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It's a visceral reaction, the first time Walter smiles at him - truly smiles, wide and open and laughing with an intelligent humor that makes his own thin smirk twist into something different – a stab of need to have, keep, protect that would knock the wind out of him if his breathing weren't so perfectly within his control.

The having is easy – inevitable, almost, already – Walter's long body stretched out beneath him on the chocolate brown sheets of his bed that same night, pushing up with a moan to demand Kale's lips on his when Kale presses his slim wrists into the mattress, his surrender eager, but never without fight, his whole body asking that Kale push and take and mark, giving himself over with hunger to be held down, fucked open, but the fierceness to him, the spirit, tirelessly pushing back. It's immediate, that part, a rightness sudden and surprising as a fall, if Kale had been the kind of person to allow himself such an uncalculated thing as falling.

In the morning, Walter jots his cell number down for him, leaving it by the espresso machine on the kitchen counter as he rushes off to work. Kale calls it from his office that afternoon, his eyes skimming a report on the pros and cons of backing a coup in Côte d'Ivoire while they agree to meet for dinner.

The having is easier than a man his age should have any right to expect.

Keeping and protecting, though; he's still working on those.



He stops at the restaurant again after he leaves Will's, after they've dumped the body - Walter's favorite Indian place around the corner from Kale's apartment - and so when he returns home, it's carrying the exact same food he dumped in the trash a couple of hours earlier. As though nothing out of the ordinary had happened in between.

Walter is sitting with his laptop at the dining table, and there is only welcome on his face when he looks up to see Kale stepping out of the elevator. Their plans being delayed by work - Kale's or his own - is not unusual, and he rarely minds as long as Kale lets him know.

“Hey,” he says, “there you are. Everything go okay at the office?”

“As well as could be expected, I think,” Kale says, laying a hand on Walter's shoulder as he passes through the room, bending to brush a kiss onto the top of his head. The gesture is casual, everyday, but he can't help inhaling, a deep breath of Walter's scent, brushing his fingertips over the skin of Walter's neck just above the neckline of his t-shirt when he pulls his hand away. “I'll just drop this in the kitchen and go grab a quick shower,” he says, waving the take-away bag as he walks off. “Be right back.”

“Okay,” Walter says. “Gives me time to finish up this email. I suck at being polite to asshole clients, you know.”

Kale laughs, already heading up the stairs.

“Be direct, then,” he says. “It's your strong suit, anyway.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Walter calls after him. “I have no tact or finesse, we know. Go take your shower.”

You have no deception in you, Kale thinks. No secrets to keep. It's a familiar thought, but so sharp tonight that it makes him pause on the stairs, between one step and the next. If he were another person, he might turn back to run his fingers over Walter's face, tell him how special that is. But then he would be spilling his own secrets, and he never wants Walter to be touched by those.

He continues up to the bedroom, on into the adjoining bathroom. Peels his clothes off there in the silence. Thinks about it for a second, then bundles his jeans and t-shirt up and shoves them in the trash, pulls the bag out and ties it shut for disposal. He's disposed of a lot of things, tonight - the less he keeps, the better. Even if it will all still be in his head; on his hands, as Spangler said.

He steps into the shower and turns the water on, lets the spray fall over his body, over his face. He doesn't have any qualms about doing what needs to be done, but he hopes, these days, that he has the moral acuity to tell when he's doing it for the right reasons. Protecting Will is a good reason, an important reason, and he couldn't have done anything tonight but what he did. It's left him tired, though, hollow with all the things he can't let himself feel, all the things that he wants Walter to never have to see in him.

He leans his palms against the tiled wall, bends his head between his arms beneath the water. Focuses on feeling the pattern of the drops on his skin, breathing even and slow.

The water is so loud that the rattle of the shower door takes him by surprise, but he doesn't need to turn around to know who is there with him, Walter's shape in the room familiar and unmistakable. Walter doesn't move, though; simply stands there, watching him.

It feels like a long, long moment, measured in breaths, before he shifts, and there is a rustle of clothing being stripped away. Then Walter's feet step into the water behind him with a soft splashing, and Walter's hands are stroking up his back.

Kale lets out a small hum at the touch, and Walter comes closer, rubbing at his shoulders, then pressing in against his back. It's easy to lean into it, the slender warmth of Walter's body, slick with water where they touch.

“Let me,” Walter says, hands skimming down his sides, over his hipbones, and Kale has no objection, his cock rising firm into Walter's fist, his back curving into the press of Walter's body, the brush of Walter's lips against the back of his neck.

It's slow and intimate, Walter everywhere around him in the closed space of the cubicle, the outside world drowned out by the sound of the falling water. A safe space that he's carved for them, and he will never regret the traces left on his hands, the choices he makes, if it lets them have this, untainted, if it lets all the people he cares about have their version of this.

Walter lays his free hand over Kale's where it rests against the wall, strokes his thumb over Kale's in a way that makes him shiver, push into the hand rubbing his cock.

“Kale,” Walter says, his voice gentle, careful. “I know there's no blood on the clothes out there in the trash, or you would never have brought them into our home in the first place.”

Kale stiffens, his muscles suddenly tight.

“Walter,” he starts, warning in his voice, moving to turn around, but Walter keeps him there, their hands pressed to the wall. Kale could break free, of course, but he's never touched Walter that way, with violence, and he's not about to start now.

“No, listen,” Walter says. “Let me be direct about this, just this once, because I need to say it.” His fingers are still stroking Kale's cock, his lips warm at the side of his neck, and Kale closes his eyes and listens, listens. His heart is beating too fast, faster than it goes when he's running. “If there were blood, because you had to do something bad for a good cause, if there was something you needed to do to keep us all safe, then that would be okay. You should still throw away the clothes, obviously, but I'm all right with it. I trust you. I want you to know that.”

Too fast, far too fast, and maybe this is falling, after all, maybe it's always been.

“I can't tell you anything,” he says, the words wrung from him. “And I don't want you to have to know. You shouldn't have to know.”

“Kale,” Walter says, and it sounds like exasperation and fondness and blessing, and he's going to come like this, falling through all of it. “You know that over-protective streak of yours would be completely ridiculous if it weren't so hot, right?” A pause, Walter's hard-on pushing like an illustration against the small of his back. Then, more seriously, “Just let me keep you safe when you need it, okay? Let me do that for you now and then?”

Kale reaches back, reaches with the hand that Walter isn't holding to hold him in turn, his palm closing over the nape of Walter's neck, pulling him closer.

“Perhaps now and then,” he grants, and it doesn't feel impossible.

This part will never be easy, but he's working on it.

Maybe sometimes they can work on it together.