Bathing is their ritual–after especially difficult missions they go to the safe house in Southern Eastern Malta, the one with the big bathroom and the free-standing, clawed bathtub. The water pressure is terrible and it takes what feels like half an hour to fill it, but they can open the windows wide and feel the warm soft breeze brushing over their skin while they undress each other.
Joe makes Nicky get in first. Nicky is a little embarrassed to admit it, but it actually took him like twenty years to notice. Whereas his instincts always told him to run to Joe now, check on him, make sure he’s come back to me before relaxing, Joe needs more: he needs to follow up, look at Nicky all over, run his fingers over all the places where wounds used to be, to ensure that he’s all right by touching.
Nicky doesn’t mind–he likes being looked at. He likes being looked at by Joe, likes feeling his fingertips running over his skin, the rough calluses from years of sword training, the way he feels hot simply from Joe’s glance.
No, he really doesn’t mind.
Joe puts something into the water–rosemary, maybe, Nicky thinks, and honey and something else he can’t pinpoint. He probably could, if he tried, but he’s not invested in knowing. He feels soft and warm and–yes, he wants this, to let Joe take care of him, to soothe away the hurt and the fear, all the times he thought is this it? They’ve seen what losing Quynh did to Andy, and Nicky can’t think what would be worse: to lose Joe or for Joe to lose him. Sometimes, when he lets himself think about it, he prays for whatever power to bestow this on them to take it away from them at the same time. Let them ascend to paradise together.
But enough of that. For now, they’re both here, and here means Joe nodding as he tests the water and saying, “Get in.”
The water is just this side of uncomfortably hot, hot enough to loosen up muscles Nicky hadn’t been aware had been tense, hot enough to let all the spots of hurt fade away. He leans back, lets himself slide down until the water is at his neck and contentment makes its way out as a sigh that’s partially a groan.
“Good?” Nicky has his eyes closed, but he can hear the smile in Joe’s voice. He lazily swats at him, sending water flying, and focuses on the way his entire body grows boneless. He hears Joe chuckle and the splatter from a sponge being dipped into the water.
Joe runs the sponge over Nicky’s shoulder and neck, up and down in a simple motion that lulls Nicky deeper into complacency. The quick touch of the sponge to his nose, as much expected as a surprise, startles him into a giggle and splashing water at Joe, eyes scrunched tight. When he opens them, he immediately finds Joe’s eyes and for a long, long moment they just look at each other, the way they’ve done countless times before. It never gets old for him, simply getting to look at Joe, the way Joe looks at him.
Joe leans over to kiss him, soft and unhurried. They don’t have anywhere to be for the next week, it’s only them in this big empty house at the coast in the middle of nowhere. The kiss feels like a promise.
Nicky follows Joe when he retreats, but lets himself be pushed back to rest against the tub. This is Joe’s show, a ritual he taught Nicky back when Nicky had been little more than an unwashed Frank as opposed to Joe’s cleanliness, and Nicky knows better than to try to hurry things along. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to, but he’s yet to succeed.
The sponge is soft and firm against his skin, warm water running down his arm. Nicky closes his eyes and simply lets himself feel. Joe lifts Nicky’s arm and moves the sponge from his shoulder all the way down to his fingertips. The soft scratch against the thin skin of his inner arm gives Nicky goosebumps, but Joe doesn’t react to them, letting their fingers curl up together while the sponge makes its way down Nicky’s chest and up again.
Joe presses a kiss against Nicky’s fingers before gently letting his arm rest against the lid of the bathtub. Nicky hears his soft footpads as he crosses around to the other side of the tub and he lifts his other arm in expectation.
„Eager, hm?“ Joe laughs quietly before grasping Nicky’s hand tightly in his own.
„Just enjoying myself, mæ sô,“ Nicky murmurs.
Nothing can hurry Joe on and Nicky would swear that he moves extra slowly now.
Joe hums quietly, and with the ocean sounds, Nicky finds himself absorbed by it, his own breathing slowing down. Leisurely he thinks that Joe might actually be reciting a poem under his breath, there’s a certain rhythm, but he’s gone enough that he’s not actively listening.
„Ya amar,“ Joe whispers, his lips brushing Nicky’s ear, sending another shiver of goosebumps across Nicky’s skin, „are you still with me?“
„Never anywhere else,“ Nicky promises. Joe is behind him now and it’s second nature to turn his head towards him and up, angling for a kiss. Joe obliges him and kisses him softly, but with intent. Nicky’s lips curl into a smile, as Joe’s hand slides down his chest and cups his cock.
This, too, is a ritual. Joe likes to bring Nicky off, and again, and again until Nicky feels out of his mind with pleasure, and to do it one last time making Nicky feel like he did die and go to heaven. Coming back (to life) from that is pretty amazing.
Joe’s fingers are sure around his cock, stroking him firmly and quickly, ignoring the splashes. He reaches out with his other hand to thumb Nicky’s nipple, playing with the little nub until Nicky groans before switching to the other.
Nicky grabs Joe’s hair, keeping him close. Their kiss is their lips barely touching now, both breathing hard. Joe loves watching Nicky go to pieces, and that turns Nicky on even more, to be so cherished and loved.
Sometimes he catches Joe looking at him with this heat in his eyes, and Nile has taken to throwing things at them and yell, „Get a room!“ There’s laughter in her voice, together with a hint of sadness, and sometimes it’s enough to break the spell and then a tickle war ensues, both Joe and Nicky intent on driving away all negative thoughts. Nile yells, „I’m a fucking marine, get off me,“ while Andy turns the volume of the TV up.
Nicky finds himself missing the rest of their family in a split second, but it’s only two weeks and he gets to enjoy himself right now.
It’s easy to lose himself in Joe’s embrace, in his kiss, the firm pressure of his hand around Nicky’s cock. Joe’s relentless, and Nicky loves this, loves Joe so much it hurts sometimes. He’s so blessed to be able to share this love with this man over so many years. They’ve seen empires rise and fall, the world changed around them ever faster and faster, and they’re still here.
„Joe,“ Nicky gasps. „I’m close.“ It’s a mere statement, he knows better than to plead.
„Good.“ Joe nuzzles behind Nicky’s ear, his lips hard on the thin skin, nibbling on Nicky’s earlobe, which is just plainly unfair. It’s the same spot that Joe breathes on in the night and Joe knows exactly how sensitive Nicky is, which is, of course, entirely why he’s doing it.
„Come for me, my heart,“ Joe says, as he’s pressing kisses against Nicky’s neck.
Nicky groans, his body tight and on the verge of what is promising to be a very satisfying orgasm. He throws his head back, resting it on Joe’s shoulder, his hands grabbing the lid of the bathtub, as the pressure builds and builds before he comes with a stifled shout.
Joe keeps jacking him until Nicky is fully spent. Only when Nicky collapses in on himself, all tension leaving his body, he stops.
Nicky’s eyes are closed and it’s an effort to open them. The first thing he sees is Joe, his eyes bright with laughter and delight and love, crinkling at the corners, and his mouth drawn into a familiar exasperating, loved smirk.
„Good?“ Joe asks, with evident smugness in his voice.
Nicky wants to say that he shouldn’t go fishing for compliments, but it takes a moment to get his tongue to cooperate and indeed to remember which language they’re currently using. „Molto bene,“ he mumbles.
Joe leans down to kiss Nicky’s forehead. „Let’s get you out of this mucky water then.“
„Shouldn’t have made it mucky then,“ Nicky manages. He doesn’t think he can stand up, his legs still feeling like jello.
„But it was such fun.“ Joe has brought over some towels smelling like lavender. It reminds Nicky of lavender fields in summer, the fragrant smell traveling over the land. His mother used to have a small flask of lavender oil to put on her hair. It smells like home. Joe makes sure to buy only lavender scented laundry detergent, which is one of the best inventions in the 20th century in Nicky’s opinion.
Joe pushes at Nicky’s shoulder to get him to sit up, which he does grudgingly. He’s rolling his shoulders when Joe puts his arms around Nicky and pulls him up forcefully, causing water to splash over the lid. Nicky can’t help but laugh and lean into the embrace. „I’ll turn you all wet.“
„Doesn’t matter, I won’t keep wearing these clothes for much longer.“
„Oh, won’t you?“ Nicky says before he’s smothered into a big fluffy towel. Joe helps him out of the tub—it wouldn’t matter much if Nicky got out and slipped and broke his leg, for example, which might have happened at some point before, but it definitely would break the mood for a while. These days Joe takes great care that Nicky doesn’t slip.
Joe turns Nicky to face him and kisses the tip of his nose. „Well, I could keep them on,“ he murmurs and Nicky finds himself shivering despite the warmth of the towel. He likes Joe between his thighs, pants pulled down just underneath his ass because he knows how much Nicky likes to grab his ass, but otherwise clothed above a naked, writhing Nicky.
Nicky contemplates it for a moment and then decides that right now he needs Joe’s skin on his more urgently. „Later,“ he says and luxuriates in the knowledge that there’ll be a later. It’s not close to being their time yet.
Joe keeps kissing him as he backs Nicky up through the villa to the bedroom they always occupy. They laugh when they bump into the furniture or the open arches. It’s easy to take their time here when time feels endless with the ocean breeze and steady tide crashing against the cliffs. Nicky feels ageless here.
At some point, though, they finally stumble into the bedroom, darkened against the relentless sun. Nicky lets himself fall onto the fresh sheets and stretches out. He looks up at Joe and smiles. „Like what you see?“
„Bellissimo,“ Joe says and Nicky raises his hand to reach out for him. Joe takes it and lets Nicky pull him in, tumbling him onto the bed next to Nicky. Joe puts his hand on Nicky’s neck and just looks at him, one of those looks that take Nicky’s breath away. A thousand years in and Nicky can still get lost in these bottomless, dark eyes that seem to hold the entire universe in them. Nicky’s breath catches and Joe smiles, slow and promising, and he leans down to kiss Nicky deeply.
Whenever they are here, Nicky cedes control to Joe. It’s easy here to listen to Joe whispering sweet nothings and deep truths into his ear, letting Joe take care of him in ways that Nicky both loves and loathes because he wants to be strong for Joe, always, and to protect him against everything. It took a while for Nicky to understand that it’s all right to not always be in control, that it has nothing to do with being weak, but with being strong in a different way. „Trust me,“ Joe used to say, back when they weren’t Joe and Nicky, but Yusuf and Nicolo.
Now it’s easy to stay relaxed, as Joe lies down, his body a source of warm pressure against Nicky’s side, and focus on the kiss. Joe kisses him leisurely as if they don’t have anything better to do. But as much as Nicky tries to get Joe to hurry up by rubbing against him, it only seems to serve to make him go even slower.
It gets better, though, when Joe grabs Nicky’s wrists and pins them down over his head. „Let me make love to you,“ he says against Nicky’s neck. „Don’t be so impatient.“
Nicky wriggles against him. „I’ll be as impatient as I like.“
„Won’t help you any, though.“
Nicky sighs. „How can you be so cruel?“
„You like it.“ Joe squeezes Nicky’s wrists and presses another kiss against his cheek. „Stay here. I’ve got something for you.“
„I hope it’s your cock,“ Nicky replies, but he stays, letting his arms rest on the bed-throw and his legs fall apart a little. He knows what he looks like and he isn’t disappointed—when Joe comes back, he takes a deep hissing breath.
„I stayed,“ Nicky points out calmly.
„Truer to the spirit than the letter.“ Joe tickles Nicky’s foot as if he hasn’t learned yet in almost one thousand years that it usually gets him kicked into the face. „Move up.“
„Why?“ Nicky asks, but he still rolls over to the side to let Joe settle against the pillow and make himself comfortable with Nicky at his side.
That doesn’t seem to be what Joe wants, though, as he pushes and pulls at Nicky to move him so Nicky’s face is at Joe’s crotch, his half-hard cock in delicious reach, and Nicky stretched out on the bed. Joe’s running his hand up and down Nicky’s back, squeezing his ass and lightly scratching along his spine.
„Do you want to get your gift?“
Nicky glances up at Joe and then looks straight at the cock in front of his face. „That seems to imply that it’s not this.“
Joe lifts his hand away—Nicky’s back feels strangely cold—and picks something up out of Nicky’s sight. Then a soft whirring noise starts up, and Nicky knows that noise. He spreads his legs wider and groans when Joe presses the tip of the dildo against the thin skin behind his balls.
„That’s good,“ he manages.
Joe, the bastard, laughs. „I thought so.“
Nicky spreads his legs a little farther. He hears the telling snap of the lube being opened. Although he’s waiting for it, he stills gasps and sighs when Joe pushes his finger against his ass, circling his hole with increasing pressure. Nicky doesn’t know how many times they’ve done this over the years and he doesn’t want to know, but it’s still such a delight to him that Joe can make him feel like this.
„All right?“ Joe says and Nicky nods. He likes Joe’s fingers in him, stretching him. He remembers earlier times when they made do with whatever they could find, and this is much better, even if it’s not any less messy.
Joe doesn’t waste time and gets Nicky ready. Nicky presses a kiss against Joe’s thigh to express his appreciation and then thinks he can do better because Joe’s cock is right there and Joe didn’t say that Nicky couldn’t blow him.
Nicky licks up a stripe from Joe’s balls to the tips, twirling his tongue around the sensitive opening, lapping up whatever liquid Joe was already spilling. „Excited?“ he asks.
Joe lightly swats Nicky’s thigh. „You know how much I love having plans for you. Don’t go derailing them,“ he says.
Nicky grins and leans up to angle his head to swallow Joe down. He loves this, having Joe’s hard cock in his mouth, smelling and tasting the evidence of their love and attraction to each other. For a long time, Nicky tried to believe that he could separate the two, that he could love Joe without being intimate before he accepted that he wanted and needed both. All the years they spent figuring themselves out made them so much stronger, though, that he doesn’t want to miss them. At least they had been done when Andy found them. Neither she nor Quynh would have had the patience to deal with their stupidity.
Nicky hardly notices when Joe withdraws his fingers, but he can’t suppress a gasp when Joe pushes the dildo into him and immediately thumbs the vibration to the highest setting.
Joe’s relentless, fucking Nicky hard with the dildo, hardly giving him a moment to catch his breath, as he angles the dildo just right.
Nicky needs to pull off Joe’s cock, breathing in harsh gasps. „Joe…“
„Yes, my love?“ Joe sounds amused and Nicky wants to—he doesn’t know what, he feels a bit overwhelmed. He grabs Joe’s thigh, his fingers pressing hard into the flesh when he feels Joe putting his hand on Nicky’s back, not quite holding him down, but holding him in place.
„I don’t want to come yet,“ is what Nicky manages to say.
„Who said you got to decide that?“ Joe’s voice is light and soft like the way he wields his sword and it’s easy to give into that. Nicky presses his face against Joe’s belly and lets go.
It took him a while to learn to trust this, that Joe sometimes knows much better than Nicky himself what he needs. By now he knows how to relax into it, let Joe take control of his own body. By now he loves it, loves the ruthlessness and tender care that goes with it.
„Love you,“ he mumbles against Joe’s skin. It feels important to say it now.
„Of course, habibi,“ Joe replies. There was a time when Joe kept coming up with the most ridiculous pet names because one of his favorite poets had written a poem about an example. It had been a very trying time (mostly for Andy) until he’d stopped and gone back to using their old regular ones. He’d try to make sweetie pie stick after a song had come out, but Booker had started calling them uncharitable names in French, so he’d given up soon.
Nicky is really close now, and he can’t help squirming, although he wouldn’t be able to say if he’s trying to get away or get closer.
„Shhh, I have you, love,“ Joe says and he moves the dildo even faster now, almost unthinkable if Nicky weren’t beyond coherent thoughts anyway. He feels the tightness in his belly, his toes curling in with tension, and then he’s coming with a shout. Joe pushes the dildo right up against this sweet spot, massaging it until Nicky whimpers.
Only then Joe slowly pulls it and shuts it off. The noise dies away suddenly and Nicky becomes aware of his own harsh breaths and the ocean sounds outside.
Joe pushes him over on his back and into the middle of the bed. Nicky flops around and just lies there. He hears the sheets rustling, as Joe moves away to put the dildo away. There’s a ceiling fan idly making its rounds and Nicky looks at it, his mind devoid of all thought. He hears Joe moving around, but all his limbs feel so weak that he can’t bring up the energy to sit up and check what he’s doing. He’ll come back to bed soon enough.
When Joe comes back, he crawls over Nicky’s legs to sit between them. „How do you feel?“ Joe runs his hands up and down Nicky’s thighs, the contact grounding him a little back into reality.
Nicky smiles at Joe. „Great,“ he says.
„Good,“ Joe says. „That’s what I wanted to hear.“
„Give me a moment, then I’ll take care of you,“ Nicky says, his eyes already closing. Maybe he’ll need more than a moment, he thinks, he feels like falling asleep.
„Don’t worry about it, my heart,“ Joe says. „I don’t need your active participation in this.“
„For what—fuck!“ Nicky starts to ask but swears when Joe puts his arms under Nicky’s knees to lift them up and bend them backward until Joe is lying right on top of Nicky, his hard cock brushing against Nicky’s hole, still wet and incredibly sensitive.
„Joe,“ Nicky groans. Joe kisses up his neck and Nicky shivers. It’s become habit to relax when Joe lines himself up and carefully pushes into Nicky, but all of Nicky’s nerves are still on overload and he can’t help tensing up for a short moment.
„Relax,“ Joe mumbles against his cheek before kissing Nicky. Nicky remembers reading a romance novel in the 1960s that talked about a mouth being plundered and thought it the most ridiculous thing back then, but now that’s how he feels—like Joe’s plundering him and he’s giving himself up freely.
Joe feels different from the dildo, warmer and softer, and this thrills Nicky after all the time they’ve spent together. Joe’s fucking him slowly, carefully, as if he wants this to last, so very different from what he did before.
Nicky’s body feels on fire, but he feels himself getting hard again, responding to the stimulus. He reaches for Joe’s hands, clamping his hands around Joe’s wrists, to have something to hold on to.
Joe lifts his hands up to interlace their fingers and puts their hands down over Nicky’s head. Nicky feels owned like this and it’s amazing.
Nicky wouldn’t have been able to say how long Joe fucked him, whether it was ten minutes or ten hours, because all that counted was his lover on top of him, in him and all around him, filling all his senses and thoughts so that it was just them. He could have stayed here forever if their bodies would let them.
„Nicolo, ya amar, I need to-" Joe starts.
Nicky groans. „Please,“ he says, „please, please, please—"
Joe comes with a shout and Nicky, incredibly, comes again. He closes his eyes, tightens his fingers on Joe’s, and lets himself be washed away by his orgasm.
When he opens his eyes again, Joe is lying spread-eagled to his side, one arm thrown over Nicky, their feet touching.
„You back with me?“ Joe asks, but when Nicky looks over he sees that Joe is still breathing hard, so he can’t have been gone for that long.
„Thank you,“ he says. „Te véuggio bén.“
„I will love you as long as the sun shines on you and the moon enlightens your path,“ Joe replies. He leans over to kiss Nicky softly and now all the urgency has gone out of both of them.
„I’ll be right back,“ Joe says before he heaves himself up. Nicky feels the exhaustion seep into his muscles, feels the heartache of not having been able to help as much as he wanted leech away, and by the time Joe comes back with a wet washcloth, he feels calm and relaxed, which is exactly what Joe wanted.
„Thank you,“ he says again, as Joe cleans him.
Joe throws the washcloth haphazardly at the hamper and lies down next to Nicky, pulling a thin sheet over them. „Think of this when it’s dinner time,“ Joe says. „I wouldn’t mind some couscous.“
Nicky laughs because he loves this ridiculous, unrepentant, glorious, gorgeous man. „I will make you couscous,“ he says.
Joe pulls him in close until their noses touch. „A nap first, I think.“
They have the house for another two weeks. They have all the time, so Nicky settles in and lets himself be lulled to sleep by Joe’s even breathing.