Work Header


Chapter Text

"I wish you'd at least take a dampener with you."

Feuilly didn't even look up from his packing to answer that question. "Bahorel, you know I can't. If I get caught with that kind of tech in my possession, it's instant reconditioning -- do not pass Go, do not collect $200. I can't take that chance."

"A comm, then. Or an alert button. Just something to let us know if you need extraction."

Feuilly sighed, put down the packet of protein bars he'd been about to tuck in among his clothes and turned to face Bahorel. "If I get myself into a situation where I need that kind of extraction, there's no way you'd get to me in time. And then I'd have exposed you in addition to myself." Bahorel opened his mouth but before he could speak, Feuilly held up a hand. "I appreciate this concern. I really do. But I can take care of myself. I always have done and always will do."

"A partner. Someone to watch your back."

"I have Gavroche."

"Gavroche." Bahorel snorted, barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. "Whose side is that kid even on?"

Feuilly's lips lifted up into an hesitant twitch of a smile. "His own, Bahorel. That's why I trust him."

Bahorel shook his head. He reached out with both hands, gripped Feuilly's shoulders tightly and gave him a firm shake. "You be careful out there, OK? We can't lose you."

Feuilly nodded as he attempted to back out of Bahorel's hold. "I know, I know. With Grantaire even more grounded than before, I'm all we have out there, now. I get it."

"No." Bahorel pulled Feuilly back in, this time tight to his chest in a bear of a hug. "Because you're my friend. Because I've lost too much already, and I don't want to lose you, too. OK?" He stepped back, met Feuilly's gaze so squarely that Feuilly could practically feel the impact. "You be careful. No unnecessary risks, no matter what you think we may gain from it. Watch your own skin and bring it back intact. Got it?"

Feuilly's smile was real, this time, not a hint of irritation in it as he answered softly, "Got it."

Bahorel smiled in response, pulled Feuilly into one last hug before letting him go entirely. "Good." They stood there for another moment then, awkwardly staring at the half-packed duffel bag on the table between them, until Bahorel broke the silence one last time. "I guess I'll leave you to it, then." He then turned on his heel and moved to leave.

Bahorel had nearly made it all the way to the door by the time Feuilly spoke again -- soft, hesitant as though testing out words with which he was unfamiliar. "Thank you."

Bahorel didn't even turn back, simply nodded once and left. Feuilly could take care of himself and, right at that moment, Bahorel couldn't have been more grateful. He had enough people to take care of, already.

Feuilly finally finished his packing, tucking extra supplies into every spare nook and cranny of space. There were people in the city who needed the help that even one extra protein bar would provide; there were people in the city who would barter information, safe passage and reliable message relays for some of the vitamin supplements and antibiotics he'd tucked in there, as well. It wasn't fair to say that the cities were chaos these days -- they weren't. They couldn't be, not when the government had iron-clad control. But there would always be haves and have-nots, not matter how totalitarian a government held sway. It helped keep order, when the haves would sacrifice whatever freedoms they had to in order to avoid becoming have-nots. It made Feuilly sick. That greed, that sense of privileged excess… people were starving right outside the windows of the elite, dying of diseases which could be cured with a single pill, and those in power didn't care. And the people at the top of the food chain weren't the only ones willing to give up freedom for security. The ones at the bottom threw it away far too easily, as well, giving up their brothers, their sisters, their children, their very selves to be government cannon fodder if it meant three squares a day and a roof over their heads. It was slavery at its worst -- "volunteer" slavery. It had to change.

But that was what Les Amis were all about, Feuilly reminded himself. They wanted to change all of that, to give people back their freedom, to give them back dignity and basic human rights. That was why it was so important that they had people on the ground, people keeping an eye on what was going on in the city's underbelly. That was why, partner or no, Feuilly had to go. He might not be able to do much, but he could do something. And that was far better than being cooped up and helpless, any day.

Feuilly zipped up his duffel bag, stuffed another few medicine vials in his jacket pockets and started making his way out of the mansion. He made it all the way to the garage before he was waylaid again.

R was leaning up against Feuilly's beat-up old Mustang, one leg bent, with his foot resting on the tire, his arms crossed over his chest and his posture hunched. Oh no. No… not this. Feuilly kept his groan purely internal as he approached, then leaned over R to toss his duffel bag in the open front passenger-side window. He nodded briefly. "R."

R nodded in return, a contemplative frown on his face as he watched Feuilly go through the motions of prepping his car to leave. Taking full advantage of the fact that Enjolras practically had a full auto shop in his garage, Feuilly usually took the opportunity to perform routine maintenance on his car when he was in. On the outside, she might look like she was on her last legs, but under the hood? Feuilly would put her up against any brand new thing just off the line any day of the week. He'd done most of the major maintenance work when he'd been in last week. Today he just needed to top off the gas tank and he could be gone. But seeing R struggle to find a way to ask what he so clearly needed to ask, Feuilly almost wished that weren't so, that he had an excuse to give his friend the time he needed to work it out.

Once he'd filled the gas tank, once he couldn't put off his leave-taking any longer, Feuilly leaned against the hood of the car next to R and cut him some slack. "This is about Enjolras."

R nodded.

Of course, this was about Enjolras. Feuilly sighed, lifted a hand to rub against his temple. He should have known that he wouldn't be able to throw R off as easily as he had Enjolras. Enjolras didn't remember. R did. And R was a friend. He wouldn't be satisfied with Feuilly telling him that it was OK, that it didn't matter. Feuilly and Enjolras had been happy together, after a fashion, and the last thing that R would want would be to take that away from either of them -- especially when Enjolras wasn't even fully aware of what he was giving up.

Feuilly didn't bother pasting a smile on his face. R would see right through it. Instead he shrugged, drummed his fingers against the metal of the hood a few times. "I told you when he and I first took up with each other that should either of you ever change your mind, I wouldn't stand in the way. I meant that, R. If you two can work things out between you, nothing would make me happier. So, just… don't worry. We're good. Yeah?"

R reached out a hand to wrap around the back of Feuilly's neck, guided his head down until their foreheads touched. Seeing the hot frustration in R's eyes from that proximity nearly undid him completely. This wasn't fair. They stayed locked in that position for almost two minutes, staring each other down from inches away. Just when Feuilly was ready to try laughing it off and pulling away, R did something completely unexpected.

…he spoke.

R's voice was harsh, ugly, faded in and out, booming and pitching like a guitar being dragged over gravel. It broke Feuilly's heart. R had been a jazz musician once, and a promising one at that. Enjolras had taken the stage after his set one night and R had been transfixed -- more by Enjolras than his words, but in the end, that didn't matter much, did it? -- and had eagerly followed him on his wild quest for justice and equality. R's voice had been their ticket into many places Les Amis had never been able to go before, and he'd taken such joy in his music that it lifted even the darkest hearts among them. So, to hear what Montparnasse's knife had made of that golden voice, to hear the ravaged, ruined tones of what was left behind… it was devastating. He knew exactly what it cost R in pain to use what was left of that voice and on the rare occasion that he chose to do so, Feuilly paid attention.

R stared straight into Feuilly's eyes and said, "You deserve to be happy."

Feuilly reached up, placed a hand on the back of R's neck in a mirror of R's own tight grip and said, simply, "So do you."

R snorted, rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to speak again. Feuilly tightened his hold and gave him a soft shake, a habit he'd picked up from Bahorel. "This isn't a game of Finder's Keepers, R. Nor is Enjolras a lucky piece to be traded around." R snorted again. "He chose you. He wants you. You want him." Feuilly gave R another small shake, smiled when R released him and took a step back, a gentle smile finally gracing his own lips. Feuilly said, "It's a good thing. It's what I've wanted ever since you two parted ways -- to see you both happy again. If you throw it away on my account, I'll have to be very cross with you."

R's mouth opened and he doubled over for a minute in silent laughter. A moment later, he'd pulled out his small notebook and written down, ::You'll be cross with me?:: The word "cross" was underlined three times.

Feuilly shoved playfully at R's shoulder, the laugh that R refused to voice clear to hear in Feuilly's response. "Yes. I'll be cross with you. I may even be vexed." R reached out and ruffled his hair, snickering as Feuilly danced back out of the way to reorder the wavy strands. "Well, that's done it. I'm vexed for sure, now! You keep that up and I may even end up incensed before this conversation is through!"

When Feuilly looked back up, R was smiling, a lightness in his eyes that had been far too long absent -- a lightness that only Enjolras had ever seemed to put there. R ducked his gaze back down to his notebook and wrote, ::You win. I'll stop. But Feuilly:: He stopped writing, then scratched out the last two words and shook his head. When he looked back up from his notebook, R gripped Feuilly's shoulder once again and said, "Take care of yourself. OK?"

Feuilly pulled R into a tight hug, nodding vigorously against his shoulder. R was a true friend. They all were. There were days that Feuilly cursed the fact that he ever had to leave this safe haven. There were days he wished nothing more than to stay here with his friends, his loved ones… his family. But he was far too aware of how he was needed in the world and that was unlikely to change. Tightening his arms around R once more before letting go and stepping back, Feuilly said, "Are you kidding? Taking care of myself is what I do best. Always has been. I leave the heroics to our charming leader. Speaking of… try to keep him out of trouble. I didn't like the look in his eye at breakfast this morning."

R sighed, scribbled furiously at his notebook for a moment before holding it up. ::You saw that, too? Damn. After last night-- I'll keep an eye on him. I'll fucking sit on him until you come back, if I have to.:: The "after last night" was scratched out, and Feuilly decided not to ask. With a small pang, Feuilly realized that if Enjolras and R had resumed relations so quickly, he really didn't want to know. He was happy for them. He was. But that didn't mean that, on some deep down, vaguely selfish level, he hadn't hoped this might all turn out a little differently.

R placed two fingers gently under Feuilly's chin and tilted his face upwards. His smile was small and full of sadness. He leaned in to press soft kisses to Feuilly's cheeks: left, right, left, then right, again; a lingering habit from his childhood… from another life. Before placing that last kiss, however, he paused, his cheek pressed to Feuilly's. Eventually he whispered into Feuilly's ear, "I don't care what he said or what he remembers, now. Lover or friend, It would break his heart to lose you. Don't do anything stupid." That message delivered, he placed one last, firm kiss on Feuilly's right cheek and stepped back out of Feuilly's way so he could get into his car.

Checking the rearview mirror as he drove slowly out of the garage, Feuilly was unsurprised to find R still standing there, smiling a soft smile and waving, for as long as Feuilly could still see him. As he turned the bend and R disappeared from sight, Feuilly quietly cursed himself for being a thousand kinds of a fool.

Courfeyrac eased the solarium door open, stepped through, then slid it closed behind him as quietly as he could. He needed space, time to think… time to breathe. And this was one of the few places that even Combeferre wouldn't think to look for him. He knew Enjolras and Feuilly enjoyed spending time out here, but he didn't. He never had. It was too exposed, too open. There were too many directions an enemy could come from. But there was nowhere else for him to go. His and Combeferre's bedroom, once the master suite of this house, and the only bedroom in the mansion large enough to house all the computers and small enough to keep them cool, doubled as Combeferre's ops room. So, Combeferre would be there. And Combeferre was the last person he wanted to run into right now.

And if he wanted privacy, short of locking himself in the powder room in the front hall, this was the only other choice open to him without an escort. And Courfeyrac had spent enough time shut in that powder room. He was in no hurry to spend any more time there, even if the solarium was the only other choice.

The moment the door was closed, Courfeyrac began to pace. Last night… he still felt ill when he thought about what he'd done. In spite of Enjolras' forgiveness, in spite of R's support and encouragement, as far as he was concerned, what he'd done to Enjolras was no different than what Montparnasse had done to him. Walking into that room with his those memories on constant replay had been bait to a trap which he had known Enjolras would fall for. In fact, he'd counted on it -- that with Enjolras' habit of keeping his mind as open as possible for Grantaire, Enjolras' own gift would ensure that he relived those memories along with him. It was nothing short of mind rape, even if it had been Enjolras' own gift doing the dirty work.

But it had been necessary. Enjolras had to know. He had to know the true depth of the horror that might be lurking in his own head right that very moment. And nothing short of the full truth would have convinced him. He had to know. He had to know. He had to know--

With a start, Courfeyrac jerked his mind out of that track, halting that circular thinking before it could pull him down any further. Unbeknownst to everyone but Prouvaire, Courfeyrac had once triggered his own conditioning with repetitive thinking like that. He'd spiraled his way down and trapped himself in that mindless docility, unable to break free as easily as he'd entrapped himself. He'd been stuck like that for the better part of two hours, prey for anyone who could have happened along, before Prouvaire had found him. That had been early on… back in the beginning. And after Prouvaire had found him--

Courfeyrac forced himself to start pacing again, hands finding their way into his hair and started to tug as he forced the memories away. Prouvaire hadn't let him loose for an entire day after that. It was what had convinced him that it was time to break away in whatever way that he could, to find someone else to help him manage his… condition. To his credit, Prouvaire had done his best to reign in his own impulses, as he'd promised… but his best wasn't going to be good enough and, after that day, they'd both known it. Courfeyrac had been careful after that, but now it seemed that he hadn't been careful enough. Could he have found another way to convince Enjolras? Had he even tried? Or had he just reached for the easiest route, knowing that in so doing, he'd also get a little of his own back from Enjolras for forcing him into this situation in the first place?

Courfeyrac didn't know. And because he didn't know, he wasn't willing to take any chances. Something had to change. Whether he was starting to channel some part of Prouvaire or Montparnasse that had been left behind when they'd been in his head, it didn't matter. Courfeyrac knew himself well enough to know that he was becoming a danger to those around him. And that was something he wouldn't tolerate. If Combeferre was no longer able to keep him in check… maybe it was time for him to find someone else who could. Whether that someone else would prove to be Enjolras or Grantaire or not… that still remained to be seen. But either way, he had to speak to Combeferre. The sooner, the better. For all their sakes.

Combeferre pushed himself back from the row of monitors and leaned back in his chair. Feuilly was on his way back into the city -- no dampener, no comm, and no alert button with him. He'd tried to tell Bahorel that Feuilly would refuse, but Bahorel had been so sure he could convince him. Combeferre had known better. Where Feuilly went, in its way, it was more dangerous than even the most clandestine mission Enjolras and R had ever been on. He worked in one of the city's seven community centers, right under the government's very nose. It was the most dangerous place for a member of the Resistance to be… unfortunately it was also one of the most potentially helpful.

The community centers were where they tested young children for psychic ability. Every child, just before starting school, was brought there to be tested. If they were found to have any psychic ability, they were whisked away from their parents and never seen again… unless Feuilly got to them first. Combeferre didn't know how many children he had saved by altering test results -- he'd started that work long before joining up with the rest of Les Amis -- but if you asked Feuilly, he could tell you not only how many, but the names and descriptions of every single one, as well as whether or not he'd been successful in getting them out of the country. And Combeferre also knew that no matter how many he had saved over the years… he remembered even better the ones he hadn't.

So, Feuilly went on, doing things his own way, taking risks that few of them would have agreed to take, just on the off chance that he could balance the debt of the children he'd lost. Bahorel didn't like it. Enjolras liked it even less. But there was nothing any of them could do. Courfeyrac and R were the only two who'd ever managed to talk any sense of caution into him and now… well. Both were so wrapped up in their own problems that neither was able to see much past the end of their own noses.

Tilting his chair forwards, Combeferre let his head come to rest on the desk. Courfeyrac and R… it all came back to them. Always. Patron Minette had known what they were about when they took them out. They'd crippled the entire Resistance in one shot. Then they'd come back and finished the job by taking out Enjolras. Les Amis were dead in the water in more ways than one.

Apart from Feuilly's solo activities, Combeferre was manning a completely silent ship. He didn't much like it, but there wasn't anything else they could do right now. Prouvaire couldn't be trusted, no matter what Enjolras and R believed, Bahorel and Musichetta had their hands full managing the damage in house and supply runs between their satellite facilities, Joly and Bossuet mainly ran Red Cross style missions of mercy, and that left Combeferre as the only other active team member. And he was nowhere near good enough to run solo like Feuilly. It was maddening.

Combeferre pushed himself back from the desk, again, and reached up to rub his hands over his face. He was exhausted. It had been days since he'd gotten any real rest, and it would likely be days more before he got even close to catching up. He rubbed more vigorously at his face, knuckling against his eyes as if that might work where caffeine had failed. Just as he was about to get up and go give caffeine another try, another pair of hands joined his in stroking his face, then sliding up into his hair to stroke his temples. Breath speeding up, Combeferre jerked away, nearly upsetting the chair and tipping himself onto the floor in the bargain. Courfeyrac stared at him from the other side of the chair, face neutral, eyes blank. No… not so soon… not again… I can't…

Reaching out a hand, Combeferre lightly touched Courfeyrac's arm. "…Courfeyrac?"

Courfeyrac sighed, shook his head. "I'm fine. I just… we need to talk."

Combeferre let his hand drop, pulled it back against his chest as though it had been burned. He'd known this was coming. He'd known it ever since he pushed Courfeyrac past that boundary he'd been unwilling to cross. By virtue of this awful arrangement, Combeferre walked a tightrope on the line of consent every time he triggered Courfeyrac's conditioning, but the other night… he'd fallen far onto the other side of the line and he'd known it. Just as he'd known there would be a price to pay for it. He nodded dumbly, giving Courfeyrac the entire floor.

Courfeyrac walked to the other side of the room, to his favored chair by the window. Once upon a time, they used to curl up in that chair, reading books to one another to pass the time on slow nights. Once upon a time, they'd made love in that chair, their only accompaniment the crackle of the fire in the fireplace.

They hadn't made love in years.

Courfeyrac turned, sat down gingerly on the edge of that chair and turned back to face Combeferre. After taking a deep breath, he said, "Two years ago, I asked you for a favor. It was a favor I had no right to ask of you. It was a favor that was completely unfair of me to ask of you. It was a favor that, if I had the power to go back in time, I would do almost anything to take back the asking of." He paused, his head drooping momentarily before raising to pin Combeferre with that flat, emotionless gaze. "But I can't. It's done and I can't take it back. I loved you and you loved me. And now… Combeferre… you dread touching me. You dread even looking at me. And a good part of the time, I feel the same way about you." Then finally there was a show of emotion, a crack in the armor, as one single tear tracked its way down Courfeyrac's right cheek. "Right now, I can't even look at you without feeling dirty. And I could feel it that night… you feel the same way, don't you?" Another tear, twin to the first, tracked down Courfeyrac's other cheek. "I've ruined us, haven't I?"

Combeferre stood, crossed the room to land hard on his knees next to Courfeyrac's chair, holding him with nothing more than his eyes -- he hadn't the right to hold him in any other way. "No. Courfeyrac, no. Don't you dare blame yourself for this. This is not your fault. You didn't ruin us. I didn't ruin us. Prouvaire isn't to blame, either. Montparnasse is the one who did this. If you need to lay blame, lay it on him."

Courfeyrac let out a watery chuckle as he lifted his hand to brush the tears from his eyes, unheeding as new ones took their place. "But it doesn't matter. What we had…" His voice choked off and he swallowed hard before attempting to continue. There were howling sobs chained up in Courfeyrac's voice now -- Combeferre could practically hear them when he finally got the next sentence out. "I was going to ask you to marry me. Did you know that? I had it all planned. I had a ring. Feuilly is an ordained minister and Musichetta knows someone who could have gotten us the paperwork, all signed, sealed and legitimate." He paused again, his voice finally breaking on the last sentence. "R was going to sing… if you said 'Yes.'"

Combeferre reached out a hand, gently brushed more of the tears away before letting his hand fall again. "I… Courfeyrac, I had no idea." He could almost hear the question underlying all of it, knew the answer Courfeyrac wanted him to give as if he'd shouted it in his ear. What he didn't know was if that answer would help anything, or if it would only make it worse. He bowed his head.

Courfeyrac's voice was a harsh rasp worthy of R when he next spoke. "That's what I thought."

"I just don't see how knowing what I would have said helps," Combeferre said, almost pleading. "Would it help you to know that I would have said 'Yes?' Would it help you to know that I used to fantasize about growing old with you? Spending my life with you? Running away to France or Ireland or Argentina or Canada or any number of other places where the government doesn't destroy people but uplifts them, instead? Does it help to think about what might have been?" Combeferre lurched to his feet and turned away, angrily wiping at the tears now coming from his own eyes. "Because it doesn't help me. It only makes things worse."

A gentle hand closed over his shoulder, slowly turned him back around and pulled him close. Combeferre went eagerly, clutching Courfeyrac to him, burying his face in Courfeyrac's shoulder -- careful, so careful not to end up near his neck by accident, but far too aware, as always, of the way Courfeyrac shuddered and tensed to have him so close… even invited. But he trusted Courfeyrac to know what he could handle. He had to trust that. Courfeyrac rocked him, slowly stroked his hands down Combeferre's back as he fought to get himself under control. Eventually, Courfeyrac said the words that Combeferre realized he'd been dreading ever since they'd started this travesty of a relationship two years ago.

"Combeferre… I think you and I need a break. We're too close to each other to be of any use to each other. I… the other night. When you--" He stopped, started again, voice shaky but gaining in determination with each word. "When you forced me. I could feel it… you were trying to make love to me, even then. And that uncertainty, that weakness… Combeferre, couldn't you feel me fighting you? You left me that opening to fight against the conditioning and we can't afford that. As much as I hate it -- and believe me, I do -- that conditioning is there for a reason. You can't… there's no room for gentleness in this. There's no space for lovemaking. There can't be." He swallowed hard, shuddered again in Combeferre's arms. "You've lost your stomach for it. And I don't blame you. In fact, I release you from this promise happily… but it means I need to find someone else to do it… even if that means going back to Prouvaire."

Combeferre jerked back, eyes widening as he took in the dead seriousness in Courfeyrac's face. "No. Courfeyrac, you can't!"

Courfeyrac smiled at him, then, a soft smile that wobbled around the edges. He cupped Combeferre's face in his hands, leaned in to brush a butterfly kiss against his lips. "I'm no more eager for that than you are, Combeferre. Believe me. He's a last resort, only. I've other options, I just… I need to research them first. Think out the consequences. At least the other night bought me enough time for that."

"Don't do this." A harsh whisper, cracked and bleeding.

"We don't have a choice."

Combeferre bowed his head, pressed it into the middle of Courfeyrac's chest, even as he tightened his hands around Courfeyrac's hips. The tears were coming hot and fast now, choking off what remained of his voice.

Courfeyrac leaned down, pressed a kiss to the top of his head as he started stroking his hands through Combeferre's hair. Leaning in further still, he whispered his next words directly into Combeferre's ear. "Make love to me. For real. One last time. Make me remember that there's more to this than pain. Remind me that there's something worth coming back for. Please?"

A soft sob was all Combeferre could get out in response. That Courfeyrac could ask… could still want… It was the least he could do. He lifted his head, let himself drink in those features one last time, leaned forward to place a soft kiss on Courfeyrac's lips. When he pulled back, he asked, "You really want this?"

Courfeyrac nodded. "I really want this. Please, Combeferre."

"Then, so do I."

Combeferre backed up a pace, started slowly unbuttoning his shirt, sliding it from his shoulders to let it drop onto the floor. Courfeyrac mirrored his actions, shivering slightly as he dropped that layer of protection. Combeferre reached out, took Courfeyrac's hand in his and pulled him gently back towards the chair by the window. If he could have lit a fire in the fireplace, he would have, but they hadn't had firewood for such luxuries in months. Instead he sank back into the chair and raised an eyebrow at Courfeyrac. Smiling softly, Courfeyrac slid one leg onto either side of Combeferre's and slowly lowered himself onto his lap.

Combeferre stayed as passive as he could, letting Courfeyrac make all of the moves once they'd settled. He wouldn’t push, wouldn't do anything which might come across as force. This wasn't, thank goodness, about that. Not this time. This was about Courfeyrac… about what might have been… about what might still be if they were luckier than they deserved.

Courfeyrac shifted closer, braced his hands on Combeferre's shoulders as he leaned in for a kiss. Kissing… fuck, it had been so long since they'd kissed -- really kissed. It had been more than two years. Courfeyrac started with soft, chaste kisses which slowly grew more heated, more open. When Courfeyrac introduced his tongue into the game, Combeferre accepted it readily, eagerly, letting out a soft moan as Courfeyrac leaned closer and they brushed against each other. He was barely half-hard, but the feel of Courfeyrac moving atop him, of their tongues twining together in a slow, lazy dance… it didn't take long before he was fighting not to thrust upwards, to increase that friction.

Breaking away from him with a sultry laugh that Combeferre had desperately missed, Courfeyrac slid from his lap and reached down to undo his own belt… unbutton his pants… slide down the zipper. With a soft moan and another sultry laugh for Combeferre's wide-eyed attention, Courfeyrac kicked off his shoes, then pushed both pants and underwear down off his hips, shimmying slightly to encourage them to fall the rest of the way, then stepping out of them with the grace that only total comfort in one's own nudity could provide.

…and that seemed wrong.

As Courfeyrac stepped closer, started doing for Combeferre what he'd just done for himself -- first kneeling to pull off Combeferre's shoes and socks, then easing upwards to help divest him of his pants and underwear -- Combeferre tried to hold the thought. The way the blocks were supposed to work, Courfeyrac should be several steps removed from the memory of the trauma he'd suffered, but this… this was surely too comfortable… wasn't it?

Just as Combeferre was about to lean in, to ask Courfeyrac to wait, Courfeyrac lunged forwards, a desperate look in his eyes, and swallowed Combeferre down in one smooth motion. Combeferre threw back his head and gasped, utterly derailed from what he'd been thinking just a moment before by the wet heat and suction that now engulfed him. And as Combeferre lost himself in the skilled recesses of Courfeyrac's mouth, that desperation slowly faded from Courfeyrac's eyes. His movements slowed, became more drawn-out, almost teasing. Just as Combeferre's toes started to curl and he began thinking about pushing Courfeyrac off of him before he came, Courfeyrac leaned back and reached out a hand to circle Combeferre's member, tightening his fingers in a ring around the base. Combeferre let out a choked curse, then a somewhat frantic laugh.

Courfeyrac merely grinned and tightened his hold. Combeferre let out another choked curse, this time accompanied by a wince, before he managed to get out, "I'm good, Courfeyrac. I can hold off. You can… you can let go." And for just a moment, as their gazes met, Combeferre saw something deep in Courfeyrac's eyes… something that made him suddenly unsure if Courfeyrac would let go. But whatever had passed behind his eyes, in the next moment, it was gone and so were Courfeyrac's fingers. He gave Combeferre's member one last almost reverent stroke with the palm of his hand before releasing him completely and rising from his crouch and turning towards the end table.

When Courfeyrac turned back, he had a bottle of lube in one hand and a generous amount of it already squirted into the palm of his other hand. Raising an eyebrow at Combeferre, Courfeyrac gestured with his hand. Combeferre took in a deep breath and nodded. He wasn't entirely sure that what they were doing really qualified as "making love" -- it was far rougher than either of them had liked in the past -- but it was worlds away from what they'd been doing for the past few years, and it was what Courfeyrac needed. And whatever he needed tonight, Combeferre would make sure he got… whatever that cost him.

When Courfeyrac took him in hand this time, slowly stroking him back to full hardness, Combeferre let himself fall into the sensation. And the more he relaxed, the more Courfeyrac did, as well, until Courfeyrac was bending over him, again, doing his best to kiss him breathless, as lost in what they were doing as Combeferre was becoming. After one last stroke, Courfeyrac turned his back to Combeferre and slowly eased back down into his lap and onto his cock. Though he felt just a small twinge of unease at Courfeyrac's apparent reluctance to do this face-to-face, the tight heat engulfing him, the way Courfeyrac tentatively squeezed down on him the moment he was settled, soon pushed any qualms from his mind. He bit back a moan.

Moments later, as they both adjusted, Courfeyrac reached back and pulled Combeferre's arms around his waist, answering the half-formed question that Combeferre hadn't managed to ask. From this angle, especially with his arms where they were, it would be nigh impossible for Combeferre to reach Courfeyrac's neck with any part of his anatomy save for his head. To prevent even the chance of that, Combeferre let his head drop backwards to rest on the back of the chair, giving himself up entirely to Courfeyrac's will and momentum.

As that surrender became apparent, Courfeyrac let out a soft gasp and tightened his hands on Combeferre's arms. Planting his feet firmly on either side of Combeferre's legs, he started slowly raising himself up and then lowering himself back down. That slow slide was agony, not quite fast enough or hard enough to give Combeferre any satisfaction… but listening to the little gasps and tumbled moans breaking forth from Courfeyrac's lips with every slow shift was nearly enough to send Combeferre over the edge all on its own. It had been far too long since he'd heard Courfeyrac make any such sounds of pleasure during sex. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed it.

Soon enough, Courfeyrac grew impatient, began picking up the pace, raising himself up until Combeferre almost slipped from him just to slam back down again. He pulled Combeferre's arms from around his waist, redirecting him to grab his hips, instead, to give him freer range of movement. Combeferre took advantage, pressed his thumbs into the round flesh of Courfeyrac's ass, changing the angle he was coming down at just enough… Courfeyrac let out a loud cry as his next thrust back was met with Combeferre's first thrust up, directly into his prostate, if Combeferre had judged the angle correctly. From that point on, it was a race, Courfeyrac moving faster and faster atop him and Combeferre doing his best to rise up to meet him until Courfeyrac came down one last time with a triumphant yell-- and squeezed down hard on Combeferre as he came, bringing Combeferre along with him.

Courfeyrac then let himself fall backwards to rest against Combeferre's chest, head tucked beneath his chin. Combeferre slipped from him as he shifted to nudge Combeferre's arms back around his waist. Combeferre was gentle, though, even then, only indulging in a light, easily breakable embrace and a few kisses scattered in Courfeyrac's tumbled curls. Courfeyrac let out a soft sigh and murmured, "Thank you, Combeferre… for everything."

…and Combeferre all but choked on his response of "You're welcome," when he realized that with that thank you… what Courfeyrac was really saying was… "Goodbye."