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Will you walk with me out on the wire

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Ed hates conferences, but he likes what happens after conferences: guilt-free socializing. No watching what he drinks because he'll have to figure out whether to drive and what to do with his car after (although really, making Wordy designated driver works three times out of five anyway). No worrying that he should be home with Sophie. Just full-on hanging with the team in a nice hotel.

Not having to feel bad about neglecting her actually makes him miss Sophie, and yeah, he knows how fucked up that is. But hey, he's asked her to come hang with the gang plenty of times. It's not his fault she always says no.

He acknowledges, then goes back to ignoring how much he looks forward to the guaranteed alone time with Greg, since they always share a room on overnights. These days it feels like he only sees Greg one-on-one when they're at headquarters. He doesn't really know what to do about it.

He doesn't know what it is with cops and karaoke either. Their registration fees are actually paying for a host in the hotel bar, a douchenozzle kid in vinyl pants who clearly didn't get enough attention growing up. The team is all a little lit. Not drunk, just happy and loose enough that everyone is giggling and catcalling like kids while Spike sings "Material Girl." Greg's next. He does "We Will Rock You" and fumbles all the verses, but the team chants along with the chorus, slamming their drinks on the table.

Something about it nags at Ed, but he lets it go because Greg is giving him a Look. Ed knows what that look means--he has to sing so that the other team members can do it without seeming untough. So he hams his way through "Born to Run," which is a lot longer than he remembered, but what the hell. Greg looks pleased.

After that everybody else starts flipping through the book and putting in requests, and Greg looks even more pleased. Jules sings "Landslide." Sam butchers some hip-hop song. Greg waits politely for Lou to finish "If I Had a Million Dollars," then says he's tired and stands up. Ed's not sure if he wants out of the crowd or is just trying to give the kids some unsupervised playtime, but he throws some cash down and follows.

He keeps glancing at Greg all the way up in the elevator and then down the twisting hallway to their room, and the more he glances, the more pissed off he feels. Greg's sergeant persona--whatever, Ed gets that. But it's just the two of them now and the persona doesn't feel like it's gone away. Or it has, but it's just a different persona now, Friend Greg instead of Den Mother Greg. It's not Greg, not like it used to be, real, no bullshit, 100% not-from-concentrate Greg there with him.

"Something on your mind, Eddie?" Greg asks, ready to counsel him or some shit and that pisses Ed off.

"What happened to that god-awful Elvis impression you used to do?" In a transcript it wouldn't look like a charged question, but Ed can hear an edge in his voice.

Greg tries to laugh it off. "I can't sing 'I wanna be your teddy bear' to my team. It's inappropriate."

"Yeah, I know."

"It's important that we create a comfortable working environment for Jules."

"Yeah."

Greg lets them into their room. Then he turns and gives Ed his full attention. "What do you want, Eddie?" Serious, open face that says, I'm listening. I'm ready to connect. You and me, we might as well be the only two people in the world. Maybe it would be a little more convincing if Ed didn't see Greg do it every day at work.

He can't stay mad. Greg's just doing his best. He's just pretending to be okay, because he thinks that's what everyone wants from him. "I want you to relax for a second." Ed toes off his shoes and drops his watch on the dresser to point up that the work day is over. "I want you to do something for you and not the team. It feels like--I understand that you can't let it get personal with the team. You're their rock. I get that, I do. But recently it seems like you keep it up when it's just the two of us. Since when did I become someone you gotta keep your guard up around?"

Greg snort-chuckles, startled and wary. "So says Mr. 'I'm fine.'"

Ed takes a deep breath. "That's fair." He sits on the edge of his bed in his bare feet and looks Greg in the eye. "But we're not talking about me right now. Look, you're always saying you have to know who you are to do this job, have something to draw on, you have to be open to connecting with people. Connecting goes two ways, or it does outside a hostage scenario. You're putting up walls with everybody. You think that's good for the team?"

Greg sits down across from him, looking serious. The fucker is mirroring him. "I'm sorry if I've shut you out. I never meant to make you feel that I didn't trust you."

"See, that's exactly what I'm talking about. You're always thinking about what the team needs, what I need, what everyone else needs. What about what you need?"

Greg is silent, clearly trying to think of a way to resolve Ed's issue without actually changing anything.

"You've still got needs, right? You didn't get swapped out for a robot when our backs were turned?" Ed is suddenly really aware that he said needs, and what that usually means. He's really aware that they're alone in a hotel room with two huge beds.

And here's the thing. Ed's been trained to see tells and minute changes in body language, just like Greg has. He was never as good at it, but this is rookie stuff: Greg is keeping eye contact a little too carefully. He's breathing shallowly, and not moving much. Ed thinks maybe Greg is suddenly really aware of the beds too.

Ed ducks his head and runs a hand over his scalp, forward, then back. He sighs and starts unbuttoning his shirt. Nothing that isn't just regular I'm-tired-and-discouraged, but--jackpot. Greg's eyes dart to his collar and away, and he shifts uncomfortably.

"You got needs, Greg?" he asks again, low and quiet.

Greg starts.

"We can do something about that if you want."

Greg looks dismayed. "Ed, if I've suggested in any way--"

"I'm pretty sure I was doing the suggesting."

"You have a family. You have a beautiful wife and a great kid. What the hell are you doing?"

"C'mon, Greg, you know me and Sophie have an open deal." Greg's never really gotten that. He looks concerned for Ed's marriage. Sometimes Ed's concerned for his marriage too, but none of that has anything to do with who they bang. "I know what I'm doing," he says gently. "Don't worry so much."

Greg mumbles something. The only audible word is fraternization.

"Why is fraternization a bad idea again? Oh yeah--it's so you don't get too involved. You think I'm gonna be more involved than I am already because I fucked you up the ass? If so, you're a real romantic."

Greg chuckles uncomfortably. "We've been friends for twenty years, Eddie. You've never thought about this before. Why now?" He looks tired and a little sad, like he thinks Ed is pretending to want to have sex with him to be nice. It's one of the most upsetting things Ed's ever seen, and that's saying something.

"Sure I've thought about it," he says quietly. "I ignored it, that's all."

Greg's eyes shoot up to his, wide and dark. It's a jolt to his system, like strong coffee or a shot of whiskey. Ed wants more.

"Come on," he says, low and urgent. "You're really gonna pretend you don't want this? For what? It's just the two of us. C'mon, ask me for something. Ask me for anything you want. You wanna fuck me? You want--"

Greg leans back, saying something Ed doesn't even hear over the roaring in his ears. He catches the soothing tone of Greg's voice, though. Ah, and his hearing is back online now: "...don't want to do something we'll regret." Using we, that's Negotiation 101. And then he puts up his hands placatingly, like Ed is pointing a fucking gun at him.

The sick wave of guilt and rejection is more than Ed can handle. What the fuck was he thinking? What the fuck did he say? "Sorry," he says. He stands up, gets as far away as he can. He presses his forehead against the cool glass of the window, sees tiny cars going by below, and wishes he could just rappel down the side of the building and away. "Shit, I'm sorry, Greg. Must be the beer. Forget I said anything, okay? I fucked up. I'd never want to push you into anything. I just thought--I wanted--forget it."

"Eddie?" Greg says behind him, nervous and soft.

"Yeah?"

"I'd really, really like a blowjob."

Ed can't breathe. And then he's gone, caught up in something that been a long time coming. He doesn't remember crossing the room but he's on his knees and his hands are shaking on Greg's belt buckle. His knees kind of hurt because he forgot he wasn't wearing pads. Greg's calm voice is talking him down, talking him through it until Ed kisses him, shuts him up. "I got this one, boss." He dives back in for another kiss. "Feel free to give orders, though."

Everything goes so quickly. Greg's pants are on the floor and his dick is in Ed's mouth before Ed's brain catches up with his body, and then he's sorry he didn't take it slower. Greg is already gasping and moving his hips and groaning, "Oh, God, Eddie" in a hoarse, broken way that suggests three things: one, he isn't holding back shit anymore, which, Hallelujah. Two, he's going to come fast, which is okay but...Ed wants it to last, that's all. And number three is that Greg isn't having nearly enough fun. This whole thing just feels--it's too much. Ed's told Greg he loved him with a bullet in a subject's head way too many times. Hell, once was too many, even if Ed would do it all again if he had to. But he doesn't want this to feel like that, all hurry and desperation and so much adrenaline it makes you sick.

He pulls off. "Hey," he says. "Hey. You okay?"

Greg laughs breathlessly. "You're kidding me, right?"

Ed's lips twitch. "Well, you know, you're getting old. I don't want you to have a heart attack."

"Very funny." Greg hesitantly reaches out like he's gonna cup the back of Ed's head, and ends up awkwardly tracing his jaw. Ed turns his head and kisses his fingers.

Greg lets out a shuddering breath and relaxes a little, looking surprised. "Thanks, Eddie. I'm good."

Ed feels a little embarrassed. But whatever, it's sex. Keeping up some kind of macho Gary Cooper facade while going down on someone is the dumbest thing he can think of. "Don't thank me, this is the most fun I've had at a conference in years."

He takes Greg back in, and now it's better, easier. After a minute, Greg does curve his hand around Ed's skull. Callused fingertips on his bare skin, it's incredible. Ed hums his approval.

Greg's head falls back. His thumb traces Ed's ear, and then his fingers tighten and he moans. "Jesus, Eddie..." Another enthusiastic moan.

Ed would have figured Greg for a guy who tried to stay quiet. Every unabashed sound of pleasure goes right to his cock. Fuck. He breathes in as much of Greg's scent as he can. Any second now--any second now--"This is it," Greg warns him, and even before he's through the sentence, he's shaking and jerking, spilling warm and salty in Ed's mouth. He thuds back onto the mattress, spreading his arms wide and heaving a contented sigh. "You're a good friend, Eddie," he murmurs, sounding like he's about to fall asleep.

Ed laughs. "What are you talking about? I just had my wicked way with you. Look at yourself. You've been totally debauched."

Greg blinks bleary, dilated, happy eyes at him. "I needed that."

Ed feels warm. And hard. Very, very hard.

Greg smiles and pats the mattress next to him. "Come here."

"You look like you're about to fall asleep."

Greg scoffs, but he can barely keep his eyes open. He tries and fails to sit up.

"Let it go, boss," Ed says. "You can return the favor in the morning."

Greg grins with his eyes closed, a slow, sloppy grin as if hearing that this doesn't have to be a one-off is the best thing that's happened to him all year. "Set the alarm for eight, will you?" he slurs, inchworming into the middle of his bed and pulling the covers up to his chin. "That should give us an hour before the first workshop."

"Or we could skip the first workshop."

Greg frowns.

"Sorry. Don't know what I was thinking."

There's a pause. "Eddie? I think I might be depressed."

Ed really doesn't know what to say to that. Not knowing makes his throat feel like a snake coiling and tensing between his mouth and his stomach. At least he manages not to come out with a laugh and Don't be ridiculous, of course you're not, which is the first thing to pop into his head. He doesn't want it to be true, but when he takes a second to consider it, he thinks it probably is. "Okay," he says. "Okay. There are things you can do about that. We'll figure it out."

It's not a great answer, but Greg takes a deep breath, lets it out, and nods. "I know. Thanks, Eddie." He rolls onto his side and pulls the covers up so all Ed can see of him is the top of his bald head. "Can we talk about it in the morning?"

"You bet."

Ed lies awake and stares at the ceiling. He doesn't know what the hell he's gotten himself into. But he's wanted to give Greg a blowjob for about twenty years, and now he has. He's wanted Greg to open up to him for months, and now Greg kind of has. He's sure that that hour in the morning will include at least a little hanky-panky along with all the painful feelings talk.

Life never turns out how you expect. You just gotta roll with the punches and take whatever victories you can. From where he's standing--lying, whatever--he could be doing a lot worse. He glances over at the top of Greg's head, which practically glows in the dark, and smiles without meaning to.