A Little Out of Touch
Fred stumbled into the kitchen and blinked blearily at Charlie, who was sitting shirtless at the table, spreading marmalade on his toast.
"When did you get in?"
"Around two this morning. I didn't want to wake you, so I let myself in and kipped on the couch. There's coffee if you want it."
Fred nodded, and Charlie doctored it with a lump of sugar and a bit of milk. Half a cup later, Fred had regained enough mental acuity to say, "Hang on, what do you mean you let yourself in? The wards on the door and flue--"
"--aren't that hard to bypass, especially for someone who taught you your very first spells."
"Right," Fred said, disgruntled. He and George would have to take a look at the wards later.
"I can give you a hand with them, if you like," Charlie offered matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, that'd be good."
"We can do it tonight, after you've closed the shop."
"All right. How long are you staying for, anyway?"
Charlie shrugged. "A few days. Let me know if I start being in the way, and I'll go back to the Burrow."
"No fear of that. George and I are in the shop twelve hours or more most days. We won't see you enough to get tired of you."
"The joys of a fledgling business," Charlie said wryly, and Fred nodded his agreement. "Speaking of George, where is he, anyway?"
"Sleeping. We were doing the books last night, and it ran late. You know he's always been better at arithmetic than I have, so he offered to finish if I'd open the shop this morning while he slept in."
"Sounds fair to me. There's just the one bedroom, I take it?"
"Yeah. We thought about turning the sitting room into a second bedroom, but then where would we sit?"
"Cozy," Charlie commented.
"We like it."
The dragon on Charlie's arm flickered it tongue at him, and Fred's fingers twitched. When he'd been ten and Charlie's tattoo had first been unveiled to the family's mingled horror (their mother's) and appreciation (everyone else's), he'd stared in fascination as the dragon blew flames down the curve of Charlie's tricep.
"Does it hurt?" he'd asked, and Charlie had shaken his head.
"Can't even feel it," he'd said, but Fred had had to test for himself, reaching out to trace the bright lines of the dragon with curious fingers. Charlie's tattoo had been smooth and warm, but no hotter or smoother than the unmarked skin that bordered it.
"You ever get one of your own?" Charlie asked now, his voice low and amused, and Fred startled.
"You always liked my tattoo so much, I thought for certain you'd have one the moment you turned seventeen."
"No..." Fred said.
"Fred doesn't like pain," George interjected, coming in the door and looking obscenely wide-awake for someone who'd gotten no more than six hours of sleep the night before.
Fred smacked him on the arm as he passed by his chair. "I like pain just fine," he said. "As long as it's yours."
"Possibly more than I needed to know about the two of you," Charlie said, eyebrows arching towards his hairline.
George snorted, and Fred shot him a puzzled look. George just shook his head in the way that meant later. "Is there any coffee left?" he asked in the brief silence.
"Yeah," Charlie said, and poured a mug for him.
"Thanks," George said. He glanced at the clock. "It's time to open shop," he said to Fred. "And don't think that my being awake means that our bargain's forfeit. I still intend to get my lie-in."
"No arguments here," Fred said. "You'll be down in a bit, then?"
"Give me an hour or two."
"Right." Fred used the table to shove himself to his feet, hurried to the bedroom to change into his robes, and cast a freshening charm on himself in lieu of the shower that he didn't have time for.
"See you soon," he called on his way to the door. "Charlie, d'you want us to come grab you for lunch later?"
Charlie's smile was closer to a smirk, for no earthly reason that Fred could see. "That sounds enjoyable. I might have other plans, though; I'm not sure yet."
"Well, I'll see you when I see you, then," Fred said and left, locking the door behind him, feeling unaccountably as though he were missing something.
It wasn't until George came ambling down the stairs an hour and a half later that he realized what it was.
"You didn't," Fred accused, staring at him.
"Didn't what?" George asked innocently.
Fred took stock of the too-interested eyes belonging to the young witch to whom he'd been demonstrating their new toy cauldron--popular among parents for its "educational value" and among children for the colorful explosions--and hissed, "I'll talk to you later."
"All right," George said, before going to help a group of boys in the back who appeared intent on knocking down every box of a very high tower of them in order to get at the one on top. Only Fred could have seen the lines of tension in the muscles of his brother's back. Obscurely, the sight made him feel better. He had seen what he thought he'd seen in George's loose-limbed gait and in the lingering flush high on his cheekbones. The world might have turned topsy-turvy, but he still knew his twin brother almost as well as he knew himself.
Later came at two o'clock, well after the lunch hour rush but before the nearby grammar school let out, and consequently the time that they'd settled on for their own lunch break.
"We still need to talk," Fred said, in case George needed reminding.
George nodded. "Charlie said he was going to be visiting some old friends from Hogwarts. We can eat in."
"All right. Verity," he called. "George and I are off to lunch. Call upstairs if you need us." Their assistant nodded and continued stocking the nearly-cleared shelf of Skiving Snackboxes. "After you," he said more quietly, and followed George up the stairs to their flat.
"So," he said when they were back in their warm, sunny kitchen. The dustmotes floating in front of the window seemed even more unreal than usual.
"So," George said. "Sandwiches sound good?"
Fred nodded. "And, also, an explanation would be nice."
"It's nothing, really," George said, his voice muffled as he turned his back on Fred to slice bread and cheese.
"Seems like something to me," Fred disagreed.
"Nothing serious, then. This is only the third time, and obviously we're not about to...to set up house together, or anything. It's just something we do. Sometimes."
Fred swallowed painfully. "So you mean to keep on doing it, then?"
"I don't know," George said, his voice tight and frustrated. "Are you asking because you want us to stop?"
Yes, Fred thought, and then no right afterwards, because he didn't exactly, at least not because they were worried about him or, worse, scared of him.
"I don't know," he said at last. "Can't I just be asking?"
"Yeah, all right," George said. The sandwiches were done--had been done, Fred realized, and George had been using them as a convenient excuse to keep his back turned--and he brought them to the table. "We haven't really talked about it much," he said conciliatorily. "And Charlie's in Romania and I'm here, so that's even less reason to discuss any...longterm plans."
"Are you--" Fred took a quick breath "--in love with him?"
George blinked at him, and Fred's stomach tightened into a hard, painful ball as the silence lengthened. Finally, George shrugged. "I'm not sure how to answer that. He's family, you know?" And, yes, Fred knew, and that was half the trouble right there. "I don't love him any more than I do Bill or Mum or Ginny, but then there's this whole other thing, as well."
And that seemed to sum that up. Fred nodded and took a bite of his sandwich, forcing himself to chew it even though his jaw hurt. After a moment, George followed his example.
Work was strained after they returned to the shop, but not nearly as bad as going home after they'd closed for the night. George escaped into the bedroom with a book, and Fred camped out on the sofa with an issue of Quidditch Weekly and flipped idly through it. He should have claimed the bedroom first; then he could be in bed asleep and blessedly unconscious of all this.
A sudden puff of soot heralded Charlie's arrival through the flue, and he stumbled slightly on the slick flagstone.
"George told me," Fred said the moment Charlie had regained his footing.
Charlie nodded. His eyes seemed a bit wary, but otherwise his face was as open and honest as ever. "I never expected that he wouldn't."
Fred sighed, suddenly exasperated. "Why do people always say things like that? We keep secrets from each other. Just because we know each other best doesn't mean we tell each other everything."
"Don't be stupid," Charlie said gently. "I know that already. And I know you, and I know George, and I expected him to tell you. As he did, in fact, so there's really no reason to bite my head off."
"Fair enough," Fred muttered.
There was a brief pause, as Charlie apparently weighed what to say next, and then he said, "Would you mind if I sat down?"
"Be my guest," Fred said, and swung his feet down onto the floor to give Charlie room on the sofa.
"Thanks." Charlie brushed the lingering bits of ash off his clothing and sat beside Fred. "I can go stay at the Burrow," he said seriously, "if you're uncomfortable having me here."
Fred shook his head. "That's okay. It's not...I know you aren't...hurting him, or anything, and it's not like he could hurt you."
"He could hurt me," Charlie said quietly, and Fred said:
"Yeah, okay, but he wouldn't want to."
"No, George doesn't like other people's pain," Charlie said with a faint touch of humor, and Fred laughed a trifle hysterically.
"I could...um...sleep on the sofa tonight," he offered.
Charlie's eyes narrowed in consideration, and then he said, "Thanks for the offer, but I'll stay out here."
Fred sighed, more relieved than he cared to admit. And now Charlie was looking at him, waiting to hear him out for as long as Fred wanted to air his angst, but not pushing, and it was suddenly all too much. "I'm a bit exhausted," Fred said, his voice sounding false to his own ears. "I'll see you in the morning?"
Charlie nodded. "Good night, Fred." He opened his mouth as though to say something more, then shut it again.
It was a bit of a shared predicament, so Fred said, "Right," and beat a strategic retreat to the bedroom. Any number of stupid things to say were clamoring in his head, and he knew himself well enough to realize that he was liable to blurt one of them out at the most inappropriate time.
Of course, he realized upon reaching the bedroom, that room contained George, who was suddenly more dangerous an audience than he had been previous to that day. George was reading as blamelessly as possible, and Fred nonetheless felt a strange outpouring of frustrated anger that he almost didn't want to contain anymore.
"Why you?" he snapped, and George looked up at him, startled.
"What do you mean?"
"Why'd Charlie pick you?" Fred clarified.
George shook his head slowly. "He didn't pick me. Or maybe we picked each other. He wanted it and I wanted it and it...happened."
"And what about what I want, or doesn't that matter anymore?"
"But I don't know what you want, Fred," George said lightly. "Neither of us does. You'll have to tell us, first."
"I want him," Fred said, his voice raw and painful. "Since I was twelve. And I don't want you to leave me behind."
"But I'm right here," George said. He slid off the bed and wrapped his arms reassuringly around Fred. "Charlie!" he called suddenly, and Fred jumped.
"What?" Charlie shouted from the other room.
"You owe me two galleons."
There was a long silence, and then Charlie was standing wide-eyed in the doorway. "You're not serious."
"Of course I am."
Charlie stared at Fred some more, and Fred smacked George. "What was that you were saying about not knowing what I wanted?" he accused.
George looked entirely unapologetic and said, "Having a strong suspicion isn't the same thing as knowing something," and Fred was about to work himself up into a real snit when George kissed him.
Distantly, he heard Charlie make a sound suspiciously like a whimper, but Fred was too busy gasping into his brother's mouth to pay it much mind. George's tongue slid across his front teeth before slipping deeper into his mouth. George pressed his hips against Fred's, nudging at him, and before he knew they were moving with purpose, the backs of his legs hit the edge of the mattress.
George pulled away for a moment and ran his thumb along Fred's spit-slick lower lip. "Okay?" he asked.
"Yeah," Fred said, his voice hoarser than he expected, and he cleared his throat.
Fred had had reason to be glad of their large bed before--each of them was prone to thrashing in his sleep--but never as much as when he was prodded into the middle of the bed and Charlie and George lay on either side of him with enough room that no one's ass was hanging off the bed.
"May I?" Charlie asked, hovering over him. Fred nodded, and Charlie leaned down to kiss him. A moment later, George's hand trailed teasingly down his chest, unfastening buttons as it went. He'd known from watching him work that George had extraordinarily quick, clever hands, but even so he was astonished at how quickly he was stripped of his robes and underpants, lying exposed and aching between the two of them.
Charlie's hand clasped his bare shoulder briefly, before sliding down Fred's side and then across his chest, thumbing his nipple. Fred arched into the touch, all his attention caught up with the feel of Charlie's warm hand stroking his skin until George curled up against his side as naked as he was himself. His hard cock pressed damply against Fred's hip, his pubic hair a rough skritch against sensitive skin, and all of him was hot and alive and overwhelming.
Fred moaned into Charlie's kiss, and then felt George's hand on his jaw, tilting him away from Charlie's lips and towards his own. Fred made a sound of half-appreciation and half-protest, and George rubbed the back of his neck with a soothing hand. The rustle of fabric and the occasional touch of Charlie against his side let him now that Charlie was stripping, too, and Fred shuddered at the thought.
And then, finally, George pulled away and Charlie slid on top of Fred, holding him down with strong hands on his wrists, all his sleek, muscled weight pressing down on him in a way that felt beyond comforting. He let Charlie have three sweet, perfect thrusts, their cocks sliding together in the space between their sweat-dampened skin, before the need to touch overrode the desire to lie there and soak up Charlie's presence undistracted.
The moment he tugged at Charlie's grasp with any real purpose, Charlie let go. Unfortunately, he stopped thrusting against him as well, staring down at Fred intently. Fred ran his freed hands down Charlie's back and clutched his ass, pulling him closer again, and, Jesus, he'd thought that he and George were reasonably fit, but obviously running around their shop half the day and playing pick-up Quidditch games once a week had nothing on dragontaming. The muscles of Charlie's ass flexed under his hands with each thrust, and Charlie was heavy and perfect on top of him, and Fred bit back a choked cry as he came.
Residual tremors shook him, and his skin felt unbelievably sensitized--not just his cock--but his stomach and thighs and arms all shivered at the touch of Charlie's body. When Charlie came a couple minutes later, the spread of wet heat between them and the sudden stillness of his body felt like more of an epiphany than Fred's own orgasm had been.
They lay together quietly, Charlie smoothing his hands down Fred's side with a gentle murmur of words that Fred didn't bother trying to follow.
Finally, though, the realization that George was still in their bed hard and wanting penetrated Fred's blissful daze. He turned his head with what felt like an extraordinary effort to meet George's strained yet smiling face. "Sorry," he said.
George shook his head. "It's not like I minded watching that, you know. And as soon as you've caught your breath, you can bet that you'll be making it up to me."
"Why wait?" Fred asked, and George sucked in an unsteady breath. He ducked his head to kiss George's shoulder, and then his chest, and Charlie rolled off of him so that Fred could continue his way down George's body, licking and biting indiscriminately until he reached his cock.
"Please," George muttered, staring down at him as Fred breathed warm air over the shiny head, its foreskin drawn back tightly. He'd seen George naked dozens of times, but never quite like this, and the strange angle and perspective meant that he couldn't tell if they were identical here, as well, or simply not dissimilar. Charlie could probably tell them, he thought, or if he couldn't now, then maybe later. Fred tucked away that idea for another day and slid his mouth over the wet tip of George's cock and then down, sucking gently.
Charlie made a noise in the back of his throat that was still softer than George's harsh gasp, and Fred lost himself in the simple pleasure of cocksucking, aware that something was likely going on above his head but not too interested in finding out what it was if that meant opening his eyes and thinking about anything but the taste and feel of George in his mouth. He licked the head, lapping up the strangely tasteless fluid, and sucked down as much of George's erection as he could manage, and George ended up lasting longer than Fred had, but not by much.
Fred swallowed what he could and let himself be tugged up for more kisses and for two wet, thorough tongues cleaning his face. "I think we should officially retire the sofa during Charlie's visits," he said when he could speak again.
George grinned at him, and Charlie didn't, but he gave Fred another kiss, which was rather better, to Fred's mind.