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take it in, don't hold your breath

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Gio is asleep with his head on Paul’s lap. Thanks to the painkillers, he sleeps a lot. Thanks to the nightmares, he doesn’t sleep well.

It’s better, when Paul is there, touching him and watching him, and so Paul stays up (and up, and up, and up).


Gio whimpers, and Paul smoothes the sweaty hair out of his face, strokes his cheek until Gio leans into the touch, quiet, something like peaceful.

Paul has never done this before.

Not the comforting -- he’s been doing that for Gio an awful lot, lately, and he is glad for every minute -- but the taking care. Gio is the first person Paul has ever taken care of.

Alexis neither needed nor wanted Paul to take care of her, and she fit smoothly into the same mold as Paul’s parents -- straight-backed, tight-lipped, and reserved -- unwilling to show anything that somebody might perceive as weakness.

Paul hadn’t really imagined what he was missing until Gio came along, with his open heart, and the handsome face that expresses his every emotion, even with a mask on. It’s no wonder that he fell in love.

This -- taking care of Gio -- is as new as expressing himself, as not living a lie, and just as precious. It feels like Paul’s heart is alive outside his chest, and he’s really not sure what to do with that, but he is trying.

(He keeps Gio close, keeps him safe, hoards Gio’s smiles, and stays still when Gio is sleeping. It is the least he can do).


Gio stirs, after a while, pressing his face into Paul’s thigh. “Sorry to use you as a pillow again,” he mumbles, the words heavy with sleep.

“You know I don’t mind,” says Paul.

“I dreamt about them again,” Gio says, his fingers already curling under the fabric of Paul’s shirt.

Paul doesn’t have to ask who Gio’s talking about.

“We’ve lost so many people,” Gio says. His hand is sliding up Paul’s stomach. Even still half-asleep, he knows the most sensitive path. “But you and I are still here.”

It’s a classic response to grief, and to trauma, Paul’s reading informs him, even if it’s been somewhat hampered by Gio’s injuries. He indulges Gio’s need for this comfort as best as he can.

(“No strenuous activities,” the doctor had told them, staring, pointed, at Gio’s hand in Paul’s, their fingers intertwined. Paul is trying -- he really is -- he’s trying to deserve this).

No strenuous activities doesn’t mean there’s no way to make one another feel good. Gio rucks Paul’s shirt up and kisses the point of his hip, the cut off his abs. It’s nice -- better, because it’s Gio, like everything else -- but Paul’s spent enough of their relationship being selfish. “Not like this, okay?” he says.

Gio laughs when Paul carries him to bed, but he lets it happen, lets Paul lay him out, and undress him, and kiss him sweet and slow like they never did back when Paul kept him in the shadows.

Dwelling on what he did is not going to change anything, Paul knows, and so he focuses on the way Gio’s mouth feels against his, on holding himself up so Gio doesn’t have to take any of his weight. Gio’s carried them far enough.

“You’ve got way too much clothing on,” Gio says, and so Paul sits back on his heels to strip away his shirt, slow, putting a show on.


Gio kicks him in the thigh. “It’s rude to tease.”

Paul smirks, but makes quick work of his own pants, before returning to the task at hand. Gio tangles a hand in his hair, and strokes his back. Gio kisses with everything. Gio closes his eyes, and just trusts.

Paul never knew he could want someone like he wants Gio, had once thought himself too dispassionate, too rational for this kind of fire -- had once been proud of it, too. Gio proved that wrong, and Paul loves him all the more for it.

Paul pulls away from Gio’s mouth to kiss the juncture between his neck and the sharp line of his jaw. He kisses lower, trails his mouth down to Gio’s collarbone, his chest. He hasn’t had so many chances to savor this that the novelty has worn off. Gio’s body is familiar, but there are new scars, new bandages and bruises and contusions; sex with Gio is nothing new (and that’s not a bad thing), but the lazy curve of Gio’s smile -- this particular smile -- Paul’s only seen a few times before.

Paul takes his time. Gio really is attractive -- Paul’s biased, because Gio is all that he knows of attraction -- but that does not make it any less true. Gio’s all lithe muscle, with a trim waist and strong thighs, and the warm tone of his skin is all aglow from the light of the bedside lamp.

Gio shivers when Paul’s mouth ghosts over his hipbone. Paul bites down -- just a gentle little press of the teeth -- and Gio lets out a shuddery breath.

It feels good to make Gio feel good, and Paul is not patient enough of a man to drag this out much longer. He wraps a hand around the base of Gio’s cock -- it’s as pretty as the rest of Gio -- and gets his mouth on the rest.

Paul’s still not much more than an enthusiastic amateur at this -- something he is now appropriately ashamed for, given the number of times Gio sucked him off in dark alleys -- but Gio does not seem to mind, judging by the enthusiastic moans, and the hand twisting in Paul’s hair.

If Paul’s being honest with himself, which he’s really been working on as of late, he was missing out. Gio’s cock is rock hard in his mouth; the skin is warm, and smooth; it tastes of musk and sweat. Paul’s so turned on it hurts, and this might be about Gio, but it’s either take his dick in his free hand, or rub off against the covers, and the latter seems undignified -- not that Paul is of a mind to care right now.

“Jesus,” Gio breathes, “Paul.

Hearing his name in Gio’s sex-soaked, reverent voice, sends a spike of arousal through Paul’s body like a lightning bolt. He sucks harder, twists his wrist, grateful for his coordination.

The sound of his mouth of Gio’s cock is wet an obscene. Paul’s jaw is probably getting tired, but any discomfort is lost in the haze of lust. He’d rather be doing this than anything else in the world right now.

Time blurs -- everything blurs -- and then there’s just Gio, just his cock, and his voice, and his choked-out moans. He’s vocal, and he’s appreciative, and so considerate, and Paul is not just in lust, he’s in love. He’s in love and he should say it more often, and that’s what he’s thinking of when they both come, what seems like too soon: Paul is thinking of love.

He feels an odd sense of pride when he swallows, without making too much of a mess.

Gio’s chest heaves, and the muscles of his thighs are still twitching. “Get up here,” he says, and Gio sounds shattered.

Yeah, Paul is proud -- he did that.

Gio pulls him in for a kiss, and then another. “I love you,” he says. “That was amazing, and I love you.” He means it, too -- Gio’s brown eyes are an open book.

“Love you, too,” says Paul, and it still feels strange to shape his mouth into those syllables and mean it, but Gio’s face lights up, and pushing himself is worth this.

Paul savors the way Gio looks for a while, before getting up for a washcloth. Gio’s half-asleep before they are both clean. Paul wraps his arms around Gio’s waist, pulls him close, and relishes the feeling. Maybe he will sleep, too, or maybe he will just stay.

It’s the least he can do.