Mick stared at the phone that sat beside him. He was trembling, and he balled his hands in fists to try to steady them. It only partly worked - he could still see his fists shaking, but it wasn’t as bad. He couldn’t bring himself to touch the whiskey on the counter in front of him. A part of him wanted to - needed it, for it was the only way he could bring himself to sleep - but he refused to touch it. Instead, he reached for his phone.
He wasn’t sweating as heavily as he was when he first woke up. He didn’t feel any less panicked though. If anything, he felt increasingly worse. Timothy’s lifeless face and helpless screams rang through his head, and Mick’s chest felt tight. He wanted to crawl out of his own skin, or at least get a break from his mind. But he couldn’t. Which is why he found himself scrolling through his contacts on his phone with unsteady hands and blurry vision. It was hard to see through the tears brimming in his eyes, but he tried anyway.
He needed someone to answer, or he’d go crazy. He couldn’t sit here in his dark house alone any longer. He kept scanning through names until he found one that really popped out at him - and one did. Arthur Ketch.
Mick’s breath hitched in his throat as he glanced up at the time. It was two in the morning, nearly three. He knew that Ketch hardly slept throughout the nights, but he figured that the man wouldn’t be awake now. Mick had to try though. Memories of their nights at Kendricks flooded through his mind, mixing with the echoing screams belonging to Timothy.
Mick felt guilty, for other reasons unrelated to the young (dead, he reminded himself) boy. He’d taken up so much of Ketch’s time due to his own problems. Of course, it wasn’t as if Ketch hadn’t done the same with Mick. They’d been there for each other, for a while. Mick knew it wouldn’t last forever, and that they’d get caught eventually, but he expected the Men of Letters to just make them ‘disappear’, as they had several times in the past. He never would have expected them to go to the extreme that they did. It made Mick’s stomach churn just thinking about it. The punishment had been wrong in the first place - taking someone’s free will away from them was sick and cruel - but it was so much more twisted in this situation for so many more reasons. They’d been so young at the time, and it wasn’t as if anyone was getting hurt. No one was dying because of them. They had just let their guards down and loved.
Mick knew they never would have gone that far had it been another reckless Romeo and Juliet. It wasn’t just because of what they had done. It was because of who they were. Because of the fact that they were both boys, the British Men of Letters did what they did - not just for the fact that they wanted to punish Ketch and Mick. No, Mick knew them better than that. They were doing it to prove a point. This is what happens when boys love each other. Mick could practically hear Hess’s voice taunting him.
He clicked on the contact and called. He waited, and waited, but there wasn’t a reply. His heart sunk. Ketch was most likely asleep, Mick told himself. There was always the chance that Ketch was off doing other things because Mick knew Ketch well enough than to not consider the possibility. But the only people that Ketch would even allow into his bedroom at 3 in the morning were Toni and Mick. It wasn’t as if Mick was there, and he knew that Toni and Ketch hadn’t been together like that in a while. Toni claims that if she wanted sex, she could find someone better than Ketch. Meanwhile, Ketch just simply doesn’t care. If Mick was being honest, he figured Ketch had most likely gotten bored of her. After all, they’d been doing this whole on-and-off again thing since Kendricks.
Mick and Ketch were different. Their situation was more complicated than Toni’s friends with benefits thing. They were too close to be considered just friends, yet it wasn’t as if anything was actually happening between them. Mick wanted to ask Ketch when he got the chance, but he didn’t want to make anything awkward between them. Of course, calling several times in the middle of the night could also make things awkward between them, which is why Mick considered not calling. On the other hand, he still didn’t feel any better. If anything, at this point, he was feeling more panicked - so he called again.
Mick was about to give up when he heard the click indicating the other person picked up. He still felt tense and uncomfortable despite the comforting sound of Ketch on the other end. “Hello?” Mick nearly smiled a little as he replied. “Arthur, I’m sorry for waking you--” But Ketch wouldn’t hear it. “Relax. It’s you calling. I don’t mind answering,” he said. His words were slurred slightly with sleep, and Mick figured he’d actually been getting good sleep for once. “I know, but I feel bad waking you.” He heard Ketch grunt, and mumble something in response, but Mick couldn’t make it out.
“Mick, I love speaking with you, but you didn’t just call to have a chat, did you? I don’t know exactly what time it is currently, but I assume it’s quite late. If you just called to talk to me…” He trailed off, sighing. “No, no, of course not. I just… I wanted to ask - and this is going to seem like a stupid question - if there was any sort of chance I could stay over there?” Mick stammered out, trying to both reassure and convince Ketch. He threw in a “with you?” after the silence that occurred on the other end.
“You’re very lucky that I appreciate your company, Michael. Of course, you can,” Ketch finally replied. Relief crashed over Mick in waves that nearly collapsed Mick. “Thank you so much, Arthur,” he beamed. He heard Ketch mutter something again that sounded akin to a ‘you’re welcome’, but Mick wasn’t quite sure.
He hardly remembered what happened between ending the call and making it to Ketch’s house. He just knew that everything in him was screaming for some reason or another, and he needed Ketch to silence it.
Mick still had the key that Ketch had lent him a few weeks ago, so he let himself in, as to not further disrupt Ketch. He made his way to Ketch’s bedroom as quietly as he could. Ketch’s eyes were shut, but Mick figured he was still awake. His suspicions were confirmed by the grin that spread across Ketch’s face. “I’m sorry again for waking you,” Mick said, walking further into the room. “And as I said on the phone, I don’t mind.”
Mick still felt bad, despite what Ketch said. But he didn’t argue further. He knew Ketch would just keep deflecting Mick’s protests.
He watched as Ketch’s eyes opened. He didn’t move; instead, he merely stayed how he was, splayed out on the bed. “It’s quite late. What on Earth could Michael Davies want from me right now?” Mick could hear the suggestive undertones in Ketch’s voice, but Mick wasn’t in the right state of mind to be doing anything like that. “Just… companionship, alright?” Ketch nodded and sat up. “If that’s what you want,” he replied and tossed the duvet aside.
Mick watched as Ketch stood up, and the man walked past him, leaving the room. Mick followed after him to the kitchen. “Is there anything you want?” Ketch asked, and Mick shook his head. He heard a quiet sigh emitted from Ketch, and Ketch grabbed a bottle of scotch off of his counter and a glass. They stood in mostly silence as Ketch poured himself a drink. Mick could feel his hands trembling again, so he shoved them in his pockets so that Ketch couldn’t see.
“So, just companionship?” Ketch turned to Mick as he brought the glass to his lips. Mick hesitated before answering. He had to choose his words carefully around Ketch. After all, their time at Kendricks hadn’t just been spent learning each other’s bodies. They’d learnt more about each other’s minds if anything. “Yeah. I just needed a bit of a… distraction, I suppose.” Ketch gave a small nod, as if in understanding. “Yes, well, do make yourself at home.” He gestured broadly with his free time and walked across the kitchen to turn on the lamp.
Luckily, the lamp wasn’t particularly bright, so it didn’t take too long for Mick’s eyes to adjust. “Is there anything in particular you wanted from me? Besides companionship, of course.” Mick walked out of the kitchen, and towards the door. “I… I honestly don’t know. I just needed someone to be around.” He kicked off his shoes and slipped his socks off. When he turned back, Ketch was leaning against the doorway of the kitchen. “No one else was available?” Ketch joked, and Mick couldn’t help but roll his eyes.
“Actually, you were the first person I reached out to.” He caught the small hint of surprise that crossed Ketch’s face before it was gone, and it made Mick smile a little. He felt significantly better in Ketch’s presence. “Since you didn’t have anything in mind, would you care if I perhaps chose for us?”
Ketch walked off into the living room before Mick could have a chance to reply, and he couldn’t help but follow after again. The Brit had set down his glass and was placing a record on the player he didn’t use too often. Mick’s eyes darted down to Ketch’s cross-inked hand. He recalled how furious Hess had been when she found out, but it’s not like she ever did anything about it. After all, at that point in time, Ketch had still been one of her favourites. She wouldn’t dare do anything, especially due to, 1) the rather large donations being made by Ketch’s parents to the Academy, 2) he was a Legacy, and it’d anger other parents if Hess made a big deal out of it, and 3) again, favouritism. She wouldn’t punish him, partially because it had been a small tattoo in the first place. If it had been larger, or something more regrettable, the situation might have turned out differently.
Some jazz song Mick didn’t quite recognise started playing and Ketch turned back to Mick. He held out the same calloused, tattooed hand Mick had been looking at just a few moments before. He stared at the hand being extended to him for a moment before taking it in his own. Ketch pulled him close - much closer than Mick had expected him to - and placed a hand on Mick’s waist.
Mick felt out of place wearing a dress shirt and pants next to Ketch, who wasn’t nearly as dressed up. In fact, Ketch wasn’t nearly as dressed at all. The only thing he visibly wore was a pair of pyjama pants that fit tight around his waist but fell loose from his hips. Of course, that’s just how Ketch chose to sleep.
Mick didn’t know what to do with his hands, especially after Ketch slipped his hand out of Mick’s, so he just wrapped his arms around the taller man and let him lead.
Mick clung to Ketch as they languidly moved along to the music Ketch had put on, and Mick couldn’t help but listen to Ketch sing along softly. This wasn’t at all what he was expecting to happen when he called Ketch. Mick leaning on Ketch, as they danced around the room at three in the morning. Ketch was mostly sober - Mick was just exhausted. He could see Ketch’s drowsiness as well, but Mick wasn’t ready to sleep. Despite the fact that he internally desperately wanted to go to bed, Mick was keeping himself awake with Ketch, just for the sake of consciously being with the man longer.
As if on cue, Ketch spoke up, his voice louder than it had been when he was singing. “Would you not like to go to sleep?” He chuckled softly; the sound rumbled through Mick’s body like thunder. “No; not yet.” Mick pulled his head off of Ketch’s chest to look at his face. Ketch just simply nodded, and paused as the song ended. The man planted a gentle kiss on Mick’s forehead. Ketch stopped walking - or rather stumbling - and instead, they were swaying as another song began.
Ketch didn’t sing along with this one. Instead, he and Mick were just simply appreciating each other’s presence. Mick wanted to say something - anything to Ketch, but nothing seemed quite right. What would he say anyway? I love you? Those words didn’t mean anything to Ketch, despite what he told Mick. “I believe you, I promise,” he had told Mick. But Mick was too good at reading Ketch at this point, based upon his body language and the emotions going across his face. He knew when Ketch wasn’t telling the truth. ‘Liar.’ But he’d never call Ketch that to his face - at least in this situation, he wouldn’t. He would just simply nod and move on.
It wasn’t as if he didn’t understand why. Being devoid of people caring for you didn’t exactly make you believe others when they told you they cared about you. But sometimes Mick would see it - the spark of life that flared in Ketch’s eyes when Mick told him at the right moment. No matter what the Men of Letters had done to him, he was still human. Blood still pumped in his veins, and his heart still beat in his chest. He had a soul, and he was alive. When it came down to it, the Arthur Ketch that Mick fell in love with was still very much existent. The Men of Letters had utterly fucked him up - mentally, and physically, but not beyond the point of losing himself.
Ketch was himself, and yet he was the sociopath that the Men of Letters wanted at the same time - but not here. Here, when he was with Mick, he was the boy that Mick had fallen for at Kendricks. Even on their first encounter, he’d been nothing but kind to Mick; even when Mick hadn’t been so kind. He had tried to push Ketch away, by lashing out at him verbally. If Ketch stuck around, what if this turned into another Timothy situation? He couldn’t deal with that, mentally or emotionally.
“Is this seat taken?” The first words Ketch had ever spoken to him. To anyone else, they were nothing - who would even remember a question as meaningless as that? But to Mick, they meant so much more.
Ketch stepped away, and Mick groaned as the heat and comfort of Ketch’s body suddenly left him. Feeling safe and warm in Ketch’s embrace was so worth tripping over both of their feet and accidentally stepping on Ketch’s feet as he tried to lead them.
He watched as Ketch turned off the record player and returned the record to its rightful place. The man then walked back over to Mick and wrapped his arms around him. Mick let out a small breath and leaned into the touch. His cheek felt hot against Ketch’s bare chest, but fuck, it felt good, and he absolutely adored the way that Ketch’s hand nestled in his hair.
If Mick had been in this situation with anyone else, it would have been different. He wouldn’t have been enjoying it as much as he was. In fact, he probably wouldn’t be enjoying it at all. He wouldn’t— couldn’t allow anyone else to hold him like this. But it was Arthur Ketch holding him like this. It was different, to say the least.
Ketch had been the only one who cared about him for years. Mick couldn’t lose that. He couldn’t lose him.
Ketch led Mick towards his bedroom, and Mick inwardly wanted to fight it. He didn’t want to sleep yet. But he just didn’t have the strength to fight it. His body was ready to collapse in Ketch’s arms, right then and there. So he let Ketch bring him to his bed, and he let Ketch lay him down.
Ketch lied down next to Mick, and Mick pressed his body against Ketch’s. Having Ketch underneath his hands was comforting - having the constant confirmation that he was still there meant a lot to Mick. And he was well aware that the situation was the same for Ketch. The Men of Letters had tried to take Ketch from Mick. It might have worked for a little while, but it wouldn’t work now. They were still together, despite everything that had happened. When they would share their childish fantasies with the other at Kendricks, Mick never would have imagined that any of them would be possible.
In fact, if he was being honest, he figured that they’d both be dead at this point. Typically, when people in the Men of Letters were found in a homosexual relationship, they didn’t live much longer after that. But somehow, they were both still alive, and Mick was incredibly grateful for that.
“I hope you know, Mick, that had it been anyone else calling, I would have rolled over and gone back to sleep,” Ketch spoke up, mumbling against Mick’s lips. Mick smiled, and let out a soft breath of laughter. “Well, in that case, thank you for not rolling back over and going to sleep.” Mick was the lucky one who was able to even sleep in Ketch’s bed. It was one thing to sleep with him. It was another to sleep with him. Mick was the outlier who had managed to do both.
His eyelids felt heavy, and he knew he needed the sleep. Feeling warm and safe in Ketch’s bed would certainly help him sleep tonight, and it was just what he needed.
“You must rest now, clever boy. For my sake,” Ketch said as if reading Mick’s thoughts. “As long as you sleep too. I know you - you wake up early. Not this morning. This morning, you’re sleeping in with me.” Ketch made a distinct sound of displeasure which caused Mick to chuckle. “I know, but… we both need rest. After all, how ever will you cause problems between our coworkers if you’re too tired?” Mick teased.
“Good night, Mick,” Ketch insisted, and Mick let his eyes slip shut after Ketch wrapped his arms around him. This time, he wouldn’t fight it. He didn’t know what tomorrow would bring them, but he did know one thing - he was definitely going to find out if he could just sleep here again, in Ketch’s arms tomorrow night. Perhaps they would even try other methods of distraction together as well.