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[personal profile] indecision
So, this happened. I'm not sure how, but it did. This is the longest thing I have ever finished and posted, and if that makes it sound like I've finished and posted several shorter pieces before, uh, that is not the case. I will go hide somewhere now.

and birds were singing to calm us down, by A.
Peter/Nathan, AU, R, ~3,700 words, implied underagedness

Peter wants to see Las Vegas. Nathan doesn't even try to say no anymore. Sort of a companion piece to "he couldn't see me, the sun was in his eyes" by cm, won't make much sense without it. Less sense, anyway.

Many thanks and hearts to co-journaller for letting me play with Crazy Earth Child!Peter (damn hippies!) and telling me what didn't work and also what did. Kisses to [ profile] miss_miso for helpful suggestions and hand-holding. Flower wreaths for everyone!

Children of the grounds
Are making warring sounds
For those outside
With no care for time
They're full of love for life

When they arrive in Vegas, Nathan tired and faintly irritated and Peter wound-up and restless, the first thing he notices is the brightness of it all. He has never seen so much color and light in one place before and it makes his head spin. He can sense Nathan getting out of the car and slamming the door shut, not waiting for him to follow, but what he sees is just a blurry movement out of the corner of his eye and then the endless brightness again. The neon signs leave pulsing imprints on the inside of his eyelids when he squeezes his eyes shut, so he opens them again and tries to adjust, to swim in the light instead of drowning in it.

He's managed to get his breathing under control when Nathan gets back and slides into the seat again, slightly less on edge now. "Okay, I got us a room. One of the fancy ones somewhere on the thirtieth floor, and we're going to enjoy every minute we spend in it, do you hear me. Do you think you can do that."

Peter wants to say, yes, Nathan, I think I can just about manage to spend a weekend in a city without making your life so very hard, and also, fuck you, but then he grits his teeth and nods, watches as Nathan rolls his eyes and says, "Oh great. This is going to be fun." He drives them down into the parking garage where it's blissfully quiet and marginally less bright, and Peter relaxes into the seat, lets out a slow breath. When Nathan half-turns to him, frown on his face, Peter smiles a small smile at him, feeling the panic ebb away. "Thanks, you know. You didn't have to tap into the emergency money for this."

"Everything is an emergency with you, Peter. I'm just waiting for you to say, 'hey, let's go to the moon, Nathan, it's vitally important that we go to the moon,' and then what. You'd probably find some dirty motel and a candy store up there, too. It's your superpower."

"Now that you mention it--"

"Oh don't even start. We're in Vegas, we do this," and with that he swerves into a parking space, shuts off the engine. "Maybe you have some hidden powers for winning at Blackjack."

"I'm not Rain Man, Nathan."



Peter doesn't take Nathan for granted, that's not it. He knows what Nathan sacrificed, in a hazy, slightly blurred way, like watching someone's life unfold through a milky glass pane, a life that once was, that could have been. It's an elusive, jittery image and Peter doesn't dwell on it, focuses his attention outward instead, on the warm sun on his skin and the wind in his hair and the earth forever surrounding him, protecting him.

It was hard to understand at first, although understand is the wrong word, he always understood when the earth was talking to him, whispering and murmuring and every so often crying out in pain, and Peter would lash out then at whoever was nearest at the time, because it hurt, because it made him bleed in ways he couldn't articulate, couldn't show to anyone. Nathan would be there to calm him down, and there'd be confusion in his voice, but also so much strength, a steadfastness that would forever elude Peter, that he could only wrap himself around but never quite make his own. He was small enough, back then, to curl his arms and legs around Nathan and bury his face against his shoulder, and the blood rushing through Nathan's veins and the thud-thud-thud of his heart felt like sap pumping through a tree, felt like home, and that never changed.

Still, there was always a fear in his eyes that Peter found difficult to deal with, because Nathan couldn't see and feel what Peter felt and saw, so he should have been unafraid. Many years later, Nathan would say, "Other children dream of the bogeyman and all you have to do is open the closet or look under the bed and say, see, there's nothing here, there's nothing to be afraid of, and I could never do that with you." Peter tried to understand, and maybe he did, but he didn't quite know how to say, it was right to be scared, it was necessary, because you couldn't hold on tight to anything without being a little bit afraid of it, and he was always holding on to things, to the overwhelming rush of life he felt all around him, at all times.

He understood all this implicitly, but he didn't quite know what to do, how to react to the onslaught of noises and colors and all things blooming and aging and dying in the world; didn't know how to explain to anyone that he could hear death as the absence of sound, could see the shape it left behind, as clearly as he could see the shapes of things being born. There were no words for any of it, so instead he talked to the high grass and the birds and the wind and the rain, who didn't need words and who told him, clear and bright: You can do anything you want, and eventually Peter believed them.


In the end, Nathan finds him huddled in a corner of the casino, arms wrapped around his shins and eyes squeezed shut against his knees, his entire body going rigid when Nathan kneels down and grips his shoulder just a little bit too hard.

"Peter," he says, almost calmly, "what the fuck."

It's not exactly what he means to say, it's not exactly what's wrong with this place, but when he opens his mouth all that comes out is, "I can't hear her, Nathan," and Nathan's hand loosens its grip, slides down to rest between his shoulder blades.


"The earth."

"Jesus, Peter."

There's nothing else he can say, not really, so he doesn't. He can sense people looking at them and tries to curl more tightly in on himself, but when Nathan presses his palm against his back, steady and warm even through the fabric of his suit, he eases up a little, tries to make himself listen.

"We will leave this place now, Peter. You will get up and you will walk with me, and you will try to behave like a normal person until we're outside. If anyone asks, you had too much wine, and if we're lucky nobody will want to have a second look at your ID and I feel we'll be lucky, Peter, how about you."

Breathe. "I feel so, too."

"Great. This should go swimmingly."

He keeps up a silent litany of don't look, don't look, don't look during the whole endless walk around the tables and slot machines, Nathan never leaving his side and his hand still on the small of his back, and then they're outside and he can breathe again, but only just. Nathan lets out a rush of air and takes away his hand to rub over his face, and Peter feels untethered all of a sudden. The city is still crashing over him like waves, and he wants to run out into the desert and not stop running until his lungs burn and he's surrounded by nothing but dust and sky and night.

But then Nathan sighs and curls his hand around the side of Peter's neck, leans in to kiss the hair above his ear. "Let's go back to the hotel, okay?" he says, sounding tired, and Peter bends his head, lets the hair fall over his eyes. They walk back in silence and Peter doesn't run.


The first time he laid his palm against the bark of a dying willow tree and felt all its tired aching, all the quiet longing and despair threading through him as if he himself was dying, was the first time he thought, as loudly as he could, I want you to live, with everything he had inside him.

He was six, and when he ran into the house and dragged Nathan back to the garden with him, his own fingers wrapped tightly around two of Nathan's, all that existed in the world in that moment was this: the tree's luminous green crown, surrounding them both and casting soft shadows onto the grass, the life making its home underneath the bark once more, and Nathan, staring up into the mesh of branches and sky, stunned into silence and as beautiful as spring.


Back at the hotel, Peter claws his way out of the suit immediately, pulling hard on the too-tight collar and the tie Nathan had wound around his neck earlier, swatting his hand away when Peter tried to protest. "You want your clothes to let everyone know you have money," he'd said, "just as your ID informs everyone that you're twenty-one," and Peter had scowled at him, already feeling a sheen of sweat collecting at the back of his neck. He drops his clothes one by one as he makes his way across the room, ends up naked in front of the window that spans most of the wall, floor to ceiling.

"I'm gonna take a shower," Nathan says and Peter just hums at him, presses his palms against the glass and rests his forehead against it, closes his eyes. The air conditioning is turned up too cold and he can feel goosebumps creeping up his arms, but he's too lazy to walk over and adjust the temperature. The sensation reminds him that he has a body and that it reacts to the world around him, and he needs to be reminded of this every now and then, or he feels he might dissolve into thin air, vanish into the sky like so much smoke, unbound. He's never tried to explain the feeling to Nathan, because he couldn't, but sometimes he feels that Nathan might already understand, from the way he touches him, keeping him close.

Then Nathan's out of the bathroom and warm and damp and solid behind him, faintly smelling of citrus and soap, of lemon trees and rain on a spring day. He doesn't speak, just drops his forehead against Peter's shoulder and wraps an arm around him, hand over Peter's heart, saying "You okay?" close and muffled and Peter moves his head against the window in something like a nod. His palms are sweaty against the glass now, and he can't quite bring himself to move, to break the flimsy connection between him and the night sky outside, but when Nathan shifts against him and his skin slides against Peter's, the rush of want is sharp and sudden and overwhelming. There's no sound coming in from outside and in the room the air is perfectly quiet and still; they're caught behind the glass, together, shielded.

He takes Nathan's hand into his own and moves it down, slowly at first, stilling only when Nathan's breath hitches against his hear, loud and sharp in the silence, but then they're moving again, together now, and all he can feel is Nathan, warm breath on his neck and the shift of muscles and skin right against his own. Then Nathan's hand is wrapped around him and he exhales against the glass, breath condensing into fog, sinks into the feeling of Nathan's lips and hands and warmth, all around him. He rocks into the touch, presses back, makes Nathan gasp and bite at his shoulder, hard and wet and perfect, and Peter hisses and lets his head fall to the side: more. Nathan sinks his teeth into the same spot again, only harder, and it's sharp and hot and exactly what he needs, not quite what he needs, so he turns his head to catch a corner of Nathan's cheek with his lips, breath rushing out of him as he says, "Need your mouth, Nathan, please--" and Nathan stills against him, catches his breath. "Jesus, Peter," and Peter presses his lips against the corner of Nathan's mouth, drags them wetly across his cheek and kisses the bone just before his ear, touches the tip of his tongue against it.

"Fuck," Nathan says, "fuck," and then he slides himself into the space between the window and Peter's legs, muttering, "Move, move," and Peter touches his fingertips to Nathan's shoulder, to his neck, soft skin and rough stubble and then the still-damp hair in his fist and Nathan's mouth around him, taking him in. His other hand is still pressed against the glass and he stares out the window and right up at the stars as Nathan wraps his fist around him, starts moving his head, and then it's all wetness and heat and need and Nathan's hand, gripped tight around his hip, bruising, anchoring him. He can hear his own breath coming out in small hitching gasps, his entire world reduced to this, now: his hand in Nathan's hair and Nathan's moans all around him, Nathan's fingers leaving deep angry marks on his skin, Nathan pulling him back into his body, gathering up all the pieces Peter can never hold on to and smoothing over the jagged edges, all the painful brightness inside him giving way to a red-hot sunrise glow, and then Nathan squeezes hard around him and whispers, "Come on, let it go," and Peter comes, wordlessly, gratefully.

When he opens his eyes, Nathan is staring up at him, both his hands curled around Peter's thighs and Peter's come sliding thickly down his neck and chest, and he's perfect and he's entirely Peter's, all his, and it's overwhelming, makes it hard to catch his breath, and when he tightens his fingers in Nathan's hair again Nathan arches into the pull, so beautiful and just as lost as Peter feels. "Please, let me see," he says, voice shaky. "Come for me," and Nathan curls closer without thinking, hand on Peter's thigh and his forehead on the side of Peter's belly, holding on to him as he rocks into his fist, his breath a sharp, hot rhythm against Peter's skin and the sweat on the back of his neck slippery under his palm, and then he groans, comes all over his thighs and Peter's feet and the plush red carpet between them.

Peter sinks down to the floor, feeling heavy and solid now, arranges his limbs and Nathan's until he's comfortable and Nathan doesn't protest anymore. "I love you," he says, breathlessly, and kisses Nathan's face, then licks at a bead of come on his neck.

Nathan's voice still sounds rough when he says, "It's dried, Pete, that's gross," and Peter huffs out a laugh into the crook of his shoulder, a small, happy sound.


Nathan flicks him over the head and then leans in to kiss him, slow and sweet, his hand on Peter's cheek and his fingertips in his sweaty hair, and if Peter could he would stop time right now, would make the whole world skid to a halt around them, but he isn't supposed to and he never gets to keep this.


Peter was six when his entire world collapsed for the first time. The week after the willow tree he found Nathan in his bedroom, piling shirts into his suitcase, and when he asked him where he was going, Nathan sighed and picked him up, sat him down on the edge of the bed.

"I'm going to college, Peter. I'll be home on the weekend as often as I can, and I will call you and Ma, okay? It's not too far away, maybe you can come visit me some time."

"But you'll be gone."

"I'll be back on the weekends."

"But you'll be gone."


It made no sense to him. Nathan was supposed to be there when he woke up from the nightmares, or when he made it rain in big, heavy drops that splashed against the window, pitter-patter music as he curled up on Nathan's bed and made him read stories until Nathan started complaining about his voice getting hoarse, and then he'd tell the sun to come out again, watched Nathan squint against the sudden brightness washing in. That's how it went, how it was supposed to be, and there was no place in their life for college.

"It's what people do, buddy. They go to school and then to college and then they get a job. You'll see when you get older."

He'd remember, later, the one week he spent in school as a dizzying cacophony of colors and noise and his classmates' whooping laughter when he crouched down in the corner to talk to the classroom pet, an aging guinea pig that winced away from his touch at first, and more than anything else he'd remember how sad that made him, how sorry he felt. He made Ma promise him that he'd never have to go back to that place, and she just looked at him, her lips pressed together and eyes shining, and brushed his hair from his forehead, nodding her head eventually. "I promise," she said, and Peter wrapped his arms around her middle, burrowed into the fabric of her skirt.

He learned to live without Nathan, the first couple of weeks, learned how to carefully fill in the hole he'd left behind, a Nathan puzzle consisting of the comforting chattering of birds, and the excitement of rain followed by sunshine followed by a heavy storm, the sweetness of candy, bright and colorful and entirely artificial in a way that he could deal with, could get used to. It was a poor substitute and the pieces never quite fit together, never quite made one whole, because how could they. He clung to Nathan when he came home and clung to him when he left again, but he always promised Peter he'd be back and then kissed the top of his head before leaving once more.

It was a routine, of a sort, that he tried to settle into. Ma started talking about homeschooling and bought books and maps that he pored over because she asked him to and because he didn't want to disappoint her. She made little report cards for him that he showed to Nathan, and he'd read them out loud and then smile down at Peter and ruffle his hair, or sigh and crouch down to talk about responsibilities, depending on how many times he'd skipped out on Ma to curl up under a tree instead. Ma would come up behind them and tell Nathan, "I just don't know what to do with him anymore," and Peter promised him he'd do better, he really would.

The first weekend Nathan didn't come home, this happened: a heavy rain that didn't stop for a whole day and a whole night and turned the garden into a sea of dirty mud and dead flowers floating atop the puddles, a rain so relentless and furious it tinged the whole sky a menacing dark gray as far as the eye could see and flooded whole basements in the lower parts of the town. Ma threatened to call Nathan and tell him what Peter had done, and he screamed at her until she put the phone down and buried her face in her hands, shoulders shaking. He went outside into the rain and waded through the mud, collecting flower stems and broken twigs in his hands, whispering I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry until the rain let up, became a fine drizzle and then stopped altogether, the sudden quiet startling after the endless, rushing noise.

The sun came up like after a long night, and Peter fell to his knees and buried his hands in the heavy wet earth, helpless and panicked, and it took all his strength to repair the damage, until the grass was lush and green and soft under his feet again. The flowers were slowly starting to turn their heads to the sun and Peter wanted to grab Nathan's hand and tell him how beautiful they were and that they had forgiven him, but Nathan wasn't there, was gone, and that was the first time.


Peter wakes up at sunrise, as he always does. He peels himself from his blanket cocoon and pads over to their bags, rummaging as quietly as he can until he finds two packs of candy. He leaves one on the nightstand and opens the other one, peanut butter cups that he pops into his mouth as he watches Nathan sleep, legs folded under him and blanket drawn around his shoulders.

When Nathan stirs and squints at him he glances over to the clock and tells him, "Seven thirty," and Nathan turns over with a groan, pulls the sheets up to his chin. He can't see Nathan's face when he mumbles around the candy, "We can stay another day," but he knows that Nathan opens his eyes then, trying to will himself awake for a discussion.

"I don't think I can handle another day," he says finally, voice sleep-rough and low.

"I'll be better today, really. I just-- wasn't prepared, I guess."

Nathan turns around, still wrapped in the sheet and hair messy against the pillow. "It's Las Vegas, Peter, what did you expect."

"I don't know. I thought it might be fun."

Nathan snorts and Peter tilts his face to the window, closes his eyes against the pale sunlight. "I have a feeling it might rain today," he says, then turns back to Nathan. "I like rain."

Nathan looks at him, face unreadable, then shifts until he can snake an arm across the bedsheet and cup his hand over Peter's knee. "Okay," he says. "Okay."

Mother calling out
To bring the end around
We weren't quite done

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