476 C.E.

Poco a Poco : Little by little.

It was about a week after the New Year's fiasco. I'm pretty sure that everyone had noticed that Grey and I weren't really…interacting. At all. I wanted to say something. Trust me, I really, really did.

But…words are his thing, not mine. I didn't know what to say. I can't describe how many times I planned out what I wanted to say, what could make this mess right, only to take one look at his face and have the words scatter.

And I still couldn't get over how much of an oblivious idiot I'd been. Absurdly, I was a little angry at October for completely unintentionally distracting me. Well, I guess that meant that it had never been anything but a stupid crush anyway.

Our first show in Canada had been a little less…enthusiastic than what we usually did. The drama was spilling over into work… That made this doubly bad.

So, yeah, there we all were, on the bus, not really talking or anything…I was trying to focus on a book, and failing miserably. Having someone upset with me and then forced into close quarters didn't really go over well….

I turned a few pages back, completely unaware of what was going on. I bit my lip, feeling miserable and guilty, like I had for days, then. Kenya glanced over at me, a guarded expression on her face like she was on the verge of doing something about the palpable tension in the bus.

About then, Grey, who was on his laptop gasped. We all looked over, and I could see the color drain out of his face.

"What is it?" October asked.

Grey was still staring at the screen, not even trying to reply. Oh, shit, this had to be something bad. He was always so composed…

"Are you okay?" Kenya asked in a softer tone.

"I…" he started, then blurted it all out, like ripping a band aid off, "My father is dead. Alcohol poisoning."

"Oh, honey," Kenya replied, "I'm so…"

But he cut her off then, with an uncharacteristic burst of vitriolic emotion, "And good riddance!" But he was standing up anyway, shakily. "I'd like to be alone for a while."

And with that, Grey went into the sleeping compartment, holding his laptop to his chest. And I knew that if I had a shred of decency in my body, I would go to him. Whatever he may have said, he needed someone.

Kenya read my mind. "Rome," she said lowly, so only I could hear, "He's probably not going to appreciate my telling you this, but I don't really care right now. I know you consider Grey your best friend, but he thinks more of you than that."

I nodded slowly. "I know. I'm going," I replied simply, finally gathering the courage to do what I should have done a week ago.

Without knocking, I quietly slid the compartment door open and slipped in. He was on his bunk, turned so that I couldn't see his face.

"Hey," I said softly, mentally kicking myself for not thinking of something less lame. He didn't say anything, but he wasn't telling me to get the fuck out, so I sat down next to him, close enough that our legs were touching. "I'm going to hug you, now," I informed him softly before wrapping my arms around his chest and leaning into him. For a split second, he tensed, and I thought he might have been leaning away, but, no, he was turning and holding me back, almost uncomfortably tightly.

Unconsciously, I tightened my own embrace as he rested his forehead on my shoulder. And we sat there like that for a long time, not moving, not speaking.

Then, finally, "I don't understand why I'm upset," he said a little pathetically, voice muffled.

"Because he was your dad," I answered, moving one hand to thread my fingers through his hair. "And no matter how much of an asshole he was, he was still that."

He didn't answer, but nodded slightly against my neck. And I was probably an asshole for noticing it, considering the circumstances, but I had forgotten how much I liked human contact, how nice it was to be held. But I don't know, maybe he was thinking the same thing. I don't know who instigated it, but then we were kissing, slowly, gently, exploratory contact, seeing how we fit together.

I knew, then, that October was not the one for me. Even if he had swung that way, it wouldn't have worked. Once I had had time to really think about it, I realized that would have chosen Grey even if I really had had a chance with October. As it was, there was absolutely no question. I was already closer to him than I had been to anyone else in my life, family included.

His hand tilted my head back, and I reflexively opened my mouth wider, letting his tongue slip into my mouth. I knotted my fingers into his hair, and responded with equal enthusiasm, a small noise coming from the back of my throat. Or, at least I think that was me. His hands were light, butterfly presences, at the nape of my neck and on my hip, a contrast to his mouth on mine, the firm pressure, the slick friction. It was…kind of really hot. He really knew what he was doing, more than I did, and I was no blushing virgin.

But when we broke for air, his face was troubled, and my heart dropped into my stomach.

"What does this m—" he began, voice little more than a breath, but there was a sudden thump on the door, and we both jumped a metaphorical foot in the air.

The thump turned into knocking, and I recognized the pattern that October typically knocked in.

"A second," I called to the door, and the sound ceased. I turned to Grey. "Later," I promised him, recognizing it as the wrong place, even if it was the right time. I tried to lean in for a quick kiss, to seal that promise as much as anything else, but he turned his face away, and I grimaced. I hadn't fixed anything yet.

Heavy with the weight of words unspoken, I went to open the door.

We didn't get a chance to talk all that day. Tension was, if possible, even thicker than it had been before. On top of it all, Grey still seemed…grief-stricken. He spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in his little corner of isolated despair. Every time I looked at him I died a little inside.

But, on the bright side, Denmark had suggested that they go bar-hopping that night, and October and Kenya had seemed to like the idea. That would provide us with at least a few hours to talk. When we got to the hotel, I deliberately loitered in the bus so that we were the last two. I caught him on the way out.

"Can we talk tonight? Please?" I asked.

He inhaled like he was going to reply, then hesitated, a strange, guilty look on his face. Then, he jerkily shook his head, and slipped past me to join up with the others. I exhaled and pressed the palm of my hand against my forehead. I could feel stiffness in my neck and a soreness above my eye, as a particularly violent migraine began to threaten. Today was not turning out to be a good day, makeout session notwithstanding.

He had shaken his head. What did that mean? No, we can't talk? Or no, I'm not about to say what I was about to say? I couldn't read him at all. I squeezed my eyes closed tightly, scrunching my whole face up, then opened them, and made my way into the hotel.

No suites that night, so we had three rooms booked: two doubles and a single. Via a game of rock-paper-scissors, I had ended up with the single. As we had gone up the stairs, I had tried to catch Grey's eyes, to say, yes, I really do want to talk to you. But he had avoided my looks, studiously observing the floor whenever I had tried to get his attention. Shit, shit, shit. I had fucked up more than I had originally thought, hadn't I?

I had gone into my room to get settled in for the night, upset and unhappy. I knew that October, Kenya, and Denmark planned to drop their bags and go drinking. I hoped that meant that I would be able to corner Grey and make him let me fix…this…debacle…of…whatever I had done.

After I had the room organized to my liking and taken something for my headache, I went to knock on the door of the room Grey and Kenya were sharing. No response. I waited a while, then knocked again. Once more, nothing. With a frown, I pressed my ear to the door. There was no sound. Either he was in there and avoiding me, or he was gone and avoiding me. I didn't like those options. I did not like them one bit.

But, at this point, I was determined, and he couldn't stay away from me forever. Um. Could he?

With an unhappiness level that was approaching dismally miserable, I retreated to my room and tried to read. It didn't work. In a desperate attempt to distract myself, I plugged in my laptop and connected to the hotel's wifi. At first, I went to youtube and searched for cell-phone videos that fans had uploaded of our shows, but when I realized that I was just watching Grey the whole time, I closed the window and opened up a game of Bejeweled.

At least two hours went by. It was 10:00 PM, give or take a few minutes. The others weren't back yet, and I hadn't seen Grey either. Finally, I gave up, and began getting ready for bed. I stripped off my jeans and the long-sleeved shirt I'd been wearing, replacing it with a zip-up hoodie when I found the room to be uncomfortably cold.

I tried reading again, but, to my own surprise, I fell asleep.

A sharp rapping on the door woke me up, hours later. Startled, I flailed, and the book fell off my chest and onto the floor. I reached for my glasses, but found them still on my face. At that point, my mind woke up, and I thought with a jolt that the knocking could be Grey. I scrambled to get to the door.

"Grey," I breathed when I opened the door and saw him there, somehow surprised, even though I had hoped it would be him.

"Did I wake you up?" he asked, voice low and sounding more…British than usual.

"Um, yeah, kind of, but it doesn't matter. I wanted to talk to you," I said. A hesitation. "Where have you been?" I asked a second later.

He looked at the ground and leaned against the doorframe, jutting his hip out in a way that might have been described as…provocative. I tried not to look at where his pants were riding low. I tried not to notice that those pants were one of his tightest pairs. And I tried really hard not to notice that his hands were pushing his shirt up a very significant inch or so, exposing a strip of pale skin, a thin stripe of hair drawing my eyes down, down…

I forced them up, trying to keep my mind from expanding on images given. Ever since Grey had…forced himself out of the friend zone, it had been hard for me not to notice how attractive he was. I swallowed, mouth suddenly dry, and locked my eyes on his face again. He was still looking at the ground.

"I was…around," he answered finally, as evasive as anything he'd ever said.

"O…kay," I said, finding my voice, casting my eyes to the side when my sex-deprived mind refused to look at safe areas and only safe areas. "Um. Are the others back?"

He hesitated, then answered, still in his more-British-than-normal voice. "Still out."

"Oh. Um." He was still in the doorway. "Do you want to come in…?" I asked hesitantly.

He didn't answer, but walked into the room, closing the door behind him. Did he always roll his hips like that when he walked? Had I just not noticed? That seemed impossible…it was very…distracting.

"What did you want to talk about?" he asked, a purr in his voice that made me shiver, even as his question disconcerted me. He knew full well what I wanted to talk about.

"Um. You know. This. Us. Exactly where this is going and…such." I trailed off. He was standing way too close to me, and the look on his face was not an expression of intent listening. "Uh. Did you want to say anything?" I asked, looking at the floor.

Too close. Brain overload. He leaned over me, and I froze, seriously unable to think. One of his hands trailed up, a light pressure on my torso before he grabbed the zipper of my hoodie and began pulling it down, agonizingly slowly. His breath was hot on my ear and he murmured, "I want you so bad."

My eyebrows shot up, and I looked up to see if I had heard him right. I had to have, because just as I met his eyes, they trailed down my body, pausing at the front of my boxers. He smirked at what he saw there, moving his hand so that his fingers brushed my chest. Some tiny, sane part of my mind was incredibly weirded out by all this, since this was not how Grey acted, but I'm pretty sure my dick was more in control of my body than my brain at that point.

Well, until he laughed softly, and tried to kiss me. I inhaled, then, and the smell of alcohol on his breath was like a bucket of cold water.

"What the hell?" I demanded, anger rising, and I took a step backwards. "Are you drunk?"

"Does it matter?" he asked, closing the distance again.

"Yes, it fucking matters!" I said, hating that my voice cracked. "God, if you were sober I probably would have said yes in a heartbeat, but if you had been sober you never would have come in here trying to seduce me."

"So that's a no?" he asked, seeming to get the idea.

"Of course it's a fucking no! Get out!" I demanded, and wanting him to do so fast, once I felt the embarrassing prickling in my eyes. He hesitated, looking upset and confused. So I repeated, in a certified yell this time, "Get out!"

And then I might have…slapped him. Bitch-slapped. Right across the face.

But it worked. He stopped what he was doing, taking a distracted step backwards. An expression of distress crossed his face, and then he turned and fled. And I went into the hotel bathroom to get control of my emotions before taking care of some more business. I needed to ask a few individuals some pointed questions.

I was waiting in the lobby when the other three got back.

"Rome!" Kenya exclaimed with a confused smile upon seeing me. "What are you doing in here?"

I didn't bother answering her question. "Did Grey go with you tonight?"

She blinked, and frowned. "Yeah, why?" I ground my teeth, furious with all of them, but mostly with him.

"You let him drink?" I asked lowly, the anger apparent in my voice.

She blinked, and looked between October and Denmark, who seemed equally confused. "Yeah…he seemed upset, and, well, a little alcohol never hurt anybody. Except you, I guess."

"You let a recovering alcoholic drink?" I expanded my earlier question, making my voice as dangerous as it could be.

"He's a what?" Kenya asked, eyes going wide, as Denmark's jaw dropped and October paled.

"You heard me," I said, crossing my arms over my chest, then uncrossing them when I realized how gay the action was.

"Oh my god," she said, covering her mouth.

Abruptly exhausted, and no longer wanting to deal with people, I just said, "Yeah. I'm going to bed."

They let me go.

The next day was even worse than the previous one had been, for me, at least. I was…upset with everyone, on general principle, but I wasn't really angry at anyone except Grey. And the more I thought about it, the angrier I became. Who did he think he was? Acting all, "Oh, boo hoo, tea and crumpets, I regret my wild partying drinking days." Then he was all, "Just kidding, Rome, I'm drunk and if you give me half a chance I'm going to stick my hand down your pants!"

The worst part is that I kept wondering what it would have been like if I had slept with him. I was an angry little man that day. Angry and horny, and it was not a good combination.

But I would have been happy to keep my pissiness to myself that day were it not for two individuals: Jane Eisenhower and Rebecca Rowe. In this case, the wielder and the weapon.

Back story: Rebecca and Jane did this weird thing where they made bets on just about everything. Terms unspecified. Whoever won (usually Jane) got the other to do something that tended to be horrible and embarrassing. Like that one time that Rebecca made Jane eat dirt. Literally. Rolled it up in a tortilla and ate it.

Unfortunately for Rebecca, she had lost a bet that morning. And Jane's punishment ended up placing her directly within the scope of my wrath.

I was downstairs, alone, stabbing my plastic spoon into a bowl of cheerios, more for stress relief than to consume them.

"Hey, Rome!" Jane called from far away, and I looked up to see Rebecca approaching me. I mentally groaned. I didn't really want to engage in polite conversation, even if those two were innocent of wrongdoing in my books (they had gone to a different bar).

"Hey," I said, twisting my face into something that I hoped was a smile. But Rebecca looked faintly green, and her eyes got wider with every step she took toward me.

"I'm so sorry," she said, and I didn't have time to ask what she was sorry for before she leaned down and kissed me full on the lips, within sight of everyone eating breakfast.

Before I had a chance to push her off of me, she was pulling back fast, and all but fleeing.

Bad timing on her part. "What. The. Fuck? Is it just fuck with Rome week? Seriously. I know I'm life's favorite problem child, and usually I'll just roll over and let you guys fuck me over, but that doesn't mean that I like being your bitch, or that it's okay." My voice was rising in pitch and intensity, and I noticed a shocked Rebecca beginning to tear up. On any other day, I would have felt like a huge asshole for making her cry, but I was in a terrible mood, and I just kept going, "My whole life I've regretted being a rug, but today, when I'm having one of the worst days of my life, you decide to just come fucking kick me in the balls, and…"

At that point, Jane cut me off, "Wow, Rome, counter-productive tirade much? You're making Becs cry with your bitchiness. And you know full well she never would have kissed you on her own. I made her do that. I thought it would be hilarious, but you are being downright cruel."

I wheeled around, realizing that I was getting, admittedly, a little bit sassy when I put my hands on my hips, but not caring. "It would have been you. Oh yeah, that's hilarious, have the lesbian kiss the gay guy. Their feelings and preferences don't matter in the face of comedy. Because homosexuality is a joke."

Jane scoffed. "I didn't think it would be hilarious because you're gay, I thought it would be hilarious because you're Rome, and you usually take things so well."

"That's because I have no spine, not because I just love being the butt of all your sick jokes," I spat back with a sneer, vaguely aware that I was taking my anger at…life out on her.

"Oh, whatever," Jane said, rolling her eyes. "That still gives you absolutely no right to bitch at poor little Becs to the point of making her cry."

I was going to reply, but Kenya walked up and said sharply, "Stop." She, as a black woman, could out-sass the both of us. "You," she said to Jane, "Need to calm down and accept that this was all your fault." She pointed a finger at my chest, and I glared. "And you need to take a chill pill. Literally?" The last part was a question, and that pissed me off, too.

"Don't fucking nag me. I'm appropriately medicated for your safety," I said, pushing past her to get up to my hotel room and collect my bag so that we could be on our way.

On the bus, I tried to grab my headphones and hide in my bunk, but October caught me by the back of my shirt.

"No hiding yet," he declared, and I all but growled at him. "I'm calling a quick band meeting."

And so we all convened awkwardly in the front compartment, where I had deliberately located myself as far away from a certain Grey Shores as possible, arms crossed over my chest defensively.

"Well, boss, what's this about?" Denmark asked, at length.

October sighed. "What is it with you guys and not telling me things?" Silence. "I know we all have our secrets, but when it's something important, like a propensity to panic attacks or, you know, addictions, I think it might be pertinent information to our success as a band."

More silence, and October continued, "Rome, I'm not really concerned with you at this point, but Grey. God, I can't believe you would keep this from us. How many times have I offered you a drink? I can't even remember. How many times has Denmark made fun of you for trying to stay sober?"

Denmark interrupted and said, "Yeah…sorry…not cool of me."

October went on, "You could have just told us you were a recovering alcoholic and we would have been like, sorry bro, we'll give you all the help we can, but no, you kept it a secret, and increased your risk of backsliding by a lot."

I couldn't see Grey's face then, and, honestly, I was still too upset with him to want to sympathize, but the image of his face, harried and unhappy, appeared in my mind's eye anyway. "I know," he said softly, voice hoarse, "I…was trying to forget. I had made it almost two years… but it's no excuse… I… I'm sorry."

October's mouth thinned into a hard line, but there was really nothing he could say to that. "Alright. So, just for the sake of sharing, are there any other secrets that would like to become public knowledge today?"

"I've scheduled the operation," Kenya said solemnly.

"What operation?" October asked with trepidation.

"The one that will finally allow me to become a woman," She answered with a grave nod.

October glared for a second, then rested his hand against his forehead as he began laughing, silently at first, then with shaking shoulders and semi-frenzied mirth.

"So…is the band meeting over?" Denmark asked, and October nodded, still laughing. I got up to achieve my goals of being reclusive in my bunk, but Grey got up at the same time. He did look a little worse for the wear, and I nastily hoped he was nursing a vicious hangover. He met my eyes, the look on his face approaching desperate. I summoned my worst death glare and fixed it on him. He winced like I had struck him physically, and sat back down. Feeling an uncomfortable guilt along with my anger, I turned my back and went to take my fury out on a few dozen games of Mah Jong.

I was interrupted only once.

Denmark smiled at me on his way back from the bathroom, and said, "I was thinking about having a My Little Pony marathon. Want to join me?"

"No thanks," I said, trying to keep venom out of my voice.

He pouted. "Are you sure? I bet Pinkie Pie can make you feel better."

I frowned. "I'm pretty sure she can't. Please…just leave me alone," I requested.

"Well isn't someone like Rarity on a bad hair day," he commented, and continued on his way.

That night's show was going, in a word, terribly. It was a good thing that we were in Canada and nobody cared. The Collective Marge had done well enough, but it seemed like the tension in our band was really getting to us, and none of us were into the show.

But we were nearing the end of the set list anyway, and soon enough it would be over. October was going to say something halfheartedly enthusiastic to the crowd, and I was watching him, but movement from my side of the stage caught my eye. Grey was tentatively walking over to October.

"Hey, what is it?" October asked, levity in his voice, but I could see his what the hell set to his eyebrows from my vantage point.

"May I sing something?" he asked.

October hesitated, then said into the mic, "Just a second." Then he dragged Grey to a place behind my keyboard-pedestal, allowing me to hear their conversation. "What are you doing? This was not planned!"

"I know," Grey replied, sounding…broken. "I just need to do this. Please."

October sighed. "This show is gone to hell anyway. Why the hell not?"

Grey nodded. "May I borrow your guitar?"

"Sure," he answered, exasperated. Then October was storming off to…wherever, and Grey was once more taking center stage.

"Er. Hi," he said into the mic, "I sort of…this wasn't planned, but there's something I need to say to someone. I wrote the song when I couldn't sleep this morning… I just…" He shook his head and started playing October's guitar, softly strumming an arpeggiated riff.

I was…halfway numb through the song. I just…can't say I felt any huge rush of emotion. Well…No. I can't say that. The lyrics were beautiful. Even drunk or hungover, apparently his gift with words didn't fade in the slightest. It was the most heartfelt apology song I had ever heard, and not only because it was for me.

Still. A few minutes of music couldn't cancel out hours of simmering, stewing anger.

Or so I thought. Then, in the last line of the song, his voice broke, like he was on the verge of losing it in front of an entire crowd.

He probably was.

I almost did, too. When he was done, he gave October his guitar back, and returned to his normal place on stage. But on the way over, he looked at me, hesitantly, like he was terrified of my reaction. And the look on his face just about broke my heart, which is an almost obscenely cheesy way to put it, but it was the truth. I felt a physical jolt, like something inside me was breaking. And suddenly, I couldn't dredge up any of my anger at him. Disappointment, sure, but the hot emotions were gone.

I don't remember playing the last few songs on our set list. Once again, I was just taken over by the need to talk to him.

And maybe I wanted to feel his arms around me again, and his lips on mine. Maybe I was finding that, when I wasn't obsessively crushing on October, I liked Grey a lot.

But finally, the show was over. My desire to see him, to sort all this out was so strong that I even entrusted my cello, Bertha, to one of the roadies instead of taking care of her myself. As soon as my hands were empty, I scanned the room for him. Our eyes met from opposite sides of the stage, and he took a step toward me as I froze.

But then he paused, and motioned me to come backstage by tilting his head. I nodded, and turned to go meet him. But before anything could be said, October was strutting into the area, looking something close to hysterical.

"Okay!" he called loudly, once he saw that all of us were convened in the same general area, "I'm calling another band meeting! I want you all to sit in a circle. Don't argue. Just do it."

Kenya raised an eyebrow. "Now?"

"Yes." October said, plopping to the ground and looking around expectantly. With one last look at Grey, I sighed, and sat down next to him. Reluctantly, the others followed suit.

"Denmark," October said, and the drummer looked up in an oh-shit-why-me manner. "Give me one of your drum sticks."

Looking more terrified by the second, he handed over one of the sticks. October accepted it with a nod. "Good, thank you. This circle? This is the sharing circle. This is a safe environment. Nothing that is said in this circle can be used against you. Absolute truth must be spoken within the sharing circle. Got it?!"

We were all confused and horrified by this unfamiliar, crazier-than-me October, so we nodded quickly.

He went on, holding up the drum stick. "This is the speaking stick. Only the person holding the speaking stick is allowed to speak. Now, I shall begin. Why do we suck so badly?! YOU." He looked at Grey, who blinked nervously. "What the hell was with that song?"

He extended the drum stick and Grey took it gingerly. "It's…something I'd really rather discuss with the individual in question…alone?"

October snatched the stick back. "No. You are in the sharing circle. This is a safe environment. Fucking tell me why you sang that song." The speaking stick was forcefully returned to Grey, who looked to the floor, the expression on his face bordering on tortured. When he looked up, his eyes locked onto mine.

"Because I love you."

I was vaguely aware of the others looking between him and me, but I was almost as shocked as they were. Kenya snatched the stick and squealed. "Finally!" she declared, smiling hugely. Then, "Rome, you don't look happy." She offered me the stick, and I accepted it blandly.

"I just… I didn't know that."

Grey didn't even bother with the speaking stick. "Why did you think I…" He let the question trail off.

"I thought it meant you maybe sort of liked me, not… shit," I breathed.

October grabbed the stick from my hand. "What is going on? Why did I not know about this? I'm so confused!"

Denmark plucked it. "I'm not gonna lie; I kinda saw this coming."

October took it back. "I didn't! Does anyone want to tell me exactly what's going on!?"

Kenya took the stick out of his hand and said, "I'll put it in little words, Mr. Obliviously Hetero. Captain Britain has the hots for our favorite cello-playing midget."

October rolled his eyes. "I got that much. I want to know what happened."

Grey sighed, and said, "October. Please."

October seemed to deflate, and his sanity returned to him. "You're right…It's. Um. It's not really any of my business, is it." It was a statement, not a question.

"It's just…" Grey began, and looked at me, "I don't know what's going on, either."

I added, "October, we haven't had a chance to talk with…everything going on."

October sighed, and nodded. "As band leader, I declare that when we get back to the bus, you will do that. And then, someone…please…fill me in?" The last part sounded so pathetic that I had to smile a little.

"Yeah," I said, and Grey nodded, never looking away from me.

October made good on his declaration. As soon as the buses pulled up, he shepherded Kenya and Denmark into the sleeping compartment ahead of him, then slid the door closed with a resounding thwack.

Which left me exactly where I had been a few days ago: desperately wanting to make everything right, but having no clue what to say. I hated every minute that we sat there, on opposite ends of the couch, the silence growing suffocating, deafening.

Until he broke it, all the words spilling out like some sort of dam had been broken. "I am so sorry, Rome. I don't know what I…" And I looked over then, and the sight of him there, leaned forward, forehead cradled in his hands, and I could see that he really, really did regret it.

"I. Um. I'm…" I sighed. "I'm not mad. Anymore. Just…Did you mean what you said…?"

"Maybe. Probably…Yes? I tried not to, but…" he faded. He still wouldn't look at me. For some reason, it hurt.

"So you regret it?" I asked weakly, studying my hands where they gripped the fabric of my jeans, tightly, white-knuckled.

"Regret what? Making a complete arse of myself last night? Or falling in love with you?" His voice was weary.

"The. Um. The second one," I said, even more softly than before.

He hesitated, and I chewed the inside of my mouth in anticipation. "I guess that really depends on your answer."

It was my turn to pause awkwardly, considering. "Yesterday, I was ready to say yes. That's why I wanted to talk to you."

"And now?" he asked with trepidation.

I sighed. "You promise that…what happened last night won't happen again?"

He sighed as well, and finally looked at me. "I can't promise that. I'm sick, Rome." A moment of grave silence. "But I do promise that I'll damn well do my best."

I smiled weakly. "I can't really ask for more than that. I sort of…understand. I've got my baggage too. But. Um. Are you sure you want this?"

A quizzical look. "What do you mean?"

"Sometimes I panic for no reason. Or I get really depressed. I'm kind of short-tempered. I'm just…I'm not the easiest person to deal with," I admitted, looking at the floor.

He smiled. "I think I'll manage." Movement caught the corner of my eye, and I looked over to find his hand outstretched on the couch, close enough that I could reach it easily enough, but far enough away that any touch wouldn't be accidental. It was so…passive-aggressively Grey that I smiled, too. And I returned the gesture, putting my hand on his and squeezing gently. He turned his so that it was palm up, and interlaced our fingers.

Shyly, I scooted to the middle cushion on the couch and leaned into him. I had a feeling as to what the answer would be, but I felt the need to ask anyway. "Are we…dating? Like, officially?"

"Is that what you want?"

"Is it what you want?" I replied.

He didn't answer, but he nodded. I smiled. "Then I'll take that as a yes." I knew there was still more to sort out, but in that moment everything seemed alright. More than alright. His fingers were lightly brushing my face, the ghost of a suggestion, but one I took, turning my face and tilting it up to meet his. Our lips touched, just for a moment. The hand left my cheek, reaching up to remove my glasses. The world slipped out of focus, but my eyelids slid shut, and then he kissed me again, a gentle pressure. I opened my mouth to his, and his fingers curled into my hair. They were shaking…he was as nervous as I was.

Then, the door to the sleeping compartment opened and October stuck his head out, demanding, "Are you done talking yet?" A hesitation as we both looked over, startled. "I see that you are. Ahem. Carry on." I blushed heavily, hiding my face in my hand. I was getting the idea that a tour bus was really not the place for this.

We didn't sit down for an in-depth talk or anything, but over the course of that next day on the bus, we still managed to clear up a lot of things. I told him that, yes, I was still attracted to October, and I might always be. I could tell he didn't like hearing it, but I also made it abundantly clear that I understood and accepted that October was also completely wrong for me, that in a strange, denial-ridden way, I had always known that.

And he told me some about his past. About his dad, specifically. I didn't learn much; it was still hard for him to talk about. He said that before his mom had…died…he remembered his father as a happy man, but that he completely changed following what had happened. The man withdrew, became obsessed with his work. He barely looked at his son, since he strongly took after his mother. He reemphasized that it could have been worse, since he was never physically beaten, but it was still enough to kill me a little, hearing that he'd gone through that. After Grey had moved out, his father's drinking problem began to take over his life, until it eventually killed him. So, in conclusion, no, he didn't miss him. But for some reason, knowing he was gone upset him anyway. Perhaps it was because of how similar they were. Or…could have been, at least, with their shared self-destructive habits.

It was one of those things I didn't think I should mention, or ask about.

But other than that, it was a bizarrely normal day, especially in contrast to the last week or so. Conversation flowed normally again, and relationship balances were reestablished. With one major, major difference. We weren't, and would never be, the PDA-couple, but I can't deny that Grey and I found ways to be close to one another, sitting close enough on the couch that our legs were touching, accidentally brushing fingers. Just…casual contact, subtle things. Reminders that yes, this was for real, I really did want this, and so did he.

Well, it was a normal day until we stopped at our hotel for the evening. Then, October cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. I really hoped he wasn't going to get all hysterical at us again. As scarily hilarious as it was in retrospect, it was also more than a little concerning to see him lose his cool like that.

"I would like to call a short band meeting before we get off the bus. It's not anything bad, but it is something I feel should be addressed. And, while I also feel it goes without saying, I'm going to say it anyway." He paused and looked over to where I was sitting with Grey. "You two. Now that you're officially…together, or what have you, it might be in all our best interests to establish some rules."

"Uhh…" I began, but October continued.

"First off, if you were anyone but who you are, I'd heavily disapprove, since two people in the same band in a relationship is just a recipe for disaster. But somehow I get the feeling it'll be fine. You have my blessing, or whatever." He looked over expectantly.

"Um, thanks dad," I answered. Grey kept silent.

"Ha ha," October gave a sarcastic laugh. "Now, rules. I don't care what you do, as long as the rest of us don't see it, hear it, smell it, or…"

"I think they get the point," Kenya interrupted him, smirking at how red my face undoubtedly was.

Denmark also chimed in, "Caveat to that rule: please, please, please don't have sex on the bus."

Kenya nodded in agreement, "That one time I saw Denmark naked still gives me nightmares." The drummer in question gave her an affronted look.

However, before he could say anything, October took control of the band meeting again. "Denmark, while overly blunt, is absolutely right. But onwards. Rule two: I don't care about PDA, but use your judgment, please. There is a line. Know where it is. Hugging okay. Tonsil hockey not okay."

"I don't have my tonsils," I added helpfully, but October talked over me again.

"That's nice, Rome. Rule three, accept my metaphors, damn it. Rule four, uh…actually, I can't really think of anything else. I guess, if you have drama, don't drag us in?"

I looked at Grey, and he seemed faintly amused as well as mortified, so I said, "Well, October, I think I can speak for both of us when I say, duh."

He shrugged. "Hey, I said that it goes without saying."

"But you said it anyway."

"That I did. Now get off this bus. I'm hungry. Meeting adjourned." Bags were grabbed, coats were donned and we made our way to our rooms. October talked to the front counter, and I considered everything he'd said, sure that I was still blushing heavily.

This probably makes me a failure as a man, but honestly, I had not really considered the physical aspects of entering into a relationship with Grey. Well, yeah, there had been what happened when he was drunk, but those were memories that I was actively trying to block out. Was he going to want sex right away? I didn't think I was ready for it, as much as my penis wanted to disagree with me. It wasn't that I had some weird phobia of intimacy…but…I didn't feel comfortable jumping into the sack with someone I had been dating less than twenty-four hours, even if we had been close friends for almost a year.

But then he leaned over my shoulder from where he was standing behind me, and whispered, "Are you alright?"

And I looked over, and I had to smile. Because it was Grey, and I had no clue why I had been worrying. Everything would be okay. "Yeah," I said. "I'm fine." About then, October had finished checking us in.

"337," he said to Kenya, handing her both keys before turning to Denmark. "We're in 339." Then he took a few steps over to Grey and me, and extended the two cards, saying, "338."

I accepted both cards and handed one to Grey before we all piled into the elevator to get to the third floor. Rooms were found, but as soon as I set my bag down I realized that I had forgotten to pack my toothbrush.

"Well, shit," I muttered, thinking that I'd have to go track Benny down and have him open the bus back up for me.

"What is it?" Grey asked, setting his own bag down. I noticed that he did set it on the same bed that mine was on, and it was enough to make butterflies erupt in my stomach.

"I left my toothbrush on the bus," I said, frowning.

"Doesn't the front desk have them?" he asked. I gave him a look of something akin to horror, and he nodded, understanding. There were certain things my OCD, no matter how under control it was, would never allow me to do. And using a toothbrush that wasn't mine was one of them. "Do you want me to come with you?" he asked after he had nodded.

"Nah," I said with a shrug. "I got it." He nodded again, and I slipped from the room. I was lucky enough to encounter Benny in the lobby, and he was very helpful with the situation, and so, soon enough, I had retrieved my toothbrush and was on my way back to my hotel room. That I was sharing with Grey. Where I would be sleeping. Probably in the same bed as him. I swallowed, nervous, but…kind of excited, too. Not in a sexual way (though I had the horniness of several men, trust me) but in a "la, la, I just got into a new relationship!" way.

I slowed as I approached the door, though. Jane and Sophie were standing outside of it, and from what I could hear, the words coming out of their mouths would have made my grandma blush.

"Woohoo, come on Captain Britain!" Jane called.

"Yeah!" Sophie agreed, "Put your Big Ben in his Coliseum!"

"Hehe, the British are coming, the British are coming!" Jane continued with glee.

Determined to stop this madness before anyone else heard, I picked up my pace, and ended up coming up behind them just as Grey answered the door, holding a book in one hand and sporting his irritated face, which looked just like his regular face to anyone without a trained eye.

"Can I help you?" he asked, using his irritated voice, which sounded just like his regular voice to anyone without a trained ear.

"Aww," Jane said, slumping, "Rome's not even in there. No fun for us."

"Yeah," I said, "I'm actually right here."

They both jumped at the sound of my voice, and I saw the barest hint of a smile cross Grey's face. Stupidly, I blushed and returned it, scrubbing a hand through my hair.

"You are so precious," Sophie cooed, and I schooled my face to indifference. "But I actually have something for you. A present." She looked at Grey in the doorway, and added, "For Rome. Alone."

I tried to convey "Please oh please do not close that door and leave me alone with these two crazy females. The last time they tried to give me a gift I saw Kev naked," but apparently he didn't understand that look, so he shrugged warily, and closed the door.

Then, Sophie and Jane turned to me. Jane was practically quivering with excitement. That was never a good sign. Sophie gave me a look, and I felt like shrinking against the wall.

"Now," she began, and I noticed her digging in her shirt for…something, "It's important that you use these!" she pulled a box out of her bra and held it aloft triumphantly. They were condoms. I wanted to curl up and die. "At least until you both get properly tested. It's a good thing I stocked up!"

But then a thought occurred to me, from somewhere in the depths of my scarred brain. "Wait. How the hell did you fit that in your bra? There's not room…you'd think I'd have noticed…"

"Rome. Honey. You weren't looking at my boobs."

I nodded. "True. Very true."

"Plus," she went on, "You will never understand the secrets of a woman's body."

"Also true," I agreed. "But on to the more important question: what the hell is wrong with you?!" I exclaimed quietly. "This is a really awkward gift!"

"I specialize in awkward gifts," Sophie said proudly, "That reminds me!" And she dug in her bra some more, and extracted a bottle of lubricant. I quite literally wanted to die. Then, as she was pushing both the condoms and lube into my arms, she said, "And I was serious about getting tested. I know of this great place in town…"

"We're in Canada…" I mentioned, finally giving up and accepting the objects.

"Yeah, so?" Sophie said with a shrug, and I just shook my head, not even deigning to argue.

"Okay. I give up," I said with a sigh. "I accept it."

"Wise choice, Rome," Jane said, "Come on, Sophie! We have plans!"

I was about to go into the room again, dazed and horrified, but I remembered something. "Jane!" I called down the hallway, and she paused to look at me. "Will you apologize to Rebecca for me?" I said more softly.

"Tell her yourself," Jane said, and then she was off again. I sighed, and remembered to put the awkward sexual objects away in my jacket pockets before going back in, trying to block out the conversation I'd just had.

When I closed the door behind me, I saw Grey sprawled on the bed that didn't have our bags on it, holding his novel over his face. He closed it when he saw me, and I used his distraction as an opportunity to quickly let my eyes travel down his body. I swallowed, half-nervous, half-excited again. My pockets seemed to burn.

"What did she give you?" he asked hesitantly, and I'm sure I blushed ten shades of red. His eyebrows raised.

I quickly answered, "Let's just say it was a very Margey gift." His mouth formed a small 'o,' and no further discussion was had on that subject. I shrugged my jacket off (and unmentionables with it) and put it over the chair at the hotel desk. Grey hadn't moved, other than to place the book on the nightstand. I took a deep breath. I was a man, dammit. I was going to take some initiative in this relationship.

A little timidly, I walked over to the bed and sat down on the less-occupied side. He scooted a little to give me room and I smiled, taking the hint and kicking my shoes off. I turned onto my side, stretching out where I could lay my head on his chest. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and I threw one of mine across his waist. Then, my glasses were uncomfortable, so I took them off, reaching over him to put them on the nightstand with his book.

And then, we didn't really talk, but it was a comfortable silence. This had always been one of my favorite parts of being with someone. I, admittedly, really liked to cuddle. Feeling the warmth of someone's body against my own, his chest rising and falling next to mine…it was a little hypnotic. I don't know how much time passed, until I heard him say something, though I didn't catch what it was.

"Huh?" I asked drowsily.

"I asked if you were asleep, but I'll consider your answer to be a yes," he said, not without a hint of amusement.

"I wasn't asleep," I said, but the words were hardly intelligible through a yawn, which basically invalidated my answer.

"Mm-hm," he agreed, and I ineffectively flopped an arm as punishment.

A moment later, a frantic flailing knocking which could only be Denmark sounded on the door. Considering that it was accompanied with a shout of, "Rome! Grey! Hey! Is this a good time or are you busy?"

I scowled, and muttered, "If we ignore him, will he go away?"

Grey made a disappointed sound. "Probably not. I'll see what he wants."

I sat forward so he could get his arm out from under me and he got up to answer the door. Denmark dramatically let himself into the room as soon as the door was opened, though he was an indistinct blur topped with pink to me.

"Hey, Grey, does Rome know there's a strange man in your bed?" he asked suspiciously.

"It's me, you dipshit," I said, reaching for my glasses and putting them on. He looked surprised.

"Oh, Rome, it is you! I've never seen you without your glasses on before."

"We've slept in the same room…" I pointed out.

"Psh, I didn't pay attention," he countered, and I just shook my head. Dealing with Denmark was a lot like dealing with the Marges.

"So, what did you need?" Grey asked, steering the conversation back on topic.

"Oh yeah!" he answered brightly. "Felicia called me today. She told me about this scary movie, and said she'd kick my ass if I didn't watch it, but I don't like scary movies, so I'm forcing the rest of you to watch it with me."

"There's not really a way to say 'no,' is there?" I asked tiredly.

"Nope," Denmark replied with a smile, "I'll whine for weeks until you relent." And I had no doubt that he would. A glance at Grey, who didn't look overly pleased, but shrugged anyway. I groaned inwardly.

"When?" I asked in a defeated tone.

"Right now?" Denmark said, "Unless, you know, you two had other plans, in which case—"

"Now is fine," I said quickly, certain that I was blushing again. Denmark snickered evilly.

"Meet me in Kenya's room after I've had a chance to make popcorn," he said, and Grey and I nodded reluctantly. As soon as he had gone and closed the door back, I flopped back onto the bed mouthing a string of obscenities with my hands over my face. Nevertheless, we did go across the hall to Kenya's room, finding the door ajar, where she and October were waiting, with her on one of the beds and him in the hotel chair.

"So he forced you into it, too," Kenya observed dryly when we came in. "Have a seat wherever, I guess." I shrugged, and Grey and I sat on the other bed. It was clear that none of us were too excited about the prospects for the evening, but the overwhelming force of Denmark's personality had gotten to all of us.

Finally, Denmark returned with a bag of popcorn in one hand, brandishing the DVD in the other. I pushed my glasses up onto my forehead and rubbed my eyes, collapsing into Grey's shoulder, and he made a small noise of agreement as he subtly took my other hand. Denmark finished setting the movie up, and hit play. It seemed to be the standard demon-movie plot, try to get rid of it, it comes back, blah, blah, blah.

With one notable difference: this movie was absolutely horrifying. I think I mentioned before that I don't handle scary material well, and I actually have a pretty high horror tolerance, but I was no Grey, who read through horror novels like preteen girls read through trashy vampire romances. And yeah, this movie was enough to make me want to pee my pants every time the music got all suspenseful.

I suppose I should mention that before the film was halfway over, I was in Grey's lap. I don't remember getting there, but I can't deny that I felt a lot safer.

"We can leave if you want to," he whispered in my ear, which may or may not have made me shiver in a way that may or may not have had nothing to do with the movie. Nevertheless, I was determined to man up and see this spectacle through to the end.

"Nah, I'll be fine," I whispered back, kind of wanting to turn my head and kiss him, and I would have, had there not been three other people in the room. Plus, you know, October's stupid rules. As it was, the idea was scared out of me when a loud noise on screen made me flinch and clutch at his hand instead.

"Whatever you say," he replied, and I could sense the smile. I scowled but didn't let go of his hand. A few minutes later, the tension was really mounting, and Kenya glanced over.

"Is there room for two?" she asked in a trembling voice, hugging a pillow to herself.

"Hell no," I said, snuggling into Grey. "This is my lap."

He inhaled sharply, and breathed, "Ah, stop," into my ear. I'm sure I blushed bright red, but my shifting ceased immediately. Kenya seemed to miss the entire exchange.

"Not fair. Where can I get my own shield of sexy British man-love? But anyway, I don't know how Mr. Stoic is all unaffected…" she said, "This is some scary shit." Before I could comment on the 'shield of sexy British man-love' remark, there was another shocking image on the screen, and she and I both drew back.

Grey just answered, "It's not real."

Kenya began a retort. "Well, yeah, but—"

"Guys! I have to pay attention or my wife will kill me, and she's scarier than any demon when she's mad," Denmark broke in, and we shut up. The movie went on, and I'm sure that if I was any more tense, I would have…broken in half, or something. Nevertheless, I was as still as possible through it. Getting the boyfriend all hot and bothered in private was one thing. Doing so around others was something else entirely. Also, the thought of sex still made the butterflies in my stomach burst into two separate rallies. Half of them were holding signs that said, "Oh god, yes, please," but the others' said "I still don't think I'm ready." Also also, I had still only been dating him for a day or so, and I was not that much of a slut. Plus, you know, October's stupid rules.

I was lulled into a false sense of security by the movie, but then, the camera switched to the man, and the demon suddenly appeared behind him. I jumped, but so did Grey.

"Ha!" I said, "I felt that!"

"Did not need to know that!" Kenya said.

"Rule number two!" October exclaimed at the same time, and then I realized how my comment might have sounded to the rest of them.

"No, no, no, no, no," I said quickly, "He jumped. Because of the movie."

"It was startling," Grey agreed weakly, sounding vaguely mortified. Thankfully, the discussion ended there, and we watched the last ten minutes or so of the film in silence. I was glad when it was over, even though I knew that I'd be jumpy in the dark for at least a few nights. But it was late, we had a show the next day, and despite everything, I was fairly exhausted.

Finally, Grey and I returned to our room, where I quickly traded my jeans for a pair of comfortable old shorts (while he was in the bathroom). I debated whether or not to take my shirt off, but since it was toasty in the room (and I was a fan of shirtless hugging) I decided to take the bold route and ditch it. I was pulling it over my head when the bathroom door opened, and I think he might have given me a lingering look as we traded places, but it was dark so I wasn't sure. Either way, he had taken his shirt off, too, and between that and the maybe-look, it was enough to send a rush of blood to somewhere distinctly lower than my brain.

Still, I took care of business, medicated myself, and brushed my teeth (quite thoroughly; good thing I had gotten my toothbrush earlier). When I was done, I hesitated in the bathroom for a few moments, then took a deep breath and walked into the lamp-lit room. I took it in with one glance, and almost smiled at how Grey it was. He was on one of the beds, but our bags had been moved off the other. Without any sort of confrontation, he was telling me that he wouldn't be offended if I slept in the other one. But considering how far to the side he was, it was an invitation.

And one I took. With an excited tentativeness, I joined him, handing him my glasses as I stretched out. He put them on the nightstand for me (I assumed, since everything was fuzzy without them) while I fought down a yawn.

"Tired?" he asked, threading a hand into my hair as I leaned into him.

"Yeah," I answered, relaxing into the touch and closing my eyes.

"May I kiss you?"

"You really don't have to ask," I said with a small smile, moving to a more accessible position. What started as a soft brushing of lips, though, quickly turned into something more, and I ended up halfway on top of him, kissing him deeply, hungrily. One of his hands stayed in my hair, but the other traveled down my back to my ass, halfway suggesting-halfway demanding that I shift more fully onto him, one of my legs nestled between his. That pressure and friction was making my body respond with an almost embarrassing alacrity, and I tried not to rub against his leg like a hormone-crazed teenage boy. But he was hard, too, arching against me. God, he wanted this as badly as I did, and that knowledge was as much of a turn-on as everything else.

As if by instinct, his mouth left mine, and went to the spot under my ear, behind my jawbone, and I swear I almost came.

"Fuck, shit, fuck, shit, fuck, shit," I said breathlessly. But an instant later, my anxieties and concerns returned. I don't know why it happened, but it was definitely enough to kill the moment, for me, at least.

I think he felt me tense, because he asked, "What's wrong?"

Embarrassed and strangely guilty, I moved myself off of him. "I. Um. I'm not sure if I'm ready for this." Admitting it out loud made my face burn, and I buried it halfway into one of the pillows.

A deep breath. "Alright."

"I'm sorry," I muttered, voice muffled.

A pause. "I'm not upset. I understand." Another hesitation, then, in a harder tone. "I'll never forget the first time I tried to get into your pants."

The awkward American slang combined with the words themselves made me look up, and I saw him rubbing his face, where I had slapped him. I burrowed into the pillow again.

"I wasn't even thinking about that," I said in a small voice, feeling like such a girl, "I…just…"

"It's alright," he reiterated, then swallowed. When he continued, he sounded self-conscious. "I'll. Er. I'll be right back." I looked up in concern, more than a little afraid that he was angry, even if he was refusing to admit it, but when he got up, it was to head back into the bathroom.

Oh. Oh.

My face burned again, and I buried myself in the blankets, determined to fall asleep and leave this travesty behind me. Grey returned a few minutes later, and resolutely cuddled up against me, as if he was trying to prove that everything was okay. It worked. His heartbeat against my back lulled me into a thoughtless relaxation, and after all, I was exhausted. Sleep found me more easily than I would have thought.

I woke up from a semi-explicit dream, even if the only details I could remember were large hands, callused like all musicians', and eyes the color of a stormy sky. When I opened my own eyes, I was a bit disoriented, finding myself on the opposite side of the bed from where I had started. Huh. How had that happened? Nevertheless, I sat up a little bit, shifting the arm wrapped around my torso. I indulged thoughts of snuggling back under the covers and going to sleep again, but when I slipped my glasses on and looked at the clock, I found that it was already almost noon.

Damn. I never slept that late. This was going to be one of those weird days where everything felt earlier than it really was, like all days when I slept in. But before I got all the way out of bed, I turned to look at Grey. His face was slack and peaceful in sleep, dark hair mussed. I thought I might have noticed a drool spot, too. In a word: adorable. I smiled widely, brushing my thumb over his cheek. He didn't stir, so I carefully got up, making an effort not to disturb him.

I collected my shampoo and a change of clothes, and snuck into the bathroom. Bits of my dream kept floating to the surface of my mind while I was in the shower, and, a bit guiltily, I stayed in the stall a few more minutes. It didn't do much good; I came out of the bathroom about as horny as I'd gone in. I sighed. How long had the doctor said it would be until my body got completely used to the new medication? Well, this might be as much circumstance-caused as chemically, but…whatever.

Freshly dressed, I returned to the main part of the hotel room, greeted by the somewhat familiar sight of Grey just after he'd woken up. He was…to put it in mild terms, not a morning person. Getting a coherent sentence out of him before his cup of coffee-and-or-tea was downright impossible, and he was more than a little grumpy for at least half an hour.

"Hey," I greeted him. "Want me to make you some coffee?"

Hands rubbing at his face, he nodded silently. I smiled a little and turned on the hotel coffeepot, filling it with water and making sure I found the caffeinated bag. While I was doing that, he stumbled out of bed and sat on the end of the other one, near me. Once I finished starting the coffee, I sat next to him.

"Good afternoon," I said with a wry grin, and he replied with something that might have been, "Is it really afternoon already?" I'm not sure. It sounded a lot like, "Sit real turr-noon ardy?"

"Yeah," I answered, glancing at the clock. "12:29, to be precise."

And then he said something that I'm pretty sure wasn't actually a word, so I just agreed. "Yep." He might have nodded off again after that, since he seemed inordinately heavy, leaning on me, but I certainly didn't mind having an attractive, shirtless man who also happened to be, for whatever reason, interested in pursuing a relationship with me pressed against me. Even if he was asleep.

He woke up like a dog hearing the dinner bell when the coffee-maker beeped, declaring the terrible hotel caffeinated ambrosia ready for consumption. I got up and put it in two Styrofoam cups, giving him the larger portion since he seemed to need it. Plus, I needed room to fill the other half of my cup with sugar and creamer. He took his black.

We drank the coffee in silence, but he looked much more alert by the time that he tossed his cup away.

"Alive?" I asked, and he nodded with a small smile.

"And I feel disgusting," he added, getting up to collect his own shower supplies. Some comment about how he could never be disgusting was on the tip of my tongue, but I ended up not saying it. It sounded too…brazen. But then I was in the room alone. I dug through my bag and found the book I'd been meaning to finish, setting down at the chair to work on it, and trying to make my body forget that Grey was naked on the other side of a thin wall.

I didn't succeed, on that count. I needed a distraction. Anything to take my mind off my damn libido. Of a sudden, I recalled Rebecca, our fight, and Jane's admonishment that I should apologize to her myself. With a grimace and a sigh, I got up off the chair. Putting the confrontation off wasn't going to make it any easier. The opposite, probably. I let myself out of the room and went down a level, to the set of rooms that I thought the Collective Marge were staying in.

I knocked on room 217, hoping that it was the right one. The burly middle aged man who answered my summons, wearing nothing but his briefs, proved that I was not correct. He also ruined my appetite, but did wonders for my near-terminal sexual frustration.

Room 219 was answered by a disgruntled Sophie, with one eye made up and one free of colors and chemicals. It was a scary sight, but at least she was able to point me at the room across the hall, where Jane and Rebecca were staying.

Tempting as it was to give up and go back to my own room, I knocked on the door determinedly. Rebecca answered, looking comfortable in her lounge pants and loose tee shirt. However, as soon as she saw that it was me, her eyes widened and she seemed to shrink.

I could have explained, but I thought the straightforward approach would probably have the best effect, given the circumstances.

"I was a dick. I'm sorry."

The wariness in her eyes abated and she gave me a tiny smile. "It's okay. I get really grumpy when I'm horny, too."

"Oh god; what has Jane been telling you?" I asked, blocking out the other implications of her declaration, but her grin just widened into a knowing smile. But I just sighed. I deserved it.

"I guess it doesn't matter," I said, "But I still owe you cookies or something. They'll have to be store bought since I can't cooks…well, I guess I could try making them in the microwave, but somehow I think that will end horribly…"

She cut me off with a hug, and said, "You're rambling. But I forgive you for that, too." I laughed softly, and returned the hug for a moment.

"Now," she said, pulling away with a mischievous grin, "Go get yourself some British man-meat."

"Yes, sir," I said, blushing. Then she shut the door in my face to make sure I would. An awkward smile fixed on my face, I went back to my own room. Grey was quick in the shower, he's probably be out and dressed when I got back. I couldn't decide whether that was a good thing or not.

But I was wrong, since I managed to open the door mere seconds before her emerged from the bathroom, still damp and flushed, wearing nothing but a pair of dark, close-fitting jeans. My sex drive came back full-force, a low heat spreading in my stomach, and I couldn't muster the resolve not to stare. I was vaguely cognizant of him tossing the shirt he had taken into the bathroom to change into in the trash.

"What happened to your shirt?" I asked, keeping my voice steady by sheer force of will and following him into the main part of the room.

"Unfortunate ink stain that didn't come out," he said idly before bending down to get another one from his bag. Oh, come on, as if I wasn't frustrated enough. His ass was perfect, and if those jeans emphasized it any better, the image before me would have been borderline pornographic.

Oh, fuck this shit. Pretty much all the butterflies in my stomach had joined the "Oh god, yes, please" rally, at any rate. I barely had time to notice that he was holding the red-and-green shirt Kev had given him before I almost-violently pulled him into a kiss. I don't know where that shirt went, but it was out of his hands a split second later, and he was responding eagerly, not seeming to care that I still had coffee-breath, while his was clean.

Suddenly the room was twenty degrees hotter, with his lips hard against mine, the stubble on his chin rough on my face. Then his tongue was in my mouth, and god damn did he know how to use that thing. All my thoughts scattered, except that there were too many layers between us.

He read my mind, hiking my shirt up, hands skimming across my stomach, my chest. I gasped, and a small noise escaped my throat when his thumbs brushed over my nipples. I don't know how, but he was leaning against the wall, then, pulling me against him as our legs tangled and I wantonly pressed my hips to his. Courting a deeper intimacy, my hands dipped my head and moved my hands to the button of his jeans.

"Can I…?" I breathed against his throat.

"Do you…" he began in a rough whisper, but I understood.

"Yeah," I said, kissing the side of his neck, "I want to."

Even with that assertion, I think he was still surprised when I used his hips to stabilize myself as I dropped to my knees. Hands shaking, I fumbled with the button, working it open, then his zipper.

"Oh," I said involuntarily, pulling him from his boxer-briefs.

"Hm?" he asked, distantly, distractedly.

"I guess Kenya was right."

"I'm sorry?" he asked quickly.

"I suppose it is a good thing I have a big mouth," I answered, but before he could reply, I put it to good use. As soon as I had him in my mouth, his hands tangled in my hair, and his hips jerked, proving that I did still have a gag reflex.

"Sorry," he muttered, moving his hands as I used one of my hands to hold him against the wall, the other making up for my inability to take him all the way in. I didn't answer, but somehow, I don't think he minded. It had been a long time since I had done this, so I'm sure my skills were a little rusty, but, once again, I don't think he minded overmuch, if the short gasps occasionally coming from him were any indication. Still, overall, he was quiet, though he still managed to indicate when I did something he liked, little tidbits I stored away for later use.

Then, in something between a whisper and a voice, "Rome," and it was the only warning I needed. I took him in as deeply as I could, and sucked, then, moments later, swallowed.

His hands were braced against the wall and he didn't look entirely conscious, so I fixed his pants for him before getting to my feet. Immediately, he pulled me into another kiss, lazy, lethargic. Well, he was. I was still…hard and eager, which he seemed to realize a moment later.

"Would you like me to—" he began, but I answered before he could finish the question.

"God, yes, please." Whatever the rest of his inquiry was going to be, that was still my answer. However, as soon as he moved in to press his lips to mine again, October's hated knock sounded loudly on the door.

"God damn it, what?!" I shouted with vehemence.

"Early dinner before the show. Come on, we're leaving in five minutes!" he called through the door.

"Can we leave in ten? I need five minutes!" I replied.

"Traffic's bad and I made reservations," he answered. I was close to screaming obscenities at him, but I resisted. Barely.

"Fuck it. We'll be out in a second," I said to the door, tone defeated and utterly miserable.

"Oh," October said, suddenly awkward, like he realized what he'd knocked in on. "Um. Cool. See you."

After he had presumably fled, Grey asked me, "Five minutes?" That may have been a smirk on his face.

I sighed. "And that included time to brush my teeth." Which, incidentally, I went into the bathroom to do while he located and donned his shirt. But before we left the room, there was something I felt I needed to say.

"I. Um. I don't usually do that so early in a relationship," I admitted. "Don't want to be a slut, you know? So, yeah. I'm sorry…"

I was looking at the ground, but he gently took my chin and made me meet his eyes. "Rome. You just apologized for giving me a blowjob. I don't think that's allowed. But… More importantly, I started this because I like you, not because I wanted sex." A significant pause, as if to let that sink in. "So…whatever you want, or don't want to do is fine with me."

I smiled, and leaned in to hug him. "Thank you." I pulled away, and said in a tone that was only half-joking, "But I'm not going to lie; I'm still horny as fuck if you wanted to maybe do something about that later…"

He took a shaky breath, but said, "We're sleeping on the bus tonight."

"Oh god damn it!"

Author's Notes: Well, there we go. After torture and humiliation, I finally got them together.

Edit, 1.21.12: Added in the scene where Rome apologizes to Becs. Trying to fit that in with the flow of the next chapter was giving me major writer's block, so I added it here. Now the next chapter should actually, you know, happen! :D