What I needed most was to love and to be loved, eager to be caught. Happily I wrapped those painful bonds around me; and sure enough, I would be lashed with the red-hot pokers or jealousy, by suspicions and fear, by burst of anger and quarrels.
~ St. Augustine ~
"Goodbye." Ethan stepped through the anomaly.
He wasn't afraid; somewhere in the last 18 years he had forgotten how to be afraid. Emily would die, finally, for what she had done to Charlotte and Danny. Danny wasn't dead but to quote the immortal Oscar Wilde, "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." He was making a compromise. Patrick was dead and Danny Quinn didn't matter to Ethan Dobrowski. Charlotte, Danny, Emily, he was done with this world, with this time. It had nothing to give him any more.
Suddenly, unbidden, a memory came to his mind. A memory far younger than any he had of Charlotte.
Becker slammed the door when he came home.
"What the hell were you thinking?" he yelled when Ethan appeared, smirking.
"You didn't like my little diversion?" Ethan leaned casually against a wall.
"My men could've been killed, I could have been killed."
"Thought that turned you on." Ethan came nearer, invading Becker's personal space. "The danger, the thrill."
"Fuck you," Becker told him angrily.
"Oh, I intend to." Ethan promised smugly. One hand at the back of Becker's neck, the other on his hip, he pulled Becker into a bruising kiss. Becker pushed him against the wall without breaking the kissl.
"Don't play games with me."
"I'm not." Ethan licked his lip where a split had reopened from the fight with Matt and winced playfully. "I'm quite open about my attempts to kill you." His hand slid to the side of Becker's neck, his thumb putting just the slightest pressure on Becker's throat.
"Not my team." Becker told him calmly but with a threatening undertone.
Ethan leaned very close, his beard scraping along Becker's cheek when he whispered.
Becker had let him go, Ethan knew that, had seen it in his eyes because Becker of all people had to have known that the guns were fairly harmless to humans. Ethan had still shot him twice, making it look convincing.
The anomaly reacted, something or someone came through and for the absurd blink of an eye Ethan hoped to see Becker.
It was Danny.
Ethan rolled his eyes and huffed. Of course it was Danny, so obsessed with rescuing the brother that he'd lost 18 years ago. If there had ever been a chance for Danny to save Patrick then it had been long before he was finally stranded in 19th century Russia, before Matt had been torn apart by the camouflage beasts.
Inside Ethan, Patrick woke and whispered; told him about his new revenge: stranding Danny in the past, making him relive what Patrick had gone through. And again the unbidden image of Becker, smiling, with eyes as dark and hair as soft as Charlotte's had been. His voice, as deep as Khabarov's had been, the man who had died for him to allow him to escape to England.
By the time he had reminded himself that he wasn't supposed to want this again, it was already too late.
When Becker got home and switched the lights on, he felt immediately that someone else was inside. He took his weapon out and walked carefully towards the living room.
"Turn around slowly," he said when he came face to face with the other person.
"What are you going to do? Shoot me?"
Becker would have recognised that voice anywhere.
"No one would blame me."
"Go ahead then do it," Ethan offered. "Kill me. I know you want to."
What the hell was he supposed to do? Becker clutched the gun in his hand tightly, trying to hang onto its weight and substance as a reminder of reality. Ethan wasn't even supposed to be here.
Kill him, that was right, Ethan was right. That was what he needed to do. He needed to end this, this insanity, before he had no hope of getting back to the certainty he'd always counted on.
Becker swallowed hard and took a few steps back, aiming the gun once again. Ethan turned around, his eyes never leaving Becker's, glinting with sick amusement. Beautiful. So -
The gun clattered to the floor, but neither of them flinched. They were both used to this in their own ways. They had both waited for this to happen again, were here because they wanted it to happen again
"Why?" Becker's voice sounded hoarse when he finally managed to speak. "Why did you come back?"
Ethan approached him slowly, his false, amused smile falling from his lips. When his eyes met Becker's, he could see the agony of not knowing, the same agony that was ripping him apart as well. Why he had let Ethan go, why he had lowered his gun both in the ARC and here. In that moment, Ethan was as lost as Becker.
They stood so close that Becker could have counted the freckles on Ethan's skin if he had wanted to.
"Why are you here?" he repeated hoarsely.
Ethan said, "If I thought I would never see you again I would kill you myself." He aggressively captured Becker's lips in a desperate, hungry kiss- almost brutal in its intensity. Becker grasped Ethan's shoulders hard as Ethan devoured his mouth.
The kiss was like nothing Becker had ever had, Ethan's tongue against his and tracing along his teeth. The slick, hot sensation was making Becker crazy. Ethan made a sound that might have been a laugh, pressing closer and then they were against each other; toes to knees, hips to chests, their mouths locked together in a kiss that never seemed to end.
In a blissful handful of seconds he knew exactly why he had let Ethan go and why Ethan had come back. But if he let go, the questions would begin again, the pain would begin.
They made it to the bedroom in a whirlwind of clothes and bruising, biting kisses but Ethan never remembered the details of that night later. He remembered that it had been sex without consideration for pain or feelings, past or future. It had felt easy and unforced.
It had felt like victory.
And there had been a moment in the middle of it that Ethan remembered with frightening clarity. A moment where he had had to hold Becker still and beg for a moment (a second what?), fighting not to grab Becker's shoulders and fuck him until Becker promised him everything.
"The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold." Ethan looked down on Becker's sleeping form. "The curves of your lips rewrite history." The words of someone who had loved him once, when he had just become Ethan Dobrowski. Becker shifted, opening his eyes and Ethan detached himself from the memories.
"Does it hurt?" Ethan asked grinning.
Becker simply shot him a dark look, rubbing his neck.
"How long do you think until my dear brother notices that I'm not running around in the wild anymore? That I'm right here in his back garden. I find hiding in plain sight a very good tactic."
"Where's Danny?" Becker asked suddenly, and yeah, Ethan remembered that the two were friends. Danny doubtless part of what Becker called his team, the team that Ethan had promised not to kill.
"He was alive and unaware that I returned through the gateway. It would really defeat the point if he came back as well and looked for me here when I've given him Earth's whole history to search through." Ethan laughed, short and maliciously. He leaned over Becker and tilted his head up by his chin.
"I came back," he said intently.
"I can see that." Becker met his eyes without flinching, sounding unimpressed.
"I came back for you," he repeated in a softer tone.
Becker raised an eyebrow and pushed him away, not reacting to his words at all.
"Sounds like you care." There was something cold in Becker's tone. "It didn't mean anything."
It didn't mean anything.
The lie came out too forcefully, fake but it did its job as a flash of hurt crossed Ethan's face. Becker knew the lie was just that: a lie. He wasn't even trying to convince himself otherwise any more. The kisses, the touches, last night had been the last straw. Everything was too real and too meaningful and yet here he was, lying through clenched teeth.
"I hate you," Ethan said quietly, trying not to let his anger at Becker's dismissal show too easily. It gave Becker some satisfaction that Ethan couldn't tell the lie from his face.
"And yet you're still here." Becker's hand reached up, closing around Ethan's throat. "I will not let you kill Danny," he promised almost casually.
"Won't you?" Ethan smirked.
"I will kill you if you try." Becker's eyes met Ethan's calmly and Ethan shrugged.
"That's only fair. I will kill you if you leave me," he added with a small smile.
"And if I'm killed?" Becker asked with nothing but a quiet curiosity in his voice.
"I will tear them apart."
Becker nodded, looking strangely at ease with the idea, especially for someone who had vowed to kill him if he touched Danny. Maybe Becker figured that whatever Ethan would do after his death wasn't his responsibility any more.
Ethan smiled at that thought. They weren't so different after all.
Eventually, slowly, Becker lowered his hand from Ethan's throat to his shoulder, lifting himself up until they were at eye level. He hesitated for a moment, something in his eyes softening. "Stay inside – you can't be here." With what seemed like great effort, he dropped his eyes, turning his head, shifted to move away. "It's not –
Oh no you don't, Ethan thought. Not now, in the middle of a sentence I risked everything just to hear. He moved out of the bed, faster than Becker, catching him in the door to the bathroom and blocked his way. "Not what?"
Becker looked up to lock their eyes again. Ethan could see him searching for words, dismissing all those that would give away too much. He could see Becker's fingers tremble at his side, twitching as though part of him wanted to get away and part wanted never to let go. "Not – "
When Becker hesitated, Ethan rubbed his thumb – slowly, purposefully – against the underside of Becker's wrist, stroking back and forth against his skin. He slid his hand up the insides of Becker's arm, watching his expression change in response, cracking, softening. Becker took a shaky breath as the last of his resolve melted into an open-mouthed acknowledgement of his own helplessness and he kissed Ethan hungrily, pressing him against the bedroom wall, enjoying the feeling of their bodies against each other for an unguarded moment. Then Becker pushed himself away, shaking his head but Ethan followed him, pushing them around so that it was Becker who was trapped between the wall and Ethan.
"We can't," Becker said breathlessly.
"It's not what?" Ethan asked relentlessly.
"Appropriate," Becker answered finally. "It's not appropriate."
But Ethan shook his head harshly, not believing him.
"Fuck this." Ethan kissed him again, unwilling to wait until Becker gave him the answer by himself. He wanted to drink it up suddenly, the emotion he was seeing in Becker's dark eyes. He wanted to believe it was real, even if only for a minute, or an hour. Wanted to feel it run through him the way it did when Becker's body was entwined with his with so much heat between them that it made his head swim, made him feel alive. Made him feel safe. Safe. He'd never felt safe in this life, not once. It wasn't even a word in Ethan's vocabulary.
Becker broke the kiss again. He pushed Ethan away, sending him sprawling to the floor, following him down and straddling his lap. It had started as a simple one-night stand long before Becker had even known about Emily and Ethan, but it had spun rapidly out of control and so far beyond simple that the word 'complicated' had lost all meaning in the face of this.
"I didn't think you'd come back," Becker admitted between hasty, hungry kisses.
"Did you want me to?"
"Yes." It was impossible for Becker not to admit it. At least in that moment.
Later, but not that much later, they were still lying on the floor, facing each other.
"We aren't a mistake," Ethan insisted.
"That's exactly what we are." Becker laughed, short and humourless.
"To them," Ethan sneered. "Who are they to judge?" He lifted his hand, mimicking a gun and resting his fingers against Becker's forehead. "One day, probably very soon, it will be my life or theirs. Just to give you a heads up."
Becker wrapped his hand around Ethan's and said very calmly, "And I will shoot you. Without hesitating. Just to give you a heads up."
They separated without ever speaking a word to each other, but the silent promise they'd shared was louder than anything else they could have said ever would be.
It felt like something terrifyingly close to surrender.