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Percy drains most of his beer in one long gulp, the rest in a second, and then turns to survey the club.
 
It's dark and full of writhing bodies, and he wants to get in there and get off with someone, but he needs more to drink first.
 
He raises a hand to flag the bartender and downs his second beer almost as soon as he has it in his hand. He still wants more, but he knows the effects will hit him soon enough—he doesn't drink very often and two will be plenty—so he sets his glass down and turns back toward the sweating masses.
 
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a man leaning against the wall. He's so separate from the dancing that Percy turns to get a better look to make sure he's not passing out.
 
He doesn't seem ill. He's just observing everything. Observing Percy.
 
Percy looks away and takes a few steps toward the crowd. Something draws his gaze back to the man, and the man smiles at him.
 
The man has a short beard, barely more than stubble, and Percy can see the crinkles forming around his mouth as he smiles. Around his eyes, too. He has dark, messy hair that he's tried to push back and off his face, and even though it's sweaty, Percy can tell it would be unbearably soft if he ran his fingers through it.
 
Percy takes in the strong line of the man's shoulders and his slim waist and his nose and his cheekbones and his jawline. He lets his eyes feast, but then his mobile buzzes in his pocket. He has to force himself to look away from the very handsome man so he can check his text messages.
  
Lance:
Another successful bedtime! She's all tucked in. Hope you're having a good time ;)

 
Percy looks back up to see the man walking toward him, and in no time at all they're face to face.
 
"You look like you're having a bad time," the man says, stretching up on his toes to get his mouth close to Percy's ear. His voice is smooth and seductive, or maybe Percy's just already been done in by the rest of him.
 
"I'm not," Percy says, slipping his mobile back into his pocket.
 
"Care to prove it?"
 
Percy smirks at the bad line, and the other man grins, wide and toothy and gorgeous.
 
"Come on," the man says, nodding his head toward the dance floor. He puts his hand on Percy's arm, and Percy lets himself be led into the throng.
 
~~~
 
The stranger is a confusing combination of intense and whimsical. He keeps locking his eyes with Percy's, making Percy almost forget where they are and what they are doing. His eyes are brown, so very brown, and so laser-focused on Percy.
 
But his smile is so goofy and he dances like he truly doesn't give any fucks. He's half a foot shorter than Percy, and sometimes smaller guys get awkward about it, but this guy seems to relish in it. He's all over Percy, practically living on his tiptoes to get closer, and Percy's whole body feels alive from the attention.
 
Percy's getting in his fair share as well, dragging his hands over the man's impressively muscled arms and teasingly defined collarbones and incredibly round arse. The man feels amazing under Percy's touch, and Percy really just wants to hoist him up and fuck him against the wall.
 
At some point the man grabs Percy's hands and guides them over himself, over his chest and his abs and his hips, over every place Percy wants to lick. Percy takes that as permission to get a little more intimate, so he bends his knees to get lower, grabs the man's ass, and starts grinding against him in earnest.
 
"You got a name to go with those muscles?" the man finally asks, one hand on the small of Percy's back and the other resting on Percy's hip. They're flush against each other, both hard in their jeans, and Percy thinks it's ridiculous that they've worked each other up this much without a proper introduction.
 
"Percival."
 
"Very posh," the man teases. "I'm Gwaine."
 
Percy licks his lips and, emboldened by the squeeze of Gwaine's hand on his arse, leans down for a kiss. Gwaine pulls away after just a few seconds and turns, slotting his back against Percy's chest. It's a little bit of an awkward fit, but they make it work, and soon enough Percy is rolling his hips, pressing his cock into the upper curve of Gwaine's arse.
 
This is so very much what he needed tonight: a pleasant buzz from the beer, an eager man to rub up against, and thumping music to make it impossible to think of anything else. He so rarely gets to go out like this and it's going as well as he ever could have hoped.
 
Gwaine says something but his voice is swallowed by the music. Percy grabs his waist and turns him around.
 
"What?" he asks, leaning down.
 
Gwaine leans up and flicks his tongue against Percy's ear. Percy huffs and reaches between them to palm Gwaine through his jeans. He's done with the foreplay and trusts that Gwaine is on the same page.
 
"I asked where you live," Gwaine says, winking unnecessarily.
 
"Far," Percy lies. "You?"
 
"Walking distance."
 
~~~
 
"You've got really—" Gwaine gasps as Percy pushes him against the door of his flat as soon as they're inside. "Beautiful eyes."
 
Percy can't help but chuckle. "Thanks. Is that all you like?"
 
Gwaine reaches for Percy's flies and undoes the button quickly. "Very much no."
 
Percy ducks down for a kiss, a little obsessed with how Gwaine's beard feels against his clean-shaven skin.
 
"Do you have a bed?" he asks against Gwaine's lips.
 
"Somewhere," Gwaine says, trying pull off Percy's shirt.
 
"Me first," Percy decides, pushing Gwaine's hands away. He wants this so badly that he knows he isn't going to last long, and he wants a chance to enjoy himself.
 
Gwaine tugs off his own shirt, and Percy takes a moment to admire his very defined abs before getting distracted by Gwaine reaching into his own jeans to touch himself.
 
"You going to share that?" Percy asks. He presses a kiss to Gwaine's shoulder, then chest, then navel, and then hip as he gets to his knees and drags Gwaine's clothes down with him.
 
~~~
 
That first night, it's just blowjobs. Sloppy and desperate, rushed and careless. Percy leaves shortly after he comes, not even really bothering to give an excuse. Gwaine doesn't stop him, but he does add his number to Percy's mobile and call his own from it so that he has Percy's number, too.
 
Percy doesn't plan to call or text Gwaine, but he enjoys the idea that he could. It's a nice thought to entertain on nights when he is bored. Or horny. Or lonely.
 
Not that he actually has much time to himself to feel lonely, but sometimes it sneaks up on him when he's in his bed or in the shower or simply at the kitchen counter chopping vegetables for dinner. It's like an icy cold hand on his skin, stopping him in his tracks and making it hard to breathe.
 
~~~
 
More than three weeks pass before Percy gets a text from Gwaine. He wishes he could say that he'd nearly forgotten all about Gwaine, but that just wouldn't be true. Even though he never intended for it to be more than a one-night stand, Percy still thinks about Gwaine more often than he probably should. He thinks about Gwaine's skilful mouth and eager cock and floppy hair and pretty smile.
 
The message comes when Percy is standing on the tube on his way home from work, and it's innocuous enough.
 
Gwaine
Today I saw a guy who is taller than you. Thought you should know you're not so special.

 
Percy waits to respond until he's riding home again the next evening, mostly because he needs that much time to come up with a response he feels comfortable with.
 
I saw a guy with better hair than you last week. You're not so hot yourself.
 
Gwaine responds almost immediately.
 
I'm extremely hot and you know it.
 
Percy pockets his mobile and spends the rest of his commute staring at the floor, wondering what he is even doing.
 
When he checks again when gets home, there's another text from Gwaine.
 
Fancy dinner tomorrow?
 
Normally Percy wouldn't dream of meeting back up with a one-night stand. That would defeat the whole purpose. But he does have tomorrow night free, and he hasn't made plans yet, and there's a dull ache in his stomach when he thinks about seeing Gwaine again.
 
Yes. I'm free after 6.
 
~~~
 
Gwaine picks an intimate, dimly-lit Italian restaurant, and Percy feels extremely out of place. He hasn't gone out for a nice dinner in at least three years. Usually he spends his nights off running errands or getting work done around the house or going to the cinema or just watching porn and drinking. Sometimes he simply goes to bed early to catch up on sleep. He regrets agreeing to dinner. He knows he should have kept his distance, or at least negotiated down to a quick round of drinks before the main attraction of retiring to Gwaine's flat.
 
"So, what's your story?" Gwaine asks after they've ordered their food and gotten some wine.
 
"What do you mean?"
 
"Where are you from? What do you do for work? You know, the usual."
 
Percy takes a sip of his wine. "I'm from here," he answers. "I work in copyright law."
 
"That sounds very boring," Gwaine teases.
 
"It can be," Percy admits. "What about you?"
 
"Proud and popular paediatrician."
 
Percy raises an eyebrow, trying to imagine Gwaine in a white coat and holding a clipboard and making serious medical decisions for children. He's wearing a suit for their dinner date, but he has his shirt unbuttoned so far that Percy can see ample chest hair, and it's not a remotely polished or professional look.
 
"What's that like?"
 
"Sometimes gross but never boring."
 
'Sounds like parenthood,' Percy thinks, but he doesn't share that. Instead he sips more wine and lets Gwaine prattle on about the nurses in his office until they're mostly done eating.
 
"So," Gwaine says, setting down his fork and giving Percy a piercing look. "Percival. What's your story?"
 
"You already asked that."
 
"I know, but you didn't really give me the answer I was looking for."
 
"What answer were you looking for?" Percy asks, wondering how much wine he's had to drink.
 
"Something real. You're extremely closed off."
 
Percy opens his mouth but can't think of a single thing to defend himself.
 
"Which is fine," Gwaine says, offering a smile. "I'm not demanding emotional availability. I'm just trying to figure out what I'm getting into."
 
"What do you mean?"
 
"You don't seem like you want to be here, but you agreed to this date, and you haven't left yet. You're either forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and/or really, really interested in the sex we're going to have later. So, what is it? Are you married? Married with kids? Closeted? Running from the law?"
 
Percy stares hard at the imperfections of his empty wine glass. The bowl seems just slightly uneven where it meets the stem.
 
"Or we can just have an anonymous fuck, but, like I said, you agreed to this date, so that doesn't seem to be your aim."
 
Percy takes a deep breath and rubs his eyes. He knows better than to get himself in these situations, but he can't help himself with Gwaine. Gwaine is so handsome and his hair is so pretty and his smile is so damn gorgeous. He seems so nice and so happy, and Percy wonders if maybe, just maybe, he can swing this his way for once.
 
"I have a daughter," he finally says, watching Gwaine's expression closely. "She's nearly three. My husband died when she was six months old. I'm a widower. And a single father."
 
Gwaine frowns, looking sad but not scared off. "I'm so sorry," he says. "That must have been hard. You've been raising her by yourself?"
 
"Well, I have friends and family to help, but… yes. We're on our own."
 
Gwaine nods and there's a long moment of silence. Percy imagines that Gwaine is trying to come up with the best excuse to tactfully extract himself.
 
"Where is she now?"
 
"With her godparents. They take her for a night once every month or so. That's where she was last time, too."
 
"You had to ask them to watch her so you could come out to dinner with me?"
 
"No, they were already planning on having her over. You just have good timing." Percy tries a smile but Gwaine doesn't return it.
 
"And you're here with me instead of back in that club on your one free night?"
 
"No," Percy says quickly. "I hadn't been there in… four, maybe five or six months. Usually I stay at home to clean or fix up things that require power tools I don't want to take out around her. Most of the time I'm too exhausted to go out and pull."
 
Gwaine's expression finally softens, and Percy relaxes his shoulders a little.
 
"Sounds about right. Most of the parents I see in my office look like they're about to fall over. Especially the ones with small kids."
 
Percy nods. "It's tiring. But worth it. She's everything I've got."
 
Gwaine grins. "She sounds like a very special lady. What's her name?"
 
"Ivy. We wanted something floral but missed and ended up with plant-based instead."
 
Gwaine chuckles and launches into a series of questions about her as they finish their dinner. They forego dessert in favour of getting back to Gwaine's flat, and Percy stays the night after Gwaine fucks him so many times he doesn't think his legs could even manage to get him home.
 
~~~
 
It's not long before Gwaine is a constant in Percy's life. They text each other every day and talk on the phone most nights after Percy puts his daughter to sleep. Sometimes they even video chat, mostly just to see each other's faces, but every once in a while they get a little naughty with it, although Percy is always careful to be very quiet on his end.
 
They see each other as much as they can, which isn't very much at all until they realise they can have lunch together or take advantage of the extended hours at Ivy's day care centre or schedule a few afternoons off work.
 
The sex is good. It's really good. And the moments surrounding all the sex are good, too. Fantastic, even, Percy realises when he's got Gwaine curled around him one evening while they're not doing much more than watching telly. Gwaine's sofa isn't nearly big enough for both of them, mostly because of Percy, but Gwaine had insisted on being the big spoon, and Percy wasn't going to say no to that.
 
After three months, Percy finally stops dodging questions and tells his friends that he's started seeing someone. Gwen gets so excited that she offers to start taking Ivy for a night every single weekend. Percy shuts that down but does agree to let her and Lance try having her for a full weekend instead of just one night a month.
 
The first weekend with Gwaine and without Ivy is difficult. Percy's never been away from her for more than 20 or so hours, and he's a nervous wreck for most of it. He calls Gwen and Lance an embarrassing amount of times to check in and can't stop feeling guilty spending time with Gwaine when he could be spending time with her.
 
Gwaine is patient and understanding. He rubs Percy's back and gets Percy drunk on wine. He lets Percy work through the separation anxiety and homesickness. He promises that next time will be easier.
 
He's right. The second weekend, Percy still checks in more often than he should, but his chest doesn't seize tight every time he hears Ivy in the background of the call. He learns to relax and channel his nervous energy into ridiculous sex with Gwaine.
 
During their third weekend together, Gwaine invites his friends over for dinner. Percy gets nervous because it's been so long since he's been introduced as anyone's boyfriend, but Merlin and Arthur turn out to be just as wonderful as Gwaine.
 
After six months, Percy gets another friend to babysit for a night so he can return the favour and take Gwaine on a double date with Lance and Gwen. It goes brilliantly. Gwaine makes quick friends with Lance and wins Gwen over by plying her for stories about Percy's daughter.
 
~~~
 
After nine months, Gwaine finally asks when he's going to get to meet Ivy.
 
Percy's been dreading this moment. He likes Gwaine so much. Too much. He doesn't want to mess that up, but he knows it can't go on like this forever.
 
"I don't know," Percy says when Gwaine asks. "I… I've thought about it, but…"
 
"But?" Gwaine asks, trailing his fingers over Percy's thigh. They're sprawled across Gwaine's bed, naked, and Percy would much rather fuck Gwaine again than have this conversation.
 
"But I can't introduce her to someone who might not… stick around." He hates himself for saying it like that, but he doesn't have any other way of putting it.
 
"Why wouldn't I stick around? You know I love kids, right? I work with them. All day. Every day. They don't scare me."
 
"I know, I just… I don't know how serious we are, and… I think it would be confusing for her if…"
 
Gwaine turns onto his stomach and props himself up on his elbows so he can look at Percy.
 
"I'm not going anywhere."
 
"You don't know that."
 
"You're not listening. I'm not going anywhere, Percy. I'm in this. I love you."
 
Percy's breath catches in his throat.
 
"I love you," Gwaine says again. "I wasn't sure if you were ready to hear that, but I don't want to tip-toe around this anymore. I am serious about you. I want to be with you. And I want to meet your daughter."
 
Percy leans over to kiss Gwaine, needing something to ground him.
 
"Are you sure?" he asks.
 
"You know I am." Gwaine sits up and straddles Percy's hips, his eyes laser-focused and his grin as goofy as ever. "I want to spend Christmas with you, but I know that can't happen without Ivy. And I want to see the two of you together. I want to get to know her. I want to be with you—every part of you, including her."
 
Percy reaches up to slide his fingers into Gwaine's messy hair. He pulls Gwaine down for another kiss and Gwaine lets it linger.
 
"I love you, too," Percy whispers, tightening his grip on the back of Gwaine's neck. "Can you give me a few more weeks?"
 
"We can take it as slow as you want. As long as I get to see you for Christmas—that's my only demand."
 
"My demand is that we pick this up later," Percy says, running his hand down Gwaine's chest, and then lower. "Let's get back to the fun stuff."
 
~~~
 
The first meeting goes well. Percy's careful to mention his new friend Gwaine a few times leading up to it, and Ivy's actually excited when he tells her that Gwaine is coming over to make them dinner one weekend.
 
When Gwaine arrives, she gets shy and clings to Percy for the first hour. She warms up to Gwaine after he cooks her grilled cheese, though, and after dinner she sits on his lap as they all play a game.
 
Gwaine cleans up from dinner while Percy puts her to bed, and afterwards they make out like teenagers, giddy and giggling and trying to stay quiet.
 
Percy doesn't want Gwaine to leave, although he knows Gwaine shouldn't stay, so they watch telly in the living room until it's so late that Gwaine has to call a cab to get home.
 
Two weeks later, Gwaine takes Percy and Ivy to the aquarium.
 
The next week, Gwaine comes over with a stack of Disney DVDs and endears himself to Ivy by singing all the songs with her at the top of his lungs.
 
After that, Gwaine doesn't even bother waiting for another weekend. He comes over on a Thursday to make soup and help Percy play audience for Ivy's dress-up games.
 
When she falls asleep on a pile of frilly tutus, Gwaine is the one who carries her to bed. Then he helps Percy clean up in the kitchen before pinning him against the fridge with a long kiss.
 
"You're so good with her," Percy whispers, sliding his hands under Gwaine's shirt to hold onto Gwaine's sides. "Thank you."
 
"She's wonderful. You both are. You're a really good father, I hope you know that."
 
Percy tugs Gwaine closer for another kiss and asks, "Can you stay?"
 
"Are you sure?"
 
"Yes. Please."
 
Gwaine nods and it's all they can do to make it up to Percy's room before they start pulling off each other's clothes. His bedroom is all the way down the hall from Ivy's, but they still try to stay quiet. Gwaine resorts to shoving his own fist in his mouth while Percy blows him, and Percy ends up covering his face with a pillow when Gwaine returns the favour.
 
They fall asleep curled together under Percy's covers, and in the morning Gwaine gets up early enough to make them all scrambled eggs for breakfast.
 
~~~
 
On Christmas, Percy wakes up when Ivy crashes into his room, singing 'Jingle Bells' very badly. He sits up with a grunt but Gwaine is already out of bed, scooping Ivy into his arms and joining in her song as he takes her down to the living room.
 
Percy lies back down and grins up at the ceiling as he thinks about the day ahead. Normally his Christmases are mediocre at best, but this year he can't wait to see his daughter's face as she opens her presents. He can't wait to see Gwaine parading around in the elf hat they bought while doing the gift shopping. He can't wait to curl up on the sofa with his family, with Ivy and Gwaine, and watch sappy Christmas films.
 
"Daddy!" Ivy shrieks, getting impatient despite Gwaine's attentions.
 
Percy rolls out of bed and stretches, cracking his back, before heading downstairs. It looks like a tinsel fairy has thrown up all over his living room.
 
"When the hell did you do this?" Percy asks as his eyes try to adjust to all the colours.
 
"Last night," Gwaine says, getting up from where he's crouched by the tree to stop Ivy from opening her presents too early. He's already wearing the stupid elf hat. "You sleep like the dead when you've had wine. Do you like it?"
 
"No," Percy says, chuckling. He pulls Gwaine in for a kiss. "Merry Christmas."
 
"Merry Christmas," Gwaine says, his smile as bright as the tinsel. "Shall we make breakfast?"
 
"Probably need to let her open a present first," Percy says as he leans down to pull Ivy away from a box with his name on it. He hoists her up and kisses her cheek. "Do you want to open something from Daddy or from Gwaine or from Santa?"
 
"Daddy!" Ivy says excitedly, bouncing in Percy's arms.
 
Percy toes at a small box under the tree, and Gwaine grabs it before Percy even asks him to. He hands it over, and Ivy rips off the paper without hesitation.
 
"A princess!" she says wonderingly, opening the box to see a sparkling tiara.
 
Gwaine places it over her messy hair and Percy kisses her on the forehead. "Do you want to put on your princess dress?"
 
Ivy nods and runs upstairs as soon as he puts her down. There's a loud thunk a few seconds later, and Percy laughs, imagining that she's fallen over in her excitement. He heads toward the stairs, but Gwaine takes his hand, stopping him.
 
"Want me to get started on breakfast?" he asks.
 
Percy cups Gwaine's face in his hands and moves in for a kiss that leaves them both flushed. "I love you so much," he whispers.
 
Gwaine grins and gives Percy's sides a quick squeeze. "I love you, too. Go help the princess and I'll put the tea on."
 
Percy leans in for one more kiss before heading upstairs.
 
~~~
 
That night, after Ivy's fallen asleep where she curled up under the tree to look up at the lights, Percy stands in the living room and admires the view. The walls are covered in Gwaine's silly tinsel, Ivy's princess dress is shimmering with the Christmas tree's lights, and everything looks beautiful and special.
 
Gwaine's arms wrap around him from behind, and Percy covers one of Gwaine's hands with his own.
 
"Thank you for today," he says quietly.
 
Gwaine presses his forehead into Percy's back and replies, "You know it's not a burden being with you, right?"
 
"I didn't mean—"
 
"Yes, you did. I love you, Percival. And I love Ivy. I love being with you… and with her. I've never been this happy before." As he speaks, Gwaine slips his free hand under Percy's shirt, and it's warm against Percy's skin. "I never thought I could have something like this, but you make it so easy."
 
"Easy?" Percy asks, thinking of everything that's happened to lead him to this moment.
 
"Easy for me," Gwaine clarifies. "And I want to make it easier for you. You deserve it."
 
Percy turns around to get his mouth on Gwaine's lips, needing a kiss like he needs air. Gwaine pulls on Percy's shirt, dragging him away from the tree. Percy stumbles forward, refusing to break the kiss as they move across the room.
 
They reach the stairs and Gwaine takes one step up, evening out their heights, and wraps his arms around Percy's neck. Percy moans and holds onto Gwaine's back, dizzy with how much this man has given him.
 
Percy tangles one hand in Gwaine's hair and tugs a little. Gwaine gasps but then starts laughing.
 
"What? Percy asks, trailing a kiss down Gwaine's neck.
 
"Look."
 
Percy glances over his shoulder to see Ivy struggling to stand up while still fully underneath the Christmas tree.
 
Chuckling, Percy hurries over to drag her out before she can knock the tree over. He lifts her up and steps on the power strip to turn it off. The tree goes dark and Ivy slings an arm around Percy's neck.
 
"Can I sleep in your bed, Daddy?" she asks sweetly.
 
"'Course you can, sweetheart," he says, heading toward the stairs where Gwaine is waiting with a smile. "Want me to help you change into your pyjamas?"
 
Ivy shakes her head and reaches for Gwaine, who takes her without hesitation.
 
"What do you want to wear tonight, princess?" Gwaine asks as he heads up to her room. "Pink or green?"
 
"Yellow!"
 
"Yellow, hm? I don't know if you have yellow. Let's go on a hunt, shall we?"
 
Percy grins and takes the stairs two at a time. He waits in his room while Ivy gets changed and then makes her clean her teeth before letting her crawl into his bed.
 
Gwaine tucks her in as Percy gets the lights, and then they lie down on either side of her. They stay above the covers, planning to go back downstairs once Ivy's asleep for wine and telly and more kissing, and take turns making up a story until she falls asleep.
 
"And then Pretty Kitty turns into a rainbow," Gwaine says, finishing the plot even though his audience is unconscious. "And she lives happily ever after up in the sky, shining down on everyone during their darkest moments."
 
"That took a weird turn," Percy teases.
 
Gwaine chuckles and brushes some stray hairs off Ivy's face. He leans down to kiss her cheek and then leans across the bed to kiss Percy's as well.
 
Percy slides a hand into Gwaine's hair, holding him close.
 
"When does your lease end?"
 
Gwaine grins, his lips curling against the stubble on Percy's jaw. "End of June. I can break it, though."
 
"Yeah?"
 
"Yeah."
 
"Downstairs?"
 
"Oh yeah." Gwaine gives Percy a quick kiss and then they both carefully get out of bed and tiptoe into the hall, shutting the door quietly behind them.
 
As soon as they're in the living room, Percy flops onto the sofa and pulls Gwaine with him. They land in a heap but situate themselves quickly, locked in a messy kiss.
 
"You're the best fucking Christmas," Gwaine says, struggling to get Percy's shirt off while Percy's hands are down the back of his pants.
 
"That doesn't even make sense."
 
"Love always makes sense."
 
Percy bursts out in laughter, and the heat between them cools down enough that when he quiets, he just places a gentle kiss to Gwaine's pouting lips.
 
"Love never makes sense," he says happily. "And neither do you."
 
Gwaine grins and manages to extract himself from Percy's limbs. He heads to the kitchen and Percy follows to see him pouring two very large glasses of wine. He hands one to Percy and holds his out for a toast. Percy follows suit and Gwaine links their arms together.
 
"Merry Christmas," he says. His eyes are laser-focused and his smile is goofy and Percy's knees feel weak.
 
"Merry Christmas," Percy says, giving Gwaine a soft kiss and then drinking his wine.
 
"To many more," Gwaine says before Percy can free his arm.
 
Percy beams at him and gives him another, longer kiss. "To many, many more."