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taste salt on the humid wind

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"Okay," Nile says as she walks back into the main living area of the old house right as Joe comes through the kitchen door, stamping the dirt and dust off his boots and brushing the random bits of leaves and twigs off the rest of his clothes. He could have waited until the local guys they call for routine maintenance had time to come by, but now the shutters are open and the clear, bright light from the Grecian sun spills through the house, exactly the way he and Nicky like it. From the way Nile smiles as she turns slowly around in a circle, she likes it, too.

"I was beginning to think there was some rule about safe houses not having actual bedrooms in them." Nile stops and looks out of the window at where the waves batter against the sea wall below and then turns back to let her eyes sweep over the whitewashed walls and stone-flagged floors of the kitchen. "No offense, Andy, but this beats that old church any day, even if it's not near Paris. And let's not even talk about the cave."

From the small hall that leads to one set of rooms, Andy rolls her eyes and jibes back, "That's because this is less of a safe house and more of one of their love nests, but, no, bedrooms are generally not high on the list when you're trying to go silent."

"This house is perfectly safe," Nicky points out from the other side of the room. He's tired and worn down, still, because he won't not take care of people, which is making him extra pissy, Joe thinks, mostly fondly. There's also a little irritation there, because it's not like everyone hasn't been telling Nicky they're fine and to take it easy, but, well, he wouldn't be Nicky if he listened. "We would not have offered it otherwise."

They'd chosen it as an interim base for a number of reasons beyond safety: he and Nicky have only owned it since the previous year, so Andy's never been there and Booker wasn't involved in its purchase; it's big enough that they won't be living on top of each other; and while they're on the Mediterranean, this particular island hasn't ever been home to any of them, so Nile won't be the odd one out, again.

"Yeah," Joe agrees. "We just have the advantage of Nicky's patience when it comes to hunting things down so we get the extra shit thrown in there, too."

Nicky shrugs; Joe knows that while he'll agree that the characteristics that make for a good sniper--focus, calm, and decisiveness--carry over to a lot of more mundane life situations, Joe has also heard him say that he thinks it's more that the others don't really care all that much about where they live. Andy truly doesn't notice things like separate spaces to live and sleep; Booker, Joe is now realizing, never really felt that he could deserve anything comfortable; and Joe himself can make the best of any situation.

"Okay, well, oo-fucking-rah to Nicky and his patience," Nile is saying. "Bedrooms, on the water, and a bathroom that isn't growing mold--he gets all the props."

"Thank you, cara," Nicky says. "And for that, you may have your choice of where to sleep."

The house is old and there isn't much difference in the rooms they can use for sleeping; nothing but two sets of two smallish rooms on either side of the open living/cooking space. Joe assumes it was built with an eye toward several generations living together; he and Nicky bought it for its isolation and the view of the water and didn't see much need to change anything.

Nile smiles as though Nicky has just gifted her with her own luxury villa and makes a point of considering each option carefully. She finally decides on one with windows that overlook the hills that center the island--the water side is too noisy, she says--and Andy throws her backpack on the bed in the room across from Nile's choice.

"I'm set," Andy says--which basically proves Nicky's point, Joe thinks. He's not stupid enough to say that out loud, though.

"So, I was reading up on this place on the flight over," Nile says. "It's got a hell of a party vibe-- you guys lived here for a while, so what's the best thing to do?"

Nicky turns back from where he's been looking out of the modest glassed-in doors at the view of the Mediterranean and says, "We, ah, enjoy the sunsets."

Nile manages to keep her face from falling somehow, but Joe can tell that Nicky, even as tired as he is, can see that he's disappointed her. Joe's about to assure her that that's not all they've checked out on the island, but Andy steps in with a roll of her eyes.

"Alright, kid," she says to Nile. "You and me, we're going into town and seeing what we can find on our own."

"Okay?" Nile says. "Just the two of us?"

"Yes," Andy answers, "because the two of them are going to sit and chill and watch the sun set so that Nicky won't go face-first into his plate." Nicky starts to protest, but Andy isn't in the mood to coddle anyone. "Don't start," she says to him. "You're not the only one who can keep track of people's sleep cycles and I know exactly how little you've been getting."

She's not wrong: even after Nicky wrapped up the antibiotic schedule he'd put her--and by extension, him--on and hadn't been getting up every three hours, he hadn't really slept. Joe knows a lot of it has to do with that attention to detail that makes him good at so many things, but Joe's been hoping that getting here, having everything settled with Copley and Booker might let that part of his brain ease off. Trust Andy to jump-start that process.

Nicky presses his lips together in the way that says there is a lot he's not saying, but nods and accepts what she says. When he flicks his eyes to Joe, though, Joe doesn't even let him get started.

"Yeah, no," Joe says as he scribbles a couple of names on a random scrap of paper, to give Andy and Nile a place or two to start off with in town. "If you think I'm leaving you here alone, you're straight-up delusional, Nico."

He hands the paper to Nile and tosses the keys to the truck to Andy. Nicky gets one more shot in, reminding Andy that her body isn't going to process alcohol the same now, to which she replies with an obscene gesture as she herds Nile out of the house, and then it's down to just Joe and Nicky, and Joe turns to see what he can do to take care of the caretaker.

* - * - *

Joe is wearing that particular expression that says Nicky isn't going to be able to put him off now, which is, all things considered, not an issue with Nicky at the moment. He does wait until Andy and Nile have left, and gives it a small amount more of time, in case they come back for any reason, but finally, it appears that they're alone and Nicky can truly allow himself to step back and simply stop.

"Nico," Joe starts, but Nicky holds up a hand and consciously breathes out in a long, deep flow. He is exhausted, that much is true, but it's more than a physical exhaustion. His soul craves solace as well, and sleep isn't going to help with that.

"I would very much like for you to make love to me," Nicky says, turning to face Joe and smiling at the concern and love he sees there. "Now, so that we may take as much time as possible."

"Of course, hayati," Joe breathes, agreeing as Nicky had known he would. He cups Nicky's face in both hands and draws him close to press kisses over his eyes and his forehead and finally, finally his mouth. Nicky lets himself fall into the feel of Joe's lips against his, Joe's tongue pressing into his mouth, his hands in Nicky's hair, his body warm and strong against Nicky's.

"What do you want, Nico?" Joe murmurs against Nicky's jaw, along the column of his throat, against the sensitive skin where his neck curves into his shoulder. "Tell me, beloved."

"Anything," Nicky says, breathless and almost shaking already. They have been sleeping in the same bed, touching and kissing this whole week past, but this is the first time Joe has kissed him with intent for so much more since before Merrick's people took them. "Anything. Whatever you want to give me."

"That's definitely a lot," Joe says, and Nicky can feel his smile against his own skin. "I'll have to start a list."

"Yes," Nicky agrees, pressing closer and reveling in the feel of Joe's strength against him. "So we won't forget anything."

"First," Joe says, pressing one last kiss to Nicky's mouth and stepping back, "I want to see you here, in the light, with the sea behind you."

Slowly, with infinite care, he unbuttons the thin cotton shirt Nicky is wearing, pushes it off Nicky's shoulders and then stops to trace the curve of Nicky's collarbone with his lips and tongue. Nicky's head is suddenly too heavy for his neck; it lolls back without any conscious thought on his part. Joe takes the opportunity to drag his mouth up the full length of Nicky's neck, which doesn't do anything to solve the mystery of why Nicky can't control anything about his head--or perhaps it answers it very neatly, Nicky thinks hazily.

Joe backs him to where Nicky can lean against the wall, and then slides his fingers under the waistband of Nicky's pants, two fingers stroking down, dipping almost coyly toward Nicky's slowly hardening cock while his thumb teases at Nicky's navel. The rough plaster of the wall is cool and grounding at Nicky's back while Joe is all heat and intensity in front of him, his hands and mouth moving over Nicky's skin as though they own it (which they do, Nicky thinks, his brain skipping back and forth along with the touches.) By the time Joe works the button and zipper of Nicky's slacks open, Nicky is shaking; tiny, fine tremors racing along his muscles.

He somehow finds the presence of mind to step out of his loafers before Joe lets his slacks fall and peels him out of his underwear so that he can step free without tripping and let Joe look his fill. Joe's eyes move over him with a painstaking thoroughness, skimming across Nicky's shoulders and chest, tracing the length of his legs, along his thighs and hips, lingering on his mouth and belly and cock.

Joe's gaze is comforting and arousing, exciting and soothing, everything all at the same time. Nicky wants to be wrapped up in his arms and held close and to be spread out and begging on his bed. Joe knows this, all of it--of course he does--but he doesn't move to do any of it, only takes his time and allows himself to see Nicky, all of him.

Nicky, in turn, allows himself to be seen, holds himself still and calm, drinks in the want and need Joe's eyes are lavishing on him, reveling in it even after all the years they've been together.

"Now that you've seen me," Nicky murmurs, "what comes next?"

Joe smiles at him. "Touching," he says, his hand reaching out to trace Nicky's cheekbone, his mouth, to slide down his neck. "And then tasting."

"Yes," Nicky whispers, taking the hand Joe's offering and letting him lead him to the room they'd shared before, with its bed that's just big enough for the two of them and the windows that look out over the sea. Joe turns his hand over and presses a kiss to Nicky's palm, and then another one to the inside of his wrist where the skin is thin and the blood flows close to the surface. Nicky sighs out with pleasure at the feel of Joe's mouth, his lips and his tongue and the soft brush of his beard, but can't help teasing, "Are we skipping over the touching, my love?"

Joe looks up with a smile. "My apologies, ya amar. I lost my head for a moment." He straightens up and trails his hand up Nicky's arm, the very tips of his fingers skimming along the sensitive skin. "I wouldn't want to break any promises."

"I don't think you can," Nicky manages to say even as all the air in his lungs whispers out as Joe's hand reaches for his mouth, his thumb tracing lightly--so lightly--over Nicky's bottom lip. "But I think I could forgive you if you do."

"No, no," Joe says, his hands everywhere now--along Nicky's shoulders and down his back, his palms fitting neatly over Nicky's hips while his thumbs tease along diagonal lines that should--but don't quite--lead to Nicky's cock. "I'll save your forgiving me for something a little more involved than putting my hands all over you."

"As you wish," Nicky grits out, somehow keeping his body from arching toward what he knows Joe isn't ready to give him yet. He has some pride, after all, even if he knows how quickly Joe can reduce him to wordless begging if he so chooses.

"It's like that, eh?" Joe laughs, a soft huff of love and care and amusement that ghosts over Nicky's skin, a promise of what Nicky knows Joe is leading up to. It's a promise Joe will always keep, but nothing more than that, not at the moment. Nicky sets his jaw against the whine that wants to make itself known and lets Joe go on with the touches, the ones that stroke along his thighs and over his ass, each one long and slow and lazy, as though Nicky is not all but shaking in response.

"Stubborn," Joe murmurs. "Not that this is a surprise."

"As it should not be," Nicky says. He speaks in a rush so that he does not accidentally allow any of the other words he isn't ready to say yet to tumble out after. He breathes in slowly, and then, his thoughts under better control adds, "I told you, I want whatever you want to give me."

"And what if what I want is you out of your head," Joe says, his voice gone low and dark. "What if I want you spread out on our bed, so far gone you can't speak."

"I would want it, too," Nicky whispers. Joe surges forward and kisses him then, rough and unyielding, one hand tangling in Nicky's hair while the other wraps around his back, pulling Nicky hard against him. Nicky returns everything, all that he can give, and then, when Joe breaks the kiss and bites his way along Nicky's jaw, adds, "But that does not mean I will allow it to happen without some effort on your part, my love."

Joe gives a shout of laughter at that, true and wild and free, a noise that Nicky loves to hear, loves to bring out, especially now, after everything that has happened. He's smiling when Joe kisses him again, long and luxurious this time, his tongue dipping into Nicky's mouth playfully and his hands cradling Nicky's face.

"Challenge accepted," Joe finally says, nuzzling along Nicky's jawline and back to the sensitive spot behind his ear. "And even if I do lose it before I make you crazy, where's the bad part in that?" His tongue traces delicately around the curve of Nicky's ear. "I like win-win scenarios."

Nicky rubs himself shamelessly against Joe, the feel of his thigh between Nicky's no less provocative for its familiarity. "You should take your clothes off now."

"For someone who wants whatever I want, you definitely have some strong opinions," Joe says, his hands urging Nicky closer.

"You want me out of my head," Nicky groans. He can feel how hard Joe is already; rubbing against him is maddening even with his pants in the way. "You being naked would work to your advantage there. Trust me."

"I do, habibi," Joe agrees as he pulls Nicky's leg up and around his waist. His hand strokes carelessly along the back of Nicky's thigh, not teasing so much as petting, as though Nicky is there for Joe's convenience. His voice drops lower as he adds, "But I also know how much you like it when you're naked for me, waiting for what might come next."

Nicky shudders at the picture Joe's words paint, which only proves his point--not that either one of them is in any real doubt about that. It's a favorite, for many reasons, but today it seems even more exciting and arousing than ever. Possibly, Nicky admits to himself, anything Joe had proposed would have an extra edge on this day, but vulnerability and trust on his part and protective control on Joe's strike Nicky as a perfect counterbalance to the gruesome week they've survived.

"Yes?" Joe asks, in part because Joe always asks, but also because he and Nicky both want Nicky to admit it.

"Yes," Nicky sighs out. Joe kisses him again--a reward, a comfort, an extravagance that neither one of them takes for granted even after all these years. Nicky wraps his arms around Joe's shoulders and abandons himself to the moment. Joe holds him steady and close, and then slowly backs him toward the bed. They stand kissing there at the edge for long, timeless minutes, Joe's hands once more moving over Nicky with lazy, sure strokes across his back and hips and ass, Nicky rocking slowly against Joe.

"Go on," Joe finally says, breaking the kiss and moving back a half-step. "Let me see you here, on our bed."

"More looking, caro?" Nicky asks as he situates himself on the bed, piling the pillows behind his shoulders and stretching out across the mattress. "You're not usually such a fan."

Nicky says it as a tease, but it's true that Joe more often likes to move straight to, as he phrases it, 'the good stuff.' But here, now, Joe is looking, his eyes moving so deliberately over Nicky that he can almost feel it as a touch. It whispers over his mouth and neck, trails across his shoulders and down his arms, lingers again on nipples and thighs and cock, until Nicky can't help but arch up into it and put himself on display.

"I'm not; you're right," Joe says in that low, rough voice. He tugs his shirt out of the cargo pants he's wearing and toes off his boots. Nicky finds himself licking his lips at the thought of Joe undressing for him now, at the thought of each new patch of skin being revealed for his eyes. "I need some new things to see, though. When I close my eyes."

"Caro," Nicky murmurs, knowing exactly what he means. Nicky has the same hideous images that he fights off every night. It's a sobering thought, but one that Nicky is happy to work to alleviate, especially when the 'work' is a joy and a privilege. He reaches out his hand and then, when Joe takes it, brings Joe's up to press a kiss to the back of his fingers. "Look your fill."

Joe smiles at him and then tugs his hand free so he can slip the watch he wears off his wrist and lay it on the bedside table. The contents of his pockets follow--coins and folded bills, the magnetic clip that holds the identification Copley procured for them, a pack of gum. Nicky smiles with satisfaction at the familiar routine--most especially when a small tube of lubrication hits the table--and makes a 'Continue' gesture, which turns Joe's smile into a laugh.

"Again with the demands, Nico."

"I want you," Nicky says simply. "I always want you--"

"As do I, hayati," Joe interrupts, leaning down for a kiss that starts off sweetly, but turns into anything but almost more quickly than Nicky can follow. His head is swimming when Joe finally finishes, and even though he is gasping for air, he follows Joe blindly, asking wordlessly for more, but Joe steps back, establishing that control again. Nicky bites back a whimper at that, but Joe knows. Joe always knows. He doesn't press, though, only murmurs, "You always want me--?"

Nicky blinks and steadies himself enough to finish, "But today, I am desperate for you."

"You have me," Joe answers. "Always."

"I do not," Nicky says, recovering his higher thought processes enough to pointedly eye the distance between them. "Not yet."

Joe clicks his tongue against the top of his mouth. "Very, very impatient," he says, but he at least starts working on the cuffs of his shirt. Nicky makes himself settle back against the pillows and follows Joe's every movement with eager, impatient eyes.

Joe isn't moving deliberately slowly, but he isn't hurrying either, and Nicky shifts restlessly, tucking one arm and then the other behind his head, and finally drawing one leg up so he can loop his arm around it. His cock is aching to be touched--by Joe, he wants it to be Joe, but he's willing to settle for anything at this point.

"Yusuf," Nicky whispers. "I want to touch myself while I watch you."

"Do you?" Joe answers. Nicky allows Joe to see everything he wants. "Are you asking for permission?" Nicky's head jerks in a nod, and he expects one of Joe's teasing smiles, but Joe doesn't. He looks at Nicky again, a long sweep of a gaze, his eyes showing nothing but a mirror of Nicky's wants. "Are you gonna do it the way I tell you?"

"Yes," Nicky breathes, almost unable to believe he can manage even that much communication with how much he wants.

"Stop when I tell you to?"

Nicky moans, and Joe says softly, "Words, Nico. I need words." It's a fair requirement--Nicky would be saying the same if the situation was reversed--but it's also because Joe knows the love-hate relationship Nicky has with speaking his wants explicitly. If Nicky tells Joe he'll do what Joe wants, that's one thing, but having to speak it is something else entirely. Nicky wants Joe to tell him what he is allowed to do, but asking for it--even though he knows Joe will give him anything he wants--is, as always, a hard line to cross. He can read the truth of it in Joe's expression and knows he's not getting anything unless he speaks, and makes himself choke out, "Si, si, please."

"Fuck, you're gorgeous," Joe says. Nicky shifts helplessly--Joe is the one who is beautiful, his eyes dark and wanting and his mouth wet from where his tongue has traced over his bottom lip.

"Joe," Nicky whines, digging his hand into his thigh to keep it from going elsewhere. "Joe, please."

"Of course, my love," Joe murmurs. "Slowly. Gently."

Nicky does as he's told, finding the will to move carefully, to wrap one hand loosely around his cock while he flicks lightly at his nipples with the other.

"Good," Joe is saying. "So good for me, Nico."

The praise is heady, but Nicky catches his bottom lip between his teeth so that he can bite down on it and allow that sharp, small pain to distract him from how much more he wants. He keeps his eyes on Joe, watches with a raging hunger that twists low and tight in him as Joe unbuttons his shirt, lets it drop.

"Bello," Nicky breathes, drinking in the smooth, familiar skin stretched across the broad shoulders he knows will carry him anywhere, the strong arms that have held him safe for so long, the dusting of dark hair crisp and sharp over the chest he's slept on and down along the path below the waistband that he wants to trace with his own tongue. Nicky bites down more fiercely as Joe eases his cargoes off his hips, so that Nicky can see how hard he is already, see how his cock presses against the thin knit of his underwear, the very tip peeking out from the elastic at the top. "Show me," Nicky gasps, his hand tightening on his own cock. "Let me see you."

Joe arches an eyebrow, and Nicky hisses, but adds, "Please, please."

He can't really be annoyed by the little power play, because Joe isn't delaying further in peeling the tight knit fabric down and off, baring his strong thighs and the jut of his beautiful cock to Nicky's eyes. He stands easily, not posing or preening, but allowing Nicky, who loves to look at him, always, to see how hard he is, how ready he is to take Nicky.

Nicky strokes himself lightly, because he has no desire to climax before Joe is ready for him to finish and can't help shivering as Joe licks his lips as he watches. Joe likes that shiver--Nicky can see it in his eyes--but he stays still, allows the moment to draw out and out, making sure Nicky knows bone-deep that Joe has taken Nicky's wish to heart--no matter that he's indulged Nicky and allowed him to ask for things--and will make sure what Nicky gets is what Joe wants to give him.

When Joe finally takes the final few steps to bring him next to where Nicky is sprawled out on their bed, Nicky's hips arch up without conscious thought, offering his cock to Joe, begging wordlessly for him to take it in hand. Joe's answering hum sounds pleased, but he ignores Nicky's cock in favor of nudging Nicky's legs wider apart, the better to drag his nails over what he's newly exposed, scratching firmly enough to leave hot, stinging trails across the tender skin of Nicky's inner thighs.

"Yusuf," Nicky gasps, but Joe has moved on, pinching at Nicky's nipples, twisting and scratching them until they, too, burn and ache and throb.

"Nicolo," Joe answers, barely louder than a breath as he scrapes a path down Nicky's chest, over his belly, circling at the base of his cock. He's telling Nicky without words what's coming next; Nicky knows it and arches for it, spreads his legs and offers up his cock, but he still has a harsh cry shocked out of him when Joe takes what he wants, when he continues that path, draws his nails in a quick, rough spiral to the tip of Nicky's cock. He does it again, and then once more, Nicky thrashing and shaking at the overwhelming mix of pleasure and pain.

"Easy," Joe rasps, his voice low and hoarse. His thumb rubs a circle around the point of Nicky's hip, and Nicky gasps in one deep breath and then another. He's still shaking, but the tremors are smaller and smaller until Joe can take his hand and put it back on his cock. "Again, Nico."

Nicky nods and makes his hand stroke over his cock. Joe traces a light, careful path, trailing the back of his fingers around the hyper-sensitive head each time Nicky's own hand moves his foreskin down. Nicky whimpers at each touch, helpless and wanting.

"Don't stop," Joe tells him as he moves his hand away to reach for the small tube of lubrication. "You're beautiful--all the time, but especially like this."

Nicky finds the wherewithal to engage his brain and his mouth enough to whisper, "You as well."

Joe smiles at him--a brilliant, loving smile, and Nicky is once again so grateful to have found him--as he reaches between Nicky's legs and slides his slick fingers not quite into Nicky.

"Yusuf," Nicky gasps, shifting eagerly against his hand, spreading his legs wantonly. Joe moves with him, keeping his touch light and teasing. "Please."

"Soon," Joe promises, his fingers never stopping--circling, tapping, scratching lightly, but never pressing into Nicky. Nicky twists and tries to push himself onto Joe's fingers, spitting out curses and threats, all of it useless, of course, but still gratifying, especially given the satisfied glint in Joe's eyes. "I'm thinking, maybe just open you up enough like this so you don't get torn up, but not much more…?"

Nicky moans at the thought of being taken by Joe with only the most minimal of preparation, at the promise in Joe's words, at how he edges only the tips of two fingers into Nicky as he speaks.

"If you want it that way." Nicky steadies himself enough to answer, but the words send a shiver down his spine. Nicky trusts Joe--often more than he trusts himself--but they have been balanced on the edge of a precipice these last weeks and acknowledging that he is placing himself in Joe's hands is a confirmation that not only reminds them that they are right now in a desired state, but also forces them to acknowledge how close they walked to having that control taken from them. "I meant what I said."

"I know you did," Joe murmurs. His beautiful eyes tell Nicky he understands all of it, the good and the bad, and Nicky leans up to kiss him slowly. He plays with Nicky for endless moments, until Nicky is not so much breathing as whimpering, but then finally slides a finger inside him, smooth and slick. Nicky sighs at that and moves his hips to take as much as he can. Joe kisses him as he withdraws, but his finger returns swiftly, even more slick than before, so Nicky manages not to whine.

Joe has turned gentle with him, fingering him with a careful and controlled attention, but Nicky's thighs and nipples and cock still burn slightly from his nails, so he knows that this is not likely to last. He has continued to stroke himself as Joe has teased him, because Joe had not told him to stop, and so is in a haze of arousal when Joe finally reaches the end of his patience and is settling himself between Nicky's legs.

Nicky only barely has time to hum his approval before Joe is pushing into him--and oh, but Nicky had been so right--with all gentleness gone, one deep, merciless thrust that Nicky doesn't know how he can take, but knows he that he will, regardless. That's the point of all of this, and he's overwhelmed and grateful and humbled that Joe is always there for him.

"Yusuf," Nicky keens as he's filled, Joe pushing his legs back until Nicky's bent nearly in half, Joe's cock thick and long and buried so deep in Nicky that he doesn't think that he'll ever be free. Joe withdraws then, and Nicky is bereft, fully aware in this second that the point truly is that he doesn't want to be free.

Joe fucks into him with another hard stroke, and then another and another, pulling out fully and hesitating before returning, so that Nicky perfectly feels the loss. He trembles for it each time, so that when Joe leans close to murmur, "I want to hear you beg for it, Nicolo," the words fall from his mouth before he can even think.

"Do not tease," Nicky rasps. "You know I want you; you know I ache for you."

Joe holds them still, his eyes deep and hot--and implacable.

"Yusuf." Nicky can't catch his breath for how desperate he is to feel Joe's cock in him again, to feel his body opening around it, yielding to it. "Yusuf, please, fuck me, please."

Joe leans forward, a small movement that lets Nicky feel the very tip of his cock pressing against him, the barest brush of skin on skin except that Nicky is already aching and sensitized and all but weeping for what must follow.

"How, ya amar?" Joe whispers. "How do you want to be fucked?"

It's almost a trick question--not out of any malice, but because Joe, his Yusuf, knows how to best serve Nicky and will not back down.

Nicky wants to ask for Joe to take him hard, as he had been doing, but instead, swallows past the dryness in his throat and whispers, "However you might want."

Joe leans forward and bites Nicky's lower lip, whispering back, "So far gone you can't speak." It's the second time he's said it that way; Nicky takes it as the promise it is and abandons himself to Joe's desires, giving himself up to the irregular rhythm Joe is pressing on him, so that he has no frame of reference as to what might come next. Joe fucks him deep, then leaves him empty; he pins Nicky's wrists to the bed so that Nicky can strain--fruitlessly--against him. Nicky writhes and tries to buck up and take more of Joe's cock, but the strain against his legs grows heavier and harder to bear until he shudders and accepts it finally.

"Nico," Joe says, groaning as he presses deep into Nicky. "Nico, look at me, beloved; let me see you. Please, Nico, please."

Nicky can't not do as Joe asks even before he takes in the helplessness of Joe's voice. He drags his eyes open and looks deep into Joe's; he might be the one who has handed over control of this encounter, but Joe is equally exposed and defenseless and Nicky revels in it all, Joe begging for his gaze, his acknowledgement.

He gives it to Joe, easily and without restraint, smiling at him and reaching up to touch his face.

Once Joe sees him looking back, everything smooths out; Joe's movements turn bold, confident, fucking Nicky, teasing at his cockhead, toying with his balls. Nicky somehow manages to ride the impossible waves Joe is pulling from him, his head thrown back and his hands digging into Joe's biceps, his shoulders. Each time Joe presses in, his cock stretching Nicky open deliciously before dragging across his prostate, he adds a careless flick across the head of Nicky's cock, one that jolts through Nicky's body, electrifying but not enough to bring him to climax. It's to remind him, Nicky knows, of where he is and what he's asked for, and Nicky can't rein in the helpless noises that spill out of him with every touch.

"That's it," Joe's telling him. "That's it; I love to hear you like this." Nicky has barely enough presence of mind left to think that he loves hearing Joe like this, too. He loves that Joe is all he can comprehend, that he's buried in Nicky and wrapped around him, that Joe is all that Nicky can feel and taste and breathe, that there's no space for anything but Joe in Nicky's world.

"Joe," Nicky is trying to say, "Yusuf, my love, my own," but Joe has him pressed on the edge of climax, edging him closer and pulling him back, and all Nicky can do is sob. Joe hears him, though, and understands, as always, his hand tightening on Nicky's cock, thumb tormenting the head.

"Yes, my love," Joe says as Nicky writhes helplessly, utterly undone. "Yes, yes," and he catches the very tip of Nicky's cock in a tight twisting pinch. Nicky jerks and howls and Joe does it again, and then one more time and Nicky is coming, every muscle arching and straining, wave after wave racing over him, come splattering his belly and chest--and Joe, around him and in him and all that Nicky knows.

* - * - *

Joe wakes in time for Fajr and slips from the bed as quietly as he can. Nicky stirs and murmurs, but settles back into sleep at the touch of Joe's hand in his hair. He's slept heavily all night, not rousing for the sunset or even as Joe had gotten him cleaned up. It lightens Joe that he's finally allowing himself some rest.

The wind off the sea is cool and the stone of the terrace outside the house is cold and hard, but the waves dash against the seawall below him and the familiar words whisper quietly through his brain. Joe breathes and gives thanks and a tiny bit more tension eases from his neck and shoulders as it's brought home that they're safe and together here.

He almost crawls back in bed with Nicky, but the sky is starting to lighten and he decides it's worth it to stay up and watch the sunrise. He showers quickly and makes coffee with just enough time to settle on the stone wall that edges the terrace before the real show begins. There are clouds, piled high and billowing, edging across the sky on the morning breeze and the light that bounces through the atmosphere colors them pink and periwinkle and a high bright peach. The first sliver of the sun has only begun to edge above the sea when Nicky stumbles out to join him, barefoot and wrapped up in the quilt from the bed.

"Caro," Nicky mumbles, sitting next to Joe and leaning close. He's in that place where he's either in desperate need of a shave or about to commit to a full beard, and his hair is more-or-less standing on end. It's a good look, Joe thinks, but then he likes all the ways Nicky has looked over the years. Joe wraps one arm around him--as much to keep him from falling and breaking his neck on the seawall below as from love--and lets him tuck his cold nose in the crook of Joe's neck.

This is entirely out of love.

The light from the rising sun bleaches the colors from the sky and Joe thinks--for the first time since the flashbang had hit them in France--about picking up a sketchbook and some pencils. He might have some odds and ends here in one of the cupboards, from when they'd been here the previous year, but there had also been a shop in town that carried a few basic supplies. He suspects he'll still need to be the one organizing food, more for his own peace of mind than anything; he can stop in when he's out stocking up.

The sun is well up and the light is catching on the water before the door opens again. Nicky is still curled into Joe, half-asleep and still clearly not ready to be awake, but grumbling every time Joe suggests they go back into bed.

"You watch the sunrises, too?" Nile asks, a very welcome teasing edge to her voice. "You guys are way too much for me."

She has a mug of coffee in her hands and a bright, almost happy look about her eyes.

"It's a lot to keep up with, I know," Joe teases back. Nicky snorts into his shoulder so Joe takes the opportunity to sit him a little more upright and see if he can regain feeling in his arm. Nicky's wearing that pissy, irritated expression that says he had not signed up for having to sit on his own, but he moves easily enough and accepts Joe's kiss in apology with good grace. "How was town?" Joe asks Nile as he and Nicky get themselves resettled.

"Good," Nile answers. "Andy has some kinda radar for the really sketch bars, but that's where the fun is, I guess." Joe laughs at the self-satisfied grin she flashes. "Also, ouzo is somethin' entirely else."

"Oh, motherfucking hell," Andy says from the door. She's wearing another one of her pairs of extra dark sunglasses and clutching her own mug of coffee like it's the only thing keeping her upright. "Do not say that word this morning." She leans against the side of the house in a patch of shade thrown by the old, gnarled tree that clings to the side of the drop down to the seawall. "Don't start with me, Nicky. I had two shots. Two." She gulps down some coffee. "And you can wipe that smirk off your face, Joe. This whole mortality thing is a fucking drag."

Joe thinks he's doing good not to be laughing, but he guesses he can suck it up and give her a little more time to adjust. Then she gets a good look at Nicky and barks out a laugh of her own.

"On second thought," Andy says, "I know I feel better than Nicky looks, so congratulations, I guess the moral of the story is that your dick has a bigger kick than rotgut ouzo."

"Andy," Nile says, clearly appalled even as Joe is completely losing it and Nicky is gathering his quilt around himself with as much offended dignity as he can pull together (which is a lot, Joe will admit.) "You can't just say shit like that."

Nicky stalks back into the house while Andy smirks from behind her glasses. Joe lays himself back on the narrow stone wall and lets the sun beat down onto him and the sound of the sea wash over him. Nile has her head in her hands and is muttering something about Zero fucking boundaries, give me strength and Andy is bitching about the coffee not being strong enough.

It's the best Joe has felt since before Andy had called a break more than a year ago and he's more than happy to just lie there and let it all soak in.