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feeling blue (feeling golden by you)

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Teddy wakes to a shout, as is common these days. 

Groaning, he sits up, rubbing a hand over his eyes and blinking blearily up at the ceiling. “Tedward!” James calls again, sounding much closer than he had originally. Huffing, head still fuzzy and body calling for him to sleep, Teddy flops back onto the mattress, turning onto his side to pull the comforter over his head.

“Fuck off, James,” he calls back, sighing as he hears the footsteps getting louder still, knowing James to be running up the steps to his room at full speed. Hearing a curse directly outside his door, Teddy snorts, knowing James likely had slipped on the hardwood in his socks— as always, though he refused to ever take them off. Teddy’s door opens with a bang, and Teddy tenses, knowing what’s coming.

“Tedward! Good morning!” James says cheerfully, shutting the door behind him and promptly flinging himself on top of Teddy, crushing him. He tugs the comforter from around Teddy’s ears, kissing his cheek noisily and looking unfazed when Teddy oofs and wipes the spit from his face. His grin only grows wider when Teddy glares.  

“Fuck off,” Teddy says again, twisting beneath James and shoving his face away. James pouts, lifting himself briefly to allow Teddy to turn onto his back before grasping Teddy’s face, and Teddy’s stomach does not flip at the contact. It does not.

“Oh, enough of that,” James says, leaning in close enough that his breath fans across Teddy’s lips. “You love me.” 

“I do not,” Teddy says even as he flushes, thanking god James is straddling his waist and not his hips. He’s just got a bit of morning wood. He’s not at all getting hard from James’s mouth coming close to his, never mind that James is still holding onto his face, hands warm and cradling his jaw. “I hate you.”

James’s eyes narrow and he sits back, near crushing Teddy’s organs but thankfully releasing his face. “Tedward,” James chides. “Don’t you know what day it is?”

Teddy rolls his eyes, but he knows the smile at the corner of his mouth betrays his lack of actual annoyance. Judging by the way James brightens, he’s noticed. Teddy pretends to think. “Sunday?” he asks innocently, and James pinches his side. Teddy hisses and grins wide. “The day we leave to see Tonks?”

James grins back at this, eyes alight with happiness. “Arse. At least say it,” he whines, turning and flopping onto his back next to Teddy. Teddy hums, fake questioning, turning his head to look at him. 

James looks back expectantly, eyebrows raised, and Teddy sighs in mock defeat. “Oh, alright. Happy birthday, Jamie.”

Yes!” James shouts, pumping his fist before letting it fall back onto his chest. He looks ridiculous doing it, and it makes Teddy laugh. He leans over and tugs on Teddy’s right wrist, encouraging him to turn onto his side. Teddy goes, all at once struck by the way the light hits James’s freckled skin through the blinds, the way the green flecks stand out in his eyes. James is golden, Teddy knows this, but every once in a while looking at him makes Teddy’s breath catch and his heart pound wildly in his throat. Straight, Teddy reminds himself, he’s straight. James reaches out, poking Teddy hard in his bare chest. “Alright, spill. What’d you get me?”

Teddy blinks, feigning horrified realization, and James snorts. “Oh, come off it, Ted. You’re a shite liar and you know it. What is it?” 

Teddy grins slowly, pushing himself up onto his elbow. “How do you feel about tattoos?”

A beat passes, almost long enough that Teddy grows nervous, and then James beams.

..

James flexes his forearm, carefully examining the dark outline of the sun on his skin. A small smile plays on Teddy’s lips before he hisses softly, a small sting drawing his attention back to the moon steadily growing on his own arm. “Alright there, Ted?” James asks teasingly, looking up at him. “Sure your dads won’t mind?”

Teddy rolls his eyes. Remus had been resigned, Sirius positively thrilled, when Teddy came home on his eighteenth back in January with his ears pierced in multiple places. Sirius said they made Teddy look very punk, which’d made Teddy flush with pride. “Shut it, Jamie. You’ll be lucky if Ginny doesn’t have your arse once she sees it.” James pales immediately, then scoffs and grins. 

“Yeah, right. I’m an adult now, Teddy. I can do what I want.” Teddy snorts, and so does the woman working on his tattoo. James opens his mouth indignantly, undoubtedly ready to launch into a rant, but the woman cuts him off.

“Right, you’re all finished, love,” she says, releasing Teddy’s arm. James moves to stand beside him, holding out his own arm for comparison, and Teddy smiles. They line up perfectly.

“Brilliant,” Teddy says, and James echoes it wonderingly. “Thank you.”

..

“Teddy,” James whines, long-suffering. “Are we there yet?”

Teddy snorts. “We’ve only been driving for twenty minutes, Jamie.”

James groans. “Ugh. This is a terrible idea. Too far. You can only say it’s only twenty minutes, Jamie because you went to America last summer and had to drive twenty minutes to get to the next person.”

“It isn’t that far,” Teddy insists, glancing at James, who then decided to try and fit as many crisps into his mouth as possible. “You’re disgusting.”

James, thankfully, chews and swallows before answering. “Teddy,” he says seriously. “We have been driving for so long I really think I might be nineteen.”

Teddy laughs, wrinkling his nose. “If you turn a year older every twenty minutes,” he says slowly, thinking. “You’ll be like… twenty-eight by the time we get to Cornwall.”

James’s eyes widen comically. “Shit, Teds,” he says, hand holding another crisp frozen halfway to his mouth. “What about my bucket list?”

Teddy hums, half-listening and fiddling with the radio. “Hm? What about it?”

Teddy,” James says seriously. “I’m supposed to lose my virginity before I’m twenty. How am I meant to shag anyone if I’m stuck in this car for the next, like, ten years?”

“Three hours,” Teddy corrects, willing his face to retain its normal color. He knows he’s supposed to make some joke about James just having sex with him, knows it’s what James would expect him to do, but he just can’t. Not when the idea has him flushing with heat. Not when he already thinks enough about broad shoulders and strong hands, about what it would be like to press James into the mattress and kiss him slow. So Teddy keeps his eyes on the road, feeling James’s eyes on him.

James resumes eating his crisps, then, but not before shoving one at Teddy’s mouth. Teddy tries to take it, but James moves his wrist until Teddy’s forced to eat it from his hand, positive his face is burning. He nips at James fingers to distract from it, and James, after a pause, slips his thumb past Teddy’s lips so he can lick the salt. Oh god. 

Apparently satisfied, James licks the salt from his other fingers and cracks the window, not looking at Teddy anymore.

..

Tonks lives in a house along the beach, a small part of a small community, which includes her mother. The houses were decently sized, far larger than one woman needed all for herself. Teddy had asked once why she and Andromeda didn’t live together, and Tonks said it was because they’d never get along— but Teddy suspected it was really so Andromeda never found out just how many people Tonks brought home with her. That, and so Tonks could set up her tattoo parlor on the first floor.

Teddy almost forgets all about the parlor, realizing only when he sees the sign hanging in front of her house, lit up in the soft light of the evening, and reality smacks him full in the face. 

“Oh,” Teddy says. At James’s questioning look, he says, “I forgot— Tonks only has one spare bedroom.”

James blinks. “Oh,” he echoes. “Well, okay. Is the bed, like—”

“It’s a king,” Teddy says, still rooted to the spot. “But still... I forgot. I’m sorry.”

Teddy feels a hand come to rest on the small of his back. “Teddy. It’s okay. It’s not like we’ve never shared a bed before.” James laughs, like it really isn’t a big deal.

Privately, Teddy thinks this situation is nothing like those times before. They’d been kids then, and Teddy had known nothing about the things two people in love could do to each other, and he hadn’t cared to know. He’d thought it was all reserved for boys and girls, and nothing interested Teddy less than kissing a girl. Teddy swallows, previous nerves intensifying, but he says, “Yeah. Okay.”

It wasn’t as though James was a stranger to Tonks. Being Teddy’s surrogate mother and Sirius’s cousin, she was around quite a bit as the two of them grew up. But knowing someone and sharing a space with them were two very different things— and Teddy was shocked when James had asked to come with him at all on his annual visit to Tonks, let alone that they go for his birthday. “I just want to do something fun,” James had said insistently. “Every year is the same and everyone’s thinking about uni now, it’s just not fun anymore. Plus, you go every summer and I’m always stuck here missing you. Please, Teddy.” 

Teddy had gotten the feeling that there was a bit more James wasn’t telling him, but he couldn’t deny James anything, not when James was giving him pleading eyes, not when James was admitting to missing him. So he’d said yes.

Seeing James light up upon seeing their room, though, having gone straight there as Tonks was busy with a client, made something in Teddy’s chest loosen. He wasn’t quite sure what he was afraid of, but it was hard to feel nervous when James was smiling like that, like he wanted nothing else in the world but to be here with Teddy.

“It’s perfect, Teddy,” James breathes, fingers curling around the windowsill that overlooks the shore. He cracks the window, the soft breeze ruffling his hair as he closes his eyes. Teddy remembers having a similar reaction the first time he stayed here, the wind and the taste of sea salt making him want to run and run and never stop. James turns to Teddy, laughter bubbling in his chest and a warm, unwelcome feeling rising in Teddy’s. 

Great, Teddy thinks. He’ll never be able to separate this place from James again. It had been the one place Teddy had been almost able to erase James from his mind completely, no memory of James on the warm sand or in the still-chilled water, though Teddy had wondered if James would love it here as much as he did far more times than he was willing to admit. Looking at James, still basking in the cool breeze, it’s clear that he does, just as Teddy knew he would.

Teddy’s entire life seemed to be centered around James one way or another. Teddy wouldn’t mind so much, he thinks, if he was a little less emotionally attached. At this point, Teddy thinks, he might need James to breathe, to feel human. It honestly terrifies him.

“Teddy? I’m finished down here,” Tonks calls up the steps, snapping Teddy from his thoughts. James looks up, blinking, as though he too had forgotten himself. “You two alright?”

“Yeah,” Teddy calls back, sucking in a breath. “Be down in a minute.” Tonks doesn’t respond, and Teddy can’t help but notice how nervous James suddenly looks. He frowns, then shrugs a little when he meets Teddy’s eyes. “You alright?” Teddy asks quietly, and James nods.

“Just realized I’m probably intruding. I didn’t really think about it,” James says, eyebrows creasing. Teddy has to resist the urge to smooth the lines with his fingers. 

“You’re not,” Teddy says, frowning himself as he registers James’s words. “Not at all.” When James still looks unconvinced, Teddy reaches to lay a hand on his shoulder, gently, all the contact Teddy’s sure he can manage without cracking. He squeezes, and James softens a bit. “Tonks loves you. And I— want you here.”

James inhales, breathing deeply, and Teddy smiles a little. “I’m being dramatic, aren’t I?” James says, smiling back.

“A little,” Teddy teases, lifting a hand to ruffle James’s hair, who huffs and swats at him. “Pull it together, you, and come on.” James breathes in again, eyelids fluttering shut and Teddy has only a moment to register that his hand is still stroking James’s hair when James steps forward, insinuating himself into Teddy’s arms.

“I’m so glad you took me with you. It’s just like you said,” he says, and Teddy hopes James can’t feel the way his pulse jumps when James’s head rests on his chest.

“You know I can’t say no to you, you arse,” Teddy says, poking James hard in the side as a distraction, feeling smug when James squirms and glares. James shoves him, then, launching them into a wrestling match that ends only when Teddy realizes he has James pinned beneath him, releasing his wrists as though burned and refusing to meet his eyes.

..

Tonks’s grip is a vice around both his and James’s wrists, yanking them both in roughly and glaring. Her hair is its usual shock of bubblegum pink, a color that simultaneously compliments her and makes her look a bit like a surprised bird. Teddy can see her natural black coming through at the roots and reminds himself to ask if she’d like him to touch it up— preferably when she isn’t looking at him like she could kill him and bury his dead body in the sand.

“Okay, what the fuck,” Tonks says, tightening her grip and making the two men wince. “You two got tattoos? Why the fuck didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you let me do them?” James opens his mouth, but Tonks cuts him off, straightening her shoulders and making Teddy feel small despite the good six inches he holds over her in height. “And don’t you dare fucking tell me they’re old, you’re still wearing the fucking tape!” She pokes Teddy’s arm and he winces, tearing from her grip and folding his arms across his chest defensively.

“The last time I let you give me a tattoo,” Teddy says meaningfully, trying to match her glare and falling short, but Tonks backs down a bit nonetheless, “You put a fucking dick on my hipbone. You’re never coming near me with a needle again.”

James snorts at that in surprise, and Tonks at least has the decency to look abashed. “You could barely see it!” she says dismissively, though she releases James, too, rubbing his wrist a bit in sympathy. “And I did agree to cover it up. Gave you those little footprints, remember?”

“Yeah, after a week. Anthony laughed at me every time I took off my shirt off, don’t think I don’t remember that,” Teddy says, flushing as he remembers when his fling of last summer had caught a glimpse of the tattoo— right in the middle of sex. Anthony had laughed his arse off, for so long that Teddy went soft by the time he finished and refused to try and pick up where they left off. Normally Teddy didn’t mind being the subject of some joke, but Anthony always left him feeling like he was laughing at him, not with him, and their relationship didn’t last very long.

Anthony?” James mouths, expression unreadable, and Teddy shakes his head.

“Later,” Teddy says quietly. Preferably never.

“Whatever,” Tonks says, waving him off. “That’s all fixed now— and I suppose I can forgive you for betraying me,” she adds dramatically, and Teddy rolls his eyes when James laughs. 

Traitor,” Teddy mouths, and James sticks out his tongue. 

..

“Okay,” James says, flinging himself down and sprawling across the mattress. “So tell me about this Anthony.”

Teddy grins a little, though he flushes deeply. It wasn’t as though James didn’t know Teddy was bent, but it wasn’t often they actually talked about his sexual experiences. “He was nothing. Just a friend.”

James scoffs. “Bullshit, just a friend. So, tell me about him. How was he?” He wiggles his eyebrows, looking absolutely ridiculous, and Teddy laughs.

“He had a nice arse,” Teddy concedes, sprawling out next to James, who laughs in delight. He waves his hand above him in a go on gesture, but Teddy shrugs. “He was funny. American, travelling.” Teddy scrubs a hand over his face and laughs again. “We didn’t really do much more than shag.”

“Oh, details, Tedward. Was he good? Did you top or bottom? Any weird kinks?” James smacks Teddy’s chest and makes an impatient noise when Teddy oofs.

Teddy clears his throat, feeling a little warm talking about sex with a man Teddy really wants to have sex with. “Uh, he did have this long hair. Liked when I pulled it. I, uh, topped.”

James sucks in a breath, and Teddy can feel his eyes on him. “Yeah? Did you ever— I mean, have you—”

“Bottomed?” Teddy guesses, and James nods meekly when he meets his eyes. Teddy’s face feels warm. He rubs the bridge of his nose. “No. I, uh— haven’t really gotten around to it.”

“Haven’t gotten around to it,” James echoes with a soft laugh, corners of his eyes crinkling. He balls his hands into fists, thumbs tucked in, and cracks them. Teddy likes the sound. “Right, okay.”

“Shut up, you. You haven’t ‘gotten around’ to losing your virginity either,” Teddy points out, and James scowls, elbowing him in the side. Teddy breathes out, grinning a little and hoping James hasn’t noticed he’s half-hard, chest rising and falling a little quicker.

“I’ll have you know, Tedward, that not all of us enjoy casual sex,” James says pointedly, and Teddy closes his eyes, turning his head away from James’s and leaning back against the pillows.

“No, I know. That’s okay, Jamie.”

James shrugs. “Didn’t say it wasn’t,” he says, but Teddy feels his shoulders relax.

..

“Good morning, sunshine,” Tonks calls from the kitchen counter, far too cheerfully for the ungodly hour, and Teddy groans, scrubbing a hand over his face. Tonks’s eyebrows shoot up and she glances at James, a delighted grin spreading across her face. “And here I thought you were joking, James. He really is a monster.”

James laughs, looking beautiful and golden as ever as he leans against the counter, sipping at the mug in his hand. Teddy scowls at the sheer audacity. No one has the right to look like a Greek god before nine, and here James was. “I’m surprised you’ve never seen it yourself,” James says, shaking his head as he pours Teddy his own mug of coffee— Teddy knows it’s his, because James would never put that much cream and sugar in his own cup, and Tonks takes hers black. “He’s always like this in the morning.” He presses the mug into Teddy’s hands, eyes crinkled at the corners, and Teddy takes it with a grateful sigh. 

Teddy takes a sip and says, “Tonks is never up before noon.” His voice is hoarse, and he clears his throat. James’s hand knocks against his own mug and he curses. “I don’t know what the hell she was doing up so early. And so loud,” he adds pointedly, and Tonks shrugs, as though Teddy’s precious sleep means little to her. 

“James made coffee,” Tonks says simply, dropping from the counter and snatching up her mug as she leaves the room. She ruffles James’s hair as she goes, hip checking Teddy in the doorway. “I have a client at nine anyway,” she calls as she descends the steps, and Teddy shakes his head.

“I will forever be amazed you can even get up on your own,” Teddy calls back, to no response, but he knows Tonks heard him. He flips off the stairs for good measure.

“It’s a nice set up,” James says from by the sink, and Teddy turns around. It’s vague, but Teddy knows what he means. He leans across from James and nods, sipping his drink again before he speaks.

“It was a bitch for the movers to get all her shit up here, but—” Teddy waves his hand in James’s general direction, indicating the sink, “The kitchen was already all set up on this floor. It’s part of why she moved here anyway. For the workspace.”

James nods, setting his mug beside him and resting his palms on the counter, shoulders flexing just the smallest amount. “Makes sense,” he says, and Teddy nods back distractedly, gaze dropping to his drink. It’s always a bad idea to look at James too long in the morning, all sleep mussed and shirtless. He studies the actual mug in his hand then, frowning, and when he looks back up, James is grinning wide.

“Are these fucking unicorns?” Teddy says, nose wrinkling, and James throws his head back and laughs.

..

Tonks is weirdly busy over the next few days, considering she normally takes the time off when Teddy comes to visit, leaving him and James to their own devices the majority of the time. Teddy would feel guilty if it wasn’t Tonks herself waving him off and taking more clients. 

James doesn’t seem to mind much, and insists on spending every hour the sun is out on the beach, either lounging on the sand or goading Teddy into wrestling in the water, despite his protests that it’s too cold. Teddy would normally be content just relaxing inside, but he has to admit that the sun feels nice on his skin, and he’s secretly grateful that James drags him out. He’d never tell James that, but he’s sure he already knows.

..

“We need to get drunk,” James announces on the third night, through a mouthful of pizza. They’re both procrastinating going to bed— James because he insisted leftover pizza was an absolute disgrace and needs to be finished tonight, Teddy, and Teddy because sleeping in the same bed with a half naked James was becoming increasingly difficult. He’d been getting by just wanking in the shower before they went to sleep, but Teddy is only eighteen, and he isn’t sure how much longer that’s going to work. He feels sick over getting off to his best friend anyway. “I’m serious, Teds,” James says, and Teddy laughs, dropping his head back on the couch.

“Do we now?” Teddy says, grinning sideways at his friend. James groans, flinging himself dramatically onto Teddy’s lap, head resting on his thighs. Teddy shifts a little uncomfortably, but James doesn’t seem to care, settling with a sigh before reaching up to poke Teddy on the cheek. 

Yes, come on, don’t be thick, Teds,” he says, rolling his eyes mockingly. “We bought all that stuff, what’s the point if we don’t drink it?” James grabs at Teddy’s wrist, dropping Teddy’s hand onto his head, sighing happily and closing his eyes when Teddy obediently runs his fingers through his hair. His mouth drops open just a little when Teddy scratches his scalp, a pretty, soft pink, and Teddy clears his throat.

“Fair enough,” he says quietly, tugging gently at the strands, which makes James shift a bit. “You have to get the stuff, though. It’s still in the trunk.” 

The stuff,” James repeats, opening his eyes and grinning. Teddy smooths a thumb over his eyebrow.  “What are we, twelve? It’s beer, not fucking pot.”

“I have that too,” Teddy says helpfully, and James pauses, humming. 

“Maybe we could do that instead.”

“Or we could do both.”

James grins.

..

“No,” Teddy says immediately. The smile drops from James’s face and he flings his arms out to either side, rattling the box.

“What do you mean, no? You’ve been wanting to dye your hair for ages, Teds!”

“Fuck no, I wanted to get it dyed, not have you do it!” Teddy says defensively, trying to move around James and raising his eyebrows when James presses him back by his chest, box crinkling between them. 

“Don’t be like that, Teddy, come on, you know I know how,” James pleads, kicking the door shut behind them and backing against it. Teddy steps into his space immediately, reaching around him for the doorknob.

“I’m not sure you going pink for a day when you were sixteen really counts, Jamie.”

“Doesn’t it?” James counters, pushing at Teddy’s chest again with one hand and batting at Teddy’s own hand with the other. “I had to dye it twice, didn’t I? You were there, dipshit, you know it was fine!” 

Teddy sighs, because he was, in fact, there and it was, in fact, fine. He moves to back off, but James catches his hand behind his back and holds it there. Teddy flushes, understanding, then, just how close they were standing and avoiding James’s eyes as he looks up at him hopefully. “Please?” James tries again, bringing Teddy’s hand around and pressing it into the box. 

An hour and a half later, Teddy’s hair is sky blue and his scalp is tingling— not from the bleach, but from James’s fingers in his hair.

..

Teddy sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face. He can’t do this. 

This will be his fifth night sleeping next to James, and it’s just getting too hard. He feels like shit admitting that, knowing it isn’t James’s fault and he should really have more self control, but he clearly doesn’t, and he just needs to get away.

Teddy sits up slowly, careful not to wake his best friend, and pads to the bathroom for a cold shower.

He’d considered sleeping on the couch, but ruled that out, not knowing what he’d say if James questioned him in the morning. Wanking was becoming near useless, too, for over the past few days Teddy’s been feeling his attraction to James way less in his dick and way more in his chest. 

Teddy’s always had a crush, but this is pathetic. It hurts.

And because the universe hates him, Teddy only manages to get his shirt halfway off before he hears gentle knocking on the doorframe. It’s soft, but he jumps anyway, tugging it back on and turning to see James standing sheepishly in the doorway. He holds up a bowl, lighter, and a small plastic bag, the corner of his mouth turned up in an understanding smile. “Couldn’t sleep?”

Teddy shrugs, tugging at an earring, a nervous habit of his. He sees James watching and drops it quickly. “It was warm in there,” he lies, and James just nods, already packing the bowl carefully. “Which is it?”

“Indica,” he says. “Thought it might help, thought we could…” James trails off, waving his hand toward the shower. Teddy takes the hint, opening the curtain and turning the handle all the way hot.

“Tonks won’t care,” Teddy says as steam begins to fill the room, and James shrugs, flicking the lighter and inhaling. 

“I don’t wanna be a prick,” he says after he exhales, coughing only slightly. They’re lightweights, him and Teddy, but they’re getting better. Teddy nods and takes the bowl when James holds it out, and James lights it for him, which Teddy appreciates; his hands are never as steady. He takes the lighter away a little sooner than Teddy might have, and Teddy takes his thumb off the carb. 

“Hit me again,” Teddy murmurs after he exhales, and James complies, though his brows pull together a little. Already, Teddy can feel the effects as he exhales a second time. “Shit, I swear this always hits so much harder.”

James frowns at him, lip pulled between his teeth as he takes the bowl back. “It does, dipshit, you need to be careful.” He takes another hit, much shorter than Teddy’s previous. Teddy hums a bit, feeling loose and relaxed. It’s not their usual, indica, given that they both fare better with the mind buzz sativa brings— Teddy especially.

“Shit,” he sighs as his body tingles. “I need to sit down.” James sighs back, a little amused, and gently taps the bowl over the sink, washing the ashes down the drain. He sets it on the counter.

“Do you still want to shower?” James asks, and Teddy frowns, suddenly hyper aware of his knees. “Okay, yeah, you need one, come on Teds.” James slips his hands under the hem of Teddy’s shirt, rising on his toes to get it over Teddy’s head. Teddy thinks his hands linger a bit, but he isn’t sure— time is feeling pretty odd to him. He watches James’s face as his hands slip under the waistband of his pants, next, noticing the way his eyes don’t linger as he tugs them down Teddy’s thighs and lets them drop. Teddy is grateful— his skin feels ridiculously sensitive at the moment, and he’s almost positive he’s half-hard.

“That feels nice,” Teddy mumbles, and James huffs a strained laugh, reaching around him to turn the shower cold.

“Of course it does,” James says. “You’re high.”

“No,” Teddy says insistently as James leads him under the spray. “It— shit, that’s cold.” James laughs again, a bit more loose this time. “Fuck, I needed that.”

“Thought you might,” James says, patting his cheek before stepping back. “Let me know when you’re ready to go to bed, you arse.”

Teddy shivers under the spray, already becoming more alert. After a solid minute, he nods. “Okay, I’m ready, I think,” he says slowly, and James shuts off the spray and wraps a towel around him, rubbing his shoulders and over his hair. Teddy exhales, leaning heavily into the touch.

“You’re such a dumbass,” James says fondly, and Teddy nods a bit, because he is. James wraps an arm around his waist and helps him pull his pants back on. They manage, but slowly. “You think you’ll be able to sleep now?”

“Definitely,” Teddy says, leaning his head onto James’s as he guides them back to their room. “Couldn’t, before.”

“I know, Teds.” James lifts the comforter, nudging Teddy into bed, who goes willingly. He makes a pleased little sound when his back hits the sheets, and James lowers himself onto the space beside him, opening his arms expectantly. Teddy gets cuddly when he’s high.

“You just feel so nice,” Teddy mumbles, immediately shifting and wrapping an arm around James’s torso, head settling on his chest. James runs his fingers through his hair and he sighs.

“Yeah,” James says quietly, warm breath tickling Teddy’s ear and making him shiver. “You do too.” 

“Yeah,” Teddy echoes, laughs just as quietly, the body high and James’s fingers already lulling him to sleep. “‘Cause we’re high.” He laughs a little again.

“I’m not that high,” James corrects, tugging a little at the hair at the base of Teddy’s neck and huffing in amusement as he squirms. “I know my limits, unlike some of us. But, no,” he says, and Teddy’s breathing starts to even out. “You always feel nice, Teds.”

Oh, Teddy thinks, but that thought is too complex, and he sleeps.

..

“That’s so fucking embarrassing,” Teddy groans over his scrambled eggs, stabbing at them with a little more force than necessary. “I can’t believe you let me do that.”

James just laughs, popping the bread out of the toaster. “I thought it was cute,” he says, spreading way too much butter over it— no such thing, he would argue if Teddy said so. When Teddy scowls and threatens him with his fork, he amends, “Okay, fine. You were very entertaining.”

Teddy pouts a little into his mug, though he’d deny he did if James pointed it out. It’s covered in little bulldogs this morning— definitely not at all suited for Teddy’s little pity party, and Teddy knows that’s most likely the reason James picked it out for him.

“I don’t see the big deal anyway,” James says as he leans back against the counter. “I mean, you’re—“ Teddy can’t stop the way his eyes travel the length of James’s body, over bare chest and toned thighs, and he hears James falter a moment. “You— you know, you’re always like that when you’re high.” Teddy meets his eyes, then, and he’s flushed, brows furrowed in confusion. Teddy snaps his gaze to his plate, fighting the urge to tug an earring and feeling caught. 

“Yeah, but normally you’re high with me,” Teddy says to his eggs, shoveling another forkful into his mouth. He braves looking up and James smiles softly, approvingly, taking a bite of his toast; he was always saying Teddy didn’t eat nearly enough. Teddy chews, swallows. “I was a mess.”

James shrugs, rubbing a little at a still-hot cheek and effectively making it redder. “I’ve seen worse, Teddy bear.”

Teddy wrinkles his nose in genuine disgust. “No. I do not like that.”

James laughs.

..

Tonks spends that night and the next at Andromeda’s, for some reason unbeknownst to anyone but her, and that unleashes a series of what Teddy would deem— while they were occurring, at least— a series of unfortunate events.

It starts when James finds his drawings.

“Hey Teds?” James says, knocking gently on the doorframe of their shared room. Teddy jumps, effectively messing up his hair, which he had up until then been struggling in vain to fix. 

“Huh? Yeah?” Teddy says stupidly, trying to act like James hadn’t scared the shit out of him, and when James laughs he knows he’s failed. Teddy turns around, grinning sheepishly—

— and then real fear grips him. It grips him, and he’s suddenly terrified, because James is holding—

“You left this,” James says softly, seeming aware but confused as to why Teddy is having a crisis. “On the table in the sitting room.” He’s getting closer as he says it, which Teddy does not want, and holds Teddy’s sketchbook out for him to take.

Teddy accepts it, then swallows, rubbing self-consciously at the smudges of lead smeared across his left hand, his right thumb and forefinger. “Thanks,” he croaks, mortified, because James is still regarding him so, so softly, and Teddy knows he’s seen them.

“I didn’t know you even brought it,” James says, after a heavy pause. “I didn’t— shit, I didn’t even know you were that good.”

Teddy blinks. Whatever he thought James would say first— something more along the lines of I’m flattered, Teds, but this is fucking creepy— was not that. But then, he realizes, he never really let James see the inside of his sketchbook, only little things he’d done outside of it. He never really let anyone see inside of it, partly because he was nervous, and partly because over half of the pages are pictures of James

Though he hates to admit it, Teddy knows that his sketchbook is as close as he can get to some sort of love poem to his best friend. A painstaking little letter to his eyes, the curve of his mouth, his jaw. To lines of his stomach and muscles in his back. To thousands and thousands and thousands of freckles.

Teddy is clumsy as shit. He trips over too long legs and knocks things off of counters everywhere he goes. He stopped leaving cups of water on his nightstand out of frustration for knocking them over so many times, and he is never, ever allowed to wash Remus’s favorite mug. But Teddy is never, ever as careful, or as precise, or as collected as he is when drawing James. 

Teddy isn’t too modest to think that James wouldn’t recognize himself in the pages. He feels sick, knowing full well the way his love bleeds so red. 

“I wish you hadn’t looked,” Teddy says, something like defeated, turning away and shoving the sketchbook in with his things. He wants to be angry that James even did, but that just isn’t him.

“Why? They’re just drawings, Teds,” James says, and Teddy flinches, because he wishes they were just that. “Teddy…”

Teddy just shrugs, feeling rejected for no good reason. “Yeah,” he says, because he doesn’t know what else to say. It sounds hollow even to his own ears. 

James’s hand comes to rest on the side of his arm, and he doesn’t know why, but he allows himself to be turned. “They’re really good, Teds,” James says earnestly, and at any other time, that would be enough to make Teddy flush with warmth. “I don’t understand why you hid them away.”

Teddy sighs heavily, tipping his head back and squeezing his eyes shut. Dragging a hand down the side of his face, he lets his head drop and forces himself to look James in the eye. “You don’t?” Teddy says meaningfully, and James stares back, eyes wide and searching, looking as though he was trying to figure something out but can’t quite get it. 

Teddy sighs again, feeling unreasonably disappointed, and angry that his feelings have to be so contrary, because James finding out had been the exact opposite of what he wanted and yet here he was wishing for it. “You’re right, I’m sorry.” Teddy straightens, not quite pulling away but backing off. “I shouldn’t have,” he says, meaning I shouldn’t have hidden them from you and I shouldn’t have drawn them in the first place.

For one brief, odd moment, he’s sure James looks equally as disappointed, but the moment passes and James is smiling weakly up at him. “They’re very detailed,” he says, like he’s giving him an out, and Teddy feels suddenly as though he missed a step somewhere and can’t quite regain his balance.

Line, Teddy wants to say, what’s my line here?

“I use a lot of references,” he says instead. Plays it safe, hits the cutoff instead of shooting for home. James’s face falls a little, for some reason, and Teddy thinks shortstop might’ve failed him this time. Shit.

“I can tell,” is all James says, wry and distant, and then he’s gone, out of their room and down the steps. 

Teddy sags, shoulders dropping in both relief and some bitter, aching feeling, before making his way to the bathroom to scrub the lead from his skin. 

He has no idea what James wanted him to say, but he’s sure he got it wrong.

..

James doesn’t drop it.

Teddy doesn’t know why he expected him to— he knows who James is, and this shouldn’t surprise him in the least.

And yet, when James ambushes him over dinner, he still ends up feeling caught off guard and cornered, choking a little on his spaghetti. “I should— what?”

James’s jaw is set, and he leans further over the table, elbows planted firmly. “You should draw me,” he repeats, and while the words themselves aren’t a challenge, his body language and delivery certainly read like one. It sets Teddy on edge.

“But… I have,” Teddy says dumbly, and James makes an exasperated noise in his throat. “Wait, like— now?”

“Once you’re done with your spaghetti,” James corrects, sitting back and crossing his arms over his chest. Teddy reels a bit, eyes caught on the flex of James’s arms.

“That’s not— it doesn’t, uh, work like that,” Teddy stammers. His hand shakes a bit where he holds his fork and he sets it down firmly. “I just use a lot of references.”

“Right,” James says, grinning wide and gesturing down his front. “So here I am. Reference.” 

Teddy doesn’t answer at first, not even sure why the idea fills him with so much dread. He picks up his fork again, poking nervously at his dinner, saying, “Pictures. I use pictures. They don’t move.” He shoves another forkful of spaghetti into his mouth despite he churning in his stomach.

James says, “But I see you looking at me all the time,” and the last bite Teddy took seriously threatens to make a reappearance. His heart is pounding so hard he can physically feel the blood it pushes to the surface of his cheeks and chest. 

James looks a little alarmed, and Teddy pushes his plate away from him, appetite well and truly gone. “Yeah, well,” he says, leaning back and pushing at the table in some subconscious effort in distancing himself from James. “You know, um, it’s important to see how someone moves, in real life, and like, the shadows and stuff, and—”

James waves him off as though this is all trivial, and Teddy supposes it should be, given that he technically gave a very reasonable explanation, but Teddy’s heart still races in his chest all the same.

“Fine, fine, you win, Teds. But I wanna see the next time you draw me, I mean it.” He rises from the table, collecting his own plate and holding an expectant hand out for Teddy’s. Teddy hands it over, then drops his head into his hands when James’s back is turned.

“Sure, Jamie,” Teddy says, voice a little too strained. James doesn’t comment, and Teddy is seriously starting to wonder if he reads too much into their interactions. 

..

Tonks is always leaving or gone, and if she isn’t, she’s whispering with James. Teddy keeps catching them, Tonks looking smug, and James red to the tips of his ears. Teddy doesn’t know what that means.

..

They’re sharing a spliff and playing a game— some first person shooter match that James is far too good at—  the first time it happens, so fast Teddy doesn’t have time to prepare for it. 

“This game is shit,” Teddy mumbles, closing his eyes and soaking in the music James put on before the round started. It sounds so, so nice, and Teddy’s brain can’t focus on the screen in front of him long enough. It amazes him, the way James can be so one track minded when they’re both so stoned. “Fuck you, I’m too high for this, how are you doing this?”

James laughs, loud and bright, as his character runs along the wall, flinging a hatchet that strikes Teddy’s character dead-on. A medal flashes along the top of James’s screen, and Teddy scowls, though his annoyance is barely surface level. He quite likes the way the corners of James’s eyes crinkle, and feels warm all over when James laughs way too long at his success.

“Oh, fuck you, Jamie, I’m going to get a biscuit,” Teddy pouts exaggeratedly, not on purpose. He knocks his knee into James’s beside him, and James goes strangely quiet, but that’s not out of the ordinary when they’re this gone— normally James is simply thinking of what to say. 

“You want one?” Teddy asks, knowing he’ll probably bring one back anyway, and James hums. Teddy gets distracted rubbing his eyes, doing so for so long that he doesn’t notice James switch off the console. 

Teddy drops his hands, knuckles tingling and vision returning slowly, but what he does see in James’s eyes and posture makes him immediately freeze, brain kicking into overdrive. Soft, Teddy thinks nonsensically, because James really isn’t. “Um,” he says, overwhelmingly hot under James’s gaze in a matter of seconds.

James’s eyes drop to his mouth, as he visibly leans, and Teddy’s malfunctioning brain sets off alarms at the same time it thinks, overwhelmingly, YES!, and his body says flight.

“I’m gonna, uh—” Teddy starts, and James tilts forward even as he sits up, caging Teddy in and leveling himself with his mouth. Teddy doesn’t think he’d be able to retreat then if he wanted to, eyes dropping to James’s lips and lingering there. James dips his head cautiously, brushing their noses together, and Teddy’s breath hitches in his throat.

“Teddy,” James murmurs, and Teddy can’t speak, can’t even breathe as James’s hand reaches up to cup his jaw, lips meeting his. Teddy shudders against his mouth, lips parting immediately as he kisses back. He melts into it and feels James reeling him back in, shushing him gently and curling a hand around his waist. 

“Jesus Christ,” Teddy says against James’s mouth, and James laughs, crawling into Teddy’s lap. It’s such a startling juxtaposition, to have James so securely in his arms yet to be so utterly helpless for the hands cupping his jaw, that Teddy realizes immediately that he knows exactly what they mean by bottoming from the top, holy fuck. James kisses Teddy like he has something to give him, and every thought that Teddy ever had about what a bad idea this is goes mute.

“Finally,” James says to his upper lip, and Teddy has no idea what that means— even though he knows he should, was he always this stupid?— but he really, really likes the sound of it, so when James slides off his lap, eyelids heavy and lips parted, Teddy guides him with a hand in his hair.

“Jamie, are you sure you—” Teddy starts, but James puts a finger to his own lips and shushes him with a glare. He looks so silly on his knees with his nose wrinkled that Teddy laughs loudly, laying a hand on James’s cheek. He laughs again, because James is so warm under his palm.

When deft hands begin to unbutton and unzip his jeans, fumbling just a little, the laughter dies in his throat to make room for sudden and blinding arousal. This is another thing that happens when Teddy is this high: every single brush against his skin feels like lightening. 

James,” Teddy says, eyes fluttering shut, and James presses an open mouthed kiss to his clothed dick, saliva wetting the material obscenely. It’s the last coherent word he says for a while.

..

Sometimes waking up after a night high, in Teddy’s opinion, is an absolute nightmare. Teddy will admit his habit of hitting an oil pen some mornings, but that’s completely different— he has a bit of a headache, now, and his head feels clouded, and he desperately wishes for any sort of clarity— his thoughts are an absolute mess.

He wouldn’t call what he and James did sleeping together. I mean really, he reasons, it was only a trading of blowjobs. People do those types of things with their mates all the time, don’t they? 

And if things were a little too intense, well— Teddy can blame that on the two of them being stoned out of their minds. 

Except, the little voice in his head whispers as he pushes open the screen door that looks over the beach, making his way down. He and James had never done that before. They got high together at least once a week, and never had James ever indicated he wanted anything like that with Teddy.

Not that James isn’t a flirt, Teddy amends in his head, sinking his toes into the wet sand, not yet sun warmed. He definitely is. But it was always harmless, before—

Ah. Teddy won’t even go there, can’t even begin to list the reasons a repeat— or even a thought— of last night would be a bad idea. Jesus, Teddy thinks, paying no mind to the sand sticking to his shorts and legs as he sits. If anything could destroy him, it would be a friends-with-benefits situation with one James Sirius Potter. 

The shells littering the beach are small and crushed. He saves the resonation for his art.

Teddy’s so lost in his head that the crunch of a shell— and James’s subsequent yelp— behind him makes him startle, then begin to near vibrate with nervous energy. He can’t look, even as James settles next to him, too close, thigh warm against Teddy’s own.

Teddy tips his head to his chest, palm rubbing at one eye. His fingers find an earring and he tugs, nearly losing the back.

“Teddy,” he hears James say, a little ways behind him, and he wants to dissolve. Hey Siri, how to die on the spot in order to get out of an unpleasant conversation? Teddy doesn’t even know where his phone is. James is the only person he texts, anyway.

“Don’t,” Teddy says to the sand, to the shells, to his and James’s knees knocking together.

None of them listen. “Teddy,” James says again, digging his fingertips into the smallest part of Teddy’s thigh. Teddy’s pulse jumps and he swears he can hear the click of his throat as he swallows.

“We shouldn’t,” Teddy says, taken aback by the intensity in his own voice, and James’s thumb freezes where it had previously been soothing the spots his fingers had been.

James’s words come out a little raw, and when he removes his hand, his fingers shake. “What do you mean, we—“

“I can’t,” Teddy says, softer, curling in on himself. He tucks his hands under his arms, feeling chilled, whether by the breeze or his own thoughts, he isn’t sure.

“Can’t what?” James asks, all stubbornness and confusion, still leaning towards Teddy and looking as though he may reach again.

Teddy squeezes his eyes shut and counts, fingertips digging into his eyes. James waits, as he always does when Teddy is overwhelmed, but there’s a certain anticipation about it that Teddy absolutely isn’t used to, and it makes him nervous all over again.

“I can’t be an experiment,” Teddy says, and a beat passes before James, in a reaction Teddy didn’t expect, laughs. Teddy can feel his face redden, and James just keeps laughing, relieved and happy and like everything is solved, and it really, really isn’t. 

James reaches for his arms, tugging on them, like he can make Teddy unravel with his touch alone— which, he can, and it scares Teddy that he knows this. “Teddy,” James says, like this is all a big joke that Teddy’s just a little too slow to pick up on. “Come on, now. Isn’t it a little late to worry about that?”

Teddy blinks once, twice, horror creeping up his spine. “What?” he asks, voice cracking. His already shaking hands start to go numb, because oh, of course, how could he be so stupid? Of course it’s a little late— the morning after sex isn’t quite the time to be worrying about being used. 

Forehead creasing a little, corners of his mouth still upturned, James’s hands cup the side of his face, his neck, slide down his shoulders. “Teddy,” he says earnestly, again, and Teddy wishes he would stop saying his name. “You don’t think I’ve had enough time to experiment by now?”

He says the word like it’s silly, like it’s ridiculous, and Teddy doesn’t even know where to begin to unpack that. He sighs, frustrated, closing his eyes and praying to whatever god is out there that when he opens them he’ll be far, far away from here. He doesn’t have to open his eyes to know it doesn’t work, because although James doesn’t speak, his hands rub circles up and down Teddy’s arms, equal parts soothing and terrifying. 

“James,” Teddy says slowly, and he doesn’t know when they became these people, the ones who say each other’s names a certain way like that explains everything, like maybe if they speak very, very softly they won’t have to say anything at all. “We were high. It was one night. That’s not enough to know if you—”

“If I what, Teddy?” James says incredulously, not exactly loudly, but too loud for Teddy, and he wants to cover his ears. “If I like you? Since when do you have to fuck someone to know that?” He’s pissed, or at least Teddy thinks he is, taking his hands back and retreating, and Teddy doesn’t quite know how to function when he’s like this, doesn’t know how to react. If he's being honest, he's not really sure what he said to set James off in the first place.

“That’s not what I—”

“So fuck me then, if you’re so smart and right about this. Since you know everything there is to know about attraction.” James’s chest is heaving, and this is so like him, so impulsive and wild, and Teddy can’t catch his breath, can barely follow the conversation.

“James,” Teddy tries, and James is shaking his head, hand over eyes and rubbing, but he presses anyway. “No, James, I can’t just take your virginity to prove a fucking point, that’s insane—

“Then what, Teddy? What do you want? I’m not seeing the problem,” James says, the last bit punctuated with open palms and tense shoulders, wide eyes and creased brows. Teddy loves him so much he’s sick with it.

“It’s just that—” You’re not even sure you’re queer, we could do this and you could hate me, it’s just that I love you, I’m in love with you. These are all helpful things his brain supplies him with, but what comes out is: “I mean, it’s not exactly fair, is it? There’s a power dynamic, ‘cause you haven’t— and what if you want to stop and don’t say so, and then I’m just—”

“Teddy,” James says, firmly and a little sharp, “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about— power dynamic, Jesus, getting fucked isn’t submission, and you’re not fucking forcing me, what the fuck— are you high? None of these are problems and they’re shitty excuses. If you don’t want me just fucking say so.”

“I— no, I didn’t say—”

“Jesus fuck, you are high, how didn’t I—”

“No, I’m not, what the fuck, James? This still isn’t the right way to do this, it’s still not—”

“Not what? Fair to fuck me when I want it?” James laughs, a little incensed and a lot confused. He shoves at Teddy’s shoulders, hard, sending him back onto his elbows. Teddy stares, eyes wide. “God, Teds, you’re so fucking stubborn. Let me prove this to you, what the hell!”

“I can’t fuck you, Jamie,” he says, still a little lost but sure of that fact, and watches as James visibly reels in his anger and breathes.

“But you want to,” James says quietly, and it’s so like him yet so startling, to be so angry one minute and so calm the next. It makes Teddy crumble, the truth laid bare in front of him, and he looks skyward.

“I do,” he says, shaky and soft.

“Then let me fuck you,” James says, like it’s the best and only solution, and Teddy is looking at him again, left wondering how they got here, trying to prove what, he doesn’t know. Wondering how they got here, with James leaning over him, all blurred lines and shades of gold, and he must see something in Teddy’s face, because he’s cupping his jaw and whispering, “Come on, Teddy, it makes sense. We're both giving firsts. You can stop making yourself feel like a bad person.”

And Teddy is already forgetting his fear, unable to hold onto it with James talking like that, looking like that, looking at Teddy like that. He’s already letting his thighs fall open, whispering back, “Okay.”

..

They don’t actually fuck on the beach. James was really pushing for it, sliding his hands up Teddy’s shirt and kissing Teddy through his distracted not-quite-protests. It’s only when James has got Teddy’s shirt off and the morning chill bites his bare skin that Teddy actually halts him in his tracks, mumbling explanations about public indecency and cold and sand. It’s not very articulate, but it works, and they make it back inside, Teddy’s shirt thrown on inside out and scattered evidence of the beach all over the floor.

“We’ll have to clean that later,” Teddy tells him, and James bites at his throat, digging his fingers into his hips.

“Yeah, yeah,” James says against Teddy’s collarbone, then spits sand from his tongue. “I think—” He sounds so put out, and Teddy laughs. “I think we need to clean you up right now.” He shoves Teddy up against the wall by the steps, and Teddy sighs in realization, halting him with a hand on his chest.

“Shit, we do. Well— I do. And not just the sand,” Teddy says, and James blinks, eyes unclouding, and he groans.

“God fucking damn it. I didn’t even think about that,” he says, head tipping forward to rest against Teddy’s collarbone in defeat.

“I didn’t either,” Teddy admits. “I’d say we could just skip but I haven’t showered yet, so I— yeah. It won’t take long, just—” He gestures vaguely, and James nods, teeth sinking into his lower lip.

“Do you even have—” James makes a brief squeezing motion with his hand, which makes Teddy snort, then wonder how it is that James knows so much.

“I keep one here,” he says, sheepish, and James nods but doesn’t ask, fingers tugging at the hem of Teddy’s shirt.

“Okay,” he says softly. “I’ll get a— towel?”

“Yeah,” Teddy says, feeling warm from the inside out. “Okay. You do that.”

..

It really doesn’t take that long, the cleaning of the bulb a bit more time consuming than even cleaning himself, and Teddy doesn’t know whether to be relieved or distressed that he didn’t have enough time to talk himself out of this.

James is waiting for him on the bed, clad in nothing but his boxers— Teddy in little more— and twisting his hands. There’s a towel stretched across the comforter— it’s white, and that makes Teddy want to laugh, but James looks so nervous, so he doesn’t.

“Jamie,” Teddy murmurs, rubbing his bare arms, making no move towards the bed. 

“I know what I’m doing,” James blurts. Teddy blinks.

“Okay?” he says, and James sighs, flopping backwards and hiding his face behind his hands. 

“I’ve done this before. To myself. I mean,” he says, muffled behind his fingers. “So if you— I mean— if you’d let me, I want to—”

Oh. “You want to finger me?” Teddy asks, and James makes a choking noise and nothing else. “I don’t know what that means.”

James exhales, dropping his hands from his face and pushing himself up in a sitting position. “Yes,” he admits, face a bright red, freckles standing prominent. “Please,” he adds, and Teddy’s breath leaves him in a rush.

“Yeah, oh— okay,” Teddy says, flushing hot and stumbling around the words. James looks relieved at this, tension sagging from his shoulders. “But are you sure you— I mean, I have condoms, too, and I figured we…” Teddy scrubs a hand over his face, and James’s eyes are so wide and earnest and pretty. “It’s just… mess,” he adds finally, like that explains everything, and judging by James’s face, it does.

“I don’t care,” he says immediately, and when Teddy still looks doubtful, “I don’t, Teds. Come here. Please.”

Teddy does, and he’s more than a little hard, so the walk is uncomfortable. He sits, perched on the very edge of the bed, which makes James frown and tug him closer. “I thought I was supposed to be the virgin here,” he teases lightly, but there’s a question there, and Teddy shrugs.

“Anthony didn’t like to top,” he says, staring down at James’s hand and the thumb stroking over Teddy’s knuckles. “So I— I know how to do this, mostly, but I don’t even know if I—”

“Like it?” James asks softly, and Teddy nods. “You’ve never— to yourself?” 

“No,” Teddy admits, and James exhales, then leans in to kiss him, once, twice.

“Okay,” he says. “So we go slow. And we stop if you need to.” 

“Okay,” Teddy says back, and this is so different for them, James being the mature one, and it unsettles him a little more than it should.

“I mean it, Teddy. The second you’re uncomfortable,” James insists, and Teddy remembers that he’s in love and pushes away the thought that this is a bad idea all at once.

“Yeah,” Teddy says quietly. “You too, okay?”

James nods, squeezing Teddy’s hand once, though so tightly Teddy feels like it’s for himself, too. He looks at Teddy a little blankly afterwards and Teddy realizes that if he doesn’t make the first move it’ll never happen.

He releases James’s hand, taking a few steps back. His hand bumps the mirror and he jumps, which makes James laugh, though it sounds nervous. He grips the hem of his shirt with both hands and pulls, slowly, up and over his head. 

..

“How is it?” James asks, like it’s punched out of him, and he looks so anxious.

“Weird,” Teddy says quietly, bearing down a little on James’s fingers, which makes James’s breath hitch oddly. 

“Yeah,” James says after a moment. “But— good?” He curls his fingers a little, as if in emphasis, and Teddy’s breath hitches next.

“Yeah,” Teddy breathes. “Although— I think Anthony liked this a little more than I do.”

James’s nose scrunches, whole face going a little dark. “Can we not talk about him?” he says, low and dark, and Teddy’s hips twitch as he drives his fingers in a little roughly.

Ah— sorry, shit, I didn’t realize you be so— fuck, hang on,” Teddy gasps out, because— it’s not that he doesn’t like that completely, he just doesn’t really want—

James stops, jaw going a little slack and looking chastised. “I’m sorry,” he says, blinking rapidly. “I like it like this— do you—“

Teddy sucks a little breath into his lungs, tucking that information into his head for later, then chiding himself mentally— what later?  “Um,” he says eloquently, pushing himself up onto his elbows. “It’s just weird, I guess.”

“Here, let me—“ This stroke is a little smoother, slower, and Teddy lets his head drop back a little, eyes to the ceiling. It’s nice, better, sort of gentle, and Teddy can focus on the glide instead of impact, and it feels a hell of a lot less invasive. “That okay?”

“Better,” Teddy says, and swallows, mouth dry. “I think I’m— how many did you—“

“Three,” James says in a rush, spreads them a little, and Teddy gasps at the discomfort. “Did you want—“

“Yeah, uh— yeah, do it, I’m good,” Teddy breaths, and James blinks a long moment before withdrawing his fingers, gently, but Teddy hisses at the feeling of loss all the same. 

“Um,” James says, inhaling deeply. He looks around blankly, then exhales as he locates the condom packet on the nightstand. “Right, so—“ 

Now that his head’s no longer clouded with the feel of James’s fingers inside of him, panic claws its way up Teddy’s chest. “Why are we doing this?” he blurts, and then his throat closes, like he’s allergic to the words. He feels bare, even a little guilty, like he tricked James into sleeping with him somehow.

James narrows his eyes, fingers still fumbling a little with the wrapper. “Because I want to. And you want to. I— fucking want to, Teddy, okay?”

“But why?” Teddy asks, and he simultaneously doesn’t know what he wants to hear and also knows perfectly well.

James looks pained, lips a little pale and eyes wide. “Don’t you know, Teddy?” he answers quietly, and Teddy doesn’t know at all, but hope is trying to suffocate him where he lays, so he drops it completely. 

He sits up, taking the rubber from James’s fingers and rolling it— not expertly, not really, but gently over him. They’re quiet, save for their soft breathing and James’s slight hiss, and when James slides a lube slicked hand over himself Teddy feels his worldview cloud around the edges. He settles back against the sheets, and even though he doesn’t feel quite as enthusiastic about being fucked as he’d like to, there’s a distinct hum of anticipation lighting his nerve endings, making him want.  

James’s own skin is flushed, from his cheekbones to his chest, as he guides himself gently into Teddy, who sucks in a sharp breath. “Are you okay?” James asks, sounding alarmed, and Teddy nods, eyes squeezed tight. 

“Keep going,” he murmurs. “Just—”

“Fucking hell,” James breathes, cracked, but he does go slow. Teddy tangles his fingers in the sheets, steadying his breathing, and James grips his hips firmly, suddenly, shifting them upwards and driving deep. A gasp tears itself from Teddy’s throat as white heat races up his spine. Oh. “Okay?”

“Good,” Teddy chokes out, and James thumbs over his hipbone and rocks into him, a soothing drag. From the way James’s chest rises and falls shakily, Teddy guesses the pace is partially for his own benefit. James shifts forward, looking like he might kiss Teddy, but the angle is weird and Teddy doesn’t quite bend that way, and he looks frustrated.

“Will you— can you turn over?” James says quietly, and Teddy is privately relieved, because he thinks he might start crying. He turns over with no argument, flat against the sheets. He can’t touch himself like this, but he’s a little beyond caring if he comes at this point. The angle is better, and Teddy hiccups a pleased, if wet, sigh into the sheets as James’s hands slide up over his shoulders, fingers tangling as he presses him into the mattress.

Soft lips pepper kisses along his shoulders, the back of his neck, and Teddy trembles, sensitive. His face is definitely wet, and he wipes his face discreetly before surrendering to James’s hips and his hands.

When James comes, it’s quiet but not silent. When Teddy comes, after he lets James turn him over and get his mouth on him, it’s with an arm flung over his face. 

..

Teddy’s almost certain he doesn’t dream the hand on his cheek as he starts to doze off. He definitely isn’t dreaming when James presses close to his chest and sleeps, too.

..

When Teddy wakes for the second time that day, it’s well past noon and James is still passed out. He’s sprawled clear on the other side of the bed, and Teddy thinks he must’ve moved at some point. 

He allows himself a few moments to watch James, the steady rise and fall of his back as he breathes, before he starts to feel like a creep. Sighing, he gets out of bed to piss and brush his teeth, dragging on a jumper and a pair of joggers. His socked feet drag across the carpet a few steps and he picks them up, mindful of static. His shoulder bumps the doorway of the bathroom and he feels embarrassed, even though no one is watching.

Teddy thinks the way he brushes his teeth is, objectively, gross— it’s messy, and most of the time he ends up wiping the foam off with his hands. James always makes fun of him for it, even though when James brushes his teeth he—

Teddy’s brain stutters and abruptly stops, and he drops his toothbrush onto the counter, toothpaste foam splattering over it.

“Oh, fuck,” he says to his reflection, as his brain comes back on and kicks into a loud, panicky overdrive. “Fuck,” he says again, slapping his hands over his face and nearly getting toothpaste in his eye. It takes a minute for his fear to solidify into concrete thoughts, but he honestly doesn’t know which is worse.

He feels immensely relieved he hadn’t processed the consequences of his actions until he was alone, because his breathing sounds odd and horrible and loud, even to his own ears, but he still can’t calm down, because he slept with James— his best friend, who he’s probably been in love with since he’s known what love was. His best friend, who he’d be sharing a bed with for the rest of the summer.

How do you have a one night stand with a friend? Teddy’s never had one with anyone before, but he assumes it’d be far less complicated with a stranger— far easier to slip out unannounced the next day, never to see them again.

Fucking hell, James is going to hate him. Teddy doesn’t really know why, can’t really think of a reason, but he just knows. He’ll see past whatever madness had him claiming to like Teddy, and he’ll blame him for everything that happened, and he’ll hate him.

Teddy picks up his toothbrush and rinses it, then grabs some toilet paper to wipe the foam from the counter. His hands are shaking and a little numb, and dimly he registers that he’s really freaking out. Fuck. He takes a few deep breaths to steady himself— which honestly doesn’t help much, but it’s something— before making his way down the hall to the kitchen as quickly and quietly as possible.

He doesn’t know why he didn’t expect to run into Tonks, but he does— literally, in the doorway. He yelps, and she grips his arms, steadying him. “Teddy?” he hears her say, and he doesn’t hear her, not really, but he thinks he makes some sort of wheezing sound. “Oh, honey.”

She guides him to a chair and settles him into it. He hears her rummaging around in the cupboards, and then she’s pressing a mug of something warm in his hands. Some sort of tea, he realizes, zeroing in on it. “Breathe,” Tonks says, and it sounds distant, but he does, focusing on the smell, cinnamon, he thinks, and apple, and the warmth under his fingers the way she taught him.

They sit in silence for several minutes while Tonks continues around the kitchen, slicing bread and putting it in the toaster, pulling out the cinnamon and sugar from the cupboard. It’s his favorite, cinnamon and sugar on toast, something Sirius always made for him when he was having a bad day and, as he got older, during times like this. It’s soothing, the reminder that he’s home and cared for, and he breathes out heavily. Lifting still-shaky hands, Teddy takes a slow, cautious sip from the mug, then another. It’s a little too hot, but the stimulation pulls him back into himself a little more. The toast pops, and Teddy jumps, but the mug is large and doesn’t spill. 

“Do you wanna talk about it?” Tonks asks softly, setting the toast in front of him. The smell makes Teddy feel warm, loosens something in his chest and shoulders. He shrugs and stares down at his mug. It’s plain, and he frowns a little, because Tonks must really think he looks like shit if she’s not teasing him. He takes another sip and clears his throat. Tonks turns a chair outward to face him, and sits, one leg tucked up under the other, and Teddy finds that honestly, he does kind of want to talk about it with her.

“James and I had sex,” he says, all in one breath, and voice and whole body starting to shake. He sets down his mug for fear of dropping it, rubbing the side of his face with one hand. “And… I think I’m in love with him.” 

Tonks must see something in his face, because she says, “You think?” and reaches out to rest a hand on his arm, and his eyes burn hot, and his chest feels like it’s splitting open, and he wishes they had done this on the couch so he could curl up into a ball and hide. He picks up his mug again, because you can’t cry and drink at the same time. 

Tonks removes her hand and lets him, and he appreciates that she remembered he doesn’t like to be touched when he cries. It helps him calm down much faster, lets him pull in all the runny bits again. Teddy pulls one leg up onto the chair as best as he can manage. Tonks gets up to get him a napkin, but doesn’t hand it to him, and wipes his face herself. The gesture makes him feel ridiculous, but based on the way her eyes crinkle at the corners, she knows that. Her smile makes him feel steady enough to say, “No, I know I am.” His tea is gone by this point, and he kind of wishes it wasn’t. He picks at the corner of his toast and shoves it in his mouth instead, past caring if it’s cold.

Tonks smiles wider, but gentle, and puts her hand on his cheek. She settles back into her chair, legs crossed completely on the seat this time, and drops her hands into her lap. “So what’s the problem, then?” she says, like she can’t possibly think of one. Her face turns a little serious when he looks up at her, brows pulling together.

“I can think of a million problems,” Teddy says, rubbing the back of his neck and feeling a little put out that she didn’t already understand, because he’d really been hoping they wouldn’t have to get into detail about the whole thing. Tonks raises one eyebrow, looking like she's waiting, but Teddy doesn’t offer anything else, and she sighs.

“Okay, so name one,” she says, leaning back and crossing her arms. Her tattoos look incredible in the lighting, and Teddy feels a brief spark of jealousy. He drops his chin into his hands, then lets his fingers drag down his face.

“Well to start, he’s straight,” Teddy says, and Tonks snorts so loudly it sounds like it hurt her throat. “What? No, dude, what?”

Tonks laughs then, louder, and he shushes her, dreading the idea of James waking up and walking in. “Sorry, shit, it’s just,” she rubs her fingers over her left eyebrow, eyes wide and amused. “Did you just say James is straight?”

“Yes, what the fuck, why are you laughing?” Teddy says, struggling to push down his frustration. James had never given any indication he might like men, at least, not as far as Teddy knew. Aside from the whole kissing him, and then having sex with him, and then repeating all of that the next day.

“Because, Teddy,” Tonks says, still looking like she’s struggling not to laugh, “You have the worst fucking gaydar of any queer man I’ve ever met. James isn’t straight.” She steals a bit of his toast, then takes his mug, and he’s grateful as she starts to make him more tea, but he’s still reasonably offended.

“I seriously do not believe you,” Teddy says, and Tonks shrugs, unfazed. “Seriously,” and then, “I think I need to go for a drive.”

Tonks shrugs, gesturing to his keys on a hook by the door. She pulls out a travel mug, too, insisting he take his tea with him. “Go slow. Think a little bit. Don’t be stupid.”

..

He doesn’t go for a drive, not immediately, just sits in his car for a bit. Then he wishes he had driven immediately, because he sees James jogging down the path to him, and Teddy’s not nearly enough of a prick to turn the key and pull off.

Teddy sighs, dropping his forehead against the steering wheel, and he hears the car door open as James climbs in, shutting it behind him. “Teddy,” he says, and Teddy really does not want to do this again, so he turns the key and starts the car, not lifting his head. James sighs. “Tonks said you were going for a drive.”

“To think,” Teddy says, a little stiffly, then sits up. If James is hurt by his tone, he doesn’t show it.

“I can be quiet,” James says, always so stubborn, and Teddy just sighs again and doesn’t argue. He shifts the car into drive and pulls down the path leading away from the house. 

True to his word, James is quiet as Teddy drives, but that doesn’t stop Teddy’s mind from drifting to him, all wide, pretty eyes and scattered freckles in the passenger seat. He wants nothing more than to pull over and pull James into his lap, but the thought makes his chest ache so much he has to abandon it altogether— it wouldn’t do at all for Teddy to wreck because he was doing something batshit like tearing up over James’s mouth. Apparently that’s the kind of person he is these days.

“Tonks thinks you’re bent,” he says finally, then immediately regrets it. He doesn’t actually think getting his heart broken while driving even twenty-five miles per hour, or at any speed for that matter, is a good idea, though his brain seems hell bent on making it happen anyway. Maybe, he thinks, I do have a death wish.

James is silent for a long, long minute, though maybe it’s only something like ten seconds, but it feels like ages to Teddy anyway. “I mean,” James says slowly, carefully, and Teddy sees him watching him out of the corner of his eye. “Maybe she thinks that because I am?”

Teddy slams on the breaks.

Okay, not quite slams, even though he does want to. He does pull over, into the grass, and parks the car. “What,” he says, staring straight ahead, taking the key out of the ignition.

“Um,” James says in a small voice, sounding beyond confused. “I thought you… knew?”

“How the fuck would I know that, James?” Teddy says, not caring that he’s being an asshole, because this is pretty fucking major news to him. He probably shouldn’t have been, though, because it sets James off, and he absolutely hates fighting with James.

“Oh, I don’t know, Teddy, maybe because I fucking sucked your dick?” James says coldly, straightening in his seat. “Fucking liked it, too, is that what you wanna hear?”

“James,” Teddy says tiredly, rubbing at his eyes. He’s suddenly way too overwhelmed, and he pushes open his door, not caring that it’s getting dark and there’s a slight chill setting in. This is not at all the way he wanted this conversation to go. He’s not sure he ever wanted to have it in the first place. James follows him out, shutting the door hard when Teddy starts putting distance between himself and the car.

“No, fuck you, Teddy, you don’t get to start a fight then walk away. Is there a problem here I’m missing?” He grips Teddy’s shoulders and turns him around, searching his face wildly. His hair looks too soft, his hands too warm, and Teddy brushes them off and gets in his face, like an idiot. James’s gaze drops to his mouth, but Teddy is too full of anger and frustration and hurt to care.

“I don’t know, James, maybe because you never told me? You never once talked about it, you let me go on and on about the blokes I was seeing and you never once thought, hey, maybe I should tell my best friend I fancy men?”

“Because I fucking don’t, Teds!” James says, equal parts exasperated and furious.

“You just fucking said—”

“I don’t fancy men, for fuck’s sake, Teddy, I fancy you!” James says, which is so much worse, and oh, they’re shouting now, Teddy hates shouting.

“Great,” he says bitterly. “So I’m the one man you’d go gay for and you think—”

“What the fuck, Teddy,” James says, and for a moment Teddy thinks he might start ripping his hair out. “I’m fucking— you’re so— I didn’t talk about men because I didn’t know those men, and I’m sorry, but I’m just not into having sex with people I don’t know! And don’t even fucking make some joke about me thinking you’re a slut, Teddy, it’s not funny and I think you really fucking mean it. I just don’t want to.” 

He shoves Teddy then, and Teddy doesn’t know why, but he shoves him back, and shoves him again.

“You absolute bastard,” James says, dropping his hands, and Teddy thinks he might be crying. “I thought I was broken, that’s why, but I didn’t know them like I know you, and I know you, and I want you.

“James— you’re confused, I don’t think—”

“Oh, fuck you, Teddy, are you confused? I didn’t do this to you, why are you being a prick?” 

“James—”

“Do you love me, Teddy?” James says, pulls himself upright. He still looks furious, chest heaving, and Teddy falters.

“James, I—”

“Yes or no, Teddy, do you love me or not?”

“I—” Teddy covers his face, rubs over his temples, drops his hands. “I’m— Yes, okay, I love you, and you— want to sleep with me, so I don’t know why we’re even—”

James kisses him, hard. His hands fist into Teddy’s jumper, surely wrinkling it a little, and his mouth is hot and insistent and his lips are chapped, and it’s a little wet, because James was crying a little, Teddy panics, and he bites him.

James backs off immediately, holding his lower lip, and Teddy thinks he sees a bit of blood. Immediately he feels guilty, even more so for the way his own blood runs hot at the sight of it, at the way James looks absolutely incandescent.

“Only queer who fancies his best friend in the entire goddamn universe, is that it, Ted? You think you’re that fucking special?” James spits, wiping the blood from his mouth. “I’m in love with you, is that alright, or does it ruin your fucking pity party?”

Teddy deflates, shoulders sagging, as the most cautious relief he’s ever felt floods him— that’s all it is, no joy, no elation, just relief. “You— I’m not—”

“Oh, come off it, Ted, don’t act like that’s not what this is.” James says, and this time he sounds exhausted, looking skyward and dropping his fingers from his lip. His hands ball into fists by his sides, and he breathes in and looks back at Teddy, holding eye contact, which makes Teddy shift a little where he stands. “I’m going to kiss you again,” he says simply, firmly and Teddy blinks, and looks at James’s cheek instead, his ear. “Are you going to let me?”

“You—”

“Yes or no, Teds, come on. I’m not getting bit again.”

Teddy breathes, and breathes, and stares. “Okay,” he whispers, so quietly he’s not even sure if James will hear it.

“Is that a yes?”

Teddy counts to three in his head, chest feeling full to bursting. “Yes.”

The tension drops from James’s shoulders all at once, and closes the distance between them again, reaching for Teddy’s face with both hands and pulling him in. Teddy’s own hands settle at James’s hips, slide up over his waist and rib cage, then back down. For a moment, James just looks at Teddy’s mouth, into his eyes, and Teddy looks at him, too. Then, slowly, and so much more gentle than the first time, James kisses him. 

This time, Teddy kisses him back.