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Lucci’s nails are dug into Paulie’s shoulders, crescent shapes that stain his skin in red that blooms from beneath. Hair and hands tangled like a complex web of pleasure, each shifting and tugging harder with each moment that passes. Their lips bit, bruised a deep red long before they’ll turn purple in the morning light. 

Paulie is shaking, a shudder that only grows harder as the knot in his abdomen pulls tighter with each thrust. But his structure is stable, and through it all he stays up and mobile. Just like always.

While the beginnings of he and Lucci’s affairs differ, they always seem to end the same. 

Lucci, pinned inside of Paulie’s arms, with heels crossed like daggers stabbing into Paulie’s spine. Both of them pushing him closer with the bite of pain Paulie loves so much, and oh, Lucci truly loves to provide it. 

They rock along with the push of the waves against the edge of the canal just outside the window. Bodies that ebb and flow with the tides themselves, all controlled by the moon, whose face is full and shining through the bedroom window. 

It paints Lucci’s skin like porcelain, red barely accenting the edges as if it were airbrushed on, while Paulie is dipped in it. A shade unknown to the outside world that hangs between vermillion and merlot. 

Lucci wants to take it, to smear it on a canvas and keep it above his dresser in his room. It’s title never spoken, much like the words he’ll never give to his lover. 

Through clenched teeth that break into a delicious moan, Paulie comes. And when he cries out with a small whimper of pain, Lucci follows suit. Both with their heads feeling like they’re touching the ceiling, when they couldn’t be more grounded if they tried. 

The cold of the tile floor doesn’t even register on Lucci’s back anymore and hasn’t for the last fifteen minutes. 

Paulie pants in short huffs as he pulls out to fall back onto his heels. Sweat is clinging to each strand of his hair that sits stuck against his face, and when he wipes a hand back and over to push them back into place he groans. 

“The humidity of this island sometimes,” Paulie sighs, flicking his hand out to rid it of moisture, “Doesn’t matter how long you live here, it’ll always find a way to get to ya.” 

Lucci doesn’t respond, he’s too busy pulling a towel from the edge of the bed. With careful hands he cleans himself most of the way, and as swipes across his abdomen, his eyes catch Paulie’s. He’s not completely here, or anywhere, given his expression. 

All he has is a tweak of that dumb smile Lucci can’t stand, paired with eyes that seem out into the sea. 

“Shower?” Paulie asks, breathier than he was just a moment ago, and when Lucci nods he pushes to his feet. A small symphony of popping follows the motion as he stretches and all Lucci can do is stare as his body bends in the low light of his room. 

Everything still flushed, still painted those colors he wants to capture. 

The water turns on in the other room, faint yet groaning through the pipes and Lucci considers if he should join him. He never has before, the times Paulie has managed to weasel his way into his space, and he doesn’t want to reward him any more than he already does. 

Still, it could be nice. 

Paulie is turned, head pressed against the pearlescent tile of the wall when Lucci enters the shower. Down his back, Lucci can already see the bruises and scratches that are starting to develop. A wild slashing at the already scarred skin, and when Lucci draws a finger over his spine, Paulie shivers. 

“Finally joinin’, huh?” Paulie mutters, words blurred between the falling water and the tile, “Shut the curtain, you’re letting the heat out.” 

Lucci closes the curtain with a single hand while the other curls around Paulie’s shoulder. A calculated thumb runs across his skin, pressing into the muscle that resides beneath, and Paulie groans. Not unlike the one Lucci heard minutes ago, it crackles in his throat like a dying fire. 

“Didn’t think you knew how to be tender,” Paulie says, pressing his shoulder into Lucci’s hand before sighing out again, “I’ll get clean and get out of your hair. I’m surprised you’re even in here.”  

Lucci doesn’t really know why either, but something about the way that Paulie exists in his space—nudging at the small spaces that he leaves free—it fascinates him. If it came down to it, Lucci could disarm the minor threat that Paulie is. But right now that isn’t needed. 

A kiss is pressed into Paulie’s skin in earnest instead. 

When he turns to look at Lucci, his eyes are still partially gone, hazel nearly black in the low light. It adds years to Paulie, only to be taken away the minute his smile breaks out across his face. Lazy and warm, it tugs as he sighs before turning around to face Lucci.  

His hair spreads up against the wall, clinging into the grouting, and Lucci nearly winces when he leans up and strands of blonde stay behind. With a deft hand, Lucci wipes it away to fall away into the drain and Paulie blows out a laugh. 

“Clean freak,” he sighs, rolling his eyes before smirking, “though you do like to get dirty.” 

Lucci’s eyes narrow slightly before he closes them to step beneath the shower head. It covers him, drenching his sweat salted skin, and filling his ears with white noise. For a moment, he’s alone again. 

Existing simply within the realm of what the water touches, until fingers curl around his own.

“Come on,” Paulie says and his voice is distorted through the rush of the water falling past Lucci’s ears. What isn’t distorted is the feeling of his lips pressing against Lucci’s collarbone, working slowly up his neck before pulling back, “Don’t shut me out so fast, I thought you were getting better at it.” 

Lucci nearly laughs at that. Paulie thinks he’s breaking down Lucci’s walls, when in reality he’s still miles away from ever reaching the center. It’s sweet though, watching him try. 

“I’m gonna dry off, I’ll let you take your time,” Paulie mumbles and Lucci can hear sleep start to color the edges of his words. 

A cautious hand holds onto Paulie’s shoulder, stopping him from stepping out. Something working past his edge of comprehension pulls at Lucci, and he lets it, leaving him to place a final kiss on Paulie’s skin before nudging him forwards. 

Still, his eyes don’t open to watch Paulie as he exits. They open only when the curtain again shuts, and he’s left alone amongst the pristine tile. 

No thoughts seem to form as he continues to get clean. Only the blank space of security that Lucci knows all too well that easily blankets his mind. When he turns the water off, Lucci’s first thought is that Paulie is gone. 

His towel is hung up, folded just as Lucci demands, and there is no noise in the apartment. No rattling of cups as he poorly tries to make tea. No small chime of mismatched keys coming from the piano against the front wall. There is nothing—and potentially no one. 

For some reason the thought of him leaving without a word pinches the back of Lucci’s neck in irritation. How dare he treat him like less than a one-night stand? 

Does he not understand how grateful he should be to be allowed in this space?

When Lucci’s feet hit the floor, padding almost angrily towards the front room, he feels his arms start to itch with the threat of turning. Hair that feels like fire while it tries to pull him apart at the seams. All of it comes to a dead stop as his held breath leaves his lungs. 

Cause stated as Paulie, lying back in the parlor chair next to the piano, head hung off one side with legs freely dangling over the other. He’s barely dressed; boxers sitting crooked on his hips and a blanket from the bedroom wrapped behind his shoulders. 

He looks picturesque, unreal almost, sitting in the dark of the room alone. His worn hands are folded, fingers drumming against his abs to a song that Lucci can’t hear. 

Lulling his head to the side, Paulie catches Lucci’s gaze and smiles.

“Hi,” he says, and his fingers stop, “just wanted to hang.” Paulie kicks his feet to dangle over the arm of the chair again and a snort leaves him. When Lucci’s expression doesn’t change, Paulie sighs, “Aw, that was a little funny, Lucci.”

Lucci tucks the towel a little tighter around his waist, hands giving a gentle tremble as he pulls them back. His anger is almost completely gone now, washed away with the rest of Paulie’s stray hair down the drain of the shower. 

Again, Paulie’s fingers start to drum against his stomach and a different desire tugs at Lucci. 

Moving slowly, consideration weighing heavy on his mind each step that he takes, Lucci finds himself sliding onto the bench in front of his piano. The wood of the bench creaks under his weight, shifting forward along with him while he raises into proper posture. 

Lucci’s fingers hover on the keys in position, curled at the ends ready to bend into whatever chord that begins his melody. Paulie twists his head against the chair to try to watch, and the feeling of his eyes on Lucci isn’t something he’s a stranger to. 

It’s just how the man is, Lucci has learned. Paulie loves to watch—everything. 

Lucci turns his head slightly to him, eyes asking a question and Paulie hums in thought. His fingers now drumming faster and out of beat with whatever song was previously in his mind. Whichever one that was to begin with, Lucci is sure he doesn’t know it. 

He’s learned there are many songs that Paulie knows and he doesn’t. A lesson given the hard way one night when Paulie got drunk and started to prattle off a list of music Lucci’s still unsure exists. 

Still, he’s learned some and that seems to appease Paulie. Not that Lucci cares that he’s happy.

“What about that one, you know, the sontata,” Paulie says and Lucci’s eyes narrow with a quick twitch at the incorrect word, “Er, sonata? Right. What about one of those?” 

Lucci is surprised at the request, but his expression doesn’t change. 

Usually, Paulie asks for anything he can sing to. His voice is typically low and breathy, but often Lucci tunes him out. Occasionally he doesn’t though, leaving his chest a little tighter knowing just how well Paulie can sing. A sound that haunts his dreams at times, echoing from an unknown place before stopping short. 

Maybe it’s for the best that he doesn’t want to tonight. Lucci isn’t sure how well he may sleep otherwise. 

He gives a short nod before turning his eyes back to the keys, and when he starts, Paulie lets his head fall back again. His feet swing in time with the music, toes curling and uncurling with the rise and fall of the moving line. 

There are many simple things about Paulie—after all he is a fairly simple man—but there are times that Lucci worries about him being more. 

Not often, or a lot, but enough that when he awakens the morning after a night together it nearly makes him sick. It has on several occasions come to that, causing him to lie on the ground in his bathroom after Paulie leaves. 

When he fell back into his bed after Paulie left from staying the night the first time, Lucci was hit with the overwhelming scent of Paulie’s musk. Smoke and sunshine combined, it washed over him leaving his stomach to lurch. Lucci has learned to change the sheets immediately after now, amongst other things to keep his stomach settled.

Looking over, Lucci’s eyes try to find Paulie’s, but they can’t. His arm is slung over his face, tucked in a way that can’t possibly be comfortable. Fingers slowing, irritation again starts to rise in Lucci’s mind. 

“No,” Paulie mumbles against his arm, “I’m sorry. Jus’ tired is all.” 

His voice is soft like a child’s, with his apology being more akin to a plea than anything else. His eyes open just barely, slits of dark against tan skin, and Lucci can see he’s struggling to keep them open. 

They both agreed he wouldn’t stay tonight. Several times.

A promise that is still broken regardless as Paulie’s eyes again lull shut. Somehow, Lucci knew it would come to this. If needed, he could just as easily kick him out onto the street with no hard feelings harbored between them the next day. Hell, he’s done it more than once before, and only dealt with a slightly bitter Paulie the day after the first time. 

Something about tonight though, with Paulie’s hair mussed from friction and chest staining shades of red, makes Lucci weak. 

Rounding off the song into silence, Lucci’s hands slip away from the keys back into his lap. This time, Paulie doesn’t stir. He stays still, soft sounds of breathing trapped between his mouth and his arm being the only sign he’s alive. Lucci’s brushes his hand against Paulie’s head, strands coarse beneath his fingertips before tapping the back of his head. 

Paulie mutters something unintelligible, but there is an argument in his tone. Lucci taps again harder before winding his fingers around a section of hair and tugging up. 

“Goddamnit,” Paulie hisses, and jerks up off the chair all at once. 

His eyes are still glazed when his feet hit the floor, and he nearly stumbles straight into the small table in the middle of the room. Stopping him is Lucci’s hand, curled around his bicep with nails piercing his skin as he tugs him back. Paulie looks over his shoulder, lips quirking into a silent laugh and Lucci shoves him forward towards the hall. 

Come on, Lucci, give me a break. I’m exhausted,” Paulie whines. 

His feet drag unwillingly against the tile back towards the bedroom, yawns heavy and constant from his mouth as he goes. When Paulie starts to collect his clothes from the floor, Lucci places a hand against his back. 

“Lucci, please, I’m tryin’ to leave. Is this not fast enough?” Paulie asks, voice cracking with sleep. 

Lucci blinks slowly before flitting his eyes towards the bed. Paulie’s eyebrows raise in their own unspoken response, hands still clutching his clothing, and when Lucci walks away he drops them. Still, he waits bent over with careful eyes on Lucci as he walks around to the left side of the bed. 

When he pulls the top cover back, Paulie straightens up at once. 

He knows better than to question Lucci’s decisions, especially when it comes to any amount of kindness he’s decided to provide. So, before he can change his mind, Paulie slips into the right side of the bed. His grin giving away his excitement while he settles. 

Lucci tries to ignore him and sleep, but his mind won’t let him. 

So, he notices. Through falling eyes, he watches Paulie’s hair splay wildly against the pillow. He feels as the warmth of Paulie’s feet and legs tangle with his own. And worst of all, Lucci hears the uneven flutter of his heart when Paulie meets his gaze.

As Lucci’s hand mindlessly reaches out between them, only to be met eagerly by the calloused match of Paulie’s, he feels himself reconsider. 

Because regardless of when Paulie leaves in the morning, whether by force or choice, Lucci knows he won’t be gone. He’ll change the sheets like always, corners tucked in with hard hands and a set jaw, but Paulie won’t be gone. The windows will be opened, letting in a breeze to carry the scent of the ocean to clear the air, but Paulie still won’t be gone. 

For it seems no matter what Lucci does, or how much he wants to fight it—Paulie will always linger.