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gentle impulsion

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There’s frost on the window pane, a chill seeping through to catch around Peter’s ankles. He drops the book he’s reading onto the bottom of his bed, the spine cracking as it lands open, page down. A splinter in the seat of the chair snags Peter’s trousers as he sits down to the table.

His mother wants him to go to Church but Peter would rather not. When he tells her, she frowns at him from the doorway and Peter feels a pang of guilt.

Peter knows she hasn’t slept, her face ashen under the make up she’s already put on. He’s heard her since the early hours in the kitchen, the whisk of a fork through batter, the hiss of the gas as she cooks the stock, the smell of the goose that’s been hanging in the back hall since Saturday on a slow roast.

She had brought him tea when the sun had come up, wished him happy returns of the day in her dressing gown from the edge of his bed. He had pushed the other half slice of toast into her hand, hoping she’d eat it but watched as she just nibbled on the end, crumbs on his bedspread, before disappearing out the door again.

She looks more put together now. That hour hidden away in her bedroom each morning where she readies herself for strangers to see her, her smile poised politely above her chin. She’s pinned her hair nicely under her hat, a sprig of holly on her lapel. Her dress looks nice, something he hasn’t seen since last year. A deep mauve that reminds Peter of the Chorley-Richardson sisters from the Manor just outside town who have been in half-mourning the entire nineteen years Peter’s known them, dipping from lavenders and lilacs, back to black briefly, never seemingly able to get out of the process before the next family member dies.

“It’s Christmas,” she says, her voice quiet.

Peter sets his pen down, swallows down the lump in his throat. She had said that yesterday when they had went to the grave, the holly wreath stark on the new Portland headstone that’s too white and fresh compared to the weathered granite that surrounded them.

He should do what she wants, just give her that little bit of happiness when she’s still so sad all the time, but he can’t seem to stand up out of the chair.

“Don’t bother him, dear,” his father says, walking down the hallway. He’s got his coat on already, his hat in his hands. “He can keep an eye on the dinner.”

His father’s stiff upper lip is nearly as bad as his mother’s consummate grief.

“The dinner will be fine without anyone keeping an eye on it,” she mutters but turns away from the door anyway.

Peter stares at the curling paper in front of him, at the stack of unsent envelopes that are accumulating on the shelf of his desk. From the corner of his eye, he can see his father linger in the doorway.

It’s in the silences, Peter finds him lurking. Not his father, although he’s often there too. His brother is a ghost in every room, his absence weighing heavy on the eaves of the house.

When he looks up, the doorway is empty.

He hears the front door close, the wreath on the door banging back against the wood. It was the only thing his mother would approve of, the thick twists of holly and ivy that matched the one on the grave. Inside, the house hardly looks like Christmas at all, the lights and paper decorations lying in the attic long forgotten.

His brother probably wouldn’t even have been here this Christmas, probably required to stay up at Aldershot with the rest of his men. It seems futile to think like that though. As if, maybe, that really is why he’s not here today. He’s too scared to get caught within a dream and then have to come to terms with it all over again.

But Peter can’t seem to stop writing.

Ink bleeds out from the nib of his pen, a spider web of indigo. A letter that will never reach the recipient.

He’s over the page, words spilling out of him when the doorbell rings. It makes Peter jump, unused to the sound echoing up the staircase and through the landing. There was a lot of door knocking and bell ringing a few months ago but it’s all eased off now, people getting on with things, more and more distracted with the drag of the war. Accustomed to the growing list of names in the paper.

He contemplates leaving it. Everyone would expect him to be at Church with his parents. Unless, it’s someone who knows he won’t be there.

Peter stands up, his knees stiff. There’s unease in his chest at the echoing silence after the first ring of the bell. He jumps again when the letterbox flaps open, the metallic sound a little dulled from all the way up the stairs.

“Coming!” Peter calls, knowing his mother would kill him for being so inhospitable. It might be his aunt Margery, although he doesn’t know why she would make the journey again so soon after the funeral. He’s still picking up canary feathers from the sitting room floor.

But it’s not Margery and her menagerie.

“George,” Peter says, stepping out onto the step. He hasn’t seen him in a few days, the blackout and long evenings meaning they’ve had little time to be out of the house.

George smiles ruefully up at him. He has a package in his hand, all wrapped up in brown paper. There’s a ribbon tied around the middle so it bulges slightly on either end.

“I’ll need the ribbon back,” George says as he passes it to him. He stands an arms length away from him and Peter doesn’t move, bending at the waist to take it off him. “It’s my sisters. She’ll not be pleased that I’ve took it.”

Peter laughs and George’s smile turns bashful. “Do you want the paper back too?” Peter asks, jokingly.

George hesitates, grinning. “Actually, that might just be the ticket.”

Peter shakes his head and pulls on the end of the ribbon. He holds his hand out, dangling it at George. It feels like he hasn’t seen him in an age, his face a sight for sore eyes. Peter stares at him, the bleak, wintery morning light making him look paler, more fragile. He’s one of the few people who has been treating him like normal the past few months, one of the few that actually makes it worth all the bother of dragging himself out of the house day by day.

George takes a step forward, takes it off him. His fingers are warm, as they brush his hand. George always seems to be running hot, his cheeks pink and looking cosy in a thick winter coat. It reminds Peter of how cold it is outside and he shivers, his shoulders trembling as he pulls the paper apart.

Inside, the red wool spills out over his hand, the paper falling away. George stoops to catch it.

“It’s lovely,” Peter says, honestly. He shakes the wool out and sees that it’s a jumper. Something squeezes at the space between his ribs as he thumbs over the soft wool neckline, the stitching neat and precise.

George looks pleased with himself.

“I haven’t got you anything,” Peter finds himself saying, his mouth dry.

George gives him a smile, his shoulders rising in a shrug. “Mum says that it’s all about the act of giving, not what you get back in return.” He looks so earnest for a moment that Peter nearly believes him but then his mouth twists wickedly. “Think she’s kidding herself though.”

Peter feels something in his chest ease, a little breath of a laugh escaping through his lips.

George smiles, pleased with himself again. Peter decides he likes that look. “Well, come on, then,” George says, his hands digging deep in his pockets. “Let me see if it fits. Or I’ll have to get my knitting needles out again.”

Peter laughs properly, stepping back to let him inside the house. “Not for one minute do I think you knitted this all by yourself.”

“Had to do something in these long evenings.”

Peter plays along. “Does that make it extra special then?”

George grins, just a flash of his teeth. “Of course, only the best from me to you.”

They share a look, something uncomfortably weighted in it. George steps forward, his shoulder brushing Peter’s chest as he passes him on the threshold. He’s freezing and Peter feels a pang of guilt for leaving him out on the doorstep for so long.

“Do you want a cup of tea?” he asks him, closing the front door tight. “Or I can heat up some of the mulled wine we had last night. There was some left over.”

“That sounds nice,” George says, hovering awkwardly at the bottom of the stairs. He doesn’t seem to know whether to follow into the kitchen or go into the sitting room.

They’ve been doing this dance for the past few weeks -- joking and playing along until one of them puts a foot out of line and there’s an air of awkwardness blanketed over them. Peter hasn’t dwelled on it for too long, not giving in to the reasons why he thinks it’s happening.

“Go and get warm,” Peter suggests, reaching for the lapel of his coat and helping him out of it. His mother would think him terribly impolite for leaving him out so long that he got this cold.

George nods, his cheeks pinking up as Peter hangs his coat.

In the kitchen, Peter finds a pan that his mother hasn’t used yet this morning and sets the rest of the wine in to reheat. He checks on the goose just to have something to busy himself with, his hands shaking as he thinks of George left to his own devices in the other room.

There’s a waft of hot air as he opens the oven door and hears the press of a piano key, the sound reverberating through the house. It sends a chill down Peter’s spine, his jaw clenching at the familiar sound of it.

“You could write me a song,” George says cheekily when Peter returns with the mulled wine. He holds up a dusty finger. “Put this to better use.”

Peter sets a mug on top of the piano for him, avoiding his gaze as he escapes to the other side of the living room. “I’m not very good. My brother --”

George’s face falls. “Shit, Pete. Sorry. I’ve put my foot in it again.”

Peter laughs, relieved for a moment to think of something else. “It’s fine. He was rather good. Well, anyone would be compared to me.” He taps the side of his head with his cup. “Tone deaf, I think.”

George grins, walks over to the sofa. “You just stick to your books.”

He settles on the end, his mug tucked between his thighs. He’s wearing a nice shirt, Peter wonders if it’s new for Christmas. He has it buttoned to his throat, properly compared to how Peter normally sees him about town or down by the water. He has his sleeves rolled down too, for once.

“So,” George says, lifting his mug to his lips. Peter watches him take a sip, red staining his mouth. Peter’s own mouth is rather dry so he copies him. “Are you going to try it on?”

Peter chokes, spluttering the last of his mouthful of wine. George hides his mouth behind his hand, his eyes betraying how hard he wants to laugh.

“Now?”

George just grins. That stupid smile that Peter sometimes thinks is just for him.

He sets his mug back down on the piano and reaches for the jumper. It’s soft under his fingers, the knit of the wool smooth. It’s thick enough that it will stave off the chill if he’s out on the water, sturdy enough for the seabreeze.

He sets it on the piano stool to unbutton his shirt, the weight of George’s gaze heavy on each button. He hesitates when it drops to the floor, the draught from the window catching his arms. George meets his eyes and Peter can see how they’ve widened. He’s sitting very still, his cup held with both hands in his lap.

Waiting. Watching.

Peter fidgets with the hem of his vest before he pulls that over his head too and he’s standing bare to the waist in his own sitting room. He takes a bracing breath and reaches for the jumper, tugging it on before he can really think about what he’s doing.

It falls over his chest heavily, the wool soft as it brushes over his bare skin. He smoothes it down, fixes the roll in the neck and then glances up at George again from underneath the fall of his fringe.

“It fits,” he says, a little breathlessly and not knowing why. He’s been naked in front of boys before. It shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s only George.

But George is staring. “I think red’s your colour,” he finally says, his mouth turned up in that little grin.

He stands up carefully, sliding his mug onto the floor by the foot of the sofa. He walks towards him slowly, betraying how nervous he is too.

Peter inhales sharply, feeling jittery with every step George takes until they’re so close that Peter can smell the cinnamon and clove on his breath, his teeth looking whiter where his mouth is caked in red.

“George?” he says, a question. Because. Are they really doing this?

“Peter,” George replies, his fingers trembling where they touch the raised neckline of the jumper, a fingertip brushing at Peter’s throat.

They’re both a little bit clumsy, noses bumping into each other. Peter can hear every breath shared between them, his heart racing.

George tastes of the wine, a burst of orange and the deep heat of the spices. Peter chases it, emboldened. He opens his mouth against George’s, his tongue licking across skin, the corner of his mouth, too uncoordinated until suddenly George is opening his mouth too and their tongues can brush together, gentle at first and then more forceful, more exploratory.

Peter feels exhilarated, punch drunk as he pulls away from him. George looks just as dazed, his mouth open and shiny as he stares back at him.

“We can’t --” Peter says, thinking of his parents walking in on them, someone seeing them from the window. George’s face falls but Peter doesn’t want that either, doesn’t want to see the disappointment in his expression, doesn’t want them to stop. --”Not here. We can --”

It’s then that Peter realises the only way he’s still standing is because George has his hands fisted in the jumper and he has one hand on George’s shoulder, the other hesitantly pressed against his hip.

“Upstairs,” he hears himself saying, not quite sure what he’s implying they’ll do.

His father had sat Peter and his brother down once for an excruciating conversation about how they should never have a girl in their rooms, how they’ll come to all that when they’re thinking of marriage. His brother had hummed in all the right places and then took Peter out into the back garden, laughing about what he had gotten up to with Edith Chambers last weekend. He had certainly been in a few bedrooms with girls in the weeks running up to him going away to the RAF.

But George isn’t a girl. He’s allowed in his room. His father doesn’t think they could get up to any trouble, the two of them together.

Peter isn’t sure if that makes it better or worse.

George still looks a little dazed as he steps back, his fingers unclenching from the jumper. They leave it a shape of two palmfuls before the wool relaxes and it smoothes out again, falling back against Peter’s skin.

“Come on,” Peter says, clasping a hand around George’s elbow and towing him out of the sitting room. He doesn’t want to lose whatever momentum they have, doesn’t want to lose out on the moment.

They stumble against each other on the staircase, hands reaching out and fumbling against each other to steady themselves. It’s like they’re drunk, too much beer down the pub and they can’t make their way home.

Except it’s half eleven in the morning and they’re tipping over because Peter can’t stop touching him, hauling George back down a step so he can touch the skin on his neck, can put his lips to the soft curve of his jaw, smell the wax in his hair. George twists, making a soft sound as he goes under him, his back arching.

Anticipation is thrumming under Peter’s skin; every touch, every brush of George’s hand against him sends it sparking down the base of his spine. They stumble again once they get to Peter’s bedroom, the door shutting behind them. His bed is still a mess from this morning, the curtains only half open. His lamp is still lit from his letter writing, his pen open and drying on the wood.

Peter lunges for the blankets, shaking them out so they don’t look quite so rumpled and George laughs, running a hand through his hair. “I’ve seen your bedroom before, Peter. Probably in a worse state.”

Peter flushes, standing up straight.

George lets out a breathless laugh, finally breaking the building awkwardness between them. “This is silly. It’s just us. And --” he looks nervous again --”we both want this, don’t we?”

He holds out a hand and Peter steps towards him, meeting him in the middle of the room. It’s easier to just kiss him, to just do it and not overthink. He wants this. George wants it too. That’s all he needs to know.

George seems to agree, his hand creeping up his side, brushing over his ribs through the jumper. He presses a palm to Peter’s chest, moves it up slowly until his fingers are brushing over his jaw, curving up below his ear.

Peter gasps into his mouth, feeling the heat pool in his belly. He copies George’s movements, egged on by how George is stepping closer, pressing until there’s no space between their bodies. He skims his hand over George’s hip, feels the cotton of his shirt and the wool of his trousers. His shirt has came undone slightly, Peter’s fingers wriggling under the hem until he can feel hot skin.

George groans, his hips pushing against Peter’s. It shocks them both enough that they pull back, both of them blinking at each other.

“Don’t stop,” Peter finds himself begging, his voice rough.

They tumble onto the bed, the wooden frame creaking. Peter kisses him, pushing George into the mattress.

He’s thought about this before -- many times, in the small hours when he can’t sleep, when he’s steering the boat home after a long day, at breakfast, at market, in the back rows of Church -- but he never thought it would ever happen.

It’s the how that he always got caught on. How would it happen, the practicalities of it all. He couldn’t just go up to George one day and kiss him.

But apparently, he could.

George groans under him, his knee bending until Peter’s sliding between his thighs, their hips pushing together.

“Fuck,” Peter swears against his lips. He’s never had this before. Never had anyone in his bed to rut against, anyone to share his frustration with.

George moans in sentiment, his hand coming up to Peter’s jaw to keep him close enough that they don’t stop kissing. It’s like they can’t stop, every time Peter goes to pull away, George pulls him in again.

“George,” Peter says against his lips. Half to make sure that it’s really him, half just because he just wants to. He never wants to stop saying it, wants to whisper it like a secret, shout it from the rooftops.

George blinks up at him. “Yeah?”

George’s eyes are wide, his pupils dark. His cheeks have gone pink, his mouth red. Peter hasn’t seen him this way before, the way the flush disappears down his throat into his collar. He’s breathing hard, his chest rising under where Peter’s rested his palm against his sternum.

Peter feels himself smile, a bubble of laughter escaping out of his open mouth.

The nervousness heavy on George’s brow melts away. “Are we really doing this?” he asks, hopelessly innocent.

“If you’re sure you want to,” Peter says, aching for him to say yes. “But I’m afraid I don’t really know what I’m doing.”

George lifts a hand, settles it on Peter’s hip. It’s somewhere he hasn’t been touched much, not now that he’s grown up and he’s not being hoisted onto his father’s shoulders or pushed up over walls by his brother. It feels so much different to all that too, the heat of George’s hand bleeding through the wool of his jumper. The promise of something more.

Peter clasps his hand over it, curling his palm over George’s knuckles.

“I don’t either,” George confesses. “I don’t think we really should though. That makes it alright.”

Peter laughs again, amazed that he’s found himself here.

“We just need to…” Peter trails off. How can he say it? They just need to take off their clothes. They just need to touch each other, bare skin on bare skin. Peter just needs to put his hand on George’s… He just needs everything and anything George can give him.

“Stop thinking so practically,” George murmurs, pushing himself up with his free hand until his face is looming close again, his mouth searching for Peter’s.

Peter kisses him back, gentle this time. The wild abandon of the staircase is momentarily forgotten and Peter lifts his fingers to George’s hair, lets him cradle his head with his hand to kiss him properly back. It’s nearly second nature, his body just falling into the rhythm of it so perfectly.

The change in angle makes Peter slide further into George’s lap, swallowing the little grunt he makes from the back of his throat. His feet are off the ground, George leaning further back on one hand as the other curls and twists in the jumper at his hip.

“I think,” George says quietly, pulling away to breathe against Peter’s temple. “I think we should take this off.”

Peter nods, kneeling up to pull off his jumper. He feels a jolt of embarrassment again but George’s eyes trail down, his mouth opening slightly. Peter can see the way he licks his lips, almost absentmindedly.

“You too,” Peter urges, reaching down to pull George up by the wrist. George strips out of his shirt eagerly, his vest coming off next. He’s nothing special to look at -- just your usual boy, really. He doesn’t look any different to how Peter sees himself in the mirror everyday but there’s something tantalizing about it. The heave of his shoulders as he breathes shallowly, the pale softness of his skin stretched over his ribs, the redness of his nipples.

The daunting part of having a girl in your bed would have been the softness, Peter thinks. How delicate it would be, the unknown. Peter, scared he’d be too rough. But he can see that George is soft too, sweetness clinging to the smooth of his cheeks, the way his belly rolls over the button of his trousers, his nervous fingers as they hover in the air between them.

“And,” Peter says, his mouth going dry again. “And our trousers too?”

George looks down and Peter does too. He’s kneeling between George’s splayed legs, both of them bulging out at their flies. It’s a little mortifying, how hard Peter is, how turned on he is.

Peter scrambles off the bed, George’s hand snapping out to pull him back. His fingertips brush over the small of his back, hooking in the back of his trousers for a moment before Peter’s too out of the way to get a proper hold of him. It sends a zing of unfamiliar pleasure up his spine, of having George touch him there, like he’s been tickled.

He undoes the buttons in his trousers and kicks them off with his back to George, listening as he rustles about on the bed behind him. He lets his fingers curl over the length of his dick through his underwear, squeezing to stave off the building pressure.

When he turns, George is lying between the folds of his sheets, completely naked.

“Oh,” Peter breathes, his voice gone. George looks embarrassed and flushed and excited all in one, his hands curling over his erection. Peter trails his eyes over his soft belly, the breadth of his thighs, the way his legs are dark with hair. He’s still wearing his socks, one sliding down slightly so he can see the knobbles of his ankle.

Peter touches his foot, his fingers curling under his calf before he pulls the nearest one off. George muffles a laugh, his knee bending slightly. There’s power there, strength in his leg as it jerks away from Peter’s light touches before it comes back, George relaxing enough to allow Peter to touch.

Peter’s stalling. His mind and his heart racing as he thinks of what to do.

He pulls the other sock off, throwing them behind him. George’s leg jerks again when he touches it, his fingertips skimming over the hair on his shin. He watches as George’s toes curl in his blankets, how he lifts his left leg up so there’s a bend in the knee. Peter can see the soft skin of the inside of his thigh, the tremble of the muscle. Places that only George looks at.

And now, Peter.

He’s never cared too much about the inside of his own thigh before but looking at someone else’s makes something in his chest expand, arousal churning in his own gut. He doesn’t think he’s ever thought of something so intimately before.

“Expecting them to be smooth?” George asks, impishly. Peter still has a hand on his shin, just below his knee. George is looking at the ceiling though, his fingers flexing around his dick again as if it’s a struggle to sit still.

Peter’s been avoiding looking at it but now he can’t seem to stop looking. He can see the head of it peeking through the cage of fingers around it, reddening, just a little shiny. It doesn’t look too different from his, the same basics there he expects.

“Decidedly disappointing,” Peter says but it comes out all wobbly, his breathing hitching halfway through. George blinks, his eyes straying down to look at him. Peter blinks back, his hands pushing at his underwear until he’s just as naked.

“Awful,” George agrees, biting at his smile as Peter climbs onto the bed.

It’s a bit of a squeeze, the headboard creaking again as they move about to get comfortable. Peter’s knee grazes George’s thigh, their toes brushing. He lifts a hand, catches George’s forearm with it.

George smells of the fire, faintly of pine. When he lifts his arm, Peter can smell boyish sweat and soap. He ducks his head, inhales the scent off his skin. He wants to smell him everywhere, taste each inch of skin that hasn’t been tasted by anyone before. Under his arm, behind his knee, between his legs.

“Just --” George says, impatience bleeding through his tone. He tilts his head and then they’re kissing again, something they obviously feel like they’ve mastered in the whole twenty minutes they’ve been doing it.

The idea is absurd and it makes Peter laugh again, his throat aching. He bites down George’s jaw, his tongue pressing to the skin under his chin, his teeth grazing his throat. He finds a spot on his collarbone, nips at it until it’s red, feeling the heat of the blood underneath.

“Oh, God,” George swears, one hand leaving his dick to pull Peter closer, the other getting trapped between them. He pulls him over his body until Peter is on top again, his knee sliding down the blankets between George’s thigh.

Peter doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to properly explain the feeling of George pressed against him, their chests together, the feel of his skin against his overheated body, the way his thighs feel around one of his legs, how his heart lurches as a hand slides timidly down the small of his back to touch his bum, the coursing roar in his ears as they slide together, cocks bumping against each other, knuckles on his abdomen, the sticky wetness that didn’t come from him, a hard nipple against his chest.

“Come on,” George begs and Peter looks up at him, mouth opening. He kisses him again, tongue running over his teeth, the wet heat of George’s mouth.

“I don’t know what to do,” Peter tells him, honestly. And this time it’s because he wants to do too much.

“Haven’t you done this to yourself?” George asks, his fingertips drawing down over his hip. They tickle, they’re pressed so lightly against his skin. Peter struggles to take a deep enough breath, his chest tightening and his head feeling rather light. He has his hands braced on the bed above George’s shoulders and George is looking up at him, a coy smile on his face. “I thought that’s all you public school boys got up to in your dorms.”

Peter lets out a shuddering laugh. He hadn’t expected this to be so amusing. George gives him a little nudge, forcing him to sit up. It’s chilly when he’s not pressed against George, instead settling astride his thigh. There’s something strange in that too -- his arse spread across George’s leg. Skin on skin.

George doesn’t seem to mind though, the hand he’s somehow still got caged over his erection, curling until he’s jacking his hand slowly up and down his dick. His other hand slides up Peter’s thigh, his thumb coming to a stop just where his leg meets his groin.

Peter takes a breath, looks down. His hand is so close to Peter’s cock, it’s nearly mindless. He settles a hand on George’s other thigh, copying him. The muscle feels strong under his palm, hair catching as he slides it up further. His thumb brushes the crease of his thigh, feels the sweat gathered there. He inches further, George’s breath catching when his fingers brush the underside of his balls.

“Can I?” George asks, his voice quiet. Peter nods, his fringe falling over his sweaty forehead. His knee slips when George’s other hand wraps around his cock, squeezing slightly, testing it out. He draws his hand up at the same speed his other is on his own, pulling them off together in the same time.

Peter groans, his weight settling properly across George’s thigh. He grinds into George’s hand, chasing the feeling of someone else touching him for the first time. It’s foreign in a completely mindless way. He’s imagined this before and it nearly doesn’t feel real now that it’s actually happening.

“Is that how you like it?” Peter asks, his eyes flicking between both of George’s hands at work. He can hardly find the words, George’s hand on him making his brain turn to mush. “Slow like that?”

George’s dick looks big and he can’t stop staring at the way his skin moves, the pull of his balls, the shiny head appearing between his fingers. Peter wonders what it feels like, what it tastes like.

He swallows around his heart beating in his throat and reaches for George, their fingers overlapping. Through them, he can feel how hot he is, how slippery he’s gone, squeezing out another blurt of shiny precome.

“Peter,” George gasps, his eyes widening. Together, they speed up, their hands moving faster, George shaking below him. His hand on Peter goes sloppy, his rhythm off as he gives into Peter’s hand, his own fingers going lax where they’re caught under Peter’s.

He lets go altogether, his fingers tangling in the bedclothes, the other pawing at Peter’s side. Peter lunges forward, catching his open mouth in a kiss, sucking on his bottom lip.

“Peter,” George says again, his voice raw and nearly scared.

Peter murmurs his name back, both of them only able to call out each other’s names. He licks at George’s cheek, his teeth scraping over his jaw again and then George is arching up against him, his fingernails clawing at Peter’s side.

Peter holds him through it, bending to press his chest against George’s. He can feel where George has spilled over his fist, the hot flecks of it caught on his skin. He had felt the kick of another man’s dick as he’d come, helped him do it.

It makes his head spin. There’s a new smell now -- all George -- and it burns through him, making him moan into the damp hollow of George’s throat.

“George,” Peter murmurs, suddenly desperate with it. He pushes down against George’s hip, rocks them together. The slippery head of his dick pushes through the wet spunk on George’s belly, both of them gasping together.

“Yes,” George replies, his voice slurring. He’s gone silly after coming, his body limp as he tries to catch his breath. “Come on.”

Peter thrusts against him, the rock of his hips building pressure at the small of his back. He can’t seem to stop, his hand clamping around George’s bicep, the other on his hip as he fucks into the space between them. He’ll leave bruises, his movements uncoordinated as the tension builds in his legs, in his back.

George lifts his leg, pulling him in tighter and it’s nearly like they could be joined, they’re pressed so close. His hand skims down, squeezing between them. Peter groans, grinding against George’s fingers and then he’s coming over them both, George’s name escaping on a breathless laugh.

They stay pressed together, the draught from the windowpane cool against their skin. George is quiet, his eyes closed. Peter watches the side of his face and knows that he hasn’t fallen asleep.

There’s a quiet awkwardness that’s seeped between them. Peter is afraid to move in case it dislodges them and brings them back to reality. He’d quite like to stay like this forever -- pressed against him, their come drying between their soft bellies, their legs still tangled. Not knowing where one ends and one begins. Never having to discuss what’s happened between them.

“Was --” George starts, his voice very quiet. It doesn’t matter, Peter’s head is right near his mouth. Peter’s stomach turns to lead, his muscles going tense out of instinct. George’s fingers twitch and Peter jumps, forgetting they were still curled over his hip.

“Sorry,” Peter apologises, putting a few inches between them. George looks down at him, his face still splotched with pink. His lips look full and shiny and Peter never wants to stop kissing them. For a terrifying moment, he wonders if he’ll ever get the chance again.

“Was that alright?” George asks and Peter feels as if something heavy has been lifted off his back. He laughs, turning his face into the sweaty curve of George’s neck. He nips at it, licks out to taste the salt and sweat behind his ear. George squirms below him, both of them wriggling together again.

It’s nearly as good a feeling as when they were touching each other’s dicks, the press of George’s fingers into soft spots under his arms and the way his mouth drags across his shoulder. He brings his leg up, George’s body fitting into the curve of his hip, his pelvis, the space between his thighs. They’re a mess but neither of them care, rolling against each other to feel each bit of skin pressed against another.

It’s his answer -- Peter’s mouth catching George’s, the way he pushes a thumb to his bottom lip when they draw apart to look into the blue of his eyes.

George answers back silently too. Something sharing between them without a word. To a question that’s not even been voiced.

That this is the two of them now.

Peter presses his mouth to George’s nose, to under his eye, to the softness of his lip.

“We better get up,” George says, winter sunlight hitting his shoulder. They shiver again, Peter rolling away from him. He drags the corner of his duvet over his stomach, George blushing again as he looks away.

It takes a moment for them to untangle themselves, George getting shy as he sits up and cups a hand over his dick, soft now. Peter brushes his fingers over the small of his back, dances them up the curve of his spine.

George laughs, jerking off the bed and onto his feet with a shiver.

“Have you been writing?” George asks, pulling on his shirt that’s landed over by the desk.

“My brother,” Peter murmurs. There’s no use in lying. George’s expression shutters with confusion, his fingers trailing over the curling corners of writing paper. He reaches for the lid of Peter’s pen and Peter laughs at him, his bare arse cheeks peeping out from below his shirt tails as he recaps it.

“Can’t write without a pen,” George says, not pushing further on how Peter is writing a letter to his dead brother. Peter is immensely grateful, that quiet understanding spreading out between them again. As if they don’t have to discuss some things for them to already get it.

“Thank you,” Peter murmurs, after he’s watched George walk around the room retrieving his clothing. He sits on the edge of the bed, pulling on his discarded socks.

George smiles down at him, leaning in to brush his mouth across Peter’s. “Is this okay?”

Peter swallows, looks at how blue George’s eyes are again. “I think so.” The mark on his collarbone is just visible in his open collar. “Just. Here. The two of us.”

“Just us,” George agrees.

Peter presses his forehead to George’s, blinking at the tickle of his hair against his face. They breathe together for a moment.

“Shall I go and fetch the last of that mulled wine?” George asks, sitting back up. “While you get yourself descent.”

Peter laughs, turning his face into the pillows. It smells of George. He wonders how long the smell will linger, watching as he slips out the door.

“Oh, George,” Peter hears his mum say out in the hallway. “How nice to see you.”

Peter scrambles up, panic swelling in his stomach.

He hadn’t heard them come in.

He stumbles off the bed, feeling suddenly sick, his world tipping on its side. He pulls on the jumper roughly, the gift from George closest to hand, hopping on one foot to pull on his trousers. He doesn’t have time for shoes, praying his mother won’t notice that he’s in his barefeet as he hurries out of his bedroom.

“Lovely to see you, too, Mrs Dawson,” George replies, as if they’re standing down by the harbour and not on the Dawson’s staircase. “Merry Christmas.”

“Mum,” Peter says, trying to keep his voice calm. He betrays himself slightly, his voice going up ever so slightly. George turns, his eyes widening when he takes him in half way down the stairs. Peter runs his hands through his hair, feeling where he has bedhead. He must look a sight but at least George looks put together enough.

“I hadn’t realised you were back,” he says, rather lamely as he comes to the bottom of the staircase. Over his mother’s shoulder he can see his father in the kitchen, the newspaper shaken out at his end of the table.

“We went to fetch the paper and ran into the Dixons,” his father says, coming into the hall to hang up his hat. “Their daughter has just went up to London for the QAs.”

His mother smiles tightly. “How wonderful for her.”

Peter stares between them, his heart hammering in his chest. George is very carefully avoiding eye contact.

“Would you like some lunch, George?” his mother asks, turning back to him with a hopeful smile.

“I really couldn’t impose --” George starts. Peter stares at his open collar.

“Nonsense,” she says, stepping back towards the kitchen. “We’ll be eating this goose for days. There’s plenty of it this year.”

George glances at Peter, his mouth turning into a smile. “Well, okay, if you insist, Mrs Dawson.”

“I do. Unless your own mother will be expecting you?” his mother says, walking into the kitchen to tend to the dinner.

Peter’s not quite sure what to think. He takes a breath, his bare toes curling on the slate of the hallway floor.

George gives him another smile before he follows his mother into the kitchen. “She won’t mind. She always does Christmas dinner after the King’s speech. Says that it’s unkind to eat before his majesty.”

Peter watches from the doorway, tension sagging out of his body as they all carry on as if nothing is amiss. His mother laughs, a curl of hair falling from behind her ear as she ties on her apron. She passes George a corkscrew, smiling as he sinks into his brother’s chair without ceremony, as if she hasn’t noticed that it’s been purposely empty for months.

“Oh, watch out!” his father says, clapping Peter on the shoulder. “She’ll be singing a bowl full of cherries after a glass of this.”

“Oh, really,” she protests but she’s smiling, her eyes brighter than Peter’s seen them in weeks.

George uncorks the wine with a pop, looking a little shocked as the cork comes away in his hand. Mrs Dawson laughs, the glasses in her hands tinkling together as she sets them down on the table in front of George.

“Come on, son,” his father says quietly into Peter’s ear. He gives his shoulder a squeeze, his fingers rubbing the softness of the wool into Peter’s skin. “Let’s have some lunch.”