Garret wakes as the first slivers of light make their way through Orion’s curtains, then the cracks in his cupboard. ‘His’ cupboard: a silly way to look at it, but one he’s noticed himself adopting more and more recently. It’s definitely stupid to get attached to something as small as a cupboard in somebody else’s room. It’s definitely stupid to get attached to something as big as stability, a warm place to stay, a source of food—a person. Nonetheless.
According to Orion's phone the time is ten past seven: hours before anyone else, except maybe Rosie, will be awake. Certainly hours before Orion will be, on a Saturday without work. Orion’s hand trails slightly off the bunk bed, emerging from the blanket lump on top of it. Without meaning to Garret catalogues his nails, clean and neatly clipped, and the nail beds, the curve of them, the evidence of a little nervous picking. His long fingers and bony wrist.
He pulls open the curtains and the blanket lump moans a little, curling up tighter, but Garret’s not fooled: this isn’t a prelude to waking. He knows exactly how much commotion will disturb Young Master Lavont, not that he’s going to be cautious about it. In any case, he has no plans that require bothering the sleeping dragon: he intends to finish The Merlin Conspiracy before the day ends.
Absorbed in reading, he doesn’t notice anything else until Rosie’s entering the room, a hurricane in miniature; he returns her good morning with a smile. She’s brought him some cereal, this morning’s breakfast. As the months passed, the fact she’d still seemed excited to be bringing him food had been unexpected. From what he’d read, children gained and lost interests easily, but even as his novelty had to have faded, her attachment didn’t. Which was... nice.
“What’re you up to this morning?” he asks, swallowing a mouthful of honey nut cornflakes.
Rosie presents him with a little oval sewn-up pouch, patterned with polka dots. The stitches are blue and childishly meander around the seam. "I'm going to give him a tail and ears. He's called Ratthew."
Garret stifles his laughter with a hand. "He's amazing! I didn't know you could sew. What other abilities are you hiding?"
"None that you need to worry about, civilian," she says, and chuckles hoarsely, wrinkling up her face like an old man.
"So, bomb defusing? Hand to hand combat? Oh, I know, can you fly a plane?”
Rosie giggles, before catching herself and re-adopting her gruff spy persona. “Don’t concern yourself with me, you’ll only ..... get hurt. I have important business to discuss with Ratthew. Excuse me.”
She heads off, Garret assumes to finish her toy. Or, who knows, maybe she’s gonna stop an assassin.
Brushing his teeth, he catches his own eye in the mirror. A second, or two, lapse: he’s clearly in an introspective mood today. He spits. The tap runs into the drain, but he doesn’t let his mind follow the downward spiral of the water. Instead he finds himself thinking back to bony wrists, and flexing his fingers.
The book occupies him until the call for breakfast, upon which he takes a brief stay in the cupboard in case one of Orion’s parents decide it’s mandatory and wake him for it directly. Not today, however, so he emerges, and in a fit of whimsy, driven perhaps by the phantom sensation of a wrist in his fingers, he climbs the first rung of the bunk bed: just high enough that he can see Orion’s face pressed into the pillow. His hair’s a mess. He’s drooling. The position he’s in doesn’t look like it should be possible, let alone comfortable. The shell of his ear blooms pink through with morning light.
A yawn from the bed: the beast stirs. Garret finished The Merlin Conspiracy and has moved on to a dog-eared copy of Artemis Fowl. He hasn’t made much progress, though, arrested by the title page, inscribed:
Happy 9th Birthday!
Lots of love,
Mom and Dad
It isn’t jealousy that fixates him. It’s just—intimate, that’s all, holding a childhood present, clearly well-loved. Well-loved, Orion has lived in this room for his entire life. That’s more than enough time for it to pick up his habits, his sorrows, his joys. Twenty years of a person makes a mark on a space, and Garret is inside that space. Holding it in his hands. Holding Orion in his hands.
Prisoner, intruder, or guest: it doesn’t matter. Garret gets up, puts the book on the shelf where he found it, and leaves the room. Back in front of the bathroom mirror, he longs for the cold, clarifying air of the suburbs at night, street lights stretching down the empty pavement. The brief glimpses of a life through an open curtain, then moving on; outside of it all; uninvolved, free. A more pleasant kind of voyeurism by far.
He turns the shower as cold as he can stand it and gets in.
When he re-enters Orion’s bedroom, he’s sat at the desk, still wrapped in his duvet and—seemingly looking at a wiki page about an anime turtle? Okay. Bleary eyes turn to him, and the blanket wrap moans what might be a good morning.
“Yeah, good afternoon. Are you... comfy there? Not cold, are you?”
“It is cold,” Orion mutters. “Just cause you’re superman...”
“I can still feel temperature. I think you’re just a baby.”
“That’s Dr. Baby to you.”
Garret laughs. He flops down on the couch, then realises he doesn’t have anything to read.
“What’re you looking at? Important research, Dr. Baby?” he asks, glaring at the bookshelf.
“Yeah, definitely, important stand info I need to— whoa! ” The book that had been levitating towards Garret drops to the ground, as he turns to face Orion, who looks a little sheepish.
“Sorry, I just—it’s a little spooky to turn around and see you all ‘The Exorcist’, you know.”
Garret doesn’t know.
“My bad, Dr. Baby.” He cranes over the sofa to get line of site on the book again.
“Oh. My God. Just go pick it up, it’s literally a foot away from you.”
Garret can’t answer because he’s concentrating.
He grabs the book out of the air, once it’s close enough, and feels his face slip from a mask of concentration into a wide smile. “Yes, did you see that!” Fine control hasn’t exactly been his strong point, and he got the book he meant to, even! Go Garret!
He notices Orion’s face is weird. He’s—staring? Then he looks away, saying, “Pretty impressive laziness if you ask me,” like normal. It’s definitely weird, though. Did Garret freak him out with that? Orion has never been bothered by his powers. On the contrary, he’s usually way more excited than Garret is. Garret has no idea what’s bothering him.
He has some idea what might cheer him up though, and—it’s fine. It’s been a while anyway, it’s better to do it on his own terms, right? “So did you wanna take a look at my clock sometime this afternoon?”
Orion’s mouth hangs open for a second, then turns up in a grin. “Oh, absolutely! If you don’t mind!”
Is it normal, Garret wonders, to consider this such an intimate act? So violating? Orion has done this for countless people, and none of them probably thought of it as more than a regular doctor’s appointment. He doesn’t understand how, though: right now, Orion could reach inside him, move his organs around, change him on a fundamental level, all with a few lines of code. Isn’t that terrifying? Shouldn’t it be? The only thing holding him is a promise, and that’s nothing at all, really.
And yet: he trusts him. It’s unmistakable. He doesn’t believe Orion will hurt him. That’s terrifying. His face, alert, concentrating on the screen projecting from Garret’s forehead, makes him think back to his worst memories. But it’s not the same at all.
“There’s something weird here,” Orion says, half-muttering. “This is just gibberish, it’s not real code at all. Random letters. Garret, I don’t think this is doing anything good, if it’s doing anything at all. Can I get rid of it? I’ll note it down so I can put it back if I need to, but I don’t expect it to do anything, and it’ll help the crystal last longer not to have to deal with junk.”
No , he thinks reflexively. But he’s asking. It makes sense. “Only that,” he says. “Don’t touch anything else.”
Orion meets his eyes—the blue reflection of the screen floats within them like a fossil in amber—and the corners turn up. Softly. Garret closes his eyes.
That night, Garret dreams:
Rain, on the roof of the little toy boat, tossing on the waves. His hand against the wall, steadying, fiddling with the ship’s radio, searching for a signal. For help—Out of the window the ocean stretches on endlessly, endlessly isolating, and the boat’s going to come apart at this rate
White noise. “_________________________with the weather. Expect rainstorms till Bluesday, all across the country! Crows will be flying west. If you see a three eyed raven, contact—” A girl’s voice. Static. He twists the dial. A woman says, “—with the one thirteen news, there’s been flooding in the city. A child has gone missing. M__________, age twelve. Last seen by the river. If you see anything please contact me. I miss him. I repeat, a child has gone missing. Prime suspect is a young man, twenty—
“___________________I’m going to put on a song I like, a classic in my opinion,” says a deeper voice. It’s smooth, ordinary, but familiar. Then music: gentle synth. Quiet voices. Not a particularly happy song.
He keeps listening.
The sun breaks through the fortress of Orion’s closed eyes like a thief into a vault, and consciousness breaches him despite his best efforts. He blinks slowly, and there’s the culprit: the curtains are wide open, and curled on his chair, Garret’s attention is captured entirely by whatever he’s reading.
This whole affair has been a series of one offense after another: Orion remembers how he’d felt at someone in his room, his house, his chair, reading his books and wearing his clothes. No matter how he tries, though, even with the aid of his just-woken grumpiness, he can’t quite manage to summon that feeling now. No, instead, it seems more like—more like—well, he still feels a tug of possessiveness (his most persistent vice) but rather than prompting jealousy, there’s a curl of what he can only call satisfaction to see Garret so comfortable with his things.
I like him. I really like him.
Garret jumps like a startled cat, looking around him. He sees Orion awake behind him, and sighs in relief. “Did you just say something?”
Garret frowns slightly, but shakes it off.
Orion has woken up just in time for breakfast, so he heads downstairs with a yawn and a bedhead. He watches his parents bicker lovingly over their toast, and sighs a little. Will I ever have someone who knows me like that? Then he catches a look from Rosie and tamps down on the visible yearning.
When he heads back to his room, Garret gives him another weird look. Everyone is just judging him today, aren’t they? God.
They decide to watch some Fullmetal Alchemist, one of the shows that Orion has declared Garret Absolutely Must Watch, in order to complete his pop culture education. It’s all good, except Garret keeps startling like he’s an animal picking up on sounds the human ear can’t hear. Which, hey, maybe he can. That’d be awesome. Orion expects they’d have noticed before today, though, right?
Oh fuck, he thinks when Nina shows up. I can’t wait for his reaction. Garret stiffens and sends him a suspicious look. Orion schools his face. Normal, normal, cute girl and dog, nothing bad will happen, absolutely.
When it gets to the sad bit, Garret turns to Orion, shock and betrayal on his face. “Fucked up, right? Tucker’s the worst,” Orion says, but Garret doesn’t reply.
“Hey, how does this show end?” he asks. Like Orion’s gonna spoil Ed punching God?
“It doesn’t get much more fucked up than this, uhh, don’t worry. But I’m not gonna spoil it for you, come on!”
“Ed... punches God? That’s...” Garret laughs a little. “What?”
Orion straightens from his slouch on the sofa, gasping in indignation. “Did you look up spoilers? Why would you do that, I wanted to see your authentic reaction!”
“This is crazy,” Garret says. “I can’t believe I’m, I’m —This is cause you edited my clock yesterday. I knew that was a mistake.” He’s gotten up, is backing away, raking his hands through his hair.
Orion’s stomach plummets. “What’s wrong? Garret, what happened?” Shit, you shouldn’t have done anything. That code was obviously important. Idiot! You’ve probably totally lost his trust!
“Why do you even need my trust? What do you want ?” Garret rips out.
What do I want? What a question. You, idiot. “What the hell are you talking about! Garret, don’t freak out, just let me put that thing back in your clock, okay? Clearly it did more than I thought!”
Garret’s mouth is hanging open. He blinks. His mouth makes shapes that might be words, but no sound comes out.
Orion makes to walk towards him, but as he gets up, Garret seems to unfreeze, and he turns to the window, wrenches it open, and jumps out.
Orion stands there, staring. He shivers: he’s in his dressing gown, t-shirt, and boxers, and most of the warmth in the room just fled out of the open window.
Garret is sat in an back-alley, leaning against the cold brick wall. He runs a thumb over the metal on his forehead. He can feel a foreign worry in his stomach, rising and falling in total discordance with his thoughts, no weaker for the distance he’s put between himself and the Lavont house. Orion must be so confused. No, he is confused: Garret feels that too, a sort of cloud in his chest, when his confusion sits in his forehead, usually.
Besides, Garret isn’t confused, though he wishes he was. His face is hot, and he sighs.
[ Who knows where he is or if he’s coming back? ......we aren’t keeping him prisoner, shouldn’t he be allowed to leave if he wants? Maybe so but he could at least have explained what the problem was! ......if whatever it is makes him sick..... ]
The thoughts aren’t as clear or as constant as the feelings, which may be why Garret took so long to notice anything was wrong. Now that he knows, though, he can’t tune out.
Orion wants him. Garret isn’t hard-headed enough to pretend that it might’ve meant he wants his clock or his body or any other meaning less meaningful than the rush of frustrated, familiar, full-bodied affection he felt with the words. Orion’s worry is like a banked fire inside of him, reminding and reminding him that these feelings aren’t superficial and the person who felt them is still doing so. Garret’s feeling too, two person’s worth of feelings. Way too much for even his modified body to hold. He’s a vessel overfull.
The sky is clear. You could just disappear up into it, empty and cold enough to stop your heart beating. Garret covers his face with his hands, and somehow he finds—yep—he’s grinning stupidly. He didn’t mean to tell me that , he thinks. He knows that. Maybe Orion wants him, likes him, but that doesn’t mean he wants to be together.
Orion is a person with a future. He has a job. He’s lived in the same house all his life, and every day of it spent with parents who love him, and each other, and Garret’s the criminal he lets live in his closet. What the hell kind of future could they have together? In books, the story ends when the characters figure out that they’re in love. Garret’s rapidly realising that real life is quite a lot more complicated.
Orion has decided to wait for him to come back by himself. Garret glances down the alleyway, in the direction of the street. Maybe the best thing to do would be to just leave. He doesn’t know what to do with this knowledge, but he can’t imagine going on like he doesn’t have it. It’s untrue to say he hasn’t thought about his relationship with Orion before now, because if you counted up the time he’s spent worrying about what kind of person Orion is, if he relies too much on him, if he can be trusted, if they’re... friends.... it’d be a truly embarrassing amount. But his relationship with Orion?
Well, he’s sure thinking about it now.
It’s farcical to pretend he’s going to leave, even for a second, anyway. He simply doesn’t want to. He can’t imagine choosing to leave a roof above his head and three meals a day but more so, more relevantly, he can no longer imagine willingly living a life without Orion or Rosie in it. Orion doesn’t know anything, anyway: the only one preventing things continuing as normal is Garret. Whatever it takes for that to happen, he’s prepared to do it.
[ Cute dog.... Post too long. ....Hope Garret’s okay. ....is jake gyllenhaal gay? Heh. ...this colour grading is whack.... ]
He can’t live like this, anyway, he needs to get Orion’s voice out of his head.
Orion is mindlessly scrolling through Tumblr, trying to keep up the resolve not to go looking for Garret. At least, not until he hasn’t come back for a few hours. He has something wrong with his clock, what if he passes out somewhere? .....But he didn’t seem to be in pain. He wants to do something, anything, but he can’t imagine focusing on a book or a show, let alone a medical text, right now.
To think that Garret trusted him to change something minor, trusted his expertise, and as a result God knows what happened. It’s a medical mystery that a line of “code” that’s essentially just random letters and numbers had any effect at all, and Orion wants to be curious about it. More than that though: I don’t need to understand, I just want to fix it.
“Then fix it,” he hears from behind him. He twists around so fast he feels something in his neck crack, and there he is: Garret, halfway through climbing into Orion's room through the window. His blond hair is etched with silver by the cold winter sunlight. It’s breathtaking.
Thank fuck, I was so worried! “So, finally decided to come out from the cold? You look like a stray cat,” he says.
Garret snorts. “You’re something else. Sorry to just disappear like that.” He looks away awkwardly. “I panicked. You wrote that code down, right? Can you just put it back?”
“Sure!” Orion says, quickly. Maybe a little too quickly. It’s just a relief that he’s gonna let me access his clock at all after this. Even to fix it.
Garret sighs deeply, reluctantly, and mutters, “look, I know you didn’t do this on purpose, okay? You... you wouldn’t mess me around like that. You aren’t. That sort of person.”
He thinks of all the people that he’s made subtle, barely noticeable changes to. If he could get away with it he’d do more, right? He’s always thought so. Only knowing that Garret would retract his permission to look has stopped him from changing something. He so badly wants to understand how the hell Garret works.
He doesn’t want to hurt him, though. He doesn’t want to put the kind of expression on his face that he’s making... right now. His eyes are wide, he’s pale, Garret just said he trusted Orion but that isn’t how he looks. He’s thought about who altered Garret to begin with before, but he’s never been as sure as he is right now that it was nobody good. Nobody Orion wants to be compared to.
Would it be weird to hug him right now? He looks like he needs comfort but Orion hasn’t got any idea what would be appropriate. A pat on his shoulder? His hand hovers awkwardly in the air between them.
If understanding how his clock works would make him feel like this then I don’t need to. I don’t need to.
Garret’s eyes meet his. They’re wide and bright and blue, and wet, and without thinking Orion’s hand closes the distance between them, landing on his forearm.
Garret laughs tearily. “You.”
Orion rolls his eyes, gently squeezing his arm. “What about me? I told you I’d fix it, come on.” He pulls Garret towards the sofa. “Sit down there, you goof, I’m just about done with your mood swings today.”
Getting up, he tries to pull his hand away, but Garret grabs it. Unexpectedly caught off balance, Orion falls on top of Garret: their faces are pulled close together. All coherent thought flees, his mind completely fixated on how close they are, Garret’s mouth and eyelashes and—
Garret’s fingers tighten, interlocking with his. And as if in counterpart, they draw in and—
It’s overwhelming. By himself Garret is feeling enough to fill an ocean, by himself he’s hot enough to boil it. On top of that he can feel Orion’s heat, his passion, embarrassment, affection. It’s not his first kiss, Garret knows that much, not that Orion is comparing it. It is Garret’s, though, and the physical sensations (gentle, dry and then wet) are subsumed almost entirely by the intensity of both sides of the experience in one. It’s supposed to be intimate, Garret knows, but this is something else.
Their lips part with a soft exhale, and Garret presses his face into Orion’s shoulder, letting himself revel in those long fingers entwined with his, the long hard line of heat that is Orion’s body on top of his. It’s good. It’s all so good. Orion thinks so too, he feels, just as surely as he feels the worn softness of Orion’s sleep shirt against his cheek.
[ I can’t believe it! Yes! What does this mean, though? What are we? That was so nice, I want to do it again... Does my breath smell? I wish we hadn’t had garlic in the pasta, I could kind of taste it... ]
Garret places a hand on Orion’s chest, and pushes. “Fix. Me. Now.”
Orion blinks, still red-faced. “Okay, but shouldn’t we... uhh...”
“We can talk about it afterwards, I can’t go another second with your voice in my head, talking about garlic!”
Orion goes bright red. “Wait, wait, so you—ever since yesterday?!”
“Yep. Wanna fix it now?”
[ What sort of stuff have I been thinking of today, oh my god, anything bad? FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST! ....I was worrying so much but I don’t think anything too.... Did he hear that whole thing?]
“I heard that whole thing.” Garret deadpans.
It’s the quickest time Orion’s ever been in and out of his clock: [ if his Mom saw him she’d scold him for carelessness .] That’s the last thought Garret catches from him, before he goes quiet, at least to Garret’s metaphorical ears. Presumably he’s still thinking just as loudly in his own head.
It’s very empty, with just his own thoughts. Reflexively he misses it, but the relief hits harder. The neighbours who were having sex next to the window just closed the blinds: he’s no longer at risk of seeing something he shouldn’t. He flops back onto the sofa, and onto Orion’s lap.
“Did it work?” he asks.
“Yep, your secrets are safe from me now.”
Orion sighs in relief. “Thank god you won’t find out I killed a man.”
Garret laughs. Orion’s hand settles awkwardly on his side, and he relaxes into it even as he turns his face away.
“I have no idea how dating works. What would you tell your parents? Here’s my boyfriend, he lives in my closet because he’s homeless?”
“Garret...” Orion says to the back of his head. “Do you want to try this?”
He’s reluctant to say it, but not because he doesn’t know the answer. He knows that this is a bad idea, for a lot of reasons. He also knows that he wants to try. He wants me more as a person than as an experiment, he thinks. It sounds kind of bad when you say it like that, but it means a lot.
“Yeah,” he says, and turns to face Orion. Reaching up, he tangles a hand in his hair, and pushes himself up till they’re close enough to kiss. “I want to try this.” And he does.