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His eyes open and scan about for the glowing red digits of the little alarm clock he'd spotted on a shelf last night. 5AM. On Sundays he always wakes up at 5AM. That much at least is the same. 

Sundays are routine. Run ten miles, shower, get dressed. Long breakfast at Hixter in the company of his laptop, refactoring code and cleaning up repos - all while pretending that he's not there, amidst the bustle of the brunching set, to avoid the deafening silence of his flat. Pick up his dry cleaning and tidy it away slowly, passing the time. Walk the forty minute walk from Battersea to Marylebone, letting his brain unpick an obscure bug or optimise the performance of a subclass along the way. Browse vintage maps and travel guides at Daunt Books, daring at times to hope that someone, anyone, might strike up a conversation. Head home, squirm past the surveillance cameras, force down something healthy from the local deli. Then free weights, press-ups and planks until his muscles scream. Code. Read. Some evenings, before bed, a mild sedative to still the waves of panic that appear at regular intervals. Before drifting off into a thin sleep, make a mental note of whether or not, during the course of the day, he'd spoken more than a few words to anyone at all.

Sundays mean the droning hum of his brain cells and the low-key dread and nausea of having to face their inscrutable, sneering company at work the next day.

This morning, in the strange, untidy flat in Vauxhall, the same brain cells roar and strain with music. Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, huge, raucous symphonies all tumbling into one. 

While the noise and the chaos broadcast through his mind, Alex lies quietly in the thinning darkness. The bedroom air is thick with a stale, electrolytic sweetness he's never smelled before and he grasps that he is breathing in the sillage of sex.

He feels too warm. Nothing has taught his body's thermostat to attune itself to the skin-on-skin proximity of another human being. Hands braided over his chest, he practices utter stillness, unsure how much movement would suffice to wake the soft, scorching being pressed up beside him. He listens to the breaths coming from beneath the mess of dark hair tickling his shoulder. He feels them collide with the skin of his arm and their warmth assures him of at least one thing.

This isn't a breakdown. You haven't imagined this. You are here. 

Until Danny wakes, everything else is uncertainty. 

-------------

In a matter of hours, all the academic theories and hopeless imaginings of "this is what it will feel like" had cracked and collapsed around him. 

Scored by the chaotic symphonies, last night loops through Alex like an enormous, domed projection. The scent, the weight, the taste of him, all as immense as newly discovered planets. Every touch like a streak of light plummeting into the insatiable well of darkness he'd been dying in for years.

A nameless giddiness pulsates through him, amplified by the soreness between his legs and the closeness of Danny's skin. He attempts to restore order through compartmentalisation. He divides the night into limbs, actions, sensations. The hands. The skilled, patient hands that caressed and arranged him, while his own only knew to clutch and grab and squeeze. The same hands caressing him open, careful fingers pushing him past the brief barrier of pressure and pain until, as gasp after gasp escaped him, he was filled up full of pleasure so intense it seemed like violence. The face. Peering down at him through the near darkness, strained with quiet feeling, the beautiful face and soft green eyes of the man who said he would stay.

Flashes of awkwardness infest each fragment. He thinks of the starved, crude kisses he'd crashed into Danny's mouth, raw with alcohol; the noises he'd let himself make; the fistfuls of hair he'd pulled at, not knowing his strength. The mess he'd made of both of them after, helping to pull off the condom with shaking hands. Danny's gentle, whispered "S'okay" an answer to his apologetic smiles and his soundless giggles. Being cleaned up, then kissed and held like a clumsy child before slumping unceremoniously into sleep. 

Until Danny wakes, everything is adrift.

I don't know how I did. I don't know what I'm meant to do next. 

He takes on the uncertainty and the chaos with conditional logic. He weighs the possible outcomes. If he leaves now, he can still resume the Sunday routine and not have to face whatever will come - indifference, rejection - when Danny wakes up. He can collect what he's been given and carry it off with him, then hold on to it forever. 

Careful as a pickpocket he slides from the bed. Tiptoeing his way through the towels, cast-off shoes and shot glasses lining the floor, he collates an incomplete set of his clothing. He pulls on his boxers, dusts off his jumper and socks and, slipping out quietly, ferries them in a neatly folded bundle towards the bathroom, seeking the rest of his scattered possessions.

He opens the door and makes the dark-haired woman inside squeal with surprise. She's brushing her teeth and, upon seeing Alex, spits into the sink. She grins. "Morning!" she chirps and flashes a clean grin. She's dressed for going out - how had he not heard her come back in? She scans him up and down. Flooding with distress, he breathes a quiet "Sorry", snags his trousers from the bathroom floor and retreats.

How many others had the flatmate seen creep out of Danny's bedroom? What was their routine?

He has to go.

-------------

Back in the bedroom, he begins to dress. He pulls his jumper over his head and when he emerges, Danny is sat up in bed, one hand rubbing against a sleepy eye.

"You're dressed...? What time is it?"

He lets it out, as quick as a breath.

"I should go."

Even as he says it, his limbs are steering him away from his stated intent, moved of their own volition by some desperate force. He's back on the bed and his forehead is dropping onto a warm shoulder. He's wrapping his arms about Danny's waist. He's clinging on.

Help me. Help me, please, like you did last night.

His hair is being stroked and kissed.

"Have you got plans? Or..."
"I have to do some work." he manages and finds he is shivering.

Don't make me go.

His face is lifted by warm hands. A pair of smiling eyes hold him steady.

"I understand. And what would you like to do today?"

He presses his mouth to Danny's, grabbing at the lifeline.

"I'd like to stay."

------------

At least the morning is a certainty. He settles back into the bed and loses himself in the comfort of Danny's commotion. He follows every movement and gesture with wonder, collecting each one into a scrapbook of posterity.

Danny yawns, slips on a t-shirt, tidies sundries from the floor, puts on music Alex doesn't recognise, hums along to it, casts back smiling glances, fetches two cups of milky tea, opens the window, finally settles back down on the bed, cross-legged and close.

"Are you always up this early?"

He nods. He stares into the cup of tea pressed into his hands, that novel, alien thing made for him by someone else. Small caresses keep him anchored to reality, the back of Danny's hand brushing in rhythmic strokes against his knee.

"I'd have thought you'd fancy a lie-in. Especially after--"

"Was it OK? I mean..." He interrupts, desperate to know, but courage deserts him mid-sentence. He doesn't dare look up. Danny leans in, kisses his eyelids, his nose, then finds his gaze. 

"Alex. Nothing's ever felt as good. Ever. Not even close."

---------------

Minutes drift them by, then hours. The room is aired and filled with light. He's kissed, touched and cradled, whispered to. 

"We could still sleep in, you know."

"I'd rather stay like this for a while. And talk. If that's OK."

"OK. On one condition."

Danny slips from his arms and from the bed. He settles on the windowsill, lights a cigarette and smiles.

"Promise me we'll have a lie-in next weekend."

The future tense and plural pronoun bestow on Alex something he recognises at once as the beginning of happiness.

Chapter Text

Don't obsess. Don't gush. Don't grin. Don't cling. Don't think about how good you made him feel. Don't think about the sound of his gasps. Or the weight of his long, toned legs as you lifted them apart. Or his cock, more gorgeous than you'd ever imagined, spurting against his stomach while your own slid again and again over that newly discovered, tender spot inside him. Or the fact that you've already memorised the exact location of the tiny freckle near his collarbone. 

Don't think how you'd murder to never see him sad or worried again, ever. Above all else, don't you dare to think that what you gave to him or took from him last night grants you any right to hope that he's yours.

Danny's got a box full of impulses and he's struggling to keep the lid on. The only thing he's thought about for weeks is manifested within his crappy old bed in the form of impossible, beautiful Alex. Alex, all still and solemn and obliviously sexy. Alex, knees hugged to his chest, in his boxer shorts and jumper and hair out of place. Alex, whose serious blue eyes are tracking Danny's every move. Alex, who asked to stay.

As the eyes follow him about, Danny tries to look calm and graceful, but feels like a scruffy, giddy idiot. He's flitting through the bedroom, tidying away the mess they've made and humming along to the music from his ancient iPod. He's stupidly awake at stupid o'clock, buzzing as if he'd smoked a few crystals but so fucking sober that his brain itself is a crystal, clean and fresh and twinkling and sparkling with love.

This is so good. This is unreal. He can't remember the last time a bloke stayed until the next day. Even James used to sneak off like a thief in the night, and that was a steady relationship - or so the bastard told him. But this is beyond anything. This is Alex.

He summons up all the discipline he can muster. For at least the next few minutes, he'll need to keep some distance. Danny knows what Alex must smell like - sleep, sex, sweat, traces of his strange, timid cologne - and if he gets close enough to catch that scent again then he'll spew something awful like:

"Last night was so special."
or
"You were so beautiful."
or
"You did so well."

Instead, he smiles at the taciturn man in his bed and flees to make some tea.

-----

Cross-legged across from each other, they're snogging slowly and Danny is adrift on a cloud of bliss. Head tilting to different angles, lips barely open, then wide and pressing, Alex is practicing and experimenting, obviously so, and Danny doesn't mind in the slightest. He lends his mouth, keeps it soft, slack and passive, and tries not to giggle when Alex's tea-warmed and tea-scented tongue reaches strange recesses between his teeth and his cheek. 

"So. I could make us breakfast or... there's this nice little cafe down the road..." He's murmuring between licks, suckles and tender bites. "We could pop out in a bit..."

Christ. When he pulls back, Alex's face is a luminous fairground of innocence and wonder. Is he really so awed at the idea of going to a greasy spoon? He's nodding and the smallest smile is pressing up the curves of that beautiful mouth, still wet with Danny's kisses. Then the smile vanishes.

"I'll need a shower."
"Sure, yeah."
"Yes, but I..." The absurd cheekbones are flushing a soft pink.
"You?"

Alex looks down and his fingers fiddle with the hem of his pants. Danny laughs and slaps his forehead, understanding.

"God, of course!"

He plants a reassuring smooch on Alex then clambers over the bed towards his sideboard. He wrestles open a sticky drawer, rummages for the only pair he knows will be big enough. He collapses into a giggling fit as he puts his find on display.

"Ta-da! They were a Christmas present. Sorry. But they're clean and they're yours to wear!"

Alex's eyes grow wide at the sight of a red pair of boxer shorts patterned with happy little snowmen. Then he slumps forward on the bed, smothers his face with a pillow and shakes with silent laughter.