pulls back and breaks the kiss. He’s panting—they both are—and for a few
seconds they just stare at each other.
Eli licks his lips. “Maybe we should slow down a bit.”
question seems to stump Eli for a few seconds.
because this is going awfully fast?”
lived together since June,” Calden points out. Entirely of their own accord,
his fingers are tugging Eli’s shirt out of his jeans. “Wasn’t that slow
laughs quietly. “Entirely different circumstances.”
Even the nurses thought we were a couple.”
but we weren’t, and now we are, and forgive me but I’m still trying to wrap my
mind around that.”
only half joking, Calden realizes. Eli admitted to his romantic attachment, and
there’s no doubt he’s physically attracted to Calden, but it’s still new, maybe
even a little frightening—just as it is for Calden, if for different reasons.
going to forget, Eli.” The words come out in a rush. Calden didn’t mean to say
this, but Eli needs to understand it’s more than impatience or animal lust
pushing him. “This—” He touches the gauze on his own chest. “—will help me
remember, but it won’t be the same as it was today. I’ll relearn it every time,
but you’ll already know. It won’t be new for you anymore. Today is the one time
when we get to be on the same footing.”
also means,” Eli says with a small smile, “that you get to have an infinite
number of first times, and I only get one. If it’s all the same to you, I’d
rather not rush through it. Especially when you’ve been up for over fifty hours
and are long overdue for a good night of sleep.”
has to roll his eyes at that. “We agreed I can have up to four days.”
Eli’s fingers rest on Calden’s shoulders, and he makes him turn, then nudges
him toward the staircase, keeping his hand at the small of his back. “We agreed
you can have four days
you’re needed at the hospital and
you don’t have hallucinations or paranoia symptoms. Off to bed you go.”
lets himself be guided toward his bedroom. As long as Eli is coming along, he
doesn’t mind going there.
can’t force me to sleep,” he says, glancing back. “But you could help tire me
out. We don’t have to fuck. We could still get off another way. Or we can fuck
if that’s what you want. I assume they tested me for everything under the sun
back in June, and knowing you, you’re clean as a whistle.”
hand falls away. Calden looks back, questioning. Shaking his head, Eli smiles
really know how to sweet talk someone,” he says, tongue in cheek. “How could I
ever resist? Oh, wait. All I have to do is be sensible. Come in here.”
into the bathroom. Curious, Calden follows. After washing his hands, Eli removes
the gauze and proceeds to very gently wash the new tattoo on Calden’s chest
before he pats it dry and covers it again with a fresh patch of gauze.
he says then, not quite meeting Calden’s eyes. “You need sleep.”
takes hold of Eli’s wrist and tugs him across the hall and into the bedroom.
Under his fingertips, Eli’s pulse confirms what his dilated pupils and the
flush in his cheeks are already making clear. As much as he’s protesting, he
does want this as much as Calden does.
Calden leans in close, Eli’s breath comes out in a little gasp. Calden whispers
against Eli’s ear, “Come to bed with me.”
doesn’t wait for an answer and removes his pants and underwear before slipping
between the sheets. For a few seconds, Eli only stares at him, and Calden can
practically hear the cogs turning in his mind about whether they’re going too
fast or not and whether Calden’s supposed need for sleep should be a factor.
answer he comes up with, he’s soon tugging his shirt over his head. His shoes,
trousers and socks come off too, but he’s still wearing his boxers over a very
noticeable bulge when he climbs into bed.
impossible,” he mutters as he slides in close to Calden so that they lie on
their sides next to each other, and brings their mouths together.
Calden was going to respond entirely slips his mind as Eli’s tongue finds his
again. If he had any doubt that the first kiss was a statistical error, the
outlier to unsatisfying experiences, this second one confirms that it was
lays a hand on Calden’s cheek, then slides it to the back of his head, fingers
tangling in his hair and drawing him a little closer, a little harder against Eli’s
mouth. Calden groans. Just two points of contact, mouth and hand, and already
sparks of electricity are shooting through him, sensations coursing down his
spine and to the tip of his prick.
his hips closer to Eli’s, Calden presses a hand to his arm, tracing the long scar
with his fingertips. He doesn’t stay there but slides down Eli’s arm, over his
hip to the edge of his boxers and then against the waistband to the front,
cupping Eli’s cock.
a gasp, Eli breaks the kiss. For a second, Calden is sure he’s gone too fast
and Eli will ask once more to slow down, but then Eli’s mouth is on his again,
possessive, and his hips are pressing forward, pushing his prick harder against
he rubs the heel of his hand along the hard length still hiding beneath fabric,
Calden can feel a growing wet patch against the tip. Tasting Eli suddenly
becomes paramount. His hand is unsteady when he guides Eli’s cock out of his underwear.
He gives it a few slow, teasing strokes that cause Eli to groan into his mouth,
then swipes his thumb to the tip, gathering precome. This time, it’s a sound of
protest that rises from Eli’s throat when Calden lets go of him then breaks the
kiss, but he soon watches Calden suck on his own thumb and the gleaming bead of
Eli breathes, his voice shaky.
grins at him. “I thought you wanted to go slow?”
is still chuckling when he covers Calden’s mouth with his own. As Calden
returns his hand to Eli’s prick, Eli’s hand follows, and tentatively wraps
around Calden’s cock. The first few strokes are hesitant, but quickly he finds
a rhythm, matching Calden’s slide for slide. Every so often, their cocks press
against each other, and every time the sensations ratchet up a little more.
They both start to lose their pace, but the answer to that is easy.
their cocks together and joining their hands over them feels as natural as
though they’ve done this dozens of times before. They’re both panting too hard
to keep kissing, and their mouths fall apart even as they press their pricks
more tightly together still.
ends with a word, Eli’s name passing Calden’s lips in a shaky whisper. Eli’s
eyes clench tightly shut, and his hips thrust forward as he comes, his cock
pulsing alongside Calden’s and triggering his orgasm.
pleasure crashing through him like relentless waves over the beach, Calden
closes his eyes—and opens them again at once. He can’t fall asleep now. He
a minute, he’ll get out of Eli’s embrace and out of bed. He’ll get a washcloth from
the bathroom and clean himself and Eli. He’ll get a snack in the kitchen and
they’ll eat in bed. Maybe they won’t finish the food before starting over. At
some point, Eli will fall asleep, and Calden will stay awake. Maybe he’ll watch
him, or maybe he’ll get the diary and write what happened. But one thing
absolutely needs to happen. Eli said earlier, quite rightly, that this is the
only ‘first time’ he’s going to get. Calden will make sure that his first
morning after doesn’t happen with someone who has no idea how they ended up in
bed; there’ll be enough of that in the future.
all that will only start in a minute, when Calden manages to catch his breath.
maybe after he kisses Eli some more.
he stepped out of the bathroom, wrapped in a terrycloth robe and still rubbing
a towel over his wet hair, Eli peeked into the darkened bedroom. He could see
little more of Calden than a few brown curls on the pillow, sticking out from
under the blankets. Part of him wanted to return to bed, mold his body against Calden’s
back, and wake him the same way Calden had done to him a few hours earlier. He
had a hard time reminding himself that it might not be such a good idea.
had said his feelings predated his illness, and Eli believed him, but it would
doubtlessly still be a shock for him to wake and find Eli in his bed, let alone
if Eli was trying to instigate anything intimate.
was also the stark fact that before finally falling asleep a little before nine
in the evening Calden had been awake for three days, two of them spent at the
hospital, and the last one even more tiring.
what a pleasant way to get tired…
to himself, Eli closed the door very quietly and walked down to the kitchen,
resolved to let Calden sleep as long as possible. He was about to fill the coffee
pot when he realized it was already full, already brewed, just waiting to be
poured. Looking out toward the living room, he found the intruder seated at the
wasn’t unexpected. Actually, Calden had warned him this was likely to happen.
Still, Eli had hoped he’d get a few days’ respite, enough for him and Calden to
figure out their new routine first.
he said dryly in guise of greeting. “I take it you’d like some coffee?”
didn’t look up from the sheet music she was reading, her hands hovering over
the keys without pressing down on any of them. “If it’s not too much trouble,
usually called Eli by his first name. The emphasis on his title made it clear
which way things were about to go.
you started the pot. I’m sure you’ll find the mugs.”
that, Eli resolutely went up to his room. He wasn’t about to have this conversation
wearing nothing more than a robe, while Lana was as always clad in her crisp uniform,
every strand of her silver hair perfectly in place.
returned less than five minutes later, dressed and ready for that discussion. Lana
was in Calden’s favorite armchair, a mug in one hand and holding Calden’s diary
open on her knee with the other. Eli gritted his teeth, annoyed twice over at
this intrusion into Calden’s private space. Striding over, he thrust a hand
forward, palm open, demanding the return of the diary.
raised an eyebrow in reply, and for a few seconds they were at a standstill. Eli’s
lips started to curl into a hard smile. He’d watched Lana and Calden play this
kind of power game before; Calden always folded first, mostly because he had no
patience. Eli had no doubt who would win now.
you read it?” Lana asked. “Some parts are… enlightening.”
haven’t and I won’t. And neither should you.”
little about you,” Lana continued. “Or at least, very little in here. The sheet
music is more explicit.”
glanced at the piano. For the past two weeks, Calden had been working on and
off on a new composition. Its title was written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Eli
had no idea what Lana meant, but he had no intention of asking. That, too, was Calden’s.
Like the armchair. And like the diary.
make me take it,” Eli said very low, hyperaware that he was all but threatening
the person in charge of the city and not caring one bit.
a put-upon sigh, Lana closed the notebook and handed it over. Eli ran his
fingers over the cover as he returned it to the sofa, where Calden was bound to
find it later.
across from Lana, Eli picked up the mug of coffee that had been set on the end table
on his left. He took a sip before asking, “And what brings you here today?”
considered him for a moment. “Your inability to answer your phone,” she finally
replied. “About thirty hours ago you called to inform me you’d misplaced my son.
Three hours after that, you called to say he was back, with no explanation. You
also said you’d call me yesterday, which you failed to do. How long was I
supposed to wait?”
grimaced. He’d completely forgotten he’d said he’d call Lana. He generally kept
her informed of what went on in Calden’s life but with as few details as he
could get away with, and even if he’d remembered to call, he wouldn’t have
explained these particular developments.
sorry,” he said. “It slipped my mind. But you can be assured he’s perfectly
fine. He just needed a moment to himself, and I might have overreacted.”
find that hard to believe, Doctor. You’ve both acclimated to your living
conditions rather well. You’d only overreact, as you say, if the situation was
new and unexpected.”
didn’t like the hint of reproach creeping into Lana’s words.
are you calling me ‘Doctor’?” he asked mildly.
took one last sip of coffee before setting the mug aside. “Maybe to remind you
what role you play in my son’s life.”
shook his head. “I’m his friend. Not his doctor.”
been both for three months,” Lana countered. “If not much longer than that. But
I think you want to be something more now, don’t you?”
wasn’t mere reproach anymore. It was downright accusation. Eli set the mug down
and crossed both arms over his chest.
really don’t see how that’s any of your business.”
you?” Lana’s cold smile could have frozen an ocean. “You’ve known since our
first encounter that Calden is all I have.”
knew quite well, yes. They’d met on the night of Calden’s overdose. Three
months after losing her daughter, seven months after losing her husband, and
now so close to losing the only family she had left… Calden had always talked
of his mother as General Hayes, the cold, unfeeling officer that made tough
choices to keep the city safe, but that day Eli had seen a very different side
of her. He’d seen it again back in June.
known since that day how annoying he finds your interference in his life, too,”
Eli shot back.
wry chuckle came to Lana’s lips. “But of course. This is all about what Calden
wants, isn’t it?”
about what he and I want. Your interference isn’t part of it.”
isn’t now,” Lana agreed. “But what happens when it is needed? When you give up
blood was starting to boil. He raised his voice to interrupt Lana. “I don’t
know why you think I’m going to wash my hands of him one day. I wasn’t going to
do it before. I’m certainly not going to do it now.”
, you mean.” It sounded like a curse word on her
lips. “And how is that going to work? Are you going to woo my son every time
tried to contain his laugh, he really did. But sometimes it was just too nice
to be reminded that Lana, for all her power and influence, wasn’t all-knowing.
And it was nice to remind her of that fact, too.
that it’s any of your business either, but the ‘wooing’ went the other way
around, so you can stop worrying about me taking advantage of him.”
surprise was a study in subtlety: two quick blinks, the barest widening of her
eyes, a light pinch of her lips. She recovered quickly, but Eli still had time
to wonder why she thought Calden wouldn’t be the one to make the first step in
a relationship. Whatever her reasoning might be, she was wrong.
taking advantage, then,” she said. “But what about taking your due? You’ve been
helping Calden quite selflessly for a long time—”
if you finish that sentence by implying I’m taking repayment for that help, you
and I are going to have a serious problem, Lana.”
wasn’t amused anymore. He understood that Lana worried about Calden and wanted
the best for him, but there were limits to what he would tolerate. They
observed each other for a long time, the silence only broken by faint noises
coming from upstairs. Eli would have liked to show Lana the door before Calden
came down, but he realized that wasn’t going to happen. Lana wanted to see her son
and make sure he was all right. Eli wished he could have had this first morning
without witnesses, but he wasn’t worried. Or at least, not much.
a few more seconds, Calden’s voice rose as his steps came down the staircase.
Eli, are you…”
turned to watch him enter the living room. He wore nothing more than pajama
pants, and Eli felt a flash of warmth at the sight of the words inked over his
chest, the handwriting so familiar even backwards. With his tousled hair and
the brightly red love bites Eli had left on his neck and shoulder, he looked
just this side of debauched.
tentative but hopeful smile he cast toward Eli turned into something far less
pleasant when he realized they weren’t alone.
are you doing here?” he demanded, frowning at Lana.
I come visit, darling?”
was all Eli could do not to throw Lana out—very literally if that was what it
took. He and Calden had come up with a smooth routine for whenever he woke up,
and it needed to be adjusted now, but Lana’s presence was complicating
to his feet, Eli went to the sofa to get the diary, though he changed his mind
and picked up the shirt Calden had abandoned there two nights ago. He handed it
to Calden with a small smile, and after a beat Calden took it and slipped it
on, doing up enough buttons to hide the tattoos, if a bit late. Eli had no
doubt that Lana had deciphered them.
explains what happened,” he said, now giving Calden the notebook. “Why don’t
you read it? I’ll get you some coffee.”
looked about to say something, but a quick glance at Lana seemed to change his
mind. He nodded once and accepted the notebook, his fingers brushing against Eli’s.
He sat on the sofa while Eli retreated from the room, and for the next few
minutes the house was silent again. When Eli returned with a mug, Calden
accepted it without a word, barely lifting his eyes from the diary. Eli sat
back in his armchair with a new mug of coffee. Across from him, Lana was
observing Calden thoughtfully, though in silence.
Calden finally closed the diary, he was frowning, absentmindedly touching his
chest. He finally lifted his eyes toward Eli.
the date?” he asked.
nodded, but his frown remained in place. “The tattoo is recent,” he said, and
it wasn’t a question.
answered anyway. “Day before last. There’s lotion for it in the bathroom.
You’ll need to apply some again soon.”
another nod, Calden started to say something, but he glanced at Lana again and
cut himself short.
Eli said without taking his eyes off Calden, “if you have anything else to say,
say it now. Otherwise, kindly get the hell out of our home.”
took exception to Eli’s language, she didn’t show it. Instead, she inclined her
head once. “I’d like a moment with my son if you wouldn’t mind, Eli.”
a matter of fact, Eli did mind, but Calden offered a quiet, “Just a few
minutes, please,” and how could Eli say no?
retreated to his bedroom upstairs, sitting at the foot of his bed and staring
out the open door. He could hear their voices coming up the staircase, but they
weren’t loud enough for him to make out words. He tried to distract himself by
wondering if his dresser would fit in Calden’s bedroom or if it was better to
keep his things in here. He supposed it might be a bit early to decide. In a
few days, after they saw how Calden reacted whenever he woke up, it’d be easier
to figure out.
close to ten minutes, Lana’s voice came up, louder now.
was gone before Eli could reply. Going back down to the living room, Eli felt
more than a little jittery. What had they talked about? What if Lana had passed
on her doubts to Calden?
as he entered the room, the first notes rose from the piano. Eli stopped
briefly, watching Calden as he sat at the instrument, his attention on the sheets
in front of him. The melody was slower as Calden deciphered his own notes than Eli
usually heard it; it was always slow the first time Calden played it from the
start—the first time he relearned it, before adding more to it.
he stepped over to his chair, Eli was quiet, trying not to disrupt Calden’s
playing, but Calden stopped anyway, keeping his fingers on the keyboard but turning
his eyes to Eli.
nothing about this—” He touched his chest. “—in the diary.”
about us, you mean,” Eli said, and was unable to hide a grin. “I think you were
a little too busy to think about writing anything in.”