It rained for days after Daniel left Shell Beach - not a hard rain, but a constant drizzle that started on his way back into the city, enough to make everything cold and wet and damp. It rather fit his mood, Daniel reflected bitterly, somewhere in his well of self hatred. He hated himself for leaving, especially on such bad terms, but he knew it was the inevitable conclusion to their friendship, and the only conclusion that wouldn't end in straight out hatred and rejection, which he knew was what would happen if John ever found out how he really felt, his overwhelming, unnatural desire and need for the other man.

He tried to distract himself, holing up in his apartment, reading through his library, but everything reminded him of John, made him ache more. And he couldn't help but think about Anna as well, the way that she'd kissed him, the way they'd look if they made love. Finally, he left the apartment late one evening, needing a much stronger kind of distraction despite his previous resolutions not to go down that path again.

The bar was only a block from his apartment, not far enough that he needed an umbrella, the brim of his hat keeping the light rain out of his eyes and off his glasses. As he slipped inside, he stopped dead, staring at the familiar profile at the table at the back of the room - the same table, he realized, that he so often chose. He caught the arm of a waitress as she slipped by. "Excuse me... how long has that man -- been here?"

She followed his gaze. "Oh, him. Since about seven, same as every night for the past couple days. You know him?"

"He is -- a friend."

She looked a little sympathetic. "You should have some words with him, then. We've had carry him into a cab at the end of the night every time he's been here. He needs an intervention."

Daniel nodded slowly, shocked and a little saddened by her words, and thanked her, making his way slowly across the room, letting his hands rest on the chair beside him. "John."

Green eyes looked up at him blearily. "Daniel."

He returned the gaze for a long moment, conflicted. He wasn't ready, not at all, to speak with John again, to face the inevitable conversation about his departure. What the waitress had said chilled him, though, and he couldn't bring himself to leave John to face such a state on his own. "May I join you?"

"Thought you'd never ask," the dark haired man replied, draining the last of his drink. Bourbon, Daniel recognized from the smell as he sat down, his usual choice. "Can I buy you a drink?"

He hesitated, then nodded. He'd need it, to get through this. "Thank you."

John waved down the waitress, who brought two more drinks without much delay. Daniel sipped at it, trying to concentrate on the rich burn and not on his pounding heart, not on the effect that being so close to John had on him.

"Was beginning to think you wouldn't ever come," John said softly, after a sip, words a little less articulate than normal.

Daniel glanced over at him in surprise. "You have been drinking here... waiting for me?"

"Worked the first time, didn't it?" John blinked a couple of times, as if to clear his vision. "Don't know where you live."

He flushed despite himself, lowering his head a little. "You should be home," he said, gently. "Where is Anna?"

"Don't wanna be at home or with Anna," John replied, glaring down at his drink fiercely. "Told you that. You don't believe me." He drained the glass, setting it back down. "I need another. You?"

Daniel sighed, reaching tentatively to cover John's hand on the table with his. "John... please stop this."

Green eyes flashing angrily, challengingly "Why should I?"

Daniel returned his gaze evenly. "Because I cannot -- carry you home."

For a moment, Daniel saw pain, and then John turned away, looking down with a little shudder. "You... dammit Daniel, you're so confusing. Or I am. I don't know."

He patted John's hand gently, not knowing what else to do, realizing that whether or not he wanted it, he needed to address the issue of his departure. "Would you like -- to talk about it?"

John was silent for a long moment. "Sure, why the hell not. Not here, though. There someplace private around here?"

"My apartment is only a block -- away...." Daniel finished his drink, feeling the alcohol warm him pleasantly, though it didn't make him feel any stronger, any more sure of himself.

"Good." John stood, throwing down bills - probably much more than he needed to leave to pay for the drinks, Daniel reflected - and started for the door a little unsteadily, seemingly trusting him to follow. When they stepped out of the bar, John looked up at the sky with a little frown. "Damn... forgot about this... just a second." He leaned back against the side of the building, and Daniel caught that strange glint, that twist of reality in his eyes. Glancing up toward the sky, he saw the clouds part over them, the rain stopping.

"The rain was your doing -- too?" he asked, astonished, tugging John away from the building, starting for his apartment.

John gave a soft, bitter laugh. "Yeah. Misery loves company and all that." He followed behind Daniel slowly, keeping up easily with the doctor's limping gait. "Daniel... why did you leave me?"

Daniel closed his eyes for a moment, feeling a pang of guilt at the obvious hurt in John's voice. It was a question he'd thought about almost constantly over the past couple of days, and he was no closer to an answer that he could actually tell to John. He cleared his throat softly. "I am sorry, John. I simply did not want to -- overstay my welcome. Here we are." He opened the door to the apartment building for John, following him inside and hitting the button for the elevator.

"You wouldn't have," John replied, a little sullenly. "Wish you'd believe me for once."

"Please, John. It's not that I don't -- believe you...."

"Then what is it?" He could hear the frustration join the hurt in John's voice. "We were fine until we ran into Anna. Then you got all cold and closed yourself off and left me. What was I supposed to think?"

Daniel got into the elevator as the door opened, hitting the button for his floor, trying very hard not to read things into his words that weren't there. "That you should not let -- someone like me -- distract you from what is -- important."

"Goddammit!" John's hands caught his shoulders, turning him and pushing him up against the side of the elevator, firm but not rough, surprisingly strong despite the drink. "I keep telling you. She's not important. YOU are."

He closed his eyes and turned his face away from John, a shudder running through him at his touch, his words, at the warmth of him, at the scent of bourbon mixed with John's cologne, all of it going to his head in a dizzy mass of uncertainty. It left him trembling with the effort of holding back, wanting so badly to press close to him, and he forced his hands to stay splayed against the wall of the elevator. "Please don't -- say that, John."

"Why not?" Anger dissolved to helplessness. "I need you, Daniel. God help me, I'll never have you way I want, but can't we at least be friends?"

He chanced to look up at him, searching his face for a long moment, trying to understand his words. "The way you... want?"

John gave a soft, helpless laugh, green eyes sad under his gaze. Full of loneliness, but something much more than that. Longing. "Do I really have to spell it out for you?"

The elevator stopped, and Daniel glanced toward the open doors, heart pounding at the implications of the other man's words, trying very hard not to feel any kind of hope or joy, trying not to jump to conclusions. He tried to speak and found voice weaker than he expected. "My... apartment...."

"Fuck your apartment," John said, a little roughly, and leaned in to cover Daniel's mouth with his own.

For a moment, Daniel panicked and tried to break away, bringing his hands up to John's chest to push him away like he knew he should. But he couldn't do it, couldn't ignore the thrill of pleasure and elation that raced down his spine, so instead his arms slipped up around John's neck, pulling him closer, drinking in his kisses desperately like he would drown without them. His lips parted easily to deepen the kisses, tasting bourbon and cigarettes on John's lips, chest heaving as he gasped helplessly for breath against his mouth in the brief instants when John pulled back before invading again, claiming his lips fiercely, hot and needy. John's arms slipped to wrap tightly around his waist, pulling their eager bodies together, pressing him back against the side of the elevator. His weight felt agonizingly wonderful against him, and for a moment, Daniel couldn't think about anything but the moment and John's kisses.

When he finally broke away, they were both breathless; Daniel more so, gasping to try and pull enough air into his ruined lungs. He kept his arms tight around John's neck, fighting against an all to familiar blackness that teased the edges of his vision whenever he failed to get enough oxygen. "Oh...."

John's voice was soft, concerned, breath warm against his hair. "Are you all right?"

"Yes," He managed to gasp, still clinging to him, pressing tight to the solidity of the wall behind him. "I just -- sometimes it's hard to -- get enough air...."

He heard John mutter a soft curse under his breath, and reach over to punch Daniel's floor again on the elevator, which had, unnoticed, returned to the bottom floor while they were distracted. "Don't try and talk... I'll get you inside."

Daniel gave a little nod, feeling very dazed for more reasons than just that. When the elevator stopped, John pulled away just enough to walk with him, arm still tight around his waist, solid and supportive, and Daniel wondered if the man was truly as intoxicated as he had seemed in the bar. He managed to direct John to the door to his apartment, though the other man dispensed with the need for keys and simply Tuned it unlocked, letting them in, helping Daniel with his coat and hat and to sit down on the sofa. Daniel half curled into himself, breathing calmer now, but no less nervous. Watching him. "John...."

The dark haired man settled carefully on the couch beside him, watching him, expression a mixture of emotions that Daniel couldn't place. "Yes?"

He swallowed hard, shivering. "You're - you're intoxicated. You'll regret this tomorrow...."

John paused, then shook his head slowly. "No, and I won't... not unless you do. You don't, do you? Just now... that wasn't one sided." His voice took on a slightly wondering tone, and Daniel lowered his face, feeling the tips of his ears burn.

"No... it wasn't," he half whispered, afraid to look at him, afraid that John would pull back at any moment and realize how crazy, how wrong this was.

John was silent for a long moment, long enough that Daniel's fear began to increase, that he looked up at him worriedly.

"That's why..." John said softly, finally, "Why you always... shiver when I touch you. I used to wonder if you were afraid, because of Them...." He shook his head slowly, still wondering. "God, I've been so blind. I should have known...."

"I didn't want you -- to know," Daniel replied softly, the warmth in his ears burning down to his cheeks. "I was -- I am -- afraid of losing you, John...."

"And that's why you left?"

He looked away again, giving the barest nod. "I couldn't -- stop myself from being jealous... I knew you'd realize it, knew I couldn't keep hiding it." He felt John's hands on his arms, gently moving them from where he clutched his own chest, uncurling his body, pulling him close. He gave a soft, choked sob at how overwhelmingly good the simple contact was, trembling madly, clinging to him, burying his face in the warm solidity of John's shoulder. He felt John's hand stroke over his hair, down his back, making soothing noises.

"How long?" he asked softly, and Daniel made a soft noise, half way between a laugh and another sob.

"Since I -- met you," he breathed, feeling a shudder run through him at the admission. "Since I first -- saw you. I'm so sorry, John...."

"Don't apologize for that." His voice was low, a little husky with emotion, and it made Daniel's heart ache wonderfully. "Apologize for keeping it from me, if you like, for letting me believe I meant nothing to you when you left, but god help me, don't apologize for caring about me. It's all I've wanted, all I've been able to think about for so long. So very long, Daniel."

"You shouldn't," Daniel tried again, desperately, and John pulled back to look at him, surprisingly tender, fingers ghosting gently over the scars on the right side of his face.

"Why shouldn't I...?"

He couldn't help but hold the gaze of those green eyes, couldn't break from their intensity. "You deserve so much -- so much more than a cripple, and a - " He gave a soft, bitter laugh. "A man, John. You deserve someone who can take care of you, have children, someone beautiful - "

John's eyes narrowed. "You are beautiful," he muttered fiercely. "I don't care about the rest of that. I want you. You're the only one who knows me - really knows me, Daniel, and everything I've done, good and bad, and you still accept me as I am, you still - care for me."

"Always," he whispered, more than a little stunned by his words and intensity, and gave a soft moan as John tilted his face up gently to kiss him again, warm and tender this time, mapping his lips with soft, gentle kisses. He couldn't stop trembling, couldn't keep from being overwhelmed by John's gentle affection, his hand warm on his cheek, slipping into his hair, his tongue flicking lightly against his bottom lip. Couldn't keep his lips from parting at the invitation, yielding entirely to him, arching more to him regardless of his aching back. John's tongue invading, claiming his mouth, hot and sweet and eager. Couldn't stop his body from reacting, couldn't stop the soft pulses of desire that shuddered down his spine. Couldn't keep from wanting him.

John broke away as soon as Daniel's breathing grew laboured, watching him with tender concern, placing a hand on his chest and rubbing gently. "God, I'm going to kill you...."

Daniel felt a rush of heat to his cheeks and looked down in shame. "I'm sorry, John, I -- I am not a strong man...."

"Shhh..." lips soft and gentle on his forehead, fingers not stopping their gentle massage. "Let me see if I can do something to fix that...."

Daniel felt a shock of alarm. "Drunk?"

He gave a soft chuckle. "Haven't been drunk since we left the elevator, doc. I can get rid of it just the same as hangovers. I didn't need it anymore, not after the way you kissed me."

He felt warmth, and a slow lifting of the pressure on his chest, a lessening of the ache he'd felt so long and constantly that he'd almost forgotten what it felt like not to have it. His breath grew deeper without him even having to try, and he felt his chest expand, lungs stretch deliciously as he drew a deep breath with no pain. "Ohh...."

A smile. "Is that better?"

He nodded, lips pressed tight together, trying to keep himself from being completely overcome by it all. His voice cracking when he tried to speak. "John - !"

He let John pull him into his arms, pressing his lips to Daniel's hair, voice very soft. "I love you."

That was the last straw, and he broke, the care and kindness overwhelming, too much for him to take in after years of being alone in the darkness. He sobbed helplessly into John's shoulder, drawing huge, gasping breaths, letting out all the stress and heartache of the past few days. "I'm sorry - " he gasped, shuddering. "I shouldn't have left, I - "

"Shhh..." John's fingers stroking over his hair and back, warm and gentle, and eventually he calmed, lulled by his touch, by his voice as he murmured soft words, gentle sentiments to calm him. "Everything's okay now... I have you...."

He drew back, finally, slowly getting control of himself, smiling shyly as John's fingers brushed the tears from his cheeks. He slipped his arms up around his neck, reaching up to kiss him, warm and full and yearning.

"I love you, John," he whispered softly, and knew that despite everything, all that he needed in the world was right here.

~~ fin ~~

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