"She doesn't like me."
The words pulled Peter from the twilit edge of sleep on which he'd been balanced. He flexed his feet under the bed sheet, stretching each toe, and opened his eyes just enough to make out the place where Charles's nose began to slope away from his brow, the glint of bright eyes in a dim room. "It's all right, she doesn't like me either."
"Of course she does! She loves you!" Charles exclaimed with, Peter thought, the conviction of someone who'd spent his childhood surrounded by loving family.
Peter let his eyes fall closed once more. It was too strange, lying in his old bed. The room was largely impersonal—Peter had stored what he could not take with him into adulthood—yet still filled with memories, many of them unwanted. And to see Charles there was jarring to Peter's fundamental perception of his life, the then versus the now.
"You can love someone and still not like them," said Peter.
The silence went on long enough that Peter thought Charles must have fallen asleep. But then Charles moved against him, struggling with the bedclothes as if in physical manifestation of his wrestling with comprehending the strange dynamic of the Stoller household.
Peter pulled Charles closer, if only to still him. Charles resisted at first before collapsing into Peter's arms, his bare chest. Peter felt the satin of Charles's pyjamas, the tiny scrape of the buttons. Charles liked to look put together even while sleeping, but Peter had no patience with excess material that tangled him when he tossed and turned. Sheets were trouble enough.
But the satin felt nice anyway.
A hand, too warm under the covers, found Peter's hip and his eyes flew open. All at once he was aware of all the places Charles's body was in contact with his own: Charles's eyelashes fluttering against his sternum, Charles's nose pushed into his chest, the heat of Charles's breath on his abdomen . . . No, traveling lower . . .