"I love you." I informed him grouchily. He laughed and blew me a kiss.
Damien leaned heavily on me, stumbling when he moved, which was so unlike him it terrified me. Allen gripped him on the other side and it took several long minutes to manoeuvre him to the top of the stairs. I snapped the light on in our room and Allen lowered Damien down to sit on the edge of the bed. From the way he stiffly bent in the middle, more was bruised than just his face. He flinched when Allen started to peel his coat off and I grabbed reflexively for Allen to stop him, unable to stand Damien's hiss of pain.
"Sure." Allen said gently. "I'll put the kettle on."
"Did they call a doctor for you?" I demanded of Damien. Allen shook his head.
"They wanted to. He wouldn't have it."
"It isn't necessary, I've had worse than this playing rugby." Damien muttered. I leaned straight over for the phone.
Damien got a hand out and found my thigh. "Nick don't over react."
"There's a casserole and bread in the oven," I said, sparing some attention from Damien. "Make yourselves something to eat, help yourselves to anything you like- I'll be down in a minute."
"I'm sorry, you two must be dying to go home."
"We're staying here tonight. Or I am. I'll kick Robin out if you want me to." Allen sat down and put the mug in front of me. I picked it up mechanically.
"I'll do it in a minute, you drink that." Allen said firmly. I sipped the tea and winced as the whiskey in it hit me.
"What about the police?" I said sharply. Robin raised his eyebrows.
"Rob, get yourself home and changed." Allen interrupted from the doorway. He tossed his car keys across the table into Robin's hands. "Come back and pick me up when you're done and I'll drop you at work. Quick, it's six thirty."
Robin went without argument, which was novel. Allen moved me gently out of the way and took some eggs down off the shelf.
"I can at least see you have a decent breakfast before I go." Allen said calmly, finding the frying pan. "And why don't you make me a shopping list? You're neither of you going to want to go anywhere for a few days."
"Shut up." I turned my head and kissed his hair, nuzzling through it until I found his scalp. "What hurts? How do you feel?"
"My poor baby." Having found one spot on his head that didn't seem too tender, I concentrated on that and felt him sigh, his weight increasing against me.
"That's nice. Was that Allen going?"
"Good." Damien closed his eyes. I slid my hands very gently down around his neck and shoulders, looking for any sign of bruising before I began to rub, easing out the tension and hopefully some of his headache. The familiar, solid feel of him beneath my hands was very reassuring, the warmth and resilience of his muscles, still powerful, still strong. I shifted gradually until he was using me as a pillow, kept my cheek against his hair and went on massaging.
And that seemed to be all. I kissed him and hung on him to watch him decant scones from the oven. His mother has him programmed: in spare moments he always makes scones. Being Damien, instead of spending the day resting, he'd clearly spent the time polishing: the house was immaculate.
"What ARE you doing?"
"I need to see Damien." Robin pushed his hand through his hair, making it yet more untidy, and from the look he gave me I was suddenly worried he was about to burst into tears. I stood out of the way to let him in, moving from startled to anxious.
"Why? What's happened?"
"People take Ecstasy all the time, most of them it just wears off." I said stupidly.
He ran upstairs with more energy than his bruises should have allowed, the bannisters shaking with the impact. I picked up the phone and took it into the lounge out of Robin's earshot. Allen was horribly cheerful when he realised it was me on the phone, and horribly upset when I relayed the message. I stuck to the lines Damien had given me, but Allen knew perfectly well something was wrong. Robin was pacing in the kitchen when I went in, shirtless and bare from the waist up, pushing at his temples as though his head was splitting. He was very pale and when he looked at me there was something very strange about his eyes. It took me several minutes to realise that his pupils were huge, so big there was no visible colour to his eyes other than the black.
"What do you think?" Robin snapped. I shrugged.
"I don't know what sort of unnatural bastard you are anyway. A group of bloody teenagers beat him up in a yard…. I'd stay in the yard and WAIT for them, smash the hell out of them..." his teeth bared and he made a punching motion at me.
I glared at him, beyond arguing. Robin grinned.
"He won't cane me." Robin said scornfully. I shrugged.
That was not what I wanted to hear. Although with Allen looking like that and Robin in the kitchen, still silent and shining with sweat, I wasn't about to stage a protest. I went in silence, hearing Damien and Allen's voices talking quietly in the hall for a moment, the words indistinguishable, then the quiet click of the kitchen door.
I hugged him back, shaking him slightly. "Damien……"
"The only clubs or bars I've ever been in more than a few minutes are ones you've dragged me in to," I pointed out when I was able, "And you have a hard enough time making me take the drugs I'm supposed to."
"It's got nothing to do with me, you've just got a naturally lot more sense." Damien took a deep breath and leaned his forehead against mine. "Oh Nicky. I might be an overbearing, patronising git, I might be hell to live with, I might not even be good for you, but I need you, I want you and I have absolutely no clue what I'd do without you."
"He loves you a lot."
"Chess?" Damien suggested. I pulled a face at him.
I rubbed his back as I passed him but took my book into the lounge.
"And you were fed up with me? Is that it?" Hazel eyes looked at me, large and warm and not in the least deterred.
"Did I tell you to eat a proper meal?"
"Yes or no." Damien interrupted. I looked at him, frustrated. Big, calm, dark hair in his eyes, gorgeous and extremely annoying. Damien raised his eyebrows at me, waiting.
"Whose decision is it?" Damien asked mildly. I glared at him.
Damien's eyes grew very steady. "Nicholas."
"NO!" I flung myself out of the chair and stalked towards the stairs. "It was DAYS ago and it DOESN'T matter."
Anastasia heard the tone, got off the windowsill and headed under the sofa. I took no notice. The living room door slammed behind me with a satisfying bang. Damien opened it quietly on the rebound and came into the hallway.
"I'm not interested in what it was or when it was." Damien clicked his fingers, still pointing at the floor in front of him. "Come here."
His hand held out to me once more.
"Why isn't it fair?" Damien inquired, sitting on the end of the bed. I folded my arms to glare at him. According to all the rules of body language, it should have intimidated him.
"If you're at all confused about who's in charge around here Nicholas, we can work on clarifying it. What happens?"
Damien's eyebrows rose still further. "Then let's remind you."
Damien's hands closed on the waistband of my jeans and my feet moved instinctively to catch up with the rest of me as I was yanked back between his knees. The swift, sharp movements of his hands as he unbuttoned and tugged my jeans down implied that further fussing would be a bad idea, but I still had a good try. It made absolutely no difference. I got nowhere, my underwear was tugged down after my jeans and my eyes started to prickle as he turned me over his lap quite unhindered by my struggling, the two of us fitting into position with the ease of long practice. Way too long practice. I could smell the fresh laundry smell of his jeans, feel the knit of his sweater against my hip as his arm looped around me, holding me firmly against him. I shut my eyes tight and concentrated on this NOT being the painful experience it was probably- inevitably- going to be.
Damien punctuated himself with two sharp slaps that made me duck my head and shut my eyes still tighter.
"But you ate a yoghurt AND left out the evidence to prove to me you hadn't done as you were asked."
"Allright, I was fed up because you stayed at the office! You weren't THERE-"
"So it didn't matter what you ate? You only do as you're told when I'm watching?" Damien inquired.
Put like that, it sounded horrible. Tears stung my eyes and I stopped kicking quite so much.
"You're exhausted, aren’t you?"
"You are little boy. Over stressed, over tired and over wrought."
"That isn't how it works and you know it." Damien said serenely. He ran a finger lightly down my nose, face very close to mine. "Don't you? Hmm?"
"Don't you ever say that to me."
"I'm too heavy for you."
Damien snorted, a comforting sound accompanied by a decidedly uncomforting swat on an already sore place.