Outside his mother's car, Antonin paced nervously, cigarette smoldering between his fingers. The wind blew harder, and he pulled his coat tighter around him.
He jumped and looked up, anxious. Across the parking lot Hubert was running, hoodie pulled up, bag over his shoulder. Antonin's stomach dropped, as did his cigarette, which he crunched between his shoe and the asphalt.
Hubert hurled himself into Antonin's outstretched arms, pulling him close. "God, you actually came," he said, muffled into his boyfriend's coat.
"Of course, I wouldn't-" he pulled away to look down and gasped, shock sluicing through him. "Jesus Hu, who did this to you? Are you okay?"
Hubert blinked back up at him, the huge bruise blooming over his cheekbone matching the black eye, the healing split lip. "I'm fine," he said.
When he went to look away Antonin grasped his chin in hand, gently tugging his gaze up again. "Hu? Look at me, please," he said softly.
Hubert's eyes met his, big and dark and round, like the eyes of an owl.
"Are you okay?" Antonin asked lowly.
Hubert was brisk, abrupt. "Yes. I fell."
"Enough, Antonin," Hubert interrupted, pulling away and heading for the car. "Let's go."
The car was awkwardly silent. Antonin gripped the steering wheel tightly, knuckles white. His eyes didn't waver from the road.
Hubert drummed his fingers on his lap and turned to him, attempting conversation. "Did you remember my stuff?"
Antonin glanced at him before reaching into the back and tossing Hubert's bag at him without a word. Hubert unzipped it, rifling through the few things he had thought to bring, before closing it again and stowing it at his feet. He smiled at Antonin. "Thanks."
Antonin didn't say anything. His hands readjusted on the wheel.
Hubert gnawed at the inside of his cheek. "I thought you'd be out of school unexcused today," he tried again. Antonin just scoffed, rolling his eyes. Hubert frowned. "With your help... I knew that you had a car, since your mother's in New York."
Antonin sighed, long and heavy. "If you say so, but... I'm your girl, your bitch." Hubert looked at him in bewilderment. Antonin scoffed at his expression. "Forget it." He looked away.
It was a few long moments before he continued tensely: "You know what makes a mother? She sends us to the police; goes to the authorities." Hubert opened his mouth to argue but Antonin cut him off. "What is it then? That's my problem." He glared out at the road before glancing at Hubert, watching him with cautious eyes. "And don't look at me with those puppy eyes!" he snapped. Hubert quickly turned away, looking out the window. His hoodie cast shadows across his bruised face. "It started back when you fell down the stairs. I was sorry for you."
Hubert didn't say anything. His fingers fiddled with the hem of his jacket, the familiar guilt tugging at him again. He'd been lying for too long and it hadn't even been a few weeks.
A couple minutes later Antonin cleared his throat and tapped his fingers against the wheel. "I'm sorry. That was mean," he said softly.
The guilt was stronger now, insistent, and now Hubert could not even blame the lie on the drugs. "Anto-"
"I just... I feel like you're avoiding me. Or using me, I don't know, you've been distant since everything that happened at the studio." Antonin bit his lip. "Did I upset you? We don't ever have to do that again, I don't mind. You can tell me if-"
"I cheated on you. At the school. I thought you should know. I'm sorry."
The words were tumbling out of his mouth faster than he could think, before he could stop himself, even stop to consider what might happen next. It was too late now.
"I wanted to tell you then, but you were just so happy to see me and I couldn't, I..."
To his credit, Hubert managed to shut up quickly. The look on Antonin's face was strange, alien. He was confused, and the worst amount of surprised and nonplussed.
And when he finally spoke, after seconds and hours and days and weeks, his voice was quiet and resigned and fuck if it didn't make Hubert feel like the very worst kind of asshole. "What?"
Hubert watched him closely. His boyfriend looked like he'd been punched in the ribs. It hurt anyway. He didn't say anything, his eyes hard on the road and his knuckles white against the steering wheel.
The lack of response was slowly killing Hubert. He twisted his bruised hands in his lap and said gently, "Antonin?"
Antonin did not respond at first. His face was a cold mask of... something unreadable, and then he said suddenly, "... And you thought now was a good time to bring it up?"
Hubert bowed his head. "Sorry."
Antonin blinked a little too fast for it to be normal. "How long?" he asked softly.
"Two weeks," Hubert said instantly, knowing it would be better to tell the whole truth. He couldn't blame it on the drugs or Antonin either: he'd been angry with his mother and he knew exactly what he was doing. "I'm so sorry. I stopped it; I couldn't stand to think of you alone at home while I was..."
His words trailed off painfully. Antonin turned himself subtly, facing away from Hubert, and then there was a cold wall between them that he didn't know how to break.
"What was his name?" Antonin was quick, his words tight and no-nonsense.
"Are you mad?"
Antonin cleared his throat, his face turned just enough so that the other boy could not see it.
"I'm sorry," Hubert tried again.
Antonin's jaw clenched. "You're selfish," he snapped. "You never think of anyone but yourself, you know?" Hubert slowly inched away from the other boy, hands clutching his hoodie. "To think I was actually worried about you at that school, and you didn't even give a damn about how I would feel! I told you before you left the first time that I was afraid you'd do this. I thought you understood that! You're selfish."
Hubert sighed. "Antonin-"
"And for some reason I still love you!" he barreled on, ignoring his boyfriend. "It's not fair! I'm always worried about you; I still care about you!"
Hubert seemed to come to life suddenly, rolling his eyes. "Oh, stop! I'd take it all back in a heartbeat if I got the chance but I can't!" He stared resolutely out the window. "I was angry and upset and I wasn't thinking!"
"You should have just gone home!" Antonin shouted back. "I should have been there in the back of your mind the whole time, Hubert!"
He reached into his pocket and pulled something small and dark out, hurling it at his boyfriend without taking his eyes off the road. Hubert caught it, startled. The small black box was smooth in his palm. "Here, take this. It was supposed to be a surprise for you," Antonin mumbled, glaring again.
Hubert turned it over in his hands before opening it. A small gold band glinted back at him. "... What is it?" He pulled it out of the box. The metal was cold under his rough fingertips.
Antonin made a face, rolling his eyes. "A promise ring. Stupid now, I know, maybe you don't want it-" he reached for the box.
Hubert pulled away sharply, clutching it tightly in his hand. "I want it, Anto." He slipped it onto his ring finger. It was a little too big; his hands were more delicate than Antonin had thought. "I'm so sorry," he said softly, bowing his head.
Antonin scoffed. "Whatever."
Hubert bit his lip, a lock of hair falling into his eyes. He had run out of things to say and so the car fell silent again.
Eyes hard, unblinking, jaw taught, it was almost inaudible when Antonin finally muttered, "I love you."
Hubert sat up, surprised. "Antonin, I love you too, I really don't want anyone but-"
Antonin interrupted him."No. Shut up."
Wisely, Hubert shut up.
"I love you. That's all. Now just shut up."
Hubert looked down at the gold ring, twisting it around on his pale, bruised hand. It was pretty, he decided.
Next to him, Antonin glanced down at the ring. He noted Hubert playing with it, twirling it around on his dainty finger.
The last rays of the sun, peeking low through the heavy clouds, caught on the shiny metal, and suddenly it was casting a rainbow of light around the car. Antonin pressed harder on the gas and didn't say anything.
The countryside was dark now, the sun done for the day. The car sped along the relatively empty road, quiet inside.
Antonin held Hubert's unbruised hand in his own, the other resting on the wheel. He cleared his throat.
"You'll have to give me instructions now," he said, his voice startling after being quiet for so long. "I don't know where we're going."
Hubert tapped his foot, thinking back. "Take a right on this road, and then a left on the next," he said slowly. "You'll get to a long stretch of empty road. Drive until it ends." He closed his eyes. "That's where we're going."
Almost half an hour later he rolled the car to a stop, parked in front of a quaint, picturesque house, right on the edge of a lake, surrounded by a wild field. In the car, they sat silently, eyes locked on the house.
Antonin gave the door one final push and it gave way, falling open with a loud creak. Hubert limped in behind him, hissing in pain.
"My family lived here a long time ago," he said, his voice filling the room. "Now my father owns it, but he never goes here." He looked up to see Antonin watching him. Hubert cleared his throat. "Put our stuff in the guest room, okay? It's the first door down the hallway."
Antonin nodded crypticly. "Okay."
Hubert dropped his bag on the kitchen table, unzipping it slowly. He didn't look up as he said, "I need to do something in the bathroom. I'll just..." His hand closed around the camera. "I need a few minutes alone."
Antonin stared at him blankly. "Yeah. Take your time."
Hubert chewed his lip for a moment before abruptly turning on his heel and limping down the hallway. Antonin sighed and picked up the bag, hefting it onto his shoulder.
An hour later found Antonin sitting at the kitchen table, blowing smoke coolly from his lit cigarette, hunched over and gazing pensively at the tiny clay dolls in his hand. He had found them stashed at the bottom of Hubert's bag. The clay was smooth and cold under his fingertips.
When the bathroom door clicked open he sat up quickly, setting the dolls aside and stubbing out the cigarette.
Hubert hovered in the doorway, camera in hand. He looked almost dead.
There was a long moment where they simply stared at the other, drained and hollow, with only the kind of unspoken exhaustion old, married couples could manage.
Finally, Hubert sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I'm going to take a shower, okay?"
Antonin blinked at him. "Can I join you?"
Antonin coughed, setting the dolls down. "Can I join you?" he repeated tentatively. "In the shower?"
Hubert hesitated, unsure how to gauge how Antonin was feeling after their talk in the car. "Yeah. If you want."
The warm water flowed over Hubert's thin, hunched shoulders, facing the stream. Antonin stood behind him, squeezed tightly together, bare skin pressed close. The taller boy was slowly massaging soap into his boyfriend's scalp, silently trailing his eyes across the bruises and scrapes over Hubert's skin. They were starker, more apparent now that he was naked.
Antonin combed his hands through Hubert's hair, listening to his little contented sigh. He ducked down, pressing his lips to his ear.
"Will you please tell me, Hu?" he asked, soft and sweet. "I want the truth. What happened to you?"
Hubert shrugged, wincing at the sharp ache in his shoulders. "Bullies. At the school. They didn't like me, uh, being gay. They knew because of-" he stopped short, knowing he shouldn't test Antonin's patience. "Well, you know. Caught me off guard in an alley." He watched soap flow down the drain.
"Christ, Hu," Antonin sighed. "How bad?"
"You're looking at it. You tell me."
Antonin bit his lip and then dropped a kiss on his shoulder, pulling his hands through Hubert's hair one last time.
In the bedroom Hubert was stretched across the bed on his back, aching, eyes shut tightly. The cool air brushed at his skin, bare except for a loose pair of Antonin's spare boxers, hanging off his hips.
He felt the air stir and the bed dip as Antonin sat on the edge.
"Where did they get you?"
Hubert sighed, feeling stiffer than before, aching all over.
"Everywhere. My ribs, mostly. My face, as you can see. One on my leg, and my stomach too. And my shoulders hurt the worst."
"Roll onto your stomach."
Hubert's eyes fluttered open, scanning his boyfriend, similarly clothed in nothing but his boxers, curly hair still slightly damp. Hubert frowned.
"Just do it."
Hubert shuffled a bit, slowly rolling over with a low groan. He landed without grace on his stomach, hissing as he shifted so that his arms were folded under his head.
Antonin clambered on top of him, kneeling over his hips and resting his hands on his lower back, pale skin spotted with purple and blue. He ran his hands slowly along Hubert's sides.
"What are you doing back there?" Hubert mumbled into his arms, confused.
"Relax." Antonin moved his hands up to Hubert's shoulders. "This will be good, I promise."
His warm hands began a firm massage, being careful to keep his weight off of Hubert as he slowly worked out the aches and kinks in his tense muscles.
Hubert moaned lowly into the pillow, relaxing under Antonin's careful ministrations. "God, yes, you're right," he mumbled, closing his eyes.
Antonin bit the inside of his cheek. "Shh. Just relax."
It continued on that way for a few minutes, Antonin kneeling above Hubert as he slowly worked out each kink and ache, his mind somewhere far away, somewhere with the little clay dolls and past art classes and two young boys becoming fast friends all those years ago.
When it seemed that Hubert was relaxed completely, falling asleep, Antonin gently climbed off of him, pulling the blankets over them both. Hubert sighed, cuddling closer and pressing the length of his body against him.
Antonin frowned, the obvious effects of his massage pressing through the thin material of Hubert's boxers. Antonin shifted slightly, unsure what to do, and Hubert kissed his cheek
"We don't have to, Anto," he mumbled sleepily, wrapping an arm over him. "We can just lay here if you're not ready to-"
Antonin interrupted him with a kiss. "Be quiet," he grumbled when he finally pulled back. And with that he turned Hubert onto his back once more, kneeling over him again. They kissed again, his hands wandering lower and fiddling with the waistband of his boxers.
Together they both wriggled out of those last few bits of clothes, a rush of heat flashing between them as their bare skin pressed together. Hubert gasped softly as Antonin stroked him slowly, gently.
Hubert bent his knees up and Antonin shuffled between his legs, the cold shock of the lube making the smaller boy shiver. Antonin ran his hand soothingly along Hubert's thigh, ducking down for another kiss.
Hubert whimpered, arched his back slightly as Antonin worked him open. His long lashes fluttered against his pale cheeks, lips parted beautifully, a rosy red flush spreading down his chest.
Antonin ducked forward, softly kissing Hubert's split lips, murmuring, "Shall we turn you over or keep you like this?"
Hubert opened his eyes slowly, pupils blown with lust, managing a frown.
"Why would you want to see my face?" he breathed, Antonin pushing in deeper with two fingers. "Isn't that weird?"
Antonin pulled back a little. "We are literally about to have sex in your childhood home, which we broke into after running away from our parents. How much weirder can it get?"
When Antonin finally pushed in, it was unhurried and languid, rolling his hips gently. Hubert moaned and hooked his legs over his boyfriend's hips, drawing him in closer.
"Can you forgive me?" he whispered. Antonin rocked in again, lips brushing against Hubert's forehead.
Antonin could feel his heartbeat, a soft roaring filling his ears. "Yes," he groaned, snaking his hand down to wrap around Hubert again. "Yes, I love you."
Hubert came like that, head tossed back, arms wrapped around Antonin's shoulders. The taller boy pressed kisses along Hubert's neck through it, breathing heavily.
It was quiet after, Antonin peeling away from Hubert's limp form. He was all but unconscious now, cuddling again into the other boy's side. Antonin pulled him in closer, spooning him against his chest, eyes fluttering closed in exhaustion.
And so they slept.
The sun streaming in through the clouds and slats in the blinds was what finally woke Antonin, the lights still soft and hazy enough to tell him it was early yet.
Hubert's body was soft and heavy pressed against him, curly hair tickling his nose. Antonin turned his face away from Hubert's bedhead, yawning. Against him, Hubert shifted obviously, arching his back like a cat.
Slowly Antonin helped Hubert bend his knee forward, tilting him slightly and slipping in again with ease. Still slick and loose from the night before, Hubert sighed contentedly into the mattress, tangling his fingers into the sheets, gold shining on his right hand.
Antonin rocked in slowly, sleepily, eyes still closed. His boyfriend pushed back against him, moaning.
Hubert's orgasm slipped out of him unexpectedly only a few minutes later. He gasped, panting into the sheets, Antonin following a moment later with his arms around his boyfriend, sucking a mark onto his neck.
They stayed like that for a few minutes, breathing slowly, not needing to say anything.
Finally Antonin rose wordlessly, slipping out from under the blankets and reaching for his boxers. Hubert watched him dress from heavy-lidded eyes.
As Antonin slipped into his jumper, Hubert sat up, swinging his legs off the edge of the bed. Antonin glanced at him quickly before grabbing his shoes and leaving for the front room.
Hubert followed a few minutes later, tugging the zipper up on his hoodie. He found Antonin at the table again, cigarette in hand, eyes trained out the window.
Hubert hovered in the doorway for a moment, his pocketed hand brushing against smooth clay.
"I'm going out to the rocks, okay?" he said.
Antonin turned to look at him, face unreadable. He flicked the ash off the cigarette. "Okay. Be careful."
Hubert nodded. He stayed for a second, almost as if to say something more, but thought better of it and left through the exterior screen door.
Antonin watched him go. When the door stopped swinging he turned back to the window, noting the gold glinting on Hubert's hand.
Smoke trailed slowly out the open window, and soft sunlight streamed into the little house through the clouds. The resulting glimmer in the air was reminiscent of the shining ring against his boyfriend's pale hand.
The clay dolls still lay on the table, and Antonin stubbed out his cigarette and picked up the diminutive Hubert.
He watched his boyfriend climb onto the rocks outside, and his thumb ran over the smooth, cold clay in soft circles.
Unbeknownst to him, outside in the swift, chilling breeze, Hubert was doing the same.