Lincoln swore, his face twisting. “Dammit, this itches.”
“Yeah, I know. ‘Don’t scratch.’ That’s all Melissa can say. Feels like bugs--” he paused, glancing at Charlie with a look caught half between empathy and guilt. “Bugs under my skin. Is that what it’s been like for you?”
“It’s not so bad,” Charlie hedged, but Lincoln had him pinned with his gaze. “Yeah, kinda.”
“Shit. I’m sorry I teased you, then.” Lincoln winced, his fingers twitching as he fought the impulse to scratch.
Charlie knew how he felt, both from his own experience and now, wanting to reach out and not sure how he could without hurting Lincoln any further. It still hurt *him* to see Lincoln like this, skin all twisted and raw. The nanite treatments had saved his life and put him on a fast track to recovery, but Charlie knew some scars would linger. Mostly the ones you couldn’t see. “Can they give you something for that?”
“I’m as doped up as I can be.” Lincoln waved to the table next to the burn recovery bed. The mattress looked like an upside-down egg carton, but Charlie was too glad to see Lincoln out of the nanite chamber to tease. “There’s some lotion that kind of helps, but I can’t reach everywhere and I’ve already bugged--sorry--the nurses too much today.”
“I can do that.”
Lincoln smirked. “I know, you’ve been suffering, haven’t had me around to molest.”
“Someone’s got a high opinion of himself,” Charlie said into the air, but it was more true than not. It’s been *rough,* these two months without both his partners around. They said Liv was getting better but he still wasn’t allowed to visit whatever secret nuthatch they had her stashed away in, and this was the first time Lincoln had been out of the chamber for more than a couple of minutes. He’d been missing them for reasons other than his cold bed. “You want me to, or not?”
“Yes, please.” Lincoln was uncharacteristically quiet as Charlie rounded the bed and glanced at the pile of tubes and bottles. “That one with the silver stripe.”
Charlie rubbed a little of the clear stuff between his fingers, then chuckled. “You want me to rub you down with lube? Kinky.”
“I just want--” Lincoln bit at his lip, flinched, and looked away.
Lincoln’s voice was low. “Melissa, the other nurses, they’re all great. But they don’t-- I mean, they touch me for therapy and stuff, but--”
“Hey. Hey. I got you.” Lincoln’s face when Charlie touched him was...ecstatic. Far more than a gentle hand on his arm warranted. “Easy there, soldier.”
“Sir, yes, sir,” Lincoln murmured, and giggled faintly.
Doped up, Charlie remembered. “Well, you’re a ball of fun. See if you can bring some of those good drugs home with you when they let you out.”
“My sparkling personality isn’t enough?” Lincoln started to tug at his loose johnny gown. “Seriously, Charlie, my back really itches. Would you?”
“’Course.” He had to keep himself from taking a sharp breath when he moved around and saw Lincoln’s back. Broad swaths of skin were still shiny and painful-looking.
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
He laid his hand flat on Lincoln’s back as lightly as he could, and Lincoln hissed. “Sorry!”
“No, no, it’s-- it’s sensitive. But don’t stop.” Lincoln took a deep breath. “So tell me about the yahoos they’ve got you partnered with?”
“‘Working with’ just for now,” Charlie corrected, because he already had two partners that he was going to get back. “Chiang and Fitzgerald. And they’re good agents.”
Lincoln nodded and Charlie took that as his signal to continue. He kept it light, telling Lincoln about some of the easier cases they’d been working, paying more attention to the shift of Lincoln’s muscles under his hands. The touches hurt, he could tell from Lincoln’s slow breaths and muted flinches. But Charlie knew from his own experiences that it was a good hurt. The hurt meant you were alive and that someone you-- someone you cared about still wanted to touch you.
“You can reach that yourself,” Charlie noted, but he was already moving around to sit on the edge of the bed facing Lincoln.
“Yeah, but it feels better when you do it,” Lincoln murmured, and the comment didn’t require answer.
The johnny was pooled around Lincoln’s lap by the time Charlie was done. “Think they’d kick me out if I went any lower. Set off all your monitors or something.”
Lincoln flashed a wicked grin, so familiar Charlie almost could forget the burns. “Wish I could really get you in here with me.”
“Plenty of time for that when you’re better,” Charlie promised him, and Lincoln’s answering smile would carry him until then.