Word Count: ~1000
Summary: Charlie knows that certain fairytales have never been destined for him.
Beta: The lovely nuclearsugars. Thanks a billion!
A/N: Written for prompt # 2, wheel in the sky, of my rarepair_shorts prompt table.
Charlie lies wide awake, staring into the Romanian moonlight that’s filtering through the blinds. The only sound is the deep breathing and soft sighs of the sleeping man next to him. He draws his arm over his eyes to block out the light, trying to will himself to sleep, trying to convince himself that the morning isn’t going to bring the cruel blow that he should see coming but somehow never does.
Deciding that attempting to sleep is useless, he props himself up on one elbow and takes in Neville’s solid form, his broad chest gently rising and falling with every breath. Charlie begins to count the breaths, wondering how many more Neville will take before the morning sunlight works its way under those dark eyelashes and caresses Neville into wakefulness. He desperately wants to reach out a hand and run his fingers through the coarse strands of hair, but he knows he won’t do it. That simple action will bring him too close to bear.
He sighs and lets his head fall back to the pillow, wondering why he can’t ever say what he means to say, can’t ever show the people he loves how he really feels. He’s always been this way, right back to childhood, when he would pull away as his mum tried to cuddle him, and smile as the fibs of youth came far too easily to his lips. Charlie has never been someone to give in to his true desires. It explains, in part, why he chooses to sequester himself in the most remote corner of Europe for most of the year. It’s true that he is obsessed with the dragons, but the most attractive part of the job has always been the isolation, the lack of forced human interaction.
A flood of memories of their first day together at the reserve come to Charlie all at once, and he almost whimpers with the emotional intensity. He had known who Neville was, of course, and met him a few times previously, but he knows that he will never forget that day. Charlie hadn’t recognised Neville at first, had thought that maybe they’d sent someone else in his place. But upon closer inspection, it became clear that it was Neville alright, just the grown-up war hero version of the shy, clumsy child he’d once been.
Charlie had watched Neville with interest, hanging back as he took samples of the plants in and around the dragon enclosures. It had been Neville who suggested that they share a drink and a catch-up, and although Charlie’s first impulse was to run, Neville’s eager grin won him over and he’d let him come back to the cabin. All it took was half a bottle of firewhiskey and Neville had Charlie flat on his back, kissing his way down his neck, then his chest, then finally to the firey region below. Charlie had never come as hard as he did that night, and hasn’t since.
Of course, Charlie thinks, Neville has not been with him constantly in the intervening years. He didn’t give up the chance to travel the wizarding world as a famous herbologist in order to become a dragonkeeper’s house-husband. That fairy tale is not destined for Charlie. Instead, Neville drops in when he can, every month or two if Charlie’s lucky, and they eat and drink and then fall into bed, moaning with pent-up desire and the ecstasy of relief. The arrangement seems to suit Neville fine, and Charlie has become accustomed to a merry smile and one last, rather chaste kiss before Neville is on his way, off to Cambodia or Congo or wherever his job takes him next. Charlie knows it is Neville’s journey, and he has no right to meddle with it. But his own has already ended, far too early in his life, for he always knows where tomorrow will take him.
Neville sighs next to him and rolls over on to his back, lips parting to inhale the warm summer air. Those lips are Charlie’s favourite part of Neville, and he finds it hard to draw his eyes away from them. A glimmer of orange pushes through the blinds and Charlie knows the sun is just beginning to rise, bringing with it the loneliness and yearning that he never wanted to feel. In an ideal world, he would wake Neville with gentle caresses then profess his love and desire, and ask Neville to stay forever. But such romantic words will never fall from Charlie’s lips, and Neville will never presume Charlie’s feelings.
Charlie contemplates leaving, getting himself away from the whole heart-wrenching situation and starting a new life. Maybe back in England, surrounded by his family, or maybe in Antarctica. A place with no plants, leaving Neville with no excuse to visit, and Charlie could begin to rebuild his broken soul. Neville groans lightly and his eyelids begin to flutter, and Charlie wants to look away but can’t. The small room holds a certain ambience when it is washed with the soft hue of sunlight, and as Neville stretches he looks like a figure in an impressionist painting. His dark eyes settle on Charlie’s and Neville smiles. Charlie wants to smile back, but he doesn’t trust himself not to completely fall apart and Neville is used to his lack of reaction anyway.
Neville leans over to peck Charlie on the cheek, and then rises to make his way to the bathroom. Charlie finds himself unable to move, wondering if he’ll ever find the courage to join Neville in the shower and claim the morning as his own. He watches the gentle curves of Neville’s shoulder blades until they disappear through the doorway and the sound of running water fills the room. The sunlight makes Charlie’s eyes water as he realises that he’ll never leave, he’ll never begin his own journey. Because he and Neville are like opposite sides of the same coin, made out of the same material, joined forever to each other, but etched with different designs.
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