This story contains explicit sex.
Content warning: animal injuries, not graphic. But don’t worry, this fic takes place in a lovely universe in which all animals who go to the emergency vet make full recoveries and also nobody gets in trouble for heavy flirting at work.
There are, according to my internet research, 3 kinds of veterinary workers: a veterinarian, a vet tech, and a vet assistant. Vets do it all, vet techs can do some medical procedures, and vet assistants are trained to do fewer procedures than those. In this story, Lewis is a vet tech who’s studying to be a vet, and Val is a vet assistant. Lewis and Val can handle most of the overnight emergency cases, but there is a vet on call who comes in if needed.
“So they tell me you’re our brilliant new vet tech.”
The voice was teasing and bright, and when Lewis turned around, he found the speaker matched it— a young man, with bright blue eyes and a charming smile. He had dark hair, worn long enough to fall over his forehead, and open, cheerful features. He looked maybe ten years younger than Lewis, who was thirty-five.
The man was also desperately handsome. He was far shorter than Lewis, and his waist was so small Lewis thought his hands might fit around it, if he were to—
Lewis realized he was staring awkwardly when the young man smiled. “And my new partner on overnights,” he said, his voice even silkier than before. “I’m Val, your vet assistant.”
“Oh,” said Lewis, looking away finally. “Sorry. Right. Lewis Duncan.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Val, dressed in pale blue scrubs like Lewis, lifted himself up to sit on the counter, beside the phone and the jar of pens that said All Creatures Veterinary Hospital. Lewis realized helplessly that the counter put Val at the perfect height for him to— oh, God, what was wrong with him?
Lewis fumbled down whatever he was holding. Hopefully nothing fragile. “They tell me you’re the best with emergencies,” he said, scrambling now. “Great on overnights. I thought you’d be— uh—”
“Older?” Val suggested, looking amused. “Taller?” His smile deepened. “Less— distracting?”
Lewis felt heat rush to his face. “Um—”
Val laughed, a pleasant, bubbly sort of thing. “Oh, you are fun. Don’t worry, I’m only teasing. Really, it’s nice to have someone new on nights. It’s been a rotating cast since Laura, our old tech, left, and I’ll be happy to have someone steady. As it were. So what makes you want to work overnights, Mr. Lewis Duncan?” He said the name slowly, as if he greatly enjoyed having it in his mouth.
Lewis looked down and found his textbook lying on the counter. So that’s what he had been holding. “Time to study,” he said.
Val glanced at the book. “For vet school?”
“Yeah. With only emergency cases, I expect it won’t be too b—”
“No, no!” Val exclaimed, holding up his hands. “Don’t say it. We don’t use the b-word here. Not unless you want a sudden rush of cases that will last all night. It’s very bad luck.”
“Don’t worry about it. Emergency medicine’s full of superstitions, is all.”
Betty, one of the day vets, came out of her office, slipping on her coat. Outside, the sun had set, and the three of them were reflected in the office’s glass doors: Betty, with her white hair and athletic build; Lewis, tall and thin, looking like someone who always had his nose in a book; and Val, sitting on the counter, swinging his legs so that they bumped into the cupboards below him, absolutely beautiful.
“I hope you have a terrible first night, you two,” Betty said cheerfully. “Non-stop cases.” She waved and was out the door.
“Superstitions,” Val assured Lewis. “You know, like when you say break a leg to a dancer. I guess in our case, it would be more like break four legs. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.” He gave Lewis another blatant once-over that Lewis had no idea what to do with. “Now, tell me all about yourself.”
Lewis frowned. “Oh, uh— not much to tell, really.”
Val looked as if he had expected that answer. “All right, then. Tell me about your pets.”
“Oh.” Lewis fumbled his phone out of his pocket, opening up the photo app. “That’s Jackson.” Lewis had to lean close to Val to show him his phone, and that meant Lewis could breathe in the scent of him: antiseptic, floral hand soap, and tuna-flavored cat treats. That should not have been as stupidly arousing as it was.
“Golden retriever mix?” Val asked, flicking his eyes up to Lewis, so close to his own.
“Yeah. Oh, that’s Misty, one of the cats. And there’s Fog, that’s the other one.”
“Cute names for gray kitties.”
“The shelter named them. I’m not that creative. Then, um— well, that’s Ferdinand.”
“What on earth kind of dog is that?”
Lewis put on an affronted look. “He’s an SFM.” Val looked up at him in confusion. “Small friendly mutt,” Lewis said.
To Lewis’s delight, Val burst out laughing. “Oh, that’s good. I’m going to steal that.”
“And that just leaves Jelly Bean, the gecko,” Lewis said, but as he flipped to the photo, the phone rang.
Val reached behind him and picked up the phone in what was clearly a well-practiced motion. “All Creatures, you’ve reached the emergency service.”
Lewis watched Val’s face as he listened to the caller. He looked utterly calm, even though Lewis could hear the caller’s agitation. “All right,” Val said. “And are you able to transport him yourself? Yes, just to the office. We’ll be waiting.”
Val hung up the phone. “Dog found on the side of the road. Possible car strike. But it doesn’t sound serious enough to get a hold of the on-call vet. I think we can handle it.”
“I, um— I hope we can’t?” Lewis offered.
Val looked at him a moment, then smiled in understanding. “Oh, that’s— that’s very good, yes.”
Val jumped down from the counter and Lewis took a second to compose himself. And lecture himself. So. The man was handsome. Fine. Lewis could handle that, by ignoring it. So Val was young and outgoing. Great. All the more reason for Lewis not to entertain any fantasies about him. No one with those looks would want a bookish vet tech ten years older. In fact, no one tended to want Lewis in the first place— his attempts at dating had always gone nowhere. One or two people had told Lewis he was a very nice man and he would make a very nice husband someday. To someone else.
But now his gorgeous co-worker was being openly flirtatious. Why the hell that was, Lewis didn’t know. Perhaps it was just Val’s way of being friendly. In any case, Lewis needed to keep his heated thoughts under control lest he give them away and scandalize everyone and lose his job and—
A moment later, the injured dog arrived, and Lewis was very grateful.
The dog was small and covered in gray curls that desperately needed to be cut. It was hard even to tell that he was male. Lewis checked him over on the silver table in the exam room. “I’m not feeling any broken bones. No masses, no tenderness anywhere. Not a car strike, then.”
“But lethargic,” Val said. He was crouched down near the dog’s face, giving him ear scritches. “Oh, you’re such a good dog, aren’t you? Don’t worry, darling, you’re in the right place now.” The dog’s tail thumped once.
“It’s probably dehydration and hunger,” Lewis said. “I think he’s been on the street for a while. I’ll start an IV, do some bloodwork to check for infection. How are the teeth?”
Val gently opened the dog’s mouth. “Present and accounted for.”
“All right, if he perks up, we can try a little wet food, mixed with water, see how he tolerates it.”
The man who’d found the dog, a Mr. Hayes, was standing in the doorway, holding the towel he’d wrapped him in. “Will he be okay?”
Val turned that handsome smile on him and Lewis nearly bristled, shocking himself. Hadn’t he just told himself that Val was like this to everyone, and that it was a good thing? “I think so,” Val said. “It was very kind of you to bring him in.”
“Oh, I just thought— he’s so little and all by himself. Somebody must be missing him.”
“Well, let’s check for a microchip,” Val said. He retrieved the scanner and passed it over the dog’s shoulder blades and down his front legs. The screen remained blank. “No owner listed.”
“Oh.” Mr. Hayes looked pleased, and Lewis and Val exchanged a knowing look.
“We’ll check with the shelter to see if a dog like this has been reported missing, and if not— are you thinking you might like to adopt him?” Val asked.
“I promise the bill here won’t be too high. He doesn’t need anything major, I don’t think.”
Mr. Hayes looked down at the empty towel he was holding. “Well— maybe.”
“Do you want to give him a name?” Lewis asked. “Or we can choose one.”
“Oh, um— how about Antonio Vivaldi?”
Val raised his eyebrows. “That is a name.”
“Little dogs should always have big names, I think,” said Mr. Hayes.
“Like the composer?” Lewis asked. “The Four Seasons?”
Mr. Hayes nodded, and Val shot Lewis another appreciative glance.
Val kept looking at Lewis that way the rest of the night, through the phone calls, most of which were problems that could be solved without a visit. And through the cases that did come in, the cat with a respiratory infection and the farm dog who managed to somehow discover a bee in the middle of a winter night, and decide that it would make a good snack. Neither case was much trouble, so it was a good first night.
But between cases, Lewis had a little trouble focusing on anything besides Val’s hands, and where he might rest them, Val’s mouth, how it smiled and teased, and how close it came to Lewis’s mouth, and— well, yes, and his rear in those scrubs. They were rather thin scrubs and Lewis had maybe never seen a better rear. So yes. Lewis was distracted.
And Val did not help in the slightest. As the night went on, it was tempting to imagine that perhaps Val might be sincere in his unexpected flirtations. Lewis was like many in his field, he suspected, because the main people in his life were not people at all. Lewis could never really feel lonely with two dogs, two cats, and a gecko crowded into his condo. But it would be a lie to say that he didn’t also long for some human companionship.
In any case, it probably didn’t matter whether Val was serious or not, because Lewis had no idea how to flirt back. It would have been lovely to respond to Val’s teasing with his own coy glances and witty remarks, but Lewis had about as much chance of making that work as poor little Antonio Vivaldi did. The dog, not the composer. Possibly also the composer, since he was dead.
So to Val it no doubt seemed that Lewis was distracted but uninterested. Flustered, yes, but not answering in kind. And pretty soon, Val would also decide that Lewis was also uninteresting, and that would be the end of it.
Lewis hoped for that moment. And dreaded it.
When dawn came, Lewis was part way through homework on feline side-spay techniques, and Val was sitting in a chair with his feet propped on the counter. He was reading something on his phone, but every once in a while he asked Lewis a question. For example: “What is the strangest case you’ve ever seen?”
“Snake with a taste for socks.”
“Oh, that doesn’t sound good.”
“No, he was fine. All three times.”
Val laughed. “Mine was a hamster who crawled into a little toy car and got stuck. He was so cute in there that we had to take pictures before we got him out.”
Lewis made some sort of amused noise, lost in a diagram. He looked up when he heard the wheels on the chair, to find that Val had rolled closer.
“Am I being distracting?” Val asked, in a hushed tone.
“It’s okay,” Lewis managed to say.
A smile crept onto Val’s face, as he watched whatever expression Lewis was wearing. “Because I could be far more distracting,” Val offered.
Lewis forgot how to breathe and nearly choked. “I—”
Val’s expression changed suddenly. “Do you hear that?”
Lewis had lost all hold on the conversation at this point. “What?”
“No, really.” Val sat back. “Do you hear that? It sounds like a cat.”
They kept silent for a second, and then Lewis heard it: a faint cry. Without being familiar with the building, he couldn’t quite tell where it was coming from. But he knew the hospital didn’t have any cats spending the night.
“I think it’s outside,” Val said.
Lewis followed him and they stepped out into a very cold near-sunrise. Their breath turned white in the hazy light. The cry came again, louder now.
“Oh, it’s much too cold out here,” Val said, concern plain on his face. He made various cat-attracting noises, but there was no response.
“Let’s try some food,” Lewis said. He went back inside and retrieved a bag of cat treats from the sale shelf. He also snagged Val’s coat from the back of his chair. Val gave him a surprised look when Lewis settled it over his shoulders, a softer look than he’d worn all night. But before Lewis could quite process that, Val was off circling the parking lot, shaking the treats and calling to the cat.
They heard more cries, but couldn’t find the source. The day shift started to arrive, and they promised they’d keep up the search.
Back inside, Val leaned against the wall, watching Lewis pack up his textbooks. His flirtatious smile was in full force. “So I had a lovely night. Can I see you again sometime?”
Lewis, heart pounding, tried his very best. “How about tonight?” he ventured.
Val looked extremely pleased, and he gave Lewis a wink. “All right, then. It’s a date.”
Five nights later, Antonio Vivaldi was ready to be groomed.
“Day shift left him for us, since it’s our case,” Val said. He was holding the little dog on his shoulder like a baby, and its tail thumped in a rhythm against his chest. “His infection’s all cleared up and he’s gained a little weight. So after a spa treatment, he’ll be ready to go home. Must have had an owner at some point, he’s already neutered.”
“Is Mr. Hayes taking him?”
“Yes. Love at first sight, I think.” Val threw Lewis one of his flirtatious glances.
In the last five nights, Lewis had not miraculously developed a way to stop lusting after his co-worker and his pretty eyes and pert ass and delightfully small hands. He also had not miraculously learned how to flirt back, so instead, he busied himself setting up the grooming equipment.
Val gave Vivaldi a pep talk, crouching down so that he was nose to nose with the little dog on the grooming table. “It’s going to be a little strange, all the water and noise. But you’re strong and brave, and I know you’ll do marvelously.”
“I need you to give me that speech before exams,” Lewis said, quite without thinking.
Val raised his head, looking extremely pleased by this idea. “Oh, I’d be glad to. Anytime.”
And fuck if Lewis couldn’t imagine it, Val sitting on the counter, looking up at Lewis with encouragement on his face. And perhaps he’d take Lewis’s hand, and draw him in to stand between his parted legs—
Lewis dropped the scissors on the floor. It startled poor Vivaldi, but Val comforted him, seeming to hide a smile.
Once the grooming actually started, Vivaldi didn’t seem to mind the scissors and razor too much. But the post-grooming bath upset him. Lewis turned the sprayer off as Val gathered a whimpering Vivaldi into his arms, getting his scrubs wet.
“The water’s probably the first thing he’s felt so close to his skin in a long time,” Lewis said.
Val ran his hands gently up Vivaldi’s newly groomed fur as the dog cried. “Poor baby. You do need to get cleaned up, though. Here, maybe if I stay close.”
“You’ll get soaked,” Lewis warned. “More soaked.”
“Well, it’s been a while since I’ve had a spa treatment myself. I must be due.” Val put Vivaldi back on the table, but kept an arm around him. Lewis turned the sprayer back on to where Val could reach it, and Val gently washed the dog with his hands. Vivaldi still trembled, but he tolerated the bath. He also shook himself repeatedly, further drenching Val.
When Vivaldi was clean, Val gathered him up into a fluffy towel, and the dog seemed to like that much better. He sank down so that only his little gray head was poking out.
“That’s adorable,” Lewis said. “Well, he is. You’re a mess.”
Val laughed. “That’s very kind, thank you. Here.” He passed Lewis the towel-wrapped dog, and Lewis tried very hard not to stare at Val in a soaked shirt, the fabric clinging to his skin.
He failed. But as a silver lining, Lewis thought perhaps Val hadn’t noticed.
He failed in that too. Val looked right at him and grinned as he stripped off the wet shirt.
Val was perhaps one of the most attractive half-naked people that Lewis had seen. Not that he was used to people in any state of nakedness. Val’s chest was smooth, with the firmness of youth. The water took a path that Lewis wished he could follow with his fingers, over Val’s taut skin and toward his waistband, where the fabric was also slightly wet.
Val might have stood there an age, Lewis had no way to know. “I’ll be right back,” Val promised, and then turned and headed toward the break room, which gave Lewis a view of his back, long and gently curved, disappearing into damp scrub pants that clung to his perfect ass.
Lewis tried to think cold thoughts, hoping that maybe his face wouldn’t still be bright red when Val came back out. He probably failed at that too.
Vivaldi took a nap in his towel on Lewis’s lap while they waited for the phone to ring. It was a quiet night. Lewis now knew that quiet was referred to as the q-word, and was not to be uttered under any circumstances. So they just talked.
Val showed Lewis pictures of his three cats, littermates named April, May, and June. And then he asked, “So, tell me, do you go home to anyone? Besides your fur babies and gecko? Boyfriend? Girlfriend?”
“Uh— neither at the moment.”
Val looked pleased. “Any particular reason?”
“Just— people have never really—” Lewis succumbed to a need to make himself sound less pathetic than he really was. “I’m always studying. Very boring, I guess.”
Val startled Lewis by laughing. “Lewis Duncan, the last thing you are is boring.”
Lewis looked at him, perplexed. “You may be the only one who thinks that.”
“Oh, I doubt that very much.”
“How— how about you? Girl—” Lewis stopped as Val gave him an incredulous look. “Boyfriend?” Lewis amended.
“No. No one steady. It’s easy enough to pick someone up, but— well, now I find I’m spending all my nights with you.”
“Oh. Right.” Lewis looked down at Vivaldi, probably blushing again. The dog made a snorting noise in his sleep.
The phone rang and they had to prep for a cat with an injured paw. They woke up the on-call vet for that one, who gave the go-ahead for Lewis to do a few sutures.
They spent the end of the night looking for the crying cat again. All the staff had searched by this point, but though they could occasionally hear it mewling, there was no sign of it. Val was adamant that it be found, so Lewis stuffed the cordless hospital phone into his coat pocket and accompanied Val through an exploration of the bushes behind the building. All they got for their trouble was snowy clothes.
Because there was only an on-call vet at night, Lewis started showing up for his shift early to shadow the day vets. He was very surprised one day to find Val standing in the break room, with two coffees.
Lewis usually did try to keep his awkwardness to a minimum, but he was unable to avoid saying, “Val!” in a delighted voice.
Val looked very pleased. “A little bird told me you’d been coming in at this hour.”
“Oh. The parakeet?” They had one in the back at the moment with a respiratory complaint.
Val gave a surprised laugh. “Yes, Lewis, the parakeet. I brought you some coffee.” Val pressed their shoulders together as he passed Lewis the cup. Val was warm beneath his scrubs, seeming even more so because Lewis had just come in out of the cold. “Have to stay on your good side,” Val said, leaning close. “Otherwise you’ll stick me with all the easy cases.”
Lewis was a little too preoccupied in looking down into Val’s eyes to say much. Eventually he managed to come back with, “I could do worse. Stick you with all the hard customers.”
“Oh, is that how it is?” Val murmured. Somehow, his mouth had gotten quite close to Lewis’s mouth.
At that point, Lewis really had no idea what they were talking about anymore. Only that whatever it was, Val looked gratified by it.
But Val drew away, taking a drink of his coffee. Betty walked in, and offered to let Lewis scrub in on a mouse with a tumor. Lewis didn’t see Val again until their shift started.
“I heard the mouse is doing well,” Val said. “Tell me they gave him a good name.”
Val rolled his eyes. “Ah, well. Not very original, but could be worse, I suppose.”
“Anony-mouse?” Lewis suggested. “Julius Cheeser?”
Val gave him a startled laugh. “Every time I think I have you figured out, Lewis Duncan. For one, you’re not nearly so shy as you seem.”
“I find some people easier to talk to,” Lewis admitted.
It was a clumsy thing to say to someone who had to know how charming he was, but Val looked flattered by it. He came closer, jumping up to sit on the counter again. Lewis was in a chair, so for once Val was taller than he was.
“So what do you talk to people about, besides mouse tumors?” Val asked. “What do you like to do with your free time?”
“Um— well, I read, mostly. Novels. Mystery, sci-fi.”
“I could see you as a reader,” Val said. “You have that handsome librarian vibe going on.”
When Val’s expression changed to that of amusement, Lewis realized that he must have been staring again. “What, um— what do you like to do with your time?” Lewis asked faintly.
“Handsome librarians.” Val innocently took a drink of his coffee as Lewis spluttered over his own.
It was the last pleasant— if overwhelming— moment of the evening. Soon after, they took a call for a car strike of a beloved family dog. He’d gotten spooked by something in the middle of the night, and had run into the street. He showed up with his entire family out of their beds.
The on-call vet, Blake, arrived soon after. Lewis started an IV and assisted in the surgery. Val kept the supplies ready and gave the family updates. After two hours, the dog, whose name was Captain, was moved to recovery, and the vet was hopeful about his condition. The broken leg would heal, and internal injuries had been relatively minor.
As Lewis changed into clean scrubs, he could hear Val reassuring the family in the waiting room. When Lewis walked out, he saw that one of the kids, a boy who looked about six years old, was crying.
Val crouched down to talk to him. “It’s okay, buddy, Captain is doing really well right now.”
The boy just shook his head, sobbing something that was hard to understand.
“Captain doesn’t like the vet,” the mother explained, sniffling. “No offense. But he might be scared when he wakes up.”
“Oh, we can do something about that,” Lewis spoke up. Everyone turned to him, which was a little disconcerting. “We can get him a message,” Lewis told the little boy. “A special message just for dogs. Dogs can’t read, but did you know they can smell really well? We can give him that shirt you’re wearing, and he’ll smell it and recognize you. It will be a message to Captain that his family loves him and that you’ll come and see him soon.”
The boy had his shirt off halfway through the talk, and he held it out to Lewis. Lewis had the belated realization that he probably should have talked to the parents about that first, but they didn’t seem to mind.
“I’ll give it to him right now,” Val said, taking the shirt. “So it’ll be there when he wakes up.”
After the family had left, Lewis discovered Val in the break room. His eyes were red and his cheeks wet.
“Are you okay?” Lewis asked.
“No. I thought I might have to tell that family their dog was gone. Oh, I know I should have a thicker skin in this job, but—”
“I’ve seen vets cry,” Lewis assured him. “Even over pet rats and salamanders. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t love animals.”
Val sniffled. “You’re very wise. And that bit with the shirt— brilliant. Not least for poor Captain.”
“Oh, it’s not a big deal. I learned it at another office—”
Val cut him off sharply. “No, don’t do that. I’ve noticed this about you, Lewis. You never accept praise. You don’t believe compliments. But you really are a gifted man. I saw you in there with Blake. You have the hands of a surgeon. You’re going to be a wonderful vet.”
“I— thank you.” It came out sounding whispery and unsure.
Val gave him an exasperated look. “Oh, you ridiculous man.” He crossed the room and pressed his body up against Lewis, hooking both hands behind his head to pull Lewis down to what was clearly, astoundingly, going to be a very forceful kiss.
Blake chose that moment to walk into the break room and Val quickly stepped back. It was over before Lewis had really registered what had almost happened. Then the phone rang, and Lewis had to give advice to a caller about her cat who had the sniffles.
When it was time to go home, Val gave Lewis a brief hug and made sure his coat was fastened properly against the cold. He didn’t mention the near-kiss, and Lewis had no idea how to ask about it.
Somehow Val managed to get a set of blueprints for the hospital. He spread them out over the table in the break room, using Lewis’s textbooks to hold the corners open.
“What are we looking for?” Lewis asked, as his anatomy textbook vanished out of his hands.
“Places a cat could hide.”
“Oh, the crying cat. You think it’s in the building?”
“I think it has access to a place with heat, water, and food. Otherwise we wouldn’t still be hearing it. But it’s crying for a reason. Do you know how to read blueprints?”
“Ah— not unless you’re actually referring to mammal anatomy.”
Val shot him an amused glance. “I’m not.”
“Then I don’t think I’ll be much help to you.”
Val’s look turned sultry, and his eyes flicking up and down Lewis’s body. “Oh, I would never say that.”
It had been a week since the near-kiss. Val had gone back to teasing and flirting, and Lewis had thought, constantly, helplessly, about kissing Val. It would be easy enough, they were always together, and Val did like to lean close. Lewis could lean in himself. He could press his mouth to Val’s throat, kiss that place where his collar bone peeked out of his scrubs. Val might make some soft, pleased sound, and then Lewis could put a hand on his chest, his waist. Could turn him, Val was so much smaller, could press their bodies together, and then their mouths.
Lewis wanted to kiss the laugh lines by Val’s lips, the dimple on his left cheek that showed when he smiled broadly. Somewhere in that smile was all the compassion that Val held for the animals they treated and even the one they couldn’t find. It was the most beautiful part of this beautiful man.
But Lewis didn’t have the courage to try it. Because he really didn’t have the courage to find out what might happen after it.
What he should have done, Lewis knew, was to voice his questions to Val. What is this? Is it only flirting, or are you serious about me?
Lewis, of course, did not do that. For one, it might make the flirting stop. And Lewis, entirely unused to such things, loved it. He loved seeing Val’s buoyant energy focused on him, loved the sly glances and constant compliments, loved that Val encouraged Lewis to banter with him, if Lewis was ever quick enough to do so. He loved V—
Oh. Well. It was a little too soon for that, maybe. And far too foolish. Flirting aside, Lewis knew he could never be the kind of man that Val had mentioned picking up for the night. For one thing, Lewis was not the nightlife type. Unless it involved hamster first aid.
Val sat on the table by the blueprints and pulled out his phone. “Okay— how to read blueprints. Solid lines, dashed lines— good lord. Lewis, get over here and explain this to me.”
Lewis got up from his seat and leaned over Val’s shoulder, reading the phone for a moment. Then he cleared his throat. “Well, Val, you see, most cats have 18 toes, but cats with polydactyly can have up to—”
Val smacked him on the shoulder. But he also looked impressed. “What am I going to do with you?” he asked, in a voice that promised a wealth of possibilities.
Betty walked into the break room. “Val. Here early again, I see. Do you mind if I borrow Lewis from you?”
Val put on an aggrieved look. “If you must. But I want him back in one piece this time. No more ferret bites.”
“That’s a hazard of the job,” Lewis pointed out.
“Then Betty will have to be extra careful with you.”
Betty gave a sigh. “I tell you what, Val, I’ll leave all the extra care of Lewis to you. All right?”
Val looked quite pleased. “I’m all right with that.”
As Lewis scrubbed for a cesarean puppy delivery, he felt like he should say something. What he came up with was, “Val’s very— friendly.”
Betty gave him a look. “Mm-hmm.”
Lewis was done with the surgery in time to see Captain get picked up by his family. The dog was shy with the vets, but he loved Val, which didn’t surprise Lewis in the least. Captain had taken to hobbling around the place in Val’s wake, being alternatively adorable and in the way.
“Sad to see him go?” Lewis asked Val, as they watched Captain being carefully loaded into his family’s car.
“Yes. You don’t follow me around quite so well. Always in your books.”
“Well, maybe I would, if you were sneaking me peanuts.”
Val’s eyes widened. “You weren’t supposed to know about that.”
“Do you think I don’t notice what you do?”
Val’s look turned softer, as if he was surprised. “I wasn’t sure.”
Over the next few nights, Val did manage to figure out the blueprints, and they launched a search of the crawl spaces and heating ducts in the hospital. Val, being smaller, did the climbing and contorting, and came back very dusty with, unfortunately, nothing to show for it.
“Maybe we’re going about this the wrong way,” Lewis said. “You said the cat had a source of food. Can we figure out what that is?”
“If it’s hunting, probably not. If it’s stealing food— maybe.”
After they took a call about a dog who’d eaten a piece of chocolate, they searched through the hospital’s food stores. (It was a big dog and a small chocolate, so Lewis told them it would be fine.) At the very back of the rack of cat food in the store room, they found a bag with a hole.
“Well, that could have been all sorts of critters,” Val said. “But if it is the cat— how is it getting in here?”
Lewis looked up. “Ceiling, maybe? There might be a way through. Cats can be awfully small when they want to. But there’s a bigger question.”
Val was bent over, checking along the baseboard for holes. Lewis checked out his ass, not even trying to lecture himself about it anymore.
“Right,” Val said. “If the cat can get in here, then it’s not stuck. So why is it still going back to its hiding place and crying?”
“You know what it could be,” Lewis said, and again, Val was thinking the same thing.
“There might be two cats,” Val said, as he got to his feet. “One who can come and go, and one who’s stuck.”
“But the problem is—”
“We’re only hearing one.” Val had paled slightly. “Lewis, I don’t like this.”
“We’ll find them.” Lewis put his hands on Val’s arms. He wasn’t usually the one who touched, and his hands seemed to spark where they brushed against Val’s skin. “We’ll find them. Don’t worry.”
“I suppose I worry too much. We can’t save all of them. I’ve worked here long enough to know that.”
“But that’s why you work nights, isn’t it?” Lewis asked. “You don’t mind doing grooming and vaccinations and blood work. But what you really want to do is save lives. And you do.”
Val looked up at Lewis with such clear gratitude in his eyes that Lewis found himself stumbling on. “And— and I think you must be the bravest person I know.”
“Yes. Because you know you can’t save them all. And you come back every night anyway. Ready to let yourself be hurt again, because you might be able to save another one. They’re so lucky to have you here, Val. I’m lucky to know you. I’ve learned so much from you.”
Val’s eyes were wide. “Lewis—”
The phone rang then. Val didn’t seem to hear it. He kept staring up at Lewis, until Lewis finally had to jog into the lobby to pick up the phone. “All Creatures, you’ve reached the emergency service.”
A few days later, there was a brief warm spell. Instead of snowing, it rained. But ice was still clogging many of the sewer openings, so the streets were awash with cold water.
Someone brought in a cat who’d been fished out of a creek, soaking wet and freezing. The cat expressed its unhappiness with its teeth and claws, all through its warming bath and hot towel therapy. Lewis took the brunt of it, and was left at the end with soaked, muddy scrubs and scratched arms.
They put the cat and its warm towels into a crate, where it promptly fell asleep. “You’re welcome,” Lewis told it gruffly. He came back out into the break room to find Val with antiseptic and bandages.
Val was smiling faintly, his eyes fixed on Lewis. “Take your shirt off,” he said. When Lewis hesitated, Val’s expression cleared. “You don’t have to.”
“No, it’s just— I don’t look—“
“Lewis, it’s only me.”
“That’s what I mean. I don’t look like you. When— when you had your shirt off, you were so—”
Val looked up at Lewis in surprise, and did something Lewis didn’t think he’d ever see. He blushed. “Oh. So I did get your attention.”
“I think a man would have to be dead to not pay attention to you.”
Val was breathing harder, Lewis could see his chest rising and falling. “Take your shirt off,” he said, and Lewis did.
Val was very businesslike with the antiseptic, cleaning the scratches on Lewis’s arms, and then on his neck, where Lewis hadn’t realized he’d been hurt. The alcohol was cold and stung on Lewis’s skin, but was followed by the softness of Val’s fingers. Val’s cheeks were flushed the whole time.
Val put bandages over the worst two wounds on Lewis’s left arm, and then said, “All done. And for the record, Lewis, I notice you, too.” His eyes flicked over Lewis’s bare chest. “And, ah— I wouldn’t mind if you walked around like this all night.”
Lewis’s heart was pounding. Val wasn’t touching him now, but he was certainly close enough, and there was nothing between his hands and Lewis’s skin but air.
“You could even lose the rest of the scrubs,” Val said.
It was more than Lewis could take. He felt his face flush, his breathing become ragged. And his cock swelled in his pants, though he tried to resist. There would be no way it could go unseen, with him missing his shirt. “Val,” Lewis protested, “have mercy.”
Val looked very pleased. “No,” he said. “I don’t think I will.”
Then Val glanced down, no doubt seeing what state he’d put Lewis into, and his face colored again. “Oh,” he breathed. “Well, maybe a little.” He stretched up and pressed a kiss to Lewis’s cheek. “You’d better go get dressed.”
Lewis was in vet school part time, so the whole working-while-taking-classes thing was not too big of a deal. Until finals.
The day before his anatomy exam, Lewis sat in the break room between cases, making notes and rehearsing the facts about feline blood vessels— part of what Val was now calling animal blueprints. Val made himself scarce for a little while, but eventually he reappeared with coffee and a candy bar.
Lewis looked up at him in surprise. “You know where Betty keeps her stash?”
“Absolutely not,” Val said, biting into a Snickers. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you quite so stressed.”
“I know, but—”
The phone rang then. Val took the call and then leaned around the break room door. “Incoming elderly dog with a respiratory infection. I think we can probably solve it with a humidifier and antibiotics, but because of her age we may want to admit her for a day or two. Black lab mix.”
“Twelve. A gray lady.”
The dog did indeed have a black face with gray eyebrows and beard. “Didn’t know she had eyebrows until she got old,” her owner said. “Not that she acts her age.”
“Labs are puppies forever,” Val said.
“Oh, God, I wish she’d be around forever. But I know she’s—”
“I wouldn’t worry too much,” Lewis said, reassuringly. “She’s got fair muscle tone and she’s alert. We just need to get past this cold and I think she’s got some good time left.” He scratched the dog behind the ears, and despite her clear discomfort and raspy breathing, the dog thumped her tail and leaned into the petting. “What’s her name?”
“Princess Florabunda McDonalds Measuring Spoon. I told my kids they could name her. They were four and five at the time. We just call her Spoonie.”
Val was openly laughing. “All right, Princess Spoonie, let’s get you settled.”
Spoonie, like most labs, was an easy patient. She accepted her IV antibiotics in exchange for a few treats, and when she was given a bed, she took to it gratefully, settling into a snoring sleep.
Lewis went back to his books and Val went to check on the crying cat situation. He’d been leaving out larger pieces of cooked chicken in a dish in the store room, hoping it would be easier for a cat to carry back to a trapped companion. Efforts to follow the cat had been fruitless: it seemed to have no set schedule for visiting, only when there were no people near the store room.
“The library has some video cameras that they loan out,” Val said, coming back into the break room. “Nothing with night vision, but the cat might still come if we leave the lights on. The real problem is, we’ll only know how the cat is getting in and out of the room. We won’t be able to see where it goes from there.”
“I’m heartened because it’s going through more chicken than one cat should be able to eat, but if its friend is injured, we’re still fighting a losing—”
“I’m glad you’re figuring it out. But you’re being very distracting.”
“You like when I’m distracting.”
Lewis gave his textbook a weary glance. “Usually.”
Val came over to look at the book. “You know all this stuff already, Lewis. You’ve been studying it for ages. And besides, you’re absolutely brilliant.”
Val said it so easily that Lewis sighed. “That’s kind of you.” He looked up to see Val with a rare scowl on his face, and his arms crossed.
“That’s what you need to be studying,” Val said. “How to take a compliment.”
“I’m sorry. I’m just stressed.”
“You really don’t think I’m sincere?”
“I think you’re a sweet person who tries to cheer people up.”
“And what do you think of yourself? Just because I’m trying to cheer you up doesn’t mean I’m lying. In fact— damn it.” Val broke off when the phone started ringing. He pointed a finger at Lewis. “Sit there and think about what I’ve said.”
Lewis did not. Lewis went back to feline blood vessels. Though he did have one ear out for Val on the phone. He couldn’t quite make out the words, but Val’s tone was calm. To be fair, Val was always calm on the phone, but by now Lewis could recognize the slightly faster pace of his words when he was concerned about the call, and this time, his cadence was slow.
“Cat vs. Christmas tree,” Val reported a few minutes later. “They’ll both survive.”
“Sounds good,” Lewis answered absently.
The phone rang immediately after, and this time Val called Lewis over. With a groan, Lewis threw his pencil down and went to give advice to a first-time snake owner.
On his way back to his textbook, Val started chattering again, and before Lewis entirely knew what he was doing, he’d grasped Val’s arms and pressed him to the wall of the breakroom.
Val was startled into silence, his mouth open, his eyes wide. Lewis was more or less frozen, unsure of how they’d gotten here and what he was supposed to do now. He loomed over Val, so much shorter and slimmer. Lewis’s hands could nearly reach around his upper arms.
A smile spread across Val’s face. “Oh,” he said softly. “You really like when I’m distracting.”
Lewis was hopelessly aroused, throbbing in his pants. He wasn’t pressed up against Val, but he was close enough that there was a chance Val could tell anyway. The scant inch between them tormented Lewis.
“Fuck if you didn’t make me work for it, though,” Val breathed. “I wasn’t sure you were ever going to—”
The phone rang again.
Val let out a groan, which did not help Lewis’s situation in the slightest. Now he was imagining Val making that noise over and over—
“Breakfast,” Val said. “Lewis, let me make you breakfast after work, please? I promise I’ll even help you study.”
The phone was ringing insistently. Lewis let go of Val. He managed to nod before Val dashed off to answer the call.
After work, Lewis followed Val as he drove to his apartment. They were immediately greeted by Val’s cats, who cried for food as if they’d never been fed in their lives. So standard cat behavior.
“You probably won’t see May,” Val said. “She’s very shy with strange—” Val turned around from hanging their coats on a hook and found three cats at Lewis’s feet. “Why am I not surprised?” he asked.
“She’s probably just hungry,” Lewis said.
Val looked skeptical. “Well, you’re the vet.”
“Not yet.” Lewis thunked his backpack full of textbooks down on the floor. One of the cats climbed on it.
“Have a seat,” Val said, as he undid the latch of a cupboard, revealing a bin of cat food. “They can open doors, so I had to—” Val went on, but Lewis stopped paying attention. Distantly, he heard the dry food hitting the cat bowls, as he leaned down from his chair to dig into his backpack.
The book practically fell open at the section Lewis had been reading and re-reading for days. He had it memorized. But these exams could determine his whole future, and what if—
The book was pulled out of Lewis’s hands. It landed with a thump on Val’s table. And then Val swung a leg over Lewis’s thighs and sat down on his lap, facing him.
Lewis managed to ask, “What are you—”
“Being distracting.” Val leaned down and caught Lewis’s mouth with his own. Val’s lips were soft, and his mouth slightly open. He kissed Lewis gently twice, and then Lewis’s lips parted and Val pressed in closer. He slid his hands from Lewis’s shoulders up to his face, holding him steady so that he could sweep his tongue into Lewis’s mouth, bold and earnest, demanding. Val tasted every part of Lewis’s open mouth. He pulled Lewis’s lower lip through his teeth and gently bit down, then soothed it with sucking.
Lewis had never been kissed like this before, lustful and filthy, overwhelming. He hadn’t known that a man could be driven to the edge by just one kiss. But Lewis was so hard he throbbed in the rhythm that Val set with his kiss, slow and steady.
When Val moaned, sounding as if he might be just as wrecked by this, Lewis’s hips rose, seeking to rut himself against Val’s body. For a second, he was elated to feel how hard Val was as well, but then Val shifted his hips back. “No,” he said softly, barely moving far enough from Lewis’s lips to make himself heard. “No, not yet. You have to come in my mouth.”
“Fuck, Val, if you say things like that, it’s going to be immediately—”
Val moved his mouth to Lewis’s throat, sucking at his pulse. “Oh, no, darling. You can wait.”
Val moved up to kiss his mouth again, and Lewis was lost to it. This was a headier kiss, faster, less thorough, but just as devastating. Lewis finally realized that he could move his hands, and he threw one arm around Val’s shoulders, the other hand sliding into his dark hair, which was just as soft as Lewis had imagined. They kissed for a long moment like that, joined closely together, all the desire that Lewis had held for so long coming through, rejoicing in having a place to be spent.
When Val broke away, Lewis could only look up at him in a daze. Val seemed very pleased by that. He started his kisses on Lewis’s throat again, this time moving downward. Lewis had his street clothes on, and Val slowly unbuttoned his shirt, moving his mouth over Lewis’s chest in a patient descent.
When Val stopped to pay attention to one of Lewis’s nipples, tonguing over it in broad strokes, Lewis shivered with it. “Fuck, Val, I— I know I look old, but I’m not quite that old yet and I don’t know if I can keep from going off if you’re going to—”
Val made a noise of exasperation and looked up at him. “Where do you get these things? Lewis, I know exactly how old you are, I looked at your file. Don’t pretend to be surprised. Now, have a little faith in yourself.”
Whatever Val did next with his tongue on Lewis’s nipple robbed Lewis of the power of speech anyway, so at least he could no longer protest. Val slid out of Lewis’s lap and onto his knees between Lewis’s legs. He continued kissing a trail down Lewis’s chest, over his stomach, and to the waistband of his pants.
Here Val paused and gave Lewis a grin. “Now, I’ve had a couple of chances to see what I’m working with here, and I have to say I’ve been quite excited about it.”
Lewis managed to make some sort of speech-sound, and Val shook his head. “Shhhh.” He opened the button and zipper of Lewis’s pants, exposing his cock, stiff and leaking into his briefs.
“There you are,” Val said, sounding pleased. He leaned forward and licked up Lewis’s cock, over the fabric of his underwear. Lewis couldn’t do anything else but moan, dropping his head back onto the chair. Dimly, he heard the cats finishing their food, a clock somewhere ticking, the sounds of the world beneath his own desperate noises.
Val freed Lewis’s prick from his underwear and finally put his mouth directly on Lewis’s skin. Lewis could only gasp. He looked back down to see Val with his eyes closed, clearly enjoying what he was doing, which was— well, Lewis was sure there had to be beautiful words for what Val was doing, even though Lewis only knew crass ones. The way that Val was taking him into his mouth with such pleasure, somehow so gentle and yet managing to overpower all of Lewis’s senses— it was the most incredible thing Lewis had ever felt.
Val was using a light suction, teasing— of course he was teasing, it was his very language— and paying special attention to the head of Lewis’s prick, probably because Lewis was responding so loudly to it. And then Val did something with his tongue in the slit of Lewis’s cock that made Lewis’s hips shoot right off the chair. He felt Val laugh softly, and one of his hands pushed Lewis back. But then he did that thing with his tongue again, and Lewis was instantly on the brink of coming.
“Oh,” Val said, sounding pleased. “So that’s it. All right, darling.” He looked up at Lewis through his dark lashes. “You can come.”
Val wrapped a hand around Lewis’s prick, tongued the slit a last time and Lewis exploded with a cry. The first of it must have hit Val in the face, but by the second pulse, Val had sucked Lewis down and was swallowing around him, moaning as his mouth was filled.
Lewis had never come so hard or so long in his life, and he felt rather bad about it, but when he managed to open his eyes, Val looked thrilled, even as he wiped Lewis’s come off his cheek.
“I think that should help,” Val said, teasing again. “You were all pent up.”
Lewis fumbled some sounds before he was able to talk again. “That— that’s your idea of— study help?”
Val smiled smugly. “I’m quite certain it’s better than anything else you’ve tried.”
“Well, that— that is true.”
Val righted Lewis’s clothes and then kissed him softly. “I’ll make you some breakfast, and then you can go home, walk your dogs, and get some rest before you ace your final like the brilliant man you are. And then I’ll see you again tonight.”
Princess Spoonie was out and about when Lewis got to the hospital that evening.
She still had a case of the sniffles, but her apparent preference for treatment was attention. Lewis saw her approach Betty, who was on the phone, laying her head in Betty’s lap with that Oh help, nobody loves me look. Betty petted her, and then quickly regretted it as Spoonie’s enthusiasm sent her rolling chair flying away from the desk.
After changing into his scrubs, Lewis caught sight of Val trying to redirect Spoonie’s attention by giving her ear scritches, which was adorable, but also Val was on the floor on his knees. So of course, Lewis was reminded of the fact that Val had been on his knees for him only that morning— And when Val looked up, Lewis could see the same thought cross over his face. Lewis had to put a hand on the wall to steady himself.
Lewis wasn’t early for his shift tonight, after taking the final, and so the rest of the staff started putting on coats and heading out into the cold. Val approached him as Betty locked the door behind her, giving them a wave.
“So how was your fin—”
Lewis seized Val in the middle of his sentence and kissed him. It wasn’t something Lewis had planned terribly well, and his momentum made them stumble a bit, but Val gripped him tightly instead of moving away. “Oh, Lewis,” he breathed against Lewis’s mouth, and once they were stable, Val wrapped his arms around Lewis’s neck and the kiss truly took hold.
Lewis didn’t have a lot of experience with kissing, but this one seemed different than their kisses this morning. Almost like a greeting of lovers parted, as though it hadn’t been entirely desire that had driven them into the kiss, but simple happiness at seeing each other again.
Eventually though, it did tip over into something lustful. Val’s hands roamed over Lewis’s back, sliding down to his waist, then lower. Lewis was already hard, of course, and he moved his own hands, grasping Val’s perfect ass for the first time, pulling their hips together. Val gasped, and Lewis could feel the hard, hot length of him against his own cock.
Val pulled away with a breathless laugh. “Okay, stop, stop. Your illustrious career as a vet is not getting derailed by having sex at work.”
Lewis normally kept a lid on whatever puns his brain uselessly offered him, but somehow Val seemed to draw these things into being voiced. “Well, what about you getting railed after work, then?”
Val looked up at him in shock, his face flushed red. “Lewis! Oh my god.”
Lewis laughed. “So you can dish it out, but you can’t take it?”
“Oh, I can take it,” Val assured him, his expression showing a rising heat. Then he closed his eyes. “Okay, no, we can’t go there—”
“Then breakfast? My place?”
Val reached down to pet Spoonie, who’d announced her presence by “accidentally” bumping into them. “I would love that,” he said. “How was your final, anyway?”
“It was good.” Lewis was still smiling. “Val, it was really good.”
Val grinned. “I knew it.”
After work, Val enjoyed meeting Lewis’s pets and helped him walk the dogs. Val was lovely outside in the early morning. He was lovely at other times, too, of course, but Lewis rarely saw Val outdoors when the sun was up, and it suited him. The sunlight turned his dark hair a few shades lighter. The cold brought a flush to his cheeks, and his blue eyes bore a sparkle.
Val seemed to feel happiness so easily. He felt sadness too— Lewis had seen him cry. But Val let himself feel all of it, and show all of it. Lewis wished he could learn to do the same thing. He wished he knew why Val seemed to have such faith in him.
When they got back, Val refilled the dogs’ water bowl while Lewis started preparations for breakfast. When Val turned and found Lewis with a carton of eggs in his hand, he gave Lewis a perplexed look, as if breakfast was the last thing he’d expected him to be doing.
“Oh,” Lewis said, helplessly. He put the eggs back in the fridge, and then— and then there was nothing else to do but to stride across the floor, pick Val up, and set him on the counter. It brought their faces on a level for once, Val with a look of pleased anticipation. “You’re so beautiful,” Lewis said, and kissed him.
Val was obviously the better kisser between them, but he moaned, as if Lewis was doing something right. Lewis was ravenous for him. He pulled Val closer with a harsh movement, until his legs split around Lewis’s waist, and Lewis tangled a hand in his hair, using the leverage to deepen the kiss.
Val gasped and it occurred to Lewis that he might have been a bit too rough, but before he could loosen his grip, Val moaned again. “Oh, Lewis,” he said, tilting his head away, baring his throat to Lewis’s hungry mouth. “This is what’s best about you quiet men. So passionate underneath.”
Lewis drew back in surprise. “You— you like quiet men?”
Val looked at him in shock. “Lewis, you think I’m going to come onto you this hard and you’re not my type?”
“Well, I— didn’t think I was anyone’s type, really.”
Val looked cautious now. “Ever?”
“Um— once or twice.” Lewis looked at where his hands were, crumpling Val’s shirt, baring a sliver of his stomach, and up again to his handsome face. “I don’t know how to do this.”
Val grinned, running a hand through his hair, mussed from Lewis’s grip. “Oh, I think you do.”
“No, I mean— I don’t know how to be with you. Someone like you. You are the most gorgeous, charming person I’ve ever seen.”
Val closed his eyes for a second. “Lewis.” He leaned forward and caught Lewis’s face in his hands. “You know, that is exactly the sort of thing that a charming man says. And that is the very last that I will listen to of what some other person has told you, or what the voice inside your head is saying. I have been waiting for ages for you to fuck me. If you don’t want to, I understand. But I rather think you do.”
“I do,” Lewis managed to say.
Val gave him that familiar coy look. “Well, darling, now’s your chance.”
Lewis had imagined this. How many times? Coming home from work, dreaming he wasn’t alone, that Val was there, teasing, his scrubs clinging damply to his skin or missing entirely—
Lewis caught Val’s t-shirt and pulled it over his head, tossing it onto the floor, making Val smile approvingly. Lewis seized him and kissed him again, lifting him from the counter to press him against the wall, Val’s legs still around his waist.
“Oh, you’re strong,” Val breathed.
“And you like this. Being manhandled.” Lewis tilted his hips, finding Val hard and ready beneath his jeans. “So was that your plan, then? Make me wild for you and see what I’ll do?”
“It’s worked very well so far.”
Lewis pressed his mouth against Val’s throat, over his racing pulse. “God, I want you. You have no idea.”
Lewis shifted, letting Val’s feet find the floor again. Then he tore off his own shirt and started on the fastenings of Val’s jeans. Val let Lewis’s hands work, but kept his mouth occupied with one of those slow, filthy kisses. Lewis’s hands found Val’s cock as Val sucked on his tongue, and they both groaned with it.
Val was naked in the next moment, his jeans crumpled on the floor of the kitchen, and Lewis looked his fill. Val was beautifully shaped, his thighs pale and soft, his cock slender and swollen stiff. Hard because he wanted Lewis to fuck him.
“Turn around,” Lewis said, in a raspy voice.
Val smiled as he did, revealing his pert ass to Lewis’s gaze. Lewis was aching in his pants, and fumbled with his jeans to release the pressure. Val casually rested his arms on the wall, watching Lewis over his shoulder as he undressed. Biting his lip, Val said, “I think this is where I confess I haven’t been pursuing you only for your brilliant mind.”
An objection leaped into Lewis’s throat immediately, but for once, he managed to bite it back. “Well,” he said bravely, “I guess— I guess lucky for you then that I have the whole, uh— package.”
Val looked at him a second in surprise and then burst out laughing. “Yes, that— that is lucky, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think I’ve laughed during sex before,” Lewis confessed.
“Then you’ve been doing it wrong.” Val turned and held out his hands. “Come here, darling.” He pulled Lewis close and kissed him softly. “You’re doing wonderfully. Bedroom?”
In response, Lewis pushed Val back against the wall again. Val’s eyes widened and he gave a little surprised gasp. Lewis reached above Val’s head for a little bottle of olive oil from the cupboard. “Turn around.”
Val did at once, and Lewis got his hands on him for the first time. Val’s skin was soft, and Lewis let himself luxuriate in it, the feel of his oiled fingers over Val’s taut ass, the heat between his cheeks, the moan Val gave when Lewis breached him. It was impossible to hold back from coaxing more of those noises from Val, and Lewis soon found a rhythm Val liked.
“Lewis—” Val said, panting. “Lewis, fair warning, I can come like this, so if you want to—”
With a groan, Lewis withdrew his fingers. Val turned, sagging against the wall. “Fuck.”
Lewis stepped forward again, caging him in. Val reached up to kiss him, and it was no great effort for Lewis to lift him again so that he could reach better.
Val wound his arms around Lewis’s neck. “Oh, it feels so good to be in your arms.”
“Are you ready?” Lewis breathed, as he adjusted Val’s legs around his waist.
“Oh,” Val said. “Darling, this is actually a more advanced position, so we should probably—” He gasped as Lewis hefted him into a more comfortable place, and in a slow slide, pushed inside of him, until Val was pinned against the wall, taking all of him. “Oh, fuck,” Val said. “You—”
“You don’t weigh anything,” Lewis hissed, trying to hold himself still inside of the intense heat of Val’s body.
“Right.” Val’s eyes were wide as he looked up at Lewis. “Oh, God, you’re so deep like this.”
“Am I hurting you?”
“No. Fuck. Move, please, Lewis, fuck me—”
Lewis pulled back a little, sorting out their balance, and then thrust back inside, which made Val gasp again. “Good?” Lewis asked.
Val didn’t seem to be able to answer, his mouth open, so Lewis pulled back and thrust into him again, and again. Val clung to him, pliant and open, panting softly, pressing kisses to Lewis’s cheek and forehead.
“God,” Lewis groaned. “I’ve never felt anything like you.” Val’s body was so much smaller, but it accepted him so well. More than that, it welcomed him, seeming to fit perfectly in his arms.
Val tightened his arm around Lewis’s shoulders, lifting himself up slightly. He gasped at the new angle, and Lewis moved swiftly to hold him there, thrusting faster.
“Oh, god,” Val gasped. “Lewis, you’re going to make me—”
“Do you need me to touch you?”
Val couldn’t answer, because he was coming with a loud cry, spurting between their bodies, digging his fingernails into Lewis’s shoulders.
Lewis pushed into Val’s tight heat twice more and then crushed him against the wall as he came, unsure he could hold him steady otherwise, gasping as he lost himself inside of Val’s beautiful body.
When Lewis came down from his high, he worried that he might be hurting Val. He shifted and pulled out, letting Val gently down to the ground. Val swayed a bit, and Lewis wrapped his arms around him. “Are you okay?”
“No,” Val said. “I am wonderful.”
“Oh. You won’t be too sore?”
“I like to be sore.” Val gave him a lingering kiss on the cheek, wiggling a little as he arranged himself in Lewis’s arms.
“Will you stay?” Lewis asked. “Sleep with me today? Oh, you have to feed your cats.”
“I gave them extra food when I left,” Val said, smiling coyly. “I had high hopes for you, Lewis.”
“Did I—” Lewis started over. “I guess I must have lived up to them.”
Val rested his head on Lewis’s shoulder. “I had no doubt.”
Lewis carried an extra bag into work that night, which Val immediately noticed. Lewis refused to tell him what was in it, which only wound Val up. “Are we having a picnic?” he wanted to know.
“A board games tournament?”
“Did you get me a present?”
“What makes you think this has anything to do with you?”
Val’s mouth dropped open, and he got a pretty blush on his face. “Lewis Duncan. You are teasing me.”
“Serves you right.”
When the rest of the staff had left, Lewis opened the bag. Whatever Val had been expecting, it was clearly not a large baking dish and a can of non-toxic, pet-safe red paint. “What on earth?” Val asked.
“We are finding that cat,” Lewis said. “Tonight.”
He could see Val’s mind working as he looked at the paint. “Lewis, you can’t let a cat leave red footprints all over the store room.”
And Val did, as Lewis poured red paint into the dish and set the bowl of chicken in the middle of it. “Now we wait,” Lewis said, as he turned off the light. Meanwhile Val was still staring at him, with a sort of soft confusion on his face. “Are you all right?” Lewis asked him.
“Oh— yes. Fine.” The phone rang then and Val went to answer it.
They were busy for the next hour or so with a frog with an eye infection, and then Val went to peek into the store room. He turned to Lewis with urgency in his expression. “It worked!”
The cat had not taken any of the chicken. The paint had offended it too much, no doubt. But there were little red footprints leading across the floor, disappearing by the wall.
“Here,” Val said, pointing to a shelf, where smudges of red paint were slowly drying. They led up toward a crack between the ceiling and the wall. “There’s no way a cat is getting in and out of that.”
Lewis stepped onto the bottom shelf and peered into the tiny hole. There were smudges of red paint. “I guess it’s determined. Where does this lead?”
“It must be the crawlspace at the top of the building. There’s a vent to the roof from there. But a cat couldn’t possibly—”
“Probably one of those cats that’s two-thirds fluff. Let’s go take a look.”
Outside, the snow was full of tracks, as always, dogs and people. It was too dark to see the top of the roof from the ground.
“I’ll climb up,” Val said.
Val gave him a surprised look. “I’m smaller. You can lift me up.”
“I’ll use a ladder.”
“It’s icy up there.” Lewis ignored Val’s protests and brought out a ladder, which he climbed before Val had a chance to. On the roof there was no red paint, and no cat footprints. But the beam of Lewis’s phone flashlight showed some disturbed snow around an air intake vent. Beside it, the shingles were soft. It took some doing, but Lewis pulled them away to reveal a small space, and inside it, a large and very ill cat.
“Found him,” Lewis said quietly, as he’d heard Val climb up the ladder behind him. He reached in for the cat, which barely reacted as he picked it up.
“Is he alive?” Val asked.
“Yeah. Go on down, I’ll follow you.”
Lewis heard Val descend the ladder, and then he carefully put his own feet on the rungs. He cradled the cat in the crook of one arm, feeling the heat of its fever against his bare wrist. It was all going so well until he slipped against one of the steps, and the cat roused itself. In panic, and probably in pain, it lashed out with its claws against Lewis’s face.
Lewis managed not to drop the cat. He did not manage to find the bottom rung of the ladder, however, and instead landed more heavily than he’d hoped, and with one of his feet in entirely the wrong place. His ankle began to tingle with that pre-pain sensation of a sprain.
Val was silent as he wrapped the cat in a towel and helped Lewis limp into the building. They worked hurriedly, sedating the cat and starting an IV with pain meds, beginning the tests for infection. The cat was skin and bones, and its breathing raspy.
At one point, Val touched Lewis’s arm, and Lewis turned to see another cat sitting just outside the store room, watching them, with traces of red paint on its paws. It backed up when Val took a step toward it, so he stopped.
“From here, his eyes look clear, and his fur’s clean,” Lewis said, watching the cat, which was indeed extremely fluffy. “I don’t think he’s ill. We’ll put out a trap for him, though. When this one gets better, we can house them together.”
“He will get better?” Val asked.
“He has a chance. Thanks to you.” Lewis watched Val cradle the cat in his arms, and then set him on a bed inside a crate.
“Thanks to both of us,” Val said.
Lewis sat heavily in a chair, and Val came down on his knees beside him. Despite the pain, Lewis had to shift a little, arousal spiking in him. He expected a coy glance from Val, who no doubt would expect that reaction, but instead he got a look of dismay and confusion.
“I don’t know how to do this,” Val said.
“Oh— I’m sure it’s just a sprain. We can wrap it with some—”
“Lewis. No. I don’t know how to do this— like this. You— I flirt. I enjoy— but it’s never been serious, and now there’s you and your stupid puns and your stupid ankle that you sprained because you painted the store room and rescued a cat and you wouldn’t let me on the roof!”
“I don’t know what this is for you.” Val’s eyes were wide and almost frightened. “But I think I’m going to fall in love with you, Lewis. Maybe I already have. You’re so— I don’t even know. Caring.”
“I’ve loved you for months,” Lewis said, having recently had some practice in being brave with Val. “It really is impossible not to love you.” Val looked utterly surprised. “You didn’t know?” Lewis asked.
“I knew you wanted me. From the moment you saw me. That’s why I thought this would be so fun. But I didn’t think a man like you would see it— would see me as anything more.”
“Now, just a minute. I thought we weren’t listening to stupid voices in our heads.”
Val opened his mouth and the phone rang.
With a look of determination, Val raised up on his knees, kissed Lewis firmly, and then caught the phone with one hand. “All Creatures,” he said, sounding rather joyful. “You’ve reached the emergency service.”
Photo is of my dog Georgia, beloved family member & nursing home therapy dog <3