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My Body Yearns (and Turns for a Sleep that Won't Ever Come)

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There was a monster out tonight. And not just any monster, Steve thought, eyes scanning over the snow-coated shapes of trees looming in the night, it’s the kind of monster that will kill me if I stop.

The words were peculiarly clear in Steve’s mess of a brain, warring between the sheer panic of a late-night attack, and the calm exhaustion of giving up and dying. He knew they were gone; had gone back to the lab like everyone else at one point just to see the wall that used to be the gate.

But that never stopped the feeling like something was watching him, and he was sick to death of the twisty-turny squirrelly feeling itching at the back of his head most nights. Patrolling was the only thing that kept it at bay, for short periods of time, so he’s out here, and he’s looking for monsters, and he hoped to god that if he found one, he might actually be smart enough to kill it.

He was expecting demodogs, but what he found was Billy. Shaking and shivering and looking half-dead.

Steve cursed, jumping out of his car, taking in Billy’s split lip and wavering form.

Billy slurred through his chattering teeth, “Stevie? What the fuck?”

Steve wanted to ask that very same thing. “Jesus, man, you’re frozen! What are you doing out here?”

Billy sneered like he was a professional at it. “What’s it to you, pretty boy?”

Steve gritted his teeth, trying not to let out a very incredulous scream. A particularly icy gust rushed over them, and Billy shivered violently. Steve thought that he could actually see his body temperature falling. Billy wasn’t exactly dressed for the weather—just his denim jacket over a thick shirt.

“Alright,” Steve said. “That’s it. Get in the car.”

Billy raised his eyebrows. “Why should I?”

“Because you’ll freeze to death if you don’t,” Steve snapped. “In the car, Hargrove.”

Billy raised his chin, like he was going to protest—because of course he was—but Steve didn’t let him, crowding uncomfortably close, laying his warm hand on Billy’s frigid cheek. It felt like ice. Billy flinched, drawing back slightly. Steve moved closer, breath ghosting over Billy’s lips, trying not to notice the green-blue of his eyes, how he imagined that they were the exact color of the ocean on a sunny day.

“Get in the car,” he whispered, not nicely.

Billy got in the car.

When they got back to Steve’s place, it was apparent that there was more wrong with Billy than just near-frostbite. He moved with an odd sort of shuffling stumble, ginger and soft. Steve frowned at him.

Billy raised a belligerent eyebrow. “So, Harrington? You got me alone.”

It was obviously supposed to be a dig couched in flirty words. That was Billy’s main modus operandi when it came to Steve—flirtatious come-ons said so aggressively that they sounded like insults.

“You need to dry off,” Steve said, “I’ll get you something warm to wear.”

“I’m not taking my clothes off,” Billy snapped.

“Yes, you are,” Steve stepped closer, feeling like he was looming over Billy. There was something that seemed small about him. Vulnerable.

Steve wasn’t usually one to initiate space-sharing. No, that was Billy’s role in their relationship—hip-checks in the hall and grinding during gym. But Steve was just really done with Billy’s bullshit tonight.

“I’m not letting you freeze to death in my house, Hargrove.” He tugged at the hem of Billy’s shirt. It was soft and worn and thick under his fingertips. “Off.”

He didn’t wait for Billy to comply, instead turning and marching up the stairs. When he got back downstairs, sweats and a thick comfy sweater in hand, Billy was shirtless in his living room, looking like he was about to murder somebody. A distant part of Steve’s brain noticed his expression and was alarmed, but Steve pushed it aside. He liked not being afraid of Billy, if only for a little while.

There was a stark bruise forming over Billy’s solar plexus, looking fist-shaped. Another on his stomach, bigger and meaner.

Billy’s face twisted when he noticed Steve looking.

“What happened?”

“None of your fucking business, Harrington,” Billy snarled, pushing right up in Steve’s face. And just like that, their normal dynamics were restored.

“It looks like it hurts,” Steve said, quieter than he meant to be.

“It doesn’t,” Billy snapped.

Steve snorted, shoving the clothes into his hands. “I’ll get something for it while you change.”

He darted to the upstairs bathroom, taking his time a bit so that Billy would have some privacy to shuck his snow-soaked clothes. When he returned, Billy was looking a bit like a drowned rat, wet hair limp from the moisture outside, snowflakes nearly all melted and ruining any volume he might’ve achieved. His jeans were in a heap by his feet, sweats tugged over his hips, bunching because they were slightly too long. His expression twisted in a deep scowl; he was still shirtless.

Steve popped open the tin of balm in his hands. He had gotten it after his fight with Billy, finding that it helped with soreness and swelling. He dipped two fingers in, scooping up some, and then reached out, smearing the balm over the bruises. Billy flinched. His skin was, a little surprisingly, hot like a furnace under Steve’s fingertips. Steve rubbed it in, trying to ignore the fact that Billy had crazy muscle definition. Steve stepped back, wordlessly recapping the tin. A muscle popped in Billy’s jaw as he gritted his teeth, but he didn’t say anything. He just pulled Steve’s sweater over his head. It was thick knit fabric, worked in a cable pattern, ordered from Ireland. It was one of Steve’s coziest and warmest sweaters. It leant Billy a strangely homey vibe, like he was getting ready to settle in for the night after a long day of doing—something. Steve cut himself off, trying not to think about how, even in shapeless sweats, Billy still looked like a model.

“Fire’s in the den,” Steve murmured, voice thick.

Billy sneered. “You keep a fire going when you’re not home?”

“It’s gas, asshat,” Steve snapped, storming ahead and flipping the key to get the fire started. It blazed to life with a whoosh.

He heard shuffling behind and saw Billy still doing that ginger-walk into the room, eyes darting everywhere. He immediately looked at the fire, and—reluctantly, Steve saw—went over to it. But it was clear real damn fast that no matter how much Billy didn’t like needing anything, he needed warmth. His skin, still cold, was gaining a slight flush from the fire. Billy sunk down in front of it, looking oddly young. Steve supposed it was his feet—they were bare, tucked under him as he kneeled. It made him look about five years old and gave Steve the strange urge to go get him a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows and whip cream.

Steve didn’t, instead sitting in one of the chairs and leaning his head into his palm. He was irrevocably tired, as he always was, and the warm fire combined with the fact that he wasn’t alone was enough to push him—unwillingly, teeth-gnashingly—into slumber.

When he woke up, Billy was gone.