Actions

Work Header

Love Thy Neighbour

Chapter Text

The first time Percy sees him, it's while he's got a skimpily-clad peroxide blonde hanging off his arm. She's cackling, and willing to go along with anything from fucking to being turned. She has no idea about the latter, and it's the only thing Percy's interested in, because he's had a dry spell. But she's hyper, and drunk, and he's already gone off the idea. At this rate, it'll be a challenge just to get his fangs to come out. He's done overindulging in cheap snacks picked up at bars; he's getting too choosy for his own good.

There's movement in front of the house across the road. An overloaded car with a rattling trailer full of old furniture has just pulled up. Four people pour out of the car: a woman dressed like an old maid, a young girl—same, a smaller girl with pale blonde hair and wearing a shabby and too-long dress, and a boy of about 20 dressed in a suit styled for a boy of about ten.

"Jeeeerry," the girl on his arm whines, dancing in place as if she's either too drunk to stand or needs a bathroom badly.

He decides not to take any chances and pushes his front door open. "Go inside, the bathroom's next to the laundry around the back."

"'kay." She hiccups, laughs at herself, and tumbles inside, fumbling blindly for the nearest light switch.

All four of his new neighbours stare across at him, with varying degrees of loathing, disgust, and interest.

He waves and grins, and he's not surprised when the woman shoves the other three—her offspring, presumably—towards their own front door.

Percy shrugs, and is about to head inside, when he sees the boy's fallen behind and is still looking at him. In fact, he's taken a couple of hesitant steps closer to the curb, towards him. Percy puts on his most charming smile, and he's fairly sure the boy is blushing.

"Credence!" yells the woman from inside, and he jumps as if he's been shot and hurries into the house.

Percy closes his own door, stands inside, and rubs the back of his neck. He could scent the boy right across the road, like a thin breeze drifting across the low hedges; that kind of thing comes easy to him. The kid smells of fear, more than anything, just like the other two, but there's a spicy undertone of curiosity and excitement, with a base note of innocence. He smells damn good.

Within less than a minute, Percy's standing at the living room window, looking across again. And of course, the matriarch of the little bunch has sent them all outside again, now that the creepy guy across the road is out of sight. All three of them are doing their best to carry furniture inside. The work is much too heavy for them. Percy frowns. He'd go and offer to help, but he can imagine what would happen, and it would still end up with the kids doing the lifting. The woman isn't helping. Probably shouting orders from inside. He can't stand the type.

The light over their front door is on, and so is the fainter light from the open garage through which they're carrying their things.

Percy leans on the windowsill with both hands, nose an inch from the glass.

The light reflects off the pale blonde hair of the two girls without much impact, but it makes the boy's dark hair gleam like black silk. He's staggering inside with a small shelf, and when he comes out, empty-handed, he looks at the trailer, with his head tilted, assessing what to take next.

Percy hums to himself, a satisfied sound of interest. He finally gets a proper look at the boy and realises that next door lives a treat: dark chocolate, soft centre. Skin so pale, he might have got turned already, but it's clear to Percy that the boy is every kind of virgin. He looks up then, as if sensing the disturbing thoughts about him, and looks right at Percy, dark eyes widening. Percy raises his right arm, forearm pressed to the window, fingertips tapping on the glass, hip slightly cocked, and smirks.

The boy stares as if he's hypnotised; which is satisfying, as Percy isn't using his allure. Oh, but he would, if need be. He would. He doesn't think there'll be any need at all.

The boy's lips are the colour of fresh blood, like a beautiful wound right across his perfect face. His cheekbones and jaw line are as sharp as Percy's fangs.

Percy's gums are tingling at the mere sight of him.

"Hey, wha's going on?" comes a slurred voice from behind him.

Percy groans. He's forgotten. "Sit, I'll be right there." He doesn’t turn away from the window, looks at the boy for another minute, and his gaze is returned right up until the older girl jostles him and is clearly telling him off for not working.

The boy tears his eyes away from Percy and reaches for a bedside table on the trailer, and Percy sighs and turns away from the window.

The girl he's brought home for a meal is spread out on an armchair, trying to look seductive but, really, only succeeding in looking wasted.

"Why don't you take a nap? Sleep it off," Percy suggests, walking past her and waving his hand over the crown of her head.

"What? Tha's not what I'm—" And she slumps and is asleep.

Percy walks into the kitchen, picking an apple out of the fruit bowl on the way. He takes a hearty bite, then looks at the now wounded fruit. The pale flesh is glistening, sticky with juice and shiny with his saliva. He rakes a pointed nail along the edge of the bitten area, gently denting and then piercing the outer skin until more juice drips out. With a low moan, he sinks his teeth into the apple, again and again, consuming the whole thing in seconds, before flinging the core into the sink. Then he wipes his hand across his mouth; it comes away sticky, and he looks at the shine covering his knuckles.

It's all he can do not to return to the window, let alone go outside and stalk across the road and help himself to some real sustenance. With an effort, he heads upstairs to his heavily shuttered bedroom. He'll put the girl, whose name he's forgotten, into a taxi just before dawn.

He falls asleep with a murmured "Credence" on his sticky lips.

* * *

The car across the road is gone, presumably parked inside the garage, by the following evening. There's a light on inside what Jerry knows to be the kitchen; the layout of every house in the street is the same.

Percy figures his new neighbours are having dinner. He's not invited, but that doesn't stop him from crossing the road and walking around the side of the house, peering into the smallish window.

The four of them are perched around a square table—praying, of all things. Percy scoffs. He might have known after one look at the mother.

The window is tightly shut, and he can't be heard, but the boy raises his head, glancing around, as if he's sensed a disturbance in his environment. Immediately, the matriarch looks up too and glares at him. His plush lips mutter something, and he's bowing his head again, a few strands of hair falling back over his forehead, eyes closing.

Percy's eyes fix on his lips, then on the shadows his long lashes throw on his cheeks underneath the ceiling light. He finds himself wishing he didn't need an invitation to get into that house. He finds himself wishing for a kind of anti-allure to use on the mother and the two girls to drive them away. He knows instinctively he could talk the boy outside, if he was alone in there.

They eat after praying, though the food doesn't look as if it was worth the gratitude or the effort. It's a thin brown sludge with lumps of who knows what in it; it could be soup or badly strained gravy. Four pieces of stale-looking bread are sitting on a plate between the four of them, and each dutifully takes one piece and crumbles it into the liquid. Percy has no doubt it would be inedible unsoaked, though it's probably not much better saturated with the sludge.

After eating, they all get up. The mother points to the sink, and the boy nods and gathers up the dishes, then runs a little water into the sink and squeezes in a small amount of dishwashing liquid. The mother, meanwhile, steers the smaller girl to the staircase and gives her a shove, and she goes up, presumably to bed. Then she takes the other girl's upper arm, tells the boy something, and takes the girl through to the living room.

Percy waits until they're both seated on the ratty sofa, going over a stack of some kind of leaflets. Then he walks around to the window above the sink and taps it lightly with a knuckle.

The boy looks up, dropping a bowl in surprise and just barely catching it before it splashes into the water. He stares at Percy in horror, then glances back over his shoulder, then back at Percy.

Percy nods his head to the right, then lifts his hand and makes walking motions with his fingers. He grins, then heads around the corner of the house again, making his way to the back door. He has no idea how long he'll have to wait there, but he has all the time in the world, and then some. He knows, sooner or later, the boy won't be able to help himself and will open the door to find out what he wants. The answer to that is remarkably simple, just three letters long, but Percy won't be as unsubtle as that.

A short time goes by, a quarter of an hour maybe, or half an hour... time doesn't interest Percy very much. He's leaning against rough concrete, inhaling the scents of grass and gladiolas, yarrows and passion flowers. He smiles and seeks out the patch of the last of those, plucking one long-stemmed, wide open specimen.

He hears the lock turn, and then the door is opened hesitantly. A single dark eye peers around the door into the garden. "Hello?" comes a soft whisper.

Percy approaches silently. "Evening, Credence."

The boy jumps a little, as if he hasn't really expected him to still be there and wait.

"How do you know my name?" he asks.

Percy holds the flower behind his back, his hand resting against the wall next to the open door, a fair way above the level of the boy's head. He notices his eyes tracking the way his white T-shirt strains with the pose, following the outline of the muscles and veins in his arm.

"I heard your mother calling you last night." Percy smiles in a way that he hopes is disarming. He doesn't think he's succeeded.

The boy looks gloomily at a point somewhere past his shoulder. "She's not my mother, she... she's my foster mother."

"Ah." No wonder Credence bears no resemblance to the faded, sour-faced woman.

"Why... why are you here?" he asks, looking worriedly back over his shoulder. "I'm not supposed to talk to you."

"Oh? What have I done to deserve being snubbed on sight?" Percy teases.

The boy looks awkward, as if he doesn't want to explain. "Ma says you look..." He lowers his pretty eyes. "She says you look evil, like a sinner."

Percy suppresses a laugh. He doesn't fancy alerting the cow to his presence. "Is that what you think too... Credence?" The boy's name rolls off his tongue like a drop of honey. He wants to keep on saying it.

Credence looks at him, really meets his eyes, and then flushes. "I don't know, sir."

"The name's Percy. Percy Dandridge." He doesn't give him time to think. "What do you think I look like?"

"I... couldn't say, Mr Dandridge."

"Oh, come on. Tell me what you think of me, and I'll tell you what I think of you."

Credence looks surprised. "I'm not sure I want to know."

Percy takes a step closer. The cords in his arms strain a little, drawing the boy's eyes. "I think you do, Credence. Besides, it's all good."

The softest smile plays around Credence's lips, changing his aura of innocence to one of unintentional temptation, and Percy barely suppresses a groan. "I think..." Credence says, thoughtfully, "I think maybe you do look like a sinner."

"Clever boy," Percy praises, smirking at the surprised expression on his face; he clearly hasn't expected to be praised for being rude. "Nothing else?"

Credence looks at his forearm, his eyes gliding up towards his broad shoulders, takes in his torso at a glance, before sliding up over his neck and face as if no one's ever told him it's rude to stare. He swallows, hard, clearly battling some inner demon; or maybe the one sitting back there in the living room. "Nothing else," he lies.

Percy chuckles. "Okay, I'll let that slide." He leans in a little closer. As close as he can, anyway. Damn thresholds. The boy doesn't move back, just inhales sharply. "How about a little evening stroll around the new neighbourhood?"

Credence shakes his head frantically. "I couldn't!"

Percy shrugs. It's the response he's expected. He lifts the passion flower he's been holding and says, "Can I at least give you a welcome gift?"

Credence stares at the flower, then back at Percy. "It's a passion flower."

"Sure is. And a very pretty one, too. The red ones are rare, but they're my favourites," Percy tells him, eyes fixed on his lips.

The boy reaches for the flower as if he can't help himself. "Ma says it's a symbol of the crucifixion of Christ."

"Is it?" Percy smirks. "Or you could just steep it for some tea; good for anxiety, I hear."

Credence stares at him, and a nervous little laugh escapes him, clearly against his will. "Thank you," he murmurs, holding the flower up close to his mouth; it pales in comparison to their luscious cherry red.

"My pleasure." Percy smiles at him, knowing he needs to leave now, or his inability to get to the boy, and to get him to come to him without using his allure, is going to make him seriously uncomfortable and dangerous. Still, he can't help himself. "Come over and visit me anytime. I'm always around, between dusk and dawn."

"Credence?" comes an impatient yell from the depths of the house.

"I have to go," the boy says, his smile falling away as if it has never been there.

Before Percy can reply, the door has been slammed in his face. He can't blame the boy, who's clearly terrified of the dragon inside. He walks back across the road, thoughts on a suitable way to deal with her.

* * *

Percy is fairly annoyed with himself when he finally wakes up the following evening, after hours of restlessness. He's not prone to sleeping badly, let alone because he's been kept awake by thoughts about prey, no matter how enticing and innocent.

The first thing he does is to look out of his bedroom window. He can vaguely see silhouettes moving around in the house across the road, and he wonders what it would take to drive that woman out of the house at night. He doesn't find out, not that evening, but he does discover that Credence's bedroom is the corner room upstairs, and that his bedroom window is just slightly along from his own.

When Percy returns from a shower, wearing nothing but a narrow strip of a towel, he walks to the open window to see Credence standing at his own window—also wide open—and looking across.

He moves back a little into his dark room to not be seen, as he has no way of knowing his neighbour has no trouble seeing him in the dark.

Percy takes full advantage, walking around the room in nothing but the towel to gather up some clothes, making sure to pass the open window as frequently as possible. Finally, with his back to the window, he drops the towel, hearing the boy's sharp intake of breath, no matter how quiet it is. He smirks to himself and takes his time getting dressed in a clean pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt. He rarely bothers with underwear.

When he turns around again, the boy is still there, standing well back in the shadows of his room. There's a subtle shift in his scent as Percy walks to the open window—it's heavier on both the fear and the excitement. He settles and poses in the window frame, not looking directly at the window across to not give himself away. He figures the boy will leave soon, or shut his window, maybe his shutters too, to avoid being tempted by sin. He gives it a few minutes, until he catches movement out of the corner of his eye, and he has to look.

Credence has walked right up to the window, gripping the frame in white-knuckled hands. He's somehow even paler than the night before, but his cheeks are suffused with the heat of a deep flush.

Percy can positively hear the blood pulsing gently just below his skin. He's not sure he can hide his hunger—so much more complex than ever before, for so much more than blood—when he meets the dark eyes.

Credence is hungry too, several kinds of hungry, and Percy can't decide whether he's more determined to sate his own hunger or the boy's. He thinks the most likely outcome will be that both of them will indulge in the very best kind of gluttony.

* * *

The next evening, Percy is woken up by a noisy slamming of car doors. It's just dark enough to get up and safely peer through the shutters.

He's extremely pleased to see the female occupants of the house opposite inside the car, with Credence left behind standing in the driveway.

He watches them leave and, as soon as they're out of sight, his gaze sweeps right across to Percy's house.

Yes. Percy smiles.

Not even five minutes have passed before there's a hesitant knock on his front door. He wants to play it cool, take his time and make the boy wait, just a little; after all, he has a few centuries on him and should act the part of older, wiser, patient party of this game they're playing. He ends up giving it ten seconds at best.

When he opens the front door, seeing and smelling Credence up close for the first time in 48 hours, Percy begins to know that a game is the last thing this is.

"Credence, what a pleasant surprise," he says. "Come in."

"I..." Even though he's the one who chose to make a move and come over, the boy hesitates. "I... shouldn't..."

"Your family went away, right? Will they be gone long?"

"A couple of hours, maybe more." Credence shuffles his feet. "Ma is enrolling my sisters in evening bible classes, and there's a parent-teacher evening at their new school too."

Credence is wearing another very plain, cheap suit, minus the jacket this time. His pale arms poking out of a short-sleeved white shirt look as if they're verging on goosebumps. There's a rolled up sheet of paper in his hands, and he's holding onto it desperately enough, Percy wonders whether it's a contract he's brought over; maybe he wants to sell him his soul? Credence sure is in enough of a state. He can feel it rolling off him in waves—eagerness, embarrassment, fear and... yes, an uncertain arousal he's not even fully aware of himself. They all contribute to the pulsating warmth of the living, breathing youth before him. Percy can't keep from leaning closer and letting some of that life infuse him.

"Mr Dandridge?"

Percy opens the door wider, smiles gently, looks as inviting as he can without calling on his allure. "You came over, Credence. Surely, you won't turn back again now without even letting me offer you a drink? Or a snack, maybe?"

Credence swallows, and Percy tracks the movement of his throat hungrily. "I really came to talk to you about Jesus."

Percy thinks he does an admirable job of neither laughing out loud nor telling the boy, "sure you did," and pulling him inside unceremoniously. Using every ounce of self-control, he takes a couple of steps back and beckons the boy inside. "Since I'm such a sinner, I suppose that would be a good idea."

Credence looks a little surprised and a lot nervous now, but he nods and steps inside willingly. His eyes are so focussed on Percy's, he doesn't even notice the door falling closed behind his back, apparently by itself.

* * *

Percy refuses to hear a word about Jesus until after Credence has accepted a glass of lemonade and a plate of sandwiches. He watches him swallow the cool, refreshing drink. Then he watches the way his even white teeth sink into the rye bread slices filled with turkey, sliced egg, cucumber and mayonnaise. He watches him so intently, he even notices the one slightly pointy canine, as though he was a vampire in training, and it's endearing enough to make him want to kiss the mayonnaise off the red lips immediately.

"Why are you looking at me like that, Mr Dandridge?" Credence asks. He sounds anxious, and maybe a little hopeful.

Percy sees no point in lying. "Because you're beautiful, Credence."

Credence starts to cough on a few crumbs, his eyes wide and watering. He stares at Percy in disbelief. "I'm not!"

"Oh, but you are." Percy reaches out and winds a strand of glossy black hair around his index finger. "Did your dreadful foster mother tell you otherwise? Don't listen to her." When Credence opens his mouth as if to protest, he explains, "People like her enjoy making you feel bad about yourself. Don't give her the satisfaction."

"You shouldn't—" Credence's voice is trembling.

Percy doesn't think it's with anger at him for putting down the dragon. "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." When Credence gapes at him, he smiles. "Isn't that in the bible?"

"Yes, but—"

"Then it seems to me you richly deserve the kingdom of heaven."

"Ma..." Credence hangs his head, sighing.

Percy lets him gather his thoughts, but no defence is forthcoming. He figures it's not easy to turn around years of conditioning, but he's not above using the woman's own weapons against her. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Credence meets his eyes. "Are you... a Christian, Mr Dandridge?" He's confused.

Percy doesn't blame him. He grins. "Afraid not. I'm a heathen through and through, Credence. I've just been around so long, I got bored enough even to read your Bible."

"What do you mean, sir? You're not... not old."

Percy chuckles. "I'm a lot older than I look." He reaches for the paper Credence has placed on the sofa between them: it's all about the evils of sinning and the need to set sinners on the path of righteousness. He grins. "Did you come over tonight to set me on the path of righteousness?"

"Y-yes?" Credence murmurs softly, then reasons feebly, "You admitted you're a sinner."

"Mmm." Percy smiles at him. "There's just one problem. Two, actually." He scrunches up and throws aside the flyer, then he takes the nearly empty sandwich plate from Credence's hands and puts it down on the coffee table.

Credence's eyes follow the two objects as if seeking distraction from whatever is about to happen next.

"I quite like the path of sin, though I'd love some charming company to walk it with me."

A plush lip is drawn between white teeth. Credence is still avoiding his eyes, but his heart is pounding audibly. "What's the other problem?"

Percy lifts his chin with two cool fingers. He feels the boy shiver, but he doesn't withdraw. "You are, Credence." He looks over the blushing face, the darkening eyes, the trembling lips, and he knows he's never been more tempted in his irritatingly long existence. His voice drops, low and rough, when he explains, "You can't tell a guy to starve himself while you're putting a feast in front of him."

"Mr Dandridge..." Credence breathes, the scent of his fear now well and truly overpowered by the scent of his excitement.

"Percy will do, baby, but if you want to be formal with me, that's kind of cute too."

"You... you shouldn't..." Credence isn't getting anywhere with his protesting.

Percy figures he knows why. "Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."

"You shouldn't..." Credence tries again, gets a little further this time, "... quote the Bible, if... if you don't mean it."

Percy laughs huskily, his cool breath on the upturned face making the boy's eyes drift closed for a moment. "I mean every word, Credence. Since you moved in, there's one quote in particular that I can't get out of my mind."

"What's that?" Credence whispers, despite himself.

"Love thy neighbour as thyself." Percy's free hand settles on Credence's knee, sliding up and down his thigh a little. "How do you feel about that one, hmm, baby?"

Credence is trembling, his thigh muscles clenching and unclenching under Percy's hand. "It's considered one of the most important phrases in the bible," Credence admits.

"There you go then." Percy grins. "Your big book is practically telling you to let me have my wicked way with you."

Credence's eyes go comically wide. "I'm sure that's not—" He doesn't get to finish.

Percy has run out of self-restraint. His hand has abandoned Credence's chin to hold his nape, firmly, and he kisses him with a ferociousness he usually reserves for a final feeding. He's dizzy with the way the boy's scent intensifies and his blood starts thundering through his veins.

Credence's arms are uselessly at his side, fingers of one hand clenching a sofa cushion between them while the other just dangles alongside him. He doesn't fight Percy off, he just lets himself be pressed into the sofa back, a moan rising up from deep inside him when Percy pushes his knees apart to surge up and place his left knee between them, looming over Credence, not letting go off his mouth until he whimpers.

Then he looks down at him, groans at the way he's licking his bruised-looking lips. "I'm going to feast on you, Credence, I hope you realise."

"I... how..."

Percy smirks. He remains where he is, reaching down to undo the boy's belt and trousers. "Want to try and guess?"

Credence blushes, shaking his head frantically.

Percy laughs. In a moment, he's on his knees between the long legs. He slips off Credence's shoes and socks, then yanks the too short trousers and worn underwear down over Credence's hips and right off him.

Credence startles, clearly not having expected to end up as naked as all that so quickly, both hands now gripping velour as if it's somehow going to anchor him through what's to come.

"Look at you," Percy growls, taking a few moments to appreciate every inch of creamy pale skin from Credence's belly and hips to his long, narrow feet.

Credence whimpers. His flush covers his whole face, and he looks on the verge of tears.

"Hey, you okay, baby?" Percy leans near, cups his face with one hand and strokes his hair with the other.

"You... you're looking at me," Credence mutters, trying to avert his eyes.

Percy won't have it, keeping his gaze dead centre. "I sure am. Didn't I tell you you're beautiful? Hmm?" He kisses a pink cheek, the sharp edge of the boy's jaw on the other side of his face, his brow, then his mouth as briefly as he can without getting carried away.

"You did. I just... didn't think you meant it."

Percy looks him straight in the eyes. "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee."

Credence blushes deeply, easily recognising it from the most scandalous part of the bible, but does his best to keep eye contact.

Percy unclenches one of the long-fingered hands from his sofa and brings it down, moulding it over his rock-hard cock, which is putting a strain even on his loose sweatpants. "Feel that?"

Credence gasps, nods hesitantly.

"That didn't happen because I get turned on by bible verses, you know."

A little bubbling laugh escapes Credence's mouth, and Percy has to kiss him again for that.

"You're so damn cute, you know that?" Percy whispers against his lips. He cuts off any possible denial with another kiss and, this time, the boy responds. He doesn't know what he's doing, but when given a tongue to suck on, he sucks it, and Percy groans, pulling him closer, to the edge of the sofa, before reluctantly releasing the sweet lips and kneeling down again, eyes on the boy's.

Credence blushes furiously. "Are you going to..."

"Oh yeah." Percy gives him a one-sided smirk and spreads his legs wide, then leans down and presses cool kisses to the firm, smooth skin of Credence's inner thighs. His scent is intense there, dizzyingly so, and Percy hopes he won't scare him with the animal grunts he can't quite suppress. Judging by the state of the impressive cock he brushes his knuckles against, he thinks there's not much danger.

Credence is whimpering each time they touch the underside of his cock and, by the time Percy finally closes his hand around it, he's seconds away from coming, legs tensing up and breath held.

"Want me to slow down or let you come?" Percy asks.

"Please, let me..." Credence bites his lip.

"You got it, sweet thing." Percy wraps his fingers around him and strokes him—firm, tight strokes, slick from the way the boy is steadily dripping already. Credence is squirming and moaning under his touch. "So pretty," he encourages. "Go on, let me see you spill all over yourself."

"Mr Dandridge," Credence whines, probably embarrassed at the way Percy is talking.

Percy only smiles. "I bet you've just been bursting to come, baby, for a long time. Probably been told it's sinful. But I'm going to make you." He slows his strokes briefly, but tightens his hand. "Not just once, but over and over." He speeds up again.

Credence moans, one hand still gripping the seat cushion, the other reaching up and back, holding the top of the backrest, and he comes almost violently, long spurts as high up as his tie, dripping down his shirt and raining down on his thighs.

Percy doesn't stop stroking until he's nearly completely soft and whimpering. Only then does he slowly let go of the slippery, limp cock, laying it down against Credence's thigh while he starts to clean him up with his tongue.

"No, you... you shouldn't." Credence is squirming again, this time because he's oversensitive and embarrassed.

"It's only polite," Percy tells him, his tongue making quick work of every trace of semen clinging to warm skin. "Besides, you taste..." he smiles "...divine."

The boy is blushing again, having no idea how that subtle rush of blood just below the surface of his pale skin affects Percy. He drops his eyes and gasps in horror. "Oh no!"

Percy takes in the mess that is Credence's tie and shirt and tilts his head. "Ah. I didn't think about that."

"Ma will kill me!" Credence declares.

Percy frowns up at him and, judging by the way his fear completely eclipses every other nuance of his scent, he's being serious. "Wait here, just a moment."

Credence nods, hyperventilating while Percy hurries upstairs, thinking about the boy's disturbing statement, and returns with a short blue bath robe. He holds it open. "Strip, and put this on, and I'll throw your clothes in the wash."

Credence stumbles to his feet, quickly undoing his tie. He sets it aside, clean side down, and starts unbuttoning his shirt from the top, then stops and chews his lip.

"I'll close my eyes," Percy says, humouring him.

Credence removes his last item of clothing and quickly slips into the bath robe, then lets himself be turned around while Percy ties the belt. "Thank you, Mr Dandridge."

"I wonder what I'll have to do to you before you call me Percy." Percy doesn't wait for an answer. He smiles and takes the shirt and tie into the laundry. He quickly rinses down the tie and hangs it over a coat hanger, then he throws the shirt into the machine on the quick cycle.