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i. little words all spelling out desire

Chas had almost fallen asleep, despite the anxious pounding of his heart, when the door creaked open.

“The monkey’s dead,” John said, from the doorway. “Drowned.”

Chas felt his heart kick and squeeze like something sickly. He sat up, breath trickling out of his throat in something close to a whine.

John, his silhouette defined by his long coat and his flounce of hair, was haloed by the hallway light, wearing a manic, heretic’s smile.

Chas slid his legs out of bed. John walked over to him, dropping his coat as he went, and settled onto his lap.

Unhurriedly, they kissed. John’s cold hands slipped up under Chas’ shirt.

“It’ll be a few days,” John said, nuzzling into the crook of Chas’ neck. “You should probably stay out of the house… she’ll be in a foul mood.”

Chas wrapped his arms around John. He couldn’t find his voice to thank him. The intent was there, but the shock made his jaw tremble, past the point of words.

John looked like a wild thing there in his lap, his eyes glinting, teeth bared. “Going to make it up to me?”

Chas blinked. They’d been something approaching ‘together’ for longer than was probably advisable, given who they shared the house with, and how long they’d known for each other, but they hadn’t found time for this yet.

Blindsided, captivated by the light in John’s eyes, Chas kissed him.

John twisted one hand into the hair at the nape of Chas’ neck and kissed him back, hungry for it, almost violent. He pushed Chas back onto the bed, crawling on top of him.

Impatiently, Chas rolled him over. John huffed out a startled breath, but didn’t object.

“You want to?” John asked, his mouth a breath away from Chas’ jaw. His hair was splayed across the pillow like a girl’s, but it was a boy’s face, under the blonde locks of it.

Chas nodded. “Yeah, I do,” he said, and kissed him again. He put a hand up John’s shirt, feeling the warmth of skin under his palm. With his other hand, he went for the fly of John’s trousers. 

John gasped aloud when Chas dragged his trousers—and his pants along with them—halfway down his thighs. “I thought you hadn’t done this before.”

“I bet I can figure it out,” Chas said, intent on his task, intoxicated by the pleasure of it, the disarming closeness. He touched John again, slow and curious. “Can’t be harder than gettin’ a girl off. Or wanking, now I think of it.”

John laughed, bright and fast, and dragged Chas into a kiss. He tasted of cigarette smoke, bitterly sweet.

Chas got one arm around John’s waist and the other between his thighs. He seemed much smaller, up close and without his coat—the underfed kind of skinny, light enough that Chas could manhandle him.

John mewled when Chas touched him, babbling between reedy gasps for air, “Chas, come on, Chas…”

Chas took hold of John’s hips and pressed him down on the bed, rising to his knees. A flush was crawling across John’s skin in patches, and he’d broken out in a sweat.

He was beautiful.

Chas bent his head to kiss him, and John groaned into it, squirming. “Oh come on, Chas, please, you’ll fucking kill me.”

“Impatient,” Chas scolded, pinning John by the shoulders and crawling down the length of his body. Slowly, reverently, he took John into his mouth.

John wound his legs around Chas’ shoulders, heels digging in between his shoulderblades, pulling him closer.

Chas choked slightly, pulled back, and tried again. John groaned, low and sweet.

“Chas, m’gonna, Chas…

Not optimistic about his ability to handle that, Chas pulled off with a pop . “That’s my name, don’t wear it out.”

John’s back arched, like he was in physical pain. He may as well have been, with the sounds he was making. “You fuckin’ tease, don’t you fuckin’ dare.

Chas reached out and stroked him, carefully. John whined, squirmed, and came in his hand.

Chas leaned over to the nightstand, grabbed the tissue box, and cleaned himself up.

John was panting, staring at the ceiling. “Bloody great ‘thank you’ that was,” he wheezed. “Light me a fag?”

Chas picked up John’s coat from the floor, found the packet of Silk Cut and a lighter, and lit him one.

When Chas handed the cigarette over, John sat up, leaning in and kissing Chas between drags. He reached down between them, stroking Chas back to hardness and wanking him off with one shaking hand.

When Chas was gasping, John handed him his cigarette and bowed over his lap, sucking him off with the ease of practice.

It sent a thrill through Chas’ chest, to know that John had done this before.

John swallowed when Chas came. He sputtered and coughed, struggling to keep his mouth shut, but managed to swallow most of it.

Dizzied, fighting for breath, Chas blinked himself back to composure while John wiped his mouth and beamed , clearly pleased with himself.

Chas took a drag on the cigarette, then took it from his mouth and held it up to John’s.

John, not breaking eye contact, inhaled until the cigarette glowed, and blew a smoke ring into Chas’ face.

Chas coughed a laugh. “Show-off.”

John smirked, and stubbed the cigarette out on the bedside table, seeming to forget there wasn’t an ashtray there.

Chas didn’t care. He framed John’s face with his hands and kissed him, as soon as the cigarette was gone. John kissed back for a moment, then laid down, his head half on Chas’ pillow and half off, one arm hanging from the edge of the bed.

Chas felt a swell of affection is his chest, flaring up high enough to scorch the back of his throat, lying down beside John and draping an arm over him.

Chas closed his eyes, just for a moment, to catch his breath. When he blinked his eyes open again, the other side of the bed was cold, and John was gone. 

Chas tried not to shudder at the loss of him.

 

ii. A forest, then. Beautiful trees.

Chas aimed a solid kick at the van. His steel-toed boots made a satisfying clunk , scraped off a bit of paint, and utterly failed to start it up again. The headlights were still on, cutting bright streaks into the dark trees, but it wouldn’t start.

“Bollocks!” he declared. “Right bollocks.”

John’s head, half-shaved and ornamented with a lit cigarette, appeared out of the window. “Whatsit?”

“Bloody van stopped running. Gotta jump-start it.”

“With what?” John scoffed, handing the cigarette to Chas and lighting himself another one. “It’s three in the soddin’ mornin’, mate. Not gonna flag down ‘elp at this bloody hour.”

John’s head disappeared back into the van, then reappeared. “Beano and Gaz’re asleep. Lucky sods.”

Chas took a drag of his cigarette, watching as John, rather than open the door, crawled out through the window, dropping into the grass with a thud. His cigarette went flying.

“You know you can…” Chas coughed. “You know the handle’s only broken on the outside, yeah? You can open it from the inside.”

John lit himself another cigarette. “Yeah, well, more fun like this.”

“Mhm. You going to get up?”

John let his head fall back. The dusky headlights cast a glow across his face and reflected off the studs of his jacket. 

He sort of looked like an angel, if angels wore torn-up punk band t-shirts held together with safety pins, oversized hand-me-down leather jackets, black skinny jeans, a studded belt, and smoked cigarettes.

So not much like an angel.

He was pretty, though. The unshaved side of his hair flopped over the left side of his face, catching the light like some sort of product-sticky halo.

“You want one?” John asked, gesturing with the cigarette, then gave Chas a more scrutinizing look. “Or…?”

“We’re on the side of the bloody motorway at three in mornin’ with two bandmates asleep in the van. This really the best time?” Chas asked, advancing on John, a smirk curling across his face.

John stubbed out his cigarette and sat up. “I mean, you’d get to say you buggered Johnny Con-Job—”

“No one calls you that,” Chas said, shrugging off his brown leather jacket and tossing it into the grass.

“Punks call me that.” John’s hands went to his jacket, but Chas grabbed his wrists.

“Keep it on,” Chas told him, “and get on your hands and knees.” 

John made a low sound in his throat. “When I said buggered, mate, I didn’t think you were really going to go for it—”

Chas pulled a condom out of his wallet. “Do you not want me to?”

John turned over, and got to his hands and knees. “Oh no, I do. Just didn’t expect it.”

Chas covered John’s mouth, then pressed two fingers between his lips. “Take off your belt.”

John sucked on Chas’ fingers, fumbling at his belt buckle for long enough that Chas growled at him to hurry up, before it finally slipped free.

“Trousers off.”

“Yesh—ack.” John pulled his mouth off of Chas’ fingers. “Yes, Daddy.

Chas smacked him. Not hard, just a tap against his thigh. John startled anyway. “Less lip, John. More stripping.”

John couldn’t get his trousers down fast enough. He was wearing knickers. Black lace knickers.

Chas felt the rest of his blood abandon his brain and head southward.

He dragged the panties down and pressed at John’s entrance with one spit-slicked finger.

“Wait,” John practically squeaked. “I’ve got lube, Chas.”

Chas waited, patiently, with one hand gripping John’s hip tight enough to bruise, while John found the lube in the inside pocket of his discarded jacket, handing it back to Chas.

“You can bugger me now, Chas,” John said, unhelpfully, as Chas prepped him with one finger. “Bit of a slut, me. I c’n take it.”

“You talk too much,” Chas told him, taking his free hand off of John’s hip and lifting it to his mouth. “I like you better sucking on my fingers.”

John groaned, low and needy, sucking Chas’ fingers into his mouth. Chas had discovered John’s thing for humiliation accidentally, and he hadn’t let John hear the end of it since.

Chas pushed his second finger into John, sliding them in and out, scissoring them carefully until John cried out around his fingers.

John had a thing for pain, too, but Chas never quite felt right, hurting him. There was too much pain in him already.

Chas kept up his slow preparations until John was squirming, inhaling through his nose and gasping sloppily around Chas’ fingers.

As best as he could one-handed, Chas rolled the condom on, steadied himself, and pushed in.

If Chas didn’t have him practically gagged, John would have yowled. As it were, he whined loud enough that Chas winced, hoping that Beano and Gaz wouldn’t wake up.

It wasn’t that it would be hard to explain—they’d just never let them live it down. 

Chas waited, listening for a disturbance, but there was nothing but John’s panting breaths and a few crickets.

“Geh o’ wif i’,” John mumbled.

Chas gripped John’s hip to steady himself, and got on with it.

John sucked hard on Chas’ fingers, whimpering as he was fucked. He was so small in Chas’ grip, skinny and squirming, t-shirt hanging from his frame.

“John?” Chas asked, breathing harshly. “You all right?”

John nodded. “Y-yuh, jush… auhh , tuh, touch me.”

Chas pulled John up, flush against his chest, so he could drive his hips against his and get a hand around his cock, and still keep John’s oral fixation satisfied.

Chas had learned that in a porn mag, oral fixation. It explained the cigarettes. And the blowjobs.

John cried out when he came, throwing himself so far forward that he choked on Chas’ fingers and gagged. Chas pulled his fingers out and got both arms around John, fucking him through his aftershocks and Chas’ own orgasm.

Chas laid down in the cool grass, squinting into the headlights. John squirmed out of his arms, looking for his jacket. A cigarette, probably.

To Chas’ surprise, John stood up. He wobbled slightly, like something newly-born, but stayed upright, slipping on his jacket and looking around for his trousers. 

John’s knickers—Christ, Chas hadn’t known either of them were into that—were still down around his thighs. He hitched them up, slipped his jeans on, and picked up his belt.

Fly still unbuttoned, cigarette in hand, John turned. “Going to lie down there?”

“I might,” Chas said, but he didn’t. He sat up, peeled off the condom, and watched John walk away.

 

iii. I talk to you as if you’re / really there

Chas stared at John across the table.

They were crammed into a diner booth, knees knocking under the table, nursing mugs of lukewarm tea.

John had changed since the last time he’d been out of Ravenscar. He had stubble, for one thing, when Chas hadn’t seen him with more than peach fuzz before.

He’d filled out, too, and traded the woolen sweater of Chas’ that he’d worn in Ravenscar for a full-length beige trenchcoat that practically swamped him.

He still looked like a man bound for the gallows. It was something in his eyes.

“Six months?” Chas ventured, when the silence became oppressive.

“Eh?” John asked.

“Been six months since you were last out, and you seem… better.”

John gave Chas a frightening sort of smile—wide eyes and bared teeth, like something wild. It had drawn Chas in, when he and John were young, but now it unnerved him. That wasn’t a look you wanted to see on a grown man’s face. That was how the Joker looked.

“I got meself together,” John said, absently turning his mug in circles. “I ‘ad to.”

 His accent wasn’t any different. Chas could find John in a crowd in the dark by the sound of his Scouse. He’d done it before. If anything, it was more pronounced, like it had been when he first hit London, rather than the papered-over version he’d taken to using, so he wasn’t completely incomprehensible.

“Right.” Chas wanted to reach across the table and grasp his hands, cup his face and kiss him.

But he couldn’t do that. Not anymore.

“So, whatever ‘appened with you and that bird? Rachel?”

Chas winced internally, but tried to keep his face blank. “Renee.”

“What’s that look for?” John asked, because apparently he was perceptive , now. Or he’d always been, and he was tired of pretending.

“I uh, knocked her up.”

John’s hands stilled. “That so.”

Damn him.

“You were gone,” Chas said, quietly, more to keep his voice steady than to keep from being overheard. No one important was listening. “You were gone, and I didn’t have anywhere to bloody go, except the one person I’d ever gotten along with that wasn’t a no-good punk or on the run after what you did.”

That was too harsh, and Chas knew it. John winced, almost in slow motion, but Chas plowed onward. “We slept together, so bloody sue me. She got pregnant, and I’ll have to bleedin’ marry her now.”

John took a few pound notes out of his coat pocket and set them on the table. “You aren’t married now, are youse?”

Youse. Scousey fucking bastard.

“No. Not yet.”

“Then I don’t have to feel bad about this,” John said, and surged across the table, taking Chas’ face between his hands and kissing him.

One of their mugs spilled. Someone gasped. Something across the diner shattered.

Chas pried John off of him and shoved him out of the booth. “Sorry. Bloody hell, sorry.”

Shuddering with an emotion he couldn’t name, Chas dragged John by one sleeve out of the diner.

“You’re a manipulative bloody twat , you know that?” Chas said, slamming John against the side of his cab.

John blinked. He reached into his pocket, probably for a cigarette, and Chas pinned his wrists down.

“I can’t stand you sometimes,” Chas growled. He let go of John’s wrists.

When he cupped John’s cheek, John leaned into his hand. When he kissed him, John groaned, like he was hurting.

Chas was hurting. There was a knot in his chest, right where John would lay his head, after they’d both come but before John left.

“You fuckin’ left me,” Chas hissed, cradling John’s face in both hands. “I woke up and you were gone. I thought you were dead. I thought you’d bleedin’ topped yourself.”

John, for once smart enough not to speak, shut his eyes and leaned into Chas’ hands.

“It took me days to find out what happened, and by then they wouldn’t let me see you.” Chas’ voice broke. “You were gone. So yeah , I went and found myself a warm fuckin’ bed, you self-righteous tosser.

John blinked at him, slowly.

Chas hated him. He hated him so much his chest hurt and his eyes stung and he felt like a kid again, at his mother’s funeral, in the venue bathroom, with one of John’s hands down the front of his jeans, laughing and crying at once.

“Get in the cab,” Chas said, shoving John hard against the door. “Get in the fucking cab.”

John obeyed. Chas had to catch his breath for a moment, before he followed suit.

The inside of the cab smelled like cigarettes, just from John’s presence. Chas peeled away from the curb too fast, before John had his seatbelt on.

“Chas,” John said, when Chas hit the brake so hard that the cab shook. “Chas, mate.”

Chas hit his turn signal, and pulled into the parking lot of a condemned butcher’s shop. Fitting, that.

John rolled down his window and flicked his cigarette out. Chas hadn’t even noticed him lighting it. “You want something from me?”

Chas took a deep breath, turned to John, and kissed him, deep and slow. “I’m not married yet, am I?”

John gave Chas that Joker smirk and leaned in, reaching for him.

There was no subtlety to it. Tenderness, of course, because this was John, and Chas could hate him and he’d still find himself being gentle.

But it was quick, and messy, and unsubtle. John folded over into Chas’ lap and sucked him off, fast and desperate. Chas, not the biggest believer in off-the-cuff blowjobs, wanked him to completion, buttoned them both back up, and reversed back out of the parking lot.

John lit a cigarette, and didn’t say a damn thing.

 

iv. forgiven, even though we didn’t deserve it.

“Are you going to come home?” Renee asked, as Chas was putting on his coat.

It wasn’t a genuine question, it was a jab. About the drinking, about the working late. About John, because everything had to be about John.

Usually, Chas let it go. Gave her some meaningless, reassuring answer and just headed out. There were more important things to worry about than what Renee thought he was doing with his nights.

They’d never spent nights together. Chas didn’t know why she thought they should start bothering with it now, after Chas came out.

“Maybe I won’t,” he said, the words out of his mouth before he could regret them. “Might stay out all night.”

“Where’ll you sleep?” Renee shot back, lighting a cigarette. She’d started smoking again, once Geraldine had grown up a little. Chas wasn’t sure if he should blame himself for it or not.

“Somewhere I’m welcome,” Chas replied, too harshly.

There was a weighted pause.

“Sorry,” Chas muttered.

“‘It’s not you, it’s me’?” Renee asked, dryly.

Chas didn’t look at her. “You know how it is, Renee. It really isn’t you.”

Renee took a drag on her cigarette, and seemed to decide something. “You don’t have to come home if you don’t want, Chas.”

“I’ll come home,” Chas replied, and shut the door between them.

They might not have been a very good married couple, but they had the language of one.

Chas started the cab, and wondered what he could do with his newly-granted permission. 

He could find someone, he supposed. There was a new gay bar in Soho. John had been, he said it was all right.

John. There was an idea. It had been a while since he’d seen him. He’d been down again, recently—caught up in something he wouldn’t talk to Chas about.

They could probably both use a night in.

John was just in his jeans, when he opened the door of his flat. He didn’t even have an undershirt on, and Chas was struck for a moment by the sheer number of scars John had.

There were the cigarette burns, of course. Spattered across his arms and chest. One right under his jaw. Perfect circles, telling a far-from-perfect story.

Chas didn’t know the stories of most of John’s scars. John didn’t talk to him, much. He let Chas patch him up, but he kept quiet, except for the whining.

“Got the go-ahead from the missus,” Chas said, scratching the back of his neck. “She’s been good, about the, eh, gay thing.”

“Good for her,” John said. He was smiling, concerningly cheerful. “What’s it you want, then?”

Chas kissed him, as slowly and patiently as he could bear.

John wrapped his arms around Chas’ waist and kissed him back, while Chas backed him into the flat and kicked the door shut.

“Missed seeing you,” Chas muttered, fumbling with John’s belt.

“You could’ve called, mate.” John unbuttoned his fly once his belt was out of the way, sitting down on the arm of the couch to kick his jeans off.

“How, exactly?” Chas got one arm under John’s thighs and picked him up, sitting down on the couch with John on his lap. “You broke the phone.”

He gestured, with the hand he didn’t have on John’s hardening cock, at the blackened hunk of plastic that had previously been the flat’s phone.

“Demon broke my phone,” John grumbled, then moaned and Chas squeezed his cock.

“Right,” Chas muttered, letting the conversation drop, resting his free hand in John’s hair and running his fingers through it.

 John squirmed, working himself back and forth in Chas’ hand, and rubbing against Chas’ cock in the process.

Chas bit back a groan, lifting John off his lap and tossing him onto the couch, kneeling over him.

“Gonna fuck me?” John asked, grinning up at Chas.

“Nah,” Chas replied, taking John in hand again. “Gonna blow you.”

John’s disappointed scowl melted. “Thought you weren’t much for that kind of a mouthful, Chas.”

Chas rested his hands on John’s hips, pinning him down so that he couldn’t buck up into Chas’ mouth. Cruel, maybe, but it was better than accidentally choking on him. “I figured you deserved a treat.”

John whined. Chas smirked at him. He couldn’t always find that sweet spot of John’s—no pun intended—between the condescension that John could get off on and outright humiliation, which didn’t work for either of them.

Which made it all the more rewarding when he could .

“Give me my treat, then, Daddy, ” John said.

There it was.

Chas bent down, arranging himself so that he wouldn’t get a crick in his neck, and took the tip of John’s cock into his mouth.

John made a sound in the back of his throat like he was about to cry, and Chas took him deeper. He ran his tongue up and down John’s shaft, breathing slowly through his nose to avoid his gag reflex.

Slowly, Chas started to move. John squeaked, hands flailing at his sides, hips jolting against Chas’ grip.

Chas paused to let John catch his breath, and laughed around John’s cock at the annoyed whine he got in response. Time to get going, then.

As Chas sucked him off, John’s whimpers built in pitch, until his voice broke, and he just gasped, muttering Chas’ name.

Chas pulled off before John came and looked up. He thought John might have started crying, from the sounds he was making, but he was just breathing hard, staring at Chas with some undefinable emotion in his eyes.

God. He made Chas’ chest hurt.

“Gonna let me come in your mouth, Daddy?” John whinged, panting.

What the hell, Chas thought, taking John into his mouth again. He closed his hand around the base of John’s cock, and John came.

Chas swallowed. The taste of it hit the back of his throat, and he almost choked, but he managed to get the majority of it down.

As John caught his breath, Chas rolled onto his side, palming himself with a hoarse groan. “Christ, John.”

John stood up, smirking. “Let me get you some water,” he offered, “and I’ll see if I can make it up to you.”

 

v. This doesn’t look that much different from home

They were in a hotel room in the States, lying together on one of the hotel beds, half-naked and entangled. It was raining.

John didn’t need Chas there, especially since he couldn’t drive in the States, but he had asked, so Chas had come. 

Chas had agreed, in all honesty, because he didn’t want to be home, with Renee’s not quite cold shoulder, and Geraldine’s awful boyfriend, and the rain.

“What was the point of leaving London if it was going to rain anyway?” Chas muttered.

“I go where the trouble is,” John replied, rolling onto his side and dragging his hand down Chas’ stomach. “Trouble’s here.”

“What kind of trouble?” Chas nosed into John’s neck. “Demon trouble?”

John slid his hand into Chas’ boxers. “Not quite.”

Chas moaned softly, cupping John’s face and pulling him into a kiss. Groping wasn’t a very mature way of avoiding questions, but Chas was willing to permit a little evasion if he got an orgasm out of it.

It wasn’t like John needed his help. He just liked having him around sometimes.

It was probably for the sex.

Chas pulled John into his arms, letting him settle on top. He tucked his arms behind his head, watching John tug off his boxers and the blue satin knickers underneath, scrambling in his urgency.

“You don’t mind doing the work?” Chas asked, pulling down his own boxers and taking himself in hand.

“Love when you make me work for it, daddy,” John panted, getting a condom and a travel-size bottle of lube out of his kit.

Chas had to chuckle. “Are you actually into that, or do you just say it to mock me?”

John grinned sheepishly, handing Chas the condom. “I’ll let you know when I find out, mate.”

Chas looked down to open the condom and roll it on, and looked up just in time to watch John slip one lubed finger into himself.

He was fucking beautiful. 

Chas stared, unabashedly, as John prepared himself. One finger, at first, getting used to the sensation, his face screwing up and relaxing.

Then two fingers, thrusting in and out, then scissoring, then three—

John sank down onto Chas’ cock. He took it slowly, groaning at the stretch of it, chewing on his lip. Bracing himself on his elbows and knees, John slid himself down, until he was settled in Chas’ lap, panting.

Chas sat up. He could have let John do it all himself—he’d get Chas off quick as anything, and himself off on the servitude, but Chas wanted his arms around him.

John smirked at the change in plan, opening his mouth to make some kind of comment, probably about how needy Chas was, so Chas bounced him on his lap, and John moaned, whatever he’d been about to say forgotten.

Chas bounced him again, huffing out a breath at the spike of sensation. John leaned forward, and his cock brushed against Chas’ stomach.

This always felt violent, rather than tender. It should have been more intimate than from behind, but the closeness seemed crushing, born out of neediness rather than care.

John seemed to like it, though.

Chas caught John’s parted lips in a kiss, resting one hand on the back of John’s neck, squeezing just slightly. John squirmed against his chest, whimpered, and started to move.

Chest abruptly heaving with the sensation, Chas closed his free hand around John’s cock, just to hear him cry out.

“So fuckin’ good t’me,” John panted, bracing himself on Chas’ shoulders to bounce on his lap. “So good, Chas, ‘s more’n I deserve, y’r too good to me...”

Chas shushed him, pressing a kiss to the side of his neck, grinding upwards against him.

“Thought I was doing the work,” John teased, not seeming too bothered.

“You’re certainly doing all the talking,” Chas shot back, rubbing his thumb over the tip of John’s cock.

“Getting me to open up in a couple ways, hm?” John smirked.

Chas shoved John off his lap, knocking him onto his back and climbing on top. “Got a cock up your arse and you’re still talking ,” he growled.

“Gonna gag me, daddy?” John whinged.

“Suck on your fingers if you want something in your mouth,” Chas retorted, half-kidding, too busy fucking John into the mattress to worry about what made those particular kinks intersect.

As if to spite him, John shoved his thumb into his mouth, biting down on the base of it, whining in a way that went straight to Chas’ cock.

Focusing his eyes on the thumbprint bruises he’d left on John’s too-narrow hips, Chas stroked John’s cock as he thrust against him, heart pounding until it was all he could hear.

When he came, Chas squeezed his eyes shut, and tightened his grip on John’s cock. He felt a warm spatter against his chest as John came, and then not much at all.

When he blinked back to reality, he was alone, his chest wiped off. The shower was running in the hotel bathroom.

Chas closed his eyes again, and wondered what the bloody point was.

 

I. Let’s jump ahead to the moment of epiphany, / in gold light

“Let me see him,” Chas said.

It wasn’t the first time he had said it. He’d been saying it for the past ten minutes, getting in the nurse’s way like a proper arsehole and repeating himself, despite her objections. He probably would have been thrown out already, if he hadn’t been taller and broader than the security guard in the room.

“If you’re not family, Mr. Chandler, we can’t allow you to see Mr. Constantine.”

“I’m the only family he’s got!” Chas said, too loudly. “He’s bloody everything to me!”

The nurse’s expression twisted, pained. “If there aren’t documents on file designating that Mr. Constantine consents to you visiting him in hospital, it would be a violation of the HIPPA Privacy Rule to let you in.”

Chas screwed his eyes shut. “He’s my partner, all right?”

“Do you have a civil partnership?” the nurse asked, hopefully.

Chas shook his head. He’d left the paper in plain view on the kitchen table of their flat when the law passed, but John hadn’t brought it up, and Chas had been too afraid to.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Chandler. You have to wait.”

The security guard, who’d apparently found his nerve, strode into Chas’ peripheral vision. “I’m going to have to ask you to wait outside, Mr. Chandler.”

Chas did the only thing he could, and fled.

John’s coat was in the cab. Chas searched it for John’s cigarettes and lighter.

His hands shook, but he managed to light one. It helped ease the lump in his throat.

If he closed his eyes and ignored the tackiness of John’s blood drying down the front of his shirt, he could almost convince himself John was standing next to him.

When Chas’ phone rang, he almost dropped the cigarette. He fumbled the unfamiliar thing out of his pocket and opened it. Gemma.

“Gemma?” he asked, instead of a greeting.

“I got your message,” she said, instead of requesting one. “I’m on my way. Are you with him?”

Chas stepped on the butt of the finished cigarette and lit another. “They wouldn’t let me in.”

Gemma huffed out a breath, a rush of static down the phone. “Bugger.” She was definitely a Constantine. “Look, I should be able to get you through.”

“You better,” Chas said, and hung up.

By the time Gemma got there, Chas had finished the pack of cigarettes.

By the time Chas finally got to John’s hospital room, he was craving another. Burying his face in the crook of John’s neck, he could just barely pick up the smell of smoke under the tang of antiseptic. 

The nurse made a faint, startled sound when Chas settled himself onto the bed beside John, but didn’t say anything.

Chas closed his eyes. He may have slept, but he didn’t notice time passing or not passing. He listened to John breathe, and only dared to move when he felt John shift beside him.

“Bloody ‘ate ‘ospitals,” John slurred, trying to sit up.

Chas pushed him back down. “Sorry. Bullet wounds are outside my pay grade.”

“Don’t pay you,” John mumbled. “Hey, Gem.”

Gemma yawned expansively. “Hi, Uncle John. You should marry him, you know.”

Chas blinked at her. “What?”

“He had to wait to see you until I got here,” Gemma explained to John, who looked more bewildered than Chas felt. “I’m going to get some tea.”

When the door closed behind Gemma, Chas lay down beside John again, draping one arm over him. “From the mouths of babes, eh?”

“‘s not legal, is it?” John murmured, pressing his face into Chas’ chest. “Marrying.”

“Civil partnership, though,” Chas said, running his fingers through John’s hair. It was greasy and tangled, but still something approaching soft. “Could do that.”

“Could,” John said, then paused. “Just in case I end up in the ‘ospital again, like.”

Chas dropped a kiss to John’s forehead. “Just in case.”