Three of Nate’s fingers are broken, his arm's in a sling, and his eye looks like the sun is rising in the skin and a smear of blood spilling into the outer cornea. He answers the door his damn self, phone wedged between his shoulder and his ear, smiles when he sees Brad and gestures him inside. His hair is freshly washed and he’s wearing ratty sweats.
Brad hasn’t seen Nate for months, but the last time he did, Nate was in fine shape, fingers unsplinted. Brad had kept staring at his mouth and wondering if he had the guts to ruin their friendship by kissing it. Now Nate’s lip is split and he’s talking about fundraising for non-profits and damage control for some upstart congressman’s fuck-up on the hill. Nate extricates himself from the conversation politely and sets the phone back in its cradle.
“Brad,” he says, sitting down heavily on the couch. “You look great! I thought you were supposed to be in Oceanside beating new recruits up. ” He shakes his head. “I don’t even know why I’m surprised at you showing up.”
Brad stares at him. He says sternly, “You should be in bed.”
Nate waves him aside and says dryly, “Can’t stop progress. Sit down, can I get you anything?”
Brad opens his mouth to say 'no, he’s fine,' but the phone rings and Nate holds up a finger on the undamaged hand and picks it up. “Steve, hi! I was waiting to hear from you…we should be set with the July figures…no, not off the top of my head. Let me check.” Brad watches Nate wrestle his laptop open. He pages through an excel spread sheet. “Yeah…46.5…no, no, it’s not great, but it’s not completely embarrassing either….you heard…thank you…I’m recovering fine…all right…well thank you…yes. I’ll let you know when we know more…Goodbye, Steve.”
Nate sighs and sets the phone down again. There are dark circles under his eyes, but he’s lit by a sort of manic energy. “Right, did you say if you wanted anything?” he asks, shutting his laptop again.
The phone rings again and Nate shakes his head. “I’m so sorry. Help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge, my sister stocked an entire grocery store in there when I got back.” He pushes the talk button on the phone and says in a falsely jocular voice, “Hello, Ian…yes, I just spoke to Steve…not exactly, but we’re optimistic.”
Brad shakes his head. He can’t believe this. Nate has actually lost his mind.
Nate brushes hair out of his eyes and reopens the laptop, typing away one-handed. Brad says, “Put the phone down, sir.”
Nate mouths ‘I can’t’ back at him and then nods like whoever is on the other end can see him. He writes something down on a post-it and tacks it to the table next to piles of accordion file.
“Sir, I’m going to count to three, and by then you better have put the phone down.”
Nate shakes his head and smiles apologetically, going through more statistics with this Ian who is clearly taking advantage of Nate in his weakened state, making Nate calm him down from a snit after his car was T-boned and attacked by hired thugs in Pakistan. Ian should be prostrate, thanking the heavens he's never met Brad.
Brad raises his brows and says, “1…2…I’m not kidding, sir,” he shoots Nate a dark look,“…3.” Nate ignores him entirely and Brad has to wrest the phone from him. He plays dirty and pokes Nate in the bad arm to get him to drop it. Nate lets go with a sound of pain that makes Brad feel only momentarily guilty. Brad brings the phone up to his ear and says, “Nate will have to call you back, right now he’s being sent to bed.”
“Brad!” Nate says, eyebrows drawn down over his eyes. “That was an extremely important phone call.” He reaches for the phone and Brad holds it up out of his reach.
Brad blows out a disgusted breath. “Not more important than you and your health,” he replies.
“Brad, give me the phone back or so help me—”
“Will you give up and go to bed if I offer to suck your dick?” Brad asks, arms crossed.
Nate stops protesting and gapes at him. “I…er...” He blinks owlishly at Brad and blushes a deep red.
Brad grins and shakes the phone at Nate. “Let me just put this away then.”
Brad’s sixteenth birthday sucked. His entire family forgot, Poke was unsympathetic because he was pretty much knee deep in his girlfriend. He took a quiz in study hall with some really embarrassing answers about his sex life that Poke then lost. The entire world probably knows he's gay now.
His quite possibly actually mentally defective sister was getting married to a most definitely mentally defective and possibly also disease ridden idiot with mob ties, and she laughed at him for having a crush on Nate Fick, a senior dating the homecoming queen and the most gorgeous guy to attend John Hughes High, who Brad had never even spoken to. Brad had pointed out that they were to years apart and he couldn't just walk up to him and she'd replied that Nate Fick was in his study hall and he could totally walk up to him. That made him nervous about the damn sex quix all over again.
Brad had then proceeded to strike out at the dance, get cornered about eight different times by Ray Person and once possibly might’ve felt Ray’s erection against his leg. And if that wasn’t enough he had to watch Pupi Kaka, the extremely strange exchange student from Greece staying with his Grandparents hook up with the captain of the track team while Brad went home alone. To make matters worse, he got laughed at by his younger brother because he was relegated to the sofa for the night, only to then have an extremely embarrassing conversation with his dad who thought his poor gay son had his first crush on none other than his sister’s definitely mentally defective and possibly also disease ridden idiot fiancé.
But the day after Brad’s sixteenth birthday was probably the best day of his life up ‘til then. The cars were just pulling away from the curb and everybody was waving his sister (who was hilariously whacked out of her mind on Quaaludes) and mentally-defective off. Brad was thinking to himself how much he hated his life and then a funny thing happened. The road cleared revealing none other than Nate Fick leaning against his classic hot rod, dressed in loosened combat boots, a mint-colored v-neck, and grey stovepipe jeans. It killed Brad a little how perfectly dressed he was. Nate tossed his bangs out of his eyes and smiled the heart-stopping smile that had been driving Brad nuts in study hall for three months. He caught Brad's eye and waved. Waved. At Brad. No that couldn't be right.
Brad loosened his wedding-issue bowtie and looked around himself. He was the only one standing directly across from Nate at the church steps. “Me?” he mouthed at Nate and Nate nodded back, mouthing “Of course, you.”
Brad swallowed and walked down the stairs to meet him on the sidewalk. “Hi,” he said tentatively. “What are you doing here?”
“I heard you were here,” Nate replied and the corner of his mouth lifted in a smile. He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked up at Brad from underneath his eyelashes. “Do you have to go to the reception?”
“Yeah,” Brad answered. He swallowed.
“Can I call you later?” Nate asked, head cocked.
“Yeah…no,” Brad replied.
“No, I can’t call you later?”
“What?” Brad replied. “No, I mean…I’m not going to the reception.”
Nate smiled up at him and gestured to his car with his head. Brad nodded, following a step or two behind Nate, enjoying the view of Nate in his jeans without having to worry for once about being caught. He couldn’t believe his good luck. Unless Nate just wanted to be friends or shoot the shit about girls. Because he was…you know, straight.
But today, the day after Brad’s sixteenth birthday, really was the best day of his life. Because when they got to Nate’s house, Nate had a cake waiting for him and a birthday kiss, which was really more of Nate pushing Brad up against the wall, nibbling at his lower lip, and then fucking Brad’s mouth with his tongue until Brad thought he was leaving marks in the wallpaper with his nails.
“First kiss, huh?” Nate said, sliding his mouth over Brad’s jaw. Brad nodded weakly and Nate kissed him again. While technically Brad’s first kiss was in the front seat of a dummy car in autoshop with Ray Person’s erection on his leg, he was refusing to count it. He liked this one with Nate smiling against his mouth and his hand firm on Brad’s hip much better.
“What brought this on?” Brad breathed when Nate backed away. Nate dug in his back jean-pocket and pulled out folded set of papers. Brad recognized it instantly—the incredibly detailed sex quiz—and blushed bright red.
Nate smiled at him. “I rather like the answer to number 5, but something tells me you’re not quite ready for that one.”
Brad stripped off his clothes, plaid shorts, and white music t-shirt forgotten on the mossy ground as he toed off his sneakers. He turned around, hooked both thumbs in his boxers and then shoved them down his thighs with a saucy grin at Nate.
“You’re crazy,” Nate replied, sitting on a log, water bottle pressed to his forehead. Sweat ran in rivulets down his back, prickling his skin, making him feel itchy and tight. He was never going hiking during the hottest part of the day again.
“C’mon!” Brad said, standing before him, unselfconscious of his nakedness.
Nate dropped his eyes. “No, I’m good.”
Brad shrugged, tossed of a little ironic salute and then swan-dove off the cliff into the river below.
“Jesus! Feet first, you idiot!” Nate cursed, springing up from the log. He ran to the edge, seeing only ripples rotating outward. “Brad!” Nate shouted, scrambling down the rock face. There was still no sign of him. Nate didn’t even think, he jumped into the river, swimming to the place where Brad disappeared and diving down. He didn’t see Brad anywhere, the water was too murky, running fast and churning up the sand and sediment at the bottom.
Finally, numb with shock and fear, he swam back to the surface.
A great splash came from behind him, and Nate turned around to see Brad dragging in lungfuls of air, eyelashes turned gold by water. He laughed uproariously. Nate stroked over, dragging him in for a vicious, desperate kiss. He clung to Brad’s back and gripped tight at his skull. “You asshole,” he repeated over and over before kissing Brad again. Despite the cold water, Nate felt like he was still burning up in the sun. He couldn’t get enough air. Brad kissed him back, gentling his desperation, and stroking over his back with a soothing hand.
“I’m sorry,” Brad apologized into his mouth, treading water to keep them up, holding Nate tight to him. “Just trying to get you into the water…”
Nate made an outraged noise and dunked Brad under. He turned and swam hard for the edge, heaving himself out of the water and onto the rocky outcropping with one push. His clothes squelched, sticking to his body, water rushing out. Nate tugged his shirt away from his body and shook his head. “You are such a jerk!” he called over his shoulder.
Brad pulled himself up out of the water behind him. Nate determinedly didn’t turn around even when he started talking, “So uh…I didn’t know you felt that way.” Nate shook his head and didn’t say anything. Brad came up behind him, hand on Nate’s shoulder. “Have I totally fucked my chances with you?”
Nate turned his head, knowing that he was pouting a little bit. “No, but you’re definitely buying me dinner. A nice dinner. Steak, even.”
Brad nosed along his cheekbone and pressed himself along Nate’s back. “That sounds fair. Any interest in getting back in the water now that you’re all wet?”
Nate turned in the circle of Brad’s arms, leaning up to lick into his mouth. “I could be…persuaded.”
There’s sweat running down his back and prickling into his eyes under his helmet. Rain’s coming down hard and it seeps down the back of his collar.
“C’mon, c’mon,” he says, revving his engine and waiting for his crew to realign the wheels.
Nate, his crew chief, claps him on the shoulder. “Calm down, you’re in good shape,” he says and Brad has the odd experience of hearing him through his communications helmet as well as directly before him. He nods his head and tries to smile. The last bolt is tightened and Nate grins at him, hair flattened to his forehead by water.
The crew all steps obediently back and out of the way as Brad roars up out of the pit, practically flying onto the track. He rejoins the other riders just as they hit the corner, accelerating hard going into the turn and decelerating as they come out. Brad loves this track because its longest straight is 1,068 meters and though it has almost more right turns than any other track, Brad would happily take them just for that straight.
He weaves past two riders for the Honda team when they hit the straight out of the 7th turn. He still can’t believe it’s raining in April in Qatar. His helmet keeps beading up with water. Only two more laps to go. He can hear Ray shouting inside his helmet—“watch out for Pramac! Niccolo Canepa’s going to fuck you up the butt!”—and Nate’s quiet exhortations for Ray to be quiet.
Brad breathes deep, hits the next corner smoothly, and feels like his bike is setting sail. Last lap. Brad gets this tingly feeling. He just knows he’s got it locked. When he hits the last straight, he floors the engine, zooming past Valentino Rossi and over the finish. Inside his helmet his crew erupts into cheers.
Brad grins, raising both arms in victory as the track announcer shouts first in Arabic, then in French, and finally in English, “Win for Ducati Marlboro! Debut racer Bradley Colbert roars over the finish line!”
It’s his first race of the season, of the whole fuckin’ class, and he won it!
That night after all the festivities have died down he lies with Nate and Ray next to the hotel pool, staring at the sky. It stopped raining hours ago, and now the air is heavy with humidity.
Brad’s known Ray forever, since he was first coming up the circuit. When he signed with Ducati, Ray was part of the package. But Nate’s new. A recent graduate of Stanford’s engineering program, he was hired right out of college by Ducati as a grease-monkey after he built some two-stroke that was projected to break all previous speed records. He’s constantly tooling with Brad’s engine.
Brad’s still in his suit—tie hanging loose around his neck and cuffs unbuttoned—from the celebratory party where Ducati trotted him out in front of everybody who mattered in the racing world. Ray and Nate got to hit the Qatari night scene while he was prodded to actually try smiling at people. Nate hauled Ray back after Brad’s cocktail party ended either because he was tired, or because he knew in some way that Brad needed company.
“Thank fucking Christ we’re heading to Jerez next, there are no fucking girls here!” Ray says, waving around a bottle of champagne. “I know you two celibate fuckheads don’t care that there isn’t any decent pussy around, but I do.”
Nate snorts and shifts on his deck chair, pillowing his head on his arm. He’s only in a v-neck and jeans, lounging lazily.
Ray answers this with, “Okay, I know you have an excuse, fairy boy, but Brad doesn’t.”
Brad grabs the champagne from him and takes a long swig. He sets the bottle down and then pauses, turning back to Nate. “Wait, you’re gay?”
Nate smiles and looks towards the sky. He doesn’t answer.
“Seriously, Brad! You didn’t know?” Ray chastises him, stealing the bottle back. “You’re so self-involved!”
“Shut up, Ray,” Brad replies without heat. He catches Nate’s eye and they share a smile. Nate’s eyelashes seem to glow in the poolside lights. Brad knows he’s staring, but he can’t look away. It shouldn’t change anything, but it does. “Ray?”
“What?” Ray replies.
Brad shoots him a look and says, “You drank all the champagne, go get us another bottle.”
Ray grumbles, but he struggles to his feet and stumbles back towards the hotel. Brad snickers.
Nate props himself up on his elbows and says, “Is this going to be a problem?”
Brad shakes his head, “No,” and reaches across to drag Nate’s deckchair in close.
“Ah, well, I won’t be your experiment,” Nate cautions.
Brad leans over both armrests and says, “Noted.” It’s easy with champagne and the win under his belt to press his lips to Nate’s mouth. Nate makes a small sound in the back of his throat, and reaches up to cup the back of Brad’s head. He touches his tongue to Brad’s lip hesitantly, only firming it when Brad leans more of his weight over the armrests so that they’re not catching him awkwardly in the ribs.
He likes kissing Nate. Brad doesn’t have a whole lot of time for the activity and dating gives him hives, but he thinks he could do this a lot. His mouth's a soft sweet crush against Brad’s, and he hauls Brad closer so that he can kiss him at just the right angle. Brad likes the way Nate thinks, rolling fully onto Nate’s chair so that he’s blanketing him, mouths coming together and apart with obscene sounds that go straight to his dick.
“Oh my god, seriously!” Ray shouts, startling them apart. He clunks down at the foot of Brad’s chair and flicks his knee. “You are so easy!” Brad rolls his eyes, ignoring him in favor of watching Nate carefully. Nate’s blushing, but he squeezes Brad’s fingers in his own. Ray shakes his head and thrusts the champagne bottle at Nate. “I can already see you’re going to be a bad influence! How many right turns at Circuito De Jerez?” he quizzes.
Brad replies, “Eight.”
“How many left turns?”
Ray points an accusing finger at him and says, “Hah! Your brain is already melting! Six!”
Brad raises his brows. “Five left turns, Ray, you’re thinking of Automodrome Brno!” Nate bursts out laughing and Brad grins with him, saying, “It's okay, retard! We still love you. Why don’t you leave the adults in peace?”
Alicia had been seeing the Oceanside Viking Surf God at the beach for years now. Nobody, not even Jaime, with her perfect long blonde hair and 34 double D boobs, had ever worked up the courage to talk to him. They just suntanned and speculated. He was one of the best surfers on the waves, probably a man in uniform if his haircut and habit of disappearing for long stretches of time was anything to go by. He had a horrible tattoo which somehow, unfairly, didn’t decrease his allure. In fact every girl in the group agreed, transcending type and preference, that he was one of the hottest guys they'd ever seen.
Alicia would like to say she'd never thought of him on days that she didn't see him at the beach, but she was at least sure that among her group of friends she wasn't alone. They'd probably all imagined the day he'd walk up to their little collection of towels and say hey.
He was back at the beach again today and Jaime was trying to convince Sarah, the only one of them who surfed, to get out there and talk to him.
“He goes out further than I do,” Sarah protested, “If I try to follow him I’ll probably injure myself.”
Jaime got a gleam in her eyes that said it would be worth it, but Alicia shook her head and patted Sarah on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. Jaime just doesn’t want to admit she’s too chicken shit to admit she’s been perving on him for years.”
Jaime pushed her sunglasses down her nose. “Pot, kettle.”
Alicia grinned and took a sip of peach Snapple. “Thank god he’s regular like clockwork.”
Jaime shook her head. “I view it as a curse. We totally would’ve forgotten about him if he’d stopped showing up here.”
They’d been coming to the beach every second Saturday of the month that the weather was good since high school. She turned over to sun her back and tried not to think about it.
At that moment the Oceanside Viking Surf God walked out of the waves, heading up the beach. He thrust his surfboard into the sand and pushed his wetsuit down to his hips. Water beaded on his chest and down over his abs. They stared.
Jaime bit her lip. “God, his fuck cuts…”
Alicia said, “Jesus, Jaime! Sex lines.”
She waved Alicia off with a blasé hand motion. “Fuck cuts, sex lines, hip bones…whatever.”
Sarah sighed and told them, “We’re so pathetic.”
The Oceanside Viking Surf God walked past them, heading to a guy on a beach blanket with a pair of aviators perched on his nose as he read a Chuck Palahniuk novel. His pale shoulders were already turning pink in the sun.
“Two cute guys,” Jaime said mournfully. “We need to sac up.” Alicia sighed with her.
“Orrrrrrrrr…not,” Sarah pointed out.
“What?” Alicia asked and Sarah gestured back at Surf God and his friend. They shared a kiss and then Surf God leaned over and started rubbing sunscreen onto the other guy’s shoulders.
“Shit,” Jaime said, pulling her sunglasses off her face.
Alicia nodded. “Oh man, I’m so glad we didn’t have the balls to go up to him.”
They all laughed.
A fact of Nate and Brad’s cohabitation is that they have to go on separate grocery runs to separate stores. Nate likes Whole Foods and Trader Joes and little gourmet places with sustainable agendas and 20 dollar jars of jam. Once when they were in San Mateo to visit a friend of Brad’s, he dragged Brad into the Draegers before they got back on the 101 South, lamenting that there weren’t any in Southern California and how that was probably in violation of Nate’s amendment rights. Admittedly this resulted in an awesome passion fruit mousse cake that Brad thought about for weeks after, but it still meant he had to trundle along after Nate as he oohed and aahed over olive oil and imported hard salami.
Brad likes white bread, Oscar Meyer bacon, ground chuck beef, Horizon skim milk, romaine hearts, string beans, a little garlic, and De Cecco pasta. He’s a fairly simple guy. All he needs is a Safeway to find these things. And he doesn’t feel like he’s made a dent in his wallet after going grocery shopping. Nate’s a different story. Brad never realized, but he’s kind of fiendish in the kitchen. He trawls recipe blogs and goes to the farmer’s market. He has a copy of The Joy of Cooking and Harold McGee is hero and when he’s on the treadmill he watches Top Chef and Bobby Flay. Watching cooking shows while he tries to run makes Brad kind of ill.
If he has time to cook, it’s peering over Mark Bitman or the complete guide to cooking with Buffalo Mozzarella. So Brad kind of hates going grocery shopping with him. He takes forever and doesn’t bring a list, so Brad can’t even try to hurry him along by picking up items while Nate’s contemplating tomatoes. There is no hurrying him.
Usually when Nate hits the grocery store it’s coming home from work so Brad doesn’t even have to involve himself in the process. He’s realized Nate doesn’t want him there anymore than he wants to be there.
But sometimes they’ll wake up and realize they’ve run out of toilet paper and eggs, and Brad decides he wants more cereal and he just feels douchey ordering Nate to go by himself like he’s his mom or something. On those days, he has great fun sneaking things into the cart that’ll give Nate a heart attack as they’re laying them out on the belt at the checkout line. Hohos, Kraft macaroni and cheese, ‘Nilla Wafers, Gushers, and HiC juice boxes all make it into the cart after clever espionage. He used to think of it with a little bit of triumph, but one Saturday morning shattered all that.
When the checkout girl rang the Gushers up, Nate gave him a look. “And you wonder why we don’t go to the grocery store with the toy aisle,” he said impishly. He laughed at Brad’s raised eyebrow and kissed him right there in front of the checkout girl, despite the fact that Nate hated PDA more than he hated Velveeta.
“I was thinking of making bacon cheeseburgers tonight,” he said against Brad’s mouth.
“With blue cheese?” Brad asked.
Nate handed his credit card over to the blushing cashier and said, “I hear you like American.”
And while Brad’s spy games may have been for nothing, and shopping for groceries with Nate is and always will be a pain in the ass, he’s got to admit, the fringe benefits make it all worth it.
.7 From this fic Here
Brad’s going over accounts on the evening Nate’s supposed to fly in. He told Brad not to bother picking him up, when it would only be another hour driving right back. So Brad waits, trying to concentrate on why the numbers for January aren’t adding up. He's run them about eight times and no dice.
It’s raining out. Nate’ll probably be delayed.
“You’re freakin’ out,” Ray says across the room.
Brad looks up to find Ray staring at him. He rolls his eyes. “You’re mistaken.”
“Bullshit, I’m mistaken. You’re freaking out,” Ray repeats. He gets to his feet and walks over to top off Brad’s glass of Tempranillo.
Brad catches the neck of bottle and tips it back up. “I don’t need another glass, Ray.”
“Well, I got Quaaludes, if you want to try that.”
“Ray, I’m not freaking out,” he replies. But he might be. He hasn’t seen Nate for months and it was all just one brief weekend, and then Nate had go back and do crime-fighting stuff, and this was the first time he could get away and it was only for a week. It could go wrong. It could go wrong in countless ways. He could’ve met somebody, or remember Brad differently, or decide this long distance relationship is not worth it. Never mind the fact that he has talked to Nate by e-mail or phone at least once a day since he left.
Yeah, he’s definitely freaking out.
Fox rolls up onto her paws and lets out a shallow whine. Her tail starts thumping wildly. Brad walks over with his wineglass, bolting down the last dregs. “Is he here, girl?” he asks, scratching behind her ear.
She whines again and a few seconds later there’s a faint knock at the front door. Fox races out, yipping excitedly, and Ray follows her out of the room, picking up his coat and keys before throwing the front door open with a solid bang that Brad thinks might’ve shook the walls.
“Nate, my brother, so glad you’re here!” Brad hears echoing off the high ceilings. “Brad’s shitting himself in the office, so I’ll get out of your hair so that you can do naughty and hopefully soothing things to him.”
Brad lets out a sigh and hangs his head. He goes into the hall to greet Nate and to cut Ray off before he says anything else even more embarrassing, the older and more reserved Shadow at his heels. Nate is bending down in the doorway, petting Fox. Ray smiles over Nate’s head and delivers a sharp salute. He dashes out into the rain, with Nate calling goodbye after him.
Brad stares at him and Nate climbs to his feet, dusting his knees off. He’s wet from the rain, and his eyelashes drip crystal. He smiles softly and says, “It’s good to see you.”
Brad swallows. He doesn’t know how he’s going to cross the distance between them. Nate looks so preppy, he’s in highwaters and loafers, the perfect picture of an east coast boy and what are they doing? Somehow his feet get him to the door and then he’s pushing the door closed and thrusting Nate back against it.
Nate catches his mouth, sucking on his lower lip and combing his fingers over the fade at the back of Brad’s neck. Brad forgot how consuming Nate’s kisses were. He forgot how red his mouth was, how he always seemed to smell of bergamot, how perfectly they fit together. He pushes Nate harder against the door and Nate accepts it, moaning into his mouth and tightening his hand at the back of Brad’s neck.
Their mouths slide apart so that they can breathe and Brad holds him tight, running his nose along Nate’s cheekbone. He feels drunk, like he had that extra glass Ray was attempting to pour. “Hello,” he says.
Nate huffs out a short laugh, and pushes his thumb at the line of muscle running straight into his skull, massaging it. “I guess you’re happy to see me too.”
It was going terribly. Brad was in a horrible mood. He hated his swordfish. He wished he’d stuck to water instead of the red wine the sommelier had picked for him. Hell he didn’t even like wine. He couldn’t believe he’d worn a dinner jacket for this. Nate sat across the table from him, fingers tented, features steadily resolving into a tight-lipped frown. It had taken Nate two weeks to book a table here, but Brad couldn’t stop himself from complaining.
He just couldn’t get over how angry he was at the latest buffoonery that Encino Man had gotten up to, and it was poisoning everything. Finally Nate waved down the waiter with a pantomimed gesture for signing the check. When it came he handed off his credit card without checking the bill, and then wiped his mouth, calculated the tip when it came back, and stuck his credit card back into his wallet.
Brad blinked at him.
“Up, Brad,” Nate said and gestured to the door.
Brad stood up and found himself being herded out of the restaurant and into an alleyway. “Nate, what—” Nate pushed him up against a brick wall, and efficiently pulled his belt free of his pants, before working on Brad’s jeans. Brad goggled at him. “I don’t—”
“Don’t speak,” Nate replied, pulling his dick free and encircling it with his fist. Brad swallowed as Nate dropped to his knees and sucked the head of his dick into his mouth. He teased, tongue swirling, pushing into the slit, holding himself right at the tip. Brad stared at him, mouth agape. Nate looked up, caught his eyes, and slowly brought his mouth down the shaft, until Brad hit the back of his throat.
“Jesus,” Brad cried out, not knowing what to do with his hands. Nate sucked hard, bobbing his head, coaxing a full body shiver out of Brad. He pulled off, hand sliding the take up the slack, to stare at Brad. Nate’s mouth was that abused red it got if he so much as ran his tongue across it. He blinked up at Brad and smiled lazily, hand still stroking slowly up and down, sticky with his own spit.
Brad moaned and trembled and finally Nate bent his head again to lick the tip. He pushed hard under the crown of his dick with his thumb and sucked, mouth sliding to meet his fingers. Brad couldn’t help it, he had to touch Nate. He stroked nerveless fingers through Nate’s perfectly gelled hair, and nearly comes apart at the sound Nate’s made, mouth stretched so tight around his cock.
He breathed out through his nose and swallowed, trying so hard to last. But the way Nate looked at him, the way his cock looked sliding between Nate’s plush lips. He couldn’t take it. He came bent in on himself, fingers caught in Nate’s hair. Nate swallowed convulsively around him, through his orgasm and the last aftershocks. He pulled off, while Brad leaned back against the wall, breathing hard, and carefully put him back into his pants.
As he zippd Brad up and rebuckles his belt, he said “I hope you’re in a better mood now.”
“I—yeah,” Brad mumbled, still not quite sure how that just happened.
“Good, you can buy me a burger for making me miss my four star tuna tartare,” Nate replied. He brought a hand across his mouth, wiping it off.
Brad leaned in and pressed a kiss to the corner of Nate’s mouth, tongue darting out to catch the taste of his own come. Nate made an amused noise in the back of his throat and turned his head to make it a real kiss.
Brad’s not sure how he managed before Nate.
Ignore my complete and utter fuckery of accepted historical fact. I couldn’t very well have Nate sneaking into the ludus magnus to get his rocks off, could I? Ugh, setting this in the time of empire was an ill-conceived notion. OH WELL, we’re here now.
He’s Suione. The man in the ring. Tall, with his blond hair shorn short. Nate doesn’t understand anything about the games, but he knows the Suione is good. He clips the Baktrian fighter in the jaw with the hilt of his sword and then dumps him in the sand. The crowd roars and the Suione bends down and rips out his throat, raising up again with crimson stained fists. Nate drops his eyes, and when he raises them up again he finds the Suione staring right into his box, gaze arrowing straight through him.
“Is he looking at me?” Nate’s sister breathes, grabbing at his elbow. “He’s so strong and graceful of form.”
“Could be,” Nate says softly, unable to look away from Brad.
Nate agrees with great reluctance to go with his friends to the Ludus Magnus. He’s never had much stomach for gladiators, but Servillius and Clodius won’t stop badgering him until he agrees to come. Nate sighs, and allows himself to be dragged out.
The ludus is saturated with the smell of sweat and a sharper mettallic scent that Nate thinks of as anger. They’re quickly shown the gallery by a circumspect slave, and Clodius and Servillius laugh and joke with each other, wondering if the Barbarians even had the facility to speak. Nate’s only half paying attention, but he doesn’t know why he’s surprised to see the Suione, running through forms in the practice ring with a wooden sword. He stops, watching the way the Suione’s muscles bunch and shift under his oiled skin.
“I see that the Suione has caught the young tribune’s eye,” the master of the ludus says. He sticks his tongue in his cheek and turns to the slave. “Summon Brad.”
Nate colors. “No, please, I importune you not to…”
His protests fall on deaf ears.
So let’s say that Nate’s sister does something stupid the next time they go see the games and somehow the timely intervention of Brad saves her life, so as a reward Nate’s dad purchases Brad as a household slave and as a bodyguard for Nate’s sister. Because, you know, Nate could protect her, but the next time Nate’s legion goes off conquering he has to leave and obviously can’t take her with him. Also, he is a very important man and must go off time-wasting with other wastrels of the senatorial class. Thus, enter Brad, the bodyguard.
There were a good number of young men in the domus aside from Nate himself, but the sudden importation of the Suione—Brad, the lanista had called him—caused a stir. He was one of the tallest men any of them had ever beheld. Nate had only seen taller off the African coast.
He kept stumbling upon him standing to the side, taciturn and still. He seemed so curious, unlike anybody Nate had ever met. He found Brad’s steel-eyed gaze slightly daunting. Nearly every time he saw him Nate was compelled to ask Brad about himself, but every time he remembered the awkward audience at the ludus, Brad standing before him, arms held to his sides, like he was horse flesh on display. The thought made his stomach turn.
He walked out onto the peristyle seeking some sun and found Brad engaged in a near silent game of tabula with his adoring sister. He backed right out again onto the hem of his mother’s dress.
“Nate, what is the meaning of this?” she said, tugging her skirts away from his feet. Two slaves reached out to straighten the stola he’d pulled into disarray.
He bit his lip. “I apologize, I find myself out of sorts.”
She batted the slaves away and shot him a hard look. “You’ve been out sorts for nearly a fortnight. Whatever has possessed you to wander around like a timid rabbit?”
“I…” he didn’t answer quickly enough.
She looked past him at the little garden terrace where Brad and Julia were playing. “Is it the Suione?”
“You faced down Decebalus’s warrior hoards. Surely you aren’t unnerved by a simple gladiator?”
“Mother, I do not fear him, he simply—I am unsure of his measure.”
She nodded. “I fear little Julia is in love.”
His mother’s eyes sharpened upon him. “Try to master yourself. We have so little time before you leave us for Petra.”
Nate spread his hands before him in supplication and made a quick exit.
A few days later Nate found himself unable to sleep, he finally gave in when with the weak dawn light streamed in through his window. He pulled on a simple tunic, two thick red vertical stripes down the fabric indicating his status as part of the senatorial class. The domus was deathly silent. Everybody else was safely ensconced in their beds.
When he went out into the atrium, he found Brad, clad only in subligaculum, running through sword formations on the fine sand. His body shone with sweat and he seemed so engrossed, moving with a quickness that his size should’ve made impossible. His two swords seemed to spin around him. Nate must’ve made some sound, because Brad’s sword arm dropped back to his side and he rotated to face Nate.
“Sorry,” Nate said and then cursed himself silently. He hardly needed to apologize to a slave in his own home.
Brad dipped his head and stepped back, ceding Nate space on the sand. Nate hesitated for a moment and then stepped off the slate tile to join him. It couldn’t hurt anybody to train with Brad, maybe he would even tire himself enough for rest. He ran through a few quick stretches and rotated his shoulders to loosen them. Everything felt stiff and tight. He didn’t know whether it was nerves or poor rest. He kept his back turned to Brad, because he knew he wouldn’t be able to concentrate at all if he looked at him.
Brad said suddenly in unaccented latin, “I make you uncomfortable.”
Nate caught his breath and turned to look over his shoulder at him. He could lie, but that would only make him a fool in the face of what they both knew well. “Yes.”
“Julia speaks much of your exploits. She says they expect you to be made praetor soon and be given command of your own legion,” Brad replied. “Surely you cannot be afraid of my blade.”
Nate laughed, rotating fully around to face him. “I am not afraid of your blade, Suione.”
“Really,” Brad said dryly with a small smile.
Nate held out a hand for one of Brad’s swords. Brad handed it over wordlessly and then struck up a defensive posture with the other. Nate lifted his chin and tested the weight and balance of the wooden weapon before nodding. He struck first, a test swipe that Brad caught with his sword just above his chest.
“Not bad,” he said with tilted head. Nate rolled his eyes and traded a series of quick blows as Brad pressed in. Brad had the advantage of both strength and reach, but Nate was more agile. They fought playfully but intently, neither holding an advantage for long. Brad had an untheatrical utilitarian style when he wasn’t fighting in the ring and he appeared tireless. Nate wiped sweat out of his eyes and only narrowly escaped being smacked with the flat of Brad’s blade. He deflected the blow and struck back, Brad’s parry strong enough to rattle his arm. Brad raised his brows at Nate’s expression.
Nate narrowed his eyes, and stepped back, giving himself a moment, before pressing in again with a flurry of strikes. Brad defended himself, finally appearing to lose ground. Nate feinted with his sword and then followed it with an open-fisted strike to Brad’s chest that knocked him to the sand. He knelt over him, ready to put the sword to his throat, but Brad kicked out from under him. The world spun around him and he found himself on his back, wrists pinned to the sand, with Brad leaning over him.
He breathed hard, blinking up into Brad’s impenetrable blue gaze. He was helpless in the face of Brad’s wrestling tactics. Brad shifted and his thigh lined up perfectly with Nate’s sudden awkward erection. It forced a hiss out of Nate’s mouth and he could feel his face flame up.
“Ah,” Brad said, like suddenly he understood everything. He whispered, “Do you yield?”
“Yes,” Nate replied softly, desperately wanting to shut his eyes against Brad’s unreadable stare, but unwilling to surrender that ground as well. Brad leaned down and pressed their mouths together, catching Nate’s startled outward breath in his mouth. He nibbled on Nate’s lower lip hard enough to cause pain, but than smoothed it with the flat of his tongue. Nate moaned and tipped his head back further on his neck, straining for more.
Brad pushed his tongue into Nate’s mouth and let go of one Nate’s wrists to cup his jaw. Nate sighed and arched up against him. He dragged his freed hand along the groove down Brad’s back, settling his fingertips at the dimples above Brad’s spine, pressing down to push their hips closer together. Brad made an agonized sound and tore his mouth away.
Nate’s eyelids fluttered over his eyes, and when he finally focused he found Brad staring down at him, face flushed and eyes glassy. Nate was breathing hard, heartbeat pounding in his head. Brad lashes dipped down against his cheek and he reached one long fingered hand out to run tentative fingers along Nate’s swollen lower lip. The light touch burned and Nate shut his eyes and dropped his cheek back to the sand. Brad lingered a moment longer and then rolled off of him. He got to his feet, back to Nate, hitching one of the fallen swords up from the sand. Nate was slower to get up.
“Forgive the impropriety,” Brad said softly, muscles in his shoulders tense.
Nate swallowed and said, “I see no impropriety to forgive.” He straightened his tunic and disappeared back to his room.
Arg, I still have prompts to finish! I feel so remiss.