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Just You and I

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-x-

Worick really hates sunsets.

In Ergastulum, you never really get a full view of it, just the bleed of colors up between the space of dented buildings and high above alleys. Even then, it almost seems like all the purples and oranges and reds are trying to avoid touching the city. It's so unlike the gloom of the night that never shies away, overrunning its inhabitants with the kind of darkness made for unsavory habits.

“Ah,” the female voice is heavy with satisfaction, “I just love this time of day.” That’s a client, her content not just from the view outside the window of the house her husband pays for.

As Worick pockets the cash he had her lay out on the table, he wonders if the husband pays for this too.

The client hums, prompting Worick to glance back at her. By now he’s committed the faintest tilt in a woman’s tone to know when she wants something, particularly his attention. He’s sure to have a lazy smile on his face as he meets her gaze.

“Don’t you think so too?” she asks him, eyes raking over his form. She’s been watching him grow since she first started as a client back when he was barely fifteen. He’s pushing seventeen now.

Worick doesn’t so much as peer out her window as he says, with proper infliction, “Oh, but I have better much things to look at.”

She laughs, and as he sees himself out, promises to see him soon.

Worick only waves at her in response.

He's on his second cigarette by the time the black of the night is choking out the last of the pinks of the sky. Street lights have flickered on, an assortment of colors that spoke the language of many vices. 

It’s a quiet enough in the back alley he waits in, leaning against the wall. When he first arrived, he wouldn’t have so much as touched such grime. Now it's more like the grime's long been a new layer of him. Least he’s not wearing one of his best shirts today.

Worick looks at his watch, a nice statement a client pampered him with, when he hears the familiar pad of heavy footsteps. He grinds down a little on the cigarette.

Over half an hour late.

“I should have just waited for you back home,” Worick says. The term ‘home’ is said with as much gusto and legitimacy as the endearments he cooes to his clients.

Nicolas shuffles closer, and Worick knows he’s purposely letting his footsteps be heard for his sake. He’s still the shorter of the two of them, but no longer looks like a deflated body in clothes too big for it. He’s picked up muscle now.

Worick’s noticed it. Youthful, strong, fierce. Nic's hands are large and he’s got a set of lips clients would enjoy if they didn’t loathe or fear him on sight. Worick can’t deny the way he has glanced at his partner like that, how much he bristles thinking that anyone dare consider Nicolas bent over for an hour's worth of crumpled bills.

There’s just enough light creeping into the alley for Worick to see Nicolas signing.

[Job ran late.]

It’s been worse than a job ran late. Nicolas, prior to his recent hire with the Monroe family, often lurked outside clients’ homes waiting for Worick, staring at the buildings as though able to determine if there was a threat from looks alone. It caused a couple of hiccups when clients spilled out into the street for a farewell kiss and noticed Nicolas staring from around the corner.

Now they sometimes meet up toward the end of the days. Worick doesn’t contemplate why, and less of the potential hazards that could befall Nicolas if he roamed back home all alone. There is only so much protection brute strength and Big Mama’s influence can supply.

“Well,” Worick pushes off the wall, “at least that means we can still pick up dinner.”

Nicolas tilts his head. [How many?]

Worick rolls the butt of the cigarette against his lips, looking nowhere in particular as he pretended to have to count. As he takes a drag, he signs the number five.

What Nicolas thinks of that, he doesn’t know. Never really knows, in truth, Nic's thoughts on what he does to stay (pitifully) alive. An upbringing like Nicolas’ easily fucks over the workings of your brain, and years outside of the mercenary group hadn’t really changed that. Then again, Worick supposes he’s not one to talk.

So he doesn’t.

He grins around his smoke and says, “We got a nice sum tonight. Ribs it is? Client told me of a good place.”

It’s one of Nicolas’ preferred foods. He doesn’t really have favorites of anything, neither of them do. Having a favorite implied preciousness, and this city collected the sort of lowly fucks who might as well think that was a foreign term.

Still, Nicolas’ eyes barely widen, and he’s stepping up to Worick’s side. At first, he keeps a few paces behind, but soon he catches himself and walks alongside Worick instead.

Worick can’t say he’s thrilled about the way Nic catches himself, but it’s progress.

Their walk’s barely begun when Worick stops, knowing Nicolas will do the same. He blows out a stream of smoke away from Nicolas’ face before looking at him.

He flicks a finger up, expectant.

Nicolas glowers at him.

“Don’t be a brat,” Worick says. He repeats the motion, harder.

Nicolas holds his stare before he lifts his shirt up. It’s a little difficult to make out the blotch of discoloration on his side. Worick twirls his finger, slowly, and Nicolas definitely gives him a stink eye before showing his back.

It’s a mess of lacerations of a landfill of bruises. Late job indeed.

Worick steps closer to better inspect. Nicolas strains to look over at him beyond his shoulder.

He gives Nicolas a light tap to his shoulder to signal he’s done, and the Tag turns back around.

“You didn’t overdose,” Worick says, more to himself despite Nicolas reading his lips.

Nicolas’ shake of his head is delayed, and it’s enough to make Worick want to groan and smack himself in the face. It’s not been two weeks since the last overdose. Seems the time for another is fast approaching.

Worick takes a last, long drag, before crushing the smoke against the wall. One hand reaches out as he says. “Hand them over.”

Nicolas doesn’t look like he wants to.

“Nicolas.”

The Tag begrudgingly fishes out his pills, and Worick helps himself to taking them. A quick glance confirms the amount for later comparison. He smiles and spins back around on his heels, tucking them away.

Their walk is quiet amongst them and hardly quiet beyond that.

Worick’s pretty sure he hears someone getting blown an alley over. He knows the sounds. He’s been on the giving end of a handful of those back when he and Nic had been on the precipice of desperation. Even with a face like his though, he had to earn his keep, and, well, Big Mama knew how to cultivate sex for profit, especially when clients were few and far between at the very start.

After all, Big Mama’s motherly affection only extends as deep as you can fill her cleavage with the green. Back then, Worick could almost forget that ‘Big Mama’ was not a business title. Eventually Worick weaned off dick altogether (luckily there wasn't much), but still finds himself between a pair of thighs all these years later.

His father would have been pleased with his resulting line of work.

They way to dinner is paused a few times when Nicolas smells something, attention piqued by potential trouble, or when a scuffle breaks out nearby and they have to deviate to another route. One particular delay is enough that Worick has to divert Nicolas’ focus away from some stray kitten. Like there aren't enough of those.

It doesn’t work well and they end up treading through the scarred backstreets with a new addition hidden in Nicolas’ jacket.

At the food stall, Worick has to order more than a filling for two while Nicolas waits in the alley, and it’s completely dark when they make their way to their place. It’s dingy, but theirs, and it’s not a bed at Pussy that Worick has to rely on to have his nightmares.

Nicolas unloads his new cargo out of his jacket. With one hand he manages to sign, [What about Big Mama?]

Worick waves him off. “As long as I check in in the morning,” he says. Big Mama knows how much his trips outside of Pussy make, and he knows the risk of swindling her out of cash is not worth the impulse he gets on a weekly basis to do just that. Plenty of his clients are outside of the brothel now. Not many women like the implications of entering such a place as it is, and Worick's fine with that.

Nicolas shrugs, then goes back out to place the kitten in an alcove next to their door with food and water. Worick follows and drapes against the doorframe, watching the way Nicolas perks his chin on his knees, observing the feline but not touching.

They retreat back inside soon after.

“It better not piss all over the front.” Worick says. “I have enough clients who want to try that stuff as it is.”

Nicolas pulls a face. [With pissing?]

Worick smirks. “You didn’t know?”

[Disusting.]

“There’s big money in crazy kinks, you know.”

How true it is. Worick still feels his stomach lurch and something boil in him each time someone talks shit about Nicolas better off at the tranny brothel nearby that caters to the less-normative. He’s never mentioned it to Nicolas, even as a passing joke.

Nic signs harder. [DISGUSTING.]

Worick chuckles and shrugs both shoulders. “That’s not even the worst stuff I’ve heard about.”

[Spare me.]

“It’s not all bad,” Worick says, his whine leveled off by his grin. It falls flat when he turns away and beckons Nicolas to follow. Nic does, if a little begrudgingly. Dinner has to wait.

Their bathroom is a toilet stationed precariously close to the tub. It took weeks to find a place that didn’t have just a shower, and much longer to scrape enough to afford it. As Worick sits on the lip of the tub, there’s barely enough room for Nicolas to settle down in front on the ground.

Worick waits until Nicolas gets up on his own and sits on the closed toilet instead.

Worick gestures and Nicolas gradually slips out of his shirt.

A tongue adept as Worick’s knows the art of communication as much as it knows silence. To think how quiet he is assessing the mottled skin when juxtaposed with the massacre of so many years past, of how his younger self kept screaming, whimpering, all this noise. Worick supposes the circumstances are different now, but, really, they’re not.

So, when he hisses at the sight, it’s more for show than anything else.

Nicolas blinks patiently at him, though he offers a little shrug as if to say he barely feels it. More likely he’s adjusted to the pain, has lived with its fingers borrowed in him so long he may mistake its throb for his own heartbeat.

Worick has pain too, and has thought, usually under the weariness of another bad night’s sleep, that he’ll never acclimate.

“Back first,” Worick says. He’s not sure why warns him. At this point, Worick knows he’s the only one that can approach Nicolas’ back without his senses jerking him into an attack.

Once, Worick asked him why that is (he’d been curious and drinking that night), and Nicolas simply told him he knows when it’s him.

It’s a confession Worick still doesn’t know what to do with.

They scoot around until Worick is behind Nicolas. The damage is condensed to Worick’s level of ability; he knows how much of what to cut and how much of that or this to dab into cotton before applying it. Really though, they’ll have to have Nicolas seen regardless, but he’s not up for that argument now.

Tomorrow, he decides.

For now, he has the sweep of Nicolas’ back, the lean tapering of his waist. Once he’s patched what he can, he lets his fingers graze over the Tag’s back. Not a trace of the slave mark, the new one devouring it in ink so dark it could convince anyone they had no scars.

Nicolas angles his head back and narrows one eye at Worick.

“I think I may have a doctor’s touch,” Worick says, puckering up. “I’m just that good.”

[Don't blow your own horn.]

“I got clients for that.”

[Dumbass.]

Worick hums as he maneuvers the small space with Nicolas so they face each other. Settled again, he tilts the Tag’s chin aside to confirm there’s no damage to his throat. Anything suspicious would have them hauling a protesting Nicolas to the clinic immediately.

Nicolas’ pulse is strong beneath his fingertips. He’s wondered if Nicolas can almost hear it when he stands or sits so still, like a gargoyle. Funny thing, that old legend of a gargoyle spouting fire and subsequently mounted to a church once defeated to serve as protection, when in truth Worick read their main purpose was to divert water from the buildings they were affixed to.

Nicolas doesn’t flinch as he’s touched, down his collarbone, to his sides. A body that’s known, still knows, the full spectrum of bruises. Worick knows them too, but it’s less his body now that’s wrecked with them, at least not in the same ways.

If nothing else, it’s under their terms now.

“I think you might have a cracked rib,” Worick says through his prodding. "Or badly bruised at least."

Nicolas winces at one particular poke and he grits his teeth. Worick laughs.

“Guess we pay that Theo a visit tomorrow.”

Nicolas shakes his head.

“Oh, come on. You’re not scared of him?”

Nicolas frowns.

“I could try to kiss it better.”

A snort.

“You doubt my skill?” Worick puckers up, more so when Nicolas sneers.

He drops it back down to a smile, eyes drifting to Nicolas’ lips. They’re full and less in a perpetual scowl as so many think. Worick’s seen the gamut of Nicolas’ lips in motion, from the heavy set frowns, the blank line of impassiveness, the smiles as sharp as his weapon and such a far cry from the coy tilt of Worick’s lips.

“You should know,” he says, returning to patching, “kisses are such big deals in stories.”

[Those are stories.]

“My clients are big on kisses. It’s like foreplay for them.”

Nicolas blinks, detached from understanding that logic.

Worick chuckles through his nose, not surprised. “I’m sure some would think it’s a shame you haven’t had a kiss.” Not that he’s directly asked, but by now he’s familiarized himself with stories of just how deep the depravity of mercenaries can be. A part of him always did wonder the extent of their abuse on Nicolas.

[They wouldn't think that. They don't like me.]

Worick pauses at that. “You don’t agree then?”

He’s not expecting a response, so when Nicolas lifts his hands to sign again, he stills his own against Nicolas' always hot skin.

[It doesn't matter.]  He adds a sign equivalent of ‘pointless’, but Worick translates it more to ‘stupid’ given the dismissive way he signed it.

Worick digests that as his fingers feel each, small breath Nicolas draws in. The body beneath his fingers is born from training and jobs alike, an otherwise collection of dips and rises any eye can appreciate. Even the scars hold stories clients liked to fantasize about. Trouble is people saw the chain hanging off the neck before it wandered any lower.

His hands raise, slowly, but not out of a consideration to not startle Nicolas. Worick can drive his fist right for Nicolas’ face and he still knows the sword will not cut him down.

But his hands are gradual all the same, coming to push into Nicolas’ jaw, steady his face. Nicolas looks perplexed even if he doesn’t jerk away. Worick stares, expression blank, down at that face, noticing a bruise rising to a cheek. One more pain, minuscule as it is, amongst the slew of agony still to fill every corner of his psyche before he’s allowed to die.

It's easy to assume Nicolas’ lips belong to him as much his as the rest of his life, and yet, strangely, it’s not a thought in Worick’s mind when he leans forward.

The tension comes and wanes in the span of two heartbeats. It’s a pressure of mouth against mouth, but Worick wouldn’t allow anything so vanilla to be the extent of it; he grips Nicolas’ face harder, angling it so he learns the outline of a mouth he’s looked at enough times to know what slant of their heads will mesh them together just so.

Nicolas tenses again, grunts, almost retreats. Worick’s hands drift farther back, one cupping the nape of Nic’s neck, deepening the kiss, murmuring against it slowly so Nic understands his words.

In intervals, Nicolas’ lips part, and it’s all Worick needs to introduce his tongue into the experience. It’s all new, fresh, and so unlike the clients who know what they want, know what their money is going toward. Nicolas’ mouth is domain not yet ventured for Worick and only Worick’s exploration, and somehow it fuels him to press in a little closer.

Nicolas’ tongue, however little its used, is all kinds of fumbling. Worick withdraws, keeping his hands where they’re at, leaning back enough to take in Nic’s face. It looks a little pinker than he remembers, and he’s momentarily distracted by the tongue that sweeps across Nic’s lips.

Nicolas stares at him.

“Well, there you go,” Worick says, like it was a favor. He thinks he should stand and leave soon. Something keeps him rooted to their crappy, little bathroom.

He’s still touching Nicolas, he realizes as an afterthought.

Then, Nicolas parts those recently handled lips and says, "WeiRd."

Worick stares back at him.

He laughs.

He drops one hand to press to his face as he rides out the small fit. He can’t help it, not with the way Nicolas keeps licking his lips as if trying to reclaim a taste of something, looking so naive that people might think it was for show.

“I guess it is,” Worick manages to say. “But it makes for decent pay, and it isn’t just from doing it mouth to mouth.”

Nicolas tilts his head again.

Worick smirks at him. “I’ll save that for another day, but let’s just say it’s a good thing you’re not in the business.”

Nicolas’ sticks his tongue out, unamused.

The temptation’s there to catch it between his teeth, but Worick retreats from it by standing. There’s still dinner only getting colder.

“Man, I’m starved. I bet I worked up your appetite, huh?”

A crude sign and Nicolas helps put away the first aid before he grabs their dinner. He glances up at the ceiling and waits until Worick leads the way out and up another stairwell.

The roof of the building is always empty, a large enough space to mislead Worick into thinking he's on an island, where no one can reach them and nothing below their eye level exists, and all the other rooftops are islands too far to ever reach.

Just them and the sky.

They lean back against a wall where the door's fixed to and eat without conversing, as is habit. Nicolas can eat anything put in front of him, and it’s only the last year or two where he’s refined his tastes enough that he’ll lean toward the spicier and sweet things. Really anything with a kick to it, that awakens taste buds that otherwise have endured the bland and stale for so many years before.

They don’t go back in once they’re done eating.

Worick lights a smoke while Nicolas stretches out his legs and looks up. He does that often, in the rare moments when he isn’t obligated to look ahead, or resist the habit of looking down at his feet.

It’s a rare night where the sky is alight with as many stars that can wink through the burn of the city lights. Even with stars though, the darkness from which they reach out of is so dark it looks eternal. On some nights, Worick swears he sees shades of red blurred into the black, rich as blood.

Just like some nights, Worick is almost drunk enough to pretend the world’s burned to ash around their building, and it’s just him and Nicolas sitting on the roof with the infinity of the night pressing down over them, ready for them to fall in.

It's far better than any sunset.

"I bet you like sunsets," Worick says, aware Nic's not reading his lips. Would Nicolas see a sunset as a symbol of a new day to come, of something better just beyond the horizon of colors that seem incapable of existing as vibrant in this city? Or maybe he thinks they're messy, a blur of colors that can't make up their mind, and signals for the time of day where nightmares run rampant?

He never asks. Yet, the way Nic watches the night sky, Worick is inclined to think he prefers that abyss. Maybe. 

At least more than sunrises, so bright as if stabbing straight out of Worick's eye sockets. He avoids them as much as he can. But, it'll be hours and hours, but never enough hours, until the sun creeps back on them. Until then, Worick sucks in a deep drag, kicks out a leg to lean against Nicolas’, and thinks what book they’ll each read tonight. Sometimes, he sneaks a glance over.

More than once, he catches Nicolas rubbing his lips together.  

Chapter Text

-x-

If nothing else, the new place is not a shithole.

There’s more than one floor, and that in it of itself feels like a luxury when Worick and Nicolas have endured the confines of single-room studios, the filth of a neglected shack, and the lowest obscenities only found in the backstreets of this city.

There’s even a separate section for the bathroom and a room Worick claimed all to himself, with the mind to doll it up with the likings of Jessica. And the room downstairs, rather, the some forty-square feet around a single, heavy chair belongs to Nic.

“You know,” Worick says, angling the couch so it fits the stairwell, “it’s hardly your own room when it’s also the kitchen.”

It’s unfair, because Nicolas can read his lips as he navigates the bulk of the couch on his own, but can’t use his hands to sign as a result. He can talk, but instead he makes a face at Worick’s statement, an amalgamation of irritation and confusion (as if Worick made no sense-why would he need an entire room?).

Worick sighs. “Whatever floats your boat.”

They navigate up to the door. Worick grunts, then curses when Nicolas all but heaves the couch inside and maneuvers it according to how Worick jerks his chin that or this way. It lands with a quiet thump.

“More importantly,” Worick says around a pant, slapping the cushions of their house-warming gift, “this is the centerpiece of it all. Well, except my bed, of course.”

Granted, it’s a gift given from themselves, more on Worick’s demand they allocate funds on durability and longevity where they can. It may have been years since he’s re-acquainted himself with anything resembling opulence (just about everything at Pussy is a knock-off, if a good one), but Worick never forgot its comfort, couldn’t if he wanted to really.

“I think this is a good spot. We’ll have to get another one later over there,” Worick adds, pointing to the empty space in front of the bookshelf. It's half-emtpy, a stockpile of old works that both engrossed Nicolas when he was new to tales of knights or the drama of Shakespeare, and newer classics Worick selected for his partner and bargained from a crummy shop with a crummier owner to add to their collection.

Niclas is looking at the empty spot. He ends up nodding. Worick wonders if it’s less a matter of interior decorating and more a practicality for diving for cover should the need arise.

“Hey.” Worick knocks his heel of his shoe hard enough for the vibrations to alert Nic. “Don’t just stand there. At least try it out. It won’t bite.” Worick’s smile made no promises about that.

There’s a pause as Nicolas tilts his head, narrowing an eye at the space left next to his partner. Worick gives the cushion a pat. With a faint crinkle of his nose, Nicolas eventually lowers down next to him.

“Well?” 

Nicolas, who can sleep on a bed of boulders and have no complaints, actually blinks as he takes it in. He looks away when Worick smirks.

“I told you it was a slice of heaven.” Worick melts back into it and groans. “Oh, yes. This will do nicely."

Nicolas mimics him and sinks back deeper. [Expensive?]

Though Worick doesn't turn his face from profile view, he knows Nic can read his lips. "Ha, not for what it's really worth. The guy couldn't tell an oak finish from a walnut finish."

For a while, there’s just the comfort of the couch, and the familiar quiet between them. It was more than finding a place with space, it was hunting through buildings where screams (and other noises of the questionable sort) would not be the nightly anthem, where blood would not seep into carpets and put Nic on edge.

Funny thing it took Worick much longer to find the couch than the place. 

Their knees bump.

Nicolas turns his head just as Worick starts to lengthen his smile.

“We should break in this couch.”

Nicolas arches a brow, and when Worick doesn’t elaborate, signs: [If you want something, say it.]

“It’s not sexy to just blurt it out. Sensuality," his fingers tiptoe along the couch's edge, creeping close to Nic's shoulder, "is in the details.”

Nicolas has only Worick’s experience to rely on, but even that has him shake his head and stare hard at those fingers. Worick starts a pout, prowling his entire body closer until Nicolas, on instinct, looks straight at him. Their noses are almost close enough to bump.

Worick lifts an eyebrow, an unspoken question. He waits.

Nicolas’ eyes drop to Worick’s mouth.

Worick grabs at him then, securing his hands on narrower hips, luring Nicolas onto his lap. His weight distributes well so it’s not all bearing down on Worick, positioned just as Worick’s hands want him to be. Small as Nic is, there’s plenty of muscle packed into the lean frame to crush a man Worick’s size, muscles that are now admired thoroughly. First, with an eye, then the scratch and brush of fingers.

Worick keeps his head tilted back on the couch, a perfect angle, he decides, to observe Nicolas’ face while his hands revisit the contours of a body only he’s had the pleasure of fondling. Each memory of his hands like this, teasing over the fabric of Nicolas’ shirt, plays out for him as much as it commits this one alongside them.

And of course Nicolas’ expressions resist, but when they trip up, they’re so raw in their authenticity one may mistake this as the first time Worick’s touched him like this.

It’s not.

His fingers toy the ends of Nic’s shirt, pinky fingers sneaking under periodically. There's a missable patch of burnt threads from the most recent job that Worick scrubs lightly against Nic's skin. It's soon abandoned to pay greater detail to the skin always so warm even without clothes. Muscle shifts against Worick's palms, not quite pressing into nor shying away.

Worick thinks hours can be devoted to watching Nicolas, whose eyes catch everything, from the tic of your lip to the pulse in your neck. Now Worick soaks in everything Nicolas can’t see, the twitch in his body when Worick’s nails drag up his ribs, the color suffusing up his neck and to his cheeks, the way his eyes fog up ever so slightly.

The shirt’s discarded. Worick eyes rake over skin he knows in touch and taste, but he looks at it all as though it’s new.

When one hand reaches down to the belt, the other scoops up behind Nicolas and pulls him down. Their lips tickles against each other, Nic’s parched ones nudged by Worick’s smooth ones, a tease and then it’s halfway where they meet.

Some people think eyes reveal all in a person. Worick now knows that kisses tell far much more, from the care of lips to the taste of the mouth, and down to the level of depravity in the deliverance. Nic's kisses are honest, laughably so, and unlike all Worick's clients, he accepts every type of kiss the gigolo knows. Slow and sloppy, hard and violent, chaste and simple.

When Worick kisses Nic, everything's less an enigma. He’s certain Nicolas can kiss forever. He learns like he learned speech, the particulars of forming your mouth which now mold against Worick’s, and it's only fitting given it was Worick who taught him better enunciation, how to sign with his hands, how to read.

But hours can't be put to their kisses alone. There's errands waiting, a day to draw to a close, and clients in the morning.

Worick drops his hands to Nic's thighs and squeezes. It's enough pressure to have his partner slip off, be lowered onto his back so Worick can stare down at him the way he likes to. The rest of his clothing gets peeled away along the way down, expertly so.

Nicolas blinks up at him, face definitely with some pinks in it now. Worick notes the chain around his neck has pooled behind him.

Reaching out, Worick gropes a nub. He can't stop his smiling, not with the face Nicolas tries to keep from being obvious on him, particularly when they both know how much he insists nipples existing for foreplay is stupid. 

It's convenient Worick has the repertoire to prove him wrong each time. His other hand has something hotter to grab onto.

And Worick knows patience, knew it from a young age when it was a waiting game for the next blow to rain down. Now it’s more often a virtue under his control to extend the pleasure of his clients. Yet as his hands squeeze and pinch and stroke, it’s hardly about depriving himself of pleasure. Everything translates through Nicolas’ body, the flick of his expression, and it’s for Worick’s memory alone to own. It’s the closest to peeking into Nic’s mind as he gets.

So he digs out all he can with the expert touch of his fingers, the well placed angle of his mouth when it joins the fray. There’s not even a break as he reaches into his back pocket and withdraws what he needs for later. As he does, he lowers his head, hair spilling down, an additional input of sensory. He flashes his partner a smirk and it’s all the preamble given before he tilts his head further down, hiding the sight of his mouth and what it will do.

It makes for a jerkier Nicolas, and more than once a tiny sound breaks out of him. Worick’s mouth, hidden from view but not feel. He purposely sweeps stubble around each open-mouthed kiss planted along the stretch of Nicolas’ body. And there’s plenty to be kissed, sucked, devoured.

The tales of each scar are retold with every touch of Worick’s mouth on them. He laps at old, large ones that stretch so long Nicolas almost squirms beneath him. He ghosts over ones long received prior to Worick’s knowledge, and he nibbles on fresher ones because he can and Nicolas’ hips just barely jerk in a way that proves he is more than a little masochistic.

Worick’s hands never pause either. At one point they stretch up, push against Nicolas’ arms to keep him from interfering with his mouth’s work, and there’s much work to be done still; Nicolas’ body is a field of calamity worth every skill of Worick’s tongue.

And while it’s skilled, but it’s not a chore to descend over Nicolas’ flesh, or a nuisance to coax out bruises of his own making. Nicolas demands nothing of him, even while Worick stretches out the time spent on each inner thigh, spreads Nic's legs apart further just so he can ogle every crevice of him.

When he bites down, Nicolas tenses, glares down at him.

Worick smiles, blows on the tip, earning himself a jerk. A finger slicks up as he blows again, tongue flirting with the length of Nicolas' shaft, and never fully sealing the deal.

Then, he leans back for a full view. He waits as long as it takes for Nicolas to focus on his face again.

"If you want something," Worick tells him, his smile rottingly sweet, "then say it."

Before Nicolas can so much as glower at him or think to flip him off, a finger, eager and wet, sinks in. It robs Nicolas of his ire, muscles tensing even though he knows relaxing them will ease the sensation. And he looks down, as much as Worick's hand he can see before it vanishes under him.

Worick's smile fades, one layer of the facade stripped as his focus narrows down to the tightness around his finger. In truth, they can go almost without, and Worick never does. This, the heat around each thrust of his finger, the splay of Nic’s legs, the barest arch in his low back when Worick just teases against that one spot--it’s all worth it.

If Nicolas can spend hours on kisses, Worick thinks he can do the same with this just as easily.

More than once he has to grip Nicolas at the base to prevent a premature ending. Each time it earns him an attempt look of annoyance, but the layers of haze in his vision and the way his body fidgets dilutes the effect.

And then, Worick's clothes are a pile on Nic's, and he's home right between his partner's legs.

They lock gazes, and Worick's memory reminds him they do that each time, and there's a span of a pause, heavy with their breathing and the thrum of their heartbeats.

Worick presses in.

It's one fluid movement that realigns the center of their world and has Nicolas bow his back. Worick steadied himself tall, hands fitted on either side of Nicolas in the cramped space of the couch so he can keep as much of his partner in his vision as he can. And finally, just when Nicolas' hand on his arm become painful, he moves.

It’s leisurely and long, hard and quick, and all else in between. When Worick drags out each thrust and pins an arm down to prevent Nic’s habit of covering his face, he holds the other’s gaze. Worick doesn’t think he can call it vulnerable, but there’s something more there, and Nic’s other hand, hot and heavy, presses into his shoulder blade. Holding.

Worick fucks him hard, enough that Nic’s head falls back and he must know the kinds of noises dribbling out of him. The pressure on Worick’s back increases to promise a bruise. Worick’s chuckle is breathless as his head falls forward.

He bites Nic’s neck. Nails dig into his skin. He thrusts that much harder. They’ll share this array of abuse, and somehow it’s fine, maybe better, when it’s left in the wake of this heat and not at the mercy of someone else's whims.

The marks are not a statement to the world beyond these walls thugh; the city knows of Worick and the tag that belongs to him. Sometimes though, on the cusp of drunkenness and with an aching back from the prints of Nic's fingers, he thinks maybe he belongs a little to Nic too.

WoR...ik…”

Worick concentrates on the sound of his name as it rumbles deep into his bones, battles with the thump of his heart and the sounds of their sex. Nicolas is looking up at him, breath stumbling out intermittently between thrusts. Worick hasn’t a clue what he’s thinking.

The touch on his back softens. Worick grunts, feels himself shiver. His forehead presses into Nic's chest, engulfs the smaller body in his own so that when the orgasm hits, Worick feels the tremble all over his body, hears the thud of the other's heart so close to his own.

They both liquefy into the couch, tangled and with puddy for muscles.

Nicolas touches his shoulder and Worick wills himself to lift up enough to see him sign. It makes him smirk, and then drop his head against Nic's chest to muffle his laugh, letting his partner feel the vibrations of it. When it ebbs, he raises his head again but looks in no way ready to move from his spot.

"Yeah, we probably should have laid out a sheet." 

Chapter Text

-x-

It’s the second piano Nicolas has seen in his life.

It’s as big as the one he remembers from the mansion, hulking in appearance, and the focus of the room. It’s a dark color, but somehow less so than the other one, which had always seemed almost monstrous back then. Neither can Nicolas recall the sunlight ever reaching it the way it does here, the low sun reaching over the piano's teeth. A grand piano, to be precise--Nicolas remembers Worick detailing the difference to him as some kind of afterthought years ago. That was when Worick would sit at the bench, and when he had both eyes to brighten in amusement when Nicolas had prodded the instrument curiously.

Worick’s not sitting at the bench now, rather still lingering in the doorway of the long since abandoned room. His lips are tilted in a way that tells Nicolas that he’s itching for a cigarette.

"So this is the thing we gotta get back to the lounge, huh?" Worick tells him. “It’s going to cost her extra to get it out of here. That isn’t exactly a small one.”

[I can manage it on my own.]

"And if it gets back damaged, there goes a chunk of our fee."

Nicolas turns away to look back at the piano. He smooths a hand over the top where a patina of dust clings. Neglected, and yet Nicolas thinks it looks better cared for than the one at the estate.

He comes around to look at the keys, reaches out and touches one. He lifts his head in time to see Worick cracking open the piano’s top, where the vibration originates from.

“Looks to be in working order. It’s going to need tuning I bet.”

Nicolas takes his word for it and strikes a black key twice, and now he can see the hammer striking the strings. He does it again with a different key, then grins at the face Worick pulls.

“What are you, Mozart, now?”

[I prefer Bach.]

“Smartass.” But Worick’s smirking, so Nicolas thinks it’s fine to be a smartass. Better than a dumbass, as Worick once told him.

Then Nicolas hefts the piano in his palms, testing its weight, and Worick’s smacking his hands away.

"Hey, hey, you can't just lug it around like any other delivery," Worick is saying, among other things Nicolas misses when his face turns away. He makes rounds around the instrument, analyzing this and that, plucking strings, and muttering to himself. At the end he's facing the bench, staring at it for a moment before gradually lowering himself onto it.

Nicolas takes it in, the way Worick fills out the space in front of the piano now that he's bigger, just shy of twenty. His hair's longer too, and there are piercings Nicolas couldn't have fathomed on him when he first met the boy. None of it strips away how appropriate Nicolas thinks Worick looks.

Nicolas has actually only seen him play once, briefly, and through an ajar door on his third day at the mansion. Though he couldn't make out Worick's hands, he'd been more curious to the way Worick played with both eyes shut and how easily Nicolas could have mistaken him for being asleep. The next day Worick’s face had a fist-sized bruise and four of his fingers sprained. Nicolas never found him in the piano room again.

Worick stares at the keys for several heartbeats. Maybe he’s pulling out the images of the music sheets he’d have in front of him, but never actually looked at, when he played. Or maybe he's remembering the same Nicolas is, when he'd asked Worick if he missed playing the piano. Worick's fingers had healed by then, but he had rubbed them together at the question. With a smile, he'd said he no, because in truth he hated playing the damn thing. 

There’s nothing to prompt Worick to play this one now. Nicolas stays still all the same, watching, silent.

Then, Worick’s fingers lift, just one hand, and the tips are pressing down on the piano’s manicured teeth.

Nicolas barely feels the rhythm, as if Worick’s barely ghosting a melody. But it’s there, Nicolas can manage a vague count of it and read it in the pattern of Worick’s left hand joining the right. Nicolas tries to watch them individually, and realizes he can’t, so he takes the full image in. He leans closer into the piano, crossing his arms.

Worick's fingers drift near and far, the skin far tougher with the dirtier work they do but softer than Nicolas’ will ever be, the right in-between for clients. Nicolas doesn’t know about that, but Worick’s mentioned it before, but it’s never what Nicolas thinks about when those fingers are on him. 

Like how the pads of each finger have brushed over every slope of his body as they do now along the keys, and Nicolas knows just how light the touch is, as well as he knows Worick seems to like the effect it has when Nicolas loses sight of where they’re venturing to. They've traced the expanse of Nicolas' biggest scar, outlining it and then filling in the rest in circular motions. They've pinched the parts of Nicolas that has him jolt and have Worick steal what must be gasps through kisses. And, almost always, they linger on the new mark on his back that mirrors the one on Worick's.

With the same elegance, they sweep over piano and skin alike, nimble as they are strong. Countless times they’ve visited Nicolas’ chest, danced down his sides, played soundless beats against his low back while Worick’s mouth pressed into his thigh, claimed the stretch of his neck with his teeth.

The tempo picks up. Worick’s fingers press firmer so the vibrations are more noticeable, coming more frequent. His fingers balance pressure effortlessly, and Nicolas lets himself think of putting his mouth to each digit, drawing them in, rubbing his lips quietly against pads and knuckles alike, usually when Worick’s fallen asleep.

Then, sometimes, Worick wakes up and the same fingers are working into him again, never still, always with a rhythm that can begin fast or slow, lazy or hard, but they all end with Nicolas tossing his head back and letting it all pulse through him. It feels like hours long when Worick has him at the whims of a few fingers, conducting a ballad only he can hear. But there are times Worick will engulf his larger body, allow Nicolas to feel the thump of his heart through their touching chests, to feel the groans rocking through Worick as his thrusts quicken or when they drag out into slow, punctuating things that have the vibrations of their moans tangle with one another's.

There's nothing slow about Worick's fingers now. Nicolas can’t pretend to know the song Worick plays is one of strife and loss, or of tragedy and survival, or triumph and adoration. But he feels the power of the keys, sees Worick’s fingers crashing down like each one is a trigger going off and it's not just the ivory he imagines breaking behind his closed lid.

Nicolas wants to sit next to him. Something keeps him rooted, feeling the vibrations bleed into his palm and harmonize with the thrum of his pulse. Though there’s space next to Worick, there really isn’t a space for anyone to share. Worick's body moves, his upper body pushing forward and out like a resistant tide, his head giving a faint jerk as he punctuates the song, the cree, the plea for all it may be, again, again, and again. 

But Worick knows his body, tunes it everyday so each smirk is crafted, each wink purposeful, each angle of his hips calculate. If little else, Nicolas knows Worick is as much the instrument as he is the musician. Yet, for an instant, Nicolas lets himself think Worick forgets himself and exists on a plane where he’s neither of those things the longer and harder his fingers strike down.

Just as he may as well forget this moment, though Nicolas won’t. He’ll revisit each impact those fingers left on a piano that hadn’t been tickled in so long. He’ll remember it vividly, with a clarity not unlike Worick’s mental database because it’s Worick’s hands, and he knows them well, down to each digit. He’ll think of the small strokes and the hard ones on the piano in tandem with the way Worick kneads him, tickles his skin with the graze of his fingertips, follows it with the heat of his tongue, lapping up after the melody Nicolas can only feel, and know that’s better than hearing any of it.

It will be much later when that happens, hours after their delivery complete and the fate of the piano is reduced to the wad of bills to cover a fraction of the rent. Nicolas will approach Worick, touch his face without the strength to force their lips to press together, even though Worick’s never turned his mouth away from him the few times it’s his lips reaching out first. And he’ll fumble, as he always does with this, and he’ll feel Worick’s smile or chuckle, and then their tongues are pushing against one another. 

Clothing will peel off at the pace of Worick's fingers, methodical to the point of teasing. He'll trek his fingers over Nicolas' pants and then creep in, squeeze, stroke until Nicolas feels the first of many shudders.

And later, when Worick’s rocking into him, his grip in Nicolas' hair a grip that’s easy to break, their gaze will hold longer than it has since the day they began sharing more whatever it is that drops them into Worick's bed, shoves Nicolas up against the wall, bend him over the single desk in the apartment. Nicolas will stare back because of all the oddities that make him uneasy around others, Worick’s not one of them.

He’ll know noises will be falling out of him with each jerk of Worick’s pelvis, and may or may not be aware of the pressure of his own fingers on Worick’s back, where they clamp down and hold whatever deep note is spilling out of the older man. He’ll hold hard, leave the memory of himself that Worick can’t hear or see, just feel the way Nicolas feels.

He’ll feel Worick everywhere, from the smack of his hips, to his chest pressing against his own, mouth wherever it pleases, fingers never finding purchase, staking all it can grab as the rhythm they share travels the spectrum of all the tempos Nicolas doesn’t know but saw them come to life in that dingy room with the sunset streaking colors over Worick’s hands.

And once Worick is deep in the sleep he seems to never really get, Nicolas will once more rub each finger along his lips.

Until then, Nicolas watches as the moment comes to a close. The vibrations peter to nothingness. Worick’s fingers quiet down until it’s just his right hand again, down to three fingers, one for each key he plays, and then it’s over.

Nicolas remains as he is. He can’t see Worick’s face with the young man's head tilted down, his hair obscuring the bulk of his features.

But it’s Worick, so it’s barely a moment later he looks like he’s taken a deep breath for the sake of drama than anything else. He lifts his head and smiles right at Nicolas.

“Yeah,” he says, “I still really hate the piano.”

-x-