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“Babe, just get it in the morning,” Rhett sighed, watching his petite wife scrubbing dishes from the doorway that led into the dining room. Her hair was pulled up in a messy bun, and she moved all sluggish and heavy. He glanced back at his best friend seated at the modern hewn oak dining table, fidgeting with the brass salt shaker as he took a long sip of his beer. Rhett looked back on Jessie padding over to him, her eyes rolling as she lifted a sweet kiss to his bearded cheek.

“Y’all gonna be up talking much longer?” She asked, tired brown eyes lazily batting as she reached up to plant her hands on her husband’s shoulders. Backwards, he walked her into the dining room, and when he plopped back down into his seat, her hands followed along. She gazed over at Link. He raised his brow and glanced over at Rhett, eyes saying more than his mouth ever would.

“Yeah, looks like it,” Rhett answered, stroking his beard in a way Jessie knew meant he was apologetic. “Got a lot to discuss before we wrap the shoot tomorrow.” She sighed archly, but her rolling eyes and weary smile belied her apparently endless patience in sharing her husband with the bespectacled man sitting there watching them.

“Work, work, work,” she grumbled. “Gonna end up in an early grave at this rate.” She paused in the doorway on her way upstairs. “Link, I put her up in the guest bedroom to sleep off some of the booze, so... you know where to find her, hon.” Link nodded, lips tight and eyes downcast.

“Can’t blame her for drinking so much,” Rhett cracked, gesturing to Link’s mustache, a relic of their filming schedule. “Tryna forget that thing.” Jessie’s eyebrows lifted almost imperceptibly, her lips pursed to stem the flow of all the things she could say in response.

“Thank you, Jess,” Link answered stiffly. He emptied his beer in one long gulp, trying to ignore the weight of Rhett and Jessie’s eyes on him. Jessie threw Rhett a loaded glance, and Rhett cleared his throat and shot back wide, meaningful eyes at her.

“Okay, well, don’t forget you’re pickin’ up Shep tomorrow at nine, babe,” she said pointedly. Rhett nodded. “You know Lindsay hates it when you’re late gettin’ him.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said softly.

“You say you know,” she chided, “but you were late the last two times gettin’ him. She’s got a tight schedule.” Rhett sighed and raised one palm.

“Okay, Jess,” he groaned. “I’m setting my alarm now.” He pulled out his phone and began fidgeting with the alarm settings.

“Okay, well… Love you boys,” she said, her eyes heavier now, lined with sleep.

“Love you, Jess,” Link murmured, and they watched her go without another word. The room remained silent but for the echoing rhythm of her feet climbing up the stairs.

This late at night, the house was always perfectly silent. Rhett often found himself lying on the living room floor at this hour, an old honky tonk record spinning softly on the turntable as he just thought, thought about things, thought about the renovations Jessie wanted to make to the house, thought about Jessie’s family reunion next month, thought about Bojangles, thought about white privilege, thought about getting into woodworking, thought about his place in the universe, and sometimes, when he let his mind go swirling into the pits of regret and what if, he even thought about how different life may have been had he and Link grown up in a different time and place. He tried not to go down that path too often. Here there be monsters and all that jazz.

Midnight sometimes left him with a frightening clarity that sent his thoughts pinging around a mile a minute in his skull. He was glad that tonight he wasn’t alone. Link looked like he could use some company, too.

Link seemed preoccupied with studying his beer bottle, some hoppy indie brew with purple and silver swirls on the label. The lines in his forehead were starkly lit by the industrial lights above the table. Jessie had been begging for months to get a chandelier put in. He’d get around to it eventually. The dark haired man was glaring at his rough cuticles as though he could burn them away with laser vision. Rhett knew from personal experience that it’d never work. Problems didn’t just vanish like that, no matter how much you pleaded with the universe. The universe had a way of dancing around what you wanted, cackling like mad as you clawed at your own eyes at the denial and begged “Why me?”

Link realized he was being watched. When he caught Rhett’s gaze, he gave a bashful smile and went to speak, but Rhett cut him off. “You wanna talk about it?”

Link’s face went stony, his lips tight. He looked back down at his folded hands on the table, but his eyes were foggy with images Rhett could not see. The bright light that beamed down incandescently left spots of light dancing behind his eyelids. “Talk ‘bout what?”

“Whatever has you lookin’ useless as a screen door on a submarine,” Rhett jabbed. Link’s face remained stony. Rhett sighed wearily. “Okay, fine. Play dumb.” Link grimaced and bit his bottom lip. He counted to ten in his head and met Rhett’s gaze again.

“No,” Link uttered, derision spiking each syllable, “I don’t reckon I wanna talk about it, Rhett.” Rhett fought the urge to reach across the table to grab his best friend’s hands. He’d been fighting that urge a lot lately. It hadn’t gotten easier with time. He sank his bare toes into the oriental rug and searched for stillness.

“You being so busy with the show can’t have been easy on her,” Rhett said softly, and Link raised his hand in irritation. He didn’t want to hear it. Rhett prudently shut up.

“Jessie didn’t seem to have any trouble with it,” he spat bitterly. “Fact, she seems just fine, wearing that little dress for you, kissin’ on you all night...” A shadow passed over Rhett’s hollow face.

“Things aren’t always what they seem,” he answered cryptically. “Jessie knows how to make nice in front of you and Christy.” It clearly pained him to say this. Link softened somewhat. “You know, when you’re not here, she has a whole mouthful to say about Christy-”

“Rhett, I wasn’t joking,” he said suddenly. “I don’t have it in me to talk about this right now.” He whipped off his glasses and thunked them down onto the table, rubbing fiercely at the bridge of his nose. Rhett watched the man stewing in misery, and in a moment of inspiration, he got up from the table, back groaning at the effort.

“I know what you need,” he said, sidling into the kitchen. The way he growled the word need worried Link, made him a little hot around the collar. A cabinet snapped shut in the kitchen, and Rhett returned a moment later with a bottle of Bulleit Rye and two shot glasses. “C’mon. Let’s go down to the garage.” Link made a display of disapproval, slumping against the stylish, uncomfortable brass chair.

“That’s your plan, brother?” He groaned. “You’re just gonna get me drunk?” He went to nudge his glasses up the wide bridge of his nose, but he found he’d forgotten to put them back on. He fidgeted with the hem of his shirt, mulling the idea over. Rhett was gazing at him so earnestly, after all.

“‘Member back in college? During finals?” He said quietly, an almost gleeful mania in his eyes. Link feared Rhett when he got like this, impervious to reason.

“I remember lots of things I don’t care to-” Link answered darkly, and Rhett’s hands stuttered where they held onto the bottle. Link’s heart roared to life in his chest, and he looked up into Rhett’s bewildered eyes. “Rhett, I wasn’t referring to that.”

Rhett just laughed blandly, but Link knew it was not a happy sound. “Well, yeah, you swore we’d never talk about it again, so…” Link stared hard down at the grain of the wooden table. “So I don’t know why you thought…” Link opened and closed his mouth a few times, leaving Rhett to stew in a unique kind of existential dread.

“Do you ever think about it?” Link asked, voice a tiny, guarded whisper, staring hard at the grain of the table.

“That was seventeen years ago,” Rhett snapped, glancing down at the bottle. “Of course not.”

“You been keeping count, huh?” Link asked in a tight voice, and when he finally looked up at Rhett, it took the man’s breath away, those blue eyes so sad and unguarded.

“Listen, buddyroll, if talking about your failing marriage is already too hard for you, I can guaran-damn-tee you don’t wanna go down this road.” Rhett felt a horrible queasiness in the pit of his stomach. It wasn’t good when Link was the one losing his mind: that was Rhett’s job. In the nearly two decades since he’d made Rhett swear on his mother’s grave that he’d never to bring up that night again, Rhett had made good on that promise.

“My marriage is not-” Link hissed suddenly, but even as the indignation bubbled forth and loose words formed into refusals in his head, he knew it was all pointless. He gave up. Failing. There it was. Finally, someone had said it out loud, laid it all out on the table. He wasn’t surprised in the slightest that that someone had been Rhett.

“Well, while you might have youthful experimentation on the brain,” Rhett said, low and antagonizing as he clanked the empty shot glasses between his long fingers, “I was thinking about a round or two of Whiskey Slaps out in the garage. Used to cheer you right up.”

“I’m not playing stupid games tonight, Rhett,” Link informed him resolutely. He leaned back in his chair. “Besides, you never hit hard enough anyway. You always went too easy on me.”

“You’re complaining?”

“You’re copping to it?” Link asked, frowning.

“I ain’t copping to nothing.” Rhett leaned against the vinyl cushion of the chair, toying with the lip of the whiskey bottle. His patience was wearing thin. “Look. Come or don’t. You could always go join Christy upstairs instead,” he said a little cruelly, but it had the intended effect. Link sighed and followed him down the stairs, out to the old sofa and makeshift coffee table they’d shoved into the far end of the garage for writing sessions. The second Rhett sank into the deep, worn cushions, he looked like he wanted to take a slug from the bottle, and Link watched sourly as he did just that. Rhett didn’t so much as grimace as he wiped the bitter liquor from his moustache. He grunted, “Dammit, I miss whiskey.”

“What, Jessie not sign your permission slip?” Link spat, arms crossing against his chest. His eyes were narrowed. He was in no mood to fuck around with Rhett tonight, especially not when Rhett was just laughing and joking and acting like the entire world wasn’t on the verge of collapse.

“You know, I’m trying to help,” Rhett said gently, all seriousness and screwed up eyes and an intensity that Link didn’t want to process. Link leaned back, staring in silence at the man who’d been by at his side more or less for the last three decades of their life, his mind kind of just reeling for a second.

And that’s what it was, wasn’t it? Their life. Where Rhett went, Link followed. Everyone around them knew that. And so what if Rhett graciously took all the blame when the two jointly decided to do something risky together, like moving out to California? And so what if Link subtly guided Rhett more than the blonde would care to admit? When it came to doing stupid shit, at least, Rhett was master and commander.

“Fine.” That was all Link said, but Rhett knew.

“A single caveat, if I may, to the standard rules of Whiskey Slaps,” he began, stealing another quick swig from the bottle. Link kind of wanted to hit him sometimes when he spoke like that, all high-fallutin’ like. How fitting his chance was rapidly approaching.

“Enlighten me, Professor.” Link could hear equivocation in the air and wished, not for the first time, that he were capable of spewing more venom where Rhett was concerned. Damn the man.

“Okay,” he started, “Usual rules, you get your whiskey, and you get your slap.” Link nodded impatiently. “But instead of the hug after the slap, I get to ask a personal question, and you have to tell the truth.” Link reached over with a baleful chuckle and plucked the bottle from Rhett’s hands.

“What if I needed the hug?” He joked, throwing back the bottle with a mellifluous slosh as he took a long drink. Rhett watched him with the stirring of pity in his belly.

“You want a hug, bo?” He asked gingerly. Link’s pale blue eyes flashed towards him momentarily before long, black lashes brushed against reddening cheeks.

“No, I’m okay,” he whispered. Rhett didn’t reply. He didn’t believe Link, of course, but Link believed himself and that was enough to deter Rhett for the moment. Link stopped him before he pressed the issue. “So, we gonna play or what? You’ve gotta go to bed soon.” Rhett shifted the shot glasses on the low, beat up coffee table and filled them to the brim. He tried not to notice the warmth of Link by his side. He tried not to lean into his long, limber frame. That would have just been all too confusing.

“Bottom’s up, Neal,” Rhett gently urged him, sliding the full shot glass towards the man with two steady fingers. Link’s jaw tensed and released as he watched the approaching glass. He grasped it lightly and lifted it, stomach suddenly alight with a fluttery, nervous churning to accompany his urgent heartbeat. His mouth went dry as he watched Rhett unbutton his shirt sleeve and carefully roll it up once, twice. “Ready, Linkipoo?”

“Don’t call me that,” Link mumbled through the pulse racing in his throat, and he sucked down the shot, eyes flickering closed as he waited for his slap to come.

Rhett’s hand fell gentler than he’d expected. His thick fingers left a little sting on Link’s stubbled cheek, but the tingling left as soon as it had come. He scowled at Rhett. “Don’t pull your shots, brother.”

“What, you want me to do it again?”

“No,” Link answered quickly. “Just… next time, don’t pull your shots.” Rhett shrugged and turned to lean his shoulder against the back of the sofa. Link floundered under his calculated gaze. “Are you gonna…?” He gestured vaguely. “Or what?”

“I’m thinking,” Rhett said patiently. “Okay. I got one.” He smiled and turned the rest of his body to sit cross-legged, facing the smaller man. “Hypothetically, if Christy asked for a divorce, what would you do?” Link glared at the man as a miserable weight crawled up his throat. He took a swig from the bottle to choke it down.

“Jesus, you just hit the ground running, don’t you?” He scoffed, but after a moment’s hesitation, he had his answer. “Hypothetically? Give her what she wants,” he said through a clenched jaw. “I wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t wanna fight anymore. I’d just wanna sit and watch it burn.” He found a spot on the far wall to stare at. “Hypothetically, of course.” Rhett drew in a deep sigh as he watched Link’s face.

“You know you can stay with us,” he offered softly. “You know, ‘til you get back on your feet.” Link wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“It’s your turn,” he muttered, reaching for the bottle. His hand shook, but whether from emotion or liquor, Rhett had no idea.

“I mean it,” he insisted, aching to reach out to Link but settling for digging his nails into his knees. “Jessie and I already talked about it.”

“Dang it! I said…” Link huffed. “Will you play already?” He glared up at Rhett, his pale blue eyes wild as he took another ill-advised swig from the bottle. He thunked it back down on the table without looking, almost missed. Rhett paused and then reached for his shot.

L’chaim!” He said mirthlessly and sank his shot. The whiskey burned a nice, familiar, dark line down his throat. He leaned forward and watched Link draw back, and with a growl, the dark haired man slapped Rhett’s bearded face with very little mercy. Rhett sucked in a deep breath as the pain sizzled through his stinging flesh. His heart stuttered against his ribs as a bright, feral thrill bloomed in his chest. “Jesus Christ, Link.”

“Sorry,” he whispered as he stared at the palm of his hand, weighing it heavily in his lap. Rhett felt a lightness coursing through him he hadn’t felt in a long time. He blamed the whiskey, because it was less confusing than blaming Link.

He tried a joke to lift the mood. “I gotta be seen in public in the next week, so maybe don’t damage my money maker.”

“Look, this was your idea,” Link ground out through clenched teeth. Rhett rubbed at his stinging cheek.

“Question time, Linkster,” he said coolly.

“Hell, I don’t know.” Link still wouldn’t look at him. “Boxers or briefs?” He quipped half-heartedly, rolling his eyes as he reached for the bottle again. Rhett almost reached out to stop him.

“Fuck you,” Rhett said tenderly. “Try again.” Link took a long swig and grimaced. He was careful setting the bottle down this time.

“How long have you known?” The question was almost silent. Rhett half-contemplated putting on a load of laundry in the machine by the door if only for the slow, rhythmic white noise it’d provide.

“That the end draweth nigh?” He asked. “Probably before you knew.” Link rolled his eyes and made to reach for the bottle again, but this time Rhett swiped his wrist.

“C’mon, you gotta share,” he said earnestly. Link just smirked and woozily leaned his shoulder against the back of the sofa, facing Rhett with bleary eyes.

“I was just gonna pour more shots,” he lied. Rhett grabbed the bottle and filled the two glasses. “My turn anyway.” Rhett smirked and held up a glass. Link took it and swallowed fast. The glass thunked down with a hollow sound, and his eyes fluttered shut. “C’mon, now. Hit me like you mean it.”

Rhett flexed his hand into a fist and back. He gazed upon Link’s slack face for a moment, raised in the light, as if in prayer, waiting for Rhett’s hand. He reached up to slip off Link’s glasses. The dark haired man didn’t flinch. He let Rhett do what he wanted. He’d probably continue letting Rhett do whatever he wanted until he learned better, until it destroyed them. Rhett tried to ignore the warmth rising in his chest and throat as he drew back his hand and swung a short, sharp smack against Link’s cheek. Link yelped like a wounded animal.

He hoped it hurt. Link deserved it, for some reason he couldn’t elucidate at the moment. Link’s head drooped as he drew in deep, steadying breaths. He might have moaned, but Rhett’s ears were ringing too loudly to be sure. He asked darkly, “That what you wanted?” Link vigorously nodded with a shuddering breath.

“Yeah,” he answered thickly.

“Okay, so answer this one,” Rhett said, voice stony and measured. “Why you need me to hurt you like this?” That certainly got a rise out of Link, his pale blue eyes flashing up at Rhett in barely disguised anger.

“‘Cause you’re the only one who can, alright?” He looked for all the world like he wasn’t prepared to elaborate on that.

“I’m the only one who can hurt you,” Rhett repeated dubiously.

“Like this, yeah,” Link answered, avoiding Rhett’s eyes again.

“The hell does that mean?” Rhett tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry.

“That’s two questions,” Link answered miserably. “You gotta wait your turn.” Rhett wanted to argue that asking for a clarification didn’t count against him, but he knew that when Link got like this, a little drunk, a little belligerent, a lot self-loathing… There’d be no reasoning with Link tonight.

“Link, you oughtta go to bed,” he said softly, trying with all his might to seem diplomatic. “It’s late.”

“Bullshit,” Link swore. “You’re not pussying out now.” He jabbed a finger at the full shot glass waiting innocuously on the table. “This was your stupid idea. Drink.” Rhett paused for a long while, watching the redness in his best friend’s swimming eyes, watching the way his chest drew up like he couldn’t take full breaths, like he was drowning. Rhett drank. Link hit him hard, real hard. Rhett’s head went spinning, his vision clouding and swirling. If his heart beat any faster at the pain Link was causing him, he dutifully ignored it.

“Okay, well?” He spoke in a gravelly voice, regaining a modicum of himself.

Link’s knuckles were white where they were folded like claws in his lap. He swayed gently in his seat, glaring hard at Rhett. “I’m gonna ask you a question, and you have to be one hundred percent fucking honest with me.”

“I thought that’s what I was doing,” Rhett sighed.

“I mean it,” Link slurred. “You can’t say whatever’s gonna… Just... don’t lie to me.” Link’s eyes were bright with unshed tears, Rhett could tell. He nodded in earnest and waited for Link to draw up enough courage to ask what was doomed to spill out at some point anyway.

“Okay, bo.”

“Do you ever wish we’d had sex when we had the chance back in college?” He asked with ferocious intensity. The edges of Rhett’s vision went black. He was lightheaded. He was furious. He grabbed Link by the collar of his t-shirt and pulled him close.

“You need to stop this shit, right the fuck now,” Rhett hissed, his lips curled into a snarl. “This is my house. This is where my family lives. My wife. You stop this shit.” He shoved Link away and reached for the whiskey bottle. It was nearly empty now. He took a drink to finish it off and forced his entire body to stop shaking. He wasn’t sure when the booze had started to take hold over him, but his pulse was lagging, and he could hardly think. He could blame it on Link, but again, that would be too complicated.

“So, I guess that’s a ‘yes,’ then,” Link whispered.

Wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, Rhett growled, “No.” He was angry. He was furious. He was drunk and exhausted and excited. They sat in silence for a while, and Rhett turned over a billion thoughts in his fractious mind. At length, he turned to his best friend and asked, “Earlier, you said I was the only one who could hurt you.” Link’s eyes were closed, but Rhett knew the man was still awake by the erratic rise and fall of his lean chest. Rhett stewed with impatience, mentally screaming for Link to answer his unspoken question. He could take no more. “How?”

“That wasn’t what I said, “ Link slurred, eyes still closed, head still heavy against the sofa. “Not exactly.”

“Okay, so what exactly did you say?” Rhett pushed him.

“I said you were the only one who could hurt me like this?” He corrected, as though the edit should make perfect sense to Rhett.

“Like what?” Rhett was half-prepared to strangle the man if he didn’t stop talking in circles. Link shoved himself away from the sofa and turned to face Rhett.

“Man, I don’t know,” he said softly. “I’m just talking and not saying anything.”

“Bull.”

“Whatever, brother.”

And Link could have gotten up and joined Christy in the guest bedroom, but Rhett’s eyes kept him pinned in place. “What do you need from me, Link?”

Link took a steadying breath and tried to smile, but it was too difficult in weight of all the words he wished to say. He couldn’t think of the right ones anyway, so with a brain half frantic with lust and booze he spat out, “You must be pretty happy with that wife of yours.”

Rhett swallowed. “Well, yeah, I mean, things aren’t perfect, but yeah. I guess I’m happy.” Link smiled ferally and ran a hand through his hair, head swimming at the tightness of Rhett’s canned response.

“It’d ruin your world if I fucked her, wouldn’t it?”

“Excuse me?” Rhett’s voice was tight. A vein twitched in his forehead as redness flooded his apple cheeks. He rested his hands on his knees to still the itch to strike out at his best friend again.

“That little dress she was wearing tonight…” Link chewed his bottom lip and sighed. “I just wanted to get her alone all night. Wanna crawl into your bed right now and fuck her right there where you sleep.” Rhett saw red.

The slap across Link’s face sounded sharp in the silent room.

“Mmm, there you go,” Link rasped, his eyes rolling back in his head. “Can’t you just imagine raising a little girl with my eyes?” The only thing Rhett could imagine in that moment was ripping Link’s heart out of his skinny chest. “She’d beg me not to tell you, wouldn’t she? Right before she’d beg me to fuck her again.” Rhett lost rein of his anger, but if Link had been expecting another slap, he was shocked by Rhett grabbing handfuls of shirt and shoving him down onto his back on the sofa. Link’s head just barely missed the arm rest, and Rhett yanked his wrists above his head to pin them against the hard edge of the sofa, spreading that little body out below his own thick, broad frame.

“You so much as breathe on Jessie, and I swear to god, thirty years of friendship won’t mean shit to me.” His breath stuttered short as Link writhed up against him, rubbing himself against Rhett from cock to collarbones.

“You could join us,” he gasped. The tall blonde froze rigid above Link’s pliant, writhing body. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think straight. He needed fresh air and an out, but the whiskey and the fury were guiding him now.

“Goddammit,” he gasped, spreading his thighs wider over his wicked, cruel, antagonistic best friend, shaking with the will to keep the higher ground. “Stop it, Link.”

“Make me,” he sighed, easily slipping his hands from Rhett’s grasp and ghosting them down the sides of his long, broad chest. “Make me stop, Rhett. Do it now.”

“Link,” Rhett murmured as his arms gave way and he fell to his elbows. His face planted in the crook of Link’s neck, and he drew in delirious breaths of musk and sweat and booze.

“Rhett,” Link sighed, planting feverish kisses to Rhett’s cheek and ear, digging his fingers clawlike into Rhett’s soft hips. “Fuck, Rhett.”

“Did you fuck her, bo?” Rhett begged, desperate voice muffled against Link’s skin, his hips humping down hard on the writhing serpentine body below.

“What if I did?” Link whispered against the shell of his ear, wringing waves of warm fuzz down through every drunken nerve of Rhett’s sizzling skin. Rhett didn’t answer. His mouth latched onto Link’s neck, biting and licking and drinking in the man’s musk and sweat and foolish, stupid desire. The rutting of Link’s hard-line yearning up against his own sent him falling in dizzy spirals away from reality.

Did you?” Rhett gasped, and Link dug his palms into Rhett’s chest and shoved and toppled both their bodies down to the hard floor. Rhett saw stars for the brief moment it took Link to straddle him and work down the button and zipper of Rhett’s tight jeans.

“I will if you ask me to,” he whispered. “Lift up your hips, bo.” The dazed man didn’t hesitate to wriggle his hips up for Link to yank his jeans and underwear down to his strong thighs. Rhett’s eyes were screwed tight, and he basked in the dual sensation of his own fingers clawing tightly at his hair and the branding of Link’s hands on his hips. He jolted at the brush of Link’s muggy breath against his full cock. “What do you want? Ask me.”

“You know I can’t,” Rhett panted, pulling at his hair all the harder until his scalp screamed with sharp pain. “You said I can’t. This ain’t fair.”

“That was twenty years ago,” Link said, dragging his nails down Rhett’s hips. The man whimpered and shallowly thrust up into the air. “Things change. Tell me you want this.”

“I can’t.” His voice was little more than gossamer thread in the hot garage air, taut to the point of snapping. His whole body was a livewire. “I can’t.”

“Lucky you don’t have to,” Link whispered, and in the next heartbeat, Rhett’s entire consciousness narrowed to the sensation of a warm, wet mouth slipping over the head of his sensitive cock. Link’s tongue was rough and wide as Rhett pushed his hips up, up until his thick cock fit almost perfectly in Link’s slick mouth.

“Brother-” Rhett panted, his hands now reaching for Link but stopping short, floating in the air of his uncertainty. “Open-” He groaned. “Open up for me.” Link pulled off Rhett’s cock with an obscene slurp.

“Want me open wide for you, bo?” He breathed, lips dark and damp with spit. His eyes were dark with devouring lust. Rhett’s abs shook from the strain of lifting up, of keeping his eyes glued to that damned alluring mouth.

“Uh huh.” It was little more than a choked grunt, but that grunt melted into a throaty moan when Link slipped three fingers into each side of his mouth and pulled open wide, his jaw locked open, his teeth bared, his wide tongue slipping out low over his bottom lip. Spit spilled down his chin. It hit Rhett like a freight train, seeing this man looking so sloppy and pornographic. “Oh, fuck, Link.”

Link grunted, and Rhett took that as a signal to drive his cock in deep. He lifted his hips, his thick, red tip brushing against Link’s waiting tongue. With a sure hand, he grabbed a fistful of the hair atop Link’s head and pulled his head down, bringing Link’s mouth slowly over his cock. He’d never been harder in his life, and hand-in-hand with the alcohol coursing through him, he was dizzy and desperate. He shoved himself into Link’s soft, hot mouth until his cock bumped against his convulsing throat. Link choked and pulled up a bit before he sucked up the firm length on his tongue. He buried his face in the blond hair at the base of Rhett’s dick as he relaxed his throat and greedily breathed in Rhett’s musky scent. Rhett had heard Link groan a thousand times before, but not like this. This time Link’s voice was thick, choked, and gorgeous around his yearning dick. He was delirious.

“God, baby, yeah,” Rhett breathed in praise, worshiping the slick, intimate brush of the man’s skin against his most private parts, his rough tongue against the thick vein, his throat tight on his cockhead, his tongue pressing hard against his sensitive taint. He hissed, “Fuck yeah, Link. How are you so good at this?”

The world ceased to exist around them, until there came an erratic knock at the garage door. Link slipped off of Rhett’s dick, and the two men turned to the closed door as fear crashed over them, immobilizing them instantly. Jessie’s voice sounded through the cracks in the doorway.

“It’s, uh, it’s late,” she called, high and thin. “You comin’ to bed, Rhett?” Rhett’s eyes were wide, and it took him a second to remember how to speak.

“Uh, yeah, babe,” he called back, voice just as brittle and tight. “Just a minute. Be right there.”

“Okay,” she said, and the two waited until they couldn’t hear any other evidence of her presence outside the door.

Rhett tore his body away from Link’s despite the primal, magnetic hold the man seemed to wield over him. He yanked his jeans up with shaking hands, nearly cutting his own dick off in his rush to zip up the fly.

“This was a huge mistake,” he whispered waspishly, eyes wild and wet. He gestured towards the door. “Look! Just fucking look, Link Neal.” Link fell back, stunned, bracing himself with palms splayed on the cold concrete. “She could have… She could have walked in. She could have seen us.”

“Yeah, well, she didn’t,” Link rasped in his panic, his throat too abused to speak up.

“But she could have.”

“But she didn’t.”

Rhett gave one last longing glance at Link, and he turned to the door. He mumbled, “I’m fucking drunk. This never happened. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Now who’s being unfair?” Link choked out.

“Still you, brother,” he hissed. “You’re drunk, and that’s all we’re gonna say on it.” He turned away as he spoke and left the scene of his indiscretion with the most important man in his life. The weight of the world found its home on his tired shoulders.

 

Jessie hurried up the stairs on tiptoes, just as silently as she had closed the garage door behind her. Her desperation to neither be seen nor heard fueled her desperation to flee from the scene she’d just witnessed, from the aftermath she'd overheard.

As she crept through her own home like a thief in the night, her hands shook. The life she’d painstakingly built with Rhett over the course of sixteen years had come toppling down in a matter of moments. She fought the urge to laugh hysterically. She didn’t think she’d ever breathe the same again.

Chapter Text

The following Monday morning began a weeks-long series of deflections and excuses from Link, reasons he couldn't hang out with Rhett outside of work, reasons he didn’t have time to talk, all the myriad unspoken reasons to just be the two of them like they always had been.

“Have a good weekend?” Rhett asked through tight lips, immediately flinching at the obvious stupidity such a question invited. Link glared at him with red-lined eyes, snatched a can of matcha from his mini-fridge, and marched out of their office without a word. Rhett indulged a moment of spite in which he thought with relish Good, you deserve exile.

Link didn’t return to their office that day. Late the next afternoon, Rhett found that the ornery baboon had taken up shop with his laptop in the staff lounge. Rhett hoped the noise and general bustle kept the stooge from getting any work done.

It wasn’t until Thursday rolled around that Rhett walked into the office to find Link working at his desk for a change. Rhett almost smiled. He dropped his bag down on the floor next to his own chair and said in a cheery, tinny voice, “Traffic was crazy this morning.”

“Mmm,” was all Link could manage, as he pretended to be far too engrossed in emptying his spam folder to engage in exchanging petty pleasantries with the man standing behind him, wearing a pathetic, hangdog expression.

“I mean,” Rhett bumbled on, “I guess it’s always been this bad, but I guess I just didn’t notice it until I had to drive it alone.” He could hear the desperation hanging in the air, the clear plea to Link’s pathos. He felt foolish, not least of all because he knew Link wouldn’t answer to his unspoken desperation.

“Guess so,” Link muttered, tapping along unimpeded in his work. “I’ve appreciated the quiet, though.”

Rhett swallowed hard and turned to sit at his own desk. Message received loud and clear. They worked in silence until lunchtime, when Ellie slipped into the office and set their packaged meals down on the coffee table, as usual, and slipped out again. Rhett gratefully plopped down on his side of the sofa and began unwrapping his sandwich, carefully leaving plenty of space for Link to sit without making any physical contact. After a couple minutes, Link rose from his chair, stalked over to the sitting area, plucked up his sandwich, and went back to his desk.

Rhett watched him go and felt a sudden loss of appetite that seemed to hang around for the couple of weeks that dragged on after the incident.

The silence at work had begun to eat at him, to the point that Rhett found himself grappling with the novel sensation of sitting lonely in a room with Link in it. He gripped his pen tightly, glared over his shoulder at the man bent over his keyboard, and thought, not for the first time, that he was being punished. At some point, he’d had enough of Link’s averted eyes and monosyllabic responses, so he turned in his seat and softly said, “Please, Link.”

Link remained resolute at his desk, grateful Rhett couldn’t see the way his lips tightened. Rhett grit his teeth.

“Jessie wants to know why you and Christy aren’t coming to dinner this week,” he ground out. Link swivelled around in his chair with a blank stare. Rhett’s grip tightened on his armrest. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“Like what.”

“Jesus, Link,” Rhett swore. “Now you’re just being petty.”

“I’m being fair,” he stated with ridiculous conviction.

“Like hell, you are,” Rhett spat and stormed out of the office into the parking lot. He yanked open his car door and threw himself inside. A feral yell tore out of his chest, and he beat his fists against the steering wheel. Link should be on his knees begging forgiveness, not playing this stupid silent treatment game, like Rhett had been the one in the wrong, like Rhett had been the one to jeopardize everything just to work through some kind of ridiculous mid-life crisis or whatever it was.

Why couldn’t Link just leave well enough alone? Rhett had spent the better part of two decades tiptoeing around whatever this was, keeping it from growing so big it crushed the both of them. Why couldn’t Link just be content doing the same? He wouldn’t wrong Jessie like this. Why couldn’t Link just see that? Just, what a convoluted assumption.

 

Two more weeks followed of avoided glances, missed phone calls, ignored texts. Rhett had spent a few miserable midnights sprawled out on the floor of his living room, listening to sad songs on the turntable until he’d arrived at (well, more like stumbled upon) the conclusion that maybe Link deserved a little forgiveness for that moment of madness in the garage, that maybe this was why Link was punishing him, out of some kind of misplaced need for absolution.

Surely, Link knew that everything was going to be okay between them, that as long as Jessie didn't know what happened, as long as his own life wasn't going to fall apart as surely as Link’s was, that he could forgive any transgression on Link’s part. And he knew from experience just how well the two of them could sweep things under the rug, ignore them until… Well, until Link started feeling maudlin again. Rhett smashed his skull down on his garish living room rug as a current of anger lit him up. Any small thing that Link could possibly ask him, it was his, and as long as Link knew where their boundaries lay… But after that night in the garage, he wasn't sure anymore just what Link knew and what Link felt and how different the two might be.

 

Jessie carried a steaming peach cobbler into the dining room and set it down in the middle of the dining table.

“Jessie, you saint,” Link groaned, patting his already pretty full belly.

“Saint or not, y’all are gettin’ store bought next time,” she laughed and plucked off her oven mitts as she returned to the kitchen to grab the tub of ice cream from the freezer. Rhett glowed with honest pride for his wife. She’d really outdone herself tonight. She wore a cute little smile as she served up dessert, didn’t even roll her eyes when Christy tartly refused a serving. Dinner had been a little tense, yeah, but he’d reigned in his growing anxieties by reminding himself that Jessie couldn’t have known it had anything to do with Link. Knowing Jessie, she probably just blamed the weird mood on Christy’s being a wet blanket all evening.

When Link had come up to him at work the day before, totally out of the blue, to let him know that he and Christy would be resuming their usual dinner nights, Rhett hadn't hesitated to send Locke off to a friend’s house and call Lindsay to come pick up Shep for the evening. He didn’t dare question Link’s motives. He was just grateful for the return of some semblance of normalcy. Jessie had kept sending him cryptic looks and appraising glances all afternoon as he’d manically tried on three different shirts before settling on something Stevie had once called ‘chic but age-appropriate.’

“You’re nervous,” Jessie had said, wiping up a spill from the kitchen counter, and Rhett had stumbled over himself with a spluttering double take.

“What on Earth would I be nervous about?” He’d rapidly demanded. Her eyebrow had shot up then, her lips pursed. She’d watched him for a long, tense moment. He’d refused to crack.

She’d left the room with an arch, “You tell me.”

Now, Christy sat across from him at the dinner table, and no matter how frayed his nerves had been before they’d even arrived, honestly nothing compared to how she’d been trying what was left of them all night. She wore no smiles at their jokes, didn’t laugh at their crazy stories, made no effort at conversation. He thought, perhaps, she might have been more fun if she had opted to drink with them, but she had sworn off beer and liquor under the pretense that one of them needed to be a designated driver, the responsible adult. She practically glowered at Link every time he got up for another beer.

“What is that now? Six?” She said loftily, with a saccharine sweetness she only used to shit talk the other moms in her homeschool group. Link ignored her, took a long drink, and returned his attention to Jessie and Rhett. Link didn’t maintain eye contact with him for longer than he had to, but it was enough to feel somewhat normal.

“What was that story, babe?” Jessie asked as a fountain of giggles overcame her, her cheeks pink from having imbibed more than usual. “The one about your man bun?” A goofy smile hung from her full lips. Rhett laughed hard, not unlike Santa, a charming rolling of joy from the pit of his belly.

“Oh, gosh,” he squawked. “Why ya gotta bring that up again?” He playfully socked her arm, and she just laughed all the louder.

“‘Cause it’s so dumb!” She guffawed. Link rolled his eyes as he gave into helpless laughter himself. He had been there when it happened, and it was so stupid and so typically Rhett.

“Well, Christy, let me tell ya,” he began regaling her, a fuzzy warmth in his eyes as he smiled at her. “So, Buddy System, pre-production. They were trying to get the man bun to look real, trying different styles, like, and some of the extension stuff they put in somehow slipped down the back of my pants.” He could see she was really trying to smile, and he carried on, gesturing animatedly. “And later, when I’m taking a shower, I realize that it had sort of migrated into my butt crack. So, I'm standing there in the shower, digging around with a bar of soap, trying to figure out what exactly was going wrong with my downstairs, when out comes this foot-long strand of plastic horse hair, and I can feel it just kind of, I don't know, meandering outta my butt hole. Still have no idea how it got all the way up in there.” The way he told the story, his perturbed mannerisms and slack jawed disbelief, had Link and Jessie nearly pissing themselves.

Christy took a drink of water and said softly, “Rhett, I don’t think that’s appropriate dinner conversation.” The mood in the room deflated, Jessie’s face fell, and Rhett shrugged.

“Yeah, probably not,” he deferred. Their attention snapped to Jessie, who’d just thunked her bottle of beer down hard on the table.

“I think it’s perfectly fine dinner conversation,” she said bluntly. There was a flash of oh, shit in Link’s eyes, as Rhett reached out to place his wide hand over his wife’s.

“Jess-”

She shook with a steadying sigh as she sardonically asked the blonde woman, “What should we talk about then, Christy?” Christy’s lips slowly twisted into a sneer. She looked like she could smell something distasteful.

“Well, I’d prefer not to talk about your husband’s butt hole at the dinner table, if that wouldn’t be too much to ask.” The two women were locked in a staring contest that left Link squirming and adjusting his glasses.

Rhett nearly applauded his wife’s self-control as she icily replied, “Not at all.”

Desperately looking for anything to cut the tension, Link turned to his wife and, rising, softly commanded, “Can we speak in the living room?” She said nothing, but she rose to follow him. He leaned against the loveseat and fought back a wave of vicious malice.

“Chris, you’re not even trying,” he hissed.

“He was being inappropriate,” she deflected.

“Not just that,” he argued. “You’re making it pretty dang obvious you don’t wanna be a part of this dinner. Every time Rhett or Jessie so much as looks at you…” Christy wavered, furiously searching for the right words to say.

“Look, I’m just not in the mood tonight,” she finally said, a little defeated. “I’m sorry if I’m spoiling all your fun.”

“I’ll survive,” he said flatly. “But you’ve gotta stop disrespecting our friends like this.” Her face was a study in absolute neutrality, but her eyes crackled from the effort.

“Can we just go back to the dining room?” She muttered. Link sighed and shrugged, following the woman back to join their friends. Rhett and Jessie pulled apart, their quiet conversation halting as they carefully smiled up at the Neals.

“So, do you miss the man bun?” Christy uneasily joked as she pulled up her chair again. Rhett’s smile reached his eyes this time.

“Probably not as much as Link misses that ‘stache,” he joked back, glancing at Link with an air of mischief. Christy shook her head in long-suffering anguish.

“Lord almighty, I'm glad you got rid of that ugly thing,” she said, a bit less than kind. Link took a swig of his beer, not looking to drag that argument back out in front of their friends. She pressed on, almost gleefully, “I can finally be seen in public with you again.”

“Oh, come on, Christy,” Jessie said darkly. “Be real, he didn't look that bad.”

“You think so, huh?” She scoffed. “Jesus, Jessie, he looked like a child molester.” Link took another drag of his beer, his grip on the bottle tight. He muttered something about needing another one as he got up to go to the kitchen.

He could hear Rhett softly say, “Oh, come on now, Christy. It's a pretty funny bit in the show. You remember how ridiculous I looked last season when I shaved off my beard. He was a real good sport.” He was trying to be reasonable. Link could hear how gently he pled with her to lay off her husband.

It fell on deaf ears.

“Well,” she said archly, “I guess he's lucky he's got you to cling onto, then. Otherwise, he’d probably get his ass kicked, walking around looking like that.” Rhett was taken aback. He wanted to tell her she was being needlessly cruel, but he’d quite lost the ability to speak.

Jessie piped up, muttering under her breath, “I guess you'd recognize a clinger when you saw one.” Link heard what she said, and he froze next to the fridge, the bottle opener dangling from his fingers as a horrible, tense silence fell over the house. If he thought the quiet would become some kind of detente, he was sorely mistaken.

“Excuse you? Just what the hell is that supposed to mean?” Christy demanded bitterly. She scoffed at Jessie. “What, you think that little Instagram of yours means you’re somehow accomplished in any way? Oh, or do you mean the Master’s program you’re likely never going to finish? I’m confused which one.” Jessie’s jaw went tight and her nostrils flared.

“Yeah, well,” she hissed, “at least I’ve got something going on in my life.” Rhett raised his hands between the two.

Christy fired back, “Oh, really? Is that what you call basking in secondhand fame?”

“Christy, Jessie,” he snarled, rapidly losing his patience. “You are not going to do this to each other. Jesus, we got together tonight to celebrate something, or don’t you remember?”

“Yeah? Well, I'm trying to celebrate something, too,” Christy quipped, her glowering having devolved into delirious laughter. “Trying to celebrate not being married to a dang ‘70s porn cop. But dear, sweet Jessie seems to have a problem with that.” Link heard a chair scrape against the floor, and a moment later, Jessie stormed into the kitchen and braced her hands against the edge of the sink, fuming through every inch of her petite frame. Link reached out and placed a sympathetic hand on her arm. She just shook her head vigorously, staring blindly at her reflection in the dark window above the sink, her chest heaving as she blinked back angry tears.

“Christy, I'm sorry, but you're making this real awkward,” Rhett said earnestly, and the pair in the kitchen could hear her scoff.

“You know what? Fine,” she growled, rising from her chair. “Not like y’all wanted me here anyway.” She called out to her husband, “Link, we're leaving!”

He took a few steadying breaths before making his decision and shoving away from the countertop, striding over to stand in the archway of the dining room, clinging to his cold beer like a life raft. “I'm enjoying myself just fine here, thanks.” She glared at him from across the room with lethal precision, reading some kind of betrayal in his eyes. Her face fell slack.

“Yeah, I guess you are.” She yanked her purse from the back of her chair and slung it over her shoulder. As she turned to storm out, she threw a parting shot. “Please, by all means, don't let me ruin your celebration.”

“Don’t let the door hit ya,” Jessie quietly crowed from the kitchen.

Link looked at Rhett, burning with embarrassment as he said, “Dang it, Rhett, you need to move your car. She's boxed in.”

He sighed heavily and pulled himself up. “Yeah, alright, let me get my keys.” He dug his keys from a bowl on the credenza in the hall, and a moment later, the front door closed behind him.

Silence reigned in the kitchen for a moment, the two remaining people frozen where they stood, Link in the archway, Jessie leaning over the sink. He turned to her, a tired frown on his lips. “That wasn’t necessary, Jessie.”

“My ass, it wasn’t necessary,” she cried. He walked over to the counter next to her and set down his beer, pressing his fingertips to the edge of the countertop.

“You're drunk,” he muttered, unable to look at her, his stomach still twisting from the debacle their dinner had deteriorated into. He’d be sleeping on the sofa for weeks, for sure.

“Yeah, so are you,” she spat. She wasn’t looking to make amends just yet.

“You know you're gonna have to apologize to her,” he said, finally turning to the woman. The fight had long left him, and now he only spoke to his old friend with a heavy sort of resignation. “You know what she’s like.”

“Like hell am I gonna apologize to that woman,” she sneered, rounding on him. “She disrespected me in my own house. And I don’t care what kind of shit you guys are going through right now. She has no right mocking you in front of us like that.”

“I’m a grown man. I can take it.” Jessie rolled her eyes.

“You used to be.”

“Jess-”

“You know that she’s a clinger,” Jessie said, feeling a dam burst in her chest. “She'd have left with the kids months ago if she had any options.” Link refused to respond to that. He already knew. “She’s dragging you down, Link. I've known you for almost two decades, and I remember how you used to be.”

“You’re not being fair, Jess.”

“To who? You used to be a man.” Her voice rang high, eyes a little red, a little wild. She’d had a bit too much to drink probably, most likely, definitely. Link ran his tongue over his sticky teeth and just laughed her off.

“You're full of shit sometimes, Jessie. You know that?” He was calm. He would stay calm. He would be the adult. Something in that incrimination sparked a flame in Jessie she’d clearly meant to keep buried, if her shaky breath were any indication.

“D’you…” She paused, chewing her bottom lip. Suddenly, she found her cuticles fascinating. “Do you remember that night a few of weeks ago?” Link would remain calm. “When Christy got drunk and had to sleep in the guest room?” She looked up at him, a different kind of fire burning in those big, brown eyes of hers. “And you and Rhett went out to the garage?” He didn’t think he could speak now that his heart had suddenly leapt into his throat and a light sheen of sweat had broken out all over his body. She watched him like an apex predator. He swallowed hard.

“I remember.” His voice had gone grainy. There was no sense lying. She had his number. She stepped closer, gazing up at him with a horrible ease, a dangerous self-control. He damn near broke. “Just what exactly were you getting up to out there?” She asked softly, gentleness betraying the razor edge of her mien. “Looks like you already know,” he muttered, fruitlessly reaching for his beer. His fingers grasped around air, so he dried both palms against the front of his jeans instead. Jessie cracked suddenly cracked like lightning in a dark purple sky. She crowded him and growled, “What were you doing with my husband?”

“Leave it alone, Jessie,” he snapped in a tone that brooked no argument. His entire body flushed hot with shame and revulsion. She stepped back, shaking with subdued fury. It was all she could do just to lean back against the kitchen sink.

She whispered in a choked voice, “You’ve always wanted each other, huh?”

“If you start crying, I swear to god I’m leaving,” he whispered back. She laughed breathlessly at that, hands skittering at her sides, searching for something grounding to cling to.

“I’m not gonna start crying, you asshole,” she swore through a damp, cruel smile. “I’ve always known who he belongs to.” The pair fell silent once more. They’d both always known. At length, mischief lit her broken smile and swollen eyes as she silkily said, “He's really, really good, you know. You can't imagine how good.”

“Jessie, I'm warning you.” Link fought a hot chill through his tense core. He could see she was feeling reckless. She hadn’t laid a finger on him, but his body practically whirred with her sick talk. She carried on, her voice all low and velvet as she toyed with him.

She, the cat. He, the mouse.

“The second you leave, I'm gonna be all over him. Every inch of him,” she purred. “Don't you wish you were me, Link? Just riding Rhett's cock whenever you need it? God, it must make you burn with envy, not having what I have.” The image flashed through Link’s head, and his stomach plummeted, all warm and buzzing. He couldn’t take this anymore. She was being impossible. It was driving him mad.

“Goddammit, I said stop,” Link growled as his body kicked into gear, and he propelled himself in front of her, his hands going up to grip the countertop on either side of her tiny frame. Her mouth snapped shut, eyes full of shock as he pinned her in place. A fragile moment passed between them, chests heaving unevenly as the entire situation spun furiously out of their control. The gaze he bathed her in broiled and scorched, and Link felt his soul collapse when Jessie wound her fingers up through his hair and pulled him down into a starving kiss. His heart bruised against his ribs, and he wrapped his hands around her tiny waist, pressing his body against hers. Surely, they were in hell, but Link had wanted this for so damn long, as much as she clearly did, and he’d kill to make it last even a moment longer. It was crooked, depraved, selfish, and so fucking right.

He could have screamed when she pulled her mouth from his, her eyes dark and needy, and gasped, “Link, he could walk in any second.” He didn’t know what game she was playing, but he knew he was already in way too deep to escape.

“Let him,” he husked, and he brought his hand to the silky sheet of her long, dark hair as he bent down low again, their mouths finding each other once more. Her shivery sigh wove deep down around his bones, drawing him inextricably closer to this forbidden seraph. “Gosh, Jessie,” he sighed through the caress of red, booze-stained lips.

The only warning they had of Rhett’s return was him declaring, “I talked her off the ledge a little, but I-” Link and Jessie pulled apart in a flash of fear and instant remorse, but the damage had been done. Rhett stood in the kitchen doorway, the very poster child of incredulity, just making sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him. His jaw hung slack. The keys fell from his fingers and clanked ludicrously against the white hexagon tile.

“Rhett-” Jessie began cautiously, moving towards him with palms raised, but she ceased to exist to the man as all his fury and betrayal and shock zeroed in on Link’s guilty face.

“You son of a bitch!” He bellowed, striding across the room to grab the much smaller man around the neck in a bid to throw him bodily out of the house. They made it halfway out the kitchen door into the hallway before they both came falling down like collapsing buildings. Jessie panicked as she watched her husband maneuver himself on top of Link’s struggling body and start hitting.

“Rhett, don’t!” She shrieked as her eyes welled with tears. “You’re gonna hurt him!”

“Good!” He barked at her, wrapping a huge hand around Link’s neck, squeezing tight until Link’s cheeks glowed an unearthly crimson, his eyes bulging. One of Link’s arms was pinned beneath Rhett’s knee as he straddled Link’s chest, but with his free hand, he dug his nails into Rhett’s arm, trying to pry him away.

“It was just a stupid kiss, Rhett!” Jessie sobbed. “You gonna kill your best friend over something like that?”

“Shut the hell up, Jessie!” Rhett howled as his own tears came pouring down his face, clawing and slapping at Link no matter how much the man beneath him groaned and cried out against it. Link exploited that moment of weakness, though, wriggling his arm free and grabbing the man’s wrists as Rhett fought to yank the hair from Link’s skull. Link’s vision fuzzed. They struggled against each other, feral, knocking over the lamp on the credenza, and it smashed on the hardwood floor. Still they struggled, Rhett hellbent on hurting Link as badly as he could. He suddenly found himself disarmed as Link wrapped himself around Rhett, smothering his battering fists. Rhett worked an arm free from Link’s crushing grip, but Link sank his fingers into Rhett’s hair and pulled back hard.

Rhett yelped as Link begged, “Rhett, god, please stop. Please calm down, bo, please.”

“Fuck you,” Rhett cried out through clenched teeth, and whether from anguish or the overwhelming strength of Link’s lithe body under his, he collapsed against Link, body crushing down heavily, his grasping hands slowing, deepening. His face planted in the crook of Link’s neck, and he bit down and held onto the flesh he found there as he started to tremble. At some point, where he’d been biting, Link now felt Rhett nuzzling and breathily whimpering as his tears continued to fall. Link wrapped his arms loosely around the man and found himself whispering softly into his best friend's ear.

“It’s okay, bo, it’s okay. We both love you so much, Rhett. Gonna be okay.” From below, he gently rocked their bodies together, soothing and calming. “I promise it’s gonna be okay, brother. Love you so much.” Rhett’s hips joined his, sweetly and delicately rocking against each other as Rhett’s anger cooled, leaving ground for a much darker heat, and oh, gosh, Jessie was right there watching him fall apart in Link’s arms.

He had to stop this madness, but when he felt her cool hand on his face, his eyes fluttered shut, and he let her guide him into a tentative kiss, still tasting Link on her lips as he ground his hardening cock down on Link’s. He was dizzy from the sting of Link’s clawing into his hips, pulling him down rough. He groaned into his wife’s mouth, and when Link took to rubbing slow circles into the small of his back, he mewled at the buckling softness of it all. Jessie’s tiny hands raked through his hair, and he nearly gasped when he felt her guiding him back to Link, back to his full lips, back to all the agony and frustration and fear he’d been choking back for two decades. She wanted this; she wanted to guide his mouth to Link’s.

“It’s okay, baby,” she sighed, and a switch flipped in Rhett that left him drinking moans from Link’s lips as he mindlessly writhed against his simmering body. Jessie slid down to lay next to them, watching with bright, ravenous eyes as the men melted into each other. She stroked Link’s hair away from his sweaty forehead and whispered, “Yes, that’s good, Rhett. Let him kiss you, honey.” Rhett pulled away from Link, gasping and sucking the dampness from his own lips. He gazed tentatively down at Link, watching as Jessie leaned in and wound her tongue around his. Rhett’s heart thundered in his chest as he watched his wife’s mouth work over his best friend’s, their sighs rising up in the hot air. Jessie chewed his lower lip and brushed kisses down his stubbled cheek. She flashed dark eyes up at her husband before she huskily whispered into the shell of Link’s ear, “Why don’t you finish what you started the other night?”

Link whimpered, nodded, rolled Rhett over onto his back, and insinuated himself between the man’s long, long legs. Rhett’s half-hearted protest died the second Jessie slipped her tongue back into his mouth, slick and clever and as mind-blowing now as the first time they kissed. He lay prone as Link started working his tight jeans down, a frantic and gorgeous swell of ardor rising in his chest. Link left a damp trail of kisses cooling down the length of Rhett’s happy trail. Rhett stammered, “R-right here on the kitchen floor?” She hummed a low, sexy little laugh.

“He’s gonna look so good with your cock down his throat, baby,” she sighed feverishly, reaching down to run her fingers through Link’s hair. “I wonder how I’d look with his cock down my throat, huh? What d’ya reckon?” Rhett’s heart lurched at the thought, and a wall of reserve came crashing down over him.

“Stop, stop,” Rhett cried. “Stop.” Link pulled his mouth off the tender skin of Rhett’s lower belly.

“What’s wrong, bo?” Link gently asked, wiping spit off his chin with the back of his hand.

“Link, it’s time for you to go,” Rhett choked out. He froze, looking up at his two best friends.

“Rhett?” He whispered softly, forehead scrunching up, blue eyes wounded behind his glasses. Rhett felt woozy and half-crazed at this point.

“Look, my wife and I need to have a serious conversation before…” he trailed off, quite at a loss for words. “Well, before whatever comes next.” Link blindly nodded, pulling away from Rhett, rising up and trying desperately to ignore how ridiculously oversexed he was feeling. Jessie got up, too, clearly concerned, her eyes glued to her husband’s face.

“I’ll… I’ll get you a Lyft, Link,” she absently said, patting her pockets for her phone. When she left the room, Rhett finally got up off the floor and stood in front of his best friend, looking down into his clear, blue eyes. “I’m sorry if I fucked something up,” Link began, apologies and self-recriminations bubbling up his throat.

“I understand if you’re mad at me, and I-” “Link,” Rhett said patiently, red lips twitching.

“Shut up.” “Right. Yeah.”

He bent down to press a chaste kiss to the corner of his mouth. Link whimpered, eyes falling shut at the sensation of Rhett pulling him in close to his body. Rhett pressed his lips close to Link’s ear, his beard tickling little shivers of pleasure all down Link’s side.

“Link?” He whispered. Link nodded vigorously.

“You really wanna make love to my wife?”

“Yeah,” he gasped. Rhett nipped at the man’s earlobe.

“You wanna make love to me, too?” Rhett’s voice was little more than breath.

“God, yeah,” Link breathed against his neck, feeling himself falling into Rhett, mind, body, and soul.

Jessie leaned into the room and said, “Link, your ride’s here.” She paused, watching them hold each other in the warm kitchen light. Hesitantly, she asked, “Should I… Should I cancel it?”

“No, no,” Link replied, clearing his throat and extricating himself from Rhett’s embrace. He gave husband and wife slow, lingering kisses before showing himself to the door. A thrill ran through his ribcage at the newness and taboo of it, a frisson of anticipation.

As the door closed behind him, he drew in a shaky breath and made his way down the long, winding sidewalk to his waiting ride.

Chapter Text

When Rhett went off to Slovakia that summer in college, Link had been left in a horrible lurch. He had found himself madly scrambling to stay afloat, to carry on as usual. Christy being gone all summer to visit family had only made it worse. He must have seemed a lunatic, constantly glancing to his side with a wry smile only for his face to fall blank a moment later when he found only vacant space. And when he’d spontaneously erupt in laughter, he’d fumble to explain himself when met with the raised eyebrows of everyone around him. After a week, when he hadn’t been able to bring himself to eat another meal alone, he’d been left to phone up some casual friend and force a very quiet dinner that, by the end, both parties had been eager to leave.

Even then, Link had found untold strength in the knowledge that Rhett would be back in three months’ time. Like a prisoner, he marked the days until he’d get to see the sun again.

He swallowed hard as he glanced across the open dining area. Jen and Micah were cutting up over their lunches, guffawing over something he didn’t have the energy to ask about. He wanted to see where Rhett had gone off to. Jen would probably know. He didn’t ask. It didn’t matter anyway.

He’d fucked up so badly the Monday after what he’d come to mentally regard as The Apocalypse, that night in the McLaughlins’ kitchen. He’d gotten in late to work that morning, waylaid by a dumb argument with Christy that had somehow snowballed into a full-blown shouting match. Rhett was bent over his keyboard, and Link had playfully, breathlessly bent to press a kiss to Rhett’s left temple. The man recoiled like he’d been burned. Link muttered an apology and quickly left to get a cup of coffee.

He’d have to have been stupid not to see the way Rhett was forcing himself to maintain eye contact after that. Thus, the mold apparently had been struck for every subsequent interaction between the two of them.

Link rose from the table and dropped his lunch half-eaten into the trash can. He stalked listlessly into his office and mechanically climbed the ladder up to the nap loft. The covers were neatly arranged on the narrow mattress. He sat on the edge for a long moment, lost in thought, resting his open palm on the blanket.

His heart plummeted into his belly as Rhett’s head and shoulders appeared. He’d nearly made it all the way up the ladder by the time he noticed Link. He froze in surprise, but the moment passed and he pulled himself up into the loft. Link gazed up at him, his eyes inexplicably beginning to water.

“Hey, bo,” he breathed. Rhett smiled and unconsciously began to rub the back of his own neck.

“You, uh…” Rhett began.

“I can go,” Link quickly muttered, rising up from the bed. “I’m not…”

Rhett reached one long arm around Link’s waist and slid his hand around the man’s skinny middle, pulling Link’s body slowly into his own. Link practically whimpered, gently raising his arms up to hug Rhett’s neck as he allowed himself to be held close and tight. When he realized he was standing on tip-toes, his cheeks lit up pink. Rhett had always had this uncanny power to make him feel so small.

“I need to say something,” Rhett whispered against Link’s salt and pepper hair. “And I just want you to listen, because I know how difficult all this is for you.” Link smiled desperately against the man’s warm neck, just breathing in his natural scent. Rhett’s beard tickled his ear. He shivered. “It’s very possible this whole thing has been a huge mistake. I guess I realize that now.” A heavy weight dropped in Link’s belly. “And I guess you realize it, too. So, if it helps, we can just forget about it. Because I can’t take this tension anymore.” Link froze in Rhett’s embrace. “I know you’re not going to make the call, so I’m just going to put it out there. If this thing, whatever it is, is going to fuck up everything, then I guess I don’t want it as much as I thought I did.”

Rhett pulled away, and Link nearly toppled to the floor. He sat down, dizzy as he fought hyperventilation. He suddenly felt very naked. He couldn’t meet Rhett’s eyes. He cleared his throat and licked his dry lips.

“I’ll... respect your decision,” Link murmured, his voice cracking despite great effort. He could almost feel Rhett rolling his eyes, as the man bent to climb back down the ladder.

“I’m sick of this weirdness, man,” he said, a raw honesty wrought in pain across his brow. “I just want my friend back.” Link nodded numbly, eyes glazed. Rhett finally left him.

 

Summer had passed with a shimmering fleetness into crisp autumn. The studio parking lot felt palpably cool and quiet. The dim rustle of leaves still clinging sparsely to their branches was the only sign of the hardiness of the urban Californian landscape. Link pulled his mustard cardigan tightly around his lean frame as the sun set. He regretted having left his wool coat hanging from the back of his office chair. He would have gone to fetch it, but he ran the risk that Rhett might still be there, silently bent over his laptop, avoiding Link’s eyes as he worked. The thought was intolerable at the moment.

Christy was probably at home in the kitchen right now, putting the finishing touches on dinner. It was Friday, which meant that she had most likely spent the better part of the afternoon preparing her famous fajita casserole. The kids were probably already clamoring to eat as they helped her set the table. His throat felt tight as he pictured it, pictured a time when he hadn’t dreaded taking a seat at that familiar table, eating that familiar food, gazing with familiar warmth into his wife’s familiar eyes. Another hour passed, the sun dimmed, and he grew colder.

He should go home soon. He’d hidden out on the back patio of the studio for far too long, waiting for everyone to pack up for the day and head out. Waiting for Rhett to leave first, to drive off in his own car, to go to his own home, to kiss his own wife. Link sighed heavily in the chill breeze, but it only made the hollowness in his chest expand into his bones.

The crew must be all gone by that point. He numbly walked the length of the hall, fingers trailing along the wall behind him, eyes nearly burning as he passed each framed picture of their shared past, his and Rhett’s. Each photo served to remind him of when things were simpler, when they’d still both been filled with existential and roaringly bright what ifs and hey, how about thises. He couldn’t bear to look at the mementos of that fading past, but he also couldn’t bear not to.

He paused at the door to their office. In recent days, since before the dinner over two months ago, the space had begun to feel less like a place of escape and more like a place of limbo. His stomach a sour pit, his pushed the door open on silent hinges, but in a sudden panic, he froze in the doorway, heart stuttering to find Rhett still bent over his keyboard, his broad back to Link. Link fought the impulse to flee, but he needed his keys and jacket if he planned to get the hell out of there.

“There you are,” Rhett said with surprise, turning to him with tired eyes and a worn expression. “No one could find you.” Link struggled for words, caught unawares at being alone in Rhett’s proximity for the first time in weeks.

“Patio,” he whispered, shouldering Rhett’s troubled gaze, grabbing hastily for his keys and jacket.

“Oh.”

“Gotta go,” he hastily excused himself. “They’re waiting for me at home.” He’d nearly made it to the door when Rhett called out to him.

“Link.” His voice was different then, and Link didn’t like the sound of it. He couldn’t handle it when Rhett called out to him like clinging tendrils of smoke. Link stopped in the doorway, but he couldn’t bring himself to look back. “Um, I guess, see you at the barbecue tomorrow.” He swallowed hard. “Drive safe.”

The shyness of the statement made Link’s hands go all clammy, and he ran them through his hair. “Yeah, you guys can come over about six.” He hated himself for the moment of weakness, but he turned back to meet Rhett’s eyes and offered a strained, “You know, I’d feel better if you drove me home tonight.” Rhett glanced down, biting his lip as he fought to maintain a coolness he’d never needed with Link before.

“No, you’d better go home by yourself,” he answered automatically, turning back around to return to work. “I’m gonna be here for a while. Gotta wrap this project up.”

“You know I could help you,” Link said, the burn of rejection rising in his very skin. “You don’t have to do it alone.” Rhett exhaled slowly and looked over his shoulder at Link.

“I need time to think, okay?” He practically snapped, running his hands through his wild hair. “You’re always… rushing me.”

“Rhett-”

“Just go,” he pled. “Please?”

Link took the dismissal quietly, same as he’d been doing for weeks. He chewed his lip as he swallowed down the knot forming in his throat. “Fine,” he whispered. Just before he closed the door, he added, “Love you, bo.”

He didn’t wait for a response, as had become his habit lately. He didn’t want to find out if, somewhere along the way, Rhett had stopped giving one.

 

“You’re late.” Christy wasn’t pleased, but he wasn’t exactly expecting a welcome home kiss anyway.

“Filming ran late,” Link mumbled, peeling off his jacket and hanging it on the coat tree by the door to the garage. She clearly wasn’t buying it, but she let her suspicions lie for the time being.

“Dinner’s in the oven,” she said before turning to face down the hall, shouting, “Kids! Dad’s home!” Link watched his wife escape to the den as his two boys came barrelling down the hallway, followed moments later by his grinning daughter. The gang nearly bowled him over, and his heart finally swelled with something positive for the first time that day as he listened to them chatter about their day at school as they followed him to the kitchen where he warmed up a plate of casserole in the microwave.

The night passed in a blur of rough housing and teeth brushing and bedtime stories. Too soon, he found himself standing at the foot of his bed, listening to Christy winding down in the bathroom. He’d already slipped into his pajamas by the time the door opened and she came into the room.

“The kids are already down,” he said, dropping his jeans into the laundry hamper. “I gave them a kiss for you.” She gave a tacit nod as she pulled the covers aside and sat at the edge of the bed. She looked up at her husband.

“Thank you, Link.” She scooped her hair back into a low ponytail. He gazed at the hem of her nightgown, the thin straps, the cornflower satin. His fingers twitched at his sides.

“That nightgown looks real good on you,” he said, voice low and eyes intent. Christy shrugged it off.

“You’ve seen this nightgown a thousand times,” she said with a tiny smile.

“Yeah, and every time it looks good on you,” he said. Her smile disappeared and she turned away from him.

“It used to,” she spat bitterly, reaching to turn off the bedside lamp. He stopped her hand.

“What is that supposed to mean?” He asked, eyes wide. She yanked her hand free and shifted around to face him, her expression oozing scorn and disbelief.

“Don’t play dumb,” she laughed coldly. He drew back, forehead screwed in confusion. She shook her head and demanded, “Oh, really? You haven’t noticed?”

“Noticed what?” He asked.

“The, what, almost twenty pounds I’ve put on this year?” She spat, voice growing tight. He could hear the telltale signs of impending tears in her voice. He sputtered, unsure what point she was trying to make.

“What, that?” He scoffed. “What about it?” She laughed, icy and distant.

“Seriously?” She asked him, like he was the biggest idiot in the world, and maybe he was.

“I don’t care about your weight,” he insisted. She shook her head.

“I don’t want you to not care,” she practically cried. “I want you to want me.”

“I do want you,” he swore. “I just don’t know how to show you, because you won’t let me anymore.” She shoved the covers away and crossed the room to blindly fumble with the perfume bottles scattered across the top of her dresser, anything to keep her hands busy.

She asked delicately, “Look, are we still doing the barbecue tomorrow?” Link sighed heavily and sank back against his pillow, raking his fingers through his hair.

“Only if you want to,” he replied limply. She sighed, glaring at him from across the room.

“If I say no, I’m the bad guy.” Link had to intentionally unscrew his jaw.

“I’ll tell ‘em it was my call,” he offered. Christy laughed mirthlessly.

“They’ll still know it was me,” she pointed out. “And Lando wouldn’t forgive me. It’s all he could talk about all night, Shep, Shep, Shep.” Link could feel his nails biting into the palm of his hand.

“We could just drop the kids off and go out just the two of us.” She shook her head, distraught. His heart gave a little leap as he demanded, “When are we gonna stop doing everything for the kids anyway and start doing some things for ourselves?” She glared at him, opening her mouth to speak, but almost instantly, her shoulders dropped. Her eyes took on a distant glaze. He knew that look. It meant the conversation was over, whether he liked it or not.

“Goodnight, Link,” she said curtly, laying down and switching off the lamp. He watched over her curled up form, trying for the life of him to think of the right words to say. Try as he might to join her in sleep, anger and resignation pumped a little heavy through him at the moment.

“I’m going downstairs,” he muttered, swiping his phone off the table as he got up. “I’ll be back up in a little bit.”

The den was quiet but for the singsong beeping of his phone as he FaceTimed Rhett. It was late, he knew, and he didn’t expect an answer, but it was all he could really think to do as the lonely night tore away at his senses. His heart lurched when moments later, the ringing gave way to a fuzzy sound on the other line. Jessie’s face came into view, her hair a big messy bun on top of her head, smiling face lit blue by a laptop screen.

“Hey, Link,” she said softly, her hushed voice sleepy and so intimate, it made his chest go all tight. “Rhett’s upstairs in bed.” He snuggled down into the sofa and smiled back at her. If Rhett got angry about him talking with Jessie late at night, well, fuck him.

“Whatcha doing up so late?” He tried not to sound so flirty, but it just came so naturally with a woman like Jess.

“Presentation in my LSAT prep class on Monday,” she said with grave solemnity. He smirked.

“What’s it like being back in school?” He watched her shove an errant tendril of dark hair behind her ear as she snuggled into the loveseat, studies momentarily forgotten in favor of his company.

“Well, I’m not actually in real school yet,” she said, “but yeah, I’ve never felt so old.” Link laughed, imagining the poor woman surrounded by a bunch of twenty somethings.

“Try working with me and Rhett,” he joked, and her rich, subdued laughter filtered through his phone speaker. He could feel its warmth balming his frayed nerves, leaving him feeling a little less like a ship on dry land.

“I just keep telling myself,” she said through a glitch in the video, “sooner I finish grad school, the sooner I can start my own practice, the sooner I can be my own boss.”

“Well, you’re gonna smash the hell out of your MA,” he said earnestly. “You’re one of the smartest people I know. Besides, you got Rhett supporting you every step of the way.”

“I’ve got you, too,” she said, eyes suddenly inert, voice suddenly somber. He realized only then that it was a question, that she was testing the water, and while his heart knew the answer, his brain wouldn’t allow him to see it. Still, she was waiting to hear it from him, that they were okay.

“I miss you,” he admitted without difficulty. He could see by the flicker in her conflicted eyes that she was studying his face on the little screen in her hands. He liked the feeling of her watching him. “I love you, Jessie,” he told her just as easily. “I’m sorry if I’ve made things difficult for you guys.”

“Oh, hon, you’ve done no such thing,” she quickly corrected him. “I just wish…” She looked away, shaking her head as she pursed her lips.

“What, Jess?” Link gently demanded.

“I just wish you boys would talk about it,” she implored him, her big brown eyes stirring a rollicking sensation in him. “I mean, Link, if you don’t want us, you need to tell us that. I mean, you can’t just...”

“If I don’t…” He repeated dumbly, eyes narrowed as he tried to figure out what she was going on about. “Jessie, I want you two more than I’ve wanted probably anything in my life.” It was her turn to look confused.

“But Rhett said you changed your mind,” she divulged. “Said you wouldn’t even sit in the office with him anymore.” Link’s blood ran a little cold as he pieced together all the fragments of the awkward truce they’d endured over the last few weeks.

“Jessie,” Link said now, serious and blunt, “I was just giving him some space. I haven’t changed my mind.”

“Well, sug,” she said, “he sure doesn’t seem to realize that.” Link allowed himself to enjoy the flutter in his belly for just a moment.

“I mean,” he paused, “I still have qualms, but… Yeah, it’s something I want. And I keep thinking about Christy, how much I need it to work with her, but the harder I try, the further it seems to push her away, and I just… I don’t know.”

“I know, baby,” Jessie soothed. “She’s important to all of us, but you can’t force her hand.” They sat in silence a long time before Jessie cautiously whispered, “Maybe you could… Maybe you could come clean with her? Just tell her what’s going on. See how she reacts.”

“Jessie, I love you,” he immediately interrupted, “but that’s the opposite of helpful.” She bit off a sigh.

“Link, I know how you’re feeling,” she tried to reason with him, “but you gotta stop torturing yourself. Shit or get off the pot.” He licked his lips, lost in thought. She softly added, “You know…” Her voice had gone low and tender. “You’re not just torturing yourself.” Her eyes were big and warm, and he felt his pulse rise.

“Well, I wouldn’t wanna torture you,” he rasped. Her lips twisted into a mischievous smile.

“Not even if I begged pretty please?” She damn near purred.

“Well, maybe in that case,” he said softly, a dangerous edge lining his words. “But you’d have to beg real pretty.” Jessie chuckled, deep and honeyed.

“Are you coming to bed?”

Christy’s cold voice sliced through the warm den. Link whipped around to see her standing in the doorway, backlit by the hall light, blonde hair now loosely braided in a long plait over her shoulder. His heart seized in his chest, ashamed as a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Yes, honey,” he answered, scrambling up off the sofa.

“Goodnight, Jessie,” she said in a hard tone. Link’s pulse pounded so loudly in his ears, he couldn’t hear if the other woman responded before hanging up. As he lay in bed with his wife, her back to him, he trailed a finger down her bare arm.

“Can I hold you tonight?” He asked in the barest of whispers. He badly needed her to say yes, if only to soothe his own conscience.

“No,” she whispered softly back to him.

Chapter Text

Link’s house was utter pandemonium when he walked in the door, arms loaded down with a bag of charcoal and three bottles of Coke. The hallway was littered with sneakers and two duffel bag spilled out all over the floor. He shut the door with his hip as he shifted the load in his arms and looked up to see Christy crane her head through the kitchen archway. “I see Rhett’s boys are here already,” he called to her, nodding to the mess on the floor, and she gave him a frazzled, long suffering look as she came to take two of the bottles from him. The three youngest boys zoomed around on the upstairs landing playing keepaway with Lando, who was clearly almost in tears.

“He just dropped them off. He had to go get his cooler back from Alex’s,” she answered, distracted by the spectacle unfolding upstairs. “Locke, I swear to God! Give Lando his bear back! I’m not gonna tell you again!” Rhett’s oldest boy groaned, tossing the stuffed animal back to the little kid, who hugged it fiercely to his chest. The older boys retired back to Lincoln’s bedroom with the slamming of his heavily postered door.

“Where’s Jessie?” Link asked, trying his damnedest not to sound so interested as he followed his wife into the kitchen. She lugged the bottles of Coke onto the counter and busied herself again with squeezing a baggie of smashed yolk into a tray of waiting egg white halves. He could see her mouth form a firm line.

“She just called,” Christy said nonchalantly. “You weren’t answering your phone. She needs you to go get her from the house.” His heart zinged, but he managed to pose just as unaffected as his wife. For a brief moment, panic gripped his chest. Just how much did she know?

“Her car still in the shop?” He asked coolly.

“Apparently,” Christy tersely replied, sprinkling paprika over the eggs. He watched her wrist twisting with the rhythmic shaking, lost in thought for a moment. She wrapped the tray with cling film before slipping it into the fridge. Link watched her for a second longer, but whatever he was waiting for never came.

“Guess I should go get her now,” he said, patently ignoring the frisson of excitement in his breast.

“Guess so,” she replied, but he’d not even made it to the door before she stopped him. “By the way, I’ve got my women’s Bible study tomorrow night.”

“With Sheena,” he supplied dismissively. “I know.”

“I just wanted to make sure it was okay,” she snapped.

“It’s fine.” He shrugged impatiently. “Like I could separate you from your Siamese twin anyway.”

“Sheena’s a very good friend, Link,” Christy said gently, her back rigid. “I know you’re not a fan of hers, but, I mean, she’s a really good listener.”

“Yeah, well, I’m trying to be a good listener, too.” Christy remained still. “You can talk to me.” The silence that followed was heavy with all the things Christy wanted to say. Link had had enough. He left without a word. Christy didn’t look his way until after he’d gone. She smoothed her hair out of her eyes with the back of her hand and took a steadying breath. She squared her shoulders and grimly returned to preparing dinner.

 

“Upstairs, Link!” Jessie called as he strode through the unlocked front door. He had barged into the McLaughlin home unannounced a million times before, but after all the uncertainty and blossoming possibility of the last few weeks, this time felt different, new, thrilling. He climbed the stairs up to her.

He found her in the bathroom, naked but for a matching set of lacy, veridian underwear as she leaned over the sink, putting on her makeup. “Oh, gosh, sorry,” he murmured, averting his eyes from the lean swell of her thighs and smooth expanse of tan skin across her shoulders and back. She glanced at him through the mirror and smiled that heart-stopping smile of hers.

“I’ll be ready in a few,” she said.

“Where’s Barbara?” He asked, searching for any kind of small talk to distract him from the petite woman and the way the lace and silk rode her yielding lines.

“Rhett’s got her,” she answered.

“How come he couldn’t bring you?” He pressed indelicately.

“Well,” she began hesitantly, swiping eyeliner across one eyelid, “it was kind of my idea.” Link worried at the smallness of her voice. She clearly felt she was skating on thin ice, and he couldn’t fathom why. “I talked to him about what you said on the phone. I asked him to leave me alone with you for a little while.”

“And he thought that was a good idea?” Link huffed. Jessie chuckled, and her voice pitched with a rolling warmth that spread to Link’s twisting belly.

“Oh, sugar,” she purred, examining her makeup in the mirror, “I have ways of making Rhett… real compliant.”

His belly twisted again, and all he was able to mutter was a choked, “Oh.” He shoved his hands into his pockets, his back to her still, trying his damnedest not to sneak a look. His breath stuttered in his chest when he felt the trail of fingertips down his spine.

“Care to lend me a hand?” She whispered innocently in his ear, and his eyes fluttered shut just imagining how she must look behind him, leaning up on her tiptoes to reach him as her breath brushed featherlike against the shell of his ear.

“Jess-” He choked out.

“Why don’t you go pick out something nice for me to wear?” She said, giving his narrow hips a little shove. He practically stumbled to the open closet and flicked through the hangers with numb fingers. He settled on a denim shirtdress that he’d often found himself eyeing more than was frankly decent every time she wore it. He steeled himself as he lifted it from the rack, propriety be damned, as he turned to her, guiltily drinking in her entire body standing there at the foot of the bed, the same bed she shared every night with his best friend in the entire world.

“Is this okay?” He asked, but even he wasn’t sure if the question specifically referred to the dress dangling from his fingers.

“Everything’s okay with me, Link,” she said in tender tones, “and it’s okay with Rhett, too.” He suddenly had the wild thought that he knew exactly how Odysseus’ men felt as they succumbed to the allure of the sirens’ song. He felt his resolve to be good fizzling as he stifled the urge to press his fingers into her soft sides and pull her down onto the bed with him. She stepped close to him, too close now, looking up into his wide, blue eyes, and asked huskily, “Will you dress me?”

“Jess, I’m not sure I…” He began to protest, but she smiled with her dark, hungry eyes and twisted her fingers into the hem of his shirt.

“Link, I don’t want to make you a bad man,” she whispered, and a deep crack rent his resolve as his fingers wove themselves into her hair. It was terrible how much he wanted it, and his body had taken to making decisions for him, guided by her honeyed voice. “But I think this can help you. I promise you, this is okay.”

He’d never noticed the flecks of gold in her eyes before.

He was shaking, his forehead pressed to hers now, and her warm, clean scent filled his senses. When she pulled him in, and brushed her soft lips against his, his core thrummed with raw need. She smiled against him, pulling him down onto the bed with a trembling laugh, down on top of her small frame, spreading her thighs to frame his hips. Her body was lithe and sinewy and new beneath him. The echoing thought it’s Jessie oh god it’s Jessie only made his skin burn hotter. As his tongue met with hers, as he felt her pussy warm through her panties where she clung to his hips, he crumbled. It was so wrong and so good. His useless brain treacherously screamed her name, over and over, as they writhed against each other in the sheets. The scent of Rhett was all around them. It took every fiber of Link’s being to pull his mouth from hers, to come up for air, to push down her thighs until he was straddling her hips, and to rest his hands on her forearms.

“We should wait for him,” he whispered roughly, unsure how he was able to form the words. “I’m starting to feel guilty.”

“I was about to suggest the same thing,” she said, smiling softly between labored breaths. Link had to fight another wave of desire threatening to topple him. “It’d be better with him here, huh?” Link hummed. She looked fucking edible pinned down on the bedspread like this, her hair a little wild, her eyes consuming him. She gave him a knowing smile, bucking her hips up against his hard cock. “C’mon, let’s get going before you burst through your jeans.”

“You made me this way,” he growled, ducking down to nip at her neck. She blushed and looked away.

Her words fell reluctantly, long eyelashes brushing against her cheekbones, shyly coaxing more of that delicious heat from his core. “I… I can’t believe I get to see you this way. You know, this intimate. I’ve been fantasizing about you for so long.” She swallowed hard. “‘Bout as long as I’ve known you.”

“Really?” He sighed, feeling paradoxically like the luckiest, most cursed bastard in the universe. There was no escaping a woman like Jessie McLaughlin, not that he was sure he wanted to, even if he could. He kissed her again, gutted by how terribly exciting it all was. “Wait ‘til you get me naked.” Just hearing himself saying those words was nearly enough to make him moan, but then came the mental image of it, of Link bent over her naked body, thrusting his cock deep into her wet pussy while Rhett held them both in his strong arms. Soon, that thought was tailed by the image of Rhett spreading both brunettes out on the bed and taking his time fucking both of them to pieces... His cock twitched, and he knew the armpits of his shirt must be soaked with sweat. Jessie just laughed richly and shoved him off of her.

He dressed her in almost somber silence, like he was a monk performing some sacred religious rite to his patron saint. He memorized every inch of her skin as he fastened each button slowly, from breastbone to knee. He kissed her heart. He kissed her eyes. She blessed him with a shuddering sigh.

 

She controlled the playlist as they rode, teasing him with old country songs they’d sung together on back porches and in pickup trucks at least a thousand times over the last twenty years. Her steady existence was a little maddening in a way, so yielding and sweet, but phasing so in and out of reach, so much a part of him but not his to hold. Not entirely, anyway. Not yet. His heart pounded at the very thought that likely, someday soon even, they’d lay claim to each other’s bodies the way they’d already laid claim to each other’s souls. And god willing, Rhett would be there with them every step of the way.

It was dizzying how right the thought felt, how instantly at home he felt with the possibility of sharing absolutely everything with the man who had, over the course of a lifetime, been his acquaintance from detention, his defender, his best friend, his big brother, his partner. The final barrier, that taboo they’d been pretending not to dance around for the better part of twenty years, that last little line to cross… Did he have the courage to finally add “lover” to that list?

His thoughts turned heavily to Rhett, and for the first time in a long time, he allowed himself the luxury of really imagining how Rhett would fuck him, how deep and hard he’d thrust himself into Link, how bad of a jibbering mess Link would be during and afterwards. The thought filled him with even more sparkling giddiness and anxiety than the woman sitting next to him, though he’d likely never even be able to admit it to himself, much less to her. It didn’t matter, at any rate, because he wanted the both of them more than air. He chanced a glance over at her, seeing her mouth turned down in worry.

“Is Christy okay with us coming over?” She asked when they stopped at a red light. He knew she didn’t mean us. It was just one of the myriad ways she’d learned to tread carefully around the topic of Christy ever since his wife had started drifting away from him, from them. He’d come to be grateful for Rhett’s ability to warm Christy’s heart, because the two of them, Link and Jessie, only seemed to make matters worse. He knew they were playing with fire, fooling around like this, the three of them, and sometimes Link could hardly believe it was real, but goddammit, at times like these he wanted to get burned.

“She wants us all to have a good time,” he said mechanically at last, edging closer to the true heart of her question.

“Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto,” Jessie muttered, “but that doesn’t answer my question.” Link gripped the steering wheel and nudged the gas as the light flicked green.

“No,” he said resolutely, eyes on the road. “She doesn’t want you to come over.” Jessie knew that you didn’t mean you all.

“I swear to God, Link,” Jessie said earnestly, turning the music down a little, “I’m tryin’ real hard. I love her, but...” We’ve all changed.

“We’re all trying,” he answered softly. “But you know as well as I do that there ain’t much trying left anymore.” That old, familiar hollow feeling enveloped his chest. It was hard to swallow. Jessie’s eyes were wide as she reached over to rest a steadying hand on his thigh.

“You’re loved, Link.” Her voice was so soft, he nearly burst into tears at her tenderness. He lifted up his glasses a bit and wiped a tiny tear from the corner of his eye.

“Dammit, Jessie,” he laughed through a wet smile. “How come Rhett had to get to you first?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” she joked back. His heart surged as he realized just how lucky he was that they both wanted him, all of him. He’d have been utterly lost without her. At some point, she’d become so intrinsically part of Rhett that Link couldn’t fathom a Rhett without a Jessie or a Jessie without a Rhett. She reached for his hand and squeezed it firmly. “I don’t feel bad about us, about what’s probably going to happen between the three of us,” she whispered after a while.

“You should,” he said, knowing fully well he was pinning his wife to a target and had begun preparing to throw knives.

“I know.”

 

As they came through the garage door, Link and Jessie followed the sound of Christy’s bubbly laughter out onto the back patio. Rhett was bent over the grill, flipping chicken breasts and singing her a stupid song about fallen rooster soldiers. The kids were outside in sweaters and jeans, splashing at the edge of the swimming pool, shrieking and shouting as they swerved out of the splash zone. It almost felt normal, just for a nice, long, fragile moment in the inviting fall sunshine. Christy smiled at Link and Jessie, just like old times, as they came through the sliding glass door.

“Hi, Jessie,” Christy said almost warmly, rising from the picnic table to peck the woman on the cheek. Jessie rose on her tiptoes to return the kiss. Something tightened in Link’s chest at the sight. “Cold beer in the fridge. Y’all want one?”

“Thanks, Christy,” Jessie answered, glancing at Link as the woman slipped into the kitchen. “Someone’s in a good mood,” she muttered under her breath. Rhett grinned and reached a long arm around Jessie’s waist, pulling her in for a deep hello kiss.

“Well, baby,” he crooned obnoxiously, breaking the kiss, “she’s been enjoying the world famous comedy stylings of Rhett J. McLaughlin.” He grinned rakishly. “Can you blame her?” Jessie rolled her eyes. He kissed her again, though this time his eyes stayed on Link, who was trying his damnedest not to watch them with open hunger. Link wasn’t completely sure who Rhett was addressing when he said, “You look real good, honey.”

Jessie rested a hand on his belly and turned to the dark haired man. Link felt a little bothered and stupid when they both rested appraising eyes on him, and he leaned against a column when his knees threatened to fail him. She said fondly, “Link dressed me.” He felt a flicker of warmth in his chest when Rhett raked warm eyes all over his skinny body. Link tried his damnedest again to ignore the hitch in Rhett’s breath. He had half a mind to remind the couple in hushed tones that the kids were playing right there, for Christ’s sake, only a few yards away, and could Rhett just cool his jets, maybe?

Rhett’s predatory graze only grew hungrier.

“Did he now?” Rhett rumbled, his lips twisting devilishly, and Link frantically wondered where Christy was with that cold beer she’d offered. “What else did he do?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Jessie purred, and Rhett growled as he hungrily kissed her full lips again. When they pulled apart, Christy reappeared again through the back door, balancing a tray with three frosty beers, a pitcher of pink lemonade, and cups for the kids.

Some time after the kids had delightedly downed their barbecue dinners and scrambled upstairs to play video games, the grownups cleared the table, lit the heat lamps, and brought out a fresh round of beers and a set of old dominoes. Link fidgeted with the bluetooth speakers for a moment before a sweet, lilting country song twanged in the air. Jessie sidled up next to him, slipping a beer into his hands.

“Mmm, Jason Isbell,” she said in distinct approval. “You gonna dance with me later, brother?”

“You got it, sister,” he replied, wanting nothing more than to stare down into her shining, upturned face for the rest of the night. He dragged himself away, glancing guiltily at his wife as he took his seat at the wobbly card table. Christy seemed not to notice. “But not before I smoke you fools at dominoes,” he bragged as he flipped and mixed the dominoes on the table.

“Oh, like last time when you didn’t win a single round?” Christy said mischievously across the table as they began counting out their own pieces. “Good luck, babe.”

“I got all the luck I need,” he said, turning with a laugh to Jessie on his left. “Blow on my pieces for good luck, Jess.” Jessie arched an eyebrow and set up her own pieces.

“What, and jinx myself?” She scoffed. “Ha. Nice try, Neal.” He smiled at her affectionately. Christy took a quiet sip of her beer.

“Looks like she’s onto you, bo,” Rhett murmured, setting the first piece into play. “You ain’t slick.” Jessie gave her husband a knowing look. There was a comfortable old clinking of porcelain pieces chiming with guitar and the chirp of crickets in the twilight air. The back patio was a cozy, amber scene of tentative detente.

“Clockwise,” Christy said softly. “Your turn, Link.”

They began the game, one piece at a time, Rhett, then Link, then Jessie, then Christy. A wistful smile lit Link’s face as he watched them all quietly chatter and play, the cool breeze whispering around them, mingling with the curls of warmth unwinding from the heat lamps. Several rounds passed like this. Link felt blissfully at peace for the first time in a long time.

The peace didn’t last long.

He jolted in his seat, nearly scattering his dominoes to the floor, when he felt a foot creep up the inside of his calf, trailing teasingly up to his knee. He was sure his eyes must be nearly bugging out of his skull, and he searched for some kind of flirty tell in Christy’s manner that would give her away. To his dismay, she was busy contemplating her next move, eyes glued to her pieces. He glanced frantically at Jessie when he felt the tender stroking rise higher, and though her gaze was firmly on Rhett’s face, her sly little grin sent a bolt of electricity through Link’s entire nervous system. He cleared his throat, dying to regain composure, but damn him if his thighs didn’t fall apart, opening up to give her petite foot higher access.

Oh, god, it was so wrong.

He felt Rhett watching him, and when he turned to meet the man’s eyes, he nearly had to choke back a moan as the man’s little tongue swiped across his damp, pink lips. Link would never in a thousand years get used to that dark, possessive gaze coming from Rhett, not when it was trained on him like a homing beacon.

“Earth to Rhett,” Christy sighed. His attention snapped from Link’s inviting gaze. “It’s your turn.” Rhett gazed at his pieces for a long moment, eyes glazed a little. Christy grew impatient. “Today, slowpoke.”

“Jeez, Christy, give him a second,” Jessie chastised her coolly, taking a swig of her beer. “He’s clearly thinking.” Link froze, torn between dual sensations of his wife’s narrowed eyes imploring him to defend her and the red hot buzz of Rhett’s hand slyly slipping beneath the table to rest high up on his trembling thigh. Jessie wasn’t relenting with her little game of footsie, either. They were playing his body like a harp, and sweet Jesus, it was starting to sing for them. He could feel a creeping blush climbing up his chest, staining his neck. If Christy noticed, he could always just chalk it up to radiation from the heat lamp. All the same, he prayed she remained oblivious.

Christy watched the three with burning eyes. She knew Link wasn’t going to tell Jessie off for being rude to her. He’d stopped defending her a long time ago. Her eyes began to prickle and her throat tightened. She struggled down a miserable gulp of flat beer and tried to ignore the gust of cool fall air that was beginning to blow against her back, chilling her to her core. Her fingers itched for her phone. She fought the urge for as long as she could, but less than a minute passed before she was clicking through her lockscreen and opening up WhatsApp.

Link glanced over at her with as much annoyance as he could muster, given what his two best friends were currently doing to his groin. Rhett finally placed his piece. “There. I did it. Happy, Christy?” He spat, and it was meant to be soft and teasing, but his heart was pounding too hard, and his thoughts were too commandeered, and the resulting question came across to Christy as nothing but a cruel joke.
“Why wouldn’t I be happy?” She asked, voice tight, practically wrapped around the phone in her hands as she struggled to keep typing. “Not like I’m the odd man out or anything.” Link’s mouth dropped open, and he pressed his hands down to stop the stroking fingers and toes that had left him a little breathless.

“Christy, what are you-”

“Link,” Rhett interrupted, “were you gonna show me that new script you’ve been working on?” Link screwed his eyes in confusion, attention torn from his wife, still bent over her phone, messaging god only knew who. Probably Sheena.

“Oh, right,” he stammered. “Yeah, let’s go to the study.” He went to stand up, grabbing Jessie’s ankle to lift her off his crotch. At that very second, Christy glanced up from her phone, and for a horrible second, Link thought she’d seen. His heart turned to liquid, but only a quick spark flashed in her eyes, before Christy blankly stared down at her phone again. “You girls okay for a minute?”

“Fine,” Jessie kind of purred, sipping her beer to hide her ironic smirk.

Rhett led the way to the study, practically staggering through the hall, Link trotting to keep up. He turned to lock the study door behind them, and he’d hardly turned around before Rhett suddenly filled his senses, their hungry bodies meeting as Rhett pressed Link against the door. He bent down to take Link’s big, soft mouth with his own in a wet, starving kiss. It was messy and raw, but it was satiating and stunning and so, so new. Rhett pulled back, chest heaving as he licked Link’s taste from his lips.

“You’re a real piece of work, you know that?” Link gasped.

“Yeah, how’s that?”

“You could have kissed me at literally any point back in our office,” Link growled, clawing fistfuls of Rhett’s shirt, unsure whether he was pushing Rhett away or dragging him inexorably closer. “You had to wait until we’re feet away from my wife?”

“You’ve been rock hard for at least an hour,” Rhett growled into Link’s ear, dragging a gorgeous shudder from the man’s smaller body. “Don’t act so put out.”

“I fucking hate you,” he spat through clenched teeth, thrusting his hips against Rhett’s.

“Hey, just as long as you don’t hate fucking me...”

“Oh, gosh,” Link gasped, opening up the left side of his neck to Rhett’s exploring mouth. “We’re gonna do that, aren’t we? Have sex?” The word rippled with him, creating shockwaves of realization that left him reeling. Sex, his body cried. Sex with Rhett.

“Do you still want to?” Rhett whispered, lips brushing against the shell of his sensitive ear.

“Yes, I fucking want to.” He hadn’t been this hard since he was a teenager, and Rhett wasn’t making things any easier for him, with his mouth leaving trails of spit and fire all over his throat and jaw and ears.
In a rushed, hoarse whisper, Rhett said, “Jessie called out your name last night in bed.” Link’s body lit brighter at the thought.

“Jesus.”

“It made me so fucking angry.” Rhett tugged Link’s bottom lip between his teeth, and Link groaned through his nose, eyes rolling to the back of his head. “Guess what it made me wanna do to you.” Rhett’s knees nearly buckled as he took in the image of Link, pressed bodily against the door, his mouth hanging open and eyes drooping in overwhelming lust.

“What?” Link was half delirious with want.

“Guess.”

“Hit me?” Link moaned, his voice cracking as he remembered the reality of that fantasy.

“Wrong,” Rhett grunted. “It made me want to rail your tight little ass so hard it paralyzes you.”

“Gosh.” Link wound his fingers through Rhett’s wild hair and pulled him down for another hot, slick kiss. Rhett pulled away just enough to press their foreheads together, glaring heatedly into Link’s hazy eyes.

“Would you bottom for me, Link?” Their lips were a breath apart, but it felt like miles. If Link were honest, he’d half thought it’d be the other way around, but at the moment, he’d agree to anything Rhett put to him.

“I’d crawl through broken glass for you,” Link swore, legs losing their strength. The only thing holding him upright was Rhett’s strong thigh thrust between his legs, pinning him to the door.

“You’d probably enjoy that,” Rhett rasped, into his ear, “Kink Neal.” Link frantically nodded as gorgeous shivers cascaded down his entire left side. The two froze solid when a soft knock sounded at the door.

They could just barely hear Jessie whisper, “It’s me. Open up.”

"Uh, oh," Rhett smirked. “Here comes trouble.”

Chapter Text

Rhett pulled away and hastily directed Link to sit on the narrow loveseat across from the desk. Link dropped down on the sofa, trying to figure out what he should be doing his hands. He pressed his sweaty palms flat against his thighs. Rhett gently unlocked the door and pulled it open a crack. He drawled, “Password?”

“Let me in, dummy,” Link could hear Jessie say hurriedly, “She’s cleaning up right now. Told me she didn’t need my help. The kids are all upstairs.” He grabbed Jessie by the elbow and pulled her through. He maneuvered her around, pressing her face first against the hard wood of the door. He crowded up behind her and flicked the lock on the door knob as his mouth found her ear.

He hissed, “Did you let him touch you?” The hot gush of his breath stirred a chill from her body.

“Yes,” she panted. “And I liked it. A lot.” Rhett groaned, his hands twisting her wrists until she fell forward against his chest.

He swooped down and whispered hotly again in her ear, “You always were easy.”

“Yeah?” She laughed, voice muffled against his shirt. “And what does that make you?” He dug his fingers through her long, dark hair, and when she moaned all deep and airy, Link moaned with her.

“Goddamn it, I love you so much,” Rhett sighed, kissing her forehead.

“Language, baby,” she purred, and she let him pull her along while he sat down next to Link on the sofa, their sides pressed flush together. Rhett grabbed her by the hips and guided her down to straddle his lap. She smiled shyly at Link, and he swallowed down on his heart leaping into his throat. “Hey, brother.”

“Hey, sister,” Link whispered, gutted by her softness.

“You gonna dance with me now?” She asked breathlessly as Rhett dug his fingers into her hips.

“I got a better idea,” Rhett grunted, sliding his hand slowly up the back of her neck. He softly guided her head towards Link’s. They slowly came together, lips softly pressing together, breathing each other in until Link’s mouth parted as he deepened their kiss. Jessie sighed as her tongue met with Link’s, grabbing at her husband’s shirt to keep from falling off his gently rolling hips. Rhett watched them with thunderous eyes, intense and possessive, digging his nails into her ass as he rubbed his cock, hard and covered in denim, up against her pussy. He was growing so needy. Rhett grabbed her hair and pulled her away from Link’s exploring tongue. “I can think of better uses for that mouth of yours, Link.”

“I don’t know, bo,” he chuckled, lips red and a little swollen, eyes dazed. “I like this one a whole lot.” He glanced down to realize that at some point, he’d worked his hands around Jessie’s waist.

Rhett slid his hand down the side of her body, over Link’s fingers, flicking her dress up and out of the way. Link pulled back to watch Jessie melt into Rhett’s long frame. Rhett’s fingers grazed across her belly and slipped beneath her panties, through the trimmed patch of hair into her wet, warm pussy. “Jesus,” she sighed. He rubbed his thick, rough fingers through her slit, circling around her clitoris, just how he knew she liked it. “Rhett-”

He twisted his wrist and pushed his middle finger up into her hot, tight core as he took Link’s mouth for another searing kiss. When he pulled away from his best friend, he whispered, “She’s so wet, Link. Dripping.”

“Yeah?” He whispered dumbly, heart pounding against his ribs, every inch of him filled with a desperate yearning. Rhett nodded and slipped his finger out of her pussy. She wanly moaned, watching her husband trace her wetness against Link’s lips. He devoured her taste, grasping Rhett’s wrist as he slid the wet digit into his mouth. He tongued at Rhett’s finger, sucked until he’d tasted every drop of her.

“Wanna taste her some more?” Rhett grunted, forehead pressed hard against Link’s, glaring into Link’s wide, blue eyes. All Link could do was nod. Rhett gazed tenderly at Jessie and whispered against her temple, “Is that okay, Jess?”

“Mmhmm,” she sighed, licking her lips, letting Rhett lift her tiny frame up and turn her around until she was reclining against his chest, ass planted right on his rigid cock. He trailed his fingers up her outer thighs and slowly slid her green, lacy panties down to her knees. The satin crotch was dark and wet with her musky slick.

“Good girl,” he purred into the shell of her ear, and the entire side of her body went staticky with a cascade of shivers. She helped him work her panties all the way past her bare feet. “Now, Link,” he whispered. “Why don’t you kneel down here and eat my wife’s pussy?”

“Holy shit,” Link gasped, but he didn’t need to be told twice. He practically fell to his knees and crawled up to her, lifting her by the crooks of her knees. He hooked her legs over Rhett’s spread thighs, and the sight of her dripping pussy just under the cover of her dress had him nearly blacking out. He leaned up and kissed Jessie softly for reassurance as he slid her dress up and out of the way. “You want my mouth on your pussy, Jess?”

“Please,” she sighed, sliding her hands over his, taking her dress from his grasp. “Please, Link.” He pulled off his glasses and set them carefully on the arm of the sofa. He nodded and bent down to press a tender kiss to her inner thigh. She jolted at his touch, eyes shut, body tense, waiting. Rhett wrapped his arms around her, holding her steady and safe.

“You heard the lady,” he rasped, and Link smiled just before he pressed his mouth between her spread thighs and gave her dripping labia a wide swipe of the tongue. Her head fell back against Rhett’s chest. She tasted good, something unnameable, something animal. He needed more, and he worked her slit, tongue flickering around her clitoris in lazy circles. It wasn’t long before her breathing grew shallow, and she started to squirm as he worked her sensitive bud.

“Oh, god, Link,” she sighed. “That feels so good. I need more.” Link saw stars when he felt Rhett’s broad, strong hands begin stroking his hair. He gazed up into their eyes, husband and wife, and they wore identical expressions of hunger and love, all for Link. He smiled. He couldn’t help it, and gently, he slipped two fingers inside her.

He reeled. This was unreal. In a million worlds, he would never have dreamt that one would exist where he’d be inside Jessie McLaughlin, where Rhett was holding them both with such love and wanting.

He curled his fingers inside her and pressed puckered lips to her clitoris, working her with mounting passion. He was so hard, he was sure he’d come in his pants, but being on his knees for this woman’s pleasure wasn’t a privilege he was willing to give up too soon, though he realized he needed to make quick work of this. Christy could come knocking any second.

Jessie’s slick was smeared all over his mouth and chin, and he hungrily lapped it up as he rubbed up against a spot inside her that soon had her shaking, digging her nails into Rhett’s thighs, trying her hardest to be as quiet as possible. “Link,” she keened, high and breathy.

“She’s real close, bo,” Rhett said sweetly. “Don’t stop now. Make her come, baby.” And caught somewhere between Jessie’s musky, honeyed taste, Rhett’s hands tugging his hair, Jessie biting off her moans… He almost missed the sweet moment when her orgasm began to take her over. Her hips rolled forward hard against his tongue, and Rhett tugged him flush against her pussy. Link worked her clitoris in firm circles and thrust his fingers deeper into her, faster now, and her toes curled as waves of good, hard thrills poured from her pulsing cunt.

“Oh, god, I’m coming,” she whimpered around the balled up fist in her mouth. And if that weren’t enough to blow Link’s fraying sanity to hell, Rhett’s eyes rolled into the back of his head a moment later as trembling pulses rocked his gigantic frame. He was coming hard in his pants, and Link almost cried at the sheer beauty of their faces screwed up in agonized pleasure together as orgasm shook them both to pieces before him.

“Shit,” Rhett gasped through breathless laughter. “That wasn’t s’posed to happen.” He twitched.

“Lucky you’re wearing black,” Link panted, wiping at his damp mouth. Rhett grabbed his wrist and pulled the man up into a deep kiss. Jessie joined the mess, and they shared a long moment of giddiness and youthful discovery, until a knock at the door snapped them out of their dream.

They scrambled apart, Jessie reaching down to grab her discarded panties. She balled them up and shoved them into Link’s front pocket. His eyes went wide, but before he could protest, Rhett was already reaching for the door. He mouthed the words, “You better hide that,” pointing at Link’s very obvious erection.

He opened the door, leaned his head through, and said, “Hey there, Lando. Daddy and I are working in here.”

“Mama says it’s time fer y’all ta go home,” he announced and then turned to trot down the hallway, his stuffed bear in tow.

The families all congregated downstairs to separate for the evening, and when Link walked the McLaughlins out to their car, Jessie leaned up on tip-toes to give him a chaste kiss on the cheek. Before pulling away, she whispered, “Don’t you dare start feeling guilty about this.” He grinned and gave her a sly little smack on the ass.

He waved goodbye as they pulled out of the driveway. The walk back to his front door went by far too fast. He glanced up at the door where, he realized with a dark shock, Christy stood. The goofy, satisfied smile on his face fell immediately. Her arms were crossed, and her expression was horribly, terrifyingly neutral.

Link’s heart thudded into his stomach. He froze at the foot of the porch stairs, gazing up at his wife. She stood tempestuous in the doorway, her soft, pale hair hanging loose on her shoulders. She looked like an angel of death. A saplike horror bloomed in his chest and sluggishly crawled all the way to his toes.

“Hey,” he said breathlessly, a studiously nonchalant lilt to his voice. He grew painfully aware of the soaked panties still balled up in his front pocket. He prayed she didn’t notice. He could still practically feel Jessie on his lips and Rhett’s hands tugging his hair. His mouth went dry. “The kids in bed already?”

“I’m going to lunch with Sheena after church tomorrow,” she said coolly. “I’ll be gone all afternoon.” Link nodded quickly, a bright burst of hope exploding in his chest for just a brief moment. She hadn’t noticed anything. He reeled at the sudden emotional whiplash. “I want you to stay home and spend time with your children tomorrow.”

“Of course, baby,” Link whispered. He rubbed an anxious hand across the nape of his neck as he gazed up at her and shivered in the cool breeze. “I was thinking maybe I’d invite Rhett and Jessie over.”

“She’s got a family of her own to take care of,” Christy bit back, and it was a worrying crack in her porcelain facade which spoke of the storm brewing within. Unease settled over Link again. “You need to be with your own family.”

“Yeah, of course, baby,” Link answered, and his fingers itched to reach out to Christy. To do what, he wasn’t sure. Maybe just to reassure himself. “Christy-”

“I’m going to bed,” she said with an icy clip. “It’s your turn to get the kids ready for church in the morning, so…” He nodded again, still frozen down there below her, craning up to look into her profoundly enigmatic eyes.

His desire for privacy wasn’t the only reason he mostly avoided the internet. He wasn’t oblivious to the petty, mean-spirited things some of his fans said about her, that she wasn’t ambitious, that she was bland and average and that he could do so much better than her. Looking at her now, his heart twisted hard in his chest, and he thought with a pang of sorrow that she was the most stunning, impressive, and powerful woman in his life, and that no woman could ever replace her. He was blindsided with the knowledge that everything he had with her, everything he could possibly salvage, now hinged on the pair of panties shoved in his pocket, and if she ever found out...

What the hell did he think he was doing?

“I love you,” he whispered through the painful lump in his throat, and it was almost lost in the breeze and rustle of fading trees. She gazed down at her hands before turning to make her way upstairs.

Link closed the front door behind himself and slipped quietly into his office. With a nervous twitch, he pulled open the bottom drawer of his filing cabinet, fished Jessie’s panties out of his pocket, and tucked them into an obscure, unused file folder in the back of the drawer.

 

Sheena Green was a clever, vibrant woman. Her manner was soothing and personable and beyond reproach, by all appearances the perfect pastor’s wife. The lines of worry in her forehead had been well-earned over a lifetime of caring for other people. She leaned over her coffee cup and saucer, reaching out to rest one reassuring hand on Christy’s forearm as the sunny little bistro bustled around the two of them.

“Okay, but you aren’t actually fine, are you, Chris?” She asked, eyes soft and wide. Christy always felt so small when Sheena cut through her tough girl act like that. Despite only a few years between them, Sheena had a bothersome penchant for throwing pointed questions, like darts, right to the heart of whatever was troubling Christy. It was the reason Christy first had come to pursue friendship with the woman when the Neals had first arrived in LA.

“Of course I am,” Christy stuttered, even though she knew it was pointless to pretend so. Sheena’s eyes only grew softer with compassion, and Christy’s shoulders fell in defeat. She toyed with the rim of her coffee cup before numbly whispering, “He’s cheating on me.”

To her credit, Sheena’s face remained soft and open, reserving all judgement, but she couldn’t fight a weary sigh as she asked, “You know for sure?” Christy pulled her arm free of Sheena’s cool grasp and took a careful drink of her coffee. At length, she replaced the cup and looked up at Sheena reluctantly.

“It’s Jessie,” Christy said with conviction.

“Ah, your favorite topic,” Sheena clarified drolly. “The best friend’s wife.”

“The witch, more like,” Christy muttered sourly. Sheena frowned and stirred absently at her coffee for a moment.

“Okay, but what evidence do you have?” She repeated. Christy sighed wearily. For a while, she just sat in silence, watching the people dining around them as she gathered her thoughts.

“She’s always been so perfect in his eyes, you know?” Christy spat. She shoved a loose lock of hair behind her ear. “When we went on our first double date, even back then, Link was practically drooling in his lap.” She chewed her lips as a familiar hole opened up in her chest and breathing grew difficult. “How could I blame him? She has this…” She rolled her eyes. “...Hair. She’s always, like, tossing it around and laughing with her stupid laugh anytime a man looks at her. And like, she’s so tiny, you know?” Christy balled up her napkin in a white-knuckled fist. “Like, ‘Oh, won’t someone protect me?’”

“She sounds awful,” Sheena deadpanned.

“You don’t know what she’s like,” Christy said, her hand now in a death grip on her mug. “She’s a nightmare. Her boys are both older, so she has all this time to decorate her house, and like, it could be in a magazine, you know? I mean, if I weren’t so busy being a mom…” Christy shook her head slowly. “Like, everyone loves going over to their house. She’s the perfect hostess. Everything’s perfect about her.”

“The nerve.”

“Sheena, she talks to me like I’m a wart she’d love to have removed.” Christy paused, eyes half-glazed with anguish. She caught her previous train of thought and added, “When she laughs, Link always just stops and stares at her, and you can tell she just lives for his attention. Like, right in front of me.” She smoothed her skirt for a moment. “I mean, of course he’s attracted to her, Sheena. He’s a man, after all. I just never thought he’d… that he’d actually…” Christy couldn’t finish the thought. She refused to start crying in the middle of the crowded bistro. Sheena sat in silence, an eyebrow raised as she leaned thoughtfully back in her chair.

“You must be very confused by your feelings about her,” she noted quietly.

“I’m not confused at all. I hate the bitch.” The response came tumbling from Christy like a vitriol waterfall, a run-on sentence of pent-up frustration.

“Do you feel inferior to her?” Sheena asked carefully. Christy huffed, eyes darting around the cafe. Her lips drew together tight. It was obvious she was fighting against another surge of emotion.

“I mean, you might as well call her Jolene,” she scoffed. Tears welled in her eyes, and she nervously tore at the edge of her balled up napkin. “Look at me, Sheena. My marriage is a big, horrible joke, and it’s because of her.”

“Hon, you gotta stop that,” Sheena began carefully “Jessie isn’t your competition. You don’t need to compare yourself to her.”

“Hard not to when my husband’s sleeping with her,” Christy bitterly snapped.

“You don’t know that-”

“A woman knows, Sheena,” Christy demanded, fighting the tears threatening to flow. “I saw him… spank her… last night when he was saying goodbye out by the car. Just tapped her ass right there where anyone could see. And the crazy thing is, I don’t think Rhett has a clue, the poor idiot. He’s over the moon for her still.” She sighed heavily. “And, anyway, it’s always me against the three of them. It’s like… you know, winner takes all, but I’m the only loser.”

“You’re not a loser, Chris,” Sheena said gently, sliding her fingers between Christy’s. “Okay, so what about Rhett?” She asked. “If what you think is true, then what happens to him?” Christy slumped in her chair. Her eyes lit with terrible realization.

“Oh, God, I have to tell him, don’t I?” She gasped. Sheena immediately reached for Christy’s hands.

“You don’t say a word to that man,” she warned. “Especially when all you’ve got is a bad feeling.” The hole in Christy’s chest grew, swelling in her throat, bringing forth a single trailing tear.

“You don’t believe me,” she said so softly, she wasn’t sure Sheena had heard her.

“I believe your feelings,” she said, and a seriousness filled her gaze. “But I think maybe you’re trying to justify what’s happening between us, so you’re seeing boogiemen that might not actually be there.”

“That’s not the same thing,” Christy swore through grit teeth. “I never planned for this to happen.” Sheena chewed the inside of her cheek and stared at the table for a moment.

“If it’s true,” she began, “what you suspect... wouldn’t that make this, us, all the easier on your part?” She gestured between the two of them.

“Sheena, please don’t-”

“I’m not,” she said calmly. “Just… I need you to be okay with this, and it just really, really seems like you’re not sometimes. Even more so now that Tom and I are filing for divorce. If that’s making you feel pressured into-”

“You already know I can’t leave him,” she whispered, defeated. “I have the kids to think about. And I do still love him.”

“I’m not asking you to leave him,” she gravely whispered. “Not until you’re ready. I just… I don’t know. I need a sign. That we can press forward.” Christy clung to her hands tightly, the tattered napkin tossed aside. “This is hard on the both of us. I know you’re confused and hurting right now. I understand.” She pulled Christy’s hand forward and brushed her lips against the knuckles.

“I’m sorry I’m being a hypocrite,” she murmured through a watery smile. Sheena stroked her hand fondly.

“Shush,” she murmured, sorting out the check. “Now, if you’re finished eating, Tom’ll be out visiting parishioners all afternoon.” She signed with a flourish of the pen and looked back up at Christy with a hungry smirk. “If you wanna come back to my place, I’d be happy to help take the edge off.”

Chapter Text

“Cut!” He called for the third time that afternoon. He’d been grinding his teeth since crawling out of bed that morning.

“Link, we’re on a schedule,” Stevie piped in from behind the main camera. He froze mid-gesture to glare at his frustrated producer before shoving away from the desk, ignoring Rhett’s probing stare as he stormed from the studio. The door gave a satisfying slam behind him as he marched to his office and began to root around in his bag. He shoved a packet into the back pocket of his snug skinny jeans and miserably slouched down the hallway, praying to whatever god was listening that no one would follow him up the ladder to his favorite hideaway.

He scaled the sturdy fire escape and slung his lean frame up to the top of the studio building, grimacing as he sank down onto a sun-bleached lawn chair. He shook out a cigarette and a black Bic lighter from the packet and lit up and sighed in nearly instant relief. He exhaled, smoke curling from his nostrils into the cool afternoon around him.

He knew he’d been a jerk all day. He didn’t need to see it in Stevie’s eyes or hear it in Rhett’s loaded silence. He could feel it in the way the entire office seemed to shrink around him. The whole studio had been buzzing with a terrible, nervous energy all day, and his thoughts were clouded with the din of it all. He took another drag of his cigarette (yet another dirty secret in a long line of things he kept hidden from the world) and dropped his head back, feeling the warmth of the autumn sun on his slack face.

His peace didn’t last long. The heavy sound of boots on the steel rungs of the ladder announced Rhett’s arrival on the rooftop. Link didn’t look at the man, squinting as he was into the sunset as he flicked the cap of ash off his cigarette. Rhett sat down in the weathered lawn chair next to him and seemed to wait. Link wasn’t sure what Rhett was exactly waiting for, but he was all the same annoyed at any rate. At length, Rhett snatched the pack of cigarettes off the arm of Link’s chair and lit one up for himself. He leaned back in the chair and returned to waiting.

Link nearly jumped when Rhett drawled, “So...” He exhaled slowly, watching the same skyline as Link. “Mondays, huh?” Link sighed and relaxed deeper into his seat. Rhett gave him a sidelong glance and asked, “What’s eatin’ ya?”

“We have to stop.”

The statement hung between them, quiet but resolute, and Rhett’s stomach twisted with jealous fear. He swallowed hard as a billion protests and pleas pinged around in his wind pipes. He snubbed out his cigarette, only halfway gone. He did the only thing he could; he gingerly got down on his knees between Link’s parted legs and grasped at the man’s skinny thighs.

“You need to talk to me, bo,” Rhett implored, gazing up into his best friend’s tortured, pale eyes. “Please don’t lock me out.” Link’s eyes glittered tempestuous. He sank his fingers into Rhett’s hair. Rhett whispered desperately, “Please.”

“I can’t do this,” Link said thickly, and a single tear fell down his cheek. Rhett felt his heart beginning to malfunction, to seize, to blacken.

“You can,” he implored. “Link, this… I just…” He took a shaky breath. He was losing his grip on Link, and it frankly terrified him. “I can’t lose you. This. I…” Link wiped away the errant tear with the back of his sweater sleeve.

He whispered weakly, “I’m still your friend.”

“No,” Rhett growled. “Not that way. Don’t do me like that.” Link moaned, shoving away Rhett’s hands. He made to stand up, but Rhett pinned him in place again. Link lost a bit of his fight.

“Look, if this was real, you know, what’s going on…” He trailed off, grimacing. “I just think that we’d be really sure about it, you know, if it was destiny or what-the-fuck-ever.”

“That isn’t true.” Rhett swallowed hard.

“Rhett, I just don’t know what you want me to do,” he finally said. “More I think about it, the more it’s clear how wrong it is. I can’t do this to Christy. I made a vow.” His eyes were heavy, and it was all Rhett could do not to beg Link to just look him in the eye.

“You don’t have to be so fucking noble all the time.” Rhett winced even as he said it, but he didn’t back down. To his instant regret, Link had clearly heard enough. He pried Rhett’s hands away and hauled himself up to his feet.

“You haven’t once considered what your family would say about this?” Link demanded. “Your dad? Cole? They ain’t ever been okay with how close we are. You think they wouldn’t disown you the second it got out that we’re…” He sighed. “...as close as they always feared?”

“Fuck ‘em,” Rhett spat, his eyes wide and open as he reached out in vain for Link’s hand. “It was always going to end up this way, and you know it. We’ve been cheating ourselves for far too long, and it’s high time-”

“I gotta get out of here,” he hissed, and he made it nearly to the ground below by the time Rhett’s brain had a chance to grasp that he was very quickly losing his chance with the only person he’d ever needed like this. He scrambled after his best friend, slamming open their office door to find Link packing his things into his bag. He shut the door behind himself and nearly collapsed against it.

“I have been in love with you for so long, I don’t remember how to be any other way.”

Link froze with his back to Rhett, his chest rising and falling rapidly as he returned to zipping up his bag. He muttered, “Don’t you dare.”

“If you shut me out… well, I’d rather be dead,” Rhett demanded, and even though he knew how ridiculous and dramatic he sounded, tears prickled and burned in the corners of his eyes.

“That’s-” Link stammered. “Don’t say that. It’s not fair, man.” Rhett came spilling away from the door, needy for the feeling of Link’s soft clothes and warm touch against his skin. He maintained some distance in spite of himself.

“Link, I know this isn’t ideal,” he murmured, gazing down at the man’s stricken blue eyes. “But if you end this now-”

“Our lives will go back to what they were before.” The way he said it was so final, so resolute. Rhett froze, waves of pity and woe for Link crashing over him.

“Look me in the eye and tell me that’s what you actually want.” Link’s ears rang. He glared into Rhett’s soul for one dense, eternal moment. Rhett wavered and pled, “What?” Link looked away, rubbed the nape of his neck with a clammy palm. “What?”

“I just…” He swallowed and started again. “You know, you keep saying that we were always meant to end up together, but…” He walked over to the sofa and sank down into the soft, tan leather. “Why would fate also put your wife in the mix? Why would… Why wouldn’t it be just us, you know, you and me?” His voice was deadly still, and where Link’s brow had once harbored resolve and determination, his face fell slack. He looked utterly and miserably lost.

Rhett gingerly sat down next to him, connected at knee, hip, and shoulder. His fingers dug into his palms and his whispered, “Do you want me to leave Jessie?” Link whipped around to look at him, jaw slack.

“No! Rhett, I…” He huffed. “I don’t want you to leave Jessie. We both love her.”

“Link, I’m not going to leave her. It’s just... I asked you if it was okay that she was with us,” Rhett said. “You said you wanted her. That’s why I’m okay with-”

“And I do,” Link insisted. “I just…”

“You just what?”

“In the heat of the moment, it felt so right,” he muttered miserably. “But now, it just… isn’t it a little… I don’t know, tawdry?”

“Tawdry,” Rhett echoed with a raised eyebrow. “So that’s your issue? Not the whole gay thing or the whole leaving your wife for someone else-”

“Not technically gay-”

“Bisexual, whatever,” Rhett sighed. “You’re worried people are gonna think less of you for being in a polyamorous relationship. Is that what this is about?” Link grit his teeth.

“Well… yeah!”

Rhett leaned back and stroked his beard. He gazed back at Link after a while. “You remember what Poppa used to say?”

Link shook his head. “He said lots of things.”

Rhett ran a fingertip down the side of Link’s hand. “He always said, ‘Those who matter don’t mind. Those who mind don’t matter.’”

“Yeah, but he wasn’t talking about-”

“Don’t matter. It still applies to us.” Rhett reached one long arm out and grasped Link just above the knee. “We’re surrounded by people who just want us to be happy. And yeah, maybe a certain part of the fanbase would cannibalize itself if this got out, but…” He swore, “Those who matter will understand. You got me?”

“I got you.” Then one unsteady sigh was all the warning Rhett had before Link grasped the collar of his shirt and fell into him with a shameful hunger, shivering at the soft, sensual drag of Rhett’s lips against his own, the sweet tickle of his beard and moustache, the warm scent of his tender mouth. Rhett grasped at Link’s skinny body like this was all some cruel joke, like Link was going to dissolve into the air like vapor. He dragged the slighter man up to straddle his lap, guiding him with hands and mouth until they sat pressed together, a mess of hungry tongues and shaking limbs. Rhett pulled back, faintly gasping for breath.

“I still wanna make love to you,” he gushed, trailing wet, open-mouth kisses down Link’s neck and collarbone. The rumble of his voice shook a bone-deep shiver and an airy gasp from Link’s tense frame. “We’ve been together thirty years, and it’s all I can think about now. How much I want to fuck you.”

“Jesus,” Link breathlessly laughed, “I feel like a virgin again.”

“Touched for the very first time?” Rhett whispered between kisses. Link groaned at the stupid joke, but it fanned the flame in Rhett’s belly, and he dragged his fingers through Link’s salt and pepper hair. He pulled Link’s forehead down to his own until the man’s pale blue eyes were the only things he could see. “I don’t want to wait any longer. I want to fuck you right now.” He couldn’t ignore the darkness in Link’s eyes, or the goosebumps on his arms, or the way his nipples pebbled under his t-shirt, or how he was practically gasping for air, or the way he flushed scarlet from his cheeks down to somewhere beneath his shirt collar.

“We’re not fucking in the office, Rhett.” Rhett watched Link’s wet, swollen, rosy lips as he spoke those wholly unwanted words.

“Then let’s go somewhere,” he grunted, half desperate now. “We can get a room or something.”

“Rhett James McLaughlin,” Link protested, grinding himself against Rhett’s stiff cock, “our first time will not be in some shady, highway motel.”

“I’ll take you somewhere nice,” he promised, sliding sure fingertips down the back of Link’s jeans. Link braced himself against Rhett’s broad shoulders, a shaky sigh escaping as he let Rhett’s hands wander down his body. He gasped as he felt Rhett’s middle finger sliding down the cleft of his ass, kneading at his tight little asshole. Rhett massaged a ragged moan from the man.

“Not- not without Jessie,” he panted, bearing down against Rhett’s finger as he rubbed himself more desperately against the man’s cock. “We need her, too.”

“Glad to hear you’ve come around,” he muttered against the damp skin of Link’s neck. “Fuck, at least just keep kissing me then.” Link devoured the warm, salty skin of Rhett’s earlobe. Rhett grunted, “You like how I’m touching you, bo?”

“Rhett, no, baby,” Link keened. “Think I’m gonna come if you keep doing that.”

“You keep callin’ me baby like that, you’re gonna make me come,” he chuckled.

“Like last time?” Link purred, pulling back to smirk at him. Rhett almost replied with an offer to spank Link’s ass for his impudence, but his phone buzzed in his pocket, and it broke the trance. Link peeled himself off Rhett’s lap, crossing and uncrossing his legs, looking for all the world like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Rhett leaned back on the sofa, palming himself through his jeans as he watched Link check his messages. “Speak of the devil.”

His voice was low and pleased, and Rhett quite liked the sound of it. “Jessie?” He guessed. “What’s she want?”

“Me, it would seem,” he answered through tight lips. He hesitated for a moment before handing his phone over to Rhett. Rhett cleared his throat.

“I can’t stop thinking about how good your mouth felt on my pussy,” he read softly. He scanned the message once more before he looked back at Link’s watchful eyes and returned the phone. “Well, how ‘bout that? My wife is sexting you.”

“Are you okay with that?”

“Oh, I’m more than okay with that, brother.” Rhett leaned over to press a little kiss to the corner of Link’s mouth. Link’s phone buzzed again. He immediately opened the new message.

“Oh, gosh,” Link gasped. “She just said she’s at home alone. She wants me to come over and fuck her right now.” Rhett licked his lips.

“You gonna leave the little lady hangin’?”

“What should I say?”

“Ask her to show you how much she wants you.”

Link typed the response with unreliable fingers. He held the phone breathlessly, waiting for a reply. His phone buzzed. “She sent a picture.” Link’s jaw slackened. “Oh, my god.” Rhett leaned his head on Link’s shoulder to take a look at the picture. Jessie was leaning back on their bed, it seemed, wearing nothing but her favorite cardigan and a smile. Her small, pert tits were beautifully framed by the soft, mustard wool.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?” Link nodded, eyes glued to the screen. Rhett moved his body into a more intimate position and slipped the phone from Link’s hand. “C’mere.” He tilted his head and brought his damp lips to Link’s, pulling the man into a heady kiss, their tongues meeting with slick, coaxing caresses. When Rhett pulled away, Link’s eyes were dazed and dark. He followed Rhett’s gaze to the phone in his hand, to the image on the screen of them locked in budding arousal. Link felt his face grow hot as he watched Rhett hit the send button. “You think she’ll like that?” Link laughed. Rhett already knew the answer to that.

“I can’t speak for her,” he quipped, “but I could probably punch a hole through a wall with my cock right now.” Rhett smiled and bent down for one more teasing kiss.

“I really like kissing you,” he whispered. Link went to reply, but his phone started buzzing again in Rhett’s hand, and he saw with a falling feeling that Christy was calling. He stared at the phone, at her name, at the picture of her smiling coyly. “You’d better take this, bo.”

Link held the phone to his ear and cleared his throat before answering, “Hey.”

Her voice was distant on the other end. “When are you going to be home?”

“‘Bout an hour. Gotta finish up a project.”

“Okay,” she said. “Just seeing if it’s okay for Lily to stay at the Johnsons’ tonight.”

“Yeah, that’s fine.”

“I figured. She’s already over.”

“Then why’d you ask me?”

“I’ll see you when you get home.”

She hung up before he could respond. He clicked off his phone and sighed. Rhett smoothed his hair back and kissed his forehead. Link melted into his touch, and Rhett whispered against his skin, “Just go home now. There’s no way we’re getting any more work done today. I’ll make your excuses.” Link smiled wanly.

“Thank you.”

They kissed once more, slow and deep. Link tried to memorize the feeling of Rhett’s warm breath and soft beard, his hands on his waist. As he rose to leave, Rhett called out from the sofa, “Hey, remember.”

“Hmm?”

“Those who mind don’t matter.”

 

He kicked off his shoes in the doorway and dropped his bag on the sofa on his way to the kitchen. The house seemed empty. He headed to his office, and when he opened the door, his heart dropped into his stomach.

“You’re home early,” Christy hastily said, jumping away from the open desk drawer like she’d been burned. His eyes narrowed on the stricken expression on her face.

“We finished early.” She made to leave the room, but he cut her off with sharp words. “What are you doing in here?”

“It’s my house, too.”

“Yeah,” he said in a steely voice, “but it’s my desk.” She failed to meet his eyes. “I’ll ask you again, Christy. What are you doing in here?” She shook her head dismissively.

“You’ve never had a problem with me being in here before.” She glanced down at the desk and hastily grabbed a pair of scissors from the cup on the corner. “I just needed some scissors.”

He fought the urge to scoff. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

She stood up taller, her chin lifting slightly. Finally, she met his eyes and resolutely demanded, “Give me your phone.”

“Why?”

“Give me your phone, Link.” She drew in a shaky breath. “Unless you have something to hide.”

“This is ridiculous, Chris.”

“I’m not playing.”

His cool facade twisted with a gentle, kindling anger. “Does it look like I’m playing?”

“Okay,” she threw out loftily, tossing her hair back. “If that’s what you want, you can sleep on the couch tonight.”

“My pleasure,” he hissed.

“Yeah, I guess I played myself there, huh?” She laughed darkly. “Gave you just what you wanted.”

“Why are you doing this?”

The disbelief in her eyes was patently clear to her husband. She grimaced and said in a cracked voice, “Trust, Link. Trust.” She fled the room, recoiling from him as she passed.

He slammed the door behind her and stalked over to his desk, shaking as his anger finally got the better of him. His whole body thrummed with panic as he bent to check the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet. Cool relief flooded him when he shifted the files out of the way and was met with a flash of green lace at the back. He closed the drawer and collapsed into his desk chair with a frantic bubble of laughter. He sat for a long while, eyes glazed as he stared out the window.

It took a long moment before he glanced down to see Christy had forgotten her phone on the desk. He numbly picked it up and clicked it open, realizing with a jolt that she’d put a passcode on it. He wondered at what point she had done that. He nearly cried out when the phone beeped and a notification banner appeared over the background picture of their kids smiling.

Message From: Sheena
I’m sorry hon. I’d give anything to be snuggled up and kissing on you right now

The phone fell from his fingers. His vision swam for a moment, and he forgot to breathe. Deliriously, he remembered he’d been saying for months that he just wanted their whole marriage to go down in smoke. He muttered bitterly to himself, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Chapter Text

“Thought I’d find you here.”

Link glanced across the cramped loft to Rhett’s head poking up from the entrance ladder. He sank a little deeper into his recliner, lips twitching in a half-hearted smile. “You got me.”

Rhett ascended the ladder and plopped down into the recliner next to Link. Silence was a heavy blanket cloaking them. Rhett reached over a hand and grabbed at Link’s fingers. He half expected Link to pull away, but his heart softened a little when the man turned his hand to lock their fingers together instead.

“You were really out of it during filming,” Rhett said softly. Link took a deep breath and dropped his head back against the plush headrest. “It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it.” Link gave him a sidelong glance. He licked his lips and frowned.

“Yeah, I don’t,” he said. “But you know what I wanna do?” Rhett whipped around to look at him at that, doing nothing to hide the interest in his quirked brow.

“Care to tell me?”

“Wanna guess?”

“Link.” Rhett winced at the hardness of his own tone. Link let out a small chuckle.

“I wanna make out,” he murmured. Rhett’s body rushed at the declaration, but when he looked at Link’s heavy eyes, he felt a whoosh of deflation. Something was wrong. He stared into Link for a long moment, until the bewildered man demanded, “What?”

“What’s going on?” Rhett insisted.

“You don’t wanna kiss me?” Link asked, voice pitching a little too high for Rhett’s comfort.

“Of course, I do, bo,” Rhett whispered, and his body still thrummed with the mere suggestion of hanging off of Link’s soft lips for a while. “But you’re… I dunno. Just tell me what’s wrong.”

“Forget it,” Link spat, rising from the recliner. He ignored Rhett’s sputtered protests as he descended the ladder down into their shared office. Rhett went to stand up, but his phone began vibrating in his pocket. He fumbled to answer the call.

“Jessie,” he whispered, a flood of unexplainable relief going through him.

“Hey, is everything okay over there?” She asked sharply. Rhett ran his fingers through his hair.

“What? Why?”

“Link sent some real cryptic texts earlier,” she answered, and Rhett could hear horns blaring in the background of the call.

“Are you driving?”

“I’m on my way over,” she said urgently. “Don’t leave.”

“Drive safe,” he whispered.

“‘Kay, love you, bye,” she muttered before the line went dead. Rhett flew down the ladder, stopping at the edge of Link’s desk, gazing down at the man bent over his laptop, pointedly ignoring his presence.

“Link,” he spoke tenderly, and he reached out to rest his palm on Link’s shoulder. “Brother-” His words fell short as Link looked up at him, eyes rimmed red, tears falling down his cheeks. Rhett’s heart seized at the beauty of this man. Even wracked with sorrow, those eyes glowed the coolest blue Rhett had ever known. He sighed, “Oh, gosh.”

Link leapt up from his seat and wrapped his arms around Rhett’s torso, burying his face in the space where Rhett’s shoulder met his neck. Rhett squeezed tight, as though he could still Link’s erratic breath, crush out the pain, hold Link all together in one piece. He awkwardly maneuvered them both over to the sofa and eased them down into the deep cushions, not once breaking his hold on Link’s slim frame.

“It’s my fault,” he choked. “I did this. I made her…” He tried and failed to draw in a steadying breath. Rhett just listened, stroking Link’s hair, wiping errant tears from his warm cheeks. “I don’t know what I…” He swallowed hard and stopped talking, growing heavy in Rhett’s arms as he allowed himself to be soothed. He’d nearly fallen asleep by the time the door softly clicked open and shut again.

He could just make out Rhett whispering, “Get the lock, babe.” The deadbolt sank, and then came the soft wave of small hands, long hair, and delicate perfume pulling him awake.

Link groggily opened his eyes, turning in Rhett’s arms. He murmured, “Jess.” She wrapped herself around them both, a nearly impossible feat on the sofa. She brushed tender kisses across Link’s temple and cheek, and he lifted his lips, silently begging for hers to meet his own. She kissed him with yielding affection.

When she pulled away, she gazed imploringly into his thunderous eyes. “What happened?” He licked his lips and looked away. Rhett shifted them all upright and smoothed Link’s t-shirt into place.

“There’s someone else.”

Jessie glanced at Rhett in blatant confusion. “You found someone else?”

“Gosh, no,” Link exhaled. “Christy. Christy found someone else.” Jessie and Rhett shared a knowing look, and Link rose up from the sofa, grabbed his water bottle from his desk, and plopped down into his chair. “She got this text last night. From Sheena.”

“From Sheena?” Rhett muttered. “Okay...”

Link deadpanned, his shoulders drooping. “She’s having an affair with Sheena.” Jessie exhaled in an overwhelmed gust, lost for words for a moment.

“But Sheena’s a woman,” Rhett dumbly protested.

“No shit,” Link spat bitterly.

“Wait, hold up,” Jessie interjected. “Where are you getting this?”

“The text,” he cried. “It was pretty obvious.”

“What did it say? Exactly.” Jessie leaned forward, bracing herself against her knees.

“I can’t…” Link floundered. “Something about wanting to kiss Christy.”

“It might have been innocent,” Jessie argued. Link shook his head.

“I know what I saw.”

The three sat in silence for a long time, turning over the news in their troubled minds. Rhett opened his mouth to speak a few times before he finally ventured, “Maybe… Maybe that’s for the best.”

Link gaped at him with wide eyes. “No, it’s not. The best thing would be if Christy and me worked things out. You know that.”

Rhett shifted on the sofa, swiping his hand through his hair. “But you’re… you know… you’re-”

“Yes,” Link spat. “I’m cheating, too. But this,” he gestured between the three of them, “this is different.” Jessie tamped down on an expression that spoke otherwise. “I just thought… I guess I had hoped that… I don’t know…”

“Did you think Christy would wanna be a part of this?” Jessie asked very carefully. Link’s eyes said everything necessary. Jessie sighed and looked to Rhett for strength, but he seemed just as lost.

“Look,” Link retorted, “I didn’t think that this was all just going to be fine with her, but I had hoped that somehow…”

“That she’d be okay with you sleeping with other people? Even if it’s just us?” Jessie supplied. Link had half a mind to tell her to stop with the hard questions.

“I know it’s ridiculous,” he said through gritted teeth, “but I was sort of hoping there was some way I could make all of this okay.” He ignored the thought about the impossibility of having his cake and eating it, too.

“But Sheena’s a woman,” Rhett interjected, hands hanging in the air.

“Yes, Rhett,” Jessie sniped, “Sheena’s a woman. Catch up with the rest of the class.” He pursed his lips. “Look, Link, maybe this is what you needed. Both of you. Maybe now, you can get off the fence instead of waiting for everything to just fall into place.”

“Shit or get off the pot,” Rhett limply offered.

“Yes, exactly.”

“Yeah, Sheena’s a woman,” Link added uselessly as his mind drifted away from Jessie’s advice. “I think that’s the weirdest part.” Rhett shot Jessie a satisfied glance. Link paused, glaring at the bottle in his hands. A frantic bubble of laughter rose through him. “Too bad she hates you, Jessie, or that would have actually been kind of perfect.”

“That’s not funny, Link,” Jessie said in a clipped voice.

“Do you think…” Link licked his lips and self-consciously rubbed the nape of his neck. “Do you think she’s actually a lesbian? Is that why she doesn’t want to be intimate?” The room went quiet.

At length, Rhett spoke up. “I mean, that’s not for any of us to say. Only she knows the answer to that.”

“I mean, she can’t be,” he said confidently, but then his eyes flickered with doubt and he asked, “Right? She was always so into it. Or so I thought.” He slouched. “She’d always surprise me with crazy hot stuff. She wouldn’t have done that if she was just going through the motions?” He looked at them imploringly. “Right?”

“Like I said, brother,” Rhett answered grimly. “We couldn’t possibly know what she’s thinking.”

Link sighed deeply, like he was airing out a dank basement. “Look, I just… I can’t process all of this right now.” The look in his eyes shifted, and where there was once confusion was now burgeoning heat.

“You know,” Rhett softly offered, “and stop me if I’m out of line…” He wrapped one arm around Jessie’s shoulders and pulled her in close to his side. She shifted until she was pressed flush against him. “But it kind of feels like all of this is justified now.”

“You know that’s not true,” Link replied, but his protest lacked any conviction or steam. Rhett kept his eyes glued to Link’s as he bent down to press a kiss to Jessie’s ear. She quickly caught onto the game.

“We’re all guilty now,” she whispered, pulling Rhett’s head down until his warm lips brushed against her neck. “So that makes us all even.” She shivered at the sensation of his hungry mouth licking and nibbling at her sensitive skin. “Except,” she gasped, opening up to Rhett’s wandering hand, “I seem to recall that Rhett and I owe you one.”

Link’s breathing picked up, and he pressed his damp palms to the molded plastic armrests of his chair. “I don’t-”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” Rhett mumbled between wet kisses. “Gotta pay you back for services rendered.”

“Services.”

“Mmhmm,” Rhett moaned, sliding his long fingers down to rub Jessie through her jeans. Her eyes rolled back, and she gave a frantic, shaky laugh. “Jessie’s been real keen on returning the favor from the other night.”

“Oh,” Link breathed. “That.”

Both men watched her as she peeled away from her husband’s teasing touch. She walked over to Link with a soft smile and spread his knees wide before falling down between them. She rested her cheek on his thigh and gazed up at him with big, brown eyes.

“Would that be okay with you, Link?” She asked sweetly. He breathed sharply through his nose as he nodded. “Mind you, it’ll be mighty hard with these jeans in the way.” She traced the inner seam with a dainty fingertip. He nearly fell out of his chair in a bid to slide his jeans down past his knees until they gathered around his ankles. Jessie grinned. “Mind if Rhett watches?” Link stared at Rhett with rapidly encroaching hunger. The man met Link’s hot gaze unflinchingly, as he rubbed himself through his jeans, mouth slack, free hand resting on his belly. Link’s heart skittered in its cage.

“Fine by me,” he croaked. Jessie hummed her pleasure and shifted to give him more room to wiggle his underwear down to meet his bunched up jeans. He settled back in the chair, and took a breather, one small moment to gaze down at the woman kneeling between his bare thighs. She gave him a soft smile as she traced her nails softly up towards his crotch.

“You gotta keep quiet,” she murmured, pressing kisses up the inside of his thigh. His cock twitched when he felt her breath brush over his crotch, and he fought to urge to sink his fingers into her hair.

“I’ll try,” he rasped.

He hissed when Jessie gripped the base of his cock and lifted it to her lips. When she gave the red tip a chaste kiss, he bit off a nervous moan. She fought a grin, but when he saw her lips curl, he laughed. She slipped his cockhead past her lips and brushed her tongue against the divot. Neither noticed Rhett unzipping the fly of his jeans and pulling his own cock out. He teased the length as he watched his wife take more of his best friend’s cock into her clever little mouth. She sucked until her cheeks hollowed and then pulled away with a soft pop. Link whimpered.

“That’s real good, baby.” Link’s voice was breathy. He was already losing himself to pleasure.

“How good?” She purred before dripping a stream of saliva down over his hot flesh. She spread it all over his dick with a twisting, pumping motion of her hand.

“You make me wanna come,” he breathed. “You’re such a good girl. So good at that.” He glanced over at Rhett, his breath catching as he took in the sight of Rhett leaning back on the sofa, his long legs sprawled out as he jacked himself.

“Rhett taught me everything I know,” she whispered with an evil sparkle in her eyes. She slid her tongue down the large vein running the length of his cock.

“Maybe,” he groaned. “Maybe sometime you can teach Rhett how to suck my dick.”

“Fuck,” Rhett grunted, and his grip on his hard dick tightened. “Baby, show him how deep you can take it.” She glanced over her shoulder and gave her husband an intense look. She turned back to Link and guided his hands to the back of her head. Their eyes locked together, she took his cock into her mouth, down until her nose pressed into his belly.

Good girl,” Link panted, and Jessie swallowed around him. “Jesus Christ!” He gripped her hair and pulled her off. She gasped in some fresh air, and Link’s body shook as he watched thick strings of saliva snap and drip down her chin. She sucked him back down again, and this time, Link grabbed her skull and guided her to bob up and down on him. She groaned around his dick, and Link jolted at the sensation. “Oh, Rhett, she’s so fucking good.”

Rhett didn’t respond. His whole body was drawn up tight. His bicep flexed as he stroked himself at a dizzying pace. He was biting his lips and whimpering, eyes screwed shut. Link felt himself reaching a breaking point. The next moment was a blur of Jessie squeezing his balls, Rhett’s gorgeous voice wailing as he came, and Jessie sucking his soul out of him. His orgasm hit him like an electric bolt, swift and bright and incapacitating. She sucked his come right out of his balls, and he half thought he’d come again as he watched her swallow every drop, a blissed out look in her eyes.

“You taste real good, Link,” she sighed, wiping her mouth clean with the back of her arm.

“Well, you can have all the come you want, baby,” he mumbled, falling slack against the chair. He stroked the crown of her head. “You can come get it anytime.” She smiled and bent down to give his softening cock a tender kiss. He gently grabbed her face with both hands and pulled her up to meet him in a searing kiss, tasting himself on her tongue. He pulled away a fraction of an inch and demanded in a cool voice, “Now, how about we take this to the couch, and you come sit on my face, sister?”

“Oh, gosh,” Rhett chuckled. Jessie bit back yet another smile.

“You must be absolutely soaking wet,” Link whispered against her lips. She grabbed his wrists and used his body to pull herself up to her feet.

“No, sir,” she chastised him. “Today was about payback.”

“Y’all get the hell over here and lay down for a while,” Rhett ordered, straightening up his mess. Link slid up next to him, their bodies pressed flush together, Link nuzzling up into Rhett’s armpit. Jessie laid down on top of them in a tangle of arms and legs and slow, loving kisses. A long time passed like this, blessedly free of interruptions from the others at work in studio. At length, Jessie turned her face to Link.

“So, what are you gonna do about Christy?” She asked softly, and for a long moment, silence fell thickly over the room. She nearly repeated the question, unsure Link had even heard her, but he stirred against her and began to speak.

“I know it sounds crazy,” he finally whispered, “but I feel like something can be saved. I feel like there’s still hope.” Jessie’s brow screwed with concern.

“Oh, Link,” she sighed.

“I know, I know.” He chewed his lip and fidgeted with a lock of her hair. “I just… I still love her so much. She’s been there for me for so long. I just can’t go down the path my parents did. It just isn’t an option.” Rhett bent down to press a kiss to Link’s forehead.

Jessie swallowed hard and began her protest. “Link, you know that’s not-”

“He’ll figure it out, Jess,” Rhett said firmly. “He’ll figure it out.”

 

When Link closed the front door, he was met with the sound of silence, not the usual stampede of happy kids welcoming him home. His footsteps echoed through the hall, and his unease grew when he saw that the kids’ backpacks weren’t deposited on the sofa in the sitting room.

“Hello?” He called, and Jade came tearing out of the kitchen, barking and leaping up against his shins. “Hey, girl. Where is everyone?”

He snatched her up into his arms and climbed the stairs. He padded down the hallway to his bedroom. The door was slightly ajar. He pushed it open and entered. The sight awaiting him stole all the air from the room. Resting at the foot of the neatly made bed was a sheet of notebook paper and a tangle of green lace. He set Jade down on the floor and numbly sat on the corner of the mattress. His chest bloomed with bitter, choking pain as he nudged aside Jessie’s panties and picked up the note with trembling fingers.

I’ve taken the kids to stay with my sister. Our flight will have left before you arrive home tonight. Don’t call. Don’t follow us. I’ll be back on Friday. You and I have some decisions to make.

He walked over to the bedside table, picked up the lamp, and slammed it against the far wall.

Chapter Text

Rhett: Need a ride to work today?

I’m not coming in today. Sick as hell

Rhett: Shit man you okay?

Yeah probably just a cold

Rhett: Anything I can do for you? Need a ride to the doctor?

I can ask Christy to help

Rhett: Jessie can bring you some soup

That’s what my wife is for

Rhett: Look if you change your mind just text me and I’ll be over asap

Link sighed. He hated lying to Rhett, but at present, the thought of talking about Christy’s sudden disappearance with their children was too much for him to bear. After all, Rhett would just drag Jessie into it, and Jessie would be furious and demand he tell the police that his wife had kidnapped their kids, and then the three of them would argue until sunset, and as much as he wanted them near, he just couldn’t weather both of their fiery passions, not in the state he was in.

He slid open the glass door and walked numbly out onto the back patio, an open bottle of whiskey in his hand. He plopped down onto the wide sofa swing and watched the world waking up around him. The birds were singing their cheery morning song, and his neighbors were likely still getting ready to ship their kids off to school and start their workday on this otherwise most unremarkable of Thursdays.

He hoped to God he wouldn’t be sober for long.

He stretched, trying to work a kink out of his neck that he’d gotten from falling asleep on the floor in front of the sofa the night before. His eyes burned but remained mercifully dry. The whiskey was bitter and cool and welcome, and before he knew it, he’d downed a good deal of the toxic stuff. The morning breeze was cold and damp as his skin began to buzz. He didn’t want to know the time. It didn’t matter in the slightest. He went back inside and synced his phone with the speakers in the living room. Slowly, ethereal strains of guitar and pulsing bass filled the air. He drank in the opening strands of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” because, apparently, he felt like crying his eyes out again.

He hated how much he needed to see Rhett and Jessie. If he called them, they would arrive in an instant. They would soothe his tears, hold him steady, and tell him that everything had to get better after this, because this was, after all, surely the worst. He didn’t care to think about what exactly “after” entailed at this point, only that it most likely involved Christy leaving him. He took another swig of whiskey to curtail the lump rising in his throat.

Jessie: Hey, brother
Rhett said you’re not feeling so good

Just a cold probably

Jessie: Is Christy taking care of you?

Yeah

Jessie: Where’s her car, then?

Link’s stomach twisted, and he blearily marched to the front door. When he yanked it open, he saw Rhett’s car pulling in behind Jessie’s parked in the driveway. Jessie unbuckled and got out, her eyes big and round as she looked across the lawn at Link.

“What the hell, guys?” Link called out as Rhett climbed out of his car. They said nothing until Rhett had ushered the three of them into the house and shut the door behind them. Jessie wrapped her arms around Link’s waist, but he tried to pull away, sputtering, “Christy’s gonna be here any minute. Y’all should go.”

“Cut the bullshit, Link,” Rhett muttered, face soft and sad. He bearhugged Link, pulling him in tight, nearly crushing Jessie between them. They stood like that for a long moment, husband and wife soothing Link’s back. He melted in their arms with a long, cleansing sigh.

“How’d you find out?” He asked flatly. They all knew there was no need to elaborate on the question.

“She texted me,” Rhett whispered against Link’s hair. “Said she and the kids were taking an impromptu vacation.” Link closed his eyes to fight the tears welling up in the corners.

“She say anything else?” He asked, not really sure he wanted to know.

“Asked me to check on you, make sure you were okay.” Link’s heart seized in his chest.

“Goddammit,” he muttered thickly. The long embrace ended, and when they separated, Jessie tugged Link by the hand into the living room and guided him down onto the sofa. When she saw the open whiskey bottle on the coffee table, she pursed her lips and plucked it up. Rhett slid in next to Link on the sofa as Jessie went into the kitchen. Rhett pressed a soft kiss to Link’s brow.

“We’re gonna get through this,” he whispered. “No matter what happens, we’ll get through this.” Link nodded numbly, leaning into the warmth of Rhett by his side. Jessie returned with a glass of water. He tried to drink, but his throat tightened fiercely as he swallowed.

“Listen, hon,” Jessie said gently, coming up behind him to massage his shoulders. “Let’s get you cleaned up and go grab a quick bite to eat.” Link fought back bitter tears.

“I can’t be around people today,” he rasped. Rhett squeezed him.

“You won’t be around people,” he said through a grin. “You’ll be around us.”

Link knew it was futile to continue arguing, so he allowed the two of them to guide him upstairs for a change of clothes and a comb through his hair. He felt a little bashful when Rhett stood so close behind, supervising Link brushing his teeth.

“Look, you’re doing it, Link,” Rhett encouraged him, wrapping his arms around Link’s sensitive middle. “Good job!”

“Thanks,” he replied with a nearly giddy laugh. Feeling Rhett clinging to his body, showering him with silly praise, made Link almost feel light for a moment. He turned in Rhett’s arms and rose up onto his tiptoes, capturing Rhett’s mouth in a hungry kiss, tasting something dark and wild. Rhett groaned into his lips.

“Minty,” he sighed as Link pulled away. Link kissed him again for good measure. Jessie leaned against the doorframe, watching the two men tasting each other’s tongues and grasping at each other’s clothes, aching to be closer.

“Y’all about ready?” She asked with a smirk.

“God, yeah,” Rhett groaned.

“I meant for lunch, dummy,” she drawled. Rhett forced his hands away from Link’s magnetic body and turned to his wife.

“You better watch it, little lady,” he warned, stalking towards her with his hands raised like claws. “I’m hungry for more than just food.” She shrieked and scrambled to get away, but he grabbed her waist and hoisted her up. She wrapped her legs around his hips and laughed into the fierce kiss he pulled her into.

In the car on the way to the restaurant, Link still wasn’t quite sure how they’d all made it out of the house without mauling each other first. They stopped at a little Greek restaurant a couples miles from the house. Whatever the other two were talking about, Link wasn’t sure. He was focused on moving his food around on his plate with his fork. He mourned his oncoming sobriety with each gulp of water he took. When they all rose from the table to pay the bill, he was grateful the two hadn’t commented on his loss of appetite.

 

Barbara was barking and jumping at the garage door when they arrived at Rhett and Jessie’s. Link bent to lift her up, and she licked his face as they climbed the stairs from the basement garage up to the first floor.

“What time do you have to go pick up the kids?” He asked as they wound their way through to the living room.

“Charla’s bringing them home after practice,” Jessie answered, scooting down to lean against the armrest of the long, orange sectional. “We have a few hours.”

“Good,” he mumbled, slumping down next to her until his head rested in her lap. He fixed his gaze up to the sloped ceiling high above. Rhett lifted Link’s feet and situated them in his lap as he joined the two. Jessie ran her fingers through Link’s hair, scratching sweet sensation through his scalp in an aim to soothe. Barbara curled up at Rhett’s feet, whining until Rhett kicked off his shoes and started rubbing her with his toes.

The AC kicked on at some point, easing the afternoon malaise that had settled over them. Link focused on Jessie’s calming touch, measuring each breath to a slow and even meter. At length, a question bubbled up in his mouth.

“Why do you hate her so much?” He swallowed hard and felt Jessie shift under his head.

Her voice sounded a little hurt when she finally answered, “Link, I don’t hate her. She hates me.”

“Why, though?” He asked in a voice that verged too close on begging. “What happened between you? I asked her once, and she just… She ignored me and went to take a long bath.” Jessie sighed sadly.

“I honestly wish I knew, bubba,” she muttered. “Things just… changed. She stopped coming to us with her problems.” Link could feel a shudder pull through Rhett, but he couldn’t bring himself to look at the man’s face.

He licked his lips. “I love her so much.”

Jessie squeezed his shoulder. “I love her, too, Link. More than I could possibly say.” Her voice broke. “But if she needs to fly, we’ve gotta let her.” Link’s face screwed up miserably as melancholy pulsed through his whole body.

“I’ve hurt her so badly,” he rasped. “She never woulda gone off with Sheena if I hadn’t-”

“We all did,” Rhett corrected him, and Link was silently thankful for the kind of restraint the man was so clearly struggling to uphold. If Rhett started crying, all was lost. “Even if she never finds out that it was us.”

“Stop. I can’t handle you trying to take blame for this,” Link hissed, beginning to lose the battle with his welling tears. “The responsibility always rested on my shoulders. I’m the one married to her.” He swallowed hard and choked out, “For now, anyway.”

“Oh, come on, Link,” Jessie interjected. “We’re all pretty much married to her. At least where it counts.” Link nodded silently. He felt Rhett grasp listlessly at his ankles.

“I just feel like I’m torn in two.” He cleared his throat. “Because on the one hand, I don’t feel bad about being with you two. It’s so fucking right. But on the other hand…” He cut off the sob that roared through him, and a single tear coursed down his cheek.

“I know, bo,” Rhett muttered.

“I just…” He took a steadying breath. “I wish things had worked out differently.”

“Of course,” Jessie croaked.

“I can’t lose her,” he managed to utter in his tear-stained voice. “I made a vow to her, and I mean it as much now as I meant it back then.” Silence overcame the three. Barbara whined at Rhett’s feet until he remembered to nudge at her again.

After some time, Rhett ventured, “Is there a chance she’ll forgive you? I mean, if you don’t tell her the specifics of who you were with… Maybe we could just figure out a way to fix all this.”

“Yeah, but…” Link swallowed down another sob and steadily said, “It would mean giving up loving you two this way, I’m sure. For good. And that kills me.”

“It kills us, too,” Jessie whispered, wiping the tears from his cheeks and ignoring her own. Link felt Rhett grasp his hand, and he turned his gaze to his best friend’s bloodshot eyes.

“Hey, bo,” he said thickly with a strained, false smile, “we support whatever you choose. You don’t have to worry about us, okay?”

Link laughed cruelly. “Easier said than done. ”

“How about…” Jessie began before losing her nerve. Link turned to her, and she continued, “If it happens like you say, how about…” Her breath hitched, and her fingers tightened almost imperceptibly in his hair. Link’s heart sped, and he damn near demanded she just come out with whatever it was she was trying to say. Rhett saved her.

“How about today we have one last hurrah? Just to say goodbye to… this… element of our lives.” His voice suddenly felt so isolated down on the other end of the sofa, and it took everything in Link not to rush to the man’s lips.

“You know I can’t,” he protested through gritted teeth. He pulled his hand from Rhett’s.

“Please, Link,” Jessie asked breathlessly. “Just give us this. One last time.”

“You’re being selfish,” he hissed.

“Yeah,” she whispered soft and low, and she bent to press a cool kiss to his forehead. He cried out in a fury, and before he could scold himself, he reached up and grasped her face, pulling her into an awkward upside down kiss. Their teeth knocked together, but he didn’t care.

“One last time?” He demanded, glaring into her eyes.

“One last time,” she whispered, nodding as she guided him up to face her. “That’s it.” He pulled her soft lips against his own, and he allowed himself a moment to really taste her, as though for the first time no matter how untrue the sentiment. He ran his tongue over her lower lip. She shook with a broken sigh.

“Jess,” Rhett whispered. “What should I do?” She pulled away from Link, turning her eyes upon her husband with a kind of faith and desire that left Link aching with hunger.

“Rhett, I think it should be up to you.” She softly pressed Link towards Rhett. “I think Link needs you. Tell him, Link, okay?” Link let her guide him. He moved towards Rhett on hands and knees, stopping when he felt Rhett’s large, warm hands guide his face up. The words were difficult in coming, but when he saw the wanting in Rhett’s eyes, he swallowed down his shyness.

“I need you, bo.” It was little more than a breath of thought, but Rhett practically moaned upon hearing it, and he pulled them both up to their feet.

“Bedroom,” he gruffly murmured, and the others didn’t protest as they followed Rhett upstairs to the bedroom. Jessie shut the door behind them, more out of habit than necessity, and she watched her husband pull Link down onto the thick mattress in fierce need. She closed her eyes, hanging onto the sound of shifting fabric and wet kisses.

Rhett slid off Link’s clothes with clumsy hands, bumping against him in an alternating series of false starts and nervous chuckling. When she went to stand at the foot of the bed, she was met with the sight of Link stretched out naked on the covers, doused in warm afternoon sunlight. Rhett slipped off Link’s glasses and reached over to carefully set them on the nightstand.

“Lift up your knees, bo,” Rhett muttered, a soupçon of trepidation keeping him crouched at his lover’s feet. Link obeyed, splaying out before Rhett. He wrapped his fingers loosely around his soft cock and pulled at it gently, watching Rhett pull himself together. Jessie placed her small hands on his shoulders and squeezed.

“Get him ready, sug,” she coaxed, and Rhett nodded. He crawled between Link’s parted legs and lowered his face to the man’s welcoming core. His breath lashed at Link’s private place, and Rhett watched with a jolt as his blush pucker tightened.

“Oh, gosh,” Rhett gasped, but when he felt Jessie’s hand against the back of his head pushing him forward, he met the delicate crease with a chaste kiss. Link whimpered. Emboldened, Rhett swiped Link’s skin with the tip of his tongue, tasting musk and dark heat. Link grasped frantically at the sheets. He pressed his open mouth against Link’s hole and devoured him with his tongue and sucking lips. He glanced up to see Link’s cock growing rigid against his belly.

“How does he taste?” Jessie asked breathlessly, hands clinging to Rhett’s sides as she crouched behind him watching. Rhett reached up, grabbed her by the neck, and guided her down between Link’s thighs with him.

“Help me, and you’ll find out,” he growled, and he thrust his tongue against Link’s opening once more, circling and dipping ever so slightly through the tight ring. Link’s needy whines fractured as Jessie slid into place and sucked his balls into her soft mouth.

“Oh, my God!” Link gasped, body drawn taught at the gorgeous dual assault on his crotch. He begged, “Rhett, go deeper!” Rhett’s body thrummed.

“Pull your ass open for me, baby,” he grunted, and Link slid his hands up under his cheeks and spread himself out even more for them. Jessie pulled back for Rhett to draw in closer. He circled Link’s gaped pucker once, twice, before slipping his slick muscle as far as it would go. Link cried out, his thick lashes brushing against his cheeks in his ecstatic agony. The smell of Link’s crotch overwhelmed Rhett, so filthy and sweet at the same time. He pulled back and spat a mouthful of saliva against Link’s balls, and before the thickness of it could ooze down into Link’s gaping hole, Jessie surged in and licked it up with tender nips to Link’s sensitive taint. Rhett gasped in her ear, “Get his hole, too, baby.”

“Gladly,” she purred, and she slid her tongue down from his balls to his taint to his pulsing rim. Link spread himself even further, and she summoned up a mouthful of their mingled spit and dripped it slowly into his body. Rhett bit his lip, watching his wife doing the kind of depraved things he’d only dreamed about. He gathered up more saliva and dripped it into Link’s hole until it overflowed, dribbling out of him onto the duvet. Jessie dug her nails into Rhett’s arm and husked, “Do it, Rhett. Come on, baby.”

“You want me to fuck him?” Rhett asked, looking damn near stoned with his eyes so darkened by lust.

“Oh, God, Rhett,” Link whined. “Please, please, please.” Jessie smirked and slid up to Link’s side, kissing his neck, sucking on his ear. She yanked open the nightstand drawer and pulled out a plastic bottle. Rhett grabbed it from her hand and set it aside. He braced his hands against Link’s thighs, kissed his inner knee, and demanded Link’s undivided attention.

“You ready for me, baby?” He growled, and Link fell apart, keening for the absolute love of his life to delve into his body and wring out every drop of his soul.

“Yeah,” was all he could say, and Jessie grabbed his hand as Rhett slotted his cock against Link’s slick cleft. When Rhett pushed into him, met by tentative tension, he gingerly worked through it. Link howled in anguish and lust for every delicate inch that Rhett discovered. “Oh, God, yeah! Rhett, I-”

“Oh, my God, Rhett, look at him,” Jessie moaned, kissing at Link’s eyes and hair and neck in a frantic need to feel how deeply Link was falling apart at the seams. Rhett growled as he thrust forward over and over, at some point falling to his elbows on top of Link’s body as he embedded decades of pent up love and want into Link’s aching, raw, tight, wet hole.

“Jess, I’m not gonna last. Link!” He cried, already embracing his impending release. Jessie reached across Link to grab the bottle of lube and squirted some into her hand. She chucked the bottle away before slipping Link’s dick into her tight fist. “Yeah, Jess, give it to him!” She worked Link until his spine curved and his muscles drew taut.

“Oh, baby, fuck, I’m gonna come real soon,” Link sobbed. “Yes, God, ah!” Rhett dug his nails into Link’s ass and bucked into him so hard his balls slapped against Link’s pale flesh. “So… fucking…” And when Link screamed Rhett’s name into the ceiling, only then did Rhett’s head drop as his orgasm dragged every ounce of come from his balls into Link’s body. He fucked his come deep into the man, screaming his own agony and ecstasy. Another trembling wave of release toppled him, and he fucked his spurting come even deeper until he lost strength and collapsed on top of the man wrapped around him. He was a long time coming down from that exquisite high. As his sense of sound and touch returned, he could hear Link whimpering, could feel him shaking, still taut with need.

“Jesus,” Rhett gasped against Link’s shoulder. “Did you come?” He could feel Link shake his head no. He pushed back up on his hands and gazed down at Link’s face, at Jessie still sucking on Link’s flushed skin. When his softening cock slipped out of Link’s tight, private place, he almost collapsed again at the vision of his come dribbling from that same opening, puddling on the duvet cover. Jessie pulled Link’s mouth to meet hers.

“Link, honey, I want you to come in me, okay?” She begged, writhing against his torso, writhing against Rhett’s leg. “Just fuck me hard until you come.” Rhett slid away, shifting Link up on top of Jessie’s body. Neither man could remember when she’d taken off her clothes, but they didn’t waste any time thinking about it.

Link guided his blissfully hard cock towards her soaking wet cunt, pressing the weeping, red head against her slit. He hesitated for a breath of a moment, but when Rhett shoved at his ass, he knew nothing other than the need to slide into her, balls deep. She groaned and dug her nails into his back, pulling him closer, deeper.

“I love you so much,” he cried as he pushed against her body, reveling in the press of her small breasts against his chest, the slick rhythm they quickly found. “Jessie, I can’t hold it back much longer.”

“I’m almost there,” she gasped. “Been touching myself.” And then she took a deep breath, and an instant later, he felt her suddenly tighten around his cock. He groaned at the feeling of her hot pussy grasping at him, and it all became too much. With a scant few more thrusts, a liquid brilliance cascaded through him that left him pulsing come into her.

“You’re mine,” he deliriously howled, biting down on her shoulder as they rode through orgasm together. His mind blanked out, and the only thing he could take in was Rhett collapsing against them both, shared kisses, whispered affection, a bittersweet sense of farewell.

He wondered, in some distant corner of his mind, if he could ever be this complete again.

 

Jessie had dropped him off at home. They had ridden in silence, his hand on her knee. The reassurance felt good, but the silence had been a stark reminder of the whole finality of things.

He found himself standing in the scalding hot shower, washing the last vestiges of Rhett and Jessie away from his body and soul. He would meet Christy cleansed of wrongdoing and ready to make amends.