Holden lets out a low whistle at the spandex-encased ass muscles flexing their way through a previously-recorded run across the T.V. above Dooley’s bar. "He can play my tight end any time."
"Actually, I play quarterback," comes a deep voice behind him. "But I understand the confusion."
Snorting (because his inner dork still escapes sometimes), Holden turns on his stool to see the real-life face that goes with the onscreen body. It’s a damn fine face, and the body is just as good offscreen, in dark jeans and an untucked navy blue dress shirt. The open collar offers a glimpse of skin that looks like warm honey even in the sports bar’s questionable light. Holden looks from that golden dip back to Sean Jackson’s face, to the mischievous eyes and the smirk that broadens as Holden watches.
That expression begs for a grin -- among possibly all kinds of other things -- and Holden can’t help obliging, even as he backpedals. “I was just admiring your scramble, Mr. Jackson.”
Jackson raises his eyebrows. “Wow, really, you think the formal greeting is going to cover that level of blatant ogling?”
“I figured it was a wise concession for my own sake. Considering you probably benchpress my body weight three times a week.”
“Six, conservatively,” Jackson says while tilting his head and studying the length of Holden’s body with a more intoxicating kind of weight. His gaze meets Holden’s. “You can come and watch sometime.”
“How about if I watch and come?” As soon as the words are out, Holden tightens his jaw hard, accidentally drawing blood from the inside of his cheek. Shit, the guy is probably going to beat the crap out of him now. He smiles awkwardly and rubs the back of his neck. “Uh, sorry -- too far?”
The crowd of people around them shifts, and Jackson presses closer to him in a way that could’ve been by necessity. Except he’s standing between Holden’s legs and using the cover of his own body and the bar to drop his hand lightly on Holden’s thigh. His breath ghosts across Holden’s mouth. “How about you bring some wine to my place, I make you dinner, and we’ll see from there?”
Holden inhales and imagines he can taste the offer, heavy and liquid on his tongue. The want hits him so fast, he can’t think for a second. When he does reply, it’s with a ridiculous, “You cook?”
“With enough heat and preparation, I can do things you wouldn’t believe,” Jackson says, squeezing and releasing Holden’s thigh.
Holden instantly misses that contact, even while he’s glad the distance might keep him from getting any harder in public. He shakes his head a few times and feels a slow smile forming. “Full of surprises, Mr. Jackson.”
Jackson laughs, deep and reassuring and sexy. “Call me ‘Sean,’ okay? As long as you tell me . . . ”
“Holden,” he supplies quickly. “I’m Holden Wilson.”
“Holden,” Jackson (Sean) repeats, and slips a business card under Holden’s palm against the bar. “Like I said, call me.”
After Sean walks away through the crowd, with quick grins and nods at appreciative fans as he goes, Holden turns back toward the bar and asks the bartender for a fresh drink. He glances up at the television, where two sports anchors are finishing their game analysis. They’re barely audible over the noise, but their commentary is captioned.
“You think we’ve seen Sean Jackson in top form here, Casey?” says the dark-haired man at one end of the desk.
“I think the best is yet to come, Dan,” the blond to his left replies.
Holden lifts his glass to that and swallows the drink in huge gulps of anticipation.
Fully expecting to have to run through a whole introduction spiel when he calls a few days later, he says, “Hi, this is Holden. We met --”
“You like hockey?” Sean asks without preamble.
It should throw Holden off his guard, but he finds himself falling easily into the conversational drift. “Of course. I was at Joe Louis for the Red Wings-Penguins final game last season.”
Sean’s smile is audible. “Don’t tell me you’re a Penguins fan.”
“I’m a Ducks guy all the way, but I’ll switch my allegiance to other waterfowl as necessary.”
“We’ll have to talk more about your bizarre kind of loyalty,” Sean says. “Want to catch the Ducks-Wild game with me on Friday?”
They meet at the Honda Center, where home ice advantage seems to be working in the Ducks’ favor, much to Holden’s glee. Thanks to Sean, he and Holden have seats seven rows diagonally up from the penalty box. Their legs are long and the seating relatively narrow, and Sean’s left knee is braced casually against Holden’s right.
Sean glances over at Holden with a grin. “Glad you’re enjoying yourself.”
He whoops at a strong save by goalie Jonas Hiller and lightly punches Sean’s bicep. “Aren’t you?”
“Yeah, but apparently my enthusiasm is a little quieter than yours.”
Leaning over just far enough to lower his voice for only Sean's hearing, Holden says, “I’d like to explore that theory more sometime.”
“Hmm,” Sean responds noncommittally.
Holden returns his attention to the game and finds himself observing -- unintentionally aloud -- “God, you’re warmer than my desk.”
“Would that be in the Office of Non-Sequiturs?”
“Ha. No, it would be in the offices of McClansky and Tidemoore.”
“And they do . . . “
“Investment banking,” Holden supplies, pumping his fist in the air as Corey Perry scores his second goal of the game. "Yes!"
Sean chuckles. “Which has what to do with my hotness?”
“What?” Holden looks at him, but Sean is still gazing at the ice. Explaining will be easier without Sean watching him anyway. “Oh, the desk thing. My office is always freezing, no matter how much Maintenance tinkers with it, so, I just keep a space heater by my desk. And usually at the games I’m up in the luxury boxes, not down by the ice like this. I expected tonight I’d be cold, but you -- like you said. Hotness.”
The edge of Sean’s mouth that Holden can see quirks upward. Sean doesn’t say anything. He does, however, slouch down further in his seat, which spreads his legs wider and presses almost his entire leg tightly against Holden’s.
Holden slides down, too. So what, if he can’t see half the ice now? At this rate he might flash-melt it anyway.
Post-game (3-2, Ducks!) Sean invites him on a burger run. They drive separately still, but, once they get their food, they both climb into Sean’s SUV to eat together in a dark corner of some office complex parking lot.
Sean makes an appreciative, moaning sort of noise when he bites into his burger.
Holden swallows before even tasting his, and stuffs his mouth full of burger to hide any drooling. The chewing sounds from Sean’s side have stopped, and Holden lifts his eyes to Sean’s. It’s too dark to see clearly from his side of the SUV, but he definitely feels the roughness of Sean’s fingertip at the edge of his mouth.
“Ketchup,” Sean mutters as he sweeps his finger slowly across Holden’s mouth.
Reflexively Holden licks at Sean’s fingertip, the salt of it a counterpoint to the flavors already on his tongue. Sean’s moan this time is deeper, and his mouth is on Holden’s before Holden can react.
Sean doesn’t fuck around with closed-mouth kissing. The moment their lips meet his tongue is tracing the seam of Holden’s mouth and Holden is letting him in, letting him draw Holden’s tongue to meet his. Holden can taste the mustard and pickles Sean ordered on his burger, the beers they had at the game, the wet and heat and desire as Sean’s hands clench on Holden’s shoulders.
Angling closer, Holden goes to wrap his arms around Sean but feels the drag of something in one hand along Sean’s t-shirt. He tips his head back trying to figure out the issue, which Sean takes as an invitation to kiss a path down Holden’s neck -- which is fantastic, until Holden realizes what was dragging and starts to laugh.
It dislodges Sean, who sits up, breathing harshly. “What the hell is so funny?”
“Speaking of ketchup . . . “ Holden gestures with his hand to indicate its smashed burger and the huge smear of meat, bun, and condiments around Sean’s shirt.
Sean looks down and up, and then joins in laughing until he and Holden are partially collapsed against each other, compounding the problem.
Eventually they break apart. Holden shakes his head at the drying stain. “I don’t think there’s any coming back from that.”
“Not tonight, maybe,” Sean says. He’s still near enough for Holden to see the promise in his eyes as well as hear it in his voice.
Remembering that promise, Holden requires serious effort not to pop open his bottle of wine before he leaves for Sean’s place a week later. He stands for long minutes in front of his open fridge staring at the bottle, chilling on the shelf. Letting the cold air spill over him seems like a good idea. Finally he grabs the bottle and gets in the car he requested, heading for Sean's address. On the ride over, he pulls it from the cooler bag periodically to roll it against his forehead.
When Holden presses the door buzzer, he hears Sean calling from somewhere beyond the other side of the door, “It’s open!”
Surprised, Holden turns the knob and enters.
“C’mon in.” Holden follows the sharply out-of-breath sound of Sean’s words. “In here.”
And then he’s in a home exercise room, where Sean is lying with his legs spread on either side of a bench, his arms pumping to raise and lower a weighted bar. Gray shorts and a tank emphasize the muscles working in tandem.
Holden barks out a laugh. As Sean drops the bar onto its braces, Holden walks around behind the bench and looks down at him. “You’re actually benchpressing my weight right now, aren’t you?”
“You said you wanted to watch,” Sean says, still breathing heavily. His face is flushed, his whole body sheened with sweat. Holden's eyes track a few drops streaking down Sean's arms and legs.
“Mmm.” Holden tries for a conversational tone. “You know, I’ve always had a fantasy about sex on an exercise bench.”
There’s a smile in Sean’s eyes, but he just licks his lips and keeps watching Holden -- waiting.
“Okay, no, I haven't really,” Holden admits.
“But you have one now.” It’s nothing like a question, and there’s no doubt about Sean’s intention when he slides his hands down his chest to his waist, tugs down his shorts and jock, and palms his cock.
“Fuck, yes,” Holden says, and ducks around beneath the bar to kneel beside Sean. Kissing Sean, he slides his hand up Sean’s thigh toward his cock.
Sean’s hand stops his, though, and maybe Holden did miss something, because Sean says, “That’s not what I had in mind.”
“Oh. What . . . ?”
“Stand up. No, here,” Sean directs, tugging Holden’s right leg so that he’ll lift it over the bench, “and take off your shirt, then put your hands up on the bar.”
Holden does so but raises his eyebrows. “Um, are you going --”
“Just keep your hands and feet planted. You’ll like this. At least, I think you will. I haven’t tried it this way before.” Without another word Sean undoes Holden’s jeans, reaches into his boxers, and pulls out his cock. Sean wraps one hand around it and strokes him to hardness in what could be an embarrassingly short amount of time.
Inhaling sharply, Holden tightens his grip on the bar. For a moment they just stay like that, Sean jacking him off, and Holden, well, attempting to breathe.
Then Sean’s muscles bunch as he hoists himself upward, his hands slamming on the bar inside Holden’s position and his mouth closing over the head of Holden’s cock. His tongue flicks across the head and drags along the underside while his mouth slides down. And Holden has to attempt to breathe while attempting to stay upright. He shifts his hands right up against Sean’s, sweat-slick and clenched.
Sean bobs his head, sucking hard. Holden rests his forehead on the bar and groans at the tight heat of it, at the sight of Sean’s lips spreading around his cock. He can't even thrust, can't move his legs at all because he knows he would fucking fall and crush Sean dead then, and this heaven would stop, and it should never, ever stop, but it has to because he's about to come in that wet, wet mouth, and he has just enough breath to gasp out, “Now, coming, gaaah.”
Pulling off, Sean drops one hand back to Holden’s cock to finish him off, and another to his own. Holden shoots onto Sean’s chest and stands there panting, hanging over the bar while he watches Sean’s head tip back and Sean’s cock jetting come over his taut abdomen.
“Jesus Christ,” Holden mutters, “if that was the appetizer, I don’t think I’ll survive dinner.”
Sean smirks. His chest rises and falls heavily, and Holden wants to drop back into a kneel and lick every inch of him.
“It’s not burning in the kitchen right now while you've been frying my brain, is it?”
Scrubbing the back of his hand over his face, Sean wriggles downward along the bench, out from under Holden’s spread legs. Holden turns his head to watch Sean strip completely and step up behind him. Now they're both straddling the bench, and the ridge of Sean’s cock is thick against Holden’s ass through his jeans. Sean wraps his arms around Holden’s chest and says into his ear, “Don’t worry. It’s in the slow-cooker.”
Holden shudders. “I know the feeling. I’ve been thinking so much about what we’d do, I've been on a slow burn for days.”
“Keep thinking. I'll want to hear all those plans.” Sean releases him, stepping backward and heading for the doorway. “Kitchen’s down the hall on the right. Make yourself comfortable. I’m going to take a shower and join you soon.”
Holden only half-registers what Sean is saying until the sound of running water rouses him from his stupor. He looks around and realizes he should probably tuck his dick back into his pants. He grabs a towel hanging off the edge of another piece of exercise equipment and gives himself a quick wipe first.
Re-dressed, he spots the wine he brought -- which he put on the floor at some unremembered point and thankfully didn’t break -- and grabs it. In the kitchen, which is full of gleaming metal but has some inexplicable warmth of tone, he manages to restrict himself to drinking only one glassful before Sean reappears with wet hair and in jeans.
“That was fast.” Holden tries not to regret the fact that they are both wearing pants.
“Nah, it only seems that way because you can’t think straight yet.” Sean kisses the back of Holden’s neck en route to the stove.
“True,” he agrees.
“I’m sorry we’ll only have time for dinner now. I have practice first thing in the morning.”
“Oh.” Holden definitely regrets the pants, but at least Sean sounds pretty damn regretful himself. “Well, food is good, too.”
And it is, a complicated, spicy stew that makes Holden’s eyes water and his stomach very happy. Not as happy, though, as his mouth is from the goodbye kiss he shares with Sean at the door.
They talk on the phone, so comfortably that it takes Holden almost two weeks to realize they’ve been talking every night, although his body has been well aware that it’s been so much longer since they’ve touched. He has had to fly to London for a deal, and Sean has been in practices and away games around the U.S.
The minute the plane lands, he calls Sean, and they’re forty minutes into the call (without Holden having said a word about where he is) when he presses the buzzer at Sean’s door.
“Just a sec,” Sean says into the phone, and then he’s opening the door to Holden and grinning. “I gotta go, Holden. There’s this really hot delivery guy at my door, and I didn’t even order in tonight.”
Holden indicates the car waiting behind him. “I’m here to take you out, actually.”
“Sounds great. Do I need to change?”
“You look fantastic,” Holden says honestly. “We’re not going anywhere too fancy.”
Sean nods at the hired car. “Do you drive yourself anywhere?”
“Nope. I don’t even have my own car.”
“God, I couldn’t stand that,” Sean says as they walk to the car.
Holden nods. “I know what you mean, but I travel out of L.A. for business so much, it just makes more sense to leave the transportation to someone else.”
“If you say so.” Sean clearly doesn’t object to the comfort of their ride, though, or to Holden closing the privacy panel to twine their hands together and sneak quick kisses.
The restaurant they go to is just a little hole-in-the-wall not far from Holden’s apartment, with clean red cotton tablecloths and the kind of home-cooked Italian that he has otherwise been able to find only in Italy itself. They have the whole place to themselves. Dina, the owner, knows Holden from all his solo visits by now and is keeping the waitstaff out of the way whenever they’re not needed.
Holden digs into his pile of gnocchi, while Sean slurps forkful after swirled forkful of linguini into his mouth. The rich marinara leaves a red streak at the edge of his mouth.
That image sparks Holden’s memory, and he reaches out to brush away the sauce with his thumb. Sucking the pad of his thumb clean, he smiles wickedly at the flare of desire in Sean’s eyes. “Better than ketchup.”
“Much better,” Sean says, his tone almost a growl, “but I don’t think I’m hungry anymore.”
The graze of Sean’s fingers against Holden’s knee under the table makes his pulse speed into a crazy pace. He draws a deep breath and bumps his leg into Sean’s touch before shoving back his chair. “I am, but I can eat at home.”
Dina practically has to chase after them with their leftovers and Holden’s credit card. It’s an even closer call for Holden’s apartment door to close before Sean is slamming him against it. They kiss with what feels like two years of pent-up tension rather than two weeks, Sean’s lips trailing greedily across to Holden’s ear and Holden licking at Sean’s exposed collarbone.
They grab at each other, pulling at clothes. Too desperate and insanely hard, Holden gives up and just grinds himself into Sean.
“Fuck, Holden,” Sean gasps, and rubs himself against Holden with equal force. His breath is hot on Holden’s face, and when Holden bites at the juncture of his neck and shoulder, Sean groans, and they both come like teenagers in their pants.
They giggle like teenagers, too, making their way to Holden’s bedroom. They finally manage to get out of their clothes. Holden can’t remember the last time he just fell into bed naked. He knows it’s never felt so good, when Sean is there naked with him and mouthing kisses across Holden’s back as they fall asleep.
Holden wakes far later than usual, and the bed is cold beside him. He sighs at the empty white space.
“Your face’ll stick that way, you know,” Sean says from the bedroom doorway.
“Hey.” Smiling broadly, Holden starts to sit up. He’s still sleepy enough not to care that Sean is completely dressed while he, himself, is completely not.
Sean moves quickly to the free side of the bed. His hands are behind his back. “No, don’t get up. Stay like that.”
“You seem to like telling me what to do. Consider me righteously indignant.” Holden swallows a yawn and tries to peer around Sean. “What are you hiding?”
“Just breakfast, and this.” Sean shows him one hand, with a bag of pastries, and the other, with a cardboard beverage tray that has two tall paper cups of coffee balancing its sides and a vase in the middle.
“How romantic,” Holden observes in a soft voice, not meaning it ironically at all. “Why a yellow orchid?”
Sean shrugs and sets down the offerings on the nightstand. “When I got up this morning, you were sprawled out on the sheets. I passed a flower shop on the walk down the street to that cafe you told me you liked, and the orchid reminded me of you.”
Stretching his limbs, Holden waits for the elaboration.
“Golden. Gorgeous.” Sean strokes the back of his hand down Holden’s arm to clasp his hand, and cups both their hands over Holden’s morning erection. “Like you had just this one secret, for me.”
Holden arches into their joined grasp and jokes, “Mis secretos son sus secretos.”
His legs spread wider as Sean quickens the pace of their strokes. He moans a complaint when Sean lets go, but he continues pulling with his own hand at the view of Sean stripping. Naked again -- for the first time Holden can really look at him -- Sean stands beside the bed and jacks himself slowly while watching Holden do the same beneath him.
Holden can’t keep his gaze focused in one place, can’t help looking back and forth between Sean’s wide eyes, pursed lips, and thick cock sliding through his fist.
Sean turns his head abruptly, looking somewhat wildly around the room. “Do you have condoms? Lube?”
Holden’s movement stutters, and he has to grip hard against the wash of need through him. He tips his chin toward the nightstand. “Drawer, there.”
Holden tries to focus on every second through the haze of pleasure. Sean’s callus-roughened fingers slicking into him and stretching. Sean’s cock pushing between his lips for him to suck the sheathed length of it. Holden’s palms hooked under his knees to draw his legs into an invitation. Sean’s cock (again, and forever, if Holden could have it) nudging at his hole, opening him inch by inch into some new world where color bursts behind his eyes and he is so full. Sean’s hands, one stroking Holden’s cock faster and faster, the other gripping his own at the base while he thrusts. Both men caught in a loop of wanting, wanting to come and wanting to keep going indefinitely.
It isn’t too good to be true, just too fucking good for them to hold out. Sean breaks first, his hips juddering into an awkward rhythm as he throws back his head and fills the condom. Holden wraps his legs around Sean’s waist and links his hand with Sean’s around his cock to drive himself over the edge.
The next few weeks are full of lovesick sappiness, to which neither Holden nor Sean will admit. But there it is.
For once, Holden is in L.A. and not working when Sean has a home game. Sean gets him a ticket and a pass to meet Sean outside the locker room afterward.
Holden expects to be distracted the whole time by how sexy Sean is on the field, and there’s some of that. Mostly, though, he’s proud and amazed -- and not a little bit worried, the times when Sean hits the dirt with bone-jarring roughness. Even though he knows Sean will hit the showers here, he looks forward to taking him back to the showers at home later, where he can soap and lick and suck Sean clean, and see for himself that Sean is still in one piece.
As soon as Sean runs off the field, Holden pushes his way out of the stands and heads for the locker room. The crowd makes him impatient, but even once he’s in the hallway outside the locker room he has to keep waiting anyway. Eventually Sean emerges, moving with ease and grace past his teammates and the waiting press.
Pride comes through Holden strongest now, and, grinning, he reaches out to give Sean a jubilant hug.
Holden’s fingers meet Sean’s shoulders instead, though, while Sean’s hands clasp Holden’s shoulders in turn. Holding him at literal arm’s length.
“Hey, buddy,” Sean says aloud. His eyes say, “Not here.”
Holden blinks. “Yeah. Great game. Buddy.”
“Thanks! Glad you could make it.” Sean’s arm slings behind Holden’s neck as he guides Holden out the door to his SUV.
Once they’re on the highway, Sean pulls over onto the shoulder and gives him a quick kiss. “I am really glad you were there.”
“Me, too,” Holden says, kissing him back and shaking off the weird hallway vibe.
At Holden’s place, Sean wants to eat before anything else. They have leftover mac-and-cheese, and then Sean is shucking their clothes and pulling Holden to the shower without Holden having mentioned the idea.
Giving him a lopsided smile, Holden asks, “How did you know I wanted to get back in the shower with you?”
“Something in your eyes,” Sean replies, not specifying when.
There are no more words that night -- nothing comprehensible anyway -- only moans, sighs, and skin meeting skin under the fall of water from the showerhead.
Holden has to be in Dubai at Thanksgiving and can't watch Sean's game that day from his hotel room, let alone from the stadium. His all-day meetings and the time change mean he almost doesn't know when the game is, but he calls as soon afterward as he's sure Sean is likely to be awake. The call seems normal, like nothing strange has happened. Maybe Sean thinks nothing has. When Holden gets home, he acts as though he thinks that, too.
He's never believed before in that fake it 'til you make it idea, but it's surprisingly easy over the following weeks to pretend his way into forgetting the awkwardness outside the locker room.
When Holden asks Sean to have Christmas dinner with his sister, June, and her family in Santa Monica, Sean agrees readily. They share a quiet family dinner, during which no one -- including Sean -- bats an eye at Holden’s description of Sean as his boyfriend.
The faintest hint of concern in Sean’s voice as they’re getting ready to leave June’s for Holden’s place that night, though, prompts Holden to put a calming hand on Sean’s shoulder. They pull June aside and ask her to make sure the family doesn’t spread around the fact of Holden and Sean’s relationship.
“I just don’t like having my private life made public,” Sean says.
June nods because it’s a perfectly reasonable statement. Holden nods, too, and tries not to think about reasons to tell the whole damn world how much he loves Sean.
On one of Sean’s days off, he invites Holden to hang out with him and some friends to watch a Bowl game, which is fun in and of itself, a loud and relaxing and junk food-filled party. They’re a great group of guys, all friendly to Holden (even if a few of them do mock his apparent preppiness). They also all clearly believe Holden to be just a new friend of Sean, while Sean either doesn't realize his friends' misconception or decides not to enlighten them. And, somehow, that stops seeming reasonable to Holden. It starts bothering him more and more as the day progresses.
He tells Sean as much once the guys have left. “It’s not like I’m asking to watch all your away games with the other player’s wives or something right now.”
“You’re not my wife,” Sean says, looking angry but sounding baffled.
“I don’t want to be your fucking wife, Sean! I just want to know who I am to you.” Holden gets the bafflement, but gets the anger even more. He didn’t even know until now how angry he’s become since the hallway outside the locker room, at himself as much as at Sean. “I want to have some place in your life.”
Sean throws his hands into the air. “Hey, it’s not like you’re always around to be with, Mr. Jet-Set. And you’ve never said anything about this before.”
Holden lets out a huffing non-laugh. “That’s true. I travel. And I haven’t sat you down to listen to me say that I felt marginalized outside our bedrooms. I guess I was giving you too much credit, expecting that someone who knew my needs so well the rest of the time would get this without my spelling it out.”
“I’m sorry I’m not a genius like you,” Sean starts.
“Don’t. I haven’t once insulted your intelligence.” Holden rubs his hands over his face. “I don’t want to do this, have it turn into this. I need to go.”
Sean grabs his arm, all the anger drained from an expression now purely of confusion. “We can talk this out. Please, just stay.”
“Why, Sean? I’ve always just been a guest on the sidelines, and I don’t feel all that welcome anymore.” Holden pulls out of Sean’s hands, and is out the door without letting himself think any more about it -- without letting himself really see past the misunderstanding to the hurt. Maybe now he can fake it ‘til he makes it back to feeling . . . anything but this.
Holden’s boss, Jeanne Figlio, calls him a few days later. “Look, Holden, I know you had put in a request not to work this weekend, but the buyers in Okinawa --”
“When am I flying out?” he interrupts, not wanting to think about Valentine’s Day being four days away.
“Tomorrow afternoon, for a Friday meeting and Saturday closing. You might still make it back for part of Sunday.”
“It’s fine. Go ahead and send the details to my Blackberry, and I’ll swing by the office for the hard copy files tonight.”
“Sounds good. This’ll put you one step closer to that V.P. spot, Holden.”
“Thanks, Jeanne,” he says, and disconnects.
Only when he starts throwing clothes and toiletries into his small carry-on bag does he realize that he left his spare toothbrush at Sean’s place. He wonders for a moment whether Sean will notice the abandoned mark of intimacy. He tells himself he doesn’t want to know.
Okinawa was a blur. At least the return flight was more enjoyable than it could’ve been, thanks to the company he had.
After sending the captain on her hopefully-merry way with Redmond, Holden calls the car service from speed dial and explains his need for another ride home. The operator warns him of a half-hour wait, but he says that’s better than expected, and settles into a booth in one of the L.A.X. cocktail lounges.
His Blackberry vibrates once the car is curbside, and he goes out to meet this driver: Erin, a slender blonde whose cheerful greeting reminds him so much of the omnipresent attendant on his flight, he has to chuckle. Thankfully once they're en route her gaze focuses on the road, not him in the mirror.
A small T.V. is set in a panel that hangs down from the roof of the car in the passenger seating area. Holden is reaching for the buttons to turn off and retract the screen when a news recap shows him Sean in a press conference. Watching, Holden feels like a balloon is expanding in his chest, making him weightless and breathless at the same time.
Erin's smile only dims a notch when Holden taps the partition and gives her a new destination. It becomes a full grin when Holden taps again after they’ve just passed a mostly-dark flower shop.
Clambering out of the car, Holden knocks on the window. It startles a shaggy-haired, sad-eyed young man in the shop into coming to the door.
“Sorry, we’re closed,” the guy says through the glass, and gestures at a sign indicating as much.
“I know, yes, sorry, could I just get one particular flower from you? I’ll pay double, even if you have a bunch left that you’d be throwing away.”
The guy gives him a wry look. “What particular flower did you want?”
Sean lifts one hand to cup Holden’s face. Holden rubs his cheek against Sean’s palm and leans down to press their lips together. The kiss is gentle, simple, and brief. When Holden pulls back a little again, Sean grabs the orchid from his hand and pitches it behind them somewhere.
“No more secrets,” Sean says.
Holden laughs for a second. “I didn’t bring it because of that. I meant --”
Sean drags Holden close again, hard enough that Holden falls against him, and Sean kisses him roughly. The kiss says way too many things to be simple, way too many things for Holden to be sure of what they all are. But he is sure of Sean.
“I missed you so damned much.” Sean stands up, pulling Holden toward his bedroom. “Don’t make me go through that again, okay?”
“Hey, back at you,” Holden says, a little irritated.
At the edge of the bed, Sean stops. He clasps Holden’s hands and looks into his eyes, and his voice is calmly certain. “I love you.”
Holden breathes in and out slowly, not to make Sean wait, only to absorb the moment completely. His fingers tighten between Sean’s. He just can’t quite resist . . . “I love you, too, buddy.”
“Prick.” Sean tries and totally fails to glare at him. Holden has no warning before Sean yanks on his hands, toppling them both onto the bed. “You’re going to have to make that up to me.”
Half-incredulous, half-amused, and almost fully hard simply from the warm solidity of Sean beneath him again, Holden says, “Oh, really? How should I do that?”
Rolling sideways, Sean pulls off his clothing, piece by piece. Then he gets on his hands and knees on the bed and looks back over his shoulder at Holden, who watches open-mouthed. Sean licks his lips, and his voice rumbles with heat. “Fuck me.”
“You got it,” Holden rasps, because there’s no more truthful answer.
He sheathes and slicks his cock rapidly. He tries to prepare Sean more carefully, but Sean growls at him to hurry and reaches back to guide the head of Holden’s cock into his ass. The tight heat around him makes Holden groan, “Fuck, Sean, Sean.”
“Yes.” Sean’s head drops to the pillows, his ass tilting upward more, and he drives his hips back, drawing Holden deep into him. “More. Now.”
As soon as Holden starts to move, he can’t help obeying Sean’s voice and body commanding more and more, harder and harder. He folds himself over Sean’s back so that he can reach around to stroke Sean’s cock in time with his thrusts. He can feel Sean’s ass clenching around his cock, almost there. He pushes harder while he presses his cheek against Sean’s back and murmurs, “Love you, love you, come now, with me.”
“With you,” Sean repeats, “yeah.”
They awaken still tangled around each other. At some point the night before, Holden did at least get conscious enough to dispose of the condom. Now there’s nothing between them.
Sean meets Holden’s gaze and seems to guess his thoughts. “I got tested four months ago, right after we met, and I haven’t been with anyone else. I’ll get tested again, if you --”
“I believe you’re clean,” Holden interrupts him, after a brief kiss. “So am I, but I have my results from then for you, too.”
“We’re good.” Sean grins.
“We’re very good,” Holden agrees.
Sean props himself on his elbows. “Move in with me.”
Holden’s stomach tightens. He trails his fingertips along the side of Sean’s face. “Sure you’re ready for that?”
“Absolutely.” Sean flops onto his back on the bed. “I really need you to help me scare off these girls.”
Holden snickers, more when Sean gives him a puppy-dog look.
“They keep hitting on me!” Sean says indignantly. “I’m not theirs for the ogling.”
The yours is clear. Holden shakes his head fondly. “When you put it that way, how can I say no?”
Sean’s expression turns smug, but, before he can respond, Holden climbs out of bed and hauls Sean with him. “These are neighbor girls, right? Let’s take care of this right now.”
Sean tugs his hands free and braces them on the balcony doorframe. “What exactly are you planning?”
“Nothing you can’t handle,” Holden says, knowing there’s a hint of challenge in it.
Without another word, Sean lets go. He steps out onto the balcony with Holden and calls down, “Hey, ladies. Sorry!”
When the girls (and all the other people) on the beach look up, Holden would’ve kissed Sean first, but Sean is already there to meet him.