"If you must know I miss my cat," Rodney said.

"What?" Carson blinked.

"You asked me why I've been quiet lately and that's it," Rodney shrugged.

"That's it?" Carson laughed with relief. "I was wondering whether I should refer you to Kate but I guess that's not necessary."

"Well unless Kate has somehow miraculously turned into Kitty and is now a small domestic feline I'd say that was pretty pointless," Rodney sniffed.

They were sitting in the mess hall, and Rodney was stuffing his face with his usual gusto. Carson gazed at him, surprised by the entire conversation. He'd been concerned about his friend for a couple of weeks now. Rodney was usually so bouncy, and let's face it, he could talk until Carson wanted to scream at him and beg him to stop, but lately he'd been quieter than usual and Carson had been worried that the stresses and strains of recent missions had finally got to him.

"Oh don't look at me like that, Carson!" Rodney snapped. "I know, it may appear unusual for a man of my superior intellect to be affected by such a small and seemingly inconsequential loss but…I just really liked the little fellow you know?" His voice cracked slightly as he said that and Carson frowned because that wasn't very Rodney either. Rodney was all bluster and arrogance and even though they'd been having sex, on and off, for several weeks now, Carson had never yet managed to coax a personal conversation out of his friend. Even the sex never felt very personal. To be honest, sometimes he felt Rodney was just using the sex to relieve his tension in the absence of a willing female to take care of it.

Rodney would drop by his infirmary late at night when he was all alone doing research, grab Carson by the arm, push him over to one of the beds, sit him down, kneel down in front of him, open his fly, and take him into his mouth with impatient urgency. Or, if Carson passed by Rodney's lab on his way to bed and found the scientist still there, he'd put his head around the door to say good night and Rodney would invariably get up, pull him into the lab, lock the door behind him, then push Carson against the wall, reach inside his pants and bring him off. Carson would return the favour after – with less urgency, savouring the feel of his friend's beautiful cock in his hand, running his fingers lovingly over his balls. Rodney would throw back his head and gasp and moan, eyes closed, and Carson would just watch, licking his lips, wanting so much to kiss Rodney's exposed throat and dive between those never restful lips to claim a deep loving kiss. Only he never did. Rodney didn't seem to want that kind of a relationship and they never ever talked about these rushed moments of sexual urgency. Afterwards it was as if they'd never happened. Rodney would zip up Carson's fly and then wish him good night and return to his work as if they hadn't just come in each other's mouths or over each other's hands.

Sometimes Carson wished he was strong enough to end it, because afterwards he was left feeling worse than before, but each time he made that resolution he'd forget it again the instant Rodney took his arm or gazed at him with such serious sexual intent in those beautiful blue eyes. Sometimes when Rodney was on his knees, blowing him, Carson stroked Rodney's hair and whispered endearments under his breath, imagining that they were truly lovers and not fuck buddies and that Rodney would take him in his arms and kiss him on the lips and then lead him back to his room and make love to him properly, but that never happened. They'd never kissed on the lips and Carson sometimes wondered whether having Rodney like this, in this rushed, impersonal way, was worse than not having him at all. At least then he wouldn't know what it was like to see Rodney's mouth stretched around his cock, to feel Rodney's skin under his fingertips and to know that he'd never have more, that Rodney would never truly be his.

"It was just nice, you know," Rodney was saying, those endlessly restless hands of his waving in the air as he explained. "I'd work all day in the lab and when I got home he'd be genuinely happy to see me. He'd come running up and I'd pick him up and he had this way of leaning into me…" Rodney sighed, and his fingers moved absently, as if he was stroking his beloved cat behind the ears or under the chin. Carson swallowed hard, trying to ignore his growing erection as he wondered what those fingers would feel like stroking his hair. Rodney didn't seem to believe in such loving caresses during sex though. His focus was entirely on Carson's genitals and he'd never touched him anywhere else, not even on his arse – and god knows there were times when Carson lay awake all night dreaming of getting his hands on Rodney's arse. Hand jobs and blow jobs were all very well, but Carson wanted more. He wanted to hold Rodney in his arms and enter him slowly from behind, and he wanted Rodney to push him down on the bed and slide his hard length into him and look into his eyes as he fucked him into the mattress with long, leisurely thrusts.

"Are you actually listening to me at all, Carson?" Rodney asked, sounding a little upset. "I mean, am I embarrassing you here with my emotional attachment to a small furry animal?"

"Not at all, Rodney," Carson told him. "I suppose we all left loved ones behind and sometimes we all get a little homesick."

"Yes, well, I know this is only a cat we're talking about here, so I don't expect much sympathy. I know that other people left partners behind and I'm sure they're having a much tougher time of it, but…we were together for a few years." Rodney's face softened when he talked about his cat and Carson wished he could kiss the vulnerability out of his friend's eyes. "Sometimes I'd fall asleep on the couch watching some dumb movie on the Sci Fi channel at two in the morning and when I woke up he'd be lying on my chest with his head on my shoulder, purring. He had this really low, deep purr that rumbled and vibrated and he liked it if I talked to him. Sometimes I used to just quote algorithms at him – it didn't matter what I said – I think it was the tone of voice."

Rodney's hands had finally stilled, and he gazed into his coffee sadly. "And at night, he'd insist on slinking in under the sheets and lying right next to me and I'd put an arm over him and he'd purr all night. It's hard not to get attached to something that's that pleased to be close to you."

Carson gazed at him, startled, wondering whether he'd got this all wrong. Maybe it was Rodney who assumed that Carson wouldn't want any more than snatched moments of sexual relief. For all his arrogance, Rodney was a deeply insecure and unconfident man when it came to personal relationships. Had he just assumed that Carson couldn't possibly be interested in him as anything more than an expedient mouth and hand when they were both in the mood? Or was that just Carson's own desires speaking? Rodney had never given any indication that he was anything other than completely straight after all whereas Carson had known he was gay pretty much his entire life.

"Anyway, I can see I'm boring you, Doctor," Rodney said, getting to his feet. He looked stiff and miserable. "I know it sounds ridiculous and I'm sure I'll get over it." And with that he swept out of the mess hall.

Carson watched him go, an idea forming in his mind. Was he brave enough to go through with it though and risk Rodney's rejection? He felt the resolve forming in the pit of his stomach and decided that this was it. He had fallen in love with Rodney and he couldn't continue this relationship of sexual expediency any longer. He wanted more - and he'd rather end what they had than live with the constant torment of having and yet not having Rodney. Something had to change.

Rodney rolled his neck from side to side to relieve the tension as he let himself into his room late that evening. It was actually very late, but somehow there just wasn't any incentive to leave the lab when there was nothing waiting for him to come home – really his quarters were a place to sleep and nothing more...which was why he was surprised when he pushed open the door and found himself in a candlelit room. Rodney peered around suspiciously, wondering if the military boys were playing another joke on him. It wouldn't be the first time. Then he realized that someone was in the room.

"Carson?" Rodney blinked.

"Rodney." Carson hesitated for a moment and then came towards him, and pulled him into an awkward hug. Rodney stood there, stiffly, wondering what the hell all this was about – and why was Carson hugging him?

"Did someone die?" Rodney asked, disengaging himself. "No, wait...it's worse than that, isn't it? You've found I'm suffering from some debilitating terminal disease and you're here to break the news to me gently."

"No, Rodney, it's nothing like that," Carson said, with a little gurgle of laughter. "I was just thinking about what you said earlier – about your cat?" he prompted.

"Oh that." Rodney waved a dismissive hand in the air, wishing he'd never opened up to Carson. The whole experience had been frankly embarrassing – Carson probably wasn't a cat person in any case so he wouldn't understand.

"So I thought maybe it'd be nice if I dropped by – and there was someone for you to come home to," Carson said softly. Rodney gazed at him blankly.

"You?" he asked, confused. Carson's blue eyes looked oddly strained, Rodney thought.

"Aye, me," Carson said softly.

"So this is a sex thing?" Rodney brightened. Now this was starting to make more sense.

"Not exactly," Carson replied. Rodney frowned, not entirely understanding. "Look – why don't you sit down. I brought some food with me," Carson said. Rodney brightened even more at that. Anyone bringing food was definitely welcome! He sat down at the table, which he noticed was nicely laid with more candles and proper cutlery and napkins. Carson brought some plates over to the table and Rodney started stuffing his face. Carson gazed at him and Rodney hesitated, wondering if he was doing something wrong.

"Slow down, Rodney. The food's not going anywhere," Carson told him. Rodney began chewing more slowly, still very confused as to where this was all heading.

"Did you have a good day?" Carson asked, taking a forkful of his own food. Rodney considered the question carefully, examining it for hidden meanings. He still wasn't entirely convinced that he didn't have a terminal disease. Or maybe Carson thought he was deranged following their conversation about his cat, and was considering referring him to Kate Heightmeyer for a full psych assessment.

"Not bad," Rodney said cautiously. There was silence.

"You could ask me about my day," Carson said. Rodney thought about it.

"Okay," he said finally, wondering if he was being lured into a trap. "How was your day, Carson?"

To his surprise Carson launched into an account of his day in some detail. It was actually quite amusing and Rodney liked the sound of Carson's Scottish lilt and found himself relaxing and eating at a more leisurely pace. Maybe this wasn't some kind of weird medical assessment after all – but why else would Carson be here? They talked throughout their meal and then Carson brought coffee over and Rodney gazed at him over the coffee cup, wondering what happened next. At some point this would all start making sense. It was strange how often this kind of thing happened to him. He really didn't know what went through other people's heads half the time and it worried him when people started acting outside their normal behaviour patterns.

Finally, they'd drunk their coffee and the conversation came to a natural pause. Carson stood up and Rodney thought about it for a moment and then stood up too. It seemed like the right thing to do.

"So...I was thinking I'd stay the night," Carson said softly. Rodney thought about that.

"What? Here?" he asked.

"Aye. In your bed," Carson said and then he stood there, looking like he was holding his breath, waiting for Rodney's reaction.

"So this IS a sex thing?" Rodney said, relieved that he finally understood what was going on. "I know the lab and your infirmary can be a bit messy and there's always the concern about someone walking in on us although of course nobody else works the late hours we do but..."

"No, it's not a sex thing," Carson interrupted him. Rodney paused, feeling panicked again. "I thought I'd stay the night with you – no sex. You said you missed your cat, Rodney. I thought I could take his place for the night – just sleep next to you. I don't purr but I am nice and warm." Carson gave a strange little smile and there was an odd look in his eyes. Rodney gazed at him distrustfully.

"Are you...teasing me?" he said finally. "I mean...I know the rules here, Carson."

"Rules?" Carson frowned.

"Just sex. No kissing. No embarrassing displays of emotion. No telling anyone."

"And where did you learn these rules?" Carson asked softly, suddenly coming close. Too close. Rodney swallowed.

"Back in high school of course," he said, as if it was self-evident. "Brad Stevens, 6 foot tall blond jock, blue eyes, hard muscled thighs..." Rodney sighed.

"And what happened with Brad Stevens, Rodney?" Carson asked, reaching out a hand to gently touch Rodney's arm. Rodney stared at him. The arm touching thing actually felt really nice so he didn't move away but he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do in return. It felt like Carson was changing the rules and that made Rodney feel scared.

"I followed him around. He called me names in front of the other kids but let me blow him in the bathroom during recess when nobody was around," Rodney shrugged. "I thought we...you know...were in love or something. Then he got a girlfriend and next time I tried to blow him he punched me in the mouth."

"Oh Rodney." Carson's arms went around his shoulders and pulled him close. Rodney went, unresisting, but still unsure where this was headed.

"So I know the rules, Carson," Rodney muttered into Carson's neck. "I wasn't intending to embarrass you with public displays of affection. I always made sure the infirmary was empty when I dropped by. Nobody ever saw us. If you get a girlfriend just let me know and I'll stop...you know." He drew back and looked into Carson's blue eyes, which seemed far too close...and then he looked at Carson's lips, which were even closer.

"I won't be getting a girlfriend, Rodney," Carson told him. "I'm gay. Like you."

"Well I don't spread it around!" Rodney protested. "I think I talk about fantasy blonde women just enough to fool the military boys. I know how antsy they get about this kind of thing. Like all I'd want to do is get into their pants which god knows isn't the truth. Well, mostly." He made a little face.

"Rodney?"

"Hmmm?"

"Shut up," Carson said, and then he pressed his lips against Rodney's and kissed him. Rodney stood there for a moment, terrified. Carson's arms were around his body and Carson's hands were caressing his butt in a way that made Rodney's cock leap inside his pants and most of all...Carson's lips were so soft and insistent and then Carson's tongue was sliding into his mouth... Rodney sighed and opened up, and Carson kissed him for a very long time, slowly, gently, his mouth so warm and careful and loving. When at last Carson released him, Rodney just stood there, gaping at him. "Forget the rules, Rodney," Carson told him.

"I don't think I ca..." Rodney began but Carson put a finger over his mouth.

"I'll give you some new rules then," he said firmly. "Firstly, kissing – there will be lots of kissing. On the mouth."

"Okay," Rodney said uncertainly. "Kissing. Right. Okay." He nodded his head, trying to process that. He thought it was doable. Kissing Carson was certainly very nice and definitely something he wanted to do again.

"Secondly – I'm not in the closet. My medical records are very clear about my sexual preferences and Elizabeth knows I'm gay. So, aye, let's by all means be discreet, but I'll not hide my feelings for you."

"Feelings?" Rodney gazed at Carson blindly.

"I love you, Rodney...and I think...I think you have feelings for me too, but you've been so busy suppressing your emotions for all these years that you're not entirely sure what they are any more," Carson told him, his hands gently rubbing Rodney's arms. Rodney felt his stomach lurch. Carson loved him? Carson? Carson with his deep blue eyes and thick dark hair and his body that always felt so hard and powerful under Rodney's fingers whenever he was blowing him? Someone as handsome and intelligent as Carson loved him? How was that possible?

"Uh..." Rodney said, because he wasn't capable of saying anything else. Carson smiled at him and took hold of his hand.

"As for embarrassing displays of affection – I'll try not to embarrass you but I doubt you could embarrass me, love," he said softly, leaning in to kiss Rodney on the lips again. "I love you and I wouldn't care if the whole galaxy knew it."

Rodney felt as if his head were spinning. This wasn't the way it normally went. He was used to having hopeless crushes on people that were never reciprocated and he had gotten used to never expecting them to feel the same way about him. Easier by far to just make do with being able to bring them off with his hands and mouth and not hope for or want anything more. That was just the way it had always been. He didn't know any other way.

"Let's go to bed, Rodney," Carson said, leading Rodney over to the bed. He undressed Rodney as if he was a child, and Rodney stood there as Carson's gentle doctor's fingers undid zips and buttons and shoelaces and finally he pushed a naked Rodney into the bed, and then got undressed himself and slid in beside him. Carson nestled against him, resting his head on Rodney's shoulder, his strong arms sliding around Rodney's body. Rodney reached down, searching for Carson's cock. Finally! This was something he did understand – everything else seemed like it belonged in a dream. Carson caught his hand before it found its destination though.

"Not tonight, Rodney. We've done that already. Now I want to do something else." He wrapped Rodney up in his arms and held him, kissing his face and hair. "I don't want to make love to you tonight – I just want to love you," he said.

Rodney lay there, trying to figure this out. Carson was warm, like his cat, but much bigger and he smelled so good. Rodney sniffed Carson's hair curiously for a minute, and Carson nuzzled at Rodney's jaw, kissing him gently. Finally Rodney started to relax. This wasn't so different from being with his cat after all. Carson seemed to want to just be close to him, and snuggle. He slung an arm around Carson's waist and held him tight.

"Are you sure about this, Carson?" he whispered, because it was definitely breaking the rules. "Is this okay?"

Carson's lips found his in the dark and he kissed him again. "Yes, Rodney. This is very okay," he whispered when the kiss finished.

"Did you mean what you said earlier?" Rodney asked him. "The bit about, um, loving me?"

Carson smiled and snuggled in more closely. "Aye, Rodney. I do," he said. "This isn't about snatched blow jobs or hand jobs any more. Do you understand that?"

Rodney thought about it for a moment. "I think so," he replied at last. It was a lot to get his head around. He'd had plenty of sex but nobody had ever wanted to just hold him and kiss him before. It felt strange...but also, really, really nice. Rodney lowered his head and kissed Carson again, loving the way Carson's lips parted for him when their lips met. And then he kissed him once more, just because he could. And then again, for no reason at all other than that Carson tasted so good. As Rodney drifted off to sleep, his arms wrapped around Carson's firm, compact body, he thought that maybe he wouldn't miss his cat so much from now on.

The End

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If you enjoy my stories then you might like to buy my original character BDSM slash novel, Ricochet! Find out more here: www-xanthewalter-com (change the dashes to dots!) or search for Xanthe Walter on Amazon.