(Flufftober Day 21: Knuckle Kisses) (content warning: actions that could be interpreted as self harm, but with a positive ending and lots of love)
(Read on AO3)
“I think that’s enough, Robert,” Michael’s voice barely reaches him through the sounds of his heavy breathing and the steady ‘thump’ of his fists hitting the punching bag, trying to release all of his pent-up frustration from the day.
There are two rules that Robert has to follow whenever he gets into one of these mindsets: One, he has to tell Michael before he actually does anything, and two, he has to listen when Michael says it’s enough and accept the offered iratzes afterward.
So even though it’s the last thing he wants to do, Robert stops, because Robert’s weak spot always was, and always will be, Michael. And as much as hitting that bag until his hands go numb is what he wants to do the most, upsetting Michael is what he wants to do the least, and that wins out.
Robert’s hands fall to his sides, and as the punching bag slows to a stop Robert can see the wet streaks of blood there, only then holding up his own hands to see that his knuckles are bleeding.
Michael crosses over to him and gently takes Robert’s right hand first, holding it in his left hand while using a cloth in his right to gently dab away the blood. When it’s mostly clear Michael drops it and takes Robert’s left hand, repeating the process.
“How are you feeling?” Michael asks as he ditches the cloth and reaches into his pocket for his stele.
“Better,” Robert says. “Thanks for being here.”
“Thanks for asking me to,” Michael says, eyes shining with love and pride. It would be so easy for Robert to slip away and do this on his own, but they have their agreement and he holds to it each and every time. Robert doesn’t want to think about what might happen if he doesn’t - what he might lose, who he might lose.
Michael’s love scared him at first, the depth of the emotion held there, the infinite time and patience and caring that Michael seems to have set aside for him. Robert almost couldn’t bring himself to accept it, but now? Now, he doesn’t know what he’d do if he ever lost it.
If he lost Michael.
Michael picks up Robert’s right hand again and uses the stele to draw an iratze on the back of it. They both watch as the open skin on Robert’s knuckles begins to mend itself, and as it does Michael brings his hand up to his lips to press a gentle kiss onto each knuckle in turn. It almost looks as if it’s Michael’s lips that heal Robert’s pain - and that isn’t untrue, to be fair.
Michael repeats the process with Robert’s left hand, drawing the same symbol before placing a kiss to each and every healing knuckle.
“I love you,” Robert says. Once upon a time he never could’ve imagined himself saying them aloud, not to Michael. Now he can’t imagine keeping them in.
“I love you too,” Michael replies, pulling Robert into a tight embrace. “Now come on, let’s get some rest.”