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the age of the earth

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"Mikey, are you coming in or what?" Brian calls, when Ann's reached the shady porch. "Could've helped Ann carry in her things."

Mike makes a face and pulls the car up into the driveway. "Come on inside," Brian says to Ann, as she gives him a hesitant one-armed hug. "We're all ready for you."

He sees her glance at his cane. "Are you okay?" she asks, her eyes wide.

He still has to be careful not to breathe too deeply. "Been better, but it's getting there."

She nods, glancing around the house as though it might have changed since she was here last. Gwen takes the box from her arms. "Come on, honey, I'll show you where your room is," she says, and they start up the stairs.

Brian hears Mike close the front door behind him and says, "Thanks for picking her up. The house still a crime scene?"

"Nah, but she didn't want to go in, so I hope what I grabbed is all right." Mike adjusts his loose shirt collar. He seems slightly nervous, but Brian can't imagine why; it's not like Mike hasn't been over before. "Just tell me if I have to go back there for anything. Won't take too long for squatters to realize it's empty."

"All right. You want a beer?" He limps into the kitchen without waiting for Mike to reply, and Mike follows. Brian thinks back, and figures maybe Mike's looked a little nervous ever since that night, but Brian's been too busy learning how to breathe again, and walk again, and feel like a complete person again.

Gwen's got a pot of chili bubbling on the stove, smelling like tomatoes and spices, and salad vegetables waiting on the cutting board. "Smells good," Mike says, as Brian passes over the cold can of Miller.

"It'll never be true Texas chili," Brian teases lightly.

Mike rolls his eyes. "Everything I have ever eaten of Gwen's has been fuckin' amazing," he says. "Shit, I shouldn't swear in front of the kids."

"They're all upstairs," Brian replies, chuckling. "C'mon, help me get the case of beer from the garage."

Mike swings open the door to the garage. "You sure you should be doing all this moving around?"

It's only one step down, and he's been practicing stairs. "Doc says it's good for me, and you're gonna carry the beer." He taps his cane against the cardboard box. "I'm still only allowed to carry a six-pack."

"Ha, ha." Mike hefts the box and takes it inside.

As he's unloading it into the refrigerator, Gwen comes back down with the kids, and she kisses Brian's cheek before hugging Mike. "Put you to work, huh, stranger?"

Mike looks mortified for a second. "He's still trying to make me good for something," he replies, then takes a deep breath. "I'm sorry I didn't come around -"

"Stop," Brian and Gwen both say at the same time, and Mike turns a dull red. Gwen puts her hands on his shoulders and steers him towards the cutting board. "If you're staying for dinner, you can help me finish up the salad," Brian hears her say.

He sits down at the table; it seems the easiest place to go while the kids are showing Ann where all the dishes and silverware are. He watches Mike's shoulders move as Mike slices up the cucumbers and tomatoes, and thinks about the conversation he and Gwen had last night.

"Remember that thing we talked about once, about Mike," he said, leaning his head on Gwen's shoulder.

"I didn't think it was a sin then, honey, and I don't think it's a sin now," she replied calmly. She turned another page in her book. "I think, mostly, that Mike is lonely. And that loneliness is part of what makes him angry all the time."

"He said he'd pick up Ann for us tomorrow."

Gwen pressed a kiss to his temple. "Maybe we could make him a little less lonely."

Brian's not sure how well his body will cooperate with their plan, but mostly he figures, whatever happens happens. Mike will most likely be out the door like a shot the moment Brian comes within six inches of him. "You are staying for dinner, right?" Gwen asks Mike, and he gives that little huff-chuckle like he can't believe she's asking. "Just checking," she says, and winks at Brian.

Mike turns around with the salad bowl in his hands. "Looks like the kids set a place for me, so I can't leave now," he says, putting the bowl down.

Brian poaches a slice of cucumber and smiles at Mike. "Lizzy, why don't you pour everybody some milk?" he asks his daughter before she can dart out of the kitchen, the table now all set. "I think Mom's almost done there."

"Just the cornbread left to cut," Gwen says, adding the pot of chili to the table.

"I can do it," Mike interjects. "Don't mind."

Brian holds glasses still while Elizabeth pours the milk, and Ann helps Timmy put some salad on his plate without getting any of the tomatoes involved. "Thank you," Brian hears him say happily, and Ann smiles hesitantly. "I don't like the tomatoes," Timmy adds, as if it were a secret.

"Ohh, but they're good," Ann replies in a conspiratorial voice. "Why don't you like them? Because they're red?"

"Because they're gushy," Timmy intones dramatically, his eyes wide. Brian does his best not to laugh, and he can see Mike's hiding a smile as he slices the cornbread into squares.

"You don't have to eat them today," Gwen tells Timmy. "Here's your chili. You do have to eat that."

Ann looks at Brian, then at the chili. The question is clear on her face. He shakes his head. "I don't get it, either."

Everyone holds hands as Gwen says grace, and Mike's palm is warm and dry against Brian's. "We thank you, Lord, for the abundant food you have blessed us with, tonight and every night," Gwen says softly, her eyes closed. "Thank you for bringing Ann to be a part of our family, and Mike to be our guest tonight. Amen."

The kitchen stays loud throughout dinner, with the kids all talking over one another about their days, and asking Ann questions. Brian keeps one eye on Mike, who says little but eats a lot, and the other eye on Timmy. "What happened to your old house?" Elizabeth asks Ann. Brian freezes with his spoon in his bowl, and sees Mike and Gwen both pause.

"Um, something bad happened there," Ann says quietly. In her hand, the butter knife shakes slightly.

Brian and Gwen told the kids that Ann was coming to live with them because her mom died, but almost none of the details. Questions were bound to happen; Brian hadn't counted on them so soon. Elizabeth seems to realize her mistake, and touches Ann's arm. She whispers, "Sorry."

"It's okay," Ann says. She squares her shoulders. "You didn't know."

Elizabeth still looks stricken. "Do you want to dress up Barbies with me tomorrow?"


The atmosphere relaxes again. When they're done, Mike offers to do the dishes. "There's a lot of dishes," Gwen says, giving him a skeptical look. "Brian's hands are good now, he can help."

It's too subtle for Mike, but Brian glances over at her. She gives him a wide and innocent smile. "I'll take the kids to clean up once they finish clearing the table."

"Do you want to wash, or dry?" Mike asks once all the dishes are piled on the counter and the kids are running up the stairs with Gwen behind them.

"I'm better with washing, but then you've got to put everything away," Brian says.

Mike smiles and the corners of his eyes crinkle. He bumps his arm lightly against Brian's. "I think I know where everything goes."

They stand shoulder to shoulder at the sink, and make slow but methodical work of the pile of dishes. Parts of Brian are aching, but he can't pinpoint if the ache is something in his damaged body, or the anticipation in his heart. Having his hands in the warm water helps, as does Mike standing close enough that they brush against each other, when he could easily put some space between them.

When the dishes are all dry, Brian sorts the silverware back into the drawer while Mike puts everything else away into their cupboards. "Nice job, guys," Gwen says, and Brian sees her slide a gentle hand over Mike's back. "Mike, you're not leaving yet, are you? The kids are trying to decide between Jurassic Park and Jaws, and I'll let you be the tie-breaker."

"Oh, I get to pick the Spielberg?" Mike gives her a smile, the same one he'd aimed at Brian only a few minutes ago, and yeah, the ache is definitely Brian's heart. "I can stay a while yet, Lee's got his doggy door."

"Jurassic Park is already like half over," Billy informs Mike. He, Elizabeth, and Timmy are in pajamas and sprawled on the floor in front of the television, and Ann's claimed the armchair, which leaves the sofa for the three of them. Mike immediately settles into one corner with his fresh beer, so Brian takes the other and Gwen sits down with her feet tucked up underneath her next to him, and leans her head on his shoulder.

"Okay then, Jaws it is," Mike decides, and Billy changes the channel.

Timmy falls asleep not even halfway through, and Mike offers to take him upstairs. "I can do it," Gwen whispers, but Mike waves her off and gets up.

"You guys look comfortable. I'll get him. Can't be too hard to tuck a sleeping kid into bed." He scoops Timmy up carefully from the floor and heads up the stairs. Brian watches him go. He touches Gwen's hair, then lifts one of her hands and kisses her fingers.

She squeezes his hand. "What do you think?" she whispers.

"I guess the worst is he could say no," Brian whispers back. He doesn't think about Mike not wanting to work with him again. There's still no guarantee he'll ever be healthy enough for duty again.

Ann turns slightly in the armchair and says to Gwen, "Can I look at your photo albums?"

"Of course."

Mike comes back down and returns to his spot, and they watch the rest of the movie with just the occasional question from the kids about the shark. "I should go," Mike says when it ends.

It's nearly nine, and Billy and Elizabeth are both yawning on the floor. At some point, Ann started paying attention to the screen, and she's watching the credits roll by. Mike doesn't move to get up, though, still tucked into his corner of the sofa. Brian can see Gwen's socked feet are pressed against his thigh, and it doesn't seem like he's tried to stop her.

"Nah, Lee's got his doggy door, you said it yourself. How about another beer?" Brian asks. "Now that the kids are going to bed." He says the last part more to them than to Mike, and Billy and Lizzy scramble up from the floor.

"Even me?" Ann asks.

Brian realizes she probably hasn't had a bedtime in years, and it is the weekend. He looks down at Gwen, who shrugs slightly. "I guess if you want to watch the news with us for a while, that's fine."

"Okay." She goes back to looking through one of the photo albums.

"I'll get the beers. No arguing," Mike tells Brian. "Gwen, you want one?"

"Sure." When he's gone, Gwen moves over into that corner, giving Brian a conspiratorial smile that clearly says, now he'll have to sit in the middle. The nightly news starts: a bad rollover accident in Waco, an escaped animal from a zoo out on the West coast. He watches the alpaca trot down a highway and yawns. "You're not tired, are you?" Gwen murmurs.

"I'm fine."

Mike returns with three cans carefully stacked. He looks at the spot they've left him on the couch, then at Brian, then at Gwen. "Do I get one of those or are you drinking them all yourself?" Brian asks, smiling up at him.

"I'm debating that," Mike replies, but it's light. He hands out the beers and sits down, and Brian appreciates the way the weight of him makes the cushions dip.

Brian takes a long drink, then wedges the can between his thighs before he stretches his good arm across the back of the sofa. He can just reach Gwen, and he trails his fingers through her hair. He's really watching Mike's face, though, and he sees Mike blink and focus harder on the television, where the weather report is now playing. When Mike's gaze darts toward him, Brian smiles at him and touches Mike's hair too, soft, just for a few seconds - but long enough that he's sure Mike knows it's happening.

Mike shifts slightly, and Brian sees Gwen slide a hand over his knee, quick but deliberate. Ann closes the album, smothering a yawn with one hand. Gwen says, "Want me to walk you up, Ann?".

"Okay." She waves sort of awkwardly at Brian and Mike.

"Goodnight, Ann," Brian says. He hopes she'll be okay here, that she won't try to struggle against the few rules he and Gwen have set for her. But mostly he thinks she'll fit in all right. They're all a little bit damaged.

Mike doesn't move away once Gwen's gone, still with his leg close to Brian's and his beer can held loosely by his fingertips. "Mike," Brian says, soft as he can, and when Mike turns his head, Brian leans in and kisses him - just a soft slide of his mouth over Mike's, no extra touching - a question.

Mike makes a small noise that might be surprise, but he stays where he is, and also doesn't push Brian away. A good sign, Brian thinks, and puts his better hand on Mike's shoulder, rests the back of his thumb against the side of Mike's neck. Then he kisses Mike again, just as slow, but this time doesn't stop. Mike makes that noise again and returns the kiss, his mouth moving against Brian's.

Brian wonders how long it's been since someone last touched Mike - he hopes it hasn't been since Pam, but considering the look that always crosses Mike's face when Pam's in the room, and his crankiness in general, he's not going to hope on that too hard.

The stairs creak, then there's the soft sound of footsteps on carpet. Gwen sits down behind Mike, and Brian can smell that she's refreshed her perfume, the faintly rose one she taps a little drop of right behind her ear. "I think it's my turn, hey?" she asks, and curves a hand over the back of Mike's neck.

Mike's eyes go wide. "Here, let me tip him into your lap," Brian says, chuckling, then does just that, making Mike smile wildly. He's breathing faster. Brian doesn't take his hands off him.

"Your pulse is racing," Gwen murmurs to Mike, right before she kisses him.

Brian thinks he should be jealous, watching Gwen kiss another man, and a tiny part of him is. But there's also the part that would be jealous if he watched Mike kiss anyone else.

He wonders when he first started thinking of Mike as his.

When they draw apart, Gwen looks triumphant and Mike looks overwhelmed. Brian tightens his hand slightly on Mike's waist where it's still resting, feeling the muscle under his palm. "This okay?" he murmurs in Mike's ear. "Can we...?"

Mike's hesitation is a palpable thing. 'If you don't want to," Brian continues, "we never have to talk about this again, forget it happened."

"Or you can come with us into our bedroom and we can lock the door," Gwen finishes.

Mike looks between them again, then puts his hand over Brian's and squeezes. "Fuck it. Your bedroom. Please."

Brian would say it's a mad scramble off the couch except he really can't move that fast and Mike helps him up with gentle hands. "Sure you're up for this?" Mike asks, so Brian tells him to fuck off and pushes him towards the back hall. They move quietly, and Brian's glad their room isn't upstairs with the kids'.

He's spent so much time in the master over the last few months that he's nearly grown to hate it, but with Mike standing there it feels brand new. "So, uh," Mike starts, rubbing a nervous hand over his chest, then over his head. "This is really okay with you guys? You're not gonna get in trouble, with the Big Guy up there?" He points a finger at the ceiling.

"I'll say an extra couple Hail Marys," Brian replies solemnly, then pushes Mike back onto the bed because he can.

Mike grins, a little less nervously this time. Brian sees his gaze move to Gwen as she unbuttons her blouse. "I'm just surprised," Mike says. His expression softens. "I - I love you guys, and -"

"Hush," Gwen says, and climbs onto the bed into his lap. "We wouldn't offer if we didn't both want you, okay?" Then she kisses Mike before he can say anything else, and Brian watches them for a moment before he starts taking off his clothes.

By the time he's naked, Mike is kissing down Gwen's chest and has one hand in her bra. Brian settles next to him on the bed and reaches around to unbutton his shirt. "Let me," he murmurs when Mike glances up.

Mike nods. Brian undoes the buttons slowly, pretending his hands are perfectly steady, half watching what he's doing and half watching Mike and Gwen kiss. He doesn't have to undo the cuffs, since Mike's already got the sleeves rolled up. "Okay, off," he says, tugging lightly at the material.

Mike rolls his shoulders, slipping the shirt off. Then he turns and kisses Brian, his mouth warm, and Brian feels Mike's hand slide over his thigh; his breath catches in surprise.

"Okay?" Mike breathes.

His puts his better hand in Mike's short hair and it's soft between his fingers. "Of course."

"What do you like, Mike?" Gwen asks, her voice quiet, one of her hands resting on Brian's knee.

"Uh, anything is good with me, really."

Gwen smiles and leans in to kiss his cheek. "But what do you like? I want to know."

Mike looks like he wasn't expecting this at all, so Brian touches his face, and Mike's eyelids flutter. "I, ah, could just watch."

"No," Brian and Gwen say at the same time.

"I really don't want to mess anything up, don't want to fuck anything up between you," Mike hurries to say, his expression hesitant.

"We've already talked it over, Mikey," Brian replies, "and you're not fucking anything up."

"I just can't believe -" Mike starts to say, and Gwen shuts him up with a kiss, reaching for Mike's belt. Between her and Brian they get his slacks and briefs off, and Mike flushes a deep pink, the color creeping down his chest.

"Ain't like you've got reason to be embarrassed," Brian says. He curves his palm over Mike's thigh, looking him up and down. "And you never answered Gwen's question - what do you like? Surely you've got some ideas." He watches Mike's face. "Unless that's too caught up in memories of your ex, and in that case - we could try something else."

Mike's exhale is shaky and his flush hasn't lessened. "Well," Gwen says firmly, "I think this is maybe too much talking."

She wiggles out of her jeans and panties, then pushes at Mike until he's not as propped up on the pillows. "Stop me if it's too much," she says, and straddles Mike's face.

Brian definitely approves of this, and from the way Mike's mouth starts working immediately, he figures Mike does, too. He runs a hand down Mike's chest and belly, noting the way Mike twitches under the touch, then strokes Mike's cock slowly, watching it darken and firm with the rush of blood, the skin soft and hot against his fingertips.

"He doing a good job, Gwennie?" he asks her.

"Very good," she gasps. "Mike - right there - a little harder, baby."

Mike moans, the sound muffled, and Brian sees Gwen shudder. He asks, "You like her telling you what to do, Mikey?"

Another noise from Mike. Brian smiles at Gwen. She returns it, then moves herself back from Mike's mouth, taking his hand and putting it between her legs. Brian watches Mike slide two fingers in and out of her at a slow pace, and leans in to kiss Gwen as she gasps. "I could watch this forever," he murmurs against her lips, and she smiles again and grabs his shoulders, holding on.

Brian looks down at Mike's face, and oh - Mike just looks gone, his lips shiny and slick, his eyes closed. Brian moves carefully so that he can lean down and kiss him, wanting to taste Gwen in Mike's mouth. Mike makes another soft noise, and Brian feels the hand not busy with Gwen curl in his hair. He licks carefully into Mike's mouth, sliding his tongue over Mike's teeth, then stroking Mike's tongue slowly with his own. Mike groans and makes an aborted, restless movement. "What do you want?" Brian whispers. "Should I touch you some more?"

"Please," Mike gasps, his voice scratchy.

Brian settles carefully against his side, ignoring his own aching cock, and runs his hand down Mike's torso, sweeping over his hip and thigh before curling around his dick. "Ah, Brian -" Mike sighs. He does something with his thumb that has Gwen moaning and grinding down against his hand.

"You want him to get you off like that?" Brian asks her.

"I think you ought to get some, too," she replies. "What do you think, Mike?"

Mike sighs that he'll do anything, and shivers as Brian cups his balls, rolling them gently in his palm.

"Maybe you could suck Brian's cock," Gwen suggests, and Mike's dick twitches in Brian's hand. "Yeah?"

Mike's expression clears a little. "Yeah."

Gwen pushes Brian to lay down on his back, and Mike slides down the bed so that his head is level with Brian's stomach. "Guess there's a first time for everything," he says, before he takes the head of Brian's cock in his mouth and wraps a hand around the base.

"You don't have to get ambitious," Gwen says, and Brian adds, "I'm pretty easy when it comes to blowjobs, actually."

Mike sucks gently, clearly being careful with his teeth, and Brian reaches down to touch his face, to rub a thumb over his rounded lips. "That's nice, Mikey."

Mike hums, making Brian shudder. "That's also nice. Gwen, honey, come here."

He urges Gwen up to sit on his face, licking into her right away as she whimpers. "Who's going to fuck me?" she asks, pauses in between the words as Brian rubs the tip of his tongue over her clit. Then he moans into her as Mike pulls back to blow a stream of cool air over the head of Brian's cock before applying his mouth again.

"I never would have figured you both to be this dirty," Mike says the next time he pulls back.

"Do all the kids not make it clear we have an active sex life?" Brian asks, and Mike laughs.

Gwen moves to the side, leaning against Brian, and for a minute they both watch Mike continue his slow and careful blowjob. Then Brian urges him up with his fingers pressed to Mike's jaw, and kisses him deeply.

"What do you think, Mikey?" Brian asks when they part.

Mike looks dazed, his mouth red and used - by them, God, Brian could come just thinking about it - and it seems to take him a moment to make his brain work. "What?"

Gwen strokes his hair. "I need to get off, so one of you should fuck me."

Mike looks at Brian with wide eyes. "I know, it sounds extra dirty when she says it," Brian chuckles. He runs the backs of his fingers over Gwen's breasts, then kisses her throat.

"I don't mind watching," Mike says.

"Well, my range of motion is still somewhat limited," Brian says, and Gwen smiles like she knows where this is going, "and I can't get too fancy, so Gwen can either be on top of me while I blow you, or one of you can jerk me off while you two fuck. Which one of those do you want more, Mikey?"

Mike's ears are even redder and he looks overwhelmed again. "I can watch while you blow me?" he asks.

"That's what I said, baby."

Mike shudders at the endearment. "I want that."

"I probably won't last long," Brian warns Gwen as she straddles him, warm and familiar.

"Mikey can make me come, if we get to that," she says, ever sensible, and slides down onto his cock.

Brian settles his head on the pillow as Gwen starts to move. "C'mon, Mikey."

Mike kneels up, cock in hand, looking hesitant again. "I want your dick in my mouth," Brian says clearly, assuming the direct approach will work best, and it does.

Later, he's sure that Mike will ask where he learned to suck cock (from his wife and their collection of sex toys; maybe he'll show Mike one of these days) but for now he just opens his mouth and urges Mike forward by the hip. Then he lets himself get lost in the feeling and the sounds; Gwen's breathy moans and Mike's barely audible litany of swear words mixed with praise.

Gwen's hot around him, setting a pace Brian knows means she's chasing her orgasm and that it's not far off, and he feels pretty used and overwhelmed himself. It's not a bad feeling; he'll definitely sleep well tonight. He swallows around Mike's length, breathing through his nose, and thinks he hears Gwen say something about how good he looks doing it. Mike lets out a shaky moan and his hand flexes over Brian's collarbone.

He feels Gwen moving faster, then she shudders and stills, a quiet noise escaping her. Brian rolls his hips a fraction and she makes the same noise again. "God, Brian."

Brian opens his eyes and looks up at Mike, who's biting his bottom lip and breathing unevenly. "Brian, I'm gonna -"

His words are stopped by Gwen leaning over to kiss him, and Brian relaxes his throat to take him further. Mike comes with a strangled cry, muffled into Gwen's mouth. Brian swallows, feeling pleased with himself.

"Jesus Christ," Mike says when Brian pulls off and licks his lips.

"Pretty great, huh?" Gwen asks, still rocking slightly on Brian's cock.

"Did you come?" Mike asks Brian. Demands, really.

"Not yet." Brian's tongue feels too big for his mouth right now. "You want to..."

Gwen lifts herself off him, curling against his side again. Mike reaches down and starts jerking Brian off. There's no hesitation in his touch this time.

Brian doesn't actually count the seconds, but it feels like hardly any time before he's coming, striping Mike's hand and his own stomach and chest. "Fuck," he sighs, and Gwen nips at his neck. "So nice, Mikey."

Mike looks at his hand for a second, then licks it and shrugs. Gwen laughs and passes him some Kleenex from the box on the bedside table. Brian just breathes, sure that he couldn't move now even if he did want to go somewhere.

"Well, this sure wasn't what I expected when you asked me to stay for dinner," Mike says after another minute.

Out of the corner of his eye, Brian can see that Gwen's smile is smug. "We did."

Mike returns the smile, but it fades quickly. "What now?"

"Now I should probably shower before bed," Brian says. He turns his head and kisses Mike's thigh, since Mike is still kneeling right there. "What you're going to do now is up to you, but I think three will fit in this bed if you don't want to leave yet." He slides a hand down to hold Gwen's.

Mike looks hopeful for a second, but then he says, "I gotta feed the dog."

It's a good out and Brian knows they all know it. He nods, and Mike gets off the bed to start getting dressed. Brian watches, disappointed to see all of Mike be covered up again.

"Uh, I can show myself out," Mike says once he's got his shoes on.

"Come for dinner on Friday," Gwen says, her head pillowed on Brian's shoulder.


"And the Friday after that," Brian adds.

The hopeful smile slides across Mike's face once more. "Yeah, okay. Friday."

"Don't be late," Gwen says sternly. "And don't plan on going home early."

"I won't," Mike promises, and Brian wants to jump out of the bed to kiss him, battered body be damned. "I won't be late."