I Am Fallen To This

A/N: 14,106 words. For [info]kat, beta'd and encouraged and audienced (oh my) by [info]vi and [info]cee. Until recently, we just called it Seattle.

On a beautiful summer day, sun dappling the tent and spring perfume causing reverie and sneezing, Michael Rosenbaum mingles with some of Seattle's most prominent theatre buffs. His jeans and pinstriped suit jacket are tailored to look casual, his t-shirt actually is casual. More than a couple of times, people remark on his hair – Mike wears a short mohawk in the off season – and it's a little unprofessional, but he can get away with it. It's interesting, something the brass can tut over and the press can dish, something the photographers can chase after. Plus he just likes it, so fuck them.

He discusses the company's latest offering, laughs gently at the idea that playing Iago will typecast him. He enjoys taking the villain's role, he says, he wants to make the character likeable, give him some depth so the audience can identify with him. It's the sort of thing you say when people ask you about that kind of thing. It's his tenth major role with the world renowned Seattle Shakesperean troupe, and when Twelfth Night comes around next December, he's been promised Orsino. It's a dream, his life's work; he loves what he does and his focus hasn't shifted in years. Ask him and he'd tell anyone, he knows what he needs to know. His life is mapped, and planned, and accounted for, thanks: house in three years, Macbeth in five and, if he has anything to say about it, a Kenneth Branagh movie deal in ten.

He sips his orange juice, the chatter around him fading quietly as he zones out. The bright sun is a welcome respite – it rains all the fucking time in Seattle anyway, but it's seemed particularly chill and ugly the last few weeks. Summer is burning down, just the coals of it flaring into days like this, sometimes. Mike soaks in the warm green grass, the rich smell of earth, and tries to enjoy it.

And then his breath stops in his mouth. His fingers get clumsy, the world slows down and the sound fades out as the most beautiful kid in the whole fucking world passes by the drinks table.

Mike's eyes are dragged after him like magnetism; he can feel the pull of the dark hair and the broad shoulders in his chest. Green eyes flash in the sun before they cut away, Mike's heart is ready to jump out of his chest, and then the kid goes behind someone's cell phone, someone else's giant hairdo, and disappears.

Mike is not this kind of guy. Mike has a job to do here, a focus, a goal: his career, making the right impression.

He's off across the grass like a shot, pushing past people who start and exclaim, trying to keep his eyes on the flash of black hair, blue jeans, red jacket. Even as he does it, he knows it's fucking crazy. Matrons turn up their noses as he rushes past, men apologize and remember his face in the way where it means temperamental, and therefore not good.

But he's almost there. He feels a pull in his gut like fate, like if he finds this kid, it'll be there, just like that, Antonio and Bassanio, and he needs to see – sneakers, a knapsack, flash, flash, flash.

And then he's standing in the middle of the meadow, out from under the tent with the sun in his eyes. He's alone, there's no kid, people are looking at him and he's holding his orange juice like a chump, looking around for someone that isn't there.


He looks and looks, keeps an eye out for the kid the whole afternoon, but there's nothing. Talking to the event manager, the guy swears he'll look into it, and Mike gets a vague call a couple weeks later that tells him there was a dishwasher matching that description, but they paid him and he left and er, um, we'll try to track him down, sir, yes, of course we have a name, somewhere, sir, yes. Mike hangs up cursing whoever decided that paying laborers under the table was a good idea, and tries to forget.

So one day, a couple of weeks later, Mike's on the way to the theatre, organizing in the aftermath of Othello's downfall and preparing to be connived by the fey folk. He's coming out of a Starbucks with a fresh cinnamon chai and then out of nowhere, there's his boy from the brass party, slouched under the library awning with a book in his hands. He's looking around and the gray light hits his cheekbones so perfectly; Mike just gets yanked across the street by that same invisible force like he doesn't even have a choice. He doesn't; the rain pats down onto his head and he has no choice.

Falling debris to the head. Hit by a car, crossing the intersection. Bam, stars, whiteout.

He just stands there then, staring, feeling like a world-class idiot, and the kid sort of looks at him grouchily and goes, "I'm not begging," because his clothes are frayed and beat up and his knapsack is dirty and there's a smudge of something on his cheek.

Mike stammers, "I'm sorry, I didn't..." because he just has no idea what to say.

The kid looks him up and down and says, "If you're looking for what I think you're looking for, you should go see Chad on 42nd." Mike just stares at him, long enough to get the kid to say, "What?"

And then Mike says, "Let me take you to dinner."

Something in his voice must give him away, because the kid goes, "You mean... like, a date?"

Mike just nods. "Yeah." The kid squints at him, suspiciously, and Mike volunteers, "It, you wouldn't owe me anything. I just want to take you out."

Maybe it's because of the way Mike's staring at him, but the kid seems to gloss right over the part where it could be charity, because it really isn't. He just says, "Where do you want to go?"

"Anywhere you want."

The kid examines him a little, a sharp eye that's too old for him, and then he says, "Okay. But you try anything…"

Mike puts his hands up, open. "I promise."

"I'm Tom," the kid tells him, a little defiantly. He slings his knapsack down on his elbow, dogears a page and shoves the book into the pouch.

"Michael Rosenbaum," Mike says, and holds out his hand.

Tom takes it. His palm is warm and dry, his hand easily spanning Mike's own, and Mike loses equilibrium for a second, but manages to let go in one piece.

Tom picks this cheap little Italian diner that's not too far from where they are. They walk, and Mike sits at the red-and-white checkered table and watches Tom put away two full plates of pasta and sausage. The guys at the counter greet Tom by name and clap hands on his shoulder. They bring Mike some Alfredo, but he's too busy watching Tom eat to do more than poke at it.

Tom makes idle chit chat during dinner: "So what do you do?" "I'm an actor." "Oh, yeah? Have you been in anything?" "Just plays, mostly." "Oh." Mike's not much of a conversationalist until Tom stops sliding that fork between his lips and acting like it's the best thing that's ever been in his mouth. But it's not all sex - his eyes when he talks to the guys at the counter, his huge hands - how did he get to be that big, living on the streets? He's a well of questions, and Mike has forever loved puzzles. He just looks and looks, as if looking would give any answers. The rain spatters the ground outside as the sky goes from gray to black.

When Tom's finally done and they clear the plates away, he looks at Mike and smiles a little. "So, what do we do now?" he asks, sort of shyly. "I haven't really been on an actual date before."

"Well," Mike tells him, "Traditionally there's some talking, and then either dancing or a movie."

Tom lifts his shirt to his nose and delicately sniffs it before giving Mike this look like, man, I don't think that's going to go over so well. And Mike blushes because he didn't mean to embarrass Tom, but Tom just laughs. He's not embarrassed at all, and Mike feels like a fool, which he normally hates feeling like, but right now he doesn't mind so much.

They talk a little, and Mike gets around to asking what Tom's reading, "The book you had when I saw you, what is it?" So Tom pulls it out of his knapsack, shy again, and slides it across the table. Mike reads the title, Marabou Stork Nightmares, by Irvine Welch, and just blinks. Tom lowers eyelashes that are too long to be really human, and says, "I liked Trainspotting, he did that one too."

Mike worries that if Tom rolls up his sleeves, there will be track marks. He's aware, in the moment that he thinks of that, that what he's doing is totally insane. He doesn't even know how old Tom is. He looks so young, now that Mike thinks of it, and he sort of just stares, helplessly.

Tom perks up a little just then, and he says, "Come on, I know where we can go." He stands up, and Mike pays the bill while Tom scuffs his sneakers and blushes, and the guys look at him hard. Mike can't hold back a little smug smile.

Tom drags him out the door fast, "Come on, Michael."

It's stopped raining, the streets are slick and smell fresh. A few blocks away, down a street Mike's never been before, Tom turns into an alley. There's a fire escape that's rusted through, enough so the ladder's hit the ground. Tom climbs up like it's the safest thing in the world. "Come on, Michael, come on."

With some trepidation, Mike follows, and puffs as he follows Tom up fourteen flights. They arrive at the top of the building and Tom hushes him. "The super'll catch us if you make too much noise," Tom explains, and then edges up the window so they can climb in. Mike worries, but Tom's slipped in the window like a cat, and Mike's going to lose sight of him if he doesn't move, so he moves. Tom whisks them down a little hall and through a door, and then they climb one more flight of stairs and Tom opens the big metal door on the roof. "It's nice up here," he says.

He's not wrong.

The city sparkles below them like the view from Mike's apartment, and the rocks shift under their feet. Mike sees some deck chairs and ashtrays up here, a sleeping bag or two under a lean-to shelter. He points them out to Tom, asks, "Do people live here?"

"No," Tom says, "They just come up here sometimes. It's pretty. Come on, you can sit on the edge."

"Wait, wait," Mike says, but Tom's already swinging his legs over the wide edge and sitting down, like there's not a huge drop below him, and Mike swallows. "Come back over," he says, and Tom grins at him. "What's the matter, Michael? Are you scared?" Mike just glares at him as he laughs softly, and climbs over the edge. There's a ledge under his feet, of course, but there's no seatbelt, and it's pretty freaky. Nothing to stop him from falling.

But that's how he's been feeling all night, so it's not so bad.

They sit there and stare out at the city for an hour and a half before the door creaks open, kids pouring out of it, laughing and passing a bottle. Tom waves hello, they wave hello, and then Mike shifts uncomfortably so Tom says, "Let's go back."

Tom walks Mike to his car. Mike pushes the button and it makes that chirpy little yes-I-am-locked-now sound, and then the engine's low rumble. Tom looks at the ground.

Mike turns to him and reaches out halfway between them, like he'd touch Tom's arm, but doesn't. "When can I see you again?"

Tom shrugs, head still down, hands shoved into his pockets. "I don't know," he says, but he steps a little closer.

"Was it all right?" Mike asks, nerves fluttering in his stomach. Tom looks up at him, intense and dark eyed, and Mike is struck again with the almost physical sensation of need to be with him.

"It was great," Tom says. "I had a really good time."

"So when?" Mike presses, and Tom glances around.

"Um. How about Wednesday? It's Monday now."

Mike nods, he's willing to take that. "Sure, Wednesday's good. Where do I meet you? I can come pick you up from somewhere, if you want."

Tom gives him an address, and Mike sifts through his own pockets to find a pen and something to write on. There's a receipt for something, and he doesn't care what it is. He writes the address down, and then his phone number, and he tears that last part off and passes it to Tom. "Here, that's me. Call me any time. Like, if your plans change, or you want to reschedule or something."

Tom just nods, and takes the paper. It disappears into his clothes, and Mike makes a wish. "Okay," he says shakily. "Thanks for an exceptional evening."

Tom nods, and then steps in even closer, and Mike's looking up into his face and Tom leans down and then they're kissing.

Tom tastes like pasta, cola and cigarettes. Mike doesn't like most of those things, and he can't get enough. He would put his arms around Tom, except Tom is holding him by the arms, and it's awkward and strange and so totally mind-blowingly hot that Mike thinks he could come, just from this.

And then Tom lets him go and steps back. Mike feels like he's just been drenched in ice water, it's so cold.

"Good night," Tom tells him, and with a little smile, he turns and walks off down the street, hoisting his backpack on his shoulder.

Mike gets in his car and sits there for twenty minutes, trying to remember how to drive.

He goes home and he's shaken and completely out of it. He runs a red light and doesn't hit anything or get pulled over, but he's never run a red light before, and someone honked and stomped on their brakes, and he pulls over and gets out of the car.

It's just a normal black car, nothing special.

He leans up against the door and waits for this feeling to pass him over, this feeling like he might throw up or maybe start dancing through the rain-drenched streets like Fred Astaire, but it's not normal; he needs it to stop. He just breathes nice and slow, and when he's less dizzy, he drives home.

Tuesday passes in a total blur. He can't concentrate, he's absentminded and not paying attention to much of anything. He hits his cues, remembers his lines because hey, it's fucking Shakespeare. But he's not much good at the planning phase, and Allison lays a hand on his arm after and says he might want to get some coffee or maybe a nap or something. You're looking pretty pale around the gills, Mikey. He nods, and debates blurting out his whole story to her over coffee. It might be cathartic, and God knows he would like to be sure that he's sane about all this.

But the very concept's crazy, he knows what she'd say, so he doesn't tell her anything, just nods her good night and goes down to his car.

In some obscure way, the car reassures Mike. It saw Tom, it was in the same place as him. It's some kind of proof that Tom was there, that Mike wasn't dreaming.

He wonders if he'll get a call on Wednesday, wonders if he should even bother coming in to the theatre when he knows he'll jump every time there's a jingle that could be his phone ringing. He eats dinner that night at home, alone, and decides to call in some personal days. It's early enough in this staging; they've just started running lines and they're still working out who's going to play the bit parts.

He calls up Al at home; he's in. "Al, I need the next three days. I know. I know it is. I just do. Personal reasons. No, nothing like that. I will. I won't. Al. Okay. Bright and early Monday morning. Bye. Al. Bye."

He sighs, thumbs the button and lays the phone on the kitchen counter. "I have got to be crazy," he mutters to himself, and presses the heels of his hands into his eyes.

On Wednesday, the phone rings just as the sun is setting. "Hello!" Mike says, almost before the phone is to his head.

"Michael?" It's definitely Tom's voice, and Mike's pulse leaps. "It's Tom," says the phone, and Mike remembers how you're supposed to talk back.

"I know, hi, sorry. I was, caught up. Are we still on for tonight?"

"Yeah," says the soft, shy murmur right into Mike's ear. "If you want."

"I want," Mike breathes.

There's no sound, and Mike worries for a minute that he's been too forward, but then Tom speaks, and Mike can hear the smile. "Good, okay. Um. Can you still come pick me up?"

"Yeah, of course," Mike says, picking the receipt up off the coffee table, where it's been sitting in the fruit bowl. "I, um. How should I dress? Do you have someplace you want to go?"

"Well, I got to pick last time," Tom says. "You can this time, but nothing too fancy, okay?"

"Sure, of course," Mike tells him, wracking his brain for anything that might be even a little bit appropriate. He discards the bistro at city hall, the coffee shop at the theatre, and the stadium before he realizes his next mental stop is the Needle and stops trying to think while Tom is on the phone. Instead, he asks, "What time should I come get you?"

"Um. Seven?"

"Seven, okay. Absolutely. I'll see you then." The phone clicks off in his hand as Tom hangs up, and Mike listens to the dead air for a second. Seven is one hour away, and he's got to go get dressed, but he's got that dizzy feeling again, so he just stands there for a bit, waiting for it to pass.

The address he's been given is for a shelter. He pulls up outside in his car and Tom's hanging around at the entrance, waiting for him. Two boys are standing with him and they're all smoking by the brick wall. Mike worries again about how young Tom must be, and vows to himself that he will ask, at some point tonight.

When Tom sees the car, he flicks his cigarette to the curb, waves to the boys, and hoists up that knapsack again. The guys whistle and grin; one of them tosses his cigarette butt near Tom's feet, but it's just a gesture. He's smiling, and the little cinder doesn't get too near. Tom climbs in, tossing his bag at his feet, and Mike immediately smells soap, and blushes.


"Hi." Tom smiles, blushing a little as well. "Don't mind those guys. They think you're a trick, they're just assholes." He smiles to himself, and then his eyes open up worriedly as he hurries to explain. "I mean I don't do that, trick, I mean. I'm not, I don't -"

Mike talks over him, "No, no, Tom, I know. Remember? You thought I was looking, and you sent me to -"

"Right," Tom says, "Yeah, right. So. I'm not."

"I know."

There's a moment of awkward silence and then Mike clears his throat and pulls out into the flow of traffic. Tom bites his lip beside Mike, and looks out the window, but before Mike has a chance to think of something to break the tension, Tom beats him to it.

"So, where are we going?"

"Oh! Well, I..." Mike clears his throat again. "I thought if it was all right with you, we'd go to the Pacific Science Center." He glances over to gauge Tom's expression and finds it stunned. He adds on, cheeks flushed, "If you think it's lame, we don't have to. I just thought, y'know, you might want to see the stars a little closer than fourteen stories up."

There's a pause, and Mike starts to fill in the awkward silence with it's okay, we'll go get dinner, but Tom cuts him off with a little smile. "I want to go. I just... it's not what I was expecting. But it's nice. I like it."

He gazes out the window again, but this time he's wearing that little smile, and Mike counts his blessings and doesn't interrupt.

For the most part, Tom wanders around the planetarium sedately. He peers at things, laughs over some and is quiet over others. It's not quite the awestruck kid thing that Mike was sort of subconsciously expecting; he keeps looking over at Tom and thinking he's going to see that face light up over some star chart or gizmo, but it never happens. Tom just looks and reads, sometimes pleasantly surprised and sometimes interested, but never overwhelmed. Naturally, that makes Mike crazy to find something that really pleases him.

Somewhere between the industrial revolution and the space age, Tom's thick fingers slip shyly into Mike's palm, and then Mike's the awestruck one. He laces their fingers together and follows wherever Tom leads, feeling entirely at peace. It's like now that they're touching, some weird buzz under his skin has stopped and he can stop being distracted and focus.

He gains an impression of some looks directed at them from some thick, overly made up WASPs, and he holds Tom's hand tighter as an act of rebellion, of go-fuck-yourself. Mike's contrary like that. He sees Tom looking over his shoulder at the glowers, uncomfortable, but when Mike tries to let go, Tom tightens his hold and pulls Mike into the alcove for the laser light show.

He leans over and whispers in Mike's ear, "Can we go?"

Mike gives ten bucks to the usher and Tom pulls him into the theatre, seating them in the back. They watch the show (Pink Floyd) with their hands firmly together, hidden in the dark. By the time the lights come up, Mike has totally forgotten to be angry.

It's closing on ten o'clock when they leave. They pry their hands apart, because they have to or they'll lock that way. Mike walks beside Tom, slow and easy, out to the car. "So, what now? If you want, we could go for some food, or I could just take you home. Anything."

Tom sighs, and looks down at the ground, and Mike stops and gently touches his arm. "What?"

Tom smiles, a sad sort of try at it, and it jerks at Mike's heart. "It's nothing," he says. "I just wish I..."

"What?" Mike touches his face, and Tom closes his eyes and inclines his head into it, so subtly. They stand in a circle of orange streetlight, the pavement slick with rain, and Mike barely breathes.

"I wish I'd met you before."

Mike just strokes Tom's cheek, and feels his heart tear a little.

And then Tom smiles again, opens his clear eyes, and Mike can feel the inside of him heat up like someone opened the furnace door. "Anyway," Tom says. "I could go for some food, if you want. I mean, I don't have to be up, or anything, so."

Mike smiles back, can't help himself, and they start walking back to the car. "Great," he says. "Neither do I. We can stay out as late as you want."

Tom smiles that secret, private smile that makes Mike's pulse jump in his throat, and scuffs his feet on the black asphalt. His tone is quiet, but Mike can tell he's being a wiseass. "Will you keep me out past curfew?"

They laugh softly - Mike first, then Tom joins in. they arrive at the car, black and shining under the streetlights, and inside it's dark and humid and close. Mike looks over and sees Tom looking at him, feels it pull at him just like it did that first day. Kiss me, it says, and he pictures that thick, solid body laid out on his white sheets instead of the silver-gray upholstery. They're drawing together, and then Mike reaches out and rubs a thumb over those lush, full lips. Tom's eyes flutter closed and he licks his lip in Mike's wake.

"Wait," Mike breathes, and Tom looks at him again. "Before this goes any further, Tom, I have to ask..."

Tom dips his head down, cheeks flushed, and Mike could groan, but doesn't. "My eighteenth birthday's in four months," Tom says, and Mike nods his head.


"Okay?" Tom looks up, the edge of hope in his eyes.

"Well. Not... not like, whatever okay, but. Dealable." Mike runs a hand down his arm, warmly, and smiles his best reassuring smile. Outside, a soft rain begins to ping a little symphony on the hood.

Tom gives him a beautiful look that threatens to dissolve his fledgling willpower, and so Mike starts the car and pulls out of the parking lot.

The lights flash by on the windows, gleam off the dash as Mike pulls through the streets. He's trying to think of where Tom would want to go for supper; he doesn't want to insult him, but he wants to impress him. He kind of used all his thinking on the date part, and he's at a total loss. He's on a date with a seventeen year old street urchin and it's just, it's not how he thought he'd be spending his Wednesday, is all.

"Are we going to go to dinner?" Tom asks gently, and Mike coughs.

"Yeah, I, uh. Yeah." In the silence that follows, the awkwardness grows. Mike's not sure what to say, but he's got to come up with something, and Tom seems like he's catching on to Mike's floundering around, which makes it even harder.

And then Tom clears his throat and offers, "Y'know, I like McDonald's."

"Yeah?" Mike asks, latching onto it, and Tom nods.

"Yeah, they have the best fries."

Mike swallows hard, breathes a little easier. "Okay," he says. "You want McDonalds, you got it."

They find a pair of arches and Mike parks. Under the harsh lights, they eat, and blessedly the TV is tuned to the Leafs versus the Red Wings, so Mike pulls for Toronto and Tom looks on. Mike told him to get anything he wanted, and insisted he get the big fries, but Tom can't eat them all and builds little forts on his tray out of the leftovers, questioning Mike about the plays he calls at the screen.

It's fun. It surprises Mike a little, but it's comfortable and easy and he has fun.

When they're done, they get back into Mike's car and drive. Tom directs them back toward the shelter and asks him to stop a couple blocks away. Mike pulls into the lot and they climb out.

Mike comes over to stand by him. It smells of rain and dirt, but clean. Tom looks down at him and Mike waits.

There's a moment. It's this holding-your-breath moment, when they could kiss and it feels like they're going to kiss, because there's nothing else to say and he's leaving. The silence stretches out as they look at each other, and there's a soft gravity pulling at them. Tom's eyes go a little heavy, his breath comes a little faster. There's a change in the air, so subtle, like he might take a step forward.

Mike turns his head to the side and down a little, breaking the eye contact. "Well. I should get going. Again, please, call me anytime."

And he turns and walks around to his side of the car, and just as he goes to get in, Tom says, "Michael?" Mike looks up at him and there he is, with his backpack and his sneakers and his earnest eyes, and he says, "How about tomorrow? Are you busy tomorrow?"

Mike smiles wide and says, "No. No, I'm not busy."

Tom calls early on Thursday afternoon, around one.

Mike's relaxing on the couch, sleepily watching TSN, when the phone rings. "Hello?"

"Hi, Michael?"

Mike sits up and mutes the television, runs a hand over his hair like Tom could possibly tell if he had bedhawk. "Tom, hi. How're you?"

"Pretty good," he says, and Mike can hear him smile. "We still on for today?"

"Yeah," Mike says, "Of course, definitely. Where to?"

"I don't know," Tom says sunnily. "Somewhere outside, maybe this afternoon? I mean if you're not busy..."

"No, no, this afternoon's fine," Mike hastens to assure him. "Tell you what, if you want, we could hit the farmer's market. I have to do some shopping anyway, and if you came with me, we could pick up your favorites. Have dinner at my place later tonight. And there's usually buskers and street performers, lots to see."

Tom's laughter stops the sales pitch. "That sounds fun," he says. "Do you want to meet there, say, three o'clock?"

"Sure," Mike says, beaming at the phone like it just won him the lottery. "Three sounds just fine. Meet by the fire station?"

"See you there," Tom says, and the line goes dead, but that's fine by Mike, because he's got an all-day date.

And sure, maybe it's with a seventeen year old. Maybe he's crazy. But Tom's not your average seventeen-year-old and he can't think about that anyway because he only has two hours to make this place halfway presentable, shower, dress, and make it to the market, just in time for it to open.

One hour, fifty-two minutes later, with a dishwasher full of dirty dishes and the fourth shirt he tried on his back, Mike parks on the street and climbs out. His heart's a little fast as he looks around, a smile on his face already. When he spots Tom - not hard to do, so tall - he waves and jogs over, realizing only belatedly that he looks like a huge dork.

But Tom is smiling at him, wide and happy, and so Mike thinks maybe it doesn't matter.

"Hi," he says. "You ready?"

"Any time you are," Tom says, and they head into the market together, the rare sun warming their shoulders.

They sort through almost everything. Tom is shy at first about expressing a preference, but when Mike refuses to buy anything unless it gets the Tom seal of approval, he warms up. He prefers berries to melon, and Mike picks up a bag of blackberries the size of his head. They browse the jewelry and knick knack kiosks and Mike ends up with a wind chime set that looks like snowfall and four or five bead necklaces and woven bracelets. He insists Tom take at least two of those, and Tom laughs and says he'll have to think about it. Later on, they get some fresh pasta (the corkscrew kind) and Mike says they can make sauce from scratch, so they spend some time poking around vegetables before just getting a big pile of sausage.

Just as they're coming on the invisible line where the meat shops turn into dessert displays, there's a commotion behind them. Mike turns around just in time to get slammed into by a kid racing by; the kid doesn't even slow down as he nearly bowls Mike over. Tom's there in a heartbeat, strong hands to hold Mike up. There's a moment when the clock stops, and Mike can feel the heat at his shoulder, his waist, his side.

Then, back in the crowd where the kid came from, someone yells, "Stop him! Thief!" Mike's about to go running after the kid, but Tom's hand is a soft request on his shoulder, and Mike turns to look at him.

"Don't go," says Tom's face, quiet and a little sad.

Mike just sort of blinks, and then figures it out: they're in a farmer's market. So whatever the kid stole, it was probably food. And if he stole food, then maybe he's just hungry, and if he's a hungry kid then...

Then maybe, Mike thinks, as he comes back to stand beside Tom - maybe he'll just stay right here.

"Well," Mike says, clearing his throat and turning to the shelves of fudge. "Let's, uh... let's get back to shopping, okay?"

They spend a half hour touring through the rest of it. A man has painted himself silver and moves like a robot if you put a coin into his hat. Someone's doing caricatures for ten dollars. Mike gets two slices of black forest cake from one stall, dripping with cherries and slivers of chocolate, and that lightens their moods more than anything. Tom says more than three words together, for that.

They drive back to Mike's house and get in the elevator, their arms loaded down with brown paper sacks. Tom says it smells great, and Mike smiles that they haven't even got started yet, just wait. In the kitchen, Mike puts Tom to work chopping up sausage while he puts the sauce on. It's easy and relaxed, some classic rock on the stereo behind them as they make a mess of the counters and dining room table. Tom tries to "help" with the spices, sneaking up behind Mike and taking the shaker from his hand.

"Just a little," Mike grins, watching Tom tap the shaker like it's filled with nitroglycerin. "It's Andouilli sausage, so you have to be careful with anything that isn't garlic or oregano, pretty much."

"Maybe I should do the garlic and oregano, then." Tom grins, and Mike has to laugh.

"Spicing's not hard," Mike says as Tom plays with the garlic press. "You just have to watch your quantity, always include at least a little salt, and remember not to mix things like Italian spices with mints. No rosemary and oregano together." Mike brushes off his hands and turning the heat down to let it simmer. "You've got to let them stay apart or your palate gets confused. But I don't know, I guess you don't really need to know about that."

Tom stops, the smile fading. "I don't need to know?" he asks, his brows furrowing. "What exactly do you mean by that?"

Mike freezes. "What? Oh, nothing, nothing at all. Tom, I didn't mean..."

Tom's face closes down. It's like somebody just turned the heat in the room way down; the easy, relaxed atmosphere is frozen, shattered. He backs up, just one step, and Mike knows he's losing.

"Maybe I should be going," Tom says, and heads into the living room.

Mike hurries to keep up with him. "No, please. I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that."

"Don't worry about it," Tom says, picking up his backpack and bringing it to the door. His mouth is tight; he won't look up.

Mike touches his arm, but he just moves away. "Tom... I swear, I didn't..."

Tom's picking Mike's jacket up from the couch, looking for his own. "It's fine." He drops the leather and comes up with his own big denim thing, frayed at the cuffs. Mike is sure if he lets Tom leave now, he'll never see that jacket again.

"Tom," he says, taking Tom firmly by the wrist and forcing the issue. A muscle in Tom's jaw clenches as his teeth clench, and Mike's nervousness spikes, but he doesn't let go. "I don't think you're anything less than anyone else. I couldn't. Shit, since the first second I saw you, I couldn't tell anything about you, and I can usually read people like billboards. I just, I just want to know who you are."

Tom drops his jacket to the ground. It clinks, soft.

He breaks Mike's grip as easily as he would a child's, and then those hands are gripping Mike's shoulders and dragging him close. The first touch of his mouth is hard, desperate and open. There's more honesty in it than any kiss Mike's ever known, and Mike puts his arms around Tom's waist and holds tight, like if he doesn't, he will wake up and Tom will be gone.

"I'm just me," Tom breathes into the space between them. "That's all."

"There's nothing just about you," Mike growls, and he grips the back of Tom's shirt as they press together again.

The foyer melts into the living room, standing to sitting, and Mike's lost in the feeling Tom makes with his mouth. Nothing about this is remotely familiar or safe: Mike holds Tom closer, can't keep his hands still.

It's just a bunch of contradictions, Mike thinks, as he tastes tomato and spring on Tom's tongue. It shouldn't be possible that Tom is seventeen, and if it is, then it shouldn't be possible for him to hold firm under Mike's rushing hands, to feel like a mountain when their chests touch and Mike's heart is pounding. Tom should be nervous, or older, or less beautiful, or something.

But instead he just puts his heavy, strong hands on Mike's back, settles him closer and allows what this is, which is Mike biting softly at his bottom lip, running a thumb over his jaw, breathing his air. Mike tries to sense when Tom will shift, wants to kiss him until he forgets his name. He wants in, he wants to know, and Tom's letting him have just enough to make him ravenous.

Tom's gentle but unstoppable. When he pulls Mike closer, Mike moves just fast enough to stay ahead of the inexorable pressure. When Tom puts a knuckle on Mike's chin to hold his mouth open, tasting him, Mike can't think to close it. When Tom groans, low in his throat, it rocks Mike's core.

It's not just how he kisses, but that's part of it. It's not that Tom's too experienced, he isn't. Mike was expecting raw passion, he expected testosterone and pawing, and that sort of thing is fun, sure. But when he instead gets this dreamy, sinking kiss where Tom cups his jaw and presses a hand in the small of Mike's back, it's... sort of shocking. Unsettling. Every time he turns around with this kid, he gets something he didn't expect, and it makes Mike hesitate.

Heat builds slow between them, but Mike can feel it stoking, tight and intense. He pulls them apart a little more, sets his cheek against Tom's and holds it there, closing his eyes. "We should stop. Wow. We should. The food's going to get cold, so, we should stop."

His mouth feels pleasantly bruised.

"I'm sorry," Tom says, the smile audible. "I guess I just got caught up..."

"No, no," Mike assures him, coughing politely. "I got a little caught up myself."

They pull away from each other, make distance. "Come on," Mike says, and beckons Tom into the kitchen, feeling shaky but good. Ethically speaking, that is.

They eat pasta. The sauce they made is really, really good, and they don't talk about anything important. They just sit at dinner and bullshit about nothing, about sports or books, because Tom likes books, or about Mike's house, which Tom likes too. But it's a quiet, warm, good evening, and Mike is more than content to take it. What he wants... that's more complex. But there's no time for that now.

At the end of the night, they're full of pasta and pleasant conversation. Tom stands up around ten and stretches; Mike can't help but notice the way his shirt rides up over his belly, softened a little with the supper they've just had.

"I should get going," Tom rumbles, sounding sated and satisfied.

Mike wants him to do anything except leave, but of course he has to. He rubs his palms on his jeans and stands up, follows Tom into the living room and watches as he picks up his jacket, shakes it out. "You want a ride home?" Mike asks, going for his keys.

"Nah." Tom smiles, shrugging the jacket over his broad shoulder. "That's all right. I've got some stuff to take care of before I get there, so."

Tom heads for the door, picks up the knapsack and slings it over his shoulder, turns the doorknob, and Mike blurts out, "Do you need anything? Is there anything I can, y'know..."

Gently, Tom turns in the doorway and lifts his hands. They settle inside Mike's elbows, holding him, and Tom gives him this soft smile and says, "No, Michael, it's okay. You stay. Can I call you tomorrow?"

"Sure," Mike says, holding tight to Tom's arms. "Sure, of course."

And then things are shifting, changing, and Tom leans toward him, blacking out the light from the hall. It's a good kiss, firm and damp, light pressure and heat. It's totally unselfconscious; Mike can feel Tom saying to him It's all right, I'll be back, I won't leave you. and Mike is all set to press into that warmth, wrap his arms around it and hold on, but then Tom pulls away and turns to go, and Mike's left standing in his doorway, watching Tom's back disappear down the stairs.

The next day, Mike waits by the phone, dressed and ready. It doesn't ring at one, or at three, or five, or six, or seven. It rings at ten thirty, and Tom's voice is tired and about equal parts bitchy and scared. "Michael, I'm sorry it's so late."

Of course he's worried. It's the edge of fear that does it; Tom sounds afraid, and that's enough to make all the tiny hairs on the back of Mike's neck stand up. He says, "Tom, what happened? Where are you?"

And Tom says, "I'm at the university hospital. I'll wait by the emergency doors for you, just, could you please come?"

Mike checks his watch, his heart pounding, and says, "I'll be there in twenty minutes. Don't move, I'll be right there." He's out the door, into his car, and speeding through traffic in no time, growling curses under his breath and violating as many laws as necessary. Water streaks off his hood, wipers slapping.

He parks in the no parking zone near the entrance to emergency and climbs out. A side door swings open and out comes Tom, looking beautiful, and haggard, his breath steaming in the cold air. Mike hurries around the car and puts his hands on Tom's chest, checking for damage. "Tom, my God, what happened? Are you all right?"

His chest is solid under Mike's hands, and he looks all right, if exhausted. He covers Mike's hands with his own, warm and solid. "I'm fine," he says. "I was here with a friend, that's all." And then that sweet, earnest look takes over and he rubs a thumb over Mike's cheekbone, looking down at him, positively angelic. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to worry you."

"No, no." Mike waves, dismissing it utterly. "It's fine. What's important is that you're okay."

A car honks behind Mike's rear bumper, angry face, security logo on the side, so Mike ushers Tom into the car and they pull out onto the road.

Mike asks, "What about your friend? They all right?"

Tom looks out the window, his face a riot of pain and anger and fear. The streetlights play over the harsh lines, the dark shadows under his eyes. "I don't know. I think so." And before Mike can stutter out a question, Tom rubs two fingers over his eyelids and says, "Listen, do you mind if we don't talk about it? It's just, it's been a really long night."

"Of course," Mike says, "Of course. You're what matters now."

Tom sort of smiles at him wearily and reaches out, and Mike stutters a minute over the morals and the particulars. And then Tom's hand is there, presuming all over the place, and Mike threads their fingers together like there was never a question.

Mike's driving. He is concentrating on driving.

"So, where am I taking you?" Tom puts on a considering-it face, and Mike's the one who won't let a word get in this time. "You know you're always welcome at my place. You look tired, I have a very comfortable couch. Match made in heaven. We could do breakfast tomorrow morning."

Tom sighs, relaxing, and leans his head against the window. "Yeah. If it's no trouble, that'd be nice."

The rain snakes down over the windshield. Mike threads in and out of cars, slow and careful now, like he can make up for the insanity of earlier if he is doubly careful now. Light swells and dies across Tom's face, leeching away the color. Mike is dimly aware that there is a peculiar smell in the car – something organic and ugly, plus clean sweat, plus the sterile, numb smell of a hospital. It's faintly nauseating.

When Mike parks on his street and gets out of the car, he runs up the steps to get into the lobby, hand shielding his eyes from the downpour. Tom follows at a sedate pace, the rain soaking into his hair and clothes as he peels off that red jacket, the backpack, and lifts his face to the sky, his eyes closed.

Mike stands inside the door, watching Tom raise his arms, shivering. He waits, watches, something tight in his chest.

When Tom finally climbs the stairs, he's dripping. Without a word, Mike hands Tom his own warm, dry jacket, and takes the red one and the knapsack from Tom's hands.

Up in the apartment, Mike sets Tom's things by the door and ransacks his linen closet for towels, sheets, blankets. He only hesitates a second before he takes the extra pillow off his own bed and puts it under his arm, hauling a mass of bedding out to the living room.

Tom's hands are empty and Mike doesn't see his own jacket anywhere – Tom must have hung it up. He watches Tom unfurl a towel and rub it over his hair, tries not to watch the way his white t-shirt clings to his body, leaving precisely nothing to the imagination.

Mike carefully averts his eyes, clears his throat. "I, um. I brought you three blankets. I hope that's enough. It's pretty cold out there." He smoothes his hands over the sheets, a crisp, white field. He hopes it looks welcoming, not just blank.

"Three's fine," Tom says softly, gratefully, and Mike hurts for how worn out he sounds.

It's near silent in the apartment; a little rasp of fabric now and then. There's a low, soft drumming of rain against the window, and there's a gray, moving, liquid light that comes in through the blinds. A low circle of yellow surrounds a lamp, light puddled on the tabletop.

Mike pats the pillow, finished. "Okay," he says. "That should do it." He looks up to see Tom standing near the window, painted in shadows. He's quiet, leaning against the wall, just watching, and Mike is frozen in his sights, feels a shift in the air. Tom straightens away from the wall and comes toward him, slowly, the quiet rushing sound that rain makes all around. The distance closes, Mike feels heat on his chest and Tom's eyes are on his, black and intense. There's a flicker of movement – Mike looks down and sees Tom's hand, broad and dark against the white of his own damp t-shirt. He curls fingers in it, another hand, pulls it up, up, up and over. Off. It hits the ground, heavy, and Mike drags his gaze up that perfect, defined chest; Tom's still looking at him, sober and clear and serious.

Mike has never in his life been this desperate to warm another human being with his tongue, but somehow he swallows it back, licks his lips instead.

"Good night, Tom."

So carefully, he goes to step around this boy, this illegal boy in his living room, hands off, can't, no.

Tom doesn't so much as flinch. Mike can feel those eyes, dark and heavy, follow him as he heads for his bedroom, his back straight, carefully not looking back. When the door closes behind him, it feels flimsy and insufficient. He leans against it hard, breathless.

It's a minute before he can move, and then it's only to pull his shirt over his head and stalk to his bathroom. He finishes undressing, takes out his contacts and graces the porcelain temple, then comes back in, climbs under his covers and pushes his face into his remaining pillow. The bed is big and empty and cold, Mike feels too hot and not ready to sleep in any way.

He is acutely conscious of the silence in the apartment. If it is broken in any way, it will not be his doing – or if it is, it will not go unnoticed, he's sure. He wonders for a moment how much he could get away with. How quiet he could be. And then he feels like a pervert for even thinking of it.

He slams a fist into his pillow, vicious, and firmly closes his eyes.

Mike wakes with the events of the last day rushing back to him. He jumps out of bed and throws on a pair of plaid pajama pants, a t-shirt and his glasses, afraid of what he'll find. Sure enough, when he opens his bedroom door, the blankets and sheets are folded neatly on the coffee table, and the couch is bare. His stomach drops.

But then there's a sharp clang from the kitchen, and a muffled ow, and Mike arrives in the kitchen to find Tom in his t-shirt and boxers, surrounded by the detritus of cooking, and a counter loaded up with omelets, toast, oranges and coffee. He's sucking on his finger with an irate expression, having just burned himself on the frying pan, and Mike just kind of stares.

"Hi," he says, self-conscious all of a sudden, which is only fair given that Tom is sucking on his finger and it's morning, and a man cannot be held responsible for what his body chooses to do with itself early in the morning, and the frigging pajama pants are not hiding things as well as they could be.

"Hi," Tom growls back in this grumpy morning voice. He glares at the frying pan like it's personally offended him, and Mike can't help but smile.

"This all looks great," Mike says. "I'm just gonna go, um, wash up, and stuff, and then I'll, um."

"Hey," Tom says, smiling a little. "I didn't know you wore glasses."

Mike ducks his head. "Yeah, well. Usually I have..."

"They look good."

Mike smiles at his feet. "Trying to make me blush?" Tom doesn't have an answer for that, and when Mike looks up at him, he's smiling that smile again, almost shy, almost wicked. He laughs, and turns around to walk out of the kitchen, back to his bathroom. "Okay, I'm just. I'm gonna go get washed up, and then I'll be back. I'll set the table," he calls.

"Y'know," Tom's voice comes drifting after him. "In my world, on Saturday morning, we eat breakfast in front of the TV."

Mike mentally bats himself in the head and yells, "See what you get for talking to me when I'm still asleep?"

Tom's laughter follows him, and Mike thinks he could get used to waking up to that sound.

When all the requisite tasks are done and Mike re-emerges as more of a human being, Tom's got the coffee table spread out with plates and steaming mugs. Tom flicks lazily through the channels and watches the cartoon version of Batman, some Looney Tunes and an old Muppets rerun. Tom points his fork at the TV when he talks. They decimate breakfast, and then sip hot coffee with their feet up on the table.

Mike sneaks glances. Tom is like an angel when he smiles, which is often, but he somehow manages to be equally beautiful when annoyed at the news or puzzling out lyrics to songs, or when he's just relaxing. Mike's shower this morning was, of necessity, a very cold one, but that's never worked so well for him. He finds himself sneaking looks more and more often as the morning wears away until he has to shift around, or feign a chill and drag a blanket over his lap.

Noon comes and the good cartoons fade away in favor of Pokemon and its ilk. They take the dishes to the kitchen where they fill up the sink with soap. Tom grabs a dishtowel and notes shyly that he doesn't have to be anywhere today at all.

Immediately, Mike starts washing dishes and handing them off to Tom without even really paying attention to the fact that he rarely does his dishes, he has a maid, that Tom doesn't have to do the damn dishes, because he's a guest. He just does it.

In between plates, he suggests that they spend the day together, maybe go catch a hockey game, or even play hockey somewhere. Tom gently puts the kibosh on that – he can't skate, he never really learned, and he doesn't really see the point of it. Mike promises to fix that one day, and Tom rolls his eyes good-naturedly. But as for today, Mike smiles and says they can do anything Tom wants.

"Well," Tom offers, drying the last plate. "If you put it that way... well, I want to not be where there's a lot of people. If it's all right with you, I kind of wouldn't mind if we were, y'know… alone."

Mike feels his insides turning rapidly into butter.

"This is nice," Tom continues, smiling. "We could stay here."

Mike steps in and gently puts his arms around Tom's waist. "But... I don't know, I want to take you out somewhere. I want to do something impressive. Come on, you gotta let me impress you."

Tom laughs. "Y'know what'd impress me?" Tom drapes his arms around Mike's shoulders and kisses his cheekbone.

"What?" Mike asks, smiling. "Anything."

"How ‘bout a game of football in the park? And then, pizza, followed by a movie on DVD." He smiles that brilliant smile, and Mike just grins at him as he continues. "Come on, it'll be the height of elegance. I'll even use a napkin and everything."

"Aw," Mike says, beaming back at him. "You don't have to use a napkin just to impress me."

The door slams open under Tom's hand; they fall in laughing and sweaty, their jeans stained with swipes of green. Mike's got the football under one hand, his t-shirt sticks to his back and he's glad he only has the hawk to hold onto the heat of the setting sun. He grabs his cordless off the cradle and lobs the ball back into his closet. "You like Hawaiian, right?"

Tom, shoving his bangs back off his forehead for the millionth time today, heads for the hallway. "Yeah, sounds great. I'm gonna hit the bathroom, okay?"

"Cool," Mike calls, and punches in the number for Pagliacci's. He orders a large pie and some soda and pokes through his movie collection while he verifies everything. Yes, credit card, no, American History X. Maybe Fight Club, sure, we'll try the hot wings. And by the time he hangs up, he notes that it's been a little while – maybe he's out of paper in there? So Mike edges into the hallway, and that's when he hears it: the raining, warm sound of the shower drifting to him.

Mike walks down the hall, edges down, sort of half thinking he should just bolt and half wanting to make sure Tom hasn't accidentally drowned himself or something. The bathroom door is cracked open, light spilling out through the fog, and Mike knocks and sees in the cloudy mirror that Tom's clothes are all over the floor. "Tom?"

"I hope you don't mind," Tom calls, water splattering as, presumably, he moves his head. "We were playing pretty hard and I thought..."

"No, no, it's fine," Mike croaks, and steps back. "There's towels in there. And. You can use them. Um."

Mike goes to the living room and he sits down and gets up and puts in a movie and stops the movie and makes some coffee. He's just about ready to start drinking a nice hot cup when Tom steps into the kitchen in a towel, with his hair dripping onto his bare shoulders.

Mike's thoughts evaporate as his cup pauses halfway to his mouth, and Tom steps up to him and says, "I was hoping, if it's not too much trouble, that I could borrow a shirt or something? And then maybe we could throw my clothes in the wash. They're a little roughed up from today, and I'll get dirt on your couch if I wear them."

As far as Mike's concerned, he could have just asked if he could borrow a cup of arsenic for when the pizza gets here, but he just nods and says, "Sure, yeah, of course."

So Tom disappears again, this time into Mike's bedroom. "Clothes are in the closet?" comes his raised voice.

"And in the bureau!" Mike hollers back, just as the phone rings to announce the arrival of the pizza. Mike hands over his credit card at the door and sneaks a piece of pineapple while the guy runs it through. Mike tips generously, thanks the guy and closes the door, then hits the kitchen for a handful of paper napkins, smiling a little over the thought of Tom using them. He plonks down on the couch and flips open the box, puts his feet up and waits.

Tom comes out in a set of jeans that Mike should have thrown out ages ago. They're way too big on him, and they're shot to shit, scuffed up and ragged and full of holes. Of course, on Tom, that makes them approximately Mike's seventh level of hell. Somewhere, he found a plain white t-shirt, and that stretches over his chest too, and across his shoulders.

"This is all I could find that would fit," Tom says, and Mike just sort of coughs. "Is it okay?"

"Yeah," Mike says. "Yeah, it's fine. Where's your other clothes? I have to burn them."

Tom ducks his head, but Mike can see him grin. "They're in the bathroom," says Tom.

"Okay," Mike says, slapping his thighs as he stands up. "I'm just gonna go grab them, and then some lighter fluid..."

Tom shoves him lightly on his way by, smiling, and Mike laughs and goes to get the other clothes.

When the laundry machine's going and Mike returns, Tom's sprawled out on the sofa, his bare feet up on the table, a piece of pizza dripping cheese all over his hands. His mouth is full and he swallows hastily when Mike reappears. "So," he says, when he's only contending with full hands. "What movie are we watching?"

"I've got lots of movies. Pick anything you want to see, I bet I have it."

"I always wanted to see the Matrix," Tom says. "Do you have that one?"

Mike gets this pang, but he only says, "Yeah, I got that one. The Matrix it is."

Mike plugs it in and flips off the light. They eat pizza and watch – here's that awestruck glory Mike was looking for, of course – and somewhere between Cypher's betrayal and the end battle with Agent Smith, Tom's arm finds its way over Mike's shoulders, and Mike winds up leaning half into Tom's lap.

"Hey," Tom says as the end credit music plays. Mike lifts his face, and Tom leans down without a word, no preamble, and just lowers his head and opens Mike's mouth with his tongue.

Glory, hallelujah. Mike twists around as best he can to thread his fingers into Tom's hair, open for him. His heart thuds in his chest. He feels nervous and even a little shy, like it's all new, and Tom's hands on his ribs, his jaw, they're the only stable thing. He tastes like sticky sweet caramel, his kiss so warm and heavy that Mike feels like he's sinking in the best possible quicksand. He licks the taste from Tom's lips, tangles his fingers in the thick, damp curls at Tom's nape, and sees stars when he forgets to breathe.

Tom's hand slides to his waist and makes a fist in his t-shirt. Mike takes him by the wrist and pulls away the space of a breath. "Listen," he says, "I don't know what you're used to, but I'm having serious willpower issues here."

"Well, I hope so," Tom tells him. "Otherwise I was kind of wasting my time with the towel thing."

Mike just groans, and Tom slides in again; Mike can't help but kiss back. It's only when Tom's hand starts to slide southerly that Mike pulls away again and goes, "Tom, tell me you're sure. Tell me you thought all this through and you're really sure you want this, or I'm stopping now."

"You're the worst bluffer I've ever met," laughs Tom. He presses his mouth against Mike's temple, and the last of Mike's resistance crumbles away, brushed off with strong hands and gentle fingers.

Mike's gripping Tom's hair as he opens for that stroking tongue, and the sheer size of him is overwhelming, the fact that there's so much of him; it makes Mike a little crazy. He breathes hard; Tom lets their lips hover just a bare inch apart, and then those hands are pulling Mike's t-shirt up and sliding over his belly, warm and rough.

"I shouldn't," Mike breathes. "I shouldn't let you." But he's already lost, and he knows it. Tom just smiles and kisses him softly, rasps his thumb over the smooth hair just above Mike's belt.

Tom traces the edge of Mike's teeth with his tongue, testing like a knife blade. Mike chases after him, but his attention's torn between those careful, testing kisses and the way Tom's hand is working up, up his stomach. The pads of Tom's fingertips are firm with calluses, like a cat's, and they climb up the ridges of Mike's muscle, taking the shirt with them higher and higher, right up the middle. Tom edges and tests and twists and is tantalizingly almost there, until Mike finally just sits up and peels the fucking shirt off his head and tosses it across the room.

He turns back around, predatory, and climbs onto Tom's lap, straddling him. He takes Tom's perfect face in his hands and kisses; the perfect sweep of his eyelashes, the bridge of his nose, the corner of his mouth.

Tom's arms come around him and brush his sides as those hands press him softly closer, running up and down his back.

When Mike pulls away, Tom's cheeks are flushed. His lips are red and slightly open and wet, and he just looks fucking edible. "You're unbelievable," Mike tells him, shifting on his lap, wanting contact. Tom blushes, but he doesn't look away.

Mike dives for him again, ravenous, and Tom meets him with passion in his kiss, in the way his arms tighten around Mike's body. Tom twists his head, but he doesn't let go; just starts mouthing his way across Mike's jaw, and onto his neck. "I couldn't," Mike says. "I didn't know when I saw you. I just. Fuck."

And then Tom's hands come up to curve over Mike's shoulders, they pull down just as Tom presses his hips up, and Mike lets his head fall back as he groans and grips Tom harder.

"The bedroom," Mike grinds out. "I want you on my bed."

Tom doesn't even break, just wraps one arm around Mike's waist and stands up. Mike's legs fall where they should, and Tom sets him on the ground and kisses him, hard. Mike forgets that they were going anywhere until Tom pulls away. "The bedroom," Tom says, up against Mike's neck. "Remember?"

Mike shivers and pulls away, takes Tom by the hand and drags him along toward the darkened hall. Tom's quiet, amused laughter fills his hallway, and Mike has to smile.

When they hit Mike's room, they go instantly from lead-and-follow to kiss-while-stumbling. Tom backs Mike toward the bed as Mike fists his hands in Tom's hair and tries to sate himself by kisses alone.

But of course, that's failure waiting to happen.

When the back of Mike's knees hit the mattress, he pulls Tom off balance, and they tumble back onto the bed. Mike's the one laughing as they land, and Tom joins in, once he gets over the surprise. And then Tom's fingers are at Mike's belt buckle, and nobody's laughing anymore.

They kiss together, little ones that are mostly an excuse to stare into each other's eyes. Tom's fingers are heavy and pull the leather apart with fumbling, ungentle shifts, and Mike breathes into it, his fingernails burying themselves in Tom's shoulder. "Do you want me?" Mike asks, a low ghost of words.

"Michael," Tom breathes, kissing him again, the smallest brush of mouth to mouth. Then the belt is open and Tom slides the zipper down, the button open, and then that hot, heavy hand slips down under Mike's boxers and takes him, squeezing. "You don't know how much."

Mike sighs, "Oh, yeah," and rolls his head back, showing his throat. Tom kisses down, Mike can feel his tongue under his chin, over his Adam's apple.

Tom's just holding him, his cock in one hand, his heart in the other, and Mike can feel it right down to his toes as Tom lays wet, openmouthed kisses on his collarbone and chest. Those firm lips slide over a pale pink nipple and then open over it, grazing sharp teeth. Mike's in thrall, burning skin, his whole body arching and twitching exactly where Tom's telling it to. Mike can't think, he's erased, he only knows he needs this, and nothing more.

"Please," Mike asks, and Tom utterly ignores him, sliding his mouth across Mike's chest, heading in the direction of the nipple that isn't throbbing and peaked. "Please, Tom, please."

Tom's hot mouth closes over his nipple and it sparks all through him, across his chest and down in his belly, in his knees and the soles of his feet. Mike arches up under the assault, breathing in harsh when Tom scrapes teeth over him. "Tom, oh, God..."

Finally, finally, Tom starts his way down Mike's chest, across his ribs and onto his stomach. Mike's trying very hard not to just grab his head and yank, because that would be the wrong thing to do. He's not sure why, exactly, but he knows it's not the thing we do, there's some reason he can't, he just has to endure this torture until, until...

Until Tom's fingers are sliding between his skin and the boxers, pulling the fabric down and away, coming between his knees and pulling them apart so that big, bulky weight of a chest can settle between them. Tom kisses the fine skin taut over Mike's hipbones and says, "Michael. Look up. Look at me."

Against his better judgment, Mike lifts his head, and is just in time to see Tom curl hot fingers around his cock, lift it up and then kiss the tip, eyes fluttering closed. Mike drops his head back down with a desperate groan. "Ohhh, you're trying to kill me, admit it. Oh, Christ. Tom, please j-"

His words choke off as Tom does just that, slides down over him like slick, wet velvet.

It's so good, it's too good, and Mike's gripping Tom's hair as it rises and falls, pulling at the strands even though he doesn't mean to. He thrusts up to meet the onslaught and makes these crazed noises in the back of his throat, because he can't hold them back and it's so fucking perfect, perfect, he won't hold back long. "Tom, he rasps, undone. Tom."

His body shakes with the force of it, when he comes, and Tom never even slows down in the movement, not for a second.

Mike settles back onto his sheets, shivering and all over sweat. He pulls Tom by the hair, up his body to lie beside him. He tastes the bitter edge in that sweet mouth when he kisses, and feels a fierce surge of possessiveness spark through him. "What do you want?" he asks, right up against Tom's mouth. Tom spreads one hand on Mike's waist and smiles. "Anything." "Everything," Mike counters, and lays hands on Tom's shoulders to push him onto his back. "You're pretty quiet in bed," Mike says. "I wouldn't have thought that about you." "Really?" Tom smiles indulgently, stroking a thumb across Mike's cheek, and Mike grins, feral. "Really."

With a soft touch, Mike edges a hand under the hem of the white shirt and tugs it up. "Take this off," he instructs, and Tom sits up to oblige. His hair is ruffled when the thin fabric skims over his head, and Mike runs palms and fingertips over the smooth, hard chest Tom reveals.

"You're..." Mike falters for words, his hands and eyes filled with the broad, perfect musculature. He touches, burying himself in the feel of it, and then drags his fingernails over the skin, just to mark that clear surface, if only for a moment. The white fades to pink, and Mike lowers his head to taste what he's made. Tom draws in a quick breath when Mike's tongue slides over the warm lines, but he doesn't make another sound, and Mike looks up to see him biting his lip.

"It's all right," Mike tells him, resting his chin on Tom's ribcage as one hand slides down toward his belt. "You don't have to hold it back."

Tom takes in a deeper breath as Mike's fingertips dip under the waistband, teasing. When Mike flips open the first button he feels something hard and wet brush against the pad of his finger, and he smiles when Tom gasps.

"That's good," Mike encourages, and kisses Tom's belly; smooth skin, silk under his mouth. Tom's hips are pressing up ever so slightly, and Mike's mouth curves up at the edges as he pops the second button, and the third, and the last. Mike considers it unfair that Tom wore his own boxers. He slides down and mouths at the thick length that rises underneath the fabric, and is rewarded with the smallest, thready little noise sneaking past Tom's lips, and down to him.

Mike digs his hands under jeans and boxers and drags them down, off, away. He's back instantly, opening his mouth over the shaft, and further down. He licks and skims his teeth over sensitive skin, needing more. Tom smells of salt, and Mike's soap.

The little sounds are coming again, faster, and they hit Mike's ears like a match hits gasoline. He drags fingernails down Tom's thighs and pushes them apart, wider. Tom groans then, and Mike looks up his body to see him throw his head back, his mouth wide open. "That's right," he says, moving his palms over Tom's hips, his stomach. "Give me what I want." And he takes Tom in hand and goes down.

Mike sucks him with a passion, tasting the slick on Tom's cock and swirling his tongue to be sure he gets it all. He can see Tom's fists knotted in the sheets and he takes one wrist and pulls on it until Tom's hand is on his head, threading into his fringe of mohawk and holding tight. Tom is moaning now, open and needing, and Mike tempts with his mouth until Tom says it.

"Michael," he sighs, and Mike pulls off, a parting kiss to the slick tip.

He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and smiles. "Don't move," Mike says, stumbling upright and over to the bedside table. He's hard again, he needs this, and when he pulls the requisite supplies out of the table, he sees Tom stiffen. "Don't worry." Mike smiles. "I'm pretty sure you can manage."

He climbs on top of Tom, straddling his thighs, opens the condom with his teeth and rolls it down onto Tom's cock, squeezing softly. Tom looks up at him with relief and lust in his smile, and Mike tosses the lube onto his chest and lifts his eyebrow. "Well?" he says, smirking a little as he strokes Tom softly. "Sometime today?"

Tom grins then, the expression transforming his face, and then the world spins as Tom rolls them to the side, his hands strong on Mike's shoulder and back. Tom buries his face in Mike's shoulder, licking and biting there, and Mike can hear him whisper low.

"I can't believe this. You're so... Michael, I need you. I need you." Big hands are on him, and he's pulling Tom's head closer, reveling in all of it, every sensation. And then Tom's hand is between his thighs, gently parting them, and slicked fingers are circling his entrance and pressing so lightly that Mike's not sure they are pressing. Regardless, he lifts his hips into the touch and grabs at Tom's shoulders.

"Do it," Mike says, scratching lightly at Tom's back because there's nothing else for his hands to do. "Come on, do it. I want you too, Tom, just, come on."

And then he has what he wants, Tom's big, hard fingers pushing inside him and opening him up. It's been a while since this happened last for Mike, and he's holding on for real now as he shivers and tries to make his body adjust as fast as his mind wants to go. "It's good," he grits out. "It's good, keep going."

Tom kisses his shoulders, his chest, slides a tongue over his nipple again before biting softly at it. His fingers move gentle but firm, and Tom stops to crowd more slick onto his fingers every few strokes until Mike is shivering and desperate with need. "Enough," Mike gasps, pulling at Tom's hair. "Enough."

"Are you ready?" Tom asks, sounding like if the answer isn't yes, he's going to stop believing in God.

"Ready," Mike says, and when Tom's fingers slide out of him, he pushes Tom down again, onto his back. "Like this," Mike says, kissing Tom's forehead as he slides one knee over Tom's stomach. "Okay?"

"Yeah," Tom groans, hands covering Mike's hips and pulling him down. "God, yes, Michael, please..."

Mike wonders at it for just a split second - this gorgeous, perfect person in his bed, in his life, waiting for him, needing him. He kisses Tom's lips sweetly, just once, and then reaches down and slides the head of Tom's cock over himself until he feels the fit, just right, and presses down.

They cry out together, loud and violent, and they lace fingers on both hands without even realizing it.

Mike can't be still for long; he rides Tom gently, carefully, working himself further and further down. Finally, when their hips meet, Mike groans out loud and squeezes Tom's hands. "Oh, God. Tom. God, you feel..."

Tom lifts his hips up, lifts Mike higher, deeper, and squeezes back. "I know. God, I know. Michael." Mike starts a rhythm, sinking down on Tom's cock over and over. They groan and press together and sweat and call each other's names, shaking in the stoking fire they make together, and then Mike guides Tom's hand down. "Close," Mike whispers as big fingers close around his cock. "God, I'm so close."

"Come for me," Tom breathes, stroking roughly even as he thrusts up hard. "I wanna see you come, Michael, please."

Mike's eyes squeeze shut as he grips Tom's free hand with all his strength and lets go. His control, his reserve, his caution, Mike drops it all and comes, shouting out, white flashing all over him and only Tom to hold onto him, to keep him safe. When the best of it is past, Tom pulls Mike down onto his chest and rolls them over. He slides his arms under Mike's legs and lifts them up, letting elbows and knees lock together as he slides back in and pounds against Mike like a hurricane against the shore. Mike just holds onto those broad shoulders and shivers through it, pleasure jolting through him as Tom works to his own climax, and he sinks his teeth into Mike's shoulder as he cries out against the skin, trembling.

Mike strokes his neck, whispering nothing. "Shh, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay. You're all right, shh, shh." Tom rests against him for a minute and then pulls away wearily, drawing out and kissing Mike's lips before he disappears into the bathroom, dragging himself. He looks bone-tired, and Mike shifts over to make room, his whole body buzzing. When Tom returns, Mike flips the covers back pointedly. Get in, he says, silently.

Tom climbs into bed and reaches for Mike, pulls him in and gently kisses the bite mark on Mike's shoulder. "Did I hurt you?" he asks softly.

"No," Mike smiles. "Nothing permanent, don't worry." He reaches up and pulls Tom down to kiss him; long, slow, aftershock kisses that they're too tired to keep doing for long. "Let's get some sleep," Mike says, and Tom curls around Mike and settles in, as if he has every intention of sleeping just like that. Mike guesses that wouldn't be such a terrible thing, and gets comfortable. He's dead asleep in minutes, deep and dreamless.

It's still dark when he opens his eyes. Formless, floating, he hears himself gasp and tries to move his hands, but his wrists are trapped in a warm, comfortable grip and he can't. As he comes around, he feels Tom against his back; they're tucked tightly together on their sides. That hot mouth bites lazily at the back of his neck, and Mike sighs.

"What time is it?" "I don't know." Tom's voice is heavy and rough with sleep, and Mike is so warm next to him, under the covers, that he ought to be uncomfortable. He isn't.

Tom's hand lets go of Mike's wrists and trails slowly down his stomach. "Michael," he says, and it's a question, a request. Mike can feel that Tom's ready again, feel those hips pressing against his own, and he chuckles softly, and closes his eyes. "Yeah," he answers, and rolls his hips back so he can feel that hot length against him. Gentle fingers come up against Mike's hip and over the curve of his ass, sliding between to stroke over the tender skin. Mike hisses softly at the touch - it's a little sore. Hesitant, he pries one eye open long enough to flop onto his belly and palm around on the table until he finds the things he's looking for. It's cold outside the blankets, and he settles back in gratefully.

Tom catches him by the wrist long enough to take the bottle and packet out of his hand, and then pulls that hand closer to him, over Mike's shoulder. Mike smiles and lets him, but the smile evaporates into a low groan as Tom takes Mike's index finger into his mouth and sucks it softly. Mike is twisting lazily with the amazing feel of it, and then Tom's broad, rough fingers are back, slick and gentle.

"Oh, oh, yeah," Mike groans as he makes little thrusts back onto Tom's hand. Tom fingers him until the need throbs through his body in long, slow pulses that lift him, hold him and then lay him down. Mike's just breathing, trying to remember that it's in, out, in, out, and then Tom lets go with his mouth and hand and pulls Mike close.

Mike arches his back and draws up one knee, and feels the head of Tom's dick press on, and through, and in. "Oh, Christ, yes," rasps Mike, and Tom holds them pressed tight together as he works himself deeper, slow and easy.

"Oh, my God, Michael, you feel so good." The voice behind him is like far away thunder, and Mike rocks back on him, wanting him closer, wanting more. Tom kisses the back of his neck as he starts to rock back and forth, and it's not enough. Mike reaches back, finds Tom's big, bony wrist and drags it around and down, needing to feel him. The first touch is hard to bear, he's so sensitive still, but it's good. It's so good. Tom fucks him slow and driving so the need swells up in him, unstoppable and tidal. Mike groans for him, calls out, couldn't hold back the sounds he makes any more than he could hold back the sun. Tom is taking him in, taking him over. Mike comes with that name on his lips, that beautiful face ghosting behind his eyes.

Tom stands at the window, looking out at the city. There is light, reflected, orange and dusky, that gleams up off the streets and colors over his face and chest. His arms are crossed, and he looks all the way down.

Behind him, Mike is sprawled across the bed, a pale, beautiful smudge with a fan of lashes on his cheeks. His chest gently rises and falls, peaceful.

Tom lowers his eyes and makes a half-turn, pauses for a moment, and then goes back to the window defeated. The city waits for him beyond the glass, and the light on his face draws shadows. It glitters down there. Up here, there's shadow and quiet. Up here, it's sanctuary.

Tom stares out the window, his mouth setting itself in a grim line.

The first thing Mike notices, when he wakes up, is that it's bright outside. His blinds are drawn, and the morning sun streams in and warms his covers. He stretches, raising fists above his head, and ignores the twinges that dart through his body.

There's an empty place next to him, and he smiles. "Tom?" he calls it out, not wanting to get out of bed. "Tom! If you're making breakfast again, you officially win the morning after."

Silence reigns.

Mike's shoulders tense. He throws back the covers and crawls out of bed, pads to his bathroom with his eyes sharp for any sign of movement. The t-shirt and jeans he'd tugged off of Tom's body are folded neatly in his laundry hamper, and the bathroom is pristine, and empty.

It's not a big deal, Mike tells himself, backing out of the room and making for the living room, not a little hastily. He might still be here. Maybe he's getting his clothes out of the washer.

Tom's not in the laundry room, not in the foyer or the kitchen, either. Mike's passing by the living room, looking for any sign of Tom's knapsack (missing), shoes (gone) or even remnants of their dinner, but there's not a thing out of place and he's starting to panic.

What if he panicked? What if he went to the cops? What if he stole something, or oh, God, what if his friend's in trouble again at the hospital? God, I'm a terrible person, what if he, what if…

And as he sweeps past the coffee table, he notices a flutter – a white piece of paper, folded once, settling to the ground.

He stops and picks it up. His name is on the front flap in this scratchy, difficult lettering, elegant but sharp. He opens it up, and it says:

Dear Michael,

Thank you for everything in the last few days. I hope you'll understand this, and please believe that I'm sorry, but I have to leave. I thought we could

I don't want to go, but

I can't ask you to be with me when I don't have anything to offer you. Please don't be angry. I wish I could tell you how much I care about you, but I'm not good with words.

I'll miss you.


It's much later when he puts it down again.

The soundtrack to I Am Fallen To This includes:

The Other Side - David Gray
Strange & Beautiful - Aqualung
Suburbia - Matthew Good Band

And others.

The title is from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice: at the courthouse, Antonio is about to die for his young friend, Bassanio. Antonio asks him not to mourn, but to go on with his life, for that will make Antonio's sacrifice worthwhile.

Give me your hand, Bassanio: fare you well! Grieve not that I am fallen to this for you; For herein Fortune shows herself more kind Than is her custom.