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Cease-Fire

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"Don't think this means I agree with you," Ethan murmurs, sprawled on the bed so casually that Giles is almost certain it's a pose. He used to know, or at least used to believe he knew, when Ethan was pretending and when he wasn't, but then, he thinks Ethan let his guard down more back then, at least around him.

"I know," Giles says. He does; this wary truce between them is only temporary, a cease-fire while they have a mutually-agreed upon goal. He needs an expert in Chaos magic; Ethan needs, or at least wants, the consultant fee the Council has offered him. And so, for this brief span of time, they've nothing to fight about, or at least, only things that happened years ago and are beyond changing.

He's half surprised they haven't chosen to spend the time fighting anyway. Despite their fundamental disagreements about nearly everything of real importance, there's no need for most of their arguments, no need for them to bicker and snipe and draw metaphorical blood every time they speak. But it's a habit they've fallen into, and neither of them seems able to fall out of it.

He's trying, now, because an argument isn't what they've come here for tonight, so he doesn't say anything more, only peels off his shirt and trousers, noticing Ethan watching him through heavy-lidded eyes as he pushes boxers down past his hips. He isn't twenty-one any more, and he's expecting a jibe about graying hair and scars and the inevitable softening of his midsection, but Ethan only waits with barely concealed impatience for Giles to finish stripping and join him on the bed.

He isn't expecting them to kiss, certainly wouldn't have considered initiating it; he's only too well able to imagine Ethan's mocking laughter. But to his surprise, Ethan does kiss him, hard and deep and almost desperate, and Giles finds himself mentally calculating how much Ethan had to drink at dinner. Surely not enough for him to let go this much.

It's been thirty years, and it would be both overly romantic and utterly implausible to say that they still remembered one another, after all that time. They've both forgotten, lost their old easy familiarity with one another's bodies; but then, they've both changed so much. Ethan has his own scars: the ones on his hand and forearm are from ritual bloodletting, Giles is certain; they're clean and white, well-healed, but there are others whose cause Giles can only guess at. He doesn't ask, more afraid that Ethan will tell him than that he won't.

Perhaps it's his own silence that keeps Ethan from saying anything; Giles doubts it's a desire to keep this tentative peace as long as possible. For whatever reason, though, the only sounds in the room are gasps and groans and the wet sounds of mouths against skin. He's a fool to be surprised at how much he wants this; after all, this may be the only way in which he and Ethan are compatible.

He slides down Ethan's body, hands tightening on Ethan's hips; there'll be bruises there tomorrow in the shape of his fingers, and he thinks Ethan will enjoy that thought as much as he is. He holds Ethan still, pinning him to the mattress as he swallows Ethan's cock, savoring the way Ethan gives up his self-control: the involuntary jerk of his hips, the greedy moan, the way his hands clutch at Giles, urging him on. There's no point in lying to himself, not now; he's missed this.

They're not gentle with one another; by the time Ethan comes, Giles' shoulders ache from where Ethan's been gripping them, and the marks on Ethan's hips are already starting to darken. He nudges Ethan onto his stomach even before Ethan can do more than blink hazily at him, and while he prepares Ethan well enough, he doesn't take his time. For once, Ethan and he are in perfect agreement: Ethan pushes back against his fingers, breath hissing sharply when Giles takes them away and replaces them with his cock.

They've never been gentle with one another, but once upon a time, Giles would have kissed and nipped at the back of Ethan's neck as he fucked him, run his hands over Ethan's skin as he thrust in again and again. He remembers the hunger in Ethan's kiss, and decides that "once upon a time" isn't too long ago, at all. Ethan stills at the brush of Giles' lips on his skin, but then he groans, hips moving to meet Giles' thrusts, and Giles slides his palm along Ethan's skin, feeling Ethan shiver although his skin feels burning hot.

When he comes, he collapses, his mouth still pressed to Ethan's neck. He's reluctant to move, reluctant for this to be over.

They can't do this again. He can't risk dropping his guard around Ethan--he saw what happened the last time, after all, and if he wakes up in his own skin tomorrow, it'll be by sheer good fortune.

Even if he wakes up as himself, this is far too risky. He can't let himself believe that any peace between him and Ethan could ever be anything but fleeting.

Tomorrow, they'll meet with Ethan's contact, the sorcerer who can sell them the amulet they need. Tomorrow, he won't be able to trace lazy patterns with his fingers down Ethan's spine, to turn over on his side and feel Ethan immediately shift so that they're still in contact. Tomorrow, this silence will be broken, and they'll be back to flaying one another raw with words, if not literally.

And suddenly, it occurs to Giles that really, the only other option in their brittle and difficult relationship is to not speak. Not just now, in this hotel room, but at all. There are no other words for them, not now, and yet neither of them is willing to cut those ties completely--out of masochism, perhaps, or a foolish hope that things may not always have to be this way.

Tomorrow, he's sure he'll find that profoundly troubling. Tonight, it's almost a pleasant thought, and that's the most troubling thing of all.