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“I just want to let you all know,” Washington says as they’re about to leave the board room at the end of their meeting, “That I’m bringing an extra body into the office tomorrow.”

Everyone halts on their way out of the door and looks at Washington in confusion. “You’re hiring someone new?” Lafayette asks.

“No,” Washington sighs heavily and drags a hand down his face. “I’m bringing a cat.”

“I didn’t know you owned a cat, sir,” Alex says in surprise.

“We don’t, he’s a stray, a feral tomcat. But Martha is going away on a business trip and she insists that I look after him while she’s gone.”

Alex blinks. “Sounds to me like you own him, sir.”

“I’d say they don’t own him until they name him, wouldn’t you, sir?” Jefferson drawls, crossing his arms and smirking down at Alex. Alex puffs up his chest a little, glaring at him, hating feeling small next to that jackass.

“He’s not going to disrupt the office, is he, sir?” Lee calls from the back of the room and everyone rolls their eyes in synchronisation.

“You never come out of the back room anyway, Lee, so shut up,” John mutters and Alex snorts behind his palm, grinning over at him. His heart thuds a little in his chest at the way John’s nose crinkles up when he smiles back.

“We have named him, actually,” Washington continues as if he hasn’t noticed John and Alex making eyes at each other from across the room. “And he won’t disrupt anyone, all he does is lounge around all day in the sunlight and rub himself all over whoever’s nearest. Does anyone have a cat allergy?”

Everyone shakes their head in unison apart from Burr who pulls a face. Burr’s always pulling faces, though, and God knows the guy is neutral on everything, probably up to and including allergies.

“What have you named this cat, then?” asks Lafayette, looking eager.

“We’ve named him Hamilton, actually, as he reminds us rather a lot of Alexander,” Washington says, shooting a rueful look at Alex.

Alex’s heart swells, inexplicably happy. “You named your feral tomcat after me?”

He’s not so happy the next morning when Jefferson takes one look at the cat and bursts out laughing.

“Oh my God, it’s fat. Washington named his fat cat after you,” he says with glee, his eyes shining. Alex ducks his head, his heart crumpling in his chest, feeling hot and ashamed. He avoids everyone’s eyes.

“Well I think he’s cute,” John states, curling a finger under the cat’s chubby chin. It purrs and leans into him, flicking its ears, and John smiles softly. “That’s definitely a trait Alexander has in abundance,” and Alex blushes when John shoots him a smile over his shoulder.

He goes back to his desk, leaving everyone to coo over the cat in Washington’s office, and picks up the phone, cracking his knuckles. He’s not the best salesperson in this office because he lets his mind get distracted by pudgy cats and cute boys who stroke their fur with long fingers. He shakes his head. Anyway, it probably means nothing that the cat is named after him and is also a bit on the heavy side. There’s no correlation there and Jefferson can shove his stupid words up his asshole. Alex is going to crush him in today’s sales and rub it in his face for the rest of the week.

The phone at the reception rings just then and John hurries out, striding across the floor with his long legs and leaning across his desk to pick it up before it rings out.

“Mount Vernon, this is John,” he says automatically, his line of rote when picking up a phone. Alex hears it all day and it’s become soothing to him, and he can’t help but smile absently over at his friend, watching him write something down on a post-it note with a sparkly gold pen.

He’s still smiling when John puts the phone down and takes a sweet from the little bowl on top of the reception desk, turning around and leaning his long body lazily against the desk. He catches Alex’s eye and hold up a sweet, a challenge, and tosses it into the air between them. Alex leans backwards and miraculously catches it in his mouth, laughing as John cheers and wiggles a little victory dance.

He sucks on the sweet for the next half hour and smiles goofily into thin air for no particular reason at all.

 

.

 

The fact that Mount Vernon, an independent tea supplier, operates in what could possibly be the tiniest town in Virginia means that nearly all of Alex’s friends are also people he works with. He’s not going to lie, it makes it easier when they all go straight to the bar after work, or when they all pile into each other’s houses and marathon movies with copious amounts of take out and blankets. It’s not so easy when he realises he’s pretty sure all of them know about his massive crush on John, apart from John himself, who is oblivious. And will remain that way if Alex has any say in it.

He doesn’t really know how he ended up here, he thinks as he picks up stray cartons of half eaten Chinese food off the floor and tries to not step on anybody’s limbs. Not here, exactly, as in in the Schuyler’s living room, watching a terrible tele-novella and shouting the Spanish translations across the room for anyone who needs it as Hercules knits in the corner and Lafayette and John faceswap on Snapchat, wheezing in their laughter. No, he means here as in backwater Virginia, selling tea by the pound and sharing a desk with Thomas Jefferson.

It’s not so bad, though. If he looks to his right at any point in the day he’s almost guaranteed to be greeted with the sight of John at reception, doodling in his notebook or answering the phones, so that’s always nice. He’s pretty sure he’s also the best salesperson in the place, no matter what Jefferson says, and that Washington likes him, so there’s something.

It’s not really where he thought he’d be all those years ago, young and scared and on a plane to a new country, but it’s something.

Peggy’s humming as he walks into the kitchen, balancing a stack of empty take out cartons in his arms, and she takes half them off him and scrapes out their insides into either containers or the bin and throws the cartons themselves into the recycling.

“You’re staying tonight, right?” she asks, sticking her tongue out and trying to scrape off a stubborn piece of mushroom with a chopstick.

Alex looks pointedly at the pile of crumpled beer cans in her tin recycling box. “I’m definitely not cycling home after consuming three of those,” he says and she laughs, high and tinkling like bells.

“I think we’re just gonna form a puppy pile on the living room floor,” she casts him a glance over her shoulder. “Maybe you could snuggle up to John,” she suggests, wiggling her eyebrows.

Alex glares through his blush and crosses his arms, but before he can say anything Eliza pops up out of thin air, coming up behind Alex and wrapping her arms around him.

“Did someone say puppy pile? Because in that case I bagsy cuddling next to Alex.”

“What, no!” Lafayette cries from the living room. “I want to cuddle with Alex!”

“Tough luck, french fry, he’s all mine,” she grins, pinching his hips.

Alex abruptly feels embarrassed and squirms out of her grip, laughing nervously and wrapping his arms around his middle, digging his fingers into his skin through his shirt.

“I still say it’s not fair, you got to cuddle him all you liked when you were dating!” protests Lafayette, pouting over the top of the couch.

“He was such a skinny thing back then, though. Now there’s much more of him to love,” she pouts back.

Alex’s shoulders curl in on themselves a little bit, trying to make himself smaller. He feels like he wants to disappear into the walls, sink into the floor and never come back up. His discomfort must show because Peggy bustles out of the kitchen and flicks both Eliza and Lafayette on the nose.

“Maybe you should stop talking about Alexander like he’s not in the room,” she raises her eyebrow and shoots them both quelling looks. Eliza turns to Alex, hands on hips, her lips pursed.

“Who would you rather cuddle? Me, your loving ex-girlfriend,” she gestures to herself with flair, “Or him, a baguette with too much hair,” and she points to Lafayette and scrunches up her nose. Lafayette sticks his tongue out at her.

“When you put it like that I don’t really want to cuddle with either of you,” he says as diplomatically as he can muster.

“It’s okay, Alex, I’ll save you. I already called dibs on the sofa so you can sleep up here with me and you’ll be far away from their nonsense on the floor,” John says and Alex smiles at him with a mixture of relief and nerves fluttering about in his chest.

“Now that’s sorted can we get back to this?” Angelica waves her hand at the TV screen. “Diablo just threw his drink at Esteban and I don’t know why because I don’t speak Spanish,” she grumbles.

“Hear, hear,” cheers Hercules, raising his knitting needles.

Alex wades his way through the tangle of limbs to get to the remote and rewind to the appropriate point to start translating again.

“You really need to fix the subtitles on your TV,” he grouses, squinting at the little buttons on the remote control. “I won’t cycle all the way to your house every time you need something translating.”

It’s hours later and the sky is dark, the kitchen window open to let a cool breeze in, and Alex can’t get to sleep. He twitches and fidgets on the sofa, abnormally aware of John stretched out behind him, his breath ruffling the hair on the back of Alex’s head every time he exhales. He gets just on the edge of dropping off, breathing slow and deep and his mind being pulled down into beta waves, when his foot jerks and he kicks John in the shin.

“Ow, fuck, Alex,” he hisses, shifting around behind him. Alex buries his face in the sofa cushion and mumbles an apology, shivering when his shirt pulls up with the movement and cool air rushes across his skin.

“Can’t you sleep?” John asks and his hands settle on Alex’s hip, on his skin where it’s been exposed, and he rubs his thumb in little circles. Alex shivers all over again.

“Are you cold?” he whispers and takes his hand away to fumble around behind him. Alex almost whimpers at the loss of John’s hot, broad palm against him. He closes his eyes and breathes through the wild thumps of his heart. Now is not the time.

John turns back over with an extra blanket that he drapes around Alex’s body and Alex curls up tighter, squeezing his eyes shut. John’s arms wrap around him and pull him back from the edge of the sofa and he sighs into the skin on Alex’s neck.

“There. Extra blankets and body heat, that should do it,” he mumbles, shoving his nose into Alex’s hair. Alex is still in his arms, not wanting to move as John snuffles adorably and squeezes him close.

“You smell really nice,” he says sleepily, his voice low. “What shampoo is this?”

“Honey,” Alex replies, hushed.

“Sweet,” John says and takes a deep breath, his breathing smoothing out into a steady rhythm as he drops back off to sleep.

With shaky fingers, Alex places his hands on top of John’s where they’re wrapped around him, once he knows for sure John’s asleep. Then he closes his eyes and lets himself drift until the morning.

 

.

 

“Alex, seriously,” Hercules says when Alex gets home from work one day, throwing his keys into the bowl by the door and immediately stripping off his tie.

He’s not even surprised to see Herc sat on his sofa, eating doritos and watching re-runs of Brooklyn-Nine-Nine, his sketchpads strewn around him in disarray. They live in adjacent flats to each other and exchanged keys long ago; that, coupled with the fact that none of his friends would know what a boundary was if it smacked them directly in the face, means that he’s never surprised to see people who do not live in his flat, in his flat, eating his food, on a weekly basis.

“It hurts me just to look at you in that suit, please let me tailor it so I no longer have to live in chronic pain.”

Alex rolls his eyes. “So take some painkillers, you aren’t getting your hands on me. I don’t want to stand around like a scarecrow for half an hour while you poke me with pins.”

“You insult my honour and skill, I would never poke you with pins,” Hercules gasps, fluttering a hand to his chest.

“Herc, please, I’ve had a really long day, all I want to do is to get steadily drunk while writing an anonymous email filled with hate and sending it to Jefferson, okay?”

“I’ll make you look better than Jefferson,” Hercules says fervently. “You’ll swan into the office tomorrow in a suit fit for the red carpet and Jefferson will spontaneously combust out of jealousy, I guarantee it.”

“You’ll make me look better than Jefferson,” Alex repeats flatly. “Jefferson who is six foot two of ridiculously lean muscle and incredibly fluffy hair. And I do not swan, I don’t thinking swanning is actually something people do outside of tacky romance novels.”

Hercules shoots him a funny look. “How do you know how lean his muscles are?”

“He once wore a sheer shirt to work,” Alex explains and Hercules whistles lowly. Alex nods in exasperated agreement. “Let me tell you, that guy? Has an eight pack.”

“You counted?”

“I counted,” he says solemnly.

“Okay, maybe I can’t make you look better than a guy with an eight pack-”

“An asshole with an eight-pack,” interjects Alex.

“-but you’re curvy and we can work with that,” Herc continues, ignoring Alex entirely. “Honestly, it pains me to see you hide everything you’ve got under those rumpled suits. John would appreciate it, I’m sure,” he says slyly, shooting imploring dark eyes at Alex.

Curvy, Alex thinks. It’s better than fat. He shakes his head.

“For the last time, no,” he says finally and retreats to his room to find his laptop.

“Think about my pain!” shouts Hercules. “Think about John!”

Alex rolls his eyes. He doesn’t need someone to tell him to think about John, he already does it entirely too much. John with his curly hair and his adorable freckles, miles of smooth brown skin, long legs and long fingers. John’s goofy smile and his sticky out ears and the way he adds skips and twirls to his walk when he thinks nobody’s looking. John doodling behind reception, leaning over in concentration, just enough that the desk lamp illuminates all his flyaway curls and makes them glow. John, who makes his heart feel heavy in his chest and his fingers shake. John, who is slender and fit and wouldn’t want someone like Alex.

He strips off his shirt in a huff, undoing his belt buckle and yanking off his trousers too, leaving him in his boxers and socks. All he wants to do is pull on his comfiest clothes and wallow in bed like a pining teenager, but he catches sight of himself in the mirror and can’t help but stop and look, taking stock of his body and finding it wanting.

His belly is pudgy, his hips chubby, his ass big and round. His thighs are too thick with little white stretch marks that zigzag across his skin in an ugly pattern. He has next to no muscle definition, not even in his arms, and he glares at himself in the mirror. Even his cheeks are plump, bulging on his face.

He swallows down his bitterness and pulls on his softest hoodie, stolen from John ages ago, and falls into bed still in his boxers. He pulls the covers up over his head, blocking out all the light and cocooning himself in the warmth of his solitude. He imagines how he looks on the outside, a lump in the middle of the mattress, and thinks it describes him accurately.

He doesn’t want to tailor his suits, he doesn’t want to show off his ‘curves’. He wears baggy clothes because they were all he could afford when he first got here, with barely two dimes to rub together and scavenging around the bins in charity shops. The cheapest clothes were always in the biggest sizes and he just got used to that wardrobe. It looked silly back then, and people laugh when they see pictures of him in college, tiny Alexander almost swallowed by his giant clothing. But he’s put on weight, now, an uncomfortable amount, and he’s starting to actually fit into all those old shirts.

He wraps his arms around his belly and squeezes tight. Maybe if he pressed hard enough he could make himself skinny again through sheer force.

He scoffs at himself curls up in a ball. No, he’ll have to organise a quick sit down with all his friends and tell them to stop making comments about him and John. It’s not going to happen, it’s never going to happen, and it dumbfounds him that they’d even think he’d stand a chance. Why would John choose him over all their beautiful friends: Lafayette who’s so tall and slim, Hercules who’s broad and muscled, Angelica who runs and does kickboxing to stay in shape, or Eliza and Peggy who both have such soft skin and delicate bone structures.

No, John would never choose him, and that’s fine. Alexander has given his heart to John and he’s just fine without it. He’s been alone since he was a young boy, he can handle it for the rest of his life.

With that decided, he throws off the covers and retrieves his laptop. He wonders how many synonyms for jackass he can fit into this entirely anonymous email to Jefferson, cracking his knuckles and starting to type.

 

.

 

Alex is pissing about playing solitaire during the slow hours at work, trying not to think about how he’s been avoiding John more and more the past few weeks and how much his heart aches, when everyone’s phone buzzes on their desk in unison. Well, he says everyone’s; what he means is everyone who is a part of their ridiculous group Whatsapp, which pointedly does not include Burr or Jefferson. Or Lee, but really who cares about that guy? No one, is the answer.

John <3: movie night at my place tonight, you all in????

Angel-ica: me and eliza are going downtown tonight so we can’t

Peggy: i’m coming too!!!!!!!! don’t forget me!!!!

A.ham: did you actually just forget your own sister

He hears John choke on a snort to his right and ducks his head to hide his smile.

Frenchiest Fry: i can’t make it either

Hercules: nor me im slammed at wrk, stayin late

Frenchiest Fry: um is no one going to ask why i can’t make it

Alex hears John sigh and he turns to raise his eyebrows at him. John pulls a face but takes one for the team.

John <3: go on then tell us

A.ham: we’re hanging on the edge of our seats

Frenchiest Fry: i’ve got a HOT DATE

A.ham: which poor unfortunate soul is going to be subjected to you this evening

John flings a sweet at Alex and it smacks him right in the head. Ow, he mouths in John’s direction, rubbing his temple but picking up the sweet and popping it in his mouth. Don’t be rude, John mouths back and Alex grins through the taste of watermelon on his tongue.

Frenchiest Fry: excuse you it is with adrienne, the most beautiful lady to walk the earth

Eliiiiiiiiiiiza: hey i take offense to that

Angel-ica: seconded

Peggy: thirded

Frenchiest Fry: merde there’s no pleasing you people

John <3: i guess that means it’s just you and me alex

John <3: if you still want to come, i mean

Alex glares over at Lafayette’s desk where the Frenchman is waggling his eyebrows and making indecent gestures with his fingers. He feels hot under the collar, uncomfortable, because he’d sat them all down and told them they need to stop, and apparently they all nodded and ignored him.

John <3: alex?

Shit. He can’t exactly say no, he doesn’t have an excuse to get out of it. And anyway, he doesn’t want to say no. He wants to spend time with John, he always wants to, but he’s feeling angry and embarrassed that his friends have apparently decided to ignore his words entirely and go ahead and force him into what could be construed into a romantic situation with John when he explicitly told them to stop all that nonsense.

A.ham: yeah okay

John <3: :))))))

Alex closes the chat and opens a separate one with Lafayette.

A.ham: stop this

Frenchiest Fry: mon ami we’re trying to help

A.ham: i don’t want your help i don’t need help i told you that

A.ham: there’s not even anything to help with

A.ham: you ignored what i said and now i’ve been forced into something i don’t want to do

Frenchiest Fry: you don’t want to spend time with ton amour?

A.ham: for fucks sake laf

A.ham: he’s not my amour

A.ham: i’m angry that you went over my head

A.ham: you’ve hurt my feelings

A.ham: i thought we were friends

Frenchiest Fry: !!!???!??!??!?!??!?!?!?

Frenchiest Fry: of course we are friends how could you say that??????

A.ham: friends respect each other

Frenchiest Fry: i hold only the utmost respect for you petit lion

A.ham: then why did you ignore what i said

A.ham: this thing with john has to stop. it’s not even a thing. it’s never going to happen. stop pushing it.

Frenchiest Fry: i am sorry you feel that way

Frenchiest Fry: but we firmly believe you are wrong

A.ham: lafayette, please.

Frenchiest Fry: trust us

Alex sighs in frustration and throws his phone into the closest desk drawer, rubbing his hands tiredly over his eyes. He can hear his phone carry on vibrating in the drawer but he ignores it, ignores Lafayette, just like Lafayette ignored him.

Half an hour later a paper aeroplane hits him in the head and he searches out the trajectory to find Lafayette’s eyes big and sad and pleading across the room, his lips fashioned into an exaggerated pout. Alex crumples the paper and shoves it in the bin. Lafayette’s shoulders slump and Alex goes back to work, firmly pushing everything that isn’t tea sales out of his mind.

He emerges from a haze of sales calls some time later and stumbles into the little office kitchen to make himself some strong instant coffee in the biggest mug he can find, industrial sized. He keeps his eyes on the hot mug filled to the brim as he carries it precariously back to his desk, making sure he doesn’t spill a drop. John is perched on the edge of his desk when he looks up and he smiles cheerily at Alex and shuffles over to make room for the mug.

“You haven’t been over to reception yet today, I was starting to miss you,” he whispers and Alex swallows a sip of too-hot coffee to hide his face as he blushes.

“Had, you know,” he gestures awkwardly to his phone and computer, “Work to do.”

John pouts. “You always come visit me though. Was it something I said?”

“What? No, why would you think that?”

John is silent for a moment, a little crease appearing between his eyebrows. Alex wants to reach up and smooth it out with his thumb.

“No reason,” he mumbles after a minute, fiddling with some paperclips on the desktop and not looking at Alex.

“I’ve got some time,” Alex lies, his heart squeezing in his chest at the sad look on John’s face, wanting to cheer him up and see him smile so badly it almost hurts. “We could plan our next prank on Jefferson,” he suggests and John’s face lights up, the corners of his mouth stretching at his cheeks and making his freckles crinkle up.

They spend the next ten minutes with their heads bent close together, whispering and giggling back and forth, and Alex has to remind himself every so often not to get distracted by counting John’s freckles.

“I could really use some coffee, the smell of yours is making me crave it,” John says, leaning in close and breathing deeply.

“You can have some of mine,” Alex says before he can stop himself.

John’s eyes fly open. “Really?” he asks, but he’s already swaying back in and taking another deep inhale.

“Sure, why not, it’s a big mug,” Alex replies weakly, watching John’s eyelashes flutter against his cheeks.

John reaches out and wraps his palm over Alex’s around the mug and brings it to his lips, taking a long sip and sighing happily. Alex blinks rapidly, trying to slow the wild beating of his heart in his ribs, his skin feeling tingly where John’s touching him. The ceramic of the mug is hot and John’s palm is cool and the contrast is making Alex’s stomach squirm.

“Last sip, I promise,” John mumbles and takes another three sips, making Alex smile.

“I’m sorry for stealing your coffee,” he says and takes his hand away, leaving Alex holding the mug awkwardly in the air.

“No, it’s fine,” he says quickly, putting the mug back down on the desk and flexing his hand in what he hopes is a subtle gesture. John smiles at him sweetly and pushes away from the desk, leaning down and whispering in Alex’s ear.

“I’ll send you an email with more details about that thing,” and Alex suppresses a grin as they both look over to Jefferson who’s fruitlessly banging on the copy machine to try and get it to work.

“Also, what movies do you wanna watch tonight?” John asks.

Alex shrugs. “Netflix?”

“And chill?” adds John and Alex abruptly feels his cheeks heat up. There’s no way John misses it, hovering as close as he is to Alex’s face, and that just makes his skin get even hotter.

“Maybe just a Disney movie or something,” he mumbles in a strained voice, lowering his eyes and wishing desperately for the floor to open up and swallow him whole.

John squeezes his shoulder and sings, “I can go the distance,” which makes Alex snort out half a laugh before he can stop himself.

John hums as he walks back to his desk, a spring light in his step, and Alex finds himself singing under his breath.

“I have often dreamed of a far off place,” he sings absently, quietly, as he watches John swivel around in his chair a few times and start to organise the highlighters.

“Where a great warm welcome will be waiting for me,” he continues and John looks up and shoots him a silly grin, eyes warm and soft, and Alex’s stomach flips over.

 

.

 

“Eliza, I need your help,” he hisses as he slides into the seat opposite her in the back room. Lee’s head pops up in what he probably thinks is a subtle way, watching them over the top of the divide, and Eliza throws a stapler at his forehead with surprising accuracy considering she’s not even looking at him.

“Fuck off, Lee,” she says hotly and then turns to Alex. “What’s the problem, honey?”

Alex blinks at her and promptly slams his forehead into the desk, groaning.

“Well, shit,” she says eloquently. “Peggy, come over here and bring the chocolate biscuits.”

He can hear Peggy dragging her chair across the floor, the creaky wheels a dead giveaway, and then there’s the sound of crinkling plastic and a packet of biscuits is shoved under his nose. He looks at them miserably and takes one.

“What’s so urgent that it required the biscuits?” Peggy asks around a mouthful of crumbs. “Not that I’m complaining,” she adds, dipping her hand into the package and fishing out another.

“You’re probably not the best person to come to, considering you’re my ex-girlfriend, but you sort of are at the same time, since you’re in Human Resources,” he moans to Eliza.

Eliza and Peggy stare at him. “So it’s about John,” they say in unison.

“Okay, first of all, that’s creepy,” he takes a bite of the biscuit. “And second of all, what makes you assume it’s about John?”

“Look, we all know you’ve been pathetically in love with him for years, you were probably in love with him while we were still dating-” Alex makes a sound of indignant protest but Eliza holds a hand up, silencing him. Peggy lifts his hand and makes him take another bite of biscuit.

“The reason we’ve never talked about it is because you seemed to be handling it okay on your own, and things have been moving in the right direction, albeit agonizingly slowly, and to be honest I was still getting over you. But then you spazzed out a few weeks back for no discernable reason and everything’s gone to shit,” Eliza finishes.

Peggy nods solemnly. “It’s been like a car crash,” she comments.

“Lafayette told me that you think we didn’t listen to you when you told us to stop with the John thing, but it’s not that we didn’t listen, it’s more that what you were saying was stupid and we all collectively agreed to ignore you,” Eliza pats his knee.

“What I was saying was not stupid, thank you very much, everything I say is incredibly clever and witty and you should all be glad you have a ray of sunshine like me in your life,” he glares at them.

“We love you, Alex, but what you said was stupid,” Peggy states. “No more biscuits for you until you realise that,” and she snatches the half eaten biscuit out of his hand and shoves it into her mouth in one go. He whimpers mournfully.

“You said the thing with John was not, in fact, a thing at all and that John was never going to like you like that, or even look at you that way, so we should all stop trying to force it. Which was incredibly dumb and wrong,” Peggy shakes her head at him, her curls bouncing.

“John has been in love with you since he met you. He pined quietly the entire time we were dating and has been slowly but surely making moves on you for the past year. It’s painful to watch, honestly,” Eliza adds.

“John’s told you this?” Alex asks, his heart in his throat.

“Well, no, but-”

“So what you’re saying could be entirely made up-”

“Oh for God’s sake, Alex, please shut the fuck up,” Eliza snaps. “It’s plain as daylight to anyone with eyes. The way that boy looks at you, dear God, he looks like you’ve handed him a dozen puppies and a million dollars every time you smile in his direction.”

“He keeps a sketchbook filled with doodles of you in a locked drawer in his desk,” Peggy says, her eyes big and wide.

“Really?” Elzia asks, turning to her sister. “I didn’t know that, how did you know that?”

“Caught him drawing in it one day, he turned bright red and hid it from me. I broke into his desk later and flipped through it. It’s chock a block full of drawings of Alex,” she reveals, grinning smugly.

“You broke into his desk?” Alex asks incredulously.

Peggy and Eliza glare at him. “That’s what you took from that?” they both say.

Alex rubs at his eyes. “Honestly, it’s so creepy when you do that, please stop.”

“It’s a sister thing,” Eliza hooks her pinky finger around Peggy’s and they stick their tongues out at each other.

“You’re adopted,” protests Alex.

Eliza casts him a withering glance. He’s reminded, suddenly, of all the times he’d lost arguments against her when they were together. He shrinks back automatically, cowed under her hard eyes, all no-nonsense.

“Look, the point is that you’re being dumb. You and John are alone tonight and I swear to God if you both turn up at work tomorrow still walking straight I’m going to scream,” Eliza pokes him in the chest while Peggy eats more biscuits behind her.

“I’m not being dumb,” mumbles Alex. “John would never go for a guy like me.”

“Literally why the fuck not,” Peggy throws her hands up, exasperated.

“Because I’m fat,” he whispers. “Okay? I’m really chubby. No one wants that.”

They both stare at him with their mouths open, eyes wide and sad, Peggy’s half chewed biscuit far too visible for his taste.

“Oh Alexander,” she breathes, swallowing hastily.

He stands up, suddenly feeling uncomfortably hot. His chest feels tight and his palms sweaty and he can feel both their stares on him and he has to leave, now, before he does something stupid like cry.

“This was a bad idea,” he mumbles and high tails it out of there, making sure to look busy at his desk just in case they come after him. They don’t, and his heart wobbles unsteadily in his chest when he realises why.

They won’t lie to him, they’re both too good a friend for that. They know that he’s not being dumb, or stupid, or blind. John could never want him.

 

.

 

Alex drums his fingers nervously against the desk of reception as he waits for John to gather his things so they can get going. John’s humming under his breath again but Alex is feeling too nervous to properly appreciate it and he’s too busy trying to avoid the way Eliza and Peggy try to catch his eye as they leave. Jefferson tugs sharply on his hair as he walks past and Alex whirls around to slap him but Jefferson’s stupid long legs have already taken him out of range.

He’s got his bike helmet tucked under his arm and he shifts to tap his fingers against the hard plastic as John finally swings his back around his shoulder and turns the light off at his desk, smiling at Alex and asking if he’s all ready to go. Alex nods shortly and chews his lip as they make their way down the stairs and into the car park, heading over to his bike and fumbling around in his pocket for the lock key.

“Hey, why don’t you just leave it here and stay at mine? I’ll drop you off tomorrow morning, it’s no problem,” John calls, turning around half way across the parking lot when he realises Alex isn’t walking with him anymore.

Alex blinks. John wants him to stay over? Well fuck. “No, it’s okay, I can just cycle behind your car, it’s fine.”

It’s hard to make out because he’s far away but it looks like John is biting his lip. “Seriously, Alex, let me give you a lift. I don’t want you to have to cycle all the way to mine, that’s not fair on you.”

Alex’s shoulders slump and he puts the keys back in his pocket. “Fine, but I’ll have to borrow some pyjamas off you,” he grumbles.

John grins brightly. “They’ll be so big on you, you’ll look adorable,” he says happily and corrals Alex to his car with a palm on the small of Alex’s back.

John sings along with the radio all the way to his house and Alex stares out the window to keep himself from staring at his friend like a creepy stalker. His heart rate is going crazy, steadily climbing as panic starts to seep in about spending the whole night with John. He fumbles for his phone and pulls up his and Lafayette’s Whatsapp, needing to talk to someone.

Frenchiest Fry: please trust us

Frenchiest Fry: john LIKES you i promise

Frenchiest Fry: he loves you

Frenchiest Fry: it pains me to see you both so unhappy

Frenchiest Fry: you could be happy together!!!!!!!

Frenchiest Fry: if you let yourself be

Frenchiest Fry: please alexander

Frenchiest Fry: alex read the note in the paper aeroplane

Frenchiest Fry: alex please don’t ignore me

Frenchiest Fry: petit lion i just want you to be happy

Frenchiest Fry: alex??????????

Frenchiest Fry: good luck tonight mon ami, i hope you have fun if not make lots of love

Frenchiest Fry: please trust us alexander

Frenchiest Fry: let yourself be happy

Alex slides the phone back into his pocket. So that’s what Lafayette was sending him all afternoon. He doesn’t know why his friends continue to insist he has a chance, to force him into things that will only hurt him. Friends aren’t supposed to do that, right?

John taps out a beat against the steering wheel, glancing over at Alex and smiling when they hit a red light. He smiles weakly back and quickly returns to staring out the window. This is going to be a really, really long night.

They’re both still wearing their work clothes, shirts and slacks and ties, when they get to John’s house so the first thing he does is rummage around in his drawers and find them some comfy clothes. He and John have shared quite a few items of clothing over the past years, a hoodie here and there and some shirts and last summer they co-owned a pair of sunglasses, so this isn’t too weird. Alex doesn’t know why his heart flip flops in his chest when John hands over the clothes, pointing him needlessly towards the bathroom so he can get changed.

John’s hoodies are always the cosiest; John says he buys them a size too big because they’re more comfortable that way. Alex pulls it over his head and revels in being surrounded by John’s smell. The pants he’s been given are far too long and he has to hastily roll up the ends to his ankles, feeling silly and young. John giggles at him when he comes out, wearing a washed out shirt and lounge pants himself, and Alex ducks his head, embarrassed.

“Come here,” he says and pats the mattress. “I was originally gonna set up in the living room but since it’s just the two of us I figured the bed gives us more space and is way comfier than my lumpy sofa.”

Alex crawls up onto the bed and flops against the pillows, wriggling and messing up the bed spread. John brings his laptop over and balances it on his thighs, letting Alex crowd into him and bump his forehead into his shoulder to see the screen better. He pulls up Netflix and they start browsing, Alex wrinkling his nose at the selection and calling veto on a number of John’s suggests.

John eventually huffs and tugs on Alex’s hair. “Shall we just watch a Disney movie, like you suggested? Hercules?”

“I’m in the mood for Mulan, now that you mention it,” Alex says and John finds it and hits play, his hand fiddling with the ends of Alex’s too-long hair.

They giggle and sing their way through the movie and it’s nearing seven o'clock when John dislodges Alex and stretches, saying he’s going to grab some take out menus because he can’t bothered to cook.

“More like you can’t cook!” Alex calls after him and John flips him the bird over his shoulder.

They decide on pizza, “With extra cheese,” John tells the guy on the phone, and kill the time by watching the Louis Theroux documentary on ufology, alternating between mocking his English accent and poking fun at the clearly crazy people who get interviewed.

They both grab for the pizza when it arrives, munching on slices and making obscene noises.

“I could live off this for the rest of my life,” moans John, “And die fat and happy.”

The bite Alex just took suddenly feels hard to swallow. He forces himself to finish the rest of the slice and picks at his fingernails after, ignoring how much he wants to continue eating.

“Are you not hungry?” John asks, realising that Alex hasn’t picked up another slice.

“Too much cheese,” Alex supplies as a weak response and John shoots him a funny look.

“There’s no such thing as too much cheese, my friend,” he says gravely, staring at Alex with earnest hazel eyes. Alex laughs nervously and pushes the box away, settling back against the pillows and letting his eyes wander around the room.

John’s room is eclectic, a mixture of books and CD’s slipping off shelves, photos and hand-drawn pictures tacked up on the walls, his guitar propped up in the corner, a stack of mugs leaving rings on his desk with half-drunk amounts of tea still in them. There’s a Star Wars poster pinned to the wall and a Pride flag draped over the corner of his wardrobe door, which Alex thinks is adorable. He’s even got a little orchid on his windowsill, blooming a pretty pink, surrounded by little succulent plants. Everything in John’s room is soft and gentle and proud, just like the man himself, right down to the stuffed turtle toy that Alex had won him at a fair a few years ago that’s sitting at the end of John’s bed. It makes him smile to remember that day and his stomach squirm happily to know that John still has it.

John breaks him out of his reverie by offering him the last slice of pizza which Alex politely declines, twisting his fingers into the fabric of his hoodie. He watches John get up and fold the pizza box into the recycling and scrolls through Netflix until he gets back, looking for something good to watch.

“Oh! Grease Live! I didn’t know they’d put that up, can we watch that?” John says, tapping Alex excitedly on the arm. “I missed it when it first aired and haven’t gotten around to watching it yet.”

Alex sighs, pretending to be put upon but secretly feeling amused when John pouts at him prettily, batting his eyelashes and stretching out the word pleeeeeeease.

“Alright, alright, I’ll indulge you in more musicals,” he grumbles and John makes a happy noise and pulls Alex down until they’re flat on their backs, the laptop balanced on both their thighs between them.

It’s actually really good, Alex finds himself thinking sometime later. The cast is very diverse and everyone sings well, and they even added a few original songs to give minor characters a chance to shine, which is nice. He and John dramatically sing Summer Lovin’ and giggle their way through Beauty School Dropout, laughing at the one singer who is way more enthusiastic with his dance moves than the other two.

Alex sighs when they reach the scene where Danny tries to join a sports team. Aaron Tveit in tiny red shorts is quite a sight to behold.

“Those shorts are obscene,” he mumbles. “Look at his biceps, oh my God, life is so unfair.”

“You’re into that kind of thing?” John asks, tilting his head at the screen as Danny and Sandy awkwardly stutter their way through a conversation.

Alex scoffs. “You’re not?”

“Not really. I mean, I’m not gonna say it’s not attractive but looking like that isn’t the be all and end all.”

Alex stares at the side of his face. “Are you kidding me?” he snaps. John stares at him in confusion. Alex reaches out and lifts up John’s shirt, hiking it up and poking at John’s stomach. John makes a sound of protest and tenses his muscles automatically and Alex huffs at him.

“You can say that and have it be true because you look like that,” he gestures to John’s ridiculous abs, which he now realises are just as freckled as his face and feels his cheeks heat up. He abruptly averts his eyes, yanking John’s shirt back down.

“You’re saying that like you don’t,” John frowns at him.

Alex shifts uncomfortably. “You don’t have to lie to me, John, I know I don’t look like that.”

“That doesn’t mean you’re not attractive, Alex,” John says softly. Alex stares up at the ceiling and wishes fervently that his blood would stop pumping around his body so his cheeks wouldn’t be so red.

He hears John shift and suddenly John’s hand is sliding under his hoodie and palming his belly. His eyes go wide and he hears the way his breath hitches, loud, and knows John can’t have missed that.

“You have curves,” he murmurs and his hand drifts to Alex’s hips, grasping at the skin and squeezing gently. “A little extra to hold onto. I like that.”

His hand stretches out over Alex’s skin and his thumb rubs just under his belly button while his fingers play with Alex’s hips and Alex stops breathing.

“It’s hot,” he whispers and Alex tenses up all over. John abruptly pulls his hand back and stiffly returns to his position, both of them utterly silent as Danny and Sandy do the hand jive on screen.

They sit through the rest of it, Alex almost chewing through his lip with the effort to not fill the excruciating silence with babbling chatter. It’s horrible and tense and the small space between them feels taut with staticky electricity. He keeps running over how John’s hands had felt on him, the way he’d touched him so slowly and carefully, how big and broad his hands were. He’d touched him reverently, like Alex was something precious, to be treasured.

But it was just friendly reassurance, he thinks and winces. It sounds weak even in his own head and Alex hates being weak. But he can’t wrap his mind around the idea that John might actually want him, desire him, be eager to touch him that way. It seems so impossible to him, to be an object of desire.

He hasn’t gotten laid in a while and to be fair that’s mostly because he’s been pining so hard after John that he hasn’t really been bothered with anyone else, even just to pass the time with. Eliza had been the last person he’d slept with, almost a year and a half ago, and that was a huge mistake considering she’d still been mostly in love with him and he was aware of that fact and still did it anyway.

He was happy with Eliza, they’d had it pretty good for a while there. She got him his job at Mount Vernon and he’d fell into being a stable person with a stable girlfriend and a stable income. He figures that’s when he started to put on weight: when he actually had enough money to pay for decent food three times a day. Eliza had never said anything and he didn’t even realise it was happening until he looked down one day and realised he had stretch marks. He’d started feeling self conscious immediately, stopped letting Eliza touch him intimately until she’d snapped and yelled at him. That, coupled with his heart starting to race whenever he was around John, had been the beginning of the end for them.

He’d put on even more weight after they broke up, feeling thoroughly low and hopeless, in pain from hurting Eliza and pining forlornly after John, and he knew Eliza still loved him so he let himself indulge for one night. It was a huge mistake, obviously, and the mess it caused wasn’t worth the few minutes of validation he’d felt, and he still feels bad about it to this day even though Eliza has moved on to a shy girl named Maria and glares at him whenever he tries to apologise.

So he finds it hard to think about himself like that, anymore. It makes his skin feel too tight, thinking about doing anything with anyone, especially John. Not that he doesn’t think about it, because he’s a young man with a healthy libido and an active imagination. It’s just when he fantasises about it he’s always touching John, not the other way around. John’s always naked, not him. Mostly, he doesn’t picture himself at all in his fantasies, focusing instead entirely on John on his mind. He doesn’t see why John would want to touch him, not even the fantasy version of John, so it’s difficult to believe that the real John just willingly dragged his fingers all over Alex’s skin, caressing his hips and stomach like he couldn’t stop.

It’s hot, he’d whispered. Alex shivers. Fuck.

The cast on screen dance their way through We Go Together and then take their bows and before he knows it it’s over and they’re plunged head first into total awkwardness, both of them lying stiff as boards next to each other.

John shifts and closes the laptop, placing it on the floor next to the bed and staring at the wall for a second.

“I’m sorry,” he says quickly, lowering his gaze and fixing his eyes in his lap. “I shouldn’t have said that, I shouldn’t have- touched you, I’m so sorry.”

Alex feels his eyes sting. “It’s fine,” he whispers, wishing his voice didn’t crack so obviously.

“But you should know, Alex, that you are attractive. You’re beautiful, and sexy, and you’re gonna make someone really happy some day,” he sucks in a sharp breath. “Even if that someone isn’t me.”

“What do you mean?” Alex says flatly, eyes narrowed, confused. He feels off kilter, like he doesn’t understand the words John is saying and it makes his head hurt unpleasantly.

John swallows and licks his lips, looking towards the ceiling for a second before fixing his gaze firmly on Alex. “I’ve liked you for a long time,” he says, his voice hushed, “A really long time. And you don’t like me back, and that’s okay, because I have your friendship and that’s what’s important.”

“I don’t like you… back?” Alex repeats, confused, but with hope fluttering in his heart.

“I mean, we’re friends, so of course you like me, but not in the same way that I like you, which is to say I love you, a lot,” John babbles, looking more and more miserable as his mouth runs on.

“John, stop,” interrupts Alex. He sits up and grabs John by the shoulders with shaking fingers.

John whines, a pathetic sad sound. “I’m sorry, I’ll stop, I’ll never talk about it again.”

“Why do you think I don’t like you? Why do you think I don’t love you? I’ve only been pining after you for the past two, maybe three years-”

“-You love me-”

“- Yes, John, I do. Very much. An embarrassing amount, frankly,” he adds, exasperated. John’s staring at him with wide eyes and his mouth open in surprise and Alex lowers his eyes, dropping his hands from John’s shoulders, suddenly feeling very nervous and small. He fiddles with the hem of his hoodie.

“You love me?” he asks timidly, hesitant.

John’s fingers tilt his chin up and Alex finds himself looking into warm brown eyes, big and earnest, a little bit wet. “You can’t imagine how much, Alexander,” he breathes.

He leans in close. Bites his lip. “Are we doing this?”

“We’re doing this,” Alex whispers and hauls him in by the front of his shirt, pressing his lips sweetly against John’s. John inhales deeply and hums against his lips. It’s light and chaste until John tilts his head and opens his mouth and suddenly Alex feels lightheaded, unable to think straight when John’s mouth is on his mouth and, fuck, his mind screeches to a halt.

John’s mouth is hot and he kisses slow, lazy, like he could do this all day and not get tired. Alex clings onto the front of his shirt and tries to stay upright, kisses John back until their tongues are moving slick against each other and he feels dizzy with it. John pulls back and Alex whines at the loss but John just sucks his bottom lip into his mouth, causing Alex’s heart rate to spike scarily and blood rush south, his dick twitching in John’s borrowed pyjamas.

John slides his hand into Alex’s hair and cradles the back of his head, scratching his nails gently against Alex’s scalp in a way that makes him shiver, and his other hand rests on Alex’s thigh, squeezing and rubbing gently. He keeps on alternating between kissing Alex deep and dirty, fucking his tongue into his mouth, and pulling back and placing butterfly kisses all over Alex’s lips. Alex spreads his shaking fingers out around John’s shoulders, so broad and strong, and holds on for dear life.

They’re both breathing hard when John pulls back and rests his forehead against Alex’s. Alex manages to peel open his eyes and stare at John, his freckles so close up and gorgeous against his skin, the way his chest rises and falls as he breathes hard, the way his cock has thickened out against his thigh in his pants.

Alex bites his lip. John wants him, that’s undeniable. Whether he’ll continue to want Alex once he sees all of him is debatable but he’s going to enjoy this for now, he decides. He rubs his thumb against John’s lip and John leans into him helplessly. He replaces his thumb with his mouth, kissing John deep and slow.

John groans low in his chest and it sounds incredible, so intimate and close, a sound Alex never thought he’d get to hear, couldn’t even imagine in his wildest dreams. He echoes it back to John, feels him suck in a sharp breath, then he’s angling his head and kissing Alex harder, rougher, faster. Alex presses his nails into John’s skin through his shirt and gets lost in it, lets John take what he wants and goes pliant under him.

John pulls away and tilts Alex’s head to the side so he can get to his neck, biting and sucking and kissing his way down until he gets to the neck of the hoodie, blocking the rest of Alex’s skin. He whines in frustration and pulls back fully, taking Alex in. He can only imagine what he looks like, flushed and panting, his neck covered in little marks from John’s lips and teeth.

“As much as I love you in my clothes,” John’s voice rumbles out of his chest, an octave lower than usual, “I’m going to have to ask you to take this off,” he finishes and tugs at the hoodie.

Alex feels his stomach squirm but John is looking at him with dark eyes, hot and wanting, and he desperately wants to be okay with this, but something holds him back. John must see it on his face because his eyebrows slant together and his eyes go all soft and concerned and he’s petting Alex’s hair, gentle and reassuring.

“Hey, we don’t have to,” he murmurs. “I just got excited because it’s been a really long time, and it’s you, so. I’ve imagined this moment too many times to count and this is better than all of those fantasies put together but if you don’t want to, that’s fine.”

Alex grabs John’s hands, holding them close and playing with his fingers so he doesn’t have to look him in the face. He loves John’s hands, he’s got such broad palms and long, thin fingers and even his knuckles have freckles on them, how is that even possible, he thinks dazedly.

“I want to, I really want to,” he says quietly. “It’s just that… I don’t look the way you do,” he says eventually. “I’m just worried you won’t like what you see.”

Alex,” John breathes and Alex squeezes his eyes shut tightly. “I love everything about you.”

“But you don’t know, you haven’t seen,” Alex protests and John pulls a hand away to press his finger firmly to Alex’s lips.

“I’d love you even if you had tentacles, Alex, like that weird anime Hercules made us watch, you remember?” Alex snorts out half a laugh and John grins at him, his eyes soft.

“There is nothing about you that I don’t love. I love you even when you’re hopped up on caffeine and standing on tables, I love you when you look two seconds away from punching Jefferson in the face, I love you when you have huge bags under your eyes and you’ve not washed your hair in a week because you’ve been marathoning some dumb show on Netflix. I love you when you ask a million unnecessary questions during staff meetings, and when you get drunk and only speak Spanish and French, and when your hair’s up and when it’s down and when you do that cute halfway thing with the ponytail. I love your eyes and your nose and your hands, I love how small you are,” he blurts out, looking embarrassed but steamrolling through it, and Alex’s heart squeezes tight in his chest. “I’ve not seen your body, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that I’ll love it too, no matter what.”

He lets his finger drop from Alex’s lips and Alex takes a moment to blink quickly, hoping his tears don’t fall.

“We don’t have to do anything,” John continues, “But know with certainty that I will always want you, that I constantly want you. Sometimes I think about you at work and I have to stay behind my desk all day because if I stood up I’d embarrass myself.”

Alex laughs, disbelieving. “At work?”

John nods ruefully, his cheeks a dusty pink. “I draw you at work too,” he says. “I have a whole notebook full of sketches of just you, only you.”

Alex’s heart swells. He leans forwards and catches John’s mouth in a hard kiss and John huffs a surprised breath but goes with it, tilts his head and lets Alex bite at his lips messily. He pulls back and John blinks his eyes open, looking dazed, and Alex fingers the hem of the hoodie for a second before tugging it over his head quickly, before he can stop himself.

He sits there, blushing, the rolls of his stomach on display as he curls in on himself, avoiding John’s eyes. His moment of bravado is wearing off quickly and he feels cold and silly and small, and John’s still staring at him.

“Alexander,” he says lowly, skimming his palms down Alex’s chest, rubbing his fingers into Alex’s belly. “Fuck,” and he pushes Alex’s shoulders down gently, guiding him to lie down on the bed. His hands go to pull apart Alex’s thighs and he freezes, looking up at Alex quickly.

“Is this okay?” he asks and Alex feels his heart thump in his chest and nods. John pushes his thighs apart and crawls between them, pressing himself down onto Alex and capturing his mouth in a deep kiss, wet and hot.

Alex lets his eyes flutter closed and his hands bury themselves in John’s hair, so soft and curly under his fingers, thick and tangled. John holds himself up on one elbow by Alex’s head and uses his other hand to skate his way down Alex’s chest, kneading at his belly and hips, pinching at the extra fat there. His hand slides back up and tugs on Alex’s nipple and he can’t help the moan he lets out, arching his back up into John and tightening his grip automatically in John’s hair.

John breaks away abruptly and pushes himself up to pull his shirt over his head. Alex has barely a moment to admire John’s brown skin, the freckles on his collarbones and sternum, his defined abs, before John is lowering himself back down and they’re skin to skin. John returns to his lips and licks into his mouth, sliding his tongue against Alex’s obscenely, making his mind go foggy.

John is between his legs and Alex can feel his hard length pressed against the crease of his thigh, hot and heavy, and he wriggles, bucking his hips up, seeking friction. John presses his forehead against Alex’s, letting out a choked moan as he grinds down, and Alex’s hands scrabble at his back at the sharp sweetness of the feeling.

“Fuck, okay, let me,” John mumbles, kissing down Alex’s neck. Alex tips his head back to give him extra room and moans when John sucks on his collarbone.

“Let me show you, fuck, Alex,” he jerks his hips again, breathing heavily. “Let me show you what you do to me, how good you look, how good you feel, baby, please.”

“John,” is all Alex can say, and apparently that’s good enough because John starts kissing down his chest, licking around his nipples teasingly and making Alex whimper.

“John, please,” he pants and John takes his nipple into his mouth and sucks, scraping his teeth against it just barely, and Alex’s back arches and he whines loudly.

“The sounds you make, baby girl, you’re incredible,” he groans into Alex’s skin and Alex whimpers, squeezing his eyes shut and twisting his hands into the bedspread.

John continues to make his way down his chest, breathing cool air across his ribs and making him shiver. He rests his palms on Alex’s thighs, rubbing deep into the muscles, and his fingers flit over the waistband of Alex’s borrowed pyjama pants.

“Can I?” he whispers and Alex nods frantically, too wound up to be hesitant anymore, and John eases his pants down his hips and over his cock, letting the fabric bunch around Alex’s thighs.

“Jesus, you look like something from my dreams,” he breathes and Alex kicks him in the ribs.

“Take them off, oh my God,” he huffs, impatient and John chuckles, flashing him a goofy smile that makes Alex’s breath hitch and his heart flip over. John has shot him that smile a million times over, over coffee cups and desks and once, memorably, over the top of a laser gun during Angelica’s birthday party. Alex has never seen it aimed at him from between his thighs, John’s face close to his cock, looking flushed and turned on, his hair a wreck and his eyes dark.

He tugs the pants off the rest of the way and flings them across the room, leaving Alex only wearing his socks. John laughs and pulls those off too, crawling back up Alex’s body and resting his head on his chest. He runs his palms down Alex’s sides, just ghosting his fingers over his skin, and Alex tries to breathe through the huge and sudden lump in his throat.

“You’re so beautiful,” John says like he can’t believe it.

“You are too,” Alex replies shakily. John smiles and leans up to kiss Alex chastely on the lips, before shimmying down his body and biting at his hips.

“Fuck,” Alex manages eloquently as his hips arch upwards. John’s hands press him down and he keeps on biting at Alex’s hips until he’s covered in dark little bruises, purpling and stinging so satisfyingly.

John pulls Alex’s legs even further apart, his hands strong and sure, and he bites into the soft skin on the inside of Alex’s thighs where all his stretch marks are, following the little white lines that twist across his skin with his tongue. Alex cries out, impossibly sensitive, and clutches at John’s shoulders, torn between pushing him away and yanking him closer.

The decision is taken away from him, in the end, as John leans up and presses a kiss to the tip of his cock, then gently tips it to the side so he can get to Alex’s belly and bite there too. Alex lets out a noise that sounds like a sob, going limp against the bed and throwing his head back as John rubs his face into Alex’s belly, pressing his fingers into Alex’s thighs with one hand and gripping at his chubby hip with the other. He’s making deep humming noises in the back of his throat, like a cat purring happily, and Alex can hardly believe how much attention John’s giving to all the parts of himself that he hates. He can’t believe how hard John still is, how he keeps murmuring indistinguishable words into Alex’s skin and pressing kisses there afterwards, how incredible he looks between Alex’s thighs, like he belongs there.

“John, John, John, John, John,” Alex is chanting through his moans, sliding his shaking fingers into John’s hair and holding his head against his belly. “John please,” he whines and John looks up at him, his eyes so dark, and takes the tip of Alex’s dick into his mouth.

Alex’s hips twitch but John holds him down firmly, keeping eye contact as his tongue licks across his slit and he sucks hard on the head. Alex’s toes curl and he feels utterly overwhelmed, oversensitive in the best way, and John just keeps on sucking gently, lapping around the head of his cock.

“John, please,” Alex whimpers again and John slides down a little further, flattening his tongue and letting Alex’s cock drag against it. John’s mouth is hot and slick, getting Alex’s dick so wet, and he sobs a little when John slides back up to flick his tongue around the head again.

John pulls back and breathes against the tip of Alex’s dick, watches shivers wrack across Alex’s skin, and then takes him into his mouth as far as he can go, angling his head so Alex slides down his throat ever so sweetly. Alex’s voice cracks in the middle of his moan, devastated by how hot and tight John’s throat is, and then John swallows and almost breaks his brain.

John pulls back up to catch his breath, placing a hand at the base of Alex’s dick and jerking him off gently as he goes back in to bob his mouth down around Alex, letting the head of his cock drag against his cheek and sucking hard on every upstroke. Every now and again he’ll take his hand away and slide Alex right down his throat again, and Alex eventually wraps his legs around John’s back and gives himself over to the wet heat of John’s mouth, hearing himself hoarsely shouting John’s name over and over like he’s far away.

John finally pulls off and pants into Alex’s hip, his lips spit slick and bright red, his eyes blown out and hazy.

“Fuck, baby,” he sighs and bites at Alex’s skin again, over the little purple bruises that already litter his hips. Alex lets his legs drop from around John’s back and spread as far as he can comfortably make them.

“Please,” he begs and John groans, reaching down and adjusting himself in his pants.

“Why are you still wearing pants, take them off, take them off,” Alex says incredulously and John laughs, his nose crinkling up, and sits up to pull his pants off, awkwardly maneuvering them over his thighs and off.

Alex stares at his cock, thick and hard, his balls drawn up tight against his body, and licks his lips. “Please,” he says again and reaches for John’s cock, rubbing his knuckles against the head and sliding his fist down and back up again, jacking him off slowly.

John leans in and licks into Alex’s mouth and, fuck, his tongue tastes heavy and salty and Alex whimpers pathetically through the sensory onslaught he’s receiving, his mind a thick blanket of static as John pushes his dick through Alex’s fist in the same rhythm as he fucks his tongue into Alex’s mouth.

“Like this, like this,” he pants once he pulls back and pushes at Alex until he’s lying on his side, thighs together, and presses himself against Alex’s back. His dick settles firmly between Alex’s ass cheeks and they both groan, Alex pushing back and John grinding his dick forward.

“Your ass, baby girl, you don’t know what you do to me,” he whispers hot into the back of Alex’s neck. “Sometimes you bend over at work, or squat down, and Alex, baby, I swear to God I have to go to the bathroom and jerk off, thinking about this, about you, like this, under me. My dick between your cheeks, rubbing myself into you, it’s so good Alex, you’re so good.”

Alex gasps and pushes his ass back harder, grabbing John’s hip and holding on. They both groan when the head of John’s cock catches on Alex’s hole and John presses his forehead against Alex’s shoulder and breathes deeply.

“Like this,” he whispers and Alex can hear him move away for a second and then he’s lifting Alex’s thighs apart just a little and smoothing lube into his skin. Alex’s eyes widen when he catches on and he has to bite his lip to stop his moan from being too loud.

“Come on, John,” he pleads, and John closes his thighs again and then the head of his dick is pushing between them and sliding smoothly into the slick channel that Alex’s thighs provide.

John groans and he bites Alex’s shoulder, wiggling his arm under Alex’s waist and spreading his palm against his belly as his other hand grips Alex’s hip tightly for leverage as his hips start to fuck forwards, pushing his cock between Alex’s thighs. Alex shivers and groans with every thrust, John’s cock brushing against his balls and dragging against his skin. Everything feels so much closer like this, and John’s cock feels impossibly thick as he ruts between Alex’s thighs. His hips slap against Alex's ass, a sharp sound that makes Alex feel dirty and raw.

John kisses his shoulder, slowing his hips to a grind as he lets go of his hip and reaches for Alex’s cock, teasing the slit with his slick fingers and sliding his fist down firmly, setting a fast pace. His cock is pressed right up against Alex’s balls and Alex squirms and arches back against him, whimpering, and John keeps up a steady stream of praise in his ear, telling him how good he feels, how tight and hot he is, how his thighs were made for this, for John’s cock. He keeps jerking Alex off quickly and, on a particularly hard grind of his cock against Alex’s balls, whispers good girl into his skin and Alex comes hard, his back bowing sharply and his thighs clamping down tight, long strings of come dribbling over John’s fist as he rides out the waves of his pleasure.

He hears John groan behind him and fuck his hips jerkily into Alex’s tight thighs and he’s coming too, smearing wet warmth all over Alex’s skin and making him whimper weakly at the overstimulation.

He pushes John’s hand away shakily, his eyes feeling heavy as he blinks back into rational thought. He has come cooling everywhere, rapidly growing tacky and sticky on his skin. John breathes into his shoulder, kisses him on the back of his neck, and turns him over, sliding his arm out from underneath him and getting up on unsteady legs to head over to the bathroom. He returns with a damp cloth and wipes off his fingers and then Alex’s belly and thighs, kissing the skin as he goes and then dumping the wet cloth on his bedside table. Alex wrinkles his nose but doesn’t care enough to comment, watching instead as John flops next to him and gathers Alex close, pressing his nose to his hair.

He hums softly. “Honey,” he murmurs, rubbing his fingers through Alex’s dark hair and kissing the top of his head.

Alex lets himself relax into John’s chest, exhausted and fucked out, his thighs raw and sensitive and a hundred little bruises stinging pleasantly on his skin.

“Was that okay?” John asks finally, his chest vibrating under Alex’s head.

“It was perfect,” Alex presses a kiss into John’s skin.

“I didn’t hurt you, did I? I may have gotten a bit carried away-” he continues and Alex props himself up over him and kisses him soundly.

“I liked it,” he says, feeling confident. “You made me feel good.”

John’s eyes soften and he tucks Alex’s hair behind his ear, trailing his fingers gently across his cheek. Alex leans into it. Closes his eyes.

“I love you,” John murmurs, quiet, and Alex hums contentedly.

“I can’t believe we wasted so much time,” he whines, pouting. “We could have been doing this for years.”

“In my defence, I thought everyone was joking,” John laughs. “I thought there was no way you’d ever look twice at me.”

“I thought you wouldn’t look at me!” protests Alex, affronted.

“So we were both being dumb.”

“Excuse you,” Alex digs his knuckles into John’s ribs and watches him squirm, elated for some reason. “I’m always smart and always right-”

“You thought I wouldn’t like your body!” interrupts John, laughing at him with bright eyes.

“Do you?” Alex asks shyly.

John wraps his arms around Alex’s waist, pulling him down tight. “I love it. I love you,” he whispers.

“I love you, too,” Alex replies, his heart beating fast as they grin goofily at each other.

They settle with Alex curled up next to John, his head on John’s chest and one of John’s palms firmly planted on his ass and the other gently tangled with Alex’s fingers atop of his stomach. Their breathing is hushed and Alex drops off to sleep happy with his body for once, covered in John’s marks and aching in all the right places, full of love.