Todd had no idea why it took him so long to notice it. But once he had noticed it, he couldn’t stop noticing it.
Dirk Gently never hugged anyone.
Which was… Weird. Well, sure, okay, some people just weren’t big into physical contact and that was fair enough- but Dirk? He had no concept of personal space! Since the day they met there’d been prodding, patting, grabbing- the guy had hands that moved a mile a minute and he wasn’t in the business of keeping them to himself.
So why no hugging?
He watched in bewilderment as Dirk bid Farah and Amanda goodbye for the day with a smile and a few awkward shoulder pats. He kind of figured at least Amanda might get a hug out of him, but no. Nada. He tactfully waited ‘til the girls were gone before he mentioned it.
“Hey, Dirk?” He said lightly, putting down his phone.
Dirk looked at him, tilting his head in curiosity. “Yes, Todd?”
Todd flapped his mouth a bit. Now that he thought about it, it seemed kinda pushy and weird to ask. But, well, he’d come this far. “Uh… Y'know, you don’t have to be shy. Around us.” Dirk looked confused and he was forced to elaborate. “I mean you don’t have to hold back, or whatever. I’m sure Amanda wouldn’t punch you if you wanted to give her a hug sometime.”
“Oh,” said Dirk, shifting about awkwardly. “Oh. Um, right, yes. Hugs, absolutely. Yes, I am good at… Hugs.”
“Hey, look, if you don’t want to that’s-”
“No!” Dirk’s face flushed red with embarrassment at his outburst. “I mean- yes, I would like to… Hug. Someone. Maybe.”
“Dirk…” Todd said slowly, heart sinking. “When was the last time anyone hugged you?”
Oh, no. No, this was fucking bullshit. Todd stood up from his desk and walked round it. “Dirk,” he said, a little self-conscious and trying hard not to let it show. “D'you wanna…” He cleared his throat and opened his arms.
Dirk stared at him, wide-eyed. “Are you- are you sure you want me to…?”
Ouch. Todd nodded, taking another step closer. “Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that’s what friends do, right? Hugs and stuff.”
“Hugs and stuff,” Dirk agreed quietly, still staring at Todd as if he could disappear at any given moment.
“These… These things usually work best if you do it too.”
“Oh! Right, yes, let me just…”
Dirk eyed Todd’s outstretched arms warily, and stiffly imitated him. When he finally stepped into his embrace he did so with trepidation and not a little awkward arm repositioning as he shuffled about in search of the optimum arrangement. It was one of the weirdest, stiffest hugs Todd had ever been a part of.
And then Dirk finally managed to get his arms comfortably around Todd’s shoulders, chin propped carefully against the top of his head, and something just sort of… Clicked. Despite his uncertainty, Todd found himself melting into the embrace a little, face tucked up against Dirk’s chest, arms wound tightly round his waist, and it just felt right in some deep-seated way that he couldn’t quite define.
“Oh,” Dirk said softly, arms squeezing Todd a little tighter. “This… This is nice.”
“Yeah,” Todd agreed, voice a little choked. “Yeah, yeah this- this is good.”
They both fell quiet, nothing to hear besides their own slow, even breaths as the noise of the street below faded to an indistinct background hum.
Draco feels a tremor tear through him. His fists are clenched, his jaw muscles tense, his chest tight, his knees wobbly. He’s breathing heavily as his stomach twists viciously, the hot feeling inside it beginning to spread, infecting the rest of his body. Like venom. He stares down the empty corridor, lit by torches. His vision blurs, little spots appearing in front of him. He feels dizzy. He wants to scream. He wants this feeling inside of him to take physical form, so he can punch it, destroy it.
He wants the rage to leave his body.
Well, what Draco really wants is the cause of his rage to go away. How many letters from his father is he supposed to receive calmly, while Lucius keeps going on and on about how disappointed he is in his son, not sure if he can be even called his son any longer.
Draco feels sick. His stomach gives another twist, but Draco refuses to show weakness. He will not be sick. No. He hears, rather than feels, his jaw cracking as he tenses his muscles further. His arms are shaking now. Unthinkingly, he turns to the wall and punches it. Hard. He feels no pain, but there’s another cracking sound.
Draco feels his eyes sting, which only makes him angrier. This will not make him cry. He will not spill a single tear over this. And yet, he can’t seem to stop the hot tears from running down his cheeks.
He startles when he hears footsteps echoing off the walls. He hastily wipes the tears away with his sleeve and looks up. Of course. Of course it has to be Potter!
“Malfoy.” He sounds puzzled. “What are you doing here?”
Draco doesn’t answer and averts his eyes, in fear of Potter noticing he just had a moment of weakness.
“Malfoy,” Potter repeats. Draco feels a new surge of anger course through him. He wants to hit Potter. Hexing him wouldn’t be gratifying enough. He wants to physically injure him with his hands, his whole body.
Before Potter knows what’s happening, Draco lunges at him. His fist connects with his jaw and Potter stumbles backward. He blinks a few times, obviously flabbergasted and blinks at Draco stupidly. After a moment, he frowns.
“What the hell, Malfoy?”
Draco lunges at him again, trying to land a punch. His vision blurs once more, making it difficult to see where to hit Potter. But it doesn’t matter. Draco doesn’t care which part of Potter he will injure, as long as it hurts. He wants Potter to hurt as much as he does.
But Potter is fighting back. He hits Draco in the stomach, making him flinch. He welcomes the sharp pain. It numbs the other sensations in his body. It doesn’t last long, though. Once again, he feels detached from his body.
Draco’s not sure, but he thinks he got Potter on his shoulder and punched his chest, knocking the breath out of him. When Draco starts whirling around again, striking out in an uncontrolled manner, he suddenly feels arms encircling him, clutching him.
“Damn it, Malfoy, stop,” Potter shouts. He tightens his grip, trying to get Draco to stop moving. Draco fights against the restraint, tries to break free, but Potter is apparently stronger than him.
“Bloody hell, I heard you’ve been starting fights lately for no apparent reason,” Potter squeezes out while Draco still tries to get him off him. “What is the matter with you?”
Draco just grunts and tries to shove his elbow into Potter’s side. He fails. When all his attempts fail, he finally slumps down. Potter, surprised by the sudden extra weight, tumbles and they both go down.
Draco needs a moment to realise he’s half sitting in Potter’s lap, his body still somewhat encircled by Potter’s arms. It’s too much. Draco can’t take this. The hot tears he spilled earlier are nothing compared to what’s happening right now. He’s choking on his own sobs, every inhale torture to his lungs.
He can’t even win a fight against Potter, Draco thinks bitterly. Is his father right? Is Draco really a disappointment? Draco is faintly aware that he’s heaving and puffing, his chest aching.
“Malfoy,” Potter says quietly, uncertainty clear in his voice. He hasn’t moved his arms and Draco wants to slap them away, because the warmth that’s seeping through his robes is too bittersweet for him to bear. It’s not Potter’s intention to comfort him with this proximity.
“Your hand,” Potter suddenly mutters. Draco looks down at it. His hand his bruised and swollen, the skin on his knuckles cracked. He still doesn’t feel any pain. He’s just numb, like most days lately, not in control of his own body.
He hates that he can’t get up and just leave. He’s still sitting in Potter’s lap, sobbing like a child. Draco feels a tentative finger under his chin and tries to jerk his head away, but Potter’s grip is firm. He forces Draco to look at him and Draco can do nothing against it. He stares at Potter as several emotions pass over his face. His eyes are wide and his mouth opens to release a warm puff of breath. Draco feels it on his face and it’s like Potter has struck him.
The aching in his chest worsens and Draco breaks down completely. He lets his head fall down, not caring where it lands. The fingers under his chin disappear, as Draco’s head hits something solid. Potter’s shoulder, he realises, when something soft tickles his ear. Potter’s hair.
Draco knows this is wrong. He knows Potter is getting a glimpse of something, Draco has been trying to hide from everyone. He can’t show weakness. He just can’t.
He isn’t sure, at first, if he’s imagining something pressing into his back and the warmth on his cheek, until he tries to turn his head and finds that he can’t. Because Potter’s cheek is pressing into his, his arms are around Draco once more. He’s drawing circles on Draco’s back with his palms
Draco really does know this is wrong and he has no idea what possessed Potter to actually try and comfort him, but when Draco feels a warm hand move over his head and begins stroking his hair, Draco closes his eyes and decides that, just for tonight, he will forget about everything that is wrong.