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Late ~ a snippet in the 'Fates' universe

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"Hey, honey - I'm home!" Mike sing-songed, grinning as he shucked his sandals on the porch and padded barefoot into the kitchen. He grabbed a couple of beers as he stowed the fresh snapper in the icebox. Man, that was going to taste good, especially if he could get Gus to make that lemon sauce he'd tried out last time. "Sorry I'm late," he shouted, dropping his keys and sunglasses on the counter and making his way into the den. "You wouldn't believe the traffic…." He cut the well-worn joke short as he saw Gus sitting on the couch, 'phone clutched tight in one hand and the bottle of heart meds open on the coffee table in front of him.

He dropped the beers on the side table, forgotten, as he crossed to the couch. "Gus? Buddy, what's the matter?" he asked, voice low and urgent as he tried to put his arms around Gus. But Gus sat rigid, holding himself away, face white and strained except for two high spots of colour on his cheeks.

"You went out there," Gus choked, voice breaking and beyond distraught. "I called… I wanted to check about tomorrow night and I called the yard and…."

"What do you mean?" Mike asked, resting his hand gently on Gus's leg, unwilling to spook him any further. He could feel the muscles beneath his palm taut and whipcord tight. "Went where?" Sudden realisation washed through him. "I didn't… oh, god, no babe, no. I didn't go out there."

"I called," Gus nodded. "Francine said you'd taken a boat out, you'd headed north, that they hadn't heard anything from you, no radio, nothing." He threw the 'phone onto the table and pushed Mike away. "You promised… you promised me, I couldn't, not again… not… I just can't."

"Gus, no," Mike said quickly, trying to make him understand, to take the pain away. "I swear. I'd been working on the fuel pump in that old heap of Sonny's and just went to try her out. Just a quick shakedown round the coast before I dropped her by his place. I was nowhere near the Triangle. I swear it, baby, I swear."

"You…? Really?" Gus's eyes shone so clear and blue, and then he just crumpled in on himself, body sagging heavily as Mike wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close. He kissed Gus's temple, his hair, anything in reach.

"I swear," Mike repeated with every brief kiss. "There was nothing to worry about, okay? Everything was okay… I'm okay."

"Okay," Gus echoed in a whisper and tucked himself more firmly against Mike's chest, fingers twisted in the fabric of his shirt.

They stayed like that for a while, Mike scattering kisses across the soft strands of Gus's hair and Gus just breathing steadily in time with Mike's heart beat.

"Don't scare me like that again, you big jerk," Gus said eventually, a spark of his usual humour softening the remnants of panic as they finally bled away.

"That all you got, Mr Fancy College Degree?" Mike laughed softly, lifting Gus's chin and giving him a wink. "Big jerk?"

"Well, yeah," Gus mumbled, his face losing the tight, hopeless look from before. "You are a jerk… you doofus!"

Mike couldn't stop his snort of laughter. "Looks like you've got me beat there, Einstein. No way I can compete."

"Good," Gus nodded, but Mike could see the smile hovering around beautifully crooked lips. "Just remember that."

"Yessir," Mike grinned, lowering his head and looking at Gus through his lashes. "But I'm your big jerk, right?" He swallowed the answering giggle with a kiss.