The plans for the Rooster Teeth company retreat were the same shit every single year. When the impromptu “committee” got together to discuss options, it usually ended in a screaming match over the value of insurance for places with high-risk real estate, thanks to the fact that Burnie evidently hired a slew of idiots to run the machine while drunk off his ass. So after several hours of sarcastic suggestions and pointed insults, they all finally came to the conclusion that they needed to all spend a week as far away from each other as possible, unless they worked it out amongst themselves to plan otherwise. And after said meeting, Joel had plucked Burnie from a discussion with Matt and promised on the way to his office between kisses and prods at his hips that he’d take him infinitesimally nicer than some shitty rental on the Atlantic coast. And when he questioned, all he received as an answer was ‘respect the surprise, stupid’.
This was the consensus, that is, until Joel forgot to lock his office door a week later, and Burnie wandered in on the tail end of a phone call he shouldn’t have. An interruption that Joel, to this day, is convinced he expertly orchestrated.
He was in the middle of a call with a friend from California that had offered him his house for a week – a friend who, all things considered, Joel was buttering up pretty impressively, when he heard his door creak and swing open. He did his best to ignore it, squinting at his laptop screen to deter whoever it might have been, but he had a bad feeling it would take more than that when the intruding voice carried in from the hall.
Nevertheless, he carried on, rubbing at his temples tiredly. “So I’ve got the third week in July on my calendar, and you’re going to be— Santa Monica on business, yeah, I know. Just call me if you need the place back for any reason, but are you sure you’re alright with it? I can pay…” He trailed off, eyes flicking up from his laptop screen as Burnie poked his head in the door. Joel’s brow wrinkled at the unexpected visit, but his guest didn’t move from the doorway, not even when he began gesturing.
“Dude, it’s not that big of a deal, I budgeted for a vacation,” Joel continued, earnest attempt to ignore Burnie thwarted when he slipped in from the hall and shut the door with a click behind him. He sent him the blankest of stares, mouthing a brief get out and pointing at the door, but Burnie had gotten the gist of the conversation and he cursed himself to oblivion when he simply leaned on the door and crossed his arms with a smirk. “Okay, if you’re sure. You can send me the address, and we’ll talk soon.” He ended the call quickly, dropping his phone to his left and returning his eyes to Burnie with a glare.
“Sounds like you made plans,” Burnie offered with a satisfied smile.
“Wasn’t going to tell you until the plane landed and you figured it out on your own.” Joel sucked his lip between his teeth. “Thanks for being considerate and waiting in the fucking hall.”
Burnie shrugged innocently. “Wasn’t like I knew what you were talking about. But Santa Monica, huh?”
And a few weeks later, they were sprawled on the beach, letting the sun melt their stress away.
When they arrived, Burnie had made an off-handed remark about the last time they’d been to California without being on business, which they’d agreed was quite likely back in college. Back then, things were less complicated; life in general was, really, but being back invoked a strange sense of nostalgia that kept them both calm alongside the rolling tide and the sound of the waves. Yet here they were, Joel laying with his back on the sand and his head in Burnie’s lap, whose hat hung low over his eyes while he scrolled through webpages on his iPhone.
“Much more romantic now that you’re not trying to get in my pants every hour, though,” Joel teased. “At least you have a little more finesse. But maybe you could try rose petals.”
Burnie let out an overdramatic sigh at that, putting his hand over his face. “God, Joel, I didn’t realize we were on our goddamn honeymoon.”
He’d said it without thinking, but he was brought back to earth when Joel went still – rigid, even, after he’d gotten the words out of his subconscious and into the air between them. But he rolled over and looked up at him, beaming, and whenever Joel smiled like that, Burnie got a sudden overwhelming sense of dread.
He raised a cautious eyebrow. “You’re looking at me like you’re going to eat me alive, Joel.”
“Burnie,” he began, voice taking on the tone of a sales pitch or an equally dangerous proposition otherwise, and Burnie was quick to throw up his hands and start shaking his head. He was grinning up at him like he was about to swindle him out of every safe thing he had, and no, Burnie, he thought to himself, don’t you dare get caught up in this because you love the sound of his voice.
“No,” he asserted firmly, scrambling back on the sand to get a clear look at Joel as he pointed an accusing finger. “No no no, whatever it is, don’t tell me. That sounds like you have an idea, and those usually end horribly for everybody in a ten mile radius.” He frowned when Joel rose to his knees and wouldn’t stop looking at him sideways through carnivorous eyes. “Whatever you’re going to say, don’t.”
But Joel perched at his feet, skin glistening in the afternoon sun from where he’d been in the water, and kept right on smiling.
“What if we got married?”
He hadn’t been expecting that, admittedly, but Burnie opted for a sour expression instead of a shocked one.
“You’re a fucking idiot.”
But he also didn’t expect Joel to move up between his legs and press his back to the sand, lining his jaw with kisses before murmuring ‘what would you say if I meant it?’ against his skin, almost soft enough for Burnie to miss it.
Hell, he might have missed it if it hadn’t meant something, and he was almost sickened to admit that it had. Joel had to have known it did, though, had to have remembered all the long nights they’d spent talking about his last marriage up through the end, over and over again to the point of sounding like a broken record, because Burnie sure as hell did. But he didn’t have the heart to curse the memory, not as dark faded to dawn nor drunken tirade to increasingly sober heartache quelled by gentle embraces and gentler hands.
Not the heart then, not now, because he refused to curse beautiful things. And for all the years Joel had spent trying to look like a badass, Burnie knew he didn’t curse them, either.
But joking about them was a different story.
So he scowled at the thought, shoving Joel gently off his chest and crossing his arms as the older man rose up once more. He squinted when he looked up to meet him, but the sun was obscured by Joel’s dark hair and his stupid fucking eyes were locked on him, watching and waiting.
“I’d say cut the shit, Joel.” He shook his head, willing away the hypotheticals in favor of the way it had always been, because how long had they been at this, again? “Plus, you’re an actor, not Prince Charming.”
“Come on, princess,” Joel mused teasingly, patting Burnie on the knee as he moved from where he hovered above his lap to sit beside him. “It’s just a financial agreement.”
Burnie rolled his eyes. “When you’re involved, it’s more like a deal with the devil.” He rubbed his temples, shifting his gaze to the man to his left. “Of course you’d go for the finance. Christ, you really are serious.”
Joel lit up like a Christmas tree at that, and Burnie groaned. “Think of the tax breaks, Burns,” Joel murmured, snaking his arms around the younger’s waist and pulling them both back on the sand behind them once more. “All those beautiful fucking tax breaks.”
Maybe he was suffering from heat stroke or maybe Joel really was that crazy, but either way, Burnie looked unimpressed.
“You’d use me to cheat the system? Classy.” He turned his head to see a look of pure bliss cross Joel’s face, settling into a dreamlike stupor, he decided, when he sighed wistfully and rested his head on Burnie’s shoulder. Definitely crazy, he thought to himself with a helpless glance toward the sky.
“We could merge our accounts.”
“You’d take all my money and run, Joel.”
“Would not. Besides, we’ve got experience merging,” Joel said with a grin, tugging the form against him and pressing his nose to the juncture of Burnie’s neck and shoulder. “Jesus, I bet you’d sound so fucking good breathing ‘yes, I’d like to file jointly’ against your phone's receiver.” His voice dropped to a purr that vibrated against his skin, and if he’d said anything else, Burnie wouldn’t have protested the fact that his dick was evidently all for it.
But his expression quickly shifted to one of horror at that given the subject matter, shoving Joel back with a burst of effort admittedly more for the drama than anything else. “Oh my god, I knew economics would make it into your fucked-up wet dreams.” He turned away abruptly with a bitter huff, biting back the laughter threatening to erupt from his lips as soon as Joel moved against him and buried his face in his neck. “You’re downright sordid.”
“Obviously,” he breathed, lips curving into a smile as the warm breath against Burnie’s shoulder made the younger man tremble. “Makes sense to dream of my two biggest vices. And sources of stress, incidentally,” he added with a bark of laughter, wrestling to catch Burnie’s wrist as an attempt at elbowing him in the stomach was executed. It was light-hearted, as everything always was, but something about how ridiculous they likely looked stretched out against each other in the sand must have finally hit them right then and there, because they both gave themselves over to hysteria that didn’t subside until they were both gasping for air.
“Oh, fuck you,” Burnie sighed finally, laughter dying down enough to offer coherency as he turned over to face him. “I’m not stupid enough to let you trick me into marrying you, Joel, even if you meant it.” He studied Joel’s expression intently, watching the way Joel’s thoughts ran behind his eyes like gears that sped along too fast to keep up with, and by the time his gaze returned to Burnie’s own, he was grinning in that weird, lopsided, genuine way he always had.
“Not even if I promised to make sweet, sweet love to you on the real honeymoon?”
Yeah, genuine and Joel didn’t really go well together. Well, in his defense, he usually spent time getting philosophical-genuine when he was drunk or disillusioned. Or both.
But Burnie couldn’t help but leer right back at him, slanted smirk replacing his placidity. “First of all, you’d completely defile the sanctity of marriage the first night,” he giggled, nudging Joel back as he rolled his eyes. “And secondly, what’s stopping you from doing that tonight, asshole?”
And surprise, the ever-articulate Joel Heyman for once didn’t have an answer. Didn't even pretend to. He sucked his lip between his teeth, and his eyes flickered for a moment between Burnie’s two eyes, but the breath he’d taken to expend on a response left his lungs abruptly when he gave up on an excuse and opted instead for action.
They managed to drag each other to their feet, made their way barefoot up the stairs of the stilted house they’d borrowed and hardly made it through the door before Joel had a knee between his legs and his lips pressed hard to Burnie’s own, and they probably would’ve laughed to themselves at how familiar it all was had they not been so preoccupied in keeping each other on their tongues. They’d been doing this so long that they knew exactly where each other’s buttons were, where to touch and how long to squeeze, and it made the whole thing so fucking alluring that the breaths they took between gasps whispered ‘it’s you, it’s always been you’, and neither of them would have it any other way.
Stumbling up the stairs, they fell onto the bed in no time, offering kisses like desperate attempts at putting to words what English could never manage, always faltering and pressing just one more, two more, before they lost it to the count of ‘oh, fuck it’ to the set of flushed lips before them and allowed each other’s gasping breaths to serve as encouragement. Burnie wrapped his fingers in the sheets and tugged up, down, left and right, simply because he knew so well that it annoyed Joel to no end when they destroy a bed before even dipping beneath the sheets, but Joel got him back in no time by sucking at a spot beneath his jaw that gets his skin pink and his body deliciously plient.
He pulled back finally when he felt his head spinning from want, opening his eyes to reveal pupils blown wide and cheeks flushed dark, all in time to see the fantastically tempting picture Burnie Burns makes beneath him, and he can’t help but to sit back and admire. His chest rose and fell, beat falling in right behind Joel’s own breaths, and when his gaze caught Joel’s own, he just looked right back. There might have been poetry to it if they were young and prone to making stupid, floral metaphors for it all, the way their breaths synced up and the curves of their hips blended together in sweeping lines that looked almost as good as they felt, but they’d been doing this so long that the words had long since turned to knowledge of the other so intimate that it still managed to draw the most beautiful cries from both sets of lips.
“I meant what I said.”
Words that hit like lightning, because Burnie knew better than anyone that Joel never said what he didn’t mean. Rarely said much of what he did mean, if they were being honest, and he knew Joel’s mind was tangled and he’d grown overly accustomed to letting alcohol be his translator when nights grew long and compartmentalizing just didn’t fit the bill anymore. But here they sat, stone sober and sharing each other’s body heat, and fuck, if Joel said he meant it, then he couldn’t call him a liar. Even if he wanted to.
(It didn’t mean Burnie wasn’t scared half to hell from last time, though, despite how hard he wished he wasn’t.)
There was a gentle curve to Burnie’s lips, but his voice was halcyon, a calmness rivaled only by the salted breeze that occasionally blew through the open windows, lifting the curtains into the air.
“You’ve never been married.”
Joel laughed, the kind of laugh Burnie knew meant I’m not a teenager anymore, and neither are you, and moved down to press himself against Burnie, beginning with his torso and slowly sliding forward with his hips. “I’ve fallen asleep next to you plenty, and woken up in your arms plenty more,” he began, lacing his fingers around Burnie’s shoulders and rolling his hips forward to merit a beautiful groan from deep in the younger man’s throat.
“I know all the things you hate, all the recipes you don’t.” He spread his hands over Burnie’s hips, sliding a finger from each beneath the elastic of his trunks and drawing them down with the ghost of a smile as he hears a whine in reply, and if he hadn’t been so thrilled by making the man beneath him squirm like he’d been taken to the brink so soon, he might have been driven well past patient right then and there. “Stock my fridge with your booze,” he continued, reaching to the side before popping the cap on a bottle and circling a wet fingertip around his entrance not too long after, drinking up the whine that turned into a full-blown groan, “and stay up with you passed out in my lap any night of the week you asked.”
He opted to have mercy on him by the time he had to still Burnie’s movement with his forearm across the man’s heaving chest, stretching him wide and easing him through it the whole time. “You deal with my obscene stress-hoarding, and I listen to you when you break and finally manage to vocalize yours,” he whispered, as Burnie’s knees fell to the side when he arched up off the mattress against the digits teasingly pressing within him. Joel took in a harsh breath at the sudden but brief brush of contact against his own aching dick, pressed tight against his own trunks, and Burnie quickly hooked the fabric between his fingers, pulling it down and easing it off Joel’s knees without much trouble.
The hormones had stuck around since their twenties, when they were both young and had since both loved and lost elsewhere, but when your worst nightmare is your best friend and your constant, it’s hard to stray far without coming back for something beyond the sex. That was just it, though, they'd been doing this for so unbelievably long that they knew each other like they knew the backs of their hands and eyelids, perhaps even better, and neither had a single word of complaint.
So when their hips pressed flush against each other, Burnie’s hands slid up his waist, eyes half-lidded and cock leaking onto his own stomach, before he took a shuddering breath.
“Why are you telling me all the things I already know?”
Joel met his gaze with a curve to his lips, fanning out his fingers across Burnie’s hips. “We’ve done this for twenty years, Burns, how about a few more decades of your personal hell?”
Burnie didn’t bother willing away the smile that his words drew.
“Well, for whatever reason, we’ve certainly managed for this long.”
He lifted his ankle to rest on Joel’s shoulder, issued in challenge and carried out through sheer knowledge that it would do the job right. And judging by the fact that Joel very nearly lunged forward – probably would have, if his arms hadn’t been keeping him upright – at the not so subtle movement, he gained the satisfaction of both a victory while spread out naked on the bed alongside a reaction equally as welcomed.
“Burns,” Joel breathed shakily, shaping his name into a moan profligate enough to make angels fall before he moved his thighs beneath the younger and gripped him tight, and fuck, Burnie thought to himself, they were supposed to have ditched poetry a long time ago, so what the hell was this sudden departure about?
He managed a brief hum of acknowledgement as he rutted his hips against Joel’s own, though, who shuddered and tensed like he knew he would, and it didn’t take long to convince him wordlessly that he’d kill him if he didn’t fuck him or, at the very least, move. So under his watch, Joel slicked himself up with care, keeping a careful hand on Burnie because if he had the time to touch him, he was absolutely going to use it to its full potential; and yet after too long, the man beneath him took it upon himself (on behalf of his impatience) to pull him into a slow kiss as he closed his fingers around Joel’s dick and drew out a few strokes of his own.
It only took a few inches, though, for Joel to hitch Burnie’s hips higher and lean in close, close enough to slide into him and get them both straining to cut off their gasps before Joel pinned him to the mattress and looked him straight in the eyes, murmuring a brief ‘let me watch you’ as he tilted his head in wonder.
And Burnie looked on, despite the flush that was assaulting his cheeks.
“Joel, it’s—you don’t have to worry about that, just move,” he hissed, using the voice that meant business with anyone else but faltered when he was being scrutinized under the gaze he’d wanted on him and no one else for so long, and Joel just held him still with that stupid fucking crooked smile and watched.
Words that sounded fantastic sober, Burnie quickly decided, if today could be counted as evidence in strong favor of such a concept. He cursed the way his breath caught in his throat like a fucking teenager, the way the two simple words sounded better than he’d ever heard them because of the tongue that they fell from, and he hated that Joel Heyman was the one that drew these stupid reactions from him, but he wouldn’t trust another soul on the planet to do it to him, either. And he knew it, knew the way he fell apart under his eyes.
“Joel, I mean it.”
“I do, too.” His fingers found the crook of Burnie’s arms, shifting and pressing his hips forward again until he was fully buried in the man beneath him. He lowered himself so his chest brushed against Burnie’s own, moving his lips against his neck as Burnie caught his wrist in a death grip.
“Then get a good view,” he finally groaned arduously through snarled teeth, locking his ankles behind Joel’s neck as he thrusts deep, curses falling from both sets of lips. And Joel takes that as a cue to really move, rolling his hips with a snap that pulled a wanton cry from Burnie’s throat, encouraging the older man to nip him once or twice for good measure before picking up the pace.
He never had to tell him to speed up or slow down, bite down on his neck harder or grip his legs tighter, because he read his cries like commands and responded with so much enthusiasm it was like he lived to please, and it didn’t take too long for both of them to tumble over the edge in each other’s arms. They’d always conceded it was impossible to withhold anything from the other, after all.
“Marry me, Burnie,” Joel finally whispered against skin that tasted so familiar, after their breaths had subsided from gasps to lulled sighs, “let me say you’re perfect every time you forget, and I’ll keep saying it until you’re so sick of it I have to find a new language.”
When did he get so sentimental? He remembered when they were in their twenties and raised glasses to the traditional toast of “love is a plague!”, vowed to live alongside one another and appreciate how seamless life was being single, even and especially when they woke up next to each other in their dorm rooms on the weekends, weekends and shared body heat that occasionally bled into Monday mornings and slinking into class late with toast between their teeth and bedhead that won awards.
And hell, the fact that all this poetic crap had culminated for so long between them both, settling in their cracks and dents like water and weathering them for years until they’d rusted together like machinery in some fucked-up twist of fate, well, the powers that be must have been laughing their fucking asses off from wherever they sat perched. He looked at Joel and saw the one man that consistently drove him up a wall, the one soul that crawled beneath his skin as often as he found himself beneath his sheets. The man he couldn’t live without, and hoped to any God listening that he never had to.
It didn’t help that Joel didn't know what marriage was like. Of course he didn't know what it was like, not like he did. But the fact that he wanted to know so badly, badly enough to put something so scary and definite and tangible to words for someone like him spoke volumes, hell, entire libraries than Joel would ever have the breath to say. Yet the proposition was perfect, because everything else in their tornadoes for lives would get swept up and carried away by the elements given time, but as long as they had the choice, Joel evidently knew he’d always have him. And he was so, so right, because he always had, always did, always would.
So he came up for air and, of course, the first things he found himself gazing into were those stupid fucking eyes he’d grown so fond of for all these years.
“Golly, you want me beyond the tax breaks?” His lips quirked up into a teasing smile as Joel pulled him closer, nodding gently. “You sure know how to court a guy, Heyman.”
“It’s you, you stupid fuck. Just you.” Joel pressed his face to Burnie’s chest affectionately, pressing lazy kisses up his sternum as Burnie laced his fingers in his dark hair.
“I’ll think about it.” He felt Joel smile against his skin, and the feeling of warmth that blossomed through muscle and bone couldn’t compare.
“And hey, you know what else offers tax breaks?” Burnie paused for dramatic effect, finally drawing a sleepy ‘hm?’ from the messy-haired man against him in reply. “Kids.”
To that, Joel sat bolt upright like he’d been stung, sheets fluttering to the wayside as he gave Burnie an admittedly hilarious look of bewilderment.
“Fuck yes.” Burnie’s lips stretched into a grin, as he wrapped his arms around Joel’s waist and pulled him back down. “Adoption papers are so sexy.” He chuckled as Joel strained against his grip, eventually resorting to dropping his dignity and sinking his teeth into one of Burnie’s arms in defiance.
“You’re awful,” he groaned upon finally relinquishing his grip. “I want you, not the tax exemptions.” He moved up Burnie’s torso to grin against his lips, pressing familiar kisses that lingered on his smile well after they’d stopped.
He remembered murmuring “I believe you” before he drifted off, but whether Joel didn’t reply because he’d dozed off or because he figured the answer was more important for Burnie to hear himself say aloud, he couldn’t be sure.
Maybe if he were more poetic, he’d tell him how he was so fucking thankful for the day he didn’t have to dream to have Joel with him in his bed, but for now, he figured he’d save it for his vows.