A 'Quality Time' Vignette

It was early, probably not much after five a.m., when Steve awakened, stretched slightly, and slid soundlessly out of his bed. In the muted light of the pre-dawn, he briefly allowed his eyes to rest on the figure curled up on the other side of the bed, with barely the top of his sandy-coloured head peeking out from under the sheet. Listening to the deep rhythmic breathing for a moment, Steve permitted himself a small sigh of regret before turning away and reaching for the pile of clothes he had left ready the previous evening. Dressing quickly, he quietly left the bedroom.

Out on the beach, the air was cool and still, perfect conditions for a run. Breathing deeply, Steve began his usual stretching routine, enjoying the silence and the solitude, acknowledging to himself that this would be the only part of his day to meet that criteria. Tightening his shoes one last time, he started off down the beach at a slow trot, feeling his muscles begin to loosen and residual tension from the previous day ease out of his shoulders as he ran lightly across the sand.

A moment later, however, Steve was jolted out of his zone as he became aware of another presence on the beach behind him. Canting his head, he raised an eyebrow as Danny jogged up, matched his pace, then settled in beside him with a sheepish smile. Taking a longer look, Steve was both amused and charmed to observe that Danny was still a bit flushed from sleep, his blue eyes not quite clear yet, and to top it off, his hastily pulled on tee shirt was inside out!

"Good morning Danno." Steve kept both his tone and his pace light, in deference to his slightly befuddled lover. "I thought we had agreed you would take this morning off, after last night's stakeout. You got home at, what, two thirty...?"

"Three," responded Danny, not meeting Steve's mildly disapproving gaze. "But..."

"But what?"

Danny took a couple of deep breaths, establishing a comfortable steady rate now that he himself was warming up. He looked up at the tall figure beside him, finally confessing, "Well, it's just that our morning runs are the only time we get most days to actually spend time together. It's our time, with no worries or interruptions." He looked away, a slow flush that had little to do with the exertion of running beginning to creep up his face. "I didn't want to miss it, even after only two hours of sleep."

Left speechless by Danny's heartfelt words, Steve managed a smile which he hoped conveyed his thanks and appreciation. Noting that his second was clearly warmed up, he reached over and scrubbed the curly head affectionately. "Then let's run, together," he said, and gradually began to increase their pace, grinning broadly in the sheer delight of both the workout and the company of the young man beside him who now matched him, step for step.

For the next half hour, the two men ran in silence. Running was by its very nature a solitary activity, an internal dialogue between body and mind. Until recently, Steve had run alone most of the time, joined only occasionally by Danny. Now, however, they ran together almost every morning, yet even now Danny respected his lover's desire for quiet.

At least he did, until the beach house came back into view on the home stretch of their run. With a mischievous glance over at Steve, Danny abruptly increased his pace, passing Steve and calling out "I'll race you to the shower!" as he sprinted past and headed down the beach.

Momentarily caught off guard, Steve stared after Danny as he ran through the sand. Shaking his head in dismay, he too sped up and ran after his partner. "Not likely!" he growled to himself as he opened up and fairly flew along the beach.

Almost at the beach house, Danny turned around to grin at the slightly trailing Steve, but seemed to miss a step as he did so. As Steve watched in horror, Dan tumbled to the sand in a tangle of arms and legs, and was suddenly very still.

"DANNO!" Steve redoubled his pace, scrambling up to Danny and dropping onto his knees beside his fallen lover. "Are you all right? Danno!" he gasped for breath, reaching out and gently touching him on the shoulder. "Where are you hurt... hey!" Steve suddenly found himself himself lying flat on his back, being gloated over by a grinning, panting Danny. "What was that for?" he demanded, sitting up and trying to brush off the sand that was clinging to his sweaty skin.

"Self defence!" Dan responded, still breathing heavily from his own sprint. "You're always faster on the final stretch. Must be those long legs of yours!" He clambered to his feet, brushing away his own sand and heading for the back door of the house. "I needed to ensure my victory!"

"And victory is yours, this morning," Steve acknowledged as he, too, rose from the sand. "Tomorrow, however, will be another story," he promised, as he followed his lover in the door.


A/N: This story was written as a response to a writers' group challenge, which invited those writers who had never before written a slash scene to give it a try. And so my slash universe was born... senzarit