"Ow," Dex complained as Sky Captain dabbed at his broiled arm with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball.

"Hold still, damn it."

"I'm trying. That hurts."

"Well, don't hold your arm against a hot plate again and this will be the only time you have to worry about it." He grimaced as dead skin peeled off beneath his ministrations. "What were you planning on telling the others when they asked what happened?"

"What I told you. Why, is it no good?"

"It will probably work on them."

"It didn't work on you."

"I know you too well."

"Mmm. True." He tried not to flinch as the other man taped a piece of gauze securely over the burn. "Thanks."

"Don't thank me yet, I'm not done. Let me see your hand."

"Maybe I should just go to the infirmary for that in the morning."

"No, you'll drive the glass in deeper while you're sleeping. You could nick a tendon." He looked up as his engineer swallowed heavily at the thought of disabling his hand. "Now you see why I don't want you doing things like this anymore."

"It's not exactly my idea of a fun night either, Cap."

"I know," he sighed. "Lie down on the bed."


"This might bleed a fair bit. I don't want you to fall if you pass out."

"Yeah, I guess that makes sense." He stood up to move to the bed, giving Joe an odd look when he stopped him. "What?"

"Take this off," the pilot ordered as he began to unbutton his shirt for him. "It'll be hell to get the stains out otherwise."

"Jeez, how much blood do you think you're fixing to see?" Dex joked half-heartedly as agile fingers tripped down his stomach, untucking as they went. He shoved away the pleasure that rippled through him at the touch, having a bit more difficulty controlling himself than he normally did when the Captain was near. What the hell is wrong with me, thinking like that when he's just trying to help? Christ. I'm such a pervert. He shook his head sharply, trying to clear his mind of the fact that he was being undressed by the man he'd desired for years. It's no use. Just let things be as they are. It's good enough this way.

"Much more than I'd like to see, I'm sure. Now lie down." Once he'd been obeyed, Joe pulled the chair up to the side of the bed and directed the desk lamp's light onto his task. Cradling slender, blood-splattered fingers gently in one hand, he gripped the first shard of glass with a pair of tweezers and pulled it smoothly out.

"Son of a bitch!"

He almost laughed hearing an expletive in that voice. "I'm sorry, but it's going to hurt, love." He hid his shock at having let that final word slip by yanking out another sliver, flinching along with his patient.

Dex didn't answer, silenced partly by a desire to not look like a baby and partly by the term of endearment that had just fled the other man's lips. Taking a deep breath and letting it out in a sigh, he closed his eyes and tried to ignore the way his pulse quickened every time Joe squeezed his fingers in preparation for another removal.

"I think that's all of it," Sky Captain said eventually, turning the shredded limb under the light to be certain. "Do you feel like there's anything else in there?"

He flexed his fingers cautiously. "It feels okay. I mean, as okay as it really can right now." He looked up at him warily. "You're not going to stitch it, are you?"

"I'm terrible at sutures."

"I know. That's why I asked with such dread."

"That part will wait until morning, I think," Joe conceded, rolling his eyes at Dex's comment. "It isn't bleeding as much as I thought it might." He bandaged the wounds as he spoke, then placed the hand on his patient's stomach with a soft pat. "What's next?"

"Everything else is just bruises, mostly."

"You didn't hit your head on anything, did you?"

"Yeah, but not hard."

Joe's mouth tightened. "Well, you're not acting concussed, so I won't worry about it. I'm not leaving you alone in any case tonight," he added as he began to untie his boots.

"…You're not?" Dex queried, lifting his head slightly to watch him.

"Of course not."

"Cap, you don't have to-"

"Dex, have you ever left me alone after I've had a nightmare? Or, at first, after a flashback?"

"Well, no, but-"

"I'm not leaving you alone," he repeated in a tone that left no room for argument. "So slide over, would you?"

Dex lay absolutely rigid as the blankets were pulled up over him and an arm rested along his waist. Resisting the urge to roll onto his side and just begin smothering the other man with kisses took every ounce of strength he had. He was fighting his body's attempts to react to the warm figure beside him so consciously that he nearly fell out of the narrow bed when muttered words brushed against his ear.

"Relax, Dex. It's not like I'm going to rape you."

He bit back a moan. It's not rape if you like it, he lamented silently. Joe's consoling words only made his predicament worse, and he found himself grinding his teeth in a last ditch effort to keep from betraying his arousal.

Sky Captain hoisted himself up on one arm and peered down. "What the hell is going on? You're as stiff as a board. If you're in that much pain, I'll go get you something stronger than aspirin. Just say so."

"I'm fine, Cap. Really," he ground out. His jaw was going to be cramped beyond all belief in the morning at this rate. "Don't worry about it."

This makes no sense, Joe puzzled. He's lain next to me until I fell asleep after nightmares at least a hundred times, so it can't be that he's disgusted by sharing a bed with me. We're wearing more clothes than normal, for heaven's sake. Unless… An understanding grin suddenly lit up his face. Not turned off. Turned on.

"…Why are you smiling like that?" Dex asked nervously, staring up at him.

"The roles are reversed, aren't they?"


"You're used to being the consoler, the one giving comfort, not receiving it." He slid his hand up and dug his nails suggestively into the other man's chest. Unable to miss the tiny gasp the action caused, he smirked knowingly. "It's nice to be on the receiving end once in a while, isn't it?" he went on, nudging himself forward until he knew Dex could feel his hardness.

"Joe…this is bad…"

"It's very much not bad. Trust me. I know. It's very, very good." In an instant he was straddling him, leaning forward until barely an inch separated their mouths. "Is that something else he would hit you for? For looking at other boys?" The instant the words were spoken he knew he'd struck a nerve, because his engineer closed his eyes and turned his face away. "No," he whispered sweetly, levering his head back to where it had been. "It's all right. Forget him. Forget that bastard. Look at me. Look at me. I love you."

"You can't…"

"Why not?"

"This could ruin everything."

"It won't."

"If someone finds out-"

"They won't. I promise."

"You can't. If Polly-"

"Leave Polly to me. She's annoying, yes, but I know how to make her squeal. She'll never know. No one will."

"Believe it or not, the thought of you sleeping with Polly doesn't help," Dex said archly. "She's a reporter, Joe, she's not stupid."

"Then let her find out, if she cares that much. I don't. We're both painfully well-off, Dex. In the absolute worst case scenario we buy an estate in some Godforsaken poor country and the rest of our lives fucking in every corner of it. Forget everyone else. I love you, and I will be with you now that I know you want it too."

"…You would really do that? Leave everything we've built here just to be with me?"

"Why do you think I've come home all these years? It's always been you. Always. I just never thought you'd feel the same."

"I felt that way, too. Ever since the first day, Joe. All I ever wanted was you."

"Mmm. All those wasted opportunities." He bent down into the sweetest kiss he'd ever imagined possible. The fingers of Dex's good hand trailed down his jawline, broadcasting passionate heat as they went, then lingered on his collar when they pulled apart. "You taste amazing," Joe breathed, slipping one knee up between the other man's legs before he returned to the assault on his mouth. "You're mine, Dex?" The words came out as a question rather than a statement, and his engineer smiled up at him brilliantly.

"All yours, Cap. Always and forever."

It was going to be a good night, after all.