WHEN QUINN straightened from brushing his teeth, the face in the mirror scared the shit out of him.
Christ, I’m my grandfather.
It had been cold in the kitchen while he sat at the table, surfed the internet, and pretended not to listen for Peter’s car in the driveway—or to check for any breaking news involving fires—so he’d thrown on a sweater Peter’s mom had given him for Christmas. With the off-brand matching luggage set under his eyes, the gray at his temples, and the old-man brown wool, he looked like his grandfather. After his heart attack.
No wonder he and Peter hadn’t had sex in…
Hell, Peter, it’s been three and a half months.
I didn’t know you were keeping track. I’ve worked eight days straight and I’m thirty-six fucking years old. Do you mind if I pass out now?
Yeah, I remember how fucking old you are. Especially since your birthday was the last time I got laid. So watch porn. You’re always on the damned computer anyway.
…two more weeks since that conversation added up to four months. Quinn was starting to wonder if he’d forget how to do it. Maybe he couldn’t blame Peter for dropping off to sleep when he came home and found dead grandpa in their bed. Ten years as a fireman’s partner could leave anyone with gray hair and worry lines.
He’d thought about an affair—about Peter having an affair—but the checks Peter was bringing home meant he was telling the truth about working all the overtime. And Peter was in such a panic that anyone would find out he was gay that he’d be afraid to go near another man.
Peter’s truck growled into the driveway, and Quinn dropped his toothbrush in the holder. He was too short on time for a dye job, but at least he could ditch the grandpa sweater.
He traded his sweats and saggy boxers for a close-fitting pair of black briefs and shivered his way under the covers.
He thought about trying to pose, but Peter had always been able to see through Quinn, so he propped himself up against the pillows and hoped it didn’t look like he was in a coffin. Hubert’s tags chimed in warning, giving Quinn time for the futile hope that the big St. Bernard mix wouldn’t shake his shaggy head and send drool around the room.
Hubert yawned, and then Quinn was wiping the spray from his cheek as Hubert shook off sleep and climbed out of his bed, stalking stiff-legged out to meet Peter in the hall.
Peter’s keys hit the kitchen table, and Hubert’s tags jangled as Peter rubbed his head and neck. “How’s my old man?”
Hubert whined and, after a satisfied sounding yawn, made his slow way back to bed.
Peter slammed around in the kitchen for a few more minutes, leaving Quinn to wonder if this was a beer- or orange-juice-before-bed kind of night. Beer meant on the couch for TV, ignoring the bedroom, orange juice meant he might come to bed in a few minutes. Quinn heard him in the hall.
“Hey. You’re still up.”
Something was different about the man Quinn had lived with for ten years, like he’d shrugged off something that had been hanging on him for weeks, months, maybe this whole past year. It was in the broad shoulders, the steady hazel eyes, the way he stood straight in the door of the bedroom and offered Quinn the first smile he’d seen in who knew how long.
“You’re home early.”
“Lupi’s back from his suspension. We can finally stop covering for his ass.”
“Shit. I was counting on those big paychecks so I could run off to Vegas.”
“Yeah. Right. Like I can see you dropping something bigger than a nickel in a slot machine.” Peter pulled off his shirt, reaching over his head with arms crossed, dragging the material up from behind. Something about the familiarity of that quirk eased the ache Quinn had been wearing under his scalp for so long he didn’t notice it until it was gone.
Peter was back. And they were going to be okay. The weirdness was gone, just one of those bumps in the long, long road.
“Hey, I can spend someone else’s money, no problem. And it’s not like you’d even notice I was gone.” Quinn said it lightly, but Peter looked up from where he was folding his pants across a chair, lips twisted in a grimace.
“Sorry,” Quinn added quickly.
Peter stared at him until Quinn wondered if they were back to the land of weird. Then Peter’s face relaxed, like he’d made up his mind not to get all pissed off again. “Not tonight, okay?”
Quinn’s throat went dry. “Got something else in mind?”
For a big guy, Peter could move fast and quietly—maybe he snuck up on fires. He had a hand on Quinn’s ankle, yanking him toward the edge of the bed. “Yeah. Get your slut panties off so I can suck your cock.”
Peter knelt at the edge of the bed and ran his hands up the inside of Quinn’s legs, the touch revving Quinn’s engine faster than he thought his thirty-four-year-old tachometer could handle without redlining.
Shit. Why had he put on such tight briefs? “A little help?”
Peter ran his thumbs along Quinn’s groin. “So not helping.”
Finally Peter hooked fingers under the waistband, and Quinn lifted his hips. Peter yanked.
Peter kissed it better. Kissed everything better and swallowed Quinn’s dick like he was starving for it, because God knew Quinn was. Their fingers locked together on Quinn’s hips as Peter sucked and bobbed.
It had been so long. And it was so fucking good. Quinn mentioned that last bit out loud, in case the throb of his hard cock in Peter’s mouth wasn’t enough to tell him how fucking good it was.
Peter freed one of his hands and grabbed the base of the shaft, giving the head perfect, wet, flicking-tongue, tight-lipped attention. “Don’t come.” Peter stroked his hand over the length as he licked and sucked on Quinn’s balls, pulling one into his mouth for the stretch and tug guaranteed to make him want to do exactly what Peter had told him not to do.
“Uhn?” Quinn asked. If he’d known Peter would be launching the blitzkrieg of blowjobs tonight, Quinn might have taken the edge off so he could last longer than sixty seconds.
“Want you to fuck me,” Peter said with his chin bouncing into Quinn’s sac, scrape and pressure, and Quinn smacked Peter’s stroking hand away before it was all over.
“Now who’s the slut?” Quinn asked, scuttling back to reach for the lube on the nightstand.
“Shut up.” But Peter smiled as he stretched out on his back.
Quinn dragged Peter’s ass to the edge of the bed, and Peter grabbed at the lube, pumping some over his fingers and stroking down under his balls to his hole. Quinn shifted from trying to read Peter’s eyes to watching him slide two fingers into his ass.
“Hey, hon, what’s wrong? You’re not even hard.”
“Went a little fast.” Peter’s words whistled through a clenched jaw. “Why don’t you do something about it?”
“Okay.” Quinn knelt next to the bed and licked up the length of Peter’s dick before mouthing the head. The flesh pulsed and thickened against Quinn’s tongue, and he groaned as Peter hardened enough to stretch Quinn’s jaw, press into his throat.
Sliding a thumb down the thick ridge under Peter’s balls, Quinn tested the stretch of muscle.
“Stop. I’ll come.”
“You can come like this. I don’t care.”
“I do. Want you in me.” Peter’s last word was muffled by a hoarse groan as Quinn popped his thumb past the tight rim and back out.
“So tight.” It had been a long time, and Quinn didn’t want Peter taking one for the team because he owed Quinn something.
“Just fuck me.” Peter pulled Quinn’s hair hard, dragging him off, but not before he gave the salty crown a last noisy kiss.
“You got it.”
Quinn stepped back off the bed and lifted Peter’s hips, hauling him forward enough to get just the head pressed to the slick hole. God, he’d missed it. The flutter of muscles, the wet textured heat against his cockhead, like a mouth sucking him in. Quinn’s hips and ass and thighs clenched, fighting the sweaty, hungry need to drive in, force the muscle wide and open. As he held himself still, he watched Peter shift around, mouth thin, eyes squeezed shut.
Peter’s face relaxed, and he wiggled down farther onto Quinn’s cock, and Quinn slammed home, sheathing his dick in hot flesh. His abs ached from the strain of holding back, and he worked himself in and out, deeper every time, and Peter arched to meet the thrusts, head thrown back, fingers grabbing hard enough to bruise wherever he could reach.
Four months of distance disappeared as they moved together, with Peter’s ass pumping and pulling on Quinn’s dick, mouth open to whisper his name. No space between them now. Quinn drove him forward so he was on the bed too, hands on Peter’s hips to drag him down on his cock with every thrust.
The muscles on Peter’s chest and belly shuddered as Quinn angled them to get his dick rubbing inside on the right spot, and Peter’s eyes snapped open, hand shooting down to grab his own dick.
“You first.” Peter’s voice was always deep. Now it was all rough and wet. His sex voice. “Want to feel you come in me.”
“How bad?” Quinn slowed his strokes to a rub where he knew it would make Peter crazy.
Peter bit his lip. They both loved it when he begged, Quinn for seeing his big strong lover desperate for it, Peter for being driven out of his mind. Why had they gone so long without doing this?
“Just come, you son of a bitch.”
Quinn swiveled his hips and held Peter’s as still as he could to keep him from starting his own thrusts to drag the orgasm out of Quinn.
“Fuck you, Quinn.” Peter’s breath raced out of him, then his fist pounded the mattress. “Please, please. Come on. Fucking fill me with it.”
Peter’s plea hit Quinn low and deep like it always did, and he started thrusting, quick and hard like his balls were screaming for him to do. Peter bit his lip, and that was all Quinn saw before his eyes squeezed shut, body locked in the sweet explosion that emptied his dick in Peter’s ass.
When Quinn opened his eyes, Peter’s hand was a blur on his cock. “Want me to suck you off?”
Peter shook his head. “I’m good.”
Quinn stroked his hands over Peter’s chest, a forceful rub on his pecs, then flicked his nipples with his thumbs. Peter shuddered and gasped and came, warm spurts landing on Quinn’s wrists and belly.
As soon as Peter let go of his cock, he dragged Quinn down against him, mashing their sticky, comey parts together. A towel would be good. Quinn was going to get one as soon as he was sure his legs would handle the long trip to the bathroom.
Quinn started to move, and Peter grabbed him tighter. “No. Wish you were still in me.”
Quinn couldn’t remember Peter ever saying that before. He shifted a little, and Peter rolled onto his side. Peter reached back for him, and Quinn’s dick had just enough blood left it in to ease into Peter’s slick, open hole. Peter made a grunt like it hurt, but he held Quinn’s thigh.
“It’s okay,” Quinn said, but he didn’t know what he was offering reassurance for, only that Peter needed it. Stretching out an arm, he managed to free a sheet and blanket to get a cover over them and fell asleep with Peter snug in his arms.
QUINN WAS on his second cup of coffee, Hubert keeping his feet warm under the kitchen table, when Peter came in with a cardboard box in his hands, wearing sweats and a purposeful expression.
“Jesus.” Peter jumped. “I thought you’d be at work.”
“It’s winter break. We have the week off.”
“Right. I forgot.” Peter slid the box onto the counter.
Quinn gestured at the box with his coffee cup. “Early spring cleaning?”
“Not really. Shit. I can’t believe I forgot about winter break.”
“It’s okay. I figured you’d be working. I didn’t have plans.” The last time they’d had vacation time together had been… three years ago.
“Quinn.” Peter sat down, clutching at the table like it was the only thing keeping him upright.
The coffee was barely warm, but the sip Quinn had just taken burned all the way down his throat. Tension strung rusty wire through his neck, under his scalp, warning prickles erupting on the skin. “What?”
Peter’s face went motionless, calm. Did he use that face when he was keeping people from running back into a burning building after someone they loved? Quinn had a sudden premonition he was about to know what that desperation felt like.
“I’ve been dealing with some stuff.”
“I noticed.” A preliminary skirmish, no casualties.
“I’ve been with other people. Not a lot. Just sometimes.”
“Okay.” Quinn managed to keep that word even, despite the flare of panic. Christ, how many? Were you safe? When the hell did you manage that in your double shifts?
“Do you remember the Christmas party? When I asked you to come get me?”
Cops and firemen and paramedics drinking. Together. God help the innocent bystanders. “Yeah, some guy met me in the bar and told me they were going to get you home later.”
“Yeah. That was one of those times. And….”
So it was possible for one breath to last a lifetime.
Peter couldn’t look at him. “She’s pregnant,” he finished.
Quinn knew there weren’t too many different ways to interpret that, but he heard himself stupidly ask, “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I had sex with a woman eight weeks ago, and she’s pregnant. And before you ask, yes it’s mine and no I wasn’t too drunk to know what I was doing. She’s going to keep it and—that’s what I want. We’re going to get married.”
Married. Quinn heard himself repeat the word, but it sounded far away.
“This—” Peter made a vague gesture that was supposed to cover ten years of sharing an apartment, a home, a dog, a life together. “It’s never been all I wanted.”
“We could—” But Quinn stopped himself before he finished it. We could do it together? The three of them? Did he even want to suggest it?
Peter shook his head. “I’m going to marry her. She’s—It wasn’t something she was expecting either, but I need to do this.”
“And the fact that you also need a dick up your ass or down your throat when you want to really get off? Is that something she can expect?”
“I don’t—I’m not gay, Quinn.”
“You’ve been faking it pretty good for ten years. And it’s not as if I made a pass at you at your brother’s birthday party all those years ago.”
“You’re the only guy I’ve ever fucked. And I was married before.”
“Yeah, to Stacy, I remember. All two months of your marriage. After you jerked me off at your brother’s party.”
“You knew what you were getting into.”
“And I’m to blame for not saying to hell with your closeted ass?”
“No one’s to blame.” Peter looked down.
“Yes, someone is. You.”
Peter pushed away from the table. “I never made you any promises.”
“Living together for ten years is a fucking promise, Peter.”
“You were on active duty for four of it.” Face implacable, Peter leaned back against the counter with his arms across his chest.
Quinn itched to get that look off his lover’s face. “I’m confused. That wasn’t you begging me to come in your ass last night?”
Peter’s gaze was steady, like Quinn was the irrational one in this conversation. Not irrational, clueless. Months of Peter pushing him away, spending all his time at work, coming home last night acting like he’d finally figured something out. Leave out the sex and it almost made sense.
When Quinn didn’t get an answer, he said, “Then what was last night about?”
“I wanted to give you a nice goodbye.” Peter turned away and opened a cabinet. “I’m only taking the stuff my mom gave me.”
Gave us, Quinn wanted to point out, but he stared at the box on the counter as another horrible realization pierced his brain. “So when I came home from work, you were going to be packed and gone?” Did his voice break? Did he care?
“Yeah, but I was going to talk to you.”
“Why bother? I’m sure a note would have covered it.”
Quinn shoved the table away and stalked over to box Peter against the counter. “Dear Quinn, The last ten years were a mistake. I’m straight. Except when we fuck. Later, Peter.”
Peter shoved Quinn away.
“You don’t have to marry her to be the kid’s dad.” Quinn wanted to pin the son of a bitch against the counter again, but he was afraid that would lead to one of them taking a swing.
“Yes, I do. He deserves better than that.”
“Than what? A father who’s so ashamed of himself he wraps himself in a lie?”
“It’s not a lie.” Peter’s face flushed. “My dick got hard. I came. You’re the one who’s having trouble with the facts.”
“And what facts are you going to share with her? Are you going to tell her who’s been getting your dick hard for the past ten years?”
“No. She doesn’t have anything to do with that. I’m not asking her what she’s been doing either.”
“Maybe I owe her a warning. I hate to think of her waking up to this same shit ten years from now with a kid to think about too. Don’t worry. I’ll be sure to explain how not gay our relationship was.”
There it was. An honest emotion on Peter’s face. But it wasn’t love or sorrow. It was fear. “Don’t. Please, Quinn, don’t. I know—I know I’m hurting you, but don’t do that to me. You can’t tell anyone.”
“You know how I love it when you beg.” The words felt like he was swallowing dirt, clumps falling cold and dry into his stomach.
“I’m not going to say anything. Ten years is a hard habit to break.”
“Thank you.” Peter went back to taking dishes out of the cabinet.
“But I gotta say, if you’re trying to pass, you might want to try harder. I don’t think many straight guys pack their stoneware before they walk out.”
“I moved some clothes last week.” Last week.
“I know we’ve got another month on the lease, but I found a place that will take dogs.”
Quinn couldn’t make his mouth form a word. His body snapped to attention, braced for whatever abuse was coming his way as the commandant looked for some kind of weakness in his eyes. He must have made some kind of sound, because Peter turned around.
“He’s my dog.”
Quinn knew that. And he could remember dress whites covered in dog hair, chewed shoes, and endless drool. But he was the one who fed him and took him to the vet when Peter was working.
Quinn started for Peter. Maybe to punch him, maybe to kiss him, one argument no better than the other, but after the first step, the floor turned to quicksand. What had ever happened in his life to make Quinn think this was safe, that this would last? He fucking knew better than that.
His hands closed on the box instead of Peter. The box made a satisfying crunch as it hit the wall, and Quinn stepped over the pieces as he left.