Nicky knows his time is up in the most innocent of ways, he stubs his toe against the table in one of their safehouses and it doesn’t immediately stop hurting. Instead, it hurts for hours. His suspicions are confirmed when he cuts himself in the kitchen the day after and the wound doesn’t seal the way it usually does. He hides in the kitchen, cooking for hours until it stops bleeding and he can pretend it isn’t there.
He’s careful the next few days, so very careful, not to let Joe notice that he’s no longer healing. Instead, he watches as Joe spars with Nile, watches his bruises fade into the ether. Instead, he sucks marks into his skin as they make love late at night, admiring them for the three seconds before they disappear. He holds Joe close, distracting him with the sweetest of kisses so he can have another second, minute, hour where they’ll live together for another millennia and neither of their time is up.
He breathes calmly, smiles widely, loves fiercely, the way he always has. He avoids it for three days, allows himself to picture another thousand years with Joe, with Nile, with Booker. The good times they would share and the joy they would experience together, the lives they would save that would go on to save others.
He stops avoiding the minute Joe looks at him with worry. His Joe, his Yusuf, the man he killed countless times before he recognized what was in front of him and loved him fiercely from then on. The man whose love transcends everything, the man he hasn’t needed to speak words to for centuries, couldn’t speak to in the beginning, and now they just understand what the other needs and wants.
The man whose touch still thrills him after all this time.
Nicky closes his eyes, hangs his head, and prays. Maybe there’s no God, and Andy would’ve mocked him for it were she still among them. But he still has faith. Faith gave him Joe, gave him someone so he didn’t have to spend an eternity alone, how can he not still believe.
He can hear the fear in Joe’s voice, feels it deep in his heart as he opens his eyes and looks back at him. God, will the sight of Joe never make his heart stop beating faster, will his short curls never make him want to run his fingers through them? He hopes not, for whatever time he has left.
“Three days,” he replies. He lifts his finger towards Joe, shows him the cut that’s still healing three days later. The cut he’s worked so hard to hide. “It’s my time, Yusuf.”
He knows he should’ve anticipated the wail of grief that escapes Joe as he looks at Nicky’s finger. Knows he should’ve anticipated the complete collapse to the floor the other half of his soul does. Knows he should’ve anticipated his sleek and very quick everything to lounge for a knife from their collection of weapons and slash himself on the arm. Maybe he did anticipate all of it, just like he knows that he needs to let it happen.
He listens as the wails turn louder, watches as Joe slashes his arms again and again in the hopes that his healing won’t set in. Both of them know that it will, but Joe still tries and Nicky still lets him. Watches him try again and again with tears in his eyes and running down his face, his hands clasped tightly together with the sounds of Booker and Nile just outside, asking them what’s going on. He tries to tell them that it’s okay, that they’re good, but he can’t. His world is hurting. His world needs him more than their teammates does right now.
He moves closer when he can. He knows Joe wouldn’t hurt him, but he needs to let his grief out. Nicky’s not going to stop that, he’s had three days to grieve. It’s Joe’s turn now.
He gets close enough to touch Joe and as he stretches out his hand Joe drops the knife immediately, gathering Nicky in his arms as he buries his face in Nicky’s hair.
“Nicoló. Non voglio che mi lasci. Per favore.”
“I’m not leaving you, il mio cuore, not for a long time,” Nicky whispers, moving Joe’s face away from his hair and drying his cheeks with his thumb. “We still have time, mi amore, so much time.”
Joe shakes his head. The grief is so very visible on his face and it breaks Nicky’s heart. “But not as much as we wanted. I cannot continue without you, my heart.”
“You can do whatever you need to. But for now we have time. Anything else will wait,” Nicky replies, giving Joe a soft kiss as he buries his fingers in Joe’s hair as he always wants to. “My immortality might be gone but I’m not gone yet, my Yusuf. I’m not lost to you yet.”
“I wish you would never have to be lost to me.”
“We will deal with this too, as we have dealt with everything else in our life. I swear, I will not leave you before I have to.”
They look at each other, losing themselves in each other as they always do. Nothing will change that, hasn’t in the millennia they’ve been together and it never will. Neither will the force of their kisses, Nicky knows and experiences as he’s drawn into a forceful one. It’s as passionate as always, as loving as always. But tinged with desperation, with sorrow. With loss.
“Yusuf.” Nicky moves away, just slightly, only just enough. “I have not left you. I’m right here.”
Joe nods, the grief on his face disappearing slowly but surely. Nicky knows he’s only hiding it, but he will let him. They will deal with that another time.
“Take me to bed, il mio cuore,” he says, smiling as Joe gets a familiar gleam of heat in his eyes. “I wish to spend the night wrapped in your arms.”
“Then in my arms you shall spend it.”
The next kiss is softer, not as tinged with the despair of the future. It lights his everything on fire, stokes it in his belly the way only Joe can. The way he’s lit it for so long. He cradles Joe’s head, pulling him tighter, closer. Always closer. Joe makes him stand up, walks him backwards to their bed, laying him down slowly as they hit the edge. Their lips never separating. It’s familiar, loving, safe. But still as thrilling as all the other times Joe takes him in his arms and kisses him, still as thrilling as all the other times he undresses him slowly and makes love to him.
Spending the night in Joe’s arms is still the safest place he will ever be.
He wakes the next day still cradled in Joe’s arms. They’re naked, the way they prefer to be when they have a room to themselves and everything in Nicky screams to stay there. But the need to talk to Booker and Nile is bigger, though he has no doubts that Booker at least suspects what’s going on. Booker is too smart for his own good at times, as history has shown.
He extracts himself from Joe’s arms, leaning down to kiss his brow and whisper sweet nothings when he makes noises of protest in his sleep. Nicky can only smile at the put open sigh as Joe settles back down, never wanting to be parted from Nicky.
He still leaves him alone in bed, leaving their bedroom and walking downstairs to the kitchen. He knows Booker and Nile are in there before he enters, feels them in his spirit the way he’s always done. He knows they feel him too, their eyes upon him from the second he walks into the kitchen. He has not lost that, still.
“Good morning,” he says smiling. He’s happy to see them smile back. Though he knows they are suspicious, from the way Booker doesn’t completely meet his eyes, or the way Nile’s foot keeps bouncing as if she’s having trouble staying still. “Have you eaten?”
“Not yet, Nile wanted to wait for you,” Booker replies, in the open and honest way he’s been since… Then and all that happened.
“Then I will make us some bre-”
“Are you and Joe okay?”
Booker clears his throat pointedly but Nile just waves him off, obviously not concerned in the slightest by whatever plan Booker probably suggested and she said she would go along with. Nile’s quest for the truth has always been something Nicky has admired, loved, about her. It never gets boring with that around.
“We’re good, Nile. As always,” he says as he starts pulling food out of the fridge, finding a fresh loaf of bread Booker probably left to buy early in the morning, the way he always does when the four of them are near Paris. Still so very French, after all this time. Though Nicky isn’t sure he can say anything, he’s never turned less Italiano after all these years of being alive. “It was a rough night, that’s all.”
“That was not just a rough night, he was-”
Nicky’s eyes find Booker’s, as he speaks up to make Nile stop her questioning. Booker’s eyes are filled with questions, so Nicky nods, just once, short and precise. He watches Booker’s eyes fill with grief, his posture sagging as he takes in the new knowledge of the world.
“What’s going on?”
Nicky smiles, a loving thing that speaks of the family that they are, Booker smiling back in the same way before they both turn to Nile. She looks worried, scared, in a way Nicky wishes she didn’t have to be. She doesn’t deserve to be, but it’s a testament of who they are and what they go through that those feelings never completely disappear. They never will.
“I’m mortal, Nile,” Nicky replies, going to her and crouching down in front of her as he takes her hand. “I stubbed my toe four days ago and it didn’t stop hurting. Then the day after I cut my finger when I was cooking and it didn’t heal.”
“Nicky!” She yells, her voice wrought with fear for him.
“Shh, it’s okay. Last night was Joe finding out. He did not take kindly to the information.”
“No, Nile. I might be mortal but I plan on living a long life still.” He cups her face, smiling in the face of the tears pooling in her eyes. “I am not leaving anyone in this family any time soon. Besides, I could not leave you alone with only Booker, it would be a cruel fate.”
“Haha,” Booker says as he moves to take over the cooking. “You should be happy I do not speak ill of my elders.”
“Since when?” Nile asks sceptically.
“Since now. If Nicky’s mortal, it means he’s officially a priest again, and one has to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church when in the presence of a priest.”
Nicky can’t help but laugh. He hasn’t been a priest in so long and he’s not planning on becoming one again. He’s done far too many unholy things with Joe, and in his long life, for that to be the case. “I do not think the Church would accept me back, Booker, after all we’ve done.”
“That might be, but you still have faith after all this time.” Booker cracks a few eggs into the skillet. “And in your own words, everything happens for a reason. Your faith wouldn’t let you down like that.”
“I don’t think so either,” Nile says. The only one besides him to still have any sort of faith. “It’s not your time yet.”
“No,” he replies. “It is not.”
He gets to his feet, pressing a soft kiss to the crown of Nile’s head before he walks over to Booker, pulling his head down so he can press a kiss to his temple too. Booker swats him playfully, but he knows it’s just for show. Booker accepts the free affection of his family much easier now, knows he needs it to survive and fight the depression he’s always battled. It’s a sign of faith, of love and forgiveness to kiss his temple for Nicky, whenever he can get away with it. It might not be often, but he still enjoys it when he can. The simple affection and kindness come easy for Nicky and Booker deserves to be shown them.
“Why is everyone but me getting kisses from my Nicky?”
Booker snorts at the mock indignation in Joe’s voice. “He keeps giving them to me, how can I refuse.”
Joe mutters under his breath but still moves over and places his own smacking kiss on Booker’s other temple before he moves over and does the same to Nile. Nicky watches Booker’s reaction, how he freezes slightly before continuing to make (almost burn) the second round of eggs, quickly followed by bacon. Joe has shown Booker he’s completely forgiven many times, though the darkness in Booker doesn’t always believe that. Even knowing as he does that he served his penance in more ways than one and none of them hold it against him anymore. Nicky squeezes his shoulder before moving over and joining Joe and Nile at the kitchen table.
It’s an easy morning, simple and quiet, the way many of their mornings have been in the years they’ve been together, but deep down he knows something has changed. He knows his days with them are numbered, knows that he wants to eventually live out the rest of his days away from the action. And him living out his days means that Joe will leave too. Even if he tried to make Joe stay, there’s no way that he will. No way that he would be left alone without him.
“Did Copley the Fourth give us any information on our target?” Joe asks, reaching for Nicky’s hands and tangling them together as Booker brings their breakfast over to the table. Not the easiest way to eat, but Nicky will never say no when Joe wants to be close.
After James Copley there was Elaine Dawson. After Elaine there was Darren Whitaker. After Darren there’s Mustafa “Moose” King. Or Copley the Fourth as they affectionately like to call him. The Copleys are all chosen by their predecessors, happily keeping them secret and helping them stay out of the ether. Merrick taught them a lesson they never wanted to learn, but they learned it well when they had to. And their habit of trusting one person has proven valuable over the years.
Though Nicky has reservations about Nile’s relations with the current Copley. But he knows this is a tale she must discover for herself. He’s had Joe the entire time, how can he begrudge her some happiness.
“His name is Mustafa. And yes, he did. He gave us all the info we needed,” Nile replies. Joe, Booker, and Nicky all share a look, hiding their amusement from the youngest member of their team. All this time and she is still such a 1990s kid. “We still have about two weeks until we can move out, so I’ll monitor with him-”
“I’ll bet you will,” Booker murmurs under his breath, causing Nile to give him a slight smack.
“Until then there’s no harm in us staying here, right?”
“Staying right here, close to your boyfriend. Yes, no harm.” Booker laughs as Nile smacks him again, harder. “We can stay, Nile. The perimeter is secure and so is this house. I promise.”
“Okay, good. We agree then? Two weeks and then we move out.”
They spend the two weeks together, being near one another as much as they can. Nicky knows it’s because they want to savour their time with him, in case something happens on the mission they have to see through. In case he actually dies and does not come back. It’s a somber thought, and one he will not entertain for long. It is not his time yet.
He’s still restless, uncertain in ways he hasn’t been in years. Possibly never, but he doesn’t really remember anymore. The last time he felt any kind of nervous was when Andy was mortal. Though a mission was not what killed her, he does not believe that will be his end either.
He’s almost wrong. Feels the panic settle deep in his skull as the bullet tears through his leg. Hears Joe yell in fury, as Booker sprints, faster than Booker has ever sprinted, over to him and starts putting pressure on the wound. Sees him and Nile, even Joe, finally accept that he is indeed mortal when the wound doesn’t close.
He decides then and there that if he survives this then he will leave, unless they need a sniper. He wants to live the rest of his years with his Joe, his Yusuf. He doesn’t want to miss out on the things he never thought he would have.
“I was thinking about that time in Malta,” he whispers, hands tangled with Joe’s as Booker patches him up and Nile watches from the side. Ever vigilant, even if they are out of danger.
“Which time in Malta?”
He gives Joe a look, a slight, secretive smile on his face. The smile he knows Joe adores more than almost anything. His kiss is the only thing Joe adores more.
“Oh, that time in Malta.”
“We should go back there. And stay.”
Booker’s hands still for a second, two, before he goes back to wrapping the wound. Nile takes a deep breath, her controlled breathing loud in Nicky’s ears. Joe just looks at him, a bit of the grief he holds inside on his face. But he smiles back, loving and warm as always.
“Yes, let's go back to Malta.”
“Do you guys mind, if we leave?” He asks. He will not leave Booker and Nile alone if they do.
“Not if we can come visit,” Nile replies, her gaze sad but a smile appearing on her face. Booker nods in agreement, short and sure like Booker always is nowadays.
“Any time you like,” Joe says, looking at them both. Nicky watches him catch Booker’s eye as he says the second part of his sentence. “If we don’t see you at least once a year we will come find you, comprendre?”
“Oui. Ce sera mon honneur,” Booker says with obvious relief. “Where in Malta will you go?”
“We have a place.”
Nicky understands now, why people who get hurt complain about the lingering aches of time. His foot healed well, exactly the way it should but ten years from that date it still pains him on days with bad weather, when he takes the wrong step or if he sleeps slightly wrong. He’s felt every one of these ten years, from the way his body aches in ways it never has before, to the greys in his hair, to the way Joe looks at him. He’s never doubted that Joe loves him, he doubts it less now, their simple lives in their cottage a testament to that love and devotion.
Their cottage is a place of emotion and has been since Nicky acquired it in the late 1800s. It’s been ‘inherited’ down his family, all of them versions of his alias of course. But from Nicolò de Genovo to Nicky Genova it’s still his. His place to call home with Joe. Secretly at first, in the open now though Joe is still careful when he’s outside so people do not believe he hasn’t aged. A little makeup and some hair changes has always kept them safe.
Nicky doesn’t need that now, aging gracefully as he is. Some part of him has been waiting for this, but his sadness at doing this without Joe is still there. He keeps it to himself as much as he can but after so long it’s not the easiest to do. Knowing Joe feels the same makes it all better.
He knows Joe tests his healing every month. In the hopes that his has ended well. It breaks both their hearts that it hasn’t. But they do not focus on it.
Instead, they focus on the good things, how living a quiet life suits them. They focus on Joe’s endless fascination and admiration for how Nicky changed. They focus on loving one another and making the most of all their days.
They travel when they want to, rediscovering memories in good places, make better ones in bad places. It’s a simple life, but a good one. They meet up with Nile and Booker when they are able, the two of them still together and doing what they can for the world. Joe joins them at random intervals when he’s needed or wanted, Nicky as well. Though now he stays out of sight, doing his best work with his sniper rifle when it’s needed.
A simple life, a quiet one. But still filled with excitement and adrenaline, when they want. And if Nicky joins Moose in doing research often enough that Moose gets exasperated because technology is not Nicky’s strong suit, no one has to know. Though Booker laughs at him when he has the chance. So everyone knows.
His favorite days still belong to Joe. Sleeping till late, spending slow and quiet mornings in bed, soft touches and lazy kisses that turn hot and possessive in mere minutes, their skin gliding together in a symphony well practiced and lovingly done, both of them screaming for an encore the minute they finish, even if Nicky’s body doesn’t always appreciate it these days. He still loves to bury his hands in Joe’s hair, tugging the way he knows Joe adores while pressing bruising kisses into his skin as Joe takes them in hand and brings them to completion on the less than good days, or one of them coming deep inside the other on the better days.
His body might grow older, but their passion never does.
Twenty years down the line and he’s noticeably older, his hair longer and full of grey, his body softer and slightly less defined even if he’s still muscled and fit. His body is technically in its 50s now, even if his mind and experience have passed a millennium.
They’re still in Malta, still in their cottage, still living a peaceful life. But over the ten years they’ve been joined by a Briard dog that Nicky found on the streets one day, his tawny colored fur matted and filthy, the dog angry and scared as Nicky approached it. Thankfully he’s always been patient, he has been with Joe for a very long time and his lover does know how to push buttons, so with a bit of time and some cold cuts he managed to get the dog safely back to their place.
Booker didn’t laugh the first time he heard the dog had been named after him, but a mangy and scared Frenchman, even if the man in question had four legs, was too good to pass up. A few years later and even Booker laughs when both he and the dog react to their names at the same time. And he’s always there to doggy sit if Nicky and Joe decide to travel.
He keeps being told of the adventures of Booker and Booker when they get back from their travels, never by Booker but by the people that live close to them. He decides early on to never tell Booker that he knows, just in case the day comes when he wants to tell them himself. He hasn’t so far but Nicky has faith, always faith.
Though Booker the dog doesn’t seem to be aging, so perhaps Booker the man has finally found the companion he’s been searching for. Nicky sincerely hopes that is the case.
Joe has taken to not being around the other people in their village, after twenty years in the same place without him looking any different, even if Nicky carefully dyes silver into his hair so it seems like he’s aging. Nicky thinks the town’s people know, or at least suspect, their… Joe’s secret. But no one seems to care. Just like no one comments on how Booker and Nile have never changed, on their yearly visit (that often turns into 6 times a year). Nicky pays close attention when he’s out and about with them, especially Joe, but the people around them just smile and greet them as if nothing is out of the ordinary. He’s incredibly thankful for it, he really doesn’t want to leave their place. Especially now that Joe has taken to not going on missions at all.
Instead he stays home with Nicky, seemingly loving the way he turns older, how his flesh fills out more in a natural way of aging, how his hair is turning more and more silver, how the blue of his eyes never loses their shine or affection for the things around them. Joe never stops touching him, never stops running his hands down his body or through his hair, kissing his neck or cheek or shoulder, whichever part that is reachable at the moment. Growing old with Joe by his side is a blessing in that he never feels unwanted or unloved, never feels like his ever changing body is a source of disgust or annoyance. He’s just loved in every moment of his mortal life, as he was in every moment of his immortal one.
It’s a wonderful feeling and it never stops being wonderful, spending the days within reach of Joe and in his arms.
Thirty years down the line and he’s in his 60s. He’s been completely fine with his aging body, but turning sixty has been the complete opposite. Especially with Joe’s still young and gorgeous self around. He hates how things are starting to sag, he hates how he can’t keep up with Joe, or even Booker and Nile anymore, he hates how old he feels compared to them. He hates that his foot still randomly hurts.
He has moments of extreme self consciousness, where taking off any piece of clothing in front of anyone, even Joe, wrecks hell on his confidence and self-image. He’s at times afraid to touch Joe because he believes that at any moment Joe will shy away from him, give him a look of unbearable disgust that would destroy his everything. Sometimes he forgets, his mind tricking him into thinking that he’s still young and immortal and he kisses Joe without thinking about it. He’s always horrified when he remembers. But Joe always smiles and wraps his arms around him, no sign of any discomfort on his face. He’ll whisper sweet words into Nicky’s ear and crook of his neck, biting him gently and sucking bruises into his skin, lazy kisses anywhere on his skin and flicking his tongue over the lobe of his ear to rile him up. It always makes Nicky chuckle, that soft, quiet chuckle of his, which in turn makes Joe smile widely and kiss him properly, his hands running up and down Nicky’s body like he never wants to let him go. It usually leads to slow and easy love making that lasts deep into the night, Joe coaxing as much pleasure out of Nicky as he possibly can, while Nicky himself just turns into a puddle of goo who is so deeply in love with his partner that nothing else matters. It reminds him of who they used to be, though Nicky knows that they’re still those people, even if he is older.
He needs the reminder that even if he has trouble loving himself at times, aging as he is, Joe has no trouble loving him, worshipping him, being thankful for every day by his side. He needs to remember, then he won’t have trouble believing it. And perhaps he won’t feel like he has to let Joe go, to live his life away from him and Booker (who really isn’t aging) so he can live it to his full potential with Nile and Booker and not stay with a sagging old man and an undying Briard. Joe wouldn’t leave even if he tried to put it forward and he won’t ever disrespect him like that. It would only cause a fight, one that Nicky doesn’t want to have. He loves Joe too much for that.
“Nicolò, il mio cuore, are you planning on joining me in this water or are you going to stay there all day?”
Nicky looks at Joe, laughing as he splashes around in the deep cerulean water not far from their cottage.
“No, my Yusuf, I don’t want to get my hair wet,” he replies, tugging slightly on his longer, now silvery hair.
Joe snorts, a deep sound that makes Nicky smile fondly, though the smile turns to a grin as Joe walks out of the water and towards him. His body is muscular and gorgeous, tanned skin stretching beautifully over lean hands and slender legs, his shoulders wide and so gorgeously touchable, his waist narrow and tapered. He’s slightly sad he can’t see Joe’s rear, but watching his front in tight swim trunks with the beautiful thighs that he knows the exact strength of is not a bad option. He still spins his finger, laughing lightly as Joe actually turns around and flexes, showing off his ass and his delightful back that Nicky has spent many hours touching, kissing, worshipping as if it is a wonder of the world. And to him it is.
“Prego,” he says as Joe looks over his shoulder. Joe winks and wiggles his ass just because he can before he turns around again and walks over, sitting down in Nicky’s lap facing him.
“I do like your silver hair,” Joe murmurs, his hands coming up to run through Nicky’s hair. Nicky closes his eyes and just relaxes into his talented hands, soft moans dropping unwittingly from his lips as Joe gently massages his head and tangles his fingers in his hair just the way he likes it.
“Jesus Christ, Nicky, you know what those moans do to me.”
Nicky opens his eyes, watching Joe bite his lower lip as he continues his ministration. “It feels very good when you touch me, Joe, you know this.”
“You are a goddamned tease, Nicky.” Joe uses his hands and pulls him close enough to give him a deep kiss. “No wonder I married you.”
“Did you? Marry me? I do not remember this.”
Joe mock gasps, one hand leaving Nicky’s hair to land dramatically on his chest. “Why I never. And here I thought we were madly in love and had a delightful ceremony.”
“You made me speak the Rite of Marriage since Booker said I would become a priest again when my immortality ended,” Nicky says, still smiling adoringly at his beloved, moving up to stroke along his lower back.
“Yes well, we had witnesses, the words were spoken, we both said yes. We’re married.”
“Of course we are, mi amore.” Nicky pushes himself forward to put a small kiss on Joe’s cheek. “I have married you many times during our years together and I will marry you as many more as you wish of me.”
“Molto bene,” Joe whispers, kissing Nicky softly. “Can I touch you?”
The damning insecurity rears its ugly head, making Nicky freeze without meaning for a second. He shakes it off, but Joe is already looking at him with a look he always hopes he doesn’t have to see. It’s not pity, it’s not despair. It’s just a look of understanding that feels wrong, even if it isn’t.. “I’m-“
“Please do not apologize, Nicky. You never have to apologize to me.” Joe sighs, his gaze deep and imploring as he looks at Nicky. “I love you no matter what you look like or feel like. You are the love of my life, nothing changes that.”
“I know,” Nicky replies. “My insecurities about me aging and you staying the same are catching up to me. I know you love me, I know you still desire me, I know you still look at me with lust in your eyes. My mind must catch up, but I do not always find it easy.”
“As long as you know that I do. And that you know I love touching you, feeling your skin against mine.” Joe runs his hands through Nicky’s hair as he talks, moving his hands down the front of his shirt and around to his ass. “I desire your presence every hour of every day and that will never stop. You are my heart, Nicky, and I love you more than life itself.”
“Did I not call you an incurable romantic, once?” Nicky asks softly. He probably has what Nile affectionately calls heart-eyes, but he does not mind one bit.
“Mm, in an armored van on our way to be tortured. What a life we’ve lived together.”
“We still have many years, Joe.” Nicky smiles, a hint of the smug smile he also knows Joe loves. “But for now, do with me as you please.”
“Any time you wish,” Joe replies, locking their lips together. And Nicky loses himself to the man he loves, gladly, willingly. Lovingly.
He’s closer to eighty, now. Forty years and change since he lost his immortality. He’s become much more frail in the last ten years, his back aching and his leg never really feels good any more. He’s in slight pain more often than not, even if he’s still in somewhat good shape. He still does light training with Joe when he feels up to it, still swims whenever he can so he can still feel somewhat fit next to Joe.
But he knows it won’t matter for much longer. He can feel it in his bones, in his faith, that he’s running out of time. His mortality has been good, what he remembers of the first thirty-three years and what he knows now of his last forty-five. And all those years in between, all of them with Joe. With Andy, Quynh, Booker, Nile, and Booker the Briard, who’s still running around, currently with the two-legged Booker and Nile who never leaves their side for long.
He’s lived a good life, and a very happy one with a lot of good days. But it’s now that he’s coming up on his last days that the sadness of leaving Joe appears again. It’s always been there, at the back of his mind. Lurking like a bad dream he will never be rid of, the day he goes off to pastures unknown without Joe.
Joe still loves him like he was thirty-three, like he was forty, fifty, sixty. They still sleep the same way they always have, Joe wrapped around him, they still have lazy mornings in bed and long make out sessions that leave them both breathless and panting. Nicky laments the fact that his libido has slowly disappeared more and more over the years, but he still gets an amazing thrill at seeing Joe in the midst of ecstasy, he still adores helping him through it, be it by hand or mouth or their greater collection of toys. He still wants and needs to give Joe everything he can, just like Joe does for him.
They’re having one of those lazy mornings in bed, Nicky tenderly wrapped in Joe’s arms when he notices it. At first he thinks his mind is playing a trick on him, a cruel joke on the last of his days. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and reopens them. It’s still there. His heart starts beating a bit faster, his breath taking a quicker pace.
“Joe. You have a bruise on your throat.”
For a moment, a second, two, there’s quiet. Their breaths can’t be heard as they’re holding them, the sound outside the window disappears, the creaking of their cottage stills.
“Are you sure?”
He hears the trepidation in Joe’s voice, and he nods instead of answering. His finger lifts to press slightly on it, he hears Joe do a sharp inhale as he feels it. And once again his everything lunges for a knife, but instead of the slashes he did all those years ago, he does a small cut to his finger. Much like the small cut Nicky did when he first discovered his mortality.
They both watch as the blood wells. And how it doesn’t stop welling as it’s wiped away.
“We’re mortal, together.”
Joe cries, after that. Nicky holds him tightly in his arms, as silent rivulets of tears run down Joe’s cheek. The last of Nicky’s days, and they’re finally here together. The way they’ve always been since they found one another all those years ago, after a few rough starts and a mountain of bad blood to wash away between them.
Nicky can’t help but thank his Dio, the God he might not always believe in anymore but still has faith in that he doesn’t have to live in the afterlife without Joe for long. He doesn’t doubt that Joe is sending his prayers to Allah for the same thing.
They stay in bed that day, the last of Nicky’s days. He knows it now, knows that this is what he was waiting for. Waiting for his faith to give him his happy ending, with the other half of his soul. He falls asleep in Joe’s arms like he has so many times before.
He knows no more from then on.
A few days later Booker, Booker the Briard, and Nile enter their cottage. Booker the Briard starts whining the second he gets through the door, running to the bedroom and opening the door with his paws the way he’s done a thousand times before. He stops in front of the bed, a soft woof leaving him as he looks at the two men on the bed.
Nile follows, Booker behind her. They stop inside the door, knowing instantly that both men are dead.
“Of course they went together,” Booker says, grief welling inside of him but still he smiles as he sees their two beloved friends, their family, wrapped together on their bed. In their home for so many years.
“Do you think...”
“No, Nile, they would not take their life like that. Nicky has always had faith that when it was his time to go Joe would follow. And Joe believed the same.” He smiles at her, taking her hand. “Nicky might’ve lost his immortality first, but Joe was never going to leave him alone. There wouldn’t be the one without the other. They were soulmates, from beginning to end. That’s all.”
“We need to bury them,” Nile says, after a few minutes. She’s holding Booker’s hand tightly, tears flowing freely. Grief unites them, but they both cannot help but be happy that Joe and Nicky are still together, wherever they are. “We’ll give them to their final resting place, together.”
Years later Booker and Nile dream. Dream of two men, waking up together in immortality. Their hands holding the other, flashes of blue eyes and curly dark hair.
They wake up and smile, Booker the Briard barking around them as if excited about something. Maybe reincarnation isn’t a thing, maybe it never will be. But they still choose to believe.
They find them in a cottage in Malta.