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The Way Things Were

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“Draw me like one of your french girls.”

Sebastian startles; his pencil scrapes across the paper, ruining the face he’d been sketching. Jamie is lounging in the doorway of his cabin (his cell, his prison, his sanctuary) even though Seb knows that he’d left the door closed. Behind him is the demon, Nick Ryves, arms crossed and as impassive as ever and Seb’s eyes flick nervously between the two of them. He never knows what’s going to happen, what mood Jamie’s going to be in each time Nick appears.

Jamie walks in like he owns the place (and maybe he does, because he owns Seb these days) and flops over Seb’s bed. He smiles and it’s radiant, it’s not fair. “Draw me,” he says again and there’s a faint threatening undercurrent to his voice. Seb flips quickly to a new page.

“Sure,” he says quietly because it’s better to keep Jamie happy. If he’s happy, sometimes it’s like he was before – before all this. He likes it when Jamie’s happy (he can’t believe he ever used to do things that make him upset). His pencil makes swift, sure strokes over the page. The lighting in here is awful but that’s what his imagination is for.

“Let me know when you’re done,” says Jamie, shutting his eyes and ignoring Seb. Nick moves inside to stand behind Sebastian and it takes everything in Seb’s power not to flinch away, not to hide what he’s drawing.

Nick tilts his head. “That’s not what he looks like,” he says eventually. Seb bites his lip instead of saying anything.

“What’s he done now?” asks Jamie from the bed, not bothering to open his eyes. It takes Seb a moment to realise that the question isn’t for him.

“He’s drawn you like before,” says Nick and it’s true. Seb’s added in the dimple that appears when Jamie smiles and the lines in his face are softer.

“Before?”

“When you were weak,” says Nick bluntly and Seb closes his eyes. He wishes that Nick Ryves would shut up. He hopes that Jamie doesn’t take any notice of him. But nothing goes Seb’s way any more.

Jamie bounds off the bed. “Oh? Let me see.” He pulls the sketchbook from Seb’s hands and strokes a finger down the graphite lines. “You really are so good at this, Seb,” he says, and sets the sketchpad down on the table in favour of crawling onto Seb’s lap. He’s warm, and lighter than he ought to be as he straddles Seb’s thighs. Seb flinches, and Jamie clasps his hand over his heart dramatically. “And here I thought you liked me!”

Seb looks up at him at that, because that almost sounded like the old Jamie, who was relentlessly cheerful and sarcastic at all times. Instead, his eyes meet Jamie’s and they’re – they’re more like Nick’s every day. Empty.

Jamie cups Seb’s face in his hands and Seb shivers and lets him, because he’s wanted this for so long that maybe he can just close his eyes and pretend Jamie is smiling at him, that Jamie actually wants him back. But Jamie’s fingertips across his jaw are clinical, like he’s working out a new toy he’s received. Jamie kisses him on the forehead, a light press of chapped lips and Seb feels vaguely sick. He doesn’t want this at all.

“Jamie, stop,” he hears himself saying, hoarse and quiet.

Jamie kisses his temple.

“Jamie,” says Seb, pleading. He tucks his hands under his thighs to stop himself from pushing Jamie off.

Jamie’s mouth hovers over his ear, warm and close enough to tickle, and he whispers, “You never stopped when I asked you to.” He trails his fingers down Seb’s neck.

Guilt and disgust lurches in Seb’s stomach because – because it’s true. Maybe he does deserve this, whatever Jamie is doing to him. (How could he have ever made Jamie feel like this?) “Please,” says Seb, because this isn’t the boy he fell for and he has to try to bring him back. “You’re a better person than I am.”

Jamie tips Seb’s head up with two fingers and looks into his eyes, like he’s searching for something. He blinks, twice, and it’s like the sullen glaze is sliding out of his eyes. He grins suddenly, his cheeks pushing up high and round, and he laughs.

Relief starts to pool in Seb’s stomach until Jamie blinks, and then the veneer cracks. Jamie laughs. “No, I’m not,” he says, and pushes forward to kiss Seb, hard and rough. Their teeth clack together and Seb can’t pull away because Jamie’s got one hand fists in his hair. Their bodies slide together and Seb – he’s a teenage boy, he wants this, he wants Jamie so bad, but –

And then it’s over. Seb blinks stupidly as Jamie pulls back. “Well?”

“Erm,” says Seb.

“I’d give it a four,” says Nick Ryves; Seb jerks in surprise and realises belatedly that Jamie wasn’t talking to him again. He’d forgotten that Nick is still here but he is, and he’s just standing off to the side, watching them as though they’re actors in a play or humping crickets in a jar or specks of paint drying on a wall. Seb wants to cry. He can feel the familiar itching feeling behind his eyes and his throat’s getting more constricted by the second but he has a lot of practice at not crying.

“Oh come on,” says Jamie, sounding affronted. “Just because we don’t all go around kissing multiple people in a week. We were all finished anyway, weren’t we? You should go.”

“All right,” says Nick and it always does make Seb shiver when he reacts like that, like he doesn’t get offended or like he’s perfectly fine following orders and his eyes follow Nick as he walks out without even a goodbye or a wave backwards. He just goes.

“Come on,” says Jamie, waving his hand to shut the door. He sounds a little more normal now. He always sounds a little more normal when Nick isn’t there, when the source of his power isn’t so blatant. He takes Seb by the hand and pulls him over to the bed. “It wasn’t a four, was it?” He doesn’t look like he’s particularly concerned about the answer and Seb’s always envied that about him, always admired the way he genuinely doesn’t care about what other people think of him.

“No,” says Seb, which is both a lie and not a lie.

“Want to do it again?”

“No,” says Seb, because he doesn’t want it to be like this, this crazy game of trying to figure out what Jamie wants and whether Jamie even likes him at all, which Seb is about 85% sure he doesn’t, and how much of his pride he’s willing to part with to admit how much he wants Jamie even if he is a bit deranged and drunk on power right now.

“You are such a liar, Seb McFarlane,” says Jamie, grabbing a handful of his t-shirt and pulling him down. “A liar and a coward. Go on, kiss me.”

Seb reaches up, finally, and puts a hand on Jamie’s chest, not sure whether he wants to press closer or push away, and kisses him back.