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Love, Prize, Honor

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If ever there were a moment Grant could burn into his eyelids, it would be this, he thinks.


Morning sun is filtering in through the semi-transparent curtain, casting the odd stripe of gold across fabric and skin. They had ditched the quilt sometime during the night before, when their bodies were making more than enough heat and the thick fabric became a hindrance—only the sheets remained, pooled loosely around them. All of this was just a canvas for the highest form of art Grant had ever seen, to his recollection: his lover, breathing softly through lips pink and parted, still sleeping blissfully.


Sova—his Alexei—was always beautiful, that was simply a fact of life. The sun rose in the east, they shot bad guys for a living, and his Russian coworker brought back the old meaning of radiant. He could fight circles around Phoenix—and often did, paving the way with intelligence for the spitfire to blunder through like a hellion, guns quite literally ablaze. But Phoenix found he didn’t quite mind that Sova’s shots were more impressive, moves a little more precise and calculated than his own. Because it meant he got to keep watching the way Sova's shoulders moved when he drew his bowstring, the expressions Sova made when he was focused under pressure, the way Sova smiled when his marks crumpled one by one.


It also meant Grant got to kiss that smile. He got to worship those calloused fingers, speak softly into the shell of an ear and whisper sweet secrets he knew Alexei kept like a golden bell in his heart. He got to hear the way Alexei would confess in turn, how the Russian’s voice dropped low and velvetine, the way his tongue curled around his accent. Grant was allowed, blessed, to look into mismatched eyes and let everything else fall away. They were fighting against the end of the world, but at some point Phoenix had let his fight carry on a little closer to home.


God help him, Grant had never had a romantic bone in his body until now. He could be a right Casanova, and was always charming—but this poetic horseshit? Sure, his parents had pushed him through all manner of fancy schooling and halfway through Oxford, but he had always had to slog through the romances of history. He had lived his life thinking poetry was totally overblown, and that writers were just on whatever fad drug of the century. Love didn’t make you feel like that, at least, none he had ever experienced.


And now here he is, draped halfway across another man with his head resting on the other’s sternum and dreaming up a thousand words for the way the sun catches on Alexei’s eyelashes, like pure starlight.


It scared him.


More than that, Grant was terrified.


A couple of reasons were driving this frantic commitment to memory, as Grant's stare traces the lines of Alexei’s face over and over: firstly, of course, the concept of realizing you are head over heels in love with someone else is like jumping off a diving board into the ocean over the Marianas Trench—which is to say, horrifying. It is the grand ordeal of being known, having all that you are laid bare before judgement, and miraculously being accepted anyway--but there’s still a gravity to it, the constant realization you just might be out of your depth.


And that was the second fear, the bigger one: Grant was absolutely positive that this was going to end up as some cosmic joke. He’s a hired fucking gun, they both are. Mercenaries don't get a happy ending. He doesn’t deserve a happy ending anyway, doesn’t deserve someone like Sova both fighting by his side and sleeping in his bed. He felt like such a tosser; Phoenix was braggadocious and brilliant and a crack shot (not bad looking, either, he reckons) but here he was just Grant Galloway, the washed-up actor-turned-action-hero. And Alexei still wanted to be with him. There was no way in hell he deserved that.


Fuck, he saved the bloody world every damn day and still didn’t deserve Sova. And someday, there will be a last time Phoenix ever gets to hold him.


Someday, maybe even today, he will lose him.


So now Phoenix lays here, in bed, in a city in the sky, wondering if he can use his radiance to burn an image into his own skin—


“You think so hard, I can hear your thoughts in my head.” The chest under Grant’s chin reverberates with a voice and his heart skips. Alexei’s eye cracks open, and a sliver of blue peeks down, half-lidded and lazy. His lips curl in a soft smile.


God damn, thinks Grant. God fucking damn.


“Sorry, luv,” he says instead, placing an apologetic kiss on the man’s chest. “That kind of mornin', s’all.” He slides one hand up through the sheets to find the archer’s fingers and interlace them, squeezing gently. “Didn’ mean to wake you up, we’ve still got time before Sarge comes to break down the door.”


“Mm. Come here.” Alexei closes his eye again, and lets go of Grant’s hand in favor of tugging the other man back up to lay face-to-face. The brit goes obediently, shuffling to plop his head on the other pillow, nose brushing against Alexei’s own.


They lay like that for a minute—Alexei’s hand cups Grant’s face, the rough pad of his thumb drifting idly against the other’s cheekbone. They settle into an easy silence, which of course means Grant goes back to memorizing the planes of the hunter’s jaw, the curl of his sleep-mussed hair, the cross of the scar over his eye. He’s so beautiful, holy shit.


Eventually, Alexei’s eyes open again, gazing back into Grant’s own. “What could have you thinking so much so early, hm?” he mumbles, accent thick with sleep.


“Poetry,” Grant replies casually.


Alexei raises an eyebrow.


“I didn’t say it was good poetry,” he relents.


This makes Alexei smile and breathe out a laugh, and Grant feels his chest squeeze. Lucky, lucky, lucky, he chants to himself.


“Do I want to hear your poetry, or should I go back to sleep?”


“Ah, I never said it was my poetry either!” Grant says, grabbing the hand on his face and pressing a kiss into the palm before pulling it down to rest on his neck. He thinks for a moment, then grins. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"


Alexei shakes his head, laughing. "If you're going to recite Shakespeare to me at six in the morning, at least pick something a little more original!"


"Alright, alright, no sonnets, I get it! Let's see..." Grant hisses through his teeth and leans back, thinking back to all his college theater classes and the copious amounts of bard he had been forced to memorize. A passage comes to mind. "I think I got one... You'll let me know if you feel wooed, right? I'm really gunnin' to woo."


"I am already feeling significantly less wooed."


"Tough crowd. Let's fix that then, shall I?" He clears his throat, lets his expression become neutral, feels the other man shift to give him rapt attention.


A moment’s silence as the curtain raises, and he begins, voice low and sultry.


O heaven, o earth, bear witness to this sound, and crown what I profess with kind event if I speak true. If hollowly, invert what best is boded me to mischief. I,” he leans forward, brushing his lips against Alexei’s in a whisper, “beyond all limit of what else i’th’world, do love,” Grant presses in with a kiss, chaste and soft, “prize,” a second kiss, “honor you.” He punctuates the verse with a third kiss, and Alexei deepens it, chases the words with the heat of his lips.


Absently, Phoenix hears the thump of combat boots approaching from down the hall, and a knock next door. Were he a smart man, he would pull away and start looking for his trousers.


Better to be a fool in love, he decides.