After well over a decade of working together, they share a flight for the first time.
It’s a short route, not two hours from gate to gate. Desmond manages to squeeze in a solid nap anyway; his head on Shaun’s shoulder, arms crossed over his chest, snoring lightly.
Shaun watches the steady rise and fall of his chest, his parted lips and thinks, I could get used to this.
The job isn’t—well, it’s not a total clusterfuck, but it would take far more than his limited bullshit skills to call it good. What was supposed to be a six-week job stretches up to nine weeks within the first two, then three months before even the first month wraps up—all thanks to a certain idiot and his “quitting while ahead”. By the time the first leg of the job is done, he’s thoroughly fed up with sea food he can’t even pronounce the names of and sleeping on fucking cots.
He keeps going anyway, because that’s what he does and because Desmond promises to cook him everything he wants after the job.
“Just give me a list,” he says, rough and tired through the line. “We’ll have a feast the day you get back.”
“If I do get back,” Shaun grumbles, rubbing that throbbing spot over his brow with his free hand. One day without a headache—he’s not asking for much. Just one bloody day. “Feels like I’ll be working this job forever.”
“Can the employer even afford you that long?”
“Desmond, this is Elina Berg we’re talking about. She could afford my soul.”
A pause. “You wouldn’t quit?”
He might have, had he not put most of his available money on a trip he’s not even sure Desmond will say yes to. That’s not a question he wants to ask over the phone, though. “It wouldn’t be smart,” he says instead. “There’s a reason they make those contracts so long.”
In the silence that follows, he can hear faint notes of that one Taylor Swift song Desmond won’t get tired of; then Desmond’s soft sigh. “I just miss you.”
“I know.” He glances back at the door, still closed by some miracle. “Listen, I need to get back before someone starts wondering where I disappeared off to; but we’ll talk again soon, all right?”
“All right,” Desmond mutters.
When he gets back to the main room, the files he said he would get under his arm, there isn’t a single person in sight. He puts—doesn’t throw—the files on the conference table and sits back in front of his laptop with a freshly soured mood.
That dessert you made for Clay’s birthday last year
With that weird filling
First of all, that
As soon as he can afford to, he hands the reigns to Evie—the only sane person among the whole crew, swear to god—and books a ticket on the first flight back. There’s nothing left that he can’t do with a reliable internet connection and, quite frankly, he doesn’t think he can get through the rest of the job without punching someone.
“Just go,” Evie says, waving off his excuses. “We all had about enough of your pining anyway.”
First of all, he does not pine—and even if he did—which he doesn’t, but even if he did, why is he the one getting teased about it? Schut-Cunningham has been walking around like his dog died ever since Harlan went to lend a hand on-site. Well, all right, he can see why no one makes any snide comments around him—but everyone knows about the nightly video chats her own brother is having; why does no one mention that? Why does no one talk about the rapid-fire click-click-clicking of the Frenchman’s phone under the conference table? It’s always Shaun smiling down at his phone, Shaun sneaking away, hey look, Shaun is moping again.
Idiots, the lot of them.
He can’t sleep.
On a normal day, he wouldn’t even try. He prefers not to call it paranoia, but running jobs centred around duping marks during travel time does have a way of stealing one’s ability to fall asleep in any public area. On the other hand, on a normal day, he would be well-rested and well-prepared to spend half a day up in the air, with enough mindless media at hand to waste time with—not running on two hours of sleep, wearing yesterday’s work clothes or grateful for crappy airplane food, of all things.
Desmond isn’t home when he enters, which, on a Saturday-night-come-Sunday-morning, is disappointing but not particularly surprising. Still a lazy fuck when it comes to any job they take together, but he’ll stay in until sunrise and beyond for his bar, no problem.
It’s rather cute, actually.
Not that he’ll ever say it to Desmond’s face. No need for further encouragement.
He fishes out his phone and types: I’m home, w
Types: I’m at your
Types: You lost all rights to call me a workaholic, just so you know.
Hits send before he can delete that as well and throws the phone aside to take that shower he desperately needs. The sooner he can get the reek of the job off himself, the better.
He wakes all at once, his skin prickling like he passed too close to a naked wire, his hair standing on end.
“Sorry,” comes a hoarse whisper from behind him. The mattress dips and creaks as Desmond climbs in beside him, a silhouette in the dim room. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”
“’s okay,” Shaun fucking lies. His heart is still hammering in his chest. “What’s the time?”
“Early. Go back to sleep.”
When he wakes again, the sun is shining bright on the other side of the closed curtains. The spot beside him is empty.
Desmond turns up in the kitchen—because of course he turns up in the kitchen. He’s standing in front of the counter in nothing but boxers and an apron, mixing something in a bowl sitting on the crook of his elbow while a pot rests on the stove—switched-off—on his other side. The coffee machine is blinking red in the corner, an empty coffee cup in front of it.
He doesn’t make a conscious decision to cross the room; he just thinks Desmond—then he’s hugging Desmond from behind, as tightly as he can without suffocating him, nose buried in the crook of his neck. Desmond’s morning smell hasn’t improved one bit, but hell if he is complaining.
“Morning,” Desmond greets him on a chuckle, squeezing Shaun’s forearm on his stomach.
Shaun just grunts in answer.
Desmond laughs again, bright and warm—the best thing he has heard in months. God, the tinny mock-up he’d been making do with did no justice to the real thing. “Right, no words before morning coffee. I forgot.”
The coffee machine beeps right then, as if perking up at its name.
Shaun ignores it entirely and moulds himself deeper onto Desmond’s back, taking another deep breath.
“Shaun,” Desmond prompts again, amusement still colouring his tone. “If you want coffee, you’ll have to let me go.”
He doesn’t, not really. He lets Desmond go anyway.
While Desmond takes out another cup from the overhead cupboards, Shaun peers at the bowl left on the counter, which turns out to hold not-quite-dough. In the pot is chunks of… something that looks like chocolate but doesn’t smell anything like it. “What are we making?”
Right. He had forgotten all about that.
“The dessert part, at least,” Desmond continues, glaring at him over the coffee pot. “I don’t have the ingredients for the rest in hand, because someone didn’t bother telling me that he was returning early.”
“Someone wanted to surprise his boyfriend. I didn’t know it was a crime.”
The glower is rather ruined by the bright, bashful smile that slowly takes over Desmond’s face. The sight leaves him giddy of all things, the feeling a sharp contrast to the strange weight hooked right under his ribs that hasn’t gone away since he woke up with Desmond’s smell on his pillow. He doesn’t know what to make of it—any of it, hasn’t felt so unsettled by a feeling since—
Desmond comes back over with the cups, the heavy scent of coffee mixing with that of the pot. He doesn’t bother passing him the hot cup and puts them both on the counter instead, meeting his eyes briefly.
Shaun isn’t sure what his face is doing, but Desmond's smile fades away into a frown. “What’s wrong?”
Shaun just shakes his head. “Nothing,” he sighs—and is mildly surprised to find that it’s true. He feels a bit dazed, feels nervous and shaken and entirely unprepared for the word that keeps flashing in his mind—but none of the panic, the urge to run away that he would’ve expected to feel when this day came. No uncertainty.
Perhaps he’s growing as a person.
Desmond doesn’t look convinced, open concern still lining his face. Shaun smiles—so easy—and extends a hand, not all that sure what he intends with the gesture. Desmond takes it as beckoning, pressing close and fitting himself into Shaun’s side somehow, his arm around Shaun’s waist. With his other, he reaches over to switch the stove on, then rummages through the top drawer for a wooden spoon.
Really, it would take nothing at all to get used to this.
“Hey,” he says, an unwelcome lump at the back of his throat. Desmond looks up from poking at the chunks in the pot and smiles. “Look, I know I’m not… good at this. Being, um—” A good boyfriend. “—affectionate.” God, he’s pathetic. “But—I do miss you when I’m away. You know that, right?”
Desmond rolls his eyes, but it feels half-hearted somehow. A touch of colour rushes up his cheeks, so faint that Shaun would’ve missed it if they weren’t standing so close. “Of course I do,” he says softly. “I mean, I kinda figured it out when my hoodie went mysteriously missing at the baggage claim—don’t even,” he adds on a laugh, jabbing him at the chest with a finger. Shaun shuts his mouth. “I know I didn’t leave it behind. Don’t make me go through your luggage; you know I will.”
Well. He wouldn’t pass that inspection.
The dessert tastes even better than he remembered.
Their second helpings in hand, they relocate to the couch. By all means, there isn’t nearly enough space for two grown men to lie down properly, but they manage to get somewhat comfortable with Desmond sitting with his back against the armrest, Shaun between his legs.
Desmond grabs the remote from the coffee table before Shaun can even make the attempt. “My TV, my rules,” he says unapologetically, zapping through channels faster than Shaun can identify individual scenes. Shaun makes only the token protest before simply settling deeper into Desmond’s chest.
They settle on a rerun of Monteriggioni, an episode from long after Shaun stopped watching. At least, he doesn’t remember the main character to be this old—or the redhead he’s piling books in front of.
“That’s Sofia,” Desmond explains around a spoon when he asks. “He’s been trying to get into her pants, like, the whole season.”
“By bringing her books?” Doesn’t seem to be working out for him.
“Basically. Old books, some maps, whatever.”
Shaun scoffs. “I’ve been dating the wrong bloke.”
Desmond kicks his shin lightly. “You’d choose the fifteenth century playboy over me?” he asks—offended, Shaun could think, if it weren’t for the faintest hint of something in his tone.
“Well, he has a certain charm,” Shaun muses aloud—feels a ridiculous rush of thrill when Desmond’s free arm curls tighter around him, pulling him impossibly closer.
Desmond runs the tip of his nose along the side of Shaun’s neck, breath hot on damp skin. “Charm, huh?”
Shaun shrugs nonchalantly, suppressing his grin. “I mean, the artist, the engineer, now the—what, bookkeeper? Bookshop owner? There must be a reason so many smart people are drawn to him.” Tilts his head as Desmond trails kisses up his neck, under his ear with the barest scrape of stubble. “He clearly knows his way around a sword, too.”
“I know my way around a sword, too.”
Shaun tries very, very hard not to laugh.
It’s not entirely successful.
“What?” Desmond whines, though there’s laughter in his voice, too. “It wasn’t that bad, come on.”
It was that bad. Not Desmond’s worst—a running joke about peanuts comes to mind—but a strong contender for bottom ten. He’d rather get laid tonight, though; so he just shakes his head and lets Desmond tilt his head around for a proper kiss, the show already forgotten.