Nightingale’s eyebrows climb up as I drag the steamer trunk into the lab. “Well, this is a find,” he murmurs, helping me lift it on top of the nearest lab table. “Any troubles getting Mr. Walton-Smythe to relinquish it?”
“No, not at all,” I confirm, thinking back to the meeting I had with Mark Walton-Smythe. “He was relieved to turn it in, actually--one last way to stick it to his grandfather and father, I think.”
Nightingale tilts his head, considering. “From what I remember of him, Cedric Walton-Smythe was a distinctly unpleasant individual, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that his surviving relatives want little to do with his legacy.” He looks the trunk over again before smiling, reaching out to touch the lock with his hand as he says, "Harold will be delighted, of course."
Nightingale always looks younger when he’s smiling like that, and for one second, I have the overwhelming urge to lean in and kiss the corner of his smiling mouth. I hold back, kicking the thought to one side, like I have for every other wildly inappropriate thought I've had about Nightingale over the past few months.
"We should probably do an inventory before sending it over to Postmartin," I say. "Just in case there are any nasty surprises in there."
Nightingale nods, and steps aside as I come forward to unlock the chest with the key Mark Walton-Smythe had given to me at lunch earlier today. The hinges creak as I open the lid, and for a second I get a whiff of something sickly sweet, like overripe fruit.
It fades, and I reach in to pull the first item out of the trunk.
For the first half-hour or so, our digging into the late Cedric Walton-Smythe’s little collection yields nothing unexpected. Some nasty little items, including a tarnished dagger that comes with the vestigia of slick oil and a whiff of cigar smoke, an early copy of Polidari’s writings, and some rather explicit drawings that have Nightingale’s eyebrow twitching upwards before he rolls his eyes and puts them to one side. He catches my eye and grins as he explains, "It's not as if Harold hasn't seen worse in the Bodleian."
"Oh, I know," I tell him. "I was there when he and Elsie Winstanley were reminiscing about the good old days at tea two weeks ago, remember?"
Nightingale grins, but his smile fades as he looks down at the drawings, then at the dagger. "Hmm," he says. "It really is easy to forget sometimes..." He trails off as he looks at a sheaf of papers, old and stained at the edges.
"I forget sometimes what the Folly used to be like," Nightingale says, a faint crease between his eyebrows, rubbing the paper between his fingers. I look down at his long fingers, and then look away again.
God, I've got to stop doing this. It's been over a year since Beverley and I split up, awkward but as amiable as any breakup can be, long enough for me to start thinking about dating again, getting myself out there, except that I've fallen into this...fascination with Nightingale, where I stare at his hands, his jawline, the way that his hair falls over his forehead, and I just...I just want him. And I can't seem to shake it.
"Peter?" Nightingale says, looking at me.
"Yeah," I say, snapping myself out of it. "No, I'm just...thinking about the grandson. Felt bad for him today, his grandfather sounded like a nasty piece of work. His dad too."
I can feel Nightingale watching me, and I glance over at him. "Yes, that's what I remember of Cedric as well. A nasty piece of goods. Rather glad you never had to deal with him."
I smile a little at hearing that. "At least we've got his stuff now," I say, and reach into the trunk to pull out a bottle, all carved crystal and gold filigree. It's heavy in my hand, and I hold it gingerly, feeling uneasy even if I can't explain why.
"What have you got there?" Nightingale asks me.
"A perfume bottle, I think," I say slowly, looking it over. The crystal is starting to warm in my hand, and I rub at a facet of it.
“Looks like it’s from the 1800s,” Nightingale says casually, shuffling the papers in his hand. “Regency era, possibly.”
“Looks old enough,” I agree, but faintly, tilting the bottle so that it catches the light.
Now, I am not stupid enough to open a perfume bottle that was found in a trunk of old magical artifacts, and I don't open it.
The problem is that I don't need to open the bottle for it to work on me. And the longer I hold it, the more I sense something--first lavender, and then the smell of oranges that have stayed out in the sun too long. I don't even like the smell, and yet...I can't seem to put the bottle down.
"Peter?" Nightingale's stepped closer to me now, looking at the bottle over my shoulder. He's inches away, and my head feels clouded, clouded enough that for a second I think about leaning back into him, and I have to force myself to remember why I shouldn’t. "Have you noticed something about it?"
I'm sure I'm imagining the way his voice drops lower, but I'm not imagining the way that he's leaning in closer to me now. "Smells like oranges," I say softly. I hold it up in the palm of my hand, thinking he's going to take it from me to look at it himself, but instead--instead he wraps his hand around mine, stepping in close enough now that I can feel the warmth of his body all along my back.
I bite back a noise, staring fixedly down at our hands holding up the bottle. Nightingale's breathing is a little louder now, or maybe it just sounds louder as he tilts up the bottle and I see a inscription written at the bottom, faded but still legible.
Nightingale starts to read it out loud, oddly hesitant as he says softly, "Desiderium caro..." But then the smell of oranges fades, to be replaced in a rush by the smell I always associate with Nightingale, pine and wood smoke, and I don't hear the rest of what he says.
I turn my head a little to catch the scent better, my body relaxing despite myself--although right now I can't remember why I shouldn't lean into Nightingale, especially not when his thumb runs along the tendon at my wrist, making me gasp.
Nightingale's breathing is definitely coming quicker now. "Peter," he says, right up against my ear, and I snap and turn around and kiss him right on the mouth, gasping a little as I feel his lips against mine.
My heartbeat is already pounding in my ears, and I vaguely hear the dull thunk of the bottle falling onto the table. And then Nightingale's arm is wrapping around my waist as he groans into my mouth, his tongue sweeping into my mouth like this is something we've done a hundred times before, and dimly I can hear the desperate noises I'm making into his mouth in response.
Without quite deciding to, I start fumbling with Nightingale's jacket, clumsily trying to pull it off him, and Nightingale shrugs it off, not breaking the kiss, not caring when it drops down to the floor. Once his arms are free, his hand slides around my waist again, pulling my button-down shirt free of my trousers and letting his fingers slide along the skin at my waist, finally resting at the bare skin at the small of my back, and I shiver, heat racing along my spine, centering right at the point where he’s touching me.
Suddenly, Nightingale’s positioning me so that I’m standing with my back to the table, the edge of it digging into my arse as he presses me against it. I can feel his cock through his trousers and God, I want to get my hand on it, my mouth, I want--
Nightingale’s moved his attention to my jaw, his teeth scraping a little at the tender skin right below my ear and I gasp, tilting my throat back to give him access. I’m barely aware of the words I’m saying as he starts fumbling with the buttons to my shirt, I’m mostly preoccupied with grabbing at his hips, his arse and pulling him in even more, until we’re moving against each other, the friction muffled through the layers of clothes we still have on--God, why do we have so many clothes on still--but it still feels so good that I’m just barely choking back my moans.
Finally, once my shirt is completely unbuttoned and hanging free off my arms, Nightingale pulls back a little to look at me, his mouth wet and his eyes glazed over. “God, just at you,” he says softly, eying me up, and I flush all over at his words, at the way he’s looking at me.
As if on accident, his thumb moves to brush against my nipple, already hardened to a peak, and I bite back a whimper.
“Please,” I say, my head reeling and my cock aching. “Please, just--”
But he’s already doing it, he’s already moving in to kiss me, his mouth hot on mine even as his hand is sliding down my bare chest, even as he’s fumbling with my belt buckle. It feels like it takes forever before he finally gets it open, but then he’s finally got my cock in his hand, thumb sliding over the wet tip and I’m swearing into his mouth, shaking all over at how good it feels to have him touch me like this.
I could easily come like this, and I want to, I want to spill over Nightingale’s hand and onto his expensive suit, except then Nightingale is pulling his mouth away again, and I clutch at his hips in protest before he drops a kiss onto the side of my neck, and then at the hollow between my collarbones, tongue flickering out to taste my skin.
“Let me,” he mutters against my throat, and in the fevered state I’m in I don’t realize what Nightingale means until he’s already moving to get down onto his knees.
“Oh, fuck, please,” I groan, shivering as he pushes my legs open wider, and he looks back up at me as he pins down my hips to the edge of the table, before dropping his head and swallowing down my cock.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” I hiss out, gripping at the table to steady myself, to stop myself from grabbing at his hair, from resting a hand against the back of his neck to keep him close, keep his mouth--
But without meaning to, my other hand is gripping his shoulder, my hips are twitching forward, and God, the way he looks right now--and then his eyes flick upwards, even as his mouth is stretching around my cock, even as his tongue is--
And then he starts to bob his head, eyes fluttering shut at he deliberately moans around my cock, and the vibration is just too much, it’s too damn good for me to think about restraining myself anymore, so I just reach out and I let my hand tangle in his soft hair, my other hand sliding around the back of his neck and he’s moaning again in assent, his hand tightening on my hip as if to urge me on.
So I keep him there, hold him there, swearing under my breath as Nightingale sucks my cock, until I can’t even form words anymore, I’m just left gasping helplessly, shaking as I come in his mouth, eyes squeezed shut, my mind gone perfectly, blissfully blank. Nightingale swallows it down, his mouth gentling on me as I come down from it, still trembling, and then he pulls off, leaning his face in against my hip as he catches his breath.
Even after I’ve come I still can’t...I still feel the fog in my brain, until all I can think about is the strength of his shoulders as I gripped at them, all I can think about is how he still hasn’t come yet and how I want to be the one to change that.
So I tug at him, mumbling, “Come here, I want--” And that’s all the excuse Nightingale needs, as he gets up to his feet in a flash, pulling me in against him as he rocks against my thigh, his face tucked into the nape of my neck.
“I want you,” I tell him, slipping my hand between us so I can cup his cock through his trousers, and between the two of us we get his belt and zipper open, Nightingale gasping a little as I grip his cock, his hips pushing forward into my fist. I lean in to kiss him as I’m pulling him off, and I can taste myself on his mouth. Somehow that only makes it better, and I keep kissing him, swallowing up the soft noises he makes until he’s shaking and coming, spilling over my fist, the weight of him heavy in my arms.
Reality doesn’t sink in, not right away. At first all I can think about is how good this still feels, the aftershocks of pleasure still running through me, every muscle in my body feeling heavy with relaxation as Nightingale rests against me still, his breaths coming in hot puffs against my neck, his hand still cradling my bare hip. It feels natural to hold him like this, even now, and I can’t think of anything but how amazing that was, and how soon it’ll be until we can go for it again.
And then I feel him stiffen a little, and I realize I can’t smell anything any longer, not pine, not oranges--and then it comes crashing down on my head just exactly what I’ve done, and who I’ve done it with, and what caused all this in the first place.
"Oh fuck," I say blankly, twisting around to stare at the perfume bottle, lying on its side, glinting innocently in the afternoon light. "Oh, shit."
Nightingale freezes against me, and my stomach drops down to my feet, before he slowly starts to pull away. My skin feels cold from where the air starts to hit it, and that's before I see the carefully blank expression on his face. I hastily tuck myself away, my face hot as I hear him doing up his zipper, and it’s not until I’ve got my shirt buttoned back up that I dare to look back at him.
"I--" My tongue feels thick in my mouth, and I have literally no idea what to say next.
Nightingale doesn't speak at first, and then he comes through his hair, putting it back to order, and says in a low voice, "We, ah...shouldn't send that object to Harold. It'll have to be locked up here. Somewhere safe and out of the way."
"Right," I say, looking away from his face and back towards the perfume bottle. "Right, we should...we should do that."
I can feel Nightingale looking at me again, but this time, I don’t turn to meet his gaze.
We end up taking the bottle and locking it safely away in the one room within the Folly especially designed for devices like this, ones we don't want collecting any excess magic that might be floating around nearby. It ends up right next to our old friend the Book of Cunning Device, except that nobody will be running any experiments on this thing.
Before Nightingale locks it away, though, I get another look at the inscription written at the bottom of the bottle: Desiderium caro factum tibi sit. My stomach twists as I realize what it means, and I look away as Nightingale carefully shuts it up in its wooden box.
After that, there’s not much to do. Nightingale locks up the rest of Cedric Walton-Smythe’s hoard and puts it aside, for later he says, though he doesn’t say when.
He waits a minute after saying this, hesitating, and then moves to walk away--and I speak up, because I have to. Because I can’t do anything else, knowing what I know.
Desiderium caro factum tibi sit, to have desire made flesh. My desire, my wants, all given to me without warning and if Nightingale--well. He should know, at least, who started this whole mess.
“I’m sorry,” I say, my voice sounding oddly loud as it breaks the silence. Nightingale pauses and looks at me, confused.
“Peter, what are you apologizing for?” he asks after a minute, and I can feel my entire face flushing.
“Back there, earlier, that was…” I trail off, but force myself to keep going. “I think it was mostly because of me. Because of...what I wanted.”
Nightingale is holding himself very still. He’s put himself back together, looks as neat and orderly as he always does, his hair combed and his suit jacket buttoned. The only thing unusual about him is how still he’s standing now, the intent in his eyes as he stares at me.
“You,” he starts, and then stops, pausing before he goes on. “You thought you were the only one who wanted that?”
“Of course I--” And then I actually hear what he’s just said and I stop talking, stunned.
Nightingale’s still looking at me like--like he had in the lab earlier, when he’d had me pinned against the table and his hands were on my bare chest. I start to go hot all over, not just at the memory, but at realizing that the bottle is gone and he’s still looking at me like--
“There are certain things one shouldn’t...shouldn’t ask for,” Nightingale says carefully, even if his gaze is dropping down to my still-unbuttoned collar, where the hollow of my throat is showing. “Not if you don’t already know the question will be welcomed.”
“You can ask for this,” I tell him. Then I think, oh the hell with it, and make myself even clearer. “Me, I mean. If you want.”
Nightingale doesn’t say anything, not right away. Instead he steps forward, and lets his fingertips rest on the hollow of my throat, his eyes resting on my face, my mouth.
That’s a good enough answer on its own, but the way he leans in and kisses me, slow and careful, settles the question for good.