Hank would’ve said no.
He tried to.
It wasn’t serious. Mike knew it wasn’t serious, either. Laughed quietly, teeth barely showing. They’d been lounging on the couch together, Hank all sprawled and Mike compact, like a cat on a front porch rail.
Hank had come up with a half-dozen reasons why going away to some beach on their time off was a bad idea, but the minute he’d glanced down and seen Mike half-smirking up at him, eyes lidded, every reason he had danced away and he was left there with lead on his tongue -
"Babe, are you tryin’ to do me in before my time?”
And then he was laughing, with just that edge of his teeth, and his eyes bright in the glow from the television where the university was playing some pre-season football game that Hank knew he should probably care about, but he didn’t.
They had time off; Hank’s wife was lenient with him, about what he did and where he went. She understood a need in him for some other companionship. Something she couldn’t be for him. She thought of it, he knew, as now and then he needed to be by his own thoughts, or with his brothers in the department. Hank’s wife didn’t know what other companionship he’d pined for, resisted, and ultimately given himself over to.
(She had met him after the incident with McConnike, and the hat, and she no more or less of that than any man he worked with now. Mike knew about as much about that as she did. Hank planned to keep it that way.)
Mike told him that Johnny (of all people - he did have his moments, and past the easily-riled pup was a good and compassionate man) had told him about the beach, which was to the north of the city, hemmed by crags of rock at one end that swept to quiet, grassy dunes along the curve of the coast. Hardly anybody knew about it, and it was small, and nobody ever strayed there. Nicer beaches for bathing, Mike said, for girls working on their tans.
"So how’d Johnny find this one?"
Mike had chuckled.
It wasn’t a bad beach. Rocky. Tangled kelp, left stranded by the tide, strung the sand like a necklace. Little shells, broken shells.
Mike was a natural in the water, of course. He moved with the waves as easily as he handled the engine. Hank had spent his childhood far from the ocean, but most summers growing up he all but lived in the local swimming hole. Some heat-rippled heaven that was, between the water and the baseball diamond. At the swimming hole, and at the sandlot, in his adolescence something had woken in him that he hadn’t understood.
He understood it now, watching his engineer ply the water like a seal. Chasing him, slipping between the waves, wrestling him. Slick. Tickled with kelp. Laughing. Duck him under. Swim away. Watch his hands. Get damned distracted, watching him move the way he did. Like watching him leaning on the bay door, head cocked and waiting for the engine to come home.
Mike half-floats in the water, letting himself be tossed slightly by the little, quiet waves. His hair is wet, half clinging to his forehead and half cowlicked. Sunbrowned and strong.
"Pal, I swear," Hank says, "you are tryin’ to do me in before my time.”
No one else is here, no one on the beach or in the dunes or clamoring on the rocks. No one but the two of them and the water when Mike drifts close to him, and murmurs, “Well I sure am tryin’ to do you, that was the whole point.”
"Mikey," Hank says to him, "you got to stop, or I’m gonna take you on that beach like a horned-up teenager in his dad’s sedan."
Mike throws an armful of saltwater at him, laughs, and Hank gives quick chase onto the sand, throwing Mike down onto the blanket, salt and salt and the skid of hands on arms.
Mike lies back, the droplets on his skin and on his hair shining in the late sun. The light hair on his chest and stomach gleams, and curls slightly as it dries, and his trunks - red, dark with water and white-piped down the sides - cling to his legs and hips. He is something else, he truly is. Drives Hank mad to see him. Drives him madder to touch him.
When he says he won’t do anything Mike doesn’t want him to, it doesn’t feel hollow anymore, and Mike’s reassurance is honest.
Mike doesn’t have to say anything now and neither does he, hip to hip, Hank half on top of him, thinking God almighty christ -
Not knowing if he’s praying thanks or salvation.
The sun is long and late and strokes their damp flesh. He kisses Mike hard, pushing him down onto the blanket, into the sand.
For a while, basking in the sun and in Mike’s breathless body, Hank just lets his mouth roam around Mike’s lips, his jaw, his chin. He’s got just a little rasp of five o’clock shadow and just a little rasp of sand here and there.
Mike had teased him once, startling everyone, that he was too soft - What kind of a captain are you, anyway, not being mad at us every minute of every shift? If the chief came by, he might worry that you liked us.
Hank had groused at Mike and doled the usual threats - reports, latrines, hang the hose, hang it again, scrub cactus out of the engine’s undercarriage.
(Paperwork, Hank had learned quickly, was a poor threat for Mike, because he didn’t seem to mind, and also because it meant he spent a lot of time hovering in Hank’s office.)
Hank wasn’t Hookrader. He wasn’t Lee Burton, from 12’s, who was a regular bear on his good days and who still disdained the paramedics for being sissy wanna-be doctors. And he sure as hell wasn’t Tom McConnike and he sure as hell didn’t want to be.
He wasn’t damned soft on them. Could be tough when he needed to be. It was just they were good men, his shift, and he didn’t need to be, most of the time.
Beneath him, in bed, not long after, Mike had nipped his throat and told him - wouldn’t mind if you were hard on me more often, Cap.
Hank thought of that now. Thought of Mike’s drifting eyes, the way he relaxed against him on the blanket, the way he smelled like seawater and sunlight. The tide was going out and the sound of the waves was growing distant.
It’d been a long time since he’d done what he wanted to do, now, alone on the sand with Mike, under the streaky late afternoon clouds, with nothing but the blazing eye of the low sun on the both of them. So long. Last time he’d done it was with McConnike, kneeling in front of him in his captain’s bedroom, shutting his eyes tight, opening them for a blink or two, so that what he remembered of it was the pressure in his mouth, the taste, the smell and the sound, wet sounds, and McConnike’s voice and hand at the back of his neck. Last time and only time.
"Hey, babe," Hank says, touching Mike’s face. "You just - lie back, okay?"
"Whatever you say, Cap."
"Told you not to call me that in bed."
" - Mikey."
Mike and his laugh that was like the sun on the tide flats, shining, disorienting. Hank kisses his chest and his stomach. He tongues Mike’s nipples, and Mike sort of sighs. Leans back.
"That’s right pal."
Mike makes an agreeable noise. His hands are beside him on the blanket, trembling a little. Hank likes that. He isn’t sure why, but he likes that little tremble, like Mike isn’t quite sure what to do with himself. But when Hank’s mouth reaches Mike’s navel, those hands come up, they grasp his shoulders, they tussle in his hair.
"Cap - "
"Hey, babe, I said lie back, didn’t I?"
" - I just - "
Mike has a hard-on. Hank is so close, almost pressed along Mike’s body, that he can feel Mike’s erection on his chest, through his trunks. Hank strokes him, rests his cheek on Mike’s belly and listens to his breath, the faint throb of his heart.
He wants to do this. He pulls Mike’s trunks down just enough to let his erection spring out, same gold-brown curls down there, same familiar body he’s touched so often since that first time, since Mike invited him for breakfast and Hank gave in to him. Mike’s the one always doing the coaxing, and Hank’s the one ending up in charge. Like the second time they were together and he did it to Mike, fucked him, something he’d never done with McConnike, something he’d been a little afraid of. And felt so good that he went all but crazy the next shift having to watch his engineer saunter around practically glowing over it.
You gotta be so smug about it, pal?
Well. I liked it.
Hank did not have an answer for that. Mike was straightforward that way. He liked things. He wanted them. He suggested them. He let Hank decide what he was ready for. Hank had grown up with church and school and a whole world around him telling him he could never be the man he wanted to be if he let himself want what he did (or not telling - it was just the way it was, like the distance from third base to home plate, or the swimming hole, or the sun rising and setting - the way it always was). Things were different now, just a little. Maybe just a little. Not real different. But like Mike told him - it was alright to want things, and alright to share them.
(He was no softie. But he did love his shift, brothers that they were. Loved Mike more, but that was a secret, even to himself.)
Mike tastes like the water, and Hank almost spits back on himself. But Mikey makes this noise, this godawful beautiful noise, when Hank puts his mouth on his prick, and Hank can’t, doesn’t want, to stop. He takes to licking him in long slow strokes, swallowing back the taste.
(McConnike felt stubby and thick in his mouth, like a fist pushing back on his jaw and throat.)
Hank sucks the head of Mike’s prick gently, harder and a little gentler, until what he tastes is Mike, his flesh, the heat of him. He gets his hand around the base, his fingers loose, fingertips playing the underside of Mike’s shaft like he likes. Strokes of his tongue, the head in his mouth, and Mike making those noises.
Hank pauses, to kiss Mike’s stomach again, to wind their fingers together.
"Easy, pal. C’mon now."
He puts his mouth back.
"Hank - "
Come on now babe. Come on now.
"Easy, Mike. Talk to me. Talk to your captain, babe." It feels funny saying it, feels tense, a flat and gut-thumping wave of guilty pleasure. He sucks Mike’s prick and Mike makes this low and strangled sound -
“Cap - “
(McConnike never came in his mouth. Just on his face.)
Mike spurts in his mouth. Hank swallows half on instinct and spits the rest into the sand. He looks up, on his hands and knees, and sees Mike lying back, his cheeks flushed in the lengthening shadows, the high planes of his body still gold in the sun. He’s awful beautiful, his engineer is.
"Cap," Mike says again, heavy.
Hank leans over him, taking himself in his hand. “What.” He jerks his hard on furiously, quickly, panting into Mike’s throat. “What - “
It gets him. Quick as any young man it gets him, and he spills over his hand and Mike’s chest and stomach and then sags against Mike, until his own breath evens to match pace. It gets him. Oh, hell, it gets him.
It’s getting on toward dark. They ought to go. Find someplace dry and cool to shake the sand and salt off.
For now Hank just likes to watch the sunset play on the tidal flats, on the long-receding water, in the curve of an elbow, in the line of a jaw, in the strands of hair drying loose in the salt air. For now.