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late nights

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Vax’s first instinct when he hears the knock at his door is to ignore it. He waits, and when the second, more tentative knock comes, he heaves himself out of bed to answer it.

Percy stands only somewhat sheepishly on the other side of the thick wooden door.

“Did I wake you?” he asks.

Vax considers falling back on snarkiness, but figures that Percy wouldn’t come knocking at this ungodly hour if it weren’t important, and says, “No. I, well. I’m too tired to sleep, if that makes sense.”

Percy nods like he understands and, thinking on it, Vax figures he probably knows the exact feeling.

“We should talk,” Percy says.

“Want to come in?” Vax asks.

Percy’s eyes slide to the door of the room next door. “Ah. It’s a bit. Sensitive. I don’t really want anybody to, you know. Eavesdrop.”

“Oh. In that case.” Vax turns on his heel, tossing a heavy cloak around himself and stuffing his feet into a soft pair of boots, then rejoins Percy at the threshold. He closes the door as quietly as he can. “Shall we?”

They make their way down to Percy’s workshop, nodding to the rare guard who notices them on the journey.

Once the blast-proof door is between the two of them and the rest of the world, Percy loses some of his stiffness, leaning against a workbench and rubbing wearily at his eyes. Vax notices with amusement that he accidentally smudges some soot on his cheek.

“I’m sorry to have sought you out at such an indecent hour,” Percy begins, “but I was willing to bet that you, like me, were still awake. We have had, shall we say, a rough go of it recently. Everything seems to be going wrong, as it is wont to do. I can think of no obvious solution, and indeed that isn’t what I wanted to discuss. I, ah, had hoped to broach a more personal topic. It is, um, that is to say, you are a very dear friend to me, and we have had good times, the two of us. So, I had a question. Um. If you are uncertain of the answer-“

“Percival, get to the point.”

Percy nods, cheeks turning a curious shade in the unsure light of the torches. “Vax. You are, well, an exceedingly handsome man. I find myself compromised by you, oftentimes. My eyes find you at inopportune times; my thoughts wander to you whether you are near or far. The way you walk and talk, your hands around your daggers, the movement of your throat when you swallow.” Percy scratches at the back of his neck, definitely red by now. “It is maddening.”

Vax eyes Percy, intrigued. “All of this to say you’re infatuated with me?”

“Well, in such blunt terms, I-“

“Besotted, perhaps?” Vax teases. “Smitten?”

“Why, uh. Yes.” Percy swallows. He meets Vax’s eyes shyly. “I am a fool for you.”

Vax grins, steps closer. “Percival is a closet romantic. Who would have guessed?”

Percy straightens minutely, tracks Vax’s movements, so attuned to him that Vax finds it a wonder he hadn’t noticed before.

“I admit, Percival, I expected rose petals scattered across the bed, a pair of rings engraved with our names, something like that,” Vax says.

“Rose petals? You sound like a romance novel.”

Vax laughs, drawing within touching distance of Percy. “As if your earlier speech wasn’t straight from the pages of one.”

Percy smiles, a crooked, pleased thing. “I’ve had a lot of time to imagine what I would say.”

“Oh?” Vax says. “Practiced in the mirror, have you?”

“Every evening before bed.”

Vax slips a hand up to caress Percy’s cheek, feeling more than hearing the hitch in his breathing. The skin under his palm is warm, near-hot from the fading blush, and rough from a few days’ worth of stubble. Percy’s pupils are blown wide beneath his glasses, unwavering from Vax’s own gaze.

Carefully, Vax leans forward to press the gentlest of kisses to Percy’s lips.

Percy exhales against Vax’s mouth, eyes sparkling. “Never took you for chaste.”

Vax smiles. “Got to keep you on your toes, Freddie.”

“Kiss me again?”

And Vax graciously obliges.