The blackness is currently winning.
He can’t see, has lost his goggles an hour ago, has crawled the half mile on hands and knees to this location. His gloves were once thick and the makeshift padding on his knees has worn thin. His back aches and his throat burns with the cold, but the device on his wrist beeps quietly when he stops, prompting him automatically with the correct direction.
It says down, now. It tells him how far- no. How close.
“Hey,” the man breathes, a quiet call. “Can you hear me?”
A stifled groan answers him. “Where are you?” The voice is thick from fear.
From fear, or perhaps pain. “Above you. I’ve got rope.”
“Took you long enough,” the man down below replies, bitter words filled instead with relief.
“Yeah, well, I lost my goggles. Bugs ate through the straps,” he says, already dreading the task of finding them once more. At least they’re appropriate for this time period; it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the universe if he lost them for good, simply embarrassing. He pauses in speech but not in motion, uncoiling the rope. “Are you-”
“Fine, I’m fine,” the other says. “Get me out of here.”
“Catch,” he says, throwing down one end and holding another.
An infinite time later, they pant on the frozen ground, one sprawled atop the other. The rope is looped around the waist of one, around a withered tree the first man couldn’t see and yet still could work with. The cords need collecting, aren’t indigenous to this planet even if they aren’t anachronistic.
Right now, that’s just work to do. That’s the next step in this grand scheme and neither is willing to take it. They do that and the only thing left to do is to trip and crawl and stagger their way back to the ship, the ship parked so very far away in the darkness, in the cold, in the black.
Lying atop the first man, the second touches the other’s face with gloves thick and gritty with dirt. He touches and kisses and the first man opens his mouth because he’s alive, because it’s natural, because the warmest thing in this world may literally be the man pressing down against him.
“Thank you,” the rescued man murmurs, lips brushing across a cheek made dirty by his own hands. The gesture is surprisingly chaste, surprisingly tender and then — unsurprisingly — becomes less so as tongue and teeth turn to a chilled neck.
The first man sighs, pulls his partner against him as if they could possibly be closer than they already are. “It’d look bad,” he says, “losing you on a night planet.”
“You’d never hear the end of it,” the other replies, pulling off his gloves to pull at zippers and fastenings.
He chuckles, indulgent because he can be, for a moment. “Way too many jokes and- Hey, hey, whoa, cold!” He hits at thickly clothed shoulders with gloved hands, keeps the impact light out of fear of injury. This is interpreted as encouragement, evidently, the other shifting, sliding down his body to kneel between his legs.
“I’ll warm you up,” the rescued man says, murmurs in a rumble against chilled skin. Pebbled from the cold, dirty from the world, the texture is different under that hot, hot tongue.
“Fuck!” the first man yells at a whisper, keeps quiet even as his protests fail.
“That was the general idea,” the second replies and soon quiets, his mouth too full for speech.
It’s cold and takes too long and it can’t be called hot in any sense of the word, but he knows, has the feeling, is almost certain that his partner needs this. It’s in the way the man cradles his hips in his hands, in the way he sucks and holds and licks and takes him all the way. It’s the little noises they’re both making, the desperate pull of his mouth, the possessive swallow.
The first man whispers a name and the second man chuckles, nuzzling, wetly lapping up what he failed to swallow in the initial attempt. “That’s your name this time.”
“And you expect me to remember?” It’s an incredulous question, a compliment in the form of agitation. Most of their compliments are, those soft words turned hard so that they might be felt.
The rescued man zips the first back up, nuzzles thick cloth. “I expect you to do me when we get back home.”
“That, I can do.”
A warm weight covers him once more, sinks against him and that well-known voice whispers into his ear. “I mean it, though. Thank you.”
There’s a pause, almost awkward. It’s nearly their first awkward moment in years, or perhaps a few months. It all depends on how one considers time, not on how one considers the relationship of the two men. Time loops are complicated things at the best of times, even when they’re over.
“I like saving people,” the first man says and the second laughs, a throaty sound pressed against cloth.
“I’ve noticed,” the second replies.
The sonomat shower in the ship isn’t as fun as one that actually has water, but the vibrations certainly put a new twist on things. A different twist, to be more precise.
It’s difficult for something to be new when they’ve done it so many times.
Fuck, but it’s good. It’s rough and hard and sets them shaking. The taller man slams him against the walls, makes his ears ring and his teeth vibrate in his skull, makes his cock jump against the cold, humming wall. The aggressor laughs until the positions are twitched, until the shorter man slips beneath the arm of the taller and shit, that’s it, that’s it right there.
He makes the larger man take it, practically slips in. His partner’s so well fucked. So repeatedly, deliciously, wickedly fucked that he’s almost loose. Both of them are, both of them, both.
And that, he knows as he shoves his pretty boy partner into the wall, is the important piece of all of this. That it’s both of them, in whatever it is they do. Together. Both. Him and him, nothing else required. Them. They. Them together. Both of them, together.
Both. Of. Them.
He bites and the taller man swears, curses him by every name he’s heard applied. He can only laugh, can only fuck him harder as the litany is spat out in pants and gasps and that perfectly strangled yell. Oh, and that hoarse whisper he loves so much. Taking the other man’s cock in hand, he replies in turn, names his partner, his.
They know each other, they work with each other, they live with each other. In his more sentimental moments, he’ll say they live for each other. They need each other. No one else, just each other, a mostly-human touchstone.
His one constant. His.
The dark-haired man thrusts into his hand and he can’t resist then, can’t help but tell him that he’s not going to let him come in his hand, come against the wall. Oh no, he’s not going to let him.
And then his partner clenches around him, holds him so fucking tight that he can’t breathe, that his rhythm stumbles and stutters and the vibrations in the floor and air and walls nearly knock him over.
“Bed,” he continues, gasps out, tries to complete that thought. “I’ll let you-”
“I’ll fuck you through the mattress.”
“We lose more mattresses that way,” he somehow replies even as his body has an answer all its own, a single hissed yesss that shakes him to his core.
His partner twists, stains to look back at him, the bastard. The angle makes a kiss impossible and damn if he doesn’t know it. He wants it, wants that, almost wants the darker man’s tongue in his mouth more than he wants his own cock inside that firm, reddened arse.
He comes undone with that temptation before him, that reward for hurrying it up and just coming already. He strains into him, strains upwards, but he can’t catch those lips and the other man is still looking back at him, still watching with lust and amusement and that knowing and oh, oh he wants it, wants him.
Orgasms in sonomat showers are always, always messy. He comes in his partner, quaking and shaking and it’s filthy, absolutely filthy when he pulls out and shoves at one shoulder, pulls at another and yes, this is what he needs, this is it right here.
Hands clutch at him and rove in turn and he remembers the feel of it, of the times when it was his palms numbed from being pressed against the sonomat wall, numbed from vibration after vibration until all texture became strange and new and almost unknown. His partner touches him and he takes that cock lovingly in hand because if there’s one thing he absolutely adores about him, about them, it’s that nearly seven years into knowing each other, they can still explore.
They’re just unfamiliar enough and it’s bloody perfect. It could be perfect for the rest of their lives, it will be, oh it will be. Predict this, Time Agency.
The instant his come is vibrated out of the other man and the sonomat beeps the clean beep, he’s shoved out of the shower, pushed the few steps it takes until his thighs hit the edge of the bunk. If he ducks down, he could be on his stomach in seconds, but that’s not what he wants. He’s filthy and sanitary and needy and shaking and he’s going to get exactly what he wants, he is.
Yanking the sheets from the mattress, he flings them on the floor and drops down. This is going to be hell on his back but the bunk is too low to allow for a face-to-face fuck. No face-to-face, no face-on-face and that is just too much of a waste for him to endure.
His partner laughs, that knowing laugh, that knowing, intoxicating, enraging little laugh. His partner laughs and follows him down and licks his spent cock before shoving his own member into the blond man’s body. The shorter man lifts his legs, but not all the way, doesn’t simply skip ahead to savoring the feel of that hair tickling the insides of his thighs, the feel of those tense shoulder beneath his legs. No, he lifts his legs just enough, enough for the angle and then he stains and pulls and pushes and he gets his tongue into that mouth, thrusts it in past lips and teeth and that taste, that mingling of their flavour, that’s exactly it.
They kiss and kiss and kiss and he has no idea how the other man does it, how he holds still until they’re both hard again and fuck, but he loves evolution for his refractory period. They’re both hard again and then, only then does his partner start and the man is shaking, the man is practically twitching from the effort to hold still, from the relief of movement.
They curse each other, words of filth the only endearments they need because that’s what they are, filth. And that whisper, that oh-so-very dramatic drop in volume his partner uses to hiss out threats and encouragement and everything in between, that whisper fills him up inside. Between that whisper and that cock, he’s full to bursting.
He opens his mouth to yell, to shout, to curse and gasp and claim. He opens his mouth, but the words stick and go unsaid, they keep going unsaid, but he can still think them, still feel them and he does think them, he thinks them and he comes, makes his mark on that chest and knows this will lead to another shower.
His partner yelps through his own release, sounds surprised by it, by the timing or the intensity or something else and for a second, he wonders if the words didn’t get stuck after all. But they did and that’s all right, that’s fine. They’ve got time.
The two of them, they have all the time there will ever be.
Their next assignments are separate ones and he’s not entirely disappointed.
His old partner, that man’s an addict. He gets something, he latches on, and he never lets go. It’s dangerous on a level that borders on suicidal and it’s still attractive as hell. Five years in a time loop taught him something important, showed him exactly how much that man holds on. Less than a year after finally getting some air, finally getting some breathing space, and he comes back.
Less than a year for him. Less than two months for the shorter man.
That’s how long it takes for the Time Agency to piece things together. Less than two months for them to realize that one of their time-looped agents is far less stable than he’s ever been before. Less than two months for them to realize what it would take for him to be stabilized, for him to have something other than drugs or drink to lean on.
The worst part is that there are days when he doesn’t mind. He’s a difficult guy not to like. He knows this. He’s worked hard to make this so. All the same, this attachment, this desperate connection isn’t something he’s after. Not something he’d thought he was after, even if he does like to be needed. Needs to be needed, some might say — some, but not him.
He hasn’t had a relationship like this in years, hasn’t had a partnership that wasn’t professional, hasn’t had an apparently endless fling. Seven years since their first assignment now; two years since the loop closed, chronologically. It’s a little longer for him and a little less for the other man. It makes planning an anniversary a difficult task, makes it a challenge. That’s the only reason he does it, because it’s a challenge.
So if he grins throughout all his planning, if he goes into more planning than is strictly necessary, if he does, it doesn’t mean anything. He likes challenges.
And if that idiot just so happens to be the most messed up, untrustworthy, violent fuck he could never get rid of, well. Maybe that’s a challenge too. He tries not to think about it too much.
In the end, he settles on a day in the middle, tracks their timelines down to hours and works out the moment in the middle. From there, of course, he has to find a time when both of them are at base. And, also of course, it’s not an entirely difficult task.
He’s being used, he knows, even as he’s being brought forward for promotion. He’s the pat on the head, the reward for good behavior given to the shorter man, the maybe-younger-maybe-older man. The blond man is older, chronologically, but that’s as far as it goes. And he certainly acts younger.
His face lights up like that of a child when they see each other again. Admittedly, he’s like a child only if that child has already crossed over to the far side of puberty and best expresses its joy with bruising kisses.
They seize one another, pressing bodies and lips together, grabbing, clutching, gripping roughly and yes, this is going to leave some interesting marks. His hand on the back of the other man’s head, he holds him where he wants him even as he’s moved, manipulated in turn. It’s more of a scuffle than a kiss and it’s exactly the way they both want it.
“Too long,” the once-older man pants between shoving his tongue into the taller man’s mouth. “Too long.”
“You’ve never had trouble taking it before,” he quips back and the man in his arms laughs, grinds their erections together through their trousers with a practiced roll of the hips.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t miss me,” the other man counters, changing the subject back to time.
“I won’t,” he says and it’s a long time before either can speak again.
He’s drifting off to sleep after possibly the best night of his life, he’s drifting off when his partner murmurs into his ear, says it softly with a yawn.
“Oh yeah,” he says. “Happy Early-Belated Anniversary.”
“What?” he asks, hovering in that half-stage between awareness and dreaming and awareness of dreams. This feels like one.
“I’ve known you seven years and six-ish months,” his partner continues. “Old Earth standard. You’ve known me six years, eleven months. So, Happy Early-Belated. Couldn’t get it to match up, exactly, but I didn’t think you’d care.”
He rolls over, turns in the larger man’s arms and nestles against him, bare leg pushing between bare legs. It’s not a sexual advance, simply a need for contact, for more contact, for as much of it as he can possibly have.
He kisses him, long and slow, tender in the way that matters of flesh can only be after they’ve been beaten for long enough. The languorous play of lips and tongue lengthens, continues and continues and continues, softening gradually until he’s pressing kisses to a mouth open and relaxed, the mouth of a sleeping man.
Irritation stabs at him for only a moment, annoyance at the man’s ability to drop off during one of his favourite activities and that’s when he realizes it.
The other man doesn’t sleep easy, never has, not with him. Not with anyone, judging by the words of the man’s lesser lovers. He’s always approached sleep slowly, edged into it cautiously. He doesn’t sleep in company, doesn’t trust.
Held up by his arms, one hand planted on either side of the other man’s head, he gazes down at his lover’s face, at the expression relaxed.
Something in him comes undone and he sinks down, drapes himself carefully over that well-known body, over limbs and skin and muscle he knows better than his own. He presses his ear to that chest and listens, gives himself over to the feel of it, the feel of this new moment, this entirely new lifetime of moments stretching out before them.
His partner is sleeping. His partner is sleeping, deeply and without fear. With trust. Oh please, with that.
“I love you, too,” he murmurs quietly into the other man’s ear, says it softly, afraid of waking him and breaking this moment.
The other man hums in his sleep, a gentle sound, and strong arms wrap around him, hold him close.
“I love you,” he says again. “I love you, I love you, I love you . . . . So much.”
In the morning, he has a meeting to go to, a rendezvous with the other agent up for promotion.
“Play nice,” the shorter man says, but refuses to get off of him and let him go to work.
“I could say the same to you,” he replies and the other smiles at him.
That’s how they end up needing a very hurried shower, one that his old partner talks though the entire time, speaking of that promotion, of the remaining competition for it.
“Look,” he says at last, “I know we’re all being cut-throat here, but he’s not about to kill me. Way too obvious — he does that, and he gets knocked off the list for lack of creativity.”
“I’m allowed to worry,” the other man counters, straightening his shirt and then mussing him up a little.
He grins. “A trouble magnet like you?”
The other man shrugs, brushes his words off as if having not heard them. “Just be careful,” he says.
“Fine, fine . . .” he says carelessly, affectionately. “Seeya in hell.”
He leaves in the same clothes he arrived in and has the oddest feeling that he was nearly called back.
He’ll tell him tonight. He will.
It has to be soon, before the promotion. Troublesome, yes, but if the man is going to use trouble magnet as a term of endearment, then by all means, he’s going to be troublesome.
If he tells him afterwards, though, that would be worse. Not in any way of practicality, only in that the timing would make any such declaration sound more like a ploy than a piece of honesty.
He’ll tell him tonight.
He waits all day, smiles all day. It scares people, and that only makes him all the more amused. Practically gleeful.
He can’t wait, he really can’t wait, but somehow he manages it. Somehow, he lasts the day, filling out the paperwork on his latest exploits, on his latest recovery/theft of anachronistic technology. It’s boring and easy and he can spend the entire time fantasizing about what he’s going to do tonight.
He doesn’t doubt, not for one instant, that the response will be what he wants it to be.
“I love you,” he imagines himself saying.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” the reply might be, accompanied by smirk and then shag.
“Yeah, I kinda figured that,” the reply might be, the usual vaguely sarcastic response to matters of seriousness.
Or playful, perhaps. Jokingly said, honestly meant: “I love you more.”
In the end, he decides on “Took you long enough.” That’s not a reply he’d mind hearing. “Took you long enough; I’m tired of waiting.” His partner will say that, voice soft and rough in that almost-angry whisper and then it’ll be a rush of parting lips and meeting tongues and unfastened clothing.
He rolls his eyes at himself. It’s not going to happen the way he predicts. He knows that, but he has such fun dreaming.
He’ll be surprised, he knows, resigns himself to it in a way that doesn’t feel much like resignation. It’s far more like eagerness.
Back at his flat, he waits into the night, checks his wrist computer for a message or a recording or anything. There’s nothing. And so he keeps on waiting.
He waits until morning, and by then, it’s too late.
A man who will soon become Jack Harkness awakes in a strange bed, in a strange room.
He is precisely two years older today than he was yesterday, says the computer attached to his wrist. It says this and nothing more. It says nothing of what has been done to him or of what will be done to him next.
He goes numb instead of panicking, quiets his rage instead of screaming. He throws together his belongings, such as they are, and then he runs, runs and never looks back. He’s lost, in the universe, in his mind, but he can cope with it on his own. He has to be able to cope with it on his own.
There’s no one else he can turn to.