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the common tongue of your loving me

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11—, Al-Andalus

“Can you teach me?”

“Hm?” Yusuf looks and sounds like he’s half-asleep as he snuggles closer. Light spills through the window, the brightness of late afternoon in Toledo illuminating his curls and his beautiful naked body, stretched across the bed in a tangle of sheets and Nicolò.

“The things you say, when we make love.” Not just light of my eyes, my moon, my heart, which tumble from Nicolò’s lips as easily as they do from Yusuf’s, but also I love feeling your cock twitch in my hand, let me open you so I can fuck you slow and deep, the way your mouth feels when you suck me makes me never want to leave this bed again.

Yusuf opens his eyes, suddenly much more alert. “Do you not like when I do that? We said we would say if—”

“Shh, no, I love it.” One of Yusuf’s arms is draped across his waist; he traces lazy patterns across it with his fingertip, thinking. “I love it,” he repeats, “and I didn’t know if…well, if you wanted to hear such things too. From me.”

Someday, Nicolò thinks, they will look back at how long they have been together at this point in time and think it no time at all. Remember Toledo? they will say. Still at the sunrise of our life together. But in the moment, they are young, and that paradoxically makes the years feel long. And those years—only a handful, it’s true, but their lives changed so drastically in a much shorter time, in a moment at the end of a sword—those years have shown Nicolò over and over again how much his Yusuf is a man who loves words, and loves with them. So does Nicolò, in his way; the first time he whispered I love you, I bless God and fate and destiny every day for you, he felt like he was taking a deep breath of fresh air after a lifetime of breathing smoke. But words are so wrapped up in who Yusuf is, in a way that Nicolò both adores and is somewhat awed by. His love is a poet, down to his very bones.

Yusuf’s brow furrows. “You satisfy me, love. More than satisfy. Much more than.”

“So I gathered,” Nicolò says, smoothing frown lines with his thumb, “when you kissed me to keep from screaming.”

“The walls are thin,” Yusuf explains, completely in earnest, as if Nicolò didn’t also spend half their time in bed trying not to shout.

“I know.” He presses a kiss to Yusuf’s mouth, soft and slow. “I am only trying to say—I want to give you pleasure, as much pleasure as I can, so if you want me to say things to you like you say to me, I want you to tell me.”

“You make me so happy, Nicolò.”

“That’s not an answer to the question, Yusuf.” They stare at each other, the air stirred by the beginnings of a late afternoon breeze. Nicolò hitches a leg over Yusuf’s; conversations like this are always easier, he finds, the more points of contact they have between them. “You know, I remember the first time you spoke to me like that, in bed.” Bed is being generous; it was a pile of blankets near an open fire, but that doesn’t matter now. It wasn’t the first time they’d fucked, but it wasn’t terribly long after either. “We were still learning each other’s speech; I only understood every third word you said. But I remember the way you said my name. I remember the way it made me feel. I want to do this for you. If you want it. I just think, if you do, I might need some help. At the start.”

Yusuf hums and tucks a lock of hair behind Nicolò’s ear. “I want you to know that I love you as you are, Nicolò. And that you are a thorough and generous lover. But. Yes. The thought of you—your voice in my ear, saying—” Yusuf’s breath hitches and Nicolò smiles at the sight of him, already a little undone by his own imagination. “Yes. I would like that very much.”

“Now then,” Nicolò says, “was that so hard? Answering one simple little question?”

“Hush your mouth,” Yusuf replies, dragging a finger across the mouth in question. When Nicolò sucks that finger into his mouth, Yusuf groans. “Nap first,” he insists. “I’m barely clinging to consciousness. You’re exhausting.”

“Is that so?” Nicolò says, once Yusuf has removed his finger. “I have it on good authority I am thorough and generous.”

“You’re also a menace.”

“Mm, heart of my heart, you always say the sweetest things.”


11—, near the Caspian Sea

“Try this,” Yusuf murmurs.

They have left Toledo in search of the women who appear in their dreams, which means they are headed east. Actually, they have been headed east for a long time, so long that Nicolò would say they are east, at least east of all the places he’s been before. Based on their dreams, Yusuf thinks they should continue further east and north, to where the steppes drape themselves across the continent.

And continue they will, in the morning, after they have packed away the tent they are currently sharing and the blankets they are currently under. Good-night caresses turned to wandering hands, and then to proper groping, and now Yusuf is pressed against Nicolò, as he usually is when they sleep, but his hand is on Nicolò’s cock and his voice is husky in Nicolò’s ear.

“You said you wanted me to teach you,” he says. “Easiest way to start is to talk about yourself.” He begins to move his hand, sure and unhurried. “How does this feel?”

“Good.”

Yusuf twists his wrist and hears Nicolò breathe deeply through his nose. “And now?”

“Very good?” Nicolò sighs a sigh that isn’t quite frustrated but definitely doesn’t signal the wild abandon that Yusuf likes to push him to. “It’s not that there’s a flaw in your logic,” he explains, words coming quickly. “It’s hard to concentrate on how good you make me feel as well as on the words to say so. I am sorry—”

“Shh,” Yusuf soothes, moving his hand away from Nicolò’s cock to trail across his chest instead. “What is there to apologize for?”

“Hm.” He’s honestly considering the question. “Do you remember what I was like when I was learning your mother tongue?”

Determined was what he’d been, relentlessly focused on learning sounds his mouth had never held before. He had also been constantly irritated with himself due to, in his mind, his slowness to give Yusuf the respect of speaking his native tongue competently.

“Ah,” Yusuf says. “I see.”

“And there is also…” He lets out a long breath; Yusuf can feel it, pressed against him as he is. “It’s absurd. I know you wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t what?”

“You wouldn’t laugh at me.”

Yusuf wraps an arm around Nicolò’s waist, presses his nose against the nape of Nicolò’s neck. “Oh, love. Have you been worried about this?”

“No.” So straightforward, no hesitation. It’s the truth; Yusuf can tell. On all levels except physical Nicolò is shrugging, and the only thing stopping him from actually doing it is Yusuf holding on to him so tightly. “But I’ve tried to imagine what I would say…I just can’t seem to. Without you. And maybe there is nothing to apologize for, but Yusuf…” Nicolò shifts in his arms, turning so they are now lying face to face. “What you mean to me, the way I feel—it’s so much. It’s so much, and I know you know, but.” He feels Nicolò’s fingers skim over his face in the dark, their touch impossibly light and maddening. “I want to speak every language you do, even ones in a tongue I already know.”

Yusuf feels a jolt somewhere in his midsection, as though he’s missed a step while going down a flight of stairs. None of this is news to him, Nicolò is right about that, but somehow he can still be surprised by it, or perhaps surprised by the joy of it. “Nicolò,” he murmurs, hand moving under the blanket, fingers digging into the muscle of his lover’s thigh. “I love you. I need you.”

“And I you,” he replies.

“Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to tell me what you want me to do, and I’m not going to do anything until you say so. A new language, yes? So you have to get used to how the words feel in your mouth.”

“You’re a very clever man,” Nicolò says, his voice just on the endearing side of impatient. “Now kiss me.” Yusuf presses a quick, close-mouthed kiss to Nicolò’s lips, and can’t help laughing a little at the offended noise Nicolò makes. “Not like that,” he insists.

“Tell me how, then.”

“Bite my lip, I want your tongue in my mouth—”

Yusuf barely waits for him to get the words out before doing as he’s asked, sucking Nicolò’s bottom lip between his teeth. A sharp pinch, then the slow drag of his tongue over the sore spot. Nicolò gasps against his mouth and he slides his tongue inside. There are nights when they do this for hours, only this. It is one of their favorite ways to be close to each other. He can feel Nicolò, hard against his hip; as soon as Nicolò starts to rock against him Yusuf plants a hand on his ass to keep him still.

“Tell me,” he says again, pulling away only just far enough to form the words. “There are no wrong answers, my heart.”

“I want you to fuck me,” Nicolò says, his breathing ragged. “But I expect you are going to want me to tell you how to go about it.”

“That’s part of the point of the exercise.”

“What’s the other part?”

“You tell me.”

Nicolò hums. “I think the other part is us coming so hard we shout ourselves hoarse.”

The way he says it, so matter-of-fact, makes Yusuf slightly lose his mind. “Hnn—Nicolò—” His cock is suddenly so hard it almost hurts.

“There’s no one around for miles. We could. Where’s the oil?”

Yusuf swears and rolls out from under the blankets to root around in one of their bags.

“I could have gotten it,” Nicolò insists. “It was an honest question.”

“Your job at the moment is to keep talking,” Yusuf replies. “And I hate to say it, but this is going to be easier without the blankets.”

“However will we stay warm.”

Yusuf is sure there’s a wry twist at the corner of Nicolò’s mouth. “You’re going to offer some suggestions. Preferably while I open you up.”

Nicolò shifts most of the blankets off, except for the one he folds and tucks under his hips. He reaches toward Yusuf, feeling for him in the dark. “Kneel over me, sweetheart—yes, that’s it. And give me one of your fingers?” Yusuf drizzles oil over his hand and begins to tease around Nicolò’s hole, barely breaching him.

“You were saying,” Yusuf prompts, “about shouting ourselves hoarse.”

“Hm?” He sounds distracted. “Oh. Yes. Do you remember the time—we were somewhere in Provence, I think. It was summer. A stream somewhere nearby, no neighbors. And we just—let ourselves be, one morning, no stifling. And for the next three days our voices had such a rasp we sounded as though we’d taken ill, and all because I took you as deep in my throat as I could and you yelled when you came.”

“I do remember,” Yusuf says. “Relax for me?” He feels Nicolò clench around him, then release, and his finger slides in deeper. “Although in my memory I made noise through the whole event.”

“You did. You’re so noisy in bed, I adore it.”

It’s the simplicity of the statement that gets to Yusuf; he can feel his face heat. He’s so struck by it that he nearly misses Nicolò saying, “I can take another finger, my love,” almost as an afterthought.

“Do you know you’re doing that?” he asks.

“Doing what?”

“What you just said.”

“That you’re loud? You can be quiet when you have to, I know, but at heart you’re a screamer. I did say I loved that, didn’t I?”

“You did, you did. I know you do. But did you—did you think about it, before you said it?”

“Mmmm.” Nicolò rocks against his fingers. “I don’t think so. It’s just that it’s true.”

“Because you said that before you had trouble imagining what you’d say. I think you only have to say the truth.”    

“Oh.” He’s quiet for a few moments; Yusuf suspects he’s thinking it over. “Give me another,” he says eventually, and Yusuf obliges, stretching him with three fingers. “Fuck. That’s good, just a bit—yes, that’s good, now fuck me, I need you inside me, I want you so badly, Yusuf.”

“Nicolò,” he sighs, slicking his cock with oil and beginning to press himself in. Nicolò grabs at his shoulders, his arms, any part of him that’s within reach.

“The first time we did this,” Nicolò continues, “I thought I was going to weep. Not because you hurt me, never—because I had never been that close to another person before. Because I wanted to be that close to you, Yusuf, as close as possible, closer than possible—” He breaks off with a groan as Yusuf buries himself fully, hooks one leg around Yusuf’s thigh. “That’s right, I want to feel you, I want to feel you move inside me.”

Yusuf begins to move with slow, small thrusts that have them both sighing with pleasure after a few moments. Nicolò is trying to wrap himself around Yusuf as thoroughly as possible, it seems, winding his arms loosely around Yusuf’s neck, burying a hand in his hair.

“So good,” Nicolò breathes against Yusuf’s ear. “I feel so good when you fuck me.”

Yusuf feels fairly incredible himself. Between the physical bliss of having his cock buried in Nicolò and the emotional high of knowing the love of his life notices him, sees him, wants to give him this, because his Nicolò is nothing if not generous in his love—this is why people say they are so happy they could die. Yusuf knows he won’t, not actually, but he also knows that if he did he would wake up in Nicolò’s arms, which is to say he would wake up at home.

“Yusuf?”

“Yes?” he breathes. “Yes, beloved of my heart?”

“Fold me in half and fuck me harder.”

An inarticulate sound escapes from somewhere in Yusuf’s chest. “God, Nicolò—”

He does as he’s asked, hitching Nicolò’s legs up higher and making his thrusts longer, deeper. There’s something about the angle that makes them both moan at the same time, which in turn makes them both laugh. They have the beautiful shamelessness of two people so delighted with each other’s pleasure that all self-consciousness evaporates.

“I’m not going to last very long like this,” Yusuf confesses. He can already feel his climax building.

“Don’t,” Nicolò says. “Take your pleasure, take everything you want, I want to feel you come inside me, Yusuf, you feel so good, Yusuf—

Yusuf comes with a cry and his beloved’s voice in his ear. He feels Nicolò reach down to stroke himself once, twice, before the wetness of his own climax blooms between their bodies. Yusuf waits a few moments, until they’ve both come down just enough to move, before gently disentangling their bodies.

“Nicolò, that was…you are…”

“Hoarse,” Nicolò says, and Yusuf can hear his smile. “As are you.”

“We both achieved the point of the exercise.”

“Among other things.”

Yusuf snickers as he searches for a discarded shirt to wipe away the worst of the mess. After they’ve cleaned up a bit, he pulls the blankets back over them both.

“Nicolò,” he says, as their bodies curl together in the shape that has become his most familiar comfort. “When you offer me the first pick of fruit, or tear some bread and give me the larger piece, I know you’re saying you love me. When you mend my clothes, you say it. When you say such things to me in bed because you know I like it, and you like to know I like it, you say it. I hear you, Nicolò. As clearly as I’ve ever heard a call to prayer, or the sound of my own name.”

Nicolò says nothing, but twines his hand with Yusuf’s and raises it to his lips. Yusuf thinks he feels a tear splash against his knuckles, but he doesn’t ask. Just kisses the back of Nicolò’s head one last time before they both slip into sleep.


15—, Venice

Nicolò is aware of three things as he slips back into consciousness: the bed he shares with Yusuf is soft and warm; Yusuf’s arm is heavy across his waist; and his cock is hard between his legs.

He had been dreaming, that was it. An inconvenience when their small immortal family is embedded with an army somewhere, but rather a pleasant experience when he can wake up next to Yusuf in a private room  with no obligations to take them out of bed. He shifts in an attempt to bury his head further into the pillow and get some friction against his cock, and feels Yusuf stir behind him.

“Hmmm?” Yusuf says, still too asleep to be capable of real speech.

“Go back to sleep,” Nicolò tells him, voice barely above a whispers. “It’s early.”

“Noises,” Yusuf mutters. “In your sleep. Bad dream?”

“Far from it.” He rolls onto his back and pulls Yusuf’s hand down to feel how hard he is. Yusuf makes an interested noise. “I was dreaming of you.”

“Tell me about it?”

Nicolò smiles. He recognizes this mood—Yusuf’s not awake enough to move around much or have a conversation he’ll fully remember later, but he is awake enough to be aroused and to luxuriate in the lazy pleasure of being aroused in the same bed as your lover in the early morning.

“Let’s see,” Nicolò begins, as Yusuf plants a sleepy kiss on the side of his neck. “I think we were in Crete. I could hear the ocean. I know we’ve made love in many places where you can hear the ocean, but in dreams sometimes you just know. So we were in Crete again. We had a soft bed and a room with white walls, and you were stretched out under me.”

Yusuf sighs and tugs at Nicolò’s shirt.

“Do you want me to show you how?” he asks, and Yusuf nods. Nicolò gently pushes Yusuf onto his back and settles on top of him. “It was like this. And you had your hands over your head.” Yusuf drags his arms so his up so that his hands rest on the pillow above his head, wrists crossed. Nicolò braces himself on one arm and covers Yusuf’s wrists with his other hand, holding them in place. Yusuf sighs and squirms beneath him; the motion of his body feels delicious against Nicolò’s cock. “And we were kissing,” Nicolò continues, “those long, slow, wet kisses that feel like they last for days.” He leans down and meet’s Yusuf’s open mouth with his, tongue moving in the same unhurried rhythm he would jerk Yusuf off with, if that’s the way the morning ends up going.

“And?” Yusuf says, after a long while.

“That’s all there was to the dream, I think,” Nicolò murmurs, his mouth against Yusuf’s. “But it went on for a very long time, just our bodies pressed together, you stretched out under me, kissing and kissing. I think every time we got close I would roll off, but I couldn’t stay away for long. My body cried out for you.”

Yusuf whines and grinds his hips up against Nicolò’s. “Don’t go anywhere.”

“Not going anywhere,” Nicolò assures him, taking his hand away from Yusuf’s wrists just long enough to brush an errant curl off of Yusuf’s forehead. “Shall I go back to kissing you?”

Yusuf nods. His eyes have been fluttering open and closed throughout this whole conversation, as if his body can’t decide how awake it wants to be for this. Nicolò understands—he’s had his share of half-awake orgasms courtesy of Yusuf’s mouth or hands, knows how comforting that type of sleepy arousal can be. He kisses Yusuf again and again, feels the feeble resistance of Yusuf’s hands against his own and presses those hands harder against the pillow, catching Yusuf’s resulting moan with his lips and tongue. Their rocking together becomes more insistent. Nicolò loves this, loves the feeling of Yusuf under him, trusting him, hopelessly turned on by him. Over four hundred years since they first did anything like this and they still drive each other so deliciously mad.

“Do you want to come, my love?” Nicolò asks, as the movement of Yusuf’s body becomes more insistent.

“Yes, yes—”

Nicolò lets go of Yusuf’s hands and rucks their nightshirts up, wrapping a hand around both of their cocks and groaning at how good it feels. He keeps kissing Yusuf as they both fuck his hand—his mouth is wet and swollen and his cheeks acquire new beard burn as fast as it can heal and he loves it, he loves this, loves Yusuf, in this particular moment he feels like love is all he’s made of, love and pleasure and—

He isn’t sure who comes first, only that they come close together, still kissing.

“Mmmmmm,” Yusuf says, bracing his hands against the headboard for a proper stretch. “You do know how to wake a man up in the morning.”

Nicolò laughs and rolls off. “You see what I have to resort to when we travel to places where we can’t get coffee.”

Yusuf begins to laugh as well. “We’ll bring some with us next time.”


United States, 186—,

“Fuck this.”

It’s been a considerable amount of time since Nicky’s been in a good mood, but he’s tried to maintain at least a neutral this might as well happen attitude, because there’s a war going on and he needs to be able to handle each fresh nightmare as it comes at him. But conditions have conspired to steal the last of his patience from him, and the conditions that have done so are these: firstly, he is in the United States (never a greater misnomer than at this moment, and a general source of irritation). Secondly, he amputated a truly sickening number of limbs today. Battlefield medicine is a calling, and God help him, he has it, but this is one of the days when he can’t get the blood out from under his fingernails. Thirdly, he is sharing a tent with Joe, which should be wonderful, except it is the world’s smallest tent, and it is wartime. The fact that it is a good situation that has been made bad by circumstance only serves to irritate him more. Fourthly, it has just started to rain.

“Try to sleep,” Joe says, holding him tight.

“Even if I do I won’t rest,” he insists. “I’ll have nightmares.”

“Maybe. I’ve got you, though. You’ll wake up and I’ll be right here.”

That makes Nicky relax, albeit infinitesimally. He concentrates on the grip of Joe’s arms, on the feel of Joe’s body against his own. “You know what we should do,” he says, “when these fucking enslavers are finally defeated?”

“What should we do?”

“Go back to Brooklyn.” New York City—particularly its odder neighborhoods—is one part of this so-called country he actually enjoys. 

“Mmm,” Joe agrees. “We can wander the streets in the hope we’ll run into Whitman.”

Nicky is still not enthused about the English language, and of the four of them he speaks with the heaviest accent and suspects he always will, but he admits that some of the literature is worthwhile. Joe acquired a copy of Leaves of Grass almost as soon as they landed in New York, and Nicky agrees that there is much to appreciate about it. Their copy now lives in Joe’s knapsack, battered and dog-eared.

“We are not wandering the streets,” Nicky says, “until we engage lodgings and get some actual rest.”

“That’s reasonable.” Joe kisses the back of Nicky’s neck. “Do you want to tell me more about what we’re going to do? Give us both something nice to dream about?”

Nicky feels a bit more tension bleed away. “We are going to find a bathhouse and scrub every last trace of this foulness away.” He knows Joe understands that he means the mud, the blood, the gunpowder, the screams. They’re in the right on this one, Nicky is sure they are in a way he rarely is, but war hasn’t gotten less hellish in the nearly eight hundred years he’s been alive.

“And once we are finally, properly clean,” he continues, “I am going to get you in a bed and strip us both naked.” Joe shivers, though Nicky’s not sure if it’s from the pleasant mental image of being alone together without clothes or from the damp chill that’s seeping in with the rain. “And we will be warm, God help me, even if it’s winter, I don’t care who I have to bribe. I am going to lay you down and cover your entire body with kisses, from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. I will kiss every freckle on your face, that perfect place where your collarbone meets your neck. Your middle will be soft because you’ll have enough to eat again; I will bury my face there and say how glad I am that we’re off rations. Then the smoothness of your inner thighs, I’ll kiss you there, harder when you tell me. Suck at me, Nicolò, you’ll say, bite me, you know how I like it. And I will, and when I have you gasping and hard and leaking I will take you in my mouth and suck you, with my tongue teasing the head of your cock, just how you like. And when your hands are grasping at the sheets or tangled in my hair and I hear you say please, Nicolò, please, I’ll swallow you down and feel how your climax blooms in the back of my throat.”

 “God,” Joe mutters, pressing his face against the back of Nicky’s neck. “If that’s what you’re promising, I’m prepared to walk back to New York. And what about you?”

“Once you’ve regained your senses,” Nicky begins.

“It’ll be that good?”

“You bet your ass. Once you’ve regained your senses, I’ll have you sit up against the headboard, and I’ll kneel over you while you suck me, brace myself against the wall and lose myself in the feel of your mouth on my cock and your beautiful hands on my thighs. And then we will sleep for three days.”

Joe makes a contented sort of hum at the thought. “You know, light of my eyes, you were a visionary all those years ago when you asked me to teach you this. You correctly foresaw that someday we’d need a way to stay warm without a fire.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“I love you more than life itself.”

“More than life itself,” Nicky agrees.

“Now try to sleep.”


Marrakesh, 2020

They leave for South Sudan in the morning, which means that this is the last night for quite some time that they’ll have sleeping quarters this nice, or this private. Additionally, Nicky has lost a bet.

Well, two bets. Sort of. They both had to do with whether or not this would be the baklava that finally stumped Andy, but while the bet with Booker had monetary consequences, the bet with Joe has consequences of a different sort.

“I don’t see what I lose in in this,” Nicky says as he sits on the foot of the bed and watches Joe strip.

“It’s not about what you lose,” Joe explains, “it’s about what I gain. Namely, the sound of your voice saying beautiful filthy things while I touch myself, and the sight of you squirming because you’re not allowed to touch me or yourself. Now get off the bed.”

Nicky stands and starts to move toward the chair in the corner, which he’s planning on dragging closer to the bed anyway. Joe catches him by a belt loop and pulls him in for one deep kiss that’s over far too soon, then gestures toward the chair. Nicky rearranges the furniture to his liking as Joe arranges himself on the bed, sitting up against the pillows, legs spread.

“Mm, you look incredible,” Nicky says, spreading his own (fully clothed) legs. “Well rested and well fed and well fucked.”

“Wonder who’s responsible for that,” says Joe, beginning to stroke himself to full hardness.

“It’s been a good holiday. I’ve gotten to see you in a lot of linen shirts. And out of a lot of linen shirts.”

“How many buttons have you had to sew back on since we arrived?”

“That’s not a number that bears thinking about. It is my fault my husband is so handsome and my patience is so thin?”

“Don’t lie to me about your patience,” Joe smirks, cock fully hard now, swollen and flushed in his hand. “The other night you kept us both on the edge for an hour at least.”

“And you loved it. You love it when I do that, bring you so close to completion and then keep you there, nearly weeping with how aroused you are. It makes the release so much sweeter.”

Joe nods, eyes closing. “It does.”

“Slow down, my love. You don’t want this to be over too soon.”

The rhythm of his hand slows. “What do you suggest?”

“Pinch your nipple for me—yes, just like that, you always gasp like that, it’s so fucking hot. Drag your nails along the inside of your thighs, you like when I do that—unh, yes. And make sure you open your eyes, love, if you want to see me squirm.” He’s shifting in his seat, arousal making it impossible to sit still.

“Are you hard?” Joe asks, opening his eyes.

“So hard, just from watching you.”

“Don’t touch yourself.”

“I’m not. I’ll grip the armrests until my knuckles turn white, if I have to.”

Joe massages his balls, then presses a finger behind them. He smirks at the sound Nicky makes. “You wish that were you?”

“I wish I had my tongue in your ass,” Nicky says, and laughs as Joe’s back arches reflexively. “Ah, you see. Some things you can’t do for yourself.”

Joe narrows his eyes and takes his cock in hand again, maintaining ruthless eye contact with Nicky, the head of his cock appearing and disappearing as he strokes long and sure.

“That was a good day,” Nicky continues, “the last time we did that. You, rutting against the bedclothes. Me, fucking you with my tongue and listening to all those gorgeous noises you made. I was so hard, just hearing you. I swear I thought I was going to come just from the anticipation of fucking you.”

Joe makes a sort of bitten-off moan and bucks up into his hand, starts to stroke himself more quickly.

Nicky smiles, his breathing beginning to speed up. “Nine hundred years of loving you, Yusuf, and you still set me alight. Both my soul and my body.” He’s so hard now it’s almost painful, and he shifts again in a futile attempt to get some relief. “The response I have to you—my heart, I am convinced no one has known such pleasure as we two with each other.” Joe is frigging himself in earnest, and Nicky recognizes that he’s still listening intently, even if he’s past the point where he can respond. “Are you going to come for me, love? Let me watch you shudder and spill all over your hand? Will you let me lick you clean when you’re done?”

“Nicolò—” And Joe does just that, comes in his hand with a sigh and a moan. Nicky’s so aroused he’s starting to feel a bit frantic, and Joe, bless him, has barely finished spilling before he says, “Take your clothes off, Nicky, take your clothes off and come here.”

Nicky pulls his pants and boxers off gingerly and strips his shirt off with no finesse at all. He climbs onto the bed and brings Joe’s hand to his mouth, licking the spend off and sucking at his fingers.

“Mm,” Joe says, “yes, that’s good, that’s—what do you want, my soul, my life, fuck, you weren’t kidding when you said this made you hard.”

“Fuck your thighs?”

Yes, yes, absolutely, oil’s still in the nightstand.”

Nicky retrieves it and slicks the inside of Joe’s thighs, then slides his cock into the tight wet space and swears at how good it feels. Joe cups Nicky’s ass and moves with him, moving his hand to cradle the back of Nicky’s head when Nicky buries his face in Joe’s neck. “That’s it, love,” Joe says, “you did so well, the sight of you hard and wanting and saying such beautiful things because you know how much I like it, how good it makes me feel—it was a gift, my dearest, you are a gift.”

He strokes Nicky’s hair as Nicky rocks against him, harder, faster; the only words he has left are “Yusuf, Yusuf—”

Nicky loves the feeling of coming in Joe’s arms, completely surrounded, held, cherished. They have been given so much time. On good days, days like today, Nicky thinks that this is neither a blessing nor a curse, it just is, and is what they make of it. To use that time to coax pleasure from their bodies and good from the world, to use that time to love each other, to notice how their love for each other magnifies their love for the world—there is no better way to use what they have been given, Nicky thinks.

Like Joe said centuries ago, it’s just a matter of telling the truth. Which Nicky does, wrapping his arms around Joe’s neck and kissing him over and over again, every breath used to say “I love you, I love you,” in every language they share.