Something Nicky has learned over the last nine hundred years is that Joe loves to talk while he is making love. Not that this would be of great surprise to anyone - Joe loves to talk, period, but only Nicky gets to hear this , the way Joe’s voice turns caramel when he kisses words of devotion into Nicky’s shoulder blades, the notches of his spine.
They’re standing close together in the master shower of the Tango safehouse, cleaning themselves of the grime from their most recent op. They’ve been clean for more than a while now, but Joe loves to take his time after the gruesome ones, remind himself with words and body that they are whole and alive. He says so as his hands wander, mapping out every inch of Nicky’s unblemished skin.
“Beautiful man. My soul, my everything, my ever-fixed mark. Have I ever told you,” Joe murmurs, “that you taste like heaven?” He bites Nicky’s bicep. Nicky melts.
“Oh? And what does heaven taste like?”
“Mmm,” Joe considers this, and licks the back of his neck. “Like the Meditteranean on a clear Summer day.” He nuzzles Nicky’s hair. “Like Malta. Like Nicolo .”
Nicky moans as Joe slides a hand down his stomach, lower, lower .
“You always know what to say,” he says as he spreads his legs.
“Not always.” Joe rubs a thumb into the crease of his thigh. “Sometimes your beauty leaves me speechless.”
Despite the delightful friction Joe is causing, Nicky can’t help but turn in his arms and pull him into a kiss, open-mouthed and hungry. He grabs the back of Joe’s head tight, fisting his beautiful curls in his hands.
They kiss and grind against each other. Joe takes a handful of Nicky’s ass and squeezes.
“See,” he groans into Nicky’s mouth, “I have no words.”
Nicky laughs and kisses his chin, his cheek. “And yet you’re still talking.”
“Shut me up then?”
“Gladly,” Nicky says, entirely fond as he twists his hands in Joe’s hair and pushes him downward. Joe sinks to his knees effortless and grips Nicky’s hips.
“Santa Maria madre di Dio,” he breathes, and takes Nicky in his mouth.
Nicky’s head lolls back against the glass wall of the shower. This could not be more perfect. His love, his heart, his life, here - safe, and warm, and wet and entirely his. Distantly he feels the water grow colder but the heat of Joe’s mouth overpowers every other sensation.
“ Yusuf .”
Joe looks up at him, eyes wet and not from the shower. God, he loves this man.
“Christ on a bicycle , do you ever STOP?”
Nicky, always the first to be alert, tries to push Joe away, but Joe is too focused on his goal to notice the interruption.
Andy sighs and grabs two heated towels from the rack and throws them at the shower door. Hard. Joe groans and extricates himself.
“Come on, boss, we were--”
“You’re clean,” Andy snaps. “Out.”
Joe huffs and gets to his feet. He smears a kiss to the corner of Nicky’s mouth as he steps out of the shower and grabs the towels. He wraps one around Nicky first before covering himself. Then he smacks Nicky’s ass, loudly, and winks at Andy.
Andy’s mouth twitches.
“I regret ever telling you to kiss him, Yusuf.”
Joe tenses beside him. Nicky frowns, glancing at Joe out of the corner of his eye. He’s making his Guilty Face.
“What is she talking about, hayati?”
Joe swallows and tries to wave the comment away, but Andy pushes and it’s clear that whatever she is talking about is something very important and something that Joe definitely should have told Nicky before. And then she says ‘wingman’ and Nicky knows he’s heard that word somewhere but he really really needs Joe to explain what the fuck is going on.
Joe grips his elbow and ushers him into the bedroom. Nicky catches Andy’s eye as they leave and she looks ridiculously pleased with herself. Madre di Dio, indeed.
Once back in the confines of their room, Nicky wheels on Joe.
“My love,” and he knows his voice is the perfect amount of calm because Joe looks terrified. “Would you care to expl-”
“Andromache told me to kiss you,” Joe blurts out. “The first time.”
“The first time what?” Nicky asks, but he knows, oh God, he knows.
Joe doesn’t even meet his eyes when he says, “the first time.”
Nicky remembers it clearly as if it had been only the night before. Yusuf tenderly waking him and kissing him with so much feeling and love he thought he might burst. To know, after all these centuries, that it wasn’t Yusuf’s decision but Andromache’s makes his blood boil.
He switches to Italian.
“Since when do you lie to me, Yusuf? Nine hundred years you keep this secret? When I am your heart, your soul? Would you have ever kissed me on your own?”
Joe reaches for him. “Nico--”
“Vaffanculo! What else does she know about our lives that I don’t, huh? Is anything about us true?”
He knows in his heart that this is an exaggeration, knows of course that Joe’s love is the only true thing in this world, but he is angry, so angry that the foundation of their relationship as he knows it - the story he has told himself to get through his hardest moments of torture and pain - is a lie.
He tells Joe this. Joe looks wrecked.
“Nicky,” he whispers, “please, let me explain.”
“What is there to explain? You cannot explain this, Joe, you can apologize maybe , but--”
“Fine, yes, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” He falls to his knees and wraps his arms around Nicky’s waist. “Lover, forgive me, please.”
Joe is crying softly into his stomach. Nicky’s anger falls away instantly. He strokes Joe’s hair.
“Of course I forgive you,” he tells him. Joe shakes against him. “Don’t I always?”
“Yes,” Joe whispers, “you are so good, so kind. I don’t deserve you.”
Nicky swats the back of his head. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
Joe looks up at him, pleading. “Can I try to explain, please?”
He pulls Joe to his feet, kisses his temple. “It better be good.”
Joe sighs and presses his forehead to Nicky’s.
“I loved you for so long. I think, maybe, I loved you from the first time you ran me through. I didn’t know what to do with it, I never knew, I was -- you know how blind I was.”
Joe pulls Nicky closer, sliding his arms around him and up his back.
“I look back now, and I see how much I wanted you, God , I wanted you. And I like to believe that I would have seen it for myself, with more time. It is hard not to,” he kisses Nicolo’s cheek, “you know how beautiful you are.”
Your love is what makes me beautiful, Nicky thinks, but he’ll save that one for later when he’s not quite so mad.
“Andy gave me a gift. She lifted the scales from my eyes. And I suppose, I never told you because I wanted to believe I would have kissed you eventually. How could I not? You are the other side of my heart.”
Nicky tilts his head and cups Joe’s cheek. “You are not playing fair,” he says. Joe winks, because even at his most tender he is still Joe .
“What, it’s true!” He steals a quick kiss. “The way I saw it, Andy lit the way for me, but my soul already knew the path to tread.”
Nicky smiles. “A very romantic assessment.”
“She was so kind. You remember how kind she was, then?”
Nicky swallows thickly, and he feels tears prickle behind his eyes. Of course he remembers. He misses her.
Nicky finds himself awash with memories. He thinks of all the hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of times Andromache had caught them in various stages of lovemaking. Even when they kissed chastely in front of her she would wrinkle her nose. He really had thought that she found their bond insufferable. He knows she loves them each, as they are, but she has never resisted -not once- a chance to tell them how irritating they are as a pair.
And she was the one to push them together.
He files through the memories, and realizes that in each and every single one, even looking as put upon as she always does, her eyes are still smiling. The lie that had rung so terrible in his ears transforms into fragile joy.
He kisses Joe tenderly. “She is still kind,” he says, and opens the door.
Andy is standing there, arms folded and stern, but Nicky sees through it all. He rushes to her and takes her face in his hands, throwing kisses every place he can and hoping they land. Andy laughs, no, giggles , and he knows for the both of them that it has been far too long since she’s made that sound. He thanks her in Italian, in Arabic, in Greek, in words said and unsaid, and then he wraps his arms tight around her.
“You are so good,” he tells her, and he means this in his bones. “The best of us.”
She tries to protest, because of course she would, and he dismisses her instantly.
“Yes, you are,” he insists, and pulls back to look at her shining eyes. He can feel Joe looking at them over his shoulder, knows his eyes are shining too.
Later that evening, after he has laid Nicky out and made love to him extravagantly, leaving him pliant and sated and completely boneless, Joe sneaks downstairs.
Andy is waiting for him in the living room, staring contemplatively at the fire. She has two tumblers of whiskey in front of her, one already half-drunk. Joe picks up his glass and sits beside her on the beaten leather couch.
“I’m sorry,” she says.
Joe shakes his head. “No need.”
“I thought you told him.” She cocks her head thoughtfully. “Why didn’t you tell him?”
He sips at his whiskey - of course she broke out the good kind - and lets it burn his throat.
“I had to believe I would have become that man for him on my own,” Joe says. “It felt like a lie to say otherwise.”
Andy leans over and squeezes his shoulder. “You were always that man.” She smirks and punches his arm. “You big romantic dummy.”
Joe laughs, but for once it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. He wonders if he will ever find himself truly worthy of Nicolo’s love.
“Oh, knock it off,” Andy says, reading him like a book as she always does, and this, this , is the other reason why he never told Nicky what she’d said to him in that cabin. Because that was the first moment he knew that he had a sister who would do anything for him, the first moment he knew in his soul that there was someone besides Nicolo who truly loved him, and that moment is deeply, intimately precious to him. It’s selfish, Joe thinks, but he wanted to keep that memory for himself.
He doesn’t tell her this, because he knows she’ll just make a face at him, but he thinks she knows anyway.
“You’ll always be my sister,” he says instead, and Andy’s mouth softens into a smile.
She shifts closer to him and slings an arm around his neck. “You know you’re my favourite brother, right?”
She kisses his cheek and Joe tries to swallow around the lump in his throat.
“Oh?” He tries to joke with her but his voice cracks. “Even Book?”
Andy draws him in tighter. “Even Book.”
Joe sets his glass down and pulls his knees up, cuddling close and letting her stroke his hair. He hums contentedly.
“I’ll try to lock the bathroom door next time.”
He feels Andy shake her head. “Don’t bother.”
Joe glances up at her and frowns. “Getting voyeuristic in your old age?”
“No, but--” She reaches for her glass and takes another swig. “If I’m being honest--”
She swats the side of his head. “Shut up. I just mean -- I like seeing you two together. As much as I complain, it gives me hope. To know that you love each other just as brightly and completely as the day I met you.”
Joe tries valiantly to hide his tears, but Andy simply slips her fingers down his face and wipes them away.
“Of course, if I could see your dicks less, I’d be grateful.”
Joe hiccups a laugh. “You love my dick.”
“No,” she corrects him. “You are a dick. And I love you.”
Joe reaches up to squeeze her hand.
“Room for one more?”
They both look up to see Nicky - gorgeous, sleepy Nicky, with a blanket wrapped lopsided around his shoulders. Joe thinks his heart might burst.
Andy pats the space next to her and holds out her free arm. “Of course.”
Nicky smiles at her - one of his most private, tender smiles - and tucks himself next to her on the couch. He makes a happy noise when she starts scratching his head, and Joe feels his whole body melt at the sound. He reaches for him, because a Nicolo out of reach is everything wrong with the world, but Nicky is already halfway there. They link hands across Andy’s lap and sink into the easy comfort between them.
“You’re still fucking idiots,” Andy whispers to them with all the love she has. "Now go to sleep."
Through his half-closed eyes, Joe watches Nicky lean up to kiss Andy’s chin. He smiles.
“As you wish.”