The Fix


By Anne Tenino

(scroll down for a biographical note regarding Anne)



Jurgen

“I don’t want to go out tonight, Jurgen. I’m tired. I worked all day.” Nik was halfway between a pout and a snit.

“Margaret wants to see you. Ian’s going to meet us there, too.”
“Can’t you just call them and ask them to come over here? My feet hurt. I worked all day.”

Hell. “I worked all day, too.” Jurgen stuffed his hands in his front pockets because he was liable to pull Nik out the door in frustration. He needed Nik to cooperate. He might see dragging Nik behind him and stuffing him into the car as a kind of cooperation, but one thing Jurgen had learned in the past year was that Nik liked to be manhandled in bed. Only.




Nik made a face. “You get to sit down—”

“On a police motorcycle.” Jurgen tried to head off the rant. Did no good, of course. Nik just ignored him and went on.


“—I have to stand behind a register, serving customers I don’t even like in that damn store. I just graduated with a Master’s degree, and what am I doing? I’m back in the one-horse town I grew up in, working for my parents, who don’t even need an employee. They just want me to have a job.”

“You wanted to have a job,” Jurgen reminded him. Then he wished he’d kept his damn mouth shut.

“I have to have a job, Jurgen!”

If you had a dollar for every time you said that, you wouldn’t. Jurgen just looked at Nik until Nik threw his hands in the air, turned around, and stalked off to their bedroom, muttering to himself. “What are you doing?” Jurgen asked him.

“I’m changing so we can go out!” Nik said, right before the bedroom door slammed behind him.

Jurgen made a mental note that cooperation wasn’t that hard to get if you tried.

* * * *

A few years ago, Jurgen worked on a stalking case. He was spitting mad at the ineffective laws and the sheer terror the victim felt by the time they had enough to arrest her stalker. Jurgen thought he understood her pain.

He hadn’t understood shit.

Being stalked was about second-guessing yourself every single molecular second of the day. Every breath, every move, every unconscious vibration in your muscles became conscious and present. Wondering if the security had all been a lie. Some other reality. Wondering if being happy and in control was all just some big fucking fraud. Being stalked was bone-deep insecurity.

Now Jurgen had an inkling of what it might really be like. His problem wasn’t as big a deal as being stalked by a person that could cause you harm or even kill you. His stalker just made him feel insecure for what had to be the first time in his life. It made him feel like the best part of his life might end. He wasn’t being stalked by a person. He was being stalked by a feeling. An overheard comment. And no one could help him except himself.

Nik was thinking about leaving him. Would leave him if Jurgen didn’t do something. Nik told his friend Sam he didn’t know why he’d moved in with Jurgen in the first place. Didn’t know why he’d given up that teaching position the University offered him after he graduated to move in with his boyfriend and live in the tiny town he’d grown up in and hated.

Jurgen refused to even think about why Nik talked to Sam about leaving but not to him. Long, emotional talks weren’t really something Jurgen was good at. Sam was good at that. He could accept that. But he didn’t like that Nik didn’t even tell him. He only told Sam.

Jurgen wasn’t the best talker but was good at was fixing shit. He knew that. So he focused on fixing the problem. Nik hated this town because he kept seeing people he grew up around. People who’d commented on his skin color and thought he was some kind of roadside attraction because he’d been adopted from India. Most of all Nik hated the assholes who tormented him in high school for being gay.

That right there, that was something Jurgen was going to fix. He even had a plan. Well, the beginning of one. He could deal with the worst of Nik’s high school bullies. Then Jurgen would figure out what else he needed to do to fix this. Fix himself or fix someone else or fix the house or whatever the fuck he needed to fix to make Nik stay.

The first step: get Nik to the Whitetail Rock Elks Club tonight.

* * * *

Nik was totally annoyed with him, because Jurgen dragged him here, sat him down at the bar next to Margaret, listened to him complain about the wine list consisting of “red, white, and pink”—“Not even rosé. Pink! Jeez, this town.”— ordered him a white wine (see? He could totally listen), then excused himself, whispering in Margaret’s ear on his way past.

Margaret started chattering away immediately, distracting Nik as planned.

The best Jurgen could hope for was that what he was about to do would more than make up for abandoning his boyfriend at the Elks Club. Not that Nik didn’t like Margaret. Nik and Margaret could talk for hours. Margaret was the token out lesbian in Whitetail Rock, and she and Nik liked to drink too much and make fun of the locals. Once Nik got over his snit, he’d have a good time.

Jurgen looked back across the smoky bar at Nik. You couldn’t actually smoke in the bar anymore, but somehow it always looked smoky inside the Whitetail Rock Elks Club. Nik was narrow-eyed, nostrils flared. He’d looked exactly like that the first time Jurgen saw him. Suspicious.

Jurgen winked.

Nik narrowed his eyes further and tossed his chin up before turning back at something Margaret said to him.

Jurgen’s heart squeezed into a little ball. That look always slayed him. Pride and self-defense. The first time Jurgen got past that look to the guy underneath it made him almost…weak-kneed. He had to white-knuckle the bathroom counter he was fucking Nik on to keep from going down.

At that moment the jukebox started wailing, “Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone.”

Jurgen shook his head at his lurching heart and pulled his thoughts out of his ass and back to the present. The song was the cover version by Exposed Innerds. Nik loved that band. What in the hell was the bar in Whitetail doing with a gay alternative hit in their jukebox? Maybe they didn’t even know Exposed Innerds was a gay band.

“Hey, Jurgen.” His cousin Ian’s voice cut through the song and the crowd near the door. Jurgen turned to look at Ian and the guy next to him.

“Ian.” He nodded. Ian was right on time, with Jurgen’s target in tow.

“You know Miller Harpe? Miller, this is Jurgen.” Social gestures didn’t really sit well on Ian, but it didn’t so much matter right now.

Remember me? I’m the guy whose boyfriend you harassed in high school. “We haven’t been formally introduced,” Jurgen said, staring at Miller.

“Uh…” Miller said. Oh, he knew Jurgen, all right. “You guys know each other?” he squeaked. He looked at Ian. “I thought you just moved here from California…?”

Ian smiled. That didn’t sit well on him, either. He looked like a shark. “Oh, Jurgen’s my cousin. That’s how I ended up here.”

“Maybe we should spend some time getting to know each other better, huh Miller?” Jurgen watched Miller’s head flip back to him when he spoke.

Miller swallowed. Ian answered, smiling at Jurgen now. “Fine by me. You know a quiet place where we can talk?”

Miller swallowed again. “We’re talking?” But he turned and walked between Ian and Jurgen out to the back deck. Not that he had a lot of choice. Just before they walked out of the bar, Jurgen risked a glance back at Nik.

Nik sat up straight on his barstool, knuckles white on the stem of his wineglass, other hand on his hip, glaring at Jurgen. Jurgen could practically hear the thought in his head. There’s a conspiracy afoot.

Damn straight.

* * * *

The first time Jurgen saw Nik, he took a two-by-four to the gut. That’s what it felt like. He was dumb enough to think it was lust.

Falling in love at the drop of a hat. It’s what all the men in his family did, apparently. His dad, his grandpa, two of his cousins. Not Ian, yet, but Jurgen had given up hope that Ian would avoid their particular patrilineal curse.

Ian hadn’t given up hope for himself. Seemed okay. A man had to have hope. Even if it didn’t do him any good in the end. When Ian showed up at Jurgen’s place last month and saw Nik living there with Jurgen, he gave Jurgen a long look and raised brows.

Jurgen met his eyes. What the hell else was he supposed to do? Pretend it hadn’t happened? He was in a relationship, dammit. Happy about it even. Not his problem Ian couldn’t quite get it.

Ian shook his head. “Not happening here, Jurgen.” Tapping his chest.

“We’ll see,” Jurgen said. “Someday you might meet someone.”
Ian looked at him skeptically. Jurgen almost felt bad for him. Poor guy wouldn’t know what hit him. That thought sustained Jurgen through all the smirking.

Ian showed some cooperation when Jurgen told him the plan at least. He agreed to help Jurgen with his “stupid-assed scheme” tonight. He lured Miller here, faking interest in a clandestine hook-up, and now he silently watched while Jurgen explained a few home truths to Miller.

“Miller, how many people have you told you’re gay?”

“I’m not g-guh…”

Jurgen stared at Miller. Ian sighed and folded his arms, looking bored. Jurgen had all the help he was gonna get there. He looked back at Miller and watched him chew some air.

“Why haven’t you told anyone, ever? Except the guys you hook up with?” Jurgen flicked a pointed look back at Ian. Miller looked over his shoulder. Ian watched something in the parking lot, ignoring both of them.

“‘Cause. I mean, ‘cause guys’d…you know.” He shrugged, looking at the decking. “My parents, too. They’d not understand, y’know? Mean, not many guys are gay, y’know?” Finally, he looked up at Jurgen, hoping for sympathy or understanding or something. Jurgen didn’t fucking know. He kept his face hard, even if he did kind of understand. This wasn’t the time to go soft.

“So, what you’re saying is you think if people knew, they’d treat you differently, right?”

Miller nodded almost eagerly. “Hell, yes, they would.”

“Whadya think they’d do?” Jurgen kept his voice soft. “Maybe yell shit at you, ignore you? Get violent?”

Miller looked at the deck now. “Maybe.”

“Yeah. Maybe. You know what would suck, Miller?” Jurgen took a page out of Nik’s book and made his voice friendly. Miller looked at up him suspiciously. He wasn’t completely stupid.

Jurgen went on when he remained silent. “It’d suck if one of those guys tormented you then came around your place at night, looking for some. Looking to stick his dick in you.”

Miller’s eyes got wide, and his face paled as he looked back down quickly.

“You got a nice body, Miller.” Jurgen let his voice get low and a little bit growly. Ian looked at him sharply and raised both eyebrows. Miller froze. Then he swallowed. He looked a little like a scared rodent. Jurgen took a step forward, got in his space. “I’m not really into big muscles, but Ian is.” Jurgen heard Ian snort softly, but he continued to stare down at Miller’s bowed head. “What if Ian just asked you to come out with him tonight ‘cause he just wanted to fuck you? Doesn’t give a shit about you, just wants to pry open your tight ass and fuck you. All that matters is that you’re into guys and buff. The ‘into guys’ is negotiable.” Jurgen heard Ian huff softly, but even above that he heard Miller swallow.

He was taking a risk, but he had a hunch Miller was one of those guys kinda like Nik. He wanted more than just sex. He wanted a guy who wanted him.

“Kinda like someone wanting you just for your skin color. Making a big deal out of it.”

Jurgen finally stepped back after a moment of silence, exhaling silently. “He’s not like that, you know. Ian. Not exactly. I’m just trying to make a point, Miller. You think you might get what the point is?” He kept his voice low and controlled.

Ian snorted derisively. “I think we all get the point, Jurgen.”

Miller’s unsteady voice rose over Ian’s. “Kinda like I did to Nik in high school. That’s your point, Jurgen. Knowing he was gay, but making fun of him around other guys. Then showing up at his place at night, looking for something. Commenting on his skin color. I’m not stupid, y’know.”


Nik

Once Margaret let him escape (after admitting that yes, there was a conspiracy, claiming it was for his own good, laughing at him for calling Jurgen a big, dumb asshole, and remarking yet again on what a cute pet name he had for Jurgen), Nik found Jurgen and his cousin Ian on the back deck of the Elks Club. With Miller Harpe? He still couldn’t believe his eyes. Jurgen, consorting with the enemy.

“Jurgen?” He couldn’t get over the feeling that he was interrupting a very tense—intense—moment.

Jurgen turned to him, and for a second Nik saw that thing again in his eyes. Whatever it was that Nik kept catching the last few days. In anyone else, Nik might be tempted to call it insecurity, but his boyfriend didn’t do insecurity. “C’mere, Nikky.” Jurgen’s voice was soft. Nik gave him a look—the don’t-give-me-orders look—but went ahead and joined him after a second.

It had nothing to do with Jurgen’s extreme sexiness, or how much Nik loved it when Jurgen focused all that intensity on him. It was just because Nik didn’t want to embarrass him in front of others. They were going to have a little talk about this when they got home, though.

Jurgen situated him so Nik stood, confused, facing a sheepish, maybe even nervous, Miller. Behind Miller stood his “date,” Ian. At least, Nik was going with the date theory. It looked like somehow, in this twisted conspiracy of Jurgen’s, Ian was the muscle.

Nik supposed that made Jurgen the brains.

The big, dumb asshole. Not that he was truly dumb. Not by a long shot. Just sometimes Nik thought Jurgen deserved to be. It looked like now might be one of those times.

Nik tried to shrug off Jurgen’s hand, currently resting possessively on his neck, but Jurgen dug his fingers into Nik’s muscle slightly. Then he stroked Nik’s spine soothingly with his big, dumb thumb.

“Miller, don’t you have something to say to Nik?” Jurgen’s voice sounded almost friendly, but that was Nik’s trick. Jurgen definitely sounded domineering. Nik suppressed a shiver, but Jurgen’s thumb stopped stroking for a few seconds. Great. Jurgen had probably noticed that. Jurgen confirmed it by making an almost sub-aural rumble.

“Um, yeah, so I guess I was kinda, uh…” Miller began, looking at his shoes.

“Insensitive,” Jurgen prodded after a silent moment.

Miller took a deep breath. “That. Insensitive. Um, in high school and stuff, and I just wanted to say—”

“Miller,” Nik snapped. Miller’s head bobbed up in surprise, then Miller blinked at him. Nik took it as a sign he was listening. “Are you going to apologize for being an ignorant hick and making an issue about my skin color in high school because these two meatheads are making you, or do you really mean it?”

Seriously, Nik was concerned Miller would fall to his knees and beg forgiveness. The look on his face was the expressional equivalent of abject grovelry.

Nik couldn’t lie; he appreciated that.

“I mean it!” Miller wailed. “I didn’t realize, I swear! I always kinda liked your skin color and all those times I mentioned it. I mean, I used to fantasize—Uh.” Miller flapped his mouth ineffectively for a second, but then his voice re-booted. “Well, I mean I didn’t think about how you might feel. I mean, emotionally. Didn’t think ‘bout how you might feel inside. I mean your emotions!” Miller threw a wild-eyed look at Jurgen.

Nik had never actually seen anyone gibber in fear. He held up his hand, palm to Miller. Miller stopped mid-gibber with hugely evident relief. “Miller, apology accepted, but it wasn’t even really necessary. You weren’t acting maliciously. You did the best you could with what you knew. You know better now, right?” Nik felt Jurgen’s hand go slack, nearly falling of his neck.

Bet that surprised the big, dumb asshole. Didn’t Jurgen get that Nik was a kinder, more forgiving person since he’d fallen in love? Well, Jurgen was sleeping on the back porch tonight. Unless Nik could come up with something more suitably evil.

Miller’s mouth started flapping again, but his voice was back off-line. He began nodding vigorously. He sort of looked like a Muppet on mute. Nik held up a hand again.

Miller’s mouth stopped moving.

Note to self: take up animal training.

Nik smiled. A nice, big, man-eating smile. “Miller, I’m just curious; how did you end up here tonight?” He used his most polite voice. Jurgen stiffened behind him. Ian just continued to ignore the whole scene. He’d learn soon enough what the polite voice meant.

“Uh, Ian. He asked me, um…” Miller trailed off, and Nik could see his face redden in the porch light. He didn’t know if it was admitting he dated men, or if it was because Miller realized now he’d been duped by one.

Nik reached out and gently laid a hand on Miller’s forearm. “It’s all right, Miller, I think I get the picture. So,” he asked brightly, “is this your first date with Ian?” Miller nodded weakly.

Ian suddenly snapped to attention, looking at Nik. He cleared his throat. “I don’t date.” Nik faked curious surprise. Miller turned red.

Ian cleared his throat. “Jurgen suggested Miller and I might have some things in common.”

Nik cocked his head, then threw a gentle smile over his shoulder at his boyfriend. “Interesting. He never mentioned it.” When Nik turned back to face Miller, he heard Jurgen grumbling behind him. Not words, just general grumbly noises.

Back porch. No blanket.

“Weird coincidence, don’t you think? You showing up at the same bar we’re at maybe isn’t so weird. I mean, there just aren’t that many places to go in Marlyle County. But for Jurgen to meet you at the door like that? So fortuitous, since Jurgen clearly felt like he had something to say to you, Miller.” Nik smiled gently at Miller, who was starting to look like, just maybe, he was on the brink of more humiliation than he’d ever experienced in his whole life.

Miller took a breath. “Yeah. Uh, yeah. That is a coincidence. That’s just damn…weird…” Then the worst possible thing happened. The full enormity of what had happened hit Miller. He’d been played. For just a second, his face showed nothing but raw pain. And while Nik had been pissed off at Jurgen for setting Miller up like this? He wasn’t fully prepared for the level of angst Miller seemed to experience over it. Miller pressed his lips together and looked down at the wood boards under his feet. “Yeah.” His voice sounded scratchy.

Oh, no.

Nik didn’t do this. Didn’t get involved in other people’s emotional turmoil. He created enough of his own, he tended not to need others’. His personal emotional turmoil tachometer was pegged on the red line most of the time. Therefore, he wasn’t quite prepared for dealing with Miller’s.

In some panic, Nik glanced at Ian. No help there. Ian not only couldn’t see Miller’s face to realize what was going on, but he was obviously trying not to be a part of this scene anymore. Looking out into the parking lot, arms crossed on his (very impressive) chest, jaw hard. That same muscle ticking in his jaw that ticked in Jurgen’s.

Nik knew he couldn’t let Jurgen deal with this. He’d just fuck it up. He had all the sensitivity of a loaf of day-old bread. If Nik didn’t constantly advise Jurgen on being a more caring and considerate boyfriend, Jurgen would…do something just like this, actually.

Oh, god. Miller’s lip looked like it was maybe trembling.

Alert! Alert! This man’s about to cry! Nik’s brain started running around inside his skull like a panicked chicken.

Shut up. I’m the only option here, as unqualified and inadequate as I may be.

Nik reached out and took Miller’s hand, surprising him into looking up. His eyes even shone a bit.

Oh no. Worse than he thought.

Nik smiled faintly at Miller. “Why don’t I go introduce you to my friend, Margaret? I’m sure she’d love to meet you.” Please, higher power, let Margaret have a clue how to deal with this. The fact that sitting in the Elks Club with Nik and Margaret would throw suspicion on Miller’s sexual preferences couldn’t be helped. It was that or let a grown man cry in public. Which would also throw suspicion on his sexual preferences, actually.

As Nik walked back into the bar, leading a somewhat dazed Miller, he heard Jurgen’s low voice rumbling back behind them. Nik distinctly caught the words, “so much trouble for this.”

Goddamn right, Jurgen.

* * * *

Jurgen stood in the bedroom doorway, shifting his weight. Nik had never seen Jurgen quite this uncomfortable. He’d never seen Jurgen uncomfortable, period. Nik tried to watch out of the corner of his eye while still making it look like he wasn’t paying any attention.

Which was hard, since Jurgen wasn’t wearing anything but black briefs. They really showed off his ass dimples to perfection.

The big, sexy asshole.

Sure earned that name tonight. Nik accidentally let a snort of agreement slip out. He diligently flipped through his magazine to make up for the lapse in the silent treatment.

“Nikky?” Jurgen’s voice was low.

Nik didn’t look up.

“Nikky?” Jurgen tried again a minute later.

How long would he try that before he gave up? Could be all night. Jurgen had stamina. Besides, Nik kind of wanted to know what ridiculous excuse he would come up with for his behavior. He sighed gustily and set the magazine in his lap. Then he looked at Jurgen and smiled brightly. “Did you need something, Jurgen? Another blanket? I thought I put enough out there for you. I left your special pillow for you, too, so you’ll be comfortable on the couch.”

He hadn’t been able to make himself go through with the back porch. Damn it all.

“Why are you so mad at me?” Jurgen didn’t sound right. Nik looked at Jurgen more carefully. He had that look in his eyes again. He had his hands planted, one on each side of the doorframe, and he looked at Nik worriedly, sort of swaying into and out of the room. Subtly. Subtle, whole-body fidgeting.

It was mesmerizing. Nik had never seen Jurgen act this way before. He tilted his head to get a different perspective on it.

Jurgen cleared his throat—cleared his throat!—and said Nik’s name again. “Nikky?” Well, his version of Nik’s name.

“Jurgen, you really don’t know?” Nik didn’t smile at him or use the polite I’m-so-pissed-off-I-could-bite-a-chunk-out-of-your-flesh voice. Jurgen’s behavior was starting to worry him.

Jurgen shook his head slowly, but didn’t say anything. He looked almost beseechingly at Nik. What was with all these people and their uncontrollable emotional turmoil tonight? How could they really expect Nik to deal with it? You only had to look at him to know he was high-maintenance.

“You hurt Miller, Jurgen. A lot. He thought Ian might have a real interest in him.”

Jurgen looked at the floor, his fingers tightening on the doorframe. “I’m sorry,” he finally said. He didn’t sound sorry. He sounded kind of mad.

Great. “Jurgen, don’t tell me you’re sorry. Tell Miller.”

Jurgen looked back up at Nik. “He hurt you.” His voice was hard.

“In high school.”

“He harassed you. He harassed you for being gay when other people were around, and he harassed you for sex when he could find you alone!”

“He was young and stupid and self-involved. He never threatened me. He wasn’t any worse than a lot of guys. I got over it. You aren’t young and stupid and trying to hide you’re gay. Am I supposed to say it’s okay you humiliated and harassed a guy because your inner troglodyte needed to have a moment? Why did you even do that?” Nik sat as far forward on the bed as he could. He could feel the tendons on his neck straining with the effort to keep his voice under control. In spite of his general big, dumb asshole status, tonight he couldn’t get over feeling like Jurgen was somehow fragile.

“He singled you out because of the color of your skin. You hated growing up here in Whitetail because of guys like that.”

Nik stared at Jurgen a minute. There was something here he wasn’t getting. Maybe if he explained himself? “Yeah…” Nik needed another moment to work it out. “But I didn’t want revenge or something. I just want him to leave me alone. Instead I had to spend all night comforting him because my boyfriend humiliated him.”

Jurgen’s jaw tightened. He stared at the far wall over Nik’s head. “I don’t understand you sometimes, Nik. You hated Miller and how he treated you in high school, and now you waste time trying to make him feel better?”

“It’s not a waste of time, Jurgen. Feeling that shitty, especially when someone did it to you on purpose, that’s awful. Hasn’t anyone ever, ever victimized you?” He just might have added a decibel or two to his volume. But seriously, did Jurgen think this was okay? Just because he’d never been anything but perfect and liked—

“I’m a gay cop, Nik, of course people have picked on me! Fuck!”

What? Nik stared at him. “But…you’re big and tough and gorgeous and self-confident, and who would ever pick on you?”

Jurgen’s jaw muscle started twitching. The angry one, not the horny jaw muscle. His knuckles were white on the doorframe as he turned his head to look out at their living room. “Forget it. I’m going to sleep.”

“Jurgen, wait!” Nik was walking on his knees across the bed, trying to get to Jurgen before he left. Knee walking on a mattress was not the best form of locomotion. He didn’t quite make it before Jurgen disappeared down the hall.

Follow him? Nik wasn’t sure what that would mean in terms of this argument. Would that be a win or a loss for him? Would he have to mark it a draw on the scorecard he secretly kept in his head? (Current score: Nik 33, Jurgen 25.)

Would Jurgen even want Nik to follow him?

That’s what ultimately stopped Nik and left him sort of adrift on Jurgen’s side of the bed, staring out the bedroom door. I don’t know.

* * * *

Nik looked at the clock. 03:14. The trouble with living with a cop was that all the clocks in the house were set on twenty-four-hour time. Nik could only be absolutely certain about the exact time between midnight and noon. He wasn’t really a morning person, so he never seemed to know the time during his waking hours. Figuring out the time between noon and midnight took some semi-mystical formula that Nik never quite got the hang of. Math wasn’t his forte.

Truthfully, telling time wasn’t his forte, either.

Right at this moment, Nik was certain that he’d been lying here, worried and wide awake, for almost three hours. The significance of this particular moment was that he’d figured something out.

He wanted to know who hurt Jurgen and hurt that person back. Make them apologize, at a minimum. Nik sighed. Maybe he could kind of see, a little tiny bit, Jurgen’s motivation here. Maybe the scorecard didn’t really matter at a time like this. I should get up and go talk to him.

Except he didn’t have to. Jurgen came padding softly into the room right at that moment, tiptoeing so he wouldn’t wake Nik up.

“I’m awake,” Nik whispered.

Jurgen froze, leaning over his side of the bed. Then he climbed in and got under the covers. He sighed heavily once he’d settled in. “I forgot my pillow out there,” he whispered to Nik.

For one crazy, completely altruistic moment, Nik thought about going to get it for Jurgen. Then it passed. Instead, he rolled on his side, facing Jurgen. Not too close. He laid a hand on Jurgen’s chest.

Jurgen’s hand came up immediately and grabbed Nik’s, tangling their fingers and pressing Nik’s palm into Jurgen’s T-shirt. Nik’s heart went into overdrive. Jurgen’s beat steadily under his hand.

“Jurgen, just tell me what it is.”

“What?” Jurgen turned his head toward Nik, away from the dim light coming in the window. Nik couldn’t see his face very well, but he could feel Jurgen breathing between them.

“Is it a brain tumor? Lou Gehrig’s disease? What? Just tell me, Jurgen.” Nik squeezed Jurgen’s hand so tight he thought one of his knuckles might pop right out of his skin.

“What are you talking about, Nik?”

“You’re scaring me. You’re acting all…loving and stuff. It’s completely unlike you.”

“I don’t act loving toward you?” Jurgen almost sounded hurt.

“Not like this. You don’t hold my hand or go off tilting at windmills for me.”

Jurgen stared at him in the dark.

“Don Quixote. He thought the windmills were some kind of monster or something, so he’d attack them.”

“So, Miller is my personal windmill?”

“Better than your personal Waterloo.” Nik knew he wouldn’t have to explain Waterloo.

Jurgen sighed and turned his head. Now Nik could see his profile. He had such a sexy nose. “Jurgen, please. Just tell me what’s wrong.”

Jurgen shrugged stiffly. His chest shifted and slid under their hands. “I wanted to do something nice for you.”

Oh. That was so—

Shut up.

“That required you to do something cruel to Miller?” Even if it was incredibly sweet.

“Why do you care so much about how Miller feels?” Jurgen’s voice was angry again that fast.

A-ha. “Why do you sound jealous?”

“I’m not jealous! I’m mad!”

“Uh-huh.” Nik smiled to himself. He pushed up on his elbow, but Jurgen wouldn’t let go of his hand, which made straddling Jurgen’s hips a little awkward.

“What are you doing?” Now he sounded grouchy. In a forced way.

“I’m going to use my masculine wiles to get you to talk to me.” Nik could feel Jurgen under him, between his legs. Soft and warm.

“I am talking to you.” Jurgen let go of Nik’s hand, settling his on Nik’s hips. Already his voice sounded more normal. Slower. Nik rubbed himself once or twice lightly against Jurgen’s groin. Just to get the show on the road. Jurgen’s voice dropped lower. “I can talk this way, too, though.”

Nik leaned forward all the way, close enough to say against Jurgen’s lips, “I know. You’re really good at talking this way.” Jurgen palmed the back of his head and kissed him, tongue warm and possessive, pushing forcefully into Nik’s mouth. Nik sucked on it, though, didn’t let Jurgen have control. Jurgen gripped him tighter, digging fingers into his skull and hip. Nik let his tongue go and pulled away from Jurgen, settling his weight on Jurgen’s hardening cock. Jurgen bucked his hips up a couple of times, and Nik could just make out his teeth in the dark. Smiling.

Nik smiled and smoothed his hands over Jurgen’s chest. “Mmmm, you feel good.”

“Like it when you touch me like that, Nikky. Wanna feel your hands on my skin.”

“You do, huh?”

“Yeah, Nikky.” Jurgen’s voice got low and rumbly, like his chopper. Nik swiveled his hips, grinding. This was right where he wanted Jurgen. Hard and rocking between his legs. “Take off my shirt,” Jurgen said.

“Not until you answer one question for me.” Nik leaned forward, stroking up across Jurgen’s shirt with his fingers until he found the skin at his throat. He ran fingers across Jurgen’s lips.

Jurgen nipped at his fingers and growled at him. Nik felt it vibrating in his balls. Rowr. Jurgen made the best noises when he was horny.

“Okay, Nikky. Ask the damn question.”

Nik thought he’d better start small with the questions. “Why did you make Miller apologize to me?”

“He hurt you.” Jurgen lifted a hand off Nik’s hip and pulled his T-shirt up, just exposing his abs. Technically, that qualified as an answer, so Nik trailed fingers across skin and through Jurgen’s sparse trail of hair. Jurgen’s muscles tightened wherever Nik’s fingers went.

Nik circled around the edge of Jurgen’s navel. Jurgen sucked in a breath. “You asked Ian to pretend he wanted to hook up with Miller?”

Jurgen squirmed. Nik thought it was more about the question than the finger teasing him. “Yeah.” Jurgen’s voice was tight. “I was a jerk.”

That definitely deserved a reward. Nik leaned forward and kissed Jurgen, then started yanking on the hem of his shirt. Jurgen curled himself up and pulled it over his head with one hand. “Touch me,” he said, his voice achy.

So Nik did, rubbing Jurgen hard the way he liked, kneading his pecs (Jurgen groaned), stroking Jurgen’s washboard abs with his palms. Gripping the small love handles above Jurgen’s hips. That was for Nik. He didn’t know why he liked those so much, but he loved that Jurgen had them. They made him seem domesticated. Like Nik had tamed him. Caught him and trapped him and fed him regularly enough that his lean, predator’s body could store up some fat reserves.


Rowr

“Lick me, Nikky.” Jurgen tried to make it sound like an order, but he was really just begging. Nik smiled and squeezed his shoulders. He knew exactly what Jurgen wanted, but he was going to play the game.

“You want me to lick you, Jurgen? Where?” Nik put as much batting of eyelashes into his voice as he could.

Sometimes Jurgen just moved like he was liquid. Slow and languid and looking like a gay pinup calendar. He stretched his arms over his head. “C’mon, Nikky. You know where.” It was completely bizarre that Jurgen could ask for or describe any sex act in perfect anatomical and lurid detail, except he couldn’t say “Lick my armpit.”

Usually Nik made him ask for it. Tracing his nose up Jurgen’s lats, breathing hot moist breath on his underarms, kissing his triceps, but never quite getting there until Jurgen all but begged. Jurgen never actually begged, but he came close, those times.

This time, Nik just smiled and leaned forward slowly. “Why now? Why did you make Miller apologize tonight?” His breath fell across Jurgen’s skin, ruffling his hair. When Nik took a breath in, he could taste Jurgen. Guh.

Nik laid teeth into Jurgen’s underarm, not quite biting. Something he was always tempted to do but had never done before. Jurgen arched into him and groaned. Nik swirled his tongue across Jurgen’s skin, tangling in his hair to taste salt and heat and pheromones and Jurgen. Nik wanted to purr like a kitten and lap at him like he was a bowl of milk.

You forgot to make him answer.

Shut up.

Nik stretched out, feeling Jurgen’s naked chest against his, Jurgen capturing both of Nik’s offered wrists in one hand and holding them over their heads, forcing Nik to fall into him. Jurgen made his low rumbling sound, and Nik could feel it move through his skin, vibrating in the tips of his nipples.

“Yeah, Nikky. Like that.” Jurgen gripped the back of Nik’s head and held it while Nik licked at him. This was the way it always ended up. Nik started by teasing Jurgen and being in control, but then he tasted Jurgen’s skin and sweat and got wrapped up in it. So turned on by the taste of Jurgen and by knowing how much Jurgen loved this that Nik writhed with it. Groin grinding against Jurgen’s and naked chests sliding together, wrists and head held securely by him. By the time Nik was done, his face would be wet with his own saliva and Jurgen’s scent. He’d be nearly mindlessly thrusting his cock into Jurgen’s skin, out of control. Then Jurgen would roll them over and take Nik’s mouth, laying all his weight on Nik, still pinning his wrists, trying to suck the taste right out of Nik or maybe spread it throughout his system. So completely immerse Nik in Jurgen’s scent that it never came out, a cloud enveloping him wherever he went, and everyone would know Nik belonged to someone.

Nik was on the edge of coming in his briefs, moaning into Jurgen’s armpit, by the time Jurgen flipped them over and attacked his mouth. He ripped his head away after only a minute. “You’re mine, Nikky. You can’t leave me.”

“I’m yours,” Nik panted, trying to thrust up harder into Jurgen’s groin. Jurgen lifted his hips away from Nik and started shoving Nik’s briefs down with his free hand. “I don’t wanna leave you, Jurgen.”

“Didn’t you have some questions for me, Nikky?” Jurgen taunted him, crooning in his ear. Shifting his body enough to force a thigh between Nik’s legs, hand gliding past Nik’s balls, running a fingertip lightly across Nik’s hole.

Nik shuddered. “Yeah,” he choked out. “Where’s the lube?”

Jurgen nipped at Nik’s neck, licking his way down to trace around Nik’s pecs, then gripping Nik’s nipple in his teeth. He hmmmmmm’ed, and Nik arched up into him.

Rowr. Nik was an instrument, and Jurgen was tuning him. “Please, Jurgen. Baby, please.” Jurgen chuckled and pushed just the tip of his finger inside Nik. Nik sucked in a breath and held it, trying to spread his legs farther for Jurgen but held down by his weight.

Then Jurgen pulled the finger out of him. Nik groaned, hoping Jurgen knew where the lube was, but suddenly Jurgen’s finger was in his mouth, and the taste of Nik mixing with the taste of Jurgen made Nik gasp, then suck. His world made one of those weird little shifts it sometimes did with Jurgen, and Nik felt like they were occupying the same space. Breathing through one set of lungs, one heart beating. One tongue tasting the same thing. Then Jurgen’s mouth was over his and Nik could feel the edges of Jurgen’s teeth in his lips and Jurgen’s long, thick finger pushing into his ass, lubricated by his own saliva and the taste of them together.

Jesus Christ, he was going to come. He was making desperate noises into Jurgen’s mouth that were echoing back at him. Jurgen was panting and thrusting his hard dick against Nik’s hip, grunting. Talking to him. “Wanna fuck you, Nikky. Shove my dick deep in you and make you mine again.”

“Yours,” Nik agreed breathlessly. “Already am.” Jurgen was working a second finger into him carefully. Nik squirmed against Jurgen’s hold, wanting less careful and more fuck. “Jurgen, harder. Now. Please. Need you.”

“Mmmmmm. You beg so pretty, Nikky.” Jurgen bit his throat lightly and shoved his fingers into Nik’s ass, twisting his hand. Nik gasped. “You only beg for me, don’t you? I’m the one you want. Sam’s never going to see you like this, Nikky, just me.”

Nik froze.

Well, duh.

Jurgen was sucking the skin over Nik’s collarbone, thumb on Nik’s taint, stroking his cock against Nik’s thigh. It took him a few thrusts before he realized Nik was still.

“What did you say?” Nik asked, rushing to get it out between panting breaths.

Jurgen panted against his shoulder and didn’t say anything. He started easing his fingers out of Nik. Nik clenched around him, and he stopped.

“Jurgen?”

Jurgen dropped his forehead into the crook of Nik’s neck, his hand loosening on Nik’s wrists. “I don’t know. Don’t remember.”

And I’m a dual-dicked monkey.

This time Nik let Jurgen pull his fingers out of him. Nik took advantage of Jurgen’s lax hold, pulling his wrists out of Jurgen’s hand and flipping them back over before he even really thought about what he was doing. Even before he thought about how he was going to make Jurgen move for him. He slid down Jurgen’s body, sliding his shorts off, and slid Jurgen’s cock right into his mouth.

Jurgen whimpered—whimpered—flexing his hips and gripping Nik’s hair painfully tight. Nik took his time, tasting Jurgen, letting his tongue slide all over and trace some of Jurgen’s better features. The slit in his head and the ridge around it. That thick vein on his shaft. Moving slowly, not sucking, until Jurgen was arched up and shaking.

Then Nik slid Jurgen right out of his mouth. “Nikky,” Jurgen groaned. Nik smiled and crawled back up Jurgen’s body. Gripping Jurgen’s cock and letting the head slide in saliva against him. Up past his balls, across his taint, until Jurgen was right there, glans kissing Nik’s asshole.

“What did you say, Jurgen?”

Jurgen didn’t try to lie again. He told Nik what he wanted to know. “I said, ‘Sam’s never going to see you like this, just me’.”

Nik rewarded him for answering.


Jurgen

Nik took dance classes in school right up until he graduated. The first time Jurgen was up at Nik’s place and Nik came home sweaty and horny from dance class—“I wanted to shower with you”—Jurgen did something he never in a million years thought he’d do. He memorized Nik’s class schedule. Then he started arranging his days off so he could be at Nik’s apartment on dance class days.

Jurgen had gone to a dance recital of Nik’s this past spring. Hottest live sex show Jurgen could remember. He was in the front row, and Nik held his eyes the whole time he danced. Ballet or modern dance or something that involved him wearing a skin-tight unitard and flexing all his muscles. They didn’t make it to Nik’s office afterward; couldn’t make it out of the building. Nik pulled Jurgen into a bathroom stall two floors above the recital hall, and Jurgen pushed Nik’s sweats down and his shirt up, grinding his cock against Nik’s sweat-slick body until they frosted their skin.

This was better than any of that. Better than waiting for Nik to come home and shuck his sweats at the door before wrapping his legs around Jurgen’s hips. Better than watching Nik dance just for him in a room full of people. He didn’t know what he’d done to deserve this, but Jurgen would have prayed for it not to stop if he could rub two thoughts together.

Instead of yelling at him or—worse—telling Jurgen that Nik wanted to beg for Sam, Nik smiled softly. Not the dangerous smile, either, but a real one. “You’re the only one I’ll ever beg for, baby.” Then he flexed his hips and took Jurgen in, sliding down his cock in short strokes until Jurgen was all the way in, Nik seated on him fully. Panting and skin slicked just like the time he danced for Jurgen.

Now Nik danced on Jurgen. Riding him. Every time Nik pushed himself onto Jurgen’s cock, Jurgen lost his breath. He was afraid he might be wheezing, but he couldn’t help it, and he cared less and less every time he slid up, deep inside Nik. Nik leaning forward over him, feeling Jurgen’s skin with his fingers and palms. Jurgen’s abs, then his chest and arms. Slow stroking in time with Nik’s thrusting hips. Petting Jurgen.

It felt like Nik adored him. Like worship.

Then Nik had hands in Jurgen’s hair and thumbs stroking his cheeks, and his lips and eyes and breath were right there. Kissing him. Clinging lips and sliding tongue and slow softness. Pulling back again, touching and stroking, and it made Jurgen’s head swim. When Jurgen moaned, Nik smiled at him, leaning back over Jurgen’s legs.

His lover. “So beautiful,” Jurgen whispered, and Nik smiled wider, then let his head drop back on his shoulders. Jurgen watched him move, sinuous body and swiveling hips. All those sleek, strong muscles and that beautiful skin and that sheen of sweat. All for working himself on Jurgen.

Nik’s hips lifting, cock swaying, his gut muscles tensing, chest arching back into a perfect bow. Jurgen’s hands followed his eyes, up Nik’s flanks, across his ribs, fingernails skimming Nik’s hard nipples. He felt Nik’s fingers dig into his shins. Nik’s hips swiveled hard, screwing himself down onto Jurgen’s shaft.

Slick and smooth and so much heat gripping him. Jurgen’s breath hitched, and he brought one hand down to Nik’s cock, but Nik stopped him. Stopped moving and lifted his head. Licking his lips and squeezing Jurgen inside him.

Jurgen almost came right there, Nik looking at him like that and using his muscles to massage Jurgen’s cock. He couldn’t breathe, and his head spun, and he could barely hear Nik over the blood rushing in his ears.

“Let me.”

“Oh, fuck,” Jurgen croaked. Nik thrust down and cried out, and knowing he was going to bring himself off just on Jurgen’s cock was too much. Jurgen sat up, gripping Nik’s hips, and they did it together. Nik looking into his eyes, hands in his hair, breathing with him, crying out when he came, whole body shivering. Jurgen couldn’t look away from his face. When he felt Nik’s ass squeeze him tight and cum hit his belly, he pulled Nik’s head down and cried into his mouth while he exploded inside him. His skin too thin to contain the feeling of coming inside Nik, dissolving into him.

The muscles in Jurgen’s back failed, and he fell back on the bed, pulling Nik on top of him. Still kissing him, Jurgen’s hips still arching to shove himself as far as he could inside Nik. Hands clamped on Nik’s hips. Muscles locked. Nik kept kissing him, and when Jurgen’s muscles finally relaxed, Nik pulled off, then collapsed onto Jurgen’s chest, leg thrown over his thighs, temple against Jurgen’s jaw. Completely relaxed.

“Best. Sex. Ever,” Nik gasped. Jurgen hid his head in Nik’s hair and nodded. All he could do. He didn’t trust himself to speak.

Nik was still twitching with aftershocks and breathing hard when Jurgen managed to pull back and glare at him. “You can’t leave me.” He might look mean, but his voice wobbled.

“No,” Nik gasped, sucking in a breath. He tilted his face to Jurgen’s. “I’m not. I’m in love with you, Jurgen. Why would I,” he had to pause for more breath, “leave you?”

Jurgen kissed Nik possessively. Tongue and teeth and nearly gagging him. Feeling the air Nik tried to suck in through Jurgen’s nose.

“I kind of like your inner troglodyte,” Nik murmured into his chest after Jurgen finally let Nik go to settle back in.

He loved Nik draped over him like this. “My inner troglodyte needs you.” Stupid thing to say, but it nearly choked him up.


Nik

Why would he think I’m going to leave him? And what the fuck was that about Sam?

That probably required further investigation. Nik sighed to himself over the effort of it all. Relationships were so much work.

“Jurgen?”

“Hmm?” Jurgen’s chest rumbled under his ear.

“Why would you think I’m going to leave you?”

Nothing. Predictable. Nik tried to work up the energy to get it out of Jurgen. Clearly, the “seduce it out of him” tack had been an epic fail. Well, in terms of getting information out of Jurgen. It could otherwise be counted as an overwhelming success. Nik smiled into Jurgen’s skin and shivered at the memory.

“Cold, Nikky?” Jurgen hugged him with the other arm, too, running a hand up Nik’s back. He flipped a blanket over them.

“No. Just waiting for you to answer.” That wasn’t likely to be a successful tack. But to Nik’s surprise, Jurgen answered. Huffing a big, put-upon breath first, of course.

“I heard you tell Sam you wanted the hell out of Whitetail Rock and you didn’t know why you’d ever moved in with me.”

Nik’s post-coital relaxing was taking a beating tonight. “When?”

“On the phone last week.”

Shit. Nik pushed himself off Jurgen. He had to fight Jurgen’s arm, and even when he was up on his elbow, Jurgen kept it around him. He was being downright clingy. “That’s why you thought I was going to leave you?”

Jurgen nodded.

Weird as it was, Jurgen needed comforting. Nik’s heart gave a happy little wiggle. “I was mad, baby.” Nik stroked Jurgen’s cheek. “I was venting. And I never said I didn’t know why I moved in with you. I said I didn’t know why I’d moved back here. To Whitetail Rock.”

Jurgen shrugged. Nik was positive if he could see Jurgen well enough, he’d see his lower lip sticking out, just slightly. Nik ran his thumb across it, and yeah, Jurgen was pouting.

“You aren’t Whitetail, baby. You’re Jurgen.”

“Oh.” Jurgen’s voice was soft with surprise. Nik bit his tongue on a snarky comment about the distinction between the town and the man. Relationships not only took work, they took sacrifice.

Instead, he asked, “Are you jealous of Sam?”

“No. Just…” Jurgen flicked his eyes away, and Nik could feel his jaw harden under his hand. “Why didn’t you vent to me about wanting to leave?”

Nik was speechless for few seconds, amazed that Jurgen could whine. Nik had assumed he was just incapable. Then the question sunk in. “I did.” Jurgen wrinkled his brow. “You weren’t listening.”

Jurgen stared at him in the dark.

“I got home from working at Mom and Dad’s store, remember?”

Jurgen shook his head. Nik sighed dramatically. “Yes. I was in the store, checked out Mrs. Werzinger, my third-grade teacher, said ‘hi’, and she said, ‘I always knew you’d end up one of those no-good faggots. And now you’ve corrupted our local trooper.’ Then Mom kicked her eighty-eight-year-old ass out the door and threw her walker out after her. When I came home, I found you in the kitchen doing the crossword and told you all about it.”

Jurgen looked away, at the far wall. He cleared his throat, but didn’t say anything. Nik rolled his eyes. “You don’t remember this, do you?”

“Um…” Jurgen coughed.

“Right. I decided you weren’t listening to me, so I called the one person who always listens to me. I called Sam. I’m guessing by this that when I was having a conversation with someone else and you weren’t supposed to be listening, you in fact were?”

Jurgen cleared his throat again.

“I was pissed off at Mrs. Werzinger, upset that Mom and Dad’s store would have no more customers because their faggot son had moved back into town, and annoyed with my boyfriend for not listening to me. So I said something I didn’t really mean, and that’s the thing you heard and believed.” Nik flopped over onto his back, trapping Jurgen’s arm under his shoulder blades.

Jurgen pushed himself onto his elbow now. It was a little ungainly, since Nik refused to move off his arm. “I’m sorry.”

“I know.”

“I’ll be better.”

Nik looked at Jurgen. It was so cute it nearly melted his heart. His boyfriend actually believed he could change for love. Nik reached up and patted his cheek. “No you won’t, Jurgen. But it’s okay.”

“No, Nik. I will. I’ll change.”

Nik snorted. Then he got off Jurgen’s arm and pushed on Jurgen’s chest until he lay back down. Jurgen put his arm back around Nik when Nik laid his head on Jurgen’s chest. “It’s okay, baby.” Nik checked, and it looked like the splinter-selves could all get back onboard the afterglow train with a minimum of fuss. “No more torturing bi-confused hicks for me, though.”

Jurgen was silent. Nik closed his eyes and let himself snuggle. That was one of the best parts about having a boyfriend, he’d decided. He could snuggle openly and not covertly. Covert snuggling was like farting during sex. The best you could hope for was that your partner would pretend not to notice.

“I thought you wanted to leave me.” Jurgen sounded dazed.

Nik patted his chest. “My poor, big, dumb asshole.” He sighed, kissing Jurgen’s neck. “Why didn’t you just ask me?”

Nik could feel the dumbfounded rising up from Jurgen’s skin. “I don’t know,” he said slowly. “I didn’t need to ask you if I knew how to fix it.”

“Oh, Jurgen.” Nik patted him some more, petting his sternum. “We could probably spend a few years and thousands of dollars in psychologist’s fees figuring you out, couldn’t we?”

“We don’t need to. I’ll change.”

Nik sighed. This again? “How about this. The next time you overhear me say something you don’t understand, you just ask me. And the next time you think I’m closer to Sam than I am to you, you just drag me to bed and prove I’m yours, okay?”

It took a few minutes, but Jurgen finally seemed to accept the inevitable. He shrugged. “Okay.” Nik smiled and kissed his chest.

Finally. Uninterrupted afterglow.

“Let’s move.”

“Huh?”

“I want you to buy a house with me. Outside of Whitetail.”

“Jurgen, I’m a clerk at a grocery store. Even if I get that teaching job in the fall at the community college, I’ll only be an adjunct. I can’t afford half a house payment and all my bills.”

“I’ll pay the bills. You just pay half the mortgage.”

“I can’t do that.” Nik sighed.

“Right now you pay half the bills and I pay the mortgage. We’re just switching that around.”

“Why can’t I just pay half the mortgage on this house, then?”

“Because this house is in Whitetail. I want you to be out of town, where you don’t know everyone. If we found a place near Cindercone we’d be halfway between the community college and my station.”

“What if I don’t get that teaching job?”

Jurgen shrugged. “You can get a different job in Cindercone. You could even take that adjunct position the university offered you after you graduated. It’s only a little more than an hour back to the city from Cindercone.”

More like an hour and a half. Nik propped his fists on Jurgen’s chest and looked at him. “You need me to do this, don’t you? So you know I’m not leaving?”

Jurgen nodded firmly.

“Okay, baby. I will.”

Jurgen’s smile was blinding, even in the almost-dark. He kissed Nik softly and finally, really settled back, closing his eyes. Nik smiled and draped himself on top of Jurgen’s chest, one leg thrown over his. There; fixed. Let the post-coital haze recommence. “G’night, baby,” Nik murmured.

“If you can call me baby, why do I have to call you Nikky?” Jurgen’s voice was lazy now. Sometimes he got like this, talking to Nik with that lazy voice in the dark until Nik drifted off. Nik smiled and sighed happily. His bones were gelatin. He lifted his head and kissed Jurgen’s chest, rubbing his face in the sparse hair on his pecs. He settled back into Jurgen’s warmth.

“Nikky?” Jurgen’s voice roused him from post-coital zen. “You asleep?” Some of the lazy seemed to be gone from his voice.

“No.” Nik yawned, his jaw cracking.

“Well?”

“Well, what?” Dammit, wasn’t Nik supposed to be the needy one in this relationship?

“Why do you get to call me baby?”

“Oh. I thought that was a rhetorical question.” Well, if he was going to be needy, at least he was cute. And fucked like a god.

“It wasn’t,” Jurgen said after a moment of silence. He jostled Nik in his arm.

Nik hid his smile, turning into Jurgen’s chest and tasting Jurgen’s skin with the tip of his tongue. “How many guys have I ever called baby?” He let his lips thrum against Jurgen’s skin.

“One,” Jurgen answered automatically.

“One, baby. And how many guys have you called baby?”

Silence.

“You want me to stop calling you baby?”

“No,” Jurgen answered almost at the same moment. “No, Nikky.”

“Good, baby.”

Jurgen gripped him tighter for a few seconds. “You love me.” Jurgen
“I don’t want to go out tonight, Jurgen. I’m tired. I worked all day.” Nik was halfway between a pout and a snit.
“Margaret wants to see you. Ian’s going to meet us there, too.”
“Can’t you just call them and ask them to come over here? My feet hurt. I worked all day.”

Hell. “I worked all day, too.” Jurgen stuffed his hands in his front pockets because he was liable to pull Nik out the door in frustration. He needed Nik to cooperate. He might see dragging Nik behind him and stuffing him into the car as a kind of cooperation, but one thing Jurgen had learned in the past year was that Nik liked to be manhandled in bed. Only.

Nik made a face. “You get to sit down—”

“On a police motorcycle.” Jurgen tried to head off the rant. Did no good, of course. Nik just ignored him and went on.

“—I have to stand behind a register, serving customers I don’t even like in that damn store. I just graduated with a Master’s degree, and what am I doing? I’m back in the one-horse town I grew up in, working for my parents, who don’t even need an employee. They just want me to have a job.”

“You wanted to have a job,” Jurgen reminded him. Then he wished he’d kept his damn mouth shut.

“I have to have a job, Jurgen!”

If you had a dollar for every time you said that, you wouldn’t. Jurgen just looked at Nik until Nik threw his hands in the air, turned around, and stalked off to their bedroom, muttering to himself. “What are you doing?” Jurgen asked him.

“I’m changing so we can go out!” Nik said, right before the bedroom door slammed behind him.

Jurgen made a mental note that cooperation wasn’t that hard to get if you tried.

* * * *

A few years ago, Jurgen worked on a stalking case. He was spitting mad at the ineffective laws and the sheer terror the victim felt by the time they had enough to arrest her stalker. Jurgen thought he understood her pain.

He hadn’t understood shit.

Being stalked was about second-guessing yourself every single molecular second of the day. Every breath, every move, every unconscious vibration in your muscles became conscious and present. Wondering if the security had all been a lie. Some other reality. Wondering if being happy and in control was all just some big fucking fraud. Being stalked was bone-deep insecurity.

Now Jurgen had an inkling of what it might really be like. His problem wasn’t as big a deal as being stalked by a person that could cause you harm or even kill you. His stalker just made him feel insecure for what had to be the first time in his life. It made him feel like the best part of his life might end. He wasn’t being stalked by a person. He was being stalked by a feeling. An overheard comment. And no one could help him except himself.

Nik was thinking about leaving him. Would leave him if Jurgen didn’t do something. Nik told his friend Sam he didn’t know why he’d moved in with Jurgen in the first place. Didn’t know why he’d given up that teaching position the University offered him after he graduated to move in with his boyfriend and live in the tiny town he’d grown up in and hated.

Jurgen refused to even think about why Nik talked to Sam about leaving but not to him. Long, emotional talks weren’t really something Jurgen was good at. Sam was good at that. He could accept that. But he didn’t like that Nik didn’t even tell him. He only told Sam.

Jurgen wasn’t the best talker but was good at was fixing shit. He knew that. So he focused on fixing the problem. Nik hated this town because he kept seeing people he grew up around. People who’d commented on his skin color and thought he was some kind of roadside attraction because he’d been adopted from India. Most of all Nik hated the assholes who tormented him in high school for being gay.

That right there, that was something Jurgen was going to fix. He even had a plan. Well, the beginning of one. He could deal with the worst of Nik’s high school bullies. Then Jurgen would figure out what else he needed to do to fix this. Fix himself or fix someone else or fix the house or whatever the fuck he needed to fix to make Nik stay.

The first step: get Nik to the Whitetail Rock Elks Club tonight.

* * * *

Nik was totally annoyed with him, because Jurgen dragged him here, sat him down at the bar next to Margaret, listened to him complain about the wine list consisting of “red, white, and pink”—“Not even rosé. Pink! Jeez, this town.”— ordered him a white wine (see? He could totally listen), then excused himself, whispering in Margaret’s ear on his way past.

Margaret started chattering away immediately, distracting Nik as planned.

The best Jurgen could hope for was that what he was about to do would more than make up for abandoning his boyfriend at the Elks Club. Not that Nik didn’t like Margaret. Nik and Margaret could talk for hours. Margaret was the token out lesbian in Whitetail Rock, and she and Nik liked to drink too much and make fun of the locals. Once Nik got over his snit, he’d have a good time.

Jurgen looked back across the smoky bar at Nik. You couldn’t actually smoke in the bar anymore, but somehow it always looked smoky inside the Whitetail Rock Elks Club. Nik was narrow-eyed, nostrils flared. He’d looked exactly like that the first time Jurgen saw him. Suspicious.

Jurgen winked.

Nik narrowed his eyes further and tossed his chin up before turning back at something Margaret said to him.

Jurgen’s heart squeezed into a little ball. That look always slayed him. Pride and self-defense. The first time Jurgen got past that look to the guy underneath it made him almost…weak-kneed. He had to white-knuckle the bathroom counter he was fucking Nik on to keep from going down.

At that moment the jukebox started wailing, “Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone.”

Jurgen shook his head at his lurching heart and pulled his thoughts out of his ass and back to the present. The song was the cover version by Exposed Innerds. Nik loved that band. What in the hell was the bar in Whitetail doing with a gay alternative hit in their jukebox? Maybe they didn’t even know Exposed Innerds was a gay band.

“Hey, Jurgen.” His cousin Ian’s voice cut through the song and the crowd near the door. Jurgen turned to look at Ian and the guy next to him.

“Ian.” He nodded. Ian was right on time, with Jurgen’s target in tow.

“You know Miller Harpe? Miller, this is Jurgen.” Social gestures didn’t really sit well on Ian, but it didn’t so much matter right now.

Remember me? I’m the guy whose boyfriend you harassed in high school. “We haven’t been formally introduced,” Jurgen said, staring at Miller.

“Uh…” Miller said. Oh, he knew Jurgen, all right. “You guys know each other?” he squeaked. He looked at Ian. “I thought you just moved here from California…?”

Ian smiled. That didn’t sit well on him, either. He looked like a shark. “Oh, Jurgen’s my cousin. That’s how I ended up here.”

“Maybe we should spend some time getting to know each other better, huh Miller?” Jurgen watched Miller’s head flip back to him when he spoke.

Miller swallowed. Ian answered, smiling at Jurgen now. “Fine by me. You know a quiet place where we can talk?”

Miller swallowed again. “We’re talking?” But he turned and walked between Ian and Jurgen out to the back deck. Not that he had a lot of choice. Just before they walked out of the bar, Jurgen risked a glance back at Nik.

Nik sat up straight on his barstool, knuckles white on the stem of his wineglass, other hand on his hip, glaring at Jurgen. Jurgen could practically hear the thought in his head. There’s a conspiracy afoot.

Damn straight.

* * * *

The first time Jurgen saw Nik, he took a two-by-four to the gut. That’s what it felt like. He was dumb enough to think it was lust.

Falling in love at the drop of a hat. It’s what all the men in his family did, apparently. His dad, his grandpa, two of his cousins. Not Ian, yet, but Jurgen had given up hope that Ian would avoid their particular patrilineal curse.

Ian hadn’t given up hope for himself. Seemed okay. A man had to have hope. Even if it didn’t do him any good in the end. When Ian showed up at Jurgen’s place last month and saw Nik living there with Jurgen, he gave Jurgen a long look and raised brows.

Jurgen met his eyes. What the hell else was he supposed to do? Pretend it hadn’t happened? He was in a relationship, dammit. Happy about it even. Not his problem Ian couldn’t quite get it.

Ian shook his head. “Not happening here, Jurgen.” Tapping his chest.

“We’ll see,” Jurgen said. “Someday you might meet someone.”

Ian looked at him skeptically. Jurgen almost felt bad for him. Poor guy wouldn’t know what hit him. That thought sustained Jurgen through all the smirking.

Ian showed some cooperation when Jurgen told him the plan at least. He agreed to help Jurgen with his “stupid-assed scheme” tonight. He lured Miller here, faking interest in a clandestine hook-up, and now he silently watched while Jurgen explained a few home truths to Miller.

“Miller, how many people have you told you’re gay?”

“I’m not g-guh…”

Jurgen stared at Miller. Ian sighed and folded his arms, looking bored. Jurgen had all the help he was gonna get there. He looked back at Miller and watched him chew some air.

“Why haven’t you told anyone, ever? Except the guys you hook up with?” Jurgen flicked a pointed look back at Ian. Miller looked over his shoulder. Ian watched something in the parking lot, ignoring both of them.

“‘Cause. I mean, ‘cause guys’d…you know.” He shrugged, looking at the decking. “My parents, too. They’d not understand, y’know? Mean, not many guys are gay, y’know?” Finally, he looked up at Jurgen, hoping for sympathy or understanding or something. Jurgen didn’t fucking know. He kept his face hard, even if he did kind of understand. This wasn’t the time to go soft.

“So, what you’re saying is you think if people knew, they’d treat you differently, right?”

Miller nodded almost eagerly. “Hell, yes, they would.”

“Whadya think they’d do?” Jurgen kept his voice soft. “Maybe yell shit at you, ignore you? Get violent?”

Miller looked at the deck now. “Maybe.”

“Yeah. Maybe. You know what would suck, Miller?” Jurgen took a page out of Nik’s book and made his voice friendly. Miller looked at up him suspiciously. He wasn’t completely stupid.

Jurgen went on when he remained silent. “It’d suck if one of those guys tormented you then came around your place at night, looking for some. Looking to stick his dick in you.”

Miller’s eyes got wide, and his face paled as he looked back down quickly.

“You got a nice body, Miller.” Jurgen let his voice get low and a little bit growly. Ian looked at him sharply and raised both eyebrows. Miller froze. Then he swallowed. He looked a little like a scared rodent. Jurgen took a step forward, got in his space. “I’m not really into big muscles, but Ian is.” Jurgen heard Ian snort softly, but he continued to stare down at Miller’s bowed head. “What if Ian just asked you to come out with him tonight ‘cause he just wanted to fuck you? Doesn’t give a shit about you, just wants to pry open your tight ass and fuck you. All that matters is that you’re into guys and buff. The ‘into guys’ is negotiable.” Jurgen heard Ian huff softly, but even above that he heard Miller swallow.

He was taking a risk, but he had a hunch Miller was one of those guys kinda like Nik. He wanted more than just sex. He wanted a guy who wanted him.

“Kinda like someone wanting you just for your skin color. Making a big deal out of it.”

Jurgen finally stepped back after a moment of silence, exhaling silently. “He’s not like that, you know. Ian. Not exactly. I’m just trying to make a point, Miller. You think you might get what the point is?” He kept his voice low and controlled.

Ian snorted derisively. “I think we all get the point, Jurgen.”

Miller’s unsteady voice rose over Ian’s. “Kinda like I did to Nik in high school. That’s your point, Jurgen. Knowing he was gay, but making fun of him around other guys. Then showing up at his place at night, looking for something. Commenting on his skin color. I’m not stupid, y’know.”


Nik

Once Margaret let him escape (after admitting that yes, there was a conspiracy, claiming it was for his own good, laughing at him for calling Jurgen a big, dumb asshole, and remarking yet again on what a cute pet name he had for Jurgen), Nik found Jurgen and his cousin Ian on the back deck of the Elks Club. With Miller Harpe? He still couldn’t believe his eyes. Jurgen, consorting with the enemy.

“Jurgen?” He couldn’t get over the feeling that he was interrupting a very tense—intense—moment.

Jurgen turned to him, and for a second Nik saw that thing again in his eyes. Whatever it was that Nik kept catching the last few days. In anyone else, Nik might be tempted to call it insecurity, but his boyfriend didn’t do insecurity. “C’mere, Nikky.” Jurgen’s voice was soft. Nik gave him a look—the don’t-give-me-orders look—but went ahead and joined him after a second.

It had nothing to do with Jurgen’s extreme sexiness, or how much Nik loved it when Jurgen focused all that intensity on him. It was just because Nik didn’t want to embarrass him in front of others. They were going to have a little talk about this when they got home, though.

Jurgen situated him so Nik stood, confused, facing a sheepish, maybe even nervous, Miller. Behind Miller stood his “date,” Ian. At least, Nik was going with the date theory. It looked like somehow, in this twisted conspiracy of Jurgen’s, Ian was the muscle.

Nik supposed that made Jurgen the brains.

The big, dumb asshole. Not that he was truly dumb. Not by a long shot. Just sometimes Nik thought Jurgen deserved to be. It looked like now might be one of those times.

Nik tried to shrug off Jurgen’s hand, currently resting possessively on his neck, but Jurgen dug his fingers into Nik’s muscle slightly. Then he stroked Nik’s spine soothingly with his big, dumb thumb.

“Miller, don’t you have something to say to Nik?” Jurgen’s voice sounded almost friendly, but that was Nik’s trick. Jurgen definitely sounded domineering. Nik suppressed a shiver, but Jurgen’s thumb stopped stroking for a few seconds. Great. Jurgen had probably noticed that. Jurgen confirmed it by making an almost sub-aural rumble.

“Um, yeah, so I guess I was kinda, uh…” Miller began, looking at his shoes.

“Insensitive,” Jurgen prodded after a silent moment.

Miller took a deep breath. “That. Insensitive. Um, in high school and stuff, and I just wanted to say—”

“Miller,” Nik snapped. Miller’s head bobbed up in surprise, then Miller blinked at him. Nik took it as a sign he was listening. “Are you going to apologize for being an ignorant hick and making an issue about my skin color in high school because these two meatheads are making you, or do you really mean it?”

Seriously, Nik was concerned Miller would fall to his knees and beg forgiveness. The look on his face was the expressional equivalent of abject grovelry.

Nik couldn’t lie; he appreciated that.

“I mean it!” Miller wailed. “I didn’t realize, I swear! I always kinda liked your skin color and all those times I mentioned it. I mean, I used to fantasize—Uh.” Miller flapped his mouth ineffectively for a second, but then his voice re-booted. “Well, I mean I didn’t think about how you might feel. I mean, emotionally. Didn’t think ‘bout how you might feel inside. I mean your emotions!” Miller threw a wild-eyed look at Jurgen.

Nik had never actually seen anyone gibber in fear. He held up his hand, palm to Miller. Miller stopped mid-gibber with hugely evident relief. “Miller, apology accepted, but it wasn’t even really necessary. You weren’t acting maliciously. You did the best you could with what you knew. You know better now, right?” Nik felt Jurgen’s hand go slack, nearly falling of his neck.

Bet that surprised the big, dumb asshole. Didn’t Jurgen get that Nik was a kinder, more forgiving person since he’d fallen in love? Well, Jurgen was sleeping on the back porch tonight. Unless Nik could come up with something more suitably evil.

Miller’s mouth started flapping again, but his voice was back off-line. He began nodding vigorously. He sort of looked like a Muppet on mute. Nik held up a hand again.

Miller’s mouth stopped moving.

Note to self: take up animal training.

Nik smiled. A nice, big, man-eating smile. “Miller, I’m just curious; how did you end up here tonight?” He used his most polite voice. Jurgen stiffened behind him. Ian just continued to ignore the whole scene. He’d learn soon enough what the polite voice meant.

“Uh, Ian. He asked me, um…” Miller trailed off, and Nik could see his face redden in the porch light. He didn’t know if it was admitting he dated men, or if it was because Miller realized now he’d been duped by one.

Nik reached out and gently laid a hand on Miller’s forearm. “It’s all right, Miller, I think I get the picture. So,” he asked brightly, “is this your first date with Ian?” Miller nodded weakly.

Ian suddenly snapped to attention, looking at Nik. He cleared his throat. “I don’t date.” Nik faked curious surprise. Miller turned red.

Ian cleared his throat. “Jurgen suggested Miller and I might have some things in common.”

Nik cocked his head, then threw a gentle smile over his shoulder at his boyfriend. “Interesting. He never mentioned it.” When Nik turned back to face Miller, he heard Jurgen grumbling behind him. Not words, just general grumbly noises.

Back porch. No blanket.

“Weird coincidence, don’t you think? You showing up at the same bar we’re at maybe isn’t so weird. I mean, there just aren’t that many places to go in Marlyle County. But for Jurgen to meet you at the door like that? So fortuitous, since Jurgen clearly felt like he had something to say to you, Miller.” Nik smiled gently at Miller, who was starting to look like, just maybe, he was on the brink of more humiliation than he’d ever experienced in his whole life.

Miller took a breath. “Yeah. Uh, yeah. That is a coincidence. That’s just damn…weird…” Then the worst possible thing happened. The full enormity of what had happened hit Miller. He’d been played. For just a second, his face showed nothing but raw pain. And while Nik had been pissed off at Jurgen for setting Miller up like this? He wasn’t fully prepared for the level of angst Miller seemed to experience over it. Miller pressed his lips together and looked down at the wood boards under his feet. “Yeah.” His voice sounded scratchy.

Oh, no.

Nik didn’t do this. Didn’t get involved in other people’s emotional turmoil. He created enough of his own, he tended not to need others’. His personal emotional turmoil tachometer was pegged on the red line most of the time. Therefore, he wasn’t quite prepared for dealing with Miller’s.

In some panic, Nik glanced at Ian. No help there. Ian not only couldn’t see Miller’s face to realize what was going on, but he was obviously trying not to be a part of this scene anymore. Looking out into the parking lot, arms crossed on his (very impressive) chest, jaw hard. That same muscle ticking in his jaw that ticked in Jurgen’s.

Nik knew he couldn’t let Jurgen deal with this. He’d just fuck it up. He had all the sensitivity of a loaf of day-old bread. If Nik didn’t constantly advise Jurgen on being a more caring and considerate boyfriend, Jurgen would…do something just like this, actually.

Oh, god. Miller’s lip looked like it was maybe trembling.

Alert! Alert! This man’s about to cry! Nik’s brain started running around inside his skull like a panicked chicken.

Shut up. I’m the only option here, as unqualified and inadequate as I may be.

Nik reached out and took Miller’s hand, surprising him into looking up. His eyes even shone a bit.

Oh no. Worse than he thought.

Nik smiled faintly at Miller. “Why don’t I go introduce you to my friend, Margaret? I’m sure she’d love to meet you.” Please, higher power, let Margaret have a clue how to deal with this. The fact that sitting in the Elks Club with Nik and Margaret would throw suspicion on Miller’s sexual preferences couldn’t be helped. It was that or let a grown man cry in public. Which would also throw suspicion on his sexual preferences, actually.

As Nik walked back into the bar, leading a somewhat dazed Miller, he heard Jurgen’s low voice rumbling back behind them. Nik distinctly caught the words, “so much trouble for this.”

Goddamn right, Jurgen.

* * * *

Jurgen stood in the bedroom doorway, shifting his weight. Nik had never seen Jurgen quite this uncomfortable. He’d never seen Jurgen uncomfortable, period. Nik tried to watch out of the corner of his eye while still making it look like he wasn’t paying any attention.

Which was hard, since Jurgen wasn’t wearing anything but black briefs. They really showed off his ass dimples to perfection.

The big, sexy asshole.

Sure earned that name tonight. Nik accidentally let a snort of agreement slip out. He diligently flipped through his magazine to make up for the lapse in the silent treatment.

“Nikky?” Jurgen’s voice was low.

Nik didn’t look up.

“Nikky?” Jurgen tried again a minute later.

How long would he try that before he gave up? Could be all night. Jurgen had stamina. Besides, Nik kind of wanted to know what ridiculous excuse he would come up with for his behavior. He sighed gustily and set the magazine in his lap. Then he looked at Jurgen and smiled brightly. “Did you need something, Jurgen? Another blanket? I thought I put enough out there for you. I left your special pillow for you, too, so you’ll be comfortable on the couch.”

He hadn’t been able to make himself go through with the back porch. Damn it all.

“Why are you so mad at me?” Jurgen didn’t sound right. Nik looked at Jurgen more carefully. He had that look in his eyes again. He had his hands planted, one on each side of the doorframe, and he looked at Nik worriedly, sort of swaying into and out of the room. Subtly. Subtle, whole-body fidgeting.

It was mesmerizing. Nik had never seen Jurgen act this way before. He tilted his head to get a different perspective on it.

Jurgen cleared his throat—cleared his throat!—and said Nik’s name again. “Nikky?” Well, his version of Nik’s name.

“Jurgen, you really don’t know?” Nik didn’t smile at him or use the polite I’m-so-pissed-off-I-could-bite-a-chunk-out-of-your-flesh voice. Jurgen’s behavior was starting to worry him.

Jurgen shook his head slowly, but didn’t say anything. He looked almost beseechingly at Nik. What was with all these people and their uncontrollable emotional turmoil tonight? How could they really expect Nik to deal with it? You only had to look at him to know he was high-maintenance.

“You hurt Miller, Jurgen. A lot. He thought Ian might have a real interest in him.”

Jurgen looked at the floor, his fingers tightening on the doorframe. “I’m sorry,” he finally said. He didn’t sound sorry. He sounded kind of mad.

Great. “Jurgen, don’t tell me you’re sorry. Tell Miller.”

Jurgen looked back up at Nik. “He hurt you.” His voice was hard.

“In high school.”

“He harassed you. He harassed you for being gay when other people were around, and he harassed you for sex when he could find you alone!”

“He was young and stupid and self-involved. He never threatened me. He wasn’t any worse than a lot of guys. I got over it. You aren’t young and stupid and trying to hide you’re gay. Am I supposed to say it’s okay you humiliated and harassed a guy because your inner troglodyte needed to have a moment? Why did you even do that?” Nik sat as far forward on the bed as he could. He could feel the tendons on his neck straining with the effort to keep his voice under control. In spite of his general big, dumb asshole status, tonight he couldn’t get over feeling like Jurgen was somehow fragile.

“He singled you out because of the color of your skin. You hated growing up here in Whitetail because of guys like that.”

Nik stared at Jurgen a minute. There was something here he wasn’t getting. Maybe if he explained himself? “Yeah…” Nik needed another moment to work it out. “But I didn’t want revenge or something. I just want him to leave me alone. Instead I had to spend all night comforting him because my boyfriend humiliated him.”

Jurgen’s jaw tightened. He stared at the far wall over Nik’s head. “I don’t understand you sometimes, Nik. You hated Miller and how he treated you in high school, and now you waste time trying to make him feel better?”

“It’s not a waste of time, Jurgen. Feeling that shitty, especially when someone did it to you on purpose, that’s awful. Hasn’t anyone ever, ever victimized you?” He just might have added a decibel or two to his volume. But seriously, did Jurgen think this was okay? Just because he’d never been anything but perfect and liked—

“I’m a gay cop, Nik, of course people have picked on me! Fuck!”

What? Nik stared at him. “But…you’re big and tough and gorgeous and self-confident, and who would ever pick on you?”

Jurgen’s jaw muscle started twitching. The angry one, not the horny jaw muscle. His knuckles were white on the doorframe as he turned his head to look out at their living room. “Forget it. I’m going to sleep.”

“Jurgen, wait!” Nik was walking on his knees across the bed, trying to get to Jurgen before he left. Knee walking on a mattress was not the best form of locomotion. He didn’t quite make it before Jurgen disappeared down the hall.

Follow him? Nik wasn’t sure what that would mean in terms of this argument. Would that be a win or a loss for him? Would he have to mark it a draw on the scorecard he secretly kept in his head? (Current score: Nik 33, Jurgen 25.)

Would Jurgen even want Nik to follow him?

That’s what ultimately stopped Nik and left him sort of adrift on Jurgen’s side of the bed, staring out the bedroom door. I don’t know.

* * * *

Nik looked at the clock. 03:14. The trouble with living with a cop was that all the clocks in the house were set on twenty-four-hour time. Nik could only be absolutely certain about the exact time between midnight and noon. He wasn’t really a morning person, so he never seemed to know the time during his waking hours. Figuring out the time between noon and midnight took some semi-mystical formula that Nik never quite got the hang of. Math wasn’t his forte.

Truthfully, telling time wasn’t his forte, either.

Right at this moment, Nik was certain that he’d been lying here, worried and wide awake, for almost three hours. The significance of this particular moment was that he’d figured something out.

He wanted to know who hurt Jurgen and hurt that person back. Make them apologize, at a minimum. Nik sighed. Maybe he could kind of see, a little tiny bit, Jurgen’s motivation here. Maybe the scorecard didn’t really matter at a time like this. I should get up and go talk to him.

Except he didn’t have to. Jurgen came padding softly into the room right at that moment, tiptoeing so he wouldn’t wake Nik up.

“I’m awake,” Nik whispered.

Jurgen froze, leaning over his side of the bed. Then he climbed in and got under the covers. He sighed heavily once he’d settled in. “I forgot my pillow out there,” he whispered to Nik.

For one crazy, completely altruistic moment, Nik thought about going to get it for Jurgen. Then it passed. Instead, he rolled on his side, facing Jurgen. Not too close. He laid a hand on Jurgen’s chest.

Jurgen’s hand came up immediately and grabbed Nik’s, tangling their fingers and pressing Nik’s palm into Jurgen’s T-shirt. Nik’s heart went into overdrive. Jurgen’s beat steadily under his hand.

“Jurgen, just tell me what it is.”

“What?” Jurgen turned his head toward Nik, away from the dim light coming in the window. Nik couldn’t see his face very well, but he could feel Jurgen breathing between them.

“Is it a brain tumor? Lou Gehrig’s disease? What? Just tell me, Jurgen.” Nik squeezed Jurgen’s hand so tight he thought one of his knuckles might pop right out of his skin.

“What are you talking about, Nik?”

“You’re scaring me. You’re acting all…loving and stuff. It’s completely unlike you.”

“I don’t act loving toward you?” Jurgen almost sounded hurt.

“Not like this. You don’t hold my hand or go off tilting at windmills for me.”

Jurgen stared at him in the dark.

“Don Quixote. He thought the windmills were some kind of monster or something, so he’d attack them.”

“So, Miller is my personal windmill?”

“Better than your personal Waterloo.” Nik knew he wouldn’t have to explain Waterloo.

Jurgen sighed and turned his head. Now Nik could see his profile. He had such a sexy nose. “Jurgen, please. Just tell me what’s wrong.”

Jurgen shrugged stiffly. His chest shifted and slid under their hands. “I wanted to do something nice for you.”

Oh. That was so—

Shut up.

“That required you to do something cruel to Miller?” Even if it was incredibly sweet.

“Why do you care so much about how Miller feels?” Jurgen’s voice was angry again that fast.

A-ha. “Why do you sound jealous?”

“I’m not jealous! I’m mad!”

“Uh-huh.” Nik smiled to himself. He pushed up on his elbow, but Jurgen wouldn’t let go of his hand, which made straddling Jurgen’s hips a little awkward.

“What are you doing?” Now he sounded grouchy. In a forced way.

“I’m going to use my masculine wiles to get you to talk to me.” Nik could feel Jurgen under him, between his legs. Soft and warm.

“I am talking to you.” Jurgen let go of Nik’s hand, settling his on Nik’s hips. Already his voice sounded more normal. Slower. Nik rubbed himself once or twice lightly against Jurgen’s groin. Just to get the show on the road. Jurgen’s voice dropped lower. “I can talk this way, too, though.”

Nik leaned forward all the way, close enough to say against Jurgen’s lips, “I know. You’re really good at talking this way.” Jurgen palmed the back of his head and kissed him, tongue warm and possessive, pushing forcefully into Nik’s mouth. Nik sucked on it, though, didn’t let Jurgen have control. Jurgen gripped him tighter, digging fingers into his skull and hip. Nik let his tongue go and pulled away from Jurgen, settling his weight on Jurgen’s hardening cock. Jurgen bucked his hips up a couple of times, and Nik could just make out his teeth in the dark. Smiling.

Nik smiled and smoothed his hands over Jurgen’s chest. “Mmmm, you feel good.”

“Like it when you touch me like that, Nikky. Wanna feel your hands on my skin.”

“You do, huh?”

“Yeah, Nikky.” Jurgen’s voice got low and rumbly, like his chopper. Nik swiveled his hips, grinding. This was right where he wanted Jurgen. Hard and rocking between his legs. “Take off my shirt,” Jurgen said.

“Not until you answer one question for me.” Nik leaned forward, stroking up across Jurgen’s shirt with his fingers until he found the skin at his throat. He ran fingers across Jurgen’s lips.

Jurgen nipped at his fingers and growled at him. Nik felt it vibrating in his balls. Rowr. Jurgen made the best noises when he was horny.

“Okay, Nikky. Ask the damn question.”

Nik thought he’d better start small with the questions. “Why did you make Miller apologize to me?”

“He hurt you.” Jurgen lifted a hand off Nik’s hip and pulled his T-shirt up, just exposing his abs. Technically, that qualified as an answer, so Nik trailed fingers across skin and through Jurgen’s sparse trail of hair. Jurgen’s muscles tightened wherever Nik’s fingers went.

Nik circled around the edge of Jurgen’s navel. Jurgen sucked in a breath. “You asked Ian to pretend he wanted to hook up with Miller?”

Jurgen squirmed. Nik thought it was more about the question than the finger teasing him. “Yeah.” Jurgen’s voice was tight. “I was a jerk.”

That definitely deserved a reward. Nik leaned forward and kissed Jurgen, then started yanking on the hem of his shirt. Jurgen curled himself up and pulled it over his head with one hand. “Touch me,” he said, his voice achy.

So Nik did, rubbing Jurgen hard the way he liked, kneading his pecs (Jurgen groaned), stroking Jurgen’s washboard abs with his palms. Gripping the small love handles above Jurgen’s hips. That was for Nik. He didn’t know why he liked those so much, but he loved that Jurgen had them. They made him seem domesticated. Like Nik had tamed him. Caught him and trapped him and fed him regularly enough that his lean, predator’s body could store up some fat reserves.


Rowr

“Lick me, Nikky.” Jurgen tried to make it sound like an order, but he was really just begging. Nik smiled and squeezed his shoulders. He knew exactly what Jurgen wanted, but he was going to play the game.

“You want me to lick you, Jurgen? Where?” Nik put as much batting of eyelashes into his voice as he could.

Sometimes Jurgen just moved like he was liquid. Slow and languid and looking like a gay pinup calendar. He stretched his arms over his head. “C’mon, Nikky. You know where.” It was completely bizarre that Jurgen could ask for or describe any sex act in perfect anatomical and lurid detail, except he couldn’t say “Lick my armpit.”

Usually Nik made him ask for it. Tracing his nose up Jurgen’s lats, breathing hot moist breath on his underarms, kissing his triceps, but never quite getting there until Jurgen all but begged. Jurgen never actually begged, but he came close, those times.

This time, Nik just smiled and leaned forward slowly. “Why now? Why did you make Miller apologize tonight?” His breath fell across Jurgen’s skin, ruffling his hair. When Nik took a breath in, he could taste Jurgen. Guh.

Nik laid teeth into Jurgen’s underarm, not quite biting. Something he was always tempted to do but had never done before. Jurgen arched into him and groaned. Nik swirled his tongue across Jurgen’s skin, tangling in his hair to taste salt and heat and pheromones and Jurgen. Nik wanted to purr like a kitten and lap at him like he was a bowl of milk.

You forgot to make him answer.

Shut up.

Nik stretched out, feeling Jurgen’s naked chest against his, Jurgen capturing both of Nik’s offered wrists in one hand and holding them over their heads, forcing Nik to fall into him. Jurgen made his low rumbling sound, and Nik could feel it move through his skin, vibrating in the tips of his nipples.

“Yeah, Nikky. Like that.” Jurgen gripped the back of Nik’s head and held it while Nik licked at him. This was the way it always ended up. Nik started by teasing Jurgen and being in control, but then he tasted Jurgen’s skin and sweat and got wrapped up in it. So turned on by the taste of Jurgen and by knowing how much Jurgen loved this that Nik writhed with it. Groin grinding against Jurgen’s and naked chests sliding together, wrists and head held securely by him. By the time Nik was done, his face would be wet with his own saliva and Jurgen’s scent. He’d be nearly mindlessly thrusting his cock into Jurgen’s skin, out of control. Then Jurgen would roll them over and take Nik’s mouth, laying all his weight on Nik, still pinning his wrists, trying to suck the taste right out of Nik or maybe spread it throughout his system. So completely immerse Nik in Jurgen’s scent that it never came out, a cloud enveloping him wherever he went, and everyone would know Nik belonged to someone.

Nik was on the edge of coming in his briefs, moaning into Jurgen’s armpit, by the time Jurgen flipped them over and attacked his mouth. He ripped his head away after only a minute. “You’re mine, Nikky. You can’t leave me.”

“I’m yours,” Nik panted, trying to thrust up harder into Jurgen’s groin. Jurgen lifted his hips away from Nik and started shoving Nik’s briefs down with his free hand. “I don’t wanna leave you, Jurgen.”

“Didn’t you have some questions for me, Nikky?” Jurgen taunted him, crooning in his ear. Shifting his body enough to force a thigh between Nik’s legs, hand gliding past Nik’s balls, running a fingertip lightly across Nik’s hole.

Nik shuddered. “Yeah,” he choked out. “Where’s the lube?”

Jurgen nipped at Nik’s neck, licking his way down to trace around Nik’s pecs, then gripping Nik’s nipple in his teeth. He hmmmmmm’ed, and Nik arched up into him.

Rowr. Nik was an instrument, and Jurgen was tuning him. “Please, Jurgen. Baby, please.” Jurgen chuckled and pushed just the tip of his finger inside Nik. Nik sucked in a breath and held it, trying to spread his legs farther for Jurgen but held down by his weight.

Then Jurgen pulled the finger out of him. Nik groaned, hoping Jurgen knew where the lube was, but suddenly Jurgen’s finger was in his mouth, and the taste of Nik mixing with the taste of Jurgen made Nik gasp, then suck. His world made one of those weird little shifts it sometimes did with Jurgen, and Nik felt like they were occupying the same space. Breathing through one set of lungs, one heart beating. One tongue tasting the same thing. Then Jurgen’s mouth was over his and Nik could feel the edges of Jurgen’s teeth in his lips and Jurgen’s long, thick finger pushing into his ass, lubricated by his own saliva and the taste of them together.

Jesus Christ, he was going to come. He was making desperate noises into Jurgen’s mouth that were echoing back at him. Jurgen was panting and thrusting his hard dick against Nik’s hip, grunting. Talking to him. “Wanna fuck you, Nikky. Shove my dick deep in you and make you mine again.”

“Yours,” Nik agreed breathlessly. “Already am.” Jurgen was working a second finger into him carefully. Nik squirmed against Jurgen’s hold, wanting less careful and more fuck. “Jurgen, harder. Now. Please. Need you.”

“Mmmmmm. You beg so pretty, Nikky.” Jurgen bit his throat lightly and shoved his fingers into Nik’s ass, twisting his hand. Nik gasped. “You only beg for me, don’t you? I’m the one you want. Sam’s never going to see you like this, Nikky, just me.”

Nik froze.

Well, duh.

Jurgen was sucking the skin over Nik’s collarbone, thumb on Nik’s taint, stroking his cock against Nik’s thigh. It took him a few thrusts before he realized Nik was still.

“What did you say?” Nik asked, rushing to get it out between panting breaths.

Jurgen panted against his shoulder and didn’t say anything. He started easing his fingers out of Nik. Nik clenched around him, and he stopped.

“Jurgen?”

Jurgen dropped his forehead into the crook of Nik’s neck, his hand loosening on Nik’s wrists. “I don’t know. Don’t remember.”

And I’m a dual-dicked monkey.

This time Nik let Jurgen pull his fingers out of him. Nik took advantage of Jurgen’s lax hold, pulling his wrists out of Jurgen’s hand and flipping them back over before he even really thought about what he was doing. Even before he thought about how he was going to make Jurgen move for him. He slid down Jurgen’s body, sliding his shorts off, and slid Jurgen’s cock right into his mouth.

Jurgen whimpered—whimpered—flexing his hips and gripping Nik’s hair painfully tight. Nik took his time, tasting Jurgen, letting his tongue slide all over and trace some of Jurgen’s better features. The slit in his head and the ridge around it. That thick vein on his shaft. Moving slowly, not sucking, until Jurgen was arched up and shaking.

Then Nik slid Jurgen right out of his mouth. “Nikky,” Jurgen groaned. Nik smiled and crawled back up Jurgen’s body. Gripping Jurgen’s cock and letting the head slide in saliva against him. Up past his balls, across his taint, until Jurgen was right there, glans kissing Nik’s asshole.

“What did you say, Jurgen?”

Jurgen didn’t try to lie again. He told Nik what he wanted to know. “I said, ‘Sam’s never going to see you like this, just me’.”

Nik rewarded him for answering.


Jurgen

Nik took dance classes in school right up until he graduated. The first time Jurgen was up at Nik’s place and Nik came home sweaty and horny from dance class—“I wanted to shower with you”—Jurgen did something he never in a million years thought he’d do. He memorized Nik’s class schedule. Then he started arranging his days off so he could be at Nik’s apartment on dance class days.

Jurgen had gone to a dance recital of Nik’s this past spring. Hottest live sex show Jurgen could remember. He was in the front row, and Nik held his eyes the whole time he danced. Ballet or modern dance or something that involved him wearing a skin-tight unitard and flexing all his muscles. They didn’t make it to Nik’s office afterward; couldn’t make it out of the building. Nik pulled Jurgen into a bathroom stall two floors above the recital hall, and Jurgen pushed Nik’s sweats down and his shirt up, grinding his cock against Nik’s sweat-slick body until they frosted their skin.

This was better than any of that. Better than waiting for Nik to come home and shuck his sweats at the door before wrapping his legs around Jurgen’s hips. Better than watching Nik dance just for him in a room full of people. He didn’t know what he’d done to deserve this, but Jurgen would have prayed for it not to stop if he could rub two thoughts together.

Instead of yelling at him or—worse—telling Jurgen that Nik wanted to beg for Sam, Nik smiled softly. Not the dangerous smile, either, but a real one. “You’re the only one I’ll ever beg for, baby.” Then he flexed his hips and took Jurgen in, sliding down his cock in short strokes until Jurgen was all the way in, Nik seated on him fully. Panting and skin slicked just like the time he danced for Jurgen.

Now Nik danced on Jurgen. Riding him. Every time Nik pushed himself onto Jurgen’s cock, Jurgen lost his breath. He was afraid he might be wheezing, but he couldn’t help it, and he cared less and less every time he slid up, deep inside Nik. Nik leaning forward over him, feeling Jurgen’s skin with his fingers and palms. Jurgen’s abs, then his chest and arms. Slow stroking in time with Nik’s thrusting hips. Petting Jurgen.

It felt like Nik adored him. Like worship.

Then Nik had hands in Jurgen’s hair and thumbs stroking his cheeks, and his lips and eyes and breath were right there. Kissing him. Clinging lips and sliding tongue and slow softness. Pulling back again, touching and stroking, and it made Jurgen’s head swim. When Jurgen moaned, Nik smiled at him, leaning back over Jurgen’s legs.

His lover. “So beautiful,” Jurgen whispered, and Nik smiled wider, then let his head drop back on his shoulders. Jurgen watched him move, sinuous body and swiveling hips. All those sleek, strong muscles and that beautiful skin and that sheen of sweat. All for working himself on Jurgen.

Nik’s hips lifting, cock swaying, his gut muscles tensing, chest arching back into a perfect bow. Jurgen’s hands followed his eyes, up Nik’s flanks, across his ribs, fingernails skimming Nik’s hard nipples. He felt Nik’s fingers dig into his shins. Nik’s hips swiveled hard, screwing himself down onto Jurgen’s shaft.

Slick and smooth and so much heat gripping him. Jurgen’s breath hitched, and he brought one hand down to Nik’s cock, but Nik stopped him. Stopped moving and lifted his head. Licking his lips and squeezing Jurgen inside him.

Jurgen almost came right there, Nik looking at him like that and using his muscles to massage Jurgen’s cock. He couldn’t breathe, and his head spun, and he could barely hear Nik over the blood rushing in his ears.

“Let me.”

“Oh, fuck,” Jurgen croaked. Nik thrust down and cried out, and knowing he was going to bring himself off just on Jurgen’s cock was too much. Jurgen sat up, gripping Nik’s hips, and they did it together. Nik looking into his eyes, hands in his hair, breathing with him, crying out when he came, whole body shivering. Jurgen couldn’t look away from his face. When he felt Nik’s ass squeeze him tight and cum hit his belly, he pulled Nik’s head down and cried into his mouth while he exploded inside him. His skin too thin to contain the feeling of coming inside Nik, dissolving into him.

The muscles in Jurgen’s back failed, and he fell back on the bed, pulling Nik on top of him. Still kissing him, Jurgen’s hips still arching to shove himself as far as he could inside Nik. Hands clamped on Nik’s hips. Muscles locked. Nik kept kissing him, and when Jurgen’s muscles finally relaxed, Nik pulled off, then collapsed onto Jurgen’s chest, leg thrown over his thighs, temple against Jurgen’s jaw. Completely relaxed.

“Best. Sex. Ever,” Nik gasped. Jurgen hid his head in Nik’s hair and nodded. All he could do. He didn’t trust himself to speak.

Nik was still twitching with aftershocks and breathing hard when Jurgen managed to pull back and glare at him. “You can’t leave me.” He might look mean, but his voice wobbled.

“No,” Nik gasped, sucking in a breath. He tilted his face to Jurgen’s. “I’m not. I’m in love with you, Jurgen. Why would I,” he had to pause for more breath, “leave you?”

Jurgen kissed Nik possessively. Tongue and teeth and nearly gagging him. Feeling the air Nik tried to suck in through Jurgen’s nose.

“I kind of like your inner troglodyte,” Nik murmured into his chest after Jurgen finally let Nik go to settle back in.

He loved Nik draped over him like this. “My inner troglodyte needs you.” Stupid thing to say, but it nearly choked him up.

Nik

Why would he think I’m going to leave him? And what the fuck was that about Sam?

That probably required further investigation. Nik sighed to himself over the effort of it all. Relationships were so much work.

“Jurgen?”

“Hmm?” Jurgen’s chest rumbled under his ear.

“Why would you think I’m going to leave you?”

Nothing. Predictable. Nik tried to work up the energy to get it out of Jurgen. Clearly, the “seduce it out of him” tack had been an epic fail. Well, in terms of getting information out of Jurgen. It could otherwise be counted as an overwhelming success. Nik smiled into Jurgen’s skin and shivered at the memory.

“Cold, Nikky?” Jurgen hugged him with the other arm, too, running a hand up Nik’s back. He flipped a blanket over them.

“No. Just waiting for you to answer.” That wasn’t likely to be a successful tack. But to Nik’s surprise, Jurgen answered. Huffing a big, put-upon breath first, of course.

“I heard you tell Sam you wanted the hell out of Whitetail Rock and you didn’t know why you’d ever moved in with me.”

Nik’s post-coital relaxing was taking a beating tonight. “When?”

“On the phone last week.”

Shit. Nik pushed himself off Jurgen. He had to fight Jurgen’s arm, and even when he was up on his elbow, Jurgen kept it around him. He was being downright clingy. “That’s why you thought I was going to leave you?”

Jurgen nodded.

Weird as it was, Jurgen needed comforting. Nik’s heart gave a happy little wiggle. “I was mad, baby.” Nik stroked Jurgen’s cheek. “I was venting. And I never said I didn’t know why I moved in with you. I said I didn’t know why I’d moved back here. To Whitetail Rock.”

Jurgen shrugged. Nik was positive if he could see Jurgen well enough, he’d see his lower lip sticking out, just slightly. Nik ran his thumb across it, and yeah, Jurgen was pouting.

“You aren’t Whitetail, baby. You’re Jurgen.”

“Oh.” Jurgen’s voice was soft with surprise. Nik bit his tongue on a snarky comment about the distinction between the town and the man. Relationships not only took work, they took sacrifice.

Instead, he asked, “Are you jealous of Sam?”

“No. Just…” Jurgen flicked his eyes away, and Nik could feel his jaw harden under his hand. “Why didn’t you vent to me about wanting to leave?”

Nik was speechless for few seconds, amazed that Jurgen could whine. Nik had assumed he was just incapable. Then the question sunk in. “I did.” Jurgen wrinkled his brow. “You weren’t listening.”

Jurgen stared at him in the dark.

“I got home from working at Mom and Dad’s store, remember?”

Jurgen shook his head. Nik sighed dramatically. “Yes. I was in the store, checked out Mrs. Werzinger, my third-grade teacher, said ‘hi’, and she said, ‘I always knew you’d end up one of those no-good faggots. And now you’ve corrupted our local trooper.’ Then Mom kicked her eighty-eight-year-old ass out the door and threw her walker out after her. When I came home, I found you in the kitchen doing the crossword and told you all about it.”

Jurgen looked away, at the far wall. He cleared his throat, but didn’t say anything. Nik rolled his eyes. “You don’t remember this, do you?”

“Um…” Jurgen coughed.

“Right. I decided you weren’t listening to me, so I called the one person who always listens to me. I called Sam. I’m guessing by this that when I was having a conversation with someone else and you weren’t supposed to be listening, you in fact were?”

Jurgen cleared his throat again.

“I was pissed off at Mrs. Werzinger, upset that Mom and Dad’s store would have no more customers because their faggot son had moved back into town, and annoyed with my boyfriend for not listening to me. So I said something I didn’t really mean, and that’s the thing you heard and believed.” Nik flopped over onto his back, trapping Jurgen’s arm under his shoulder blades.

Jurgen pushed himself onto his elbow now. It was a little ungainly, since Nik refused to move off his arm. “I’m sorry.”

“I know.”

“I’ll be better.”

Nik looked at Jurgen. It was so cute it nearly melted his heart. His boyfriend actually believed he could change for love. Nik reached up and patted his cheek. “No you won’t, Jurgen. But it’s okay.”

“No, Nik. I will. I’ll change.”

Nik snorted. Then he got off Jurgen’s arm and pushed on Jurgen’s chest until he lay back down. Jurgen put his arm back around Nik when Nik laid his head on Jurgen’s chest. “It’s okay, baby.” Nik checked, and it looked like the splinter-selves could all get back onboard the afterglow train with a minimum of fuss. “No more torturing bi-confused hicks for me, though.”

Jurgen was silent. Nik closed his eyes and let himself snuggle. That was one of the best parts about having a boyfriend, he’d decided. He could snuggle openly and not covertly. Covert snuggling was like farting during sex. The best you could hope for was that your partner would pretend not to notice.

“I thought you wanted to leave me.” Jurgen sounded dazed.

Nik patted his chest. “My poor, big, dumb asshole.” He sighed, kissing Jurgen’s neck. “Why didn’t you just ask me?”

Nik could feel the dumbfounded rising up from Jurgen’s skin. “I don’t know,” he said slowly. “I didn’t need to ask you if I knew how to fix it.”

“Oh, Jurgen.” Nik patted him some more, petting his sternum. “We could probably spend a few years and thousands of dollars in psychologist’s fees figuring you out, couldn’t we?”

“We don’t need to. I’ll change.”

Nik sighed. This again? “How about this. The next time you overhear me say something you don’t understand, you just ask me. And the next time you think I’m closer to Sam than I am to you, you just drag me to bed and prove I’m yours, okay?”

It took a few minutes, but Jurgen finally seemed to accept the inevitable. He shrugged. “Okay.” Nik smiled and kissed his chest.

Finally. Uninterrupted afterglow.

“Let’s move.”

“Huh?”

“I want you to buy a house with me. Outside of Whitetail.”

“Jurgen, I’m a clerk at a grocery store. Even if I get that teaching job in the fall at the community college, I’ll only be an adjunct. I can’t afford half a house payment and all my bills.”

“I’ll pay the bills. You just pay half the mortgage.”

“I can’t do that.” Nik sighed.

“Right now you pay half the bills and I pay the mortgage. We’re just switching that around.”

“Why can’t I just pay half the mortgage on this house, then?”

“Because this house is in Whitetail. I want you to be out of town, where you don’t know everyone. If we found a place near Cindercone we’d be halfway between the community college and my station.”

“What if I don’t get that teaching job?”

Jurgen shrugged. “You can get a different job in Cindercone. You could even take that adjunct position the university offered you after you graduated. It’s only a little more than an hour back to the city from Cindercone.”

More like an hour and a half. Nik propped his fists on Jurgen’s chest and looked at him. “You need me to do this, don’t you? So you know I’m not leaving?”

Jurgen nodded firmly.

“Okay, baby. I will.”

Jurgen’s smile was blinding, even in the almost-dark. He kissed Nik softly and finally, really settled back, closing his eyes. Nik smiled and draped himself on top of Jurgen’s chest, one leg thrown over his. There; fixed. Let the post-coital haze recommence. “G’night, baby,” Nik murmured.

“If you can call me baby, why do I have to call you Nikky?” Jurgen’s voice was lazy now. Sometimes he got like this, talking to Nik with that lazy voice in the dark until Nik drifted off. Nik smiled and sighed happily. His bones were gelatin. He lifted his head and kissed Jurgen’s chest, rubbing his face in the sparse hair on his pecs. He settled back into Jurgen’s warmth.

“Nikky?” Jurgen’s voice roused him from post-coital zen. “You asleep?” Some of the lazy seemed to be gone from his voice.

“No.” Nik yawned, his jaw cracking.

“Well?”

“Well, what?” Dammit, wasn’t Nik supposed to be the needy one in this relationship?

“Why do you get to call me baby?”

“Oh. I thought that was a rhetorical question.” Well, if he was going to be needy, at least he was cute. And fucked like a god.

“It wasn’t,” Jurgen said after a moment of silence. He jostled Nik in his arm.

Nik hid his smile, turning into Jurgen’s chest and tasting Jurgen’s skin with the tip of his tongue. “How many guys have I ever called baby?” He let his lips thrum against Jurgen’s skin.

“One,” Jurgen answered automatically.

“One, baby. And how many guys have you called baby?”

Silence.

“You want me to stop calling you baby?”

“No,” Jurgen answered almost at the same moment. “No, Nikky.”

“Good, baby.”

Jurgen gripped him tighter for a few seconds. “You love me.”

Nik nodded against Jurgen’s chest. “Mmmmm. Yeah, Jurgen. You love me, too.”

“I do, Nikky.”

Nik nodded against Jurgen’s chest. “Mmmmm. Yeah, Jurgen. You love me, too.”



“I do, Nikky.”

Anne Tenino applies her particular blend of romance, comedy, and gay protagonists to contemporary, scifi, and paranormal tales. Her works have won many awards; her novel, Frat Boy and Toppy, is frequently referred to as a gay romance classic; she’s been featured in RT Book Reviews magazine; she holds the position of VP of Programming at her local RWA chapter; and she’s achieved bestseller status on Amazon’s gay romance list.

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