop.”

That should not make Nasir giddily happy to hear. But it does. “You think he would ask you to put an end to it?”

“I don’t know,” Agron says. “He is very unpredictable.” He sounds put off and Nasir smiles. Gods, he wishes he could see Agron while at the therapist’s. He must be a fucking menace.

“So, uh…” He moves the pen in mindless circles, creating a black swirl on the page. “Any progress?”

It takes a little while for Agron to reply. “Some, I guess. Maybe. We talk a lot about Duro. And me. About my feelings. Whenever I say something, he always asks me if I can ‘extend upon that’. Fuck, I just really hate him sometimes.”

“But he’s good?”

“I think so, yeah.”

Do you go there to try and get me back? Nasir wants to ask him, but something stops him.

His phone vibrates against his ear as it receives a text before he has a chance to say anything else.

“Hold on a sec,” he tells Agron. “I just got a text.”

It’s from Naevia. Need to talk to you. Answer your phone!

“It’s Naevia. She’s been calling me  apparently. We’ll…” Ending these calls are always so awkward. He never knows what to say.

“Yeah,” Agron says. “We’ll talker later.”

“Yes. Bye.”

He calls Naevia the second he’s hung up, welcoming the chance of not having to dissect every word exchanged between him and Agron right away. “Hi, Nae. What did you want?”

“Testy,” she teases him. “Who were you talking to?”

“Dima and she were annoying,” he answers quickly, because it’s easier that way.

“I see,” Naevia says. “There is a party down at the gym this weekend. According to your doctor you should be able to attend.”

Nasir groans. “Naevia, stop talking to my doctors! I was on check-up a couple of days ago; I know I’m fine. I don’t need you to inform me about that.”

“You should come,” she says.

“So this is you inviting me?”

“No, not quite.” She sighs. “I talked to Agron about it. He said that if you want to go, he could stay at home.”

Agron hadn’t mentioned this to him, but then again, they’re pretending like they have no contact. Like their relationship ended with a clean cut. “Seriously? He’s just gotten out of isolation-mode and you guys think it’s a good idea to exile him from the gym for my sake?”

“It was his idea,” Naevia says. “I’m just the messenger.”

“Sorry,” he says, ashamed of his outburst. He does probably need to get out for a while. “Well, we’re both adults,” he says. “I can handle this, and I’m sure he can too.”

“You sure?” She doesn’t sound like she is doubting him; she’s just double checking.

“Yes,” he says. “It will be fine.”

-

That it’s not going to be fine takes Nasir about three seconds after Agron’s arrival to realise. Agron shows up to the gathering (it’s mostly just people getting together to drink beer in a gym – calling it a ‘party’ seems a little too ambitious) dressed in black jeans and a white shirt with the topmost buttons undone and Nasir wants to lick him.

Seriously – lick him. Nasir hasn’t had a drop of alcohol to drink in over a month and there is probably some residue of the pain meds lingering in his system, so he’s blaming the one and a half beer he’s had so far for that.

Also, he’s blaming Naevia, because she was the one that parked him in a chair with a view over the door if he leans back, turns his head at an odd angle and kind of squints a little.

It was inevitable really, he thinks, later, when they have bailed the gym – slipping out when a very drunk Gannicus was strip dancing on a table – and ended up at Nasir apartment, on his bed, in a state of definite undress.

He’s missed this so much – not human contact, but sex, and especially sex with Agron. No one has ever managed to light him up inside quite the way Agron does with his mouth and touch and big, stupid, well-muscled body.

His hands are soft and gentle on Nasir and it makes him impatient, but he feels his own body’s limits, feels the skin straining around the wound in his side and how weak and tender his right hand is where it’s cupping Agron’s jaw.

So they take it slow. They don’t talk, but when Nasir pulls off his shirt, Agron presses his palm against his side, over the all but healed wound, and swallows hard.

Nasir doesn’t want to think about that, not now, so he bends down and kisses Agron deeply while getting the lube out of the drawer with his left hand to hand it to Agron, silently ordering him to work his magic.

He remains on top and Agron seems completely fine with it, his eyes glazed over and his breathing shallow and rough. Nasir grabs his wrist to pull his fingers out and positions himself on his knees to sink down on Agron’s cock.

He, too, is breathing hard, he realises as he takes him in. His head is swimming with the sex and beer and something else he doesn’t care to identify.

Agron rises up on his elbows to reach Nasir’s mouth with his and they kiss as Nasir brings his hips down in a measured but ruthless rhythm, torn between ending this quickly and making it last forever.

It doesn’t feel like it used to, but then things aren’t the way they used to be. It’s good, though, so fucking good that Nasir almost wants to cry from it. He doesn’t, but he grips Agron tightly to him and shouts out his name as he comes. It’s hard enough to make him black out a little bit for a few seconds, and when he comes to Agron has divested him next to him on the bed.

The warm feeling of afterglow dissipates quickly, leaving his skin feeling cold and clammy and his body aching.

He will still feel Agron inside him for a couple of days and he is sure there is a mark or two sucked into his neck. He doesn’t know how he feels about that, about any of this.

He opens his eyes and Agron is there, not touching him but looking at him, green eyes unreadable in the dusk.

Nasir thinks that he should probably have considered how Agron would interpret this before they did it. Are they back together now, as far as Agron’s concerned?

It would be so easy to lean over and kiss Agron, fall asleep pressed against him and then wake up in the morning to Agron still here with him. Again. But there is a part of him that cannot do that. Maybe that’s the adult in him, rather than the part of him that thought it’d be a good idea to go get a little drunk at a place he knew Agron would be.

But he doesn’t have to think it through, not right now, because Agron says, “Do you need me to leave?” and is up from the bed gathering his clothes as soon as Nasir has nodded, the back of his hand brushing perhaps-accidentally against Nasir’s bare arm. Once he is dressed he leaves without another word.

Chapter Text

It’s doesn’t stop there. Of course it doesn’t.

Unlike the first time, they meet up at Agron’s place, since Nasir’s is much more… supervised. Agron hadn’t realised exactly how close Nasir and Naevia had got until now – Naevia doesn’t pull that mother hen-routine on just anyone. So Agron’s place it is.

It’s not a relationship. They fuck – sometimes fast and rough, sometimes long and sweet, sometimes all of the above – and then Nasir gets up, dresses, and leaves. But it’s not just sex, either. How could it possibly be, between them? They’re in a no man’s land, caught up in something far to complicate to be a fuck buddy-arrangement and too detached to be an actual relationship.

Even so, Agron wouldn’t give it up for anything. It feels like a small piece of his life has slotted back into place, having Nasir here, in his bed, inside of him, fucking him deep and hard the way only he knows how.

Nasir seems to be healing up fine – Agron is very adamant about making sure every time he comes over, running his hands all over and kissing all his soft spots – but it’s evident that he’s not completely there yet. It often leaves Nasir frustrated when they have to stop or adjust their positions to accommodate his pain or stiffness, and he keeps making aborted motions with his right hand before remembering that it’s not as capable as it used to be.

Agron doesn’t care. He would prefer Nasir without scars or pain, obviously, and could also go without the constant reminders of how he fucked this up that the marks on Nasir’s body are, but it’s not like making sure it’s as good for Nasir as it is for him is a hardship.

But it’s easy to forget too, when Nasir is on top of him like this, cock buried to the hilt and fucking into him with small, snapping thrusts of his hips. Agron is clutching at him with both arms and a leg slung over his lower back, moving with him and panting, low moans catches in his throat. Nasir bends down to kiss him, one hand going up to cup his face, while the other closes around his cock.

He pulls Agron’s orgasm from him with long, rough strokes, off rhythm to the movement of his hips, and it takes a long moment for Agron to come down from his high. Nasir takes advantage of his pliant state, pushes Agron’s leg up against his chest and finishes himself off with just another few, hard thrusts and a choked off shout.

He pulls out and moves off Agron, but he doesn’t go far. The side of his body is like a line of warmth against Agron’s.

“Fuck me,” Agron mumbles and lets his head loll to the side, pleasantly fucked-out and not caring one bit that there in all certainty is come, sweat and lube all over his newly-changed sheets.

“At least give me a minute,” Nasir says.

Agron just grunts and nudges him in the shin with his toe in response.

“Agron.”

“Mhm.” If Nasir is planning on staying for another round Agron should definitely not be falling asleep, but he’s feeling blissfully exhausted and it would be so good to just fall asleep right now next to Nasir, pretending that he will still be there when he wakes up.

“Agron. Look.”

He opens his eyes. “What?” All there is to see is the hand Nasir holding up, still a little bit sticky with Agron’s come. “Ugh. There’s tissues on the nightstand.”

“Ugh?” Nasir repeats. “What are you ugh-ing at? This is yours.” He wipes off his hand on Agron’s chest and anticipates and silences Agron’s protest with a quick kiss. He holds his hand up again. “This is my right hand.”

“Yeah,” Agron says, because duh, he can tell the difference between right and left, thank you very much.

“My right hand,” Nasir says, smiling. “I jacked you off with my right hand.” 

“Oh!” Agron says, finally picking up. “That’s awesome! Hm,” he says when he thinks back on what he’s said and realises the weirdness of that statement.

It is awesome, though. He laughs and Nasir laughs with him, bending down to kiss him again.

Pulling away a few inches, Nasir says, “I can use my hand. A little bit.”

“For a good purpose, too,” Agron says. Nasir smacks him, with his right hand. Agron catches it and pulls him into another kiss.

“I think your minute’s up,” he tells Nasir, mock-serious.

It goes on in the same vein for several weeks, until he one session finally cracks under Christopher’s scrutinizing gaze. It’s not surprising; he’s convinced that Christopher knows he is holding something back. Sometimes Agron thinks that Christopher might have some kind of mind-reading powers, but then again, it is actually he’s job to work out what’s going on inside people’s head, so he’s supposed to be good at it.

“And you consider starting up this relationship with Nasir is a good idea at this point?” Christopher asks, his voice as level as usual.

“Well,” Agron says and then stops, because he doesn’t really have a good response to that. He knows it’s a bad idea, Nasir knows it’s a bad idea, but they’re doing it anyway.

“What do you hope to gain from this, Agron?” Christopher asks. “Will be content with this arrangement or are you hoping it will lead to a more committed relationship?”

“Yeah,” Agron says, because if he started this session with being honest, he might as well continue. “I’m probably hoping for that, yes.”

“And if that doesn’t happen?”

“I don’t know.” He sighs. “I just miss him, all right?” he says, quickly getting defensive. “And this way, it’s easier.”

“For now,” Christopher says, making Agron glower and then sigh, when he realises that he has a point.

“So maybe it’s stupid,” he says in an attempt to defend whatever the fuck it is he and Nasir is currently doing. “But it’s so good. And I’m not talking about the actual sex,” he hastens to add when he hears how that came out. “He makes me happy. Even like this. Is that so bad?”

Christopher smiles a little at him. “Agron, you are a grown man. I’m not here to tell you what you can or cannot do; those are solely your decisions to make. I’m here to help you reflect on how those decisions and your actions affect your life and your mental health. If you think that continuing this liaison with Nasir is the best course of action, then no, it isn’t so bad. Then it’s not bad at all. But from what you have told me, I find it difficult to believe that this arrangement would be good for you. I think that when it comes to this particular man, it isn’t really possible for you to settle for anything but a loving, committed relationship.”

“I don’t like how it sounds when you lay it out like that,” Agron mutters.

“I’m not saying that you should break things of with Nasir,” Christopher says, “but I do want us to discuss how you think this is affecting and will affect you and where it will go. I understand that it is important for you to keep Nasir in your life, but is this really better than nothing for you? And should it be wholly on his conditions?”

“I hurt him bad,” Agron says, now trying to defend Nasir instead of his own actions. “He isn’t doing anything wrong.”

“I didn’t say he were,” Christopher says gently. “But you did apologise for what you did, and when you wanted to try and work your relationship out, he told you it was over. He made that choice and you accepted it. Then he contacted you and from there your current relationship was initiated. Correct?”

Agron nods. “Yes.”

“I don’t know anything about Nasir’s motivations or feelings or thoughts regarding this matter,” Christopher says, sounding as if he is choosing his words carefully. “But if he is in any way punishing you for hurting him, I would say he has no right to do so.”

“He’s not,” Agron says firmly. There are many ways Nasir could hurt him if he wanted to. He wouldn’t do it through sex. And not like this.

“What to do you think his motivations are, then?” Christopher asks. “You know him.”

“I think he has trouble letting go,” Agron says after a moment.

“Care to explain?”

“He was pretty badly hurt. Physically, I mean.” Agron swallows. He still has great trouble thinking about that, how close to death Nasir actually was. “He can’t work at all right now. If his hand doesn’t heal properly he may never get back to tattooing. His sister is… well, she blames herself and I think that makes things a little strained between them. And then he lost me, too. I think… I guess he wants to hold on to something, and that’s what he needs me for.”

“And apart from wanting him back, you want to feel needed by him, don’t you, Agron?” Christopher says. “You relied on him so much for so long that you feel like you have to repay him for it, is that it? Or does it feel like you are more on equal ground this time around?”

“Maybe.” Agron shrugs. He hasn’t really thought about it like that. “I guess I feel it’s my turn now, you know? I mean, I get why he broke it off with me – do I ever – and I know that it would probably be better for both of us to not… do this. But at the same time, I want to take this chance to help him, be there for him. Like he has been for me for so long.”

“Are you hoping to prove that you can be a, how shall I put it, good boyfriend?” Christopher actually puts air quotes around good boyfriend. It’s not a gesture that suits him and Agron mouth twist in a small grin before he grows serious again.

“I don’t know.” He spreads his hands. “I know I’m not his boyfriend. I’m just a lay. Or something. I don’t know.”

“But you want to know,” Christopher says. “You want to know what this is and where it is going. And I don’t think that these are unrealistic expectations on your part. I understand that you feel that you owe him and I understand that you want to be close to him not matter the cost to yourself, but if any kind of arrangement or relationship between you two will ever work, you cannot feel that you are in any way indebted to him, because I think that would be very damaging for both of you in the end. Do you see where I’m coming from with this, Agron? Do you agree, or am I completely in the wrong here?”

“No,” Agron replies. “Yes, I can see where you’re coming from.”

“So,” Christopher closes the notebook resting on his knees and puts down his pen, “I know I have no right to decide this for you, but I would urge you to avoid seeing Nasir until next time we meet and instead spend some time on really thinking this through so that you know exactly where you stand and how this current relationship will impact you both now and in the future before it progresses further.”

Agron plans to at least consider Christopher’s suggestion. He really does. But then Nasir calls and his voice is warm and sultry and Agron wants him here so bad, and he agrees immediately when Nasir asks if he can come over.

He doesn’t regret it. Not at all, and maybe that’s the worst part. He doesn’t know if at least having this is better than not seeing Nasir at all, but he wants it. Needs it. That’s the one thing that hasn’t changed. It’s still in Nasir’s arms that he can feel comforted and safe and not have to think about all the bad stuff.

The bruised, aching feeling of the bone-deep pain that is Duro’s death and the absence of him hasn’t faded or blunted, but it has been buried beneath all the messy, conflicting feelings regarding Nasir, the break-up and their new not-relationship that keep growing and growing inside of him.

But then summer is over with September is suddenly around the corner, only one day away, and it all resurfaces with a vengeance, and he is shocked by the agony of it.

Duro’s birthday is coming up, looming before him, and shortly after that the day of his death. It is all Agron can do to try and avoid getting sucked into that huge, black pit of grief and guilt that it is spreading out around him again, infecting everything. That was the day Agron gave Duro the tickets. It was a present. It became his death and it was a fucking birthday gift.

Christopher tries talking him through it, to force him to face it and come to terms with it, but Agron is so much better at – and so very used to – hiding. He retreats behind his panzer of loneliness and apathy and tells Christopher what he thinks he wants to hear and not what is really going on inside his head.

“Agron,” Christopher says exasperated, only a few minutes into their latest session. “Your brother’s birthday is two days away. I do not believe you when you tell me you are handling it. You are deflecting my questions, your temper is shorter than usual, and, frankly, you aren’t especially good at hiding how much pain you are in. I understand that this is very hard for you, but in order you work through this, you need to at least make an effort.”

“It’s his twenty-fourth birthday,” Agron says mindlessly, not really listening to Christopher.

Christopher studies him silently for a few, long seconds. “Agron, we’ve talked about this. I believe that it would be easier for you to come to terms with Duro’s death if you would talk about him in past tense. It would have been his twenty-fourth birthday.”

“I don’t want it to be fucking easier!” Agron growls, fists clenching without him even noticing.

“You’re regressing,” Christopher says evenly. “It is to be expected and even necessary – dealing with depression is not a straight path forward, but one with many twists and turns and lots backtracking. I appreciate that this time is particularly hard for you, with two such monumental dates so close together, but that is precisely why it is so important that you are open with me and try to do your best to get through this. Besides these sessions, what support do you have among your friends and family?”

“I have my friends,” Agron says. “If I need them, they’ll be there.”

“There is no if about it, Agron,” Christopher says. “If they are there for you, use their support. You’ll need it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. What about your parents? This much be a very difficult time for them as well.”

“They live quite a bit away,” Agron says.

“A train ride,” Christopher interjects.

“Yeah. Yeah, but it’s… We’re not a family anymore. Not the same family. How can we spend Duro’s birthday together? He won’t be there. We won’t have a party for him. It won’t be about him, but about us. Our pain.” He looks down at his hands. They’re trembling, ever so slightly. “Duro loved celebrating his birthday.”

“I still think it is important for you to have your parents’ support and help,” Christopher. “Just as it is probably important for them to have yours.”

Agron remains silent for a long while. “It feels,” he says eventually, “like I’m waiting for them to realise what I did and start to hate me.”

“You are still blaming yourself for your brother’s death.” It is no question.

Truth is, Agron isn’t sure he actually does, deep down. But it is yet another thing he cannot let go off.

Christopher waits for him to say something, but when it is clear that Agron won’t open his mouth, he continues, “One of the hardest things with getting out of an depression is accepting and allowing change, in yourself and in your circumstances. It is hard. You hold on to what is known and therefore safe no matter how much it hurts you, or how awful it is. Stepping out of that darkness in your mind seems worse, even though you want to get better. That threshold seems too far away, too high, and the sunlight beyond it too pale. There is a whole world out there you suddenly know nothing about, with rules you have to navigate. You know how to operate like this person carrying this heavy grief and have no idea who you are without it.” Christopher pauses. “It is a hard thing to get past, but not impossible.”

“It’s odd,” Agron says slowly, “hearing you put words on all that shit in my head.”

Christopher smiles. “Sometimes labelling and, through that, understanding things makes them easier to handle,” he says. “Easier to see for what they are.”

They sit there silent for a long while. It doesn’t feel like it usually does, like Christopher is quietly pressuring him to answer, but rather like he is simply giving him time to really process what they’ve just discussed.

“I think,” Agron says finally, “that I will call Mum and Dad. Ask if maybe I can come down there.” The very prospect feels exhausting, but he thinks it needs to be done. He thinks it will help them all, in the end.

“I think that it would be very good if you do that,” Christopher says. “Mostly because of Duro, but also because of the events that led up to your last visit there.”

“Yeah,” Agron mumbles, wishing that Christopher hadn’t brought that up, but knowing that he is right.

Agron hasn’t seen Nasir or responded to any of his attempts to contact him in over a week. It’s not easy, but right now he has to put that particular mess aside because he cannot deal with both that and this.

He does send him a text, though, right before he leaves. duro’s birthday coming up, it says. spending some time at my parents’. just so you know.

He expects the train ride to feel like hell, memories of the last one still lingering and with the thoughts of Duro gnawing within, but it goes surprisingly well. He sits down, plugs his earphones into his ear, puts on music, closes his eyes and spends the whole journey more asleep than not.

Compared to that last trip here, it almost feels odd how undramatic it is this time around. His train is a little late into the station and his parents are already on the platform waiting. He hugs them hard and they hug him back just as firmly.

The mood is tense and heavy, as can be expected with everyone feeling the loss of Duro even more acutely than usual – no one for Agron to bicker with in the backseat, no one that insists on ice-cream when they stop for gas. Duro was a fucking five-year-old to the end.

They don’t really talk until they get inside the house, where they all help prepare dinner in the kitchen. Agron lays the table while his father peels potatoes and his mother starts making fish casserole.

“How are you?” she asks once Agron is done placing out cutlery and has been given strict orders to just sit down while they do the work. Dad hands him a beer.

“I dunno,” Agron answers truthfully. “I get by. I guess.”

“And Nasir?”

“He’s…” With his thumb, he draws a ring in the condensation on the bottle. “He’s healing. He’s fine, except for his hand.”

“So you two keep in touch?” Dad asks, intently focused on chopping up potatoes and dropping them into a pot. He’s never been comfortable with asking about his children’s relationships, being a rather private man himself in regards to most matters.

Not unlike Nasir. Agron grimaces at that thought – he does not go for men that are in any way like his father. That’s ew.

“We talk,” he says, because he is not divulging to his parents that he and Nasir’s “keeping in touch” includes actual and lots of touching. “I miss him,” he says, because he does. All the time, even when they’re fucking.

“You don’t think you can work it out?” Mum asks, who is a firm believer in talking things out. Everything, she is convinced, can be solved if people just talk to each other enough.

Fucking talking isn’t going to bring Duro back! Agron had yelled in her face once, shortly after, when she had tried to get through to him. He’s still ashamed.

“Do you think we can?” he asks. “For his sake, do you think we should? I fucked him over bad, extenuating circumstances or not.”

“It never hurts to try,” his father mumbles over by the stove. “If you want to.”

“Can we just… not?” Agron says. “Please. Not now. Not today. Duro’s…” He has to swallow. “Duro’s birthday. Can we just focusing on… fucking get through it? Nasir and I, we’re… it’s something else, okay? I can’t think about that right now.”

“Fine,” his mother says, suddenly subdued by the mention of her other son’s name. “We thought we would go visit his... the grave,” she says after a moment’s pause.

“Okay,” Agron agrees, even though he hates that ugly slab of rock that he still cannot connect to Duro.

His mother turns scrutinizes him carefully while stirring the casserole. “You’re calmer,” she says. “You’re… How are you really? Has something happened with you? Something new?”

He hasn’t told them about his therapy sessions, mostly to try and avoid pressure. He doesn’t want people to expect too much of him, because he is too afraid to disappoint them further.

“I’m seeing a therapist,” he confesses. “We… talk things through. And he gave me sleeping pills. So I sleep better now.”

“You have no idea how glad that makes me to hear,” his mother says, sounding like a great burden has been lifted of her shoulders. Agron is unsure whether that makes him feel better or worse.

“You talk about Duro?” his father asks.

“Yeah.” Agron keeps his eyes on the beer bottle, starts peeling the label off slowly with one nail. “We talk about him.”

“And?”

“I guess I’m… learning to live with it. Or something. Some days it’s still so bad I don’t know what to do with myself. But there are days when… days when it’s better. A little bit better.” It’s hard to let out, to accept that the things he has held on to for such a long time, the things he has known as truth and condemned himself for, may be something he can look at from another perspective and eventually learn to live with.

“That’s good,” Mum says quietly and Dad moves over to squeeze his shoulder.

They eat mostly in silence, the chair next to Agron woefully, horribly vacant.

After dinner and following clean-up he feels the need to be alone and walks up to the second floor, taking the steps two by two like he always has. It’s easier now than when he was a kid and his legs short.

Without being really aware of what he is doing, he stops in front of Duro’s door instead of passing by it quickly and on to his own like he did last time he was here. There are still pictures Duro put up as a teenager adoring the wood.

He pushes the handle down, walks into the room slowly. He hasn’t been in here since Duro was alive.

It’s empty, like the hole left after him in Agron’s life and heart. His knew his parents cleaned it out months ago, unable to live with his old room still existing while he did not. It’s still a shock to see it, as if the bare, suddenly too big room solidifies the knowledge that Duro is never coming back. There are countless memories originated from this room, their whole childhood together rooted here, with or without furniture.

He goes to his own room, grabs the mattress of his old bed, a pillow and the comforter, and drags it all back into Duro’s room, dumping it on the floor and lying down.

He lies on his back, looking up at the stupid dinosaur-shaped stickers Duro put up on the ceiling when he was five by climbing up on a chair balanced on VCRs at the cost of fallen down and hitting his head, and then refused to take down when he moved out. It’s not the only trace of Duro left in the room, not really, but it is the most tangible one, so Agron falls asleep gazing up at it.

The next morning, he doesn’t get up. After having been awake awhile he can hear his parents moving around on the first floor, probably getting themselves ready to visit Duro’s grave.

He recognizes the lead-heavy feeling weighing him down all too well and realises for the first time that it has been all but gone for the past couple of months. He had almost, but not quite, forgotten what being unable to even get out of bed felt like. In the soft light of morning, filtered through the autumn-coloured leaves of the oak-tree right next to Duro’s window, sleeping in Duro’s room feels like a terrible idea.

This, he thinks, as he looks around in the empty room, is what he has to accept: that Duro is gone and always will be. That for the rest of Agron’s life there will lots of spaces like this – vacant and pale, holes where Duro’s presence and things should have filled the void.

He doesn’t recognize the short buzzing sound he hears for what it is until he realises that he fell asleep with his phone in the pocket of his sweat pants and that the sound was it vibrating against his leg. It rouses him slightly from his inertia and he fishes it out from beneath the comforter.

It’s from Nasir. remember that it wasn’t your fault. mourn him, but don’t hurt yourself in the process, it says, echoing what Nasir told him so very long ago, that day in when he brought Agron up to his apartment after he’d had a meltdown in the street. it was an accident.

It takes a long while, but he does eventually get himself out of bed.

Chapter Text

Home seems somehow different than it did before he left. He feels oddly calm – not subdued, not apathetic, but calm. As if a long and brutal storm has finally blown over, letting in some light through the heavy, grey clouds overhead.

His parents had waited until he finally got out of bed and then they had gone to visit Duro’s grave together, all three of them. They had only stayed for a short while, opting instead for returning home, where Dad dug out old tapes from when Agron and Duro where kids, which they spent the rest of the day watching.

There had been a lot of crying, and it had felt wrong watching the tapes without hearing Duro bitching about why they only taped him doing embarrassing stuff like trying to eat ants and not Agron.

It had been a slow and quiet day, the first one ever of Duro’s birthdays not to erupt into loud chaos, and it had felt both off and right. But it’s a feeling he has to get used to, Agron supposes, that nothing feels quite right anymore.

Mum and Dad had tried to make him stay on longer, but Agron wanted to get home, unwilling to let anyone see him in the state he will in all likelihood spend the actual day of his death. He has a session with Christopher scheduled three days later, too, and he feels like he really shouldn’t miss out on it.

Christopher actually praises him – that has to be a first – for making it through spending Duro’s birthday with his parents. They talk it through for a long time and Agron is starting to think that he is off the hook when Christopher suddenly says: “If it’s all right with you, I would like to use the remainder of our time to speak a little about Nasir.”

Apart from that one text Nasir sent on Duro’s birthday, they have had no contact whatsoever with each other since a week before he went back home. He tells Christopher as much.

“And how do you feel about that?”

“I don’t know,” Agron says, not defensively, but in an attempt to gain some time to think. “I just… When I got that text, I realised that…”

“What did you realise, Agron?” Christopher prompts when Agron falls quiet.

“That that’s what I want,” Agron says finally, after another moment of silence. “That part of him. The part that cares for me, talks to me. Loves me. Not the sex. Well, the sex too, but mostly the other stuff.”

“You want a relationship with the man you love and just sex doesn’t cut it for you anymore,” Christopher summarises it, his tone gentle. “It’s not surprising, Agron.”

“No,” Agron says. “I guess it’s not.”

“But?”

Agron snorts quietly. “Nothing.”

“Tell me,” Christopher says.

“The sex is awesome,” Agron says, because it’s true and he likes trying to throw Christopher off. “It should help. Like, endorphins and shit.”

Christopher remains unperturbed. Stone-faced fucker. “Well, I wouldn’t say it’s the actual sex that’s the problem,” he says with a wry smile before he gets serious again. “I know I have said this before, but I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to, in any way you are able, resolve this situation with Nasir. You two not having sex anymore is better for you, I’m sure, but there is still a lot of things between you that needs to be discussed and worked out.”

“He told me he considers it to be over,” Agron says.

“And then he started up your relationship anew,” Christopher says. “We’ve been over this; just because you did what you did doesn’t mean that he has the right to be completely and solely in charge. No matter what kind of shape this relationship takes you are both in it together and both have a say in how it progresses.”

Agron just nods and Christopher must pick up on his reluctance to continue down that road because he changes the subject. It’s more likely that he caught sight of the clock and decided there were more pressing things to discuss before the end of the hour, though.

“How do you think you will handle the day of Duro’s death?”

“Not well,” Agron answers truthfully.

“Do you have any tactics in mind?”

“Do you mean any at all or the kind that you would approve of?”

At that, Christopher cracks another smile. “You know, I have far too many clients coming in here and telling me what I want to hear rather than what would actually help them, as if what I’m asking them is some test they need to pass. It’s refreshing to see that you at least answer truthfully most of the time. I do understand that this day will be very difficult for you to get through,” he continues, growing serious again, “but try not to relapse into destructive behavioural patterns.”

Drinking until passing out probably counts as destructive behaviour, but that’s what Agron’s going to do anyway.

Or not, as it turns out.

“I know you don’t want anyone near you during D… during those twenty four hours,” Mira says when she shows up on Agron’s threshold two days beforehand with Spartacus and Donar in tow. “But we’re here to make sure you don’t do anything stupid.”

“Making sure he doesn’t to anything stupid” translates into confiscating all his booze, his cigarettes, his credit cards and most of his cash. And his sleeping pills. They leave enough for two nights, after Spartacus points out that chances are he will need them, but the rest of the pill bottle disappears into Mira’s purse. He is sure they eye every sharp object he owns suspiciously, but apparently makes the collective decision that he is allowed to keep them.

“You do know that I can go down to Ludus and get them to put all my drinks on my tab,” Agron says.

“Way ahead of you, honey,” Mira says sweetly. “They won’t even serve you a Coke until next week.”

“I have enough cash for a couple of beers.”

“Good luck getting drunk on that,” Donar says and Agron hates all three of them with a firey passion.

“You’re seriously going to let me go through this fucking sober?” he asks.

“Running away isn’t the answer,” Spartacus says.

“Stop ganging up on me,” Agron mutters. “And don’t quote back Mira’s words at me.”

It takes ages before they go and Agron is considering running out that door himself before they finally leave him alone again.

He is not in the best of moods, to put it mildly, when there is a firm knock on his door later that night. He hasn’t gone to bed yet; it’s not like he would be able to sleep anyway. Instead he is spread out on the couch with his face turned inward towards the back of it, while the TV is playing a marathon of abysmal horror movies on some obscure channel in the background, filling his living room with shrill screams and pleas for help and bad monster voices.

He groans as the knock comes again, harder this time, hating everyone and everything, but especially whomever it is standing outside his door.

It’s Crixus.

“Get the hell out,” Agron says and tries to slam the door in his face, but Crixus catches it and shoves it open.

“Out of the way, asshole,” he says, marching into Agron’s apartment.

Thinking that he will probably get Crixus out faster if he doesn’t punch him in the face, Agron just crosses his arms over his chest and leans against the wall as Crixus closes the door behind him.

“You are a fucking idiot,” Crixus tells him. “I should rip your fucking balls off.”

“Did you want something or are you just your usual sunshine self?” Agron says, glaring and desperately wanting him gone so that he can go back to not having to deal with anything.

“I’m here to talk to you about Nasir, shitface.”

The urge to slam Crixus’ face into the wall suddenly gets so much harder to resist. “None of your fucking business. Get out!” he shouts.

He wants to give in. It would feel so good, ridding himself of some of the horrible, churning darkness building inside of him with a brutal fist fight. Crixus could take it. Would hit him as hard in return.

“You don’t deserve him,” Crixus says – taunts him really – and Agron’s resolve breaks. In hindsight, he realises that Crixus could have dodged his punch, made clumsy by his rage, easily, but he doesn’t. He lets Agron smash his fist into his face and a few drops of blood splatters against Agron’s hand as Crixus’ lip breaks against his teeth.

“Did that feel good?” Crixus asks.

Fuck you!” Agron yells into his face. “Fuck, fuck, FUCK YOU! You don’t know shit, you stupid fucking asshole!”

“You needed that, didn’t you? It makes you feel better, doesn’t it, hurting people?” Crixus sneers at him.

Agron hits him again, but this time Crixus hits him back and follows his punch up by pressing Agron against the wall.

“He fucking pined for you,” Crixus tells him mercilessly. He is too close and his voice is loud in Agron’s ear. He’s struggling, but Crixus has the advantage and he knows how to keep an opponent pinned down. “He pines for months until you finally got over yourself and gave it a chance. He was fucking miserable until he realised that you actually wanted something else but comforting pats on the head from him. And then you kept acting like a self-absorbed asshole and then you FUCKING ABANDONED HIM WHEN HE NEEDED YOU THE MOST! And now you’re doing it AGAIN! Fuck your own life to hell if it amuses you, but don’t drag him down with you. He’s a good man.”

Agron isn’t sure he’s ever heard Crixus utter these many words in a row. At any other time, he would be impressed.

“I’m not fucking doing anything!” Agron pushes against his grip on him, kicks against Crixus’ shins. Crixus kicks back. “And what the hell do you know? He doesn’t talk to you!”

“He talks to Naevia, idiot. Naevia talks to me.”

“FUCK YOU!”

“FUCK YOU!” Crixus yells back. “You wanna get over all the shit in your life? Let him in.”

“He doesn’t want to be, all right? I screwed it up, okay! All he wants is fucking sex and I can’t give him that anymore. I can’t!”

“You’re just as fucking stupid as I think you are,” Crixus says. “Get him back, idiot! Talk to him. Fight for this! All he needs to know is that there is a fucking chance!”

“You know nothing,” Agron mutters.

“I’ve been in Nasir’s place,” Crixus says, still fuming, but with his voice lowered – probably out of concern for Agron’s neighbours rather than anything else. “I know how fucking hard it is and I know that he would do anything to get you back and to make it work, if you only show him that you are willing to work for it, idiot.”

“He told me…”

“That was months ago!” Crixus growls. “Just. Fucking. Talk. To. Him.” He gives Agron another push, pressing him harder up against the wall. “Idiot.”

With another glare, he is gone as suddenly as he came, leaving Agron to slide down the wall onto the floor and curl up in fetal position.

He expected to spend the actual day pretty much the same way: curled up in a corner alternating between crying and staring out into empty space, trying desperately to douse the pain with guilt and self-hatred in the absence of hard liquor and sleeping pills.

But that is not how it turns out at all. The restlessness is worse than ever, scratching and cutting away at him, causing him to pace and making him want to break things. It’s like all the emotions battling inside of him and all the awful anticipation of this day has melted together into something that’s crawling through his veins and limbs, scalding the inside of his skin.

He’s losing his mind, caught up in here with the loss of Duro, and of Nasir, and Crixus’ words that seems to be resonating between his four walls, echoing in all the empty places in his life.

Duro has been gone for a year and all Agron has done during that time is make everything worse than it started out as when he saw his brother lying on the beach, stained with salt and sand, never to move or breathe or laugh again.

“I’m so fucking sorry,” Agron tells Duro, his palm hitting the living room wall just so he can feel the reality beneath his grief, the pain of being alive. “I’m so sorry for ruining everything.”

He wants a drink. He wants to sleep. Or die. He wants to beat someone up or hurt himself. He wants Nasir.

He quickly exhausts himself, having slept all but nothing for four consecutive nights, but he can’t stop pacing. He has to get out of this place.

He only barely remembers to put on shoes before he is out the door. The city is a blur around him. He thinks it may be afternoon. It’s still light outside.

He didn’t realise he actually had a destination somewhere in his jumbled mind until he is standing outside Nasir’s door. He has apparently knocked, because the door is opening and Nasir’s face is expressing a myriad of different things when he sees Agron.

“Hi,” Agron says after a long moment.

“You’re wearing pajama pants,” Nasir says.

Agron looks down, and, yeah, he is.

“Are you drunk?” Nasir asks, a little warily.

“No,” Agron says. “My friends stole all my booze.”

“What are you doing here? Today?” Nasir doesn’t wait for an answer, but grabs a fistful of Agron’s t-shirt and pulls him inside so that he can close the door.

“Oh, Agron,” he says, cupping Agron’s face in his hands. “Fuck, I…” His stands up on his toes, touches his mouth to Agron’s. “Whatever you need,” he says, and then they’re kissing. Kissing like they’re trying to devour each other, Nasir unbalanced on his tiptoes until he puts his arms around Agron’s shoulders and Agron helps hoisting him up, his legs crossing behind Agron’s back.

He mindlessly presses Nasir harder against his chest, needing this contact – needing to feel human somewhere in all the grief pressing in on him.

“I’ve missed you,” Nasir whispers in his ear, the words followed by a sharp nip of teeth against his lobe.

It takes a second before Agron realises he means that they haven’t done this, haven’t fucked, since before Duro’s birthday and not anything else and not what Agron wants him to mean.

He pulls back.

“This isn’t why I’m here,” he says, steeling himself against the warmth of Nasir’s body and the heady look that is starting to steal into his gorgeous eyes. “I need to talk to you.”

Wordlessly, Nasir puts his feet down on the floor and steps back. He leads Agron into his living room and sits down on the couch and Agron has no idea how to read the expression on his face.

He is just about to sit down on the other end when a piece of paper lying on the coffee table catches his eye.

“Oh,” he says quietly and moves to pick up before he can even think to ask for permission. It’s a tattoo sketch. Of a shield, or rather a crest, with an intricate braid of vines surrounding a dragon coiled around an ‘A’ engraved on it.

“It’s mine, isn’t it?” he says without taking his eyes of it. “The one you made for me.” He lets one fingertip follow the curved line of the edge of crest, stunned by the beauty of the design. He already knew that Nasir is ridiculously good at shading, but this is something else entirely.

“Yes. I thought you needed some… some protection,” Nasir says haltingly. “It’s the last thing I drew before… before the accident. And it’s one of my best. I keep it around to… Well, I hope I can make something like that again one day.”

It feels like something is lodged and growing in Agron’s throat as he keeps looking the sketch over, taking every last little detail in and the way the whole piece fits together, the soft curves of the vines and the dragon contrasting the sharp edges of the crest and the dragon’s scales.

“Do you like it?” Nasir asks after a moment.

Agron nods. “Yes. It’s…” He is going to say ‘incredible’, but what comes out is: “I think I know what I fucked up, but then I just keep realising that it’s even worse than I thought. You did this for me, and I…” He drops the paper back down on the table and sits down.

There is a long while of silence before Agron says, “This is the day Duro died.”

“I know,” Nasir says.

“He’s been dead a year. My brother has been lying in the ground rotting for a year and I’ve been here and alive and rotting all the same. My brother is fucking dead and I act like I’m the one whose life is over. Do you realise how fucking screwed up that is?”

Nasir doesn’t answer – it isn’t really a question.

“I came here to talk to you,” Agron says, thinking now or never. His heart is thrumming almost painfully inside his ribcage. “I love you. I’ve told you that a hundred times and you probably already know that I haven’t stopped loving you, but I’m telling you anyway. I love you. I’ve spent the last year fucking everything up, including you. And I am so sorry.” He breathes out, hating how his voice is already starting to break. He needs to get through this. Somehow. “I want you in my life. But not like this, not what we’ve been doing for the past weeks. I can’t be your fuckbuddy, or whatever it is we have been doing, Nasir. I want everything with you. And I am willing to fight for that. Now. I am willing to fight for us now. I know that it is too late; I should have realised this months ago. But I still love you and this is me… this is me asking you for a second chance.”

Nasir says nothing. He is looking down at his own hands, his hair falling down into his face, partially covering his expression and Agron has no way of guessing what he is thinking.

Agron almost jumps in his seat when he suddenly feels Alyx brush against his leg. She meows and bumps her head against him in that way she does and he cannot help but take that as encouragement.

“I understand that you won’t just take me back,” he continues when the silence has stretched out for too long for him to handle. “I just want to know if there is any chance for us to make this work. It doesn’t mean going back to where we left off and pretend like nothing’s happened. I just want you in my life. And not as safe-net,” he says, because that part is important. “Not because you make me feel better. But because I love you and wan to have a life with you, to got to sleep with you, wake up with you, live with you…” He stops abruptly as Nasir’s head shoots up and wonders if he took it to far.

“What did you say?” Nasir asks, looking straight at Agron. “You want to… live with me?”

“Yes,” Agron says. “But not… I mean, someday, yes, but… Yes. I do. If… Yeah, one day.”

“You know,” Nasir says slowly, a little incredulously, “You’ve never really talked about the future before. Not… not about us. Barely about anything.”

Agron had never noticed that himself, but it’s like a punch in the face hearing that and realising what that must have felt like for Nasir.

“I want a future now,” Agron says. “With you. Any way I can have it. We can do this slow. Just try it out. Slowly.”

“I have already done slow with you, Agron,” Nasir says. “I cannot do that again.”

And at that Agron is fighting tears, just now comprehending exactly how high he had gotten his hopes up only to have them dashed to the ground.

“I see,” he says, his voice low and shaky.

“No, you don’t,” Nasir says gently, and then he is suddenly on Agron’s side of the couch, thumb wiping away the tear falling down Agron’s cheek. “I love you,” he says and takes Agron’s chin in his hand, turns his face to him and presses a soft kiss against his lips. He draws back a little and rests his forehead against Agron’s. “You’ll be working for this,” he says. “You will talk to me, go out with me, stop hiding away from me, and learn to trust me. You will be there for me.” He kisses Agron again.

Agron doesn’t respond, with the feeling of hope budding inside him as frail as glass, afraid that a single movement will shatter whatever sort of unreality this is.

Nasir turns his head slightly and whispers in Agron’s ear, “And you’ll be topping more, too.”

He presses their lips together again and this time Agron kisses back, hungrily and needy. When Nasir pulls back to look at him, Agron just blinks, still not trusting that this is real and terrified of starting to believe it only to have it snatched away.

But there is a small, soft smile on Nasir’s lips and that is enough for him right there and then.

That night, Agron kisses Nasir from head to toe – especially his toes since that is something Nasir is really into – and then sucks him down, gives him the slowest, most tender blowjob he is able to have him come down his throat, his whole body shuddering.

Despite his earlier words, Nasir slicks up his fingers and starts to open Agron up as he hardens again. It doesn’t take long until he is hard enough to push inside and he does it in one, unbroken movement, stilling as he bottoms out.

“You can move,” Agron mumbles.

Nasir rests his forehead against Agron’s as Agron’s hands comes up to hold on to his shoulders. “Just give me a minute,” he says.

“Anything,” Agron says. He starts to pepper Nasir’s face with small, soft kisses. “Anything.”

“Fuck,” Nasir breathes, and Agron catches the sound with his mouth.

“It wasn’t that long since we did this,” Agron teases gently against Nasir’s lips, his body aching for Nasir to move, to fuck him, to make him his again.

“We didn’t do it like this,” Nasir says and finally pulls out and thrust back in, setting the pace slow and deep.

In response, Agron tilts his head back and moans Nasir’s name.

Agron wakes up alone in Nasir’s bed. He wakes slowly, stretching languidly, and reaches out a hand for him only to realise that he isn’t there.

The panic is there, but he refuses to give in. Not today. He gets up, suddenly completely awake, finds his underwear on the floor and puts it on before opening the bedroom door.

Nasir is in the kitchen, leaning against the counter with his head bowed down over the cup cradled in his hands, making it impossible for Agron to read his face.

Has Nasir always been this good at hiding from him and he never noticed, or is it a recent development?

“How are you?” Agron asks. He wants nothing more than to move closer and hold him, but he forces himself to give Nasir some space. Instead he leans against the doorpost, all but mirroring Nasir’s stance.

“I’m fine.” Nasir looks up, gives him a hasty smile.

Perhaps it is time to really talk now, Agron thinks, a wave of exhaustion hitting him at the thought of how much there is between them they need to figure out and fix before they can truly attempt this.

They did talk last night, but that was a different way of talking. There was sex and tears and lots of whispered I missed yous and I love yous and Don’t you ever fucking leave me agains. Agron confessed that part of what drove him here was what Crixus had said to me and Nasir had laughed.

“We don’t have to… I mean, I know things got pretty intense last night, but that doesn’t mean… We can still do this slow,” he says, trying and failing to put what he feels and thinks in complete sentences.

Nasir laughs a little and puts down his cup. “I am fine,” he says and walks over to Agron, drapes his arms around his neck. “Really, Agron.” He kisses him. His mouth tastes of coffee and it is kind of gross but mostly achingly familiar.

“Then what?” Agron asks, resting his hands on Nasir’s hips. He doesn’t believe for a second that it was his morning coffee that drove and kept Nasir out of bed.

“I just don’t want us to hurt each other anymore,” Nasir says. “I’m scared we’ll fuck this up, not because I think we will, but because I don’t want that to happen. I’ve lost you enough already.”

“Nasir, our problems have always had less to do with us than me,” Agron says.

“That’s not true,” Nasir says.

“Yes,” Agron says. “I’m not saying that everything is my fault, because it isn’t, but a lot of our problems have originated from my problems. And I’m working on those.”

“I know you are,” Nasir says. He runs his hands down Agron’s naked chest and smiles up at him. “You’ve made progress. I’m proud of you.”

Agron takes Nasir’s hands in his. “You’re not my life-line anymore,” he says, kissing his forehead. “Now you’re just the man I love.”

Nasir laughs again, and fuck, Agron has missed everything about him laughing like that – the sound of it, the way his eyes crinkle and his entire face light up.

“Good,” Nasir says and moves in to kiss Agron again when his phone rings. He pulls it out of his pocket, and the smile is immediately wiped off his face.

“What?” Agron asks anxiously.

“A client,” Nasir says, mouth thinning. “Dima wiped pretty much my entire schedule and gave most of my clients to Chadara and Julie, but some of them wants me and they just won’t give up. They keep calling, wanting to know when I will be tattooing again.” He turns off the sound and puts the phone back in the pocket.

“You will be tattooing again,” Agron says firmly. “And the moment you’re ready to go on human skin again, you’re going to put that shield on me, okay?”

“No,” Nasir says. “There’s no way in hell I’m going to let you do that.”

“For practice. And because I want it,” Agron says. “I want be the first one you tattoo after the accident – as soon as you’re able.”

“That’s still a while away,” Nasir says, and Agron knows that what he means is that he has plenty of time to dissuade him from it.

“Yeah,” Agron agrees easily.

“I’m not going to do it,” Nasir warns. “I’m not going to ruin you.”

“Damn right you’re not,” Agron says and grins at the exasperated face Nasir makes.

Chapter Text

Nasir closes the door behind him with a soft thump to keep Alyx out of the bedroom. She meows pitifully on the other side, but he ignores her. Agron’s got her new toys and crazy expensive cat food, so she’ll live.

Agron is already in bed, his face buried in a pillow, probably since it was still light in the room when he fell asleep. With combined efforts, Nasir and Christopher finally managed to get him to try anti-depressants, despite him vigorously insisting that he didn’t want to rely on pills to get through the bad days he still had. He had only been taking them for a few weeks and they made him so tired that he was often fast asleep in bed by the time Nasir gets home from the shop.

Nasir sidesteps the box of winter clothes none of them has bothered to unpack yet, even though it’s been a month since they moved in, and undresses swiftly and quietly. When he throws his clothes in the hamper he notices that it’s no longer overflowing with dirty laundry and Nasir feels a little pang of guilt; he’d promised to take care of it last night, but he had gotten too caught up in perfecting his sketch for one of today’s tattoo session and forgotten all about it.

Since Agron for the most part quit MMA-fighting – limiting himself to keeping up his working out there and going an occasional round in the ring – and started taking online courses in physical therapy instead he spends a lot of time around the apartment, but that doesn’t mean he should have to take care of everything household-related. Nasir makes a mental note to get better at remembering the laundry and whatever else it is he has a tendency to forget when he gets too coped up with work.

He isn’t especially tired, but he gets into bed anyway, moving away from his own cold side to spoon up against Agron’s deliciously warm body, presses a kiss to the back of his neck. Letting one arm slide down to rest around Agron’s waist, Nasir aligns himself more comfortably against him.

He mouths the tattoo on Agron’s left shoulderblade. The shield. Nasir has a hate-love relationship with that particular creation of his. It was the first real work he did after the accident and it shows. The sketch was almost flawless, some of his absolute best work. The actual tattoo is not – far from it. It’s crooked, a lot of lines are shaky and the shadowing is splotchy in places. It is nowhere near as crisp or clean as it should have been.

He has begged Agron to let him fix the tattoo – he won’t be able to make it perfect, but at least better. But Agron refuses. “It is what it is,” he says. “What it should be. Part of my healing and yours.” And Nasir likes the sound of that, sure. He still doesn’t like that something that looks like he made it during his apprenticeship is gracing his boyfriend’s shoulder, though.

Agron makes a low sound when Nasir kisses the inked skin again. “N’sir?” he mumbles, voice rough with sleep.

Nasir moves his mouth to Agron’s shoulder, kissing his way up to his neck. “I’m here.”

He shuffles back a little to give Agron room to roll over onto his back. He looks really tired and Nasir has to lean down to kiss his forehead. “You okay, love?”

“Yeah. Christopher says the side effects will wear off soon. Or if they don’t, we’ll try something else.” Agron lets a deep breath out through his noise.

“That’s good,” Nasir says easily, twining his fingers through Agron’s.

Agron had had a pretty big setback a couple of months ago. He had made huge progress and Nasir had been immensely proud and happy for him. Agron still had bad days and there were still days when Nasir wondered what the fuck he was doing trying to make this clusterfuck work, but it actually did. They worked, together and separately.

And then Agron had gotten a phone call from his mother that one of his cousins – whom he had met about three times in his life – had died in a car crash at the same time as Nasir was away at a tattoo convention. Agron couldn’t handle the situation and once Nasir was back home he had gotten obsessively protective, wanting to keep Nasir within touching distance at all times. The nightmares returned in full force, Agron closed himself off from everyone and eventually descended into pitch-black depression. Christopher had been on vacation and hadn’t referred Agron to anyone else during the few weeks he would be gone because Agron had been doing so well, and Nasir had had no fucking idea what to do with him.

Agron had been devastated afterwards, once Nasir had finally gotten through to him and Agron had had a couple of sessions with Christopher. He hadn’t thought that he would ever get that bad again, and the realisation that getting out of a depression didn’t mean he was immune to falling down into that abyss again had hit him hard. It was around that time he had decided to quit fighting, since he couldn’t stop using the violence, even under such controlled forms, as an outlet. Nasir is sure Christopher had a lot to do with that decision, even though Agron hadn’t said it. It makes Nasir irrationally jealous sometimes that Agron has someone else to confide in and help him make decisions about his life. Nasir tries to keep a lid on it, since it is stupid on so many levels.

“There’s lasagne in the fridge,” Agron mumbles. His lips brush against Nasir’s cheek as he speaks.

“With garlic bread?” Nasir asks and Agron hums in confirmation. Nasir sighs. “I’m not hungry,” he says regretfully. Agron’s lasagne is the best. “Dima brought us sandwiches before she went to work,” he adds. “But thanks.”

“Then we have lunch for tomorrow,” Agron says. “You don’t need to go into work tomorrow, right?”

“Right,” Nasir says. “Tomorrow I’m all yours.”

That earns him a kiss, one the starts out slow and sweet and soon deepens. Nasir drapes one leg over Agron’s, and Agron grabs his hips, helping Nasir to move so that he is straddling his thighs without interrupting their kissing. Nasir mind replays this morning and the quick handjobs they swapped in bed before Nasir had to get up for work and he starts to think longingly of the second round for today when Agron lightly grabs a handful of his hair and pulls him off.

“I’m sorry, love,” he says, sounding very regretful. “I can barely keep my eyes open.”

Agron had fallen asleep right in the middle of things the other night and Nasir had teased him to no end about it, but promised not to tell anyone else about it.

“It’s fine,” Nasir says, kissing him again. “I need a shower anyway. I reek of disinfectant.”

Agron snuffles against his temple, drawing in the scent of his hair. “No, you don’t,” he murmurs. “Stay and cuddle.”

“I don’t put it in my hair,” Nasir says with a smile. “I’ll be back in ten minutes.”

“I’ll be asleep in ten minutes.”

“As you should be.” Nasir kisses him again.

“Love,” Agron says when Nasir slides out from under the comforter and gets out of bed.

“Yeah?”

“I put up a picture of Duro in the living room. Over the couch.”

“I saw that,” Nasir says.

Green eyes looks up at him and Nasir feels a little sting, as he does every time he realises that the sorrow will never fully disappear from them.

“Is that alright?” Agron asks.

“Yes, of course it is,” Nasir says.

“We did say we would decorate and all that together, but I…”

“Agron, it’s fine. It looks perfect where it is.”

Agron smiles, a small, bittersweet smile, and Nasir smiles back. There was a time when he hated how much space Duro took up in his life, the memory and ghost of him like a wedge between him and Agron. But they have come a long way from that now and they have managed to fit all that Duro is to Agron in this thing that is them.

He showers quickly and towels off his hair before tying it back in a sloppy braid, ensuring that will be a mess tomorrow but at least kept out of his face through the night.

Agron is snoring softly when Nasir returns to the bedroom, but when he gets into bed again and right up against Agron’s back, Agron hums and moves closer to him, his hand pulling Nasir’s arm to rest over his waist.

Nasir kisses the tattoo on Agron’s back one more time before falling asleep.