Stuart slowly opened his eyes back up from the squint they'd settled into, sighting down the barrel of his shiny new Colt with utter satisfaction. He lowered the heavy handgun as Vince, standing next to him and shading his eyes from the red evening sun, said, "Well, at least you're not hitting cactuses anymore."

"Fuck off," Stuart said lazily. It was too hot to put much more emphasis behind the epithet. "I hit it right in the neck. That's a kill shot, Vince."

"Hmmmm." Turning, Vince started heading back to the jeep.

"Where you going?"

"You've shot up every bottle we have, Stuart. There's nothing else to kill!" Vince's voice came floating back to him, buoyed on the waves of heat that shimmered in the air.

Christ, but America was hot.

Arizona had been Vince's idea, of course. Along with his Dr. Who fixation, Vince had always been intrigued by the American Southwest -- cowboys, desert, longhorns, the whole bit. Stuart would rather have fancied New York or San Francisco, but he figured that they'd have time enough for that.

Besides, the hot heavy weight in his hand would keep him happy until then.

It had been so ridiculously easy to buy the gun, too. They'd been driving down the I-99 and Stuart had seen the sign for the gunsmith and he'd practically put Vince through the windscreen with the hard U-turn he made.

He'd initially wanted a Walther, like James Bond, but dismissed that as too shanty. The Colt had been his next choice, and Vince, surprisingly enough, had approved and offered an opinion.

"It's got a short trigger reset, that," he'd said. "But they're bloody heavy, Stuart. And big."

"And since when has having something big down my pants been a problem?"

So he'd ended up with the Colt. It wasn't surprising, not really, now that he thought about it -- Vince was a lot like him in that they both knew a bit about nearly every topic under the sun. It made sense that somewhere along the way, they'd both picked up a working knowledge of handguns, even if they'd never owned one.

Shooting it was another matter, though. Stuart discovered that the recoil was hell and aiming the bloody thing was harder than it looked in the movies. He'd been astounded to find that he couldn't shoot perfectly; he'd just assumed that he'd be able to. Vince had suggested target practice and they'd drunk a twelve-pack of weak American beer to get enough target bottles.

But this was the last one, and it was getting late. Stuart reluctantly shoved the gun down the back of his pants, reveling in the feel of its metallic density pressing against the small of his back. That was power, condensed into a hand's-length of steel and carbon. That was freedom.

"We should go see the Grand Canyon," Vince said conversationally as he started up the jeep. Stuart slouched down in his seat and grimaced.

"It's just a big crack in the ground, Vince. You don't even like heights."

"I don't mind them, I'm just not keen on them." Pulling back onto the highway, Vince spared a fondly irritated glare for Stuart. "Besides, you can't go through Arizona and not see the Grand Canyon. That's like...that's like stopping in at a pub and ordering Ovaltine. It's just not done."

"Fine," Stuart said, exasperated. "You're such a tourist."

That coaxed a smile out of Vince, who reminded him gently, "We are tourists."

"No, we're not!" Stuart sat up, twisting in his seat to stare at Vince. "We're not tourists. We're living. We're actually here, and we're living, and we're taking the chances and to hell with the sodding consequences! We're adventurers!"

"All right, all right!" Despite his deflective words, Vince felt himself getting excited too. All those years -- Christ, thirty years -- without hardly venturing out of Manchester, and now all the way in the United States! Waking up in motel rooms along the interstate highway or freeway or whatever they called it and not knowing where they'd be that afternoon! Not having to worry about job and responsibility and all the unimportant things--!

"The Canyon'll be brilliant," he declared with renewed enthusiasm. Stuart, back to being a boneless pile in the passenger seat, gave him a one-sided smile.

"It'd better bloody had do."

Home for the night was the Skyline Motel (Air Conditioning! Cable TV! Telephones!), whose Yellow Pages were frustrating Vince Tyler no end.

"It's been *ages* since I've had a decent curry," he moaned, flipping listlessly through the restaurants section and leaning back against the bed's headboard. "Don't they have any Indian places here?"

"Not the kind of Indian you're looking for." Stuart, sitting at the foot of the bed, was watching a car dealership commercial on the television with amused interest. "Look at that!" he exclaimed suddenly, pointing at the screen. "Oh my God...what does that remind you of?"

Vince looked up to see a man in a frilly pink tutu doing some sort of pseudo-ballet, twirling round and round in a clumsy pirouette. "Shite," he smiled, covering his mouth. "Neal Lester."

"Good oul' Neal!" Stuart laughed. "Remember -- we were what, just barely fifteen? -- and Neal Lester nicked a pack've cigarettes from me--"

"Silk Cut," Vince clarified. "They were Silk Cut. We nicked 'em off Dewey Piggot."

"Whatever. The point is, they were mine and the little bastard stole them. So we decided to get him back, went over to his house, wrote nasty things about Neal's dubious parentage on the front door and then pissed on it to seal the deal--"

"--and then Neal's dad came out, only they were going to a fancy dress party and he chased us down the street wearing a ballerina costume and threatening to beat the shite out've us! Oh, God!" Vince dissolved into laughter at the memory of him and Stuart pelting back to Hazel's, trying to evade the big crazy bloke in the tutu and get their pants done back up at the same time.

"Mum scolded us for it, but she thought the whole thing was dead funny," he remembered, the happiness taking a sudden dip down to get stuck in his throat. "Told us we deserved it for not buying Bensons."

"Yeah." Stuart was silent for a moment, then added, "She's all right, your mother."

"Yeah. She says she's doing fine, that Bernie and Alexander're giving her more rent money and she got out of the police charges okay and everything's good." The slow sad tone of Vince's voice told Stuart very clearly that despite Hazel's assurances, her son was worried about having left her in the lurch.

Turning slightly to look at Vince over his shoulder, Stuart pointed out, "She said not to worry. Hazel's bright, she'll get on. And it's not like you left her alone...didn't she say she was seeing some bloke? Some rich bloke?"

"Yeah, but--"

"Right, well maybe she managed to get this boyfriend because you're not coming round all the time. No regrets, Vince." Stuart waited until Vince lifted those pretty blue eyes to meet his stare, then lowered his head coyly and said, "Besides, Hazel left me strict orders to take your mind off her if you started to throw a wobbly."

"Oh, really?" Vince couldn't help but grin. If Stuart was bothering to do the full-on naughty, with insinuating smile and promising stare and everything, then it wasn't an opportunity to be missed. He'd seen all of Stuart's seduction techniques before -- all of their mates had, who'd gone out clubbing with them enough -- but it was a totally different feeling when they were being used on you.

Vince held out his arms and Stuart crawled up the length of the bed, pausing on hands and knees over his friend. "She knows I can get the job done," he said, enjoying the feel of Vince's hands rubbing up and down his sides, warm through his thin jersey. Lowering his head, he bit gently at Vince's chin, then pressed his tongue almost delicately just inside Vince's mouth. The warm, fresh scent of him; so familiar through the years but suddenly so foreign in its intimacy.

Deepening the kiss a bit, Vince slid his arms up around Stuart's back and tugged enough to pull him down. The shock of their bodies meeting was instantly arousing, and Vince gasped when Stuart wriggled impatiently against him.

"Vince--!" Stuart barked, and Vince almost laughed out loud, it was so ridiculous. Ridiculous that he knew exactly what Stuart was demanding, just from one word.

"Hold on," he said soothingly, snagging the ends of Stuart's shirt and pulling it up and off. Content for the while, Stuart settled back down on top of him, grinding their hips together as he licked the insides of Vince's mouth. Pushing up against Stuart, Vince slid his hands down that smooth, sleek back, delighting in the sensual arch of it -- until his fingers bumped against metal.

Writhing on top of Vince, slipping his fingers through his soft brown hair, Stuart was so caught up in what was going on that he was taken completely by surprise when the muzzle of the pistol pressed cold against the underside of his chin.

Easing up, he pulled back enough so he could see Vince's face. The gun followed him up, snug and unrelenting. "What the fuck d'you think you're doing?" Stuart asked, almost conversationally.

"Just wanted to see what it feels like," Vince said. "For you." His voice had a low rawness to it that sent spiders up Stuart's spine, a feeling he tried to dismiss with a tossaway laugh.

"Vince," he purred, "I hardly have to fuck anybody at gunpoint."

"Didn't mean that, y'twat," Vince murmured, and Stuart relaxed. For a moment there, the underlying rough edge to Vince Tyler had made itself known, and Stuart had never liked that side of Vince. It was too aggressive, too angry, too....

"I meant, how it feels to be all-powerful in bed," Vince continued, moving the gun down Stuart's throat, across one collarbone.

"Mmmmm." Stuart shifted his hips a bit, smiling with satisfaction at Vince's reflexive gasp. "So how d'you like it? Being all-powerful?"

Setting the Colt down on the bedside table, Vince grabbed Stuart's waist and with a strong, fast twist of their bodies, bore Stuart down against the sheets. Stuart began excitedly stripping Vince of clothing as Vince did the same for him, and soon they were naked, kissing, touching, moving like this was the only night they had, exploring each other with a fascination nurtured by years of familiarity.

"It's not half bad," Vince gasped finally, nose pressed against the hollow of Stuart's neck. Stuart gave a soundless laugh, his breath catching suddenly when he felt Vince thrust into him. Arching up off the bed, Stuart clung to Vince, wanting him as close as possible, wanting to see himself reflected in those clear, sweetly tilted eyes as they began moving in a rhythm that had been there from the beginning. Wanting this to be perfect, because God only knew how long it would last.

The air conditioning that the motel sign had advertised buzzed contentedly in the stillness of the night as Vince and Stuart lay on the tangled, limp sheets, loosely holding each other. There didn't seem much to say, and they were content to together. But it had been a long day, and Stuart soon gave a great, gaping yawn, rubbing at his eyes in an almost childish way.

"Go to sleep," Vince suggested, his low voice melting in the darkness.

"I will." Giving him one last emphatic kiss, Stuart turned and clutched his pillow, relentlessly forcing it into a more comfortable configuration. His voice was muffled against its corner when he said, "So can we skip the Grand bloody Canyon now?"

Vince grinned to himself and settled down to sleep. "Not on your life."

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