Joe’s perched upon the edge of Damien’s desk, one foot planted on the floor and the other dangling haphazardly. His eyes are fixed upon the page of the book Damien has opened, and he’s digging in his pocket for a lemon drop that he quickly pops into his mouth, as if Damien shouldn’t know about it. As if it’s hard to miss the sweet aroma that clings faintly to his fingers and breath after he sneaks a few.
“You should go to bed,” Joe says matter-of-factly after he’s finished chewing.
“I’m working,” Damien answers simply.
“You’re looking worse than you usually do.” He states this in a completely serious tone, but Damien knows that somewhere, a grin is dying to break loose. He slips another lemon drop between his lips.
It proves too much of a challenge for Damien to suppress the smile that naturally occurs in response to Joe’s affinity for lemon drops. It’s a silly thing, but also an undoubtedly endearing affection.
“It’s addictive, I think.”
That’s what Joe had said about them. And the same can be said for Joe’s pervasive presence in Damien’s office. He should be annoyed by it, because he’s busy with life, with his work, with juggling between young priests who are worried about being queer and movie stars who think their daughters are possessed, and yet the constant visits from the younger priest have become an event he anticipates. So much so that he had considered putting lemon drops on his desk. Something to strengthen whatever excuse Joe had to be there.
Damien turns his attention back to the book, only to find that the text is only a blurry mess. He attempts to blink the sleepiness out of his eyes to no avail, and then he leans back in his chair and sighs.
“I can’t stop,” he murmurs. “There’s just so much to think about.”
“You’re going to work yourself to death,” the younger priest muses. “And then what good are you?”
He smiles again. “Thanks for the concern.”
“Somebody has to look out for you. Want a lemon drop?”
Damien glances up to see Joe’s arm outstretched and hand open with the small, yellow candy resting on his palm. He accepts it wordlessly as his gaze flicks up to meet Joe’s, who’s watching him with subdued amusement.
“What’s so funny?” he asks him.
Joe shakes his head. “Nothing’s funny.” His expression fades into something softer. Warmth fills the edges of his face.
“You look like there’s something funny happening.”
“Just thinking about something a child once told me,” he answers. “Can’t tell you, though. Pesky rules of confession, you know how it is.”
Damien suddenly shuts his book and gets to his feet. “I know how it is.”
Joe’s digging around in his pocket again, bag rustling gently as he fishes for another candy.
“It’s addictive, I think... ”
Damien takes a step towards Joe, close enough where the other man glances up with mild surprise. “Going to bed, then?”
“Maybe,” Damien answers. “Mind if I ask a question?”
“What did you mean that somebody has to look out for me?”
“Don’t take it as a slur on your manhood.”
“I’m not,” Damien says lightly, leaning his right arm against his desk. “I’m only asking why you feel the need to look out for me.”
“I’m a priest. I’m supposed to look out for everyone, aren’t I?”
“It feels like you spend a lot of time here.”
“To you. You don’t know how much time I spend with others.”
“That’s true, I don’t.”
There’s a smirk brewing on Joe’s lips as he chews on another lemon drop. It’s the same smirk he has when he plays a song that irritates another priest on the piano, or when he takes a jab at the faggots in the priesthood, as if it didn’t mean anything to him. He couldn’t afford it to mean anything. Not his face lingering too close to Damien’s. His constant visits. Words of reassurance. A hand squeezing his shoulder. A hand gripping his hand.
“I guess you’re right,” Joe says. “I spend more time here than with anyone else.”
“Why is that?”
He pauses, smiles, and continues with, “I like you more. Don’t tell the other priests.”
Damien knows that already. Or at least he had hoped that was so, because telling himself that Joe likes him too somewhat relieves the guilt he has about thoughts , as well as the constant debate over whether thoughts are sinful if they are only thoughts. Not that such debates have held much merit recently, but it’s a hard-wired reaction to scold himself whenever Joe glances warmly at him. Removes Damien’s cigarette from his lips and places it between his. Brushes hands with him.
Joe unexpectedly slides off his desk, and his sweatshirt rises with him, exposing a strip of his skin for a moment before he’s able to tug it down. Damien glimpses at it, and then swallows, feeling the burn of inexplicable embarrassment in his face, doing everything he can to avoid Joe’s eyes, because he can feel them boring into him, waiting for him to say anything. But it’s Joe who speaks first.
“Here I am nagging on you when I best be going myself,” he says.
“Get some rest.”
“I would say the same to you, but I don’t know if I can trust you.”
“You might get to thinking again and open another book, and then you’ve kept yourself up all night.”
“Why don’t you go ahead and tuck me in bed, then? Will that make you feel better?”
Joe smiles sheepishly. “Oh, I can settle for a goodnight kiss.”
At first, Damien thinks he’s joking, but is quickly proven wrong when Joe playfully cups his hand around his chin and presses a kiss into his cheek. Damien tenses. Both of them pause.
“There,” Joe says after what feels like years, but his tone is different now. Uncertain. His fingers smell like lemon drops. “Now I can leave you to…”
Their eyes have met again. Damien can sense that Joe’s heart is pounding as sporadically as his.
“Uh, Damien, I…”
It’s the older man’s turn to take the other’s face in his hands. His thumb runs over Joe’s bottom lip gently.
“Some goodnight kiss,” Damien says.
Before Joe has the chance to respond, Damien’s lips are brushing against his, so lightly that it hardly processes as a kiss. The two hover near each other for a moment, breaths baited and eyes lidded, anticipating the other to say something , but nothing comes.
The nauseating sensation of regret takes ahold of Damien. What a stupid, rash decision , he thinks furiously to himself. He pulls his hands away. Oh, Damien, you idiot --
His musings are interrupted by Joe grabbing his hands again and tugging on them gently, just enough to grab Damien’s attention. And then they’re kissing again, this time with more confidence, with more urgent need. They break and Joe sighs, and they kiss again, harder, Damien gripping the desk while Joe wraps his arms around his neck.
Of course Damien’s been kissed before, just girls when he was a teenager, but he’s never kissed anyone like this, never because he wanted somebody that terribly. His body is aching with desire as he pulls away to kiss the top of Joe’s throat. There’s a gasp from Joe, a pause, and then a moan slips from his mouth. It’s an absolutely rapturous noise, one that causes goosebumps to prickle down his arms. His lips set the skin of Joe’s neck ablaze, each peck like fireworks, while Joe sucks air in sharply and digs his fingers into his back.
It’s an extraordinary, alien sensation, one that prompts Damien to grab him chin and crush their lips together for a third time when Joe moans again. They gasp in between hungry kisses. Minds go blank as Joe arches into him.
There’s hardly room to breathe, and even if there were, Damien doubts that he would be able to do so. Not with Joe so close, lips swollen and tasting like all those damn lemon drops he eats. Joe’s arms are a trap, falling lower and lower on his back, keeping him locked in place. He’s convinced, now, that they’ll break their vows any second, but it hardly matters now, because he’s repressed this longing for so long, pushed underneath false rationality and the morality of the Church. It’s not like he’s the first priest to ever break the rules.
He pushes his body against Joe’s. The bag of lemon drops crinkle in his pocket. He’s not the first priest to break the rules.
His thoughts are interrupted, however, when Joe suddenly breaks away. Damien’s chest is heaving and his mind is swirling in a surprised stupor as the other man nuzzles his cheek against his.
“You ought to get to bed,” Joe murmurs.
Damien blinks, leans back, and meets Joe’s gaze. His lips part, ready to ask why he stopped, to ask for more, but he bites back his tongue when he sees the faintest hint of a smirk forming on Joe’s lips.
All too suddenly Damien is aware of his surroundings. The flickering lamp on his desk. The clicking of a clock. The gradual slowing of his heartbeat. His eyes focus on the younger man.
“How about you worry about yourself first?” he answers. Outside, a gust of wind quietly rattles the windowpane.
A full smile breaks across Joe’s lips. He sticks his hand in his pocket and emerges with two more candies in hand. “These are my last two,” he says.
Damien takes one from him. “Thanks.”
Joe pops the last one in his mouth and chews, looking at Damien thoughtfully. At first he expects Joe to say something else until he leans forward, grabs his shoulder, and pecks his lips against his cheek.
“Goodnight,” he says.
The scent of lemon drop candy follows him out the door.