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They lie face to face on top of the covers. Fully clothed, careful inches apart. Funny, after the nonchalant touches they’ve shared so often over the years. Now the slightest brush of sleeve on sleeve makes them both flinch – not with revulsion, quite the opposite: with the caution of two people so powerfully attracted that they fear the force of collision will break them both, if they surrender to it.

Colin stares at David’s face on the pillow in front of him. Close enough to smell the mint on his breath, and still unreachable. He feels something wrench inside, like a powerful hunger pang, like his stomach’s so empty it’s started to cave in on itself, except it’s not his stomach and it isn’t food he’s starving for. Maybe it shows on his face, because David reaches out to touch his arm, then hesitates. Then slowly withdraws his hand back to his own chest. Colin watches it pull away until they are both back in their positions, two parallel lines, transfixed but never moving.

Colin tries to make his voice sound normal: “We should have some music.” Anything, anything to break the silence.

This is David’s cue to get up and put on one of their work playlists, break the spell of the moment, but he doesn’t do that. Instead he nestles the side of his face a little deeper into the pillow and gives a tiny sigh.

“This is your fault,” he mumbles. “I'm never normally like this. You made me feel this way.”

Colin frowns. “Well, I didn’t mean to.”

“Doesn’t matter. You did, and here I am.” David sounds angry, but he looks frightened. “What do we do now? I can’t go back to pretending I don’t... that we’re not... I can’t. I just want to be with you.”

“I know. I want to be with you too.” And he’s telling the truth, on some level, which is the scariest part. “But...”

“But nothing,” interrupts David, with new ferocity, and this time he really does put his hand down on Colin’s arm and squeezes it. It’s such a tiny gesture, really, but it sends sparkles through Colin’s entire nervous system. “Let’s be together. If you really want something in life, you should take it. You want me, don’t you?”

Colin doesn’t even know what to say to that. He wants David so much, and has done for so long, that it’s become the background radiation of his life, something he never expected to come to fruition any more than he expected it to change or diminish. In this moment, he wants David to the exclusion of everything else, though he hopes that won’t last. There’s no answer he can give that won’t undersell his desire to the point of falsehood.

“Yes,” he says, “I want you.”

“Well then,” says David, moving his hand to Colin’s cheek, “take me.” And their faces are suddenly pressed so close, and seconds later they’re kissing.

David gives a much longer sigh, out through his nose, while his soft mouth is pressed up against Colin’s. It’s a sigh like the hard part is over or maybe we can just do this forever or this isn’t so bad, is it, old man.

The hunger pangs have started to transform into something else, infinitely more pleasurable but maybe just as dangerous. Colin lifts one hand and puts it firmly on David’s hip, pulls him closer, deepens their kiss. David gives a little moan which ought to land him in prison for the effect it produces alone.

Meanwhile Colin’s unfinished sentence loops around his brain, growing longer and truer as he tries to bury it deeper. But: relationships are weaknesses. The more I love you, the harder it will be for me to protect myself at your expense, if the need ever arises. Our work is dangerous; it ever comes down to a choice between my safety and yours, I don’t want to hesitate, even for a second. I don’t want to need you so much that I can’t look after number one anymore.

David’s hand has moved to Colin’s hair, tangling in the curls, cradling his skull while they make out. “I’m so happy,” David whispers between kisses. “I would do anything for you, Colin.”

Well, so would I, Colin thinks, not sure how true it is anymore. But right now he can’t bring himself to think about it or what it might mean for his future wellbeing. He squeezes the full length of David’s slender body to him until he can feel the boy’s heartbeat pounding against his own chest.

If trading a little security in the future can buy a whole lot of pleasure in the present, then Colin is too weak to resist a bargain like that.