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"We've been arguing a lot." Alhaitham says, as though Kaveh doesn't already know.

"This is just a ploy to force me to agree with you about something."

"So you agree?" He shakes his head and Alhaitham huffs, "If you disagree then you do realise that you're still proving me right, don't you?"

He's so annoying. Kaveh elected to stay in tonight to work on some projects while he thought Alhaitham was on a business trip to Port Ormos, only to find out that he isn't leaving until the eighth of next month. So neither of them have plans and both of them have work to do, but since Alhaitham has some sort of vendetta against closed off floor plans they have to maintain civility while sharing an office.

"There would be two offices, if you didn't need a bedroom," Alhaitham had said.

"There'd be two if you didn't need a bedroom either."

"It's my flat."

"What happened to the 'mutually beneficial process of sharing'?" Kaveh teased, using his own words against him.

Alhaitham barely reacted, "You don't seem so interested in that process when it comes to the office we're currently sharing."

"Fine, we argue a lot." Kaveh relents, so that he doesn't prove the other man right while also putting himself in the position to lose the argument. "Pointing it out won't make us get along any better."

The only thing that appears to improve their bickering is not being in one another's company for a few hours, so that they can pretend they don't remember what the disagreement was about. Except one of them will inevitably bring it back to discussion within the week, and they'll be stuck right where they started.

"No, but I think it would be beneficial if we could find a way to speed up our debates."

Kaveh considers, mind now completely taken off from the commission he's supposed to be working on, "Like what? You walk through the door and I tell you everything you have said and done that's irritating me at the current moment?"

"I was under the impression that that's already common practice." He replies dryly.

"I'm holding myself back."

"Doubtful."

They proceed to argue over whether or not Kaveh is already telling Alhaitham outright everything that annoys him. He refuses to relent in this fight, not when it's over his own thoughts in his own mind that Alhaitham has no bearing on or knowledge of.

He disagrees, "Under my theory that you are open with me, I know as much about what you're thinking as you do, without any internal bias to cloud my perception."

"You're suggesting that you know me better than I know myself?" He's so full of himself. "By that logic, I also must know you better than you know yourself."

"That's a reactionary theory, extrapolated from my hypothesis that doesn't take into mind the basic evidence -"

Kaveh tunes him out. Alhaitham thinks he is so much smarter, just because he has a flat and a well-paying job and a positive bank balance.

(Alhaitham would say that that doesn't make him 'smarter', but demonstrates Kaveh's tendency toward over-indulgence. He would say that they are intelligent in different ways, and would then heavily imply that Kaveh's brand of intelligence is less valuable than his own, because he's an asshole.

And then he wouldn't even realise how rude he sounds.)

"- My point is," Alhaitham eventually surmises, regaining Kaveh's attention, "we always argue and it always takes up too much of our time. We need a faster way to end our debates."

He's not wrong about it occupying a lot of their time - Kaveh keeps pulling all-nighters to finish commissions before his clients' deadlines, and his creativity is hindered by the pressure to get everything done. 

"You could stop being so pedantic," he suggests.

"Then you should think more before you say things."

"In that case, you shouldn't eavesdrop on my conversations with my friends, who don't care if I'm not 'technically correct'."

"It's not 'eavesdropping' when you invite people over without any warning and then make a racket deep into the night when I have work in the morning." Alhaitham snaps, finally seeming to lose his temper.

Kaveh smirks, "I think you're struggling with the definition because you don't have any friends."

They then continue to argue for the next fifteen minutes. Little is accomplished, aside from Kaveh breaking his own quill nib and Alhaitham going on an eight minute tirade about the drawbacks of companionship, which seems to serve to convince himself more than Kaveh.

By the time they're done, they're standing in the centre of the office rather than sitting at their individual desks. This way they can face one another and (assuming Alhaitham has lungs in spite of his typical roboticism) draw the maximum amount of oxygen into themselves to say as many words as possible.

“And now we have wasted even more time on this,” Kaveh says eventually. “What’s your bright idea for settling our arguments earlier?”

“I had two thoughts,” he replies, settling back into his normal, calm demeanour, “the first is that we flip a coin every time we find ourselves stuck in a dispute, and settle who is right based on which side of the coin turns up.”

They are far too stubborn to listen to a coin , “We’d just keep arguing afterward if the coin isn’t in our favour, and I figure you’d use a weighted coin to make sure it’s usually on your side.”

“You think I’m so morally corrupt?”

“I know you’d use underhanded methods to win a debate where you believe you’re in the right.” Kaveh knows this because getting a trick mora was his own first thought at Alhaitham’s suggestion.

His roommate sighs, pursing his lips, “Then I suppose the only rational option left is to settle our arguments by using our energy elsewhere.”

“What do you mean?”

“If the issue is that we are stressed with one another and that drives us to fight, taking a verbal approach is clearly the slowest route to reconciling our differences.”

He nods, “You think we should fistfight instead?” Kaveh has imagined punching him many, many times. Earlier, when Alhaitham was going on and on about how well he knew him, he’d thought in great detail about how best to slam his face against the desk and shove his own parchment down his throat to force him to shut up.

Of course, as Alhaitham is so quick to point out, there’s a few issues with them physically brawling over all their disagreements. Kaveh doesn’t want to get hurt himself, for one, and they would probably start to resent one another even more. Since they both have visions, it’s also likely they might go too far and get others caught in the crossfire (their downstairs neighbours already hate them enough without having to explain how dendro roots got through their ceiling).

“If there is no verbal or physical solution, how exactly do you propose we speed up our arguments? Or was this all a diversion to waste even more of my time?” He asks, as they near forty minutes spent on this one topic.

(As Alhaitham said, talking isn’t very efficient.)

“You’re assuming there is no physical solution simply because you haven’t thought of it.”

Arm wrestling? Staring contest? Kaveh knows how to fight dirty, but most simplistic competitions Alhaitham would likely win outright, even though he’s been working out behind his back to try and keep up in case they ever did end up coming to blows.

“I think,” he continues when Kaveh doesn’t try to interrupt him, “that whenever we find ourselves arguing, we should sleep together.”

“What.”

“Fornicate, or, ah, copulate, if you recognise that term?” He says, somehow completely seriously.

Kaveh feels heat rise in his cheeks, “No, I know what you’re talking about - I mean, how will that help? I don’t even want to -”

The topic reminds him of their current position, close together and face-to-face… By design? Alhaitham would, he’s the type to set up the board in his own favour.

And it’s not like he’s unattractive (not in the slightest, in fact). Kaveh has seen him shirtless coming out of the baths, or returning home from a run with sweat trailing in beads over his skin. He’s not not thought about it, but he isn’t completely insane and he realises that one word out of Alhaitham’s mouth would ruin the spell and remind Kaveh of how infuriating he typically is.

“I thought you might be too close minded to consider it,” he says, as though he isn’t the more inflexible one of the two of them, “but this actually serves as a great test.”

Kaveh sees where he’s going with this - “This is yet another disagreement to settle, huh? I think us two having sex is stupid and won’t solve anything, you think it will. If we have sex then we can see who’s right.”

“Exactly. See, we’re already agreeing and we haven’t even done it yet.”

He tries imagining it, properly, cupping Alhaitham’s cheek and pulling him in for a kiss. Warm skin under his hands, body pressed down into the mattress where Kaveh can tease him for once, make him suck on his fingers so he can’t open his stupid mouth and ruin the mood…

Alhaitham tilts his head, “What do you say?”

“It’s not gonna work,” he tries, to be difficult, “but if you’re so sure, then I guess we can give it a go.”

Alhaitham won’t be considering the emotional repercussions to this, and Kaveh knows a little physical pleasure won’t change how he feels about the other man, so it’s not like anything worse than some unsatisfying sex can come from this. Risking that for the possibility of getting over their debates more quickly? Worthwhile.

He expects Alhaitham to at least start being awkward now, now that he can’t hide behind the logic of his proposal and force Kaveh to make a decision. Instead he leans over to kiss him straight away, movements slow and languid, sucking on his bottom lip like he knows what he’s doing.

(Kaveh refuses to think about where he might have learned such things. He probably just bought a knowledge capsule on making out to show him up on this occasion.)

Of course, he knows how to return such affections, humming and thumbing over Alhaitham’s nape, keeping him pressed in close. He lets his left hand wander down to his hip, whilst the other man grips the front of his collar with both hands.

“You should hold onto me harder,” Alhaitham tells him, as Kaveh tries to pull him back in to continue kissing.

“You really want to piss me off now ?”

He lets go of his collar to press against the hand Kaveh has against his hip, “You weren’t wrong to suggest fighting earlier; my hypothesis only works if there’s some violence in how -”

At least he knows that he was correct in his theory that Alhaitham being able to talk would ruin any romantic mood. Surprisingly, Kaveh doesn’t find his desire totally quelled, though, and resolves to force the other man into silence.

He grabs a fistful of hair at the back of his head and tugs, gripping Alhaitham’s wrist to keep him from trying to guide him any further. “Shut up, okay? I know what I’m doing.” He claims, as he continues to do exactly what Alhaitham had wanted.

But the other man doesn’t bring that up, nodding with wide eyes and his mouth drawn in a tight line. It’s a satisfying sight, made only sweeter by how it remains on his face as Kaveh drags him over to his bedroom by the wrist, shoving him onto the bed and then tearing his own shirt off as quickly as possible.

Alhaitham follows suit, actually managing to keep his buttons intact as he deftly unclasps each one while Kaveh gets to work undoing the tie on his trousers. He abandons that when the other man has his shirt unfastened far enough to show off his pecs, wrestling the rest of the item of clothing off so he can squeeze the muscle there with both his hands.

For the first time ever, Kaveh sees Alhaitham blush. Pink rises across his cheeks, flushing down his neck too, and he dithers between looking up into Kaveh’s eyes and trying to look literally anywhere else. He squeezes one of the pecs and watches his Adam's apple bob, and thinks about licking his neck.

(Maybe Alhaitham had the right idea for once.)

“You should hurry up.” He’s told, Alhaitham’s voice hoarse but level. He swallows again, “If this takes as long as arguing would have, then there was really no point.”

The point is that Kaveh has the freedom to stick his tongue down his throat and grope his chest to his heart’s desire. “It’s our first time together; you want me to rush?”

“I want to get some work done tonight.”

Of course he’s barely affected, despite how his physical reactions make it seem - “Well if that’s all you care about, maybe you should piss off back to your paperwork and I’ll sort myself out.”

Neither of them move, even though Kaveh’s fingertips are probably beginning to bruise Alhaitham’s skin by this point, and they’re still close enough to feel one another’s breath on their faces. It’s irritating to be told what to do. He has enough of that in his daily life, living under Alhaitham’s roof, but right now Alhaitham is under him and he can do whatever he wants.

Kaveh doesn’t leave, kissing the other man forcefully enough that their teeth clack together and he gets lightheaded from the lack of oxygen. It is the opposite strategy he would take to winning a verbal argument, but the time they’ve gotten off like teenagers dry-humping each other half-dressed, he finds that it truly was just as effective for quelling his anger.

Out of breath and satisfied despite the embarrassing speed, he rolls off from Alhaitham. He’ll need to wash both of their trousers now, and have his shirt repaired. Kaveh sighs at the thought, and then feels a nudge against his shoulder -

“Did it work?” Right, this was to prove whether having sex would solve their arguments.

“Yes,” Kaveh finds himself agreeing, “you were right, I was wrong - we should do this every time we irritate one another.”

Alhaitham lets out a self-satisfied hum, “I told you so.”

He isn’t even annoyed by his arrogance. In fact, he kind of wants to kiss him again.

~~~

They do end up doing it again - the very next day, when Alhaitham buys the wrong type of eggs and Kaveh has to go without breakfast. He accuses him of making the incorrect purchase on purpose to keep more food for himself, but Alhaitham maintains that it was accidental, and regardless Kaveh should have made himself breakfast with the other eggs if he was going to be so grumpy about skipping the meal. Like Alhaitham suggested, they have sex instead of continuing to bicker, and Kaveh’s annoyance fades. And Alhaitham goes out of his way to pick up more eggs the next time he goes out, while Kaveh makes them both breakfast the morning after as an apology for losing his temper.

A few days after that, Kaveh accidentally spills his ink onto some important Haravatat documents and, figuring they are ruined anyway, uses the blank back sides to sketch out designs without wasting fancy parchment. Alhaitham gets angry, tells him he’s given him more work and that a few drops of ink didn’t ruin anything. This time Kaveh sucks him off and he quickly becomes much more forgiving.

When Alhaitham then makes an off-hand comment about the fruitlessness of artistic endeavour, Kaveh doesn’t even bother starting the argument before bending him over his desk and working out his grievance that way.

It’s their most productive week since Kaveh moved in. He’s so proud of their progress toward a civil roommate dynamic, in fact, that he shares the good news with his friends at their group dinner that Sunday evening.

“We’ve found a way to work out our differences that doesn’t require three hour debates spanning eighteen unrelated topics,” he says, as Tighnari passes him a plate of biryani brought from the buffet.

Cyno is also in attendance, along with Tighnari’s trainee, Collei. All three look disbelieving.

“You’re talking about Alhaitham and you sound… Happy?”

Kaveh shrugs, “It’s a very effective method that we’ve worked out.”

“There’s something that you’re not mentioning,” Tighnari guesses, waving his fork around, “you smothered him in his sleep?”

“No, I did not murder my roommate to make his presence more bearable,”

“Well of course you wouldn’t admit to that here, in front of me.” Cyno says.

“I promise, no violence was involved.”

They still seem disbelieving; even the ever-trusting Collei is frowning like she’s wondering how to communicate her doubt without hurting his feelings. Kaveh is behaving atypically, he supposes, when usually he can’t complain enough about how difficult living with Alhaitham is. It just so happens that it’s actually become rather enjoyable.

It doesn’t come up again until toward the end of the meal, when the waitress comes over with the check. He asks her to put it on Alhaitham’s tab, and she replies -

“He came in last week and closed his tab, so I’ll need you to pay today.”

“Can’t I open up a new tab in his name?” He asks.

She shakes her head; “Mister Alhaitham must be present for a new tab to be started.”

All of his friends stare at him, anticipating the tirade about how inconsiderate his roommate is, how Kaveh needs to get out from under his roof as soon as possible, how ‘ he probably did this on purpose to make me look like a fool ’.

But none of that anger surfaces within him.

“Could one of you pay the tab this time?” He says instead, turning to his friends, “Alhaitham has covered all our meals for the last two months.”

“... You’re not pissed with him?”

Kaveh shrugs, “He should have told me that he came in and closed it, but I’m sure it just slipped his mind. I’ll discuss it with him later.” He wonders what Alhaitham will do as an apology - perhaps let him suck on his nipples? Bite them?

He flushes a little at the thought.

Tighnari squints at him, then coughs, “Ah, Collei, cover your ears please.”

“Master Tighnari?”

“You’ve not done anything wrong, but I don’t want you to hear the lecture I’m about to give to Kaveh.” Obediently, she presses her hands over both of her ears so that Tighnari can continue, “You slept with him, didn't you?”

Cyno chokes on his water and Kaveh replies, “A tiny bit, yes. How did you know?”

“I can hear your heart thumping -” Is he that obvious? “- what would ever possess you to have sex with a guy you don’t even like?”

“Never mind that; I want to know how you convinced Alhaitham have sex with you - I thought he was supposed to be smart.” Cyno cuts in, like Kaveh isn’t the obvious catch out of the two of them.

“It was Alhaitham’s idea, thank you very much. I’m a hot commodity.”

Both of the other men grimace, while Collei continues humming to herself. She’s out of tune, but it’s not like she knows that. 

Tighnari eventually breaks the silence, “You must realise how bad of an idea that was, right?”

“‘Was’?”

“... Kaveh, are you implying that this is a continuous arrangement between you and Alhaitham?”

Cyno practically gags, “Ew, come on, how many times?”

“Uhhhh…”

“You don’t know.” Tighnari realises, pained.

It’s not that he doesn’t remember, but that he isn’t sure what counts as sex. Kaveh doubts that that explanation would make either of them feel any better, or improve their image of him in the slightest. 

But! They’re acting like he’s an idiot who has made a terrible mistake, when - “I don’t understand what the big deal is. We’re arguing less, getting along better; in fact, I’m looking forward to seeing him tonight.”

“He’s too far gone.” Cyno mutters, as though Kaveh isn’t here.

“He actually thinks he’s making smart choices right now.” Is Tighnari’s derisive reply.

“I can hear you both.”

Tighnari rolls his eyes, “Yes, we know, that’s the point. Listen to us and put a stop to this arrangement you’ve found yourself in.”

“For what reason?”

Cyno and Tighnari explain, together, how he is ‘playing with fire’ and ‘risking his stable dynamic with Alhaitham’ and, most worryingly -

“Alhaitham probably suggested it because he actually likes you , for some indiscernible reason, and now you’re messing with his feelings by reciprocating so readily when your disdain for him is well-documented.” Cyno says with feeling, as though Kaveh is a bastard, “If you were this pent up why didn’t you go find someone else to help wet your dick?”

“Ugh, Cyno -”

“I know, I know, ‘ don’t be so crass ’. It’s not like Collei can even hear us.”

As though to prove his point, Collei continues looking impassively on without any sign of reaction at her name. She doesn’t even seem to notice them all turning to her at once.

Kaveh restarts the conversation, “You have to be kidding me, Alhaitham? Feelings?”

“It may seem unbelievable, but I think it is possible for a person to be attracted to you.” Tighnari says dryly.

“It’s not his feelings ‘ for me’ that I’m questioning; I just don’t think he has feelings in general.”

Alhaitham is about as emotive as a chalkboard at the best of times, and even when they are having sex he isn’t much perturbed past his body’s automatic physical reactions. Kaveh doesn’t think Alhaitham would respond any differently regardless of who his partner was.

Cyno glares at him, “You should stop this arrangement regardless, because you’re barrelling towards at least one broken heart and you know what will happen then?”

“What?”

“You’ll be homeless again because living together will be too awkward.”

They’re so melodramatic - Kaveh knows exactly what he’s doing.

~~~

He doesn’t think about that conversation again until the week after, Friday morning, when he wakes up tangled with Alhaitham’s limbs in the other man’s bed, cuddling . Kaveh didn’t initiate such softness, and it’s uncharacteristic for Alhaitham to be the culprit, so this must have come about naturally.

Trying to unwind himself, he struggles to wriggle out from underneath the muscled arm pinning him. When that proves ineffective, he elbows Alhaitham instead.

“Hm?” he grumbles, eyes still squeezed shut.

“Hey. Let go of me.”

“I have the morning off.”

What does that matter? “And?”

Alhaitham squeezes him even tighter, pressing into Kaveh’s neck like a heat-sucking vampire, “I’m cold. If we stay like this we’ll be warmer.”

“But I want to get up,” and he doesn’t totally believe that Alhaitham is capable of experiencing the human sensation of ‘cold’.

He opens his eyes and blearily blinks at Kaveh, “Does this count as an argument?”

It’s more of an argument than the petty dispute that led them into this position last night; they were both intent on eating the last rice ball. Before that could even become an issue, Kaveh dropped it on the floor and the sex was to resolve an argument that they didn’t even have the chance to start.

“Do you want it to be an argument?” He asks, when he can’t come up with a reply.

“If you don’t think it is, then it must not be.”

“But if you do think it’s an argument, then aren’t we arguing over whether or not we’re arguing?”

Alhaitham scoffs, closing his eyes nonetheless, “That’s too contrived.”

“Well I don’t think it is.”

“Then -” he stops himself, actually pulling away from Kaveh now, “I don’t feel like it.”

Oh. “That’s fine.” He must be tired, or something. It’s not like he’s rejecting him, he’s just…

Well, Alhaitham obviously isn’t too busy for him this morning, since he wanted to stay in bed and cuddle (excuses about being cold notwithstanding). So he must truly ‘not feel like it’, which is to say he’s… Less interested in Kaveh than Kaveh is interested in him? And he wanted them to stay close together before, but has pulled away now that sleeping together is on the table.

Kaveh bites back his worries on that front, stretching his arms over his head and smacking his lips together as he groans, “I’ll make breakfast, if you want.”

“Sure. Thank you.” It’s clipped, not awkward. But Alhaitham never feels awkward, wouldn’t know it even if it hit him over the head with a mitachurl’s axe.

The weirdness continues further into the day, when Kaveh realises he’s been using Alhaitham’s expensive writing ink to draw out new designs. He comes clean immediately, because that’s their new standard, but his roommate just shrugs as though it doesn’t bother him.

“Don’t you think I should have been more careful?”

“Mistakes happen.”

Sure, but, “This isn’t the first time -”

“And it won’t be the last, I know.” Alhaitham shrugs, and Kaveh gets the sense that he genuinely doesn’t mind.

Which makes him realise - they have progressively been having fewer arguments. At first he assumed they were having the same number, they just weren’t playing out because they kept interrupting them with sex. But it’s been two weeks since this arrangement began, and he hardly finds Alhaitham’s behaviour annoying enough to make a fuss, even in situations that would have caused hours of yelling beforehand. Kaveh has been so unbothered that he doesn’t think of getting angry to begin with, and they are only sleeping together over extremely artificial disputes that clearly neither of them actually cares about.

Like yesterday. And the day before. Kaveh has just been finding excuses to get them in bed together (or over any flat surface, really).

He doesn’t mention that to Alhaitham, but he does feel guilty enough to scamper out to ‘go to the library’ after lunch.

It’s not like they weren’t both enthusiastically consenting every time, but they had a deal in place: ‘ have sex so we argue less ’. Kaveh has been inventing fights to get more sex, and Alhaitham has probably noticed and feels misled.

“Told you so,” Cyno says when Kaveh catches up with him that afternoon, “feelings are involved and now everything is screwed up.”

“I’m still not sure that he has feelings,” he says, though it sounds weak even to his own ears.

They sit down together at the Puspa Café, Kaveh ordering two coffees to be added onto Alhaitham’s tab. Cyno doesn’t berate him for that, instead continuing with -

“Whether or not he’s sad, I don’t care. But you should care, because I’m not letting you stay with me after he kicks you out.”

Alhaitham wouldn’t throw him to the streets, not for this. “Just tell me what to do, okay? I’ve basically been tricking him into sleeping with me.”

“I seriously doubt that he’s unaware of that.”

“But he was kind of weird this morning - weirder than usual, I mean. He didn’t want to have sex but he did want to cuddle .”

Cyno considers, “Maybe he thought you were also feeling some genuine, non-horny affection, and so he was acting within the confines of that dynamic. When you rejected him -”

“He rejected me!”

“No, you rejected him first, when you refused non-sexual intimacy and tried to fabricate the circumstances for -”

Kaveh groans, tuning him out. Cyno sounds like Alhaitham now (maybe because he’s telling him off?). He still can’t imagine his roommate is as torn up as Cyno thinks he is, but if he is then Kaveh probably wouldn’t be able to tell.

The thing is - as frustrating as arguing with Alhaitham is, he does kind of enjoy it. Past the fifteen minute mark it gets more irritating than amusing, but Kaveh doesn’t want to have genuinely upset him. And that held true before they started sleeping together, now…

“Are you sure you’re not into him?” Cyno asks, and Kaveh realises that he’s been spacing out so long that his coffee is cold.

“He’s attractive.”

“That isn’t what I asked.”

Kaveh brushes him off, “I think I’d know if I liked him.”

“I don’t know, you put up with a lot of annoyance to keep living with him -” that’s so he won’t become homeless! “- and you’re this worried that you’ve hurt his feelings, even though you keep saying that he doesn’t have feelings.”

“I don’t hate him, that’s all,” he defends, “I’m not so heartless as to be callous with him.”

“Then why have you been making up arguments to keep sleeping with him?”

“Because he’s good at sex.” Kaveh replies easily, “And I haven’t gotten laid in a while.”

“Why not?”

A few reasons. He was busy working on the designs for the Palace of Alcazarzaray for a while, then he was homeless. Ever since he moved in with Alhaitham, any partner he had would need to have their own place if they were to get any privacy, and he’s not been speaking to that many people since he has been wasting most of his time arguing with Alhaitham.

Cyno raises his eyebrow, “Let me get this straight: the reason you’ve been single for months is because you didn’t want to bring anyone to Alhaitham’s flat and you didn’t have time to meet anyone anyway, because you were spending all your time with Alhaitham?”

“When you phrase it like that -”

“Kaveh,” Cyno interrupts seriously, “how would you feel if Alhaitham brought a partner home?”

Annoyed. Envious? Probably jealous that Alhaitham got a date before he did, and irritated that he thought it appropriate to bring the person home to their shared flat. Sure, does the idea of someone else sleeping with him make Kaveh feel uncomfortable? Yes. But that’s likely simply because imagining Alhaitham having sex grosses him out full stop.

Or. It did , but now he’s slept with the other man over a dozen times. None of those occasions disgusted him.

“Oh no,” Kaveh realises out loud, “I do like him.”

Cyno pats his back, “Great, you’re up to date. You literally talk about the guy non-stop.”

“He’s -”

“Annoying, yes, I’ve heard. Many times.”

“And I’m -”

“Completely sick of him? I know.”

He scrambles to his feet, almost knocking over his chair on the way up. “I need to go talk to him.” A dark thought strikes him - “What if he doesn’t like me?!”

Cyno hums, “You already know what I think. Just go.”

~~~

Alhaitham has cooked them dinner by the time Kaveh returns to the flat, having sprinted the whole way. He practically collapses to his knees as he tries to catch his breath once he’s through the door, Alhaitham staring impassively from the kitchen.

“Are you okay?” He asks, after Kaveh has swallowed the necessary lungfuls of air to form sentences again.

“Ugh, yes. Just - asphyxiating.”  

“‘ Suffocating ’ is a more accurate verb for this situation,” he pauses, “unless someone forced you to run all the way here?”

“If I die, tell everyone it was Cyno.”

Alhaitham frowns, “You were with General Mahamatra?”

“We had coffee.”

“Oh.”

Kaveh might be imagining it, but he swears he sees Alhaitham’s expression noticeably darken. He doesn’t expand, though, and Kaveh has other matters to discuss with him than what his issue with Cyno is.

He goes straight for it, “About this morning -”

“Yes, I know, I’m sorry.” Alhaitham cuts him off, not coldly. “I shouldn’t have brushed off your advances like that.”

“You didn’t have to agree to sleep with me, regardless of our arrangement.” He says, grabbing his roommate’s elbow to keep him from turning away. “I’m sorry, too.”

“What for?”

“Not staying in bed with you.”

It’s weird to have a discussion with him where they are both feeling apologetic. It’s pretty much the opposite of their typical dynamic, but quite quickly it devolves -

You shouldn’t feel sorry; you made your intentions quite clear.” Alhaitham argues.

“What do you mean?”

He pulls away from him, “I was being overly affectionate while you were operating within the parameters of our established dynamic, so I was the one out of line.”

“That’s stupid,” Kaveh snaps back, “You shouldn’t feel bad for refusing to sleep with me.”

“I never said I ‘ feel bad ’, just that under the terms of our arrangement I was impertinent to force intimacy upon you. Then I unfairly refused you just to get even.”

What? “That’s why you said you didn’t feel like it? Not because you thought I was manufacturing arguments to get you into bed?”

“We were already in bed.”

“Obviously not what I meant.” 

Alhaitham sighs, “I was also manufacturing fights - you can’t have a dispute without two adversaries with alternative viewpoints.”

Kaveh… Honestly hadn’t considered that. Of course Alhaitham was just as active in those arguments, because otherwise they would have dissipated immediately.

“Wait,” he registers what this means maybe a few moments later than it was evident, “so you like sleeping with me?”

“Yes.”

“And you only refused this morning because I rejected you first?”

“Why do we have to go through this again?” he questions stiffly.

Kaveh smiles, “This is great!” Alhaitham stares at him like he doesn’t get it, so he continues - “I like you. Kind of. Well, enough to put up with you.”

“That’s not a compliment.” Alhaitham replies, though he does let Kaveh pull him toward him. “I only like you enough to not want you to be homeless, by the way.”

“Seems we’re at very even levels of affection.”

“It would be rather awkward otherwise.”

Kaveh cannot help the laugh that forces its way out of his throat, and he quickly reassures Alhaitham, “I just thought that you were incapable of recognising awkwardness.”

“Right,” his roommate smiles minutely, “this is part of your idiotic theory that I’m a robot?”

“Are you calling it idiotic to start an argument?” They both know the answer.

They also both know that Alhaitham’s reply will be: “No.” because anything else risks avoiding a fight, and neither of them want that.

(Eventually they learn that starting arguments to justify sex and having sex to diffuse arguments is childish and counter-productive to maintaining a healthy relationship. Kaveh figures healthy relationships are overrated anyway.)