"I wonder what they meant by that. Being fine. The time knot."
"Probably some slight change, if I had to guess. Maybe something in the timeline?"
"Maybe. But what does that have to do with their current condition?"
"Who the hell knows? Look...it's late. We should probably head to bed. Lot of paperwork and shit in the morning."
It'd been a long day to say the least. His niece almost died, the SDF nearly lost another captain to his stupidity, and now the Supreme Commander had some kind of allergic reaction to time being altered. At least, that's what Qrow hoped it was. He really couldn't tell, to be perfectly honest. And he wasn't sure if he wanted to know. Ozpin was too many intergalactic mysteries to unravel, and right now he just didn't want to deal with that.
No, he had way too much to deal with already.
The two of them walked back toward the captain's' quarters in silence, the air heavy with things left unsaid. They arrived at his room first, and Qrow leaned against the wall, waiting for James to open the door.
"Well," James said. "Goodnight...Qrow..."
Qrow nearly fainted. It'd been a while since he'd heard James say his name so gently. Ever since that one night, it'd always been 'Branwen' this and 'Branwen' that. The only times he heard his given name spoken by his fellow captain was when their fights went and started crossing too many lines. He'd accepted that this was their new normal now. That he couldn't come back from that.
"Uh, yeah," Qrow muttered, not sure how to react. "Y-you too, uh...James..."
James looked him over, and Qrow smacked himself mentally for that. Never 'James'. He wasn't supposed to say that. Any nick name, any insult. That was how it was supposed to be. Respectful, yet hostile. That was how things were now. Not something so…so…
He didn't know what to call it. Inviting? Intimate? He couldn't find the word.
"Do you...want to come in?" he offered. “I’ve got some nice bourbon in the cupboard.”
Qrow hesitated for a moment, before sighing in defeat. He really should say no. But something in the back of his mind told him he should stay. Was it he didn't want to be alone in his room? Or was it he wanted answers to these thoughts screaming in his head.
Whatever the case, he didn't care. At this point, bourbon sounded too good to pass up.
James stepped aside, letting him with a smile before following and closing the door. Both of them kicked off their boots, and Qrow took a seat on the edge of the bed while James went to grab the drinks. As he went, he made sure the safety on his gun was on, and then locked it in the safe beside the desk.
It was only then that Qrow really started to get a good look at James's quarters. It was the same size as his, if a lot cleaner and painted a soft powder blue instead of green. There was a bookshelf with encyclopedias, guidebooks, and instruction manuals. A few novels, but not very many. There was also a photo album resting on the top shelf with the Sirius Platoon's emblem on the side, decorated with silver filigree. A mini fridge, a case for alcohol, and the safe for his gun. Despite the cool tones and the vast space, there was a comforting warmth to the room that Qrow couldn't help but enjoy.
It was almost like home.
"Ice or no ice?" James asked.
"Huh?" Qrow snapped back to attention. "Oh. No ice, thanks."
James nodded and poured them each a glass. As Qrow watched him, he couldn't stop thinking about that fight. That goddamn fight. Just how long ago was it? He couldn't remember anymore. All he could remember was the sting of his words and the anger and the betrayal on James's face.
"Qrow, come on. You need to rest."
"Summer wouldn't want you to-"
"Summer's dead! And it's your fault!"
"She was your captain! Why didn't you save her? Huh?"
"I did everything I could, believe me-"
"Why couldn't it have been you on that train?! Why didn't you make her stay?! Why couldn't it have been you?!"
Qrow felt sick, the slight taste of bile threatening to send him running. He shouldn't have been there. The look of hurt on James's face had been engraved in his mind for so long, it was all he could see when he closed his eyes. Seeing his friend stare at him with utter despair. It was too much.
I should just go. This was a mistake.
"Huh?" Qrow looked to his right side, nearly jumping when he saw James seated beside him. He'd been spacing out again. "What?"
"I asked if you were okay," James said. "You looked like you were in pain."
"I…" Qrow let out a sigh. "I was just…thinking. About that drunken rant I went on. Those things I said." He shook his head, trying not to let the tears burning his eyes fall. "I said all those terrible things. And I really shouldn't have. Summer was my family, but she was your family too. And what I said to you…that was-"
James took his hand, stunning him into silence. "Qrow, you don't need to keep punishing yourself like this. We both weren't in our right minds that night. I don't hold it against you."
How can he just say that? "But I hurt you."
"You did. But you've been hurting just as much." He smiled softly, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. "I think there's been enough hurt going on between us. Now that the new cadets are coming in, we should try to move forward. Put that pain aside and try to do better. Right? Let's put what happened last year behind us."
"Its seriously been only a year? Feels like longer."
"Anger and sadness will do that. Distort how you see time pass."
"Fair point." Qrow barely managed a smile as he took a sip of his drink. James was right, but that didn't feel like it was enough. There was something else. Something he felt was still left unsaid. What though? Did he want James to yell at him? Maybe, but that wasn't it exactly. As he took a sip of his drink, he tried to think of what it could have been.
Qrow looked at James, eyes wide. "What the-"
"Dammit." James took hold of his right wrist, gripping tightly as his fingers twitched back and forth at odd angles. "I knew something was off. I'm sorry."
"Hold on. I'll take care of it." Qrow set his drink down and quickly got to work cleaning up the glass. With a little direction from James, he managed to find a towel and dried off the metal hand as best he could. "What's happening here, Jim?"
"I think a wire got loose," James sighed. "Probably happened when I ran to grab Ruby."
"Let me guess, she was kicking and screaming?"
"That sounds about right. I don't blame her. That must have been a hellish experience." He glanced around the room. "Where do you keep the toolbox? I can help you get them back in place."
James nodded to the closet. "On the floor is my main set. Red box."
Qrow hurried over to the closet and grabbed the toolbox. When he turned back to James, his mouth ran dry watching him begin to strip down, tossing his navy coat and the scarf to the floor. He tried to keep his composure. Of course James needed to take off his top layers. How else could he access the prosthetics? Barely missing a beat, Qrow took a breath and hurried back over to the bed.
"So where's the loose wire?" he asked.
"I think it's right under the shoulder blade area," James said. "There should be an up to date guide on the lid."
"Got it. Let me know if anything starts to hurt, okay?"
Qrow opened the toolbox and got to work. It wasn't that hard to find the metal panel James was talking about, and carefully started to remove it. He could see the wires, mesh, and power cells just barely poking out near the surface. The parts looked older, and a quick glance at the guide proved a reliable way to date exactly how old.
"This set is about to go out of date," Qrow muttered, reattaching the wires slowly. "When's your next upgrade?"
"About eight months from now is the earliest I could get in." James rested his hand on his lap, keeping his head low and his body as still as possible. "I'll be getting an upgrade that's not going to market until next year. I'll be out of commission for about six weeks, and in the meantime, I've arranged for my team to work in the repair wards and with station control."
Qrow nodded. "Sounds like you've got it all figured out."
"I wish. Most days I'm barely making it through the day by the skin of my teeth."
"You know, I never got that phrase. 'Skin of my teeth'. You know, if teeth really had skin, what would taking care of them look like? Would you need a dentist or dermatologist? Or both? Gods, the medical bill would be hell."
James let out a chuckle and, oh gods, Qrow wished he hadn't. Such a low, rumbling, beautiful sound to come out of someone like him. It was just unfair. It was just too much.
Dammit. I thought I was over this. I thought…
No, he realized. He hadn't gotten over it. He'd realized a long time ago how he felt about the current Captain of the Sirius Platoon. But things back then had put too much of a wrench into his plans to tell him, and so Qrow had buried those feelings deep down, hoping he'd eventually lose those feelings. And after the fight, he swore he'd never let himself get close to James again.
A lot of good that did. Now he was here, on James's bed, staring at his strong, shirtless frame, messing with his wires and trying so damn hard not to let the urge to kiss him overtake his senses.
Focus, Qrow. Focus. You gotta get those fingers working again.
A couple more connections, a tightening of a bolt here, replacing an old rusty screw there, and soon enough, the metal hand stopped twitching and bending. James let out a contented sigh, giving his fingers a gentle roll to test them out as Qrow replaced the missing panel. He put the tools back in the box, setting it on the floor before putting his hands on James's shoulders, making sure his balance wasn't off.
"How's it feel?" he asked softly.
"Perfect," James sighed, leaning back into him. "Thank you, Qrow."
Too close. This is too close. I should move. I should leave.
But James continued to lean into him slowly, his eyes fluttering closed. He seemed tired, yet completely at peace.
Maybe…just this once I can-
Qrow's hand slid down, tracing over every indent, every blue glow that could be seen, until he came to James's hand and laced their fingers together. His other arm wrapped around his shoulder, holding him tightly. He leaned down, pressing a light kiss to the nape of his neck, his face flushing slightly at the sound of James letting out a soft gasp. A burning hunger started to claw at him, and Qrow continued upwards, pressing kisses along James's shoulders, neck, jaw. All along until James turned his head and their lips met.
It started slow. A single kiss, barely even a touch. But then James raised his free hand to reach and pull Qrow's head down, deepening kiss with slow, languid movements, growing more and more feverish as time slowly passed.
This is wrong, he thought, as his body naturally swung around so his legs straddled James, naturally leaning into him. Strong arms wrapping around his waist as his belt was discarded.
This is wrong. It's not meant to be like this.
Qrow's hands reaching up, carding through James's hair, a gentle roll of the hips drawing a low moan from deep in his throat, and sending heat rushing to his groin at the sound.
This is wrong. This is so, so very wrong.
The two of them pulling apart finally for air, their faces just inches from each other. Qrow could just barely make out the blue in James's eyes. Qrow swallowed thickly, his gaze trailing from eyes, to lips, to the scars crisscrossing along James's body where metal and flesh intersected. He couldn't help but trail his finger right down the middle.
"You're beautiful," he whispered.
James went beat red and he looked away. "That's just the bourbon talking. You don't have to lie to me, Qrow."
"I barely took a sip, remember?" Qrow smiled fondly, his eyes soft as he pressed a kiss to his forehead. "It's not a lie, James. I would never lie about that." His finger continued to trailed downward slowly, stopping just over the hem of his pants. "But…if you want to stop, we can stop."
"…You think we'll get in trouble?"
"I don't see why we would." Qrow reached up, removing the captain's scarf and jacket, tossing them aside before reaching down to remove his shirt. "We're not married, we're both captains of our own platoons, so there's no breaking any rules and there's no abuse of rank. And it's not like other captains haven't done things like this before. But like I said. If you wanna stop, we'll stop."
Qrow almost hoped that he'd ask him to stop. He wanted this so badly. If he had to admit it, he'd been wanting this for years. But after everything? All the fights? All the harsh words? He couldn't imagine James would want to. Would want him.
But then James looked up, and Qrow could have sworn he saw his pupils dilate further. His eyes looked over him, metal hand resting right over the emblem tattooed on Qrow's chest. The coolness of his fingers sent shivers through him. He wanted this. Needed this.
Say something, Qrow thought. Tell me to go. Don't give me this satisfaction. I don't deserve you.
James said nothing as he pulled him flush against him, closing the distance and kissing him again. Qrow melted into it, wrapping his arms tightly around him as James turned, lowering him onto his back on the bed. The pleasant weight of him laying on top. The gentle way his hands trailed down Qrow's sides, leaving a burning tingle over every inch of him. The way James's tongue glided over his lips, darting into his mouth as the kisses grew deeper, more feverish, drawing a soft whine from him. It was all he wanted and more.
Please. I won't ask for anything else ever again. Just please. Let me have this.
James lifted off him slightly, slowly and carefully taking off his pants and boxers, and Qrow let out a soft whine at the sight of his already half-hard metal cock. He swallowed, his entire face flushed.
"Dammit Jim," Qrow groaned, raising his hips and shucking his pants off. "I'm still half-dressed. Gimme a hand."
James let out a chuckle, low, rumbling, enough to send away any remaining doubts either of them had in their minds. Tonight, the rest of the world didn't matter. Tonight, it was just the two of them, and they were going to enjoy every minute of this.
James helped him remove the last of his clothing, tossing it somewhere in the room. Qrow didn't care where. He was too focused on this.
"Turn over," James said softly, reaching into the drawer on the nightstand and pulling out a bottle of lube and a condom.
Qrow smirked. "Always this prepared, Captain?"
"I didn't earn the rank by slacking off."
"Then how about we put that training to use?"
James snickered, trailing kisses slowly down Qrow's back. "We will. Patience."
He heard the click of the cap. He glanced over his shoulder, watching as James slicked his right fingers. When the first digit pressed into his hole, Qrow's body arced to the touch, a moan escaping his throat as he rested his head in his arms. James slowly worked him open, adding another finger slowly, and then another. Qrow bit his lip, losing himself to the cool sensation of metal.
And then James curled his fingers, and Qrow keened, trying to move his hips to give his weeping cock some level of friction as the fingers brushed just up against his prostate. James took his free hand and placed it on his hip, holding him in place with barely any effort.
"Fuck," Qrow whimpered. "Where the hell did you learn that?"
James let out a soft hum, leaning up to pepper soft kisses along Qrow's neck. His voice thick with mirth. "Had a lot of time to practice between missions. Holding down an unruly criminal is part of the job. Might as well put that skill to good use in other areas."
"You said you wanted those skills put to good use."
"I did, didn't I?" Qrow grabbed a pillow, biting down as James continued to open him up. The gentle twists and thrusts drawing whine after whimper after pant. Kisses burning along his skin as heat continued to pool down toward his groin as James's cock brushed against his leg.
He couldn't take it anymore.
"James," he groaned. "Please. I can't wait anymore. Fuck me already."
"Are you sure?" James slowly removed his fingers, chuckling softly when Qrow tried to press back into his hand. "I can keep going like this if you'd rather-"
"Dammit Jim, please. Please." Shit. When did I become the begging type?
"Okay." He gave him a soft kiss on the lips. "I'll go slow, so let me know if it's too much, alright?"
"Yeah. Yeah, okay."
James quickly rolled on the condom and slicked up, pressing soft kisses along Qrow's shoulders as he moved in close. When he finally pushed in, Qrow couldn't help the sound that escaped his mouth. A moan so broken, so needy. A sound he didn't even know he could make. He gripped the sheets tightly as his body adjusted to the cold metal cock, his own twitching, begging to be touched.
"Are you okay?" James asked, his body trembling as he tried not to move.
"I'm fine," Qrow assured, lightly pressing back into James. "Just, ah, just go. Fuck me. Please."
James nodded, pressing a kiss to the nape of Qrow's neck before pressing in further. A slow roll of the hips, a soft groan, warm breath against his skin. It was enough to cause every nerve in Qrow's body to burn white hot. The heat pooled in his veins, searing through him with every thrust. He rocked his hips back in time with James, moving back as he moved forward, the tempo slowly increasing. Teeth lightly grazed his shoulder, and he loosened his grip enough for James to lace their fingers together as he just brushed that sweet spot inside him.
But it still wasn't quite enough.
"Touch me," he begged. "James please, touch me."
James shifted position, angling to go deeper as his right hand reached around and began to stroke Qrow's cock. His vision began to spot, toes curling as the pleasure continued to build. The coolness of James's metal a welcome contrast to the heat pulsing through his body. Cries of "oh fuck" and "more", "harder" and "Oh gods yes" filling the room, growing louder with every passing moment.
Sadly it was just that. Moments. It'd been far too long since the last time, and Qrow could feel himself nearing his limit. The sparks dancing along his spine as he felt everything begin to grow tighter, begging for release.
"Fuck. James. James, I'm gonna-"
"Me too. Go ahead. Come for me, Qrow."
A few more strokes, a few more precise thrusts, and soon Qrow let out a sharp cry, calling James's name as he spilled over, his body clenching around him tightly. James came not long after, his hips stuttering and snapping as he rode through Qrow's orgasm, his own drawing a soft, guttural moan from deep in his throat, his forehead resting on Qrow's shoulder as he barely managed to stammer his name. Both bodies trembled as James pulled out, panting heavily as they waded through the afterglow.
When they finally caught their breath, James got up and slowly walked over to the bathroom, getting a damp washcloth and gently beginning to wipe them both clean. Once done, Qrow curled up beside James, body tucked in like a bird in the winter as the blanket was pulled over him. His entire body felt heavy, but not unpleasantly so.
"Hey there," James whispered tenderly.
"Hey." Qrow leaned up, just barely able to steal a quick peck on the lips. "That felt amazing."
"It sure did." James softly ran his metal fingers through Qrow's hair, his eyes hooded and soft. "You look like you're about to fall asleep. "
Qrow let out a gentle hum, his eyes drifting closed as he stifled a yawn. "I honestly think I might…"
"You can if you need to. I'll be here."
I'll be here. The most beautiful words Qrow had ever heard come out of James. He let out a sigh and let his body go completely limp in his arms.
"Okay," he mumbled. "Good night, My Luna…"
As everything quickly went dark and silent, Qrow could have sworn the last thing he heard was James whispering to him.
"Sleep well, Sweet Aurora."
When Qrow woke up that morning, the sun hadn't even begun to rise just yet. He felt a pair of arms wrapped lovingly around his waist as he lay back to chest with him. One flesh and one metal, both as gentle as can be. He couldn't help but snuggle in closer with a contented sigh.
He wouldn't mind waking up like this every day.
I could lay here forever…
Sadly, forever had come to an end as he heard his scroll begin to ring. He went to reach for it, only for the arms to pull him closer.
"Don't answer it," came a soft whisper.
Qrow smiled. "I have to, Jim. It could be work."
James let out a disgruntled huff and slowly released him. "I suppose you're right."
Reluctantly, Qrow sat up and reached for his pants off the floor, fishing out his scroll. He didn't grab it in time though, and the ringing stopped. He pulled up the transcript for the message and smiled. "It was just a message from Tuk on his morning run. We got Gun Frontier training today after breakfast, so that means I can pull out ol' Harbinger."
"Sounds like fun."
"Not as fun as you'd think. Glynda's training with us."
"May the gods have mercy on your cadets."
Qrow chuckled softly, leaning back as James pulled him back into his arms. "I think they can handle it. They may be dummies, but they're good officers. I think they have a lot more potential."
James lightly nuzzled into the crook of his neck. "And what about our potential?"
Qrow's smile faltered. Of course this conversation was bound to happen. After last night, things had drastically changed. They weren't on fighting terms anymore. But as for what they were now? Qrow couldn't even begin to think about it. There was so much going on. And how did he know this wasn't just the longest dream he'd ever experienced? Was it even real?
Was he even allowed to let himself be this happy?
"I don't know," he finally said. "To be honest this feels almost too good to be true."
Despite the flicker of confusion in his eyes, James seemed to understand. "Do you think we need to wait? Take some time to figure things out a bit more?"
"…then we can do that." He pressed a soft kiss to Qrow's cheek, holding him close. "We can take all the time you need."
Qrow reached a hand around, lightly running his fingers through James's hair. "I promise I won't take too long."
"For now, can we just stay like this? Would that be okay?"
James smiled. "I think that'd be more than okay."
With a tender kiss to his temple, James pulled Qrow back under the covers. Qrow turned around, his hands coming to rest against James's chest as James held him tightly. The morning sun would be there soon, and they'd have to part ways. Back to more of the same. Two captains. Two friends. Nothing more. It would be better that way, he thought. Less of a chance to break his heart. To hurt him more.
But I don't…I don't want it to end here…
Qrow closed his eyes and nuzzled in closer. He'd figure it out later. For now, he wanted this, and only this. He didn't care about anything else. Right now, he just needed to be held in this warm embrace until the sun came out.