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Latest revision as of 15:48, 10 November 2019

Straightforward

CN: Intense emotional and physical intimacy.

Dramatis Personae

Flicker, Steve

2019-11-06


"Everything outside this moment's been a little more complicated."

Location

<PRV> Sam and Steve's Apartment - Harlem


This is a third-story walkup in an aging historic building which, while not entirely crumbling, has a certain worn and shabby look, its plumbing and fixtures often in need of repair. The apartment has two small bedrooms, but makes up for it with capacious common areas. A single long space serves as living room and dining room combined, is semi-open to the kitchen, and has a surprisingly large bathroom with an antique claw-footed tub. Tall, drafty windows let out onto the fire escape from the living room and both bedrooms, and let in excellent light from the southern exposure.

Steve's bedroom isn't very heavily furnished, just a full bed and a drafting table with a folding chair. There are other homey touches here and there, though -- dark red curtains, a soft matching woven rug beside the bed, a crucifix above the door, and a couple of framed prints on the wall, one of a cityscape populated by whimsical monsters, and the other of Captain America's circular shield rendered in the colors of the bisexual pride flag.

The room is dark save for the small goose-neck lamp clipped to the drafting table, illuminating several sketches in various stages of completion. The one at the center of the workspace, half-finished, shows a laughing Ryan Black flipping a lazy salute at the viewer. Steve has been in bed for some time, far from asleep, though it's quieter in here now than it was earlier. It's chilly, too, the single ancient radiator pinging and hissing valiantly in an attempt to fend off the encroaching November night, but Steve only has a sheet pulled haphazardly up to his waist, the normally neat blankets bunched up at the foot of his bed. "Are you cold?"

There's gooseflesh prickling Flicker's skin, though until now he's been ignoring it. At Steve's question he sits up. Leans forward to grope for the blankets and tug them out of their crumpled heap to pull up over himself instead as he settles back. "I wasn't earlier." He shoots a brief glance to his clothes, tossed in a pile on the folding chair together with his harness and arm, but doesn't actually move to get them. Just pulls the blanket higher.

Steve stretches out an arm and pulls Flicker gently to him as the other man settles down, his other hand fussing at the blanket, tucking it around them. "That radiator runs a bit cool, but fortunately, I run a bit hot." This is matter-of-fact, and very accurate, but for some reason -- notwithstanding that they had been far more intimately intertwined not so long ago -- his cheeks flush. "That wasn't meant as innuendo. I really didn't mean to just ah..." His blush deepens. "I mean, I wanted that. But I also wanted to get dinner, have a chat, see how you were doing."

Flicker's sigh is quiet, contented, as Steve's arm wraps around him. "There's still places open. We could order --" He eyes his pile of stuff again but makes absolutely no movement to actually *get* his phone. Instead he just nestles closer against Steve's side with a small laugh. "Doing warmer, now. This is nice." His eyes close, cheek tucking against Steve's shoulder. "Everything outside this moment's been a little more complicated."

"There's lot of places around here that deliver late, but I've been warned most of the Chinese food is atrocious." Steve chuckles softly. "Good! Good, I -- also think this is nice." His arm curls just a little tighter around Flicker. "Complicated. Yeah, I can imagine. Well...I suppose I might imagine wrong. Anything especially complicated?"

"I don't know. How do you rank complicated? Wednesday nights I should be helping lead the young men's group at church but -- suddenly they aren't sure I'm fit to be around the teenagers for. Unspecified reasons." Flicker's shoulder tightens, briefly, beneath Steve's arm. "...I can't imagine it's been *un*complicated for you, either."

Steve tenses, too, and he relaxes slower, more deliberate. "I'm sorry, that..." He presses his cheek against Flicker's hair. "What exactly do they want you to do?" He sighs. "My parish -- well, folks haven't been too friendly. It's simpler, I guess, now that I've left it. I kept thinking I should stick around, win hearts and change minds." The tension slowly creeps back into his frame. "I'm not as strong as you are, in that."

"I don't know. Say I was mistaken? Go to therapy? Marry a woman?" Flicker shakes his head. Wraps his arm around Steve's waist. "If anything they've been *more* friendly than before. If you can call it -- I don't know. They come by all the time to make sure I'm coming to services and meetings." His fingers run slowly up along Steve's side -- gently kneading at the muscles where the tension is starting to tighten the other man's form. "I don't know if it's strong. Finding the place that's right for you -- I feel like navigating that takes strength, too. Are you..." He hesitates. "Did you. Stop going to church at all?"

"None of those things will make you straight," Steve murmurs. "But they must believe otherwise, if they're trying to -- win hearts and change minds, I guess. Are you? Going to services and meetings, still?" The quick puff of breath he expels might almost be a laugh, but his muscles begin to ease under Flicker's hand. "Doesn't feel like strength to me. Feels like running away. I thought I was done with that, long time ago." He draws a long, shuddering breath. "No, no I -- I'm just going to a different church. Jax's, actually, Saint Martin's."

"I don't have to be straight. I just have to -- make better choices. And yeah. I'm still going. It's just. It's been a lot. I'm not allowed in temple anymore and even at meeting -- I don't know." Flicker swallows hard, kneading more firmly against Steve's back. "This isn't war. It's God. Some things in life aren't supposed to be a *fight*. Right?" He doesn't sound *entirely* certain. "You deserve a spiritual home you can -- *be* at home in."

"You're -- not allowed?" Steve shifts, turns his head slightly even though he still can't see Flicker's face. "Is that until you...start making 'better choices'?" His breathing evens out again. "I'm not running away from God -- better men than I have tried that and failed, but..." He sighs, running his hand down the other man's side. "Sometimes I feel like my whole life has just been fighting, and my faith has always been a sanctuary." Turning his face farther, he presses his lips against Flicker's hair. "My church had always been a sanctuary."

"Something like that, yes. And I want to, you know? I've always wanted to make the right choices. But this --" Flicker's fingertips trail lightly against Steve's arm, now. Running up along it gently. His head shakes, his fingers curling in harder against the other man's skin. Whatever was going to come next doesn't make it into words -- just ends in a quiet ghost of breath, warm against Steve's skin. It's a moment before he speaks again. "Faith and *the church* have often been a little bit at odds, for me. Just more stark now than before. I'm sorry that -- it's been getting like that for you, too. Do you think you'll be able to find that sense of sanctuary again? *Make* that again? What would it take?"

Steve draws in a deep breath at the light caress, a small hitch in it when the touch curls inward. He lets it back out with a slight shiver, in time with Flicker's breath. The tightening of his muscles feels different this time. "Doing the right thing isn't always straightforward, no matter how much we listen, or read, or think, or pray. That goes for institutions as well as individuals. Struggling with faith is natural, maybe even necessary, but I think you're right -- we shouldn't have to fight our faith communities." He's quiet for a moment, too, his breath coming a little quicker, a little more shallow. "I don't know." Then he adds, softer, "I was baptized at Visitation, took first Communion there, buried both my parents..." His embrace tightens again, briefly uncomfortable before he catches himself and eases off. He swallows hard. Struggles to keep his voice level. "It felt like the only part of my life I didn't have to start over, and I just can't see how."

"Oh." Flicker kneads again at Steve's back, quiet for a time after this. "I'm sorry. That's another layer of difficult that I don't know how to..." He gives a very small shake of his head. "My church at home kicked me out when I was a kid. My family, my school, everyone. I didn't -- lose my whole world. Not like you. But figuring out how to start over kind of felt like that. I don't know if there's a good answer. You find a family. You make one. Pray. A lot. Try to do right by them." His cheeks flush, and he buries his face once more against Steve's skin, his words slightly muffled. "Worry every day that you're messing it up."

Steve gradually relaxes beneath Flicker, his breaths evening out. Then suddenly tenses again. "When you were a /kid/? What possible excuse..." He trails off in the middle of this question. "Because of your mutation." There's no longer any perplexity in his voice, now tight with fury. "They turned you out, and Prometheus took you." His effort to reel his anger back in is easy to feel, pressed up against him as Flicker is. "I'm so sorry," he whispers, wrapping his other arm around his friend, too, as if this could somehow shield him from harm, retroactive or otherwise. "Family, church and school /is/ the whole world, for a lot of children. I don't think you're messing it up, even if I can't necessarily speak to..." He hesitates, stroking Flicker's back. "If you and Hive hadn't plucked me off the street, if the Tessiers hadn't opened their home to me, if folks hadn't accepted me into their lives as /Steve Rogers/ and not Captain America -- God knows what would have become of me." Much more quietly, and more uncertain, "I don't know if this is presumptuous, but maybe I've just been too caught up in my own grief to recognize that I /have/ found a family. Or been found."

"Hm? Yeah." Flicker sounds a little puzzled when Steve tenses; his own tone is casual, just matter-of-fact. "I was on the streets for a while before the labs scooped me up. Rebuilding a life out here after a couple years in there was --" The shiver that ripples through him is very small, and very brief, but pressed up against Steve as he is it's still possible to feel the subtle motion. "I kind of feel that too. Like if Jax and Ryan hadn't come for us -- hadn't helped us find our feet after -- life would be really different."

"I don't think it's presumptuous. I mean, you do. Have a family. I think so, anyway. I know that doesn't help with -- all of it, but." He pulls back, just slightly, the smaller nub of his limb shifting as he turns himself just enough onto his side to actually look Steve properly in the face. "...sometimes I worry I'm making it worse for you," he confides more quietly. "Like this is just. Selfish."

"Sorry. I know it's your life and you're used to it, and I know folks turn out their kids all the time, I just..." Steve shakes his head, quick and sharp. "I hadn't really considered how our situations were comparable. Whatever I've suffered, however impossible it was for me predict all this --" He peels one hand away to gesture at...the world around them, then curls it around Flicker again. "-- at least I chose my ordeals, as a grown man with a family of my own to support me through it." His grip loosens enough to let Flicker pull back -- really he just lets his hands slide down to the other man's waist. His eyes are a little wide, the lost and bewildered expression making him look younger than he is. "Really?" He blinks. "I worry I'm being selfish. That is -- I know you enjoy it --" He blushes fiercely. "-- and so do I! But I'm afraid that you may feel..." He gropes for a word. "... pressure? To settle for something that isn't really fulfilling to you, for the sake of pleasing me."

"*You*? How would you be -- I mean, I do want to pl--" Flicker's blush is sudden and deep. "I enjoy this. I don't think that's strong enough for how you make me feel. Sometimes I still can't believe you'd even look twice at me, let alone --" Flicker does not have his limb attached to fill out the motion, but Steve has likely seen him without it enough by now to recognize the abbreviated twitch of muscle as a shrug. "I spent so long thinking that being miserable and killing this part of myself was the only way to live. Being with you feels amazing but it's also this reminder every time that it's even *possible* to be happy."

His eyes have lowered to the mattress between them, cheeks still furious red. "-- It's not just. Straightforward, either, though. No matter how *good* it feels it's still not -- this is just for fun, right? And that's never what I imagined it *would* be when I was with someone. What it *should* be. I don't know if it's right. And I don't know *exactly* where this fits, for you, with -- how *you* feel about your faith or relationships or any of it, but if that ever worries you, too --" His head shakes again. "I just worry I'm being selfish. Like you have enough to think through without one more worry to work through just because I think this --" Now his eyes do lift back to Steve. Slowly, his fingers resting gently against the larger man's chest, "-- feels better right now than thinking through whether it's *right* or not."

Steve's blush does not recede with this exchange, but he does smile, gently. "I spent most of my life as a fella no one would look at twice, so I guess -- I try really hard to look twice." His eyes are still a little wide. "I don't know exactly where this fits for me, either, but..." He breathes out slowly, almost as if in relief, when Flicker's fingers settle on his chest. His heart thumps hard and steady and fast by his standards, if still slow by the average human's, as he presses back subtly into the touch.

It's a moment before he speaks again, his voice quiet and small. "Losing Howard at the same time as effectively my whole world hurt so badly that I can barely think about it. That pain makes it hard for me to forge new relationships, romantic or not, but it hasn't taken away my loneliness..." His gaze also dropping to the mattress. "...or desires. I also never imagined being intimate in this way, and I don't know if it's right, either, but I think...it's been good for me." His cheeks burn suddenly hotter. "I know how I am, and as often as people proposition me, I suspect I would have eventually thrown myself into the arms of a stranger who happened to ask at the right time or place. And maybe that would have been alright, too?" It seems to take an effort of will for him to look up at Flicker again. "But I feel so blessed to be able to share this with someone I love, and who loves me."

Flicker's eyes widen very slightly as Steve talks. He swallows hard at the last part of Steve's words, glancing away only for a brief moment. "I'm glad. That it's been good. I know it can't make all that hurt go away, but it's --" The breath he draws in is shaky. "It's kind of felt like a sanctuary in itself, you know? I don't know if that's some kind of blasphemy. There's just so much pain everywhere and having one place that's just. Kind of. Warm and safe and --" His lip catches between his teeth, his breath briefly catching along with it.

"... I did," this admission comes more quietly, too. "Um, at Chimaera, just -- not long after the whole. Coming out day -- someone asked me and I --" This time when his gaze drops it stays fixed downward. His fingers press harder against Steve's skin, a slow but deep tension gripping his frame. For a moment his mouth works silently before he ultimately gives up. Just leans back in, pressing his lips to Steve's, his hand curling back around the larger man's side with a small encouraging tug.

Steve watches Flicker, his expression rapt with attentiveness. His hands caress the other man's side and back in slow circles when he feels the tension in his body. He gives a quiet sigh of pleasure at the kiss, and shifts readily enough when pulled, rolling on top of Flicker. He breaks the kiss -- not without trailing two more along the other man's neck and collar bone, as though by way of consolation -- and though his arousal is certainly apparent to Flicker in this position, his breathing remains calm and even. "Hey," he says softly. Hesitates. The hand that isn't braced against the bed to hold himself up kneads at Flicker's shoulder. "You don't have to talk about this, but -- did he hurt you?" His voice is still gentle, but there's an undertone of fierce protectiveness in it.

The tension bleeds back out of Flicker far more quickly than it came, melting away nearly as soon as Steve's weight shifts over him. His arm slides around the other man's waist, his head tipping back with a very small whimper when Steve breaks off. He's half lifted himself as if to chase the kisses with further ones -- but the question freezes him, his eyes wider and his head shaking firmly. "No -- no, oh goodness. No, it -- it wasn't like that. It was fine. He was fine, I wanted -- I thought I wanted --" His head thumps back against the pillow heavily. "I want you so much sometimes it's hard to think about anything else. And I wanted him, too, or I -- I thought I did. And this, with you, it's been confusing and I've had a lot to wrestle with but it's been wonderful, you know? But sleeping with him just felt -- kind of --" Flicker sucks his cheeks inward, his eyes closing as he breathes slow and hard. "...off. Empty. Wrong. I don't know."

Steve's blush returns in full force. "Oh! I'm sorry to have assumed." He dips his head, settles more of his body weight carefully onto Flicker, and resumes massaging his shoulder. "Empty," he echoes. "Wrong. That's how I would have imagined any -- casual sex to feel. I was afraid /you/ might feel like that about what we do, even though I never did." He frowns, more thoughtful than upset, his hand stilling for a moment. "I'm sorry that experience was...not so great. I don't know who this person was, or how well you knew him, but -- what do you suppose it was so different about that experience, for you?"

"I kind of always thought that sex would feel like that, too. Outside of -- marriage or. Some kind of committed relationship like it. And we're already just -- just not doing that, right? But with you this feels good. And that -- felt so much like I was doing something." Flicker's cheeks flush again, his brows knitting. "I don't know. Dirty. I'm sorry, I shouldn't even be -- it's not like he -- I did want it. And he's a nice enough guy? We're not close but he's friendly when I see him? And he was nice then, too. It kind of feels unfair to him to even be saying this." His arm tightens around Steve, holding him just that much closer. "I'm sorry, this is stupid. It's just all been so intense. I don't know if I'm making the right decisions so much as just -- giving in to feelings that I really ought to -- um. Not."

"We're not," Steve confirms, his voice calm and gentle. "But we are close, and that's not nothing." He obliges Flicker's tight embrace, entwining their bodies further. "You're allowed to feel however you feel about it, regardless of whether it had anything to do with him personally. As much as I like to flatter myself to think I'm doing something particularly right, maybe...different people just need different levels or kinds of intimacy." He brushes the backs of his knuckles along the line of Flicker's jaw. "And maybe we were both brought up with very narrow ideas of what intimacy should -- or can -- look like. But regardless, yeah. This is..." He closes his eyes for a moment and just breathes. "...Intense. And if you want or need it, we can stop, or change what we're doing, give you more space to think or pray."

"Yeah." Flicker exhales slow and tremulous, head turning into Steve's touch. "I guess I've had to do a lot of rethinking. I guess I still have to." Though his face flushes again, this time he looks up at Steve directly. Touches his mouth gently to the other man's. "But just right now the last thing I want is more space."