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"I keep on waiting to get seasick," Dex announced as he pushed open Joe's door with a shoulder. He had a handful of the evening mess, the whisky Frankie had foisted on him and something for the shiner Polly had left.
"Oh, hey, Dex," Joe hardly looked up from the charts he had spread over the table and half the floor.
Dex wasn't surprised. If there was one thing ol'Sky Captain was obsessive about it was knowing where he was and how he got there. The existence of an island in the middle of the ocean that Joe didn't know about was an affront to his boast that he knew the world like the back of his hand. Normally, Dex wasn't one for babysitting but Joe had been running over the globe for the past few days, chasing after him and he guessed he should do something. And he wondered why Polly wasn't here. The way things were going he was going to lose his bet to Frankie; he'd expected Polly and Joe to be glued together at this point. Dex tried not to think about why he was relived to be wrong.
"Enough of that, old man," he plunked the tray in the middle of Joe's scribbling. "Even I'm not down there playing with the toys. Put this on your eye."
"This isn't from the ark?" Joe eyed the raw slab of steak, then up at Dex with the faint tick of a wink.
Dex only snorted and tossed the meat at him. "The amphibious unit is going to have all those animals named and wearing little pink collars if Frankie isn't quick on getting them off the boat."
"Plane," Joe leaned back without any further protest about the food or the hovering. "Its a plane, Dex."
"It's a boat," he argued. "Too big for a plane."
"It's flying in the air, Dex."
"I designed it. I say it's a boat."
"I don't sail boats and I can fly this plane."
Dex snorted and grinned. "Fine, it's a mobile landing field."
Dex pulled over a chair, cleared it off and propped his feet up on the table. After a few moments of silence, he heard Joe start in on the mess and smiled. Frankie had given Joe the cushy cabin; his was lower down and sharing a room with Dr. Volter. Not that he minded, not when every mumbling from the old man was worth a Nobel Prize. It still amazed him, listening to the old crew from dept 11. He'd thought he was a genius; compared to them he was a schoolboy. Those old men had more brains in their little fingers than he had in his entire body. He unwrapped a square of gum and stuck it in his mouth with a blissful sigh. There'd been no gum on the island.
"Better not stick that under my chair," Joe muttered without opening his eyes. Dex only cracked his gum at him.
"Wonder who you bumped out to get this berth," Dex murmured after a little silence. Joe had two whole rooms; one of which was covered in maps and scribbled latitude numbers and since he didn't see a sign of the bed, it had to be past that narrow door behind Joe's chair. The table and two hard chairs were bolted down and the entire vehicle thrummed faintly from the massive rotors keeping it in the air. The windows were round - like a boat - and small. The harsh sunlight picked out every scrape and bruise on Joe's face.
He was out of his jacket and had skimmed down to a T-shirt. The past few days didn't stop at his face though. Dex's expression stilled as he looked at his arms, the long scrapes and the oddly shaped burns that he had no idea where they came from.
"You're staring at me," Joe said and Dex flushed, clamping his jaw on his gum to keep from stuttering something particularly silly.
"What are those from?" he managed in a moment, taking refuge in familiar nosiness. He leaned forward and touched Joe's arm where it rested next to the whisky, barely brushing one of the pink and peeling zigzags. Joe flinched sharply and the grimace he didn't hide made Dex lean worriedly closer. "How bad are they?"
"It was that bloody robot woman," Joe got his face under control and managed the patented carefree smile that hid so much. Dex scowled at him and Joe's smile turned crooked, honest and tired. "Yes, they sting a bit, Dex. Unfortunately, I dropped the gizmo that made them, you'll just have to use your imagination."
"I'm not worried about the gizmo," Dex protested, though he did wonder what it had been. If he could make one too. Or, make a better one. It had to have been electrical, with those marks and - he cut himself off and watched Joe refill his glass. He had to be hurting; Joe never drank more than a finger or two. Never know when you'll be in the cockpit, he'd always say and set aside his glass. But not now. Now, Dex wondered how bad Joe really was hurt.
"Just, no, Dex. It's not so bad, nothing that some time and -" Joe hefted the steak with a faded smile. "a nice steak won't cure."
"Where's Polly?" Dex changed the subject and wished he'd kept his mouth shut when he saw the faint grimace pass Joe's face.
"Poking around," he said shortly. "Trying Frankie's temper, I'd say."
Joe shrugged and looked out the window. "Just as well, or she'd be after me as well as you. Both of you, worse than my mother."
They let the conversation die there and Dex watched Joe try to drink the pain away. He could see the weariness at the corners of his blue eyes; the hero was still there but it was a tired hero now. He'd been watching that face for as long as he could recall, from the day that Joe had rescued him from the monstrous 'Brain Trust' and taken him under his wing; then helped him discover what had happened to his parents and avenge their deaths.
Three years ago, Polly Perkins had made the hero shine like an arclight but now - now Dex didn't see that light in Joe's eyes. What he saw instead was lurking pain, the one that made him want to do something, and he refused to think what, to stop it.
"She cut my fuel line," Joe said sometime later, when the sun had slid away from him and left him in ivory shadows. "She told me on that bloody island. She sabotaged my plane."
Dex's gum cracked like a gunshot and Joe jumped, bleary eyes wide. He remembered what Joe had been like after Manchuria and he hoped he didn't see Polly any time soon; he wasn't sure what he do if he did. Nothing pleasant. Now he knew the shadow he saw and realized the pain Joe was trying to drink away wasn't physical.
"She almost got you killed," Dex whispered, eyes wide with rage. He couldn't help it. He couldn't keep quiet. Not looking a Joe, not knowing what he did. He managed to clamp his jaw on anything else. But his own words echoed in his mind. Almost killed. Polly had gotten her story and Joe had gotten a year in a Manchurian slave camp. Dex couldn't imagine, and didn't want to try, what kind of equation made a story worth Sky Captain's life. Anyone's life. Joe's life.
Polly was the woman who made the Sky Captain light up like Christmas at Woolworth's. One of the few who'd ever seen the other side of Joe's smile. The woman who'd left him to die.
"I - I'm sorry," he said, wrung with the look in Joe's eyes. The disbelief there. The wounded look that the whisky was doing nothing for. A light in those blue eyes that Dex knew so well, had gone out. He found himself shivering in rage and nearly wishing that Polly had simply shot Joe instead. The damage would be less deep than this - what he was seeing now.
"Don't - don't tell Frankie," Joe blurted suddenly, eyes going wide. "She'd kill Polly."
"Yes," Dex said, because he'd like to kill her himself. "I mean - no, I won't."
"It's over," Joe said bitterly, shoulder slumped as he stared at the table. Dex watched worriedly as he threw down the last of the glass and reached for the bottle again. He put his hand over it, Joe's fingers knocking against his. Sky Captain didn't drink away his problems and - Joe wasn't bitter. Never that. Even in the darkest hour, you could always count on Sky Captain for hope and Dex couldn't stand the idea of losing that. "I guess it was the night she cut my line, I just - was too stupid to know it."
"Don't," he said, meaning a lot of things. Don't get drunk, don't get bitter. Don't let Polly ruin you like this. The lightning blue eyes met his, held his, brilliant and intense and so wounded. He couldn't look away from the shadows and light there, like the sky, like the sea, like nothing else. Hope and despair warring in those eyes and Dex leaned towards him, breath growing short.
"C'mon, Joe," he said, standing abruptly and barking his shins on the bolted down table, heart hammering. "You could use some sleep."
Joe leaned back with a laugh, glancing quickly aside and out the window at the swift growing twighlight, the edge of lamplight picked out the pulse leaping in his throat, "Like I said, worse than my mother."
Joe got to his feet and Dex leapt to the rescue as he listed to the left, "Maybe I'm not the one who'd getting seasick here?"
"Not seawater that's making the world spin," Joe muttered, leaning on him unsteadily.
Joe's arm was warm against Dex's neck and he was beginning to feel more than a little too hot. He gnawed nervously at his gum and risked a hand on Joe's waist to maneuver them through the doorway to the other room. There was only thin, dirty cotton between his skin and Joe's; he could feel the ripple of muscle, the heat of Joe's body. He could smell the alcohol on his breath and see the way the stubble on his lip caught the light and turned to gold. Dex knew he was too close - dangerously close - but what was he supposed to do? Dump Joe on the floor? He hated himself and the perversion within that turned even the most honorable moment into something queer and sick. He couldn't take his hand off Joe's hip, palm sweating against the wool knickers.
The other room was tiny but elegant and Dex suspected that Frankie had donated her own quarters to Joe for the duration. The bed was narrow, the head was separated from the rest of the room only by a curtain and the porthole was cracked open to let the cold wind whistle in. Joe always slept with a window open; even in the worst winters. Needed the air to breathe, he said. The cold never seemed to bother him and Dex just learned to wear a lot of sweaters.
"You always were a cheap drunk," he said after too long a pause while Joe lowered himself unsteadily onto the narrow bed. "Frankie said."
Joe squinted up at him and Dex replayed the moment anxiously in his mind. Had he done something stupid? Said something so horrible he'd blocked it out? Then he heard the anger in his own voice echo back to him.
"It's alright, Dex," Joe tapped his knee and Dex flinched. With Joe sitting on the bed, his head at Dex's hip, the touch was too much to stand. Or not enough. One of the two. "Polly's just - Polly."
His relived sigh made Joe blink in mild surprise but at least Joe didn't have a clue what was going on in Dex's head. He wanted to believe that Joe, of all people, wouldn't turn away but at the same time he couldn't imagine exposing Joe to what he really was. Joe was too clean for that. So, Dex shifted the gum to one side, chewing rapidly as he pushed Joe flat on the blue wool blanket.
"Sure she is, Joe," he bent to Joe's boots. The brass buckles were bent and took some time to work off. "I know that."
He loosened the knee bracers, and pulled the boots free, gratified by Joe's relived sigh and the way he slumped boundlessly onto the bed. Sky Captain trusted few people and Dex was one of the few, he loved that. As much as he loved Joe and Dex would never betray that trust. So, he only watched Joe as he shifted to get comfortable on the bed.
"You're looking at me," Joe murmured without opening his eyes.
Dex tried for a casual snort. "Oh? How do you know? Ancient Tibetan secrets of the Third Eye?"
"No," Joe's eyes snapped open catching his. His voice was soft and his expression - Dex didn't know how to read it. "Because you look at me all the time, Dex."
Now, Dex couldn't look away. Not even if his life depended on it. "Do you mind?"
Joe shook his head slightly and the sky blue of his eyes clear and unrelenting. Dex could feel the shame crawling up his face, a flush of hope and humiliation. He flattened his palm against Joe's knee, gum crackling. He couldn't move, couldn't breathe. A moment ago he'd swore he'd never do this.
"Do you mind?"
Joe's hand moved down to touch his fingers, slipping over Dex's hand and the callused thumb moved over Dex's knuckles in what was - what was undeniably - a caress. "I don't mind."
Dex gulped then coughed, hacking nosily, face flaming. "S - swallowed m'gum -"
Joe threw back his head and laughed and in the face of that, the flash of strong teeth, the jump of his body under Dex's trapped hand he could finally move. Dex scrambled onto the bed, breath catching, to straddle Joe's thighs, press his hands to Joe's chest and feel him laugh. Tears pricked his eyes because, god, this was all he'd ever dreamed of and this moment - if he never had another - was enough. Joe, bright and alive and laughing and Dex could put his hands on it. On him. On Joe.
"Joe," he said, helplessly. Dex had to make sure it was alright, this thing. He had to see his eyes.
Joe sobered, looking up at where Dex sat above him, but his breathing didn't settle and Dex saw again the leap of his pulse in his throat. There were still shadows in his eyes but maybe Dex could, finally, do something about that. At least for a little while.
"Dex," Joe gripped his hand again, moving it over his chest. Then the quick flick of a wink, "I'm not quite as dumb as a I am handsome."
"You're not dumb at all, Joe," Dex protested, flushing and smiling at once. Not everyone could be a genius. He moved his fingers, daring a little stroke and the way Joe's face went slack with pleasure set Dex's deepest desires alight. He knew he should stop, inversion was a disease and he didn't want to taint Joe with it. But, he couldn't and that look - that look wasn't someone who was sick.
"I wonder what that says about my looks, then," Joe grumbled.
Dex slipped his fingers under the edge of Joe's T-shirt and slid it up, stopping Joe's words as his breath caught. Dex bared the stormcloud of dark hair, the long narrow build, and the occasional scar that snaked across his skin. More burns and Dex rested an uneasy hand by one.
"Don't," Joe said and Dex knew he wasn't talking about touching it but about worrying.
"Yes, yes!" Joe said in exasperation and flexed his hips crudely up. Dex rode the motion with a shudder and a fever ache between his legs. Joe shouldered his way free of his shirt and looked up at Dex expectantly. There was uncertainty lurking in those clear eyes and it made Dex uneasy. He stroked his hands over Joe's chest, hair tickling his palms and making him shiver the way Joe was shivering. When he touched a nipple Joe groaned softly and there wasn't any point in pretending that he was going to stop. Not when that groan sank straight into Dex and the longing he'd had for Joe transformed itself to a gnawing hunger.
Dex arched with a shaky sound, one hand dropping to Joe's pants and the other circling hypnotically over Joe's chest. He could pet Joe forever, he realized, and Joe was squirming a little under his hand as if he might enjoy being petted forever. He curled fingers around the buttons at Joe's waist, popping them free one by one. He couldn't help but snicker at the way both their breathing caught at every loosening of a button. He couldn't help but look down at his hand, watching the thin white cotton of Joe's briefs become slowly visible - and the swell of flesh still muffled in too much fabric. He was hard too but it hardly mattered because he wasn't just hungry there. Every inch of his skin wanted Joe, needed Joe. Was going to have Joe.
He slid down Joe's legs, pulling his pants down, head bent over the veiled shape of his dick. Dex licked his lips with a frightening, visceral hunger. He was sure Freud had something to say about his Opedial needs but Dex didn't care. He rested a shaking hand on the white patch of Joe's briefs; the cotton was so thin, worn, and beneath that Dex felt the flex and jump of his dick. Joe groaned again, longer this time and breathed something, Dex didn't know what. The flesh under his hand was alive for him.
"Oh, god, Joe," Dex was scared all over again and reared up. Away from what he so wanted and must not - had resolved himself long ago - to never have. "This isn't right, this isn't - god, Joe, you're too perfect for this!"
"What?" Joe reared up on his elbows, expression somewhere between angry, desperate and nervous. "What! Perfect?"
Dex took his turn staring out the tiny porthole, scarlet. Joe's hand clamped hard around his wrist, yanking his attention back to his face.
"Perfect? I am not a dammed statue, Dex!"
"Or a fool. There's more in the world than what the Queen thinks is safe for civilization."
"You never said anything."
"What would I say?" Joe's brows quirked in honest confusion. "I'm not a newscaster, Dex."
Joe pulled Dex's hand down, back where it had been, where Joe's dick still strained against his boxers. He kept looking at Dex even as his blue eyes darkened with pleasure, with a growing flush, he shaped Dex's fingers around him, squeezing his clasped hand encouragingly.
"Just a man," his voice had gone husky and Dex could feel the quiver of his thighs under his legs. Joe had never looked more like - more like some god than now, with need bright in his eyes and an intense look that Dex believed no one else had ever earned. "And I don't think words say enough. Right?"
"Okay, Cap'n." Dex stammered, giving up. It wasn't right and it wasn't wrong and hell if he knew what it was. He still couldnt look away from Joe's gaze, even as he moved his hand in a stroke over his dick. He watched Joe catch his lip in his lower teeth, his skin darken. Pressing a palm over the lump under the cotton, Dex let his hand slip down to the softer shape of Joe's balls, a smile he couldn't control creeping free when Joe's eyes squeezed shut and he tried to push up into his hand. He felt good - perfect - in Dex's hand.
"Dex, Dex, god - get them off!"
"Yeah -" Dex scrambled down, tugging the wool pants off and leaving Joe in his boxers and nothing else. Ignoring Joe's complaints, he ran his hands up the lean thighs, fingers slipping under the lose legs of his underwear. His head bent down again, he wanted to kiss the skin under his nose. He wanted to taste it. And his own clothes itched, were too hot and maddeningly tight where he most needed some room. Instead he freed his hands and unsnapped the fly of Joe's boxers; both of them groaning softly as his dick was finally revealed.
Joe was perfect, he was beautiful. Dex hunched over his hips, Joe wiggling to give him some room between his legs. "God, you should be naked all the time."
Joe's laugh traveled all the way down, the flushed length of his dick shivering and Dex had to touch it. He closed his hand around the shaft and Joe's chuckles cut off with a soft cry. A pulse throbbed under his fingers and the tip of Joe's dick was a sweet looking cherry red. Dex's heart was thundering in his ears as he gently stroked the foreskin the rest of the way back, leaving Joe naked in his hand. A slow pull and Joe's long sigh encouraged Dex. He moved his hand, working Joe like he liked it; from all the signs, Joe liked it that way too. Joe was squirming enough that Dex had to lean a hand on his hip to hold him still, palm prickling with the feel of Joe under him. His beautiful dick thrummed and jerked, the tip leaking liquid across Dex's fingers and making his hand slick. Dark pubic hair tickled his wrist and the whole expanse of Joe's body was sprawled across the bed, breathless and excited and moaning - just for him. Joe's face was turned to the window, away from Dex.
"You - you're not thinking of anyone else, are you?" he shouldn't ask but Dex couldnt stand the idea that Joe might be somewhere else, with someone else.
"No," Joe turned back to him for a moment with a dazed expression. "N-no, just the sky, Dex."
"C-come here," Joe reached for him, snagging his tie and yanked him down. "Dex, dammit."
Joe's arm wouldn't let him up and Dex didn't want to be free. He fumbled his way back to Joe's swollen dick as he rolled against Joe's side. The feel of Joe pushing his leg between his own wasn't something he'd hoped for. Dex couldn't stop himself from lurching forward and burying his face against Joe's neck with a groan.
"That's good -" Joe said breathlessly, his hand spread over Dex's back, pushing him closer. His other hand joined Dex's on his dick, they worked together now. "That's very good."
Joe was moaning now and Dex finally felt like he was on the ocean as he rode Joe's thrusts and urgent writing. He was humping Joe's leg, Dex couldnt stop himself, not even long enough to free himself from his pants. Joe's hand was strong over his fingers and the shape of his dick was like fire in his hand. The sounds Joe made were loud in Dex's ear and he could taste his sweat on his lips like fine salt. He couldn't bear it, needed more, and couldn't stop himself from pressing his mouth to forbidden skin, tongue licking over Joe's pulse, which leapt like a wild thing.
"I'm - I'm - ah - ah - ah!" Joe's voice rose to a shout as he jerked convulsively. Dex could only sob his name, feel the spurt of cum through his fingers and grind and grind and grind. And come.
"Joe, Joe - god, Joe -" Dex didn't know if he wanted to apologize, flee the room but all he could do was lie there on Joe's body and pant. His hand was still wrapped around Joe's softening dick, Joe's hand on top of his. His pants were a mess.
Dex felt the push of Joe's hand up his back then the touch in his hair as Joe ran fingers through it. When Dex felt those long fingers slip to the nape of his neck, gripping in a gentle caress, he could only bend his head to Joe's neck and whisper his name against his skin.
"Dex -" Joe's fingertips traced small circles at his hairline. Dex could practically feel him straining for the right thing to say. "Dex, it's alright. You're a good boy."