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For as long as he could remember, he’d been Uncle Percy. The guy who didn’t balk at all the times he asked to play catch, to walk Aunt Tina’s dog, with help.

Uncle Percy had been there to listen when Credence’s mom and dad weren’t, and when they were gone, and he was facing being thrown into a stranger’s house it had been when the man had stepped in, and said no.

“He can stay with me as long as he needs to. I’m his only relative now.”

Uncle Percy had looked so angry that day, in a suit that was probably borrowed just for the court appearance, and with bags under his eyes. He was still the bravest and handsomest man Credence had ever seen. Like a prince in a fairy tale.

He was losing his princess. Aunt Tina was leaving him, he’d said. But it was okay. Sometimes adults had to take breaks from each other.

Credence didn’t understand, because his parents had always been happy, always seemed like they loved each other.

He didn’t know why god had chosen to take them from him, and leave him with only his uncle and some distant grandparents and cousins to see once a year.

Uncle Percy lived in the city, in a busy and rushing traffic filled downtown, and in the highest apartment in the big building with the name that sounded very fancy.

“It’s because I did enough modeling to pay for three houses.”

Uncle Percy would say with a wink, and Credence would nod. He’d visited Aunt Tina and Uncle Percy in the city before, but only every once in a while. Now he was going to live there.

Of course Uncle Percy had been a model.

The man was wonderful, beautiful even if he wasn’t smiling at Credence, and the time he rescued him from school, from where he had sat bleeding in the principal’s office from being roughed up at lunch, tossed against a locker and called things he didn’t understand, he knew that Uncle Percy had to be his guardian angel.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

Uncle Percy carried him all the way through the elevator and into the apartment, only to set him down inside the kitchen, before handing him an ice pack, which he held to his split lip and bruised cheek.

Credence just nodded, not ready to speak yet.

“I’ve already been researching schools you can go to instead. Or maybe I could hire a tutor, and you can just stay here, with me, while I work. I don’t like the idea of this happening again. You don’t need any more stress in your life.”

Uncle Percy came closer and ruffled his hair, gently, not like he used to do when Credence was little, when it was a challenge to see if it would get messy enough to make his mom laugh and tell Aunt Tina she’d picked the prettiest and silliest man in the world.

Credence felt an ache in his chest flare to life, and he was crying. He’d been grateful for Uncle Percy getting him away from the school, but he really wished he had his mom to hug him, and tell him it would all be okay.

“Hey, hey, what’s wrong kiddo?”

The hand slid from his hair to the back of his neck, a strong and reassuring grip, which made Credence breathe a bit easier.

“I just… miss them so much.”

His voice broke on the last bit, and he didn’t know if it was grief or puberty betraying him like that. Next thing he knew, Uncle Percy was pulling him into his arms, crushing him against his chest.

“Shh-hh now, I know you do. I miss them too. Your Aunt calls me sometimes, crying too. I wish I knew what to do to help. I’m not that good with um, loss.”

Credence tried to inhale slowly, and he found his senses overwhelmed with Uncle Percy, his cologne, seeping out of his sweater and against his skin. The arms around him and hand rubbing his back and shoulders were nice.

He could almost relax.

*

Percy looked over at the kid curled up on the couch, where he’d fallen asleep after a good cry, and a cup of hot chocolate.

When his phone had first gone off and he’d been informed that someone had attacked Credence at lunch, he thought his vision might have gone red, and he’d almost blacked out on the drive over. He had one job, besides his actual work, and it was protect Credence.

Some fucking brat had tried to hurt the one good thing in his life, and nothing had prepared him for the sight of the kid, bleeding and silent and somber in the florescent lit office.

In his mind he was already planning how to fix that, to get the kid out of the hell that seemed to be public schools. First the kid had to lose both his parents thanks to a fucking drunk driver, a driver who didn’t even get a scratch from it, and now that.

Going to court for the adopting process was a cakewalk compared to actually raising the kid, day in and day out. Without Tina, he’d felt unmoored, lost, drifting with his solitary passenger and sole responsibility. Now it was just about being a good example and trying to make things as easy for the kid as he could. Not like coddling, he didn’t know the first thing about that. Thankfully, the kid was pretty self sufficient, and only seemed to come to Percy with difficult questions on homework or the occasional life query. He did not look forward to explaining exactly why the bullies had decided to target him.

He knew well enough, he’d gone through the same shit at that age. Only when he’d met Tina and decided to jump into things with her had it ended, even though they hadn’t gotten married until after college.

Life was just shitty like that.

But the family he’d married into had been great, and he’d ended up with a more cheerful set of holidays and meals than he’d ever imagined.

The Graves family didn’t really do get-togethers and smiles. He still hadn’t even told them what had happened. Oh they knew the Goldstein’s younger daughter and her husband had died, but they didn’t realize who’d been left behind in the cruel world.

Or that Percy was currently trying to play the part of good dad and uncle and guardian all at once.

“Percy?”

He blinked, and looked up from where he’d gotten lost in thought, staring at a magazine best described as trash.

“Yeah kiddo?”

“Can we have pizza for dinner?”

Blink-blink.

The kid’s cheek was still reddened and probably would turn purple by tomorrow, and though he smiled a little, clearly his split lip still hurt him.

Anger flared up inside Percy again at the assholes that had dared to hurt him, and he found himself nodding.

“Of course, yeah. Whatever you want.”

“Can we watch a movie too?”

It was a school night, which meant normally they both should be up by six and going, Percy to get on the phone for conference calls, and Credence off to the bus stop.

But he didn’t even know what he was going to do about the school thing, so he nodded again.

The answering grin, pained or not from the split lip, on the kid’s face was worth all the stress in the world, and he snuggled back against the couch, wrapped in the flannel throw, and the second his eyes fell closed, Percy let out a sigh, and walked away, to his room, closed the door behind him, and laid down on his bed to try to think.

It wasn’t easy with the kid right across from him.

*

Usually when they watched a movie, Uncle Percy would sit in his easy chair, maybe have a beer, and Credence would have the whole couch to himself. But that night they shared the pizza over the coffee table, and Uncle Percy sat right next to him on the couch, drinking a tall glass of iced tea, and he’d offered Credence the same, but he knew it had caffeine in it, so he said no thank you, and had lemonade instead.

They were watching the first Indiana Jones movie, probably Credence’s favorite of all time, mainly because of how he’d always remembered his mom telling Aunt Tina she looked just like the pretty lady who kicked a lot of ass.

“So kiddo, what do you think? You want to stay at home, and work on your school here? You can have a tutor every day, twice a week, three times, whatever you need.”

Uncle Percy had his arm over the back of the couch, not quite touching Credence’s shoulders, but his hand reached over to pat his head, fingers ruffling his hair just a little.

He nodded.

“I think I’d like that. Will I still be able to get into college after?”

Uncle Percy chuckled,

“Of course. You’re very smart. You’ll still take the same tests at the end of high school. I know you’ll do great.”

“Okay.”

Before he knew what was happening, Uncle Percy had pulled him close for a hug, and he could swear he felt a kiss pressed to his temple, but then the man was standing up, collecting dishes and empty glasses, stacking them atop the empty pizza box.

“All right kiddo, bedtime.”

Credence blinked, and he saw the bright red numbers on the DVD player, reading almost midnight. How had it gotten so late?

The nap when he got home from school. Oh that.

His face was still a bit sore, and the nurse had told him it probably would be for a few days, and to be careful of his mouth, and not eat anything too hot. The ice pack had felt really good, but when he went to brush his teeth while getting ready for bed, the minty paste stung and he couldn’t stop the cry that escaped him.

“Damnit. You okay kiddo?”

Uncle Percy was hovering in the doorway, and Credence glanced over at him, before yanking his eyes away towards the sink.

“Yep. Just forgot about my lip.”

“You want something for it? I know it’s probably not like, recommended, but once you finish that, maybe we could put some ointment on it. Pretend its chapstick, just don’t lick it off. It’s probably toxic.”

Credence couldn’t help thinking that was probably the least parent thing his Uncle had ever suggested, even if it did make a weird kind of sense.

He also didn’t know why it was so distracting to see Uncle Percy without a shirt on, but of course, why would the man sleep fully dressed? He didn’t usually, except since he’d been living with his Uncle. The man was standing behind him now, crowding slightly around him to reach inside the medical cabinet and retrieve the yellow and green tube.

“Here it is. Thank god. I didn’t want to have to run down to the corner store like this.”

Credence snuck a glance at him in the mirror, and caught the man grinning back.

“All right finish up there and then come see me. I’ll fetch a q-tip from my stuff, sorry your bathroom is kinda lacking.”

Credence nodded, feeling only a touch more relaxed when the man had left the small room and he could lean down to rinse and spit.

His lip still hurt but he almost didn’t want to have to go invade his uncle’s privacy. For the last three months, they’d only really spent time together on weekends or at dinner, and after that, they’d go their separate ways, Credence off to the living room to do homework, and Uncle Percy to his office to do his own homework of sorts.

He called himself a workaholic, and Credence wondered if it was just to try and distract from Aunt Tina being gone.

He still hadn’t asked about it, though he knew that by the time the holiday season arrived, things would be very different, not just because of his parents’ absence.

Tears were stinging his eyes again, and he almost ran into Uncle Percy’s bedroom door, realizing it was shut.

He lifted a hand to knock, and almost bumped into Uncle Percy’s bare chest as the door was yanked open,

“There you are. I thought maybe you’d gone to bed and forgotten. Hey, hey what’s wrong?”

Credence shook his head, wiping away his tears roughly,

“Just tired.”

Uncle Percy looked concerned a bit longer,

“Okay, if you’re sure.”

 Credence nodded, and Uncle Percy smiled, and then backed away and walked over to the bed, where he had a towel laid out with what looked like a whole first aid kit. Credence tried to ignore the bare expanse of the man’s muscled back and instead focused on the supplies laid out.

“What’s that for?”

Uncle Percy sighed,

“I figured we might as well put something on your face too. To help speed up the healing of the… uh, bruising. Like, did someone hit you, or was that from the locker?”

Credence was blushing; he could feel it mingling with the heat of the swelling on his cheek.

“Yeah. There was a punch and then they shoved me into the wall.”

Uncle Percy’s eyes squeezed shut and he mumbled a curse, before shaking his head,

“Okay. Well, a good trick for that is some icy hot, and like a giant band aid, so you don’t rub it off in your sleep. Is that okay?”

Credence nodded, and stepped closer, so that the man could reach out and push back his hair, which was starting to get a bit longer than it was usually kept, and he looked for a long moment at the injury, before turning to the kit and picking up the pads.

The ointment was exactly as it said, went on warm, mingling with the heat of the man’s fingers, before turning cool against Credence’s skin, and he let go to unpeel the sticky gauze, ensuring it wouldn’t catch on hair or hurt skin.

“There you go.”

Credence was sure he looked utterly ridiculous with a bandage on half his face, but he tried to smile.

“Thank you.”

“Hold on kiddo, we’re not done yet.”

Credence gulped, and then Uncle Percy was dabbing a bit of ointment from the yellow and green tube on a cotton swab, before leaning in to press it gently on his bottom lip, right over the split. It didn’t hurt; in fact it almost felt like it was numbing the cut.

“Okay. All done. Will you be okay, sleeping on your right side? I don’t know how you usually do…”

Uncle Percy set down the swab and turned back to him, face scrunched in concern, and Credence nodded.

“I’ll be okay.”

“All right kiddo. Get some good rest okay? Tomorrow’s a new day.”

Uncle Percy put a firm hand on his shoulder, and looked as if he wanted to say more, but Credence stepped forward instead, wrapping his arms around the man’s waist, and pressed his un-bandaged cheek against his chest.

“Thank you.”

The man stood frozen for a moment before he laughed, sounding a bit out of breath.

“Of course. Just trying to be here for you.”

There was a hand at his neck, and then petting his hair a bit, before Credence pulled back to find the man smiling down at him,

“Go on then. It’s way past your bedtime.”

Another wink from the man, and then Credence was shuffling off to his room, exhaustion truly sinking into his bones.

*

With a good recommendation from Tina, Percy was actually able to get a tutor for Credence to come by three times a week, and slow down to one day during the summer.

It wasn’t because the kid wanted to work all year round, but he said something about how graduating early would give him more time to figure out what he wanted to do in college, and Percy decided that he had definitely gotten more of his mother’s genes in him than he thought.

From what Tina had told him, her sister had never liked being underestimated, and had done the exact same thing Credence seemed determined to do, prove to the world that he wasn’t going to let a few bullies tell him what his worth was.

Percy admired the kid for that. He might have looked fragile, and sad, and maybe was, but he was also made of some pretty tough stuff.

When thanksgiving loomed close, Percy started to worry. He and Tina had resolved their issues, and agreed to a permanent separation, with divorce looming on the horizon, but not until the New Year, and Credence was facing a fairly quiet and awkward holiday with the Graves family.

Percy had asked Tina what she planned to, and she’d replied sadly that she’d be working, and trying not to cry. She’d also said she’d be taking flowers by the cemetery so as not to burden Credence with that.

“Fuck. Do you always have to play the part of the martyr?”

“They’re my family, technically. Not yours. Don’t be like this Percy; I know you’re not mad at me. What did your father say to you when you told him about Credence?”

“Oh you know the old windbag. ‘Do you really think you’re fit to raise some child who’s been alive longer than you’ve been sober?’ typical lovey dovey stuff.”

Tina had sighed,

“Don’t listen to him. I know you’re doing a great job. When I took Credence out to lunch the other day, he couldn’t stop talking about you. How you both ‘work’ together and how great you are. You’re better at this than you think.”

Percy had been almost shocked to hear it.

“You’re not serious? He got jumped at school, on my watch. I’m the worst parent ever.”

“And you solved that. You gave him a safe place to learn, right at home. He’s probably never been happier. Tell me I’m wrong.”

Percy reluctantly had to agree, and Tina laughed at him.

“Okay, good luck. Happy Thanksgiving.”

“Thanks.”

He bit his tongue to keep from saying ‘I love you.’

Habits die hard.

He went over to Credence’s room to check on his packing status, and found the boy standing in his bathroom, in front of the mirror, critically eyeing himself, fingers lingering on his long since healed cheek.

“Hey kiddo. How’s it going?”

He cocked his thumb at the suitcase on the bed, and Credence ducked his head and looked over at him,

“It’s okay. I was just wondering, do you think this will ever go away?”

Credence was rubbing a finger over his bottom lip, and from the distance, Percy couldn’t seen anything remarkable, besides the pink plushness.

Stop.

He stepped closer, and tried to be clinical, careful, reaching out to pluck away the kid’s hand and stare at his mouth.

“Looks okay to me.”

“I can like, feel a scar there. You can’t see anything? I swear I can.”

Percy frowned, and if he focused on it, he could see a little whitish line bisecting the kid’s bottom lip, but it wasn’t detracting from his looks, not at all.

“Put some Vaseline on it if it bothers you. Maybe it’s just dry.”

He gave Credence a smile, and the kid nodded, still looking a bit low.

“Okay.”

“Did you need any help packing? Or do you think you’re ready? We should probably leave before ten, try and miss the lunch hour traffic you know?”

Credence nodded.

“Sorry. I’m almost done. Just need to get my charger and a book.”

“Don’t forget, we’re going to swap after the first two hours.”

Credence was avoiding his gaze again, before he mumbled,

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

“Hey, why not? You’ve got your permit, you need to practice. Straight away interstate highways are probably the best thing for you.”

Credence sighed.

“I don’t like it.”

Percy felt like a bucket of ice water had been dumped over his head, as he realized exactly why the kid didn’t want to be responsible for a car.

Credence was blinking back tears, trying to be strong, and it was the saddest he’d seen the kid in the last few months.

“Fuck, I’m sorry kiddo. You don’t have to do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.”

Credence gave him a watery smile,

“Thank you. Sorry.”

“God, no, don’t apologize. Come here.”

Percy beckoned him with a hand, and the kid melted into his arms against his chest, and he ran a hand through the overgrown black waves.

He kept saying he’d take the kid with him to the barber when he went, but every time Credence declined, and before he knew it, his hair was almost to his shoulders. He couldn’t imagine what his parents would say.

It didn’t look bad per se, but with the kid’s delicate bone structure and slight build, it made him look less than… boyish.

He couldn’t imagine what excuse the bullies had used before to rough up Credence when he’d had his shorter hair.

He was taller now, almost at Percy’s chin, and he probably wouldn’t stop there. His mom had been taller than Tina by almost three inches, and she was taller than Percy.

The drive really wasn’t all that bad, but four hours did wear on Percy after a while, and he hoped his parents wouldn’t mind them both taking a brief nap before the family dinner.

They were going to arrive a good day and a half before the actual holiday, so Percy knew that his parents couldn’t really complain.

However, he was mistaken.

They always found something to complain about.

Even with Credence huddled at his side, his father was staring at him, with a disgruntled expression.

“Tina couldn’t make it?”

He blinked, and looked right back, almost ignoring his mother’s simpering expression,

“She had to work.”

Credence remained silent, and only when Percy’s mother Maggie spoke up did he even glance away from his toes.

“Who’s this?”

“Mom, this is my nephew Credence. Queenie and Jacob’s boy. Remember? Surely Tina sent you a copy of the funeral booklet…”

His dad, Richard just sighed, and shook his head.

“Shame about that.”

“Yeah, I know. It was awful. So I’d appreciate it if you’d go easy on Credence. He needs to rest, can you tell me where we’ll be?”

His parents exchanged a glance.

“What?”

“We thought you’d be with Tina. We only have the one guest room. We converted your old room into a gym. I’m sure we can find you a blow up mattress somewhere…”

Percy fought the strong urge to roll his eyes.

“Okay. Thanks.”

He kept his arm around Credence until they’d left his parents behind and he followed the familiar path to the guest room, clad in garish buttery yellow and sage green, looking like some kind of giant omelet.

“Here we are.”

Credence was eyeing the bed, a queen that barely passed the size standards, covered in blue plaid and stacked high with decorative pillows.

“Go ahead. Go lay down. I’ll go figure something out for tonight.”

He set their bags down and dropped his hand from the kid to go adjust the curtains, so there wasn’t so much sunlight streaming in and making the room almost glow.

“They don’t like me, do they?”

Percy felt his stomach clench, and he looked over to see the kid sitting on the bed, looking at his shoes, as if a cloud of sadness had sprung over him again, like the way he’d been shortly after the funeral.

“It’s not that, not at all kiddo. They’ve just never really… uh, well, let’s just say I’m not the favorite of the family, and leave at that.”

He went over to put a hand to the kid’s shoulder, squeezing lightly, and Credence took a deep breath and then nodded.

“Okay.”

“I’ll come get you when it’s time to eat.”

Fatigue was clawing at his senses too, but due to the situation it just meant he’d need to suck it up, maybe nick a cup of coffee, and then sleep soundly later that night.

*

Credence tried to stay as quiet as possible throughout the meal, even when Uncle Percy’s brother, his other Uncle, he supposed, tried to ask him something, though he saw Uncle Percy nudge him in the side, as if to shut him up.

“So Percy tells us you’re just starting to drive? How do you like that? Planning to get your own car soon?”

Credence just blinked, and then spoke aloud to kill the entire rest of the conversation,

“Not until I get a job, and finish school. Maybe then drunk driving will be less common.”

Uncle Percy looked as if he was struggling not to say anything, but his parents, Credence’s grandparents in a way, just looked at each other.

No one said anything else after that, and Credence could feel the tips of his ears going red.

By the time he’d been walked back to the room that both he and Uncle Percy had to sleep in, he thought maybe he’d be sick.

“This was a bad idea.”

Uncle Percy was saying, the second the door was closed, and Credence had retreated to the bed again, arms locked around his knees, pressed so hard to his chest he thought maybe he couldn’t breathe.

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know what else to do. This is the first time since… fuck.”

Uncle Percy collapsed onto the bed beside him, hands pressed to his face, elbows on his knees, looking truly disheartened.

“Do you miss them too?”

Credence found his voice quivering, and tears stinging his eyes, as the man looked over at him, nodding,

“Tina was my rock; she’d always know what to say to smooth things over. She’d been my best friend for so long, it just seemed like the right thing to do, to marry her, and get away from… this.”

He waved his hand around at the room, and Credence suspected he meant his family in general.

“But do you still love her? Why can’t you try to make up?”

Uncle Percy sighed,

“It’s not that simple kiddo. I do love her. I always have. It’s just not like it sounds.”

Credence was confused, and he didn’t want to say anything and risk sounding dumb. So instead he loosened his grip on his legs, and crawled over to wrap himself around the man, hugging him as best he could, pressing his cheek against his shoulder.

“It’s okay to be sad. I’m sorry your parents weren’t the best they could be for you. But you’ve taken care of me, they must have done something right.”

“Damn kiddo. You’re pretty smart, you know that?”

Uncle Percy was turning around, twisting in his hold to shoot him a half smile, and Credence found himself smiling back.

“Am I?”

Uncle Percy scrunched his brows together and nodded,

“Oh hell yeah. Theseus tells me he thinks you’ll be ready for the S.A.T. a month earlier than he’d originally planned.”

Credence dropped his eyes, and shrugged,

“I don’t know.”

There was a hand on his face, and a thumb rubbing over his cheek, almost stopping his heart at the warmth of the touch,

“I do.”

Fingers under his chin forced him to look up at the man, who looked expectant, so he leaned forward, almost before he could stop himself, and kissed him on the cheek.

His own face was on fire as he pulled away, and Uncle Percy looked frozen in shock.

The hand dropped from his chin, and the man was getting to his feet, clearing his throat and mumbling about needing to brush his teeth.

There was a bathroom down the hall and by the time Uncle Percy had come back, Credence was hoping maybe he’d forgotten about the incident, or maybe chocked it off to grief.

Madness.

“Okay kiddo, off you go. You can get changed in their too.”

The man handed him a stack of clothing, his pajamas, and Credence flushed, and nodded.

After spending a good ten minutes between brushing his own teeth and slipping on his sleep clothes, which were just sweats and a long sleeved shirt, as it was a bit chilly outside the city, Credence crept back to the room, unsure if the man would have fallen asleep yet or not.

The inflating of the air mattress had been quite noisy and he’d done it and finished before Credence had even put paste to his toothbrush.

There was plenty of walking space between the door and the bed and where Uncle Percy was, but he was lying down, his body a blob beneath two or three heavy blankets. Credence didn’t know where they’d come from, because there were still plenty on his own bed.

As he slipped under the covers, he thought he heard the man whisper something.

“What?”

A chuckle echoed over to him,

“Goodnight kiddo.”

*

The holiday ended blissfully quickly, and Percy might have fudged that he had some work due on Monday, letting him and the kid duck out of the cursed Graves house Saturday afternoon, hitting the road just in time to avoid the typical mall rush on the way back into the city.

He glanced over at Credence every now and then, and realized he was going to need a very strong drink when they got home.

Being trapped, or rather, forced to stay in such cramped quarters as the tiny guest room after months of sharing a decently sized apartment had done wonders for his nerves.

Namely, given him several appointments with a massage therapist to be booked, and even the strong consideration to consult his little black book.

That first night had been okay, never minding the little kiss that had been completely out of left field and made it almost impossible to sleep.

After that, the next night he’d slept fairly dreamlessly, from pure exhaustion. But he’d woken up facing the other side of the room, and seeing Credence sleeping, sunlight peeking through the curtains to splash on his hands and the mess of dark hair on the pillow… well.

The kid was frankly too goddamn good looking for his own good.

Like the inverse of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty with that contrast between dark hair and pale skin, Percy had found himself leaned up on his elbow, just staring, for a good five minutes before he realized what he was doing.

Once they got back home, and somewhat settled, Percy could hear Credence puttering around in his room, unpacking still, he guessed, and he went to the kitchen, bee lining for the liquor cabinet to pour himself a decent three or four fingers of whiskey.

It was about his limit, and fuck the fact it was only five thirty. He was looking forward to a good night’s sleep and almost didn’t mind the laundry he knew he’d need to do the next day.

He could never sleep well when not at home, and his parents house was old, creaky, and not to mention, sleeping on the floor in an air mattress had done no favors for his back either.

Taking two large gulps of the alcohol, he could already feel his shoulders relaxing a bit, and he went into the living room to collapse onto his chair.

Somehow, he ended up drifting off, and when he jumped to a start, he realized Credence was beside him, curled up on the couch, lying with his head on the armrest nearest to him, looking like a damn angel.

Percy downed the rest of his drink and got to his feet, somewhat unsteadily.

He needed to get out of there, and jump into a hot shower and take care of his damn problem, short of making an actual booty call at; he squinted at the microwave clock… eleven thirty.

While the water heated up, he pressed his forehead to the cool glass of the shower door, and tried to keep his breathing steady. Just a few more minutes and then he could finally touch himself.

A knock sounded on the door over the shower, and Percy bit back a groan, tugging a towel around his waist to go see what the kid needed.

“Hey, uh, what should I make for dinner? Or like a midnight snack?”

Credence was asking him, and he noticed how the kid’s eyes sort of glazed and landed on his bare chest for a moment.

Fuck.

“Make whatever you want kiddo. There’s frozen pizza, or single dinners. I’m not that hungry.”

He tried to smile but it felt more like a grimace, and Credence looked concerned at once.

Damn him for being so sweet.

“Are you okay Uncle Percy?”

‘Not when you look at me like that.’ he thought.

“Yeah, just need to wash off the road fatigue, then I’m gonna go to bed I think. Don’t burn the house down okay?”

He reached out to ruffle the kid’s hair but missed, whiskey induced haze making his hand land on the kid’s cheek, so he just rubbed his cheek, and just about fell over when Credence’s eyes fluttered closed and he leaned into his palm.

Holy shit, time to go.

“All right well the water’s running…”

Credence blinked, and then stepped back,

“Right sorry. Goodnight.”

Percy nodded, and started closing the door before he did anything stupid,

“Goodnight kiddo.”

He practically ran into the shower, and slammed and locked the bathroom door behind him, just in case.

It didn’t take long before he was gasping out his release, hand moving furiously over his cock, desperately fighting the urge to imagine those pink lips on him.

*

Credence found himself lying awake for a long time that night, and he suspected it had been from the nap he’d had after he came out to find Uncle Percy passed out in his chair.

He had pulled the half empty glass away about two seconds before it would have fallen to the ground and spilled or broken, and then sat on the couch to watch him, as long as he could, without anyone to stop him.

Uncle Percy had always been nice-looking, and it was most obvious when he and Credence would go to the store, and the cashier would talk to him, no matter who it was, always asking silly questions that made him frown a little and speak a bit faster than normal.

Like he’d rather be on the way home already.

Uncle Percy had hair nearly as dark as his, except right above his ears, where it was turning silver, like the frame around his dad’s watch, bought with his first paycheck, he’d always said.

Credence didn’t think it took away from his looks, in fact, it made him seem wiser and a bit distinguished.

He’d caught Mister Theseus looking at Uncle Percy more than once.

Something about that made his stomach feel funny, and he wasn’t sure why it was. The man had said he and Aunt Tina had been in love, but why hadn’t they ever been together, or tried to go on a date, tried to fix things?

Were they happier apart?

Mister Theseus said he knew Tina through his brother, and that they were friends. Credence might not have been an expert at reading people but something told him there was more to it than that.

Eventually, it was four in the morning, and Credence still hadn’t been able to close his eyes and do more than doze. He got up out of bed, and padded out to the kitchen, wondering if he could make a hot cup of milk without waking up his uncle.

He hoped he was okay. He’d looked kind of drunk when he’d answered the door to his room, and swayed a bit against the frame.

Credence hoped he hadn’t noticed how he’d stared. He’d never seen Uncle Percy in so little clothing, just a towel.

It made him feel dizzy and his skin had felt hot, but the second the man had said goodnight, and called him kiddo, it was like he’d been dipped in icy-hot.

Or just ice.

He went over to Uncle Percy’s door while the milk was warming in the microwave, and saw that it wasn’t latched. He pushed it slightly and it opened to reveal the man atop his bed, snoring lightly, lying on his stomach.

Credence dropped his gaze at once as he realized that the man was naked, not under any covers.

He didn’t know what to do, should he just leave? Cover the man up, in case he got cold? How drunk was he still?

He gulped, and could hear the microwave beeping for him.

“Mmm.”

He almost fell over as he heard Uncle Percy stirring, and he started to back away, closing the door behind him.

“Wait.”

Credence gulped and crept back forward into the room,

“Uncle Percy? Did you need me?”

He whispered, in case the man had just accidentally spoken in his sleep, and wasn’t truly awake, but he could in the minimal moonlight seeping into the room that he was, just enough to shift over and look at him.

“No. I just, ugh… sorry. What are you doing up?”

Credence took another step forward, close enough to see the man’s arm muscles as he propped himself up,

“I couldn’t sleep. I’m making something to drink, to help relax.”

“Oh. Good idea. I think the whiskey wore off me by now.”

“Do you have a headache? I could get you something…”

Uncle Percy let out a groan, and rolled over onto his back, and for a heart stopping moment Credence stared, but the man dragged the blanket beneath him along with him, and remained covered.

“You know, that’s a good idea too. Could you bring me two aleve and a cup of water?”

Credence was already nodding, moving into the bathroom and trying to control his breathing.

Once he’d found the bottle and retrieved two pills and then the man’s cup from the sink, half full of cold water, he returned to the bedroom, and saw Uncle Percy sitting up slightly, leaning against the pillows, and under a blanket more, but still with most of his chest uncovered.

Credence tried not to stare, and set the pills and the cup down on the man’s bedside table, before starting to move away.

But there was a strong hand on his wrist, warm, firm and a thumb rubbing over his skin.

“Hey, thank you. Sorry I wasn’t very good company tonight.”

Credence swallowed again and shook his head,

“It’s okay. We’ve both had enough socializing for the week I think.”

Uncle Percy was cracking a smile, and nodding,

“My family is pretty shitty at that. They don’t give you motivation to want to stay.”

He let go of Credence, but didn’t seem to want to be alone yet.

He watched as the man shifted over to pop the pills into his mouth and drank the water in a large gulp.

“It’s okay. They weren’t too bad…”

Credence knew he was lying, and it was wrong, but it seemed Uncle Percy didn’t mind, in fact, he was laughing.

“Oh you only say that because you haven’t had to live with them. Trust me. It was bad.”

The silence dragged out, lingered, and Credence didn’t know how to break it, or what to say beyond just leaving.

He shuffled his feet, and then took a step, but Uncle Percy moved again, as if to stand, and he yanked his eyes back to the man’s face from where he’d been staring at his bare chest again.

“You okay kiddo?”

There it was.

The rebuke.

The chastening without meaning to.

“Oh. Yeah of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”

His voice petered off into a whisper, and he got a bit lost, staring into his uncle’s eyes, not quite glittering in the darkness, everything still tinted silver from the moon.

“Are you sure? You want me to walk you back to your room and tuck you in?”

There was a hint of a teasing smile, but Credence had no doubt if he said yes, that the man would do it.

He shook his head.

“I’m fine. Just gotta go get my milk.”

Uncle Percy nodded, and then fell back against the bed.

“All right sleep tight.”

Credence backed up until he felt the door and then slipped out and away to the kitchen.

The mug was still so hot it scorched his hands, but he barely felt it.

*

That morning Percy woke up without a hangover, but with a lingering bit of a headache, just right between his temples, as if it was some invisible force continuously punching him in the forehead.

When he stood up, he groaned.

He’d gone to bed naked, really?

Somehow reverted to high school and made a mess of the blanket he’d gotten tangled into. He couldn’t even remember his dreams, but he guessed they must have been pretty good.

Lucky thing he was planning to do laundry anyway.

He got dressed, throwing on a pair of sweats as fast as he could and bundled all the dirty clothes up, before stopping at Credence’s room and knocking,

“Hey kiddo, got any laundry?”

Who was he kidding? Of course he would, after he unpacked.

“Hey? You up?”

He set the lump of clothing and blankets down, and then opened the door, quiet and slow as he could, finding the kid lounging in bed still, facing away from him, just a pale tangle of limbs under covers, with his dark hair spilling over his pillows.

“Are you feeling okay?”

He got closer and he could see Credence nodding.

When he was standing right over him he realized the kid had tears on his face.

Percy sat down on the bed beside Credence’s legs and reached over to put a hand on his back, innocent enough.

“Hey… what’s wrong?”

Credence squeezed his eyes shut and seemed to be trying to find the words to speak.

Ice speared in his gut, and he wondered if maybe, after all that whiskey, he’d gone and done something stupid, but couldn’t quite remember it. He hadn’t drunk that much in a while, it was true.

“Was it anything that happened last night?”

The words seemed to scrape their way out of his throat, but it had to be asked.

Credence shook his head, and seemed to curl up on himself even more, shrinking away from Percy’s touch. Nothing was a punch in the gut like that was.

“Well, I can’t do anything to help you out if you don’t talk to me kiddo.”

“That.”

Just the one word and it surprised Percy more than anything.

“What… what’s that?”

“I hate it.”

He took five seconds, and drew in a breath, and then let it out.

“What do you hate?”

Credence was still turned away from him, but seemed to be relaxing, just a little, and it killed Percy to not be able to touch him, to comfort him.

“When you call me that. It makes me feel… little.”

Percy blinked, trying desperately to think of where he’d gotten lost.

“What… do you want me to call you? It doesn’t mean anything, I mean, its habit.”

Another goddamn bad habit to break. Goody.

Credence sat up so fast it he didn’t even notice until he’d blinked that the kid was on him, hugging him, arms wrapped about his neck.

“Just use my name. Please.”

Well shit.

When he put it like that, how could Percy deny him?

“Okay. I’m sorry. I’ll try to remember that.”

Credence nodded against where he was pressed against his chest, and Percy brought his hands up, one to cup the back of the kid’s head and the other to splay over his back.

His bare back.

Percy hadn’t even noticed it until now, but Credence was sleeping shirtless. He wondered if he always had, and he just didn’t know.

Why should he?

It was time to leave and go fix breakfast and start laundry and…

Credence was rubbing his nose against his neck, nudging up to his ear.

“What are you doing?”

“Will you carry me out to the kitchen?”

Percy tried to inhale, but he was afraid to move,

“Why? Did you somehow break both legs in the middle of the night?”

Credence was shaking his head, silky hair sliding underneath his hand.

“Just thought, since you’re so strong, you could.”

Percy chuckled, despite himself, and pulled away to look at the kid,

“Just because I am doesn’t mean I will. You’re perfectly able. Look at you.”

He hadn’t meant to say it like that, because now he was.

Somehow in the last few months, while getting taller and growing out his hair longer, Credence no longer had a breakable looking frame. He looked, well, built a bit like a dancer.

There was pink spreading down his neck and chest, and Percy jerked back up to find Credence staring at him.

What about me?”

Percy blinked a couple times, and swallowed, trying to delay, delay, and think of something to say that wasn’t highly inappropriate.

“Um…”

Credence’s eyes dipped down from his face and he gulped.

Percy frowned,

“What’s wrong?”

Five seconds could be a long time, or not at all, but that was how long it took for Credence to drop a hand from his shoulder to his lap, and he thought he’d just flat lined.

“You’re hard.”

“Credence!”

Percy was reaching down and yanking his hand away so fast it was a blur.

“You’ve never said my name before. Not since the funeral. Unless you’re introducing me. Why?”

That wasn’t really the point was it? How about the fact that he’d just put his hand on Percy’s cock, for no goddamn reason at all?

How about we discuss that?’

Percy could barely form a reply before Credence surged forward, not quite hard enough to knock him over, but he was putting his mouth on him and stunning him to further silence.

He didn’t know where to put his hands, besides what he should have been doing, which was pushing Credence away, and telling him no, stop, what the hell was going on?

Slim arms were around his neck again, and Credence’s lips were parting against his, as if trying to coax his open too, and Percy fisted his hands in the sheets and fought for a way to ground himself, to do something other than just accept it, letting his own nephew molest him in the midday sunshine.

*

Credence was fairly sure he was still dreaming, and it was the only reason he’d done anything at all, other than let Uncle Percy just leave after checking on him.

It was curious, for all he pretended not to care, to be interested, to be anything but the detached guardian, that just a hug could arouse him completely?

Not that Credence didn’t enjoy hugs too, but when it came to his uncle, it really didn’t take much to make him want more.

It was wrong. He knew that plenty. But something had been building since the accidental kiss, and now it wasn’t an accident that time, he was definitely kissing Uncle Percy, and he wasn’t being pushed away.

He shifted a hand between their bodies again, trying to put it to his uncle’s lap, but there was a hand on his wrist, like solid steel, and the kiss was broken.

“Stop. What are you doing?”

Credence could feel the world crashing down around him, all over again.

“I just… I thought…”

He was shaking now, and it wasn’t from cold, it was from fear.

He didn’t think Uncle Percy would hit him, or yell at him, not like those kids at school had done, calling him names and things like ‘freak and a fruit’ but he couldn’t be sure.

He’d never seen the man lose his temper.

Uncle Percy’s eyes were squeezed shut tight, and he seemed to be having a hard time breathing.

Credence shrunk back, and tried to drag the covers with him, suddenly feeling exposed.

“Credence… you’re very sweet, and you’re beautiful. I won’t say I haven’t… well that’s not the point goddamnit. This just can’t happen. It can’t. I’m all you have right now, so I can understand how you might confuse those feelings for something of a different… nature. But it’s just that. It’s confusion.”

Credence was seeing him still, but it was like his heartbeat was overwhelming his hearing and it was all white noise.

Uncle Percy reached for him, and he flinched, still expecting the worst.

“Hey, hey, Credence…”

Nothing.

He couldn’t hear anything or feel anything but horror at himself and agony at what he’d done. Uncle Percy would have to send him away now. He wouldn’t want to continue taking care of him, knowing what kind of sick thoughts and feelings he had.

He wouldn’t.

There were strong arms lifting him, and he couldn’t help leaning into them, even though he shouldn’t have, and Uncle Percy was walking, taking him somewhere.

Going to drop him outside on the porch? Push him off the ledge? Set him outside in the lobby and hope someone came along and rescued him?

He heard a door slam in the distance and he blinked, coming back to the present, and he realized he was looking at Uncle Percy’s bed, clutched tight in his arms.

“Credence… can you hear me?”

Dimly. Like from underwater, several yards away.

The man carried him all the way over to the bed and set him down, slow, gentle, careful.

Had he just wanted to get his own belt or something worse to hit him with?

Try and beat the confusion away?

A mouth seared onto his forehead, and Uncle Percy was kissing him there, and then on his cheek, and then the corner of his mouth, and then on his own lips.

His eyes widened and he tried to speak, reaching up to grasp at the man’s arms.

“What?”

“Credence… I don’t want you to think you’re alone in this. I will do anything you ask, and when you get tired of this, we can go back to the way we were, okay?”

He could hardly believe what he was hearing, but as he watched, Uncle Percy moved away and shucked off his own shirt, and Credence could finally stare, unhindered, freely.

“Okay?”

Credence was nodding before he knew what he was saying, and then speaking, a hand reaching out automatically to touch the bare skin in front of him,

“What should I call you?”

The man sighed,

“You’re right. It is kind of weird… I mean, well. Yeah. Just call me Percy to start okay?”

Credence nodded.

He’d always liked that name anyway. It felt approachable, safe.

Now as Percy lifted him to his feet, pulling him in for an almost hug, but for another kiss, different as the man’s tongue slipped out to slid against his mouth, he thought maybe he would die from sensory overload.

So much bare skin contacting against his own, it was like sparks emanated from his body, threatening to catch them both afire.

“Please, Percy…”

He didn’t know what he was asking for, but the man seemed to guess.

“Lay back.”

The man’s bed was slightly larger than his and seemed that much softer too, and when Credence was braced beneath Percy’s body, he couldn’t stop his hands from moving, roaming over his bare back and then down to graze over his ass, covered only by his sweats.

Credence was still just in his own boxers, half covered by the blanket he’d been carried with. He could feel Percy was still hard, and he had been the same way since he’d woken up.

Without a word, Percy started to grind his hips down with purpose against Credence, continuing to deepen the kiss, until he had to break away to moan, and gasp,

“You’re trying to tease me to death.”

Percy chuckled, and moved down to kiss at his neck, and worry his skin with a hint of teeth.

“Maybe. Tell me what you want me to do.”

“Touch me.”

Fairly vague, Credence knew, but he wasn’t sure he dared say much else, and when Percy shifted up to straddle him, kneeling and still kissing him, then dipping a hand below the waistband of his boxers to palm against his length, he knew he’d gotten the message.

“You’re hard.”

Percy whispered and Credence felt his cheeks flush.

He hadn’t even planned to say anything like that, but he’d looked down and seen the lump in the man’s pants and simply been too hypnotized to be proper.

“Yes.”

“All for me?”

Credence nodded at once.

“Every time I touch myself, I think about you.”

Percy groaned aloud,

“Fuck. Credence… are you trying to kill me?”

He choked on a giggle,

“No. Why?”

“Oh god help me. I think of you too.”

The man was kissing his bare chest, tongue occasionally flicking out and over his skin, threatening to make him come right then and there, but he pulled his hand back, and Credence was thrusting his hips against nothing but the fabric of his boxers.

“What are you-?”

The question died in his throat as Percy’s mouth made contact with his cock through the fabric, and he thought his eyes were stinging with tears as he squeezed them shut, and fisted the sheets at his sides.

“You’re trembling. Do you want to come?”

Credence nodded franticly, and Percy was humming against him, licking the head over his boxers, heightening the sensation with the friction and wetness, and a hand rubbing over the rest of his cock, and he bit back a sob as he came, warm pulses that landed on his thigh and leaked under the waistband to his stomach.

“Oh god.”

Percy was tugging off his boxers, and cool air was hitting his cock, making him shiver.

“Hold still.”

Percy leaned back down, and Credence could feel him licking up the mess he’d made of himself, and when he dared open his eyes, the man was looking right at him, touching himself, a hand in his pants, cheek pressed against his thigh, hot breath against his skin.

“Percy… should I?”

The man shook his head.

“No. I don’t want you to do anything because you feel you have to.”

“But I want to.”

Percy sighed, and then stopped his movements, crawling back up the bed to fall on his back beside Credence.

“What do you want to do?”

He was caressing his own chest with a palm, while his other hand snagged one of Credence’s and brought it to his mouth, kissing the back of his knuckles, and making him shiver.

“I want to make you come. I want you in my mouth.”

Percy’s eyes closed tightly, and Credence swore he could see the man’s cock twitch in his pants.

“Fuck. Okay.”

Credence took his time pulling down his pants, as if unwrapping an early Christmas present, and he could feel his mouth watering when he finally caught sight of Percy’s cock.

It was gorgeous, curving up against his stomach now that it had no clothing restricting it. Credence put his mouth on it as soon as he could, but he didn’t put it in his mouth, he kissed against the shaft, and licked the sides, trying to test the waters.

He’d never done anything like what Percy had done to him, so it was all new and frighteningly nerve wracking territory.

“Now you’re trying to kill me.”

Percy brought a hand to his hair, gentle, fingers stroking through the long waves, and Credence smiled up at him.

“Just enjoying the view.”

“Tell me about it.”

Credence found himself blushing, and reached up to take Percy’s other hand, linking their fingers together. He saw the man swallow, and then take a deep breath.

“Okay. Do whatever you want. Pretty sure it won’t take much. You know I had a dream about you last night and got off in my sleep?”

Credence ducked his head and leaned in to place another kiss on the man’s cock, right over the tip, ripping a groan from him.

“That’s cool. I wonder what happened in the dream…”

The hand in his hair tightened just a bit,

“I don’t know but I’m beginning to wonder…”

Credence smiled again, and licked over the slit, leaking clear fluid on Percy’s stomach, before trying to swallow around the head, taking as much as he could in one move, and he felt the man’s hips jump.

“Oh yeah. That’s good.”

Credence hummed, imitating what Percy had done, and swallowed around him again, feeling the head of the man’s cock graze against the back of his throat. Breathing through his nose wasn’t hard, but his jaw was starting to ache from keeping it open, careful not to let his teeth touch the sensitive skin.

“Move, a little. Please.”

Credence pulled back and then let the man’s cock back in his mouth, and Percy dropped his hand from his hair to grab at his own thigh.

“Fuck.”

He put a hand at the base of his cock and tried to stroke as he bobbed his mouth over him, and that seemed to work like nothing else.

Credence could almost feel when he started to come, like there were little pulses against his fingers first, before liquid filled his mouth and he barely swallowed in time to keep from drooling any out. He’d made a bit of a mess of the man’s thighs, and ducked his head, pulling back to wipe his mouth off, hoping Percy hadn’t noticed.

“God. That was, uh, well, great. Hey, what’s the matter?”

Credence hadn’t even realized he’d started crying, but it wasn’t from sadness. Mainly he couldn’t believe how lucky he’d gotten.

“You’re just so wonderful.”

He crawled up to rest on Percy’s body, half on the bed, half on the man, and felt strong arms wrap around him, and a kiss pressed to his forehead.

“Oh Credence, my sweet thing. You’re too good for me.”

Credence was already shaking his head, clinging to him tightly.

“You’re all I have. I love you.”

Percy froze for a moment, before sliding his hand over and against Credence’s back,

“I love you too. You know there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.”

Credence hummed against him, and then thought of something.

“Could we… can we do this again?”

Percy nodded,

“Of course. Like I said. Until you feel you’re done. Or you’ve met someone, or seen someone who can catch your eye.”

Credence knew, somehow, deep down, that would be the least likely of occurrences.

“What else can we do?”

He was asking to see what Percy would say. He wasn’t an idiot. He had a cell phone. He read things. He was starting to suspect why he and… Tina, hadn’t worked out.

“Credence… I think you know. You had sex education.”

That too.

“Well I mean… what do you want for me to do for you? Like what sorts of things do you like… with people?”

Percy chuckled, and the sound vibrated through Credence, making his skin tingle.

“You mean sexually? God I don’t know. It’s been so long since I was uh, single ish, in a way. I feel like a bit of role play always worked well.”

“Is that like… spanking and stuff?”

Percy shrugged,

“Depends on what you decide for the scene. But yes, usually some sort of pain play intertwined with plenty of pleasurable touching.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad.”

“It shouldn’t be. But that is sort of zero to sixty from where we are. Shouldn’t run before you can walk.”

Percy was pulling him over to properly lie on top of him, and then putting a hand to his cheek to bring him down for a kiss.

Credence smiled against it, and then nodded.

“Okay. How do we get there?”

Percy sighed, and then laughed again,

“You’re something else, you know that?”

Credence shimmied his hips over the man’s; feeling sparks of arousal begin to curl through him as he brought their lengths together.

“Maybe I do.”

*