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What Comes Before
[[ continued from This is Me ]]

Raffe still wasn't comfortable talking about his gift.  Nox wanted to help. He felt lost and confused with his feelings about it. He didn't want Raffe to die.  He didn't want Raffe to do anything that he didn't want to either.  And once they were outside Nox took Raffe's hand and gave him a happy smile. Raffe always seemed to bring that smile out. "If you don't feel it then you don't have to come back. I just don't..."  Nox didn't finish the words, Raffe knew what would happen. "Maybe you can figure it out like the rest of us did.  Problem though with that is you end up doing something that makes you have to do that. I knew one guy who had to be afraid to use the power.  My sister and I had to hold hands before we could even touch the power inside."  Nox shrugged. "I'll try to drop it, let you figure out what you want, but I care and it's hard, and I can't fix it. I want to fix it."

Nox hadn't forgotten the actual question he'd asked him,but it was hardly as important.  But he wasn't ignoring Raffe either. Nox hated feeling like he was bad at something.  "The arm is lighter."  Nox shrugged the new limb. "But I think I won't get eaten alive because I can't move with it now. I'll keep practicing though." Nox chuckled. "Though I hate taking this piece of equipment into a fight. I mean, what if I break it." Which was a real fear. Nox hadn't broken the landwarriors Sage had given him, or the ones Aria had either.  He could take care of things, but this was an arm, what if he got bit again or there was no other choice... So many things...
“It seemed okay. Li seemed okay. It’d be stupid not to give it a go.” The tension was sitting in his chest again, mostly because he could feel Nox’s frustration as though it radiated off in physical waves. Raffe was helpless to ease it, even knowing exactly what it was he needed to do. The dilemma chased an endless circle. It made him feel useless.

Nox had told him how to seize the power -- they’d pracised for an eternity in his old room at Christian and Ana’s place. But Raffe had never attempted on his own. It was another option, he supposed, if he could bring himself to try it. He only had to touch it once with purpose. Just once. It was the assurance he calmed himself with, even if it wasn’t true.

He was a little quiet, mostly because he didn’t know what to say to soothe Nox’s fears. The terminology of fixing bugged him, though he knew it shouldn’t. Broken things needed fixing. Broken things like little kids whose father never cared enough to claim them. The feeling tightened like sickness in the pit of his stomach, and he felt his thoughts dipping down an avenue he didn’t want to follow.

Maybe he was broken.

His grip on Nox’s hand squeezed like maybe he needed the anchor just then, glad to feel the warmth. He pushed the thoughts away.

“You don’t think they’d just give you a new one? It’s gotta be pretty durable though, right? It’s not like they don’t know how you lost the original.” He grinned, even though he knew the whole horrific story. It was probably the most cutting edge tech the Custody had to offer. He wasn’t surprised it’d take some getting used to though. “You were pretty amazing to watch you know. Almost as good as your Kallisti show.”
Nox gave Raffe a small smile. He was glad he would try. But there was tension afterward and Raffe squeezed his hand and Nox squeezed back. He'd be whatever Raffe needed him to be. He knew he couldn't fix anything. Nox felt almost sad, but Raffe was there with him, that made him happy. Their change of topic was welcomed.

"I don't know. I was surprised I got this one. I didn't expect this one."

Nox blushed at Raffe's compliment. He rolled his eyes at himself mostly but at the next alley Nox pulled Raffe into the shadows and leaned against the wall grabbing Raffe's shirt and pulling him against me. "Why is I'm always blushing when you say things like that. I'm not shy." Nox chuckled. "You could tell me you get off by swinging on the chandlier's wearing a fuzzy bunny suit and I'd give it at least one try. But everytime you watch me I want to blush. I'm not opposed to the feeling." Nox leaned his head back against the wall and smiled at Raffe. "Maybe ... "

Nox leaned across and kissed him. "I'll find a place I can do that and wear less clothes. I think that could put it over the Kallisti show." Nox pressed another kiss this time to Raffe's cheek. "I'd like to go home." Nox put his new hand on Raffe's hip and pulled him close and kissed Raffe's neck. He whispered. "I love you." It was low and held all his desire, but Nox wanted Raffe to know for real in simple words how he felt.
The blush made him grin like an idiot. Raffe half stumbled when Nox pulled him into the alley, one hand braced against the wall as the tangle of Nox’s fist in his shirt pulled him in. With his balance restored, he rested his forearm against the bricks, just to stay close. As deep as melancholy ran in Raffe’s blood at times, he could be quick to catch himself back in the moment. The shift restored an equilibrium that was quick to forget about strange powers and worries for later. 

The look in his eyes was soft, though he laughed for the chandelier comment. His brows rose, impish. “I am not opposed to the blushing,” he murmured, grinning the grin that lit him up inside out. That small spark was like kindling in his chest, like it had been in the hospital; not just physical desire. Though there was certainly that too. His heart was beating hard. It was the first time he didn’t remind himself to be careful with his feelings. Not that he’d ever paused to take his own advice.

The tease flushed him through. Nox had had that gift from the beginning, and if there had been any witty retort in mind, well, words were gone now. His hand trailed up the back of Nox’s neck, charmed by the kisses and the smile. Home sounded like a beacon just about then, but Nox only drew him in closer. The pressure on his hip was gentle, though for a moment he was aware that it was not the flesh and blood hand. He tried not to think of that burst coffee cup, which honestly was not so difficult with Nox’s mouth pressed against his neck. It pulled a not quite voluntary sound from his throat.

Raffe had still been half asleep when Nox had impulsively said the words this morning. They were purposeful now, and it shivered Raffe through, not least because he understood what kind of step it was for a guy who didn’t even profess to do relationships. There was a reason he hadn’t said it back then, and not because he didn’t feel it. Those seeds had been growing a while, and he had been prepared to nurture them privately while Nox figured himself out. Saying it out loud made it very real though, and some part of him still rang with that warning. At some point he expected Nox was going to freak out.

But Raffe led by the heart. The connection ached in him now, and he grasped it with both hands. He touched Nox’s jaw, sought the darkness of those familiar eyes with his own. “I love you too.”
Nox hadn't expeted to hear the words. It made his heart swell. Raffe's hand at his jaw felt electric. He leaned in and kissed Raffe. It was words he'd heard before but it had been a long time and not spoken from someone other than family. Nox wanted to stay there and kiss Raffe -- do more, but in an alley was even more awkward than in Christian's bed at Dorian's.

"Let's go home." There was a twinkle in his eyes and mischief in his voice. Filled with desire and love and everything he wanted to do with Raffe. Nox took Raffe's hand with his good hand and left the alley. Walking was nice, but it would take much longer to get home than he wanted. Instead Nox headed for the nearest station. They might have to wait, but there was things they could do while they waited.

Decending the stairs heard the whoosh of the train leaving. "Looks like we missed it. Do you want to wait or walk?"
Some part of him had almost expected the freak out to happen there and then, and relief tumbled about in his chest for the reaction he got instead. He didn’t put words to the feeling, just treasured it, letting it eclipse the weight of worry that burdened his shoulders. It didn’t really matter if it was foolish. Nothing hid in the openness of Raffe’s expression. Home sounded like paradise right then.

He followed into the cool underground of the metro, eyes bouncing around their surroundings without really seeing. These places were always strangely grand; all flowing arches and floors polished like palaces. A complete antithesis to those abandoned places beneath the city, where darkness roamed more freely than the steady rush of passing trains.

“Hardly have long to wait,” he laughed, rubbing his throat. They were like clockwork after all. He grinned, impish, teasing the impatience.
Nox chuckled. "I'm not impatient."

The platform was quickly was emptying of persons leaving the train leaving them pretty much alone in the middle of the platform to wait. Nox smirked and turned his body to face Raffe bitting his bottom lip before he spoke. "But if you keep rubbing your neck like that I might be tempted to find a nice quiet shadow to kiss it." Nox shook his head. "You have no idea how long I've been holding back from doing just that."

Nox leaned on to his left foot shifting his weight so that he could use the robotic arm to put on Raffe's hip gently. He didn't even think about closing it or gripping Raffe, just resting -- he still wasn't 100% confident in his own abilities with the new hand. He'd have to handle a few more breakable things before he ever attempted to do more with Raffe. "So now that we have a few minutes to kill just standing around what do you want to do?" Nox gave him a slight wink and wry grin.
“Your words not mine,” he laughed. Crowds streamed through as those who had been on the departed train made their way to exits, little more than background noise and distraction. A faint tingle of heat warmed Raffe’s skin, and he was still grinning, an amused twinkle in his eyes. He tried not to dwell too much on that bitten lip. Instead he leaned a little into the touch, comfortable with their ease around each other. The hand felt odd, but he didn’t remark on it or flinch away. He chuckled. “Don’t think a few minutes is enough, Nox.”
Raffe enjoyed teasing him. Nox didn't mind and he growled when Raffe said there wasn't enough time. Nox pressed his forehead against Raffe's and sighed helplessly, "Okay, maybe I'm impatient." Nox chuckled. He lowered his voice, "Yes, I'm a little horn dog, but it's more than that." Nox pulled away with a bright smile. "I want to take this arm off and be comfortable." It's not that the arm hurt or anything, but he needed time to get used to it and he really wanted to be comfortable enough with Raffe and not fear hurting him.

There was still a lot of training he had to do. But before he knew it he would be leaving for the underground, and that was the scary part. What if he didn't come back? How long would it take to clear the tunnels. Did the Ascendancy even know how deep they were? Or did he just expect to collapse the whole thing, or block off every entrance? Nox would have preferred to do it alone. And definitely not with some guys he barely knew. Even if one of those guys was the Ascendancy.

Nox wanted to forget about all that and just be with Raffe, but he was afraid that was going to end all too soon. Mutual feelings aside, Nox knew he was bound to screw something up. He always did.

Nox gave Raffe a slight smile when the train pulled up. "About time." Nox grabbed Raffe's hand and tugged him on to the train and into a seat.

The train jolted forward and they had a bit before their stop with many in between. "I was serious before, when I said I wanted to find a real place. And that I wanted you to come with me. Not to live together like we have more than we do. But as friends, roommates. Our own separate spaces, but someplace you can have a garden or at least a large window box or three. A place we can eat, sleep and not have to worry about ..." The things Nox had to worry about as more than just the girls walking in on them, or getting called down because of a fight when he was sleeping. Not that it had happened often. The most things Nox had to worry about was the Atharim coming to get him. And that put Raffe in danger, but Nox couldn't keep Raffe safe from them either if they learned about him. And they would -- they always did. Maybe he just needed to go and leave Kallisti to be safe. My life fucking sucks sometimes.
“Took forever,” he agreed with a grin as Nox pulled him onto the train. “In fact I think you might even have a few grey hairs, there.” He grinned and ruffled his hand over Nox’s head before flopping down in a seat. Mirth lit his gaze, the push and pull tease, but also a wash of affection. The train lurched, and he let himself relax, watching Nox’s profile as the words spilled. Raffe nudged him a little with his arm, and leaned close. His voice was always soft on account of the scar, though it wasn’t why he closed the distance.

“You ramble when you’re worried. Or nervous. But I think you know that.” Most people didn’t call Raffe dependable. He’d spent so much of his life drifting and mixing with what most presumed to be the dubious company to be found in the undercity that the tarnish stuck. Those that knew him best understood the broadness of his shoulders, though. Raffe had a soft spot for that kind of need. Picking up strays, Carmen called it. And though Raffe couldn’t claim he’d fix Nox’s insecurities, or even understand all of them, the look in his eye then was earnest. He could probably guess what might fill the blanks when Nox tailed off. The shit thing was that there was so much to worry about.

“It’s cute,” he assured with a grin. “And I’m not sure I can really help with what’s going round in your head, but I can listen.”

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