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[personal profile] indecision
i've had a headache these past two days, and urgh, i'm not sure why and i can't make it stop. too much reading of porn, not enough? what's up with that anyway?

anyway, moving on. somewhere along the way i decided that what i really needed to write was peter/nathan kid!fic? in which peter is the cutest little boy on earth and nathan is...nathan. and then there was this prompt for the Nathan Petrelli Memorial Kink Meme, so i started writing that, but it got a bit out of control AND veered quite a bit away from the prompt, and then i ended up with five-thousand words of it, as you know, one does? so right, hey:


the secret to successful negotiation is in the fine print
nathan/peter, r-ish, pre-series, snapshots through the years.
thanks to [livejournal.com profile] anansie_s for the lovely beta, characterization-whipping and fixing up my rather terrible grammar.



(1986)
Despite not particularly caring, Nathan finds himself drifting in the direction of the commotion. A skateboard, broken pieces of porcelain and his brother, crying in the arms of Maria says it all, but he asks Pops anyway, standing some distance away and observing the scene as if he's deciding whether he wants to involve himself or not, "What happened."

"Not much. Just that priceless vase your mother and I spent so much time and effort on acquiring assaulted your brother, and now he's being comforted, as one is after such trauma." By "your mother and I," of course Dad means Ma; his father is above such things as shopping for interior decorations.

"Ah," Nathan says. "How unfortunate. For Peter, that is."

"Indeed." Pa crosses his arms as Peter's cries trail off into a faint sniffle, while Maria mumbles soothing words to him and cuddles him to her ample bosom.

Long ago, pretty much since the time Peter turned two, everyone in the Petrelli household had realized that all the help simply liked Peter more, possibly more than they did all three other members of the family combined. Nathan doesn't mind so much; Peter's his favorite too. Possibly it helps that Nathan's only home every few months and isn't subjected to this on a daily basis. Still. "Should I—"

He never gets to finish, because Peter has turned his head and noticed him, and he's immediately out of Maria's arms and barreling in Nathan's direction. Nathan automatically swoops down to catch him, all chubby arms and legs and sweet, open mouthed devotion. "Nathan," Peter says solemnly. "I fell down."

"Did you then," Nathan says, lifting Peter up and putting his hand on his waist for support. "That must have been scary."

Beside him, Arthur sighs. Nathan flashes him a wan grin, and Arthur squeezes him on the shoulder before saying, "I think I'll return to my study. Peter, try to keep the skating to the outside next time." His hand hovers, briefly over Peter's head, before he drops it. Arthur doesn't really know what to do with Peter. Most children, including Nathan, simply realized early on that he was terrifying, and fell silent and obedient around him. Peter has no such instincts. He ignores Dad's words and presses his face into Nathan's neck instead.

Nathan hugs him closer as Dad disappears back into his study. Peter still smells of baby powder, and also snot and tears, but it's not an altogether unpleasant combination. He smooths Peter's hair with his hand and has a sudden image of Peter smashing into something less breakable than a vase, like the hard edge of a table. It makes his chest constrict, the way it always does, the thought of Peter being anything but safe and alive. "Hey champ, do you know how upset Ma is going to be when she finds out you broke her vase? She's going to be really upset." It's a lie – Ma never gets upset enough with Peter to make him face any type of consequences. Exasperated, perhaps. Not upset.

Peter frowns, his eyes filling with tears once again. Nathan sighs and shifts him from one hip to another. "Hey, it's okay. We'll just think of something to tell Ma, okay." Maria will probably cover for him anyway, as she always does. "You want some ice-cream? Come on, we'll get you some ice-cream."

"I want ice cream," Peter says. He puts one small hand on each side of Nathan's face and kisses him on the cheek with the level of intensity only small children can achieve. Exactly like Ma, Nathan thinks, but far more sincere, and this is why Peter is the most important person in Nathan's life. No can can ever make him feel as loved as Peter does. When Peter pulls back he says, "Ew, Nathan. Your face is all scratchy," and he screws up his face in dismay.

Nathan laughs. "It's called becoming a man, Pete. One day you'll find out. In the meantime, ice-cream." Peter shrieks as Nathan lifts him, airplane style, and zooms him into the kitchen.

(1988)
Arthur's standing with his back to Nathan, and he's speaking softly enough that Nathan can't hear what he's saying. Peter shoots him a desperate, relieved look though as Nathan enters the study, and Arthur says mildly, without turning around, "Hello, Nathan. I was just trying to give your brother here some advice on today's game. On how second-best is not good enough."

"Really," Nathan says, coming to sit at the edge of the desk. He keeps his voice light and hides his rising irritation. Arthur's pep-talk is no doubt the one he's used often, and with great effect, on Nathan. It's helpful enough, if you're not Peter. On Peter it's only going to make him stress out and fail. But Arthur's trying at least, sometimes Nathan wonders if Arthur had simply forgotten if he had another child, or if his Mother had claimed such ownership over raising Peter Arthur didn't dare interfere too much. Nathan loves his mother, but Peter really shouldn't be raised as his mother's son. Although sometimes it seems as if each time he comes home Peter's an entirely different person, almost unrecognizable from the one he remembers from mere months ago; he's not certain why he still assumes he has any sort of insight into who his brother is right now, except that he does.

Peter gravitates towards him, wraps himself around Nathan's waist. At this age, he probably shouldn't, but Peter's so small still. Nathan hesitates briefly before he hugs him close in return, curls one arm around his thin frame. "I'm sure Peter will be fine, Pa. He's got a great arm." He smiles encouragingly at Peter, but Peter only scowls furiously.

"Coach Hardison says what's important is teamwork, and knowing you've done your best. Winning in secondary."

"Did you hear that, Nathan. Winning is secondary." Arthur says. "I think I need to have a talk with this coach of yours." He pauses, then switches topics abruptly. "What are you doing home, Nathan?"

"Thought I'd swing by, watch Peter's game. You're not planning on going, are you. And Ma said she can't make it. Something about a charity gala."

Arthur looks displeased. "No, I have work. Besides, it's just little league baseball. You shouldn't waste your time, especially since you'll be leaving again this weekend." His tone deepens, veers into mild annoyance. Nathan feels vaguely guilty; Arthur always deigned his own games important enough to show up at. Perhaps if Peter's team actually had any hope of winning, though. Maybe he should talk to the coach, if Arthur wasn't going to, or re-start the practices he'd had to abandon when he left for Annapolis.

"I don't want you there anyway," Peter says sullenly, his shoulders stiff against Nathan's body. "Bet you'll just make everyone mad by giving a speech about how important winning is." He peeks his head out from under Nathan's protective arm to gauge Arthur's reaction, then buries his face once more in Nathan's shirt.

Nathan suppresses a laugh, but he lets himself smile when Arthur gives in as well, sliding his hands into his pockets and shrugging easily. "Your brother," he says, sighing in amusement.

"Mine," Nathan replies agreeably. "Come on, champ. We don't want to be late."

“Try not to lose too badly, okay,” Arthur says as they pass him by. ”The Petrellis have a reputation to maintain.” Peter nods his head, at least somewhat enthusiastically, and Arthur flashes him a smile.

On the ride over Peter chats incessantly, excitedly, about baseball and how awesome his coach is, about his newly discovered comics, "Superman's my favorite, he can fly, Nathan."

"Dad's right you know," Nathan says casually, when Peter stops for a brief moment to catch his breath. "No-one remembers the ones that lose, Peter. There are no second chances in life." The world is hard, and cold, and Pa is a bastard but at least he's on your side, he wants to say, but he doesn't.

"Okay," Peter says quietly, but Nathan's not sure if even a word has sunk it. He lets it slide though; it's a nice day and there's a baseball game for Peter's team to spectacularly lose. Perhaps he'll take Peter out for ice-cream afterwards, to soften the sting.

When they get to the school and out the car, Peter runs to the other side and launches himself at Nathan. Nathan kneels down automatically, and Peter whispers, "I'm happy you came," and his kiss on Nathan's cheek is warm and sticky and feels exactly like home, and it's easy to forget sometimes, in the whirl of his life and the expectations everyone has and his own ambition, that someone loves him unreservedly, just for managing to show up. Peter's not yet learnt that love is a gift you give rarely, show even less, and if possible, only ever afford yourself the emotion when it's strategic. Nathan hopes he never does.

His throat is tight and his voice sounds strange, choked with intensity, when he says, “I love you Pete, more than anything. Remember that.”

(1994)
Nathan comes into the kitchen and finds Ma chopping vegetables. He kisses her on the cheek and says, "Where's Peter?"

Ma waves her knife airily. "Oh, I never know where your brother is nowadays, Nathan. It's as if at some point monsters came in the middle of the night and spirited my real son away, replaced him with an honest to god teenager."

"And yet still he's your favorite son," Nathan replies light-heartedly.

"Oh, of course he isn't, I never play favorites with my children, Nathan," Ma says, clutching at his shirt briefly before letting go, but she's smiling as she says it. "Try his room. He might be holed up in there. Building a fort out of pamphlets made of recycled paper. Perhaps plotting world domination. When he is leader of the free world we will all be forced grow our own livestock and live in huts, working backbreaking hours to return to the land what we've stolen from it."

He leaves her to her cooking and makes his way upstairs. Peter's room is unlocked but empty, and Nathan marvels at the difference from the last time he was here. No more rock music and posters of horribly dressed bands on the wall; instead there's a poster that cheerfully proclaims in bright blue lettering "SAVE THE WHALES," and his desk is littered with pamphlets and books on the environment. Ah, that explains his mother then. Social consciousness and the Petrellis aren't exactly a comfortable mix. It's so typically Peter that Nathan can't find it in himself to be anything but amused.

"Hey, you shouldn't be in my room without my permission." Nathan turns towards the door, smiling as Peter pushes a lock of hair behind his hair and slouches against its frame. He's grown taller since the last time Nathan saw him, his body all awkward angles and his face rapidly losing the baby-fat that had made almost everyone that met him unable to resist pinching his cheeks.

"The door was unlocked," Nathan points out, completely correctly.

"Just because someone leaves their car door unlocked doesn't mean you're entitled to drive off in it," Peter says, scowling, but Nathan's not the one he's angry at. Soon enough, he's slammed the door behind him and without even a hello he's complaining to Nathan, something about how their parents are draconian overlords who are intent on oppressing him and everyone else in general, but mostly him.

Nathan would be lying if he said that Peter wasn't the most important thing in his life still – it's why he makes it a point to come home so often – but if he had held out the slightest hopes of Peter growing up into a miniature version of himself, of the talks they'd have about his future as the younger Petrelli son, they’re gone now. He might yet outgrow all of this, but somehow Nathan doubts it. If Peter's not yet bent to expectations of how he was supposed to behave before, he's not going to now.

"It's just a rally, Nathan. I've never been to one before and—"

"Where is it?"

"What?"

"Where is it?"

Peter's so startled by the simple question that it takes him a while to process it, and then he rushes forward and fumbles at the table before pressing a slightly sticky, green pamphlet into Nathan's hands. "It's for a really good cause, Nathan. And it's a sit-in. I don't see why I shouldn't be allowed to participate, it's my civil duty and they're being unreasonable just to be unreasonable."

"It's tomorrow? Okay, I'll take you. We can drive up, make a weekend of it." The words are out of his mouth before he can even think about it, and in his mind he's already deciding a) how to break the news to Ma and Pop, and b) how he can convince Peter to do something entirely different once they get there. He knows where it is; there's a beach nearby. Perhaps they could go swimming instead. Nathan's not been in ages.

"Oh," Peter gapes at him, his eyes wide and surprised. "Well, uh. I was going to – this friend of mine we were, but okay sure, we can go together if you want. Ma trusts you." He smirks, then adds pointedly, "Unlike me."

"That's because I'm an adult, and you're a teenager," Nathan says, still distracted by the thought that Peter might actually want to be someplace with someone else rather than with him. "You can bring your friend if you want," he finishes lamely, reluctantly, but Peter's shaking his head.

"No, no," he says, and throws himself into Nathan's arms, his lips briefly hard against Nathan's lips. "You're the best brother ever. I'm so glad you're home." Nathan smiles, and the universe rights itself once more.

(1996)
Ma says, when Nathan comes into the house, "He's upset. One of his girlfriends. I think she broke his heart."

"One of?" Nathan replies, and raises a brow.

"Oh yes," Mom says fondly, if exasperatedly. "They keep coming and going. All sorts of creative names as well. Bambi. Anastasia. Natalie. I swear, parents these days. I feel they don't consider that their children might have to bear these names for their entire lives." She sniffs dismissively.

Nathan wants to ask, what's wrong with Natalie?, but decides he'd rather not, and he bites back the because Peter is surely a carefully thought out name. Instead he points upstairs. "In the bat-cave, right."

"Where else? Oh well, at least he'll be happy to see you. He's always happy to see you." Her smile is distant, and even if he weren't ready to leave yet, he knows a dismissal when he sees it. She caresses his chin gently as he passes by, says, "You're a good son, Nathan."

Peter's on his bed, clutching a pillow dramatically over his face, teenaged grief in every line of his body. Nathan sits gingerly down next to him, and Peter uncovers his face long enough to realize who it is, then buries himself once more, this time even more dramatically. "So," Nathan says casually, "I heard that a girl, she uh. Broke up with you?" Peter just waves him away with long fingers, but Nathan is nothing if not persistent. "Pete."

Finally he lowers the pillow, and blinks hugely sad eyes at Nathan. "Not just a girl, okay," Peter says, "The girl. I was in love with her. I wanted her to go to prom with me. We were going to be exclusive."

"Oh. What happened?"

Peter makes a face, then tugs dejectedly at a stray pillowcase thread. "She found out I was seeing someone else. But I tried telling her, they were just girls, it wasn't serious. It wasn't the same way with the two of us." His voice is teetering close to a whine, and Nathan finds himself patting Peter on the back consolingly, mostly because he's slightly embarrassed that his brother might cry.

It's also mildly disconcerting to realize that at his age, Nathan had no such problems. There was one girl he started dating at seventeen, and then a string of them that lasted at least a few years each. Peter is skinny as a rack, nothing but big eyes and floppy hair and a face that still comes off as far younger than his age, skin pale and delicate. Maybe if Nathan puts himself into the mind of a girl – it must be how non-threatening Peter comes across.

"My life sucks," he says, then continues, soft enough that Nathan instinctively bends his head to catch it, "She said I was a lousy kisser."

"What?" Nathan says, because he's still not certain.

"She said I was a bad kisser. She called me a sloppy joe." He spits the last two words out with the level of disgust usually reserved for the words 'dog poo.'

"Oh," Nathan stutters, not sure how to respond. The Navy didn't prepare him for this. Peter looks so distressed that Nathan puts his hand on his back and says, "I'm sure she was just trying to hurt your feelings, Pete." On account of you cheating on her with other girls while professing love to her and only her.

"I doubt it," Peter says miserably. But then he tilts his head back, and his eyes take on a peculiar glint, one Nathan's not quite seen before. "Hey, you know. Maybe you can help me."

"Uh, how," Nathan says, worried briefly that the day has come where he has to tell Peter No I will not pay for a hooker to pop your virginity for you, or even to show you how to kiss. Dad did that to me and it wasn't nearly worth it.

But this is Peter, and Nathan should know better, because he bites his lip and says, "Maybe I can just, test on you and you can tell me if I'm okay."

"What? No. Don't be ridiculous Peter I will not."

Peter sighs disconsolately, the way only he can, patented Peter Petrelli since aged four, and says, "Fine, I'll die old and alone and unable to kiss, then."

It's a mistake, Nathan knows this as soon as the “okay” leaves his lips, because Peter quickly sits up, eyes bright and wide open. Also a mistake, him not pushing Peter away when he leans forward to grab the kiss, as if he's afraid Nathan will change his mind. Which, he's not wrong, Nathan's already opening his mouth to do just that when Peter's lips land on his, soft and tentative.

Also a mistake: the flash of annoyance, followed by the creeping sense that he's being manipulated, that causes him to kiss Peter back the way he kisses the women that he dates – the kiss that's a prelude to inevitable sex that they won't say no to, not after he leaves them breathless and sighing against him. Peter's mouth is soft and pliable, leaving Nathan free to slide his tongue in, fuck him gently with it, and Nathan puts his hand on the back of Peter's neck to hold him there, to deepen the kiss until he can feel Peter tremble, and it's only his soft moan when he says, "Nathan," that makes the world rush back in, that brings the wrongness of this down on him full force. He pulls away, heart thudding, and gasping slightly.

Peter looks surprised, almost stunned, his cheeks flushed and mouth parted, wet and slightly bruised. Nathan feels inexplicably guilty, and the apology is on his lips; but that would imply acknowledgment that he's got something to apologize for, that he's taken this too far. Instead he clears his throat, and his voice sounds harsh and uneven to his ears, "I don't think you'll die old and alone, Pete."

(1997)
Of course, the car breaks down in the middle of the argument. "Fuck," Nathan swears, and beats his hand on the steering wheel after five minutes of fruitlessly turning the engine and hearing it whine.

"Oh, that's helpful, Nathan. Dad's way of handling things that disobey him. Beating it into submission." His voice drips with contempt, and Nathan doesn't need to turn around to know Peter's lip is curled into an unpleasant snarl.

"Stay here," he says, and jerks himself out of the car, more to get away from Peter than in an actual attempt to see if there's anything to be done about fixing the car. He gives it a try anyway, raises the hood and stares emptily at the engine for a while. At least there's no smoke coming out, but it's hardly as if he knows even the littlest bit about cars other than that when they cost this much they shouldn't break down in the middle of a deserted highway when he's arguing with his stupid brother. About college of all things, and Peter's decision to not go, because, as he so eloquently put it, it's just not my scene, man. Because God help him if he doesn't have more important things to do like save the fucking world, or whatever his pet project is right now.

Nathan's long since come to terms with the fact that when it comes to Peter, you have to take a radically different approach than the Arthur one – which is why Nathan, not anyone else, takes care of his brother. Arthur likes to say that Nathan indulged him, but Nathan's determined to prove him otherwise. Peter, though, seems to have decided he's not going to follow any script at all – not even Nathan's – and it's startling to think that perhaps Arthur was right all along. Nathan sighs, and eventually, when enough time has passed for it to appear that he put at least some effort into fixing the problem, he slams the hood down and gets back into the surly cloud of resentment that is the inside of the car.

"All fixed, I take it," Peter comments blandly, sitting upright as if getting ready for them to drive off.

Nathan scowls. "AA should be here soon. Just try your best to make the coming minutes as unbearable as you possibly can, Pete. We know that's your particular, special skill."

"And yours is pretending we're arguing about whether I'm choosing to further my education or—"

"Of course that's what we're arguing about," Nathan cuts him off furiously, waves his hand for emphasis. "What else could we be arguing about besides your stupidity and insistence that you throw your future away."

But Peter's face is darkening, and he's leaning forward, and the air in the car suddenly shifts, becomes less one of annoyance and more one that's dangerously close to something Nathan refuses to think about; not here, not ever. "I don't know, Nathan," he says, and his gaze lowers, travels slowly from Nathan's lips up to his eyes, until they're staring at each other, faces about an inch apart.

Nathan says warningly, "Pete," but he's not moving away. "Don't."

"You're such a fucking asshole, Nathan," Peter says, but he's gone from rage to fond amusement now, his mood, as usual, chimerical and impossible to predict. Nathan often wishes his brother came with a user manual and a remote, press here to play, here to lower the volume, and most importantly, here to turn off. But Peter is an unknown quantity, and he draws everyone and everything into his web of insanity simply by hovering around them, being quietly insistent and impossible and just, Peter. "Why are you always so afraid?"

"I'm not afraid," Nathan chokes out, but of course he is. An inch, and he considers, but Peter's the one that makes the first move. His lips are soft and too familiar. Nathan aches before the kiss even starts properly, before it deepens and Peter's opening his mouth, letting Nathan slide his tongue in. He tastes faintly of raspberries and wheat germ, those awful organic juices that Peter loves so much, but it's pleasant here, indelibly Peter, and Nathan sighs, hand coming up to wrap around the back of Peter's neck and pull him closer still. "Nathan," Peter sighs softly, and in his mind Nathan's already saying yes. To whatever. To anything at all.

AA comes too early, or not soon enough, Nathan can't decide. He pushes Peter gently away as the yellow lights surround them, ignores Peter's secret, knowing smile.

(1999)
They're making out on Peter's bed. Nathan was glad at first that he'd won the argument for Peter to get an apartment off campus, by himself, due to his brother's unerringly bad luck with dorm roommates – the last of whom had accidentally set fire to the room – but now he's not so certain. He keeps finding excuses to drop by, or Peter finds reasons to get him there. This time there isn't even an excuse, just his assistant relaying Peter's message to him verbatim: "Dude, you wanna come over." Michelle's met Peter once or twice, so of course she's on his side, and her smile when she tells him his brother called is amused and indulgent.

It's always awkward, the first few minutes in Peter's messy, colorful apartment. Their conversations have a tendency to go like this:

"How's school?"

"Alright. How's work."

"Good. Decided on a major yet."

"Nope."

"Planning to anytime soon?"

"Nope. Won't be pre-law though. Or pre-anything, actually."

"Okay then."

Meanwhile, the bed, which is always as messy as Peter's hair, looms. By this time Nathan has his jacket off, his tie loosened, and his sleeves rolled up, and he'll accept the beer that Peter really shouldn't have stocked in his refrigerator, and not comment when he grabs one for himself as well.

It doesn't matter; the beer gets abandoned on the side table in favor of the bed, and Nathan's tongue in Peter's mouth. Like a couple of teenagers – which Peter still is, and Nathan isn't, so sometimes, like tonight, it gets very old, very fast.

They have rules though. Rules are: no touching under the clothes or below the waist. Nathan's sure that at some point, these were rules he himself set up, but for the life of him, most of the time, he can't imagine why. Not when Peter's keening against his lips and Nathan's dick is hard and pressed against the curve of his hips.

Peter's still shaped like he was at seventeen, all angles in a too-skinny frame, and Nathan wants him now, like he wanted him then, and it's not enough. It's never enough. Peter's surprisingly good at following their rules though; his hands are all over Nathan's upper body and waist, and occasionally they will linger above his belt, but they never stray below, not once. Nathan kisses him deeply and slides one leg between Peter's knees, presses his thigh against the hardness he can feel beneath Peter's jeans, until he shimmies and clutches at Nathan's arm. This isn't cheating, all Peter has to do is – but Peter only sighs and murmurs, relaxes his grip, and eventually Nathan groans, pushes himself away into a sitting position.

Peter follows him blindly at first, reaches out for contact, but when Nathan frowns he flops back down onto the bed, his body a broken doll on display. "What," he says, sounding for all the world as if he couldn’t care less.

"Nothing," Nathan says. "Just, this isn't—"

"Christ, Nathan. Sometimes you're so fucking boring."

It's annoyance more than anything else that prompts Nathan to say, "Alright, if that's the case then perhaps I should just leave." He's up on his feet as he says this, already reaching for his coat, wondering where the fuck his tie went and if it's the one that's a gift from Heidi that he can't afford to let disappear in the pit of lost things that is Peter's room. Ignoring Peter until he's right in Nathan's face, all floppy hair and wide, furious eyes. "What?" Nathan snaps. "Come on, Pete."

Peter sighs and looks away, tucks his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "Look, I'm sorry man, okay. I didn't mean. Whatever."

Nathan's favorite thing in the world right now: Calling Peter's bluff.

What's not so nice is having his petty triumph chased by guilt. "I really should go though," he says finally, softening his tone just slightly.

Peter only shrugs, his lips turning downwards in his typical petulant manner. "You do what you want, Nathan." But when Nathan starts backing away he reaches out, grabs a hold of the front of his shirt. "No, don't. Stay, come on."

Nathan drops his briefcase, allows Peter to lead him back to the bed. The ache is gone now, the need that borders on desperation. Sometimes he can't even be near him for fear that everyone will know – most of all Peter – all that he wants to do to Peter. The bed is too small but they squeeze in together, his chest pressed to Peter's back. Peter hesitates briefly, then draws Nathan's arm under his and over his heart, lacing their fingers together.

"I wish you would," but then he sighs, and an edginess creeps into his voice when he asks, "How's Heidi."

"Fine. How's, what's the name of the latest one?"

"Steve." Steve. Nathan never objected to Peter's girlfriends; they took the edge off of Peter's surprisingly petty jealousy over all of his own, with Heidi being just about the only one, so far, that Peter can even tolerate, although Nathan's not certain in what way she differs from all the other women he's dated. Recently though, Peter's started seeing a spate of men, mostly over Nathan's objections. What would Dad think?, is the one he uses most often, which prompts the obvious reply, I couldn’t give a fuck what Dad thinks, and then Nathan lets it drop, because he can't, won't, admit that what bothers him most is not what Dad thinks, or what society thinks.

Nathan presses his lips to the nape of Peter's neck instead of responding, and Peter shivers, turns his head so Nathan can kiss him on the lips. He breaks it off though, too soon, and puts his head back down on the pillow. Nathan's comfortable enough now that eventually he starts drifting away, and it's only the underlying tension in Peter's voice that snaps him back when he says quietly, "What do you want, Nathan?"

"What do you mean what do I want."

"You know exactly what I mean." Nathan can feel his smile, soft and slightly bitter, even though he can't see his face.

"No, I—"

"I know. You want me to tell you that I want us to take this further." His voice lowers, turns low and distant. "You want me to say that I want you to fuck me, that I need your cock inside me. That I dream of going down on you, of having you come in my mouth, on my face. That I think about your mouth on mine, how you'd look as I deep throa—"

"Stop it," Nathan says. "Just stop." He squeezes his eyes shut as if it would help block out Peter's words; as if that could take them back somehow, and they'd go back to being where they were ten minutes ago instead of where they are now.

"Okay." He shifts, and Nathan pulls away so that he can turn himself over, slide one arm around Nathan's waist. He sighs then, and Nathan can almost feel the tension drain out of him, as he invariably gives in. "I love you, Nathan," he says. "I need you, but if this is how you feel, then—" and it's his defeat that makes this impossible to bear. Nathan can handle anger and spite, can take him being frustrated and wanting more than Nathan's willing to give. He can't handle acceptance.

Nathan sighs, and presses their foreheads together, and everything shifts, indelibly, when Peter kisses him, soft and slow with the promise of so much more. “I can't," he murmurs, against Peter's lips. “I can't.”

“Yes,” Peter tells him, and the way he says it Nathan knows it's true. “Yeah, you can.”
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