Actions

Work Header

Melting Point

Work Text:

“Let me see your hands.” She did a grabbing gesture as if she were trying to coax a child. Thermite grumbled but held his hands out for Hibana with the palms facing up. They were riddled with numerous burn scars, almost all of which had faded with age. Almost. There was a long stripe of scarlet in the middle both of his forearms, a couple of inches below his wrists. On his palms were two angry red patches. He heard Hibana take in a sharp breath.

 

“I must be lucky.”

 

“Better be glad you didn’t blow your arms off. At least the skin’s not broken, that’s good.” She experimentally touched one of the spots lightly with her fingertips and he flinched at the pain. “How bad does it hurt?”

 

“I’ve had worse.” He grimaced as he flexed his fingers. The skin around the burn felt tight. He hoped it wouldn’t interfere with him holding a gun. Hibana rummaged around in the first aid kit and pulled out a few items.

 

“Just because you’ve had worse doesn’t mean it isn’t painful.” She started to bandage his wounds, cleaning both of his hands before wrapping them in gauze. Thermite hissed when she pulled his wraps a little too tightly. “You should take better care of yourself. I won’t always be here to patch you up, you know.” It seemed like she was always the one telling him that despite being his protege. He burned himself so frequently that Hibana started patching him up so he wouldn’t have to face Doc. Thermite snorted as he considered how strange their relationship must have looked to onlookers. When Hibana was finished his arms were covered almost up to his elbows and only his fingers poked out from the wraps.

 

“I feel like a boxer or somethin’.” Themite chuckled and balled his hands up into fists. When he looked to Hibana she had an expression on her face that made it very clear that she wanted to chew him out for being so irresponsible, but his enthusiasm was contagious. Instead she just shook her head with a smile teasing at the corner of her lips.

 

“How's your training going?”

 

Thermite shrugged. “It’s going.”

 

So far it had been two weeks of slow and steady progress. The new handler for Team Rainbow had distributed all the operators into teams of five. In certain cases, for those with particularly specialized roles, partners were also assigned. Thermite's partner was some older British man with a gadget that synergized with his own. He was a stern, no-nonsense kind of guy. He was the type of person who would tell you exactly how and when you'd fucked up. Trace had found himself on the receiving end of Baker’s criticism many times in the past, but never undeservingly. Thatcher was an intense man, yet something about him had Trace mesmerized. Maybe it was the years of experience he exuded or his unrestrained and blunt honesty. Or maybe it was just that he was devilishly handsome.

 

They headed down to the common area. It was still early in the evening and many of their fellow operatives were lounging about the base. They each grabbed a beer from the fridge before they claimed one of the couches on the far side of the room. Trace's body ached from exertion. It had been a long day of training for all of them with everyone still adjusting to their new teams. Even more so for Trace. Lately he’d been feeling like he was underperforming. He and his teammates were tripping over each other, he was missing his shots, his gun didn’t feel right in his hands anymore—

 

“Trace,” Hibana broke the silence and pulled him from his thoughts. “You’ve seemed distracted lately. What’s going on?”

 

Thermite squinted his eyes in confusion, “What do you mean?”

 

“Look, you’re my mentor and I have the utmost respect for you, but...” Hibana lowered her voice as they entered the lounge where other operators were relaxing. “I can’t help but notice the increase in frequency of these incidents ever since you were assigned your new partner.”

 

Thermite looked at her in disbelief, “What are you getting at?”

 

“I know you like the big, strong, hero types.” She leaned over and whispered low in his ear. “Thatcher’s your hero, isn’t he?” Thermite nearly spit out his drink. Hibana couldn’t contain her giggles as she patted her mentor’s back while he recovered.

 

“You’re out of your mind.” Thermite took another swig of his beer and hoped that the alcohol would calm some of his nerves that had suddenly buzzed to life. Hibana just kept smirking at him. She was too damn perceptive for her own good. “Dammit, don’t tell anyone.” He shook his pointed finger at her and she chuckled.

 

He was already embarrassed enough from having injured himself again. He didn't think he could save face if word of his infatuation got out.

 

“Don’t worry, Trace. Your secret’s safe with me.” He tried to protest, but all that came out was a bunch of incoherent stammering. She winked at him before she pushed herself up to her feet. “Be right back. I’m just getting another drink.” Thermite sighed sunk back into the couch cushions.

 

“Trace.” He turned his head and saw Thatcher approaching him from the other side of the room. Thermite felt his heart skip a beat. Ain’t that just perfect , he thought. “Mind if I sit? How are your hands?” Thatcher sat so close to him. Too close. He caught himself staring at the other man’s hands, noticed the way he clenched them together while resting his arms on his lap. Thermite’s eyes trailed up the other man’s muscular arms to meet his gaze. He definitely didn’t think about how those arms had wrapped around him to pull him out of harm’s way while he was experimenting in the lab earlier. And he definitely didn’t think about how low and husky Thatcher’s voice had sounded in his ear when he told him to be careful and use protection next time. Nope, definitely not.

 

“Doing much better,” He finally managed to get out. “Could’ve been worse, but it wasn’t thanks to you.”

 

Thatcher smiled softly, “Glad to hear it.”

 

“I burn myself up all the time so I’m used to it.” The Texan mentally smacked himself for letting something like that slip. “I mean, it’s not that I’m completely incompetent or—” He cut himself off and bit his bottom lip to keep himself from saying anything else that he would regret. A nervous laugh escaped from him as he stared at Thatcher’s amused face.

 

“Charming.” Thatcher looked him over.

 

In that moment, Hibana returned with another drink and a knowing look in her eye. She exchanged a look with Thermite as she approached. “Seems I’ve stolen your seat. Sorry about that.” Thatcher stood. “Be seeing you, Trace.”

 

There was a shift in the couch as Hibana sat back down next to him. “What was that about?” Hibana gave him a questioning look.

 

Thermite rubbed his hands together, his palms feeling sweaty beneath the wraps. “He was just checking up on me.” He watched the retreating back of Thatcher as he crossed back over to rejoin his SAS buds. A cheeky grin spread across Thatcher’s face as Smoke leaned over and whispered something to him. He watched as the Brit’s shoulders rose and fell while he howled with laughter that just barely reached Thermite’s ears. He felt a grin of his own tugging at his own lips. Hibana smacked him lightly on the arm to get his attention.

 

“You’re staring, Trace.”

 

He was starting to think he had a real problem on his hands.

 

 

 

It was match point and the odds were stacked against them. Four left on the enemy side against the two of them on their side with just over a minute remaining. Things were looking bad for them, but he’d faced worse odds. This was still winnable. The bodies of their fallen comrades were on the ground around them. Over comms he heard them give the occasional callout from somewhere outside the simulation. One of their “dead” teammates watching their drones notifies them that there are two in the site and two still out roaming.

 

Thermite took cover behind a concrete pillar, crouched with a hand on the ground to keep himself steady. Bullets impacted his cover and sent out a cloud of obliterated cement. Thatcher ran up next to him and took cover behind another pillar. The Brit gave him a quick nod before he dove back out of cover, dodging an onslaught of bullets as he ducked down behind a cinder block half-wall.

 

“Trace!” he heard the man shout in his ear over comms. “Get the wall, I’ll cover you.” The enemy were peaking them from windows above the site, but if Thatcher held the angle he’d be able to get to a position where they couldn’t fire on him.

 

“On it.” he said back over the radio. He took a deep breath and ran out from behind the pillar. He heard glass shatter as someone busted open a window barricade above and not even a second later he heard Thatcher gun down the assailant with his assault rifle. Only three enemies left.

 

“I’ve got you.”

 

Thermite felt some comfort in knowing that he could rely on Thatcher to look out for him. He pulled out one of his exothermic charges and placed it on the reinforced wall. “Special charge is up. Ready to blow.” He then moved to lean against the other half of the wall, far enough away that he wouldn’t take any damage from the blast but still close enough that he could immediate peek inside the building and start shooting. He pressed down the detonator but the charge wouldn’t ignite. “Dammit, it’s jammed.”

 

“Don’t fret,” Thatcher purred through the speaker in his ear. “You forget who you’re with?” Something landed with a clatter on the ground next to him and rolled forwards until it hit the wall. A moment later it burst with a electromagnetic pulse that made the hairs on his skin stand on end. He looked back at Thatcher and pressed the detonator again. The charge ignited.

 

“Breach is hot.”

 

The ground shook as the charge exploded and Thermite braced against the worst of it. He fell to his knees and raised an arm to shield his face from the debris. When the smoke cleared there was a massive breach in the wall. He heard their opponents scramble around inside the room and threw himself to the ground. He crawled closer to the breach.

 

“Flashes going out.” Thermite quickly tossed out two flashbangs and leaped back up to his feet before the first one went off. When the second flashbang went off he peeked the breach wide. He knocked out an enemy lying on the floor next to the breach with the butt of his rifle and pushed further into the room. Two enemies remaining.

 

He swept his sights over every corner, every nook where someone may be have been hiding. The room was fairly large with lots of furniture to hide behind. The defenders made a hole in one of the walls so they could easily move between sites. No one in sight.

 

“Looks clear. I’m planting.” He got to setting up the defuser behind a desk with only seconds left in the round.

 

The two prepared for the last two enemies to rush in. There were only two ways into the room so they each picked an entryway to watch. It was a simple enough defense. As long as they kept working together as smoothly as they had been they could easily win the round. But the enemy was unpredictable and he hadn’t expected an attack from above.

 

He was on the ground before he'd realized what was happening, a pool of blood forming around him. “I’m down!” Thermite gasped in shock. He clutched his midriff to slow down the bleeding, but it helped very little. “Bastard shot me through the ceiling.” More bullets came down through the ceiling, all of them narrowly missing him. His vision slowly grew darker.

 

“Stay where you are. Don’t crawl.” He heard footsteps running towards the objective. The sound of gunfire reverberated through the room. A body fell to the floor with a thud. His heart was pounding fierce in his ears. So this was it. All their efforts would be in vain. The round was lost.

 

Then there was a hand clutched over his own. Thermite looked up and stared into Thatcher’s expressionless mask. “Don’t worry, mate. I’m here.” He was glad the man wasn’t looking at him in that moment because he was certain he would have noticed the light flush on his cheeks.

 

“Baker...” he breathed out in awe. The other man’s grip on his hand got a little bit tighter. He heard the sound of barbed wire shifting at the doorway to the objective and saw Thatcher visibly tense up. “Can you get me up?”

 

“It’s too late, he’s coming.” Thatcher let go of his hand to aim down the sights of his gun. He saw him round the corner.

 

For a moment it was totally silent save for the constant beeping of the defuser. But then he heard the slightest shuffle of footsteps and his eyes darted around to find the source. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed movement and tried to focus on it through his blurry vision. He made out the shape of a gun and knew instantly that it wasn’t Thatcher’s rifle.

 

“Baker—”

 

His voice died in his throat as the defender finally took him out and he woke up back in the observation room. The goggles were stuck to his skin and he winced as he peeled them off his face. He squinted as his eyes adjusted to the brightly lit room. Thermite sighed in disappointment, mostly at himself. Now all he could do was sit back and watch his teammate finish the round out.

 

He joins the other attackers huddled in front of the monitor. Hibana is among them. She grabs onto his arm and squeezes it supportively as they all watch the match unfold. Harry stands in front of another screen in the room, his hand stroking his chin as he watched from the perspectives of both operators. Aurelia, the previous Six, was always very much involved in their training and development as operatives, but Harry took things to a whole ‘nother level.  In time he had proven himself to be a worthy successor to her. His methods were unconventional and experimental. Thermite was skeptical when he arranged the new teams, but after seeing how closely he analyzed each of their strengths and weaknesses, he began to trust his decision. A part of him was afraid that someone held that sort of knowledge about him. Sometimes it felt like Harry understood them better than they understood themselves.

 

Thatcher fired the first shots, heavily damaging his opponent. Bullets whizzed by close to his head as he leaned back behind an overturned table. He tosses away the expended mag in his rifle and reached for a fresh one.

 

Time’s running low on the defuser and all Thatcher had to do was stall his enemy for just a little longer.

 

He tossed out another EMP. The lights flickered out and the only illumination in the room came through the breach. Using the darkness as cover, Thatcher pushed up to where he knew his enemy was hiding. He could hear a faint buzzing as the defender started to disable the defuser. The lights came back on just as Thatcher pulled the trigger. Unable to react in time, his opponent fell dead to the floor, counter-defuser sliding from his grip.

 

It was a hard fought victory.

 

Afterwards, Ash rounded them all up into one of the conference rooms for debriefing. She was moving up the ranks fast, and Thermite had to admit that he was happy for her. She had always been a good leader. He wouldn’t be surprised to see her take over as Six one day. Their friendship, however, didn’t warrant her going easy on him. He got washed just like the others, and he took the criticism. All of his teammate's concerns were legitimate, but it didn't make it sting any less.

 

Towards the end he started to zone out. He was mentally drained. Ash's voice faded into the background, and his eyes drifted over whatever caught his attention. Pen marks scratched into the wood of the conference table, a poster on the wall that looked like it was one cheap piece of table from slipping off the wall, and every time he’d look across the room he’d meet another pair of eyes.

 

 

 

Thermite set his utility belt on the bench next to him and got to working off the rest of his gear. His rifle back on its rack and he tossed his backpack in the corner by the bench. He may have been somewhat disorganized out on the battlefield, but he at least put his stuff back where it belonged.

 

The burns on his hands were starting to bother him again. He figured he ought to suck it up and take a visit to see Doc to get his wraps changed. The painkillers would be worth the lengthy lecture he’d surely get. Nothing was more irritating than the palms of his hands aching every time he tried to do anything. He heard a knock on the metal door of his equipment room. Thatcher stared back at him through the gate. Thermite felt like his brain had shut down and he just sat there and gawked at the other man for a long moment before he snapped out of it.

 

“Mind if I come in?” Thatcher said with raised eyebrows. Thermite practically scrambled to his feet to open the gate.

 

“Wasn’t expecting you,” Thermite said, making a pointed effort not to look directly at his teammate for too long. He was dressed lightly, wearing a simple grey pullover and jeans. He had the sleeves of his pullover rolled up, exposing his forearms. Underneath all the armor Thatcher normally wore he was quite muscular. Thermite noticed the pistol holstered to his hip. “You heading down to the shooting range?” Thatcher hummed affirmatively. He noticed Thatcher’s eyes narrow and found himself involuntarily biting his bottom lip.

 

“You sure left that training room in a hurry.” There it was. Thermite felt shame creep in like a cold sweat on his back. Thatcher toured through Thermite’s room, pausing every once in a while to look closer at some keepsake he had. Thermite felt vulnerable having Thatcher in his space like this. The man picked up a picture Thermite had on his desk of Hibana, Pulse, and himself on vacation. “If we’re going to be partners we need to be honest with each other.” Thatcher seemed to be studying his face, watching for his reactions while he tried to think up some bullshit excuse for why he left.

 

“I just felt embarrassed, I guess.” He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. If he hadn't gotten downed he would have been able to help Thatcher cover the defuser. It came down to the wire. Anything could've happened and swung the match in the opposing team's favor. Sure, they won in the end but he couldn't shake the feeling that he had somehow failed his team. It had only been a training exercise but what if it had been a real operation with actual lives at stake? “I wanted to make a good first impression with you, but I made a complete fool of myself out there.” The Brit remained silent for a long moment. Thermite sighed and turned his back to him as he went back to removing his gear. “You don’t have to say anything. I know it’s dumb.”

 

“Why do you think that?” Thatcher said softly. There was a tenderness in his voice that he hadn’t expected and it threw him off guard. “I thought you performed admirably.”

 

Thermite was glad he wasn’t facing Thatcher in that moment as flush spread across his cheeks. He shook his head and tossed his kevlar vest onto the bench in front of him. “No, I can do better.” He knew he was putting too much pressure on himself, but it was what drove him to improve. Hibana was convinced that one day he was keel over from the stress.

 

“Seems like you've got a lot on your mind.” Thatcher set the photo back down. “Why don’t you come out to the field with me. Might help set you straight.” Thermite reckoned it'd do anything but. Yet it would be a good opportunity for him to get out of the base and get to know Thatcher better. Neither of them were going anywhere anytime soon. Spending time together was inevitable.

 

At least it was nice out. The mixture of the cool breeze that blew through the fields and the gentle warmth of the sun felt nice on his skin. It was good that he got out. He'd been cooped up inside the base for so long it had started to take a toll on him.

 

Thermite rolled his shoulders to relieve the tension in them and felt his joints pop. He could tell he was getting stressed, and he knew Hibana was worried about him even if she didn't say it outright. His team expected a lot from him, just as he did from them, but at the moment he wasn't meeting his own expectations. So now he was practicing shooting at hilariously cartoonish training dummies outside the base. At least it gave him something to do.

 

His first shots hit dead on and he felt sure of himself. He'd been in the field for years, there was no reason for him to struggle with something like this. But as he went through the rest of the rounds he grew increasingly aware of Thatcher watching him. His nerves buzzed with anxiety and on his first missed shot he jerked his neck in surprise. The shots that followed were no better. Thermite swore as his last bullet went a little too wide and hit the wooden barrier behind the target.

 

“Is he dead yet?” Thatcher snorted a few feet behind him.

 

He loaded the pistol with a new mag and aimed down the range. His hand stung where it met with the grip. He fired out all his shots in quick succession and barely hit the target. Thatcher took in a deep breath behind him. What the hell was wrong with him? He reached for a new mag.

 

“Easy there. Hey, slow down for a second.” He was startled when he felt a hand slide onto his bicep, then up to his wrist. Thatcher’s hands were hot on his skin as his fingers repositioned Thermite’s own around his pistol. “You should be holding it like this. You'll get a nice, tight grip this way.” A hand slid down near the small of his back and he found himself arching his back involuntarily. He resisted the urge to tense up. “Stand up straight. Square your shoulders. No—” He inhaled sharply as he felt Thatcher press his chest up against his back and used a hand to push back lightly on his chest. “There. You feel that? Stay just like this.” He could feel Thatcher’s chest rumbling against his back as he spoke. Maybe it was just his imagination but he thought his voice had gotten lower.

 

“Why are you doing this?” Thermite swallowed the lump in his throat. He told himself that Thatcher was only trying to help him, but it didn't stop his heart from racing. He was so close it was unbearable.

 

“We're a team, Trace.” Thatcher said almost tenderly. He took a shaky breath as the other man’s whispers tickled the shell of his ear. “And that means supporting one another.” His legs felt like jelly beneath him and he found himself leaning back against his teammate. With it being so chilly he actually felt somewhat comfortable letting Thatcher hold him like this, wrapping him in his warmth.

 

Then he broke away.

 

“You're supporting me more than I'm supporting you.” He leaned back against the counter, avoiding Thatcher’s gaze. "Maybe I'm not as good a partner as you'd thought I'd be."

 

“Why do you think that?” His teammate’s expression softened then. “Believe me, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t the best of the best. Just because we had a bit of a rough go of it doesn't mean that we can't improve.” He was right. This was a new experience for both of them, it was only natural that things wouldn’t run smoothly right off the bat. “You and I are going to be great together.” Thermite’s heart fluttered at that. It was amazing how little Thatcher had to do to get him flustered.

 

“What makes you so sure about that?”

 

“Because you’re a damn stubborn bastard, that’s why.” A smirk teased at the corner of Thatcher’s lips.

 

Thermite grinned and turned back to his target about five metres out. He fixed his posture and adjusted his grip on his pistol the way Thatcher had shown him. It was easy on his hands but tight around the gun. He took the shot. The bullet hit the training dummy right between the eyes.

 

“Perfect.”

 

 

 

He found Hibana later that evening in her quarters. The door was slightly agar and from it flowed the sound of Japanese '80s music. Thermite could hear her softly singing along to a familiar song. He knocked on the door and pushed it open further. Hibana looked up from her laptop and smiled when her eyes landed on him.

 

"I'm convinced you've been listening to the same song for 10 years." he teased. Hibana threw him a mocking look as she swayed from side to side with the beat. She raised her voice and started singing at him over the music. "Stop, you're gonna get that stuck in my head again." She threw one of her pillows at him and he caught it against his chest. He threw it back.

 

"Don't pretend like you don't love it." she said and turned down her music. "What's up?"

 

“Can I talk to you about something? It’s kind of important.”

 

“Yeah, of course.” She sat up on her bed and cleared a spot for him to sit. “Shut the door.”

 

He never knew where to begin. Hell, he couldn’t even remember the last time he’d had a real crush. Hibana was always okay with that. He knew that she’d much rather him blurt out whatever was on his mind than keep it bottled up inside, even if whatever did come out didn’t make any sense. In the years they had known each other their relationship had grown into something that went beyond just friendship. He trusted her with his feelings as well as his life.

 

“What do you think of me—I mean, would you date me?” He almost burst out laughing at the bewildered expression that plastered itself to Hibana’s face. It was comical how well it paired with the music softly playing in the background. “Not—that’s not exactly what I meant.”

 

That’s what you’re worried about?” Hibana snickered but then squeezed his arm reassuringly. “Sorry, help me understand. You think you’re undateable?” Thermite flushed. He supposed it did sound a bit ridiculous, but sometimes he let his insecurities get the better of him. “Is this about Thatcher? What did he say to you?” There was a bit of anger that slipped into her voice.

 

“Nothing bad. Really.” Thermite said. He ran a hand through his short hair. “He asked me to join him at the shooting range today. He actually seems like he's looking forward to working with me.”

 

Hibana stared blankly at him.

 

“What?” Thermite said after she was silent for a long moment.

 

“Can’t you tell when someone’s obviously flirting with you?” Hibana lightly smacked him on his thigh. “I don’t know Thatcher all that well but he’s been putting a lot of his attention in you.” She took one of his hands between hers. “What are you so afraid of?”

 

“What if he doesn’t feel the same way?” It was the obvious question in his mind. He’d been so focused on his work that he never took the time to consider being in a relationship. That and Hereford Base wasn’t exactly an ideal place to find love. It just never really crossed his mind. He was both invigorated and terrified by his own feelings. It was something unfamiliar and exciting, but he had to admit that he was afraid of heartbreak.

 

“If he rejects you he’d be the stupidest man who ever lived.” Hibana gave him a gentle smile and he found himself unable to resist returning it. " Relax ."

 

Then she increased the volume of her music again. A new song was playing, this one more upbeat. Hibana jumped up from her seat and strutted over to the middle of the room, twirling and twisting her body in a wild and unrestrained dance. She tried to sing along to the song, but hummed most of the words.

 

“C’mon, Trace, I know you can dance!” she shouted over the speaker. She rolled her hands towards herself, inviting him to join her. “Don’t make me bring Jack in here.”

 

“Oh, so it’s Jack now?” Thermite teased.

 

“Shut up.” she said with a smirk.

 

 

 

There was an indoor bridge between the residential buildings that overlooked the airfield. Thermite passed through there every day as he walked from his quarters in the eastern grounds to the the main part of the base. Through the windows he could see as far out as the city, the soft glow of the metropolis illuminating the skyline just before dawn. Thermite would watch the aircraft take off from the airfield, flying to destinations unknown. Sometimes he’d run into Jaeger on his way out to the field. They usually exchanged little more than a brief greeting in passing, but occasionally the German pilot would tell him about the things he'd seen while he was out flying. Usually the bridge was empty, not a single soul in sight, and Trace could take his time crossing while he watched the sun rise. Except on that particular morning.

 

Thatcher leaned against the railing that ran across the entire length of the bridge, his forearms against the bar as he gazed pensively out the window. The building trembled as a helicopter flew past. Thermite's footsteps echoed throughout the corridor as he approached the other man.

 

"Trace," Thatcher’s face lit up when he spotted Thermite. "Hey, where ya headed? I was just looking for you."

 

"For me?" Thermite looked around as if there had been anyone else Thatcher could’ve possibly been talking to. There wasn't, of course. He stopped right in front of the Brit. "What's going on?"

 

"Training simulation is canceled for the day. Six's orders." The Brit looked mildly disgruntled but he didn't voice it. "Don't know all the specifics, but I thought I'd come tell you myself."

 

"Why?"

 

Thatcher faltered, then played it off as a shrug. "Haven't seen you around in a few days."

 

"Miss me?" Thermite flashed him one of his trademark lopsided grins, trying to off play the giddiness in his gut with humor.

 

Thatcher snorted. "Yeah, you could say that."

 

There was a long moment of silence. Thermite leaned back against the railing of the bridge and considered Thatcher. He looked tired, which was expected when they got up at such an early hour. Most of their fellow operators wouldn't be up until later in the morning. In the light of the rising sun, eyes slightly lidded from drowsiness, Thatcher looked more handsome than he'd ever seen him.

 

"I really admire you." The words had slipped from his mouth on impulse before he could catch himself. But he meant it wholeheartedly, so he felt no reason to be embarrassed. It just felt like the right thing to say in the moment. It was the silence that followed that truly made him anxious. Thatcher’s gaze was smoldering.

 

“I should’ve known.” Thatcher finally said.

 

“What?”

 

“This whole time...” he trailed off and then he had stepped closer to Thermite. He was in his personal space now, and Thermite felt as if his heart would beat out of his chest. Thermite's skin pricked in anticipation. Thatcher crowded him against the railing and leaned in. The back of Thermite's head hit the window and his hands came up to rest on Thatcher’s strong, broad shoulders.

 

“Mike...” He closed his eyes and waited. Then he felt a thump against his forehead and opened his eyes again. Thatcher grimaced as he rubbed a spot on his forehead. "Oh, my helmet." Thermite chuckled. He quickly unfastened the strap beneath his chin. "Sorry—"

 

Thatcher’s lips crashed into his own, rough and all teeth at first. They fell together so fluidly. Thatcher’s hands slipped onto his waist and the nape of his neck as he pulled him closer. Thermite let the helmet slip from his fingers and clatter to the floor. He tilted his head and delved deeper into the heat of his partner's mouth. Then Thatcher slows it down to an excruciating pace that draws a strangled moan from Thermite’s lips and leaves him gasping when they broke away.

 

Thatcher kissed his neck and pushed up the hem of his shirt to caress his sides. Everywhere Thatcher touched him he burned and he was perfectly content with melting in his hold. In between breaths the American panted his partner's name over and over again like a mantra. Mike. Mike. Mine.