Title: "Not Letting Go"
Author/pseudonym: xof
Fandom: Queer As Folk (UK)
Pairing: SJ/VT
Rating: Nc-17
Status: New/Complete
Archive: Yes. Please. (Qaf Archive and the Pond, especially)
Feedback: xof@rose.net
Website: http://thesleepydragon.com/nesting/main.html
Series/Sequel: No.
Disclaimers: I don't own these characters. I presume that Channel 4 and
Russell D. do.

Notes: Hmmm. I usually don't make it a point to preview my stories to
folks. This one proved the exception to that norm. I was very nervous
about the events it portrayed and how the resolution was progressing.
Please understand that I adore Vince and this hurt to imagine let alone
write, but having found myself in the mist of darkness . . . I believe I
have found a satisfying ending. You may love it or you may hate it. Just
know that I tried my best. For Peggy and DeAnna Z. - thank you both for
reading the fragments that you were sent. The comments helped and I hope
you are both pleased with the further developments.

Summary: Dark tidings delivered by a stranger prove life altering for both
Stuart and Vince.

Warnings: Spoilers for UK QAF 1, definitely. This is a post-series one
fic. There are some Vince - ouchies in this one. Wasn't easy to write but
I had my reasons. Hope you don't hate me for it . . . Oh, and watch for
the cameo mention of a QAF USA character.

FEEDBACK is definitely needed, especially given how nervous this story has
made me. Would really appreciate knowing how you all feel on this one.
Details would be appreciated. Not betaed.


Not Letting Go

by Xof

The mobile was snatched up on the second ring.

"Yeah, hello." Stuart snapped. It had not been a good morning . . .

"Is this Stuart Jones?"

Not recognizing the woman's voice, he answered. "Stuart, that's me. Who
the hell is this?"

Her voice slightly halted at Stuart's abrupt tone, the mystery caller
introduced herself. "My name is Margaret. Margaret Smithe. I'm . . . I
was trying to find . . ."

Impatient as ever Stuart interrupted. "The point, please."

Her gasp at his rudeness could clearly be heard through their connection.
As could the defensiveness of her next words. "Do you know a Vincent

"A Vincent Tyler . . . no. THE Vince Tyler, yes. What's this about?"

"Well, your Vince Tyler is currently passed out in my hallway. I was going
to call the police or an ambulance but he kept insisting when he first
knocked that he would be fine as long as I called you. He stumbled towards
my living room and then collapsed with his mobile still in hand. Sir?
Sir... Are you still there?"

Shaking his head in an attempt to fully digest what the lady was saying,
Stuart murmured. "Yeah. I'm here. Where is he? Where do you live? Give
me the address."

Listening attentively, Stuart wrote down the information. "Tell me how he's

Shakily Margaret replied, "He's still unconscious. Has been for a few
minutes. He's laying very still. Pale. Breathing deeply, but his heart
sounded a little fast when I checked before calling." Sounding frightened
she continued, "Mr. Jones. I really think I should call for medical
assistance. This isn't . . ."

"Don't." The command in his voice was deadly serious. "I'm twenty minutes
or more away. I'll take care of this. I'll take care of him."

Margaret agreed in a small voice. "All right for now. But you'd better
show soon. My husband is due in a little over an hour and he'll definitely
call the police."

"I'm off now." Ringing off his mobile, Stuart raced to grab his keys and
jacket before rushing out of his office . . . mumbling incoherently to
Sandra's questions. "Emergency . . . don't know. Gotta . . ."

Screeching out onto the street, he looked at his watch. Half past eleven.
Thursday. Vince had had the day off he remembered. Shit. He'd just seen
him last night. Babylon early in the evening before Stuart had left to
follow his latest prospect off into the night. He couldn't remember much
that'd happened. Anita strikes again. The bitch. All Stuart could recall
was telling Vince he'd see him later as he moved off on the prowl for that
bloke - American . . .

Flashes of brown hair, hazel eyes . . . attitude as predatory as his smile.
Sensuous lips. Magnificent shag.

Named . . . Brian, he thought.

Didn't matter, he was gone when Stuart woke. Made starting the day easier
to begin.

Vince . . .

Vince had been smiling at him before Stuart'd left. In his adoring way . .
. or was that indulgent. They'd been having a good time getting back into
the flow of their friendship. Old patterns easily reestablished in the wake
of their reunion. Forgiven but still not forgotten. The betrayal on
Vince's birthday still shadowing their conversations like an aftertaste that
would only fade given time. Still, Vince had been smiling. That quiet
small lift of his mouth that echoed through his eyes . . . Stuart didn't
even remember what he'd said or done to be on the receiving end of so
welcomed a gift. Damn that woman anyway . . . "E, my arse."

How the fuck did Vince find his way to the outskirts of Manchester? Hell,
what could have happened? Sounded like drugs which would explain his
begging that woman not to call for help, but that didn't tell Stuart
anything. Just a guess. He knew that his friend hadn't copped off since
the Cameron breakup.

Messy that . . .

The Australian bastard hadn't taken the news well. Came banging on Stuart's
flat door in the wake of Vince's version of the "Let's just be friends,"
putdown. Stuart had been this close to calling the police when Vince had
shown and told Cameron in an uncharacteristically rude manner that it was
over and if he'd couldn't handle that, then sod off. Stuart had stood there
in stunned disbelief as Cameron turned on his heels and left. Neither had
heard from him since.

Running his hand nervously through his hair and over the back of his neck,
Stuart cursed violently at every car in his path. "Move your leaded arse,
you decrepit fuck!!!" "Who the fuck taught you to peddle, prat." Etc. He
was sweating even in the cool air of mid-morning, heart pounding in a rhythm
that threatened to out pace the speeding of his own jeep. "Vince . . .
Hold on. I'm coming."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Several minutes and near collisions later, Stuart stood pounding on Margaret
Smithe's front door. Once it'd been opened, he burst through on a wave of
tense energy. "Where is he?" The small red haired woman pointed to the
left in speechlessness. Stuart headed off without a second look her way.

"God, Vince."

There he was. Laying prone on the floor, so pale . . . so fucking still.
For all his quiet charm, seeing him this motionless was jarring. Telling
himself to just imagine Vince was sleeping, Stuart steeled his resolve and
knelt at his friend's side. Margaret had covered him with a blanket,
putting a pillow under his head. Stuart reached under to take Vince's hand
in his. Leaning in, Stuart listened to his friend's breathing. Slow and
deep. Reaching gently forward, Stuart checked Vince's eyes. Yep, pupils
dilated. His face was covered by a light sheen of sweat as though some
phantom fever had broken, but his skin felt warm . . . not hot. Must have
been badly flushed though when he'd stumbled into the house. Finally
pressing his ear to Vince's chest, Stuart listened to the movements of his
heart. Steady rhythm. Moving as though he'd done some light exercise, but
not like he'd run a marathon.

Stuart pressed his forehead against the smooth curve of Vince's throat.
Relief making him almost dizzy, he felt the first stirrings of Vince's
coming wakefulness. His friend shifted restlessly, pressing closer to the
touch of Stuart's hair against his cheek.

"Thank you . . ." Stuart didn't know really to whom he spoke as he breathed
the words out quietly against Vince's skin. He just needed to express his

Dimly, Stuart heard Margaret speaking.

"... welcome. I'm just relieved I reached you. Do you think he'll wake

Rising up reluctantly, Stuart nodded. "Should be up enough to at least get
him to the jeep in a few." Looking at their hostess for the first time he
asked, "Did you see anyone when you let him in? Car, taxi . . . any
indication how he got here like this? Did he say how?"

Margaret could only shake her head. "No. Afraid not. I cracked open the
door at the loud banging but the only thing I saw was him, half standing and
half falling into my house. He didn't say much besides repeating your name,
not to call anyone but you." Shaking her head she continued. "Even when he
didn't make any sense he was so polite. Kept apologizing. Saying sorry.
Calling out your name, over and over. Pleading for me not to tell..."

"Not to tell? You mean not to call for help?"

"No. I don't think so. He was mumbling something odd about mustn't tell
him. He mustn't know . . . but then he'd start calling for you again and
that's when he collapsed."

Confused as to what that could mean, Stuart asked for a damp cloth and some
water. He needed to get Vince back to his so he could better care for him.
Once she'd given the items to him, Stuart leaned in and washed Vince's face.
He loosened his collar, unbuttoning it so that he could lightly run the
cloth over his friend's neck and upper chest. He flinched when he saw what
looked like finger length bruises along Vince's shoulders. Who the fuck had
been manhandling him? Shit. Placing the cloth over his brow, Stuart
started calling quietly to Vince . . . asking him to wake up. Giving his
cheek a slight tap or two, Stuart spoke in a harsher tone. "Vincent Tyler.
This is not the time to be laying down on your arse. Open your eyes." He
watched as Vince's eyes fluttered, unseeing at first. "That's it, luv.
Come on now. Open those beautiful eyes for me." Stuart didn't even notice
the emotion ridden yet passionate quality that hope had brought to his own
voice. All he knew was that Vince opened his eyes once again.

Opening his mouth as though to speak, Vince seemed to be struggling to get
his throat to cooperate. Stuart carefully lifted the man's upper torso
enough to slide him over, propped up onto his lap. "Here . . . drink some
water. It'll help." He watched as Vince did so, taking only a small
portion before he collapsed back fully over Stuart's folded legs. Stuart
brushed his friend's hair back from his damp skin, soothing him as he fought
to regain enough clarity to help in leaving for his flat. "You don't have
to talk now. Just focus on being able to sit up right. We need to get you
to the jeep."

After several moments, Vince whispered a request. "Take me away."

Giving him a smile, Stuart rose up and with brave Margaret's help . . .
lifted Vince up somewhat steadily onto his feet. In a moment or two, they
made the slow trek down the hall and to the front door. Shifting him so
that most of this friend's weight was settled against his side, Stuart
opened the door only to almost lose him again as Vince cringed back from the
brightness of the sun's light. "Close you eyes for me, Vince." Cursing the
fact that he'd left his sunglasses in the jeep, Stuart and Margaret
tentatively moved Vince towards it's black haven. Struggling to lean him
against the side, Stuart opened the passenger door and with uncharacteristic
patience helped Vince get seated and buckled in to the vehicle. He reached
out to gently place his shades over Vince's eyes after grabbing them from
the dash. Stuart brushed his hand gently down the side of Vince's face,
noticing how the man unconsciously leaned into the touch. Stuart closed the
door to the jeep.

Thanking Margaret for her help, Stuart hurried round to the driver's side.
Looking at Vince's slumped figure, he promised softly, "We're going home,
Vince. I've got you now." When Vince remained silent, Stuart saw that he'd
fallen asleep. He pulled out on the road, driving with a complete lack of
recklessness due to his precious cargo's condition. Stuart was worried at
Vince's lack of response overall. His friend's usually talkative nature
seemed somehow subdued in silence. Murmuring to himself, "When we get home.
When we get home . . ." he continued driving, not having noticed how easily
his own mind had accepted terms like "we" and "home" as natural states of

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Once he'd gotten them both to his building, Stuart quickly commandeered a
passing neighbor to help with getting Vince into first the lift and then the
flat. He didn't even know the bloke's name . . . Rob, something. At the
question as to Vince's current state, he snapped that it wasn't the first
time he'd shagged someone almost to death. Stuart knew that though it was a
lie, at least it was the sort of line that didn't tend to lead to more
questions - effectively in Rob's case as he continued to help with Vince in
silence. Muttering his thanks, Stuart quickly led Rob out into the hallway
. . . surprised when the man reached forward to place a hand on his shoulder
in comfort and said, "I hope your partner feels better soon."

Watching him leave, Stuart shook his head as he threw his jacket across the
room and hurried back to Vince.

His eyes were open . . . the jostling having awakened him during the trek
into Stuart's bedroom. But for all their beautiful blue depths, Vince's
gaze was distanced . . . as though seeing only into a far off space. He
didn't reply to Stuart's, "Vince?" He just lay there, looking at nothing as
his body began to visibly shiver.

Hoping that if he got Vince comfortable and warmly wrapped up in bed that
he'd come round fully, Stuart leaned in to unbutton and remove his friend's
clothing. He bit his lip nervously as Vince remained silent . . . removing
the belt and shoes, followed by socks, before reached forward to open his
shirt and trousers. Stuart took off the pants with little effort and having
eased the shirt back from Vince's shoulders, had to stop for the shaking of
his own hands.

"Bloody hell! Fuck. Fuck . . . fuck."

Bruising . . . along the shoulders, down the sides and along the stomach was
more than evident in its own macabre display. Cruel contrast marked against
the whiteness of Vince's skin . . . Such pale perfection so vilely marred.

Lost in the shock of seeing him like this, Stuart almost didn't hear the
whisper for the harsh sound of rage boiling through his own veins.

" . . . 'm cold." Vince's words were a slur as he made an attempt to roll
towards the warmth of Stuart's presence.

Telling himself that he needed to get a hold of his fury so he could better
see to Vince, Stuart eased himself closer. Speaking more calmly than he
felt, Stuart responded to his friend. "Vince. We're gonna get you into a
nice warm bath. You'll like that. Get warm and help ease your bru . . .
uhm. Help ease your aching muscles. I'm gonna get the water ready for you.
Be right back." Hearing the disapproving mumble at the news that he was
leaving even for a moment, Stuart went with his first impulse. Placing a
kiss gently on Vince's temple, he wrapped the duvet around him . . . making
Vince feel more at ease before Stuart went into the bathroom.

Living his life mostly on the go, Stuart rarely made use of the large tub .
. . but after having seen the marks on Vince's upper torso, it was the best
solution he could think of that would help his friend in the short term.
Liquid heat. Running the warm water, he quickly threw off his own work
clothes as he made ready. Grabbing a pair of black sleep pants to wear,
Stuart returned to the bed. He'd eased up the thermostat so that his friend
wouldn't have to feel the chill after his soak was done. Back to Vince,
Stuart uncovered him as he talked. "Vince. You still with me? Here we go,
okay." Getting him to the bath was difficult, but Vince seemed to be more
responsive to his surroundings. He leaned back against the wall obediently
as Stuart tried to be nonchalant about removing his friend's boxer briefs.
"There we are. Time to ease into the water."

Once settled back, Stuart looked on as Vince closed his eyes with a long
sigh. He opened them again when Stuart placed a folded towel under his head
for comfort. Feeling Vince watching, Stuart hurried about turning on the
bath jets to a gentle setting, getting together a bath sponge and liquid
soap . . . even shampoo, his movements signifying his innate kinetic
energy - barely caged. And his uncertainty as to how to proceed... Finally
running out of things to find, Stuart knelt beside the bath. Soaping up the
sponge, he gently guided it over Vince's skin.

Focus intent on the marks and not wanting to hurt his silent friend, Stuart
was startled when he felt the brush of Vince's hand against his cheek.

Still sounding slightly hoarse but clearer than before, Vince spoke.
"You'll break the skin if you go on that way."

Thinking at first he meant that he was hurting Vince, Stuart pulled back
before realizing that he was really only drawing attention to Stuart's
nervous habit of biting his lip. "Hmm. Yeah, suppose so." Meeting Vince's
gaze he asked, "What happened, Vince?" The question made his friend duck his
head. "You can tell me . . . or not, just yet if you think . . ." His
words drifted off as Stuart saw the moisture gathering in Vince's eyes.
"Right. Not now then. Here, let's get you feeling better." Lifting a
glass of water, he waited til Vince'd finished drinking before moving back
in with the sponge.

Gliding the soft warm sponge over first Vince's neck, shoulders and then
down his chest . . . Stuart tried not to think as his mind clamored with
thoughts of what could have happened, what must have happened and how right
it felt to have Vince here with him now. The sponge traveled down the
length of each of Vince's legs and then back, moving up to his stomach and
down his sides . . . coming to a stop when Stuart realized how close he'd
come to doing what could be considered taking advantage.

Sick bastard, that's me - he thought. Here they were, Vince hurting in tub
. . . Stuart half naked and shaky with high emotions . . . steam rising from
the active jets, leaving a sheen over their skin . . . with Stuart's hand
holding a sopping wet sponge when what he really wanted to do was reach
forward and touch Vince in the flesh. To really feel him near, alive and
safe. Fighting against his own don't give a shit, have at tendencies . . .
Stuart made to pull back only to have Vince grab his hand.

"Don't. I like how . . ." Vince's words echoed through the room even in
their quiet hesitancy. "Feels nice. Safe."

Thinking that continuing to touch his friend was anything but safe, Stuart
halfheartedly began to protest. "Vince. This isn't . . . I shouldn't be
. . ." Not knowing how to say that he didn't want to stop but thought it
right, without hurting his friend . . . Stuart let his words cease at the
look in Vince's eyes. It spoke of so deep a need for . . . contact. For
acceptance and comfort. For his touch.

Giving into his own need to feel, Stuart leaned in quickly. He pressed his
lips tenderly to those of his friend, not trying to draw out any sort of
reaction . . . only to communicate his own thankfulness at having Vince so
near. It lasted but a moment before he moved away. Dropping his own gaze,
Stuart moved round to sit behind Vince's head. He wet the man's hair in a
steady stream of warm water, making sure that it trickled down the back of
his neck like liquid kisses. Pouring the slightly spice scented shampoo in
his hands, Stuart massaged his fingers through the short silken strands of
Vince's hair. Purposefully taking long moments to trace behind the ridge of
each ear and down the back of his neck, Stuart smiled as he listened to the
pleased murmurs that fell from his friend's lips.

After several moments, Stuart looked past the length of Vince' neck . . .
skimming his eyes quickly away from the darkened skin until he noticed that
his friend had slowly been moving his knees upwards so that he now sat
clutching them close to his body, clenched fists being the only indication
that he had not completely given into the pleasure of Stuart's touch.
Sighing softly, Stuart leaned his friend's head back as he poured water to
rinse away the shampoo. He ran the sponge down the length of Vince's back
swiftly, before telling him it was time to stand up.

"Let's get you into the shower for a minute to wash away the soap." He
helped Vince keep upright on unsteady legs as they walked to the cubicle.
Reaching in to turn the knobs, Stuart stood just outside the half open door
as he made sure Vince could slowly turn round under the heated spray of
falling water. He tried to keep his thoughts focused on getting Vince
through this small task, but still found his eyes wandering. Wondering why
there were not marks on any other part of his friend's body but the front
torso. Wondering at the beauty he found in seeing Vince's paleness as it
stood out against the darkened tiles. Wondering also at his own reaction to
being needed at so base a level.

Guiding Vince back to the bedroom wrapped in towels, Stuart asked, "Let me
give you a massage. It'll help with your . . ." Biting at his lip once
more, he looked at Vince . . . seeing the accepting gratefulness there like
the welcome it was. He took out a pair of his softest black silk boxers,
assisting Vince in putting them on for the warmth they would provide. Not
that he didn't feel slighted with having to give up so lovely a view as
Vince's cock and arse. "Lay on your back." Stuart spread Vince's discarded
towels over the bed before he moved to obey. Dimming the room's lights,
Stuart made a quick search . . . finally finding the oil he wanted to use.
It was meant to be utilized during full body massage, having the tantalizing
effect of heating with use. Attempting to keep his mind off the other uses
of such a balm, Stuart knelt on the bed at Vince's side.

"Vince." Stuart wanted Vince to know that he could trust him with his
fears, but having never been in a situation as drastic as this before he
didn't know the right words to say. He watched as his friend lay quietly,
Vince's eyes finally starting to show some of his customary awareness.
Giving him a smile, Stuart opened the oil and began warming it between his
hands. Placing them over Vince's chest, Stuart asked, "You with me here?"

"Yes." The word barely reached his ears so quietly was it said.

"I want you to focus. Really focus on how this feels. Absorb what my hands
are doing. There's only me and you in this moment. No troubles. No bad
thoughts. Just this . . ." Gliding his fingers sweetly over the tips of
Vince's nipples, Stuart purposefully fluttered his touch. He grinned
thankfully at Vince's responsive gasp. Continuing to skirt his hands
lightly over the full expanse of his friend's chest until the oil was evenly
spread, Stuart set about increasing the rhythm of his caress. Avoiding
those darker marks, he trailed the massage up along Vince's neck . . .
before ghosting his touch over the shoulders and pressing firmly down the
center line of his torso. He watched as Vince began losing himself in the
pleasure and heated friction of Stuart's still moving hands.

Giving into a mad moment, Stuart tickled Vince's side for a brief second.
He gave the first joyful sigh he'd had all day when Vince squirmed
endearingly under the assault. And laughed . . . God, that sound was
breathtakingly sweet.

"There's my lad. My Vince at a laugh."

Moving his fingers in a gentle circles over Vince's skin, Stuart took in the
flush his actions had brought to his friend's face and body. Vince's eyes
were half closed in deep sensation but still so vibrantly bright, showing no
signs of lingering chemical distraction. He was fully present in body and
mind. Reaching down, Stuart clasped Vince's hand and brought it up to his
own chest . . . letting him feel the beating of his heart just as Stuart
felt the steadied pulse of Vince's own beneath his other hand.

With a audible catch in his breathing, Vince suddenly used their joined
hands to pull Stuart down to him. Stuart wrapped his arms around him as
Vince buried his face in the curve of his friend's throat. He thrilled
silently at the press of his friend's body . . . the touch of hardened flesh
against his hip making him smile over Vince's shoulder as he felt the
answering tightness of his own.

"It's okay now. I've got you, Vince. Everything's fine." Stuart slowly
began rocking them as they lay facing. "Shh. I'm not letting go . . . No

Soaking in this rare sense of closeness, both remained silent for a good
while. Until Stuart heard words spoken in a hush against his neck.

"He seemed nice enough at first."

Raising his hand, Stuart threaded his fingers into his friend's short hair.
He didn't say anything, didn't know how to tell Vince it was all right to
talk except by showing him he was safe to do so.

"I'd pulled a late night. Day off and all. More restless than usual."
Vince's words continued to sound slightly stilted as he gained more courage
to speak. "You'd gone. With that American bloke." Stuart felt him sighing
softly, the air tickling his skin as Vince continued softly. "Odd that one.
Everything just like you. Like you went home with yourself..."

Shaking his head again, Stuart had a chuckle. "How'd you figure that? We
look nothing alike. Not even close."

Vince pressed his forehead closer into the nape of Stuart's neck before
answering. "Hmm. Wasn't the looks. He's just got your same spirit. King
of his own world."

Not knowing how to answer that, Stuart moved his cheek over the soft damp
mess of Vince's hair. He reached back and drew the duvet back over them
both for added warm . . . finding deep pleasure in lying cocooned together
with his friend as they stayed locked so close. "So I'd gone . . ."

Bravely starting again, "I was a twat. Followed Alex around for awhile till
he copped off. But felt too wired to go back to mine. No one to talk to,
so kept drinking as I watched the crowd. Too much . . . Lost track of time
and beers. Finally got up to leave and almost fell down. World all in a
twirl, it was. Would have to if he hadn't pushed me back against the wall."
Pausing to take a deep breath, he took the plunge. "Told me his name was
Oscar. Funny that he didn't seem to remember which name he'd given me later
when I was screaming for him to leave off the kicking."

Biting his tongue to keep from bursting out in fury, Stuart steeled his
resolve to listen before he gave into the anger.

"Don't know what time it was . . . must have been at least 3:30 or more.
Could hardly keep up, he spoke so fast. Thick accent . . . German. Just in
for the night, he said. Nice looking. Blonde. Told him I was half off my
head . . . like that wasn't obvious. Probably why he'd picked me to . . ."

He stopped for a moment. Then he said, "It's kind of a blur what we
actually said. Or how we got to his room . . . Just remember being in a
cab, feeling like I'd fall off to sleep any moment. Not sure why I'd gotten
in with him. Was looking out the window with him licking my neck . . . his
hand at my groin, and then it all went black."

Raising his hand, Vince softly touched Stuart's dark curls. Stuart knew
that he'd always loved his hair. Felt nice.

"Last time I got so pissed was at my 29th birthday. Your fault. You said
you didn't want me to have to witness the dawn of my last year of youth . .
. no reason to stay sober with old age just round the corner."

His heart in his throat from the details he was getting of Vince's night,
Stuart tried to respond with a laugh at the memory. "Well, some people are
just born prats."

"Yeah, there is that." Vince's voice held a self-deprecating tone. "I . .
. I don't know how long I was out. Came to with him shaking me, telling me
to drink up . . . more of the hair to get me own my feet. Jeez, must have
been straight vodka. And something else, too. Didn't know at first, until
the room started spinning. He kept telling me to stand up, walk round . . .
giving me orders and calling me his pet. Whenever I opened my mouth to
speak, he'd slap me and shout that pets didn't have the right to speak. It
had to be earned. I was scared out of my mind. He pushed me towards a
doorway, but even half falling down drunk with that shit I'd swallowed
scrambling my thoughts . . . I fought not to go. Took a swing at him but
lost my balance. He jerked me down onto my knees, holding me with his
fingers digging into me like claws. Told me to do as he said or he's beat
me. I kept . . . I kept telling him no. To sod the fuck off and let me
go. Tried to throw him off balance by shoving my weight against his legs,
but he side stepped and came round with a kick. He . . ." Vince's voice
caught as he struggled to get the words out. He was clutching at Stuart
like a life line as he continued, tears falling silently to spill over his
friend's pulsing heart. "He kept kicking me as I curled up on the floor.
Hands over my head as I yelled at him to stop. To let me leave. Let me go
home. That people had seen him with me. That I'd be missed. Kept shouting
like a twat, anything to get through to him and make him stop. I . . .
Called out for . . . for you. He stopped when he heard me say your name.
Don't know why . . . he just finally seemed to snap out of the rage. Like
maybe he thought I wasn't as much the loner as he'd thought I was. He went
over and got more of the vodka mix. Told me to drink or he'd . . . he'd
shut me up permanently. He poured that stuff down my throat as I was
gasping for air, shoved me to the ground and walked away."

Vince had by this point wrapped his arms completely around Stuart, the pair
clinging together in mutual torment. Stuart was murmuring soft sounds into
Vince's ear, the rocking having given way to stillness and tense reflection.

"I blacked out again. Don't know . . . I remember coming half way round as
he was dragging me to the door, being shoved into a car. Next thing I knew,
I was laying on the ground with the sun screaming into my eyes. He must
have just left me there, by the back fence of some stranger's house. Didn't
know where I was. Couldn't walk right. Kept falling down. Was trying to
use the mobile to call but couldn't think well enough to figure out the
buttons and walk at the same time. . . Just remember feeling like I had to
keep moving. Had to . . . Think I remember knocking on a door . . . then
nothing again. Till I opened my eyes and you where with me."

Stuart released his breath as Vince's strained voice tapper off into
silence. To think what his friend has suffered at the hands of that fucking
animal. He wanted to scream out, to curse like fire as his blood ran molten
. . . burning through his veins. His innate reaction was for vengeance. At
all costs . . . because dammit someone had hurt HIS friend. His . . .

Oh god, Vince.

Stuart mentally jerked his thoughts back to the man that lay silently in his
arms. He's stopped trembling, stopped shivering . . . almost stopped
everything in the wake of his nightmare. Until he whispered . . .

"Go ahead and say it."


"Sad bastard, that's me."

Stuart flinched at hearing his own often used sentiment said so
despondently. He'd never thought about how much it must have hurt Vince to
hear. Here they were lying together, so very close . . . the wetness of
Vince's tears on his skin, the press of his body, the sound of his heart and
all Stuart could think was that he wanted so much for Vince to know that he
was cherished. Valued. Needed. Pushing back the anger at both himself and
Vince's attacker, Stuart resolved his mind and spoke the truth.

"Vince. You are the best of everything that I've known in this life. Best
person. Best friend. Best heart. Never think otherwise."

Feeling the slight shake of Vince's head as it lay still buried at his
throat, Stuart leaned back so he could see his friend. Those beautiful eyes
shown in the half light of the room, the tears having left trails of
moisture down his cheeks. Stuart traced up the line of his throat, moving
the hand back to thread through Vince's hair and cradle his skull. Smiling
gently, Stuart tried for a bit of humor as a light in their darkened

"Besides, sad bastards aren't allowed in my bed. And here you are . . ."

Vince tried to smile. Stuart could tell by the small uplift of his mouth
but all for not as he watched Vince's face fall as he gasped out, "Oh my
god." His cheeks flamed as he made to move away from Stuart's arms, unable
to complete his escape when his friend pulled him back.

"What? Vince, are you okay?"

Stuttering in embarrassment, Vince moaned as the full brunt of how Stuart
had had to coddle him came into focus. "I'm so sorry. Fuck. You . . .
You need to be at work. I'm gonna . . ."

"Shhhh. Vince, hush. I don't give a toss about work. You're what's
important. Now stop moving about and tell me what's wrong." Seeing Vince
struggling to calm himself, Stuart leaned in and kissed him gently on lips.
Drawing out the contact, he moved his mouth in a small distracting glide
from one side to the other . . . wanting the touch to draw Vince from his
internal struggle back into the now. Pulling back slightly he whispered,
"Don't think. Just tell me. Say the words."

Dazed at having had Stuart's kiss, Vince followed his command with closed
eyes. "You seeing me like this. The . . . The bath. The shower. God . .
. and after. What you must think of me now. Like an infant, I am . . .
needing a nappie before being put into the nearest pram. I'm . . . I . .
. uhm."

Stuart covered Vince's mouth with his hand, wanting to stop the nonsense
from trickling out any further. "Vincent Tyler, just shut your face. You
are your own worst judge and I won't have you thinking I see you as anything
other than brilliant. Brave and bloody marvelous. Understood?"

Vince sighed in resignation. He eased back into Stuart's arms again. "I'm
so nackered."

"Think you could sleep some?"

"Best do . . ."

Hesitating before he asked, Stuart said, "Are you going to be comfortable
like this? Or do you need to be on your back?" Remembering the bruises on
Vince's sides, he lightly trailed his palms down his friend's spine.

"Mmmm. No. S'good 'ere." His voice drifted off as Vince relaxed into the
caress of Stuart hands and the feel of his warm embrace.

Murmuring quietly, Stuart agreed. "Yeah, this is good." He listened as the
minutes went by, hearing the deepening of Vince's breathing until he was
certain that his friend was asleep. He continued to hold him, focusing on
how it felt to have Vince safe . . . The quiet of the room later started
to pray on his sense of momentary peace though as sleep did not lend him
it's welcomed hand. Stuart's mind sped with thoughts . . . must do's and
would like to's. He was wagging a small battle with him self. From the
moment he'd seen the damage done to his friend, Stuart had wanted that other
man's blood. But thinking back on the details that Vince had given, those
being hazy at best due to the alcohol and drugs, Stuart knew that it would
probably prove a fruitless desire. Still with the right questions and some
pressure on the right people for possible details, maybe not. But that
would have to wait. Vince was still foremost in his mind.

Some while later, Stuart eased Vince over onto his back and made off from
the bed. He pulled on a black jumper and walked to the livingroom. Setting
plans in motion, he rang Vince's office and spoke the Vince's supervisor.
Usually a bitch, the woman actually sounded sympathetic to his report that
Vince wouldn't be into work on Friday due to recovery time needed from being
"mugged." After ringing off from there, Stuart called out for a meal to be
delivered round seven that evening. Vince hadn't eaten since the night
before and they'd both need something hot but simple to fill their stomachs.
Fixing on the clock, he saw that it was now quarter after four. He called
in to speak to Sandra as well, having to hold the phone away from his ear at
her string of complaints until he snapped that Vince had been ruffed up in
an incident and that she would fucking well have to handle the rest of today
and tomorrow without him. Sounding immediately contrite, she asked after
Vince and promised that she'd hold down the office for him. For once being
mindful, Stuart thanked her before ending the call.

He placed the phone on the kitchen island, standing as still as a statue.
Trying . . . trying so very fucking hard to keep his calm, Stuart began
rolling back and forth on the balls of his feet. Hands gripping the counter
top with whitened knuckles, he braced himself as securely as possible as he
felt the most primal need surging through his slim frame to scream out in
rage. Stuart's body jerked under the pressure as he did indeed scream . . .
mouth opened in total silence. The volume captured still deep within his
throat as he closed his eyes and mouth, Stuart slumped forward . . . some of
the tension having left him. With a shaking hand, he picked up the phone
and dialed.

Flinching as he heard Lisa's greeting Stuart said, "I need to speak to

Sarcasm dripping she said, "Well hello to you too, Your Majesty. Talking to
the commoners of the world, are you?"

Gritting his teeth, "Just put her on the fucking phone."

"Now you listen you me, you bastard. Don't you think you can just . . ."

"Lisa. If you ever had a kind impulse in your life, put Romey on the
phone." His voice had dropped off into the harshest of whispers.

Actually made speechless by the despondence and pain in Stuart's voice, Lisa
called out for Romey.

"Stuart. I'm here. What's wrong?"

Taking a deep breath he stumbled through an explanation for the call, "I
wanted you to know that I won't be by tomorrow to pick up Alfred. Might be
out of contact for awhile."

Showing the considerate patience she was known for possessing, Romey asked,
"Stuart. Will you tell me what's happened?"

"It's . . . God, it's Vince. He's been . . . uhm. He's okay. Fine . . .
Sleeping, but he's . . ." Stopping for a moment before continuing Stuart
said, "Romey. He was bashed last night. Some fuck drugged him and beat him
before dumping him halfway cross Manchester. I've got him. He's . . ."

"Oh lord. Does he need a doctor? Stuart. How is he?"

Stuart gave her brief details of the bruising and that he seemed to be free
of the drugs. His voice sounded so small, like a child. And yet hollowed
of emotion . . . like he was telling the details of a movie rather than
their lives. He'd called not for help, but for someone to at least mentally
share the burden.

Romey listened. "Do you need me to come by? I can be there in a few

"No. He wants me. Called for me. I'm taking care of him. Just wanted
you to know I won't be there tomorrow." Pausing . . . "Oh god. Hazel."

"Does she know?"

"I haven't . . . No. She doesn't. Don't call her, Romey. That's for
Vince to decide. I'll . . . I've got to go. He'll wake soon. Want to be

"Stuart, wait. Please call me if I can help. Really. And give him a hug
from me."

"Yeah. Will do."

"Oh and luv, be strong. For yourself and for him . . ."

Nodding his head as he spoke, "He's with me. That's everything right now...
Talk to you soon."

Ringing off, Stuart dropped the phone as he heard Vince's yell . . .


Racing to the bedroom at a dead run, Stuart saw that in his sleep Vince had
become tangled within the coverings of the bed. Still asleep, he was
writhing violently as he struggled for freedom . . . caught in the nightmare
of memory. Stuart knelt on the bed as he reached forward to awaken his
friend. He tugged at the duvet and sheets, trying to free Vince's arms . .
. calling out to him to wake up.

"Vince. Come on, wake up. It's Stuart." He cringed as Vince continued to
thrash about, unconscious still to all the waking world. Once Vince's arms
were freed, Stuart leaned in to pull him close . . . his actions abruptly
waylaid when the man thrust forward in unseeing fear. The motion toppled
Stuart backwards as Vince's body came down to pin him to the mattress.
Covering his head in self-defense Stuart yelled out, "Oy, Vince. Wake the
fuck up. It's me. Stuart. Stop, Vince!" Grunting aloud as his friend's
flailing arm hit him across the face, Stuart grabbed Vince around the middle
and rolled them both over until he lay atop him . . . pressing the man's
arms down above their heads. Panting, Stuart placed his mouth to Vince's
ear . . . speaking words he hoped would break through to him. "I'm with you
Vince. It's alright now. You're safe with me. Shhhh. Open your eyes now.
Wake up. I've got you, Vince. You're here with me and I'm not letting go.
I'm not letting go."

The sound of Stuart's voice quieted Vince enough to ease his unconscious
fears. Laying over his friend's body, Stuart sagged forward as they both
finally relaxed . . . tangled together with hearts racing. Stuart released
Vince's arms as he brushed back the dampened hair from his friend's flushed
face. Still holding him . . . face buried against Vince' shoulder, Stuart
was slightly surprised to hear the quiet rumble of Vince's voice.

"Uhmm. Stuart? What . . ." His words fell off when Stuart lifted his
head. "Oh my god. What happened to you?" Vince lifted his hand to brush
over the slight swelling taking place across Stuart's right cheekbone and
the discoloration beginning to show just below his eye.

Trying for levity, Stuart answered. "Just finding out what a tiger you can
be in bed." Smiling down at Vince, he watched as the guilt shown forth in
his answering frown. "Hey, it's okay. I should have known not to try and
wake you so fast from your dream."

Vince looked at him for the longest time, his eyes focused on Stuart's face.
"I'm sorry. I'd never want to hurt you." He raised his hand . . . touching
the pained area of his cheek so softly that Stuart felt a physical ache at
the sensation. Vince continued to trace the contours of Stuart's face,
guiding his fingertips over the proud brow . . . down the line of his nose,
round his other cheek down to his chin before tracing the curves of Stuart's

Feeling the whisper soft press of those fingers, Stuart met Vince's gaze.
The soft light of the room shown forth in them as Stuart caught fragments of
weariness, concern, desire and need reflected in their depths. More than
ever he took in the sensation of having Vince's body under his own, the
feeling of their hearts beating and the blood pulsing through his own body .
. . quickening in response to Vince's close proximity.

Breath deepening, they both continued to rest pressed close from chest to
foot. Each knowing the other felt the answering heat that echoed forth from
their connected gaze. The tough thoughts as to why now, what would happen
after and should they . . . blown to the still resting moon. It just was .
. . and would be.

Stuart kissed the pads of Vince's fingers before leaning forward to draw
them closer still . . . feeling the friction of Vince's hardening cock as it
was brushed by his own. Stuart licked his lips before bringing his mouth to
within a hair's breath of Vince's. Feeling the pull of his desire, Stuart
melted into the inevitable with softly spoken words that both men held to be
true. "This is mad this is . . . but I've never felt more sane, Vince."
Flicking out his tongue, Stuart watched his friend's eyes darken like a
storm at sea as he traced Vince's bottom lip. He smiled slightly, their
mouths brushing close but the final press still absent as he spoke. "Take
what you want. What we both want . . . Show me what you need."

With a moan, Vince pulled Stuart forward . . . hands tangled in his hair as
they melted into their first true kiss. A myriad of sensations . . . the
slight friction then smooth liquid glide of lips together, the press and
insistence of tongues searching for taste and the vibration of mutual sighs
of pleasure . . . all flooded Stuart's awareness. And then as he moved back
intent on changing the angle of their kiss, Vince blocked his motion with
commanding hands on his shoulders. Stuart groaned as his friend parted his
legs allowing him to fit into the cradle of Vince's thighs.

Vince hooked his calves over Stuart's legs, whispering wildly into their
kiss. "More. Stuart, I want more."

Stuart quickly kissed him in agreement, running his hands down Vince's sides
without thought. He jerked back at Vince's pained gasp. "Oh shit. Sorry,
didn't . . . Hell, couldn't think while kissing you."

"Don't stop. I need you not to stop."

Brushing his fingers over Vince's slightly swollen mouth, Stuart smiled to
ease his worried expression. Shifting so that he could kneel over Vince,
Stuart dragged the sweater over his head. He took Vince's hand . . .
pushing it purposefully down his own chest, stomach and then down under the
waistband of his pants. Closing their joined hands round his hardened cock
Stuart said, "Stopping is not an option. Mmmm... Oh yeah. But not hurting
you IS a priority." Seeing the warm flush of Vince's cheek and answering
grin, Stuart slid off to lie on his back. He quickly removed his night
pants so that he was naked at Vince's side. "You're in control, Vince."
Arching upwards like a cat, he whispered in a rasping low tone. "Play with

Vince slowly sat up, looking over the length of Stuart's body with hungry
eyes. Shaking his head as though to wake himself from a dream, he asked,
"What are you like?"

Licking his lips enticingly, Stuart answered. "Come over here and find

Seeing Vince's serious expression, Stuart reached out for his hand . . .
pulling him back into his arms. Murmuring at having Vince's weight pressing
him down into the bed, he ran his hands down his friend's back until
reaching the boxers he'd put on him earlier. Wanting very much to see his
expression when first they touched skin to skin, Stuart eased the fabric
over Vince's arse and down his thighs. They fell to the floor after Vince
lifted up and kicked them away before slowly lowering himself back against

He watched as Vince leaned into him, trailing sweet teasing kisses along his
cheek and then over his lips. Stuart had always been prone to fucking with
his mouth and tongue just like he was with his dick. He always expressed
his desire by devouring his shags' mouths like they were a four course meal
and he was a starving man . . . but always with finesse and great skill.
Kissing Vince was proving a whole new education on sensuality. The man
moved slowly at first, tasting and getting a feel for him . . . sliding his
tongue into and then back from Stuart's mouth so swiftly that Stuart rose up
in order to follow, wanting to recapture the fire. And then Vince took his
mouth fiercely, releasing deep sighs as they continued to kiss.

Leaning back, Vince rose up to his knees astride Stuart's hips . . . letting
him feel his cock as it nestled between the warmth of Vince's cheeks. Vince
brought Stuart's hands up, placing them on his chest. "What I want is for
you to touch me. Help me KNOW that this isn't a dream." Closing he eyes
briefly, he said, "That I won't be waking to feel his hands on me again."

Growling at the red haze such words conjured in his brain, Stuart eased back
quickly into a sitting position . . . guiding Vince until he was kneeling
over his lap. This provided the best access for Stuart to touch him as he
continued to distract Vince from dark thoughts by kissing him . . . moaning
aloud at Vince's own soft murmur of pleasure. Speaking the words roughly
against his friend's mouth Stuart whispered possessively, "My hands. My
touch. That's all you need to know."


Stuart ran his hands down the length of Vince's spine . . . barely touching
with just enough pressure to leave a faint aftertaste of sensation in his
fingers' wake. Silently he reveled in the way Vince seemed torn between
wanting to lean forward to capture more of Stuart's mouth and wanting to
arch back into the slide of his talented hands. Finally at Vince's
frustrated groan, Stuart skirted his hands down to firmly clasp the man's
behind . . . drawing him forward into contact with Stuart's body.

Panting slightly, Vince began rocking his hips . . . making them both moan
at the hot friction this caused as their cocks moved together. Stuart
traced the firm curves under his fingers, paying attention to the sensitive
crease as he dropped his head down to taste Vince's nipples. He felt his
friend's body jerk as Vince tried unsuccessfully to avoid crying out at the
feel of Stuart's mouth over the them. Vince threaded his hands through
Stuart's hair as he guided him from one erect nub to the other. Stuart
laughed as he circled them each in turn, loving Vince's reaction.

"Bite me." The words gasped out above Stuart's head. Vince shook his head
wildly as Stuart nipped sharply at his chest. "Oh my god, that's so good."

Stuart eased the pressure, lightly licking the reddened tips before blowing
a steady stream of warm air over them. He moved his mouth alone the man's
collarbone, stopping to suck at the nape of his neck. Stuart knew he was
raising a hickey but he couldn't deny his impulse to mark Vince as his . . .
to place such a mark on him at his consent. Quickly lifting his head,
Stuart took Vince's mouth once more . . . purring into their kiss.

Teasing the man, Stuart took Vince's bottom lip between his teeth . . .
grinning at his friend's groan. He asked as he let go, "What do you want
first?" Feeling the blood rushing through this veins as Vince pressed back
into his wondering hands, Stuart hummed in anticipation. Vince opened his
legs widely as he knelt forward.

"Do it. Touch me there."

Speaking softly Stuart asked, "You want to feel my fingers inside you,
Vince? Reaching up so deep . . ."

With a quick breath, Vince nodded. Stuart could feel the shiver as it
traveled through Vince, matched by the trimmer that washed over his own at
the thought of touching him this way. Reaching over to the side table, he
brought out what they needed. Taking some lube to warm between his fingers,
Stuart melted himself as Vince traced over his lips with a liquid kiss.
Stuart held their eyes locked as he touched Vince's opening for the first
time. Holding the cheeks parted with one hand, he moved his other hand down
to seduce the tight entrance for acceptance. For all the heat he found in
touching Vince so intimately, Stuart was hard pressed to remember a more
enticing sight than the expression of pure unadulterated pleasure on his
friend's face as that first finger entered his body. Vince accepted the
intrusion with complete submission . . . head back, mouth opened and chest
flushed bright . . . moaning aloud as he asked for another.

Stuart obliged as Vince cried out softly. He watched as his friend shivered
against him, loving it as he saw such open rapture shine out from Vince's
eyes. "And now for just the right spot . . ." Wanting Vince to go crazy
out of his mind, Stuart brushed his finger tips over the hot spot up inside
Vince's tight entrance.

"Awww... Stuart, oh shit." Vince jerked as though lightening was surging
through his limbs. He clung to Stuart's shoulders . . . ducking his head as
he rasped out, "Keep that up and I'll come."

"So fucking responsive. Haven't even touched your cock but you're so ready.
Go ahead. I want to see you . . ."

"No. Not . . . not without you inside me."

Stuart truly had never felt harder in his life than he did now . . . hearing
those words from Vince's mouth. His cock felt so full, leaking pre-cum as
he imagined how Vince's arse would feel clasped round him like a vice. But
. . . "Vince, I want to fuck you so good. I do. But are you . . . Your .
. ." He traced his free hand gently over his friend's side and stomach.
Truthfully he felt like he'd rather die than deny Vince . . . than to deny
them both, but not if it would compound the damage.

Vince ran his hands down Stuart's cheeks and along his neck. Leaning
forward until their foreheads touched, he smiled so warmly. "This is about
what I decide I want, right?" He kissed Stuart, playing into his mouth with
a warm sweep of his tongue. "Remember . . . your hands, your touch."
Raising up on his knees, Vince shifted forward until Stuart's hard-on was
settled against his arse. He moaned at Stuart's pleased murmur, "Your

"Okey doke. Mmmm. You gonna ride me?" Stuart thrust up against Vince,
sliding up along the crease.

With a chuckle, Vince managed to gasp out his answer. "Giddy up."

Laughing into their next kiss, Stuart hummed his agreement. Drawing back,
he leaned over and grabbed a condom. Handing it to Vince, he got the lube
ready as he waited for his friend to cover his cock. Vince decided to take
his time with the task . . . licking his own palm and stoking it over
Stuart's length until he groaned before fitting the condom into place.
Stuart bit his lip as he ran his hand over his cock, readying it for Vince
as he watched his friend watching him. Eyes locked, Vince rose up into
position. He took Stuart's hands and placed them on his hips before lifting
one of his own hands to clutch at Stuart's shoulder . . . the other moving
back to guide his possession.

That first moment . . . pressing through, seeing the slight flinch cross
Vince's face as he felt the burn and then the mutual gasps as he sank down
as Stuart thrust all the way up in one smooth motion. "Vince. Ohh... So
fucking tight. Hot . . ."

Words stuttered forth as he stilled to let his body accept Stuart's
presence, Vince responded. "S'been awhile." He circled his hips, feeling
the hard grasp of Stuart's hands as he began to move up and down.

Stuart released a faint growl as he listened to those words . . . those
words mixed with the feel of Vince as he began to fuck himself on his cock.
Raw nerves were set on fire as the pace continued to increase, the friction
intensified by the touch of their eyes on each other's faces. Stuart had
never been in this intimate a position . . . had never felt this vibrant a
connection to how their fucking was being felt by his partner as well as by
himself. He liked how it felt, how Vince felt around him. He thrilled at
the cries the man released on every downward thrust and at the way his
friend kept running his hands over Stuart's chest, nipples, throat and into
his hair.

Gasping as they continued to move into and over each other, Stuart pulled
Vince in for a wild kiss . . . one meant to claim. One he may have shared
in the past with some nameless bloke while lost in a passionate haze but had
never meant until today. Speaking Vince's name repeatedly into his mouth,
Stuart felt the tremble of his friend's body . . . the wildness that spurred
their motions . . . and he knew they were close. So close. He intertwined
one of his hands with Vince's and brought them down to the man's aching
cock. Stroking in a commanding rhythm, he thrust up in a series of quick
jabs . . . each aimed at Vince's prostate.

"Stuart. Oh yes. Yes. I . . . I'm going to. . . Oh fuck!" Vince groaned
loudly as he came, his seed spilling over their joined fingers as he body
spasmed down tightly round Stuart's own cock.

Gasping out at both the view of Vince's face as he came and the feel of his
body as it clamped down on his flesh, Stuart shivered as his orgasm stole
through him like a storm. Slumping back as Vince fell forward onto his
chest, Stuart closed his eyes to dwell in his blissed out state. He
absently ran his hands down Vince's back as they both slowly regained their
breath. Thinking that Vince would need to rest more comfortably, Stuart
began to ease from him only to hear his friend's murmured protest.

"Stay. I want to feel you a bit longer."

Speaking before he thought Stuart said, "You're gonna be sore after this."

Talking into his chest, Vince sighed. "Better to focus on being sore there
than the rest of me."

Cursing himself silently for having unintentionally broached that subject,
Stuart leaned in to kiss the top of Vince's head. In a few moments, they
reluctantly separated as Vince eased down to drape himself over Stuart's
chest after he'd removed their protection. The silence was only interrupted
with small sighs as they both continued to touch the other . . . hands
caressing and lips brushing together with satiated languor. It was an easy
silence that Stuart had never realized was so unique and wonderfully
comforting until now. He didn't feel rushed, annoyed or disquieted like
with his shags, only a sense of peace at holding Vince in his arms.

Speaking softly with his eyes still closed, Vince broke the quiet. "I can
handle it you know."


His tone sounding assured if a bit stilted he answered, "What happened . . .
with that bloke. I'm not going to shatter to pieces."

"I know that, Vince. You're one of the strongest people I know. Have had
to be to put up with my shit, but . . ."

Interrupting Stuart, Vince made to reassure him . . . clearly trying to
alleviate any supposed nervousness on his friend's part for their moment of
passion. "And this. Us like this. It doesn't have to worry you. I'm not
. . . expecting anything." Not sounding at all convincing he ended with, "I
can handle being without this too."

Stuart almost jerked as he felt an inscrutable rush of denial flood his
consciousness. Pulling Vince fully into his arms as though to keep him safe
from his own self-sacrifice, Stuart kissed him as he responded with words
said along the sensual swell of Vince's lips. "Not sure I can, Vince. Not
anymore." Stopping any answering words Vince may have tried to give him as
a way out, Stuart claimed his lover's mouth. They kissed with new purpose,
moaning into the liquid heat . . . until the loud buzzing of Stuart's
intercom broke them reluctantly apart.

Choosing to ignore the questioning light of Vince's gaze for now, Stuart
rose from the bed to pull on his robe. "That's the food I ordered earlier.
Stay right where you are. No moving from my bed, right..." Grinning
widely, he breezed through the task of having the delivery brought up to his
flat. Stuart returned to the bedroom with the food on a tray soon
thereafter. Vince was lying on his back, buried in the tangle of Stuart's
sheets. Stuart trailed his eyes down the length of the man's torso, taking
in the dark marks and the newer spots of red that he'd placed on Vince's
skin minutes ago. Setting the service down, he dropped the robe . . .
liking how Vince's gaze followed it's descent before glancing back up along
his body to his face.

Sitting by Vince's side, he asked, "Think you can eat something?"

Sliding up to sit across from him, Vince smiled in chagrin as he shifted
gingerly to rest his weight more on his hip than his recently shagged arse.
"Could do."

They ate without talking, not that they didn't communicate . . . trading
heated looks and small answering smiles. Never losing eye contact for long,
Stuart thought himself surprisingly calm considering the revelation that he
was not going to let Vince talk them out from what had happened. No excuses
made and no denials after. He wanted more than he'd thought he would,
considering how close he'd come to having his better half ripped violently
out of his life. Once they'd finished Stuart asked, "How are you?"

"Odd mix. Sore as hell, but still on the no-pain high from before with
you." Vince actually seemed to flush at the memory. Stuart didn't blame he
either. It had been extremely hot. And too long in coming . . . "God, I'm
going to be in hell at work tomorrow. Not able to stay still and yet having
to walk round being stiff," he groaned.

"You're not going in, Vince. I called your supervisor. Told her you'd been
mugged and had to recoup." Forestalling Vince's protest, Stuart continued.
"She didn't have a problem with it. Really. And I'm not letting you leave
till we use every ounce of hot water this building can provide over the next
three days." Smiling when Vince's eyes grew wide at that, Stuart leaned
forward to ruffle the man's already wildly mussed hair.

"Uhmm. Did you . . . Hazel, did you tell her?"

Seeing the slightly panicked expression that passed over Vince's face,
Stuart assured him he hadn't. "That's for you to decide. I . . . I did
call Romey to tell her I wouldn't be getting Alfred tomorrow. She knows,
but I told her not to call Hazel either." Leaning in he said, "Romey said
to give you this." Taking him into his arms, Stuart hugged Vince close as
he nuzzled his cheek and whispered in his ear. "God, Vince. I've never
been this scared, angry and relieved in my life. And so fucking grateful to
have you with me."

Clinging to him steadfastly, Vince nodded in agreement before speaking into
the curls of Stuart's hair as they brushed over his face. "Never would have
thought you did scared."

"Hmmm. Didn't do boyfriends until today either . . . things change."

Vince pulled back. He trailed a hand along the side of Stuart's face,
brushing back the hair from his forehead . . . a serious expression on his
face. Looking into Stuart's eyes, he asked, "Boyfriends?" He touched the
black spot under Stuart's eye where his arm had made contact. "Blow to the
head . . . brain addled by sex . . . and talk of settling down. Stuart
Jones . . . you're off your head, you are."

Raising his eyebrows as he smiled, Stuart laughed as Vince grinned in
return. "I just know what I want. And finally know what I've always had in
you." He kissed Vince before he said, "Say yes, Vince. Stay with me. Be
with me." Nuzzling into Vince's throat, he asked, "Be mine?"

Vince lifted Stuart's head so that he could look him in the eyes. "Today,
tonight, tomorrow and on . . . for as long as you need me. Yes."

Knowing that one of the few things in his life that had always been and
would always be a constant was his need for Vince, Stuart exhaled a breath
he hadn't known he was holding inside. Pulling Vince fully to him as he
closed his eyes, Stuart gave himself the pleasure of touching his lover as
one word was called forth from his heart in mutual promise. "Yes."


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