A Study in Feline Mating Behaviours: by one Gavin Free, PhD.
length: 2,156 words
ao3 link: http://archiveofourown.org/works/7456282
summary: “So, I think Michael wants to eat me.”
Geoff takes one look at him and starts laughing so hard he has to pull over to the side of the road.
(or, Michael’s been acting weird and Gavin has a theory: too bad it couldn’t be farther from the truth.)
additional tags: hybrid au, fluff
“So, I think Michael wants to eat me.”
Geoff takes one look at him and starts laughing so hard he has to pull over to the side of the road. Not a giggle, or the huff of a laugh that Geoff usually gives to anything he finds somewhat funny but isn’t worth wasting energy on; this is full-blown, voice-cracking, wheezing, huffing Geoff laughter, and he’s pretty sure that if the steering wheel hadn’t been in the way, Geoff would be folded double. It’s been a long day at the Achievement Hunter office and Gavin’s just ticked off enough that his feathers ruffle and his shoulders hunch as he turns away from Geoff. “Oy, shut up. I’m being serious.”
“Why would you even say that, oh my god!” Geoff’s gasping for air and Gavin can see tears in his eyes as he absolutely howls with laughter. He pushes at the older man’s horns in protest, which sobers him up, although Geoff is still wiping his eyes as he gets back onto the road. “Why do you think that?” He’s still chuckling, but Gavin ignores him, staring at the dashboard. “I mean, I know what cats are like. I’ve owned a cat forever! And he’s acting more and more like Smee just before he drags in a dead rat or something.”
“Yeah! Just watch him around me! It’s bloody terrifying, it is. He’s always doing this thing where he’s like, staring at me really intensely. It’s just like Smee hunting birds in the backyard!”
Now Geoff’s just casting him sidelong looks of pity. “What?”
“Nothing, dude. I’ll take your word for it.”
For once, Gavin’s not taking the piss. Sure, they joke around the office about the odd mixture of prey and predator that is Achievement Hunter and there are obviously laws and such against eating anyone else; they may be hybrids but they’re not savages, for god’s sake. Nobody’s really going to eat anyone else, probably, but he can’t help but worry. It’s just-
Michael looks at him differently. He remembers the way Michael looked at him when they first met, the combination of surprise and suspicion and ambivalence, quickly replaced by annoyance and frustration. That was alright, Gavin was used to those, seeing as he usually provoked it anyway. But now, there’s something else behind the fond exasperation in his eyes, a strange intense look, as if he was the only person in the whole world to Michael, as if he was, well, prey. And he’ll admit, it ruffles his feathers quite a bit, especially seeing as he actually is prey; all things considered, a lark isn’t high up on the food chain. It’s odd, stirs up a primal fear inside him that he can ignore but not quite forget.
The next day, Michael’s back at it again. He’s talking to Jack, back faced to the door, but the moment Gavin walks in, he looks up and stares straight into his eyes, tail whipping straight down. Gavin swallows down the irrational spike of fear and grins at him, and it seems to snap Michael back into reality. He grins back, a cheeky smirk that makes his down feathers fluff, but even though Michael goes right back to talking to Jack, his posture is different now, back straight and tail stiff, and his ears, originally relaxed, are upright and twitching slightly. Jack gives him a once-over and glances over to meet Gavin’s worried eyes, understanding dawning in his eyes. He murmurs something to Michael, who mutters right back an audible, “Fuck off.” Jack replies, and Michael practically hisses at him, storming back to his seat and dropping into it so forcefully that it creaks. Gavin exchanges wide-eyed looks with Ray, and pats Michael on the arm. He regrets it immediately, because Michael draws back like he’s been stung, hackles raising quickly. The tension in the office doesn’t dissipate for the rest of the morning.
So Gavin corners Jack outside his office, because Jack is a lion and Gavin really wants to know what he said to Michael, and it makes total sense up to the point where Jack says no. They sort of look at each other for a while, Jack calm and Gavin confused.
“Jack! This is important!”
“It’s also none of my business.”
“Well, I should think it’s my bloody business if my best friend wants to maul my face off, yeah?”
The confusion on Jack’s face would’ve been comical if it hadn’t been so relatable. They stare at each other for a beat, and Jack blinks. “Is that what you think’s going on here?”
“Well, yeah. Isn’t it?”
Jack just pushes past him and walks to his car, leaving Gavin confused and frustrated and trilling loud, angry noises at him. It’s unfortunately nothing new for either of them.
He asks Ryan next, just because Ryan is actually a nice person and the real dad of the group under all of his insanity and malice. He explains the whole situation to him over lunch another day, and because Ryan is nicer than the other gents, he listens to all of it before humming thoughtfully and then shaking his head.
“Nah, I don’t think that’s it.”
“Why not? It’s pretty simple, innit?”
“Maybe you’re barking up the wrong tree?” Ryan snickers and flicks at one of his wings, stretched out because he can never do it in the office, tiny and cramped as it is, and a 9-5 without stretching his wings is hell on his back. Gavin scowls and flaps it at him, sending a gust of wind through the break room. It’s annoying, sure, but it doesn’t account for the sudden blankness of Ryan’s expression. It’s then that he realises Michael’s entered the room, and without consciously deciding to, his wings snap back, folding up neatly against his spine. Michael looks terrifying, sharp teeth just resting against his bottom lip, ears perked and tail lowered and stiff. His hackles are raised, and it takes a moment for Gavin to realise that the low sound he’s barely hearing is Michael growling quietly. He shrinks back, glancing over at Ryan for support, but the bovine hybrid is standing up, the same irritatingly understanding look that Jack had now plastered across his face. Calmly, Ryan nods to Michael and disposes of his trash before leaving the breakroom. Gavin immediately reconsiders his assumption that Ryan is a nice person. No nice person leaves their friend to a predator to possibly have their face mauled off.
Somehow, though, the moment Ryan leaves the room, the growling tapers off and Michael shakes himself, claws that Gavin is acutely aware of retracting back into his fingers, to his immense relief. He’s still got the intense look in his eyes and his tail remains lowered, but the tension in his shoulders dissipates and he fetches a drink from the fridge before glancing over to him, smile wide, as if the events of two minutes ago hadn’t happened.
“Wanna go to Rudy’s?”
Gavin’s never been more reluctant, but he nods anyway. At least it’s crowded there. If anything happens, they’ll know exactly what.
It escalates after that. He calls Michael all manner of insults, but instead of the usual eye roll or “Shut the fuck up, Gav,”, the Jersey boy just cuffs him about the head or bats his shoulder. It’s never too rough, nothing he’s never learned to take in 26 years of being part bird, but it’s still unnerving, the sudden clap of his hand, and Gavin jumps a foot in the air every time it happens. Michael finds it hilarious, but Gavin just finds it sad. He gets an achievement in a game by backstabbing Michael, and the cat hybrid tackles him out of his chair and wrestles him around into a headlock that he won’t relinquish, even though Gavin’s smacking him with his wings and squawking loudly. It’s nice to tumble with his boy again, but the fear at the back of his mind screws with him, and when Michael lets him go, he scrambles quickly back into his chair, ignoring the surprised and somewhat hurt look in his boy’s eyes.
And so maybe Gavin is sort of, kinda, slightly, somewhat avoiding him. In his defence, he really doesn’t want to be eaten, which he sees as a perfectly justified goal, which is why it’s so unfair whenever he successfully evades going to lunch or bevs or downtown with Michael and the gents give him a disappointed look, as if he’s the one in the wrong. He’s not the one trying to eat his friends, for god’s sake. Michael probably doesn’t notice anyway, the first few times Gavin said no, he’d just shrugged and gone with Lindsay or one of the other guys, and then after that he’d stopped asking altogether. Fortunately, they haven’t had any Play Pals coming up, and in normal Let’s Plays the others keep up the banter for him. He never stays in the office longer than the normal hours because Michael always stays late, and he’s almost perfected the art of not quite looking at Michael when they talk. Gavin misses their usual conversation, but he thinks he’d prefer to be alive and without a best friend, rather than having said best friend kill you. Does that even make sense? Probably.
The whole thing comes to a head a couple of weeks later, in possibly the worst way. It’s five in the evening and Gavin’s puttering about in the break room, about to leave the building, when a hand grabs him by the elbow and he’s pulled back to meet a somewhat upset Michael.
“You’ve been avoiding me.”
“What?” His eyes meet Michael’s and slide away quickly, and he nervously bites his lip, feathers circling him defensively, and he can almost feel the confusion and hurt radiating from the cat hybrid. His tail curls around him and his ears flatten against his head, and Gavin can’t help but feel like shit now.
“What did I do? Are you okay?” He shakes his head, refusing to reply, but Michael steps closer, hands moving to grab his shoulders, stopping in their tracks as Gavin flinches and his wings shove them away. “Don’t! I-”
“What? What’s going on?”
“Don’t- You can’t- You can’t eat me, alright?”
There’s a beat of incredulous silence, and Gavin thinks that maybe Geoff and Jack and Ryan had a point when he meets Michael’s eyes and they’re full of shock. “Is that what you think’s going on?”
“Uh- I mean, it seemed like it.” He mumbles, and Michael shakes his head. “You’re such a fucking dumbass.”
“Well, then what is going on? You’ve been acting really weird, you can’t deny that!”
He barely has time to register what’s happening before Michael’s grabbing him by the collar and jerking him forward. Their lips meet in a chaste kiss that’s over almost as soon as it starts, and Michael steps back immediately, a flush creeping down his neck. “That’s what’s going on, fucker.” He mumbles, but there’s no heat behind the words and Gavin can see the fear in his eyes as his ears flatten against his head. Almost without thinking, he pulls him back in, hand wrapping around the back of his neck, and kisses him properly. In terms of a kiss, it’s not great, desperation making it sloppy and fumbling, but then Michael presses him against the wall and he feels a sharp canine nick his lower lip, and bloody hell forget what he just said, this is spectacular.
When they finally break apart, they’re both panting, grinning like idiots, and Michael presses his forehead to Gavin’s, shuts his eyes. “Come home with me.” His tail wraps around Gavin’s wrist affectionately, and Gavin’s wings unfold, enclose him as well.
And maybe he should stop to think about this, it’s not like he’s ever been with a guy, and it should probably be a lot more scary than it is, but then again it’s Michael, and nothing is too difficult with him, so he mumbles mindlessly, “Yeah. Yeah, okay.”
The delighted grin he receives in return is more than enough to chase away any lingering doubt, and he follows willingly when Michael steps away, taking him by the hand and leading him out of the break room and towards the main office door.
The next day, they practically sprint into the office, fifteen minutes late and panting, and Michael manages to get out between heavy breaths, “Sorry I’m late. I was doing…things.”
“I’m things.” Gavin chirps from behind him, and although everyone in the room groans and Ray shouts, “I’m out!”, it’s definitely worth it to see the pretty flush creep up Michael’s neck.
“Still think Michael’s out to eat you?” Geoff calls out, and the gents all look up at him with the same annoying I-told-you-so look.
“Turns out, Geoffrey, I was completely right about that.”