Right Here Waiting . . .

Part 2

by Juli

1998

Continued from Part 1


San Francisco Legacy House

mid 1990s

Derek Rayne was one of the younger Precepts in the Legacy, but he still felt old as he looked at the young man seated on the other side of the desk. Anger and recrimination radiated off Nick Boyle in palatable waves. It made Derek's head ache just being near the ex-SEAL.

Inwardly, Derek sighed. He'd wanted this interview to go well, really, he had. Jonathan Boyle had been a good friend--and a person that Derek had admired very much. It took a strong man to admit when he was wrong and Jonathan had worked very hard to repair the damage that his doubt in Derek's character had caused. Derek had never forgotten Jonathan's half-formed accusations about his son, but somewhere along the way he'd managed to forgive them.

When William Sloan contacted Derek about Nick's interest in the Legacy, the San Francisco House Precept had been enthusiastic. Jonathan was dead and Derek couldn't change that fact--but he could help the man's son. The Dutchman saw it as an opportunity to repay all of the Legacy members that had helped him after his own father's death by introducing him to his life's work.

Derek hadn't even been too put off by the personal note Sloan had written on Nick's dossier: "A lot like his father, but with none of Jonathan's better qualities. A high risk, recommend refusal." William and Derek had been lovers for a short time, before the older man had met his wife. Their relationship had been more about competition and dominance than love and Derek had been tempted to ignore the warning out of spite. Still, the safety of the House came before old lovers' quarrels and he'd made a mental note to keep Sloan's comment in mind.

The Nick Boyle that Derek remembered had been a spirited child. Even in adolescence, he'd been full of energy, if a bit quiet. However, Caroline had severed her contact with the Legacy after Jonathan died, so Derek had no point of reference beyond Nick's mid-teens. Nevertheless, it was hard to reconcile this world-weary young man with the child of Derek's memories.

Derek had invited Nick out to the House for an interview, thinking that the ex- SEAL would be interested in seeing the place after being absent for several years. Derek's first reaction upon seeing him enter the house had been utter breathlessness. Never in his wildest dreams did it occur to him that Jonathan Boyle's son might be beautiful. Derek's brain immediately migrated south of his belt buckle and it was with some difficulty that he gathered his wits together enough to re-introduce himself.

Things had gone downhill from there.

Nick had seemed determined to answer every question in the shortest manner possible. Derek figured it might be a remnant from the young man's military days, but it was damn frustrating when you were trying to measure someone's character. Or maybe that was the point. Considering how Nick had left the SEALS, he'd have to be stupid not to know that there would be serious doubts about his ability to stick with a commitment. And Derek knew for a fact that Nick was anything but dumb.

Smiling a bit as he remembered Nick's stubbornness from their very first meeting, Derek thought he'd give the direct approach another try. Maybe it'd work better on the adult Nick than it had on the child version.

"Nick, your military record is superb, but the way you left the Navy was...unusual."

Whatever life had been in Nick's eyes abruptly flickered out. Derek swallowed his misgivings and continued.

"You're stubborn, argumentative, and a rebel. I don't think you'd deny any of those descriptions. In fact, I think that you've worked hard at getting that way. Give me one good reason why I should bring you into the Legacy and my House."

Derek was afraid that he'd alienated the young man, but at this point, he just didn't care. Being Jonathan's son only gave Nick so much leeway. Seeming to think of his words before answering, Nick began to speak.

"Look, I could tell you that you need me *because* I'm stubborn, that I'll never give up. But we'd both know that's bullshit because I left the SEALS. I could tell you that you need me *because* I'm a rebel and argumentative, that I'd keep you down-to-earth. But that'd just be blowing smoke up your ass."

Derek blinked. Apparently when Nick finally decided to talk, he didn't mince words.

"I just lost everything I cared about," Nick leaned forward in his chair and continued in a choked voice. "Give me something to care about, Derek. Give me something to care about and I'll be the most tenacious bastard you ever saw. Give me a place to belong and I'll *never* turn my back on you. I'm not saying that I'll never be difficult to work with and I'm not saying that I'll never talk back to you. But I'm promising that I'll be loyal; that even when I'm being a smartass, that I'll have the Legacy's best interests at heart. Give me a chance and I won't let you down. I'll give you my best; you have my word."

During the last part of Nick's impassioned plea, Derek's unique vision kicked in. He saw silent pictures of Nick being thrown across the room by an apparition; of the young man holding a gun and facing down a hideous, hairy creature; of the ex- SEAL being a sturdy presence at Derek's back as the Precept confronted an old enemy. It seemed he already had his answer.

"Your best, Nick, is all anyone could ever ask. Welcome to the Legacy."

******************************************************************

San Francisco Legacy House

mid 1990s

Running.........Pounding sheets of rain.........Slippery mud that seemed to be pulling you down.........Lightening.........Moving as quickly as you can across a barren field, knowing in your heart of hearts that you're already too late.........

Julia Walker's corpse strung up on a wooden frame like so much butchered meat.

"N-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O!!!"

Derek sat up in bed as the scream reverberated in his mind. Like the night of Julia's death, Derek himself was silent. It was the memory of Nick's cry that woke him.

The Precept futilely plumped his pillow and lay back down in his sweat-soaked sheets. In the two months since Julia's death, this nightly ritual had become routine. None of the House was taking this well, including Derek. However, the Dutchman was most worried about Nick. The young man had already had so much loss in his life.

It was with bittersweet joy that Derek had watched Nick and Julia's feelings for each other grow. Sweet because Derek knew that Julia's calm inner strength would help Nick find the quiet center of his own battered soul. Bitter because Derek desperately wanted to be the one that Nick needed. Honor got in his way. In the years since discovering that he was attracted to his own sex, Derek had been scrupulous in not approaching any man who had not already made the same discovery. Derek never regretted his own choice, but didn't fool himself into thinking that it was an easy life either. The Legacy accepted him, but to the world at large he was tolerated at best, considered unclean by many, and blindingly hated by the ignorant. To his sorrow, Derek had learned that there were a lot of ignorant people in the world. No, Derek would do nothing to encourage anyone into this lifestyle and since Nick never showed any interest, the Dutchman's personal hands-off policy remained in affect.

It wasn't easy, though. Instead of becoming used to Nick's many physical charms, Derek found himself noticing new details to marvel at: the way different kinds of light moved across the planes of his face, how a favorite green sweater brought out the light in his eyes, the difference between a smile and a grin. The attraction was much more than physical. Derek soon found himself admiring the young man's strength of character, keen intelligence, and bravery. Yet Nick was at heart a sensitive soul and Derek sometimes wondered what working in the Legacy would do to change that. He'd never worried about that with any of his other colleagues.

Derek would never forget Nick's anguished cry when he saw Julia's body and how the ex-SEAL fell to his knees as though all of his strength were gone. Later, Derek would remember how Nick leaned into him for comfort and how he had provided it by stroking the young man's hair. Later still, Derek would cherish the tactile memory of just how soft that hair was and would kick himself for remembering such a trivial thing from such an awful moment.

Characteristically, Nick had clammed up shortly thereafter, not even attending Julia's memorial service. Not that Derek expected him to. The Precept knew that Nick's tough shell simply hid the storm of emotions that the ex-SEAL was unable to express. Some pain just went too deep. Derek knew that, but he also knew that if the pain weren't released somehow, it would turn in on itself and feed on Nick's fragile soul. The prospect frightened him.

So, like at Julia's funeral, Derek wept. He wept at the loss of his dear friend, he wept at the violence of her passing, and he wept because he'd once again been unable to prevent the darkness from killing someone he cared about.

But--most of all--Derek Rayne wept because Nick Boyle couldn't.

*******************

San Francisco Legacy House

Approximately one year later

Now he understood why it was called martial *arts.* He'd never known before Nick how exquisite an exercise could be. Before Nick, he'd never appreciated that an athlete's grace could shame that of a dancer.

Derek sighed as he leaned his forehead into the cool glass of the window where he'd been watching Nick perform his morning exercises. There were a lot of "Before Nick's" in his life. Before Nick, he'd never truly appreciated the kaleidoscope of colors contained in hazel eyes. Before Nick, he'd thought that all military types were mindless, order-following apes. Before Nick, he'd never thought of sweatpants as sexy............

This train of thought was getting him nowhere fast. Nick wasn't interested in men and that was that. Besides, his doctor said that Derek should avoid excitement until he was more fully healed. Considering how flushed Nick-watching always left him, the Dutchman doubted that the good doctor would approve.

Derek turned to the leave the library and almost plowed down his sister, Ingrid. She must have entered the room while his attention was......elsewhere. Ingrid steadied her brother and then continued on to the window to see what it was that enraptured him so.

"He's truly beautiful, isn't he?" She surprised him by saying. Upon seeing the expression on Derek's face, Ingrid laughed. "Derek, I'm a nun. I'm not blind!"

Derek joined his sister at the window. He loved her dearly and was enormously grateful to her for coming to the Legacy House to comfort him. After the events in Rose County, Derek had been in sore need of comfort. Intellectually, he knew that he'd almost killed himself so that the demon controlling Dr. Atwood and the others in Rose County wouldn't get to Nick and Alex. Knowing that in his head didn't make it much easier to accept in his heart. The horror of turning the gun on himself would stay with him a long time--almost as long as the horror of pointing the gun at Nick. Derek would endure much worse than suicide if it meant keeping Nick Boyle safe.

Sloan had arranged for Derek to be sent back to the Legacy House as soon as possible to complete his recovery. The demon was gone but none of the San Francisco team wanted to stay in that place a moment longer than necessary. Ingrid had arrived a day later and Derek blessed whomever had arranged that small miracle. His sister's presence was the balm that his soul needed.

But as much as he loved Ingrid and was grateful to her, Derek still didn't want his sister messing with his love life. Or, more correctly, his *lack* of a love life.

"He won't wait forever, Derek."

Derek didn't even pretend to not know what Ingrid was talking about. His sister knew him much too well for that trick to work.

"He's not waiting for me."

"Poppycock!" Ingrid reached up and framed Derek's face with her hands. "How can a man gifted with the sight be so blind? Nick Boyle *adores* you."

Derek told his frantically beating heart that Ingrid was a nun and therefore not exactly an expert in romantic relationships. He gently moved his head out of her hands.

"Nick Boyle is a *young* man with an appetite for young women. He's not interested in an old, dried-up, *male* Precept."

"No, I don't imagine he would be. But--he's in love with *you,* Derek. Not what you are or how old you are, but *who* you are. I don't think it matters to him if you have a penis or not."

Her brother snorted inelegantly. "I suppose Nick told you this?"

"He didn't need to, it's in his eyes. The way he watches you all the time, especially when he thinks no one else is looking. The way he's been hovering over you since you got hurt, in case you needed help. Did you notice, Derek?"

Her brother mutely shook his head. Oh, he wanted to believe Ingrid, that there could be a chance!

"Did you know that Nick is the one that called the convent and arranged for me to be here? You were too ill to tell anyone what you needed, Derek, but Nick knew."

"Any friend would know to do that."

"Alex didn't. Rachel and William didn't either."

There didn't seem to be anything Derek could say to that. The siblings stared at each other for several heartbeats. In the heat of the discussion, they had both forgotten that Derek hadn't been out of bed this long since being injured. The Precept started to sway on his feet.

"Ingrid, I....."

"Hush, Derek. You're so pale! Maybe you've done too much this morning." Ingrid fussed at her brother as she helped him back to his room. Seeing that she'd gotten his attention, even if she hadn't convinced the stubborn fool, Ingrid sensed that it was time to back off the subject of the ex-SEAL. Derek's eyes were open now, that was the important thing. The rest would have to be up to him. After all, didn't the Lord help those who helped themselves?

Ingrid helped settle Derek in his bed and left so her brother could take a much- needed nap. Unfortunately, their conversation had startled the Precept so much that he couldn't soothe his mind to sleep. His heart kept saying that maybe his sister was right and that Nick might be receptive to a relationship, but his head kept parading all of the ex-SEAL's female love interests in front of his eyes. Finally, his body concluded the internal argument by falling asleep.

Derek dreamt of a misty field. As he moved through the indistinct landscape, Nick emerged from the haze in front of him, a welcoming smile on his face and holding his arms out to the Dutchman. At last! Derek rushed forward to move into Nick's embrace, but the young man's form disappeared as the Precept got within touching distance. The Dutchman twirled around frantically, looking for a sign of his would-be lover. Nick was gone, but Derek could hear his voice calling out to him from the mist. If he could only find him.......

Derek woke to an empty room, very confused by his dream. It was so real, he could have sworn he still heard Nick's voice. Then Derek realized that Nick really was calling his name, but from the doorway to his bedroom, not from the walls of mist in his dream.

"Derek? Boss, are you awake?"

Derek slowly sat up and shook his head to rid himself of the vestiges of his dream. "Yes, of course, Nick. Come in."

The younger man entered the room carefully, a food tray in his hands. He crossed over to Derek and set the tray across the Precept's lap.

"Ingrid said you weren't feeling too good, so I thought I'd bring you up some lunch. Didn't figure you'd feel up to coming downstairs to eat."

Nick plopped down on the easy chair near the bed and promptly sprawled over it. Derek often wondered if his chief of security even knew how to sit properly in a chair. Not that the Dutchman minded, an observant person could get some very interesting views of Nick in some of the positions he assumed....

Derek turned his attention to the food on his tray and grimaced. Sloppy stuff again. The Precept sighed heavily, blowing an errant curl of hair out of his face. He was tired of this absurd liquid diet and looked forward to the time (let it be soon!) when he was allowed real food.

Nick noticed the reaction and gave one of his quirky grins. Fishing around in his shirt pocket, he triumphantly brought out two chocolate chip cookies and brandished them in front of Derek's face. Nick put his finger in front of his lips in a shushing gesture before setting the cookies on Derek's tray.

"I would have brought more, but these were all I could sneak past Rachel. She's worse than the doctor."

"You have my eternal gratitude!" Derek laughed and decided to start his meal with dessert first.

As he ate, Derek noticed that Nick was watching him under lowered lashes. That was unusual. Nick was very straightforward and typically didn't resort to clandestine observations. Maybe there was something wrong? Something that the rest of the House had decided that Derek was too sick to be told about. Derek turned his full gaze onto the young man. Nick's eyes immediately slid away. Yes, something was up.

"Nick, what's the matter? Is there something wrong with the Legacy?"

Nick's eyes immediately snapped back. "No! Everything's fine. Nothing new has come up--I think Sloan's giving us an in-House vacation."

Well, that certainly had the ring of truth in it. Satisfied that his House was fine, Derek leaned back into the pillows. But just because the House was fine, didn't mean that everyone in it was okay. He hadn't missed the slight flinch when Nick had said the name Sloan and wondered what his old colleague was up to.

"Sloan's not being too much of a problem, is he? That man can be a bit much to take." There, Nick had flinched again. The young man abruptly got out of the chair and stalked over to the window. The ex-SEAL stared intently outside for a few moments before turning back to Derek.

"Derek, how well did Sloan know my father?"

The Dutchman was a bit taken back. He'd expected a complaint about Sloan's methods or attitude, not a question about past history. Derek considered carefully before answering. The fact was that Sloan had been deeply in love with Jonathan Boyle. William's craving after the older Boyle was one of the reasons that his relationship with Derek had fallen apart. True, it was one of *many* reasons, but was a contributing factor all the same. But even the persistent William Sloan had admitted that Jon would never be interested in another man and, besides, he was married. Still, Derek knew for a fact that Sloan had never forgotten his unrequited feelings. The only time he'd seen William cry was at Jonathan's funeral.

Derek suspected that Nick didn't really need to know that Sloan had wanted to jump his father's bones.

"The three of us worked together for years, Nick. William knew your father very well."

Nick closed his eyes as if in pain. Still leaning against the window sill, he crossed his arms against his chest. Derek wondered if it was an attempt to ward off more misery.

"Sloan says that I'm a lot like him." It wasn't exactly a question, but Derek knew Nick desperately needed a response.

"Only in the ways that count, Nick. Your bravery and fierce loyalty were traits of your father too."

Nick sighed and slowly crossed back over to the chair. He sat back down, this time with his legs propped up on the side of the bed. He leaned his head against the back of the chair and stared at the ceiling. "I wish I could have seen him like that. I guess he gave his best to the Legacy. Nothing good was left in him by the time he got home."

"And that is where you are different."

Nick looked over at Derek with a question in his eyes.

"You're stronger than your father, Nick. Jon's strength came out of a bottle. Yours comes from within." Seeing from the look on Nick's face that the young man didn't believe him, Derek continued. "Glass sparkles as brightly as a diamond when the sunlight hits it. But for all the pretty colors, it's still just glass. Step on it and it breaks. Diamonds are born under pressure and don't give way so easily. Your father was cheap carnival glass, Nick. You're the real thing."

The look on Nick's face would haunt Derek for a long, long time. It was a look of desperate hope trying to overcome profound disbelief. If Jonathan Boyle were still alive, Derek thought he would take great pleasure in choking the life out of him. To damage you child's self esteem in such a way! The Precept hoped that Nick's father roasted in a thousand hells for what he'd done to his son.

Derek pretended not to notice the tears filling Nick's eyes and turned back to the food on the plate to give his young colleague a few moments to compose himself. By the time he glanced back, Nick's usual wry expression was back in place. From the glint in the young man's eye, Derek got the feeling he was in for a bit of trouble. He was not disappointed.

"What did you ever see in Sloan anyway?" Nick asked his older companion. He wiggled his eyebrows in a lecherous manner before continuing. "The man must have hidden......talents."

Derek almost choked on his orange juice. He hadn't realized Nick had been aware of his own relationship with Sloan. And the leer on Nick's face! The Precept was suddenly glad that his body was too injured to react to that look. Derek glanced down at his lap and fervently hoped that situation would continue, for a little while at least. A raging hard-on would be a little embarrassing at the moment.

"William used to be a lot different. Don't judge the man he was by the man he is now."

"I hope so! I'd like to think you have better taste than that." Seeing that Derek had eaten all that he was going to, Nick got up to collect the tray. As he did, their hands brushed together and both men blushed. Nick winked at Derek and made his way out of the room. Was there a little wiggle in his bottom as he strode away?

Derek let out a huge sigh and lay back on his pillows. The conversation he'd just had with Nick was ten times more strange and unsettling than the one he'd had with Ingrid earlier. The Dutchman forced his thoughts into some sort of order. First, it was obvious that Nick was perfectly aware of Derek's sexual preferences and that it didn't bother him in the slightest. Not that the Precept had ever made any attempt to hide it, but the two of them had never sat down and had a heart-to- heart about it either. Second, Nick *did* seem to be going out of his way to be with Derek. Three, the blush, the wink, and the leer! Not to mention the wiggle? Were these signs that Nick might be interested in being more than just friends?

Only one thing was for sure: Derek was going to have to find out. Either that, or go insane.

********************

San Francisco Legacy House

Four Weeks Later

If there was one thing in the world that Derek excelled at, it was research. He spent the next several weeks studying his interactions with his young colleague. Nick did seem to be protective of him while he recovered from his gunshot wound, but so were Alex and Rachel. Therefore that particular observation didn't tell him much. Derek then found himself making excuses for being in the young man's company. When Nick was sprawled on the floor watching a baseball game, Derek joined him. Hadn't he always wanted to know what the Americans saw in this slow-moving game? The Precept took to taking his morning coffee in the garden, where it just so happened that Nick did his morning martial arts exercises. Ah, but the doctor told him to get plenty of fresh air while he was recuperating, so he was simply following his physician's orders. The model patient, that was Derek Rayne.

By the time Derek was fit to be on active Legacy duty, he'd come to the conclusion that Nick really did seem to enjoy being with him. That was a far cry, though, from knowing if the man wanted him. Rachel finally took pity on the poor Dutchman.

Before heading back to London, Sloan had ordered Derek to have a counseling session with Rachel before resuming his duties. He'd wanted to make sure that the San Francisco Precept was 100% recovered from his ordeal before re-shouldering the responsibility of the House. Derek wasn't too happy about it but knew that he wouldn't be able to avoid the session either. He needn't have worried. The meeting itself was really just a conversation between two friends. Rachel had been a part of every step of Derek's recovery process and knew already that he was perfectly capable of the work. Their talk soon moved to other things.

"You're trying too hard, you know."

Derek finished swallowing his sip of coffee and quirked an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

"With Nick. You're trying to hard," she repeated.

Derek felt like he'd walked into a scene from the Twilight Zone. "What about Nick?"

"I'm not blind, Derek!" Rachel laughed as she unknowingly echoed Ingrid's words of weeks before. "And Nick's not either. It's obvious that you've finally realized that Nick is attracted to you and decided to do something about it."

Derek knew what it was to feel like a deer caught in a car's headlights.

"It's all right," she reassured him. "I think it's great! The two of you will be good for one another. Nick is in dire need of stability and support while you need to be needed. It's a perfect match."

Once he got over the shock of Rachel's figuring out what was going on, Derek was relieved. It was a comfort to have someone else to talk to about this.

"Why do you think I'm trying too hard?" he asked.

"Nick's been hurt so much, Derek. I think he's a lot more unsure of himself than he likes for us to know. Take it slow, let things progress naturally. Nick's got to know by now that you're interested."

Over the next few weeks Derek took Rachel's words to heart and no longer made such convoluted efforts to be near the ex-SEAL. Soon, to his delight, he found that Nick started to find reasons to be with him. Reading in companionable silence in the library. Cooking a big breakfast together on Sunday mornings. Pilfering the kitchen during late night research sessions. Keeping in mind Rachel's observations that Nick was probably unsure of himself, the older man always was sure to let his companion know how much he'd enjoyed his company.

So it was that the two of them found themselves ransacking the kitchen one evening. Rachel was in town with her daughter and Alex was in New Orleans visiting family. Derek realized that it was the first time in months that he'd been alone in the house with Nick. The Precept began chanting "slow, slow, slow" to himself. His odd courtship of Nick was progressing, but it was important to let the younger man make the first move. He told his libido that just because the two of them were alone, it didn't mean that anything was going to happen.

Derek tore his gaze away from the sight of Nick's backside as the young man dug in the back of the refrigerator. What the hell was Nick doing in there anyway?

"What are you looking for?"

"Aha!" Nick grinned as he finally found what he was looking for. "Just this!" The ex-SEAL held up a squeezable bottle of chocolate sauce. "Dominic gets it for Kat, but I don't think she'll mind if I use some to make chocolate milk."

Derek smiled at Nick's enthusiasm. He doubted the young man would have let him see this childlike delight before they'd become so close. It wasn't very macho to be ecstatic over chocolate milk!

The smile disappeared a minute later when Derek abruptly found himself showered in liquid chocolate. He glared at Nick who was frozen in surprise. Derek took one finger and made a swipe across the mess on his face. "Forget to check to make sure the cap was secure, did you?"

"I'm sorry, boss!" Nick's apology rapidly disintegrated into helpless laughter at the sight of the usually dignified Precept dripping in gooey chocolate. Soon the ex- SEAL was holding his sides and howling.

"C'mon, Nick!" Derek didn't find the situation quite so funny. He stood in the middle of the kitchen floor, chocolate sauce still dripping off his raised finger. "Be a good boy and help me clean this up."

At his words, the laughter immediately stopped. Before he knew it, Nick had crossed over to him, invading Derek's personal space. They were so close that Derek fancied he could feel the breeze from the movement of Nick's eyes blinking. Certainly they were close enough that he could see the seriousness in the young man's expression.

"I'm not good and I'm not a *boy*." The statement was no less intense for all that it was said softly. With that pronouncement, Nick leaned closer still and took Derek's chocolate-covered finger in his mouth, sucking the digit clean.

Derek found that he needed to lean against the kitchen counter to remain upright. Nick stopped bathing his finger with his tongue and raised his face to Derek's. The Precept knew then that there was no way that he was misinterpreting these signals. With both hands, he cupped Nick's face and slowly drew their lips together. He wanted Nick to be able to pull away if it was too much. It would kill Derek if he did, but it had to be the young man's choice.

Nick didn't pull away, he leaned forward until his entire body was resting against Derek. The Dutchman started the kiss softly, but it soon became much more heated. Tongues and breath intertwined as the two explored each other. Finally, the breathless couple drew apart. Derek leaned down to rest his forehead against Nick's, his arms circling the lithe young form resting against him. Nick was the first to speak.

"Wow."

Derek smiled and kissed the tip of Nick's nose. "Wow is right."

Nick moved his head until it was nestled under Derek's chin, his ear pressed up against the older man's chest. The reassuring sound of Derek's heartbeat calmed his sudden shivers.

Derek felt the tremors going through Nick's body. "Nick, what's wrong?" God, he wasn't regretting the kiss, was he?

"I was just thinking how close I came to losing you, Derek. I......I couldn't stand that."

"You didn't lose me, love. I'm right here."

The two swayed back and forth for several heartbeats, a subtle rocking motion that comforted both of them. Derek sensed that Nick needed to say something, but would need some time to find the words. That was okay, he would hold this young man forever if need be.

"Derek?"

"Yes."

"Someone once told me that I'm stubborn, argumentative, and a rebel." Derek smiled as remembered his own words to Nick during the ex-SEAL's Legacy interview. How soon he'd learned that the young man was so much more! The Dutchman restrained himself from replying and let Nick continue. "But I'm hoping you'll look past all of that. I love you, Derek, and I'm hoping very much that you'll let me make love with you."

By the time Nick had finished, the young man was trembling again. Derek stroked his back gently in a universal gesture of comfort. He knew how hard it was for Nick to say those words.

"Oh, my love, I was just waiting for you to ask! I love you too, Nick. I have for a very long time."

Nick responded with a blindingly bright smile and reached up for another kiss. Derek was happy to oblige him.

This time when the two broke apart, Derek was the one that was shivering. Kissing Nick was every bit as spectacular an experience as he'd dreamed. He smiled tenderly at his new lover and took Nick's hand, intending to lead him upstairs. Nick followed, but the Precept could feel some hesitation.

"Nick, have you ever made love to a man before?"

Nick immediately tensed and dropped his eyes to the floor. He let go of Derek's hand and wrapped both of his arms around himself as if in comfort.

"Nick. Love, what's the matter? Did I say something......"

The younger man immediately looked at Derek and shook his head rapidly. "No, it's okay. Ummm, yeah, I've been with a guy before."

Nick looked at Derek as though expecting to be hit. The Dutchman couldn't take the hurt look in his eyes. He stepped towards Nick and gingerly took the young man in his arms. "It's all right, Nick. Remember, I've been with a man before too. There's nothing wrong with it."

The ex-Seal shook his head as if Derek didn't understand. "It's not that. I know loving you is right! It's just that the other guy.......it was Richter."

As Nick whispered his former SEAL commander's name, Derek was assaulted by a vision. A much younger Nick dressed in military fatigues......Richter approaching the young SEAL, unbuckling his pants as he smirked at his junior officer......Nick's tears and silent scream as the older man viciously pounded into him from behind........

"Oh my god." Derek was almost ill. No wonder it had taken Nick so long to admit his feelings! "Nick, that wasn't making love! It wasn't even sex. That was rape."

"It was? I never said 'no.'"

"How could you? He was your commanding officer!"

"Would you show me? How to make love with you?"

Derek recognized the offer for the treasure that it was. "It would be my absolute honor."

And he proceeded to take Nick upstairs and do just that.

Hours later, both of them lay satiated in Derek's comfortable bed. The Dutchman had intended for the experience to be slow and gentle. Nick had had enough roughness and Derek intended to spend the rest of his life spoiling him rotten. He'd managed to keep it slow and tender the first time. The second had been a bit more...passionate. By the third time, they'd both virtually lost all control and had mated in a frenzy.

Derek decided that frenzy was nice.

The older man moaned sensuously in memory and tightened his arms around his young lover, who was laying directly on top of him. Derek had every intention of sleeping when the first drop of wetness hit his face. After a couple of more drops, he gave up on sleep and opened his eyes.

Nick was crying.

The young man was propped up on his elbows and staring at Derek's face as though he'd never seen it before, tears silently running down his cheeks. He made no noise and no attempt to stop the weeping. Oh God. Was Nick regretting what they'd done? Had Derek pushed him into sex too fast? The younger man saw that his lover was awake and cut off anything Derek would have said.

"How come no one ever told me it would be like this?" He asked the older man.

"Nick?"

"I never knew it could be like this! Even with Julia....." Realizing that bringing up a previous lover's name while in bed with a brand new lover probably wasn't a good idea, Nick cut off whatever he'd been about to say. Derek's heart broke again at this show of self control. Nick had been bottling things up much too often.

"It's okay to say her name, Nick. I loved her too," the older man reassured him.

Nick dropped down until his head was on Derek's chest. "Even with Julia it wasn't like that. I loved her, Derek! I know I did. But with her, I was the strong one. With you......with you I feel safe. You make me feel cherished, Derek. I never had that before."

Derek marveled at how far they'd come. He'd never known Nick to open up like this and even though it was understandable considering that they were now lovers, he still felt blessed that the young man trusted him with his deepest self. He swore that he'd never betray that trust.

"That's because you didn't have me before," he answered.

"Where were you, Derek?" Somehow, the Dutchman knew that Nick didn't mean physical proximity.

"I was right here, Nick, waiting for you. All of our experiences up 'til now have led us to be together. I may have hated having to live through some of those ordeals, but I don't regret anything. Not if it led up to holding you in my arms."

Derek felt Nick relax as the loving words soothed him. Soon, his young lover was drifting towards sleep.

"Jus' don't go anywhere, Derek."

"No, I'm right here, love." Derek finished his sentence silently as he felt the young man succumb to sleep. "And I always will be."

~the end~

 

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