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Lived-in

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The first indication Zero has that something is different -- not wrong, and not exactly off, but definitely different -- is the cool feel of the sheets next to him.

“Jude?” he says, still dragging himself up toward full wakefulness.

His question goes unanswered. The familiar sound of cars and distant random voices of the outside world, mixed with the louder hum of the AC humming are the only noises he can hear in the house. Zero opens his eyes, running his hands over his face and through his hair as he looks around the room, feeling a momentary jolt of panic as he clears the cobwebs.

He’s in Jude’s bed, in Jude’s house, and everything within view is where it should be. Jude’s not gone. But he’s not here.

“You here?” Zero projects his voice to reach the other rooms.

There’s still no answer. Zero throws back the cover and gets out of bed, snagging a t-shirt from the foot of the bed and gives it a quick freshness sniff before pulling it on as he walks out of the bedroom.

In the kitchen, Zero finds the coffee maker ready to go and a Post-It slapped onto a milk carton in the fridge that reads “Empty. Went for a supply run. -J.” He flips Mr. Coffee’s switch and pours some Cheerios into a bowl. Leaning against the counter, Zero picks and eats the dry cereal like a kid just starting on real foods and listens to the morning caffeine percolate.

Zero hears the sound of keys in the front door lock just as he’s taking down a coffee mug, so he grabs a second and is pouring coffee when Jude walks in, grocery bags in hand.

“You were up early,” Zero says, holding out one of the mugs while Jude starts to unpack. “It’s not like we have anything going on today. You usually wake me up.”

Zero hears the faintest note of distress in his own voice. And it doesn’t get by Jude either. He stops what he’s doing and looks at Zero, his eyebrow cocked. “It’s been a long time since I’ve woken up alone alone. I really don’t like it.”

Jude leaves the rest of groceries for later and moves into Zero’s space.

“I left you a note. I was going to bring you breakfast in bed,” he answers, taking the coffee with a smile. “But the fridge was bare, and I figured I could get back in time. This smells amazing. I think I love you.”

“Think?” Zero’s not-so-secretly relieved that Jude doesn’t push him on his little confession. “And you were doing so well with the romantic ‘breakfast in bed’ thing.”

“I cannot be held accountable for anything I say before coffee,” Jude takes a drink and closes his eyes, savoring. Zero resists the urge to lean in and kiss him. “I also never make absolute statements before then either.”

“Isn’t ‘never’ an absolute?” Zero challenges, setting his mug on the counter.

“It is. But that was stated after my first sip.” Jude sets his mug on the counter as well. His hands settle on Zero’s waist as he moves in closer. “And I can now say without a doubt ‘I love you.’”

“Much better.” Zero hooks his fingers in the front pockets of Jude’s jeans. “Are these mine?”

Jude looks down. “I think so, they were the first thing I saw on the floor.” When he looks back up, his smile is a mix of demure and wicked. “You know how much I love to be in your pants.”

“C’mere dummy,” Zero answers, pulling Jude the last couple of inches. Jude’s hands tighten around Zero’s hips as their mouths meet.

Their coffee has cooled to room temperature and their mouths are kiss-swollen by the time they pull apart. Zero has succeeded in tugging open the fly of Jude’s jeans.

“I like you in my pants,” Zero says, threading his fingers tighter into Jude’s hair as Jude kisses along the tendon of his neck.

“I think you’re wearing my shirt.” Jude tugs at the bottom hem.

“I thought it smelled like you.” Zero answers just before Jude pulls the shirt off over his head.

“Maybe we can take this into the bedroom,” Jude suggests, dropping the t-shirt onto the floor. “And you can get me out of your pants.”

“I like that idea.” Zero grabs a handful of Jude’s shirt and starts walking them both back toward the bedroom. “You’re wearing far too many clothes anyway.”