Faltering

by Lara Wilson

It's not real--it can't be real. Between them lies too much pain, too many betrayals.

They are enemies now.

And this kiss isn't real.

Yet, those lips are warm and wet, firm and demanding. The hands gripping his biceps are strong, the fingers supple. He feels every muscle and sinew and bone pressed against him.

He tastes coffee and an apple. He breathes the scent of masculine sweat.

He hears the soft groan.

The kiss is real and Dick Grayson is pressed against him, in his arms, and Slade doesn't understand why or how or what the kid wants.

But, he can't help but kiss him back.

That desire has always been real.

~~~~~

"I never figured you for having a death wish."

Turning his head from watching flames dance on the hearth, Dick meets that cool gaze with his own burning one and casually lifts his feet onto the coffee table. "Funny, I never figured you to be a man who could destroy an entire city without blinking an eye."

Slade feels his lips twitch. The boy has always had balls. "So...it's time?"

"I promised I'd be back to discuss this."

Snorting, the older man steps farther into his living room and peels off his gauntlets, dropping them carelessly on a chair. "How'd you find me?"

"I'm not the son of the world's greatest detective for nothing." Dick trails his eyes over the room. "Cozy. Going to blow this house up, too?"

"If I have to." He stops three feet from the chair Dick's lounging in, knowing full well the younger man's casual pose is simply that--a pose--and he puts himself in striking distance to see what he'll do next.

Elbows resting on the chair arms, Dick steeples his fingers beneath his chin. "It took me less than twelve hours to figure out what you did for Joey and Rose."

"You don't know anything."

Dick smirks and reaches up to peel off his mask, tossing it aside as casually as Slade had his gauntlets. His own fingers are bare and flex slightly before he rises to his feet. "They would have loved you if you'd let them."

Slade crosses his arms over his chest and refuses to respond to that statement.

"I would have loved you if you'd let me."

That startles him and he knows he betrays his surprise in the hiss of a breath.

"Is that why, Slade? Are you so afraid of opening yourself that you'll do anything to push us away?" There's passion in that young voice, and a need to understand. Dick takes a step towards him and Slade stands his ground, lips tightly pursed, eye flashing with a growing frustration. He doesn't want this conversation.

It would be so much simpler if the kid would just attack.

"You were a good man once."

"I was never a good man," he growls back without thinking.

Dick jumps on that, shaking his head. "I know Joey's possession twisted you, I understand that. I can even believe that shaking off his influence took longer than we expected. He made you kill your best friend, hurt your daughter, but it's been two years, Slade, and, from every appearance, all you've done is sink lower." Another step and they are only inches apart. Slade can feel Dick's breath on his throat. "But you proved that to be a lie with Titans East, Slade. You proved that this is all an act."

"I gave the order to destroy Bludhaven," Slade snaps, wanting to drive away the kid who always could see through him. "I've spent the last several months alternating between drugging Cassandra Cain into a murderer and trying to assassinate that idiot Oliver Queen."

"To push us away," Dick insists and Slade finally steps back, ignoring the triumph that flares in the kid's eyes. "To prove to everyone who cared for you that all you are is a cold-blooded murderer. I don't buy it, Slade. If that was true, you'd never have taken me in, knowing I was bound to betray you. You'd have put a bullet in my head."

"I had a use for you."

"You have a soft spot for me. You always have, and I get it, Slade, I really do, because I've had that same soft spot for you. For nearly three years I've watched you spiraling into darkness and it's torn me up inside. I blamed you and hated you and swore revenge against you and then you turned around and pulled off this elaborate plan to get your kids accepted by the Titans because you think they need them more than you. And, when I figured it out, all I could see was that you did the same thing to me." He bridges the gap between them again, this time daring to lift his hands and grip Slade's biceps. Their eyes meet and hold. "I don't know if I can ever forgive you for what you've done," Dick whispers, "but I understand it."

"Grayson, let me go," he replies, voice clipped and steady though the emotions roiling through him are anything but.

"You've never let me go." A gust of wind down the chimney makes the fire roar behind them.

And Dick kisses him.

~~~~~

Dick is fire and passion and there's nothing slow or easy about him. He's constantly in motion--graceful yet never still. As the kiss deepens, his hands move from Slade's arms to his chest and his shoulders and back, stroking constantly.

Slade knows he should stop this, knows that this is dangerous.

But he's wanted it for too long, and he's still human enough to falter when faced with his desires.

Falter and surrender.

They sink to the floor, hands tugging at uniforms and weapons, tossing them aside as they continue to kiss until their lips burn and they gasp for breath. At one point, Slade wraps his fingers in Dick's hair, pulling his head back to gaze down into those passion-glazed sapphire eyes, and he wants to ask 'are you certain?' 'is this what you really want?' but he can see the truth in those eyes and feel it in every touch and every kiss.

And he surrenders to it.

*****

A log falling and sending up sparks wakes him and he rises on one elbow to stare into the flames. He's not surprised to find himself alone, but he is surprised at the melancholy that brings. Running a hand through his hair, he sits up and sighs, wondering why this happened and what will happen next.

He can't believe it will be anything good.

Until he sees the blue and black uniform in a pile with his own colors and Dick, wearing only his underwear and bearing a tray of coffee and sandwiches, coming through the door from the kitchen.

Dick smiles slightly and sets the tray down on the coffee table. "We need to talk."

Slade isn't sure why the kid stayed, why he did any of this to begin with. He doesn't like the feeling of confusion, of being off balance, and wonders how he's going to take control of this situation.

How he's going to get the younger man out of his life again.

"I'm not going anywhere."

Snorting in self-disgust, self-awareness, annoyance, and any number of emotions, Slade rises and yanks on his pants as Dick pours coffee. "This is a big mistake, kid."

"I make those all the time." The levity in his voice is countered by the seriousness on his face and he hands Slade a cup. "I leave people all the time. I'm not doing that with you, not again."

"I could kill you."

At that, Dick grins then sips his coffee. "Yeah, you could, but you won't even try. You never really try."

A long silence is broken by the hissing of newly caught wood on the fire, and they both glance at the rising flames.

"We live in two different worlds, Dick."

"We don't have to."

"I've done unforgivable things."

"If you try to make amends, truly feel sorry, maybe nothing is unforgivable."

"The sex wasn't that good," Slade replies, but does so with a smirk crossing his lips.

Dick grins back. "Yeah, it was." He sits on the sofa facing the fire, and a moment later Slade joins him.

Nothing has truly been resolved, and everything is more complicated, but the passion burning between them is too real for him to deny any longer.

Maybe they'll simply burn together.

End

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