Stubborn idiot, Al thought affectionately, watching as Dirk’s eyes finally shut as he gave into the pull of sleep and let the pain relievers do their job. His amusement left him just as quickly as he allowed himself to recall what had led to this situation.
Dirk was like a magpie, easily distracted by a new shiny object. Women fit in that category and were a well known weakness. Dirk should have known better, should have seen the obvious trap, but no, he’d let himself be caught, hook, line, and sinker, and Al was left to clean up the mess. Again.
Dirk had been this way since they were children, pulling on the braids of girls at recess, unable to help himself despite the punishments he’d received time and time again, never learning his lesson. Al should have been used to it by now, should have expected it (he kept hoping), but seeing Dirk like this, bruised and battered made him angry: angry at himself for not being able to prevent it, angry at Dirk for being so damn stupid. Again.
Checking that the door was locked again and scanning outside past the thin curtains coving the windows for anything out of place one last time, Al finally let himself sink into the chair placed conveniently between Dirk and the door and checked his gun one last time, letting it dangle loosely from his fingers against his leg. In theory they should be safe here, but they’d been caught unaware one too many times for Al to let himself truly relax in a place that wasn’t his.
Despite not having slept for more than a few minutes at a time in over seventy two hours, Al wouldn’t sleep tonight, not when Dirk was injured and danger could still be lurking, not with his nerves still set to fight in spite of the adrenaline that was quickly wearing off and leaving bone deep exhaustion in its place. When Dirk hadn’t checked in as he was supposed to, Al had known something was wrong instantly. Regardless of his flaws, Dirk never missed a check-in without good reason, at least not when it really mattered. What had resulted was a messy string of bodies as he’d done what was needed to find Dirk, and he’d probably made some new enemies along the way, but all that had mattered was getting to Dirk in time.
Shoving the unpleasant thoughts away, Al forced himself to think of better things, of the fact that Dirk was alive and breathing more easily than before beside him, that he’d gotten to him in time, if only just. They’d been in worse situations, both of them injured far worse than Dirk was now, and they’d survived to play another day. Dirk would be fine, Al knew, but he also knew at another place, another time, he’d be in a similar situation. Again.
Al let his thoughts drift though he was still hyper aware of the sounds around him even as Dirk’s rhythmic breathing soothed his frazzled nerves. A sudden hitch in Dirk’s breathing and the rustle of cloth drew Al’s attention. The weak moonlight flittering through the curtains was enough for Al to see the whites of Dirk’s eyes.
“Al, babe,” Dirk began, voice slurred from sleep and drugs though obviously placating.
Al wasn’t having any of it, too weary, his anger at Dirk’s weakness for beauty simmering too close to the surface. “Don’t,” he bit out, forcing himself not to yell, not wanting to draw attention to them, not wanting to have this fight. Again.
There wasn’t enough light to make out Dirk’s expression, but the sigh of exasperation was obvious and enough to get Al moving. Thrusting the gun in his belt, Al shoved up and leaned over Dirk, his hands flat on the bed on either side of his head. “Don’t Dirk. You don’t get to be annoyed, not now. Not after what I’ve been through these past few days. Not when—” Al broke off, not willing or able to say it, to put words to it.
If asked later Al would deny being the one to move first, but he could never really be sure. Al’s hand was fisted in Dirk’s curls forcing his neck to arch back, giving Al greater access to his mouth, his neck, the sensitive skin of his ears. One or maybe both of them moaned, Dirk trying to push closer, trying to pull Al down to him as their mouths clashed together. Al could blame his sleep deprivation, his anger, but he wasn’t one to lie to himself, having wanted to do this for ages.
Despite Dirk’s reputation as a womanizer, he’d never been one to discriminate when it came to sex, but that was all it ever was for Dirk with men, and Al wasn’t going to risk their friendship for a quick fling. Dirk’s dick got them into enough trouble without Al adding his own to the equation. However, given Dirk’s more than enthusiastic reaction, Al couldn’t help but hope.
Forgetting about Dirk’s injuries in the heat of the moment, Al finally let his weight drop down onto him and was rewarded with a moan that was clearly not pleasure. Jerking back, panting for breath, Al sank to his knees beside the bed.
Al tensed instantly as he realized that Dirk’s attention wasn’t on him anymore and reached for his gun, only to cringe as its roar sounded painful in his ear as Dirk shot over his shoulder. Cursing himself for getting distracted, particularly due to his anger at Dirk’s dick for getting him into trouble so often only to allow himself to follow a similar route, Al rose to his feet and pulled Dirk up as well, helping him along.
Grabbing his bag, and another gun, he propelled them forward, over the body in the doorway and into the night. Sticking to the shadows, they luckily didn’t run into anymore trouble. However, Al wasn’t going to take the chance that the man had been alone, and urges Dirk towards the harbor as quickly as possible, and despite the pain he knew it was causing Dirk, his friend didn’t voice any complaint.
Finally safe downstream in their commandeered boat, Al let himself breathe a sigh of relief and relaxed against Dirk’s side on the bench seat. As the silence stretched between them, Al began to worry, the bravado that was guiding him draining away, leaving a churning pit in his stomach.
“Al,” Dirk began breaking the tense silence. “I’m sorry.”
Al looked away with a glower, knowing he was, just like he always was, as Al knew that Dirk would be again.
When Al didn’t reply, Dirk draped his arm over Al’s shoulder and drawled, “Aww, babe. Don’t be like that.”
If not for the fact that he knew the action would cause Dirk pain more, Al would have shrugged his arm off, but that didn’t stop Al from rounding on him, voice raised. “I’m not one of your conquests to be placated, Dirk.”
Face softening, Dirk leaned closer, “Never a conquest, Al. You’re way too important to me for that.”
Fingers tight around Dirk’s wrist, digging into flesh, Al growled, “But not important enough apparently.”
Dirk visibly flinched at the bard, but the pain was quickly replaced by anger. “You never said anything either. How was I supposed to know—”
Al interrupted him, so close their noses were almost touch. “Because you’re Dirk Pitt and you know everything.”
The anger drained out of Dirk just as quickly as it had hit, and he sighed. “And you know I’m an idiot when it comes to emotions even if it’s staring me right in the face.”
This time it was definitely Al that closed the distance between them, claiming Dirk’s mouth with his own, telling him without words what he felt. Minutes later he finally pulled back, resting his forehead against Dirk’s as they both struggled for breath. “Is that clue enough?”
Dirk let out a bark of a laugh. “I’m not sure. You might want to try it again to be certain.”
Al couldn’t help giving his own exhausted smile in return, suddenly giddy despite the fact nothing had been solved. Closing the short distance between him, Al kissed him, slow and deep, punctuating his point with small nibbles and soothing swipes of his tongue, smiling against Dirk’s lips as he tried to deepen it, but pulling back slightly and not allowing it. Al would do it as again and again as often as necessary to get his point across. He was sure that Dirk wouldn’t protest.
The sound of an engine down the river where there shouldn’t be one at this time of night had them both scrambling apart. Exchanging a quick look, Al gunned the engine, despite the danger of the river illuminated only by moonlight, rocks and shallows easily hidden beneath the waves. Better the known danger than the unknown. It was time to run. Again.