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The first thing Kip does upon realizing he's awake is drink in a long, deep inhale. When he breathes it out, he can feel some of the warm air pushed back against his lips and nose. He blinks his eyes open, and in the dark all he can make out is the deeper darkness of a large object silhouetted right in front of his face.

Like a one-two punch to the sternum, he's hit by a horrible jolt of panic, then a proportionate flood of relief when vivid memories return to tell him where he is, how he got there, what happened, who he's with.

As his mind and senses further attune to the waking world, they confirm what he's remembered. He can feel his boyfriend's weight and warmth beside him. The blankets draped over the pair slope up from Kip's body to reach the higher elevation of Pascal's side. Kip can even hear Pascal's quiet, steady breathing.

Kip's momentary fear and confusion is replaced completely by a strong, contented feeling of comfort. He remembers how good it felt to drift off next to each other, how good it felt when Pascal swept the sheets up over them and then gathered him close in his arms. Kip lets himself smile and lean closer to Pascal, but it's only when he closes his eyes and settles himself towards falling asleep again that he notices what woke him up in the first place.

What he feels then hardly falls short of being just as bad as the earlier glimmer of panic.

"Fuck," Kip whispers miserably, and clenches his hands. "Fuck, oh fuck—" He squeezes his eyes shut and grits his teeth.

He hadn't worried, not even in the back of his mind, that this was a possibility. It had been approaching a year since the last occurrence and Kip had ever reason to believe—to hope—the problem had finally passed, that he would no longer wake up in sheets and bedclothes wet with his own urine.

But this isn't just a disappointment, or even just an embarrassment. He hasn't wet his own bed—he's wet his boyfriend's bed, with his boyfriend in it. Kip curls in on himself slightly, almost pressing his forehead to Pascal's chest by doing so. He feels sick to his stomach and momentarily wants to cry.

"Oh, fuck," he repeats. He tries to tell himself to stop thinking about how terrible
this all is and instead figure out how to fix the problem before Pascal ever has to know about it.

For a relieving moment or two he thinks about managing to do a stealthy round of laundry in the middle of the night, before realizing he doesn't know where to go to do that, and that he can't get the sheets off the bed while Pascal is still asleep on them. And then he realizes that he can't even get up while Pascal is asleep either, not with Pascal's arm is a deadweight slung over him. It would take ages for Kip to slowly extract himself from underneath it, and sometimes Pascal's arms seemed to have a level of sensitivity that surprised even their owner. And then Kip realizes that even if he could get up, and even if he could get the sheets off the bed—he can't get at the stain in the mattress. He's trapped.

He thinks about pretending to be just as surprised as Pascal is whenever his boyfriend wakes up, of only for the sake of avoiding the pain of a confession, but he knows he won't be able to get back to sleep with the dread weighing on him and the discomfort of lying in his own mess, and he doesn't want to lie there awake for hours in those conditions either. He can act like he's still asleep when Pascal discovers what had happened, but that would merely delay his humiliation, and imagining how it might feel to lie there listening to Pascal's reaction while he thinks Kip is asleep makes him wilt.

He knows Pascal wouldn't be cruel to him—not even if he thought it was completely and securely behind Kip's back, with no chance of him ever finding out. Pascal is comforting, soft, loving, supportive. Ever since Kip met him, Pascal has always made Kip just feel so safe. And yet this is something different. He knows Pascal won't be angry at him, but he still can't help worrying Pascal might be disappointed or embarrassed in his choice of a boyfriend, or find this incident something laughable or pitiable.

His hands and feet are shivering, and he's too stressed to make them stop. He wanted so badly for this to go well, and up until now it's been amazing, his first time staying at Pascal's place—at any boyfriend's place. But he'd always sensed he might go farther with Pascal than in the few previous times he'd had boyfriends, or anything like them. He'd had crushes that went nowhere, and almost two years ago, a boyfriend for several months, and another one a year before that. The relative brevity of the relationships had sometimes made Kip worry if it would always go that way. When he was younger, in childhood, he remembered a friend who he held hands with sometimes, who played with his hair, who, in one of the only pictures of them, is wrapping his arms around Kip and kissing his cheek as Kip laughs. Something of a would-be boyfriend, and nothing went wrong, they just became distanced, then swept entirely apart by the lives they were too young to have any control over. He remembers his first kiss. He remembers the next kiss, and the next. He remembers agonizing over whether he really only liked boys, and a period of nervously informing family and close friends that he was gay. He remembers growing out of his shame. He remembers how it felt to meet Pascal, the immediate appeal and attraction, to start falling for him, to be getting all these signs that Pascal felt the same way and feeling almost scared of how much he wanted that to be true. He remembers the first time Pascal held his hand and it gave Kip such an extraordinary feeling that he knew he was swept up in uncharted waters with this boy who was so sweet and gentle to him. It felt like exactly what Kip had always hoped for, like all this love he'd always had was proving how beautiful and right it was with this wonderful validation, this promise of so much continuous, growing goodness ahead of them.

And he's ruined it.

Kip's breathing becomes more shallow. He wants so, so badly for his and Pascal's relationship to continue the trajectory it's been on up till now. But he knows he's thrown it off, and he knows there's nothing he can do to make it okay.

He lies there stiffly for several minutes, staring at the neckline of Pascal's shirt, watching him breathe. The saturated weight and unpleasant clammy feeling of his pants starts to eat at him, and his heart beats harder at the impending prospect of waking Pascal up and having to admit what's happened.

He begins trying to force himself to move or say something to wake Pascal, but it's been so wonderful to be in bed with him and now Kip is thinking about how as soon as he ends it, he'll never get to sleep beside Pascal again. His boyfriend is so warm and so nice to hold and be held by and Kip has wanted for so long to get the chance to know this experience. He's been looking forward to this date at Pascal's since they planned it over two weeks ago, and the thought of it had been making him a little moonstruck ever since, prone to drifting into daydreams and smiling at nothing.

Pascal shifts in his sleep and Kip's heart is immediately pounding. He's immobilized by fear and stares at Pascal's face, waiting for his boyfriend to wake, but Pascal just settles quietly and is as still and deeply asleep as before.

"Pascal," Kip whispers softly, only for the sake of saying his name. His hand is still shaking as he carefully places it along the tapered end of Pascal's arm, curling his palm and fingers to cup its form.

The more awake he gets, the more resigned he becomes. But he still can't make himself wake Pascal. He can't even watch his face.

Kip lies there for a long time, feeling the heavy dampness of his clothes and the warmth of his boyfriend, and then Pascal shifts again and gives a quiet sound and, in the momentary panic that Pascal is going to wake up on his own, Kip presses his hand to Pascal's shoulder and tries a louder "Pascal?"

Pascal hums quietly from deep in his chest and Kip says his name again, more clearly, and watches his returning consciousness in his face.

"Kip," Pascal says in a rough voice. It's pure recognition, and Kip's heart aches at the accompanying warm smile.

"Hi..." He can't help his smile in return. He wants to be waking Pascal with a kiss or an "I love you" or even just a "good morning" but he has to break bad news to him instead. But his voice is unstable and he never planned his words.

"Hey, um, I—I kind of—" he wavers, and sees concern tinging Pascal's face, bringing increased alertness. He lapses into silence, staring back at Pascal, before his boyfriend's flickering downward glance snuffs out the last of his hope that he can hide this.

"I'm so sorry, Pascal," he says, shifting his gaze to the mattress. "I—I wet the bed." And he's blushing so hard he can practically hear it ringing in his ears and he's too embarrassed to speak anymore. The shame is almost nauseating.

"Kip," Pascal says, and Kip automatically looks back up at him. He's so pretty, his expressions are so honest and loving, Kip tries to memorize the experience of seeing his face so close to his own and misses it already.

"Were you scared to tell me?" Pascal says, so quietly, arm brushing Kip's cheek so gently, so soft and warm and Kip curls inward and blushes and can't meet his eyes.

"I—I—yes," he admits. "I'm so sorry," he repeats miserably.

"Hey, don't worry, it's okay," Pascal consoles, and he's so gentle and Kip doesn't understand how Pascal can be so soft and loving but he absolutely melts in it every time.

"It's okay, it's okay," Pascal repeats, and strokes Kip's hair behind his ear and kisses his forehead and Kip closes his eyes and is momentarily pressed to Pascal's broad chest. "I'm sorry you were worried," Pascal says. "I don't want to make you feel nervous about anything."

Kip blinks, unable to process how Pascal has ended up apologizing to him.

"But—but I—" he stammers, looking at Pascal in his bewilderment. "Your bed..." he manages.

"Don't worry, I can clean all this up," Pascal says. "Things happen, I don't mind. It's alright."

Kip has no response for the unexpected route the exchange has gone. Pascal is accepting everything immediately with so much grace and not even a hint of frustration or disappointment in his boyfriend. Kip watches in silence as Pascal slides out from under the covers and offers his arm to Kip. But, somehow, Kip doesn't want to move from the bed.

"Kip?" There's some concern in Pascal's voice. Kip brings a hand to his face.

"...It's embarrassing," he mumbles. "I'm really, really sorry, I know this sucks—"

"Kip, you're okay. I'm not mad."

"I'm so sorry—"

"Shh..." Pascal leans in and Kip feels him kiss his hair. "You don't have anything to be sorry for."

"I wet your bed," Kip accuses himself with a little bitterness.

"Well, not on purpose, right?"

Kip glances at Pascal to see him giving a small smile.

"No, but still...it sucks and I'm really sorry and...and I get it if you wanna be upset."

"It's not a big deal, I'm not upset. I just want you to be comfortable here," Pascal says quietly. He brushes the end of his arm along Kip's shoulder. "You haven't done anything wrong. And...you don't have to feel bad. I'm not laughing at you, or embarrassed by you, or anything like that."

Even though Kip can't shake his self-consciousness, he knows Pascal is being sincere. He wishes he could be as comforting as Pascal, because Pascal deserves to feel the way he can make Kip feel.

"Do you want to take a shower while I take care of this?" Pascal asks.

Kip doesn't want to bring the issue up, but he knows letting himself stew over it would end up being worse.

"The mattress, though," he almost whispers. He can feel the dampness of the sheets under his body, and knows how long he's been lying there in it.

"Oh," Pascal murmurs. "It's okay, I have some carpet cleaner that should do pretty well, that stuff's really intense. And honestly I was always hoping for an excuse to get a new one," he says with a laugh. "This one is ancient, and really uncomfortable sometimes."

A jolt of something like hope hits Kip in the chest.

"I can—I'll help you buy another one," Kip says immediately, cheeks flushing, pushing himself partially upright.

"You don't need to do—"

"Please, let me help pay for it," Kip insists. "I—If you let me pay too I can help you get one that's new, and softer than this one. I-I'd really like you to have a really good one. I know you have trouble sleeping sometimes—you should have a really good mattress."

Pascal is blushing at him and Kip is shivering with the sudden determination he has to go through with this; to have a chance of making it up to Pascal.

"We can say it's like, an early birthday thing if you want," Kip says, a smile twitching at his mouth.

"I...maybe," Pascal says.

"Please, it's...it's my fault. I really want to help fix this."

"You don't have to—"

"I know, but...I really want to." Kip looks up at Pascal. "I—I should've told you this could've happened. I didn't even think about
it, but...it's still my fault for not...not being ready."

"Does this happen to you sometimes?" Pascal asks.

The fledgling sense of dignity Kip had regained withers away. He feels the expectation in every second Pascal waits for an answer, hoping that Kip says 'no.' Hoping that the boy he's dating isn't a chronic bedwetter after all.

But it does happen to him sometimes. Not regularly, and seemingly without any one particular cause—which almost makes it worse, that Kip can't avoid it or prepare
for it. And he should've thought that he might wet Pascal's bed, but he was so breathless about their date at Pascal's that he had barely thought about what could go wrong. Usually he was such a worrier—he couldn't help but imagine all the things that could go wrong, and assume the worst—but thinking of Pascal, being with him, it always somehow knocked all that out of his head. He had just been so excited—his thoughts were so completely occupied with the date that he hardly thought about what would happen when it was over. And if he did think about being in Pascal's bed, wetting it wasn't the first thing to come to mind.

But it's been so long since his last accident that he really had been hoping it was done with. He doesn't even know how to answer Pascal. Yes, it happens to me sometimes. But no, it doesn't happen all the time, and I'm desperate to keep you from always having it on your mind, from thinking of ways to keep me from ever sleeping over again.

"Yeah," he finally confesses, "it hasn't for a long time, but...sometimes." He drops his head. The worst-case-scenario worrier had found his way to the front of Kip's thoughts after all, and now he's simply resigned. Pascal will be just as kind and sweet as ever, while gradually growing more distant, until their relationship just feels like nothing more than an obligation that they can both be relieved to drop.

And anyways, he tells himself, this isn't the only thing about you that's going to disappoint Pascal. If this wasn't going to end it, something else would've.

I mean, did you really think the first time you got into a serious relationship would go perfectly? That it would even last? Are you really that childish?

Yes, he decides. He'd really been thinking—or at least hoping—that nothing would ever go wrong between him and Pascal.

He's stupid like that.

"Kip, no, it's okay..."

Pascal is touching the side of his face, and nudges his chin up, and Kip knows he's blushing at the contact.

"Kip."

The way Pascal says his name is always so nice. It makes Kip feel like Pascal loves saying his name.

"You don't have to be embarrassed."

"I can't help it," Kip says. "I know this is bad, I know it sucks, I'm really sorry—"

"You don't have to be sorry for anything, I would've let you sleep with me anyway," Pascal insists.

Kip blushes further at the wording and, while he's struggling to figure out if Pascal really would've let him stay the night regardless if there'd been a threat of this disaster, Pascal kneels down and kisses his nose, kisses his lips.

Kip inhales and closes his eyes and relaxes his body, and Pascal must feel the response because he pushes slightly further into the kiss. It's gentle, just Pascal's lips against his, their breath warm on each other's faces. Kip tilts his head up into it, moving just enough to take Pascal's upper lip between his own, giving the slightest tug. He loves the roughness of Pascal's scruff against his own face, loves feeling his body so close, loves being kissed by Pascal, loves kissing him, loves how much he loves this—

Pascal leans away, sliding his arm to Kip's shoulder. Kip blinks and tries to reassemble his demeanor, but his heart is beating too fast. Pascal can melt him with a kiss like chocolate in his mouth.

"I'm sorry you feel embarrassed," Pascal murmurs.

He's still kneeling beside the bed, and is looking up at Kip like he's something sacred. Kip's heart is beating hard as he holds Pascal's gaze. His trembling, pessimistic core is struggling not to be silenced again, but the feeling of love and security that's coming over Kip isn't turbulent—it's not like drowning in whitewater, just like being lifted by a smooth, powerful wave that sweeps him in to shore.

"I'm not mad at you, or ashamed of you, and I'm not going to start treating you different. I won't ever make you worry about anything like that. I—I think you're really amazing, and...the idea of being perfect, everything going perfect or whatever, I don't care about that. I like you the way you are. Including right now."

Pascal's arms are entwined with Kip's, but Kip is even more caught in the way Pascal is looking at him. His eyes, and his voice, and his touch, and his words—for a second it's one of the rare moments where all Kip's anxiety is swept away and he just feels without fear.

"Okay," is all he can breathe, and his heart beats harder at Pascal's smile.

Pascal rises up off his knees and leans in to kiss Kip again, firmer and quicker, but when he begins to pull away Kip touches his shoulder and their kiss lingers a few moments more.

"You're fine," Pascal whispers in his ear, and kisses his temple before standing upright.

Kip is chocolate in Pascal's mouth again.

"Shower?" Pascal gently offers again. Kip exhales, nods.

He takes a moment to gather himself up, though. Pascal makes him all soft and stupid and shivery. But, then again, he also ends up feeling stronger than usual around Pascal. Sturdier, and more capable. More confident.

Confident enough to get out of bed, even.

Kip pushes himself upright. The way all the damp fabric moves against his body is unpleasant. But he gets himself out of the bed nonetheless, and barely feels any shame about the dark stain he knows is spread down between his legs and creeping up along his left side. After all, it's not a surprise to either of them.

"You remember where the bathroom is?"

"Uh-huh."

"Okay. You can just leave your clothes on the floor outside if you want, and I'll do a load of laundry while you're in there."

"Thank you," Kip says quietly. He moves towards Pascal, touches his arm, and tilts his head up, which signals Pascal to lean in for another kiss. Kip holds it for a few beats, then slides his hand up Pascal's arm as he pulls away. He stops himself from apologizing again and smiles instead before he leaves for the bathroom.

It's tucked behind the wall of Pascal's living room, somewhat narrow but spacious enough for a decent shower. Kip gladly strips himself of his wet clothes and balls them up, carefully wrapping the dry parts of his shirt around the outside of the bundle, and places it on the wood floor just outside the threshold of the bathroom door.

It only takes a minute for the water to rise to the appropriate temperature for the kind of hot showers Kip likes. He steps gratefully into the stream of water, feeling it wash away his usual chill and the uncomfortable slickness along his abdomen. He stands without making a move to wash himself for several minutes, letting the water do its work. He focuses on the feeling of the warmth slowly permeating every atom of his body.

What's next? Kip thinks eventually. What time is it even? I'm going to finish my shower, Pascal's going to take one, some laundry stuff will happen, and then...what?

Maybe we'll go back to bed.

That would be okay with him. More than okay. He'd loved climbing into bed with Pascal, getting so close to him, drawing themselves closer together for as long as they could stay awake. It would be more than wonderful to do it again.

They had talked for a few minutes, only as loud as they needed to be audible in the tiny space between them—which was so small they could practically feel the vibrations of each other's voice. Kip had been this close to Pascal before, but it felt different now, lying beside him. He wasn't looking up, Pascal wasn't looking down. Their faces were level without anyone having to sit down. Their legs could touch as easily as their arms. When Pascal's arm slid around his side, Kip smiled and let his back curve towards Pascal to accommodate it.

And they were so close it had barely taken any effort for Kip to shift closer and kiss Pascal; and Pascal was ready for it even before their lips met. They kept kissing, and Kip's arm found its way around Pascal's shoulders, and they kissed and kissed. Kip was the first to use his tongue. Pascal opened his mouth a bit more for him and Kip felt all along the bumpy arc of his teeth, stroked the ridges along the roof, the soft sides, and best of all, the texture of their tongues' friction together. Kip loved that feeling, loved it.

When Pascal had closed his lips around Kip's tongue, brought his own up underneath it, and sucked, Kip gave an enthusiastic hum and his fingers clenched. And so Pascal repeated the act a few times before Kip bit at his lip, slipped his tongue away, and grinned against Pascal's mouth. His face was burning and his heart was pounding and the both of them were too sleepy for this to turn into something else. But he opened his mouth invitingly and gave teasing prods of his tongue against Pascal's until his boyfriend put his tongue into his mouth in turn.

Eventually the kisses had grown longer, then slower, until they were just resting their faces beside each other's, mouths together. Kip took Pascal's bottom lip between his and held it there for a while. They were both on the verge of sleep, and Kip felt so wanted, and warm, and good.

"Pascal," he'd breathed, the quietest voice he could manage.

"Mmhm," Pascal responded after a moment, half-asleep.

"I love you a whole lot," Kip whispered.

After another moment, Pascal's arm tightened around him. Pascal blinked his eyes open and Kip looked back at him.

"I love you so much, Kip," Pascal told him. And he put his mouth against Kip's forehead and left it there.

And Kip had fallen asleep with his boyfriend's warmth in his body, scent in his lungs, and kiss on his face.

Standing under the water now, feeling like every inch of his body is for once sufficiently heated, Kip wants to believe that he hasn't lost any of Pascal's love that he'd had before they woke up. And while he really thinks he hasn't, that anxious, insecure, doomsday part of him is hard to shake entirely. Almost, but not completely. Almost.

He jolts when he hears a door open somewhere, relaxes when he remembers he heard Pascal leave the apartment a few minutes ago to do the laundry. Pascal steps quietly for someone who seems to be about three times Kip's size, but Kip can occasionally hear him moving around the space.

Eventually, Kip actually takes a bottle of Pascal's soap and pours some into his palm. He angles the showerhead towards the wall, lathers the soap, and begins to run his hands along his body, massaging the soap against his skin.

He's recognizing the smell of the soap as a component of Pascal's scent and rubbing the insides of his thighs when he freezes in place. The smell, the touch, the shower—he's hit with memories and an association.

Oh, is all he thinks.

He's fantasized before about Pascal for ages now. Technically, even before he realized he seriously, deeply liked Pascal. Because it had taken zero effort to recognize that he'd had a crush on Pascal—the guy was objectively beautiful, and his build was just the perfect mix of being definitely muscular yet softly enough to appeal to all of Kip's tastes.

And then once Kip realized the true extent of his crush, Pascal went from having cameos in Kip's fantasies to all but completely taking them over. Not to mention the fairly common wet dreams Kip had about Pascal—something of a bitter irony now. But Kip had never had any question about this realm of his and Pascal's relationship—he really wanted to have sex with him from the very start. And he's gotten off to that with some frequency. The idea of it always twinges through his body until his hands get tense and twitchy and he can feel his pulse in his cock.

And when he gets himself off, its either in his room, or in the shower. And right now he's in Pascal's shower, thinking about Pascal, with last night's kissing and touching fresh in his mind, with a part of Pascal's smell in the air, with his hands stroked down his stomach and between his legs.

The first shivering pangs of arousal are set off already. He's tempted, badly tempted, by the possibility of bringing himself to orgasm right here. At his boyfriend's place, to the thought of him. Letting Pascal flood through his veins, pump his heart, fill him with life and heat and euphoric pleasure that shivers and twists and tightens until it bursts through his body and mind.

But he's been in the shower a long time already. So he stays in only a little while longer, just enough to let his body calm down, smooth himself over.

He turns off the water and lets himself drip off for a minute before reaching for a fuzzy plum-colored towel and scrubbing himself dry with it. He wipes off the steamed-up mirror and runs his fingers through his hair so it can dry somewhat in place. And then he realizes he hadn't brought a change of clothes.

He wraps the towel around his waist—momentarily considers covering his chest as well, but decides not to—and steps out of the bathroom.

"Pascal?" he says, not much raising his voice above speaking level. He's gotten the sense it's still the middle of the night.

"I'm here," Pascal returns, and steps out of the bedroom, wearing a different set of clothes than before. Kip sees him glance down at his bared torso for the most fleeting fraction of a second before looking back up at his face, blushing a little.

"I forgot to bring in clean clothes," Kip says. "Could I, uh...borrow some?"

"Oh—right—of course—" Pascal lifts an arm to his face and goes back into the bedroom. "I forgot, I'm sorry..."

"It's okay," Kip answers with a laugh in his voice.

Pascal comes back out with clothes in his arms, still blushing.

"Uh, everything I have is gonna be kinda big on you, but...I sleep in these sometimes, they're soft..."

Kip takes them from him, a black t-shirt and faded pair of sweatpants.

"Thanks," he says, and pulls the shirt over his head. Its neckline sits wide across his shoulders and dips low down his chest, it's more than roomy and longer than any shirt Kip has. And he steps into the sweatpants, hitching them up under the towel and then unwinding the towel from around himself. Kip adjusts the waistline up just above the widest latitude along his hips and cinches the drawstring tight and it's just enough to keep them on his smaller frame; he puts the towel over his shoulders, rolls the cuffs of the pants up, then smiles at Pascal.

"Thank you."

Pascal smiles back at him and Kip shivers with the pulse of cold that has a tendency to accompany a leap of the heart.

"Did you want to take a shower?" he says, more an invitation than an actual question.

"Yeah, uh..." Pascal thinks for a moment. "I could move the laundry to the dryer in a minute, but nobody else had laundry there, so it should be fine to leave it for a little bit..."

He looks at Kip.

"You'll be okay?"

Kip laughs.

"I should be fine," he says with a shake of the head.

Pascal goes into the bathroom and Kip leans in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen while he hears the shower come on.

After listening for a minute he wanders into the kitchen, looking over Pascal's cabinets and counters, the stovetop and the rack of shelves, the jars and boxes. He looks at the kettle sitting beside the sink.

Maybe I should make tea.

Pascal loves tea, he knows that well. So does he—it had sparked several surprisingly enthusiastic conversations between them back in the days after they'd first met. But he's not sure if it would be too intrusive or rude, to use anything of Pascal's, touch anything, do anything without Pascal's knowledge.

Kip wanders back into the bedroom. The bed is stripped down and the pillows are sitting on the dresser with a pile of fresh sheets. Kip can smell the cleaner soaked into the mattress as he approaches it, and sees the faintness of the stain with some relief. He stares at the spot for a while, uneven and amorphous, the discoloration radiating outward from a central point like a topographical chart. It's not horrible. The cleaner seems to be helping, and Kip thinks he must have woken up just after he wet himself, which at least probably meant it never really had time to dry.

He sighs. Not as bad as it could be. But still noticeable. And still there at all.

He goes back into the kitchen, and listens to the shower a bit more, and then runs some water into the kettle and puts it over a burner on its highest setting.

He finds where Pascal keeps dishes, and from there finds a collection of mugs and glasses and a handful of teacups. Kip gently lifts out the latter and goes over them individually, carefully considering which to use. He comes across a blue cup with delicate white snowflakes formed by negative space in the paint, and a golden interior that extends to rim the outside of the lip. His mouth twitches and he sets it aside on the countertop.Then he chooses a cup with a simple cylindrical shape but a delicately curved handle and birds in flight painted around the outside, and a pink rose on the bottom of the inside of the cup. And then he pulls out two saucers to rest them on, and puts the rest of the dishes back.

He looks through cabinets closest to the stove, hoping to find tea, and succeeds when he opens up the narrow cabinet right against the wall. There's jars of loose tea leaves, with tiny labels in Pascal's writing taped to them, and a paper bag of sugar, and a glass bottle of honey. Kip is glad to find boxes of bagged tea as well, and takes the first open box he can find—peppermint.

He puts a bag in each teacup and stands over the kettle, waiting and warming himself.
When it starts to steam he holds his hands over the flow of vapor. A whistle flickers in and out for a minute before reaching a decisive pitch, and Kip turns off the burner and pours the water into their cups.

He watches the water darken into tea, and waits for Pascal. A few minutes pass, and the shower is still running. Kip goes into Pascal's bedroom, stands in front of the thin full-length mirror leaning against the wall, and combs his hair with his fingers to make sure it's still mostly in place. Then he rakes his fingers through, shakes it out vigorously. He eyes his reflection, taking in the looseness of Pascal's clothes on his body and deciding it looks kind of good. He steps closer to consider his face. He can never tell if he's good-looking or not. He runs his tongue along his fangs, wrinkles the crease above his nose. He looks at his eyes and traces a finger along his lips, tries to see himself from Pascal's perspective. The shower stops running.

Kip picks up his glasses from the bedside table, slides them on, and goes back out. He puts his fingers on the cups of tea and feels that they're still hot. He goes into the living room, sits on the end of the couch, draws his legs up onto the cushions, closes his eyes, and waits.

Pascal walks out of the bathroom and they both look over at each other. Pascal's hair is damp and messy and he's in the sleeveless shirt and fresh pair of sweatpants from before, holding the end of a towel thrown over his shoulder.

"I, um, I made tea," Kip tells him.

Pascal blinks and for a moment seems to be searching for words, and then he gives a quiet, warm laugh.

"Thank you," he says. "That's great. I love tea."

"Yeah. Yeah, I know," Kip laughs, and he stands and leads Pascal into his own kitchen.

"Oh—I got that cup because—well, because it's nice, but also because I thought of you..." Pascal says. "Not that you have to use it. And I promise I'm not going to, like, just get you ice-themed things all the time."

"That's good to know," Kip says, "But it made me think of me also."

Kip stands beside the small circular table in the room and watches Pascal's movements as he slides open a drawer and takes out two slender teaspoons.

"Is sugar okay?" Pascal asks, glancing over his shoulder. Kip nods at him.

Pascal sweetens their tea and the spoons occasionally clink against the cups as he stirs the sugar in. Kip watches the muscles moving in his back and his bare shoulders. He wants to kiss him there, both places.

Pascal sets the spoons down on the saucers and carefully picks Kip's up, turning around to carry it over to the table.

"Thank you," Kip says, sliding into a chair and letting Pascal place the tea in front of him. Pascal smiles at him and brings the other cup over before sitting down in the chair right next to Kip's.

Kip puts both hands on his cup and looks at it for a moment before turning his gaze to Pascal. His boyfriend pushes hair out of his face with one arm and lifts his tea to his mouth with the other, taking a sip. Pascal glances over, catching Kip watching him, and Kip blushes and smiles but doesn't pretend he wasn't staring.

"Sorry, I just...like to look at your face a lot," Kip laughs, looking back at his tea and occupying himself by drinking some.

"Oh, thank you," Pascal says with a laugh in his voice.

"You're really beautiful," Kip murmurs into his cup, crossing and uncrossing his feet at the ankles.

Pascal doesn't say anything; Kip glances over to see him smiling and winding the tips of his arms together.

And then Kip keeps letting himself talk.

"I've wet the bed since I can remember," he says. "I guess I just didn't grow out of it the same time most people did. Like, it happens a lot less than it used to, so I'm really hoping it'll finally go away soon, but, obviously...it hasn't yet."

"Oh," Pascal says, quiet. "You...you don't have to explain anything to me, if you don't want to talk about it—"

"It's okay," Kip says, taking a small sip and feeling it warm his throat. "If you don't mind hearing it."

Pascal is quiet.

"I think the last time this happened was almost ten months ago, so I was kind of thinking it might be over with. I mean, I was having such a good time yesterday that I didn't even stop to think—or, I don't know, maybe I just never let myself think..."

He closes his eyes and sighs.

"I've got a cover for my mattress at home," he says, "so it's mostly just an annoyance by now, and...other people know, but not everyone, and I still...I'm still just too embarrassed to ever tell someone about it if I don't need to. I guess it was just bad luck today, but...still...I'm sorry."

"You don't have to be."

Pascal's arm curls around his wrist, then lets go.

"This was—this was kind of my worst fear about this, actually," Kip says with a scrap of a laugh. "I mean, that it would happen away from home, basically. And that someone else would be there to find out."

He rubs his forehead.

"I always managed to avoid it...or I guess more than anything I avoided it just by chance." He laughs. "I never even thought to worry about someone else being in the bed. God, when I woke up...I was so..."

He looks down at the edge of the table, getting a little shaky again solely from the memory of the stress.

Pascal puts his arm on the table, reaching to the halfway point between him and Kip.

"It was just such a bad surprise, it felt like panic for a second, and then just...kicking-yourself type of regret," he laughs, "and like, regret but in reverse... Like imagining what would happen next and hating it already. I don't know."

"I'm sorry," Pascal says softly.

"It wasn't you, I just...I felt so..." Kip slides a hand onto the table towards Pascal's arm, which he feels slip over his palm. He closes his fingers around it, squeezing a little. His voice feels unsteady in his throat and he takes a drink of tea instead.

"You don't have to talk about it," Pascal repeats. "If—if you're still upset about it... You don't have to tell me anything, I don't want you to have to push yourself if it's going to make you feel worse..."

"No, I—" Kip takes a deep breath and tries to keep himself even and composed. "I mean, I want to talk to you about all kinds of stuff, even when it's...not very fun," he laughs a little. "I'm kind of pretending to myself right now that it's not hard to talk about even though it is. I don't know. I just. It always feels like it's going to define me, or... I mean, when I was little it was just being afraid of being made fun of, and I guess it's still a bit of that, but it's just like...is everyone going to see me as weaker, or just an embarrassment or disappointment, or...pity me or think there's something wrong with me... I just know that it's something that's going to make people see me different, and it's not going to be a good difference."

Kip gives a shrug and stares down at his tea.

Pascal's arm winds further up Kip's, almost to his elbow.

"You're thinking about how I might see you differently?" Pascal asks. The arm coiled around Kip's tightens like a squeeze of the hand.

Kip lifts a corner of his mouth and a shoulder and nods slowly.

"Well...I can say I see you different, but not because I'm judging you as better or worse or something like that. I just...know more about you now. And I'm kind of glad to think that maybe I know more about what you might need. I want to make things easier for you when we're together."

Kip sniffs and touches his lip, rubbing it in a nervous habit.

"But I don't want to make things harder for you," Kip says. "I know I'm not very good at it, but...I'd like to make everything easier for you, too, not give you something else to worry about—"

Pascal gives a sharp exhale that's a partial laugh.

"I'm not worrying, Kip, it's caring. I care about you being okay, and feeling okay. It doesn't make me feel bad to think about you like that. Do you think that it does?"

It's a genuine question, and Kip looks up from his tea to his boyfriend. He sees the tired messiness in his face and hair and clothes and he puts his other hand on Pascal's arm, stroking it with his thumb. He waits for Pascal to answer his own question.

"Do I make you think that?" Pascal asks, and Kip sees his expression shift into concern.

"Oh, no, no you don't, it's not your fault, it's nothing you're doing wrong, I'm just—" Kip rubs his face and drops his head. "I've never been very good with...with, I don't know, feeling like I'm good enough at anything."

There's a long pause while he struggles with what he wants to say next. He stares at his legs and focuses on his breathing.

"I'm not good at thinking I'm good enough for anything," he says.

Kip crosses his ankles and can't bring himself to look at Pascal. It's not something he's ever had to say aloud before; the only people who know how much of an issue Kip's nervous insecurities and lack of confidence is for him is his family and a few close friends. They're good at encouraging him, making him feel like he'll be okay, like he's safe even if he thinks he'll fail at everything, even if he's too afraid to try.

"I don't know. It takes a long time for me to stop being afraid of...of things going wrong. It's just something that's always in the back of my head, like, just how my brain works, it's not anything you or anyone else does. It's not even anything I, like, choose to do, I just—I've always got this worst-case scenario and this criticism for myself going in the background. It does gets tuned out sometimes like white noise, but then other times it's—it's all I can focus on. And sometimes it just...keeps me from enjoying what's happening as much as I could be, like it's this tiny distraction or—like hearing one wrong note that throws off the whole rest of the music. Even when I already know I love the song. I don't know."

Pascal doesn't say anything. Kip threads his fingers through the handle of his teacup and grips it tightly.

"And I know that it sucks for everyone else, because it's like, I'm passing on all this nervousness...like you always have to be worrying about if I'm worrying about something. And—and I know it would help if I could just say things I'm thinking about like that, but—but I know half the time that it's not actually something I need to be worrying about, but I keep feeling it anyways even as I'm telling myself I really know for sure that I don't have to. And—and even when I do have something serious, I can't get it out of my head and say anything because it's like. I know all this like, excessive fear stuff is gross and shitty so I get afraid of letting people know about it, because it'll remind them of something bad about me, so I just..." He sighs. "It's hard to keep from getting trapped in a loop. And even when I try to bring something up...if I put it off, or even just hesitate, it gets even harder, and so then I hesitate again and it gets even harder than that and then it just gets impossible for me to ever say and it eats at me forever and I feel guilty because I just never say anything and it's all just a mess and I—I know it all just seems so stupid and pointless and I'm sorry but I—I've always been like this and—I'm sorry, I don't want you thinking it's your fault, Pascal, it's not—"

He lets go of his cup and rubs at his eyes; he isn't crying, but he's wavering right on the verge of it.

Without letting go of his arm, Pascal stands up and pulls his chair over next to Kip's, and sits down right beside him. He puts his arm around Kip's shoulders and holds him tightly.

"You know, I think about, um..." Pascal starts uncertainly. "I feel like sometimes there's some idea like, for someone to be perfect, or—a relationship to be perfect, it's supposed to take no effort at all. And I never really liked that, because it seems like it would just make everyone feel guilty. Like right now, like you have to think you've done anything wrong just because it was...inconvenient, I guess. And you have to worry about if I won't like you as much if I think you're going to take effort. And...I just don't think it's true."

Kip measures his breathing as he listens. He leans a little further into Pascal.

"I want to keep being able to be around you," Pascal continues. "And I want to be able to try and keep it that way. And however much effort that takes is okay. I wouldn't want to just...hope we keep close just by pure chance, y'know?"

He drops the arm from Kip's shoulders to around his waist and pulls him a little closer.

"I don't have any expectation that you should never need any time or attention," he says. "I don't expect that from anyone."

Kip leans his head on Pascal's shoulder and puts his knee against Pascal's.

"I won't ever love you less for needing anything, okay?" Pascal's voice drops to almost a whisper, and he turns his head toward Kip, brushing his nose against Kip's forehead.

Kip turns and lifts his hands to take the back of Pascal's head, threading his fingers into his hair, and guides him down the further inch or two necessary to kiss.

He feels Pascal's arm contract around him, pulling him in further, and he pushes their legs together to steady himself as he leans harder into the kiss.

He keeps his fingers interwoven in Pascal's hair as he pulls away, and the arm around his back lifts him slightly as Pascal drops his head to plant a kiss on his throat, a kiss on his collarbone.

Kip grins and sweeps his hands from Pascal's hair down along his jawline, then puts them on his shoulders and pulls himself up and gets his knees underneath himself on the chair. He lifts himself up enough to get his arms around Pascal's shoulders and hugs him tightly, shoving his face against the side of Pascal's.

"Kip—"

Pascal tugs Kip's back closer to himself, shifting even more of Kip's weight over Pascal's chair, so Kip just swings a leg over Pascal's lap and Pascal pulls him in and he's sitting on Pascal's legs, arms thrown around his neck, thighs holding his waist, chest pushed against Pascal's.

Kip puts his mouth against Pascal's cheek and slides one hand up to the other side of his head to hold him there. He's timing his exhales with Pascal's inhales, letting their torsos move together and share the same space without any competing pressure. He starts tracing his fingers in circles through Pascal's hairline, massaging him slowly, and drags kisses along the side of his face.

Pascal gives a long sigh and pulls Kip's body right up against his own, an arm across Kip's shoulderblades, the other around the small of his back. Kip brings his hand up to massage around Pascal's scalp the way he likes, and puts his other hand on the back of Pascal's neck, stroking it with his thumb. He scatters kisses all around the skin that's under his lips, rubs it with his nose, rises up to push his shoulder against Pascal's mouth when Pascal kisses it.

Kip directs Pascal's head towards the base of his neck, closes his eyes when Pascal kisses him there, lifts himself up on his knees to let Pascal kiss down his chest, everywhere the loose collar of his shirt doesn't cover. Pascal's arms are tight around his back, stretching around to his stomach and sides. He massages Pascal's head, kisses his hair, leans into his body—

"Oh," he says, blinking. "Uh, the laundry. You were—going to switch it to the dryer."

"Oh," Pascal says against his chest. "Right...I forgot..."

Kip breathes for a moment and sits back, dropping his hands to rest on Pascal's arms slung around his waist. Pascal is as gorgeous as Kip's ever seen him, face tinged red, eyes fixed on his, hair messed from Kip's attention. Just the sight of him draws Kip in to press a soft kiss to his lips.

"You're so good, Pascal," he murmurs, trailing his fingers down Pascal's arm. "You're so good." He kisses his cheek and stands up, pivoting back around to sit in his own chair. He touches his own mouth and both his lips and his fingers feel warm.

"Did the tea get cold?" he asks.

"It's still okay," Pascal answers after a pause.

"I love you," Kip says, "I really want you to know that. I think about it a lot, about how much I love you."

Pascal takes hold of Kip's wrist and leans in to touch his forehead to Kip's temple. When he straightens back up again he nudges his arm under Kip's chin, turning his face towards his own.

"Guess how I feel about you," Pascal laughs quietly, sporting a smile Kip is proud of.

"Hmm, I think you probably like me." Kip makes a show of wrinkling his nose in faux thought.

"C'mon..." Pascal nudges him with his knee.

"You love me," Kip says, unable to hold back his grin.

"You bet I do," Pascal laughs and steals a kiss.

They both drink the rest of their tea, and Kip can smell the peppermint on his own breath, in his own throat. Pascal touches him on the shoulder and side as he goes out the apartment door again.

Kip goes back to the mirror while Pascal's gone, looking at himself intently. His hair is drying a little flat under its own weight, so he scrubs it with his towel and shakes it out again, carelessly shoving it mostly back into place. He stares at himself, expression slightly defensive, as if he's face to face locking eyes with a stranger. He bites his lower lip, drags a fang along it, and traces one side of his nose. He watches how his features shift when he smiles. He feels the back of his ears, and traces the lines sweeping under his eyes.

He drags his hands flat down his chest and stomach, cups his waist and hips in his palms. He rubs his thighs and his back. He turns to the side and gathers up the loose fabric of the sweatpants and looks at the curve of his calves, his thighs, his ass. He puts a hand flat against his lower back, and slowly slides it down until his fingers breach the waistband of his pants. He keeps going lower until he can feel the yielding softness of his backside underneath his fingertips. His mind imagines the touch as Pascal's and he holds it for a moment and he watches his cheeks glow bright with a blush. He puts a hand up into his shirt and touches his bare chest as Pascal, strokes his own stomach as Pascal, looks at his reflection as Pascal.

He straightens his clothes and goes from the bedroom into the bathroom, wiping down the mirror and trying to decide if the lighting makes him look any different.

"I'm fine," he whispers to himself. He closes his eyes and remembers where Pascal kissed him, gently tracing the spots with his fingers. He presses the back of his hand lightly to his lips, replaying their kisses in his mind.

He starts thinking just of Pascal's face.

When he settles at the table again, he leans forward and rests his head in his hands. Everything is still and quiet. He can feel in the background of his mind a kind of static that reminds him they're in a pause between sleeping—a long pause, but all the same.

Pascal opens the door quietly.

"You okay?"

Kip nods and sits up with a stretch of his back.

"Do you wanna go back to sleep? I have a spare set of sheets I can put on the bed if you want," Pascal says.

"It's okay, I'm fine for now," Kip reassures him, standing up again as evidence. He picks up their cups and saucers. "Want me to wash these?"

"I can get them—"

"It's alright, I don't mind doing dishes," Kip says. "It's always a good way to warm up my hands, too."

He carries them to the sink, taking a dishrag that hangs on the back of the faucet. He looks at a small stack of dishes on the counter and begins filling the sink with warm water, adding some soap from a bottle sitting against the wall. He trails his fingers through the water, mixing it together.

"Are you always cold?" Pascal asks softly. Kip glances back to see him sitting backwards in a chair at the table, looking at him.

"Not always," he answers, feeling the heat of the water spreading from his hands up his arms. "And sometimes it's worse or better than usual, but, most of the time I feel kind of cold, or almost cold."

"Are you cold right now?" The worry in his voice is clear. "I should have thought to ask before... I have warmer shirts..."

"No, it's okay, it's been better tonight. My hands are usually the worst—they get cold first and get the coldest."

He turns off the water and starts washing a cup.

"The only thing is that...at least it only seems to come from outside me. Like, I make things around me cold, the air that's around me, things I touch..." He rubs at a tiny stain at the teacup's base. "It's better than if the coldness started from the inside and I was making my own body cold. I mean, I feel all of the cold I'm creating, but it's not as bad as it could be..."

He sighs.

"I can't really tell yet what makes it come on. It's kind of constant, but it seems to get worse if I'm stressed about something, no matter if it's good or bad. But sometimes even trying to be really calm and in control of myself doesn't slow it down. And other times it almost goes away, and if it's really hot out and it's barely there I can even start sweating like everyone else," he says with a laugh. "But what's confusing is it doesn't always matter whether I'm paying attention or not, like... I don't know. I just don't think I know how it works yet. I haven't figured out how to control it."

He rinses the cup off with hot water.

"Honestly, I'm not even sure if I can control it."

"Nobody else in your family has it?" Pascal's voice is quieter than Kip's.

"No. They don't know any more than I do." Kip shifts his weight onto one foot, hooking the other behind his ankle. "If I could control it...it really wouldn't even be that helpful, maybe in little ways, but...basically, if I could control it, I would just...make it go away."

A towel hangs on the handle on Pascal's oven door; Kip lays it out on the counter next to the sink and sets the wet dishes on it and puts the cup he'd used into the water. He washes it in silence, then the saucer, then the spoon. He sweeps his hair out of his eyes and gets a drop of water on the lens of his glasses.

"I've had cold days a lot this year," he says, quieter. "It's been...it's been worse than it used to be. It seems like I can only stay warm enough naturally maybe a couple days a week now."

He hears Pascal draw a deep breath.

"Is—is something wrong?" Pascal asks. "Do you know why it's like that?"

Kip's laugh comes out mostly like a sigh. He stares at the faucet while he rubs circles into the same spot on a plate.

"...Kip?"

"No, it's...it's just..." Kip leans his forearms on the edge of the sink. "I don't really know, but..." He looks up at the wall. "I'm worried about my brother a lot."

He sets the plate on the towel and grips the washcloth with both hands.

"I—I don't know, I... Sometimes I get cold so fast I can just feel the temperature drop all at once right around me, and...and that happens a lot when I—" He winds the cloth between his fingers and twists it. "When I get worried about Kent. Some days I can just tell, at the end of the day I just—" He gives a heavy sigh. "I can tell things are hard and I can't help worrying too, and worrying about him, and about all of us, and—and I know I can't do anything about it, but...when I know things are bad...sometimes I get so cold I have to take a bath as hot as it can get just to stop shaking."

He starts washing another plate.

"It's so frustrating," he says. "They always take such good care of me, and I can't do anything to take care of them. And I hate feeling so helpless in all of this but I know there's nothing I can do. I can't do anything for anybody. I'm not like them, I can't—" He cuts off and bites down on his lip, scrubbing at a plate he knows is perfectly clean. "Somehow I've always worried about them, even though they're older, I've always—always had this stupid fear that someday they'll need my help, and I—I wouldn't know how to help them, I wouldn't be able to. When I was little I used to hope I'd grow up to be like them, but...that never happened and...I hate knowing that I can't do anything, and I just have to hope that they never need me like I've needed them over and over and over because I know I would just let them down—"

He stops talking and squeezes his eyes shut to force back tears. One manages to spill down his cheek, trailing unsteadily towards his jaw.

"Ugh, I'm sorry," he says softly, resuming his work on the dishes. "I just went from complaining about everything to like throwing all this stuff at you suddenly...I've already dumped so much on you tonight..."

"No—no, it's okay, I want to listen whenever you need me to, I'm good at it," Pascal says. "I just—I wasn't really expecting..."

Kip dries a bowl and gives a quick wipe at his face.

"...I didn't think you'd trust me with that," Pascal finishes.

Kip turns to look at him with a questioning twitch of an eye.

Pascal blushes, leaning against the back of the chair and wrapping his arms around it.

"I mean, that just all sounded really kind of personal and heavy and I didn't expect that you'd already feel okay telling me something like that," Pascal says. "Like, it felt like being told a secret. And it's okay, I'm not trying to say it was weird to do or anything like that, it's more like, I'm kind of...proud to be able to listen to that kind of thing for you if you're comfortable telling me, if you want to..." He trails off and looks at Kip.

"I do trust you with that," Kip says softly. "I mean, I already know you won't tell anyone else stuff about me, but...it's not even about that. I...I want you to know about it—about what I was telling you. And I guess it's part about just being listened to, also. I..." He looks back at the sink. "I really haven't ever told anybody else about it before. Not really."

He puts the last of the dishes in the water.

"I guess it felt like telling a secret for me, too."

He hears Pascal get up from the chair and walk towards him. He keeps washing off the dishes, and Pascal comes up beside him and starts drying the dishes Kip cleaned. Kip breathes and washes the last few utensils and listens to Pascal going through the kitchen around him, putting everything back into cupboards and drawers.

"Um...is it hard to hear people talking about their family?" Kip asks. "I didn't plan to start talking about mine, but..."

Pascal's arm goes around his waist and Pascal kisses the side of his head.

"Don't worry, it was fine," Pascal murmurs into his hair.

"Is it always, though?" Kip's voice is hardly above a whisper. "I—I don't want to pry, but...I want to keep it in mind if it feels bad for you sometimes...I know sometimes it can just be weird for me if anyone's talking about their parents, even though..." He trails off and puts his hand on Pascal's arm. "If it's not a subject you're always comfortable with, I'll pay attention about bringing it up, okay?"

Pascal's arm curls tighter around him.

"Okay," he answers, rubbing Kip's shoulder with his other arm. "It really is something I'm pretty much fine about, though... I worked a lot about it out a while ago, so it never really upsets me or anything like that. I'm comfortable about where I'm at now with the whole situation."

Kip leans into Pascal and looks up at him.

"I'll tell you about it too, if you want," Pascal says, giving Kip half a smile. "Probably not tonight, because telling the whole story takes ages, but...I think I'd like you to know, too."

Kip laughs and nudges Pascal with his forehead, face warming with a blush.

"You're sweet."

"Huh?"

"You're sweet," Pascal repeats.

"...I'm...I'm not really, I'm kind of..." Kip fumbles with both his words and with the stopper in the sink's drain as he pulls it out. "I'm really thoughtless sometimes, and—and I always manage to come off all wrong—"

Pascal leans in over him and holds him close with an arm around his back as he presses a kiss to Kip's mouth. On instinct, Kip grabs the front of Pascal's shirt and remembers a moment too late that his hands are still soaked in water and soap.

"Ah, I," he says into the kiss, "M'wet, sorr—"

Pascal smothers his words with another kiss. Kip splays his hands out on Pascal's stomach and kisses back.

A minute later they part and Kip straightens his glasses and blushes at the wrinkles and handprints he's left in Pascal's shirt. Pascal puts the rest of the dishes away and passes the towel to Kip to dry his hands with.

"The sheets should be done," Pascal tells him. "I can go get them and make the bed for us again?"

"Okay," Kip says. "I love you, Pascal."

Pascal looks at him and smiles.

"I love you too," he says, and Kip watches him keep smiling to himself all the way out the door.

When Pascal returns with the sheets and their clothes gathered up in his arms, he holds them out to Kip.

"Sit with these for a minute," he says, "they're still really warm."

Kip sits down on the couch, cradling the weight and heat of the bundle in his lap, hands buried in the core. Pascal sits down right next to him and Kip feels the curvature of his boyfriend's dent in the cushions pulling him in as though he's gravitating to Pascal. He leans slightly into Pascal's side and rubs his leg with his own.

Kip closes his eyes. They sit against each other, still and silent, for several minutes.

"Okay," Kip says quietly. "They're mostly cooled off now."

Pascal turns towards him as he sits upright and kisses Kip's cheek, and suddenly Kip feels Pascal's arms push underneath his knees and behind his back and he gasps as he's lifted up off the couch.

"Pascal! I—" he yelps, clutching the laundry with one hand and Pascal's shoulder with the other. "Oh my god—"

"I got you, I got you," Pascal reassures him, and Kip's heart slows as it's confirmed that Pascal does in fact have a secure hold on him. He gives a shaky sigh to release some tension, curling in towards Pascal's chest to help him balance.

"Did I surprise you too much?" Pascal asks, readjusting his grips to lift Kip a bit higher. Kip gives a breathless laugh.

"Only a little," he says. "God, you're strong..."

Pascal's laugh is warm and Kip lets himself fully relax, feeling Pascal's movements as he walks them into the bedroom.

"Here you go," Pascal murmurs as he carefully lowers Kip onto the edge of the mattress. "Do you want me to just start carrying you around like that all the time, so you never have to walk anywhere again?"

Kip laughs and hides his face by sorting through the laundry in his arms, separating their clothes from the bedsheets while he waits for both his heartbeat and flustered nerves to settle.

Pascal moves the pillows aside and Kip hands him a corner of the mattress cover. They pull it over the bed together and tuck it into place, then repeat the process with the bedsheet and the heavy blanket Pascal had put on the bed mostly for Kip's sake.

"Thanks," Pascal says as he puts the pillows back into place at the head of the bed.

"Uh-huh," Kip says, sliding his palms along the sheets to smooth them out and tugging the edges into alignment.

"I'll be right back; I'm going to turn off the other lights, okay?"

Kip nods and takes his glasses off again, setting them on Pascal's dresser before perching on the edge of the bed. He sees the light outside the bedroom door get incrementally dimmer, until there's only the warm glow of the bedside lamp.

Pascal appears in the doorway and smiles at Kip, who smiles back at him. Pascal moves over to the bed, lifts the covers, and sits on the side and leans back as he gets his legs underneath them. Pascal closes his eyes and gives a sigh as he settles against his pillow.

After a moment, Pascal reaches an arm out to turn off the lamp, but looks over at Kip, and pauses. Kip looks back at Pascal and gets his legs up on the bed, brushing his hair to the side out of habit.

For a second Kip thinks Pascal is going to say something to him, but instead Pascal turns his head just a degree more towards him and inhales deeply and Kip can see all of Pascal's attention and focus shifting entirely to him.

Kip moves slowly across the bed towards Pascal, only letting go of his gaze when he's leaning over him and glancing down at his mouth instead.

Kip lifts the blankets away and lies down on top of Pascal and pushes their lips together. Pascal sweeps his arms around Kip's back as they kiss, and within the minute Kip's tongue is in Pascal's mouth. Pascal sucks on it again and this time instead of stopping him Kip puts his hands to Pascal's jaw and lets his legs fall to the outsides of Pascal's.

Kip can feel the heat spreading from his face down to his shoulders and his heartbeat is starting to thump up his throat and down between his legs. Every point of contact between them and the pressure of his weight pushing him close to Pascal is so acutely sensed in his mind, despite the fact that he's also fully engrossed in their kisses. It seems so intimate; he feels as conscious of every part of his body as he could possible be, but through some miracle is completely comfortable with it—more than comfortable. He feels proud of it, glad of it, wants to feel himself even more by having Pascal feel him too.

Pascal is stroking Kip's tongue with his and slowly rubbing an arm between Kip's shoulderblades when Kip brings his hands down to Pascal's shoulders and pulls himself slightly up along Pascal's torso. Their bodies drag and push together and Pascal makes a low, quiet sound in his chest that goes into Kip's mouth and straight to his cock.

Their kissing falls into a even rhythm, but when Pascal's arms drift further down his back, Kip pushes his face against Pascal's neck, panting to catch his breath. Pascal rubs circles into the small of his back along his spine, and pulls up the hem of Kip's shirt until he's massaging Kip's bare skin. Kip gasps and takes Pascal's throat between his teeth, biting gently while his whole body twitches with each touch.

"Is this okay?" Pascal asks in a low voice, pushing Kip's shirt further up, exposing the base of his ribcage.

"Yes," Kip says against his skin, and starts sliding his hands along the perimeter of Pascal's chest underneath his own. Pascal is warm and broad and so nice to touch and Kip lets himself put his hands on everything that he's had pressed against himself so many times but never been able to feel with the sensitivity of his palms and fingertips. His head is spinning with the growing awareness that this is real, this is real, this is real, and he kisses and bites at Pascal's neck and rubs his palms over Pascal's chest, drawing a ragged breath and kissing Pascal's jawline when he feels his nipples under his shirt. He strokes them with his thumbs and Pascal's arm locks on to his back, giving Kip the sensation of being simultaneously pushed and pulled by the arm wrapped around him.

"Pasc," he breathes, lifting his head to bring their mouths together again. He can't take his hands off Pascal's body, enamored with the sensation. He tugs his knees up suddenly, nudging them against Pascal's waist as he does so, and curves his back away from Pascal just enough to start pulling up Pascal's shirt without pulling apart their mouths.

"My arm's stuck," Pascal murmurs when Kip has his shirt up around his armpits.

"I wanna feel you, Pascal," Kip answers, unable to stop pressing kiss after kiss to his mouth.

"Here—" Pascal says into a kiss, rolling his arm until his suckers release their grip on Kip's skin with a sudden tug. Kip flinches and gives a sharp gasp.

"Did that hurt?" Pascal asks quickly.

"No, it's okay—you just...surprised me again," Kip says, tugging on his shirt. Pascal sits half upright against the headboard and lifts his arms so Kip can slide his tanktop up off of him entirely. Kip sits back and looks down at Pascal's body, taking in the movement of his breathing, his gentle lines and slopes and angles, the hair spread across his chest and spilling down across his navel and under the waistband of his pants.

He doesn't move or speak for a moment, just looking Pascal over, and then looks up to meet Pascal's eyes. His boyfriend is blushing deep, head tilted slightly down, breathing hard.

"You're gorgeous," Kip says, voice sounding quiet to his own ears. Without waiting for a response, he keeps his eyes locked on Pascal's as he takes the loose shirt on his own body and pulls it off. Pascal blushes even more and looks down at him in turn. Kip watches Pascal's eyes move back and forth all over his body, lingering everywhere, soft amazement showing in his face. Kip's legs and arms start shivering in periodic spasms.

Pascal leans towards him and Kip slides his hands into his hair and pulls him against his body, rising up some on his knees to cradle Pascal's head against his chest.

He gives quiet hums as Pascal starts kissing his skin, lifting his eyes to the ceiling and trying not to shake all over with the overwhelming thrill that this is all actually happening. Pascal's arms snake around his back again and hold him tight; Kip starts to drag his fingertips along Pascal's head again, scratching lightly.

Pascal's mouth slides along his chest, placing slow kisses there. Kip closes his eyes and soaks it all in—Pascal's arms around him, holding their bodies so close together, hearing their breathing filling the room, feeling Pascal's mouth on his body.

He's getting noticeably hard. He rolls his hips back slightly, and in doing so pushes his ass up towards Pascal's arms. Pascal responds by sliding an arm an inch further down, just low enough to nudge the edge of Kip's waistband.

Kip gives a long exhale and winds the fingers of one hand through Pascal's hair and reaches behind himself with the other, placing it on Pascal's arm and pushing it downwards.

"Kip," Pascal mumbles against his neck, kissing up the front as Kip lifts his head until Pascal is kissing the underside of his jaw. Kip pushes his arm down again, and Pascal slides it into his pants and over the curve of his ass.

Kip gasps and jerks forward, hugging Pascal's body to his own and shoving his ass back against Pascal's touch. He can feel his own softness giving way to the pressure of Pascal's hold on him, and when Pascal buries his face in Kip's shoulder and unmistakably tightens his grip, Kip squeezes his legs against Pascal's and digs his fingers into Pascal's shoulderblades.

"Touch me," he encourages with a toothy kiss to the throat. "Keep going."

Pascal's arm is suddenly under Kip's chin, pulling his head up until their mouths connect and Pascal is kissing him head-spinningly hard and deep. Kip goes a little limp against him, pushing back into the kisses and meeting Pascal's tongue with his. And then Pascal puts both arms down the back of his pants and is gripping and stroking all over his ass and thighs with a bold enthusiasm that's pushing Kip's arousal to a point from which he can't easily bring himself down.

They extract themselves from a kiss to catch their breath for a moment. Kip feels Pascal's back moving under his hands as Pascal gives little bites and tugs at his lip. A tiny cry bleeds into one of Kip's exhales. As if in response, one of Pascal's arms that was cupped around him slides right down the center of his ass. An outright moan bursts from Kip's throat and he rocks back against the arm, rubbing himself against it, and Pascal obligingly strokes at him with rippling contractions and elongations of his arm.

Kip lets out a long groan and buries his face in the crook of Pascal's neck as he continues grinding back, until the touch slows and instead becomes firmer against him. Kip stills himself, body tensed with the immobilizing level of stimulation, and shudders all over when the tip of Pascal's arm gently rubs where he's most sensitive, dragging slowly against him. Kip feels himself clenching in twitches under the contact, a rush going to his cock each time. A few times he almost thinks Pascal's going to push into him—he's never tried fingering himself before, but the way this is making him feel is overwhelming evidence that he wants it, badly.

"This feels good?" Pascal almost whispers to him eventually.

"Y-yes..."

Kip untucks his head from against Pascal's neck and drops it down as he arches his spine. He starts kissing Pascal's chest, the hair there soft on his face. On impulse he drags his mouth to a nipple, kissing and licking at it. Pascal gives a shaky sigh of an exhale and so Kip continues until he makes Pascal groan, low and subdued. Kip grinds forward into nothing but the loose pants on his body. He's already fully erect and Pascal keeps turning him on even more.

On another impulse, he takes hold of the arm Pascal had been petting his back with and guides it around between them, brings it up to his face and kisses it, and slides the end into his mouth.

He hears Pascal's gasp as well as feels it in the movement of Pascal's torso underneath him. He rubs his tongue against the underside of Pascal's arm, and Pascal's free arm slides up to grab tightly on to his back. He leans further upright so he can look at Pascal's face, and is rewarded with the sight of Pascal flushed red, eyes squeezed shut, breathing hard.

Kip pulls the arm slightly further into his mouth and continues massaging it with his tongue, feeling the soft bumps of his suckers and watching Pascal bite at his own lip. He starts gently stroking the arm with one hand and puts the other back on Pascal's chest, touching the nipple he'd worked at with his mouth, rubbing his palm in circles over it. He feels along Pascal's arm, taking in the shape and smoothness and texture and the satisfying geometry of his rows of suckers. Pascal's head sinks back against the pillow and he moans Kip's name.

The arm twitches in his mouth and slides in slightly and Kip thrills at the sensation so similar to a tongue against his own. Kip sucks on the arm and Pascal's breath catches in a whimper, chest pushing into Kip's hand with a few sharp inhales. Kip closes his eyes and gives a harder suck, and he feels Pascal's free arm slide down his ass again until it pauses and the very end is pushed just inside him.

Kip gives a loud moan, stifled around his mouthful of Pascal's arm; he thrusts backwards and his legs tremble. He looks down to see Pascal looking back up at him, panting and biting at his lip. Kip holds his gaze as Pascal slips a little further into him and starts easing the tip of his arm around in the smallest circles. Kip's moan seems to happen without any input from him. He sees Pascal almost wince at the sound of it and he gives one more hard suck at his arm before sliding it out of his mouth so he can try catching his breath.

Pascal gasps and pushes harder into him, giving a low whine.

Without hesitation Kip is stroking and caressing every inch of the arm he can get his hands on, placing soothing kisses all over the very end and down along the underside and over its suckers.

"Was that too much—too much on your arm?" Kip asks between a few kisses.

"It's a lot," Pascal breathes heavily. "It was—really good but I just...feel a lot with them...they're really—they're—"

"Sensitive?" Kip tries, running his hands down the length of the arm, dragging his fingertips lightly along it. Pascal's whole body shifts underneath him and the arm pushed into him shoves in hard enough that Kip feels himself straining to fit it. He gasps and presses his face down against Pascal's shoulder, knees on either side of Pascal's waist, lifting his ass higher.

"Pascal," he groans, still rubbing his hand up and down Pascal's arm and petting his warm chest. "God, I—I've thought about this before, I—"

Pascal's arm slips partly out and then twists a bit as it pushes back in. Kip feels a little more relaxed into it than before.

"I've...thought about fucking you," Kip murmurs, tilting his face towards Pascal's. "I've thought about you fucking me."

"God, Kip—" Pascal lifts the arm Kip is touching and runs it through Kip's hair. "I love you—"

Kip pulls himself forward enough to press a messy kiss to Pascal's lips. Pascal kisses back and eases his arm back and forth inside Kip with a slow rhythm, each time pushing in just far enough to near the limit of how much he can fit into Kip. The feeling going through Kip's body is so intense as to seem like electric jolts. His cock is aching to be touched, twitching at the movement inside him, beating as hard as his heart.

"Push harder," Kip gasps against Pascal's mouth. Pascal immediately complies, enough so that Kip is shoved out of the kiss and gives a sharp cry.

"Are you—"

"It's good, it's good, keep going," Kip moans, grinding back against Pascal to mirror the movement of his arm, pushing it deeper inside himself. He likes feeling stretched, he likes feeling full with Pascal, he likes feeling Pascal dragging back and forth inside him—

Kip opens his eyes to see Pascal watching his face so intently that Kip gives off a pulse of cool air. He leans in to kiss Pascal, then leans his whole body in until he's lying flat against Pascal again, letting his knees slide to the outside of Pascal's. He bites and sucks at Pascal's lip and feels his cock pressed between their stomachs and, with a shivering thrill, feels Pascal hard against his thigh. Pascal lightly rocks up against Kip, moving Kip's body with his and grinding them both against each other.

Kip groans into Pascal's mouth. The incredible pleasure and relief of finally applying some friction and pressure to his cock leaves him unable to slow down as he grinds desperately against Pascal. He pushes his thigh down against Pascal's erection, feeling himself rubbing against it as he rocks his hips, and he grips on to Pascal's shoulders and grinds so hard he can feel himself pushing Pascal into the mattress.

Pascal puts his tongue into Kip's mouth and thins out the arm inside Kip so that more of it can slide into him—then slightly contracts the arm and simultaneously pushes it in. Kip suddenly feels stretched and filled and gives a rough gasp and Pascal's other arm wraps tight around his lower back, pinning their bodies together. Kip's grinding and moaning is all but involuntary as he collapses against Pascal's body, pushing his face against Pascal's shoulder and biting his skin and squeezing his eyes closed.

"Pascal," he groans, strained, wanting to say his name, "Pascal, oh god—Pascal, Pascal—"

Pascal gives a moan that catches in his throat and Kip immediately covers Pascal's mouth with his own, rubbing his hands all over every inch of Pascal's body he can manage to touch. He kisses him hard, then slows the kiss until it's as careful and lingering as the kisses they'd lulled each other to sleep with the evening before. With as much effort as he can muster, he slows his own movements too until he's giving light rocks of the hips, nudging his cock against both bodies it's pressed between. He brings his hands up to either side of Pascal's face, holding it against his own as he moves his mouth over Pascal's, feeling inside with his tongue. Pascal moans into his mouth and Kip clenches around his arm.

Kip leans in and rests his full weight on Pascal and reaches down along his own hips, taking hold of the sweatpants that had already been worked partway down his thighs by their grinding. He pulls them further down his legs until he can just kick the loose pants off entirely, leaving him naked in Pascal's arms. He gets his hands on of the waistband of Pascal's pants and tugs lightly as Pascal's tongue rubs his fang.

He pulls the pants down an inch, waits for a response—Pascal gives a few rapid thrusts of his arm into Kip, shoving Kip's cock against Pascal's stomach, and Kip gives a low moan and jerks Pascal's pants down.

Pascal lifts his hips to help him and Kip shoves Pascal's pants off further, giving a low groan as he feels Pascal's bared cock pressing up hard and hot against the underside of his thigh. He wants so badly to touch it, to see it and take it and work at it and watch Pascal's face as he makes him cum. Pascal's detaches his arm from around Kip's back to push his pants further down until he can get them fully off with his feet, giving a soft laugh at the inconvenience and prompting a breathless laugh from Kip in turn. They kiss and touch as much as they can while they resettle against each other, Kip perching on Pascal's hips, Pascal wrapping his arm around Kip's back.

Kip pulls away from a kiss, pushes his torso up, and waits for Pascal to meet his gaze.

"You look amazing," he murmurs to Pascal, brushing some hair out of his boyfriend's face. "You're always so beautiful but you look incredible and...and you're so fucking hot, oh my god," he breathes. "I feel so unbelievably lucky right now, I swear, in bed with you and—and getting to see and touch you like this, I just... You're so much, Pasc."

"Heh—I can't even tell you what it's like to look at you right now," Pascal says with a rising blush. "It's...like I want to be able to take you in better than my eyes can actually work. I could never even imagine it this good..."

"Have you imagined it before?" Kip asks, face growing warm. Pascal blinks and gives a flickering smile as he blushes deeper.

"Y-yeah, I have," he admits, glancing away.

Kip immediately finds it both flattering and arousing and he smiles at Pascal's apparent bashfulness, nudging his cock against Pascal to refocus his boyfriend's attention.

"I have, too," Kip says. "You've made me cum a lot of times already," he says with a light laugh. He feels Pascal's deep intake of breath move through the body underneath him, and Pascal is looking up at him, rapt.

"I've, um...I've thought of a lot of things," he continues, staring down at Pascal's chest. "I've thought about...seeing you. Just us seeing each other without any clothes or anything. Like...I wanna look at you. Your whole body."

Pascal's leg twitches against his.

"I—I've imagined you fucking me," Kip says, trailing his fingers through the hair on Pascal's chest. "...Me lying on my back in my bed, with you on top of me, and...and you're leaning your weight on me and pushing me down into the bed while you're fucking me and... And the same thing, but I'm facedown, and you're kneeling behind me holding me by the hips and fucking into me, fucking me into the mattress—" He sucks in air. "Or we're lying beside each other and you're just behind me holding me until I start grinding back on you and you start grinding against me too and sometimes just that until we cum and sometimes you end up inside me and you jerk me off at the same time..." Kip bites his lip. "And I've thought of us lying down facing each other, and we just grind into each other, and sometimes I think of rolling you over on your back and I'm the one fucking you...or I get on top of you and ride you and fuck myself on you... Or we're not even in bed, and I get you on your back on a table and I fuck you like that while your legs are around me a-and... Or we fuck standing up, or I—or I'm standing up, and you just come up behind me and pull me against your body and you're grinding against me and—and you just grind on my ass until you cum, and I jerk myself off while you do it..." He starts rocking his hips lightly against Pascal again to alleviate the arousal that's tense and hot inside him. "Or you—or you pick me up and fuck me against a wall, or I'm standing up and I'm pushed up between you and the wall while you're fucking me. Or I'm the one lying down on a table, or I'm bent over a counter holding on while you fuck me hard from behind—" He grinds against Pascal. "Or we just fuck on the floor—like I get you on your back on the floor and just get on top of you and make you cum and watch your face. And sometimes it's—it's closing my eyes and imagining you just walk up and reach in front of me and undo my pants and you get me off... I jerk myself off and I imagine you're the one doing it, or I imagine you're watching me do it and you know I'm imagining you and you touch yourself too... Or you're lying down and I just...I just jerk you off, or I just walk up to you and put my hand on you on your pants and touch you through them and feel you get hard as I turn you on, or I—or I blow you and I get to taste your cock and your cum or y-you...cum on my face or—or I get your dick in my mouth and I suck you and let you just—fuck my mouth and I'm touching myself and you cum i-in my throat and I'm about to cum but I haven't yet and you lift me up and suck me off too and I'm so close I just cum in your mouth and you keep sucking me a-and—I—" Kip's breath comes out as a moan. "I think of y-you kissing my neck, you...kissing my chest, getting me hard and kissing my pants over...my cock a-and—and I think of sitting on the bed and you pull me into your lap so I can lean against you while..." He draws a slow inhale. "While you reach into the front of my pants and I undo them for you and you...get me hard and I feel you getting hard too and I grind down against you and—lean back against you and you pull me against you too and your cock is up against my ass and I—just imagine feeling so much of you while you jerk me off and I—I think of—of my throat full of cock and cum in my mouth and—" He groans and bucks hard against Pascal's stomach. "Pushing you down and grinding on you and hearing you and—tasting you and I just wanted...I—I just always think of seeing you and touching you a-and getting to fuck you and making you cum and—when I get close I think about you feeling like that too and you making me feel that way and I just always—think of us making each other cum and—a-and—ah—"

Somehow his hand has made its way to his own stomach, drifting down towards the aching erection he's rubbing steadily against Pascal, while his other hand is against his own thigh, overtop where he feels Pascal's cock pinned between their bodies. His head is tilting back, his heart is pounding in his throat, his lips part.

He startles back to the present and feels the temperature around him plunge with a surge of embarrassment as he realizes he just managed to start fantasizing about Pascal fucking him while actually being fucked by Pascal. He stills for a moment, collecting himself, then looks down at Pascal.

Pascal is flushed deeply red and gazing up at him, awestruck. Kip shivers under the intensity of it.

"Oh my god...I-I've never said anything like that out loud before?" Kip's voice is shaky. "Like—like—talking about what I think about when—when I masturbate? Oh my god...I didn't even know I could..."

Pascal is still staring right into his eyes with such an arresting, almost venerating look that Kip feels the warmth of his own blush more than he feels the lingering chill from his surprise.

"I—I think a lot about you thinking of me too," Kip murmurs, rocking back into the pressure of Pascal's arm, eyes locked with his boyfriend's. "When I get off to you, y'know...sometimes I think of you doing the same thing. And sometimes I think about just getting to watch you while you think of me...and about you watching while I get an orgasm just from thinking about you. And us just...watching each other at the same time, together."

Pascal chokes out a soft, stuttering whimper and rocks his hips, grinding his cock between them, hard up against Kip's leg. Kip sighs out a moan and leans in enough to put his hands on Pascal's chest.

"I've never said stuff like this," Kip repeats. "I...I like it."

Pascal gives a low whine, closing his eyes and pushing his head further back into the pillow. He starts an undulating massage with the arm pushed up inside Kip, and Kip arches with a sharp, open-mouthed moan, moving along with it.

"Aa-aah—I—I want you to actually watch me sometime," he gets out, gripping Pascal's chest and stroking his thumbs across his nipples. "Sometime I want you just...to watch me jerk off to you. I—I want to show you. I want you to watch a-and...I want to know that you're watching and just feel that, and—and—"

"Fuck," Pascal groans. "Kip—oh my god..."

Kip looks down at his cock, contrasted by the patch of dark hair below Pascal's navel that makes the electric blue of his erection stand out even more. His cock is full and leaking, pounding along with his heart, and Kip wants to take hold of it and crescendo the brimming tension inside himself to a climax.

He glances at Pascal's face and pushes himself down along Pascal's legs, just far enough to move off of Pascal's cock and immediately wrap a hand around its base as he does so.

"Kip—" His name comes from Pascal as a breathless whisper. Kip can't help but sit back so he can get his other hand on his own erection, rubbing it with his palm.

He stares at Pascal's cock as he drags his fingers lightly along it, savoring the feeling of it, the texture and heat. The sight is a thousand times more gratifying than his most intent imaginings of it. It's stiff and hot and thick, reddened from the tip down, pulsing against Kip's hand. The size fits Pascal well enough to be almost intimidating, yet deeply appealing—Kip can only imagine it being pushed inside him, or pumped into his throat.

He watches himself start rubbing his hand up and down its full length, trying to commit every detail to memory. He lingers his touch at the tip a few times, squeezing and stroking with his fingers, teasing the head. He rapidly pumps the entire length in his hand and Pascal responds with a moan that makes Kip clench around his arm. Kip looks up to see Pascal's face half-covered with an arm thrown across his eyes, teeth working at his bottom lip.

And then the arm rubbing inside Kip is thrusting deeper into him, catching Kip off guard.

"Oh—Pascal—"

The thrusts speed up and Kip is pushed forward off balance, taking his hand off his own cock to brace himself against Pascal's chest. Pascal turns his head and uncovers his eyes, looking right at Kip. Kip's breath catches and he pumps harder at Pascal's erection.

Pascal gets his arm around Kip's shoulders and pulls him in closer and kisses him. Kip pushes his ass up to give himself more room to keep working at Pascal's cock as he returns the kiss fiercely. Pascal starts rocking up hard into Kip's hand and Kip feels Pascal's back rising upwards.

"I'll make you cum," he promises. Pascal's moan is tremulous and light and he starts giving sharp, high gasps.

Kip pushes himself up enough to stare at Pascal's face. He grinds against Pascal's thigh and pumps hard at his cock and tightens himself around the arm still pushed deep inside him. He watches Pascal's arousal broadcasting through his expression and twitches of the arm around Kip's shoulders; his breathing is hard and steady and hisses through his teeth and it all gets to Kip, pushing himself against Pascal with a few indulgent grinds before refocusing on the pressure and rhythm he's giving to his boyfriend's cock.

"Pasc," he says to him, biting at his collarbone and stroking his chest with his thumb. "Pascal—I know you're close, it's okay."

Pascal whimpers and his back arches further as he grinds up into Kip's hand. Kip leans against him, sliding his hand up to cup Pascal's face as he rests his head against Pascal's shoulder.

"Ah—aah—Kip—"

Kip is getting lost in the noises Pascal is making. He closes his eyes and brings his hand to the tip of Pascal's cock, feeling it hot and slick against his fingers. He rubs it with his thumb, smearing its own wetness all around the head. Pascal whines and bucks his hips and Kip kisses his throat, softening his own grinding to let Pascal move more freely.

"Shh..." he hushes his boyfriend gently. He strokes around the head a few more times, palms the length of the shaft, then pumps at it again. "I got you," he whispers with a kiss to his jaw. Pascal's arm squeezes tighter around his shoulders.

"K-Kip—" Pascal's whole body seems to draw in closer around Kip—his back raises, his arms push against Kip, his legs clamp around Kip's sides. He's thrusting into Kip's hand and Kip squeezes and pumps and lets his body be moved by Pascal's.

He feels the movement of Pascal's hips falling completely into sync with his hand, rising right when his hand slides down to meet them, slowing and speeding as he does, responding perfectly to him. Pascal's voice seems just as linked to Kip's touch, vibrating in Kip's ears, lovely and low as it spills from Pascal's mouth into Kip's like honey. Kip drinks in the sounds and pumps harder for Pascal's thrusting and his own cock is pressed tight between their bodies, beating harder than he can ever remember, as he floods and surges with more arousal and sheer desire than he's ever experienced.

"Here, Pascal—" he murmurs over Pascal's forceful, fast breathing. "Sweetness, cum for me—"

He feels as everything contracts. He shoves his kiss against the corner of Pascal's mouth and rides it out as Pascal chokes out a groan of Kip's name, holds their bodies together breathlessly tight, and thrusts hard into Kip's touch as he orgasms.

Pascal is panting for air as he quiets and stills, relaxing into the mattress. Kip loosens his grip on Pascal's cock and lifts his head to drop kisses all over Pascal's face.

"Pascal," he says, cupping his face in his hand. He kisses Pascal's cheek. "God, Pascal, I—I... You're so—" He kisses his nose and forehead. "Pascal... I..." He kisses his jaw.

Pascal draws a deep breath and opens his eyes and Kip smiles at him, brushing some hair aside.

"Pascal—"

Pascal pulls Kip in and Kip falls into a kiss. It's sweet and deep and Kip hums in his throat. Pascal is rubbing his back and Kip holds on to Pascal's sides, feeling his own body being lifted and lowered by Pascal's wide torso.

Pascal's arm gives a soft nudge inside him and pauses. It curls inside Kip and the unexpected feeling makes Kip gasp into the kiss and arch his body. Pascal soothingly rubs his other arm up and down Kip's back, licking at Kip's tongue.

Kip feels the tip of the arm start a gentle prodding inside him. He rolls his hips back into the pressure and moans softly into Pascal's mouth. Pascal keeps massaging against Kip's inner wall, pushing in towards his stomach, and Kip shivers as the arm travels slightly further up inside him.

"Go—go up more," he says, pulling back an inch from Pascal's mouth. "Okay, s-stop there... Uh, move up again, just barely, just a little—" He tangles a hand in Pascal's hair.

"Is that good?" Pascal asks softly, pushing in.

"Move a bit t-to your right..."

He squeezes his eyes shut and clutches Pascal's shoulders.

"Nnnn—right there, fuck, right there—"

Pascal starts a steady, rapid rhythm against his prostate and Kip groans long and low and bites down at Pascal's chest. The pleasure is building and layering in intensity and he reaches down to grab his own cock.

"This is good?" Pascal asks again.

"Yes," Kip moans. "Yes yes yes—yes ohh my god—yes—"

"H-here...hold on, I have you..." Pascal pulls Kip flush against himself and suddenly sits them up, lifting Kip and readjusting them so that he's leaning against the head of the bed and Kip is resting in his lap, leaning into him. Kip hugs an arm around Pascal and buries his face in Pascal's shoulder, waiting immobile and whispering guiding directions as Pascal restarts the rhythm inside him.

When Kip moans again and grinds forward into his hand, Pascal drops the arm that was around Kip's back.

"Can I...?" he murmurs, and Kip feels the arm brush low against his stomach. He opens his eyes and looks at Pascal. He carefully gets both arms underneath Pascal's, reaching up to hold on to the back of his shoulders, and nods.

Pascal wraps his arm around Kip's erection and squeezes it. Kip's moan cuts off into a whimper at the tight, even pressure around his entire length. He thrusts into it automatically, rubbing against the soft bumps of the suckers, hugging Pascal as close as he can.

"Fuck, oh fuck," he manages, and then Pascal starts simultaneously twisting his arm around Kip's cock and pumping it and Kip's control falls away. He's grinding hard and Pascal is working at him even harder, and Kip feels the arm pushing harder inside him too and his body is moving with fluidity and rhythm and all at once he's being rushed to the brink. His spine arches and he can't hold himself back. His moans grow sharper and louder and roll up high to the edge of each breath; in every instant of a pause he feels the next moan pushing to burst up from his throat; his inhales come in desperate intermittent gasps.

"Ah—ah—nnh—fuck me—a-aah—fuck me—fuck me—aahh—"

Pascal makes a little sound and Kip digs his fingers into Pascal's shoulders and feels the building tension inside himself about to snap. He tugs Pascal close.

"Pasc—nhh—I-I'm—fuck—"

He sharply gasps, plunging over the edge, and cums in the arm spiraled around his cock, clenching spasmodically around the other. He's silent for the first few seconds of his orgasm before crying out through gritted teeth, shaking all over. It feels like an hour slips away before he starts to come back, crackling and aglow, sparks swirling in his lungs, fiber optic rainbows in his veins.

Pascal kisses his neck, unspools the arm from Kip's cock and brings it around his back, pulling him in until he's leaning forward into Pascal, slumped in his embrace. Kip feels his cum on Pascal's arm, slick against his own skin.

Kip breathes heavily, and Pascal rubs his back.

"That...that was...oh my god. That was the best," Kip pants. "The best, the best."

"Yeah?" Kip can hear the smile in Pascal's voice.

"Y-yeah. And...I've never cum as good as that. I don't even think...I ever even came close to that except maybe a few...times that might've been about half as good..." His laugh is quiet as he runs his hand along Pascal's arm.

"And I was...thinking about you those times anyway, so..."

"I'm glad I could live up," Pascal says with a laugh. "I really am."

Kip laughs a bit louder and rests his head on Pascal's shoulder.

"That was so fucking good, Pasc," he says quietly. Pascal's arm squeezes around him. "That was all so, so good."

"You're amazing..." Pascal murmurs to him. "I mean, wow. If that was even nearly as good for you as it was for me..."

Kip smiles and traces his fingers in light circles over Pascal's skin. They sit together quietly for several minutes, breathing together and holding each other.

"This is weirdly comfortable," Kip mumbles into the crook of Pascal's neck.

"Hmm?"

"You should carry me everywhere, and also get up inside my ass all the time," Kip says.

"O-oh..." The arm twitches inside him. "I just..."

"Nah, it still feels nice," Kip laughs. "Just be in my ass whenever you can."

Pascal giggles and Kip kisses him to catch the sound.

Kip stays there, leaning his head on Pascal and holding him, long after both of them have recovered their breath and their strength.

Kip runs his fingers through the soft hair on Pascal's chest and sighs.

"It's so nice to touch you," he says quietly. Pascal strokes the tip of his arm along Kip's spine. "You're so warm and soft and there's so much of you."

Pascal's exhale is a laugh.

"You kiss so good, too," Kip adds, looking up at him. "And I can always feel from the kisses that you like them."

"I do," Pascal murmurs. "I love kissing you."

Kip grins and puts his hand on Pascal's face, caressing his cheek and jawline.

He's feeling tired again. But he's also conscious of the sweat and cum on their bodies.

"Should we, uh...take another shower?" he asks.

"Probably... You wanna just take one together?"

"Sure."

Pascal keeps an arm around Kip while they get up to go back into the bathroom, turning on the kitchen light again and taking the towels they'd left hanging on the back of their chairs. It's a little crowded in the small bathroom when Kip follows his boyfriend into it, and he realizes it will only be moreso in the shower, but doesn't mind. He watches Pascal while he turns on the shower and monitors the temperature. Pascal's back is as beautiful to look at as he thought, and his legs and ass are likewise so nice that he hopes he can sometime just lie Pascal down and kiss all over his body.

He leans back against the door and Pascal sits on the edge of the bathtub, monitoring the temperature, until Kip feels a bit of steam in the air. Pascal stands and smiles at him and then pauses, and Kip realizes that, as he had been, Pascal must be struck with the awareness that Kip's head-to-toe nakedness is in full view.

Kip blushes and for half a second feels the instinct to clothe or cover himself somehow, but instead keeps still. He puts his hands together behind his back and shifts his weight slightly over one foot.

"You can look at me if you want," he says. "...You're, uh, gorgeous, by the way."

His self-consciousness is a mixture of pride and embarrassment. He drops his gaze, but raises it again to look at Pascal from the front, too.

Neither of them move or speak, until Kip looks up and their eyes meet and Pascal's smile is soft and sweet.

"Do you know how just—completely handsome you are?" Pascal asks.

"I, um—it's hard for me to tell," Kip answers, trying not to smile.

"You're so good-looking, Kip," Pascal answers with a laugh. "Like, it's not even a matter of opinion. You're a total knockout."

Kip breathes a laugh and Pascal laughs too with an insistent "You are!" and opens the shower curtain for Kip to step inside. Pascal follows him in and their careful maneuvering in the cramped space is like a slow dance.

Within a few seconds Kip has to push his soaked hair out of his eyes. He faces Pascal, letting the water run down his back, and then turns around to let it hit his front, lifts his arms, puts his face in the stream. Behind him, Pascal pours some soap onto his arm and starts washing himself. Kip takes the washcloth and begins cleaning himself off too.

Kip accidentally pushes his head back against Pascal when he turns his face up to the water; he stumbles momentarily from overcompensating his balance and Pascal's arm catches hold of his. Kip steadies himself, wiping the soap and water from his face and laughing.

"Sorry—I forgot how close you were..."

"It's okay. I take up a lot of room."

"Do, uh, do you wanna switch places? I keep having to close my eyes and I bump into everything..."

"Okay, um..."

They face each other and pivot to the side, so close together that Kip holds on to Pascal's waist and touches his forehead to his chest as they turn. When he's between Kip and the flow of the shower, Pascal tilts his head back to let the water soak his hair, running his arms through it. Kip smiles and rubs soap along himself.

"Have you ever had a back massage?" Kip asks when Pascal turns around, watching the movement of the muscles in the broad landscape of his boyfriend's back.

"No?"

"I mean, I don't really know how to do one, but see if this feels good, it always does for me..."

Kip reaches up and puts the knuckles of his fingers on either side of Pascal's neck, between his shoulders and spine, above his shoulderblades. He digs his clenched fingers in, rolling them, and then presses his fingertips in hard and moves them in tight circles.

"Oh my god," Pascal breathes. "That's so—it's so weird, but it feels amazing—"

"Mm," Kip hums in agreement and keeps kneading at the muscles.

"I don't know if I've ever been so jealous of everyone with fingers before...oh my god..."

Kip feels Pascal's whole body shift under his touch, and he leans in and kisses between Pascal's shoulderblades, rises up on his toes and kisses the back of Pascal's neck. He massages firmly for a few more seconds and then pats him on the shoulder and kisses his back again, stepping away to give him more space.

"I'll get you one of those plastic back massage things so you can do that yourself," Kip tells him. Pascal lets out a slow exhale and turns to look at him.

"Here..." Kip steps forward again, leans against Pascal's body, and brings his arms up behind Pascal's shoulders and starts kneading at them again. He rests his head against Pascal's chest and feels his sigh as much as hears it.

He continues at a steady pace for a few minutes, leaning into Pascal, feeling sleep encroach on the edges of his thoughts as he soaks in the rhythm of Pascal's breaths.

"I love you, Pascal," he murmurs, and slides his hands from Pascal's shoulders down around his waist, hugging him and nudging his face into his chest. "I know I'm a little tired right now but I really love you, you know. I really do love you."

"I know you do," Pascal says to him, arms flowing against his skin to encircle his back. Water drips down Kip's face and he closes his eyes.

"I feel so good when I'm with you," Kip says. "It's so nice to be around you... It's so nice knowing you're with me. I feel like I belong when I'm with you...like I'm in the right place, it's not like I'm in the way or...or people don't want me around..." He rubs his forehead against Pascal.

"I—I feel like I'm different around you than I have been anywhere else," Kip continues. "I'm not sure what the realest me is like, but I hope it's what I'm like with you, because I like who I am when we're together."

Pascal's arms tighten around him.

"And—I'm not trying to say I'm a different person when you're not around, or that I'm ever trying to pretend to be one way or another, I...I just..." He blinks his eyes open and rubs Pascal's back.

"I know—"

"I just don't always seem like I can be the same..."

"I know, don't worry—"

"A-and...I don't feel like I have to be any way I don't want to be when I'm here with you...I don't feel like I'm someone I don't like...I don't feel ashamed or scared or anything, it's just..." He kisses Pascal's chest. "I feel nice with you. I feel safe and I feel real and I feel like this is so right that I never want to stop going through life knowing we have each other in it."

He wipes the water from his face and holds Pascal's waist.

"And—and I want to make you feel safe and good with me, too. I want you to be safe, and know things are okay, and not have to worry about anything, and..." Kip kisses Pascal's chest again. "I want to be here to help you and be with you and talk with you and look after you and give to you and—and I want things to be good for you—I want you to always feel okay—I love you—"

Pascal nudges Kip's chin up and kisses him
on his forehead. Kip blinks up at him.

"I'm so glad to know you, Pascal," he says, just loud enough to be heard over the thudding water. "I don't know if it's selfish, because you make me feel so nice, but I'm so happy that I know you, and that I love you, and—and that you want to be with me too, sometimes I almost can't believe this is happening—"

"Kip—" Pascal holds Kip tightly as he leans him back and kisses his mouth. "You're not selfish, Kip, you deserve to have good feelings. I know for sure that you really do care about people. You have so much love in you that sometimes it's like I can practically feel it in the space all around you. I could tell as soon as we met that you're such a loving person—" He kisses Kip again. "It was one of the first things I really noticed about you."

Kip rises up on his toes to kiss Pascal's mouth and hugs his arms around Pascal's shoulders.

"You really think so?" Kip asks quietly. "I—I worry about it sometimes, that I'm just pretending to be nice, or I'm never really thinking of other people, I—"

The words stop in his throat and he tenses up suddenly.

"What's wrong?" Pascal asks, touching his face. "You feel cold..."

Kip looks at the wall and slides his arms back down to his sides. Pascal takes hold of his hands.

"Can I tell you something I really have kept secret?" Kip says, staring at the water droplets condensing on the tiled wall.

"Yes," Pascal answers. "Let's switch places again though...you're cold, you should get under the water."

Kip tries to feel brave as he and Pascal slowly turn together under the shower
again. But, as usual, he only feels weak and afraid.

The hot water running down his back makes the chill of the rest of his body more pronounced, and Kip gives a violent shiver. He lifts his eyes to Pascal's, tries to brace himself, curls one hand into a fist and starts clenching it repeatedly.

"You know how I told you that I get worried about what Kent's doing?"

Pascal gives a nod, looking at him with slight concern.

"Well...sometimes...I'll start thinking about it...and I'll wish that Kent would...stop trying to help everyone," Kip says haltingly. "I'll think about wanting him to just stop everything he's been working on, or...wish he had never started."

In his stillness and tension, Kip can feel his own heartbeat. He looks at Pascal's face but can't quite meet his gaze anymore.

"I know it's okay to think that, but sometimes I can tell in my heart that I really mean it, I really would want him to stop, if I had a choice. I know how important this is, I know how much he could do for everyone, I see how much everyone's hurting, my friends are being hurt, I look them in the face, we all know these people might be dying, and—and I still really have times I would rather Kent wasn't doing anything for anyone and we could just..."

Kip twists his fingers together and looks back over to the wall.

"I know he has to do it and I know I don't have a choice and I know it's the right thing to do and I know how much he could help...I know he's already making a difference now and I-I'm proud of him and I really hope he figures this all out, but—but fuck it, I'm so fucking scared sometimes, I hate how much I worry, I hate feeling like he's being taken away, I hate feeling like—like this is never going to be over. I just miss so much the way everything used to be and I know we all do and I—I know so many other people have it so much worse right now and we could fix it for them but sometimes I just feel sick about it all and I cry and I wish someone else could be doing this for us—I—I hate it because I know if it was up to me, I'd be too much of a coward and too selfish to do what I knew I could do to help, and I hate it because I know Kent worries about me so much, and I hate that—sometimes—" Kip touches a hand to his face and closes his eyes. "Sometimes I feel angry at Kent. And I hate that, because I love him, and he's not doing anything wrong, and I feel angry at myself for being so selfish and stupid. And I know I can't change any of this even if I wanted to, so there's no point even going 'what if' about it all, but I can't stop from having all these thoughts, and—and I feel so selfish and disgusting and sometimes I think that deep down, that might be what I'm really like, you know—like that might be my real self pushing through. Like I'm just...I just care about myself and even though I know I should help others...I'm really just angry or resentful if I actually do have to make any real sacrifice for it."

He heaves a sigh and wrings his hands and still shivers slightly under the hot water.

"I don't..." He scratches his temple. "I know it's all pointless to think about and I know it's stupid but... I just really worry that any part of me that's caring is hollow and whenever anyone needs me to really make effort and be there for them and have to be vulnerable too, I'll just...I'll fail them. I'm too afraid and self-absorbed and I—I feel like I get credit just by being related to Kent. If I was in his place...I don't think I'd...I wouldn't be strong enough. I'm—I'm not like him and I think—I think everyone would be angry if they found that out. Everyone really wants me to be the same as him, and I wish I was too, but I'm not." He drops his head and focuses his vision on the dark hair along Pascal's legs, formed into flowing lines by the water streaming through it.

"I—I've been kind of conscious of this for a while, but...I haven't been able to talk about it till now. I could never risk Kent knowing I think about stuff like this...I won't make him feel guilty for being braver than I am...I know he already knows I'm afraid and feels guilty enough about that, I couldn't—I won't ever do that to him, I know I'm wrong and I know he's right to do this and I won't ever try to make him stop, I can't. So I can't tell family, I can't make them keep secrets from each other for my sake, and Eno's part of my family, so—so that's not an option, and...and honestly I...I know that I could tell friends, and they would keep it a secret, but...I feel like they might get angry, or just...be disappointed by me, or even—I know some of them have family or friends Kent's trying to find, or they have friends who do, and they'd hate me if they knew how selfish I was, if I told them I ever wished Kent wasn't trying to figure this out. Everyone would be mad at me or hate me and... And I'm scared of that too, go figure," he says with exasperation, rubbing his face. "But I just...I don't want to lie to you. It's not like that stuff's important because I need to talk about it, or because I think it actually matters at all, it's just...something I feel like I'm hiding because I want people to think I'm better than I am. But I don't want to feel like I might be tricking you into thinking I'm this amazing person or whatever."

He decides to be brave enough to look Pascal in the face.

"I just...I don't think I'm as really, genuinely good as you are, and I don't want you to have to be disappointed about it a lot later on," he says.

The sound of the falling water reverberates and fills the air of the little space, and Kip is grateful for the lack of silence. But as the seconds pass without any response from Pascal, Kip's anxiety bites at him.

"I talk so much around you," Kip says with a sigh of a laugh, "I'm sorry."

Pascal still doesn't answer, and Kip knows something is wrong. He fights the urge to hide his face and instead focuses in on every tiny signal in Pascal's expression, trying to analyze it.

Pascal audibly draws a shallow breath and Kip outright flinches as he realizes Pascal is actually shaken. He feels almost physically forced away from Pascal by the hit of his shame, stepping back and bringing his hands up to his chest. In a matter of seconds his heart is beating so hard he can feel it pounding in his ribcage and he looks around the shower, searching for anything, anywhere to shift his attention.

"I-I'm—" Kip starts, and without any idea of what he wants to say, turns and scrubs his face with the washcloth. "I'm sorry, Pascal." He rubs the cloth under his arms and sticks his head into the stream of water, hating that he already feels dangerously close to tears. He knows Pascal would try to comfort him, that he would be taking away Pascal's chance to respond honestly. He's willing to hold his face to the shower for however long it takes him to finish if he does start crying—anything to keep Pascal from feeling guilty about having a reasonable reaction to Kip's selfishness.

"Kip..." Pascal sounds so hurt and vulnerable that Kip wishes they had never had this date. He would trade the eager anticipation and the butterflies and touches and the flirting and joking and smiles and looks and the moment Pascal said he loved Kip while holding his waist and leaning in and Kip realized he was feeling completely swept off his feet for the first time in his life and he was so lovestruck and happy and he just beamed and lit up with a blush and let Pascal pull him into a knee-buckling kiss and he would trade the talking and the laughing and the effortless rapport and his sense that he wasn't out of place, that he wasn't inherently incompetent at just being a person, that he and Pascal could really have hit something big in finding each other and these tiny moments that didn't matter to the world in the slightest might be the seeds of the strongest, growing goodness and life and he would trade the sense of harmony with Pascal and with himself and he would trade the simple beauty of the warmth and softness of lying in bed with Pascal and the heavy comfort of his embrace and the wholehearted satisfaction and peace and Pascal's natural steadiness soothing his own fiery anxiety and blunting the edge of his panic and making him feel like his head-clouding worry and dread could be separate from his heart and that he might really be worth more than he gave himself credit for and he could even be worth Pascal, and he would trade the inextinguishable hope he kept feeling for their relationship and the trust he found he had in Pascal and the want to be closer and the comfort in their intimacy and he would trade the sex and he would trade the afterglow and he would trade this night their relationship deepened the most, entwined them so intricately, coaxed their love further into the open between them—

He would give it all up at the knowledge that it's led to him hurting Pascal like this. He's always been ready for things to unravel between them one way or another, for this to really be too good to be true. He's frightened himself with the times he realized he forgot to believe this could end any moment. But in all the ways he saw their relationship fragmenting, he never imagined himself hurting Pascal. He thought he might quietly disappoint Pascal, that Pascal would get tired of him, that one way or another Pascal would choose to back out of their relationship, and Kip would be heartbroken but resigned as soon as he realized it was happening. He wasn't supposed to hurt Pascal—he hadn't thought that saying this would. He wonders if his calibration had been so thrown off since they fucked that he was overeager and mistook something terrible to say for necessary honesty.

"...Do you really feel that way?" Pascal finally speaks, and just hearing his voice is too much for Kip to weather. He doesn't know what he should do, but he knows he can't do anything but try to make Pascal feel better.

Am I so selfish, even now?

He takes a few breaths and rubs at his face.

Am I so selfish I can't focus on Pascal for this? Can't I think about him?

Kip turns towards the wall across from the shower curtain and braves a look at his boyfriend. Pascal is still looking right at him; Kip can tell he's never looked away.

"You...you get frustrated about..." Pascal trails off and seems unable to continue. The way he stares makes Kip feel like Pascal wants to see his face; he turns fully towards Pascal.

"I just..." Kip begins unsteadily, "I'm just so...so caught inside my own head that...even at my best, I'm never really just...just naturally a nice person. I think through it, I think about how I'm being nice. Half the time I even congratulate myself or just, even for the simplest things, I think about how it was nice of me to have done them. I don't know how much is just me wanting to feel like I'm a good person. If I didn't have that...I don't know. I still care about people, I just...I'm so selfish. It's like I have to remember to ever think about other people, I'm so focused on myself and my own thoughts and my own life, if other people's problems don't hit me in the face, if people don't point them out to me directly...I just think of myself."

He looks at Pascal's shoulder.

"I get so frustrated sometimes and—and resentful and...and I'm never just naturally focused on everyone else, like my brother is. He's always thinking of everyone, he doesn't forget them, he doesn't—he spends all day on everyone else and then he has to do things for me and he's never mad and doesn't even act tired when I know he must be and I know I can't be like that, I'm not. I'm...I'm just not a very good person but I'm related to good people and I'm not—not generous with my time and energy or thoughts or anything, I'm just...I'm not mean, but I get mistaken for someone better than I am. And even right now, Pascal, I can't stop—I can't—" He wrings his hands together and looks up at Pascal and he tries with everything he's got to pull something to say from his thoughts.

"I'm so stuck in my head," Kip says, holding Pascal's gaze as best he can. "I get so freaked out about things, even little things aren't just easy or automatic, I get worried and tripped up over my own thoughts and—and even right now I can't—"

He has to pause for a few breaths.

"I hate that I'm kind of freaking out right now; I hate that I've been a mess already just tonight; I hate that—knowing I'm freaking out or just worrying I'm gonna can make it so much worse and when I'm like this I can only yell at myself in my head and have no idea what to do when I want so badly to instead just—be here for you and be able to just focus on you but instead to explain it I have to talk about myself for ages and I'm sorry I'm so selfish and—and an idiot all the time, and—and if I wasn't so self-centered and afraid of everything, I—"

He takes the end of Pascal's arm in one hand and tries to hold it in a way that will seem comforting.

"I—I don't say these thoughts while they're happening but I'm saying them now and it's all a mess because I've always just kept them to myself before and—and I'm sorry and I'm going to just shut myself up now because if anyone should be getting a chance to talk it's you," Kip gets out, and then closes his mouth and refuses to open it for the flurry of additions and amendments that immediately rush to mind.

Pascal just looks at him and breathes and Kip feels like he's only embarrassed himself on top of exposing some of his deepest shames to Pascal. He tells himself to just accept the self-loathing and keeps his head up, looking back at Pascal, but slips his hand down to his own side. The water runs warm down his back and legs.

Several times an "I'm sorry" tries to push itself out but Kip won't let himself speak any more. Pascal still looks shaken, agitated, on the verge of speaking or moving but rooted in his stillness.

Kip blinks and steps back. He stands under the flow of the showerhead for a few moments more, then reaches out to stroke his palm down Pascal's arm and slips out through the edge of the shower curtain, stepping onto the soft rug and picking up his towel. He scrubs his hair with it and wipes it over the rest of his body.

He looks at the door, but can't make himself want to go through it. He'd just be waiting for Pascal anyhow, and he's still cold and the bathroom is heated from the shower. And leaving the room would feel too much like he was implying he'd finished the conversation, when really he felt like he'd just disemboweled himself in front of Pascal and was now hoping for any kind of response.

He rests the towel across his shoulders and sits on the lid of the toilet, staring down at his feet.

He thinks about how situations like these make him imagine later explaining his current paralyzing stress and confusion to friends, and getting reactions varying from fond shakes of the head to rebukes as everyone but him sees the right course of action, catches his glaring mistakes—everyone else would know what he should've done, should be doing—it would be so obvious to everyone that Kip would feel frustrated with himself and try to recalibrate his brain to see through its own nonsense next time—and the next time would come around and he'd fall apart just the same.

He'd feel hopeless, incapable of socially surviving on his own. And here he is, repeating the process, thinking that because luck had carried him so far he must've suddenly transformed into someone well capable of keeping a boyfriend, even one so sweet and soft as Pascal. He feels ashamed. He feels so shaky in comparison to Pascal's steady nature—now that Pascal seems shaky, in comparison Kip feels as sturdy and supportive as the steam clouding the air of the little room.

At last, the flow of the shower stops, punctuated by a few heavy drips thumping
down against the bottom of the bathtub. Kip shivers and clutches harder at the towel.

The curtain pulls back and Kip has to tilt his head up to meet Pascal's eyes. Pascal looks almost surprised to see him for a moment, stepping out and picking up his own towel as well. Pascal wipes it over his dripping hair but mostly stands frozen in Kip's gaze, looking back at him. Kip hugs his arms around himself and looks back down at his knees. The way Pascal seems to bring out this intimate vulnerability from Kip is a scary thing for him, and although it can feel thrilling and heart-racing in a beautiful way, at times like this it leaves him feeling weak and insecure.

And then Pascal lowers himself to sit cross-legged on the rug, letting the towel fall next to him. Kip barely has to glance up to look at his face. Pascal is looking at the wall, expression tensed with emotions Kip can't confidently pick apart.

"...What are you thinking about?" Kip asks in a small, somewhat rough voice.

Pascal blinks and drops his head further and shifts slightly, seeming to huddle in on himself a bit more.

Kip wants to climb into his lap and hold him close, cradling his head against his chest while he rests his own head on Pascal's.

Everything is still and quiet.

"Thank you for telling me all that."

Finally hearing Pascal's voice startles Kip.

He doesn't know how to answer; he just nods.

Pascal glances back and forth between Kip and the tiles on the floor.

"I, um...I didn't know anybody else felt that way," he continues, and Kip's understanding of what's happening is thrown.

Pascal rubs his face with his towel.

"I notice that about myself sometimes, too," Pascal says. "I didn't ever really...think about it... I just—if there was ever a moment I felt...frustrated or anything about something that should've felt like the nice thing to do, or the right thing to do, I just...I felt guilty and so I'd push that feeling away as fast as I could. Like only people who were mean were supposed to feel that way, so I couldn't."

Pascal draws his legs up to his chest.

"I never really thought about it because I just assumed I shouldn't have to... I could just always avoid it and that was fine and—and I just thought that—like you said, I just thought the only way to be nice is to not have to think about it. Sometimes I just agree to things I feel myself getting hesitant about so I don't even have a chance to think it through, because I know it should be right to do, and I shouldn't even be thinking about it."

He looks down at the floor again. Kip trembles. He wasn't prepared for Pascal's reaction to turn out to be something other than shock and disgust at what Kip had told him. He was even less prepared for Pascal's reaction to have been directed inwardly—for Pascal to ever doubt that he was a good person.

"I didn't even know I worried about it until you said it about yourself," Pascal murmurs. "I-I'm sorry if I'm acting weird, it just really hit me kind of hard, and out of nowhere..." He trails off.

Kip's heart is pounding. He feels like a huge weight is gone from his stomach. He's staring down at Pascal; he's overcome by the simple urge to hug him.

He stands up and steps towards Pascal so he can sit down in Pascal's lap, lean in and wrap an arm around Pascal's shoulder, and wrap the other around Pascal's head and hug it to his chest.

He hears Pascal's slightly uneven breathing and feels it as warm air on his skin and as the movement of Pascal's chest against his own body. He kisses the top of Pascal's head and rests his cheek against it, alternating between stroking Pascal's damp hair and running his fingers lightly through it. Pascal makes a clearly failed attempt to speak and Kip holds him tighter and closes his eyes.

"I was thinking you were just upset with what I said, that I was an awful person or something," Kip almost whispers to him, rubbing at the back of his shoulder again. "It's okay. You're not being weird. I just...I misunderstood why you were upset and I didn't know what to do."

"I'm not mad at you," Pascal says against his chest, and Kip feels Pascal's arms slide around his waist.

Kip lets himself slip down in Pascal's embrace until he's holding Pascal's head tucked into the crook of his neck and their chests are together.

"You're not a bad person, Pascal," Kip says, tilting his face to the side of Pascal's head. "You're so kind...and thoughtful...and—and you don't have to worry about not being a good person, you are. You're amazing."

Pascal buries his face against Kip's neck and Kip gathers him in closer.

"When we just met, right then you just struck me as such a...inherently warm and compassionate person that I might've got jealous of you if I hadn't loved you for it right off. Like, from the start, whenever I'm with you I feel really comfortable and relaxed about myself and that's not...the most common. I don't think I'd be able to feel that way if you weren't genuinely a caring person."

Pascal's breathing is still a bit too heavy, but evening out a bit. Kip feels himself physically relaxing into their embrace. He doesn't think he's being very eloquent, or saying what he might say if he had more time to dwell on it, but he gets the sense that it matters more that he's speaking, albeit somewhat clumsily, than if he was silent now and had a clarified message for Pascal later.

"I—I think it maybe makes me feel a little better that you don't always feel like...being nice to everyone all the time is your only instinct, or whatever, or you never even have to question yourself about it..." Kip continues, putting a bit more pressure into the hug. "I guess I kind of assumed it was weird that I ever...felt anything except warm and fuzzy about doing what I know I think is the 'right thing'...but honestly, if you ever feel that way too, it must not be such a bad thing."

He leans his head against Pascal's and rests it there, rubbing slow circles against the back of Pascal's shoulder. It feels okay to be quiet, and the room is warm, and gradually Kip feels Pascal relax as well. They sit, continually easing and leaning into each other's body, as if they could eventually merge together.

Kip gives a quiet grunt as his head is nudged to the side by Pascal's, and huffs a laugh when a kiss is pressed just below his ear.

Pascal kisses him again, and tightens the hug. Kip feels the warmth of Pascal's body slowly overtaking his lingering chill. He slides his fingers to Pascal's nape, stroking up and down.

"I, um, I guess you probably already know this, but...I sort of have a, uh. Tendency to kind of freak out about stuff when I'm nervous," Kip says. "Like just now, I was nervous about telling you stuff and when you—when it caught you off guard, I have this habit of assuming the worst and...can get kind of caught up in confirmation bias I guess. And I get so freaked out about things that it's all I can do to turn down my thoughts or slow down and I...kind of tend to get stuck in my head instead of being more present in the situation and I don't know if it'll ruin anything or not. The way we are, this is the first time this has really happened to me, I've never felt like I wanted—like I should tell about...the things about me that are, um, worrisome. Or bad. Or...I don't know. But I get all panicky and freaked out and I hate it and I don't think anyone else likes it either. It kind of happened just then in the shower, but not even as bad as it gets sometimes. So I'm sorry I didn't just let you answer from the start; I didn't know what to do. But you don't have to worry—you're not bad, Pascal. You're kind of like, the dictionary definition of a good person. And I guarantee everybody who knows you at all thinks so, too."

He slides one hand up into Pascal's hair and closes his eyes.

Pascal gives this warm, soft laugh that makes Kip feel light in the stomach.

"You are nice, too, Kip Kaizer," Pascal murmurs, voice gentle and low. Kip blushes and silently squeezes his arms harder around Pascal's shoulders and tightens his legs around Pascal's waist.

"I can already tell for myself you're nice, and I've been able to tell from the beginning, but you're right now telling me about being afraid that your fear for yourself, that your fear of...the way you might get treated badly, you're worried about how that might be hurting other people? Kip, you're so caring. You've got a lot of room in your heart for everyone, love. You don't need to be so hard on yourself. You're carrying so many people in your mind all the time, no matter what you're focusing your thoughts on at any particular moment, you know?"

He draws an arm smoothly up Kip's back.

"...I understand why you feel guilty about wishing Kent wasn't involved in all this," he continues. "And I know why you don't want to tell anyone else about it, but I think...I think it's very understandable to be feeling that way. You just want your family to be safe. The way things are right now..." Pascal's body tenses a little, and Kip feels his own heart beat a bit faster. The insidious force that's invisibly, mercilessly striking at monsters' homes and communities is so nightmarish that the weight of it in their hearts is never fully gone. "Everyone who has someone is afraid for them. Especially in B and C. I know why you wouldn't want to tell other people about it, especially if they lost someone, but the only reason there seems like a difference is because...right now Kent is the only representation of a chance they can hold on to. There's nothing else that's even tangible. But they would understand that fear you have of losing your safety. I know it's worse because it feels like...like by trying to find the source of the danger, you're getting closer to it. And it must be so hard for you to have to keep that inside you, Kip. It's not selfish to feel what you do, and it's not weak, and it's not even wrong. You're supporting him as best you can, and you care about what's happening to everyone too, and it's not your fault you have to be afraid about all this at the same time. You can feel more than one way about it, I think. I know how complicated things get and I know how complicated our own feelings about it get. You can be proud of your brother and angry at him at the same time. And you can be afraid and you can be upset and you can want him to do what he's doing while also feeling like you want him to stop."

Kip suddenly realizes he's gripping Pascal with his fingertips and loosens his hold on him.

"You have so much to deal with, it's so much, I think you're so, so strong, Kip. You're not weaker for feeling scared."

Seemingly all at once—no building tension, no shaking knees, no shortening breaths—Kip is crying. For the first time in a long time, it feels easy and even nice to do so. There's no stress, no shame, no sense of being gripped by the shoulders and throat. There's just tears spilling down his cheeks.

Pascal seems to sense it, and rubs his back.

"You're not a bad person, Kip. You're so strong and you're so incredibly brave and—and you shouldn't have to feel bad even when stuff happens like...you get caught up in your head, like you said. That's just something other people might not have to deal with, and it doesn't mean you're more selfish, and the way you show love can be different from the way other people do and that doesn't make it any worse. If you have more trouble reaching out or even talking or being around other people sometimes, that's okay. You're okay."

Kip sniffs and rests his chin on Pascal's shoulder.

"I'm so sorry you've been having to keep all that to yourself," Pascal says. "That must have always been so hard..."

"...It gets bad sometimes," Kip acknowledges in a somewhat tremulous voice. Sometimes he takes hours to relax enough for sleep, sometimes he shuts himself in his room to get away from the sense of dread and darkness that creeps through and hangs in the air like a fog, sometimes he gets scared when any of them leave the house, sometimes he jolts awake at night with a thudding heart and shaky nerves and he doesn't know why, sometimes he thinks about the way their days used to go and misses it so much that he gets angry, sometimes he sits with Eno and starts to cry when Eno tells him he's going to be alright because he realizes he can't believe that anymore.

A shiver glides through him and Pascal pulls him in closer.

"Thank you for saying all that," Kip mumbles. "I don't know how to do anything to make any of this better and I can't get used to what's happening and—it can feel like all I can do is be scared and resentful."

He sniffs again and closes his eyes as a few tears roll slowly down his face.

"Mostly I'm so scared to death when I think about all this and it just...it sits so heavy inside me that I can't carry it but there's no way I can talk myself into being less afraid... I have to just find a way to distract myself and try to ignore it but it always comes back. Every day it comes back."

Pascal turns his head to brush the sides of their faces together.

"You're not doing something wrong by being afraid, Kip," Pascal reassures him. "And—and I know I don't have any convincing speech either about why none of us should be scared. I really doubt anyone does."

Kip strokes Pascal's hair again, lightly running his fingers through it. His tears come more slowly but remain steady and he finds he can breathe easier when he's not trying to hold it back or force himself to stop.

"You've never tried telling anyone else about that stuff? Even when it gets bad?"

"No," Kip answers.

"I don't think anyone else who knows what's going on would be mad at you—"

Kip shakes his head.

"I don't want anyone to know," Kip says. "They already know it's hard on me. I won't let them know that I ever think about it like this, like it's ever even entered my mind that I ever want Kent to stop searching."

"I don't think it would, well, be shocking for them or anything like that. I think I might've been shocked if you told me you'd never felt like that."

It's quiet for a moment.

"I really think you could tell Eno?" Pascal says, voice gentle in Kip's ear. "If you needed to, you know. He probably knows as good as anyone what you're going through, he's helping Kent and he's basically part of your family. And he loves you, and he'd know how to keep things just between you."

"I know," Kip says with a soft sniff. "I mean, you're right about all that, and sometimes I really think about it, and I think I want to, but I just can't. Like, we talk sometimes, and, I mean, something's always wrong obviously, but Eno's pretty good at being able to tell when something's really wrong, and I always feel safe talking to him and I can tell him all about how I'm just sad and upset and tired and scared and—and always reminded everywhere I go just how much everyone's counting on Kent and—and I try to bring myself to mention how I feel all this guilt when I think about things like wishing it was over, or that we had never started, and—and I can't. I can't ever say it."

He feels Pascal shift in his arms, rotating his torso towards Kip. Kip leans back a bit off of Pascal's shoulder and lets their eyes meet, ignoring the fact that he's still crying a bit. Pascal's face is warmed with a red tinge and the moisture from the shower still gives his skin a slight shine.

"How'd you manage to tell me?" Pascal asks.

Kip blinks.

"I—I thought you deserved to know," Kip says. "I guess I...it was different because...I wasn't trying to get it off my chest for my own sake, I was trying to let you know about it so that you could..." He trails off and looks down. "Just so that you would know."

"So...I would know," Pascal repeats slowly.

Kip nods and gives a one-shouldered shrug.

"...Were you thinking about it the way you talked about? When you were saying you...thought people might be mad at you if they knew? Or they might hate you?"

Kip glances back up at Pascal, blushing.

"...Kind of," he manages to admit.

Pascal is silent, and the way he's searching Kip's face makes Kip feel self-conscious enough to brush the back of his hand across the tearstains on his cheeks.

"I—I didn't want you to be disappointed or anything," Kip clarifies. "But..."

"You thought I might be?" Pascal finishes for him, and Kip slowly nods again.

"I guess it was weird timing," Kip mumbles. "It kind of just...came up, and I was thinking that...if I didn't go ahead and tell you about all that stuff I thought about myself, including about...what's going on with Kent, I thought I might end up feeling like I was hiding it from you. And when I get that feeling like I'm avoiding something and I'm embarrassed about avoiding it, it gets so much harder to do it or say it or whatever and...I just wanted to go ahead and let you know the truth, and not risk making it into this secret I was trying to keep you from."

He looks at Pascal, lifting a hand to trail along his boyfriend's jaw.

"It kind of feels like a big deal for me that I know you really want to know me. And...at the same time I...I sometimes get this worry that—that, besides family I guess, people only like me because they don't know everything about me. And...I do know I'm being too hard on myself, but I still haven't been able to stop feeling that way, and...and I catch myself thinking that...that people don't like me if I—I get too difficult or selfish or—or, I don't know, I don't live up to their idea of who I am, and—"

He meets Pascal's eyes and bites his lip and puts his hands on Pascal's shoulders, holding tight.

"I know you love me, Pascal, I do, and I'm not trying to push you away, I promise. I love you, I love you so much; you're amazing and I'm so happy we're together and I'm so happy we're here now, I just—" His voice catches as his crying slightly worsens. "I keep worrying that I'm going to mess it up. I always do that about everything, and I'm sorry, I just...I don't know how to stop worrying or thinking the worst or...I don't know. I'm sorry. It's always this pointless mess."

"It's not pointless, Kip," Pascal says quickly, and leans in and kisses Kip's wet cheek, just beside his nose. "It's important the way you feel, whatever way you feel, even if you wish you weren't feeling like that or if you think you should be able to just talk yourself out of them. It still matters. It matters so much—"

Pascal presses a few kisses along the bridge of Kip's nose, then kisses his lips. Kip smiles at the kindness and slides his hand down to Pascal's chest, feeling his heartbeat as he rubs his thumb against the soft hair and warm skin.

"I—I hope that if you ever feel like you need someone to talk to, about anything, you always know that I'm here for you," Pascal murmurs. "You don't have to be nervous around me."

Kip sniffs as Pascal curls the end of his arm and strokes it along the underside of Kip's jawline, wiping away some tears that were clinging there.

"But...if you are nervous anyways, that's okay, too," Pascal adds. "I know it's not always that easy, but...I just really want you to know that if there's anything you need to talk about, I'm here for you. And it doesn't have to be an emergency or anything, either. If you just...feel like talking, I'm here for that, too. I love talking to you. I love you."

"I love you, too." Kip touches Pascal's arm to keep it in place and holds a kiss there for several seconds. "And I like talking to you, too. I really like it. Even like this."

"This isn't so bad," Pascal agrees with a smile. Kip returns the smile and pulls Pascal into a hug. He feels the ebb and flow of Pascal's breathing, now slow and even, and his warmth.

After a minute or so, Kip's tears stop, and he gives a slow sigh.

"Are you tired?" he asks, tracing his fingers along Pascal's side.

"A little," Pascal says. "I mean, I can stay up longer if you want to."

"I don't know," Kip says. "I think if we didn't have tomorrow to spend together too I'd want to stay up all night and just nap on the ride back home, but...since we have tomorrow...I'm a little tired, too. And...falling asleep with you the first time was..." He holds Pascal's arm and squeezes it gently. "It was one of the nicest things I've ever done. I'm fine with doing it again."

"Well," Pascal says with a kiss to Kip's shoulder. "I don't even mean it as a joke to say it was like a dream to be in bed with you, Kip. This whole day has already been amazing, it's just amazing to me that we're here, I used to think about being with you like this and it seemed so good but so out of reach, and now...I'm just so happy being with you, you know? I'm so glad to just...get to spend time together, and I love getting to know you better. I'm here for everything about you."

"So...I guess going back to bed is okay then," Kip laughs, blushing. He plants a long kiss low on the side of Pascal's neck, sits up and looks over Pascal's face, brushing his red hair further into place. They smile at each other and Kip laughs again, putting his hands to the rug for support as he stands up.

He extends a hand and Pascal takes it, spiraling his arm along Kip's, gripping it, and pulling on it slightly as he stands. Kip smiles up at him as Pascal retracts his arm and arches his spine and rolls his shoulders back in a stretch.

"I want to know you better, too, if you want to talk about stuff tomorrow," Kip says, taking a few pieces of toilet paper and gently cleaning streaks of tears and snot from his face. "Like, the more I know you, the more I want to know about you, and...I've done a lot of talking here and...and I..." He trails off and looks up at Pascal. "I mean, thank you for making it feel so comfortable to talk, because I really mean it when I say I don't ever talk this much. I'm sorry so much of it has been like...ended up as me telling you stuff like I'm breaking some bad news to you, but...I'm just always worried about things, including myself I guess, and things in my head take so much effort that I suppose I assume I can be...well, too much effort." His laugh is only partially nervous.

"You're not. You can't be. If I had to give you all the effort I have, it would be worth it."

Kip bursts into a freer laugh and gives one more quick scrub at his face with the paper, blushing bright.

"You're the sweetest, Pasc," he says, stooping to pick up Pascal's towel from the rug on the floor. He lifts it to Pascal's chest, and Pascal takes it and drags it over his head and face a few times before draping it over the rod of the shower curtain. Kip watches him pick up the other towel and hang it up as well, and smiles when Pascal turns back to face him, meeting his eyes.

"I don't know how you make everything okay," Kip says softly, and reaches up and touches Pascal's chin, lightly dragging his fingertips along the scruff grown there. His thumb grazes the softness of Pascal's lip. "I'm not used to this."

Pascal smiles and blushes at Kip's touch, and even feels a bit warmer against Kip's fingertips.

"Aren't used to what?" Pascal asks.

"Well, to...everything feeling okay."

Pascal's arm winds around Kip's raised wrist and turns the hand towards his mouth, and he kisses the knuckles.

"I love you," Pascal murmurs against them, and Kip presses his forehead to Pascal's chest and closes his eyes.

Pascal squeezes his hand and keeps it held to his mouth, warming it with his touch and breath.

"Remember when you called me 'sweetness'?" Pascal asks as he returns Kip's hand. Kip leans away from Pascal's wide chest and blinks up at him.

"Huh?"

"You called me 'sweetness' earlier, when...you know, when you...told me to cum," Pascal explains, momentarily glancing away as his mouth twitches with a smile.

"O-oh," Kip says, stilled by the invocation of the memories. "...Yeah."

"It was great," Pascal laughs warmly. "I'm thinking, should I come up with cute nicknames for you? To add to the list of things we keep deciding I should be doing all the time."

Kip grins and puts an arm to Pascal's waist in a half-hug.

"God, that would be some kind of life," Kip says. "I'm always being carried and anally penetrated by you and you only refer to me as—as, I don't know..."

"Wintermint," Pascal offers, and Kip covers his face with a feigned groan.

Pascal hugs Kip to his side and together they slowly begin walking back to the bedroom. Pascal supplies more suggestions like "honeydew" and "bluebell" and "sugardust" until Kip nudges him with a hiss.

"Just 'Kip' is fine," he laughs, opening
the door for his boyfriend.

"Awesome, we're first-name basis now?"

"Maybe, Briggs."

Pascal giggles and sits on the end of the bed, tugging the blankets back into a slightly neater state.

"I...should be okay, but...if you wake up to go to the bathroom, can you go ahead and wake me up, too?" Kip asks, feeling his cheeks warm a little. "It wasn't a lot of tea, but, just to be safe..."

"Right," Pascal says with a nod. "I can do that."

"Thank you."

Kip steps over to Pascal, leaning in and kissing him.

"You're really great, Pasc." Kip smiles at him before sitting down next to him with a light sigh, leaning into his side and putting a hand on his knee. "I can tell you all about how good you are whenever you want to hear it, you know. Even when you don't need to hear it. It's the truth and I would be so glad to make sure you know it." He brushes his lips against Pascal's shoulder.

Pascal hums and Kip leans further against him, closing his eyes.

"I'm so happy I got to meet you, Pascal," Kip murmurs. "It's better knowing you."

Pascal rubs his cheek against Kip's forehead and touches his hand.

"I feel less shaky when we're together, even just on the phone," Kip says, voice as quiet as the one he uses on those calls, when he tips his words gently into the receiver to arrive through Pascal's line as close and soft as if Kip was lying beside him, whispering into his ear. "It feels good to be with you. Just to think about you. Everything about you, your whole presence, it just has such a niceness and...and you're a beautiful person, Pascal, and I am very, very in love with you."

Pascal wraps his arms around Kip's back and they pull each other in as they sink to the mattress.

Pascal whispers Kip's name against his neck, and once again he lifts the blankets as Kip slips his body underneath them, and Kip returns the favor as they settle back into the embrace of the bed, lying on their sides, facing each other.

Kip looks up at Pascal with a smile and puts a hand to his chest, sliding it up to the base of his throat, up along the side of his neck, cupping his jaw, smoothly running through his hair. Pascal looks right back at him all the while.

"I think being with you makes me...just makes me more...present," Pascal murmurs. "I definitely feel like...everything is just more exciting. I have kind of a more alive energy, and I don't know if that makes sense but it's the loveliest feeling."

Kip glows with a blush and rubs his fingers through Pascal's hair, massaging slowly. The look on Pascal's face as he smiles at Kip seems to swirl the breath in Kip's throat and give his heart the same kind of shivering thrill as if he was being kissed.

"I dunno," Pascal continues, low and quiet. "Knowing you, everything doesn't seem so slow, or so lonely, and I...I have such a good feeling about all of this. Being close to you, in every way—it's my favorite thing in the world."

Kip breathes Pascal's name as they flow into a kiss as soft and warm as their thoughts. Kip presses it momentarily, hand curling around the back of Pascal's neck as he gives the lightest suck to Pascal's lip. He pulls away and then immediately pushes back in for one more moment before hugging Pascal's head to his shoulder and kissing his hair.

He breathes deeply, each inhale bathed in the scent of Pascal and of his soap. Pascal's warm exhales travel across Kip's throat and down his chest.

Their breaths begin lengthening; Kip blinks his eyes open and reaches for the small bedside lamp. He fumbles blindly for a moment before managing to switch it off and cuddling back up to Pascal, who gives a gentle hum as he nestles closer as well. Pascal slides an arm around Kip's back and Kip hooks a leg between Pascal's and rests the side of his head against Pascal's chest.

"...Do you wanna go again?" Kip asks after a minute or two of peaceful stillness, voice hovering just above a whisper. "In the morning, I mean."

"Oh..." Pascal breathes a laugh. "I was about to say—I barely have it in me to move right now..."

"Me neither." Kip smiles and kisses Pascal's soft skin. "But, when we wake up..."

"I would really love to," Pascal says, pulling Kip in against himself. "We could have half-awake morning sex."

Kip laughs too.

"Yes, great, usually I'm a mess after just waking up, let's do it," he says, cozying further into Pascal's embrace. "Or I can just seduce you sometime after we get out of bed."

"Either," Pascal murmurs, stroking Kip's back a few times. "Both."

Kip cranes his neck and leans in, pressing a kiss to Pascal's lips. Pascal kisses back, gentle and sleepy, and Kip smiles against his mouth.

"I like falling asleep with you," he mumbles to Pascal, his own speech slowed slightly by the thickening fog over his thoughts. "I can't wait to wake up with you, too."

He rests his head back against Pascal's chest and breathes deeply.

They lie together quiet and still for several minutes, until Pascal's "I love you" gently stirs the silence. His voice is blurred with sleep and the words are indistinct, but they're unmistakable.

Kip brushes a kiss to Pascal's chest.

"I love you," he answers softly, and feels nothing but warmth in his body. "Pascal."

Pascal draws him close, and Kip relaxes.