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Hold On (I'm A Little Unsteady)

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It wasn’t exactly that the mission had turned out to be a big mess. But it had.

More or less because said mission had turned out to be more ‘complicated’ than they’d originally thought. A small time general in Bosnia parading around as a dictator had decided at the last minute to bring in far more men than intel had previously pegged. More like a hundred more. Either he’d been tipped off that the Croatian government - feeling pressured by Sejad’s gratuitous human trafficking and arms trade - had decided to hire the Expendables under the table to take him out. Or he’d decided to move on Herzegovina a little ahead of schedule, going rouge from the political joining of the two regions into their own political entity decades ago. Either way, Sejad wasn’t a friend to anyone right now. Everyone wanted him dead.

So it had been an easy task for Croatian diplomats to hire the Expendables to do a job that no one wanted to get their hands dirty with. Especially so publicly. And Sejad had so many enemies that ‘easy’ was a considerable understatement. And the perfect cover.

Sejad had been picking up an arms shipment in Croatia just eighty seven kilometers from Bosnia and they’d agreed to take him out there. They didn’t have to obey diplomatic relations or borders or worry too much about causing international incidents. They were black market guns for hire. Pirates without a flag. So long as they fulfilled the wishes of their employers, they could do whatever the hell they wanted. And an isolated shipping dock in Podgora, Croatia had been a perfect choice. A golden opportunity.

But Sejad hadn’t been picking up a shipment of weapons. He’d been smuggling out some one hundred of his best and most highly trained militia. Probably to bring them around the coast and into Herzegovina without marching them right over the almost transparent border between the two regions.

But none of that mattered now. Because the Expendables were split and divided, separated by overwhelming forces. Gunnar had been ground zero at the shipping docks, set in place to take Sejad out with an AS50. When the shit had hit the fan they’d lost contact with him almost immediately. Toll Road had flanked wide with Yang while Ceaser had gone in with heavy artillery and whatever explosives they had. Which was a lot. Barney and Christmas had separated, Christmas telling Barney to go with Ceaser. He’d found Sejad’s pride and joy and decided to put it to better use. A Grunman A-6 Intruder that had probably last seen action over Bosnia during Vietnam. And fully loaded too.

Old as hell but functional. And just what they needed.

The tides had really turned after that. And Christmas had to admit - gunning down Sejad’s men with the Intruder had been a hell of a lot of fun too. He was sure it would have been tight but the Expendables could have done the job without it. But the sixty plus year old plane had certainly given them a lot more breathing room.

But Sejad... Christmas was thinking it was too bad he probably wouldn’t be able to get his hands around the bastards throat. One curve ball, no matter how unforeseen, had been more than enough for one day. The SA-16 anti-aircraft missile launcher had definitely turned the ‘unforeseen’ into downright fucking obscenely uncanny.

And none of that mattered now because the Intruder was old. Evading the more modern SA-16 would have been an outright joke if Christmas hadn’t been such a good pilot. But it didn’t matter how good he was. Technology had trumped skill and the Intruder had taken the missile right at the back end - blowing it off entirely and sending the fighter plane straight down into the Adriatic Sea.

Christmas lifted the flaps and pulled the nose up as hard as he could but he’d had only seconds. Seconds of seeing the sea rush up at him - crystal clear and so blue it didn’t even look real - nothing at all like the black water of the Red Sea. Black because the plane crash that had taken him out of the SAS permanently had happened at two in the morning. Not in the middle of the afternoon. But the fear was still the same. Worse because of the first crash. The crash that had left him with a deep and residing fear of flying that was all collapsing in on him now. In those few breathless seconds between the fall and that second crash.

In those few seconds Christmas felt more fear than he’d ever felt in his life. A choking, paralyzing terror that was ended immediately upon impact. After that - everything was just black. Just like the Red Sea at two in the morning.


Fuck!” Gunnar couldn’t yell it loud enough. He’d seen Sejad’s second in command aim the missile launcher, lifting it over his shoulder and taking aim at Christmas in the old fighter plane he’d pulled from the hanger. Gunnar had seen it happen and he’d simultaneously lifted the AS50 to take him down before he could. Christmas was flying too low and there’s no way he could avoid the shot. But Gunnar hadn’t been fast enough.

Just as the gunmen fired the shot, Gunnar took him out. Izudin’s head blew clean off just a fraction of a second after he’d pulled the trigger. And Gunnar hadn’t been fast enough. It was all he could think, with his heart in his throat, as he watched Christmas crash right into the Adriatic Sea.

Fuck. He couldn’t stop saying it.

Gunnar ran as fast as his legs would take him. He was the closest to where Christmas’ plane had gone down and that could mean the difference between life and death. If Christmas wasn’t dead already. But he couldn’t think that way. Gunnar couldn’t think that way because if Christmas was dead Gunnar would never be able to live with himself. He’d never be able to live with what that would do to Barney.

There wasn’t a single thought in Gunnar’s mind but Christmas as he ran down the docks, jumping right off the end into the relatively cold water as the nose of the fighter tipped down into the sea and rapidly started to sink. Gunnar didn’t know if Christmas was conscious or not, he couldn’t see the front of the plane from where he’d been. The plane had hit mostly nose down. It looked like Christmas had tried to pull it up before impact but he hadn’t exactly been successful and there wasn’t a lot he could have done either way. The impact had been bad enough.

The fighter plane was sinking damn fast. When Gunnar reached it and swam around to the front, the glass of the cockpit was badly cracked but it had held. Barely. The plane was full of water and the sheer weight of it was pulling the plane down almost faster than Gunnar could swim. He didn’t hesitate, grabbing the metal edge where the cockpit shut and locked, kicking at the cracked glass as hard as he could. But his boots mostly slipped off the surface and didn’t do enough to break through. So Gunnar tried the butt of the AR50 instead.

Gunnar’s lungs were burning but he broke through the glass, just enough to kick the rest in. Or most of it. Enough to get half his body through into the cockpit to reach Christmas. And Gunnar felt the broken edges of the glass tear into his shoulder and arm as he struggled to cut the man free, the half of his body he couldn’t get into the small space and didn’t dare without trapping them both. But he held fast. If he slipped or lost his grip - both of their dog tags would have to be dug up from the bottom of the Adriatic Sea to be hung up with the others.

And Gunnar wasn’t about to let that fucking happen.

Just as he cut him free and Gunnar was starting to wonder if he was going to black out, Barney was there. And so was Yang. Gunnar didn’t hesitate. He pulled himself out of the cockpit, his blood making the water a bit murky, and grabbed Yang - nodding him frantically towards Christmas.

The smaller Expendable far more easily fit into the cockpit, carefully avoiding the broken glass and the remains of the cockpits’ protective shell. He pulled Christmas out, Barney guiding the Expendable’s unconscious second of command away from the broken glass and up towards the surface. Gunnar helped, hauling Christmas up far faster than Barney or Yang probably could have alone. And there was a lot of blood in the water. And it wasn’t Christmas’. There was that. But the man wasn’t breathing either.

Barney and Yang were out of the water first, far quicker than the slower and larger Gunnar, who felt near to passing out after spending so much time underwater. But Gunnar grabbed Christmas by the collar of his vest and jacket and gave a short yell as he hauled the man up onto the docks as Barney and Yang pulled him over the side.

Gunnar grabbed a sturdy wooden post, pressing the toe of his boot into it from under the water as he hauled himself out - landing none too gracefully on his stomach and pulling himself over with Yang’s help. And Yang’s boot slipped on the wood but he kept his grip and his feet, Gunnar’s eyes immediately finding Christmas.
He didn’t have to ask if Christmas was all right. Barney was already doing CPR. And Gunnar’s heart sunk right into his boots. “Shit.” he muttered. “Come on Lee. Fuck.”


“C’mon baby.” Barney said, voice urgent and demanding. And Gunnar has never seen him like this. Barely holding together. Just barely keeping calm. He’d never seen him like this. “Come on now. Don’t do this-”

Barney broke off to tip Christmas’ head back and give him deep rescue breaths as Gunnar pulled himself to his knees. One breath. And then another.


“Gunnar-” Yang said.

“Come on baby.” Barney said, louder now. “Come on!”

“Barney we got Sejad’s men completely cleared out. We’re on our way down to the docks-” Ceaser’s somewhat breathless voice came over the radio. “ETA ten minutes-”

“Hurry!” Barney ordered roughly.

“Is Christmas all right?” Toll asked. “Do you got him?”

“He’s not breathing.” Barney said, loud enough to be heard and then more quietly to himself. “Fuck he’s still not breathing.”

“Move.” Gunnar grunted, taking out his Bowie knife as he stepped forward. And it spoke of how much Barney trusted him, how much he’d trust him with the most important thing in his life, when he listened. He took his hands away from Christmas, breaking off compressions, and Gunnar cut through the front of Christmas’ jacket. Straps and all. He pulled it loose and leaned over the man, locking his hands under his diaphragm and throwing his weight into the compressions - Gunnar’s added height giving him more power behind each push.

Barney leaned down to give Christmas another round of rescue breaths and it only took one. Just one and the silence was broken by Christmas coughing up water. It was the best sound Gunnar had heard in a long fucking time.

Gunnar let out an explosive breath, feeling Yang pull him back just a bit and he sat down heavily, watching as Barney rolled Christmas quickly over onto his side. “That’s it Lee-” Barney patted Christmas’ back firmly, holding his head with the other hand. “That’s it baby. That’s it. Keep breathing for me-”

“Gunnar-” Yang said, more sharply. Gunnar realized he’d tried to get his attention earlier but he hadn’t been able to grasp what could possibly be more or as important as Christmas possibly dead or dying right in front of them.

“What?” Gunnar managed and he felt dizzy. He really felt dizzy all of a sudden.

“Fuck-” Barney was looking right at him as he held Christmas onto his side and Gunnar was surprised at the shock and fear in his eyes. And confused. Why the hell was he looking at him like that?

“Jesus Christ-” Gunnar heard Toll Road say somewhere from behind him and that was about when Gunnar looked down. And shit that was a lot of blood. And he realized a fraction of a second later that it was his.

“It’s not any of ours, it’s Gunnar’s.” Barney said, breathing catching a bit. “Toll-”

“I got him.” Toll knelt down in front of Gunnar, quickly taking out pressure bandages and quick clot powder, glancing very quickly back at Christmas and Barney as the Expendables’ second in command started to move, shifting restlessly on the docks. “Get Christmas moving. Get him up if you can.”

“I got it.” Barney acknowledged, rubbing Christmas’ back firmly. “Come on baby. Rise and shine. You swallowed a fuck ton of water-”

“No shit.” Christmas said weakly but it was all Christmas. And that was a relief.

“Gunnar look at me-” Toll said. “Eyes on me. Yang get his attention-”

There was a firm slap on his face by a gloved hand, one that didn’t hurt but it was solid. And it definitely woke him up a bit. “Hey!” And suddenly intent, Chinese eyes were looking at him sternly, right in front of his face. “Look at me.” Yang said, catching Gunnar’s chin in a firm grip. “Eyes on me. Stay awake.”

“Honestly Gunnar if you pass out I’m not going to blame you brother. But try not to okay?” Toll said and Gunnar fuzzily watched the combat medic wrap his arm from his bicep down to his wrist. Shit.

“Hey.” Yang turned Gunnar’s head back to him and Gunnar met those intently concerned, black eyes, giving a heavy blink.

“Christmas?” Gunnar asked. He just needed to hear again, one more time, that he was alive. That he was all right. Because Gunnar was never going to get that image out of his head, that flash of time narrowed to a second or less when he’d fired off that shot. Just a fraction of a second too late.

“I’m all right.” Christmas himself said, voice sounding more than a little strained but clear and calm. “But Jesus Gunnar-”

“Couldn’t get you out. Glass was too thick.” Gunnar turned his eyes up at the sky and laughed. “Couldn’t get my gigantic ass in to get your ass.”

“My smaller ass thanks your gigantic ass.” Gunnar felt a hand fall onto his shoulder but felt his gut twist when Christmas’ eyes met his. Barney was holding him upright but the XO was more than a little pale and only standing on his own two feet with Barney right beside him.

“I’m sorry.” Gunnar managed. “I saw that piece of shit take that shot but I didn’t take him down in time. I tried-”

“Hey.” Christmas frowned, squeezing his shoulder. “None of that. You tried. That’s all that matters. It’s not your fault.”

“You did real good, Gunnar.” Barney said as he offered him a hand up and the undercurrent of warm praise in his voice was immediately reassuring, a majority of the guilt soothed away. Gunnar felt instantly relieved all at once, accepting Barney’s hand even if it took a lot more than that to get him to his feet. Namely Yang on one side and Toll on the other. And there was still a little bit of a struggle.

And Toll gave Gunnar a look. “You go down, you’re staying down. We’ll bring out a stretcher if it comes to that.”

“Hell no.” Gunnar grunted in protest. There was no way he was going to let that happen. Not on top of everything else. And he couldn’t help but glance over at Christmas. No one was going out on a stretcher today. And there wouldn’t be any more dog tags added to the ones on the plane. Not today.


Christmas almost couldn’t believe he was alive. If Gunnar hadn’t been so close he probably wouldn’t be. When he’d come to on the docks coughing up salty water, his lungs burning and his head feeling like it was going to explode, the rush of relief and shock hearing Barney’s voice had been overwhelming. Nothing he’d admit out loud. Probably not even to the older mercenary. But Christmas had held onto him for a long minute after with whatever strength he had like his life depended on it. Maybe that had said it already.

As much as he was soaking wet, slightly chilled, and struggling slightly to keep on his feet - he was worried about Barney. The man had lost enough in his lifetime to be almost completely shut down to interpersonal relationships. Let alone of the ‘love’ variety. Like his and Barney’s relationship, his friendship with the other Expendables had happened over time. And probably begrudgingly. Because Barney loved those walls of his. And they were good walls. But eventually, persistent good company got through the cracks.

Christmas wouldn’t exactly call any of them good company, especially himself. Bad company with the best morals anyone could have in this bloody business Christmas could relent to. But this... Christmas knew there would have to be some damage control. Barney was going to deal with this in his own way. He was going to come apart over it in his own way too. Maybe explosively, probably internally, definitely with a whole lot of brooding. And Christmas wasn’t going to let him go down with that ship and end up doing something rash.

They didn’t advertise their relationship. They were probably so used to being heterosexually confined in their own military masculinity that even between just the two of them privately - ‘domestic’ wasn’t exactly what Christmas could call them. It was more easy and comfortable to do somewhat of the opposite and just exist together. The team had no problem with their relationship or Gunnar and Yang’s. But the four of them just didn’t go around flaunting it.

So it had to be said for something that Barney had an arm wrapped around his waist. He was holding onto his arm and refusing to let go. And Christmas, stumbling slightly beside him as they made the short walk to the plane, didn’t even protest. He didn’t have it in him. And honestly it felt too good for him to consider it.

Ceaser showed up just in time. He wasn’t as tall as Gunnar but only by a shy few inches. It was a relief to Toll and Yang when one of the two biggest Expendables was there to help the other. And they made quicker time that way. Luckily the plane was close by. Which help matters considerably. But instead of relief... Christmas just felt a whole lot of the old familiar dread and the suffocating fear. The relief was there but just out of reach. Like he wasn’t allowed to feel it because the other was completely drowning it out. And he came to a stop as everyone else went on ahead, a dead stop.

Barney was instantly understanding and moved just a little closer. Whatever space had been between them, and there hadn’t been a whole lot, was immediately gone. “I’m right here Lee.” he murmured. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Christmas could feel himself shaking and he knew Barney could probably feel it too. And he was ashamed. He was ashamed and angry all over again. Just like those couple of weeks it had taken Barney to get him onto a plane after five years of complete denial and avoidance of anything with wings.

“In front.” Christmas swallowed heavily as he stared at the plane, his legs feeling cold and a lot like rubber all of a sudden. Or lead. They felt equally weak and rooted into the ground all at the same time. “I need you in front.”

“You got it.” Barney said, understanding straight away. And he held out a hand, just like Vienna. Just like so many of those long days of struggle and fear and overcoming ‘the incident’ that had ended his days in the SAS. “Come on Lee.” Barney coaxed, breaking him free of his thoughts. Or of his demons. “Take my hand.”

Christmas did, letting out a quick breath and Barney gave him a gentle, but understanding look as he squeeze his hand. “One step at a time. You can do it. Here we go.”

Christmas stiffly started walking and didn’t stop. More than a few times he kept his eyes firmly on Barney’s back. Whatever he could see of the man that was solid and real. He listened to Barney’s low, encouraging rumble as he spoke. Talking to him nearly the entire seven meters or so to the plane. Listened to his encouragement. Like he was proud of each step. It went straight to places Christmas used jokes, quips, and sarcasm to hide. But he didn’t have any of those right now. He just put his trust in Barney and let the older man lead.

But he struggled once they reached the plane. Just that step into it. That one or two steps into the plane and he froze. And he felt his guts twist and it was hard. Christ it was painful how he suddenly couldn’t breathe.

“Hey, hey.” Barney soothed, stepping back down onto the dock with him. “You got this. Just a few more steps Lee. You got this.”

He didn’t feel like he ‘had’ anything. Christmas gave Barney an almost apologetic look and Barney just look inexplicably pained, pulling him close or stepping close. Either one - Barney was suddenly pressed close to him, arm around his back, a hand on the back of his neck gently squeezing. “You’re okay.” he soothed. “Take your time. I’m right here. Just take your time. Okay? Breathe and just stand here with me.”

Christmas nodded shakily and Barney pressed a kiss to his left temple. “That’s it Lee.” he murmured and into the plane he asked more loudly. “How’s Gunnar?”

“He’ll be all right until we get him to Tool.” Toll called back.

Barney turned back to Christmas and his hand had never stopped rhythmically squeezing his neck, a thumb stroking over the back of his head. The other hand came up to rub his back and Christmas focused on his touch. Focused on only that until he forgot about what was under his feet and the plane he had to get into. Forget about how almost lightheaded he felt, overwhelmed, disconnected and exhausted. Until the trembling started to ease and breathing didn’t feel quite so restricted and tight. Until his legs felt a bit more solid.

“All right.” he said a bit roughly, quietly, into Barney’s neck.

“All right.” Barney withdrew just enough to give Christmas room to step into the plane, reaching down and taking his hand as he stepped back. “Come on Lee-”

Christmas stepped up into the plane and let out a slow breath once he was inside. “All right.” he managed.

“You all right?” Barney asked.

Christmas lied for both of them and nodded. “Yeah. Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

After making sure Gunnar was all right, the Swede settled onto the medical stretcher with Yang tucked up against him with just enough room to spare, Christmas quickly took two Ativan that he had stashed for plane related anxiety. He hadn’t had any in months, probably a year, and he probably should have checked the shelf life but he was sure it was longer than a year. It had been probably just less than that since Barney had given him a heart attack in his ancient death traps that he liked to call planes. At least enough of an unintentional scare to warrant the medication.

Christmas knew he bitched a lot but Barney’s choice in transportation but honestly there was only one man in the world he’d fly with. And that was Barney.

Taking off made him want to puke. But he hadn’t had anything to eat in hours and that was probably a good thing. Barney didn’t say a word about it and Christmas was more than grateful. He was also more than grateful for how easy Barney was on him with pre-flight take off preparations. They got through it and that was all that mattered. Barney knew how important it was to Christmas that he was equal in every respect. That it was acknowledged that he could pull his own weight. Likewise, Christmas was relieved Barney could always count on him as he should. Even if he had a slight problem with planes.

One more round to check on Gunnar. He was in dry clothes, at least new black tactical pants, covered with a few blankets. His arm was heavily bandaged and seeping through, Christmas giving a concerned glance at the IV bags. Gunnar was already half way through a pint of blood and Yang, as casual as he made laying next to Gunnar look, shared his concerned glance.

“He’s good.” Toll assured him quietly.

Christmas nodded. “Good.” he answered back just as quietly. There was a hundred and one other things he could say but he left them alone, joining Barney back in the cockpit and sinking down into the co-pilot seat with a more than slightly weary breath. His hands were still shaking just a little. Barely noticeable but aggravating tremors. And Christmas gave them an irritated squeeze.

“You all right?” Barney asked, voice quiet. Concerned but respectful.

“I’m all right.” Christmas said, inwardly wincing at the terseness of his tone. Somewhat apologetically he glanced over at the Expendables’ leader. “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t even want to think about it.”

“Fair enough.” Barney said understandingly, eyes wandering over Lee with quiet but not so concealed concern. “If you need to ride this out in the back...”

“I need to not think about it.” Christmas snapped, breathing out his frustration. Purely at himself. But that was exactly what he needed to do. Not think about it. At all.

“All right.” Barney said. “That’s okay.”

He just needed not to think. To not think about the second plane crash or the first or that he was on a plane right now, this very instant. He needed to forget about all of it and swiftly stood, ignoring the way he almost stumbled. “Turn the autopilot on.” he told Barney. And while Barney did that, Christmas slid the door to the cockpit closed and locked it. Not loudly or abruptly but it was enough in the plane to make a statement he couldn’t avoid. But one that needed to be stated.

And then he was straddling Barney’s lap, hands on his shoulders, the older mercenary letting out a breath and sliding his hands over Christmas’ waist and then around to his ass. Lee gave a tight, breathy groan of approval as Barney squeezed and fuck did he love the man’s hands. Especially on his ass.

Christmas leaned down, giving Barney a deep but brief kiss, shifting his hips into the other man’s with a quiet breath. And there was definitely a grunt of approval from the man below him. Barney caught Christmas’ belt with a hand and kept him from going far or shifting away, reaching up for the back of his neck to keep his mouth right where it was too. And Lee sank into the kiss, rolling his hips into Barney’s with a sound he refused to call needy. But fuck he was. Right now he was. Barney tasted subtly like the blackest of coffees and his favorite cigars and it was grounding, fucking perfect, and everything Christmas needed. So was the grip Barney had on the base of his skull.

When the kiss broke, Barney murmured quietly in his ear. And fuck his voice was deep. Predictably though, it was a joke he cracked in a perfect deadpan. Not something as sexy as his tone demanded or nothing as dirty as Christmas would have preferred. “You always have that concentrated look on your face when we do something like this. You in my lap.”

“Oh yeah?” Christmas played along for now. Even though his pants were getting pretty damn tight and one of Barney’s hands was doing distracting things to his ass.

“Yeah. Like you’re making out with a senior citizen.”

“I do not.” Christmas said defensively and leaned down for another kiss. It was waiting for him, Barney squeezing the back of Lee’s neck before dropping both hands back down to his ass.

If Christmas did look concentrated, it was because he was. He wasn’t exactly a light weight. He wasn’t Gunnar either, not by a long shot, but the last thing he wanted to do was put all of his one hundred and eighty five plus right onto Barney. Sure he took care. Barney was making sixty five the new ‘middle aged’ but he was still older. Christmas couldn’t help but care. He couldn’t exactly blink and forget that number. Although Barney sure had ways of making it temporarily slip his mind...

Lee’s breath caught as Barney’s hands quickly undid his belt and slipped inside, skin to skin contact, palms on his ass. Especially the one with the black leather brace. That particular accessory of the older mercenary never failed to do something between his thighs. That and his rings. Which fortunately he didn’t wear during missions. They’d had a change of clothes minutes ago but he still hadn’t put them on.

There was an urgency. Even if Christmas was a little high on Ativan, he was feeling it too. They had to be quick and Christmas honestly needed it quick. The plane didn’t exactly have autopilot. They had privacy but they weren’t exactly alone. When Barney somewhat roughly pushed Christmas’ pants down around his thighs, and Lee would admit that he loved it a little rough, Lee was working Barney’s jeans open at the same time.

Christmas would have been forgiving if Barney took some time to get it up due to age. But they hadn’t run into that problem yet. Barney was hard and waiting for him when his jeans were open, thick more than it was long. But fucking perfect. They had lube stashed in more than a few random places no one else could find. And Christmas made quick work on himself. A talent he’d probably perfected by now. He pushed two fingers into his ass, his eyes never leaving Barney’s, the other man watching him with a dark gaze darkened even more by lust. Pitch black.

His hands were warm on Lee’s thighs and Christmas coated Barney’s erection with just enough but not nearly to make a mess. But it was Barney who lined himself up at Christmas’ entrance, putting a hand on the small of his back and urging him forward, murmuring whispered - dirty words of how he wanted him to take it and how deep. And Christmas leaned forward and pushed down onto the man’s girth, eyes rolling back into his head as he let his eyes fall closed and bit off a groan, Barney slipping inside. He breathed through the burn and the stretch and relaxed his inner muscles by sheer force of will. And fuck that was bloody fucking perfect.

Lee kept sinking down onto Barney’s cock until all of it was inside and Barney to his credit even looked a little winded, struggling to stay quiet, pulling Lee down for another kiss. Their lips connected hotly, a bit unevenly and Christmas willingly drowned in it - immediately lifting his hips to start riding. Up and then steadily all the way back down, the air in his lungs leaving in a rush. He bent down and Barney’s arms came around him, gripping his shirt, the other a hip.

Christmas started a quick pace at first, a little rough, milking Barney for all he was worth - bottoming out with each downward motion of his hips. And then he made them short and to the point, almost coming apart right then feeling the thick head of Barney’s cock nudge up against something important. Barney’s guttural, almost inaudible groan of approval right in his ear sent chills of pleasure racing down Christmas’ spine, settling hotly between his legs and making his cock leak.

And he didn’t want it to end. He didn’t want to go back to thinking. He didn’t want to deal with those thoughts either. And he knew they had to be quick but this one time, this one time Christmas wordlessly asked for the opposite. He abruptly slowed his pace, leaning down and pressing close to Barney - as close as he could get, burying his face in the man’s neck and breathing deep. Wordlessly begging him to understand what he couldn’t get out with words. And he slowly took Barney’s cock down, deep inside and squeeze just like that and the sound he made wasn’t silent but it wasn’t loud. And he’d never admit it was needy. But fuck he just didn’t want this to end just yet.

Barney immediately shifted gears, groaning deep within his chest and pressing his lips to Christmas’ ear, just breathing - just staying that close while his hands reached down to still Christmas’ hips - encouraging him into a slower, easier pace. Giving him wordless permission to take his time.

Christmas let out a relieved breath and met Barney’s lips, deeply and then a bit more tenderly, biting gently at the man’s jaw and pressing kisses into his neck. Anything to express his gratitude and his appreciation. Barney seemed to enjoying giving in to the urge to take it slow too and Christmas indulged them both. He dragged it out as long as he could, slow thrusts. Not fucking. Definitely making love. And while both were just as good, Christmas had desperately needed this.

It might have only been ten or fifteen minutes. But when Christmas sensed they were both close and they couldn’t and shouldn’t drag this out any longer, he reached back for a towel from behind Barney’s seat. He was going to come and he couldn’t stop it and Barney was doing nothing but encouraging him to let it all go and he wanted it. Fuck he wanted it as much as he didn’t want it to end. But his body took over and betrayed him and that was fine, thrusts turning a bit more erratic, hard and fast and then he bottomed out one last time and came. He came so hard he had to bite down on Barney’s shirt to keep from yelling. The older mercenary was milking him with a hand under the towel and Christmas could feel it running over Barney’s fist.

The older man was also still hard but only just so Christmas sat back and concentrated solely on him, figuring out how to breathe again, still coming down from his own bone shaking climax. He leaned forward and met Barney’s lips in his own in a deep kiss, tongues sliding against one another’s in a way that threatened to make Christmas hard all over again. He thrust his hips just how he knew Barney liked, taking him deep, squeezing firmly but not hard, rocking his hips forward and then drawing back up. Short and to the point.

And it was Barney’s turn to come apart and fuck Christmas could get off just on feeling and seeing that. Barney with a hoarse and mostly silent shout and an explosive breath came deep inside of him, cock erupting and filling him up hotly, spilling inside of him until Barney was completely spent. He held Christmas’ hips still until he was finished, grip almost bruising and Christmas liked that, loved that. Loved the near pain of it. Welcomed it.

Barney’s head fell back to the seat behind him and he gave Lee a hot, dark look. And Christmas let out a slow breath and leaned down, meeting his lips slowly and then deeper. But Barney controlled this kiss completely and that was just fine. He submitted to the older man willingly, letting him take control and enjoying it. Enjoying everything. Barney buried deep in his ass, slowly softening, his ass full of come - the man’s lips and teeth doing things to his mouth that was making him anything but sane.

It was love. Pure and simple. And right here and now everything felt perfect, settled. And there wasn’t any fucking thinking to be had. Perfect.

But when Christmas went to pull away, mostly to make sure they both didn’t end up a mess and to clean them up, the older man suddenly wouldn’t let him go. In fact he pulled him closer, an arm around his back gripping his shirt, and the other holding fast to the back of his neck. It only took a fraction of a second to realize that this was the fall.

The fall he’d been worried about and that he’d expected.

And maybe it was just a piece of it. The only part that Barney would allow but Christmas was suddenly more emotional than he could handle. He immediately held Barney back, pressing his face into the man’s neck and just ... He just let him hold on.

“I’m not going anywhere.” Christmas murmured after a long minute. He wasn’t in any rush. As long as Barney needed, he’d happily be that real and solid - tangible anchor.

“Don’t-” Barney managed.

“What?” Christmas frowned, sitting up just a little bit to meet the man’s eyes. And he was stunned to see that Barney actually looked close enough to something suspiciously like tears.

“You can’t promise that.” Barney said roughly.

“Yes I can.” Christmas said angrily. “Because you can bet that if my dog tags end up there-” he pointed to the row of them nearby. “That I will haunt your ass until the day that you die.”

Barney managed a surprised laugh, hastily reaching up to wipe at his eyes in a casual gesture that didn’t fool Christmas and Christmas was suddenly downright overwhelmed. He couldn’t remember meaning this much to anyone before. At a loss for words, Christmas leaned down and rested his head against Barney’s. And for a moment they just closed their eyes and held onto each other.

And it was Barney who broke the silence this time. “You gotta... You have to get up. I think my legs are going numb.”

Christmas rolled his eyes and laughed, sitting up and turning his eyes momentarily skyward. “Jesus Christ.” he said, looking to Barney. “I should punch you for that one.”

Barney laughed too and though it was a little unsteady, the hands that ran briefly over Lee’s chest and stomach were firm and unwavering. “I’m mostly joking. But kinda not.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Christmas eased off Barney’s lap carefully, efficiently and quickly cleaning them both up before Barney could say a word. And they both dressed mostly in silence, fixing their pants is all that they’d really needed, but Christmas couldn’t help but trade a quick, concerned glance Barney’s way. Just to make sure that he was all right. And he could see, knowing the man as well as he did, that Barney mostly was. But not completely.

“I think I’m going to try and get some sleep, okay?” Christmas asked him after opening the door back up and sitting back down, running a hand over his face after glancing over the supplies clipboard. The words were all running together and the more he stared at it the worse it got.

“Sure.” Barney said. “Are you sure you don’t want to lay down in the back?”

“And leave you to your own devices?” Christmas gave him a look with a bit of a smile. A bit of a smile because he was pretty serious. “Not a chance.”

Barney smiled and reached over, giving his leg a squeeze. “Get some sleep.”

Christmas crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back, taking a breath and letting his eyes close. And it wasn’t the Ativan that kept away the sound of rushing water, the warning alarms of a plane or the silence of one that hadn’t had those developed just yet. It was purely the mercenary flying the plane he was currently in now. And only that.