Title: The Ranks of the Freaks: Wait Till You See Him
Authors: blueraccoon & sandersyager
Fandom: CSI: NY
Pairing/character: Don Flack/OMC, past Don Flack/Danny Messer
Rating: FRAO
Word Count: 8,869
Prompt: handing over control
Kink: hurt/comfort
Notes/Warnings: Vague spoilers through season five, specific spoiler for season four's Personal Foul. Vanilla sex. References to past domestic violence. Just Wait precedes this story in the universe.

It's been at least two years since the last time Don saw him in the flesh, the magazine photos and newspaper articles don't count, and he likes to think he'd know Christian anywhere. The blonde curls, too blue eyes, gentle lilt of his accent, those are unmistakable, just like the urge Don has to turn back and find somewhere else to have lunch.

His sisters, laughing and loud and waving him over, stop from backing out and he loses himself in Karen's story about some guy she met at her Ultimate Frisbee game and Liz's showing off her new tattoo. By the time they eat and pay the check, he's mostly forgotten about Christian being there at all.

Of course, it'd be too easy if he could just leave and not have to speak to him, and nothing lately has been easy. So, Don finds himself standing there like a dope while Liz and Karen walk up to Christian, one gushing about Belfry's new single—apparently available for download—and the other saying how it's been entirely too long since they've seen each other.

"Email me, I'll make sure you get a free copy," Christian says to Liz, getting up to kiss her on the cheek. "Karen, it's been--" He breaks off when he sees Don. Two years, at least, probably more like three. "Don," he says, smiling a little shyly. "How the bloody hell have you been? It's been--gods, ages." Christian pushes a hand through his hair. "Would you like--come, sit down, we'll have tea or something."

"We can't," Liz says, smiling apologetically. "Karen's got to work and I have to get home, but you and Don should catch up."

Don thinks of at least five ways to kill her and ten places to hide her body before Karen gives him a nudge. "Go on," she says. "It's not like you're doing anything today." She turns back to Christian. "Make sure he doesn't leave here without your number. Allyson's coming in from that Midwest hellmouth she moved to in a few weeks and she'd love to see you."

"I really..." Don shakes his head, wondering how the hell women manage to do that, completely snow him and then disappear in a flash. He looks at Christian and shrugs. "I guess I'm---are you sure you've got time? You must have somewhere else to be."

"We--" Travis starts, but Christian shakes his head.

"No, not really," he says. "Well, Travis and David do, but I haven't got anywhere to be this afternoon."

"I'm sure we can change our plans," David says easily.

They're protecting him, just like they always do, and Christian smiles. "Don't be silly. You two go, have fun. I'll call you later." He leans down to kiss David on the cheek. "Go on then."

"Christian, really, if you guys had plans," Don says, not missing the way they're both looking at him like they'd rather gnaw off their own hands than leave Christian alone with him. "We could do this some other time." Or not at all.

"We didn't," Christian says firmly, giving both Travis and David a look. "They're just being silly. Guys, really, I've known Don longer than I've known both of you combined, I'm *fine*, go on." He wants to do something normal for once.

David sighs. "C'mon, Travis, let's go," he says, getting to his feet. "You'll call me later, okay, honey?" It's not a question.

Christian smiles and hugs him. "I will. Have a good afternoon." He exchanges cheek kisses with Travis and watches them leave.

"Does your boyfriend usually leave you with strange men?" Don asks, smiling a little at Christian. "I thought he'd put up a bigger fight to stay or take you with him."

"My--oh, you thought--" Christian dissolves into laughter, wiping tears out of his eyes. "You thought we--" He eventually gets hold of himself. "David's my best friend," he says finally. "But there's nothing between us, never has been."

"Right," Don says, wondering if maybe Christian's suffered some kind of brain injury since the last time they saw each other. That would explain the laughter. "So, um. Do you want to stay here or..."

"There's a good tea shop a couple blocks west of here," Christian suggests. "I've been told they also have excellent coffee. Would that work?" Now that he's alone with Don, he's starting to wonder if this was a good idea.

"Depends," Don says. "Do they have cheesecake? Karen and Liz split a slice but you know---you remember how they are about sharing chocolate? I'd have better luck getting a kidney from one of them."

"They have cheesecake," Christian promises.

"Okay, then," Don says, looking at some spot just over Christian's left shoulder. "Let's do this."

"If you--if you'd rather not--" Christian hesitates, fiddling with the ring on his right hand.

It's an out. Finally. And Don can't take it. "No. It's---it's fine," he says. "I just wasn't---I didn't expect to see you. Here. Today."

"Ever again," Christian finishes with a wry smile. "I just got back into town last night." He heads for the door, pulling on his jacket. "Two months on the road and all that."

"Yeah, Liz keeps up with your band," Don says, following him out to the sidewalk. "It seems like you're doing pretty well for yourself these days."

Christian smiles and shrugs. "We do all right, I guess," he says. "Two albums out, a third about to start production. I keep my hand in songwriting for other artists a bit."

Don nods, tucking his hands inside the pockets of his jacket. "Still modest," he says, looking over Christian. Still cute, he thinks. "I bet you'd say it was just all right if you won a Grammy. It was too bad you lost last year. That other song, the one that won, sounded like cats fighting in an alley next to a construction site."

"It did at that," Christian says with a laugh. "And there'll be other years. We've--there's one song on the new album that I'm feeling really strongly about. I think it might get somewhere." He brushes a curl out of his eyes, glancing around quickly.

"You'll have to tell me more about it then," Don says. "You worried about something? You keep looking around like something might jump out at you, but I don't think you're *that* big of a rock star yet."

"Force of habit," Christian says as easily as he can. "We got used to fans hiding in the oddest places, on tour. Here we are." He takes the steps to the shop and opens the door for Don.

"Thanks," Don says, stepping inside and almost groaning at the sweet, warm smells that meet him. He moves toward the dessert case almost without realizing it, and hopes Christian will overlook it.

"I'll get us a table, yeah?" Christian asks. "You get whatever you want." He grins and goes to find the table in the corner, taking a seat against the wall.

What Don wants, they don't sell here, and there's no reason on earth he should be this nervous. It's not like it's a date, just coffee with an old acquaintance/former boyfriend who's successful and still gorgeous and probably seeing someone anyway. He can handle this.

He still orders the White Russian cheesecake with hopes that the vodka and Kahlua haven't really cooked off, though, and a coffee for himself. "And if you could bring water for tea, I'd appreciate it," he says to the woman behind the counter. "I'm not sure what my friend is having."

She nods and sends him on his way, promising to bring everything over in a "Two ticks, dear."

"I feel like I'm in the middle of my own personal British invasion," Don says as he joins Christian at the table. "I think they've got Angela Lansbury working at the counter."

Christian laughs. "It's a little taste of home," he says. "I love New York, but I miss England."

"I know. You say that every time I see you," Don points out with a smile. "Last time... you were on your way to London, weren't you? Or were you just getting back? It was your grandmum's birthday, I remember that much."

"I--was just on my way, I think," Christian says. "That--was that really four years ago?"

Don thinks about it for a moment and finally nods. "Yeah, it was," he says. "Longer than I thought. I guess we were kinda overdue for this, then."

"I should think," Christian says, looking up as the woman comes over with their order.

"Thank you," Don says as she sets down their drinks and two slices of cheesecake. "You still like raspberries, don't you? I should have asked."

"I do," Christian says, smiling. "Thank you. I like mostly the same things I did back then." He sets his tea to steeping. "So what have you been up to in the last four years?"

"Working," Don says, adding sugar to his mug. "Right around the time I saw you, I started working more with the crime lab, and now that's pretty much all I do. I'm kind of their pet detective, right down to Stella patting me on the head and bribing me with treats."

"I suppose there are worse things in the world," Christian says, considering. "Is the work still satisfying, at least?"

"It's always satisfying to get bad guys off the street," Don says. "We've had some pretty bizarre cases lately, so every day's definitely an adventure."

"Oh? Anything you can talk about?" Christian asks as he pours his tea and adds a splash of milk.

Don shrugs, picking up his fork. "You probably would have read about most of it," he says, taking a bite of the cheesecake.

"Probably not," Christian says. "I don't read the news much these days." He sips his tea.

"Might be a wise move with the way things are," Don says. "I'm trying to think of one that's not too... Well, there was the killer cheerleader back in the spring. That one was definitely memorable."

"Killer cheerleader?" Christian asks. "What happened, was it over a pair of pom-poms?"

"No, over some schmuck calling a girl fat," Don says. "Danny and I went to watch the Empires, thinking we're getting a night off, maybe having a--having a guy's night, you know? Instead, the game sucks, we get to half-time and they do that million dollar shot thing and the guy drops dead at half-court. We end up working the case."

"Guy's night or a date?" Christian asks with a grin. "Is Danny your boyfriend?"

"A date," Don says, looking down into his mug. He goes on with the story; there's time to kick himself later. "And he's not. Never really was, but that's a different story. So, the guy just drops dead right there, and it turns out one of the cheerleaders gave him the kiss of death. She slipped him nightshade when all of them congratulated him because two years ago, he insulted her at a game for being overweight."

"It's--gods." Christian shakes his head. "It's really a sad commentary on prejudices in our society, isn't it?" he asks quietly.

"I gotta admit, I felt sorry for her," Don says. "I can kinda see where the guy was coming from but he was way out of line. Then for her to do what she did is just crazy. I mean, she had stomach surgery, plastic surgery, all of this stuff to get back at *one* guy. One of my co-workers, she said it best, I think, called it a crime of patience."

"That--yeah." Christian shakes his head, hands tightening around his mug. "You have to be incredibly patient to get back at someone like that." Not that he knows. Really.

"So, that's the kind of thing I'm dealing with every day, and the way most of my dates have gone," Don says, smiling wryly. "What about you? I know you're not seeing David but is there someone else?"

"No," Christian says quickly. Probably too quickly. He tries for a sheepish grin and shrugs. "I haven't--I kind of gave up on dating," he says casually. "My last boyfriend was--about four years ago."

"Can't say I blame you." Don takes a sip of coffee and leans back in his chair. "Sometimes, it's just not worth it."

"Spoken like a man who knows from personal experience," Christian says. Someone comes in the door and he glances up, taking a long sip of tea to settle himself.

"The last guy I dated was a mistake," Don says. "I'm figuring out that I'm better keeping things easy. I don't think Mr. Right's out there."

"Why was he a mistake?" Christian asks.

Don runs a hand through his hair, trying to figure out the diplomatic way to answer. "He wasn't over his ex, for one thing," he says. "She didn't really seem to know she was his ex until I mentioned something about getting together in front of her. It really... it was a mess."

"That sounds...painful," Christian says. "I'm sorry."

"Eh, it's all right. We're all getting past it. They're getting ready to have a kid together," Don says, trying to keep his skepticism about it out of his voice and off of his face. He thinks he almost manages it this time. "I think we'll all be friends as long as Danny doesn't ask me to be the godfather."

"I'll hope, for your sake, then," Christian says, absently toying with his ring.

"You know," Don says after a moment, "it really is good to see you again."

"Yeah," Christian says softly. "It's good to see you, too." It is. Just being here with him like this, two guys out for dessert and coffee, is good. "Do you--do you maybe want to have dinner some night? Or something?"

Don smiles, surprised by the question. "That sounds good," he says. "Maybe sometime next week?"

"Sure," Christian says. "I--give me your card, I'll call you. I don't have anything to write mine down on."

"Sure," Don says, pulling one of the cards from his wallet and handing it to Christian. "Now, you really will call, right? You're not just going to take it and then wait another four years, are you?"

"I will call, I promise," Christian says, tucking the card away in his pocket. "Dinner, next week."

* * *

Calling Don for dinner plans turns out to be easier than Christian thought. He gets Don's voicemail, leaves him a message suggesting a place and time. Two hours later Don calls him back when he's in the shower and leaves a message agreeing. That's all there is to it, and Wednesday night Christian shows up at the little Vietnamese place two minutes before seven.

He gets a table along the wall and takes a seat, watching people come and go. Don walks in just about on time and Christian smiles, raising a hand in hello. There's nothing to be nervous about, he tells himself. This is just two old friends having dinner. Really.

If he could believe that, he'd be a lot calmer.

It's just dinner, Don tells himself for the seven thousandth time. Just dinner with a friend and there's no reason to have changed his tie twelve times before ditching it all together or for the way his heart speeds up when he sees Christian across the restaurant. Or for how it gets worse when he leans down to kiss Christian's cheek before he can second guess it.

"Sorry I'm late," he says, dropping into the chair across from Christian.

"Oh, it's fine, you're not really," Christian says. "I was a bit early." He smiles and tucks an errant curl behind his ear. "How was your day?"

"Not bad," Don says. "It helped knowing I'd get to see you at the end of it." It's true, he's been looking forward to this, to doing something other than hanging out with his sisters or having more take out in front of the TV.

The tiny waitress comes by and sets mugs of tea in front of them before bustling off again. Christian wraps his hands around the stoneware, leaning back in his seat. "I've been looking forward to seeing you, too," he admits.

"Yeah?" Don blushes a little, looking down at his hands.

Christian smiles and looks at his tea. "We're hopeless," he says after a moment. "If we sit here all night not looking at each other and being awkward--can we maybe try and avoid some of that? Maybe?"

"Maybe," Don says, looking up at the same moment Christian does. He shakes off the urge to look away again. "So, how badly did your friends interrogate you last week?"

Christian winces theatrically. "It took me two hours and several expensive coffees to get them off my back," he says. "David and Travis can be a bit--protective. Did your sisters bother you?"

"I had twenty-two messages from them before I got home from seeing you," Don says. "They're, um, a little... Okay, they think it's romantic." He all but spits out the word and it still leaves a funky taste in his mouth. "Liz keeps going on about destiny and first loves and I shouldn't be telling you that."

It's Christian's turn to blush, looking down at his mug. "I--oh," he says, not sure what to say to that. "Well. Um." He's saved from further embarrassment by the waitress who shows up to take their orders.

"It's ridiculous," Don says when she's gone again. "I keep trying to explain that we're not teenagers anymore, we don't even really know each other. I think she and Karen have both seen one too many chick flicks."

"Possibly," Christian says, smiling. "Although." He tilts his head to the side. "Is your favorite ice cream flavor still mint chocolate chip?"

Don laughs. "You would remember that, wouldn't you?" he asks. Their second date was a trip to an ice cream shop that's long since been torn down and turned into a Starbucks. They ate themselves sick and spent the rest of the evening laying in the grass somewhere in Central Park, moaning about belly aches and sharing kisses that tasted like sugar. "Some things don't change."

Some things don't, and some things do. Christian turns his mug around in his hands, smiling a little. "I wasn't able to eat rocky road for months after that," he says.

"You wouldn't even look at any kind of chocolate for weeks," Don says. "And we both cringed when ice cream trucks went by. I remember you dragging me to all those midnight movies, all the classics. You got mad at me when we saw Casablanca."

"You didn't appreciate it," Christian protests. "How can you not love that movie? Best romance ever."

"I appreciated you more and that was the problem," Don says. "You didn't even..." He shakes his head, deciding not to follow that thought. "It was a long time ago. You think you can forgive me for being stupid?"

"I think so," Christian says. "Think you can forgive me for being stubborn?"

"That night, yes," Don says. "I don't think that's changed, either, though. Couldn't have with your career, or even with the way you shut down your friends before."

"Yeah, well." Christian shrugs. "Sometimes being stubborn is necessary. I do my best to avoid the prima donna bit though. No requests for bowls of blue M&Ms or that rubbish."

"Just English breakfast tea and cream," Don says. "Salt and vinegar crisps because you would never call them chips, and a stock of pens and a notepad. Am I right?"

"You are," Christian says, laughing. "I suppose I haven't changed much after all."

"You have," Don says, moving his hands out of the way as their food arrives. He nods a thanks to their waitress and continues. "You've grown up, we both have, and you might---you might be even cuter now."

Christian ducks his head. "I could say the same about you, you know," he says. "You look fantastic."

"I don't know. Fantastic might be a little much," Don says. "I'm settling for just not tripping over my own feet anymore."

"You've--" Christian takes a bite of pho as he thinks about how to put it. "You look comfortable with yourself," he says finally. "You're settled in your skin."

"Happens to all of us sooner or later," Don says, taking another sip of his tea. "I've been wondering about something."

"What's that?" Christian asks, setting down his spoon.

"How is it you're still single?" Don asks. "You're talented, you're smart, you're as far from troll as you can get, so what am I missing here?"

* * *

Turns out it doesn't matter why Christian's still single, just that he is. It's not like he gives Don a straight answer, just a lot of blushing and hedging, and proof that he's as different from Danny as might be humanly possible. Different is good, very good, and enough that Don really hates for the evening to end.

"You could come back to my place," Don offers as they're leaving the restaurant. "I mean, if you wanted. Maybe have a drink, talk some more?"

"Ah--sure," Christian says, tucking his hands into the pockets of his jacket. "Sure, I'd like that." He smiles at Don. "How far away do you live?"

"Not far, six, seven blocks," Don says. "What about you?"

"About four blocks," Christian says. "South and west. I--" He lets out a slow breath. This is normal. This is what normal people do. "I don't have alcohol or coffee, but if you'd like to come up, you're welcome to," he says.

"Why don't we go to mine and I'll see you home after?" Don suggests, hearing something like hesitation in Christian's voice. "I do have tea, and one of my mom's coffee cakes."

"The kind with the crumb topping? Sold," Christian says, feeling a surge of relief and a tiny bit of disappointment.

Something still sounds off, but Don decides to leave it, giving directions where they're needed and filling the space between with a lot of talk about nothing. He nods to his doorman and falls in step with Christian on the way to the elevator.

"I've only lived here a couple of years," he says. "It's the biggest apartment I've ever had, and I still barely have room to turn around, just so you know."

"But do you have a roommate?" Christian asks. "That's the important part."

"I don't," Don says. "Liz lived with me for the first year, but her girlfriend convinced her to move out to Park Slope. Not a minute too soon, if you ask me."

No roommate. That's--Christian grins a little sheepishly to himself. It doesn't matter, it's not like--"I don't have a roommate either," he says, distracting himself. "I--don't think I could live with anyone else right now." Not now. Possibly not ever again.

"I thought I'd miss it," Don says as the elevator rises. "I'm finding out I really don't. It's nice to have someone else who'll make coffee in the morning, but I don't miss coming home dirty dishes or having somebody use up all the hot water. There's a time and place for a cold shower, you know?"

"Yeah, I know," Christian says. "I had enough of those at Julliard to last me the rest of my life." He steps out of the elevator after Don. "It's kind of funny that you live so close, and yet we've never really run into each other."

Don shrugs, pulling out his keys. "I'm either here or at work," he says. "If I go out, it's usually closer to work or uptown. I might spend more time in the neighborhood now, though."

"Travis accuses me of hermiting," Christian says. "I don't go out much anymore."

"Well, you're getting older," Don says, flipping on the light in the entry way and resetting the alarm. "You were partying at sixteen the way most people do at eighteen. I hate to think what you were doing at eighteen. Hell, I hate to think what *I* was doing at eighteen."

"At eighteen--I was still partying like I was immortal," Christian says, laughing. "What *were* you doing at eighteen?"

Don shakes his head, shrugging out of his jacket and hanging it up on one of the hooks along the wall. "Trust me, you don't want to know," he says. "I'm surprised I'm not still grounded."

Christian hangs his jacket up next to Don's. "I was never so glad my mum wasn't around," he says.

"She was something. I still have nightmares about the one time I met her," Don says, continuing on into the living room and turning on a few of the lamps. He moves a stack of mostly read newspapers from the coffee table to their proper basket near the recliner and looks back at Christian, wondering what he makes of the place.

"I like your flat," Christian says, looking around. "Oh, sorry, apartment." He wanders over to the bookcase, looking at the small collection of pewter animals. "You still have the horse I gave you," he says, surprised and pleased.

"You started a trend," Don says, crossing to stand beside him. "Mom gave me the elephant when I started at the academy. The bird's from Stella; she picked it up on her first trip to Greece. I got the lizard when Lizzie lived in Taos for a couple of months." He doesn't mention the others, a dozen or so from various people on various bookshelves in the office and on his dresser.

"They're lovely," Christian says, turning slightly so Don's next to him, instead of partially behind him.

"It's silly, but I like them," Don says, resting his hand against Christian's back for a brief moment. "I promised you tea and cake. I should go take care of that."

"You should," Christian says. Before he realizes it, he leans over to kiss Don's cheek. "I get cranky without my tea."

"I remember that, too," Don says, softer than he intends. He turns away and heads into the kitchen, going through the motions of plugging in the electric kettle and starting coffee, trying to figure out what the hell is happening. It's all just friendly, he thinks that's all it could be as he cuts two slices of cake and finds mugs that actually match the saucers.

Alone in the living room, Christian blows out a breath and drops down on the couch, rubbing his hands over his face. This is proving to be an interesting evening. He's not sure he's up for interesting anymore.

Don brings Christian's tea in, a small cup of milk with it, and sets it on the end table beside him. "You can put on some music if you want, or the TV," he says. "The remotes are both in that drawer and the CDs are all in the binders on the bookcase."

"You know, I still don't own a TV," Christian says. "Thank you for the tea." He adds milk and takes a sip, bringing his cup with him as he goes to leaf through the CDs. "You have our albums," he says, looking up with a probably idiotic grin.

"Liz," Don says, ducking back into the kitchen. He comes back with the coffee cake and his own mug, and sits down in the recliner. "If it's a band she knows someone in, she buys everything. She thought it was criminal I didn't have them."

"And here I thought you were a fan," Christian says sadly. He finds a Norah Jones CD and slips it into the stereo. "My hopes, crushed again."

"Never said I wasn't," Don points out. "All I said was Liz bought them for me, not when."

"When did she buy them?" Christian takes his seat on the couch again, tucking one leg under himself.

"I don't know about the first one, maybe a month or two after it came out," Don says. "She came over with the other one the day it was released and made me listen to it."

Christian grins and ducks his head. "Always nice to hear," he says. "Next time, if you want a copy, I can probably get you a free one. Did you like them?"

"I did. I told you, you're talented," Don says. "I was kind of surprised you went with a rock band, but you guys are really good."

"I needed a change," Christian says simply. "And I was lucky enough to find the others."

Don takes a sip of coffee and searches for something else to talk about. He doesn't miss the irony, he interrogates people for a living and can't manage to keep a conversation going in his own living room. "I'm sorry," he finally says. "I don't---it's been a long time since I really did this."

Christian shakes his head, smiling. "Don, the last time I had anything close to resembling a date it was over four years ago," he says. "Define 'long time'."

"Not that long," Don says. "I just... Danny and I were friends for a long time before we hooked up, and before that I didn't... I wasn't dating the kind of girls where conversation was a priority."

"It seems kind of a shame, you know," Christian says softly, looking at Don. "You're a very intelligent man. Why date people who don't appreciate it?"

"You're giving me too much credit, Christian," Don says. "It was easy, not going in expecting anything, not getting attached. I make a good escort, clean up well in a tux, and the sex wasn't bad most of the time." He shrugs, taking another drink from his mug. "I'm not a good boyfriend. I work too much, I don't come home on time, and I'd rather watch ESPN than cuddle."

"I seem to remember you liking to cuddle," Christian says, setting down his mug. "I was always the restless one. You kept trying to keep me in bed. Or is my memory faulty?" He's pretty sure it isn't. Memories of staying in bed with Don are one of the good things he holds on to.

"I was seventeen and finally having sex involving another person," Don says, smiling a little. "I never wanted to get out of bed. My priorities have changed a little. So has my recovery time."

"We've both gotten older," Christian says. "It happens. I still think snuggling in bed is a perfectly acceptable way to spend a Saturday morning, though." He smiles and shrugs. "Maybe that's just me."

"It works better when there's someone to snuggle with," Don says, resolutely not imagining spending a lazy Saturday next to Christian. "You haven't touched the cake. Is there something wrong with it?"

"What--oh, no, not at all. I guess I was just more full from dinner than I thought," Christian says. He picks up his fork and takes a bite. "Oh, that's just as good as I remember."

"I'll tell mom you said so." Don eats a few bites of his own piece and sets the plate back down, studying Christian. He finds his attention wandering back to Christian's mouth more than once and finally has to look away.

"What?" Christian asks, blushing. "You keep looking at me and looking away. Have I got cake on my cheek or something?" He puts down his fork.

"No," Don says quickly, embarrassed at being caught staring. "No, you're fine. I'm sorry."

Christian takes one last sip of his tea. "I think maybe I'd better go," he says hesitantly.

"Yeah, it's---it's getting late," Don says, a little disappointed. "I could call down and have George get you a cab if you wanted."

"You--you said something about walking me home," Christian says, not quite believing he's saying it. "I'm only about three blocks that way. If you--if you want, I mean--" He stops, blushing.

"Sure. I just thought maybe---it doesn't matter," Don says. "You, uh, you still blush when you get flustered." And it still makes Don want to kiss him, but no force on earth could make him admit it.

"You thought maybe what?" Christian asks, walking over to Don.

"That maybe you were sick of me already," Don says, looking up at him.

Christian shakes his head. "No, I'm not," he says. "I promise. It's just--it's getting late and I should check on Mimi. But you're welcome to--to walk me home and maybe come up for a bit, if you want." He can't believe he's inviting Don to come up. Only David and Travis have ever been inside his place.

"Okay," Don says, getting to his feet. it brings him close to Christian, enough that a deep breath on either side would have them touching, and he lets himself brush a kiss against Christian's cheek and his hand catches Christian's lightly. "If you're sure."

"I'm sure," Christian says, although his free hand tenses and he only lasts a moment before he pulls free. "I'm--I'd better get my jacket. It's cold out there." He kisses Don's cheek and goes to get his jacket.

Don follows him, pulling his own jacket back on and checking for his keys, a little bewildered at how fast Christian pulled away from him. "After you," he says, holding the door open.

It is cold out; their breath comes in white puffs and Christian hunches down into his jacket as they walk to his building. "I'm right here," he says, nodding at the old warehouse.

Don raises an eyebrow. He knew Christian was doing well, but he also knows spaces in this building weren't exactly cheap. "Not what I expected."

"No?" Christian grins as they walk up to the door. "Hi, Tom," he says to the doorman.

"No," Don says. "I know someone who applied for an apartment here and it's not an easy building to get into."

"I moved in here about three years ago," Christian says, hitting the button for the elevator. "I think it was my charming smile."

"It'd certainly convince me," Don says, purposely not looking at Christian this time.

Christian blushes and runs a hand through his hair. The elevator arrives and he swipes his card for the top floor.

"Do you really want to know why I was staring before?" Don asks softly, after they've risen a few floors.

"I do," Christian says, glancing at him.

"Thinking about all the things that haven't changed," Don says, "I wondered if... if you still kissed like you used to."

"You could find out," Christian says, almost a whisper.

Don smiles, taking a small step closer. He raises his hand to Christian's cheek and tilts his head just so to bring their lips together. It's soft and sweet and better than he remembered.

The elevator dings, startling Christian. "C'mon," he says, taking the opportunity to sneak one more kiss before going to unlock his door. The third lock sticks, it always does, and he thinks once again he should get it fixed. But then it's open and they're inside. Christian resets the alarm and locks the door automatically, hanging up his keys and his jacket. "Welcome to my place," he says shyly.

"I... wow," Don says, ever the intelligent one. Again, he knew the apartments were nice, but his could fit in here twice over and the huge windows and high ceilings would be worth the price alone. "I think I'm glad we went to mine first or I'd have never been able to invite you in."

"It's--well, I bought the apartment so I could fit the piano in it," Christian says as Mimi comes running for him. He scoops her up, stroking her fur. "Mimi, this is Don. Don, this is the true love of my life Mimi."

"Hi, Mimi," Don says, reaching up to pet her lightly.

Mimi sniffs his fingers warily and gives him a skeptical look, but allows Don to scratch behind her ears. "I know what you want," Christian says, shifting her to his shoulder. "You want dinner. Don, make yourself comfortable, I'll be right back." He carries Mimi to the kitchen to give her fresh food.

Don uses the time to take another look around, appreciating the simple furniture and how uncluttered but comfortable the apartment seems. Well, uncluttered until his eyes reach the piano and the stacks of notebooks and folders on and under the bench and lining the shelves nearby. He takes a seat on the couch and picks up the magazine on the coffee table. He's just started reading the interview with Christian and Belfry's drummer, Kevin, when Christian comes back.

Christian takes a seat next to Don. "Reading anything good?" he asks, brushing white fur off his jeans.

"Just a description of your 'disconcertingly blue eyes and gentle voice,'" Don says, amused by the journalist.

"Oh, gods, not that piece," Christian says with a wince. "Put it away before she gets ito my tats."

"Only if you tell me about them yourself," Don says, setting the magazine aside.

"Which one do you want to know about? I have six," Christian says. "One's unfinished, though."

"Six?" Don repeats before he can stop himself. "Are you serious?"

"Mm-hmm," Christian says, pushing up his sleeves. "Music is what makes life worth living." He holds out his right arm, the ink wrapping around it in a spiral. "And the Belfry logo. We all got it done." He turns over his left forearm to let Don see. "There's one on my shoulder, and then three on my back."

"What are the ones on your back?" Don asks, touching his fingertips to the Belfry tattoo lightly.

"It's easier to show you," Christian says, his skin prickling at Don's touch. Before he loses his nerve, he pulls off his shirt, turning around. "The quote was the second tattoo I ever got," he says, bending forward a little to let Don read the words. "Music doesn't lie. The staff is unfinished. Someday I'll know what I want to put there, but right now I don't, and then the G clef at the nape of my neck."

Don draws in a breath and draws his hands back before he can touch Christian, no matter how much he wants to. "What's the story with the ying-yang symbol? Yes and no?"

Christian pulls his shirt on again and turns around. "It's a quote by Aaron Copeland," he says. "I'll misquote it now, but the gist is--" He tips his head back, thinking. "Is there a meaning to music? Yes. And can you state in so many words what that meaning is? No."

"I like that," Don says. "Music is something different to everyone, so it makes a lot of sense."

"I thought so too," Christian says, smiling. "Would you--I've tea, or cocoa, if you want something hot to drink?" He licks his lower lip absently.

Don shakes his head slowly once the question registers. "I should..." He gestures toward the door. It's the right thing to do, the sensible thing.

"Don't," Christian says, barely audible. "Don't go." Fear is a cold ball in the pit of his stomach. He hasn't done this in years, and not since--and he doesn't care. Not right now. Christian reaches out, covering Don's hand with his own. "You don't have to go," he says softly.

"I don't---I don't know what I'm doing," Don whispers, turning his hand under Christian's. He brushes his thumb across Christian's palm and realizes it's true, he feels as clueless as he did when he was seventeen but with less bravado to cover it.

"I'm not sure I do either," Christian says, looking down at their hands. He smiles a little. "You could kiss me," he says. "That'd be a place to start." That's how it all started back then, a party and an awkward kiss that tasted of punch.

"I could do that," Don says, thinking of how Christian never did like making the first move, even when they'd been together for months. He slides a little closer, seeing the way Christian blushes, and that's where he starts, a brush of his lips against Christian's cheek.

Christian turns his head, meeting Don's lips with his own. One kiss turns into another, and then another, each one getting a little longer, a bit deeper. Don doesn't taste of sticky-sweet punch now but coffee and cinnamon and sugar. Infinitely preferable and possibly a little bit addictive.

He doesn't quite know how it happens, one kiss turning into kisses and kisses turning into not wanting them to ever stop, but Don does know better than to fight it. He loses himself somewhere between the tangle of his fingers in Christian's hair and the soft sounds Christian makes.

It's easier to just feel, to not think about what they're doing. Christian reaches out to unbutton Don's shirt, wanting to feel his skin, but gets thwarted by his undershirt. He shifts a bit so he's almost straddling Don's lap, trying to get shirt and undershirt out of the way. They're going to have to stop kissing for that to really work, which he's not quite willing to do yet.

This is moving too fast, Don can't keep up and he knows he has to do something, has to pull back and slow down. Guiding Christian's hands beneath his undershirt is not the answer, and he does it anyway, almost hissing at the feel of his fingers against his skin. His own hands settle on Christian's hips, pulling him more firmly into his lap, conscious that this is not teenaged fumbling anymore.

Maybe this was the solution all along, to just stop thinking for a bit and let go, let himself get caught up in touch and taste and sensation. And yet he can't turn his brain off entirely, can't stop wondering what they're doing, if this is really right. Christian pulls back a little, searching Don's face for answers to a question he can't form.

"Tell me what you want," Don says, running his hands over Christian's back. "Where is this... where is this going?"

"I don't know," Christian says, his hands on Don's shoulders. "Do you--do you want to spend the night with me?" He feels the little curl of cold in his belly, but he ignores it.

Don's going to hate himself for it in the morning, but he shakes his head, just once. "I want to, so bad," he says. "It's too soon. Too fast, this is too fast for---for us. For me."

He's right. Of course he's right. Christian swallows and nods, sliding out of Don's lap and back to his corner of the couch. "You're right," he says. "You're--yeah."

"I didn't mean... I like you," Don says, ready to kick himself for how lame that sounds and yet he can't stop talking. "You're the first guy in a long time, the first anybody, I don't wanna just jump into bed with. I mean, I want to, of course I want to, but..."

"But it's too soon," Christian says softly. "I understand. I like you too, you know." He fiddles with his ring absently. "It's just--not tonight, I guess."

Don sighs, rubbing his hands over his face. "I don't want to fuck this up," he says. "I don't want it to be another four years before I see you. Waiting a week was bad enough, you know?"

"Yeah," Christian says. "I know." He smiles a little. "Maybe we can do dinner again this week. Friday? We can see how things go from there?" Friday will give him more time to think about this, to figure out if he's really ready to try and be with someone again.

"Yeah, that sounds good," Don says. "Maybe I could cook for you? You could even invite David and Travis, convince them I'm not a complete psycho."

"We've been there done that, but I could invite them if you like," Christian says. "Seven okay?"

Don nods, stretching his hand into the space between them, offering it to Christian. "They're important to you," he says. "Even if... I plan on sticking around, okay? Whether we date or whatever, I still want to spend time with you."

Christian takes Don's hand. "I want to spend time with you, too," he says. "Four years--it's been too long. I don't want to do that again."

"Then we won't," Don says, bringing Christian's hand up to his lips. He kisses each fingertip and the center of his palm, wondering if that's still something he likes.

Christian's breath catches and his hand flexes in Don's hold. "You'd--ah--that's not a good idea if you want to leave," he says, a little breathless.

"I don't want to, but I will," Don says, squeezing Christian's hand gently. "I'm going to go home, soon, to a very cold shower and spend the night kicking myself for not staying."

Christian smiles a little, taking his hand back. "I'll see you out," he says, getting to his feet. "I think I need a shower of my own."

Don can't help smiling at that as he stands up. "I'll give you a call Thursday about dinner."

* * *

Don's in the middle of not-so-gently booting Danny out the door when the intercom buzzes to let him know Christian and David are there. He can hear something boiling over on the stove, he has tomato sauce smeared down his apron and Danny is not leaving.

"You have to go," Don says at the same time Danny says, "I want to meet him."

Don wants to shoot something. Possibly Danny, right in the ass.

"No," he says firmly, holding the door open. "I swear I'll tell you all about it later, but you are not staying. You are not meeting him. You are going home to your baby mama like you were never here."

"This is why we didn't work out," Danny says. "You're bitchy when you have to be domestic."

"No, we didn't work because you forgot to use a condom," Don says, biting back the laundry list of other reasons he wants to name. "Now, please, go."

"Going, going," Danny says, finally leaving the apartment. Don would slump against the door in relief behind him but the massive amounts of steam pouring out of the kitchen pretty much kill that idea. He leaves the door open for David and Christian and go to try and salvage the pasta.

"Hello the house," Christian calls, poking his head inside the apartment. "Anyone home?"

"Kitchen," Don calls back, having turned down the heat on the stove and ditched the apron. He sets the timer on the oven, makes sure the kettle is heating and coffee brewing, and goes out to meet David and Christian. "Sorry about that. I had to get rid of help that wasn't helpful and then make sure nothing exploded."

"Whatever it is it smells great," Christian says. "We come bearing gifts." He hands Don the pink box. "Homemade brownies, quite possibly the best you've ever had in your life. I didn't make them."

"For which we're all grateful," David says, grinning.

"You still haven't mastered the American oven, Christian?" Don teases, setting the box on the dining table. "My mom tried to teach him to make cupcakes once. We played hockey with them for a week after."

"My talents lie in other areas," Christian says, the tips of his ears going pink.

"Honey, we know," David says. "Hi. I'm David. Have we ever officially met?" He holds out his hand to Don.

"We haven't," Don says, shaking his hand. "I'm glad you could make it. Can I get you guys something to drink?"

"Water'd be great," David says. Christian just shakes his head.

"Are you sure, Christian?" Don asks, hand light on Christian's arm when what he really wants is to be able to kiss him. "I've got water heating for tea."

"Oh, well, if you've already put the kettle on," Christian says with a sheepish smile. "I'd love a cup." He kisses Don on the cheek.

"Did you like the flowers?" Don asks softly, returning Christian's kiss. "You didn't say when we talked."

"I did," Christian says, blushing a bit. "They're sitting in a vase next to the piano. Thank you for them."

"You're welcome," Don says, smiling. "I'll get those drinks if you want to go sit down. You, uh, might want to change the CD to something else." He doesn't mind Christian knowing he's been listening to Take Me Home, but he can't imagine he wants to hear it.

"Did I tell you he's cute?" David murmurs to Christian once Don's out of the room.

"Yes," Christian says, going to find a new CD. "Hands off, darling."

"I would never." David gives Christian an indignant look.

"I know, I know." Christian puts in Sarah Vaughan and turns to look at David. "Honey, what the hell am I doing?"

David crosses to him and kisses his cheek. "Scared?" he asks.

"It's been four years," Christian says softly. "And really it's been longer than that. I don't know if I can do this anymore."

"Only way to find out is to try," David says, stroking Christian's hair.

Christian smiles and leans into him for a moment. "He doesn't know," he says. "About any of it."

"You'll tell him when he needs to," David says.

Don stands in the doorway for a moment, glass in one hand, saucer and cup in the other, trying to figure out exactly what he's seeing. The bigger question is why it feels like being tackled to see Christian that close to David, that easy with him, even though he knows they're just friends. He shakes his head and forces himself into the room, setting both cups down on the coffee table and clearing his throat.

"Thank you," David says, going to get his glass. "So you have to tell me something, Don. Was Christian as much of a--well, blonde--at sixteen as he is now?"

"Hey!" Christian objects. "You're blonde too, you know."

"Yes, honey, but you forgot to take off your pajamas before you stepped into the shower this morning," David says patiently. "Our hair may be the same color, but I can at least remember when I'm dressed and when I'm not."

"He was never good with mornings," Don says, refusing to consider why David would know what he did or didn't wear into the shower. "Or afternoons, for that matter."

"What he's not telling you is that he shoved me into the shower," Christian says, picking up his teacup. "He had the nerve to show up at noon and demand I get up and dressed so he could take me out looking for--what the bloody hell were we looking for again?"

"A birthday present for Travis," David says.

"Did he at least give you tea first?" Don asks, remembering that being the only way he could bribe Christian to wake up when he'd sleep over.

"I did," David says. "It's the only way I know of to get him up and moving."

Christian sighs. "I am not that bad," he says. "And it was noon. I got to bed at five in the morning. Show a little understanding."

"He is," Don says. "Very little." He's saved from any response by the timer going off in the kitchen and he ducks out again to check on dinner.

"If you two start bonding over making fun of me, I'm going to take the brownies away and you won't get any," Christian warns David.

"We wouldn't do that." David slips his arm around Christian's waist and hugs him. "Besides, I have to get him to like me so I can interrogate him later."

"No, you don't," Christian says firmly.

"I don't have to get him to li--" David shuts up when Christian puts his hand over his mouth.

Don's cell phone rings while he's taking the chicken cacciatore out of the oven and he scowls at Danny's name on the display. "What?"

"Was he guy with the earrings or the one with the curls?" Danny asks just as bluntly.

"Jesus, Messer. Did she turn you into a thirteen year old girl on top of taking your balls?" Don asks, setting the pan on the counter. "And curls."

"He's cute and you're an asshole, Flack," Danny says. "You set the kitchen on fire yet?"

"No, but you're not helping. Seriously, stop acting like a---" Don starts to say jealous ex, but that's exactly what he's doing, and they don't talk about that. "Like one of my sisters. I'm turning the phone off." And he does, or at least switches it to vibrate and tucks it back into his pocket. One of these days, they're going to sit down and set some boundaries, but he can't think about that while he's trying to arrange everything onto a serving dish.

* * *

Dinner goes reasonably well, at least Christian thinks so. David and Don seem to get along well together, which is a relief. He's still not sure how Don will react to Travis, but that can be saved for another time.

Afterwards, he gets up to help clear the dishes. "I think I can manage to load the dishwasher," he says. "You cooked, let me help clean." Christian tucks a curl back behind his ear, giving Don a smile.

"Okay," Don says, raising his hands and stepping back. "Just me grab a couple of plates for the brownies and I'll talk to David. I'm sure he's got a few more stories to tell about you."

"Just a few," David says, smiling.

"You want coffee, David, or are you good with water?" Don asks, brushing his fingers against Christian's arm as he slips past.

"If you're making coffee for yourself I'll have some," David says. "Otherwise water's fine."

"Do you take cream or sugar?" Don asks over his shoulder, following Christian to the kitchen.

"Sugar, please," David says, going to take a seat in the living room.

"You aren't sweet enough already?" Don smiles innocently when David looks at him.

Christian shakes his head, beginning to rinse and scrape dishes. "Play nice, you two," he calls.

"It's play safe, not nice," David calls back.

Don gets down a pair of mugs and turns to Christian. "I'd rather play with you," he says softly.

Christian's ears go pink. "Define play," he says carefully, looking down at the dishwasher.

"Checkers?" Don answers lightly, not at all sure what kind of quicksand he's wandered into this time, but maybe he should get used to the feeling with Christian around. "Feels more like truth or dare, though."

"Oh, I hate that game," Christian says. "Ever since it led to me in drag performing karaoke." He finishes loading dishes and closes the dishwasher.

Don laughs, trying to imagine it and falling short. "What did you have to sing?" he asks, scooping sugar into a small bowl to bring to David.

Christian looks pained. "Patsy Cline," he says.

"Ouch." Don winces. "I'm really sorry. I'm sure you were great at it, though."

"Thankfully, there's no evidence," Christian says. "Can this pot go in the dishwasher or does it need to be hand-washed?"

Don looks. "The dishwasher's fine. I think everything can go in there," he says. "Anything that wouldn't would be Danny's and he didn't say anything about it when he brought them over."

Christian smiles. "All right," he says. "I'll finish up in here. You go enjoy your coffee."

"By the way," Don says, picking up the small tray. "He said you were cute. Danny, I mean. I guess he passed you guys on his way out."

Christian tilts his head, thinking. "Kinda scruffy? Glasses, short side?" he asks.

"Yeah, that's him," Don says with a nod.

"David thought he was cute," Christian says. Actually, David thought he'd look good on his knees, but that's neither here nor there.

"I'll give David his number in about eighteen years. His kid'll be grown and maybe he will too," Don says, turning to go back out to the living room.

* * *

The brownies are every bit as good as Christian promised, and rich enough that Don can only manage small bites at a time. It's just as well since David seems set on interrogating him. He just can't seem to figure out where to begin and Don catches him opening and closing his mouth a couple of times.

"Anything you want to know, I'll tell you, within reason," Don says. "So just ask."

David breaks off a piece of brownie. "It's less wanting to ask and more--" He sighs. "It's his place to tell you, and he will. I just don't want him hurt again."

"I don't plan to hurt him," Don says. "There's something else going on here, though, isn't there?"

"Something else how?" David asks. "I'm not sure I follow."

"I mean it's not just him being with me," Don says. "There's some big piece I'm missing about him that's got you worried. You pretty much just said it before."

"Yeah. Yeah." David toys with the chain of his bracelet. "He was...he was hurt pretty badly a few years back," he says. "Enough that it turned him off dating, off--most things--for a while. He's still...he's not who he was." And he's saying too much, but all of David's intuition is telling him Don's a good, decent guy, and he wants Christian to be happy.

"That's kinda why we're taking this slow," Don says. "Neither one of us is who we used to be, and that's going to take some figuring out." He stares into his coffee, picking his words carefully. "I don't---I'm not sure where this thing with him is headed, but we lost track of each other before. I don't think either one of us wants that again."

David nods. He glances at the kitchen, where the sound of humming and water running means Christian's doing dishes. Good. "Can I give you one fast piece of advice?" he asks. "Because i like you, and I think you could be really good for him."

"Sure, if you think it'll help," Don says, curious about what David could possibly have to tell him.

"No matter what you're doing--always, *always* make sure he can see you," David says quietly. "Don't come up to him from behind, don't try to surprise him. Just--make sure he sees you, make sure he knows you're there."

Okay, not at all what Don was expecting to hear but he nods slowly. "All right, I can do that," he says. "But why?"

"The why is up to him to tell you," David says. "Just trust me on this."

"Okay," Don says. "Anything else I need to know?"

David shakes his head. "Yes, but that'll do for now," he admits.

"I have a feeling you and I are going to have more of these talks," Don says, unable to even remotely look forward to them.

* * *

Christian finally shoos David out the door with half the remaining brownies and a promise to do brunch on Sunday. "Go away, I'm fine," he says, giving David one last hug.

David kisses him on the cheek. "Of course you are," he says. "Night, Don. Good meeting you." He gives Don a quick hug and disappears down the hall.

"Alone at last," Christian murmurs, turning to see Don. "He means well, you know."

"He cares about you," Don says, holding his hand out to Christian. "Enough to risk my cooking and even offer some advice."

"What'd he tell you?" Christian slips his arm through Don's rather than take his hand.

"Not to sneak up behind you, make sure you could always see me," Don says. "He didn't explain why you don't like holding hands, though. That's the third time you've avoided it tonight."

"Musician," Christian says with what he hopes is an easy smile. "Have to be careful of my hands. I'm not much for shaking hands either." It's not exactly a lie.

"Once more with honesty?" Don says, pulling away so he can face him.

Christian glances away. "If you want to have that conversation, I'm going to need a place to smoke," he says finally.

"All right," Don says. "Get your jacket. It'll be cold on the fire escape." It's really more of a balcony, but not quite nice enough to really be one. Still, it's big enough for a pair of chairs and a little table and the wooden floor only creaks a little when Don leads the way out there.

Christian digs out the half-empty pack of cigarettes and lighter from the inside pocket of his jacket. He supposes he knew this had to happen, but he'd been hoping for a little more time. Still, lighting up and taking a first drag buys him a few seconds to think. "I was nineteen," he says finally, looking anywhere but at Don. "Still at bloody Julliard. Met this guy, right? Thought he was the best thing since my morning cup of tea. Thought I was in love." He inhales deeply, letting the nicotine hit him.

"Clearly you weren't in the end," Don says, sitting down in one of the chairs and propping his feet up on the railing. He's itching to ask Christian for one of his cigarettes but he fought too hard to kick the habit in the first place. "What happened?"

"Oh, we're a long way from the end," Christian says. "See, the first time he hit me, I thought it was an accident. He'd been gesturing, I stepped wrong, that's all there was to it. He apologized, said he'd never do it again, I believed him." He shakes his head. "The second time, he slammed me into a wall. Told me he'd kill me if I left him, if I told anyone. I believed him." He looks up at the sky. "I'm sure you can fill in what happened from there, you're a bloody cop. It went on for a year. Little over, really. Fifteen months."

Don blows out a breath, looking at his hands flex in his lap. "I think... I think I need one of those," he says, gesturing toward Christian's cigarette.

Christian holds out the pack, the lighter tucked inside it. "Help yourself. I quit ages ago, but every time I tell this story I start again, for at least a couple."

"Who was he?" Don asks, taking the pack. "No, I don't want to know. What made you leave?"

"He grabbed my wrist," Christian says. "Shook me around, finally threw me down the stairs. I cracked two ribs, but that had happened once before, so I wasn't too worried. But my wrist--it was sprained. I couldn't play, and I was terrified next time he'd take his knife and cut the tendons in my hands, or he'd step on my fingers. Music was the only thing that'd kept me going for the last year, and if I lost that, I had nothing. I was two weeks away from graduation at that point, didn't have a gig lined up after. Didn't have the faintest idea how I was going to get away from him, either. I ran to the only person I thought might be able to help me."

"David or Travis?" Don's certain it was one of them if not both. It'd explain their reaction to him and the way David seemed to hover over Christian even after admitting he liked Don.

"Neither," Christian says. "Kyle." He lights another cigarette. "I'd met Kyle a few months previous, at a play party at Purgatory. He was the host. Gentlest man I've ever met, and he took one look at me and I knew he knew what was going on, even though I'd gone to the party with a couple other friends and J--he wasn't around. He gave me his card, at the end of the evening, told me if I ever needed anything, even if it was just to talk, call him or show up. So...I did."

"A dungeon's an interesting place to go for help leaving an abusive relationship," Don says, careful not to judge it one way or the other. Whoever this Kyle guy is, he made sure Christian got to some kind of safety and that's what matters.

Christian smiles faintly. "Kyle had contacts all over the place," he says. "J--he was going on a business trip to Boston, two days after I went to Kyle, and I could hold on that long. While he was in Boston, Kyle and a couple of his friends came to the flat, helped me pack up everything I wanted to take with me, made sure all traces of me were gone. I stayed with Kyle for a couple nights. That's how I met Travis--he's Kyle's partner. And David I met through Travis. The three of them adopted me, helped me get back on my feet."

"You never went to the police," Don says, not a question at all. "Did he do anything after you left? Did he continue to threaten you?"

"Not just then," Christian says. "A few years later, after Belfry had gotten going--yes. I got notes in the mail, dead flowers. Pictures of me, of my friends. It went on for about six months."

Don finally gets around to lighting his cigarette and takes a long drag, exhaling slowly. "Did you at least file a report on that?"

"I did," Christian says. "I thought it was some deranged fan. I didn't realize what was going on until one of the packages showed up with a flute mouthpiece I'd had at Julliard."

"Do you feel like he's still a threat?" Don asks.

"He's in jail," Christian says. "He beat up his last boyfriend so badly the guy ended up in a coma. They convicted him of--I think attempted murder, gave him the maximum."

Too good for him, Don thinks, and the circumstances sound familiar, like maybe he heard about the case, maybe he even worked it, but it sounds like too many others he's heard about and worked. "You did a good thing, Christian," he says. "You got out and you got yourself safe."

"Eventually, I did," Christian says, finishing his cigarette. "Kyle, Travis, David--they saved my life."

Don smokes in silence for a few minutes, occasionally looking over at Christian. "Thank you for telling me," he says, stubbing out his cigarette. "For trusting me to know."

Christian smiles faintly and runs a hand through his hair. "If--if anything's going to happen between us, you needed to know," he says. "I've--I've got some problems, I guess you could call it. Kyle says I have PTSD. He's a therapist now, not a professional Dom anymore, but he wouldn't see me professionally because he said it was a conflict of interest." He puts away the cigarettes. "Well, he said that was what it sounded like, but he couldn't officially diagnose me with anything, not that I wanted him to."

"I don't think it's an if," Don says. "Something's happening already. Are you seeing anybody? A therapist?"

"No," Christian says. "I tried, but I never really was able to build a rapport with him, and I gave up."

"It can take some time to find the right one," Don says, trusting Christian not to push at how he knows, not tonight. "If you ever decide to try again, there are some people I can recommend."

Christian nods. "All right." He blows out a breath. "Anyway, that's the very long version of why I don't like people coming up behind me, I'm terrified of people hurting my hands, all that."

"And why Travis worries when you hide out in your apartment," Don says, fitting more of the pieces into place. "You weren't worried about stalkerish fans the other day, either. I think... I don't know what to think."

"Maybe I should go home," Christian says. "Give you a chance to think. I dumped rather a lot on you."

"Or you could stay," Don says, looking up at him. "Because I want you to." The only thing he needs time to think about is the best way to find this guy and make sure he never even thinks about coming anywhere near Christian again. "You're not scaring me off, Christian."

"All right," Christian says after a moment. He smiles a bit. "Maybe we could go inside now? It's a bit chilly out here."

"Sure, yeah," Don says, standing up. He steps through the door first and goes straight toward the kitchen. This thing with Christian might provide the most action his tea kettle's ever seen, but it's worth the trade off.

* * *

Christian loves Travis. He really does. He really does *not* want to do dinner with "Just us five, honey" because he's pretty sure it'll turn into nothing more than a chance for Travis to interrogate Don. Sadly, he doesn't have a way to refuse, and before he knows it he and Don are arriving at Travis and Kyle's building on Tuesday night. "He'll flirt with you," Christian says. "Travis flirts with everyone. Don't take it seriously."

"You're assuming I'd even notice," Don says, rubbing his hand over Christian's lower back. He's learning not to reach for his hand, but it just means finding other ways to touch him. "You probably noticed I'm a little slow when it comes to that."

"I don't mind." Christian leans against Don. "Oh, that feels good." He hits the button for the elevator. "Kyle says I should get massaged on a regular basis, but I've never been comfortable with it."

Don turns to face Christian, slipping his hands inside Christian's jacket. He kisses his cheek, smoothing his hands down either side of his spine. "If we survive this, if I survive this, I'll do this right later."

"I promise you'll survive," Christian says, leaning his forehead against Don's for a minute. He pulls away when the doors open and leads Don down the hall to Kyle and Travis' door, leaning on the bell.

A moment later, Travis opens the door. "Darlings, so glad to see you," he says, hugging both of them. "Come in, come in. David's not here yet, he's running late from rehearsal. Kyle's in the kitchen, we're having spinach lasagna for dinner. Care for a drink?"

Don blinks, trying to keep up with all of the things Travis has said. It's a bit like being caught in a whirlwind and all he can manage is a weak nod while he takes his jacket off and folds it over his arm.

"Let me take that," Travis says, whisking his jacket away and Christian's and going to hang them up. "Now. Drinks? Coffee? Juice?"

"Water," Christian says.

"Coffee for me and no more for you?" Don says hopefully.

"What a horrible thought," Travis says. "Come this way."

"I'm not going to survive this," Don says under his breath to Christian.

"You'll like Kyle," Christian promises, following Travis into the kitchen. "Everyone does."

Kyle puts down his knife when they enter the kitchen, wiping his hands on a paper towel. "Hi," he says with a smile, holding out his hand. "I'm Kyle Montague."

"Don Flack." He returns the smile and shakes Kyle's hand, unsure what he'd expected but certain Kyle isn't it. Maybe someone a little more like Travis and built a little less like a linebacker. It's a small wonder that he hasn't snapped Travis like a twig, he thinks.

"Do you take milk or sugar, honey?" Travis asks, getting mugs and a glass of water for Christian.

"Just sugar," Don says. "Thank you."

"You look vaguely familiar, in the 'I've probably see you around' way," Kyle says, going back to chopping peppers. "What is it you do? Travis neglected to mention."

"I'm a detective with the NYPD," Don says, accepting the mug Travis offers. "Christian said you do some counseling with assault victims, so we've probably crossed paths."

"That would do it," Kyle says with a nod.

"That's David," Travis says at the sound of the doorbell. "I'll be right back." He dashes out of the kitchen.

"Does he ever move at anything slower than zoom?" Don asks, watching Travis effectively vanish. "It's kind of impressive."

"No, he doesn't, unless he's asleep or sick," Kyle says with a resigned sigh. "Or picking out clothes."

"That takes hours," Christian says. "I don't know how he gets out the door on time in the morning."

"He picks out his clothes the night before," Kyle says. "Usually."

Don thinks he'd probably get along well with Lizzie. "He's a corporate assistant, right? With Maverick?"

"Technically executive assistant," Kyle says. "He's been there for ten years now, works for the CEO. He loves it."

Travis comes back in, followed by a pink-cheeked David, and there's a general flurry of hellos and hugs and coffee before Kyle's ushering them all into the dining room for food. "I have to tell you about today," Travis says over salad and lasagna and garlic bread. "I got fired. Twice. It's nowhere near the record, but it was pretty hilarious at the time."

"How many times does that make it this month?" Christian asks.

"Five. One more and I'll get a comp day out of it." Travis grins. "I love my boss."

"We know," David and Christian say in unison.

"I'm afraid to ask, but what's your record?" Don says, leaning forward a little to see Travis on the other side of Christian.

"Five times in one day, twenty times in one month," Travis says. "That was a very rough August."

"Sounds like it," Don says, smiling a little. "Would he make you file the termination paperwork yourself?"

"Probably. I've got it all filled out in my desk, waiting for his signature and the date," Travis says. "I threaten him with it sometimes when he's being particularly obstinate. Last time I did that he threw a screaming monkey at me."

"And I thought my job was interesting," Don says, shaking his head.

"I'll have to take you to visit someday," Travis promises.

"You'll end up walking out with a new house," Christian tells Don. "Be careful with this one."

"Wait. That's supposed to be a drawback?" Don looks at Christian.

Christian just shakes his head sadly as Travis lights up. "Do you need a new apartment, darling?"

Don laughs. "Not really, but I could use a little more closet space. You know a good contractor?"

"We know a fantastic architect," David says. "Does that count?"

"Not quite what I need, but thanks," Don says. "Travis, you were going to tell us what you did to get fired, twice, today."

Travis grins and launches into the story, and Christian leans back in his chair, watching the interplay and letting it wash over him. So far Don seems to be holding his own.

Don smiles at the right places and nods when he should, but he's more aware of Christian beside him and the way he lights up at certain points in Travis's story. The way he joins David in teasing Travis and shares glances with Kyle, all of it says Christian is at home here, and Don likes being part of that. He finds Christian's hand under the table and strokes his fingers across the back of it and around to the inside of his wrist before drawing back.

Christian shivers a little, his hand flexing. "I think--let me help clean up," he says, getting to his feet. "We're about done here, aren't we?"

"We are," Kyle says. "Travis, why don't you help him? I cooked."

Travis sighs, but gets to his feet. "I *would* have cooked," he points out, beginning to stack dishes.

"Can he cook?" Don asks David quietly.

"Actually, yes," David says with a grin. "Christian's the only one of us who's completely hopeless in the kitchen."

"I heard that," Christian says, thwapping David with a rolled up napkin.

"Honey, you almost burned down your last apartment," David says. "Making pasta."

"We'll have to work on that," Don says, smiling at Christian.

"I'm not sure there's much to work *on*," Christian says. "I can't cook, we all know this."

"Oh, I was thinking more about the keeping you from burning down apartments," Don says. "Arsonists always start small, you know. One burned saucepan turns into baking sheets, grows into whole kitchens and before you know it, they're taking out city blocks."

"I think I'll just stay out of the kitchen," Christian says. "I'm very good at making tea, but other than that..." He grins.

"Christian, honey, come help me make tea and find dessert," Travis says, poking his head out of the kitchen. "I need those dishes you're holding."

"Be right back." Christian disappears into the kitchen.

"So now that we've got half an hour, what do we do with it?" David asks with a laugh.

"I'd been expecting an interrogation from Travis, so my plan's shot," Don says, wiping a trace of condensation from the side of his water glass.

"We could interrogate you instead if it'd make you feel better," David offers.

"You already had your chance," Don says with an easy grin. "But I guess I could allow for follow up questions."

David grins back. "Why do you do what you do?" he asks. "Why be a cop?"

Don groans. "I hate that question," he says. "I feel like I oughta have the answer put on a tee shirt or little cards I can hand out." He takes a sip of water and shakes his head. "But, for you, I'll give you the honest answer. My dad's a cop, retired. My mom, too. Both of them spent time working in the organized crime unit, probably too much because their answer to mafioso families was to raise a family of cops. My first toy, honest to God, was a baby billy club and a kinda pillow thing with handcuffs printed on it."

"My mom would be horrified," Kyle says, laughing. "But do you like what you do?"

"Now that I get to be Don Flack, instead of Don Flack *Junior*, yeah," Don says. "I work with a good group of people, get to see some pretty weird stuff, and at least twice a week, I get to tackle a bad guy. It's a lot like being in college actually."

"So when do we get to meet this good group of people?" David asks.

Don ducks his head, hiding a little bit of a cringe. "Eventually," he says. "Eventually."

"I sense discomfort with that idea," Kyle says.

"Well, aside from Travis, we all know how to behave in public," David says. "And Travis will behave if you make him."

Don laughs. "I'm not... the people I work with, they're---well, they're nosy. It's their jobs to be nosy," he says. "I had to talk one of them out of running a full background check on you, David."

"On me?" David laughs. "I've got nothing to hide. All you'll find is that I'm a working musician who manages to pay the rent and has a weakness for jewelry."

"Yeah, well, he saw you when you and Christian came over for dinner," Don says. "Decided I wasn't telling him enough about either one of you. I come back from the bathroom and find him about to dust my dining table for prints. Did I mention I work with nosy *crazy* people?"

"Oh, let me meet this guy," David says. "Please. I'm begging you."

"Trust me, you're better off not," Don says, almost afraid to think of what would happen with Danny and David in the same room. "You got your hands full with Christian being a brat. You really don't want another one."

"David does well with brats," Kyle says. "Assuming he can spank them."

"Spoken by someone who used to do it for a living," David counters.

Don knows he blushes, he can feel it when he rubs his hands over his face. "Next question?"

"I don't know, I'm liking this one," David teases.

"David, let it be," Kyle says mildly.

"All right, all right." David laughs. "Is this where we get to ask your intentions and all that fun stuff?"

"Anything's better than talking about you spanking Danny," Don says. "Although, he might be into that." He is, and Don knows it, but he kinda wishes, right now, that he didn't.

"On a totally different note," David says. "Christian told me he told you about...about James."

"So that's his name," Don says, filing it away for later. He, unlike Danny, isn't nosy for the sake of being nosy. "Yeah, we talked about it that night after you left, and the things you guys did for him."

David nods. "I wish we could have done more," he says. "But he wouldn't let us at the time, and then, later, it was just..." He shakes his head.

"It sounds like you did the right things," Don says. "I could be a cop on this and give you all the stats and whatever, but mostly, I'm just glad you were there for him and that he... It could've been a lot worse and you both know that."

"We do," Kyle says quietly. "A few years ago, we thought it would have been worse, but...we got through it."

"We agreed never to speak of that dark time," David says with a trace of humor.

"Nobody's ever going to hurt him like that again," Don says. "Not between you guys and him being welcomed---with cake, even---back into the Flack fold." He smiles, still amused by his mother taking over his kitchen to make them dinner a few nights before. He's less amused by his sisters asking a million questions about their very limited, okay, non-existent, sex life.

"Just wait until his mum comes over to visit," David says. "That woman scares me."

"She scares everyone," Don says. "I think she made my dad cry the one and only time they met."

"But she means well," Kyle says. "And she adores Christian. I think my mom got along with her when they met, but she gets along with everyone."

"Kyle, your mom was probably stoned," David says with a snort.

"I didn't hear that," Don says, grinning. "Kyle, tell me more about your family?"

"My parents are hippies who never grew out of it," Kyle says. "They have a small farm upstate, complete with goats, rabbits, alpacas, three cats and two dogs. They're as self-sufficient as they can be."

"What made you give that up?" Don asks. "Living in Manhattan's a far cry from all of that."

"Don't let the city apartment fool you," David says. "He's a hippie at heart, just without the patchouli and the homegrown weed."

"I told you, she stopped growing that after the last of my brothers moved out," Kyle says, laughing. "I came here for college and stayed. There's a sizeable leather community within the city, and most of my practice is based around that. I can help them, so I do."

"But how do you make the leap from hippie commune to leather community?" Don asks, thinking the leather alone would be a problem for hardcore vegetarians.

"You realize you're into kink in college, have a boyfried who brings you to a play party where you meet the owner of the most successful dungeon in Manhattan, get a job working for her part-time to help pay for grad school, and stay in the community," Kyle says. "This is where I can be useful."

* * *

It's too cold for September when Don and Christian leave and they walk close together, like it'll block some of the wind blowing around them. Don shoves his hands in his pockets and wishes he'd worn something warmer as he sneaks glances at Christian. "Do you wanna come over for a while or do you need to get home to Mimi?" he asks while they're waiting for a light to change.

"I can come over," Christian says, linking his arm through Don's. "Or you could come over to my place. I think I'm closer."

"Just the sooner we're indoors and warm," Don says. "You missed David deciding it's vital that he meet my friends, one in particular."

"Oh? Is this the one who saw us on our way to your place?" Christian asks.

"Yeah. It's a little... It's very weird to be talking to your friend about him spanking my bratty ex," Don says. "This is one reason I think your friends maybe should be our friends and my friends... well, they don't have to visit."

"It could be worse," Christian says after a moment. "They could be seeing Kyle as a Dom. He still does occasional private sessions and classes. I want to meet your friends, including your bratty ex, you know, and sooner or later--well, probably, I mean, they'll meet my--our friends."

"First, I'm thinking about any of them knowing Kyle in that capacity. Except maybe Mac," Don says, grinning to himself. "Second, you will. I just don't know when. I want you to know them, though. Whether you'll want to know them after you meet them, well..."

"I will," Christian says, hugging Don's arm a little closer to himself. "And--I mean--I got news this afternoon that Belfry's doing a special intimate concert in New York next week. Very last minute, low-key, probably acoustic. I could get you and some of your friends tickets, if you want."

"I'll ask around, but definitely count me in," Don says. "Lizzie, too, if you can. She'd kill me if I didn't ask."

"Of course," Christian says as they reach his building. "It's some--one of the local radio stations is doing a series of concerts, so we got invited to do this one. Kind of cool, I think."

"It'll be the first time I've seen you play since you were in college," Don says. "It sounds like it'll be pretty a good gig."

"I could--" Christian runs a hand through his hair. "If you wanted, I could play a little for you now," he says, hitting the button for the elevator. "You probably don't--well, anyway."

"I probably don't what?" Don asks. Christian tries to duck his head and hide his face, and Don follows his movement, refusing to let go of his gaze.

"You're probably not interested, is all." Christian swipes his card and hits the button for his floor.

"Of course I am," Don says. "C'mon, how often do I have a chance at a private performance from a rock star?" He nudges Christian's shoulder with his own, smiling at him. "Will you play something for me?"

"I'm not a rock star," Christian protests, his ears going pink. "But yes, I'll play for you." He steps out of the elevator and unlocks his door.

"I say you are." Don shrugs, following Christian inside and stepping away when Mimi comes running at them. "Think she missed you."

"Silly girl," Christian says, scooping Mimi up into his arms and cuddling her. "And I'm--well, I haven't had my picture in People--okay, wait, last month they had that thing. And this morning I got stopped by three people when I was buying cat food. That was embarrassing."

"See? Rock star," Don says, hanging up his jacket.

"Or something." Christian puts Mimi down. "Let me just get the princess settled. Do you want anything to drink?" he asks, heading for the kitchen.

"Water, but I can get it," Don says. "Feed Mimi."

"I'm going that way anyway," Christian points out. He makes sure Mimi has food and refills the reservoir in her water fountain before getting out two bottles of water. "Here you are," he says, kissing Don lightly.

"Thank you," Don says, slipping his arm around Christian's waist. "Have I mentioned that I really like you?"

"I really like you, too," Christian says, leaning his head against Don's shoulder. "What do you want me to play for you?"

"Whatever you feel like playing," Don says, running his hand up and down Christian's back. "You know I've never been picky about that. Play something you enjoy playing."

"Hm." Christian thinks about it. "All right." He crosses over to the piano and takes a seat at the bench, flexing his hands for a moment. "Have a seat."

Don settles on the couch, turning so he can watch Christian play. That's the real draw for him, with any musician really, watching for that moment when they stop playing consciously and let themselves do what they do well. It's what he loves about the guys who play on the streets and down in the subway, even though some of them are real pains in the ass, they play because they need to.

Christian looks down at the keys, thinking for a moment, before beginning to play. It's an instrumental piece he wrote a while back, inspired by the first snowfall he'd seen in the new place. The whole world had seemed bright and peaceful and beautiful, and he'd stood at the windows for ages.

There's no denying that Christian is talented, not when he plays like this, and it's another one of those holdovers from the first time Don knew him, that being there with him behind the piano is a hugely sensual experience. He can appreciate it better now, since he's got a word to go with it and the patience to listen, and he smiles when Mimi pads in to leap onto the couch beside him. She curls up nearby but not too near, still eyeing him warily.

Without really thinking about it, he slips into a different piece, one more lighthearted, and then the music just catches him up and he goes with it, sparing one moment to wish he'd turned on the recorder before just diving in and seeing where it takes him. He forgets Don's there after a bit and it's not until Mimi leaps on the bench next to him that he comes out of his trance.

"Thank you," Don says after a moment and when Christian finally remembers he has an audience.

Christian turns to face him. "Did you enjoy the music?" he asks shyly.

"Yes," Don says, smiling as he gets to his feet. He crosses to stand in front of Christian and bends down to kiss him lightly, barely brushing his lips against Christian's temple. "You're kind of amazing, you know that?"

"I--no," Christian says, blushing. He slides off the bench and stands up, kissing Don. Playing's left him feeling tingly and a little high on endorphins, the way it always does, and he kisses Don again, licking his way into Don's mouth, his hands running up Don's arms.

Don pulls Christian closer, remembering the massage he offered earlier and starting gently with his fingers moving over the small of Christian's back. He lets Christian guide the kiss, responding in kind each time he deepens it and he tries not to wonder where this is going to lead tonight.

Christian nips Don's lower lip. "Spend the night with me," he murmurs, kissing Don's jaw, his throat. "Please."

"Yes," Don whispers, baring more of his throat to Christian's mouth. He tugs Christian's shirt free of his jeans and slides his hands under it to warm skin and muscle, picturing the tattoos he knows are beneath his fingers.

He could get lost in this the same way he gets lost in his music. Don's skin is warm and Christian can smell the clean scent of his soap, an underlying hint of musk that's all him. He reaches out to unbutton Don's shirt, pushing it down his shoulders. A thought occurs to him and he pulls back, tugging on Don's wrist to draw him over to the bed. "Over here," he says softly. "This is more comfortable."

"Are we... we're really going to do this?" Don asks, not that he's defined 'this' for himself yet. He knows what he wants though, and he hopes to God he and Christian are on the same page, or at least in the same chapter as he sits down on the edge of the bed, his hands resting on Christian's hips as he stands in front of him.

"I think so," Christian says, leaning down to kiss Don. "Define 'this'." He pulls off his shirt, tossing it haphazardly in the direction of the hamper.

"Anything that means a lot less clothes and a lot more touching between us," Don says, trailing his fingers over Christian's stomach. "Anything you want."

"Yes," Christian says, shivering a little. "Yes. Less clothes now, please." He tugs pointedly at Don's undershirt.

Don leans back and drags the shirt up and off. "Better?" he asks, leaning back on his hands for a moment and looking up at Christian.

"Getting there," Christian says with a grin. He moves to straddle Don, pushing him back against the bed and leaning down to kiss him again. "Less clothes would be even better," he murmurs against Don's lips.

"Somebody sounds impatient," Don says, kissing the corner of Christian's mouth. He slides his hands between them, pretending they aren't shaking a little as he unbuttons Christian's jeans.

Don's been much more patient than he's had any right to be, Christian thinks. He's not sure he's--well, if he keeps thinking like that, he never will be. It's good to be here with him, like this. It's good. Christian smiles and kisses Don again, moving to lie next to him, both of them stretched out against the deep red comforter.

There are moments when it feels like if Christian were thinking any louder, they'd have a voice-over monologue playing in the apartment with them. They don't last long, but Don still notices, the same way he notices the hitch in Christian's breath---the good kind---when he brushes his fingertip across Christian's nipple. He doesn't want him to think, and he knows it's been too long since Christian had someone who just wanted him to feel, and feel good.

"Tell me what you want," Christian says softly. He slips out of his jeans and his socks, kicking them over the side of the bed. "What do you like?" He slides his hand down Don's chest, glancing down when his fingertips encounter scar tissue and moving away when Don tenses.

"Story for another time," Don says softly, pulling Christian's hand back to his chest. "What do I like? Hmm. I like kissing you." He traces the curve of Christian's lips with his finger. "I like being kissed and the way you touch me. I want..." He can't make himself say it, he's never been good at talking about sex when he could be having it.

"Tell me, and I'll do it," Christian says, his thumb brushing over Don's nipple. "Or show me." He nips at Don's finger, drawing it into his mouth.

Don groans at the way Christian's tongue strokes against his finger, too easy to make the leap to having his mouth other places. "Will you---will you let me suck you off?" he asks.

"I will, if that's what you want," Christian says, releasing Don's finger. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather have me suck you?"

"Are you planning to fall asleep on me when I'm done?" Don asks, running his hand over Christian's hip.

Christian smiles and shakes his head. "No," he says. "No, I'm really not."

"Then let me do this and you can have your way with me after," Don says, fingers circling over Christian's back. He places kisses over Christian's cheek and down over his throat, along his collarbone. "I've been thinking about doing this since the first time we had dinner, about how you'd taste."

Christian tips his head back for Don, reaching out to pull him closer. "Kiss me again," he says softly. "Please?"

"You don't have to ask," Don says, rolling onto his back and drawing Christian with him. Their bodies just fit, and he's missed that as much as he's missed kissing the way Christian does, holding nothing back without being demanding. He lets his hands travel over Christian's skin, rocking his hips up against Christian's.

It's been so long since he's done this, since he's been with someone like this, and there's just something about Don that makes it all fall into place. Christian makes a soft sound into the kiss, moving against Don restlessly, his hands running over Don's back and arms.

"If you keep moving like that," Don says between kisses, holding Christian closer against him. "You keep moving like that and it won't matter who's gonna suck who."

"I've got six years of celibacy to make up for," Christian says, rubbing his cheek against Don's throat. "We'll recover." He rolls his hips, groaning at the feel of it.

"At least---at least let me get my pants off," Don says. He'd settle for open, though, and a hand, either of theirs, wrapped around their cocks. "Have you got lube?"

"I have," Christian says, pulling away so Don can get rid of his pants and he can find the bottle in his nightstand. When he turns back, Don's naked, and Christian pauses for a moment to just look. "Oh, wow," he says softly. "Oh."

It's been a long time since anybody looked at him the way Christian is and Don blushes. "Could say the same thing," he murmurs, reaching for Christian again.

"You were hot at seventeen," Christian says, settling against Don. "You're amazing now." He kisses Don, shifting to feel the slide of skin on skin.

What's amazing is how easily they move together. Don slides his fingers through Christian's hair, over the back of his neck, and it would be easy to think they were kids again if he couldn't feel the shift of muscles more defined and a certainty in the way they're kissing that could only come from experience. He still fumbles with the bottle of lube, though, and he and Christian can't get their hands lined up right the first time, and maybe some things are just essentially them.

"Oh, gods, oh--" Don's hand wraps around their cocks and Christian gasps. He feels ready to come apart, just from this, and it's too early and too soon but he can't even remember the last time he got *himself* off, let alone anyone else doing it for him. "Don--" Christian twists to kiss him, hard and messy.

Don wraps his arm around Christian's back, raising his head from the pillow to meet his mouth. His lips already feel tender, swollen and it's so worth it to hear Christian whimper and groan and to feel him thrust against him, pushing into his hand.

He can't speak, can barely breathe. There's nothing but heat and need and the slick slide of hands on skin, and it's all spiraling tighter and tighter until Christian cries out, everything going white for one long moment.

Don forces his eyes open when Christian shudders against him, needing to see this. All he can think is that Christian is gorgeous, ridiculously so, and he's the one who gets to see him this way, who gets to make him come apart like this. Then there's nothing left for him but Christian coming hot and fast in his hand, his own orgasm building and tearing through him.

For a while - seconds? Hours? Christian has no idea - they just lie there, panting for breath, sticky and sweaty and tangled around each other. Christian's ears are ringing and he thinks he'll be good to stay there for the next year or so, but eventually the need to be clean wins out. "Shower," he says, slurring the word. "C'mon. Clean."

"Tissues," Don says once he cuts through the fog in his brain and the sudden thickening of Christian's accent. "Don' wanna move."

"No. C'mon. You'll like it. Promise." Christian pushes and drags and stumbles, but he gets the two of them out of bed and careening across the floor to the bathroom. "Best reason I bought the place," he says, turning on the water.

"Mmm... yeah, I can see that," Don says, taking in the tub he could probably swim in and the fancy shower. "You know, this is a rock star's bathroom." He can't help teasing a little, especially when he was perfectly happy sprawled in the bed.

"Call me that after I win a Grammy," Christian says, tugging Don under the spray. He kisses Don lazily before reaching for the soap and beginning to get them both clean.

"I don't think I'm going to have to wait long for that," Don says. He moves his hands slowly up and down Christian's sides and along his arms, but submits to being washed. "You're so damned beautiful, you know. That's the only word for it, for you."

"I am not," Christian says, blushing. "Kevin's the sex symbol in our band. Well, mostly."

Don touches his fingers to Christian's chin, keeping him from looking down or away. "I don't care about that. I'm telling you, you're gorgeous," he says. "You should know I don't sleep with anybody who's not at least as pretty as me."

"That must really narrow your pool of possible partners," Christian says, setting the soap down. He slides his hands up Don's chest and over his shoulders, coming up to cup his head and draw him in for a kiss.

Don licks drops of water from Christian's lips, shifting his stance to bring their bodies closer together. He could drown like this and be happy, and it should be impossible. He's pretty sure the drowning part is or he'd have had to work the case, and the second... He doesn't like relationships, but that's what this is, or is becoming.

"Let's go to bed," Christian says finally, reaching back to turn off the water. "You--you can spend the night, right?"

"Yeah," Don says, leaning in for one more kiss before he reaches for a towel. "I don't have to be anywhere tomorrow. I'd been thinking maybe we could---maybe we could spend the day together."

Christian snags his own towel. "I'd like that," he says softly. "I'd like that a lot." He dries off and hangs up his towel, resting his hand in the small of Don's back as they go back to bed.

* * *