Late spring fades into summer, and Face is looking for what's missing. This is a sequel to Angels of the Morning.
He drove unconsciously, finding it hard to pay any real attention to the road. He was in Westwood, on the back roads, luckily, since he found himself sitting at stop signs for minutes at a time before realizing it.
His route was aimless, he thought, yet found himself pulling up to the curb down the street behind the VA.
He wasn't sure why.
Leaning forward, he rested his chin on his hands on the steering wheel, letting the car idle as he stared out across the wide back lawn of the VA, which led to the wall of the VA proper. His eyes moved along the building with a practiced eye, counting windows till he reached the one that he knew was Murdock's.
He sat, just staring out the windshield. What was he doing here? He needed to talk. Murdock always listened. He needed that. He needed something.
He sat there for a while longer, trying to come up with a plan or even just a viable idea, of how to get in to see Murdock. Finally he sighed and shook his head. His brain was all fuzzy; he couldn't come up with anything remotely coherent. He found himself tempted to go in anyway; a few of the nurses were kind of used to seeing him on Sunday mornings and would probably let him pass. But that in and of itself was a problem, if one of them decided to investigate Mr. Murdock's friend.
Besides, it was way too early, still.
He'd had another Saturday night, alone but not alone. Another woman. Another night wantonly, wastefully spent. Another morning of wanting something more. He'd escaped the confines of her apartment (Alicia? Amber?) before dawn. The sun was up now, but not up far enough. Way too early.
So he put the car into gear and sat there for a moment longer before easing his foot off of the brake and pulling slowly away. His apartment, when he got there, was closed up and stuffy, dust particles dancing in the sunlight, decidedly empty. He hung his suit jacket over a chair and sat down heavily on the couch. He stayed there for several minutes staring into space. What he really wanted to do was to get up and take a shower. But he couldn't quite find the energy to move.
He glanced over at the phone, then at his watch. 7:30. Probably too early. But Murdock kept odd hours anyway. He should go take a shower, maybe make some coffee, give it some time. He got up to head to the shower, found himself picking up the phone instead. He'd dialed before he thought too much about it, then heard the first ring. He'd probably wake him up. Definitely too early. He was going to hang up quick, had his thumb on the disconnect, not sure why he called at all, and not wanting to have to explain anything, when he heard Murdock's cheerful and fully awake voice.
"Sid's House of Pain, Sid speaking, how may I hurt you?"
Face smiled involuntarily. He dropped to the couch with the phone in his lap.
"You usually answer the phone like that?"
"A solid answering technique is a basic tenet of good customer service." Murdock's voice had a smile in it, and he dropped the routine. "How you doing, Facey? I thought you was still out of town."
"No, got back a couple of days ago."
"And you haven't come to see me yet?" There was a put-on pout in the pilot's voice. "For shame, Face! First you leave me stranded here instead of letting me fly you . . ."
"It was in Long Beach, Murdock."
Murdock never hesitated in his diatribe. "Even though I know a chopper would have gotten you there much, much faster. Then you never even write . . ."
"I was gone for five days!" Face's tone was one of almost gleeful exasperation.
"And now you don't come see me once you're back. What am I to you, anyway?" Murdock asked good-humoredly.
Face couldn't speak for a moment, so strong was the feeling that surged up in him. Good question, he thought, thinking back to his silent vigil outside the VA that morning. What are you to me, anyway?
There was a pause where Murdock waited for the conman to defend himself. When that didn't happen, Murdock asked in a softer tone, "You doin' okay, Face?"
Face's response was purely reflex. "Yeah, I'm fine." Another pause, and Face could feel Murdock almost weighing the accuracy of the statement. He spoke quickly to forestall any questions. "How was your week?"
"Eh. Comme ci, comme ca. Not much going on here." He gave what amounted to an itchy sigh.
Kind of just what Face wanted to hear. Now, he'd be doing it for Murdock, not for himself. He made his voice low and inviting. "Want I should come get you?" Teasing, knowing Murdock would always respond in kind.
"Oh, yeah, baby, you know it." Face couldn't detect the laugh in the voice, but knew Murdock must be joking. Teasing, always.
"You say the word, I'm there."
"The word," Murdock responded instantly.
"I'm there." Face surprised himself with the relief apparent in his voice. He glanced at his watch. "Give me 45 minutes for a shower and some inspiration."
"I'll be ready." Face could almost picture the loopy grin spread across Murdock's features. Made him smile himself. He felt the adrenaline coursing through his blood: anticipation of seeing Murdock setting his mind to working, already coming up with a plan of how to spring him, when earlier it had seemed impossible. This was good. He needed to talk, and Murdock had the ability to be an excellent listener. This was very good.
"Thanks, ah, Cindy, is it?" Face flashed his dazzling smile, the one that was meant to blind the mind to anything out of the ordinary, so caught up in the supposed attention paid to them by the handsome Face. He'd have made a hell of a doctor, he thought; he looked so damn cute in a lab coat.
The young nurse (new, he noted) gave him a yearning smile back. "So you'll bring Mr. Murdock back after the appraisal?"
Face laid a comforting hand on her shoulder and looked directly into her eyes. "Of course, Cindy. Now, if you'll just initial right here?" He considerately held the clipboard for her as she carefully signed off on the release of one HM Murdock. "Excellent. We'll have him back within the week, if all goes well. Mr. ah, Murdock?" Face called across the room to where Murdock was laid across his bed sideways, head invisible as he dug underneath, hanging upside down, rooting around for something.
There was no response except for what sounded like muttered curses as he leaned further under the bed, tilting dangerously forward. Face raised his voice. "Murdock!" He cast a charming smile over at the slightly confused nurse, squeezing her shoulder slightly and not missing the color that rose in her cheeks.
A definite curse this time, and Murdock's head emerged, triumphant, as he held up the dusty baseball cap, retrieved from where it had fallen between the bed and the wall.
"Mr. Murdock?" Face used his solicitous voice, accompanied by a tilt of his head and a raised eyebrow that only Murdock could see.
"Ah, right, doc." Murdock rolled off the bed, landing neatly on his feet. Face always wondered how those long legs didn't get in his way more often. He slapped the dust off his cap and pulled it on, summed up the flirty connection between Face and the slightly bewildered nurse with a glance. He scooped up his jacket and bag and headed out the door, slipping between Face and the nurse, pausing only to give Face an amused look and his own pat on the shoulder, with his back to the nurse. He headed down the hall, Face trailing behind, giving the nurse the clipboard and last minute reassurances and one final grateful look that would hopefully blind her to any weirdness regarding this discharge.
One last casual smile, that he lost as soon as he turned away and sped up his steps down the hall, hissing, "Murdock!" at the pilot, who was standing way up the hall at the elevator, pressing the down button steadily and repeatedly. Face caught up to him just as the door opened and Murdock jumped in and immediately started pressing the ground floor button just as steadily and repeatedly. The door closed and Murdock turned and gave Face a wide grin. Face couldn't help but grin back.
Together at last.
Where did that come from? He dismissed that worry with a shake of his head, letting the happiness flow through him without much scrutiny. He needed this. Why couldn't he remember that? Needed this, more than he needed those women. This was saner, wasn't it, than trading on his looks for a partner for the night? Was that right? Was hanging out with a madman saner than seducing women in bars every Saturday night? Maybe it was, at that. Felt better, actually. Felt like himself, whatever that was.
Face realized he was still gazing steadily at Murdock next to him, and that Murdock was now looking back, worried at his silence. He'd just opened his mouth to say something when the bell dinged and the elevator door slid open. Glancing out the door, Murdock shut his mouth and motioned Face out ahead of him, but his look indicated this wasn't a lost subject.
Face wasn't sure whether he feared or anticipated the coming conversation.
Out the door, no questions asked. White lab coats could work miracles, sometimes. Especially coupled with Face's smile. Quick around the corner and into the 'vette, out the gates and they were free. Face was grinning smugly, another con pulled off smoothly. He felt cocky, together, for the first time this week, and he allowed his gaze to slide over to Murdock, catching his eye and hoping that he felt the same way. Murdock grinned back, happy to be out on this gorgeous Westwood Sunday, with Face, and everything so very fine. They cracked each other up, with their loopy smiles, and drove off, the day spreading out ahead of them.
A warm evening breeze blew over him as he dug his bare feet further into the sand. He rested his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands and glanced sideways over at Murdock. The pilot was also barefoot, busily tracing designsin the sand with his fingers, then smoothing them out, starting over with a
a clean slate. It had worked out well, today had, and Face once again reflected how glad he was that he'd given in and called Murdock. That fighting against what you know is right, it got him every time. He'd get all wound up in life, going along and not being happy with it, and never take the time to look at why. Murdock helped him take the time. The slightly crazy pilot was never too busy to talk, and his gentle ways and honest listening had a way of leading Face down paths he never would have thought of taking.
Like today. Murdock had scrunched his face and shaken his head at any of Face's suggestions of movies, food, or activities to keep them busy. Instead, he'd insisted they take a quiet day; head to the house Face was staying at (a beach house, naturally, Face being drawn to them like he was to no place else). Mooching about on the private beach out back, Murdock exploring the little tide pools amongst the rocks, Face actually dealing with wrinkles by rolling up his cotton pants so they could go wading.
The talked about everything and nothing. Easy talk, no pressure, no guilt, no worries. They talked about Hannibal and BA, about the last mission, about Murdock's sessions with Richter. Face worried, sometimes, about how much help Murdock could get from Richter, when he had to hide so much. Hiding who and what he was couldn't lend itself well to the therapy. But he got something out of it, it seemed, and he didn't mind talking about his therapy with Face.
They laughed, a lot. Face found himself laughing more with Murdock than with anyone else, and it was open, honest laughter. Easy.
As the day drifted into evening, they found a comfy spot and sat down, quieter now, but a comfortable quiet. Face had snagged a few bottles from the house, and they sat sipping the cold beer and watching the sun set. Murdock looked up from his tracings, caught Face looking at him. Gave him a smile, and Face smiled back, unworried, not even trying to look away. Didn't matter that he'd been looking, Murdock didn't mind, and Face found that he himself didn't mind. The entirety of the circumstances, the comfort level of just being with Murdock, the hazy sunshine all day, how tired he still was from the marked lack of sleep last night, it all came together to leave him open.
Wanting to be open, like this.
Suddenly he felt even more tired, it hitting him how difficult the act was getting. Last night had drained him, and the contrast between that and this left him slightly shaky. Everything and nothing, a game but not a game.
Murdock, still looking at him, leaned back on his elbows in the sand. The wind had kept threatening to remove his treasured baseball cap, so he'd pulled it off and stuck it in his back pocket. His hair was wavy and wild around his head, and the setting sun made him squint slightly. "You look tired."
Face raised an eyebrow, an immediate instinct at being read so easily. Opened his mouth to dismiss the thought, and found himself sighing, instead. "I am tired."
Murdock frowned at him slightly, in the muted afternoon sun. "Head back to the house?"
Face said, too quickly, "No." This was too good, here. Didn't want the real world to intrude too soon. "Ah, not yet. This is comfortable, enough. I don't feel quite like moving."
Murdock settled back into the sand, but he was still studying Face. Had a measuring look to him that made Face slightly uneasy. Finally, Murdock said, "So tell me, Face, what exactly is going on in that pretty little head of yours?" He was drawling and had a little half-smile on his face, but his eyes stayed serious. Serious and steady on Face, and Face shifted a little under that gaze, knowing that he wasn't going to get out of this one easily.
"Too much, sometimes, I think." Must be tired. Too damn honest. "I get going on something in my head, and I just can't seem to stop. Can't focus." He sighed and closed his eyes for a second. "I don't know what the fuck I'm doing with my life," he muttered. Talking to himself, maybe. Maybe just talking.
Murdock stretched a bit, took a sip of beer, settled into the sand. Didn't take his eyes off of Face. Didn't say anything, just stayed focused on him, till Face opened his eyes to stare out at the ocean once more. Waited. Easy.
"You ever want something, but you don't know what it is? So you keep trying for it, keep looking for it, but you know it's a lost cause. And you get lost in the looking and. . ." He shook his head, hard. "This is stupid. Never mind. I'm not making any sense."
"Now that's where you're wrong, Facey." Murdock's voice was tough and gentle at the same time, still with that heavy drawl. "Makes perfect sense to me."
Face turned his head to look at Murdock, resting his cheek on his drawn-up knees. He felt weary. Weary and willing to let go.
Murdock said softly, "You always make sense to me."
It was twilight and dim, the shadows around Murdock making it hard to see his face. Hard to read him. Face felt like his reflexes were slow, as he tried to think. Tried to focus.
The breeze was warm and smelled of the vanishing sunlight, smelled of warmth and sea and sand. The sand was still warm beneath them and the beach sounds surrounding them created its own kind of silence, enveloping them. Face let go of his knees, lay back in the sand, too, unconsciously (maybe) emulating Murdock's posture. Leaned back on his elbows and looked out into the gathering darkness. Took a breath of the salty air.
Murdock was quiet, too, waiting easily, the silence not heavy but willing.
Face's voice was low. "I get lost in the looking. I'm tired, Murdock. Just. . .tired." He fell silent again, and Murdock's voice came from the dusky light.
"Tired of what?" Not baiting, just honestly curious.
"Of. . ." He gestured vainly. Of it. Of everything. Of the girls, of the trivial dates, of the filling up of time in between missions. Of being able to pick and choose, apparently just due to his looks, and not finding anything he'd want to choose. Of not being *happy*. Didn't any of it, all of it, his whole damn life, get him something? When he finally spoke, it was soft and almost to himself. "Of always waiting. Waiting for something. Haven't I paid my dues by now?"
He was looking away, up at the stars just beginning to tinge the night sky with their light. He didn't know it, couldn't know it, but his eyes were bright in the dim light, bright and huge and maybe a bit more desperate than they'd ever been.
Lost, again, he'd faded and didn't notice till Murdock put his hand on his arm, gentle, bringing him back. "Hey."
Face turned to look at him. The hand on his arm was warm against his skin, skin suddenly cool with the loss of the sunlight. "I don't know how to say it." Face's voice was steady, still, which was nice. He'd thought it would shake. He must be better at this than he thought. Too talented sometimes.
This close, he could see Murdock's eyes in the dim light, studying him still. When Murdock finally spoke, he sounded angry, almost. "Tired. How dare you be tired, right? Of course you're tired! There's too much going on during the missions and not enough afterwards. You get wired and worn out and then it's over and real life just doesn't seem to be enough." He stopped for a second, looking at Face but maybe not seeing him, really. His eyes had that thousand-yard stare, looking at something else entirely. His words were quick and clipped. "What dues are we paying, really? There's so much to pay for." He laughed shortly. "Nam? How do we pay for that? Pay for the women, children, villages, the stuff we did? No way. And the overnment? Right. Ain't no audit ever gonna come up with a sum they'd be willing to take in exchange for us." A pause. "For you guys, I mean," he added softly.
He looked into Face's eyes for a moment in the dimness, held that gaze, then dropped it, looked at where his hand rested on his arm, slowly started to withdraw it. Without thinking, Face put his own hand over it, held it where it was. "If they only knew, Murdock. There's no way-no way-we could do this without you. And you're right, you know. . .about real life not being enough. Sometimes. A lot of the time." He gave Murdock a sideways grin. "Are we actually saying that dealing with the insanity-ah, no offense. . ."
Murdock nodded graciously. "None taken."
". . .that dealing with that, the jazz, has spoiled us for anything else?" His eyes had adjusted to the dark and he could see Murdock grinning back.
Murdock pulled his hand away to pick up his beer, took another sip, still looking at Face. "Maybe it has, at that. Or maybe. . ." He stopped, seemed pensive, then shook his head slowly, drank some more beer.
Face watched Murdock watching the ocean. "What?"
Murdock sighed, looked at Face, opened his mouth, then shut it. Shook his head. "Never mind." There was a little grin on his face. "Just. . .never mind."
Turnabout being fair play, Face studied Murdock carefully. Distracted, now, from his own troubles, and curious. This was a game he knew how to play.
He picked up his own beer from where it rested in the sand beside him, took a long sip, covertly looking at Murdock from the corner of his eye. Put the beer back down, and shifted a bit in the sand, so that he was facing Murdock. Waited till he knew he'd drawn Murdock's gaze. Murdock watched, still with that odd half-grin, as Face ran a hand through his wind-blown hair, tilted his head, gave him that gaze. That look.
That conman look.
Now, Faceman, that's just not playing fair at all, is it?
When Face got that look, Murdock took it as almost a personal challenge to throw him off. He was good at his job, too damn good at it. Look at him, how he could go from almost, almost opening up, to puppy-dog deception with barely a blink of the eye.
He thought he was charming Murdock, getting him to tell.
He was going to be surprised.
A grin spread across Murdock's face and he swallowed a laugh as he finished his beer. Face was watching him. Ducked his head, then looked up at Murdock through his eyelashes. Murdock gave him a small smile, raising an eyebrow, and Face smirked, knowing he'd been made, but still playing. Lifted his chin a bit, tilted his head. His voice was soft, with only the barest tremble of a laugh, as he gave it his best shot. "Maybe what, Murdock?"
Murdock shook his head, laughing a little. "Maybe you're just too cool for your own good, Face."
Face gave him a smooth, appraising look. "You think?"
This time Murdock laughed out loud. "I do."
"Yeah, but you also think I make sense."
Murdock's laughter died, and he nodded. "Yep. I do."
"Come on, Murdock. Maybe the jazz has spoiled us, or. . ." Face raised a questioning eyebrow.
"I don't know, Face, you tell me." Still teasing, a bit.
"Or what? Or we were spoiled to begin with?" Another careless (careless?) grin. Voice sounded unsure, eyes maybe too
amused. "Situation normal, all fucked up?" Believed, maybe, that they were (that he was) damaged beyond wanting.
"That's not it." Murdock's eyes, dark, looking at Face's blue ones. Easy enough to get lost in those eyes.
"Then what? Am I close, at least?" He wanted answers, here. He really, really wanted (needed) answers.
"Yeah. You're close." Very close. Close enough to touch. To feel? Murdock's skin was tingling with the awareness of how very close he was. Close enough to madness, to even be thinking (feeling) this way.
Murdock was suddenly very aware of his breathing. Aware, also, of how alone they were. Aware of Face next to him. Close.
He wanted to do something. To push this. They'd been dancing along this edge too long. But it wasn't his call to make. He'd given Face time (time enough), given him a place. It was his call. His move. Fear or caution or reserve, Murdock wasn't sure what was guiding him, but he knew enough not to push. Not here. Not now.
Still, he found himself wanting to push things. Holding back like this (hiding like this) wasn't his way. The way Murdock played the game, if you listened close, real close, you could always hear the truth of the matter. All of his rants and raves were grounded in the here and now. Face was good at seeing that, usually. But not with this particular topic. Murdock was shuttering himself, holding back. Wait for him to see, don't leave yourself too open. That's not something Face understands, really, that openess. Don't want to scare him.
Dammit. Face was still looking at him, had been looking at him all along. No. No way. He pulled back, pulled away, but not quick enough. Damn! Get lost in your thoughts, Murdock, nice timing. Real nice, leave yourself open. Could see by Face's expression that he'd seen something (everything?) in his eyes. Face was too damn good at his game. Fuck. Murdock had known, had *known* he was being played, and he *still* got caught. Too damn good.
Play back. Just play the game. He sighed, smiled charmingly, and cocked an eyebrow at the expression on Face's face. Waited for it to sink in.
Didn't take long.
What was that? There, in Murdock's eyes, what was that? Or, never mind. Face knew what it was. Recognized that particular look, but never expected it to be coming from this quarter. Not really. Right? Not from Murdock. It didn't make a whole lot of sense. They were friends, good friends, best friends, really, if he was being honest with himself. The best of friends, so different, but so good at playing off of each other.
Why wasn't he shocked, really?
Why wasn't he shocked, at seeing that look? It should have. . .hell, it should have sent him running. He wasn't running. He hadn't actually moved at all, was kind of frozen here, watching Murdock pull back, obviously pissed off at himself for letting his hand show. Been playing it close to the vest, Murdock? Not like you, that isn't your way. And anyway, he should know better than to play games with the best there was. Templeton Peck, conman extraordinaire. Though. . .he had to say, if anyone could outmanuever him, it would have to be HM Murdock.
Still. He should have been shocked. Even in the dimness of the evening, that particular look in those particular eyes spoke volumes. Spoke of more than friendship. Face felt mildly dazed, like he'd suddenly been knocked into focus.
He thought about it for several moments, while Murdock leaned back and looked at him, eyes slightly mocking (didn't seem to be directed at Face, though. Seemed to be directed in. Inside). The night was warm and breezy and heavy with the scent of the ocean. For the first time in a damn long time, he didn't feel tied up in knots. Didn't feel lost. Murdock, still close, mouth still lifted in that little twisted smile. Resigned and sure of himself, at the same time. Distinctly Murdock.
It was very warm and dark and the breeze was flowed over them and he wasn't lost. Murdock dropped the smile as Face leaned closer. Eyes looked more startled than mocking, now.
Somehow Face wasn't surprised that Murdock tasted sweet and salty at the same time.
It was a soft kiss, and it lasted for what seemed like a very long time. When Face released Murdock's lips, he didn't pull back much. Just enough to be able to open his eyes and see the expression on Murdock's face. His eyes were closed, still recovering, and Face would have enjoyed the surprised expression more, were it not for the fact that he was pretty sure his own face displayed the same startled pleasure.
Face asked softly, "Close enough?" He could feel the unabashed smile spreading across his face. Thinking about how he must look only made him grin more. Sometimes he needed to be hit over the head with stuff, to see it truly. But he'd always been real good at recovery.
Murdock opened his eyes slowly. "Yeah. I mean, no. I mean. . ." He frowned at Face. "You're laughing at me."
"No, I'm not." Face struggled to contain himself, but failed. Through his laughter, he said, "Okay, well, maybe I am, but," he swallowed, trying to regain his composure. "I'm laughing at myself, too." He shook his head. "Tell me what you were going to say, before. Maybe what?"
Murdock shook his head back and forth slowly, still bemused by the kiss. "Maybe. . ." He cleared his throat. "That maybe, we're not spoiled by it. Maybe we're better for it. Maybe we just need someone. . .someone who's been there, too. Been through all of this. Maybe that's what's missing." His voice was sure and somewhat impatient. Thoughts that have been sitting too long, waiting to be said. "Maybe you can't find it, can't find what's missing, because you're not looking in the right place." Drew his eyes down to Face. "Maybe it's right *here*. Been here, all the time. Close. . ." and he grinned a real grin. "Too close, and so you missed it."
"Did I?" Face was had not withdrawn much after the kiss, was still very near Murdock.
"I thought so." Quiet now. "What made you do that? What made you. . .?"
Face shook his head. "What you said. About me making sense to you. I think I knew that. Kind of." He paused, blue eyes dark now, looking intently at Murdock. "That we make sense, together. I've been looking for you." His lips turned up in a smile as Murdock arched an eyebrow quizzically. "Yeah, I really do think that I have been. For a while now."
"You've never been good at seeing what's good for you, Face." They were only separated by inches, and Murdock found himself breathing shallowly, wanting to pay attention, but drawn to the closeness of Face.
"Are you good for me?" Face, in that teasing tone. Tilting his head again to get his windblown hair out of his eyes. The darkness surrounded them, protecting them together. Made things easy, somehow. Easier, anyway. Face felt elated, he felt drunk, he felt found, or something very like it.
Murdock's eyes were lidded. "What do you think?" Hard to wait, but forcing himself to wait (always waiting). Wait and see what Face would do now.
"I think. . .I think that you've been waiting for me for a while." He'd been leaning closer to Murdock as he spoke, closing the mere inches that separated them. Face's lips were warm, tasted slightly of the salty sea air, and as Murdock opened his mouth slightly, tracing them with his tongue, Face's lips parted to let him in.
The kiss was. . .intoxicating. Mind-numbing. He couldn't breathe, didn't need to breathe, all there was to life was this kiss, Face's tongue against his own, Face so close, and his hands pulling him closer, couldn't get close enough. Murdock's heart was pounding, hard, so hard, and . . .stop. Pull back. He had to force himself to do so, to back off, and he was taking great gasps of air, trying to control this.
It was too fast, too soon, too much, not enough, never enough. He was still holding onto Face and he let go, pulled back as if he were hot to the touch. Face, gasping, too, was looking at him, open and wanting. Murdock managed to say, "We…we should slow down. We just. . .that was so. . .you're so. . .we should slow down." Don't scare him, don't make it mean too much, you'll leave yourself open, and he's so open and he'll spook, and . . .
Face, leaning on one hand, was looking at him still, eyes luminous in the starlight. The sea was still rolling behind them, the sand cooling beneath them. His mind was startling clear, for the first time in, well, a long, long time. This was more, much, much more, than he'd ever thought existed. He took in some more air. He knew how easy it was to get lost in a kiss. How easy to mistake it for more than it was.
He didn't think this was a mistake. It was real. Weird, for him to even recognize what that was, but it felt real, it really did. He wasn't lost in the fog of the kiss. His mind was clear. This made sense. It was good. Good for him, and goddamn if he didn't recognize that.
Murdock was still catching his breath, trying to calm down the emotions running through his body, trying to just breathe, to not get lost in this, to not *push* the way he did. Breathe. Breathe. Give Face time.
And suddenly Face was kissing him again. Holding his face in his hands and kissing him hard. It was sudden and sweet and undid all of Murdock's defenses, all of his thoughts and control and he was suddenly on his back in the sand, unable to even hold himself up under the rush of Face's lips against his own. Face's tongue inside his mouth. Kissing him like he'd never before been kissed. Like he'd never known what a kiss even was supposed to be like before now.
Face's lips against his, and oh, god, Face's body against his. Pressing him back into the sand. Hard. God, he was hard, achingly hard, and the immediacy of his response startled him. The surety of Face's body on his own, legs entwined, pressed against him, hands holding him, one tangled in his hair. Hands on him, holding him close.
Thank god they were alone on the beach. The primitive, needing, wanting sounds coming from him, in a direct cadence to the sounds emanating from Face's own throat. It wasn't anything he had any control over, that kiss, that sinking kiss, and when Face finally pulled away, it was slowly, drawing away from his lips, then back for one more taste, till with a sigh, he released him and lifted his head.
In the moonlight, his eyes glowed soft and his breath was coming much faster than normal.
Face, looking down at Murdock. Murdock. That was some of the sweetest kissing he'd ever, ever experienced. He wanted more. His heart was beating fast and he felt clear and good and he wanted more. "Murdock. . ." and this time his voice *was* shaky, as shaky as he felt, and the raw need in it was crazy. Need for more than the sexual part of it. He was open and wanting, not just giving, but getting and it was odd, so odd as to seem crazy, but this wasn't the craziness.
Murdock's breath was still coming in gasps, and he felt like his heart was bursting. He forced himself to sit up, pushing Face back to sit up also, but unable to resist one more kiss. A lost kiss, a found kiss, a kiss that captured them once more and threatened to keep them, till Murdock forced himself to pull away and breathe. Think.
Why was it so hard to think?
"We should. . ." Another kiss. "Talk. We should talk." He took a breath as Face nodded in agreement, sitting back also, running his hands through his hair. Face looked. . .well, not quite calm, but at least a whole lot happier than he had been lately. There was life to his eyes. Like something finally made sense.
Face was looking at him, serious-like.
"What?" He should be able to read Face better than ever now, maybe would be able to if his mind would ever agree to stop whirling.
"I think it's that you know me. Even when I'm not being me, you know me." Face looked to make sure Murdock understood.
Murdock was nodding. "You play so many games, Face. All the time, games. I had to learn to see through it all, if I wanted to see you for real."
"Yeah," said Face softly. All the time, games. He got tired of that, sometimes, but sometimes. . .he grinned to himself. Sometimes it was fun. That smoothness and satisfaction that came with doing something you knew you did well. That was fun. Like kissing Murdock. Yeah, that was new, but he had a pretty good idea it was something he did damn well. But that: that wasn't a game. With the girls, it was a game, for sure. Pressing buttons, detached interest in the responses. Here, with Murdock, there was an energy that passed back and forth between them. That was something new. His reactions, feeding back into Face, making a connection. It was wild.
He glanced around real quick, making sure they were indeed alone. Making out on the beach like kids. Wild.
"What are you grinnin' at, there, Faceman?" Murdock drew his attention back.
"Well, I just think that I do a pretty good job of seeing you, for real, too." He raised his eyebrows at Murdock. "I'm not the only one to play games around here, you know."
"No," said Murdock. "But my games are easier than yours, I think. Fewer rules." He stopped, thought for a moment. "More animals, though. And invisible friends and such."
Face just looked at him. "You're crazy."
"I know." Murdock's look back was steady and sure.
"C'mere." A small smile broke through Face's stern look.
Real casual, Murdock shrugged. "Okay."
He leaned in close and Face kissed him, soft. "I don't know if we can make this work." Face was whispering against his lips and it sent a shiver down Murdock's back. "But we can surely try."
God, he'd never get over the feel of Face's lips curving into a smile. Murdock kissed him, quick, to keep him from laughing. Felt the natural curve of Face's body against his, and whispered back, "We'd be fools not to." And Face was laughing, anyway.
But that was okay, too.
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