In the lobby of Fusco’s apartment building, where Reese stands, calling the elevator, and Fusco stands, arms locked senselessly around Reese’s neck and head resting against his chest, Fusco asks, “How long have you known where I live?”
Reese runs his fingernails up and down Fusco’s back, a long and familiar scratch. “Since the day after I met you,” he says. The elevator doors open with a groan and he steps inside, drawing Fusco along with him. “I know almost everything about you,” he says, hitting the button for the fifth floor as the doors close.
“Yeah.” Reese allows himself to press one palm against the back of Fusco’s head, experimentally. Fusco does not protest. “Do you want me to tell you what I’ve learned?”
Reese doesn’t tell him. He just leans against the back wall while Fusco leans on him, listening to the rattle of decades-old elevator mechanisms and reading the dirty graffiti etched into the walls by knifepoint. He combs his fingers through Fusco’s hair.
When the doors open again, they step into a dark hallway, cracking beige walls and cheap maroon carpet going threadbare. The fluorescent light flickers and ripples, casting strange shadows.
“Maybe I should have brought you back to mine,” Reese says, pulling Fusco up as he begins to sink to the floor.
Fusco shakes his head. “It’s funny to think about.”
“You, having a place.” He looks up, eyes crinkling at the corners. “I don’t know, I guess I sometimes think you don’t sleep? Or you live in a cave somewhere.”
Reese is smiling in spite of himself. “I think you need to lie down. Which one is you?”
Fusco squints. “Don’t you know?”
“Not from this side,” Reese admits. “Just the windows.”
The softness in Fusco’s face abruptly vanishes and it occurs to Reese that he shouldn’t have said that. All the same, as Reese pulls Fusco down the hall, Fusco eventually stops him and indicates his apartment. Reese still has the keys and he opens the door, pulls Fusco inside.
Reese has never been in here before, but he feels like he already knows it inside out. He’s all-too familiar with the close, dusty, unpretentious landscape of Lionel’s mind, and his apartment isn’t much different. Reese is sure that things in this place had color to them once, but time has faded them to low tones of brown and orange.
He puts this cluttered, lived-in, dirty place alongside his own expansive, cold apartment in his mind, and thinks he prefers this. Or maybe what he’d prefer is his own apartment, with Lionel living in it. The warmth of another presence, someone grounded and real and ordinary: that’s what he needs. Reese looks down at Lionel in his arms, wary and frightened and just so tired, and knows he can’t take Lionel home with him because once he had him, Reese could never let him go.
He hauls Fusco through the open bedroom door, finds the same cheerful disarray, drawers hanging open, dresser-top a clutter of receipts and ties and deodorant and socks. He takes him to the unmade bed, pulls the comforter and sheet back, lowers him down to sit on the edge of the bed.
I should go, Reese thinks, standing over him, unmoving. I should leave right now. He needs to sleep it off. I should go.
Then he thinks, Might as well take his shoes off. Make sure he gets to bed alright.
It’s a slippery slope. Once the shoes come off, it occurs to Reese that the tie could pose a hazard, particularly to a drugged sleeper, and once the tie comes off, of course the jacket has to go too, and the belt, because that can’t be comfortable to sleep in, and soon he’s got Fusco down to his socks and underwear and Reese hates himself.
Fusco is still conscious, still staring at him, mouth half-open as though he’s trying to speak, but no words escape beyond the growled “Hey!” when Reese took his pants off. He looks angry. Reese grabs him by the shoulders and eases him onto his back, picks his legs up into bed, sets his head on the pillow.
Safe and sound. He’ll be fine.
Reese starts to take off his jacket. No. He casts it aside, sits on the edge of the bed beside Fusco, unlaces his shoes. No. Whatever you’re thinking of doing, no. Reese leaves it that that. He lies down beside Fusco, draws the blankets and sheets up to cover them both. Once they’re both tucked away, he reaches out, underneath the blanket, and pulls Fusco close to him.
“You’re not gonna…?” Fusco begins, but he can’t get out the end of the sentence. It seems that’s one cruelty he can’t apply to himself.
“No,” Reese says, sparing him.
“Okay,” he says, relieved. Then, harsher, “I hope you don’t expect me to thank you.”
“Good.” Fusco settles, his head gravitates to the curve of Reese’s throat. Reese, chin resting on Fusco’s head, bites back a sigh of contentment. “What are you going to do?”
“I still don’t know,” Reese says. “When I first thought of doing this, I thought I was going to drug you because it would be easier to hurt you. That you’d do what I say. But it’s not true. I don’t need that, because you’re already so easy to hurt and you already do exactly what I ask of you, every time.”
“I don’t,” Fusco mutters.
Reese catches Fusco’s hand beneath the blanket, holds it. “You do,” he insists, brushing his thumb across the knuckles. “You’re so good, Lionel.”
Fusco scowls, but he can’t stop the gentle pink flush of pleasure that travels across his skin at those words, and Reese has to stop himself from pinning Fusco down and kissing him over every inch of skin that dares to blush. Instead, he decides to talk at him, see if he can make it worse.
“You are,” he says. “You’re so good and you don’t even know it.”
He squirms in Reese’s arms, presses his face to Reese’s throat and Reese can feel the smile there.
“It’s not punishment, what I’m doing to you now, okay? I’m not going to hurt you. That’s a promise. I’m going to make a lot of promises to you right now. Alright?”
Fusco’s hands are curling in the back of his shirt, holding on. “Alright,” Fusco repeats sleepily into the hollow of Reese’s throat. The buzz of his voice there makes Reese hold back a moan.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he says, holding Fusco so he’s pressed tight against his chest, so there is no space between them. “You’re my responsibility, and I’m going to protect you. If any of them lays a finger on you or someone you love, I will make them disappear from the face of the earth. I am always going to be by you and if I didn’t have responsibilities to others, we would never be apart. Because you’re mine.” He starts to rub at Fusco’s back. “Did you know you were mine?”
“Yes,” Fusco whispers. “I knew.”
Reese groans, a shiver runs through him. “It’s good that I never took you home with me,” he says.
Fusco slides a leg over Reese’s, hooks them together so the two of them are entangled. “Wish you had,” he says. “I’d like to see.”
“No, you don’t.” Reese strokes his hair fondly. “You’d give up so much, coming home with me. Your home, your friends, your family. Your whole life.”
“Okay,” he whispers, not understanding, so tired.
“I don’t think I’d bring you home even if you asked me. You should have that. The normal life. Safe. It suits you.”
Fusco sighs, unsteady breath. “Then why’d you tell me all that?” he asks miserably.
“Because you’ll forget,” Reese tells him. “Because you’ll go to sleep and you’ll forget it all.”
“Won’t,” Fusco scoffs. “I couldn’t; not after that.”
“You will.” Reese pats his back. “Sorry, but you will. Or if you remember it, it’ll be incomplete and faint, like a dream. I’m sorry, but I had to tell you. I had to let you know, just for a minute.”
Fusco looks up at him, hurt and confused and just the littlest bit hopeful. “Kiss me?” he asks, so softly Reese almost doesn’t hear it.
He wants to, more than he even thought he would. He wants to kiss Fusco long and slow, light and sweet, hard and sharp, over and over again in any way he can because this man is his, body and soul, and he needs Fusco to know it. “No,” he says. “Not while you’re drugged.”
“I won’t mind,” Fusco insists. “I’ll forget all about it.”
Reese smiles at him, so fond it’s like a weight on him. He reaches up, strokes Fusco’s face very lightly, brushes his eyelids closed, presses a kiss to each. “Get some sleep, Lionel,” he says.
Fusco’s eyes snap open and he punches Reese in the stomach. He’s slowed and weakened by the drug but it’s still a good punch, pushes the air out of Reese in a swift, wheezing rush. Reese decides not to retaliate. Fair enough, he thinks, as he holds tighter, doubles up around Fusco with a groan.
He doesn’t go peacefully, but eventually Fusco’s eyes drift shut again, his breathing slows, and he collapses against Reese’s shoulder, sound asleep. Reese’s impulse is to indulge himself now, touch Fusco all over, tell him the things he was too ashamed to say when Fusco was conscious, but Reese knows that if he doesn’t go now, he never will.
He gets up slow, careful not to wake him, pulls the blankets back over him. Reese puts on his shoes and jacket in the dark, slips out quietly, pushes in the doorknob lock before leaving, so the front door closes with a satisfying, permanent click when he shuts it behind him. Reese could break back in if he had to, but he won’t.
The next morning, Reese needs access to some redacted files, and it’s Fusco’s day off so he bothers Carter about it, but the idea of checking in on Fusco is in his head now, so he does. It’s a day off and Fusco’s wearing sunglasses and drinking coffee when he should be drinking water.
“It’s my day off,” Fusco says to Reese, who is leaning on his car. “This better be good.”
“I know, Lionel,” he says. “Just checking in.”
Fusco shrugs, holds out his arms. “This enough of a check for you? I gotta go pick up my kid; I don’t want to mess around right now.”
“Of course,” Reese says, moving away from the car.
Fusco’s halfway in the driver’s seat when he freezes. “Hey!” he calls out to Reese’s retreating back, “I got a weird question for you. Did you drive me home last night?”
Reese half turns, heartbeat quickening.
“’Cause I don’t remember how I got back here,” he says. His gaze is confused, searching, faintly hopeful although even Fusco doesn’t seem to know what he’s hoping for. “And. I don’t know. I thought I saw you.”
With a shrug, he says, “I’m surprised you remember. You seemed pretty far gone. Yes, I took you home. Dropped you at the door.” This, he hopes, is a lie he can get away with. “You shouldn’t drink so much.”
“Save it,” Fusco says. Then, gentler, “Thanks.”
“Any time, Lionel,” Reese says as Fusco gets into his car and slams the door shut. “Any time.”