And I want you
We can bring it on the floor.
You’ve never danced like this before
But we don’t talk about it.
Shouldn’t talk about it.
PARIS, DAYS PAST, 1902
The first streaks of dawn were just painting the sky outside the window when Alastair awoke. At first he blinked, disoriented - as neat as the room was, it wasn’t the familiar furnishings of his bedroom - until he remembered where he was. Rolling over, he found Charles at his back, still sound asleep, face half-buried in the pillow. His hair was an uncharacteristically tangled, coppery mess.
A wave of affection washed over him. Smiling to himself, Alastair sat up as carefully as he could so as not to wake Charles and watched him sleep for a few moments. He was bare-chested from their activities the night before, but he hardly felt the chill, warm all over with love. There was something unspeakably tender about waking up with someone, about seeing them asleep, so peaceful and unguarded.
Charles’s breathing was soft and even, so soothing Alastair almost wished he could lay down again and fall back asleep, curled up in Charles’s arms. But the sky was getting lighter, and soon people would be waking up and getting ready for the day. He would run the risk of getting caught leaving Charles’s bedroom. Their time was almost up.
A few more moments, Alastair promised himself, heart sinking with the prospect. A few more minutes. It’s still early yet.
He leaned down to press a light kiss to the top of Charles’s head. Charles didn’t wake, but he did unconsciously shift closer. Taking advantage, Alastair gently stroked his hair, silently delighted at the softness of ungelled strands, until Charles stirred, nuzzling into Alastair’s hip.
“Good morning,” Alastair said softly, feeling another swell of affection.
Charles hummed. His eyes were still closed, though there was a smile tugging at his mouth. Alastair, fingers still tangled in Charles’s hair, leaned down to kiss him properly.
“Good morning,” he repeated, and was surprised just how impossibly fond he sounded.
“Morning,” Charles murmured. He blinked once, twice - then seemed to focus on Alastair for the first time, properly awake. He went still. “Angel, what time is it?”
“Still early,” Alastair told him, but Charles was already rolling out of bed. Neither of them were wearing much clothing, having fallen asleep before they had thought to, but Charles was pulling on a shirt as though he could not bear the intimacy a second longer. He glanced over his shoulder at Alastair as he did up the buttons, face white, and said in a urgent, low voice, “You have to go.”
There was a tight, tense knot in Alastair’s chest, but he knew it was true. “Alright,” he said slowly, and got out of bed to dress. It seemed to be colder than it had been before - cold air stung his bare chest, and he couldn’t say he wasn’t relieved to be putting on clothes.
Charles was combing his hair back when Alastair turned around, finally decent. Something in him ached at the loss of those soft, messy strands. Their eyes met in the small shaving mirror on the wall. “You have to go now,” Charles said, not even turning around. “If you get caught - if people see - ”
“I know,” Alastair said, suddenly tired. He picked up his witchlight from the nightstand and crossed the room to the door, where he paused, looking at Charles. He felt this was a rather hasty note to be ending on, after they had slept together, and part of him wanted Charles to kiss him one more time before they had to pretend they weren’t in love.
Charles noticed his hesitation. He gave Alastair a nod. “Be careful,” he said. “I’ll see you at breakfast.”
So that was it. Alastair bit his tongue. “Right,” he said, and silently let himself out.
Charles found him after breakfast, viciously throwing knives in the training room. He was the only one there. Alastair was good with throwing knives, better than his sister Cordelia, whose skill with swordplay he secretly envied - every blade hit dead center with such force that they sunk a good two inches or so into the targets, and Alastair had to wiggle them free.
He was prying such a knife out of the boards when Charles came in. “Good morning,” he said courteously, as though his relationship to Alastair was no more than dutiful Institute head to one of his Shadowhunters. It made Alastair so bitterly, inexplicably frustrated that he said nothing. “Training?”
“Yes,” Alastair said shortly. He moved on to the next target and tugged the knife free. This one had not gone quite so deep. “And I’d like to focus, so if you would please leave.”
There was a moment of silence. “Are you angry with me?” Charles asked. He sounded puzzled and slightly hurt.
“Yes!” snapped Alastair, whirling around. He immediately regretted the outburst. “No.”
He knew he wasn’t angry with Charles, or even if he was, he knew he should not be. Charles had a point about everything he did - if he refused to meet alone with Alastair during the day without a legitimate reason, it was to keep rumors from circulating. If he had to continue his engagement to Ariadne, it was to protect them both from speculation. If he had to hurry Alastair out the door, it was for the sake of reputation, theirs and their families.
But one wore down, after a while. It was frustrating because Alastair would have risked it where Charles would not, just to be with him a moment longer, and it was frustrating because he knew asking that of Charles was unreasonable and utter madness besides.
Knives in hand, Alastair went to stand as far as he could from the targets. Charles watched him, but didn’t say anything.
He had just thrown the first knife when Charles spoke again, voice low. “You know why we have to do these things, Alastair.”
The blade slammed home with a thud, punctuating the end of his sentence. Alastair let his arm drop and turned around. “I know,” he said miserably. “It is only - I wish - ”
He met Charles’s eyes, knew, before he even saw it, the warning shake of the head. People might hear.
It is only that I love you, he wanted to say, I wish things weren’t quite so difficult, but he swallowed the words down.
Charles shot the door a nervous look, then seemed to resign himself. He crossed the training room to stand by Alastair. “I know,” he said, barely louder than a whisper, a mere breath between them. “We have to accept that it will always be like this. But we can still be happy, can’t we?”
His eyes were beseeching. Slowly he placed his fingers beneath Alastair’s chin and pulled him into a kiss. Alastair’s frustrations melted.
Everything I do, I do for us, Charles had told him once. Think about how it would ruin our families. I want to be Consul after my mother, Alastair. I want to run an Institute.
We can still be happy, can’t we?
Alastair closed his eyes and deepened the kiss. It is only that I love you, he thought, but did not say. In that moment, he thought he could have been no happier than to be kissing Charles Fairchild in an empty training room, where no one would see.