Chapter Track: If You Fall – Azure Ray

Though Gary feels as though he is about to collapse, he still doesn't dare leave his laptop. He still has one more paper to finish writing after he edits this one. Then he'll be done. Sort of. Then he'll have finals, and then he'll be done. Temporarily. But still, the idea of a nap after he finishes writing these essays is the single greatest idea he has heard in his entire twenty years of life.

Maybe he should give in.

Maybe he should have one cup of tea.

One wouldn't hurt.

He's already gone against his religion in ten different ways at this point. He may as well top it off with some caffeine and be done with it. But then, he might feel guilty after he does it. And then Gregory will laugh at him and tell him to chin up, proceeding to make him feel guilty for feeling guilty.

His religion isn't a part of his life anymore. He keeps trying to tell himself that. It doesn't work, really, because he ends up remembering that being Mormon was his entire world up until The Incident.

Oh, good gracious. He's tired enough now that he's thinking of The Incident. Typically Gary is in a state of mind in which he can happily push The Incident to the back of his mind and keep it there. He tends to be quite talented at compartmentalizing, but at the end of the semester, all his neatly filed thoughts and worries veritably fly out of their respective cabinets and turn his brain into a scattered mess of stress. Gregory always tells him not to worry, and though Gary never actually expresses his worry, Gregory seems to be able to read him like a book.

The difference between Gary and Gregory is that Gregory grew up with his parents almost always absent, flying to one exotic locale or another – mostly for business, but occasionally for pleasure. Gregory grew up alone. Sure, he had nannies, but they'd left him to his own devices since he'd been such a quiet, well-behaved little boy (he was less well-behaved now). His childhood had no family in it.

Gary, on the other hand, grew up with four siblings and his parents. They'd all be incredibly closely knit and (for the most part) open with each other, filling each other in on their individual lives and enjoying each other's company during Family Home Evenings, or just at regular dinners. There'd been no people that he loved more than his family. Having the support of his family taken away from him all in one evening almost destroyed him.

Gary didn't let anybody know that, of course. He hadn't bothered crying about it, despite how much he wanted to, because crying would be futile. There's nothing he can do to get them back now.

With that thought, Gary lets out a long sigh and tears his gaze from the perfectly formatted essay on the screen before him. Abstaining from drinking tea isn't going to bring his family back to him. They don't even know that he's continued to follow the rest of the tenets of his sort-of-former-religion. Do they even care? Oh, that's a nasty thought. A nasty, nasty thought. Of course they have to still care about him, right? You don't simply stop caring about somebody after eighteen years of his life simply because you caught him about to have sex with his boyfriend.

Right?

8:43

Gary has at least forty-five minutes or so until Gregory comes home from work.

A single cup of tea wouldn't hurt. Perhaps it would even help wake Gary up a bit so he can finish these papers without feeling like he's three steps from death in the morning.

Gary turns his head and surveys the apartment, almost as if somebody is watching him break his own rules. Not unexpectedly, the apartment is empty and tidy. There's nothing here with Gary except for the white noise of the refrigerator humming and the sounds of his neighbors.

Like a child sneaking out of bed, Gary pulls away from the desk and pads into the kitchen. He opens Gregory's tea cabinet – and yes, Gregory does dedicate an entire cabinet to tea – and scrutinizes the contents, wondering where to begin. Gary suspects that making tea would be easier if Gregory simply bought the boxed kind from the grocery store, but Gregory is particular about his teas, and therefore purchases it loose leaf from high-end or independent tea shops. This leaves Gary to sift through shelves of canisters of tea and extra steps to the process that he isn't entirely sure of.

He'll start with something easy. Boiling water. That's simple. Gary uses the electric boiler to heat water for his hot chocolate.

Gary has trouble settling on a tea. Many of them smell fishy to him, and one even smelled like his mother's perfume. He doesn't understand why you'd want to drink anything that smelled like perfume.

His first attempt at making the tea is a failure. He puts the leaves in a mug and pours hot water over them, which makes tea, yes, but the leaves are floating around in it and that's not how it's supposed to look. It's only then that he realizes that Gregory uses a little metal strainer over his mugs. Gary feels stupid for not realizing this sooner, but he figures he should get cut a break because he hasn't made tea even once in his life before this.

He's successful the second time, but leaves the tea leaves in the water for too long and over steeps the brew. The sip he takes of it is bitter and awful-tasting. He spits it in the sink.

It's the third time that's the charm – naturally. Gary sits down with a steaming, leafless, appropriate-tasting mug of tea at his laptop. It tastes strange to him, not like anything he's ever had before. It's still a little bitter to the tongue and so he adds a bit of honey. He likes it better that way, though he knows that Gregory takes his tea black and now doesn't understand why on earth he would drink something like that.

Gregory comes home when Gary is midway through his fourth cup of tea. He doesn't comment, merely raises an eyebrow moves to add more water to the electric boiler before retiring to his bedroom to change out of his classy-looking waiter's getup, composed of a red button-down and black bowtie.

When he returns, suited in flannel pajamas and a robe, he asks, "Finally rebelling, I see?"

Gary finds himself sputtering and shaking a little as he replies, "Why didn't I ever try this stuff before? It's great! I'm almost finished with my second paper and I don't feel tired at all! How are you feeling? How was work?"

Gregory comes to stand behind his boyfriend, sipping absently at his own mug and says, "How much have you drunk?"

"This is my fourth cup," Gary responds cheerily.

"You're shaking all over," murmurs Gregory. He runs his fingers through Gary's lighter blond hair, pushing strands back from his forehead, and inquires, "Are you having some sort of breakdown?"

"No, no. I'm fine. I've never been better," Gary waves him off, giving Gregory a fragile grin before turning to his laptop to continue furiously typing his essay.

Gregory exhales quietly through his nostrils and sets his still-full mug of tea on the desk, beside Gary's hand. He pulls Gary out of the computer chair and onto his feet so that they face each other. At first, Gary thinks that it's so that they can kiss properly, but Gregory doesn't swoop in as is his regular preference. He tends to be quick and dirty when it comes to any sort of physical affection, from kisses to all-out sex. But no – that's not what Gregory is up to now. He places his fingertips on Gary's chin and makes Gary turn his head from side to side, staring him directly in the eyes.

"You've had too much caffeine," Gregory sighs, "Really, Gary, I don't think that this is the way that you should be handling stress."

Gregory is fond of giving his opinion when it's not wanted.

Gary is not.

Now, Gary feels a rare burst of anger. He is almost never angry – any time that he's ever gotten upset, he tends to be sad, but never, ever angry. Gary would wonder why he's angry now, but he doesn't bother pausing before he speaks, "Oh, shut up! I'll handle stress however the heck I want to. You don't know anything about feeling like this. You don't have a real family."

Gregory takes a step back from Gary and frowns deeply. He says, "Darling –"

"Don't 'darling' me, you jerk! I was – I've been – I can't –" Gary starts to blubber. He's losing it. No, he's lost it. He's trembling from too much caffeine and not enough sleep and now he's crying, too. Gary is not a graceful crier. Weeping happens for Gary once in a blue moon, and it seems that when it does occur, he lets out every tear-inducing feeling he's had since the last time he's cried, going red-faced and puffy-eyed and snotty-nosed. It's not like how Gregory cries. When Gregory cries, he cries like an actor. A few tears will slip silently down his cheeks and he'll lock himself in their bedroom until he's calmed down.

Gary can't stay mad. He doesn't even know why Gregory made him angry. He doesn't know why he's feeling all of the things that he is right now. He wails, "I'm sorry," and waits for it to be okay to touch Gregory.

Gregory doesn't like heavily emotional moments. He doesn't know how to handle them. Neither does Gary, really, because Gary is mostly so happy that he doesn't know how to handle when he's upset. They're a bit of a mismatched pair sometimes, and this instance is one of those – neither of them knows how to take care of this, and both of them are wracking their brains for an appropriate thing to say or solution to suggest.

Gary blows his nose loudly into a tissue and tosses it into the mesh trashcan beside the desk.

For a few seconds they just stand there. Gary thinks he's done crying, and instead of it making him feel better as it's said to do, he feels worse. He feels like curling up into a ball on their bed, smothering his face in the pillow and not waking up until the semester has ended and he can resume his life in peace.

"Let's clean you up, shall we?" Gregory suggests. He doesn't reach out and take Gary into his arms as a regular boyfriend might. Instead, he pats Gary's should awkwardly and runs a hand though Gary's hair again, trying to be soothing but not quite accomplishing it.

They move to the bathroom, where Gary sits on the rim of the bath tub dejectedly, feeling silly for getting so emotional, but not feeling any less emotional than he was when he started to cry. Gregory takes one of the baby washcloths that he uses to wash his face, wets it, and cleans up the tear tracks still present on Gary's slightly-less-red-than-it-was face.

"I know you miss them," Gregory says slowly, as he mops up Gary's face. Gary nods dumbly, which Gregory takes as a signal to keep talking, "I am certain that they miss you too. My best guess is that they're confused because this goes against everything that they've been taught to believe, but they don't love you any less."

Gregory isn't telling Gary anything that he didn't already know. Logically, he knows these things. Still, it comforts him to hear the words spoken out loud, even if he does feel a bit like he's been treated like a baby.

"And, ah, I love you. I figure that my love counts as well, yes?" Gregory says, his tone of voice suggesting that he isn't entirely certain that Gary loves him too, even though they both know that Gary loves him more than just about anything else on the planet.

"I'm sorry," Gary finally says.

"Don't be ridiculous. I've been waiting for a breakdown, actually," Gregory gives a little half-smirk and pulls Gary back to his feet, tossing the washcloth aside. He takes Gary's face in both hands and kisses each of Gary's cheeks, which are still warm from crying. He moves down and captures Gary's lips in his, nipping down gently on Gary's lower lip. He tastes good, familiar. Like tea.

Gary wraps his arms around Gregory all pulls him in tighter, deepening the kiss. He gives it everything he has tonight – lately their kissing and foreplay has all been lazy and soft, but that isn't what Gary needs right now. He needs to be closer to Gregory. He feels like he can't possibly be close enough.

Gregory senses it. It's in the air, like radio static. They need each other, and they need each other now. Gregory heaves Gary up, and Gary wraps his legs around Gregory's waist, kissing him harder. Gregory pulls away to kiss down Gary's neck. He isn't gentle like he's been recently. He bites. Gary moans into Gregory's neck, quietly. He doesn't like being loud, but then, neither does Gregory.

Gary rubs up against him. Gregory's hard already.

"Somebody's feeling naughty."

"Go to hell," murmurs Gary. He's been experimenting with swearing a little lately. He never bothered much before, but sometimes when he's with Gregory like this, he finds curse words incredibly useful.

A salacious grin spreads across Gregory's face. He applies two more heavy kisses to Gary's mouth and another to his throat before he sets Gary back onto the ground and urges his t-shirt up and over his head.

This isn't going to be a very romantic entanglement. Or maybe it is. Sometimes, Gary thinks when Gregory's been roughest with him, he's sweetest afterward. Sometimes their crudest sexual encounters have been the most tender, too.

Gregory turns Gary away from him so that they both face the bathroom mirror. Gary finds himself resenting that he still looks teary and stressed, and Gregory looks like his same collected, classically handsome self. They're both handsome, and almost in the same manner, it's just that Gregory looks smoother, coyer. This is partially due to that Gary has been awake since three in the morning trying in desperation to finish his papers and finish them well, or so he hopes.

Gregory kisses down Gary's back, sending shudders through his body, before dispensing of Gary's sweatpants – sort of. He more pulls them down to his ankles and presses Gary forward, contorting him into an appropriate position.

Instead of doing anything that Gary might expect, Gregory, being the man surprise he enjoys being during sex, sends his hand down across Gary's ass. Gary gives a strangled yelp and looks back over his shoulder at his lover. Gregory merely cocks a brow, nips at Gary's shoulder, and murmurs, "You know you like it." It's true, terrible true. Gregory has changed every conception of sex that Gary previously had – mainly because he was raised to believe that sex was done with a woman in standard missionary position.

Gregory pauses for a moment, but grins when he notices Gary watching him, searching for the nearest thing that can be used as lubricant, and settles on the bottle of lotion that Gary keeps for the patch of dry skin he gets on his lower back.

"Ungh," is the noise that bubbles up from Gary's throat when Gregory slips a finger in.

"Are you alright?" Gregory mumbles. Typically, he doesn't ask things like 'is Gary okay?' but due to the emotional upheaval of only a few minutes ago, it's judged to be a fair question.

"Your fingers are cold," Gary replies. They always are. Gregory has the coldest hands known to man.

Gregory gives a careless mmm and catches Gary's earlobe between his teeth, kissing and licking as he begins to massage. His finger is unexpectedly gentle, being that Gary was under the impression that they'd be roughing it tonight. He rubs himself back into Gregory's hand, trying to communicate his want without speaking. Verbally telling Gregory exactly where to touch and how hard has always been a bit of a struggle – he's working on it, though, on account of Gregory's constant complaining that he's never quite sure what Gary likes, since he's quiet when he's being fucked ("Either make noise or tell me how you like it, darling. This isn't complicated."). Gregory doesn't make noise during sex, either, though. He does, however, make faces.

This round, Gregory does pick up on Gary's wordless meaning. He grips Gary by the shoulder and wriggles his finger deeper. It feels good, so fucking good that Gary can hardly handle himself.

Watching it happen in the mirror is possibly the most erotic part of it all. Gary watches as Gregory licks his lips, running the tip of his tongue over the pink skin to wet them. His brows are knit in concentration as he pushes a second finger inside Gary. Gary's eyes shutter closed and he realizes how much he needs this. Gregory grounds him. When Gregory is inside of him, he remembers he's loved. He remembers his place in the world. He feels less agitated about his family's lack of support, because he knows that there is somebody that loves him unconditionally. Even if Gregory can be self-righteous and kind of a dick sometimes, he's also whip-smart and adores Gary.

Gregory pulls his fingers out of Gary, leaving the room feeling cold. He undoes the belt on his robe and pulls down his flannel pajama pants in the same way he did Gary's sweats – they're still tangled around his ankles, but it doesn't matter. They don't have time to strip each other of their clothes sweetly.

"I need you," Gary whispers hoarsely. Those words are some of the truest that he's spoken.

"I know," Gregory says. He runs his dry hand through Gary's hair, before reaching for the lotion a second time. Gary watches the reflection of Gregory rubbing it over himself – giving his cock a few indulgent pumps that he perhaps didn't need to, before positioning himself behind Gary.

He thrusts up.

The look on Gregory's face is perfection: his arched brows are buckled together in pleasure, his mouth, half-open, lets out a satisfied sigh. Gary imagines that Gregory spent his entire workday fantasizing about this.

Gregory tells him about his fantasies, sometimes. They're always relayed in explicit detail, using crude words to describe what he wants to do.

Gregory shifts slightly. He covers Gary's smaller, longer-fingered hands with his own and thrusts again. Gary has never felt more hypnotized as he does when he watches as Gregory works a rhythm inside him, all in the mirror. Gary's having trouble keeping as entirely un-noisy as he tends to be. Involuntary whines are leaking from his throat. He pushes his body back to meet each of Gregory's surges inside.

His knees are hitting the cabinets.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

All quick sounds in rapid succession. He'll have the bruises from it for at least a couple of weeks.

Gregory kisses the back of his neck, running his tongue along the outline of a vein. He moves one of his large hands off of Gary's and down to where Gary's erection is curved up with all-out explosive need. He wraps his fingers, which are still wet from the lotion, over it. His touch is rough, almost tugging, but Gary loves it.

He's lost his mind. He can think, he can only breathe, and even that is labored and frustrated. He clenches his hands into fists and watches them move together in the mirror, their faces pained, their movement frenzied. Their eyes meet in the mirror, and Gregory's hand tightens over Gary's.

Gary comes in spurts over the bathroom counter, followed a few minutes and harried thrusts behind by Gregory, who pulls out in time to unload over the back of Gary's thigh.

Gregory's head flops onto Gary's shoulder, where he pecks a short kiss. They remain tangled like that long enough to catch their breath, and decide that they're sweaty and gross enough to shower. They do so individually – Gregory has an intricate washing regimen that Gary wants to part of (his is a simply scrub and rinse off), so he bathes first.

He redresses in a new set of pajamas in their bedroom and returns to his laptop to finish his paper. He can still feel the buzz of caffeine in his body, but it's now mixed with the lazy afterglow of thorough sex. He's not as panicked as he was an hour ago, but he can feel the stress knot in his neck the moment he lays eyes on the glowing screen of his computer.

Beside the mouse, his phone is flashing. He opens it to find that he's missed two calls – both from his sister Jenny. On the second try, she left a voicemail. He hasn't heard from his family in nearly two years now. To say that he's surprised would be an understatement, and he's worried that Jenny is giving him some sort of courtesy call to let him know that something terrible has happened, like a death in the family.

Gary punches in his voicemail password and listens.

"Hi Gary. Um, I wanted to let you know that I uh, miss you. I miss you a lot. I…I love you. I'm not ready to leave the church, you know? But I really, really miss you. I was wondering – I mean, I was hoping, actually – well, darn it. I'm rambling. Do you want to grab some hot cocoa with me? Your, erm, boyfriend can come too. Please call me back."

It figures that the second Gary breaks down, everything falls back into place again. He calls Jenny back and gets her voicemail, so he leaves a short message that he'd love to see her again, that he misses her too, and it's okay – he's not going to bring Gregory this time. He thinks that he and his sister have enough catching up to do on their own.

"Why don't you come sleep for awhile?" suggests Gregory, emerging from the bathroom and wearing nothing but a light blue bath towel slung low around his waist. It makes Gary smirk a little, thinking of what they just did, and reminds him that he kind of already wants to do it again.

Gary hesitates, sparing a glance at his laptop.

Gregory motions toward the bedroom and urges, "Just for a few hours. Those aren't due until the end of tomorrow."

"But –"

"Don't even. You're exhausted. If you weren't before, then I know I helped," Gregory gives a teasing smile.

In the end, Gary gives up and follows Gregory to their room. They slip under the covers and Gary rolls over to his usual side.

"Come over here," Gregory murmurs, placing his hand on Gary's shoulder.

Gary scoots over a little, but he's not certain what Gregory wants. Gregory doesn't like cuddling too much. He complains that it makes him too hot to sleep. But now, Gregory fills the short gap between them, nuzzling his nose in Gary's damp hair and kissing the back of his scalp.

"I love you," Gary whispers. Because if he didn't love Gregory, why in the hell would he have risked getting caught having sex with him? Although perhaps hormones got the better of him regarding The Incident.

"Love you too."

The era of The Incident's aftermath seems to be now. If Jenny's willing to accept that her younger brother is as gay as an Easter basket, then the rest of his siblings will follow, and maybe even his parents after that.

Besides, he's got a perfect, clean-cut English boyfriend to properly introduce to them – this time in all of his clothes.

Yeah, he'll be alright.

But fuck finals, and fuck the end of the semester.

Seriously.