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nothing but love on my mind

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“I saw a bathhouse just near hear,” Nicolò says.

Yusuf drops his pack by the bed with a groan. “Are you saying I smell?” he asks.

“We both do,” Nicolò says with equanimity, which is irritating, because when a man asks the person he’s currently engaged in carnal affairs with whether he smells, he’d really rather be complimented.

“Well then,” Yusuf says. “I suppose we’ll both have to bathe.”

It will be a nice change of pace, at least, to be naked with Nicolò. Over the last weeks, he’s not exactly proud to say he’s taken advantage of Nicolò’s regrettably sloppy seduction attempts more than once. It speaks almost more poorly of Yusuf, actually, than it does of Nicolò, that he assented to any form of intercourse after Nicolò began a conversation with the words, “I’ve always found chest hair very appealing.” Still, the nights were cold, and sharing their bedrolls was appealing. Since the nights were so cold, though, he has yet to actually take off all his clothes in front of Nicolò, nor the reverse. 

It’s a startling lack of intimacy given how often Nicolò has sucked his cock.

So despite the fact that Yusuf would like nothing more than to lie down in the first bed he’s seen in several months and sleep for a small eternity, he follows Nicolò to the bathhouse down the street.

To his eternal chagrin, it feels heavenly to strip off his dusty clothes and sink into the warm water, and as annoyed as he still is about Nicolò’s...everything, he’s willing to admit that reorienting his day toward soaking for a few pleasurable hours before sleeping for a small eternity is a pleasant thought.

After ten minutes of focused washing, Nicolò stands to leave.

“We just got here,” Yusuf complains.

Nicolò flashes him a half smile. “You should stay,” he says, and leaves without a further word. 

Yusuf blinks at his retreating back.

The gall, truly.

Out of spite, Yusuf does stay, and enjoys himself heartily. The steam rooms are excellent and there’s a friendly group of elderly men chatting about local politics, which is interesting enough to keep him occupied for quite some time.

By the time he leaves, the sun is setting and his skin is flushed warm and clean. He can barely stand to put on his grimy clothing again.

His mood sours when he sees the room he and Nicolò are renting lit up from within. What has Nicolò been doing all this time, staring at the wall? It certainly seems in line with what Yusuf knows of his favored pastimes.

He pushes the door open prepared to endure an evening of stilted conversation or worse yet, being ignored, only to find a spread of fresh fruit, cheese and bread laid out on the table.

“I went to find the market,” Nicolò says. “I thought you might like this.”

Grudgingly, Yusuf admits, “You thought right.”

It’s good food, better than they’ve had in months. They both sold their horses before starting on this journey, knowing they wouldn’t be able to feed them reliably on the trip and wanting the greater anonymity and cover provided on foot, but given that all they’ve seen along the way is grass and rocks, they haven’t had much of a chance to use any of the money. A nice dinner is as good a start as any.

Yusuf tells Nicolò about the bathhouse as they eat, at least partly because he is still irked to have been left alone. He perhaps exaggerates its merits slightly, just to make a point, but Nicolò refuses to be baited, which is almost as frustrating as his behavior in the first place.

“I got you something else,” Nicolò admits, when they’ve cleaned up the table and Yusuf is just about to start readying himself for bed.

“Why?” he blurts.

“You look tired,” Nicolò says.

Yusuf sighs. 

He doesn’t know why he keeps expecting Nicolò to be complimentary. It’s clear he just has no interest whatsoever in romance. Besides, Yusuf hardly knows what he would do if Nicolò were actually interested in romance. As much as Yusuf prefers to form some sort of emotional attachment to his lovers, he doesn’t know what exactly he would do if Nicolò attempted to make their attachment emotional.

This is a man who told Yusuf he reminded him of his warhorse.

Yusuf still isn’t sure what that was supposed to mean.

He’s reasonably certain Nicolò wasn’t riding a gelding, but he also desperately hopes Nicolò wasn’t comparing his genitalia to a horse’s.

“What is it, then, this something else?” Yusuf asks. 

“Take off your clothes,” Nicolò says.

“If it’s your cock—”

With an exasperated sigh, Nicolò pull out a bottle of oil. “I thought I could rub your back,” he mutters, clearly embarrassed.

Yusuf opens his mouth, and then shuts it again, and then opens it again to say, “That sounds nice.”

“Then take off your clothes,” Nicolò says. 

Yusuf does. He lies down face first on the bed to the left, away from the window, at Nicolò’s instruction, and tilts his head to the side so he can see and breathe.

“Alright,” Nicolò says, more to himself than to Yusuf. “I’m going to…”

The bed dips alarmingly with Nicolò’s knee coming to rest beside Yusuf’s hips, and then again as he swings his other leg over till he’s sitting astride Yusuf’s rear. There’s the sound of a stopper, and then Nicolò warm hands, covered in sweet-scented oil, on Yusuf’s back.

He can’t help it; he flinches.

He wants to apologize, but Nicolò just says, “Shh,” and continues running his hands up Yusuf’s back, slow and gentle.

When he reaches the base of Yusuf’s neck, he reverses direction and intensifies the pressure, dragging his thumbs down the sides of Yusuf’s spine. 

Nicolò’s hands are big enough that they can span the whole small of Yusuf’s back, splayed out and with his thumbs digging into the most sensitive parts. Yusuf knew that was the part of his body that tended towards aching, especially when he spends all day on his feet, carrying heavy things, but he’s never had someone try to fix it

He can’t help it. He moans breathlessly. 

Mercifully, Nicolò doesn’t say anything. 

Instead, he digs his fingers in deeper, starting a horizontal kneading motion from the center of Yusuf’s spine outward toward the edges of his back.

Yusuf lets himself melt down into the bed, enjoying the touch of Nicolò’s hands leeching the tension from his back. Nicolò’s touch is firm, thorough, but there’s a gentleness to it, something Yusuf wasn’t expecting. When was the last time someone else’s hands were on his body to convey caring?

Not that Nicolò is necessarily trying to convey caring, Yusuf chastises himself. 

It’s just hard not to feel like it when his skin has been scrubbed clean, his belly is full and he’s lying in a soft bed with a good-looking man rubbing every ache out of his back.

He shifts a little, nudging his hips up, and discovers Nicolò’s hard cock where he’s leaning over Yusuf’s back to reach his shoulders. 

“Apologies,” Nicolò mutters, settling back on Yusuf’s buttocks.

Yusuf considers.

“You don’t need to,” he says.


“Apologize,” Yusuf says. “At least, not for that.”

“Oh?” Nicolò asks, his voice gone warm, hands gone soft. “What shall I apologize for then?” 

“Mm,” Yusuf groans, rolling his hips up intentionally this time. “Starting this by telling me I look tired.”

Nicolò pauses for a second. Then, he sits back on Yusuf’s thighs and grips the cheeks of his arse, one in each hand. “I suppose I’ll have to finish it well,” he says, roughly. His fingers dip between Yusuf’s cheeks, trace over his hole.

Yusuf draws in a deep breath and realizes he’d been holding it, waiting. 

“Go on,” he says.

There’s a pause as Nicolò unstoppers the oil again, and then his finger prods at Yusuf’s hole, intentional, thick and blunt. It breaches him and Yusuf gasps into the pillow. He hasn’t done this in so long, he’s become an entirely different person in the interim.

The last time, he remembers, he’d been lying in bed with his head on Bilal’s chest afterward, and Bilal had said he’d be returning to Mahdia soon at his family’s behest, with the crusade moving ever closer to Cairo, would Yusuf be joining him?

Yusuf had sat up, shocked, disbelieving that Bilal would run from a fight that was threatening their very way of life, threatening the trade routes both their families depended on. Yusuf had a cousin who had been in Antioch when it fell, and he had not stopped thinking of it since.

He left Bilal’s bed not too long after, and when they both left Cairo, it was in opposite directions.

Here, now, there is none of the softness to the occasion there was then. Nicolò is silent as he stretches Yusuf open on his thick fingers, none of the sweet words Yusuf has been accustomed to, just single-minded touch. 

He can feel the entirety of Nicolò’s focus on him, even if he can’t see him.

It’s scorchingly erotic.

“Let me turn over,” he demands, when he’s loose enough and impatient enough he can’t stand to not see what’s happening anymore.

It’s a mistake, he realizes immediately, starkly. On his back, with Nicolò between his thighs, dark-eyed, open-mouthed, he feels like prey.

He’s never felt like this in bed before, like his lover’s desire for him could burn him alive, like he is giving himself over into someone else’s hands. 

It thrills him.

So much so he nearly asks Nicolò to stop for fear of getting carried away.

Once, he and Bilal had made love whilst rather tipsy, and the illicitness both of the alcohol and the lovemaking had been so heightened Yusuf had been rather more amorous than usual. He had begged Bilal to take him, he recalls with something like shame, and Bilal had afterwards admitted to being slightly uncomfortable with his intensity.

But then Nicolò’s hands rub up the sides of Yusuf’s thighs and Yusuf remembers he has never, not once, cared if he is making Nicolò uncomfortable, not because he still holds some sort of spiteful enmity towards him but because they have seen each other die and be reborn and there is simply no room left for social niceties.

He leans down to kiss Yusuf, for the first time tonight, Yusuf realizes, but nothing as gentle as that implies. It’s all tongue, all heat, all desire, and Yusuf gives himself over to it, wrapping his arms around Nicolò’s broad shoulders, clinging to him. Nicolò can take it.

“I’m going to fuck you,” Nicolò announces when their lips part. It’s not erotic, it’s just a statement of intent, but the quality of his voice makes Yusuf whine and part his legs further.

His cock is thick, which Yusuf had known, he’s had it between his thighs, in his hands, once even in his mouth although he doesn’t terribly enjoy doing that and had stopped fairly quickly. 

It’s still a different matter to have it splitting him wide, his thighs hooked over Nicolò’s hips. The breath leaves his lungs entirely. 

Nicolò says nothing.

He continues to sink inside, inexorable, slow, controlled.

Yusuf heaves in air, speared on Nicolò’s cock, gripping his arms so tightly he must be leaving bruises. It doesn’t matter; they’ll heal. 

For a moment, that’s all it is, himself suspended, impaled, overfull, clutching at Nicolò to keep him grounded.

Then, Nicolò moves.

The first thrust shocks a grunt out of Yusuf, and then, well, his mouth is open and he can’t seem to stop the noises escaping, moans and cries with each press of Nicolò’s hips against the flesh of his buttocks.

It’s very nearly too much, he’s so sensitive each press of Nicolò’s cock inside him aches, but it aches so beautifully he’s leaking across his own stomach almost instantly. 

Nicolò pauses, shuffles his knees under Yusuf for better leverage, grips his hips tight, and increases his pace. Yusuf’s arms fall to the side, useless, as he hears breathy cries come from his own lips. He can feel the shape of Nicolò’s fingers imprinting on his hips and healing, over and over again. The pain of it, the quick sequence of pain and relief, pain and relief, makes him dizzy.

He grabs for his own cock with clumsy fingers, forcing just enough space between their abdomens to stroke himself off, impatient with how good he feels.

“I won’t stop,” Nicolò warns, hoarse, gruff.

“Huh?” Yusuf asks, a hair’s breadth from getting the orgasm fucked right out of him.

“When you come, I won’t stop fucking you,” Nicolò says. “I’m not done with you.”

With a hurt noise, Yusuf comes all over his stomach, gut-punched by the pleasure of it, quick and brutal. True to his word, Nicolò doesn’t stop fucking him even when he cringes with sensitivity.

“Nicolò,” he says.

Nicolò pauses, and for one disappointing instant, Yusuf thinks Nicolò will pull out, will stop to not overwhelm him.

He wants to be overwhelmed.

Nicolò grips his hips tighter and rolls them over, so he’s on his back and Yusuf’s splayed on top of him. He fumbles his cock back into place and guides Yusuf back down onto him.

Yusuf groans. He’s so sensitive, his nerves are rubbed raw, and the motion startles them up where they had begun healing. 

“Come on,” Nicolò demands. “Ride me.”

Yusuf tries, he really does, but the long day, his exhaustion, his relaxation at Nicolò’s hands, his orgasm—it all conspired to make him shaky, wobbly-kneed. He can barely set a rhythm and it feels so much too much tears blur in his eyes.

“Look at you,” Nicolò croons. “You love it. Love me fucking you open till you’re sore with it, don’t you, you need it so badly.”

“Yes,” Yusuf pants, and then again, and again as he spears himself on Nicolò’s cock. The shock of his oversensitivity has passed from painful to achingly good, and he isn’t precisely hard, but he hasn’t gone soft either, can’t, not with Nicolò fucking him at that angle.

He leans down for better purchase and makes it almost a minute, sharing the same breath as Nicolò as he fucks himself but too uncoordinated to kiss him before his elbows give way.

“Need help?” Nicolò asks, petting down Yusuf’s sides much too softly.

Yusuf begs him for it.

He says please, and give it to me, and all sorts of explicit and dirty things he might be ashamed of if he didn’t feel so good, flying out of his head with sensation, shivering and shouting with it. Beneath him, Nicolò is sweating, trembling as he holds Yusuf steady and plows up into him. The effort he’s going to to make this good for Yusuf is what sends Yusuf over again in the end, spurting weakly onto Nicolò’s skin, pleasure so sharp it hurts.

With a noise like he’s been cut open, speared through (and Yusuf would know), Nicolò comes, so immediately after him that Yusuf knows he’s been waiting, holding back.

A regretfully short amount of time later, Nicolò disentangles their limbs. 

“Come on,” he says. “The other bed is cleaner.”

“We’re not clean,” Yusuf points out. He wants to not move. He wants Nicolò to not move right next to him, preferably with his arms around Yusuf. He absolutely does not want to admit to that.

He will admit, begrudgingly, that Nicolò fetching water and a washcloth from downstairs and wiping him down before leading him gently to the other bed is a close second.