Travis looked up at the annoyingly insistent ringing of his doorbell. Right in the middle of a translation, he didn’t feel like getting up for those little punks who thought it was funny to ring his bell and disappear. Someone needed to teach those kids a lesson.

And God, when did I turn into Billy?

Shaking that thought from his head, Travis heaved an aggravated sigh and stormed out of the living room, down the hall for the front door. He was just about there when the ringing stopped abruptly. Travis paused in the silence, knowing that the local punks didn’t stop until he’d actually reached the door to run away. Flattening to the side of the hall, he cursed, “Shit for brains! Where’s the gun? Gun, gun, if I were a gun, where would I be? Wherever the hell Travis put me, that’s where!”

He cautiously peeked from the side of the hall to the peephole, then pulled back fast. No bullets riddled the door, so he did it a couple more times. By the time he was certain no one was waiting to put a bullet through the peephole, Travis looked out and didn’t find anyone on the doorstep. A little shaky, he grabbed the door knob, fully intending to shout after the little bastards, for all the good that would do.

Opening the door, he almost stumbled over a body on the front stoop and stopped in shock. For a few seconds, all he could do was stare at Beck’s bloody form, noting the bruises on the bare shoulders and back, and the half-scabbed over marks mixed in. His pants were dirty and torn, the shirt was gone altogether, and he was barefoot.

“Oh Christ, Beck!”

Travis crouched beside him, hesitantly gripping the least bruised area he could find and shaking it gently. Beck groaned and he breathed a sigh of relief.

Still alive.

Heart pounding in reaction, he shook a little harder and exclaimed, “Beck! Come on, man, wake up! There’s no way I can carry you inside on my own!”

At that, Beck stirred a little, one dark eye opening to meet Travis’ worried gaze. “Travis.”

There was such relief in Beck’s voice in that one word, that Travis considered bronzing his name and wearing it around his neck. Or, he would if he wasn’t in hiding from his own father and a Chicago mob boss. Smiling, he said, “Come on, big boy, let’s get you inside. There’s a nice big bed waiting for you to bleed all over it.”

Beck groaned again, but helped Travis get himself up, leaning heavily enough on him that Travis staggered a few feet under the weight of the bigger man. They stumbled, more than walked, down the hall, but made it to the bedroom all the way at the other end. He heard Beck breathing funny and prayed that there were no punctured lungs or something equally as bad.

Lowering Beck as carefully to the bed as he could, Travis was hauled down with him since Beck didn’t let go. Plastered to the bare, sweaty chest, he took a second and then carefully extricated himself and sat on the side of the bed. Beck was pale under his tanned skin, and his face was just as bloody and bruised as the rest of him. It looked like his nose had been broken, maybe a couple of times, and one of his eyes was sealed shut, with the other not too far behind.

“Damn, man, what the fuck happened to you?” Travis muttered.

Beck was well and truly out of it, so Travis got up and rushed back to the front door. He peered outside, but didn’t see anything out of place, and so shut and locked it. Hurrying to the bathroom, he grabbed the first aid kit that Beck had bought before taking off the last time and then ran back to the bedroom. He left the kit on the bedside table, then ran to the kitchen and grabbed a big bowl, filling it with cold water. After snagging a couple of hand towels, Travis hightailed it back to the bedroom and set them next to the kit.

Dipping one of the towels in water, he ran the wet cloth over Beck, washing away the blood, sweat and dirt from the broad chest. He worked steadily and gently, going over the abs and down each arm. He was on the third towel and bowel of water when he reached Beck’s face and had to go even more carefully around the busted nose that he had no idea how to set. Thankful the other man was unconscious, Travis cleaned up the mess of cartilage and bone and blood as best he could.

When he was done, he was shaking with both fear and fury, wondering who the hell could have done such a job on Beck.

He got out, that’s all the fucking matters, he got out and he came back and he’s going to be fine, Travis thought, repeating that to himself several times as he started bandaging up the worst of the cuts. Knife cuts, he was positive. Someone had tortured Beck and it hadn’t just been for fun.

God, he sure as hell hoped it hadn’t just been for fun.

Beck groaned and Travis stopped what he was doing to say, “Beck? You awake now?”

“No.”

Grinning in relief at the flat denial, Travis exclaimed, “Great! Because I have no idea what I’m doing here.”

“You were…going to first…aid class,” Beck reminded, the relatively good eye cracking open to stare at him, accusing.

“Well, yeah, okay, I was going to. But this new book came in and it’s like Ancient Rome meets Egypt and never mind. I didn’t take the class, so tell me what to do,” Travis finished weakly.

Beck snorted, but a smile creased his lips as he answered, “My ribs need to be taped…at least four broken. Otherwise, just…do what you have been. Feels better already.”

Echoing the faint smile, Travis took the outstretched hand and helped Beck into a sitting position. “Never taped anyone’s ribs before, so you’ll have to tell me how.”

“What else is new?” Beck quipped faintly.

While the big man was upright, Travis gently washed and bandaged Beck’s back before getting started on the ribs. It took several minutes, but finally the merc was satisfied with the job, even as he grimaced at the tightness Travis ended up with. Beck carefully collapsed back against the bed, eyes closed and breathing shallowly before saying, “Drugs. Get me 4 ibuprofen or advil.”

Nodding, Travis picked up the bowl and grimy towels and headed for the bathroom. He dumped the nasty water, tossed the towels in the tub with the others, and grabbed the bottle of pain relievers, along with a glass of water. He returned to the bed and sat on the edge, ordering easily, “Open up.”

Beck did so without response, which worried him, drinking down the pills and finishing off the water. “Just gonna…catch a few.”

“Yeah, get some sleep,” Travis agreed, even more worried by the weak tone.

He didn’t move when Beck fell asleep. Staying on the edge of the bed, Travis just watched the other man sleep. Worry clouded his thinking, which was never at its best around Beck anyhow, and he debated only for a few minutes before resting his palm on Beck’s forehead. It was warm and damp, which meant that fever could be on its way and if that happened, Travis really didn’t know what the hell he would do.

Sighing, Travis slowly wiped his hand across the forehead, taking the sweat with it.

*  *  *  *

Beck was used to pain, it was pretty much a way of life. This amount of pain, though, he hadn’t dealt with in a long time. His ribs throbbed, his nose killed, his head was beating a nasty tattoo, and his entire body hurt. On the plus side, nothing was broken except his nose, and he’d given his captors the slip so he was free again.

Only one of his eyes opened on command, and he used it to scan the bedroom. To his surprise, Travis was sprawled uncomfortably in a chair beside the bed, mouth slack and drooling as he slept. He knew this was the guest bedroom, so it wasn’t like he’d put the younger man out of his bed. Mentally shrugging off the strange behavior, he cleared his throat and rasped, “Travis!”

Travis bolted upright, falling out of the chair completely, causing Beck to laugh, then groan as the movement jostled his ribs.

Glaring up at him, Travis snapped, “That’s what you get.”

“Sorry,” Beck apologized, still grinning. “What’re you doing, sleeping in a chair?”

“Waiting for your damn fever to break,” Travis informed him irritably, picking himself up off the floor.

Eyebrows raising, Beck repeated, “Fever?”

Staring down at him, arms crossed over his chest defensively, Travis confirmed, “Four days now. I practically had to hog-tie you to the bed to keep you there.”

Shocked at the news, Beck just gaped at him for a minute.

“Now that you’re back among the living, I need to pee.”

Beck watched him go, surprised by the closed-off look on the younger man’s face, which was at odds with the aggravated tone. Something had clearly happened when he’d been out of it, though he couldn’t imagine what. Groaning, Beck pushed himself into a sitting position and stayed put as the blood rush made him woozy. A few minutes later, feeling more secure, he staggered to his feet and headed down the hall towards the bathroom.

Padding up silently to the small room, he stopped short on finding Travis bent over the sink, hands gripping the edge so tight his knuckles stood out as he shook silently. Immediately worried, Beck walked the rest of the way into the room and put his hand on Travis’ back.

Travis jumped upright, whirling around, and Beck was even more shocked to see tears streaked over Travis’ face. Eyes wide with panic, Travis wiped his face mostly clean on his sleeve and exclaimed, “What the hell are you doing out of bed!?”

“Uh, I just, I had to take a leak,” Beck covered, mind still reeling.

“Fine. Use this one and go right back to bed, I have to, to go do something,” Travis snapped, brushing past him and running out of the house.

Beck heard the door slam shut while he was still rooted to the spot. “What the hell just happened?”

*  *  *  *

Travis drove around for the rest of the afternoon, pretty much until sundown, not sure what he was going to say to Beck when he got back to the condo. There wasn’t much he could say, not really. They were friends, great friends, and he knew that Beck wouldn’t have a problem with him liking guys. No, it was just the minor snag that he liked Beck that would be a stumbling block.

His mind kept replaying the darkest time of the last few days when Beck had been delirious and in severe pain, but wouldn’t let him go long enough to call an ambulance. Travis had literally been helpless against Beck’s fever-enhanced strength, held almost tight enough to suffocate him. Beck had been shaking violently, sweating up a storm, but complaining of being bitterly cold and Travis hadn’t been able to do a damn thing.

And then for Beck to just wake up and be perfectly normal…it had been a shock to the system, like a slap in the face. He wanted to just curl up in Beck’s arms and make sure that the other man was really all right. He wanted to sleep for a week. He wanted to find a nice, deep, dark hole and crawl in it so Beck wouldn’t hound him about telling him what was wrong.

Because Beck, of course, turned out to be the exception to the rule that big men didn’t like to talk about their feelings. That was all Beck freakin’ liked to do. He talked things to death and offered option after freakin’ option to fix whatever the problem was until Travis wanted to scream and hit him over the head with something. So when Travis went home, he would want to know what was going on and why Travis had been bawling in the bathroom like a little girl.

“Maybe I can claim exhaustion,” he muttered thoughtfully. “I did just spend most of the last four days awake and taking care of the jerk. Yeah. Reaction to, to being on edge for so long. He already thinks I’m a wuss, so that won’t be a problem. Okay. Good plan. Ah Christ, now I’m starting to sound like Beck.”

Shaking his head in disgust, Travis turned the car around and headed back to his house. It didn’t take nearly long enough for him to pull up the street to the gated condo community that Beck had planted him in the year before. Florida was really nice, even during hurricane season, and while though he didn’t like being around so much water, the heat was homey, reminding him of being in the jungle.

Travis just parked in the driveway for a few minutes, staring at the condo, which was lit up against the night. He could see Beck moving around inside, slowly, but without too much trouble and sighed in deep relief. If Beck was cooking, then he really was going to be all right. Mentally girding his loins, Travis climbed out of the car and went inside.

He was hit with the tasty smell of garlic and potatoes and meat of some kind which instantly set his mouth to watering. Taking a blithe approach, knowing that Beck had heard him come in, he leaned against the kitchen doorframe and said, “Smells good. What’s for supper?”

“Roasted garlic mashed potatoes with grilled sirloin,” Beck answered, flashing him a grin. “Your refrigerator was bare, as usual, so I ordered out for groceries.”

“Gotta love the internet,” Travis agreed, sitting at the already set table.

“It’s going to be another twenty minutes if you want to clean up.”

“Oh, sure. Thanks.”

Beck didn’t reply, thankfully, so Travis beat a retreat to his bedroom, which had a master bath attached. It seemed like for once, Beck wasn’t going to question what had happened, and Travis wasn’t about to bring it up. He took a five minute shower, hitting all the important spots, and dressed in clean clothes, padding barefoot downstairs when he was done.

Dinner was ready by then, grilled asparagus also on the menu, along with corn, so he sat down opposite Beck and observed, “Looks great.”

“Thanks,” Beck replied, taking the bigger slice of meat.

Snorting at the action, Travis didn’t comment, he just took the remaining piece and started filling his place. His eyes kept flickering over to where Beck was moving much slower than usual, even if he was moving. Unable to keep the question down any longer, he asked, “Should you be moving around this much? I mean, you can’t even see out of your right eye.”

Beck’s lips twisted and he replied, “Don’t need both eyes to cook, Travis, and cooking helps calm me down.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Travis, I’m fine.”

Travis sighed, but nodded, returning to his meal. It really was excellent and it was gone before he knew it, his stomach pleasantly filled and mellowing him out a lot. It helped that Beck still seemed content not to ask any questions about the bathroom incident. When he was done, he sat back and looked out the French windows, staring at the dark night sky. He really wanted to ask Beck how he’d come to be on the receiving end of such a beating, but it wasn’t really any of his business.

Beck did what he did, and that wasn’t ever going to change, as much as Travis might want it to. He’d known that the first time Beck had turned him down to go adventuring in China. It didn’t stop him from asking, of course, but it was a given that the merc had his own life to lead. A painful given that Travis was just a stop between jobs to recharge and hang out, as much as Beck ever hung out with anyone.

“So that book I got in?”

A startled expression crossed Beck’s face at the abrupt question. “What?”

“That book. The one that I got involved in and missed first aid for,” Travis clarified.

“Oh yeah. That one. What about it?”

“I found a really solid reference to an artifact on the coast of Italy. I was going to take a trip out there next week,” Travis announced, even though he’d been planning no such thing. “You want to come with?”

“Sure.”

“Because it’s going to be a really sweet, uh, wait. Did you just agree?”

Beck smirked. “Can’t put anything passed you, can I, Travis?”

“Well yeah, but…you never agree,” Travis pointed out.

Nodding slowly, Beck said, “I’ve been thinking that a change of pace is in order. Not as young as I used to be.”

Travis snorted.

Grinning now, Beck informed him, “In my business, over thirty is ancient, Travis.”

“So you’re practically a relic then,” Travis teased.

Beck’s eyes rolled, but he only said, “Something like that. This last case…I’m lucky it was here in Florida, or I’d be in serious trouble.”

“You ah, you want to tell me what happened?”

“Only if you tell me why you were crying in the bathroom earlier.”

“Right. No fly zone, got it.”

Beck’s lips twisted again, but he only asked, “What part of Italy? And did you ever get around to applying for your passport with this name?”

With a bit of a smirk, Travis replied, “Southern Italy, and I did, as a matter of fact.”

“I’m impressed.”

“Uh huh.”

They grinned at each other for a few seconds, then Travis continued, “I’ll clean up. Why don’t you get back to bed?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Beck agreed, getting slowly to his feet.

Travis watched him go and sighed, gathering up the plates. Feeling inexplicably depressed, he filled the sink only to jump in surprise when Beck quietly called his name. He turned around to find the big man looking at him with an odd expression by the door and asked, “What?”

“Thanks, Travis. I appreciate everything you did,” Beck said.

Pleased, but trying not to show it, Travis waved it off with, “You’d’ve done the same. No trouble at all, man.”

Beck grinned briefly and nodded, heading down the hall again.

Much more cheerful, Travis hummed to himself as he started washing the dishes.

*  *  *  *

Beck grinned fondly at the sight of Travis arguing with a local in Italian. It wasn’t the young man’s best language, so he tended to get louder when he tried to make a point in it.

Well, and not that Travis isn’t loud to begin with, he thought, the grin widening a bit more.

Bringing his duffel bag over and setting it on the ground, Beck interrupted in fluent Italian, “We just need a ride to Pensione d’Italia on Via Dicelli, we don’t need your services to get around since we’ll be renting a car.”

The taxi driver looked put out, but nodded and started grabbing their bags to throw in the trunk. Beck set his hand on Travis’ shoulder and steered him towards the old car.

“When did you learn to speak Italian?” Travis demanded, getting in the car after another scowl at the driver.

Beck hid a grin and answered, “Long time ago. Helps in my business to speak the native tongues.”

“Your ex-business.”

“Right,” Beck agreed comfortably, downplaying the young man’s suspicious look. “I’m surprised you don’t know it better. You speak Portuguese and Spanish fluently, and your French and Mandarin are pretty good, too. Why not Italian?”

Travis hunched down in the uncomfortable seat and muttered, “Ex-friend was Italian. You can call it a mental block.”

Ex-friend, or boyfriend? Beck wondered silently. He’d been waiting almost since they met for Travis to slip up about his orientation, but so far it hadn’t happened. There hadn’t yet been evidence that Travis had ever had anyone back to his condo in Florida any of the times that Beck had been there.

And he’d looked, too. Closely.

The driver got in and started the breakneck pace to the pensione where they were staying in just south of Paestum. According to Travis and his books, this relic was an early Christian icon of power and faith, something to do with one of the original apostles, though Beck’s mind had gone numb in self-defense after the first ten minutes of the hour-long explanation.

The pensione was a rustic little place, but filled with all the mod-cons for guests to conduct business, if they needed. It had the added bonus of being on a very select list of B&B’s that Beck kept on hand for not caring how much noise in the bedroom was made, and great room service. On top of that, the location for Travis’ expedition was perfect. Beck would be able to make the short trip to the cave site in relative ease, because while a lot better, his ribs still had healing to do, and Travis would have plenty of time to poke around the place through the day.

It didn’t take long to check in and when they got to the bedroom, Beck noticed Travis’ frown as he took in the lone double bed, but didn’t say anything. Hiding a grin, Beck lied, “It was all they had left when I called to book. It was either this, or another place about a hundred miles away.”

“Oh. No, that’s cool. You can have the bed, with your ribs and all,” Travis offered.

“Thanks.”

“No problem.”

Beck loved that mildly bewildered expression Travis got when he suspected that he was being set up, but couldn’t prove anything. “You want to go stretch your legs before dinner?

“Yeah. You need to get some rest. You’ve been going nonstop since yesterday morning, and I know that you didn’t get hardly any sleep on the plane,” Travis ordered, arms crossing over his chest for added emphasis.

“Travis, I’m fine.”

“Now, Beck.”

“I am not…”

“You don’t want me to have to bring out Mr. Lightening, now, do you?”

Beck coughed, trying not to laugh, cleared his throat and conceded, “All right, all right, I’ll rest up before dinner. Try not to get yourself kidnapped while I’m lying down, okay?”

He didn’t really expect to fall asleep, but the air was definitely cooler when he woke up to the light sensation of fingers through his hair. As short as it was, he was kind of surprised Travis could manage that caress, and sighed deeply, relaxing further. The movement stilled for a half minute or so, but restarted when he didn’t open his eyes. He wondered how long Travis had been doing that and knew that he’d been truly exhausted for it not to have woken him sooner.

When the fingers stopped for good and Travis stood and walked away from the bed, Beck just listened to him muttering around the room as he unpacked. It was like listening to a play-by-play, only a lot funnier. It felt good just to lay there with Travis puttering around, comfortable even, and something he could envision happening for the next forty or fifty years. He knew that he wasn’t the easiest person to be around, and the fact that Travis accepted that and wanted to stick with him, well, it meant a lot.

Now if only he could stop the kid from running the second the cat was out of the bag…

“Hey, Beck, wake up man, dinner’s just about ready.”

Beck yawned without pretense when Travis shook his shoulder, and opened his eyes which were both mostly back to normal, though the one was still discolored. “How long did I sleep?”

“Three hours,” Travis answered, smirking.

“Don’t start, Travis.”

Travis’ smirk grew, but he didn’t actually say anything as he walked away.

Shaking his head, annoyed and amused, Beck pushed into a sitting position, taking a few minutes to orient himself before standing. He still sometimes got a head-rush if he moved too fast, which told him that he really had had a serious head injury and probably should’ve gone to the hospital instead of to Travis, but that hadn’t been an option, not really. So he was taking it easy for a couple of months while he recovered. Bumming around and watching Travis do what Travis did best was a nice change of pace, even with the hovering.

Dinner was a simple affair, only two other guests present and they were more interested in each other than anyone else or their surroundings. Beck was just as happy that was the case, since it gave him an excuse just to encourage Travis to talk. And even though most of it went right over Beck’s head, not having a background in ancient history or artifacts, the excited light in Travis’ changeable eyes was great to see, and more than enough to keep him interested.

When they were finally done, Beck suggested taking a walk to get familiar with the area and Travis agreed with surprising ease. It was quiet as they walked along the cobbled streets and sidewalks, only a few people out and about in the sleepy, ocean-side town. Most of the people there were fishing families and so were up insanely early. There were crumbled ruins to pass by every so often, which would start Travis talking contentedly about the local history.

Walking along the edge of the ocean, Beck noticed a shiver run through Travis and asked, “Why don’t you like the water? You didn’t have any trouble with it in Brazil.”

“I was blinded by the Gato in Brazil,” Travis retorted. “When I have time to think and react like a normal person, I stay as far from the water as possible.”

“Why?”

“Billy almost drowned me as a kid.”

Beck stopped short, both at the words and the casual tone in which they were delivered. “Excuse me?”

“Not on purpose,” Travis assured him hastily.

Eyeing Travis suspiciously, Beck started walking again and demanded, “What happened?”

Travis shrugged. “He tossed me in the deep end to see if I could swim.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

Travis just looked at him, quirking an eyebrow.

“You’re not kidding.”

“Hey, gotta have something to tell the shrink, right?” Travis half-joked.

Shaking his head, Beck ran his hand across Travis’ head, messing up his hair, then put his arm over Travis’ shoulders as they kept walking. He was pleased when Travis didn’t protest, even though the other man didn’t move any closer. It could be interpreted as just a friendly gesture of support, even though that wasn’t how it was meant. He thought about the things that Travis had let slip over the last year and a half of their friendship and observed, “You know, if I’m ever alone in a room with Billy again, he’s going to wish he’d never been born for all of what he did to you growing up.”

Travis stiffened and stopped walking, pulling free to exclaim, “But you’re not going to be alone in a room with him again, right?”

“I’m just saying, if it was going to happen...”

“No!” Travis interrupted forcefully. “Don’t you even think about it, Beck!”

Keeping his expression mild, Beck replied, “No thoughts whatsoever, Travis.”

Travis stared at him suspiciously, but seemed to take his words as truth after a few moments and started walking again.

Beck grinned a bit at his back, then hurried to catch up. The rest of the walk back to the pensione was silent, but comfortable. Beck waved to Sra. Ramonelli at the front desk, who winked back at him, and followed Travis upstairs. In their room, Beck carefully pulled off his shirt, wincing at the flare of pain from his ribs. He folded the shirt and set it in the dresser that Travis had put his clothes in.

“Here.”

Taking the pills and water bottle from Travis without hesitation, Beck swallowed them down and said, “Thanks.”

“No problem. How’re the ribs?”

“Still broken.”

“Sucks.”

“Oh yeah. Hey, I’m going to catch a shower.”

Travis nodded and moved to the closet, taking out blankets and extra pillows. Beck grinned to himself, knowing that he’d find Travis asleep in the bed when he got done in the shower. One thing Travis absolutely hated, was sleeping on the floor. He wouldn’t mean to fall asleep, of course, he’d just decide to stretch out for a few minutes and then bam, he’d been dead to the world. It was like the sun coming up every day, guaranteed to happen.

The shower felt great, washing away the grime of travel under a firm spray that wasn’t too hard. When he was done, Beck toweled off and pulled on some clean boxers before heading back into the bedroom. His grin returned on seeing Travis sprawled on the bed, as expected, the picture of little-boy innocent. Shaking his head fondly, Beck climbed into the bed, getting comfortable after a few turns and uncomfortable grunts. The pain level was manageable now, but still there.

Travis half woke enough to slur, “I’llgetupnow.”

“Stay,” Beck ordered in a voice that he knew Travis would obey. “Get under the covers, Travis, get some sleep.”

Mumbling something, Travis crawled under the blankets and flopped face first into the pillow. Beck watched him for a long moment, then gave in to the impulse to brush his forefinger over the perpetually stubble-covered cheek. “Night, Travis.”

Travis mumbled again, but didn’t really wake, and Beck closed his eyes with a smile.

*  *  *  *

Waking up was a lot stranger than usual, thanks to Beck being plastered on top of him. Travis could barely breathe, the big man covered him so effectively. Not that he was really complaining, given that he’d been dreaming about this for, well, pretty much since he’d met Beck in Mariana’s bar. He didn’t remember falling asleep in the bed, but clearly Beck hadn’t cared that he’d been there.

Travis yawned and stretched without really moving, sighing deeply and closing his eyes again to enjoy the feel of Beck’s body on his. Beck stirred in his sleep, maybe feeling Travis’ waking, and his arm tightened around Travis’ waist and hitched closer. Or, he tried to, but Travis couldn’t feel any way for the other man to get any closer. The thought hardened his morning erection past the point of normality and he stifled a groan as the long shaft behind him pressed against his ass in a tantalizing movement.

When Beck actually nuzzled his throat from behind, Travis couldn’t quite stifle a gasp and that woke Beck, unfortunately. Travis knew it from the sudden tension in the man sprawled on top of him and tried to think of something. He didn’t think, however, that, ‘Hey big boy, want to be mine forever?’ would work to ease the tension. Neither would his second choice of, ‘Take me and I’ll be your willing sex slave.’

“Uh, Travis?”

“Yeah, Beck?”

“You okay?”

“Oh yeah.”

There was a pause, then, “Good.” and Beck sighed deeply before apparently falling back to sleep.

Blinking in surprise, Travis didn’t move as his bedmate’s breathing evened-out and the tension left the heavy body on him. He grinned at the wall, the only thing he could see in his currently flattened position, and closed his own eyes thinking, Well. That was easy.

*  *  *  *

Travis woke the second time to wet heat around his nipple and moaned in appreciation. Grinning, he rubbed his eyes and opened them to see Beck sucking him with a hungry expression. “I need to take you on vacation more often, if this is the result.”

Beck bit lightly at the nipple and looked up at him with a smirk as he replied, “Who said I didn’t take you on vacation?”

Travis opened his mouth to counter that, but Beck’s hand, previously unseen, gripped his cock through his sweatpants and he gasped instead. Arching up into the touch, he groaned when Beck returned his attention to his nipple. Not one to question good fortune normally, Travis couldn’t help but ask, “Beck?”

Beck actually growled in annoyance before pulling away from the nipple to demand, “What?”

“Uh, not complaining, really, but, why’re you...”

The words were swallowed up in a hard, possessive kiss that answered pretty much everything. Travis moaned in even more appreciation and hooked a leg over Beck’s hip as he opened his mouth for more. Beck kept him silent like that for a long, long time, barely giving him time to breathe. Strong hands kneaded his ass while Beck rubbed his cock against Travis’ through the two thin layers of fabric.

Panting, Travis scratched his nails up the broad, bare back and pulled back long enough to gasp, “Fuck me!”

Beck groaned and shuddered and, for a horrified moment, Travis thought that he’d come. But then he was grabbed and flipped over onto his stomach, his sweats pulled quickly down and off. Beck’s mouth resumed its tormenting behavior, this time right on Travis’ ass and shocks of pleasure ran through him at the thrust of the wet, limber tongue inside him.

Splaying his legs as far apart as he could, Travis begged, “Now, damnit, fuck me, Beck! Take me! God, please, just split me open!”

The words caused Beck to growl again and he actually bit Travis’ ass hard enough to send a shock of pain through him, quickly followed by a rush of need. There was a scant few seconds where he heard the cap flipped on something and then he gasped at the cold touch of lube. It was warmed quickly by Beck’s fingers, two of which were pushed slowly inside him. Travis breathed through the discomfort and was suddenly glad that Beck hadn’t taken him at his word. It had been a long time since he’d done this, too wrapped up in work to take the time to pursue possibilities that wouldn’t get his head beat in down in Brazil. The men there had tolerated him, but probably only because of his active and single-minded pursuit of Mariana.

His body slowly relaxed around the intruders, helped along when Beck unerringly found his prostate and massaged it. Going crazy from the stimulation, Travis pushed back, fucking himself on the fingers that stretched and worked him over. He winced when a third finger was added, but Beck kept up the slow, steady pace and Travis was soon pushing back on all three fingers, aching to be filled with Beck himself.

Wet kisses sucked up along his spine as Beck worked the three fingers inside him and stopped to suck a hickey into existence on his throat before gasping, “You ready?”

“Shit yeah!” Travis groaned.

Beck chuckled and the fingers were withdrawn. A moment later, Travis felt the large tip pushing against his hole and took a deep breath, grunting in pain when it breached him. Even lubed, Beck’s cock took a long time to work its way inside him. Shuddering in a mix of pain and pleasure, Travis would have just shoved himself back, but Beck must have anticipated that because both hands gripped his hips, holding Travis down as he penetrated.

“Please, Beck, God, fuck me already, want it, want you so bad,” Travis begged, unable to do more than that, helpless against Beck’s greater strength.

Beck ignored the words, moving back and forth in those tormenting, slow increments, fitting himself into Travis’ body at his own pace. It seemed to take forever before Beck was seated fully inside him and when he was, Travis groaned in disbelief and need. He’d never felt so stretched or full in his life, like Beck possessed him in a way no one ever had. Entirely possible, given how he felt about the merc. Sex before this had always just been sex. This was...more...though he wasn’t sure how to describe it.

Kissing Travis’ throat and cheek, Beck whispered, “I’m never going to hurt you, Travis. I know in your brain that doesn’t make much sense. I know you have trouble pulling apart love and hurt, but I’m going to help you with that. Starting now.”

Travis wanted to say something, but Beck started moving finally and it literally took his breath away. They were small thrusts, gentle ones, but Travis’ eyes smarted with tears anyhow, Beck’s size making that almost a given. It felt good, though, not like real pain. More like an ache that was finally being soothed properly. It was so careful, the way Beck moved inside him, totally at odds with the big man’s intimidating appearance.

Though Beck graduated to longer slides in and out of Travis’ body, the force remained minimal and Travis moaned in need, wanting more. The air was filled with the smell of musk and sweat and it added to the sensory overload. It finally hit him, as Beck’s cock began to move more easily in his body, as if they’d been made for each other and his body had just accepted the big man for real. Travis finally figured out why Beck was being so careful with him.

“You love me!”

Beck stopped moving partway out of Travis, breathing hard, but then slid all the way back in and confirmed, “Yes.”

Travis arched around and stared into the dark eyes, feeling every inch of the man inside and over him. Beck stared back at him, wary, as if waiting for Travis to freak out and order him to get off. A slow smile crossed Travis’ face and he said, “It’s about damn time!”

Beck laughed at that, that sought after, full-out smile crossing his face, and took Travis’ mouth in a hungry, deep kiss. Travis returned it just as passionately and pushed his hips up as a reminder for Beck to start moving again. His lover took the not-so-subtle hint and resumed thrusting, picking up the pace and finally adding some force to the movements. The lovemaking remained slow and easy, no matter what Travis did, and towards the end, he collapsed against the bed, moaning and rubbing against the mattress for friction to finish himself off.

“Oh I don’t think so,” Beck announced, rolling them to their sides.

Travis was beyond protest and could only groan his appreciation when Beck’s hand gripped his cock and started stroking. It was like the man was the freakin’ energizer bunny. He seemed in absolutely no hurry to come, despite the fact that he’d been going forever. Travis, on the other hand, was just shy of the edge and it was killing him. The feeling of Beck moving in and out of him, and the nudge to his prostate was enough to make him crazy, but there wasn’t enough friction on his cock to make him come.

Beck moved one of Travis’ legs back over his hip, opening him further, and his hand slid down to press directly behind his balls as Beck’s cock hit his prostate. Travis shouted in response and jerked in the unbreakable embrace, electricity bolting through him. Beck was moving faster now, thrusting in harder every time and Travis clenched his ass to add to his lover’s experience. Beck groaned right in his ear and moved even faster, his breathing growing more uneven.

Finally! Travis thought in relief. Who knew that having a lover who drew things out so much could be a bad thing? Or at least a frustrating one.

And then thought was again banished by Beck’s skillful hand as it alternately stroked his cock and rubbed over his perineum. Travis lost control at the manipulation of his body and on a particularly hard thrust into him, he came, spilling all over himself and Beck’s hand. Lost in the spots and lights behind his eyes, Travis could only feel and hear as Beck came a few thrusts later, wet heat filling him as Beck shuddered and humped into him, grunting and panting in his ear.

Collapsed utterly in Beck’s arms, Travis couldn’t summon the strength to do more than just gasp for air. His leg slid off of Beck, but he didn’t otherwise move, enjoying the feel of being supported by his lover.

Beck sighed deeply, one arm slinging over Travis’ waist as he nuzzled the back of Travis’ neck and asked, “You alive?”

“Nope,” Travis answered dreamily.

Chuckling, Beck kissed his ear and said, “Good. Get some sleep, dead-boy.”

Travis grinned and closed his eyes, drifting into sleep almost immediately.

*  *  *  *

Sex didn’t usually put Beck to sleep, it energized him. Really amazing sex, like he’d just had with Travis, made him want to go run a couple of miles to burn off the energy. Sinking into Travis’ body, the tight heat inching open for his cock, had been more incredible than anything he’d felt in a long time. He’d prolonged it for as long as he could, wanting to keep this first time going forever, hearing the needy noises Travis uttered and feeling the way the younger man responded to him, almost desperately, had set him on fire.

Now that it was done, Beck just wanted to hold Travis and enjoy the complete trust shown as the other fell asleep still penetrated by Beck’s cock. He’d tried to pull out, but Travis had reached back, mostly asleep, and gripped his ass to keep him in place. Beck had just grinned to himself at the thought of Travis limping around the next day.

He hadn’t been planning on doing something so soon, but Beck wasn’t one to let opportunities go to waste, either. When Travis hadn’t freaked on waking, he’d figured that it was time to make a move. He’d nearly had a heart attack when Travis had blurted out that Beck loved him, but been reassured by the, ‘It’s about time!’ exclamation.

Only Travis would bitch about the timing of love in the middle of sex, he thought with a grin.

What did this mean for his future? For their future, really, now that it was tied together. He couldn’t very well start up bounty hunting again, not after promising Travis that he’d retired. And he was itching to put down some roots somewhere, to open his restaurant, anyhow. He had enough money, finally, and this last job had taught him that life really was short.

I wonder how Travis feels about teaching?

Maybe they could find some nice, out of the way town where Travis could do his research and teach, and Beck could open his restaurant. He was pretty sure that as long as Travis had time to go on his wild goose chases after artifacts now and again, the other man would be happy just about anywhere. Of course, there was still the problem with Billy. The mobster was pretty ticked about the trick with the konlabo and grabbing Travis right out from under him.

Setting the problems and thoughts aside deliberately, it wasn’t just his decision after all, Beck sighed deeply and closed his eyes. His body was still humming with energy, but it would be nice to just doze and enjoy the man in his arms.

*  *  *  *

“I swear to God, if you don’t wipe that smirk off your face, you’re sleeping on the floor tonight.”

Beck assumed an appropriately innocent expression and answered, “What smirk?”

Squinting at him suspiciously as he carefully sat on the sofa in the pensione living room, Travis ordered, “Lemonade.”

“Got it,” Beck agreed, escaping before his grin could. He didn’t really want to sleep on the floor and had no doubts about Travis following through on his threat. He entered the kitchen and found their hostess making dinner.

“Ah, Signor Beck, how are things?” Sra. Ramonelli asked with a smile.

Smiling at the older woman, still pretty in that countrified way, Beck answered emphatically, “Very good. You have any lemonade?”

“In the refrigerator.”

Beck found the appropriate pitcher and headed for the cabinet that held the glasses. He’d been there often enough to feel at home and knew where everything was.

“Your young man is very nice, Signor Beck. I hope you plan on keeping this one.”

Beck nearly dropped the pitcher at the fond amusement in the woman’s voice, but managed to pour the glass and offer her a smile and reply, “I do, Sra. Ramonelli. For a long time.”

“Good. I was ready to despair of you ever settling down,” she announced, a twinkle in her dark eyes. “I think he is good for you. He will keep you young.”

Shaking his head at that, Beck replaced the pitcher and said, “Thanks, Sra. Ramonelli, I appreciate it. I’m sure Travis will, too.”

When he brought the lemonade out to Travis and sat beside him, Beck listened to the plans his lover had made for the following day with an internal grin. Travis gestured wildly as he talked about the trip to the caves and what they might find there. His eyes were just as animated as his words and he even snagged a couple of the other guests, falling into lecture mode about the artifact and managing to make it interesting for them.

Yeah. I think teaching is a good idea, Beck thought.

Every so often Travis would shoot him a curious look, but Beck just motioned for him to keep going. He liked watching Travis like this, in his element, and couldn’t wait for another forty or fifty years of it.

Even if he couldn’t understand more than one word in five.