When they start, they’re doing it because it’s for Gavin’s own good.
They pull that card with Gavin a lot, even when it’s not actually for his own good. The Edward Forty-Hands thing came from Griffon and Geoff knowing deep in their hearts that Gavin’s life was missing a vital formative event, an event that required Gavin to let his hosts tape giant bevs to his hands. That time Gavin spent the night sleeping on the couch in the haunted Rooster Teeth office was also for his own good, though Gavin couldn’t remember the justification for that one. (The pictures Geoff had in his blackmail folder, taken when Griffon showed up in the most horrifying realistic ghoul costume at 3:30 AM, were admittedly pretty great.) Before she turned on the camera, Griffon told him that his life would be richer for having run around like a bloody idiot in the Austin lightning storm.
That one was completely true, he had to admit. He could still feel the rain running down through his hair, how it was the coldest thing in the state of Texas, the way he felt like the electricity was in the air and in his skin.
Basically, the Ramseys had never steered him wrong. They may have steered him haphazardly and towards what was most entertaining, but in the end, Gavin could not fault them that.
From the first time he dropped his luggage onto the bed of the spare room they gave him (years ago when he was eight thousand kilometers from home and terrified and excited and wondering why these people thought he was worth their hospitality, wondering how weekly games of Grifball with Geoffrey Ramsey turned into a visa and a one-way ticket to America)
and onward (through terrible 20-ingredient cocktails, and wrestling matches, and marathon editing sessions, and marathon Die Hard popcorn nights, and sudden stabbing pangs of homesickness drowned in equal parts alcohol and arcade game tournaments)
Gavin has been in the midst of the world’s longest trust fall.
It was the summer of 2009 and Gavin didn’t know how this was his life. If he were the type to believe in resurrection or any of that rot, he’d say that in his last life he was a professional kitten rescuer. Maybe he built orphanages as a night gig too.
It would have to be something like that. It was the only thing that made sense of the course his life had taken. He still remembered being the kid who downloaded every .mov file of Red vs Blue back in season one (before anyone had any idea there would be seasons). That person felt like someone else entirely, shrugged off like a cheap jacket and left back in England to sit forgotten on the bottom of a closet.
There was no point dwelling on that. Gavin Free, Halo Enthusiast Tosser wasn't the one trawling his way through the Ramseys' backyard, a bottle of some Austin microbrew in hand, high on life and the atmosphere. Gavin Free, Actual Fucking Director of Red vs Blue Thank You Very Much was attending the party, surrounded by Rooster Teeth employees and their families. AC/DC played in the background on the sound system, just barely too loud; the speakers kept going tinny with the effort to keep up with the music’s volume. Mostly, Gavin was walking circuits around Gus, who was at his laptop, periodically reporting stream and download numbers.
“Another ten thousand.” Gus informed Gavin. “Low period, about seven.” Then, “Spiking up to almost thirty.” And, “Oh, shit, I need to do a remote server restart.”
Burnie smiled at Gavin. “Sounds like the episode is fucking our servers’ mouths. Nice job, Gavino.”
Gavin felt incandescent. “Ah, well. Takes a village, all that.”
“So do you. Now stop hovering around Gus and go bother someone else.”
Sticking his tongue out at Burnie wasn’t precisely professional, especially considering he was now Gavin Free, Director of Red vs Blue Which Was Pulling Ridiculous Hits Already, but he did it anyway. It was a good night. He felt wrapped up in the warmth of the summer night, drawing pinprick beads of sweat over his skin, sent sizzling from the electric embrace of a receptive audience.
He was probably drunk. But it was a good drunk. It was the best drunk.
Geoff would likely disagree, given how Gavin practically leapt onto him the moment he found him. “Geoff. Geoffrey Lazer Ramsey. Dee-Geoff,” Gavin said, making sure Geoff knew his name and gamertag.
“Gavin, shit.” Geoff scrambled to get a hold of Gavin before he fell to the ground. “Did Burnie dump your ass on me?”
“Not specifically, but yanno. Probably by design, right?” Gavin beamed at Geoff. “We should do something to celebrate.”
It took bodily lifting the younger man, but Geoff managed to hook his arms around Gavin, holding him upright. “What are we celebrating?”
“Don’t be an arsehole.”
“Fine, let’s celebrate by going into town and popping your tattoo cherry.” Gavin went ragdoll, forcing Geoff to drop him, then tried to scramble away. “Oh, come on! I’d pay for it!”
“No thanks!” Gavin bounced away. “Oh, I know, let’s climb on the roof again! I’ve got one of my cameras, not the really good ones, obviously, but maybe up for twenty-five hundred frames?”
He was already halfway into the house when he was seized around the middle and pulled to a stop. “Gavin, Gavin.”
Geoff apparently didn’t understand that Gavin was on top of the world, was full to bursting with energy, needed to do something. When Gavin tried to wriggle away, Geoff didn’t let him get far. “Geoff, come on.”
“I am not sober enough to make the jump into the pool and not drunk enough to let you go alone, kid.”
Gavin made a low, annoyed whine. “I am an adult, you know.”
“You are the same dipshit twink that Burnie imported in the first place. If I let you put yourself in the hospital, he’ll never forgive me.” Geoff slung a heavy arm around Gavin’s shoulders and walked him back outside. “Let’s get you another drink, hotshot.”
The evening wore on with Gavin pressed against Geoff’s side. He was considerate enough to keep Gavin fed on beers and hot dogs, but flatly refused to let Gavin out of his sight. It probably had something to do with how Gavin kept staring at the roof. And trying to sneak away to get to the roof. And peering through the pretend viewfinder he formed with his hands, lining up the perfect roof-to-pool slow motion shot.
It was getting dark and Griffon was going around lighting tiki torches and lamps across the yard when Geoff caught Gavin in his latest attempt to weasel away. “‘Scuse us a sec,” he said before grabbing Gavin by the back of his shirt and hauling him back into the house.
Gavin gasped, excited. “Ooooh, are you drunk enough now?”
“I am drunk enough that I’m thinking of places to hide your dead body.”
“Dead body from when I jump into the pool from the roof?” As long as someone caught it on video, Gavin was fairly alright with that. He’d taught Dan enough about the process that he’d be able to make something good out of the footage.
“Are you still on that? Fucking Christ, we should put you on a... hang on.”
Geoff’s drunk ideas were usually worth sticking around for, so Gavin waited when Geoff left him even if he could still feel the roof calling him. It wasn’t a long wait; Geoff returned with something behind his back. Before Gavin could ask, he was yanked forward, almost right into Geoff’s gleeful grin. He could hear the man’s snicker as he worked.
“Now that is a good look on you,” Geoff proclaimed, taking a step away. With him went a metal chain lead, stretching from his hand up to Gavin’s neck.
Gavin caught his reflection in a window. Geoff had looped a leash around him, clipping it onto itself to form a collar. “Uh.”
Geoff wasn’t waiting to explain himself. He headed back outside. The chain around Gavin’s neck lost its slack and he squawked once in surprised indignation before jogging to catch up. “G-Geoff!”
“Keep up, Gavvy,” Geoff said cheerfully. “Hot damn, I’m a fucking genius.”
Part of it was that Gavin shouldn’t have had the last two beers he’d been given. Part of it was just how strange the situation was. In all, he didn’t do the obvious, unclip the leash and duck away. He stood near Geoff’s elbow as he rejoined the conversation, talking about some upcoming releases. Gavin barely heard it, his fingers tangling in the long metal links hanging from his neck and frowning, perplexed.
He let the chain thread through his fingers for a long while. When Griffon made her way over, the next time Gavin looked up, the party was winding down. People were leaving or calling rides and the grill was doused, white smoke pluming up into the moonlight.
Griffon took in the state Gavin was in before looking to her husband. “Geoff.”
Geoff grinned. “Yeah?”
She opened her mouth, then shut it, shaking her head, blonde ponytails swinging. “Make sure everyone gets home all right or at least gets a decent place to sleep.”
“Ma’am,” Geoff said and handed the leash to her, bending to kiss her cheek as he did.
Gavin turned wide eyes to Griffon as Geoff made his way back inside. She met his gaze evenly, grip on the leash light.
“You okay there, sweetie?”
Gavin thought about it, then nodded. He looked down again. “Yeah.”
“You’ve been quiet a while. You sure?”
“Yeah. Just...” Gavin rubbed his face. “Long night.”
“But a nice one, I hear. You did a good job.”
His eyes snapped back to her. “I what?”
“The video. Gus said we’re still getting a lot of hits on it.” She reached out and smoothed down his hair. He bowed his head slightly as she did, looking at her toes in the grass. “Come here.” She tugged on the lead just enough for him to feel it.
Gavin followed her to the porch. She sat on the rough wooden stairs and Gavin folded up on the ground next to her. He heard her inhale, about to say something, and the air was tense for a moment...
But it passed, popping like a soap bubble. Gavin relaxed as it did, back against the porch and Griffon’s leg. That garnered a chuckle from her. “You look like you need to sleep for a week.”
Her hand was warmer than the summer air when it landed on his shoulder. With a nudge, he tipped against her thigh, cheek pressed to the top of her jeans. It was comfortable, somehow distant through the barriers of the late hour, the party, all the drink. He shut his eyes, weary but pleased.
He might’ve dozed for a while. It was even later in the night when Geoff came to collect him, hauling him to his bedroom. Gavin let himself be deposited on the bed, still sleepy-calm. “You are going to have a monster hangover tomorrow,” Geoff told him.
Gavin nodded, yawning.
“Well, night then. Oh, hang on.” There was a tug, and the metal around his neck slide down and away. “That was... fun, right?”
Gavin blinked owlishly, looking up at Geoff. “What?”
“The -- nevermind.” His hair was ruffled, undoing all of Griffon’s smoothing. “Sleep.”
He didn’t need more convincing than that.
It didn’t cross his mind again for a while. It was a hectic time of his life, with all the work he was juggling. There were even jobs back home he had to prepare for, looming in the distance like stressful spectres of doom. Things felt easier in America, even if he didn’t have his own place and was essentially at the mercy of Rooster Teeth.
From Monday to Friday, his mind was on work. Footage had to be shot and Geoff often kidnapped Gavin into his and Jack’s side project. Which was fine. It was relaxing in comparison to lining up shots and syncing up audio to footage and sorting through video files to piece things together. The Achievement Hunter office was slightly cramped between the three of them and it took some creative cooperation and scheduling to make recording possible, but he enjoyed it.
The amount of time he spent in Geoff’s company was slightly ridiculous, but luckily for them both, Geoff was also one of the few people in Gavin’s life with whom he could shut up and spend time in comfortable silence with.
It’d been such quiet as he read over a script for half the drive back to the Ramsey house until Geoff said, “By the way, company tonight.”
Gavin looked over at him. “Anything going on?”
“Just the usual. Drinks and snacks. Peggle. Slow corruption of English boys.”
“Slow,” Gavin repeated with a snort.
“Good.” Geoff flipped the turn signal on. “Lets go pick up some bevs.”
There were indeed bevs, along with the promised snacks. Then there were more bevs and Peggle. All and all, it went according to plan.
Mostly. But Gavin was good at making plans go accordingly, against all expectations. So he collected a few more bevs (rule of three, it was a thing, right?) and went to get the last thing taken care of.
He waited until Griffon and Geoff were busy, then set the sound system to the most embarrassing shit he could find on Geoff’s iPod (Taylor Swift got the biggest laugh). He showed the first woman at the party to give him more than a moment’s attention his phone, where he kept the Slow Mo Guys video that YouTube wouldn’t let him post (which was bullshit, that was a penis for science, not for porn, honestly). And when Geoff went looking for Gavin, Gavin hid under the closest table.
Which didn’t work very well. “Hey, drunky, you should’ve picked a table with a fucking tablecloth,” Geoff said with great wisdom as he pulled Gavin out by his ankle.
“Thaaaat.... may be so. Or maybe I wanted you to find me!” Gavin tapped the side of his nose, managing to avoid poking himself in the eye.
“Oh god, it’s forties-in-the-freezer all over again.” Geoff bent down and pulled Gavin to his feet, stumbling a bit himself as he did; Geoff could play sober like a seasoned pro, but Gavin knew his tells by now. “Time for Gavin to go to bed.”
“What, no! Nooooo,” Gavin whinged, even as Geoff lead him away. “You aren’t done, you didn’t do the thing!”
“What thing? Gavin, let go.” Geoff started to pry Gavin’s hand off the door jam he managed to catch.
“Corruption of the... me. Corrupting me.” Gavin watched Geoff pull at his fingers, waiting, then grabbed the frame again with his other hand the moment Geoff succeeded.
“I’m playing host.”
“You were playing host to me first.”
“Oh my god, you are pouting. Stop it.” Gavin, feeling contrary, just pouted with more gusto. Geoff flicked his lower lip. “Put that away before I let Griffon pierce it.”
Gavin did as he was told, but kept his hand on the door. “I’ll calm down, lemme go back.”
“Oh, we are past that point, little asshole.” With a shove, Geoff pushed Gavin into the room he was hanging onto instead of dragging him away. It was enough to nearly send Gavin falling to the floor. He managed to catch himself against the bed before completely losing his balance at least.
Settling on the edge of it, Gavin looked around. It was Geoff and Griffon’s room and he hadn’t seen it before, not like this. It was somewhat disappointing. The closet’s door was ajar, showing Griffon’s shirts, not the collection of chainsaws Gavin hoped for. There was also no full-size Spartan armor replica. It was just a bed, the expected furniture, and some interesting art on the walls.
After taking it in, Gavin refixed his attention on Geoff. “So, what then? Going to send me to my room? I’ll just sneak back out,” he singsonged.
Geoff sighed, and it was finally starting to edge towards genuine frustration. That drew a mischievous grin from Gavin. “Did you just decide to be ornery tonight?”
“What’re you going to do about it, eh? Break out the leash again?”
“The...” A flash of complete bewilderment crossed his face for a moment, but it cleared as he remembered. “Seriously?”
Gavin shrugged one shoulder. “Just a suggestion.”
Geoff gaped for a moment. “Oh fuck, we are corrupting English boys. Hang on.” Gavin, with undue dramatics, dug his heels in and gripped the comforter in both fists. When he noticed, Geoff snorted, shaking his head. “Assuming the position?”
Gavin gave him a guileless stare. “You assume this position? And Griffon’s keen on that?”
“Shut up.” He was smirking as he lay a familiar length of chain across Gavin’s lap. “Fuck, you are going to fall and choke yourself...” As a solution, he clipped the thing directly to Gavin’s shirt, forgoing the loop around the neck. His hand caught Gavin’s arm, and Gavin realized he’d tipped his head back helpfully and almost fell over.
“‘M good,” he reassured Geoff, giving him a thumbs up.
“You...” A soft chuckle accompanied Geoff’s hands threading the leash through the headboard, so loosely even the slightest effort would’ve pulled it free. “If you’re here for three whole minutes, I’ll be fucking stunned.”
“I’ll be good!”
“I believe you.”
Gavin really didn’t think Geoff did believe him. It wasn’t fair to be judged so quickly. Gavin felt he deserved some more credit. If Geoff didn’t agree, then he’d learn.
Left alone in the room, Gavin started counting to sixty thrice. That was a monumental task. He pulled his feet up on the bed and tried to use his fingers and toes, but kept getting distracted by things like the loose threads of the comforter or the mark in the headboard (it could’ve been a notch, but possibly not). Three minutes must’ve passed, which mean Gavin won. He could go and rub it in Geoff’s face.
But when he moved, the leash tugged, making him freeze. He looked, saw the lead was still barely wrapped around the post.
Trying to move gingerly, Gavin laid down. The ceiling was something new to look at, and this way he wasn’t about to turn himself loose. That was nice. He could just lay down and listen to the muffled music from the other room, dulled by the walls and the conversation going on, making it a challenge to guess what song was playing.
When Geoff came back, it was much quieter. The man peered into the room, frowning. “Gavin?”
Gavin turned his head to face Geoff, blinking owlishly.
“You’re... still here.”
“Yeah? Longer than three minutes, right?”
Geoff’s brow furrowed. “Uh, yeah. You were waiting?”
Gavin shrugged. He supposed he had been.
There was a minute of silence from Geoff, who crossed the room to look down at Gavin. Out of it as he was, Gavin wasn’t sure what the expression on Geoff’s face was supposed to be. But the funny curve of his lips was encouraging.
“Okay. You can come out if you’re good.”
Gavin sat up, nodding. “Top. I need a glass of water anyway.”
Geoff smiled, putting a hand on Gavin's shoulder. "Let's get you one, buddy."
The third time, it wasn’t because Gavin had gotten a bit smashed or decided to be “ornery” or anything of the sort.
It’s just that there was a plane ticket printed out, stuck to the fridge with a magnet, right at eye level so Gavin had to look at the bloody thing every time he went for an apple or a drink or whatever. It was harbinger of a reset to his life; soon he would be back to what was ostensibly his home country. He’d be behind the Phantom and working.
He liked slow motion cinematography. It was still his first love and would always be his greatest passion. And given the dearth of slow motion camera-people in the UK, it was fairly lucrative work that was always needed.
Everything pointed to this being a working vacation. He’d be away from Austin’s blistering heat. He’d get to go back to his own bed. He’d not have to worry about Jack and his mood swings. He wouldn’t be handed a drive full of footage and audio to work into something publishable. He’d see Dan. And Lloyd. He missed them. Well, he missed Lloyd.
He’d be back. It’d be a few months, but he’d return before voice work for the next season started. Things were never in a lull at Rooster Teeth, but the tasks usually delegated to him would wait for him.
Gavin looked at his packed suitcases on the bed and thought about how fucking barren the guest room looked without his clutter in it. It looked like a fucking hotel room. It didn’t feel like a part of the Ramsey house without him and his crap in it.
The telly was on in the other room. Gavin sighed and padded barefoot down the hall, because as much as he wanted to have a good sulk in his (borrowed, soon to be returned) room, that was more pathetic than he could stand, even from himself.
His flight wasn’t until noon tomorrow. He could pull out a decent shirt from his packing and give Austin one more hurrah. Gavin habitually used alcohol to have a good time, not to drown a bad mood, but these were unusual circumstances.
His luck would of fucking course have it that Geoff had the car and was out on an errand when Gavin went to ask. Gavin could feel his face folding into something bitter and mean, and he quickly excused himself to the back yard.
Griffon, because she was a decent person, damn her, followed. “Gavin? Hey, sweetie, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong,” Gavin said curtly, aware that he was glaring into the middle distance with his fists in his pockets.
She stepped up to him and looked him over. “Clearly,” she said, droll and dry.
“Griffon, I...” His lips pressed together and he exhaled hard through his nose.
“Gavin, I’m not one to tell you your business, you know that.” Her hand touched his arm, and he couldn’t squash the tension that lanced through him. “But I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen you actually upset, and it leaves an impression.”
He huffed. So he added another mark to her tally. Fantastic. What a way to spend his last day with the Ramseys.
“So you don’t want to talk.” He shook his head. “Don’t want to or can’t?”
He looked up at her face. She smiled.
“Gotcha.” Her hand on him tightened. “Is it because it’s me? Geoff’ll be back soon--”
“No! No, no!” God, he was a complete sack of shit. He knew that, but the reminders still hurt. “You are... great. Absolutely great and I would but it’s...” He waved a hand at his own chest, where everything felt tense and painful.
She held him off with a hand. “All right.”
“It’s not!” He winced and scrubbed a hand over his face. “This is the last time I’m gonna have a night in with you guys and it shouldn’t be like this, all right?”
Griffon -- laughed. It was one quick bark of a laugh and she covered her mouth, hiding her smile the moment it appeared, but it was a laugh. “Gavin, sweetie. You are a very bright, talented young man. But you are sometimes an idiot.” She punched his arm. “Put that look away. It’s just that... you’re coming back, you know.”
Gavin looked aside, wanting to hide the worried expression on his face.
“Oh, sweetie. That’s it. I’m done!” She twined her fingers through his and pulled him back inside. “We’re going to try something, okay?”
“Uh. Okay?” Griffon was smaller than him, but the woman had arms like a comic book hero and knew how to haul around people who were bigger than her.
“Technically, I’m supposed to wait until Geoff’s here because neither of us have any illusions about the fact that he is your security blanket--” Gavin tried to say something to that, but words tangled in his mouth and tripped out unintelligible, “-- but this is something we discussed.” She pulled him into the kitchen and started to sort through the drawers, searching for something with one hand while she held Gavin close with the other. “And if you aren’t game, then that is completely fine, all right? It’s for you, if you want to do it.”
“Are you looking for your piercing gun, because I told Geoff--”
She laughed. “No, Gavin. I use that on costume leather. We’d bring you to our guy if you finally decided to take the plunge. Ah-ha, found it! Close your eyes.”
He was reluctant, unsure what was coming, but... it was Griffon, so he knew he’d be all right. She and her husband had kept him well for his months-long stay with them; damaging him now would be silly.
He shut his eyes and sighed, letting her have at him. He felt nothing for a second, then metal swung around his neck, tugged down like the times Burnie put a tie on him before formal events. The loop wasn’t as tight, though he felt it fasten around him. Then it pulled, and his eyes snapped open.
Griffon clicked her tongue. “I did not tell you to open your eyes, did I?”
Gavin looked at the leash that found its way back to him for the third time. “I... Sorry?”
She tugged the leash lightly. “You’ll make it up to me, right?”
It had been very loud in Gavin’s brain. Plane crashes and chaos and alarm bells and warning klaxons. It had been part of what was ratcheting the stress and tension in his higher and higher.
All of that went quiet when Griffon pulled the lead. Everything narrowed down to the simplest things: There is a leash around my neck and, quiet but earnest, I can be good.
His eyes traced the metal links to Griffon’s hand, then up to her face. As he met her eyes, he watched her smile widen into something soft and sweet, the whites of her teeth showing. “Yeah,” Gavin croaked, then coughed. “Yeah, ‘course.”
“Good. Why don’t you...” She glanced around the room. “Grab us both some of that sunshine tea.”
He stepped away, and watched as Griffon slacked her grip on the lead to give him space to work. Under her supervision, he got out mason jars (a vital ingredient to the drink, according to the Ramseys), filled them with ice, then poured out the minty-lemony tea. He bumped the fridge shut with his hip, and smiled faintly at Griffon when she nodded approvingly.
Without another word, she turned and headed to the living room. Gavin followed. Because the universe had a diabolical sense of timing, Geoff was just walking in as they passed the entryway, grocery bags in his hands. He made to toss his keys on the sideboard, but his eyes caught the sight of his wife leading his charge by the neck through the house and missed the throw, the keys clunking loudly on the wooden floor.
“Oh, there you are. Here, Gavin.” Griffon took the two teas from Gavin and set them on the table, then handed Gavin’s leash to Geoff. “Help Geoff put everything away and get him a tea too, okay?”
Gavin ducked his head, feeling his cheek go hot so quickly it made him dizzy. “Okay, Griffon.”
In the kitchen, Geoff dumped everything, including his end of the leash, on the counter before turning to Gavin. “Gavin.”
“I’m okay,” Gavin said, cutting him off before they could get into it. “And you discussed this with Griffon.”
Geoff pointed at Gavin, like he was about to make a good point in his own defense, but subsided, instead rubbing his beard. “Yeah. A bit.”
“Well, then.” Gavin took a moment to put the groceries away, bundling up the plastic bags for recycling, and poured Geoff his tea. He handed it to the man, along with the leash.
Geoff chewed on the inside of his cheek, but accepted both. “Do you need.... I don’t know, a safe word, or--”
“Please shut up,” Gavin groaned.
A brightness lit up in Geoff’s eyes and he gave the lead a sharp yank. “Come again?”
Gavin squeaked. It was eerie, how Geoff could just change modes like that. Very helpful for work, but always surprising off the clock. “N-nothing.”
“Good boy,” Geoff said, and Gavin inhaled sharply. Whatever Geoff saw in his face, it earned a little softness from him. One wide hand stroked through Gavin’s hair. “Okay. Come on.”
They went to rejoin Griffon. Gavin wondered how far this was going to go, if he’d have to sit on the floor or something, but with a tug (and it seemed that Griffon was enjoying the convenience of the leash more than anything) he was pulled in between them on the sofa. His long legs tucked up on the cushion, and he could feel Geoff’s arm stretching behind his neck, all the way over to Griffon.
Gavin spent his last day in America watching Cloverfield, explaining in detail just how much the “camerawork” (if it could be called that) bugged the shit out of him until Griffon hooked her fingers into the improvised collar and pulled him over so his head lay on her shoulder.
Let it not be said that Gavin couldn’t take direction, explicit or implied.
England is cold and it rains every bloody day. It’s a universal truth. Gavin knew this but had been away so long, had become such a damn sun worshipper with a wardrobe of polo shirts and capris and sunglasses, that the clothes he left in England weren’t enough to keep him warm even when they fit. Apparently he’d grown just enough during his time abroad that his wrists peeked out from his jumpers and jackets, and his ankles showed under the hems of his pants.
It was bad enough that he was due in to work almost immediately after flying in, but now he had to find the time to go shopping for clothes that wouldn’t having him looking like a tosser when he walked into the production offices.
If he wasn’t in such a rush, he’d have sent Burnie a rude message about how Rooster Teeth’s zero-fucks-given dress code had ruined him for every other job he’d work. But thinking about Rooster Teeth made him think more of Austin and its heat and its people and its food.
Gavin went to the damn shops, spent a ridiculous amount of money on a basically an entire new wardrobe that he didn’t want, and went to work.
Things got better. Or, he got enough distance from Rooster Teeth that he forgot how low things had gotten. It was around then he started answering the voicemails and text messages, able to deal with them again at last.
Also, Gus threatened to give his phone number out on the site for concerned fans to help the company contact Gavin if Gavin didn’t pick up his fucking phone. Gus was sort of an asshole.
“Someone is going to put you in a box and ship you back to America if you don’t stop snapping at people,” Dan said from the bed in Gavin’s bedroom. Gavin was editing the footage they’d shot earlier that day while Dan offered moral support (which mainly consisted of pointing out how that lighting made Gavin’s nose look even bigger) and played on Gavin’s gamertag.
“I am not that bad,” Gavin muttered, playing with sound mixing.
“You are a beast, B.” Dan didn’t even look away from the telly. Gavin glanced over and winced, hoping that Dan would be slightly more successful with weaponry in the army than in Halo. “When I say ‘someone’, I mean I am going to find a shipping crate and trip you into it if you don’t stop.”
“Look, I’ve got a lot of things to do and not a lot of time to do them, all right?”
Dan clawed the air, making an angry cat noise before gripping the controller again.
“You’re an arsehole.”
“Not as much as you are,” Dan noted. “I want to take you out with me just so the girls will flock to me in the wake of your surly bollocks.”
“It’s times like these when I most cherish our friendship.”
They did end up going out and Dan did pull, though Gavin refused to believe that had anything to do with his presence.
After filming enough with Dan to keep their channel active for a few months, Gavin spent probably the worst two weeks of his life on a shoot up north. The weather was cold in a way that was unfathomable to him after so long in warmer climes and after a long string of fourteen hour days, Gavin was so exhausted that he was hallucinating.
He spent three days after the shoot wrapped in his hotel room. The first day was spent entirely out of his fucking mind, seeing things and feeling the walls closing in on him. The other two he slept straight through, which was likely for the best.
It was something that made his chest hurt, being alone like that, laying in his bed staring up at the popcorn ceiling as he waited for his brain to rein itself back in. Every man was an island, yeah, but Gavin had never before felt quite so remote and unreachable. There was a time when he didn’t mind extended periods of only work and his own company. It seemed that time was gone; he wanted more.
It was only a few more weeks before he was on a plane back to the States, but it felt like much longer. The flight itself aged him months before he at last touched down in Texas.
He could feel the crush of heat as he walked up the pathway from the plane’s door to the terminal, and somehow that just made everything worse. A sweat pricked up on his forehead, flushed cold by the aggressive air conditioning that came standard with indoors Austin. When he turned his phone back on and saw he had a message from Griffon, it was like a vice had been set inside his lungs. Thankfully, he’d handled customs during his connection in Memphis and could give into the urge to break out into a brisk run towards baggage claim.
He almost lost his wheelie bag a few times as he ran, but couldn’t be arsed to care. He spotted familiar faces by the carousel and skidded to a stop a few feet away, realizing that barreling full-tilt into his hosts wouldn’t be a great way of saying hello.
As it was, Geoff must’ve seen some of his antics; he raised an eyebrow at Gavin and his flushed appearance, the way he was catching his breath. “What, have you just flown in from England and boy, are your arms tired?”
Gavin laughed, the sound choked and rough, closer to a gasp for breath than anything. “It’s... It’s good to see you too, Geoffrey.”
Griffon broke out into a huge smile. “Oh, don’t you two start already,” she chided before stepping right into Gavin’s space and drawing him down into a hug. Gavin didn’t even think about it before he was dropping his bag and wrapping his arms around her in return. He felt Geoff move in, one of the man’s broad, hot hands pressing between the shoulder blades.
The breath squeezed out of Gavin felt like it’d been held for months, and the next one, full of dry heat and Geoff’s aftershave and Griffon’s sawdust smell, was more rejuvenating than it has any right to be.
Griffon was the one to break the embrace when the carousel started up. “How about we get your bag and take you home?”
Home. Gavin smiled, uncomplicated and cheerful in a way he’d forgotten how to be. “I’d like that.”
There was a euphoric feeling of vacation that followed Gavin around for the first week he was back in Austin. His room was, by the end of the first night, set up almost exactly as it had been before he left. There was a full jug of sunshine tea waiting for him in the fridge when he cared to look. Geoff had added another piercing to his collection and his beard was slightly bushier, but otherwise things had not changed much.
Not everything was so familiar. There was an entirely new office to work in, which was a mixed bag. It broke the illusion of Gavin having only dreamt of leaving rather than actually gone anywhere, and he had many fond memories of the old office space (of directing footage, making a fool of himself for the podcast, being tied up in about ten different ways for that short). But the new building was beautiful and had actual room to work in. There was even an office for Achievement Hunter, complete with a green-tint paint job, brand new desks, and a Jack who was for once pleased to see him.
“Oh, good, Geoff brought our editing minion home,” Jack said dryly as he gave Gavin a brief, one-armed hug.
“It’s nice to be appreciated,” Gavin muttered.
The new square footage meant that it was very, very apparent that Gavin’s role in the company had changed as well. Red vs Blue’s production had its own studio on the other side of the building. It only took a few days for Gavin to realise that he was mostly sequestered in the AH office, recording and editing and playing throughout the day. Gus was the only one to call him away, wanting his return to the podcast. Otherwise, Gavin’s time was devoted to AH.
Gavin wasn’t sure what that meant.
He waited until Jack left to take a call from Joel (and Gavin could hear Joel shouting down the line even from where he sat) before sliding over to Geoff’s desk.
Geoff was working on something very intently, but a smile flickered onto his face when Gavin wheeled in close. He didn’t otherwise acknowledge Gavin, continuing to click away at the editing software.
Gavin responded by settling in at the corner of Geoff’s desk, crossing his arms on the surface and resting his chin on them, staring up at Geoff.
Geoff kept plugging away at his work for a while before stopping, smoothly pulling his jacket off the back of his chair, and tossing it over Gavin’s head.
“Wot, stop that!” He pulled it off.
“Stop fucking staring at me, I don’t need the distraction.” Geoff leaned into the screen more. “You wanna stay late today?”
“No, I just...” His face felt warm. “It’s just I was wondering about why m’joschanged.” He stopped; damn, he was doing that thing again. “I mean, hold on.”
“Clearly hooked on phonics has done you good,” Geoff muttered. “Do you have any extra B roll from this recording session?”
“I’ll...” Gavin pushed away from the desk. “Gimme a sec and I’ll look.”
Gavin tried to put it out of his mind, focusing on his work, even if he wasn’t sure why this was his work now, why he’d often wander by the other studio and have little idea what precisely was being worked on.
It nagged. It curdled and soured in him for about a week before the UPS apocalypse happened. Their part of Austin was very prone to brownouts and full blackouts. It was a long-standing issue that the company had adapted to buy buying a fleet of uninterrupted power supplies, meant to provide emergency power in such cases.
But with the addition of so many more computers and animators, the UPSes had been prioritized to the RvB team.
So when Gavin was in the middle of importing footage to edit for his current project and the power winked out for the third time that week, Gavin stared at the blank screen for a moment as the beeping of UPSes started to ring through the building, soon joined by harried voices and racing footsteps. People were rushing to save work and close out processes.
Gavin leaned back in his chair, waiting for the lights to come back on. As he did, Kerry poked his head in, gave him a sympathetic look, and got him a soda. Kerry was a brilliant person, even if Gavin was slightly furious with him for daring to have one of the coveted UPSes.
It was ten minutes before he could boot up again, and found that not only had his editing project corrupted, but so had the footage he’d been importing.
He breathed out of his nose hard, looking at the clock. There wasn’t enough time to re-record anything, and honestly he didn’t want to do so anyway. His good nature had run dry. Knowing that to recover his work would take too long, that he’d miss his ride home with Geoff, just made him bite the inside of his cheeks until pain lanced through him.
He went home, barely talking to Geoff the whole time. The intention was to lock himself in his room for a while, taking some time to cool off before subjecting the Ramseys to his presence, but it was another one of his hosts’ get-togethers. There were people milling around the house, loud conversations bouncing down the halls, no sense of peace left to the place.
There was a thing that happened when Gavin heard a sound he liked or felt something appealing. It was a pleasant shivering sensation that skittered over his skin, around his neck, across his skull.
This was the opposite of that feeling. The sound of all the people set off unhappy shudders over his body, making his teeth click painfully together.
Worse was when Geoff got pulled into a conversation about his work, particularly RvB, and his easy smile as he said, “Yeah, the new season looks good as dicks, it’s fucking great. The team we have on it’s goddamn amazing.”
Gavin walked away, ducking into the kitchen and starting to pull open the liquor cabinets.
It was Griffon that found him with a bottle of whiskey in front of him as he searched for a glass, wondering if he should skip the middleman and just chug the damn thing. “Gavin? What’s wrong, Gavin, you look pissed.”
“I’m not.” He spun the cap off the bottle. “Going to remedy that right quick.”
“Gavin--” She reached out and tugged the bottle away. “Okay, something happened. What is it?”
He bristled. Something about the care in her voice, it only made him feel worse. “Nothing. It doesn’t matter.”
“Well, it can either be nothing or it can be something that doesn’t matter. Which sounds to me like something that matters a hell of a lot.” Her hand curled around his wrist. “Sweetie, you can talk to us.”
“I’m not exactly in the mood, Griffon!” Gavin held out a hand. “For god’s sake, I just wanted a drink!”
Satisfyingly, her calm popped along with his. “I am not giving you anything until you explain. Or should I go ask Geoff what happened at work today?”
Gavins scoffed. “He’s a bit busy, isn’t he? Wait until he’s done fellating the entire machinima team, I think.”
“What?” Her face was a portrait of confusion. “You’re mad at the-- You’re not even working on the series anymore.”
Gavin grinned angrily at that and pulled the bottle from her hand. “Right, then.”
His attempt to walk away was cut off; what Griffon lacked in height, she made up for in muscle and it only took a second for Gavin to find himself pushed back against the kitchen counter. “Okay, that’s enough, Gavin.” The bottle was taken again, slid down the counter out of his reach before she caught his chin in one hand, tilting his head to look at her. “You can either talk to me like an adult or...”
Gavin leaned down. “Or what? Will you send me to my room? Or export me again?”
Griffon’s face was hard and angry in a way he’d not seen before. Her hand pressed against his chest, keeping him in place. “You need to calm down. And clearly you and Geoff need to talk, because you’re so on different pages you might as well be reading different books. But we can’t just kick everyone out, so.”
She reached behind him, pulling open a drawer and grabbing something before yanking him down closer to her.
The leash circled his neck, keeping him held down to her level. It clicked at she set it around him. The metal was cool. Her hands were warm where they rest against his sternum.
Low and stern, she asked, “Now, are you going to be good or are we going to have a problem?”
It was like a hole being poked into a water balloon, how the tension just flowed around of him. Gavin was still upset, still had just gone through a horrendously shitty day, still wasn’t sure where he stood in America after spending so long in England longing to be here. But for that moment, he let it go and swayed forward, his nose bumping Griffon’s forehead.
He swallowed thickly. “I’ll... I’ll be good.”
Griffon searched his face, her brow knit in silent worry even as she stood there with the metal links of the leash wrapped around her fist. He couldn’t blame her; he wasn’t certain what was going on either. Only that... for the moment, he could deal with that. He felt content, in control for the first time in hours.
Perhaps not under his own control, but... Griffon’s was just as good, really.
He shut his eyes, not wanting to see anymore. “M’sorry,” he mumbled quietly.
“Oh, sweetie.” Her hands cupped his cheeks. “You need to learn to talk to us. Are you homesick? Did you want to--”
“No! No, I don’t...”
Her thumbs brushed over his closed eyes. “All right. We’re going to talk about this, but not just yet, okay?” He nodded. “Okay.” He hummed as her nails ran lightly through his hair. He felt like a cat being pet and wanted to purr from the attention and the comfort. “Good. Good boy.”
Gavin shivered and let his head hang, suddenly devoid of all the worry and tension from the last few days. In its wake, there lay a hollow, echoing feeling in his gut that made him feel exhausted.
Gavin didn’t know when the Talk was happening, but soon enough it was Monday and Geoff was knocking him out of bed. “Hey. Radio says traffic. Get un-naked and lets go, it’s going to be a long drive in.”
Ten minutes later, Geoff was driving and Gavin was curled up in the passenger seat, a mug of coffee cradled lovingly in his hands. He was basically still asleep, and by the time they hit the traffic, Gavin was tempted to put his seat back and doze for a bit.
Of course it was then that Geoff struck up conversation. “So wanna tell me what Friday was about?”
Friday. Gavin blinked at him. “What?”
Geoff’s eyes darted between Gavin and the road. “Friday. When you threw a tantrum at Griffon about something I apparently did?”
Gavin thought about denying it, but then decided fuck that. “Why was I taken off RvB?”
Geoff frowned. “What?”
“RvB. I used to help with that. Now I don’t even get script copy.” He shrugged, going for nonchalant but likely missing it by a kilometre. “It just seems a bit off to sponsor my visa, get one that’s even longer than my last one, and now you don’t even want me for--”
“Okay, I am going to stop you there before I throw you out of this car and into oncoming traffic,” Geoff said loudly. “Fucking fuck, you are not actually this dense, Gavin, come on now.” He looked over at Gavin before returning his gaze forward. “God, you are. Okay, dipshit, let me lay this out for you: Achievement Hunter is going to be a thing. Maybe not like the series is, but it’s still gonna be a big deal, and we’re expanding it, and I fucking asked Burnie and Matt to give you to me so you could help us with the aforementioned thing-making. You aren’t being punished, you stupid piece of shit, you’re just working on something else now, okay?”
“I. Erm. I didn’t.”
“No shit.” Geoff sighed explosively. “Why is this my life now? What did I do to deserve this?”
Gavin looked at the floor of the car. “Ah, well. You know.”
“Yeah.” With Gavin proper chastised, Geoff said to him, less brusque: “Are we cool?”
Gavin nodded. “Yeah. Sorry for... being a prat. Thanks for not buncing me to the curb.”
“Well, importing another European twink would be a pain in the ass.”
Gavin rolled his eyes and drank his coffee, feeling the sick, sour knot in his gut loosen and start to fade. The lesson from this was probably some bollocks about talking about his feelings more openly, but rather than dwell on what happened and learn from it, Gavin pushed it out of his mind entirely.
The road looked more like a car park than a main street when Geoff spoke up next. “So, the other thing is...” He scratched his beard idly. “The leash thing... how’re you with... should we set up a...”
Gavin recoiled in horror and nearly bashed his head into the window. “What? What are you talking about?”
“Well, Friday was the fourth time you got, you know. Leashed. If this is going to be a thing--”
“It’s not a thing!”
“Four times, I dunno, that seems like a thing!”
“You are not doing this right now!” Gavin said, a shrill whinge eeking into his voice. “You are not bringing this up while we’re in the middle of a traffic jam!”
Geoff had the decency to look contrite. “Well, we need to talk about it before we get home! I promised Griffon to make sure we understand what’s going on!”
“I am going to crawl out on the sun roof,” Gavin declared as he unclipped his seat belt.
“Gavin-- fucking Christ, sit down and put that back on, you little shit, and stop making this harder.” Geoff’s hand landed solid and heavy on Gavin’s thigh, stilling him. “Look, if we’ve done this four times now, it’s safe to say there’s no problem with it on our end, so calm your tits.”
Gavin settled as much as he could, which wasn’t a lot, but he wasn’t about to bodily remove himself from the conversation.
Geoff waited, watching Gavin out of the corner of his eye. When he seemed satisfied with Gavin’s ability to not freak the fuck out, he moved his hand back to the shift. “Okay. The leash. I meant it as a joke. You... like it?”
Pressing his lips together, Gavin looked out the window.
Geoff sighed. “You spent an entire night being a little asshole until I put you in it, and Griffon’s done the same trick on you twice. You calm down. Which-- hey, that’s awesome. No complaints here.”
Gavin slid down in the seat until he could almost hide behind his knees, bent in front of him.
Geoff pretended Gavin was not trying to sink through the floor and went on. “I’m going to just lay down some ground rules and you’ll tell me if you disagree with any, all right? Right. So, rule one is that we’ll only do it at home when we’re off the clock. Nothing in the office. If I ever slip up or make you uncomfortable, you tell me. Got it?” When Gavin continued to sulk, Geoff smacked him in the leg. “Ten-four, you dipshit.”
“I understand, ten-four, got it,” Gavin said from behind his knees.
“Rule two, safe word. Griffon demands one.”
Gavin was being ordered to give Geoffrey Ramsey his fucking safe word. He should’ve stayed in England. “I... can’t just say no?”
“What if you’re having an ornery day and want to be able to say no without losing the leash?”
His ears were burning so red it almost hurt. “You... know a lot about how this works.”
“Remind me to introduce you to the woman I married,” Geoff answered with a smirk. “Come up with a safe word by the end of the day. Rule three...” He took a deep breath, steadying. “You decide how far it goes.”
That was vague. Gavin looked up from his knees to frown at Geoff.
“Exactly what I said. If things get... If they develop, it’s gonna be you that does it, okay? But, an open door’s an invitation. Ours, anyway. That’s four, by the way; your room is a safe zone.”
Gavin nodded, even though he didn’t entirely follow what Geoff was saying. The thing he did know was that Geoff clearly had a much more interesting bedroom life with Griffon than Gavin had ever assumed.
“Right. And five is that you don’t throw any more fucking tantrums because you don’t know how to talk to us. You live under our roof, we’re kind of responsible for you not going completely off the rails. Use your words.”
Gavin smiled at that. It stung, because it was true, but Geoff was right. “Got it.”
“Good. Okay.” Geoff smiled, and it was a smile as warm as the mid-morning sunlight against his skin. Talking about Gavin’s weird affinity for leashes was not his favorite way to spend the ride into work, but at least there was... structure now. He knew where he stood with Geoff and Griffon both, and that was a bigger relief than he could have anticipated. His head hung down, lax and calm.
Eventually, he felt the car pull into the car park. The engine turned off, but before he heard Geoff get out, Gavin felt a warm hand curl around the base of his skull. The hair at the nape of his neck was brushed through by rough, blunt fingers.
Gavin nodded. “Yeah. I’m ready.”
Gavin was a notorious procrastinator, unable to motivate himself into doing anything that wasn’t work-related. As such, the leash thing didn’t happen again for about a week because Gavin simply couldn’t come up with a decent safe word, as Griffon demanded.
“What about hey would you stop that?”
“Too long,” she said as she worked some weaving yarn between Gavin’s hands. It looped round and round through his fingers and around his wrists in some pattern only she understood. It was a rainbow of colors, and Griffon carefully separated out the colors she wanted, snipping them from the bunch.
“What aboooout... clunge?”
She rolled her eyes. “No. And sit still.”
Geoff walked behind the sofa, leaning across the back of it so he could watch Griffon and Gavin’s hands, and leaned over to kiss Griffon on the corner of her mouth. “I see this is going well.”
“We’ve gotten through half the skein,” Gavin said.
“I meant you and your eternal quest for a fucking safe word. What about wet bread?”
Gavin gagged, spine curving with the force of it. “Ughk!”
“Geoff!” Griffon shoved Geoff away, palm flat against his face. “Out, now, the adults are working.”
Geoff snorted, but politely fucked off and left them to it.
It did give Gavin an idea, which he sat on for another three days before saying out of the blue in the middle of lunch in the new office.
“What about moist? Or, well... I read that you need two, one for slowing down and one for full stop.”
Geoff paused in his sandwich making and took a quick look around to make sure no one else was in earshot. Monty was sitting on a stool nearby and clearly had put himself into Sleep Mode, snoring quietly. “You googled this shit?” Geoff asked quietly.
Gavin shrugged one shoulder and casually stole a slice of tomato from Geoff. “Well, you know. But right, so slow down is brakes and full stop is moist, all right?”
Geoff gave him an oddly serious, level look. “You certain?”
“Okay. I’ll let Griffon know.” When Gavin tried to steal half of the constructed sandwich, Geoff smacked his hand away. “Take your break, eat something more than a vegetable--”
“Shut up. Eat, then you’re doing voice over with Jack.”
Gavin saluted lazily. “Aye, boss.”
The anticipation was killer, a high all on its own. He knew he was safe (so to speak) at work and once he turned in for the night, but the evenings spent in the Ramseys’ company were slowly taking the tension in his body and notching it tighter and tighter. He was pulled taut like a violin string, and every quiet smile Griffon gave him, every time Geoff pushed him around in his usual handsy way, it was like that string was being plucked, setting every nerve in his body vibrating.
That more than anything caused the next incident. Gavin was, admittedly, hovering around and practically begging for his hosts to do something other than the usual routine. He didn’t act out, because that wasn’t... quite the thing, this time. It wasn’t what he wanted for it.
Eventually, out of the blue, Geoff caught him in the hallway and nudged his back against the wall between two paintings. “All right, we’ll put you out of your misery. I can’t stand your fucking sad Bambi eyes when you’re begging for it.”
Gavin grinned. “Thank you, Geoffrey,” he chirped in his most saccharine, irritatingly earnest voice.
“Uh huh.” The leash clipped on and Geoff wasted no time dragging Gavin away by it. “Come on, boy, let’s go see what Griffon’s doing.”
She was elbow deep in one of her projects for the local theatre group that she worked with, her shop filled with everything from sandalwood oil to leopard-print faux leather. It wasn’t long before Gavin was standing very still for her, modeling her latest creation, garment pins stuck in all around his joints.
It was a long night spent putting things on, having pins stuck in around him, carefully taking them off, then repeating the process over and over. It wasn’t the most interesting way to spend a night with Geoff and Griffon, but the way Griffon ran her fingers through his hair and told him he was doing such a good job, it was still a nice warming feeling. His day job was fulfilling, of course, but the soft praise he got for this, it was a whole new shape fitting into his chest, filling a weird achey gap he hadn’t even been aware of before it was filled.
Just that, wearing the leash and doing as Griffon commanded as Geoff watched and worked his way through a few beers, left Gavin feeling utterly bone-tired in an unexpected way. He swayed as he meandered back to his room, and Geoff’s hand against his back, when it arrived, was a welcome support.
“Hey. Hang on, Gav.” He unclipped the metal and drew it away. “You okay? Are we good?”
Gavin nodded. “We are tippy-top right now, Geoffrey.” He rubbed his hand around his neck, feeling the phantom pull where the metal had been. “Could use something a little more comfortable if you’re going to tie me up all night though.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Geoff murmured.
And what Gavin didn’t expect was that he did.
Later that week, Gavin barely got his shoes off before Griffon accosted him in the entryway. “Hold still, I need to check the fit,” she said, unbuttoning the polo Gavin happened to be wearing that day, pulling it aside so she could get at his neck.
Geoff silently shut the door behind them, then lingered, watching his wife work over Gavin’s shoulder. “Nice.”
“Nothing but the best for our boy,” Griffon said in a light, distracted tone as she cinched something around Gavin’s neck. “Is that too tight?”
“Uh.” Gavin tried to tip his head in such a way that he could see whatever it was with no luck. It was much more snug than the leash, though.
“I’ll check since Gavin’s having a fucking critical system failure here,” Geoff said and hooked his fingers into the thing, pulling. Gavin squawked and coughed. “Bit tight.”
“Let’s try...” Griffon toyed with the thing, then said, “that.”
Another tug, and Geoff’s fingers slid in alongside Gavin’s neck. “Perfect.”
Gavin pushed Geoff’s hands away and darted away from the two of them and down the hall until he found the mirror.
The collar was Griffon’s handiwork, that much was obvious. It was soft black leather on the outside and an even softer plush material on the inside, pale green. The stitching was rainbow, subtle but friendly as it peeked out from the matte black. It was, now that he was paying attention to more than there’s a thing and I don’t know what it bloody is, so soft it set off that weird prickly pleasant feeling in his brain, making him shiver.
Autonomous sensory whatever-the-balls, it felt nice.
Griffon sidled in next to him and put her arms around him. “Okay?”
Gavin cleared his throat, then did so again when the words remained caught. “Yes. Very okay. Uh.” He met her gaze, head bowed, feeling tight and strange deep in his gut. “Thank you?”
“Sweetie,” Griffon sighed, combing her fingers through his hair. “One last thing.” She pulled a new leash out of her pocket. Where the old one had just been metal links with a plastic handle, the new one was corded strips of leather wrapped into a narrow but strong lead. The grip was a long leather strip, perfect to wrap around a hand for leverage.
It clipped on and Gavin let out a long, shuddering breath.
“M’fine. What...” His mind spun, like he was on his way to drunk without having had anything. “What do you want?”
Griffon shook her head softly. “We’re going to watch the game. You’re coming along. Clear?”
Gavin nodded, and shuffled along after her as he was led into the living room. Geoff vanished to grab drinks and finger food while Griffon settled in with the remote and pulled Gavin in. He thought for a minute that he’d be set on the floor, that maybe that was Griffon’s thing, and he wasn’t enthused about the idea but he would do it as thanks for the craftwork wrapped around his neck and all its glory. When he tried to settle down there, Griffon scoffed and pulled again. The fuzzy soft inside of the collar shifted against his skin and Gavin made a soft, involuntary noise.
“Up here, boy.” She patted her leg. “Lay down.”
He climbed up and let her rearrange him so he was laying down on his side, facing the telly, his head pillowed on her lap. Her hand settled on his head, curled gently around the crown. When Geoff returned, he handed the snacks to Griffon and pulled Gavin’s long legs up to free a space to sit. After, he let Gavin’s legs splay out over his, resting with one hand around Gavin’s ankle, touch hot and steadying.
Gavin’s head spun, a feeling of being overwhelmed washing over him for a few minutes. He never dreamed that he’d have to, but brakes was on the tip of his tongue as he lay there, supine and quiet as his hosts watched their ball game.
But the feeling subsided. He relaxed into their hold, letting his eyes go half-lidded, not bothering to pay attention to the game. It was not nearly as interesting as Geoff’s thumb rubbing slow circles around the knot of his ankle or Griffon pressing ranch-dipped carrots into his mouth.
It was a hot mix of calm and exhilaration that kept Gavin awake deep into the night.
The only thing Gavin found unsettling about the arrangement was how much he wasn’t unsettled by it.
“I mean, I should be out of my skull about this, right?” Gavin said into the phone, stretched out on the porch swing. “What’s up next, Griffon making doggie biscuits and teaching me to heel?”
Dan was quiet for a long moment. “Well, it... it sounds like you’re having fun in America.”
“I’m serious, Dan!”
“B, I’m sorry, mate, but I’m not much experienced in being put on a lead and ordered around!” He sighed. “I mean... they’re good people, right? And you’re... all right?”
Gavin smiled. “I’m fine, Dan. And no, it’s... nice.”
“Please don’t give me any details.”
“Fuck off, I’m trying to share.”
“I don’t need sharing about your kinky shagging!”
“It’s not shagging!”
Dan laughed. “You are being put on a lead and ordered around, and you don’t get sex out of it? Gav, you’re good people, but sometimes I just don’t get you.”
That was a fair point, Gavin thought. He hadn’t really thought of what they were doing as a sexual thing, but... all right, yeah, when he thought about a bloke in a leather collar playing obedient pet, his mind definitely went to the R18 place.
But so far it was just an extension of his normal residence under the Ramseys’ roof. It didn’t feel like a giant leap, to go from his regular routine to his collared routine. There was never a moment in which he felt strange about it or uncomfortable. It was just something he did with Geoff and Griffon.
On the other hand... Dan bringing up the topic made it impossible to not think about. Suddenly the way the collar set his skin alight with fizzy phantom sensation made his face hot.
There was the matter of his hosts. Griffon, obviously, was a ten in a world of ones, and Gavin had maintained a crush on her since he was sixteen. There was nothing about her thatwasn’t appealing, but-- Geoff’s wife. It was like his train of thought kept hitting that wall and just bouncing right back off it. It didn’t matter that Gavin was a fan of her smile, the muscles of her arms, the way the ink curved around her skin.
There was still that block, keeping him from thinking about it in depth. It felt wrong without Geoff’s blessing. Or... without Geoff, really.
That was a more interesting thought experiment. Gavin shut his eyes and tried to poke carefully at the idea. Geoff. Geoff, who had bad posture and sleepy eyes, but could hold Gavin whenever he decided to throw himself into Geoff’s arms. His arms were most definitely something Gavin noticed, couldn’t help noticing really, given how physical their friendship had always been. Geoff was the most good-natured man Gavin had ever known, and yet it took the span of a blink for his grin to go toothy like a predator and Gavin would be a lying piece of shit if he claimed that Geoff leaning in close with that smirk of his had never left his pulse racing.
It was difficult to stop thinking about the way Geoff’s lips parted to reveal that grin of his once he started. Worst yet, it wasn’t the sort of thought that was conducive to getting work done. The AH office was about the size of a shoe box, making close proximity an unavoidable truth.
Geoff leaned in far too much during a recording session, preferring to share Gavin’s mic and pop filter rather than set up an extra. That close up, Geoff smelled like the sandalwood oil Griffon used in the workshop, which was not a useful tidbit for Gavin to learn; and yet he couldn’t stop noticing.
He was going to book a flight to England and punch Dan in the nose for this.
“Hey,” Geoff asked quietly when Jack was out of the office. His hand settled on Gavin’s neck, as Geoff was wont to do even before the leash thing started. “You okay there, Gavin?”
“Fine! I’m fine! Erm. What were you saying?” Gavin tried to meet Geoff’s eyes, but that was a bad idea as he started to fucking notice that Geoff had nice eyes, what the buggering fucking fuck. He was really going to kill Dan for this.
“Did you get the email about next week? I’m going to be at the convention and you’re picking up my slack. You have the shot list, right?”
Gavin nodded. “Yes, email, right. I’ll take care of it.”
The suspicious look Geoff gave him didn’t inspire much confidence. “Riiight. Just... help Jack, stay on top of shit, and don’t let Griffon cook anything that doesn’t go in the microwave.”
“How did she eat before she met you?” It was a valid question; Griffon was a good drink mixer, but otherwise did not belong in a kitchen.
“Poorly. Why do you think she’s so short?”
Gavin, because he was a bit of a shit, relayed this to Griffon the following week while Geoff was off at the con, where he was likely standing before a line of fans waiting to blow him while Gavin scrambled to keep up with the increased workload. It was the second night of the Geoff-less Ramsey house when Gavin made a nuisance of himself, standing in the doorway to the kitchen, barring it, and informing Griffon of the popular opinion of her cooking and its alleged effects.
“I’m under strict orders,” Gavin said, the sympathy in his voice probably made worthless by the huge grin on his face.
“Oh?” Griffon crossed her arms. “And my husband’s orders supercede mine now?”
“He is the man who makes money appear in my bank account.” It was an old joke, but a truthful one.
“So that’s the hierarchy, is it?” Griffon considered this for a moment before smiling. “One sec.”
Then Gavin was bending down to let Griffon buckle him into his collar. “Well, all right, that does change the situation a bit. But he’s right about your cooking.”
Griffon wrapped the leash around her hand a few times, taking up the slack before using it to pull Gavin aside and get into the kitchen. “Quiet.”
Gavin nodded, falling silent.
“Good. Now, we’re going to make dinner and you’re going to film it and we will make Geoff witness our prowess in the kitchen.” When he nodded his understanding, she reached up and unclipped the leash, leaving the collar in place. “Go grab a camera.”
Flipping through one of Geoff’s recipe books (and the man had several, albeit most geared directly towards grilling things), they settled on a homemade pizza recipe, mostly because it was already late in the evening and they needed to eat in one hour instead of five.
Gavin dutifully filmed as Griffon collected ingredients (“We don’t have tomato paste, but if we cook down tomato soup that should work, right? Say yes, Gavin.” “Yes, Gavin. Ow, don’t hit!”), preheated the oven (“Bumping it up 25 degrees will get it done faster without burning it, I think.”), started making dough (“Is there a part of me that isn’t covered in flour right now?” “Doesn’t look like it.” “Thought so. … Hug time! Aw, Gav. Gav! Come back!”), assembled the pizza (“I’m going to go out on a limb and say this doesn’t look like the picture.”), and put it in the oven (“Yeah, we’re going to have to delete this video.”).
“You know what I can make?” Griffon said as she threw the pizza and the scorched pan it had been baked on into the trash outside. “Jello shots.”
“Does that count as a food?”
“I can put fruit in them,” she said in a voice likely meant to be reassuring.
Gavin filmed Griffon making the jello shots, then set to uploading the footage onto one of their private servers so Geoff could see it. It was an educational video, no doubt.
Things got slightly... fuzzy after that point. None of Gavin’s adolescent indulgence in alcohol could have prepared him for the Ramseys and their iron livers. Either of them could drink him under the table and often did.
Shot glasses stained in various cheerful colors littered the living room table and similar colors clung to Griffon and Gavin’s lips. She smiled with a mouth of purple and pink, rubbing her thumb against Gavin’s mouth. “Red is a good look on you.”
“You keep getting that expression on your face,” Gavin said, over-enunciating. “Like you’re going to put me in one of your runway shows. In a dress.”
“You’d look awful in a dress,” Griffon looked him up and down. “I wouldn’t say no to your legs in a skirt. Maybe some dark stockings.”
“You are the worst person I know.”
“You would do it though, right?” Her hand patted the side of his face in an inebriated searching motion before sliding down to the collar. “If I asked?”
Gavin inhaled sharply. “No.” Her face fell, so disappointed he couldn’t not clarify. “B-but if you ordered...”
Her smile returned, sunny and color-stained. “You are such a good boy.” Her arm wound around his neck, pulling him into a hug that he leaned readily into.
Gavin then immediately got up and excused himself to the bathroom because he recalled his earlier thought experiments. He was going to kill Dan for seeding the sex thing into his mind. He didn’t have the right. He’d already accepted so damn much from his hosts, their offered kindness, the understanding and help as he sorted through weird inclinations that he frankly had no idea how to handle.
It was a mix of confusion and alcohol that took him so off guard when Griffon caught him in the hallway, eyes sleepy in a way that Gavin usually associated with Geoff, and said, “Come on.”
“Bed. Sleep. I need a cuddle buddy, that’s all.” She trailed her fingers along the collar for a second, then stopped, seeming to think better of it. “That’s all,” she said again.
“I...” Gavin swallowed thickly and almost wished the collar was tighter so he’d feel it. “I need to think? About it?”
Griffon looked down and nodded. “Yeah, you do... that. Think.” She patted his cheek. “I’m turning in. Check the doors, then do the same, okay?”
He nodded and watched her walk away.
Then, he walked to the back door and pulled out his phone, typing up a text. It took longer than he expected-- Gavin didn’t realize how tipsy he was until he tried to make a coherent message pop up. Eventually he fired off:
griffon wants cuddle buddy fr bed.
He thought about asking is that okay or what should I do, but decided to just give the facts.
He hit send, then walked through the house checking all the locks were locked and the lights were unlit. By the time he was done, he had a message alert from Geoff.
give her a kiss goodnight for me.
Gavin leaned against the nearest wall and stared at the message in case it was going to resolve itself into something else. When it remained as it was, a casual affirmation, he still stared at it a few minutes more.
His door was open and his half-unmade bed waiting. But the door to the master bedroom was also ajar. Peering in, careful not to trust the threshold, Gavin watched as Griffon lay there in the large bed by herself. She wriggled around, trying to get comfortable. It looked restless and uncomfortable, and Gavin swayed forward, letting his unsteady feet carry him along.
He nudged off his socks and pulled off his shirt, leaving his pajama pants on as he crawled into the bed. The whole thing was soft, enough so that Griffon could clearly feel it when Gavin started to climb in. She smiled and beckoned him in. “You good?”
Gavin nodded, settling in next to her. “I’m always good, aren’t I?”
“Oh, usually.” She shifted closer, fluffing the pillows and getting settled. Her leg swung up around his, her arm around his shoulder. It was definitely a cuddle worthy of an octopus. “Yes?”
Gavin nodded, his head close to hers. From there, it was simple to just lean in and press his mouth to her hairline. There, it felt safe. “From Geoff,” he murmured.
“Mm. Geoff brings home the best gifts,” she said, tucked into Gavin’s shoulder.
It happened again, not the next night, but the one after. Gavin was brushing his teeth before bed, bone tired from a long day of work, but ultimately looking forward to Geoff’s return. As Gavin contemplated fun, quick pranks he could set up before Geoff settled back in at work, he noticed the bedroom door was ajar again, even more than before.
Griffon had gone to bed already. Usually, that meant the door was shut until morning.
But... Gavin rinsed his mouth out and thought about Geoff’s ground rules.
An open door’s an invitation.
By then, Gavin knew where Griffon kept his collar. It would be very easy to slip it on and slide in. He thought that was what was being asked of him, honestly, but it was... dangerous. A lot was at risk.
So before he did anything, Gavin stopped and seriously thought about his options, about the consequences, about decisions made without the aid of alcohol. He knew that this was supposed to be a big step, him asking for something before it was explicitly offered, and that should’ve been a slippery slope that carried him down and spat him out onto a bed of nails.
Or whatever. Mostly, he thought about Griffon needing someone to curl up around in bed and how she had kissed his forehead and had whispered, “Such a good boy,” to him in the morning.
And how that managed to make this moment so unintimidating.
“Balls to it,” Gavin muttered to himself and went to find his collar, putting it on then twisting it around his neck to just feel the way it brushed against his skin. Skin prickling pleasantly, he let himself into the room, shutting the door behind him, and sat on the bed.
His weight shifted the mattress and Griffon squinted one eye open. “Hmf?”
Gavin nodded to the three throw pillows Griffon had wrapped around in an attempt to be comfortable. “Want help?”
She lifted her head and peered at him in the dim light, eyes lingering on his neck. Slowly, she smiled. “Oh, sweetie. How did we luck out with you?”
Gavin swallowed, a lump in his throat as he helped her toss the pillows out of the bed and laid down so Griffon could wrap her limbs around him again. Her breath puffed out over his chest, hair tickling his shoulder where she rested her head.
It was like an concoction of peacefulness and home and comfort and affection injected right into his chest, a sweet warmth suffused in him. If he could somehow bottle the feeling, he could retire at twenty-five a billionaire. And then he’d likely just spend his days playing games with Geoff and laying himself out to Griffon’s mercies. It had done him good so far.
He drifted off thinking of that, and his dreams were filled with scenes of himself padding through the Ramsey house and the Rooster Teeth offices in bare feet and his collar, sometimes led around but just as often left to his own devices. They were good dreams.
It was telling of the state Gavin had worked himself into that he didn’t realize he’d woken up again right away.
It was still dark, but his eyes were adjusted. It might’ve been the cold that woke up him, as Griffon wasn’t pressed to his side anymore, but it could’ve been the mattress moving or the soft voices.
“How was it?”
“Usual. Good for the first two days, exhausting the third. If I never have to bunk with Gus again, I’ll be happy.” There was a faint wet noise, then. “See you got a substitute.”
“He’s...” Griffon laughed quietly. “He’s eager to please.”
“Is he? Let me see.”
“Hold on, first...”
There was that noise again, and Gavin peeked across the bed. Geoff was back, clearly, and already was dressed down for bed. Griffon had her hands on his shoulders, grip tight enough that Gavin could see where she’d be leaving bruises amidst the tattoos. There was one hell of a welcome-back kiss going on, their mouths slanted together. It was loud enough that Gavin felt his face turning red. He tried to look away, feeling like he was intruding, but the sound was fucking distracting and he couldn’t stop himself from looking back, watching Geoff’s sanguinely allow his wife to dominate his mouth as he silently ran his broad hand up and down her back.
It was weird. Gavin had of course seen people in pubs drunkenly make out and he’d seen porn with actors doing the same. This was much more personal and somehow more affecting.
He tried to be quiet as he shimmied across the bed; as much as he wanted-- He should leave them to it, he thought.
“Okay, I’ve been neglecting Gav. Hang on,” Geoff murmured, then shifted over Griffon, tumbling onto the bed between her and Gavin before catching Gavin by the waist and dragging him over. He kissed Gavin’s cheek, mouth wet and beard fuller than it had been before the con. Geoff, because he was a dick, rubbed his face against Gavin’s bare neck, scratchy and whiskery.
“Oi, hey, I was sleeping!” Gavin complained, trying to wiggle away. If he woke up with beard burn, he was going to be very unhappy; it was too hot to wear a jumper.
Geoff laughed and quit. “Really? It looked like you were trying to sneak out.” He lay back, turning Gavin’s head to look at him with a loose hold of his chin. “Were you good for Griffon?”
The words Gavin could say, both snide or honest, jumbled up into an incomprehensible mush. After attempting to say anything a few times and not coming up with anything remotely resembling words, he took a deep breath and nodded.
“Good.” Geoff smiled, tired but kind. His arm lifted, an invitation. “C’mere.”
Griffon was already snuggling in on Geoff’s other side, settling into almost the exact same position she’d been with Gavin. It was clearly her favorite way to sleep. And it did look nice. Secure.
Gavin knew that he could beg off and go back to his room with no harm done. Geoff wasn’t dragging him down; it was his decision to make.
He decided to see if sleeping against Geoff was really as great as Griffon seemed to think. He slid in close, imitating her pose with a leg wrapped around one of Geoff’s, his head against Geoff’s shoulder. His arm had nowhere to go but across Geoff’s chest, and Gavin had never been this close to another man’s chest and, by extension, rough chest hair. It wasn’t as bothersome as the beard, at least, and Gavin found himself surprisingly comfortable after shifting around a bit.
He could see Griffon watching him with one eye open as he settled in, giving him another one of her sweet smiles. She reached out, cupped a hand loosely around Gavin’s neck after tweaking his ear.
It was warm, really warm. When he made a soft noise, Geoff kicked the blankets down, letting the cooler air in.
Perfect, Gavin thought, and shut his eyes.
“So, when will we have you back again?” Burnie asked Gavin over food after a podcast recording.
“I’ve got another month here, then I dust off the Phantom for a few shoots, and I’ll be back,” Gavin explained. “Just need a bit to do some filming and see Dan.”
Burnie nodded and passed the syrup. It was pancakes for lunch, as he sometimes treated Gavin to. That Gavin’s de facto breakfast-for-lunch meal was three different types of waffles didn’t phase him, though the waiter had looked concerned when Gavin had specified all three orders were for him. “Going to destroy more things in slow motion?”
“Well, you know.”
“When you get back.” Burnie started to tuck into his significantly smaller meal as he spoke. “I know you weren’t thrilled with being put on Geoff’s team, and since they’re starting to look for more talent, I figured I should offer...” He twirled a hand in the air. “I mean, you’ve got the skills to pay the bills, Gav. We could put you on anything.”
Gavin nodded slowly, gaze on his plate as he dismantled his food methodically, preparing it to be shoveled into his face. “I wasn’t thrilled at first, but...” He shrugged. “I mean, do you need me somewhere else?”
“You can slot in with any branch of the company at this point--”
“But am I needed outside of Achievement Hunter?”
Burnie frowned; perhaps he’d expected Gavin to leap at the chance to be reassigned. “No, I guess not.”
Gavin smiled. “Well, I think I’m needed at Achievement Hunter. Jack needs someone to take out his frustrations on and Geoff would go mental if he had to pick up the editing slack. God knows the poor saps they hire are going to need to learn everything from scratch.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah.” He smiled reassuringly. “I mean, you want me to help out anywhere, tell me, but I’m fine keeping my core responsibilities if it’s all the same to you.”
Burnie nodded in agreement, but his face was still set into a perplexed frown. “If that’s what you want. I’m just-- you aren’t sick of Geoff yet? I mean, I only work with Geoff on a fifth of the shit I have to do and I want to file for trial separation sometimes.”
A huge bite of waffle helped suppress the expression on Gavin’s face, which he imagined couldn’t have been good for his boss to see. The thought had crossed his mind more and more as of late, especially as the complexity of his relationship with Geoff deepened. The man was his immediate supervisor, co-commentator, host, carpool, best friend, and the person who sometimes put a collar on him and called him a good boy.
Yet he didn’t feel tired of him. Each fumbling step down the rabbit hole that the Ramseys were tripping him down felt new and vibrant and exciting, and Gavin had a feeling there was more on the way.
So he shook his head. “Fair points all around, but I’m good.”
He should have known something was up when he asked Geoff, “D’you want to pick some bevs up on the way home?” and Geoff shook his head, “Nah, not tonight.”
It was a Friday night. That should’ve been a red alert on its own.
Gavin did catch on that something was going on when he pulled one of the few remaining beers out of the fridge, popped the cap off, and watched it vanish from his hands. Griffon liberated him of it, putting it right back in the fridge.
“It’s... the foam,” Gavin said faintly.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll use it for stew or something.” She linked her fingers through his and pulled him away. “Let’s get out of Geoff’s way, okay?”
They sorted through the Netflix queue as Geoff busied himself in the kitchen with dinner, taking turns offering options and vetoing each other until settling on what to watch. At Griffon’s suggestion, they pulled the cushions off the sofa and set them on the floor around the coffee table for seating. Griffon made three tall Shirley fucking Temples, even giving him the one with extra cherries. For a second, Gavin was almost repelled by the wholesomeness of it, something so foreign to the Ramsey household.
But the smirk Griffon gave him as she passed him the drink was anything but chaste. The maraschino cherry held between her teeth split with a wet, lush sound as she watching Gavin’s reaction closely.
Gavin’s reaction was to pull his drink in close, silently bemoan the fact it was entirely non-alcoholic, and hide behind it.
When Geoff walked in with curried chicken and sweet potato fries, settling down between Gavin and Griffon, Gavin thought it’d help him keep his head. Griffon once called Geoff his security blanket and it was mortifying how true that assessment was. Geoff was a walking safe zone most days.
Tucked up close to the Ramseys around the tiny table as they ate and watched telly was not as soothing as Gavin expected. There wasn’t enough room for everyone’s legs, and Geoff had no compunctions about grabbing Gavin’s and rearranging him so his feet were basically spread over someone’s lap (it was hard to tell who’s in that cramped space). His hands stayed on Gavin, idly running over his calf, drumming fingers on his knee.
Gavin shot Geoff a look, questioning. Geoff just smiled back at him and stole one of his drink’s cherries, pulling it off the stem with his lips.
Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey, you’re trying to seduce me, Gavin’s brain supplied, making him start laughing nervously out of the blue.
“Gavin,” Griffon said in a level tone, the mischief in her voice faded in favor of something more serious. “Are you all right?”
Was he? His stomach was full of bloody butterflies and electricity was dancing across his skin like that time with the lightning storm and he could feel the weight of their eyes on him every time they looked at him. He felt like he was about to come out of his skin.
But in a good way. In a really good way.
He met Griffon’s eyes like he was making a point just by doing so and nodded.
For the rest of the night, it was the anticipation driving him to distraction. He honestly couldn’t remember what they watched. Instead, the night narrowed down to Geoff’s hands casually feeling up his legs, to Griffon rubbing his shoulders and telling him to relax, to both of his hosts running their hands through his hair. It was a tactile spell being laid on him, leaving Gavin jittery with nervous excitement.
Somehow he managed to help clean up after dinner and somehow he sat through another show or movie or whatever it was that Griffon put on. He made it through without vibrating out of his body. It was a monumental feat.
He was rewarded. Eventually, Griffon went to lock up the house as Geoff got up and declared, “All right, bed time.” He watched Gavin, who remained on the floor for the moment, staring up at Geoff, waiting for more. Geoff’s face creased into a smile. “You can come if you’re going to be good,” he offered, then walked away.
When Gavin went down the hall, the master bedroom’s door was ajar. He didn’t hesitate before letting himself in. He probably should have stopped and thought about the lines he was crossing, but he felt seduced and moreover he liked that feeling.
Geoff was still undressing for bed, but Griffon was already down to a tank top and boxers, kneeling on the bed when Gavin let himself in. She beamed at him and bent over to root through the side table, retrieving the collar and leash. “Come here, sweetie.”
She took her time, unbuttoning the top of his shirt and pulling it open before dragging her nails over the vulnerable skin of his throat, the pad of one finger against his Adam’s apple as she felt him swallow. “Still okay?”
Gavin nodded. “Yes, I’m fine. You can...” His eyes shut as Griffon finally wrapped the collar around his neck. “You don’t need to keep checking. I’m good.”
“Understood.” Her hands wrapped around his neck, thumbs finding the sensitive point behind his ear and beginning to brush his hair back. “Geoff? A hand, please?”
“I’ll give you two,” Geoff said from behind Gavin. As Griffon kept petting him, holding him still where he was, Geoff finished unbuttoning his shirt, peeling it off to the floor. Said hands moved to his belt, and Gavin twitched in surprise even though he knew it was the next step.
Geoff pressed his palm flat against Gavin’s stomach, pulling him back. Gavin squeaked when his back lay flush against Geoff’s chest; the man put off heat like a furnace. “Calm down there, boy.”
“It’s okay, Gav. We’ve got you,” Griffon said as she took over her husband’s work, undoing Gavin’s trousers and pushing them down. He was let to keep his boxers, though it was hard to say if that was actually a good thing. It may have been just easier to lose it all at once if only to get the bloody teasing over.
“Socks off,” Geoff said.
“No, leave them!” Griffon protested. “It’s cute.”
Everything shifted from playful into something much more intense when Griffon wrapped the leash around her fist and pulled. Gavin climbed onto the bed, but she kept pulling, laying back on the bed and guiding him along. For a second, he tried to keep balanced above her, avoiding contact, but that only meant that when she tugged him down insistently, it was all at once: her stomach, her legs, her breasts, all underneath his bare skin.
And her mouth on his. She kept his lips on hers through the simple expedience of stretching her arms up, stretching him out over him. Gavin wanted to look back at Geoff, to make sure that this was all right, that he was allowed, but the pressure around his neck was doing something to his brain. It was like he was being pulled down past all of the inhibitions and the second-guessing, an effect that usually only came after his BAC got high enough.
So he just kissed her back, open-mouthed and shameless. If he misstepped, he’d take the direction or the punished they dished out in return.
“As pretty as this is.” Geoff’s arm went around Gavin’s waist, pulling him up onto his knees, back once again against Geoff.
Griffon followed, helping sandwich Gavin between them. “Leash off, you think?”
“Nah, not this time. Though if you wanna get your boobs ready to distract him?”
Griffon chuckled, reaching down to pull her tank off and yes there were breasts out. “Such a team player.”
“Then you’re MVP.” Gavin let out a low whinge, and Geoff laughed. “All right, shush.” His mouth was right at Gavin’s ear, the scratch of his beard catching along Gavin’s neck. That along with Griffon kissing him against wasn’t quite enough to distract when Geoff’s hand slid into his boxers, squeezing his arse in a grip that was absolutely going to leave an interesting bruise. Gavin couldn’t not notice the slickness either and scrambled to grab onto whatever he could reach, namely Griffon’s shoulder and Geoff’s leg.
“Here, let’s--” Griffon moved everyone around so she was flush against Gavin’s front, one leg wedged between his legs, her hands taking over arse-groping duty while Geoff worked. It was fucking hot in more than one way, and Gavin felt the sweat break over his skin at the manhandling and the proximity.
It was difficult to keep track of who was touching him where, let alone where his own limbs had fucked off to. Everything narrowed down to the fact that Geoff had his tongue plunging into Gavin’s mouth and his finger working by tiny thrusts into Gavin while Griffon whispered in his ear nonsensical platitudes and encouragements.
“Oh, fuck,” Gavin said, taking in huge gulps of air when Geoff let him. “Oh, ffffuck.”
“That,” Geoff said in a low drawl as he worked his fingers further in, “is the idea, yeah.”
Gavin’s words failed him, leaving him making half-throttled keening noises, his head against Geoff’s shoulder, back curving at the weird pressure and tightness. It was overwhelming, and distantly he was grateful for that because he had no room in his mind to panic about having someone’s finger in his arse.
Wait. Fingers. Plural.
His focus on that was broken when Griffon gasped quietly. “Oh! That’s the surgery scar. Does it hurt?” She’d gotten his boxers down and before Gavin could even answer, her hands, soft with callouses that Gavin could feel vividly against his skin, were exploring his cock, touching around the scar tissue.
Gavin only stayed on his knees thanks to Geoff holding him in place. He shuddered and completely failed not to push up into Griffon’s hands and back into Geoff.
“That’s Gavin for no, it doesn’t hurt,” Geoff translated helpfully.
“I got that, yeah.” She kissed Gavin then, stroking his cock, thumb settling in over the scar to work it in tandem. He kissed back, uncoordinated and messy, feeling his whole body lighting up like fireworks as he hung between them and let it wash over him.
Griffon kept him on the edge for a painfully long time, too often deciding to pet the hair on his chest appreciatively or to squeezing his arse when Gavin was tantalizingly close. Eventually, Geoff said, “He’s good,” and it was time for manhandling again.
Settled back against the pillows, Griffon kicked off the rest of her clothes, curtly telling Gavin, “Boxers off, now,” in a voice that shot fire down Gavin’s spine. It took a moment to comply since his brain had long since leaked out his ears, never to be seen again (he assumed, anyway). “Socks stay,” she reminded him before catching the hanging leash and pulling him over. “Lay down on your back, right here.”
“It’d be easier with him on all-fours,” Geoff commented.
“I want a better show than that.” She patted her chest, and Gavin crawled over, laying down as instructed. Her knees brackets him and propped up with his head against her breasts gave him a fucking obscene view of himself. He tried to wiggle around only for her to take away the leash’s slack, keeping him close. “Stay.”
Fucking fuck, it couldn’t be normal, to get that turned on just by someone taking you in hand and telling you exactly how they wanted you. And yet.
His wrists were gathered up in her hands, pulled up and back. Somehow that was that much more vulnerable, being spread out like that as Geoff knee-walked over to settle in front of Gavin. It was messing with him, the mix of being laid out for the taking and being in the company of the two people he trusted most in the world.
Geoff shot a look over Gavin’s head, and Griffon suddenly let go of Gavin’s wrists, instead running her hand through his hair, pulling it back from his forehead. Geoff, as casually as a man with his cock just hanging out could, started to rub Gavin’s legs, starting at the ankle and gliding along to his knee, then back again.
Gavin found he could breathe again and frowned. “Hey, now... I’m fine.”
“You look it.”
“Okay,” Geoff agreed easily as he rolled on a condom. Then pulled Gavin’s leg up, around his hips, nudging his cock against Gavin’s arse.
Gavin yelped, and tried to brace himself, but Griffon got him by the wrists again and Geoff held him steady by with a broad grip on each of his hips. His fingers wrapped back enough that Gavin hissed through his teeth as the bruises Griffon had put on his arse cheek stung.
Back to spread out and vulnerable, but this time he was ready. Griffon’s hands holding him pinned on his back like an overturned turtle were welcome and Geoff lining up his cock was-- yeah, intimidating, but nothing he couldn’t handle.
“Don’t hold your breath,” Griffon told him as Geoff rose up on his knees, pulling Gavin with him (fucking hell, had Geoff always been that strong?) and pushing in. Gavin watched, completely absorbed for a moment as Geoff’s dick slid into him, until the sensation hit him like a tidal wave and he was abruptly gripping Griffon’s hands, holding on.
“Breathe, Gav.” She was ordering him this time.
He exhaled hard, luckily too wrapped up with the stretch and slide to care about the sounds he was making. “Aaaaauh, oh my god, oh fuck.”
“Christ, he’s tight,” Geoff groaned, pulling out what felt like five feet of cock before pushing back in. “Oh, good boy, you’re such a good boy, you’re fucking amazing.”
He knew he was tight, could feel how slow Geoff was going, how he was holding Gavin’s hips still as he worked deeper and deeper into him. It was-- was considerate in an erotic way. Gavin’s eyes rolled around, finding Griffon watching his face with a flush on her own cheeks, her lower lip bit hard.
She kissed his face when he looked at her. “You look perfect like this. Laying back and taking it, you’re hot as fuck.”
Gavin smiled, wanting to preen, but a shudder rocked through him, another one of those embarrassing, high-pitched keens ripping out of him.
“There,” Geoff said indistinctly, hauling Gavin’s legs up over his shoulders and pushing in, fast and hard. Griffon grabbed Gavin’s shoulders, holding him, keeping him from sliding away from the force of it. Hands freed, Gavin fisted his hands in the blankets until it hurt. It was nothing compared to the hot pleasure running through him, curling deep in his belly.
A hand wrapped around his dick, pulling in time with Geoff’s thrusts. Gavin could feel behind him, Griffon’s other arm insinuating between her legs. That she was getting off on this, watching her husband fuck Gavin silly, was like a fucking depth charge to his libido. He came with zero warning, just gone between one heartbeat and the next, entire body arching, muscles pulling tight, tension seizing him
and then letting go all at once.
“Jesus fucking--” Geoff tucked up over Gavin, buried in, and released, just as fast and sudden. He sagged over Gavin after, boneless and heavy. “Hot damn, that was...”
“Yeah,” Griffon said with a breathy sigh. “That went better than expected.” Her hand brushed through Geoff’s hair affectionately, a weary smile curving her lips.
Geoff batted her hand away. “Don’t put your girl spunk in my fucking hair.”
“Yeah, like you’re going to bed without a fucking shower first,” she shot back, gesturing to the mess squashed between him and Gavin.
Geoff snorted, but nodded in agreement. His eyes found Gavin’s. “Hey.”
Gavin fucking beamed at him, to hell with any lingering awkwardness or worry. “That was fucking top.”
A full laugh rumbled out of Geoff. “Easy for you, you just had to lie back and accept the gift of my cock.” He leaned in to kiss Gavin, then Griffon. “Okay. Showers, then time to sleep ten hours.”
It ended up being more like twelve hours for Gavin. And what’s more, when he woke up, he was still exhausted. Not physically; there he was fine, his body humming happily in the wake of having gotten it’s occasional orgasm.
No, it was a deep grogginess that made the act of opening his eyes a monumental task. It would have been very easy to just roll over and go back to sleep, but the sound around him resolved slowly into voices.
“There’s a few interesting ones. Jack and I have a lot of footage to go through. Might pull someone in as an intern and see how that works.”
“Are we going to put them up?”
“Fuck no. We did the halfway house for new employees bullshit already. Jack’ll take ‘em this time.”
Gavin rolled over and blinked his eyes open. He was still in bed, and so were the Ramseys, both of them sitting up in bed. The telly was on, but muted as they talked.
Griffon noticed Gavin’s return to consciousness first. “Well, good morning sunshine.”
“Technically afternoon,” Geoff pointed out.
“Nngh,” Gavin said, throwing an arm over his eyes.
Griffon laughed. “Yeah, cherry popping takes it out of you.”
“Which you might’ve mentioned, you know. I always assumed you and Dan...” When Gavin peeked at Geoff, he was making an obscene gesture with his hands.
“Or at least,” Griffon made a different obscene gesture, more oral-centric.
Gavin snorted and shook his head. “Not--” He coughed, caught by how dry his throat was. “Not interested.”
“You or him?” Gavin shrugged, flushing at the thought. “Fair enough.”
He made to sit up, wanting a drink like he’d not had one in weeks. He winced as he did, reaching back to rub sensitive areas.
Geoff’s eyes lit up, delighted. “What? Did my penis rock your world so hard you’ll never recover?”
“No, but I think I have Griffon’s bloody handprints on each cheek.”
“Oh, sweetie.” Griffon’s smile was like a jungle cat’s, sharp and dangerous enough that Gavin forgot how breathing worked for a second. She slipped away from Geoff and over to Gavin, touching him with just one hand on his chest. “I didn’t mean to, especially not with how good you were last night.” Her nails scratched through his hair as her hand trailed down. “Let me make it up to you?”
That was not helping his morning wood. Or, it was really helping it, rather.
“Erm.” He looked to Geoff, who was-- all right, he was watching with a fairly ravenous look on his face. That was a go ahead, clearly.
Griffon kissed him, just a press of lips, and Gavin inhaled sharply before putting his hands on her shoulders. She’d not gotten dressed again and he’d not gotten the chance to really feel her skin before. There was so much ink and paint laid into her, it was strange that running a hand down her arm revealed only smoothness. There was no texture to all the tattoos. He thought that was a shame.
Before his brain had quite caught up, Griffon was in his lap, kissing him hard, tipping his head back and biting the corner of his mouth. He wasn’t sure where his hands were meant to go; it was a complete flip of last night, when he knew precisely what to do while being in way over his head. He wanted-- Griffon, obviously, because honestly. But...
Bloody hell, it wasn’t like he’d never shagged someone before. Gavin gathered his wits and started to get with the program, letting his hands roam. Griffon’s squeezed him back, and the idea of the marks she was leaving was enticing. Every time he saw the Ramseys’ bare arms, he wanted just a little of the art they’d adorned themselves with, daydreamed of pressing his skin to theirs in hopes the designs would transfer like biro ink.
He was getting distracted. He didn’t know how it was happening, but he wasn’t doing this right. He wasn’t being a good boy, and it was-- nerve-wracking. There was a sudden tension lancing through him, and he couldn’t stop thinking about his poor performance and he was spiraling from it, unable to pull out of his nose dive and fix it because it was all he could think about and he didn’t want to fuck this up, this strange amazing thing he’d discovered.
Gavin pulled back, shutting his eyes tight and panting in a woefully not-sexy way. “Uh... fuck, brakes, I-I--”
It was like a switch was flipped and before he knew it Griffon slid off him. “Okay, sweetie.”
But it wasn’t-- he forgot the other word, and he was fine until he realized he forgot the word. It was an important word, they’d made that clear to him, and he’d made it into a bit of a joke and now he’d forgotten the punchline. “Breaks, breaks, sorry, I don’t--”
“Geoff,” Griffon said suddenly, and Gavin felt two pairs of hands on him, urging him down on his back. “We’ve got you, Gavin, we understand.”
“I-I forgot,” he tried to explain.
His head was in Geoff’s lap all of a sudden, the man watching him from above, face upside-down. “Full stop, we know. It’s okay, Gav.” Geoff’s big, warm hands framed his face, keeping their eyes on each other, and he didn’t look upset. Not even slightly. Maybe Gavin just couldn’t read upset on upside-down faces.
“Hey. Hey.” Geoff shooks Gavin’s face lightly. “Deep breaths, stupid, it’s okay.” And he started breathing in and out slowly. Feeling embarrassed but grateful, Gavin followed his lead.
The panic subsided. It’d hit so fast and out of nowhere, he hadn’t quite noticed it, but with Geoff holding onto him and watching over him, the heat left his bloodstream. It left him feeling hollow and bereft, but immeasurably better than five minutes prior.
He hadn’t realized Griffon left until she came back, still naked but holding a tall glass. “How’re we doing?”
Geoff had a habit of answering questions on Gavin’s behalf, had done it for ages. It was telling that didn’t kick in, and instead Geoff waited on Gavin along with Griffon.
“I’m... Griffon, I’m so sorry--”
“Hey, stop right there, Gavin.” She carefully climbed back onto the bed. Geoff pulled Gavin up into a sitting position, tucking in against his back so he could keep holding Gavin with a loose grip. “You had your first full scene last night and you were perfect. But this is still new for you. Rule two exists for a reason.” She handed him the glass. “Drink.”
It was ginger ale, fizzy, but thirst quenching and a balm to his stomach. He drained the glass. “I’m... all right. Feel a little strange. Stretched out. Tired.”
Griffon nodded and leaned in to kiss his forehead. It was odd but nice, that small show of affection delivered while he was curled up against Geoff. She might’ve been onto something with that security blanket theory.
“I’m still really sorry about,” Gavin cleared his throat and nodded to Griffon in her all-together.
She waved a hand. “Not important. We just wanted to be sure you’re good.”
“I am. I could...” He leaned forward only for Griffon to push him back.
“Gavin, I appreciate it, but I have more than one toy in my drawer. I don’t want to wear you out.”
Should he’ve been perturbed at being referred to as a toy? Eh. He’d add it to the long, long list of things that probably should’ve garnered protest from him only for him to not care much about.
“Besides,” she said, looking at Geoff, “I have a husband for times like this.”
“Oh, is that why we got married?” Geoff might’ve been going for annoyed but Gavin could feel how he, well. Stood to attention when Griffon called. No sell.
“Gavin, sweetie, are you okay? Need anything? No?” She smirked and crooked a finger at Geoff. “Put the twink down and get to work.”
Geoff waited for Gavin to extricate himself before giving Griffon his attention. “Maybe said twink likes being ordered around by you, but I’m not that guy.”
The eyebrow she raised at him said multitudes, many Gavin couldn’t make sense of. The Ramseys did that sometimes, probably one of the benefits of years of marriage. “Well, in that case,” she leaned over to reach the bedside table. “I do have other toys. Let’s see...”
Gavin was curious what exactly was in that drawer, but never got the chance to see; Geoff caught Griffon, dragging her across the bed and away from the edge. She squealed, kicking her feet at Geoff. He pinned them down and leaned down to bite at her stomach, muffled growls coming from him. Griffon threw her head back, laughing brightly, the muscles of her abdomen tensing as Geoff started to raise red marks across them.
Gavin watched for a moment, still laying there as he rested from what happened. It was-- okay, thinking about it like porn didn’t work because it was Geoff and Griffon, that was weird. Maybe he should’ve looked away or excused himself, but watching Geoff go down on Griffon was pretty great.
He had a moment of vivid clarity, pure understanding of just how off the rails his life had gone as he laid there, sucking on ice cubes and watching his best friends fuck while he lay in their bed recovering from playing their-- what? Their pet? Sub? Sub sounded like the term.
The thing was that in the long series of inexplicable turns his life had taken since he was a stupid kid playing Halo and torrenting videos off the internet, this wasn’t so unusual.
Gavin propped himself up on an elbow and waited for the Ramseys to have their go, hoping he could convince them to go out to lunch after. He wanted food.
Though, he thought with a smirk, Geoff probably wouldn’t be hungry when he was done.
“I cannot believe you have me editing today,” Gavin said peevishly as he finalized his project on Final Cut and watched it render.
“I cannot believe you thought you’d get out of it,” Geoff replied airly. “You’ve got time before your flight.”
“Which I could be spending back home sleeping to get my schedule fixed before I fly for ten hours. Or I could be saying goodbye to everyone in the office. Or I could sneak in one more podcast recording.” Gavin spun in his chair to glare up at Geoff. “Basically anything other than being your bloody helper monkey.”
“Oh, shut up, you like being helpful.” Geoff was smiling, and to anyone but them it was Geoff’s usual brand of brushing aside complaints when he didn’t want to handle them. To Gavin, though, it made his ears turn red as he had a sharp, bright flash to last night and just how right Geoff was.
Gavin quickly found something else to look at, clearing his throat as Geoff grinned. It was probably for the best that he was going back to England for a while; the trip would be good to decompress, to get used to the idea that he’d be coming back to a home, and that he’d have people waiting for him. It was a nice feeling, almost overwhelming in how it made him simply happy.
It was Griffon who was taking him to the airport, and despite his complaining about being put to work on what could’ve been a day off, the time to leave came too soon. Gavin accepted a pat on the arm from Jack and a full bearhug from Geoff as he got his coat, ready to go.
“I’ll be back soon,” he reminded Geoff when the hug lingered.
“Not too soon. We need time to turn your room into a man cave. Maybe a yoga room.”
Gavin punched him in the arm and broke away. “I’ll miss you, too, Geoffrey.”
Geoff shoved him towards the door where Griffon was waiting. “Oh, get the fuck out. Have a nice flight. Try not to break your dick or nose while you’re gone.”
Griffon nodded solemnly. “They are your best features.”
Jack, from his desk, groaned. “Thanks for making me think of Gavin’s weird dick, guys. Geoff, come on, we’ve got footage to look at if we’re going to hire one of these idiots.”
With a dramatic gasp, Gavin put a hand over his heart. “But I thought I was your editing monkey!”
“Hey. Shoo. Flight. Have fun, tell Dan I said hi, and get your ass back here ASAP,” Geoff said, pointing in the approximate direction of England. It wasn’t quite his commanding voice, but Gavin obeyed anyway.
He walked out into the hot crush of Austin air, breathing it in deep like he could carry that taste of home with like a lifeline all the way to England.
But when Griffon linked her arm through his and drew him away, he knew this time he wouldn’t need it.