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nothing but love on my mind

Chapter Text

“Yusuf,” Nicolò says abruptly. “I was wondering.”

“About anything in particular?” Yusuf asks when Nicolò fails to elaborate even after he has waited several moments and clambered over a particularly tricky bit of rock.

Nicolò shoots him a nasty look.

“It is only,” he says, in his awkwardly formal Greek, “that we know so little of each other. And yet we have no one besides each other.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Yusuf says. He hasn’t really thought to worry over it, he already knows Nicolò now far more than he did this time last year, when they were still killing each other outside al-Quds. Enough to no longer want to kill him, and enough to have taken up this journey together in search of the women haunting their dreams.

Nicolò nods pensively. “And we have such a long and not very interesting journey ahead of us.”

“Yes,” Yusuf agrees. As far as they can tell, the women are somewhere far to the east from where their own journey began, and it is a long trip on horseback, let alone by foot. Yusuf would have vastly preferred a boat, but being that he is known as a tradesman in the parts they set out, they decided against the risk of being recognized in any given harbor near al-Quds as two men who should be rightfully dead.

This leaves them walking very slowly towards their destination in boots that have seen better days with little but their bedrolls, a change of clothes and their meager supplies.

Yusuf used to sleep on a featherbed and drink two cups of honeyed tea in the mornings while he attended lectures on all ranges of subjects.

Now, he has a sip of water if he’s lucky and spends all day walking next to a taciturn Genoan.

At least it isn’t raining today.

“Perhaps we could pass the time with a game,” Nicolò suggests.

“A game,” Yusuf repeats.

“If you’d rather not–“

“I was given to understand your sort didn’t play games,” Yusuf says, beginning to get into the playful spirit. “Merely sat around contemplating your own shortcomings.”

The look Nicolò shoots him could kill a more mortal man. “Monasteries are not as grim as you make them out to be,” he says. “And if you don’t want–“

“No, no,” Yusuf says. “By all means. What game do you propose?”

“Merely one of questions. You may ask one of me, and I must answer honestly, and then I may ask one of you.”

“If this is what they call a game in your monasteries, I will stick with my original assessment,” Yusuf opines. “But very well. What’s your favorite food?”

Nicolò groans a little, likely because all they have to eat is stale bread and a bit of dried and salted meat, unless they find anything along the way. Looking out across the barren steppes, it seems unlikely. “Lamb,” he says at length. “Slow-cooked in a stew with grains and fresh vegetables.”

Yusuf’s mouth waters. “You’ll have to cook it for me sometime,” he says. “That sounds divine.”

“It is,” Nicolò assures him. “My grandmother– well, anyhow. What’s your favorite color?”

Yusuf has many things to say on the subject of color; the deep, rich shade of the Mediterranean when one spots it on a summer’s day; the burnt umber of the pots on his mother’s stove; the warm brown of her eyes when she laughed; the turquoise of the mosaic tiles in the mosque he grew up attending. These are answers he would enthuse over at great length were he speaking to a friend or a lover, but it seems too intimate to tell Nicolò, so all he says is, “Blue.”

They walk on in silence for a moment, and then Nicolò says, “It’s your turn.”

“Ah yes,” Yusuf says. “Very well then, what does the lamb stew have to do with your grandmother?”

Nicolò laughs ruefully. It’s a pleasant sound. “She was always in the kitchen,” he says. “My mother hated it, said it was no place for a noblewoman, but she was old and a little senile, and she never treated me like I was underfoot, so I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her. She made very good lamb, that’s all.”

Privately, Yusuf doubts that is truly all. An image of a young Nicolò, big-eyed and round-cheeked, peering into a pot of stew as if it could give him the affection he was lacking comes to his mind as easily as breathing. Nicolò has already told him he was sent to the monastery when he was fourteen and hadn’t left since, but he had acted as if that were a solely financial decision on the part of his parents, impoverished nobility having few other ways to get rid of surplus children. A pang of longing runs through him at the thought of it, quickly followed by another pang, this one for his own mother and how much he misses her. 

However, it is Nicolò’s turn, and Yusuf is not at all sure that asking further will not make Nicolò turn all taciturn and surly as he did the last time Yusuf pressed too hard, so he elects not to.

“Alright,” Nicolò says slowly. “What do you regret leaving behind?”

“A good question,” Yusuf says. There are so many things he regrets leaving behind. A sense of belonging. Knowing where his next meal would come from. More abstractly, a belief that his fate was in some way a planned constant of the universe, of God, and not his own to decide upon. It’s an awful lot of responsibility, this immortality. “My family, of course. I might not have been so eager to see the world if I knew it meant not seeing them again. Good food. Wine. Prayer.”

“You can still pray,” Nicolò points out.

Yusuf shakes his head. “I cannot wash, here. I would not wish to stand before God unclean.” He is also not at all sure how to feel about praying to a god who made both himself and a Christian immortal; nor is he entirely certain he wants to be observed by Nicolò in his prayers. For a former priest, he has not shown any sign of devoutness in the year Yusuf has known him.

“Besides,” he tacks on. “If I were as devout as all that, I would not miss the wine as well.”

“Is wine forbidden for you, too, then?” Nicolò asks, which is what Yusuf was aiming for. He has little interest in educating Nicolò about Islam purposefully, he has neither the in-depth knowledge nor the greatness of spirit necessary, but it would be nice to avoid a repetition of the time Nicolò spent over an hour trying to parse why Yusuf would rather go hungry than eat pork. Better he learn these things and where Yusuf stands on them sooner rather than later.

Then Nicolò points out, “But you drink wine and you do not eat pork.”

This is a snag in Yusuf’s plan he had not anticipated. “Well,” he hedges. “Some things are more important than others.”

“But you could choose to eat pork and still be Muslim?” Nicolò asks.

“No,” Yusuf snaps, and then sighs. “Does your religion not have restrictions you chafe against?” he asks. “Some rules are more easily kept than others. Besides, there is some debate that the true restriction is wine drunk in excess , which is not something I make myself guilty of.”

Not for the first time, he wishes he had stood firm in his original plan of staying put and letting the women come to them. True, they would have been at greater risk of being recognized, of being revealed as immortal after having very publicly killed each other in al-Quds, which would brand them either as God’s chosen or his damned, neither of them are entirely sure on which it is. Wandering alone through the wilderness with a man who is so very foreign to him is, in Yusuf’s opinion, only barely better. 

“I believe I understand,” Nicolò says. “There are indeed some restrictions I chafe against. It’s your turn.”

Ah yes, the game. “What do you regret leaving behind?”

“Sex,” Nicolò says, and Yusuf trips over a rock.

“Excuse me?” he asks, sounding alarmingly like his great-aunt Leyla.

Nicolò shrugs.

“But I thought– were you not supposed to abstain?”

“Like I said,” Nicolò says. “There were some restrictions I chafed against.”

Another image of a younger Nicolò crosses his mind, this time chafing very literally against the robes of some other young novice, faceless and voiceless except that he is giving Nicolò pleasure. Yusuf coughs. “It’s your turn,” he says.

“Do you prefer the company of men or women?” Nicolò asks.

Yusuf continues coughing.

“Sexually,” Nicolò clarifies.

“I can’t say I have ever been asked so directly,” Yusuf huffs.

Unrepentantly, Nicolò shrugs.

“Men,” Yusuf mutters.

“As do I,” Nicolò says, looking over at him slyly, and suddenly Yusuf is struck by the purpose of this ‘game’.

“I’m not sure if I should be flattered or insulted,” he mutters to himself.

“What was that?” Nicolò asks.

“Oh, nothing,” Yusuf says, and does not continue the game. If this is Nicolò’s idea of seduction, he will have to live with being ignored. 

The evening sees them making camp in as much cover as is to be found in the steppes. Nicolò manages to catch them a rabbit, which slightly softens Yusuf towards him after the afternoon’s affront.

Still, Yusuf’s last lover, Bilal ibn Ali, courted him with time spent studying beautiful manuscripts together, with walks around Cairo to witness the most impressive architecture. He bought Yusuf finely worked glass trinkets from the markets, and Yusuf gifted him with pottery he had made himself. 

It makes Yusuf smile a little, to think of how Bilal had kissed him so softly under the setting sun behind the bathhouses. He had been squirming with anticipation by then, after a full afternoon of bathing beside Bilal, all that skin on display, Bilal’s eyes heavy on him, and to be touched so gently then—well, it had been terribly romantic.

Nothing at all like being bluntly asked if he liked to fuck men.

Yusuf huffs a little, just remembering it.

“Are you alright?” Nicolò asks. “Not too cold?”

In point of fact, Yusuf is almost always too cold in the evenings, with the summer petering out and so little shelter to be found out here. He’s barely slept the last two nights because of it. He shrugs.

Nicolò turns to look at him, a half-smile quirking his lips, and suddenly, awfully, Yusuf knows what he’s going to say.

“I could keep you warm.”

Yusuf could easily say no. He probably should, he’s going to be trapped in Nicolò’s company for a significant amount of time during this journey, and possibly forever after that, a chilling thought if there ever was one. If Nicolò’s carnal gifts are even half so awkward as his efforts at bestowing them, it seems doubtful Yusuf will want to make a repeat occurrence of this, and possibly the only thing more uncomfortable than turning him down straight-away would be to accept him once and never again.

On the other hand, Yusuf has given up on most forms of civility with Nicolò on the basis that they have murdered each other in cold blood. In the grand scheme of things, saying I’d really rather not fuck you again seems less bad than stabbing Nicolò through the nose that one time, which he hasn’t yet apologized for.

Besides which, Yusuf is in fact quite cold, and Nicolò is the only person who has touched him in months, and while he is well past his thirtieth year, he is lonely and he misses his family and the warmth of another human beside him.

“Alright then,” he says, and if it sounds more like a challenge than an invitation, well, no matter.

Nicolò sidles closer, his big hand coming up to rest against Yusuf’s shoulder. He leans in close and bends his head at an odd angle, because, Yusuf realizes, he has done nothing to make this at all easier for Nicolò. It doesn’t even appear to bother Nicolò when Yusuf barely reacts to the brush of his lips, hesitant and gentle.

More so even than Bilal was, behind the bathhouses.

Yusuf’s lips part ever so slightly—not even a gasp, an exhale—and Nicolò does something Bilal never, ever did. He tightens his grip on Yusuf’s shoulder and kisses him again, with such force that Yusuf rocks back with the impact of it. But Nicolò’s other arm grips him tight, keeps him from falling, and tugs their upper bodies together as Nicolò ravages his mouth.

Yusuf isn’t entirely sure he kisses back so much as he lets his lips part further for Nicolò to plunder. A shaky moan vibrates somewhere through his chest.

It is, he thinks distantly, held fast and firm by Nicolò’s grip, a heady thing to be desired.

And oh, Nicolò must desire him.

He bears Yusuf back into the ground, cupping the back of his head protectively as he settles above Yusuf, not ceasing in his kiss for even a moment.

“Yusuf,” he says when he pulls away, breathless and low, and then his mouth is on Yusuf’s neck.

Yusuf throws his head back with an indulgent noise. 

“Are you warm yet?” Nicolò asks him. His rough voice and his breath against Yusuf’s skin sends shivers down Yusuf’s spine.

“What?” Yusuf asks, angling his neck back to get Nicolò back on track.

Nicolò’s teeth scrape down his throat. “Have I warmed you up?”

“Not enough,” Yusuf says, spreading his legs apart brazenly.

Instantly, Nicolò slides between them, aligning them hip to chest. He kisses Yusuf again, a deep, drugging thing that has Yusuf chasing his lips when he stops. This is not what he was expecting.

Still, he would be a fool to complain when Nicolò sinks lower, kissing down his clothed sternum, pulling his breeches down and his tunic up.

His mouth sinks hot around Yusuf’s transparently interested cock, and Yusuf shouts his pleasure into the empty sky.

He’s gotten his cock sucked before, in beds and on sofas and once in the hallway closet of his father’s second-favorite trading partner. It should not be novel, and yet, the way Nicolò swallows him down, no inhibition, has him struggling to keep his hips still on the ground.

Nicolò’s hands are warm, palming up his sides, and his mouth is an inferno. The contrast to the cool air surrounding them has Yusuf shivering, trapped under Nicolò’s body, as Nicolò sucks and sucks at him. His tongue plays about the head of Yusuf’s cock and Yusuf whimpers.

It is one thing to know that Nicolò notices weaknesses and exploits them because he is a worthy opponent on the battlefield. It is quite another to have that character trait enacted on his cock with brutal efficiency.

Nicolò’s tongue traces patterns across his most sensitive skin and Yusuf finds he is panting harshly, as if it is an exertion on his part to lie still and receive pleasure. The orgasm, when it comes, is pulled out of him in excruciating increments, each pulse of it a new thrill of pleasure through him.

Maybe it’s because they’re outside, exposed. 

Maybe it’s because it’s been so long since Yusuf has been touched with anything approaching affection.

Maybe it’s because Nicolò just happens to be truly gifted at this despite his other shortcomings.

Certainly few other things will do to explain how Yusuf drags him up by the hair to kiss him once more, even filthier now that he tastes of Yusuf’s spend. He can feel how Nicolò moves against him, clearly hard and wanting but reticent, as if he will not take what Yusuf has not yet offered. 

The pulse of pleasure that shoots through him at the knowledge of just how badly Nicolò wants him is entirely to blame for the words out of Yusuf’s mouth, which are, “I wish you could fuck me.”

Nicolò groans and rests his forehead against Yusuf’s. “No oil,” he says.

“And I haven’t bathed in days,” Yusuf adds, grimacing.

Nicolò traces down Yusuf’s thighs gently with his big, big hands. “I could still...here, let me.” 

He shuffles to the side, and Yusuf sucks in a breath at the cold air he’s now exposed to. 

“It’s alright,” Nicolò promises, and suddenly he’s right there, behind Yusuf, wrapped around him. He kisses the back of Yusuf’s neck and spreads his legs apart firmly, sliding his hard cock between them. The rough fabric of Nicolò’s trousers scrapes against his skin and Yusuf shudders.

“Yes?” Nicolò asks, pausing.

Yusuf swallows drily.

For the sake of his self-respect, it would be nice to pretend that he doesn’t want this quite so badly, but Nicolò’s thick cock is dripping between his thighs and against all odds, his own is taking an interest once again.

“Yes,” he says, and grabs Nicolò’s hand to wrap it around his cock.

Nicolò moans into Yusuf’s neck. He can’t seem to stop kissing Yusuf’s shoulder as he fucks between Yusuf’s thighs and strokes his cock back to full hardness. It’s awkward, at first, dry and jerky, but with the way Nicolò’s leaking and the humid sweat rising between them, both still mostly clothed, soon Nicolò’s motions become smooth and even. His cock rubs against Yusuf’s balls, the space behind them, and in no time at all, Yusuf finds himself hard and desperate in Nicolò’s grip.

He squirms backwards.

On his hip, Nicolò’s grip turns to iron.

“Stay still,” he demands.

Yusuf freezes.

“You want me to make it good for you, don’t you?” he asks, voice a rough growl in Yusuf’s ear. His thumb catches at the head of Yusuf’s cock and Yusuf mewls.

Nicolò bites his ear.

“Good,” he says, and resumes stroking Yusuf off, steady and sure and so good heat pools in Yusuf’s gut, behind his eyes, destroying any brain function he might have had left.

“Nicolò,” he gasps.

Nicolò’s cock juts out between his legs. Nicolò’s breath is warm on the back of his neck.

“Just let me,” Nicolò says, and he doesn’t say what Yusuf is supposed to let him do, but it doesn’t matter because right now, held fast in his arms, immobile, Yusuf feels for the first time in weeks, in months, like he is being taken care of.

He goes lax in Nicolò’s hold and allows himself to float on sensation, clenching only his legs to make it good for Nicolò as well.

He’s rewarded by Nicolò’s lips on his throat again, by Nicolò’s murmured words, “That’s perfect.”

Yusuf moans, out of control, and as Nicolò’s grip on his cock tightens, he comes all of a sudden and finally, spurting weakly into the hand Nicolò keeps cupped around the head.

After, the roughness of Nicolò’s grip becomes too much, to harsh, but the unsteady movements of his hips tell Yusuf he’s almost there, and given that Yusuf has finished twice, he can stand to wait a moment.

With something between a grunt and a sob, Nicolò comes all over Yusuf’s thighs.

When he’s done, he groans loudly and rolls over onto his back, leaving Yusuf’s own back cold and bereft.

Yusuf rolls over himself, grimacing at the mess between his legs.

“We’re stopping at the first stream we find tomorrow,” he informs Nicolò.

Nicolò shrugs, still breathless.

Typical.

Yusuf huffs a little and wipes up Nicolò’s come as best as he can with the long end of his own tunic. He pulls his breeches back up, shivering in the cold now he has neither the activity nor the heat of Nicolò’s body to keep him warm.

Beside him, Nicolò rocks to his feet with a little noise of effort.

It’s predictable, that someone who would approach Yusuf with as little finesse as Nicolò had would have no appreciation for the aftermath, that hazy, lazy period of softness, where standing up is the worst thing anyone could do. Of course he’s just going to get up and—

With a soft thump, the bedrolls land beside Yusuf.

Nicolò crouches down. “I thought,” he says hesitantly. “We could put one on the ground and sleep under the other.

A lump forms in Yusuf’s throat.

“Alright,” he says, a little strangled.

Only moments later find him cuddled up next to Nicolò, Nicolò’s bedroll blocking the worst of the rocks and unevenness beneath them, Yusuf’s keeping the heat of their bodies trapped between them.

More than that, the feel of Nicolò’s body pressed against his grounds him, the understanding there is another human beside him, with him.

It wasn’t so terrible after all, Yusuf thinks, as he falls asleep, warm for the first time in days. Nothing to jeopardize their onward journey happened tonight.

Then, of course, Nicolò ruins it by saying, “Perhaps we could do it again sometime.”

Chapter Text

“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.

“Hm?”

“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.

Chapter Text

They’ve stayed much too long in Samarkand, Yusuf considers as he strolls through the  market and he greets the vendor at the stall selling paper and ink by name. 

Their intention had been to stay a week, maybe two, and then continue eastwards. That had been somewhat hampered by the fact that for their first week there, they had both been so exhausted they had slept late every day. Perhaps the realization that accelerated healing meant fucking every day was a possibility was also partly at fault for their slow progress, but Yusuf wasn’t precisely willing to accept responsibility for that.

It was just a way to pass the time.

Anyhow, after a week had passed, Nicolò had said they couldn’t possibly leave without procuring new boots for Yusuf since his were wearing through on the heel, and Yusuf had said they needed to get a new coat for Nicolò since the nights were getting colder, and while they had some money from selling their horses, that was allotted for food and lodging, meaning they first had to look for work.

It’s been a month and a half, and they have purchased both the boots and the coat, but they have not yet left.

For a drawn-out moment, staring down at the wares on offer before him, Yusuf considers an eternity spent alive, forever having to resist the urge to put down roots.

The thought makes him shudder, and he ends up buying beeswax as well as paper and ink, so he can treat his new boots with it in an effort to get them on the road again.

On the way home, he treats himself to a quick stop in the bathhouse, because the thought of leaving again makes him remember how much he appreciates it, and by the time he gets back he’s in a tolerably good mood, spreading his purchases out on the table.

“I was thinking,” he tells Nicolò when he gets back from his job taking care of a rich tradesman’s horses. “We should probably leave soon.”

Nicolò stills in the doorway, holding their dinner in one hand.

“Oh,” he says. 

He sets the package containing bread and fresh, fragrant cheese on the table and goes about taking off his shoes and washing his face and hands. “I suppose so,” he says eventually, stilted.

“Do you not want to?” Yusuf asks, baffled. “I thought the plan was to find—”

“Yes, yes, to find the women,” Nicolò waves a hand. “That’s the plan, we can leave whenever you want.”

Yusuf blinks. “You don’t sound thrilled.”

Nicolò exhales loudly through his nose, a sure sign he is now not only not thrilled but actively irritated with Yusuf.

“Nicolò? Do you not want—”

“I want,” Nicolò says through gritted teeth, and turns to him. “I want to touch your cock.”

Yusuf blinks again.

It’s not that he’s opposed, it’s that it’s entirely out of nowhere and he’d really rather at least a kiss to get him in the mood first.

“Is that alright?” Nicolò asks. His eyes are blazing with—something, Yusuf’s not sure what, fists clenched like he’s holding himself back. It’s unfairly attractive, and, well, he’s had worse lines, and if they are going to be on the road again soon, it will absolutely be worth getting as much time in bed together first as they can.

“Yes,” Yusuf says. “Um, yes. Sure.”

“Good,” Nicolò says, and then he’s in Yusuf’s space and kissing him within an inch of his life, which is better late than never. 

In short order, Yusuf finds himself pushed back towards the bed on the left—the bed they’ve given up on keeping the sheets even a little clean on, the bed Nicolò’s had him most every way he could think of over the last six weeks, and perhaps it’s a trained response, but the combination of being pushed back into the sheets and Nicolò’s mouth on his neck has Yusuf hard and ready almost immediately. 

“If we’re leaving,” Nicolò tells him, “I want to. I’m going to. I.”

Yusuf swallows heavily. He’d known, abstractly, that Nicolò was not precisely skilled at finding the right words, but he’s never seen him so lost for them. Usually, he soldiers through and finds it in himself to say something , usually something awful.

He wants to hear it, whatever it is that Nicolò wants to say.

He wants to hear it and Nicolò not being able to get it out sends a pulling sensation all through Yusuf’s chest.

“Tell me to stop,” Nicolò says, instead of whatever he meant. “And I will, I promise.”

He gets up, leaves Yusuf there on the bed, his shirt loosened and half off his shoulders, cock straining against his breeches, and goes to the table. He picks up the beeswax and the shawl Yusuf bought him two weeks ago impulsively, thinking of how bare Nicolò’s head had been when he left his armor behind and how the thin skin on the back of his neck had burned and blistered in the sun. It is, Yusuf thinks regretfully, far too brightly colored and patterned for Nicolò’s tastes, a fact he only realized when he had already been ensnared by it. Perhaps Nicolò will wear it to please him. He certainly hasn’t been able to stop running his fingers across it when he sees it lying there on the table.

That does not appear to be his current aim, however, given that he is advancing on the bed with the shawl gripped tightly in his hands.

“You’re going to stay still for me,” he says. “Aren’t you?”

Wordlessly, Yusuf nods.

Nicolò hands him the beeswax. “Plug your ears,” he demands.

“Why?”

“I want,” Nicolò gets out through clenched teeth, “my every touch to be a surprise to you. I want to cover your eyes and close your ears so all you know is me and what I’m doing to you. I will have precious few opportunities to make you insensate with pleasure once we leave here and I should like to make this one count. Do you object?”

“Not in the slightest,” Yusuf says weakly, the words insensate with pleasure ringing through the suddenly empty fields of his mind.

“Then please let me stop talking about it and do it,” Nicolò says.

“I like when you talk about it,” Yusuf says, and then wants to kick himself. It’s far too close to a confession of what he’d really like, which would be Nicolò to just tell him what it is he’s thinking when he propositions Yusuf, what it means to him, how he feels.

He is, however, aware that he would then have to formulate a response, which he currently does not feel capable of.

When they arrived in Samarkand, he feels reasonably certain he would have been able to say quite easily that Nicolò was gifted between the sheets and carnal affairs were a good way to pass the time; now, however, he is reasonably certain he wouldn’t have been telling the whole truth, even then.

There’s something in the way Nicolò looks at him, something in the way Yusuf craves his touch, thinks about him when he isn’t there, that has resigned him to the fact that he can’t put aside this thing with Nicolò as purely carnal.

He’s also not sure he could term it romantic, not when he’s being handed enough wax to block his own ears, followed by Nicolò binding the scarf securely around his head, covering his eyes.

Abruptly, Yusuf realizes he no longer knows how slow or fast to lean back into the bed. He pats the covers hesitantly, trying to find the right speed, the right angle and realizes he can do neither.

Nicolò’s hands are a gentle weight at his shoulders, front and back, pushing him down gently on one side and holding him steady so he doesn’t overbalance.

His tunic is rucked up unceremoniously, his breeches unlaced and pulled off his legs. 

The bed dips near him and Yusuf knows Nicolò must be somewhere very close, but he can’t feel Nicolò’s hands on his body. It’s a thrill to his very core, the fear of how vulnerable he is to the one man who knows better than anyone how to hurt him, the joy of it.

Nicolò lays a hand on his ankle and he flinches all over.

He can’t hear what Nicolò says, he can only guess that it must be soft and sweet, and he wishes he could hear it, he could know it, even as Nicolò’s hand strokes gently over the thin skin of his ankle. 

At first, it’s just that, Nicolò’s hands running softly up and down his feet, his shins. He sucks in a breath when Nicolò’s touch reaches his thighs, when his thumbs trail down the sensitive inner sides. He makes some sort of noise when Nicolò reaches his chest, when his thumbs catch on Yusuf’s nipples.

“I thought you wanted to touch my cock,” Yusuf says, or at least he thinks he does, since it sounds distant and off with the wax plugging his ears.

He doesn’t need to hear Nicolò laugh, he can feel it, a vibration against his skin.

A firm grip wraps around his cock, unexpected and amazing. Nicolò sets a steady pace that has Yusuf gasping, hitching his hips up to meet it. It’s exactly what he wants, although he would be lying if he were to say he doesn’t miss being teased.

But Nicolò appears to have no intention of teasing him. He spreads the slick dripping from the head of Yusuf’s cock down with each stroke, making the glide of his fist that much better, and in no time at all, the muscles in Yusuf’s abdomen are locking up as his balls draw tight and his cock pulses.

Nicolò lets go.

Yusuf whines in frustration. 

A kiss is pressed to his sternum, an apology or a tease, it’s hard to tell.

He tilts his mouth up and is rewarded by Nicolò taking the hint and kissing him properly, just for a bit, before his mouth moves on to Yusuf’s cheeks, his earlobes, the thin skin of his neck. His mouth retraces the steps his hands took before, and it does nothing to ease the hardness in Yusuf’s cock as Nicolò sucks and bites at his nipples, his stomach, his thighs. He’s not entirely sure what noises he’s making, given that he can only half-hear them, but he’s entirely sure he doesn’t want to know.

He just wants Nicolò to not stop.

Nicolò reaches his feet and presses a kiss to each big toe, which is not in itself arousing, but it is very sweet, and currently, Yusuf is only capable of processing the way his heart jumps in his chest as further arousal, especially when Nicolò lunges up and immediately follows it by taking one of Yusuf’s balls into his mouth.

He’s never felt the sensation of someone’s mouth on that part of his body before and it makes him yell.

The skin is sensitive, so sensitive, and Nicolò’s tongue—he knows there is too much hair there for it to be a pleasant experience for Nicolò and yet, as soon as he lets one go, he takes the other into his mouth, licking at it gently and making Yusuf cry out and moan. It might not even be so good if he were not already leaking onto his own stomach after one denied orgasm, but it is, it’s so good, in a way that makes tears gather in his eyes.

Then, Nicolò lets his balls go and swallows his cock down entirely in one go.

Yusuf cannot help himself, he thrusts up into it. Nicolò should have tied him down.

Nicolò must realize this at the same time, because he clamps his arm over Yusuf's hips and holds him down. Paradoxically, it only intensifies Yusuf's arousal.

That, and Nicolò's mouth, which is a gift of...well, of some greater force, surely, because Yusuf cannot see, he cannot hear, all he has left is the sublime heat of Nicolò's mouth and the flick of his tongue and his own heavy, steady heartbeat as he draws ever closer to the edge.

The muscles of his thighs lock up and his spine arches. He cries out, something garbled, yes and please and Nicolò, and then— and then—

Nicolò pulls away and Yusuf howls in frustration.

Not even Nicolò's hands on his chest, stroking, soothing can calm him. He writhes and twists on the bed, desperate for relief, desperate for Nicolò, until Nicolò puts an end to it forcibly, straddling his hips.

He says something, not that Yusuf hears any of it, and he shifts, awkwardly placing too much weight on the right side of Yusuf's hipbone.

None of it matters when Yusuf can hitch his hips up in a desperate attempt to rub his aching cock against Nicolò's skin. He thinks he might go mad with the tiny pinpricks of sensation.

Finally, Nicolò's fist grips his cock again, firm and warm. Yusuf sobs.

When Nicolò sinks down on him, wet and tight, Yusuf loses his breath entirely.

There's a long moment of adjustment, in which Yusuf wonders if Nicolò has done this before—it's certainly the first time Yusuf is fucking him—and whether he can take it, and then Nicolò starts moving.

It's ungainly for only a moment before he finds his rhythm, and then it’s wonderful.

Yusuf's desperate desire to come very abruptly changes to a desperate fight not to come, not with Nicolò unsatisfied on his cock. He pats his way up Nicolò's legs until they can settle on his hips, grips tight and begins to rock up into Nicolò.

It's strange, to fuck someone and not know when he's gotten it right by the sounds he makes or the expressions on his face.

Still, when Nicolò's fingernails dig into his chest and his hole clenches tight around Yusuf, Yusuf knows. Yusuf redoubles his effort, thrusting up into Nicolò’s heat. His legs are shaking. His cock is throbbing, denied twice, and he’s so close he can taste it, but he needs Nicolò to take what he needs first.

He’s begging, he knows, but he can barely hear himself, only the pounding of his own heartbeat. Still, Nicolò shows mercy. One of his hands leaves Yusuf’s chest and wraps around his own cock, it must, because only moments later, wet heat splatters across Yusuf’s belly and he groans, pained at the thought that he doesn’t get to see Nicolò come.

“Can I?” he asks. He can neither understand his own words, nor Nicolò’s answer, but Nicolò strokes down the side of Yusuf’s face gently, and that’s it.

It feels as though every muscle in Yusuf’s body locks up tight in the instant before he finally gets to come.

When he does, every other sense leaves him along with his already inhibited ones. It’s too good. His hands have gone crushingly tight on Nicolò’s hips and he’s sobbing with pleasure, the orgasm dragging on and on with each helpless thrust up into Nicolò.

He collapses back onto the bed when it finally ends. Nicolò, still sitting astride him, pulls off the scarf and Yusuf immediately closes his eyes against the light, blinking slowly. The beeswax, he pulls out himself.

Nicolò is panting. His eyes are wild and wet and he winces as he pulls off Yusuf.

Again, Yusuf wants to ask if he’s ever been fucked before, but he decides against it. If he had wanted Yusuf to know, he wouldn’t have gone about it like this.

Instead, he takes Nicolò into his arms and holds him tight as they both come down, shaking.

Eventually, Nicolò says, “If we’re leaving, we need more supplies.”

He’s right, but it doesn’t sit right with Yusuf, something in his tone is off.

Yusuf also has absolutely no desire to leave this bed, now or ever. At most to clean up, that’s about it. Still, he follows Nicolò’s lead, scrubs down with a washcloth and puts on his clothes and follows Nicolò back towards the market he just came from, wondering all the while what exactly he should say to make this right.

He’s still wondering when the beating starts, when the city guards grab a vendor from his stall and onto the street, four against one, which is why Nicolò is faster to get between them.

He follows, of course, and in the ensuing pandemonium, the vendor escapes and Yusuf and Nicolò end up in chains.

“I suppose,” Nicolò says dryly as they’re led away, “we really do have to leave town now.”

Chapter Text

“I’m sure they’ll let us out soon,” Nicolò says blithely.

Yusuf groans, head thunking against the wall. The momentary pain is a nice distraction. Soon does him no good now. 

“We wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t provoked the guards,” Yusuf points out, very unkindly, since he had been about a half a second away from provoking the guards himself. 

“And they would have killed that man if I hadn’t,” Nicolò says with great equanimity.

“I know,” Yusuf growls. “You did the right thing, I’m just—”

Nicolò’s eyes blink open properly. “Thank you,” he says. “That means a great deal to me.”

Yusuf shifts awkwardly in his chains. His arm brushes Nicolò’s, reminding him how close they are.

“What’s wrong?” Nicolò asks.

“Nothing,” Yusuf lies. “I’m glad it means something to you.”

He is, of course. He’s not lying about that part. On the whole, he’s thrilled that Nicolò is thinking about his moral compass these days instead of burying it in layers of what he has been told to think and do. Selfishly, he’s even more thrilled that Nicolò looks to him for approval. It makes him feel as if he’s done something right, giving Nicolò another chance, finding something to appreciate in him. Before al-Quds, before immortality, Yusuf had certainly had beliefs and morals, but he can’t claim to have done much with them. 

He never would have believed it even six months ago, but meeting Nicolò has enriched his life in some ways.

All that aside, however, there is decidedly something wrong, and it is that Yusuf needs to piss.

They’ve been shackled to the wall of this dungeon for the better part of a day, now, and it’s gone from being an irritant he can ignore to an emergency. He squirms as much as he can, but his legs and arms are both cuffed.

There’s a bucket on the other side of the wall, near Nicolò, but there’s no way Yusuf will be able to reach it, nor will he be able to so much as undo his own breeches with his hands shackled behind his back. He’s already tried surreptitiously while Nicolò was busy shouting for a guard.

A throb of need runs through his bladder, making him cringe.

“Yusuf?” Nicolò asks, concerned.

“It’s nothing,” Yusuf says with his teeth clenched.

It should be nothing. He spent months wandering through the wilderness with Nicolò, it was normal and natural for one or the other of them to duck behind a nearby bush to alleviate matters. Once, they didn’t even stop talking, Yusuf remembers, because Nicolò had made an incredibly bad point and Yusuf needed to reply even as he was taking his cock out and pointing away from himself, the hot stream of urine spraying into the bushes—

The thought makes him groan in agony. 

“It doesn’t sound like nothing,” Nicolò says. 

“Well, it is,” Yusuf says, and then doubles over as a trickle leaks from the head of his cock.

He manages to stop himself, clenching with every muscle in his body, but he’s fully aware he’s minutes at most from pissing himself, which is really, truly, something he does not want Nicolò witnessing.

“Yusuf,” Nicolò says, soft, gentle, worry clear in his tone.

That’s the problem about all of this. Nicolò worries about him. Nicolò takes care of him. Nicolò is, by some strange confluence of events, the most important person in his life, and Yusuf would very much like to not embarrass himself in front of him.

Another pulse runs through his bladder and he winces with it, locking his legs tight together to put as much pressure on his cock as he can.

“Yusuf,” Nicolò says, this time quite firmly.

“I need to piss, alright,” Yusuf says—barks, almost, impolite with his humiliation.

“Oh,” Nicolò says.

“Yes, oh,” Yusuf snaps. He tries, not for the first time, to pull his hand out of the cuffs, but they’re very tight, so tight nothing except snapping his own bones will get him out, and if he does that, he’s sure to piss himself.

Metal drags across rock, and Yusuf looks up, startled. It makes him unclench his abdomen momentarily, and another spurt leaks from his cock.

“I think I can get it to you,” Nicolò says. “Just wait a moment.”

“Not sure I can,” Yusuf gets out. He’s all but sagged in his chains, thighs burning with the effort of staying locked around his cock. “It hurts.”

Nicolò pushes the bucket further, sliding the bucket as far as his shackles will allow. It wobbles, then tips. The clang of the bucket on the floor makes Yusuf flinch, locking tight all over as his bladder burns with urgency.

Reaching out as far as he can with his foot, Nicolò rights the bucket. “Can you?” he asks.

“I can’t reach,” Yusuf gets out.

“Ah,” Nicolò says, seemingly only then remembering that their hands are shackled behind their backs.

He turns, shuffling back until he’s as close to Yusuf as he can get, his hands extended as far as they can get. “I can help,” he offers.

Yusuf’s eyes burn, half in pain and half with emotion. “Nico—” he starts. He’s not even sure what he’s going to say. Leave me to my misery. I’m sorry you have to witness this. 

“I can help,” Nicolò offers again. 

And, well, Yusuf has no options besides accepting. He shuffles forwards, leaking again in the process, until Nicolò can fumble at the ties to his breeches. It’s a familiar feeling, but usually Yusuf isn’t trying to restrain himself from pissing all over Nicolò’s hands. He groans with the effort, he’s finally not in danger of soaking his own clothes and he can’t possibly wait any longer, he can’t, he can’t.

The first jets splatter the floor before Nicolò half-turns to get the right angle, no doubt seeing both the mess Yusuf’s making and the look on his face, relief beyond measure. Finally, with his cock aimed at the bucket, Yusuf lets go entirely.

It’s almost obscene, how thick his cock looks in Nicolò’s hands, skin gone sensitive with desperation. The noise of it is loud as the stream of his urine hits the bucket, but Yusuf can hardly hear it with how he’s panting in relief, heart pounding. 

He’s not sure he’s ever felt so good, relief lightening his bones, weakening his knees.

It feels like an eternity before the stream slowly begins to peter out and, unfortunately, Yusuf regains some semblance of his mental faculties. 

That leaves him standing in a jail cell, his wrists and ankles cuffed, his breeches open and a man he seems to have developed feelings for holding his cock after having just helped him take a piss. His abdomen aches with how full his bladder had been only a moment ago, and his cock aches a little too, which he should probably not be thinking about.

“I’m so sorry,” he says. 

Nicolò laughs tightly. “You have nothing to apologize for,” he says. “Yusuf, I…” his hand squeezes around Yusuf’s cock and Yusuf makes a noise like he’s been punched. He’s still so sensitive, and with the heady relief from moments ago still swimming through his veins, everything feels good.

“Can I?” Nicolò asks. He squeezes again.

“Really?” Yusuf asks, even as he bucks forward into the touch. “Now?”

Nicolò looks back to him helplessly. “Always,” he says.

“I thought you’d be disgusted,” Yusuf says. He’s rolling his hips forward into Nicolò’s sure grip, already more than half-hard.

“You’re always beautiful to me,” Nicolò says.

Yusuf freezes. 

“And like that, desperate, relying on me to bring you relief…” Nicolò trails off, but Yusuf knows what he means. It isn’t all that different to how he gets when he’s in Nicolò’s arms, in his bed.

Nicolò resumes his motion, rubbing clumsily at Yusuf’s cock. It hardly matters that shackled, he’s only half as dexterous as he would be otherwise, Yusuf is awash in pleasure. The joy of relief, the sensitivity it left him with, the sound of Nicolò’s voice saying, you’re always beautiful to me, it sends his body spinning madly out of his control.

It only takes a few passes of Nicolò fingers over the head, and then he comes, stark white over the dark stones of the floor, only an aftershock of the pleasure finally getting to piss had given him but still enough to shake him to his core.

Nicolò closes his breeches loosely, barely, but Yusuf appreciates that it’s not an easy thing to do with your hands behind your back. He turns, then, to look at Yusuf, and say, “I hope I wasn’t taking advantage.”

His eyes are dark and his own cock is straining against his clothes, Yusuf can see it even through two layers.

“Thank you for helping me,” he says.

“Thank you for letting me,” Nicolò says. “Thank you for trusting me.”

“You weren’t taking advantage,” Yusuf tells him. “You were doing what you always do. Giving me exactly what I need.”

Nicolò moans, his chains rattling as he tries and fails to reach for Yusuf.

“You take me apart,” Yusuf continues, and his lips move on without his brain, showering Nicolò in fully deserved praise as he considers that it is all entirely true.

His mind spins back to Bilal, as it often does when he is forced to confront the fact that whatever he has felt for Nicolò, even when it was hate in those first few mad days, is stronger than anything he could conceive of previously. Bilal would have been disgusted. Bilal would not be able to find beauty in a moment like this, would not be able to see beauty in Yusuf in a moment like this.

Nicolò does, because Nicolò isn’t built to lie. He can’t spin beautiful words like Bilal could, but he can spin honest ones, and Yusuf has been doing a poor job of listening.

“Yusuf,” Nicolò says, breathless with arousal, “you unmake me.”

It’s grammatically incoherent, it’s not even a real word, it’s none of the poetry Yusuf envisioned he would find with someone he could fall in love with, and he feels it down to his very core.

“Nicolò,” he says hoarsely, leaning as far into Nicolò’s space as he can, his hip brushing against Nicolò’s groin.

With a shocked noise, Nicolò comes, rutting up into Yusuf.

For a while, after, they’re both silent, panting into the damp air of the dungeon they're trapped in.

Then, Nicolò says decisively, “We need to get out of here.”

The series of motions Nicolò goes through to get his hand out of the first manacle is gruesome enough it turns Yusuf’s stomach, but as Nicolò kneels to free him from his own shackles, he realizes that he still wants to kiss the mole by his mouth and stroke his newly freed hands through Nicolò’s hair. You’re always beautiful to me, he thinks, studying the blood streaking down Nicolò’s wrist and realizing that he’d kiss that wrist, blood and all.

It’s an arduous process, sneaking back into their lodgings for what supplies they have and leaving Samarkand unnoticed afterwards.

Yusuf spends all of it considering that if his idea of romance contains poetry, perhaps it is his own job to provide it.

Chapter Text

Nicolò emerges from his bath in the river dripping wet and lovely.

Yusuf had already bathed before him, although it was Nico who had come in his breeches in the cell and certainly needed it more. Still, Nico had let him have the first bath while he guarded their things, because that is who Nico is.

Yusuf allows himself to look properly, taking him in with interest. He’s seen Nico naked, of course, many times. But he’s always tried his best to view him with a sort of critical distance, an eye for flaws. The soft belly, the sparse hair on his chest, the knobbiness of his knees and elbows–all these things, Yusuf has noted. 

Bilal had a moustache that Yusuf found charming. At least, he thinks he did; he told Bilal as much even though he hated how it scratched against his skin and did not think it terribly suited Bilal’s face the first few times he saw it. In hindsight, he had talked himself into finding it attractive because he so liked the idea of Bilal and what they could have together.

He wants to be careful not to repeat the same mistakes, not when Nico is so precious to him.

“Your haircut,” he tells Nico carefully, “is not very suited to your face.”

Nico pauses in towelling himself dry. Water droplets glisten in the moonlight as they drip down his chest. 

“I’m very glad you shaved two days ago because your beard is far too disordered to be handsome,” Yusuf continues.

Nico frowns, pulling on his tunic. “I’m not entirely certain what I have done to deserve this,” he says.

“I have met mules who are less stubborn than you,” Yusuf says, undeterred. “And I find your tendency towards hotheadedness disconcerting, although you have done your best to temper that in recent months.”

With his breeches on, Nico drops down to sit beside Yusuf. “Do you want me to leave?” he asks. “Was it too much, before, because–”

“Shh,” Yusuf says gently. “Let me finish. Your stance with a longsword is passable at best and you desperately need to improve your posture on horseback before we find those women, because I suspect they will skewer you alive for it to protect the horses.”

He takes a breath and looks and Nico, accepts the confused hurt radiating from Nico’s lovely eyes. 

He swallows carefully and wills himself to get this right.

“I would walk beside you for a thousand more moons, despite how taciturn you get when your feet blister,” he says. “I would let myself get dragged to prison in every city we enter because your need to do good outweighs your common sense. I would let you kiss me every day even if you choose to grow that abominable beard and never shave it off again.”

“Yusuf,” Nico says.

Yusuf takes Nico’s hands into his.

“Finding you...I always thought it would be a map on a sunny day, guiding me towards a clear destination,” Yusuf says pensively, and draws Nico’s hands up to kiss his knuckles, the freshly healed skin of his wrist. “But I find it was more like navigating a ship through the night, relying on the light of the moon and a star chart to guide me where I think I want to go, only to find that my destination is far different than the one I set out to find.”

He looks up from Nico’s hand, having kissed each beloved finger in turn, to find Nico staring at him, eyes wide, cheeks flushed. “Yusuf,” Nico says again, choked.

He draws closer, presses whisper-soft kisses to Nico’s cheeks. “And when I arrived,” he says, “it was to find that you were the moon all along, lighting my way to you and keeping me safe. My mind did not understand where you were guiding me, what your light was telling me, even after my heart had long since embraced it. But now I find myself here, and I am exactly where I want to be.”

Tears spill over the edges of Nico’s eyes and Yusuf wipes them away with his thumb.

“Are you saying,” Nico says, his deep, calm voice gone tremulous, “are you saying–”

“I am saying,” Yusuf says, smiling a little to himself, because of course these are his words and his words are not what Nico needs and understands, “that I love you.”

A choked sob escapes Nico’s lips before he surges forward to kiss Yusuf, all desperation, none of the finesse Yusuf knows him capable of.

“I love you,” he gasps, when he pulls away for an instant. His cheeks are wet with tears, and the sight of it makes Yusuf cry a little too, to know that his Nico has needed to hear this, has been waiting to hear this.

“I’m sorry it took me so long,” he says.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t say it,” Nico tells him, and Yusuf has to kiss him again. 

His head is swimming with emotion, with happiness, with love, he can hardly see straight. “You showed me,” he says, because Nico ought to know that his message was not missed because he couldn’t find the words to say it.

“I never thought,” Nico says, pushing closer into Yusuf’s embrace, kissing him again, sloppy and needy. “I never thought you’d feel this way, you’d–I don’t deserve–”

“That’s what I was trying to say,” Yusuf says impatiently. “I don’t love you because of how deserving you are or because of things you’ve done or because I have some idealized notion of who you are, I love you because you are who you are and you make me happy.”

“You say it so beautifully,” Nico says, eyes shining again. “You say it so – so well, Yusuf.”

A swell of pride rises in Yusuf’s chest. So this is what his love of poetry, of art, is for. To bring beauty into the world and to share with someone who wouldn’t have had it otherwise.

He draws Nico close and kisses him as carefully, as gently as he’s able. His lips are already swollen and sensitive with kissing, and Nico still tastes of salt where he has been crying, and the ground he’s sitting on his hard and uncomfortable. They have nowhere to stay tonight, nothing to call their own but the belongings stuffed in their packs, and Yusuf has no idea which direction to walk on in tomorrow, nor where the next years will bring them, a thought that terrifies him.

It’s the most romantic moment of his life.

He isn’t alone in that, it seems, because within moments, Nico is pawing at his shoulders, drawing him closer, lying back to pull Yusuf on top of him. 

“My love,” Yusuf murmurs, slipping his thigh between Nico’s legs and kissing down his neck.

“Ah,” Nico sighs and arches his neck back, granting Yusuf greater access.

“My beautiful, lovely Nico,” Yusuf tells him, running his hands firmly down Nico’s body. “Have I told you how much I love your shoulders?” 

He tugs at the neck of Nico’s tunic, pulls it aside to mouth at his collarbone, to bite at Nico’s muscle.

“No,” Nico says shakily. His hands flutter about unsteadily, before Yusuf grasps them and places them gently above his head, out of the way.

Perhaps it is a little excessive, to tear Nico’s tunic in an effort to get at his skin. Yusuf is carried away, aroused and enamored, he is allowed excess. “They’re so broad,” Yusuf says. “So strong. I know you’ll keep me safe if you can, and I know you’ll hold me down if I want, keep me bound in your arms and at your mercy. You treat me so well, Nico.”

Nico whimpers, hips thrusting up.

“And your hands,” Yusuf says, attaching his mouth to one of Nico’s nipples and sucking until Nico whines. “So strong, and so gentle. Always giving me what I need.”

“Yusuf,” Nico gasps. “Yusuf, you have to stop, I’ll–”

“You’ll what?” Yusuf teases, kissing the other nipple.

“You’ll make me spend,” Nico says, and then cries, “Please,” when Yusuf sucks at the nipple at his mouth.

“Oh,” Yusuf says, drawing away. “From this?” He’s hardly touched Nico.

Nico makes another soft, desperate noise and rocks his hips up again, the hard line of his arousal a brand against Yusuf’s hip. “I,” he starts, and then moans.

“My love,” Yusuf says, and then dips down to kiss Nico again, thorough and claiming. The thought that Nico, the same man who tied his scarf across Yusuf’s eyes and plugged his ears and drove him insane for well over an hour, is so close to the edge from just a few compliments – it’s heady. 

He rears back, scrabbles at the ties to Nico’s breeches. 

Docile, desperate, Nico lets him, Nico cants his hips up and cries out when Yusuf’s fist wraps around his cock.

“Please,” he groans. “Please. I’ll–”

“Yes,” Yusuf says. “Yes, I’d like to see you burst all over yourself, I want to see you dripping with it, with how much you want me.”

“So much,” Nico gasps. “So much, always, only you, I love you, I love you, Yusuf!”

He comes copiously, still babbling out his devotion. It’s messy, dripping all over Yusuf’s fist, and glorious. Nico’s flushed pink, sweating, panting, an absolute mess. The flush down his chest is all blotchy, and he’s trembling, his cock softening to lie awkwardly in his open breeches and his rucked up tunic. He looks ridiculous. He looks beautiful.

Yusuf lifts his sullied hand to his lips and licks Nico’s spend from it. 

With an indistinct noise of frustration, Nico surges forward, tackling him to the ground, kissing him breathless and senseless. 

“I’m going to suck you off,” Nico informs him, straight to the point as always, and Yusuf loves it, love him.

“Yes,” he breathes, and then again and again to the exclusion of most other words as Nico settles between his spread legs and sucks his cock deep into his throat.

It is a brief pleasure, however, before Nico decides to change his approach.

They’ve never done this after Nico finished, Yusuf realizes hazily, because Nico was always so intent on driving Yusuf mad first, but like this, soft and spent, he has the wherewithal to make a tease of it, dragging his mouth up the sides of Yusuf’s throbbing erection. He kisses at the head, dips his tongue in the slit, presses kisses to the underside.

It would be adorable if Yusuf were not quite so desperate, thrusting up into nothing and attempting to get Nico’s attention where he wants it. 

As it is, the sight of Nico between his legs, the memory of Nico’s desperation, the length of the day and the heightened state of Yusuf’s emotions – all of it conspires against him when Nico sucks him properly again, bobbing his head and tonguing around the sensitive spots.

His balls draw up quickly, and he finds himself gasping, trembling, trying not to thrust, almost out of his mind.

Finally, when he thinks he can take no more without clawing out of his own skin, Nico swallows around him, and without so much as warning Nico, Yusuf comes right down his throat in hot, sharp pulses so strong they ache.

“Sorry,” he gasps, coming down.

“I like it,” Nico assures him, hoarse.

Yusuf drags him up to kiss, and kiss and kiss and kiss, and then to hold. “I like this, after,” he says, muffled into Nico’s hair. “I don’t want you to get up and leave.”

Nico laughs a little. “But we’re such a mess.”

“I like being a mess with you. We can always bathe again in the morning.”

“Alright,” Nico says, “but at least let’s get the bedroll.”

He has his way, because the ground is hard and cold, but Yusuf has his way when Nico is immediately back in his arms as soon as he can manage it.

“Nico,” Yusuf asks, a hair’s breadth from sleep. “Why didn’t you want to leave Samarkand?”

Nico stiffens beside him. “I, uh. It felt like home, sharing a space with you there. I wanted to keep that,” he admits. “Especially since I believed it would be all I would get.”

Yusuf kisses the back of his neck, the closest part of his body. “You can have everything,” he says.

“I already do,” Nico answers, and Yusuf is so close to sleep he cannot work up a response beyond a wave of affection that Nico has found his words.

He’ll say so in the morning. After all, they have time.