Duke inhaled sharply as a strong pair of arms slid around his waist, stiffening nervously.
"Nathan-y?" a very familiar voice rumbled directly into his ear. Duke quivered in reaction, relaxing and leaning back against Nathan's chest.
His eyes fluttered closed, and he remembered that he ought to answer. He had been too absorbed in the now-rare feeling of being wrapped in Nathan's arms; it had shuffled his mind. "Had to say something, didn't I?" he asked rhetorically.
Not the best of answers, but considering the circumstances… Duke thought.
Nathan chuckled, leaning against Duke's back. "So what's all this flirting with Audrey about?" he asked, tone deceptively light and careless.
Duke tugged away, but Nathan refused to let go. Duke jerked harder, but received no response save a few slightly sore spots that would likely be bruises tomorrow.
"Just fun." Duke replied sullenly, snorting derisively.
Nathan relaxed his grip just enough to allow Duke to turn, and he did so, meeting his lover's swirling blue-green eyes. "Sure about that?" Nathan inquired pointedly.
Duke rolled his eyes, retreating a few steps when Nathan released him. "Oh, yeah. I'm sure." he responded honestly enough, but there was a touch of bitterness in his tone.
Nathan cracked a small smile, sighing happily, though he caught the less-than-happy undertones to the otherwise reassuring statement.
"After all," he added, a moment later, "Why would I want her when I can have . . . whatever it is we have, with a man who seems, for all intents and purposes, to loathe me. A man who is violent, strong, and feels no pain, and thus no reason to stop when he loses his temper with me."
Nathan sagged slightly, leaning against the rail of the smallish boat. "I'm sorry, Duke. Really." he mumbled.
As always, Duke couldn't stay angry with the tormented countenance of his long-time lover. "Hey, no problem." he protested, hands up in surrender. "I'm a big boy, Nathan. I can make my own choices, and I can take a little roughing up, alright?" he added, more seriously. "It's worth the occasional . . . mishap."
Nathan looked up at him miserably. "What could possibly be worth that? Last week I tried to beat you to death!"
Duke stepped closer again, laying a restraining hand on Nathan's chest. "Hey, one, not your decision, not your fault - you were under the influence of some kind of weird . . . whatever. Two… Nathan, you are. Being with you is worth that, to me."
Nathan reached up slowly, taking hold of Duke's face and searching his gaze for a lie.
"Besides," Duke added, the crooked smile coming back to his face, "you didn't exactly do a lot of damage, considering. I was more worried about you - Audrey said you burned yourself - with a fucking lighter held to your fucking arm, Nathan!"
Nathan nodded, then dropped his head onto Duke's shoulder tiredly. "I couldn't feel . . . anything. It was so… And like that… Even if I wasn't affected for long, it was way too much. It was horrible." he shuddered. "And knowing that that's really there, in my head? That was even worse."
Duke opened his mouth, but paused, a little surprised as he connected a few dangling pieces of the mystery last week. "You came to me." he said, flatly.
Nathan twitched, but he didn't budge from Duke's embrace, or even raise his head from Duke's shoulder. "And tried to hurt you." Nathan's words were muffled in Duke's thick sweater, but he was familiar enough with both the voice and the muffling to decipher it.
"Didn't manage too much, though, did you?" Duke pointed out, tightening his arms around Nathan's waist. "I'm not exactly helpless, you know."
Nathan chuckled sorrowfully into Duke's neck and shoulder, making him shiver at the warm, tickling sensation brushing over his skin.
At his reaction, Nathan stilled, carefully observant for a few long moments before leaning back to look over Duke's expression. The tormented thoughts that he had been caught in dissipated quickly at the familiar, yet always intoxicating, sight of Duke aroused.
"I know." Nathan answered the question-that-hadn't-been-a-question, but his voice had dropped to a lower, husky, register. At that sound, Duke's eyes darkened before sliding closed as his hands tightened and then released where they were twisted in the back of Nathan's heavy shirt.
Nathan moved in close, allowing his breath to tease across Duke's lips for a brief moment before he covered them with his own.
Nathan wasted no time on teasing or light, chaste kisses, simply catching the back of Duke's neck with one hand as he pressed their bodies together from thighs to lips.
Duke moaned happily, opening hungrily for precisely the sort of demanding, lustful, yet gentle - always gentle, soft; had to be, or Nathan wouldn't even feel him - kiss that he had become used to sharing with Nathan.
It stretched on, slowing slightly whenever they needed to breathe, but never truly breaking, for what could have been forever for the two men so entwined. Eventually, though, Duke realised that they were still standing on the deck of his boat, and right up at the marina, no less.
With some effort, Duke pulled away more insistently, panting lightly and attempting to remember what he'd just realised. He knew there had been something, but it was so hard to focus with Nathan tonguing up his neck like tha-
"Nathan!" he gasped out as Nathan sucked lightly at a very tender hollow just beneath his ear. It was meant to have been a stern demand, but his focus was too far gone for that, as well, he supposed. Especially with that…
Nathan chuckled breathlessly, thrilling to the barely-there feel of Duke's fingers scraping in the neat fringe of hair at the back of his neck. Duke pushed him away. "Nathan!" he repeated, more steadily.
Nathan pulled back. "What?" he asked, half-curious and half-exasperated. Duke paused, attention diverted to Nathan's thin lips, reddened and moist from their recent activities.
His reverie was broken by Nathan sweeping a thumb over Duke's jaw concernedly, and also as he noticed the very faint bruise growing at the corner of Nathan's mouth.
Duke gathered himself. "Oh, just . . . don't you think we should move this inside?" He grinned at Nathan's look of sudden realisation even as he mirrored the odd caress.
Duke brushed a feather-light touch over the light purple shadow lingering at the right corner of his lover's mouth, knowing even as he did that Nathan probably hadn't even noticed the bruise when he got it - or since, for that matter. The man had a deplorable habit of ignoring mirrors completely.
"Absolutely." Nathan replied, eyes fixed on Duke's faraway, though fondly amused, expression. "Lead the way. Your boat, after all."
Duke smirked and backed up, not releasing his grip on Nathan as he did - lucky he knew his boat so well, or he might have had a spill. Nathan affected to be long-suffering, but he was smiling, too, as he followed along, never more than a hand's span away.
Duke finally ducked away, releasing his hold on Nathan's shoulders, when they reached the half-hidden door that led belowdecks. Nathan dragged a palm down to the small of Duke's back, allowing it to rest there, almost proprietarily.
It was the work of a moment for Duke to get the narrow door open, and when he had, he glanced over his shoulder at Nathan, then grabbed his lover's hand and pulled him down the equally narrow stairs to the comfortable cabin.
This was meant to be a lighthearted sort of discussion of Duke's somewhat lacklustre . . . comment, on Nathan's appearance in 'Consumed' but ended up being much more in-depth dealing with his apparent - and lingering - disquiet after 'Harmony'. ...oops?
Anyway, I really like these guys together - I hope I captured them all right - and I'll probably be posting more one-shots with them soon. (Well . . . at least one, as I'm writing it now.)