Story: Radial: Unravel
Challenge: Fudge Ripple #25 - Affection; Blueberry Yoghurt #9 - Better Off
Word Count: 1,916
Summary: After the day they've had, Alex decides that he should take care of Milos for once. And (for once) he means it properly.
Notes: Why is this so long?? When did Alex get so wordy without saying much?? Also, this one I guess reads kind of oddly: it follows directly on from Disdain / Rehearsal and Milos's sleepy question is reference to this older piece from when they first started sleeping together (which I guess is the nice way of describing blackmail :p ). Also relates to something I haven't written yet that sets off the start of the second arc.
Alex cleared the distance between their desks in two easy strides and wrapped his fingers around Milos’s narrow wrist as the elf took his motorbike key from his desk drawer. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Milos gave him a wide-eyed, uncomprehending look, then stared at the clock still propped on the desk with clear misgiving. “Home. It’s five o’clock, isn’t it?”
He didn’t blame him: that clock had taken so many dives lately it was a minor miracle it was still working, let alone keeping correct time. “You aren’t going home.” Taking advantage of Milos’s startled silence, he plucked the key from his unresisting fingers and shoved it into his trouser pocket: almost the only place he was sure Milos wouldn’t try to retrieve it from again. The temptation to hide it in the other place was almost too hard to resist. “At least,” he added, before the elf could open his mouth to speak, “you aren’t going to your flat.” Without waiting for him to reply, he turned and strolled from the office.
Milos followed him into the corridor. He had to or he’d never get his key back; it was the whole reason Alex had taken it in the first place. “What the hell are you talking about?”
He slid his hands into his pockets, dragging a fingertip over the key’s jagged edge as he smirked at the empty space ahead of him. “I thought you were supposed to be doing well in English classes. You can’t understand a simple sentence?”
Trailing along behind him, Milos let out an exasperated huff. “I understand them just fine, except for when they don’t make sense. Why aren’t I going back to my flat?” He paused, the catch in his breath audible even from this distance. “Has something happened to it?”
“Why would something have happened to it?” The man’s thought processes were a complete mystery sometimes... He turned to face Milos and began to amble backwards, withdrawing his right hand from his pocket again and holding it out with the key balanced on his palm. “Today you don’t need this. You’re coming back with me.”
The speed with which Milos came to a halt was impressive. If he could only stop that fast in combat classes, he might fall over a little—okay, a lot—less. “What?”
“You really are deaf, aren’t you?” He continued moving, the key tantalisingly open and easy to reach, but Milos didn’t seem inclined to go for the bait. Maybe enunciating would get his point across instead. “You. Are coming. Back. To my apartment. Better?”
Uncertainty flooded Milos’s face. “But— I mean— Last time—”
Alex raised an eyebrow, only stopping when it was obvious that Milos wasn’t going to follow him any further until this was cleared up. There hadn’t even been anything wrong with ‘last time’, aside from the elf’s ridiculous overreaction afterwards. “Are you planning on getting drunk again?”
“Then what’s the problem?” He could see Milos clearly had no intention of moving. He sighed and pocketed the key again. “If you go back to your flat on your own, you’ll spend the entire night pacing. You won’t sleep. And you won’t eat anything. When you come back to mine you’ll get a decent meal and a bed that doesn’t feel like it’s made of rocks. And if you don’t come willingly,” he added with a grin he didn’t entirely feel, “then I’ll pick you up and throw you in my car myself.”
“I’ve done it before.” And it had been far too easy; he’d been far too light. It had only been three months ago, the stupid elf had no excuse.
He didn’t try one either, just sighed heavily and approached Alex with slow, deliberate steps, eyes fixed on his feet rather than the man in front of him. “Why?”
Alex turned again and resumed his journey along the corridors towards the car park, only speaking when he was sure Milos was keeping up. “Because I stupidly promised Nazarian I’d take care of you while he was recovering, remember?”
“I guess...” But Alex was sure he could hear the hint of a smile in the elf’s voice.
Dinner passed in near silence as Milos moved more food around his plate than he put in his mouth until Alex gave him a glare that promised trouble; he ducked his head, a flush darkening his cheeks, and started to deal more properly with it. If Alex was going to bother making food for him, the least he could do was make an effort to eat it, clear shellshock be damned. He glared down at a slice of carrot and stabbed it viciously; Marrok be damned too. But him he’d deal with later. All he needed was to figure out the right way.
“I’m done,” Milos announced suddenly, and Alex squinted at his plate to make sure he actually had, not just said it because he wanted to escape. He had indeed eaten everything bar some lettuce too; Alex couldn’t help wondering whether he’d have even tried if he hadn’t given him the occasional death-glare. No matter what he said, he clearly wasn’t fine. He hadn’t even noticed the scrutiny his plate was under. “I’m just going to go to bed, if that’s okay?”
He stared at the miserable-looking elf and sighed. “Sure. Go ahead. I’ll be up later.”
Milos started trying to tidy up, actually jumping as Alex reached across and tugged the plate away from him. The blank look in his eyes would be heartbreaking if Alex thought he had one. “But—”
“It’s fine, I’ll clean up. Go to bed.”
Nodding once, he moved towards the stairs, pausing to glance over his shoulder as he rested one hand on the handrail. “No sex?” Even though he phrased it as a question, it was evidently a plea.
Alex snorted as he clattered Milos’s plate onto his own. “How old are you? Yes, I promise.” He watched as Milos smiled faintly and began to climb the stairs, not taking his eyes from him until he reached the upper floor. How could he tell him there was no fun in fucking someone so completely lost as Milos was right now?
He scraped the food remains into the bin and carried the dinnerware to the dishwasher, almost throwing the knives and forks into the rack, wishing he was aiming at Marrok’s head instead. The man would fucking pay for this. Somehow. It was the somehow he was stumbling over every time. Dishwasher stacked, he slumped onto the sofa and stared at the off TV without seeing it. He’d promised, and Nazarian was big enough that he didn’t fancy being invited for an impromptu sparring session once he’d fully recovered... and guilt was an ugly feeling. Worse, it wasn’t one he felt like becoming familiar with. Fuck Marrok. How fucking dare he think he knew everything about him?
He dropped his head into his hands, digging his elbows into his knees, and let out a deep growl as the guilt he’d tried so hard to avoid settled, thick and bitter, at the back of his throat and did nothing whatsoever for his mood. The sofa was easily big enough for him to sleep on, he could just stretch out, close his eyes and—
—Avoid the source of this unpleasant feeling. He glared at the perfectly innocent carpet, then shoved himself upright, turned off the lights and padded up the spiral stairs to the bedroom.
Even in the gloom he could easily make out the shape of Milos in his bed, laying with his back to him and the quilt pulled up to his chin. With any luck he was already asleep. His soft, rhythmic breathing certainly seemed to attest to that. Stripping off his shirt and trousers, he dumped them on the floor instead of folding them and putting them away. Tonight he wasn’t in the mood for neatness. As to his underwear... He paused, thumbs hooked into the waistband, then they joined the pile at his feet. Wearing them to bed now would just feel weird.
The bed itself was cold even though the room was warm, sending a shiver through him. Milos’s back was warm and inviting and completely off-limits; he tried to wrap himself more securely in the quilt without disturbing the elf. It’d warm up soon enough.
“Alex?” The word was soft, but jarring in the silence. He’d never realised how rarely Milos spoke his name. “Do you still think about me like that?”
He opened his mouth to say all he needed was five minutes—not even that—and free reign with his hands over Milos’s body and he’d show him exactly how he still thought of him, then closed it again. That wasn’t what he was asking and it wouldn’t help. “No,” he admitted reluctantly. What was it about this time of night that threw situations he didn’t know how to deal with at him? “No, I don’t.”
Only after Alex started to suspect Milos had fallen asleep did he speak again, this time barely above a whisper. “I’m cold.”
Something else he’d never realised until now: it was almost a code between them as he rolled over and looped his arm around the elf’s waist, dragging him the short distance across the bed until his body was pressed against Alex’s. Milos’s muscles tensed for a second before relaxing against him, nestling back to fit more closely against him. No clothes, even though he said he didn’t want sex. Tempting fate or just testing Alex? Either way, it didn’t matter—he had no intention of even trying it with him tonight. “Better?”
Milos nodded gently, making indistinct, peaceful noises against the pillow, errant strands of his hair tickling Alex’s nose. Another long silence passed with the elf’s gentle breathing against his skin almost lulling him into slumber before Milos spoke again, the words thick with sleep. “Does this make us gay?”
The unexpected question forced a surprised laugh from him. The things that went through his head; he’d never understand him. “I don’t know. Do you find men attractive?” He could see the outline of Milos’s ear shift as he shook his head. “And do you find women attractive?” A pause, and then another shake. “Well, I definitely find women attractive and I couldn’t care less about men, so I’d say you’re asexual and I’m straight.” He pressed his forehead into Milos’s hair, attempting to fend off the wave of tiredness that threatened to overtake him. “Sound about right?”
Milos nodded again, almost imperceptibly this time and, to Alex’s surprise, wrapped both his arms over the one Alex had around his waist. “Thanks...” The word was on the edge of hearing, just as the elf was on the edge of sleep.
He’d never understand him, but then he was pretty sure Milos would never understand himself either. He found he minded a lot less than he used to. Maybe that should worry him. No matter, he’d worry about it later, when the need for sleep wasn’t pulling him down and he didn’t have more important things on his mind. Like revenge. He held the elf to him, breathing in his scent and let his subconscious mind work on the problem for him.
Milos might be company property now, but so was Alex, and he’d be damned if he’d let anyone, least of all Marrok, devalue either of them.