Disclaimer: The characters and situations of 'Space: Above and Beyond' depicted in this story are legal property of Glen Morgan and James Wong, Hard Eight Production and 20th Century Fox Television and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement intended.
This story contains material deemed unsuitable by certain laws for persons below the age of majority. You have been warned!
Comments are welcome at JiMPage363@aol.com
The ceremonies were done, the speeches endured, the medals flashing in the sun, the reviewing stand clearing around him. Crowds streamed and knotted on the field below, families and lovers and hopefuls and friends drawn toward one another like magnets. He turned away from the scene, suddenly wanting nothing more than to be out of this uniform, once worn so proudly.
"Ty?" A familiar voice, heard only on recordings for the past two
years. He turned and was immediately enveloped in a bear-hug. Glen Ross was pounding on
his back, half-understood words of friendship pouring over him like wine.
Hands on his friend's shoulders, Ross looked him up and down, noting the changes. McQueen was fit again, standing tall, leaning only slightly on the cane in his right hand. His face was smooth, still as unmarked as a youth's although Ross could see the livid burn scars just peeking above the collar of McQueen's dress uniform. There was something new in the ice-blue eyes, but Ross couldn't identify it.
"I brought you a present," he said suddenly. He turned and waved a hand. Two officers who had been bobbing on the periphery of their reunion stepped closer and McQueen caught his breath. Hawkes and West saluted and he returned it, unthinking, before reaching out and gathering them to him. McQueen's fists clenched behind their heads as he struggled for control. Ross watched his friend's eyes close as his two "kids" held onto him for dear life. As they always had, he realized.
They had soldiered on after the deaths of the rest of the 58th and after McQueen had been taken from them, but the two young officers had never lost the feeling they had for the enigmatic colonel. They would ask Ross, oh so casually, for news of their former commander. News which he rarely had to give. Although he made and shipped recordings to McQueen weekly, he rarely received a reply. He had even taken to sending McQueen tapes of himself playing guitar, remembering how many hours they had spent sitting in companionable silence, McQueen reading while he played endless blues riffs.
McQueen never sent recordings, only letters, and those were short and factual. Glen Ross had understood his friend very well, however, and his own "letters" had always included news of West and Hawkes. Ross had kept tabs on his friend through pumping base medics for therapy and medical records and had known months before McQueen had written that his friend would never return to active duty. Reading between the lines of those records, Ross knew the struggles McQueen had gone through; the skin grafts, learning to walk again, the simultaneous promotion and medical discharge. He knew that McQueen had written to them only twice; when West became a captain, then when Hawkes had been promoted.
While Ross had been musing, he had missed the conversation between the other three. Nathan was now pulling his fiancee forward to meet McQueen. Shy and diffident at first, Ross was amused to see Kylen suddenly throw her arms around the tall Invitro's neck, embracing the man who had once worn her picture as a talisman for his soldiers. McQueen's face was slightly pinker when she released him and Ross had to laugh.
Nathan then moved to introduce Kylen to him, so he missed whatever exchange the two taciturn Invitros might have had. Hawkes was standing too close to McQueen; he had never learned the social distances that natural borns picked up by watching their parents. But when Ross next looked, Hawkes was smiling, an uncertain, hopeful light coming up in his eyes, so Ross figured he wouldn't have to do any more maneuvering on his friends' behalf. McQueen's expression was harder to read, until he realized he had never seen it before on those features -- the man was terrified. Glen Ross nearly laughed out loud but managed to school his features into a pleasantly neutral expression that wouldn't embarrass his friend, although McQueen scowled at him anyway.
What McQueen had said to Hawkes had been simple. "You look good, Hawkes. How long is your leave?"
"The rest of my life. I'm mustering out through Denver."
McQueen had blinked for a moment, then asked, "Are they giving you a good separation package?" Focus on the practical, TC, he told himself. Hawkes had nodded eagerly. "A year's pay and tuition at any school I want. I get my pension as a major."
McQueen nodded. Now that the war was over, decisively won, the services had far too many officers; the hefty separation packages were designed to encourage officers to leave on their own before Congress could demand military cuts. For once, political games were playing out in their favor.
"So what will you do now?" he had asked. Eyes suddenly downcast, Hawkes had only shrugged. McQueen shook his head and smiled. Hawkes hadn't changed, not really. Planning ahead had never been his strong point If it wasn't a military operation, Cooper Hawkes tended to drift and react rather than strategize.
"Come stay with me until you decide," McQueen heard himself say. Now who's not planning ahead, he asked himself sternly. But that sudden sweetness in Hawkes' smile swept his doubts away. For the moment.
Ross and his officers were required at a banquet to which McQueen had thankfully declined his invitation. Retired or not, the Corps still had a strong hold on him and he did what he could to boost the reputation of both invitros and the Marine Corps at most functions. He was handsome and he looked very well in his dress blues, his rows of commendation ribbons glowing across his chest. But he was tired of being a combination war hero and oddity and his lean store of small talk had been exhausted during the previous two months of victory celebrations. Now he was nothing more than a symbol; he'd only wanted to be a man.
Ross promised to deliver Hawkes in the morning and accepted a dinner invitation for early in the next week. He shook hands with McQueen again, then hugged him, saying quietly in his ear, "It's *good* to see you again, Ty." A long look into his friend's eyes and he knew that they were as close as they had ever been and it warmed him to know that he had not lost this friend to the war.
West and Hawkes saluted again and shook McQueen's hand and trailed after Ross, looking back at McQueen like lost puppies. The Commodore was tempted to laugh until he remembered that he had three more hours of speeches and bad food to get through until he could get out of his dress uniform. He suppressed his sigh and turned himself to being charming to Kylen, who strolled beside him on his arm.
It was the middle of the next afternoon when McQueen heard the chime that signalled someone approaching. As he grabbed a towel and wiped the sweat of his workout off his face he heard the car and tried to ignore the jerk in his chest at the sound. There was a brisk knock at the door just as he was reaching for the handle. Hawkes and a noncom carrying his bag stood there. Hawkes just looked at him and said nothing.
The noncom saluted and offered him a folded slip of paper and set Hawkes's bag inside the door.
"The Commodore's compliments, sir. He apologizes for the delay in delivering Captain Hawkes and his inability to be here in person. He trusts the note will explain and looks forward to dinner next week." She snapped another salute and held it until he belatedly returned it, then said, "Good day, sirs," turned and left.
They stood and looked at one another as the staff car pulled away. Something twisted in McQueen; he knew what Hawkes must be seeing and he looked away.
He was wrong.
Hawkes remembered what it was like living on the street, being so hungry that he didn't even notice it after a while. The pain had become so familiar that it was only after he had finally eaten his fill that he realized how terrible the craving had been. It felt like that now, looking at McQueen, his eyes ranging greedily. The older Invitro was wearing shorts and a tank top, a damp towel slung around his neck. Hawkes watched as a bead of sweat trickled down his neck and stopped, caught in the hollow at the base of his throat. The scars and burns McQueen had suffered were easy to see, the shirt wasn't designed to cover much. Dusky patches on his arms and shoulders and the right side of his chest and neck showed where the skin grafts had been. Letting his gaze drop, Hawkes noted that the colonel's waist was still trim, hips still lean. The worst damage seemed to be his right leg which was a mass of twisting scar tissue, purple in some places, pale in others. It was thin, wasted and McQueen leaned heavily on his cane.
"Finished your inspection, Captain?" McQueen asked, voice grating with sarcasm. Surprisingly, Hawkes smiled, inexpressibly comforted by the familiar rebuking tone.
"Not yet," he grinned. "But I can wait."
Rattled, McQueen had let it slide, closing the door and leading Hawkes inside. The younger man's admiration was gratifying as he walked around, gawking.
McQueen's house was crescent-shaped, built into the side of a mountain. The rooms encircled a pool and garden that overlooked the valley, far below. The designer had included windows everywhere, and the house was filled with light and space. McQueen knew he was lucky to have gotten it at all. When he had finally been discharged, the house had been on the market for over three years after a murder/suicide. Local legend said it was haunted, but McQueen had never been troubled by the dead. The price had plummetted to what he could afford and he had moved in within a week of signing.
As he slowly came to terms with the fact that he would never fly again, McQueen had spent months repairing years of neglect, rebuilding, refitting, reshaping the space into something his own. He replaced the standard swimming pool with a rock pool, each stone laid by hand, each water plant carefully placed.
Hawkes had finished prowling around the spare living room, fingers lightly brushing against the oak furniture and the granite mantel before turning to look at the garden through the long glass wall.
The garden around the pool had challenged McQueen the most. It required more patience than he had ever had, laying it out according to a Japanese design. His slowly healing body could only be pushed so far, so fast, however, and he had learned patience as he planted and planned. Now it was his refuge. He spent hours there, reading, exercising, swimming, gaining back what he had lost. McQueen had been wanting to show it off. He was gratified yet uneasy to be sharing his sanctuary with this guest. Letting someone in was ... dangerous.
"It's great," Cooper said with artless sincerity. "I've never seen anything like it - not even onboard the Bacchus'."
McQueen's mouth quirked. Hawkes was still Hawkes; he might look a little older, a little harder, leaner, but there was still that core of innocence in him that made McQueen feel very protective even as it terrifed him that Hawkes was so exposed to the mercy of an unloving world.
McQueen remembered how much he had craved a bath after months of sonic showers. Hawkes hadn't been planetside in over a year and a half.
"Do you want to take a swim?"
The younger man's face lit up. "Well - go on!" he waved toward the door. Cooper dropped his bag and took a step out through the sliding glass door, already unbuttoning his uniform jacket.
McQueen went and got a stack of towels. When he returned, Hawkes was already in the pool, lazily treading water in the center. His face fell as he watched McQueen limp into the garden. "Is your leg ever going to get any better than that?" he asked bluntly.
"Maybe. They want me to have another operation on it. I haven't decided." McQueen leaned his cane against a chair, toed his shoes off, then stripped his shirt off. He took three careful steps and let himself drop into the pool in a shallow dive. He glided under water, riding the surge of joy, his movements elegant and sure. Once in the water, gravity couldn't ambush him; he knew exactly what his body could do. He surfaced for air right next to Hawkes and tread water silently with a few spare, economical movements.
"Why don't you want the operation?" Trust Hawkes not to let up.
"Because they can't promise me it'll actually change anything except give me another scar and..."
"They want to replace it with a cybernetic limb. AI technology."
"Oh." Hawkes looked so worried that McQueen gave in to a juvenile impulse and ducked him. Hawkes surfaced, gasping, and retaliated with a shout. Splashing and laughing, the two men wrestled until Hawkes swallowed a mouthful of water and sued for peace, coughing and hacking. McQueen let him off and put himself to swimming his daily laps while Hawkes threw himself facedown on a lounger on the edge of the deep end of the pool. His face was turned toward the water and every time McQueen surfaced, he felt Hawkes watching him.
"You'd better put some sunblock on, Hawkes. You've been away so long you'll cook if you spend much time out here." The younger man grunted assent and closed his eyes.
Thirty laps later, Hawkes still hadn't moved to protect his space-pale skin. McQueen heaved himself out of the pool and grabbed a towel. After a cursory wipedown, McQueen picked up a bottle of sunblock and limped over to Hawkes, drawing breath to scold him for ignoring good advice.
Hawkes was asleep, face impossibly young and untroubled in slumber, the skin of his back already reddening. McQueen hesitated for only a moment, then sat quietly on the edge of the lounger, beside Hawkes' hip. The young man did not stir. McQueen coated his hands in the clear oil then, face bland and expressionless, he began gently smoothing the sunblock into the sleeping man's skin. His hands were careful and meticulous, stroking from neck to waist, down the arms, curving over the broad ribs.
The sun was warm on his back and drops of cool water slipped out from McQueen's hair to splash into diamond specks on Hawkes' sculptured back. McQueen took a deep breath and tried very hard not to think as he poured more sunblock into his hands and shifted to rub it along Hawke's long legs, shaping the strong muscles beneath the light sprinkling of hair that tickled his palms. God, he was perfect, his scars fine, pale lines, nothing to mar the smooth beauty of his shape. McQueen let his hands wander, stroking gently as breath.
Hawkes made a contented little sleep noise and started to shift onto his back beneath those warm hands when the phone rang. A muscle beside McQueen's mouth jerked once, then he got up and went to answer the phone, wiping his hands on his damp shorts. The receiver was in the kitchen, so he missed Hawkes' whispered expletive and the sound of the wooden lounger creaking in protest as the young invitro's hand nearly crushed the armrest in irritation at the interruption.
So close! How the hell was he supposed to do this? Nathan's advice had been very hard to accept -- Wait and watch and let him make the first move. Ross' advice, surprising him as it did, was even more confusing. "He's been badly hurt, Hawkes. He's never recovered fully. He feels like he's not all there any more. Go slowly. It might be weeks before he's ready." Weeks?! McQueen's touch had been all he had dreamed it would be, strong and gentle and caring. Hawkes felt that hunger rising up in him again and knew that he couldn't bear for it to be weeks. Musing on his friends' advice, he fell into a true sleep.
When McQueen returned from the kitchen, he had a book tucked under one arm, a beer in one hand and a shallow bowl of milk in the other. He smiled slightly at Hawkes' sleeping figure and sat down in another lounger, putting the bowl on the pebbled ground beside him. As he opened his book and took a sip of beer, a small pale gray cat slipped out of the ferns beside the koi pool. She made her unhurried way over to the bowl and sat beside him, lapping at the milk.
The cat had come to him late last fall, sitting in the driving rain before his door. He had come back from therapy, aching and empty, finally knowing that he would never fly again. Dragging his unresponsive leg, he had limped through the mud toward his front door, only to find a small dirty cat waiting for him.
"Shoo," he had told it, without enthusiasm. She had only blinked and waited for him to unlock the door. Her fur was muddy, whiskers hanging limply, dripping water.
"It's not a fit night for man nor beast," he murmured, the W.C. Fields line making him smile slightly, as it always did. The cat had blinked again, deep blue eyes regarding him steadily. Then she had opened her mouth but no sound had come out. That silent "miaow" had undone him. He had opened the door and let her enter before him. She immediately began exploring his dark, empty house, pacing the rooms while he took off his soaked coat and boots and rubbed a towel over his hair in the kitchen. He had dried his face and looked up to find her sitting a short distance away, watching him. He'd never had a pet. He'd only met a cat once before, at a fellow officer's home. He realized he had no idea how to treat an animal.
"You're wet. Come here and I'll dry you off." He felt only slightly silly talking to the animal; there was no one to hear. And it had been the correct approach; the cat had considered him and his motives for a moment more, then had walked up to him, sniffed at his outstretched hand and the towel, then had sat down between his feet. He moved slowly, because he was stiff and in pain, and because he did not want to startle the animal. With light, gentle strokes, he had wiped away the mud and chafed her fur until it was well on its way to being dry.
He had had no pet food, so he simply gave the cat a small bowl of the stew he was having. She had seemed to approve, waiting to eat until he had moved away and sat down across the room to eat his own meal. When she had eaten, the cat had gone into an exhaustive bathing ritual. After grooming herself, she looked far better, although McQueen could see that she had missing patches of fur and scabs and scars on her small pointed face. Then she had curled up on his couch and gone to sleep, ignoring him completely.
That evening had set the tone for their relationship. He had treated the cat with cautious courtesy, never touching her without warning. After a time, he had realized that she wasn't so much a pet as a room mate without an opposable thumb. So he opened food containers and doors for her and made certain that she was comfortable, as he would have done for any companion who was unable to do these things for herself. He had no name for her.
Gradually, they had grown used to one another's presence and he realized that, while she rarely asked for attention, she was always somewhere close to him, observing all he did in the house and the garden. She came to him only at night, sitting on his chest and bumping her head against his chin, asking for affection. He had learned to stroke her back slowly, the delicate one- fingered strokes she preferred under her chin, the rough scrubbing motion behind her fine ears that made her small chest rumble with purrs.
Now, after a year of discreet friendship, the cat would join him in companionable silence in the garden, sitting in the sun beside him, content to let him stroke her fur meditatively. After finishing her milk, her attention had been drawn to the sleeping man nearby. She walked over to Hawkes and circled him, sniffing curiously. McQueen watched with amusement as she scented the hanging fingers of one of Hawkes' hands. She surprised him by lapping delicately at those fingers, then making her deliberate way back to McQueen and leaping up to sit on the arm of his lounger. "Well, shall we keep him?" he asked her whimsically. She said nothing, merely butted her head into his arm, politely but firmly requesting caresses, purring encouragingly.
Cooper Hawkes had watched this byplay with interest. He had been awakened by the raspy feel of something on his fingertips and had cracked one eye to see the small cat making her way back to McQueen. He had noted the way the cat had clearly demanded McQueen's attention and the soft look on his former commanding officer's face as he gently ran his fingers through her fur. He filed this approach away for further consideration.
He couldn't sleep. He had awakened late in the afternoon, the sun touching the snow caps down the valley to red gold. Blinking and yawning, Hawkes had found McQueen in the kitchen doing something competent with vegetables and meat. McQueen had smiled fractionally at him and sent him to dress. He didn't shower, wanting to keep the scent of the oil and McQueen on his skin a little longer. He had returned and taken over chopping vegetables under McQueen's direction. It was a new experience, preparing fresh food, and he had enjoyed it.
They had chatted over dinner, carefully avoiding any reference to dead comrades, just for this one evening. Somewhere along the way, McQueen had told him to call him Ty and had started to call him Cooper again. Cooper had smiled, tasting McQueen's name on his lips; it felt almost as good as McQueen's hands had earlier.
It had grown late; they had been talking about Hawkes' last campaign, the Tellus line, when Hawkes had realized that his had been the only voice he'd heard for a while. He had stuttered to a stop; McQueen had visibly brought himself back to the moment at hand and offered to show him his room. Pacing around the crescent of the house, McQueen had shown him to what was obviously his study. A large oak desk faced the garden, and floor to ceiling bookcases lined the other three walls. A king-sized bed had been placed in the middle of the floor.
"I don't get many guests," McQueen had shrugged, "so I had them deliver a bed this morning."
"It's great, thanks," Cooper had stammered, amazed that anyone had taken that kind of trouble for him. Something in his face had made McQueen turn away quickly. He had pointed out the bathroom, said goodnight, and vanished down the darkened hallway.
Lying in bed, Cooper had puzzled about it and couldn't figure out what he'd done wrong. He shifted again, the new sheets scratching and crackling at him. The bed was too large; after years of Marine racks barely wide enough for his broad shoulders, having all this room made him nervous. Lonely. Onboard the Saratoga, there had always been the sound of others breathing, lulling him to sleep. Here, there was nothing but this huge, moonlit space that crackled and snickered at him.
Without thinking about it, he found himself standing at the doorway of McQueen's room.
McQueen was drowsing, near sleep, the warm weight of the cat on his chest, when he heard the soft voice at his door.
"Cooper? What is it?"
The young man slipped through the half-open door and stood, silvered by the moonlight. He was wearing Marine-issue shorts and tee shirt and looked ... young. And scared.
"What is it?" McQueen repeated.
"The bed's too big."
For a moment, McQueen wanted to laugh. Then he leaned up on one elbow, dislodging the cat who stalked to the end of the bed. Without a word, he flipped the covers back and patted the mattress beside him. Hawkes slipped silently into bed beside him. They looked at one another for a moment, Cooper's eyes dark and trusting, before McQueen lay back down and pulled Cooper's head to his shoulder.
Cooper's skin was chilled; McQueen wondered how long he had been standing there before he'd spoken. He wrapped his left arm around the boy's shoulders and tucked the covers up. The younger man's arm crept across McQueen's chest and he let out a sleepy sigh as he settled his head more firmly. Slowly, not realizing he did so, McQueen began stroking Cooper's hair, so much shorter now.
The cat had returned and was sitting at McQueen's right side, staring with no friendly eyes at Hawkes.
"What?" he asked.
"You're in her spot," McQueen smiled, then chuckled when Hawkes gravely said, "Sorry," to the cat. The small animal seemed to accept his apology, for she stepped up and settled herself on Cooper's ribs.
"Go to sleep," he whispered, fingers stroking through Cooper's hair. He watched the stars burning, pure and unblinking, and listened to Cooper's sleeping breath and tried not to think of anything at all as the moon set.
When Cooper awoke, it was barely dawn. He could see the paling stars and the deep-water blue of the sky over the mountains to the east. There was a warm weight pressed against his back and he shivered with pleasure when he realized who it had to be. The sheets were soft and kind and barely whispered as he turned over.
McQueen was lying on his back, sleeping deeply, covers pushed down to his waist, right arm loosely protecting his stomach. The young man stared greedily at him, unused to having the leisure to look his fill. McQueen's face was smooth and unlined, except for two deep lines cut into each side of his mouth. Cooper knew what those were. He had lesser versions himself, the souvenirs of pain and grief and the anger that all invitros seemed to be born with. Stealthily, Cooper reached out and traced the arching silver brows with a finger. He drew it down the blade of McQueen's nose, then let it drop away and stroke over his far cheekbone. He pulled it back, lightly grazing over the sleeping man's full mouth, so different when not set in its habitually stern lines.
Delighted with his discoveries, Cooper smiled a little and continued his explorations. He fanned his fingers out and skimmed down the side of McQueen's throat. The grafted skin was softer, darker and more delicate than the undamaged skin; he brushed his fingers back and forth several times, noting the contrast. He paused with his fingertips against McQueen's pulse and the steady, deep rhythm became tied up with the warmth and solidity, the scent and sheer comfort of him.
Cooper turned his attention to McQueen's bare chest, flushed in the red light of dawn. There were more dark grafted patches and a network of fine white lines, scars from knife fights, shrapnel, whip marks, accidents, mishaps, the marks of a history that did nothing to lessen his beauty in Hawkes' eyes. He leaned on one elbow so he could see better in the growing light. He mapped Ty's scars with one finger, pleased with the hairless and sculpted chest. He laid his palm flat on Ty's abdomen and reverently kissed the skin his fingers had just traced.
He felt rather than heard McQueen's single gasping breath. Turning his head, Cooper saw that McQueen was awake and watching him. "Is this OK?" he whispered, expression troubled as he peered into McQueen's blank face. McQueen nodded tightly and Cooper happily went back to his explorations. He picked up Ty's slack right hand and held his own palm against Ty's, comparing the lengths of their fingers before lacing them together, squeezing then releasing the hand and laying it on the bed. He pushed impatiently at the sheet and comforter that stubbornly held to McQueen's waist, hand skimming across the lean hardness of the older man's hips, sharp where his own were square.
The worst of the scarring began just below McQueen's right hip and Cooper sat up, anxious to see how bad it was for himself. He hadn't noticed last night that McQueen slept nude, now he was glad of it as nothing interfered with his inspection. His hands skimmed over the whorls of scar tissue, the unexpected hollows and twists of flesh on the right leg where the left leg was solid and beautifully sculpted. Drawing his hands back up to McQueen's hips again, Cooper saw that McQueen was half-hard, cock rising out of a nest of ash-blonde hair. He stroked the soft hair, watching intently as that cock got harder and fuller in the now-golden light slipping through the open windows.
There was a bitten off growl, then McQueen's hands seized him and dragged him up to lie on that hard chest. He stared into Ty's cool gray eyes and was surprised to see them melt into a hot blue. "What do you want, Cooper?" Ty's voice sounded rusty as it rumbled beneath him.
"... want you to touch me."
A moment of silence, then Ty was kissing him fiercely, straining up to delve deeply into Cooper's mouth, hands hard as they curled behing his shoulders, locking them together. Then those hands were ranging all over his body and their touch left him hot and desperate. He didn't know when his shirt and shorts disappeared, was only happy when there was nothing in between him and Ty's mouth, Ty's fingers, Ty's body pushing him deeper into the bed. He was drowning in the man's scent and heat and wanted nothing more than to never again take a breath that didn't come heavy with Ty's warm, coppery fragrance. He came screaming and flexing against the arms and legs that held him tighty and it wasn't enough to slake that hunger within him. The heated madness and tearing beauty of Ty's body moving within his barely fed it, even as he shouted with the savage joy of it. It was only sated when he once again lay close to Ty, head pillowed on the heaving chest, both of them gasping and trembling. Ty's fingers ran through Cooper's sweat-soaked hair again and again, lulling him back to sleep in the tender gold of the morning light spilling across the bed.
Colonel T.C. McQueen, (Ret), sat in his kitchen, drinking coffee and trying hard to referee the argument raging between his well-loved body and his overactive conscience. He had left Hawkes asleep in his bed, trying not to notice the stains and tears in the sheets, and come out here to think. Unfortunately, what had formerly been a steel-trap of a mind had devolved into a sticky potpourri of longing, lust, and fear. There was also an emotion, soft and familiar, yet totally new, which he steadfastly refused to name.
He was taking another disgusted gulp of coffee when two warm arms slid around his chest; it was only iron control that kept him from spilling it. He set the mug down carefully, then his fists clenched at Cooper's low whisper,
"Come back to bed, Ty," punctuated with a small nip at the sensitive skin behind his right ear. For one moment, McQueen let himself be weak; he dropped his head back against the hard shoulder and arched into the hands that were slowly stroking across his chest and abdomen. His breath hissed out as Cooper began nuzzling down the side of his throat.
"Hawkes. No." He reached up and peeled the younger man's arms away from him, then turned to face his earnest confusion.
"Why not? Wasn't it good enough?" The gray eyes darkened with hurt and doubt and McQueen's hand reached out automatically. It hovered over Hawkes' shoulder before McQueen let it fall away.
"It's not that, Hawkes. It's that it shouldn't have happened at all."
"I don't get it. Why're you pissed at me?" Hawkes retreated a step, arms crossed tightly over his chest.
"It's not you, Hawkes, it's me." The younger invitro could only stare at him, shoulders hunched and jaw clenched. "I shouldn't have let you..."
"Because I was your superior officer. Because you're lonely and vulnerable and I took advantage of you and I knew it." The words were a bitter truth in his mouth and McQueen couldn't look at him.
"Look, McQueen, you're not my superior officer now. And I'm not any more lonely than I've ever been. I always wanted this."
"It was wrong." McQueen turned and faced the garden, not seeing it.
"Why? You got anyone else?" Hawkes demanded.
"That's not the point," McQueen rubbed the back of his neck, trying not to wince when his fingers ran over a bite-bruise.
"You don't. I asked Ross."
"He told me you weren't seeing anyone. That I should go for it, but take my time because you would probably run like hell if I showed my cards too soon. Guess he was right." Hawkes looked at the floor.
"You always were a lousy poker player," McQueen said softly. "What else did Ross tell you?"
A little hope crept back into Hawkes' stormy eyes as he looked up again. "He said you were lonely. And that you hurt a lot of the time. And that I needed a keeper and he figured that you were up to the job."
One side of McQueen's mouth quirked at that. He could hear Ross speaking behind Cooper's words. "Think about it, Hawkes. You have the rest of your life in front of you; you could go anywhere, be anything you want. You don't need half a beat-up tank dragging behind you."
The younger man was suddenly standing right in front of him, too hot, too close, smelling of sex and sleep.
"Look, McQueen, you're all I got. No one else gives a damn. Don't tell me to think about it because I already know. It's all I got."
Then he whispered, "It's all I want."
Then he curled his hands in McQueen's robe and pulled him close, catching him off-balance and holding him up as Cooper kissed him with the same single- minded intensity he had used in tactical engagements. When he pulled his mouth away, they were both panting for breath and McQueen could feel Cooper's hands trembling a little against his chest.
"Did Ross tell you to do that, too?"
Hawkes nodded dazedly. "Yeah, he said to try that if nothing else worked."
McQueen closed his eyes for a moment and promised himself a long, loud talk with his friend very soon. "Are you gonna let me go, Cooper?" he asked, looking pointedly at the hands locked in the folds of his robe.
"Are you gonna keep arguing with me?"
"Probably," Ty admitted, a smile beginning to curl onto his face.
"Then, no," Cooper said, but loosened one hand and brushed his knuckles lightly down the side of Ty's face. Then his fingers began tracing the curves of Ty's lips and Ty saw his whole future in the younger man's intense stare. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
A nod from Cooper. McQueen struggled for another moment between terror and love and then gave in completely, slipping the few inches forward into Cooper's arms.
"You'd better not let go."
© JiMPage363@aol.com 10/98