The party was a meeting of sponsors and businessmen, led by Max Ryman, Val’s agent. And Max would not care how much Val drank, so long as he charmed the socks off the money men he’d brought to be entertained.
Much as he wanted to, Luke could not storm into the trailer and rip the glass out of Val’s hand. In fact he was stuck, hanging around the car park of the concert hall until the party broke up and Val was ready to be taken to their current hotel. Luke turned on his heel and walked a little way into the darkness, making a few silent vows about things he intended to say to young Mr Quentin when they found themselves alone together.
It was barely three days since he’d seen Val’s light on at some unGodly hour of the morning. Val was no early riser and his excuses about being too hot or too wound up from the concerts were beginning to slip. At four am. on Sunday morning, Luke went into his room and found him near tears with a raging toothache, by then desperate enough to confess to his bodyguard that he was in agony and had been in pain for days. The hotel medic on call came at Luke’s demand and prescribed painkillers in sufficient quantities for Luke to get Val back to bed and asleep, and he’d dragged the young man, protesting bitterly, to a dentist the following morning. The verdict wasn’t unexpected. Val was run down from the months of tours, from the strain and from the life of strange hours and crashing highs. His nerves were thoroughly jangled and he had a simple infection. The dentist merely prescribed a course of antibiotics, with advice to visit a doctor if the irritable nerve continued to be painful. Luke, relieved, made Val cash the prescription and take the tablets regularly. With the medical advice that while taking them, he didn’t drive. And that he didn’t, under any circumstances, drink.
Luke paced in the dark outside. He worried at times how Val stood up to the touring. He was so young, and to look at, such a slight and fragile man. It was a hard life he was leading, physically and emotionally, and when Luke watched the energy he poured out on stage night after night, he wondered how much longer Val would stand the pace Ryman was bent on inflicting. Somehow over the last few months, Luke had extended his duties to keeping tabs on Val’s time and trying to release him from rehursals and concerts promptly before he got dragged into the endless technicalities involved in every show. He’d noticed Val’s colour slipping days before he forced Val to tell him about the tooth infection. Val’s sheer irresponsibility infuriated him. At twenty he was old enough to realise the effects of mixing drugs and alcohol, old enough to have some idea of caring for himself. And Max Ryman ought to take better care of his star performer.
Luke lost track of how long he wandered in the dark outside, muttering. It was nearly eleven when the visitors began to leave the trailer and head for the gates outside. Val and Ryman were at the back of the line, arm in arm, Ryman giggling with the good nature found in a champagne bottle. Luke followed them, falling into place behind Val. Just outside the gates, Val glanced around for him, gave him the sweet smile that always punched Luke in the guts, then noticed his expression. He fell back a step, into Luke’s earshot.
“Luke? What’s the matter?”
"I want a word with you when we get back to the hotel.” Luke said quietly and grimly. Val’s eyes went wide.
"What? I didn’t do anything!”
"I saw EXACTLY what you were doing!“
There was a small crowd of fans gathered at the gate. There always was, even at the most ridiculous hours. Luke cast an eye over them and saw only kids, waving autograph books. Cars were filling at the kerb with the suited visitors. Luke stepped around Val, guiding him towards his car. The bang took them all by surprise. Someone screamed- Ryman. From the corner of his eyes Luke saw Ryman jump. Then reflex took over, he grabbed Val and shoved him down on the concrete, covering the slighter body. The small crowd of kids surged in all directions in open panic. Luke couldn’t see the offender or the weapon, but his ears knew the sound of gunfire and he could smell the acrid smoke left by a smoking chamber. Val was gasping beneath him in shock and alarm. Ryman was screaming like a banishee. There was no clear route to the car. Luke hauled Val to his feet, making sure there was no one in their path, and pushed him towards the back streets behind the concert hall. Once in the alleys he gripped Val’s wrist and dragged him, not at a run but at a swift walk, keeping the boy ahead of him. He took as many turns as possible, losing them thoroughly in the alleyways. Then and only then did he stop, swing Val around and turn up his face.
Val was trembling, Luke could feel him through the thin shirt the boy was wearing. His eyes were huge.
“No one making that much noise is seriously hurt.” Luke said with all the conviction he could muster. Val slumped back against the wall and got his breath. Luke looked at him anxiously, but Val's next words contained all his usual bounce and edge.
“So where exactly do you think you’ve dragged me to? Do you know how cold it is out here?”
“Want me to warm you up?” Luke said sweetly. Val’s response was instant and muttered, accompanied by a swift look from under his lashes. “No.”
“So be quiet, Quentin.” Luke pulled his jacket off and hung it around Val’s shoulders. “Now we find a main road and a taxi.”
Quentin never knew when to be quiet. “So Mr. I’m always ready for anything Bodyguard, where is your cell phone, huh? Why can’t we just call and get someone to pick us up?” Val looked up charmingly into Luke’s eyes, just daring him to say something.
Luke really wanted to stuff a sock in Val’s mouth, but that comment struck home. Luke ALWAYS felt ready for anything, yet here he was in the back alleys of London without a means of communication on his person. Last time that mistake would happen.
“Let’s go” Luke said firmly, grasping Val’s smaller hand in his own, ignoring the comment all together.
Luke led them down a long alleyway that dumped them out into a park. On the other side of the park was a major road, they should be able to find a taxi quickly. Val balked in the gateway, hanging back from the darkness and the head-high foliage.
“Luuuuuuuuuke, I’m cold and tired. It’s tooooo far. You go, and get the taxi to come back here.”
“Dream on, kid.” Luke said firmly. “Walk.”
“You can’t make me.” Val pointed out. “There is no way you can make me do-“
Luke stood still and propped his hands on his hips. “Okay. There’s a bench over there and I’ve got ten minutes to spare. Do you want me to discuss that last statement or do you want to rethink it?”
“You don’t really mean discuss do you?” Val said, pouting. Luke shook his head.
“No. Do you really mean you’re not walking any further voluntarily?”
Mr Quentin let out a heavy sigh and led the way into the park. “You are SUCH a gorilla.”
The park was deserted. Flanked by the ornate wrought iron railings and the grey shapes of flowerbeds in the night air, it was difficult to stay annoyed. Luke felt Val’s fingers wrap a little tighter about his as they negotiated the dark paths.
"What’s the matter, Quentin? Scared of the dark?”
“No.” Val said promptly. “Just of you.”
Luke snorted. A little further on, Val’s hand tightened on his, then suddenly disengaged. Val spun around and Luke grabbed for him, temper about to go through the roof- until he realised the young man was being violently sick. He put his hand on Val’s shoulders, steadying him, feeling him trembling all over. Val was gulping, as much with distress as anything else. When he straightened up he turned willingly into Luke’s arms and buried his face into the much larger shoulder. Luke rubbed his shoulders, alarmed and praying this was not a reaction to mixing drugs and alcohol.
“Come on kitten, talk to me- Val? Are you allright?”
Although what he was about to do if Val was going to collapse out here, he wasn’t sure. Without a phone, with no sense of where they were, he was not about to leave Val while he went for help. Luke cursed his own thoughtlessness and tried to coax a response out of the shuddering young man in his arms.
“Val? Come on kiddo, say something. You know where you are?”
“In the middle of nowhere.” Val said muffled into his chest. Luke manhandled him towards a bench and sat down, still holding him.
“You know what day it is?”
“I’m fine.” Val disengaged himself with an effort. He was still trembling and his arms folded tight as he let Luke go. He looked very small, huddled up into himself and shivering with cold. Luke ran a hand through his hair, trying to see what his temperature was.
“Val we’ve got to find a main road.”
“I’m okay.” Val said again. “Just scared. Oh God Luke, someone shot at me....”
Two conflicting emotions rushed through Luke, one of relief, one of distress.
“You don’t know it was aimed at you.” he said as offhandedly as he could.
“Half the people at that meeting of yours have got the money and power to be magnets for attack. Could have been random. Could have been some fan’s partner looking for them and nothing to do with anyone else at all.”
“That’s not true, is it?”
Luke put a hand on Val’s back, rubbing soothingly. “I’ve been in this game afew years, kiddo. In my experience if someone takes the risk of making an attack meant to damage, they try a little harder than that.”
“Someone took a gun-“ Val said, barely hearing him. “What have I ever done to make someone want to shoot at me?”
Luke tried to pull Val up, but he wouldn’t budge. He took the tousled head in his hands instead, raising the tear stained face up. He didn’t know what the shooter’s intent was, but he couldn’t let Val think it was himself. “Kitten, love, you didn’t do anything. You’re fine, you’re safe with me now. You’ll always be safe with me. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
“I w..was so s...scared.” Val said pitifully, hiccuping and then crying harder. He felt himself lifted up, then found himself surrounded by the strongest arms, his face buried into the neck and shoulder of the gorilla he pretended to hate. The tension left his body with the tears, a feeling of peace overcoming him.
Luke had taken a seat back on the bench, Val sitting across his lap, the head buried against his neck. He held on tight to the slight body, whispered soothingly against the soft hair, the comforting words doing as much for himself as they seemed to be doing for Val. He could never let Val know how scared he was, nor how scared he remained at the thought of something like that ever happening again. It was not the first gunshot he'd witnessed, not the first intended victim he'd comforted, but it was the first time he was aware of his hands trembling as he rubbed Val's back.
“That was MY fault.” he said eventually, clearly and firmly. “That happened because I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t looking. I swear to you I won’t make that mistake again.”
“Maniacs are going to do this, aren’t they?” Val lifted his face, pitifully matter of fact. “This is going to happen again.”
“You’re an awfully public figure.” Luke said gently. “It comes with the job, kiddo. You attract the ghouls.”
“Do you think Max was badly hurt?”
“Clipped if anything at all.” Luke gave Val another crushing hug. “He wasn’t even on the floor.”
Val slipped from his lap, got up and wandered a few paces away. “How did I get into this?”
“I don’t know.” Luke said honestly, leaning on his knees after him. “You tell me.”
Val shrugged a little, thinking about it. “I don’t know. Just one thing snowballed into another. I always sang- there was a kids choir at the base I grew up on- then I got to sing with a band, did a little modelling which I never told anyone at home about-“ Val hesitated, thinking again. “Then one day someone saw me and Max came along. He found the contract with Orion- and things just got bigger and bigger.”
A pretty face, a marketable voice, a well sold image and a remarkable amount of stage presence. He’d fallen into the hands of a geared and well oiled machine that fed him into a mould and which would spit him out again when the time came. Luke wondered if Val realised that. He got to his feet, not wanting to pursue it.
“You’re getting cold. Come on.”
“You know something really funny?” Val said lightly, not looking at him.
“Orion even owns the name. I’m not even Val Quentin any more. Val Quentin’s the name they bought- it belongs to them now. They have the rights to it.”
Luke put an arm around his shoulders.
“Come on now.”
They walked towards the light of the street in the distance, Luke with his arm still around Val. It was an easy silence, both men lost in their own private thoughts.
As the walk seemed to stretch into forever, Val’s natural brattiness began to reassert itself. He was getting rather thirsty and tired and the effects of shock were rapidly wearing off.
“Luuuuuke. I’m thirsty. Isn’t there anything to drink around here?”
Luke knew Val was getting tired, and the whine just confirmed his suspicions. Time to tread softly here as a temper tantrum was the last thing that Luke wanted to deal with out in the middle of the park.
“I know you’re thirsty, I am as well. Just a little farther and we can get that taxi back to the hotel room. A nice hot cup of cocoa sounds good right now, doesn’t it?”
Val gave the older man a look of disbelief. Luke didn't smoke, he didn't drink, he didn't seem to do much else either. This was a man in urgent need of a little gentle corruption.
“But it’s sooooo far. We’ve been walking forever! Lu-“
“Val” Luke said warningly “it’s only a little farther. We have to get to the street and find a taxi. I won’t leave you here. Now come along.”
Val scuffed along the pavement, muttering to himself. Luke gritted his teeth and prayed his brat would survive the distance, wherever it was they were. They rounded a corner and Luke walked smack into Val as he stopped.
“WHAT! Give a guy some warning!”
“I know where we are! I used to go to a club round here-“
“Forget it.” Luke said flatly. “We are NOT-“
“Oh come off it!” Val grabbed his hand and towed him towards the road. “We’re five minutes away from a bus route straight into Picadilly. And just by that stop is a damn good pub .”
“You’re shocky.” Luke objected. Val grinned.
“In need of something hot and sweet. And until I get a better offer, a pub will do.”
Luke lifted his eyebrows and followed.
Val was like a completely different person now that he knew where he was and where he was going. He fairly sprinted down the street, dragging Luke after him. “Come on slow poke, the buses don't run all night around here!"
Luke sped up, uncertain as to whether a bus ride was a good thing or not. Sometimes people didn’t pay much attention to them as they never thought a “star” would do things like ride a bus as “normal” people did. But one never knew how people would react at any given time, and a taxi may not make an appearance any time soon.
They barely made it to the stop as the bus pulled up. There were only three other people riding at the time, and Val and Luke were able to take a seat away from them, and possible trouble. As Val was dressed in casual clothes instead of a costume or monkey suit, he blended in a lot better.
“Where exactly is this bus going?” he demanded in Val’s ear as the bus juddered away. Val grinned.
“Straight past the hotel in the end. I used to catch this one all the time when I was at school- Dad was based over in Battersea then.”
“Can’t imagine you on buses with the rest of us mortals.”
“I’ve slummed it in my time.” Val’s eyes flashed back and Luke suddenly thought how enchanting he was when he was teasing, the smile in his eyes entirely genuine. They were quiet through the dark stops and jerking starts of the bus route. There seemed to be a hundred stops at twenty yard intervals. Somewhere along the line Luke saw Val’s dark head knocking a little against the window, limp and unnoticing. He eased an arm around the boy’s shoulders and drew him gently backwards until Val’s sleeping head was against his chest, ignored the pub signs and watched for the hotel.
Val stirred at once when Luke shook him, stumbled to his feet and followed him into the chill of the street. The hotel was within sight. Luke steered Val ahead of him, past the doorman who stood aside, touching his hat, and across to the reception desk. There were two policemen waiting there and one was already speaking into his radio at the sight of them. The hotel manager advanced on them, his face anxious. Luke felt Val flinching back against him and gave his shoulders a quick squeeze.
“I’ll handle this. Go.”
Val didn’t need a second invitation. He slipped away and Luke went forward to field anxiety, questions and open panic. It was over half an hour before he extricated himself, left the hotel staff calmed and the police dismissed, and went upstairs to Val’s suite.
Val had been tired earlier but the sight of the police took all thoughts of sleep from his mind. He was busy pacing and had opened the suite’s door several times, intent on finding Luke but closing the door each time, knowing that Luke was handling everything as fast as he could. Besides, Val wasn’t sure he wanted to find out what had happened to Max.
Luke opened the hotel door and was about knocked over when Val rushed to him.
“Hey kiddo, I’m here now. It’s okay. Everything’s okay.” Luke managed to guide Val away from the open door so it could be closed.
Val looked up into Luke’s eyes, the question not even needing to be asked.
“Max is fine. The police drew a total blank- no one knows who through that shot or why, but it clipped a wall. Max got hit with a piece of flying brick, he’s not even bruised.” Luke had a hard time trying to control the smile that threatened to cross his face at the thought of Max’s horrific screams for a bump with a rock. “No one was injured, no one at all.”
“Rea- kiddo, have you had something to drink?”
Val looked immediately away from Luke and buried his face against the strong shoulder.
“I’m so glad he’s okay, that everyone’s okay.”
“Quentin.” Luke said, trying to disengage himself from the arms around him.
“Just a little.” Val murmured against the shoulder. “No big deal.”
“No big-“ Luke peeled Val away from him, temper rising. “That was exactly what I wanted a word with you over in the first place, sunshine! Think I’d forgotten?”
“What?” Val’s eyes were wide. Luke shook his head.
“Turn off that look, right now. I saw you knocking back champagne in your trailer-“
“Not that much! Only half a glass, it didn’t touch me!”
“And then you come back and drink here?”
Val glanced guiltily back at the mini bar. “Just a half glass of wine- I saw all the hell going on downstairs and it was making me edgy! I just wanted something to calm myself down, that’s all! Don’t make a performance out of it Luke, please-“
“You remember what it is you’re taking three times a day?” Luke said, folding his arms. “Remember what the doctor told you?”
“He meant don’t get drunk and I didn’t-“
“He meant DON’T DRINK! What part of that don’t you understand? Is there anything we don’t have to do the hard way? Is it going to take an emergency run to hospital before you realise some rules aren’t made just to annoy you? If your veins are full of antibiotics- which are there to kill infections you got through being run down by a life involving too much drinking in the first place- you absorb alcohol a lot faster. Alcohol’s a poison.”
Val decided the only avenue left open to him to avoid punishment would be to tell the truth.
“I could drink today because I didn’t take the antibiotics. I am feeling fine, the mo-“
“WHAT?!? You stopped with the drugs? Is that what you just said?” Luke’s blood pressure rose several notches with that excuse.
Val blinked in surprise. He had expected an apology from.
“Yes, I'm fine now, so I stopped with the drugs. What’s the big deal?”
“What’s the big deal!?! The big deal young man is that those drugs were prescribed to you to be taken for 10 days! It is a mandatory 10 day treatment! If you stop before the 10 days you risk re infection!”
“I’m SORRY, okay? I didn’t know. I’ll just go ta-“
“WAIT one minute mister!” Luke’s warning stopped Val’s steps towards the bottle on the table. “I watched you take a tablet before the reception tonight, didn’t I?”
Val’s stomach started heading towards his toes. He had pretended to take the pill, but didn’t. He knew that he should have been taking them for the 10 days and knew that he shouldn’t mix them with the alcohol. The drink won out, and now he was found out.
“I - er-“
“You er what?” Luke said grimly. “Did you or did you not take that tablet?”
There was no right answer to this. Val took a deep breath, feeling like he was stood in a courtroom. “I didn’t because I knew I was going to have to drink with Max’s clients-“
“In other words you knew you shouldn’t mix them with alcohol.” Luke said, not interested in Val’s side issues. “And therefore you knew it was necessary to LIE to me in order to drink at that little cocktail party! Do you know how many people are immune to antibiotics these days from screwing around with them?”
“They were prescription Luke, you’re making this sound like I was taking acid or something!”
“Just for the record, if I ever catch you with anything BUT prescription medication, you are dead meat.” Luke said bluntly. “ANYTHING you can’t show me a doctor’s note for.”
“There are half a dozen leisure drugs that are semi legal,” Val argued, “You can’t just-“
“What about alcohol then? Cigarettes?”
“Don’t side track me, kiddo. Do you remember the doctor telling you the drugs were a ten day course?”
“Yes or no Quentin.”
“And do you remember how much pain you were in with that infection? Want that back in a form a GP won’t be able to treat?”
“No.” Val admitted. Luke’s eyes were flinty and not moving. Val hated that unwavering grey stare. It was like being looked at by some lean and rangy wolf. He thought through his options and decided the best strategy left was a nicely done air of subdued penitence.
“I’m really sorry, I didn’t think about them being antibiotics- I just knew I was going to HAVE to drink today and that I shouldn’t mix the two. I’ll ring the GP in the morning and check with him, and I’ll take the tablet I missed now-“
“HAVE to drink? Where ever did you get that ridiculous notion that you HAVE to drink? You HAVE to drink water, but you have never HAD to drink liquor! All liquor manages to do is dull your senses, Quentin, you don’t need it. And you’ll not have anymore anytime soon, understood?”
“YES OR NO QUENTIN!?!”
“You are to go get ready for bed Quentin. You’ve got 15 minutes. Then I want to see you in my room to finish this discussion. You are NOT to touch those pills. Your next one isn’t due until morning, and you will remain on the rest of your schedule. Now go!” Luke said, pointing towards Val’s room.
Val stormed off, knowing what the rest of the discussion was going to entail. He was in no hurry to get ready for bed.
“And if I hear ANY lock turning,” Luke said behind him, “I’ll call the fire brigade to break the door and we’ll stage a little impromptu performance for them the moment I get my hands on you.”
“You are SUCH-“ Val said under his breath.
Luke didn’t need to hear him. “A gorilla. I know. Thirteen minutes forty three seconds.”
As slowly as he dared, Val showered and changed. Luke- for some reason Val couldn’t get a comprehensible explanation for- seemed to feel it was within his job description to supervise Val’s wardrobe. Out had gone the flimsy and lurid coloured silk nightwear along with mutters about Christopher Robin lost in a brothel. Sometimes Val wondered if Luke wouldn’t be happier if he just wore combat gear in bed and armour out of it. He chose shorts and a t shirt in the end, unwillingly aware that whatever he chose he was unlikely to be wearing long. Dressed and damp, Val sat on the end of the bed and stared hard at the carpet, looking for inspiration. Fighting Luke didn’t work. The screaming abdabs that worked so well on Max and Diane had no effect on him except to irritate him like a flapped-at wasp. There had to be SOME way to convince the man to lighten up and accept that sometimes rules needed to be bent a little. For a sufficiently good reason. By important people. It wasn’t like Luke didn’t have a sense of humour. Val’s lips twitched a little, thinking of Luke dragged across the road, the two of them running for a bus and giggling like teenagers. Luke, sitting on a bench in the darkness of the park, his eyes the only colour in a hundred shades of grey. There had to be some key to the gorilla.
He was awakened from his reverie by the gorilla bellowing for him
“Val, in my room, now please!”
Val got up and slowly walked into the adjoining bedroom. Luke was sitting on the end of his bed, his upper body outlined and framed perfectly by a skin tight black t shirt. The muscles in the arms were well defined, and the darkly tanned skin almost seemed to shimmer in the dim light of the hotel lamps.
“What were you doing? It was very quiet in there Quentin.”
“I was just..” Quentin, unsure of exactly how much he wanted to reveal about where his thoughts were, stopped in mid sentence.
“I was just thinking there had to be a way.. I mean.. I don’t think I did wrong today, Luke, really. I didn’t dri-“
“Come here Quentin. We’ve been through this already.”
Val felt his resolve crumbling, he was all too quickly getting past the point of no return. “Luke, ple-“
“Quentin!” Luke said warningly, pointing to the floor to the right of him.
Val walked slowly up to Luke, his mind still working overtime on a solution OUT of this problem, but coming up with nothing.
Luke waited until Val was next to him and then slipped his hands into the waistband of the shorts, lowering them to the knees before gently guiding Val across his lap. He tucked a hand under Val’s stomach, anchoring him firmly against his washboard stomach.
Val grabbed a handful of the comforter on the bed and raised up on his elbows. His legs dangled helplessly off the end of the bed.
Luke began on his normal short, intense lecture. “There are some rules that can be bent or broken, and they may be overlooked. But when you mess with your very life, I’ll not hold back on anything. It was an entirely stupid idea of yours to stop the drugs just so you could have a drink, a drink that you most definitely don’t need.”
Not just a gorilla. A psychic gorilla with a nasty clarity of perception.
“I won’t do it again.” Val said plaintively, summoning up the best little boy voice he could manage in this postion. “It was stupid and irresponsible-“
“Don’t strain yourself.” Luke’s tone had changed fractionally. Still annoyed, it held a tint of amusement that Val found himself responding to, a split second before Luke’s hand impacted on his bare behind.
“I told you.” Luke’s hard hand punctuated one word in three. “There are a lot of things I’ll put up with from you kiddo- although you might not think it- taking any risks with yourself is OUT. I’m in charge of your physical safety and you’d better believe I take it seriously.”
“I believe you!” Val begged, squirming, “Luke it was one glass of champagne-“
“One mouthful would have been enough.” Luke said bluntly. Val knew the tone, even though he was hearing the words dimly. He was reaching the stage now of hearing very little, thinking very little except about the blazing smart Luke was inflicting on his squirming backside, but there was something annoyingly stable about that sentence. Something about Luke’s sheer implaccability, the rules that never changed no matter what.
“Luuuuuke! Please, I’ll not drink! Drugs on schedule! Luke!”
Luke kept the hand falling like a machine, slow and steady, hitting all parts of the bottom laid across his lap.
Val was squirming as much as Luke would allow, pulling the comforter up into a tight ball, finally losing control and trying to block the blows that Luke kept raining down. His hand was grabbed, almost without interruption, and settled rather uncomfortably in the small of his back leaving him feeling even more defenseless. He finally broke down, sobbing into the comforter.
Luke covered the entire bottom with one more round, intent on teaching young Quentin that playing with his life would never be tolerated.
Finally, the only sound in the room was the sobbing and hiccuping of one well punished Quentin. Luke let go of Val’s hand, which immediately went to rub out the sting, but which almost as soon as it touched the hot skin let go, it was just too hot.
Luke helped Val to his feet and pointed to the corner. Val retreated quickly, glad to be somewhere else besides over the knees of the gorilla.
Val sobbed for 10 minutes, feeling pity for himself. When the sobbing stopped, he still had trouble catching his breath, short, sharp inhalations followed by a long slow exhalation.
He was left there for a full thirty minutes, Luke wanting to make sure that Quentin had his thoughts focused solely on his throbbing behind. Luke worked on the too numerous piles of paperwork needed for each concert stop on the tour while Quentin calmed down. When the clock reached 30 minutes, he called Val over to him.
Val slowly approached Luke, tired and ashamed. Luke roughly pushed dark hair out of Val’s eyes.
“Don’t you ever think about mixing and matching like that again. You understand me?”
Val’s lower lip twitched warningly. Luke shook his head, knowing what was not far away if he looked for it.
“Allright, we’ll talk about it in the morning. Get to bed, kiddo, it’s late.”
Val turned away, unwillingly and miserably, resisting the urge to mutter under his breath. Luke’s arm hooked around him from behind, turned him and he found himself against Luke’s chest, in a hug that crushed the breath out of him. They held onto each other for some time before Luke nudged up his chin and kissed his forehead.
There was something in Val’s eyes as he drew away, something very nearly said. Luke interrupted the thought before it became words, preventing it for both their sakes.
“Go on, Kitten. Not tonight.”
Val seemed to accept that. Luke watched him move through the connecting door, saw the light flash on in the adjoining room, then a minute later click out. Luke sat for some time before he moved to his own bed on the other side of that half opened door. It was better this way. It was definitely better for both of them.