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While You Were Sleeping

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2:03

That’s what the clock reads; in digital letters that beam steadily, casting a red glow over Theo’s outstretched hand. He doesn’t know what he’s reaching toward—maybe nothing, or maybe a ghost. Sometimes, during nights like this, if he closes his eyes he can feel it; a slight brush against the tips of his fingers, almost as soft as that pink silk scarf she’d been wearing on the day she died.

But it’s only the wind—breezes that pulsate through the open window, jostling the blinds. They’re drawn all the way down tonight, which makes it hard to tell; easier to pretend.

The air is lacking the sweet scent of her perfume, though. It’s just dry, and hot. Theo didn’t know hot was really a smell until he came here; something suffocating and bordering on burnt, encapsulating his body and the one beside him in some sort of invisible shell.

They don’t even need blankets tonight. They lay with bare chests—Boris on his back, Theo on his side. They’re facing away from each other. For Boris it’s unconscious; movements of sleep undetermined. For Theo, he dreams awake. Dreams that he’s still in New York, that his mother is just in the next room. His heart has never really left home, he thinks. A part of him will always be beating to the way the city bustles.

That’s another thing, though—another little piece that doesn’t fit; it’s too quiet here. The silence drowns almost as much as the temperatures. If he doesn’t focus, he can imagine that the Sex Pistols song that plays faintly from discarded earbuds is coming from some apartment a few doors down, and the whistling outside is just a flurried rush of nighttime activity.

It’s not the same, though, because then something will make it clear he’s thousands of miles away; Boris will shift in bed, or Theo’s gaze will travel to the window and see not the smog-obscured skyline of New York but the heavy-hung moon and stars against a backdrop of black velvet.

It’s lonely, here. Back in New York, even if he only had his mother and Tom and sometimes Andy—or just the Barbours, and no mom, and no Tom, he still had all of these bodies around him. All of this noise.

Here, it’s like everyone is just gone. Like they’re on the moon, or maybe Mars—starting up some human colony, with no earth contact. Everyone here is an alien; Boris most of all, but a better one, with his strange accent and chaotic energy. Boris is a walking enigma and sometimes Theo thinks, maybe, he’s the only one in the whole wide world who’ll ever understand him.

This is the moment that Boris chooses to roll over, murmuring some Ukrainian nonsense—Ya lyublyu tebe, ty ebut, Theo gathers, and it’s sort of ironic that he doesn’t know what it means. 

He doesn’t have the opportunity to try and translate it, either; Boris’s arm reaches out and closes over Theo’s torso. He pulls him, shifting forward himself, still muttering (though now it sounds Polish).

All of the air leaves Theo’s lungs; there and then gone. His fist tightens around the sheets, and he tries very hard to concentrate on anything else; on the unwelcome sounds again, or the beat of his own too-fast heart.

He can’t, though. His mind drifts to the impossibly heated feeling of Boris’s skin against his own, and his breath on the back of Theo’s neck. He smells of beer and cigarettes and awful cologne. The studs on his Sid Vicious bracelets are the shockingly cold—they press into Theo’s rib cage.

Then something strange happens; something unexpected. Boris’s lips touch lightly against Theo’s neck, hovering almost—sending goosebumps down his back—before making light but firm contact. Then it happens again, and again; soft and short-lived, each one, but...

Theo doesn’t move. He doesn’t even breathe. He just lays there. It’s not the first time he’s slept like this with Boris, but it’s the first time he’s ever felt his lips—and even if he’s terrified and his stomach has completely disappeared, it’s not bad.

It’s sort of nothing short of amazing.

“You are not sleeping, Potter.”

It’s not so much a question as an observation. Theo swallows. “How do you know?”

Boris’s hand travels up, palm flat against Theo’s chest, just above his heart. “Boom boom boom, see?” He then props himself on an elbow, looking down at Theo. “Dead giveaway. You should work on that.”

“You can’t fucking control your heartbeat, you fuck.”

Theo feels impossibly irritated. He looks up at Boris with a scowl, but then Boris smirks and suddenly it’s all half-hearted. Suddenly Theo finds himself taking in the way Boris’s hair falls over his brow—long and tangled and ragged. He stares into his eyes; dark, magnetizing, calculating.

And that’s when Theo realizes that what he’s feeling, maybe just then or maybe all the time, isn’t just platonic. It isn’t just friendship, is it? It’s something terrifying. It’s something that could ruin the one good thing Theo has going for himself, leaving him utterly and completely alone.

Boris’s hand is still over his heart. His eyebrows raise. “Why so scared?”

“I’m not scared,” Theo breathes. He’s petrified, caught under Boris’s gaze and touch, turned to stone like some victim of Medusa.

Boris shakes his head. “Is only me,” he says, and then leans down to kiss Theo’s chest.

That’s when everything inside Theo explodes; fireworks under his sternum, heat in his stomach, rising up through him and spreading through his veins like wildfire. Just from a kiss, jesus fuck.

“Why’d you do that?”

“To calm you down,” Boris says, looking a little pleased. “Is working?”

“No,” Theo glares. “Don’t do that, okay?”

“Touch you?”

“Kiss me there,” Theo corrects, because no way is he losing touches—grasping arms in the dead of night, legs tangled together, faces buried in the crooks of necks. That’s all he has.

Boris crooks a brow, though. “Where do I kiss you, then?” He asks.

Theo immediately realizes his mistake. “At all, I meant,” he says. “Don’t kiss me, Boris.”

There’s a pregnant pause, and something seems to fill the space between them; maybe it’s the wind, or the silence itself.

Then Boris rolls away from Theo, looking far from pleased. He settles on his side and reaches for the iPod. The glow of the screen spills over his shoulders, illuminating them like angel wings.

Theo bites his lip. “Boris?”

“What?”

His voice is flat, absent of that playful lilt that usually appears when they speak this time of night, with that softness around the edges of his words. 

Theo thinks, suddenly, of all the nights like these; nights when Boris’s touch will spread farther than the familiar places, or when they’ll do more than they really should; when Theo finds himself out of breath and shaking, with his head resting against Boris’s shoulder for just a second too long.

None of that is as frightening as this; as reaching out on his own, gently and cautiously brushing his fingers against Boris’s side—touching where it dips, stroking his lowest rib. “Boris.”

Boris shivers at the touch; it’s such a visibly physical reaction that makes Theo’s cheeks flush. The iPod shuts off, leaving them with only the glow of the moon to see by.

Boris heaves a sigh but says nothing. Theo leaves his hand where it is because he’s afraid he’ll never work up the courage to do it again (and also, Boris feels good, feels right; even if he’s probably touched this spot a thousand times before, it’s different, now; there’s some intent behind it Theo doesn’t exactly want to name).

He’s crossing the line between detached satisfaction and intimacy, and he’s not sure where exactly it’ll take him.

But he’s already gone this far, so fuck it all, right?

Theo inches closer, reaffirming his grip on Boris’s side.

Zabijasz mnie, Potter, what?”

“I...” Theo bites his cheek, not hard enough stifle himself, though; “I’m sorry.”

Boris finally moves; flipping over in a quick flurry of movement, eyes alight with intrigue now. Rarely do either of them ever apologize; the remorse is something sort of unspoken between them (like all of those other things). They just yell and then crack jokes, or don’t speak for a few minutes.

“You are being kooky,” Boris states, squinting.

“Kooky?”

“What is word for it...” Boris rolls his eyes like he’s exasperated with himself. “Strange. Just speak, Potter. Say what’s in there.” He reaches over and raps his knuckles over Theo’s skull.

Yet suddenly Theo’s lost the ability to articulate. He just stares, feeling more and more strange as the seconds go by. After about five—during which Boris waits, hopeful and expectant—he just gives up.

There’s no way to say it. He can’t just blurt it out, right? And what if Boris...

“Okay, Potter,” Boris shakes his head. “Goodnight.”

“Boris—”

Goodnight.”

Again, anger crawls up the walls of Theo’s stomach. He purses his lips, propping himself up on an elbow to frown down at Boris before flopping onto his back, causing the mattress to bounce.

It’s not like it’s Boris’s fault. He’s always been like this; yearing and affectionate. It’d been his idea to start doing... stuff in the first place—they’d been roughhousing and then Theo had... Really, it’d just been an accident, but Boris had felt it and given Theo some sort of a look, and then all of the sudden Theo’s pants were gone and it’d happened for the first time.

Then it kept happening. They never talked about it. They acted like it was no big deal, like it was just normal.

But it’s not normal, because now Theo is feeling so much, so quickly; it’s all being dropped into his lap from the heavens, or maybe thrust on him from hell.

Boris sighs again, long and obvious.

Courage, Theo muses, lying there and looking at the miscellaneous freckles that dot Boris’s back, is strange. Kooky; sometimes it springs up in odd places at odd times, like weeds in the cracks of a sidewalk. Had it been courage when he’d stolen the painting, or mere insanity?

Theo wonders this now, again, as he reaches out and grabs Boris’s arm. He tugs gently, pushing him onto his back. Theo leans over him, heart pounding more than it was even before.

“Potter—”

Theo kisses him. Maybe it’s insane, but it feels good. It feels like a summer day in Central Park; warm and familiar. Boris’s lips are motionless under his own, and then they aren’t; then they’re moving—both of their mouths move against the other’s, hungry in some way Theo doesn’t understand but also does; he needs more. He needs all of Boris.

Boris seems to feel the same, about him, because then Theo is on his back—being pinned against the mattress (Boris has his wrists in one hand, and really it’s fucking inconvenient because all Theo wants to do is touch Boris everywhere he can). His mouth parts over Theo’s and then his tongue is doing some weirdly amazing thing over Theo’s lower lip.

Then they break apart, panting. Boris’s face is red. “This is what you wanted to say?”

“Let me go,” Theo breathes.

Boris shifts his weight, so that more is on Theo. “Why?”

His smile is all mischief—he’s smiling, not running out of here or screaming his fucking ass off or whatever—and that’s all it takes. Theo uses every ounce of strength he has (not much, but enough) to wriggle out of Boris’s grip.

His fingers collide with Boris’s hair; tangling through the messy curls and pressing against his scalp. It still smells faintly of chlorine from their swim earlier, but it’s a lot softer than Theo expected it to be.

He kisses Boris roughly; with a passion that’s unexpected, he guesses, by either of them. He kisses Boris so fucking hard they both moan, and it doesn’t matter because no one is home to listen.

“Potter—”

“Shut up,” Theo pants, pulling away. He doesn’t go far, though; planting kisses along Boris’s forehead and nose, his jawline, running his wet lips down Boris’s neck and then kissing the crook—sucking (another moan, and it’s always been one of Theo’s favorite sounds; in some darkened corner of his mind he’d known that, just like he knew he wanted to do this).

“Theo...”

That’s when Theo finally lets up. Worry crashes upon him in a wave, washing away all that desire (that’s what it is, desire; he wants Boris—wants him so badly it hurts).

It becomes clear to him that he’s straddling Boris’s lap, and they’re both sitting up in his bed out of breath wearing nothing but boxers—both pairs belong to Theo. He’s always noticing things like that; what Boris is wearing, what he looks like in a certain light. It’s better when the clothes are Theo’s. He looks equally beautiful (yes, beautiful, nothing short of it) in both day and night—like now.

“Since when?”

Theo doesn’t expect the question. “What?”

“Since when have you wanted this?” Boris looks almost desperate.

He doesn’t want to say always, because that’s not really true.

He knows exactly when it started, in fact; at night, just like now; the first time Boris had wrapped an arm around him and whispered, heavily and drunkenly, shh Potter, is only me.

“A while,” is all he says.

Boris reaches up, fingers brushing Theo’s cheek. “Why not say?”

“I was scared,” Theo looks away, over Boris’s shoulder—out the window. He studies the features of all those identical empty houses and wonders what this place would be like full of people. Different, definitely. Strange.

“You are stupid, Potter,” Boris states. It catches Theo’s attention. “I suck you off two times a week.”

“That’s different,” Theo defends immediately, starting to bristle just a bit. They never talk about that. Ever.

“How so?”

“Because of this,” he says, gesturing between them. “We’ve never done this, Boris.”

“But you’ve wanted to, no?”

He shifts—and it’s suddenly awkward, because of where he’s seated and what they both feel as a result of the movement. “Yeah.”

“But you didn’t,” Boris shakes his head. “You are stupid, Potter. Stupid, stupid. Ty slepoy yebut, clean your specs.”

Then he tosses Theo off of him.

Boris runs a hand down his face. Theo just watches, a little stunned. Stupid. Ty slepoy yebut? What does that mean?

“You’re mad at me, aren’t you,” Theo speculates, wanting nothing more than to curl into himself and dissapear. “This is why I didn’t tell you. Now you’ll leave, and you’ll never talk to me again, right? Because I’m a fucking freak?”

“A freak for wanting to fuck boys?” Boris shakes his head, reaching for a cigarette. He lights it swiftly. Theo watches the embers glow in the darkness, shadowing the angles of Boris’s face. “We are both freaks then, yes?”

“What?”

“I fuck you, you fuck me,” Boris shrugs. He takes another long drag, exhaling the smoke through his nose.

“Yeah, but I thought that was just because...”

“Because?”

“It’s more convenient, I guess.”

Boris rolls his eyes. “Partly so I suppose. More for you than me, though.”

Something sparks inside Theo. “You mean you like it?”

“No shit, Potter,” he flicks some ashes away, but Theo doesn’t have the mind to yell at him. He’s too focused on those sharp cheekbones at that brooding look. “I like it.”

“Oh,” Theo licks his lips. “I thought you liked girls.”

“Girls, yes,” Boris nods fondly. “Boys too—or maybe just you. You are the only boy I want to fuck.”

Theo’s cheeks burn. It’s so livening, to hear him say it like that, so clearly. “Yeah?”

“Presently,” Boris says. Then he looks up at Theo, curious. “You like kissing but no fucking?”

“Uh, both,” Theo swallows. “Both, with you.”

A pleased smile stretches across his face. “Good,” he nods. “I was worried for a minute. Thought, oh shit, my balls will turn blue and fall off now, but no. That is good.”

Theo reaches forward and takes the cigarette from Boris. He sucks in a drag, feeling his nerves settle immediately.

They sit in silence for a moment. Boris watches him smoke, head coked to the side, still smiling a little. It’s a new expression; full of some warmth, some light.

Theo puts out the cigarette. Then he settles closer to Boris, taking his hand. Their fingers twine together. Theo looks down at them. “You love me?”

Boris’s response is immediate. “More than anything.”

“Good to know.”

Boris blinks. He jerks forward, tackling Theo; pushing him onto his back and hovering over him. He whacks and tickles Theo alternatively, who can hardly protest between laughter and gasps of pain. “Hey!”

“No ‘I love you too’?” Boris demands, flicking Theo’s cheek. “Is rude to not reciprocate, Potter.”

“Must suck for you,” Theo comments.

Boris whacks him again. “Dupek!

“Jesus!” Theo laughs. “I love you too, you stupid fuck.”

Silence. “What was that?”

Theo, with his hands now on Boris’s waist, scoffs. “I’m not saying it again.”

Boris leans down, cupping his ear. “Say it, c’mon. I’m deaf as a bat, Potter!”

“It’s blind as a bat, you shit,” Theo pinches his skin.

Boris yelps. “That’s you,” he says. “Blind as bat. How come no one calls you Batty?”

“Because that’s the dumbest fucking insult I’ve ever heard in my life.”

“Pish posh,” He grins. “Say it again, Potter. In my mother tongue, so I can understand you.”

Theo leans up and captures Boris’s earlobe between his teeth. He tugs, but not too hard. Boris makes some groaning sound, grasping the pillow beside them. “Fuck.”

“How do you say it in Russian?”

He’s very aware his voice has taken on some soft tone, foreign to his own ears. The best thing, though, is that it does something to Boris; his shoulders sag a little, and he takes a deep breath.

Ya lyublyu tebya,” he whispers.

Ya lyublyu tebya,” Theo repeats, pushing a strand of hair from Boris’s eyes. “How do you say it in Polish?”

Kocham Cię.

He kisses Boris’s neck. “Kocham Cię.

“Ukranian is—”

Ya tebe lyublyu,” Theo says.

Boris leans back. “How do you know?”

“You say it in Ukrainian most,” he explains. “Said it a while ago when you were sleeping.”

Boris kisses him this time. Their lips move together, better than before. Theo’s hands travel a little lower. He’s melting into this bed, that he’s sure of; sinking right down into the mattress—falling apart at Boris’s touch.

“Potter,” they’re chest against chest, now; Boris kisses his neck hard enough to bruise.

Theo bites his lip, straining, breathless. “Yeah?”

“I was not sleeping,” Boris whispers.

“Huh?”

“When I said I love you.”


4:23

That’s what the clock reads.

Theo glances away from the numbers and looks down at his chest; at the heavy weight of Boris’s head resting against him. He runs his hands through his hair, gently.

“I love you.”

He’s not sleeping, either.