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Gheorghe wasn't prone to questioning his own feelings, and love was not something you could explain logically anyway. But he did sometimes wonder what it was that drew him so powerfully to John and when exactly it had started. They got along so easily now, and the boundaries between them were melting away rapidly. It was sometimes hard to remember that he hadn't initially liked him at all.

Oh, he'd certainly noticed John was attractive right away, that first evening when he'd bounded down the stairs shirtless, stopped suddenly when he saw Gheorghe and looked down shyly, his cheeks flushing involuntarily -- a sure sign that he liked men, if the sidelong glances he'd been giving Gheorghe on the drive up weren't obvious enough. He had a nice body, a little skinny and pale, but firm and tightly muscled, and his cheekbones and eyes were awfully pretty when he wasn't doing his best to look miserable and mean. Despite how harsh the man had been to him already, a thought flashed through Gheorghe's head without him being able to stop it -- He doesn't eat enough. I could cook for him.

But he'd put that thought right out of his mind when he'd seen the taxi driver unloading passed-out John onto the lawn, several hours later. Cute, but a goddamn mess. Too bad. Avoid.

Thinking it over, Gheorghe realized there had been something of a spark in him the next day. Not because John had gotten any nicer, but because after he'd yelled at his poor father in the barn, deriding his disability, his face had instantly crumpled with the guilt of a little boy who has had a temper tantrum and is genuinely sorry for being unable to control his useless rage. He'd backed down, softly mumbling his apologies while his father lit into him (Gheorghe could see where John had learned to rage the way he did), and did what his father said, hanging his head down as he was marched out to be berated further. Gheorghe had taken a moment to observe the scene thoughtfully from the window, and concluded quickly enough: John loved his father with all his heart, and he was loyal to the bone. He wouldn't still be here, where he was clearly unhappy, despite it being a beautiful piece of property. He would never have taken on this backbreaking responsibility at such a young age if he didn't truly love his family, and he would never abandon them. That aspect of him touched Gheorghe.

Nonetheless, their beginnings had not been terribly auspicious. Gheorghe had suspected when John's father had ordered them to spend several days alone up on the hill that things were going to get awkward, one way or the other. John kept alternating between giving him longing glances that could only be interpreted as obvious lust and snapping at him, using degrading terms. Gheorghe wasn't terribly pleased with himself for shoving John, but John clearly hadn't intended to stop until he provoked some kind of reaction. Gheorghe didn't realize until John licked his lips, and let out a strangled breath that was nearly a moan, that John had been hoping for an entirely different reaction. Still, he found such manipulative tactics annoying, and though John's plump pink lips were inviting, he was still angry enough to walk away without any real temptation.

Yes, John had been prejudiced and mean and pushy at first, and refused to acknowledge or thank Gheorghe for any of his efforts, and only slightly made up for it by giving -- Gheorghe had to admit -- very enthusiastic and enjoyable head.

So when had Gheorghe started to fall for him? He didn't think it was just because John was a wounded animal in obvious need of care and Gheorghe had always been fond of nursing birds with broken wings and squirrels with broken legs, from when he was a kid onwards -- though that was certainly part of the initial appeal.

It must have been the way John looked at him, so in awe, like Gheorghe was the most special and unusual person on earth. Maybe it was that first time he'd seen John genuinely smile, when he'd put the second skin on the runt lamb and its mother had finally started to feed him. Whatever awful things he'd said those first few days, John respected him and clearly wanted to know more about him.

All of that seemed like a distant memory now. John fit Gheorghe like a glove. They were better at verbal communication these days, but they still understood each other perfectly, most of the time, without even speaking. When he wasn't acting out, John was quiet, humble, and had good values. They were just different enough to keep each other interested and excited and similar enough that they rarely had what you could call a serious disagreement.

How strange, to have traveled a thousand miles only to find your soulmate in a foreign land, in the last place you expected. It was like some kind of bizarre fairy tale. As the days and months passed, Gheorghe became more and more convinced that John was the love of his life.

He'd thought that about someone else before, granted, and he'd been wrong. But he hoped and believed that he wasn't, this time.

***

There were, of course, still qualities about John that Gheorghe was not so fond of, mostly the fact that he was rude -- not to Gheorghe or his father, anymore; he seemed to have placed them in a separate category. But he was certainly rude to his grandmother -- who was rude right back, to be fair -- and he was curt, at best, to almost everyone else. He was especially hostile to any male between the ages of 20 and 50 who looked Gheorghe directly in the eye. Fortunately, John (like all the Saxbys) was extremely practical about money, and he stopped accompanying Gheorghe to the farmer's market once he realized Gheorghe made twice the cheese sales if he wasn't there, glowering at all the male customers and being less than pleasant to the women.

Most of the people in the farming business were adult men, however, so it was hard to avoid the two of them encountering that demographic altogether.

"He was straight, John," Gheorghe said with some exasperation, after John's sulking and huffing had made itself obvious. "Couldn't you tell?" Gheorghe had convinced a man at the weekly town auction into paying 100 pounds more for a cow than he'd declared was his final offer, talking up the hardiness and fertility of the breed. Usually that would have made John happy, but the guy was good-looking and John had pressed his lips together tightly until the money was exchanged.

"Like that matters," John muttered, gripping the steering wheel and keeping his eyes firmly on the road. "Straight to your place, these blokes 'round here."

"And how would you know that?" Gheorghe said, gently, but with a bit of a pointed edge.

John sighed and relaxed a little. "I'm just saying you didn't have to turn the charm up quite so high."

Gheorghe remained silent for a moment, thoughtful, then began slowly and calmly, "you know, John, when someone is suspicious of their partner, it's often because they are thinking about what they would do in those circumstances. Is that what you're thinking about?"

John looked aghast. "No!" he exclaimed, stricken, finally glancing over at Gheorghe. "I don't want anyone else. Anyone else is a goddamn joke." He was clearly genuinely upset. Gheorghe could see he was telling the truth.

"Do you want to tell me what you're really worried about, then?"

John gripped the steering wheel even tighter, looking away again. "It's just --" he took a deep breath, and swallowed hard. "It's just that you could do a lot better than me and someday you'll figure it out."

Gheorghe smiled. "I'm sure you could do a lot better than me --" John snorted at that, but Gheorghe continued, "-- but that isn't the point, is it? The point is that we only want to do each other."

John lifted his eyebrows at the comment and laughed, the tension draining from his face. Gheorghe leaned over to kiss his cheek, and John reached to take Gheorghe's right hand in his left one and held it all the way home.

***
Later on, after a lengthy round of foreplay, when John was panting with anticipation of Gheorghe entering him, Gheorghe paused, rolling his hips against John teasingly and whispered in his ear, “do you still think I am thinking about him?”

”Oh god,” John put a hand over his eyes in frustration. “Who?”

”The man who bought the cow. Do you think I am thinking of him?” Gheorghe knew he was being a little wicked, but it would hopefully drive the point home. He nibbled John’s earlobe and John moaned.

”When did you get to be so talkative anyway,” John grumbled, wrapping one leg around Gheorghe’s waist in an attempt to urge him on, but Gheorghe just kept rolling his pelvis against John’s throbbing groin.

”Do you think I am thinking of any other man?” he growled into John’s ear. John shuddered and whimpered slightly.

”I’m not sure there’s any other man alive right now,” John gasped. “Okay? You win. Now please fuck me before I lose my mind.”

John never mentioned the man ever again.

***

Gheorghe stifled a groan; his body was sore and aching, and he'd sweated through his t-shirt again. He felt awful. He'd been dreading this since the fall weather began in earnest. The cursed rain in this country always ensured he'd have at least one terrible bout of respiratory illness every year, once October arrived.

"Are you awake?" John poked the bedroom door open with his foot, and came in slowly, carefully balancing a tray holding cough syrup, tea, a bottle of water, and a bowl of soup with strips of toast (John called them "soldiers", but Gheorghe had no idea why) on the side. Even though it kind of hurt his face to do so, Gheorghe smiled when he saw that John had also gathered several colorful fallen oak leaves and placed them in a small vase on the tray. He nodded toward them, and John smiled back. "I know you'd've preferred daffodils but you'll have to get sick in the spring for those."

"You don't have to take care of me like this," Gheorghe said quietly, feeling more than a little guilty. John had so much to do already, between helping to care for his father, doing all the daily chores by himself, and putting in extra time preparing the farm for winter. He shouldn't have to coddle Gheorghe on top of it. It was just a cold -- a really bad one, but he wasn't going to die. "I feel a little better after my nap. I can get up." He made a weak move to rise, and John tutted at him (sounding for all the world like his grandmother) as he set the tray down.

"None of that, you," John said, firmly tucking the blankets around Gheorghe's waist and helping him to sit up, piling pillows behind his back and bracing him. "You'll eat this soup and drink some liquids and then it's right back to sleep with you."

"This is what Deidre used to do for you, isn't it," Gheorghe coughed.

John arched his eyebrow and reached for the soup spoon. "She was a lot bossier about it. Open up. I'll feed you."

Gheorghe managed a few swallows of the broth, and sighed. "That's good."

John patiently kept feeding him, pausing to press a hand against his forehead. "Okay, here, now, drink some water."

My love. Gheorghe was too delirious to properly conceive of what he wanted to say to John in this moment, but waves of feeling were washing through him. This was why he loved John. His secret soft and caring nature, which only the people whom he truly loved ever got to see. He would never abandon Gheorghe. How could Gheorghe tell him that he understood and appreciated this with all his being? That he would never abandon him either? He tried to show him every day. He wanted to be healthy again as soon as possible if only so that he was in a position to take care of John in return. It was so very nice to be stroked and pampered by John, but he also desperately wanted to be the one holding John, comforting him. What a contradiction. He would just have to wait his turn. Thankfully, the anticipation was its own delight.

"You were wrong," he said finally. "What you said before."

John was carefully folding a cool, damp cloth, and he leaned in to gently kiss Gheorghe's brow before placing the cloth on his forehead. He gave Gheorghe a quizzical look, perhaps suspecting Gheorghe was just babbling the nonsense of the sick. "What thing that I said?"

"The other day. In the truck. You were wrong. I can't do better than you." Gheorghe could feel his eyelids growing heavy, but he struggled to keep them open a little longer so that he could make sure John had understood him.

A blush was spreading from John's cheeks to his entire face, and he looked down and waved his hand dismissively. "Eh, any old chap with a brain in his head would do this for you."

"No. Only you." With effort, Gheorghe lifted his hand to stroke John's cheek, and then rolled over and begin to drift back to sleep, quicker than he ever normally did.

Just before he entered dreamland entirely, he heard John say in a small whisper, mostly addressing himself, "I am trying my best."

Gheorghe should have never questioned it. The universe knew what it was doing, and it operated on a principle of yin and yang, give and take. He was drawn to John because he wanted not only to care for but to be cared for, by him, and only him. He was Gheorghe's balance. He was healing Gheorghe's heart in all the places it had been broken before, patching him up, making him sturdier. They were strong and whole together, building each other up bit by bit, and surely, as the years went by, they would only grow stronger. Gheorghe couldn't wait.