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Let Me Be Selfish

Chapter Text

Even now, after everything that’s happened, the words get clogged in Grif’s throat. A low key tremor runs through his body, his nerves still humming from the alien energy in the air that had led to… this.

Simmons is just as wrecked as he is in the aftermath. Sweat clings to his pale skin, making it hard to keep his legs wrapped around Grif’s hips. His head has collapsed against the wall, eyes closed as he pants, pulse slowing minutely. Grif can feel it fluttering against his cheek as his head remains burrowed against his throat.

He really should let go, let his hands slide out from under Simmons, and stop pinning him against the wall but he can’t. Not when Simmons is clutching equally tight to him with his legs and a single arm.

The other-- there isn’t even a stump anymore where his prosthetic used to attach.

Grey was the best doctor in the galaxy but even she couldn’t save what was left of his arm. Not after the horrible fight on the Staff of Charon.

He should say the words. They’re sitting right there. But he can’t get them out, for more than all the usual reasons. The terror of seeing Simmons go down in the fight freezes the words in his mouth, leaves them trapped behind the solid lump in his throat that makes it hard to breath.

The sweat causes one of Simmons’ legs to start to slip. He jerks with a soft whimper, clinging to Grif’s shoulders as he struggles to keep from falling. Grif presses closer and lets his hand slide down the tightly muscled, lightly haired leg and pulls it back onto his hip. His hand lingers, fingers curled under Simmons’ knee and he can’t help but turn his head slightly, to nuzzle and nip at the delicate pulse that’s started to race once more.

Tucker and Wash had gone to the Temple of Procreation to nudge the planet’s livestock into breeding season. Supposedly, the waves of intoxicating lust it produced could be focused to only affect animals. Grif could only assume they’d forgotten to ask if humans counted as animals.

Grif can feel the alien energy burning into him once more, making his heart race and his blood rush south. Simmons let out a soft groan and flexed against him; the energy is getting to him as well. They can both feel the stirring where they’re still joined and it won’t be long before they’re lost in each other once more.

Or would be, if Simmons’ stretching didn’t twist his shoulder the wrong way and cause him to let out a sharp bark of pain. His legs convulse and slip. Grif grabs at him fast, catching him before he falls all the way to the hard concrete floor beneath them and holds him steady as he gets his feet planted under him.  

This time, Simmons is the one hiding his face, burying it against the side of Grif’s head, lips close to his ear as his whimpers in pain. The trembling wracking his body now has nothing to do with pleasure and everything to do with his still-healing injuries. There’s a reason Grey hasn’t already fitted him with a new prosthetic.

Holding the other man tight, Grif lets Simmons take whatever comfort he needs. Shifting his weight, he lingers close, mindful not to apply any weight to Simmons’ left side. He’s careful as he adjusts his stance, wary of losing his footing in the mess beneath them. On some level, he’s surprised Simmons hasn’t already complained about standing in the sticky slick puddle. It’s probably just an incidental detail, though. Simmons is in no danger of falling, not with Grif pinning him to the wall and holding tight to his hips.

The arm around his shoulders loosens and Simmons shifts it to press against Grif’s chest, his fingers coming to rest on the still healing scars and sore muscles. His whimpers are tapering off and the shaking starting to ease. The pressure from that single arm feels wrong, unbalanced without a second holding tight. Almost involuntarily, Grif’s mind flashes back to the Staff of Charon.

The mercenaries guarding Hargrove are worse than any they’ve faced besides Felix and Locus. Heavily armed, highly skilled, and utterly ruthless, each step they take forward and each room and corridor they conquer is in itself a stunning victory. Somehow, their crew of fuck-ups and losers break through each enemy barricade and drive forward, getting closer and closer to freedom.

It helped that they’ve ultimately succeeded in the original task that had brought them to the ship: the Mantis outside have been shut-down and the friends they’ve made in the New Republic and Federal Army are safe. Even if they fall and die, it’ll be with the knowledge that they’ve done something worth remembering.

They’d almost reached the airlock where Carolina and Wash are racing to meet them. The enhancements in Tucker’s stolen armor are doing their job keeping their rear protected while Grif launches a steady barrage of explosives at the mercs trying to rush them. Doc’s run out of ammo for his rocket launcher but that hasn’t stopped him from turning it into a deadly melee weapon. Each time he beats a mercenary into a wall or the ground, Donut is right there to put a bullet in their head.

But the bubble shield can’t run the entire time and they’re on the move instead of hunkered down behind layers of protective concrete and steel.

Two shots burst past their defenses and hit Simmons dead in the arm. By some stroke of luck, one round gets lodged in the complex machinery that makes up that arm and doesn’t continue tearing through him. Unfortunately, the parts it’s lodged in start a cascade of failure that sends the artificial limb sparking and jerking out of control. The second round punches through and slams into his side, its velocity slowed enough that when it hits a rib, it doesn’t go any further.

In an instant, Simmons goes from firing the alien needlers to stumbling into a wall, frantically trying to get his finger off the trigger before he shoots someone. Meanwhile, pain radiates out of his side, each movement he makes causing the bullet to grind against his rib.

“Hold position!” Sarge bellows and they all hunker down, forming a protective circle around the maroon armored soldier. They don’t have to look know he’s in pain; he’s growling and panting over the comms, teeth grinding together as he struggles not to scream. Sarge is on him in an instant, hands confident as he looks at the damage. He reaches out and grabs the limb, struggling to pin it in place then lets out a long string of Southern-flavored curses; the malfunctioning parts are overheating. His other hand is already fumbling for his biofoam, which he jabs directly into the wound in Simmons’ chest and fires the canister. The swarm of proverbial ants flooding the injury tears a scream out of the wounded soldier’s throat.

“Sorry, son, we’ll get you a new one,” Sarge grunts, as he struggles to hold down the spasming limb. “Tucker, we need to take Simmons’ arm off.”

“We need to what? ” Tucker yells he triggers the bubble shield; an explosive erupts around them, causing the entire corridor to shake.

“Cut it off, right below the shoulder!” Sarge bellows back. Once the biofoam is put away, he slams both hands onto Simmons’ arm, pinning it to the wall.

With his own string of curses, Tucker spins around, takes in the situation, and lashes out with his sword. The plasma blade slices effortlessly through the armor and the flesh and bone beneath. “Jesus fucking christ!” he screams as the limb drops to the ground and continues to writhe.

Simmons crumples. Sarge catches him and throws him over his shoulder, hooking his remaining arm and leg in a fireman’s carry. “Alright, let’s move!”

Grif catches sight of Simmons collapsing out of the corner of his eye; for an instant, all he can see is red-- maroon red armor, red arm crawling along the ground, red on the wall where Simmons collapsed. Red haze fills his vision and all he wants to do is tear away from the group and find whoever shot Simmons and kill them. He wants to smash their face in with the Grifshot, beat them into the ground, and peel open their armor like a can of beans; put the curved bayonet to work until the mercenary is as red as Simmons.

Before he can break away, though, Donut is jerking at his arm, screaming at him to keep going . “Grif, come on!” the small soldier yells. “You have to stay with Simmons!”

That gets him moving, breaks through the bloodlust filling his mind. He tucks close to Sarge, making sure he’s always between Simmons and any more bullets. They make it to the airlock and onto the rescue ship, Carolina and Wash tearing through the hatch to lay down cover fire. When they take off, Grif stops caring about the Staff of Charon and focuses completely on the bioreadout in his HUD; in all the years he’s had it there, he’s never seen Simmons’ readout look so bad.

Doc looks him over, momentarily setting aside his O’malley-like manic state, and confirms he’s stable. Tucker’s sword cauterized the amputation; the biofoam is doing is job and stopped the internal bleeding.

“And now you, Grif,” the purple medic continues as he stands up and turns to him.

Hearing his name catches his attention and Grif looks up, away from Simmons, in confusion.

Scanner in hand, Doc hurries over and starts running the device over his chest. Struggling to angle his helmet down, Grif is shocked to see red seeping down his armor. Doc, meanwhile, pulls out his own canister of biofoam and presses it into the bullet wound in his chest. The application is like a thousand needles stabbing him all at once and Grif is suddenly painfully aware of his injury.

“You’re really lucky, Grif, the bullet missed your lung!” Doc cheerfully informs him. “It’s still in there, though, so don’t move around too much.”

“Any other injuries?” Wash demands. He’s anxious, exhausted, but refuses to stop hovering near Tucker and Caboose.

“Just those two knuckleheads,” Sarge gruffly informs him from his seat besides the injured soldier. For once, Grif can’t find it in him to shoot off his mouth. Not when he can just make out the red stains on the red plates of Sarge’s armor. Blood. Simmons’ blood.

The rest of the flight is a blur. They leave the battlefield behind and return to Crash Site Bravo where the United Armies of Chorus have re-established a command center. Simmons is promptly wheeled into surgery while Grif finds himself at the tender mercy of one of the nurses, who extracts the bullet and patches him back up with the battle-honed confidence all the Chorus medics have.

Hours later, Simmons is out of surgery and recovery. He’s still loopy when they’re allowed to go see him and keeps repeating himself, giddy as he earnestly makes sure they understand what he’s telling them, even when it’s nonsense.

Grif’s seen Simmons without his prosthetic before; he and Sarge are forever tinkering with the mechanical limb and his heart had stopped racing at the sight of the stumpy remain of his organic limb years ago.

But now, lying against the white linens, Simmons look small and fragile. The nerve damage from the bullet-caused malfunction had been more extensive than they’d realized and Grey had been forced to take off everything below his shoulder. Triage, the nurse who’d led them in, had explained. If there hadn’t been so many other injuries to deal with, they might have been able to repair the damage but under the circumstances, they’d done all they could.

Recovery takes time. It’s days before Grey lets Simmons out of bed and Grif isn’t allowed to even think about putting on his armor and helping out in anyway. Eventually, though, they’re put on light duty. Grif trails along behind Simmons, compensating for his missing arm and the still-healing stump. They don’t talk much about the Staff of Charon, or about their injuries. They’d mastered the art of avoidance years ago and this just puts their skills to the test.

But the terror of almost dying lingers between them. Grif can’t sleep without seeing all that red. And one of the few times either of them brings up the fight, Simmons had been horrified that Grif hadn’t even noticed he’d been shot.

Grif can’t explain how frightened he’d been when he’d seen Simmons go down. It had been a horrifying, electric moment where everything had suddenly become so. Damn. Clear. He can’t hide from how intense his feelings for the other man are any longer. The moment he’d found himself faced with the idea of a world without Simmons, he’d realized he would never survive in such a place.

But he can’t bring himself to say the words. This new realization comes with a fresh layer of terror. He’s only ever told one person he loved them; there’s only ever been one person he’s trusted enough to be so open with. He wants to say it, to hold Simmons tight and tell him everything but--

There’s a chance Simmons might not feel the same way. That he would wince at Grif’s words, stumble over an apology then awkwardly offer to just be friends. Grif remembers how much it had hurt in the past when he’d tentatively offered someone his heart; what he feels for Simmons is so much stronger that the idea of putting himself back in that vulnerable place is terrifying.

He knows he’s not lovable -- every time Mom had gotten drunk, she’d never held back in tell him how much better Kai was than him. His biological father had given him the back of his hand more than anything else before he’d died in a robbery. He knew Kai loved him but he’d basically raised her, made sure she always had food and protected her as best he could. It made him squirm inside but the day he’d realized he’d basically found a cheat code to guarantee her affection, he’d clung even tighter to her, working himself to bone to give her everything he could in exchange for whatever scraps of fondness she’d give him in return.

The lessons he’d learned in childhood made everything perfectly clear. If his own parents hadn’t loved him, why would Simmons? Especially since he’d never been able to give him all the things he’d given Kai.

So he kept his mouth shut. When the words began to build up in his throat, he swallowed them down. There were times, here and there, when he thought about saying them. Times when Simmons smiled at him or made a joke, bumped his uninjured shoulder against his in silent thanks. Those moments made him wonder.

They hadn’t thought anything about continuing on in their duties when Tucker and Wash went to the Temple of Procreation. They’d been doing inventory in a supply closet when the alien device was triggered and the moment the energy had swept over them, every worry and concern he had melted away.

Everything was okay because he was with Simmons.

He hadn’t thought twice about pulling him in for a kiss, hands reaching up to tangle in his red curls. Simmons had let out a soft, surprised gasp, then melted against him, his lone arm wrapping around his neck. Their fumbling to strip down had broken the lock as Simmons’ shirt caught on the door handle and pulled the wrong way. They’d ended up pressed together against the far wall, deeply entwined. Whenever they weren’t caught up in a deep kiss as their hips rolled, Simmons looked at him like he was all that mattered in the world. Grif knew he was doing the same.

But everything had to come to an end and so did they. It wasn’t long before they were both panting against each other, coming down from that euphoric high. And as their minds started to catch back up, he remembered Tucker’s mission and… that certainty he’d had vanished.

As Simmons held him close, the pain in his shoulder and side easing off, Grif felt a flicker of uncertainty even as the alien lust began to work on him once more. He was thinking straight again; with that big brain of his, Simmons had to be doing the same. Surely it wouldn’t be long now before he pushed him away and made a joke about sex pollen. With their minds working again, they could pull their clothes back on and part ways, take care of the lust lingering in their systems alone.

Grif couldn’t stop his hands from running back down Simmons back, feeling the flex of strong muscles and that lean body. No matter what happened, he’d never stop loving Simmons, the corny jokes, his meticulous attention to detail, how indignant he got when they argued about Battlestar Galactica.

Just this once, he’d left himself be selfish. He’d never get to have this again once Simmons came to his senses. Once he said to back off, that would be it.

He pressed a kiss against the side of Simmons' head, then started kissing his way down his neck. The other man groaned in his ear, the sound more a rough purr than the pain filled sound from earlier and his hand pressed harder against his chest, Simmons' long, delicate fingers rubbing carefully against the scar on his chest. Hips rocked against his and Grif let out a moan, pulling back so he could hungrily kiss Simmons mouth.

Just this once, he’d be selfish and take whatever intimacy Simmons would let him have. Because once this was over, he’d never get to have it again.

Chapter Text

The aftermath of the Temple of Procreation debacle was… mixed, to say the least.

Kimball gave a vaguely worded explanation and issued a blanket apology. The alien A.I. Santa also recorded a statement, promising to update the protocols in all the towers to ensure humans no longer registered as animals and ranked instead alongside its original makers as sentient beings.

Every medical facility within range of the temple's inhibition lowering, arousal inspiring energy waves had a flurry of activity and Grey cheerfully announced a likely baby boom. Happily, the majority of the affected citizens were military and had been, on some level, already aware of the Towers and their unusual capabilities. It still made things awkward for everyone and embarrassing for others, but ultimately, the Temple had only encouraged those affected to act on already existing feelings and desires; the number of reported random hook-ups remained low.

Tucker slid into the makeshift dining hall in the belly of the crashed ship as discreetly as he could, head swiveling from side to side and eyes wary. He’d run the full gamut of reactions once he and Wash had returned from the Temple, everything from yelling to blushing and stammering gratitude. Spotting some of the other Reds and Blues, he sidled along the wall and dropped into one of the open seats.

“Caboose, go get me food,” he hissed.

The large, muscular man frowned, dark curly hair flopping into his eyes. “I don’t want to get food for you.”

“Aw, come on, man,” Tucker pleaded. A group of soldiers passed by and several eyes lingered on the aquamarine armored man. “I’m trying to keep a low profile. Please? I’ll see if I can find you more photo paper or coloring stuff,” he added as Caboose remained firm.

“As long as you promise,” Caboose finally agreed. “I need lots and lots of paper. I have many photographs I would like to print.”

Tucker let out a sigh of relief as the other Blue stood and headed back towards the food service line. Then, a look of panic appeared. “Shit, what happened to him? During the Temple thing, I mean." 

“He played Go Fish with Smith,” Simmons informed him in a dry voice. “They apparently decided that everyone had gone crazy and went to his room to wait it out.”

“You’re absolutely sure of that?” There was no missing the hint of worry in Tucker’s voice.

Rolling his eyes, Simmons nodded. “Smith can give you a play-by-play if you want. Apparently they used Caboose’s rules.”

“Which means he kept forgetting them and just made up new ones.”

“Exactly.”

Sighing in relief, Tucker propped his head on a hand and studied Simmons for a moment. He was still in fatigues, still only had one arm. It made eating slow, especially the dry, brown, vaguely healthy looking thing he was eating. A sly smirk spread over his face and he reached out, tugging down the collar of Simmons’ shirt.

“Hot damn, Grif didn’t go easy on you, did he?” he teased as his eyes lit over the small scattered bruises dotting the other man’s neck and shoulder. “Where is he, anyway? You two have been basically attached at the hip since you got out of medical.”

“Don’t do that,” Simmons hissed, a heated blush erupting across his face as he dropped his spoon to bat Tucker’s hand away. “Anyways, you just missed him. He was finishing up when I got here.”

“Are you shitting me?” With a groan, Tucker let his head hit the table with a soft thud. Then, rolling his head so he could stare at Simmons, “Are you two seriously going to do the awkward ‘We didn’t mean to bone’ dance, complete with avoiding each other? You’re jumping straight to denial and back to the stupid ass pining?”

The look Simmons gave him could only be described as miserable.

“Grif jumped straight to denial,” Tucker interpreted with a sigh. “Jesus Christ. I figured one of the few good things to come out of this mess would be you two finally hooking up for good. If alien sex energy didn’t work-- I don’t know what will!”

Shoulders slumped and face still red, Simmons picked at his food.

Spotting Caboose heading back towards them with a plastic tray in his hands, Tucker reluctantly pushed himself back upright. Before setting the tray down, however, Caboose pursed his lips and gave him a severe look. 

“Photo paper, Tucker,” Caboose stated, holding the tray just out of reach. “You promised.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll get you some. Might take a few days, though,” Tucker agreed, hands making gimmie motions.  

Mood switching back to his usual cheer, Caboose handed over the tray and circled back around the table to return to his own meal.

Breakfast was the same boring shit, Tucker concluded. At least Caboose hadn’t gotten him the not-oatmeal Simmons was eating. The not-eggs had a tiny bit more flavor. And getting real food to eat, something that hadn’t been dehydrated and stored in a can, was the whole reason they’d gone to the Temple of Procreation in the first place.

Forcing himself to take a bit of his not-eggs, Tucker chewed, swallowed, then reached for the pepper. As he added the barest amount of kick to the not-eggs, he turned back to Simmons. “Alright, straight talk, dude. I’m not enduring five more years of stupid ass pining. Do you want to be with Grif? Because if you do, we’re going to make that happen or-- I don’t know. We’ll do something. That isn’t pining.”

Simmons looked vaguely horrified by Tucker’s question and the shift to such a deeply personal topic. They were guys. They didn’t talk about stuff like this, not unless there was no other choice. But that didn’t keep him from answering.

“I do,” he muttered, jabbing his not-oatmeal with his spoon. “I-- I thought after-- but he just went back to acting the same way. Even though when we--” his voice trailed off as he starting tracing abstract patterns in the dull brown grains in front of him. “I know a lot of it was because of the Temple but during-- the way he was acting, it really made me think he--”

Tucker waved a hand, cutting him off before he started getting sappy. “So it’s the after that’s freaking him out?”

“He’s not acting freaked out. It’s like nothing happened.” Frustration tinged Simmons’ voice, overcoming some of the misery. The dramatic blush lessened somewhat. “Everything’s changed but he won’t acknowledge it!”

“Maybe he’s scared.”

Tucker and Simmons turned, started, to look at Caboose, who blinked owlishly at them.

“Change can be very, very, very scary. And Grif does not like change. He likes knowing what people will do. He gets mad when people start to change because they might change into something scarier.” The way Caboose spoke, it was clear he thought this was obvious. As the others continued to stare dumbfounded, he rolled his eyes. “Grif is scared of a lot of things. Not having food or a safe place to sleep. Getting shot or left behind. He has lots of nightmares about it. Remember? When we were alone at the last base?”

“We were all having nightmares,” Tucker finally responded but a flicker of unease rippled through his stomach as he thought back to their days alone with the New Republic. Grif’s nightmares had been worse than any of theirs, although he’d tried to hide them.

“But he’s had them longer. He’s had them for years.” At Tucker’s confused look, Simmons simply shrugged, looking discomforted. “We’ve been rooming together since Blood Gulch. I-- can’t actually remember him not having nightmares. And he won’t talk about them. So how do you know what he’s scared of?” Simmons demanded, turning back to Caboose.

“Sometimes he cuts my hair and we talk about things. Like being scared, or playing games, or why sleeping in an alley does not lead to singing and dancing with chimney sweeps.” Caboose reached up with one of his massive hands and pinched a lock of hair, pulling it down in front of his eyes, which crossed slightly as he studied it. “I think he’s going to cut my hair soon,” he said mournfully. “He says I’ll be even worse with a mop in my eyes. Which is silly because I have hair. Not a mop.”

That was a tantalizing array of information. Grif was notoriously closed off when asked about anything of consequence before Blood Gulch. But he’d talk about it with Caboose? It was hard to believe but-- Come to think of it, maybe it did make sense. Who’d believe anything Caboose said?

“What did he have to say about sleeping in alleys?” Tucker asked curiously.

“He said it’s always cold and sucks when it rains and sometimes other homeless people will try to take your things even if you’re just a kid.”

Silence met Caboose’s calm recitation, the others quickly reading the implication behind the words.

“Every time I learn something new about Grif’s childhood, I want to punch things,” Tucker eventually muttered. Beside him, Simmons nodded in horrified agreement. With a soft sigh, Tucker pushed on from the intimation that Grif had lives on the street as a kid. “Okay, let’s run with ‘He’s scared’ for now. How do we get him from there to hooking back up?”

“Donut and Doc would say to talk to him about your feelings,” Caboose chimed back in, “and then he can help you hook up whatever you are trying to hang.”

Simmons swiveled his head back and forth, his blush and mortification returning in full force. “I-- this is completely unnecessary. In fact, I changed my mind. I don’t-- You don't need to do a thing!”

“If you’re just going to wimp out, you're damn right we do,” Tucker snapped back. “You two have been actively and pointedly not dating for years. Fucking years. We’re all sick of it. This is as much for us as you two.”

“This-- this doesn’t involve you,” Simmons snapped, slamming his spoon down on the table. “Whatever happens is between us. We’re both still healing from the fight on the Charon. You remember, the one where you had to cut my arm off? Where Grif got shot? Between that and the Temple bullshit--” He cut himself off for a moment, staring briefly up at the ceiling before leveling a narrow-eyed glare at Tucker. “We’ll figure it out. Stay out of it."

“Alright, alright, geez. I just want to help. Grif’s my friend, too, you know.” Sighing softly, Tucker returned to his not-eggs.

After several long moments of silence, Caboose leaned forward to ask a question. “Soooo, how did your mission with Agent Washington go? Everyone here started acting kind of weird so Smith and I played Go Fish. It was very fun. I won. I had all the face cards.”

“The mission was-- fine?” Tucker’s voice sounded somewhat strangled.

Eagerly, Caboose continued. “Did you do anything fun?”

A snicker escaped Simmons’s lips at the sudden frozen expression on Tucker’s face. “Yeah, did you and Wash have fun?” He peered at Tucker, eyes sweeping over his face and neck. “Did he go easy on you?”

“I-- he-- It wasn’t like that!”

“Oooh, got it. Did you go easy on him?” Simmons voice was saccharine sweet as he flung the earlier teasing comment right back at him.

A million different responses raced through Tucker’s mind.

We didn’t do anything! Full on lie.

Hells, yeah, I rocked his world. Wash would literally kill him. There would be no body, no grave for Junior to visit if he said that out loud.

Dude, that’s totally none of your business. But he really, really wanted to brag…

The freckles go all the way down if you know what I mean. Oh, God, the freckles....

The memory of exploring Wash’s freckles swept through his mind and Tucker’s frozen expression morphed into something much dreamier and significantly sappier.

“You want to talk about it?” Simmons asked with equal parts curiosity and wariness.

So much. But--” His voice cut off with a groan, eyes flickering over the crowded dining area.

“Well, Donut’s back to helping Sarge run the new armory,” Simmons suggested. “I… I really think he’s the best person you could talk to about… that.”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s a good idea,” Tucker agreed. “I’ll go find him later.”

Relieved he wouldn’t have to sit through Tucker regaling him with the full details of what he and Wash had gotten up to at the Temple (He was absolutely not curious. Not at all.), Simmons returned to his breakfast and let Caboose take the reins of the conversation, remaining quiet through the rest of the meal.

After he delivered his empty bowl and tray to the cleaning staff, he left the noise and jabbering Blues behind. He had things to think about and no work scheduled for this morning.

Retreating to the cabin he shared with Grif (a special privilege since neither had been cleared for full duty yet), Simmons collapsed onto his bed and stared up at the panel above him, the base of the top bunk. Caboose was probably right about Grif being scared, what he thought about change. And the Temple-- oh, that had triggered a really big change.

The thought of those stolen hours locked in the supply room made him shiver. When Grif had initially reached out for him, pulled him close, he hadn’t been affected by the alien energy yet. Or at least, not in a way he’d noticed. So he hadn’t realized that something else had triggered Grif’s actions. And why would he? The way he’d grinned, so sudden and bright…

Wrapped securely in Grif’s arms, the Temple's wave hit him and everything turned into a bright, shiny blur in his mind. He vaguely remembered stripping, giggling as he struggled with his pants, groping for the simple lubricant he always carried with him for his prosthetics (Safe for internal use! the packaging read). Grif’s hands, so big and strong but careful and gentle as they touched him. He was pretty sure he’d started swearing at him, needing more, faster, harder. He’d ended up hoisted into the air, back pressed against the wall as he wrapped his legs around Grif’s hips, their bodies pressed tightly together. Then later, Grif heavy against his back as he rested his hands and cheek against that same wall, gasping and moaning as teeth nipped at his neck, shoulder, and everything else in reach.

The brief periods between rounds was clearer. He’d been able to think then. Grif too, surely. He’d never pulled away, never let him go. He lingered close, kissing him while his hands gently stroked down his sides and back, fingers trailing down the back of his leg and knee.

Simmons had reached out as well, letting his fingers brush over Grif’s scarred flesh, the raised lines, puckers, and burn scars he wouldn’t talk about, the ones that gave him horrific nightmares. There was a new scar from the Staff of Charon. He remembered resting his hand over the wound, wishing he could wipe it away. It made him feel awful knowing that Grif had been hurt protecting him and Sarge.

Grif hadn’t even realized he’d gotten shot.

If Doc hadn’t noticed-- Would anyone have seen the damage to his armor, the blood leaking down the orange plates as the armor-piercing round burrowed deeper? Would anyone have realized before it was too late?

Simmons might have woken up from surgery to a world without Grif by his side. And then what would be the point of it all? Did anything matter if he didn’t have Grif?

It was hard shaking off the terror at what might have been, to cast away the endless looping what if’s. The worries had become his constant companion since waking up in Medical missing one arm. Each time he tried to grab something with the missing limb, each time his side throbbed, and each time he saw Grif wince as he aggravated the wound on his chest, his stupid fucking brain would start spinning out worst case scenarios, postulating how he could end up alone and miserable for the rest of his life.

But he was getting off track. With a determined mental effort, Simmons shifted off the well worn paths of misery and returned his focus to the earlier conversation.

As horrendously embarrassing as the discussion had been, Tucker was right about one thing: he and Grif were going right back to pining.

Shifting slightly on the bed, a light flush dusted his cheeks at the subtle ache in his backside, a persistent, low-key reminder of their hours spent locked in the closet. Pining wasn’t the right word, he realized. Pining meant distance, imagining what could be. Yearning might be better. Or agonizing.

Fantasizing.

He wanted Grif. In his bed. Next to him as they watched movies and TV. He wanted the arguments and debates, to spin out wild stories and gang up on the others. He wanted quiet nights in and wild nights on the town (like that time in the Vegas quadrant).

Most of all, he wanted to wake up every morning knowing Grif was safe beside him.

No more wars, no more battles. Just them.

And if he didn’t do something, Tucker would groan about them to Donut and the next thing they knew, there’d be Plans. Hijinks. Donut would dredge through every RomCom in his arsenal and turn Hollywood’s finest (or worst) ideas loose on the two of them. Chorus probably wouldn’t survive.

With a faint whimper, Simmons draped his arm over his eyes.

He was going to have to just talk to Grif.

Naturally, now that he had the resolution to finally confess his feelings, Grif was nowhere to be found. He’d vanished early in the morning, mumbling something about going on a scavenging run with the members of Gold Team -- both his original New Republic squad members and a few Federal Army troops they’d picked up over the last two months.

These runs never failed to leave Simmons in a heightened state of anxiety until they returned. Grif didn’t think anything of the runs, as he had a knack for pointing his squad in the opposite direction of danger. But he wasn’t always successful. And sure, Gold Team might avoid running into enemy soldiers but there were often bombs, traps, broken locks and doors that could leave them stuck for hours.

One time, Gold Team had been gone for almost two days. When Grif finally staggered into the room the four captains shared, he’d snickered while telling them about the gang they’d run into, a group of drug fueled civilians armed with a random assortment of weaponry who’d disagreed with Gold Team’s desire to obtain more supplies for the New Republic.

Most of all, Grif had laughed about the dogs. The gang’s canine companions had been fairly scrawny, no threat to armored soldiers but they’d reminded him of another incident with an aggressive pack, all the way back in Hawaii when he was a child. To Grif, it was a hilarious story about getting chased by a bunch of dogs and spending a few hours up a tree. To Tucker and Simmons, listening in horrified silence, it was the tale of a deranged lunatic setting a pack of dogs on a starving child for stealing his wallet and cowering in terror in the highest possible branches, just barely out of reach.

Grif’s sense for what was and wasn’t dangerous could be wildly skewed sometimes. And like Tucker had said earlier, each he started telling stories, there was a good chance they’d all come away wanting to punch someone, to do something to try and make up for Grif’s broken childhood.

And so Simmons went on with his day, still only on light duty as he waited for Gold Team to return, praying there’d be no interesting stories about their adventures. Donut gave him an intent look over lunch, lips pursed briefly, and Simmons just knew he and Tucker had been talking. By dinnertime, the pink soldier’s gaze had turned calculating as he absently drummed his fingers on the table between bites. It was a relief when Jensen stopped by to let them know Gold Team had finally returned and he had an excuse to make his escape.

It was still almost two hours before Grif returned to their room, looking tired and freshly scrubbed. There’s an underlying hint of diesel surrounding him, though, that no amount of washing could erase.

“Everything go alright?” Simmons asked anxiously from his bed. Grif didn’t look injured.

“Yeah, not too bad,” Grif admitted. He was quick to start peeling off his armor, the orange plates hitting the ground with steady thuds as he undid the many clasps. “It was kinda boring, actually. Kimball had us do a circuit through some old Republic caches to see if anything got overlooked. Doyle’s aide also passed along the location of some Fed supply sites. We found some rations and medical supplies. Not a ton but enough that it wasn’t a wasted effort.”

“That’s good.” Simmons watched for a moment as Grif finished with the plates on his upper torso. “No gangs this time? Or dogs?”

Grif paused, then flashed him an amused smile. “You really don’t like that story, do you?”

“Not really,” he admitted. Grif returned to his armor and Simmons felt his fingers itch to go help.

For a moment, he felt himself reaching out with his missing arm to tackle the plates at Grif’s hip.

Always observant (more than most realized), Grif’s eyes flickered over to his shoulder. “Still no word on when you’re getting a new arm?” he asked.

“Not yet. She’s going to take a look next week, see how everything’s healing.”

It took several minutes for Grif to finish removing his armor and the conversation moved smoothly to what had been going on at Crash Site Bravo while Gold Team had been out. Once the plates were piled on the ground, Grif reached up to the top bunk, groping until he found the clothes he’d tossed up there earlier that morning. Pulling them so that they dangled off the end of the mattress, he started to undo the pressure seals on his heavy black body suit.

Heat flood Simmons’ face and his heart started beating faster. They didn’t wear anything under the suits -- the high tech material worked best with nothing between it and their bare skin. This was the first time either of them had been in armor since the Staff of Charon and the first time this scenario had played out since the Temple of Procreation.

Knowing his face had to be bright red, Simmons nevertheless forced himself to keep his eyes on Grif, to keep talking instead of turning away to give him privacy. He felt his mouth going dry as Grif started to peel off the suit, revealing more and more of his tawny, scarred skin. His train of thought instantly died and his words died in his throat.

Grif slowed, his hands pausing as he noticed the intense gaze. For a moment, he looked like he was going to say something, to crack a joke-- but nothing came out. Instead, his eyes went a little wide and Simmons watched as his cheeks darkened somewhat, the pink undertones of his skin flushing. Rather than speaking, Grif went back to stripping, his movements practiced and easy; this was a task he’d done literally thousands of times, after all.  

When he bent over to drag the suit down and off his legs, he froze briefly again when an involuntary sound slipped out of Simmons’ lips. Dark eyes flickered as Grif straightened up, taking in tension in Simmons’ posture, the white knuckles of his lone hand as he clutched at the mattress.

Simmons didn’t want to restrain himself. He wanted to pull Grif’s hair out of its messy bun and run his fingers through the dark locks. Wanted to press against his warm bulk and reassure himself that Grif hadn’t gotten injured in anyway. Biting his lips, he briefly imagined kissing him, feeling Grif’s arms around him as he drove him onto the mattress and---

Grif jumped, startled. He’d made another sound, a small, needy whimper.

Taking a deep breath, then another, Simmons forced himself to be silent as Grif pulled his boxers off his bunk, then a shirt. It was an absolute travesty letting him get dressed again but they did need to talk.

Then the sex, he found himself thinking.

“We should talk,” Simmons blurted out once Grif was fully clothed.

“We’ve been talking,” Grif replied. There was a hint of nerves in his voice; his eyes flickered again, glancing over room.

“About the Temple.”

Grif’s reaction was immediate and probably unconscious. His shoulders hunched, back rounding while his arms pressed against his sides. Dark eyes went wide as his breath caught and there was no mistaking the flash of fear that raced across his face.

Simmons tried to gather his thoughts, to find the words he’d spent all day composing. He had to say them, Grif wouldn’t. Probably couldn’t. It had to be him.

There was a beat of silence. Then Grif shifted, leg sliding back, ready to run.

The movement hit Simmons like a bolt of lightning. Grif couldn’t leave, he thought in panic. The lightning jerked him to his feet. He almost hit his head on the bunk above his as he straightened. Grif took a step backwards and he sprang forward, wrapping his arm around his waist and pressing close.

Burying his face in Grif’s neck, he whimpered, “Don’t you fucking dare run before I can tell you I love you, you asshole. I just need a minute to thi-” The words died as he realized what he’d just said, the shock like a train derailing in his head.

Grif let out a strangled sound. “What?” he choked.

“You bastard!” Letting out a soft scream of frustration, Simmons balled his hand in Grif’s shirt. “I had a whole speech prepared,” he groaned into Grif’s neck, “but you made me forget it!”

“You-- a whole speech-- What?”

The broken sentence got his attention and Simmons straightened up and pulled back just enough that he could look at Grif.

The other man was frozen, eyes wide as saucers, arms stuck out at an odd angle from his body, hovering a few inches above Simmons. Grif looked bewildered, frightened… and there may have been just the barest hint of cautious hope in his eyes. It was hard to tell.

Simmons took a deep breath, tightening his grip on Grif’s shirt and squeezing tighter at his waist as he desperately pulled his thoughts in order. He had to get this right the first time. 

“That’s right, a whole speech,” he declared, then cleared his throat. “I-- I’ve been terrified since the Staff of Charon,” he began. “When I woke up in Medical, I didn’t remember the fight or getting hit. I think I remember Tucker amputating my arm but I’m not sure. Donut and Sarge filled me in. But what really scared me, was you.”

“Me?”

“You got shot. The bullet punched right through your armor and-- you could have died .” Anguish was noticeable in Simmons’ voice.

“So did you,” Grif replied unsteadily.

“Even the shot that went through my arm wasn’t as bad as the one that hit you,” Simmons countered, shaking his head. A small tremor ran through him and suddenly Grif’s hands were on his hips, holding him steady. He managed a small smile.

“You got shot. You could have died. I could have woken up and-- and Donut might have had to tell me you were gone.” He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, gulping for air. “I can’t live in a world without you, Grif. That moment, when I realized what could have happened-- that made it so clear.” He forced his eyes back open, catching Grif’s stunned gaze once more.

“In the weeks since the Staff of Charon, I’ve thought a lot about that. And you. You’d probably tell me I was overthinking everything like usual,” he added with a weak chuckle. “Anyways, I kept turning everything over in my head and… and I knew that I loved you. That I have for a long, long time.

“I-- I want to keep having movie nights and to talk about all sorts of shit and fight the others with you and-- And just be with you. To know you’re safe and with me and-- and--” His face was burning, no doubt as bright red as his hair but the words were tumbling out, stumbling over each other as he tried to describe the messy feelings tangled up inside him.

“And then the Temple happened and, um, that-- that was-- very good ,” he rushed, “but after we got out you were acting like it hadn’t happened and I was talking with Tucker and he says if we go back to pining he’s going to do something about it. And Donut kept giving me these looks during lunch and dinner and I think he’s plotting with Tucker and-- We need to be together if we’re going to avoid Donut pulling the entire army into some bizarre scheme to get us together and he’s been watching a lot of musicals lately--”

Grif kissed him. With a deep groan, Simmons melted into the kiss, lips pressing and moving intently against his own. Hands squeezed his hips, pulling their bodies together and the rush of arousal Simmons’ had felt earlier roared back to life.

“You talk too damn much,” Grif said when he finally pulled away. He sounded dazed, a little wobbly. Thumbs rubbing small circles on his hips, Grif stared intently, eyes searching and vulnerable. “You-- you really meant all that?” he asked nervously.

“Every word. I told you I-- I had a whole speech,” Simmons replied with a trembling laugh. “I’ve been working on it all day while you were gone.”

“You--” Grif’s voice cut off and he squeezed his eyes closed, turning his head slightly to the side.

Uncertain what was going on in his head, Simmons waited anxiously, watching and feeling the tension in Grif’s body, knowing he needed to wait this out, not rush whatever Grif was thinking.

Because he knew Grif’s childhood had been terrible. That his mother had constantly berated him, that he’d gone without food and shelter before, that he’d been the one to take care of his younger sister instead of an adult. It had taken years to get all the pieces, to slowly pull the stories out of him. And there were more he hadn’t heard; Grif was holding parts of himself back, memories of experiences too painful or embarrassing (to him) to share.

Very few stories ever featuring moments where someone loved him. Where he’d received even the barest amounts of affection. So it wasn’t shocking that he’d need a moment to process everything Simmons had just dumped on him, even if he felt the same way.

Grif suddenly shook his head and a small, somewhat bashful smile crept over his face. Opening his eyes, he locked his gaze onto Simmons’. “You are such a fucking nerd,” Grif declared.

“I’m okay with that,” Simmons protested. “I’m comfortable with what I am--”

Grif kissed him again.

That was fine. He liked kissing Grif.

Hands slid around his hips, down his buttocks, then suddenly hooked under his ass, lifting him into the air. Pulling back with a startled gasp, he stared down at Grif, blood pounding in excitement. Before he could say anything, Grif moved, easily carrying him forward the few steps to the bunk beds and then dumped him on his mattress.

Simmons let his legs fall open as Grif settled on top of him and pulled him down for another deep kiss. Then, sliding his hand down his back, he tugged at Grif’s shirt. “I knew I shouldn’t have let you get dressed,” he grumbled against his lips.

“Perv,” Grif muttered back. “Staring at me while I was changing.”

A helpless giggle erupted out of Simmons and then they were lost in each other for the rest of the night.


The sound a camera shutter woke him up. Confused by the warmth pressed against him and the strange tangle of limbs, Simmons blinked, wincing at the light in the room. Then his eyes fell on Tucker, who was staring down at him with a gleeful expression and a camera equipped datapad in his hand.

“What are you doing?” Simmons shrieked, instinctively dragging the covers up to his chin.

“You should be glad I’m here, dude,” Tucker teased. He took a moment to admire the photo on his datapad. “Donut’s going to be bummed when I tell him all the dance routines he choreographed last night aren’t going to be needed. But not too bummed, I think.”

“What are you…” Voice trailing off, the memory of the previous day drifted into his sleepy mind. Tucker teasing. Donut’s meaningful stares. Grif.

Rolling onto his back with a small wince, he ignored Tucker’s sudden cackle and looked over at the body at his side.

Grif stared back, sleepy and annoyed. “Tucker?” he said in a rough voice, “Fuck off.”

“Ooh, ho, the only fucking in here is all you two.

“How did you even get in here?” Simmons demanded. The door locked automatically. He’d made sure of that when they’d been given the room. The only people with an override… His eyes narrowed and he sat up abruptly, unconcerned when the sheet fell to his waist. “Washington!” he roared, casting his eyes around the room.

The blond, heavily freckled Freelancer flushed, then waved sheepishly from where he was leaning against the wall next to the door. “Uh, I told him not to?” he said hesitantly, voice lifting slightly on the final words.

“If Tucker has this much energy in the mornings, you’re clearly not trying hard enough,” Grif grumbled. Reaching up, he grabbed Simmons and dragged him back down onto the bed, then buried his face in his shoulder. “Start screwing him properly so he leaves us alone.”

“Our screwing is plenty fine,” Tucker protested. In the background, they heard Wash groan, mutter a soft Oh my God. “I’ll tell you what we did last night--”

“And we’re done,” Wash hastily interrupted. Darting forward, he plucked the datapad out of Tucker’s hands and poked at the screen.  “I told you no pictures,” he insisted.

Dude.”

“Just get out!” Simmons shouted.

“We’re going,” Wash promised. He shoved the datapad into one of the large pockets on his fatigues and grabbed Tucker’s arm to better drag him to the door. He glanced back for a moment and grinned down at them. “Congratulations,” he added, and then they were gone.

After taking a moment to enjoy the silence that fell in the room, Simmons looked down at Grif.

The other man peered up at him, face half hidden by Simmons’ shoulder. There was something shy about the way he looked up, a vulnerability and worry he couldn’t hide in his eyes.

“Good morning,” Simmons offered in a dry voice.

“Morning.”

He didn’t know what to say, what words would lift the doubts Grif was probably feeling so… he didn’t say anything. Instead, Simmons rolled back onto his side and pressed himself against Grif, dragging his arm over his waist and threading their fingers together.

A moment passed.

Grif let out a soft sigh and shifted so he could better match the way Simmons’ body was curled up. He nuzzled against the back and side of Simmons’ neck, pressing a soft kiss against the junction of his neck and shoulder.

They’d have to get up and face Tucker again eventually. And God alone knew what Donut would do when he saw them. But it was okay. It had taken years and several near-death experiences but they were finally together.