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Ed's still moving slowly by the time he makes it to Sam's place. A civilian might not catch that, but Sam can see it in the way Ed shifts his weight, in the way his shoulders don't quite turn with their full range of motion.

Yeah, Sam can see it. But Sam was there; Sam saw the way Ed hit the ground when their subject's hands spasmed and the gun went off. Thank God for the vest, thank God, but a bullet still hits damn hard even if it hits a bulletproof material.

If Sam says anything, though, Ed's probably going to stiffen up emotionally instead of just physically, and definitely not the way Sam's hoping for. So he doesn't comment on it. He just swings his apartment door wide open and steps aside, inviting Ed in with a nod. "Hey."

"Hey," Ed says, walking in, letting Sam close the door behind him. "How's it going?"

Sam shrugs. "About like you'd expect, you know? I was just about to get myself a soda, play back the Leafs game."

"Soda sounds good. I'd skip the Leafs game if I were you."

He's grinning when he says it, ear-to-ear, and Sam shakes his head as he smiles back. "I can never tell with you, man--does that mean they sucked tonight, or are you just here to offer me something better?"

Ed shrugs, but the motion sets something off in his back, and he doesn't get the grimace off his face fast enough for Sam to pretend he didn't see it. Sam reaches out, and for once Ed doesn't wave him off. "How about I get us both some water and then I give you a back rub?"

"Yeah," Ed murmurs. "Yeah, I could go for that. You don't mind?"

Oh, yeah, I let you in because I mind. Sam shakes his head. "You know where the bedroom is."

Ed nods, and he's off, shucking his jacket as he goes. Sam watches until Ed's out of sight, taking in the way he's walking--stiff, hurting, but maybe not as bad as Sam thought. Bad enough a back rub obviously sounds good, though. That's fine by Sam; he heads for the kitchen, gets a couple big glasses of water, and goes back to the bedroom to meet Ed.

The lights are turned down low; he can still see, but there are a lot of shadows in here, and Ed's still form in the center of Sam's bed is painted with them. He's out of his clothes--Sam can see them, piled up neatly on the floor by the foot of the bed--and he's got the sheet pulled up to just below his waist, the top of his ass just barely visible. His arms are stretched out to his sides, and if Sam didn't know better, he'd think Ed was already asleep.

He does know better, though. He doesn't go out of his way to be quiet, doesn't go out of his way to be noisy; Ed knows someone's there, knows it's Sam. Knows he's safe, Sam hopes. He sets down the first glass of water on the right-side nightstand and then walks all the way back around the bed to the left-side nightstand, where he sets down the other. By the time he gets there, Ed's rolled onto his side and gotten the water into his hand; he drinks like he's been parched for days.

With Ed facing away from him, Sam can see the bruise on his back. It's ugly--dark purple with mottled green, dead center between his shoulderblades. Sam has the overly sentimental urge to kiss it, but he stops himself; Ed would never put up with that.

It still bothers Sam, though, thinking about what a close call it was. Eight inches higher--Ed wasn't wearing his helmet, and it could have been so much worse...

He stops those thoughts in their tracks and focuses on getting undressed. He's not as neat as Ed; his clothes land on the floor in a messy heap. He opens the nightstand drawer and pulls out the massage oil; he's going to have to be careful tonight.

By the time he climbs into bed, Ed's drained his glass, and he settles back down on Sam's bed, this time folding his arms under his pillow. Sam straddles Ed's hips--all slow movements, no surprises--and gives Ed a simple, easy stroke without oil first, moving up from his lower back all the way to his shoulders.

Ed doesn't say anything, but he exhales softly, sinking a little further into the bed.

"Yeah?" Sam murmurs.

"'S good," Ed mumbles back, settling in now, relaxing as Sam picks up the oil and starts in earnest.

If somebody had told Sam a year ago that Ed was a sucker for a nice back rub after all the body armor and weapons were stowed and the reports were filed, he'd have laughed. Not that Sam would've turned in a back rub himself, especially not after a rough day at work, but Ed? Ed was the kind of guy Sam recognized from JTF2, the kind who was career military, the kind who was never going to have an easy home life. They lived, slept, ate, and breathed work, and relaxing was all about spending time with their buddies, not going home and having somebody take care of them.

And Ed didn't go after this with anybody else. Sam knew how to ask around, knew how to ask without raising the red flags. It wasn't Wordy or Greg or any of the people he'd known forever -- Rollie from Team 3, maybe.

But late one night after an eighteen-hour hot call, Ed had shown up on Sam's doorstep, and Sam took one look at the stiff way he was moving and blurted out, "You need a rubdown."

If the rubdown had turned into something else after, well... it wasn't like they needed to talk about it. Team was team.

By now, Sam knows where to touch Ed; knows where the tight spots are, where Ed carries all his tension. It's complicated this time because of that damned bruise, but Sam manages anyway. He knows how to warm Ed up, how to soothe him; he knows that if it'd been a mission gone wrong, Ed would've wanted some low, pounding hard rock, something turned down so quiet that you could only hear the bass and the drumbeat, and he'd need Sam to be rough with him, after.

Tonight, though, it looks like maybe Ed wants something else. Fast is good at work, but slow and steady might just win the race tonight.

Ed shifts a little as Sam starts working down. Sam lets him, climbs off Ed's legs so Ed can make some space between them. Sam goes down, rubs the kinks out of Ed's lower back, and then he's pushing against Ed's glutes, making Ed groan and rock his hips down against the bed.

"Okay," Ed moans, and he pushes up on his elbows, lets his head drop down so his forehead's on the pillow but Sam can still hear every word he says. "You want to do something?"

"Yeah," Sam murmurs. He leans forward, opens the other nightstand drawer; it's stocked with condoms, with lube, and Ed doesn't even turn his head to see what Sam's getting, because he knows full well what he's asking for. Sam pulls the covers aside, bares Ed's ass and legs, and he strokes his hands up the insides of Ed's thighs, exhaling softly. "Yeah, I want to do something."

He's half-expecting Ed to tell him to hurry it up, to get on with it, but Ed doesn't. Sam gets the condom on anyway--he's hard enough, that's for sure, and better now than in the moment--but he bends his head down to press a kiss to the back of Ed's knee. Ed moans softly, but he doesn't move.

"Yeah?" Sam murmurs. Ed doesn't say anything, but Sam's betting that's a yes. He moves up, kissing and licking Ed's thigh, all the way up--slow, easy licks, soft kisses, but when he gets to Ed's inner thigh, he puts his teeth on Ed's skin and leaves a gentle little bite.

Ed spreads his legs even wider.

Sam grins and licks that spot, leaves a few more gentle bites around it. He can hear Ed moaning; he can smell the massage oil and the soap from the shower at work and just a little bit of Ed's sweat, under all that. It's enough to make Sam want to moan, too, but he's not finished here.

He moves to Ed's other thigh and paints a squiggle on Ed's skin with his tongue, a gentle S-curve. And once he's done that, he can't stop himself; he adds the swooping curl of a circle, stem coming back down on the right-hand edge of it, and then three bumps, three hills for the M in Sam. His name, right on Ed's thigh, drawn on with the tip of his tongue.

"Is that a signature?" Ed murmurs.

"You caught that, huh?"

"It's a short name. I'd still be guessing if you were named Nicholas or something."

Sam laughs softly and climbs up the bed, spreading himself out all over Ed's back. He's careful of the bruise, but he kisses the back of Ed's neck, nipping lightly at the skin there, too.

And he does it again, there on the back of Ed's neck, licking the word across Ed's skin: S-A-M. Big capital letters this time, since Ed knows what he's doing and he doesn't have to hide it. Ed moans a little, rocking his ass back against Sam's cock.

"Hang on. Not done," Sam murmurs. He licks and nibbles his way across Ed's shoulder, over to the left, and when he gets there, he draws another word on Ed's body, something else in big capital letters--all single strokes, so Ed can read them on his skin. T-E-A-M, for his left shoulder, and then a brush of his cheek and his leftover stubble as he goes over to Ed's right shoulder. M-A-T-E, this time, and Ed all but collapses into the bed.

"Yeah," Ed murmurs, "yeah, c'mon, c'mon--"

Sam shifts, crawling lower, and just under the bruise he leaves one more word.


He kisses a spot below that word, and then he picks the lube up, snapping the cap open one-handed.

"Do it," Ed whispers. "C'mon, now--fast is good--"

Sam laughs. "I was wondering when you'd get to that." He slicks up his fingers, presses them into Ed's ass. Ed groans and nods, shifting and twisting against Sam's fingers. "Yeah," Sam whispers. "That's it, that's right, c'mon, open up for me..."

Ed groans and pushes himself up on his arms again, and this time Sam lets him. Ed gets on all fours, and Sam holds his hand steady, letting Ed rock back against it, hard and then harder, fucking himself on Sam's fingers until Sam grunts and puts his other hand on Ed's hip, stopping him. It's more tease than Sam can take right now, and he slides his fingers back, gets just a little more lube for himself and slicks it over the condom.

"Hang on," Sam murmurs, but then he's there, kneeling behind Ed, pressing in with a soft gasp and a long, steady moan. Ed's moaning, too, but there's nothing soft or quiet about the way Ed's making noise now; Ed's pushing back like he thinks he's in the driver's seat.

Sam tightens his grip on Ed's hips and holds him still. "Easy," Sam murmurs.

"Not easy--"

"Easy tonight," Sam insists, and he draws back and pushes back in with a long, sweet glide that makes Ed shudder. "Easy..."

It takes a few more strokes and a few panted, shuddered breaths before Ed's with him on this, but Sam's patient; Sam can wait. Sam keeps going at his pace, keeps holding Ed still, and finally Ed gives in, his sounds growing softer again as Sam rocks into him.

It can be easy, Sam thinks, leaning forward and draping himself over Ed's back, still being careful of the bruise. He reaches around the front of Ed's body and wraps his fingers around Ed's cock, stroking him gently in time with his thrusts. It's warm and gentle, and yeah, easy--and Sam closes his eyes, taking in soft, gasping breaths as he moves into Ed.

Ed's murmuring at him, and at first Sam can't tell how, can't tell what--and then, slowly, the words get to him.

"Right here," Ed says, "right here, it's all right, it's okay, safe, c'mon, it's okay, let go, let go..."

And Sam closes his eyes and stops, because Ed's right. It's not for Ed, right now. Drawing SAFE on Ed's back? It's for Sam.

He starts up again, pushing in a little harder now. Ed grunts and starts meeting him thrust-for-thrust, not content to lie there and take it, needing to push back as hard as Sam's pressing forward. "Yeah," Sam growls, "you're here, I got you--"

"I've got you," Ed says, and who's to say he's wrong about that? Sam's not going to say it, that's for sure. Sam keeps going, rubs his cheek against Ed's back. "That's it," Ed tells him, "that's it, right here, not going anywhere, not going anywhere--c'mere, c'mon, give it to me--"

It could have gone so badly today; it could have gone so wrong. Sam knows it, Ed probably knows it deep down, and Sam can't do anything now but hold on and fuck Ed hard and remind them both they're still alive.

Sam pushes up again, traces his fingertips over the spot he marked earlier, invisible letters still burned into Sam's brain. S-A-F-E, he traces again, and he gasps and grips Ed's hips with both hands and then comes, hard and tight inside Ed's body, moans breaking over his lips.

Ed reaches between his legs, touching himself, and this time he's not keeping to Sam's pace. He's quick, rough with himself even, and he grunts softly and whispers out "yeah"--and then he's coming, too, body tightening up around Sam's cock, and Sam holds as still as he can, waiting, riding out the last few tremors as Ed finishes.

When it's all over, Ed rolls onto his back, looking up at Sam. Sam's still a little winded, and he doesn't know if he can meet Ed's eyes. He strips the condom off and swings out of bed, disappearing into the bathroom to get rid of it and clean up some.

It's like this, too, sometimes, and sometimes when he gets back, Ed's gone.

Not tonight.

Tonight, Ed reaches out a hand, and Sam takes it, clasps it, and sits down on the bed beside him. After a few minutes, he risks a look up at Ed's face.

"I'm all right," Ed says softly. "I swear."

"I know."

"I'm still here, and I'm all right."

"I know."

Ed gives Sam a tug, and Sam comes down, stretches out beside Ed. Ed wraps his arm around Sam's waist and pulls him close.

"I'm right here," Ed murmurs, and Sam holds his breath as Ed leans forward and kisses him--gentle at first, easy, tentative, but picking up some speed and some force as Sam opens his mouth and lets Ed in.

After a while, Ed draws away, eyebrows raised just a little. It's like he's waiting for Sam to say something, and Sam realizes it doesn't have to be the right thing or the perfect thing--it just has to be true.

"I'm glad you're here," he says, and Ed grins at him. Maybe it was obvious, but it looks like it was what Ed needed.