The day was cold, a brisk wind rustling the coats and snatching at the hats of the people crowding the streets of New York. Credence shivered, shoving his hands deeper into the pockets of his threadbare overcoat. He could barely uncurl his fingers from the fists they’d clenched into, stiff with cold and bruising.
He had taken another beating that morning, hard across the tender skin of his palms. It still stung. He lowered his head, and tried to blame the harsh wind across his face for the tears that burned in his eyes.
Graves strode the streets with the confidence his position deserved, the open bottom of his greatcoat blowing out behind him. His mind was empty of greater thoughts, stewing over a mire of the day’s petty concerns. It surprised him, sometimes, how invested he had become in the work he did here. He had no reason to care, not really. Percival Graves might have had reason to care, but the man who wore his face? Not so much. And yet, he did. Bleeding heart, he thought, self-scolding. Always have been.
He felt Credence’s presence before he looked up to see him. It wasn’t that he was looking into the boy’s mind, not on purpose at least. But a familiar mind, one he’d skimmed enough times before, would always have colour to him. Credence’s mind was a muted sort of goldenrod. A warm colour, that could have been burnished brighter, but had not yet been. It had been hidden, instead, shoved away and left to tarnish. It suited him. Poor lost boy, bright and beautiful beneath the layers of neglect.
Graves turned to cross the street towards him. Nobody would hit him, he needn’t even stop to look.
Credence was looking at the ground. Graves was within a hand’s reach of hum, and he still had not noticed the older man.
“Credence.” Graves spoke, low and quiet.
Even at that tone, Credence startled, scrambling backwards and inhaling sharply.
Graves smiled at him, broadly, reaching his eyes. “It’s alright, Credence. It’s just me.”
“Mr Graves!” There was still shock on his face, but a tentative kind of joy on it too. “I’m sorry, I would have contacted you if I had found anything, but I haven’t, I’ve been looking, I promise...” he startled to ramble, his hands visibly shaking.
“It’s alright.” Graves said again. “I didn’t come to ask about that.”
“Then...” Credence hesitated, clearly wanting to ask then why, but fearing to seem rude.
“I saw you as I was passing. You look cold.”
Credence looked up at him with a kind of pathetical gratefulness for his having even noticed.
Graves bestowed upon him another gentle, smiling look. “Walk with me.”
Credence scrambled after him, stumbling over his own feet, too awkward for his height, as he ever was.
They walked a moment in silence, Graves turning them away from the main thoroughfares and onto backstreets Credence would have avoided on his own, before Graves spoke. “Coffee?”
“Oh, yes, sir. Yes, please.”
“Come to my apartment.”
“Your...?” Credence’s eyes were wide, almost disbelieving.
“We’re almost there.” It wasn’t true, not technically, but he grabbed Credence’s arm and shifted them to an almost half a block away from his door.
Credence doubled up, clutching at and holding his stomach, hacking and coughing in dizzy nausea. Graves put out a hand to rub his back.
“Was that... was that magic?”
“Yes. You’ll get used to it, just give it time.”
Credence looked back at him in doubt that he ever would, but Graves was no longer looking at him. He was focused instead on unlocking a heavy wooden door to the tall brownstone in front of them. Not the obviously visible lock, however, but one that, seemingly, only he could see. Through his nausea, Credence wondered how it was that he hadn’t even noticed the door before. It wasn’t the front door, but one down a few steps.
The door now open, Graves ushered Credence into a golden-lit corridor filled with bronze fittings and polished wood. Credence paused for a moment, letting the blessed warmth and the rich luxury of his surroundings both soak over him.
He was tired, he realized then, achingly tired, right down to the bone. No wonder, having slept terribly for the past several nights. A windowpane in his attic window had cracked, likely from expanding and shrinking in the changing weather, but Mary-Lou blamed him, of course, and refused to fix it, or patch it, or even give him another blanket to block out some of the cold that crept in in whistling gusts.
He was shaking, his fingers slipping when he tried to unbutton his overcoat, and he didn’t notice, but Graves did.
“My dear boy.” He took Credence in his arms, now in the privacy of his own living room, and held him close. “Has that woman hurt you again?”
Credence thought about lying, but he decided there wasn’t any point. “She beat me this morning.”
“On your hands?”
“Let me see.”
Credence held out his hands, showing the dark-red bruise-cuts that criss-crossed his pale palms.
Graves lifted Credence’s hands and made a despairing noise. “My poor boy.” He pressed his lips to Credence’s palm, and relief washed over Credence, the pain vanishing in a warm glow.
Credence looked up at Graves when the older man pulled away, hoping for a kiss. And he got his wish. A soft press of lips, at first, then deepening, licking into each other’s mouths, tongues tangling. Graves’s hands held firm against the small of his back, pulling Credence snug against him. One of them came loose, wandering Credence’s back, stroking at his warm skin through the worn-thin fabric of his shirt.
Credence nestled against him, so close they might be one being, making contented sounds in the back of his throat. “Mr Graves...” he breathed out.
“Yes?” He drew back a little, a sardonic arch to his eyebrow that made Credence feel a squirmy heat in the core of himself.
“May I touch you, Mr Graves?”
“You are touching me, my dear.”
“You know what I mean!” Some boldness seized Credence in this private moment, his cheeks flushing pink.
“No, I don’t think I do. Perhaps you ought to tell me?”
Credence whined despairingly. “Please, sir...”
“Now, now, Credence. You know I like it when you use your words.”
Credence turned even more pink, and bit at his lip, and his voice was a whisper when he spoke again. “I want to make you feel good, Mr Graves. I’ll use my mouth on you, please let me.”
Graves smiled, indulgent now, and sat himself on a green velvet loveseat, his legs spread wide. “Well, go on, then.” He said, magnanimously, as if granting a great favour.
Credence hurried to kneel in front of him, unbuttoning Graves’s fly with great care, and taking his half-hard cock.
Graves settled back to enjoy himself as Credence mouthed cautiously as the head of his cock. It wasn’t the boy’s first time at this, not for several months, but he still seemed so clumsy and cautious. It was charming, to be honest.
The thoughts melted away when Credence took him deeper into his throat. His hand drifted down to tangle in the younger man’s silky dark hair, petting and soothing. “That’s it. You’re getting good at this.”
He didn’t last long. It had been a stressful day. He came down Credence’s throat, and the boy, to his pleasure, swallowed like Graves had taught him.
Credence fell forward then, laying his head on Graves’s thigh, his heavy eyes fluttering close.
“Sleepy, are you?”
He nodded, fingers curling into Graves’s trouser leg.
“Then come up on the couch and lay down with me. I’ll wake you in time for you to leave.”