"Grab the beers, will you?" Gawain calls out to Draco as he opens the oven to check on whatever it is he's cooking. It's more of a command than a request, but Draco doesn't mind—Gawain's one of the few people in the world whose orders Draco will follow gladly. Besides, this one involves alcohol, and after the shit day—week, past couple of months—that Draco's had, he can definitely use a cold one. He rummages through Gawain's fridge for a couple of mid-shelf beers while Gawain dishes up dinner—Shepherd's Pie, from the look and smell of it—and the two of them settle in at Gawain's tiny kitchen table, barely big enough for two grown men. Gawain lives alone in a small, sparsely-decorated flat that somehow manages to suit him perfectly. He's a simple man, not one for frills or opulence, and yet he and Draco manage to get along just fine. Gawain's still one of the best friends Draco's ever had.
With almost anybody else, eating together quietly in such small quarters without any other distractions would be unbearably awkward. Gawain is different, the silence comfortable instead of stifling. Unfortunately, it makes Draco think of the only other person he used to have this kind of close camaraderie with, and his mood sours. Harry's gone now, fucked off to the Department for Strategy and Defence without a second glance, abandoning Draco and their seven-year partnership, seemingly without a single regret. They used to see each other every work day and most weekends too; now it's been months, and Draco's not seen hide nor hair of Harry, despite the fact that they both still work for the Ministry. The more dramatic parts of Draco want to claim he's even beginning to forget what Harry looks like in his absence, but he knows that's a lie.
Harry's buried too deep in his soul for him to ever forget.
It's clearly not the same for Harry though, and one of the many things Draco's learned from the war is that it's no use living in the past. Harry’s made his choice, left like everybody seems to do eventually, and wishing it were different won't change the facts. Draco's still on his own, still stuck on desk duty without a partner, slowly withering away under piles of paperwork and itching to get out into the field.
There's no love lost between Harry and Gawain—Draco never did understand Harry's dislike of Draco's mentor—but Gawain has been a lifeline throughout the whole ordeal of Harry's leaving and Draco's quietly falling apart. Gawain's hardly the most effusive person, but he's been there for Draco, has supported him every step of the way, just as he's been doing ever since he convinced Draco to become an Auror in the first place. He seems to understand, without Draco ever having to say anything at all, how hurt Draco was by Harry's leaving. He suspects Gawain's perfectly aware that Draco's minimised devastation goes deeper than mourning a platonic work partnership. Gawain didn't get to be Head Auror for nothing, after all, and though there haven't been any heart-to-hearts between them, there have been an increasing number of dinner invites of late—Gawain's way of offering support in his own gruff way.
"So," Gawain says as he swallows the last bite of his dinner. "I actually invited you over for a reason."
Draco raises an eyebrow. "You mean you didn't just ask me over for my sparkling wit and stunning company?"
Gawain graces him with his best unamused glower, the one that never fails to make Draco smile. Riling Gawain has always been a sure-fire way to raise Draco's spirits.
"As I was saying," Gawain continues pointedly, "I wanted to let you know there's been movement on your new partnership." He pauses, his eyes dancing as his lips twitch into an amused smile. "Though if you'd rather entertain me with your sparkling wit, then by all means, let's go with that."
"No, no," Draco says hastily, leaning forward in his seat as his pulse begins to race, his heart in his throat. "Tell me, please?"
Gawain's smile broadens, and Draco can see the genuine pleasure lighting up his hazel eyes as he replies, "Padma's volunteered to partner with you. It was just approved this afternoon. Effective first thing Monday morning, you're back in the field."
Draco is far too dignified to jump up and shout with excitement, but it's a near bloody thing. Grinning, he sags with relief, setting his elbows on the table and burying his head in his hands. It's been months since Harry left, and Draco was beginning to think he'd be stuck on desk duty forever, unable to get any of his colleagues to partner with him. That Padma is willing—that she volunteered… well, Draco definitely owes her, big time. He wonders how she feels about diamonds….
"I take it you're pleased, then?" Gawain asks, though going by the huge smile on his face, he knows exactly how happy Draco is about the news.
"I'm bloody fucking ecstatic, and you know it," Draco says, grinning right back at him. "You're a sadist though, holding on to that information all afternoon!"
Gawain winks as he stands, sending his and Draco's empty dishes to the sink with a flick of his wand. "I'm getting old," he says solemnly. "I've got to keep myself entertained somehow."
Draco scoffs. "You're not that old." He pauses, pretending to examine him. "Although… you are going a bit grey around the temples…."
Gawain glowers at him with no real heat, muttering something about, "I'll show you grey…." as he turns towards the cabinet where he keeps his spirits. He reaches in, pulling out an expensive bottle of Ogden's. Gawain might skimp on the good beer, but his whisky is always top-shelf.
"Well," he says, brandishing the bottle. "I thought we could celebrate the fact that I'll no longer have to listen to your constant whinging about wanting to go back out into the field."
Draco ignores the teasing jibe—he's always been a bit of a terror when he's bored out of his fucking skull. "I'll definitely drink to that."
He's been in Gawain's flat enough times by now to know where everything's kept, and he grabs a couple of tumblers from the cabinet along with the pair of whisky stones he gifted to Gawain last Christmas. A quick Freezing Charm ensures the stones are icy cold, and he plops one into each glass before following Gawain out to the cosy living room. There's a fire crackling merrily in the hearth, and they sit side-by-side on Gawain's over-sized sofa as he pours them each several fingers-worth of whisky.
"To new beginnings," Gawain says, holding his glass out towards Draco.
Draco grins and clinks his tumbler against Gawain's. "To getting out of Level Two and into the streets."
They both take a hearty swallow and the whisky slides easily down Draco's throat, smoky and smooth. For the first time in months, he feels as light as air, hope rising within him like a Levitation Charm. Draco is a survivor. He's made it through a bloody war, worked his arse off trying to atone for the sins of his youth; he can survive a little heartbreak. Draco's always known he and Harry wouldn't have worked out—that being friends and partners was already pushing it as it was, and that trying for anything more would have ended in disaster. Still, he is selfish enough to have wanted the friendship at least, even if he knows he isn't deserving of it. Harry's made his choice, though, and his silence since leaving the department—since leaving Draco—has made it clear that he's moved on.
It's time for Draco to do the same.
He and Gawain get steadily tipsy off good Firewhisky as the evening wears on. Draco lets himself take comfort in Gawain's company, in his solid and unwavering support and friendship. They're an unlikely pair, Draco knows, and sometimes it still feels unreal when he thinks back onto their first, less-than-auspicious meeting. After the war, Draco had let himself go a little off the rails, drinking and partying and generally making an arse out of himself. Gawain had found him in a pub, drunk and belligerent and itching for a fight, yet, for reasons Draco's never fully understood, Gawain hadn't given it to him. Any other Auror would have taken the excuse to nab Draco for any number of minor infractions, but somehow, Gawain had seen potential in Draco where all anybody else had seen was a delinquent. He'd walked Draco out of the pub, hit him with a Sobering Charm that left him reeling, and told him that if he could pass his NEWT exams in the next six months, he’d have a guaranteed spot in the Auror Training Programme. The next morning, Draco had been half-certain it had all been a dream, except there'd been an owl sitting on his bedside table, a list of upcoming exam times clutched in its talons.
Gawain had kept an eye on him after that—had mentored him, had put his neck out on the line when the Wizengamot had questioned Draco's appointment. He made Draco feel wanted and welcome when nobody else had, had believed in Draco even when Gawain's bosses and colleagues told him he was mad to do so. Thinking about it still makes Draco's throat close up, and his eyes start to itch with an uncomfortable emotion, unsure of what he's done to deserve such loyalty.
Whisky buzzes through his veins, heating him up from the inside even as the fire in the hearth warms his skin. He grins as Gawain's broad hands gesticulate wildly while he rants about the latest bureaucratic nightmare at the Ministry. He must have just recently oiled his beard, because the flickering firelight dances across the well-groomed strands, making them gleam like burnished copper. His hazel eyes sparkle with passion as he curses every member of the Wizengamot by name, and Draco's chest swells with affection. Gawain really is so solid, sturdy and dependable, with wide shoulders that are more than capable of carrying the weight of Draco's burdens when he falters beneath the heft of them all. Gawain's got more than ten years on Draco's thirty, but even with the age difference, Draco's always been aware that Gawain is attractive, his features rough, but pleasing, his eyes kind, and his body thick and well-muscled. He's not really Draco's type—he's never really gone for the whole burly bear thing—but he's not blind, and you'd have to be, not to be aware that Gawain is fit as hell. It's always just been a fact, another aspect of Gawain Robards, like the fact that he's six foot five and is a shockingly decent cook. Now though, it hits Draco right in the chest, how handsome Gawain looks, bathed in firelight, Firewhisky bringing a ruddy flush to his skin.
Draco's not in love with Gawain—that won't ever be in the cards for them—but he does love him, and he knows Gawain cares deeply for him in turn. Other than Draco's parents—and those relationships will always be complicated—Draco's not sure there's anybody else in the world that cares about him more than Gawain does. He used to think that maybe Harry… but that was clearly just a pipe dream. Draco doesn't doubt Gawain's affection, though, or his loyalty, which is astounding in and of itself. It hits Draco just then that he trusts Gawain completely, and the knowledge is just as heady and intoxicating as the Firewhisky he's been drinking. It’s been ten years since Gawain pulled him out of the gutter and gave him a purpose, a future, and unlike almost every other person who's been in and out of Draco's life in that time, Gawain is still here, cooking him dinner and celebrating his victories with his good whisky.
Things go a bit fuzzy after that. All Draco knows is that one minute he's watching the firelight bring out the auburn in Gawain's beard, and the next he's on Gawain's lap, threading his fingers through Gawain's short hair as he leans down for a kiss.
Gawain tastes like smoky Firewhisky, and his lips are smooth, his beard surprisingly soft as it rasps against Draco's chin. There aren't fireworks going off behind Draco's eyelids or flowers spontaneously bursting into bloom, but the kiss makes warmth pool in his belly, his muscles going lax as he relaxes into the hot press of their lips. Gawain kisses him back, slow and steady, almost tender as his hand slides through Draco's chin-length hair before he eventually pulls away.
They stare at each other quietly, Draco's heart racing, more from nervousness about Gawain's reaction than anything else. Gawain doesn't seem shocked or horrified at Draco's advance, but there's a reluctance swimming in his eyes, one that Draco's sure stems from the same source of Draco's own worry.
"This… probably isn't a good idea," Gawain says quietly.
Draco quirks a small smile. Gawain's not wrong, but with Draco's whisky-fortified blood, he doesn't feel like playing things safe. He did that with Harry, and look where that got him?
"No, probably not," Draco replies with a grin. "Want to do it anyway?"
Gawain gives him an exasperated smile. "Be serious, Draco. This isn't what we do. I'm not…." He trails off, running a hand through his hair. "You can pretend otherwise all you want, but I know you're a romantic. I also know you're a bit heartbroken right now, and I care about you too much to let you latch onto me. I won't ever be able to give you what you want."
Ridiculous as it is, Gawain's declaration makes Draco smile as a pleasant warmth suffuses his body. From anybody else, it would be a rejection, but Draco knows that's not what this is. Gawain's never been one for long-term romantic entanglements, has always claimed that he's just not wired that way, and when he says he doesn't want to hurt Draco, Draco knows that he means it. And Draco can sort of see where he's coming from, can see how, under the right set of circumstances, he could fall for somebody like Gawain, stable and dependable and unfairly fit. But Draco gave his heart away a long time ago, and he's not sure he'll ever get it back. He likes Gawain—loves him, really—but he's not looking for a replacement, or a boyfriend, or even a lover. He just wants tonight.
"Think that highly of yourself, do you?" Draco says lightly.
Draco sighs, running a fingertip along the edge of Gawain's beard. "You don't have to worry about any of that, Gawain. I promise I won't fall in love with you." Gawain quirks a brow, and Draco leans forward until their faces are just a hairsbreadth away from one another. "I mean it, Gawain. I'm not asking for more than you can give me. I just… it'd be nice, not to be alone, just for the night."
Gawain looks at him for several infinite seconds, that shrewd gaze of his seeming to pierce straight through to Draco's soul. Draco's not sure what Gawain sees there (he's not sure he wants to know what Gawain sees there) but a moment later, his face is creasing with a resigned smile. He nods his acquiescence and tilts his head slightly back, regal as a king deigning to allow Draco the honour of kissing him. The image makes Draco laugh softly, and he's still laughing as he presses Gawain onto his back against the sofa cushions.
Draco hovers over Gawain for a moment, watching as the firelight dapples Gawain's skin in light and shadow before the want grows too great and he has to lean in for another kiss. Gawain's mouth opens easily beneath his as broad hands slide onto Draco's hips, anchoring him in place. He's much bigger than the blokes Draco usually goes for, the bulk of his thick thighs spreading Draco wide where he's straddling them. The faint strain is surprisingly arousing, and Draco finds himself relishing Gawain's size, the sheer mass of him, the way he makes Draco feel cradled and safe, even though Draco's the one on top. He grinds down against him and feels the heavy weight of Gawain's erection rubbing up against his own, and even through the layers of trousers and pants, the friction makes Draco shiver.
Draco's no slouch when it comes to kissing, but Gawain is more than holding his own. His tongue slides against Draco's in a sensual caress as he takes casual command of the kiss. Normally, Draco prefers to be the aggressor, likes being in control and in command, making blokes shake apart beneath him, but with Gawain, he doesn't mind handing over the reins. He's felt so lost since Harry left, so alone, and right now, letting Gawain take care of him sounds like heaven.
Gawain's hands slip around to Draco's arse, urging him to thrust more firmly against him, guiding his hips into a grinding rhythm that has pleasure pulsing beneath his skin. Fingertips tease at the waistband of Draco's trousers but he pays them no mind, too lost in the rut. It's not until the hands slide beneath both pants and trousers to grip Draco's bare arse that Draco really takes note. He moans eagerly into Gawain's mouth—it's been so long since anybody has touched him like this, skin on skin, with want and care.
It feels impossibly good, those rough, calloused fingertips massaging and squeezing his arse, an arse that he's heard on more than one occasion is bloody spectacular. He can feel how much Gawain is enjoying it in the hard press of his erection, the pleased rumble vibrating through his broad chest, and the way his kisses grow more urgent and insistent. Draco wonders if Gawain is as close as he is, almost ready to blow from just a few kisses and some frottage. Clearly it's been far too long if that's all it takes to bring Draco up to the edge, but with as good as it all feels right now, he can't bring himself to mind.
The hands massaging his arse pause in their ministrations, holding him open as one of Gawain's fingers drags along his cleft before rubbing against Draco's hole. The dry rasp of Gawain's calloused fingertip along Draco's rim, lighting up every one of the sensitive nerve endings there, has him shuddering and moaning. He can feel Gawain's smug, aroused response to Draco's animal reaction, the slight curl of his mouth beneath Draco's lips, the sharp upward thrust of his hips.
Between the friction against his cock and Gawain's fingertip sending pleasure sparking along his hole, it doesn't take much more for Draco to come. Just a couple more thrusts, and Draco is trembling and groaning in Gawain's lap as he empties himself in his pants. His orgasm appears to spur Gawain on, and he grabs tight to Draco's arse and begins thrusting wildly up against him, chasing his pleasure until he, too, finds his release.
Draco goes lax in the aftermath, his body soft like melted wax against Gawain's solid frame. Gawain's chest rumbles with a satisfied purr, and a moment later, Draco feels the tell-tale tingle of a Cleaning Charm scraping along his skin. He knows he should probably get up, make his excuses and head home to his empty flat, but he can't seem to summon the energy for any of that just now. He's warm and content, curled up against Gawain's chest, and the thought of leaving right now makes him grimace.
He's worried that staying for a cuddle might send Gawain the wrong impression, with his fear of Draco falling in love with him and all that, but thankfully, he seems to have put it behind him. Gawain shifts beneath him, clearly settling in and manoeuvring Draco until he's nestled comfortably in the cradle of his arms. There's a whisper of magic, and then a soft blanket is settling over them both, wrapping them up like a burrito as Gawain's breath begins to slow and even out. He's clearly one of those blokes that's out like Nox after an orgasm, and Draco doesn't mind skipping the uneasy aftermath. He's sure there'll be some awkwardness tomorrow, but Draco trusts they'll get through it—they both mean too much to one another for them not to.
Draco smiles and rests his head against Gawain's chest, listening to the thud of his heart and watching the snap and crackle of the logs on the fire as they burn down to ash.