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Shooting Stars, Falling Objects

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

i have forgotten your love, yet I seem to
glimpse you in every window

because of you, the heady perfumes of
summer pain me; because of you, I again
seek out the signs that precipitate desires:
shooting stars, falling objects

Pablo Neruda, Love

 


 

It took place over one of the hottest summers in recent memory, starting on the day he moved in.

His new home stood in the middle of the tree-lined block, with a wide green yard out front and an adjacent driveway. Neighborhood kids were out chasing each other in the empty streets, squirting water guns and shrieking. It was a bit of a culture shock for Graves, who had just left his post at NYU to teach here, at the local liberal arts college.

But this was what he wanted, wasn’t it? A change of scenery. Somewhere that didn’t have ghosts lurking around every corner. A place where people rang your doorbell offering housewarming cookies.

“Oh, uh,” Graves frowned at the older couple standing on his front porch. They wore matching smiles, unbothered by his awkwardness. He accepted the proffered plate. “Thanks.”

“It’s nothing,” The woman gushed. “Just return the plate whenever. We’re right next door.” She gestured to the near identical house to their right, separated by the driveway and a strip of grass.

“Margie likes to be the first to welcome new neighbors,” the man added with a laugh. “Sorry to bombard you like this, you’re probably still unpacking.”

As if the tower of cardboard boxes behind him wasn’t indicative enough, Graves agreed, “Yeah, actually I--”

“Oh, look,” the woman -Margie- was glancing over her shoulder. “It’s Credence. Credence, honey! Come here!”

Fantastic, of course there was another member of this flock. He watched as a tall, lanky teenaged boy loped his way across the lawn. His skin appeared unnaturally pale against the bright afternoon sun.

“This is our son, Credence,” Margie was saying. “He’s starting college in the fall. Say hello to, um--”

“Percival Graves,” he supplied.

Credence smirked, giving Graves a once-over that left him with the back of his neck tingling. “Hello, Mr. Graves.”

The boy’s parents chattered on for another few minutes, small talk about his job, about New York, about his wife. “Divorced, actually,” he clarified.

Luckily they refrained from making any sympathetic noises, simply nodding in understanding. The entire time Graves could feel the kid’s eyes on him, pinpricks of heat that made him oddly self-conscious. When he darted a glance over, Credence met his gaze head on, unabashed. The tip of a tongue swiped across his plush lower lip and Graves quickly looked away, clearing his throat.

“I better get back to, uh,” Graves motioned to the general mess in the house. “But it was nice meeting all of you.”

“Pleasure was all ours, wasn’t it, Credence?” Margie beamed at her son.

“Sure was,” Credence drawled.

“Come visit us when you’re settled in,” the man -Robert, was it?- chimed in. “Or if you ever need anything.”

Graves thanked them for their hospitality, raising the plate of cookies in emphasis as they left his front porch. The kid hung back, leaning against the doorjamb like it was some kind of photoshoot, raking his eyes from Graves’ forearms, exposed by rolled-up shirt sleeves, to his chest, peeking out over four undone buttons.

“Forget something, kid?” Graves asked, a second away from covering up his bosom like some flustered handmaiden.

“Not at all, Mr. Graves .”

And the way the kid said his name, like it was something filthy. Someone had been watching too much porn, Graves just wasn’t sure was it Credence or himself.

With a lazy push, Credence slinked out of his doorway, crossing the lawn back to his own house, but not before throwing a wink over his shoulder. “See you around.”

Back in the cool, relative darkness of his foyer, Graves bit into a cookie and thought, what the fuck was that?

 


 

Another adjustment Graves had to make was managing his own maintenance. A life of city dwelling had left certain concepts rather foreign to him, such as the operation of a lawn mower.

It took him several tries and an embarrassing number of google searches, but finally he got the motor revved up and ready to go. Now all he had to do was push this little mechanical monster up and down his front yard. In ninety-degree weather. With the sun directly overhead.

Graves held in a groan. No wonder his students believed in getting an “A” for effort. Graves felt like awarding himself a medal for even attempting to do this on his own, as opposed to just paying some neighborhood kid.

Like the one hanging over his white picket fence (and Graves couldn’t believe he had one of those either), studying him with open amusement.

“See something funny?” Graves straightened, pulling up the bottom of his wifebeater to dab the sweat off his forehead.

“Yeah, you,” Credence answered, words slightly muffled around the lollipop in his mouth. He pulled it out with a pop. “Looks like you could use some help.”

Graves dragged his eyes away from spit-slicked lips, stained an artificial cherry red. “Are you offering, kid?”

Credence laughed. Even his tongue was bright red. “No way in hell.”

Brat. “Aren’t you a bit old for lollipops?”

“You’re the one who keeps calling me ‘kid’, and now I’m too old?” Credence rolled the candy sphere along the flat of his tongue, before catching it between sharp, white teeth. It crunched loudly as he bit down. “Make up your mind.”

“Well, if you’re not gonna help, then get outta here.” Graves turned back to the mower, intent on ignoring whatever game the boy was trying to rope him into. Nothing good will come of it, that was for sure.

His wifebeater was plastered against his back, soaked through with sweat. He was in danger of heatstroke if he didn’t finish this soon, and the last thing he needed was a distraction.

“Maybe I just like the view.”

Graves whipped around, but the boy was already gone, walking away with a skip in his step as if he’d won something by getting the last word in.

 


 

Out of the many regrets in his life, Graves never thought homeownership would be one of them. His knees were already growing sore as he pried another rotting floorboard out from his front porch. No wonder that realtor of his was so eager to let this one go. That lady is going to get the most sternly worded email of her goddamn career, as soon as he was done fixing up this place.

Technically, he could just call up a handyman, or several, and let them take care of everything. But then that would leave Graves with over two months to sit around the under-furnished house, twiddling his thumbs until the semester started. That was way too much time to contemplate on what a sad sack of shit he’d become.  

So, handiwork it was.

“Lemonade?”

It was Credence. Again. This time, thankfully, with nothing phallic in his mouth, but the loose threadbare tank top he was wearing wasn’t much better. The armholes stretched down to his narrow waist, the fabric hanging onto his chest by sheer force of will alone. He leaned a shoulder against the support column of the porch, holding out a tall glass.

Graves took it. “Thanks.” He downed it in two long pulls, handing the empty cup back as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “That’s the fourth one today. Your neighborhood’s big on staying hydrated, huh?”

Credence, who’d been staring at his mouth since he started drinking, snapped his eyes up. “What?”

“I mean, someone’s brought over refreshments like, every hour since this morning.” Graves quirked his lip. “It’s like you guys are taking turns.”

Understanding dawned on Credence’s face and he threw his head back in a laugh. God, he was a gorgeous little shit. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised you’re a big hit with the soccer moms.”

“Not just the soccer moms.”

Credence tilted his head, a knowing smirk on face. “This your way of telling me I have competition?”

Slowly, Graves got to his feet, pulling off one work glove, then the other, and tossing them both to the ground. He stepped towards Credence, intentions clear as he rested one sweaty palm on the porch railing, casually bracketing the boy against the support beam. “You don’t have competition, kid.”

Credence swallowed, probably unused to someone calling out his bluff. Yet he stayed frozen, gaze jumping between Graves’ mouth and his eyes.

Graves leaned an inch closer. Although they were the same height, he had about twenty pounds of muscle on the kid, easy, and his shadow loomed. “Because you’re not even in the running.”

Now it was Graves’ turn to laugh as Credence pouted, indignant for all the wrong reasons.

“Now scram, I got work to do.” Graves returned to the floorboards as the sound of Credence stomping down the steps turned into the sound of trampled grass.

Maybe it was petty of Graves, but someone had to take the kid down a peg. Besides, it wasn’t going to deter Credence for long.

 


 

A muggy June crawled into a sweltering July. Graves had some new furniture delivered, even bought a few paintings to spruce up the place. But in the end it didn’t help much, expanding from a two bedroom condo into a cookie cutter suburban house didn’t happen overnight.

All the windows and even the front door were thrown open as Graves attempted to paint an accent wall. It was something Seraphina had always wanted, but neither of them found the time nor the inclination to put the effort into actually doing it.

Well, take that, Phina, Graves thought as he dropped the roller back into the tray. He took a step back and was nearly blinded by the hideous yellow of his freshly painted wall. Dear lord, it was reminiscent of the time he stopped by a hot dog cart on his way home from the bar, drowned the hot dog in mustard in his overzealous drunken state, which then returned with a vengeance later that night in the form of vomit.

“Wow, that is fugly.”

Graves didn’t turn around. “Why are in my house, Credence?”

“The door was opened,” Credence explained, innocent as a choirboy.

When Graves finally looked at him, he wish he hadn’t. Credence was wearing a white t-shirt at least two sizes too small, baring a sliver of midriff. And he was completely soaked. “You’re dripping on my floor.”

“Oh yeah, I was playing with my sisters.” Credence gestured to outside the bay windows where two little girls were indeed running through the sprinklers.

“That wasn’t an apology.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Graves,” Credence looked far from contrite. “How can I make it up to you?”

“You could stop wetting my floors.”

Credence considered it, and then decided to peel off his t-shirt which landed with a plop on the hardwood. He swiped it around with the toe of one sneaker in the worst facsimile of mopping Graves had ever seen.

“You are unbelievable.”

Credence smirked. “Thanks.”

“No, you little--that’s not--” A lot of blood was rushing to the wrong place as Graves tried not to look directly at the pale chest, dusky nipples that were already perking due to the cool interior of the house. “I’m going to get a mop.”

“I can get it.”

“How do you know where it is?”

“I dunno, Sherlock, maybe because our houses are built exactly the same?” Credence disappeared for a second, pulling open the cupboard under the stairs where Graves stored all his cleaning supplies. He returned, mop in hand. “Besides, I told my mom I’ll be helping you out today.”

“You told her what?” Graves watched, a little dry mouthed as Credence kicked his wet t-shirt into a corner, dabbing the mop around haphazardly, back muscles flexing with the effort.

“I said you wanted me to ask her if I could help you around the house today.” Credence turned around, resting his chin on the tip of the handle. “Oh, and you’ll pay me, of course.”

“Of course.” Graves pinched the bridge of his nose. “If you’re gonna be hanging around, you need to actually help. And go put on a shirt.”

Credence shrugged, about to head towards the front door when Graves realized what it would look like, to have this kid walk shirtless out of his house.

“Hold on, on second thought,” Graves jogged to to the stacks of boxes in the back of the house, riffling through them until he found the one labeled ‘summer clothes’.

He threw a garish purple t-shirt at Credence, who pulled it on without argument. The letters ‘NYU’ took up much of the front, in the same shade of yellow as his wall, Graves noted.

“I like it,” Credence studied the school name on his chest. He was swimming in the t-shirt, sleeves nearly down to his elbows. And then, because he was an insufferable twink, he knotted the front of it until his stomach was showing again. “That’s better, though.”

They worked in blissful silence for the next hour, Graves extending the roller near the ceiling while Credence filled in the space above the floor trims. The peace didn’t last long.

“So, why’d you move here?” Credence was on his knees, peering up at him through dark lashes.

“I wanted a lifestyle change.”

Credence’s mouth twisted. “Why would anyone leave New York City for this ?”

“It’s not like the movies, kid.” Graves focused on the spot at the end of his roller. “It’s...different. I didn’t really know my neighbors, for example.”

“Maybe that’s a good thing.” Credence had his head down, absentmindedly running his brush over an already painted section.

Graves paused. Between the move, playing handyman, and wrapping up the loose ends of his divorce, Graves’ thoughts had been turned inward for much of the past year. He hadn’t stopped to consider why Credence might act the way he did, but a host of cliches swam to the top of his mind.

Stuck in a whitebread community, looking for an outlet. Rebelling against conformist parents. Seeking approval from an authority figure, perhaps. Or maybe the kid was just lonely. Come to think of it, Graves had never seen Credence hanging around with the other teenagers, who roamed the streets in boisterous packs. He stuck close to home, usually babysitting his sisters or reading under the oak tree that divided their houses.

Propping the roller against a corner, Graves crouched down to eye-level. “Listen, Credence.”

The boy picked his head up, bangs falling over his eyes.

Against his better judgment, Graves swept the fringe of hair to one side. “You seem like a smart kid. Probably had your choice of colleges. I assume you picked one far away from here?”

Credence hesitated, then nodded.

“Good. So you’re gonna get out of here, and when you do, you’re gonna have all the time in the world to explore who you are.” Graves smiled. “Everything’s temporary. So focus on that. That and the little things that make you happy. Okay?”

Credence stared at him for a long moment, eyes searching his. And then he surged forward, slotting his lips over Graves’, bowling him over with surprising strength until they were both toppled to the floor, Credence straddling him.

It was all happening so fast, fingers tugging his hair, tongue in his mouth, Credence moaning, pulling away to say, “God, you’re so hot when you’re trying to give advice.”

“Fuck, you little--” Graves threw him off to one side, panting at the ceiling. “See if I ever try to be nice to you again.”

There was giggling, and then Credence rolled into sight, propped up on his elbows as he looked down into Graves’ face. “Maybe you shouldn’t be so nice to me, Mr. Graves.”

Graves groaned. “And stop calling me that. I’m not your teacher.”

“Alright,” Credence pressed his lips against the shell of Graves’ ear. “Percival.”

“That’s it,” Graves jumped to his feet with the kind of dexterity he hadn’t shown in years. That was how much this kid riled him up. “Out, out!”

“You’re shooing me out? What am I, a rabid raccoon?” Credence continued to chill on the floor, hands now behind his head.

“You might as well be. Now get out before I kick your jailbait ass to the curb.”

With a roll of his eyes, Credence rolled to a standing position with far more grace than Graves did, sauntering to the foyer. He paused on the threshold, glancing back. “Thanks for the shirt, Percival .”

Graves might have slammed the door shut afterwards. He didn’t recall.

 


 

A sweltering July ticked over into a scorching August not unlike the climate found in the depths of hell.

The kid had been over nearly every day he wasn’t actively babysitting. Sometimes even when he was, sneaking away for a so-called break while his second youngest sister looked after the napping ten-year old.

For the most part, Credence had been keeping his hands to himself, which was suspicious enough on its own. Graves had wondered what sort of scheme was brewing, but then put it out of his mind, deciding it was better he didn’t know.

The house was coming together and even Graves had to admit, two pairs of hands were better than one. They repainted the unfortunate mustard accent wall with a rich crimson. The front porch got a final coat of waterproof sealant. He even sprinkled some flower seeds around the edge of the yard, but hell if he knew whether or not anything will come of them.

His belongings were another story. Only around half of the boxes was unpacked, mostly just the essentials when he needed them. Kitchen utensils and toiletries, some towels. His suits hung in their tall wardrobe boxes in the hallway, unopened.

With all the maintenance work, his uniform nowadays consisted of wifebeaters or shirts he didn’t mind getting stained, sleeves wrinkled beyond hope from being pushed up. The same couple pairs of old jeans with the worn out knees, slung low around his hips because he couldn’t be bothered to dig out a belt.

It was dusk and the cool breeze was a welcomed respite from the unrelenting sun, which was dipping behind the homes across the street. It made his front porch a prime spot to watch the play of orange and red across the sky. Not as much purple as in the city, Graves noted.

There was still enough light to see the slim figure strolling towards his mailbox.

“What are you doing, Credence?”

The kid paused, looking over at him. He soon joined Graves on his front porch, leaning against the railing besides him. “Didn’t know if you were having dinner. Didn’t want to bother you.” He held out a small card in between two fingers.

“That’s unusually considerate of you.” Graves took the card. He tilted it towards the porch light, the words ‘You’re Invited!’ reflecting back in a shimmering gold font. “Don’t tell me you’re inviting me to your birthday party?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. The whole neighborhood’s invited.” Credence leaned against him, skin cool in the night air, gazing out towards the middle distance. “But I think you might be interested in this one.”

Graves flipped open the card. Inside, it read: Credence’s 18th birthday!

It started as a chuckle, bubbling up from somewhere deep in Graves’ chest. Soon his shoulders were shaking with the effort to suppress it. Finally, he threw back his head and laughed, wiping tears away with the back of his hand that held the invitation.

Graves took a deep, shuddering breath, the chirping of crickets and the buzz of cicadas the only noise once again. He hadn’t laughed that hard since Seraphina handed him the divorce papers.

After he’d settled down, Credence leaned his head against Graves’ shoulder. His hair was soft against Graves’ cheek and for a moment, Graves could pretend that this was another life, where they were just another couple enjoying a nice summer night.

After a minute, Graves gently pushed Credence off with a nudge. Prying neighbors were a dime a dozen in a place like this, and even with the cover of darkness, Graves didn’t feel comfortable. And that was the whole issue, wasn’t it?

He could try to distract himself with a million things but in the end, he was wearing somebody else’s skin. It was ill-fitting and left him with an itch he couldn’t scratch. The only time he felt at ease was with Credence, who didn’t bother to wear a syrupy sweet smile, who never sugarcoated the trivialities that seemed to plague upscale communities such as this one.

Maybe that was what made Credence so appealing. The same essence of being lost , adrift in a world where he didn’t belong. At least Graves had the luxury of thinking he had it all figured out at one point, Credence had probably never experienced it. But then again, that whole better to have loved and lost, blah blah blah thing, was bullshit. Falling from grace was so much worse.

“You’re wallowing again.” Credence murmured.

“Am not.”

A soft rush of air, like a chuckle through his nose. “What was it that you told me?” Credence placed a hand on Graves’ forearm, stroking it with his thumb, eyes never leaving the houses across the street. “Everything’s temporary?”

“Yeah,” Graves studied Credence’s profile, softened in the dim, orange glow of the porch light. An aristocratic nose, soaring cheekbones. Short hairs curling around his ear, tickling his brows. “Everything’s temporary.”

 


 

Some things were like in the movies. Except if he were in one, Graves wondered if he was the protagonist or the antagonist.

The whole neighborhood showed up to celebrate Credence’s crowning achievement of turning eighteen. It was more an excuse to drink one too many light beers (ew) while the housewives refilled their glasses with spiked punch (urgh).

Too bad Credence wasn’t turning twenty-one, then he could’ve shown up with a fine bottle of aged scotch, which he would insist on opening at the party and consuming immediately, while it was “fresh”.  

Credence was doing better than Graves, but that was because Credence had years of practice. He smiled indulgently as his parents paraded him around, thanking everyone for coming, acting pleasantly surprised by every gift he was handed. Kid was a pro.

“Smile, you look like you’re at a funeral.” Credence sidled up to him, speaking from the corner of his mouth.

“I thought we were mourning the death of your innocence, or whatever.” Graves lifted a hand in greeting to someone who waved at him from across the backyard. No idea who the fuck that was.

“That’s long dead.” Credence leaned in. “Although I’m sure you could still teach me a thing or two, Prof.”

Then Credence was gone, off to shake hands or kiss babies. Whatever it was sarcastic little shits like him did.

The time passed slowly, Graves dragged from one small talk to another,

ready for the new semester? It’s around the corner!

you’re gonna love it, it’s a great school!

how ya settling in?

Great, great, great.

Maybe it was his fault, for being too snooty to indulge in their choice of alcoholic beverages, because the whole ordeal would’ve been a hell of a lot easier if he weren’t sober. After another hour, he decided he’d put in his time and sought out the host of the bbq.

“Oh, Professor Graves, leaving so soon?” Margie asked, placing a hand on his arm.

“Please, call me Percival. I’ll hear enough of that soon enough.”

She laughed. “Of course. Well, we’re so glad you could make it. Credence, come say goodbye to Mr. Graves.”

Credence stepped forward obediently, wholesome smile plastered on. “Thanks for coming.” He tilted his head. “Could I call you Percival, too?”

Graves held in a snort, reaching out to ruffle the already messy mop of dark hair. “Of course, kiddo. It’s your birthday.”

“Aw, gee, thanks, Percival.”

Margie beamed at the both of them and Graves couldn’t help but find the situation painfully hysterical.

 


 

Later that night, after a desperate search in the various unopened boxes littered around his living room, Graves settled onto the couch with a groan, tumbler of whiskey in hand. In front of him was where his big screen TV would’ve been, if he had bothered to hang it.

But staring at a blank wall in silence suited him just fine. He was about to raise his glass to his lips when a knock sounded on the back door. A glance at the clock told him it was just past midnight.

It was Credence, of course.

“Little past your curfew, isn’t it?” Graves drawled.

Credence leaned his forearm on the doorjamb, which seemed to be supporting the entirety of his weight as he nearly pitched forward. “I…am an adult.”

“Oh my god, you’re drunk.” As Credence all but fell into his chest, the smell of booze hit him like a ton of bricks. “What’d you do? Sneak into your father’s liquor cabinet?”

“Mmmmmmaybe,” Credence mumbled into Graves’ collar.

With a heavy sigh, Graves scooped him up, bridal-style. He would’ve use the fireman’s carry if he weren’t sure that would’ve resulted in puke all over his floors. He kicked the back door shut, Credence a negligible weight in his arms as he walked back into his living room.

Credence looked small and pale against the dark leather of the couch, still dressed in the same button-down shirt from earlier today. It was the first article of clothing Graves had seen that didn’t look like it belonged in a twink bar in Chelsea. Credence shivered.

Graves went back to the boxes, digging around until he found a throw blanket. As he wrapped it around Credence’s slumbering form, Graves wondered what was the next step. He knew what a responsible adult would do - he’d tell Credence’s parents. They’d come right over, whisk Credence away, and the boy will probably be out of his hair forever.

“Percival?” came a weak voice from within the bundle.

Graves perched on the edge of the couch, tucking the blanket under Credence’s chin so it wasn’t suffocating him. “I’m here.”

“I’m sorry.”

With yet another sigh, Graves gave in and brushed a thumb over heated cheeks, pushing bangs off a sweat-soaked forehead. “Bit early to be having your quarter-life crisis. But you can still form words so, already got a leg up on me.”

Credence smiled, loose and easy, without purpose or a hint of arrogance. It looked good on him. “You got wasted?”

“Oh yeah, nearly drank myself blind,” Graves chuckled at the memory. “Acted like turning twenty-five was the end of the world.”

“Was it?”

“In a way. But a good way,” Graves clarified. “I...made a lot of mistakes as a young man. Believe it or not, you’ve got a good head on your shoulders. I wish I could say the same for me when I was your age.”

“Yeah,” Credence giggled. “You’re kinda slow on the uptake.”

“Don’t get smart with me.”

Credence nuzzled into the palm against his face, expression sobering, if not his overall state. “I am sorry, though, for everything.”

“What are you talking about?”

“For bothering you all the time. You probably have better things to do. Like finding a new wife.”

“You’re not-- I don’t--” Graves huffed out a breath, his familiar frustration with the inadequacy of words rearing its head again. “Come here.”

He pulled Credence into his arms, rubbing soothing palms over the bony back. He felt more than heard Credence sigh, chest pressed against his, a warm exhale in the crook of his neck.

“You’re not a bother to me. You’re not a bother to anyone,” Graves muttered, and he wasn’t sure if he were speaking to Credence or his younger self. “I feel so lucky you came into my life. Like god’s giving me a break, for once.”

Credence snorted. “Not the devil?”

“Fallen angels are still angels, right?”

Credence pulled back to look at him, eyes half-lidded but clearer than when he first stumbled onto his doorstep. With the languid movements of someone still half-drunk, Credence clambered into Graves’ lap, pulling the throw around them both, arms looping around Graves’ neck. “You never gave me a birthday present.”

“Yes, I did. I left it on the gifts table.”

Credence frowned. “What’d you get me?”

“A card. It had cash in it,” when Credence rolled his eyes, he insisted, “I was short on time.”

“Whatever. That’s a shitty gift, so it doesn’t count.”

“So what does count?”

Credence smirked and he almost looked like his normal self. “You know what.”

“You’re in no state for that, legal or not.”

Credence rolled his hips. “Please?”

God, it’d been a while but. “No.” Graves clamped his hands down on Credence’s thighs, halting them. He tried not to notice how well they fit in his palms.

“Fine. How ‘bout a kiss?”

“You smell like a distillery.”

“But it’s my birthday.”

“It’s past midnight so technically, no.”

Credence pouted, crossing his arms. He glared off to the side.

Graves found his hands rubbing over Credence’s thighs, like smoothing the flank of an irritated horse. “Alright, just one,” he placated.  

Immediately, Credence was on him, hands in his hair, licking into his mouth. Credence tasted bitter, like hard liquor, tongue warm and wet against his own. With a sharp nip to Graves’ bottom lip, one kiss turned into two, then three.

The hands in his hair tightened as Credence moaned and spread his thighs so he could press closer, grinding his hard length into Graves’ stomach.

With what little blood left in his brain, Graves knew he should put a stop to this. “Wait, wait,” he panted, voice rough.

“No, no, please,” Credence begged, high and needy. He pressed his forehead to Graves’, eyes squeezed shut, hips moving jerkily. “Just stay still, let me--”

“God, Credence,” Graves dropped his head onto the back of the couch, his own eyes slipping shut. His hands moved around to grip Credence’s ass, which was flexing with each thrust. “Fuck, you’re drunk, we can’t--”

“I promise you,” Credence pushed out between gritted teeth. “I wanted this before, and I will want this again after. Me having a few - ah, fuck - drinks won’t change that.”

Graves wanted to argue, he really did, but his cock was aching and each time Credence shifted, his ass grounded down into Graves’ lap, torturous and not enough. And Credence started making these noises, breathless mewls right in his ear, yes, please, I’m so close .

With a stutter of his hips, Credence stilled, nails digging into Graves’ shoulders before his entire body relaxed, all at once, slumping over, chest still heaving. Not even a minute later he was sliding to his knees between Graves’ legs.

“Oh, thank god,” Graves whispered as Credence undid his belt, pulling out his hard dick. “Have you...done this before?”

Credence nodded but he was eyeing it strangely, wrapping both hands around it, one on top of the other. “Nothing this big before.”

His first thought was to be flattered. His second was to reassure Credence that he didn’t have to do anything he was uncomfortable with, but before he could get the words out Credence took the head in his mouth, sucking on it like a lollipop, and Graves dropped his head back onto the couch.

Exploratory licks all over, tonguing the slit. Graves picked his head up just enough to watch Credence work, dark lashes fanned out with his eyes closed in concentration, cheeks hollowing as he bobbed along the length, taking a bit more each time.

“Fuck, you’re so pretty,” Graves mumbled, cupping one large hand around a delicate cheek.

Credence’s lashes fluttered, moaning around the mouthful. He had one hand stroking what he couldn’t fit, the other below the couch, moving in time with his head. Fuck, to have that kind of refractory period again.

Graves trailed his hand from Credence’s cheek to his hair, the perfect length to grab onto. He wanted to take it slow, let Credence set his own pace, but the tight, wet heat of that mouth was too good, and it was almost teasing at this point.

He pushed Credence a little further down and Credence took it like a champ, quickly adjusting as his lips stretched wide around the girth. Spit was dribbling down his chin and his moans were more insistent, the hand on his own cock speeding up.

At this point, Graves was fucking into Credence’s mouth, balls tightening as he reached the peak. “Credence, I’m gonna--”

Credence pulled off with a pop, sitting back on his haunches with his mouth still opened, eyes closed. “Come on my face.”

Graves groaned, hand falling to give his cock the couple of pulls it needed. Long strings of cum landed on Credence’s cheeks, his lashes, his waiting tongue.

Head back, eyes still closed, Credence came with a whimper, fucking into his own fist. After a couple of breaths, Credence peeked out at him from the eye not covered in release.


Graves exhaled. “You’re gonna be the death of me.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

With a hot, damp towel, Graves carefully wiped away every trace of their activities, Credence humming as the warmth traveled over his face to his fingers to his tip of his cock. He was perched on the edge of the kitchen counter, content to let Graves fuss over him, watching the process through drowsy eyes.

“You’re gonna get back okay?”

“Yeah, I sneak out all the time.” Credence smiled. “They don’t notice.”

“Well, I’ll keep an eye on you, just in case.” Graves lifted him off the counter to the floor.

Credence draped himself over Graves, feigning unsteadiness on his feet as he clung to Graves’ shoulders. He hid his face in the crook of Graves’ neck, burrowing into the warmth.

Graves didn’t resist indulging him, wrapping arms around the narrow waist, hugging Credence to his chest. Ridiculous notions of bringing Credence into his bed creeped unbidden into his mind. As appealing as the thought was, it was simply not possible.

Maybe next time, his traitorous brain whispered. Graves ignored it.

Slipping out the back door, Credence crossed the grass, hopping over the wooden divider fence with ease. Well, Graves supposed if he could do it drunk then it shouldn’t pose a challenge when mostly sober.

A cool breeze drifted through the opened window as he collapsed into bed, his mind blissfully blank for the first time in a year.

 


 

The next morning, Graves did not wake up to an angry, pitchfork wielding mob ready to chase him out of their neighborhood. It was a pleasant surprise.

It was a plausible scenario and yet, he felt strangely calm. He supposed in a community filled with this many busybodies, if someone had suspected anything between him and Credence, the rumormill would’ve already caught wind of it.

Since they’d been spending nearly every day for the past two months together, there was no reason to deviate from the norm.

Credence must’ve had the same idea because he sauntered through the back door, which Graves left unlocked every morning for just this purpose, and hopped up on the kitchen island. “When are you getting bar stools?”

“If you want to sit, go to the dining room. I bought a whole set of chairs.” Graves continued to browse the news on his laptop, content to lean on his elbows and drink his coffee standing. “And good morning, by the way.”

Credence snatched the mug out of Graves’ hand, taking a sip. “Good morning.” And then he swooped down for a kiss that Graves was helpless to deny him.

So for the most part, things remained the same.

It wasn’t as if Graves was any more distracted by Credence than before. The things that used to give him pause still did, like the outline of Credence’s navel through his skin tight t-shirts, the fine hairs curling just above the nape of his neck, the plush pillow of his lower lip.

It was just that now, he could do something about it.

On more than one instance, they ended up on the living room floor, below eye-level of any passerbys.

Both of Credence’s slim wrists fit neatly into one of his broad palms, perfect for pinning together above the boy’s head. His other hand rucked up the tight tee, teasing Credence’s sides, brushing against perked nipples.

Credence whined, always so impatient, his bucking hips held down by Graves’ weight on top of him. “Touch me.”

“I am touching you.”

“No,” Credence shook his head, and it was cute how much concentration it took for him to form a coherent sentence when all his blood had gone south. “Touch my cock.”

“Oh, what, this?” Graves slid his hand lower, just to the side of the leaking, red cock straining against Credence’s belly. “You’re gonna have to ask nicely.”

“Please, Percy, please touch me, please,” Credence begged.

“If you insist.”

With only a couple of pulls, Credence was arching off the hardwood, spurting over his flat stomach and chest. As he lied there catching his breath, Graves cleaned up the mess with long swipes of his tongue, crawling up the length of his body.

“Kiss me,” Credence demanded, still breathless.

And Graves did, letting the boy steal the taste of himself from his mouth. Then Credence wanted to taste him, too, and Graves was only too happy to oblige.

Afterwards, both sprawled out on floor, watching the late afternoon sun make its way across the ceiling, Credence turned to him and asked, “Why don’t you just put up fucking curtains?”

 


 

Curtains opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Now every inch of the house, from any level, was fair game.

They started on the couch, for old times’ sake. That was where he made Credence kneel on the cushions, hands braced on the back as Graves spread him apart with his tongue.

Credence was squirming at first, giggling at the wet, slippery sensation of being licked there , but by the end he was pushing back for more. He came with Graves’ tongue in him, Graves’ hand on his cock, and then Graves’ cum splattering on his back, leaving a hot trail down his spine.

Graves dipped a thumb in the mess, rubbing the slickness around Credence’s rim, slipping inside. He knew Credence had only ever had his own fingers inside of himself, and the twitch of Credence’s cock said he was more than interested in changing that.

But instead, Graves withdrew completely.

“I can go again,” Credence insisted.

“I know you can,” Graves smiled, pressing a kiss to the soft swell of his ass. “But I can’t. Don’t worry, we have tomorrow.”

 


 

The dining table was the next to be conquered, its solid, oak frame taking Credence’s weight with ease.

“Don’t you eat on here?” Credence smirked, perched naked on the edge of the table.

“Guess we could add one more thing to the menu,” Graves stepped in between long, pale legs, hands coming up to cradle Credence’s face as he swooped in to devour his mouth.

Once Credence was left properly breathless, Graves motioned for him to lie back, bringing his knees up and out. The first finger entered smoothly, and Credence clenched around it experimentally.

The second had him breathing roughly through his nose, mouth dropping open as Graves scissored in and out.

The third had him panting, hands curled up into fists against his heaving chest.

“Shh, shh,” Graves soothed, his free hand caressing soft, inner thighs, trailing over a taunt stomach, brushing against Credence’s leaking cock, the velvety skin of his balls. “Too much?”

Credence gave a vigorous shake of his head. Graves waited until his breathing evened out, and then started probing, shallow thrusts combined with a slight upward press. He knew he found it when Credence whimpered, back arching off the wooden surface.

“Again,” Credence gasped. “Please.”

Graves glanced between his slick fingers disappearing into the tight ring of muscle, and Credence’s face, half hidden by his hands over his mouth as he tried to keep quiet. Little whimpers kept escaping and Graves could tell by the all over flush that Credence was close.

Graves palmed his own cock through the rough fabric of his jeans, surprisingly close himself. But his priority was always Credence, so he moved his hand to Credence’s dick, not even in a proper grasp but just the flat of his palm pressing down, enough for Credence to buck his hips and chase the friction.

“Lemme hear you, baby,” Graves encouraged. “Come on.”

Credence threw his hands over his head, gripping the edge of the table, letting out a loud, drawn out moan as he came over his own chest.

Once done stroking Credence through the aftershocks, Graves fumbled at his own belt, pulling his swollen cock out with a groan. He used his slick fingers to coat his length, jerking it roughly as his other hand held Credence by the back of the knee. “Spread yourself,” he commanded, voice like gravel.

Credence obeyed, somehow flushing even more when Graves came all over his hole, coating his taint, cum running down between his cheeks.

Dick still peeking through the unzipped fly of his jeans, Graves flopped onto the table next to Credence. For a few minutes there was only the sound of their harsh breaths.

Credence turned his head. “Why didn’t you fuck me?”

“Well, too late for that. And I don’t think I would’ve lasted long, anyway,” Graves admitted.

With great effort, Credence rolled over, tucking himself against Graves’ side, head pillowed on a well-muscled shoulder. Graves dropped a kiss on his sweat-soaked forehead, getting mostly hair in his mouth, before curling a hand over the jut of his hipbone.

Graves would’ve dozed off if Credence hadn’t spoken. “Mm?”

“I said,” Credence mumbled, slightly more clearly. “My ass feels like a slushie.”

Graves closed his eyes again. “I bet it sure does.”

 


 

On still nights like these, the heat lingered well after the sun had gone down, shrouding the neighborhood in a blanket of warmth. It felt suffocating.

But it was still prefered over the stuffy interior of the house. There was only one hastily installed air conditioner in his bedroom, and Graves didn’t like to be cooped up in one room for too long. Besides, drinking in bed was too depressing, even for him.

He took a sip of scotch as the last of the light faded from the skies, the wood of the railing digging into his forearms. From his right came the sound of a door swinging opened, interrupting the incessant droning of summertime insects.

A figure crossed the lawn, making its way towards Graves’ front porch. It wasn’t who he expected. “Margie?”

“Percival! Good evening,” she greeted as she got closer. Her blonde hair appeared orange under the porch light. Even if Credence hadn’t told him he was adopted, Graves would’ve guessed by the utter lack of familial resemblance. “Hot night, huh?”

“Sure is,” he placed his tumbler on the wide surface of the railing, turning around. “What can I do for you?”

“Can’t a neighbor pay another neighbor a visit?” she asked with a laugh.

“Of course.”

“Mm, well, it’s just a couple of little things,” she tittered. “About Credence--”

“He okay?” Graves was torn between worry and the sudden, but very vivid of image of himself beaten to death by a mob of housewives with tennis rackets, drowning in a sea of pastel.

“Oh, yes, he’s great,” she nodded, unaware of the fear that was only now leaving Graves’ body. “I think in a large part that’s thanks to you.”

“Me?”

“Credence was never the most...” Margie’s face scrunched together, as if saying something negative was a physically painful act. “Well, you know, he doesn’t get along with too many of his peers. He can be a little standoffish.”

“He’s a smart kid, though.”

“Yes, very. I mean, don’t get us wrong,” she insisted. “We don’t mind if he’d rather read a book than go throw a ball around. But we worried sometimes, if he was lonely.”

Graves nodded, unsure where this was going.

“It’s just nice to see him like this. I mean, happy,” Margie clarified. “You know, working outside, getting some sun. Using his hands like a proper boy,” she laughed.

Yikes, don’t follow that train of thought, Graves scolded himself. “I should be thanking him, for all the help in fixing up the place.”

“Well, then we can consider it a mutually beneficial relationship,” she said with a smile.

I had your son’s dick in my mouth three hours ago , Graves thought.

“I’m afraid to ask more of you,” she furrowed her brows. “But Robbie and I are heading out of town tomorrow night, and we’re taking the girls. We’ll be back Sunday afternoon. My sister’s got this…”

Margie explained the situation but all Graves could focus on was the fact that today was Thursday. That meant two whole nights where Credence was--

“...left alone before and he’s always been fine. Credence is very independent,” Margie reassured him. “But just in case, here’s my number.”

“Yeah, sure,” Graves accepted the post-it note. “No problem.”

 


 

“Be good! Call us if anything!” Margie’s voice echoed down the street as she waved out the car window.

Graves stepped out onto the porch just in time to catch their tail-lights rounding the corner, disappearing from view.

A lone figure stood on the curb, staring after them for a moment before turning around, as if sensing eyes on him. Graves fought down a grin as the figure approached.

Credence hopped up the steps, light on his feet, sidling up next to him to lean against the railing. He kept his eyes trained on the middle distance, feigning nonchalance. “So.”

Graves tilted his head at him. “So.”

“Any big plans for weekend?”

“Mm, not really,” Graves shrugged, looking up at the inky sky. One of the few benefits this place had over the city was more visible stars. “Probably just going to stay in for most of it.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Graves saw Credence nodding. Credence’s hand tip-toed its way down the railing until one finger rested on Graves’ forearm, stroking. “I have some pretty big plans.”

“Yeah?” Graves couldn’t resist turning towards him, studying his profile with a fond smile.

“Mmhm,” Credence peeked at him from under dark, messy bangs, coy and enticing. He bit his lip, hesitating for a beat. “Wanna go for a drive?”

 


 

“You do have your license, right?” Graves asked from the passenger seat of his own car. It was a regular sedan, the latest model of whatever they had at the rental place. He didn’t need to own a car in New York, and he’d been too preoccupied to think about going shopping for one.

“Little too late to ask that,” Credence replied, but at Graves’ look of worry he added, “Relax. I do.”

They drove in silence for a few minutes, Credence navigating the dark, empty streets of the neighborhood with practiced ease. Graves sunk into the soft leather, enjoying the rare opportunity to not have to think for once.

Soon they left the rows of cookie cutter houses behind, merging onto the highway. Graves turned on the radio, tuning in to the least irritating channel he could find. He settled on something light and bouncy, a summer hit according to the DJ.

Road lights whipped past, orange streaks illuminating the dark interior of the car, like the stuttering of a film reel. They threw Credence’s features into sharp relief, emphasizing the jut of his jaw, the proud bridge of his nose. In this moment, he looked more serious than Graves had ever seen him, lost in thought as he drove on autopilot.

Suddenly they turned down a dirt road, where the only guidance came from their headlights. Then Credence pulled over, cutting the engine.

“You might wanna get out on my side,” Credence suggested. “Don’t want you falling into a ditch.”

Glad he was wearing his usual work jeans and boots tonight, Graves followed as Credence veered off onto a single-file footpath, ducking and weaving around low hanging branches.

There was enough ambient light to see by, especially once his eyes adjusted, but he still treaded carefully up the gentle incline. Finally they emerged onto a small outcrop, a wonderful change of scenery from the claustrophobic path that led them here.

Far below the outcrop were the tops of trees, their summer leaves hiding the road that winded through them. And farther out, midway to the horizon, sat their little town. It had enough buildings to break up the darkness with a thousand pinpricks of lights, several spots shining brighter than others, the edges petering out like a faded stroke from a paint brush.  

It was no Manhattan skyline but lovely all the same. The sight was familiar, in a way, and it settled something deep in Graves’ chest. He looked away from the view to find Credence sitting on the ground, legs outstretched so the tips of his sneakers touched the cliffedge.

Joining him, Graves asked, “Is this your spot?”

“Mm,” Credence nodded. “I come here whenever I need some space. Haven’t visited in awhile.”

“Wonder why,” Graves murmured, pulling Credence close by the waist.

Credence leaned his head on Graves’ shoulder, quiet. They admired the view, kept company by the chirp of crickets and the ever present buzz of cicadas. The scent of nature in summer was all around them, but there was hint of something else in the air. A breeze that carried an undercurrent of impending Autumn.

“Thanks for showing me this place,” Graves said softly. “It’s...peaceful.”

“I’ve never brought anyone else here before,” Credence confessed. “Didn’t think I ever would, especially after I graduated.”

“Not even your prom date?”

“Didn’t go,” Credence said with a wry smile. “Last thing I wanted to do was spend extra time with those people.”

Graves snorted. He was about to remind Credence that he was going off to college soon, and that he’d never have to see or think about any of those people again if he wanted. But then Graves remember that oh, Credence was going off to college soon.

As if hearing his thoughts, Credence pointed towards the town. “There’s the campus for your school.”

Graves squinted but couldn’t differentiate one clump of buildings from another.  

“You’re starting soon, right?” Credence asked lightly.

“Three weeks,” Graves replied. He cleared his throat, tone equally careful. “When are you heading out?”

“Two weeks,” Credence shifted in Graves’ arm. “Getting there early to settle into the dorms.”

“Ah,” Graves didn’t know what else to say.

It was never discussed, this arrangement of theirs. What they had together felt natural, effortless, but most of all, fragile. The heavy, useless weight of questions about the future, or even just the end of summer, was too much for their relationship to bear. One should appreciate a flower for its beauty, not lament its inevitable death while it was still in bloom.

And yet that was exactly what Graves was doing, picturing the long days ahead after Credence had left. His heart sank, dreading the intrusive thoughts already whispering in the back of his mind, the creeping self-doubt, the loneliness. The miracle of finding happiness again, only for it to had been even more fleeting than the first time.

Well, that was his problem. He was certainly never going to voice any of this to Credence, who had a full life ahead of him, and who was going to look back on this one day, hopefully fondly, and wonder whatever happened to that Mr. Graves?

 


 

It was late by the time they returned, Graves in the driver’s seat this time. The quiet journey back had lulled Credence to sleep, and not even the engine cutting off awoke him.

Graves opened the passenger side door, leaning in to unbuckle Credence’s seatbelt. “Hey,” he whispered. “We’re here.”

Mumbling in protest, Credence curled towards Graves’ warmth but otherwise kept his eyes firmly closed.

With a smile, Graves scooped him up, nudging the door closed with his hip. He made his way around to the back of the house, where there was less of a chance of prying eyes as he fumbled for his keys.

Out of all the times he’d imagined Credence in his bed, none of them looked quite like this. By the time they had reached the bedroom, Credence was jostled awake enough to be set down on his feet. He had sleepily toed off his sneakers and socks, shimmied out of his jeans, and then fell face first into the sheets.

Graves would make fun of him if he wasn’t equally tired, so he followed suit, stripping down to his briefs before arranging Credence under the covers. He sighed as he molded himself around the curve of Credence’s spine, tucking his nose into the soft hairs at the nape of Credence’s neck.

 


 

At some point he must’ve drifted off, because he found himself blinking the sleep from his eyes, squinting against the moonlight filtering through the windows. The sheets were kicked to the foot of the bed but Graves still felt hot, his chest sticking to Credence’s back. Credence must’ve shucked off his t-shirt in the heat.

With a shift, Graves was suddenly aware of what woke him up. There was a throbbing weight between his legs, probably worked up from the presence of another body in his bed. Even as he was contemplating a cold shower, Graves couldn’t resist pressing against the soft swell of Credence’s ass, chasing friction.

His hand, resting on the jut of Credence’s hipbone, slid around to find that Credence was sporting an erection of his own. He palmed Credence through his briefs, thumbing over the wet spot, giving it a gentle squeeze. Credence gave a low moan, hips bucking, already close after a night of lying aroused and untouched.

After a moment of deliberation, Graves rolled onto his back, pulling Credence on top of him, his chest to Credence’s back. From this position he could run his hands up and down the boy’s sides, rubbing his nipples into hardness before trailing his palms down, over a flat stomach and the sharp cut of hipbones, cupping Credence’s hard dick.

Now awake, Credence squirmed in his arms, ass grinding over Graves’ cock with every little movement. He fisted his hands in the sheets, head thrown back onto Graves’ shoulder, heels digging into the mattress as he arched his back.

“Shh, shh,” Graves whispered in his ear. “I got you, baby.”

He pushed the briefs down, large palm enveloping Credence’s dripping member, slick head peeking over his fist as he stroked. His other hand played with Credence’s balls, which were drawn tight with arousal.

“Ah, ah,” Credence panted, chest heaving. “Percy, I--”

It was the only warning Graves got before Credence came all over himself, cum painting halfway up his chest, pooling in his belly button. Graves ran soothing hands up and down his sides, thrusting up against the cleft of Credence’s ass to relieve some pressure.

Then he maneuvered Credence to the side, sitting up to look at him. Eyes closed, Credence was still breathing harshly, skin glowing in the pale light from outside, like warm alabaster. His briefs were tangled around his thighs, and Graves slid them the rest of the way off, using them to clean up the mess on Credence’s chest.

He tossed it over the side of the bed, crawling up the length of Credence’s body to kiss him deeply. “Was that good?” he murmured against Credence’s lips.

“Mm,” Credence was soft-eyed and pliant, with a pretty flush across his nose. “Are you gonna fuck me?”

Graves’ cock gave a twitch of interest.

“Please,” Credence punctuated the request with a peck to his lips. “I want you to.”

After a beat, Graves retrieved the bottle of lube from the nightstand, shuffling to the end of the bed to sit between Credence’s splayed legs.

Credence parted his knees, resting them up by his sides with an enviable flexibility. He stretched his entire body, fingertips brushing the headboard, loose-limbed and practically purring as Graves thumbed his hole. A shiver ran down his spine as cool lube dripped onto his rim.

The first finger breached easily, Graves pushing in up to the knuckle. His own cock strained against his briefs and he pulled it out now, letting it jut out over the waistband. Then he added a second finger, pressing open-mouthed kisses into the soft, creamy meat of Credence’s inner thighs.

WIth a sigh, Credence’s eyes fluttered close as three fingers gently stroked his insides. He was a monochrome tapestry, skin bathed in moonlight, tousled hair blending in with the shadows. His kiss-swollen lips a splash of red, falling apart to let loose soft moans.

More than anything, Graves wanted to commit the sight to memory. He was suddenly terrified he couldn’t. He swallowed around the lump in his throat. “Turn around.”

Credence went obediently to his knees, spine in a long, graceful arch. Graves kissed the dimples above his tailbone, placing his thumbs in the same spot as he lined up to Credence’s entrance.

It was a hot, tight fit, wet and mind-numbing. The sounds of their breathing were loud in the otherwise silent room, every muscle in Graves’ body taut with restraint as he pulled out and pushed back in, gradually sinking deeper.

When he was fully seated, he held still, teeth gritted from exertion. A drop of sweat fell from his temples, where his usually slicked back hair was loose, hanging from his bowed head.

After a minute, Credence rocked forward, nearly sliding off Graves’ dick until he pushed back all the way.

“Fuck,” Graves tilted his head back at the sensation.

Credence continued to fuck himself on Graves’ cock, spreading his knees to search for that perfect angle, moaning loudly when he found it. He was close, Graves could tell by the flush of his skin, the frantic bouncing of his ass, his hand slipping underneath himself.

Graves grabbed him by the arm before it could reach its destination. “Not yet, baby.” He pulled back both of Credence’s arms, pinning his wrists to his lower back with one broad palm.

Credence whined in frustration, too far gone to form words. He tried to drop his knees to rut against the sheets, but Graves used his free hand to pull him up by the hips.

“Be good,” Graves panted, giving a hard grind for emphasis. “Waiting makes it better.”

“No,” Credence finally bit out, voice muffled against the pillow. “I want to come.”

“Shh, shh,” Graves made mindless, soothing noises, close to the edge himself.

“Percy,” it came out as high, drawn-out whimper. His fingers flexed against Graves’ hold, itching to touch himself. “Please.” His cries mixed with the slap of flesh on flesh, the snap of Graves’ hips coming harder and faster.

Distantly, Graves was aware of his own tight grip, probably leaving bruises on fair skin. But he couldn’t seem to stop, grunts spilling from his throat.

“Ah, fuck, Percy,” Credence’s hands were balled into fists, nails digging into his palms. “I’m gonna, I’m--”

And that was when Credence came for the first time while untouched, spilling onto the sheets. He clamped down like a vise on Graves’ cock, and Graves pumped a couple more times before he had the good sense to pull out, painting Credence’s back.

They both collapsed onto the bed, trying to catch their breaths. Graves turned his head to find Credence already falling asleep, hair matted to his forehead, utterly fucked out. He was a dead weight as Graves pulled him against his chest, just awake enough to burrow into the crook of Graves’ neck.


Yawning, he thought about cleaning Credence up. But soon his own lids were drifting close, heavy with sleep, lulled by the steady warmth of Credence in his arms.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The same window that had bathed them in moonlight last night now let in the early afternoon sun. He awoke with a groan, rubbing a hand over his eyes. The sheets had been pulled over his naked form and he pushed them aside now, standing with a pop of his back.

Credence was nowhere to be seen. Pulling on a robe and padding downstairs, Graves found him in the kitchen, hair still wet from a shower and dressed in yesterday’s clothes as he whisked something in a bowl.

Graves slid arms around his waist, hooking a chin over his shoulder. “I didn’t know I had pancake mix.”

“You didn’t,” Credence replied. “You had the ingredients for pancakes, though.”

Graves made a noise of surprise. “I had no idea.”

“Do you even know how to make pancakes?”

“I get the general gist of it,” Graves drawled.

“What’d you do in New York?” Credence scoffed. “Brunch?”

Graves wasn’t about to admit that the all day brunches with the bottomless Bloody Marys were exactly what he missed most about the city. “I like my pancakes thick,” he kissed the back of Credence’s ear. “Thanks, honey.”

“Not your housewife,” Credence sing-songed.

“No, I need to get you a frilly pink apron for that,” Graves retreated to the other end of the kitchen island, booting up his laptop. Classes started in a few weeks and he hadn’t looked at his syllabus since last semester. Well, new school, same lesson plan then.

His emails were also piling up and he scrolled through them now, saving most of them for later. One caught his eye, sender: Tina Goldstein. The subject was ready to blow your brains out yet?

Graves snorted. Goldstein was one of the very few colleagues he actually missed, plus she was always a good source for interdepartmental drama. It sounded like she missed griping to him too, as the rest of her email bemoaned the usual bureaucratic bullshit that plagued the life of an academic.

The smell of coffee had him perking up as Credence placed a mug by his elbow. A plate of pancakes, eggs, and bacon soon followed. Credence peered over his shoulder, biting into a crispy strip. “Who’s that?”

“Fellow professor at NYU,” Graves answered, pressing a kiss to Credence’s temple in thanks. “The usual gossip.”

“Hm,” Credence tilted his head. “Do you miss it?”

“What? Teaching?”

“No, NYU.”

Graves shrugged. “Sometimes.”

“Hm,” Credence looked thoughtful as he took his breakfast into the dining room, preferring to eat his meals sitting down.

Graves skimmed the rest of email until he was nearly at the bottom, where a sentence made his brows raise to his hairline.

 

Listen...Seraphina is leaving.

 

The name of his ex-wife was enough to leave a bad taste in his mouth, but what followed afterwards was even harder to swallow. Seraphina’s departure from the school meant that her position as Dean was opening up, and rumors had it that his name was on a list of potential candidates. And the reason for that was because Seraphina herself put it there.

 

No one really thinks you’ve left for good, Graves. Even Seraphina thinks you’ll come back once she’s out of the picture. She’ll even hire you back as her last act as Dean. And the hiring committee loves you so that’s not even an issue. But okay, I get it, you don’t want to come back as faculty. So take the Dean job!!

 

Graves rolled his eyes. Tina had been trying to convince him to return to his post since before he even left New York. However, this was an enticing proposition.

 

You didn’t hear this from me, but the President himself said he’d let you skip to the final interview if you’d just consider the position. Seraphina will back you, Graves. You just gotta want it.

 

Easier said than done. There was only one thing Graves wanted right now, at this point in his life, and it had nothing to do with his career.

With a sigh, he padded into the dining room, which was empty saved for a dirty plate left on the table. Graves found Credence in the living room, waist deep in one of the boxes stacked everywhere.

“Hey, look at this!” Credence emerged with a large tote bag, cinched at the top with drawstrings, ‘Brazilian Hammock’ embroidered on the side.

“Forgot about that,” Graves chuckled, taking the bag to weigh it in his hands. “Got it as a going away gift. My colleagues had interesting ideas about what suburban life looked like.”

“No, they were dead on,” Credence grabbed it back with a grin. “I’m gonna go set this up.”

Graves watched fondly as Credence stumbled out into the backyard, holding the heavy tote with both arms.

After a minute, he remembered that he was still in his robe and went upstairs to take a much needed shower. By the time he was done, Credence was still outside, and Graves observed through the kitchen window as he hammered something into a tree.

Graves left him to it. When Credence was determined to do something, there was no stopping him until he got what he wanted. Case in point, himself.

The rest of the afternoon passed quietly, Graves reworking his syllabus, updating it just a tad. His nagging sense of responsibility caught up with him and he also started going through his inbox, grumbling under his breath the whole time.

Then there was Goldstein’s email, hovering on the edge of his mind. It felt like another life, at once distant and vivid, bringing up all sorts of unpleasant memories. His divorce was not a bitter one, due to the fact that Seraphina was above such pettiness. She had treated the proceedings with a detached professionalism that Graves envied. It turned out that Graves was more sentimental than either of them knew.

Unofficially, Graves ceded New York to Seraphina, even though she had no qualms about continuing to work together, or even living under the same roof until one of them had the time to apartment hunt. Graves, on the other hand, decided the best course of action was to quit his job and leave the state entirely. His flair for the dramatic was yet another discovery to come out of the divorce.

The possibility of crawling back to his old life was out of the question. But Dean of School of Arts and Sciences would be an upgrade , a voice that sounded suspiciously like Tina’s reminded him. But then he’d be playing right into Seraphina’s hands and her incessant need to control everything and everyone through constant machinations.

Graves dropped his head into his hands and groaned.

Flexing the crick in his neck, he looked up to find that it was nearly dark outside, the sun setting earlier as autumn approached. It didn’t help that they had a late start as well.

He stepped outside, letting his eyes adjust on his back porch until he spotted a stretch of white, hung between two skinny maples in a corner of his yard. A tuft of dark hair poked out over one edge of the hammock.

Smiling, he made his way over to find Credence reading a book by the light of his phone. “You sure this thing will hold?”

“That depends more on your trees than my handiwork,” Credence replied. “Comfy though. And there’s room for one more.”

Graves gave the contraption a dubious once-over.

“Come on,” Credence wheedled. “I spent all day putting this together.”

The tall fence around the perimeter of the yard afforded them privacy. It was also dark, and when most respectable people were inside having dinner. Besides, he could never resist indulging Credence.

“Fine, move over,” Graves gingerly climbed in, the hammock swinging dangerously. It was a flurry of elbows and knees, Graves waiting for the cloth to rip as Credence giggled.

Finally, they were settled, Credence half on top of his chest, snug against his side.

“So what are you reading?”

Credence hummed, shining a light onto the blurb on the back of the book. He began to read aloud, “In his new book, Percival Graves claims that presidential control is now nominal, congressional oversight is dysfunctional, and--”

“Oh god, stop,” Graves groaned. “I forgot I had a whole box of these.”

“It’s pretty interesting so far,” Credence feigned sincerity. “But honestly, I’m just reading ‘cause of this hot professor guy.” He flipped it opened to the back jacket flap, where a serious black and white photo of Graves glared out at them.

“I hate you,” Graves snapped the book shut, tossing it over the side of the hammock. He clutched a laughing Credence to his chest, whining into his neck. “They used the worst picture of me.”

“I like it,” Credence murmured against his temples, stroking the back of his head. “You looked daddy as fuck.”

“I hate you,” Graves repeated.

“No, you love me,” Credence said softly.

Graves didn’t have a reply to that.

 


 

The new syllabus was finally completed, and Graves even hooked up his printer just so he could have a hard copy. He was frowning at it now, reclining in bed against the headboard, when Credence entered the bedroom, fresh from a shower and dressed only in one of Graves’ old t-shirts. The hem barely skimmed the top of his thighs, but the rest of it hung loosely over his slight frame.

The papers were quickly abandoned on the nightstand, Graves watching Credence approach with dark eyes. “Come here.”

As Credence straddled his lap, Graves confirmed that he wasn’t wearing anything underneath, palms sliding uninterrupted from the back of his thighs up to soft curve of his backside, skin hot even through the thin cotton of Graves’ briefs.  

“These are cute,” Credence remarked, trailing a finger delicately along the edge of Graves’ glasses. They were gold and perfectly round. Tina had laughed and called him a hipster English professor the first time she saw them.

“They make me feel a hundred years old,” Graves muttered, thoroughly distracted by the smooth skin beneath his hands, still flushed from the shower.

“I like them,” Credence declared. Gently lifting the glasses off the bridge of Graves’ nose, he folded the arms and placed them on the side table. Catching sight of the syllabus, he picked it up to read. “Think you might wanna change the header.”

“Mm, why’s that?” Graves was staring at where the large tee pooled in Credence’s lap, the outline of his half-hard dick showing through the threadbare fabric.

“It still says ‘NYU’ on it, for starters.”

“I’ll fix it later,” Graves practically growled, plucking the paper from Credence’s hand and tossing it to the side. “I’m very busy right now.”

Credence smirked, wiggling in place, teasing the hardening length beneath his ass. Graves slid his hands up underneath the tee to grip him by the waist, pushing him down more firmly as he thrusted up.

Their lips slotted together, growing wet with spit as Credence licked into his mouth, moaning as his shirt was lifted to expose his cock. He pressed closer, rubbing against Graves’ stomach, leaving a spot of precum.

When Graves trailed a hand down the cleft of Credence’s ass, fingering the rim of his hole, Credence tensed. “Still sore, baby?”

“No,” Credence lied.

“It’s alright, we can do something else,” Graves said in between dotting Credence’s neck with kisses. The collar of the shirt got in the way so he tugged the whole thing off, leaving a naked, pouting Credence in his lap. He pulled Credence closer with a hand to the back of his neck, speaking against his lips, “It’ll be good, promise. Now lie down.”

He retrieved the lube from the side drawer, coating his hand liberally with it.

“On your side,” he instructed.

Credence turned, facing away from him. His spine was one long arch, leading into the soft swell of his ass, continuing with the graceful lines of his legs.

It was between those pale thighs that Graves reached for now, slicking them up with his hand, brushing against Credence’s balls. He smeared the excess over his own cock, curling up close behind Credence. “Clench your thighs.”

It’d been awhile since he’d done it this way, and it conjured up nostalgic memories of his teenage fumblings, furtive sleepovers and exploratory nights. With a groan, he pushed between Credence’s thighs, head catching on Credence’s balls with every pass.

He reached a hand around, stroking Credence’s leaking dick. Their movements in the floor length mirror caught his eye, and he realized they were at the perfect angle to watch their reflection. 

Credence had his eyes closed, lips parted with breathy little moans, thighs trembling with the effort to hold tight.

“Look at you,” Graves panted against the nape of his neck. “You’re so gorgeous, you know that?”

Opening his eyes, Credence whimpered at the sight of the slick, red cock fucking his thighs, thrusting hard and fast. He watched as Graves sped up his hand to match, grip tightening.

“Ah, don’t stop, I’m--” Credence begged, meeting Graves’ gaze in the mirror as he came with a moan, coating the thick fingers wrapped around his dick.

Grunting, Graves followed, adding to the dripping mess between Credence’s legs.

Afterwards, they lied on their backs on the thoroughly soiled sheets, catching their breaths.

Credence turned to look at him. “I think next time I’d prefer your cum to be in me, instead of on me.”

Graves groaned. “Who taught you to talk like that?”

After a quick shower for the both of them, and a change of bedsheets, they settled under the covers. Graves was just drifting off when Credence mumbled against his chest, “Did you set an alarm?”

“Mm?”

“My parents. They’re coming back tomorrow, remember?”

It was like a douse of cold water to his post-coital bliss. Graves hadn’t forgotten, per se, but he had pushed it to the back of his mind, enjoying the easy domesticity, indulging in the fantasy of another life.

Long after Credence’s heavy lids drooped shut, chest rising and falling evenly, Graves lied awake. He was too tired last night to appreciate the simple pleasure of having Credence in his bed, but now he was desperate to memorize every detail. The peaks and valleys of Credence’s spine. How it feels to hold him. The soft sounds he made in his sleep. Graves knew he was only making it harder for himself, for when they part ways.

Perhaps instead of dreading the inevitable, he needed to embrace it. No, beat it. Distance was what they both needed. They were too wrapped up in each other, drowning in each other’s presence. It was like his internal compass had been rewired to point towards Credence, the only true north that was left.

With Seraphina, it was the task of unraveling nearly a decade’s worth of history that kept them together far past the expiration date of their relationship. Thirteen months, to be precise, until the proceedings were over and the divorce finalized. If Graves could do it all over again, he’d tell his lawyer to forfeit everything, just make it quick. He’d quit marriage cold turkey instead of dragging out its death, choking on false hope until the unavoidable end.

He didn’t want to repeat his past mistakes but most of all, he didn’t want to put Credence through them as well. He needed to be responsible, to do the right thing even though it was unpleasant. Awful. Goddamn excruciating.

Distance, Graves thought again, more firmly this time.

 


 

It was the last week of August, the leaves not yet changing colors but the weather was more bearable. Out on the front porch under the shade, Graves even had to put on a proper shirt.

They sat in matching wicker chairs side by side, facing the street, waiting. Credence was once again reading the book from yesterday, seemingly absorbed in the content. He had finally fetched a change of clothes from his own house, and now it looked as if he had just joined Graves, no one the wiser.

The third time Graves cleared his throat, Credence glanced up at him. “Something wrong?” he asked with a tilt of his head.

“No,” Graves kept his tone light. “Have you packed yet?”

“Not yet,” Credence replied warily, too sharp for his own good. “I’m not leaving for another couple of weeks.”

“Okay. Just thought you’d need some time to get ready,” Graves trained his gaze on the houses across the street. “You know, you don’t have to come over, if you have your own business to take care of.”

“I know,” Credence narrowed his eyes, book forgotten. “I don’t have to do anything.”  

“I’m just saying, the house is mostly all fixed up,” Graves swallowed, finding this harder to say than expected. “So maybe, you should take this time to prepare.”

“What are you saying, Percy?” His voice was hard.

Looking over, Graves saw the clench in Credence’s jaw, the furrow of his brows, the white-knuckled grip on the book. Pull off the bandaid, Graves scolded himself. “I think you know what I’m saying.”

Credence looked as if he’d been struck, mouth opening to reply when the sound of wheels on gravel interrupted him. It was his family pulling into the driveway. He turned back to Graves, a plea in his eyes. “Percy, whatever you think you’re doing, stop it. This is stupid, it’s--”

“Credence!” The thundering of little feet, muffled by grass and then stomping up the wooden steps of the porch. It was the youngest sister, excited to stretch her legs after a long car ride, flinging herself into Credence’s lap.

“Hey, Mod,” Credence caught her on instinct, lifting her into his arms as he stood up. His smile was strained but she didn’t notice. “How was the trip?”

As she babbled away, Credence kept darting glances at Graves, who was wearing a tight smile of his own.

“Credence!” Margie called from across the lawn. “Could you give us a hand?”

Torn between staying and going, coupled with the distraction of his sister, Credence appeared slightly overwhelmed.

“Go,” Graves said gently. “We’ll talk about this later.”

After a moment, Credence nodded, brows still knitted in uncertainty as he left, bouncing Modesty in his arms absentmindedly.

The book was knocked to the floor in Modesty’s enthusiasm, and Graves picked it up now, studying its cover, glancing up at Credence’s retreating back.

 


 

They didn’t speak again for the next couple of weeks. At least, nothing of substance. If Credence was a persistent hound, then Graves was like a ghost, an expert at avoidance to the point of disappearing. Seraphina had always hated that about him, and now Credence had something in common with her.

Graves found more errands to run in town, going so far as to visiting the campus of his future place of employment. He’d even bring his laptop and work in his new office, staring at empty bookshelves and walls, imagining them populated with textbooks and his degrees.

The thought suffocated him, and a week before the semester started his office was no more personalized than when he first started using it. He grabbed dinner at a pizza joint near campus, finally driving home when it was dark.

The texts stopped a couple of days ago, Credence getting the hint after Graves didn’t reply to any of them. Perched on the couch, illuminated only by the dim lamp on the side table, Graves stared at the phone in his hand. He may not have responded but he couldn’t resist reading them.

When Credence realized he couldn’t get a hold physically of Graves, he started texting him. At first they came in twos or threes, some indignant, others in disbelief. Graves will never forget the one that said ‘ can we talk about this? like adults? ’, with an immediate follow-up text of ‘ i canNOT believe I’M the one to say that wtf graves ’.  

They slowed down after that, probably due to a lack of answer combined with Credence’s very real need to prepare for college in another state. It was for the best. He reminded himself of this sentiment as he poured himself a healthy splash of scotch.

Then his phone vibrated from where he left it on the side table and all pretense flew out the window as he did an embarrassing dive onto the couch, liquor sloshing dangerously up the sides of the tumbler.

He groaned when he realized it was just a new email alert, and from Goldstein of all people. Dropping his head onto the back of the couch, Graves took a deep breath, taking a long pull from his glass to regain his composure.

With his other hand, he held up his phone, squinting against the bright light of it.

 

Sender: Tina Goldstein

Subject: Re: ok here’s a list of reasons why you should totally take the job

  • have you read this yet?? Because here are some more reas……

 

Graves dropped the phone onto the couch, letting the screen dim on its own. It was quiet in the house, not even the sound of a passing car on the empty street. The buzzing of insects, so pervasive throughout the summer, had collectively decided to fuck off somewhere else. If silence could be a prison, then Graves was on death row. Better get used to it, he thought. It was for the best, after all.

He was just thinking about topping off his drink when a knock sounded on the back door. Frozen, he held his breath.

After a beat, it came again, more insistent. A voice followed, “I know you're there.”

Graves buried his face in his hand but what he really wanted to do was bury his head in the sand. Let the darkness take him under, fill his lungs up, anything so he didn't have to deal with this.

“Percy,” the voice was muffled but the resignation in it was clear. “I'm leaving tomorrow.”

Graves’ head shot up as he scrambled for his phone, pulling up the calendar. There should've been a few days left, why--

His feet had carried him to the kitchen already, where he was yanking open the back door. But once met with the familiar sight of Credence, he fell silent, the question dying on his tongue.

Credence pressed his lips together in a tight smile. “Hey.”

God, I miss you, Graves didn't say, instead returning the lackluster greeting. “Hi.”

“Can I come in?” Credence asked, and at Graves’ hesitation he added, “Don't worry, I'm not gonna pounce on you.”

Instead of clarifying that it was his own self-control that Graves was concerned about, he stepped aside, closing the door behind them.

They stood silently in the kitchen for moment, a newfound awkwardness in the air, Graves having successfully destroyed yet another relationship in his life. That was what he should teach a class on. A masters level course on collecting regrets.

“I’m leaving tomorrow,” Credence repeated. “In the morning.”

There was a lump in his throat, tongue heavy in his mouth. Graves couldn’t stop staring, drinking in the sight of Credence, who looked like he stepped out of a dream, ghostly in the pale light from outside. “That’s...earlier than expected.”

“I need time to move in, so,” Credence shrugged, his clenched jaw belying his cool composure. “Might as well, right?”

“Right,” Graves had never been the best with words, and he failed to think up of any now, at least none beyond stay and please .

As the silence stretched out between them, Credence grew agitated, body vibrating with tension before he blurted out, “That’s it?”

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Graves said softly. “What I could say.”

“Great, fucking great,” Credence threw his hands up, openly angry now. “I should’ve known. This was your plan all along, wasn’t it? You had me, so now you’re done.”

“Credence--”

“Fucking stupid kid just wanted some dick,” Credence spat out. “So you gave it to him. What a martyr.”

“Don’t talk like this.”

“You’d prefer if I didn’t talk at all, right?” Credence advanced on him, and the shove came as a surprise, a punctuation to his words. “I should just shut the fuck up and go away?”

Graves stumbled back more from shock than the actual strength of the push. “I don’t know what you want from me,” he insisted.

“You do know,” Credence shoved him again but Graves was already backed against the kitchen island. “You know .”

Graves caught his wrists, holding them against his own chest. “Credence, stop this.”

“You know , you know ,” it became a sort of mindless mantra as he struggled in Graves’ grasp, and he drove a knee in Graves’ stomach that just missed his groin.

“Fuck,” that one actually had some force behind it, and Graves started to restrain Credence in earnest. “Credence, please, don’t--”

Graves barely avoided the next kick and somehow it turned into a scuffle, with Credence getting him in the knees, toppling him to the floor.

Credence followed, getting the upperhand for a second as he straddled him, before Graves flipped them over, pinning Credence’s wrists to the sides of his face, resting his entire weight on Credence’s slim hips.

“Are you going to calm down?” Graves panted, more than little winded from the knee to his stomach.

“Fuck you,” Credence bit out through gritted teeth, bucking his hips in a futile attempt to throw off Graves.

Graves simply held him down, relying on his considerable bulk advantage as he waited it out.

Eventually, the squirming stopped, the fight leaving Credence all at once as his hands flopped against the floor. His bottom lip started quivering, eyes shiny with unshed tears, and suddenly Graves wished he’d just let himself get punched in the face, because this was so much worse.

With the first whimper Graves’ entire resolve crumbled, hands coming to cradle Credence’s face as the boy squeezed his eyes shut, lashes wet. “Shh, shh, oh, baby,” he murmured, pressing his forehead against Credence’s. “Please don’t cry.”

“You don’t--” Credence hiccuped. “You don’t get to call me that.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Graves pressed kisses into soft cheeks, smoothing back unruly bangs. “I’m so sorry.”

“You’re an asshole,” Credence declared, looping his arms around Graves’ neck. “Why were you avoiding me?”

The answer that came to mind sounded callous even to Graves. How can he explain that he was just trying to make it easier for Credence? That he didn’t want Credence to waste more time on something with no future? It seemed downright silly in hindsight, how Graves was acting on what he thought was best for Credence when Credence, clearly, disagreed.

“I’m not sure anymore,” Graves admitted.

With a long-suffering sigh, Credence pulled him down until their lips met, licking the salty taste of tears from his mouth. He took one of Graves’ hand and directed it to the hem of his t-shirt.

Without prompt, Graves slid his hand under the tight fabric, rucking it up as he trailed over a taut stomach, the jut of ribs, thumbing a nipple into hardness.

Credence hummed in pleasure, arching his back. He blinked up at Graves, lashes dark and still wet. “Take me to bed.”

“Credence,” Graves breathed out against his lips.

“Please, Percy,” he stroked the back of Graves’ head with unbearable tenderness. “Consider it a going-away gift, hm?”

That pried an unexpected bark of laughter from Graves, who felt an overwhelming fondness take his heart. He was always so helpless in denying Credence anything. Besides, his knees were starting to ache from the hard floor.

Graves sat back, pulling Credence into his arms, lifting him with ease. Credence wrapped his legs around Graves’ waist as they headed up the stairs, only releasing his hold when he was thrown onto the bed.

For as close as they were to the inevitable end, there was a lack of urgency in their touches. Graves trailed the tips of his fingers, feather light, down the center of Credence’s chest, over the dip of his navel, to the soft skin in the crease of his inner thighs, savoring the details.

Credence might’ve had the same idea, as he showed none of his usual impatience, sighing as he was opened up but not pushing for more.

Fingers curling, caressing the hot inner walls, Graves bent down to press kisses into the underside of Credence’s cock, which lied drooling on Credence’s stomach.

As he withdrew his fingers, Credence started to sit up, only for Graves to place a hand on his chest, pushing him back into the pillows.

“I wanna see you,” Graves said softly. He lined up to Credence’s entrance, sinking in a millimeter at a time past each tight ring of muscle, Credence watching him with dark eyes.

When he was fully seated, Graves placed Credence’s legs over his shoulder, bending him in half as he leaned forward on his hands.

“Ah fuck,” Credence squeezed his eyes shut at the deep angle, toes curling as Graves gave a shallow thrust, pushing the air from his lungs.

Graves set a languid pace, pulling back only the slightest bit but grinding in hard, pressing as far inside as possible. It was a different kind of intensity from a fast and dirty fuck, and it left Credence slack-jawed, gasping for breath. His dick jumped between them with every roll of Graves’ hips.

Bending him further, Graves leaned down to kiss him, deeply and with a quiet reverence, swallowing up his mewls. Weak hands grasped at the back of Graves’ thighs, urging him closer or maybe faster. But instead of speeding up, Graves slowed to nearly a standstill, wanting Credence to feel the drag of his cock.

Foreheads pressed together, Credence met his gaze. “I want you to come in me.”

Graves groaned, hips stuttering from the effort of keeping up the sedate pace.

“Promise,” Credence insisted, nails digging into the meat of Graves’ thigh.

“Yes,” Graves panted, bearing down on Credence, bringing them impossibly closer.

Hands clutched Graves’ face, dragging him down for a desperate kiss of tongues and teeth. Trapped between their bodies, Credence’s cock throbbed from the friction, and Graves felt it pulse against his stomach before Credence tensed, giving a low moan that was followed by a wet spurt of release.

As he felt the familiar tension building, Graves shoved in one more time, hard enough to lift Credence’s ass off the bed. Cock buried deep, Graves spilled into the tight, wet heat of Credence’s body, filling him.

After a moment, he sat up just enough for Credence to drop his legs, only for him to wrap them around Graves’ waist, pulling him back. Graves went without a fight, half collapsing on top of him.

“I love how you feel inside me,” Credence said against his lips, clenching around him. Graves’ cock gave a halfhearted throb at the sensation.

“I love a lot of things about you,” Graves confessed.

Credence’s eyes softened, palms warm around Graves’ face. “I love you.”

And because Graves was infinitely selfish, he answered, “I love you, too.”

They kissed lazily, as if they had all the time in the world, as if they were people who fucked every night and then fell asleep in each other’s arms. They kissed as if they didn’t stop, then it would be true.

 


 

In addition to being selfish, Graves was also weak. Early the next morning, he watched from his front porch as Credence loaded a couple of suitcases into his family’s car. The rest of his things had already been shipped out a few days ago, and should arrive at his dorm around the same time his flight lands.

His chest felt painfully tight, the same tension echoed in his white-knuckled grip of the porch railing. Margie was speaking to Credence through the passenger side window, some last parting words.

He and Credence said theirs last night, except it was more through lingering touches and deep sighs than anything verbal.

At last, Credence poked his head out to wave to him. Graves lifted a hand in returned. He watched until the car was out of sight around the corner, and then for another few minutes after that, only looking away when his phone buzzed.

It was Credence. The text read, i miss you already .

Graves took a long, shuddering breath, heading back inside when his eye caught on something on his wicker chair. It was his book, which must’ve been left out here since a couple of weeks ago.

He cracked it open to the page Credence had dog-eared, caressing the fold in the paper as if he could feel the warmth of Credence’s hand this way.

Then he snapped the book shut, and made up his mind.

 


 



Four Months Later



“Congratulations, Dean .”

Graves gave Tina the side-eye. “How much have you had to drink?”

“It’s New Year's Eve,” she replied, champagne sloshing in the flute as she gestured. “Loosen up, Graves. Thought you’d be happy, what with your fancy new position.”

“Yeah, well, I jumped through enough fucking hoops to get it,” Graves reminded her, taking a sip from his tumbler. One good thing about Seraphina was that she never skimped on the booze.

“Think about it this way,” Tina leaned in. “She’ll be terrorizing the good people at Princeton now.”

“Cheers to that,” Graves clinked their glasses together, and they both finished off their drinks.

“Did I just miss a toast?” came a cheerful, British voice from behind them.

“Newt!” Tina gushed, leaning in for a peck. “You made it.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he quirked his lip in a sheepish smile. It was his default expression, which was apt for the type of guy who also wore a bowtie to a casual party, yet seemed to have forgotten to brush his hair. “Wow, this place is quite...nice.”

After Graves fled the city, Seraphina sold their old place and rented out a new apartment on Central Park West. It had four bedrooms, a dining room, and a living room large enough to fit a good chunk of the NYU faculty. It looked like something Luxury Homes would have as the centerfold, which is only to be expected of Seraphina, who demanded excellence in every part of her life. Hence, the divorce.

“Shame she’ll be leaving it,” Tina remarked. “It’s only been, what? Six months?”

“I won’t be surprised if this was her plan all along,” Graves added dryly.

“Well, it all worked out for the best,” Tina nodded. “You still teaching that class in the spring?”

“Yeah, last one before official Dean duties take over.” His sudden return was not greeted with open arms by everybody, most notably the search committee that had already started to look for external candidates. With the PoliSci department short-staffed, Graves had to pick up a class to get back into certain people’s good graces.   

After an arduous interview process, the President finally gave him the official approval. Since Seraphina wasn’t leaving until the end of next semester, Graves figured he might as well teach one more class. It might be the last chance he’ll have to do so in his career.

At some point, Graves refilled his glass. His head felt pleasantly fuzzy and he wanted to keep it that way.

Even Newt (and what kind of name was that, really?) had a glint in his eye after his second gin and tonic. Graves may have only known him for a couple of months, but he was already starting to recognize the warning signs for when Newt was about enlighten them with horrid animal facts.

“Did you know--” Newt began.

“I can assure you,” Graves interrupted. “We don’t know.”

“Let him finish,” Tina scolded, turning a fond smile on Newt. “This is all going to be in his new book. Right, Newt?”

This was another hardship Graves had had to endure since returning. He kind of missed the old, single Tina, who used to regularly tout the merits of being an independent, intellectual career-woman in New York City. Although he had to admit, it was nice to see her happy.

She laughed at something Newt said, placing a hand on his arm. He, in turn, looked delighted to have the genuine attention of someone outside his department. They looked good together.

It made Graves want to have several more stiff drinks.

Suddenly his phone buzzed, and he might’ve pulled it out of his pocket a little too eagerly, because Tina asked, “Is it him?”

“Who?” Graves muttered absentmindedly, tapping in his passcode.

“Your boy toy,” Tina said with an innocent smile. Newt almost snorted gin up his nose.

“He’s not my--” Graves shook his head. “He’s not my anything. I’m gonna go get another-- excuse me.”

He ignored what sounded like giggles from two fully grown, highly-respected professors, and made his way through the small crowd, frowning at his phone as he kept failing to unlock it.

“Here,” someone grabbed his arm. It was Seraphina, smiling indulgently at him. She placed a fresh drink in his hand, taking away his empty glass. “You look like you need it.”

“Thanks,” he mumbled.

“There’s a balcony off the second bedroom,” she gestured to the hallway beyond the living area. “Should be quiet there.”

This time Graves gave a small smile. “Thanks. Really.”

He found the bedroom without incident, as it was the same one where he left his coat. Pulling his from the pile on the bed, he stepped out onto the balcony, pulling the french doors closed behind him.

Save for some traffic noise fifty stories below, it was rather peaceful. Central Park stretched out before him and he gave a low whistle. A smattering of lights were nestled within the darkened tree tops, like something out of a fairy tale.

The view was hindered by the freezing December air, and Graves downed his entire drink, winching at the burn down his throat but appreciating the warmth spreading in his gut. He sat the tumbler down on the edge of a potted plant, fumbling with his phone again.

With cold, sluggish fingers, he finally punched in the right combination of numbers. Just the sight of Credence’s name in the notifications was enough to make him grin. It was a good thing he was somewhere private.

He opened up their chat convo to see a selfie Credence had sent. It was from earlier today, when he was wearing short-sleeves and a pair of sunglasses, smiling brilliantly into the sun. Underneath, it read, another gorgeous day here. jealous?

Graves stared at the picture until his fingers grew numb holding the phone. Jealous didn’t even begin to cover it, and it certainly wasn’t about the weather.

Their exchanges had been sparse lately, maybe just a couple of texts a week. It was only to be expected, with Credence’s coursework picking up, and no doubt meeting new people, making friends. Which was fine, great even.

Because like he told Tina, they weren’t anything to each other. Graves was lucky Credence remembered him at all, much less reach out on a semi-regular basis. And with more than a few drinks in him, Graves can admit that if he were a better man he would’ve cut off all contact in the first place. Let Credence go.

Maybe Credence was already gone and was just keeping in touch out of politeness. Or nostalgia. Who even knew where Credence was right now? Not Graves. He was probably at some frat house party ringing in the new year. Getting felt up by some -what’s that term his students use? oh, right- fuckboy.

It must be the drinks clouding his mind because he could usually control the sick, nauseating feeling he got when he thought about someone else touching Credence. Now he was in real danger of puking and the brisk air didn’t help alleviate the symptoms.

Stumbling back inside, he threw his coat back on the bed but kept his phone. He entered the living room just in time to see everyone turned towards the big screen tv, counting down to midnight.

‘Five, four, three…’ the room chanted as one. Even the home bar was unmanned and Graves took the opportunity to pour himself another finger of scotch. ‘...two, one, happy new year!’

He threw it back in one swallow, not even bothering to raise it in a toast first. Tina and Newt were making out like teenagers in the back, and almost everyone else was engaged in a more subdued version of that. Even Seraphina got a kiss. From some guy in...administration? Graves didn’t recall.

The rest of the night was a blur: snippets of conversation, bidding farewell, tumbling into a cab. He woke up with a blinding headache and the complete lack of will to live. The room was still spinning as he grabbed his phone off the nightstand.

 

No new messages.

 

He groaned and burrowed back under the covers. Happy fucking new year.

 


 



One Month Later

 

The wind bit at his cheeks as he ascended from the subway exit, hurrying down the block. His leather satchel bumped against his leg with every stride, like a reminder of a ticking clock.

First day of class and Graves was running late. What a way to wrap up his teaching days.

He caught his breath in the elevator, roughly smoothing down his wayward hair, unbuttoning his long overcoat to reveal the three-piece suit underneath. This was more like him, he thought as he studied his reflection in the mirrored walls. Impeccably dressed, overly prepared, and always early.

Well, two out of three would have to do. He breezed through a side entrance to the lecture hall, setting his bag down on the desk in front. Shedding his coat, he glanced up to see a mostly filled auditorium, the backs of laptops greeting him from the first row all the way to the top.

It’d been awhile since he last taught a 101 level class, but because it was a freshman requirement it was also in high demand.

“Alright, class, I trust that you all had ample time to settle in,” Graves walked around to the front of the desk, perching on the edge to address his students. “So let’s get right--”

The words died in his throat as a dark head of hair poked its way through the back doors. He was wearing a heavy, wool coat, dark green, which was new to Graves, who had never seen him in winter clothes before. But the windswept bangs were the same, as were his cheekbones, his dark eyes.

Credence descended the steps in a casual lope, unaware or simply not caring that all eyes were on him, the student who made the professor speechless. He slipped into a seat in the front row, just feets away from Graves, making no move to take out a laptop or even a notebook.

They stared at each other for a minute, Credence expressionless, while Graves tried to hide the shock on his face.

Someone coughed and it snapped Graves from his trance. “Like I was saying,” he cleared his throat. “Let’s get right to it.”

The good thing about a general requirement course was that it was largely about vomitting information. There was no need to engage the students in discussion or even prompt for questions, for the most part. He could teach Intro to Constitutional Law even with a head injury, which came in handy, because Graves felt like he’d just received a blow to the brain.

It was a miracle he wasn’t stumbling over his words. Or maybe he was and he just didn’t hear it over the roar in his ears, the pitter-patter of his heart. Every time he turned away from his presentation on the projection screen, he met Credence’s eyes. He could even feel them on the back of his neck, heated and searing a hole into his flesh.

Finally, he reached the last slide. He dismissed the class, unaware if they still had more time or if they had gone over, and not particularly caring. Amidst the snaps of laptops and shuffling of possessions, Credence sat still in the middle of it all, like the eye of a storm.

When the last students left, door clicking shut behind them, Credence tilted his head at him. Then, with a growing smirk, he got up and descended the last step to stand in front of him. Graves was glad he was still perched on the edge of the desk, or else his legs might’ve given out.

He hadn’t heard from Credence in over a week. As tempted as he was to initiate conversation, especially after a long night with only his liquor cabinet for company, Graves had always held back. He was done feeling guilty about preventing Credence from moving on. A part of him suspected Credence already had, which probably attributed to his recent bout of insomnia and consequently, tardiness.   

“What-” his voice came out hoarse. Graves cleared his throat and tried again. “What are you doing here?”

“I had a pretty good break, thanks for asking,” Credence deadpanned. “And how was your holiday?”

Graves huffed. “Credence--”

They both turned towards the sound of the back door opening. There was another class after Graves’ and students were already showing up.

“Look, just,” Graves took a quick breath. “Come with me.”

He gathered his materials, throwing his satchel over one shoulder as he exited the lecture hall, not looking back to check if Credence was following.

Luckily his office was only down the hall and he shoved his key into the lock now. With admirable restraint, Graves quietly closed the door behind them.

“Sit,” he instructed, gesturing to a chair in front of his desk.

Graves was oddly relieved to see Credence drop a messenger bag into the second seat. That probably meant he was still a student, and didn’t just drop out to chase Graves across the country. Credence also shed his coat, underneath which he was wearing a thin sweater, the collar loose enough dip below his collarbones. He gave off an air of boredom, reclining low in the chair, tapping a finger on the armrest.

Graves settled on a corner of his desk. “What are you doing here, Credence?” he asked again.

Credence snapped his eyes to him, mood shifting fast enough to give Graves whiplash. “Getting an education, what do you think?”

Graves was reminded of when they first met, of the insufferable brat with the sarcastic barbs. It was Credence’s defense mechanism against the rest of the world, but it hadn’t been used on Graves in a long time. He shouldn’t need to. Graves tried to gentle his tone, “What happened to San Diego?”

“I got tired of the sun,” Credence answered flippantly. “Oh, and also,” he reached into his bag, pulling out a book and tossing it onto the table. “I wanted an autograph.”

It was Graves’ book. He wondered was it the same copy he’d left with Credence’s mother the day he moved out. This one looked a little worse for wear, pages creased and the spine bent from use, the signs of a well-loved read. Slowly, Graves picked it up, flipping it open to the back jacket cover where he was met with his own stern gaze.

“I had my mom ship it to my dorm,” Credence confirmed. “I could’ve picked up another copy but,” he shrugged. “Call me sentimental.”

Graves knew all about being sentimental, his grip tightening on the book. “You transferred?” Graves swallowed. “For me?”

“People transfer, it’s not a big deal.” But Credence wasn’t meeting his eyes anymore, jaw clenched.

“God, how could--” Graves shook his head, dropping to his knees to kneel at eye level in front of Credence. “ Why?

Credence gawked at him with disbelief. “You are...so goddamn unbelievable.”

“What?”

“Talk about mixed signals. One day you’re pushing me away, and the next you’re claiming to love me, I don’t--”

“Wait,” Graves frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“Jesus,” Credence whispered. “You don’t remember.” He took out his phone, putting it on speaker as he hit play.

It was a voicemail. From Graves. Fuck.       

 

Happy new year, baby. Can I still call you that? Well, I don’t care. Because I want to.

 

Graves stared, slack-jawed, at the phone Credence was holding up. That was indeed his slurred voice coming from the tinny speakers, in a recording that was apparently, oh god, nearly twenty minutes long.

 

I don’t know where you are right now, or who you’re with. And I know I have no right to that infor- ugh- information. But god, I wish I did. Actually, I wish you were here. With me. I know new year’s is all about new beginnings and all that bullshit. But I rather go back.

 

There was the sound of a car door closing, and Graves was getting a flashback from the back of a cab.

 

Back to last summer, when I had you. And you were mine. God, you’re the only bright spot left in my memories, you know that? I think about you all the damn time. I’m so fucking selfish and greedy. I’m a piece of shit and you deserve better. But I love you, I love you so much.

 

“Please turn that off,” Graves said roughly.

“In a minute,” Credence answered.

 

Don’t...don’t reply to this. Pretend you didn’t hear this. Actually, no. Listen to this because I want- I want you to make your own con- conclusions. You’re an adult. I’m not gonna decide what’s best for you. Just know that I love the fuck outta you. And I always will.

 

Credence stopped the audio. “It gets kinda raunchy after this part. But I think you get the gist of it.”

At this point, Graves had his face buried in his hands. He was way too old to be pulling shit like this.

“So, which is it?” Credence asked.

Graves glanced up.

“You want to push me away?” Credence reached a hand out to cradle Graves’ cheek. “Or do you trust me to make my own decisions?”

“Credence,” Graves sighed. “I don’t want to be the reason for any regrets in your life.”

“Am I a regret to you?”

“You know you’re not.”

“Actually, I don’t,” Credence leaned back in the chair. “Some days it feels like you’d rather just forget about me.”

Graves’ eyes softened. He found himself curling arms around Credence’s waist, pressing his cheek to Credence’s stomach, still on his knees. “I’m sorry. I have a lot of baggage.”

“I know,” Credence snorted.

“You sure you really want--” Me? “--to get involved?”

Gentle palms lifted his face up as Credence said, “I put in my transfer app the second week of the first semester. The embarrassing voicemail was just a bonus. So is the three-piece suit.”

Graves laughed.

“No, you look really hot,” Credence smiled before his expression sobered. “Whether or not I should be with you, well, you don’t get to make that choice for me.” He leaned down to press a chaste kiss to Graves’ lips. “I choose you, Percy.”

Something loosened in Graves’ chest. It felt like coming home. Like a new beginning.

 


 

 

Epilogue



Spring had arrived on the coattails of March, fully blooming now in mid-April. Even the quality of the sunlight appeared different, brighter and warmer.

Or maybe Graves was projecting. He tip-toed fingers up the length of Credence’s spine, dancing along the valleys between each vertebrae.

Credence stirred, lashes fluttering against the pillow his cheek was pressed into. When he saw Graves he smiled, voice soft with sleep, “Hi.”

“Hey,” Graves murmured. He snuggled close to kiss warm lips. “I think someone needs to get to class.”

“I hope it’s you,” Credence giggled, tucking his face into the crook of Graves’ neck, counterproductive to the endeavor of waking up.   

“No such luck, baby,” Graves kissed his hair. “You’re gonna be late.”

With a long-suffering groan that Graves could relate to, Credence sat up, stretching his arms over his head. “I’m up, I’m up.” He clambered off the bed, pulling on his jeans. “I need to stop by the dorms. Running out of clothes here.”

“About that,” Graves cleared his throat. “I was thinking, maybe,” He shrugged, picking at the sheets. “I mean, I have space here. And it’s nicer than the dorms, I hope.”

Credence paused midway in buttoning his pants. “You live in a penthouse with floor to ceiling windows, Percy. It’s slightly better than the dorms.”

“Right, and like I said,” Graves held out a hand. “I could clear some room in the closet. You could leave more clothes here.”

“Just my clothes?”

“And anything else you want,” Graves clarified. “Everything you own, actually.”

With a smirk, Credence crawled back onto the bed, settling into his lap. “Are you asking what I think you’re asking?”

Graves swiped a key off the nightstand, holding it up between them. “You tell me.”

Turned out, Graves was an enabler when it came to being counterproductive to Credence getting to class on time.

Still panting, Credence was tucking himself back into his pants while trying to slip into his shoes at the same time. “Oh god, I’m gonna be so late.”

“I got you an Uber,” Graves said, leaning against the archway that led into the foyer. He was bare chested, still flushed from their earlier activities, but at least he was wearing sweatpants. “It’s waiting downstairs.”

“Oh, you’re the best,” Credence gushed, slipping on his coat and slinging his bag over one shoulder. He hesitated at the door, suddenly turning back to run into Graves’ arms, pulling him in for a deep kiss.

He could taste himself on Credence’s tongue and he groaned, clutching a hand to the back of Credence’s head, messing up his hair even more so than it already was.

“Mm, okay, I really gotta go,” Credence said breathlessly, rushing back to the door.

“You got your key?”

“Yeah,” Credence threw a wide grin over his shoulder, “I do.”

As he yanked the door open, he nearly slammed into Tina, who had her hand raised to ring the doorbell. “Oh, Credence.”

“Hey, Tina,” Credence slipped past her. “Bye, Tina.”

Tina quirked an eyebrow after him, closing the door behind her and aiming the same look at Graves. “Wow, so you do let him out of the pleasure den occasionally.”

“Don’t be crass,” Graves drawled. “And please, come right in.”

“You’re the one who needs to put on a shirt,” Tina pointed out. “Anyway, I come bearing a gift.”

“I hope it’s more than just your presence.”

“It’s the only thing better,” Tina took out a heavy book from her purse. It never ceased to amaze Graves what women can fit in those things. “Feast your eyes on this .”

Graves accepted the book, giving a low whistle at the cover, the name ‘Newton Scamander’ printed on the bottom. “Give him my congratulations,” he said, flipping to the back to see the man in question grinning up at him, hair even combed for the special occasion. “ Fantastic Beasts , huh? Not the most scientific title.”  

“Yeah, but it’d sell better,” Tina gestured excitedly. “Open it.”

He landed on the dedications page, where a single line of text adorned the middle of it, ‘ For Tina, the most fantastic creature of them all.

“Well, he’s right,” Graves smiled. “You could be a creature sometimes.”

“Ugh, Graves,” Tina pouted.

“I’m kidding, come here,” Graves laughed, opening his arms. He gave her a brief hug, then held her at arm’s length. “I’m happy for you. The both of you.”

“Thank you,” Tina answered softly, mouth twisting in a smile. “And I’m happy for you, too.”

Graves walked to the opened style kitchen, placing the book on the counter. “What for?”

Leaning against the fridge, she shrugged. “It’s just good to see you happy, that’s all.”

He was in the process of making coffee, pausing with a spoonful of grounds midway to the maker. “Yeah, I guess it’s been a while.”

“Looks like it’s a bit more than a summer fling, huh?”

“Well, I did just ask him to move in with me.”

“Wow,” Tina said in a hush, eyes glittering. “Look at you.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“You deserve happiness, Graves, just like anybody else,” Tina said. “I hope you realize that.”

Graves wasn’t sure about that. He definitely didn’t think he deserved Credence. But Credence chose him, and that had to mean something. In fact, Graves was coming to realize that that meant everything. “Well, at any rate, I am happy.”

“Then that should be enough.”


Graves smiled, “It’s more than enough.”