The first time Barabas realised he was in love was on a regular Thursday afternoon. It had been several months since the last time someone tried to kill anyone Barabas cared about, and he was having a relaxing evening at home.
Christopher was sitting across the room, with a book in his lap, and calm. He was shockingly, breathtakingly handsome, and the sweetest man Barabas knew.
Christopher looked up and smiled at him, and Barabas wanted nothing more than to take Christopher into his arms, take him into his bed.
He couldn’t, for a number of reasons, but he could have this, could have Christopher here in his home and in his heart.
If he could never have anything more than this, it was enough.
Then, I probably will.
Christopher would probably live, and that was some comfort. But not enough. He drew his gaze away from Christopher’s face to stare down the approaching line of soldiers.
There wasn’t a lot he regretted in life, not a lot he would do differently, given the chance.
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
He didn’t look away from the army flooding the field. He should look at Christopher, he knew, should see his face. But Barabas was a coward in this.
Movement out of the corner of his eye, and Barabas turned to meet Christopher halfway in a kiss.
There was a moment of near unreality. Christopher’s lips were soft and dry, and Barabas hoped against hope that neither one of them would die.
The battle passed in a blur that seemed to last forever, and be over in the blink of an eye. Barabas could hardly believe it when the dust settled, and he was still standing.
He couldn’t find Christopher at first, and he moved almost through a fog searching, barely stopping to check on the fallen.
Barabas would know Christopher anywhere. The moment he spotted him, his heart stuttered in his chest. The posture was different, shoulders back, spine straight. He was nearly unrecognizable from the man they rescued from D’Ambray’s castle—except to Barabas.
He didn’t wait, feet moving almost before his brain told them to. His hand landed on Christopher’s shoulder, and Chris was turning, hands seeking Barabas’s chest, his shoulders, his face.
His eyes sought frantically across Barabas’s face. Sometimes in recent months, Barabas had felt like he didn’t recognize the man. The calm in his eyes and voice almost a stranger. But this, this was familiar. Christopher pulled him in for another kiss, hard and frantic. Barabas thought, this is only our second kiss.
Then, I will marry this man.
Barabas had hardly seen the kid in months, and the last time he was at Barabas’s house was… well, never actually.
It wasn’t personal.
That was the way with Boudas. It was never personal, until it was.
Barabas didn’t say anything when he opened the door to find Ascanio standing there, simply stepped aside, letting the boy enter.
He wasn’t much of a boy, these days. He had always been too handsome by far, but Kate did some good work with him and he now carried himself with an air of confidence. If Barabas wasn’t happily engaged, and if he was fifteen years younger, he’d be swooning.
“What can I do for you?” Barabas asked.
He had an idea, of course, but he wanted to hear Ascanio say it. Ascanio briefly looked uncomfortable, pulling the snot nose teenager Barabas was familiar with to the surface. He would almost be nostalgic if he wasn’t dreading the next words out of his mouth.
“Your mother sent me.”
Ah, there it was.
Barabas had a fine relationship with his mother. It was maybe even good—most of the time. He could just never shake the feeling that she had never quite forgiven him for not turning into a Bouda.
“I thought she would come by herself,” he said.
Ascanio rolled his eyes, proving once again that only so much ever really changed. “She could if you answered her calls.”
Barabas chuckled at that. “Fair enough. What does she want?”
Ascanio gave him another look. “The wedding. She wants to discuss the guest list.”
Barabas signed. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll talk to her.”
Ascanio didn’t move.
“Now,” he confirmed.
Barabas took a deep, calming breath. “Let me get my coat.”
When he returned home several hours later, Christopher was in the kitchen. He smiled up at Barabas, and Barabas leaned in for a kiss, still somewhat unbelieving that he got to do this now.
Christopher’s hand was warm and large on his neck, and Barabas let himself sink into the feeling of Christopher’s body pressed against his own.
Christopher pulled back, his hands on either side of Barabas’s face. His eyes were clear. Barabas was not quite used to that look, but he was always the man Barabas loved, always recognizable.
“You alright?” he asked.
Barabas let the tension drain out of his shoulders. “I am now,” he said with a slight smile.
“Where did you go?”
Barabas glanced up at the ceiling. “I went to see my mother.”
Christopher hummed. His thumbs stoked across Barabas’s pulse point. “Is everything alright?”
He took a deep breath. “My mother can be difficult,” he said, choosing his words carefully.
Christopher had met her a few times, when they still lived in the Keep, and on the rare occasion that his mother had come to their house since they broke ways with the Pack. Barabas knew that he shared in the blame for the strained nature of their relationship, but it was hard to make things right between them when his mother would never admit how she felt and Barabas couldn’t bring himself to ask.
“Is it… because I am a man?” Christopher asked.
If only it were that easy. “No,” Barabas assured him. “It’s not that, although part of me wishes it were.”
“Really?” Christopher asked.
“It would be simpler,” Barabas admitted. “My mother… she wanted a different life for me. A Bouda life,” Barabas explained. “And when things didn’t work out that way, she couldn’t help but be disappointed, and her disappointment shows, at times.”
Christopher scowled. “She has nothing to be disappointed about,” he said fiercely.
Barabas watched his face carefully, but it was clear Christopher meant what he said. He always meant what he said. Even during the times Barabas couldn’t understand him, Christopher always spoke his truth.
“I was worried… she might not approve,” Christopher said. “Of me.”
“What?” Barabas asked.
“I’m not exactly what mothers dream of for their children,” he replied with a casual shrug. The expression was foreign on Christopher, he was many things but casual was not one of them.
Barabas gripped Christopher’s hand tightly in his own. “I don’t care what anyone else thinks,” he said. “You’re my dream.”
That was the truth. It was the truth when they first rescued Christopher, it was true when they lived in the Keep, it was true when Christopher was lost and broken, and it was true when he was full and found. Barabas had wanted this—wanted Christopher—for so long, it almost felt like he had to keep pinching himself to remember it was real. But it was.
It was real, it was real, it was real.
Christopher leaned in, kissing him slowly.
Barabas wrapped his hand around Christopher’s wrist, clinging tightly, his other hand coming up to grab the back of Christopher’s neck. Christopher kissed him hard and urgent, and Barabas tried to reply in kind.
They hadn’t fucked much, just the first time after battle, the two of them holding onto each other as tight as possible, not wanting to let go, not daring to let each other out of their sight.
It wasn’t that Barabas hadn’t wanted to, since. It was just he wasn’t sure if Christopher wanted to, was the thing. He was scared to make the first move--again--scared to do something that would have Christopher looking at him and saying, actually, I changed my mind.
Christopher hadn’t either, and Barabas didn’t know what he was thinking, was afraid to ask, and the two of them had danced around each other instead, almost always within arms reach when they were at home, and sleeping in the same bed at night.
In some ways they’d done their whole relationship out of order, and Barabas was afraid but he wanted this, wanted Chris so much, he just didn’t know what to do.
“Is this,” he said between kisses, “Can we--?”
“Yes,” Christopher said. “Anything, everything.”
They stumbled upstairs, stopping every few feet to kiss and touch. Christopher pressed Barabas up against the hall and bit his jaw, down along his throat.
There were too many clothes.
“Take off your shirt,” Barabas begged.
Christopher did, tossing it to floor without a second thought. He was usually meticulously neat, never leaving anything out of place. The careless gesture was enough to have Barabas pressing his hips forward, wanting to be closer, closer.
He took a moment to admire Christopher’s shoulders and chest. He’d been skinny--much too skinny--when they first brought him home, but the last two years had been kind to him, and he filled out everywhere. Barabas wanted to touch him all over, and then start again with his mouth.
Christopher leaned in, kissing Barabas once on the mouth, then stripped him of his own shirt. The two of them fumbled with belts and buttons, but managed to get rid of their pants by the time they made it to their bedroom.
The room was bright and clean. The book Christopher was reading was spread open across his bedside table. Barabas could see a pair of socks on the floor, where he’d missed throwing them in the hamper last night. This was their bedroom, the evidence of the two of them and their shared life was plain for anyone to see.
It was these details, that made him pause again, suddenly unsure.
Christopher pulled back and looked at him, his eyes searching Barabas’s face.
“What is it?” he asked.
Barabas paused. He was used to words coming easily to him, but he had left so many things unsaid between them for so long, it was hard to know where to start.
“I was scared,” he said.
“Of me?” he asked, stepping away.
“No! No. Never of you.” Christopher watched, seeming to sense that he needed time. “I was scared you wouldn’t want me. I was scared of how much I wanted you, of asking you for things you couldn’t give, or taking advantage of you. I feel like we’re in a holding pattern, and I’m scared you feel like you have to give me what I want, that you don’t have a choice.”
Christopher moved forward until they were chest to chest. He took Barabas’s face between his hands, cupping him gently.
“You saw me,” Christopher said.
“Chris…” Barabas said. “What--I don’t--”
“You always saw me,” Christopher said. “You always treated me like a person. Always. It used to scare me sometimes, being inside my own mind, but you never once acted like I was frightening, even when maybe you should have.”
“Chris,” Barabas said, at a loss for words.
“I wanted you too, so much. But I didn’t think I could ever deserve you, or that you would want me. That you do… that’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Barabas had to kiss him then, and the two of them stumbled to the bed. Christopher broke their fall, cushioning Barabas’s head with his hand.
Their first time had been a frantic crush of bodies and limbs, hands gripping hard and holding tight, the two of them just happy to be alive.
This was different, slower, but somehow more intense. Barabas could hear his heart pounding in his chest, could hear the echo of Christopher’s beating with him.
Every time he opened his eyes, he saw Christopher’s intense gaze looking back at him. The brightness that was Christopher was almost blinding, but when he closed his eyes, he was still overcome with sensation: the whisper of Christopher’s palm against his chest, the slick of lips moving against each other, the way his body opened and stretched.
“Look at me,” Christopher begged.
Barabas did, body arching off the bed as Christopher slid in, in, in. Tears pricked his eyes, and his fingers dug into Christopher’s shoulders.
“Don’t let me go,” he gasped.
Christopher bit his neck, and they moved together. Chris got a hand on him, and it wasn’t long until Barabas spilled between them, hot and sticky.
It didn’t take long for Christopher to follow, the two of them shaking apart and putting each other back together.
Barabas held Christopher after, running his hand through Christopher’s hair, over the long line of his spine.
“I wish it could always be like this,” he said. “Just the two of us.”
“You’d miss your job,” Christopher said.
Barabas thought about that. He had a point. “I wish we could get married just the two of us,” he said.
Christopher pressed a kiss to his temple. “Why can’t we?”
Barabas had to think about that. “I mean, people will care.” Christopher didn’t say anything, only hummed. “Won’t they?”
“Who?” he asked. He sounded sleepy, and when Barabas looked down his eyes were closed.
“Kate?” She was the first person to come to Barabas’s mind, but it only made sense. Ever since they left the Pack along with her and Curran, she was essentially their Alpha.
“Kate Daniels?” Christopher asked. “The one who nearly had to be dragged down the aisle?”
Alright, that was a fair point. But just because Kate wouldn’t care, didn’t mean no one else would. “The Pack?”
“They’ll get over it. We’ll have a party here after.”
Barabas had to admit, that sounded appealing. What he wanted most was to be married to Christopher, not to suffer through all the politics that came with it. “What about my mother?”
Christopher pushed himself up onto his elbow and smiled down at Barabas. “I can’t tell you what to do. I can only say that you’re the only one I need.”
Barabas smiled. “You’re the only one I need too,” he said. “Are we really doing this?”
Christopher was breathing hard, his wings unfurled behind him. The stone monster that had momentarily reared its head, now reabsorbed into the ground.
“I hope this isn’t how you great all your guests,” Christopher said. There was a faint sheen of sweat along his hairline, and his eyes were startlingly bright. He looked good. Strong.
“It is,” Roman said, not a shred of remorse in his voice. “If you had my family, you’d understand.”
Barabas knew enough about Roman’s family to know that probably wasn’t an exaggeration.
“Still,” Roman continued. “What brings the two of you to my humble abode?”
Christopher looked around pointedly at Roman’s spacious home, but remained quiet. Barabas huffed a quiet breath.
“We’re eloping,” he said. There, that was easy. Simple, straight to the point.
Roman blinked. “Uh,” he said. “Congratulations?”
Christopher nodded. “Yes,” he said. “Now.”
A moment passed while Roman seemed to take that in. “Wait,” he said slowly. “Now, like now? Now, now?”
Christopher nodded. Then he looked at Barabas. For a long time Barabas had been used to seeing that expression on his face--the one of a lost man who needed guidance. It filled Barabas with comfort and meaning to be that person for Christopher, and though both of them had grown and changed in the years since then, he liked that he could still be that person when Christopher needed it.
“Now,” Barabas confirmed with a smile, not taking his eyes off Christopher.
A slow, creeping smile spread over Roman’s face. He rubbed his hands together. “Excellent,” he said.
Things moved quickly. Roman offered them both coffee while he went somewhere in the back of the house ‘to prepare.’ Barabas sipped his slowly, as he watched Christopher pace across Roman’s kitchen.
He was wearing a sharp suit, a navy so dark it was nearly black. There was a small tear on the sleeve from their earlier scuffle, and his hair was rumpled, but Barabas couldn’t remember him ever looking so good.
“Did you change your mind?” Barabas asked. His voice came out steady. He was a lawyer, after all.
Christopher stopped in his tracks, turning slowly. He took two quick paces across the room, and cupped Barabas’s face between his palms. “About you?” he asked. “Never.” His eyes were warm and clear. Barabas let himself simply be, the two of them standing so close their breath mingled.
Marriage, he thought, would change everything and nothing. They’d go on living together, sleeping together, working together. And yet, there was something inside him that calmed at the thought of the two of them joining their lives in this permanent way. Christopher would be his, just as he would belong to Christopher. Barabas couldn’t quite fathom how they had ended up here, but he was so glad that they did.
Somewhere in the back of the house, Roman’s voice rang out. “Come on, you two. Let’s do this.”
Barabas held out his hand, and Christopher took it.
“I love you,” Barabas said.
Christopher smiled, the future blooming bright across his face.