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Icarus, Burning

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ix.
you know what will happen
and you do it anyway.
you burn because this is what
it means to love. this is what
it means to fly.

x.
recall the tale of icarus.
choose to be icarus.

- Natalie Wee, 'Patroclus Dreaming'

Interior Circle – Four Years Later

The command centre of the Banshee is quiet.

Hird is perched against a control console, ankles crossed, arms folded. She is watching Attien fade slowly from view, as they leave its atmosphere behind. Up in the flight deck Steve is quietly coordinating the ship's launch into the H.O.P., but the rest of the crew have made themselves scarce.

“So,” she says at last to the room in general, “I don't think that could have gone any better.”

“I think we could have afforded to give a little more leeway on the issue of centralised processing for gharvium ore, but – ”

She snorts, not bothering to turn her head. “Stop fishing for fucking compliments. That went well and you know it.” She grins at the irritated sigh she gets in response. “I mean, I suppose we could have sold you off to the Primature as part of the bargain, and sealed the deal on at least a hundred years of tax-free trade.”

“I think you may have been met with some resistance to that idea.”

“Yeah.” She squints out of the window. “I think I would have been gutted if I'd turned up without you. Your husband's the jealous type.”

“My husband is perfectly rational, thank you. If you think I wouldn't do the same if he ran off with a Primature from Attien, I don't know what to tell you.”

Squinting too hard is giving Hird a headache. She gives up on trying to pick out familiar planets and turns to grin at Samiel. “Oh, you'd be worse,” she says.

He frowns, the lines of his mouth stubborn. “I wouldn't.”

“Ah.” She examines her nails casually. “So that little incident two years ago with the Alloi and the alliance proposal was a fluke, was it?”

“That was a misunderstanding.”

“A misunderstanding where you got her around the throat and threatened to ram a cocktail umbrella into her eye?”

He glares. “She wouldn't take no for an answer.”

“It turned a fucking boring evening into a great night out,” Hird says happily. “But it might have been a little bit of an overreaction.”

“That's rich coming from you.”

She sighs, long and disappointed. “Somewhere in the last two years, I had hoped you would have learnt this valuable lesson: it's do as I say, not as I do.”

Samiel crosses to stand next to her. When she turns a little, his shoulder presses against hers, warm and a bit comforting. “I thought your best lesson was, 'always accessorize any outfit with at least one improvised weapon'?”

“Another valuable piece of knowledge,” she admits. “Even I can agree the chain link belt was a fucking stroke of genius, when – ”

The noise Samiel makes is low; gleeful. “He had it coming.”

“He did.” Hird rubs a hand across her jaw, and she can't quite cover her grin. “That was a good day.”

“Minimal explosions, a hostage rescued, and a team to share the victory with.” He shrugs. “It's definitely on the higher end of my list of good assignments.”

“You fucking sap,” she says, and flutters her eyelashes at him when he glares.

The truth is that two years together have bonded them in a way nothing else could. When Hird finally resigned from the Air Force, she found to her horror that she'd been teamed up with Samiel Athannus. She hadn't been impressed, and Ssafyr hadn't let her argue.

Now she can at least say in all honesty that it has been an experience.

“So,” Samiel says, as she considers this. He stops and clears his throat. When she meets his gaze he looks momentarily awkward; a little lost. “That was – ”

“Yeah,” Hird says thoughtfully. “I fucking know.” She nudges him with her elbow. “Hey,” she adds gently, “two years. It's gone faster than I thought.”

“Four,” he says quietly. “It's – ”

Her elbow digs a little harder into his side. “I know,” she repeats.

As it enters the H.O.P., the Banshee hums under her feet. She knows every inch of her ship; every noise and curve of it. She can tell when the engines need a tune-up, just by the way their emissions waver. She was born in space and never left it – a stupid kid who wanted to see the stars and found a home amongst them.

She's got a ship and a crew, and she's held up her end of the bargain.

Just do me the favour of reporting to me in person, before you leave, Ssafyr had said, and she'd meant it.

Hird has three more days to get back to Attica Prime, then the Banshee is hers. She's got most of her family with her already, and endless possibility stretched out in front of her.

But –

She takes a deep breath. “So,” she says. “Four years of service. Are you worried?”

Samiel's mouth twists; an absolute giveaway that she's never told him about. “No.”

“You're a fucking liar,” she says comfortably. “You damn well are.”

“Hird.” He's back to glaring at her. “There's nothing to be worried about.”

Hird points a finger at him. “My thoughts precisely. Except I can hear that little brain of yours squeaking away as its wheels turn. 'What if I don't know what to do as a civilian?' it's saying. 'What if six months from now this is a terrible mistake?'”

“That's – ”

“'When we're together all the time, what if he realises he doesn't want me?'” she adds, and knows she's hit home when he flinches.

“I don't know where you're getting these ideas from.”

“Two places,” she says, holding up a hand to list her points off on her fingers. “One: you should be jumping for joy right now, and you're not. You're panicking. You're two weeks overdue on your exit date, and normally you'd be crawling on your hands and knees to get to wherever he is.”

“And two?”

Hird huffs out a sigh. “And two: I'm thinking the same fucking things. So.”

Samiel considers this for a while. “Are you really nervous?” he asks at last, and the surprise in his voice softens her attitude in a way nothing else would.

“Of course I fucking am,” she says sternly. “You're not the only one about to chuck in everything you know.”

“Oh.” He rubs a hand across the back of his neck, looking awkward. “I didn't realise.”

“That's because for once I'm not as much of an idiot as you,” Hird says smugly, and revels in the sullen expression on his face.

“I just – ” Samiel shrugs. “Logically, I know I'm doing the right thing. That he wants this. Me. But on the other hand it's – ”

“The rest of your life and it's fucking scary,” Hird says, and she's not exactly gentle but she's trying to be. “I know.”

“I love him,” Samiel says helplessly. “I love him so much. But he's built a life, a home. He has so many things he's doing, and I'm on the periphery of that.”

Hird tilts her head back, considering the ceiling as she thinks this through. “He has built that,” she says, “and so have you.” She holds up a hand as she hears him start to disagree. “Shut up. Every argument you could apply to him, you could turn on yourself as well.”

“That's – ”

“You've got a life, friends, a team that looks after you. If you wanted to stay on the Banshee, I'd fucking let you in a heartbeat and you know it. You've been out in the universe, doing fuck knows what, and he's been waiting for you. He's been building that home for you.”

She straightens, dropping her head down as she turns to look at him. “The only thing you're really scared of, is that it's the next step in your life.”

Samiel stares at her. “Coming from you, that's practically profound.”

“Oh, fuck you,” she says comfortably.

“Hird – ”

“No. Shut up.” Hird says, because she can stand anything, but she actually can't stand the way he's looking at her, soft and grateful. “And if he ever hurts you, I'm coming to carve his liver from him a piece at a time.”

She pushes away from the console and swings around to watch him. This close they are nearly eye to eye. She takes a moment to study him: the ridiculous mop of his hair, the slight tilt of his head. He's a Lenian and he's everything she's unbearably fond of.

“Ah fuck,” she says, resigned. “I was going to do this in a much more dramatic way.”

“What?” Samiel asks, puzzled.

Hird takes a step back. “I got special dispensation for this and everything.” She snaps her fingers. “So, get down on your knees.”

Cautiously, he does. It's a measure of his trust that he doesn't even question it. “What am I doing?” he asks, tilting his head back to look at her.

For a moment she revels in being the tallest person in the room again. “As you're told.” She clears her throat importantly, just to watch the way annoyance flickers across his face. She's going to miss him and his predictability, and the thought is enough to sober her.

Hird has memorised this; practised it via holo with Ssafyr. She'd wanted to do this for him, because in spite of his nerves – in spite of everything – she had wanted to be there for him. If it had been Ssafyr it would have been private, and Hird had wanted someone who cared to be the one to let him go.

“Keryx Athannus,” she says formally. “Bound by the traditions of our mothers, you have served. By our codes and our customs, you have acted with honour. You have never deserted our allies, nor brought dishonour when bearing our arms.” She watches his eyes widen, understanding dawning as he swallows hard.

“Sworn to our service, you have completed your allotted time.” Hird draws a deep breath in, then another. He's staring at her, the look on his face stunned. “The Archons thank you for your efforts. You are released from your vow.”

It's done. Like ripping off a plaster, and they're both left blinking in the aftermath of it. He's still on his knees at her feet, and she's looming over him.

“What?” he says at last. “I thought – ”

“Yeah, well.” She holds out her hand and he takes it automatically, letting her pull him up. “I figured what the hell, we're closer to Elysium here than if we went all the way back to Attica Prime first.”

He's still holding her hand. For a moment his grip tightens on her fingers, almost to the point of pain. “Hird – ”

Hird squeezes back. “I know,” she says.

The hug he pulls her into is rough. He holds her hard, arms clamped around her as he clings on. Hird buckles a little, letting the point of her chin dig into his shoulder as she hugs back.

It's strange, and a little sad. She's going to miss him more than she'd like to admit.

“Come on,” she says hoarsely, when he doesn't let go. “Let's take you home.”

*

Kathikas is a small settlement on Elysium.

It is an hour from the main city of Idalion, tucked away in the low hills. It's composed mainly of a low sprawl of prefab houses, with fields running down to the sea. It's built over older civilisations, ancient ones, and the white rocks of its landscape are embedded in the dusty green of the countryside. There is a deceptive calm to it. Its population is not as big as Idalion – the heart of it not quite as bustling – but it's large enough. You could lose yourself among the people if you needed to; walk the winding streets of its urban sprawl and disappear entirely, if you wanted.

It's warm, and sunny, and thriving, and it's Benjamin Hallivard's home.

In the beginning, he'd helped a lot with the improvement of Kathikas. Four years ago, the settlement had been small and not very interesting. Quiet, and no more than a couple of buildings scattered in the countryside. With the Songbird Pact came the resettlement of humans and Lenians alike, and Kathikas had looked like an attractive option. It had taken time for people to connect, and it certainly hadn't always been easy.

Benjamin had done what he could, when he could. He'd discovered along the way that he quite liked building something new, in a small and specific way.

Unity has been a struggle, and they aren't all the way there yet. But Kathikas is a community, in a way that Idalion is not.

The marketplace is the best example of it.

It's only mid-morning, but people are already out in number and the crowds are still growing. Between the residents and the weather, the main square is already turning into heated chaos.

Benjamin elbows his way past two Lenians, who are idling near a spare parts stall. He's after an extra lamp, because the other side of the bedroom gets darker at night, and –

Well.

“Benji!” Jane says when she sees him. She leans across her display to smack a kiss to his cheek. “I haven't seen you all week.”

Benjamin grins. “You know how it is. You sit down to review trade protocols for the new line of shipments coming from Lenia, and next time you look up it's three days later.”

“You work too hard,” she scolds. “Disappearing for days at a time; missing Delea's birthday last week; away the month before that...”

Benjamin holds up his hands. “I know, I know,” he says. “Believe me, if I could have been at Delea's birthday, I would have.”

Jane points a spanner at him. “You owe her an extra birthday cake,” she says warningly. “I'm just saying. It's the first time the poor woman's been exposed to human birthday traditions, and you missed her blowing out her candles. Now, she'll have to do it again.”

“I'll be there,” Benjamin promises. “Tea next week?”

“I'll be bringing Amias,” Jane threatens, and laughs at the face he pulls.

“Do you have to?”

“The only way to build understanding – ” she begins.

“Is to begin by interacting.” He rolls his eyes. “Alright, you don't need to parrot my own words back at me.”

“Well sometimes you need to hear them,” Jane says. She drops the spanner back on the workbench and wipes her hands on her overalls. “Especially when it comes to Amias.”

Benjamin sighs. “I sometimes worry that any more interaction with Amias will foster a little too much understanding.”

“He's not all bad!”

“That's your opinion,” Benjamin says diplomatically. “I couldn't possibly comment.”

“Spoken like a true trade negotiator.”

He shrugs. “I have to keep in practice somehow.”

“Well use your pretty words on someone else,” Jane says. “You're not wriggling out of this.”

Benjamin laughs, and for the first time today he feels the tension across his shoulders ease. “I surrender,” he says. “I'll be there with bells on. Just don't sit me next to him, or I won't be held responsible for my actions.”

“Deal,” she says. “Even if I do think you two would get along perfectly well if you'd – ”

“No,” Benjamin says shortly.

“I'm just saying, I really think he – ”

“We've been over this,” Benjamin says, and the tension is beginning to creep back in as he spots her incredulous expression. “I'm not interested.”

“But he is.”

“You don't know that. And,” he continues, as she opens her mouth to protest, “it's irrelevant. He's not who I want, and he never will be.”

Jane throws up her hands in exasperation. “Well, who do you want Benji? Because in the last four years you haven't gone on one date, or shown interest in anyone.”

“That's because I don't need anyone,” he says steadily.

“That's a lie and you know it,” Jane says. “For as long as I've known you, Benjamin Hallivard, you've had one eye on the horizon. It's like you're always waiting, and I don't know who for.”

“It's... complicated,” he admits reluctantly, and knows it's the most she's got out of him in nearly four years. “Just trust me. Please?”

He can see the moment she relents, her expression softening in the face of his insistence. “Alright,” she says slowly. “But you can't spend the rest of your life waiting, Benji. I hope whoever he is, he's coming.”

Benjamin sighs. For a moment he feels unbearably weary, thinking on it. The last four years are a heavy weight, dragging at the lodestone in his chest. It's been nearly twelve months since they last saw each other. Two days snatched in a halfway point, between the end of one mission and the start of the next. They hadn't even made it to Kathikas, although they'd both wanted to.

And in spite of that – in spite of the time and the distance – if he were to close his eyes now, he could still point to his true north.

But that true north has been on radio silence for the last six months, and is now two weeks overdue.

If something has happened I would know, he reasons.

“I hope so too,” he says aloud, and sees the scepticism in Jane's eyes.

To her credit she doesn't push further. Instead, she leans across and grips his shoulder once, hard. “Now,” she says, “what exactly were you here to buy?”

“A lamp,” Benjamin says, and doesn't show his relief at the change of the subject. “Only a small one; something to put on a bedside table.”

She hums thoughtfully. “I've got a glascenger five, somewhere in the back of the storeroom. It's a bit busted up, but I'm sure I can – ”

There's a vibration in his heartbeat. The first pang of a footfall hitting the earth. It is as loud as thunder; a cacophony that drowns all else out. Jane is still talking somewhere distantly, muffled under the slow, deep song in his soul.

“Oh,” Jay says, and finds his hands are trembling.

“– alright? Benji? Benji?”

“I – ” Jay runs a hand through his hair. “No, I – ” The steel thread in his chest is spooling loose; a bruising ache suddenly gone sweetly numb. His breath catches in his throat and he turns, frantic.

“What – ”

“He's here,” Jay says, dazed. “He's here and I – ”

“Who?” she tries to take hold of his arm and he shakes her off without even thinking. “Benjamin, who are you – ”

“I have to – ” he stumbles back a step, looks up and doesn't even really see her. “I have to – ”

He turns, ignoring her alarm, and begins to shoulder his way through the crowd.

There is a low pull in Jay's gut; an urgent thread, tugging him to where he needs to go. It's instinctive; dangerous. He nearly knocks over three people and a stall, trying to follow it. For every heartbeat it's urging him faster, a ruthless force that he's desperate to obey.

The pull is coming from the direction of the transport station, and he heads towards it.

He's almost reached the edge of the square – has nearly broken free of the crush of people – when everything slams to a complete stop.

It's ringing silence, and blessed relief.

Oh, something says in him, there you are.

Slowly, he turns.

In one corner of the main square there is a jiliss tree. It had been a gift, given by an envoy from Maa-Tarek sometime in the first year after the Songbird Pact. It has grown beautifully in the climate of Kathikas, its branches spreading to create a cool canopy.

Under the tree there is a stone bench.

On the bench, there is a Lenian.

The hood of his robes is pulled up against the sun, his head bowed as he stares at the dusty white of the cobbles. The leather of his boots is scuffed, as though he has been running, and the slope of his shoulders is dejected.

Because of the way he is sitting, Jay can't see his face.

It doesn't matter though, because he knows the lines of that body like he knows the back of his own hand. He's kissed the point of that chin, and left bruises in the beautiful curve of that neck and shoulder. He would know him simply by the way his fingers drum against one thigh; from the slow inhalation of his breath.

Jay's moving before he even realises it.

The heat resting under his breastbone is an unrelenting burn. He's half running, as he shoves through a group of shoppers and out the other side, ignoring the sharp cries of frustration in his wake.

He's ten steps away when Samiel shoots to his feet, one hand shoving back the hood of his robes as he looks around, frantic.

His gaze lands on Jay and he moves.

He's fast, he always has been, and it still catches Jay off guard. Three long strides and Samiel's there, slamming into him so hard that they stagger.

“Jason,” he's saying. “Jason, mio ades.” His hands are greedy; desperate.

“Samiel,” Jay says, because it's the only word he has left. He knows people are watching the spectacle they are making, and he doesn't care. He can't get close enough, sinking his fingers into Samiel's hair and pulling.

The noise Samiel makes is broken. He's pushing forward even as Jay pulls; palming the back of Jay's neck and pressing quick, desperate kisses anywhere he can reach.

“I'm sorry,” he says in the breaths between. “The mission overran and we were – ”

“It's alright, it's alright. You're here. You're – ” Jay can't even finish the sentence; can't stop himself from kissing back. He hauls Samiel closer, no finesse to it, and kisses him deeply.

He's savage where he wanted to be tender; greedy where he thought he'd exercise restraint. He knows he's bruising Samiel's lips with the pressure, and wants to see them rubbed-raw and tender, because he did that. Because Samiel is here.

He hadn't let himself think of maybe; hadn't stopped to consider that Samiel might not come back to him at all. It was inconceivable and he had trusted in them.

But it hadn't stopped the first splinters of worry, when Samiel's exit date came and went and there had been no word.

It hadn't stopped the uncertainty, when he'd called Ssafyr and she'd gently advised there'd been a delay.

Logically, he has always known this day would come. But logic has had nothing to do with the interminable wait for now. For this.

Samiel's grip is tight on the nape of his neck, the pressure of his fingertips bruising. His other hand is fisted in the front of Jay's shirt. He's trembling faintly, on the knife edge of too much and nowhere near enough.

Jay's lungs are burning; he needs to breathe but he can't. He can't leave Samiel's mouth alone; can't stop himself from biting down, feeling the soft give of Samiel's lower lip. As he does, Samiel trills, low pitched and perfect. It comes from the back of his throat, the vibrations swallowed up between them as Jay wrenches him closer.

“Jason,” Samiel says again, and this time it mostly comes out as a garbled mess, tangled around the way Jay won't let up, even for a moment.

Jay presses against the long line of his body, winding his fingers tighter in those familiar curls. Samiel's kissing back harder now. Whatever thought he had intended to voice is lost, buried as he prises Jay's lips apart, sliding closer as though he could devour him.

It's not normally like this. Normally, there is some rationality left in Jay; some cautious temperance when he and Samiel meet after time apart. The truth is, they are not designed to be separated. They have kept some level of distance to maintain their sanity.

Now, though.

Now.

The idea is screaming through the bond between them. An unbearable, addictive note of minealwaysatlast. It comes from one of them, from both of them. It's the unbearable truth. They have this, and suddenly it is permanent.

“Oh!” Samiel gasps, tearing himself backward. “We need to – ”

Jay has just enough logic left to understand what he means. They need to be somewhere safe; somewhere quiet. They are making utter fools of themselves, in the middle of the settlement they both want to live in. People are still watching.

It should make him burn with embarrassment and it doesn't. Look, he wants to say instead. Look at this. You wanted to know what I was waiting for? This is it, and it is mine.

How could anything else compare? How could anyone be stupid enough to think he would give this up? This beautiful, wonderful man is his, and no one else's. It makes him want to drag Samiel around the nearest corner; to push him against a wall. He wants to get on his knees and worship, because he gets to have this.

Because Samiel came back to him.

He can't help it: he reels Samiel back in and isn't at all surprised when he meets with absolutely no resistance. “Home,” he manages, the sound swallowed up as Samiel sighs, utterly taken with the idea of it. “Let's go home.”

“Please,” Samiel says, between one kiss and the next. “Please, yes.”

*

They crash through the door of the house, nearly tripping over one another.

The journey hasn't dulled anything; hasn't stopped them. One of Samiel's arms gets tangled in his robes in their haste, and he lets go of Jay long enough to strip it off. It gets tossed to one side, landing with a crash as it overturns a lamp in one corner of the hallway. Jay would complain, except he's too busy kicking his shoes off, not caring where they land either.

He can't wait more than a moment though, sliding into Samiel's space again and pushing. He steers him backwards, both of them trying not to trip over. He kisses him once, twice, and breathes against him, inhaling that glorious scent of sunshine.

“The bedroom's – ” he begins.

“I know,” Samiel says. “I know. I – ”

He helped choose this place, three years ago. He'd seen it once when they signed for it, and not at all since. Until now, it has been Jay's; from today it's going to be theirs.

“I hate the bathroom,” Jay says, ridiculously, sliding his hands over Samiel's shoulders and pushing again. “I hate it. We're going to change it.”

“What?” Samiel says. Then, “Of course, anything.” He dips in, kissing Jay again. They can barely part; both obsessively greedy for more of this, for the taste of each other.

The bedroom door, then, and Jay fumbles it open with one hand, the other holding hard on the line of Samiel's neck. “Four more steps,” he says into Samiel's mouth. “Four more – ”

The backs of Samiel's knees hit the mattress and he topples over, not quite managing to keep his grip on Jay. He lands hard, the breath pushed from his lungs. “You could have – ”

“But this way is much more fun,” Jay says. He takes a moment to look, and oh, it's a pretty sight.

Samiel's sprawled on his back, propped up on his elbows, legs spread. Now he's out of his robes, Jay can see he's not wearing a traditional tunic underneath, only a soft black shirt, open at the neck. It shows off the line of his collarbones; the bronze of his skin. He's still got his boots on and he's utterly debauched.

His curls are rumpled – a mess made by Jay's enthusiastic fingers. His lips are red, swollen from too many kisses and not enough time between. He's a perfect picture; pretty and willing and Jay's.

“Nice trousers,” is all Jay manages, because it's the truth, and he's finding it hard to speak around the want in his throat.

Samiel laughs breathlessly, head back, throat bared and God, does Jay want to crawl onto him. “You love these trousers.”

It's true, Jay does. They're as soft and black as Samiel's shirt; but they're tight and the view is wonderful. “They do fantastic things for your arse,” he says, and he really can't help reaching down, palming the length of Samiel's cock through the front of them.

Samiel's hips hitch up once and he groans, low in his throat. “Well if you were aiming for it, you've missed.”

“No,” Jay says. “No, I really haven't.” He rubs again, mouth dry as he watches the way Samiel moves, slow and a filthy against the heel of his hand. “God, look at you.”

“Look at you,” Samiel counters, voice hoarse. He licks his lips and presses up harder into Jay's touch. “Look at you, mio ades. Still dressed, and desperate for it.”

He's right, and there's no shame in it. Jay drops his hand, ignoring the soft sound of disappointment Samiel makes, and begins to strip. “I'm not the only one,” he says, pulling his shirt over his head.

He gets rid of everything, shirt, trousers, socks. When he turns, Samiel is still sprawled in exactly the same place, watching everything.

It should be embarrassing, except Jay can feel the fierce interest thrumming under Samiel's skin; the echo of his arousal in the bond. It is shameless, fascinated. It has his breath coming shorter as he takes in the flex of Samiel's fingers, fisted in the covers of their bed.

“I always forget,” Samiel says. “When I'm away from you, I always forget how much I need you.” He bares his teeth, desperate, and the want is a punch in Jay's chest. “I must be mad, to ever pretend I don't want to live in you.”

“Fuck,” Jay says. He can't help his hand creeping down, brushing against the tip of his own cock. He grins as Samiel watches, avidly interested. “You'd think after four years – ” He breaks off, slides his fingers away from himself and moves forward.

He's crawling onto Samiel's lap before he's thought it through; spreading his thighs around the narrow width of Samiel's hips and pushing, until he's lying flat with Jay straddling him. He's naked but not vulnerable, and they're both desperate.

When he rocks down, the noise Samiel makes is infinitely satisfying. The sensation is blunted; dulled a little by the fact Samiel is still fully clothed.

“Jason,” Samiel says, and there is a moment where his fingers skim the edge of Jay's jaw. “Ah, I – ” he rubs a thumb down, pressing against Jay's lower lip. This time he swears, liquid loveliness to Jay's ears.

Jay leans down, mouth against Samiel's cheekbone. He smiles, and knows Samiel can feel it from the way his hands slip, gripping tight against Jay's hip bones. “You already know I shaved.”

“I'd forgotten,” Samiel says, breathless. “I'd forgotten how much I want to wreck you, when you look like this. Mas-Hain. Mas-Hain, and I – ” He keens, low in his throat, and Jay knows. Oh, does he know.

He presses his lips to Samiel's ear. He's bent over him, and vulnerable in the best possible way. “You did want to wreck me at the time,” he says, and every word is precise. “You wanted to work me open with your fingers, and bury yourself inside me, until I couldn't think of anything beyond you. Until there was nothing left but you. Isn't that right?”

It's wicked, he knows. A cruel torment, when he has Samiel at his mercy like this. He pulls back and gets Samiel's hands in his own, pushing them into the mattress by his head. “Is it bringing back memories then?” he asks. “Me, with no beard?”

Samiel is staring up at him, open wonder and vicious arousal chasing across his face. “You're going to be so sorry for that later,” he gets out. “When I get my hands on you – ”

“But you're not going to,” Jay says, and he can feel Samiel's want spiking higher with every word. It's dizzying; frenetic. It makes him want to give up this game and just fuck down. He's never had much patience, and especially not now. Except, “You're going to be a good boy,” he says instead, and watches Samiel's fingers flex against his own, where they're being pinned. “And you're going to stay.”

Samiel's head drops back on a low moan. Jay feels his cock twitch; feels the shift of his hips that says he's already getting close, and knows neither of them are going to last long.

“Oh,” he says, because this reaction is something new, and it's wonderful. “Isn't that what you are? Good?” He laughs, breathless, as Samiel arches a little, pushing up into him in desperation.

“Jason, please.”

“You're so pretty when you beg,” Jay says, and means it utterly. He can't think of a lovelier sight than Samiel like this, at his mercy; the both of them frantic with need. He lets go of Samiel's hands, curling his fingers around his own cock as he leans back a little to take in the view.

Samiel's moving, unable to quite keep still. He's panting, open-mouthed, eyes closed. The sweep of his lashes against the curve of his cheekbone, is enough to have Jay biting his lip, tightening his fingers around himself so he doesn't come.

Enough, he thinks, because they both need this. Enough, now.

Samiel's reaction is something he's going to explore another time. Instead, he lets go of himself and scrambles back a little, reaching for the tube he'd dropped at the foot of the bed days ago. He throws it onto the mattress next to Samiel's hip, and takes a moment to thumb open the button of Samiel's trousers.

When he looks up, Samiel is watching him from beneath lowered lashes. His gaze is heavy; needing. His lips are parted as he tracks the movement of Jay's fingers, lifting up a little to let him slip his trousers down to somewhere near his knees.

It leaves him pinned, but he doesn't seem to care. He watches Jay shuffle back up a little and bites his lip. “Are you going to – ”

“In a minute,” Jay says. He reaches out, partly to steady himself and mostly to get a hand around Samiel's cock. The weight of it in his hand is beautifully familiar; soft heat and strength, the gleam of precome a tantalising promise. He traces a thumb up the length of it, rubbing under the head just to watch the way it unravels Samiel a little more.

“Jason,” Samiel says again. “Jason, please.” He's leaking steadily now, and Jay is too. Pent up arousal and too much time between them.

But Jay still takes a moment to let go, to watch the way Samiel's cock jerks against his stomach, slick and pretty. “Alright,” he says, breathless. “Alright.”

He grabs the tube off the mattress and gets up on his knees. Popping the cap open, he sees Samiel's interest flare. It makes Jay wonder if he's going to sit up and try to take control of the situation. He doesn't though. Instead he behaves himself; hands still on the bed, staring up at Jay.

For a moment the power of it – the privilege of having this man, obedient and sweetly compliant beneath him – catches in Jay's heartbeat.

The knowledge of it is enough, and he sets to work fingering himself open perfunctorily. He's more interested in haste than in drawing this out now. He can feel his own arousal pooling low in his stomach, balls tightening as his slides in one finger, then two.

But it's not so much the movement of his own hand, or the burning stretch that makes his breathing hitch. It's the way Samiel is moving beneath him, with him; rocking as though he is the one being fucked open. It's been nearly a year since they last did this, and Jay is sloppy; uncoordinated as he scissors his fingers, trying to stretch himself quickly as he watches. He wants Samiel inside him; wants him deep and buried, a brand of possession that goes both ways.

He stops when he realises he's pushing back, chasing that feeling of fullness without any real sense of satisfaction. It's not what he's after.

He slips his fingers out, panting at the sensation. He's as open as he has the patience to be, and so he knees his way forward, moving further up.

“Ok?” he asks, taking Samiel in hand.

He gets the sharp drop of those lashes; the gorgeous curve of that mouth in response. “Mio ades galathea coros toren.” The words are slurred out, rapid-fire and hungry; too quick to be picked up by Jay's translators.

And Jay, just because he can, just because he's allowed to, says, “Sorry, I don't know what that means.”

“It means,” Samiel says thickly, “if you don't get on with it, I –”

Jay sinks down onto him. He's not quite open enough and it burns a little. But this is Samiel, and the thought of him slipping deep, prising Jay open, is enough to push him that little bit further. To have him biting his lip, as he focuses on the feeling of full.

“Better?” he asks on an inhalation of breath. “Is that – ” He bites back a moan as Samiel's hips rut once, driving up into him on reflex.

“I – ” Samiel says, and he's moving again; fine tremors as he tries to control himself and can't quite manage it. Jay can taste his desperation at the back of his throat; that burning need to push; to fuck in and just chase his own satisfaction.

“You can,” Jay says. “If you want to, you – ”

“I want – ” Samiel says. “I just want – ” He moves again, mindless, breath punching out of him in soft little gasps.

Jay tilts down, tilts forward. It shifts the angle of Samiel's cock, slots him in deeper and makes them both shiver with the feel of it. “Fuck me,” he says against Samiel's mouth. “Come on, I know you want to. You're aching for it, aren't you?” He gets his hands around Samiel's wrists again, won't let him touch, and smiles at the thwarted snarl he gets for it.

“Jason – ”

“Like you mean it,” Jay says, and it's taking everything in him to make it sound calm. He can feel himself tightening around Samiel, instinctively chasing his own pleasure. “Come on.”

Samiel snarls again, and Jay can feel the tangle of thwarted arousal in the bond. He leans back, letting go of Samiel's wrists, and drops his weight down, sighing his pleasure at the feel of it. “No?” he says. “I get to do all the work?”

He lifts himself up, feeling the slow drag of Samiel's cock, the glorious friction of it. Then he drops down again, fast and satisfying. It pushes a sharp little exclamation out of him, because it's perfect, and not quite enough. So he does it again, and this time he feels Samiel moving too, hips pushing up to meet him.

“Better,” Jay gets out, around that unrelenting pressure. “Better, that's – ” He wraps his fingers around himself, fucking into his own fist once, twice; precome and the remnants of slick easing the way.

Like this, it's easy. The relentless drive of Samiel into him, the deep satisfaction of being as close as they physically can be; it all pushes Jay to move faster; to work himself down onto Samiel and up again in a sharp, staccato rhythm that knocks the air from his lungs.

Samiel is talking now, rapid-fire words hissed out as he does his best to fuck Jay with no real leverage at all. What he's saying is incomprehensible, but he's perfectly eloquent in the snap of his hips; the frantic want in his eyes, and the way he's twisting the sheets so hard between his fingers that his knuckles are turning white, just to keep from touching.

It's that detail more than anything that makes Jay groan low in his throat. Samiel, overtaken by need and still being so good, so obedient. He pulls up almost too far, feeling the head of Samiel's cock catch on his rim.

The sensation has him shaking, has his hand moving faster, even as he rocks back down. It's all going to be over far too soon.

“The rest of our lives,” he says, unthinking, not really knowing what he even means. “We'll still have – ”

Samiel keens. He fucks up, and there's still practically no leverage for him, apart from the way Jay ruts with him. Still, it's enough. The noise he makes as he comes is strangled; a half-heard word that Jay doesn't understand. But the wet warmth of Samiel coming, the way he drives in harder, is nearly enough to tip him over the edge as well.

“Samiel – ” he manages, and Samiel's hand is there, suddenly, fingers tangled with Jay's, moving hard and urgent over his cock. “Samiel, please, I – ”

There's a flurry of limbs; an awkward, desperate moment where Samiel slides free of Jay and they both snarl at it. Then Jay is flat on his back, and Samiel is getting a hand under one of his thighs. He pushes up, opening Jay out, making it easier to come in closer.

Something catches against the ball of Jay's other foot. When he looks, Samiel's still got a boot on, his trousers dangling from one leg. The sight is ridiculous, insane. His shirt's rucked up between them too, twisted and gaping from the collar. He's still mostly dressed and they're both so gone with this madness, that it doesn't seem to matter.

Jay's lost to this now, as Samiel forces his way back in with a fierce, unrelenting thrust that makes them both arch up. Samiel's still hard, still greedy, and it's perfect. He slots in deeper; hot, tight pressure against Jay's prostate. Jay's leg is aching where it's bent and he doesn't care. Samiel's looking down at him, eyes wild, teeth bared, watching as Jay fists his own cock again, chasing his own pleasure ruthlessly, filthily desperate for this; for the sensation of Samiel, soul-deep.

It's nearly enough. It's nearly –

Samiel slams in once, twice, as though he's trying to crawl his way inside. He bends his head, gets his mouth around the line of Jay's collarbone and bites, hard.

Jay's orgasm roars through him. He shudders as he comes. It's a brutal, primal thing, wrenching from the base of his spine. His mouth's open on a soundless cry, as he paints his own hand. Dimly, he can feel Samiel gasping against his skin, mouth wet, hips stuttering and he's coming again too, another wave of warmth inside Jay that has him twitching through the aftershocks.

For a moment they're both locked, tensed and panting. Samiel's teeth are a pleasurable burst of pain, still sunk into Jay's collarbone. It's going to bruise, ugly and obvious, and Jay can't wait for it.

Jay's still trying to catch his breath, legs shaking, when Samiel lets go. He licks once, twice, over the sting, then moves. He slides free of Jay, arms trembling, his hair in his eyes.

Jay struggles for a moment, getting enough coordination to scramble his way clumsily up the bed a little, and then Samiel lands on him, as though his limbs have given out. An elbow just missing Jay's hip, a hand on his upper arm, and Samiel's face half mashed into his sternum.

They're both still breathing hard, coming down. Jay's pleasantly sore in a way he hasn't been in months, sticky and satisfied. There's a bone deep pleasure to it; the indelible sensation of us and we.

Samiel mutters something into Jay's skin, flailing out a hand until Jay catches it with his own. He holds on tight, watching as Samiel props his chin up, and yes, there is the pretty picture he's been waiting for: kiss-swollen lips and a disaster of curls. The expression in Samiel's eyes, dazed, as he stares at Jay.

It's perfect, and this is what Jay has spent the last year wanting.

“So,” he says, then has to clear his throat when his voice comes out too hoarse – fucked out and low. “I think we may have traumatised the neighbours.”

“I don't care,” Samiel says. “Do you?”

Jay lets go of his hand, and runs his fingers through Samiel's curls instead. “Not even remotely.”

“We have to live with them,” Samiel manages, eyes closing in pleasure under the pressure of Jay's fingernails. “Might be off to a bad start.”

“I'm sure we can make it worse,” Jay says, amused and a little devastated by the way Samiel presses into his touch; greedy, still, and so sweet. “After all, it's not on the same scale as some of our previous misdemeanours.”

“No more intergalactic conflicts for you,” Samiel says, and if he's trying to sound stern, he's failing. The purr of his voice gives him away, along with the way he's arching slowly, chasing after Jay's fingertips. “I'm not sure I can take any right now.”

Jay laughs. “Where's your ambition? I'm sure we could at least start a riot by sunset, if we wanted to.”

He feels Samiel still under his hands at that. Feels the way his breath hitches once, hard, and for one blinding moment of panic, wonders how he's managed to say the wrong thing. How he's miscalculated.

“Oh,” Samiel says instead, and his voice is suddenly small; lost. “Oh. You have no idea how much I've missed you, mio ades.”

Jay slides down a little, hand dropping to the nape of Samiel's neck, cradling him close.

“I think I have some idea,” he says.

*

Morning comes early on Kathikas.

When Jay wakes, Samiel is not next to him. He doesn't panic. Instead, he pads barefoot out of the house in the grey pre-dawn light, following the instinctive tug that says Samiel hasn't gone far.

It leads him down to the end of his own land and out, following the baked-dust track that slopes gently down to the sea. The earth is warm beneath his feet, blending into sand as he walks. He's not worried, not now. There is a gentle swell of contentment flowing through the bond. It stills some part of him; calms him like nothing else.

When he finds him, Samiel is sitting on the sand, legs drawn up, arms folded across the tops of his knees. He's soft and sleep-rumpled, his expression peaceful as Jay sits down next to him.

“Hello, my master,” he says quietly.

Jay considers him for a moment. “What're you doing out here?”

“Thinking,” Samiel says. Then, “I didn't sleep well. I'm still mostly working on a different cycle at the moment.” He shrugs. “I thought I'd let you get some rest.”

“Well, it was kind of you to let me eventually,” Jay says, and chuckles at the look Samiel slants him. “I'll take my share of the blame for that too then, shall I?”

Samiel hums quietly; light and faintly teasing. “Or all of it.”

“Why don't we call it even at half each?” Jay suggests.

“An equal partnership?” Samiel tilts a bit, resting his head on Jay's shoulder. “I could live with that.”

For a while they sit together quietly.

Jay's toes are buried in the cool of the sand. When Samiel shivers a little, he wraps an arm around him. The sea is a soft roar, swelling and fading. There's no wind, and the day promises to be hot.

It's strange, Jay realises, that he's got the time to notice these things. He hasn't before. It's been one thing after another for the last four years. And the years before that, too. He's never been the kind of man to do this: to sit, here, in this moment and just be still.

But Samiel's head is a warm, heavy weight on his shoulder, and for once he's utterly content.

As he watches, the slow grey of the morning reluctantly starts to give way. Elysium's sunlight is rich; not as strong as on Lenia, but a deep, healing warmth that seeps into the bones. As it begins to streak the sky, grey blurring to gold, Jay turns slightly, pressing a kiss to Samiel's curls.

Samiel stirs a little. “I don't know what comes next,” he confesses, hushed.

Jay closes his eyes, desperately glad for the fierce ache of love he has for this man. He rests his cheek on the crown of Samiel's head and smiles.

“It's alright,” he says. "I do."

*

When Jay is thirty-four and living on Elysium, he sits with the love of his life and watches the sun rise.

He tangles their fingers together in the dawn light, perfectly content to wait for the start of the new day.

For once, they have time.

And it's enough.