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EPIC SEX BATTLE of MANLINESS

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The next time Link sees his dastardly neighbour, it’s through the window of his upstairs bathroom. In the longstanding series of their over-the-hedge bickering, Link’s never even managed to ask for his name. But it isn’t the first time he’s picked up on his neighbour’s lovely physique. Something he’d always listen to the guy talking about, and only internalised it so that he could one-up him and tell him that Link himself was the superior one in this category, as well as all the other ones. Smarter, stronger, manlier (in every conceivable way).

 

Janine had asked him to go over and, maybe, you know, like, if he wants to — very carefully, as you see — hang out with Janey’s husband. Because Link’s girlfriend gets on with the neighbour’s wife swimmingly. But his neighbour’s wife — who’s her own person, with the name Janey — isn’t an idiot. Janey isn’t a narcissistic, egotistical, stubborn, dumb meathead. 

Janine wasn’t hurt when even with her very careful plea, Link just shook his head and resumed pretending he was busy doing critical work around the house. Janine shrugged, elatedly skipping to the door because she was set to leave with the exact neighbour’s wife to the farmer’s market, leaving Link alone to wallow at home. She did bid him a good day, and Link knew it would be a good one if he did anything but go next door. 

 

Link had gone to the bathroom when she left, thinking about what he might watch or read as he relieved himself. He spotted the neighbour just as he pulled his pants back up and flushed the toilet. 

 

He keeps staring out the window. The idiot’s red-and-black, plaid button-up is open, one of his suspenders keeping it in place on one shoulder, the other one having fallen down with the motions. As to the motions of what, it’s about the dumbest thing about the whole situation. He’s sweating, he’s chopping wood. In the middle of summer, middle of the day. What an idiot. He’s also wearing shorts. Shorts with suspenders, which is just about the strangest item of clothing Link can conceive of. 

The decision to go over there is made on the spot.

 

Link thinks about making lemonade for the guy, but instantly stomps the idea back into nonexistence. He’s not sure where that even came from. He ought to not bring anything, but when he gets to the front door of his own house he stops, turns, walks back to the kitchen and grabs a couple of beers. He almost turns at the door again, wanting to leave even the beers behind, but he tells himself to stop overthinking it and subsequently locks the front door, pockets the key and strides over to the neighbours’ house without even taking in a breath. He breathes easy once he’s rung the door, but his foot’s tapping a nervous rhythm despite himself. 

 

The man opens the door with a frown. His gaze frantically scans Link, and it’s clear that he doesn’t know what to say. Link almost laughs, but instead raises the two beers up as a silent peace offering, and says, “Hello.”

 

Link’s eyes scan the neighbour just as much as the neighbour’s eyes scan Link, but the frown Link puts on is just there for show. In reality, the tall man’s dirty blond hair, tanned skin, green eyes and beads of sweat collecting in chest hair make Link want to do anything but frown. Link’s frown turns a little real at that realisation. 

 

“Hi,” the tall man finally responds, “or should I ask why?” 

 

That’s a thing too. He’d almost forgotten that due to some ancient tradition, their digs often come with rhyme — rhythm, meter and sense if they’re lucky and quick-witted enough. Link can think of maybe one or two times where he was actually impressed by some clever, albeit vile, verse that his neighbour spat at him. Otherwise it just seems like another signal to him that all of this is some elaborate joke that they’re playing on each other, and themselves.

 

Link suppresses the urge to roll his eyes and keeps his own tone amiable. “Because Janey said you needed some help doing some yard work, or whatever you’re doin’. Though by the looks of it, what you’re doin’ is stewin’...” 

 

The other man possesses not the grace of Link, and does roll his eyes.

 

“I’m Link,” Link simply offers, because he does want to at least try to get to know this man. Like, not in the way that he’d been thinking he wants to get to know him after a particularly fervent row or two, but maybe they can have a normal conversation. That’s what he came all the way from a hundred yards away for, after all. 

Heck, Link’s even willing to rhyme for the guy, so long as it’s anything but insults.

 

The man gives him a long-suffering, upward quirk of the lips — only one side, but Link figures it still counts. 

 

“Link wut?” he mumbles. “Link Butt?”

 

Now, Link doesn’t mind the insults if they are clever. But when they are like this, he starts to wonder where his foe even finds the energy. 

 

“McLaughlin,” the man says after a beat, seeing that his insult was not well-received. Link rushes to switch the bottles from his right to his left hand so that he can grasp his hand and shake it.

 

McLaughlin’s hand is warm and sweaty, as opposed to his own cold and sweaty one. The handshake lasts just that one beat too long as they both stare each other down that Link has to retract his hand back quickly after, making it awkward. To his defence, McLaughlin does the same, and even clears his throat a little.

 

“If seeing you on Grey’s Anatomy was possible, your nickname would be McLaughable,” it only just rhymed, but Link still felt as if he’d ruined McLaughlin’s life with that one. Victory felt less and less sweet the more he knew the other man. McLovable had also crossed his mind, but clearly doesn’t work as well.

 

“Maybe I’d know what that meant if I didn’t have a life, and was controlled by my wife...” Dang it, it’s almost too easy for the taller man. 

 

“Link Neal,” he says with a little humph, unsure of why it needs to be like this, but playing along. And he must add. “The real deal...” 

 

McLaughlin shakes his head and looks ready to retort when Link basically thrusts one of the bottles at him, and McLaughlin accepts it and moves aside to let Link in. Link waits in the hallway as he closes and then locks the door, and explains that by saying, “We’ll be in the yard...” He trails off for once, and just points to the back of the house. The house is beautiful, lacquered hardwood floors, wooden panels on the walls, and even wooden beams on the ceiling. 

As Link looks around, he notes that his neighbour’s acting a little weird. He’s a little quiet and he’s looking at Link, but trying to make it as though he’s not. Link decides to keep quiet so as not to push it too far and possibly hurt his host’s feelings, and simply follows him to the back yard. 

 

Link struggles through watching him open his bottle of beer, but not as much as McLaughlin struggles in opening it. And Link goes back to square one, wondering how he ever could have thought this man was capable of getting his feelings hurt. How Link could have thought he even had feelings, or even a brain.

 

He tries the bottle with his teeth, with a lighter, the armrest of a lawn chair. It’s when he picks up his axe that Link makes a point of twisting the cap off his own bottle — but even upon seeing this, the meathead twists off the cap with his teeth. It’s always like this. Link can’t say he entirely minds — not only is he presented with a myriad of chances to prove himself as overall better, but it’s entertaining watching the other man struggle. Sometimes it’s even fun watching him succeed. Link’s, actually, just coming to terms with the fact that he likes spending time with the other man. Even if they are at each other’s throats and there’s no rest — there’s something reassuring that you can be the worst version of yourself around someone who’s equally as eager to act so petty and narcissistic.

 

Link sips his beer as he bends over in front of where McLaughlin was chopping wood, but is now drinking beer, to pick up a piece. “Shed?” he asks, and then smirks. “... Meathead?” It’s short, it’s barely there, but it works. It annoys the hell out of McLaughlin, Link can tell.

 

He grumbles something that Link takes as a yes, and it’s when he’s stacking the wood on the pile against the wall in the shed that Link has a tiny epiphany about maybe, after all, hurting McLaughlin’s feelings and how he’ll, maybe, try being a little nicer to him. 

 

He returns, and the other man is already back to chopping wood. Link presses his lips together awkwardly in acknowledgement, even though the other man can’t see him. He also nods, moving his head as if to a nonexistent tune as he walks around McLaughlin and scoops up as many pieces of wood as he can while also holding his beer. 

 

Perfect manly work with no talking.

 

After a few trips under the relentless sun beating down upon him, Link stands a few feet in front of Mclaughlin and turns his back to him so that he can take his shirt off. He hears the initial whack of axe to wood, but as he struggles out of his shirt, there are no sounds coming from McLaughlin. When he turns to hang his shirt over the back of the lawn chair, he sees why there were no sounds — he is taking a break, sipping on his beer slowly. 

 

Link’s gaze slides down McLaughlin’s body before he can gain control of it, but in the end he’s happy that he looked, even knowing that Rhett’s eyes were on his own the entire time. Because when his gaze slides down to the man’s, honestly impressively long, shin — Link notices two drops leaving trails of blood, just stopping short of his sock. 

 

“Wussat?” Link asks quickly, now completely serious. 

 

“What?” McLaughlin mirrors his worry. 

 

“That,” Link points just under his knee. 

 

“Oh, nothin’,” McLaughlin says, the worry instantly gone.

 

“What if it gets infected?” Link asks, not wasting any time.

 

“I’ll just walk it off like I always do,” he scoffs, “Besides, I ain’t ever even had the flu.”

 

Link finds his ability to boast even in such situations admirable. He walks up to McLaughlin slowly as if approaching a wild animal that won’t let him help it, and bends down a little, hands on knees, to look at the wound. 

 

“How’d ya manage that?” he asks, a little more sweetly than he intends to. It doesn’t help that he looks up at McLaughlin from where he’s bent down in front of him. “Did you cut yourself?” 

 

“No, I—“ McLaughlin seems a little flustered. Link can relate. “That last piece splintered off weird, fell on my leg. Shoulda paid more attention to what I was doing.” 

 

Funny — he’d always bragged about how he does every job with such perfection that nothing can distract him. But Link tries to forget the annoying parts of the man in front of him and focuses on helping him for now. McLaughlin doesn’t protest much, actually. Soon he walks off to the shed and finds Link a first-aid kit. 

 

“This ain’t necessary,” McLaughlin says, “But knock yourself out, if it’ll make ya happy."

 

“It will,” Link says, though he could be more difficult if he wanted to. But he knows that being contrary won’t help him get any closer to McLaughlin, and the fighting just isn’t cutting it anymore. He wants them to relax, if even for a second, and share a space with ease, like Link knows they can. Though it feels a little weird to be taking care of someone he threatens to kill every other day, he suddenly can’t imagine not doing it. He motions for McLaughlin to sit in the lawn chair next to the chopping block. He does sit. He does it with a long-suffering sigh, but he does it nonetheless. 

 

Link meets his eyes and scowls, conveying an I ain’t really happy about this either.

 

If you’d asked Link even an hour ago about what’s the last thing he might ever be doing, cleaning McLaughlin’s boo-boo would have been so improbable it wouldn’t have even crossed his mind. But now he kneels next to the lawn chair and opens the first-aid kit. Gently, he runs his fingers along the skin around the wound. McLaughlin’s skin is slightly wet with perspiration, but both his hair and skin are surprisingly soft. McLaughlin tenses up, which is funny — Link touching him can’t have hurt and it’s not like the taller man would ever show Link that he’s in pain anyway. Link looks up at the other man and sees him watching Link’s hand raptly. McLaughlin’s own hand is on his beard, tips of fingers just tracing the hair under his bottom lip. It’s probably the fact that Link stays frozen still that makes McLaughlin meet his eyes, and when he does Link’s own eyes instantly flit back to the medical emergency. Immediately he busies himself by using the antiseptic and a gauze pad to clean the wound, and once it’s clean it does look a lot smaller than it did when it bled, which Link’s pleased about. It’s so small, in fact, that Link can use one of the bigger band-aids to cover it. He smoothes away the hair on McLaughlin’s leg and gently sticks the bandaid on, stroking over it with his thumb to make sure it adheres properly after. 

 

McLaughlin can’t seem to get up quickly enough. He’s buzzing in his seat until Link’s finished and then bolting up, back to looking annoyed that Link stopped him in his work. 

 

“Thanks,” he says after a few moments, hand on the axe, axe on the chopping block. He’s looking down at the blade when he says it, but shoots Link a quick look when Link replies.

 

“No problem,” Link says with a nod, and swiftly gets up and snags a few more pieces of wood to take to the shed, determinedly focussed on each following step instead of the way the skin on the back of his neck prickled up when Rhett looked at him after thanking him. 

 

Inside the shed, it’s a little musty and unkempt. It’s dim even with the light coming from the one window in the corner. Link feels like he can breathe more easily in there, though — without McLaughlin’s eyes on him. When he gathers himself, Link steps out of the shed and does a few more runs with the wood. It’s as calm as it’s been for a while, the only sound in the yard being the cadent thumping of McLaughlin’s axe. On each way out of the shed, Link finds himself unobserved and therefore observing. McLaughlin’s movements are measured and precise, his arms stretching, back undulating under the shirt, everything coming together beautifully as he swings down to cleave another piece of wood. Link keeps his gaze mostly on the grass when he’s in front of the man. The way he looks when he moves makes Link restless, makes him want to do anything, even fight him. Which is usually what ends up happening. Thinking about the fact that McLaughlin always reciprocates so willingly has Link huffing out a laugh to himself.

 

When Link stacking up his latest armful of firewood in the shed, he reflects on the feeling, not unlike tension, building up in this back yard. It’s different to the usual tension between them. Less biting, with less rancour and more significance, more held breaths. He doesn’t yet know what to think of it. There’s a looming feeling that’s urging him to do something. Must be the testosterone boost from doing all this honest, physical work.

 

Link comes out of his daze to notice that the sound of that physical work has ceased for longer than usual. He notices it quite late, all things considered, because it comes to him just as he hears the door to the shed open.

 

McLaughlin’s standing there, arms full of wood. Link isn’t sure if he picked up more than Link can carry on purpose or if he’s just picked up as much as he himself can carry, and is naturally better than Link. Seemingly unbothered by any of this, keeping his gaze strictly on the wall of logs in front of them, McLaughlin reaches up further than Link ever could and stacks the wood high. 

 

McLaughlin doesn’t seem to pay any attention to Link, but when Link’s nearly done he catches McLaughlin looking him up and down. Or down and up, to be exact — his gaze travels along Link’s body until he meets Link’s eyes, at which moment both of them seem to realise they have work to do and turn away. Link can’t resist but to give McLaughlin’s body the same treatment when the other man is looking away, though. Gosh, he hates him.

 

McLaughlin stacks his last log and leans his back against the wall of chopped wood. He heaves a sigh, and Link wants to look away, but doesn’t. McLaughlin groans and cranes his neck to either side before looking over at Link.

 

“Look, I guess... I’m sorry. You seem real nice, I mean… I don’t know,” he says suddenly, looking like he’s in great pain when he says it. Link doesn’t know how to respond. He’s not trying to make it into a competition, but he’s pretty sure he’s the one who should apologise first. He’s been a bigger asshole than McLaughlin ever was.

 

“My name’s Rhett, by the way,” the other man says, holding Link’s gaze. 

 

Link nods, fighting the urge to smile and losing. “Nice to meet ya,” he says quietly, and McLaughlin — Rhett — nods. He brings his hand up to his beard again, looking at Link for a moment longer before leaving the shed to get more wood from outside. Link takes the moment of solitude in the shed to reflect on his sudden want to have his own fingers in a beard. Maybe he should grow one. S’manly, after all. They do a run in silence before Link realises he has a question for him. 

 

“Why’ you choppin’ wood this time of year?” Link asks, and follows it up with an explanation so as not to ruin the newly amicable atmosphere: “Just askin’. You coulda had it worse than a cut on your leg, standing out there in the sun all day.”

 

A small smile spreads on Rhett’s lips as he listens to Link ramble, and he nods along the last part of Link’s explanation. “‘Cause I have the psychic ability to tell when it’s gonna rain.”

 

Link’s a little distracted by the way Rhett’s shirt opens wider when he leans down, and he’s being adamant on not reacting in an acerbic way. So when he just barks a “Hwat?” to Rhett’s statement and makes Rhett laugh, it takes him a bit to catch up.

 

“Just the ability to check my phone...” Rhett says kindly, being good on Link’s slow brain. And, oh — is he being self-deprecating? Link won’t call him out on it. Rhett’s smile right now is too pretty to risk ruining. 

 

Rhett keeps talking. “I like to have it very dry by the winter, it’s how it burns best. Says it’s gonna rain tomorrow. Wouldn’t be the end of the world, but… not good either.” 

 

What Link says might sound like an admonishment but it’s just a genuine question.

 

“Y’all don’t have central?” 

 

“Yeah,” Rhett says, and then adds in a sing-song, “that’s fun-da-men-tal,” and continues stacking wood innocently. Link cracks a smile at the quick half-rhyme. Usually they each stick to their own tune, so it does come out a little like Rhett’s mocking both of them by saying it, but it’s kind of sweet overall.

 

Rhett’s smiling too, soon, and it only gets wider when he looks over at Link. “I just wanted a fireplace, man,” Rhett says, shrugging. “It’s nice to look at, if nothing else. And, I don’t know. I just love wood,” he says, and looks the most content Link has ever seen him. The double entendre is not lost on Link, but he keeps that to himself. It’s probably the first time they’ve had a nice conversation. Link wonders if that says something about him more than it does about Rhett. 

 

Rhett is looking at Link with a soft, relaxed smile on his face. Link smiles back. It’s like he can feel that Rhett is looking at him with different eyes now. Link thinks that if he melted there and then, it would scarcely be due to the hot afternoon air. He can feel his face heating up, and half-turns away from Rhett in a subconscious attempt to conceal it. He looks at the door, hands empty but not wanting to move. He tamps down on the fluttering feelings in his chest as hard as he can. Usually, when Rhett’s lovely form got too much to be around, Link would insult it. Now he’s determined to do the opposite — soon, if not right now.

Link brings his hand up to fix his glasses, and as he does so he looks over at Rhett again, meets the eyes that seem to be fixed on Link’s every move. Link has never felt this shirtless in his life. Rhett’s hand is on his own face, and as he uses it to smooth his beard down, his bottom lip drags down a little with the action. 

 

It’s entirely too hot in the shed. 

 

“C’mon,” Rhett breaks the silence in a voice so low and smooth that Link barely notices, “Let’s wrap up.” When Rhett steps closer to Link, he places a tentative yet casual hand on Link’s shoulder, keeping it there as he uses his other hand to push open the door and let Link out first. 

 

The bright sky outside is an attack on Link’s eyes, but the fresh air is a nice respite. Still, not even the cool air does anything to relieve the burning of absence left on Link’s shoulder blade when Rhett moves his hand away. 

 

They take a moment outside to finish their beers, Link standing almost shoulder-to-shoulder with Rhett as he listens to him explain the intricacies of building a fireplace in a house that’s already got as much wood as was viable. After their bottles are abandoned at the foot of the lawn chair, they each carry an armful of wood into the shed and stack it in silence. 

On the way back Rhett leans toward Link to bump into him. Rhett’s hands are quickly in his pockets, then, and he’s looking around as if he has no clue who it was that just pushed Link. Link grins and nudges Rhett with his own arm. Rhett looks down at him with his lips pursed as if he’s trying not to laugh. 

 

On the next and last run, once they’re in the shed, Rhett watches Link until Link picks a place to put his pieces of wood, and then rushes to push one of his own logs into that exact spot. Link thrusts his own log at Rhett’s, and Rhett shoves back, laughing lightly. They swing the logs at each other a few times and let them collide in an impromptu sword-fight, and Link can’t help but laugh too. It lasts until Rhett grabs the end of Link’s piece of wood and pulls him closer, and it surprises a giggle out of Link. Rhett keeps pulling him in until Link’s so close that when he leans his head forward in an attempt to pull his log away, his forehead meets Rhett’s pec. Seeing Link struggle must be very amusing to Rhett, because he’s letting out short bursts of laughter through it all. Link’s got a few more pieces of wood in his arms so he lets go of the one Rhett’s holding onto. He pushes away from Rhett and Rhett triumphantly straightens up… and puts both of the pieces of wood in a completely different place to the one he fought Link for. The way Rhett’s cheeks bunch up when he smiles is really something to see, Link thinks.

 

“You jerk,” Link says, winded, and he could never have imagined that he would be saying it so fondly — and to Rhett, of all people.

 

Link’s adamant to stack the last piece of wood on top of all of the ones he’s previously arranged, and hopes that Rhett won’t notice — because he struggles to do it, just barely setting one edge of it on top. He’s pushing it in with his fingers when he feels another body behind his own. Link inadvertently holds his breath when he feels (and quickly looks up to see) Rhett cover Link’s fingers with his own. With a touch that’s feather-light, he splays his palm open on top of Link’s and slides his arm up Link’s slowly, pushing the piece of wood into place. They stay like that for a bit, and then Rhett turns his hand a little to intersperse his fingers with Link’s, and Link pulls his hand away.

 

“I should go,” he says quickly. Turning to look at Rhett, he instantly realises that he can smell him, and that his scent is way too good for someone who’s been working out in the sun all day. Rhett’s impossibly close to him, surrounding him. Link has the familiar urge to fight him, to belittle him, to do something with all this useless energy that could put some distance between them. Just as always, he wants Rhett to fight him even on his latest statement. He guesses there’s some streak in him that demands Rhett contradicts him — though this time he feels like it would hurt more if Rhett didn’t fight him.

 

“Alright,” Rhett says seriously, “if you gotta.” Link’s stomach drops a little and Rhett gives him a lopsided smile. “I gotta say, wussn’ actually unbearable hanging out,” he murmurs, and it’s either that Link’s crazy or there’s more to this that Rhett’s not letting on, by the way Rhett’s looking at him. His voice is almost meek, and it’s the first time that Link’s seen him so vulnerable, and so god-damn cute. 

 

Link gulps, making sure he’s careful as well, “Yeah, it was nice. Maybe we can do it again soon...”

 

Rhett seems to consider saying anything for a moment, but then blurts, “You wanna take a shower?” 

 

Link freezes. Rhett can’t be suggesting —

 

“I mean, I’ve got a shower, you don’t need to go home sweaty —” Phew. So Rhett isn’t suggesting — why would Link’s mind even go there? —

 

“And it’s real big, too. Just re-did the bathroom last month.” Rhett dusts something of Link’s shoulder, and the contact makes Link shiver. He really should have got going when he had the chance. “The water comes from the ceiling, it’s pretty high-tech but I can show you the ropes. And it’s big, it’d save ya a lot on water if we just, y’know—”

 

Except he is. Yep — he’s suggesting exactly that.

 

Link feels like he colours from head to toe, but hopes it’s just a feeling and his body didn’t actually betray him by turning crimson. He has always liked the prospect of saving on bills around the house. And there is something even more manly about showering with another guy then it is alone... locker room logic, or something.

 

“Yeah, alright,” Link says, stomach in absolute knots, and for a moment he thinks he catches a glimpse of surprise on Rhett’s face. 

 

“Alright,” Rhett says as if to confirm it, exhaling a breath with pursed lips as if he’s about to whistle, “cool.” The word almost makes Link laugh, instead he just smiles giddily. But then Rhett quickly turns and opens the door, holding it open for Link as he steps out. Link nods at him coolly as a way to acknowledge and thank him, and trails behind him to the house. It’s only when Rhett holds open the back door to the house that he speaks again.

 

“Man, I can’t wait to get outta these sweaty clothes.”

 

“Heh,” it’s the most awkward sounding thing that’s ever come out of Link’s mouth. He clears his throat and follows it up with a quiet, “Me too, brother.” It would have been weird if he’d called Rhett “bro”. Somehow “brother” works. 

 

Rhett looks over his shoulder to smile at him, and Link realises he has never been as certain that another guy is handsome. He feels almost privileged to be at the other end of that smile, even if it is a bit shit-eating. 

 

They don’t talk as they walk through the house and ascend the stairs. However, Link notices that Rhett slows down so he can fall in step with him. Link keeps his eyes down, especially on the stairs where he’s careful not to trip, but when he looks up it’s only to look at Rhett. Each time, Link finds Rhett’s eyes are already on him. Rhett, what a fitting name, he thinks. What a name. What a man—

 

With the mounting pile of the day’s strange feelings, Link can’t discern whether the coming opportunity is a blessing or a curse. It could be a curse, because Link doesn’t know Rhett too well, and what Link’s wishful mind hopes is mutual attraction might be just a way to actually conserve water. What could be a way to see where things might go, could just be another of Rhett’s ploys to prove himself as better than Link. He’s already taller, and Link’s sure he’s stronger, and Link obviously thinks that Rhett’s prettier — Link has to admit that the butterflies in his stomach don’t seem to mind any of this. And Rhett’s probably packin’ too — something he could, no doubt, rub Link’s nose in. Figuratively. 

 

It can’t be a curse, if only because Rhett himself seems like such a blessing. Link is sure that he likes Rhett — he would love to say he harbours any real anger or hate, but in reality it all dissipates when he lets it.

Link’s secure enough in his own manliness to recognise he has nothing to lose. He likes his own body, and the fact that he likes Rhett’s body even more isn’t exactly a bad thing. It’s a win-win situation.

 

Link has a biting feeling that Rhett’s been looking at him all throughout Link’s little zone-out.

 

“You good?” Rhett asks, quiet laughter surrounding his words. 

 

Link is blessedly saved by Rhett opening the door to the bathroom, and instead of responding he steps in hurriedly, looking around with only a minuscule approving nod, adamant on not showing how in awe he is. Powdered marble tiles all the way from the floor up to the ceiling, two big windows that stretch much in the same fashion, in front of which there’s a big bathtub, almost the size of a jacuzzi. Link wasn’t yearning to get into a bathtub with Rhett until he’s met with one, but the novelty doesn’t diminish the strength of it. He’s been staring at the bathtub for so long, that when he hears Rhett’s voice and turns to face him, Rhett’s already standing in front of the shower barefoot, just pulling his suspenders down.

 

“So?” 

 

“No wood, huh?” Link refers to the porcelain bathroom, biting his lip to say nothing more when his gaze falls on Rhett, who’s got both hands on his suspenders, fingers sliding down them slowly. Suspenders make Link think of garter belts, and consequently Rhett in one, complete with thigh-high stockings. Link keeps quiet, feeling like he’s tipsy and trying not to embarrass himself. 

 

“Plenty of wood here, Neal.”

 

Rhett smirks and starts pulling his shirt out of where it’s tucked into his pants. Link’s eyes instantly flit to the newly exposed pieces of Rhett’s bare skin — a glimpse of mid-riff, the slightly hairy belly as Rhett unbuttons the lowest buttons on his shirt. Rhett’s big arms, when Rhett shrugs the shirt off. Link turns away when he finds that his mouth is getting dry. He finds that unbuttoning his own pants is not as casual with him not being able to decide whether to get undressed as fast as he can or whether he should even risk it, being as half-hard as he is. He’s perfectly aware of why his dick twitches when he looks at the fabric move along Rhett’s soft skin as he peels off article by article, but chalks it up to confusion. His body’s just taking certain cues at face-value without adding the fact that this is Rhett into the equation. It would be a little embarrassing if Rhett noticed his state of arousal, whatever the reason for it — but not as embarrassing as quitting now and runnin’ off home. And there’s always the off-chance of... Link’s not sure exactly what. Seeing where things go, maybe. Link doesn’t consider himself as smart as he tells Rhett he is, but he ain’t dumb either — there’s something here that he’s never felt with another man, friend or foe. 

 

Rhett steps toward the shower and looks at Link over his shoulder, as if silently beckoning him forward. Goodness, Link thinks deludedly, it’s as if he’s tryin’ to make me hard. The big, square shower head hangs from the ceiling. It begins to rain when Rhett turns one of the little knobs. The water just barely sprays Rhett before he jumps away a little, laughing as he turns it off again. 

 

“Too cold,” Rhett mumbles, meeting Link’s eyes across the bathroom. He smiles an impossibly sweet smile. Paired with him admitting he isn’t in fact a Viking-blooded-whatever who can never get cold, it makes Link’s chest fill with an ineffable feeling.

 

It’s Rhett’s ass jiggling when he jumps that does it: Link is now fully hard, but figures Rhett won’t have any business looking down between his legs. Link has been pretty good at avoiding looking at Rhett’s dick so far, even if the thoughts of it make Link’s head spin a little. 

 

When Rhett turns the shower on again, a little more carefully, Link toes his shoes off, pulls his pants and boxers down in one go, and quickly takes his socks off, chucking them so they end up near the door. His glasses get a more gentle treatment, laid on top of his jeans before he rushes over to join Rhett in the shower.

 

Rhett gives him a small smile when Link extends a hand and touches the stream before carefully dipping the rest of his arm in. The water’s a little on the cold side, but that’s not what makes Link apprehensive about coming in. It’s the fact that, while his other hand is still covering his groin, Link doesn’t know how well hiding his situation will work, or how smart trying to hide it even is. He doesn’t quite know what to do or what he wants to do. At least he doesn’t have to think about whether he wants to look at Rhett. It would be torture to tear his gaze away from the small rivulets of water coursing down Rhett’s tanned shoulders and down his chest — probably even further down, where Link daren’t look yet. And he’s a little awkward about his situation, but with the way Rhett hounded him to come join him in the shower, he can’t imagine it ending too badly even if Rhett did notice.

 

Rhett’s voice breaks his reverie. “Is the water okay?” 

 

Link is sure he sounds as flustered as he feels, “Uh. Um — it’s a little cold,” he says, partly so he wouldn’t blurt out any of the other things that are on his mind.

 

Rhett turns one of the handles carefully, studying Link’s face as he does it. “That okay?” Rhett asks, and Link figures he can be honest. 

 

“Go back a little.”

 

Rhett nods, hand barely moving as he turns the handle a millimetre back, raising an eyebrow at Link when he’s done. “Good?”

 

Link doesn’t respond for a moment, because Rhett unabashedly looks down Link’s body before he meets his eyes again. Unsure of what this means yet still emboldened by it, Link quickly puts his hand on Rhett’s own, much like Rhett did to him back in the shed. Link moves their hands slowly and together they turn the handle until the water is just a tad cooler. 

 

“How manly, eh?” Link asks though he feels like he can barely breathe, “We should be able to shower in ice water...”

 

“If that’s all we could get, I wouldn’t mind.”

 

Link’s not sure what Rhett’s implying, but it still puts a smile on his face. He moves to stand a little further under the stream, his other hand still covering his crotch. It feels a little overwhelming to be so close to Rhett while also facing him, and the way his cock grazes his own palm when he moves isn’t helping one bit. So he lets go of Rhett’s hand and quickly turns around, presenting Rhett with his back. 

 

Link tilts his head back and focuses on the balmy feeling of cool water pouring down on him after so much time out in the sun. His movements are still stiff and a little awkward, but he figures that he can get both his hands up to wet his hair thoroughly — Rhett isn’t able to see his front. Rhett being able to see his back puts all sorts of ideas in Link’s head, and moments later when curiosity takes over he looks over his shoulder to see how Rhett’s getting on. 

Rhett’s head is bowed down a little. Link feels his cheeks heat up. He turns just a bit more so that he can see Rhett better, and then waits for the other man to tilt his head up and meet Link’s gaze. When he does, he only looks at Link more intensely.

 

“Got any shampoo?” Link asks, and Rhett nods. Link is pretty sure that Rhett’s breathing a little heavy, though it is hard to hear with the noise of the shower. Link turns back around to face Rhett, not breaking eye contact for one moment. Both of his hands hang down next to his hips, now only twitching with the desire to meet with the other man’s body. 

 

Rhett nods slowly and bends down and to the side, his elbow accidentally swiping Link’s upper abdomen as he moves. Link gasps as if he’d been stabbed — even the accidental touch sends shivers down his entire body. What makes his insides flutter so much he thinks he might be sick with desire is the sight of Rhett’s proud cock, peeking between his legs, coming into contact with Rhett’s own abdomen when he bends down to get the shampoo. When Rhett straightens up, he turns the shower off and opens the bottle, holding it out in front of Link. Link puts his palm forward so that Rhett can squeeze a bit of shampoo into his hand. Rhett puts a dollop of the pearly liquid into his own hand before rubbing his hands together, and then rubbing them over his upper body, starting with his armpits. Link mirrors him, not pretending he doesn’t want to look anymore. He follows the trail of shampoo Rhett’s hands leave on his body, and knows that Rhett is looking at him just the same. When their eyes meet again, they both instinctively smile. 

 

“Hm,” Link hopes that the hum sounds at least a little taunting, and by the almost worried look Rhett gives him, Link knows he hit the mark. Link can’t not make it a competition. “You not too hairy, huh?” He knows full well what he’s implying.

 

The worry melts off Rhett’s face and is replaced by an easy grin. “Not as much as you, no… Though you don’t need to shave to make your dick look any bigger.”

 

It’s the most convoluted compliment — it’s like Rhett knew that he couldn’t ruffle Link with any insult as much as he could with that.

 

Rhett keeps going, “Would look downright terrifying if it was any bigg—”

 

“You missed a spot,” Link changes the subject, a little roughly. He nods to Rhett’s shoulder, feeling his face burning. Rhett looks down at his own shoulder and rubs some shampoo on it haphazardly. Link shakes his head, meeting Rhett’s gaze before raising his hand up. 

 

Rhett looks on raptly as Link places his hand, finger by careful finger, on Rhett’s shoulder. He rubs the skin there a little, earning a sharp inhale from Rhett, before moving his hand up the crook of Rhett’s neck. He makes it all the way to Rhett’s jaw when he dares to bring the other hand up, with which he does the exact same on the other side. Rhett responds by putting his hand on Link’s chest, dragging it down until he can grab hold of Link’s waist. Link moves in a little, letting Rhett know that he’s allowed to handle him. Rhett’s other hand makes its way across Link’s chest more slowly, as he takes his time groping Link and running the tips of his fingers over Link’s nipples. When he can manage to open his eyes and breathe, Link moves his own hands up and to the back of Rhett’s neck before tangling them in Rhett’s hair. Rhett groans, quite loudly. Link answers with a moan, when a second later Rhett brings his other hand down to Link’s waist and pulls him in so that they are almost pressed chest to chest. Link can feel Rhett’s hardness graze his thigh, and it makes his head spin a little. But for a while longer they just look at each other, only moving their hands, which explore necks and shoulders, chests and backs in turns. They touch like they’re making out, without actually kissing. Rhett’s the one who fixes that blunder.

 

“You look real fuckin’ good, Neal,” Rhett says, leering down at him. Link looks back up with half-lidded eyes, hands gently moving over Rhett’s collarbones. Rhett leans down at a glacial pace, eyes fixed on Link’s lips for a long time before he finally swoops in to capture Link’s lips with his own. It’s quite rough, but softens as Link responds. Link mumbles into the kiss, hoping that his meek and belated, “You too,” is understood. 

 

“You shouldn’t have come over,” Rhett says frantically when they break apart, lips less than an inch from Link’s own, sounding as hungry as Link feels. He’s shaking his head as he looks at Link’s face, gaze not sticking at any point for longer than a few seconds. He looks down at Link’s body in the same manner, like he can’t take him in, like he can’t process this. Link’s the same, but his gaze stays mostly on Rhett’s lips. He raises his hand and tangles his fingers in Rhett’s beard, like he’s wanted to all day. Pushes into him fervently as he thinks of all the times he’s wanted to do this, when they rowed and ranted about things that didn’t matter in the slightest, only because they couldn’t do this. 

Rhett calms down completely when Link kisses him, eyes peacefully shutting when he lets Link take over completely. 

 

Link knows exactly what Rhett meant when he said Link shouldn’t have come over. They shouldn’t have gotten to actually talking, shouldn’t have got to know each other. Not if they wanted to keep any sense of normalcy in their life — because even hating your neighbour is more acceptable than being as close as Link wanted to be, as they are now. Because from the first time Rhett lectured Link on how to mow the lawn, yelling at him from over at his own lawn, Link knew that if he went over there and gave him a piece of what was really on his mind, he would have ended up with his neighbour in his lap. Had the neighbour been up to it, of course. Which, by the way he melts in Link’s arms as they kiss now, Link guesses he would have been. 

Rhett flicks the water back on but otherwise doesn’t move, still kissing Link under the stream, bodies slick and moving together in a way that makes Link break out in goose bumps. 

 

Rhett moves away, though his lips stay attached to Link’s as if he would drown if they broke apart. His hand follows the stream of cool water down Link’s body, rinsing him off, caressing his chest and running a thumb over a nipple before he dips even further down, down Link’s happy trail to press his palm on the inside of Link’s thigh. 

 

As Link finds himself being pushed back to lean against the wall, he reaches a hand to his right to fumble with the faucet and turn the water off.

Rhett pays the water no mind (so reckless, apparently he’d even waste water for this), pressing slow kisses down Link’s neck and to his chest. His other hand gropes one side of Link’s chest while he licks the other side, and with how much attention Link’s chest is getting on this lovely afternoon, he realises Rhett might have a fixation — not that Link overly minds, though. 

 

“You told me once that your dick rises at will,” Rhett says, and Link remembers the spring evening when they got into one of their more telling arguments. “So why’ you hard now?” 

 

Link closes his eyes, hand coming up to the back of Rhett’s neck, fingers scratching lightly as Rhett mouths at his chest. 

 

“Didn’t ya tell me you fuck like a beast?” Link whispers, not able to muster up anything higher in volume as Rhett keeps pressing soft kisses into his chest hair. “That you could keep goin’ for hours, fuck me till I couldn’t walk —“

 

Rhett gives his pec a small bite, making Link yelp. “Yeah,” Rhett says, moving up to look at Link. “But then I corrected myself, didn’t I? Said it wasn’t you I wanted to fuck...” he trails off with a kiss to Link’s lips, and Link pulls him in closer. 

 

When Rhett moves the hand on Link’s thigh up, following the trail of dark hair to where it gets denser, Link reaches down to grab his wrist and stop him. Rhett straightens up a little, shooting Link a look that Link can only describe as scared, and maybe a little ashamed. He can’t leave Rhett feeling any of those things so he acts quickly, leaning in to kiss him as he pulls Rhett’s hand back down, and then between his legs, to the cleft of his ass.

 

“Unless it’s not me you wanna fuck,” Link adds to the action with a smile, and Rhett pushes him against the wall so hard as he kisses him that it startles a laugh out of Link. 

 

The girlfriend Link had before Janine was into pegging, but not as much as Link was. (Is.) She broke up with him on account of that, among other things, if he remembers correctly. Said she felt like Link needed something else. Someone else. When he met Janine at a family barbecue he thought she was it, but Janine isn’t into ass-play even a little bit — 

 

Rhett deepens the kiss, making Link produce and embarrassingly needy moan. His knees threaten to give in, and Rhett must feel that Link’s turning into jelly because he uses his hand to hold Link up and press him harder against the wall. His other hand is the pinnacle of tenderness, and his fingers graze Link’s ass so gently that Link thinks he might seriously pass out. The yearning and the passion coil inside him in a way that makes him unsure of what he wants exactly. Undoubtedly he wants more, but it also feels impossibly good going at the slow pace that Rhett is setting. He decides to completely give in to Rhett, mind blank as he clutches onto him, mouth lax as he presses it to Rhett’s neck. 

 

Rhett joins their mouths together again as he swipes his middle finger down Link’s crack, and Link arches that back with a high mewl. His fuzzy mind notes that nothing’s ever felt as right as the other man’s kisses and caresses, and he’s only able to realise it because Rhett moves away a little, as if giving Link’s mind a chance to catch up to what’s happening. Of course, no matter how much Link feels it to be the case, Rhett can’t read his mind. But then again, can he not? Because even though he moves not to let Link take it all in, Link does, and Rhett pulls him away from the shower and toward the sink where he goes to rummage in a cabinet. Watching Rhett pull out a small tub of vaseline, Link thinks that Rhett can not only read his mind, but anticipate what Link is going to be thinking about even before Link thinks it. 

 

Rhett pulls him in and then all but pushes him toward the sink, and Link braces himself by leaning down and grabbing onto the edge of it. The moan he lets out at being manhandled in such a way is embarrassing, but only underscores how right this is for him, how right a man he convinced himself he hated is the most wondrous being he’s come across. When he faces forward, Link meets his reflection in the big mirror, complete with Rhett behind him. The sight is too good to be looked at long. Link dips his head down a little and closes his eyes, arching his back, spreading his legs and pushing his ass up in a quiet offering. Quiet, save for the soft moans that neither of them can seem to stifle.

Rhett reaches over him to drop the vaseline in the sink and for a moment Link feels Rhett’s dick on one of his cheeks, but Rhett’s hands quickly replace it. Link wonders why Rhett got the lube only to leave it before even coating one finger until Rhett speaks. 

 

“Holy fuck, Neal,” Rhett whispers, grabbing handfuls of Link’s ass and squeezing. Link looks up in the mirror, and the reverent look Rhett is giving his ass makes Link shiver all over. Without ever looking away, Rhett puts a hand on either of Link’s cheeks and spreads his ass, then lets go as if to make it jiggle, and then does it again, and again — before slapping it, hard. The moan it shocks out of Link is helpless, amplified by him being able to see Rhett’s face in the mirror. Rhett’s heavy breathing and scattered moaning only add to Link’s certainty that he’s never felt anything better. Link’s hands tighten on the sides of the sink, and between them his cock rubs up against the cool, smooth porcelain, impossibly hard. He’s leaking so much precome that it wouldn’t be far-fetched to compare his dick to the faucet. 

 

Unable to keep his eyes open for long as Rhett kisses the back of his neck while playing with his ass, Link feels around the sink blindly until he can get the vaseline and then all but thrusts it back at Rhett. “Please,” Link manages to gasp in his broken voice. 

 

Rhett takes the lube and as soon as his hand is free Link has it back on the sink, holding on for dear life. He meets Rhett’s eyes in the mirror, and Rhett looks at him lewdly as he uncaps the lube. He scoops up a generous amount onto his middle and index fingers, and then slowly — glacially, in Link’s opinion — leans over to place the vaseline on the back edge of the sink. His coated fingers he raises up, making sure that Link can see them in the mirror. It’s only when Rhett completely straightens up again that he moves back, admiring Link’s ass with a sharp inhale. 

 

While Link’s very flattered — he reaches back with one hand and puts it on his cheek, spreading his ass for Rhett. He meets Rhett’s lustful gaze with his own serious one in the mirror, and upon seeing Link’s bratty face Rhett huffs out a fond laugh. He shakes his head a little at Link’s impatience but nonetheless presses the glob of vaseline into Link’s crack, rubbing slowly before pressing his index finger into Link’s hole. 

 

Link braces for the pressure, knuckles turning almost as white as the sink they’re holding onto. Rhett circles Link’s rim with his finger slowly before pushing in and then pulling out less than he pushed in. He must notice that Link can take it because he doesn’t do it too many times before his entire finger is in, and Link’s still pushing back as if he can’t get enough (because he, indeed, cannot). One finger turns easily into two, and the slick noises they make as Link fucks himself on Rhett’s hand are obscene, but not as obscene as the sounds coming from Rhett. Link’s moaning, naturally, filled up by Rhett’s huge fingers as he is — but Rhett really has no business grunting and cussing so loudly to nothing but the sight of Link. 

 

“You do this often?” Rhett asks, voice just rough enough to make Link’s dick ache.

 

Link tries to think of how to sum it up best, but he’s got other things on his mind, so he off-handedly decides to nod.

 

“D’ya get fucked by any other guys in the neighbourhood?” Rhett asks, and it sounds a little malicious that Link thinks he might just do that later, if only to piss Rhett off. 

 

But then Rhett curls his fingers inside him and Link just shakes his head, mouth agape.

 

“No one, huh? Not even Harris? He seems like he’d be your type—“

 

Link finds it in himself to roll his eyes, though he’d rather cross them with the way Rhett finger-fucks him while speaking in that low voice. “No one,” Link says, knowing that’s what Rhett needs to hear, “Only you. Only you, ever—“ he babbles, squeezing his eyes shut when Rhett picks up the pace a little. 

 

“Fuck,” Rhett hums, pleased. “Why me, then?” Rhett asks, and Link’s ready to either tell him to shut up or list off all the reasons when Rhett keeps talking, “Bet you ain’t ever seen a dick bigger than this, huh?” Rhett asks, gaze dark. 

 

Link closes his eyes and arches up, pushing his ass back toward Rhett. “Cept my own,” he breathes, more as a quip to himself, not expecting Rhett to hear. If he wanted Rhett to hear, he probably should have responded with something akin to *Yes, daddy.* 

But considering what Link is into, this almost works out better for him.

 

“Oh really?” Rhett asks, slowing his actions.

 

Link whines. 

 

“Maybe you’d like to fuck me, then...” Rhett offers, pulling his fingers out, and Link gives him a long-suffering look in the mirror. He knows what Rhett’s doing, for goodness’ sake, the man himself had commented on Link’s size just minutes before. But then Rhett spanks him and Link gasps, dick twitching against the sink.

 

“N-no,” Link stutters, bringing a hand up to push his hair back so it’s not in his eyes. “No, sir.”

 

“You wouldn’t wanna?” Rhett asks slowly, provoking a reaction, but Link can see a smile in the mirror so he doesn’t respond with anything but a moan. Thankfully, Rhett uses his wet hand to wrap around his own dick, and then comes closer, pressing the length in-between Link’s cheeks. A full-body shiver passes through Link’s body at the feeling of something so perfectly warm and hard against him.

 

“Look at ya,” Rhett mutters appreciatively, “You really want it, huh?”

 

Link nods desperately, biting his lip to stop himself begging. He would have, had Rhett provoked it, but thankfully he just starts moving, dragging his dick along the cleft until he presses the tip against Link’s entrance. 

 

Link figures that trying to prove he’s still manlier is the way to get Rhett riled up enough to pound into him. He’s breathy and delusional but he manages a: “Goodness, put it in. What are ya scared of?”

 

Rhett frowns so hard that his teeth poke out a little. Link bares his teeth in response, in a smile.

 

Rhett thrusts in, hard. Link’s smile falls as his mouth forms a oh, and his brows scrunch up. And though Rhett’s still more careful than Link would like him to be, it does hurt a little. Link responds to it with a moan, because what kind of man is he if he can’t take a little pain? 

 

“Harder,” Link is brave enough to ask though his voice is barely there. Rhett buries his fingers into Link’s hips and pulls him in, making Link’s fingers squeak against the porcelain. Link still holds onto the sink fearing he’ll fall if he doesn’t hold on, moaning shamelessly as Rhett begins thrusting with more force. As stoic as Rhett had been up to that point, he can’t seem to stop his own moans, and he babbles curses as he wrecks Link. Rhett’s pounding into him so hard that the sink and the mirror are shaking, but Rhett clearly doesn’t care about anything save for the two of them. Link feels like he could die with the feeling.

 

Just as Link thinks that Rhett is reaching his limit and only goads him on with another “Harder,” because it’s hard for him to think of anything better to say, Rhett moves one of his hands to Link’s waist and then pulls him closer abruptly, so that Link’s hands slip off the sink completely. He flails around a little and reaches back to wrap an arm around Rhett’s neck, and then feels himself being picked up so that his toes barely graze the floor. Rhett pulls him in even more, Link’s ass completely flush against Rhett’s hipbones. Rhett somehow manages to keep Link in the air and thrust into him at the same time, and Link slacks back against Rhett’s chest with a loud moan, head lolled back on Rhett’s shoulder. 

 

“Touch yourself,” Rhett commands, low and rough into his ear. Link complies easily, hand coming down to wrap around his own dick instantly. Link knows that Rhett only asked that of him since he’s unable to jerk Link off himself — he could if he wasn’t busy literally holding Link up in freakin’ mid-air.

 

The feeling of being completely at Rhett’s mercy fills Link up just as Rhett’s dick does, and when Link looks down the bridge of his nose and meets Rhett’s eyes in the mirror he can feel it coming on. It takes only a few more of Rhett’s thrusts before Link is shooting thick ropes into the sink. Rhett groans and keeps him there, letting Link ride out his orgasm, before gently setting him down to where Link can fully stand on his wobbly feet. Rhett keeps them there for a few moments, letting Link come down as he thrusts into him with a bit less fervour. It’s written all over Rhett’s face that he’s struggling not to keep going at the same pace he had been fucking Link.

 

“Keep goin’ baby,” Link barely says, unable to really catch his breath. He’s suddenly filled with the need to look over his shoulder at the real Rhett, not just the image in the mirror. He puts a hand on Rhett’s chest and Rhett grabs it, keeping it there, his other hand still on Link’s hip as he picks up his pace once again.

 

“Can I come inside—?” Rhett asks breathily, and Link can’t nod quickly enough. Rhett’s fingers tighten around Link’s hand as Rhett thrusts up into him, and Link’s mouth falls open in a moan when he feels himself getting filled up. 

 

“Yeah, oh Gosh,” Link whispers, eyes following the trail of Rhett’s flushed skin all the way up from his cheeks, down to where the pink base of Rhett’s dick meets his ass. 

 

Rhett surges forward to crash his lips against Link’s, and then drops his head down to the crook of Link’s neck, shaking and pulling Link’s ass onto his dick as he empties inside him. 

 

When he pulls out, Link moans into his mouth at the feeling of not being left quite empty. Link turns around to face him completely and Rhett crowds him against the sink, moving in between his legs and kissing him. They can both barely breathe, but they still find some time and energy to enjoy a few languid kisses.

 

“Stay here,” Rhett says softly after a while, kissing him again before walking away to rummage in another cupboard. It’s a good thing Rhett told him to stay if he wanted him to stay, because Link has to fight his whole body not to follow. 

 

Rhett returns with a small towel, and when he comes back to stand in front of Link, Link immediately wraps his arms around him.

 

“Wait,” Rhett says with a laugh, but he doesn’t move out of Link’s hold. He kisses Link’s shoulder as he reaches around him to run the towel under warm water in the sink. Link knows it’s warm because it sprays onto the ass Link has planted on the sink, a very funny sensation.

 

“Bend over a little,” Rhett says, with a smile like he knows he’s about to stupefy Link. Being able to read the smile, however, Link just moves away so and sticks his ass out a little. Rhett turns so that he can stand next to Link and reaches down between Link’s legs from behind, pressing the small towel on the inside of his thigh. Link looks down to see that Rhett’s spunk is dripping all the way down to his mid-thigh, and shivers partly because of that knowledge and the fact that Rhett slowly drags the towel up and in-between Link’s cheeks. 

 

Rhett peppers small kisses on Link’s upper back as he wipes him clean, and Link’s head falls back as he enjoys Rhett’s soft touches and kisses, which makes Rhett laugh.

 

“You wanna borrow some clean clothes?” Rhett offers, and Link’s head instantly rocks forth.

 

“Yes-“ Link says eagerly, grinning when he sees Rhett’s smile. 

 

“Alright,” Rhett says easily, wrapping his hands around Link as he hugs him from behind. He pushes him forward a little and says, “Second door to the right. Pick anything you want out of the closet.”

 

Link turns around and presses a long kiss to Rhett’s lips before extracting himself from Rhett’s hold. He picks up his glasses and bounds out of the room and down the hall quickly, shivering a little, as naked as he is.

 

He comes back out of the simply arranged bedroom in sweats and a salmon-coloured polo he’d seen Rhett wear a few times before. It’s a little too big for him, but Link thinks he makes it work. He goes commando under the sweats, but borrows a pair of clean socks. 

 

Rhett’s there at the door of the bathroom, in a white bathrobe, Link’s shoes in hand. Link knows that Rhett wouldn’t suggest that Link leaves so soon if their partners weren’t coming back, but alas, they are. He tells Link not to worry about his dirty clothes, which he offers to wash. They stumble downstairs in tandem, leaning in every once in a while for a kiss or a nibble on the neck. Once they’re down in the living room, neither of them seem to be in a rush. They walk languidly, sharing secret looks much like they did back in the shed. It’s quiet for a while, though Link has many things to say, almost all of them involving seeing Rhett again. 

 

When Rhett speaks, Link’s smile is so wide it’s pathetic, but he doesn’t care. 

 

“Janey’s out for tea with your gal ‘round five tomorrow - maybe you can return that to me then,” he points at the clothes, unable to hide his own smile tough Link can see he tries to by pursing his lips.

 

“Yes,” Link says quickly, “Gosh...” For a moment he considers if he should say anything, but decides that he can be open with Rhett. “Not gonna lie, I was thinkin’ you might wanna go back to... y’know. How it was before.”

 

Rhett’s face is one of alarm. “You serious? After that?”

 

Link is certain that he blushes, but he doesn’t say anything. Rhett crowds him against the wall and puts his hands on Link’s hips. He tilts his head down and Link closes his eyes in preparation for a kiss, but then Rhett just speaks to him, his lips millimetres away from Link’s own. “You’re not a man, Neal,” he says, and Link’s a little confused until Rhett grins and says, “You’re a god.”

 

Link rolls his eyes and breaks away from Rhett’s hold, but only has a moment to dally about before he remembers something. He’s certain that Rhett can read his dumb lightbulb-moment expression by the concerned face Rhett pulls in response, a moment later when they make it to the front door. 

 

“My shirt—“ Link says and vaguely points in the direction of the back yard.

 

“Get it tomorrow,” Rhett rushes to say. “I’ll wash that too. It’s not a problem.” Link still must look panicked because Rhett sighs and gives him a patient smile, “Janey doesn’t take inventory of my closet, Link.”

 

Link’s sure he colors at the admonishment, and at hearing his name in the other man’s voice. It’s funny that it took so long for Rhett to use it in a non-mocking way, but he can’t deny that he never got used to someone only calling him by his last name quicker. 

 

Rhett should be admonishing him for the fact that he has a wife, not the fact that his wife doesn’t check up on him enough, but Link decides to clear his head of the thoughts of their female companions. At least until he can talk to Janine about this. Not because he wants to out of some great moral urge — but because he wants it to happen again, and figures it will get unfairer the longer Rhett keeps agreeing to it. Because Link will keep offering. Maybe they can all be friends, later on. Save for him and Rhett, naturally, because they can apparently be anything but.

 

Link lets Rhett open the front door to him, warming at the gesture, exactly because it feels so emasculating.

 

“Tea, tomorrow?” Rhett asks, one last time. 

 

“Five pm,” Link confirms, grinning as he puts his shoes on. 

 

Rhett grabs his hand when Link turns to leave, and Link shoots him a small smile. Rhett stays close behind him at the door and pats his butt a little with the hand that isn’t on Link’s. Link’s gasp is quiet, but he’s sure Rhett can hear. Then, with a curt, “Good job,” from Rhett, both of his hands abandon Link’s body and he moves back into the house. 

 

Link feels the sudden and uncompromising need to retaliate. So he does. His hands are sooner in his front pockets than Rhett turns his head to the side to look at him. Link turns fully and crunches his way across the lawn, knowing Rhett would prefer that he walked on the little pathway, but counting on Rhett punishing him for it later.