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The first time the angry Christian does it, Yusuf is so shocked at the sensation he slips up, knees weakening, allowing his attacker to slip a dagger between his ribs.

He lost his helmet between the third and fourth times he was killed, no doubt taken by another soldier in need as he lay on the battlefield. Yusuf can hardly begrudge the theft, given that no matter what happens to him, he always rises again.

He does begrudge his body’s reaction to his hair being used as a handle, as an instrument in his murder.

The Christian’s hand slips out of his hair as Yusuf falls to the ground, bleeding, and his last conscious thought is that he misses the sensation as soon as it is gone.

When he awakens, his scimitar has been stolen. He uses the dagger that was still lodged in his stomach to chop his hair short and remove the weakness.

-

It is not as if Yusuf was unaware of this particular predilection. In his former life, as a merchant’s son with no wife and children of his own, he’d been a popular visitor to whorehouses in ports all around the Mediterranean, the rare guest who didn’t care much for the gender of the legs he was settled between as long as he could pleasure someone into pulling his hair until he was blind with pleasure and rutting into the bedsheets.

Still, it is more than a little embarrassing to desire a man he should, by rights, detest, so much that can he no longer stand on his own two feet the moment Nicolò gets a hand in his hair and pulls his head to the side to kiss him properly.

It is almost worth the shame to see the awe on Nicolò’s face when Yusuf slumps against him, overwhelmed and unmistakably aroused and foolishly trusting Nicolò to catch him.

It is definitely worth it when awe turns to determination and Nicolò’s gentle hand tugs harshly at his hair and Yusuf falls to his knees.

-

It is many months before either Yusuf or Nicolò have the necessary vocabulary in each other’s languages to talk about it. They have wandered aimlessly from Jerusalem towards Cairo in that time, and Yusuf has found, to his horror, that not only does Nicolò share his unique and possibly cursed fate as well as possessing the uncanny ability to turn his knees to water with a touch of his hand, he is also kind, stalwart, honorable in a misguided sort of way, and shyly funny when he has enough words to make a joke.

In Cairo, after a long and luxurious bath, Nicolò asks.

“Your hair,” he says, shirtless and sitting on the bed of their rented room. “You, ah – when I pull your hair…”

Yusuf flushes red. “Yes,” he says.

“May I do it more?” Nicolò asks.

Yusuf would mistake his question for idle curiosity if there were just a hint less gravel in his tone and a bit less pupil in his eyes.

This is how, hazy minutes later, he finds himself splayed on Nicolò’s lap, impaled on his cock and groaning in pleasure as Nicolò pulls his hair.

He hasn’t done this before. He kept his explorations in whorehouses to hands and mouths, trying, in some ethereal way, to remain at least a little chaste (and in a very real way to remain free of illness). He was always afraid of the intimacy this act in particular allowed. Over the last months, however, he has come to know that Nicolò is trustworthy, that he is a good man raised with bad intentions, and that he is Yusuf’s future.

He has also come to know that he desires Nicolò more than he thought human existence allowed for.

It is a small mercy that Nico waits until they have passed the irksome stages of preparation, of penetration, to get his hands in Yusuf’s hair, or he thinks he would not survive this encounter.

Lightning shoots down his spine when Nico pulls just right, only to be greeted by lightning from below when Nico’s cock grinds up just right and Yusuf wails, overwhelmed.

“You’re glorious,” Nico tells him hoarsely, and pulls harder.

Yusuf clenches down around him, hips rocking frantically to get more sensation, cock an aching line against Nico’s abdomen.

“Please,” he mouths out, begging this man who, a year ago, he wouldn’t have dared to dream of.

Nico tugs again and Yusuf’s world turns molten.

Again, and goosebumps break out all over his skin.

Again, and Yusuf comes without a touch on his cock, thick drops spilling down onto the light hair covering Nico’s body, crying out and groaning his praise and his desperation.

Nico tugs one more time, after Yusuf’s done, and his cock jerks painfully, spitting a last, pathetic glob of come into Nico’s bellybutton.

Yusuf’s eyes roll back into his head and he collapses against Nicolò.

Nicolò’s cock slips out of him and he gropes down to finish him, numb with pleasure as he is, only to find him wet with come and softening.

“It would take a much stronger man,” Nico tells him, smile playing about his serious lips, “to hold out with such a vision writhing and coming on his cock.”

Yusuf shudders against him.

-

Later, Nicky will place an article written by a man called Pavlov on Joe’s lap and raise a teasing eyebrow.

-

On balance, Yusuf should be shocked it takes nearly a century for Andromache to stumble upon his little secret. They share close quarters, or no quarters at all under the stars, and there is little they don’t know about each other. It is only out of respect for the women that Nico refrains from playing with his hair too much when no privacy is to be had (“I love you, darling, but you wail like a cat in heat when I pull your hair”).

Andromache has little respect for anything.

They are sparring, because apparently it is not enough for her to spend their endless years fighting for justice, they must also do it for pleasure.

Yusuf has tried to get her interested in poetry, or art, or anything that makes their endless fighting worthwhile. Thus far, he has had little success.

Andromache also fights dirty.

Yusuf is taller and broader than her (he wouldn’t dare to claim to be stronger), but she is lithe and quick and liable to exploit every weakness he has, as he quickly discovers when she grabs a fistful of his hair and wrenches his head back to get her dagger at his throat.

He’s on his knees before he fully realizes what’s happening.

To her credit, she steps back instantly.

Nico is by his side in an instant, hands soft as they card through Yusuf’s hair, which really doesn’t help but at least allows him to calm his breathing a bit.

“Perhaps,” he hears Nico say above him, “you should keep your hands out of his hair. It’s a bit sensitive, for him.”

“I can see that,” Andromache says, sounding richly amused. Yusuf’s cheeks burn with shame.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” she advises him, petting his shoulder. “I think that affected your lover just as badly as you.”

She’s not wrong, Joe is at eye level with Nicky’s interest, and it’s substantial.

Because Andromache is a cruel woman, she tugs at his hair again before leaving him and Nicky alone in the clearing, whistling as she heads off to help Quynh hunt for dinner.

Joe moans into Nicky’s hip and fumbles at the tie to his trousers until they’re around his ankles and he can silence his noises around Nicky’s cock as he sucks and sucks and Nicky pulls his hair until they’re both coming so hard neither of them can stand for a half an hour afterwards.

In the morning, Andromache announces a new training plan, because while it may be funny, Yusuf’s hair is also a weakness in battle, and he needs to be desensitized.

The training plan goes down in their shared history as one of Andromache’s few failures, but at least Yusuf does learn to fight with an erection.

-

The advent of privacy and the soul-crushing nature of both Andy and Booker’s grief allows a small reprieve for Joe in which only Nicky is capable of reducing him to nothing but sensation.

The year-long hiatus in which the entire team regroups after Booker’s betrayal and Quynh’s resurfacing puts an end to it.

It’s no one’s fault but Nicky’s, this time, Joe maintains.

Nicky would argue that it’s Joe’s fault for snacking before dinner.

Either way, it is an inopportune moment: It’s Nicky’s turn to cook, and Joe loves when he cooks, he’s so very in charge. It awakens an impish impulse in him to follow Nicky around the kitchen like a puppy and steal cherry tomatoes and cubes of cheese and anything else tasty he can get his fingers on. When smacking Joe’s hand away from the cutting board proves ineffective, Nicky reaches to more drastic measures, and grasps a handful of his hair.

Joe’s spine turns white-hot and the blood rushes in his ears. He gasps, going lax in Nicky’s hold.

“There now, love,” Nicky says, sounding fond, if exasperated. “Will you let me cook in peace now?”

“I don’t know,” Joe says, “this really isn’t a disincentive.”

Nicky pulls a little harder, and Joe’s cock throbs, filling in his pants.

“If you want me to keep doing this later, it is.”

A low whistle from the kitchen door alerts them both to the fact that they are very much not alone.

“Damn,” Andy says. “Still?”

Nicky laughs and releases Joe. “I doubt that will ever stop working,” he says lightly, and returns to his cooking.

Joe catches his breath and opens his eyes in time to see Booker staring at him with something like embarrassment and something like arousal in his expression. “Excuse me?” He asks, voice just a touch too high.

Quynh smiles with relish. It is rare, these days, that she can explain the world to Booker and Nile. “If you want to have Joe at your mercy, you must simply pull his hair,” she tells him. “We tried to train it out of him. It was a…mixed experience.”

Both Joe and Nicky shift uncomfortably at the memory.

“How so?” Nile asks from the living room.

Andy and Quynh share a look. “It always ended in Nicky having to drag Joe off and take care of him.”

“And by take care of him,” Booker says hoarsely, “you mean—”

“I mean fuck me stupid,” Joe says with relish.

“Stupider,” Andy corrects, and given the fact that Joe’s cock is still straining against his fly, he’ll allow it.

“Didn’t that piss you off?” Nile asks, coming closer. “Why the fuck would you guys keep pulling his hair if you knew that was what it did?”

Nicky turns around to look steadily at Joe. “I think I can safely say,” he says after a pause that is definitely significantly too long, “that it enhanced the experience.”

Joe remembers how helpless he felt at the time, how he had to struggle through the rush of endorphins, the bite of pleasure at his scalp to keep his grip on his scimitar, and how he got better and better at keeping his wits about him solely through the knowledge that at the end of this torture, Nicky would be there.

He swallows heavily.

“Don’t believe us?” He smirks toward Nile and Booker, who still look shell-shocked. “Try it sometime. I won’t mind.”

-

Nile is the first to try it, the braver of the two.

She pulls at a single curl when Joe ignores her, too absorbed in his painting to notice her talking.

He yelps, then shivers when she doesn’t let go immediately.

“Damn,” she says when she lets go. “You really do like that. And it’s not…weird, to intrude on you and Nicky?”

“Alas,” Joe says. “I was like this before I even met Nicky. He just reaps the benefits.”

“Huh,” she says, and he’s sure she’s about to leave, but then she grasps his scalp a little tighter, pulls a little harder, and he groans in unmistakable arousal.

“Damn,” she says again, with a very different intonation.

-

Booker doesn’t dare try it without explicit invitation. He’s still skirting the edges of the group, skittish and unsure of his welcome, and Joe – Joe has complicated feelings about that. In part, he wants Booker unsure of his welcome, because he shouldn’t be welcome, it’s too soon. At the same time, he blames himself for Booker doing what he did in the first place.

The thing is, downtime agrees with Joe. He and Nicky have a half-dozen houses spread out over the world meant for just this, for vacations, for settling down, and it never fails to arouse in them both an urge to build a home and an urge to fuck all the time. Their jobs being what they are, they’re used to going without for long stretches; Joe can’t help it that downtime is hardwired into his body as sex time. Fucking Pavlov.

It’s especially bad this time around, though, with four people who might at any point in time stick their hands in his hair and electrocute his brain.

Joe loves it.

He spends most of his time warm and hazily aroused, with the love of his life in arm’s reach, just waiting to fuck him or be fucked by him until they’re both breathless and satisfied. This is what Joe lives for.

If only the situation with Booker weren’t in the way.

He says as much to Nicky, unable to fully articulate that he won’t feel properly restful until Booker just mans up and pulls his hair and turns him on like the rest of their family already does without it sounding strange and perverted.

Nicky understands.

Nicky always understands.

Nicky waits until the middle of a football game to come up behind Joe’s comfy chair and start gently carding his fingers through Joe’s hair. It’s not enough to truly arouse him, just enough to get the thought of arousal tingling under his skin, and Joe squirms in appreciation, eyes still following the game.

It takes him a good five minutes to realize that Booker has utterly stopped watching the game and is watching them, instead, watching the way Joe tilts his head back into Nicky’s caresses, the way that Nicky slowly upgrades to light tugs that have Joe digging his fingers into the arms of his chair.

“Don’t you want to try?” Nicky asks, and Joe knows he’s not talking to him.

“Are you sure you want me to?” Booker asks. “I don’t deserve your trust.”

Joe peers over at him. “Last I checked, it was my choice who I give it to, deserving or not.”

It takes a few more moments, but Booker’s hand joins Nicky’s in his hair as they enter overtime.

In little more than seconds, Joe is melted into his chair. Booker’s hand is big and warm, and his grip is solid, and Nicky hasn’t said much about it, but he can hold a grudge, and before too long, he and Booker have a little competition going as to who can make Joe moan the loudest.

Joe wonders if anyone else on the planet has ever been in this situation before. He doubts it.

Then Booker tightens his grip and he has to grit his teeth so as not to scream. His blood is pounding in his veins and he’s absolutely dizzy and he’s abruptly about two solid tugs from coming in his pants.

“Nicky,” he begs. “Nicky, please—”

The referee whistles.

“For fuck’s sake!” Booker yells, hands slipping from Joe’s hair.

“Pay up,” Nicky gloats, holding out a hand. “Told you Italy would win.”

Joe, abandoned in his chair, achingly hard, whimpers.

-

There’s a movie on.

Joe knows there’s a movie on that he picked, but he could not for the life of him tell you what the title is or what has happened in the last half hour.

He should have known better than to pick a spot on the floor between Nicky’s legs, but it’s comfy and Nicky hates sitting on the floor. He just unknowingly put himself right in the middle, within everyone’s reach.

Quynh was the first to start, rubbing gently at his scalp, making his eyes shut in pleasure.

“Not like that,” Nicky admonishes a few minutes in, even though Joe has absolutely no complaints, but then his fingers are sliding through Joe’s hair on the other side of his head and there are two of them, rubbing gently at his scalp, petting him, and if he were a cat, he would be purring.

He tilts his head back, silently begging for more, and they deliver.

He loses track quickly.

At first it’s Nicky’s clever fingers, pulling just a little bit, Quynh’s stroking gently, but then there are more hands, and Joe’s not sure whose are where, but he knows it must be all of them, tugging from behind to tilt his head back further, dragging fingernails against his scalp, pulling from all directions.

Nicky’s hands he knows, Nicky’s hands he will always know, when they pull at his hair harshly, and Joe writhes in their combined grip.

“Nicky,” he gasps out, while he still has the presence of mind, “Nicky, it’s so much, I’m—”

Nicky presses a dry kiss against the side of his neck. “I know, love,” he says. “It’s fine. Whatever you need.”

Joe sobs. A hand that might be Nile’s and might be Quynh’s pulls a little harder. Booker takes a solid handful and tugs. Nicky keeps one warm hand on his shoulder and the other at the nape of his neck, tracing tiny lines of fire.

There’s no way to stop it. Joe’s hips cant upwards, rubbing his erection against the fabric of his pants and he moans.

“Fuck,” he gasps out, “fuck, please.”

Five hands clench suddenly tighter in his hair and Joe comes in his pants, biting his lip to stay somewhat silent, working his hips in tight circles as his balls pulse over and over, sweetness clenching hard through his gut. He has to let go of his lip to drag in air, and he can’t help the noises that escape him.

It’s warm in the living room when he’s done, warm and silent except for the background music of whatever the fuck this movie is, and Joe wants very much to be ashamed, but he’s so high on endorphins he can’t even feel how numb his ass is from sitting on the floor, he can’t feel how his fingernails have dug marks into his palms from clenching his fists, he can’t feel anything at all except how good he feels and how their hands are still in his hair.

It’s Nicky who starts tugging again, because Nicky is a bastard, a bastard who loves Joe more than life itself and apparently that includes making him come in full sight of their family just from getting his hair pulled.

“Still okay, love?” He asks, a low murmur.

Joe groans. “If you’re all still okay,” he says.

There’s rustling above him, disbelieving laughter from Booker.

“I think we can count this as a public service for the rest of us,” Andy says. Her voice is warm and familiar, and for all Joe knows full well that they’ve never been interested in each other like that, he gets what she’s saying. It’s a question of aesthetics, of familiarity, of belonging, and if it’s a bit weird, who cares, he can trust these five people.

He can trust them not to divulge this to strangers, at least. He can’t trust them not to use it against him, apparently, because Andy’s hand joins Nicky in starting up the pulling again.

Joe gives up. He didn’t go soft after coming, and his cock is throbbing in time to his pulse with every new tug at his scalp scraping down his spine. His legs splay wide, his shoulders unclench, and he lets them play with him, lets them bring him back to that shivery place where every tug at his scalp is a starburst in his nervous system, every pull is a fresh wave of goosebumps and sensation, riding the edge of too much.

“I need,” he gasps into Nicky’s knee, which he’s clinging to to stay upright. “Nicky, I need to touch myself, please let me, please.”

There’s a pause in which Joe’s sure he’s looking to the others, gauging their consent, before Nicky’s hand clenches on his shoulder. “You can, sweetheart,” he tells Joe, and Joe scrambles for his fly.

His pants and boxers have gone from strangling his dick to being cold and wet and strangling his dick, and he sighs in relief when they’re out of the way.

Actually touching his dick is neither as good nor as bad as he thought it would be, it turns out that 90% of the sensation he’d capable of processing is currently coming through his scalp, and it also turns out he’s ridiculously sensitive, which is no surprise after grinding himself to orgasm against the roughness of the zipper on his fly.

His hand gives him something to thrust up into, though, something to channel everything he’s feeling when Booker switches from pulling at his hair to threading his fingers through Joe’s curls and pulling his whole hand upwards, magnifying the stretch against Joe’s scalp. Nile’s hand teases its way across his head, pulling at individual curls one at a time until Joe thinks he’ll go insane, it should be impossible to tease somebody’s hair, it should be, but it’s not.

Each hand is its own brand of torture and Joe’s trapped into feeling like he’ll never come, too sensitive to orgasm and too turned on to ever stop, caught in this feedback loop of too much sensation to ever leave it.

He’s distantly aware that he’s sobbing, that there are tears leaking out his eyes, that he’s begging them for more even though he doesn’t know more what, until Nicky shoos all the other hands away, until Nicky grasps his head firmly, pulls it back to tilt Joe’s head away just like he did that first time, and presses an upside-down kiss to Joe’s lips.

Joe curls in on himself when he comes the second time, shooting in stringy, translucent pulses out the top of his fist. His stomach is heaving when it’s over, abs sore from writhing, from shifting his hips, from everything.

He’s panting like he just ran a marathon.

“That was beautiful,” Nicky tells him, warm and intimate by his ear, just for him.

“Thank you for letting us be a part of that,” Booker says, and kisses his cheek.

“What he said,” Nile agrees, and presses a kiss to his other cheek.

Quynh kisses the top of his head and Andy his nose before Andy gets up to get his sweatpants from the other room and Quynh moves to make space for him on the couch.

Nicky helps him into the sweatpants, and then pulls Joe into him so Joe’s resting with his head cuddled into Nicky’s chest. He knows Nicky’s still hard – can feel it on his hip – but Nicky just shushes him when he tries to ask, lets him drift off into sleep as the others settle around them.