It was late or very early depending on how you viewed the hours before dawn, eitherway it was still dark outside and the stars had not yet receeded into the heavens. The modest bedroom was bathe in a warm glow from a nearby street light and the silence was broken by the occasional patter of rain drops as they were blown against the old glass panes.
Joe had gone to bed with his beloved Nicky many hours ago. They had settled quietly into their usual sleeping positions, taking comfort in the routine but things had been far from normal. The need to touch each other, reassure one another had been more pressing than usual. Words had been scarce but they had been together long enough to communicate feelings and intentions silently. Lingering looks, gentle kisses on trembling skin, shuddering breaths and desparate holds, gripping enough to fleetingly bruise skin all spoke of love, devotion and need.
They had showered together beforehand both out of necessity and a desire to remain as close as possible. They had taken turns to clean each other gently yet maticulously both eager to remove all visible signs of their shared ordeal at the hands of Merrick and his equally morally questionable employees. Joe had made sure to pay particular attention to Nicky's hair, swallowing back feelings of rage, nausea and fear as he tentatively picked out pieces of organic matter that he'd rather not identify. Once the gruesome task was completed he looked to his slightly tremoring fingers only to have them encased in a strong grip, he looked up to see his Nicolo had turned to face him, his husband's large hands were now surrounding his own. The sensation was both comforting and grounding.
Nicolo looked him steadily in the eye and spoke softly, the words meant for Joe alone.
“Sono qui mio amato.”
Joe took a deep calming breath, nodding in reply and in unison they both tilted forwards until their foreheads met. They stood together connected not just physically but in ways only they could understand. Almost a thousand years spent side by side, from mortal enemies to companions, friends to lovers, partners and husbands. It was a unique relationship that allowed them unparalleled insight to one anothers souls. They remained joined long after the warm water ran clear down the drain, rinsing away the last physical evidence of their shared ordeal. The emotional wounds would not be washed away so easily.
As the water cooled, Nicky was the first to break the contact, reaching for the shower controls to stem the flow. Then grabbing a large bath towel, he wrapped it around Joe's back and began to pat him dry. Eyes not quite focused, the man seemed lost in his thoughts and Nicky knew those thoughts were most likely dark and troubled. He gently retrieved Joe's right hand in his own, bringing the still wet hand to his chest and laying it flat over his heart, deliberately taking in several deep breaths. He watched intently as their joined hands rose and fell with each inhalation. Joe's eyes clenched shut and Nicky looked on as his beloved's brow creased in concentration, focusing on his heart, very much alive, beating steadily and strongly beneathe the expanse of muscle and bone.
Moments later those same dark eyes opened. Nicky was bowled over by the flood of emotions swirling within their depths. He saw the pain, fear and anger but mostly he saw the love, a love so strong between them, it had lasted for nearly a millenia. A love still so fresh and steadfast it would see them through many more. Nicky smiled softly at his husband, hoping his own eyes reflected the profound love he felt with every fibre of his being for this perfect man before him. He gently rubbed his thumb back and forth over the wide silver band he had gifted Joe centuries ago.
“Better?” he enquired tenderly as he raised his partner's hand to his lips.
“Much better amor mio,” Joe replied with equal tenderness, “thank you.”
They proceeded to dry one another and both changed into some clean, comfortable clothes. They would try to get some rest but at least they were ready if they needed to leave their current safe house at a moments notice. Joe as usual was the first to lie down and stretch out on top of the bed. He shut his eyes and concentrated on the sounds Nicky made as he made his final checks before retiring. The bed dipped slightly as his husband sat down, he heard the magazine in the Glock being released, followed by two quick taps as the base of the mag was hit against the wooden bedside locker before being quickly reinserted. A slight shake of the mattress as the hand gun was cocked and then stashed under the adjecent pillow. Once he felt Nicky lie down Joe rolled over onto his side and snuggled into his husband's back, his right arm wrapped possessively around his waist.
“Dormi bene tesoro,” Nicky whispered softly as he gripped Joe's hand.
Joe replied with a chaste kiss to the back of his beloved's neck, “You too my love.”
And after a while he had actually managed to drift off and get some much needed sleep, a couple of hours of oblivion, far away from his troubled thoughts but something woke him from his slumber. He can't remember what exactly but it wasn't a sudden jolt to his system such a sudden movement would have easily woken his beloved too. Nicky had always been a very light sleeper but a quick glance revealed that the man was still sleeping peacefully and Joe was grateful for that at least.
He very carefully made his way to the end of the double bed, adamant not to wake his partner. They had both endured much at the hands of Merrick's henchmen and Doctors.The painful procedures, many of which were totally unnecessary, were nothing more than torture inflicted forcefully in the name of scientific progress. But so much worse than that was having to witness such acts being ruthlessly performed on one another, helpess to intervene and end it all, reduced to offering mere words of comfort as pieces were carved out and coldly placed into plastic sterile containers.
He was not a calous man by nature but he was glad that most of those involved in their capture were dead. Copley and Booker were another matter, what the future held for them would be up for discussion in the morning. The betrayal was still a raw open wound and he felt the anger within fester once more. They had both died several times at the hands of Kozak and it made him sick to think that any one of those times could have been the last time he saw the radiant light in his husband's eyes. He needed the man by his side as sure as he needed oxygen to breath. It was going to take a lot of time for him to think rationally and calmly on the matter, but now it was just too soon.
He tentatively stood up and made his way over to the small window, glancing at his Nicolo as he passed to ensure he hadn't disturbed the man but all was well. The street was empty, no cars passed by on the road below, no pedestrians making their way home in the early hours. Nothing to see except the orange glow from the streetlights reflecting off the large pools of water gathering on the footpaths below. It was peaceful, they were safe...for now.
He turned around facing Nicolo once more, sighing softly. The man's beauty was something to behold, like a marble masterpiece privately comissioned for his viewing pleasure alone. He was no fool though, he was well aware of the looks his beloved received when they were in public from both men and women alike. To them he was art brought to life but not a simple wooden puppet like Pinocchio made human, his Nicolo was Michelangelo's David brought to life as if by magic by some ancient God. The stares never bothered him though and his poor beloved was oft oblivious to the attention. Joe knew that lingering glances would be all they would get, he was both blissfully happy and secure in the knowledge that his husband was his, mind, body and soul.
Both their bodies had suffered much abuse recently but their rapid healing had erased all tell tale signs of the horror's that had been inflicted upon them. There were times when he was so grateful for immortality and all that it entailed but for once for a brief moment in the lab he had wished it didn't cheapen the suffering they'd endured. He had wanted Booker, their brother to see what his actions had meant for them, to see the damage that had been done to their flesh over and over again. But that would have only brought more pain and torment upon his beloved and that was not worth anything. And so his beautiful skin remained blemish free of any injury received as it had done since they first slew each other on the battlefield hundreds of years ago.
Only wounds acquired before his first death marred the pale olive canvass now. Nicolo's hands still bore the callouses from years of raising and lowering ropes and rigging. He may have been born into nobility, but Joe had learned that his husband never shied from hard work and like most boys born by the Port of Genoa, he was passionate about sailing. Later in life swordwork had also taken its toll on those elegant hands but despite their roughness, they were capable of the most tender of acts.
The scars that took the longest to explain were undoubtedly the ones that had cut the most deeply when originally inflicted. The barest of outines now, five faint white lines crisscrossing the lenght of his broad back, most barely visible to the eye but Joe knows they are there. He has traced their path with kisses countless times. Five lashes received from a hastily grabbed horse whip in a barn, a punishment doled out ruthlessly by his own father upon witnessing an innocent kiss between Nicolo and a stable hand.
The youth was never seen at the family estate again and his father Galasso shipped his middle son off to the Abbey of Bobbio post haste, shattering Nicolo's dreams of spending a life at sea. He eventually embraced the priesthood which in turn led him to answering the call to the Crusades. Joe has often wondered how different his life now might be if it weren't for a simple shy kiss. He knows Nicky believes that they were always destined to meet and would have ended up together regardless...and they call 'him' the romantic one.
His musings are disturbed by a rustling on the bed, sea green eyes suddenly alert observing him and he knows his beloved's right hand has gripped the pistol hidden under his pillow but the movement is almost instantly stalled as Nicky recognises the familiar outline standing in front of the window.
Instead the hand reaches out pleadingly.
“Come back to bed my love,” Nicky beckons.
Joe complies and makes his way across the floor boards, as he climbs back into the bed, he grasps the offered hand and gives it a squeeze then settles back into his customary position. There will be many more nights ahead when one or both of them will have trouble sleeping, when events experienced in real life will invade their dreams, distorting them into cruel nightmares but at least they have each other and for now that fact alone makes it all tolerable.
Notes: Many thanks to those of you that have decided to read this little fic, I hope you liked it. I'm really enjoying my time in this fandom and frankly the sequel just can't come quick enough! I need to see more of these guys on screen :) This fic follows the missing scene format of my other two fics and hopfully similar characterisations of the boys.
Tempered Steel – missing scene with Joe, Nicky & Booker at the abandonned church before Andy and Nile arrive
Tit for Tat – missing scene with Joe & Nicky on the plane to Merrick's lab.
Thanks again & Take care.