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built by heart

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Zero paces the floor not like a predatory feline -- all calm, dangerous, and absolutely assured -- but like an anxious puppy waiting for his person to arrive home. Jude’s not even a little surprised when Zero almost trips over his own feet. He holds back a smile and feels his chest tighten as he looks up at Zero.

“Come over here and sit down before you hurt yourself,” Jude says, reaching out when Zero’s within arm’s length and grabs onto his hand. Zero stops and lets himself be pulled onto the couch next to Jude. “We just had the floor’s installed, I don’t want to have to call Doug back here to replace boards because you’ve worn them down already.”

Zero exhales a small laugh and Jude can feel some of the tension leave as he runs his hand over Zero’s shoulders and back.

“It’s going to be fine. You’ve built yourself and this house up from the floorboards. Well, a whole crew of contractors, carpenters, electricians, designers, and the like built this place up from the floorboards, but you -- This is our life and it’s amazing.” he promises, leaning in and kissing Zero’s jaw, the bristles of Zero’s stubble tickling his lips. “It’s going to be great.” He kisses Zero’s neck.

“I know it’s going to be. It’s just --” Zero says, his voice working towards its usual calm. He sighs and tangles his fingers with Jude’s. “How the hell are you not more tense? Usually you’re the big ball of nerves.”

“One of us has to be the calm one. Finally it was my turn.”

Zero really laughs then and Jude finds himself pushed back against the couch pillows with Zero’s mouth on his. Jude cups the back of Zero’s head as their kisses go from playful to something more serious. It takes every ounce of self-control he has to pull away when he feels Zero’s thigh start to push between his legs.

“Wait. We shouldn’t-- We shouldn’t start something that’s going to be, um, hard to stop. I really don’t want to meet your sister for the first time with a case of blue balls.”

He meant it as a way to lighten the mood, and to legitimately keep in mind the fact that they had a houseguest arriving at any moment and there were enough emotions going on right now that adding “horny” wasn’t the best idea. But as soon as the words were out of Jude’s mouth, Zero tenses up again.


“Hey,” he says, sitting up and smoothing out his shirt.

“I just worry how she’s going to handle it. Seeing this place,” Zero says, starting up a conversation they’ve had countless times over the last six months, since he’d returned from Boston that first time after seeing Laura.

He’d been thrumming with excited energy, talking almost non-stop about what theiir reunion had been like, how they’d easily slipped into a familiar conversation, catching up one another on what had happened since they’d last been together -- the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.

“Her family’s amazing,” Zero said, holding onto Jude’s hands and rubbing his thumbs over Jude’s knuckles. “And I told her about mine. She wants to meet you.“

Jude squeezed his hands. “I want to meet her, too. Just tell me when and we’ll go.”

“She wants to come out here. She wants to see the house.”

“Hey,” Jude says again, curling his hand around Zero’s knee. “She’s going to be okay. We’ve sent her pictures. You gave her a tour via FaceTime. It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. And if either one of you aren’t, you’ll be here for each other. And I’m here for you both, too.”

“I love you,” Zero says, resting his hand on Jude’s.

“I love you too, Gideon.” Their kiss is quick, but it leaves them both smiling.

Zero’s phone buzzes and he looks at the screen. “The car should be here in five. Jelena said she’d be keeping the reporters away today. Let’s hope whatever her plan was worked,” he says.

“They know better than to get on her bad side. I think Ray at TMZ still has a bruise from where she slapped him.”

“He’ll think again the next time he tries some shit like that.”

Zero stands up and goes to wait by the window. Jude sits on the edge of the couch and watches him, taking deep breaths and allowing his own nerves to show while Zero’s back is turned. He meant what he said about it being his turn to be the calm one, but he’d be lying if the anticipation of meeting Zero’s sister wasn’t making him lightheaded.

“I love you,” Jude says again as he joins Zero at the window, sliding his arm around Zero’s waist and resting his chin on Zero’s shoulder.

“Thank you,” Zero answers, leaning back into Jude. “For all of this.”

They stand there, staring out onto the quiet street until the black car pulls up in the driveway.

“Let’s do this,” Zero says as a woman with long brown hair steps out from the car and heads toward the door, a weekender bag slung over her shoulder.

“Hey there, shortie,” Zero says as he opens the door.

“Giddy!” Laura says, dropping her back and launching herself into Zero’s arms.

Zero catches her and Jude can see his eyes close as he holds on tight.

“I always hated when you called me that,” Zero says, walking them back into the house.

“Too bad.” Is Laura’s reply and Jude makes a mental note to ask them about that when he has a chance.

Jude slips past and takes the bags from the car’s driver and signs the receipt while Zero and Laura continue to hug.

“--but the flight was fine and the driver was super nice and he said I should’ve brought sunglasses and a hat or something because there might be reporters. But I didn’t see any when we pulled up,” Laura was saying as Jude shut the door and Zero set her down.

Laura was shorter that Zero by a good six inches, and her hair was the deep brown that Jude knew Zero’s natural color to be. And when she smiled -- it was Gideon’s smile.

“Jude. In the flesh at last.” Laura opens her arms to him. “Not that FaceTime or pictures aren’t great, but as much as my brother talks about you it’s amazing to finally meet you.”

“Likewise. I can't believe you're finally here,” Jude says, stepping forward and into her hug.

“So,” Zero says when Laura let’s Jude go and moves back to Zero’s side, her arm around his waist. This look on his face is a mix of happiness, anticipation, and something Jude isn’t used to seeing -- shyness. “Laura, welcome to our home.”

Bonus scene:

“We can't,” Zero said, his voice a tight whisper as Jude's hand slid over his stomach and his fingers teased at the waistband of Zero’s boxers.

“We can,” Jude answered, kissing the side of Zero’s neck and sucking at the skin just under his jaw.

“Not with my sister--” The protest in Zero’s voice was fading as he ran his nails up Jude’s arm.

“She's two rooms over.” Jude ran his palm over the front of Zero’s boxers and smiled as Zero’s hips jerked. “We designed this place so we could do just this.”

Zero’s legs fell open wide and Jude took the invitation, shifting on top of Zero, their chests pressed together, hips and groins moving in a pleasant rocking motion.

”And besides, Laura asked me to make sure there was a white noise machine in her room. I think we’d be disappointing her if we didn’t,” Jude whispered into Zero’s ear. “We’ll take it slow.”

Zero’s fingers dug into Jude’s ass, pulling him closer. “I’m going to remind you of this when I get to meet your mom next month.”