Pairing: Peter/Carl (Past Carl/Anthony) (Past Peter/Wolfman)
Warnings: BDSM, light angst, rough-ish sex, secrets.
Notes: Secret Service AU fic, BDSM-Universe. Doherty is a switch (naturally). Carl Barat is a sub and he's not happy about it.
Beta: mimioomin <3
AND YOU NEVER KNEW HOW MUCH I REALLY LIKED YOU (BECAUSE I NEVER EVEN TOLD YOU)
Are you awake?
I love you.
Carl opens his eyes in the dark. It always surprises him how much you can see, how the outline of Peter’s face has become as familiar as his own. The way the shape of their bodies fit jigsaw-close together.
‘So, what happens now, love? Gonna run off and break my heart? Again?’
‘No, I- Peter. No.’
There are too many words fighting each other in Carl’s brain, jostling and tussling to reach his lips. And he knows if he opened his mouth they would all fall out in a hopeless tumble across the pillows. Saying everything and nothing. He can’t find the right sounds, the right shapes, to describe this swelling feeling in his heart, heavy and desperate, terrified he will burst all over the bedsheets.
But Peter’s mouth is closing over his, tasting and lapping all the words Carl can’t remember how to say off his tongue. Hushing all his stumbling thoughts. Swallowing them whole.
‘Don’t mind, anyway. I’m staying. Whatever you do to me, I’ll let you.’
That’s all the wrong way round, thinks Carl. Frowning, feeling the soft nuzzle of Peter’s skin against his face. He doesn’t want Peter to let himself be hurt. Doesn’t want to be the one to hurt him, ever again. Carl knows that all the penance to pay is his. Has known it since he arrived; before, burning under the the heat of Peter’s gaze in the back of the car, like something he would willingly sell his soul for and didn’t dare touch. Knows that he deserves everything Peter does to him.
But he is so close now, skin to skin, close enough to feel the flutter of his eyelashes against his own in tiny butterfly kisses. Lips not quite kissing, but sharing the same breath. Close enough to hurt with a single careless move or word. And he can’t say any of those things, in case it moves Peter farther away. Face to face; Carl wishes that he could just read the thoughts out of his brain. Unsullied by his mouth. Thinks if anyone could ever see what he’s thinking, it would be Peter, who looks into him like a mirror.
‘Let’s run away.’ He ducks his head, lets the words kiss themselves onto Peter’s neck like a secret, in the soft hollow of his neck. Where lips and breath make him shiver. Thinks it’s the closest he can get to the words he needs to say, all the sounds he can’t tie together that mean forgiveness and sorry and love.
He tells him, carefully, gently, trying to rub away all the sharp edges from the words, about talking to Anthony. After he’d finished threatening to break his spine in ten places. The deal. Plane tickets with their names on. Somewhere sunny. No questions. No looking back. The unspoken price of silence. Of surrender.
‘I don’t care about the case,’ Carl says. And knows, now, he means it. Happy to let Mick and Anthony scheme and sell their secrets. Carl has got what he came for. Here, half a breath away, in his bed. And he needs, desperately, to keep him.
And then Peter tells him about the second thing he realised. Sitting alone in the dark between night and day. Staring into the list of endless numbers on the computer screen, all shifting and blurring together. Looking and looking blindly. Seeing nothing. And then he blinked and it was right in front of his eyes.
The number that’s been sitting in Peter’s pocket since the day they arrived. Smudged idly under his fingertips. Printed clearly in his head. Repeated to himself like a mantra, like a magic spell, a get out of jail free card he’s carried around for years. Stupid and trusting and blind.
The phone line that’s gone dead. Knowing even before he dialled the numbers with hot, clumsy fingers. Cut off. Suddenly. Finally. Echoing into the silent darkness.
Funny, isn’t it, Peter murmurs, how you can look at someone for so long and see only what you want to see. The right letter; the wrong name. Their mentor; Mick’s partner in crime. The one person they trusted too easily to ever question. A guiding hand on the arm, leading them straight into a trap.
This, thinks Carl, is war. All the battle lines redrawn around them while they were distracted. And he understands now, a fight isn’t something you choose, it’s somewhere you find yourself.
‘We’re going to win,’ says Peter. ‘Together.’
Carl feels shipwrecked. All his carefully plotted coordinates, the neatly drawn lines and lies. All his plans and traps to capture Peter, to tie up the past in a net and undo its stubborn knots, to take his revenge. All this time, he has been moved around like a pawn in someone else’s game. With a casual flick of their fingers.
There is no good reason for McGee to call Anthony’s phone. Over and over. Over days and weeks and months. Or there are a thousand reasons, and they spin through all of them, muttered into the pillows as dawn breaks outside. But the truth is a solid thing. Sharp-cornered and certain. When you crash into it, face-first, you know. Blindsided and bruised.
He remembers - painfully, with technicolour clarity - being down on his knees in McGee’s office. Carpet scraping roughly under his knees. Spine straining to hold him up. Fist in his hair and a voice in his ear; trusting them both to hold him together. Knowing that Peter was on the other side of the door, seconds away from seeing him. Seeing what he was. All this time, trusting the wrong man.
It’s beautiful. As secrets and plots go, Peter can’t help being entranced.
A good secret is like a vital part of a jigsaw puzzle. Dropped onto the board, after hours of agonising searching, pushing and forcing the wrong pieces into the wrong places, it all makes perfect sense. He reads back all the clues - the cactus plants and their notes, the emails they’ve spent nights and nights scouring for answers, all the red herrings laid out like a trail of sweets for them to follow - leading them astray.
It doesn’t take much searching, now he knows what to look for, to find that Mick and McGee crossed paths a dozen times. Different cases over the years, promotions and professional collaborations looping them around each other like an elaborate knot. To see that they’re the perfect partners in crime. Always keeping a careful, deliberate distance. A picture, finally, from Mick’s retirement party. Familiar face with his arm wrapped around his shoulders. Smiling. Peter never would have recognised him, if he wasn’t looking: he looks happy, he looks like a man in love.
That’s the problem, he thinks. They were looking for money, or political intrigue, for power struggles, or revenge. But it’s always love that makes people do the worst things.
The day and night feel a thousand miles apart. All the hushed secrets and kisses under the cover of darkness are chased away by the sunlight breaking through the window. Tucked away carefully into the shadows.
In the daylight, they have to conceal themselves in lies. Tuck away all the things they know.
We know something they don’t, Peter says. Maybe for the first time.
Mick thinks they are in hiding. None the wiser. Licking each other’s wounds in their room, awaiting their punishment. Peter has made his apologies. Mumbling and insincere, in the dark glower of Mick’s office. Anthony had shrugged and grinned, no hard feelings man. Mick had glared from behind his desk and promised suitable retribution.
It gives them time. On their side for once. All they have to do is find out when the missiles sale will happen. And stop them. Simple.
‘Peter, where did you go?’
He has never been able to say what it is about Peter. The hook that has driven deep into his skin and he can never shake loose. God knows, he’s tried over the years to explain it, in his own mind and in answer to the furious partners who insisted on knowing whilst flinging objects at Carl’s head.
But Carl thinks it’s partly this: they can survive on fewer words than anyone else. After a lifetime of stumbling and bending words out of shape, trying to force them into the right order, to make sense of all the things in his head - being with Peter is a gasp of relief. The comfort of someone who can understand you with a shrug and a sigh. Who can read every flutter of lashes and curl of his lips. Even when he doesn’t want him to.
Knows that, without saying, Peter will see the night painted behind Carl’s eyes. Lying awake and alone. Waiting for a key in the door. Wondering what he would do if it didn’t come. The helpless, grateful comfort of his touch in the dark, at last. Pressing into Peter’s arms, wrapping himself up in skin and heat. Hiding himself from all the monsters waiting for him in the shadows.
‘I went back to the house,’ Peter says. Curling closer, wrapped around Carl on the sofa. Closer than they need to be, touching just because they can. Words dusting Carl’s hair like a caress.
He went back once, he tells Peter, looking for something. When he got there, the house was gone. Like it had crumbled under the strain of it all, without them there to hold up the walls through stubborn will and want, turning to dust. Tells him how he sat on the broken wall outside, smoked a cigarette down to ash, and wondered if any of it had really happened.
It’s turned into something new, says Peter. A new house, with a front door that shuts. Built on top of everything that was there before. You’d never know.
Carl thinks you would, although he doesn’t say so. Thinks you would hear the echoes of it creaking in the walls at night, feel the traces of footprints beneath your own; when you’re alone, with only shadows for company, you would hear the whisper of fights and kisses and fumbling around in the dark.
Once you have seen something, it can never be unseen. It’s a particular cruelty, Peter thinks, because it steals away all the righteous anger he should feel when he looks at Mick. Blinded instead by the image of a dazzling smile. That bright curve of hope and light, stupid, irrepressible. He sees it on his own face every time he looks in the mirror.
Look, he says to Carl, pushing the laptop into his hands. Watches his face fold into a glare as he looks at the picture. Mick and McGee, arm in arm, frozen in time. Carl shrugs. This was years ago.
Yeah, exactly, says Peter. Because he wants him to understand, to see. Years ago. All that time. And they’ve waited for each other, for a chance to escape together. Imagine wanting someone like that. Loving so long, so quietly. Just waiting. Imagine.
I don’t have to, mutters Carl.
And nearly drops the laptop when Peter catches him in his arms, wrangling Carl into his own lap. Meeting his mouth with his own, trying to touch him all over at once, because he needs him to feel, to know, that he wasn’t waiting alone. He pulls back to let him breathe, finally, giving in to the fingers tugging urgently in his hair. Regards the boy in his arms, lips kiss-swollen and gasping. Flushed pink from being touched everywhere Peter’s fingers could reach. Eyes glazed dark with surprised pleasure. ‘M still going to catch the bastard and rip out his spine, he breathes against Peter’s shoulder. Which really shouldn’t make him smile.
You’re adorable when you’re being psychotic, he whispers into his hair, once he’s sure he has a firm enough grip on Carl’s wrists. Holds tight as he wriggles and swears, inviting Peter to fckoff at length. Nooo, he laughs, I think I’m going to fuck you instead.
All you have to do, he tells him, is ask nicely. And slides his spare hand into Carl’s jeans, touching thoroughly and relentlessly and everywhere except where he wants him. Dragging his nails over the delicate skin inside his thighs and listening to him whine, stroking light circles over swollen flesh, teasing a fingertip up the length of his cock, and ignoring the desperate whimpers as his hips arch up for more.
This is exactly what they fucking planned, moaned Carl, about us.. ohhfuck… being too distracted…to… christpeterrrr…
Peter finds it very hard to care about catching anyone, hard to remember what exactly he’s doing here, so long as he has Carl firmly in his grasp, writhing and moaning. Eyes squeezed tightly shut and lips gasping open, sucked wet and red. Cheeks blushing redder, flushed with need and embarrassment as he begs and pleads. Still deliciously self-conscious under Peter’s gaze. Nowhere to hide. Certain the boy could shake him off if he really wanted to, could send Peter flying across the room like an unwanted hat if he chose to escape. Watching him content to wriggle and buck his hips, feeling Peter’s weight holding him down, wrists twisting to test his grip, and staying exactly where he is.
Thanks, but no thanks.
There’s nothing to see here, man, Anthony shrugs. Promise.
Carl smiles. And pushes the tickets across the table. Flimsy and paper-thin, just like the promises people toss around here like paper planes.
Anthony shakes his head. Not surprised. Not convinced.
Keep ‘em. You never know.
‘Why?’ asks Carl. Again and again. And Peter knows the word is looping inside his head, even when it doesn’t make it out of his lips.
He can see all Carl’s calm certainty fractured, like a plate flung at the wall. All the careful plans and stories he was holding straight in his head in tatters. Scraps torn and fluttering across the floor. The perfect order of his brain disarrayed like the aftermath of a messy fight. Things smashed and broken and torn apart. Leaving him sifting through the wreckage, trying to piece himself back together.
‘Why send us here? If they’re together - working together - fucking plotting together - why send us to investigate Mick?’
Peter says nothing. He knows Carl knows all the answers. If he sits and waits, Carl will ask and answer all his own questions until things make sense again. So he fills the time by combing his fingers through Carl’s hair, curling in strands of wet silk over his neck, and marvels that he’s allowed this soft, intimate gesture. Without getting his fingers bitten off.
Carl sighs and shifts against him, distracting Peter from mapping the water droplets dappling his skin. Gold against the white towel wrapped around his waist. Still damp from a bath that turned cold around them, and didn’t do much to get either of them clean.
Peter has always trusted McGee, about as far as he could throw him. McGee’s always made sure they never meet in high places or near open windows.
But Carl trusts. He likes being told what to do, Peter can see it in every tiny gesture. The way he closes his eyes and arches eagerly closer at the twist of a fist in his hair. The way he looks, now, like a puppet with his strings cut. Slumped over Peter’s lap, soft and relaxed. Peter’s never gone in for all that subs needing a firm hand stuff, knows it isn’t about weakness or inferiority. He knows enough of the sharp drop into blackness, the breathless terror of letting yourself fall into someone else’s hands, to understand it takes more strength than he has. Never quite letting go. Never allowing himself to need anyone more than he can afford to lose them.
‘He sent us here to fail, didn’t he? One big trap for us to fall into. Distract each other. Fuck up the case, and find nothing. So Alan and Mick could sail off into the sunset, while we crash and burn.’
Peter flinches on his behalf at the cruelty and cleverness of it. Using them to put Mick in the clear, to make it look like McGee was doing his job. An escape route. Get out of jail free. And all the time, relying on them to fail.
It takes months, years, a lifetime. But when Carl gathers up all his faith and places it in someone’s hands, he means it. And the careless scattering of everything he’s handed over, spilling from their hands like sand or dirty pennies, shatters him. Peter would like to pick up all the pieces, willingly scrabble on his hands and knees for every last fragment. He’d like to trust himself to hold Carl together and stop him breaking. Terrified that he’ll let him slip through his grasp again.
He types it out - in black and white - hammering out the facts beneath his fingers.
1. McGee and Mick meet. Fall in love. Want to escape together.
2. Mick has kept a few secrets up his sleeve from a old case: missiles. A retirement plan.
3. Mcgee finds Anthony. No obvious links to Mick. American contacts who will take the missile secrets off their hands for ££££.
4. Anthony quietly leaves the force. Buys Mick’s club as a cover. Acts as go-between for the missiles sale.
5. McGee sends Peter and Carl to investigate Mick. Desperate, careers on the brink of disaster. Easy targets. Distract them with each other so they can’t see anything else. Blindly follow Mick’s made-up clues and find nothing.
6. McGee & Mick in the clear. They ride into the sun. P & C lose.
But Peter knows that facts tell the most elaborate of fictions. And he doesn’t like other people’s stories. Doesn’t like the way everything looks from the wrong perspective. He’s not a character to be written out, or a convenient plot point. One way or another, this time, he is going to have a happy ending.
Carl always believed there would be a moment when everything changed. Calm seas and blue skies. Birds singing in the treetops. Peace in the world, quieting the storm inside his head. Instead, the sky gathers itself up in dark folds, thunder grumbling in the distance. Lightning sparks behind his eyes in a livid blaze.
There is no way to match up the snaking fury in his belly, snarling and twisting its tentacles, with the sunshine that sparkles in Peter’s eyes. The warm glow that spreads through him like the kiss of a summer’s day, when Peter looks at him, slow and syrupy sweet. It makes Carl feel lazy and heavy, makes him want to curl into the hot rays of Peter’s attention. To spread himself out and bask in its sleepy caress. When Peter follows its trail with curious fingers and tongue, spreading prickly heat over Carl’s skin, he glows and burns until he thinks he might combust.
He is furious, all the time. Cheated. Stupid. Tricked. Anger swirling in the back of his mind like a nasty hangover, sour and sickly. He is hard, all the time, aching and needy. Carl had thought, somehow, that the words would be like a key turning in its lock. Certain and secure. Final. That they would soothe the fractious desire deep inside him. Quiet the craving for Peter’s hands on him, for the comforting weight of his attention settling on Carl’s skin. Instead, they have turned Carl into the kind of lunatic who checks and checks the key in the lock a dozen times before he can leave the house.
He has listened to the words on Peter’s lips like an incantation - pressed like offerings against his skin, brushed over half-sleeping eyelids - like a secret prayer whispered in the darkness. Gossamer thin and light as air. Ready to dissolve in a single breath. But Peter says them once, and says them a thousand times. Iloveyou in every other breath. Solid things he places in front of Carl. Turns and sharpens the words in his mouth like they belong to him. As if he’s whittling them down to the perfect shape, wearing away all their new stiffness. Until they can slip into every smile and the gaps in between heartbeats. A perfect fit.
He says it back in every touch, fingers spelling it out on Peter’s skin as they skitter up the length of his spine, stroke the delicate silk of his wrists. Kisses his answer silently, sharp teeth printing it onto the tender flesh of his neck, sneaks it into Peter’s mouth on his tongue. It’s in each glance that lands on Peter - a long curve of white neck, the freckled curve of a shoulder, dark ink etched into delicate skin - and makes him ache with need.
If Peter notices that the words never make it past his lips, he doesn’t say.
Everything is so easy to see when you know what you’re looking for. When everyone else thinks you’re blind. Hiding their smiles and laughing behind their hands. Peter doesn’t mind. Happy to conceal himself in other people’s expectations, to hide in the cracks of all their stupid assumptions and spy. Now and then, perhaps, it irks him. Oh Peter, said in that way that carries a dozen unsaid things: liability, liar, ludicrous, lazy, lunatic, loser. He enjoys the way their smiles curl in on themselves when they understand that all along, they were looking at a version of him they made up.
But it makes Carl spit sparks. Not being taken seriously. Still, he can’t see.
The trouble with trust is it’s always in the wrong place.
‘No. Not him.’
‘It’s the only way,’ he says. ‘Trust me. Please.’
Forgive and forget, he says, watching the words bounce off Carl like raindrops. He pleads his case, tries to persuade with hands and lips that distract Carl from all the things he doesn’t want to listen to.
You trust blue lights and sharp suits. Things that look the way you expect them to. That’s how con artists work, by shaping themselves into the image in your mind’s eye. Not convincing people of anything new, but imitating the things they’re already convinced of.
‘I could’ve just gone behind your back.’
‘So why didn’t you?’ And that, brilliantly, is what Carl looks angriest about. That Peter has dared to tell the truth.
Peter frowns. Why didn’t he? Easier, certainly. Would have avoided this conversation and the look on Carl’s face that says he wants to tear Peter’s tongue out and make him eat it. Could have been putting his tongue to far more pleasurable ends, tasting that golden skin in all secret places that make Carl melt, licking away all that tight, shimmering rage.
‘Didn’t want to do things that way. Not again. Want you to trust me, properly.’
Peter knows, if they’re going to win, they have to put their trust in the unlikeliest place. In each other. And in all the people who deserve it the least. Criminals, low lives, the scum and rejects who live in the darkest corners of the street. Ignored by everyone. Seeing everything.
And as luck would have it, Peter just happens to know one or two.
‘Fine.’ Carl says. Face and fists knotted tight. ‘But if I see him, he’s going on the maim and murder list. Straight to the top.’
So much for forgiving and forgetting.
Carl hates waiting. He trusts Peter, he does. But it’s all the things he trusts him to do...
It makes him want to tear time apart, smash and beat it until the minutes and seconds fall out. Considers taking out his frustrations on the room instead. Smashing that fucking typewriter to pieces, letter by tap-tap-tapping letter. Tear those notebooks to shreds, ripping each page in a vicious, satisfying shhhrrrk. He doesn’t think Peter would be particularly surprised to find him surrounded by broken glass and the tatters of his belongings.
So he decides to do something else entirely. And tells himself it’s only because he likes surprising Peter. Likes finding that wining combination that his ferret-fast brain hasn’t discovered yet. Fingers sliding idly over the typewriter’s wonky keys. Poor battered thing, taken one too many knocks already. He strokes it in sympathy.
He loves stupid things. The way Peter says his name, unfurling the sounds like petals after a rainstorm. Languid and lush. None of the sharpness that he is used to, snapping the air like a whip, or the crack of something breaking.
Sometimes he doesn’t answer, just to listen to Peter say it again, tasting all the curves and stretching out the spaces, amusement playing over his lips by the time Carl looks up. He knows that Peter knows when he’s listening. Knows all those nights of whispering in the dark were for him.
Infernal thing. He presses the keys softly, kissing the hammers against the paper. Tap. Tap. Tap. The sound woven through his early mornings, a metronome through his sleeping and waking hours.
He loves the way that Peter sleeps, coiled like a kitten in a basket. Clutching at Carl like a cherished toy, chewed and battered, whining and clinging if he tries to move away. As daylight creeps in, shielding his eyes in the curve of his arm. Nuzzling deeper into the covers. He loves waking him up. The way his childish crossness smooths itself out when he opens his eyes to Carl, smile pulling on his lips, hands reaching for him. He loves dragging back the covers and taking their place, plastering himself over the length of Peter. Feeling his body wake up inch by inch, the sleepy shift of his hips, lips damply mouthing nonsense into his neck, the eager press of his cock demanding attention. He loves Peter.
‘What’s it coming to, eh, when even today’s criminals are mired in corruption?’
His friend shrugs. All got bills to pay, he mutters. Taking the drink Peter puts down in front of him, lifting it to sip the foam. And Peter resists the swell of fondness in his chest that welcomes familiarity. But you never pay your bills, do you, Wolfie? ‘s why half of London wants to kill you before teatime.
There are things you can trust. Solid and clean. Money is the best of them. He hands over the stiff bundle of notes and watches them being carefully counted. Then he listens to Wolf tell him everything he knows. The leak about the missile secrets that almost certainly came from McGee, with specific instructions to make sure Peter heard about it, accidentally-on-purpose.
‘So..’ Wolf surveys him over the second round of drinks, generously bought with Peter’s bribe money. ‘How’s the love life?’
‘Funny you should ask. You’ll never guess who I’m working with on this case.’
Peter tells him, and watches him take a steady sip of his drink. Surface of his beer smooth and unshaken.
‘I’m astonished, surprised and all agog.’
Peter sighs and wonders whether the entirety of London’s criminal and crime-fighting classes are intent on matchmaking or screwing him over. And if, indeed, the two are mutually exclusive.
‘I’m in love,’ he says. Because, really, Peter can’t see the point in lying when he’s handed over hard cash for the truth.
‘Could’ve told you that years ago.’ And Wolf’s too polite to point out that he did. Although not too polite to tell Peter not to fuck it up this time. At some length.
‘Faint hearts and all that, matey.’ Wolf salutes him with his glass, half empty. ‘Never won fair psychos with pretty arses, did they?’
It’s raining when Peter comes back. Drenched in the outside, dripping it all over the floors. Floods of water spilling from him like a one-man rainstorm. Flinging away his hat, coat, spattering the room like a wet dog. Carl makes himself hold still, not look up from the book balanced in his lap. Wait for Peter to come to him. But he can’t make himself pull away when he nuzzles into him, wet hair dripping down Carl’s neck and making him squirm, soaked suit rubbing against his skin. Water seeping through his shirt from Peter’s arms wound around him.
Aren’t you going to help me out of these wet things, then, love?
Carl laughs and takes the bait, willingly. Helping Peter out of the heavy fabric, fighting stiff buttons open and peeling away his layers, leaving him bare. Flesh chilled and soft. Curling into Carl’s warmth, stealing it for himself. What’re you playing at? He laughs against Peter’s mouth, too occupied with kissing him to make room for words. Hands wriggling between Carl’s clothes and hot skin, encouraging them to part ways. His shirt, jeans, boxers pooling on the ground with the rainwater. Need body heat, murmurs Peter. D’you want me to catch hypothermia?
It’s too much to resist. Cold hands and a hot mouth pulling at him, stroking and pinching tender nipples and sucking his skin in heated kisses. Words coiling in his belly, fingers trickling down his spine, making him shiver and urge him on faster, biting down on all the vowels, Ptrrcmonplsss. Relishing the sharp pain of fingers teasing their way inside him and bucking back, driving them in harder, faster, rougher, now. A storm of biting kisses and moans and tangled limbs and sliding wet skin, building and burning and crashing through them both. Carl loves this, being fucked senseless, exactly as he wants. Loves the bruising grip of Peter’s hand around his throat, the hard, shuddering thrusts that wrench him apart.
Outside, the world tears itself to pieces. Crashes to the ground in a torrent of rain, slicing the sky open in bolts of light. And Carl knows this is it: the sunny sky he has been waiting for. The birds have all fled south and the darkness tucks in around them. Warm and snug as a blanket. Peter is beside him, curled cat-like warm and soft over his lap, shielding him from the wind and rain.
I love you. Carl strokes a hand through damp hair, snagging it in his fingers.
I know, says Peter. He smiles up at Carl as if he’s just told him the weather.