Title: Unexpected Gossip 
Author: Joram
Email address: Joram@slashgirl.freeserve.co.uk 
Rating: PG
Pairings: Steve/Jesse (Diagnosis Murder)

Status: complete
Archive: yes
Author's website: www.slashgirl.freeserve.co.uk 

Notes: This is dedicated to Clare for answering my plea to see more 
episodes and for writing such a brilliant story that made me really 
think about Jesse and Steve. As usual this scenario came to me in the 
middle of the night - and on a work day too - but it just insisted on 
being written. 

Feedback gratefully received <g> 

Unexpected Gossip


by Joram




"Oh, he's cute!"

Propping up the wall waiting for his dad to finish his rounds, Steve 
Sloan grinned as he heard one of the two young nurses on the 
admittance desk catch sight of someone. Sticking his head around the 
corner he wasn't surprised to see that it was Jesse Travis who had 
caught her eye. Everyone thought Jesse was cute - even Jess himself 
had been forced to admit on occasion that he came into the cute 
category rather than the stunningly handsome or macho - but it was a 
cute that appealed to everyone. The older women wanted to mother 
him, the younger ones just eyed up that pretty face and body and even 
he thought that his friend was... endearing. In an enthusiastic, 
friendly, puppyish sort of way. Steve was always surprised that 
Jesse wasn't inundated with women throwing themselves at him but 
somehow the younger man seemed to end up as dateless as he did most 
of the time.

Not that his own dateless state either surprised or even particularly 
bothered Steve. His irregular hours as a cop meant that dating was a 
hit and miss affair at the best of times and he had yet to meet a 
woman who would, or could, cope with his schedule. Hell, his wife 
hadn't stood for it and their marriage had been over before he had 
made detective and was still working the slightly more regular hours 
of a beat cop. Besides which, he rarely had any free time that 
wasn't spent with his dad, investigating whatever crime Dr Sloan had 
managed to get himself involved in, or just hanging out with him and 
Amanda and Jesse. There just didn't seem to be enough hours in the 
day to add someone else to the mix and, despite the obvious lack of 
reciprocal sex, if he were totally honest he was quite happy with his 
life the way it was. He was old enough to know how precious close 
friendships were in comparison to the fleeting romances that used to 
characterise his life.

But Jesse ... that was another matter. He was still of an age where 
the dating game seemed all important. Still, perhaps he'd get lucky 
this time. The young nurse seemed rather cute herself - early 20s, 
neat mid-brown hair, pretty face, petite; Steve grinned again - that 
last was a major factor as by no stretch of the imagination could 
Jesse be seen as anything but short, especially compared to him. 
Though Jess always insisted he was compact rather than short. 
_Compact, my ass._ Still, he had to admit that Jess could give him a 
run for his money on the court. Fit and trim but still short, he 
decided, just tall enough for Steve to drape an arm around his 
shoulders comfortably.

His musings were interrupted as the other woman gave a snort of 
laughter. "Don't even think about going there!"

"Why not?" The woman asked the question uppermost in his own 
mind. "He's young, cute, a doctor. No wedding ring..."

"Don't mean a thing, honey. Jesse Travis is taken. Very, very 
taken."

_He was?!_ Steve blinked in surprise. What did this woman know that 
he didn't?

"Shame. So what's she like? Does she work here?"

There was a moment of silence broken by a giggle. "I don't normally 
like to spread gossip..."

_Yeah right,_ thought Steve. The very fact that she said it 
indicated to him that she was someone to whom gossip was lifeblood. 
Indeed, if she was the woman he thought she was Amanda said she was 
one of the biggest gossips in the place. And that took some doing in 
a hospital the size of Community General.

"...but if I don't tell you someone else will. After all, it's no 
secret. The whole place knows."

_It does?_ Steve snorted to himself as he found himself listening 
intently, employing all the techniques he'd learnt on dozens of 
stakeouts to focus on something without appearing conspicuous to 
anyone else around. Jeez, he never thought he'd be staking out the 
nurses station to listen into gossip about Jesse Travis' love life. 
Mind you, he still thought that if the whole place knew about this 
mysterious love of Jesse's life then it was either a fragment of 
their collective imagination or his dad and Amanda didn't know about 
it or else they would have told him. Well, either that or all three 
of them were deliberately keeping it a secret from him and he didn't 
think that was likely. His dad might be able to keep quiet about it, 
even Amanda maybe, but Jesse? Jesse couldn't keep a secret to 
himself to save his life. He was one of the most open and guileless 
people Steve had ever met.

"What?" the younger woman demanded, only too willing to while away a 
fairly slow and boring afternoon with a bit of juicy gossip, 
especially if it involved a cute, albeit apparently ineligible, 
young doctor.

"Well, you know Dr Sloan...."

"Oh, please! You are not telling me it's him!" the younger woman 
interrupted with an incredulous giggle, obviously not meaning it 
seriously.

Steve silently echoed the sentiment. Mark Sloan would die laughing 
if anyone suggested that.

"No. Get real. Not him." The suggestion was shot down 
scornfully. "No, he's more like a surrogate father to Dr Travis. Or 
father-in-law, at any rate."

_Father-in-law?_

"I didn't know Dr Sloan had a daughter."

There was a beat of silence. "He doesn't. Got a son though, Steve. 
A real hunk. He's a cop - homicide detective. You'll probably get 
to meet him sometime, he's around here a lot."

"Travis is gay?"

"Uh-huh."

_What?!_ Steve felt his jaw drop, stunned. They thought he and 
Jesse...? _Jesus! They had got to be kidding._ Where the hell had 
they got that idea from? And everyone thought it? Well, at least 
it explained why Jesse never got dates with any of the nurses, he 
thought a bit hysterically.

_But him and Jesse?! _ 

"Jeez. And they're Out?"

"Well, I don't know about that but they certainly don't hide it."

_Hide what?_

"So Dr Sloan knows. I wonder what he thinks about it."

"Must do. I mean, it's common knowledge that Jesse spends most of 
his time at Dr Sloan's house - and he and his son share the place. 
Figure he's got to know. Hell, if they act like that in public...."

"Like what?"

_Exactly_ Just what the hell did everyone see in their relationship 
that he didn't?

"Oh, they spend all their time together.."

So? Jesse was his best friend. And yeah, they spent most of their 
time together but that was hardly a basis for this gay love-fest that 
they nurses seemed to think was going on. _Was it?_

".... Sloan's real protective...."

_Jesse needed looking after - he was forever getting into trouble on 
his own._

"... touching all the time...."

_They didn't touch that much. Certainly no more than he touched 
either Amanda or his dad, surely?_ And no-one had ever suggested he 
was doing the wild thing with Amanda.

"...And Dr Travis lights up like a Christmas tree every time Sloan 
walks in here."

_He did?_ Na... he would have noticed that. They had to be reading 
way too much into it.

"Whoa.... Certainly sounds like it then. But he's a cop? Must be 
difficult. So what's he like?"

Another giggle. "Yum. Big, good looking. Could arrest me any day."

Steve felt the colour rise in his face at the ensuing laughter. _God!
_ This was getting unbelievable.

"No hope of that though, I suppose. Not with the cute Dr Travis on 
the scene anyway. Man's only got eyes for.... Oh hi, Dr Sloan, Dr 
Travis." 

The tone changed abruptly and Steve felt himself slump against the 
wall bonelessly. His dad and Jesse. Oh man. And he had to face 
them both after listening to that? God, he'd never be able to look 
Jesse in the eye, even if it was total bullshit. Perhaps he should 
tell Jesse... give him a good laugh too. No, on second thoughts, 
he'd save this titbit for an occasion he really wanted to tease 
Jess. This would surely embarrass the hell out of the younger man. 
Certainly had him. 

He shook his head. _How could anyone seriously think he and Jess 
were..._ No way. Jess wasn't gay. He would have noticed. He was 
trained to notice those sorts of things. _'Sides, what the hell 
would Jesse see in him?_

No, it was definitely all their imagination. The good old idea of 
where no gossip exists, create it. And the more scurrilous the 
better. It certainly worked that way at the precinct. He'd heard so 
many wild tales over the years that you'd think there was more vice 
going on in the station than on the streets. This was just the 
same. Jess hadn't got a girlfriend so they just jumped to the 
obvious conclusion. 

Steve pushed himself away from the wall and walked around the corner 
into the admittance area proper, studiously ignoring the two nurses 
now busily making work on the desk.

"Dad. Jesse," he greeted the two men with a nod and a smile.

"Steve! Hey, you got time for dinner?"

Steve felt himself freeze as Jesse greeted him with a bounce and a 
beaming grin. _Oh, Jesus. Obvious?_

* * *

Dr Mark Sloan watched his son in concern. Steve had been acting 
peculiarly for the last couple of weeks. No, not peculiarly exactly 
but certainly not his normal self. True, his caseload had been heavy 
recently but that had never made him act like this before. Distant 
and incommunicative when he was around and around far less than 
normal. Especially at the hospital. If Mark didn't know better he 
would swear that Steve was actively avoiding Community General and, 
by extension, both himself, Jesse and Amanda. Not that he could 
avoid them totally, not living in the same house as the two of them 
did, but something was definitely off. 

And it wasn't just Steve either. Jesse, too, hadn't been his usual 
bouncing, enthusiastic self for a few days. It made him think that 
perhaps there was something wrong between Jess and Steve. He 
thought they might have quarrelled except that it had never happened 
before and Jesse seemed bewildered by it all, as though he didn't 
know what was going on. It both concerned and hurt him to see them so 
at outs. Almost as soon as the two met something had clicked between 
them and they had become real close, closer even than Steve and Jack 
had been. And he had to admit that Jesse had become like a second 
son to him, something he had never expected to happen when he decided 
to go back to teaching interns. Jess was good for him and good for 
Steve, too, bringing some much needed friendship, affection, into the 
cop's life. He would hate to see that at an end.

"Are you alright, son?" he finally asked quietly as the younger man 
settled against the deck rail with a beer.

"Yeah, sure dad. Why?"

"Oh, no reason," he said casually. "You just seem a bit off 
lately. Has something happened?"

Steve shrugged, his gaze seeming to focus on a point three inches 
above Mark's shoulder rather than meeting his eyes. "Works a bitch 
and I'm tired," he explained.

Mark didn't disbelieve him. He knew Steve had been working hard on a 
particularly nasty homicide and he could see the weariness in every 
line of his son's body but he was sure there was more to it than 
that. "Ah."

* * *

_"Ah."_ Steve hated that sound. It was two letters, one short 
syllable but coming out of his dad's mouth it spelt doom. He heard 
it all too often when his father was working with him. It meant that 
that phenomenal detecting brain was beginning to tick and that his 
nose was about to start twitching for clues. 

Damn.

"You haven't, ah, fallen out with Jesse have you?"

Damn and double damn. Why did his dad have to be so blasted acute? 
_No dad,_ he though with angry sarcasm, _I haven't fallen out with 
Jesse. I wish it were that simple. I've fallen in love with Jesse 
and I don't know what to do about it._

Damn that hospital gossip. If he hadn't heard that everything would 
still be alright. It was hearing that that had put the idea into his 
head and once there he couldn't shift it. He had found himself 
checking Jesse out and realising that he *was* cute. Hell, rather 
more than cute. 

And from there it was a real short step to realising just how much of 
his life revolved around Jesse and how much he like it that way.

Hell, hadn't he already decided that short term romances weren't 
worth it, not if it meant spending less time around his friends. And 
that the most important one of those was Jesse Travis. Much as he 
loved her, he didn't have this urge to know where Amanda was all the 
time, to have to see her every day. To resent the time they weren't 
together, even if it was only knowing that they were in the same 
building.

And that was what he felt around Jesse. _God, this was bad. Very 
bad._

"No, I haven't fallen out with Jesse, dad," he answered shortly, 
wishing that his dad would let it rest at that but knowing from a 
lifetime of experience that hell would freeze over first. He would 
just have to hope that he could fudge this, without admitting just 
why he had spent the last two weeks avoiding Jess as much as possible.

To begin with it hadn't been so bad. At first he had dismissed the 
gossip about him and Jess he had overheard at the hospital as just 
that. Unsubstantiated rumour-mongering just for the sake of a bit of 
titillation. Embarrassing but essentially rubbish. But during 
dinner with his dad and Jess he had found himself watching the 
younger man, noticing the way he seemed to light up around him, the 
way he kept looking at Steve, even when talking to Mark, as though to 
drag him into the conversation or as though they were sharing some 
secret. Thinking back, he had realised that Jesse had always done it 
and that he just hadn't noticed before. He also noticed just how 
often he looked at Jess and shared that same look. Walking away from 
the restaurant back to his car he had consciously stopped the urge to 
touch Jess, to drape an arm around his shoulders. Yesterday he 
wouldn't have thought twice about it, he would have just have gone 
and done it, but now....

It had made him think and, over a fairly sleepless night, he had come 
to the conclusion that perhaps he and Jess were acting in a manner 
unbecoming to mere friends, no matter how close. Over the next few 
days, he had begun to pull away from Jesse, feeling uncomfortably 
self-conscious around the younger man. Especially at Community 
General where he felt as though every eye was on them, sniggering 
about their relationship. 

_They didn't have a relationship, damn it!_ He was not gay and 
neither was Jess. He liked women. He'd been married for a while for 
god's sake. Jesse eyed up everything with boobs that moved. They 
were not gay. They couldn't be.

He'd taken to avoiding Jesse, convinced that after a few days and a 
bit of distance he'd be able to look at their relationship - their 
_friendship,_ damn it - in a new light. Or at least go back to 
looking at it in the old light. But it hadn't happened. He had 
found himself watching Jesse all the time they were together, 
conscious of his every move, his every smile. Especially those that 
weren't directed at him. He discovered that he even hated it every 
time Amanda hugged the younger man - and she seemed to do it a lot. 
It was then that the startling revelation that he was jealous was 
dragged kicking and screaming to the front of his mind.

After that he started avoiding Jesse even more, unwilling to deal 
with that thought and all it implied, grateful for the first time 
when the captain assigned him a particularly nasty murder, one that 
his father had yet to involve himself in. It gave him the excuse to 
work long hours, to only come home long enough to grab a hasty meal 
and a few hours sleep. Not that he was sleeping too well. His mind 
wouldn't shut down. It kept going over and over his relationship 
with Jesse, interspersed briefly with facts from the case and visions 
of blood stained corpses. It didn't make for restful nights and the 
less sleep he had the fewer defences he had against thoughts of 
Jess. A couple of days ago, after an aborted date with a girl he had 
met on the beach, he had finally admitted it.

He was in love with Jesse Travis. And he didn't know what the hell 
he was going to do about it.

Steve shook himself out of his thoughts, suddenly conscious that he 
was picking the label off his beer bottle and shredding it. And that 
his dad was looking at him with _that_ look in his eyes, the one that 
said I know you're hiding something from me and I'm going to find out 
what.

"Sorry, dad what did you say? I was wool-gathering," he tried to ask 
casually.

"Oh. I was just wondering.... You haven't been around much lately 
and Jesse has been a bit down. I thought you might have had a fight."

"No," the denial was quick, "I've just had a lot of work on. 
Haven't had as much time as usual to see Jess," he added in 
explanation, sure that he had already told his dad that once already 
tonight.

"Oh, that's okay then. Just thought I might be able to help if there 
was something wrong between the two of you," Mark said guilelessly.

"Dad!" Steve growled. "There is nothing wrong between me and Jess. 
How many times do I have to say that? I've been busy and before you 
ask I have no idea why Jesse has been down. Okay?"

"Okay," Mark agreed quietly. Obviously Steve wasn't going to say 
anything else. Not yet anyway.

"Fine," Steve affirmed sharply, setting his beer bottle down on the 
table. "No if you'll excuse me I've got a few things I've got to 
do. Not sure when I'll be home."

_Oh great, Steve. Just run away, why don't you?_ He thought 
savagely as he strode away from the house. _You have got to get over 
this._

* * *

_What are you running away from, Steve?_ The thought ran through 
Mark Sloan's head as he watched his son retreat from the house they 
shared at speed. He had racked his brain over the last few days and 
the only conclusion he had come to was that it involved Jesse 
somehow. His conversation with Steve, short and uninformative though 
it was, had only confirmed that belief.

Jesse and Steve were friends. Hell, he thought they were more than 
friends. Or at least getting there. He'd always secretly hoped that 
perhaps Steve and Amanda would get together but then Amanda met Colin 
Livingstone and ended that dream. 

And then Jesse Travis came on the scene and a whole new idea was 
born. Seeing Steve and Jesse together had convinced him that they 
were so right for each other. It might not be conventional and it 
certainly wouldn't produce him any grandchildren - though it seemed 
that Amanda was going to give him some surrogate ones anyway - but it 
was perfect. They meshed together so seamlessly. Jesse gave Steve 
back some of the youthful joy in life - not that Steve was joyless, 
not by any means but he had a grim job at times and few close 
friends, and the closest of those, Jack Stewart, had gone, moved to 
Colorado. Mark had had visions of his son slowly slipping towards 
dour middle age. 

Jesse also gave Steve something he needed more than anything else, 
something fundamental to his son's very make-up: his need to protect 
and look after someone. Something that had been missing - at least 
on a personal level - since his sister had walked out of their lives 
some years ago. 

The relationship wasn't one sided either. Steve gave Jesse some much 
needed stability in his life. Part of that came from the age 
difference of course but Jesse had had a difficult childhood: his 
parents' divorce and the subsequent estrangement with his father and 
he needed some steadiness in his life. To some degree Mark provided 
the parental influence - something he was only too happy to do even 
if it hadn't been for Steve. And Steve provided the rest.

Jesse worshipped the ground Steve walked on, albeit unknowingly. And 
Steve, although considerably less obvious about it, returned the 
favour.

Mark was also well aware, however, that Steve didn't have any 
experience with men. Or as well aware as any parent could be and he 
was pretty darn certain that he could say the same for Jesse. But 
that didn't really matter because he was also pretty darn sure that 
they were falling in love with each other, even if they didn't know 
it yet. He was a good judge of character; he'd spent most of his 
life weighing up people and digging up things they thought were 
hidden or wanted to keep that way, and was used to putting two and 
two together and coming up with the right answer. He had never 
consciously thought to see his son in a gay relationship but now that 
he was faced with the possibility of it he was wholeheartedly in 
favour of it. He was in favour of anything that made Steve happy and 
he was sure that Jesse was the one person to make him so.

The problem was something had gone wrong between them. Steve was in 
full lock-down mode - something he hadn't seen since his brief 
marriage failed - and Jesse was just plain miserable. Something had 
to be done but until he knew what he was trying to fix be couldn't 
come up with a solution.

_So treat it like a case, Mark. You have two suspects. One is 
uncooperative. So go ask the other._ He needed to see what light 
Jesse could shed on this matter.

* * *

"Mark?" Jesse opened his apartment door and stared at surprise at 
the man standing on his doorstep. Whilst he seemed to spend most of 
his time either at the hospital or at the older man's beach house, he 
couldn't remember a time that Mark had actually visited his 
apartment, though surely he must have done, at least once.

"Hello, Jesse. Can I come in?"

"What? Oh, sure." Jesse stepped back in some confusion, waving Mark 
through to the living room. "Take a seat," he offered, following 
the doctor through, wishing that the place were a little neater. The 
beach house was always so immaculate that he felt ashamed of his own 
untidy sprawl and he had to resist the urge to tidy up. He 
compromised by gathering together the mess of papers strewn over the 
couch and dumping them on a side table.

"This is a surprise. What can I do for you?" he finally asked, 
plopping down in his own armchair.

"Sorry to drop in like this, Jesse," Mark said apologetically. "But 
I wanted to talk to you about Steve." He could almost see the 
animation drain out of the younger man as we watched.

"What about Steve?" Jesse didn't bother to deny that there was 
something wrong by very virtue of the question he didn't ask.

Mark shrugged. "You tell me. Because he certainly isn't talking to 
me."

"Me, either," Jesse said more bleakly than he meant to but then 
perhaps realising how that sounded added, "he has been busy at the 
station lately. Perhaps he's just tired."

Mark rubbed a thumb between his brows. "That's what he says but I 
don't believe it, do you? If I didn't know better I'd say he's 
avoiding us..."

"You, too?" Jesse broke in, a spark of something Mark didn't 
recognise coming into his face momentarily.

"Yup. He's hardly at home and when he is he's.... quiet."

"I thought it was just me." This time Mark recognised the breath of 
relief that appeared in Jesse's voice. "I mean... I know I irritate 
him sometimes but if it's both of us, it can't be .... I mean it's 
not something I've done. Or at least I hope it isn't. Don't think 
it is. I mean... I didn't mean... Have you talked to Amanda about 
this?" Jesse cut off his babblings before he could say too much. 
Mark was far too sharp to babble around.

"Not yet," Mark answered, intrigued by what Jesse was trying not to 
say. "But I talked to Steve earlier - tried to anyway - and I get 
the feeling that it's not her that he's got a problem with. I think 
it's you." He said it as gently as he could but he could see the way 
that the statement devastated the younger man. If he didn't spell it 
out though, Jesse would probably meander all around the topic, not 
really saying anything and Mark had the distinct feeling, largely 
unsubstantiated though it was, that Jesse knew exactly what the 
problem was. 

"Have you quarrelled lately? Fallen out over something?" He tried 
the same questions that he had asked his son, hoping that Jesse would 
be a little more forthcoming than Steve, would admit to a problem 
between them. Instead of answering, however, Jesse came to his feet, 
pacing restlessly around the small apartment, eventually coming to 
rest leaning on the back of his chair. Mark could see the thoughts 
chasing across his expressive face and several times Jesse opened his 
mouth to speak but then stopped himself at the last minute.

"What's really wrong, son?" Mark cut to the heart of the matter and 
one glance at his face deflated Jesse.

He sat down with a thump, his head dropping in his hands. "I don't 
know," he mumbled despondently once more, still denying what he know 
to be truth: that Steve despised him.

Mark rested a hand on his shoulder for a moment before moving back to 
sit opposite him. Making a quick decision he decided to take a 
chance, to meddle where perhaps he oughtn't. Where he had always 
promised himself he wouldn't. 

"Do you know, I heard some interesting gossip at the hospital the 
other day," he began casually, watching Jesse intently. Had the 
younger man heard what was being said about him and Steve? Jesse had 
never acted as though he had - he wore his heart and emotions on his 
sleeve and found it almost impossible to hide anything - part of the 
reason why everyone at Community General were so convinced that he 
and Steve were a couple - but if he hadn't heard it, he must be 
almost the only person who hadn't. Mark wasn't too sure if Norman 
knew - it was difficult to tell with Norman sometimes - but if he 
had, he obviously didn't hold it against Jesse for whom, despite 
apparent evidence to the contrary, Mark was convinced he held a 
sneaking soft spot. Just like everyone else. It was difficult not 
too.

Jesse looked up at him, elbows on knees, hands still snarled in 
tousled hair. "Really?" he asked, confusion and curiosity warring on 
his face at this seeming change of direction.

_So he doesn't know,_ Mark surmised, the innocent look too guileless 
to have been put on - at least by Jesse. He sat back, hands steepled 
on the arms of his chair.

"Yes," he said contemplatively. "It seems that the nurses - most of 
the staff, in fact - believe that you are spoken for."

"Spoken for?" Jesse echoed blankly.

"Otherwise engaged. Off the market," Mark clarified helpfully as he 
saw the bewilderment deepen on Jesse's face. "In a steady romantic 
relationship. With Steve," he added almost as though it were an 
afterthought.

There was a moment of frozen silence and then he saw the colour rush 
into Jesse's face a moment before Jesse dropped his face into his 
hands, his shoulders hunched.

"Oh shit!" the mumble was heartfelt - and heartbroken. "I'm 
sorry.... Oh shit.... I'm sorry.... God, I didn't..." Jesse was 
babbling again, his face still buried in his hands. Mark's heart 
went out to him.

"Jesse.... Jess!" His voice cut through the babbling and he leaned 
forward, hands resting compassionately on the younger man's 
shoulders. "It's alright, son." He ignored both the flinch and the 
frantic headshake. "It's only gossip...."

"I know. It's not.... We're not...." Jesse broke in, desperately 
trying to reassure the older man of the falseness of the rumours 
without giving anything away. _God, how had everyone known?_ Not 
that there was anything to know. And never would be, except in his 
own fantasies. And even he hadn't know til recently. Until Steve 
started avoiding him, going cold on him and he realised how much he 
missed the older man, how miserable he was without him around. It 
had forced him to examine his feelings, to discover why his life 
seemed so empty suddenly, and he realised, to his horror, that it was 
because he was in love with Steve. And Steve must have worked it out 
and that was why he didn't want anything to do with him anymore. It 
made Jesse feel even worse: he was in love with Steve and he had 
driven the man away - so far away that he couldn't even consider 
Jesse his friend anymore.

And, almost worse, what would this do to Mark? To his relationship 
with the man he wished was his father? Mark didn't seem too upset at 
the moment but it must have shocked him, hurt him, to hear his son 
talked about in that way, even if he didn't really believe it. It 
wasn't everyday - or at least he hoped it wasn't everyday, he thought 
with morbid humour - that a man heard his son was gay. In a steady 
relationship with his best friend. A man whom he himself had taken 
under his wing, made a part of his family. Mark adored Steve, must 
know that he was straight. Which meant that he must think that it 
was all Jesse's fault. That there was no smoke with fire and that 
Jesse really was gay. Really did wish Steve was his lover. 

Which he did. _Oh hell!_

How could Mark.....? After his everything was finished. It had to 
be.

"Jesse.... Jesse...." Mark shook the shoulders still in his hands 
and then let go, moving back only minutely, as Jesse finally lifted 
his head, his face pale and stricken. "It's alright, son," he 
repeated as reassuringly as he could. "I know it's only gossip - 
that you and Steve aren't together."

Jesse said nothing, just listened intently as the older man reassured 
him that it wasn't his fault he and Steve were the subject of 
hospital gossip That it didn't bother him, that it rather amused him 
actually. Jesse felt the tightness in his throat and chest ease as 
he let Mark's words wash over him. Perhaps he hadn't given himself 
away, after all. Perhaps Mark would help him put it right with 
Steve... convince him that Jesse wasn't really in love with him. 
Make everything better. Just as fathers were meant to.

He managed a tentative smile, a sickly echo of his normal grin, but 
it was a start.

".... Aren't together. But you'd like to be. You *are* in love with 
him, aren't you, Jesse?"

The smile vanished abruptly along with all colour in his face.

_Oh God! He was dead._

Jesse gazed at him miserably, all artifice stripped away, and nodded 
numbly. He couldn't lie to Mark Sloan, not even about this. Had 
never lied to him before, at least not when it mattered. Sure, he'd 
done it when he wanted to wheedle something out of him but then he'd 
done it in the sure and certain knowledge that Mark would see 
straight through him. Now, however... well, now mattered.

"Steve knows, doesn't he? And he hates me," he said hopelessly.

"Oh, I doubt that, Jesse," Mark told him. "I doubt that very much."

"Then why's he avoiding me?" Jesse pointed out logically.

Mark sat back. "I don't...." he broke off suddenly, a gleam of 
realisation coming into his eyes. "No, actually, I think I do know 
why." He smiled suddenly, the pieces coming together at last, 
explaining Steve's inexplicable behaviour of the last two weeks. 
He'd thought it himself earlier but hadn't put it together. The only 
other time Steve had been in lock-down mode was during his marriage - 
when he had retreated from the problems he and his wife were having 
by throwing himself into his work. He'd still loved her then and 
he'd run away from the pain. Just as he had now. With Jesse. It 
all fit. Especially as Mark knew damn well that Steve was falling 
for Jesse. From an outside perspective, even a close one such as 
his, it had been obvious that that was what was happening. Steve 
must finally have realised it somehow - and was trying to cope with 
it the only way he knew how. The way most people dealt with it. By 
avoiding it as much as possible. And he obviously didn't realise 
that Jesse was in love with him too, although all the signs were 
there to see clearly. Mark was surprised by that - Steve was just as 
good an observer of people as he was - but when it came to himself 
and his own relationships....well, it was always more difficult to 
look at yourself objectively.

"I think he's been avoiding you because he's in love with you, too. 
And now he knows it he doesn't know what to do about it," he told 
the younger man, a sense of satisfaction at another mystery solved 
pervading him.

Jesse looked at him with pathetic hope in his gaze. "You really 
think that?" he asked. 

"Uh-huh, I'm certain of it."

"So what do I do? Hold on a minute," Jesse suddenly jerked upright, 
his fair skin turning an interesting shade of scarlet. _This was 
Steve's dad he was talking to!_ About his lovelife, or lack 
thereof, with his son. What was he thinking of?

"Uh, Mark," he said hesitantly. "You don't seem too, uh, upset about 
this...." Jesse trailed away, not sure whether to be even more 
confused or just more anxious.

Mark laughed softly. "Well, do you know, Jesse, that's probably 
because I'm not."

"You're not?"

"No." It was said with amusement and a definite headshake.

"That's great," Jesse decided uncertainly. "But... I don't 
understand. It doesn't bother you that I'm... that Steve might.... 
that we..." He couldn't force himself to put it into words.

The headshake was repeated just as decisively.

"Okay." It was said with a kind of startled disbelief. The whole 
conversation felt unreal to Jesse and he was sure that any minute now 
he'd wake up in bed or discover that he had gone to sleep in the 
doctors' lounge at work, except that he was sure his dreams had never 
taken this twist before. They tended to be rather more technicolor 
and involved Steve in interesting positions rather than his dad. 
Even the nightmares hadn't included many scenarios with Mark - and 
certainly not this one!

Watching the confusion sweep over Jesse, Mark took pity on him and 
explained. "No, I don't mind, don't mind, at all. In fact, I was 
kinda hoping this would happen."

Jesse's mouth opened and closed a few times as he did a very good 
impression of a startled goldfish. This was getting more surreal by 
the moment. Mark couldn't have just said what Jesse thought he had, 
surely?

"Okay, I'm confused," he admitted. "Let me get this straight. I'm 
in love with Steve. *Your son.* You say Steve is in love with me. 
And you hoped it would happen." Jesse laid out the three statements 
flatly.

"Yes." A smile and a nod accompanied the one word.

"Shit." 

Mark laughed aloud. "I've seen Steve almost everyday since he moved 
in. Same as I've seen you. It didn't take a genius to see that the 
two of you had feelings for each other. Lord, even the nursing staff 
did, and they don't see nearly of much of you two together as I do. 
As to hoping...," he shrugged. "Well, it wasn't what I had in mind 
for Steve when he was growing up but I can't think of anyone else I'd 
rather see him with now. You either. Jesse, you are so right for 
each other."

"Wow. I don't know what to say. Mark..." He shook his head 
disbelievingly. "I don't know... Thank you."

"Right, so now that's cleared up, we need to work on Steve." Taking 
pity on Jesse's fragile hold over his emotions - he really didn't 
want to see him cry, for whatever reason - Mark changed the subject 
briskly. 

"*Right.* So, any ideas?" Jesse asked hopefully, his own mind 
totally blank. He had never expected this to happen. He had 
absolutely no idea how to get another man to admit to his feelings - 
he wasn't sure he knew how to do it with a woman, either - and at 
least he had some experience with that.

"Oh, I think I need to have another talk with Steve," Mark 
mused. "Why don't you come on over to the house when your shift 
finishes tomorrow," he suggested, climbing to his feet.

Jesse dogged his heels to the apartment door.

"Don't worry, Jesse," he said, pausing in the open doorway to squeeze 
the younger man's shoulder reassuringly. "It'll all work out just 
fine, son. You just be there and leave the rest up to me."

And with that he was gone leaving Jesse standing in his doorway 
grinning like a loony. _Ah, hell, perhaps everything would work out 
fine. That's what dads did, after all._

* * *
"Dad? Can I talk to you?" 

Mark looked up in surprise at his son hovering above him, a coffee 
cup clutched in either hand. "Sure," he invited, flicking off the tv 
and patting the seat beside him on the sofa. He'd heard Steve come 
in a while ago but hadn't really expected to see him again tonight - 
it was almost midnight now - not with the mood he had been in 
earlier. He took the mug Steve handed him and then sat back, 
watching his son as he settled into the opposite corner of the sofa. 
A few minutes of not entirely comfortable silence stretched between 
them as each determinedly sipped at the piping hot coffee before Mark 
spoke up.

"So, what did you want to talk about?" he prompted, realising that 
Steve was not going to start on his own.

Steve took another mouthful of coffee, delaying the inevitable need 
to actually speak, grimacing as it burnt his tongue. After he had 
slammed out earlier, he had found himself driving around aimlessly 
and then, once he had discovered that he was automatically driving 
the route to Community General, finally found himself a bar to sit 
in. He'd spent a couple of hours in a dark back-booth staring into a 
solitary beer as his mind went over and over the problem. _What the 
hell was he going to do about his feelings for Jesse?_ 

He'd already determined that he was in love with Jess. No question 
about that. But the thought of actually doing anything about it 
terrified the life out of him. It wasn't so much the physical, even 
though he had never so much as even considered another guy before, he 
could deal with that. Sex was, after all, ultimately just that and 
he had enough, and fairly eclectic, experience both solo and with 
women to know that there wasn't much else that Jesse was likely to 
want. 

What had him running scared was the thought of a relationship and the 
implications of it, not only on his career but also his family and 
friends. Well, that and the over-riding fear that Jesse didn't 
return his feelings, that all of his soul-searching was for nothing. 

His track record with relationships wasn't great: a broken marriage 
and a string of short-term girlfriends and they hadn't even foundered 
under the added pressure of what was still considered to be an 
abnormal relationship by the vast majority of people. An honest 
assessment of his life, however, had tossed up the fact that he 
already was in a relationship with Jesse, a close one, and had been 
for a long time. Before everything they were friends and had seen 
each other at both best and worst. There was probably very little 
that Jess didn't already know about him, or he Jesse.

Which brought him to his second concern: the effect of being in a 
gay relationship on his job and family. Concerns that Jesse, too, 
would be faced with. Their careers were a major part of their lives, 
being a doctor and a cop wasn't just what they did, it was a part of 
who they were and losing that.... But the hospital staff apparently 
already thought that Jesse was gay and, as far as Steve could see, 
there had never been any repercussions. One of them would have 
surely noticed that. Which left his own job. Being a gay cop was 
always reputed to be an almost impossible situation to be in but 
officially the PD could take no action, particularly as his partner 
was not on the force. Unofficially, harassment was a potential 
hazard but it was something he decided he was prepared to deal with. 
He was not going to let himself be intimidated by anyone just because 
he happened to be in love with Jesse.

At which point another thought had suddenly crossed his mind - the 
station was no less of a gossip-shop than the hospital, perhaps more 
so. It wasn't inconceivable then that his colleagues, like Jesse's, 
already thought they were together. Jess was almost as frequent a 
visitor to the station as he was to Community General. If that were 
so it meant he didn't have anything to worry about either. It was a 
good thought to hold onto.

A couple of hours in the bar and a great deal of hard thought later, 
Steve had concluded that he was prepared to deal with any 
consequences and problems that might arise if only he could be with 
Jesse. Which left two problems: his - *their* - family, namely Mark 
and Amanda, and, secondly, most important of all, did Jess love 
him, too?

Which were two questions he didn't know how to answer. And the only 
person he could think of that might be able to help was his dad. 
That conclusion reached, he had left the bar, beer still undrunk, and 
then proceeded to drive around aimlessly for almost another hour 
before forcing himself to go home.

_Just how did you talk to your dad about your love-life?_ Especially 
when it was a gay relationship.

He took a deep breath. _Here goes._

"Dad, I've got a problem and I don't know what to do." _State the 
obvious, why don't you, Steve?_ he thought bitingly as he tried to 
screw up the nerve to say more. Mark Sloan was probably one of the 
least prejudiced people he had ever met but knowing that didn't 
matter this any easier.

"Let me guess - Jesse." It was a simple statement and it took the 
wind right out of Steve's sails.

"Jesse," he acknowledged ruefully. "That obvious, huh?" He wasn't 
sure whether to be grateful to his dad for bringing it up or 
embarrassed that he needed to be coaxed like a five year old - a five 
year old who had fallen out with his bestest friend in the world and 
who had run home to daddy to make it better. _Jesus, he felt 
pathetic sometimes._

Mark nodded. "Fraid so. You've been avoiding him and Jesse has been 
miserable, too."

_He had?_ That was news to Steve and it made him feel vaguely 
ashamed. He'd been so wrapped up in himself, wrestling with his 
feelings and fears, that he hadn't noticed Jesse or that anything was 
wrong with him. He'd just assumed that Jess had been going along as 
normal, a bit quieter than usual, perhaps, but that was all. The 
fact that Jesse had been miserable, however, also gave him a ray of 
hope that perhaps his feelings weren't so one-sided after all.

"Yeah, well, it's not a problem with Jesse exactly," he started, 
still not sure how exactly to put it into words. _Dad, I'm in love 
with Jesse_ still seemed a bit blunt somehow. "More like, about 
Jesse and me. Our relationship. What it is... where it's going." 
The last was said almost inaudibly as Steve once more hid behind his 
coffee mug.

"Steve, you do know that I would never stand in the way of you being 
happy, don't you? No matter how unconventional a relationship was," 
Mark told him sincerely. _Surely Steve must know by know that his 
children's happiness was paramount to him?_

Steve stared at him through narrowed eyes over the top of his mug. 
_He couldn't know, could he?_

"Dad, what are you trying to say?" he asked sharply.

Mark just looked at him. _Couldn't either of them just come out and 
say it?_ Steve wasn't a child anymore but he ought to know that he 
could still say anything to him and that Mark wouldn't judge him for 
it, would support him in every way he could. 

_Oh God, he was going to have to say it._ Putting his mug firmly 
down on the table, well out of fiddling reach, Steve gritted his 
teeth and forced himself to say it, looking anywhere but at his 
father as he did so.

"I love him. Jesse."

The moment before Mark replied was one of the longest and most 
anxious in Steve's life.

"I know," Mark replied calmly and was interested to note that when 
Steve's head whipped round to face him that he did almost as good an 
impression of a startled goldfish as Jesse. Turned the same 
interesting shade of red, too.

"You know," Steve echoed blankly. "Dad, I don't think you get it. 
I don't just love Jess, I'm in love with him."

"I know," Mark repeated. Seeing the stupefaction still written 
clear on his son's face he shuffled along the sofa and laid a 
reassuring hand on Steve's arm. "Did you really think it would 
bother me?"

"I... er... I..." Steve fumbled for words. "Well, yeah. The thought 
had crossed my mind," he admitted. "Jesse's not exactly the normal 
sort of date I bring home," he added ironically.

"No, he's not," Mark agreed. "For a start I like him a lot better 
than your normal sort..."

The grin they shared was free from any strain but Steve still felt 
somewhat incredulous. He couldn't believe he was having this 
conversation with his dad. 

"... and I know he won't break your heart. He's head over heels in 
love with you too."

"He is?" Steve asked, hope warring with uncertainty in his tone.

Mark looked at him with fond indulgence. "Of course he is."

"You're sure?"

"Have you ever known me to be wrong?" he asked rhetorically. "Okay, 
don't answer that," he added hastily seeing Steve open his 
mouth. "Just trust me on this. Jesse is in love with you, no 
question about it."

Mark was amused to see Steve bounce up from the sofa, a big grin 
stretching across his face and start to pace around as though he 
couldn't bear to sit still any longer. He couldn't remember seeing 
Steve quite so up in a long time.

"Keys... keys..." Steve muttered to himself, patting at his pockets, 
his only thought to get to Jesse now.

"Ah, Steve, where are you going?"

Steve looked at him as though it were obvious. "To Jesse's."

"Then I'd wait until tomorrow if I were you. Jesse's got the long 
shift tomorrow and it's well after midnight now," he explained as 
Steve continued to look at him.

Steve looked at his watch sheepishly. "Ah, yeah. You might be right 
there." 

"If you can wait til tomorrow..." Mark couldn't help the little 
dig. "I'll ask Jesse to come over here once his shift is over. You 
can talk then. Or whatever," he added with a barely concealed smirk.

"Dad!" Steve glared at him but couldn't help his lips twitching with 
laughter. "I'm going to bed," he decided, knowing that he had a long 
day at work himself tomorrow but more so that he could hug the 
knowledge that tomorrow he could be hugging Jesse instead.

He paused at the doorway. "Thanks, dad."

* * *

"Hey, Jess."

Squinting against the evening sunshine, Jesse looked around as he 
heard his name called and saw Steve coming across the beach towards 
him. The cop had obviously just got off duty because he was still 
wearing his work clothes, his gun holstered at his waist.

"Hi." He smiled back as the older man stopped a few feet behind him, 
feeling unaccountably shy and awkward, nerves threatening to gag him 
now that Steve was here. Not that he hadn't been feeling nervous all 
day, because he had. For once it had been a reasonably quiet day at 
Community General, no major disasters or emergencies cropping up, a 
day spent on patient care and follow-ups for the most part, but Jesse 
didn't know whether he was relieved by that or not. 

Despite, or perhaps because of the impending meeting with Steve 
today - _God, it sounds like a trip to the firing squad_ - he'd got 
precious little decent sleep the previous night. His talk with Mark 
had disturbed all the emotions that he thought he'd begun to deal 
with and turned them all on their head, leaving him swinging between 
painful hope, visions of rosy futures and absolute, panicked 
terror. He'd half hoped that a busy day in the hospital would push 
all his anxieties out of his head for a few hours but he was self-
aware enough to know that his fretting would probably have been 
detrimental to his work so that a quiet day, although leaving plenty 
of time to think, was probably no bad thing.

And fret he had. Heading back to his apartment to change after his 
shift ended, he had almost given into the temptation to lock the door 
and stay hidden there, an impulse that had risen again when he turned 
into Mark's driveway and realised that Steve wasn't yet home. It was 
what had driven him out here onto the beach, the place he always 
headed to when he was in trouble or needed space to think. Something 
about the water and the long stretch of sand calmed him and helped 
put his problems in perspective. 

And it was the one place Steve always found him. He'd lost count of 
the number of times Steve had followed him down to the beach and with 
a few words, sometimes only a sympathetic ear and a one-armed hug, 
had made things all right. Maybe not solved the problem but it had 
never failed to make Jesse feel better about it. He just hoped that 
this time would be the same. That Mark had been right.

They stood looking at each other awkwardly for a minute, neither 
knowing quite where to start and then Jesse broke the silence, unable 
to take it any longer.

"So," he said too brightly, "how's the case going?" _Oh, great 
opener, Jess._

"Ah... okay," Steve answered blankly, ignoring the fact that the 
case was going nowhere as irrelevant. At that moment in time he 
didn't give a damn about the case or anything, except Jesse.

"Oh, good." Jesse turned away, hands thrust into pockets, 
desperately trying to find the words to say something, anything, to 
Steve. It had all seemed so easy in his mind last night, he'd 
visualised this scene so many times. He had this whole great script 
worked out, all the elegant phrases designed to declare undying love 
and to hear Steve return it - and here he was, hiding out on the 
beach unable to even string even a normal conversation together.

Steve cleared his throat. "There's something I want to talk to you 
about. Do you wanna..." he gestured towards the house as Jesse 
looked at him.

"Sure." 

As Jesse walked past him, Steve wanted to drop an arm around his 
shoulders but he didn't dare touch Jesse yet. Seeing him on the 
beach, a slim, solitary figure against a backdrop of sea and late sun 
had stirred him more than he wanted to think about now and the urge 
to grab Jess in his arms and kiss him senseless right out in the open 
where anyone could see them was almost irresistible. But first they 
needed to talk and he needed to know, from Jesse himself, whether he 
would be welcome to do that.

As they reached the beach house, Jesse stayed out on the deck, 
leaning against the rail as Steve went inside to dump his gun and his 
badge on a table before coming to stand in the doorway.

"Jesse...."

"Steve...."

They spoke together and then stopped, staring at each other once more 
until Jesse gestured for Steve to continue, secretly grateful not to 
have to say anything just yet. "You first."

Steve took a steadying breath. "I've been a bit... pre-occupied 
this last couple of weeks. I wanted to say I'm sorry for, well, not 
being around much, for ignoring you."

Jesse shrugged, not really wanting to dwell on the last 
week. "That's okay. I understand. You've been busy..."

"That's no excuse. The truth is, I was avoiding you deliberately," 
Steve admitted shamefacedly, feeling even more of a heel as he saw 
Jesse flinch. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you but I had some 
things on my mind and I needed to think about them."

"And you didn't want me around distracting you," Jesse concluded for 
him, feeling his heart sink.

"Well, yeah but, well, not the way that sounded," Steve hastened to 
explain. He moved forward and leant on the rail beside Jesse, 
wanting to be close enough to touch but settling at arms' length. "I 
heard some things that threw me and I needed to get it straight in my 
head. Things about you and me."

Jesse looked away, unwilling to meet his eyes, gazing out blankly 
over the beach. "Things you heard at the hospital?" he asked almost 
inaudibly, knowing the answer already but praying that it wasn't so. 
He didn't mind it really but it was just.... Embarrassing really, 
knowing they were being talked about. Their love-life dissected over 
coffee and chocolate digestives. Especially as they didn't have 
one. Yet.

Steve nodded. "Yeah."

"Oh."

"I take it you heard, too."

"Mark told me...."

"Dad told you?!" Steve wasn't sure whether to be incredulous or 
embarrassed. _His dad had known?_

"I'm sorry...."

"Don't be," Steve broke in quickly, shelving the topic of his dad 
for later consideration. Much later. Sorry was the last thing he 
wanted Jesse to be. "Thing is, it made me think, hearing what 
everyone was saying about us. Made me face something I didn't want 
to deal with."

"That's okay, Steve. You don't have to say anything else..." Jesse 
interrupted him again hastily, not wanting to hear Steve say anything 
more. He'd said enough, he didn't want to hear the _Well, Jesse I 
know you love me but_... speech that he was sure Steve was building 
up to. He could live with it so long as Steve didn't actually say 
the words. Mark had obviously been mistaken about Steve's feelings. 
He shifted, pushing himself away from the rail, telling himself that 
the tight feeling in his throat wasn't really tears. This was not 
how he'd imagined this. Steve was supposed to sweep in and tell him 
that he loved him, that he wanted a relationship, a forever kind of 
relationship, not hover awkwardly half way across the deck and say 
that he was facing something he didn't want to deal with.

"Jesse, hold on," Steve said quickly, not caring that it sounded 
like begging. "Just hear me out, okay. Please?" _God, please don't 
let him walk out on me now._

After a long moment Jesse subsided back against the rail and Steve 
let out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding. 

"Thanks," he said softly. "I have to tell you.... I was such a 
bastard because I realised that... that... Hell," he stumbled over 
saying it. He knew that he loved Jess and he was pretty damn certain 
that Jesse was in love with him ,too, but there was still this 
niggling doubt. What if he had been deluding himself? Reading more 
into it than there really was? Jesse was young, enthusiastic, 
especially about people he was close to. Perhaps he hadn't meant his 
behaviour to show what it had.... But he'd come this far. Even if 
it turned out to be false hope, he had to know whether Jesse returned 
his feelings. And if he didn't, well then at least he would know and 
he could start planning how to deal with it. How to keep Jesse in 
his life if only as friends.

"I love you, Jesse. I'm in love with you." He waited for a response 
but Jesse said nothing, just stared at him with a dumbstruck 
expression on his face. "It scared the shit out of me," Steve 
continued after a moment. "I've never even so much a looked at 
another guy before and it really spooked me. I didn't know what to 
do to make it go away. Or even if I wanted it to." He sneaked 
another look at Jesse. "Say _something,_ Jesse," he pleaded.

Jesse finally turned to face him properly. "You love me," he echoed, 
staring at Steve as though he didn't believe what he was hearing.

Steve moved closed, reaching out and daring to cup his face 
momentarily, a thumb rubbing down his cheekbone before being 
withdrawn. "I love you. You're.... Jess, I don't know what you are 
but when I tried to stay away from you... I don't know, it felt like 
I was only half alive. I missed you. Hell, I couldn't get you out 
of my mind, kept thinking about you all the time. Even when I was 
trying to figure the case out," he added with a whimsical smile.

"No wonder it took you so long," Jesse shot at him, the faint smile 
on his face gradually expanding until he was beaming at the other 
man, hardly believing what he was finally hearing. Steve could almost 
see him beginning to bounce.

"Jess," he prompted, finally certain that he hadn't read it wrong, 
that Jesse did love him too. "Something you want to tell me?"

"Oh, this is good... great. I mean, I know your dad said that, well, 
you know but... I never really thought..."

"Jess!" Despite his anxiety, Steve laughed. It was really good to 
see Jesse back to normal. Although he had been trying to avoid the 
younger man, he had noticed that Jesse had been subdued, not his 
normal happy self. He just hadn't connected it with him, though, 
until his dad's not so subtle prompting made him realise it.

"What? Oh, yeah." The grin faded, leaving Jesse serious once more, 
though Steve thought he could detect a hint of a sappy smile peaking 
through. "You mean this love thing?" he teased.

Steve nodded. "That's the one," he replied light-heartedly, smile 
widening as he felt Jesse's hand coming to rest on his arm.

"Scared the shit out of me, too," Jesse admitted. "It still scares 
the hell out me. I thought you'd discovered how I felt - that I loved 
you, and I do by the way," he added, the smile breaking out in full 
again. "Just thought I'd better tell you that now," he teased, a 
faint blush tingeing his cheeks. "You know, I don't think I've ever 
said that to anyone and really meant it before."

"Good." Steve interjected possessively.

"Of course, none of them were my best friends either. But, then 
again, they were all women and...."

"Jesse," Steve growled, a hand coming up to cover his friend's 
mouth, cutting off the nervous torrent of words. "Will you just shut 
up and let me kiss you?"

That shut the younger man up far more effectively than Steve's hand - 
much though he appreciated the feeling of it caressing his face. He 
smiled beneath the fingers, trying to still his nerves, and nodded. 
_How different could kissing a man be, for Gods sake?_

"Have you ever....?" Steve asked softly, understanding all to well 
the mix of emotions he could see in Jesse's face. The desire, the 
love - plenty of both but mixed with uncertainty and the plain terror 
of starting a new relationship, especially one so unfamiliar as this.

"No," Jesse said in a small voice. "But I want to. I *really* want 
to!"

"Me, too," Steve murmured and bent down for the kiss, feeling 
Jesse's hands clutching at his shoulders as the shorter man reached 
up.

As kisses went it was nothing special, they'd both had better 
before. The earth didn't glow, nor did it disappear in a sparkling 
haze - they were both too unsure, too tentative for that - but for 
all that it meant more to both of them than probably any other kiss 
had before, except maybe their very first. It was sweet and caring 
and spoke more of love than desire but that didn't particularly 
bother either of them: they both knew the desire was there.

They pulled apart minutely, still touching down the length of their 
bodies, each measuring just how much their lives had changed in that 
brief moment, and then by unspoken mutual consent they leaned back in 
to kiss again. This time the hesitancy was missing and mouths and 
hands roved with greater abandon, exciting tingles of desire in their 
wake that grew into infernos. 

"Wow!" Steve breathed as the kiss finally ended, hands clutching 
onto Jesse's back as though to keep himself upright as he enfolded 
the smaller man in his arms, unwilling to let go.

Jesse's grin echoed the amusement, and the feeling. "Yep." He 
leaned away from Steve slightly, breaking the tight hold a little but 
only far enough so that he could look at the other man, hand 
following eyes as they skimmed down the well-muscled body. "I'm 
really glad Mark was right about this." 

Steve retained just about enough mind to raise an eyebrow 
interrogatively. At this moment, with Jesse's hands wandering down 
his body he didn't think he could manage words to well.

Jesse had the grace to blush slightly. "I, er, sorta told him I was 
in love with you," he admitted, "and asked his advice." Failing to 
mention that the confession had not been altogether voluntary and the 
advice had been given regardless.

Steve chuckled. His dad had been busy. _Dr Mark Sloan to the rescue 
of the clueless again._ He'd tell Jesse about his own confession 
later, and about hearing the gossip at Community General - he had no 
doubt that Jesse would find it amusing now, too. But right now he 
could think of better things to do. 

Much better. And most of it didn't involve talking.

Feeling suddenly short of breath, Steve trapped the wandering hand 
before it could go too far. "And speaking of dad, how about taking 
this downstairs. I really, really don't want him walking in on this!"


* * *

Sometime much later:

From somewhere above him Steve heard a door slam and he vaguely 
registered that it must be his dad coming in but he was rather more 
interested in what Jesse's mouth was doing to his neck. The sound, 
however, also registered with Jesse and he lifted his head, leaning 
up on one elbow over Steve, a wicked look coming into his eyes.

"Er, Steve... there's one thing I think I should mention here. You 
do know that I'm only doing this so I can get to call Mark dad, don't 
you?"

Steve laughed aloud.

Shamelessly eavesdropping at the top of the stairs leading to his 
son's part of the house, Mark Sloan smiled.

_Another job well done._




... end. 
January 2001


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