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Friends With Benefits?

Maybe Not
The whole thing is Terrys fault.
Terrys the one who insists Steve needs a night out, the one who drags Steve
to the club, the one who spots a gorgeous redhead across the room and begs
Steve to talk up the guy next to her so Terry can have a chance to flirt with
her alone. Steve agrees, but one look at the guy and he knows its pointless.
Hes attractive enough, sure, but hes also wearing sunglasses indoors, his
clothes look more expensive than Steves last year of rent, and he looks
entirely bored by his surroundings. The words spoiled prick come to mind. He
lets Terry drag him over anyway, and in the time it takes Steve to blink, Terry
and the redheadNatasha, Elion-the-spoiled-prick tells himhave
disappeared, leaving Steve and Elion to try and forge onward awkwardly.
It takes five minutes of conversation for them to realize they fucking hate
each other.
Look. Elion swirls his drink. In the interest of speeding this terrible meet
and greet along, lets cut to the chaseirritating as you are, youre
admittedly very physically attractive and Ive got a room in the hotel across
the street. Interested?
Youre an absolute prick, Steve tells him, fully ready to follow that up with
a fuck no, only to find that in spite of himselfhe kind of wants to go. If hes
being perfectly honest its been a while for him, and Elions a douchebag but
he is attractive. Whats the room number?
Elion smirks, like he expected no other answer, and God, Steve hates him.
Which, oddly enough, turns him on a lot more than he expects. Hes never
had hate sex before and hes not expecting much from it, because all the sex
hes enjoyed before has come from a place of mutual admiration and respect.
He doesnt admire and he definitely doesnt respect Elion, but there must
be something there because despite being a very different sexual experience,
its also without question one of the best of Steves life. Its intense and
athletic and loud, so loud, Steve expected Mr. Smooth Cool Guy to be more
collected but hes not at all, he moans and he gasps and he swears, a stream
of sound that only serves to drive Steve crazier.
By the end of the night theyve left bruises and scratches all over each other,
fingerprints and nail marks and more than a few bites. Hes never had sex
quite like it; now his whole systems thrumming with adrenaline and pleasure
and the need for more. He knows the routine so he starts collecting his
things, but he cant help hesitating. Its not that he has any real desire to get

to know Elion as a person, but hes not seeing anyone right now so the idea
of at least having this to look forward to every once in a while sounds
fantastic. He feels like a drug addict, impatient for another hit but unsure how
to ask for it. In the bed, Elion rolls up onto his elbows and smirks.
Want my number?
For
Sex only. Elion holds up a hand. Couldnt agree more.
If you develop feelings Steve starts, only for Elion to snort and roll his
eyes pointedly. Steve mirrors it. If either of us develops feelings, we tell each
other. Shake on it.
Elion looks down at his hand with amusement. Do you want me to spit in my
hand, first? Or maybe cut my palm?
Just fucking shake on it already.
If I ever start swooning at your self-righteous attitude and overabundant
arrogance, trust me, Ill let you know. Elion shakes his hand anyway, adds
mockingly, Should we write up a list of rules, or can your cramped brain
manage to remember dont fall in love with me?
Actually, thats a good idea, Steve decides, mostly to spite him. Rule one:
no staying the night.
Elion gives him a look. Who said I would let you in the first place?
Second rule, we meet in hotels only. Steve starts writing his number down
on the hotel-logo-emblazoned pad of paper next to the bed.
This time Elion rolls his eyes. Obviously.
Third, no casual texting, were not friends, were
Jesus, Steve, I know how a booty call works. Im not going to ask you out for
dinner and a movie. You want another rule, lets throw in the hand-holding,
stroking my face crap, what the hell was that?
Steve cant help reddening a little; hes used to taking care of his partners, he
tends to like them a hell of a lot more than he does this Elion guy. Elion
hadnt objected at the time. It was just habit, dont make a big thing out of
it. I wont do it again.

Great.
Good.
Fan-freaking-tastic.
Whatever, Elion. Steve drops the pen back on the table, gathers up his
things again and tugs his shirt on. Ill see you when I see you.
Yeah, whatever.
It takes two weeks for Elion to text him. Likely playing some kind of waiting
game, but jokes on him, because Steves hardly just waiting around to be
called. Hes not some kind of pet. He actually misses the first text, too busy
getting drunk with Terry and Sam to notice his phone buzz, but they connect
a few days later and Steves reminded why he bothered with such a jerk in
the first place. After the second time things go a little smoother, they part on
slightly better termsnot great, but betterand start meeting up more
regularly. They follow all the rules to a T, though Steve has more trouble than
he expects with the, as Elion puts it, hand-holding, stroking my face crap.
Its not that he likes Elion, just that when he gets into sexand for all that
they clash the minute their clothes are back on, they are both very, very
enthusiastically into the sexhe forgets about those types of things.
Theyre about three months and more than two dozen meet-ups into this
thing, right when Steves finally managed to go a whole session without any
of the touchy-feely bullshitanother of Elions preferred expressionswhen
Elions the one scrambling for his hands. Steve doesnt think much of it at the
time, mostly because Elions coming and Steves not far behind, but Elion
clings and Steve holds him and when theyre both finished he rolls off.
Theyre still not friends, but they talk a little more these daysabout the sex
and how to improve it, nothing else, thats dangerous territoryso Steves
comfortable enough pointing it out.
You broke rule number four. He could be less of a dick about it, true, but its
not like Elion ever holds back with him.
I did. Elion acknowledges, a bit of a gasp to it, but not because hes
surprised; hes still trying to catch his breath. Steve gets the bottle of water
from the bedside, takes a long drink himself before passing it along.
Thanks.
Elion drinks. Steve takes care of the condom, ties it off and aims for the
wastebasket by the door; he misses.
Have you ever made that shot?

One of these nights, Steve insists.


Elion snorts. Maybe if we get a room with the basket directly next to the
bed.
Shut up. Steve elbows him. Elion does stop talking, for a minute, but not for
long. Its not really his style.
Maybe rule number four was added a little hastily, Elion admits. Steve
glances over at him. Possibly by someone who, lacking proper experience
with it, told themselves they didnt like touchy-feely bullshit anyway, but has
since found that it could, potentially, work for them.
Its a mouthful of a sentence, one that takes Steves sex-hazy brain a minute
to unwrap. Elions not big on direct communication. Steve thinks he gets it,
though, and if hes reading between the lines right he thinks its the most
personal thing Elions ever told him. He still doesnt like the guy much, but he
can admit theres not as much animosity between them as there used to be.
If it turns out Elion likes being taken care of during sex more than he
expected, well, Steve can work with that.
Fair enough. Steve shrugs. Three rules sounds more solid than four,
anyway.
How is three more solid than four?
Its just a rounder number, I dont know.
But threes odd and fours even, four should sound rounder than three.
Theres all sorts of stuff in threes, Steve dismisses him. Three primary
colors, three types of matter, the rule of three
Wait, back up. Elion shakes his head. Theres four states of matter, not
three.
Now youre just being argumentative
Im serious! Solid, liquid, gas and plasma.
Plasma isnt a state of matter
I have a PhD in physics, Steve, plasma is a fucking state of matter. Elions
swearing, but its casual, like he finds it hilarious that Steve would try and
argue with him about this.

Steve sighs, probably wrong but not happy about it. Show off.
Is that what you like to call people when theyre right? Elion teases.
Its what I like to call people when theyre showing off that they have some
fancy schmancy PhD.
I have three PhDs. Elion props himself up on one elbow. Did you really not
know that?
How would I know that? Steve rolls his eyes, mimics Elion in falsetto, Oh
yeah, Steve, fuck me like Ive got three PhDs, because I definitely do.
I meant Im surprised you havent googled me. Elion flicks his stomach.
Steve rubs his stomach and flicks Elion back, though it doesnt really hurt; the
nail marks Elion left on his back sting far more, but thats the good kind of
sting.
How would I google you? I dont even know your last name. Elion freezes up
and Steve backtracks. Not that Im asking, relax.
Right. Elion relaxes, or tries to; it seems forced.
What, do you want me to? Steve raises an eyebrow, tries for a joke to
lighten him up. Shit, have you fallen for me at long last?
Dont be stupid. Elion rolls his eyes, but the tension in his shoulders seems
to finally dissipate. I just thought I told you, I guess. Doesnt matter, I dont
know yours, best to keep it that way.
Steve nods his agreement, takes back the water bottle from Elion so he can
drink some more before hoisting himself up. He snags a washcloth from the
bathroom, does a quick wipe down of himself before tossing it to Elion and
collecting his clothes.
Next week?
Out of town. Elion shakes his head. Hes out of town a lot; hes some kind of
businessman, that much Steves gathered, but what kind of business Steve
doesnt know. They dont ask those kinds of questions about each other.
Steve just nods, and Elion adds, Ill text you when Im back.
Sounds good.
Elions gone for about a week that time, which is fairly normal, but next time
its nearly a month. Elion warns him prior to it and they meet up again before

he goes, but once hes gone its stillstrange. Steve doesnt want to say he
misses Elion, exactly, but saying he just misses the sex doesnt feel quite
right either. They see each other a lot, these days; at least three nights a
week, sometimes more. Steves friends teased him relentlessly at first, but
his thing with Elion is so regular now that even Terry doesnt bat an eye when
Steve says hes heading out to meet him, and Terrys always the holdout. The
flipside of that regularity means that it takes them no time at all to discover
that Elions out of town, and even less time to decide that Steves become
mopey in his absence.
Oh my god, just text him, Sam demands, halfway through his third beer.
Im not going to text him. Steve ignores the round of boos that go up.
Text him, text him, text him, Happy starts chanting. Clints the first to join
in, but given a minute theyre all going at it.
Its Friday night and as per usual theyre all sitting around the coffee table,
because its Steve and Terrys apartment and Steve and Terrys paychecks do
not add up to affording a kitchen table and chairs. Its their next intended
purchase, though, right after they buy Terry a mattress that didnt previously
house a family of raccoons. And Call of Duty 4. Terry and Natasha are
lounging in the reclinerwell, Terrys in the recliner, Natashas in Terrys lap
Steve and Sam snagged the couch, while Clint and Happy, late to the party,
have been stuck with the floor across from them.
What would I even say? Steve throws his hands up, not giving in, but at
least saying something to get them to stop chanting. The neighbors are going
to be pissy tomorrow if theyre not careful.
I miss your dick, Terry suggests.
Better yet, dont say anything at all. Happy makes a gesture like his hands
are a camera, and he clicks a picture over Steves crotch.
Im not sending him a dick pic, Happy. He isnt opposed to the idea of dirty
pictures, or sexting in general, but out of the blue like that seems tacky.
Do you think he would not like it? Clint shrugs, takes another drink of his
beer. Jane and I often
Immediate and resounding protest rises up from the group, who have all
heard far too many Jane and Clint stories.
Weve been over this, man, nobody wants to hear that. Sam makes a face.

I was merely going to say we keep in touch when apart, you make me out to
be so crass. Clint chuckles, then gets a smirk on his face that means nothing
good. Although, yes, I have also sent her many pictures of Scepter.
Clint, for fucks sake
Shut up, man
What is wrong with you
Clint and Jane insist on referring to his junk as Scepter in public, as if theyre
the only two dorks on the planet who know basic innuendo. The group caught
on in about six seconds, but if anything thats only seemed to encourage the
couple to use it more. While the others continue to complain, Steve fiddles
with his phone. It wouldnt hurt just to glance
Hes not listening, hes waiting for his boyfriend to text him, Terry tells
someone impatiently, snaps his fingers. Steve glares at him. There we go.
Stevie, weve been over this, just ball up and text the guy already.
We have a rule about
The group groans in unison.
Fuck your rules, man, Sam insists. You like this guy, and now youre all
mopey without him even though theres a perfectly easy solution.
I dont like him. Steve cant help a quick glance at Natasha. He doesnt like
Elion, but Natashas presence is a bit more of a reason to be emphatic about
it.
Natasha and Elion arent friends, exactly; Elion was her employer at one
point, and isnt any longer. Steve isnt entirely sure of the details, what
Elion or Natashas jobs were, just that theyve kept in touch despite the fact
that Natasha jumps from job to job on what appears to be a whim. Shes
beautiful and charming and exceedingly talented at being what people want
her to be, so she gets more than enough job offers to make that kind of
lifestyle work for her. Steve worried a little in the beginning, about his best
friend falling for someone who seemed so impermanent, but hes grown to
like Natasha a lot and for all that shes flighty with jobs shes loyal to the
bone when it comes to Terry, and now to them as well. Its why Steve
hesitates to talk about Elion around her. She and Elion are still in touch, and
though Steves better friends with her, Elion knew her first; Steve has no idea
which of them ranks higher in her loyalty hierarchy, and hes unwilling to test
it. Mostly, he just tries not say anything, but the guys seem unwilling to let
that happen tonight.

Shame, is all Natasha says, which is unhelpfully vague. Terry nods in


agreement like he knows exactly what shes talking about. Steve shoots him
a look, and Terry waves a hand at him.
Come on, Steve. You have to know youre basically dating the guy, right?
Were not dating, its just sex, Steve repeats for what feels like the
hundredth time. He gets booed by the group.
Look, I am all for recreational, no strings, animalistic hate sex, Terry
gestures loosely with his beer. Natasha smirks. Steve decides hed rather not
know why. But thats not what youre doing. Not all youre doing, anywayI
mean, if you have to rely on these bullshit rules to stop you from doing
anything more, then doesnt that kind of tell you how much you want to be
doing more?
No, we just set up the rules to be clear with each other, theyre notthe
rules arent stopping us, were stopping ourselves, the rules just establish
If you say rules one more time, Im throwing my beer at you, Happy
threatens, but its a null one and they all know it. Happy would never give up
free beer.
Its not exactly like youre good at following rules to begin with. Sam snorts.
I dont want to text him, rule or no rule, Steve insists. Hes feeling less and
less certain about that by the minute, but hell be damned if hes going to tell
them that.
Natasha eyes his phone. Ill give you a hundred dollars if you text him and
he doesnt reply in less than a minute.
Steve stares. What?
You heard me. Natasha smiles, tips her beer in his direction. Going once
I dont Steve starts, only for Terry lean off the recliner to punch him in the
shoulder. Ow!
Call of Duty 4! Terry hisses.
I thought you wanted a better mattre Steves cut off as Sam punches his
other shoulder. Ow!
You heard the man, Call of Duty 4!

Going twice. Natasha grins.


Fine! Steve holds up both hands defensively, ready to catch any more
punches coming his way. Ill text him, breaking the rules weve established
and potentially convincing him that I cant handle no strings and that we
should end the whole thing for good, which would be terrible for my sex life
and make me really upset.
Yeah. Terry nods emphatically. Do that.
Call of Duty! Happy whoops.
Text him, Natasha repeats.
I hate you guys.
You love us. Sam leans into his shoulder, adding in a sing-song voice,
Though not as much as you love Elion
Shut up. Steve shoves Sam off him, pulls out his phone.
He debates what the hell hes even supposed to say, before a stroke of true
brilliance occurs to him.
Steve: Natasha paid me $100 to text you, ignore this
He feels rather proud of himself, for all of about ten seconds. Then his phone
chimes.
Elion: Just $100? Youre cheaper than I remember
Natasha raises her beer in cheers. Whatd I tell you?
Thats Shit. He shouldve explained that Elion had to wait at least a
minute. Hed said ignore this, but Elion mightve thought he was just saying
he could ignore it. Why did he text back at all? They have a rule! Damn it.
Call of Duty, Happy moans sadly, falling backwards until he lands with a
thump on the floor.
Steve fiddles with his phone. It isnt as if Elion asked him any questions, his
text doesnt need answering. Elion probably only even answered to be polite;
Steve texted once, because he had to, Elion texted back once, to let Steve
know he got it. They havent technically broken the rule yet, the rule is casual
conversations. Two texts isnt a conversation

Just text him back. Sam elbows him. I can see your fingers itching.
Thatd break the rule. Steve puts his phone down and leans over to grab
another beer. The group boos him again.
Rules, rules, rules. Happy makes a face at the ceiling. Since when do you
follow the rules, old man?
Steve throws a pillow at him.
This thankfully turns into a pillow warits a war, not a fight, theyre grownass men and women, thank youwhich serves as a distraction. Steve forgets
about texting Elion back for a while, until they call it a night and Natasha
squeezes his arm as she leaves.
Hell text you back, Steve. She smiles. Elions not exactly a rule-follower
himself.
Steve wonders if she knows. He hasnt told them, her or anyone, that he and
Elion have agreed rule four no longer counts; any other rule and he wouldve,
but the way in which Elion asked for it, however vaguely, seems personal.
Elions story to tell, whatever story there is. Still, it does remind himElions
already broken a rule, and Steve gave him a pass. Elion would likely be okay
with breaking another, just this once. It isnt like Steve intends to text him for
long, or become buddy-buddy. He just wants tocheck in, thats all. Hes
used to seeing Elion all the time, and now its been almost two weeks; thats
the longest since they started this whole thing.
He picks up his phone, contemplating Elions last message from more than an
hour ago. Should he give an excuse for how long it took him to answer? He
settles on,
Steve: Youre the one who keeps booking the marriott when theres a
hampton inn right around the corner
Again, Elions reply takes hardly a minute. He must be a fast texter; Natasha
swindled Steve.
Elion: If I knew STDs and dirty sheets turned you on, I would have
Before Steve can even think of a reply, a second message pops up.
Elion: Busy night?
Steve hesitates, then texts,

Steve: Drinking with friends, got distracted. And Im sure the hampton inn
cleans their sheets, youre just spoiled
Elion: If spoiled = values my health then yes, I am. The only way Id step foot
in a hampton inn is in a hazmat suit, and no one looks good in hazmat yellow
Steve: You sure? I definitely have a thing for men in hazmat suits
Elion: Im calling bullshit
Steve: No, really. The sterile yellow really accentuates the whites of their
eyes
Elion: Lmao, keep it up, Ill wear a hazmat suit next time and youll have to
eat your words
Steve: Did you really just say lmao
Elion: I texted it, I didnt say it
Elion: And Im in a meeting, I didnt think about it, dick
Steve: Did you really just call me a dick while in a meeting
Elion: Dick
Elion: Dickety dickfaced dicksucker
Elion: To be fair, youve definitely earned the title of dicksucker
Steve: Im so honored
Elion: Would champion dicksucker make you feel better?
Steve: Im concerned about the fact that you feel comfortable writing a text
including the phrase champion dicksucker in the middle of a meeting
For whatever reason, Elions reply takes a whopping three minutes and
twenty-seven seconds. Not that anyones counting.
Elion: I can write a hell of a lot more than that, if you want
Ah. That might be why. Though Elion apparently thought twice about sending
it, Steve finds he doesnt really need to think twice about his answer.
Steve: Show me what you got

Turns out, what Elions got is a lot.


Hes a better writer than Steves expecting, to be honest, though he
shouldve at least suspected it; Elions exceptional at dirty talk, it makes
sense that would translate. Steve finds hes very glad Terry went to Natashas
for the night. Hes always felt a little weird masturbating with Terry home,
their rooms are too close, and Elions texts are winding him up almost as fast
as if Elions right there in the room with him. Then Elion starts giving him
directions, like he knows what Steves doinghe probably does, considering
how slowly Steves replies are comingtelling Steve how hed help him if he
were there, how hed direct Steves hand with his own but not touch him
anywhere else, tease him, make him beg for contact, and Steve hears himself
say please to the empty room in spite of himself. He doesnt tell Elion, Elions
smug enough as is.
Steves tantalizingly close when the texts stop.
Steve kind of wants to throttle himthat complete and utter dick, Steve cant
believe he didnt see this comingand then his phone rings. Actually rings,
for a call instead of a text, and Steve almost knocks it off the bed in his
scramble to grab it. Hes way too far gone to bother trying to tell himself hes
not hoping its Elion.
Hey, sorry, meeting ended, had to shake a few hands with a hard-on, that
was fun, Elion starts talking immediately, before Steve can so much as get a
word in edgewise. In the limo now, partitions up, were good.
Words like limo and partition buzz around in Steves head, and if hes
supposed to know what that means, he doesnt. Elion seems to get that,
because his tone changes from rushed and apologetic to something slower,
more suggestive.
Youre still touching yourself, yeah?
Yeah, Steve breathes. Hes not quite as close as he was before, the
abruptness of Elion cutting off and then transitioning to a call threw him a
little, but he can get back there. Elions voice in his ear, heavy with promise?
He can get there.
Give yourself a stroke for me. Thats it, good, nice and slow, Elion
encourages, not waiting for Steve to say that hes done it. Elion knows he
will. The thought does something to him, a twist of heat low in his gut, and
Steve lets out a breathy sigh. Elion hums. Ive got time, no rush here. You
got somewhere to be, Steve?

No, Steve almost stutters over the word. Its not even the way hes
touching himself, its Elion voice, slow and soft and enticing, familiar and
exactly what he needs right now. Its been weeks but it feels like years.
Good. Christ, Ive been hard for ages, all through that damn meeting.
Theres a rustling sound over the line, something that sounds like a zipper.
Arousal jolts through Steve at the thought; Elion in some fancy suit, pants
around his ankles in the back of a car, getting off to Steves voice. Steve
squeezes himself, tight, tries to calm down. He must make some sort of
noise. Thinking about me?
Yes, Steve rasps, God, yes, you in one of those nice suits, all mussed up
now, with your tie askew and your pants shoved to your thighs like a
teenager, too eager to wait.
Yeah? Its Elions turn to be breathless, and Steve hears him moan over the
line. Its not acting, either; Elions shameless, its fantastic. You like the
debauched look, huh?
I do. Steve tries to get a grip on one of the several dozen fantasies jumbling
around in his head now. Id make it worse, if I could. Id unbutton your shirt,
leave hickeys all down your throat and chest. Id suck you off, be messy
about it, get come all over those expensive pants of yours.
Elion moans again, deeply this time. Fuck, Steve. Id hold you down by your
hair
Tight, like I like it
Real tight, yeah, keep you there until youre gasping
Choking on your cock and still begging for it
And Id run my thumb over your mouth, all slick and stretched around me
god, fuck, Steve. Elion cut himself off with a sharp inhale. Why the fuck are
you not here and fucking me
Youd like that, wouldnt you? Steve can hardly breathe through his arousal,
putting together a coherent thought is impossible. He says whatever comes
to mind, wants it so badly he feels like his bloods on fire. Have me suck you
til youre right on the edge, then leave you hanging, manhandle you over
Elion keens. It always seems to do something for him, being reminded that
Steves stronger than him and not above using it to his advantage. God, shit,
yeah

Press you into the seats and take you from behind
Elion gives a choked laugh. What, no prep?
Its a fantasy, Elion, cmon.
What, fantasy you is some kind of sadist?
No, maybemaybe fantasy you prepped yourself, I dont know
Your fantasy is for me to do all the work?
My fantasy involves being inside you as fast as possible, okay? Pretend I
prepped you, then
Why am I the only one pretending, why arent you pretending
Okay, were now both pretending that I have taken my sweet time
thoroughly and completely stretching you, four fingers wide and a whole
bottle of lube
Youre such a Elions breath catches. sarcastic little fucker.
And that turns you on. Steve grins knowingly, and Elion stutters out
something thats half Steves name and half a moan. Yeah, I know it does.
Youre close too now, arent you?
Fuck, yeah, Elion groans. Steve feels his toes curl. You there?
Steve nods without thinking about it, wound too tight to realize Elion cant
hear him. ElionElion, I need
I know, Elion pants, I know what you need, Steve, you needneed to fuck
me, use me, rut into me hard and fast and desperate, I need you too, its
been weeks, babe, god
Steve comes without warning, a twist of pleasure and a flare of heat up his
spine. He cant breathe for a minute after, cant hear anything distinct, just
Elions voice still going on about all the dirty things he has planned for when
hes back. His voice hits a certain crescendo and he stutters, gasps, and then
Steve knows hes coming by the sound he makes. He knows exactly how
Elion looks just then, breathless and flushed with exertion, expression twisted
in pleasure; its enough that Steve can feel his dick making a valiant attempt
at re-arousal. He wants to be there with Elion, wherever there is.

They pant together over the line for a minute, but its companionable,
comfortable even. Eventually, Elion speaks first.
I know theres no rule, but Im gonna go ahead and preemptively apologize
for the babe bit anyway. Id be sorrier, but. You know my mouth.
Steve laughs, because he does. Dont worry about it. Worry about what Im
gonna do to that mouth when you get back.
Elion groans. Im not gonna last another two weeks.
So dont, Steve decides. Its not really breaking their rule, anyway. Call
me.
Isnt that?
Nah. Steve shakes his head, though he knows rationally that Elion cant see
him. We said no casual conversation, phone sex doesnt count. Right?
Yeah, no, that makes sense, Elion agrees emphatically. Its a little quick, but
then, hes always looser after sex. Ill call you.
Sounds good.
The next two weeks arent exactly short, and theyd be better with Elion
actually around to do the things they talk about, but it passes much faster
than the first two. They call often and in between calls they text, having come
to the unanimous, unspoken agreement that despite what they said, phone
sex has broken the casual conversation rule, or has at least led them to the
breaking point. So they call, and they text, and its during this time that Steve
realizes Elions not actually a totally terrible person.
He wouldnt say theyre friendsnot out loudbut he thinks it, knows it. He
still doesnt know Elions birthday, or his last name, or what his job is, but he
knows Elions favorite fruit is strawberries and that his last girlfriend, Amy,
was allergic to them. He knows Amy is the only serious partner Elions ever
had, and one of his best friends to this day. He knows theres a man called
Jensen who Elion describes as his one true platonic life partner, and the
only time theyve ever voluntarily gone a week without speaking was in
college, after Jensen accidentally crawled into Elions bed instead of his own
and they made out, briefly, until they figured out they werent each others
girlfriends via the startling lack of breasts. Elion discovered he was attracted
to men as well as women; Jensen did not. It was an awkward week.
He knows by now that hes definitely supposed to know who Elion is,
celebrity-wise, but he also knows Elions glad he doesnt; Steve tries to keep

it that way, avoiding questions that dig too close to an identity and not
thinking about any of the details too hard. Steve initial impression of Elion
seems to have been a mask, or at least a partial oneElions definitely got a
snarky streak a mile wide, no question about thatbut hes kinder when hes
comfortable. Less defensive, more teasing. Steve wants to keep it that way.
Steve fully expects the texts to dry up once Elions back in town. They text all
day until Elion gets on the plane, then meet up in the middle of the afternoon
because Elion goes straight from the airport to the hotel. They spend the
whole afternoon and most of the night in their room; Steves basically a
zombie the next day at work, but hes too blissed out to care. If theres such a
thing as the orgasm equivalent of a hangover, hes got it. He cant resist
texting Elion that, who texts back as quick as ever suggesting that they call it
an orgover. Steve points out that sounds kind of like the orgy version of
Passover, then they get side tracked debating which holiday would be best if
turned into an orgy, and weeks pass without either of them ever quite finding
the right place to end the conversation. So they dont.
It takes them four months after that to break another rule, which, all things
considered, Steve doesnt think is actually all that terrible.
Theyre friends now, even Elions acknowledged itwhich is good, the term
hate-sex hasnt applied in a long while and friends with benefits is much more
aptand though their sex life has slowed, a little, their conversations have
only picked up. He still doesnt know Elions last name or occupation, but
theres little else he doesnt; he knows Elions birthday now, May 29 th, and
that hes the kind of genius who builds robots in his spare time, which is how
they wind up breaking rule number two: no meeting outside of hotels.
Elions workshop is breath taking.
Its the kind of place Steve previously thought was only possible in sci-fi, with
CGI or a whole hell of a lot of imagination. He cant name half the things in
the place, nor does he try. Elion shows him his projects, his AI A.I, and his
little fleet of robotic arms; Steve knows at this point that Elion works for Exton
Industries, that much is pretty hard not to know considering the giant sign on
the outside of building and all, and there is the small little fact that the CEO
of Exton Industries so happens to be named Elion Exton, but Elion doesnt
bring it up so Steve doesnt either. Instead, he takes a seat on the couch
across from Elion, whos fidgeting on a work stool, and chats a little with one
of the robotic arms, who beeps and hums in all the right places. Dum-E, his
side says.

Steve must be doing something right, because he cant help noticing the way
Elion keeps glancing at him, shooting him these significant looks anytime he
thinks Steve is focused enough on Dum-E not to notice.
What? Steve rubs a thumb over his cheek. Did Dum-E get grease on my
face?
No, its nothing. Elion waves him off. Just keep talking to that mindless
heap of scrap and ignore all my other amazing, world-changing innovations,
no big deal.
Hey. Steve huffs a little, pets Dum-Es claw. Thats not very nice. Elion
doesnt mean that, Dum-E, hes just being mean because he doesnt want
you to know how much he cares about you. In fact, I bet youre his favorite
no offense, A.I.
None taken. A.I sounds amused, and Steve marvels at how Elion couldve
possibly managed to make something that can sound amused. I find that Sir
often employs such defensive tactics, with people as well as with
Oh, mute, you. Elion scowls upwards, presumably at A.I, who falls silent. He
squints at Steve a little, like hes trying to figure him out. Youve got a whole
workshop full of bigger, faster, all around better things to play with. Whyre
you wasting your time with a useless old hunk of junk?
Youve got some very nice toys, Elion, Steve humors him, patting Dum-Es
hull. But I like Dum-E, hes got character to him. Quality. He picks a bolt off
a nearby table, rolls it along the floor. When Dum-E just looks at him
quizzically, Steve points and encourages, Fetch, Dum-E.
He looks up and finds Elion staring at him again.
What?
Elion shakes his head. Iam trying to figure out how to convince you that
Dum-E isnt real therefore cant be scandalized, so we can and definitely
should have sex on this couch.
Its not true, Steve knows; he knows how Elion looks when hes thinking
about sex, and that wasnt what he was thinking about. But hes closing off
now, a little bit, Steve can see it in the way his brows are knitting together
and hes hunching forward in preemptive defense, so Steve doesnt push.
Instead, he leans in and grins.
Hes a swell little guy and all, but unless hes hiding eyes and ears in that
claw of his I think I can get past it.

Elion smiles, a quicksilver little thing, then hes pushing himself up and going
over to dig through a desk drawer. When he finds what hes looking for, he
pumps his hand in the air like the end of Breakfast Club. Steve cant help but
laugh, both at the gesture and his prize.
Of course you keep lube in your workshop.
What, werent you ever in boy scouts? Elion returns to Steve with a grin as
he situates himself comfortably in Steves lap, deposits the bottle beside
them and starts kissing along Steves neck. It wouldnt do to be unprepared,
Steve.
I was a boy scout. You, Steve says definitively, slides his hands along
Elions waist to get a better hold. Were never a boy scout.
Alright, maybe not, Elion admits, moving to nip at Steves ear. But Id bet
you a million dollars the self-righteous little sassmonster that was your
childhood self never lasted beyond the first week.
I show you one picture and you think you know my whole story, Steve
complains. Its his own fault, though, and he knows it. He accidentally
mentioned how tiny he used to be, and Elion promised him increasingly wild
sexual favors in exchange for a picture. Steves weak; it took barely three
texts to get him scrambling for his old yearbooks.
Please, picture schmicturealright, not picture schmicture, thats definitely
still your caller ID until the end of timebut the point is Elion sucks a kiss
along his clavicle. Steve groans. That if you werent a troublemaking brat,
then Ive never met one in my life.
Takes one to know one.
Fair, but already established. Elion winds his fingers through Steves hair
and tugs, just the right side of tight to tilt Steves head back. Cmon, spill.
Am I keeping my money or are we booking the penthouse again?
Its Elions go-to threat. He means one penthouse in particular, at the Four
Seasons, because after they spent an insanely luxurious night there once
Steve had been too curious afterwards not to google the price. He wasand
still is, franklyutterly horrified.
Alright, I got kicked out four days in, Steve admits. Elion beams
triumphantly and kisses him, a little messy, mostly because hes mouthing I
so totally fucking knew it against Steves lips.
For what?

Hm? Steve plays innocent. You know, I dont even remember what we
were talking about, youre such an amazing kisser it just completely wiped
my mind.
Elions hands slip lower. You think Im afraid to cheat?
Oh, no, you gonna punish me with a handjob? Steve cants his hips up,
already eager for it. You know, Ive been really bad, you might have to blow
me for the message to truly sink in
Oh, Ive got plans for you alright Elions hands edge under his shirt, and
Steves breath catches a little at the soft, light caressthen catches again,
because Elions not caressing at all.
Hes tickling, and hes tickling to win because it takes barely seconds before
Steve can hardly breathe through the laughter. He tries to shove Elion off but
Elion just tucks his ankles under Steves thighs, stays hooked on him like a
vice, determined and completely, utterly ruthless.
I give! Steve gasps out. I give, youre a terrible, horrible person and I give
up you win
Damn right I win. Elion smirks, running his fingers along Steves side one
last time. Whether its a promise or a warning, Steves too lightheaded to tell.
Elion leans in, kisses him, steals more of his air. Tell me.
Have I mentioned Steve cant help panting a little, and not in the usual,
fun way. That youre a terrible, horrible person?
Repeatedly. Elion beams at him. You know what you havent mentioned?
Why you got kicked out of boy scouts.
It wasnt even my fault, Steve insists, because it wasnt, it was his asshole
scout leaders fault.Elion lounges a little, moving off of Steve and to the right,
kicking his legs up over Steves lap and resting an arm against the back of
the couch.
All my favorite stories of you start with the phrase it wasnt even my fault.
Elion grins. So whatd Terry dare you to do this time, lick another swing set?
No. Steve scowls at him, flicks his ankle. I told you, that was only the once.
And I didnt lick it, I just
Tapped it briefly with your tongue, I know. Elion smirks cheekily. Come
on, get to the good stuff. How old were you?

I was sixteen, Mom thought it might help give me some after school
structure
Elion fakes a gasp. Are you telling me beating up assholes in back alleys isnt
a school-sanctioned sport?
You wanna hear the story or not? Steve threatens, following it up with a
poke in the ribs. Elion laughs, then mimes zipping his lips. Steve rolls his
eyes, entirely disbelieving, but continues anyway. So, sixteen. Enrolled in
boy scouts. Didnt take long to discover my scout leader was a homophobe,
all that scouts is for real men and aint no room for pansies here bullshit.
So
Oh, right, so you calmly told your mom, who then pulled you from the club
without any fanfare whatsoever, Elion finishes, apparently unable to help
himself. Steve glares at him, and Elion has the gall to bat his eyes. Right?
Steve sighs. or Terry and I made out on the hood of his car instead.
Elion freezes, just staring for a second, then hes absolutely howling with
laughter. He has to grab Steves shoulder just keep himself on the couch, and
even with that he nearly falls off. Steve hauls him back up and keeps the arm
around his waist; partially because its comfortable, but mostly because he
knows this next part will have Elion laughing even harder.
When we hopped up onto it we set off the car alarm, so he came out pretty
fast, but he also thought the neighborhood kids were messing with his car
again so he came out armed and ready with his hose. When he realized who
we actually were and what we were doing, he just changed the nozzle
settings and sprayed us harder until we had to run off. I never set foot in
scouts again.
Hes right; Elion laughs even harder. Eventually the laughter peters off into
snickering, most of it pressed into Steves shoulder as Elion leans forward and
presses his face there like thatll somehow help stop his giggling fit. Youre
such a terror, I canthow are you even real? My god, Steve. My scout leader
was a homophobe so I made out with a guy on the hood of his car,
who does that?
Hes back to giggles again. Steve rolls his eyes, but he cant help feeling
affectionate more than anything else. He deserved it.
He sure did. Elion tucks his hand into the crook of Steves arm, gives a
squeeze. And of course, good ol Captain America just couldnt resist
jumping in with some righteous justice.

Steve groans. Not that again.


Speaking as the former king of awkward teenage Captain America overenthusiasts, youre going to have to trust me when I say you look exactly like
the guy.
How can I, hes just a character in a comic b
Shh, Cap. Elion presses a finger to his lips. Dont listen to the nonbelievers.
Steve snorts. Would goody-two-shoes, stuffy ol Captain America do this,
huh?
He gets Elion under him in one smooth move, swinging his free leg over so he
can straddle him and grind down. At the friction Elion arches up, makes a
surprised, pleased noise that Steve immediately covers with his mouth. He
kisses Elion with intent, pulls out his favorite dirty little trick right off the bat.
He can feel Elions pulse jump and race underneath him, hear him suck in a
shallow breath only to surge up and bring Steve in for another kiss, this one
harder, more desperate.
Howm I lookin now? Steve grins, lets slip the Brooklyn accent Elions so
fond of.
Elion just looks up at him, something from the stares of before back in his
eyes. Its not quite wonder but its something close; Steve doesnt remember
the accent having quite that much of an effect on Elion before, but hes
certainly not above taking it and running.
The look fades before Steve can untangle it, and he doesnt bother dwelling
on it. It feels personal, whatever it is, and he knows Elion will tell him about it
when he feels up to it. Steve has too good of a time after that to dwell on
much of anything, anyway; its different than usual tonight, charged with a
different sort of airSteve sure as hell likes it, no doubts about thatthough
he cant quite put his finger on any differences in particular. Still, its
definitely something, because they wind up breaking the final rule that night
as well. Steve chalks it up to the change of scenery and Elions surprisingly
comfortable couch.
He wakes up warm and comfortable, boxers on, pants kicked off at the end of
the couch and shirt nowhere to be seen. He and Elion have curled up
together in their sleep, legs tangled and arms around each other, and Steves
reminded of why hed made this rule in the first place. Hes always been a
cuddler. Still, its a good thing in this case, since their entangled limbs and
the firm arm Steves got around Elions waist is probably the only reason

Elion hasnt fallen backwards off the couch. Instead, Elions face is pressed
into Steves neck, where it feels like hes drooling. Steve should definitely find
that gross. He cant seem to manage anything beyond a warm, inexplicable
fondness. Elion shuffles a little, ducks his head down and rubs his cheek
affectionately against Steves chest. Steve knows he should get up, or at
least wake Elion, but he also knows full well hes not going to do either of
those things.
To pass the time, he tries to remember how he came to the conclusion that
this would be a good idea.
He remembers starting to put his clothes back on but getting sucked back in
by Elions voice, by a question or a teasing remark or some bit of
conversation he felt completely unable to walk away from at the time and
now cant remember for the life of him. A hazy memory comes back to him,
of later in the night, of long after hes abandoned trying to put on his clothes
and instead has Elion wrapped up comfortably in both arms. He remembers
repeating, sleepily and without any real intent, that he ought to go. He
remembers Elion stroking a thumb over the corner of his mouth, kissing him
very softly. He remembers Elion asking quietly, stay, please?
Steve blames it on the new location. Theyve established good habits in
hotels. The foreign surroundings of a fancy schmancy hotel room are always
a good reminder, at least for Steve; he likes being with Elion, and he likes
going home to his cozy apartment and familiar bed afterwards. Here, though.
He doesnt remember feeling uncomfortable or out of place here last night,
justsafe. Happy.
Stay, please?
A bit of panic begins to buzz around in the back of his head, because safe and
comfortable and happy are maybe, possibly not the kinds of strictly sexual
feelings Steves supposed to be having. But they could certainly fall under
the category of friendship, right? And theyre friends now, thats fine, thats
totally
The hint of a yawn Elion gives as he wakes is enough for Steve to push aside
thoughts of anything that isnt this, at least for now.
Morning, he offers.
Elion grunts. Does it have to be?
Kind of. Steve laughs, and Elion burrows closer to Steves chest with a hum.
Do that again.

What, laugh?
Yeah.
I cant do it on command, itll sound weird.
Take me to your laugh, leader, Elion rumbles, in whats apparently his
approximation of an alien voice. Its a terrible joke, one of Elions worst, but
Steve finds himself laughing anyway. Elion hums again.
Feels nice.
Steve cant help agreeing. His concerns from only moments ago seem far
away now. They broke the remaining rules, so what? Breaking the first two
just made things better, whos to say if breaking these last two wont do the
same? Steves full to the brim with warm, fuzzy friendship feelings and is
likely about to have sex sometime in the next couple of minutes if the way
theyre currently, lazily rubbing themselves together is any indication; life is
good.
Elion gives a stuttered groan, eyes blinking open briefly, shut again, then
open firmly as he plants a hand on Steves hip.
Ive been thinking, Elion tells him, apropos of nothing.
Sounds dangerous. Steve teases, slides a hand between them to cup Elion
through his pants. Can you do two things at a time, or should I stop?
I can do a hundred things at a time Elion starts and Steve begins to
unbutton Elions jeans, only for Elion to clasp his wrist. but letting you jerk
me off while I try and talk about something serious for once is probably not
one of them.
Steve blinks, unsure of where serious for once is heading, but complies and
takes his hand away. He starts to sit up, only for Elion to wave him back
down.
No, shit, dont make it weird, justlie down.
Elion tugs on his shoulder when he doesnt move fast enough, puts Steve on
his back and props himself up on one elbow, leaning over Steve a little so
theyre making eye contact. Any worry Steve has about the serious-for-once
nature of the conversation melts at the way Elions smiling, soft and a little
hopeful, like he was last night. Stay, please? Of course, now Steve curious
whats got Elion smiling like that, but at least he knows its the good kind of
serious-for-once conversation and not the bad kind.

Ive been considering these rules of yours.


Steves not sure what he means by that; they agreed to the rules together,
Elion helped come up with them. I thought they were our rules.
Same thing, you know what I mean. Elion traces something over the skin of
Steves chest, right by his heart. The touch is distracting, but he tries to pay
attention to Elions words. Point is, theyre not really sustainable, in the end.
We broke them tonight, and well probably break them again. Cycling through
hotel rooms, fighting sleep after orgasm just to slink off to separate beds
when theres a perfectly good one ready and waiting? Seems like a waste to
keep doing that forever. And since I know how much you hate waste, I
figurewell, I figure maybe we might as well just toss out the whole rule
thing altogether.
Theres something hesitant at the end there, something cautious; Steve
misses it, distracted by Elions circling fingersElion always gets fidgety
fingers when hes nervous, but whats there for him to be nervous about right
now? Does he think Steves going to be mad? He smiles in a way he intends
to be reassuring, takes Elions hand and squeezes. Elion looks elated.
Of course we can, Elion. I mean, we came up those ruleswell, kind of a
long time ago. Its strange to think about, in a certain context; friends with
benefits, for nine months? But he doesnt think about it that way often. Its
justhim and Elion, and when Steve thinks about it like that, nine months
only ever feels too short. We were going to have to rework them eventually,
I dont think either of us planned on the situation lasting this long. I mean,
were going to break some kind of friends with benefits record keeping this
up.
He feels Elion stiffen beside him, and the thumb thats been rubbing over
Steves knuckles slows, stops. I guess we will.
What? Steve cant help feeling worried by Elions tone, his reaction. He
cant be thinking aboutending it, right? Why would he? Of course hes not.
Things are great, things are perfect, Elion even said he wanted to forgo the
rest of rules, Steves just being
Nothing, Elion dismisses, but its a lie and they both know it. The lazy,
happy mood from before is gone and Steve can feel Elion withdrawing from
him, literally as well as metaphorically.
Where are you going?
Ive got work. Elion shrugs, moving off the couch and over to the table
where his shirt is. Dont you?

Not for a while, Steve lies. He doesnt even know what time it is, but he
knows hes made a wrong move just now and he doesnt want to leave
without fixing it. Elion checks his phone before looking over at Steve,
fondness there until his expression goes carefully neutral.
You have work in less than an hour, Steve. You should go.
Whats happening here? Steve insists instead, pushing himself off the
couch and going to Elion. Why are you
Maybe we got it wrong.
Wrong?
Yeah. Elion nods, surer this time as he tugs his shirt over his head. Maybe
we shouldve stuck to the rules after all.
Itskind of late for that, dont you think?
Not really. Elion rebuttons his pants, still not looking at Steve. Not if we get
back to basics.
Basics?
All the rules, not just the ones we feel like following on whatever given day.
Elion goes in hunt of something else now, waving loosely at Steves pants
where theyre bunched in the corner of the couch. Your pants are there.
I know where my pants are, Elion, Iwhat are you talking about, why would
we go back to basics?
Because this isnt working, Elion says, frustrated now that he cant seem to
find whatever it is hes looking for.
What? Steves more than a little taken aback by that. What part?
All of it.
Elion, youre one of the best friends Ive got these days, Im not going to just
Steve insists, trying to follow after him as he starts pacing wider circles,
but Elion cuts him off.
I have friends, you do too. We should stick to them.

You cant honestly think Im going to just nod and smile and walk away here,
would you just He tries to catch Elions shoulder, but Elion shrugs him off.
Will you talk to me, please? Explain what the hells going on?
Whats going on is that you need to put on your pants and I need to find
your shirt so you can get out of my workshop, like you shouldve last night,
Elion bites out.
You asked me to stay, I I wanted to stay comes at him out of nowhere,
and he startles himself by how viscerally he means it. He wanted to stay. He
wanted to stay last night, and he wanted to stay this morning when he woke
up. He felt so safe and comfortable and happy here, with Elion,happier than
hes been in years, than hes ever been with anyone before
It was a mistake, Steve. Elion whirls around, dangerous like a wounded
animal, defensive now and all the more vicious for it. You remember how this
started, dont you? Hate sex. Great, angry sex between two people so
completely different they hated each other the minute they laid eyes on each
other. Anything more than that was never going to work.
Steve wishes Elion had just hit him, it wouldve hurt less.
He must see something in Steves expression because he falters, backs away
with a clenched jaw and averted gaze. Steve feels like hes going to throw up,
but its not just Elions words. Its the realization that he cant go back to that.
Steve doesnt have the slightest clue whats going on with Elion right now,
but if hes serious, if he wants to throw them back to hotel meet-ups and rm
143 8pm b there texts and not getting to card his fingers through Elions hair
and stroke his hands down Elions spine and feel Elion clutch his hands too
tightly as he comes apart, thats justSteve cant treat Elion like some
douchebag he met in a bar anymore, he wont.
He doesnt want the rules, any of them, or to set any stupid friends with
benefits records. He wants their morning back. He wants Elion lazy and happy
again with nowhere else to be, wants Elion tracing his chest and smiling up at
him like hes the whole world, kissing him softly and asking him to stay.
Steve knows what he wants. Its only taken him something like seven or eight
months too long to figure it out but he knows now and its right there on the
tip of his tongue, able to fix everything or tear it all down permanently. He
doesnt know which, but Elions watching him so warily Steve cant stand it.
Elions waiting for Steve to lash out, to try and hurt him in return for what he
said. It only makes Steves next words all the easier.
I love you.

Silence stretches between them, all the wariness chased out of Elions
expression by pure surprise.
And maybe you think more wont work, but I do, Steve says, filled with the
sudden need to convince Elion, get him to understand this amazing thing
Steve himself has only just now realized. God, Elion, were so good together.
Cant you see that? I know were supposed to be friends with benefits and
this breaks every spoken and unspoken rule that comes with that but IIve
been writing this off for months as really good sex and then as really good
friendship but its not, its so much more than that. You mean everything to
me, Elion.
Steve, Elion says, but its barely a whisper, a stunned exhale more than
anything else, so Steve barrels onward in the hopes he can salvage
something, anything.
Having you in my lifeits not just that I can talk to you about anything, its
that I want to. Even the little things, the dumb work stories or the barista
misspelling my name again, the first thing I think when things happen to me
now is that I cant wait to tell you all about it. Cant wait to hear you laugh, or
watch you roll your eyes, or tell me how its your own fault, idiot and kiss it
better anyway. It cant be a good day unless I hear your voice, cant be a truly
terrible day if I have. Anytime Im not with you I want to be, and when I am
you make me feel safe. Not that Im unsafe other places, but that II can be
myself with you, not a version of it or a part of it but everything, good, bad
and ugly, because you know me and I know you and being with you feels like
coming home.
Elion looks nothing short of stunned, still speaks like someones just punched
him. His voice catches as he says Steves name. Steve, how could you think

I know. Steve flinches back a little, torn between wishing he hadnt said as
much and wishing he could find a way to say more, say enough to make Elion
feel the same. I know you want toto go back to basics, to keep the sex
without the friendship but youre not some stranger I met in a bar anymore. I
cant pretend toto fuck you, like I dont love you. So if we have to stop the
benefits part of this I can live with that but please, if you care about me at
all, dont cut me out of your life. I cant lose you, Elion.
For a long moment Elion does nothing but look at him, lips parted just slightly
in surprise; its almost as if hes speechless. Steves never actually seen Elion
at a loss for words before. Theres something about the way hes looking at
Steve though, startlingly similar to the looks hed been giving Steve
yesterday, and when he does speak his voice is rough.

Youre such an idiot.


Steve cant help it, he flinches again. Elion
No, shut up. Elion crosses over to him in less than two strides, drags him
forward and kisses him, desperate and more than a little relieved. Even when
they have to part, Elions hands still hold him tight and their foreheads stay
touching. Elion swallows, a barely audible sound, then he laughs, happily
disbelieving. God, youre such an idiot.
His tone is happy and fond and Steve thinks this means something good, but
doubt and worry nag at him all the same so he has to ask, The good kind or
the bad kind?
The Ive been in love with you for months kind, Elion tells him, and Steve
goes still. Ive beenI tried to show you that you meant more to me so
many times, but you never seemed open to it. Then you stayed last night,
when I asked you to, and I hoped
Earlier, Steve realizes. When you asked to forget the rules, you meant
I want you, Elion admits, like its some kind of terrible weakness he cant
believe hes confessing to out loud. The real way, the right way, the way
where we can tell people and go out together and come home to each other
and II would trade the sex for that in a heartbeat.
Who says you have to trade? Steve squeezes the hand hes got on Elions
waist. Or did you forget the part where I talked extensively about how much
I love you?
Elion gives a choked sort of laugh. No, I remember. Still working on
believing, but. I remember.
Believe me, Steve encourages, kisses him. He keeps it gentler than before,
chaste. Theres no need for intensity and desperation. Theyve got time.
Just like that, huh? Elion asks softly.
Just like that, Steve agrees.
They kiss for another moment, before Elion tells him, When you said yes the
first time, to dropping the rules, you didnt mean it the way I did. And I felt so
stupid for even hoping
I didnt know what you were asking. He didnt know he loved Elion then
either, but he thinks if hed been given some sort of direct question and had

to actually consider it, hed have figured it out pretty fast. But now I do, and
I want everything you want, Elion. Same page.
Steve, Iyou should know, my last name is
Exton? Steve raises an amused eyebrow. As in, Exton Industries, which is
plastered over the building you brought me to spend the night in without so
much as a security badge? Not to mention you spray painted it on poor DumE, along with aka mine so dont fucking touch in what looks likesharpie?
Sharpie, Elion agrees with a bit of a laugh. I was seventeen and very
drunk.
Of course you were. Steve smiles, because only Elion could invent
something as amazing as Dum-E at seventeen and not even running on full
brainpower. Steve Rogers, nice to meet you.
Rogers, Elion muses, a matching smile on his face. Roger that, Rogers.
Ive condemned myself to ten years of jokes about that, havent I?
Who says Ill stop at ten? Elion grins, but theres a very genuine giddiness
under it thats nothing short of endearing. Steve leans in, steals a taste of it
for himself. Elion kisses back happily for a moment, until something like
hesitation cuts in.
So youknow, Elion says slowly as they part. Steve raises an eyebrow in
question. That Im Elion Exton. But obviously you arent very tuned into the
news
Steve chuckles. By which you mean I dont read celebrity trash mags, no.
so you probably arent as aware of my
What, your reputation? Steve brushes his thumb over Elions cheek. Come
on. Do I really seem like the kind of person who gives a damn about
reputation? I know you, Elion. I dont need to read trashy magazines or watch
TMZ to get whatever bullshit inside scoop they think theyve got. And yeah,
that means Im aware you havent exactly had a stellar record with
relationships.
Im kind of awful at them, Elion agrees, a little faintly, and Steve hears
the so are you really sure you want one with me? he doesnt add. If its
supposed to be a warning, its a fairly terrible one. Elions still smiling, for one
thing, and clutching Steve like itd take a fire alarm to get him to so much as
consider letting go.

I can get a date, yknow, Steve tells him. Elion looks at him quizzically. I
can go out and get them myself, but Ive also been asked on them. Given
numbers, had people point me towards their friends, been coerced into set
ups
Is there a point buried in there? Elion grumbles. Steve just hugs him closer,
kisses his temple.
Yes. My point is that I turned them down, that Ive been turning them all
down for months now and Ive never even thought twice about it. I kept
telling myself I wasnt interested and never bothered thinking about why that
might be. They were nice enough people, attractive enough, but they werent
you, Elion. And at the end of the day, some part of me knew that meant they
werent worth wasting my time.
Elion tries to stay neutral, but eventually cant help cracking a smile. Okay,
that was a pretty nice point.
I kinda thought so. I was coming around to it.
I just meant Elion glances up at him, then down again. Theres a lot of
other people you could be with, Steve. I know that. And I
Hey now, that wasnt at all my
No, I know that wasnt your point, but it is mine. My point is that Im rich and
kind of famous but Im also older than you and carry the kind of baggage
nobody needs in their life, least of all you. Youre a good person, Steve. Also
kind of a shithead and a complete terror at times, buta really good person.
Im not. You once called me the most frustrating person on planet, and just
because youre no longer mad at me doesnt mean you were wrong. Im
going to fuck up this up at some point, at many points, in all probability, and
youd probably be a lot happier if you
My exact words were that youre the single most frustrating lunatic that ever
walked the earth, Steve corrects, but hes teasing and he gives Elion a quick
kiss to assure him of it. And for the record, I stand by that. Also for the
record, having the single most frustrating lunatic that ever walked the earth,
walk into my life? Best thing that ever happened to me. So quit putting
yourself down. You think I dont know youre older than me? That youve got
issues wrapped up in your issues? Honestly, Elion, we met someone we didnt
like in a bar for five minutes and decided to have long-standing semi-regular
hate sex with them for nine months, I think weve both got some issues.
Elion laughs, and God, he has such a wonderful laugh. How did Steve ever
convince himself he didnt love this man?

Okay, so youre not so good at this either.


No, Im really not. Steve raises his hand to Elions cheek, strokes his thumb
there. Wanna try together anyway?
Elion nods, a little forcefully, like if he doesnt do it fast enough Steve will
change his mind. Steve smiles, cups Elions face in his hands as he kisses him
again. He knows how Elion gets, knows he doesnt believe he deserves good
things and that even if he manages to gets them theyll never last. Steve also
knows hes going try his damned hardest to prove to Elion how very wrong he
is.