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Ray stands in the middle of Rip’s office, fingers flexing, and feels his breath shiver before it makes its way out of his mouth.

“Dr. Palmer,” Rip says, “do you know why you’re here?”

Ray does. The rest of the Legends have gone to their quarters after debriefing and a light scolding, but Ray had had a significantly big role in the mission. And so here he is, standing, the exo-skeleton discarded even if he wears everything else, still.

This mission had been a long one. One time-travelling assassin was bad enough, but two were a handful—most especially with the time it took to catch them. Ray had been the one to develop the tracker that followed their jumps in time, and that tracker had led the group into taking the two into the brig after finding them in a church in the 17th century. For once there hadn’t been any major destruction to the buildings, but one of them had nearly shot Ray in the face before Ray had gotten them with his photon blasters and knocked them out.

Ray is proud of himself for being able to track the assassins down, but nearly losing his life like that…

“Is it because of the fight?” He tries not to grit his teeth. “I’m sorry, Rip, I didn’t mean—”

But Rip stands, circling the table in the room until he’s stood right in front of him. Both his hands are on his hips, the look on his face indecipherable, and for all the inches Ray might have on him, he feels his breath catch in his throat.

His face warms. Rip doesn’t seem to notice.

“That’s right,” he says. “What else do you think I’d be talking to you about?”

Ray has a few good ideas, but he finds himself flushing instead when a hand touches the open flap of his jacket. His lips part as soon as Rip’s fingers pinch the edge of it, and he finds himself uncomfortably aware of the proximity between them—of how close Rip’s desk is, of how it wouldn’t take much steps at all for Rip to walk him backwards towards it.

“I don’t,” Ray stammers, “I don’t know. Sorry.” The heat that touches his face spreads outward, down to some other parts of his body, and as much as a part of him wants to escape, another part waits with bated breath for Rip to open his mouth again.

“What on earth are you apologising for?” Rip asks, frowning. The grip in Ray’s jacket tightens, and some stupid voice in the back of Ray’s mind chants a steady pull me down pull me down pull me down.

His heart is beating too fast. Ray opens his mouth to try and think of something, anything, but Rip has taken a step forward and now they’re way, way too close. A flash of images hits him—the thought of Rip’s weight on his own, of Rip’s strong hand pulling his hair, of Rip’s teeth in his lip and his voice low and smooth in that infuriating, non-American accent—and Ray imagines that if he leaned in, he’d feel Rip’s beard rasp delightfully against his cheek, rough in a way women have never been.

“I’m sorry,” Ray says automatically, and he tries to look at anything else but Rip, but Rip’s hand has moved over his chest, ghosting along down his belly, and Ray dies from the inside out knowing that he’s started to quiver under his touch. “I didn’t—I didn’t think he’d pull a gun on me, honest. I was being careful, and I—”

Rip needs to know what he’s doing. He should. Rip can’t possibly be deaf to the thud of Ray’s heart it’s so loud, and he’s so close, and Ray’s fingers curl in tight because Rip’s touch has ended in the lower right corner of his gut.

“After all that work put into your tracker, what did we accomplish?”

A near-death experience. A case that Ray might not have made it out of, because he’d failed to pay attention.

“I should’ve known he’d be dangerous. I should’ve been prepared, and kept my guard up.” Ray can hear himself rambling and it almost doesn’t sound like him—sounds a bit far away, in his embarrassment. “I’m sorry, Rip, I should’ve—”

The feel of Rip’s fingers moving past the button of his trousers makes Ray’s entire mind stop working. It flicks downward and bounces back up, and Ray knows without a shadow of a doubt that Rip has to know now. Ray’s trousers aren’t loose at all, and he’s sure he’s hard, and what does that say about him, that he’s affected this way? What would Rip think? Would he be disappointed, now, for more than one reason?

“What we’ve accomplished,” Rip says, laughing, so close that Ray feels the warmth of his breath and hears the hum of his laugh like he’s got earphones on, “is the capture of two assassins hellbent on murdering religious figures.” His fingertips brush a little lower, touching the hard line of Ray’s cock, and Ray’s head short circuits completely.

Rip’s words come in a pleased little exhale, warm against the corner of his jaw. “Brilliant work, Raymond. I’m proud of you.”

And Ray’s nails dig into his palm as his body shivers, shudders, pleasure shooting down his spine and his lips parting without sound. He spends, useless, in his trousers, his cock throbbing with Rip’s fingers still carefully brushed against it, and he shuts his eyes and stands there, rigid, even with the warmth trickling down his leg.

When they open again, Ray stares at Rip without a word. His knees are trembling, ruined by the aftershocks of pleasure, and trembling further with the way Rip looks at him with a smile on his mouth.

“That’s all for today, Dr. Palmer. You’re dismissed.”

Rip returns to his place behind the desk, and Ray is left standing there as if he hadn’t just come apart and been rendered vulnerable before him. He opens one of his blaster pistols, working on its components, and only when Ray is sure that Rip has nothing left to say to him does he swallow hard and step back to leave the room in a quick pace.

Gideon says something about helping him with new clothes, but Ray doesn’t pay attention to her. His trousers are ruined, the cloth wet and clinging to him and running cold, and he needs to change now, but doesn’t imagine it a good idea if he does so with the help of their captain’s all-knowing AI. His heart thuds in his chest, his cheeks still warm, and in his mind he wonders how on earth he’s going to get anything done when the next mission comes around.

But as he strips his clothes off in the bathing area and stands barefoot on tiled floor, it doesn’t take much for him to shut his eyes and remember the way Rip’s fingers had felt, or the way his voice had sounded, low and sweet and Brilliant work, Raymond.

He’d sounded, for just a moment, like a lover.