"And once!" Andy said, face alight with glee, "Joe was so distracted by Nicky's ass that he walked right off a cliff. It took us a day to pull him up."
Nile looked between the older immortals, not entirely sure what to think. Andy was still laughing, crow’s feet crinkling, while Joe looked oddly proud. Nicky was flushed a light pink, looking like he wanted the ground to swallow him whole.
"How..." she trailed off, shaking her head. Andy's amusement was contagious. "Just how many times have you died because you were distracted by Nicky's ass?!" She demanded.
Joe leaned back in his chair, head tilted to the side as he thought. "At least seven, or maybe eleven?"
Andy snorted. "Way more than that, you idiot," she teased. Nicky just sighed, getting up to grab some more wine from the kitchen.
"Wait a second!" Nile hissed, holding up a hand. "Is that why Joe always takes point on missions?"
Andy shrugged. "You've seen how he gets, Nile," she said. "What do you think?"
Nile gaped at Andy for a long moment, before throwing a pillow at an unrepentant Joe. "You get distracted by his ass on missions, man?! Come on!"
Joe just nodded serenely. "Have you seen it, Nile?" he asked, gaze far away. "It is the most incredible thing I have ever seen. How could I not be distracted with that heavenly sight in front of me?"
Nile covered her face with her hands. "I am the only sane person here," she lamented.
Andy stood, clapping her on the shoulder. "You jumped out a skyscraper kid. You're just as nuts as we are, don’t deny it."
Nicky returned with a glass of wine, giving her an apologetic look as he handed it to her. She took it with a smile, purposefully not looking at Nicky’s behind when he turned to walk back to his spot.
“Okay, okay,” she finally said, taking a large gulp. It made her wrinkle her nose (wine was not, she remembered now, meant for drinking like that, and burned uncomfortably in her sinuses), but she ignored the sensation to focus on Andy and Joe. “Tell me the five most ridiculous times you’ve died because of this, Joe.”
Andy’s face lit up with unholy glee before Joe cut her off loudly.
“You weren’t there for the first few,” he protested. Nicky, Nile noticed, was simply shaking his head at his ridiculous husband and sister.
“You are far too excited to tell Nile tales of your own death, my love.”
Joe grinned, face virtually glowing with unrestrained joy. Nile felt like she was about to be walloped in the face with his enthusiasm. Oddly enough, she didn’t mind at all.
“They were rather stupid deaths,” he agreed easily, “as far as deaths go, but you’ll understand once I tell you the story, I’m sure.”
Nile grinned, taking a smaller sip of her wine. Nicky helpfully came over and topped up her glass.
“Right then,” Joe said, stroking a hand over his beard as he thought. “First time I died because I was distracted by my beloved’s behind…”
I - Judaean Desert, July 1099
Yusuf filled his waterskin with relief. He had no interest in discovering whether or not he could survive dying of thirst or hunger. He suspected that he (that they) would, but he knew it was a particularly painful way to die and would rather not experience it first hand.
He glanced up to his companion, raising a single eyebrow in appreciation. The Frank has managed, somehow, to brush through his wet hair and trim his scraggly beard and looked far more human now. He was thinner than Yusuf had initially thought. His shoulders were about the same width as his own, but his chest and waist were almost alarmingly thin. He supposed much of that was due to lack of food on his journey to Jerusalem, and from days spent in the desert.
He turned away, not wanting to give his companion any more attention. He did not hate him, not anymore, but he was still unsure of him. Unsure of everything.
He set about washing himself, cleaning his arms and face happily. He hated feeling as though he was coated in sand constantly. The water was not deep enough to properly bathe, but it was better than nothing. He closed his eyes for several long moments, tilting his head to the sun.
At this moment he was mostly content. Still unsure, still fearful, but he could do this. They could do this.
Feeling more confident, he turned back his companion, knowing they were stuck together for the foreseeable future for better or worse. He’d considered leaving the other man more than once, for many different reasons, but had not managed it. He suspected Nicolò felt the same.
He opened his mouth to speak, intent on calling out to Nicolò, when he froze. His eyes widened and his mouth watered at the unexpected vision before him.
Nicolò was facing away from him, bent over at the waist and washing something in the cool stream. So far the other man had always been wearing his long tunic, though he had taken off some of his heavy armour when they’d begun travelling through the desert.
Yusuf had never seen a behind so magnificent.
He took a step forward, part of his brain shouting at him to stop, to look away, but the larger part was focused on the vision of perfection in front of his eyes. He would never have expected the Frank to have an ass like this.
He took another step, one hand reaching out over so slightly. His foot landed on a particularly slippery and unstable rock. He fell hard, striking his head on a large boulder on his way down.
When he blinked awake from yet another death, coughing and spluttering, his skull still in the process of knitting itself together, it was to Nicolò’s face above his, haloed by the sun.
He swallowed, blinking in bewilderment. His head and shoulders were resting on Nicolò’s thighs (and oh, those thighs felt wonderful underneath him, and Yusuf knew that that glorious ass would be even better). The other man was looking down at him with wide seafoam eyes, worry clear on his pale face.
“I am alright,” he soothed, touched and a little confused by the concern the other man was showing to him. He decided not to question it - he didn’t want Nicolò to push him off his lap. “I simply slipped on a stone.”
Nicolò huffed a small laugh. “That was foolish of you,” he scolded. Yusuf decided not to take his words to heart. He had been foolish, after all. But he’d been distracted by the most amazing thing he’d seen in many months. Not that he would be telling Nicolò that.
He shrugged. “It was.”
Nicolò tsked, but was prodding Yusuf’s head to ensure the injury was healed so Yusuf did not mind. The other man stood first, helping Yusuf to his feet.
“Be more careful, yes?” he asked, brow furrowed.
Yusuf smiled in what he hoped was a placating manner, holding his hands in front of him in surrender. “I will, I swear.”
Nicolò flashed him one of his impossibly small and rare smiles, and turned away, wading through the river to where he’d left his things.
Yusuf watched him go, unable to tear his eyes away from Nicolò’s retreating form.
He could get used to this immortality thing if he got to look at that ass every day.
“Wait wait wait,” Nile spluttered. “This was what, two weeks after Jerusalem? Weren’t the two of you still at each other’s throats?”
Joe and Nicky exchanged a glance, while Andy snorted back laughter. “Those two? No, they came to an understanding fairly quickly.”
Nile squinted at the two men, unable to truly comprehend what Andy was telling her. “You met on opposite sides of a war,” she insisted, thinking back to her (brief) lessons on the Crusades in high school. “And you started getting along right away?”
Nicky shook his head, favouring her with a small smile. “We understood that we needed to cooperate. We could not kill one another, and, truth be told, had become exhausted by the violence around us. We were hardly friends, but we were able to form an uneasy trust.”
Nile just stared at him for a brief moment, before Joe distracted her. “Truly, Nile,” he said, eyes crinkling at the corners. “We stopped trying to kill each other when we left.”
“Do you really want to hear about this now,” Andy protested, looking annoyed. “We’re talking about Joe dying because he’s a fool when it comes to this one’s,” she continued, gesturing towards Nicky with her wine glass, “ass. Not about Jerusalem. That’s a much longer story. Especially if Joe is the one telling it.”
Nile thought for a moment but also knew tonight was not the night to be talking about anything difficult or heavy. Booker’s absence (as well as Quynh’s) was weighing on them heavily, and they needed some humour in their life. And Joe clearly didn’t mind if that humour was at his expense.
“Okay,” she said, tucking her legs to the side. “Tell me about the next time you died because of Nicky’s ass.”
“It was in Cairo, I think?” Joe mused, rubbing a hand over his beard. “Or was it Constantinople?”
“Alexandria,” Nicky said firmly. “We were in Alexandria. Joe here slipped in a bathhouse.”
II - Alexandria, 1171
Nicolò had never been so happy to see water in his life, and that was saying something. He’d all but dragged Yusuf to the bathhouse when his lover had seemed more interested in talking to a merchant, desperate to wash the grime from his skin.
They had rented a room for just the two of them, as neither of them had any interest in socialising with other people, not after travelling for so long. They had taken work as guards, and while it had paid well and kept them busy, they were both absolutely exhausted. They deserved a break.
He took off his towel, slipping into the pool with a pleased sigh. The hot water sunk into his very bones, warming him to the core. He was not sore (he could not be sore), but the water was still soothing.
“Yusuf?” he called, wondering where on earth the other man was.
“Coming!” Yusuf called back, finally entering the room with a comb. Nicolò smiled slightly. His own hair, long enough to brush his shoulders now, was fairly easy to care for. Yusuf’s, on the other hand, could be a chore. He typically wore it short, but Nicolò secretly loved when he allowed it to grow longer. He loved running his hands through the curls and loved how relaxed Yusuf would get when he helped him care for his hair.
“Sit here,” he ordered, turning to heave himself out of the pool. “I’ll comb it for you.” He climbed out in a fluid motion, his back to the other man.
He heard a sudden strangled noise before there was a loud splash. He turned around in confusion, only to see Yusuf still in the water, a cloud of red around his head. He jumped back into the water immediately, panic clutching at his chest. He was at the other man’s side in a heartbeat, pulling him from underwater.
The mark on Yusuf’s temple rapidly faded, and within seconds the other man was waking up, blinking up at Nicolò in confusion. “Did I just die?” he asked, sounding more bemused than anything.
Nicolò let go of him, annoyance and relief warring in his gut. “You did,” he said. “How did you manage to slip.”
Yusuf coughed awkwardly, pushing his sopping hair off of his handsome face. “I…” he cut himself off, blushing down his chest. He stood, looking bashful.
Nicolò just raised an eyebrow and widened his eyes ever so slightly. Yusuf had never been able to resist that look, not even when they’d barely trusted one another.
As he expected, Yusuf let out a small laugh but began to speak. “You uhhh… you distracted me,” he said in a rush, taking a step closer. He pulled Nicolò into his arms, and Nicolò felt himself blushing as well. They’d been together for several decades by now, but he still could not help but feel incredibly loved and cherished when Yusuf held him like this.
“I distracted you?” he demanded, irritation rearing its ugly head once more when Yusuf did not elaborate. “How?”
Yusuf’s blush deepened. “Your behind,” he admitted. “When you got out of the pool, I looked up. I then forgot I was standing at the edge and tried to take a step.”
Nicolò stared at him for a long moment, embarrassment warring with incredulity, and slapped Yusuf on the shoulder. “You died because you were looking at my ass?” He hissed.
Yusuf nodded, a wide grin making its way onto his beautiful face. His deep brown eyes glittered with humour, and Nicolò sighed. He could not be angry at him, not really. Not when he was looking at him like that.
“It was foolish of me,” Yusuf admitted, “but I am a fool in love, and you are a thing of beauty.”
Nicolò blinked and extracted himself from Yusuf’s arm to grab the discarded comb. He gestured to his lover to sit, positioning himself behind him. He washed the blood from Yusuf’s hair first, taking care to ensure the wound was healed, then moved on to carefully work the knots out of the man’s curly hair.
“In this case,” he teased, “why do I get the feeling you are not talking about me as a whole, but only a certain part of me.”
Yusuf chuckled warmly and leaned back even more. Nicolò basked in the feeling, loving having him close. “This time I suppose you are correct,” he admitted. He turned to look at Nicolò, grin still plastered across his face. “You have an ass well worth dying over.”
Nicolò watched him for several more moments, unsure if he was touched or annoyed. He decided on a mix of both.
“Well,” he said, gently working out a tangle in Yusuf’s thick curls. “As long as it is a one-time thing, I forgive you.”
Yusuf, much to his surprise, blushed again.
“Nothing, nothing,” Yusuf said far too quickly, kissing his hand. “Nothing at all.”
Nicolò looked at him in confusion for a long moment, before deciding to let the matter rest. It surely wasn’t important.
Andy grinned into her wine. “I still can’t believe you’ve slipped while looking at his ass twice, Yusuf,” she teased.
Nicky barked a small laugh. “It’s been more than that, Andromache,” he said with a grin. “Those were just the most impressive times. Showers are not always kind to Joe.”
Nile giggled, feeling slightly tipsy now, but warm and comfortable.
“What can I say,” Joe grinned, “I’m distractible. About certain things.”
Nile bit her lip to hold back another laugh. “You slipped and fell into a pool at a bathhouse - hitting your head and nearly drowned, and you’re laughing about it?”
“It was rather terrifying at the time,” Nicky acquiesced, frowning ever so slightly.
Joe winked at him, giving him an impossibly kind smile. Nile felt her heart melt at the site, completely in love with their love. She loved watching them together. They were not particularly prone to overt displays of affection unless one of them had recently been injured, but their love was obvious and wonderful to behold.
“I am sorry, my love,” Joe said kindly, expression morphing into one Nile hadn’t seen before. “But I am a simple man, and I -“
“Nope, not going there,” Andy interjected, looking amused despite her words. She looked at Nile, a serious look on her face. “Nile,” she said, pointing a finger at her. “When Joe gets that look on his face, cut him off. I don’t care how. Just make him stop talking.”
Joe, looking offended, opened his mouth again.
“She’s right tesoro,” Nicky said, cutting him off. “That look is best saved for when it is just the two of us.”
Andy mumbled something under her breath in a language Nile didn’t know, making Nicky laugh and Joe’s mouth drop open.
“Okay!” she said loudly, somehow stopping herself from laughing at their ridiculous antics. “Next death, please! I want to know what other stupid way Joe died because he was looking at Nicky’s ass.”
Nicky swirled his wine around in his glass. “Vienna?” he asked, tilting his head to look at Andy.
She hummed. “That was good, but not worthy of the top five. Aleppo?”
This time Nicky shook his head. “That one wasn’t really his fault. There was an assassin involved. And a horse.”
“Umm, I would like to know that story,” Nile said, raising a hand.
Nicky gave her his characteristic kind smile. “Joe is the best at telling it,” he said. “But not tonight.”
“I know!” Andy crowed. “The Algarve’s, that was impressive.”
Joe put a hand over his eyes. “That one was actually embarrassing,” he said. He was smiling widely though, so Nile assumed he was long over the embarrassment at this point.
“Quynh never let you hear the end of this one,” Andy said, tone wistful but somehow still happy at the thought of her lost lover.
“What did he do?” Nile asked, only having a vague idea of where the Algarves were in her mind.
“He walked off a cliff,” Andy said matter of factly.
“He what?” Nile demanded.
Joe pulled Nicky close, and Nile fought the urge to go get her phone to take a photo.
“He walked off a cliff, right into the sea,” Andy explained. “It took us hours to fish him out.”
“Joe,” Nile said, half wanting to laugh half wanting to throw something at him. “A cliff? How do you miss a cliff?”
“Well, Nile,” Joe said earnestly. “You see…”
III - Algarves, 1314
Quynh was going to kill Yusuf once they managed to rescue him.
She loved him, she really did, but he was an absolute moron at times, who lost nearly all semblance of focus the moment Nicolò was in view. And the moment Yusuf saw Nicolò’s behind? The remaining focus was gone. And now the fool had gone and walked straight off a cliff.
“You do have an amazing arse,” Andromache said. conversationally. “However, I wish your lover would learn how to look elsewhere.”
Nicolò, still one who was easily embarrassed much to Quynh’s amusement, blushed bright red.
“Every time he bends over though Andromache!” Quynh complained. “Without fail! He’s been distracted when we were fighting brigands, in wars, climbing mountains…”
Andromache grinned. “I’m still distracted by you.”
Quynh willfully ignored her lover. “He walked off a cliff. A cliff! How did he miss a cliff?”
Andromache’s lips twitched in a smile. “He was looking at Nicolò’s behind.”
Nicolò somehow flushed even more. “Think we could get down there?” he said, peering over the edge. Yusuf had dragged himself out of the water by now and was sunning himself on the narrow beach. The tide was out at the moment, and he looked happy as could be.
Quynh wanted to throttle him.
Andromache shook her head. “If he could find a way up he would have,” she responded. “And if he can’t find a way up there’s no point in us trying to get down. We don’t want to all be stuck when the tide comes in.”
Nicolò bit his lower lip, looking extremely worried. Quynh gave in and hugged him, unable to bear seeing that expression on his face. He always looked so young to her, and reminded her of her long-dead younger brother. Andromache teased her about being overprotective of ‘their boys’, but Quynh couldn’t bring herself to care. They were their boys, even if one of them was an absolute fool.
Walking off a cliff…. Of all the ways to die.
“There we go,” Andromache said, testing the strength of the ropes she’d knotted together. “This should hold him. Hopefully.”
Quynh rolled her eyes, still annoyed, but not wanting to voice her feelings too loudly, not when they would make Nicolò look even more concerned. She let go of Nicolò, looking over the edge again.
She was going soft.
She walked back to Andromache and reached for the rope, tossing the end over the cliff and down to the beach. The end landed near Yusuf’s head, and he looked up with a start.
Quynh sighed, resigning herself for an afternoon of manual labour. Yusuf was tall, and while he was not particularly large, he was muscular and strong. This would not be easy.
“The two of you owe me,” she said grumpily, pointing to Nicolò even as she braced herself and held the rope.
He blinked at her, all big seafoam eyes and innocent expression. Quynh felt her annoyance melt away like snow under the sun. Andromache, seeing the interaction, laughed out loud. Neither of them could ever stay angry at Nicolò or Yusuf for long.
“Walked off a cliff,” she mumbled, bracing her feet on the edge of the cliff. “Of all the ways to die.”
Andromache cackled. “Just help pull him up,” she ordered. “You can yell at him then.”
Nicolò just sighed, apparently understanding that there was nothing he could do to calm her down and began hoisting Yusuf up.
“A cliff though. He missed a cliff .”
“That still doesn’t explain how you missed a cliff,” Nile pointed out, fully on Quynh’s side in this. She sincerely hoped she would get to meet the woman one day. She thought they would get along.
“Nicky bent over,” Andy said as though that explained everything. From the look on Joe’s face, it likely did.
Nile pinched the bridge of her nose. She knew she shouldn’t be surprised, but she was. “A cliff, Joe!”
“Bastard was tanning on the beach while we figured out how to rescue him,” Andy chuckled. “Quynh nearly pushed him off again.”
Nile stared at the three immortals for a long moment, still half certain they were fucking with her. There was no way Joe walked off a cliff. She turned to Nicky, still sitting against Joe’s side, and gave him an imploring look.
“There’s no way that happened.” She said. He was the only one she trusted to tell her the truth.
He winced. “I’m afraid it did, Nile,” he said. Joe smirked and kissed him on the temple. “I didn’t see it happen -”
“Because you were bent over distracting him,” Andy helpfully cut in. Joe held up his glass in a toast. Nile and Nicky both ignored them.
“I only realised he’d gone over the cliff when Andy started laughing and Quynh swearing.”
“You laughed at him?” Nile demanded, looking at the oldest immortal, torn between being aghast or horribly amused.
Andy nodded. “It was the funniest thing I’d seen since the last time he died while looking at Nicky’s ass.”
Nile gave in and laughed. “We’re gonna circle back to this,” she drawled, using her wine glass to draw a circle. Miraculously, she didn’t spill. “But I wanna know the next one.”
“What about one that wasn’t actually his fault?” Nicky asked, playing with Joe’s curls.
Joe looked puzzled for a moment before he began to chuckle. “Yeah boss, what about that one?”
Andy looked completely unrepentant. “I still say that was your fault,” she told Joe. “You drove me to it.”
Nile blinked. “Drove you to what?”
“What happened, Nile,” Nicky started, leaning forwards, “Was…”
IV - Madurai, 1423
Andromache growled in annoyance when Yusuf was distracted once again. He was looking over at Nicolò constantly, seeing if his lover was watching him. He’d taken off his shirt as well, and Andromache could see him flexing whenever Nicolò so much as glanced his way.
Nicolò, however, was deep in conversation with Quynh and was not paying Yusuf much attention. Andromache was fairly certain they were talking about the different peppers they were trying to grow in the garden. She just hoped they stopped experimenting - she was old, and though she had a high tolerance for flavour - the last meal they had made together had nearly killed her.
Even Yusuf had seemed uncomfortable, and Nicolò had stopped eating after several mouthfuls despite having helped make it.
Quynh, being Quynh, had taken seconds and then thirds. Andromache had been unable to kiss her for a day without feeling like her lips were burning. She was a wonder of a woman, and Andromache adored her, but could do without her love of excessively spicy foods.
Yusuf flexed his strong arms again, glancing over at Nicolò like a puppy.
Andromache slapped his arm. “Pay attention,” she scolded. “He’s hardly going to disappear if you don’t look at him for five minutes.” She knew the moment the words had left her mouth she had made a mistake. Yusuf’s face let up, and his eyes sparkled in the way they only did when he was about to wax poetically about his lover. Andromache cut him off by sweeping a leg out, knocking him onto his back.
He groaned dramatically. “What was that for?” he demanded with a small laugh. “I thought you were helping me learn how to use an axe?”
“That’s what I’m trying to do,” she said in exasperation. “You’re the one who keeps getting distracted.”
Yusuf put a hand on his chest. “You wound me, Andromache,” he cried. “After all, how could I not be distracted by -“
“Get up,” she grinned. Her younger brother was completely and utterly ridiculous, but she loved him dearly. She also loved that the house they were living in had enough room for them not to have to share a bedchamber. She’d had enough of that over the years.
Yusuf sprung to his feet easily, wielding the axe she had found for him to learn with ease. He was not particularly talented with the weapon, but he had enough brute strength to use it to great effect. Nicolò was next on her list to teach, though Quynh had claimed him for something nefarious. Andromache hoped it did not involve hot peppers again.
“Right,” she said. “Adjust your grip… there. Now widen your stance.”
Yusuf compiled without question. Andromache walked around him, making sure his stance was strong, before picking up a Talwar blade. She’d picked it up earlier that year, and while it was not her favoured weapon, it was useful in training and was a beautifully made blade.
“Defend yourself,” she ordered, before attacking. She kept her movement controlled and relatively slow, wanting to give Yusuf time to respond properly. He did so easily, and she picked up her pace, knocking the flat of her blade against his head when he failed to get up his defence in time.
“Again,” she ordered.
“You made this type of weapon look so easy,” he told her.
She snorted but didn’t bother to respond. She’d been using her labrys for thousands of years now, if it didn’t look easy she would be horrifically disappointed in herself. She attacked again, watching the man carefully for mistakes.
Then Nicolò stood, stretching his arms over his head. It was hot, and they’d all taken to wearing loose cotton clothing in an effort to stay cool. Quynh said something, a wide grin on her beautiful face. Nicolò chucked in return and reached down to help her to her feet. He barely even bent over, but the cotton fabric tightened becomingly across his behind.
Yusuf immediately stopped paying attention to their fight, eyes finding his husband’s form with unerring accuracy. His mouth dropped open slightly, and Andromache could swear he was drooling.
“Yusuf!” she snapped. “Really?”
He looked back to her for all of a second, axe held in a parody of a defensive position.
She smacked it out of his hands, intent on scolding him, but the fool of a man was ignoring her completely. Nicolò had bent over even more so he could pick up the book he and Quynh had been pouring over, inadvertently putting himself even more on display.
Yusuf was drooling, she decided. She smacked him with the side of her Talwar, annoyance rising in her gut.
He ignored her. Again. Too intent on watching Nicolò laugh with Quynh, looking simultaneously lustful and in love. The fool.
She kicked at his shins childishly, but Nicolò moved again, drawing Yusuf’s attention like a moth to the flame. He watched as the younger man walked into the house chatting with Quynh, ignoring Andromache completely.
Once Nicolò was out of sight Yusuf returned his attention to her, a bright grin on his face, teeth flashing against the darkness of his thick beard. “Where were we again?”
She stared at him, incredulity and anger warring in her gut, and stabbed him.
Joe looked completely unrepentant, as did Andy. Nicky just rolled his eyes, but Nile could see his plush lips quirking in a small smile.
“After that, I ordered Nicky to stay out of the way while I trained Joe. It made it easier on us all.”
Nile laughed. “How was this the first time you ran into this problem?” she asked. “You’d been travelling together for centuries by then.”
“We had spent a good amount of time in colder climates,” Nicky explained helpfully. “Or if Andy was training Yusuf, Quynh would be training me, or vice versa.”
“I’d been distracted before,” Joe grinned, “so this was also dear old Andy here reaching the end of her rope. I’m surprised it took that long for her to kill me if I’m completely honest.”
Andy mumbled something Nile thought was an agreement. The ancient woman was shockingly kind and patient (though she hid that well), but did have a temper on her.
“What happened next?” Nile demanded. Nicky had gone and grabbed some crisps for them to snack on, and she ate them happily. This was better than a movie. “How did Nicky and Quynh react?”
“We’d bet on it,” Nicky told her, looking like an innocent choirboy, all wide eyes and open expression. Nile didn’t believe it for a second.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before Andy here got fed up with Joe. So we bet on it. Quynh won.”
“How did you bet on that?” Nile demanded.
“I bet that Andy would knock him out when she got too annoyed,” Nicky said, favouring the woman with a smile. She held up her wine glass in acknowledgement, a wicked grin on her face. “Quynh disagreed, and thought that Andy would kill him.”
“I must say,” Joe butt in happily, “I didn’t expect Andy to kill me because I was distracted. But I wasn’t exactly paying attention to her mood.”
Andy rolled her eyes, reaching over for a handful of crisps. Nile held out the bowl, then offered it to Nicky and Joe as well. “You deserved it,” Andy insisted.
“Probably,” Joe agreed immediately. “I woke up to her ranting at me in Alanian. I still have no idea what she was saying.”
“Calling you an idiot,” Andy said helpfully.
Nicky tilted his head to the side. “Why Alanian?” he asked curiously. “I would have thought your go-to from that language family would have been Scythian or perhaps Parthian?”
“Next death please!” Nile cut in, knowing that once Nicky started talking about anything academic the conversation could last for days. She was interested, and would like to know more, but not now.
Joe caught her eye, easily able to tell what she was doing. He typically indulged Nicky’s academic tangents (just as Nicky indulged his in turn, they were both massive nerds), but likewise gave into Nile whenever she pouted at him. She figured if the expression worked on her grandmother and mother, it would likewise work of Joe and Nicky. It had even worked on Andy a couple of times.
“Hmmm,” Joe mused, rubbing his beard again. “That time in China?”
Nicky shook his head. “The English Channel,” he said firmly.
Andy made a noise of agreement, reaching for some more crisps. Nile just handed her the bowl and settled in to listen.
V - English Channel, After Quynh’s Loss
They were all beyond exhausted.
They had been searching the Channel for years now. The original men involved were long since dead and gone, as were their children. They didn’t have much hope of finding Quynh, not now, but none of them could bear to give up. Could not bear to be the first one to say that there was nothing more to be done. That they didn’t have the resources to find her.
“We could try here,” Nicolò said, pointing at a spot on the map of the channel. “It’s unlikely but possible.”
Andromache nodded after a moment, hair long and lank. “Get us there,” she ordered, patting him on the shoulder. Nicolò brought up a hand to cover hers, squeezing her thin and calloused fingers. She kissed him on the cheek, a faraway look in her blue eyes.
“I will,” he promised. He glanced back at the map. “It will take up several days,” he told her. “You should try to sleep. You’re no use to us if you’re exhausted.”
“Neither are you,” she rightfully pointed out. He huffed a small laugh.
“No, but you’re terrible at marine navigation. You’ll just get us hopelessly lost.”
She smacked him on the shoulder, making no move to get up and leave for bed. He didn’t push her, knowing she wanted to be with people and not on her own with her memories. He did not blame her. He did not know what he would do were he in her position. He could not even begin to comprehend living without Yusuf.
They sat together in comfortable silence, greeting Yusuf with a smile when he returned from where he’d been fixing something or other at the bow. The boat was old and slowly falling apart, but they could not afford the time it would take to get a new one. Or the expense.
Yusuf kissed Andromache on the temple, then slipped an arm around Nicolò’s waist. “Where to next?” he asked, exhaustion in his tone.
Nicolò ignored it and pointed at the navigational charts. “Here,” he said. “It’s a long shot, but…”
Yusuf nodded, somehow still looking optimistic. “We should try.” He finished.
Nicolò nodded slowly. “I’m going to go check the rigging,” he said, worried about the state of the ropes. Andromache let go of his shoulder, conversing quietly with Yusuf. Nicolò allowed their voices to wash over him as he checked the lines, grateful it was a relatively still day. They were moored at a small port town to resupply but didn’t have extra funds to purchase new ropes, and Nicolò would rather not steal from this place.
He inspected them carefully, not wanting to miss anything. He could hear footsteps behind him, and knew instinctively it was Yusuf. He ignored him and bent low to check one last rope. His trousers, however, did not like the motion. They were decades old at this point and had been mended and repaired more times than he could count. They ripped right up the seam.
Yusuf made a strangled choking sound and went right over the side of the boat.
Nicolò blinked in alarm, then swore, moving quickly to look over the railing. Andromache was at his side almost immediately, lips twitching. “He saw your trousers rip and just kept walking,” she informed him, stripping off her jacket and shoes. She kissed him on the cheek again and dove overboard. Nicolò watched anxiously for a moment, before running to the hold for extra blankets. It may be summer, but the waters of the Atlantic were never truly warm, and both Yusuf and Andromache would be freezing when they came up.
The oldest immortal came up with a spluttering Yusuf in her arms, both of them covered in long tendrils of seaweed. Nicolò tossed down a rope, hauling them out. They landed on the deck several moments and he tossed the blankets over their shoulder, rubbing off the excess water vigorously.
“What on earth, Yusuf!” Nicolò demanded, worry making him angry.
“I… uh -“
“As I said,” Andromache stated. “He saw your trousers rip and walked right off the edge. I pulled him out of the seaweed, the idiot.”
Yusuf opened his mouth, looking offended, but then stopped. “I can’t defend myself here. But it was a glorious view.”
Nicolò, feeling cool air where his trousers had ripped, flushed.
“Quynh would have found this hilarious,” Andromache choked out, before bursting abruptly into heart-rending sobs. Nicolò immediately gathered her in his arms, holding her tightly.
Yusuf shuffled closer as well, putting his chin on their sister’s head. “She would never let me hear the end of it,” he agreed. “She never did stop teasing me about the Cliff Incident.”
Andromache snorted through her sobs. “How did you miss a cliff, Yusuf!” she giggled somewhat hysterically, channelling Quynh’s inflexion. “A cliff!”
Yusuf grinned, though was blinking back his own tears. “The reason I walked off the side of a boat,” he said in a long-suffering tone. “I was distracted by a vision of pure beauty.”
Andromache stared at him for a long moment, before bursting out into peels of laughter, crows feet wrinkling. It was the most she had laughed in years. And while Nicolò knew they were not alright, not now and perhaps would not for years to come, they were healing.
He liked to think Quynh would be happy with that.
Nile watched as Joe and Nicky seemed to sit even closer together, and how even Andy seemed not to mind thinking of Quynh. Nile could not even begin to imagine how difficult it had been searching for her, only to be met with failure time and time again.
Her own dreams had begun to taper off, much to her relief, but Nile would never forget that first time she had dreamt of Quynh, would never forget the all-encompassing anger she had felt from the other woman. But that had been juxtaposed by the various stories Joe would tell. By the way Nicky would explain to Nile how Quynh had taught him to cook dishes from her homeland. How Andy’s face would soften in remembrance of her lover. Nile was slowly starting to feel as though she knew the other woman with how they spoke of her. Nile hoped that, someday, they would be able to rescue her, that Quynh would somehow be sane, and that Andy would still be alive.
She pushed the thought from her head. Now was not the time to muse on what-if’s, but to laugh at Joe. Because Joe certainly deserved it. Nicky did, she could admit, have a great ass, but she’d have thought Joe would have been used to it by now.
“Did you ever try to distract him on purpose?” she asked curiously. “Because I feel like you easily could.”
Nicky, much to her surprise, flushed an even brighter red. She’d fully expected him to have said no. “Ah, no,” he said. “I’ve never actually tried to distract him.”
Joe smirked and licked his lips. “He has killed me before, however.”
Nile stared at him in suspicion. She suspected he didn’t mean Jerusalem. She looked over to Andy, hoping the woman would give her some sort of clue.
Andy grinned. “I know exactly what you’re talking about,” she cackled. She looked at Nicky and laughed even harder. Nicky just buried his face in his hand, shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter.
“He didn’t tell me until after,” Nicky moaned.
“There was nothing to tell!” Joe declared, reaching over to pull Nicky’s hand down. He brought the hand to his lips, kissing Nicky’s knuckles. “It was the best death I have ever had, and I would gladly die that way again.”
“Do I want to know?” Nile asked dryly.
“It’s funny,” Andy insisted. “Very funny.”
Nile looked from Andy’s amused expression to Joe’s open one, and over to Nicky’s red face. She just knew she was going to regret this.
And One Time It Was Nicky’s Fault
“You want me to what?” Nicolò asked, sounding completely aghast.
Yusuf smiled beatifically, pulling his lover closer. He wrapped his arms around his waist, kissing him gently on the lips. “I want you to sit on my face,” he repeated cheerfully.
Nicolò just blinked, looking confused.
“You’ll love it,” Yusuf promised, knowing he was being truthful. “As will I. You know I have a particular appreciation for your behind,” he continued, reaching one hand down to squeeze the plump flesh.
Nicolò bit down a smile “I know you do,” he said, gently running a handover Yusuf’s strong chest. “But I do not want to hurt you.”
Yusuf kissed him again. “You won’t,” he cajoled. “I’ve been dreaming of this for years now, my love. It will feel good, I know you like it when I -”
“Nope, time out, nope!” Nile cut in quickly. “I don’t wanna hear details, and can read between the lines with this.” She paused, not looking at anyone else. “Do you mean to tell me that you died because you wanted Nicky to sit on your face?”
“I flew too high, and my own desires led to my death,” Joe said earnestly, spreading his hands in front of him. He looked completely innocent, and Nile fought the urge to throw something at him.
Nicky rolled his eyes and stood, moving to do the dishes. He was blushing so much Nile was concerned he was going to hurt himself.
“Are… are you trying to make an allegory to Icarus? Because that was terrible. I thought you were good with words, Joe.” Nile scolded, not at all impressed.
Andy snorted, hoisting herself out of her chair to help Nicky with the dishes. “I knew Icarus,” she said firmly. “It’s a good allegory.”
Nile froze, brain short-circuiting as she tried to decide what to focus on. She raised a single finger, eyes closed. “We’ll talk about that later.” Andy enjoyed teasing her, and at this point Nile really wasn’t sure what was true and what was fiction. She was reasonably certain that she had to be lying now. There was no way Icarus had been real.
Andy simply smiled smugly.
Joe laughed loudly. “It is my favourite death to date,” he said, painfully honest. Nile felt as though she was watching a car accident. By now Joe and Nicky were like (much) older brothers to her, and while she loved watching them together and was truly impressed with the longevity of their relationship, she wasn’t sure she wanted to be hearing about this.
“I… I always thought it was an exaggeration,” she said weakly. “That you could die that way.”
Andy barked out a laugh from the small kitchen, sounding positively wicked. “It’s not,” she insisted. “You can also die by -”
“Nope!” Nile snapped, springing to her feet. She hustled Nicky and Andy out of the kitchen. “I’ve got the dishes,'' she said. “And the rest of the wine is mine,” she added. It was next to impossible to maintain being tipsy with their immortality, but she needed that tonight. She threw the remaining cups into the dishwasher and nabbed the bottle and the remaining crisps.
She sat back in the chair, heart-melting somewhat as she looked at Joe and Nicky. They were once again sitting next to one another on the loveseat and looked so perfect together that Nile couldn’t help but sigh. She loved them, she really did, but she didn’t want to think about Nicky sitting on Joe’s face. No thank you.
“One last thing Joe,” she said, holding up a finger. “Cause I still can’t get over this part.”
Joe turned his attention to her, his expression kind.
She took a breath, schooling her expression to one of calmness. She, in fact, had a lot of questions and wanted to hear more about the shenanigans her new family had gotten up to throughout the years, but this one thing was still percolating in her mind. “A cliff ? How did you miss a cliff?”
Andy and Nicky exchanged a glance, then looked as one to Joe’s bewildered expression, and burst out laughing.
Joe pulled Nicky into their bedroom after showering, his heart light. He adored Nile, and knew Nicky did as well. She was strong, kind, and incredibly passionate. She was like a little sister, or even a daughter to them already, and had brought emotions out in Andy he had not seen in years. They were so incredibly grateful for her.
He undressed quickly and slid into bed, not bothering with pyjamas. It was a warm night, and even if the open window let in a breeze, he had Nicky as his side to keep him warm.
His husband puttered around for several minutes, putting away various things and closing the curtains so the glow from the streetlight wouldn't irritate them.
“She’s a good kid,” he said, yawning.
Nicky nodded, sliding into bed as well. “She is.”
“Shame she didn’t want to hear more about when I -”
Nicky cut him off with a kiss, eyes sparkling in the dim light. “Do you blame her?
Joe stayed serious for a moment, before grinning. “Not at all,” he chuckled. “I may have traumatised her. But she’s going to be making fun of me forever for the cliff thing, so we’re even.”
“The fact that you walked off a cliff, Yusuf,” Nicky groused.
Joe rolled his eyes. It had been over seven hundred years and he was still teased about this. He pushed the thought from his mind. He didn’t mind, not really. It was, in retrospect, funny. And not a bad death as far as his many deaths had gone. After he’d managed to get to the beach he’d had a wonderful day.
“Care for a repeat performance?” He asked suddenly, playfully wiggling his eyebrows.
Nicky gave him a puzzled look. “Of the cliff? Joe, darling, there are no cliffs around.”
He pinched Nicky’s glorious ass, relishing in his yelp. “No, of the time my death was your fault. You know I can’t resist you.” He palmed the other man’s plump behind, cock twitching in interest.
Nicky, on the other hand, just rolled his eyes. “You’re incorrigible.”
Joe pouted, not moving his hands. “Is that a no?” If it was he wouldn’t push, but he would be secretly (or not so secretly, Nicky could read him like an open book) disappointed. He’d accepted by now that his husband’s ass was somewhat of an addiction.
“You know if you die, you will quite literally never hear the end of it,” Nicky said, sitting up.
Joe grinned, manoeuvring himself to lie on his back. “It would be worth it,” he said vehemently. “Though, it was only the once. We both learned.”
Nicky laughed slightly. “You mean I learned. You certainly didn’t.”
Joe thought for a moment, casting his mind back through the centuries. Nicky was, much to his consternation, correct. “I suppose I get a little over-excited,” he admitted. “But you don’t exactly mind.” He grabbed his husband by the hips, pulling him close.
Nicky stopped him with a hand on his chest, leaning down to kiss him. “I love you, you ridiculous man,” he said softly, speaking Ligurian.
Joe kissed him back eagerly. “I love you too,” he said in his own childhood Arabic. “Now come up here.”
Laughing, Nicky complied, swinging a leg up. Joe grinned, tightening his hands on his husband's hips, squeezing gently. He’d like to avoid dying (it had made Nicky feel terribly guilty), but he had not lied when he said it had been a good death. It had, in fact, been glorious.
As was Nicky’s ass. Joe was a lucky, lucky man.