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Feverish

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It wasn’t weird.

Not weird at all, at least that’s what Rhett repeatedly told himself as he clenched the pamphlet in his hands, staring out resolutely at the rain making rivers on his windshield. He knew he still had time, what he was there for didn’t start for another twenty minutes, and yet he still had his car running, resolutely refusing to turn it off and take the key from the ignition as he glared down his steering wheel.

It really wasn’t weird.

Except it kinda was weird.

It hadn’t started out weird if he was being completely honest. It had started out more sad than anything. It really was a testament to the life long friendship when he and Link had both come to each other on the same night, a six pack of the same beer in each of their hands, only to dissolve in matching meltdowns to tell each other that their wives were both leaving them, apparently done with both of the man children they had tied their lives to.

He barely remembered that night, the entirety of it blurred in a melancholy mix of slurred words, tears and Natty Light. When he gave himself permission to think about it, he remembered he had held Link, his shaking shoulders jostling Rhett’s face as he tightened his fingers into the muscles of his arm.

 

“My kids.” The words had crawled their way out of Link’s destroyed throat, already abused from hours of unabashed sobbing that had soaked the front of Rhett’s t shirt. “What’s gonna happen to my kids?” 

 

Rhett hadn’t had an answer for him.  All he had to offer was the pressure of his fingers raking through the graying hairs on the back of Link’s head, his own throat closing up with ice as he refused to ponder the exact same question.

 

Link had cried through the night, barely stopping long enough to ask how Rhett’s back was holding up once the bright California sun had made its presence known through the slots in the blinds. 

 

Link had taken it far harder than Rhett. Sobbing and stuttering through questions about whether he had done enough, had been there for them enough, had been enough in general, those wide blue eyes tearing through Rhett’s very soul as he nearly bit through his lip in a losing effort to keep the words he wanted to say to soothe the ache of the broken man in his arms at bay.

 

Rhett didn’t have the same questions. He knew why. He had made his bed and now he was fucking laying in it

 

What the fuck do you mean bisexual?!? We’ve read the Bible Rhett, we’ve been married we have fucking children how could you not tell me after all this time what kind of sick-

 

Rhett had shut his eyes at the memory, finding shelter through the storm instead in the soft skin behind Link’s ear, refusing to feel guilt at the small ripple of pleasure he got from the other mans scent even as the same man screamed out curses he never allowed himself to speak into Rhett’s shoulder. He hadn’t, of course, told Jessie the entirety of it. Hadn’t told her that yes, while men made up the vast majority of his attraction to other people, the pinnacle of it was the man he had by all intents and purposes married years before he had even met her. He had accepted, eons before, that he was completely and irrevocably in love with the boy with the bad haircut and the thick accent who spoke of dreams that he would never pursue without Rhett by his side. He had already pledged his soul to him in blood. 

 

But Jessie had already had such a hard time with Link when they had first started dating, calling him his boyfriend in a scathing tone when Rhett would be too preoccupied with the high pitched giggle ringing in his ears to remember that he’s had a date that night. It wasn’t fair to her. She had paid her dues numerous times over, even going so far as to befriend the woman who Rhett selfishly considered to be the one who had stolen Link from him, the saint. She deserved the image of losing Rhett to some random faceless man, rather than the one she had begrudgingly accepted into her family. 

 

His own selfish heart had been soothed by the fact that at least both their wives would return to North Carolina together, and that at least their children, who had been friends nearly all their lives to the point of being siblings by now, wouldn’t be separated. He has accepted that it was his life now, the large house he had earned would now be filled with silence, and his family that he had been so proud of would leave.

 

But at least, he had thought, letting his lips graze Link’s ear as he hiccuped through a sob into Rhett’s neck, he would still have Link. 

 

He would always have Link.

 

Which had somehow made it all the worse when Link had raised those giant blue eyes up to him, filmed over with tears and bloodshot to hell to ask him why, why was Jessie leaving him? He was perfect Rhett, you’re everything, how could anyone want to leave someone so perfect?

 

He had nearly done it. Nearly looked into the eyes of his other half and put breath into the words that had been tightening the noose around his neck since he was twelve years old and learned what it felt like to be entirely consumed by someone. Had almost leaned forward and claimed the mouth that carried the voice of Rhett’s goddamn heartbeat.

 

But he didn’t. He was always a coward.

 

He had instead offered his best friend a sad shrug, and a noncommittal “it’s been a long time coming brother.” And had accepted Link’s dazed nod with a heavy heart and had accepted Link’s heavier head back against his chest. 

 

The weeks that bled into months weren’t easy. They were some of the worst in Rhett’s life. Worse than the frigid summer in Slovakia and worse than the pain of hearing Link ask him the same question repeatedly as he lay concussed with casts over his broken body. Link stopped eating, stopped laughing, stopped talking nearly, his smile becoming so wide and stretched over his increasingly thin face as he put on his best show for the camera. He stopped living, nearly, the only flickers of life being when Rhett would drive him home to his own house, Link unable to stomach being alone in his own, and Rhett had to wring and drag a laugh or a sentace out of him. It had taken an unseasonably cold winter and a Christmas that found Link crying uncontrollably in Rhett’s arms once again as they sat by Rhett’s fireplace, letters from their children open before them, and the Mythical New Years party where Link had gotten uncharacteristically drunk before the spark had returned to his eyes.

 

They had been slouched in the Uber back to Rhett’s house, one of Link’s long legs draped over Rhett’s thigh and Rhett’s arm draped over the headrest behind Link’s head, barely fingering the hairs on the back of his neck when Link had rolled his head over to Rhett’s, pining him to the seat with the intensity of his stare. The fond look in his eyes and lines that surrounded them would remain in Rhett’s head for the rest of his life as Link reached an unsteady hand over and lightly brushed timid fingertips over Rhett’s beard. 

 

“Thank you. I love you Rhett.”

 

The words had been some that they had spoken to each other their entire lives, nothing new to their repertoire, and yet they had managed to make his fucking heart stop, made the very air freeze in his lungs and he felt the telltale prickle of tears that he staunchly refused to let fall before he swallowed, every iota of his being forcing his mouth into a mirrored smile before cupping the back of that beloved head and whispering back. 

 

“I love you too, bo.”

 

Link had smiled, the first real smile Rhett had seen since that ugly day in July and rolled his head back, leaning his forehead against the window and immediately falling asleep, leaving Rhett nearly hyperventilating across the backseat.

 

He hadn’t even been mad about carrying Link out of the Uber and into the guest room. 

 

Link had seemingly came back to life after that night.

 

He was once again the giant personality he was before, the light of Rhett’s goddamn life and the reason he still woke up at four in the fucking morning to film the show. He stopped crying at the drop of a hat, started eating like a man starving and laughed freely whenever Rhett so much as made a lame pun. It was almost like Rhett had come back to life with him.

 

And it wasn’t weird.

 

Which was at least what Rhett continued to tell himself, as he looked down and realized he had nearly torn the pamphlet in half in his massive hands, having spaced through nearly ten minutes and the anxiety rose back up in his throat. He still didn’t even know what he was doing here, still didn’t know if he even wanted to be here.

 

It really was all Stevie’s fault.

 

Fucking Stevie.

 

Rhett knew she meant well, but the childish part of his soul still held a shred of contempt for her, knowing she had nothing good in mind when she had poked her head into his office earlier that fucking afternoon, Link already leaving early as he had taken up the habit of doing so lately. 

 

“Heeyyyy boss.” She hadn’t even had the gall to sound shy about it.

 

“Yes Stevie?” He was still typing furiously, both rewriting the draft Link had sent him earlier that week and fixing the various typos that he had left in his excitement, his focus really not on her.

 

“Soooooo,” she had fluidly slid into the office and into Link’s chair, dragging it to the other side of the room and leaning a deceptively casual elbow onto the draft on his desk. 

 

“Yes?”

 

“I’ve noticed you and Link have been feeling better, a lot better, actually and I thought I might haaaaave something to help that along.”

 

“Help what?”

 

It had been a goddamn sex pamphlet, advertising a sort of convention of types in lower Los Angeles, spewing everything from BDSM tutorials to couples counseling. Rhett had balked, struck speechless by the black and orange pamphlet Stevie had talked him through in her trademarked soothing voice.

 

It was a GAY sex convention.

 

Which was what he had stuttered at her, cutting off her explanation of their toy shop (Rhett didn’t even wanna GO there) with a choked voice that cracked like a goddamn teenager. Stevie, for her part hadn’t even had the nerve to look chagrined at all, simply piercing him with the same look she gave him during LTAT when his and Link’s intros would go a touch too far and had continued with her speech. 

 

He had waited until she had floated out of the office, a smugly satisfied smile on her face and a teasing lilt to her farewell before he had reached an embarrassingly unsteady hand to the pamphlet she had left innocently on his desk.

 

Which brought him to where he was now, nearly ripping said pamphlet in half as he watched the drizzle dirty his car further as he watched the minutes count down to the doors opening, all the air seemingly sucked out of the atmosphere. 

 

His phone pinging loudly startled him more than he cared to admit, his text tone nearly echoing in the tense space of his car and Rhett nearly dropped it to see what wanted his attention.

 

I’ll be home late, I went to the gym to blow off some steam, Chinese for dinner?

 

Ignoring the flutter in his chest at the way Link so easily called his house “home,” Rhett quickly typed back 

 

No problem, I’ll pick it up on my way back

 

And with that, the timer Rhett had set on his phone went off merrily, seemingly mocking Rhett with its happy jingle and his fingers trembled as he turned it off. He stared for a second longer before inhaling deeply and staring hard at Link’s text, rereading the word home twice before finding his resolve and opening his door. 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

For all his resolve he had managed to gather, Rhett still froze at the open door of the club, people filing around him to enter and get out of the rain that seemed intent on continuing, regardless of Rhett’s trepidation.

 

 

Feverish! The sign over the door flashed ostentatiously, sending flashing red and yellow lights across the wet pavement.

 

It’s only when someone jostles him slightly that Rhett blinks, shaking back to life and sighing. He was already here, why the heck not right? Plus he didn’t even have to tell Stevie he had even come, could just blow off her questions and move on with his life, couldn’t he?

 

Inside the double black doors is even worse. Rhett’s used to being a full head taller than any particular crowd he finds himself in, but here, it’s like nothing he’s ever seen before. There are girls at eye level with him, walking on heels so high they may as well be stilts, men in various items of clothing ranging from casual wear to mere straps of leather and chains and not much else. Two women pass Rhett, one leading the other on a leash. The air is filled with excited talking and there’s a thudding bass somewhere off in the other tangents. 

 

He takes to sticking around the edge, walking through the booths they have set up along the walls, refusing eye contact with mostly everyone. It was finally at a booth in the far corner of the room that made Rhett stop, traitorous fingers reaching out for another fucking pamphlet that rested on the corner of it.

 

Keep Your Sub Crawling Back!: Dominance 101

 

It was for a painfully stupid reason that it made Rhett’s fingers skitter across it, the picture on the front was an unrealistically attractive man on his knees, staring up at the camera with an attentive expression and wide, electrifying blue eyes beneath dark expressive eyebrows. The image instantly wormed its way beneath Rhett’s skin and his heart began thudding in an overly zealous mission to escape out of his mouth. All he could picture now was Link in the mans position, staring up at him adoringly with his own innocent blue eyes and soft plush mouth curved up in an inviting smile and beckoning Rhett to touch and-

 

“See something you like?”

 

Rhett damn near dropped the pamphlet. 

 

He managed to catch it and save himself at least that small embarrassment and looked back up to the guy he supposed was running the booth. He looked like everyone else there, interesting haircut in a variety of interesting colors, a studded collar around his thick throat and something that was probably once a shirt draped over him.

 

“Kinda, I’ve never really done this.” Rhett answered, injecting as much confidence into the words as he could, drawing himself up to full height out of habit. “I’m, very recently out, I’m here on a friends recommendation.”

 

“You have a good friend out there.” The man winked flirtatiously. “You don’t strike me as a sub, you carry yourself like a true dominant, is this anything you’ve explored before?”

 

Rhett had, if he had been completely honest. Before, with Jessie, she had always been a fan of the way Rhett would get a little rough with her, yanking her long dark hair as he pounded into her or wrapping a long fingered hand around her slender throat, calling her names like slut, or princess, spitting out orders and manhandling her just how he wanted it.

 

“I have, just not formally.” Rhett answered, placing the pamphlet down gently. “I’m not a veteran in any of this.”

 

“You look like you have the basis.” The man laughed, handing Rhett a booklet that he took with a slightly shaky hand. “Read this, i feel like you’ll feel better, maybe take a look around.”

 

Rhett modded, already more overwhelmed than he’d like to admit. He thanked the colorful man and continued down the line when he heard something. Something he’d know anywhere. Something he’d never though he’d hear here

 

That high pitched giggle that haunted Rhett’s very fucking dreams.

 

Rhett spun around, frantically searching for the source of the laugh, praying to any fucking deity that would hear him that it wasn’t him, there was no way, he wouldn't turn around and see-

 

Link. It was Link, kneeling at the foot of an ornate chair at the side of a stage towards the far end of the room, looking completely out of place in his innocuous pink t shirt he had worn to work that day. Rhett blinked, nearly convinced he was hallucinating as he watched Link smile passively up at someone who looked like he was setting up the booth Link kneeled by. 

 

There was no way.

 

Rhett felt like he had been ejected into the vacuum of fucking space as the air in the room seemed to suck itself entirely dry. It couldn’t be Link, Link was at the gym like he said he was, he wasn’t kneeling for some guy in the middle of a gay sex convention in lower downtown, looking for all the world like he belonged there.

 

It couldn’t be Link because Link wasn’t gay. Link couldn’t be because Rhett, Rhett would have known, wouldn’t he? Rhett was his best friend in the entire world and they fucking lived together for sobbing out loud and there wasn’t any way in the burning pit that flickered beneath hell that Link wouldn’t have told him.

 

You didn’t tell him about you

 

It wasn’t Link, it was someone who just bore an uncanny resemblance. Rhett repeated it to himself as he pulled his phone out, repeated it as he dialed Links number without even looking at it, repeated it as he put the phone to his ear, willing an out of breath Link to answer and chastise him for ruining his cardio. 

 

Two long fingered hands crept up and wound themselves around Rhett’s windpipe as he watched the man on the floor across the rooms eyebrows twitch and reach into his back pocket. The smile that graced Links face at what had to have been Rhett’s name dancing across his screen nearly sending Rhett into cardiac arrest and he hung up in a panic, sending a text faster than he thought he was capable of to dissuade what was no doubt Link calling him back.

 

Sorry, butt dial lol.

 

The grin and laugh exhaled through Links nose as he read the text was the final nail in Rhett’s steadily sinking coffin and he absurdly felt the lump rise in his throat as his eyes prickled with tears. It was Link. Link was kneeling on the dirty floor of a gay sex club on a Tuesday night after telling Rhett he was at the gym.

 

Link wasn’t straight. And he hadn’t told Rhett. 

 

Rhett couldn’t handle it. 

 

He really didn’t remember leaving the club, didn’t remember nearly bowling the couple walking in over as he stumbled back out into the rain, his mind racing too quickly to focus on any of the thoughts tearing Rhett apart as he found his car and flung himself in to the drivers seat, inhaling shakily for the first time in what felt like a year.

 

A loud ping of a text message shook Rhett so hard he let out an unmanly yelp and nearly threw the phone he still held in his hand so hard he was genuinely surprised he hadn’t cracked it.

 

Tell your butt to stop calling me you loser

 

Rhett nearly bit clean through his lip as he read Links cheeky reply more times than he was proud of. Without thinking, he dropped the phone in the passenger seat, tearing out of the parking lot and flooring it back to the studio, trying and failing to squash the metallic taste of panic that coated the back of his tongue and threaten to suffocate him where he sat.

 

The first thing Rhett did upon returning to the studio was storm down the hall to Stevie’s office, a feat that really had all the wind knocked out of its sails when he gets there and realized that Stevie isn’t even in her office. He stares intelligently at her empty desk for about five entire seconds before he leaves, his feet picking up speed and urgency as he heard a slight commotion coming from the set, deciding on following the noise.


He finds her wandering around the set, directing the stage hands and talking into her headset occasionally, barely looking up from whatever she was doing on her iPad.

It took about four strides of his overly long legs to place him directly in her personal space, a flicker of irritation coloring the anger he already felt when she didn’t have the decency to at least flinch.

“You knew.” He spits it out accusingly, thanking god for small miracles that his voice didn’t waver.

“I knew.” Stevie answers casually, barely making the hand motion to switch off her mike offhandedly.

Her overly casual tone and soothing cadence throws Rhett a wrench. He hadn’t been expecting her to be so candid about it.

“How?”

“I know everything.” Stevie seemed completely nonplussed, continuing to do whatever nonsense was on her iPad and tossing an instruction to Chase over her shoulder that the podiums for tomorrow’s segment weren’t centered.

“No, I know everythin’.” Rhett was losing control of his body, his arms coming up in a self soothing gesture and his hands clenching and unclenching with frenetic energy. “And this I didn’t know? Why would you send me there?”

“I didn’t send you anywhere boss.” Stevie has yet to even look up, still the picture of calm and serenity as she paced, not even checking if Rhett was following her. “I suggested it because i thought it would help you, Link too.”

Oh yeah, that.

“Hey did it ever cross your mind to maybe tell me that little detail about Link by the way?” Rhett really shouldn’t be so angry, shouldn’t feel the twinge in his back as he has to look down to glare into Stevie’s eyes. He couldn’t help it though, it wasn’t fair, how could Stevie had kept from him that Link could in any way be attracted to men when he had been so desperately in love with him for what felt like his entire life. How could Stevie think he could live with out knowing something so intimate about his best friend. 

That didn’t make any sense, unless-

Oh no.

There was no way, no way in hell that Stevie could possibly know the true depths of his feelings for Link, no way on earth that she could have seen straight through him to the secret that was already buried in his grave despite having no plans to die soon. It was impossible, no one knew, no one could possibly know.

Unless she did.

It felt as though the entire atmosphere had shattered around him as he realized that Stevie hadn’t moved the entire time, her eyes frozen but unmoving on her iPad and her hands completely still.

“You know.” Rhett finally said flatly.

“I know.” For the first time Stevie finally looks at him, sympathy in her clear eyes so evident it makes a roll of nausea slam into the back of Rhett’s throat. It was like the entire earth had suddenly stopped spinning and everything was flying past him at the thousand miles an hour, and Rhett was caught in the fray.

He isn’t proud of how small the word comes out. 

 

“How?”

“I know everything.” Stevie actually looks nervous now, tucking her iPad beneath her skinny arm and turning her body towards him, effectively shielding the conversation away from the bustle going on around them. “Everyone knows Rhett, have you taken a look at any form of social media around you?”

Rhett had, as a matter of fact. He had spent far more nights than he would ever admit under the worst torture scrolling through their tag on every social media platform known to the United goddamn states, stopping to stare wistfully at the slo-mo gifs the mythical beasts had so graciously provided, watching himself smile softly at Link whilst those bright blue eyes had closed tightly with laughter, watched those same eyes stare fondly whilst he rambled on like a goddamned lunatic about something or another, trying and failing not to slip a hand beneath the waistband of his underwear watching Link shake him hips invitingly for the camera and wink.

“It’s just speculation” it’s a practiced answer, a rehearsed line that both he and Link had spent years perfecting. Nothing is going on, they’re just best friends. Two best friends from the deep south who made a commitment to each other in their childhood that they honor every fucking day, an oath that ensured that they’d never float far from each other, always had each other in an arms reach. Nothing was going on. Nothing had ever been going on, they had been married for fucks sake.

It was all speculation.

“Rhett, forgive me, I know you sign my paycheck but holy fuck you’re so lost in goddamn Egypt it’s embarrassing.” Stevie loses it, throwing her hands up with such effort that she has to scramble to catch her iPad as it slips. “You are so annoyingly sickeningly, painfully obviously in love with him! And I’m so very sorry if the universe smiled on you two and got you out of your marriages where you were clearly unhappy-I am talking, do not interrupt me- and I knew something that helped!!” Stevie huffs, shoving her long hair out of her face from where it flung itself as she rounded on him. “You needed this! You both did! Link was a mess after it happened! Or do you not remember that? The guy lost like twenty pounds! And he never said anything! He didn’t talk to anyone and makeup was going crazy trying to make him look like he wasn't dying! We all know Rhett, it hasn’t been a secret in years!”

 

Rhett’s frozen into place. He knows his mouth is hanging open stupidly and his hands are stuck where they were, halfway up to his hair so now they’re comically suspended by his face, his expression one of dumbstruck awe. How the flying fuck had Stevie seen this? How the hell could the mythical beasts have seen this? He had always been so fucking careful, watching what he said, keeping a safe distance at the desk between them, bringing up their wives every time a challenge had brought them face to face, closer than other friends would be comfortable with. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t think. By the time he had convinced himself that he had full motion control over his tongue he immediately wanted to sink into the floor with the way his voice wrapped around his question.

 

“L-lost in Egypt?”

 

He swore he cringed into next year.

 

Stevie seemed to share the sentiment as she rolled her eyes, completely losing all the patience she started this conversation with as her hands fell to her hips in an uncharacteristically annoyed gesture. “Egypt, denial? Rhett you’re a YouTube star please keep up.” She pulls one of their chairs out, having stopped her frantic pacing by the desk; Link’s, he sees, and slouches down into it, looking deflated after all her yelling. “Honestly though Rhett.”

 

Rhett knew she was right. And it took another ten minutes after he had sunk into his own chair across from her with his head cradled in his hands and Stevie’s soothing voice in his ears before he managed to get himself up, realizing there wasn’t a lot of time before the convention stopped and Link would return home-

 

Not home, to Rhett’s house, Link only called it home out of convenience, it wasn’t home when there was so much Link didn’t feel the need to share with Rhett 

 

-and he still needed to stop by Panda Gardens. 

 

He didn’t ask what Stevie’s opinion on Link’s side of this was. Couldn’t handle her mothering tone tell him that it was one sided. So he didn’t ask. And she didn’t offer. 

 

He had barely made it, had only started unloading the kung-pao something or other Link favored out of the bag before the front door swung open and took the air in Rhett’s lungs with it as it revealed Link, sweaty and grinning widely in his athletic gear, still somehow wearing that fucking pink shirt.

 

“Oh aren’t you the best gosh darn thing on this god given earth!” Link drawls in an exaggerated southern accent as he blows a kiss to Rhett that most certainly doesn’t halt his pulse in his fucking throat. “Let me change and then we can eat, okay bo?”

 

The pet name isn’t lost on Rhett, and he takes it like a soothing hand down his ruffled feathers despite how on edge he still is. 

 

“Yeah buddy, take your time.”

 

He’s greeted with another mega watt smile that actually reaches his eyes, (Rhett still counts his goddamn blessings that it actually happens now.) and watches Link practically skip up the stairs, taking all of the oxygen in the room with him. 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Link is in a really good mood.

 

Link is in a weirdly good mood.

 

Rhett really can’t keep his eyes on him, it’s like staring directly into the sun to keep his eyes focused on him they way he bounces around Rhett’s kitchen, fork in hand (cause of course the adorable little klutz can’t use chopsticks) and going off at a mile a minute about an idea for a new video he has an idea for-

 

And yeah it’ll take awhile to do but it’s almost Good Mythical Summer Rhett! We have the time! We can totally pull it off-

 

And Rhett knows he’s slipping, falling back into his usual pose of resting his chin on one large hand to just, stare, there’s really no way around it, lovingly at the nervous and neurotic ball of energy ping ponging around his kitchen with a carton of white rice in his free hand that isn’t gesticulating wildly around his head. 

 

It finally shakes Rhett out of his pining when Link coughs, his over excited way of speaking with his entire body catching up as he coughs roughly on what must have been swallowed rice and Rhett’s halfway out of his seat to do something , slap him on the back or deliver mouth to fucking mouth if need be but he freezes when Link holds a hand up, hacking up the last of whatever stopped his maniac soliloquy.

 

“I’m fine I’m fine!” Link laughs out, blue eyes filmed over with tears as his mouth pulls into a grin even as he coughs one last time. “Just got too caught up in it. Leave it to me to choke on the tiniest food available right? Ha!”

 

“You’re gonna die one of these days doin’ somethin’ stupid, and I’m not gonna do a goddamn thin’ about it.” Rhett lets himself drawl out, lowering himself back into his seat as inconspicuously as he can. 

 

“Yeah right, you couldn’t live without me.” Link shovels more rice into his mouth, catching Rhett’s gaze with a grin and a wink and Rhett takes another enormous bite of his egg roll to avoid telling him how right he is.

 

Link even helps him pack away dinner, an annoyingly rare occurrence that hardly happens despite the mans obsessively clean habits. Their hands brush for a split second as Rhett hands Link the soy sauce packets to throw into the drawer that Link doesn’t need directions to at this point and it feels like Rhett’s hand is on fire for the rest of the night. 

 

They have to film tomorrow, but it’s still early, it’s only eight so when Link bounces on his heels and asks Rhett if he wants to watch Star Wars with him before they go to bed, Rhett really isn’t in any position to deny him.

 

It isn’t until they’re slunk into opposite ends of the couch that the day really catches up with Rhett and he finds his attention torn away from the movie he loves so much to gaze at Links profile, mouth turned up in an amused smile and wide eyes bright as the television reflects off the mans glasses.

 

It’s almost impossible for Rhett to distinguish this man, this person, who’s been by his side for the last 35 years of his life, the boy with the horrid Harnett County accent and the untamable hair to the teenager with the bleached hair and the crippling study habits to the man he saw kneeling at the foot of the ornate chair in the club earlier today. He watches Link laugh at a bad line of dialogue that he’s heard a million times and he sees the laugh snorted out his nose as he had read Rhett's text earlier today. 

 

It took Rhett’s mind to a darker place than he wasn't altogether comfortable with. 

 

He manages to keep it together until the end of the movie, and he’s so focused on it that by the end he’s nearly horizontal on the couch, arm slung over the back of the couch in a move that must have been instinctual and legs spread out but none of it comes to light until he feels a weight on his right thigh and he looks down.

 

And meets Links gaze as he rests his head on Rhett’s thigh, like he owns it or something.

 

He does, but that’s neither here nor there.

 

“I’m tired.” Link slurs, closing those bright blue eyes and almost nuzzling into Rhett’s thigh, leaving Rhett frozen where he sat. “Can’t we sleep here tonight?”

 

Rhett wants to say yes, wants to give Link anything he wants on this earth but instead he feels his hand lift and land on Links head on his thigh, letting his idle hand thread through the ends of the silvery strands and allows the slow and syrupy smile to take over his face as he watches Links eyes close as his long fingers ghost over his hair. 

 

“Not tonight buddyroll, your shoulder won’t thank me in the morning.” Rhett answers lowly. Link sighs in defeat, shutting his eyes and tilting his head slightly towards Rhett’s belly with a tiny smile and Rhett’s heart iced over, the memory of seeing Link with the same smile earlier today freezing his hand where it’s poised over his head and clenching into a tight fist. 

 

“C’mon” his voice comes out rougher than he meant it to and he has to steel himself against the whine Link lets out as he moves his leg, “my backs gonna be real mad if we stay here.”

 

At that, Link instantly sits up, rubbing heels into his tired eyes like a toddler and Rhett is struck with the memory of watching six year old Link doing the exact same movement. “You’re right Rhett, plus we’re up early tomorrow, we need a day off man.”

 

“S’almost Saturday.” Is all Rhett can offer as he follows Link up the stairs, keeping his eyes trained on his feet climbing the steps to not watch Link move beneath his joggers. 

 

“I know, m’just worn out. Thanks for dinner though.” Link turns right before the door to the guest room and smiles, a soft smile that makes his blue blue eyes droop in a way that Rhett only sees directed at him, only ever for Rhett. “You always take such good care of me.”  The words float down the hallway to Rhett and he has to clench his jaw so tightly to keep from slamming Link against the door that he almost gives himself a migraine from the strain. 

 

“Don’t thank me bud, it’s obligatory at this point.” He goes for humor like he always does and he hears Link snort lightly out his nose. “I’ll wake you up in the mornin’” 

 

“Mm’k. Night Rhett.” Rhett is graced with another smile as Link disappears behind the door and he stands and stares stupidly for another ten seconds before retiring to his own room, refusing to let himself dwell on the day he’s had and Links soft words. 

 

It’s too late for all that. 


“I don’t wanna I don’t wanna I’m scared!” Links voice hit a new octave as he danced around the clear box in the middle of the studio, blindfold on and hands wringing in nervous energy. “Can’t it just make noise and I’ll guess offa that?”

 

“You gotta do it Link! Just touch it! Be a man!” Rhett was nearly doubled over in laughter in his stool, watching as Link panicked. He heard the crews muffled giggles behind the camera as Link let out a tortured whine and approached the box again.

 

“You have me traumatized from the damn mousetrap man! The last thing I touched was sticky! I’m gonna be feeling used gum for days! I don’t wanna touch anything else.” 

 

“I can assure you one hundred percent it is not a mousetrap Link.” Rhett finally pulled himself together, still huffing out chuckles at Links discomfort. “It’s all food! Food can’t hurt you! Come on I just stuck my entire arm in a tub of marshmallow fluff, how bad can it be? I’m the one who’s gonna lose all my arm hair pulling this off.”

 

“Thats on you man.” Link snorted, finally reaching both hands out and feeling around the plexiglass box for the arm opening. “Can I back out of this?”

 

Rhett seemed to float away from the set and whatever Stevie said to Link in response to his question as he looked over at Link next to him. His tight sweater was the same shade of gray that beautifully offset his hair and made his eyes pop when they were visible. What was currently killing Rhett, however, was the expression he could still make out on Links partially hidden face. His eyebrows were drawn down in an imploring stare and his mouth was pressed together in desperation. It was the same expression he blessed Rhett with when he really wanted to do something dumb that Rhett wouldn’t let him or when he really wanted Rhett to go somewhere he just didn’t want to, but would, because Link asked.

 

It instantly snapped Rhett’s mind back to the picture on the pamphlet the colorful man had given him the day before that was currently burning a hole through his wallet. The picture of the man with the bright blue eyes on his knees wearing the exact expression Link was giving the general vicinity of Rhett’s left shoulder. A burning trail of liquid fire suddenly flooded down Rhett’s spine and he heard the words leave his mouth before he consciously made any choice to allow them to.

 

“Come on Link, you can do this for me can’t ya?” 

 

Rhett really didn’t expect his voice to drop as low as it did. He also didn’t expect the silence that blanketed the crew and the entire set.

 

He really didn’t expect the absolute thrill that shook him down to the ends of his overly long legs as Link whimpered, still looking fearful but reaching out for the box again like his arms were completely independent of the rest of him.

 

“You can do it for me can’t ya Link? You’re doing so well already, just stick yer hand in there, just do it I really want ya to.” Rhett is so caught up in the flush that’s slowly rising up Links throat to his high cheekbones to be annoyed at how heavy his old accent slips back up. “Come on buddy nothing bad’s gonna happen ‘m right here, just stick yer hand in.”

 

It was impossible for Rhett to look away as Links prominent Adam’s apple bobbed once, twice, and then he seemed to steel his resolve and then plunged his hand into the box, his mouth still drawn in fear and his left hand trembling on the edge of the box.

 

“Ew!” Links shriek of disgust startled a laugh out of Rhett and snapped him out of his trance and seemed to shatter the still that had settled on the set as the crew exploded in laughter, setting the mood back to normal.

 

“It’s squishy! What the crap!” Link lifted his hand out of the bucket of beans he had stuck his hand in and smushed a handful. “There’s so many of them, what the crap. Is it a bunch of kidneys or somethin’?”

 

“I’ll give you a hint Link, i reeeeeally like what your hands covered in right now.” Rhett heard the dumb joke a second too late and had to cringe as Link raised his eyebrows suggestively at the camera, another smattering of giggles from the crew making his ears burn.

 

“Not even touching that one.” Link giggles and sticks his hand back in the bucket. “It’s beans man.”

 

“Is that your final guess?” Rhett stood up and moved to the other side of the box, sending a dumb grin to the camera to hide the blush still on his neck. 

 

“It’s my final and very hopeful guess.” 

 

Rhett reached over and tugged the blindfold off Links face, looking down at Links messy hand to avoid the shock of the blue eyes he knew were waiting for him.

 

“It’s beans.” He deadpanned, earning another giggle out of Link.

 

“Two points!” Link crowed giddily, raising his messy hand out of the box to pump his fists. 

 

“You did earn the two points but unfortunately you still lost so I get to eat the surprise tasty treat in Good Mythical More.” Rhett turned his head to the camera to say his final lines when Links hand shoved itself into his line of vision, hovering directly in front of Rhett’s mouth and dripping bean juice on the floor.

 

“Wanna help me clean up?” Link asked coyly, waggling his eyebrows at Rhett playfully.

 

Rhett knew he was kidding, he really did, and he meant to do what he always did and shove Links’s hand away, maintain the distance he worked so hard for, keep it normal for fucks sake. 

 

Instead he let himself do what he always wanted, still burning from Links reaction to his words not two minutes earlier and he leaned forward, wrapping his mouth around Links fingers and letting his eyes drift closed.

 

Beans and Links fingers. Rhett could be strapped to an executioners table about to take his final fucking breaths and die a happy man with this as his last meal.

 

He’s so caught up he doesn’t hear how silent the crew has fallen again. Doesn’t hear it until it’s gone on a heartbeat too long and he opens his eyes, glancing once at the camera before tilting his head to look at Link.

 

Who’s staring at him like Rhett’s grown a second head or something. His eyes are blown wide and his mouth is hanging open, throat constricted and chest heaving and Rhett panics, the realization that they’re still on fucking camera while he’s sucking on Links hand and he’s looking at him like that and he looks back to the front. 

 

“Fanks for liking commenting and subscrifing.” Rhett pushes out between Links fingers, keeping them in his mouth and pulling a dumb face so that just maybe he can play this whole thing off as a joke and the air can be breathable again.

 

He swears he hears the heavens open up and the angels sing hallelujah when Link catches on and turns his own head away from Rhett and finishes. “You know what time it is.” 

 

“And cut!” Stevie calls out, setting the crew back in motion and sending Rhett slamming back down to earth. He releases Links fingers and turns to him with an almost apologetic look, guilt and embarrassment finally catching up to him a she realized just how thirsty he must have made himself look in the last thirty seconds. He idly wonders if he can ask Stevie to cut that bit out.

 

Link, for his part, still looks relatively shaken, but not angry or disgusted like Rhett feared. He takes his hand back and smiles dazedly at it for a second before meeting Rhett’s eyes and letting out a nervous giggle.

 

“Ew. You did a horrible job of cleaning me up Rhett.” He ran his clean hand through his hair once and pulled the blindfold off before turning away and calling over his shoulder. “Let me wash my hands and we’ll finish up More yeah?” 

 

“Yeah, yeah man do your thing.” Mentally patting himself on the back for how quick and unaffected he managed his response, Rhett turns back and flops down in his seat behind the desk, looking up into the monitor to check his own hair.

 

And is met with Stevie’s raised eyebrows and smug smile, leaning forward in her chair with her chin resting on her hand.

 

Rhett was about to say something, anything to cover up whatever she might be thinking, regardless of how true it is when he heard the cadence of Links footsteps announcing his return to the set and he dropped his staring contest with Stevie, instead focusing on his arm and beginning to try and get all the damn marshmallow off before Link sat back down. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Getting another workout in brother, I’ll get dinner later since you were such a lifesaver last night, fried chicken? 

 

Rhett’s mouth twists upon reading Links text despite the absolute effort he puts in to not letting it.

 

The gym my ass, Rhett thought as he sent back a smiling emoji to avoid actually answering and the passive aggressive response his petty mind would no doubt dream up. 

 

It makes it all the worse, after watching Link send a cheeky grin at him and tug his bag higher on his good shoulder as he left the office not ten minutes before, shooting some spiel about heading home early for a nap as Rhett sat at his desk, that he left the studio with the gall to act like nothing was amiss in the slightest and just left Rhett there, trying his damnedest to not let it look like he didn’t believe a goddamn word out of the other mans mouth. 

 

Not like he could let Link know that though.

 

Instead he’d smiled as fluidly as he could, sending a mock salute to the brim of his SnapBack and relishing in the twinkle in Links eyes far more than he reasonably should have. He really should have known, honestly, yes Links extra workouts had taken an immeasurable toll on Links body (something that made Rhett’s life obscenely more difficult when the other man took it upon himself to leisurely stroll through his house without a shirt on) but the frequency of which Link had taken to insisting they take separate cars so he could workout  in the morning and then again after work should have tipped him off. Now that Rhett knew where Link was actually going after work, it made the sting of dishonesty that much worse. 

 

He tossed his phone back onto his desk and sent a childish kick to Links empty chair, spinning it across the office. He glared at it for a bit like it had done him a great deal of personal wrong before spinning back to face his open laptop and closing his word document, knowing he wasn’t gonna get any work done.

 

He knew, by all accounts that he shouldn’t be as angry as he was. He knew from therapy that anger as his go to emotion was a very toxic personality trait he’d inherited and he had taken great leaps and bounds to overcome it, something he was very proud of, actually. 

 

And yet.

 

And yet he couldn’t shake the residual anger, and resentment, how on earth could Link have not have told him? He wouldn’t have judged, Link had to have known that, if he was getting his kicks at a gay night club. The actual fact that he himself hadn't told Link that he was in the exact same boat, that he would have understood completely, even more than anyone would is completely off the table for Rhett.

 

Link wipes a hand across his wet face, glasses abandoned long ago on the couch beside Rhett where he has Link practically cradled in his lap, long arms wrapped around his shoulders while one hand keeps him steady on his hip as the man clings to Rhett’s neck, his face inches away in a distance that feel like it might as well be overseas.

 

“Christy didn’t even give me a reason, didn’t tell me why or answer any of my questions, she didn’t even tell me!” Link breaks off his stilted cry as he leans forward and buries his face in Rhett’s shoulder and Rhett’s hands come up to cradle him closer, the hand on his hip tightening and the hand on his back moving up to clutch at the nape  of his neck, winding trembling hands into the short hairs it found there. He hadn’t been able to move, even think as he felt fat salty tears drip down his shirt collar from where Link cried into him.

 

“What could I have done wrong Rhett? I’m a good person, a good father right?” Link had sat up and stared into Rhett’s eyes imploringly, twisting his teeth and tearing out most of Rhett’s innards with that desperate look unimpeded by his glasses. “I’m good aren’t I?”

 

Rhett had wanted to. Had wanted to more than anything in his fucking life to tell him the secret he had whispered to his ex wife the night their marriage fell apart, that he was a fucking queer(to use his wife’s own words,) to tell him that it was more than likely the reason Links wife had put two and two together and realized bthat he was entirely in love with him and made the decision that had Link in pieces in his lap

 

Rhett hadn’t told him anything. Had remained mostly silent aside from the stray sobs he didn’t allow to fall for the sake of Link mostly. He had kept it from Link, even in his darkest hour when he needed the truth the most from the person he trusted more on this earth.

 

The residual guilt Rhett felt from the memory has his stomach twisted in knots. Link really didn’t deserve his anger in all honesty, especially since Rhett hadn’t been the most honest with him. It helped cool the fire slightly, but not entirely. 

 

He hadn’t been honest with Link, hadn’t been honest with him in fucking years, not since he had watched Link strip off his shirt in front of the Cape Fear River when they were twelve years old and he had felt something slam into him that had taken the very breath from Rhett’s lungs. Hadn't been honest with him that very first night in college, when Link was too homesick and had crept down into Rhett’s bottom bunk, face wet with embarrassed tears and body trembling with apprehension as he wrapped himself around Rhett and cried about leaving their hometown, causing neither of them to get a proper nights sleep and giving Rhett the existential crisis of a fucking lifetime when he realized that he’d never felt more complete than when he’d held a trembling Link close and whispered comforting nonsense into his ears.

 

The old memories of Link placing himself entirely in Rhett’s care, the overwhelming trust that Link had never wavered from kept Rhett’s anger from over-boiling as he sat at his desk and stated flatly at the exposed brick wall in front of him as he stewed in his own anger. It really was unwarranted. 

 

Rhett instead forced himself to take a deep breath, inhale and reflect like his therapist had advised him to and pushed his thoughts inward. 

 

Link didn’t know, had no reason to feel bad about what he was doing if he didn’t know how Rhett felt. If he didn’t know Rhett wanted him, he couldn’t feel bad about wanting men who weren’t Rhett. It wasn’t his fault at all.

 

It was this thought, this weirdly comforting thought that took over Rhett as he remembered how today had gone, how soft Links eyes had gone over how he’d wrapped his mouth around his fingers that he typed his queries into google, completely unabashed now that the office was empty.

 

He didn’t like jumping to conclusions or assuming anything about life. Rhett liked things in order, neat, straight and lined up in a way that made sense. He knew that without any form of communication that he was currently completely unwilling to subject himself to that there was no way of knowing Link felt the same way, was set on fire with the same match on set for the entire world to see.

 

He couldn’t shake the image from the pamphlet that had been the gateway to Rhett's own personal hell out of his head though. Link on his knees before him, head tilted back, eyes glazed over adoringly as Rhett carefully licked up and down Links palm while the other man struggled valiantly to remain still and silent, body trembling and breath shaking. 

 

How to be a Dom for beginners

 

At first he felt silly if he were to be completely truthful, and then felt completely out his depths as he continued on reading and absorbing everything he could on the subject. It didn’t take long for Rhett to be a writhing mess in his office chair, one hand down the front of his overly tight jeans, realizing a few minutes in that he needed to lock the office door. 

 

It took a few days to completely take control of the weird energy Rhett felt now.

 

He’d done his research, he really had. He’d watched far more porn than he’d ever been more comfortable watching in his life, doing everything he could to silence the judgmental voice of his Christian upbringing whispering over his shoulder. 

 

He’d looked into what to took to actually be a good Dom, how to take control of someone else while realizing how much control the other person still had over himself, not like he even thought for a second that Link would reciprocate his feelings in the slightest.

 

But he still held out hope.

 

Hope that was only strengthened and just as quickly shattered on that Monday, when they’d wrapped up Good Mythical More for the day and Link hadn’t rushed off to the gym, instead had joined him back at the office, still jittery from the adrenaline of the days episode, where Rhett had had to stand on the roof of the building and Link had to have Craig draped on his neck for the entire episode. 

 

“That was creepy man!” Link couldn't seem to sit still, dancing and pacing back and forth across their office while Rhett packed up his laptop and backpack. "How are you so calm! I still feel that little bastard on my neck."

 

"Because I'm an adult Link." Rhett deadpanned, waiting for the laugh he knew he was going to get and turning his away to hide his smile when it graced his ears.

 

"You're a jerk is what you are." Link shoots back with the grin in his voice, meandering over to where Rhetts struggling to find his keys, flipping up papers and patting his back pockets. "Whats taking you so long, man?" 

 

Impatient little brat.

 

"I cant find my keys, we cant exactly leave without them can we? Why are you in such a hurry anyways, I know for a fact you have nothing to do when we get there." Rhett huffed out in frustration, turning back around and nearly smacking into Link. When had he moved to stand directly behind Rhett? Rhett didn’t know but he suddenly found himself completely frozen, staring down into those endless blue eyes while Link smiled calmly up at him, lips slightly parted and eyebrows soft. Rhett tried his hardest to inhale, trying and failing not to breathe in Links cologne as the man raised a hand up, up towards Rhett’s face and Rhett felt sweat immediately spring out of his palms until Links hand completely bypassed Rhett’s face and stopped at the brim of his SnapBack, fist opening and Rhett’s keys dangling in between their faces. 

 

“These keys?” Link asked innocently, angelic face lighting up with glee at what no doubt was the dumbstruck expression painted on Rhett’s face and he had to swallow several times to get himself back in order before reaching an unsteady hand up to grab them.

 

Link had twirled out of arms reach faster than Rhett could function, giggling again and opening the door for him. “Not today brother, I’m taking you out.”

 

“Taking me out?” Rhett asked skeptically, grin spreading unwarranted across his face as he follows Link out of the office, through the empty studio and into the parking lot. 

 

“Yeah man, we’re celebrating.” Link is still vibrating with energy, unlocking Rhett’s car and climbing into the drivers seat with an entitled air that makes him raise an eyebrow until Rhett acquiesced and followed suit into the passenger seat. 

 

“What exactly are we celebrating.” Rhett loved Link like this, goofy, carefree and happy. He thanked his lucky stars that he was able to see it more often now, even as Link grinned across the console at him, the lines on his face disappearing in his glee and making his face shine ten years younger. 

 

“It’s Monday! What other reason do we need.” The smile that Link gives him warms Rhett down to his very toes and he knows the apples of his cheeks are bright red as he returns the smile, shaking his head and huffing out a laugh. 

 

“You’re ridiculous man.” Rhett says quietly, leaning back in his seat and closing his eyes against the hot California sun as he let Link drive his car out of the lot. 

 

They ended up at a burger place, somewhere near downtown that Rhett had never even heard of. The burgers were good, and he got a long and loud laugh when Link pulled a grossed out face and fished the tomato out of his mouth that they had left in his burger. Rhett finally felt relaxed for the first time in days, watching Link talk animatedly and it felt like when they were younger, locked in their own little world in the back of a booth where they could be loud and obnoxious as they wanted because fuck the rest of the world.

 

Rhett didn’t think he could fall anymore in love, really, as he watched Link choke on his fries with laughter after Rhett has crossed his eyes and mimicked whatever Link has just said. 

 

“Man shut up! I’m talking here!” Link managed out between laughs, taking another sip of his soda and continuing to go on completely oblivious to the smear of ketchup decorating his upper lip.

 

“Yeah yeah.” Rhett answers, raising a hand with a napkin on instinct to his best friends face. 

 

There were a lot of things Rhett could count on in life. He’d always have to duck under certain doorways, he’d always have to special order his shoes, and Link would always let him wipe his face off, regardless of what mood he was in or whatever social setting they were in, camera or no camera.

 

The same held true, as Links laughter died just as suddenly as it appeared and he leaned forward with his lips pursed out, eyes cast down to somewhere near Rhett’s jaw as he allowed Rhett’s fingers to wipe the napkin over his mouth, eyelashes brushing his cheeks coquettishly. Rhett nearly bit clean through his lower lip as a wave of affection nearly drowned him as he swiped the napkin over Links plush upper lip a few times, finishing with a tap under his chin with two fingers that brought those bright blue eyes back up to meet his.

 

Rhett had looked back down, like a goddamn coward and Link had continued on with his rant, like nothing had happened at all.

 

Link had insisted on driving him home, because of course he did. “It’s a date man! Plus i drove here, just relax, M’not gonna kill us.”

 

Rhett’s sarcastic acquiescence has been met with Link slapping down the brim of his snapback, his gleeful laughter as Rhett slapped his upper arm in retaliation carrying Rhett all the way back home, his worries for the day forgotten in the midst of Links crinkling eyes and giddy voice. 

Chapter Text

 

Rhett’s always been okay with his face, really he has, no chin and everything. One thing that’s he’s never liked, however, is how easy it is to read him, how expressive his eyebrows get when they contract in displeasure, how his jaw tightens with stress. How he manages to radiate anger from his shoulders and neck even when he’s smiling.

 

He’s tried to learn to control it, and for the most part he’s managed. Stevie can’t tell something’s up his ass when he talks to her on Tuesday. Ellie smiles at him when he cracks a lame joke during a More on Wednesday. Josh is completely at ease when Rhett seeks refuse in the kitchen Thursday morning before they film and Link is straightening everything out on set. No one seems to notice that Rhett’s been in what could lightly be called a completely shit mood all week. 

 

Except Link.

 

Link who could always read him like a goddamn book.

 

Link who had made a very concentrated effort to be around Rhett in the last week, taking every lunch break with him, insisting they go out somewhere together instead of eating at the studio, making him a smoothie in the mornings before they carpool together, practically sitting in his lap during every episode they film, doing everything and everything in his power to constantly place himself in Rhett’s presence. 

 

It really didn’t help that he had also been nearly saccharine in his demeanor with Rhett, giggling at every word out of his mouth, touching him constantly, be it a hand on his arm when he turned in his desk chair to ask him something or a nudge with his shoulder on camera. His words were considerably softer than he was used to with Link, a pet name or endearment decorating every sentence out of the shorter mans mouth and lately accompanied by an overuse of his hands on Rhett’s, especially when they were filming. Rhett nearly passes out when they peel fruit for an episode and Links hands cover his entirely over the carcass of a nerf football, the man calling him hun casually when they wrapped and he asked what he wanted for lunch. Boy even offered him a goddamn back rub one day when he noticed Rhett shifting in his chair. 

 

Almost like he was making up for something.

 

Rhett knew why of course, and he also knew that he could appreciate it more than he did if Links bratty ass wasn’t the reason for Rhett’s shit mood in the first place.

 

Again, it really wasn’t fair to place the blame entirely on Link, and to Rhett’s credit he had tried his damnedest to not take it out on him. And he really thinks he hasn’t.

 

Well, he snapped at him once, but he really couldn’t feel guilty for it after how Link reacted to it. Link had been fucking off on set, laughing too loud, smiling too pretty, basically being a little too much, not that Rhett had any problem with it. It was one of the things he loved most about Link, but that day it had gotten under his skin, and he had voiced his inner thoughts before he could think about it.

 

“Can you like, not?” 

 

His voice wasn’t cruel, just a touch too sharp, a bit too biting, than the usual tone he took with Link even when he was being loud.

 

But Link had frozen, back straightening and his hands coming to his lap where he sat in his chair, eyes lowering and head bowing.

 

“Sorry Rhett.” 

 

All the remaining blood had rushed to somewhere that was decidedly not Rhett’s brain and he moved on autopilot as he reached a hand out to Links shoulder, grimacing an apology and smiling back when Link met his eyes.

 

Again, not Links fault.

 

It wasn’t Links fault Stevie’s meddling ass had sent Rhett to that damned club that day, and really wasn’t Links fault that Rhett had seen him kneeling at the foot of that chair that day either.

 

And it reeeeeeaaaallly hadn’t been Links fault that Rhett had taken it upon himself to continue his research that Monday after he and Link had returned from their burger date. Link had retreaded into the shower for his usual hour and Rhett had reopened the tabs he’d had saved on his laptop, delving further into the dynamic he’d been researching.

 

He’d known Link was a sub, that wasn’t exactly news to him.

 

What had, however, hit him like a semi in the chest was the realization that when a sub kneels at the foot of someone’s chair, it usually means that they belong to someone.

 

Which meant that Link had someone else.

 

From a gay club.

 

Link was involved with another man.

 

A man who wasn’t Rhett.

 

So yeah, childish jealousy and bitterness aside, Rhett felt he’d been entirely entitled to his discomfort at learning this information, not even feeling guilty when he’d shut the door in Links face when he’d asked Rhett if he wanted to hang out before bed, eyes wide and beseeching even as Rhett clicked the door shut on his hopefully expression.

 

A move that, in retrospect, wasn’t the nicest thing he could have done, and more than likely the reason for Links overcompensating behavior over the next week. The only thing that had kept him from completely flying off the figurative handle was the fact that Link hadn’t been to the “gym” once this week, choosing instead to remain staple-gunned to Rhett’s side.

 

Which brought Rhett to where he was now, arms crossed and temper slightly running hot, having dodged Links request to watch a movie with him and seated on his bed with the door closed and the lights off.

 

Rhett honestly wasn’t sure how many more rounds of Americas Got Talent he could watch when there was a knock at the door, soft and hesitant.


“Link?” He called out, knowing there wasn’t any way there could have been anyone else.

Link pushed open the door slowly, one hand in his hair and the other on the doorknob so tight his knuckles were white and that Rhett could see from the bed. He hesitated in the doorway, hand leaving the doorknob and moving around his impossibly tiny waist and squeezing. The light from the tv plays off the shadows on his face unflatteringly.

All of Rhett’s previous resentment instantly fell away as he sat up. He could instantly tell something was wrong, as he watches Link fidget in the door way. He remembered all the times in college or even when they had sleepovers then they were younger, when Link would come to him with the same look on his face.

“Rhett?”

Rhett heard Links voice through the haze of his own sleepiness, twisting in his sheets as he turned to see Link standing by the side of his bed, hand running through his short hair as his eyes sought anywhere but right in front of him.

“What’s wrong brother?” Rhett garbled out sleepily, moving aside unconsciously as Link sways closer to him.

“I, I don’t know, I can’t sleep, I feel weird, Like I’m scared. But I don’t know what I’m scared of.” Links face scrunches up in near agony as he dances around Rhett’s bed. Rhett’s heart twists with it.

“C’mere.” His mind doesn’t think of anything else , not the fact that finals were this week or that Greg was already looking at them weird, as he leans back and pulls his cover down, leaving space for Link to sink down into.

 

Not that he does, of course, choosing instead to stare into it as his hands wind their way further into his unruly mop of hair. “Rhett I’m so sorry, it’s late and I’m a mess, I-I feel real weird.”

 

“Feel real weird.“ Rhett mimics without thinking, trying to at least coax a smile out of Link and instantly regrets it when Links face crumbles, eyes welling up in tears and that gorgeous, expressive mouth trembling and Rhett decides enough is enough. 

 

“Come here bud, I’m sorry, I’ve got you.” The words claw their way out of Rhett’s throat and it’s a miracle of god that Link seems to hear them this time, sitting down on the bed with his back to Rhett, head lowering down to take refuge in his hands.

 

“I’m sorry Rhett, I’m so sorry-“ 

 

Rhett doesn’t give him a chance to talk his way out of it, doesn’t give himself a chance to think about how weird it is as he reaches up and hooks an arm around Links neck, pulling him down against his chest. Link follows easily enough, laying down next to Rhett and curling around himself in a way that lets Rhett wrap himself around his slender back and snake an arm around his hips. 

 

“I’m here Link, I’ve got you yeah? And I ain’t never gonna leave.” Rhett let’s his selfish heart take over as he lets his nose run through Links dark mop of hair, inhaling the familiar scent of Links shampoo and tightening his arm around Links tiny waist. 

 

“Rhett-“ Link whimpers, his entire body erupting in shivers strong enough to shake Rhett where he holds him.

 

Rhett does the only thing he can think of, using his long arms to gentle and move Link bodily till he turns and faces him, Links dark hair meeting his own forehead.

 

“Link, look at me man.” 

 

Link kind of already is, but his eyes are wide and glossy, filmed over and unseeing and fluttering open and shut as he blinked rapidly in time with his short, strangled breathing. 

 

“Link, hey Linkster, look at me, look how messed up I look, look how dumb my hair looks right now, look how stupid my beard is, come on man talk to me.”

 

Links tentative smile is enough for Rhett to grin back, continue talking in self deprecating jokes until Links smile matches his own, and his shoulders shake in high pitched giggles instead of nerve wracked tremors. 

 

“Tell me how stupid I look man, tell me how dumb this all is, c’mon Link, you know you wanna.”

 

It takes a few long minutes of Rhett stroking Links hair, holding his face stubbornly against his own forehead as he speaks, tightening his arms until Link is flushed against him and Link exhales a breathy whine that ends on a laugh, high and soft against Rhett’s face, body loose and relaxed and the blank faraway look gone from his eyes. 

 

“You look pretty stupid Rhett.”   

 

It was strange for Rhett to learn to deal when Links anxiety had morphed into these random panic attacks Link would get. They had started hard and fast, somewhere around when they were thirteen or fourteen, tapering off slightly in frequency when they reached high school and peaking again when they were approaching their senior year in college. 

 

He had been doing so well too, they had picked up again with near worrying frequency and intensity after his divorce, (Rhett’s chest gives a twinge at the memory) but as of late, he hasn’t been this low in a while.

 

Rhett’s instantly doused in a cold wave of worry. Ever since that day in college, when Rhett learned just how to talk Link down from his manic spiral these episodes have been easier to handle for both of them, but it didn’t mean that Rhett enjoyed them by any means.

 

 And Link has been doing so well too.

 

Completely forgetting whatever he had been pissy about earlier, Rhett instantly sat up straighter on the pillows, scooting over to one side and patting the side of the bed next to him, offering the most encouraging smile he could.

 

“You alright bo?”

 

It comes out as soft as Rhett can manage, like he’s talking to a skittish animal he’s trying to coax closer to him. It works, though, as Link takes a tiny step into the room, hands still twisted together and his eyes burning a hole through the rug in Rhett’s floor. 

 

"M'fine," The hesitant response calms Rhett down enough to shakily exhale the breath he didn't realize he was holding. "I just feel, weird, I don’t know Rhett.” Links hands wring nervously around his hips, clenching and unclenching. “I don’t think I can sleep.” 

 

Guilt instantly swallows Rhett as he thinks back to the week he’s been having, spent dodging Links clingy behavior in favor of sulking on his own and he realizes all the things he’s missed. The way Links hands shook more during filming, the way he was up before Rhett more often, eyes still drawn and bleary and looking as though he hadn’t slept a wink. How he’d stayed on the couch alone, wrapped up in a tight ball of himself even as Rhett turned down company and went to hide away in his own room. How his shirt even now is just a touch too loose on his bony shoulders.

 

He’d been so caught up in himself and his own bullshit he hadn’t even recognized the signs of Links stress, because he really should have seen this coming after all the years they’d been together. He should have caught it the first time a tremor worked its way into Links voice when he’d asked Rhett to stay downstairs with him.

 

He’d let Link down, and now Link was paying for it. 

 

But right now it wasn’t about him.

 

Swallowing the bubbling guilt working it’s way into his throat, Rhett tries not to let the sympathy throbbing in his throat show on his face, experience teaching him it was the fastest way to make Link shut down completely and retreat back into himself. Instead he nods as calmly as he can, tilting his head back towards the empty space he’s created next to him. “I really can’t either, wanna watch people humiliate themselves on tv for money with me?”

 

It hits right where Rhett wants, the tiniest smile cracking through Links mask of anxiety and he comes around to the side of Rhett’s bed, lowering himself down against the pillows and immediately wrapping himself as small and tight as possible. When he has his knees drawn up to his chin and his arms wrapped around him with his chin resting on his forearms, he lets out a little sigh, shooting a quick glance of gratitude to Rhett. 

 

Swallowing past the lump that inexorably lodged itself in Rhett’s throat at the sight of Links discomfort, Rhett settles back, raising the volume on the tv and letting the mundane sounds wash over him again.

 

He can’t relax though, his body fine tuned to every sound and twitch coming off the body next to his. He can’t stop gazing at Link, completely tuning out the program as he does.

 

Link hasn’t relaxed either, his hands clutching his upper arms so tightly his trembling fingers are tinged white around the knuckles. His shoulders are still drawn up tight around his shoulders, his arms and chest moving erratically as he struggled to breath through his tightly coiled position.

 

What finally broke Rhett, however was the glassy look he found in Links eyes when he finally dared to look at them. They’re glazed over and far away, the light from the tv playing off them as well as his glasses that have slipped down his strong nose without him bothering or noticing to push them back up. 

 

Rhett knew that look, and seeing it now felt like a large and ugly hand was working its way into his chest and crushing his heart into a bloody pulp as a wave of fierce protectiveness and longing threaten to crush Rhett beneath it.

 

Link breaks Rhett’s concentration with a shaky inhale, his hands releasing his bruised arms to flex once, twice, and then setting down into their original position, eyes still staring straight ahead.

 

The undying need to help, hold or protect Link from anything in the world that would hurt him takes over Rhett and he finally decides to speak. 


“Hey, hey Link.”

Link blinked quickly a few times, eye brows twitching as his eyes darted over to Rhett before flicking back to the tv. His shoulders tightened but otherwise didn’t move.

“Link, Link, look at me, look at me real quick.” Rhett scooted over so that their shoulders touched and nudged him once. “Look at me Link, come on.”

If anyone on earth could manage to look completely wrecked, yet somehow inject a look of absolute exasperation into a facial expression, it was Charles Lincoln Neal. It made Rhett’s lips tug up in a nostalgic grin as the familiar look blossomed on Links face as his eyes rolled slightly before staring back straight ahead.

 

Rhett leans lower into his space, crossing his eyes and letting his tongue loll out as he tilted his head. “Link, look at this, look at me.”

 

He doesn’t reach an arm around to touch Link, not yet. Links moods varied vastly during these episodes, the other man oscillating wildly between clinging to Rhett like a child to hardly being able to handle his own sweater touching his skin, let alone Rhett. He lets his shoulder gently jostle Links once more, waiting to see if he would lean into the contact or shrug it off.

 

“Come onnnnn Link, look at me.”

 

Link finally does, sunken eyes twitching over Rhett’s face as his head drops to the side to rest on his arms, letting his glasses fall askew. 

 

Rhett pulls the ugliest face he can, almost hurting himself as his eyebrows contracted. “Notice anything you wanna say about my face?”

 

Links eyes swim into focus after a beat, plush mouth curling up at the corner even as he inhales sharply through his nose. He leans to the side against Rhett, body relaxing slightly as he lets Rhett take on his weight and his side molds into him. The knot of anxiety in Rhett’s chest loosens slightly. 

 

He reaches a hand up and takes it through one side of his beard, spiking up the sides and doing the same to his mustache. “I’m thinking of wearing it like this from now on y’know? I feel like the lopsided look really works for me, whatcha think dude?” 

 

“I think it makes you look smarter than you actually are.” The mumbled response comes on the heels of Links eyes closing, shoulders coming back up around his ears even as he leans further into Rhett, messy hair falling onto Rhett’s shoulder. Rhett waits a beat and then snakes an arm around Link, feeling the tremors of his rib cage beneath his soft sleep shirt. He lets his thumb stroke softly along the bumps of his ribs. 

 

Link doesn’t seem to be in the mood to laugh, but the shakes seems to slow as he sinks almost gratefully into Rhett’s embrace, letting his knees free to rest along Rhett’s thigh and his arms coming to curl up under his chin. This would happen sometimes, Link would find Rhett in the midst of his emotional turmoil and simply sit, curled up into Rhett to wait for the storm to pass.

 

Rhett is more than happy to let him, ignoring the slight twinge in his back as he takes on Links weight. 

 

He’s less happy about it when he wakes several hours later, America’s Got Talent having faded away to infomercials. His back is screaming in agony and he begins to shift, having passed out sitting up for some unholy reason. 

 

He’s reminded of the unholy reason when he tries to lay down and is impeded by a whine somewhere near his lap. He squints down in the dark and sees that Link has entwined himself around Rhett entirely; one leg tossed over his and his arms wrapped around Rhett’s middle, his face smushed directly into Rhett’s solar plexus with his open mouth breathing wetly into his t shirt.

 

For the second time that night, a glimmer of guilt settles over Rhett like a thick blanket directly in the pit of his stomach as he reaches down and pulls the glasses off the other mans face, setting them lightly on his bedside table. 

 

He really shouldn’t be feeling as good as he was about it, especially if Link was involved with someone. But then again, he thought as he let his hand move up from Links shoulder to the side of his head, fingers absently carding through sleep mussed hair, if Link was involved with someone, surely he wouldn’t come to Rhett the way he did, or has always done right? Especially if he had someone else to call.

 

Unless he really didn’t want you to know about them. 

 

He pushes down the intrusive thought even as he shifts further, adjusting Links pliant body until he has him tucked comfortably beneath his left arm, salt and pepper hair resting on his collar bone but leg still thrown ostentatiously over his own. 

 

Link would have told him about them. Of course he would have. He was his best friend in the world. They had gone through everything together, from puberty to a divorce with each other as the anchor in a stormy sea. Link trusted him more than he trusted himself. Link would have told him.

 

Link chooses this moment to sigh quietly, arms tightening around Rhett minutely and face tilting up to nestle the beloved angles of his face into Rhett’s neck.

 

Link would have told him.

 

It’s this strangely comforting thought that allows Rhett to turn, pressing his mouth against Links forehead in a move that wasn’t exactly a kiss, simply resting his mouth there and exhaling as he lets the scent of Links shampoo lull him back to sleep. 

 

 

Chapter Text

When Rhett finally wakes up, it’s like he’s dropped from the fucking ceiling the way he smacks face first into consciousness with all the grace of a dying cat. 


It’s more the throbbing in his back that does it, and it doesn’t help as he startles awake, almost sitting straight up before tensing and easing himself back down slowly, willing the tightness in his back to loosen up so he could move. He’s completely tangled up in his sheets, forehead damp with sweat as he realizes he’s still wearing a shirt and sweatpants.

The hell did I do yesterday?-

The memory collided with Rhett’s consciousness much slower than he’s proud of and it sends a raw jolt of adrenaline down to his gut where it rushes back into him. Link coming to him before bed, Link twisted into a pretzel with anxiety as Rhett held him, Link ghosting his parted lips over Rhett’s jawline as he sighed in his sleep, leg tightening over his hips as his arm curls further other Rhett’s ribcage.

 

It’s enough to send him into the fucking ceiling. 

It’s the fastest he’s moved in a while, rolling over and hopelessly trapping his legs in the cocoon of sheets. He reaches out with nervous and jittery hands and grasps for Link, pawing at the mattress and squinting through sleep narrowed eyes. He’s gone from asleep to alert in hot second and he’s on his side now, forcing his eyes open, searching for the beloved visage of his best friend with an intensity that was almost embarrassing.

Almost embarrassing. It would only be embarrassing if Link had actually been there to witness his desperate fumbling, Rhett’s almost glad his hands come up empty, the sheets thrown back and the dent in the pillow still visible. He relaxed a fraction, if Link isn’t here, surely that means he managed to relax and sleep through the night, right?

 

Rhett doesn’t even have time to focus on it before he hears Link giggle from the doorway and he looks up, too quickly to feel nice on his back.

 

“Rise and shine McLaughlin.” Links already dressed, tight t shirt straining on his upper arms and jeans clinging deliciously onto his hip where it’s cocked as he leans on the doorframe. He has a mug in one hand, still steaming, and a soft smile on his face as he pushes off the doorway and strides over to the side of the bed Rhett’s sprawled on, sitting gingerly as he holds the mug aloft. “Green tea for sleepin' beauty.”

 

As Link hands Rhett the mug, Rhett can finally see his face up close. Even behind his glasses his eyes are sunken, vivid purple decorating the skin above his cheekbones and his smile is stretched just a touch too wide to be believable. 

 

Concern gathers in the pit of Rhett’s gut when Links nervous eyes cast down and he holds out the mug insistently. Rhett reaches out and takes it, ignoring the thump in his chest as their hands brush. 

 

“How you feelin'?” Rhett tries, voice still rough with sleep and he watches Links eyelashes flutter for a split second before that fake smile stretches wider and those wide blue eyes meet his.

 

“I’m good man, left plenty' a hot water for you.” He gets up as soon as Rhett has a grip on the mug and takes two steps back, like his proximity to Rhett burns him. Rhetts eyes don't narrow but it takes a very concentrated effort on his part to not let them. He knows Links lying and he knows that Link knows that he knows. He cant stand still, his right hand is wrapped around the fingers of his left, twisting in a mimicry of his old habit of fidgeting with his wedding band. “Get dressed, we got like half an hour to leave, ‘Kay?”

 

Rhett didn't know what else he was expecting. Link had always done this. He'd fall apart on Rhett, lean into him until he was stable enough to stand on his own, or he'd fall asleep wrapped around him but always be gone in the mornings. Rhett had given up trying to get him to talk about it once the daylight had chased away Links anxieties. Getting a solid answer about how he was feeling after such an emotionally taxing night was literally like pulling teeth. 

 

Link would always thank him though. A piece of toast or a poptart for him in the mornings when he had stayed up too late coddling Link that he'd overslept for class and missed breakfast, a doughnut appearing on his desk during lunch one time when Link had had a meltdown after filming for reasons neither of them could pinpoint and Rhett had postponed More for two hours, locked away with Link in the loft until he could hold Links hands without them shaking.

 

And now, tea in the morning. 

 

Rhett takes too long to say anything to Links question and he can see Link strain with the building tension, smile stretching wider and eyes taking on a desperate gleam as he waited.

 

“Yeah bo, I’ll be up in a sec.” The words force themselves out of Rhett’s mouth on their own. Link visibly relaxes, thanking him for not calling him out on his bullshit with a smile, softer than that fake one he’s had and he floats from the room, hips swaying. Rhett’s heart clench where he watches him. They've known each other long enough to know that the standoff that just happened didn't mean anything. Link wouldn't talk and Rhett wouldn't force him. 

 

It speaks more to the trust they have than Rhetts resolve that he lets Link leave the room instead of demanding the answers he wants. He knows hes not entitled to them in the slightest, he just hates, hates with everything that he is, to watch the giant personality he adores so much reduced to the sad shell of a person Link turns into. Rhett never knew the meaning of a broken heart until he'd watched Link cry from the other side of their dorm room because the corner ten feet away from Rhett was the only place he felt safe and he was hiccuping out to just don't touch me, Rhett, please-

 

He showers quickly, ignoring his morning wood made worse by Links very presence and unconsciously matches his clothes to Links, something he points out when he enters his kitchen, finding Link perched on the counter scrolling through his phone. 

 

“Oh yeeee-ahhh, orange shirts for the win!” Link wiggles his hips and shakes his shoulders, mouth open in a goofy grin and for some reason it makes Rhett stop and just, stare. Links looking at him with the same expression he's always given him, completely open and so affectionate and like hes just so fucking happy to even be in Rhetts presence. A stray lock of silver hair falls out of his bangs and flops onto his forehead. Rhetts fingers instantly itch to push it away. He looks ethereally beautiful and it almost hurts. 

 

Fucking hell I love you so damn much

 

Rhett has to physically swallow the words that have manifested as a solid lumped lodged suddenly in his throat as hes almost pushed back and crushed under a dizzying wave of emotion. He hates when this happens. Link wont even be doing anything and out of nowhere it feels like an eight ton wrecking ball has just collided with the very center of Rhetts chest and its like hes on fire with the all consuming love that his heart doesn't feel big enough for. 

 

"You alright Rhett?" Links eyebrows contract in concern and he slides fluidly off the counter as Rhett belatedly realizes that hes let a good twenty seconds tick by without saying a goddamn word. Link stops in front of him, so close, almost too close and tilts his head. The strand of hair falls further down his forehead. Rhetts hands curl into fists. "H'lo? earth to Rhett? You okay bud? You've been kinda funny all mornin, you still asleep?"

 

This close, Rhett can smell the coffee Links had and the shampoo that technically belonged to Rhett but had stopped using when he began to smell it on his best friend, preferring to leave the particular scent associated with Link and Link only. He can see the crows feet bracketing those blue, blue eyes that are drawn down in apprehension. Can see the lip balm gleaming off the pouty mouth that is turned down petulantly as it still hasn't gotten an answer to its question.

 

 

I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you, fucking GOD do I adore you 

 

Rhett catches the movement of Links hands coming back up together to twist again as his nerves resurfaced and he paints a smile on his face, as soft and convincing as he can and lets his large hand come up and finally shove the stray gray hair back where it goes. 

 

"Yeah man, 'M fine. Thanks for the tea."

 

Links answering smile is enough to melt the lump of ice still lodged in Rhetts throat. 

 

The nervous frenetic energy in him returns as they leave Rhett’s house, Links already talking with a speed that would be difficult for anyone who wasn’t Rhett to follow and he’s bouncing on his heels as they head down his driveway. Rhett drives this morning and, honestly he’s not complaining, he could listen to the familiar cadence of Links voice until his final breath if he could. 

 

But lord almighty the man didn’t shut up for the entire half hour drive it took them to get to the studio.

 

“Hey Neal, hold up.” He interrupts a tirade about something or other from the other man when they come to a red light.

 

Link instantly shuts up, eyes wide and eyebrows raised expectantly.

 

Rhett waits just a beat longer than he knew it’d take to irritate Link before flashing him a grin. “Jus’ wanted you to like, inhale for a second.”

 

A breathy laugh is startled out of the other man and Rhett grins wider as Links shoulders shake.

 

“You’re such an ass! I was on a roll there!” Link giggles out, southern accent in full swing without the audience. 

 

“Yer face was also turnin’ blue.” Rhett jokes back. The tension bleeds from Links skinny frame, and he almost sinks back into the passenger seat, still chuckling. 

 

“See now i lost my dang train a’ thought.” Link shakes his head, grin still in place. “Quit interrupting’ me man.”

 

Rhett had only laughed in response, pulling into the parking lot of the studio and watching Link bounce up to the door, somehow still talking. 

 

Rhett loses sight of him before they start filming, Links obsessive need for control always pulling him to the studio to make sure everything was exactly where it needed to be. Rhett takes his time in their office, setting his things down and fixing his hair, making sure the camera would be nice to him. He lights the tobacco candle they have set near the stairs, smiling as he thinks of how the room will smell once they’re done for the day and the way Links shoulders will rise and fall as he inhales deeply, like he does every day.

 

Creature of extreme habit.

 

The air conditioner is unusually high today, given that it’s nearly a hundred degrees outside. Rhett knows he’s tall, and he’s heavy, and he burns calories like no one else, and a chill still runs through him as he answers emails in the office. 

 

He pulls on one of his hoodies, a favorite, the maroon one that always stays on the back of the office door.

 

When Jen bangs on the wall outside the office and tells him he had ten minutes to film, he finally gives in, zipping up the sweater and leaving the sanctuary of the office to head to set, only to find Link still fiddling with the microphone in the middle of the desk to get it exactly right.

 

He takes his seat without a word, watching Links beautiful eyes narrow and widen as he tries way too hard to center it. As he watches, Link finally seems content with its placing and stands back, a smile on his face that’s broken with the chill that goes down his arms.

 

“S’cold in here isn’t it brother.” Rhett prompts, watching Link run his hands up his arms.

 

“It is, who left the damn air on.” Links eyebrows lower as he looks around, arms still around his elbows.

 

“Here.” Rhetts stripping out of his hoodie before he can even think about what he’s doing, holding it up to Link. He doesn’t even think of how it would look on camera when Link takes it without a beat of hesitation, wrapping the offered garment around himself with a smile that tears Rhett in half.

 

“Thanks ‘bo.” Link gives him an honest to god wink as he sits down, holding one of the hood strings hostage in one fidgety hand. 

 

“Three, two, one!” Stevie is counting down faster than Rhett can function, too busy schooling his face into something resembling normalcy as Link attacks it like he does everything else in his life.

 

“Some people will do anything for a buck.” Link swivels his chair to look at him out of the corner of his eye.

 

“Let’s talk about that.” Rhett manages to say on cue.

 

The episode passes in a blur for Rhett as he quizzes Link on something he really could give two fucks about. He’s way too caught up in the way Link absentmindedly chews on his thumb as he ponders his answers, on the way Link laughs whenever he inevitably gets the answers wrong. It’s over before he can even blink, and before he can focus Links already talking animatedly to the camera.

 

“Click the right link to watch me have to do something apparently embarrassing in Good Mythical More.” Link waggles his tongue as he reaches out and spins the wheel, the click click click of it waking Rhett up and he turns back to the camera.

 

“And figure out where the wheel of mythicality is gonna land!” Rhett leans forward like he’s expecting something exciting, watching for Stevie’s silent countdown to when they start filming More.

 

Stevie sends him a shit eating grin as she counts on her fingers. Rhett ignores her. 

 

“Motivational speech!” Link sings out as he hands the triangle to Rhett, his smile still in place as Rhett meets his gaze before reading.

 

“Motivational speech to the mall Santa who’s fed up with his part time job.” Rhett reads out with as much enthusiasm as he can manage, setting the triangle on the desk as he swivels around to face Link.

 

“I’m sick of this job.” Rhett adopts a low, gravelly time and pouts, eyebrows drawing down exaggeratedly as he glares into Links overly bright smile. “Don’t get paid nearly enough.”

 

“But Santa! You don’t know what you do for good boys like me!”  Link easily falls into character, eyes wide and innocent even with the dumb grin he has on. “You’re part of Christmas magic!”

 

It’s such a stupid line that Rhett immediately breaks, eyes dropping from Links as he snorts out a laugh, turning away from the camera for a spit second before he can get a grip. 

 

“You can’t let all the boy and girls down! Who are we gonna tell our Christmas wishes to?” At this point Link is struggling not to laugh, his smile is barely contained and his voice hitches as he holds back a giggle. It makes Rhett lose whatever composition he managed to scrape together and he outright laughs, completely forgetting his next line.

 

His eyes are still closed when he hears Links chair scrape the floor and he is not prepared in the slightest when he feels Link drop heavily into his lap, arms snaking around his neck.

 

Rhett freezes, panic instantly dousing him in a freezing wave as his hands flutter to Links hips on pure instinct so he wouldn’t fall and he feels the swell where Links hips curve into his ass beneath his hands. 

 

Only for like a second or two, but it’s enough that he knows the damn microphone caught the gasp that slipped out on no violation of his own. 

 

It’s also just long enough for the scent of Links to invade and cloud his head, enough for the blood to completely flood downwards and leave Rhett lightheaded as he realized that he was suddenly very hard beneath Links left thigh. 

 

Link hasn’t realized it somehow, he’s still fucking talking.

 

“At least stay till the end of your shift!” His eyes are wide and imploring, so impossibly blue and Rhett can’t even fucking think, much less talk and instead he does the only think he can think of, the only thing that can salvage this train wreck of a wheel ending and lifts his hands up off Link in surrender. 

 

“Well that’s motivation enough fer anyone I think.” He says to the camera, tilting his head sharply to the camera, mostly to get the ball rolling again but also to get Link to remember that the camera is still there at all because he’s still in place, perched daintily on his lap with his arms tossed around his neck.

 

It works, somehow, magically because Link throws his head back and laughs, high and tinkly, moving one hand off Rhett’s shoulder to push up his glasses. “We got Santa to stay!” He calls to the camera, shifting his weight off Rhett and Rhett panics because oh fuck he’s gonna move he’s gonna feel it-

 

Link freezes. 

 

Rhett knows it’s not enough. It’s not enough for the camera or Stevie or anyone to catch it but he can. He’s stared into Links face for thirty some years, he knows every line and every twitch and everything they mean. And he knows it’s not enough. 

 

But it’s enough for him. 

 

It’s like everything is moving in slow motion. 

 

He watches Links eyes widen, all white and blue and his mouth parts slightly as his shifts to get up and his thigh plants squarely on the heavy erection in Rhett’s jeans. He even leaves it there for a heartbeat and Rhett watches Links Adam’s apple bob once as he swallows heavily. 

 

The world suddenly collides back into moving in normal time as Link shoots up. Standing and fidgeting with Rhett’s sweater that he’s still wearing. He’s back in his chair faster than Rhett can bring his hands back to his thighs.

 

“Welcome to Good Mythical More.”

 

The words wake Rhett up and he faces the camera, straightening his shoulders and ignoring the churning, bubbling mess his stomach has suddenly become.

 

It doesn’t get any better.

 

It’s not like More has any problems with it, oh no, More goes smoothly as ever, the banter is there, he laughs on cue, there’s no awkward pauses or anything. Nothing that would strike a weird key with anyone.

 

Anyone who wasn’t Rhett.

 

It only serves to further tear him in half as the eleven minutes drag torturously on, because only he would catch on to how badly Links hands are shaking, how stiff his shoulders are and, probably what hurts the most out of all of it, how Link refuses eye contact for the entire episode. He’s firmly staring straight ahead, answering all of Rhett’s prompts with the right words but still refusing to turn his head.

 

The episode ends much like the first one, completely without Rhett’s knowledge and he finds himself blinking owlishly at Stevie when she finally calls cut and the crew begins to file out. He turns to Link only to find him staring down at his hands, palms flat down on the desk and his breathing uneven.

 

“Link? You okay man?” The words leave Rhett’s out of their own violation and he barely has a hand raised to drop into Links shoulder when the other man stands up suddenly, leaving his chair spinning violently. 

 

“Y-Yeah, I’m good, I’m just gonna-“ Link swallows heavily. “Go see how that looked, yell at the editing for a bit, ya know.” Links hands curl into fists around the excess fabric of Rhett’s sweater around his hands. “Just, yeah. I’ll see you later man.” Link turns and leaves the set faster than Rhett can come up with a response, left staring at him as he walks away as quickly as he can, stumbling once over a wire on the floor.

 

Rhett spends the rest of the day in what could be called emotional turmoil. He doesn’t remember ever feeling this guilty in his life.

 

He knows Link had a rough night, one of the toughest in a while and even worse he’d had a rough week leading up to it. And even with Rhett’s best efforts, his best attempt to make up for the ass he’s been all week Link had still emerged this morning looking stressed to hell. 

 

And Rhett had gone and made it all worse with his stupid emotions and his stupid boner and his stupid inability to think in Links presence. 

 

The good mood Link had been in this morning and the way it had suddenly dropped had only made it all the worse. Link had been so happy, so damn happy all morning, laughing and smiling and actually relaxing for once in his damn life, and Rhett couldn’t even find him when lunch time rolled around, leaving him to stew in his guilt alone over his salad. 

 

The guilt hangs around Rhett for the rest of the day, churning deep in his stomach. 

 

The idea that Link could be so upset by, well, okay fine maybe feeling your best friend hard beneath you would be unsettling, but it was, it was them, right? They’d always been closer than usual, and with the soft way Link looked at him, the way he took care of Rhett and how he let Rhett touch him, Rhett couldn’t be the only one right? Surely there- 

 

No.

 

Rhett stops the train of through that’s far too painfully familiar to him at this age. He’s been having the same internal argument with himself since he was twelve. Not today.

 

Not today.

 

He doesn’t see Link again until five pm on the dot, when the other man stumbles into the office where Rhett’s answering emails on the couch. 

 

“Oh h-hey Rhett.” That nervous hand comes up and fixes his glasses.

 

“Hey Link.” Rhett barely manages an answer. He can practically see the anxiety radiating off of Links bony shoulders. Before he can even ask, Links already got his backpack on and a SnapBack on his head, shoving his wallet in his back pocket.

 

He’s still wearing Rhett’s hoodie.

 

“‘M going to the gym fer awhile,” The southern accent pushes through Links words, abnormally heavy the way it usually does when he’s nervous. “I’ll get dinner on the way back, Kay?”

 

The mention of the “gym” immediately sets Rhett on edge and he straightens up unconsciously.

 

“The gym?” He asks unconsciously.

 

Link shrinks back at the words, taking a step back towards the door. “Yeah, the gym. Just give me a few hours yeah?”

 

Rhett stares back long enough to make Link squirm where he stood. The fucking club again. Link hasn’t been to the club all week, he’d been going home with Rhett every day, what the actual fuck, was what happened earlier today upset him that much.

 

Link was looking way too uncomfortable for Rhett’s liking, and despite the irritation flooding down Rhett’s spine he really can’t handle when Links looks distressed in any way shape or form, so he speaks up, breaking the silence with the idea forming in his head faster than he can keep up with.

 

“Yeah Link, that’s fine, I’ll see you later.” He turns his attention back to his laptop, typing some gibberish so it looks like his busy and listens to Link rush from the room, the door clicking shut behind him.

 

He gives Link a ten minute head start before closing his laptop with a click, gathering his things and heading out of the studio. 

 

He doesn’t let himself think too hard as he heads downtown, not even letting the rush hour traffic of L.A bother him. He figures if anything Link will need the extra time before he gets there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Rhett finds a nice parking space right in front of Link's car. He doesn’t even stop to thank god or good luck that he found such a spot.

The club isn’t even that crowded so he knows there’s no one worth thanking.

There’s still twenty minutes till the club even opens so he busies himself, slouching languidly in his car until the doors open.

He hasn’t even stopped to think why he isn’t nervous, why he ain’t more apprehensive about all this.

Instead he immerses himself in his more closeted hobby, Tumblr.

Not that he’d ever even admit he has a Tumblr account. And not that he’d ever admit that he browses the rhink tag more than what could be deemed healthy.

 

Its embarrassing, really. But he loves it. 

 

He does. Like fuck he does as he stares longingly at beautiful black and white gifs of him and Link staring into each other’s eyes, slo-mo gifs of him sucking on Link's fingers from last week, Link watching him with wide eyes and a parted mouth, stills taken of Links beautiful smile aimed at Rhett mid speech. He honestly hates how much he loves the edits of the two of them on Tumblr, looking more beautiful than real life and framed to look like they’re actually in love.

 

How much is true of that, Rhett doesn’t pause to think on it.

 

He has to lock his phone eventually, ending his daily wist fest as he realizes he’s scrolled through the last half hour, and the clubs been open for ten minutes now.

 

Now the nerves return to Rhett as he licks his lips, staring down the weakly flashing sign above door. 

 

Feverish

 

Now that he's actually here, all of Rhetts fire seems to burn out. He realizes with a sinking feeling he has absolutely no idea what hes going to say to Link.

 

What could he possibly say? There literally wasn't any possible way he could come out of this and not look like the biggest jackass on the planet. Link really had no earthly obligation to let Rhett into this part of his life, best friends or not. Hell Rhett wasn't even supposed to see any of it, not that he saw much but he saw enough, enough to make him feel more lost than he's ever felt in his life, even more lost than when he watched his ex-wife and children bundle themselves up into a moving truck with his dog and drive out of his life. 

 

Hey Link! I know suddenly that you're at least somewhat attracted to men and you've been lying to my face about your extra workout sessions for the last four months and now I'm here to ask why the actual hell you've hidden this from me when you haven't even had the decency to notice I've been in love with you since middle school!

 

It struck Rhett as so very stupid that he actually laughed, a short huff out of his nose as he leans forward and shoves his phone into his back pocket. Its really all very dumb. They’re best friends for fucks sake. He’s watched Link go through everything imaginable, had held the wings of his hair away as he puked when he drank too much after college and pulled the glasses from his face as he cried and panicked about the move to Los Angeles. 

 

He could do this. He could totally do this.

 

It’s this mind frame that even gets Rhett out of the car, refusing to hold his elbows like a child as he crosses the parking lot. He makes it to the door when he freezes, only for a second, before grabbing the door handle with purpose and Link's blue eyes dancing in his head. 

 

The wave of the air conditioner is welcome, and softens the blow Rhett would normally feel walking into such a foreign place.

 

"Hey, you're back!"

 

Rhett doesn't flinch. Of course he doesn't, because that would mean that he was nervous, and he had already made the conscious decision back at his car that he wasn't nervous. So instead he stands taller and straightens his shoulders, casting what he hopes is an intimidating stare down at whoever just scared the ever loving shit out of him. 

 

He's met with a bright smile and the shock of an overly colorful and interesting haircut, Rhett instantly recognizing him as the nice man who had handed his that fucking pamphlet that had given him numerous nights of masturbation fodder the last time he had stumbled in here. 

 

To his credit, the guy didn't shrink back at the sight of Rhett pulled up to his full height the way most people usually do when faced with an angry looking giant. If anything his smile stretches wider and his eyes twinkle as they drop to the floor with a flutter to travel slowly up Rhetts form. "Its been awhile."

 

Be normal McLaughlin, be fucking normal. You’re in charge here. 

 

Rhett lets his face relax, still towering over the man he offers a smirk, trying his absolute hardest to come off as confident and nowhere near as fucked up as he really is.

 

"Miss me already boy?" He goes for a shot in the dark, letting the southern charm ooze through his flirtatious words in the hope that they would both hide the tremble of his hands still shoved in his pockets and hand him the upper hand he needed.

 

It works like a fucking charm, the man almost melting beneath Rhett's stare and a shaky exhale leaving his pierced mouth. "Oh we always miss people who look like you around here, Sir."

 

He wasn’t half bad looking, usually long eyelashes fluttering down chocolate colored cheekbones. Rhett offers a wink and cocks his head towards the rest of the club. It’s quiet, only a few people milling around. It looks different than last time, the booths are gone, as well as all the banners. Now it’s just an open dance floor, lights strung up on the ceiling and several doors along the back wall open invitingly.

 

“What’s goin’ on here today, uh I am so sorry, I didn’t catch your name pretty thing?” Rhett falls into the confident front easily, letting his hands drift down to his pockets.

 

“Oh! It’s Honey!” He chirps happily, reaching up and fiddling with the charm on his black and silver collar that Rhett can now see reads Honey on a silver heart charm. A bright smile blinds Rhett as Honey brandishes a flyer clutched in rainbow colored nails. “Um, well the convention from last week is over, um, but we have a class starting in a little bit, it’s a spanking seminar, and it’s a good one.” Honey grins in a way that makes Rhett only slightly uncomfortable. “It’s with Master A and Darling, not a show you’re gonna wanna miss.”

 

Rhett’s eyebrows lift into his hair. He wants to ask about Link, but he feels ridiculously like he’s undercover, and it feels like asking for Link would blow it, and he really can’t afford to blow this. 

 

“Darlin?” He asks instead, shifting his weight in what he hopes looks like interest and watches Honey nod emphatically.

 

“Darling is wonderful! He’s real pretty too, all blue eyes and that smile.” Honey giggles. “He’d probably be your type, Sir.”

 

Perfect.

 

“And where would I go to see such a gorgeous thin’ like that, Honey.” 

 

Honey takes Rhett to one of the further rooms, near the back. There's a white board hastily decorated with the words on the flyer, looking sightly last minute and Honey takes his crisp twenty with a smile, a wink, and an "Enjoy the show sir!"

 

The room isn't very big, its just about as large as the studio, dimly lit aside of the small stage at the back of the room where a bright spotlight is trained on the familiar large ornate chair that is sitting innocuously next to a large wooden chest with a shaggy looking pillow on top of it.

 

That fucking chair.  

 

Rhett doesn't let himself dwell on it. He doesn't exactly know what he's about to see here but hes already resigned himself to the fact that he's not going to like it, its not like focusing on the damn chair is going to help it.

 

The room is still relatively empty, Rhett taking up only one of the chairs in the very last row, not saying much considering there is only four rows of chairs, each one containing about ten or so chairs. Rhett shakes his head with another sardonic smile. Its a weird habit hes picked up from Link, resorting to counting random things in a room when it just feels too suffocating. 

 

There are only three other people in the room, two men leaning forward in their chairs eagerly in the front row, and one on the other side of Rhetts row, leaning back and looking a little too comfortable in his trenchcoat, eyes already half lidded and his hands moving in a way that instantly made Rhetts mind up to not look in his direction for the rest of the afternoon. 

 

It had only taken about another ten minutes for the room to mostly fill up, all with guys who seemed WAY too eager for Rhett’s liking, though he thanked god no one had chosen to sit remotely close to him. It wasn’t until a soft classical number began to play and the lights dimmed further that he sat up quickly, watching as the spotlight illuminated the stage.

 

It takes a second for a door at the end of the stage to swing open and an ugly wave of disdain ghosts over Rhett as who he assumes is Master A steps onto the stage with a smile that sets Rhetts teeth on edge. He instantly recognizes him as the man who Link smiled at by the very chair that Master A has stepped in front of. He looks, like the exact opposite that Rhett was expecting. He’s handsome, wearing black jeans and a black t shirt, a little on the tall side with curly yellow hair and a myriad of piercings and tattoos that make him look vaguely threatening.

 

Rhett instantly hates him.

 

The crowd seems to have a different opinion as they break out in applause and Master A lifts up a cocky hand to acknowledge.

 

Rhett idly wonders how high his blood pressure has managed to spike in the last ten seconds.

 

"Welcome back friends, to another educational expose in our lovely little world we have here." Master A speaks in a low growl into his headset microphone and flashes a dirty grin at them. "Here at Feverish, we firmly believe that those immersed in the erotic arts must also be educated, and we continue to play, safe, sane, and consensual." 

 

The words remind Rhett of all the books and articles hes been hoarding and he sits up a little straighter.

 

"And now, of course the real reason you're all here." Master A clicks his fingers twice and gestures back to the door. "Darling here has graciously allowed me to use him to help us out with our lesson today."

 

Maybe he was hoping he was wrong. Maybe he was hoping that it wouldn't be here, hiding in the back row of a sex club that he wouldn't be faced with the naked truth of what Link was keeping from him. Maybe he had been praying to a god he wasn't terribly sure he believed in anymore that he was wrong. That someone else was about to walk onto that stage.

 

The denial hits Rhett with a steady roll of nausea that almost, almost sends him stumbling out of his seat and out the fucking door so he wouldn't have to watch, and its instantly swallowed by something else entirely that all but freezes Rhett where he is, hands bruising his thighs and his gasp still halfway into his throat. 

 

The roar of wolf whistles and applause fades away into a buzzing white noise as every iota of moisture leaves Rhett’s mouth when Link makes his entrance. At first Rhett thinks his entirely naked, until his eyes manage to focus past the fog gathered in the corners of his vision and he can see that Link has got on a frilly pair of peach colored panties, a little black bow snug beneath his chiseled hipbones.

 

Rhett has seen Link in various states of undress, hell he’d ripped his shirt off on camera not two weeks earlier for the show. He’s even seen him completely naked at times. Accidental, fleeting glances hidden behind awkward throat clearings and blushing looks at various points in their shared life together. 

 

But he’s never seen Link like this, and all at once his hands are itching, burning to reach out and touch, because holy goddamn hell Link looks incredible. His hair is free of its usual product, slightly tousled over his forehead. His glasses are gone and Rhett wonders incredulously if he’s wearing contacts, but quickly dismisses the thought as he realizes Link isn’t really looking at anything as he kneels down by Master A’s feet, choosing instead to bow his head towards his clasped hands. His shoulders are tense, and Rhett nearly bites through his lower lip as he traces the steady line from his collarbone down his biceps. 

 

He looks absolutely beautiful.

 

“Hello there, Darling! We’re so very grateful that you’ve graced us with your presence!” Master A circles around Link, speaking loudly over the crowd. “Isn’t he stunning fellas?”

 

The answering cry of the crowd makes Rhett’s blood boil. Of course he’s stunning. He’s the most beautiful creature on earth. 

 

Rhett’s hard, quickly and heavily filling out his jeans and he shifts uncomfortable, refusing to readjust. Like hell was he gonna be one of those weirdos who touches himself in a goddamn sex club.

 

“No no,” Master A addresses Link now, reaching down and shocking the living hell out of Rhett by slapping the side of Links face with the back of his hand. “You know better than that, look at them, show them your pretty face.”

 

Link obeyed instantly, raising his chin and letting his plump lower lip part and his dead eyed stare lands immediately on Rhett. 

 

At once Rhett’s larynx implodes and his internal organs freeze over, but Link makes gives no sign he’s seen him, his face as slack and docile as ever. 

 

Rhett exhales shakily.

 

“Good, perfect Darling.” Master A croons softly, soothing the side of Link's cheekbone with the knuckles of his gloved hand. Link doesn’t respond. “Now we have a very lovely treat for you all. Spanking is a wonderful part of play for both our submissive and us, and it teaches trust and boundaries between-“

 

Rhett completely zones out during the lecture, overly focused on how warm the room suddenly is. He leans forward as he watches Link's shoulders rise and drop in a shuddering sigh, eyes still staring straight ahead. A knot of apprehension is cooking at the base of Rhett’s throat. The expression on Link's face looks painfully similar to the flat, thousand yard stare that usually accompanies or precedes his anxiety attacks, and it’s presence here, in this place, is twisting Rhett’s insides into knots.

 

“Now, for the fun. We need a volunteer to come and learn with us and show Darling here a good time!”

 

Well hell, that just wakes Rhett right the fuck up.

 

The room explodes into noise again, some of the men in the crowd going as far as to stand in their eagerness. 

 

The thought of any of the thirsty men currently vying for Master A’s attention touching Link fills Rhett with a searing jealousy he’s never entertained the thought of being capable of and honest to god anger burns it’s way down his limbs. Like fuck is he going to stand here and watch what was his get fondled by some greasy perv who didn’t care about him.

 

Maybe it showed in his face, or maybe it was the way his hand slightly shook as he raised it slowly, remaining seated but keeping his head high, and his eyes locked into Link's.

 

Link doesn’t seem to see him, his eyes are still foggy and far away but Master A’s eyebrows shoot up as they land on Rhett, raking over him once apprehensively before pointing directly at him, walking around to stand in front of Link.

 

“You, in the back, come on down.” 

 

Rhett swears he floats up to the stage, high on sheer nerves and adrenaline and the growls of envy that waft up to his ears. 

 

He has to go around the chairs to the stage, coming in on the left side. Link hasn’t moved, head still held high and facing forward.

 

Up here, Rhett can see, well absolutely nothing. The spotlight and stage lights are so bright the crowd is reduced to a faceless mass of noise and shadows. 

 

“Your name, friend?” Master A is nearly as tall as Rhett, a feat in and of itself and his dark eyes are almost friendly from up close. Rhett takes his offered hand in a shake that’s as sturdy as he can manage. He realizes, belatedly, that his voice doesn’t boom off the sides of the room like it has been, and at some point he must have switched off his microphone.

 

“It’s Rhett.” He breathes out, realizing too late that he spoke too quietly for Link to hear him over the noise in the room.

 

“Wonderful Rhett, just one second kay?” The look he gives Rhett is almost kind and Rhett nods, dazed and a little more than confused as Master A strides over to where Link is still kneeling and bending down to his level, reaching out a hand and settling it on the back of Links neck is a gesture that’s dripping with familiarity. The man leans in and whispers something into Links ear and Rhett sees his eyebrows nearly shoot into his hairline when Link nods once roughly. Master A whispers something else, fingers tightening on the skin of Links neck when he’s answered with another confident nod. 

 

Seemingly satisfied with Links answer, Master A stands and smiles pleasantly enough at Rhett, gesturing grandly to the ornate chair between them. “If you would?”

 

Rhett feels his heart thump once, twice, and then he walks as calmly as he can, sitting down slowly. He lets his legs spread out his back is held straight.

 

Directly in front of him his vision is filled with the obscene image of Link on his knees, graying hair shining in the light and back muscles shiny with a thin dusting of sweat. Rhett can’t help it as his eyes drop to where his round and plush ass is pierced daintily on crosses ankles, pale in the light and looking achingly inviting.

 

“You’re familiar with the color system? It’s what makes Darling most comfortable.” 

 

Rhett nods. He’s almost overly familiar with it at this point.

 

“Good, if at any point he seems uncomfortable, just ask him, he’ll be honest, yeah? You’re gonna spank him ten times, get him up over your lap, and get him to count them out loud.” The mans nose scrunches up in a smile and he hands something from his pocket to Rhett. “Don’t forget to have fun.”

 

Rhett takes it and realizes it’s a collar, black leather with silver studs identical to the one he saw on Honey's throat, the only difference being the elegant scroll that reads Darling on the heart.

 

He doesn’t give Rhett time to answer before he reaches up and clicks his mike back on. “Our volunteer here, is gonna give Darling-“ Master A strifes up and a hand slides down to Links hair to grasp it possessively, yanking Links head up, “-what he’s been needing all day, but first, in the spirit of consent, Darling,” Master A pulls Link's hair so his head is tilted up at him, “Color?”

 

“Green.” Link's voice floats over to Rhett, sounding way too comfortable and confident to settle Rhett’s stomach.

 

“All right, Sir,” this is directed at Rhett. “Darling here says he’s okay with it, now let’s see if he’ll listen.”

 

Rhett swallows. He isn’t altogether too happy about how easily Link gave such an easy answer to letting what very well could be a stranger handling him, but he can’t shake the hopeful thought that Link knows exactly who’s behind him, and that he’s just as ready for it as Rhett is.

 

“Call him, offer him his collar, let’s see if Darling is willing to submit to you. Be warned though,” a wink to the audience that earns a collective laugh. “He’s a bit of a brat sometimes.”

 

Oh I know, The thought irritates Rhett more than it should but he swallows it and leans forward, clutching the collar in his hands so tightly the buckle is cutting into his palm.

 

“Darlin’” the name falls off Rhett’s lips easily, slow like molasses and he watches Links head twitch in his direction. “Wanna bring that pretty neck over here and let me take care a’ ya?”

 

He has no idea where the words come from, but they feel so natural Rhett doesn’t even stop to think about them.

 

Link doesn’t even give him time to think, instantly dropping to all fours and crawling over to Rhett, eyes cast down to the floor and movements fluid. Rhett gets caught on the way his shoulders move and he swallows heavily.

 

He isn’t even sure Link has seen him, he hadn’t looked away when Rhett had come up and sat down, and he’s not even wearing his glasses.

 

He can’t see without his glasses.

 

But now, now there’s absolutely no question as Link settles on his knees before Rhett and raises those fucking eyes up to him, boring deep into Rhett’s very soul and he wants to speak, to say something, to call out Link's name and just-

 

He can’t even finish the thought before the tiniest smile takes over Link's plush mouth and he leans his head forward, presenting his throat but still keeping eye contact with that beautiful smirk on his face.

 

“Please?” The word is a soft whisper of nothing from Link, but it might as well be the goddamn apocalypse the way it shakes Rhett down to his bones. 

 

And he’s never been good at saying no to Link.

 

So he reaches forward, still staring into Link's eyes as he leans and clasps the collar around Link's neck, watching them flutter closed in something that looks like gratitude as the clasp clicks shut.

 

“Darling has accepted our volunteer!” Master A’s booming growl shocks Rhett and he feels his fingers stutter around Links throat. “Go on, tell Darling what you want.”

 

Link's eyes fly open and the look of warm, open affection and need that Rhett sees staring back at him solidifies any resolve Rhett was missing and he reaches up to grip Links chin firmly, tilting him up. Link goes pliantly, exhaling over Rhett’s fingers and he can’t help himself as he moves the pad of his thumb up to press into Links shiny lower lip and tugging it down slightly.

 

“Come on up over my lap baby, let me give you what you need.”

 

Something that sounds painfully similar to a laugh floats out of Link's open mouth and he bites down on Rhett's finger with a cheeky smile before he shifts to follow Rhett’s order.

 

He can’t, he can’t even really deal when Link crawls over his lap, legs slightly spread over Rhett’s thigh and his head bowed submissively as his hands come together on the floor. He feels Link's weight on his lap, familiar but suddenly foreign in the context and Rhett is presented with Links glorious ass in those stupid fucking panties, all white cheeks and soft leg hair and he can’t help it, he can’t, as he reaches out and strokes a hand down Links back and he nearly comes in his fucking jeans as he watches a full body shudder work it’s way down Link.

 

It gives him the courage to finally, finally, reach out and spread one hand over Link's ass, cupping and massaging the perfect white globes of it and fuck Rhett really isn’t gonna last long. He’s eternally grateful for the spotlight being so bright and how loud the music is so he can’t hear what he’s sure is a murmuring from the crowd that he can’t see.

 

His free hand works it way into Links hair and he tightens his fingers around the dark strands at the back of his head and he yanks Links head up. He leans in and lets his breath ghost over the shell of Links ear.

 

“Yer gonna take all ten of these, and yer gonna count them all for me out loud, that sound like somethin’ you can do?”

 

Rhett swears all of Link tenses, the flesh beneath his other hand flexing as Link rolls his hips down onto Rhett’s thigh.

 

Rhett can’t help himself, he really can’t as he delivers a satisfying smack to Links right ass cheek, watching the skin ripple with the impact and closing his eyes at the throaty groan that it tugs from Links mouth even as he yanks his hair harder, pulling Links head back to his face.

 

“Did I say you could hump my leg like a cheap little slut?” He growls out, voice sounding foreign and rough to his own ears as he lets his hand massage the spot he just hit.

 

“No sir.” Link squeaks out, wiggling hips stilling and his eyes fluttering closed again. “I’m sorry sir.”

 

The soft timbre of Link's words goes straight to Rhett’s cock and he feels himself throb beneath Link's hipbone.

 

“What did I say then, Darlin?” Rhett runs his hand down Link's muscular thigh and eases his grip on his hair.

 

“Th-that I was gonna take all of them, and that I was, oh, I’m going to count all of them for you, sir.”

 

Rhett’s head is spinning. He’s heard Link use this same voice with him his entire life, but here, when he’s desperate and pliant beneath Rhett’s hands, it nearly kills him.

 

“Good boy, so good for me, now what was that Darlin?”

 

“That was one, sir.”

 

“Good.”

 

The next slap lands directly on the curve of Link's ass and the sound that rips from Link's throat is a sound that Rhett wants to bottle up, seal away in the deep crevices of his mind and keep forever. His hips thrust up against Link's stomach on their own and the answering groan he hears from Link tells him that he can feel it. 

 

Master A is talking, still speaking to the crowd and they’re answering but Rhett can’t hear them, can’t be bothered to even look up to remember where he is as he takes Link apart beneath his hands.

 

Link is an absolute mess, a beautiful fucking mess in Rhett’s lap,  whining and pleading and crying, all self control gone as the eighth slap is placed on the firm muscles of his upper right thigh and his hips rock against Rhett’s leg. Rhett can feel how hard Link is against him and he has to stifle the moan building up in his throat at the feeling. 

 

“Oh! Eight! Oh fuck yes, thank you, Sir, thank you! Gosh, fuck thank you I love it-“

 

The ninth slap is more of an answer to Rhett’s prayers than Link's as it cuts off his desperate babbling with a scream. Rhett doesn’t even know how he’s still even breathing, he’s so hard it’s painful and he’s rutting up against Links hips unabashedly as Link bears himself down onto him. There are tears dripping off Link's face and his hair is clinging to his temples where his head hangs down. 

 

“You’re doing so good, taking this so well, fuck look at you, so beautiful the way you let me take care a’ ya like this.” Rhett isn’t even aware that he’s talking at this point, his hands are moving on their own, one hand threaded into the sweaty hair at the back of his head and the other groping and squeezing the reddened flash of his ass. “Think you can take one more for me gorgeous?”

 

“Yes Sir, yes sir I can, I want it please, please fuck-“

 

Rhett cuts him off as he brings his hand down as hard as he can, the force sending Link's hips into his thigh and Rhett quickly decided that the high pitched cry that stutters its way out of Link is the most beautiful sound he’s ever heard in his goddamn life. 

 

“Shhhh, shh, you did so well, you did so good for me oh thank you, gosh, you’re so fucking beautiful you’re so good oh my god.” Rhett hears the endearments falling from his own mouth as he comes up to soothe the skin of Link's ass, now a bright red even as the man beneath his squirms and whimpers.

 

“Thank you, oh thank you sir.” Link's words taper off into shudders as his body stills slowly, head tilting away from the crowd to rest against his shoulder and Rhett can see how flushed his face is. 

 

Rhett reaches out and runs his other hand through Link's sweaty bangs, pushing them off his forehead and feeling his chest tighten when Link pushes against the touch with his head.

 

He’s still pulsating with need, and he can feel Link hard against him even as the man's hips still rock weakly against him. Link's breathing is tapering off in harsh inhales and breathy moans. 

 

“What a show! And let’s thank our newcomer for doing such a great job! This is what a good Dom looks like fellas, look how well he treated our Darling!” 

 

The sound of Master A’s booming tenor and the applause slaps Rhett in the face so hard he nearly gets whiplash and he’s forcibly reminded that he’s still on stage. He knows his mouth is hanging open and he blinks stupidly as Link slides off his lap, taking his place back at Rhett’s feet, hands returning to their place in his lap and his shoulders trembling.

 

Rhett simply sits and stares, watches the way Link seems to sink into himself but managing to look calmer than Rhett’s seen him all week. His hands aren’t fidgety and, despite the fact that Rhett can clearly see Link's straining cock dangerously close shoving up through the waistband of his frilly underwear, his eyes are closed and his breathing is steady.

 

He vaguely hears Master A dismiss the crowd, thanking them and promising another show with someone named Kitten later than night.

 

“Hey! That means you too! Out. Shows over.” Rhett looks up as Master A’s friendly tone shifts into irritation and clear dismissal, snapping his fingers at the creepy tench-coat guy who was still hovering near the door. He stared for a second longer before leaving sullenly, the door shutting behind him with a click.

 

“Dismiss him, tell him he’s done well and to go to his room, someone will be with him in a second.” The friendly tone is back as Master A smiles at Rhett over his shoulder. “You hang back a sec though yeah?”

 

“Um, yeah, okay, uh, you’re all done sweetheart, okay?” Rhett can hear his own voice, jittery with the adrenaline crash even as his hand is steady on the back of Link's head. “You did beautifully, so well. Head on back to your room okay? Someone,” he paused, shoots a glance at the back of Master A’s blonde curls and swallows heavily. “Someone, will be with you in a bit.” 

 

Link doesn’t raise his head to look at him as he stands, hands still clasped in front of him, barely brushing the bulge straining the fabric of his underwear as he exits the stage as stoically as he came. Rhett turns and watches him leave, seeing the door open and Honey appears behind it, taking Link's hand and leading him down a hallway before the door swings shut again.

 

“That was great man!” Rhett’s thrown for another loop as Master A’s character completely falls away and he strides up to Rhett. “You ever done this before? I’m Adrian, by the way.”

 

“Uh, not in the context.” Rhett stands, wiping his clammy hands on his jeans as he does.

 

“Well for a first timer that was really great, how’d you end up on the scene? You got a sub of your own?” Adrian sits down at the edge of the stage and, feeling slightly awkward, Rhett follows.

 

“Friend recommended y’all, and no, I’m not even dating anyone.” The nagging feeling Rhett’s had for the last few weeks comes bubbling up and he shoots a furtive glance at the door Link disappeared through. “He yours? He’s-“ Rhett’s throat closes up when he can’t find a word that’s enough to describe what he was going to say about Link.

 

“Oh no, Darling isn’t my sub. He’s wonderful but,” Adrian slips off one of his leather gloves to flash a silver wedding band at Rhett, “I locked mine down years ago.”

 

“Who’s is he then?” Rhett’s really confused now.

 

“Well,” Adrian bites the inside of of his pierced lip, looking uncomfortable for the first time since Rhett’s met him. “Darling doesn’t belong to anyone, he’s a special case here.”

 

“Special how?”

 

“There are some of us here who belong to each other, and we have some here who are available to take clients, like, if a customer comes in and wants to be Dominated we have people who can do that for them, and we have Subs here who come in when they’re looking for someone to take care of them, and then we have what we call The Angels, the ones who work here who don’t take clients. Darling comes in when he needs some stress relief and helps out with the classes, but no he doesn’t belong to anyone. He wasn’t even scheduled today, just came in. Rough day I think.”

 

“Angels?” Rhett knew he couldn’t hide the relief on his face as it flooded through him, knowing that Link wasn’t involved with any one and the irrational jealousy that had lingered seemed to dissipate. 

 

“It’s a more affectionate nickname for them we have around here, they get what they need and there’s no one to pressure them. There’s a few, Honey at the front desk and Kittens coming in later to help Carrie with her show. Darling and I have the arrangement we have ‘cause he trusts me and he’s one of the only ones who doesn’t mind doing shows like this, something about his line of work or something.”

 

The jealousy crawls back into Rhett’s heart and sets up shop. So Link wasn’t involved with anyone, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t getting groped by strangers on the daily. It’s somehow worse but before Rhett can all out panic Adrian speaks up again.

 

“I’m kinda surprised tho, Darling and I usually have a system.”

 

Rhett blinks. “System?” 

 

“We always do a volunteer, but they never make it past the stage, Darling doesn’t like being touched by strangers, you’re the first one he said yes to.”

 

The weightless relief disorients him and he doesn’t know if he feels like laughing or crying.

 

“Guess he could tell you were good.” Another warm smile. “Same reason I called you up. You didn’t strike me as one of the weirdos we inevitably get around here who just want to get their hands on the Subs”

 

Rhett nods. He’s still on edge but it’s softening by the second until he remembers what Adrian had said and spoke quietly. “Why doesn’t Li-Darling belong to anyone?”

 

Adrian looks uncomfortable again, shifting where he sits and his gloved hand coming up to scratch the back of his neck. “There’s a lot of reasons the Angels don’t belong to people, if they don’t want a Dom, or if they had a bad experiences with other Dom’s and they’re not ready, or in Darlings case, sexual assault victims that-“

 

What?

 

“What?” Rhett feels something tear in his chest; he thinks it might be his heart as he hears himself ask the question from a thousand miles underwater. 

 

Adrian grimaced, “It's unfortunately more common among those of us here than you’d think, and sometimes it makes things like sex hard for-“

 

Rhett could still hear the words that Adrian was saying, could still feel the stage beneath him and could still feel his heart pumping in his chest. What he couldn’t understand was how the flying fuck all of those things were still happening when the deafening scream of the earth exploding was ringing in his ears and the debris of mankind was incinerating around him. He was wrong, he had to have heard wrong, there was no way, no fucking way that Link-

 

No

 

No no no no no no no no no

 

A heavy and gelatinous wave of nausea sends Rhett’s head into his hands and he twists his hair around his fingers and pulls, focusing on the pain to drag himself out of the inky black panic that has suddenly swallowed him whole. His entire mind is a searing white of rage and disbelief and he senses more than feels the steadying hand in his shoulder.

 

“Rhett? Dude you okay?”

 

No, no he was most certainly not o-fucking-kay

 

“What-“ His tongue refuses to cooperate and he tugs his hair further, suddenly feeling very young and scared. “What happened to Link?”

 

The hand on his shoulder twitches and he hears the sharp inhale before he releases his hair and rounds on Adrian so fast the man pulls back.

 

“What happened to Link?” He repeats, forcing the words out in between gulps of air that his lungs don’t seem to want.

 

“How do you know, oh fuck.” A look of abject horror washes over Adrian’s face. “You’re that Rhett” 

 

“What the hell does that even mean!” Rhett stands now, unable to sit still as his arms come up in a self soothing stance around his elbows when the floor tilts beneath him. 

 

“You’re the childhood friend.” Adrian clarifies before reaching up and pinching the bridge of his nose. “Fucking hell, that's why he let you touch him. You’re that Rhett.”

 

“And?” Rhett’s almost hyperventilating at this point.

 

“Fuck, look I’m sorry dude, just, sit back down, yeah? Come on.”

 

Sitting down in the last thing in the universe that Rhett wants to do right now. He wants to scream and cry and wring Adrian’s throat until he tells him what exactly the fuck he’s talking about. 

 

But something tells him he won’t get the answers unless he listens, wont understand what happened to the man he loves unless he calms himself down and listens to the stranger that Links trusted more than him. 

 

He lowers himself slowly, keeping eye contact with Adrian the whole time.

 

“Look man, I’m sorry. I know Link hasn’t told you.” Adrian swallows uncomfortably. “He hasn’t told anyone, none of the other Angels know either. The only reason he told me was because, I’m sort of the caretaker of everyone here and I needed to know, but, fuck I really shouldn’t.”

 

He breaks off guilty, eyes searching Rhett’s face. He sighs when he must have found what he was looking for. “I don’t even have all the details, but he told me it was a soccer coach when he was younger, like thirteen or something. He specifically mentioned that he hadn’t told ‘Rhett’, and truth be told, I never thought I’d be telling you either. I’m sorry.”

 

The rage was back in Rhett’s gut and he had to call on every single therapy session he’s ever had to remember how to swallow it down. Thirteen. Right when Links panic attacks had started. Rhett even remembered the first one he’d had, the first time he’d violently shoved Rhett off of him when he’d held his arms open to offer comfort. The first time Link had cried himself hoarse and screamed in terror every time Rhett had tried to get closer.

 

He blinks, feeling the tears he was unaware of make their presence knows as they fall from his eyelashes. There’s a headache flirting with his temples. 

 

“Look just,” Adrian sighs, twisting his neck to crack it. “I don’t understand fully, but I do on some level. You can’t know Link and not hate anyone who’s hurt him.” Adrian’s mouth twists into an ugly scowl. “I was pissed too.”

 

Pissed was a bit of an understatement, but Rhett nodded just the same. He didn’t trust himself to speak. If he opened his mouth the anguish in his heart might spill out onto the sticky hardwood floor.

 

“Hey, do you wanna go do his aftercare? I feel like you both need it right now.”

 

“Huh?” Rhett gapes up at Adrian. “Me?”

 

“Yeah, I feel like that’ll be good for you both, his room is just passed that door on the right.” Adrian nods his head towards the door past the stage. “Honey should still be with him.”

 

The world was still over, but Rhett was suddenly reminded that Link was still waiting, and the weight of the last hour of Rhett’s life settles down on his shoulders, chasing away the anger and hurt and replacing it with the familiar tug in his stomach. The ache to hold Link close and love and protect him buzzed around his head as he sent a tight smile of gratitude to Adrian and stood up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Rhett suddenly feels acutely lost as he goes through the door behind the stage, far too tall to be in the tiny cramped hallway it swings open to reveal.

 

The single lightbulb flickers and illuminates graffiti and random stickers stuck at various heights along it. None of it makes Rhett feel good about being back here.

 

Only the thought of Link waiting for him somewhere down this creepy ass hallway makes Rhett lift one foot in front of the other, moving slowly down it until he finds a shut door on his right side.

 

Out of nowhere the nerves decide to hit him, sending him stumbling back a few paces and stilling his hand where it was reaching up to grab the doorknob. 

 

There’s nothing particularly intimidating about it anyways. It’s just a door, marred with the same stickers and graffiti that the rest of the hallway is filled with. It has yet another whiteboard sign next to it, with the header reading “Angel’s room” and several names scrawled below it.

 

Kitten

 

Sugar

 

Darling

 

Sweetheart

 

Honey

 

They’re all written in different handwriting with a different colored marker, and Rhett can pick out the familiar loop of Link’s perfect penmanship in a bright green color over his pet name.

 

Rhett hesitates before it, feeling the thud in his chest as his heart races into overdrive and he realizes he has no idea what to do from here. Does he knock? Is that rude? Are Link and Honey doing something that would require knocking? Should he just go home and pretend this didn’t happen?

 

What steadies him, weirdly enough, is stopping to read the graffiti on the door itself, tracing his eyes over the loopy mess of spray paint and multicolored sharpies.

 

Save the Angels!

 

Precious peaches!

 

If you have no wings you don’t come in!

 

Knock before opening!

 

It’s this that wakes Rhett up, jarring with it’s unfamiliar handwriting in bright red ink and he lifts a trembling hand to knock twice, as steady as he can manage.

 

He’s left to wait one long, agonizing minute before the door opens and a girl appears, her purple hair shining in the unsteady light.

 

“Oh, hi,” she chirps, pulling her robe around herself in a hasty movement before her practiced smile is put back in place. “You’re here for Darling, yes?”

 

Rhett can’t entirely place her accent, and while he’s stuck on the tiny detail he finds himself nodding.

 

“He’s waiting, you’re all set.” She slips in a wink before sliding out the door, moving fluidly around Rhett before calling back into the room, “Let’s go Honey, someone’s here to take care of Darling.”

 

She opens the door further, letting Rhett into the room. It’s just as ill lit as the rest of the place. A simple room with several mirrors along the walls, a few vanities and dressers, and a single futon shoved in the corner that currently has Link curled up on the center. He’s faced away from the door, wrapped in Rhett’s maroon hoodie and his graying head in Honey’s lap.

 

Rhett freezes in the doorway. 

 

Honey finally looks up and smiles, an honest one in contrast to whoever opened the door. “Oh it’s the tall drink of water! Hi there.” He wiggles his fingers flirtatiously before looking back down at Link in his lap, leaning down to murmur something in his ear before slipping his head out of his lap to stand up. “He’s all ready for you.”

 

Rhett watches Honey gather random things from around the various surfaces before he glides up to Rhett and shoves everything into his arms.

 

“This is lotion for his skin, here’s his favorite kind of almond milk, and this is his favorite candy when he’s done. Just make sure he’s completely calm before the last one ‘kay?” Honey winks again as he follows the girl out of the room, nudging Rhett further in with a hip thrust. “C’mon Kitten, let’s go see what Mistress Carrie has set up for tonight.”

 

“Ready when you are Honey Buns.” The girl, Kitten apparently, grins back teasingly and together the pair float from the room and down the hallway, seemingly forgetting about Rhett’s presence entirely. 

 

Rhett watches them until they disappear behind the curve of the hallway. The click of his jaw closing is loud enough to echo when he realizes his mouth has been hanging open for the last few minutes. 

 

Now or never.

 

Link makes no movement to indicate that he’s heard Rhett walk in and close the door softly. If he hears how quickly Rhett is breathing or how loud his heart is pounding, he doesn’t react either. He’s still curled up on himself, breathing evenly beneath the maroon fleece wrapped around him.

 

He looks so small; young and soft in the oversized sweater and Rhett feels an ugly lump suddenly rise in his throat as a roll of grief washes over him. There’s a fair amount of guilt in there too as he thinks back and realizes that when whatever had happened to him had gone down, they had already been attached at the hip, living in each other’s pockets. And it was only now, at forty one, that he’s learned one of the worst and most important things ever about his best friend from the mouth of a stranger. 

 

Rhett is forcibly reminded that, despite how this day has felt like it’s been going on for a year and a goddamn half already, it had only been last night that Link had come to his room with shaky questions and timid movements and had fallen asleep in Rhett’s arms. 

 

Was it still this traumatic past that had driven him to Rhett’s room? Were the nightmares of it what kept him awake and alone on the couch in the living room hiding from sleep? 

 

Should Rhett have noticed?

 

Link chooses this moment to sigh softly, the shuddering sound shattering the silence in the room and Rhett is dragged out of his spiral of increasingly dark thoughts. He watches Link curl tighter around himself, swallows back his misery and takes a decisive step towards him. He might not have done the best job of taking care of Link in the past, but he had a job to do now, and like fuck was he gonna mess this up.

 

When he does make it to the edge of the futon he can see that Link’s eyes are open, staring straight into the brick wall like it isn’t even there. They’re still glassy and vacant and his mouth is exhaling short and shallow breaths. The expression is different than the flat, terrified visage that he usually takes on when he’s panicking, but Rhett wants to soothe it away nonetheless. 

 

Carefully as to not jostle or startle the other man, Rhett lowers himself onto the futon to mirror Honeys position, reaching out and a trembling hand and lightly brushing unsteady fingers through Link’s hair.

 

Link immediately comes to life at the gentle caress, moving to chase the pressure of Rhett’s fingers as they sink into his hair. Rhett’s heart nearly explodes with the love and affection he has for his best friend when Link’s glassy eyes shut and he exhales a sigh that sounds like a moan into the quiet air.

 

Emboldened by Link’s reaction, Rhett lets his fingers tighten slightly, moving down his scalp to scratch lightly at the back of his head. Link unwinds further, shoulders softening and relaxing and he inches closer to him.

 

He feels something buried in the fabric and, upon further investigation, realizes Link is still wearing his collar. He’d read about something, somewhere, that the collar should come off once the scene was over. Both to let the Sub know that they were finished and to put them both back on even footing. 

 

As gently as he can, Rhett eases the clasp open and pulls the leather from around Links throat, watching his Adam’s apple bob as he swallows.

 

“Hey there hun.” Rhett murmurs, tossing the collar aside and slipping his hand beneath the hood of his sweater to massage a knot at the base of Link’s neck. “How are you feeling? Feeling okay?”

 

“Mmhmm,” Link hums out sleepily, rolling his bad shoulder to adjust to the pressure of Rhett’s fingers. If he’s surprised that it’s Rhett and not Adrian here to take care of him, he doesn’t show it. The tension in his eyebrows relax slightly, if anything. “M’okay.”

 

Rhett’s mouth twitches, the tiniest fond smile at how soft and sweet Link looks, basking in the lightest of Rhett’s touches. He lifts his hands out of the cloth of the sweater and wraps them gently around Link’s shoulder, lifting him and sliding his own thigh beneath Link’s head to let him rest it there, gently nudging Link to roll over onto his back in the process. 

 

It drags up the memory of Link in the same position a week earlier on his couch, pleading up at him with beseeching eyes, asking if Rhett would stay with him and sleep on the couch.

 

He should have stayed on the couch with him.

 

The thought is promptly removed from Rhett’s mind when Link opens his eyes, icy blue piercing into Rhett where they stare innocently up at him. 

 

They travel over Rhett’s face slowly, tearing deep into Rhett’s soul and he’s praying that his face doesn’t reflect the maelstrom of pain and love that are vying for his expression in an ugly juxtaposition of emotions. He smiles as softly as he can, not wanting to spook Link or do anything that would stress him out.

 

“Hey, Rhett.” The words slip out of Link’s lax mouth with a smile of his own.

 

“Hey, Darlin.” The pet name doesn’t feel as foreign on Rhett’s tongue as he would have initially imagined. He’s sure he’s even called Link this at some point in their lives. It’s feels right, weirdly enough. If there was any word he’d have to use to describe anything about Link, Darling would be a good one. “You did real well today, you know that? So very good.”

 

Another shot in the dark as Rhett realizes he has no idea what to say, but luck smiles down on him once again as Link’s blank look finally breaks. Something that looks like bliss twinkling in the man’s expressive face and the first real smile since the stage shines up at Rhett. 

 

“Thank you.” Link closes his eyes and leans into Rhett’s hand as he raises it to trace the slope of Link’s eyebrow, letting his fingers trail down to stoke his cheek, thumb coming down to brush against his lower lip.

 

Rhett was in fucking heaven. He’d never thought that he’d be able to touch Link in this way, the way he’d wanted to his entire life. Never thought he’d get the soft, loving words directed at him and he never in a million years could have dreamed that Link would respond to his touches the way he is.

 

Like he’s been wanting them just as badly.

 

He’s so happy, so very happy, to just sit here and hold Link in his lap and let Link breathe softly. He doesn’t even want to think about what it means to Link or how life is going to play out once they leave the sanctuary of the room. He’s never felt so content in his life. It even manages to chase away the unbridled rage and pity that he’s trying his hardest to push aside. He didn’t want it tainting the most perfect moment of his life.

 

Link shifts, moving the mattress slightly and sending the items Rhett had left beside him rolling to softly nudge at his other thigh. He looks down and thinks, recalling everything he could about aftercare and how to properly manage it.

 

Get your sub something to eat or drink, their energy is probably low after the endorphins crash.

 

Grabbing the almond milk in one hand, Rhett cards his hand through Link’s hair one more time before leaning down to speak softly in the mans ear. 

 

“Sit up for me ‘kay precious? Let’s get some nutrients in you, I know you didn’t eat lunch.”

 

Link goes without a fight, sitting up pliantly and letting Rhett maneuver them so that he can pull Link against his chest, one long leg coming up on the mattress to bracket Link’s hips. Carefully, he twists open the bottle and brings it to Link’s mouth, cradling the back of his head in one large hand and he tilts the bottle for him, moving it away with a low “mm-mm” when Link makes a weak attempt to do it himself.

 

Link drains half the bottle and his eyes remain shut when Rhett closes it and sets it next to him. There’s a thin film of milk sticking to his upper lip and Rhett doesn’t even think about it before swiping his thumb over it.

 

Soothe any marks or injuries caused during play. Things hurt differently when they’re not in Subspace anymore. 

 

This part worries him. He doesn’t know how Link is going to react but he’s counting on decades of them being more comfortable with each other than they are being alone as he fiddles with the zipper of the maroon sweater, not quite pulling it down yet. He knows Link’s backside has to be feeling something fierce, it wasn’t exactly like he’d been gentle with him. 

 

“Can I-“ his throat closes up and he swallows thickly, the ugly blackness threatening to rise again as the implications of Link saying no to his next request creep in around his thoughts. “Can I take this offa you? I’d like to make sure yer skin is alright.” 

 

His relief is palpable, to say the least, when Link nods instantly, pushing his chest out as best he can to give Rhett room to unzip the hoodie. Inch after inch of creamy white skin is revealed slowly, the sweater ending somewhere near Links upper thigh. Rhett’s mouth goes dry again when the panties are revealed, black bow stark against the pale color of the fabric it’s nestled in and the skin stretched over Link’s hipbones.

 

Not now Mclaughlin 

 

He idly thinks that he wasn’t even this careful with his children as he’s being right now, taking on Links weight in his hands as he helps the man sit up, peeling off the sweater and barely letting his fingertips trail down to chase the fabric, worshiping the curves of his arms until they taper off into bony wrists as he gets the sweater off. 

 

Picking up the lotion, he scoots further to the edge of the mattress to give Link more room as he leads him down and onto his front, barely letting his hands linger on the expanse of skin that’s calling out to him. Once he has Link stretched out next to him, he squeezes a fair amount of the sweet smelling lotion that, he realizes now is vaguely familiar, and starts on his bad shoulder. 

 

The groan Link lets out is indecent to say the least and Rhett has to bite down on his tongue to not answer with a growl of his own. It’s about Link’s comfort right now, and he works his hands as well as he can into the knots of his shoulder, traveling down his muscular back until his hands are wrapped around the mans tiny waist. He presses his thumbs into the dimples just above the waistline of Link’s panties and wonders what the skin there would taste like.

 

He’s already half hard again by the time he reaches Link’s ass and it’s taking an immeasurable amount of self control to not respond to the soft whimpers that have kept up in a near constant symphony from Link. The skin is still red and warm; Rhett can see a literal outline of his own hand spanning the entirety of his left cheek and it fills him with a roaring flame of pride. Something so personal like his hand marring the intimate skin of Link’s body is nearly too much, and he wants to abandon the massage and gather Link in his arms for the rest of eternity.

 

He doesn’t though. Instead he begins to soothe the red and irritated skin with soft movements and the shuddering sigh it pulls from Link makes it completely worth the near painful erection trapped in his jeans.

 

He notices something peeking out of the lace and frills and he pushes the fabric up. 

 

There’s a strip of scarred skin about three inches across that bares the telltale texture of a tattoo removal, and he realizes that his ex wife’s name was now gone from his skin.

 

He runs a thumb over it and feels Link tense.

 

“When did you get this done?” He asks softly into the air.

 

“New Years.” The answer shocks Rhett. Thinking back, he remembers how Link had done a complete 180 around that time, after the Mythical New Years party and he had just blossomed back to life. 

 

He hadn’t even gotten his removed. Maybe he should.

 

The shift in Link’s breathing is what alerts Rhett to the fact that his hands have stopped moving. Looking up, he can see Link eyeing him nervously over his shoulder, lower lip trapped in his teeth. 

 

Rhett doesn’t answer, returning to the task at hand and staying at it until Links eyes slip closed again.

 

Tell them how loved they are. Tell them how much they mean to you. Words can be just as soothing as any touch you can offer.

 

The day is finally catching up to Rhett and it’s strange that something as tiny as realizing Link’s had his tattoo removed is what breaks him. The words are bubbling up in his throat on their own accord and he doesn’t know if he’s strong enough to stop them.

 

He loves Link more than life itself, has been desperately in love with him for longer than he can even remember. He would do absolutely anything for him. Link could ask him for the goddamn moon and Rhett would at the very least make a valiant effort to fetch it for him.

 

And here, with the only mark of ownership Links ever allowed gone from his skin as he lies trusting and docile beneath Rhett’s hands, he’s never felt so hopeful that maybe, just maybe it could be reciprocated.

 

“Link, I-“

 

A sharp knock cuts Rhett off and startles him back and away from Link. Link doesn’t flinch, just rolls his head to the other side with his eyes still closed and calls out “Yeah?”

 

The door opens and a girl pops her head in, white-blonde hair clashing with her dark skin pleasantly. “Hey Darling, Kitten’s gonna need the room for a bit, alright? You almost done?”

 

“I’ll be out in a min’ Sugar.” He slurs out in an answer, still not opening his eyes as Sugar flashes a thumbs up and slips from the room.

 

Rhett cleared his throat, checking his phone, realizing it was almost eight thirty, and somehow three hours had flown by without him realizing it. He felt like he should go, even if he was nowhere close to being done with Link. 

 

But Link would be going home, back to Rhett’s anyways, he figures. They can talk there.

 

Standing shakily, he straightens himself out and stretches before kneeling next to Link’s head, pushing his bangs away where they’ve fallen over his eyes.

 

“M’ gonna go get dinner for us, okay Link?” He whispers lowly. “Can we, can we talk at home?”

 

Links eyes flutter open and the look in them is intense. He’s wide awake now, eyes darting over Rhett’s face, calculatingly, and he reaches a hand up to grasp Rhett’s, pulling it out of his hair to trap it beneath his face, still clasped in his own.

 

“I’d like that Rhett.” The answer comes with a beautiful smile that lights up Link’s face and sets fire to Rhett’s heart. He feels Link squeeze his hand and he sends back the gesture as sure and steadily as he can.

 

Emboldened, he reaches up over Link and plucks the Reese’s cups from the futon on his other side, slipping them into his pocket. “I’ll give these to you then.”

 

A giggle snorted out of Links nose, calling a responding laugh from Rhett and he leans forward to place a gentle kiss to Link’s forehead, watching his eyes shut happily before he stands. 

 

It takes Rhett three separate attempts and several more laughs between them to leave, Link playfully refusing to let go of his hand. He finally manages to pry it free when he tickles Link’s ribs and leaves the man a panting mess, smiling up at him adoringly as the door closes behind him. 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The Mythical Beasts are, without a doubt in Rhett’s mind, the most amazing bunch of people on this god given earth.

 

He’s never been more grateful for them as he scrolls down Tumblr, stretched out on his couch, and tries valiantly not to stare at the clock.

 

He’s already gotten dinner for himself and Link, a bucket of fried chicken and some sides still steaming on the counter. He isn’t sure exactly when Link’s going to come home, but whenever he usually goes to the club he gets home about fifteen or so minutes from now.

 

And of course he’s nervous. How could he not be, with the promise of the talk he both doesn’t want to have and also feels like he’s been waiting his entire life for. His leg is twitching with adrenaline and he doesn’t know what to do with his hands as he waits for Link.

 

So, Tumblr.

 

Today is a goddamn goldmine, the Mythical Beasts work fast. He’s been staring at the gif set for like two minutes now. A gorgeous black and white set of himself talking to the camera while Link sits curled up next to him in his chair, the sleeves of Rhett’s sweater covering his hands as they play with the hoodie strings and the mans wide eyes fixed on Rhett. He’s stuck on the slow smile that spreads over Link’s face as he watches Rhett talk on an endless loop and it fills him with a warmth he wants to bottle away forever.

 

Is that Rhett's sweater?!? 

 

I think it is! Look how big it is on him!

 

It’s covering his hands!

 

How cute! 

 

Damn straight it is, Rhett thinks smugly as he reads through the comment section with glee. He really couldn't help but feel hopeful, albiet nervous, as he waited for Link. Granted, he hadn't managed to tell Link what he'd wanted to, hadnt actually say much to Link at all.  

 

Actually, now that he’s thought about it, he hadn’t even managed to work out what he was going to say to him now. He had gotten so caught up in Link earlier and the way he’d melted into Rhett that the words had completely escaped him. It was still so fresh in his mind, too. The way Link has handed himself over to Rhett entirely and clung to him like he’d done their whole lives, but it was different this time. 

 

He had never even entertained the thought of Link loving him back. And he hadn’t even had the wherewithal to ask.

 

Rhett hears his front door open.

 

The speed at which Rhett’s heart rate shot through the ceiling has him almost lightheaded in his sudden panic and he heard Link drop his keys onto the table by the door. 

 

Should he call out to him? Meet him at the door? 

 

Rhett was completely at a loss of what to do. He was still in the process of trying to drag his timid voice out into the open when Link stomped into the living room, dropping his backpack onto the couch opposite Rhett with a thud. His SnapBack was askew and he was wearing Rhett’s sweater inside out. His expression was stormy, eyebrows creased, his eyes wild. His hands clenched and twisted as he paced the living room floor in front of Rhett.

 

Whatever Rhett was expecting, it wasn’t this. Link hadn’t spoken a word to him yet, still pacing and making half aborted attempts to speak, opening his mouth before shutting it with a click and continuing his pacing. 

 

Dread began to bubble in Rhett’s gut. 

 

Fearing the worst, Rhett cleared his throat awkwardly, almost flinching back when Link’s head snapped to look at him so  quickly that it had to hurt him. 

 

“What’s going on brother?” The question comes out small, cautious. 

 

Link’s face splits into an ugly, sardonic smile as he stops his frantic pacing, clasping his hands together and muttering under his breath.

 

“Link? Are you-“

 

“Chris called.” Link spits out at him, mouth still stretched and his eyes bulging in desperation.

 

Rhett completely blanks out at this. He knows for a fact that the last time Link had spoken to her had been on Easter last month, and he hadn't looked nearly this pissed off then. "Um, that’s cool?" He tries for normalcy. "Did you talk to Lincoln? He’d been wanting to ask about-"

 

"What the crap Rhett?" Link’s voice wavers over the question, smile dropping as he glared.

 

Rhett is completely lost now. "I’m not following."

 

Link huffs out in frustration, knocking his SnapBack off to land on the floor behind him and running a hand through his hair. "You didn’t tell me."

 

"Tell you what? I’m not understanding anything you’re saying. " Rhett stands up nervously, shifting his weight as Link starts pacing again. The anxiety is rising up in Rhett. He really doesn’t like seeing Link so worked up, and he’s dying to get to the bottom of what the hell his problem is. He wants to reach out to him, soothe the anger away with his hands but he gets the feeling that wouldn’t exactly be the smartest option right now. “Link, just-“

 

“Why she left you! The actual, concrete reason that Jessie left you! Seriously! I’m supposed to be your other half Rhett, and this I didn’t know?” Link looks like he’s about to cry now, eyes overly shiny as he spins around again to glare at Rhett like he’s trying to burn a hole through him. 

 

Oh fuck.

 

Rhett knows he looks stupid. His mouth is hanging open and his hands are suspended in front of him where he had begun to reach out to Link. Jessie had sworn to not tell a soul, had promised him at least that much. That promise had apparently not been taken entirely seriously, and now-

 

And now Link knew.

 

He can’t face it like this. He can’t have this conversation with Link when he’s being like this, when he’s so angry he looks like he wants to hit him.

 

“Context, Link.” He hears himself blurt out, internally wincing. He already knows playing dumb is just gonna make everything worse. 

 

It does. Link’s jaw clenches tight enough to make a muscle jump and he strides forward to shove at Rhett’s chest. “You-“ another shove- “Are-“ yet another- “not-“ Rhett manages to dodge the last two, “Straight!” Links chest heaves with exertion as he screams. “That’s why she left you! Because you weren’t in love with her anymore and out of nowhere you just decide that you were into guys?! Doesn’t that kinda seem like something you should tell yer best friend?! Huh Rhett?!”

 

“What the hell does that even have to do with anything? I feel like it’s obvious after everything that happened today!” Rhett backs up another step when Link throws his hands up in exasperation.

 

“Seriously? Oh yeah, with all two sentences you said to me it was real obvious.” Link folds his arms over his chest.

 

 Rhett doesnt let on how badly this stings. He had meant to say something dammit, and he wasn’t ready for Link to throw it at him like that. “I-“ 

 

“Wanna know what sucks about being so close-as close as we are?” Link apparently doesn’t wanna hear it, speaking loudly over him. “Is that our wives were close too. Close enough that of course Jessie told Chris and of course they’re gonna jump to the conclusion that I’m the same way and then they’re just gonna leave us-“

 

“It’s true though!” Rhett knows he’s almost yelling himself now. He almost feels bad, basically calling Link out on his own lie without any preamble but really, he’s too worked up right now to care.

 

“That’s not the point!”

 

“You are not blaming this on me!” Hell no, Link was being totally unfair and fuck if Rhett was going to let him do this.

 

“It is on you!” Link actually stomps his foot and Rhett has to exercise real will power not to point it out.

 

“That wasn’t my fault! I had no control over Christy! And yes, I had to tell Jessie, okay? It wasn’t fair to her. That’s how healthy marriages work, Link!”

 

“I know, okay!” Link is actually crying now, a single tear escaping before he swipes a hand over it angrily, knocking his glasses askew. “I already told Chris that! I told ‘er that whatever you told Jessie wasn’t about me, you really think I didn’t tell ‘er that!” 

 

Another tear slips down Link’s face and almost breaks Rhett’s heart with it. He rips off his glasses and smudges at his eyes with his forearm. “Fine.” He gets out thickly, shakily putting his glasses back on. “Fine. You had no control over what she did, but you put the idea out there with your wife!”

 

“Don’t blame it on me. Whatever idea Jess put into Christy's head was on ‘em and them alone. I had to tell her, Link! It’s called open communication!” Rhett winces at the whiny tone he hears himself taper off into, and rolls his eyes. He just knows Link’s gonna have something to say about it. 

 

He doesn’t have to wait long for it before Link turns around and stares at him, eyebrows contracted and his mouth open incredulously. He lets Rhett’s voice hang in the air for a beat.

 

 “It’s called open communication.” His voice is dripping with sarcasm and his voice is pitched higher into the annoying voice he uses to imitate Rhett. 

 

“Oh yeah, you know what’s gonna help here Neal? Your super mature attitude.” 

 

“Quit bein’ patronizing.” A flush is working it’s way to Links neck to color his ears as his voice raises again

 

“Quit bein’ irrational!” Rhett’s seriously getting annoyed now.

 

“That’s literally the textbook definition of patronizing.” Link says flatly, crossing his arms and cocking his hip childishly.

 

“I will literally give you twenty dollars right now if you can tell me the exact textbook definition of patronizing.” Rhett knows he’s not helping or being very mature about this either. He really can’t help himself when he and Link fight like this. He always finds himself regressing to when they were younger, when every argument dissolved into them just trying to get under each other’s skin.

 

He gets a petty surge of satisfaction when Link’s mouth works angrily before he yells.

 

“Fuck off!” Link’s voice is strained and cracks towards the end.

 

“Quit bein’ a brat!”

 

“You’re one to talk! You didn’t tell me! I even asked you why! I specifically asked why Jessie left and you lied! You lied to me and yer over here bitchin’ about open communication.”

 

That hits lower than Rhett’s comfortable with and he’s instantly back on the defense. “Yeah and you apparently had a whole bunch a’ stuff you had no intention of telling me!”

 

Link actually looks offended, swallowing heavily and taking a step back while his arms come up around his elbows. Rhett immediately wants to take it back. “How the hell am I s’pposed to tell you this, huh Rhett?” This comes out almost too quiet for Rhett to hear.

 

“Open communication.” Rhett repeats, lowering his own voice. “I couldn’t tell you why my wife left okay, I really couldn’t.”

 

“Why not.” Link throws back, sassiness returning.

 

“Same reason you didn't wanna tell me, apparently.” Sarcasm isn’t smart here but again, he can’t help it. He really hates how easy it is for Link to completely shatter his calm.

 

“You can’t just take my answer, that’s cheating.”

 

“Yes, it’s cheating, because we’re apparently twelve years old here. It’s not cheating if it’s honest, Neal.”

 

“I don't care.”

 

 Irritation ripples down Rhett’s spine at Link’s immature answer and he exhales through his nose.“You’re literally being as difficult as possible, on purpose, for no reason whatsoever.”

 

“I happen to think I’m being the exact amount of difficult for someone in my current situation, Rhett.” Link’s eyebrows rise mockingly.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Rhett snaps, trying to get the conversation back on track.

 

“I couldn’t!” Link looks desperate now, hands coming together to twist at his fingers.

 

“Why not!?”

 

“Because!?”

 

“Because why, Neal?!” Rhett shouts to match Links volume.

 

“Ugh, I can’t!” Link suddenly folds in on himself, crouching into a ball with his hands in his hair in a self soothing pose Rhett has seen him adopt before when the conversation became too much for him. He hasn't seen him do it in years, and it sends a roll of concern over him.

 

“Come on man.” He tries for a softer tone.

 

“I’m thinking over here!” Link yells out sharply, slightly muffled where his face is buried in his knees.

 

Rhett stares down at him unhappily, watching the uneven rise and fall of his spine.

 

“Ugh, Link just talk to me, come on its not all that-“

 

“Its not all that bad?” Link’s voice is borderline hysterical and he stands so fast Rhett can hear his knees pop. “You have kept multiple life altering secrets from me, one that ruined my marrige and my entire life, and you're really standing there telling me it’s not that bad?!”

 

“That. Was. Not. My. Fault!” Rhett snarls out shortly, anger finally winning out. “I didn’t ruin your marriage, Link! I was honest with Jessie because she deserved it! I didn’t say a damn thing about you, and Christy is her own person who made her own damn assumptions!” 

 

He can’t stop talking now, indignation searing through him even as Link shrunk back at his outburst. “Your marriage is not on me.”

 

He’s apparently managed to shut Link up for a bit, the other man stuck breathing heavily through his open mouth. 

 

“Also Link, correct me if I’m wrong, you are actually...” The word gay gets stuck in his throat, the last of his upbringing rearing its ugly head in the hesitation.

 

“What Rhett? Gay? Queer? A little bit different?” Link spat out, lip curling cruelly over the insults.

 

Rhett cringled at the venom in his tone and shook his head. "You know that’s not what I-“

 

“Yes, it’s true Rhett! Okay?! But I had everything done already! I had Christy and my children and my carreer and I had yo-,” he cuts himself off to inhale shakily. “I, I could manage it! I was fine!”

 

“Were you ever gonna tell me?” Rhett’s heart clenches tight as Link’s nose scrunches up with something that look suspiciously like guilt. 

 

“I couldn’t.” Link’s voice is small again, his eyes trained somewhere near Rhett’s shoes.

 

“Why?”

 

“No!”

 

“Neal!”

 

They’re stuck in a standoff. Link is glaring down Rhett from the other side of the couch, chest heaving and jaw still working before he shakes his head, breathing loud in the still air. 

 

Rhett waits, knowing how easy he could set Link off with literally anything.

 

“I’m done with this conversation, that’s it.” Link finally snapped with an air of finality that sent a surge of irritation through Rhett, making him regret giving him the time to think.

 

“I’m not done talkin’ man.” Rhett crossed his arms and stood firm in the doorway, straightening up to his full height to loom over Link.

 

This only serves to further piss Link off and a bright red flush works it’s way down from his ears to his throat as he strides up to stand chest to chest with him. “Fuck off dude, move, and quit bein’ a dick.” He glares up at Rhett and attempts to shoulder past him, grunting in frustration when Rhett stands firm, hands not even moving as he easily stands against Link’s weight.

 

“No, stay here and talk about this with me.” Desperation is climbing up Rhett’s chest and he knows it’s manifesting as anger and he wants to reach forward and grab Link and force him to just stay and talk to him but then Link leans down and Rhett braces himself.

 

He knows this move like the back of his hand and can deflect it in his sleep. He knows this fact is only going to make Link really lose his shit. Link tries to dodge around him, fakes to Rhett’s left, and tries to go low to the right at the last second. Rhett waits, leaning to the left the way he knows Link wants him to before slamming back into him, body checking Link back into the couch and he sagged where he landed, defeated. His glasses clatter noisily on the floor where they fall off his face as Rhett stands over him, hands up in surrender.

 

“Why couldn’t you tell me, Link.” He’s pleading now, half a step from dropping to his goddamn knees.

 

“I couldn’t lose you too.” The answer is mumbled into the air between them and Rhett blinks in confusion.

 

“Why would that make me leave? I would never leave you.” Rhett says this as earnestly as he can manage. 

 

“Well I didn’t know that Rhett.” Blue eyes come up to glare back at him.

 

“How could you think that? What else could I think? That you’re gay so that might mean you were in love with me and I’d be disgusted and leave? Link, that’s-“

 

Rhett trails off as the realization drops onto his head and he looks down to meet Link’s eyes.

 

Link looks scared now, shoulders curling around himself defensively and his eyes wide. His hands are twisted together in his lap and Rhett can see them shaking. 

 

Rhett’s throat is so dry he’s nervous that he won’t be able to get the words out as they tear their way up his vocal chords. He does fall to his knees now, hands coming up to lightly rest on Links trembling thighs and wincing when Link flinches back at the touch. 

 

“Link, I-“

 

“Just let me go Rhett, please.” Link’s strangled whisper hurts Rhett physically and he shakes his head. His palms are sweating where he has them on Links legs and he lets his fingertips dig in to feel the muscles give. The words are coming back up in a bubbling, torrential mass that’s pushing out the back of his throat to leap off his tongue and he can’t stop them now. 

 

He doesn’t want to.

 

He looks up into Link’s wide, terrified gaze. His mouth is parted and shiny and there are still tear tracks glimmering weakly on the crest of his cheekbones. 

 

He looks beautiful.

 

“Link, I’m in love with you.”

 

Rhett expects the world to really end then, can even feel the earth shift slightly off its access as what seems like a thousand pounds floats off his shoulders, alleviating a weight that he’s been carrying around for far too long. The words feel right on his tongue, like his mouth was always meant to form them.

 

The world doesn’t end, but Link’s eyes close and he draws his head back, mouth tightening in what looks like pain with a sharp inhale through his nose and, well fuck, that almost feels worse. Rhett would almost prefer the apocalypse. “Stop, Rhett.” the shaky whisper does nothing but make Rhett's hands tighten.

 

"Link, I’m serious." He's never spoken more sincerely in his life, it almost feels like his insides are melting and he's pouring his very soul onto Links lap. "I’ve never been more serious about anything in my life."

 

Link flinches back again, eyes squeezing shut and two twin tears add to the shining mess on his face. "Shut up, Rhett." There's no voice to this statement at all, breathed out in a near silent exhalation.

 

"Link please," Rhett’s begging now, lungs tightening and throat closing as he hears himself stumble over his own desperate tongue.

 

A strangled sob wrenches out of Link’s mouth and he looks up towards the ceiling; praying to heaven or willing the floor to open up and swallow him, Rhett can’t tell. Real panic wells up in Rhett and he's about to lean back, lift his hands up and just let his words die where he left them when Link suddenly grasps his wrists, fingers tight enough that Rhett can feel the bones grinding together. He clings to them in his wet palms and tugs them to his chest, Rhett letting his body sway to follow where Link pulled him. 

 

"Rhett, I swear to god." 

 

“Listen to me.” Rhett reaches up to catch Link’s face between has hands, cradling it as tenderly as he can. His thumbs drag through the tears and his heart feels like it’s going to burst when Link closes his eyes and leans into his touch even as he chokes out another stifled cry. “I love you. I am so in love with you I- I can’t even stand it, Link. You are absolutely everything, and I am so sorry it’s taken me this long and I’m sorry that it happened like this but, ya gotta believe me. I love you.”

 

Link opens his eyes. The light catches the glittering tears clinging to his eyelashes against the bright flush of his skin. He doesn’t look scared anymore. There’s nothing but trust and that same deep, burning affection that Rhett’s been looking back at for over thirty years. The raw familiarity of it clogs Rhett’s own throat up and his next vow comes out thick, low and shuddering in a perfect harmony to Link’s soft whimpers. 

 

“Link, I always have.”

 

Link breaks, and it’s the single most perfect thing Rhett has ever seen. His mouth trembles, jaw working, bright blue eyes over-wet, and he surges forward, knocking their foreheads together. His breath shakily ghosts over Rhett’s face and Rhett hears himself choke on a cry of his own.

 

“Say it again.” Link whispers as he nudges his head up, letting his nose trail along the side of Rhett’s own.

 

Rhett doesn’t, he really doesn’t think he can. Instead he moves his hands from Link’s face, running one of them across the expanse of his skull to cup the back of his head, the other finding the sharp angle of Link’s jaw to hold it tenderly. 

 

He gives one last look into Link’s trusting gaze before letting his eyes drift shut and pulls Link closer, tilting his head and kissing his best friend on the mouth for the first time in his life.

 

Link reacts gorgeously, a trembling gasp breathed in sharply through his nose as his hands release Rhett’s wrists and find his hair, twisting into it to drag Rhett closer. 

 

It’s too much. It’s everything Rhett’s ever wanted and more. The solidity of Link’s flushed skin beneath his hands combined with the familiar scent of Link’s shampoo invading his senses brings reality crashing down around Rhett and he sobs against Link’s mouth, his own tears finally falling. 

 

Link pulls back then, chest heaving and he moves to cup Rhett’s face the same way Rhett’s still holding him, leaning in again to nuzzle his nose along the new wetness on his cheek.

 

“I love you, I love you so dang much, Rhett.” There are kisses being rained down on Rhett’s entire face, over his eyelids and his forehead and he’s really crying now, bright spots filling his vision as Link murmurs into his skin. “I’ve always loved you, I never thought, I never, fuck- I love you.”

 

Rhett has to stop then, turning his face into Link’s neck to mouth along the strip of pale skin he’s offered. “Fucking hell, Link. I’ve always wanted you like this.” He doesn’t even know what he’s saying, just knows he has to keep his mouth connected to the warm skin before him, has to keep drawing out the moans and pleas from Link. “I love you so much.”

 

He can’t stop pressing the words into Link’s skin, speaking them over and over like he can brand them there forever. He comes back up and kisses him again, groaning as their mouths slot together perfectly. It’s sloppy and messy, Link is still crying, and his mouth is slick with tears and spit but Rhett doesn’t care. Link’s mouth opens and lets out another harsh gasp as he shoves his tongue into Rhett’s mouth, hands releasing his face to wrap around Rhett’s shoulders.

 

Link kisses him like it’s his last day on earth and Rhett holds on to him for dear life. His tongue and lips are as hot and demanding as their owner and when Link finally lets him breathe Rhett swears he can actually see stars.

 

Link pulls back, mouth hanging open and chin shiny. He looks into Rhett’s eyes for a beat before a beautifully soft smile tugs at the corner of his mouth and he lets his forehead lean against Rhett’s again. Rhett can’t resist, leaning up and pressing another lingering kiss to the corner of his mouth where the smile is blooming. The need to feel Link against him is still thundering around his body and he clutches at his sweater to haul him closer. Link shuffles forward off the couch and goes into his arms eagerly, ending up sort of straddling Rhett’s lap where he’s still kneeling on the floor. Rhett buries his nose into the skin behind Link’s ear and hugs him tightly. He’s getting tears all over Link’s face but the other man either hasn’t noticed or doesn’t care. He lets himself breathe in Link’s scent, inhaling greedily like he was dying.

 

He almost felt like he was.

 

“I feel like I’m dyin’.” He murmurs into Link’s hair, voicing the thought unconsciously. He bring one hand up to cup the back of Link’s head when the other man turns to nuzzle Rhett’s neck. 

 

“Oh, you too?” The muffled quip comes back with a hysterical giggle and Rhett squeezes him tighter.

 

Link pulls back, sighing loudly and wiping off his face with both hands. He curls his damp hands into the fabric on Rhett’s chest and smiles sadly. “I’ve wanted you for years, Rhett. Fucking years. Why didn’t you, why couldn’t you-“

 

Rhett’s already shaking his head in response, hands tightening  around Link’s waist even as he lowers his mouth down to kiss up the white expanse of Link’s throat. “I couldn’t, Link. I just couldn’t. What if you left me? What would I do without you? I couldn’t risk it, bo.”

 

“We could have had years! It’s not fair.” Link’s voice is breaking again and Rhett pulls him back to his chest, holding him as tight as he dared even as he feels Link start to cry again. “It’s not fair Rhett, we could have been like this our whole lives!”

 

“We’re here now, baby. I’ve got you now.” He speaks reverently even as Link shakes in his arms. “We’ve got all the time in the world now, Link. An’ I don’t intend to waste another goddamn second.”

 

“I love you.” Link sobs into his shoulder, stuttering out over a hiccup.

 

“I love you too, baby. Fuck, do I love you.” Rhett answers back, tears escaping his own foggy eyes as Link just cries harder at his answer. 

 

Rhett doesn’t know how long he stays holding Link on the floor. His knees are throbbing and his back is screaming but he’s never cared less about pain in his life. He finally says everything he’s ever wanted to say to Link now, clutching him to his chest as Link cries himself hoarse into his neck, mourning the years they’ve lost. After an hour, or a year, Rhett really isn’t entirely sure, Link finally quiets, cries tapering off into quiet sniffles punctuated with wet kisses along his jaw and whispered declarations. Rhett runs a hand up his knobby spine and strokes along the back of his hair, worshiping his back with his other hand and feeling Links’s breathing even out.

 

Link is quiet for a while longer before he finally speaks, the words low and raspy in Rhett’s ear.

 

“Rhett?” 

 

“Yeah, angel?” Rhett murmurs along the shell of Link’s ear, tightening his arms as Link shudders at the feeling.

 

“Did you get me fried chicken?” 

 

The question throws Rhett entirely and he laughs out in surprise. “Course I did bo. You’ve had yourself a day an’ a half, and I know for a fact you still haven’t eaten today.”

 

Link leans back to smile at him, all teeth and sparkling blue eyes, swollen from tears but bright nonetheless. “Why you so good to me, huh?”

 

“Cause I love you.” Rhett breathes back to him.

 

Link stares at him for a beat, hands running through Rhett’s hair as he contemplates him. “I love you. We really should eat hun, it’s getting late.”

 

“Are you okay?” Rhett asks, concern returning as Link sniffles and runs his arm over his face again. 

 

“I have never felt better in my entire life.” Link smiles again, exhaling a laugh through his nose. “Where are my glasses? Why are we still on the floor?”

 

“I don’t know, I lost feelin’ in my legs like an hour ago.” Rhett says flatly.

 

Link giggles, high and scratchy and Rhett wants to kiss him again. “Yer gonna hurt your back like this, come on brother.” He wiggles his way off Rhett’s lap, slapping at Rhett’s arm when he laughs at the way Link almost falls over trying to stand. He reaches down and grasp Rhett’s hands to pull him up once he’s on his feet. 

 

Rhett reaches for him again immediately, tugging him into a hug and pressing his mouth to the top of Link’s head. “I really do love you.” He murmurs the words out with all the sincerity he can, willing Link to feel even half the emotion he’s choking on.

 

Link pulls back and kisses Rhett softly, Rhett groaning at the sweet feeling. 

 

“I love you too, Rhett.”

 

The chicken is cold by the time they get Link’s glasses back on and they make it to the kitchen. Link solidly refuses to let Rhett serve them, taking over completely as he warms up their dinner and even carries both plates to the living room so they can watch something while they eat. Rhett watches him float around his kitchen fondly. Link keeps looking over at him shyly, sending sweet smiles to him over the island and even leaning over it to kiss Rhett deeply while the plates are in the microwave.

 

They eat in comfortable silence, Rhett didn’t even realize how hungry he was after the emotionally draining day he’s had. Link eats like he’s starving, hogging all the Mac and cheese and putting up a real fight to keep it away from Rhett; giving in with a laugh when Rhett pokes at his sides.

 

They end up in their usual position, slouched into opposite ends of the couch. Rhett’s half asleep already, drained and stuffed full of chicken. He looks over to Link to find him with his head tilted back and a slight frown creasing his eyebrows.

 

“You okay, baby?” He murmurs, swatting weakly at Link’s thigh with his fingertips.

 

No.” Link turns to him with wide eyes and a slack jaw, looking all kinds of freaked out and Rhett sits up straighter. “I-I think I’m pregnant Rhett.”

 

The flight or fight response withers away with Link’s answer and he blinks. “What?”

 

Link smiles then, giggling brightly as he tugs up his shirt and pushes out his flat stomach so it curves upwards over the waistband on his joggers. “Her name’s Chicken.”

 

The laugh that Rhett barks out sparks a tirade of giggles out of the other man and it takes them a bit to stop laughing. It feels right now. Their entire friendship had been built on the ability to make each other laugh. It’s always been so natural to them and it settles soft and warm over Rhett’s heart.

 

“You’re weird, man.” He says fondly, still chuckling.

 

“You still love me though.” Link counters cheekily, moving across the couch to drape himself over Rhett’s lap, laying his head down into Rhett’s chest and nuzzling into it when Rhett’s arms come up to hold him. “Can we stay here tonight?”

 

Can I stay with you tonight? Rhett can hear the unspoken question in Link’s voice and he thinks back to the last time Link has asked him that question, how he’d badly he’d regretted saying no to him.

 

He presses a kiss to Links forehead. “No, honey.” He feels Link wilt with dismay into his arms and he he kisses him again. “Don’t you think my bed would be more comfortable for us anyways?”

 

Link sits up quickly, staring at him with unbridled joy, looking like Rhett just offered him the goddamn world and Rhett has to smile, has to laugh. He’s never been this happy in his life. 

 

Link races him upstairs. They’re giggling like children when they reach the top and Link hip checks him as he disappears into his room to change. Rhett’s already in bed when Link comes back and leans on the doorway, wearing an old GMM shirt that Rhett knows is his and has been looking for for the better part of a year.

 

He raises an eyebrow. “Been lookin’ for that shirt, darlin.”

 

“Well it’s right here.” Link winks cheekily, shaking his hips. “And you ain’t never gettin it back.”

 

“Little thief.” He answers softly as Link switches off the light and crawls in beside him. He immediately goes into Rhett’s arms, twining his legs around Rhett’s and curling his arms to his chest as Rhett tugs him closer. Link smells like home, and Rhett feels complete.

 

“Hi,” Link whispers up at him in the dark.

 

“Hey there.” Rhett runs the back of his hand over the crest of Link’s cheekbone. “I’ve always wanted to fall asleep with you in my arms.”

 

“This happened last night Rhett.” Link giggles out, chasing his hand to press kisses to his fingers.

 

“You know what I mean.” Rhett lets his fingers linger on Links mouth as the other man makes love to his hand, laving his tongue over the tips of them. “I love you, Link.” He knows he’s said it a thousand times tonight already, but he can’t help himself, especially when Link smiles beneath his fingers.

 

“Oh, I love you too, Rhett.” Link cranes his neck up to find Rhett, kissing him with enough passion to make his head spin.

 

When Link releases him, he does so with a choked off little whine. The sound jogs Rhett’s memory of the day, and the words Adrian spoke to him ring in his ears again. He’s suddenly nauseous, and prays Link doesn’t notice as he tries to swallow it down. “You know we’re gonna have to, like, talk about this, right?” Rhett asks as he guides Link back to his chest with a gentle hand on the back of his head. 

 

“I know.” Link is already half asleep as he sighs. “We can talk tomorrow, just, let me have this, ‘kay Rhett?” His arms snake around Rhett’s back and squeeze once. “This is too perfect to talk now.”

 

Rhett has to agree with him, so he lets Link have it, holding the other man tightly and drawing nonsense patterns on the back of head with his fingertips. It only takes two minutes before Link’s quietly snoring into Rhett’s chest, hands lax and curled loosely on his chest.

 

It takes Rhett a little longer to fall asleep, trying and failing to not dwell on the secret Adrian had dropped. He didn’t want to think about that now, today had been so much, and now he had his gorgeous best friend clinging to him in his sleep. Aside from the hatred and sorrow still screaming for attention in the back of his head, Rhett had never been happier. 

 

Plus, Link had cried so much today, more than he’s done in years. The thought of anything causing Link any type of emotional distress is a hard no from Rhett right now. And he knows himself well enough to know that he’s not emotionally steady enough to talk about that with Link at the moment.

 

Tomorrow. We’ll talk tomorrow.

 

Satisfied, Rhett lets his eyes drift closed. Link shuffles in his sleep, face coming up to bury itself in Rhett’s neck. He manages to drop a kiss to the space between Link’s eyebrows before succumbing to sleep himself.

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s far from the first time that Rhett has ever woken up with Link in his arms.

 

It’s not even the first time that he’s woken up in the position he is now, with Link’s arms curled under his chin and his head cradled in the crook of Rhett’s arm.

 

It is the first time, however, that Rhett lets himself relax upon waking, settling back down and just watching Link breathe, smiling down at him without an ounce of guilt.

 

Don’t get him wrong, he always likes to stare at Link the mornings they’ve woken up and Link is still wrapped around him like Rhett was his own personal plush toy. He loves the way Link looks when he sleeps, so soft and relaxed, the stress gone from his visage. Rhett never passes on the opportunities to just exist next to him on the rare mornings that Link doesn’t wake up first.

 

It always weighs heavily on his soul though, feels almost dirty. Like he has no right to lay there and feel the heat of Link’s body beside him and love it the way he does. He hasn’t gotten permission to idly run his fingertips up and down to caress the bumps of Link’s spine.

 

But now there’s nothing but unbridled joy and a searing adoration as Rhett looks down at Link curled up into his chest. Link’s mouth is open, his slow and sleepy exhales warming Rhett’s collarbones. Rhett’s other arm is still draped over the dip of Link’s waistline and he curls his arm in, pulling Link closer to him.

 

Link goes easily, eyebrows twitching once before he settles his face into Rhett’s sternum, soft hair brushing against Rhett’s mouth.

 

Rhett lets his hand slide up to splay his palm over the small of Link’s back and curls his other arm around to cradle Link’s head. He's always wanted to do this, to gather Link in his arms and hold him tightly as he slept. Link isn’t a small person by any means at a proud six feet, but in Rhett’s arms he feels small, delicate, fragile. His lean muscles and tall frame are dwarfed by Rhett's massive hands and Rhett feels a glimmer of sorrow for the man in his arms, for all the pain he never knew Link had carried with him for so long and he tightens them around Link. A rush of love crests over Rhett's heart on the heels of an insane desire to remain here with Link until the world ended, to keep him here and safe and protect him from anything that would threaten him.

 

A desire that would have to wait, sadly. 

 

Link wakes slowly, eyelashes twitching before his eyes fluttered open. There's just enough light streaming into Rhett's bedroom to illuminate Link's face as he wakes, eyes flashing soft and blue as he tilts his head up to look at Rhett.

 

The syrupy smile that stretches over Link's face almost stops Rhett's heart in his chest. 

 

“Hi, Rhett.” Link’s whisper comes out low and throaty, followed by a contented hum when Rhett drops a kiss to his forehead.

 

“You sound awful,” Rhett answers in lieu of a good morning. 

 

Link borrows his face deeper into Rhett’s chest and lets his hands curl into the fabric of his shirt. “I know. I cried too dang much yesterday.” Link kisses the corner of his beard along his jaw once before dropping his head back onto Rhett’s arm. “We’re so dramatic.” He giggles quietly.

 

“You’re so dramatic. I feel like I was perfectly composed,” Rhett answers teasingly. 

 

Link scoffs at him with a smile and Rhett feels his leg move so Rhett can slot his thigh in between them. Link trails feather light touches through his beard and Rhett gets stuck watching him pull his lower lip between his teeth. 

 

Link let’s out a tiny sigh, biting down on his lip and staring into Rhett’s eyes with the same dreamy look. “I don’t wanna go to work today.” He whispers, moving his hand to wind around the back of Rhett’s neck. “I wanna stay here with you. I don’t ever wanna leave.” He slinks his body up Rhett’s, pressing them together and Rhett can feel Link hard against his groin when he rolls his hips once. “Lets just stay here.” 

 

It’s a far cry from the panic that had flashed across Link’s face when he’d sat on Rhett’s lap the day before, and the eagerness on Link’s part goes straight to Rhett’s cock and he groans. He slides his hand down Link’s back and grips his hipbone roughly, grinding his hips against Link’s.

 

“You wanna stay here and grind on me all day, Darlin?” Rhett growls lowly, twisting the fingers of his other hand into Link’s hair and tugging his head back to lower his mouth to his neck. “Is that it?”

 

A strained whimper floats out of Link’s mouth as his body instantly relaxes beneath Rhett, arms snaking up to wrap around Rhett’s shoulders. “Oh, yes Sir.” Link breathes out, hips stuttering against Rhett. “Yes, I want that, please-“

 

Link breaks off into breathless nonsense, pleading and whining and sending Rhett’s head spinning. He’s spiraling closer to the edge by the second and he rolls Link onto his back to hover over him, sinking his teeth into the offered collarbone. Link cries out and his fingernails dig into Rhett’s shoulders. 

 

It’s been years since Rhett’s gotten this worked up this quickly. Link has barely been grinding on him for hardly any time at all and Rhett’s swears he could come like this, mouth full of the skin of Link’s throat and his cock rubbing against Link’s straining erection. He’s choking on his own muffled moans and his hands are leaving bruises on Link’s hips and he’s so close-

 

BEEEEEEP 

 

BEEEEEEP

 

BEEEEEEP

 

“For fucks sake!” Rhett snarls out, shoving himself off Link and rolling over to snatch up his phone where it was charging, turning off the alarm with venom. He flops back onto the pillows and sighs in frustration. “Dammit. Baby, I am so sorry.” He rolls his head and looks over at Link.

 

Link turns and looks back at him. His eyes are blown wide and he looks completely dazed, his mouth is hanging open as he pants at Rhett. 

 

“Oh ma goodness, Rhett.” Link gasps out, sliding his hand down to press his palm against himself beneath the blanket. “I coulda come just from that.” Another throaty whine pushes itself out of his mouth. “Seriously lets just not work today.”

 

Rhett throws an arm over his eyes and desperately thinks of anything he possibly can. Dead kittens, old nuns, the taste of pork blood, anything to get himself to calm down and ignore the desperate cadence of Link’s request. “We have to,” he answers regretfully. They really did, they had a mountain of footage to go over and several segments for next week to shoot ahead of time. There was literally no way for them to stay here and Rhett wants to scream.

 

“I know,” Link answers, sounding just as frustrated as Rhett feels as he crawls over and lays back down on Rhett’s chest. “You, sir,” He whispers now, reaching up to tug Rhett’s arm off his face, “are gonna be the death of me.”

 

Link’s hair is tousled and sticking up, there’s a bright flush sitting pretty in his cheeks and there’s a twisted smirk on his swollen lips. He looks so beautiful and happy despite the obvious frustration that a heavy surge of emotion rises up Rhett’s chest and he swallows heavily.

 

“Right back atcha, baby.” Rhett answers, completely breathless. 

 

Link takes a slightly longer shower than usual. Rhett doesn’t begrudge him the hot water, his own shower stretching out an extra three minutes as he grasps himself desperately, the wanton noises Link had sang into his ears spurring his hand on until he comes with a choked off groan.

 

There’s a smoothie and a kiss waiting for him downstairs when Rhett’s finally dressed. He takes them both with a smile and a blush when Link’s hands come up and fix the collar of his shirt, smoothing them down over his chest. 

 

“You look so good today.” Link breathes out reverently against his mouth after he pulled Rhett down by the collar he’d just straightened. “You look good everyday, you’re so handsome, Rhett. I always wanna tell you how good you look.”

 

“Me? Lookit you.” Rhett answers, pulling back and running his hands down Links arms. “This is, still my shirt. You gonna wear this?”

 

Link laughs, moving out of Rhett’s arms and shoving his phone in his pocket. “Course not, I’m gonna change at the studio, ‘M all outta clothes. Can we stop by my house on the way back?”

 

“Course, angel.” They would do that periodically, return to Link’s empty house, Link flitting from his closet back to the car before Rhett can even get out of the car, like he didn’t want to spend an extra second inside.

 

They’re only ten minutes late when they finally leave, and Rhett wants to unlock the door and shove Link back inside when the man comes up behind him and wraps his arms around Rhett’s middle as he’s locking the door. He feels Link press a kiss to his spine between his shoulder blades and exhale softly. 

 

“I already wanna come back home.” He hears Link whisper and he turns in Link's arms, tapping his knuckles under Link’s chin to bring his eyes back up to his own.

 

“I do too but, baby, when we get back,” Rhett stops nervously when Link’s eyebrows rise apprehensively, “Can we have that talk? I just-“ he stops to press a kiss to Link’s mouth, hands sliding up to cup his face. “I’m all in on this baby, and as fun as this morning was, I wanna make sure we’re both on the same page and I do the absolute best by you.”

 

Link answers with a slightly dazed nod and pushes up on his toes to kiss Rhett again, swiping his tongue over Rhett’s lower lip before settling back on his feet. “Yeah,-Yeah I’d like that a lot Rhett.”

 

Link holds his hand hostage the entire drive to the studio, talking up his usual storm with his energy from the coffee he’s holding in the hand that isn’t clutching tightly to Rhett’s in his lap. Rhett can barely get a word in and misses several green lights when he’s caught watching the way the morning light catches Link’s eyes. He doesn’t release his hand when they reach the nearly empty parking lot either, only letting go to slide out of the car before returning to Rhett’s side, taking his hand almost shyly.

 

The studio is mostly empty, and they don’t encounter anyone while they get to their office, where Link instantly drops his backpack onto the couch and all but shoves Rhett down into his office chair, crawling into his lap and kissing him roughly. 

 

Rhett’s two heartbeats away from pushing Link off him to drag him up to the loft when Stevie opens the door with her hip, iPad in hand and already talking.

 

Link instantly startles in Rhett’s lap, sitting up straight in a panic and Rhett’s hands instantly move from Links hips up to grab his shoulders to stop him from overbalancing. 

 

“Okay guys, Chase already has the jars for the ‘Shelf we leave things on’ set up, Morgan’s getting bagels and then he wants you to look over the editing for the More from Tuesday-“ 

 

She falters then, eyebrow quirking for a split second before she continues on with that same shit eating grin she’s been sending Rhett for the last two weeks.

 

“Aaaaaaand we need to research the facts for your next conspiracy segment, Rhett,” she finished with a flourish and turns to leave again, completely nonplussed. “Ten minutes, got it?”

 

“You can like, pretend to be surprised,” Rhett deadpans as Link giggles into his hand, cheeks aflame.

 

“It wouldn’t be convincing.” Stevie snarks back with an overly sweet smile. “Ten minutes boys. Try to calm down, yeah? It’s a family friendly show.”

 

She slips out the door before Rhett can pick up the hat chilling at his desk and chuck it at the door, landing a few feet short.

 

“Meddling little shit,” Rhett says fondly. “I need to send that girl a fruit basket or something.”

 

“For not being surprised? Rhett, we could livestream ourselves and absolutely no one would be surprised.” Link wiggles out of his lap and fixes his shirt.

 

“Nah, not for that. For sending me to the club to find you in the first place. How did she know about that anyways. If you didn’t tell me you sure as hell didn’t tell Stevie.” Rhett watches him Link strip out of his shirt and traces the curves of his shoulders with his eyes. 

 

Link turns around with a new shirt in his hands and catches Rhett staring, wiggling his hips and flashing him a wink before he tugs the shirt over his head. “Her and Cass are friends with Sugar. They were there for a toy expose we did and Sugar and I were running a booth together. I was kinda busted.” Link tugs his bright purple cardigan over his shirt and fluffs his hair in the mirror. “Did she really tell you I was working there that day?”

 

“Nope.” Rhett reaches out and tugged Link closer by his belt loops when he swayed closer. “Totally blindsided me. Just casually walked in and dropped a brochure for the convention on my desk.” 

 

“Maybe just like, an apple or somethin’ then, not the whole basket,” Link murmurs, hands coming up to tilt Rhett’s face as he drops a soft kiss to Rhett’s hair. “Come on, bo. Let’s go finish all this crap so you can take me home.”

 

Rhett laughed, but nodded all the same, releasing Link and following him out of the office.

 

Work passes slower that it ever has. Rhett is barely listening to Morgan talking beside him as he stares across the set at Link, nearly doubled over in disgust as Chase walks him through the various jars for next weeks segment. He hardly gets to speak to Link, following various employees all over the studio as he’s called where he’s needed. He films a segment for a cutscene with Stevie and is completely distracted by the way Link watches him softly from behind the camera, eyes boring into Rhett’s soul and smile sweet enough to melt him where he sits.

 

He barely manages to catch him when Link breaks for lunch while Rhett is still busy, snatching his hand when he walks past and tugging him back for a quick but heated kiss that makes Ellie squeal and Link blush when he leaves. 

 

They find each other again at the end of the day, Rhett already answering various emails on the couch when Link strides in, smile bright and eyes soft when he sees Rhett. Rhett doesn’t even pretend to stop him when Link shoves the computer off his lap, ignoring Rhett’s protest at mistreating his electronics and draping himself over his lap. He catches Rhett’s mouth with his own and cards his fingers through Rhett’s mussed hair, giggling when Rhett kisses back, hands reaching up to tug Link’s glasses off. 

 

He slides them into his own face when Link leans back and laughs as Link squints exaggeratedly at him.

 

“Blind old man,” hecalls him affectionately, sliding his knuckles along the sharp edge of Link’s jaw.

 

“Old man? Look who’s talking,” Link answers back, snatching his glasses back and kissing him once more before standing and tugging on Rhett’s hand. “Take me home.”

 

Home.

 

Rhett listens to him, because how could he refuse.

 

They don’t head home immediately. Rhett takes Link the four blocks down to his own house, catching his forearm when Link makes to dash out of the car. Link pauses, turning back around.

 

“Hold up, brother. Let me go with you.”

 

Link bites his lip, but acquiesces nonetheless. He’s quiet as he unlocks the front door, and doesn’t break his silence as he leads Rhett into the nearly empty living room. 

 

Rhett hasn’t been in here in months, and it’s almost startling in the difference now. Almost all of the photos that used to decorate the walls are gone, half the furniture is missing and the sound of Jade barking a greeting is sorely missed in Rhett’s ears. It’s stifling, the air conditioning out of use since last year and there’s a fine coating of dust on every flat surface. 

 

It breaks Rhett’s heart.

 

Link doesn’t pay it any mind, heading directly to his and Christy's old room to shove any item of clothing that he can find into his backpack. There isn’t much left, most of it sitting in Rhett’s own laundry room at home. Rhett doesn’t point out that Link could just wash his clothes and not have to come back here, but he doesn’t. He feels like Link is slowly but surely trying to remove himself from the empty shell of his old home, and the last thing Rhett wants to do is stop him. 

 

He loves the idea that one day Link won’t have to come back here, and he lets the thought carry him to where Link is emptying one of the drawers of his dresser and press a kiss to the man’s neck, damp with sweat in the overly warm air.

 

“Why haven’t you just sold the house, Link?”

 

Link pauses, holding a pair of jeans right in his hands. “I don’t know. I guess I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”

 

Rhett nods, kissing him again and letting his hands frame his hips. “Surely you have someone who’d let you crash with them for a bit, maybe let you move in permanently.”

 

It’s a thought Rhett’s entertained since the day Link had came to him with the news of his divorce, but it’s the first time he’s spoken of it with Link.

 

Link turns over his shoulder to look at him, an eyebrow quirking and a smirk tugging at his mouth. “Oh? And where would I go to find that then?” 

 

Rhett knows Link understands, and leaves the joke where it is, knowing Link well enough to know he’ll think on it. “Somewhere with air conditioning.” He takes the jeans from Link’s hands and shoves then into his backpack for him. “Let’s go.” 

 

They do, and Link brightens up significantly on the drive back to Rhett’s house, swinging between filling Rhett in on what happened at work and what he wants for dinner, sprinkling in jokes here and there to keep Rhett smiling.

 

As Rhett laughs, he turns and catches Link’s mirrored opened mouthed grin in the passenger seat, and he swears he’s never loved him more.

 

The nerves don’t kick in until Rhett pulls up to his own driveway and Link quiets, growing subdued as they watch each other exit the car and Link takes his hand again as Rhett leads them to the front door. 

 

He clutches onto one of Rhett’s hand with both of his own until Rhett sits on the couch in his den and tugs Link down next to him, pulling both of his hands into his own. 

 

Rhett’s voice seems to die on his tongue when he looks into Links waiting eyes, expression soft and waiting and he looks back down at his lap.

 

“It’s just me, Rhett.” Link looks nervous now, slightly put off by Rhett’s silence. His fingertips draw shaky circles on the backs of Rhett’s hands and his lower lip is trapped in his teeth. “You can ask me anything you wanna, baby. I’ll give it to you.”

 

“I know.” Rhett nodded, still staring down at his lap. “Jus’ not a conversation I ever thought I’d have.” 

 

“Don’t I know it.” Link tries on an encouraging smile. It kinda helps. “Talk to me.”

 

There are way too many questions buzzing around Rhett's head right now, he almost wishes he had had the wherewithal to at least write something down. He really wants to ask abut Link's past, wants to scream and cry and figure out just who he needed to kill so that Link could sleep at night again.

 

But he knows that's counterproductive here. And Link is looking at him openly, clear affection and trust on his face and Rhett decides to swallow his own needs and start at the top.

 

“How did you even find that place?"

 

"Uh." Link blinks, mouth twisting. "Completely on accident, actually. I was looking for a therapist, honestly, and I found them on a forum advertising their sex therapy program-" Link breaks off, mouth snapping closed and he shot a strange, almost guilty look at Rhett.

 

Rhett knows what he wants to ask, knows what he probably should ask, but the white tinge of Link's knuckles that's showing on his tightly clasped hands send another question out of his mouth. "Why were you lookin' for a therapist?"

 

Link's shoulders sag in obvious relief, and the knife in Rhett's gut twists a little bit. "I was nervous! I was jumping an entire gender here." An unconvincing giggle falls flat in the air between them. "Also, um." The look of discomfort is back again. "I've always felt more comfortable with sex when I was being submissive, ya know? Christy used to hate it, always wanted me to be the man, take charge." A grimace curls Link's lower lip. "She didn't like how much I liked pain either, used to freak 'er out whenever I asked her to hit or choke me."

 

"Her loss,” Rhett mutters without thinking, Link rewarding him with a shy smile. "You don't deserve to be made to feel less for likin' what you like, baby."

 

"I know." it comes out of Link in a strange voice, like hes barely listening, lost in his own words. "Anyways, I figured that sex therapy would help me with,- I guess the next stage in my life. I had already come to terms with the fact that I was gay when I was," a hard swallow- "younger, but I guess the idea of doin' somethin' about it was freaking me out." Link inhales onces, holding it to face Rhett again. "Does that make sense?"

 

It does, so Rhett nods. He understands to a certain degree, he himself had made the peace needed when accepting ones own sexuality when he decided that Link was the absolute love of his life at the tender age of fourteen. 

 

"And, well, it turned out that I could get everything I needed down at Feverish, I could get more comfortable with what I liked and get taken care of at the same time, I didn't even end up going to the therapy sessions-“

 

"You never went to therapy?" Rhett cuts him off sharply, chest tightening. 

 

"No,” Link answers carefully, eyes narrowing at the intensity of Rhett's question. "I got everything I needed, why?"

 

He know's Link is lying again, and he knows Link well enough to know that Link can read his face like an open book right now and thats why Link looks absolutely terrified. 

 

Rhett wants to ask so badly, but can't make his mouth form the words needed in the face of Link's obvious discomfort, so he doesnt. Instead he lets his hand capture Link's where its still curled around his other one in his lap. "I wish you could have talked to me. I get why you didn't, but still." Its a cop out and he feels like complete shit for it, but it seems to placate Link. 

 

"I never thought in a million years that I'd ever get you, Rhett." Link smiles sadly now, taking both of Rhett's hands in his own. "I feel pretty stupid now for not realizing it myself. If anyone on earth would take care of me when I needed it, of course it would be you."

 

The words that come from Link's mouth are both some of the worst and best things that Rhett has ever heard in his life. It both makes him want to smile and kiss Link with everything he has while at the same time they manage to take the knife still twisting his insides and shove it in just a bit deeper. The guilt Rhett feels is incomparable to anything he's ever dealt with because all he wants to do is come clean and tell Link that he knows and god I am so sorry I couldn't keep you safe Link-

 

But he can't.

 

He doesn't know why he can't, but here, right now, holding his best friend’s hands in his own with those breathtakingly blue eyes fixed on him, he can't do anything else but tug on Link's hands to drag him across the couch, suddenly desperate for him.

 

 Link goes willingly, eager for Rhett or glad that Rhett hasn't asked any more questions, Rhett doesn't know nor does he want to think about it. Instead he wraps his hands around Link’s waist and kisses him, letting his eyes slip closed when Link exhales through his nose, soft and pretty, as his hands come up to tangle in Rhett's hair.

 

It marvels Rhett how easy it is to kiss Link. How beautifully their mouths fit together and how easily Link opens up for him when he licks into Link’s mouth. How easy it is to draw those gut wrenching sounds from his lips and how easily Link can set Rhett’s entire body aflame with the lightest touches.

 

He’s already painfully hard, and Link has barely touched him. 

 

 It’s almost as though they’ve been doing this their whole lives with the practiced ease they handle each other, with the call and response of their shared breathing and low groans. Like they’ve been loving each other for years.

 

Although, perhaps they have been.

 

Rhett’s nearly forgotten that they’re supposed to be talking, supposed to be speaking their hearts to each other in the name of understanding when Link suddenly pushes back at his shoulders, rising to his knees to shuffle over and throw one leg over Rhett’s lap. He’s almost completely let it slip his mind, the face that he knows what Link isn’t telling him and they need to talk about it when Link straddles him and settles in his lap, his arms tossed around Rhett’s neck as Link dives in and attacks the skin behind Rhett’s left ear. 

 

He does remember though, sharply and all at once, when Link rolls his hips beneath his hands and he feels Link grind down on him  and Rhett feels the heat between Link’s legs against his own. 

 

“Hey, baby,” Rhett asks hesitantly, tilting his head to the side as Link sucks marks into his neck. “You okay?”

 

Link let’s out a soft hum near his ear as his hips still swayed in Rhett’s hands. “I have literally never been better, why?” 

 

“Just checkin on ya, darlin’, I, uh-“ Rhett breaks off, completely lost on how to even bring it up.

 

Link slows, pulling his head back and fixing Rhett with that nervous look again. “Wha’s goin on?” He asks softly, his hands fidgeting around the fabric on Rhett’s shoulders.

 

Rhett lets his thumbs wander along the dips of Link's hipbones, chewing on the inside of his cheek before biting the metaphorical bullet. "What happened yesterday, angel?"

 

"A lot happened yesterday, Rhett,” Link answers warily. "Yer gonna have to be specific for me."

 

"During the wheel spin, what was that?" Rhett hears how pitiful his voice sounds and nearly cringes at how small it comes out. Link freezes in his lap and his eyes dart away from Rhett's. It stings more that Rhett wants to admit. "I know it was a little weird, like the absolute worst time to get a boner, but," he stops, trying to catch up to his own thoughts. "If, if you like me, I just, I don't understand. I am just so sorry that it upset you the way it did, I-"

 

"Stop,” Link cuts him off, voice pitched high and strained. 

 

Rhett stops talking instantly, hands tightening on Link's hips.

 

Link's gaze is fixed at something over Rhett's shoulder. His eyes have gone glossy and adopted that faraway look in them behind his glasses and alarm bells begin to set off in Rhett's ears. The absolute last thing he wanted was to make Link uncomfortable and now, with Link looking two seconds away from a panic attack Rhett feels completely lost. 

 

"Baby, I-"

 

"Stop. Talking." Link bites out through a tight jaw, snapping out of his staring contest with the wall and shaking his head sharply. "It wasn't anything you did, love." He finishes, voice already sounding calmer.

 

Rhett blinks. "But-"

 

"I liked it,” Link says, eyes dropping demurely as he lets his hands soothe down Rhett's chest. "I did, but, it just caught me off guard, and,-" Link stops again, lower lip disappearing into his teeth and Rhett risks moving his hand to wrap around Link's back to pull him closer. Link seems to allow it and lets himself sway against Rhett's chest. "I just, wasn't ready for it." He looks at Rhett apologetically and sighs again, leaning down to press a quick kiss to Rhett's hair. "I have never done this with a man before, like real intimacy, not like what happens at the club. Even there it takes awhile to get me okay with being touched and-" Link breaks off again and Rhett nearly bites his tongue in half to stop from asking.

 

"And?" Is all Rhett manages out.

 

 Silence from Link, and then, “I have always wanted you so badly. And, I'm already so nervous around you that, I guess it was just a rotten combo of things that just set me off." Link looks miserable now, hands coming up to cover his face. "I am so sorry, Rhett. The last thing I ever want is for you to feel guilty about me." 

 

Its too much for Rhett and he reaches up to capture Link's slender wrists in his hands to tug them away from his face as gently as he posibly can. "Hey, stop it baby, its alright." 

 

"Is it?" Link asks in an tiny voice, eyes still dropped. " I feel horrible." 

 

"Dont, please don't." Rhett tugs him closer and kisses the tip of Link's nose. "Besides, we straightened all that out, didn't we?"

 

Link nods slowly, adjusting his glasses where they've slipped down his nose. "I had also just, I dunno Rhett, I had had an awful week, I guess. I think I was just tired. That's why I went there yesterday, I needed Adrian to help me calm down."

 

Rhett runs his hands down Link's forearms to clasp them around his back, tugging him closer again. "I'm happy you had at least someone to help you," he answers sincerely. He was suddenly more grateful for Adrian's very existence that ever in that moment. 

 

He feels almost stupid as the next questions comes out without his permission. "Adrian never, like-"

 

Link's eyebrow goes up again.

 

"He's never, I guess, done anythin’ with you? Like he never gets you off after a session? You were really worked up after the show yesterday."

 

"No" Link answers with a startled giggle and a blush that rises from his neck to color his ears. "Adrian's married, he has Lou. Plus, none of the Angels are touched sexually," Link shifts in his lap again. "We just go there to get taken care of. Adrian would never.”

 

"Why are you an Angel then?" Rhett chances, soothing a hand down Link's thigh when he feels the muscles tense around him. "Why not just find someone there?"

 

Its a cheaply baited question and Rhett prays Link doesn't see right through it.

 

Link doesn't, still caught in his own head. "I didn't want anyone, Rhett. I wanted you, and I had you, for the most part. I came home to you every day and you hadn't left me for anyone and, I dunno. I didn't want anyone else between us. And god knows I'm so terrified of the idea of actual sex with another man I'm already way more trouble than I'm worth-"

 

"Terrified?" Rhett’s stomach has suddenly plummeted to the floor as his heart stutters over Links words. It’s the closest thing he’s gotten to the question he’s trying so hard not to ask and the way Link words it scares Rhett to his very core. 

 

Link catches his words too, freezing with his mouth still open and his eyes wide. 

 

“Why?” Rhett whispers, watching Link’s eyes screw shut and his mouth draw downwards.

 

Link let’s the silence drag on for way too long before answering. “Well I’ve never done it before, Rhett. Of course I’m gonna be nervous.” He opens his eyes and fixes them back on Rhett. “Wouldn’t you be?”

 

He’s lying. He’s lying through his goddamn teeth and Rhett can hear it in the strained tone of his voice. They’re stuck in another stand off, Rhett fighting against every iota of his being to break and Link sitting in his lap, all but begging with his eyes for Rhett to not say it. Link has to know that Rhett knows. There’s no other reason for the way he’s looking at Rhett the way he is.

 

And Rhett, just can’t do it.

 

“Yeah,” he whispers out instead, bringing his hands up to hold Links jaw as he presses the softest kiss he can against Links bottom lip. “Yeah, of course I would be darlin’.” He pulls Link down to rest his forehead on his and waits until those blue eyes fly open again. “Thank you so much for being honest with me.”

 

Link stares at him for a beat longer, eyes flirting back and forth between Rhett’s like he’s trying to catch a lie in one of them. After an eternity Rhett feels him relax in his lap, his thighs unclenching and he dips down to kiss the crest of Rhett’s cheekbone. 

 

“I love you,” Link breathes out before pressing another kiss to the other cheek. 

 

“I love you too, baby,” Rhett tells him. And he does. Fuck does he ever. And it’s because he does that he lets Link off the hook, just this once, and decides that he doesn’t want to put Link through anymore emotional strain after the conversation they’d just had, lies or no lies. Now he just wants to reward Link for what he has given him, wants to take care of him and soothe any of the stress he knows he’s put him through. “I just have one more question, Link.”

 

Link sits up again, tilting his head to the side. “What’s that?”

 

Rhett tugs Link back to him roughly, catching his mouth where it lands and kissing him as deeply as he can. Link kisses him back immediately, reaching up to clutch at Rhett, whining high in his throat. Rhett presses indentions into Link’s hip with one hand and reaches up with the other to twine into Link’s hair, tugging it sharply once and letting the cry Link lets out wash over him.

 

He sits up straighter then, pushing his hips into the crux of Link’s thighs and pulling Link’s hair to guide his head so he can exhale a breath possessively against Link’s face. “What do you want me to do to you?” 

 

 

Chapter Text

The sound Link lets out has nothing on the full body shudder that’s works through him. “What? Sir, What-“

 

“Tell me what you like, baby. Walk me through it,” Rhett commands softly, pressing wet, open mouthed kisses along the ridge of Link’s shoulder. “I wanna do this right.”

 

“Kiss me, kiss me please,” Link chokes out thickly. And honestly, how could Rhett refuse him. He does so softly, barely letting his lips graze against Link’s and flicking his tongue over his plush bottom lip. He keeps his hand firm in Link’s hair, holding him back even as Link strains against his grip, trying to kiss Rhett deeper.

 

“Sir.” Another pitiful whine. “Sir, please-“

 

“I asked you to tell me what you like, Darling,” Rhett answers, letting his head fall back and meeting Link’s blown out eyes. “Now answer my question.”

 

Link let’s out a frustrated noise, grinding his hips down and tugging his head defiantly against Rhett’s grip on his hair. Rhett growls and lets a hand spread down over Link’s ass, grabbing it once before raising it and landing a satisfying slap. 

 

“Don’t be a brat.”

 

Link cried out in surprise, grinding down harder and letting his head fall back. “That! That, Sir. I love it when you do that.”

 

“I already knew that, honey,” Rhett answers lowly, smacking him again and catching Link’s hips to stop him from humping him. “What else, gorgeous?”

 

The pet name seems to soothe Link and he gasps in a shuddering breath. “I like, the way you talk to me. I like when you’re telling me how good I’m doing, Oh!” He gasps out when Rhett sinks his teeth into the side of his neck. “I really like that too, Sir. Tell me how good I’m making you feel.”

 

“You have to know you feel fuckin’ amazing, angel.” Rhett rewards Link with a real kiss now, still keeping a tight grip on his hair. He cuts the kiss short and smiles wryly when Link pouts at the loss. 

 

“I also like,” Link moves then, tugging Rhett’s hands up to curve around his throat, and encouraging them to squeeze. All the blood in Rhett’s body rushes decidedly south, leaving his head spinning as he tightens his fingers, running his thumbs down over Link's Adam’s apple.

 

“Shit, Link.” Rhett can’t help but allow the swear that comes out, and he flexes his fingers once more before releasing, marveling at the bright red flush that colors Links face.

 

“You can do anything you want to me, sir. I just want you,” Link speaks earnestly, eyes wide and mouth open.

 

“Thank you for answering my question, it’s makin me real happy.” He releases Link’s throat and drags his knuckles down the side of his face in a gentle caress and watches Link’s eyes flutter closed. 

 

“Thank you, sir.” Link blesses him with a blissed out smile, eyes dropping demurely. “May I, may I have something, Sir?” He asks shyly, still not meeting Rhett’s gaze.

 

Rhett raises Link’s face up with two fingers beneath his chin. “You know I’ll give you anything you want, baby. What is it?”

 

Link slides fluidly off his lap, falling to his knees on the floor in front of Rhett. His hands come up shakily, running along the inseam of Rhett’s thighs.

 

“I want,” Link swallows dryly. “I wanna taste you, Sir.”

 

There have been a very select few times in Rhett's life where he’s  been struck completely speechless. Nothing on earth could have prepared Rhett to hear those words come out of Link’s mouth and for a good stretch of time he was struck with the complete inability to speak, couldn't drag up an answer past a ragged moan as he swore his soul almost left his body.

 

It was apparently enough of an answer for Link, who's face immediately broke out in a pleased grin as his hands began to fumble with Rhett's belt. It takes Rhett another few embarrassing seconds to realize what was happening and he snatches both of Link's wrists, still his movements and bringing those blue eyes back up to his.

 

"Have you ever done this before?" He finally manages to ask. He both needs and doesn't want the answer, but decides that knowing is the best way to gauge Link's comfort level, and to help him avoid anything that would set him off. 

 

“No, never, sir,” Link answers softly, still gazing up at Rhett. “But I have always dreamed about doing this for you. I have always wanted to, may I? Please, Rhett?”

 

Maybe it’s the way the weak afternoon light shines off Link's shiny lower lip, or the way his beautiful hands flex almost desperately on his jeans, or maybe its the way Link's mouth curls around the syllables of Rhett's name, like hes honored just to be able to speak it. Whatever it was, it swims through Rhett like molten goddamn lava and he stands, keeping his eyes locked onto Link's and finishes undoing his pants, shoving them down  to his knees. Link's eyes go wide as he stares at the straining bulge in his underwear and Rhett can see his throat working as he swallows. 

 

As gently as he can, Rhett reaches out and pulls Link’s glasses off. "You may."

 

Link instantly surges up on his knees, hands locking into Rhett’s hips as he buries his face in Rhett’s crotch. He inhales deeply with his face pressed against Rhett’s straining cock and Rhett almost feels his knees give way. Link opens his mouth and drags his teeth up Rhett’s length, a hint of tongue showing through as he mouths up the clothed bulge. 

 

Rhett winds a hand through his hair and pulls, wringing a moan from Link. “Get on with it, Darling.”

 

Link does, god does he ever. He tugs at Rhett’s underwear and Rhett’s cock springs out, tapping against Link’s face.

 

Link takes him into his mouth like he was receiving the goddamn sacrament. He laves his tongue over the tip, eyes still locked on Rhett’s , lapping up the pre come beading at the head before letting his eyes flutter closed and swallowing Rhett down in one go.

 

God its been months since Rhett's gotten head, and for a beginner Link seems absolutely determined to suck the living soul out of him. He bobs his head like a professional, sucking Rhett in and out of his tight, warm mouth and Rhett’s already seeing stars. When Link’s hand comes up to cup his balls and roll them around on skilled fingers Rhett’s hips buck forward on their own. He can’t even speak, can’t spill the praises building on his tongue past low whines and grunts. He feels the tip of him slide against the back of Link’s throat and Link groans around him, the vibrations running up Rhett’s spine.

 

Link pulls off him, an obscene trail of saliva keeping his plump mouth connected to Rhett’s cock shining brightly as he looks up at Rhett with something that looks like gratitude and he watches Link swallow heavily.

 

“Yes, Sir. Please yes, keep doing that.” Link runs his tongue up the entire length of Rhett with kitten licks until he reaches the base of him and sucks Rhett’s balls into his mouth.

 

“Keep doin’ what, angel?” Rhett manages to gasp out, knees trembling and heart pounding.

 

Link reaches up and grasps both of Rhett’s hands and leads them to the back of his head. Rhett complies as best as he can and lets his fingers twist into the short hairs at the back of Link’s head. Link drags his tongue back up Rhett’s cock, letting the tip of it rest gently on his tongue.

 

“Use me,” Link whispers, eyes fluttering closed and hands tightening on Rhett’s hips where they land. “Please, use me for you own pleasure, Sir. I want it, please. I wanna make you feel good.” Link takes him back in his mouth and Rhett can feel his throat relax around his cock and fucking hell he really isn’t gonna last long here. 

 

“You sure, baby?” Rhett chokes out even as his hips stutter once.

 

Link nods frantically, thumbs caressing Rhett’s hips and tongue coming up to cradle the underside of Rhett’s dick. 

 

Rhett cant even handle it, so he doesn’t even try. He grabs onto Links hair for dear life and lets his hips thrust into the tight, wet, heat of Link’s mouth. Link instantly moans, low and deep in his throat and Rhett feels the give as he thrusts harder and deeper. Link takes him like his mouth was made for it, swallowing around Rhett and fondling his balls with such a loving hand. 

 

Rhett is already so very close.

 

His orgasm is building at the base of his spine and he risks a look down. Link’s eyes are closed and he looks like he’s on another fucking planet, face lax and mouth wet like he’s never tasted anything better. Rhett fucks his face for all he’s worth, reveling in the throaty fucked out sounds that Link releases in time with his thrusts and all at once he’s on the edge, just about to fall over.

 

He tries to warn Link. “Baby, angel, I’m gonna, oh fuck you’re gonna make me come.”

 

He expects Link to pull off, or at the very least slow down. He does neither, instead doubling his efforts, taking Rhett’s cock further down his throat and working his tongue around the length. Link’s eyes suddenly open and meet Rhett’s, and the blazing love and desire shining in them is what shoves Rhett past his breaking point and his vision goes white as he comes, hot and heavy down Link’s throat. 

 

He can’t even speak as he spills himself into Link’s mouth, feeling Link swallow everything he gives him. Link’s hands and arms cradle him down as his knees give way and he falls back on the couch.

 

His chest is heaving and he can’t even fucking breathe as his head falls back on the couch and he gasps to the ceiling. Link is still on his knees, pressing hard kisses to his hipbones and he barely hears the litany of praise spilling from Link’s mouth.

 

“Thank you, Sir. Thank you so much, gosh, Sir that was amazing, you taste so good thank you so much.” 

 

Rhett doesn’t even know where he is. His head is swimming and his heartbeat is thundering around his entire body. He’s never come so hard in his life and his hands feel almost lost as he reaches for Link with unsteady hands.

 

He magically finds Link’s shoulders, tugging him up until Link climb back onto his lap, knees bracketing Rhett’s thighs, hands clutching anywhere they can and mouth attached to Rhett’s neck.

 

It takes Rhett an embarrassing minute to hear the words Link has been whispering to him and the desperate tone in which they’re spoken.

 

“Was that alright, Sir? Did I do well? Please tell me I did good, please Sir, tell me how good I did-“

 

Rhett realizes then that he never managed to say much of anything during what was undoubtedly the best blowjob of his life and he brings his hands up to still Link’s hips as they rutted down wantonly on him. Link whines high and loud and Rhett can feel nails embedding themselves in the meat of his shoulders.

 

“Shhh, Darling, shhh. It’s okay, it’s all okay,” Rhett whispers against the side of Link’s face, clutching tighter at his squirming hips. “That was amazing, you did such a good job, my love. Fuck, how did I get so lucky?”

 

A distressed sound from Link rings in Rhett’s ears as Link continues to shakily hump his thighs, the man’s labored breathing loud against the ringing in Rhett’s ears.

 

“Thank you, Sir, thank you, please sir I-“ Link cuts himself off with a moan as he grinds his cock into Rhett’s hipbone. “I, I want you, Rhett.”

 

Rhett suddenly wants nothing more than to touch, to see Link in all of his desperate glory and make him feel every bit as good as he deserved. He wants to strip Link naked and take him apart beneath his hands and listen to all the beautiful sounds he can wring from that talented mouth. 

 

The couch really isn’t gonna work for that, then.

 

“Hey, hey gorgeous, come on, up up.” Rhett coaxes, guiding Link to stand so he can take him upstairs. Link resists entirely, clinging to Rhett even tighter and all but sobbing in his arousal. Rhett tried again, accomplishing nothing but working Link yo even more, the man completely past coherency at this point.

 

“Darling!” Rhett snaps, as much authority as he can manage seeping into his voice as he reaches up and grabs a hold on Link’s hair to pull him off his neck. Link stiffens instantly, sitting up where Rhett leads him, his eyes wild but his body obediently still.

 

“Listen to me,” Rhett speaks lowly. “You did a real good job baby, you were so good,” Link’s eyes flutter as he preens. “And I’m gonna reward you for that, ‘m gonna take care of ya real nice, but I can’t do that on this couch with my back, can I?”

 

Link shakes his head slowly. 

 

“No, baby I can’t. So what I need from you,” Rhett leans up hovers his mouth a scant inch away from Link’s lips, letting his tongue come out and trace his Cupid’s bow. “Is to get off of me so I can take you upstairs.” He leans in and nibbles at that plush lower lip and inhales the high sound that slips from Link’s throat. “Think you can do that for me?”

 

Link nods so enthusiastically Rhett almost tears he’s gonna hurt himself. He slides off Rhett’s lap and reaches to tug Rhett to his feet before sliding to his knees again. Rhett opens his mouth to ask, but closes it softly when Link reaches up to tuck his softening dick back into his underwear and redo his jeans for him, pressing burning kisses to any inch of skin he can find before standing again. 

 

In that moment, watching Link on his knees worship his navel while handing him with the upmost care, Rhett knows he’s completely fucked. He’s never going to recover from this, from Link.

 

But as he tugs the pliant man up the stairs and to his bedroom, stopping every few seconds to pull him into a kiss that’s so deep he can taste himself on Link’s tongue, he doesn’t think he ever wants to.

 

He doesn’t shove Link down onto his bed when he gets him there, but gently lays him onto the pillows with the most careful touches he can manage. He cradles Link’s head in his hands, letting that dark head of hair sink into his pillow. He reaches up and cards his fingers through Links mussed hair and his fingers trail down over that sharp jawline. 

 

Link remains obediently still, all the frantic energy from earlier concentrated in his shaky hands as he fights to lay still beneath Rhett’s gentle touches. His eyes never leave Rhett’s face, wide open and innocent even as his mouth pants heavily and his jeans strain on his hips. 

 

Rhett stares down at him when he kneels beside him, letting his gaze drag over the long, lean lines of Link’s body before bending to press one last kiss to the side of Link’s mouth, holding his shoulder down as Link strains to lean up and deepen it. 

 

“Gosh, you’re pretty.”

 

Rhett reaches to tug his shirt up, bending to lick up the lines of exposed skin on Link’s abdomen and feeling the tremor as it works it’s way through Link.

 

“So goddamn beautiful.” He breaths against the damp skin and shoves the shirt up further, gathering the material in his hands. “Sit up for me, please baby? I wanna see all of you.”

 

Link lets Rhett undress him slowly, closing his eyes to savor the feeling of Rhett dragging his fingertips over every creamy white inch of him as it’s revealed. His pitiful whimpers clutch at Rhett’s stomach and he presses his mouth against the fluttering pulse in Links throat to calm him as he undoes the buttons on his jeans.

 

Link has on another pair of frilly underthings. These are black and lacy, adorned with bright blue ribbons on the sides and doing nothing whatsoever to contain the throbbing outline of Link’s need as it strains against the lace.

 

Rhett almost bites his tongue in half.

 

“My my darling, did you wear these especially for me?” His voice comes out low and strangled, completely disoriented by the arousing sight Link makes and he swears he can feel his own spent cock twitch

 

“Yes sir, I,” Link arches his back and helps Rhett peel off the tight denim, moaning when Rhett chases it with his teeth. “-I thought you liked me in them.”

 

“I like you in anything,” Rhett tosses the jeans to the far corner of the room and slides back up Link’s body to stretch on his side next to him. He slides his other arm behind Link’s head to settle beneath his neck, fingers brushing over his hair. “But hell, if you don’t look stunning in them.”

 

“Thank you.” Link breathes in response, eyes closing and head tilting back as Rhett leans in and sucks Link’s earlobe into his mouth. 

 

Rhett lets his other hand wander down the flat planes of Link’s stomach till he feels the soft frills of lace on his hips and drags his hand over the bulge barely contained in them. Link reacts immediately, biting his lip and sucking in a harsh breath as his hips jut up to rub against Rhett’s hand. 

 

Rhett lets him, running his mouth down to press a kiss to the underside of Link’s jaw. “Your mouth feel okay, baby?”

 

Link makes an aborted movement with his head that could almost pass as a nod, and Rhett kisses him again.

 

“Good, I was worried I’d hurt you.” Rhett reaches around Links hips and eases the panties down, hearing the satisfying slap of Links cock hitting his stomach as it’s released from the fabric. He leaves them around Links thighs and drags his fingertips through Links trim pubic hair. “You did so well, took me so perfectly in that beautiful mouth of yours, I love you so much, you’re everything, Link.”

 

“I wanted to make you feel good,” Link repeats, looking back up to meet Rhett’s. “I love you.”

 

“Oh, I love you too baby.” Rhett promises him, heart fluttering in his chest and a surge of emotion threatening to overtake him. “And now I’m gonna take care of you, darling. You just lay there and let me.”

 

Link’s cock is beautiful, long and proud where it twitches on his raised hipbone. There’s a pearlescent line of pre come connecting the tip to the skin of Link’s stomach and Rhett finally gives in to the temptation and grasps him firmly. 

 

Rhett isn’t even surprised at how easily it is for him to touch another mans cock for the first time in his life. This isn’t another man though, it’s Link. Beautiful, sweet Link who he’s loved for his entire life. Of course it’s easy. Link is full and heavy, the skin smooth and it feels rigid and solid in Rhett’s palm. 

 

A hitched breath punches its way out of Link as his legs splay open at Rhett’s touch, toned thighs still caught enticingly in the scrap of black lace around them. Rhett begins to stroke him, sure and slow caresses over his heated flesh and he licks a line up to Link’s ear, breathing wetly into it as Link cries wordlessly to the ceiling.

 

“Does that feel good baby?”

 

“It’s so good, so good Rhett, it’s, fuck-“

 

“Good, ‘cause you deserve it.” Rhett murmurs like a prayer into the stubble of Link’s cheek. “You deserve it all, the entire world, Link.”

 

Link’s hips work to fuck into Rhett’s hand in wanton rolls, every muscle straining as Rhett keeps a steady pace, mercilessly dragging Link to the edge of his climax with determination. 

 

“Oh gosh,” Link suddenly starts to babble, breathless gasps coming out high pitched and trembling and Rhett can see his inner thighs begin to shake. “Oh gosh oh, I-Rhett, I’m-“

 

“I got you baby I got you.” Rhett picks up speed, working his hand over Link’s cock faster and faster and letting his thumb run through the slick pre come dribbling down the length. “You’re safe here with me, you know that right? You can let go, and I’m gonna catch you. I’ve always got you, angel.”

 

Link stares up at him, eyes wide and alarmingly desperate. “I, I, Oh, oh fuck-“

 

Link’s orgasm crests over him in an earth shattering moment that Rhett swears could break his heart with its beauty. Link’s eyes slam shut and his mouth falls open, the sweetest symphony of sounds pouring forth and setting Rhett on fire as Link cries out his pleasure to the heavens, choking on everything from pleas to god for mercy and something that sounds like Rhett’s name.

 

The warm rush of Link’s come spilling over Rhett’s fingers and dripping down his wrists feels like the closest thing Rhett’s ever gotten to a religious experience, like he’s being baptized anew in the sticky rush of Link’s pleasure.

 

Rhett lets his rhythm slow as he carries Link down from his high, stroking him through the aftershocks and only stopping when Link twitches with oversensitivity. Link whimpers once when he releases him and Rhett presses a line of kisses down the side of Link’s face.

 

“God that was gorgeous, so beautiful, Link. Goddamnit, baby I fucking adore you,” Rhett whispers, sticky fingers gripping Link’s chin to turn his face and kissing him hard, tongue plundering deep into Links lax mouth.

 

Link kisses him back weakly, smiling dazedly up at Rhett when he pulls back. His entire face is flushed pink, eyes glittering with the barest hint of tears clinging to his eyelashes. 

 

Rhett doesn’t think he’s ever seen him look happier. 

 

“That was-“ Link whispers, hand coming up to cup Rhett’s face. “That was amazing, bo.”

 

Rhett turns his head to nuzzle into Link’s palm. “Stay here, Link. Let me clean you up. Don’t move.”

 

Link seems all too willing to comply, eyes closing and his body relaxing into the mattress as Rhett untangles from him. Watching Link dissolve into wanton abandon has him rock hard in his jeans again, but he wills himself to ignore it. He changes into his soft joggers to relieve the pressure, but otherwise pays his own desire no mind. 

 

He retrieved a washcloth from his bathroom and runs it under warm water, wringing it once when a flash of color catches his eye. He lifts the jeans he wore yesterday from where he’d tossed them thoughtlessly on the counter and finds the Reese’s Cups from the day before, slightly smushed but otherwise intact.

 

Smiling, Rhett returns to the bedroom with the washcloth and candy in hand. Link hasn’t moved, still sprawled out on his back, lacy underwear halfway down his thigh and his softening cock and lower abdomen covered in come. His head is tilted to the side and his hair fans out over Rhett’s pillow in a graceless halo. 

 

He’s never looked more beautiful.

 

Rhett sits carefully back at his side and wipes the mess from Link’s skin, carefully cleaning his intimate areas and thoughtlessly wiping off his own hand before tugging Link’s underwear back up his hips. Link watches him through half lidded eyes, breathing slow and even and a soft smile playing at his mouth.

 

There’s a glimmer of slick on Link’s chin from where Rhett had gripped him with a dirty hand. Dropping the washcloth on the bed next to him, Rhett leans over his body in a moment of impulsivity and licks it clean, humming at the taste.

 

Rhett lays beside Link again, reaching for him and pulling him into his embrace when Link leans into him. He pulls Link into the crook of his arm, guiding his head to rest on his chest and feeling Link curl a leg over his thighs.

 

“How’re you feeling, honey?” Rhett asks quietly, carding a hand through Link’s hair. 

 

“I’m so good, Rhett.” Link tilts his head up and smiles sleepily. “That was freakin’ incredible.” 

 

“I’m glad.” Rhett reaches over Link with his other hand to snag the candy, awkwardly getting the package open and bringing one of the chocolates to Link’s mouth. Link takes the offering happily, letting Rhett feed him both pieces and playfully sucking on Rhett’s fingers to clean them off. 

 

They lay like that for longer than Rhett bothers to keep track off, simply holding Link to him as they stared lovingly into each other’s eyes. He has one hand tracing the planes of Link’s face while Link keeps his own hands curved around Rhett’s neck. He feels like he could lay here, breathing in Link’s scent and feeling his cooling skin against his own forever. 

 

Link’s eyes are starting to droop sleepily when the question comes back, creeping in on the edges of his mind and he whispers across the scant inches between their faces.

 

“Hey, Darling?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Ever thought about getting yourself a Dom? Hanging up those angel wings?”

 

Link’s sleepy eyes fly open, wide away and startled as they regard him “Rhett I’m, I’m just not-“ Link’s eyebrows contract, “I’m not ready, I just, I don’t know.”

 

“Doesn’t it sound good though? Someone to take care of you?” Rhett traces a thumb across Link’s cheekbone. “I think I could do a pretty decent job of that,” He murmurs, running a hand down Link’s back to soothe away the tenseness he suddenly feels along Link’s spine.

 

“Of course, of course you could, bo, it’s just, I-uh.” Link’s eyes begin to glass over as his head begins to shake and his body goes rigid in Rhett’s arms.  It’s already too much, Rhett’s already regretting asking because this has been way too perfect and he re-fucking-fuses to ruin this by making Link unhappy.

 

“Hey, hey.” Rhett stops him, gripping Links face in one large hand and stilling the shaking. “There is no pressure, okay? No pressure at all. I’m not gonna push you where you’re not ready to go, okay? Link I,” Rhett swallows, staring deep into the endless pools of Link’s eyes, “I love you so much, I just want to take care of you. So if you don’t want me as a Dom, will you take me as a boyfriend?”

 

Link sits up suddenly, staring down at Rhett with his mouth parted slightly in disbelief. The moment hangs in the air for a heartbeat and anxiety begins to crawl up Rhett’s throat when Link smiles softly, hands coming to cup Rhett’s face as he swoops down. 

 

“Now how in the hell,” Link kisses his cheek, “have you managed,” another kiss to the tip of his nose, “to consistently be,” a nip at his lower lip, “everything I have ever wanted and needed?” Link pulls back and shakes his head in disbelief. “You can’t possibly be that perfect, how are you so perfect Rhett? Yes, fuck yes, bo. I never want to be without you, I’ve always wanted to be with you, of course I want that.” 

 

Link’s voice warbles with emotion and Rhett tugs him back into his arms, hugging him tightly and bringing a hand up to hold the back of his head to his chest. “I’m not perfect, baby. But fuck if you don’t make me wanna be.”

 

He lets Link fall asleep where he holds him, feeling his back rise and fall rhythmically beneath his hands as he watches the sun set through his blinds. They still need to eat dinner and he knows Link is going to want a shower when he wakes up, but it’s Friday night, they have nowhere to be tomorrow. So right now, Rhett takes this moment selfishly, reveling I’m everything Link is wiling to give him.

 

He feels torn down the middle. Half of him is rejoicing, feeling like a flustered teenager because Link said yes, he’s got himself a boyfriend, they’re together, they’re dating and he’s finally got him-

 

The other half of him is melting beneath the white hot guilt that’s roaring it’s way to the surface of Rhett’s subconscious. 

 

Link had called him perfect. But he was anything but.

 

Not only had he failed to keep Link safe all those years ago, here he was with the audacity to hold the man close while keeping the truth from him. He knew he had to tell Link that he knew, that he had to apologize and atone for everything. 

 

His stomach twists as he imagines the look in Link’s eyes, wide and innocent in their pain when Rhett confesses his sins.

 

But one sin is as good as the other, Rhett decides and tightens his arms around Link. He’s gonna be selfish for right now. He’s not gonna pop this beautiful bubble he and Link have constructed around themselves for as long as he can get away with it.

 

 

Chapter Text

Link is really on some other shit today.

 

Rhett feels his eyebrows climb skyward as Link bends over obscenely, wiggling his hips for the camera and sending a cheesy grin over his shoulder. His long legs are encased in shiny panty hose beneath an impolitely short pair of biker shorts that are working several miracles on his ass. For some reason, Link has also lost his shirt two rounds ago, turning the pantyhose endurance test they were doing into a crude mimicry of a striptease. 

 

“Whatcha think Rhett? These got a better stretch than the other ones?” Link asks, voice dripping innocence and smile angelic even as his eyes dance with mischief behind his glasses.

 

It takes Rhett an embarrassingly long second to get his jaw off the floor and to school his expression into something that isn’t blatant, dry mouthed shock.

 

 Link’s been on this bullshit all goddamn day. He’d been so sweet all weekend, plastered to Rhett’s mouth and body for the entirety of the two days. They’d gotten little to no work done, Rhett forgoing his responsibilities in favor of pressing Link to every available surface in his house. They hadn’t tasted each other again, just made love to each other with their hands, learning every curve of their bodies the way they already should have years ago. 

 

Link had cried in Rhett’s arms again on Saturday night, shuddering gasps dragged deep into his lungs as he came down from his orgasm and tearfully sucked the evidence from Rhett’s hand. He had nearly brought Rhett to tears himself, babbling and sniffling about how he has never been so happy, Rhett, I can’t believe I get to be loved by you, I’m the luckiest bastard on this fucking earth-

 

Rhett hasn’t been able to answer him, had just leaned down to swallow his sweet words down his own throat and pulling him into his arms.

 

The guilt was still ever present in Rhett’s chest, sending a tremble to his hands and a heaviness into his throat. But then Link would whine for him again, and he decided he’d rather listen to that instead.

 

But then Monday morning had rolled around, and for the first time in five days Rhett woke up in an empty bed. It was more disconcerting than he’d like to admit, already so addicted to waking up to Link’s hot skin pressed against him. 

 

He’d found Link already in the kitchen, running the blender for a smoothie and his skin still damp in his running clothes. Link didn’t even hear him come in, and startled when Rhett presses a kissed to the salty skin behind his ear.

 

“Good Morning sunshine,” Link had chirped, megawatt smile already in place. 

 

“What time did you wake up?” Rhett asked groggily, not quite having shaken off sleep yet.

 

“A little earlier, just wanted to get a run in this morning.” Link raised on his toes and kissed the tip of Rhett’s nose. “I made ya breakfast, man.”

 

Link was vibrating with energy, showering and bouncing downstairs fully dressed before Rhett had even finished his smoothie. When Rhett was finally dressed and ready with his backpack on, Link was waiting by the door, eyes wide and bouncing on the balls of his feet. Rhett finally managed to get a good look at him when Link hands him his keys with a shaking hand. His eyes were sunken and tired, and his grin had a nervous tinge that set off alarm bells in Rhett’s head.

 

“You okay, Link?” Rhett had asked, capturing Link’s hand along with his keys and tugging Link closer. 

 

“I’m all good, baby,” Link had said a touch too confidently, swatting Rhett on the ass as he led him out the door in front of him.

 

Link had steadily gotten more and more energetic during the drive to work, dissolving into a complete whirlwind that culminated into some absolute nonsense once the cameras started rolling.

 

It was just supposed to be a simple product testing. Which panty hose is the best? Most comfortable, most durable, simple stuff that had them looking ridiculous for clicks. Their bread and butter.

 

But no. Link had taken it upon himself to do the very most in every single round in a determined effort to murder Rhett, so it seemed. The very first pair that had ripped in the endurance test ended up on the floor of the studio as Link had ripped them off entirely, grinning brightly at Rhett’s stupefied expression when his long, shaved legs were suddenly on display.

 

And none of the crew seemed to deem is necessary to come to Rhett’s aid, spurring on Link’s loud behavior with laughs and wolf whistles and cat calls and even a goddamn round of applause when Link stripped off his shirt in the second round for reasons that Rhett still hadn’t fully processed.

 

Rhett could already picture the gifs that would be spawned from this episode; him staring blankly at the monitor as Link wiggled behind him obliviously.

 

Which dropped Rhett directly to where he was now, about ten seconds past the normal time to answer Link’s question and Link still bent over like a maniac, smiling at Rhett like absolutely nothing was happening. 

 

“You look like you’re about to break something, Neal.” Rhett finally answers, earning a laugh from the crew and an indignant scoff from Link.

 

His torture lasts another seven long minutes, Rhett being forced to endure everything from Link attempting squats in sheer white thigh highs to watching the man dragging his nails up his thigh to see if he could cause runs in the black tights he’s squeezed into. 

 

Rhett hasn’t gotten up for the rest of the episode, sitting in his own bike shorts hiding a burgeoning erection that just wouldn’t do for the internet. He simply sat back, offering stuttering commentary as Link models various pantyhose. Rhett can’t do anything but watch his boyfriend strut around like the nightmare he is and send occasional death glares to Stevie for not putting a stop to this whole circus.

 

Finally, finally, Link flops back down into his chair and Rhett can read his final lines after declaring a sparkling pair of fishnets, of all things, the winner. 

 

“There you have it folks, these pretty things are the official pantyhose choice of Good Mythical Morning!” Link laughs at the end of his words, like he’s only realizing now how stupid they sound.

 

“Yes everyone, and make sure you say thank you, Link, for figuring that out for us,” Rhett says flatly, trying his hardest not to glare as Link shrieks gleefully.

 

“Buy these now at Mythical dot store!” Link spins in his chair, still half naked and still looking completely ridiculous and doing absolutely nothing for the situation in Rhett’s shorts.

 

“Because we apparently sell pantyhose now.” Rhett’s trying so hard to keep his cool, to not turn and stare at Link as he contorts himself in his chair. “Thank you for liking, commenting, and subscribing-“

 

“You know what time it is!” Link cuts him off loudly, raising one long leg off the floor to drape over Rhett’s shoulder, fishnets digging into the exposed skin of Rhett’s neck and he stops breathing, hands clenching into fists and he could almost cry with relief when he hears Steve yell for them to cut.

 

He doesn’t waste a second, surging up to stand and all but yanking Link to stand with him. Link goes easily, giggling as Rhett manhandles him.

 

“We’re gonna take five before More, guys,” Rhett calls to the crew. They all nod in agreement, avoiding Rhett’s burning stare. 

 

He drags Link through the studio, avoiding every employees eyes as he passes them and finally reaches their office, shutting the door and slamming Link against it.

 

Link giggles the entire way there.

 

“Now what the hell,” Rhett breathes out against Link’s jawline, still holding his wrists captive against the door, “are you trying to do to me?”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, sir,” Link laughs out, tilting his face up to accommodate Rhett’s.

 

“Oh really?” Rhett slams his hips into Link’s and relishes in the quiet groan he’s rewarded with. Link still has his shirt off and Rhett can see his shirt catch the chest hairs as he grinds. “Cause that seemed an awful lot like you were trying to get me as worked up as possible.”

 

“Not at all,” Link whimpers, letting his hips roll against Rhett’s hips body. “You're imagining things, Sir.”

 

“You’re a dirty little liar, darling,” Rhett snarls out, shoving himself forward again, a leg coming up between Link’s . “And a goddamn nightmare.”

 

“But I’m your nightmare, sir.” Link answers breathlessly, still rutting his hips against Rhett’s and Rhett really can’t take it, he reaches one hand up to yank Link’s hair back so his head tilts and a cry wrings out of his throat. Rhett can still see the stress lined on Link’s face past the set makeup, can still see how tired he is. 

 

Concern worms it’s way through the lust laced frustration that’s clouding Rhett’s head and his eyes narrow. Something was definitely bothering Link, and apparently the change in the relationship wasn’t enough for Link to talk to him about it.

 

Rhett can’t take it personally though. He knew Link would talk when he wanted to, and he focuses on what he knows will make Link feel better for the time being.

 

“You are so lucky,” Rhett slams his hand down onto Link’s flank and lets the stuttered breath Link gives wash over him. “That you’re so beautiful. I’m gonna destroy you when we get home,” Rhett looks up, wrapping a hand around Link’s throat and squeezing enough to make Link’s face turn pink and a sigh leave his lips. “You know that right?”

 

Link nods, careful not to dislodge Rhett’s hands from his throat. “Oh yes sir.”

 

“Was this your problem?” Rhett snarls out, tightening his hand on Link's neck and breathing heavily on his face. “Were you just horny? You didn’t have to be a complete brat to get my attention, ya know.”

 

“I know, but-ah!” Link swallows against Rhett’s palm and licks his lips. “I thought this would be more fun.”

 

Rhett whines once, writhing against Link and letting his cock run up and down against the answering rigidity in Link’s jeans before releasing the other man, watching him fall against the door.

 

“Behave for the rest of the day, baby.” Rhett warns, adjusting himself in his jeans. “At least till we get home. Yeah pretty thing? I’ll take care of all that then.”

 

Link nods eagerly, eyes still gleaming and mouth open and shiny. “Yes sir.”

 

Link doesn’t behave.

 

Little shit couldn’t even bother to put a shirt on during More.

 

Rhett doesn’t hold it against him though. How could he possibly, when Link stares up at him with that shiny smile and doe eyed glee whenever he manages to wring a reaction from him. When Link finally gets dressed, peeling off the fishnets and lobbing then at Rhett’s head, it takes everything in Rhett’s power to not smile at his antics and give him the satisfaction.

 

He manages to keep himself together for the rest of the day, though. He watches Link bounce around the office, doing way too many things at once and talking a mile a minute. Rhett hovers in his orbit, keeping an eye on him out of his peripheral vision. Link’s hands stutter over his keyboard and his eyes steadily grow more glazed over as the day progresses, even as he brushes off Rhett’s concerned questions with soft smiles and giggles.

 

Rhett listens to him for the most part, standing back and letting Link work. He loses him after lunch, getting caught up in the kitchen as Josh walks him through the food for the Will It segment there planning for next week. He finds Link again near the end of the day, he's curled up on the pull out couch in the loft of all places, and Rhett's instantly on high alert. Link hardly comes to the loft alone, not unless he needs the noise in his head to quiet. He's clutching his laptop, white knuckled grip bright on the keyboard and his eyes are wide and unfocused on the screen.

 

Rhett can read the tension in Link's shoulders and pauses at the stairs. "Hey baby, you alright?"

 

Link's head snaps up instantly, wild and frightened looking as he regards Rhett and his shoulders relax infinitesimally. He closes the laptop sharply, standing shakily and smiling unconvincingly at Rhett. "Yeah, I'm okay hun, ready to go?" Link comes to stand in front of Rhett, swaying forward to lean his head on Rhett's chest.  

 

Rhett's arms come up around Link and hold him tightly, eyeing the laptop dangling loosely from Link's hand. "You sure you're okay, love?" 

 

"Yeah, yeah." Link breathes out, swallowing once. "I'm okay Rhett, can you just-" Link looks up and meets Rhett's eyes. "Can you just take me home? I-“ Link shuffles closer and nuzzles his face into Rhetts collarbones. "I need you, Sir."

 

Rhett can hear the desperate shift in the cadence of Link's tone and he sucks in a breath. He's still worried, still wants to drag the reasons for Link's distress out of him kicking and screaming, but fucking hell if the way the words come out of Link dont fuck him up. He doesn't think he'll ever get used to hearing the way Link calls for him, needy and loving in the same breath. He lets his hands drop to Link's hips and squeezes the fat of his ass. "Yeah? How do you need me Darling?" He asks lowly in Link's ear and hears the shuddering groan float up to him. 

 

"Hurt me.” Link whispers into Rhett’s neck, trembling in his arms. “Please? Can you sir? You do it so well can you, please-“

 

Link breaks off in a shuddering breath, writhing against Rhett and Rhett can already feel his cock thickening against Link’s hips 

 

“Yeah, yeah I got you angel, here just-“ Rhett doesn’t want to make Link wait, can’t stomach the idea of denying Link something he wants, even for the time it’s gonna take for the drive home. He pushed Link off him, shushing the quiet noise of displeasure that follows the gesture. “Take these off for me, yeah Darling?” Rhett asks, fingering the hem of Link’s button down. “I’ll be right back.”

 

Link listens instantly, trying his hardest to undo the buttons at his throat and watching Rhett as he backs down the ladder to the office. Rhett locks the office door, wiping sweaty hands on his jeans and climbs back to to Link, making sure to lock the trapdoor once he’s back in the loft. 

 

Link is already waiting for him. He's stripped down to his underwear, a bright yellow pair of briefs, kneeling down on the hardwood floor and staring up at Rhett intently. The sight of him makes Rhett's mouth dry and his palms itch with that feeling hes becoming all to familiar with. The need to reach out and touch and claim.

 

Link looks so perfect there, tight little body coiled like a spring with anticipation and his eyes wide and needy. Rhett doesn't waste any time, walking around Link to sink into the couch that Link just vacated. He leans back, letting himself get into the right mindset and swallowing the deja vu he feels seeing Link kneeling in front of him.

 

He calls out to Link quietly, "Come here, angel."

 

Link crawls to him again, shoulders working and Rhett guides him up to his lap, laying him down over it just like last time. And just like last time, Link instantly begins to rut against him, grinding his hard on into Rhett's thigh. Rhett lets him this time, letting Link chase his own pleasure on his own terms. He lets his hands wander over Link's back, tracing the lean muscles and reveling in the shudders he draws from Link.

 

Rhett winds a hand through Link’s hair, feeling the sticky product catch his fingers and yanks his head back, though he's more gentle than he normally would be. Link doesn't seem to notice the give, whimpering softly as he humps Rhett’s lap.

 

“I’m not gonna count these, baby, “ Rhett whispers as he gently eases the underwear off Link’s hips, revealing the creamy white skin of his ass. Rhett can see the remnants of bruises fading from last week and he has to chuckle softly. Link shivers in the open air and groans throatily when Rhett caresses him with a gentle hand. “You just take them as you need them, okay Darling?”

 

Link nods frantically, hips stuttering and mouth falling open. “Yes sir, just, please-“

 

Rhett doesn’t make him wait, smacking him hard and completely cutting off whatever pleas Link wanted to get out. It doesn’t take Link long to completely fall to pieces, Rhett nearly stopping when he realizes Link is outright sobbing, tears coursing down the sides of his face and his back hitching as he fights for breath.

 

“What’s your color, love?” Rhett asks urgently, stopping to play with Links ass gently, soothing his hand over it in what was supposed to be a calming gesture.

 

“It’s green! It’s green just, hnnggg-“ Link sobs out once, his hips rutting down twice more before he freezes, eyes closing and body tensing beneath Rhett. Rhett feels the warmth spread over his thigh before Link trembles softly and goes limp.

 

Rhett is completely stunned, nearly coming undone in jeans at the thought of Link coming completely untouched. It takes him a moment to get himself together, licking his lips and releasing Link’s hair to stroke it softly.

 

“Are you fucking kidding me, Darling? Did you really just come all over me without touching that pretty cock of yours?” Rhett whispers, easing Link to turn over on his good shoulder.

 

Link’s face is flushed red, still wet with tears but his eyes are finally relaxed, the glassiness gone and the tension absent from his jaw. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry sir, I just, I don’t know-“

 

“Hey hey, none of that. It was amazing, the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen.” Rhett hushes him, helping his underwear back up his hips and pulling Link to his chest. “You’re so fucking incredible, gosh, Link. I can’t even deal with it.” He really can’t, he’s completely floored by it and it takes him longer than he’s proud of to get himself together.

 

He waits until the body in his arms stops trembling and Link starts pressing gentle kisses into the soft cotton on Rhett’s shoulder. The worry is still there, but Rhett doesn’t want to ruin it  with prodding questions. He doesn’t know why Link needed this out of nowhere or why he cried so hard, but the idea of making Link think about whatever messed him up so badly makes Rhett’s very soul ache.

 

It also just makes the guilt worse. Rhett can’t fathom the fact that Link loves him so much, enough to ask him for things he’s always been ashamed of wanting and trusting him to catch him while he falls apart. Rhett’s suddenly nauseous, feeling lower than low. How dare he sit and selfishly cling to Link as a lover when he couldn’t even talk about something that really needs to be said.

 

The thought of putting Link through his assault all over again by bringing it up and demanding details the way Rhett knew he would makes a lump of solid ice rise up into Rhett’s throat and lodge itself there. He can’t keep doing this, he thinks as he leans and presses a kiss to Link’s damp brow. He’s gonna have to bite the proverbial bullet and tell Link the truth, as much as the thought kills him.

 

He risks a look down and traces his eyes over the angles of Link’s face, watching his glimmering eyelashes cling to the bruises beneath his eyes and Rhett swears he could cry. 

 

When Link finally sits up and wipes his face off, he’s still subdued, but significantly less wired than he’s been all day. He’s quiet as Rhett packs up their stuff and lets Rhett drive them home. He leans his head against his window and keeps Rhett’s hand clutched to his chest the entire time.

 

Rhett can’t help but sneak little peeks across the console to Link’s profile. Link smiles at him when they get home, waving off Rhett’s suggestion for food. Rhett wants to push the food issue, but at the same time doesn’t want to break the fragile calm Link has adopted. 

 

Rhett carefully changes Link out of his work clothes, dressing him in his softest pajamas. Link tries to argue, weakly batting Rhett’s helping hands away but yielding beneath Rhett’s soft insistence. Rhett follows each article of clothing with kisses to Link’s skin, each one amping up the guilt that is burning its way down Rhett’s chest. 

 

Rhett manages to relax as he puts on some random superhero movie Link wants to watch.

 

But it isn’t until later, when they’re both spread out over the couch that Rhett realizes that the lump in his throat hasn’t gone anywhere. He chances a glance next to him. Link is slouched down beside him, his head tilted back and his eyes half closed behind his glasses. His mouth is slack and open, and his chest rises and falls with shallow breaths. His body is relaxed, the first time Rhett’s seen him so all day.

 

He almost doesn’t say anything on this premise alone.

 

But before he can resolve to never bring it up at all he hears himself clear his throat awkwardly and winces. Link’s eyes perk open, eyebrows twitching in Rhett’s direction curiously. 

 

He doesn’t sigh, because that would be childish. He decides fuck it, and speaks. 

 

“Hey, um. Link?” He whispers, already hating himself.

 

“Yeah babe?” Link asks, barely turning his head.

 

Rhett's throat completely closes. He suddenly has no idea what to say. No idea how to bring this up and his eyes suddenly prickle with the sting of tears that he wills away irritable.

 

Not now Mclaughlin.

 

“Um.”

 

“What is it?” Link looks concerned now, turning to fully look at him. 

 

Rhett honestly doesn’t know. Faced with Link’s beautiful eyes watching him adoringly he’s completely speechless. He doesn’t want to say anything at all, wants to pull Link to him and kiss that look off his face and just, pretend. 

 

But he can’t. It’s not fair to either to of them.

 

“Are you okay?” He settles on, refusing to let his fingers twist together the way they want to.

 

Link blinks a few times blankly in confusion. “Yeah, I mean I’m fine, why Rhett?”

 

“Um, oh gosh, Link.” Rhett nearly bites his tongue in half. “Remember that day, down at the club?”

 

“Yeah.” Link looks wary now, eyebrows drawn and a frown starting at the corners of his mouth.

 

“A-Adrian, um. He let something slip, that day, and I, I don’t even know, I just feel like I-“ Rhett can hardly breathe beneath the mountain of self loathing that’s threatening to swallow him where he sits. He can’t meet Link’s eyes, staring resolutely at the shag rug in the middle of his living room floor like the goddamn coward he is. This is all wrong. Link doesn’t deserve to hear these words, especially not from Rhett’s mouth. 

 

He knows he has to, however much it makes him want to die, Rhett knows he has to look up, to face the pain he’s causing the man he loves.

 

The look on Link’s face is nearly apocalyptic and Rhett wants to take it all back, swallow the words he so foolishly let manifest into existence and take away the ache that makes Link’s face look ancient. 

 

It takes a long time for Link to speak, and his voice floats to Rhett like he’s speaking from a million leagues under water.

 

“Ya know,” Link starts quietly, voice low and nervous. “I was praying-praying, Rhett, that you wouldn’t.”

 

“Wouldn’t?”

 

“Wouldn’t say anything.” Link sighs, leaning forward to rest his head in his hands. Rhett wants to reach up and slip his arm around Link’s waist, but he’s frozen.

 

“You knew?” Rhett already knows this, but it’s all his tongue gives him permission to say. “Adrian told you?”

 

“Of course he told me,” Link spits out not unkindly, frustration and fear coloring the words. “I just, god, Rhett. I just wanted it to never come up. I wanted to just, forget. Keep on with life the way it was before you knew.”

 

“Why didn’t you say anything that day?” Rhett asks, leaning forward to mirror Link even as the man keeps his eyes locked on the floor.

 

“We were so busy being dramatic, and I was so angry with Chris and Jessie and you-“ Link cuts himself off with a gasp that rattled in his throat. “You hadn’t said anything, and I just wanted-“ Link finally looks up at him, his tortured expression half shadowed by the light flickering off the tv that’s still playing that asinine movie. “I just wanted to enjoy what we found in each other Rhett. I was so happy, I’ve never been so happy in my life.”

 

“Baby you don’t-“ Fear wins out and Rhett stumbles over half formed apologies and pleas to abort the entire conversation. “Please, angel, if it’s gonna hurt you please just don't,-look I’m sorry I even said anything, okay? We can just-“

 

“Rhett, stop,” Link talks over him, finally reaching out to capture one of Rhett’s flailing hands. “Adrian was right. You’re right. If there’s anyone on this earth that deserves this, it’s you.” Link meets his gaze and Rhett nearly loses it then, lip wobbling as two long fingers hands clamp down on his windpipe. He forces himself to stay quiet though, watching Link twist his right hand over his left as he blankly stares somewhere over Rhett’s shoulder. 

 

Rhett has never seen this expression on his best friend’s face. No matter how bad his panic attacks had gotten, no matter how low Link had sunk, Rhett’s never seen Link look so empty. 

 

“Link, what happened to you?”

 

When Link finally speaks, it both takes way too long and comes far too soon for Rhett. “It was Coach Blevins, remember him?”

 

Rhett did, almost too well. He remembers watching Link practice while he cheered on from the edge of the field, glowing with pride when Coach Blevins clapped Link on the back, smiling down at him brightly. He remembers being so happy, floating on cloud fucking nine watching his best friend excel at what he loved that he didn’t even catch the twist of discomfort that flashed across Link’s face. 

 

He nods. He can’t do anything else.

 

“It was one day after practice, it was-“ Link cuts himself off, biting his lip and twisting his head away from Rhett. Rhett feels his heart beat in his throat as he watches Link compose himself. “It was in the locker rooms after practice, you waited for me that day. I think we were maybe, I dunno, thirteen? Fourteen? You’d bought me a Mellow Yellow to celebrate.”

 

Rhett remembers the exact day Link is talking about. An unusually hot day for North Carolina, the sun making Rhett’s white skin burn from where he sat beneath the shade of a tree of the edge of the soccer field. Link had come to him more subdued that Rhett had initially thought was normal for a fairly uneventful practice, but had dismissed it, when Link had brightened up under his prodding.

 

“You were thirteen.” Rhett whispers, still lost in the memory of the day, the way the run shone on Link’s freckled shoulders and the way he’d only smiled when Rhett threw an arm around them, Rhett not even thinking twice when Link had shrugged him off seconds later.

 

“Oh.” Link breathes out, face going blank for a second as he’s lost in his own memories before he continues. “And, when we were changing, everyone had left, and he came in and-“ Link chokes on a stuttered inhale, not a sob but he’s clearly putting in the effort not to cry. “He, um, he, oh gosh, he touched me, Rhett, he touched me in places I’d never been touched and I was-“ Link swallows, real tears running down his face now and Rhett wants to die as he watches the man he loves in such pain. “I didn’t know what he was doing, I just knew I didn’t like it, it-“ Link sobs dryly now, curling around himself even as he’s visibly fighting the urge to break down. “It hurt, and I didn’t know how to stop him.” 

 

“Link-“ Rhett has no idea how to react, his gut instincts making him reach out for Link, arm curling around his hips as his hand goes to his thigh and he has to remind himself forcibly not to take it personally when Link flinches when he touches him.

 

“It hurt and, god it, it just made it so much worse when,” Link breaks off in a cry, muffled in his arm. “ It made it so much worse when you hugged me when you saw me cause, like hell if your arms didn’t feel like heaven then.”

 

Rhett pulls his arms back then, recoiling guiltily. “I am so sorry.”

 

Link immediately pulls him back in, curling into the space beneath his arm. “Oh no, no babe, it wasn’t because of you.” Tears finally drain from Links eyes and he sniffs loudly. “It was just that-“ he swallows, “you felt so good, so right, Rhett. You felt like everything I’ve ever wanted. After that, anything felt wrong, anything with another guy just felt like-“ Links face crumbles into tears then, mouth twisting as it spoke. “I’m sorry I pulled away from you.” 

 

“No, darlin no.” Rhett pulls Link into a tight hug and lets the other man sniffle into his neck. “Don’t apologize to me, angel, you have absolutely nothing to be sorry for.”

 

“I just hate that he made it something ugly,” Link murmurs into his neck. “I hate that I was afraid of you, I hate that I never let myself stay close to you. I’ve always loved you Rhett, and he made me scared, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

 

“Stop, please stop talkin’ angel.” Rhett can’t control himself, his own heartbreak spilling over as he sobs.  

 

“Stop, Rhett, baby, please don’t cry.” Link is speaking so brokenly that Rhett can barely hear him, “Look, Rhett, ’m okay, now, I am.”

 

“Link,” Rhett tries, suffocating on a whine as Link tugs away from him to grasp his face in his hands.

 

“Rhett, I’m okay.” Links eyes are bright and his mouth is twisted into a pained grimace in an ugly juxtaposition to his words. “I've grown up, man, I’ve moved on with my life, I have children for fucks sake, I’m okay.” Links chin wobbles, tears gathering in his eyes as he forces the words out. “I- I-“

 

Rhett is still crying.

 

“I wasn’t there.” Rhett finally breaks through the iceberg in his voicebox and coughs out the words that are strangling him slowly. The words that carry a million years of guilt come spilling out of his mouth and he feels like they’re going to fill up the space of his living room and drown him. “I’m supposed to take care of you. It’s always been my job to protect you. And I couldn’t keep you safe, I didn’t even know.”

 

“Hey,” Link grasps the sides of his face tighter, pulling Rhett up to face him. “It wasn’t your fault baby.”

 

“I should have-“ Rhett can’t even talk, he’s tripping over his own tongue as he cries.

 

“No! No, baby, honey, it wasn’t your fault! I didn’t tell you.” Link is crowding into his face, pressing kisses where Rhett doesn’t deserve them and he’s about to combust with all he’s feeling right now. 

 

His heart is in shattered pieces on the floor and he can’t stop crying and he hates himself for it. He has no right to feel like the world has stopped spinning, has no claim to the grief that’s burning him alive. It’s not his trauma, it’s Link’s. And yet he’s the one who’s falling apart, forcing Link to comfort him.

 

Rhett feels like he’s failing him all over again.

 

“You let me touch you,” The guilt spurs on Rhett’s heavy tongue too keep talking, “Even after what he did to you. I was there, you knew it was me at the club that day, you knew I’d lied to you about me, about us, and I never told you how much I-“

 

“Rhett breathe,” Link commands gently, tugging Rhett closer to him, arms coming around Rhett and Rhett shrinks into himself even as he selfishly falls into Link’s embrace. He’s never felt so small. “Listen to me. I have followed you for my entire life, bo. Back home after it was too dark to keep swimming, to college so we could stay together, and to California so we could be this.”

 

Link pauses, one hand coming up to stroke the heated flesh on the back of Rhett’s neck, fingers twining over the short hairs at his nape lovingly. 

 

“I’d follow you to the ends of the earth Rhett, you know that right? You could say anything in the world, you could leave and never stop walking and I’d drop it all and follow you there too. You’ve been carrying me our whole lives. You’re the most important person in the world to me. If there’s any hands I’m safe in, it’s these. Of course I’d let you touch me, I’ve never wanted anything more.”

 

Rhett can’t even breathe as Link murmurs the words into the air like a prayer. His hands tighten around the fabric of Link’s shirt and he tugs him closer. 

 

“I always loved you, fuck did I love you, but the thought of another man- touching me at all. I couldn’t handle it. And I hate him for it because you’re all there’s ever been for me, Rhett. You are all I’ve ever wanted and I am so sorry, that I let him take that from us.” Link presses a shaking kiss to the top of Rhett’s head, clutching Rhett tighter.

 

Rhett doesn’t want to hear it anymore, doesn’t think he can handle hearing it and he prays, pleads with Link or god or anyone to make it stop. But Link takes no mercy on him, speaking sweet words that Rhett doesn’t deserve.

 

“Remember that time in college, it was almost Christmas and I couldn’t sleep, you let me climb into bed with you? And you held me and made those stupid faces until I could breathe?” Link gives a wry chuckle but doesn’t let Rhett answer, knowing Rhett remembers as well as he does. “I’ve been in love with you for as long as I can remember, but goddamnnit Rhett, when you held me to your chest and let me fall asleep in your arms, I

knew that was it. I was gonna love you for the rest of my life.”

 

Link pulls back, guiding Rhett’s body up so he can meet his eyes. Rhett doesn’t wanna go, doesn’t wanna leave the sanctuary of Link's embrace. He does anyway, following where Link wants because he’s never been able to do anything else. 

 

He meets Link’s sad eyes and wants to lose it all over again when Link gives him the softest smile he’s ever seen grace the sharp angles of his face. There’s already a slight shadow on his jaw and his glasses have a single tear clinging to the glass. 

 

“I’m so sorry, Rhett,” Link says in a strangled whisper. His eye are hard, looking like he’s facing the very fires of hell but all the more determined to burn for it. “I’m sorry I let myself be scared. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, I,” Link brings a hand up to trace a tear as it falls down Rhett’s face, wiping it with a thumb. “I love you.”

 

Rhett’s head is spinning and he almost reels over in disbelief. What the hell is Link doing apologizing to him of all people. Rhett doesn’t even deserve Link’s forgiveness, much less his remorse for not acting on his feelings. He’s shaking his head before Link’s even done speaking, unable to stomach the way Link is talking.

 

“You,” Rhett cups Link’s face in his hands, barely touching the stubble they find and guiding Link’s forehead to meet his own. “You have absolutely nothing on this earth to be sorry for, Link. What happened to you was not your fault, okay? None of it was, you were a kid for fucks sake.” 

 

Link winces, but doesn’t interrupt.

 

“I just.” Rhett wants to kiss him, kiss the pain off his face but can’t bring himself to. “Can you forgive me? Please? I know you said it’s not anything I could have done but, god Link you are my entire world. I’m sorry I didn’t see it, I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I,” tears threaten Rhett again and he forces them back down. “I failed you.”

 

Link shakes his head once, eyes slipping closed and he leans in, closing the distance between them with a salty kiss. “There’s nothing to forgive. You saved me, Rhett.”

 

Rhett pulls him in to deepen the kiss, feeling like he’s pushing his luck and nearly passing out in relief when Link responds, opening his mouth for Rhett and kissing him back with just as much passion.

 

“Just,” Link whispers, hands coming up to Rhett’s chest and eyes dropping downward. “I don’t know if I can ever,” Link breaks off, misery coloring his features again.

 

“Can’t what, baby?” Rhett whispers, letting his lips brush the question into Link’s temple.

 

“I don’t know if I can give you everything you deserve.” Link squeezes his eyes shut. “The thought of being touched, there, just.” A shuddering breath. “I don’t know if I can give you all of myself. I want you so badly, Rhett.” Link looks up at him again, eyes desperate and gleaming. “I’m just so scared. I can’t even think of being touched there without feeling helpless and scared again.”

 

It takes Rhett half a second to realize he’s never cared less about anything. He gives into temptation now, pressing a soft kiss to the downturned corner of Link’s mouth and taking his hands in his own. “Link, just being here with you is more than enough for me, I was always so happy just being in your fucking presence, you have nothing to apologize to me for. If you can’t give me that then I don’t want it.” He kisses Link properly this time, pressing his mouth hard against the other man’s. “I’m here for whatever you need, whatever you want, for as long as you’ll have me, Link. I love you so much, I never want you to feel like you owe me anything or you’re not enough for me, ya hear? ‘Cause you’ve always been everything.”

 

Link gives him a shaky smile, eyes soft with emotion and for the first time since they started this hellish conversation Rhett feels a glimmer of hope, of relief as the weight of his past seems to float off Link’s shoulders. He offers his own smile, squeezing Link’s hands. “Thank you, Link. And I’m so sorry you’ve had to carry this alone for so long. But you’ve got me now, yeah?” 

 

Link nods, smile widening and eyes tearing up again.

 

“And I swear, you’ll never have to feel alone in this ever again,” Rhett vows, bringing Link’s hands up to press a reverent kiss to each knuckle, hearing Link sigh quietly before the hands are tugged from his own. 

 

He doesn’t have any time to react before Link all but throws himself in Rhett’s lap, arms wrapping insistently around Rhett’s neck and Rhett toppling backwards onto the couch as Link scrambles on top of him, catching Rhett’s mouth in a bruising kiss.

 

“Link, Link, woah,” Rhett chokes out, breaking off the kiss and turning his head away. Link isn’t deterred, attacking the newly exposed expanse of Rhett’s throat. “What are you doing baby?”

 

“Just please,” Link whispers out into the hollow of his throat. “Touch me Rhett, I know I can’t, make love to you the way you deserve, and I’m selfish for wanting it but I just love you so much and-“ Link licks a heavy stripe up Rhett’s throat. “Please, I need your hands on me.”

 

The need to hold Link close and fix everything rears up again and Rhett follows Links request, turning them on the couch to press Link into the cushions.

 

I’m sorry, I’m sorry I’m so sorry Rhett begs for forgiveness with his hands, keeping his touches as firm and sturdy as he can. I love you, I love you. He presses years of sorrow and love into Link’s mouth with his tongue and tired his damned hardest to chase away the ache of trauma from the body that he adores.

 

Link responds in kind, biting at his lips and tossing his head back to receive all of Rhett and Rhett hears his forgiveness. 

 

I know

 

Link cries again when he comes into Rhett’s hand, buried beneath Rhett as he hovers over him. Link never looks away from Rhett even as his pleasure over takes him, mouth falling open into a wordless cry and tears escaping down his face in rivulets. The blatant adoration that shines in Link’s endless blue eyes even through the haze of tears is enough to shove Rhett over the edge right after him. Link holds him through it, cooing soft declarations into his hair as Rhett paints the bare skin of his stomach, his hands holding tight to cradle him back down to earth. 

 

It takes Rhett a long time to finally move, firmly refusing to relinquish his hold on Link until the other man insists on cleaning themselves up.

 

Well I can’t cuddle you if we’re both sticky, now can I?

 

Once he does, he pulls Link firmly back to him, any distance feeling like far too much between them. Link has no objections, going into his arms eagerly. They end up with Rhett stretched out of the couch, Link draped over him like a blanket and Link’s head settled into the hollow of Rhett’s throat. Rhett hold him there, one hand curled around Link’s waist the the other petting his hair. Link breathes evenly, mirroring the rise and fall of Rhett’s own lungs.

 

It’s an hour, or four, when Link speaks again, shattering the silence around them.

 

“My mom, she sent me some pictures of us today.” 

 

“What’s that, baby?” Rhett asks quietly.

 

“She sent me some old pictures of you and I, from back home. Guess she musta just found them or somethin’”

 

Rhett doesn’t know where he’s going with this, so he nods. “Okay?”

 

“Um,” Link croaks out before clearing his throat. “He was in one of them. Just in the background, it was stupid, but.-” Link shivers beneath Rhett’s hands and Rhett tightens his hold on him. “It kinda freaked me out, I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s not stupid, baby.” Rhett answers as softly as he can, ignoring the anger that flares up in him at the trivial way Link tries to dismiss it. “I’m sorry you had to deal with that.”

 

Link just shakes his head, burrowing further into Rhett’s chest. It makes Rhett’s heart ache, calling up all the old memories of a much younger Link curling up into Rhett the exact same way, clinging to him like a rock of stability. 

 

Another question comes up with the anger and it flys off Rhett’s tongue before he can even process it. “What happened to him? Is he still in North Carolina?”

 

“He’s dead.”

 

“What?”

 

“He actually died two weeks after I married Chris,” Link answers, flat and emotionless, shoulders rising in discomfort again. “Heart attack.”

 

“Did Christy know?” Rhett steers the conversation away, almost sighing in relief when Link relaxes minutely.

 

“No.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Well I’m gay, Rhett.” Link lifts his head up, resting his chin on Rhett’s sternum. His glasses are still off, and his eyes are bright and swollen in the dim light.  “The only reason I even married my wife was because the idea of a man touching me scared the ever loving shit out of me. You can’t tell that to the girl you’ve promised yourself to.”

 

Link lays his head down again.  

 

Rhett doesn’t know how to answer this. It’s almost enough to get him worked up again if he thinks too hard. The idea of Link living a life where he was too afraid to be as happy as he deserved is breaking Rhett’s heart all over again. 

 

“I’m sorry,” he tells Link for the thousandth time.

 

“Don’t be, baby.” Links fingers trace along Rhett’s exposed collarbone light enough that he barely feels it. “I loved Chris. I love my children. I was happy and proud of my family and I had you. I wasn’t as happy as I could be, but I was happy. And besides,” Link lifts to press a kiss to the collarbone he’s been caressing. “I’m here now. And there’s no where on this earth I’d rather be.”

 

There’s one last thing bothering Rhett, and he decides that since it’s a night of being honest, and he’s got Link soft and pliant on top of him, he decides to speak.

 

“Have you ever-um, thought about getting some therapy, Link?” Rhett asks to the ceiling already anticipating the way Link’s body goes rigid in his arms.

 

“No, Rhett.” Irritation bleeds into Link’s voice as his answer fall sharp and cold onto the floor. “I don’t wanna think about it. I don’t wanna process it, I just-“ he pulls himself up, hovering with his palms on either side of Rhett’s head to stare down at him. “Baby I love you, and I do want you, and lord knows I’m willing to try anything. I trust you with my life, just-“ Link leans down to kiss Rhett quickly. “Just, no, okay?”

 

Irritation gives way to desperation and Rhett finds that his bruised and battered heart can’t take it anymore. Against his better judgment, he nods and guides Link back down to lay on him, wrapping the man up in his arms and waiting until his breathing even’s out again. 

 

The sun has long set when Link finally speaks again.

 

“We gotta get up, baby. We work tomorrow.” Link’s voice comes out slow and slurry, like he was almost asleep. 

 

“No.” Rhett doesn’t budge. 

 

Link tries again. “Rhett come on-“

 

“We’re not going to work tomorrow and I’m not letting go of you. I’ll talk to Stevie before we go to bed. But no.”

 

“Rhett, what-“

 

“Listen to me.” Rhett catches Links head in his hands and turns him gently. Link blinks at him owlishly, wide eyes searching his. “ I have loved you my entire life Charles Lincoln Neal. You are everything, the only thing, that matters. And out there,” he jerked his head to the window, “that place has hurt you in ways that you didn’t deserve, no one deserves but certainly not you. God never you. I’ve always, ever since I punched that guy for picking on you, I’ve just wanted to hold you close and keep you safe. Never let anything touch you. So tonight, I’m gonna pretend I can, please just let me.”

 

Link looks completely overwhelmed by the time Rhett’s done talking, eyes filming over and lip wobbling. He doesn’t speak though, just giving a slow nod and wrapping himself around Rhett again, all but sinking down into Rhett’s embrace like he could fall through his chest cavity and live inside.

 

Rhett could only dream.

 

His back is going to hurt something fierce in the morning and Link will complain that his shoulder is stiff, but that’s a worry for them in an hour or two when Rhett will drag him to bed. Right now Rhett takes this moment selfishly, clutching and clinging to the man in his arms, his very presence a balm soothing Rhett’s tired soul. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Rhett’s getting real sick of watching Link cry.

 

He’s getting even more sick of being the reason for it.

 

The sticky month of May gives way to a sweltering June. They wrap up the season of Good Mythical Morning, looking more and more forward to the hiatus where they can focus solely on each other. The heat is unbearable, hitting all time highs and it seems to raise the tension around the entire city.

 

At least it does for Rhett.

 

The temperature outside climbs, and Link’s frustration with himself climbs along with it. It breaks Rhett’s heart, watching as time and time again Link pulls himself out of his arms, flushed with arousal and shaking with frantic energy but teary eyed and stuttering with rage. He had flinched away from Rhett’s touch once again, and no matter how Rhett tries to apologize, soothe his ruffled feathers down or sweet talk him back to earth, it’s getting harder and harder to still the whirlwind Link winds himself into.

 

Rhett stands firm, swears he won’t touch Link anywhere he’s not comfortable. States clearly that-

 

I’m not gonna fuck you, okay Link? Not until I either sit there and watch you fuck yourself on your hand or you grab me and shove me in your ass yourself. I’ve told you this-

 

-and yet, without fail, anytime Rhett’s hand so much as wanders half an inch too low, Link jerks himself out of Rhett’s arms. 

 

The first Sunday of June brings a violent thunderstorm and their first fight as a couple. Link had nearly panicked again and had completely locked up beneath Rhett, and then immediately snapped when Rhett tried to talk him down. 

 

Rhett states his hands were clearly nowhere near anyplace that would make Link uncomfortable. Link snarls back that he knows, okay Rhett? I’m trying not to-.

 

 Rhett tries not to push the therapy issue, but ends up doing so anyways. Link thinks he’s not being understanding. Rhett yells that of all people he understands Link more than anyone. Link screams back that Rhett just always wants to be right.

 

Rhett tells him he cares. Link doesn’t want his pity.

 

It takes way too long and it cuts Rhett deeper than any other fight they’ve ever had, the thunder outside echoing the harsh words ricocheting around Rhett’s bedroom walls. They’re not strangers to spats or even full fledged screaming matches with each other, but this hurts on a different level. It’s past midnight when Rhett finally coaxes Link down, hushing all of his self loathing curses and angry tears.

 

Link stutters out an apology. He doesn’t know why he’s like this and he hates himself for putting Rhett through it.

 

Rhett whispers back that he loves him.

 

Because he does. Link has always been a hurricane of a human being, a wild and impulsive surge of energy that leaps before he looks. He doesn’t think before he speaks and lets his emotions run as wild as he is, logic always a second thought.

 

He’s always been this way, and Rhett has always loved him.

 

Eventually he gets Link to stop crying, gets him soft and pliant and relaxed in his arms. It’s far past the time they should have been sleeping, the torrential pouring of the rain doing nothing to lull them to unconsciousness. Rhett holds Link to him as best as he can, Link’s back against Rhett’s front, feeling the fluttering pulse of his heartbeat beneath his hand. It speeds up when Rhett presses a kiss to the side of Link’s face, slow and gentle and dragging across his ear.

 

Link let’s the quietest moan slip from him, tilting his head to the side to let Rhett do with him as he wishes. Rhett obeys, claiming every square inch of Link’s throat with his mouth and clinging tighter when Link begins to squirm.

 

They had already been undressed by then, and Rhett isn’t surprised at all when Link twists in his arms to catch his mouth with his own, the kiss already too deep, his hands already too intense in their actions.

 

Link likes sex after they fight. Link likes sex when he’s stressed out. Link likes sex after he cries. Or before, or during.

 

Rhett doesn’t understand, but he’s more than willing to do anything he can to bring Link back up to the surface so he can breathe.

 

He tastes Link for the first time that night. It’s just as easy for Rhett to put his mouth on him as it was for him to put his hands on him.

 

Link is loud in bed, fidgety and unbridled in his pleasure. Rhett has to hold those straining hips down in his large hands as he pays worship to the white thighs on either side of his head. The view of Link’s head tilted back, throat working and mouth open that Rhett has from his vantage point between his legs is nearly enough to stop Rhett’s heart altogether.

 

Link giggles when Rhett’s beard brushes the sensitive skin on his inner thighs. Rhett repeats the action to hear it again.

 

The giggles give way to whispered prayers and wanton pleas to the night air as Rhett sucks love bites into the hills and valleys between Link’s hipbones. There are red blotches of friction over Link’s entire lower half, a roadmap of Rhett’s passion.

 

When he finally does bend to take Link into his mouth, Link cries out, back bending gorgeously as his head falls into the pillows. He tastes like the rest of him, salty skin and a heavy musk and something that smells like the Cape Fear River.

 

It’s the best thing he’s ever tasted.

 

At least, he thinks so for the time being. He changes his mind when his hands trail up the heaving expanse of Link’s chest and he catches both nipples in his hands, fingers working the sensitive buds to stiff peaks and Link finally comes, hot and heavy in his mouth.

 

Link’s sobbing call is lost as a crack of thunder hits at the same moment, as though the sky itself could feel the burning fire it kindles deep inside Rhett’s heart.

 

Rhett immediately decides that no, the salty come that Link spills is the best thing he’s ever tasted. And when he surges up to catch Link’s mouth in his own as the man floats back to earth, he thinks that Link agrees, accepting the taste of himself on Rhett’s tongue with something that feels like gratitude.

 

Link sleeps peacefully that night. Rhett stays up and watches the rain.

 

It gets marginally better after that. As much as Rhett loathes it, he can’t bring himself to bring up the therapy issue to Link again. He knows from a lifetime of lost arguments and various migraines that Link is the both the unstoppable force and immovable object in his stubbornness. He would get this gleam in his eyes, glaring down Rhett like he was daring him to say something, anything, just so he could counter it. 

 

And Rhett loves him too much to get him as worked up as it does. He's never been happier, and he’s quickly grown addicted to watching the love he's feeling mirrored on Link's face.

 

Its a cheap thing to hold onto, and Rhett still feels like a coward for it, but Link seems to improve by the day. It’s been more than a month since his last panic attack, and he's less wired than Rhett's seen him in months.

 

Rhett teases him that all he needed was to get laid once in a while. Link throws his slipper at him.

 

It’s a week into their break when Link's phone rings. They're both sprawled out on the couch, still in their bed clothes despite the fact that it was well into the late afternoon. They had done a wonderful amount of absolutely nothing the entire day, and it takes Link a laughably long time and a hilarious groan to get off the couch. 

 

Rhett echoes the groan back to him mockingly. Link flips him off as he snatches his phone off the kitchen table.

 

"Hey!” Link answers brightly, coming back around the couch to drape himself over Rhett’s shoulders. Rhett curls a hand around Link’s forearms.

 

“Tonight? Um, yeah no, that shouldn’t be a problem,” Link tells whoever he’s talking to and Rhett twists his head to look up at him, eyebrow cocked. 

 

Link holds up a finger to shush him, mouth drawing downward in concentration before he huffs out a laugh into Rhett’s cheek. “Well yeah, I was gonna do that anyways. Yeah but no, seven? Yeah. Yeah. Okay, see you then.” 

 

Rhett waits for Link to toss his phone haphazardly onto the couch and flop back onto it before fixing him with a quizzical look.

 

“That was Adrian,” Link says with a bright smile, excitement shining in his eyes. “There’s an open house show tonight, and he wants the Angels to help out with the booths.” 

 

Rhett nods. Link hadn’t been back to the club in a little over a month, but he knew that was purely his choice. They had already had that conversation, and now that Rhett knew the entire story he genuinely didn’t mind if Link went down to Feverish if he wanted. 

 

Link had insisted he hadn’t wanted to, that he appreciated Rhett’s supportive attitude, but he was more than happy and willing to stay by Rhett’s side. That he got everything he ever wanted or could need from Rhett alone.

 

But now, looking at Link’s eager face, Rhett felt a whisper of relief. Hopefully tonight would help Link relax some more. He was always in such a good mood after he came back from there.

 

“Well then, mister,” Rhett leans forward and pops a kiss to the tip of Link’s nose, “You’d better get your pretty ass in the shower. We only have two hours before we need to leave.” 

 

Link looks elated, catching Rhett in a real kiss, “So you’ll come with me?” He asks hopefully, hand landing on Rhett’s thigh.

 

“Course, Angel,” Rhett catches his hand and pulls it to his mouth. “I’m always down to support you. Besides,” he fixes Link with a leering smirk, “I’ve missed seeing you in your cute little outfits.” 

 

Link giggles all the way upstairs, dodging Rhett’s hands as he playfully tries to pull him back down.

 

He is all smiles on the drive there, contagious in his exuberance and Rhett finds himself smiling right back at him. 

 

“So what’s even going on tonight, baby?” Rhett asks when they inevitably get stuck in traffic. 

 

“No shows or anything,” Link answers, reading the flyer on his phone. “Adrian and Lou are doing one, but that’s it. Sweetheart and I are supposed to help Carrie with modeling some new harnesses aaaand-“ Link scrolls down quickly, “Sugar’s gonna run the toy booth and I usually help her with that.” Link looks up and smiles brightly at him. “I’m really happy yer comin’ with me, Rhett.” 

 

“I’m happy too.” Rhett answers honestly. He really is. If anything he’s grateful for the place now. It had given Link somewhere safe when he needed it, and he knew how much Link loved the other angels and he was happy that Link had a support group. His old jealousy feels silly now. “I know you’ve missed everyone.”

 

“I have.” Link hums. “It’ll be fun,” he says decisively, clutching Rhett’s hand. 

 

Another thought tugs at Rhett. “What, exactly am I going as here, like,” he swallows. “How do I address you when you’re working?”

 

Link sends him a warning look over his glasses. “You’re going as my boyfriend, Rhett.” 

 

His voice is sharper than Rhett expected and he lifts his other hand off the steering wheel in surrender. They hadn’t pushed the issue with Link actually taking Rhett as a Dom in a while and he wasn’t about to start now.

 

Link’s face softens and he kisses the fingers of his other hand. “You can call me whatever you want, baby.”  

 

Rhett recognizes the apology and squeezes Link’s fingers twice. 

 

Link tugs him through the familiar front doors, waving off Rhett’s initial nerves that hit once they’re in the parking lot-

 

“Oh my god, it’s not like you’ve never been here, come on!”

 

-and instantly drops Rhett’s hand once they’re inside, darting off towards one of the booths set up in the back and hugging a girl with fiery red hair who squeals when she spots Link. The club is still empty aside from the workers, strung up again with its bright lights and colorful flyers. Rhett stays by the door, smiling idly and watching Link. 

 

He looks adorable, bright pink shorts and a black polo that makes his shoulders look absolutely delicious and those clear frames that Rhett just adores on him. There’s a bright smile on his face and he didn’t bother doing his hair, letting it flop onto his forehead in a mimicry of his old hairstyle.

 

Rhett feels the same silly surge of pride that always catches him off guard. Sometimes he really can’t believe this gorgeous man belongs to him. 

 

“Hey Rhett!”

 

Rhett flinches and instantly hates himself for it as he’s startled out of checking Link out by a hand clasping his shoulder. He spins to look at whoever’s touching him and is met with Adrian’s friendly eyes, mouth pulled into a lazy smile. “Welcome back man! Good to see ya.”

 

“Hey, good to see you again too” Rhett takes his offered hand and shakes it. “How’s it goin’”

 

“It’s goin.” Adrian shifts his weight, tossing a look to Link across the room before clearing his throat. “Link told me about you two. I’m glad, Rhett. Really, you’re like, the most perfect guy for him.”

 

Rhett feels a blush climb his neck and color his cheeks as he smiles at the compliment. It sounds weird coming from an outsider. He’s always known Link was the love of his life, but to hear it from someone who knew Link as well as Adrian does is humbling.

 

“I’m tryin,” Rhett answers, matching Adrian’s grin. “I’m just thrilled he’s letting me stick around.”

 

“Oh please, he’s completely insane over you,” Adrian scoffs good-naturedly. “We haven’t seen him in ages, guy can’t live without you.”

 

He pauses then, twisting his neck to crack it in a nervous tick that Rhett remembers from the last time they spoke. It sets Rhett’s sensors off and his eyes narrow when Adrian clears his throat awkwardly 

 

“Hey, uh, can we talk for a sec, Rhett?” He asks, nodding his head towards a staircase Rhett’s never noticed hiding in the shadows at the far end of the main room. “My office is just up there.”

 

Rhett turns back to check on Link. He’s still talking to the redhead, the two joined at the booth by Honey. Rhett decides that he’d be fine for the time being, and follows Adrian upstairs.

 

“So, um,” Adrian starts slowly once he’s seated across from Rhett at a decrepit wooden desk. The office is just as poorly lit as the rest of the place, the walls papered with faded and peeling posters advertising shows and various conventions. “I’m sorry about last time, ya know.” It’s strange watching the tall confident man stutter with uncharacteristic nerves. It’s unsettling Rhett more than he’s comfortable admitting. “I know he didn’t want you to know, but I had to tell him I let it slip. 

 

Rhett bites his lip. “No I get it, I’m not upset or anything. Just...” his palms are sweaty. “That was a fun conversation.”

 

Adrian winces sympathetically. “I’m sorry again, dude. I know how he gets whenever it’s brought up. I’ve been trying for weeks to get him in the therapy program we offer but,” he shrugs helplessly. “The man won’t budge.”

 

“Don’t I know it.” Rhett sighs. “I love him, I really do, an’ I feel just awful, yanno? Bringin’ up the whole therapy thing. He just doesn’t want it.”

 

“No trust me, I get it,” Adrian agrees. “I just want him happy, yeah? Like I’m on the very base level responsible for him, and it bums me out he won’t get help.”

 

"Understatement." 

 

"I know." Adrian shakes his head. “PTSD is a hell of a thing, dude. And Link is as stubborn as they come.”

 

“I wish I understood better, bein’ honest,” Rhett says gruffly, a slight flush working it’s way up. It’s the most candidly he’s spoken of Link’s trauma since learning of it. “I feel useless half the time.”

 

“Oh I know, it’s rough when all they want is pain to take their mind off it.” Adrian says, hands clasped. “I love all the Angels, but it’s so hard when they’re all so stubborn. At least Kitten and Sugar are in therapy.”

 

“I keep tryin, man, I do.” Rhett insists, a desperate edge overpowering his tone. “Link just, I dunno man. He’s too much, he just won’t.”

 

“Hey, quick question,” Adrian twists his neck again, the crack too loud in the small office. “I was gonna ask after I saw how you handled Link last time, have you ever thought about doin it full time and joining us here? Like being a pro Dom? You’ve got the instincts.”

 

“Oh, gosh.” Rhett runs a hand over the back of his neck. “Like I could, so long as it’s just with Link, but I’ve asked, and he’s real adamant about not takin’ titles.”

 

“Oh I know that, he was a nightmare the day I suggested he get himself someone here.” Adrian laughs. “But seriously though, Rhett, I think you’ve got what it takes. We have classes and everything.”

 

“I-“ Rhett breaks off. He’d be lying if he says he hasn’t thought about it. Of course he has. He loves Link, and that first night that he ever touched him on the stage downstairs from where he sits now is going to be burned into his memory for the rest of his life. He’d love nothing more, if he was being honest, than to be the one to hold that title, to have an official name stamped onto it. To be the only one responsible for Link the way he needs it.

 

But the words don’t want to come out, and he’s left with his mouth hanging open stupidly for a beat before Adrian takes pity on him.

 

“Hey, no pressure though dude, just like, think about it.” Adrian stands, another one of his friendly smiles coming back. “Let’s go see what everyone’s up to downstairs yeah? We can mingle.”

 

Downstairs the club is already much more crowded than it was twenty minutes ago, colorful patrons filling up the space and there’s music playing from a speaker set somewhere. He can’t see Link right away, and he suddenly feels way too tall, nervous, and awkward. He also feels way underdressed.

 

He’s rescued once again as Adrian leads him through the small crowd to the booths set up in the back, where he spots Link. Not that he's easy to miss. He’s sitting with three girls and Honey on the floor near a booth that has racks and racks of harnesses strung up around it. They’re all wearing the same thing, a shiny light blue outfit with tiny angel wings on their backs. Link’s already lost his glasses and his hair is a damp mess with the heat in the place. He looks adorable.

 

He looks up immediately as soon as Rhett draws near, an ecstatic grin spreading across his face as he shifts to his knees, holding out his hands to Rhett with an air of impatience that’s so uniquely Link that Rhett has to chuckle. 

 

He’s still smiling when he grasps Link’s outstretched hands, expecting to tug him to his feet and thrown completely off guard when Link tugs him down instead, Rhett landing in an unsteady crouch.

 

“Hi baby!” Link surges up to kiss him, his hands landing on Rhett’s thighs. “Where’d you go?”

 

"Nowhere, angel. Just upstairs to talk to Adrian for a second." He kisses the crease that forms between Link's eye brows when he narrows them suspiciously at Rhett, and changes the subject. “Well don’t you look adorable.”

 

The flattery works exactly the way Rhett wants and Link’s eyes flutter as he grins, head tilting back. “I do, don’t I? I wanted you to meet my friends.” He pouted, tugging Rhett again.

 

“Well I’m here now, introduce me.” Rhett smiles encouragingly .

 

Link releases him and shuffles over to where the rest of the Angels are watching them unabashedly. “This is Sweetheart.” He says, tugging the hand of the redhead he was talking to earlier. She’s cute, a little older and freckled from her face to her wrists and she smiles almost as wide as Link.

 

“Hi!” She giggles shyly. “So you’re the Rhett that Link won’t shut up about.” 

 

“That’s him,” Link says proudly, laughing when Rhett blushes at the attention. “Isn’t he cute.”

 

“He’s adorable,” Honey piped up, wiggling his fingers at Rhett flirtatiously. “Hi there, tall drink of water. We’ve met.”

 

“Yes we have, Honey.” Rhett grins at him. 

 

“I’m Kitten, since no one here’s gonna introduce me,” Kitten speaks over him, ignoring Honey’s shove to her skinny shoulder. “And that’s Sugar.” She points to the girl curled up behind Sweetheart. Her hair is longer than Rhett remembers from the first time he saw her, its long enough to trail on the floor where she’s sitting. It’s covering her pretty dark thighs and she offers Rhett a tight smile. 

 

“Hi,” she says sharply, not meeting Rhett’s eyes.

 

“She’s nervous around men,” Kitten says flatly, sticking out her tongue when Sugar throws a glare at her.

 

“And you’re just the poster child for perfect mental health aren’t you Kitten?” Sugar snaps back. She looks back at Rhett. “It’s nice to meet you.”

 

“Pleasure all mine, Sugar,” Rhett says as kindly as he can, shuffling backwards on his heels. His thighs are screaming with exertion from squatting this long and he’s relieved when a voice snaps from behind him.

 

“All right babies, show time.” Rhett turns around and is met with the tallest woman he’s ever seen, her leather boots going up to Rhett’s face. He awkwardly stands, coming nearly face to face with the woman. She’s wearing striking makeup and a severe ponytail that brushes the back of the tight corset she’s wearing. She fixes Rhett with a calculating smile. “Hi there. Mind if I steal Darling away from you?”

 

“By all means.” Rhett answers, backing up and watching who he assumes is Mistress Carrie heard the Angels towards the back of the booth.

 

Rhett wanders back to the edge of the crowd that’s gathered around the harnesses, finding Adrian speaking to a patron. Before he reaches them however, someone slams into Rhett, shoulder checking him roughly.

 

“Hey!” Rhett exclaims, regaining his footing. “Watch it.”

 

The man who crashed into him turns and fixes Rhett with a dirty look, rolling his eyes before shouldering his way to the front of the crowd. He’s wearing a trench coat and his eyes are shifty.

 

Rhett suddenly remembers him, the same creepy guy touching himself in the back row at Link’s show. He watches him situate himself near the front, eyes glued to the back of Link’s head.

 

“Who’s that creep?” Rhett asks when he finally meets Adrian, the patron melting back into the crowd . 

 

“No idea.” Adrian pulls a sour face at the back of the guys head. “He’s always here though, has a weird thing for Link. Never misses a show.”

 

“He’s unsettling,” Rhett mutters.

 

“Very.”

 

Mistress Carrie claps loudly, starting the show with her sultry voice carrying over the crowd. Rhett feels the familiar heat roll through him and settle in the base of his spine as he watched Link over he heads of the crowd, happy not for the first time that he's a good foot taller than most of them and can watch unimpeded.

 

Link really is the perfect little sub, and Rhett can't help the way his chest puffs out with pride over how gorgeous and obedient he is. He takes everyting Mistress Carrie gives him, answers with a meek "Yes, Ma'am,” when hes addressed and keeps his eyes dropped demurely on the ground in front of him. 

 

He’s a right mess when Link and Sweetheart take turns modeling the new harnesses for Mistress Carrie. Sweetheart is in a bright red one that crisscrosses her fuller figure and offsets her fiery hair in a way that’s almost ethereal in its aesthetic. The girls in the crowd watching whistle and a pretty flush rises on her freckled face.

 

Link on the other hand looks drop dead gorgeous in his, a black leather number that both covers too much and leaves nothing to the imagination at the same time, and when he turns to show off the straps in the back, he catches Rhett’s eyes over the crowd and sends him a wink that makes Rhett’s knees tremble.

 

Mistress Carrie shows how the straps at the bottom of the harness and double as handcuffs. She straps Links arms behind him, ordering him to his knees to show off how it looks.

 

Rhett nearly comes in his pants and makes an immediate mental note to buy the harness before they leave.

 

After two more rounds of harnesses, each one making Link look more tempting than the last, Mistress Carrie dismisses Link and Sweetheart, turning her attention back to the crowd as they begin to clamor for prices on them. 

 

Rhett watches Link as he disappears through another door somewhere and finds Adrian again. He’s seated on the steps leading to his office with a man kneeling at his feet. 

 

“Enjoy the show?” Adrian asks saucily as his hand cards through the dark hair of the other man. 

 

“Hell yeah I enjoyed the show.” Rhett sits next to him on the steps, wiping his sweaty hands on his thighs. “Enjoyed it a little too much if ya know what I mean.”

 

Adrian laughs. “Oh trust me I know.” He nudges the chin of the dark haired man at his feet up and smiles at him. “This is Lou, my husband. Say hello to Rhett, Lou.”

 

Lou fixes him with a dazzling smile that violently reminds Rhett of Link. “Hi Rhett.”

 

“Hey, Lou.” Rhett offers a smile, not sure whether he should offer a hand to shake or anything. “Comfy down there?”

 

“Oh, Always.” Lou giggles out. “I’m happy you’re here, Rhett. I’ve heard lots about you, how good you did at the show!”

 

“Well gosh.” Rhett’s blushing again, unused to the praise. “I’m an amateur really, I’d never done anything-“ 

 

He falters off when his phone vibrates twice in his pocket. He pulls it out with an apologetic glance at Adrian and Lou as he checks it.

 

Your son is going to call you in about fifteen minutes.

 

Oh fuck.

 

Rhett has completely forgotten. He had spoken to Jessie a few days prior and it had slipped his mind entirely that Locke was going to call him for a homework project or something. He felt horrible, both forgetting and the fact that he needed to leave.

 

“Shit.” He cursed, sliding his phone back into his pocket. “Fuck, I gotta go, man. Something came up that I completely forgot about, um-“ he cast a look around, but couldn’t see Link anywhere. “Can you tell Link to call me when he’s done here? I’ll come back for him but this is really important.”

 

“Hey man no problem.” Adrian smiles easily at him. “I’ll keep an eye on him.”

 

“Thanks,” Rhett says gratefully, casting another look over his shoulder before slipping out the doors.

 


 

 

Rhett doesn’t realize how late it is when he hangs up the phone, and his eyebrows crease in worry when he checks the time and sees that it’s nearly eleven. Link still hasn’t called to tell him he’s leaving. All he has is the text from about an hour ago telling Rhett they were almost done.

 

He tells himself he’s being dumb, that Link is a grown ass man and doesn’t need Rhett to hold his hand constantly, and if he’s safe anywhere that isn’t with Rhett, it’s there with everyone watching closely over him.

 

He really can’t help the pale knot of anxiety that twists itself into his insides as he watches another minute tick by. He’s always been like this around Link, folding himself into pretzels with worry whenever Link would do anything. From driving too fast, or taking too long to show up to work back in the days when they lived apart. Hell it even happened when he watched the man use kitchen utensils. He didn’t even let him man the grill most times, afraid of him burning his beautiful fingers.

 

It’s just always been instinct, looking down to see Link’s trusting eyes on him his entire life. The need to hold and protect is just ingrained in him by now.

 

But he’s being silly. He knows this. He knows exactly where Link is and he’s safe. 

 

Rhett’s being silly.

 

Just when he’d managed to calm himself down, his phone started vibrating on the couch cushion next to him.

 

The screen reads Link, and he exhales the breath he’s been holding all night. 

 

“Hey, baby, you all done?” He says once he answers.

 

“Rhett?!”

 

It’s a girls voice, one he doesn’t recognize and she sounds scared, enough to raise the alarm bells in Rhett’s head.

 

“Hello?” He says again, standing up.

 

“Rhett? Is that you?” It’s the same girl, the same breathless voice.

 

“Hello? What’s going on?”

 

“Oh god Rhett, you gotta come back here.” The girl says loudly, her voice hitching with anxiety and it makes Rhett’s heart speed up in his chest. “It’s Darling, something happened, this guy, you just gotta come back here! He won’t let any of us near him!”

 

“What happened? Is Link okay?” Rhett’s already grabbing his keys and shoving his wallet into his back pocket.

 

“I don’t know! I came outside after I heard Sugar screaming, just come back, Rhett!” The girl cries, sounding close to tears and Rhett’s not far behind her. 

 

“I’m going I’m going, just watch him!” Rhett barks out to whoever the girl is, snatching his keys and heading out the front door. He hangs up on her against his instinct, too focused to honestly give a fuck.

 

He isn’t even paying attention to the red lights as he speeds downtown, daring the cops to pull him over. He’s driving well over the speed limit, the only thing on his mind is Link, that Link needs him, that something is very very wrong and he has to get there.

 

When he finally pulls into the tiny parking lot of Feverish, it’s surprisingly empty. Just filled with lingerie clad workers he assumes were in the middle of something and a single spotlight illuminating the lot.

 

He immediately spots Link, curled up on himself on the curb while the three girls huddle about four feet from him and. They all look terrified, and Sweetheart stands up as soon as Rhett throws the car in park. 

 

“What happened?” He demands as soon as he slams his door shut.

 

Sweetheart’s face is streaked with tears when she runs up to him in her ungodly high heels, her wings flapping behind her. “I don’t know! He won’t talk to us!” She casts a worried look back at Link. “He just kept calling for you!”

 

“What do you mean?” Rhett isn’t even hearing her anymore, his eyes glued to Link where he’s still hiding his face in his hands. He’s already dressed, just a smear of glitter left on his ear. 

 

“He won’t let any of us near him, he just kept screaming whenever we tried and anytime we asked him anything he just kept calling for you.” Sweetheart wrings her hands and wipes her face, streaking her heavy eyeliner. “Just, just go talk to him, please!”

 

“Link?” Rhett says cautiously as he approaches Link’s probe figure on the sidewalk. “Link? Baby, please, it’s me, it’s Rhett, look at me please?”

 

He doesn’t dare touch him, recognizing the firm set of his trembling shoulders and he crouched a foot away from him. “Link?”

 

It takes Link an eternity and an half to finally move, looking up at Rhett through foggy eyes. His glasses are missing and his hair is a spiked up mess.  

 

“Rhett?” His name rips out of Links throat in a gravely whine and it almost destroys Rhett entirely. 

 

“It’s me, baby, it’s me,” Rhett whispers, inching forward on his knees. His back is screaming but he can’t bring himself to care in the slightest. “I’m here, love, I’m here, baby what happened??”

 

Link doesn’t answer him. His jaw works and he opens and closes his mouth a few times and his watery eyes blink erratically at him before Link launches himself into Rhett’s arms. 

 

He’s way too bony and his limbs collide with Rhett’s in a graceless mess before Rhett gets a hold on him and manages to get him into a proper embrace. Link is already crying way too hard, clawing his way closer to Rhett’s body and wailing into his neck. The sound drags up long forgotten memories that Rhett prayed he’d never think of again of Link in high school, middle school, crying out in an anguish he would never understand.

 

“Baby, baby shhhhh it’s okay angel, I’m here.” Rhett tries to whisper, tries to soothe into the man in his arms but it does nothing but spur Link on, the sobbing growing louder and more desperate and his hands tighten in Rhett’s shoulder blades. Rhett does his best to weather the storm, sitting back on his heels and rocking Link the way he used to when they were children. 

 

Over Link’s shoulder Rhett sees Lou and Adrian come back into the parking lot still in their show clothes, both of their expressions stormy and their entire bodies tense. 

 

“Rhett!” Adrian calls, jogging closer with Lou in his wake. They’re both red with exertion and they book look pissed. “Thank fuck you’re here. I am so fucking sorry.”

 

“What the fuck is going on?” Rhett demands, reaching up a hand to cup the back of Link’s head when he turns to hide his face in Rhett’s neck. 

 

“I called the cops, but they said they can’t do anything if they can’t find him!” Honey bursts out of the club doors in a frenzy, his phone clutched in his hand and his makeup smudged wetly.

 

“What happened!” Rhett tries again, wincing when Link flinches as his voice raises. 

 

“This guy! He’s always here!” Honey is almost hysterical, his hands coming up to twine through his colorful hair. “He’s always here for Darling’s shows, he’s always hanging around when he’s here, and he cornered him by my car! He was out here putting some of the costumes in there and then-I don’t know what happened but we heard screaming-“

 

“Relax, Honey,” Adrian snaps out not unkindly, putting an end to Honeys tearful ramblings. “It’s that weird guy who always wears a trech coat. We saw him earlier, Rhett! I think he tried something, but Sugar got there before it got bad.”

 

“Then why the fuck is he so freaked out?!” Rhett knows he talking too loud, can feel it in the way Link flinches in his arms and the way he cries harder, but he can’t care right now. He can feel his blood pressure rising by the second, his limbs tightening around Link to clutch him closer. 

 

“Come on Rhett,” Adrian says tiredly, not going any further than to drop to his knees beside him. “Let’s not be stupid now.”

 

Rhett can instantly see why Adrian is a good Dom, his soothing voice already calming Rhett down from the angry frenzy he was worked up into. 

 

“Did he touch him?” Rhett dares to ask, hands curling into Link’s skin in a moment of possessiveness as Adrian’s hand brushes over Link’s shoulder blade. 

 

“I don’t know,” Adrian says, looking every bit as destroyed as Rhett feels even as Link shrinks away from Adrian’s touch, a startled cry echoing in Rhett's ears. Adrian drops his hand as soon as he does, and Rhett is grateful for him once again. "Either way, we need to get him home, I don't want him out here anymore.”

 

Rhett doesn't either, but he also doesn't wanna move Link. Link doesn't like to be moved when he's liked this. He once told Rhett, lifetimes ago, that when he's lost like this it feels like the world is surging forward without him, like everything is moving way too quickly for his eyes to adjust and it makes him feel like he could throw up, like motion sickness. 

 

He doesn't say this though. Link hates being spoken about like he isn't there, and its a habit that has taken Rhett years to wean himself off of. He isn't about to mess that up now, even if Link is still crying too hard to say anything about it.

 

Instead he shakes his head minutely, not wanting to jostle Link more than he has to. Link's fingernails are leaving bloody crescents in Rhett's shoulders. "I can't drive right now, I don't-" He has to swallow down the insane urge to cry that comes at the thought of releasing Link for even a second, and Links arms tighten on him as though he can read Rhett’s mind. "I can't, man." 

 

"I'll do it," Sugar speaks up. She's still on the curb a few feet away, holding onto Sweetheart's hand as Kitten and Honey watch on. "I can drive you two home, and I'll call an Uber or something."

 

“I’ll go with you,” Honey speaks up, looking down at Rhett. “I’ll follow you guys and take bring Sugar back.”

 

“We’re coming too,” Kitten looks down as Sweetheart nods up at her. “I just wanna make sure Darling gets outta here okay.”

 

A knot climbs up Rhett’s throat and threatens to break through the solid dam determination that’s keeping Rhett from straight up breaking. The Angels are all watching him with grim determination in their faces, a lingerie and glitter clad army and Rhett almost can’t handle it, the love they clearly have for Link and, by extension him.

 

“Thank you,” he breathes out, the words punched out of him and he’s grateful that Sugar doesn’t push it. 

 

It takes him a little bit to get Link to the car. He dissolves into scratchy wails again when Rhett tries to get him to stand up, curling further into Rhett and shaking his head stuttering out “no, no , no I can’t, I don’t wanna, don’t make me move, please, Rhett-“

 

He has to settle back on the asphalt between the sidewalk and the car, rubbing his hands over Link’s shaking limbs and clutching his face to press Link’s forehead into his own; to stare deep into those endless blue eyes and project as much love and security as he can to get the man off the damn street. He finally gets Link to the car, gets him quiet and calm enough to settle him into the backseat. He gets Link’s seatbelt on and tugs him against his chest, clutching him as tight as he can and pressing kisses to his damp hair.

 

Link doesn't say anything else in the car, doesn't respond to Rhett's litany of whispered vows and desperate apologies that float around the backseat. Sugar is quiet as she drives, keeping her eyes fixed firmly ahead, though Rhett can see them dart to the review mirror every now and again with worried glances. Link doesn't move from where Rhett's put him, his eyes glassy and distant as he stares unseeing out the window. The streetlights illuminate the drying tear tracks on his face as they pass and Rhett keeps reaching up to wipe them away when the lights return and Link's face is shiny again. His breath comes quick and short, his chest rising and falling erratically beneath Rhett's arms. 

 

Rhett is being held up by sheer willpower and adrenaline, forcing the hurricane of emotion that wants to come screaming to the surface at bay the best he can. He's always been good at pushing stuff down, swallowing feelings as soon as they blossomed and choosing the path of silence rather than confrontation. 

 

But like hell if he doesn't wanna cry right now. He wants to scream his heartbroken anger to god and the universe and his hands are itching to break, to destroy, to burn off the blind hatred that's searing him alive. He's never hated the world more than he does as he listens to Link's breath hitch as his body tries to regulate his breathing. He can't wrap his head around it, can’t fathom how the world could possibly be so horrid and cruel to someone as beautiful as Link. How it could rain so much misery and misfortune onto the one soul on this earth that Rhett loves more than life itself. 

 

He's always said that he'd die for Link. It had started out as a joke, played out for laughs and occasionally just thrown out there to watch the way Link would blink at him blankly when he said it, the words far too heavy for the lighthearted tone he spoke them in. It had hit him hard, way harder than he was honestly ready for when he realized how honest he was being his entire life, how he had always meant them when he spoke even as young as he was. 

 

They've never been truer now than they are right them second, as he clutches tight to the body in his arms and presses his face into Link's hair. He smells like sweat and fear and it makes Rhett's stomach turn and he thinks that he would die, right now, as painfully as the universe deemed necessary if it meant that all the pain that Link has suffered would vanish. He'd bleed out and let his heart stop entirely if it meant Link's hands would no longer shake and he could sleep through the night.

 

They finally arrive in Rhett’s driveway, Sugar waiting to shut off the car until Rhett has Link somewhat standing. She nods at him once, still remaining strong and silent as she hands him the keys and heads toward the car that’s pulled into Rhett’s driveway behind them. He can see Honey and Kitten’s faces in the light, still distressed but strong and he doesn’t see their headlights turn off his driveway until he has Link through the front door. 

 

It feels like Rhett’s run a marathon by the time he gets Link’s comatose body up the stairs and undressed in bed. He’s careful, almost exceedingly so as he tugs Link’s black polo off him and eases the pink shorts from his waist. Link let’s him undress him, eyes still staring flatly over Rhett’s head as he manhandles him.

 

He’s completely silent as Rhett tucks him into bed, laying his head down into the pillows and tugging the sheets over him. He makes no move to let Rhett know he’s even there when Rhett undresses himself and slides beneath the covers beside him. Link goes pliantly as Rhett tugs him close, holding Link’s head to his bare chest. 

 

If he notices the way Rhett’s chest hitches with repressed sobs in the darkness, he doesn’t mention it.

 

It’s late, too late for them again and the grey sky that’s been threatening to storm all day finally breaks and the soft pitter-patter of the rain falling covers all the silence in the room. 

 

Rhett has no idea what to do, what to say. He has no idea how to ease the ache he knows Link is feeling. He feels completely useless, and he’s dragged back to his days in college and high school, where all he could offer Link in the midst of his own emotional turmoil was his body heat and the soft touches in his hair.

 

He does both now, pressing soft and loving kisses to any part of Link that he allows him to.

 

“I’ll do it, Rhett,” Link whispers after what seems like an eternity of silence.

 

“You’ll do what, Link?” Rhett answers just as lowly, tracing a thumb over the ridge of his brow.

 

“I’ll get therapy, I’ll talk to whoever,” Link answers, Adam’s apple bobbing up and down his throat as he composes himself. “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep being scared I-“ he breaks off into a gut wrenching gasp that has Rhett tightening his arms around him. “I can’t keep letting this happen. Anyone else would have hit that guy, shoved him off, done something! Anything, and I, and I just, froze.” 

 

“Link, you didn’t let this happen." Rhett can barely get the words out with the rush of indignant anger that floods him. "You didn't let any of what happened to you happen. People are awful, you can't go through life blaming yourself for someone else's shitty actions."

 

“Yeah but-“ Link sits up now, throwing a hand through his hair and scrubbing it over his face. “-I can’t, I’m still scared of everything, I’m still the same, Rhett. I still talk the same, I still have the same face, the same body, I’ve done nothing to change anything inviting about myself, I’m letting him win-“

 

“It doesn’t work like that!” Rhett speaks louder than he means to and almost misses the way Link jerks at his words. “You have nothing to feel bad about! It wasn’t you it was him! And you just-Link you were thirteen!” Rhett’s standing now, hands twisted in his hair and the anger comes screaming back to the surface.

 

“Rhett-“ Link tries, his hand coming up to catch Rhett’s thigh as he passes him on the bed. Rhett doesn’t even feel it, Link’s fingers bouncing right off of him.

 

“No, Link! It wasn’t you! It was the world that keeps doing this, it wasn’t your fault it any way!” Rhett knows he’s not making any sense, can feel the way the anger he’s feeling is twisting the words he wants to say and he wants to scream some more, not seeing the way Link’s face crumbles into helplessness as he doesn’t respond to his words. He can’t even hear Link right now, with the blood pounding in his ears and a sob building in his throat. “It wasn’t anything you did! It wasn’t how pretty you are or the way you move, it was them! They’re the ones in the wrong, not you!”

 

“Rhett, please, stop-“ Link rasps out, catching the edge of his boxers as he paces by the bed again.

 

“No, Link, look at me.” Rhett counters, tearing Links hands of him and cupping his face in his hands. Link blinks up into his eyes, mouth open and hands shaking where they land on his wrists. “It wasn’t you, okay? It was them, they’re the ones who are wrong Link. You are perfect, so perfect just-” Rhett can barely speak now, breath catching now that he’s stuck in Link’s wide and innocent eyes. “It’s not your fault, none of it was your fault.”

 

Link looks completely stuck, mouth gaping open and lips shiny as his watery eyes blink up at Rhett. It takes a million fucking years for him to respond, a hard swallow coming before he licks his lips and whispers out his response.

 

“Okay”

 

“Okay?” Rhett mimics back to him in desperation, his hands curling into the hair on the sides of Link’s he’s clutching tight enough Rhett thinks it has to hurt.

 

“Yeah, yeah okay Rhett.” Link says, his own hands coming up to shaking card through his beard, his hair, down his arms. It’s like Link has to touch every inch of him. “Okay.”

 

“You’ll get therapy?” Rhett asks again, sinking to his knees on the bed in from of Link.

 

Link blinks twice, mouth twisting for a second before he nods once decisively. “Yeah, yeah I’ll do it, Rhett.”

 

A weight lifts off of Rhett’s heavy shoulders and he sighs out in relief, gathering Link into his arms and hugging him tightly. Link’s fingers crawl up his back and hold him around the middle tightly as he lets his face nestle into Rhett’s neck. 

 

The sigh Link lets out that warms the back of Rhett’s ear sounds like hope, and Rhett clings to it as tightly as he clings to his best friend. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s not perfect.

 

It would be arrogant to think it would be.

 

But time moves on, as it does. And it gets easier.

 

Link blossoms. Rhett’s a recent advocate for therapy, and the program they have at Feverish is nothing short of miracle in his mind. He hasn’t seen Link smile this easily in years, his eyes taking on a new sparkle and his toothy grin overtaking his face more often than Rhett ever thought possible.

 

They begin to get ready to film their new season. Rhett watches Link scribble his ideas down and notes with a rush of something that threatens to break him entirely that Link’s hands are completely still. Not a tremor in sight.

 

There are bumps in the road. Link still snaps at him for no reason and he finds him crying on the sofa more often than he’d like. Those nights are hard, made even harder by the fact that Link talks now. Rhett no longer has to pull teeth to get anything out of him and the pain that spills from Links lips is almost too much for Rhett sometimes. 

 

Those nights are more than worth it now, when Link lets Rhett take him upstairs and soothe away any of the thoughts that are still lingering.

 

Rhett takes Link to therapy every other day, letting Link crush his fingers between his own as the man’s feet vibrate with nerves against the floor of his car. His grip gets looser and looser with each visit, gradually going from a straight up death grin to twining softly between Rhett’s own fingers. Link breathes easier as the days pass, actually talking to Rhett as he drives them instead of staring a hole through the windshield.

 

Rhett sticks around for the hour Link spends in his program, either hanging around Adrian’s office or sitting in on his classes. He’s still refused to breach the subject with Link, feeling that all the loose ends would tie themselves up nicely at his own pace, Rhett not wanting to force his hand in anyway. 

 

Adrian still tells him he’d love to have him around as an actual team member, swearing up and down that Rhett wouldn’t have to take clients, wouldn’t have to do anything besides take care of Link. Whatever Link wanted; be it shows, lessons or a private session here and there. It sounds perfect to Rhett, but Adrian still nods understandingly when he says it’s all in Link’s hands. That very idea of taking consent from Link on anything at all makes Rhett’s stomach turn.

 

Things reach a new height on the Tuesday afternoon a week before they’re about to start filming the new season. Rhett’s taking them home, a bag full of In and Out settled between Link’s thighs.

 

Link’s feet are twitching again, his leg jiggling with nerves as he squeezes Rhett’s hand where he has it resting on his lap. 

 

Rhett waits until they get home, preferring these days to wait for Link to come to him with whatever’s on his mind. Link is halfway through his burger when he clears his throat nervously, nudging his knee against Rhett’s.

 

“What’s up, baby?” Rhett asks softly, keeping his eyes trained on the tv as to not place any undue pressure on the other man.

 

“Um,” Link swallows the bite he has in his mouth and swipes over his lips with the back of his hand, “Remember when you said, that uh, that if I ever decided to sell the house, I’d have someone that’d let me stay with them, permanently?”

 

Rhett doesn’t even dare let himself get excited, tamping down the butterflies that have risen in fluttering and violent storm in his stomach. He forces his face to remain neutral, shoving a fry into his mouth as he nods as casually as he can.

 

“Well uh-“ Link is grinning now, eyes lighting up as he turns to stare at the side of Rhett’s face. “It sold this morning.”

 

Rhett can’t help the smile that takes over his face at that, and he’s still grinning like an idiot at the tv when Link takes the side of his face in his hand, thumb caressing the apple of his cheek as he turns Rhett to look at him. 

 

“And?” Rhett prods him, smiling back into Link’s ecstatic grin.

 

“And,” Link huffs out laugh through his nose. “I was wonderin’ if that offer was still available.”

 

Rhett scrunches up his nose, pretending to think it over. “I dunno buddyroll, it’d be kinda crowded dontcha think? Plus ‘m not really used to livin’ with anyone, and I feel like you’d kinda cramp my style-“

 

Link is outright laughing now, rolling his eyes as he surges up and cuts off Rhett’s nonsense with a firm kiss. He pulls back, shaking his head before muttering a fond “Oh shut up,” and kissing Rhett again. 

 

Rhett has Link moved in entirely in less than two days. He completely takes over the entire process, laughing when Link’s controlling tendencies rears it’s head as the movers carry in the scant boxes of Link’s possessions he’d left behind. 

 

He tugs Link into his lap on the couch, not letting him up to help as the movers put his things down in places where they don’t go, Rhett, they don’t go there just let me up, you jerk!

 

He waits until they’re gone to let Link up and laughs himself silly when Link throws a proper fit, sending catty remarks and wringing his hands as he rearranged his things. He sits and lets him fret, smiling softly as Link makes himself even more at home that he already was. 

 

Life is better than Rhett’s ever remembered it being. Link is genuinely happy, cracking jokes and making sure Rhett notices that he’s pulling his underwear from Rhett’s drawers, making noise and noting loudly that his car keys are hung next to Rhett’s. It feels much the same to Rhett, the fact that Link has practically lived there but he loves the way Link reacts to it.

 

Therapy has done wonders for their sex life as well. The tearful nights of talking Link down from his panic attacks have grown sparse in their frequency. Now it’s Link taking Rhett’s hand in his own, leading him lower and lower and nodding frantically at Rhett’s whispered questions. He even lets Rhett get him naked, closing his eyes tightly and breathing evenly when Rhett lays him bare for the first time. Link smiles tentatively, telling Rhett that it’s okay, I promise baby, you can touch me, be careful, not so low, but yeah you can touch me-

 

It’s the first time that Link lets Rhett see all of him, and he doesn’t even cry that much once he comes, just a few stray tears that he swears up and down aren’t bad tears at all. It leaves Rhett lightheaded, how easily Link places himself in his hands.

 

It reaches its pinnacle when Rhett and Link have to film separately, two days leading up to the release of the new season. They have all the episodes filmed, mostly, this one doesn’t air for a few weeks after the fact. But the point is, they have to film separately, some twist on the newlywed game Stevie dreamed up and Rhett goes last, letting Link go to therapy alone for once and staying behind to film his segment.

 

Rhett gets home late, later than he thought, and the entire house is dark. All the lights are off, aside from a few candles burning on the table in the entrance. He can squint and see there are more candles burning at the top of the stairs, and he drops his backpack where he stands and follows the light.

 

“Link?” He calls out, his voice sounding too loud in the quiet ambiance the softly lit stairwell has provided. He gets no answer, not even when he follows it with “Baby?”

 

In the silence that greets him, he continues up the stairs. There are more candles flickering in the hallway leading to his bedroom, softly puttering and casting shadows on the walls. Rhett follows them slowly, heart pounding as he walks closer to where he knows Link is, can feel it in his soul.

 

There are two candles beckoning him on the floor at the doorway of his bedroom, and he makes a mental note to chastise Link for letting an open flame so close to his carpet. But the thought only lasts until he pushes his bedroom door open and finds Link. He’s sprawled out on Rhett’s bed, hair undone and completely naked.

 

“Hi,” Link whispers, glasses crooked and feet curling nervously. He looks like a goddamn dream, lean body all stretched out, cock heavy and full between his thighs. Rhett has to swallow twice before he responds.

 

“Hey,” Rhett can barely force the word from his stunned lips, and it falls loudly onto the floor. There are more candles flickering around Rhett’s bedroom, sending a soft and ethereal light over the planes of Link’s body and it nearly brings Rhett to his knees. 

 

Link doesn’t say anything more, just rises up on his elbow only to drop down immediately with a scowl as he rubs at his bad shoulder. The familiar motion sparks Rhett out of his stunned silence in the open door of his bedroom and he inches towards the bed, shoving his trembling hands into his pockets. “What’s going on here, bo?” A smile tugs at the corner of Rhett’s mouth as he watches a blush creep up the sides of Link’s face.

 

Link doesn’t seem to be able to meet his eyes now, dropping them demurely to the bedspread. He rises to his knees, inching forward and holding out a hand imploringly. Rhett goes forward and takes his hand, squeezing it twice until those bright blue eyes come up to meet his. 

 

“There he is,” Rhett murmurs, running the fingers of his free hand through the silver strands on Link’s forehead. “Not that this isn’t absolutely magical, but talk to me, honey.”

 

Link huffs out a breathless laugh and shakes his head. “This is so stupid, why am I so nervous.”

 

“It’s just me,” Rhett answers, moving closer and curling his hand around the back of Link’s head.

 

Link leans forward and presses his forehead against Rhett’s chest. “My therapist and I have been working through my issues and, um, I trust you, Rhett. I trust you more than anyone and, I feel like, I feel like there’s something I really wanna give you.”

 

Rhett’s heartbeat was so loud he could hear it ringing in his ears. 

 

“Link, baby,” Rhett swallowed heavily, fingers tightening around Link’s. “You don’t hafta feel pressured, I- I said that you didn’t need to, that I don’t need anything like that-“

 

“I know, I know,” Link interrupts breathlessly, tilting his head up to meet Rhett’s gaze. “I know, and I don’t! It’s a huge reason why I feel like I’m ready! You’ve never pushed, you’ve never even asked! And I-“ Link falters then, tugging Rhett impossibly closer and rising up to push the softest kiss of Rhett’s life to the corner of his mouth. The breath Rhett shakily exhales at the motion seems to spur Link on. “- I love you. So damn much. I want this. I’ve wanted this, and, Rhett-“ Link releases his hands and curls them around Rhett’s neck, tugging him down to press their foreheads together. “I’m not scared anymore.”

 

Rhett’s nearly hyperventilating at this point of Link’s speech. He’d be lying if he said he hadn’t thought about it, hadn’t taken himself in hand and got himself off to the thought of fucking Link. But he also wasn’t lying when he’d promised Link that if he couldn’t give it to him, then he didn’t want it. He was more than fulfilled now, would still be if Link didn’t want anything besides Rhett as his best friend for the rest of his life. 

 

But now, with Link staring up at him with wide and needy eyes and his naked body pressed against Rhett’s front, Rhett could feel his self control slipping from him. He brings his hands down to Link’s sharp hips and his fingers dig into the flesh there. He stares deep into Links eyes and licks his lower lip. He wants, he wants so bad. But there’s still the tiniest part of him that doesn’t want to hurt Link. 

 

He lets himself kiss Link, softly at first and then responding in kind when Link opens his mouth and shoves his tongue against Rhett’s, deepening the kiss with something that tastes like desperation. 

 

He manages to pull himself off Link, closing his eyes and swallowing heavily once before whispering, “Are you sure?”

 

Link grasps his face closer, pressing his nose against the ridge of Rhett’s cheekbone and nods, breath spilling warm against Rhett’s beard. 

 

Something breaks inside Rhett, dulling the world around them until the only thing he can focus on is Link and he kisses him again, spilling as much love and passion into the kiss as he can and he shoves Link back down to the bed. Link goes willingly, following Rhett’s insistent hands as they push and press him onto his back and Rhett crawls over him. 

 

He refuses to let his mouth leave Link’s, continuing the kiss as Link wraps his limbs around him and ruts against Rhett’s stomach. It then occurs to Rhett that there’s way too many clothes between them, and the fact that the thin cotton of his shirt keeping him from feeling the heat of Link’s skin is the worst thing on the planet. 

 

Link seems to be thinking the same thing as his hands come up to tug at the fabric on Rhett’s shoulders, trying valiantly to rid Rhett of the offending garment. 

 

“Get this offa ya-“ Link whimpers against his mouth, groaning lowly when Rhett drags himself away from him to listen. Rhett sits back and rips his shirt off, tugging it over his head and then pulls back further to stand.

 

Link outright whines at this, looking betrayed as Rhett gets off the bed.

 

“Hold on baby, hold on.” Rhett undoes his belt and all but shoves the rest of his clothes off. His erection springs free as he rides himself of his right underwear and steps out of his shoes and pants in one motion. “I’m getting there, Link.”

 

Link reaches both hands up as soon as Rhett’s makes, hands grabbing at the air until Rhett clambers back on top of him. The first touch of skin on skin sets Rhett on fire. It’s not the first time he’s felt all of Link pressed against him, but it’s the first time that Link’s legs open as easily as they do now. It’s the first time that he doesn’t shrink back when Rhett runs a hand down his side to grasp the soft and yielding flesh of his ass. It’s the first time that Link reaches up underneath his pillow, producing a small bottle of lube and presses it into Rhett’s hand, meeting Rhett’s eyes with a fire burning in the deep blue gaze. 

 

It’s the first time that he leans up, laving kisses up the side of Rhett’s face until his mouth breaths wetly against Rhett’s ear and he whispers, “Fuck me, Rhett.”

 

It’s like he’s floating, like he’s left his body entirely when he takes the lube from Link’s hand. He sits up, pressing Link back on his back when he tries to follow him. 

 

He stays kneeled between Link’s press legs and runs a hand up one smooth thigh to pull it up. He rests it on his shoulder and presses a line of kisses long his calf as he opens Link’s up. He watches Link’s Adam’s apple bob once when Link tugs his lower lip between his teeth. 

 

Wide blue eyes follow the movement as Rhett opens the bottle and drizzles the cool liquid over his fingers. He uses more than he should but doesn’t particularly care as he inches forward, his clean hand reaching for Link’s straining cock as the other one trails lower, leaving a shiny trail down Link’s balls as he inches towards the opening of Link’s body.

 

Link gasps roughly when Rhett finally runs his fingers down the crack of his ass, trailing from his perineum lower to run his fingers over the furled skin. Rhett watches closely, waiting for the slightest sign that Link is in any way uncomfortable.

 

Link doesn’t say anything as his eyebrows contract slightly and his eyes drop closed, a stuttering breath pulled in through his nose. Rhett leans forward, leaning his face against Link’s leg on his shoulder. His fingers move over the tight hole, not daring to press in but still lightly petting the skin in a desperate effort to help Link relax. Link’s shaking hands come up to grasp onto Rhett’s arms as Rhett begins to stroke his cock lightly in time with the passes of his fingers.

 

“Are you okay?” Rhett finally murmurs, flicking his thumb over the head of Link’s straining erection.

 

Link nods, eyes still screwed shut and chest heaving. Rhett presses another kiss to Link’s leg and stills the hand he has on his dick. “Look at me.”

 

The request comes out low and strangled, and Link obeys, eyes drifting open and Rhett keeps the gaze as he presses forward with one finger, breaching Link as slowly as he can.

 

Link reacts instantly, gasping as his entire body tenses and his hands clamp down in a vice like grip on Rhett’s arms. Rhett freezes, one finger knuckle deep in Links ass and the other still grasping Link’s cock. 

 

“Color?” Rhett tries to make the word come out as confident as he can. He fails miserably, sounding as high and breathless as Link does when he stutters out his answer.

 

“G-Green.” Link’s eyes are still clamped shut, his body still tense and tight and Rhett begins to stroke him again, jerking Link in slow moves until he feels his muscles relax and he can move the finger he has in him.

 

Gradually, Link begins to soften around him, his hips raising minutely to match Rhett’s slow thrusts unto him as he fucks into him with one finger. Rhett can barely breath, is way too caught up in the flush that colors Link from his bony shoulders all the way to his sharp jawline. He wants to kiss him, wants to sooth the tight line Link’s mouth is pressed into but doesn’t dare move, doesn’t want to move beyond his two hands working on Link. 

 

The movement is tiny, almost too small for Rhett to catch were he not almost obsessively watching Link’s face. Link nods, an almost invisible jerk of his head and Rhett understands. He’s still scared shitless, but spurred on as Link lifts his hips to meet Rhett’s hand as he pushes another finger into Link’s ass.

 

Rhett works Link open to the symphony of whimpers and cries that pour from the other mans mouth. Link’s hands are everywhere, jittery and nervous as they claw at Rhett’s shoulders, twisting into his hair or curving around his jaw.

 

He can’t stop watching Link’s face as he moves his hand inside him. The pressure around his fingers is making Rhett’s head spin and he swallows heavily as he imagines what it would feel like around his cock. He wants to touch himself badly, he’s so aroused he can’t even think straight, but he’s way too intent on watching Link fall apart.

 

Rhett twists the two fingers he has in Link, searching for that perfect spot he knows is there and watches Link’s eyes fly open and his head drop back when he finds it, breath punched out of him. The inhale that follows is shaky and his meets Rhett’s eyes again, eyebrows kitting together as his eyes widen in panic.

 

“Rhett, Rhett, fuck Rhett, oh, oh-“

 

“Color, angel?” Rhett asks into the soft skin of Links calf where it flexes by his ear. He nips at the muscle and nudges that spot again. He’s rewarded with another pitiful whimper.

 

“It’s green, it’s green I’m, nnnggg, ohhhh god, I'm okay just-“ Links hands tighten around Rhett’s upper arms, feeling the skin ripple as Rhett languidly finger fucks him, “-just, just talk to me, keep looking at me, please stay with me just-“ he cuts himself off with a sharp cry as Rhett works another finger into him with the gentlest movements he can manage.

 

“I’ve got you baby, Im here, it’s just me, look at me darlin’ look at me” Rhett begs until Link opens his eyes and he leans forward, bending Link nearly in half and rests his forehead against his . “Im here, I’m here and I love you, Link. I love you so damn much, you’re safe here with me, okay? I’m gonna take care of you forever. Just you and me babe, I ain’t ever gonna leave you.”

 

“Rhett-“ Link chokes on the sob that only makes it halfway out of his throat. There are glittering tears clinging to his lashes where they rest along his sharp cheekbones. His lips are swollen and wet and Rhett can’t resist surging forward to catch them and swallow the needy whine that pours into his mouth.

 

Link is a wreck, letting his mouth fall open to let Rhett as deep as he can and letting Rhett take whatever he fucking wanted from him. His hips are grinding down on the three fingers he has in him and the hair at his temples is damp with tears that are steadily falling.

 

“Don’t cry baby, please, you’re so perfect, you’re doing so well, you’re taking me so well in that perfect ass of yours, you look so fucking beautiful underneath me Link.” Rhett can’t help it as he continues to wax poetic like a prayer over Links body. “I love you so damn much fucking hell how did i get so lucky. Are you okay baby? What’s your color Link? Tell me please, why are you crying?”

 

Rhett crooks his fingers up, searching for that spot again and catching the back of Links head as it shoots up when he does, twisting his hand into the hair it finds and holding the other mans forehead to his throat even as he repeats the motion just to hear the scream it wrings out of Link.

 

“It’s green, it’s green Rhett, I-“ Link can hardly talk, he’s openly sobbing now, harsh inhales against the side of Rhett’s face and he nearly pulls his hand away when Link locks his arms around Rhett’s neck and uses the leverage to rock into his hand, mirroring his thrusts. “It feels so good, it feels so good I can’t breathe, it’s like-fuck.” Link stutters off as Rhett bends and licks a rough stripe up the side of his throat. “I didn’t know it’d feel this good.” 

 

“I want you to feel good, I want you to feel so good, Link.” Rhett answers as he pulls his fingers out. Link instantly whines at the loss of them, hands twisting into Rhett’s hair. Rhett shuffles forward, holding Link’s straining hips down with one hand as he guides himself towards Link’s gaping hole with the other. He lets himself slip over the wet flesh once, twice, absorbing the cries and whimpers that fall from Link’s mouth when he feels him. “You ready?”

 

“Yes, yes please, Rhett,” Link barely gets the words out, hips already rising to meet Rhett’s and legs splaying open. “I want it, I need it, please- oh!”

 

His desperate whines are cut off as Rhett breaches him and instantly stills. It’s tight, almost too tight and hot and wet and Rhett has to focus all his damn willpower to not come instantly. He presses kisses to Link’s damp hairline as he stares resolutely over his head at the wall. It’s too much, it’s so much, but he can’t move, refuses to until Link speaks again.

 

“More,” Link rasps out, hands tightening painfully in Rhett’s hair. “More, please, More-“

 

Rhett listens, inching forward into Link’s body. It’s unlike anything he’s ever felt and he can’t exhale until he bottoms out, hips shoved against Link’s ass and a groan is torn from his throat, low and harsh against the side of Link’s face.

 

“Gosh, Link,” Rhett can’t say anything else, can’t force his mouth to make any noise as Link throws his head back, throat bobbing as the silent scream leaves his open mouth. “I love you, I love you so much."

 

Link doesn't answer him, mouth still hanging open obscenely and eyes still screwed shut. Rhett can feel his body pulsing around him as his hands rake across his arms. Rhett takes this as permission and slides out, feeling all the ridges of Link’s body catch his cock on the way and slams back into the warm heat, watching the way Link’s eyes fly open and he gasps.

 

“Ohhhhh my god-“ Link gasps out, taking everything Rhett gives him with a whine. “That’s so, oh god that’s amazing, oh-“

 

Rhett keeps going, pounding hard into Link’s ass with long and measured strokes that set his entire body alight. He’s flying, soaring on his own pleasure and the curses that drop out of Link’s mouth unchecked.

 

“Holy shit, oh my god, fuck Rhett, ooohhh.” Link whispers as he takes everything Rhett gives him. His hips raise in time to meet Rhett’s thrusts and his hands latch onto the meat of Rhett’s shoulders as he keeps Rhett close to him. “God that’s so perfect, oh my god, I love you, god fucking dammit Rhett that’s so good, I fucking love you, ah!”

 

“Oh god I love you too.” Rhett manages to force out against the side of Link’s head. “You’re literally everything, Link. You feel amazing baby, you’re doing so good-oh fuck-“

 

Rhett can’t even keep talking over the sensations assaulting his body and mind, the feel of Link all around him as he presses him into the mattress and runs his mouth over every inch of skin as he can reach. He’s never felt this wild, this frantic yet so very grounded and serene in his entire life. The skin beneath his hands is the skin he’s felt for as long as he can remember, the cries he’s responding to are cried in the same voice he’s heard since he was a child. Everything Link does is so new yet so familiar it takes no second thoughts on Rhett’s part to reciprocate, answering Link’s calls with his own and echoing him in his pleasure.

 

His thrusts grow more and more desperate without his consent, his hips moving unchecked as they pound into Link and he’s lost, completely lost as Link dissolves into a trembling and sobbing mess as Rhett completely destroys him. He’s straight up slamming into Link now, feeling the way Links hips stutter up to meet him as the cries from Link’s mouth climb higher and higher. Link is completely breathless as he moves against Rhett, hands catching the sweaty skin of Rhett’s back.

 

It all comes crashing down, Rhett still swimming through the sensations of Link’s body when Link goes completely rigid beneath him, hands curling under Rhett’s arms and legs freezing around his hips tight enough to stop his frantic thrusting. 

 

Link’s head falls away from Rhett’s throat to land back against the pillow, mouth hanging open and eyes wide and fluttering as he twitches and bucks beneath Rhett’s weight and he comes, wet and warm against Rhett’s stomach. Rhett feels it before he sees it, head spinning at the way Link’s body clamps down around his cock.

 

It’s the sound Link makes that gets him. The high, desperate yet happy exclamation that rings itself out of Link that shoves Rhett over the edge with him. Rhett comes hard then, the shrill pitch of Link’s release ringing around his head as he empties himself into Link’s pliant body.

 

His vision swims hazily back into focus after a moment, face still tucked into the damp skin of Link’s heaving collarbone. He thinks Link is talking, whispering something into Rhett’s hair but he can’t really be bothered to focus on it. It doesn’t sound like real words anyways so Rhett answers with a soft hum, one hand coming up to card through Link’s hair.

 

It takes them several eternities to move, Rhett only pulling away when he’s softened enough to slip naturally from Link’s abused hole and kissing away the sound the movement startles out of Link. The mess squished between their bellies remains forgotten as Rhett lifts himself up to look down at Link's face.

 

His face is shining weakly in the soft candle light, tears still sliding silently into the graying hair at his temples and his mouth hangs open. He could be asleep, the way his face is void of any stress. His closed eyes are relaxed, the crows feet Rhett loves so much smoothed out as Link breathes deeply. 

 

Rhett waits until that skinny chest evens out as Link catches his breath to drag a hand up and cup Link’s face. He strokes a thumb over the ridge of his cheek and watches those burning blue eyes float open. 

 

“How do you feel?” Rhett barely puts any voice into the question, letting his exhale carry the words to Link and his heart skips as he watches a lazy grin over take Link’s beautiful face. 

 

“That was-“ A tongue runs over chapped lips as Link smiles, swiping his arm over his watery eyes. “I don’t even have words, Rhett. That felt like something from another dang planet. I love you doesn’t even feel like enough.”

 

Rhett understands completely, and he answers with a grin of his own as he leans down and kisses Link reverently, making love to his mouth with his own and letting the soft noises escape from Link’s throat wash over him. 

 

“I know what you mean, bo. But I love you too.”

 


 

There’s one last tiny snag that catches Rhett, and it comes literally out of the blue. 

 

He’s just finished fucking Link, both of them full and sleepy from the dinner they’d just had together at some posh little restaurant Link had wanted to try. Link still has his dress shirt on, half twisted around one arm as he lays across Rhett’s chest. Link had ridden him slowly, tortuously for the better part of an hour and then collapsed in his own mess seconds after.

 

Rhett still hasn’t gotten around to moving him. 

 

He lets Link drift on his chest, one hand on the small of his back moving in slow circles as he feels Link’s lungs expand. Once he’d conquered his fear, Link attacked sex like everything else he did in his life, hard, fast and enthusiastic. Rhett has nearly thrown out his back fucking up into Link as the other man screamed his name to the heavens, and he was more than happy for the still they both settled into now. 

 

He genuinely thought Link was asleep, and that’s probably why the words that Link speaks lowly against his collar makes him startle the way it does.

 

“I think I’m gonna quit Feverish.”

 

“What?” Rhett whispers back, running a hand down Link’s thigh. “You love it there, you love the Angels. Why would you want to?”

 

“Rhett-“ Link shakes his head, his words dying down.

 

“Link, baby, I know what happened at your last show was rough,” rough is hardly a word for it, but Rhett hates bringing up anything that would trigger Link, and details here aren’t necessary. “But you can’t quit something you love just because one asshole made you scared.”

 

“It’s not that, baby.” Link says an eternity later, his hand tracing circles on the back of Rhett’s head. “I only went there because I didn’t have you, I thought I couldn’t have you. Yeah I love the Angels, but I can stay in touch, I don’t need to go there. And yeah, I don’t know how safe I’d feel being back on stage with what-“ a hard swallow that Rhett can feel against his chest, “-with what happened.” Link looks up then, a sad smile stretching his swollen lips. “And now I do have you, Rhett. And I only want your hands on me, I only want you handling me.”

 

Link lays his head back down and sighs heavily, the conversation seemingly over for him, while Rhett’s mind goes on at a million miles an hour. He hasn’t told Link about all the time he’s spent with Adrian, learning the proverbial and literal ropes of the role Link needs from him and he decides that now is as good a time as ever.

 

“What if,” he starts, stuttering nervously. “What if you could still do the shows, still see your friends, still love what you do, but i was the only one handling you, the only one takin’ care of you.”

 

Link’s entire body freezes beneath Rhett’s hands at that, and Rhett can feel Link’s breathing speed up. 

 

He keeps taking.

 

“I’ve been takin’ some classes here and there while you’ve done your therapy, and, um, I could, for you Link. I could be that for you. I wouldn’t handle any clients or anything, just be there to do what you needed of me. You’re an attraction all on your own, baby, and I’d love nothing more than to share your spotlight.”

 

Link raises his head so slowly Rhett feels like he could scream with the nerves beating his chest open. Link looks shellshocked, mouth hanging open and eyes moist and heavy. 

 

“Rhett, you’ve, you’ve been, you’d do that for me?” The words come out slow and strangled and Rhett smiles as he watches Link struggle to form them.

 

“Darling, there’s nothing on this earth I wouldn’t do for you.” Rhett answers, heart laid bare and beating and he could nearly cry as Link attacks him, smothering him in kisses and tears and crying that yes! Yes Rhett that would be so perfect, that would be amazing oh my gosh, I can’t even believe it-

 


 

The beginning of the next season sneaks up on them, and Rhett nearly forgets why he’s being woken up at the asscrack of dawn that Monday when his alarm screams at him to wake up.

 

The first episode has already been uploaded about an hour ago, and Rhett smiles fondly at the thumbnail of Link’s grinning face as he glances at the view count. They’re filming that day, and Rhett’s stomach tightens in anticipation at what this particular episode holds.

 

They had already filmed a little of the season, but the one that they’re doing this morning airs tomorrow. He and Link had decided, together, that they wouldn’t hide who they were anymore, wouldn’t keep their love a secret from the world and their fans any longer. And people would have to learn to love them as they were.

 

He’s not even surprised that Link is out of bed, the nervous energy the man no doubt feels driving him to burn it off on his morning run before Rhett even wakes up.

 

He finds Link in the kitchen, locked in a staring contest with the coffee maker. Link doesn’t react when Rhett comes up behind him and wraps his arms around his tiny waist. He presses a quick kiss to Link’s sweat dampened brow and leans against the shorter man’s back.

 

“Ready, babe?” Rhett asks, mouth smushed against Links temple.

 

“I’m nervous Rhett,” Link answers, pouring himself a cup of coffee and reaching for the steaming mug of tea already on the counter. “This could ruin everything, this could destroy everything we’ve worked for. What if they hate us? What if they don’t want us anymore?”

 

“Link.” Rhett twists Link’s body in his arms and cuts him off with a soft kiss to his forehead. “Relax, angel. They’re not going to hate us, they love us, they’re going to accept us. Have you not seen any form of social media? This is gonna double our subscriber count, if anything.”

 

Link snorts flatly, leaning into Rhett’s touch with a sigh. “What if it doesn’t Rhett?”

 

“Hey.” Rhett waits until Link looks up at him and he runs his fingers up Links arms. “If they don’t they don’t. I’ll still have you. I could give two fucks what they all think.”

 

Link's eyes soften and a smile quirks the side of his mouth. “That’s a real sweet way to say you’re alright with going bankrupt.”

 

Rhett laughs and pulls Link closer to him, pressing a kiss to his hair. “It’s gonna be okay, baby.”

 

Link is all but climbing the walls by the time they’re about to start filming. His hair is already a mess from his hands running through them and his shirt is wrinkled at the bottom the way he keeps twisting it in his hands. Rhett watches stoically from his seat as Link manically paces the set. Stevie catches his eye every now and a again, a slightly smug but mostly encouraging smirk on her face as she flits her eyes between Rhett’s carefully measured face and Link having a meltdown.

 

Link still won’t sit when Stevie calls them to their desk, and Rhett has to physically lead him behind the desk. Link keeps his band hostage on his lap, mouth working with nerves and eyes glued to the camera. 

 

Rhett smiles when Stevie begins her countdown. His stomach is pleasantly alight with butterflies and a calm serene settles over him. He’s ready for this. He has something else planned that Link has no idea about and he suddenly can’t wait for the end of the episode.

 

Stevie finishes her countdown and points at them.

 

“We have news.” Rhett says jovially, grin overtaking his face and he raises his and Link’s joined hands over the desk to show the camera. “We’re together.”

 

“Let’s talk about that.” Rhett can hear the answering smile in Link’s voice and the last of his nerves fall away entirely. 

 

Rhett floats through the entire thing, high on sheer giddiness and the bright flush that’s made its home on Link’s cheeks. Link relaxes as they talk, mostly caught up in each other as they tell the slightly edited story of how they finally found their way to each other, how they’ve finally stopped dancing around what they always knew was there. 

 

Link never releases his hand, keeping is locked in between his hands and clutched to his chest as he stares adoringly at him with wide blue eyes. 

 

Finally, Stevie nods at Rhett, her smile so wide its nearly splitting her face as she mines clapping her hands and points to her watch. Rhett nods, chest clutching with nerves and he turns back to the camera.

 

“And now, before we go, I have something else, a little surprise if you will.”

 

“What’re you talking ‘bout?” Link asks quietly, eyebrows contracting as he pushes up the rim of his glasses.

 

Rhett turns back to Link and takes both of his hands in his own, staring deep into the eyes of the man he loves and exhales a shaky breath.

 

“Link, “ he starts, watching Link’s eyes grow impossibly wide. “I love you. More than life itself. I know we’ve already made the promise to each other to stay together for the rest of our lives when we were younger, and were doin’ a pretty good job of that,” he laughs breathlessly, Link remaining frozen. “But, forgive the formalities, you know how I like making things official.”

 

Rhett stands then, kicking his chair back and falling as gracefully as he can onto one knee in front of Link.

 

Link breaks then, mouth dropping open and tears springing to his eyes. 

 

“What the crap, Rhett?” Link whispers harshly, hands squeezing Rhett’s into a death grip on his lap. 

 

“Link I-“ Rhett’s voice fails him then and he can hear the whispers of the crew over his pounding heartbeat. Emotion threatens to drown him as a single tear finally trails down Link’s face and he’s struggling to speak, pleading with Link with his eyes to read his mind the way he’s always been able to.

 

Link chokes on a giggle, shaking his head and pressing his mouth together as he tries to tamp down the grin. “You really gotta stop making me cry man, this is getting embarrassing.”

 

“Give me the rest of your life to make it up to you?” Rhett breathes, hands shaking as he reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a shiny black ring.

 

Link’s eyes widen impossibly further at the sight of it and Rhett gets absolutely no warning when Link launches himself at him and kisses him roughly, hands coming up to tangle in his hair as he tugs Rhett up to his level.

 

The crew explodes into a loud and obnoxious mess of cheers and whistles as Rhett kisses back, a burning, scorching hot wave of pure adoration flooding every one of his senses as he gathers Link in his arms. He knows he’s crying too as he feels the tears on Links face where he reaches up to hold him. 

 

He tugs himself back, ignoring the whine that Link lets out.

 

“Marry me?” He asks breathlessly.

 

“Oh, yeah!” Link answers on a laugh, high and breathy and he’s practically glowing. Rhett’s never seen him look so happy and he makes an oath to himself that he would do anything, absolutely anything on earth to make Link that happy for the rest of his life.

 

Rhett slides the ring onto Links finger and barely has anytime to admire it before he’s yanked into another kiss. He can’t even hear how loud the crew is being anymore and he’s completely forgotten they were in the middle of doing something when he finally hears Stevie.

 

“Thanks for liking, commenting and subscribing!” Her voice is thick with emotion and Link pulls back, turning back to the camera.

 

“You know what time it is!”