Old Lives

Nick backed away from the meeting table in the underground bunker, hands raised. "Oh, no, not
me! I'm not gonna do that again!" He backed farther away from Major Matt Sheppard. "No!"
He spun around, heading out the door, only to be brought by the late arriving member of their
team, Deke.

"You called," the tall, chocolate-colored skinned man asked, putting Nick back into his normal
seat and standing behind him so he couldn't make another break for it.

"Yeah," Matt said, rubbing his forehead to make the quickly growing headache hurt less. "We've
got a strange retrieval case and we need a volunteer to go get him."

"And it's not going to be me," Nick said. "Not a chance, I'll go play in traffic first."

Margo, who was sitting over in the corner reading the paper laughed, glancing over at them,
making eye contact with Nick and Deke both. Matt scowled at her before pushing the mission
folder over to the tall man. "You'll want to read it for yourself." Deke nodded, sitting down to
read beside Margo.

Benny Ray looked over at Nick and gave him a mean smile. "Why are you worried about this?
Are you afraid you can't compare?" The young man in question jumped up out of his chair,
bringing him to the floor and starting to pound him into it. Matt groaned as he got up to separate
the men, getting help from the other two team members to hold them apart.

"I'll show you who can't compare," Nick yelled as he was drug back.

"Yeah, you and what man?"

Nick got away briefly, heading back toward his former boyfriend. Unfortunately he was caught
before he could reach him again by Margo and was walked out of the room.

Matt let his combatant go, pushing him slightly. "Was that necessary?"

"I just wanted to know what he was scared of." The southerner sat back down, dusting off his
clothes. "I'll apologize when he comes back," he said quietly.

Matt nodded as he sat back down, swallowing a few painkillers with his coffee. "So, Brother
Deke, can you help us out here?"

Deke shut the folder, shaking his head. "Sorry, I promised I wouldn't do that again." He could
see the falling faces so put a compromise on the table. "I'll help any way I can but I can't go in."

Matt nodded. "All right, if you can't, you can't." He leaned back some, looking down the hall for
the other two members of his team. "Okay, thanks man."

"I can teach you some things to make it go smoother," Deke offered.

"You did this before?" Benny Ray asked, getting a solemn nod. "So why not this time?"

"I promised."

"Who?" he asked, outraged.

"Drop it," Matt warned.

"My mother," Deke said as he stood up to his full height to look down at the bothersome man and
toss the folder back to the table. "I'll be there when you need me, but I can't go the main route."
He turned, walking out.

Matt called out a, "thanks," turning to scowl at his second in command. "Why the hostility? I
know you don't want to go in, so I don't understand the purpose of driving the others off. And I
know you guys broke whatever you had off, but attacking him wasn't necessary. Physically or

"I'm not."

Matt ticked the points off on his fingers. "You provoked Nick to leave. Then continued to do it
until he attacked you. You antagonized Deke and he left. You don't want to do it so why are you
driving people away from this?" He sat back, waiting for the younger man to figure it out.

Benny Ray looked at the floor. "I don't know what I was doing, Major." He took a deep breath.
"Maybe...I ....I just don't think this is something we should be doing. This is a Federal Agent
case, not a Special Forces one." He head fell further. "And that lifestyle's not something we're
supposed to be doing anyway."

Matt smiled. "That's where you're wrong. We're not going in to investigate, that's the Fed job,
we're going in to retrieve the investigating agent for his family. He's gone too deep and can't, or
won't, come back out." Benny Ray snorted. "No pun intended of course."


Nick opened his apartment door, shutting it quickly when he saw who was on the other side. "I
said no!" he shouted, walking away. When she started to pick the lock, he thought, briefly, about
shooting her but settled for picking up a small statue and throwing it at her head - fewer
recriminations later.

"That was rude," Margo said, walking in rubbing her newly sore spot.

"Yeah, well, picking the lock wasn't real polite either." He turned, heading back to the kitchen.
"I'll give you some ice but I'm not going in."

She took the cold gel pack he handed her as she sat down. "Thanks." She watched him cook,
making note of graceful movements that hadn't surfaced at any other time while she'd known him.
"Matt and I both feel that you would be better able to relate because of all the time you spent
under." She flipped the pack over, taking the bottle of water he handed her and the small bottle of
painkillers. "Let's face it, only you and I are really qualified for this mission." He nodded, tasting
some sauce. "And," she took a deep breath, "I called in a few favors to read your *whole*

"Then you know why I can't go back. It gets addicting." He pulled down two plates, dishing up
the meat and sauce, sitting across from her and handing over a plate. "If you really read it then
you know that I had to be pulled because I got too involved in the scene." He took a bite,
chewing slowly to think. "I couldn't go back anyway, that cover was blown. Eat," he said,
pointing with his fork.

She smiled. "Who were you really expecting?" She took her first bite and moaned, "So good."

"You, and thanks. I'll tell Ma you liked it." He ate another bite. "I knew it would have to be you;
you're sneaky and persuasive enough to get in and know what to say to make me lay begging at
your feet." He pointed at her plate again. "Don't make me call Ma and tell her you didn't like it."
She ate another piece, smiling at him. "Listen, I'd go in in a heartbeat if it were somewhere else, I
know what it's like, but I can't go back there and not need rescuing myself."

"I'd be going in with you," she said as she scraped her plate to get the last of the sauce. "Tell her I
said it was not only excellent but she taught you well."

He started to chuckle. "She'd disagree with you there." He finished off his own dinner. "If you
go in, I'll do the talking down and out stuff, but as tempting as going back is I know I wouldn't be
able to leave this time." He stood up. "Want more? There's another piece." She smiled at him,
licking her lips a little. "Okay, you can have it." He went to get the pan, bringing it back over and
pouring the rest of the contents onto her plate. "Eat, I made it in a muscle-and-spandex-conscious
way." She laughed lightly, taking another bite.


Matt looked up as Margo walked into his office. "He agree?"

"Nope," she said, sitting on the couch, "but I had a terrific dinner and we talked." He nodded,
looking back down at his paperwork. "Matt, he shouldn't go in. He's got a valid concern which
would make it impossible for him to do more than backup, which he offered to do. He even said
he'd do the reassociation bits but he can't do the rest."

"No," he said, not looking up, "you're not going in alone." He pushed aside the papers, crossing
his wrists in their place and looked at her. "I know he has some sort of issues with going back
under but we've got to get that agent out. Even if I might consider you going in alone this time,
he's not somewhere that you can get to him. It'll take a man, not something you can fake." She
smiled, slightly. "We've just...." He was stopped by the door slamming open, admitting the man
they were talking about. Nick walked over to the desk, two-handedly dropped a folder onto it
with a 'thud', then turned. He nodded at Margo as he walked back out, making her smile and Matt
shake his head. "Knew he was a drama queen," Matt said, picking up the letter on top to read.
"Go stop him," he said, skimming the contents. "It seems like he's decided to go in, for whatever

She walked out, slowly, knowing where he would be from reading the personal notes attached to
his retrieval file earlier that day. She stopped beside a silver-blue expensive looking sedan,
knocking on the darkly tinted windows. "Nick?"

He let the window down, leaning over to talk to her. "Aren't you a little overdressed for the
scene?" His voice had dropped, becoming softer, richer, less accented; it was cultured and
mellow now, almost calming in an intense way and it affected her deeply. He leaned closer,
seeing the look in her eyes. "Or didn't you need my help?" She smiled and got in, kissing his
cheek. "Okay, lets get you dressed so we can go hook up." He rolled up the windows as he
pulled away.


Nick leaned closer to Margo's ear, brushing her hair aside to get to the delicately bejeweled
surface. "Wanna dance? I find whole new versions of rhythm in this persona." She gave him a
sideways look, leaning a little closer as a big, hairy, muscular guy came towards them. "Relax,"
he whispered, "he's a toady but you've got to be seen in action. In this world, your actions are
your only worth."

She stood up, pouting down at him. "But you promised to dance with me," she almost-whined,
Nick having made her talk differently for the time they were inside. "If you don't then I'll just
have to find someone who will." He smiled at her and stood slowly, letting those around him get
a good view of his body, pulling her closer. She slapped his chest lightly. "*Away* from the

He grinned. "Just making sure you're not wearing something that's gonna wrinkle." He started to
lead her to the floor, but stopped to look at a tall, dangerous looking, dark-skinned man. He
sucked his bottom lip between his teeth as he looked him over, letting his lip drag as he let it go.
"Didn't I used to know you?" he asked softly, swaying a little closer to him as he pulled out a card
to put into the man's now sweaty palm. He gave him one last smoldering look before leading
Margo onto the dance floor. "Call me sometime," he threw over his shoulder.

She looked over her shoulder then at Nick. "Who's that?" she asked, just loud enough to be heard
by the people around them. "Dangerous," she whispered in his ear.

"Him? He's a guy that hangs onto the fringe and watches us have fun." He spun her around,
moving behind her, fitting snugly against her back as he rested his hands on her stomach,
incidentally pulling the already tight and clingy material of the dress a little tighter in all the right
areas. Nervous?" he whispered. She pushed back against his hips. "Good, now let's have some
fun." He licked down the side of her neck, making her shiver.

All around them, they could hear whispers. Comments about not knowing he was like that,
murmurs about Margo, shared gossip about Nick. With all the activity it wasn't long before
someone came up to them. A very nicely built man, tanned, and just a little taller than average.
"Didn't know you were back," he said as he got in sync with them. "On a Fed vacation?"

Nick rested his chin on Margo's shoulder. "I wasn't here for you guys, only for the guy with the
*real* slaves for sale. And I left to come back here." He slapped her hand when she tried to
touch the other man's chest. "I didn't tell you to touch Mark. He wasn't invited."

Mark licked his lips as he looked her over. "Back for real?"

Nick snorted. "I got in, didn't I?" He moved Margo out of the way, moving closer to this new
man. "I'm back until I get pulled away by something more important. Do you want to start
having issues with my admittance?" He let the deadly question slip out easily, knowing that most
people won't put up a protest over someone's admission lest their own be taken away if the protest
were found to be groundless. He pulled Mark forward, exerting his power and control in the kiss,
making him breathe hard when he pulled back. "Didn't think so." He looked at Margo, holding
out a hand. "More? Or are you ready to go back to the table?"

She moved back to where she'd been, wrapping his arms around her waist. "That was quite a kiss,
can I have one?"

"In a while," Nick said as he nipped the side of her neck. "Playing or not, Mark? Only invite
you're getting." The other man copied him, molding himself to Margo's front, earning himself
stereo smiles. "Thought so. Good choice," Nick murmured in his new, sexier voice.

They danced through few songs then adjourned back to the table. "So," Mark said, undressing
Margo visually and slowly. "Why're you really back, Nick? Getting that other Fed out or are you
really back?" He looked up to see the small smile he had heard so much about. "Both?"

"You know I can't leave again. You guys are addicting." He looked over, under his lashes. "It'd
have to be true love to free me again. She's here to pull you out."

Margo smiled a little, leaning closer to her target. "He's always behind me though."

Nick shook his head. "Nope. I'll come out for work." He looked in her eyes. "I tried to tell you
that, you didn't want to listen hard enough." He turned his attention back to Mark. "Go tonight,
your girl's waiting for you and Margo will do all you need to go back to a normal life." Mark
nodded, standing up, holding a hand out to Margo.

"Nick?" she asked, looking him over, seeing the calm his whole being held. That scary sort of
calm that says that he's accepted what he is and is going to live this life again, no matter what the
cost. "I'll come see you tomorrow," she promised as she was led out.

Nick waited until they were gone to look up, smiling at an old friend walking up to him. "Deke,
good to see ya back." He sipped at the drink that was put in front of him. "If you're here still
because of me, I'll come back to work but that's it." He looked around after getting a curt nod.
"This is where I belong the most. I told her that."

"She didn't know. This is totally foreign to her and she didn't understand." He patted his pocket.
"I got you when you need me."

Nick nodded, draining his glass before standing up, pulling on his jacket as he walked out. He
took the note off his windshield, tossing it on the other seat as he got in. He started his car,
pulling away to start his old life again.


Nick walked to the door, rubbing his eyes. "Margo," he greeted, letting her in. He looked at the
little box she was holding then shut it, tossing it out into the hall. "Coffee?" he asked, walking
toward the kitchen. "This is a snoop free zone, dear, no bugs here."

She looked around the apartment, taking in the style that was so different from his other
apartment. "Pretty different," she said, coming over to sit at the breakfast bar. "Still nice though,
a lot more like this life you're leading again." He was smiling as he turned to look at her. "But
you are too, aren't you? Different, I mean."

He leaned against the counter, sipping his coffee, free hand wrapped around his bare waist. "This
is me, Margo. Accept it or take me off the roster." He took another sip to give himself time to
think. "You know you can't make a cover without bringing some of the person you are with you."
He set the cup down. "Contrary to popular opinion, I'm a very complex guy. The Nick that you
joked with was, is, a part of me. So is that guy last night. This, who I am here but out of the
club, is really me. I'm still your Nicky, just a little calmer now that I have a focus for my energy.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go run." He walked past her, his shoulders slumping as he
heard the front door close.

Nick ran into, almost literally, the person he most wanted not to see. He headed down a side
path, going to a small dark clearing where usually only couples and drug dealers were found. He
bent down to stretch, watching the path for the familiar feet.

Benny Ray Riddle sat down in front of the man he cared for, even if he couldn't be with him.

"A bad habit I picked up the last time I was under." He sat down, plucking at the sparse grass,
tearing it apart at the veins. "You ran into me for a reason?"

"I want to know." He started to shift closer but stopped at the absolute quiet from the normally
talkative man. "What's going on with you? I'm out of the loop again."

"I went back to my old undercover life." He looked up, seeing the pain in the normally gentle
eyes. "I'll come out to work with you guys, if you still want me too, but I've moved back to
where I was most comfortable." He started to reach for his pocket but the hand over his stopped

"I have it. Deke gave it to me and told me you would be here." He let the smaller hand go.
"Where does this leave us?"

"Same as we were before," Nick said as he stood up. "Wherever you decide." He ran off through
the trees, knowing he was being stared at by those sad eyes that could rip him apart. Again.


Nick sat on the couch, his body still damp from his shower. His towel was covering his otherwise
naked body, always a personal good feeling moment for him. He patted the velvet-like material
on the couch then flipped on the tape from last night. The large tv across the room came to life,
showing him a scene from his old/new life. The supposed woman on the tape moaned as he
found her surprise and started to lavish it with attention. Pretty soon, 'she' was on her back,
begging him to give 'her' more. He watched as he slipped into 'her', making 'her' pant and pound
the bed, coming immediately.

"Damn you were good then," Matt Sheppard said, leaning down to tap on the real Nick's cheek.
"Turn it off, want to talk to you."

Nick flipped the tape off, leaving the news channel on. "You know I'll come out for work if you'd
just call." He took the offered bottle of water, sipping some. "Thanks, but next time knock."

"I wasn't sure you'd let me in," his boss admitted. He glanced at the towel but didn't say anything
about it. "You confused him that morning. This morning's targets were so off Deke remarked
about his needing glasses. Then he found himself on his back with a gun in his mouth. I believe
Benny Ray's comment was that nobody could miss at that range, not even a blind man." Matt
sipped at his own water. "Nice place, by the way. Building and all. Quiet and no nosy

"Thanks," he said as he rested the cold bottle on top of the towel. "He screwed himself, Major.
Or actually, he couldn't." He took another drink. "I'm not holding it against him, I still love the
guy, but I'm not going to hide and wait for him to get over his fear of me." He shifted, turning to
face the older man, pulling one foot under his other leg. "What would you do? Say you had a
girl that was terrified of sex. She refused to do more than kiss you or run her fingers through your
hair, but only with her eyes closed." He finished off his water while his friend and boss thought.

It took Matt almost a minute to come up with an answer he liked. "I'd cut her some slack, try to
work my way up to it. But I guess you did that for those six months."

"I tried *everything*. He got sick, and I mean physically ill, whenever I got even close to sex
with him. Like I said, I love the guy and it's up to him now. He has all the power."

"Would it be enough to pull you out?" He looked around the room then back at the younger man.
"You aren't *his* Nick anymore. This Nick is more laid back, much more sexual and predatory.
All things that are scaring him badly."

"He knew about this. We spent a weekend here so I could tell him. And I told him everything
about the life. The explicit consent policy, the anything goes as long as it's agreed upon, all the
aspects of the life." He looked at the panel beside the door. "And speaking of blushing virgins,
yours is on the way up again." He stood up, letting the towel drop as he turned to head for his

Matt got up to let Margo in, still blushing lightly. He had to clear his throat a few times before
anything could come out. "He's getting dressed," he managed finally.

"It's panic," Nick commented, tying the robe's belt as he walked into the kitchen past them. "Is it
my turn to host meetings this month?" He raised an eyebrow as he looked over his shoulder.

"No," Margo said as she took off her outer shirt, leaving on a snug sports bra that was showing
signs of an earlier workout, "just came over to check on you." She took the water he offered her,
leaning against the side of the fridge.

"I'm reliving my glory days." Nick waved at the tv. "Wanna watch it with me? Matt didn't." She
blushed a little, shaking her head. "Okay, if you're sure." He took his plate of leftovers from the
fridge, pulling a fork from the drainer, before walking back to the couch. "Why all the concern?"
He took his first bite, watching the news loop rerun.

"Because we care about you," Margo said, leaning over his shoulder to steal a bite. She groaned a
little. "You should write a cookbook, maybe get a small show started."

Nick grinned, turning his head to kiss her cheek. "Thanks, but fame's a no-no in my life,
whichever one we're talking about. It leads to bad stuff and worse people."

Matt grunted, sitting in a chair. "You're still a member of the team?" He got a dangerous stare
and a slow nod. "I just needed to make sure." He stood up, not looking at the gaping robe or the
man under it, or trying hard not to. "I'm going to go back to the bar. Margo, get some new
contact info for me." He hurried out.

Nick sniffed the air a little. "Ah, gay panic. Always a nice touch from friends." He looked at her
then where she was staring. "Gee, I thought you'd seen one of those before," he quipped as he
moved the plate to release her eyes, shivering as the cold china touched his most sensitive flesh.

She smacked his shoulder. "So bad," she muttered, walking over to sit in the chair Matt had
vacated. "Having fun yet?" He nodded, mouth full. "You going native again?"

He choked a little then swallowed. He took a few breaths, calming himself. "I'm giving myself
some time before going full immersion."

"In case he wises up suddenly?" She lifted a leg, laying it across the chair's arm, swinging it,
stretching her bike shorts to the limits of the fabric.

"No," Nick said honestly, "to give myself time to get over him. I know, deep down in that little
well of pain that calls to me nightly, that he's not coming back to me. He can't get past his mind to
deal with it. Or actually, he won't." He shrugged, taking a small bite. "Did Matt finally wake up
and figure out that you're a woman?"

She nodded, her mouth full of water. "A few years ago, he just can't deal with the concept yet."
She smiled a little. "Maybe they should form a little club for men in denial." She looked him
over. "You could join." He started to choke again.

"No!" He jumped up, setting the plate on the couch. "I'm here to forget he exists. To purge him
from my head and dreams and thoughts and...and..." He ran out of steam, his shoulders slumping
as he sat back down.

"And out of your heart?" she suggested. He nodded. "Nick, you know if you go back to that old
you he'll hate you. He'll feel betrayed and angry that you did to them what he couldn't give to

He nodded as he stood. "He already hates me for making him like me." He walked into the
bedroom, closing the door gently. When he came out, dressed for the day, she was gone.


Nick had successfully avoided what had been *their* favorite store in the mall in the three months
since they'd broken up, but every time he walked past it the pull got a little stronger. He finally
walked in, bracing himself for the pain. He started to relax as his the browsing continued and he
didn't run into anyone he knew. The comfort lasted all the way through paying for the things he
liked and almost to leaving. He was ten feet from the door and safety when he ran into Benny
Ray. He took a step back, looking around at all the innocents who were going to get caught up in
this. "Hi," he said softly. His former boyfriend grabbed his arm, pulling him out to his truck.
"Um, I drove..." He shook his head, steeling himself as he brought out the confidence he'd created
for himself in his new life. "What?" He made himself relax and lean against the side of the

"You're avoiding me?" Benny Ray asked. He saw the head shake. "I asked the Major to have
you call. I wanted to talk to you."

Nick turned to put the bags into the back of the truck then pulled out a card and a pen to write
something on it. He handed it over, unclicking the pen to put it back in his pocket. "My phone
number, the private second line that's forwarded to my new cell when I leave." When it was taken
he reached into his pocket to pull out his keys, snapping two off. "I've had them changed and you
know the combo to the security system." When all he got was a nod he picked back up his bags.

"I'm sorry," Benny Ray said, almost whispering it.

"Yeah, me too," Nick said as he walked toward his car. He could feel those eyes on him the
whole way, boring into him. When he got in, he started to shake, clutching the wheel as he laid
his head on it. "Me too," he whispered, starting the engine.


Matt and Margo looked up as Benny Ray walked into the closed bar. A stool was pushed out for
him, a beer drawn and set down in front of him. When he sat, she laid her head on his shoulder,
rubbing his back.

"I'm okay," he said, downing half the glass in one drink.

"Eventually," she told him.

"One way or another," Matt added.

They ended up in the office, the hurting man laying on the couch, head in Margo's lap with his
eyes closed. "We're free for a while, right?" Matt nodded at Margo, silently asking if she had a
point as she stroked through Benny Ray's hair. "We need a plan."

"Please don't meddle," Benny Ray begged, looking up into her concerned face. "It'll work out or
it wasn't meant to be." She nodded so he sat up. "No running back and forth, just let us deal with

Matt cleared his throat. "We're interfering because neither of us want to end up dead because you
were staring at Nick like a lost puppy." He stared the younger man down until his point was
made. "Fix it or we'll suspend you both indefinitely."

"No, just me," Nick said, walking into the office. "You need him more, most of the time." He
looked at the envelope in his hands, shifting it around. "I was gonna ask for time off anyway." He
handed the envelope over and turned, walking out.

Benny Ray jumped up, running after him. He caught his arm, spinning him around. "What the
hell are you thinking?" he shouted. "Trying to leave *again*?" His former lover blanched.
"Nick, I'm sorry, that... that was cruel." He looked down, embarrassed.

"Yeah," Nick said, pulling the hand off his arm, "it was. It was also uncalled for. Do you really
think you're the only one hurt by *your* inability to live with this?" He backed up a step. "I'm
not throwing nightly parties, I haven't touched *anyone* and people are seriously worried about
me maybe needing help. And this isn't like me." He threw his hands up. "Forget I exist, then one
of us will be happy!" He slammed out the door, cracking a window when the outer door hit a

Margo looked at Benny Ray as she walked past him. "Want shot now or later?" She jogged
outside, getting in beside Nick just as he put it into drive. "Don't even. He wasn't the only one
concerned about your mental state." She swallowed hard as the gun appeared in her face, in front
of the hard and cold eyes. "If this is supposed to reassure me..." The door was opened beside her
and she was pushed out. She watched helplessly as the sedan pulled away.


Deke looked up as his door was opened. "Those stairs aren't that long," he remarked, putting
down his book to look Benny Ray over. "What did you do this time?" He moved his feet off the
couch in a silent invitation.

The other man sat down, very stiff. "I yelled when he asked for time off. We had another fight."
He relaxed a little, putting his head into his hands. "He pulled a gun on Margo when she tried to
stop him from leaving."

Deke got himself comfortable. "And why did this happen?"

"Because I can't," he whispered. When he got a nudge to his foot, he elaborated. "Nothing, none
of it. I get sick from even thinking about doing it." He flinched as he got hit with a pillow. "I
just can't." He looked over at his co-worker. "And I don't even know why."

"Because you were a straight white kid for almost thirty years and now you think you're somehow
different," Deke said dryly. He got up, walking over to the bookcase to pull down a book and
bring it back. "Show me in there where it's wrong."

"I don't know the chapter and verse," Benny Ray said, picking up the bible, "but I know it's in

"Then someone read just one sentence. Each time it's mentioned, if you read everything around it,
doesn't quite say that. They're probably bookmarked still from where I was asked to talk to a few
kids a couple of weeks ago, so you can find them and figure it out." He walked into the bedroom.
"I'll be in here when you're done if you still want to talk." He left the door open a crack then lay
down on the bed to read some more of his book.

When he looked up again, Benny Ray was standing at the foot of his bed. "That was fast." The
other man shocked him, lying down to face him. "You guys talk this way a lot?"

"Yeah," Benny Ray said, smiling just the tiniest fraction, then it fell. "We used to." He rolled
onto his back. "It's not my teachings. One of my cousins is gay and I had to deal with that before.
This is about me, why I can't handle even the thought." He had to take a few deep, calming
breaths. "See?"

Deke grunted, turning onto his side. "Did you have this problem with women?" A slow, silent
head shake. "Were you molested by a guy?" Another head shake, a little more firm this time.
"Then why is your mind overrunning your body?" A shrug. "This doesn't work too well if you
don't talk," he reminded the silent man.

Benny Ray flipped back onto his side to look at his friend. "I can hug him all day." He rubbed
his jaw. "Well, as long as he's shaved. I can even play with his hair. I just can't get anywhere
near anything else." He thumped his head on the pillow. "That's what killed us."

"This sounds like panic to me." Deke thought for a second. "Close your eyes and picture Nick as
a woman." That brought a smile and a light chuckle, making him smile too. "Could you make
love to her?" He got a strong nod, after a slight hesitation. "Why'd it take so long to answer?"

"She's not him. He's such a... guy that I can't really imagine him as a sexual woman. Maybe a
friend sort but not a lover." He opened his eyes. "I love him as a guy but I can't touch him and as
a woman I wouldn't? I am really screwed up here."

"Not really. Go back to that picture." The eyes closed. "Now imagine *her* with a man,
someone else." He looked down the trim body, seeing it responding to that image and slapped
himself on the forehead. "Not one that you can watch," he said exasperated. A slight shiver
washed over the other man's body. He sighed, nudging a shoulder. "Come on," he said, rolling
off the bed and grabbing his keys. He pulled Benny Ray to his car, driving them over to Nick's
other apartment. He parked in front of the security gate. "Let's go," he muttered, opening the
glove box to get his lock picks, only to see the two keys the other man held. "Even better." He
grabbed them and got out, walking around to pull Benny Ray with him. He got them both into the
apartment and sat them on the couch, flipping on the VCR to check the tape in it. He rewound it
once he saw it was over, starting it again before putting the remote into the other man's hands and
heading for the bedroom where he could hear movement. "Nick?" he called softly.

"What?" Nick asked as he walked out of the bathroom, wiping water off his face. "How did you
get in? I know I set the system to electrocute the next person that picked the downstairs lock."
He looked toward the living room, tipping his head to the side to listen to the noises coming from
there. "And next time ask before looking at those." He tossed the towel onto the pile of laundry
and turned to find the door open to show his former boyfriend watching it. He walked out slowly,
watching Benny Ray watch him screw someone. He noticed the keys on the table but didn't pay
attention to them. His eyes were riveted on the man on his couch; the panting, sweating, aroused
man on his couch. He sat down beside him, touching a tense shoulder. "Benny?" He didn't get
an answer so moved his hand down to the remote, taking it from the limp hand to pause the tape.
"Benny?" He noticed the light blush. "Hey, I made them to be watched," he said, taking the
empty hand to calm him down. "Why aren't you being sick?"

Benny Ray turned to look at him. "Because it's not gross." He leaned closer, kissing Nick gently.

"You've seen tapes before," Nick reminded him. "Even then you acted nauseous. Am I what's
different now?" he guessed. "Is this how you needed to get over your negative feelings?"

Benny Ray nodded. "It was all so distant then." He shifted a little closer. "Can I have one last
chance? For us? I know I didn't earn it but I'd like one." His breath was stolen as Nick kissed
him with all the pent-up passion and frustration. "Wow," he whispered when he could breathe
again. "Why didn't you do that before?"

"Because you were terrified." He punched the firm shoulder then leaned into it. "You can watch
them if you want. I don't mind." He restarted the tape, watching his love get aroused by it. "Is
this a thing for you?" he whispered against an ear, using the voice that had gotten to Margo a few
weeks earlier. The flush started to come back so he got up, or tried to since he wasn't stronger
than the arms that grabbed him. "I just wanted to show you something." He eased them off,
getting up to walk over to the closed cabinets. He pulled one set open then pulled those shelves
open to show more little black boxes lining shelves. "I have three of these cabinets. The other one
out here is almost filled and the one in the bedroom is half full." He turned to find his love in
open-mouthed shock, literally. He shrugged slightly, only to find himself grabbed and kissed
again; a deep passionate kiss that spoke volumes about his willingness to watch them. "Wow,"
Nick sighed, leaning into the strong chest. "That was...wow." He grinned.

"No more sick thoughts?" A squeeze and a head shake were his answer. "So, if my hand moved
like this," he moved it just below his lover's belt to rub lightly, "you'd do what?"

"Move it." When it was removed he put it back, only where he really wanted it. "Much better."

Nick rubbed for a few seconds then pulled back. "What was all that about then?" He crossed his
arms, only to put them into his pockets when that didn't feel right. "Did you need the tapes to get
you used to the idea or what else happened to change your mind?"

Benny Ray slid his hands down into Nick's pockets, entwining their fingers to bring them out. He
stared at the left pair as he talked. "I was worried. Both that you'd find out about my small kink
and that I couldn't please you, on top of all the other things that popped into my head. I also
worried that I wasn't good enough for you." He took a deep breath. "Each time you touched me,
I started to worry about all of it again and then about you leaving because you weren't satisfied or
that you'd be disgusted with me." He grunted as the hands he wasn't watching hit his chest. "Then
I started to worry about you not pleasing me, or not liking my responses..." He shut up when he
was hit on the chest again.

"Let me get this straight. *You* were worried about letting *both* of us down?" A curt nod.
"And you were worried that I'd find out that you had a kink. So, what you're saying is that you
worried yourself sick instead of talking to *me* about it?" He smiled as he leaned into the firm
chest again. "How mean and ogre-like do you think I am? And how angelic?"

Benny Ray looked embarrassed. "I, um, thought you'd hate me for it." He took a deep breath,
stepping over the edge of his old life. "We can talk about this though?" He got an irritated nod.
"After the tape?" he asked with a grin.

"Nope," Nick said, dragging him into the bedroom and forcing him onto the bed. He striped
down before lying next to him. "We're talking now, Benny, deal with it." He smiled and sighed
as a gentle hand came up to stroke down his chest. He grabbed it before it could move past his
navel though. "No, we talk first. I'm not going through another three months of umph," he said as
his mouth was possessed again. He had to shake his head to clear it out before he could speak.
"Talking?" he reminded his lover. He was struck dumb as his love got up and striped for him. He
looked over the tight body, licking his lips in appreciation and anticipation. "Are you being that
guy of action, Mr. Guns, again?" He grunted as the lips worked over his neck, the delicious bare
body kneeling next to him. "We still need to talk."

"Shut up," Benny Ray said slowly. He looked into the amused eyes, seeing the twinkle in them.
"I'm ready and you're complaining?"

Nick rolled them so he was on top, on the second try that is. "Two reasons: I don't want you to
regret this in a year or a week from now, and I only bottom for people I love. Meaning *one*
other person. This isn't a do it now to prove something to me moment. I want all of you, when
you *are* ready for that responsibility." He rolled off to sit beside him, rubbing through the short
hair. "I want you to be absolutely sure."

"I..." Benny Ray shook his head. "Thanks." He grinned. "Can we, um, tape some of our stuff

"I need a new camera. I was holding it to film a night for a friend and dropped it when the baby
came." He grinned a little. "But I won't mind on general principles as long as the tapes don't
leave our homes and some aren't shown to anyone else." He leaned down for a kiss. "I'm only a
top there and it would create problems to let others know."

Benny Ray pulled back. "Then we can stay there?" He got a small nod. "Would you take me
sometime? Then I'd know if I wanted to complain or not."

Nick licked his lips as he imagined his lover in the back rooms. "Sure, but we need to talk about
that first. It's very exclusive and there are a bunch of rules, including one that says that you don't
turn down people who ask unless you have an ironclad reason." Benny Ray nodded. "Benny, that
means if someone asks me, I'd almost have to say yes."

"So?" He waved down his body to his reaction. "Do you see a problem here?" He got a
confused look. "You'd be able to make rules about safety and me, maybe being to..." He trailed
off at the smile. "You wouldn't mind me getting used to the idea of us like that? I mean, it would
alleviate a lot of my fears if I could work my way up to it."

Nick leaned down next to the flushed ear. "If I didn't like to be watched, would I have almost two
thousand tapes?" He was pounced on for his answer.

Epilogue (two months after reuniting):

Nick and Benny Ray both looked up as someone knocked on the door. Benny Ray handed Nick
his robe then stopped the tape, watching him walk over to the door, hand on the pistol hidden in
the couch's depths.

"Hey," Nick said, opening the door to one of his tenants. "What's wrong?"

"I know we're not supposed to be nosy about the other people but the guy next to me has this
horrible *smell* coming out of his place. Like *way* worse than usual." She ran her hands
through her short blond hair, brushing against her midnight blue silk collar with studs. "Could you
maybe do something, just about the smell I mean?"

Nick nodded. "Yeah, he was a borderline case for admittance before and if it's what I think it is
he's gonna be gone." He looked down at himself. "Let me go put on something more appropriate
for busting up his little party." She smiled, turning to run for the elevator. He turned, grimacing,
kicking the door shut. "I told him the rules and he broke them. Again," he muttered as he walked
into the bedroom. He came back out in jeans and sneakers, jingling his ring of master keys.
"Make some coffee for the cops," he said as he grabbed the phone. "I'll be right back." He
slammed the door, heading up the stairs. He started to gag a floor below but finished going up
because it was his duty.

He opened the door, after knocking, gagging and choking as he closed it. He ran back down the
stairs, dialing as he went. "Hi, homicide?" Pause. "Yeah, hi. I own a building on twenty-second
and Novella and I just did a smell check on an apartment." Pause. "No, just from the door being
open four inches I could see about nine. Oh, and you might want to bring masks, it's real foul."
He hung up as he opened his door. "Get the gate while I shower, Benny. It was seriously gross."
He tossed the phone and keys to him as he walked past the living room.

Benny Ray dialed the bar. "Hey, no we're fine. That's why I'm calling." Pause. "No, I know you
have a scanner, that's why we called." He hung up and went to let the cops in, handing off the
keys to the detectives as they walked past. "Oh, if you see the tenant, tell him he violated his
lease." He closed the door, smiling at his naked lover. "They're here, shouldn't you be wearing
clothes while you pretend to be an upstanding landlord?"

Nick walked closer, using his seductive walk. "I need something to take my mind off that." He
knelt before his lover, rubbing his cheek over the growing bulge. "Did you call them or are we
going to get an audience?" The bulge hardened. "Oooh, so you like that thought? Tell me about
it?" He undid the zipper with his teeth.

"Oh, people, those three, walking in on us. Oh, yeah, like that Nicky," he moaned as he leaned
against the door. "Yeah, our friends watching as you did this in the bunker."

Nick pulled his head back from it's thorough licking at the knock to the door. "Company."

"And?" Benny Ray mumbled, too caught up in what he was feeling to care.

Nick lunged down, taking him in fully as he slid a hand behind his lover to open the door. There
was silence but Benny Ray finished to the applause of the cops he'd let in. He smiled up at him,
licking off his lips as he stood. "Thanks. I needed something to take that from my head." Nick
grinned at the blonde detective. "Want some coffee while I find his lease?" He headed back to
the bedroom.

Benny Ray tucked himself back into his pants as he headed for the kitchen. He washed his hands
first, just to make a good impression, then grabbed a few cups. "We have milk, honey, and brown
sugar," he said, pouring a cup. He turned to find the Detective looking at the frozen picture on the
TV. "He was so cute back then."

The detective started. "Yeah, but weren't we all?" He turned, smiling. "Milk and brown sugar
please, but just half a teaspoon." He took the fixed cup. "So, what sort of building is this?" He
took a sip and smiled. "So much better than we usually get."

"I like the good stuff," Nick said, pulling on his robe as he handed the lease over. "We only have
a few rules here and no dead bodies is one." He grimaced, accepting his own cup of coffee from
his lover. "He was borderline when he came two months ago and he's really violated it now."

The detective handed over his card. "This has everything we need so I'll let you two get back to
what you were doing. Oh, do you think any of the neighbors might know more?"

"Only if they violated their leases. It's part of the tenth clause, no snooping." Benny Ray took
back the cup, smiling as the other man left. "He'd be great for Margo."

Nick started to laugh. "She'll kiss us both but it might serve Matt right, or make him make a
move." He tossed the phone to his lover as he walked over to the door where the two detectives
were standing in the hall. "Coffee?" he asked the unfamiliar man. They looked at each other and
nodded, following him in.

It was almost ten minutes later when Margo got there but all it took was one of her smiles to hook
the blonde detective.

The End, this part.