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And They Lived More or Less Happily Ever After

Chapter Text

Cliff had been in the hospital bed long enough that the pain had begun to be overcome by his boredom. There were really only so many times he could sneak a cigarette when his middle aged nurse wasn't watching and he'd read all the magazines that the few friends he had left in Hollywood had brought him.

The only bright spot in his day, unsurprisingly, was Rick's daily visits. But, that was how it always was, wasn't it? Cliff was his supporting man, and Rick was the star. Well, his star, anyway.

Rick came in as he always did, in a cloud of smoke and a bundle of nervous, hungover energy that was all at once charming and uneasy. He slammed the door of the hospital room behind him and pulled the stiff visitor's chair close to the bed, already taking out his pack of cigarettes before he'd even greeted him. Rick offered one to Cliff and he took it gratefully. They bent their heads together over the lighter and Cliff glanced up through his lashes, not so ill or drugged he couldn't appreciate his friend's handsome face, no matter that he'd seen it a million times before.

“Fuck,” Rick said when he'd filled his tarry lungs and then breathed it out, the smoke curling around his words. “Cliff.”

“Rick,” he replied, lounging back against the hospital bed. He knew he looked like hell warmed over and the hospital gown was pulled up a little too high on his thighs for decency, but he could be easy around Rick like he'd never been able to with anyone else. And sure, Rick required a certain amount of manipulation and delicate handling, but it was a little like tuning up an old car- that car of your dreams that you'd had since you were sixteen. The car that had seen you through losing your virginity and car racing and cross country voyages. You'd slept in her and fucked in her and yeah, she'd left you on the side of the road more times than you could count, but she was there. She was yours, forever. That was Rick.

Cliff had never doubted, even when Rick had awkwardly confided that he couldn't afford to pay Cliff anymore, that they'd remain in each other's lives, because that was just the kind of relationship they had.

Rick's hands were shaking more than usual and Cliff gave him a more critical look. He hadn't seen Rick so rattled in a while. “How much did you drink last night?” he asked, because Rick was a hardened drinker- the kind who could pickle their livers by night and then wake up and fuck the day in the ass, and then repeat it all over again without missing a beat.

Rick gave a slightly hysterical laugh and brought his cigarette back up to his mouth, inhaling mightily. “Fucking nothing,” he said, in his hoarse voice. And then, when Cliff had lifted disbelieving eyebrows at him, Rick gave his head a violent shake. “Fucking nothing, Cliff. I'm fucking done. When I think... Goddamn, if you hadn't been there. And me, drunk off my ass. How many goddamn mistakes have I made because of the booze? I'm sick of it. If I want a career I have to get myself fucking together.”

Cliff rolled his head on his pillow and looked up at the ceiling. He knew his input wasn't needed here, and his silence spoke for him. Rick didn't have to explain what alcohol had done to him, because Cliff had been through it all. Cliff knew all the fuck-ups and he'd helped to clean them up himself. But then, Rick knew Cliff's fuck-ups too, and he was still there.

Besides, it was the first time he'd heard Rick say anything positive about his career in a long time, and Cliff wasn't going to be the one to discourage him, since Rick's success was also Cliff's success.

“I'm done, Cliffy,” Rick said, using the pet name he did in only the softest, most intimate moments between them. Cliff looked over at him sharply, surprised. And, even more surprisingly, he found Rick's face open and earnest. “This is my goddamn second chance and I'm not going to fuck it up like all the other chances I've had.”

“That's good,” Cliff finally said, when it was obvious Rick was looking to him for confirmation, as he often did. Rick was like a child, in that way. Cliff wasn't so confident Rick could do it, but then, maybe he would. It was the first time he'd admitted he had a problem, even though it had been glaringly obvious for years, and Cliff would be there if Rick needed him, regardless of the outcome. “You set your mind to it, you'll do it,” he said firmly. “Ain't nothing you can't do if you're determined enough.”

Rick immediately looked relieved. His shoulders dropped a little and he was able to settle back into his chair. His shaking even subsided, as though he hadn't quite been able to believe in himself until Cliff did. “You've got to get out of here, buddy. We've been getting offers left, right and center. Everyone wants to hear our story. This could be our chance. And Roman Polanski's coming back next weekend, did I tell you?” (He had. Several times.) “Sharon wants us to come to dinner and meet him. Fuck, this could be it. Me and you, we're not done with show business yet.”

Me and you. Cliff and Rick. Cliff smiled lazily. He liked the sound of that. “Soon,” he said. “Soon as I can get around on my own and I don't need Nurse Milett to help me to the john. Then I can go home.”

Rick scoffed, making smoke shoot out of his nose. “You aren't going to be alone. You're coming back to the house. I don't think I can sleep without Brandy there to watch over me. Can't have you taking her away again.” Rick gave a theatrical little shiver and then smiled shakily, almost a touch anxiously, as though he thought Cliff would abandon him.

Cliff thought it over, and came to only one conclusion. Rick had more or less fired Cliff, because his limited budget wouldn't support a wife and a best friend. “What about Francesca?” he asked, because Francesca wasn't an idiot, whatever Rick thought, and she'd never really liked Cliff. She might even have suspected that her husband and his long time stunt man were not all they appeared to be, but she'd been wise enough to keep such speculation to herself.

Then again, while Rick had done his duty as a new husband and buried himself balls deep in his wife, he'd later snuck into Cliff's trailer and let Cliff bury himself balls deep in Rick. So. Who could blame her for being suspicious? It wasn't her fault she'd married a man who was a little bit in love with his stunt man.

The question about his wife had a dramatic effect on Rick, though. His entire posture became tense again. “Francesca,” he said darkly. “Francesca is at a hotel. Francesca has already hired a lawyer to get the marriage annulled. Francesca is going back to Italy. Apparently life in Hollywood is not everything she hoped it would be and she doesn't feel safe here. Also, she thought I was a bigger star than I actually am.”

Cliff wasn't exactly shocked, but he looked at Rick, trying to gauge whether his heart was broken and what his response should be. Sympathy or indignation on Rick's behalf? After a few tense moments a corner of Rick's mouth twitched up and his eyes sparkled, and Cliff laughed sharply, delighted. They laughed until Cliff was clutching his hip and gasping with pain.

“Thank God,” Rick chortled, smoke bubbling up from between his fingers. “I was so drunk when I proposed to her that I didn't even remember it until she reminded me the next day. By that time, what the hell was I going to do, tell her that the idea had seemed a lot better when I was half way through a bottle of whiskey?”

“Your face,” Cliff wheezed. “When you got married, I could see the panic in your face. I could have told you marriage was a mistake. Always is,” Cliff said, only realizing the significance of that statement when it had already come out of his mouth. The taste of his cigarette was suddenly stale in his mouth, as memories he did his best to forget came to his mind.

Rick, though. He wasn't like everyone else in Hollywood. Rick didn't judge him. They were more than aware of each other's imperfections and sins, and they'd long ago accepted them.

Rick reached out and grabbed Cliff's hand, giving it a quick but meaningful squeeze before releasing him, lest the nurse come in and see them. His fingers lingered a little on Cliff's knuckles in a caress that Cliff knew from experience held promise. He turned his palm over and squeezed Rick's hand in return, putting all the affection and love he had for Rick into the gesture.

“You just get yourself well enough to come home, and I'll play nurse,” Rick said with a small, suggestive leer. “Mark my words, there are big things ahead for us, and I'm going to need my stunt man.”

Chapter Text

Rick had an arm slung around Brandy and was rocking back and forth gently, his eyes tightly shut and his lips moving soundlessly, as though he was having an argument with himself. Knowing Rick, he was probably silently berating himself.

Rick was nude except for a pair of pajamas pants slung low over his sharp hipbones and his silk robe drooped off his shoulders, exposing the leanness of his belly. Since he'd given up the drink he'd lost the fifteen pounds he'd gained in Italy, plus five more for good measure. Cliff hadn't seen him eat much more than celery sticks and endless rounds of virgin bloody Marys in weeks. He picked at the meals that Cliff hopefully put in front of him, and then slid the rest to Brandy under the table, which Cliff didn't have the heart to chastise them for.

Cliff was doing sit ups on the floor, alternating between looking up at the repaired ceiling and back at Rick. He hadn't really thought Rick could do it, but for once in his life Rick had been firm. He'd seen his opportunity, and in a show of resolution Cliff hadn't known he had, Rick had taken his second chance and held on to it with both hands. But, sobriety hung heavily around Rick. He was alright when he was busy and distracted, but he found the quiet times difficult.

Cliff sat up and put his forearms on his knees, really looking at Rick and his dog. Brandy was loving Rick's attention, of course. She was staring fixedly at Rick's face, her tongue lolling out of her mouth and her tail wagging madly. She'd adored Rick since she'd been a pup, when Rick would pick up her little squirming body and hold her for hours, a drink in one hand and an endless round of cigarettes hanging out of his mouth. He was the only one other than Cliff who Brandy had been trained to accept attack commands from, and though he was much too soft to have a true affinity for dog training like Cliff did, he knew having her around gave Rick comfort.

“Brandy,” Cliff said, and Brandy's tail froze mid wag, instantly alert. She looked at Cliff, awaiting command. “Good girl,” he said, and she relaxed again.

“I know,” Rick said, opening his eyes and smiling ruefully. “I'm coddling her again.”

“Well,” Cliff said, in his slow, measured way. “I reckon it won't do any harm. This time,” he added, and pointed a finger and lazily pretended to shoot the two of them. Pow. Pow.

Rick slunk back against the couch and Brandy draped herself over his thigh happily. He put a foot up on the coffee table that Cliff had bashed a hippie's head into and looked up at the ceiling. “It isn't so bad when I'm busy,” he said, and they had, remarkably, been very busy.

With the testimony Cliff had been able to provide, leading investigators back to the commune at the Spahn Ranch, the whole sordid story had come out, with the leader of the cult originally planning the attack on Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate's house instead of theirs. Aided by the heavy media coverage of the bizarre behavior of Charles Manson and his cult, the story had become an international headliner that had fascinated the world. Both of them had been on so many talk shows and news programs that Rick had achieved his lifelong goal: he'd truly become a household name.

Rick hadn't been wrong about it being great for his career, either. Rick was getting parts- really, really good parts, the kinds he hadn't gotten even at the height of his career. Rick had surprised even Cliff, who'd already known Rick had acting depths he'd had little opportunity to plumb. He had the chops for the big parts, turning out performances that made those who'd once sneered at Rick look at him with new respect. They'd been intensely busy, and publicly Rick had thrived. Privately, however, he'd suffered. He'd been sober for six months, and Cliff didn't think a day had gone by that Rick hadn't fought tooth and nail to maintain it.

Rick sifted a frustrated hand through his dark blonde hair. “I don't even fucking know who I am when I don't have a drink in my hand,” he confided, his voice gravely and small. He didn't cry as much when he wasn't drinking, for which Cliff was immeasurably grateful, but he'd always allowed himself to be vulnerable with Cliff.

Cliff ran a hand over his jaw. He had a vested interest in keeping Rick sober and working. When Rick worked, Cliff worked. But, more than that, Cliff cared. He didn't take Rick's trust lightly.

“I remember you when you were sober,” Cliff said, and that seemed to drag Rick out of his despondency. They'd been matched up early in Rick's career, and Rick's loyalty had meant that when his own star had risen, he'd taken Cliff with him. “Yup, I was there in the beginning, remember?”

Rick focused on him, faint interest kindling in his eyes. “What was your first impression of me?”

Honestly, Cliff couldn't remember. He'd probably thought that Rick was a self-absorbed pretty boy who didn't know the ass end of a horse from the front end, but for diplomacy's sake he kept that to himself. “Shit,” Cliff said, grinning back, pleased that his distraction seemed to be working. “I thought you were the finest piece of ass I'd ever seen.”

Rick chuckled at that, making him seem boyish, rather like the kid he'd been when they'd met instead of the aging man he was.

“And I thought you were the most talented actor I'd ever met. I knew you were going places. Rick fucking Dalton.” And that wasn't a lie, either. Rick had always had that star quality, that hunger and charisma that set him apart from the run of the mill pretend cowboys that had flooded Hollywood in the fifties.

“I thought you were the most manly man I'd ever met,” Rick said, leaning forward and putting his head in one hand, looking at Cliff with undisguised admiration. “This tough as nails war hero. I knew there wasn't anything you couldn't do, no problem you couldn't solve. I still do.”

Well, shit. Cliff didn't require the constant ego stroking that Rick did, but he wasn't immune to compliments, either. “Watch it, boy,” he warned, his drawl heavier than usual. “Or you're gonna start somethin'.”

Rick just smiled. He slowly unbelted his robe and let it puddle down onto the couch, draping over Brandy's head. She gave a little woof of disapproval and jumped off the couch, going over to her dog bed to chew on her bone.

Rick hooked his thumbs in the waistband of his pants, drawing attention to the indecent amount of pubic hair that was revealed. He looked at Cliff steadily, invitation clear. Rick had always respected Cliff's boundaries; he'd never been demanding of sex. He'd never had to. Rick had only ever had to pierce Cliff with those crystal blue eyes of his, and Cliff had been his. They'd been lovers for nearly as long as they'd known each other, and no wives, girlfriends, years or circumstances had yet come between them. As sure as Cliff could be of anything, he didn't think any ever would.

Cliff rolled onto his knees, feeling only a small twinge in his hip where his stab wound was mostly healed. He'd had worse wounds, and it would take a hell of a lot more than a few crazy hippies to put him down. He prowled over to Rick and put his hands on Rick's knees and spread his legs so that his broad shoulders could fit between them.

Rick breathed out shakily at the touch and sank even lower on the couch, pushing his crotch out towards Cliff. Fucking peach. He'd always been so fucking eager for Cliff, so goddamn hungry for his touch, and Cliff knew exactly how to give Rick what he needed.

Cliff rewarded Rick with a kiss to his inner thigh, his lips brushing against the warm silk. He slid his palms up Rick's muscular thighs and then gripped his hips, making Rick squirm under his touch. Rick had a physique that good genes had rewarded him with, rather than work. He'd never been terribly concerned with fitness the way Cliff was, but he was lean and strong and filled out his costumes in an aesthetically pleasing way, which was more important by Hollywood standards.

“Cliff,” Rick murmured, arching up his hips again in entreaty.

“I hear ya,” Cliff said, amused, and walked his lips up Rick's thigh until he was nuzzling Rick's balls through the fabric. Rick reached out and ran his fingers through Cliff's hair, ruffling his hair but not tugging, and then clasped his palm tenderly against his scalp, idly stroking the strands with his thumb. When Cliff glanced up he saw Rick biting on his lower lip.

Cliff grinned and mouthed at the growing shaft, making Rick breathe heavily, and then he was pressing kisses against Rick's abdomen, crawling up Rick's chest until he was leaning over him, his mouth hovering above Rick's lips so that Rick had to angle his head and strain up to kiss him.

“Bedroom?” Rick asked, because that's where the vaseline was and that was his code for asking if he would be getting fucked that night.

Cliff grinned and grabbed Rick's biceps, hauling him up so that they swayed together. “Bedroom,” he growled.

Chapter Text

Cliff put his hands on Rick's hips and walked him down the hall towards the master bedroom, as though he needed guiding. Really he was only watching Rick's fine ass as the globes flexed and moved under the thin silk of his pajama pants.

At the bedroom door Brandy, who'd followed her master, got a stern look from Cliff. “Sorry, darlin',” he said with a click and a hand gesture to let her know that she was not meant to pass the threshold. “Some things aren't meant for a lady's eyes.”

Rick chuckled and turned in Cliff's hold, so that his hands were full of the ass he'd so recently admired. He kicked the door shut behind them and then he gave Rick's rump a healthy squeeze. “You saddle sore, baby?” Cliff asked, because in the last six months he'd been distracting Rick from his woes using all the tricks he had at his disposal, sex being his personal favorite. It felt like they'd had more sex in the last six months than they had in the past ten combined- not that he was complaining.

Rick shook his head and pushed in to kiss Cliff again, their lips and tongues lazily stroking. The length of their relationship had burned off the desperation of their earliest encounters, but intense passion had been replaced with something Cliff found just as satisfying. Rick was a partner he was utterly comfortable with; he knew all the ways to please him and relished doing so; and he was someone that Cliff didn't mind falling asleep next to afterwards, or waking up next to in the morning.

Cliff massaged Rick's ass while they leisurely kissed, until Rick was grinding up against his front and their kisses grew hungry and sloppy. He hooked his thumbs into the elastic waistband of Rick's pajamas pants and released, so that the silky fabric fell straight down to puddle around Rick's bare feet. Cliff pushed him towards the bed and Rick sat down on the edge, his hard cock flushed and jutting out eagerly between his parted legs.

Cliff grinned at the sight. Fuck. His life was good. He easily pulled his t-shirt off and tossed it on the ground, then pushed his sweatpants down to the floor, exposing his nude body. Rick was biting his lip again, looking at Cliff like he'd never seen any sight better- and hell no, he hadn't. Cliff worked hard to look the way he did, mostly for his work, but a little out of vanity. It did his ego good to see the way Rick looked at his trim, hard body. He might be on the wrong side of fifty, but he sure as shit didn't look it.

Cliff closed the distance between them and put a hand to Rick's jaw, forcing him to look up into his eyes. “Get it wet,” he ordered, in the same tone he might have used on Brandy. Rick's reaction was just as cheerful and obedient.

Rick always gave head like he might win a prize for it if he tried hard enough. He closed his eyes and sucked it right down, bobbing slowly lower and lower until Cliff's big cock was plunging down his throat and his nose was making little whistling noises as he inhaled raggedly. Even when it brought tears to his eyes, Rick just put his hands on Cliff's waist and encouraged him to set the pace, to fuck his mouth and use him as he saw fit.

Cliff smiled and put a hand to Rick's jaw, brushing his thumb against his bulging cheek so that his eyelashes fluttered and he looked up at Cliff. There. That was perfect. He'd come down that throat so many times, those pretty blue eyes looking up at him, that sometimes Rick only had to look at Cliff to get him hard and aching for his mouth.

Cliff let Rick suck him for a few minutes, then he gave his jaw a tap. Rick pulled back, giving the head one last lingering suck that made Cliff's toes curl, and then he crawled back up the mattress and stretched to reach the vaseline on his bedside table. Cliff held out his hands for the little plastic tub and Rick tossed it to him.

“C'mere, baby,” Cliff said, and grabbed an ankle to drag him back down the mattress towards him. He got down on his knees and gave the sole of the foot he'd grabbed a quick kiss, and then rested it on his shoulder, so Rick was spread wide open for him.

When Cliff had been in the war he'd fucked around with interested comrades, in the dark of night with the specter of death hanging above them. He'd done it because there were no women, and though he'd liked it well enough, it had never even occurred to him he might fuck a man again after the war ended. Then he'd met Rick, and everything he'd imagined to be true about himself had changed.

As far as Cliff was concerned, a man's junk just wasn't pretty the way a woman's beautiful oozing twat was, though. Handsome though Rick's face was, his dick was no better looking than any other man's. Rick's scrotum was wrinkly and his balls were heavy, dragging the skin down. His pubic hair was thick, the blonde now peppered liberally with gray and his cock nestled in a bed of it, red and leaking. His asshole was dark and smelled like what it was: an asshole.

Ah well. A woman's cunt might be tastier, but no one moaned or pleaded like Rick. There was something deeply satisfying about reducing Rick to quivering submission. It was like planting a flag on foreign soil and proclaiming it yours. Rick fucking Dalton was the property of Cliff fucking Booth.

Cliff leaned forward and put his tongue to Rick's hole and Rick whimpered above him, arching into his touch. Cliff reached up and palmed his cock, giving it a few indolent strokes because it made Rick squirm like a puppy. He lapped at Rick's asshole until it grasped and fluttered, so hungry for his cock Cliff only had to press his vaseline slicked finger gently against it for it to suck him inside.

Rick trembled and moaned at the invasion, his knees up and his toes curled. “Cliff, goddammit, please,” he begged, and shit. Who was Cliff to deny anything his man needed?

“There ya go, honey,” he said, and pushed in a second thick finger to join the first. He thrust them in roughly, searching out that spot that made Rick wild. He stroked it and Rick's eyes rolled up in his head, his mouth falling open in a silent gasp. A rope of pre-ejaculate spurted out of his cock, and Rick's legs fell open wider, a subtle signal he was ready and eager.

Cliff scooped up another glob of the vaseline and smeared it on his dick, then leaned down and wiped the excess on Rick's cock and belly. “Comin' in,” Cliff warned him, and walked his legs out a little, so that the head of his dick hovered above Rick's hole.

“Yeah,” Rick said eagerly, and he obediently drew his legs up further, clasping his hands behind his knees so he was bent in half, the swollen rim of his hole glistening with petroleum. Goddamn, what a sight. Cliff put a finger to the base of his prick, angling it, and then pushed in. He wasn't gentle, because that wasn't what Rick liked. He plunged in, almost hard enough to hurt, and Rick let out a hoarse shout.

Fuck that's good,” Rick whispered, his face growing pink from his contortions and a sheen of sweat on his forehead.

“Yeah,” Cliff growled, gazing down at his lover and relishing the feel of him beneath him, so vulnerable and trusting. Rick might play the tough guys, but he was soft. He was defenseless against Cliff, and they both knew it. But Cliff would never betray his trust, because Rick was also precious to him- more so than anyone ever had been. Something about that balance- the knowledge that he could easily hurt him, but that he never would, made his heart heavy with the intensity of his feelings for Rick.

Rick, totally unaware of Cliff's dark thoughts, just writhed beneath him, cock slapping against his belly and balls bouncing as Cliff slammed into him again and again. His mouth was gaping, mindless moans and repeated cries of Cliff's name escaping his throat. They moved together, their bodies colliding and grinding until the backs of Cliff's thighs burned and Rick's cries had been reduced to a steady stream of keening. Cliff could have happily fucked him all night, but he could tell Rick wanted to come, so he took Rick's legs for him, holding him in place with his own arms.

“There you go, baby,” Cliff crooned, watching Rick's hand as he began to jack his cock, the reddened length sliding quickly through his curled fingers. “That feels good, yeah? You fuck that hand, Ricky, you get your cum all over it. I wanna see it,” he grunted between his teeth, his own thrusts growing fast and sharp, pushing himself to come now that he knew that Rick wouldn't last much longer.

“Cliff,” Rick whined, his head thrown back. His belly heaved with his labored breaths and sweat dripped down the sides of his forehead, making his hair dark around the hairline. “Please. Please, let me come. Tell me to come, please.”

His nonsensical begging was like a match to kindling. It conjured up the image of Rick on his knees, looking up at Cliff and needing him- him. Rick didn't need some sweet faced Italian bitch or the approval of a director or even the drink. No, what Rick needed was Cliff. Everything that Rick needed, Cliff would give him. He'd take care of him. His darling. His Rick.

“Come, baby, yeah like that. Look at you, so fucking gorgeous, coming for me,” Cliff said, giving him what he needed. Rick rewarded him with his compliance, crying out Cliff's name as semen spewed out of him like a gush of blood, striking his chest and neck and squelching through his fingers sloppily.

Cliff followed right after him, his eyes trained on Rick's face, the vision he needed in his mind as he came.

“Fuck! Rick!” Cliff shouted hoarsely, his last thrusts so hard that Rick was pushed up the bed, his hands flying out to grab the bedspread. Cliff heaved in ragged breaths as he shot his seed inside Rick. He pushed his hips hard against his ass, pressing deeper and harder, as though he wanted to climb right inside Rick's body.

When his orgasm had faded to a distant rumble of pleasure, Cliff withdrew and dropped to his knees. Guided by animal-like instincts, he pressed his face between Rick's legs and inhaled the primal scent of their joining, the mingled odor of Rick's sweat and Cliff's seed. He'd have licked Rick clean if it weren't for the petroleum, so he just stayed where he was, his cheek cradled against Rick's hairy inner thigh and his panting breaths huffing against Rick's hole.

After a few minutes Rick sat up and reached down to him, petting his damp hair and pushing it off his forehead. He threaded his fingers through the strands and brushed the hair gently, the tips of his fingers massaging his scalp along the way. Cliff closed his eyes and allowed Rick's affection, letting the caress soothe him. They weren't always so demonstratively tender with each other, but their lovemaking had been intense- almost different than it ever had been before, and it left Cliff feeling unsettled.

Chapter Text

“Cliff,” Rick said, when Cliff had remained on his knees for longer than was probably good for them. “You didn't hurt yourself, did you? Your hip okay?”

Cliff let out a huff and shook his head, his cheek jostling Rick's thigh. “No, I didn't fuck up my hip,” he said gruffly. Goddammit, what was wrong with him? He wasn't acting like himself and Rick was getting concerned- and it took a hell of a lot for Rick to take notice of someone else's well being when it didn't directly affect his own.

With a groan that he did his best to keep silent, because he might be past his prime but he was still in better shape that most twenty year olds, he stiffly got to his feet and stumbled into the bathroom. He reached past the sink to grab the hand towel that hung there, but he paused when his eye fell on his toothbrush.

His toothbrush and shaving kit were sitting on the counter, right next to Rick's. His towel, the blue one, hung alongside Rick's on the rack by the shower. The drawer on the other side of the sink, the one that was the unacknowledged property of Cliff, held a jumbled assortment of soaps, shampoos and various toiletries that Cliff had brought from the trailer.

He'd lived with Rick ever since the hippie attack, ostensibly to provide security. Though his clothes were in the guest room closet, he spent so few nights there he'd more or less slid right into the spot Francesca had vacated and moved in with Rick to the master bedroom.

Their arrangement had become strangely comfortable. Sleeping with Rick and waking up next to him, having it on good authority there was no one else in Rick's bed simply because he was already in it and they were rarely apart- it was making him think strange things. For all that they'd maintained the closest of friendship over the years, they'd never lived together before. Usually when they'd fucked they'd shared a cigarette and a laugh and then Cliff had gotten in his car and driven out to his trailer to sleep alone. It was just the unaccustomed closeness that was fucking with his head, that was all.

Cliff glanced up into the mirror and saw that Rick was sitting up in the bed, his blonde hair disheveled and a little frown on his face as he watched Cliff, obviously wondering what the fuck had gotten into his buddy. His buddy. Yes. They might have been lovers for going on fifteen years, but they'd never had what one might call a committed relationship. They'd both been married to women, for God's sake, Rick as recently as six months ago. And Cliff had never been jealous or possessive before. He'd never felt any sort of ownership of Rick- how could he? Rick had never given so much of himself to Cliff before. Not like he had seemed to lately, where Cliff was his only lover, his only companion...

Chiding himself for his uncharacteristically sentimental thoughts, Cliff shook off his confusion and grabbed the hand towel. He put it under the tap to get it wet then wiped the grime off his dick. He rinsed it in the sink, wrung it out, and then brought it back for Rick. They'd both need a shower to get the remnants of the vaseline off, but they could smoke a few cigarettes in comfort first.

His instinct was to wipe Rick off himself, but given the strange turn of his thoughts, he pushed it aside. Instead he handed the towel to Rick and flopped down on his side of the bed. He grabbed a pack of cigarettes off his bedside table and pulled two out. While Rick wiped himself off Cliff put two to his mouth and lit them, handing the second to Rick when he'd thrown the towel in the direction of the bathroom for Cliff to pick up later and crawled up to the head of the bed beside him.

Rick took the cigarette gratefully and inhaled deeply, still glancing over at Cliff occasionally, as though he wanted to ask what the hell was wrong with him, but he knew better. It was just as well, because Cliff didn't know what the hell was wrong with him either. It wasn't like him to get emotionally twisted up- not with anyone or with anything. He definitely hadn't been this overwrought by his wife, even when she'd drowned. He'd just seen too much in his life to bother with it, and that was a philosophy that had served him well for over twenty five years since the end of the war.

When they'd silently smoked their cigarettes down to the filters, Cliff lit two more for them. They'd settled down into their respective sides of the bed, growing more comfortable as the peaceful silence lengthened. It was still a bit early to sleep for the night, but Cliff could feel his mind growing slow and lethargic. He slumped into the pillow, his eyes half closed. He'd have to get up pretty soon and let Brandy in or she'd be scratching at the door, but he'd rest a little longer. If he fell asleep Rick would get up and let her in before he turned the lights off, anyway.

By his side, Rick picked a script up off his bedside table and began to flip back to his place. It was for some mystery film Roman Polanski was getting together, and Sharon, who had become Rick's champion in the months since her aborted attack, had slipped Rick the script 'just in case.' Cliff could tell it was something Rick was really excited about. He'd told Cliff there would be some good stunt double bits, and that was always good news.

Cliff had almost fallen asleep, his cigarette nearly burned down to his knuckles, when Rick spoke.

“I'm giving the smokes up,” Rick said, putting down his script and staring down at his cigarette, his expression complex and unreadable. Then, though it was only half smoked, he reached over and slammed it down into his ashtray. “It's making my voice phlegmy. Giving me a goddamn cough. That's fine for a Western type, but it's no good for the parts I want.”

Cliff looked over at Rick, stricken immediately out of his doze. He'd been smoking since he'd been a kid bumming cigarettes off his old man. Cliff stared down at his own cigarette, imagining a life without them. He'd more or less given up the booze along with Rick, purely from lack of opportunity, but he'd miss nicotine much more than alcohol. Then again, he'd given up more than that for Rick, and it did not come even close to the threshold of what Cliff would be willing to sacrifice for him. He brought the butt up to his lips and breathed deeply, no longer willing to waste any.

“Alright,” he said after he'd smoked the cigarette and stubbed it out on the ashtray on his bedside table. “We'll give up smokes.”

Rick sucked in a sharp breath and jerked his head around to stare at Cliff. “What?” he said. “I didn't say you had to. Why the fuck would you?”

Cliff lifted a shoulder nonchalantly. Once having made his mind up about a thing, he didn't often worry or second guess his decisions. “It'll be a lot harder for you to quit if I don't. And anyway, it will do me good too. Can't let some young gun take my place as your double because I can't breathe.”

Rick's mouth opened and closed a few times, and then, to Cliff's dismay, his face crumpled. Rick sometimes wept after sex- Cliff had never understood why, and Rick had never been able to adequately explain it. But when they were alone and safe from the censure of the world, Cliff let him. He'd seen tougher men than Rick cry, and he wasn't in the business of judging a man's burdens.

Cliff wordlessly slid his arm under Rick's shoulders and pulled him so that his head rested against his chest. Rick immediately curled into him, throwing his arm around him and hugging him tightly. He pressed a kiss to Rick's forehead, because it was all he'd ever been able to do.

“Goddamm it!” Rick said, frustrated. “What the fuck is wrong with me? I'm happy for God's sake!”

Well. That was new. “Huh,” Cliff said after some consideration. “Sometimes people cry when they're happy.” Cliff didn't, of course. Cliff hadn't wept since the war. Everything after that had seemed so pale and inconsequential in comparison, there really wasn't anything worth getting particularly worked up about.

Rick scrubbed his knuckles against his leaking eyes so hard it must surely have been painful, so Cliff gently brushed his hand away, clasping his wrist when Rick tried to pull away. “What kind of man am I?” Rick muttered, that old familiar self loathing edging back into his voice. “I don't know how you can stand to be around me.”

A corner of Cliff's mouth lifted up. He squeezed Rick's wrist, his thumb brushing against his fluttering pulse. “Oh, I manage alright,” he drawled. “Don't know what kind of man you are, but I guess you're my kind of man.”

Rick let out a huff. He wasn't looking at Cliff, as though he were ashamed, but he wasn't crying anymore either. “Fuck. You're good to me. Everything is just different now. Better. You're here, and the work is there, and the drink was just holding me back, making me even more miserable. Everything is just... good.”

Cliff couldn't help the rush of pleasure he felt at his words. He'd enjoyed living with Rick too, even during the first few weeks when the symptoms of his withdrawal had been the worst. He thought of Rick's listlessness and frustration when they'd settled at home in the evenings and Rick couldn't reach for the decanter as he always had before. It had gotten better- it seemed to steadily improve, in fact, but he was bewildered that Rick was so optimistic.

“I thought you hated being sober,” Cliff said, honestly confused.

Rick finally looked up at him, his own expression shocked, as though he thought his happiness had been so apparent. “What? No! My God, no. It's been fucking hard, but no. To think, fuck, a year ago I was ready to end it because I was so fucked from the drink I couldn't remember my goddamn lines anymore.” He shook his head wonderingly, as though he couldn't believe how far he'd come.

Cliff, on the other hand, had frozen. “Ended it?” he asked after a long, prolonged moment. His voice sounded to his own ear as though it were coming from a long way away, like words uttered at the bottom of a well.

“You know,” Rick said with a sheepish shrug. He lifted a hand and formed the universal symbol for a gun and held it up to his temple. He was smiling uneasily, looking at Cliff and waiting for his answering laughter, as though they might share a good chuckle at what a fuck up Rick had been and go on with their lives like nothing had happened.

Cliff found, suddenly, that laughing was the absolutely last thing on his mind. He stared at Rick, imagining what he was suggesting. Rick didn't have a gun, but how difficult would it have been to get one? And when Cliff hadn't lived with him, he knew Rick had drunk himself into a stupor every night, wallowing in his self disgust like a pig rolling in mud. Was it really such a stretch to imagine Rick, drunk and out of his mind, sinking into one of his depressions and hastily doing something he wouldn't do if he was sober?

WHAT?” Cliff all but roared, breaking the peaceful silence with all the impact of a lightning strike in the middle of the bed. He rolled onto his knees and grabbed Rick's shoulders, staring into his face intently, trying to read every little nuance of his expression to judge his sincerity. Surely Rick wouldn't joke about such a thing, but that only left the horrible conclusion that he was serious.

“Cliff!” Rick gasped, stunned. His hands flew up to clutch at Cliff's forearms, though he didn't try to push him off. Cliff was always so incredibly relaxed with Rick, though. In all the years they'd known each other Cliff had rarely even raised his voice to Rick except in the line of their work, and Lord knew that Rick had tested even Cliff's patience over the years. He'd seen Cliff act in violence, but never once against Rick. “Cliff? What are you doing?”

“No,” Cliff said, much too loud, ignoring Rick's question. He poked a finger hard into Rick's chest. “No. Never. Never do that. You tell me and I'll fix it.” Cliff had never known how to fix Rick before, but he'd do anything it took. If he couldn't protect Rick, Cliff didn't have anything. Failure was not an option.

“I- no. Cliff. I'm sorry, I didn't- I mean, I guess I didn't really mean that...” Rick was just pacifying him, though, and Cliff didn't buy it for a single motherfucking second.

“No,” Cliff repeated, giving Rick's shoulders a shake. “I don't want you to lie to me because you think it's what I want to hear, Rick. I want you to tell me if it comes to that again. You swear to me.”

“I- I will. Yes, I swear I will, Cliff. I don't... I hope it won't again. I swear I'm better when I'm not drinking. I'll be better.”

Cliff felt an unfamiliar prickling behind his eyes, something he'd have thought almost felt like tears, if he hadn't known better. He moved his hands from Rick's shoulders to his cheeks, cradling his face in his palms.

“You don't have to be better,” Cliff said thickly, because asking Rick to just be better was like asking him to go and steal a rock off the moon. “You're just the way you are, nothing you can do about it. I know that. Just let me help you. I'm here, always,” Cliff said, gazing into Rick's eyes. “If things get to be too heavy here in Hollywood, I'll take you somewhere else. Somewhere all this shit doesn't matter. Just you and me.”

“Cliffy, I will,” Rick said, his eyes sparkling with tears again. He reached up and covered the back of Cliff's hands with his. “Shit. I didn't meant to scare you, old buddy.”

Cliff opened his mouth to deny it, because he never got scared, and realized that wasn't true.

Cautiously Rick sat up and put his arms around Cliff. It was an an odd role reversal, with Rick comforting Cliff. “I didn't know you-” Rick began before cutting himself off. Cliff wasn't sure how he'd have finished the sentence. He hadn't known Cliff would care? He hadn't known Cliff would be able to help him?

He hadn't known that it would take away Cliff's meaning in life if Rick were suddenly gone?

Cliff closed his eyes. He could have told Rick that he gave him purpose. He was something for Cliff to love and protect, because that was something he needed.

Cliff just looked at Rick, feeling things he had no way of putting into words. “I do,” he said gruffly, an all encompassing response to whatever Rick hadn't quite asked.

Chapter Text

The next morning Cliff still didn't feel right. While Brandy had looked at him longingly and he'd poured her dog food- raccoon flavor- into her bowl, he'd thought about Rick's confession the night before. When he'd put a pan on the stove top and scrambled up some eggs for the two of them, he thought about coming to pick Rick up one morning and finding him, his blood and brains sprayed across the wall. When he was putting the bread in the toaster and taking the butter out of the refrigerator, he thought of the emptiness and loneliness his life would be filled with if Rick wasn't in it.

He thought of the way that eventuality, losing Rick, had almost happened in other ways, when Rick had chosen Francesca over him. Oh, he'd known they'd still see each other. He knew they'd get drinks on Saturday night and maybe fuck in his trailer afterwards when Rick found he had an itch Francesca just couldn't scratch, but they'd grow apart. It was inevitable. Rick would take smaller roles, moving further and further out of Hollywood until eventually he was not a part of it at all anymore. Cliff would have to go where the work was too, and work in Hollywood had grown scarcer over the years.

That thought sent him down another rabbit hole, thinking of the way Rick had been the only one to stick up for him after his wife's death, his loyalty unwavering. Oh, Rick had his faults, Cliff would never deny it. He was selfish, needy, and often obnoxious, especially when he drank. But once you had Rick's loyalty he was as stubbornly tenacious as Brandy chewing on a bone. He'd never backed down, even in the face of universal opposition and probably good sense. Rick should have dropped Cliff years ago, when it became clear Cliff was only a detriment to Rick's already suffering career. But once you had Rick, he was yours.

“Cliff?” Rick asked, and Cliff was startled out of his thoughts. He blinked and looked away from the woefully overcooked eggs he'd been mindlessly stirring. Rick's eyes searched his face anxiously, and finding it as outwardly relaxed as ever, the wrinkles on Rick's forehead and around his eyes smoothed out. He put a hand to Cliff's neck and pulled him close for a kiss, his breath minty and fresh.

It was something they'd never done before, this casual kissing. Before he'd moved in, they'd occasionally kissed when they'd fucked, and to do it under any other circumstance would have felt weird, to both of them. Now it had somehow become natural. If Rick hadn't kissed him in greeting Cliff would have wondered if something was wrong.

“Good morning,” Rick said when he'd pulled back. He looked down at the unappetizing skillet of eggs over Cliff's shoulder.

“Ya know,” Cliff said, scooping the rubbery scramble into the sink. “I think I'd prefer fried eggs. Two or three?”

“Three,” Rick said with relief, and Cliff knew it would be a good day. When Rick was feeling good, he ate. “It'll be a big day, old buddy. Lots of action,” he said, miming the punches that Cliff and the stunt coordinator had coached him on.

Cliff grinned at his antics, banishing his strange, melancholy imaginings. It would be a big day for him as well. His reputation had improved right along with Rick's in the aftermath of the break in, and with Rick's increasing influence, he'd been able to make sure that Cliff was his primary stunt double. It would be a lie to say that everyone on set had welcomed Cliff back with open arms, but he was tolerated and put to work, which was all that really mattered to him.

They'd been busy. Life had been good. What was the point in putting himself through the turmoil of wondering what might have happened to Rick, or where the future might take them- or lead them apart, as it almost certainly would one day? He was a man who lived in the now, always had been, and he was way too damn old to start living any differently.

“Three eggs, over easy, coming up,” Cliff said, like a line cook, and pulled out six eggs from the refrigerator.


The sun was shining high in the sky, its rays beating down on his face, but he didn't mind. He could have gone to sit in the shade of the trailers with the other staff, but it didn't take a genius to pick up on the cues that they weren't totally comfortable with him. That was okay. He didn't much care for most people's company anyway. It tended to get him in trouble, when he was around too many folks, everyone's egos rubbing shoulders.

So instead he pulled a chair out into the sunshine, close enough to keep an eye on the proceedings, but not close enough to invite conversation from anyone. He kicked his feet up on a box of moss from the props department and twisted a twig between his fingers, wishing it was a cigarette. They'd agreed to slowly cut down on the cigarettes, but that only seemed to make Cliff want to smoke more. He wouldn't do it, though, even though he knew he could sneak some when Rick wasn't around. If Rick could give up the booze and the nicotine, Cliff would be damned if he'd let him show him up.

From Cliff's position he could see Rick on the set as he talked with the enthusiastic, animated director. Fella by the name of Tarantula or something. Cliff was growing to respect him, but still he privately thought that though he was likable, he was still a bit of a weird hippie type.

Though Rick had snagged several cameos and guest appearances in bigger movies in the past six months, this was Rick's first lead role since Italy. He'd had to take a pay cut for the role, but he'd assured Cliff that this was just the sort of film to usher in his reputation as a serious actor. Tarantula was a young, fresh director with a bold artistic vision, and though he was relatively new to directing, Rick said he was going to change the whole film industry- that he was a genius.

At least Tarantino or whatever the fuck his name was didn't seem to care that Cliff had a sordid reputation. He'd admired and openly complimented Cliff's acting abilities and had even consulted him on how they could enhance some of the fight sequences, using Cliff and the stunt coordinator's knowledge to craft some truly remarkable action footage. He might be a hippie, but he was sure fun to work with.

Cliff watched as Rick paid rapt attention to everything the excitable director said. After a few minutes the second lead, an up and coming young actress named Mae, walked up as well. Tarantino put a hand on each of their shoulders, pushing them even closer together, and Rick and Mae shared grins with one another, as though they were in on a secret joke. Mae put her hand on Rick's arm and pushed him lightly, her gesture familiar and playful. In the movie their two characters were mortal enemies, but they seemed to have developed a friendship. Which was... good. Of course it was good. Rick needed more friends than just Cliff, he supposed.

He was so focused on the interaction of the three, even if he was too far away to hear the words, that he was startled to find that Mae's lead stunt double had walked over to join him.

Liz Bethel was a little older than him, and had been working as a double five years before he'd even moved to Hollywood. In her time she'd been one of the best in the business, not to mention one of the only women, but due to her advancing age she wasn't getting the same gigs as she used to. It was hard, damaging work, and personally Cliff thought Liz probably ought to transition into consulting. Then again, he suspected when his time came he'd go out kicking and screaming too, so he couldn't judge her for clinging on. Doing stunts was a tough job, but it was also damn hard to let go of.

“Booth,” Liz said, and Cliff tipped his hat to her. Liz was a stoic sort, not prone to dramatics, and hadn't outright snubbed him the way most of Hollywood's working class had. She hadn't defended him either, but at least they'd remained cordial.

“Elizabeth,” he said with a shit-eating grin, making her give him an exasperated look at the usage of the full name no one used.

She wiped the stained seat of her jeans anyway and sat down on a box of foam prop rocks beside Cliff, grunting a little. She rubbed her knees with scarred hands, and Cliff knew she was feeling her career in her joints. Cliff had escaped the worst of it mostly out of luck and a family history of vigorous health, but he was aching more and more after a hard day of shooting in ways he hadn't been fifteen years ago. How long did he have, realistically, before he had to retire his career and either live out his days as Rick's kept man, or find another line of work?

“You think they'll get to our scene today?” Liz asked as she dug a pack of cigarettes out of the front pocket of her shirt and tapped one out. Cliff shot it a sideways glance, reminding himself that he'd already had the cigarettes he'd allotted to himself for the afternoon, and then forced his eyes back to Rick. Tarantino had departed and Rick and Mae were in deep conversation, probably discussing their upcoming scene. Mae had an arm up, shielding her eyes from the sun, but her other hand seemed to reach out and casually touch Rick much more often than was necessary.

“Nope,” Cliff said, and snapped the twig in his fingers in half. Usually he was better at the hurry up and wait aspect of his job, but today it niggled at him, like a t-shirt rubbing against a sunburn. He'd been too much in his head lately- he needed a physical distraction, a chance to use his body hard enough he forgot his troubled thoughts.

“I didn't think so either.” They were both in costume, as the director had expected them to shoot a scene, but Cliff could see they probably wouldn't make it. The director was both spontaneous and a perfectionist. Sometimes he made them do a scene over and over, and occasionally he'd be delighted with the first or second take. Today was apparently one of those days that had required extensive re-shooting, pushing back their own involvement to the next day.

Liz smoked peacefully, not speaking. She could do that, which was one of the reasons Cliff got along with her. Some people could just let the quiet speak for them.

“You think there's something going on there?” she asked, nodding at Mae and Rick. Mae had her hand on Rick's arm and they were standing much closer than they really had to, though perhaps only because the noise on set made it hard for them to hear each other.

Gossip about the actors on set was nothing new to Cliff, and though he didn't take an interest in it like most of the crew did, it had never irked him to hear about it before either.

“No,” he snapped, and when Liz looked over at him with lifted eyebrows, he felt he had to explain. “I live with him and I'm his driver. He's never said anything about her, and he sure as shit hasn't brought her home. They haven't gone anywhere after work, either.”

Liz smoked her cigarette, staring at him with mild interest, which, coming from Liz felt like the Spanish Inquisition. “You live with him?” she asked, her tone curious.

Cliff felt like squirming, and he really felt like smoking a fucking cigarette. “He's nervous. After the break in, you know. Paranoid. Brandy and me- that's my dog- we're for security.”

Rick probably wouldn't have appreciated Cliff spreading it about that he was shit scared of another break in, but he'd have appreciated it even less if Cliff had let someone suspect that they were fucking. It wouldn't be the first time an actor had been hiding a homosexual affair, but it never did anyone's career any good, even when it was known by only a few. They'd always been so careful that Rick didn't even have a whiff of suspicion attached to his name, and they'd both wanted to keep it that way.

“Huh,” Liz said, apparently accepting his answer, and flicked her cigarette onto the concrete, then brought her boot heel down on top of it. They spent the rest of the afternoon waiting, and by the time the director had called it quits the only thing that Cliff had worn out was his ass from sitting around all day. He felt impatient and antsy and desperate to burn off his excess energy.

After he'd turned in his costume and hair piece at the end of the day he went to find Rick, looking for some outlet for his edginess. He found him as he was heading for his trailer.

“Just a minute, old buddy,” Rick said when Cliff strode up to him.

Cliff's palms itched and he felt full of nervous, uneasy excitement. He wanted to get in the car and drive like the devil was at his heels, or he wanted to get in a fight or have a hard fuck.

Rick was climbing up the stairs to his personal trailer, his keys in his hand. His ass looked good in his brown slacks and it made Cliff think about the way he'd bent Rick in half the night before and fucked him until he'd cried. He thought of the way Mae had put her hands on Rick, and his temper rose a little closer to the surface.

Before Cliff even knew what he was doing he found himself bounding up the stairs right behind Rick. He crowded in behind him, not touching him but near enough that he could feel his body heat radiating off of him.

Rick threw a baffled look at Cliff over his shoulder while he fumbled at the lock on the trailer. “What the hell, Cliff?” he asked.

“Get the door open, Rick, or these good folks are gonna get a show,” Cliff said in a dark undertone, and felt a mean little thrill when Rick's eyes widened with subtle alarm. Rick shot a quick glance around them, and then turned back around and yanked the latch down and scrambled into the trailer. Cliff followed at his heels, pausing only to shut the door behind them and slide the lock into place.

“What are you doing, Cliff?” Rick hissed, eyes darting around the tiny trailer as though he feared someone might have been hiding in it. Outside they could hear the muffled sounds of the cast and crew packing up to leave for the evening, and Rick rushed to the little window at the back of the trailer and slammed the curtains closed before spinning around and facing Cliff, his whole body screaming wariness.

Cliff approached him, as a tiger might stalk a gazelle. “What do you think I'm doing?” he asked, smirking. They'd never fucked on set before, and the thought made him feel alive and dangerous. He thought about bending Rick over the love seat he was crowded against and fucking him, moving slowly so as to not make a sound and clasping his hand over Rick's mouth to muffle his pretty little moans.

“Have you lost your cotton pickin' mind? What the hell has gotten into you, Cliff?” Rick whisper-shouted. His cheeks were flushed with anger, but Cliff was too far gone to perceive it. “We can't do that here!”

“C'mon, baby,” Cliff said, sliding his arms around Rick's stiff body and pulling him roughly against his front. He was already growing hard in his jeans and he put a hand on Rick's ass to hold him still so that he could grind against him. “Let's see how quiet you can be.”

Rick wasn't softening submissively as he usually did, however. His was bent backwards at the waist away from Cliff and he was yanking his arms out of Cliff's hold, his mouth sealed tightly so he wouldn't make noise, but his eyes glittering.

“For God's sake, wait until we get home, Cliff,” Rick snapped. “We get caught here and we can both kiss our careers good bye. You want that? Because I sure as hell don't.”

Cliff stared into Rick's face. His brain was beginning to see that Rick meant what he'd said, but his body was still frozen in his possessive embrace.

Rick was still struggling to break Cliff's hold on him. They were evenly matched in weight, and if Rick had really needed to get away he could have broken Cliff's hold, but he was obviously trying to not make enough movement to rock the trailer, or create noises to alert anyone outside.

“What are you gonna do, make me?” Rick asked in exasperation, slamming his palm against Cliff's chest and pushing to try and get away from him.

Cliff released Rick so quickly that Rick stumbled backwards onto the love seat behind him. He sat there, watching Cliff the same way he'd keep his eye on a wild animal.

“Fuck!” Cliff barked, raking a hand through his hair. “Of course I'm not going to make you. I'm not a goddamned rapist. Fuck.”

Cliff clutched a fist in his hair, forcing himself to feel pain, to try and distract him from his anger. He didn't even know why he was so furious, but when he got like this he was dangerous. He did things that it felt like he had no control over. He'd scared Rick- hurt him, maybe- and that was something he'd never done before. He hadn't thought he ever would.

“I know you wouldn't,” Rick said, though this time his voice was softer. He stood up and cautiously stepped closer to Cliff.

Cliff was breathing heavily and his teeth were gritted so hard he thought he might break them, but Rick just gripped his shoulders, and looked up into his down turned face. His eyes darted back and forth, as though he were trying to read Cliff. Then he put his hand over Cliff's fist in his hair and pulled Cliff's head down, so that his forehead rested on Rick's shoulder. He didn't know what Rick had seen in his face, but comfort wasn't what he'd expected Rick to offer. Rick probably should have given him a swift punch in the face. If he'd been drunk Rick might have, but Rick was less rash when he was sober.

Cliff rolled his forehead back and forth on Rick's shoulder, burrowing into the soft knit of his turtleneck sweater. Rick's hand drifted down to the back of his neck and he stroked the skin under his denim collar, treating Cliff so much more tenderly than he deserved.

Cliff was still breathing raggedly, but he could feel himself growing calmer. He purposefully unclenched his fists and then looped his arms around Rick's waist, this time keeping his hold light.

“Did something happen?” Rick asked, his voice barely above a whisper. “Is this about... last night?”

Cliff just moved so that his cheek rested against Rick's shoulder, his face turned in to his neck so that he could breathe in his scent. Rick smelled of his favorite cologne layered under a day's worth of perspiration and cigarette smoke, a scent as familiar to Cliff as his own.

“Don't ask me,” he warned, and Rick had enough experience with the aggressive underbelly of Cliff's personality to respect his wishes.

“Are you ready to go home?” Rick asked and Cliff breathed in deeply one more time, inhaling and holding a part of Rick inside him.

“Let's go,” Cliff said, pulling away from Rick and exiting the trailer, walking briskly ahead of Rick so that he was settled in the car, gaze directly forward, by the time Rick made it to the passenger side door.

Rick slid inside, his leather jacket- what he'd no doubt gone back to the trailer to retrieve- tucked under his arm. Rick pulled out two cigarettes from his packet and lit them as Cliff peeled out of the parking lot, then passed one over to Cliff, just as Cliff had done for Rick the night before.

Cliff put it to his mouth and sucked it in like it was life's sweet breath. They didn't speak for the rest of the car ride and when they got home Cliff immediately grabbed Brandy's leash and took her for a long walk to try and calm himself.

Chapter Text

When Cliff got home from walking Brandy, Rick was sitting at the kitchen table, his face red and his hair ruffled, as though he'd run his fingers through it repeatedly. By the sink an unopened bottle of whiskey sat. Rick looked up at him from his seat, his expression tortured.

Cliff stared between the two, so stunned that he almost couldn't comprehend it. He'd never thought Rick could give up the booze, but he'd been proven wrong, and he realized he'd grown complacent. Six months was a long time without a drink, but it sure as shit wasn't a lifetime, and Rick had an uphill climb ahead of him. Somehow Cliff had forgotten the battle wasn't won yet.

“I couldn't have it around anymore. I was going to pour it out,” Rick said, his voice small. “But I realized if I smelled it...”

“Where...?” Cliff asked. He'd searched the whole damn house six months ago, because he'd known Rick would pull some shit like that, and he'd found nothing.

Brandy, unaware of the tension between her masters, was sniffed around her empty bowl, hungry for dinner. Meanwhile, Cliff felt like the bottom of his life had dropped out beneath him.

Rick scoffed and glanced quickly at the bottle out of the side of his eye, before looking away with a cringe. “In the shed. Behind the flame thrower. I knew you wouldn't touch that fucking thing.”

Cliff bent down to unhook Brandy's leash, and put it on the counter. She immediately went over to Rick, putting her head in his lap, impatient for scratches.

Cliff walked over to the sink and cupped his hand around the bottle, feeling a strong, dangerous urge to drink the whiskey himself. He wasn't an alcoholic like Rick, but the thought of getting black out drunk was so alluring his teeth ached. But he knew that if he did that, he wouldn't be getting drunk alone.

“Get rid of it, Cliff. I can't do it, and if it's here I'm going to drink it.”

Cliff shot one last look at Rick's miserable face, and then he went to the back door and escaped out into the yard. He unscrewed the cap with trembling hands and then, with only a little hesitation, he poured out the contents into the grass, far enough away from the porch that any scent would have dissipated by the time Rick went out for his evening lounge in the pool. Then he pitched the bottle as hard as he could, so that it ended up somewhere in Sharon Tate's yard. If she found it later, sometime while she was playing with the baby in the grass or sunbathing, she'd just think it was leftover from a party.

Rick was waiting for him at the back door, watching him.

“Why did you keep that?” Cliff asked when he walked back. He needed to know.

Rick just shook his head. “I don't fucking know, Cliff. It was just... fuck, who knows. Insurance? In case it got too bad, and I couldn't take it, I wanted a stash somewhere nearby.”

“Are there anymore? Tell me the truth now, baby.”

“No. That was the last one,” Rick said, his face open and earnest. Cliff thought he was telling the truth, but Rick was a fine actor. And, after all, in the end there wasn't a damn thing Cliff could do to keep Rick from drinking. If Rick was determined to do it, he would.

“Goddammit!” Cliff barked, giving the chair by the pool a hard kick. His moccasins did little to cushion the blow and he felt the pain radiate from his toes up his leg. He liked it, though. The physical pain was a good distraction from his mental disturbance. “What a fucking piece of shit. I'm driving you to fucking drink.”

Rick scoffed and shook his head. “I'm an alcoholic, Cliff. I don't need nothin' to drive me to drink but my own stupid head.”

He was being kind, though. Cliff knew it was his instability that was causing Rick's own shaking foundation to crack. He knew how much Rick relied on him to be the steady one, to keep him going forward when on his own Rick would have wandered off in the wrong fucking direction a long time ago.

Rick had changed into his robe and pajamas, his lounging uniform, and he wrapped his robe tightly around himself, as though for comfort. He was a big man- almost as large as Cliff, but when you scratched the surface of his tough exterior, he'd always seemed marshmallow soft to Cliff. He had only ever wanted to shield him from the hard things, not be the cause of them.

Rick had been a few years too young to go to war, and Cliff had never been more grateful of anything in his life. The war would have killed Rick- his mind, if not his body. Cliff hadn't known it at the time and wouldn't have believed it if he had, but Rick was the boy he'd gone to war to protect. He was the American dream he'd fought for.

Cliff strode up to him, crowding him out of the sliding glass door and into the kitchen, where no neighbors could look out a window and see them. He put his hands on either side of Rick's face, his fingers cradling his head, and stared deeply into his eyes. “I'm in deep, Ricky. You know that, don't you? I'm in so fucking deep with you.”

Rick had this way of melting when Cliff touched him, as though he were relieved to give up the burden of his own body weight and let Cliff support it instead. He swayed into Cliff's space, like he was hanging off his hands. “I know,” Rick said. “I know.”

“There ain't gonna be anyone else, not for me,” Cliff growled. “No girlfriends. No wives. No one. Just you.”

Rick had made him no promises- never had. A part of him was aware enough to still know that. But if Rick denied him, he'd walk out that door, get in his car and never return to Hollywood. He'd leave Brandy, because Rick needed a protector, but Cliff didn't think he could ever see him again. He didn't trust himself to. He was in too deep with Rick, and he hadn't even realized it until it was too late.

Rick was only nodding, though. If he hesitated, he didn't show it. “It's you and me, old buddy. I'm in love with you. You know that, don't you?”

Cliff let out a great, shuddering breath and then kissed him, hard. He backed Rick up until they'd hit the kitchen counter. He plastered his whole body against Rick's, wanting to feel him, to know that he was still there with him. “I love you, Ricky,” he said feverishly between kisses. “Goddamn you, but I do.”

He could feel Brandy at their feet below them, hungry for her dinner and confused about what they were doing when they should be paying attention to her. She butted her head against his knee and he pulled back from Rick with a groan.

The furious sweep of emotion that had been building in Cliff since Rick's confession the night before seemed to have reached its peak. He could feel his anger flowing away from him, leaving him feeling drained. His uncertainty, his fear, the madness of his love for Rick- all the things that had whipped him up into a storm of passion seemed to let him go.

He hung his head back and closed his eyes, sighing, releasing all that tension in his body. He hadn't had such an emotionally tumultuous twenty four hours in years, and he was fucking exhausted.

“Are you okay now?” Rick asked, his arms still looped around Cliff's waist in a loose embrace.

Cliff rubbed a hand over his face, feeling embarrassed. In the fifteen years they'd known each other, Rick had never seen Cliff worked up like this. Hell, Cliff had hardly ever seen himself like this. “Shit. Yes. Now that I've made a horse's ass of myself.”

“You didn't-” Rick began loyally, but when Cliff leveled him with a skeptical look Rick smiled. “Well. You've put up with my horse's ass all these years, I guess I can give you a pass.” He was petting Cliff's back now, his big hands running up and down his spine. “Pizza?” he asked, and fuck. Bless Rick.

“Yeah, sounds good,” he said, and withdrew himself from Rick's embrace so he could feed Brandy. “We can practice your lines while we wait,” he offered, because he longed for some routine back in his life.

“I'd like that,” Rick said, still giving him that slightly uncertain smile. Oh well. Cliff would go back to being the dependable, unruffled man that Rick needed. He'd said what had to be said, and now he could let it rest.

Chapter Text

Epilogue: Two years Later

Cliff hefted a few sticks of firewood from the little pile by the tool shed into his arms, taking care to keep it away from his sweater so that it would not snag the knit. The weather was barely below fifty degrees, but Rick had insisted on a fire. It was the first moderately cold night of winter, and Rick always got nostalgic for his childhood winters in Missouri- even though he bitched bitterly about the weather whenever they went home to visit his folks. So, Cliff had indulged Rick's whims and purchased a small pile of firewood to make him happy. When it inevitably got too hot they'd open the windows and doors and let in the fresh air again, and that would be the end of the Rick's wintertime fantasies.

Cliff opened the back door with his elbow and backed into the kitchen, then slid it shut with his foot again. Brandy was waiting for him, her eyes alert and watchful.

“Where are the younguns, Mama?” he asked her, and she cocked her head at him, trying to understand the words.

Usually her pups didn't let Brandy out of their sight, following her on wobbly legs with tails wagging madly. They'd pester her until she'd finally had enough, growling at them as they scurried away, only to crawl back on their bellies a few minutes later. It was the funniest damn thing he'd ever seen.

Cliff and Brandy walked to the living room and found the puppies with Rick- to neither's surprise. He was sitting on the couch in his pajamas and the puppies were crawling all over him, jumping up to lick at his face and chewing on his hands. And goddammit, he'd given the pups his cheese right off his own plate too. One of them, the fat little black one, was still licking his muzzle, and another two puppies were lapping at the fingers of Rick's right hand.

“You gonna clean up their shit when that cheese gives them the runs?”

Rick blinked innocently. “What?” he asked. “That was my snack. I ate it.”

Rick wasn't that good of an actor. “Uh-huh. You'll spoil 'em rotten before I even get a chance to train them.”

“They're just babies! You can't spoil six week old puppies,” Rick protested. He picked one of the wriggling puppies up and gave it a kiss on the top of its head. Its little tail was wagging so fast it would have taken off in flight if it had been in a Disney cartoon. But Rick had been just as silly with Brandy when she was little, and she'd turned out alright, so he supposed there was no real harm in it.

Cliff made a mild sound of disagreement out of principal, then dropped the firewood onto the rug in front of the fireplace. He tossed a couple of logs onto the small fire and a flurry of sparks crackled up the chimney. He inhaled the scent of smoke, thinking wistfully about the cigarettes neither of them had touched in nearly two years. Ah well. The smokes and the booze had been nothing compared to what he'd gained by giving them up.

One of Rick's movies was playing on the television, but Rick wasn't watching it. He had a casual foot up on the coffee table and was playing tug of war with a puppy who had his little teeth sunk in to the tie of Rick's robe. Brandy had her head on Rick's knee, looking up at him as he played with her puppies. Her tongue lolled out of her mouth, dripping drool onto Rick's pajama pants, and her eyes were trained on his face. Pretty soon she'd chase off the pups so that she could have her share of cuddles from Rick- probably pretty soon, from the look of it.

They all adored Rick, and Cliff didn't blame them. Rick fed them table scraps and let them lick his face and get hair all over his good clothes that Cliff would later have to brush off. But Cliff didn't care. The dogs brought out Rick's inherent sweetness, and helped to soften his occasional bouts melancholy. So fuck it, let him spoil them. He'd spent more than fifteen years doing everything in his power to make Rick happy, and if the puppies helped, then Cliff gave it his silent blessing.

Though Cliff had been sitting in his easy chair beside the couch, now he went over to Rick. He moved two puppies out of the way and then slid into their spot, cozying up to Rick on the leather sofa. Brandy took that as her invitation and jumped up beside him, leaning her heavy body against his other side. He felt like he was surrounded by his own little family. Perhaps the winter was making him sentimental too, but who was there to judge him?

Rick, unaware of any of Cliff's thoughts, just snuggled right into Cliff, so that his head was cradled against Cliff's shoulder. He still had two puppies in his arms and Cliff felt that now familiar wave of tenderness wash over him. He tucked his arm around Rick's shoulders and then kissed his temple. On his other side Brandy laid down with her head over his knee. He put his hand behind her ears and gave her a good scratch while the two puppies he'd displaced crawled over his lap.

“I'll miss puppies,” Rick lamented, watching the antics of the plump black one that he'd taken a particular shine to. He had taken ahold of its tail and it was twisting its body around in circles, trying to reach his mouth around to gnaw on Rick's hand. “They're such cheerful little shits.”

“Well...” Cliff began slowly. He hadn't intended to bring up the idea he'd been chewing on for awhile now, but the moment seemed right. “I've been thinking about that.”

“I thought you said Brandy was too old to have another litter?”

“Yup, her motherin' days are coming to an end,” he confirmed. He'd be taking Brandy to the vet to spay her in a few months, to avoid any accidental pregnancies, and she'd retire from breeding to live out her days as their companion and guard dog.

“There's these pups, and maybe others eventually. I was thinking I might take in some dogs, start training them. Guard dogs or service dogs- hell, even acting dogs. There's a lot of money in a well trained dog.” And Cliff Booth was damn good at training dogs.

He'd never trained dogs with the purpose of making his living at it, but lately he'd been contemplating his future. He'd broken a bone in his foot in the fall doing stunt work in Rick's last movie, and it had made him face up to something he'd ignored for a while: he wasn't getting any younger. Stunt work was a young man's game, and though he knew he felt as strong and capable as he ever had, he wasn't a young man anymore.

He'd hobbled around in a cast for six weeks and though he hadn't had any complications from the break, it had made him question whether he'd even want to go back to working on a set. If he'd done himself serious damage it would have been something he'd have to live with the rest of his life, and for what? So he could pretend he wasn't Rick's kept man?

Rick hadn't pushed for him to keep working, of course. Cliff knew that Rick was perfectly happy to continue paying him to be his personal assistant, driver and general handyman, but the fact was that Cliff would do those things whether Rick paid him to or not, and he needed something to do with his time between dropping Rick off on set and picking him up afterwards.

“We get to keep the puppies?” Rick asked, and of course that's all he'd taken from Cliff's words He'd gotten damn attached to them.

Cliff laughed and toyed with a lock of Rick's hair. Rick had started visiting a hairdresser to discreetly cover the grays at his temples, but secretly Cliff liked them. Since Rick was having a winter break between films, he'd let his roots grow out, and it was giving Cliff a chance to imagine how Rick would look in twenty or thirty years. He'd be distinguished and handsome, his beauty little diminished by sagging jowls or thinning hair, and Cliff had every intention of being around to see that.

“I'd keep the females,” Cliff said. “I can't breed siblings, so the males would have to go. But not for another year or so. I'll need to train them. If I'm going to start a business I have to put out the best dogs, ones that will represent what I have to offer.”

“You want to start a business?” Rick asked, as though he were only finally understanding what Cliff was saying. He looked over at Cliff sharply, anxiety clear in his expression. “Would you still-”

“Be your gofer?” Cliff interrupted, easily interpreting Rick's concern. He looked back at him with fondness. He knew him so well sometimes it felt like he could imagine his words before he spoke them. He knew that Rick would happily let him do anything he wanted, as long as Rick continued to take the precedence of Cliff's time and attention.

“Of course, baby. I just need something to occupy my time. I reckon I'm done with stunt work, Ricky. I'm too damn old.”

“You aren't old!” Rick said loyally. “Besides, if you're old that means I am too.” He gave a nervous little laugh and self consciously put his hand to the space between his eyebrows, his fingers tracing the deep lines between them that he despaired of.

Cliff knew better than to let Rick spiral into a vortex of self absorption, so he moved Rick's hand away and butted their foreheads together lightly. He nuzzled his nose against Rick's cheek, breathing in his clean scent, so much more natural and sweet now that it wasn't drenched with cigarette smoke and whiskey fumes.

“Not you, gorgeous. You don't look a day over thirty five,” he lied, because Rick had smoked and drank his way to early wrinkles and roughened skin. He was still stunningly handsome, and the roles he got these days didn't require a fresh face, but he was undeniably mature.

Rick's troubled expression smoothed out and he smiled more genuinely. “Motherfucker. Now I know you're lying,” he said, but not as though he minded. Rick wanted to be lied to- it was practically part of Cliff's job description.

“Forty, then. You've only grown more beautiful with age, you know,” Cliff said, and that wasn't a lie, at least not to him. “More rugged. Virile.”

Rick preened at his words. He lowered his eyes bashfully but leaned into Cliff even more, overlapping their shoulders so that he could recline against Cliff's chest.

Cliff stroked a hand up his neck, his fingers running over his rough stubble and settling against Rick's pulse point. His heart was beating quickly, and at Cliff's touch he tipped his chin back, pressing his throat fully into the palm of Cliff's hand. It was like a wolf baring its throat to his alpha in submission, and it stirred something primal and predatory in Cliff. He subtly pulled back on Rick's neck, not hard enough to hurt him, but enough to soothe that dominant part of himself that was always roused by Rick's vulnerability.

Rick breathed thickly at the pressure, but he looked up at Cliff, totally trusting. He put a hand down on Cliff's thigh, high up on his leg, his interest clear.

The puppies, who'd mostly settled down, whimpered at Cliff and Rick's movements and Brandy's ears perked up at the noise.

“Is it time for bed, Mama?” he asked her, though his eyes remained on Rick, devouring his face. It had been years since he'd fucked anyone but Rick, but his possessive fascination with him never grew stale.

“Yes,” Rick answered for Brandy, and Cliff grinned. He removed his hand from Rick's throat and ran it down his chest instead, only stopping when he'd cupped Rick's cock through his pajama pants. He could feel that Rick was hardening already, so he gathered his cock and balls into his hand and gave them a squeeze hard enough that it made Rick jerk and give a small, titillated gasp. His eyes rolled back in his head and his hips shifted, jerkily bumping against his hand for friction.

Cliff wrapped his other arm around Rick and held him in a tight embrace. He tucked their cheeks together and gave him an awkward sideways kiss.

The puppies were all stirring now, their tiny mouths yawning and bright blue eyes winking. Brandy gave a woof to them and lifted her head, and one enterprising pup began to try and climb over their shifting legs to go get her midnight snack.

Cliff continued to massage Rick, squeezing and rubbing his genitals, even though one of the puppies was now chewing on the pocket of his jeans.

He chuckled and after giving Rick's balls a jiggle, he pushed him away. “Go'n, boy,” he said huskily. “You've got ten minutes. You get that hole ready for me or I'm fucking you raw.”

Chapter Text

Cliff stood at the back door, watching Brandy and the puppies trot around the yard, sniffing everything that took their fancy and taking their time. It would take longer than ten minutes of course, but he liked to keep Rick waiting for him, sometimes. It gave him pleasure to think of Rick, impatient and horny, needing Cliff to take care of him.

The yard was small, and soon enough he'd seen all the puppies squat in the grass and come running back up to him, tails wagging frantically as he praised them for pissing outside.

Part of Cliff's eventual plans for their future included Rick buying a house with more land so he'd have space for kennels and dog runs, but for now he'd work on easing Rick into the idea. Even though Rick's success in the last few years meant he could easily afford a more lavish property, it probably wouldn't have occurred to him unprompted to upgrade their living situation. By the time Cliff was done, though, Rick would think it had been his idea all along, and he'd smugly congratulate himself for doing something selfless to benefit Cliff.

Cliff, smiling fondly at the thought, rounded the puppies together and led them into the large crate he'd set up in the warm kitchen. It was piled with soft blankets and chew toys, and was far enough away from the bedroom that he wouldn't hear their crying at night in between trips to let them out to relieve their tiny bladders.

He clicked his tongue and pointed, and Brandy hung her head and followed the puppies into the crate. She was used to sleeping with her masters and she'd no doubt be glad when the puppies were fully weaned. He'd let her back in the bedroom after a few hours, to get the puppies used to being alone, but for now she was stuck with them.

“Sorry, girl,” he said, and latched the door of the crate closed. Then he washed his hands, and went back to the bedroom.

“That was more than ten minutes,” Rick complained when Cliff came in.

“You missed me, baby?” Cliff asked, leaning against the door jamb and watching his lover. He was sprawled on the bed, fully nude, with one knee drawn up to expose himself. In the dim light Cliff could see the flushed, shining rim of his asshole that indicated that Rick had done as he was told and prepared himself for Cliff. The wait had wilted his erection, though, and he could see that Rick was sullen from being ignored.

“I could have already come by now,” Rick said, and Cliff laughed softly at his childishness. He stripped off his sweater and tossed it on the floor, then stuck his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans, dragging them down to expose his lean abdomen and sculpted hipbones.

“Not in the mood anymore?” he asked, all while slowly easing his jeans down over his hips, so that more of his genitals were exposed.

Rick didn't reply, but he did lean up on an elbow so he could watch as Cliff's dick finally popped over the waistband of his jeans and his testicles spilled out of the fabric and hung heavily between his thighs. He pushed the jeans down to his calves, then kicked them off his bare feet.

Cliff wasn't hard yet, so he took himself in hand. “If you don't want it I can just take care of myself,” he said while lazily rolling his foreskin up and down over the glans.

“I didn't say that!” was Rick's flustered reply. Rick's limp cock was perking up again and he put a hand back on himself, mirroring Cliff. They watched each other pleasuring themselves, each feeding off of the other's arousal until Cliff's dick was fully erect.

“Cliff!” Rick whined and Cliff crossed the room in two strides. Rick pulled up his knees and spread his thighs for Cliff, and he slid between them, like he was coming home. Rick put his arms around his back and looked up at him, his mouth parted and his eyes trusting. Not breaking eye contact, Cliff reached down to guide his cock to Rick's hole and then he began to gently push inside.

Rick had prepared himself with generous amounts of vaseline, and he slid inside easily. His own cock was dry, so he didn't rush it, just nudged inside until his whole length was enveloped in Rick. They both sighed at the feeling, and Cliff let his forehead drop, to rest against Rick's neck.

“God, baby,” he whispered, his lips pressed against Rick's jaw. He rotated his hips, stretching Rick out, and then he pulled back and pressed ponderously forward again. He kissed Rick's neck, jaw and collarbones while they tenderly fucked, their bodies rolling together as sweetly as boats rocking on a calm sea.

They quietly fucked until Rick's fingers were clenched tightly into the skin on his back and he'd wrapped his calves around Cliff's ass, to try and make him move more quickly.

“You want more, honey?”

Yes,” Rick said, because he wasn't a patient lover unless Cliff forced him to be. He pulled back and smiled down at Rick's flushed face.

“You want me to fuck your sweet little ass hard, Ricky?” he teased, and Rick scowled at his condescending tone.

“Yes,” Rick muttered anyway, and Cliff chuckled warmly.

“I am here to serve you,” he said, and then crawled out from between Rick's legs, to Rick's dismay.

Cliff backed off the bed, then he grabbed Rick's feet and yanked him down the mattress, then flipped him so that he was on his stomach. He pulled him up by his hips so that his ass was in the air.

Rick liked rough handling and he remained deliciously pliant, just letting his body be manhandled however Cliff pleased. He knelt there, ass up, like the kind of naughty photograph that gets passed around a locker room. His hole and cheeks were flushed red from their lovemaking and Cliff's cock jerked hungrily at the sight. He slapped Rick's rump, just for the gratification of watching his flesh jiggle and grow even redder.

Rick moaned and turned his head on his forearms so that he could look back at Cliff. “Cliff! Don't goddamn tease me.”

“I'll take care of you, baby,” Cliff said, feeling that familiar rush of excitement at Rick's plea. There was nothing like it- no other feeling could compare, no matter that they'd been lovers for so long. There was nothing better than Rick underneath him, trusting him, and totally and completely at Cliff's mercy. Cliff grinned and kneaded Rick's ass with one hand while he snagged the tub of vaseline and generously greased up his cock with the other. If he was going to let Rick have it, he wouldn't risk hurting him.

“Cliff,” Rick prompted. He leaned down onto his forearms and arched his back so that his ass was pressed out. It was an incongruously kittenish gesture from so large and masculine a man, but that just made it all the more thrilling to Cliff. “Please. I need it.”

“Yeah, baby, yeah,” Cliff said, then got on the mattress and snugged up behind him. He angled his cock down to his hole and pushed in hard.

Rick gave a small shout at the abrupt intrusion, but he only strained up into it, his ass meeting Cliff's hips as he bottomed out. Just as quickly, he pulled back and then snapped back in, and then again, and again. Rick panted with exertion as Cliff pumped steadily into him. When Cliff wasn't fast enough Rick rocked back as well, impaling himself on his dick.

The moved seamlessly, as only lovers with so much experience together could, their flesh smacking as they crashed together. Rick's hands clawed at the bedspread, but when he buried his face in a pillow to muffle his noises Cliff pulled him back.

“Uh-uh,” he chided, lifting Rick's torso so that he was kneeling in front of Cliff. Cliff sat back and brought Rick with him so he was sitting astride his lap. He ran his hands up Rick's heaving body, caressing his thighs and hips and chest. He used both hands to pinch Rick's nipples, rolling the little buds until they were pebble hard, then reached down to wrap his fist around Rick's prick. “Let me hear you, baby.”

“Y-yes, Cliff, I'm- I'm-” Rick gasped, mindlessly jerking his cock through Cliff's fingers. He yelped when Cliff wrapped his fingers snugly around the base of Rick's cock and then gently pulled his balls away from his body, to ease him away from what sounded like an imminent orgasm.

“Cliff!” Rick growled.

“Nope. You're gonna have to work for it.” He bucked his hips under Rick to give him the idea. “And if you're very good, I'll let you come.”

“Cliff-” Rick cried, but he awkwardly thrust backwards onto his cock, starting up an irregular rhythm that could keep Cliff on edge for hours. “Please, please, oh fuck, I need-”

“I know what you need,” Cliff soothed, pressing kisses to Rick's shoulders and neck while he caressed Rick with his hands. He kept his grip on the base of Rick's dick, but he used the other hand to stroke the shaft and tease the head. He stimulated Rick just enough to drive him wild, but not enough to let him come. When he thought Rick was too close he'd move his hands away to other areas of his body, to draw him back.

Soon enough Rick was all but weeping with frustration. He was fucking himself back onto Cliff's cock like a champ, but he knew that Rick was getting restless. Sweat was dripping down his back and his cheeks were flushed red with exertion.

“You want to come?” he taunted, high with the power of keeping Rick from what he wanted. They both knew the payoff would be greater if Cliff withheld Rick's pleasure a little longer, but Rick was an impatient little fuck- always had been.

He gave Rick's cock a few rapid tugs and massaged the sensitive head, then brought his palms back up to Rick's heaving abdomen, lest he think he'd let him come that easily. Cliff rubbed his soft belly, sweeping his fingers gradually lower, closer to his groin.

“Cliff, please, please, please. I need it, I need you, goddamn,” Rick babbled, senseless with urgency.

Cliff felt his blood rushing through his body as his adrenaline spiked. Fuck, but he loved to hear Rick beg for him. It was the sweetest sound in the world and it didn't seem to matter how many times he heard it- it was never enough.

Cliff wrapped his arms around Rick and gave him a fierce hug. He kissed up Rick's neck and licked his ear. “I make you feel good, don't I, honey? You trust me to give you what you need?”

“Yes,” Rick said fervently, and Cliff grinned. Then he pushed Rick forward and withdrew, so that his cock slid out of his hole with a sloppy noise and Rick fell forward against the pillows. He turned wide, betrayed eyes up to Cliff.

“I love you, Ricky,” Cliff reminded him. “I'm doing this for you.” He laid down beside Rick and turned on his side, his throbbing cock drooling pre-come onto the bedspread. His body longed for release too, but he wasn't some horny, impulsive teenager. He could wait all night, if need be.

“Cliff,” Rick whined, more like a five year old than a grown man. He immediately rolled onto his back and lifted his knees, presenting himself as though he'd been trained to it. His asshole was shiny and a little swollen from their fucking, but Rick was obviously hungry for more. “Please, Cliffy.”

Goddamn, it would take a stronger man than he to ignore such a sweet invitation. He smiled at Rick then reached between his cheeks and slid two fingers up his ass. He sought out his prostate and Rick's whole body jerked at the sensation. Cliff leaned over and hovered his mouth above Rick's dick. “You tell me if you're about to come,” he ordered, giving Rick a hard look to show he was serious.

Rick was only too happy to agree, obviously just relieved to have Cliff's hands on him again. “Y-yes,” he said eagerly, nodding his head and making his rumpled, sweaty hair flop onto his forehead. “Please, Cliff, I- oh- oh- yes!” Rick all but yelled when Cliff lowered his mouth down onto Rick's thick cock.

Rick had a great cock- it was both thicker and a little longer than his own, and it felt damn good in Cliff's ass when they switched positions, even though it was neither's preference. Rick loved a cock in his ass more than anyone Cliff had ever met, and when he slid in a third finger Rick keened and arched into it. Cliff continued to bob his mouth over Rick until Rick was fretfully pushing at his shoulder.

“I'm coming, I'm coming-” Rick said desperately, as though he'd almost let himself go too far. Cliff immediately withdrew his mouth and wedged a thumb up against his perineum while tugging his balls down, freezing his release not a moment too soon. Rick writhed beneath him, his hips straining up into the air.

“Cliff!” Rick protested wildly. Cliff kissed his heaving abdomen and ignored his indignation. He nuzzled his stomach, pressing kisses against his belly and his trembling sides, whispering words of love into his skin, until Rick had settled again. Then he got back to work.

He sucked and fingered him until Rick was shaking and crying out for Cliff to stop, not because Rick wanted him to, but because Cliff had told him he must. He let him recover then he repeated the cycle, over and over, until his neck and jaw ached and Rick could only last for a few moments before whimpering for Cliff to stop. His whole body was covered with sweat and every muscle in his body seemed to shake. His cock was purple and straining and a steady stream of fluid dribbled from the tip.

“You ready to come, baby?” he asked, and Rick gave an exhausted groan.

“Please, oh God, please Cliff. I need to come, I need you to give it to me. Please.” He even had tears in his eyes from the frustration. His knees were high and his asshole pulsed around Cliff's fingers, and suddenly he could think of nothing else than sinking his cock inside him, feeling as agitated as though it had been he who'd been edged to near madness.

He quickly slid between Rick's thighs and got onto his heels, crouched over him. Then he guided his cock down to his grasping hole and plunged inside. Cliff gave a hoarse shout at the feel of him, so tight and clinging around his almost painfully sensitive cock. Cliff held Rick's calves in his hands and pushed them down, then he let him have it, riding him hard into the mattress. The headboard thumped against the wall and Rick gave stifled, frenzied little cries every time Cliff slammed into him.

They writhed together like fighting dogs, each racing towards their climax, and then Cliff felt it explode within him. He held Rick down and watched his face as he fucked him through it, grunting aggressively. He felt the primal satisfaction that came with planting his seed in a desirable mate, his cock blissfully unaware their joining wouldn't bear fruit.

Rick was coming too, his cock spurting ropes of semen onto his belly from the prostate stimulation alone. Cliff continued to rock into Rick's body until his cock had softened and slipped out, along with a gush of his come. Then Cliff heaved his tired body up beside Rick and fell back on the pillows.

Rick had his eyes closed and his hands clasped over his heart as he caught his breath. He looked like he'd just finished a marathon- which was more or less how Cliff felt too.

“Goddamn,” Rick croaked, his voice scratchy. “I'm getting too old for this.”

Cliff shrugged, feeling smug. He smoothed a hand up Rick's side and then swirled his fingers through the semen on his belly. “We ain't in our dotage yet,” he said, and gave Rick's sensitized prick a grope, just to piss him off. Rick cringed away, groaning heartily.

“I won't come again for a week,” Rick said fervently. “Don't even try to touch me.”

Cliff smiled indulgently at Rick's theatrics. “That sounds like a challenge,” he said and Rick opened his eyes to gaze at him narrowly.

“You just fucked a goddamn year off my life. I need to recover,” he grumbled, and made a show of protesting when Cliff rolled him closer.

“Come here, baby,” Cliff laughed, and gathered Rick up against his chest. He wrapped his arms around his shoulders and cradled his cheek against his chest He dropped a quick kiss against his perspiring forehead. “You did so good. Goddamn, you were hot as hell.”

“Hmm,” Rick said, but his frayed nerves were obviously soothed by the praise. He watched Cliff's face, obviously eager for more of his words, predictable little shit that he was.

“How'd I get so lucky, huh? Most gorgeous man I ever met, and he's mine,” Cliff said, and Rick smiled reluctantly back at him.

“You won me over with your sweet talkin' ways,” Rick said, because he was fully aware of his own neediness, and they knew each other so intimately that they didn't have to pretend anymore. Rick had needs that Cliff fulfilled, just as Rick did for Cliff.

Cliff kissed him again, lingering over it. “My man,” he murmured against Rick's lips. “My sweet boy,” he said, even though Rick wasn't a boy, and he wasn't terribly sweet either. He was sweet to Cliff, and that was all that mattered. “You're so beautiful; so goddamn sexy. Seventeen years we've been fucking, and I'll never get enough of your fine ass.”

Rick chuckled and wriggled against Cliff's chest, burrowing his face into the shoulder, his eyes still trained on Cliff, reminding him of Brandy's adoring attention.

Cliff knew he was a luckier man than he had any right to be. He knew he didn't deserve all that life had given him, and maybe he sins would catch up to him one day, but they hadn't yet. He gave Rick another deep kiss. “I love you, baby,” he said, and meant it from somewhere deep inside him where only Rick could touch.

Rick grinned and returned the kiss.