A/N: I just can't stop writing about these guys. And this one isn't just an excuse for smut... completely.

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, Valve does. I wish I owned Nick, heh heh heh.

If the employees knew what was good for them, they wouldn't enter the bar owner's office that day. After all, he'd stormed into work early and didn't say anything, just slammed the door and barked at the people not to bother him. They'd have to run the bar themselves that day. Had they known exactly WHY Nick was in such a foul mood, they might have understood.

He sat in the back room, pretending to do work but really just seething and hoping that the day would wind down quickly and painlessly. He'd deliberately woken up early and snuck out of the house before Ellis had risen, and just drove aimlessly before it was time to go to his bar. Had he still smoked he would have been through a whole pack already.

Shit, I hate this, he thought, and drummed his hands on his desk. He was dreading going home, but knew that he had to at some point. He didn't want Ellis to call the cops, or worse, gather up a search party that consisted of his buddies. Even though a lot of things had changed after The Year of the Green Flu, long absent lovers still had to explain themselves when they got home. He rubbed his eyes with his hands, and leaped in his seat when his phone rang. Happy for any distraction whatsoever, he grabbed the receiver without bothering to even check the caller ID.

"Nick speaking."

"Happy biiiirthdaaaaay!" Rochelle's voice sang over the phone.

"Bite me."

"Jesus Nick, did Ellis burn the cake or something?" his long distance friend asked, and he could hear the smirk in her voice.

"Easy for you to say, you're in your early thirties."

"And you're forty, not forty million," she replied, disdain dripping off her words.

"I may as well be forty million."

"Wow. I'm REAL sorry I'm not there for this, truly," she said, and he groaned and leaned back in his chair. "Forty isn't old, hon."

"I FEEL old."

"I feel really bad for Ellis if you've been like this all day," she said, and he heard her typing away, no doubt working on her newest book, probably trying to punch out a deadline she had procrastinated on. "Hopefully when I come out there this summer you'll be over this bullshit. You have a month."

"Duly noted."

"Has Ellis given you your gift yet? And was it a sexy gift?"

"That isn't even close to being your business."

"Since when do you care about privacy? You act like Coach and I didn't hear you two in the various safe houses."

Christ, as if this wasn't awkward enough. "ANYWAY, I got an early start and haven't even seen him yet."

"But he always gives the best gifts! He gave me that great coat for MY birthday last year. And didn't he spring for a nice pair of shoes for you last year?"

"Yeah…."

"So why'd you run away?"

"I didn't run away! I had shit to take care of at work!"

"Okay, fine," she gave in, though he could tell she wasn't convinced. "Did you get my card?"

"Haven't checked the mail today." He'd gotten Coach's card earlier that week, which he assumed was supposed to be nice but had supremely depressed him instead. He'd hoped that Rochelle would have been too caught up in her book to remember to send one, but if she was one thing it was thoughtful. "But I will when I get home."

"Okay. It's nothing cheesy or anything like that."

"I believe it… Ro, I hate being forty."

"I'm sorry, hun," she said, finally sounding like she felt bad. Good, she should feel bad. "….. You aren't old. Really."

He sighed, smiled a bit, and leaned back in his chair. "Get back to your book. We'll talk more later. And that dedication better have MY name in it this time around."

"Maybe you'll get lucky this time."

"Luck be a lady."

"See ya, Nick."

"Yup." He hung up, and shook his head. Fucking birthdays.

The only other reminder he got at work was when one of the bartenders, Mitch, tried to storm his office with a cupcake. Luckily for Mitch, one of the waitresses, Frances, yanked him back out by the collar and told him that if he valued his job, he wouldn't acknowledge their boss' birthday.

So after he left punctually at five, he was thinking that maybe he'd skate through the rest of the day. Ellis hadn't called him at work to give well wishes, and usually if the kid (hardly a kid anymore at 28) was excited about something he'd pester his lover during business hours. So he hopped in his car, and drove home with cautious optimism.

Well, Ellis' truck was in the driveway, which meant that he must have rushed home from work, as he rarely got home before six. If he'd gone to work at all. Nick began to fret that there was some elaborate birthday surprise party in the house, not that he had all that many friends that would have been invited. He held his breath as he opened the door…

And, of course, was greeted by Ellis holding up a birthday cake. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

He couldn't hide a groan, but did stop short of knocking the cake with the big candles ('4' and '0', of course) onto the floor. "You REALLY didn't have to do this."

"Aw come on, Nick, it's your birthday for God's sake," Ellis said, and pushed the cake towards him. "Well make a wish and blow out the candles!"

"I don't want to," Nick groused, walking past him and tossing his keys in the bowl on the bookcase. Ellis followed like a puppy.

"Well you hafta," he demanded. "I paid good money for this cake."

"Oh really? How much?" Nick asked, still walking away from the stupid glowing dessert.

"They're rippin' off those college kids in Madison, cuz it was pricey," Ellis replied, relentlessly following him. "BUT I've been told it was worth it from Jerry and Steve, an' mechanics ALWAYS know good desserts-Don't go in the kitchen yet! Just wait!"

"Ellis, if I open the door to the kitchen is there going to be a HUGE group of people?" Nick demanded, hotly, and Ellis shook his head, rolling his eyes.

"You must think I'm real stupid, I know you hate parties," the mechanic said, and shoved the cake under his nose. "Now blow out the candles."

Nick scowled, but did so, glaring at Ellis the entire time. Once the small trails of smoke began to rise, Ellis grinned, and set the cake down on the coffee table. "What'd ya wish for?"

"A quick death."

"Jesus, quit your sulkin'," Ellis stated, shaking his head. "You'd think you just got diagnosed with cancer or somethin'."

"Look, let's just get this over with," Nick said, losing patience with everyone's insistence that he be happy to be one year closer to the grave. "Thanks for the cake, what did you get me, blah blah blah." Ellis, now more than used to this kind of grouchy behavior from the former con man, just clicked his tongue and held up a hand.

"Close your eyes."

"Jesus, do I have t-."

"CLOSE 'EM." Nick acquiesced, knowing that THAT tone meant business. While he looked into blackness, he could hear Ellis rummaging around for something, and soon felt a papery package set in his hands. "Okay, you can open 'em now." Nick did, and got a good look at the wrapped box. "Well, go ahead an open it."

"I'm working on it," Nick groused, and tore the wrapping swiftly. And he had to smile. "Ah shit, you got me Talisker." He held up the box that housed the bottle of Scotch, and smiled again at Ellis. "Nice, Overalls. Thanks."

"You were hintin' that the empty decanter needed somethin'," Ellis replied, and took Nick by the hand and tugged him up.

"Where are we-?"

"You're gonna freak when ya see what I have in the kitchen," he said, barely able to contain his excitement as he pulled Nick through the door. Nick rolled his eyes once Ellis' back was turned, and reluctantly entered the kitchen.

Honestly, it didn't look all that different. No fancy dinner, no stupid decorations. All Nick could see that was out of place were a few bottles of booze placed atop the counter.

"… Okay, I give up, Overalls, what am I supposed to be excited about?" Nick asked, weary and intrigued at the same time. Ellis walked to the counter and held up two of the liquor bottles.

"Remember when we first moved in here?" he asked, cocking his eyebrows mischievously. Nick crinkled his nose, testing his memory, and then shrugged.

"Before or after I pulled my groin muscle from carrying that fucking Lazy-Z-Boy you insisted on?"

"I said that I would do it, YOU'RE the one who had somethin' to prove!" Ellis reminded him. "An' I was talkin' about before that. The FIRST night when we didn't have anything in the fridge for supper… Aaaaan' we just drank booze and fucked on the kitchen table?"

"And then the table broke and I bruised my tailbone, if I remember correctly," Nick said, skeptically, as he sat at the replacement table.

"True, an' in turn I split my chin open on your teeth, but that ain't the point. What did we drink that night?"

"I don't know… I mean, you probably drank shitty macrobrews and I probably had whiskey-."

"Miller ain't shitty," Ellis said, and pointed at the bottles of Miller and Jack Daniels.

"So?"

"Well, I know it wasn't your birthday or nothin', but it was a few weeks before hand! I thought it'd be fun to do that again, since it was goin' real good until, you know, the table broke. Happy Birthday!"

Nick groaned. "First of all, El, this is the kind of gesture you do on an anniversary, not a birthday," he listed. "Second of all, seeing as we got WOUNDED, it was the worst sex we've ever had. EVER."

"It wasn't that bad," Ellis said stubbornly as he sat on the countertop.

"Yeah, don't try to spare my feelings, birthday or not, I'm well aware that I didn't perform at my best because of all the booze and pain," Nick said. "Why would you want to relive that terrible first night here?"

Ellis scratched the back of his head, sheepishly. "…. Well, cuz even though it wasn't the BEST time, it was still the first time we did it in a place of our own… An' all the really GREAT bouts of sex before that were either after bein' chased by zombies or in the Military quarantine. So role playin' wise, this one had the best hook."

This was true. It wasn't like Nick wanted to relive their other milestones. It was just a shame that some of the most significant moments were when they were under the worst kind of pressure and torment.

So he bit the bullet, seeing that this was really important to Ellis, even if this wasn't the ideal birthday gift. At least it wasn't a surprise party.

"Okay fine," Nick said, and walked to the counter top to pour himself some booze. "But you know how I feel about 'role playing', so let's keep that to a minimum."

Ellis grinned, and nodded. "Okay! But if'n I recall correctly, you said you liked that 'Ghostbusters' role play we did."

Nick flushed at the memory, and pointed the bottle of Jack at the mechanic. "I also thought we said that we'd never speak about that again."

"YOU said we'd never talk about it again, I didn't say nothin' about that," Ellis teased. "You were into it, makin' up parts an' shit."

"El-."

"Somethin' about not crossin' the streams-."

"EL."

"Okay, sorry." Ellis popped open a bottle of Miller. "So, has it been a good birthday so far?"

"I hate birthdays."

"You are the only person I know who hates 'em, what's that about?" Ellis asked.

"They've always sucked," Nick replied, taking a sip of whiskey.

"Oh, so the past few years we've been together you've had bad birthdays?" Ellis asked, trying not to look too hurt. "I mean, yeah, that first one we were in quarantine an' shit, but-."

"No, it's not like that," Nick said, shaking his head. "It's the age milestones that have been bad."

"Oh yeah? Like what?" Ellis asked, setting his beer bottle down on the granite.

"… Well, fine, the worst one was my thirteenth," he answered, swirling his glass and sitting back down at the table. "My Mom was pissed at my Dad, like she always was at that point. And he was late coming home from work, and that delayed the cake cutting. Mind you, we could have cut the cake at any time, I didn't care, I didn't even want to be doing it. But she got drunk on martinis and just laid into him when he got home at ten. Accused him of cheating on her, which he was, of course. Not to say that she wasn't cheating on him, but that's not…. Doesn't matter. So it started with yelling, ended with dish throwing, my Dad calling my Mom a gold digger and my Mom calling my Dad a bastard…"

"Shit," Ellis said, tilting his head to the side.

"So my first night as a teenager I ended up in my room, with the part of my cake that WASN'T a casualty to the fight, listening to The Psychedelic Furs album 'Mirror Moves' on a loop and drinking a lot of Dad's best gin, which I swiped while they were screaming at each other." He'd hated the taste, but loved the way it numbed the pain. Of course, because of it he did spend most of the night puking. After emptying the contents of his stomach, he'd cried until it was time to get ready for school. But he wasn't going to tell Ellis that. Some things were better kept private.

"…How come ya never told me this before?"

Nick smiled grimly. "You never asked." It was a cop out answer, but the only answer he was going to give.

"Well, I decided long ago that your parents sounded like rotten people," Ellis stated, matter of factly, and Nick chuckled. He'd drawn that same conclusion long ago as well. "Anyway, I've always liked birthdays. I remember this one time, for his birthday, Keith wanted to go cow tippin', so us an' Dave, we drove outside of Savannah until we found a field of cows. Do you know how HARD it is to find cows? I mean, you an' me, WE see 'em all the time since we moved to Wisconsin, but down in Georgia it's harder to find 'em. Especially around Savannah. But we did! An' Keith, he ran right up, all drunk an' shit, and smacked into this cow. But it turned out it was a bull, and he got gored right in the ass! HO BOY it was SO funny!"

Nick had long ago learned to just let Ellis get these Keith stories out of his system, so he simply drummed his fingers on the table as the younger man went on. While the mechanic had definitely grown up a lot from his days of being twenty three, he was still, at his heart, the Ellis that Nick had fallen in love with five years before. Nick had never been captivated by one person as much as he was by Ellis, and he still absolutely adored every inch of him. A huge feat for the man whose attention had flit about from person to person previously. And if anything, Ellis had just become better looking as he got older. At twenty eight he was STILL getting sexier as each day went by, with that Southern charm about him and confidence that went for miles and miles.

Sometimes Nick wondered why Ellis stuck with him. After all, the former con man wasn't the easiest person to live with. Yes, he'd turned a new leaf since his world had changed so much, like everyone else's had. He didn't really do the con game anymore, figuring when he won the bar in a poker game that could be his last hurrah. Certainly didn't chase tail just for the hell of it. Actually interacted with those he cared about. But at the same time, he was still that cynical, smart assed pessimist, now he just let people affect him more and didn't view it as a weakness. So he could still be an antagonistic dick if it suited him, and it could cause him to butt heads with his younger lover.

And he hated the constant reminder when they would go out that Ellis COULD have anyone he wanted. It was usually women who were drawn to the mechanic, which didn't threaten Nick in the least. He knew Ellis liked dick. But when the men paid attention….

"So I was thinkin' that maybe after drinks you'd want to go out to the Madison to one of them fancy steak places for dinner," Ellis continued. "Not the kind I'm used to, the kind where I actually have to wear a suit."

"You hate wearing suits."

"Well, you like those places better than Outback, so we can go into Madison an'-."

"Those places usually need reservations, Overalls," Nick pointed out, still moving his glass about to make the whiskey dance. Ellis' face dropped. Of course. He hadn't even thought of that, but of COURSE fancy steak places would need reservations. Dummy, he thought, and ran a hand through his hair.

"… Sorry," he stated, softly, and Nick shrugged.

"Not a problem," Nick said, and stood up, walking to the counter and setting his hands on his lover's legs. "I'm not really all that hungry, anyway."

"Oh, well, that's okay too," Ellis confirmed, and gently danced his fingers up Nick's left arm. "We can just have the cake."

"I want more than cake," the older man stated, slipping a hand behind Ellis' back and up his shirt. The younger man slowly grinned, and tugged closer, enjoying the feel of the hands on his back.

"Well I can give ya more than cake," he replied, quirking an eyebrow as he pat Nick's stubbly cheek. The gambler nodded, and quickly leaned into his lips. Ellis was surprised by the absolute hunger behind the kisses, it had been awhile since there had been such ferocity. It wasn't like there had been an extended period between their last tryst and now; about a day and a half, actually, pretty average. Sex had always been a huge part of their relationship, and even though it had waned a bit as they went on as a couple, there wasn't any reason to feel like it was lacking. But he went with it, squawking a bit as he was lifted up off the counter, and instinctively wrapped his legs around the former con man's waist.

Nick didn't quite trust the table this time. It wasn't that this one had failed them before, but he didn't want to risk that they'd worn it out. Not tonight. Yet at the same time he didn't trust himself to carry the younger man up the steps into the bedroom, so decided to settle for the sofa in the living room. He moved swiftly, dodging the coffee table and stepping over Ellis' shoes (why did he have to leave his stuff all over the place?) before falling onto the couch. He grunted a bit as Ellis' weight knocked into his ribs.

"Sorry," Ellis wheezed, and Nick shook his head.

"Don't worry about it," he replied, pulling Ellis' lips to him again as he tangled his fingers through the hick's hair. Ellis leaned forward, pushing his lover into the sofa cushions and sprawling across him so he could get more pleasurable contact. The older man snatched at the younger's Motley Crue tee shirt, pulling it forward and over Ellis' head, and tossed it to the floor. He ran his hands up the toned chest, and pushed him away briefly, just so he could admire him. "You get better looking every day."

"Aw, you do too," Ellis said, beginning to unbutton Nick's black shirt. The older man snorted a bit, trying not to think of the small pudge that had started forming at his stomach, or the grey hairs that had started pricking at more than his temples.

"Whatever," he murmured as Ellis pulled the shirt open and began to kiss his chest. He tilted his head back, trying to just take it in but also feeling a need to take hold of this situation. Yeah, he had come to enjoy being on bottom, very much so, but it would never compare to being on top, and today of all days he REALLY needed to be on top. He let his fingers continue to tangle in Ellis' curly hair, and then pushed himself up and against the hick again, kisses becoming more harried. His tongue darted into Ellis' mouth, running across teeth, and Ellis moaned a bit, pulling away.

"Hey, slow down," he said, laughing a bit, but Nick shook his head. "We got ALL night, Nick."

"Yeah, I know," Nick breathed, and ground his hips into Ellis', extracting another moan from the younger man. "Think we could go a few times maybe." He moved a hand to the denim of the jeans and fiddled with the button as he continued to move his lips and tongue in cadence with his lover's. Ellis wasn't sure what exactly had possessed his partner, but assisted him by unzipping his jeans. Nick pulled away and got up on his knees, unbuckling his belt and shedding his pants quickly. Ellis merely watched, trying not to betray his confusion. It was not like Nick to rush like this, he had always preferred going slower. Hell, early in the relationship he had trained Ellis to pace himself, taught him how it ultimately made things that much better if you started slow. This was uncharacteristic.

"… What?" Nick asked, noticing that Ellis was just watching him as he peeled his boxers off. The hick shook his head, and smiled cheerily.

"Nothin'. Just… enjoyin' the view, I guess," he went with, and slowly removed his jeans. Nick nodded, and began to distractedly stroke at his dick, which hadn't really caught up with his intentions yet. "Ya want me to go get some lube?"

"Yeah, yeah, do that," Nick nodded, frowning as he realized that he wasn't exactly 'at attention', as it were. Ellis hadn't noticed, luckily, and he stood up and bounded towards the bathroom. The gambler looked down at his uncooperative member. It wasn't like he was soft, but he certainly wasn't where he would need to be if he was going to be in charge tonight. He began to chew on the inside of his cheek, starting to stroke harder. "Come on."

This hadn't happened before. And he was one of the few guys who could say that and MEAN it. Oh God, no no no, he thought, and shook his head. Not tonight. NOT TONIGHT. He closed his eyes, thinking sexy thoughts. The idea of Ellis grabbing the lube, the way Ellis would shout his name without a care in the world, how GOOD and TIGHT the kid felt when he surrounded his cock, even after years of 'use'. Come on, old man, this is ridiculous, he thought, licking his lips and practically begging his dick to just stiffen, even if only a little bit more. He could WORK with a little bit more.

Ellis walked back into the room, tossing the bottle at Nick. But, being distracted, it hit the older man in the chest, and he looked up, his eyes wide. "Oh shit, sorry. Did it hurt ya?"

"No, no, it's fine," Nick replied, thinking that maybe having his stimulation back would fix things. Ellis walked over, and teasingly removed his boxer shorts, tossing them atop the growing pile of discarded clothing. The older man exhaled slowly, the image of his already erect lover definitely inspiring his internal longing. And yet… nothing, still barely half mast. And of course Ellis, being kind of oblivious sometimes, didn't even notice as he sat back down on the couch.

"How d'ya want it?" he asked.

"Huh?"

"Well, it's your birthday, after all," he replied. Stop REMINDING ME, Nick's inner monologue roared, though he didn't say anything outwardly. "So how d'ya want it?"

He tapped his foot, took Ellis by the shoulders greedily, and yanked him into his lap.

"Oh! Okay!" Ellis exclaimed as Nick started kissing his neck, the lips and teeth switching off turns at the skin. He felt his partner very deliberately rut up against his stiff cock, and breathed out a content sigh at the motion. "That's nice, Nick."

Nick paused, the words driving him crazy but not doing much else. "Say it again."

"What? 'That's nice'?"

"Yeah," Nick nodded, pressing into him again. Ellis smiled, loving the strain.

"That's niiice, Nick," he purred, wrapping his arms around Nick's shoulders. "Real nice." Nick rubbed up against him again, and again, starting to rub more than Ellis was used to. "Uh…Want me to lube you up?"

"Give me a minute," Nick muttered, gyrating into Ellis' pelvis again.

"Sure, okay," the mechanic nodded, willing to wait all night if he had to. He ground up into him too, but it didn't even seem to register as the older man repeatedly humped against him. Ellis raised his eyebrows, and then noticed that he was the only one with a fully stiff cock. Oh…. Oh this explains a bit, he thought.

As Nick urgently rubbed, his breaths now recognizable as frustrated grunts instead of pleased panting, Ellis carefully pulled away, trying to catch his lover's gaze.

But Nick refused to look at him, trying to keep himself together as the panic was washing over him. Can't even get it up anymore, you hit the big 4-0 and BAM, nothing! his nagging inner voice bitched, as he desperately tried to arouse himself. Can't get it up for your hot young lover, you are SCREWED, man, totally boned. LOTS of other guys would probably be more than willing to get it nice and hard and drive it into him over and over again, and he'll moan THEIR names and dance on THEIR cocks-.

"Nick?" Ellis asked, softly.

"WHAT?" Nick exclaimed, causing Ellis to jump a bit. His outburst shocked himself as well, and after a couple more fruitless thrusts he finally stopped, letting his head drop forward, his breath at last lost. He braced his hands against the arm of the couch, a look of utter defeat spreading across his face. Finally, he stood up, picked up his clothing, and stalked off and up the stairs, humiliated and pissed. Ellis scratched his head, and let out a concerned sigh.

Nick knocked open the bedroom door and tossed his clothes at the hamper, leaving only the boxers in his hands. He pulled them back on, and sat on the bed, feet thumping on the wooden floor. He rested his elbows on his knees, and let his forehead come to rest in his hands. This had officially become the worst birthday ever, and there had been a LOT of rotten birthdays in his life. This one had even outdone the Year Thirteen Cake Smash.

He sighed, and wished that he hadn't quit smoking. That would have taken some edge off at the moment, since sex obviously wasn't going to.

The door slowly opened, and Ellis cautiously walked into the room, also in his boxers. Nick didn't look at him, still stinging and embarrassed, and he didn't respond when Ellis sat next to him on the bed. The younger man wasn't exactly sure how to approach this, as while he didn't really care ALL that much that this had happened (yes, he was admittedly disappointed, but not upset), he knew that Nick was probably beside himself with self loathing.

"Want to talk about it?" he asked, meekly.

"Nope."

"Okay." He'd tried. If Nick wasn't going to talk about it, that was that. So Ellis shrugged, and reached for the phone. "I'll just order a pizza for dinner then."

"No one delivers out here." Even though it had been his idea to have a house outside of Madison (they'd learned that you could NEVER be too careful when it came to being isolated from large groups…), there were downsides to living in the sticks.

"So I'll go pick it up, I don't mind," Ellis replied, starting to dial.

Nick snorted. "If you want to stay out, go ahead. I'm not the best company right now." Ellis paused his fingers, and gave Nick a very confused look.

"Huh?"

Nick rubbed his eyes with his hands and moved them over his nose and mouth, as if deliberately muffling his words. "Look, our first night here may have been a disaster but it wasn't as bad as what just happened down there, so let's just…." He stopped, and snorted again, not even sure what he wanted to say.

Ellis put the phone down, and opened his mouth, but closed it again. "…. What're you talkin' about?"

"For God's sake, Ellis!" he exclaimed, his anger towards himself spilling over towards the confused lover. "I'm old! I'm forty fucking years old, and I already can't get it up anymore!"

"One time in FIVE YEARS is nothin'-!"

"It's just the beginning!" Nick exclaimed, standing up and starting to pace. "THIS is why I hate birthdays!"

"… Again, in all the time we've been together it has only happened ONCE," Ellis reiterated, getting frustrated with the self pitying bullshit his lover was espousing. "And it's not a big deal-!"

"It's a big goddamn deal if I can't fuck you, Ellis!" Nick snapped, sitting back down on the bed in a huff.

"Maybe to you, but I don't really give a damn!" Ellis threw back.

"Oh, real nice, so you don't care if I fuck you or not?"

"GOD, that's NOT what I mean!" Ellis spat, standing up. "You're freakin' impossible. Didja ever stop and think that maybe you're thinkin' about it too much? That maybe if you weren't so freaked about turning forty that it would work itself out? Christ, Nick, you were all over the place just tryin' to get somethin' to happen, but maybe you were too vain and too concerned with your damn birthday to LET anything happen. Didja think THAT could be it maybe?"

Nick glared at the floor, elbows back on his knees and hands hanging slack. "Do you know how hard it is for me, kid?... Psh, 'kid'. Why do I even call you that still?"

Ellis shrugged slowly, trying to calm himself down. "…I like it when you call me 'kid'."

"And I like calling you 'kid' but you aren't twenty three anymore," Nick continued, looking up at him, a bit of sadness in his eyes. "You're twenty eight, and you're just getting…. better. Most guys your age are out chasing tail and fucking around, but you're stuck with me. A forty year old with grey hair who can't even get his dick stiff for you."

Ellis sighed, and sat down on the bed again, not touching his lover, but sitting pretty close to him. Oh boy. This was more angsty than usual. "Nick… What exactly-?"

"I've seen this before, I saw it in my parents," Nick interrupted, now needing to let it all out. "She liked him at first because he was older and powerful, and he liked her because she made him feel young, and then they ended up hating each other because the age difference just DIDN'T work."

"Last time I checked we weren't your parents," Ellis scoffed.

"Well maybe not, but this is still... If I can't give it to you anymore….." He trailed off, and shook his head, furrowing his brow. Yeah, no clue what to say, he thought, and just opted to leave it at that.

Ellis chewed on his lip a bit, and clasped his hands together, trying to think of the right thing to lead off with.

Of course, like he usually did, he said the wrong thing first. "Well hell, Nick, I could always give it to you instead."

Nick growled, and stood up. "Jesus Christ, Ellis, thanks a lot-."

"Okay, I'm sorry!" Ellis exclaimed, taking the older man's wrist in his hand. "Sorry. Sit down." Nick snorted, but sat down anyway. "Nick… Do you actually think that I've only stayed with you all this time because of the sex?"

"..." He didn't answer, and Ellis shook his head.

"Look, I like the sex," he continued. "I like it a lot-."

"I know, you're pretty loud."

He blushed a bit, but continued on anyway. "But that's just part of it. I like havin' sex with you, because I like bein' with you. I like livin' with you, I like watchin' TV with you, I liked killin' zombies with you, I like YOU. Who CARES if you're forty? I think you're the only one who does! I'm stickin' with you because I love you, not because the sex is awesome. And it IS, just so you know. I mean, is it just about sex for you?"

"No."

"So why would it just be about sex for me?" Ellis asked, it suddenly striking him how insulting the implication actually was. "Just cuz I'm twenty eight? Like all twenty eight year olds everywhere are just like barnyard animals, worryin' about where their next hump is comin' from?"

"No!"

"Well then what is it?"

"…. Come on El, we both know that you can do better than me," Nick murmured, finally having out with it.

Ellis frowned, and wrinkled his nose. Though Nick liked to present himself as a calm, cool, and confident person, he definitely had insecurities, like all people. The mechanic just had no idea that THIS was one of them.

"You really think that?" he asked, stunned.

Nick nodded, ashamed. "Sure do."

"Well, even if that was true, and I don't think it is, but even if it was… Who says I'd WANT to do better?" Ellis asked, firmly. Nick quirked a lip a bit, encouraged by that statement, and he turned back to his lover.

"Don't you ever wonder if you could though?" he asked, hesitantly.

"Nope," Ellis replied. "Not genuinely. Sure, when you're pissin' me off I might think it, but I never mean it. Because yeah… I don't want to do better than you, an' I don't think there is anyone better than you. For me, anyway." He casually took Nick by the hand, and entwined his fingers with the former con man's. "Seriously! You're what I want, okay? Even if a bunch of other guys threw themselves at me, I'd just ignore 'em. An' you know why?"

"No."

"Cuz they ain't you, ya idgit."

Nick let a smile spread on his lips, and Ellis grinned at him, happy that he had finally gotten through.

"You're crazy," the older man said, and Ellis shrugged.

"I've heard that one before," he replied, and chastely kissed him on the lips. "An' you know what? There're lots of good lookin' forty somethin' year olds! I mean, lookit Brad Pitt… Well, you know, before he was eaten by a zombie, I mean. Before that he was REAL attractive."

"Ah yes, eating his face was Jen Aniston's ultimate revenge," Nick mused.

Ellis put a hand down on the former con man's leg. "C'mon, get dressed. We're takin' our chances at one of them fancy steak houses you like."

"El, seriously, reservations are kind of a must-."

"Whatever, I feel lucky tonight," the younger man practically sang as he rushed for the closet. "How could they say no to your birthday?" He began tossing clothes all over the floor, looking for his only suit, and Nick snorted at the irritating habit as he began to pick up the garments. Yeah, the kid might have reached full physical and attractive maturity, but he still knew how to make a mess.


Their luck had been good that night, as there was room for them at one of the best steak houses in the city. And Ellis hadn't complained once about his suit, which was a first. They had some great food, nice drinks, and calm conversation. Nick had to admit, things had really looked up as the night went on, and while he was still frustrated with his earlier 'dysfunction', he was still able to laugh and enjoy the company he kept with the mechanic. They made a strange pair, and jealous eyes were cast towards both of them, but Nick didn't give a shit, because Ellis' eyes barely left him. And the kid didn't even tell the waiter that it was a birthday dinner, which Nick really appreciated.

They returned to their house shortly before midnight, Ellis chattering the entire way about how good his steak was and how Outback NEVER had anything that tender. It was like he always forgot, no matter how many times they went out for good steak.

"We should try an' convince Rochelle to go there this summer when she comes to visit," Ellis suggested.

"She won't eat it, don't you remember? She's a vegetarian now," Nick groused, incredulously, and put the car keys in the bowl.

"That won't last, it's an art person thing," Ellis said, confidently, already shedding his suit all over the floor. His distaste for it had finally reached it's boiling point, albeit cheerfully.

"Christ I hope so."

"Oh shoot, I left your cake out," Ellis griped, noticing the untouched dessert that was still on the coffee table from earlier in the evening.

"Whatever, not a big deal, it's just cake," Nick replied, walking for the steps. "I'm going to take a shower."

"Okay, I'll clean up the bottles from before," Ellis announced, going into the kitchen. Nick smirked. Damn right, I'm not doing shit on my birthday.

After a long shower he stepped in front of the mirror in the bathroom. He examined his reflection, and tilted his head to the side, scrunching up his face, sticking out his tongue, scratching his scalp. Yeah, it wasn't terrible. And even if his stomach was a little bit softer, at least he wasn't a lard ass. A little perspective and confidence could go a long way. He put on his boxers and left it at that, ready for bed. It hadn't been a great birthday, but it hadn't been terrible either. Most of it anyway.

He walked down the hallway towards their bedroom, and then paused. Familiar music was playing from behind the door, and it took him back to his adolescence, the New Wave ditty sweeping nostalgia along with it. He slowly opened the bedroom door, and saw Ellis in his boxers, sitting cross legged on the bed with two plates holding pieces of cake on the comforter, the laptop on the dresser.

"Is this The Psychedelic Furs?" Nick asked, mouth twisting into a grin.

"Yep."

"YOU have The Psychedelic Furs on your laptop?"

"Now I do, it's called iTunes," Ellis responded, clearly trying his best to like it. "… It ain't The Midnight Riders, but it ain't awful neither."

"Shit, I haven't heard 'The Ghost In You' since… May as well be forever," Nick replied, closing the door behind him. "What's this about-?"

"Well, I decided to leave our First Date for our next anniversary and went in a different direction," Ellis replied, that goofy grin feeding off of Nick's smile. "Let's make that bad birthday a good one." Nick laughed, amazed that the kid could still amaze him.

"No gin, though," was all he could muster, and Ellis nodded.

"We don't have any."

"That's fine, I hate gin."

Nick sat on the bed, and took the two plates of cake from his lover, setting them on the night stand. Ellis had a puzzled look on his face, worried that Nick didn't want the cake, but relaxed when Nick took his hands.

"This…. This is probably the…. I don't know what to say," Nick said, and Ellis shrugged.

"Don't hafta say anything," Ellis replied, and leaned forward, resting his forehead against Nick's. "I'm just glad you like it, 's all."

"I do," Nick confirmed, and put his hands on the hick's shoulders. "…. God, Ellis, I love you so fucking much, you have no clue." The gesture had driven him to mushiness. Amazing.

"Well the same goes for me too," Ellis nodded, and draped his arms behind Nick's back. He kissed him kindly on the lips, and Nick returned it, the setting and atmosphere being the most perfect it had been in a long while. As he made the kiss deeper, he pulled him closer so he could feel the muscular chest against his own. Ellis nipped at his lip as he was tugged into the embrace, and rubbed his rough hands down the older man's back, sighing contently. Nick continued to explore the younger man's lips, and then spread his own, letting his tongue survey the mouth more fully. Ellis rose to the occasion, returning the action and practically crawling into Nick's lap. Nick leaned him back into the pillow, and gasped a bit when Ellis carefully and teasingly rolled his hips. The former con man made a sly face to himself as he kissed, and returned the gesture to the mechanic, who whimpered with the action.

Nick ran his hand up Ellis' chest as he moved his lips to the younger man's neck, and both of them stopped briefly when his boxer shorts began to constrict. It wasn't stalled this time, and it seemed to be reacting in a way to make up for earlier in the night. Ellis raised an eyebrow up at him, his face clearly saying 'I told you so', and Nick licked his lips.

"Bout fucking time," he growled, and went back to kissing Ellis' collarbone. Ellis didn't make a big deal of it, but did mouth 'Thank You, Jesus' as Nick began to fiddle with his boxer band. "These are coming right off you, just so you know."

"You got it," Ellis agreed. Nick yanked the cotton off sharply, tossing them to the side, and immediately ran his tongue up Ellis' shaft, causing the younger man to shiver and shut his eyes tightly. "Tha-that feels n-nice."

"That's the way I like to hear you say that," Nick purred, shifting so his clothed crotch was right against Ellis' naked one. He rubbed into the mechanic's pelvis, and Ellis moaned out again, which made Nick stiffen up a bit more as a shudder went through his body. Ellis opened his eyes half way, and moved his fingers to his lover's boxer band. "Off?"

"Yes, right now," Ellis rasped, nodding, suddenly desperate to get Nick inside of him. Nick obliged, stripping himself of the boxers and tossing them over his shoulder. "No, wait."

"Wait?" Nick asked, not sure he wanted to tempt fate by waiting, but his fears were quelled when Ellis sat up, made Nick lie back, and then plunged his mouth over Nick's cock. "GOD DAMN." Ellis pressed his hands against Nick's pecs as he bobbed up and down, and the gambler stared at the ceiling, trying to keep his hands in place at the foot of the bed, gripping the metal post. He didn't want to force Ellis to go too fast by controlling his head, as it sometimes led to choking and then, regrettably, biting. Didn't want that, no sir. His toes curled as he felt the warmth run up his chest and into his cheeks, and he began to pant as he closed his eyes. He held his hips in place as best he could, even though Ellis had started tweaking his nipples a little and his instinct was to buck.

Ellis detached his lips, more than pleased with himself, and opened the drawer of their nightstand, removing a brand new bottle of lube. Nick opened his lids when he heard the familiar squeak of the drawer, and caught Ellis' gaze. The kid had a glint in his eyes.

"So I'll ask ya again," he said, cockily, and held up the lube. "How d'ya want me?" Nick sat up, grabbing the bottle from his hand and dousing his own palm with it.

"On your back with your legs in the air," he replied, voice husky as he ran his hand up his still cooperating cock. Ellis shrugged coyly, and leaned back, just as Nick had asked, spreading his legs in anticipation. Nick swallowed dryly, and positioned himself.

"Fingers?" he asked, hoping not but wishing to be polite since the mechanic had been so fucking thoughtful the entire evening. Ellis may not have been the brightest crayon in the box, but he certainly wasn't stupid. He was also intuitive and kind and knew exactly what Nick liked.

"No," Ellis replied, shaking his head. "Just do it, Nick, just fuck me. Get inside'a me an' make me come." Nick shuddered, the begging and beseeching driving him up the wall, and he nodded, entering without abandon.

Ellis shivered and groaned, the initial tension uncomfortable and yet feeling so damn good too, and Nick let himself slide in further, moaning as he did so. Ellis rolled his hips to let Nick know he could start moving, and Nick pulled back and entered again, going in a bit deeper, but not too deep, not wanting to rush. He wanted to enjoy this.

Ellis licked his lips, the sensations in his body a slight tickle at the moment. He grasped at the sheets, devouring Nick's thrusts and keening with each one. Nick placed his hands on his lover's hips as he closed his eyes, just focusing on his muscles, on how Ellis' ass felt around his dick, focusing on the noises the kid was making with each movement. The mechanic's back arched and he writhed, the very sight of it making Nick wobble with pleasure, and he groaned as he plunged; touch, sight, sound, all of it added to his elation.

"Can ya go deeper?" Ellis huffed, aching for Nick to start hitting that spot. Nick's lips curled into a smile, contemplating if he should tease the kid a bit, maybe make him beg a little. But no, that wouldn't be nice. So he spread the mechanic's thighs a bit more, and dipped himself all the way in, aiming for the prostate. "YES, just like that!"

"Damn right just like that," the older man gasped, his own muscles starting to come to life. Ellis rolled his pelvis again, and clenched in such a way that rippled through Nick's cock. "CHRIST El." Ellis smiled as he gasped, gripping the cold metal between his palms and shoving away from it, meeting each gyration with a desperate fury. Nick removed his hands from the narrow hips and moved them under Ellis' back, trying to pull the kid closer despite the physical impossibility, reeling as his body built up in waves and yet did not crash. He wasn't ready for it to crash just yet, but he knew if he wasn't careful it was going to explode all throughout his nerves.

"NICK," Ellis keened, which didn't help Nick's willpower. Nor did the kid's legs, which had hitched behind Nick's lower back and wrapped around his waist. Apparently he was also desperate for that unachievable closeness. He could tell the mechanic was nearing climax, as his dick was practically oozing with precum and turning bright red, and Nick was teetering too, so he took in a deep breath and buried himself fully, again and again, knowing he was hitting that spot by the way Ellis cried out. Those cries before orgasm could be scary at times, as they balanced the line between pleasure and agony. So just to move it along a bit, the gambler took the desperate member in his hand and began to pump it along with his hips.

"OH JESUS NICK, more've that!" Ellis cried, and Nick's jaw went slack, his head dropping forward, gasping for the air to keep going.

"Just a bit more!" Ellis begged, voice catching. "Cl-close, 'm close, Nick! REAL close!" Nick nodded, and tried to say something but nothing came out but more moaning and incoherent chatter. Jesus, get a grip, he thought, and gave one more well planned thrust and stroke.

That did it. "NI-!" was all Ellis could get out before his back arched for the last time, and he wailed loudly as he grabbed the sheets in his fingers, releasing his seed on both their stomachs and Nick's palm.

The spasms around Nick's length, combined with the sight of his lover at his complete mercy screaming out just for him, made the former con artist reach his peak, and he yelled like a mad man as he came, clutching Ellis to him fiercely as his muscles tensed and released again and again. Once the waves had stopped, and once he'd stopped yelling, he slumped forward, hands grabbing the metal posts before he could land awkwardly on his lover's face. He gulped in as much air as he could, eyes shut tight in an effort to keep the room from spinning, and he only opened them when he felt Ellis' fingers slipping up his sweat covered back to pull him in an embrace. Nick removed himself so he could fit better into the hug.

"If you think I'd ever leave ya when you can do THAT to me, you're the one who's crazy," Ellis stated, voice hoarse. Nick snickered, brushing sandy waves from the sweaty forehead next to his.

"I'll keep that in mind."

"Yeah, you better," Ellis chuckled, and copied Nick's gesture by sweeping the only slightly graying hair from the older man's eyes. "…. I want cake."

"Yeah, I kind of do too," the gambler agreed, rolling off of his lover and settling himself on the side next to the nightstand. He handed a plate to Ellis, and they both sat up to eat the dessert. "Hm. Not too bad."

"Yep," Ellis said, and smiled at his boyfriend. "So tell me. Since I made the night great, have I changed your mind about birthdays?"

"Talk to me next year," Nick replied. "And besides. It's not my birthday anymore. It hasn't been for about an hour now." Ellis scoffed in incredulity, and saw on the clock that it was, indeed, one in the morning. He frowned, and shook his head.

"Naw, the rule is that it's still your birthday until you go to bed," he said, stubbornly. "I made this the best birthday you've ever had, an' I'm stickin' to that story."

"Alright, Overalls, whatever you say," Nick smiled, and gave him a sloppy, cake crumb filled kiss on the cheek. Ellis shot him a dirty look, but couldn't help but smile. Yeah, he knew he'd not only made this the BEST birthday Nick had ever had, but he'd completely changed the man's opinions on birthdays the world over. All in a day's work.

"Happy Birthday, Nick."

"Thanks, kid