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Where You Never Look

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Deacon had been ignoring Luke’s jibes for years, but, when he hadn’t been able to let them pass by, he had shot back with something just as clever- there had been no real malice. Then he had joined Luke’s tour and there had been one taunt after another, day after day. His fists clenched a fraction more with every cutting word that spilled from Luke’s mouth, but he had managed to keep his rage in check- he never wanted to give Luke the satisfaction of getting a reaction.

Until now.

Deacon couldn’t remember the exact words Luke had muttered to finally get him to snap; not that they had mattered anywhere near as much as the smirk on Luke’s face. He grabbed Luke by the front of his jacket. He had only planned on getting into Luke’s face, but the fact that Luke had started pushing back as soon as his hands were on him, had spurred him on. He slammed Luke against the side of the bus and pinned Luke’s wrists down, when he started to struggle.

“You are so done.” Luke bared his teeth and attempted to struggle out of Deacon’s grasp. “If you even think…”

“What the hell is your problem, huh?” Deacon banged Luke’s hands against the bus. He felt a brief pang of guilt- if Luke couldn’t play, they’d all be out of a job, not to mention the constant complaining he would have to deal with- but his rage soon returned and he pressed Luke’s arms back against the bus. “This is your tour, you asshole- you’re already in charge and I ain’t here to cause trouble.”

“All you are is trouble.” Luke pushed back against Deacon’s grip.

“Then why am I even here?” Deacon looked into Luke’s eyes. “You wanted to rub all this success in my face, huh?” He shook his head. “I don’t need any of this goddamn drama.”

“No, you do.” Luke jerked forward, which made Deacon stumble back a few paces. “You can’t afford to walk out on this tour. I own you, right now, and…”

Deacon moved before he could think about it; he leant in and slammed his mouth against Luke’s mouth. He thought he could taste blood, which ought to have been more of a concern, but his brain had already short-circuited. He dragged his head back after a minute- or two or seven- but still pressed his forehead against Luke’s forehead. He wanted to run- he and Luke had both been pushing the line further and further for years, but he’s just crossed- but he couldn’t tear himself away; there was no mistaking the way Luke’s pupils were blown and that was a very difficult opportunity to turn down. He felt his senses filter back with every breath he took, though, and he eventually took a step back. He turned to leave- his mind had already taken him as far away as he could-, but didn’t even get a step away before Luke grabbed his arm.

“Where the hell you goin’?”

Deacon had lost all his resolve to walk away before he turned back, but seeing Luke look even more desperate than he had a second ago threw everything he thought he knew out of the window and he crowded Luke back against the bus. He put his hands on either side of Luke’s head and leaned in.

“Anyone could walk past.” Deacon kind of thought that was bullshit, though- he hadn’t even heard footsteps approaching, never mind caught a glimpse of anyone in the vicinity. He still felt as if he had to say something, though- a way out for both of them, if they wanted it.

“Right now,” Luke grabbed Deacon’s hips and pulled him forward, “I don’t give a shit.” He dug his fingers in. “Do you?”

Deacon tried to look like he was considering his answer, but the fact that he had already pushed his hands under Luke’s shirt was a giveaway. He opened his mouth to respond, but Luke, whose fingers clawed into his back, cut him off.

“Then what the hell are we waitin’ for?”

Chapter Text

Luke had not been trying to get Deacon’s attention all day, thank you very much. He had only been almost constantly staring at Deacon because he was searching for some kind of acknowledgement of what happened between them yesterday. Was that really too much to ask? Especially given that they had been heading for this for years. Well, sure, he had been imagining a punch in the face more than the quick fuck they did share, but there had always been something there. Yet here he was, waiting for some kind of resolution (that he wasn’t crazy, that he wasn’t alone, that it wasn’t bad) because Deacon had been hanging around all damn day, just in his line of sight, even when he wasn’t needed and…

“Son of a bitch.”

“You okay there, boss? I thought we were doing well.”

“Mmm?” Luke glanced to the side at who had spoken- his guitarist, maybe- but soon turned his head back and found Deacon finally staring back at him. He would have glared just at the smirk on Deacon’s face, but the fact that Deacon raised his eyebrows really pushed him over the edge. He shook his head and resisted the urge to growl. “Oh, we’re gonna be just fine.”

--

Deacon stopped when he heard the door open and frowned when he saw Luke walk into the room.

“You’re on stage in five minutes.”

“Uh huh.” Luke folded his arms across his chest. “You’re packin’.”

“Uh huh.” Deacon went back to packing, but he only lasted three seconds before giving up. He dropped into the nearest seat and rested his elbows on his knees. He leaned forward and put his head in his hands. “What are you doin’ here?”

“Why are you packin’?”

“‘Cause I figured, this was gonna go one of two ways and I wanted to be ready in case you made it so I had to run.”

“You’re kiddin’, right?” Luke unfolded his arms and stepped forward. “You got no reason to be worried- you started this. Remember?”

“You sound like a child.” Deacon leaned back and stared up at the ceiling. “What do you want, Luke?”

“I thought you’d already be half way out the door and I wanted to ask you not to go.”

Deacon dropped his head forward. He stared at Luke for a minute before he reached over and unfastened the first bag he reached. He wondered if he had made the stupidest decision of his life, but all his regrets drifted away when the corner of Luke’s mouth tilted up before he turned to leave. He shook his head and turned back to start unpacking, but stopped when he heard Luke’s voice.

“So what was the second way?” Luke was standing in the doorway and looking back over his shoulder.

“You come find me when you get off stage and we make what we did yesterday look like child’s play.”

--

Luke didn’t go and find Deacon when he got off stage, but only because he was busy being herded around for far more post-performance responsibilities than he remembered and no excuse good enough to explain why he was itching to get away from all of them. He thought that it would be simple after he finally got back to his hotel room, but, at least an hour after he had gotten back, he was still waiting. He was almost past the point of annoyance and inching towards throwing an almighty tantrum when he heard noise outside the door. He jumped across the room in record time, grateful that no one was around to see it, and stopped short of wrenching the door off its hinges when he pulled it open. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Deacon- which definitely didn’t send the blood rushing away from his brain, thank you very much- but it turned to confusion when Deacon paced across the end of the hallway. He watched for another minute before he called out.

“What the hell are you doing out here?”

“Trying to decide if it’s a good idea to come in or not.”

“God, no- it’s a terrible idea.” Luke stepped back and leaned his head against the doorframe. “Do it anyway.”

“Yeah?” Deacon took a few steps down the hall. His gaze flicked over Luke’s face and he bit his bottom lip. “Now, what would I do a stupid thing like that for?”

“‘Cause I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you all day and we can’t fuck on a tour bus.”

“You’re an asshole.” Deacon marched down the rest of the hallway and pushed Luke backwards. He kicked the door shut behind him and folded his arms across his chest. “Anyone ever tell you that?”

“You, more than most.” Luke edged forward until Deacon was pressed back against the door and flicked the lock shut. “Now, shut up and take off your shirt.”

Chapter Text

“I don’t know who fucked you last night, but please have ‘em do it again- that set you just played was amazing.”

Deacon decided, right then, that whatever god existed hated him because that was the exact moment that Luke wandered over. He glanced over and the big, stupid smirk on Luke’s face was worse than he imagined- it was a wonder that Luke didn’t collapse under the weight of his ego sometimes. He should have called Luke out on it right then, but that would raise so many questions they didn’t yet have the answers for. Besides, that would be far too easy.

“I don’t think that’s on the cards.” Deacon glanced over at Luke again and tried not to look too happy when he saw the grin on Luke’s face falter. “Some people get so tired so easy these days.” He bit on the inside of his lower lip to stop a smirk from spreading across his face. He stepped back so that his elbow just brushed against Luke’s arm. “Might have to take care of myself tonight.”

--

From the second that he left Luke standing, dumbfounded, by the stage earlier, Deacon had known he was going to see Luke again, so he didn’t look up from his notebook, when the door to his hotel room burst open late at night.

“You’re an asshole.”

“Sure.” Deacon peeked up through his eyelashes to see the scowl on Luke’s face. He ducked his head so Luke wouldn’t see his grin. He managed to compose himself and looked up. “I mean, you’re the one that burst in here with a point to prove, but, yeah, I’m the bad guy.” He stared at Luke for a few seconds before he went back to scribbling in his notebook. He rolled his eyes, when Luke stormed out of the room, but didn’t bother chasing after him because…

“You have no idea…”

“You keep bustin’ in and outta here like that, someone’s gonna notice.”

“Fine.” Luke slammed the door shut and turned the lock before he spun back to face Deacon. “What the hell is your problem?”

“I’ve got no problem.” Deacon dropped his pen and leaned back in his seat. He tilted his head to the side and stared at Luke. “Do you?”

“You know damn well what my problem is.”

Deacon didn’t bother hiding his smirk from Luke this time.

“You take that stupid look off your face right now.” Luke folded his arms across his chest. “It was all bullshit, anyway.”

“Wow.” Deacon laughed and shook his head. “I thought that’s what we did, Luke. I mean, we’ve been bitin’ at each other like that for years. Are you really tellin’ me I can’t have this one?”

“It’s never been that mean, before.”

“You don’t remember the last couple months, then.” There was no denying that the harsh words they slung at each other had grown even more vicious while they had been out on the road, but Deacon still expected an argument; instead, all he got was Luke frowning at him.

“I shouldn’t be here.”

“No,” Deacon tried to go back to scribbling in his notebook, but he couldn’t make the pen move, “you shouldn’t.” He heard Luke’s footsteps heading away from him and was sure the next thing he would hear would be the door slamming so he jumped out of his skin when he heard Luke’s voice.

“You know, all you had to do was ask.”

“Ask what?” Deacon had no problems scrawling in his notebook this time, not that anything he wrote resembled words. He glanced up and saw one corner of Luke’s mouth quirking upwards- another argument would be easier to deal with. “I thought you were leavin’.”

“No, I said I shouldn’t be here.” Luke pulled out the chair at the opposite side of the table and sat down. “Big difference.”

Deacon gripped the pen tight enough to leave marks before he let it fall to the table. He leaned back in his chair and pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes. He let his arms drop back to his sides and stared at Luke.

“What do you want, Luke?”

“What do I want?” Luke rested his elbow on the arm of the chair and put his chin in his hand. “I want to drag you over to that bed and prove how not tired I can get. Pretty sure that’s what you want, too.”

“Dunno know what you’re talkin’ ‘bout.”

“Bullshit.” Luke leaned forward. “You pissed me off on purpose, Deacon.”

“Then don’t make it so easy.”

“And I just realised that either you never wanted to see me again and if you never wanted to see me again, you’d have been on the first flight back to Nashville the second you pushed me against that bus and you sure as hell wouldn’t have come back for more and more and more.”

Deacon pushed his tongue against the roof of his mouth and clenched his fists.

“So it had to be the only other possible reason- you thought it was the only way this was gonna happen again.” Luke leaned even further forward and stared into Deacon’s eyes. “I was right there with you, every single second. Do you really think you had to do anything other than ask?”

“No.” Deacon squeezed his eyes shut. In fact, he didn’t think he would even have to ask- he could give Luke that one look and seal their fates forever. He opened his eyes again and tried to breathe. “I couldn’t say those damn words.”

“Why the hell not? Did you think I’d give you shit about it instead of pulling you into the nearest empty room?”

“Because if I say it, if we do this for real…”

“For real?” Luke rolled his eyes. He sat back and pulled the neck of his shirt down, just enough to reveal the hint of bruises scattered across his chest. “Is this not real enough for you?”

Deacon tried to look anywhere but the exposed patch of skin on Luke’s chest, but his eyes kept drifting down. He jerked his head away.

“I can’t…”

“What? Be a goddamn grown-up and ask for the things that you really want because don’t you dare fucking tell me that you can go for the rest of your life without having that again.” Luke clenched his teeth and gripped the arms of the chair. “Can’t what, Deacon?”

“I can’t be the reason her life falls apart again.”

“You asshole. You…” Luke clamped his mouth shut. He was quiet for a minute. “Do you really think it would be any less destructive if it stopped now?” He shook his head and snarled. “You wanna feel bad, go ahead! It’s not as if my conscience is clear on this, either- but don’t you ever think the way to clear your damn guilt is to put this decision all on me. That just makes you double the asshole.”

Deacon opened his mouth to respond, but pressed his lips together again when Luke held a hand up.

“Just…” Luke closed his eyes for a second before he stood up and started walking towards the door. He stopped after a few paces and looked back over his shoulder. “If you can’t own up to a decision, you shouldn’t have made it in the first place,” he strode over to the door, “and you sure as hell shouldn’t make it again.”

Chapter Text

Deacon had had plenty of time to think about how to handle this situation- he had thought of nothing else since the door had slammed shut behind Luke two nights ago- but now that he was standing in front of Luke’s hotel room door, an apology and at least half an explanation on his lips, he was beginning to wonder if any of this was a good idea. He should go back downstairs, hole up in his section of the tour bus until morning and pretend that he and Luke were still the bitter enemies they had become as of late, but his last interaction with Luke was still playing on his mind. He couldn’t leave it like that; he had to try to fix it. He took a deep breath and walked into Luke’s hotel room before he could talk himself out of it again. He paused, just long enough to locate Luke sat at the table, by the window, before he walked the rest of the way across the room to him. He held the bottle of beer he was carrying out towards Luke.

Luke stared at the bottle for a second before he lifted his gaze towards Deacon and raised an eyebrow.

“Peace offering.”

“Then why didn’t you spring for the good stuff?”

“How the hell would I know what the good stuff is anymore?”

Luke grabbed the bottle and flicked the top off. He lifted it up, but stopped before it made contact with his lips. He put the bottle back down and started scribbling something in his notebook.

“You writin’ a song about me?”

“Just makin’ a note to have you fired in the mornin’.”

“Are you really that mad?” Deacon tried to cover the nerves that were surely written all over his face by making a show of pulling the other chair out so that he could sit down. He kept his head low, but glanced up at Luke through his eyelashes.

“Well, I am the one that’s gonna have to deal with a whole bunch of people who think you’re drinkin’ again.” Luke took a swig of the beer and set the bottle back down on the table.

“That’s not what I…”

“How the hell did you get in here anyway?”

“Bribed the front desk for a spare key.” Deacon had received a few strange looks for that request, but he thought he had covered well enough. He nodded down when he saw Luke write something else on the pad and raised an eyebrow. “Makin’ a note to have them fired, too?”

“You bet.”

Deacon laughed for a few seconds, but stopped when Luke scowled at him. He hung his head, but flicked his gaze up to Luke a few times, before he finally spoke.

“Luke, I’m sorry.”

“I’m sure that’s real comfortin’ to the people who are gonna lose their jobs.”

“Luke.”

“Sorry?” Luke grabbed the bottle of beer off the table and took a large gulp. “Sorry for what?” He took another gulp of beer. “The asshole comment? Lyin’? Bein’ a coward? Thinkin’ that growin’ a goddamn conscience would be enough for me to let everythin’ else slide?”

“All of it.” Deacon watched Luke through his eyelashes for a minute before he lifted his head. He wrung his hands together, while he spoke. “I mean, I’m not sorry for feelin’ guilty and I’m not sorry for startin’ this, but I am sorry for how badly I messed up, for how much I hurt you.”

“Huh.” Luke looked Deacon up and down. “That’s actually not the worst apology I’ve ever heard.”

“So am I unfired?” Deacon winced while he waited for Luke’s response.

“Provisionally,” Luke took another swig of beer and leaned back in his chair, “but you’re gonna have to work a lot harder if you want me to forgive you.”

“Okay.” Deacon took a second for relief to wash over him before he turned in his seat and stretched his legs out in front of him. He wanted to look at Luke, but he didn’t think he’d be able to get the next words out, if he did, so he stared at the ceiling instead. “You know, I will, right? Because it turns out hurtin’ you made me feel worse than I could have imagined.”

“Hmm.” Luke took another sip of beer and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “You might be gettin’ somewhere.”

“You’re gonna make me work for this, aren’t you?”

“You really should,” Luke tipped the bottle towards Deacon, “don’t you think?”

“Mmm.” Deacon glanced at Luke through the corner of his eye for a second before he returned his gaze to the ceiling. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, while a million possible answers ran through his mind. “I mighta started this, but it’s on both of us and it ain’t fair to make you carry it all.” He took a deep breath before he sat back up and turned the chair so that he was facing Luke. “I never thought this was a mistake, but I wasn’t exactly countin’ on anythin’ other than…”

“Shuttin’ me up?”

“Yeah. I thought that would be it and then…” Deacon ran a hand through his hair. This was it. The one thing he would never be able to unsay. “It turns out you were right- I can’t live my whole life without having that again.” He closed his eyes and counted to five. He opened his eyes again and his breath caught in his throat when he saw the way Luke’s eyes had darkened and that he was biting his lip. He stared back at Luke for a few seconds and even started to lean forward before he shook his head and sat back. “Put your libido in check, cowboy- I need you to let me finish.” He knew that Luke wanted to argue- half of Luke’s life was wanting to start some kind of fight and, when it was something this important, he would never let it go- so he breathed a sigh of relief when Luke settled back in his chair. He smiled, for a second, at the scowl still on Luke’s face, before he continued. “When I realised that it wasn’t just anger or adrenaline or you bein’ an asshole…”

“I take it back.” Luke’s gaze narrowed further. “This is the worst apology I’ve ever heard.”

“Well, you were an asshole, but I guess I didn’t help the situation either, huh?” Deacon scoffed and rolled his eyes. “It was easier, you know? To fight with you than whatever the hell this is.” He leaned his head to the side and watched Luke for a minute. “When it wasn’t anything apart from want anymore, I got scared. I saw how much of a mess it’s gonna be when people find out and I thought that if I didn’t make the decision, I couldn’t get the blame.” He rolled his eyes. “Like the damage wasn’t done when I slammed you into the side of that bus.” He shook his head before he took a deep breath. “You were right- I was a coward, afraid of everythin’ I didn’t realise I wanted, everythin’ I couldn’t admit that I wanted. I know that’s not a good enough excuse- I don’t know if there is a good enough excuse- but from the second you grabbed me and pulled me back in, this is all I’ve been able to think about. I don’t know if I’m ever gonna be able to think about anythin’ else until I find out what every inch of you tastes like. So, yeah, I was a coward before, but I am done being afraid.” He stared into Luke’s eyes. “You are everything I want now, Luke.”

“Do you know what you’re sayin’? For real this time?” Luke looked back into Deacon’s eyes. “Because I can work with panic- you can learn not to be scared or ashamed. Hell,” he waved his hand to the side, “you can even learn to talk to me, but you cannot learn to want this if it isn’t already inside you. If we’re gonna do this- and I’ve made it pretty clear that I want to and I don’t think you’d be here if you didn’t, either- we have gotta do it together. You cannot leave me alone in this again, Deacon. If you can’t do that, if you can’t even be honest with me, walk outta that door, right now, and don’t come back because I am not doing this shit again.”

Deacon stood up and tugged on Luke’s wrist until Luke was standing in front of him.

“The furthest I’m plannin’ on goin’ right now is over to that bed.” Deacon draped his arms over Luke’s shoulders and stepped forward. He leaned in so that his mouth just brushed Luke’s ear. “Are you comin’ with me?”

Chapter Text

“No. That’s it. We’re takin’ a break.” Luke didn’t hang around long enough to hear the certain complaints from his band for such an abrupt departure from what had been an uneventful sound check; he would think of an excuse later. Right now, he couldn’t concentrate on anything apart from getting his hands on Deacon and dragging him into the nearest empty room. He rushed backstage, smacking into several people. He’d have to apologise to them, too- he could write it off as being an inconsiderate asshole; people would believe that. He got halfway down the corridor and hesitated- he had no idea where Deacon. God, what if Deacon had already left? This was all starting to seem like an awful idea and he turned to head back to the stage; he could grab a cup of coffee on the way- it might make a legitimate excuse for running out. He turned down another hallway and he had taken no more than three steps when he heard Deacon’s voice filtering down from the room two doors down. He listened for a minute, hesitant to interrupt- he recognised Deacon’s voice, but he didn’t recognise any of the words he was singing and he knew a little something about hating disruptions during the song-writing process. He decided to take a shot and strode up to the door before he could change his mind.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” Deacon put his guitar down by the side of his chair. He tilted his head to the side and frowned at Luke. “Aren’t you supposed to be in sound check?”

“They won’t miss me for five minutes.”

“Five minutes?” Deacon gave Luke a once-over. “You don’t look like you want anything we could do in five minutes.”

“Ten?”

Deacon’s only response was to raise his eyebrow.

“Fine.” Luke stepped forward. He folded his arms across his chest and kicked the door shut behind him. “I’ll be quick if you can be quiet.”

“I’m not the one with the volume control problem, cowboy.”

“Dunno what you’re talking about, babe.” Luke had the good grace to look abashed when Deacon scowled at the pet name. “Just tryin’ somethin’.”

“Try somethin’ else.”

“Whatever you say.” Luke couldn’t resist the urge to smirk. “Sweetheart.”

“Lord.” Deacon dragged a hand down his face, but still found himself smiling when he looked at Luke again. He hung his head and waited until he was a little more composed to look up again. “So this is it? You couldn’t get this kinda sparklin’ conversation anywhere else?” He tilted his head to the side and smirked. “Or did you just miss me?”

“I missed your hands on my dick, not you- big difference.”

“Uh huh.” Deacon nodded and leaned forward. “Then what are you doin’ all the way over there?”

--

Luke saw his manager coming from a mile away before he finally stopped in front of him. He knew what was coming so he didn’t bother looking up- just carried on scribbling on the paper in front of him.

“Deacon…”

“Is not drinking again.” Luke glanced up at his manager before returning his attention to the paper. He jotted a few more notes down, but he wasn’t sure any of the words made sense. He dropped his pen and leaned back. He draped his arms over the armrests and looked his manager dead in the eye. “Is that all?”

“Luke, this is serious.” Luke’s manager pulls out another chair and sits opposite Luke. “If there’s gonna be a problem, we need to know.”

“There’s no problem.” Luke breathed a sigh of relief about the lack of mention of him running out of sound check earlier because he still hadn’t perfected his excuse for where he had been. He was also paranoid that there were finger marks scattered across his collarbone and that his t-shirt was low enough to show them off and everyone was staring and…

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah.” Luke shook himself out of his daze and tried to school his face into an expression of calm. “Yeah, people saw him carryin’ around beer last night, but that beer was for me.” He might have laughed at the expression on his manager’s face, if he wasn’t too focussed on trying to remember all the little details of the story he had been rehearsing since Deacon walked out of his hotel room last night. “You told me to fix this, right? To work out whatever problems I had with him because we can’t have this hangin’ over us for the entire damn tour? Well, we did and I dunno if he figured beer would make me easier to talk to or he was just tryin’ to bribe me, but I know he brought that bottle for me because apparently he’s the one that gets to make the first move in fixin’ this.”

“So you drank a beer he brought you, had a little chat and now everything’s fine?”

“It’s…” Luke wasn’t sure how to answer that; none of this was really fine. He and Deacon were leaving a trail of broken hearts and broken homes in their wake and they still couldn’t stop because they were still getting too much of a high from the whole thing. He sighed and rubbed his forehead. “We worked it out, okay? Stop worryin’- the tour is gonna be just fine.”

--

“What the fuck did you do?”

“I guess we’re fightin’ again, huh? What was that? Two hours without a damn argument? That must be some kinda record for us.” Luke sighed. “Why don’t you tell me what I’m supposed to have done this time?”

“Maddie called me tonight. She wanted to tell me how great her mom thinks it is that we’re getting along now.”

“Yeah, Rayna called me- she is happy we’re gettin’ along.”

Deacon tried not to wince at the mention of Rayna’s name- it was the first time that either of them had said it to each other since this thing between them started. It would change something, he thought, bring the reality of what they were doing crashing in and he wasn’t sure that he was ready to handle that.

“But do you really think I’m dumb enough to tell her myself?”

“That’s not the point, Luke.” Deacon took a few deep breaths- his anger might have returned, but he didn’t want it to take over. “How do they know?”

“News travels fast in our world.” Luke let out a long sigh. “Look, you told me that I was gonna have to deal with a whole loada people who thought you were drinkin’ again, right? Now, no one thinks you were drinkin’- they think I was drinkin’ and we spent the whole night yellin’ at each other and workin’ through our damn problems.”

“Why did you have to say anything?”

“Because my manager wanted to know if we were gonna have any problems and this way, neither of us comes across as an asshole. Or a drunk.”

“You’re always an asshole,” Deacon muttered, mostly out of habit. “That’s… actually not a bad idea, but it got home so fast, Luke. We’re on thin ice.”

“Uh huh.” Luke was quiet for a few seconds. “Need a distraction?”

“Thought you’d never ask.”

Chapter Text

Deacon thought the energy coursing through him was all for the show. Judging by the deafening applause after he finished his final song, he had done a good job, but, when he stepped off stage, he still heard his heart hammering in his head. His fingers itched to touch something, even after he handed his guitar over to whoever’s job it was to take care of it. He was half-way to the door- some fresh air would help take the edge off his adrenaline spike- when Luke waltzed over and his pulse went through the roof. He took a deep breath, but his heart kept racing. He should have moved further away from the stage, run through the door, gotten as far away from here as possible, but he thought Luke would have come to find him anyway because the burning in Luke’s eyes for something was the same damn thing that he’d been feeling all night. He should have known that was it. The yearning to be as close as he could had him stepping forward before he realised and his breathing increased when he realised that Luke had stepped in, too. His hands shook with the desperation and he had to clench his fists to stop himself from reaching out and touching Luke.

“Stay.”

Deacon glanced through the corners of his eyes, but no one was paying them any undue attention. He didn’t trust himself to speak so he shook his head. He even started to regret that, when Luke scowled at him. He knew he didn’t have to explain, that despite the fire in his eyes, Luke would know exactly why he had to go, but the guilt still washed over him when Luke turned to leave. He darted forward and grasped Luke’s wrist before Luke got too far away. He held his hands up and inched backwards when Luke whirled around and wrenched his hand back. His gaze flicked between Luke’s eyes and the next few seconds dragged on for an eternity. He bit his lower lip and, cautious that people might still be watching, used what was left of his willpower to not lean forward to whisper in Luke’s ear. He ducked his head and kept his voice low.

“You come find me, the second you get off stage.”

--

Luke thought that the disappointment simmering underneath his skin would settle down when he saw Deacon again, but, when he walked into his hotel room and saw Deacon stretched out on his bed, his first instinct was to slam the door.

“Stop bribing people to get my hotel room key.”

“I didn’t have to- you left it in your dressing room.” Deacon pushed himself to the end of the bed and put his hands on either side of him. He leaned forward and watched Luke for a minute, the smile on his face slowly fading to a frown. “Do you not want me here?”

“No.” Luke wince. “Fuck. That’s not what I meant.” He pressed his palm to his forehead. “God, I need a drink.” He dropped his hand back to his side and tried to avoid Deacon’s gaze as he walked across the room to the minibar. He pulled the door open and grabbed the first bottle he reached. It compounded his disappointment when he put the bottle to his lips and all he drank was water. He put the bottle back and went to grab another one, but decided against it and pushed the door shut again. “I’m sorry.” He glanced at Deacon, but soon moved his gaze to the floor. He wasn’t sure if he was really seeing the hurt in Deacon’s eyes or if his imagination was throwing his shame back at him. “You know, I ain’t even mad at you.”

“Then what the hell was that about?” Deacon pointed towards the door.

Luke kicked at an uneven patch of the carpet and watched Deacon through his eyelashes. He shuffled across the room and dropped into the empty space next to Deacon on the end of the bed. He grasped the edge of the mattress.

“Luke?”

“You weren’t there,” Luke muttered. He scowled at the floor for another few seconds before he lifted his head and looked at Deacon. “You weren’t there.”

“Lord.” Deacon pressed his hand to his forehead for a few seconds before he dropped his arm back down to his side. “You said you weren’t mad at me.”

“I’m not- I’m mad at myself.” Luke tightened his grip in the sheets for a few seconds before he relaxed. “I know you couldn’t stay, that it was real fuckin’ stupid to even ask, but I was still disappointed when I got backstage and you weren’t waitin’ for me.” He stared at Deacon for a few seconds. “Like the extra twenty minutes since I got off stage, half an hour until we finish this damn argument, makes any kinda difference.” He shook his head. “One word about your damn eg0, Deacon, and I swear I’ll…” He scowled when Deacon started to laugh and punched Deacon’s shoulder. “Shut up.”

“Whatever you say, cowboy.” The smile on Deacon’s face faded after a few seconds. “Should I go?”

“Of course you should go- you shouldn’t have come here in the first place. None of this should be happening, but don’t you dare move.”

“Luke.” Deacon rested his hand on the back of Luke’s neck. “You said that if my conscience couldn’t handle this, I shouldn’t be here. You really think it’s any different for you?”

“I know.” Luke massaged his temples. He leaned his head to the side and one corner of his mouth tilted up. “Do you know what I played tonight? I don’t. Too damn busy thinkin’ about…” He shook his head. “I’m not supposed to be thinkin’ about that. I’m not supposed to be thinkin’ about you at all.” He stared at Deacon. “Now, I can’t stop.” He took a few shaky breaths. “This… You are all I want anymore.”

“And?”

Luke grumbled and tried to shrug Deacon’s hand away, but it wasn’t easy. He let his shoulders slump and didn’t complain when Deacon moved his hand into his hair. He only scowled a little when he saw that Deacon was wearing the expression that had somehow come to mean ‘I know there’s something you’re not telling me so you talk to me or we’re both gonna leave here real disappointed.’

“How long do we keep ignorin’ the consequences?”

“Same way we have all along- until we get to one so big we can’t ignore it.”

“Yeah?” Luke watched Deacon for several seconds. He bit his lip as he considered his next move. His lips started to quirk up and there was a bright smile on his face within a second. He started shifting forward at the same time that Deacon started pulling him. He grabbed Deacon’s arms to steady himself as he landed in Deacon’s lap. He shifted around so that he was straddling Deacon’s hips and draped his arms over Deacon’s shoulders.

“So?” Deacon ran his hands down Luke’s sides, eventually bringing them to rest on Luke’s thighs. “Is this too big for you?”

Luke brought one hand up to Deacon’s face and brushed his thumb across Deacon’s cheek. He pressed his forehead against Deacon’s forehead and closed his eyes.

“Not today.”

Chapter Text

“We get the day off tomorrow, right?”

“Uh huh.” Luke stifled a yawn and stretched his arms out. He settled back on the bed and curled up on his side. He tried not to let his eyes drift shut and stared at Deacon. “Why?” He raised his eyebrows. “You got plans?”

“Depends.” Deacon looked back over his shoulder at Luke. He bit his lip and frowned. “You flyin’ home for the day?”

Luke’s eyes sprang open and the corners of his mouth started to tilt up when he noticed the hopeful look on Deacon’s face. He led on his back and put his arms behind his head.

“I got a couple interviews scheduled and you know how long these things can run- doesn’t really leave the time to fly home and back.”

“Okay.” Deacon’s face lit up. He turned away from Luke and pulled on his shirt. “Then, yeah, I got plans.”

--

Deacon was going to hell. He probably had been, from long ago, before having an affair with an engaged man, before he almost got the mother of his child killed, before the drinking, right back to the first questionable decision he had ever made. So the conclusion might have been long foregone, but he never felt it more than when he walked into the hotel foyer, heard Maddie call out ‘Dad’ and his heart sank to the floor; Maddie being there meant a lot of things and the first of those things that he thought of should not have been about how he wouldn’t be able to spend the day holed up in a hotel room with Luke. He shook away his disappointment and greeted Maddie- and Daphne, who had rushed over to join them- with as much enthusiasm as he could muster; it turned out easier than he imagined because those girls meant the absolute world to him (Daphne might not have been his daughter, but nothing would stop him from loving her the same way he loved Maddie). He talked with the girls for a while, until he heard footsteps approaching. He wanted to run the other way, but he behaved like an adult and looked up. He thought he even managed a smile when he looked at Rayna. He didn’t even look away from her, but that was more to do with not wanting to face Luke, who he knew was somewhere close by, than it was to do with torturing himself by facing the woman whose life he was ruining. Again. He didn’t hear a word Rayna said to him to start with because the biggest part of his brain was trying to get him to just not panic, but some of her words eventually made their way through the haze.

“And, of course, you are more than welcome to join us for lunch. Now that you two have worked out your problems, it might be nice for us all to spend some time together, like a family.”

Deacon was sure he blacked out for a minute as the horror of what that lunch could really be like overtook him, but he came back to it when he heard Maddie- God bless her- complaining about wanting to spend the day with him and relief washed over him. Oh, he was definitely going to Hell. He was glad to be spending the day with his daughter- he had missed so much of her life already- but should only be thinking about that and not about avoiding the most awkward situation he could imagine.

“Well, if you’re sure.”

“Lord, yes.” Deacon wasn’t sure he had said any actual words to Rayna at this point and that probably wasn’t the best opening, but it had gotten the job done. He smiled again. Had he even stopped smiling the first time? Did he look ridiculous now? Was everyone staring? “I’ll get ‘em back in one piece.” He hoped he had heard right and that Daphne would be joining them because he had no idea how he would cover himself otherwise. He looked to have gotten away with it when Rayna hugged the girls and he looked anywhere but at Luke. He put an arm each around Maddie and Daphne and started heading towards the door. He should just have kept going, but his treacherous brain made him look back over his shoulder. Of course, Luke would be staring back at him. Had he been doing that the whole time? He stared into Luke’s eyes for two painfully long seconds before he just turned away. It was over, then. “Come on, girls- let’s go.”

--

Deacon forgot to be disappointed as soon as he walked out of the door. He had such a good day with Maddie and Daphne- they were wonderful, amazing girls and they lit up his life. He could never have imagined having a bad thought when surrounded by those girls so he purposefully got them back about three minutes before they were supposed to leave; Rayna clucked at him for that, but it was the least he could accept, given that he was sleeping with her fiancé and all. He made his goodbyes, gave out hugs (tried not to run away when Rayna wrapped her arms around him because he would never deserve that kind of niceness from her again) and tried to ignore the fact that Luke was standing three feet away from him. He breathed a sigh of relief when a cab pulled up and Rayna and the girls got in. He stepped back and, when he raised his hand to wave goodbye, he felt Luke step up right next to him. He didn’t move away, but he didn’t turn towards Luke either. He kept his eyes fixed on that cab, even as it was going out of sight. He kept waving, kept a smile plastered on his face, kept his feet planted on the spot.

“Later?”

That was the first thing that Luke had said to Deacon all day. Normally, that would have driven him crazy and it wouldn’t have been long before he dragged Luke behind the nearest lockable door. Now, he had to ignore it. He glanced at Luke through the corner of his eye, hated the look on Luke’s face, hated himself more because he wanted to make that pained expression into a damn smile. He closed his eyes and shook his head, just for a second, though it felt like hours, and turned away. He stopped in the doorway to the hotel. He could still change his mind. He could run back, wrap his arms around Luke and, consequences be damned, take everything he desperately wanted. No. He closed his eyes and walked through the door. There was no going back now.

Chapter Text

It took Luke four days to snap; four days of not talking to Deacon, getting only silence whenever he tried to reach out, and only seeing him in glimpses backstage, when he had gotten used to them spending so much time by each other’s sides. It had been four days of spending his entire nights all alone and he couldn’t take it for another second. He grabbed Deacon, before he could run away, and pulled him into the nearest empty room.

Deacon had been expecting Luke to give in. He might even have been able to claim the moral high ground of knowing he was right about everything if he didn’t have his hand on Luke’s dick three seconds after Luke pushed him against the door. He had almost forgotten, in just four days, how good it felt to have Luke pressed against him, but his conscience flew back far too quickly. He pushed Luke away, groaning as Luke’s lips were dragged away from his neck.

“Luke, you gotta stop.”

Luke growled as he stepped back. He kicked the wall, the first thing he reached, and would have complained about how much it hurt, if he could see through the haze of anger.

“Four days.” Luke gritted his teeth. “Four fucking days.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Deacon clenched his fists when the desire to reach out and touch Luke got too much. He took a few shaky breaths, but they did nothing to relax him. “You think I don’t know, to the damn second, how long it’s been?”

“Then why aren’t we doing anything about it, huh?” Luke’s gaze flicked between Deacon’s eyes- there was still something there and he couldn’t have imagined the way Deacon was arching into his touch, just a few seconds ago. He could still save this. He took half a step forward, but Deacon started to back off. He swallowed the lump in his throat. He had come too far to give up now. “Why are we yellin’ at each other instead of…?”

“One of us bein’ on our damn knees?”

“Don’t.” Luke held a hand up. He bit his bottom lip so hard he started to think he would draw blood. “Don’t you dare talk like this means nothing.”

“You think I’d do that?” Deacon turned his head away. He took a deep breath, but the rage kept bubbling under the surface. He turned back, took a step forward and pushed Luke as hard as he could. A wave of guilt passed over him when Luke’s back struck the wall with an audible thump, but he felt worse when he started thinking about how well things had ended last time he pushed Luke against an upright surface. He tried to shake those thoughts away, but they wouldn’t budge. He couldn’t think about that anymore, not the way he knew the exact spot to kiss on Luke’s neck that would make him go weak in the knees or the way Luke’s hair looked after sex or the whines Luke let out whenever he got his hands anywhere near…. He couldn’t think about that. He couldn’t. He took a step back. “Do you really think I’d risk all of this just to get off?”

“Do you think I would?” Luke growled and stalked forward. He grabbed Deacon’s shoulders and only just resisted the urge to throw Deacon as far back as he could. He squeezed Deacon’s shoulders as tight as he could for another few seconds before he released his grip and stepped back. “Do you really think I’d fuck up my entire life because I can’t stop thinking with my dick?” He turned away from Deacon. “Don’t bother- it’s written all over your damn face.” He glanced back over his shoulder at Deacon, sneering at the brief flash of shame he saw run over Deacon’s features. He stormed towards the door and grabbed the door handle, but realised that leaving was exactly what Deacon wanted and he was in no mood to offer that kind of satisfaction. He slammed his hand against the door and turned back around. He strode towards Deacon. “Do you think if that’s all it was, it would still be you? I wouldn’t have to go all that far to find someone else to- how did you put it?- get on their damn knees, but I didn’t, not once.”

“You’re tryin’ to tell me I’m special?” Deacon realised the expression on his face was a frown so he quickly turned it to a snarl. “Bullshit.” He stuck his chin out and folded his arms across his chest. He stared at Luke, hoping that was finally enough to make Luke back off- he didn’t know how much longer he could keep fighting this. His resolve was hanging by a thread and he didn’t know how much longer he could spend cooped up with Luke before he gave in and went back on everything he was desperately trying to point out.

“You don’t wanna listen? Fine! You… No! Fuck that.” Luke stepped forward and shoved Deacon. This wasn’t going the way he wanted and if he was going to be on the losing side then he was going to make it as bloody as possible. “This is the only part of my life I get a damn say in. Everything else, everyone is pullin’ me all over the fuckin’ place, for things I can’t even remember half the damn time and, yeah, that’s the price we’ve gotta pay for this life. I can live with that, but I need to decide somethin’ for myself and I decided you,” he jabbed a finger into Deacon’s chest, “but it turns out that doesn’t matter- you decided we’re done and there ain’t ever any changin’ your mind.” He scoffed. “You promised you wouldn’t leave me alone. How can I be this surprised that you let me down, huh? It’s what you do, isn’t it?” That was low, he knew- even without the blissed out conversations where Deacon had admitted to the fear he had over disappointing everyone in his life, Luke could have worked it out himself- but, if Deacon was going to play dirty, he would come back with worse. He held a hand up, when Deacon opened his mouth. “Save it- I ain’t interested.” He pointed towards the door. “There’s no point you bein’ here anymore- you got everythin’ you wanted.”

“Luke.” Deacon felt the colour drain from his face- he hadn’t meant to let it get that far. He didn’t want to lose another job, not so soon after realising how much he enjoyed being out on the road. All he wanted was for the sex to stop- he still needed Luke and everything else they had together in his life, more than he had realised. He took a hesitant step forward and reached out towards Luke. “I didn’t mean to…”

“Bullshit- you knew exactly what you were doin’.” Luke squeezed his eyes shut and tried to breathe the edge off his anger. It didn’t work. He spun to face Deacon and bared his teeth. “Go! Get out of here. Pack your damn bags and go home for all I care!”

“Are you tryin’ to tell me I don’t have a job anymore?” Deacon stared into Luke’s eyes. He took a step forward and grabbed Luke’s arm. He dug his fingers into Luke’s skin when Luke tried to pull away. “Luke. Please.”

“You decide everythin’ else- you can decide this, too.” Luke wrenched his arm out of Deacon’s grasp. He stared into Deacon’s eyes. He leaned in. “When you walk out of that door, it doesn’t matter what you do next- I don’t care anymore.”

Chapter Text

Despite Luke’s insistence that what happened next was his choice, Deacon spent the next several days worrying that Luke was going to send him home. He wasn’t ready for his time on tour to be over, given that he was starting to realise how much he enjoyed being out on the road and not to mention the fact that when he did get off tour, he might never see Luke again and he definitely wasn’t ready for that. All in all, it had been an exhausting few days, but, with every second that passed, a little more of his concern ebbed away. Yet, he was still feeling on edge so he retreated to an abandoned conference room at the back of the hotel to get some peace.

Luke wandered into the room, not even two minutes later.

Deacon thought about running away or shrinking back into the darkness, to avoid yet another heated argument, but he decided he was far too old to play those types of games. Besides, he missed Luke. He leaned forward and made eye contact with Luke.

Luke rolled his eyes when he noticed Deacon. He turned away, but didn’t leave- instead, he collapsed into an empty seat, by the door, as far away from Deacon as he could manage.

Deacon hesitated for a minute before he crossed the distance and stopped next to Luke.

“Back off.” Luke glared up at Deacon for a few seconds before he leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling. “I ain’t lookin’ for you- I’m lookin’ for quiet.”

“I didn’t think you knew the meanin’ of the word.” Deacon couldn’t remember the last time Luke left something like that unanswered so he was stunned to get no answer. He leaned forward and studied Luke more carefully, saw the paleness of his skin, the slump of his shoulders, the softness in his eyes. He stepped in, as close as he thought he could get away with. “Are you okay?”

“Like you give a shit.”

“I do care, Luke- that’s the whole damn point.” Deacon placed the back a hand on Luke’s forehead- it was another sign of something being amiss when Luke only offered the bare minimum of protest. “You’re hot.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere.” Luke swatted Deacon’s hand away.

Deacon scoffed; he knew that was a lie- the quickest way to Luke Wheeler’s heart had always been right through his ego. His expression softened and he took a small step back.

“Luke, you’re sick.”

“I am not.”

“You look like shit…”

“You gave up on flattery awful quick, didn’t you?”

“… you’re hot, you came looking for quiet for the first time in your life and, no matter how pissed off you are at me, you are still here. Does that sound fine to you?”

“What the hell do you care for, anyway?” Luke lowered his head enough to glare at Deacon again.

“If you get sick, you don’t play. If you don’t play, the rest of us are out of a job.”

“So it’s all about you, huh?”

“Also, I don’t like seein’ you like this.” Deacon took advantage of Luke’s surprise to hook an arm around Luke’s waist and haul Luke to his feet.

“What the hell are you doing?” Luke tried to push Deacon away, but his arms weren’t cooperating.

“You won’t take care of yourself so, apparently, I’ve gotta do it for you.” Deacon didn’t let go, no matter how much Luke struggled against him.

“I don’t need you.” Luke shoved Deacon as hard as he could, not that it did any good.

“Okay.” Deacon stepped back and held his hands up. This wasn’t working. He would have to try something else. “Will you get some rest at least? And quit the beer for tonight? Make sure you can get out on stage tomorrow?”

“Fine.” Luke glared at Deacon for another few seconds before he turned away.

Deacon leaned against the wall and watched Luke walk about three steps away before he stopped again. He raised an eyebrow as Luke turned back to face him.

“You okay over there, cowboy?”

“You don’t get to call me that anymore.” Luke scowled at Deacon. “And no, I’m not okay- I’m gettin’ sick.” He tried to scowl again, but it came out more of a pout instead. “Obviously.”

“Uh huh.” Deacon pushed himself away from the wall and walked over to Luke. He reached out, but stopped just before he put his hands on Luke. “You need some help?”

“Maybe,” Luke muttered. He leaned in towards Deacon when Deacon wrapped an arm around him again. His eyes were starting to drift shut, but he still managed another glare at Deacon. “I’m still mad at you.”

“Yeah, I know.” Deacon started guiding Luke out of the room. “Let me take care of you anyway.”

--

Luke woke up feeling a thousand times better than he had the night before, but bitterness still clawed its way up his throat because Deacon did this. Deacon took care of him and there wasn’t supposed to be anything between them anymore, especially not something this good. He would rather have the anger that had served them so well for so long- at least he knew what he was doing with that. He knew he should still say ‘thank you’, though, if he could ever stomach the thought of facing Deacon again (and the idea of having the moral high ground that the first word would bring him did appeal), but that would be the end of whatever they had between them. Except even that wasn‘t without complications- people had already noticed that their newly patched up relationship had deteriorated and there was no way that any distance between them would just be ignored. He groaned and put a hand over his face- he spent the night getting rid of one budding headache and would hate for that to have been for nothing. He kicked the covers away and climbed out of bed. He started staggering towards the bathroom, trying to wipe the sleep from his eyes, but stopped in his tracks when he noticed Deacon sprawled over the chair in the corner of his room.

“What the hell are you doin’ here?”

“Someone had to make sure you didn’t die last night.” Deacon rubbed his eyes and stretched out. He sat back in the chair and looked at Luke.

“Right.” Luke sneered. “Can’t have you being out of a job, can we?” He took another step towards the bathroom and tried to breathe through his clenched teeth.

“Luke, can you please…”

“What?” Luke glared back over his shoulder. “Be nicer?” He squeezed his eyes shut for a second before he opened them again. “Thank you for making sure I survived the night- you can leave now.” He pressed the heels of his hands to his forehead, when Deacon didn’t show any signs of moving. “Deacon, please leave.”

“Luke…”

“No!” Luke banged his hand on the wall and spun around to face Deacon. “You wanted to be done; we were done. You cannot go back on it now; it isn’t fair.” He pointed towards the door. “Go!”

“No.”

“Deacon, I swear to God…”

“Luke, I’m not tryin’ to make this hard on you, I swear, and I know you have no reason to listen to me, but will you please just hear me out?” Deacon’s gaze flicked between Luke’s eyes. “Then you never have to see me again.”

Luke wanted to tell Deacon to leave, that never seeing him again was exactly what he wanted or that he wouldn’t believe any of this so called explanation anyway, but he couldn’t make the words come out. His shoulders dropped and he cursed himself. He perched on the edge of the bed and stared at Deacon.

“Start talkin’ and make it quick.”

“Okay.” The hint of a smile made its way onto Deacon’s lips and he watched Luke for a few seconds before speaking. “You are the only person in my life that I don’t have to lie to. You might be the biggest lie I’ve ever told anyone else, but you have seen every single part of me and, no, I don’t mean that literally. There isn’t a damn thing I can’t say to you and that doesn’t change just because I’m not good at sayin’ anythin’.”

Luke wished he could look anywhere else because seeing the way that Deacon was hunched over and wringing his hands together was starting to make it difficult to stay mad.

“That is the biggest kind of freedom I can imagine, Luke. I need that. I need you.”

“Then why do…” Luke bit his bottom lip, until the wave of emotion passed and he thought he could speak without his voice cracking. “Why do you keep tryin’ to get away from me?”

“I’m not tryin’ to get away from you. It’s the…”

“The sex?” Luke rolled his eyes. “We did it- you can say it.”

“Yeah.” Deacon kept his eyes fixed on Luke, even as the blush crept up his cheeks. “It’s the sex that has to stop and I know you know that, too, but I was wrong about the rest- it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Somewhere between the shoutin’ and the late nights and the sneakin’ around, I learned how to care about you. I can do that from the other side of the world for as long as you’re mad at me, if that’s you want, but I think we’re too old for that.”

“So what? We pretend we didn’t do half of what we did and just be best friends instead?” Luke shook his head. “That can’t be how this works.”

“Well, I think we should try, but I guess you’re gonna have to make your own decision.”

Chapter Text

Deacon had half expected never to hear from Luke again- no matter how many times he tried to explain, he didn’t think there would ever be any placating Luke’s anger. Not that he was ever going to give up- he was hanging around during Luke’s sound checks again, though he had stopped the constant staring and shameless flirting that he had been engaging in before, even if he so desperately wanted to still be doing exactly that. He had texted Luke a few times and even tried to call, but never got an answer. He wanted Luke in his life, in whatever capacity he could get him, even if the lack of acknowledgement he had gotten was making that look increasingly unlikely.

Until tonight, when Deacon got a text from Luke, asking him to come up to his hotel room.

Deacon would have been relieved to finally hear from Luke, but he had received those texts before- hell, he’d sent a few of them- and they always ended with them tumbling into bed or to the floor or into the shower. He couldn’t do that anymore, no matter how much his fingers ached to reach out and touch Luke. He wanted to ignore the message, to keep that part of their relationship in the past, where it belonged, but he couldn’t pretend that the first contact he’d had from Luke in days was nothing. He headed upstairs, determined not to fall back on bad habits, no matter what Luke looked like when he opened the door. He knocked on Luke’s door and waited for an answer, still muttering to himself about staying strong.

“You’re late.”

“You’re drunk.” Deacon noticed the bottle of beer dangling from Luke’s hand before he looked up at Luke’s face.

“Not yet, but I’m gettin’ there.” Luke stepped back and pushed the door open. “Come in.”

“Luke.” Deacon took a deep breath. This was it. This was where he had to be his strongest, to make it absolutely clear that he would not, under any circumstances, ever be falling back into bed with Luke again. “I didn’t come to…”

“To fuck me?” Luke rolled his eyes and took a swig of his beer. “That’s not why I invited you up here- I am capable of thinkin’ with things other than my dick, you know.”

Deacon pulled his head back and stared at Luke with wide eyes- he had expected more of a fight than that. Hell, he half expected to be reminding Luke, for the rest of his life, why they could never have sex again.

“You said friends, right?” Luke scuffed his shoe on the floor and stared up at Deacon through his eyelashes for a few seconds before he lifted his head again. “Well, we’re gonna do what friends do. We’re gonna sit on the couch and drink beer. Well, I’m gonna drink beer- a lot of beer ‘cause this is gonna be hell- and you’re gonna drink whatever shit you drink instead of beer. We’re gonna watch the game and…”

“What game?”

“How the fuck should I know? But we’re gonna sit there and watch it or whatever shit passes for TV these days. We’re gonna sit there, through all of the discomfort of knowin’ what we could be doin’ instead, knowin’ that we wanna be doin’ it, until it isn’t so goddamn weird anymore because if it’s a choice between this and nothin’, I will take this.”

Deacon stared at Luke for a minute. It seemed like the perfect solution- they could remove sex from the equation and still be left with parts of the relationship that he had learned to need- but, Luke was right, it was going to be hell because sex had been part of the equation, a part of the equation that neither of them wanted to lose, despite knowing that they had to give it up. He would be walking into dangerous territory, if he stepped through that door.

“So?”

“Like you said,” Deacon having spent most of his life in dangerous territory and desperate to keep Luke close, didn’t hesitate before he stepped forward and stopped next to Luke, “it’s this or nothing.”

Chapter Text

“It felt like you changed the rules on me.”

Deacon paused- that was the first thing outside of small talk that Luke had said to him in days. He turned his head to the side, but found that Luke was gazing at the television. He turned his head away again- it might be easier to have this conversation, if they weren’t face to face, anyway- but he still watched Luke through the corner of his eye.

“I’m sorry.” Deacon lowered his gaze. “That’s not what I was tryin’ to do.”

“Mmm.” Luke gave a brief nod. “Turns out you were right, though. God.” He leaned his head back and laughed. “Do you know how infuriatin’ that is?”

“About…” Deacon clamped his mouth shut almost as soon as he had opened it- his first instinct was still to shoot back a clever remark to anything that Luke said, but getting mouthy now would damage the fragile peace they were just starting to build.

“Go on. Say it.” Luke turned his head towards Deacon. One corner of his mouth tilted up. “About as infuriatin’ as anythin’ I’ve ever done, right?”

Deacon dipped his head to hide his smirk. He took a minute to get himself together before he lifted his head again. Any residual humour still lingering disappeared when he saw the downcast expression on Luke’s face. He started to reach out, but pulled his hand back before he touched Luke- he wanted to comfort Luke, but that would surely complicate things again, when they were just starting to figure out how to simplify them. He dug his fingers into his thighs to stop himself reaching out again.

“It wasn’t fair.”

It was on the tip of Deacon’s tongue to start justifying himself again, but he stopped before he said a word- he said his piece days ago; it was only fair that Luke got a turn to air his grievances.

“It doesn’t matter that you were right, it wasn’t fair. We got into it together- you don’t decide to get out of it on your own.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, you said that.” Luke ran a hand over his face. “We both said the damage was already done, right? As soon as we came back for more… Hell, as soon as we started this in the first place, we’d already caused all the hurt, but I…” He wrung his hands together. “I just didn’t see the point in givin’ up something that we both want and somethin’ that is so damn good.” He bit his bottom lip. “You can lie to me about that, if you want, but I ain’t gonna believe you.”

“You know damn well I can’t lie to you about that.” Deacon squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his teeth. “This ain’t easy for me either, you know.” He shifted round so that he was facing Luke. “Just because I’m determined doesn’t mean I wanna give up any of this, but…”

“Don’t.” Luke held a hand up. “I know exactly what you’re gonna say and just because sex is the only part of this we have to lose, doesn’t mean I have a damn clue how to unpick it from everythin’ else.”

“I should go.” Deacon rubbed his hands up and down his legs a few times before he started to get up. “I don’t wanna make things any more complicated than I already have.”

“I wish you’d stay.” Luke looked into Deacon’s eyes for the first time all night. “This is the most I’ve talked to someone in I can’t remember how long. Turns out I might need that maybe even more than the sex.” He lowered his gaze. “And it’s what friends do, right? And we could do that? We could really be friends?”

Deacon watched Luke for a minute. He knew that it would be hard- there would always be something more between them, no matter how far away from a shared bed they ever got- but didn’t that mean that whatever was left of their relationship was worth holding on to even more?

“Yeah,” Deacon dropped back into his seat on the couch, “I think we can.”