Needs Must: April 1946
Cautions: NC-17 for explicit M/M slash.
Disclaimer: Smitty's fault. All of it. DC Comics owns the characters, and neither of us is making any money off of them.
'rith: Sometimes, when the pressure gets to be too much, he knocks on Ted's door.
Ted doesn't, thank God, make him beg. Or even ask. Just looks at him, and nods, and opens the door wider to let him in. Closes it behind them both with a certain firmness that sends a shiver down Charles' spine.
Ted's big hand on his shoulder sends an easy warmth through the rest of his body, pooling in the pit of his stomach and lower in his groin.
This isn't...love. Not really, not any more than affection between teammates. And it's not about lust, or not mostly; Ted Grant isn't, actually, his type. It's about need. And Ted can give him what he needs, however fleetingly.
Charles understands that this is no more than diversion for Ted, who craves sensation and is willing to try anything, at least once, to find it.
Ted understands that Charles gets tired of always being the mentor, the teacher. The one in charge, or at least the one others look to for answers. It's wearying.
So when it builds to an unrelieved point, he knocks on Ted's door.
Neither of them is ashamed of this, though it's nearly always late dark when he finds himself in front of Ted's apartment. Charles tells himself that only suits his chosen mask, Doctor Mid-Nite.
But the truth is this is far more for McNider than for Mid-Nite, because it's McNider who wakes cold and feeling the lack of anyone beside him. Mid-Nite doesn't have time to worry about those things while chasing down leftover Nazi saboteurs and more esoteric threats.
So. Here in this apartment the gravelly voice behind him growls, "undress, " and he's only too happy to comply.
Ted's mouth--scratchy with stubble--grazes over the back of his neck, and his knees nearly give way with the shudders it sends through him. Ted doesn't kiss him, and he doesn't really want that. They're not...lovers. Ted DOES have lovers, Charles knows, and that's okay too.
Charles doesn't, and that's something that lies at the heart of this. It's substitution for something deeper, no less. It should feel cheap, and wrong, but when he needs this he's too strung out with tension to care. And afterward, well, there isn't much time in their lives for regrets. It is what it is and he'll take it in lieu of anything more.
Ted's strong arms wind around him, stroking over his abdomen. Charles relaxes his muscles, letting his body fall back against Ted's, and Ted bears his weight easily. Those brawny powerful boxer's arms don't even tremble with their burden as Ted half-lifts, half-walks him forward through the small living room and into the bedroom beyond.
Ted tosses him lightly onto the bed and reaches over him to the nightstand drawer for lubricant and condoms. Charles knows Ted thinks the latter is unnecessary, but he'd been insistent. He'd always freely passed out both condoms and advice on the necessity of using them to his patients, many of whom were women who'd found no other source of income outside of prostitution. And he knows Ted hasn't always been as careful as he should.
Charles stretches out as Ted's hands come down on his back and start to massage the tension away. It's good, and it might almost be enough, except it isn't. Ted rubs him down from the nape of his neck to the soles of his feet, taking his time and making a thorough job of it. By the time Ted is finishing with his toes Charles is hard and aching and trying not to thrust against the bedsheets. When Ted reaches up between his legs with a casual hand and grips his erection, Charles stifles a scream and bites into a pillow and tries, desperately, not to come.
After a moment the urge subsides--slightly--and he hears Ted chuckle. Ted's hands withdraw for a moment and then his fingers are back, slick with lube. Without a word Charles pushes himself to his knees, resting his weight on his forearms, and breathes into the pleasure-pain-pleasure as Ted opens him, readies him, and moves into position. Ted's coarse chest hair scraping against his back, Ted's harsh breathing filling his ears.
Ted's thick penis sliding and stretching inside him.
Charles groans deeply into the pillow and arches up, wanting more. Ted draws back, slides forward again, repeats. It's too much. It's not enough. "Harder," he manages to breathe out, barely more than a whisper, but Wildcat has sharp ears. This time when Ted thrusts forward Charles can feel the bed shake, and if he hadn't braced his head might have hit the wall. He's aware of everything: the sounds they make, the scent of their sweat, the texture of their bodies crashing together as Ted pounds into him.
Harder. Faster. Things are going a little gray around the edges of his vision, not that he's seeing much anyway with the light streaming in from streetlamps outside corrupting the bedroom's darkness and his glasses over on the nightstand. Ted is almost growling as he *slams* in and this is what he wanted. He trusts Ted not to hurt him even as his body is pushed to the edge of his endurance. Charles can feel control slipping away, vanishing under the force of their motion and that's. What he needs.
Abruptly he feels Ted's hands gripping his hips, changing the angle of his thrusts and *that's* it, that's the spot and he's coming, trying not to scream and scare the neighbors while behind him Ted howls in his ear, uncaring, and thrusts in hard one last time. He collapses onto the bed, Ted's weight bearing him down, his own semen already beginning to dry on his belly.
In another minute or two he'll begin to feel like he's being crushed to death under Ted's bulk, but right this moment he doesn't care. He can feel the rumbling in Ted's chest, a lazy contented sound. "Purring," he thinks, and bites his lip to keep from laughing.
Another moment and Ted rolls off of him, carelessly peeling off the condom and tossing it into a wastecan. Charles stretches and rolls over, staring sightlessly at the ceiling, while Ted goes into the bathroom. He hears water running and knows that Ted would prefer it if Charles weren't still naked when he comes out. It's not embarrassment, none of them are particularly body-conscious after all they've been through, it's just that...Ted isn't particularly the cuddling type. At least not with him.
Charles tries hard not to think about the fact that's something else he might need.
It goes easier if he doesn't insult either of them by pretending this is more than it is. Charles reaches over onto the nightstand for his glasses and the world snaps back into focus. With his unique reversed blindness light has become an enemy. It suits his persona, but sometimes Charles misses daylight, true daylight and the blue of the sky seen without darkened lenses.
He pads out into the living room for his clothes, not thinking about much in particular. He'll go home and sleep, and in the morning he'll open his clinic as usual, and tomorrow night he'll patrol. It's a comfortable routine. He *enjoys* his life, he enjoys being Doctor Mid-Nite. It's certainly more than a functionally blind man could ever have hoped for. Charles and his teammates made a difference during the war and he has no intention of letting peacetime dull his usefulness.
"Doc," Ted says without warning, poking his head out from around the corner, "there's this thing, see, my girlfriend Irina, she's been talking about moving in here an', well--"
The Earth tilts on its axis, finds its new median, resettles into place. He wonders briefly at how anticlimactic this is. "I understand, Ted," Charles says softly, because he does. This was never meant to be a permanent arrangement. He's not even angry that Ted didn't mention this until after the fact, because Ted Grant is a creature of impulses. He's still grateful for that.
"Yeah," Ted says, looking helpless.
Charles dredges up a smile that feels at least half-genuine, rooted in honest fondness for his old friend. Ted sees it and relaxes a bit himself, grinning ruefully. "Um, so, see ya at the next meeting?"
"Of course," Charles says, "wouldn't miss it for anything."
Ted half-raises a hand as if in salute, drops it, and fixes him a piercing gaze. "Hey, Doc, are you okay?"
It's kindly meant, though the question both warms him and sends a twisting discomfort through his stomach. It's not a lie when he replies, "I'm fine, Ted," because he is. It would be foolish, after all, to wallow in wished-fors and might-have-beens. He's lonely, but he's not *alone.* With his patients and his colleagues and his teammates, he's never alone.
But none of them can provide what he needs.
The melancholy that accompanies the thought disgusts him. It's indulgent and petty, given how blessed he is otherwise. "Doctor," he whispers to himself as he begins the walk home, "heal thyself."
No medicine he knows of but time.
Shakespeare, All's Well that Ends Well: "My poor body, madam, requires it: I am driven on by the flesh; and he must needs go that the devil drives." ALSO: "Needs must": a semi-archaic fixed phrase meaning "necessity compels."
Random obsessive historical note: Ted and Irina have a son in August of 1947, though they never marry.