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a holy war in the living room

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“You ready?”

Joe drops down heavily on the couch with an explosive exhale. Stretches his arms out on either side of the backrest, rolls his eyes. Nicky doesn’t catch it - he’s too busy fiddling with the VCR, squatting down to poke and prod at the buttons. They rarely stay in one place long enough to bother with buying electronics, but each sublet seems to come with its own assortment of trinkets, trifles. And this one - well.

“This isn’t quite A Trip to the Moon, Nico, I think I’ll be able to manage my astonishment.”

“You think George Méliès ever made a movie like this?” Nicky says. There’s a thread of excitement shivering through his voice, which would probably be imperceptible to anyone else.

Joe spreads his legs a bit, cracks his neck, picks at a loose thread in the upholstery. “Should’ve asked him.”

Nicky hums in concentration, then stands, hands on his hips. He stares down at the screen, which is frozen on a shot of the bed just a room away. All tacky floral wallpaper and light green bedding. There’s light spilling in from somewhere off camera, bouncing off the brass headboard, the crystal knobs on the bureau in the background and the collection of figurines adorning the top. Joe’s seen worse. They’ve stayed in some real eyesores over the years.

“Alright, here we go,” Nicky says then, bending once more to get the tape playing, then drifts over to the couch to settle down at Joe’s side. He nestles with ease and grace right into the opening under Joe’s widespread arm, tucked in perfectly. Joe curls his arm around Nicky’s shoulders, rubbing idly at Nicky’s upper arm with his thumb, and feels a deep and familiar sense of peace descend over him.

“Sure you don’t want to get some popcorn first?” Joe says, watching the side of Nicky’s face. His bright eyes, the curve of his nose and arch of his lips. The little mole that Joe knows he could pinpoint with his fingertip in total darkness. He’s beautiful. Truly worthy of being captured on film - immortalized, one might say, and Joe almost laughs when he thinks it.

Too bad they’ll have to destroy it later. Would make a nice memento of their time in the City of Angels.

“Why, are you hungry?” Nicky asks with such earnestness that all Joe can do is squeeze his arm. Smiles, shakes his head, then looks toward the screen.

He hears himself first. “Is it rolling?”

“I think so.” Nicky’s voice is a bit more tinny than normal. Distorted enough that Joe can just tell it apart from the real thing.

The screen shifts back and forth a bit, unfocuses and refocuses again, and then they’re both walking casually into frame. Next to him, Nicky tenses up. He’s not even blinking. Movie-Joe goes and sits on the bed, hands dangling between his knees as Nicky backs away from the camera, head a bit tilted, studying it intensely. Joe imagines him snapping a clapboard, shouting “action!” and suppresses a laugh deep in his chest.

After a thousand years, it’s not often that they are graced with new experiences. Especially when it comes to sex. Joe often wonders if they’ve done it all, if there’s truly nothing novel left to try, but. Nicky always proves him wrong. 

And really, he should have seen this coming. 

When he was rifling through the cabinets and closets of their latest temporary residence, as he always does - (likes seeing how other people live. Regular people, who only have so much time, and have to constantly decide how to spend it) - and found it, tucked up on a high shelf.

“Nicolo, look at this,” he’d said, hefting the heavy camcorder this way and that. Nicky walked up and gently took it from him, instantly intrigued.

He was grinning, handling it as delicately as some ancient artifact. Seemed quite new, actually, though Joe couldn’t be sure. Never quite kept up with technology the way Nicky does. “Hollywood,” Nicky mused absently. “Everyone wants to be a star.”

Joe absently ran a hand down Nicky’s side while Nicky popped open a compartment, pulled out a large VHS tape and examined it. There was a label hastily slapped to the front with “DEMO” scribbled on it. Nicky took his time as always, fascinated, a small quirk to his mouth, and Joe couldn’t stop himself from leaning in to nose at Nicky’s cheek, press a kiss to his jaw.

“Think we should watch it?” he murmured, feeling suddenly distracted.

Nicky laughed, a short burst of air from his nose, then slipped the tape back in and clicked the compartment shut. “I’m not really one to play voyeur to peoples’ broken dreams.”

“That’s rather cynical.”

“Look around you,” Nicky said quietly. “Does it look like this place belongs to a movie star?”

“It could. Perhaps a very… modest one,” Joe said, reaching to maneuver the camera from Nicky by the handle. He let it hang at his side with one hand, slipped the other under Nicky’s shirt just to feel the skin of his bare waist for the trillionth time. Soft and silky as it’s ever been.

“‘Modest’ is one word for it,” Nicky said, slow, though his eyes had already fluttered closed. The camera didn’t seem so interesting anymore.

Joe kneeled just enough to place it gently on the ground, so as to avoid dropping it in his distraction. Then he backed Nicky into the hallway wall and forgot about it completely.

Still, he should’ve known then. 

For all that he can predict Nicky’s movements, his every step and turn in a fight; for all that it sometimes feels as though they can read each other’s mind, he had to admit that a few days later, when Nicky walked in with a paper bag of food and supplies and slid a single, shrink-wrapped VHS tape onto the kitchen counter with an expectant look on his face - he was completely blindsided.

“I had an idea,” he’d said, and the gleam in his eyes - now that, Joe had recognized more precisely than his own reflection.

“Andy wouldn’t like it,” Joe’d said later that evening over a glass of wine.

Nicky almost choked, setting his glass down too hard. “Why on Earth would Andy ever find out?”

“I just mean, she doesn’t like there to be recorded images of us. You know that.”

“So we’ll watch it, and then destroy it.”

Joe considered for a moment, drumming his fingers on the table. He’d already known he was going to agree, able to deny Nicky nothing. At the very least, it would be a new experience, and at best...

“But what if we like it?” he asked, looking up at Nicky from under his brows, keeping his face purposely neutral. Or, at least, trying to.

The eager, hopeful expression that crept over Nicky had warmth seeping outward from Joe’s chest to his fingertips, his toes. Nicky’d known he had him. But of course he did. He always did. Still, his response was impressively casual.

“We’ll make another one. Then destroy that one.”

Joe’d have been lying if he said he wasn’t intrigued. In the last century alone they’d made love in crystal clear waters, on tops of tall buildings that climbed toward the clouds, in speeding trains and sparkling caverns. They had made love in every fashion, every configuration, had experiences with Nicky that convinced him he was either dreaming or blissfully dead. But never had they observed themselves in the act of it. Right away, Joe had seen the appeal.

And now, as they sit in front of the finished product, Joe realizes his palms are sweating, not sure exactly what to expect. He casually rubs his right hand over his pant leg.

“Your directorial debut,” Joe says, just to cut through the quiet, as movie-Nicky finally turns his back to the camera and steps between Joe’s knees.

Nicky grins and glances over at him, then leans to pop a quick kiss onto Joe’s mouth. “Couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Oh, I don’t know if that’s true,” Joe muses to no one in particular as Nicky turns his attention back toward the screen, sinks deeper against him. “Would just be a different sort of movie.”

The sort he’d never tire of watching, really, despite having been privy to the live show countless times. It always felt like something sacred, seeing Nicky like that - vulnerable and in control of his own pleasure, mouth bitten, chest heaving, unbreaking gaze never once failing to remind Joe that this display was an offering for him and him alone. Probably best to never capture it on film, then, and Joe didn’t need it. He could recall every detail on command.

On the television his lover moves in close, runs gentle, reverent fingers through his beard. He watches himself take hold of Nicky’s hips, automatic and sure, and his breath catches a bit, the back of his neck going hot. On screen, his eyes flutter closed at Nicky’s touch, one hand still petting his beard and the other burying itself in his hair, but in reality, he can’t bring himself to so much as blink. Then, movie-Joe looks up - up at Nicky’s face with wide, sparkling eyes that he doesn’t recognize, transparent and full of yearning.

Is that what he looks like whenever he looks at this man?

It’s so plain, so unguarded, it makes his heart pound. Sure, Nicky had always been the more stoic between them, harder to read to anyone who has not spent years studying the calligraphy of his face, but to see himself so bare, so brazenly naked in feeling - how could he not have known?

He watches himself slide Nicky’s shirt up his body. The obliging way Nicky reaches behind himself, fisting the fabric and pulling it off in one smooth motion, a blur of forest green tossed out of frame. The muscles in his back flex subtly with every movement, shoulder blades shifting as Nicky returns the favor, divesting Joe of his own shirt. Sees the way he raises his arms in easy accommodation, then plasters them to the expanse of Nicky’s back as soon as they’re free. They take their time, he notices, and why shouldn’t they?

When movie-Joe buries his face against Nicky’s stomach, planting lingering kisses along honeyed skin, the smell of lilac and pollen and sea salt fills Joe’s nose in the here and now, an echo of the scent he’s basked in since what feels like the dawn of time.

“We look good on film,” Nicky says, eyes still locked to the screen. He lets a hand drift over to rest, natural and secure, on Joe’s inner thigh.

Joe leans over to press a kiss to Nicky’s neck, taking a moment to luxuriate in a deep inhale as he nods in agreement. “We do.”

By which he means Nicky does, because he always does. A lifetime of unchanging anatomy will do that, of course, but he has always suspected that immortality was not the reason for Nicky’s enduring beauty. One’s form is but an outward reflection of one’s inner quality. In that, Nicky has always been the most arresting man Joe has ever met.

The room seems to get warmer, the air thicker, as the tape rolls on. He and Nicky keep stealing sideways glances at each other, knowing little smirks, that make Joe feel young and scandalous in the most novel sort of way. 

On screen, Joe works Nicky’s belt open and pulls the leather free with a little flourish, throws it aside. Unfastens Nicky’s pants and pushes everything down in a slow, suspenseful slide. As if he’s performing. He doesn’t remember intending to perform for the camera, but perhaps he’s always showing off for Nicky, at least a little bit. He deserves it. He always deserves it.

It’s not wholly visible at this angle, but it’s obvious enough. Joe’s head dipping down, one hand caressing the base of Nicky’s spine, the other grabbing a handful of his ass, firm and proprietary, and outside of the screen, he and Nicky let out twin breaths in the quiet living room. Nicky squeezes Joe’s thigh, thumbnail flicking restlessly at his inseam. A shine to his eyes, a clench in his jaw as he swallows loud enough for Joe to hear.

Yeah, this was a good idea.

“God, that felt…” Nicky says, wistful, as if reminiscing on an old and distant memory.

Joe hums, nosing into Nicky’s hair and kissing the ridge of his ear. “Mmm?”

Movie-Nicky lets out a sudden, throaty moan, clenching onto Joe’s shoulders for dear life.

“Can’t you tell?” Nicky gestures. “But it - it always feels like that. Every time. You are,” he pauses, as if searching for the word, or else becomes distracted by the sounds spilling from his recorded self. Quiet suckling noises drip out from the TV speakers like muted static. Finally he settles on, “skilled.”

It’s almost academic, like he’s analyzing their behavior for research purposes. Disconnected as a commentator watching over a football game, as if he’s not part of the action. And yet, there’s a sort of wonder there, too, and it’s that tone of awe that sends the erratic flutter to his chest, and the heavy pressure low in his gut.

“The evidence seems to suggest that, yes,” he says, laying his hand over where Nicky’s is still gripping at his thigh, then rhythmically massaging his way up Nicky’s forearm. 

Nicky shoots him a smirk. There’s color high in his cheeks. Warmth pulsing out from his skin.

Occasionally, movie-Joe’s eyes drift toward the camera, his counterpart stealing quick glances over his shoulder, ever-aware of their silent, mechanical spectator. Or perhaps it was their future selves they were aware of, wanting to do this justice. As if that was ever in question.

He’s not sure where this will lead, if it’s supposed to lead anywhere at all. Wonders if they’ll simply watch this and then go, what, sleep? Read? Do laundry? Go about their evening as if they’d watched nothing more compelling than the news? What he does know, however, is that watching this is making his fingers itch. Making his cock hard and his skin tingle for a reenactment. To feel and smell and taste it all, everything his more fortunate doppelganger is experiencing before his eyes. Nicky must sense that, sense something, because just then, he turns his head to catch Joe’s mouth. It’s a proper kiss, languid and deep.

Maybe that’s why people make these things.

He drops Nicky’s arm without thought, instinctively reaching up to cup his cheek instead. Parts his mouth to let Nicky inside, forever an open invitation. No matter how many new things they try, this is one thing that never changes. The heat of his breath, the slide of his tongue, the taste of him - it will be like this until the end of time. Something to look forward to.

Just as he feels his body swaying closer, though, seeking more, as it always seems to, Nicky breaks the kiss, turns away. 

Joe drops his frustrated, overheated head with a quiet groan.

“I don’t want to miss it,” Nicky says.

“What’s to miss?” Joe mutters at his lap, “You were there.”

But so was Joe, and if he recalls correctly, he knows any minute now he’ll be pulling off, tugging Nicky down to the bed. Discarding the rest of his clothes and laying Nicky out to touch and taste at his leisure. He remembers how gorgeous Nicky looked that day - limbs sprawled, skin flushed, muscles taut, hair fanned out on the pillow.

So he watches. Nicky’s right, he wouldn’t want to miss this.

It plays out just how he remembers. He’s not even sure what to look at - there’s so much more to take in from this angle than there was in the moment. The parting of Nicky’s legs, the deep rise and fall of his chest, the way he squirmed as Joe brushed light fingertips over his flushed cock and down to his thighs. The flexing of his toes. That one was almost new.

And then there’s himself - eager, fixated, practically drooling. Like it’s the first meal he’s seen in months instead of a delicacy he’s been allowed to savor for a millennia.

When movie-Joe breaches him with two fingers, both Nickys suck in a breath. He watches himself lick and bite at Nicky’s chest, watches himself grind down into the mattress as he works Nicky open. Huh. He hadn’t even known he’d been doing that. At his side, heat and tension are rolling off the real Nicky in waves.

He slips a hand underneath Nicky’s shirt and idly pets at his stomach, thumb stroking right underneath the ribcage. Nicky’s still got a firm grip on his thigh. Their exchange is low and breathy, just loud enough to be heard in the space between them, two sets of eyes fixed to the screen.

“Did you like that?” Joe asks. To keep himself grounded, present.

“You know I did.”

“Do you remember what it felt like?”

On screen, Nicky’s back arches right off the bed. “I could remember it in my sleep.”

In his dreams, Joe has had Nicky so many times, in so many ways, he’s often wondered if they meet in some sort of ethereal realm, unwilling to be parted even in sleep. And why not? It’s no less likely than eternal life, he reasons.

The camera catches the occasional flash of their eyes as they glance that way. They’re clearly aware of it - until they’re not. Something shifts in a distinctive, undeniable way. Movie-Nicky lays a hand on the back of Joe’s neck, murmurs something the camera can’t quite catch but which is seared into Joe’s mind as much as anything else - look at me.

It’s an instruction Nicky has given him so often, it’d probably take an entire mortal lifetime to count, one of the first phrases Nicky ever learned in Joe’s native tongue. Back when they were still firmly Nicolo and Yusuf, better at communicating outside the constraints of the spoken language. When it starts to feel like too much, when Nicky feels himself slipping - in bed or in battle - he asks for Joe’s gaze. Maybe so as to feel less alone, maybe to remind him that he still exists, impossibly, after all this time. Joe’s never questioned it. It’s the easiest request he’s ever granted, looking at Nicky no sort of hardship at all.

Movie-Joe does as he’s asked and gets a warm grip in his curls for his trouble. He remembers the way he had to fight not to let his eyes flutter closed right then. All the signs of Nicky’s readiness are there, obvious from this vantage point. The determined way he plants his feet on the bed, the involuntary thrust of his hips, bearing down on Joe’s fingers, free hand scrabbling at the sheet, fisting the fabric. He knows it now and he knew it then, can follow the beats of Nicky’s need like reading well-worn sheet music, which is why -

“Look at you,” Nicky says, half amused, half awestruck, gesturing at the screen. “I think you need it more than me.”

“Oh, is that what you think?” Joe snorts. “Are you watching yourself?”

“No.”

It’s so simple and straightforward, it makes something lurch in Joe’s chest. Even now, even like this, both of them on stark display - still, they watch each other.

Joe hums. Observes himself pulling his fingers free, crawling up Nicky’s body, settling between his legs. When their mouths meet, there is no camera, no gaudy bedroom, no world outside of the two of them. It’s always been like that, he knows it, expects it every time, but. He’s never seen it quite like this.

On screen, Nicky folds both arms around Joe’s neck, brackets him with his knees, keeping him close. Like he’s trying to pull Joe down inside of him, fuse them for good.

He tightens his hold around the real Nicky, the one at his side. His Nicolo, his life. Suddenly feels a surge of gratitude and grief in equal measure; surely a thousand lifetimes of this would not be enough. An odd lump rises in his throat, but he swallows it down.

Can’t quite see it, hidden behind Nicky’s thigh, when he tilts a bit to one side and reaches down between their bodies, but he knows the exact moment he breaches him from the beautiful, shocked whine that spills from Nicky’s mouth. The way Nicky arches into it once again, fingers digging hard enough into Joe’s back to turn his knuckles white. Joe slides all the way in and stays there, bracing his elbows on either side of Nicky’s shoulders, brushing the hair off Nicky’s forehead as they simply blink at each other, breathe into each other.

And suddenly, it’s too much.

All noise is just the rush of blood in Joe’s ears, the erratic thundering of his heart. He’s been inside Nicky a million times, more, but never has he been quite so aware of the reality of it. Two men, two bodies, merged together and held fast by love, by trust, by unrelenting desire. They’re staring at each other open-mouthed and breathless like they’re bearing witness to a miracle, and in fact, that’s exactly what it is. It can be nothing else, no less than a divine gift - when they finally start to move together, he knows he’s seeing it for what it is. A revelation.

Without looking, he slides his hand out from under Nicky’s shirt and instead searches blindly for his hand. Finds it easily, threading their fingers together and squeezing. He can’t breathe, can’t blink, can’t look away from the display before him.

The tenderness, the devotion, between the two people on screen is astonishingly, almost painfully, barefaced. Potent. That’s us. Nicky and me. Nicky’s clutching at his back, legs tangled up with his own, pulling him deeper. Their eyes don’t close unless they’re kissing, bodies ebbing and flowing as one. They’re lost, he can see it. Hopelessly, desperately astray, with only one another to guide them home. Not ‘them,’ us. That’s us.

He never thinks about in the moment. Not in bed, not on the battlefield - it just is. It always has been. Like choreography they were born, or perhaps reborn, knowing by heart. The give and take, twisting and winding around each other, adjoining cogs in the most glorious machine. A perpetual awareness of where Nicky is. An assurance that anything he throws, Nicky will be there to catch. Automatic, instinctive. But to see it like this, the way an outsider might - is this really what they look like together?

A soft touch to his cheek cuts through the din of his own wonderment. Everything goes quiet. “Yusuf,” he hears then, a whisper, laced with concern. He finally blinks, and instantly knows what Nicky’s about to say before he says it.

“Are you okay?”

Joe pulls in a breath, maybe the first he’s taken in minutes, hours. It feels oddly similar to coming back from - well, wherever it is they go. His face and neck are hot, eyes burning. He lifts a shoulder and uses it to quickly dry half his face.

Then he turns. Nicky’s looking him over, worry creasing his brow. “I’m alright,” he says.

“What is it?” Nicky asks gently.

Another breath, taken on purpose. He pauses to gather himself, to figure out how to answer that question. Nicky deserves the truth of it, always, the best way he can express it. Anything else would be a disservice, and he’d know Joe was lying anyhow, if he brushed this off.

“It’s - this,” he says, nodding toward the television.

A half-smile quirks Nicky’s mouth. “I don’t think it’s that bad.”

God, Nicky is smiling, and Joe’s heart finally spills over. He feels it filling up his chest and rising up to pour out of his mouth in a torrent of words that will surely sound meaningless, insufficient.

“You’re beautiful, Nicolo,” he blurts out.

The compliment clearly registers on Nicky’s face. His mouth twitches, eyes going soft, but he waits. He has the patience of a saint and the wisdom of a scholar. Always knows when to speak, and when not to - tries to help Joe to learn the same. It’s one of the countless things Joe loves about him.

“This - this is beautiful. You and me, like this.” Joe’s breath catches in his chest, squeezes around his heart. He buys time by reaching up to scrub at his beard, feeling oddly inarticulate.

He glances back at the screen just in time to catch them with their hands entwined above Nicky’s head, forearms aligned, skin kissing from fingertip to elbow. They’re rocking, gliding through the motion as rhythmically as a church bell, too steeped in pleasure to do more than nip aimlessly at each others’ mouths. And he remembers. How invincible he felt right then. How invincible they are together, in a way in which even immortality itself cannot compare.

“Do you know what I see when I look at that?” he asks.

Nicky’s attention is on him now, entirely, and it’s a warm, glowing thing. In the background there is the ever-present soundtrack of their lovemaking - the whispers and sighs, breathy moans and punched-out groans, the creak of the bedsprings beneath them.

Joe catches his eyes and doesn’t let go. Can’t, not with the real thing right in front of him, looking at him that way.

“A poor, undeserving fool being treated to the most intense rapture?” Nicky says, smiling again, damn him, and Joe cannot help but smile back. He reaches up and lays his hands on either side of Nicky’s neck, stroking at his jaw and cheeks with his thumbs. 

“I see the union of two souls, Nicolo. That - that is what we are. Our spirits, our bodies, were forged into precise shapes, and cast onto this Earth to fit together, perfectly. Do you see?”

When he drops his hands and looks again, it feels almost voyeuristic. Like they’re intruding on something - the way the two men on the screen are looking at each other gives everything away.

Nicky’s answer is quiet, sincere. “Of course I see. I have always known.”

“You so often speak of destiny and when I look at this…” There it is again, that scalding sensation behind his eyes, and everything goes blurry. “...I see it. I see destiny made manifest. An eternity with you, oh. My Nico, I can think of nothing more satisfying.”

He can’t seem to stop. It all feels so important, so vital to say, now that he has borne witness to what seems like an unassailable truth. It’s far from the first soliloquy he has delivered on the enormity of his love for this man, his appreciation for all that Nicky is and all that they are together. It is unlikely to be his last. He feels no shame for it, no urge to suppress any of this. For that, too, he is grateful.

And in a move that almost stops his heart so thoroughly that this time, he thinks it may never resume it’s desperate beat, Nicky leans forward and presses his mouth to damp skin, kissing the tears right off his face. Joe almost sobs. Simply exhales instead, long and shaky.

“It is that way for me, too,” Nicky assures him. “I love seeing us like this.”

Joe nods, and Nicky lays both hands flat on Joe’s chest, pushes him back. Abandons the movie altogether, twisting in place and swinging a leg over Joe in one fluid movement, landing heavily in his lap. Slides his palms up to wind his arms around Joe’s neck. Joe runs his hands down the long line of Nicky’s back, a road he’s trod enough times to leave a permanent indent of his prints, and settles them around the curve of Nicky’s ass.

“You are so good to me,” Nicky says. Simple and sure.

Joe’s stomach clenches. He swallows thickly, locking eyes with Nicky’s again, willing him to understand.

“Because you - you are the reason, Nico, for everything. You are my truth, my purpose. None of this means anything without you.”

Nicky’s next words come out in lilting Italian; Joe’s not sure Nicky’s even aware of the switch. “You won’t be without me. Fate wouldn’t let that happen. Not to us.”

“Not to us,” Joe repeats nonsensically, tipping forward to rest their foreheads together. He breathes out. “Sometimes I think I love you so much I might die from it.”

“Ah, well,” Nicky says. Joe can feel him stroking the nape of his neck. “You’d come back.”

“Always.”

There’s a brief pause that seems to contain all the significance in the world, and then all that’s left is the joining of their mouths. Shared breath, life being given, taken, given again. Nicky rises up on his knees a bit to deepen the press of his kiss, and it’s nothing short of ecstasy. 

He pulls Nicky as close as he can. Might still be crying, isn’t really sure at this point. All he’s sure of is the taste of Nicky, the smell of him, the press of his body. He speaks those three words again, so meager and meaningful all at once, into Nicky’s mouth. They’re muffled, warped, but Nicky catches them, offers them back. Again and again he says them, until the ache in his chest feels soothed.

When it happens, he hears it, but doesn’t look. Doesn’t have to. Their tandem cries fill the room, bounce off the walls, and Joe knows they’re both coming, in glorious synchronicity. Hears the way Nicky rides his climax out just a bit longer, whine tapering out after Joe’s does. He remembers feeling good about that then. Still feels damn good now. 

The camera keeps rolling but the video goes silent. Soon it will be nothing but empty film, a moment come and gone, preserved by the miracle of modern technology. But Nico - the real Nico - is warm flesh and blood, weighty on Joe’s lap, pressing scalding kisses to his neck, fiddling idly with the button of Joe’s jeans.

“This was a good idea,” Joe says, eyes closed, cloudy head tilting to the side.

Nicky practically purrs. “Seems a shame to destroy it.”

“Think we could get away with hiding it?”

“I say,” he says, kissing his way up Joe’s neck to the space behind his ear, “we label it ‘France versus Brazil’ and leave it somewhere for Booker to find.”

“Oh, he’ll kill us.”

“He can try,” Nicky says, amused, still working at Joe’s neck with firm, insistent lips and with deft, practiced hands that open his fly and slip inside with ease.

Joe scoffs. “Believe me, he’ll try. He’ll try to make it stick, too.”

Nicky pulls back. His eyes are so green. He’s the most beautiful thing Joe has ever, ever seen.

“Then,” Nicky says, “we’d better make the most of the time we have left.”