So I was killing time yesterday in between cleaning and food prep, and asked if anyone on Tumblr would donate to a foodbank in exchange for a snippet with a prompt of their choosing, and Starrla89 kindly donated. She then requested Wicklow/Rhoades, with Wicklow initiating a kiss.
(It might be a little strange. I am sick and was sick when I wrote it. Ah well.)
Spoilers for Wicklow's Odyssey
. (duh)( i can breathe again )
Love, if that was the word for it, was a terrible thing.
Wicklow wasn’t overly fond of the word itself, love. It didn’t say nearly everything it should. It was too small to contain the vast, ocean-like ache that he was only now beginning to be fully conscious of, and it was too simple to explain his need to sometimes come and see Rhoades when he had no reason and no plans to.
He supposed that was why the Greeks, the ancient, dead ones Rhoades was so fond of, had different words for it. Words Rhoades whispered to him in his bed and out of it. Words that tickled the back of Wicklow’s neck in the morning and that echoed unsaid over the radio. Names for the warmth in him when Rhoades remained safe in his library and the strange heat that had Wicklow shivering in Rhoades’ arms.
But none of those words felt right when Wicklow looked at Rhoades and saw him as he was, the way others saw him, and had seen him. Rhoades was a light, a dark, wicked, dancing fire, there to illuminate the way or burn Washington itself to the ground. That was a fool’s way to describe him, but that was how Wicklow felt, at times, when Rhoades was working and seemed to have forgotten him.
Alexander Rhoades did not forget, not anything, not a slight, and certainly not Wicklow. Wicklow felt Rhoades’ regard for him in his bones—another sensation he had grown so used to he had not even realized it was there until Rhoades himself had drawn his attention to it.
“You come back to me, and I can breathe again,” Rhoades had told him, voice and hands shaking. He’d been panting despite his words. The smashed radio at the side of Rhoades’ desk had distracted Wicklow when he’d first entered the library. The dozens of pieces had spoken of anger, and a loss of control that had left Wicklow puzzled and silent.
“You came back, beloved,” Rhoades had breathed against Wicklow’s neck and rested his hands on Wicklow’s sides without pulling him closer, as though Wicklow were not ready to drop into his arms. Wicklow had approached him, making a sound to bring Rhoades’ gaze up, and then Rhoades had said those first words and Wicklow had pushed himself into Rhoades’ lap.
Rhoades had been surprised. Wicklow would not forget that, whatever the length of his life. Rhoades had been surprised that Wicklow had returned to him, and devastated to think he might not have. Wicklow had thought only that Alexander Rhoades should not tremble because one thief and spy had left him.
Wicklow had yet to ask why Rhoades would have thought Wicklow would leave him. Then, he had whispered, “Alexander,” and Rhoades had kissed him, placing hot, pleading kisses to his mouth and his cheek, before pressing Wicklow to his desk there with the door wide open and sucking his cock. And when Wicklow was empty and weak, Rhoades had kissed him again and called him, “Beloved,” and led him up to bed. He’d pressed his fingers inside Wicklow in the way that was making Wicklow burn to ask for more, although he’d again bitten back the urge and cried out instead when Alexander had drawn seed from him with little more than his fingers.
The release had felt as though it had been drawn from the depths of his soul, strong and blinding as good drink. Wicklow had been shaking too, by the end.
“I won’t push you,” Rhoades had murmured, kissing at Wicklow’s hip as though his own cock wasn’t hard and no doubt aching. “I forgot myself. I’m sorry.” He seemed to think Wicklow angry with him, and Wicklow had been too close to sleep to argue.
In the light of day, with Wicklow the kind of fool in love who would visit Rhoades’ office while he was working and better left alone, the things Rhoades had worried over made Wicklow hurt.
They brought him low, like a punch to the belly. But that pain was nothing to seeing Rhoades with his own kind. Washington had stupid men aplenty, but it was a town of clever, ambitious, ruthless men too. Men like Rhoades, as much as any man could be said to be like Alexander Rhoades, well-bred and moneyed and full of knowledge. Some of them were even the sort to enjoy other men, and, in the past, many of them had certainly known Rhoades’ bedroom as thoroughly as Wicklow did.
Wicklow stopped in Rhoades’ doorway and watched him in conversation with a nicely dressed gentleman, not as dandyish as Rhoades, this fellow, but with eyes nearly as sharp. His eyes saw Wicklow before Rhoades did. The man pulled his hand down from where it had hovered near Rhoades’ back as Rhoades reached for something on his shelf, and then he stepped away.
Rhoades was smiling faintly as he turned around. He had soft smiles when with people he liked. He was a soft man in certain respects, fine clothes, delicate foods, silk in his bed, gentle words.
Wicklow was none of those things. Wicklow had not known or wanted softness, before. When Rhoades whispered, “Beloved,” at him, the best Wicklow could offer in return was, “Alexander.”
What was that but the man’s name? Nothing. Rhoades needed softness and he’d foregone it for Wicklow, as though Wicklow’s wellbeing were paramount when the man himself was starving.
When he noticed Wicklow in his doorway, his smiled changed, widening and flaring bright. He turned the rest of the way to greet him and Wicklow clenched his fists to stay where he was. He looked away from Rhoades to study the stranger, the man of Rhoades’ kind. He wore velvet, and a waistcoat of ivory. He had no pomade in his hair and his eyes were light. Blue, Wicklow thought they were, though nowhere as dark as his own.
Rhoades liked Wicklow’s eyes, liked to look into them as he caressed Wicklow’s body. Wicklow had thought that had been enough. Rhoades had said so, with all his deeds and distractions and late suppers by the fire. But Rhoades was a liar.
A liar in love.
Wicklow barely noticed the other fellow excusing himself, though he did not think any of his displeasure showed in his face. Wicklow was not jealous; he was no outraged husband. But he swallowed and lowered his head to study his hands. Fists were about the same size as the heart. The heart was naught but blood and toughened flesh. It made no sense for love to be contained there, any more than it made sense for love to be a small, harmless word.
“Private?” Rhoades spoke carefully. He had to take care, since he had chosen Wicklow for his beloved, the madman. “You needed to see me?” Rhoades tread lightly but despite that Wicklow could hear the vein of hope in his voice. “You forgot something when you left this morning?”
“Please.” That was what Rhoades had said, his voice breaking for one small touch of Wicklow’s mouth to his shoulder. “Beloved, please.” Like a dying man in need of water.
Wicklow would give Rhoades anything, and he had not known the truth of that until he realized what one thing Rhoades had not asked for. He would die for Rhoades in an instant, which they both knew full well. Perhaps that was why Rhoades held back from requesting this small thing that was not small at all; he wanted Wicklow to give it. Although, knowing Rhoades, he had made plans to never receive it. Knowing Rhoades, he’d thought himself safe from admitting to the need.
Then Wicklow had kissed his shoulder, and Rhoades had begged for more.
“You thought I would leave you for that?” Wicklow could not seem to feel any rage over the matter. He raised his head. “Alexander,” he began again when Rhoades opened his mouth to debate or talk something Greek. Wicklow’s face was hot but he repeated himself. He would rather have emptied his heart. “Alexander, I--”
“Private.” Rhoades would not stop speaking. Every word in existence would cross his lips before he would give in again. But Wicklow knew how to make him weak. He stormed forward and slid his hands over soft, soft lapels, inky blue silk, and one large, smooth pearl, in order to draw Rhoades down. He placed a kiss on Rhoades’ parted, pink mouth before he pulled away. Then he ducked his head and exhaled against Rhoades’ shoulder.
He had no grace, and the blood remained in his pounding heart. Rhoades’ thundered equally as strong beneath his ear. Wicklow frowned. “I repaired your radio.”
Rhoades, as great a fool as Wicklow himself, ran his thumb along Wicklow’s jaw and seemed both amused and frustrated. “And I love you too, Private. You don’t need…” There, Rhoades trailed off, startling Wicklow for one hushed moment until he used his thumb to tilt Wicklow’s head up. He traced Wicklow’s mouth. “You don’t need to be soft for me in the way I am to you. It is only….” Again, Rhoades fell silent, as if considering how best to temper his response.
He had forgotten Wicklow was not a scared boy. Wicklow let Rhoades’ thumb between his lips, then pulled back in order to place another kiss on the tip, a kiss like velvet. “Show me,” he ordered, as serious as he had ever been. “Show me, and I’ll be soft in my way, for you.”
From the sound Rhoades made, he also thought love was a terrible thing, too large for his ribs to hold and too fierce to be denied. But his kiss was gentle, and for all that his hands grasped at Wicklow there with the doors open for anyone to see them, it stayed so, until Wicklow was brave enough to push upward, and give him his own gentle kiss in return.