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Coming back to you

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It wasn’t the first time Nicky had been blown up. The first time one of them had been it’d taken them all by surprise –mostly because land mines and grenades were still new-ish and weapons were evolving fast (humanity had been eager to try them out on each other –gasses that destroyed the lungs, guns that fired at rapid paces, shells that detonated and blew trees and land and men sky high). But in their immortal lives, one of the many consistencies was how human beings never failed to find new things to hurt each other with. Swords were one thing; swords Nicky and Joe knew. Cutting and crush injuries and severing blows. They’d come back from so many of those –but bombs and Ak-47s…those were messy.

Booker had helped Nicky pick metal bits out of Andy’s healing back when she’d been hit with machine gun fire once –that was unpleasant. But when Nicky had first felt the white hot blast of a bomb –a grenade –an IED –those were much different.

He feels nothing at first, just shock; the force of the blast and then empty blankness of temporary death. And then white hot pain as he comes too and his body is trying to regrow organs that were more or less gone. A blast didn’t just rip you apart it turns out; the heat would burn you, little bits of shrapnel would dig into skin, it would turn your organs to jelly even. The blast liquefying your innards. Fun times. And if you really were close enough a fine pink mist of blood and bits filled the air.
Give him a sword any day –Nicky had once caught himself thinking. At least a sword was honest. You had to look at a man when you killed him with a blade, you danced with him and with death –and when you drew your sword you needed to be ready to cut. IEDs were so impersonal, so random.

A sword in his hand was an art form.

Any idiot could pack a bomb with nails and screws and bits –whatever their sick little minds could conjure up; just plant it and wait.

Not that bombs weren’t effective, or that the team never employed them for their own uses –sometimes a sword was just not what the situation called for. Had to get with the times, Nicky supposed. But man a grenade took it out of you to heal.

And so when he comes to it’s in bits and pieces.

White hot pain, white hot nothingness; his vision blank, his ears ----he still has those, yes? Or are they busy knitting themselves back together? Taking stock the last thing Nicky remembers was the fight –that Andy and he had been clearing a building; Joe and Booker and Nile taking up the rear ready to defend. Things had been going well and then some of the fuckers –this militia, this death cult –who had taken a bunker and filled it with hostages (mostly children), had decided it was time to ascend. Andy and their team had had other ideas and most of the explosives were either destroyed safely or the hands on the buttons were, but in the firefight one of the cultists had tossed a grenade.

And Nicky caught it.

Perhaps he died again –his body pushing itself to heal as he sputters and chokes on blood and bile. Perhaps he died again –his organs shuffling and exposed. Perhaps he died again just from the burns and blood loss as arteries regrew and sewed themselves shut.
In a flash that he won’t remember when he’s back on his feet Nicky glimpses the infinite as life pulls him back on its string. For a single moment he’s warm and wondering why he was ever fighting, for a minute he understands –everything.

But it’s not his time.

And the edge of death he’s been dancing around for 900 years disappears yet again. And the visions he’d seen, that glimpse of ever-after becomes like a fading dream. And then an echo. And then nothing. Just darkness.

Perhaps a lifetime had gone by in the rubble of the bunker and who knows where Andy and Nile and Booker ---Joe, Joe, Joe.

What passes for Nicolo’s mind starts to run on just his name –Yusuf –and he tries to reign in the panic. Yusuf could have been caught in the blast –Yusuf could have been shot and it was his last time and Nicky hadn’t been there. The pain is overwhelming but Nicky’s fighting to move, to right himself, to hear past the ringing in his ears and make sense of the gunshots and shouts ---someone has to get the children out, oh Lord, do not let them see his mangled body. Spare them that at least.
There is light and there is shadow; there are heavy footfalls and the stench of burning and dust and Nicky is vaguely aware of his arms and trying to convince himself that rolling over so he can stop choking and sputtering on his own blood is for the best –but something is weighing his legs down, his poor back…–Nicky’s brain on a loop of Joe, Joe, Joe.

He knows there are boots approaching –scrambling over bits of cement and fallen beams and rubble- before he can grasp how he knows. He knows someone’s yelling –he knows someone’s kicking, screaming, his body erupting into yet fresh pain. His ears pick up the curse
‘Fucking monsters –just die, why won’t you die-!’

Joe, Joe –Yusuf-,

And then a pop –like a firework, but sharper. Horribly loud and terribly close. He feels the thud in the reverberations through the floor as the man crumples to the ground –headed towards that infinite that Nicky can no longer remember.

He’s in so much pain –but it can’t be as bad as before because he’s not passed out from it. Hasn’t gone back to the dark.

Nicky’s ears must be making a comeback because he can hear the heavy breath of the other person in the room –the one with the gun –his eyes are healing because there’s shafts of light piercing through cracks in the ceiling; dust and grit like blots hovering in the blur.
A gasp. A weight lifted off his legs –his legs which are now screaming as they heal. It’s all just pain after a bit tipping him over again into the dark. He must black out again. Maybe he dies again. Maybe he sees the yawning infinite and has already forgotten…maybe. But the knees that hit the ground beside him radiate a warmth Nicky doesn’t own himself –too much blood loss –Joe, where’s Joe –please he needs –,

“Nicolo, Nicolo, beloved-,” Joe’s words are tight in his throat, hands trembling, unsure of where’s safe to touch –safe not to hurt, “–please, we go together, my heart, you know this.” He pleads. He’d know Nicky in sunlight or in darkness; he would know him whole or in pieces. Burned though he is, damaged and healing –Joe still knows him. After 900 years he will always know Nicolo.

The hands that touch Nicky are hot compared to his clammy skin, and he’d know them in a heartbeat –know that voice in a heartbeat - if he hadn’t just been kicked in the head after catching a grenade. And where’s Joe, he rasps, a gasp wet with blood and sick. And the hands are lifting, pushing and he’s doing his best to fight because he can’t clear his airway and Joe –,

Yusuf’s heart becomes weightless when he hears that first breath –or the attempt at one –and he realizes Nicky can’t breathe. Gotta clear his airways, let him cough it out. He’s trying to be gentle getting his lover –the moon in his sky –over into a recovery position ----is there anything on him not scraped and cut? If any of these cultists were left he’ll take them apart for touching what’s his. But now Nicky really is struggling, damaged limbs coming to push at him, scramble at him limply; disoriented and fighting for life.

“Nicolo, it’s me, beloved. It’s Yusuf –Habibi, we are together.” He assures, his voice caught in his throat part dust, part heart which lives there now. ”Come back to me. Please come back to me.”

Nicky’s sides burn and ache and he’s trying to fight off whatever’s got him –he’ll fight to get back to Joe, kill any enemy, crawl if he has to. The pain in him is nothing compared to the pain of not knowing what’s become of Yusuf –and then he feels it. The warm hand rough with callouses sooths across Nicky’s cheek –another at his back in the same firm slow circles that he knows so well. No enemy would touch his face so fondly. No one else knows that rhythm.

“Yusuf,” He tries but it’s mostly a garbled mess as he coughs blood. He coughs and coughs and gasps –letting himself go limp with exhaustion finally as he breaths little puffs of air against the concrete floor. “I’m here,” He manages more clearly now, “Yusuf.”
The sound Joe makes when he hears Nicky speak is pure relief. He lets himself lean as close as he dares without upsetting any of Nicky’s hurts –his body’s healing but injuries this bad take time. But when one of Nicky’s blood-crusted hands makes an uncoordinated paw for his Joe laces their fingers and whispers over and over again that he’s here. They’re here.

“Joe-,” Andy’s voice bounces off the bunker and rubble as she emerges into view, stopping to curse colorfully. Joe is fast his body moving reflexively to cover Nicky’s at the sound of someone coming near. His gun drawn and cocked.

Andy stops, lets Joe see her, “It’s me.” And then, “Is he-?”

“We’re alright.” Joe assures, face solemn but calm, putting his gun away.

“Civilians are clear. We need to go.” Andy takes his word for it.

The building –or what’s left –isn’t particularly sound and they rarely stay long enough after a job for people to remember their names or faces. It’s just safer that way. They need to leave; they can’t wait for Nicky to be able to walk.

Yusuf whispers softly, apologetically –won’t he forgive him –as he moves to lift Nicky, not trusting those still healing legs to bare weight –not after part of the bunker fell on them.

The pain is a living thing and Nicky chokes it back as Joe eases him into his arms and up. “Forgive me, Habibi –we need to leave, we can’t stay here. I’m so sorry.” Joe lifts him as gently as he can –arms under Nicky’s knees and a hand bracing his back –his poor back covered in blood and scrapes.

“Are they all dead?” Joe asks Andy, his voice steady and cold and calm like an approaching storm.

“Every last one.” Andy assures and thinks this death cult dodged a real bullet here today that they’d died without feeling Joe’s wrath.

Nicky’s vest and shirt are all but gone –burned off, some had melted into his skin but had since been sluffed as his body put itself back together. His pants had suffered as well but parts were valiantly handing around his legs. Joe can feel muscle and skin growing back though his hands are already bloodied just from touching Nicky’s body –cradling it close so his head is rested against his shoulder.

“Oh fuck-!” Nile goes pale as they walk out of the building to join them on the march to the van which will take them back to their camp –not an ideal setup now that Nicky’s putting himself back together in real time. It’s the first time Nile’s seen one of them like this ---Booker may have had his head blown in but nothing is quite like a grenade to the chest. Nothing prepares you for that.

She wonders how Joe recognized Nicky like he is. Maybe there’d been something to what they’d said all those months ago when she’d first met them –that it was destiny for them to know one another and that as long as one was alive the other would follow.

The sun overhead makes Nicky’s body look lifeless, the blood on him bright where his skin is unblemished and pale, the grime standing out in smears against charred skin. Andy takes off her vest and drapes it over their broken family member to protect him from the sun. The walk is a long one and she’s already radioing Booker to meet them part way –not the original plan, but the sooner they get out of here, the sooner Joe will stop looking like he’s going to kill the next person who comes near them.

“He’ll be fine. Nile.” Andy says when she catches the youngest immortal staring. Andy knows it’s likely futile. Nile will stare; they all had the first time one of them had come back from an IED. Morbid curiosity perhaps –would they even come back from this -and a good dose of horror, the body before them like a train wreck. You knew it was awful, you knew you’d see it for the rest of your life, but you can’t look away either.

The walk back to the van was torture and Nicky comes to and passes out again –he wants to sleep until the pain goes away, he wants the cool nights he spent under the stars with Joe hundreds of years ago, he wants his body to hurry up and fix his legs and his chest. Joe tries to keep his pace smooth and easy so as not to jostle his love too much –but truth be told he’d love nothing more than to put on some speed and get to the van sooner. The sun is high in the sky; the smoking husk of the bunker shrinking into the distance behind them makes the air thick and heavy. Few trees and less scrub to cast a shadow and offer some precious shade along their march…

Nicky groans as Andy eases them to a halt, offering water. Joe carefully tipping tiny sips to Nicky’s lips before kissing his brow, breathing him in, and returning them to their grueling pace.

“He’s healing faster.” Nile’s voice is a quiet observation as the hour stretches on. A breath of wonder under the sun.

“Once the body’s dealt with the heavy stuff it starts in on all the surface crap,” Andy nods, “makes things look a lot better. He’ll still be a while.”

“But he’s alive.” Nile’s in awe. How many had she seen die from far less? How many of her countrymen had caught a bullet and never got up?

“He is.” Andy confirms.

Nile sees the van first.

Andy and Nile help rearrange the back quickly; moving bags of supplies and dropping the back bench down until it’s flat. Nile tears into the duffle for some of the spare clothes and a sheet they’d brought laying the clothes down on the bench and offering the clean sheet. Joe climbs in clutching Nicky; arranging him so he’s laying down on the clean clothes. Andy and Nile climb into the van and buckle up –Nile in the first row of benches and Andy taking shotgun.

“Drive.” Andy says and Booker does –tires kicking up dust and dirt as they speed off.

“We’ll need something more than a camp for this,” Booker eyes the mess in the back of the van, “It’ll take us out of our way, but there’s an old safe house with plumbing and supplies.”

Nobody argues. The camp has no shower, just a stream, and while it was more off the grid Nile thinks sleeping on the ground for another few days while they lay low doesn’t compare to hot water and real matrices.

Remembering the heavy duffle of supplies at her feet the young immortal rummages through it hastily, “Here,” Nile passes back two bottles of water and a med pack with three tiny shots of morphine. She takes a moment to really see Nicky; he’s looking so much better than before. His guts aren’t exposed for one and most of the bleeding has stopped. Instead of burnt-black skin it’s just red and angry looking. It must itch and ache but…Nicky’s not dead.

It’s a solid improvement.

A miracle even.

Joe starts tearing quickly but gently at what remains of Nicky’s clothes –they’re dirty and bloody and need to go. Below the map of his lover’s body is still a mess but far better than when he was found. Red angry skin and deep gashes are healing up where his entire chest was once gone. His head is bloody but no longer a total disaster. Arms stronger –legs on their way back from that concreate slab that crushed them. While not as fast as Joe would like, Nicky is healing speedily. Already as Joe uncaps the water and wets the torn fabric of the sheet to clean his face and brow, the gashes along his scalp seal up, turn red and blotchy and then the healthy pallor of new skin.

Nicky groans semi-conscious as the ride turns bumpy over uneven terrain. Booker’s doing his best but it can’t be helped. Joe continues to quickly wipe the worst of the grime and blood away from his body –mindful of the shiver of cold that’s started to run across his lover’s frame. He’s lost so much blood, body still pushing to make more. Yusuf’s striping off his own tack vest and the hoodie underneath –it had been hot outside during the job and stuffy in the bunker but Joe had worn it today anyway. He’s grateful now.

“Nicolo,” He sooths, pulling him into his lap and maneuvering his arms into the sleeves of Joe’s hoodie –wrapping Nicky in something of his. On a good day it thrills him to see his beloved wearing his clothes, today it’s affirming.

“Sono qui.” His voice is rough and achy but there and Joe uses the rest of the sheet to bundle Nicky close before opening the second bottle of water to help them drink from. The med pack is next for one of those morphine shots. He shows it to Nicolo who looks like he’ll protest but Joe says, “It’s another five hours to the safe house –and you’re in pain.”

“And Booker is driving.” Nicky’s voice is touched with tired mirth which Joe can’t help a wet grin at.

“He is.”

“He’s doing the best he can here.” Booker grumbles from the front.

Nicky’s brow furrows; he buries it against Joe’s neck as his lover offers the morphine again, “Yusuf,” He can’t help the tone of his voice at the thought of five hours in the van. He can’t help the bone deep desire to sleep –to heal and be away from it while it happens - and the longing to stay here at the surface of wakefulness and assure himself that Joe is here and they’re together.

“Just one, heart of my heart.” Joe assures, “Just to take the pain away.”

Nicky relents. The air conditioner is on and he’s cold but as he feels the needle slip under his skin Nicolo feels the warmth of Joe’s sweater, Yusuf’s arms around him. His eyes get heavy, his awareness foggy and finally his aches wash away just enough for the hours to seem manageable. He realizes he’s laying down now; held close to Joe’s chest where he can hear his steady heartbeat, arms around him strong and sure.

“Remember when we were in Tivoli, my Nicolo? Remember when we visited the gardens?” Yusuf asks softly, his breath ghosting over Nicky’s patchy hair.

“I do.” It takes him a moment to work the words out but he can see it clearly in his mind. It had been a beautiful day –the air cooled by the fountains and the leafy trees and elaborate greenery.

“We spent the day, just you and I ---I couldn’t take my eyes from you, Nicolo –so beautiful, you made the sun ashamed to show his face.” Joe admits as though it’s a secret.

“Incurable romantic.” Nicky manages, his words turning groggy again as he drifts in between awake and asleep to the rocking of the van and Joe’s hushed voice –his heartbeat under his ear.


The safe house isn’t much better than the campsite if Nile’s being honest. Sure there’s a roof and a bath –but no AC to speak of, no electricity (someone’s rigged some car batteries up to run what needs running) –and it’s miles away from anything called civilization. The trees got thicker on the old unpaved road leading up to the house, an old sign declaring private property. It’s cooler here under the trees when they get out from the van. It’s clear no one’s cared for the place though –the porch hasn’t been swept, the thin front yard has been left to overgrow...

Nile and Booker take the creaky wood steps up the porch, clear the area and move on into the building. Light filters in through the few tinted windows casting beams of dust across wood floors that sigh when they walk through. An ugly area rug sits in front of a couch with a small scratched up coffee table. A TV with rabbit ears, some old chairs that look like someone pulled them out of the antique roadshows she used to watch. Attached is a kitchen –sink, counter, some cupboards with doors missing and a table. No fridge but plenty of cans.
The thin hallway leads down to a linen closet and four small rooms –their boots leave tracks in the dust. Three bedrooms that are small enough to only have a bed, a lamp and a chair –forget a dresser –and one bathroom with a toilet and a bath. Nile’s hopes for hot water are diminishing quickly.

There’s a window near the back of the house that looks out over a stone and weed-littered patio and beyond it trees. It’s quite here; still even. Some birds sing. A squirrel scampers up the side of a pine, but there’s no smell of car fumes, no sound of distant sirens or the hum of electricity that hangs in the air of a city. Funny how still the absence is –how she doesn’t notice these things until they’re gone.

“Clear.” Booker says. His voice cuts through the silence.

“Nothing here to take.” Nile mumbles.

“Sort of the point.” Andy says as she walks in, setting her gear down on the kitchen table before checking under the sink for a stash of alcohol.

Joe comes in carrying Nicky in his arms; while well on his way back to normal –or at least not looking like he was blown up –the immortal is still groggy from the morphine and a mess of dust and grit and dried blood. His hair’s grown back; he looks much more recognizable as a person named Nicky again.

“Bathroom’s all yours.” Nile offers, watching Booker pull out some pots to heat water on the wood stove.

“Unless you’re desperate for warm water, we’ll be waiting a bit.” Joe admits, “I want to see if I can get some food into him.” Nicky’s body will have burned through enough calories putting itself together –he won’t be awake enough for a solid meal but there’s protean shakes in the bags they brought in.

Nile decides there’s enough cooks in this kitchen –Booker crowded at the stove, Andy deciding the kitchen table is the place to clean her guns while Joe fishes for some shakes –and moves down the hall to take her shower.

Joe’s got the cap off a chocolate-flavored shake –steering away from strawberry because it tastes nothing like strawberries and the pink of it looks too familiar to the blood he still needs to clean from Nicky’s body. Yusuf knows the exhaustion is helping, the morphine making Nicky sleepy and limp in his arms. Sometimes after coming back to hot blood and bile in your mouth, in your lungs, the desire to eat seem a distant thing -but Nicolo isn’t fighting him now, and the small sips soon add up.

“Shower’s free.” Nile declares heading for the couch in some clean clothes –partway there realizing that the smell that had been lingering in the van for the past hours was the scent of burnt hair and skin. Nicky’s burnt hair and skin. The thought makes her gag a little but she thinks she’s hid it well.

Booker –who’s still working his way back into Joe’s good books –takes the warm water off the stove and into the bath ahead of the two leaving them without a word.

Joe does most of the heavy lifting getting Nicky out of the few clothes he has. His boxers aren’t salvageable but beneath the sheet Joe had tucked him in it’s all that’s covering his mostly-healed legs. Nicolo fumbles to help get the sweater off and Joe eyes each patch of skin carefully as it’s revealed. The bathroom isn’t much; green peeling wallpaper, a thin window beside a toilet. A cracked sink, a mirror that opens into a cabinet –a few towels piled up and a tub that sits on a cool ceramic floor. A real fixer-upper if they’re being honest; but as far as safe houses go it’s not the worst.

Nicky’s shivering again in the open air of the bathroom; Joe hurries to clean the worst of the grime off with a thin wash cloth, brushing burnt hair away from his shoulders and brow. Already new soft hair has grown over Nicky’s scalp and it’s a relief to be able to look into his lover’s face and see him whole and himself again. Stripping his own pants, shoes and underwear Joe sits them both into the warm bath; Nicky using Joe as a backrest as his lover carefully washes his freshly-healed skin. The water tinges pink and grey as Joe cups water into Nicky’s hair, rubs some shampoo into his scalp and soap onto his knuckles –once burnt and raw now whole and clean. He kisses each finger, each knuckle, each palm and wrist as they’re washes and revealed to him.

“I cannot be without you.” Joe whispers, letting the water wash away the remains of the day –the burnt hair smell, the smoke and ash, the blood and the scent of charred skin. He doesn’t care that his t-shirt is wet or that he’ll likely have to pitch the remains of the sheet and sweater and Nicky’s underwear. He has Nicky whole and alive against him.

“You don’t have to be,” Nicolo’s hands take one of Joe’s, stilling it in its work, “I’m not leaving.”

Joe’s voice clicks as he tries to put words to finding Nicky –his Nicolo –body blown and bloody and blackened, in the dust of the bunker. Of how terrified he was that it could have been Nicky’s time –would have been anyone’s time had they been any other people. Of how much it hurt him to see Nicky hurt.

“Don’t go without me. I cannot –not without you.” He’s usually the one with the words, but here in the cooling water, Joe’s struggling for them. Nicky feels a hot tear hit his bare shoulders and does his best to turn –still groggy -in Joe’s arms in the narrow tub.

“We go together,” He means it in every sense, not just on the day when their time comes, trying to chase the trail of those tears with his hands, his lips, “we know this.”

“Heart of my heart.” Joe’s voice is wet as he presses a kiss to Nicky’s brow, crushing him to his chest as hard as he dares given Nicky’s recent pain and the narrowness of the tub. They stay like that for a moment until the water turns cold and Nicky’s shivering again.

“I’m sorry –beloved –,” Joe’s hurrying to help get Nicky into a towel, ashamed that his fears and relief got in the way of taking care of his lover. He curses himself as he looks quickly around and finds no spare clothes to dress them in -Nicky’s still groggy as he cups Yusuf’s jaw, stilling his efforts and bringing him back to the man in his arms.

“All I could think of was needing to see your face –to know where you were –that I hadn’t come back to a world without you in it. I cannot. Not without you.” Nicky tosses the words back and Joe understands. He needs Joe in his arms –assured and safe as much as Joe needs to hold him. There’s nothing to forgive.

The bedroom across the hall is quickly clamed as theirs since it’s fastest to get to and neither Nicky nor Joe have much on but a wet t-shirt and some towels. Nicky’s walking for the first time since the blast but still leaning heavy against Joe –the morphine and exhaustion making him unsteady. There’s a few bags of clothes under the bed –just some t-shirts, a few sweaters and mismatched pants and sleepwear. A single box of mixed, warn-covered books, one gun and a very good sheathed knife or two as well. Joe picks a book, the gun going in the bedside table, the knife on the nightstand by the lamp.

It’s not terribly cold in the house –a bit muggy without air conditioning, but Nicky’s opts for a sweater over a thin t-shirt anyway. Joe takes the side of the bed nearest the door and closest to the knife; Nicky will sleep and Joe will keep watch. Already Yusuf can see his lover flagging; the bath and the healing catching up with him. The pillows are musty and lumpy but it’s better than the camp they’d been planning on before. Joe moves a pillow to prop himself against the headrest allowing Nicky to flop near-boneless across his lap and the matrices, cocooning himself in the quilt and pressing his face to Joe’s hip. Yusuf’s arm comes around him, sneaking under the covers, up under Nicky’s shirt to rub warm circles against his back.

“What are you reading?” Nicky asks, a quiet request for Joe’s voice. He doesn’t really want to sleep –his body wants it something fierce, but his mind can’t stand the thought of closing his eyes and being back at the precipice of forever after without Joe again –though he doesn’t remember his glimpse of it any more than any of the other times he’s seen it.

So Yusuf reads softly from the Hobbit, his voice a gentle hum, his hand a rhythm against Nicky’s newly cleaned skin until the heaviness of his eyelids grows to be too much. Joe feels his lover’s breaths even out, feels Nicolo’s sides rise and fall under his hand; he keeps reading aloud a little longer until he’s sure Nicky’s asleep.


Nightmares aren’t uncommon; the immortals have lived their immeasurable lifetimes on one battlefield or another, died enough times and in enough creative ways to earn a few rough nights. Nicky’s dreams don’t start out horrible –he’s in a convenience store in a way that only makes sense in a dream, disjointed and nonsensically shopping for cereal up and down the colourful aisles. When the darkness twists in he finds himself coughing, choking on teeth –sputtering desperately to spit up bits of his own teeth and clear his mouth and airways, doubling over in the convenience store aisle –cereal and bullet casings on the ground around him. He can see his charred body –his skin blackened and burned until he looks unrecognizable. Nicky’s hands are burnt and bloody-raw as he paws at his neck the smell in his nose is burnt hair…something’s burning, something’s burning –it’s him. He’s on fire –the store is on fire - smoldering, choking on teeth, spitting out teeth, coughing up teeth, hands broken and burned –he needs to go, he needs to run, Nicky can’t run, he can’t breathe, his body’s burning ---

Yusuf’s awakened by the sudden jerk of the body beside him, the book he’d been reading now in his lap forgotten –the light from outside is now darkness as nighttime had set in. Crickets and night bugs buzz away outside, the safe house is still. But beside him Nicolo shivers despite the warmth of the bed and the house, brow furrowed in his sleep. A fine line of sweat pricks his brow and his shoulders hitch and shudder as he fights some invisible battle.

Joe knows his lover well enough to read a nightmare from a glance and has enough experience to know that shaking Nicolo awake is a bad idea. Still –he won’t let him suffer through it.

“Nicky.” His voice is soft and calm in the darkness as he calls out, the hand not at his lover’s back fumbling for the small battery-operated lamp at the table beside them casting a warm glow and long shadows about the room. “Nicky –love, it’s alright. Wake up.”

Nicky’s shivering starts to temper a bit as Joe’s hand rubs soothing circles into his sweat-damp skin. “You’re safe, Nicolo. We’re at a safe house together; you’re in our bed-,”

Nicky jerks awake violently and suddenly; his body up and alert in a flash though his wide and wild eyes aren’t fully seeing yet. The line of his shoulders is tense for a fight and Joe’s glad that the knife is on his side of the bed.

“Nicolo,” Joe sooths, giving his man the time to come to himself, moving slowly and openly. When Nicky’s gaze does land on him his eyes are haunted and exhausted –and not a little sorry for waking Joe up. He’s still slowly coming back to himself, but Yusuf’s here…he’s here and not on fire and the burning smell is gone…

“It’s alright, habibi,” Joe assures, gently coaxing Nicolo into his arms and holding him tightly, fingers carding through his soft hair, “it was only a dream. You’re here with me.” He whispers into his lover’s brow.

Nicky nods thickly, breathing Yusuf in –amazed for a brief moment that Yusuf will hold him –want him in his perfect arms - after seeing him so disfigured and grotesque.

“Do you need to speak of it?”

“No –no, it’s gone.” Nicky’s voice gains some strength, “Just a nightmare.”

“It was.” Joe assures; moving them back towards the headboard, closer to the pool of light the lamp gives off. Nicky’s still flighty, eyes still glancing around the room waiting for something hidden to come out of the deep shadows. Waiting for the pain of today’s death to come back, waiting for something that won’t happen.

“Come back to me.” Yusuf says, his voice soft, urging Nicky to look at him, to see him –his hand gently cupping Nicky’s jaw.

“I’m here.” Nicolo assures but Joe’s face still looks worried.

“You were lingering there.” Joe says, “stay here with me, amore mio.”

“I must have frightened Nile.” Nicky mumbles, Joe’s strong hands rubbing deep circles into his back.

Ah; Yusuf thinks, there it is.

“She was frightened for you, habibi, not of you. As was I. Nicky, light of my eyes; listen to me. You could turn into a bird and I would follow wherever you flew. You could fall to the depths of the sea and I would swim after you. If you became a stone I would build my home around you. No matter your shape you take still you will always have my heart.”

Nicolo’s hands clutch at Joe’s shirt, pulling himself as close as he can get, eyes watery in the dim light.

“Remember that time in Bosnia?” Joe pushes on, arms circling around Nicky’s shoulders to press his man to him.

“Which time in Bosnia?” Nicky mumbles.

“The less fun one.”

“Oh –yes.” Nicky’s voice is thick. He remembers Bosnia.

“And how that man put a machete in my face –right to the bone – took my jaw off?” Joe’s voice is a hush in the warm glow of the lamp –remembering the pain, the blood…how he had felt it. And how upset Nicky had been.

“Si.” Nicky admits, spotting where this is going and pressing himself that much closer to Yusuf.

“Did you love me any less because for twenty minutes my jaw was gone?” Joe prods.

“No –no, Yusuf –I could never,” A few of those wet tears do fall now and Joe moves back enough to kisses Nicky’s cheeks, the trail of those tears.

“And did you think I was hideous? Horrible to look at all covered in blood and bone?” He goes on.

“No---I didn’t like it because you were hurt, but you could never be hideous to me, Yusuf.” In fact he’d held Joe in his arms, sat with him and waited for the bone and skin to heal. He’d sat with Joe in his lap waiting for the pain to subside –just as Joe had done in the van not ten hours ago. He’d taken care of Joe; washed his hair and kissed every inch of his face, and watched over his sleep.

“So how could I see you as you were today and not still love you?” Nicky admits defeat. Joe’s made his point. “And besides, we’ve seen far more of each other’s blood and bones over the centuries.” This gets a small snort of agreement from Nicky who nods.

“Forgive me, amore mio-,” Nicolo offers.

“There’s nothing to forgive –nightmares show us shadows where there are none.” Joe assures, picking up the fallen book, tugging Nicky closer to him and letting his lover wrap himself around him as close as he can get. He’s ready to keep watch and wait out the night until his beloved can rest again.


Nile and Booker walk into the safe house with three hares between them. While her new family has been teaching her to fight and to die, they’ve also been teaching her to live; to speak languages and recognize dialects, to blend in seamlessly in a crowd, and to catch what she can. Booker takes over the hunting lesson –and the pickpocketing lessons –the snares set last night needed to be checked and he’d shown her how to kill and clean the meat.

“Not like it will kill you, but there’s nothing wrong with having standards.” He assures, gutting their kills.

Nile had felt a little bad about the hares; most of the food she knew was from a store where the killing had already happened and the meat didn’t look like what it had been. But Nile won’t deny it’s a useful skill; especially today. They’d investigated the cupboards and canned goods, tossed some that were dented and swollen, kept the ones with legible labels and gambled on the rest. What was left wasn’t much but with the hare meat and fresh trap lines Nile had set herself –they’ll make it work.

Andy’s good at cooking hare it turns out.

On the walk back towards the safe house Booker works with her on her French –the new day’s sun throwing beams through the leaves, the grass under their feet.

“Je m’appelle Sebastian,” He offers slowly and pauses letting Nile taste the sounds as she makes them.

“Je m’appelle Nile.” She tries, pronunciation getting better.

“Bon bien,” He smiles bumping shoulders with the young woman, “c’est merveilleux.”


Nicky’s sleep had been fitful and not as deep as he needed. Joe is reluctantly getting them up and going –trying to steer a sleepy Nicolo towards the table for some real food after a pitstop at the bathroom to splash some water on his face. The protein shake was a start but he’ll need something solid to keep him through the day.

Andy bumps Nicky’s shoulder fondly with hers as she passes him at the table, Joe ushering him into a chair before going to fill their plates.

“Hare stew, instant rice and…canned peaches.” Joe observes, eyeing Nile and smiling. Her hunting and trapping is coming along nicely.

“It was that or cup noodles.” Nile says, loading up their plates. The coffee is instant, but it will do.

“We have training today.” Andy reminds Nile who gives her a look.

“No day off? We just cleared a bunker.” She reminds, taking a drink from her mug.

“It’s knife day.” Andy reminds. You don’t skip knife day.

Joe puts his chair up near Nicky’s and insists on sharing food from one plate –trading bites to coax Nicky into the day. Nile notices that he looks untouched –completely back to himself –and the stench of burnt skin and hair is gone. Still exhausted though. She quirks an eyebrow at how drowsy Nicky seems at the table –she’s seen him come back from being shot in the head, saw Booker with his chest open (though not as badly as Nicky’s was yesterday), saw Andy with a knife in her ribs...and they’d been bright-eyed in minutes.

‘Nightmares’ Booker mouths when he catches her staring.

And Nile’s understanding sharpens.

If this was a mission –if they were still on the clock –Nicky would be up just like the rest of them, no matter how tired or sleepless. No complaints, no falling behind –they’re so good at taking the pain and doing what needs to be done. But they’re not on the clock. He doesn’t have to take it. Nicky can be as sleepy as he wants for once; nightmares can be acknowledged, tiredness can be felt, the body can take what it needs. His family is here and they’re safe.
Nile smiles into her plate of food feeling warmer and deciding that knife day with Andy will mean the house will be a little quieter and Nicky can nap.

Joe offers another bite of rabbit stew to Nicolo, keeping him at the table until the plate’s clean. Booker’s resigned himself to dish duty for the next one hundred years and no one’s complaining. So after everyone’s lined up to brush their teeth, wash up and get their gear out, Joe takes up his spot on the couch. Nicky’s grabbed the quilt from their room and cocooned himself in it –Joe pulling him into his lap.

“Rest, habibi –we have nowhere to be.”

“We -,” Andy says, holding out a very nice hunting knife to Nile, “have practice”.


The TV, it turns out, doesn’t actually get any stations. It’s connected to an ancient VHS player like one that Nile’s grandma used to have and Booker’s got tapes of old football games –Soccer, Nile calls it. He’s seen the games before –they all have probably -but it’s still nice to have something on and even Nicky doesn’t mind the soft background noise as Joe sketches in his notebook. Nicolo keeps his face tucked into Joe’s shoulder, nodding off sometime after the first goal. It’s warm in the house without any AC and the sun creeping higher in the sky; they’ve got a few windows open for a gentle breeze to skip through now and again.

Faintly, over the 1985 tape recorded game, Joe can make out Andy and Nile in the yard and he quickly sketches the knife Andy had passed their newest family member. He wonders if Nile’s gotten a few good hits in on Andy –every so often leaning in to brush a kiss Nicky’s sleeping face and go soft-eyed at how even under the cocoon of blankets, Nicky has a firm grip on Joe’s shirt.

‘I need you’ his fingers say, holding fast in sleep.

‘You have me’ Yusuf’s lips whisper against his skin.

Nicolo gets a good hour, not even stirring when Booker makes an excited ‘YES!’ at a goal. Joe shoots him a look, running his fingers soothingly up Nicky’s blanket-covered shoulder. But his man is fast asleep and stays that way for a full half hour more. This time the nightmare doesn’t have a shape, just a shiver and Joe notices right away when Nicky’s body starts to quake in his arms. Booker notices too, making to turn down the volume on the TV, eyeing Nicky between glances at the game.

“Shhh, it’s all right, beloved.” Joe rocks them a little on the couch, rubbing those same firm circles into his back as Nicky shudders, eyes snapping open, “There you are, my Nicolo –heart of my heart.”

Nicky’s scrubbing at his face with one hand he’s untangled from his blanket nest before relaxing himself back to Yusuf’s lap.

“How long?” He wonders, voice a little rough with sleep.

“Almost two hours. Sleep if you need it; your body worked hard yesterday.” Joe reminds, doesn’t bother bring up last night.

Nicky hums, lets himself lounge against Joe for another good half hour, before getting up for the day. He kisses Joe’s cheek and shoulder before heading to the bathroom, detouring to their room before returning to grab another of the protein shakes.
Joe watches Nicky stretch appreciatively on his way out the front –no doubt to have a look at their surroundings for himself. It’s warm outside, though not as stuffy as inside –the fresh air will do him some good. The trees cast the front yard in a cool green shade – one that Andy and Nile have managed to clear for a small sparing ground.

They dance and dart; Andy’s steps practiced over centuries, and Nile’s still new and young. Nicky stands himself leaning up against the porch to watch. They need to learn Nile as much as she needs to learn them.

Nile’s great with a gun; far more practiced with some of these newer models, and she’s not bad with a knife either. Nicky’s caught her eyeing Andy’s axe and his sword and no doubt there will be a chance for her to learn a larger blade; she has forever. They have forever. Nicky feels a smile bubble up at the idea of their newest family member getting her hands on a sword, learning that dance he had many lifetimes ago. Nile would be fierce with a blade, Nicky’s sure.

She’s certainly good with a knife –though Andy’s pushing her hard.

“And if I move like this?” She wonders aloud, telegraphing her moves but never slowing, “then what?”

“Then I take your feet out-,” And she manages to twist a foot between Andy’s stride knocking her to the dirt and sending up a sudden bark of laughter from Nicky. The sound makes Nile turn and smile –but no one takes eyes off Andromache.
Nile’s world topples and she finds herself pinned in the grass with Andy’s knife at her throat.

“Distractions will get you killed –for a bit. You strike and make sure they’re dead, then you can worry about Nicky.” She says but her eyes are smiling.

Nile realizes distraction is what had gotten her here in the first place. Turning away from the man in that house in Afghanistan months and months ago had ended her about like this; with a knife at her throat…and Andy. And for maybe the first time she doesn’t regret that day in Afghanistan. Plenty of times after she’d wished she’d been more careful, hadn’t gone into that house, hadn’t turned away and missed the knife that took her life for the first time…

But now Andy is here –Nicky at the porch –and from inside the house she can make out Booker and Joe cheering at the taped game and…maybe that day she died wasn’t something to completely regret, to play out moment by moment like she could have avoided it. That one distraction…

“Nicky, you want to have a go?” Andy’s swinging off Nile, dusting herself off with a crooked grin.

“If you’re getting tired, boss.” His smile reaches his sea-glass eyes and she gives his shoulder a playful punch, passing him the knife and grabbing a glass of water set out on the porch. Nicky tests the knife in his hand; feels the weight of it, its balance and the glint of sunlight off its bright edge. Maybe one day Nile will ask him and Joe to teach her the sword, but today its knives –and so he dances with her in the yard.


Yusuf joins Andy on the porch with tea and some biscuits on a tray. The sunlight’s getting lower; Nicky and Nile’s shadows are long lines across the grass. The heat of the day is ebbing and the night birds are starting to trill. Andy imagines they’ll stay here for the rest of the
week before moving on. Maybe a few days more if Copley tells them the area’s still hot. It won’t be so bad; it’s quiet out here, the nights clear enough to see the stars.
Nile would probably love star gazing –she doubts the American got it growing up in a big city. Not like when Andy was little and there was only the moon and the stars at night held back by the light of the camp fire.

“She’s getting better.” Joe nods, offering Andy tea. She swipes a biscuit –thin snaps of ginger with lemon. Across the yard Nile’s watching Nicky demonstrate different ways to incapacitate an opponent. He moves slowly, openly, step for step so Nile can see it. Cut here, and here –jab there and there –and the man will fall but not die. Not right away anyhow.

“She’s been good for us.” Andy agrees and Joe understands that she means Nile’s been helping them as a family. Having a new sister has been good for them; someone to teach and share with, someone who hasn’t got centuries under her belt yet.

Joe’s mind, however, wanders when he catches a glimpse of Nicky in motion; the jeans he’s wearing, his shirt riding up and the line of his underwear…

He almost spits his tea and Andy whistles low under her breath –just loud enough for her and Joe in the privacy of the porch.

“Kinky.” She smiles teasingly at Yusuf who only has eyes for that scrap of silky lace –now blocked from sight as Nicky moves, beauty in motion –but still there and surely cupping Nicky’s ass and upper thighs. Oh, that tease! When-?
Joe scours his memory for any moment Nicky had to sneak those dark blue panties on –when he might have bought them. They’d dressed together that morning and Yusuf is certain he hadn’t had a lap full of Nicky wearing those panties tucked out of sight. Must have been when he got up from the couch –the detour to the bathroom and their room. Their bags inside now…

“I guess it’s about time for Booker and Nile to check the trap lines again. Dinner isn’t making itself.” Andy sighs, putting her cup down, “Don’t worry. It’s a nice night; I’ll keep them out. You have an hour, Yusuf. Go get your man.”

Yusuf’s nodding, grinning as he’s off the porch in a few easy steps. Calling out to Nicky and Nile with a wave and a grin that could have split the falling sun.

“Book-,” Andy calls into the house.

“Yeah boss?” He’s up, flask in hand and a biscuit half in his mouth so that he’s speaking around it.

“Traps must be full by now, you think?” She says, but doesn’t take her eyes from Joe who has wrapped Nicky up in a bear hug and is spinning them on the lawn. Nicky’s laughing, holding on and protesting that he should at least put the knife down first.

“Suppose so, boss.” He agrees.

“Take your time.” Andy reminds and Booker takes a moment before nodding and mumbling ‘horny bastards’ under his breath. But he’s smirking –not angry about it.


“You,” Yusuf growls into Nicky’s neck as he manhandles him down the thin hallway towards their room, “are a menace.” Joe feels his lover’s lips quirk up against his own as he leans in to devour Nicky –their kiss hungry and desperate. It’s not uncommon for the two to reaffirm themselves this way after a death –to know body and soul are still connected. Joe’s grateful Andy got them some privacy; typically, after a death this bad, they would have thrown caution to the wind and fucked as loud as they liked –but Nile is still new and Joe wants Nicky’s gasps and cries all to himself.

He’s a greedy bastard.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, caro.” Nicky plays coy, ending on a gasp as Yusuf takes two generous handfuls of his ass and squeezing, fingers dipping just into his crack as best they can through his jeans.

“Were you wearing this when you slept in my lap? All tucked away where I wouldn’t know?” Joe knows that’s not true but it makes him hard to think of it, “Or did you think I wouldn’t notice you out in the yard –working yourself up in this scrap of lace?”

Joe’s backing Nicky into their bedroom, towards their bed as Nicky kisses and nibbles up his neck.

“It was for you, amore mio –something to thank you for taking such good care of me.” He admits, pulling back to let Joe see he’s serious; cheeks brushed pink and lips swollen from kissing. And Yusuf isn’t sure what he’s done right in this long life of his –what angels he’s pleased enough for them to have whispered together all those years ago to bring this man into his life.

“Dear heart, habibi; my gift is to have you in my arms -,” And Nicky can sense another poetic declaration coming on as he places a sword-calloused finger to Joe’s lips gently.

“Then consider this a bonus.” He lets a knowing grin slide across his face as he pulls back to undress, taking a moment to lounge himself across their bed, until Nicky is naked save for the lace panties hugging a thin strip of gentle dark blue lace around his hips.
Joe’s mouth goes dry, his gasp a soft inhale in the quiet in their room. Nicky’s leaning back on the sheets of their bed, one of his feet reaches out to run up Joe’s calf; his cock already hard and starting to strain against the font of the underwear.

“Where did you get these?” They’re new –Joe knows very well that most of Nicky’s nice underwear is in Malta and doesn’t typically travel with them on missions ----and he’s never seen this magnificent blue number before. The way the rich blue contrasts his milky skin, making
Nicky’s sea-glass eyes look like the ocean…Joe would know.

“Hmmm,” Nicky hums, turned on and looking smug at Joe’s heated gaze and the very obvious bulge in his jeans, “On our last stop before this mission there was a very nice shop –it was my turn to do a coffee run.”

Joe’s not really sure he’s heard a word Nicky just said as his lover’s foot is rubbing teasingly up his leg and the sight of him ---Yusuf’s so hot right now he could burn the house down, he’s sure. Nicky’s words bring him around.

“But enough about me –this is for you, caro. Whatever you want.”

Whatever he wants.

Joe licks his suddenly dry lips at the offer –taking a moment to consider his options.

“Having trouble deciding?” He must have been taking longer than he thought when Nicky looks concerned and softly wonders. They have an hour and he was hoping it wouldn’t just be Joe staring at him in bed like he’s considering a beautiful painting. This exhibit is meant to be touched.

“I’m wondering how many times I could make you come in those panties before I take them off you and have you come on my cock, beloved.” Joe decides and it’s Nicky’s turn to groan, his hips make a slight thrust and he can’t help the little squirm he makes against the sheets because yes please.

“Andy’s only given us an hour.” Nicky reminds as Joe gets himself onto the bed between Nicky’s legs.

“Then we’ll just have to see how many orgasms I can give you before then.” Joe’s finger traces up the underside of Nicky’s lace-covered cock making his man throw his head back in a hiss.
Joe’s mouth is hot and wet against the front of his underwear as he gently sucks Nicky through the lace. His broad sun-kissed hands hold Nicolo’s hips down; taking this blow job at his pace and letting his beloved feel it. Nicky’s fully hard now and panting; his fingers tangle gently in Yusuf’s curls. Not moving him or demanding, but just holding. Just being there with him.

To Joe’s delight the tip of Nicky’s cock has pressed against the waistband of his underwear, enough for his tongue to meet skin and lick at this drops of pre come and tease Nicky’s slit. Joe’s not sure if it’s that or how he brings one of his hands up to cover Nicky’s –still in his hair –as he says “Come for me, habibi, come in these pretty panties of yours you picked just for me.”

Nicky’s gasp is wet and high and his orgasm like a bolt of lightning; come spattering the front of his underwear and a bit in Joe’s beard. His lover still sucks at him until Nicky’s whines sound more over-sensitive. The picture before him as he leans back on his haunches is orgasm worthy itself and Joe has to grab at his jean-covered dick to hold off; Nicky below him, eyes glassy and cheeks ruddy –delicate lace panties damp, come touching his lower belly. Fuck fuck fuck.

“That’s one.” Joe’s voice is gravel and hunger and lust. He’s proud of himself that he’s the one who put this look on Nicolo, the man below him groaning happily, letting his hips wriggle a little in anticipation despite just having come. One of Nicky’s hands reaches under the pillow to pull out a small tube of lube and Joe just grins, “You really did plan this.”

“I wanted it to be perfect for you.” Nicky admits, eyes alight.

“You are perfect for me–I would move hell and earth to be wherever you are.” Joe vows, hotly, solemnly.

“I am here.” Nicky assures, pulling Joe down into a kiss that quickly turns heated with teeth and tounges and shared breath. In a flash Nicky finds himself on his front, lace-covered ass on display for Joe. His broad hands pulling Nicky’s cheeks apart, a finger tracing down towards his hole.

“Joe -, amore,”

“I cannot decide if I want to spend a century admiring you in these,” His beloved wonders, snapping the waistband loudly, “or if I want to tear them off you with my teeth.”

“This is for you –Joe.” Nicky reminds, though a part of him would like to keep the panties in one piece. Still…they can buy more and a hot and bothered part of him is thrilled that Joe would want him so badly. But Joe seems to have made up his mind, leaning in to lick over Nicky’s hole –the lace still pulled tight across his ass. Nicky can’t help the noise he makes and Joe leans back enough to open the lube and say “Yes, sweetheart, make as much noise as you want –let this whole house know what I do to you.”

And he does.

As Joe pulls his panties down, swirls a warm, lubed finger over his hole, Nicky whines. He grunts as Joe’s finger dips into him, keens as it rubs gently, as he pushes in further, as he lets his tongue lap around his entrance while his finger slicks him –avoiding that spot inside that will have Nicky howling.

Nicky’s inner thighs are brushed red with beard burn as Joe takes his time to enjoy his man’s soft inner thighs; nibbling and sucking there as he presses in a second finger. Nicky’s trying to push back against it; eager and wanting for more. Joe’s cock would be ideal; his fingers are still avoiding that best spot as he drags pleasure from Nicky.

“Please, Joe-,” He can’t help but beg.

“Please, what, beloved?” Joe’s voice is a happy tease as he takes a gentle hold of Nicky’s balls, noticing his cock is starting to take interest again.

“Ah-!” Nicky gasps loudly as Joe lets his two fingers spread deep inside him, Joe’s other hand moving to pull on his dick, “I need to come –want your cock.”

“You will,” Joe assures, because it is assured, “once I bring you over the edge again. Just like this.” He gives Nicky a good squeeze then and his lover can’t help the loud, desperate sounds he makes. Or the wild yell that comes when Joe makes that first pass at his prostate.

“That’s right, Nicolo, let me hear it.” Joe praises, “You’re so good for me, my Nicolo.”

This time Nicky’s orgasm builds with each press and irregular swipe of Joe’s fingers over his prostate. He’s got three digits in him now –enough lube to leak out over his panties and down his thighs. The sound is obscene, Joe’s teeth in his thigh are demanding, his hand pumping him to completion. Nicky’s hands clutching at the pillows, he shouts out this orgasm –wailing loudly as Joe continues to press into his prostate until his limbs are limp and his skin buzzes.

“This was supposed to be for you,” He manages as Joe finally pulls the panties off him and turns him over –Nicky’s sure he couldn’t move if he needed to.

“Oh, beloved,” Joe brings the underwear to his face and inhales deeply, “seeing you like this is the greatest pleasure and privilege a man could hope for.”

Nicky’s smile is watery –his emotions close to the surface and the look in Joe’s eyes is reverence.

“May I have you, Nicolo?” Joe asks; and after everything that’s happened he’s still touched that Joe asks him this way. Like he’s being permitted a great honor –the man still has his jeans on, his erection must be hot and tight in the confines of his pants.

“This is for you,” Nicky’s hand reaches to cup Yusuf’s jaw, “I am for you.”

Joe has his pants off, his underwear on the floor before helping Nicky into his lap. He joins their hands; wetting them with lube before guiding Nicky’s touch to his cock which is hot steal –reddened and bold against Joe’s skin.

“I cannot be without you,” Joe reminds as he lines himself up with Nicky’s wet entrance.

“You don’t have to be,” Nicky breaths as he lowers himself, a gasp as Joe breaches him, “we go together.”

Joe gives them time to get used to being full before Nicky starts to squirm on his cock impatiently.

“Joe-,” He pleads. “Lover, take me, I’m yours. You waited; take me-,” And Joe starts their pace –hot, hard and fast. Nicky’s come twice already and his cock is seriously thinking about trying again, but with Joe burning and big inside him it’s an afterthought. This dance between them is just as well practiced as the swords in their hands and Nicky lets himself bounce sharp and fast in Joe’s lap –his head thrown back to scream out when Joe hits his sweet spot and grinds against it.

“Fuck, darling, you’re so wet –hot and tight around me. Like you were made for it –made for me.” Joe chokes out. One of his hands holds Nicky fast, spread between sweat-slick shoulder blades, the other teasing a nipple.

“That’s it, habibi –” Joe assures, “let everyone know just how well I fuck you.”

“Joe, Joe, Joe-!” Nicky chants as his lover thrusts sharp and fast making pearls of sweat appear on their heated skin. Joe’s tongue chases them up his neck making Nicky keen. He knows after everything and all his patience he won’t last –but Joe really wants to drag one last orgasm from his Nicolo if he can before he erupts.

“So big –so good ---oh fuck, Joe! Mi amore! Yusuf!” Nicolo’s babbling brokenly as he rides his lover. Joe’s hand dipping down between where his cheeks are spread open, his erection keeping them apart as he pounds into Nicky’s body. Joe gently traces a finger around his man’s swollen rim, tugging at it and feeling his wet cock slide in and out –being sure to hoist Nicky just that bit higher in his lap so he’s striking his prostate every single time.

And Nicky screams wild and loud. He wails like a wounded man as Joe keeps it up, as his spent cock dribbles hot come and his orgasm swamps him. Tears leak from the corners of his eyes and his body –now three orgasms deep can do nothing more but allow Joe to fuck and fuck and fuck.

Joe brings them down against the bed, hand cupping Nicky’s face, the other hoisting his leg up about his hip as his punishing pace stutters and falters and grinds. Joe’s a wild man as he chases his own orgasm –as he crests and comes and floods Nicky’s insides with wet white heat. His own roar rushing through the safe house. Not a soul nearby will mistake what they’ve been doing –that Joe has completely wrecked Nicky, that he’s staked his claim.
He has the wherewithal to let himself pull out gently, to greedily eye the trail of hot come leaking out of Nicky and to lean down to quickly lick that trail away with the flat of his tongue –Nicky gasps, body twitches, but can do nothing more - before flopping back onto the bed beside Nicky.

“That,” Nicky’s breath is evening out but he still sounds wrecked, “perfect.”

“Yeah,” It’s all the two of them can put together right now and Yusuf takes it as a sign of a job well done. He’s not sure who grabs the quilt or who snuggles into who first; but Nicky is where he belongs, tucked against his chest –Yusuf’s come marking him up (they’ll have to get up in a few minutes and clean up before things get uncomfortable). Nicky checks the time on his phone; they’ve got a little bit before Andy allows Booker and Nile back in –a few more minutes to just bask in each other. And they do. He naps without nightmares.