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Leon shook his head as he put the phone down on his mum. He loved her, he really did, but at the moment she was mother-henning him to death, worried that he was going to sink into a depression now that he was single again. Then again, he was also her youngest child and, much to his older brother’s amusement, she had always fussed over him more. The fussing had become even worse since he had been dumped by his long-term girlfriend. He and Morgana had been together for seven years and he had been on the verge of proposing, hell his entire family had been waiting for a wedding announcement, but instead of spending Christmas with his fiancée as he had hoped, he was no doubt going to be spending it alone.

The problem was, he couldn’t figure out exactly what had gone wrong. He was under no illusions that they had had the perfect relationship but he couldn’t understand why Morgana had dumped him, especially considering everything that they had been through. They had met at an industry party years ago; Morgana was one of the youngest magazine editors in London and Leon had an already established reputation as a combat reporter. They had been together for four months before Leon was sent to Northern Ireland on an assignment, the photos of which garnered him several awards. Northern Ireland was followed by Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. He made it through all of them unscathed until his last assignment to Afghanistan three years into their relationship. The convoy that he had been travelling in had hit several IED’s and the armoured truck that Leon was travelling in had been ripped apart. Leon himself had been ripped apart or at least his left side had. He had spent three months in hospital and had left with numerous scars, several metal pins in his leg and a pronounced limp. His relationship with Morgana had seemed unchanged although in hindsight it was probably all calm on the surface and turbulent underneath and five months after leaving hospital, Leon found himself back on a plane to cover civil unrest in the Middle East. Two years later, two years that he hadn’t really spent at home, he returned to discover that Morgana’s things had gone and she had left him a letter breaking up with him. A day later, he was on a plane to Syria. His heart wasn’t in it anymore though and he resigned his job.

He went back to his parent’s house for about a week, needing to have a bit of time to feel sorry for himself but rather liking the idea of doing it where somebody would be willing to cook his meals and do his laundry for him. A week was all he could take though and then he needed to be working again. He couldn’t help but be relieved a few months later that he had kept in touch with his classmates from college when he got a phone call from one of them, Valiant, offering him a job. The only criteria for accepting the job was that he needed to be on a flight the following morning. Leon didn’t even think twice about it; he accepted it without hesitation.

~*~

The problem was, Leon thought as he set up his equipment and triple-checked his cameras, that he had just automatically accepted the job out of sheer desperation and the need to do something; he hadn’t bothered to check what the job was. What he was going to be doing wasn’t the end of the world but it certainly wasn’t something that he was used to be doing. Editorial. Not crazy high-end fashion but this shoot was for a very well-known magazine. Leon had been a combat photographer; he didn’t think he’d done an editorial shoot since he was an assistant straight out of college. Having said that, there was no way this was worse than any number of danger zones that he’d been in.

And then he met the model that he would be working with.

Gwaine Lothian. Leon recognised the man mainly because his sister and his sisters-in-law thought the man was some kind of god. Now Leon was going to be photographing him on a beach in Italy. Great. It wasn’t the warmest weather for September but the sun was bright and hopefully that would help keep some of the chill off considering that Gwaine was apparently just going to be wearing swimwear and the odd shirt. But then again, there was another evening/formalwear shoot to do as well. Leon took a deep breath and reminded himself that he needed to remain as professional as possible, something that had never been an issue with him before. Then again, he’d always been in combat zones and even safe zones had had a feel of danger about them.

Leon had never been one for meaningless flings or one-night stands. He’d had a couple of not so serious short-term relationships while in sixth-form but other than that he had had two long term-relationships. One had been Morgana and the other had been a guy at college called Cenred. Leon had been happy until Cenred had fallen in with the wrong crowd and turned into a complete and utter dick. While he had been with Morgana, Leon had been perfectly happy and hadn’t so much as looked at another man although there had been some perfect specimens in the Forces. Okay, so he might have looked a little bit. The difference was, Leon was now single and, although heart-broken, Gwaine Lothian was just his type.

The two day shoot was hell on Leon’s self-control and professionalism, especially when you took into account Gwaine’s behaviour. The man was naturally flirtatious and didn’t limit himself to just one sex; he was just as flirtatious with the men as he was with the women. It was hell for Leon to remain stoic and not react to Gwaine’s behaviour but he managed it for the entire duration of the shoot only for it to all have been for naught on the last evening of the shoot. Due to some specifically lit shots that Leon wanted, the final day went on into the evening meaning that those who weren’t Italian had to stay another night before a rather early flight the following morning. That was where the problems began.

Gwaine, still wearing his rather dapper tuxedo from the shoot, decided to turn his not inconsiderable charm on Leon. Shattered from the shoot and mellow from alcohol, Leon let his guard down; it had been months if not years since an attractive man had flirted with him. The flirting had soon died away but not disappeared completely in favour of conversation and Leon had been more than pleasantly surprised by the discovery that, despite his looks and flirtatious behaviour, Gwaine wasn’t a vapid airhead.

Instead, he was actually incredibly intelligent and his looks came hand in hand with a first class degree in English Literature. So, Leon had found himself discussing twenty-first century literature and debating the merits of various journalists. As the evening progressed, so did their flirting as they moved closer together and casual touches became more frequent. When the end of the evening, and the time to leave the bar, came Leon couldn’t find it within himself to pull away when Gwaine leant in to kiss him outside the bar. Instead, he found himself leaning in closer and meeting the other man half-way. The kiss took his breath away and he found himself whimpering, pressing closer as his hands curled in the lapels of Gwaine’s tuxedo. It had everything that had been missing when he kissed Morgana towards the end of their relationship. And, although he knew that this was going to be a one-off, that Gwaine had probably done this a hundred times, he couldn’t help but think that he wouldn’t object to more of this, to more of Gwaine.

~*~

It had been two months since he had done that first shoot for Valiant, the shoot with Gwaine and things were looking up for Leon, at least on the work front. A couple of other photo-journalists that he had worked with in various hot-zones over the years but had made the move into more commercial work of their own choice had discovered his change in direction and had been in touch. As a result, he had been able to start working on shoots that he found more challenging than more generic editorial and high-fashion shoots, although he had done several of those in the last couple of months. He had relished the fact that he was working again and doing more travelling which had automatically led to an upturn in his spirits.

He had just returned from a trip to Morocco when he had another phone call from Valiant asking him to take over on a shoot that another photographer had pulled out of. Leon had been on the verge of turning it down considering how exhausted he was, that it wasn’t a shoot that he would normally accept and that he still had a lot of editing to do on the Moroccan photos but Val had kept pushing Leon to accept it. The other photographer obviously realised that he was fighting a losing battle so he pulled out the big guns and told Leon who one of the two models was going to be; Gwaine Lothian.

Gwaine. The Irish model had been playing on Leon’s mind ever since that shoot in Italy and Leon had admitted to himself that he was more than a little bit attracted to the other man. He’d lost count of the number of nights that he’d gone to sleep thinking of the kisses that they had shared outside the bar. He knew that it was ridiculous because, at the time, the likelihood of him seeing Gwaine again was slim to none but now Val was offering him the opportunity to see the model again. He could feel excitement already starting to thrum through his veins at the prospect of seeing Gwaine. For the first time since he split with Morgana, he found himself open to the prospect of moving on and actually feeling as though he was in a place that he could move on. More importantly, that there was someone that he could move on with.

Any excitement and optimism that he was feeling was dashed when he turned up to the shoot. Gwaine was there looking as gorgeous as he had done in Italy, dressed in the rather eclectic mix of gladiator style armour and pseudo-bondage leathers. What brought Leon’s mood down was the presence of the other model, another model that Gwaine was draped all over and flirting with outrageously; they hadn’t even started the shoot yet! What really didn’t help was the fact that the other model, Percival as he was introduced as, was built like some kind of god. Leon was a tall man himself but this guy had several inches in height on him and was sickeningly ripped. Annoyingly, he was also a genuinely lovely guy.

Leon spent the entire shoot wishing that he had said no to Valiant rather than thinking with his dick considering that it had got him nowhere. The expanse of Gwaine’s naked torso was beyond temptation but then Percival was showing off just as much flesh as Gwaine and the fact that it was him that Gwaine was draped all over put rather a dampener on Leon’s libido. And that was the real problem. This shoot required both men to portray themselves as lovers and watching the two of them, the easy way that they portrayed that relationship, Leon came to a huge realisation; if they weren’t now, and to be honest he was fairly confident that they were, the two of them had been in a relationship before. If Percy was the kind of guy that Gwaine went for then Leon didn’t stand a chance.

He just about tolerated Gwaine’s just above the wire comments and his flirting towards him throughout the shoot, simply gritting his teeth whenever Gwaine turned his attentions towards Percival. And then the one thing happened that meant he knew he had absolutely no hope with the Irishman. The last shot that he needed was one of the two men kissing. Leon described the shot that he needed and then stood back behind his lens as the two men got on with it. He got the perfect shot to the sound of his hopes shattering into hundreds of pieces. He had been doing this for a long time and faked kisses were always obvious. The passion that he could see now wasn’t faked; there was definite feeling there on both sides. He knew it was ridiculous and so very teenage girl but he had hoped that something would happen between himself and Gwaine but obviously not. He was just going to have to resign himself to the fact that he would be remaining single for the foreseeable future and go home and mope.

~*~

Leon looked at the caller id on his phone, saw that it was Valiant and considered ignoring the call but then thought that any work would be better than moping around the flat, visions of Gwaine and Percival the man-mountain dancing through his head. So with that in mind, he picked up the phone and agreed to whatever the shoot was. He only had three days left before he was expected back at his parents where he would be subjected to the pity of his entire family.

The following day, he was half-way to the venue for the shoot when his phone vibrated briefly to signify an incoming text. Swiftly accessing the message, he came to a complete half in the middle of the pavement, oblivious to the angry people moving around him.

“Son of a bitch!”

The text was from Valiant: Sorry mate, forgot to mention a couple of details about the shoot. Not your normal kind of thing – very, very soft-core porn shoot. One model. Asked for you specifically. Cheers! Val.

He carried on walking because there was nothing that he could do now; it wasn’t as though he could back out of the shoot. All he could do was hope that it wasn’t going to be horrendous because that wouldn’t do anything to help his Christmas spirit, what little he had. Despite stopping to pick up the sweetest, most calorie-laden coffee (with several extra shots of caffeine) that he could, he was still in a horrendous mood when he arrived at the shoot. Literally throwing the doors open and allowing them to slam shut he was seriously unimpressed to discover that, even though everything was set up in terms of lighting, the entire place was devoid of anybody else.

“Oh for fuck’s sake! Is there actually anybody here?”

There was no response and Leon was all prepared to turn around and just leave when there was movement from behind the lights. Squinting, he couldn’t help but groan when he could finally make out who the figure was. Gwaine. And a very scantily-clad Gwaine at that.

“Seriously?” Leon turned around and was already moving towards the door when a hand clamped around his wrist and he was swung around to face Gwaine.

“Please, just hear me out. Let me explain myself.”

“Really? And what are you going to explain? How you spent two days flirting with me and then kissed me in Italy even though you had a boyfriend back here? How you carried on flirting outrageously with me on a second shoot even though your boyfriend was a model on the same shoot. And Percy’s one of the nicest men that I’ve ever met.”

“Percy’s not my boyfriend!” The words practically exploded out of Gwaine. “I mean, he has been my boyfriend in the past, an on-off relationship but it’s been off for a long time. I’m interested in you, seriously interested in you and I have been since that shoot in Italy. Do you honestly think I’m dressed up like this for shits and giggles?” As he spoke, Gwaine let the dressing gown that he was wearing slide open revealing the outfit below.

Leon was incapable of a response. In fact he was fairly certain that his entire brain had short-circuited. He didn’t think that he was capable of saying anything coherent. Underneath the robe (a festive red of course), Gwaine was all trussed up like a festive treat just for Leon. He was wearing a skimpy, tightly-cut pair of red briefs that were accompanied by a pair of thigh-high red and white candy-cane striped socks. Socks? Stockings? Leon couldn’t quite work out what they were and to be perfectly honest, he didn’t particularly care. All he cared about was how good Gwaine looked wearing them.

“Is that all you’re wearing?”

“No, not all.” Gwaine smirked as he produced a Santa hat from somewhere making Leon groan loudly.

“Is this actually a real shoot? Or did you just make the whole thing up?”

“It’s a genuine shoot; I just decided to make good use of the opportunity.”

“So, let’s get things clear,” Leon stepped closer to Gwaine, effectively eradicating all personal space between the two of them. “You’re definitely interested in me and you’re definitely single.”

Gwaine smiled in a way that had Leon feeling rather hot under the collar. “I’m definitely single and I think it’s obvious how interested I am.”

There was no denying Gwaine’s words as his interest was obviously apparent and Leon threw caution to the wind, leaning in and kissing Gwaine on the lips. Gwaine’s response was to surge up against the taller man, returning the kiss eagerly as he wrapped his arms around Leon’s neck. It was full of pent-up tension, a clash of teeth and tongues completely lacking in finesse. They only pulled away when their lungs were screaming for air but couldn’t separate themselves for long. This time the kiss was slow, unhurried, as they explored each other’s mouths, relishing the fact that this was actually happening. Leon groaned and wrapped his arms around Gwaine’s waist, his fingers slip-sliding on the material of the dressing gown, making a soft noise as Gwaine’s tongue swept into his mouth, exploring thoroughly. The kiss then devolved into a series of shorter kisses, pecks and nips as they tried to slow their breathing. Leon couldn’t help but moan as Gwaine turned his attention away from Leon’s lips, his teeth grazing over the pulse point at the base of Leon’s throat.

“Maybe if this is a genuine shoot then we should actually get some work done?” It was probably the hardest thing Leon had done for a while, putting some actual space between himself and Gwaine.

“What are you talking about? You have me like this and you’re talking about working?”

Leon slid his hand inside the dressing gown and palmed Gwaine’s arse before giving it a squeeze. “Trust me, work is the last thing that I want to be doing but, the sooner that we get the shoot done then the sooner we can get out of here and go back to my place?”

“The ultimate cliché; the photographer propositioning the model.”

“Oh please! You were the one who set this whole thing up …you can’t blame this on me!”

“Whatever. And what do you intend to do with me when you get me back to your place?”

Leon smiled and leant in to whisper in Gwaine’s ear. What he said had Gwaine pulling away and moving away to the lit set, proclaiming that the sooner they got this over with then the sooner they got to the sex. Leon had no complaints about that. It was probably the hardest shoot that Leon had ever done because the sexual tension in the room was tangible. Even so, Leon knew that these photos were going to be a huge success … women (and men) were going to be hot and flustered when these photos were printed.

“I’m just going to go and change.” Gwaine gestured in the direction of the back of the room, the same place that he had emerged from.

“Don’t bother.” Leon couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth; he’d never been this forward before. “I have every intention of taking them off you myself.”

“We can take care of that right now … save ourselves the wait.”

“Oh no, I have every intention of our first time being in a bed, not in the back of some grotty shoot location.”

“First time?” There was a definite leer plastered over Gwaine’s face.

“Shut up and put some more clothes on. I’m going to hail a taxi.”

(~*~)

Two days later, they still hadn’t emerged from Leon’s flat and had barely emerged from the bedroom. The only time that they had emerged had been to use the bathroom (and engage in several rather enjoyable sessions of shower sex) or to scavenge in the kitchen for food (which had led to Leon clinging to the counter as he had been given a mind-blowing blow job). That wasn’t to say that they had spent all their time having sex, just a large portion of it. There had also been plenty of cuddling and a lot of talking. Leon had been thrilled to discover that the connection between them which had been present in Italy hadn’t disappeared and was still there. So much so, that he didn’t actually want to leave for his parents without Gwaine. He could call off completely but it wasn’t worth the hassle that he would get from his mum. What he really wanted was the best of both worlds. He tilted his head slightly, trying to see Gwaine’s face but only being able to make out the top of his head.

“What are you doing for Christmas?”

“Huh?” Gwaine started to lightly trace an absentminded pattern around Leon’s nipple. “Same as I always do. Fuck all. Hope that the Chinese takeaway round the corner isn’t closed.”

“Come with me.”

“What?” Gwaine sat up at that, brushing his hair out of sleepy eyes. “What the hell are you on about? You said you’re going to your parents.”

“I know. I’m saying come with me. It’s a couple of days, that’s all. Surely it’s better than spending it by yourself?”

“Are you sure about this? It seems a bit quick.”

“Well, let’s face it, if we can get through Christmas together so soon then we’re probably onto a winner.” Leon couldn’t believe that he was saying this, but what was he going to lose.

“You do have a point.” Gwaine shifted and straddled Leon, leaning down to give him a kiss before trailing kisses down to nip at the tendons in Leon’s neck. “The important question is, are we still going to be able to have sex?”

“Definitely still going to be able to have sex,” Leon confirmed, his hand sliding down to cup Gwaine’s arse at the same time that his mobile rang on the bedside table.

“Mum? Yes, I’m still coming for Christmas. I’m just rather late leaving; I got distracted. No, I don’t want you to set up a date with Alice’s daughter. Yes, I’m sure she’s lovely but I’m not interested. I actually wanted to know if I could bring someone with me; there’s someone that I want you to meet …. No, it’s a recent thing. Actually, his name’s Gwaine.”