Pairing: Nottpott (Theo Nott x Harry Potter)
Universe: muggle AU
Rating: M for language, sex
Summary: Harry's a lifeguard at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas. Theo's a rich prick with too much game (or none at all, depending). What happens in Vegas... merits a one-shot. Recommended listening: Super Cool by Prelow.
It's always hot in Vegas. Inferno hot, Harry thinks, and the glare from the pool isn't helpful. Saturdays mean club beats pounding while he sits aloft in his lifeguard throne and bakes, hovering somewhere between the circles of hell reserved for gluttons and sloths. If someone set fire to this town, he thinks, nobody would even notice.
He shades his eyes from the sun, sighing. Two children (where are their parents?) splash around wildly and two drunk women complain, looking to Harry for assistance. He's not here for them. Not as they are, anyway. His job is not to be dissatisfaction police for rich women gradually turning their skin to leather. He's here for when the couple in the corner inevitably tries fucking in the pool, or when someone gets drunk enough to try to dive into three feet of chlorinated cesspit (if that). He's the last line of defense between irresponsible fun and death.
Despite this, Harry recognizes the collective compulsion to find water. It calls to him, too. Funny thing, he thinks, being a lifeguard at the Mirage. It's a name so apt it should almost be funny.
He sighs again, rubbing at the sweat pooling under his sunglasses.
It's too fucking hot in Vegas.
Vegas is so over. So fucking over, Theo thinks, and another glance around the Mirage pool does nothing to convince him otherwise. None of the swimsuits are in any way stylish. None of the tattoos are artsy. Too many people are drinking Miller Lite in one place than should be drinking Miller Lite at all, ever. Los Angeles, he thinks, even at its worst and most pretentious, is at least never trying this hard.
Theo considers going home early, but that's not happening. He isn't sure why he forgets every time that the drive back from Vegas to L.A. is always harder than the opposite direction. Drives to Vegas are comforting, full of promise, like diving directly into a sun-soaked pool (though not this particular pool, which would be to aim for certain death and very probably chlamydia). The other direction, on the other hand, is like leaping directly into the sun itself. And not in a good way.
Theo glances around, Draco pausing at his side. "No room," Theo says. Draco, meanwhile, is happily drinking a mai tai, which Theo wants very badly to knock from his hands directly into the pool. "Why'd you pick this hotel again?"
(The suite they have at the Mirage is fucking resplendent with the worst of the 1970s. It's retro, and again, not in a good way. Not to say there's a good way. But if there is, the Mirage is not it.)
"You hate every hotel," Draco reminds him. "I'm telling you, Nott, Vegas just is what it is. The city of sin," he adds, winking, as he fits his lips around a weed pen.
"I'm surprised you aren't more opposed," Theo notes, making a face. "None of this seems elite enough for you. And didn't you do coke last night? It's not 1982."
"Well, what do you want me to do?" Draco prompts lazily. "I didn't have any meth."
"Ah, see, you're joking, but it's not even a good joke," Theo points out. "Everyone knows pharmaceuticals are the new cocaine. Coke is Gen X, and meth, as literally everyone on earth agrees, is exclusively for midwesterners."
"That's fucking fascinating, Nott. Tell me more," Draco says drily.
"Remember ecstasy?" Theo muses, obliging. "Talk about a throwback—"
"Stop," Draco says, and points. "Look. Empty chairs."
Exactly two chairs. In the shade (not ideal), next to a waterfall (noisy), directly adjacent to a bachelorette party with two unclaimed girls who are peering around like hawks (bad). They'll be wanting someone to bankroll them, surely. Theo and Draco are the sort of people who look like they might do that, except they wouldn't. Or at least—Theo wouldn't, anyway.
"I'd rather drown," Theo mutters.
Draco squints up, eyeing the lifeguard sitting above them. "You hear that?" he calls up obnoxiously. "My friend has a death wish. If you let him drown, I'd be happy to tip."
Theo doesn't expect the lifeguard to answer—assuming, as one does, that the lifeguard is a normal human being who takes no interest in what two drunk idiots are doing at his feet—but surprisingly, he does. He nudges a pair of sunglasses further up his nose and slumps down, warily regarding Theo and Draco before speaking.
"I died once," the lifeguard remarks idly. His hair is messy and wild beneath a stark white visor, his skin bronzed and slick beneath institutionally pristine shorts. He looks like he probably smells like suntan lotion; the coconut kind, if Theo were to guess. "I was without oxygen for five minutes. Can't say I'd try it again. Can't say I wouldn't."
"Jesus Christ," mutters Draco, about to walk away, but Theo stays behind.
"Tell me more," he commands. The lifeguard lifts his sunglasses, squinting at him.
"You thinking of trying?" the lifeguard says. His name tag says HARRY, LAS VEGAS, just like that. All caps. As if it's something to be proud of. "Overdose would be more pleasant, I think, given the option. Pretty sure you could afford it."
"That's presumptuous," Theo notes testily. Draco grabs his arm, trying to leave, but Theo nudges him away, flashing him a polarized glare from beneath thousand-dollar lenses before turning back to the lifeguard. "Any recommendations?"
The lifeguard, Harry, considers it for a second. "Not a stimulant," he says.
"Beg pardon?" Theo asks.
"I mean, could always overdose on caffeine," Harry muses, "given accessibility, but I have to imagine it would hurt. Like, with a normal overdose—"
Theo balks. "Normal overdose?"
"—yeah, normal, like sleeping pills or whatever," Harry continues, unfazed, "you just lose consciousness, right? Everything slows down. Sedatives would be the way to go. Want to die with stimulants, pretty sure that's a heart attack. Can't say for certain, but I'd guess it hurts more. You know how your heart races sometimes and shit? And it, like, stings? That's—that's no good. Might as well drown if you're going to go out that way."
"Jesus fucking Christ," Draco says under his breath, but Theo is enraptured.
"What time do you get off?" Theo asks Harry, ignoring Draco as he walks away, exasperated.
Harry laughs. "Fuck off," he says, and turns back towards the pool.
"I'm serious," Theo says. "Hey," he adds, when the lifeguard doesn't turn. "I'm fucking talking to you."
"I see that," Harry notes. It's irritating, and Theo fucking loves it.
"I'll be back in an hour," Theo says.
Harry nudges his sunglasses back on. "Fuck off."
Maybe Vegas isn't over yet.
Harry isn't sure why he decided to talk to the rich kid with the sunglasses and the death wish who has hair that screams Los Angeles (who was probably 'ironically' at the Pitbull concert last night), but he doesn't think much of it until the too-skinny asshole with the dry voice shows up again.
"One hour on the dot," he says, and Harry rolls his eyes.
"Can't prove it," Harry replies. "Wasn't counting."
"You're a fucking liar," says Asshole, flagrantly. Shamelessly.
Harry glances down at his watch.
"Fine," he permits. "One hour on the dot."
The Asshole smiles.
"My friend dragged me here," Asshole says, gesturing over his shoulder. "The blond one, looks real smug? Him. Anyway, we're here for the weekend. Drove in from L.A., for no real reason. Vegas always seems like a good fucking idea, you know? And then you get here and six hours later you're like, shit. This place is so over."
Typical, Harry thinks. It's not like hating Las Vegas is somehow avant-garde.
"I actually like Vegas in theory," Asshole continues. "I like the idea that it's just so fake and we're all in on the joke. Like, we're all here to entertain this grandiose idea that we can escape into a fantasy for forty-eight hours or whatever." He pauses. "The Venetian is my favorite hotel," he adds, "because they really fucking committed, you know? I mean yeah, sure, it's fake, but it's beautiful. The ostentatious kind of beautiful, too—like, um, what's the word—"
"Opulence," Harry says by accident.
"Yes." He can hear the satisfaction in Asshole's voice. "Exactly."
The Venetian is Harry's favorite hotel.
"I mean, you have to like the Bellagio," Asshole continues, apparently not bothered at all by Harry's lack of communication. "It's got a real sense of the absurd, you know? The giant flowers and gardens and the fountains. It's like—the Bellagio is Dada. It's all just fucking satire, man."
"Do you ever stop talking?" Harry asks.
"Tell you over dinner," Asshole says.
"I have no interest in hanging out with you," Harry says, "or your smug blond friend."
"That's fine. Convenient, actually. Been thinking about killing him for years," Asshole says.
Harry says nothing.
"I've got this theory about Pitbull," Asshole remarks tangentially, and Harry rolls his eyes. Knew it, he thinks, until Asshole abruptly surprises him.
"I think he might be a god," Asshole says.
"A minor god," Asshole amends quickly. "Like Bacchus, maybe? Or some sort of revelry creature, or maybe an incubus of some kind? I mean okay, I'm not saying he's literally divine, but he had a cold last night at the start of the show and then by the end of the night he was fine and I had the fucking cold, so. You do the math."
"You think Pitbull," Harry echoes slowly, "the singer from Miami, might be Bacchus."
"Yeah, I mean." Asshole shrugs. "Yeah."
Harry turns, staring at him. "Seriously?"
"He's Mr Worldwide," Asshole says defensively. "Who makes that kind of claim? A god of revelry, that's who."
Fuck this lunatic, Harry thinks for a second, but after the idea settles in, he grudgingly decides he kind of likes it. It makes Vegas less hellish and more fantastic, in the literal sense. Fantasy. That's what Vegas promises, and what it fails to deliver, favoring $30 mai tais instead.
"Dah-le," Asshole adds, grinning, and then, evidently pleased with himself, he half-shouts, "Mujeeeeeres!"
"Stop," Harry says.
"I'll stop over dinner," Asshole replies.
"Please stop," Harry says, though he checks his watch.
Asshole clearly notices. "You know I have a death wish," he remarks, gesturing blithely to the pool. "Could just try to repeatedly drown until your shift is over."
Harry grimaces. His shift is over.
"What's your name?" Harry says.
"Theodore Videlio Nott the third," replies Asshole.
"Seriously?" Harry says.
"No." Asshole barks out a laugh. "I'm only the second."
"Theodore?" Harry echoes, and frowns. "Go by Ted?"
"Theo," Asshole corrects him, and shudders dramatically. "If you ever fucking call me Ted I'll bury your dick in the ground."
Harry sighs. "Fine. Dinner," he says. "You're paying. And I'm not doing cocaine."
"Pharmaceuticals are the new cocaine," Theo says.
Harry wants to kiss him on the mouth.
"Fine," he says, and climbs down from the lifeguard stand, wondering if he might die tonight.
Theo tells Harry, Las Vegas, to meet him out front, though when he says it, he's still not entirely sure that the lifeguard is going to come. Theo doesn't know what he's doing, exactly. He doesn't know why he's so very insistent on spending time with a lifeguard, particularly one who works at a hotel he doesn't even like. What does that say about him, exactly? Or his choices? Also, it's something of an unreasonable trap, because if Harry, Las Vegas, wants to go clubbing, then Theo hates him. If Harry, Las Vegas, is a gambler, Theo hates him for that, too. There are so many ways that Theo could hate him, and Harry, Las Vegas, doesn't even know.
But then Harry shows up outside, and Theo decides he doesn't hate him.
Theo doesn't hate him at all.
"I was gone fifteen minutes," Harry sighs, looking as if he's biting back a groan, "and somehow you managed to put on a full suit."
Theo glances down. "Well, as I understand it, shirts are required for service. Though if you'd like to cause a stir, I can always go without."
Theo thinks briefly that he'll do it, actually, if Harry asks. He suspects he'll do anything Harry asks. Probably because Harry doesn't seem like the type to ask for anything.
"Take the jacket off," Harry says.
Ah, so Harry doesn't ask. Harry tells.
"Have to put it back in my room, then," he says. "You coming?"
Harry looks startled, but only for a moment. He either pretends at being fearless, or has no fears. "Fine."
Theo beckons in the opposite direction and they wind through the casino, heading back towards the lifts. On their way, a variety of women pause to look at them. It's always a bit carnivorous, these glances, because again, most of these women are looking for someone to buy them drinks all night. Maybe someone to fuck them, if they're lucky enough to get their room to themselves for an hour or so. Mostly, though, Theo is a wallet that almost certainly contains a Black Card (status: affirmative), and that's all they need to know. Harry, on the other hand, they look at like a piece of meat.
"You don't seem to mind the smoke," Theo notes, and Harry shrugs.
"Grew up here," he says, and fixes Theo with an unnervingly direct gaze, daring Theo to mock him. "Where are you from?"
"Guess," Theo says, half-smiling.
"Los Angeles," Harry replies.
Right on the first try, which Theo hates a little bit. Technically, he's from Rancho Palos Verdes, which is less a beach town than a gated neighborhood nestled in the cliffs, overlooking the ocean. He usually tells people he's from Manhattan Beach, though it isn't actually much of an improvement. It indicates very clearly an innumerable amount of things about him, most primarily that he went to a private high school. His parents (his father, specifically, seeing as his mother is deceased) were Republicans, though specifically the kind who worshipped Reagan, not McCain, and certainly not Palin. Theo, who worships nothing, does not bring any of this up.
"That obvious?" he asks.
"You're tan, and it's only May, so you live somewhere warm. You're rich, clearly, but not old enough to live somewhere suburban. Ergo, you're either some kind of foreign prince, or you're from L.A.," Harry summarizes disinterestedly, in a way that indicates he's seen it often enough to know. "I generally avoid the L.A. weekenders," he remarks, as if he can't really prevent himself from adding it.
"Generally," Theo notes. "But not today?"
"You didn't give me a choice," Harry reminds him dully.
"You seem like the kind of person who always has a choice," Theo replies, and for some reason, Harry stops, suddenly falling to a halt and turning towards Theo.
"If you're going to play some sort of game where you force me into explaining why I'm here," Harry says, not particularly bothered as the crowd swerves around them, "I don't want to play it. I'm not interested in having to answer for anything."
At this angle, straight on, Theo can see that Harry's eyes are extremely green. He's wearing a pair of glasses that look sturdy and light. Theo can picture them sitting on his nightstand, just like he can picture Harry's clothes on his floor.
"Noted," Theo says, and gestures to the elevators. "Shall we?"
Harry lifts his chin, which is like a nod, only more stubborn.
"This one," Theo says, beckoning to the lifts that are marked A-E. He can see on Harry's face for a moment that he knows that means Theo has a suite, but the brief degree of calculation is smoothed over relatively quickly.
"Got it," Harry says, and follows him into the elevator.
It opens onto floor A with a ding.
"I hate the aesthetic of this hotel," Theo comments, gesturing to the carpeting and the doors, which look Eastern-influenced in a way that screams oriental, or some other shameless cultural misappropriation. "In what way is any of this a mirage? There should be, I don't know. Phantasms. Hallucinogens. I should feel distinctly misplaced in time and space."
"How exactly would that be a hotel theme?" Harry asks, following him down the corridor. Theo places his key in the lock and waits for the beep, then shoves the door open, permitting them entry.
"Ghosts," Theo says in answer, and watches as Harry almost laughs.
The suite is ridiculous and Theo knows this. The view is nice, but almost any view is nice at this height. The sofa is angular and stupid. The bar is reflective and gaudy. There's a television at the foot of the massive bed in the closest bedroom, which can almost be seen from the front door, but not quite. It says a lot that there's a television there, Theo thinks. That's not what Theo does in the bedroom, though the television above the jacuzzi is, of course, another story.
"Put the jacket down and let's go," Harry says, his gaze flicking to the totally unnecessary dining table. "I only agreed to dinner."
Theo looks over what Harry is wearing. Jeans and a henley, two of the three buttons undone, plus a pair of scuffed up Chuck Taylors. Theo, meanwhile, is wearing a bespoke suit. Three of his own top buttons are undone, and part of him wants to button one more, wondering if he's saying too much, but it's too late for that. Instead he removes his jacket and lets it slide to the floor, making a statement. The statement is, of course, this: I don't put things where they belong, and therefore, I am trouble.
Harry watches Theo roll his sleeves up.
Harry looks like exactly the kind of trouble Theo came here for, even if he'd never admit it.
"What do you want to eat?" Theo asks him, and does not say anything crude, although it does occur to him to wonder what else Harry feels like putting in his mouth.
"You're the guest here," Harry says, shrugging. "You pick."
Theo wonders if Harry isn't setting a trap for him now, as equally and as shamelessly as he set one for Harry. You're the guest here, so use me as you wish, but if you use me, I will hate you.
"I want a burger," Theo says. He's suddenly starving, he thinks, and Harry's mouth quirks.
"Burger it is," Harry replies, and perhaps it's Theo's imagination, but he sounds a bit hungry, too.
Harry notices right away that Theo isn't a compulsive phone-checker, which surprises him. He realizes that he actually did notice Theo at the pool earlier that day, though he hadn't committed it to memory (well, he had, but only in retrospect, which doesn't count) and recalls that when he first noticed the two rich assholes (the other of which Theo informs Harry is outrageously called Draco, which practically screams obscure left-coast intellectualism) Theo was on his phone, staring mindlessly at his screen in a way that usually indicates disinterest rather than communication. Harry notices now, though, that Theo doesn't remove his phone from his pocket, not even to look at a map of the Strip, until it rings. Then Theo sighs, glances at the name on the screen, and raises it to his ear.
"What?" he says, which Harry thinks is fantastic. One day, Harry reminds himself, he'll be the sort of person who can answer the phone that way. No greeting, no salutation. Simply a what, what is it, you're wasting my time, which will be a welcome relief from years of hello, this is he, thank you for calling, may I help you?
"No," Theo says, and pauses. "Fine. No, I haven't seen your texts. You text me too much, I told you, I don't need to know where you are at every moment. No, I'm—fine." He rolls his eyes, dodging a woman wearing nothing but nipple pasties and feathers, and beckons for Harry to keep up. "No, come on, I don't want to go there. I don't want sushi again, it's not that good here. We're landlocked for fuck's sake, Malfoy, and I just s- fine. Gordon Ramsay?" He makes a face, then glances at Harry. "Yeah. No, I'm not alone. I told you, I'm with- no, that wasn't a joke. I agree, it isn't funny. Amazing, isn't it, that something that's very much happening is not a joke? Fine." A groan, and another glance at Harry. "Well, he doesn't like you. No, not ironically. He doesn't like you, Malfoy, because you're an asshole. Me? I'm charming. Tell him."
Harry blinks, realizing that Theo is holding the phone out to him.
"Sorry," he says. "What?"
"Tell him," Theo repeats, "that I'm charming."
For whatever reason (to end this, perhaps) Harry agrees to take the phone.
"Hello?" he says, warily.
"Ah. So he's not joking, then." It's the smug blond prince on the other end, sighing. "Well, I assume he's told you that some of our friends have joined us for dinner."
"No, he hasn't," Harry says.
"You know, if you're after him for his money," smug blond prince warns quietly, the sound on the other end changing slightly as if he's gone outside from somewhere loud, "I recommend walking away. Hand him back his phone and turn around."
"What's he saying?" Theo asks impatiently, but Harry holds up a hand.
"I think I can decide for myself what I do with my time," Harry says into the phone, "but thank you endlessly for your concern."
A pause, and then a loud scoff. "Fine." He can practically hear the teeth gritting on the other end. "He's a big boy. I'm sure he'll sort it out for himself soon enough."
Harry says nothing.
"Just tell Nott to meet us at Planet Hollywood," the smug blond says, rejoining whatever crowd he was just in. "I presume you're tagging along?"
Harry glances at Theo and for a moment he's angry, or irritated, but he realizes almost immediately that Theo has genuinely no idea what his smug blond friend is saying to him. Harry also realizes that perhaps the smug blond is something of a gatekeeper, which says much more about Theo than he thinks it does.
"If Theo is going," Harry says, "then I'm going."
Theo blinks, surprised and pleased.
"God, this is so fucked." The smug blond prince hangs up, and Harry hands the phone back to Theo.
"We're meeting your friends at Planet Hollywood," Harry says.
"I hate that place," Theo groans, tucking his phone back into his pocket, "but at least we're getting a burger. What's your stance on truffle fries?"
"I don't have one," Harry says.
"You should," Theo advises.
If you like them, Harry thinks, I bet I like them.
"Dying of high cholesterol wouldn't be the way to go," Harry says instead.
"You know, I've thought about it," Theo tells him, "and I think you're right about an overdose. I'd like to be killed by excess, you know what I mean? I think it says a lot. I think it says something terrible, and I'd want that, I think. I'd want people at my funeral talking about how I deserved it. Like, 'oh, good thing there's champagne here, because I hated that asshole. Overdose? Please.' Honestly, I think if people cried I'd just be insulted."
"Yeah?" Harry asks.
"Yeah," Theo confirms. "Because it means they didn't know me at all."
Harry permits three steps in silence before glancing at Theo.
"You should have cake at your funeral," he says. "And a guillotine."
"Oh, like a French Revolution theme?" Theo asks, and Harry nods. "I like it, actually." He tilts his head. "Wow, yeah, I like that a lot. I think it says exactly what I want it to say."
He turns his head, glancing at Harry.
"How did you do that?" he asks.
Harry shrugs. "Just a guess."
"Huh," Theo says, and smiles down at his feet. "Huh," he repeats, quieter, and Harry glances at the knuckles of Theo's hands.
Theo has smooth hands, slender fingers. The bone of his wrist is prominent in a way that makes him look like an artist. The knuckles, however, are bruised, just faintly. He has a thin scar running between the webbing of his pointer and middle fingers. He wears a single ring, a signet ring, on his pinky. It looks like it could cause some damage, but the face of it is blank. No crest, no monogram, no initial. Harry blinks, picturing that hand sliding down his own stomach, the ring catching briefly on the button of his jeans just before it dips under.
But then he realizes that's not it. That's not the hand.
"You're left-handed," Harry observes, noticing that Theo wears his watch on his right wrist. It's a worn leather band, nondescript, save for the small Rolex logo on the face.
"Yeah," Theo says, and slides his left hand through his hair for emphasis, turning to smile briefly at Harry.
His left hand is unadorned, and Harry smiles back.
Dinner goes on for way too long. Blaise tells too many stories about traveling, and asks Harry too many questions about where he's been, which isn't too many places. Theo shifts uncomfortably, wishing he would stop. Harry doesn't seem terribly bothered, but his hand seems tight around his beer.
Harry is, of course, extremely underdressed compared to Draco and Blaise, and even compared to Greg and Vince, who are very much Draco's friends. They're the stupidest investment bankers Theo has ever met, but he's glad, at least, every time they talk, because he catches Harry laughing at them, not with them, and Theo finds that rewarding. He finds it apt. Draco forgives their stupidity because he likes a posse, an entourage. He's willing to surround himself with idiocy if finery comes with it. Theo, on the other hand, is itching to be alone with Harry. He wants Harry to notice things about him, to tell him things. Sometimes (most of the time) Theo doesn't know himself very well, but somehow, Harry picks through his unspoken thoughts and unasked questions and sorts him out within minutes, within seconds, and does him the kindness of not ultimately putting him in a box.
Just before they leave, Theo boldly sets a hand down beside him, on the spot in the booth between him and Harry. He waits for a second, lifting his glass with his free hand, and then lets his pinky drift slightly, permitting it to brush against the hem of Harry's jeans. He waits, wondering if Harry will notice. Theo read somewhere once that touch is the most acute of human senses. He read, more specifically, that if someone is touching you, it's not an accident. They are aware. He silently begs Harry to notice that this is not an accident. He hopes that Harry is aware.
"Ready?" Draco prompts, and the group begins to vacate the booth.
Harry shifts, preparing to rise to his feet, and Theo's pinky retracts, shameful.
Aim too high and you hit the sun, he reminds himself, hiding his disappointment as he slides out after Harry.
Naturally, after eating, Draco wants to gamble. He really is unnaturally good at blackjack, considering he's twice as clever as he looks, and he certainly doesn't look like a fool. He's wary-eyed and sharp, and much too smart for Vince and Greg, who mostly enjoy things like craps. Theo, on the other hand, is excellent at Texas Hold'em. Draco isn't bad either. Blaise mostly gambles wildly, erratically, and exclusively while drinking, but he's preternaturally lucky. Any given weekend in Vegas, the three of them will usually come out on top, with their suites comped—the irony of wealth, really. They showed up here already fucking loaded, and they leave having gotten everything for free.
The moment they find a table with the 'right vibe' in the casino (at the Paris hotel, which is always lucky at this time of night), Draco throws two hundred dollars down on the table, and Theo sees Harry swallow hard. He supposes it is kind of sickening to watch. At one point, Theo was able to feel some sort of revulsion at the idea of having so much money it's worth spending on adrenaline alone. Now he feels very little, except for the motion of Harry pulling away from him.
Harry watches Draco make a hundred dollars in less than five minutes and turns his head away.
"You playing?" Draco calls over his shoulder, beckoning for Theo, but Theo knows if he sits down now, it's over. Harry will walk away, and no amount of money could make him chance that. He will never know how to find Harry again.
"I gotta go," Harry says, turning over his shoulder and proving Theo right, and though Theo is rarely wrong, he still hates it.
"Wait," Theo says, pausing him with a hand out. "You go ahead," he tells Draco, who purses his lips, disapproving. "Just, uh. Text me."
"Right," Draco says, knowing perfectly well Theo doesn't answer his phone. He glances sharply at Harry, who's already taken another step in retreat. "You sure about that?" Draco says under his breath, but Theo glares at him. "Fine." He waves a hand at Harry. "Bye," he says, with his particular gift for making a single syllable sound like a threat.
Harry turns to walk away and Theo chases after him.
"What now?" Theo asks, a little breathless, and Harry shrugs, not slowing down.
"I only agreed to dinner," he says.
"But that's not fair," Theo counters. "We didn't talk about death at all over dinner. Draco's friends are blissfully unaware of their mortality," he adds. "It's a damn shame, really. It's what all the kids are missing these days, I say."
Harry pivots so quickly Theo almost collides with a stranger, only just managing to steady himself as Harry stares at him. It's not a mean look, but it's certainly accusatory.
"What do you want from me?" Harry asks.
Having dinner with his friends was almost certainly a mistake.
"I'm not like them," he says, and he can hear a little bit of pleading in his voice, which he hates. "Seriously. I'm not."
"I fucking know that," Harry says, and then grimaces. "I'm sorry," he adds in an undertone. "I didn't mean to—" He swallows. "I'm just sorry."
"It's fine." Theo is relieved, or possibly jittery. He inhales Harry's apology until it fizzes in his veins, an inexplicable high. "Let's get a drink. You and me. Anywhere you want."
Harry considers it. "You ever been to the Chateau?"
Yes, Theo has been there, many times. It's the rooftop lounge in the hotel they're currently standing in, and not exactly a hidden wonder.
"Have you?" Theo asks.
"No," Harry says.
Oh, Theo thinks.
"I really hope you're using me for my money, then," Theo says, half-laughing. He'd rather spend it on Harry than on the blackjack tables, anyway. Somehow he thinks the investment will be met with better results.
"Maybe," Harry says. "Or maybe I just don't want to be inside."
Theo thinks Harry probably looks good under tea lights and stars.
"Think they have guillotines?" Theo asks.
"I think they'd be idiots not to," Harry replies.
Jesus Christ, Theo wants to touch him. Wants to drown in possibility, in mights and maybes and coulds. Wants to luxuriate in the promise of touching him; wants to paint a portrait with the probable softness of his mouth; wants to wear the finery of imagined bruises Harry might leave along the slopes of his thighs.
"Let's go, then," Theo says, and the Harry who stands before him unfortunately doesn't drop to his knees and pull at Theo's belt, but he nods.
"Let's go," Harry agrees and turns towards the elevator, dragging Theo back to the spectacularity of now.
Theo clearly paid for bottle service and Harry wants to be annoyed, only he did do it very discreetly, and also did something of a dance of feigned surprise when they got seated somewhere intensely private. It's so wildly endearing that Harry can't really be angry, even if he does feel like he's being distinctly Pretty Woman-ed. He considers making a joke about how Theo's renting him by the hour, only Theo's gone to such lengths not to make it seem that way that he would hate to ruin the effort.
Instead, Harry thinks back to Theo's pinky lingering near his thigh—and the ghost of a shudder it sent up his spine—and decides maybe this is just Theo's version of sharing. If he had money, Harry thinks, he'd probably do the same thing. If he had money, he'd probably be alone with Theo right now (pouring Dom Perignon into the hollow of his throat from the back of an Escalade, if the rap songs were to be believed) so maybe Theo was actually a saint, and deserved the money.
"Drink," Theo says, thrusting a champagne flute into Harry's hand, and Harry amends the last part of his suspicions.
"Trying to take advantage of me?" Harry asks.
"Can you be bought?" Theo counters.
Yes. "No." Maybe. "But I'd be insulted if you didn't try."
"Ah." Theo laughs, then gestures up. "So. Everything you hoped it would be?"
"It's pretty nice," Harry says, and then adds, "I miss the gold standard."
"What?" Theo asks, startled.
"The gold standard," Harry repeats. "You know, where a country's monetary system was linked directly to gold—"
"I fucking know what the gold standard is," Theo cuts in, rolling his eyes. "I've read Capitalism and Freedom. Why the fuck do you miss the gold standard?"
"Well, maybe what I miss is gold," Harry corrects himself. "I mean, in some weird, sentimental, pirate sort of way. Like, I'd love to throw down some gold coins, you know what I mean? Bills are fine. They're fine." He barks out a laugh, and okay, maybe he's a little bit drunk. "But I want to fucking shower someone in gold coins before I die."
"Dude," Theo says. "That is a wild dream."
"What's yours?" Harry asks casually, leaning back against the loveseat.
"My dream?" Theo cocks his head, considering it. "Besides my French Revolution funeral, you mean."
"Obviously," Harry says.
"Obviously," Theo echoes with amusement, running his thumb over his lip with a laugh. "Right, well, aside from that, and my preeminent death, I guess I'd say…" He tilts his head. "I want to be late to something," he said, which is surprising, mostly in that it makes no sense.
"That's it?" Harry says. "You're so punctual you aspire to tardiness?"
"Well, no," Theo admits, grimacing into his champagne flute. "It's hard to explain."
"I just told you I wanted to throw down in gold coins," Harry said. "I think you can explain yourself."
Theo rolls his eyes. "It's dumb."
"Of course it's dumb," Harry says. "That's the point. If you'd said something sophisticated, I'd punch you."
"Well, I do deserve it," Theo says. "I mean, just generally."
"Right," Harry confirms. "Yes. I'm aware."
Theo's gaze slides to his, brows arched.
"You're uniquely punchable," Harry assures him, "and you know that. But answer the question."
Theo groans, but relents.
"I want to be the kind of late that means you were distracted," he says eventually, eyeing his glass. "You know. Like, I want to be with someone who makes me not care what time it is. I want to be on my way to something, a meeting or something, and then have that person show up naked at my door, and then I want to just go, I don't know—fuck it. Fuck whatever else I was doing, this is more important." He pauses, running a thumb along the condensation of his glass. "Oh, dinner with a client in ten minutes?" he poses facetiously to himself, half-smiling. "Well, fuck it, it can wait. It can wait, because I need to fuck this person right now—here, now, because I have to. Because—I don't know. Them, me, this particular transgression, we are irreplaceable. Because I will never be this young or this in love or this terribly, unbearably wanting again, and I can't fucking waste it. Because this fucking second, this very moment is fleeting, it's rare and won't come around again, and client dinners can wait fifteen minutes or however long it takes. I want to have that person in my doorway and then decide, well, fuck, I guess this is what I'm doing now, and have that be that."
He tips his head back, draining his glass, and Harry realizes he might be in love with him.
Either that, or he's unforgivably drunk.
"Theo," he says, and Theo shakes his head.
"Don't," Theo says. "Don't kiss me right now, I won't believe it. I won't believe you if you do it now." He turns his head. "Do it later. When I'm not ready. When I can't breathe."
Harry blinks, and then nods slowly.
"Okay," Harry says.
A busty waitress pours more into Theo's glass, and then into Harry's. For several minutes they sit in silence—or something like silence, anyway, which doesn't actually exist in Las Vegas. In Vegas, on a Saturday night, Flo Rida is as good as silence, even as it transitions to some other too-loud beat. Britney's Work Bitch comes on next and fuck, this would be a terrible time to have a first kiss. A truly awful time.
Harry turns his head and grabs Theo's jaw, pulling it towards him, but at the last second something compels him to pause, and he stops just shy of touching his lips to Theo's.
Theo's chest rises and falls aggressively, but he doesn't move.
This isn't what he wanted.
Harry releases him and exhales, letting his head fall forward. Still, Theo doesn't move. Harry's nose slides along one side of Theo's and still, he doesn't move. Theo's breath is on Harry's lips; his eyes close, and his lashes flutter against Harry's temple; but he doesn't move. Harry's hand, which hovers in the air from where he let it fall from Theo's cheek, floats slowly and unsteadily until it lands on Theo's hip, precisely where his shirt is tucked into his trousers.
Harry lets his head fall, his forehead resting on the bridge of Theo's shoulder, and only then does Theo's hand rise, his fingers toying with the hair at the nape of Harry's neck as Harry closes his eyes, breathing hard.
"I'm drunk," Harry says, and presses his lips to Theo's chest, just below his clavicle. He bites down briefly, obscenely wishing he could saturate the fabric with his tongue, if nothing else. He feels Theo manage a swallow; shivers as Theo's fingers tighten on his hair.
"Maybe we should go somewhere," Theo says. "Walk a bit. Get some air."
Harry's hand is toying with Theo's shirt, untucking it slightly. The pads of his fingers brush Theo's abdomen and he thinks, faintly, that he might scream if he can't get any closer, if he can't feel any more.
"My friend," Harry attempts, and falters, forcing another swallow. "My friend's a club promoter. He's going to be at Oak tonight." It's the nightclub in the Mirage. "Could get us in if you wanted to walk back that way."
Theo nods, turns his head to speak in Harry's ear. "Sounds good," he says, and slips his tongue briefly along the lobe, as Harry feels his entire body suffer an avalanche of tremors.
Harry forces himself to his feet, knowing perfectly well he can't stand another moment of whatever Theo is doing to him. Waiting, he supposes, which has never been Harry's strong suit. He glances over the edge of the wall before they leave, eyeing the Strip below.
"Don't jump," Theo says, standing behind him. "Can't be the best way to go."
Not true, Harry thinks to argue. It'd be more merciful than this, at least.
"I'd rather skydive than bungee jump," Harry offers instead, as a nearly unrelated sidebar. "At least with skydiving, if you're going to die, you die from a heart attack in the air. You know it's coming, and your heart fucks off. Bungee jumping you die on impact." He shudders pointedly. "No thanks."
"I'm not here for a crash," Theo agrees, with a faint smile. "So yeah, cross that one off the list."
Harry thinks it's distinctly possible he might die tonight, and he thinks maybe he won't mind it.
"Harry," Theo says, and Harry shakes his head.
"Don't kiss me," Harry says. "Not here. Not like this."
Theo smiles brilliantly. "Ah," he says approvingly. "Now you get it."
Then he gestures ahead and Harry nods, leading them back to the elevators.
It's not a great nightclub, and Harry's friend Seamus is one of those dodgy characters Theo suspects has a juvenile record. Probably arson or some shit. Still, they're playing some of those early 2000s hyphy movement songs with the heavy beats. It's less sexual than it is purely nostalgic, and they can't talk in here, so they drink instead. They drink, and they dance. Not really with each other, though Theo considers how badly he wants Harry to grind on his lap—not dissimilar from what the girls in the next booth over are offering the best man of an extremely Southern bachelor party. Theo wants filthy, dastardly, ignoble things from Harry, but not here. Not where the floor is sticky with Smirnoff and cheap tequila. He wants Harry naked on a cold marble floor; wants to leave marks somewhere porcelain.
Harry makes Theo want sumptuousness. Opulence. Not this, the worst track from the post-One Direction singles, which is an abrupt end to Tell Me When to Go. Harry's hair is falling into his eyes and Theo stops dancing to brush it away, slicking it back from his face.
"Don't kiss me now unless you have a death wish," Harry warns, laughing, and pulls Theo towards him, one hand wrapped tight around his arm.
"And what if I do?" Theo shouts. Some girl gives him a come-hither look from over Harry's shoulder and he ignores it, though he might not have done so on another night. For now, his attention is occupied. His curiosity is piqued. His hands drop to Harry's hips, and the girl frowns. She'll tell her friends later that every man is scum or gay or both and kick her shoes off with a whine, and maybe by the time she does, Theo will have sucked a bruise in the shape of his teeth into the side of Harry's neck. Or maybe not. Maybe he'll still be here dancing with Harry, the tips of his fingers still damp with Harry's sweat.
"Not here," Harry laughs into Theo's ear, the heel of his palm pressed into Theo's chest. "Not now."
Then when? Theo wants to beg, only he laughs instead.
Harry's free hand is somewhere on Theo's thigh and it stops, freezing in place.
"Your phone," Harry says.
"What?" Theo yells.
Harry slides his own hand into Theo's pocket and Theo nearly convulses.
"Your phone," Harry says, smacking it into Theo's palm.
Theo looks down, groaning at the lit-up screen. Missed text messages are somewhere in the double digits, and now the phone is vibrating with further evidence of Draco's displeasure.
"Fuck," he says.
"Might as well answer," Harry tells him with a shrug. "We've got nothing else going on."
Sure, Theo thinks. Nothing else.
"WHAT?" he shouts into the phone.
"What?" Draco yells back.
Theo sighs, grabbing the collar of Harry's shirt and pulling him towards the exit.
"What is it, Malfoy?"
"Where are you? You can't possibly still be with what's-his-face."
"Harry," Theo says, rolling his eyes. "You know his name, Draco."
"Seriously? Still? Come on. Let's, I don't know. Karaoke. You know, that one place? With the—the ramen. Yes, Blaise, bottle service, this isn't my fucking first day. Blaise, would you very kindly shut the fuck up, I'm trying to talk to Nott—"
"Where?" Theo sighs, exasperated.
"We'll meet you in the lobby of the hotel, I just stopped to—BLAISE. PUT THAT DOWN- Theo, ten minutes. FOR FUCK'S SAKE—"
Draco hangs up and Theo sighs, glancing at Harry.
"Karaoke?" he asks.
"Sure," Harry says.
"Great," Theo says, turning away. "We're meeting Draco in ten min-"
He breaks off as Harry yanks him back and forces him against the wall, holding his wrists steady. Theo blinks, uncertain, and then Harry releases his hands, shifting instead to take hold of Theo's face.
The kiss comes out of nowhere. Harry's hips press against Theo's with his hands firmly wrapped around either side of Theo's jaw, and Theo can't breathe, can't speak, can barely manage to kiss back as his hands come around to rest somewhere beneath the muscle of Harry's back, curved around his shoulder blades. It lasts somewhere between eternity and half a second, Harry's glasses jabbing slightly into Theo's cheek, and then Harry yanks Theo's head back, placing a single kiss on the arch of Theo's throat as Theo lets out a loud gasp, surfacing from an unholy depth.
"What the fuck," Theo manages, as Harry steps back and then away, turning towards the exit. "Hold on," Theo growls after him, grabbing his arm. "What do you think you're d-"
"We're meeting Draco in ten minutes," Harry says, and then grabs Theo's arm, checking his watch. "Nine, even."
"We could be late," Theo suggests dizzily, but Harry grins.
"Not yet," he says, and keeps walking.
Theo stares after him, dismayed and disbelieving and utterly distraught.
"You fucker," he sighs, and chases after Harry, bursting through the doors and back into the lobby of the Mirage.
"Carry on my wayward son," Harry sings deliriously, "there'll be peace when you are done, lay your weary head to rest, don't you cry no more—"
Draco, who is considerably more bearable when he's drunk, sings loudly with his arm thrown around Harry's shoulder, apparently in approval of the song choice (if not also of Harry himself, though he seems to have at least abandoned his insistence on contempt). Blaise, who has somehow befriended what looks like a birthday party for some girls named after flowers and Greek myths, toasts him from the lounge sofas that are probably going to need a solid scrub before the night is over. Vince and Greg, the two idiots that Theo obviously hates, are playing twin air guitars and trying very badly to get two of the birthday party girls to watch.
Theo, meanwhile, is staring up at Harry from where he's sitting alone, a bottle of Sapporo clutched tightly in his hand. It occurs to Harry in flashbacks from pieces throughout the night that Theo is often sitting alone, even when he's with other people. It isn't as if he doesn't care, or as if people don't care about him. It's more like he's a piece that doesn't know where he fits, or that maybe doesn't mind that he doesn't.
Harry thrusts the microphone into Draco's hands and leaves him to the rest of the song, opting to fall into the seat beside Theo's.
"Tired?" he asks Theo.
"No," Theo says, and grins. "You're a fucking terrible singer."
"I know." Harry reaches out, touching his pinky to the side of Theo's thigh. "I want to kiss you again," he says, probably too quietly for Theo to hear, but Theo shifts his leg over, seeming to grasp the message.
"Pick out a song for me," Theo says, which seems to mean we're not leaving yet, asshole, because you did this to yourself, and now you're going to suffer for it, and Harry's secretly kind of glad about it. The wait is doing things to his internal organs.
Something to his chest, too.
He sits up and grabs the booklet from the girl with the flower name and the too-smug nose, ignoring her when she lets out a squawk of opposition.
"Here," Harry says, pointing to the song title and offering it to Theo.
"Done," Theo declares, draining his beer, and then he rises to his feet, taking the mic from Draco and pivoting with far too much panache for any single person to possess (much less a drunk person with no obvious coordination).
"Surprise, bitches," Theo adds, winking at Harry, "I'm actually fucking fantastic."
Draco lets out an approving howl, and Harry watches, entranced, as the song begins.
"You are my fiiiiiiire, my one desiiiiiiire," Theo sings, and even though the sound of it is almost immediately lost in a swarm of chorusing voices, Harry decides Theo's actually a pretty good singer.
Either that, Harry thinks, or maybe—just maybe—he's just a little bit in over his head.
The girls lure Draco and the others off to their suite at the Venetian and Theo hangs back, pausing Harry as he climbs out of the back of the cab. He says nothing; only gestures across the street at the Mirage, and Harry nods.
"Want to tell Draco?" Harry asks, but Draco's far ahead already, swept up in being the center of attention. That's Draco's happy place, but Theo suspects he's already in his.
"Nah," Theo says. "Wouldn't be the first time I disappeared."
Harry arches a brow. "And if he decides to text you relentlessly?"
Theo pulls his phone out of his pocket. "Whoops," he says, powering it off with a swipe, "slipped and fell."
The walk back to the Mirage is, of course, needlessly long, considering it's directly across the street. Reaching the limited access points is something of a drawn out process, particularly since the streets are still flooded with people who are surely only going to make mistakes. Theo wonders for a second if he is, too, but determines that unimportant. If this is a mistake, then so be it. What else is Vegas for, anyway?
The walk back through the casino is stranger now, considering how far they've come. Theo knows what Harry tastes like now, has felt Harry pressed up against him, and that makes all of the difference. Some of the difference. The world is different, for whatever reason, even though it looks and smells the same, hazy with that distant sensation of smoke.
Every step Theo takes is something of a choice. Should he stop here, kiss Harry here? The elevator door closes. How about now? Pressed up against the reflective surfaces? If he shoved hard enough Harry might growl his opposition, hiss in pain, and maybe it would make Theo smile a little, give him a reason to make it up to Harry later. The elevator lands at his floor, dings, and Theo realizes he missed it. Missed his chance. Here, then? Up against the wall? He could slide his hand down Harry's jeans and coax him into something; something he hasn't decided yet, but something. No, not here, he misses it again, dips his keycard into the lock and waits for another beep to tell him that time is passing, time is slipping away from him, soon the door will be open and he'll be alone with Harry, and then what? What does he want, what does he want? Has he decided? He walks into the room and Harry's next to him and he stares at the brass reflective surfaces at the bar, the lights from the skyline outside. He could kiss Harry now, surely. It's private, isn't it? Here, in this horrible suite, he could take Harry's clothes off, could drag him down onto the retro floors and—and—
Harry takes one of Theo's shaking hands and brushes his lips against his palm, closing his fingers around it.
"Tell me something stupid," Harry says quietly, and Theo lets out a breath.
"I'm afraid," he says.
Harry steps closer. "Of?"
"You know how they say you die twice?" Theo exhales, and Harry nods. "Once when you stop breathing, and again when someone says your name for the last time. I'm afraid of the second death." He smiles half-heartedly. "I'm afraid I'll live a life so ordinary that once I die the first time, nobody ever says my name again."
"No," Harry counters, shaking his head, and Theo frowns, not having expected to be disagreed with on such an intimate point. "That's not what you're afraid of—you're afraid of living," he says, as Theo blinks. "Really living, I mean. A full life, you know, with love and shit. You're afraid you'll live an empty life, or that nobody would love you enough to miss you when you're gone. But if you ask me," Harry continues mildly, taking another step forward, "I don't think you really have to worry about that."
Theo's throat is dry. "No?"
"No." Harry's very close now, his chest rising almost to where it could meet Theo's, if he inhaled sharply enough. "For one thing, you just have to die before Draco. He seems like he'll probably want to discuss you at length."
Theo wants to laugh, but can't.
"Is that it?" he asks, swallowing, and Harry reaches out, brushing his thumb across the exposed line of Theo's chest; just beneath the button he's really rather glad now he didn't fasten.
"I'll never forget you," Harry says softly, "as long as I live. If you walk out of here right now and I go to work tomorrow and everything is exactly as it was, I promise, Theo, I will never stop saying your name. I'll repeat it to myself before I fall asleep," he murmurs, his lips brushing the side of Theo's mouth. "I'll say it in the mornings, the moment my eyes open." His fingers toy with the buckle of Theo's belt. "I'll say it when you're long gone from here, and I'm still thinking about what it felt like to kiss you." He presses his lips softly, once, to the bone of Theo's cheek. "I'll say it to myself every time I suspect this place is a hellscape I'll never escape. I'll say your name, and remember how much I loved being tossed to the flames."
"Corny," Theo chokes out, his hands coiled in Harry's shirt. He can feel the lines that make up the sides of Harry's abdomen, can feel them shifting under his hands. "Was it even your turn to say something stupid?"
"Yes," Harry confirms, "and I'm not done, either."
Theo closes his eyes, aching. "What other stupid shit you got?"
"I think maybe I've been waiting my whole life just to touch you," Harry says, and it is stupid, and shitty, and Theo wants to die. To fucking freeze time and just die—here, now, in Harry's arms, burnt to ash by Harry's warmth, reduced to a puddle of nothing at Harry's feet.
"Touch me, then," Theo says, because he definitely has a death wish.
He wonders if he won't spontaneously collapse.
Theo's face is a fucking masterpiece, a collection of secrets. Along his cheekbone are three freckles, like Orion's belt, all in a line. Harry runs his fingers over them, careful, steady, and lets the pads of his fingers press against the shadows beneath Theo's eyes. There's a wild cacophony of color there, faint bits of purple and green, indicators of sleeplessness, swollen little bruises that mean something keeps Theo up at night, and Harry wants badly to know what it is. To know what he thinks about, to read him like a line in a book, like many lines, like the hidden messages between them. There's a faint scar on Theo's lip, evidence of stitches, and Harry's thumb brushes over it, presses down. At some point in Theo's life he bled there, sliced it open. Something hurt him and so Harry leans forward, kissing him with softness, with kindness, with reverential wonder. He kisses the scar on Theo's lip and pulls away when Theo tries to kiss back, leaving him to stagger forward and brace himself against Harry's hips.
Harry glances down, eyeing where Theo's hands have tightened on him, and nods his approval, turning his attention wordlessly to Theo's shirt. He slides a hand under the lapel, undoes one button at a time. One button, pauses, kisses Theo's chest, just where he can feel a pulse. Another button, another pause, a kiss to the center of Theo's sternum. A third button, brushes his tongue across what he knows, professionally speaking, is the xiphoid process, and slides his hands around Theo's ribs. He looks up, mouth still pressed to Theo's skin, and sees Theo's head falling back, his eyes closing. Another button. Another. He pulls the shirt out from Theo's trousers and lowers himself to his knees, kissing the flat of Theo's stomach. Theo is lean and muscular, slender but strong. Harry buries his thumbs in the lines of Theo's abs and smiles slightly as they flex under his touch, frozen along with Theo's breath.
Theo says nothing as Harry tugs at his belt, loosening it and letting it gape before sliding a thumb over the obvious outline of Theo's cock, which is hard and sort of laughably pressing into Harry's chin. He kisses it through the fabric, licks it, lets his mouth rub against it until Theo is panting, his fingers shifting to tighten in Harry's hair.
Harry looks up, half-smiling, and Theo reaches down, running his thumb over Harry's mouth. Harry bites down lightly, kisses him, pushes his hand away. Not now, he communicates silently, his hand on Theo's zipper. Not now. I'm busy.
Theo is of course wearing impossibly soft boxer-briefs, the fabric such a silken cotton it feels almost a crime to stretch out the elastic, drawing it halfway over Theo's backside. Theo widens his stance, still half-holding his breath, and Harry wants to take his time, but wonders if he'll be able to. Doubts it, actually.
The moment Harry closes his lips around Theo, he can feel the earth beneath him shift. He can feel the world in motion, and he discovers it is quiet now, so quiet he only just hears the sound that leaves Theo's lips—"Harry," Theo whispers, in a way Harry is sure means his own name, at least, will never die.
He welcomes it, whatever comes next. He shifts his hand and rests it on the small of Theo's back, pulling him closer.
When Theo comes, Harry's hand remains in place, holding him steady.
They're on the floor when Theo lifts Harry's shirt, slowly kissing the span of his torso. He's athletic, more so than Theo, and he's littered with old scars, like a museum of trauma. Theo firmly believes among his very few convictions that it is only possible to understand a work of art when it's been looked at, intensely, for thirty entire seconds, and so he takes his time, absorbing each little or not-so-little marking; as if he might have sat on some velvet bench in front of each one, having paid a gratuitous sum just for a ticket to view them.
Harry is art, and a specific kind of art. The kind for which imitation has no value. Some works are better in person, and this is something Theo has the privilege of knowing. Klimt is one of those. Harry is like a Klimt; like The Kiss, which is itself like witnessing splendor. Harry flashes gold in the light, and like the painting, touching him is somehow both religious and pornographic. Theo's touch, aptly, is reverential and primal all at once.
"You're a pretender, aren't you," Harry murmurs, his fingers toying with Theo's hair. "You're a mystery I'd like to solve."
"What am I pretending to be?" Theo asks neutrally, shifting to one side and sliding his hand under Harry's waistband. "Not straight, clearly," he says with a breathy laugh, curling his hand around Harry's cock and delighting in Harry's immediate stuttered inhale.
"Just—something," Harry says, exhaling, as Theo strokes him under his jeans. "I don't—I don't know. You just—" His hips shift under Theo's hand and he leans forward, pulling Theo's mouth to his. "You're not what they think you are," he exhales rapidly into Theo's mouth, and then kisses him until he gasps again, responding to Theo's touch.
"And what do you think I am?" Theo asks, not pulling away. He kisses Harry roughly, enjoying the way Harry's breath falls short. He increases the speed of his hand, too, part of him wanting to laugh at the way this is so juvenile, so hurry up before someone sees, but pushes Harry backwards when he tries to move. He's going to make Harry come like this, flat on his back and powerless, so that Theo can be sure he's capable of bringing Harry to literal, undeniable ecstasy with nothing but his touch.
Harry pants into his mouth, writhing underneath him. "I don't know," he says, digging his nails into the back of Theo's neck, "but I think—I think it, would take a—" He chokes slightly, mouth falling open. "Alifetimetofindout," he finishes rapidly, and then finishes, coming on Theo's hand as Theo leans forward, catching the words on his tongue.
Harry didn't ask what he was, but Theo tells him anyway.
"You're a new moon," Theo says. "You're day one, the first step. You're the toe in the water."
"Just a toe?" Harry asks, his breath slowing gradually as Theo slides his hand out from under his jeans.
"Take off your clothes," Theo advises, and then he adds, because it cannot be avoided, "and you're a fucking cannonball."
The sky starts to go a little pale sometime between moving to Theo's bedroom and hearing Draco enter the suite. Time, it seemed, had flown; it wouldn't have occurred to Harry that it was late (or early, as the case may be) if he hadn't seen the sky changing and proceeded to squint at the clock, trying to make out the shapes of the numbers.
"What time is it?" he asks, reaching for his glasses on Theo's nightstand, but Theo grabs his hand, rolling over him instead.
"Does it matter?" Theo asks, and in answer, Harry shrugs, permits Theo's kiss, and points to the window.
"Seems like maybe we've been up all night," Harry remarks, and Theo frowns.
"Huh," he says, glancing at the clock. "Yeah. I guess so."
"Weird," Harry says. "I've never actually done that before."
"Neither have I," Theo remarks, and falls onto his back. "Huh," he says again, "and I guess I have to drive four hours through the desert today, don't I?"
That information slams into Harry's chest like an anvil.
"Guess so," he says, and strongly wishes he had his glasses on. He wants to know for sure whether there is any hesitation on Theo's face at the thought, or whether that's only his imagination. He wants to count the three freckles by Theo's eye, which he can't see like this. He can see barely anything, though he can count all the places he and Theo are touching, and it isn't nearly enough.
Harry rolls over Theo this time, pulling the duvet with him.
"You should sleep," he says. "And hydrate."
"Or—and hear me out—I could just die in the desert," Theo suggests as an alternative, holding Harry closer, "which would save me the cost of pills."
Suddenly, despite the obvious (i.e., that Harry met Theo less than twenty-four hours ago, and knows nothing else about him other than the fact that he's a too-rich not-an-asshole with a death wish), Harry finds that he can no longer bear the joke.
"How about water instead," Harry advises.
"What if I promise to leave all my earthly possessions to you?" Theo asks, and Harry buries his face in Theo's chest, shaking his head.
"Go to sleep," he says in answer. "Please."
Beneath his lips, Harry can feel Theo's heart beating, steady and comforting and sure.
"Okay," Theo says, and adds, "but only because you said to, and not because I want to."
Harry closes his eyes gratefully as Theo taps an unidentifiable rhythm into his shoulder, beating out something of a melody until it slows, and then gradually stills.
"This hotel isn't so bad," Theo says, just as the sun rises fully in the sky. "Nice pillows."
Harry doesn't answer.
Harry falls asleep in Theo's arms.
There's a loud banging on the door that jolts Theo awake. He blinks, unable to place himself for a moment until Harry groggily raises his head, squinting questioningly at Theo.
"Theo, I've been calling you for almost an hour," Draco growls through the door. "Check-out is in less than fifteen minutes. We have to go."
"Oh, shit," Theo says, glancing at the clock, and Harry reaches over, clumsily placing his glasses on his face. "Yeah, I'll, um—just a minute," he shouts back to Draco. "I'll be right there."
"You'd better," Draco says grumpily, and then Theo catches the sound of him walking away.
"I have work in an hour," Harry sighs, shaking his head and pinching the bridge of his nose. "Though, in fairness, baking in the sun sounds like precisely what I deserve for my misdeeds."
Harry rises to his feet, looking around for his boxers, and Theo sits upright to watch him as he sorts through the pillows on the floor, pausing every now and then to press a steadying hand to his temple. "Jesus," Harry exhales, muttering to himself as he pauses, his entire body centered in the doorway, "I'm getting old."
But Harry isn't old, of course. Not in the slightest. Theo, watching him, feels positively ancient. He feels as if he dragged his own body up from a tomb and is waiting to climb back into it. He watches Harry move, catalogues the muscles of his arms and legs and all the places Theo has kissed all night (all morning). He thinks about the drive back home, the inevitable stop for hangover gyros, the likelihood that Draco will fall asleep having put on some shimmering alternative band with a monosyllabic name, and finds all of it suddenly so oppressively mundane it would be as good as dying, or would at least be like a burial of some kind. The burying of something in himself he's only just awoken.
"Harry," Theo says, and Harry looks over his shoulder, waiting.
Theo holds up a finger for pause and then leans over, picking up the phone.
"Hi. Yeah, I need a late checkout." He listens as the front desk tells him about the extra charge. "Yeah, that's fine, it's just—I'm going to be late." He glances at Harry, whose mouth twitches up with surprise. "Fuck it," Theo says, covering the phone's mouthpiece and shrugging, "I'm going to be late."
Harry, who has only just found his boxers, crawls across the bed and kisses him, and around the effort of kissing back Theo mumbles his assent into the phone.
"Yes. Yeah. Okay." He struggles to replace the phone in the receiver, letting Harry shove him back on the bed just before he turns his cell phone on. "Hope you can spare an hour," Theo says, and Harry holds on tighter for a moment; holds on, and doesn't let go.
"Yeah," Harry says, and it's more than enough.
Theo knows he will never be this young, or this in love, or this terribly, unbearably wanting again, and he knows he can't fucking waste it. Because this fucking second, this very moment is fleeting.
It's rare, and it won't come around again.
"NOTT," Draco bellows. "Did you just text me that we're staying another hour?"
"You must have a death wish," Harry remarks, glancing over his shoulder at the door, but Theo merely kisses him again.
"Yeah," Theo says, ignoring Draco's voice and pulling Harry close. "Yeah. I definitely do."
a/n: Full disclosure, I wrote the first part of this one shot while I was still a little drunk from a poolside piña colada. Anyway, future things: How to Win Friends and Influence People is ending with a final chapter + epilogue this week, which means a new Dramione WIP is starting! The expansion of Paradox (chapter 66, though no need to re-read, as the WIP will include material from the oneshot) will begin next week. In this fic, I have three new stories coming shortly-ish: a supernatural Tomione, a space Dramione, and a Highlander Jily, most likely in that order. Thank you for reading!