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The window is foggy with condensation but the vibrancy of the green fields is still plainly visible. Richard doesn’t care if it’s raining, he hasn’t left their rented room since entering it just after 1:00 pm and the restlessness is starting to get to him. He can’t stand still without tapping his foot or fiddling with his hat.

 While he knows of a number of ways he could pleasantly release his cooped up energy that Thomas would enjoy, neither of them could manage that for the next couple of hours. So Richard must make do with a walk.

“I’ll be back in a minute, just need to stretch my legs a bit” Richard presses his hat onto his head, one handed. “I already said you don’t have to come if you don’t feel like it”.

Thomas, who is perfectly comfortable staying in for the rest of their 24 hour’s together, irritatedly dog ears the book they had been reading. More accurately, the one Richard read while Thomas, who rested his head over his shoulder, tried to understand the appeal of the  indecipherable poetry.

Thomas folds his arms over his chest and makes a point of looking annoyed.

“Thomas I need to move, I’m not the person who can laze about the whole day, never have been”

Can’t be if you live in London, Richard thought to himself. It was around 3:00 pm and he would be half way around St. James Park by now if he was back at the palace. Fortunately he’s not at the palace and has instead, found himself in Bedford for a day and night with the one and only Thomas Barrow.

He’s always been like this, needing to stay active. Drove his poor mum mad back at home, obnoxious little lad that he was. Always running around out back getting up to God knows what. Found a little chick in the yard once, brought it inside and tried to feed it soup.

Thomas however, is by no means lazy, but he currently would rather be curled up in the warmth of the cream sheets than the biting October air. Much preferring the white noise of wet drizzle from inside, rather than out in the open street. He likes the pattering rain from indoors, with the right roof, it sounds like sizzling bacon. He stretches his legs out in front of him in one fluid, catlike motion.

“Calling me lazy Mr Ellis?” He clasps a hand to his chest in fake and exaggerated offence “ tsk tsk”.

Richard just rolls his eyes and crosses the room, putting both hands on the sides of Thomas’s neck. He intends it to be a quick peck on the lips, but Thomas pulls at his lapels before he can pull away.

He doesn’t know if he wants to now.

But eventually Thomas breaks for air and let’s go of him, leaving Richard a tad disappointed as he hears the familiar pop of lips breaking suction. Thomas’s hands graze their way down to the dip of Richard’s sides where they linger on the fabric of his waistcoat, before pulling away entirely and finding the edge of the sheet again.

“ I said no such thing “

“You will hurry back though?” His voice softer than before.  He takes their hands and bring them to his lap, playing with Richard’s fingers.

“ I will love, I’ll walk quickly “

With that, Thomas reluctantly lets go of his hands and lets him leave. He does as so, only after kissing the furrowed brow of the annoyed, cozy, and pleasingly disheveled Thomas, first.

He exits the inn into the unwelcoming fall drizzle, taking the air into his lungs. It feels sharp through his nose.

He suddenly misses the warm lamp light from their room, and how lovely Thomas looks in it.

The predictable timing of turning book pages is replaced by the pattering of rain that sets a gloss over the sidewalk’s concrete slabs. But before he can change his mind and go back inside, his feet, eager to do something, whisk him down the street at a pace.

The street is grey, everything is really. The shops being eagerly abandoned for the bland brick townhomes that stand uniformly across most of the town. Richard curses the steel clouds that imprison the sun that could potentially make this place feel more pleasant to spend time in. However, the small city’s residents aren’t here for the scenery. They’re stern, practical people, who mind their own business and don’t care enough to pay a second of attention to 2 ‘business partners’ staying at a local inn because they miscalculated the days that would be needed to meet with investors.

Richard keeps his quick pace towards the fields he spotted in the distant south of the inn, looking at the cobbles in front of him to keep his face dry.

It doesn’t help much, the tiny droplets of water mist over his face, it’s surprisingly pleasant. After what he assumes is around 20 minutes, the shoulders of his coat are a much darker shade than before.

“Ellis!” A voice calls from the opposite street

Was that my name?  

Who the hell do I know here?

It takes a few moments for the adrenaline to hit, and when it does it crashes into him like a tidal wave. Is this where their luck runs out? Assuming the worst, as he normally does when anywhere out of London, or well, even in London too, he focuses all of his energy on maintaining a calm exterior. Like an egg scrambling itself inside of a blank and unassuming shell. And then he tries to think. The person clearly knows enough about him to know his name and address him as such. The cover up story he told the inn keeper won’t do, so what on earth could his majesty’s second dresser be getting up to in Bedford?

Then it occurred to him that he had absolutely no details of the situation or what the man- It was a man wasn’t it?  wanted or even looked like.

“ Oi Richard!”

He whips his head around as he turns to his left, eyes passing over the street opposite. They land on a tall, and very familiar frame of the waving man, that happens to be none other than Harry Ellis.

His witty, charming, very amiable and two year older brother. Who may be too much of a ladies man for him own good, but Richard likes him anyway.

The fears leave him like that and he drops his shoulders from the flooding relief, letting out the long breath he didn’t realize he was holding.

Your fine, safe. Thomas is safe. My dear Tommy,  my sweet sugarplum, my terribly darling Tom. God he’d kill me if I told him what I called him in my head.

And then he break into a beaming smile that matches the one on his brother’s face, they really do look similar, or so they’ve been told.

Harry lifts his black hat off his head as he crosses the street in a jog to meet him, holding it by the rim in his left hand. He clasps his arms around Richard’s in a tight embrace.

“Haha, my favourite baby brother!” He beams with smiling eyes, while poking fondly at his ribs.

“I’ve acted older than you since I could say so myself, and what did Peter ever do to you?” Richard teases back, all in good humour. He’s overjoyed really, hasn’t seen Harry in over a year, not since two Christmases ago. Christ that was before he had even met Thomas.

“Oh nothing of course, Petey’s still in Northampton actually, been doing that  boring accounting thing for what’s his face at something or other, didn’t really pay attention when he told me”

Richard smirks “wouldn’t have guessed”

“Oh it’s not like you could fair any better, don’t know how he manages to stay working there, I’d be bored out of my mind, Probably pays well,  good to see you by the way”

He pauses for a second to analyze the situation “what the hell are you even doing here?”

Richard raises his eyebrows and makes a gesture with his head that hopefully conveys his message of ‘ I’m on homosexual ‘business trip’ and can’t discuss the classified details’.

“Ohhh” thankfully he gets it. They understand each other.

Ooooohhhh

Maybe he gets it too much.

“Mum told me about someone special you found in Downton” he teases in a sing song but carefully hushed tone. He loves his brother for many things and one of them is that he not only doesn’t mind him being the way he is, but doesn’t mind talking about it like any other relationship. He makes him feel like a normal human being, a personal outlet for his many feelings deemed societally unfit. A rare gift among men like him.

With a new heat in his face that probably shows, Richard rolls his eyes and pretends he isn’t bursting to tell him everything and more.

“Oh come on Dick we both know I’ll get it out of you sooner or later, so may as well make it sooner for my sake”

Harry looks down at him with a bemused expression. Still taller than Richard is, as he’s always been, bout 2 inches now. For a second, he thinks that this is probably the closest he’ll ever be to seeing how Thomas sees him, with a blond hair, blue eyed Yorkshire man smirking at him from a height of around 6’3. Weird thought, but interesting.

Harry knows him well enough to know when to push a subject or not and can tell that now, he should be fine with pushing this one down a hill, at high speed, and not letting it slow down.

 “Or maybe I won’t need much effort, to get you to talk that is” reads him like a book, Harry does. Richard trusts him so it’s no harm done. Can be annoying at times, but no harm done.

“Let’s go somewhere quiet shall we?” Richard matches Harry’s raised eyebrows and nods his head to the fields he was original heading towards.

The smirk grows in satisfaction.

Harry puts an arm around his shoulder and continues down the street.

“Mum said he’s called Thomas”

Quiet

“Alright alright fine” he concedes quickly, putting his hand up in surrender.

Richard could be worried of what people might think of him, being half hugged lovingly by a man in the middle of the street, but considering they look almost exactly the same, it wouldn’t be two hard to catch on. The street is empty, save for the few unfortunate stranglers who got caught in the rain on their way home.

“How much did she tell you?” Richard starts.

“Name, where he works, that you seemed quite smitten”

News spreads like wildfire in the Ellis family with the match almost always being his mum.

“She told me that 5 months ago so you must be if you’re still with him, you are aren’t you”

Richard is indeed with Thomas and is indeed smitten.

The town is small so by the time Richard answers, they’ve already taken a few steps onto the first field’s, shin length grass, that flattens beneath their shoes.

“I would bring him by mum n’dad’s place but that’s gonna take at least a week of crafted persuasion, he didn’t with the family lottery like me.”

“ Well that’s sweet of you-“

Parent lottery” he half heartedly corrects himself to steep Harry’s satisfaction. He’s not offended of course, Richard wouldn’t want to do that. He’s not been cross with Harry since he parted their close quarters of home to move out to New Hampshire, where he’s stayed ever since.

New Hampshire.

We’re in Bedford-

 

“What are you even doing here” he asks with confusion. Harry is very social, charismatically charming and likes to enjoy himself, which are not very common traits among the locals or Bedford in general. Something he learned at the bakery he popped into with Thomas on the way to the inn, the owner’s wife had not one smile line.

She was 70.

Harry interrupts his thoughts by answering. “Mr linch had taken ill, so it was up to me to meet with the suppliers, was about to head back actually, but I still have some time before the 5:00 o’clock train”

5:00 o’clock.

Richard pulls out his pocket watch, silently praying he left later than he thought he did. It was 4:25.

Christ, Christ, Christ

 He whips his head back to the town over the field catching Harry concerned gaze for a millisecond.

“Dick, everything alright-“

“Shit I- it’s been way longer than I’d planned- I told him I’d hurry back”

He hangs his head back and curses himself under his breath.

“Don’t worry Dickie go if you need, I’ll write you when I’m back home”

He won’t, hates writing.

“ I’ll walk you back” he starts of back towards the buildings with Richard matching his pace. He shoves his hands in his thick pockets.

It takes them 15 minutes to get back to the inn at the fast pace they carry, with Richard checking the time every 2 minutes and taking the shorter way through the meadows instead of the streets. The blades of grass brush the rain water from their leaves onto the bottom of Richard’s trousers. They make it to the back entrance of the inn, wet, with their coats soaked through at the shoulders.

“You will ask him over though, we’d all like to meet him, I mean I understand if he isn’t ready, but do try”

You don’t need to know Thomas to understand why he would say no to such an invitation, and as much as Richard tells him otherwise, he doesn’t think he’s a very likeable person. He’ll have to introduce the invitation gradually, little hints and things like that.

“I will bring him over eventually, but as I said, it’ll take convincing”

Harry nods.

“….You love him don’t you”

Richard looks around the pasture he knows is devoid of people. Force of habit. Richard nods, smiling fondly, hoping the wind will chill away the heated blush in his face.

“ I’m glad, everyone is, truly, like you said, family lottery ”

Richard huffs.

“Alright well I’ll miss my train if I keep talking to you, so I’ll get going”

“Bye Harry, try to get away for New Years this time, if I can so can you” he says shaking his hand. Harry clasps his upper arm briefly, and makes to leave but before he can take another step, Richard brings him into a brotherly embrace. He says brotherly because it ends with Richard purposely hanging on for to long, laughing as Harry tries to wrestle out of his grip. He eventually relents to let him leave for the station.

“Bye Dick!” he shouts from about 10 meters away.

 Social one.

Richard smiles and shakes his head. He will miss his train.

 


Who is that?

From their room’s window, he can see straight down the back of the inn’s building with a perfect view of the top of two hatted heads. It’s getting darker, and his eyes hurt from the strain, but he needs to see who this is.

The brown hat is Richard, he’s sure of that, it’s the same hat he’d worn last summer during the Royal visit. It seems after the amount of attention he pays to Richard and everything he does, he can recognize him from any angle. Or maybe it’s just the trademark fedora he always wears. The one that, in Thomas’s opinion only looks good on him.

The other one he doesn’t know, he has a stance of cool confidence and air of affability. He’s also far to close to Richard for Thomas’s is comfort, too comfortable with Richard for Thomas comfort.

Thomas hates him.

Doesn’t even know him. But he hates him.

He’s masking his fear with anger and he knows it. As a way of distracting himself from how terrified he feels that Richard might be closer with this man then he would want him to know.

He was masking his fear with anger. It’s not working anymore.

Just a bloody walk, I’ll be back in a moment , damn you Richard

he wouldn’t do something like this, don’t talk about him that way

The tears start forming.

He would never do this, he wouldn’t

Richard wouldn’t

But why the hell wouldn’t he. He lives in London for God’s sake, and Christ, maybe he’s finally come to his senses and realizes that Thomas will never be enough for him or—

The black hat man looks to his left with Richard follow his gaze, then he touches Richard’s arm briefly, just below the shoulder.

 Richard

Richard please please don’t

Richard takes a step closer to him and bloody hugs him, it lasts to long to just be friendly

No, God Richard

His hand is shaking as he carelessly slumps down to the floor and lets his head fall back hard against the ugly wallpapered walls. Thomas hides his face from the empty room and feels the moisture at his eyes spread as he runs his hands over his face and through his hair. He slams his head against the wall on purpose this time, as punishment for stupid faith that this was the perfect relationship he’s been after for years, before just sobbing.

He can’t leave Richard, he just can’t, he needs him. Needs his letters every second day and face in his mind as he works. He’s gotten rather used to being happy and he does not want to go back.

But how pathetic is that. Staying with a man he knows is unfaithful, because he’s all he’s got to shield himself from the loneliness that ate away at him for so long.

Should he confront him?

Yell at him?

Pretend it didn’t happen?

Should he even blame him at all? Was it really fair for Thomas to expect him to stay content with a few shags in a damp inn twice a year and nothing else?

The door lock clicks as a key opens it and Thomas jumps up from the floor as fast as he can. Standing there like an idiot, feeling like an idiot. Richard’s face falls as soon as he sees him.

“ darling, have you been crying—? Richard’s eyes turn wide with worry but Thomas’s stumble away from him tells him not to rush to his side.

Thomas’s voice is meek and small, pleading for answers that won’t make his heart feel worse than it already does.

“Who was that?”

“Who?” Richard sounds as lost as he is but not for the same reason.

“That- that man, the one with the black hat- you hugged him an-“ Thomas says with a wilting voice that carries into a defeated whisper.

“Oh no no no, Thomas love, that was just my bother, I wasn’t- Thomas I would never, you know that”

Brother.

His brother.

A perfectly reasonable explanation.

But Thomas didn’t take comfort. He worked himself up with ten thousand painful emotions that take more than an explanation to remove. Thomas was mad, about what? He didn’t quite know, but he was mad.

At himself, frustrated and upset at his lack of trust and Richard was still back way to late and maybe that means he doesn’t care enough about him or Thomas isn’t important and-

The words he says next don’t really make sense but are upsetting to Richard all the same. Something about Thomas not believing him and questioning the validity of Richard’s love and loyalty. 

Richard, still dressed in the wet coat and hat he didn’t get the chance to take off, looks frustrated now too. He takes Thomas by surprise by simply crossing his arms and waiting for him to explain further. It throws Thomas off guard.

“Look, I don’t know, I just-”

Get jealous very easily because I’m needy and don’t feel confident enough with myself to have faith that you won’t leave me once you find someone better, which wouldn’t be hard to do and I still don’t understand why you even put up with me because I wouldn’t if I were you, and I just really want you to give me a hug right now instead of being justifiably frustrated with me.

Richard raises his eyebrows and waits for him to finish with an expression that reminds him of a mother disappointed in her child. He’s always ever in control and so calm and patient, and it can be very annoying in situations like this.

What? It’s not exactly my fault My hearts been smashed into shards and then badly put together so many times! He wants to snap, but thinks better of it because Richard hasn’t actually done anything wrong and he has no real reason to be angry with him. He’s just touchy.

And can’t stand the thought of Richard leaving.

He loves him is all. Not that hard to understand why. Richard Ellis is very easy to love.

“Look, I’ve been waiting for this to happen the since the beginning and-“ it’s more honest than he planned but it is true.

“ I got scared, I really don’t want to see you go, I feel like if I expect this to end it’ll hurt less when it does”

His shoulders drop under the weight of vulnerability, as he looks everywhere but the heron blue of Richard’s eyes that are clouded with concern. The trim of the wall is becoming increasingly more interesting be the second.

 “Thomas I’m not going to leave you, why would you think-”

“They all say that! Don’t you start saying thing you can’t know”

“Yes, but Thomas I promise you I won’t “

“Yeah well you don’t know that do you!” He snaps, using volume in attempt to cover the break in his voice as he says it. He regrets it immediately, even Thomas is taken aback by his outburst, Richard, well.

“I love you, you know that” he says softly, as if he’s trying to reassure himself and not just Thomas.

“You don’t mean that, just saying it” Thomas mumbles into his palm that’s pressed against his face. The words taste sour in his mouth.

Richard doesn’t say anything to that.

Why keep going! Why can’t you just fucking apologize for ruining your short time together and try not to continue doing it!

His face falls. He looks disappointed, that very much is clear.

“Thomas do you even trust me at all?” He asks after a pause, not actually wanting Thomas’s answer. His voice breaks slightly as he says it.

Yes?

He does trust him, just not when he says things like that.

And how can he believe him? How can he trust a promise the others broke so easily? He wishes he wasn’t like this. All needy and skeptical. It’s all just second nature at this point, a defence mechanism built out of every piece of his heart he lost.

Why does everything have to be a struggle. Why can’t he just accept that this amazing, wonderful, smart, caring, beautiful man is in love with him and not be so fucking needy. The more you trust someone, the more it hurts when they leave, not to mention that they have loads they can use against you. That’s what he’s learned over the years, and Thomas loves Richard more than anything. If he leaves,

Well-

he doesn’t think he could take that.

He just doesn’t understand. Richard lives in London, he could have any man he wants, yet he’s choosing the broken one from bloody Yorkshire  that he only sees twice a year. He doesn’t understand. A younger Thomas might, the one that was confident and full of himself.

Younger Thomas had reasons to be.

 But after years of betrayal, stupid stupid mistakes and loneliness, his confidence slowly slipped away. He can act confident, but he hasn’t actually felt it for years.

Richard seems to take his silence for an answer.

For a second, He looks almost as if he’s trying to replicate how Thomas’s heart feels right now, but he masks it quickly, part of him wished he wouldn’t, as hypocritical as that may sound. It’s probably for the best, seeing how Richard is feeling written plainly on his face would hardly make him feel better. He’s hurt him now. He hates that he has. Thomas feels his insides shred, he loves Richard more than he ever thought possible. He hates anyone who would try and harm him, and the thought of him being upset enough to look at him like that makes his heart sink to the bottom of his chest. But he made him feel like that, by saying things that are true. And that makes his gut twist more than anything else. Thomas is suddenly overwhelmed with the need to cry into someone’s chest.

But the only chest he would want is Richard’s and that wont happen now because Thomas just had to go and butcher everything.

Why does he do this? Why does he have to be so broken to the point where he’s causing the most important person in his life, the sun in his sky, the star in the empty emotional void he calls his universe, to want to leave.

Richard pinch’s the bridge of his nose, the way one might do to ease a headache. If he left him right now, he would leave him unsurprised.

“ Christ— Thomas”

Richard pauses, chest rising and falling as he breaths deep to collect his thoughts. 

“The first time I came to Downton, I remember walking into the boot room and scolding my heart for flipping when I just as much as saw you alone in there, and when I asked you to come to York with me, I bolted out of there before you could say no because I desperately wanted you to come with me. “

Richard’s words feel like a slap to the face, a slap of love, mind. Thomas’s veins are flooded with shame for doubting him, and affection for loving him.

“God, I agreed to help you with your plan for the footmen as soon as the words ‘I was wondering if I could ask a favour—‘ came out of your mouth, and I was willing to risk everything for you the second I heard the whistles a street down from the club” Thomas can feel himself shrink under his gaze, he is right. Of course Richard loves him. What the fuck is wrong with him?

“And then I did risk everything because even before I knew your first name I knew you were worth it”

“Dick” he says it so quietly, he may as well just mouthed his name. It doesn’t help, Richard keeps going, he imagines it’s hard to stop once you’ve started, a feeling he knows all to well. Thomas doesn’t know whether he wants to run far in the opposite direction or wrap himself around this wonderful man and never let go.

 

“ I slept with you letters under my pillow like a lovesick schoolgirl, and to be honest I bloody well felt like one. The second I got around someone I could trust I wouldn’t shut up about you and all the precious things you do that make me lightheaded. How you duck your head when you blush and lick you lips when your nervous “ He says everything quickly as if he only has one breath left to say it all.

“ An’ I do all those things because I love you more that I’ve ever loved anyone and it breaks my heart to know that after all that, you’re still not sure if I bloody care about you”

Thomas hasn’t taken a breath in the last minute an a half. After spending his whole life having his trust broken like a china plate thrown against cement, it’s hard. It’s so damn hard. That horrible, haunting whisper in the back of his mind, the one that has manifested out of years of harm and naïveté in bad situations, the one that is currently ruining his time with Richard, won’t bloody shut up. He couldn’t read the signs of future harm when he was younger and now he sees them when they aren’t even there.

But they might be there—  SHUT UP!

Thomas sits there almost foolishly, what the hell is he supposed to do to after all that. He knows what he wants to do, he wants to jump into his arms and wrap his legs around his waist and kiss him like his life depends on it. Instead he slumps back into the bed and presses the heels of his palms into his eyes and tries to focus on the natural kaleidoscope it creates and not the painful and large lump at the back of his throat.

Thomas can hear the floorboards  creaking as Richard makes his way over to the edge of the bed. One leg on, one leg off. He feels the warmth of Richard’s knee press into the middle of Thomas’s thigh as he sits next to him, and even that’s enough to make his heart flutter.

“ I didn’t mean to upset you, I’m-“ he exhales, long.

“I’m sorry Thomas” he sounds exhausted, and who wouldn’t be when they have to deal with someone who does this. Exhausted but he sounds like he means it.

He shouldn’t apologize, Thomas really needed that to be honest. Made him feel like a toddler getting a smack but in this situation the toddler probably deserved one. Richard sighs, he has his hand at the small of his back. The mood from a moment ago, shifting into something much softer.

"Thomas?" he speaks so softy it's almost a whisper. It does nothing to get rid of the lump at the back of his throat that he really wishes would go away.

Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry.

"Look, I know that you've been hurt, that you doubt every good thing that comes into your life, and I don't blame you for it but I'm not leaving anytime soon"

Don't cry.

His  vision is  blurred by the tears that threaten to overflow from his eyes. He wishes they wouldn't. He feels small enough already.

"In fact if I have my way I won't be leaving all"

Thomas presses the back of his wrists deeper into his eyes and rolls over to bury his face in the quilt, completely hiding his face from Richard’s view. He’s embarrassed.

Why does he have do be so fucking emotional when he least wants to be.

He's pathetic

Pathetic and childish and soft and needy and silly.

A silly boy.

His silly boy.

Richard’s hand moves to lay flat and gentle on his calf. They stay like that for a few moments until the silence grows somewhat awkward and Thomas reluctantly sits up again so that he’s slouched over, facing Richard’s chest. He can't find it in himself to look him in the eye.

"Sorry" he chokes through a sob.

He doesn't know why Richard hasn't left already, with a grown man sobbing into a blanket like a child in front of him, I haven't any idea why I've waited so long to end this, you've certainly given me enough reasons to. That’s probably what he’s thinking, Thomas wouldn’t even blame him for it.

My god, the man has just confessed his love for you about ten times! Is that still not enough to convince you he isn’t about to walk out the damn door!

As soon as the thought pops into his head, Richard gets up and walks over to the dresser, only to return a moment later  with a handkerchief he retrieved from his coat pocket. He places it on Thomas's thigh. Even after all the trouble Thomas has put him through, he stays. The man has the patience of a saint.

"Thanks" he mumbles as he picks it up and uses Richard's hanky for its intended purpose.

It smells like him.

With damp and swollen eyes, his gaze traces a path from Richard’s firm, fabric-covered torso, up to his temples where a pale silver, that’s a tad more prominent than before, peaks out to meet the soft brown that covers the rest of his head. His eyes then land on the faint lines around his eyes that are deeper then he remembers them, now that he thinks about it.

Only not from age he realizes, but from the smile that’s slowly spreads itself across Richard’s face. The same smile he gave him before presenting him with the pendant in his office, all warm and soft. Then, he connects his gaze with this man’s lovely eyes, made more beautiful by the pooled affection and fondness they store.

And its all being directed at him.

Like Richard may just be looking at Thomas the the same way Thomas is looking at him.

Thomas tentatively raises his hand and places it on Richard’s cheek, feeling how he tips his head slightly to lean into his touch. He kisses the palm of his hand. As he deepens his slouch to brace his forehead on just underneath Richard’s collarbone, Richard places a hand on his waist that trails its way up to rest over Thomas’s shoulder.

He might need that hanky again.

They stay there for a few moments in comfortable silence, taking each other in and enjoying each other’s presence, until Richard removes Thomas’s hand from his cheek and slips his own through. He lays back onto the pillow against the headboard and scoots himself forward until he lying comfortably over the quilt, motioning for Thomas to join him. He gladly fits himself between the inviting cubby of space between Richard’s arm and the left side of his warm body.

"love you" his voice slightly muffled into Thomas’s hair. He can feel the vibration in Richard’s chest as he says it. He closes his eyes and tucks his face into the crook of Richard's neck.

"Can't think of why”

he scolds himself again.

Move on, move on. Enjoy the presence of this beautiful man and stop putting a damper on everything!

But instead of being upset, Richard just smirks into the top of Thomas’s head.

"Would you like a list Mr. Barrow" he says, amused.

Thomas smiles into the soft cotton of Richard shirt. He would to be honest, like a list that is. Knowing Richard, he probably wouldn’t mind giving him his one, might even like it. Thomas has certainly got a list for Richard, and after almost a year, it’s miles long and only getting longer.

They stay there for a while, with Richard’s strong arm keeping him pressed against the warmth of his side. Thomas can feel the gentle thump of his heart through the side of his cheek, a calming, steady rhythm.

“I really am here to stay you know”. Richard murmurs into his temple, his lips feather light against his skin.

Thomas’s tightens the his arm that’s wrapped around Richard’s waist, pulling him closer.

“And one day, when we’re 60, 75”

Isn’t that a thought.  

He stops mid sentence to kiss the back of Thomas’s head before grazing his thumb from his cheekbone to hairline, willing him to look up.

He’s still smiling.

“I’m going to remind you of this moment and say I told you so”