Hands of Clay Ch. 13
Be well, my friends.
~M. From C.M. Moore
As his morning music alarm started to play light classical, Brice rolled over and yawned. He'd slept all night. That didn't happen often. When his hand connected to Clay's warm naked thigh, Brice's eyes popped open. Snuggling closer, the man scooted his ass into Brice's crotch. Brice held in his groan.
"Morning, baby." Clay's husky voice, thick with sleep, washed over Brice.
"Hell no." Brice glared. "It's Instructor Brice."
He probably deserved the sappy endearment, but Brice had to draw the line somewhere. Actually, he had no idea where the line was any more or a pencil for making a line.
Last night Brice had cleaned and hung Clay's uniform. After he finished, Brice only planned to warm up the shepherd for a minute. Stupidly, Brice had convinced himself that Clay was cold after running in the snow-ice-rain. And after all, Wicks was only wearing Brice's shirt. Thinking of offering his body heat, Brice crawled under the covers. He had every intention of getting out of bed and sleeping on his couch. He really did...
Claymore and good intentions never did seem to work out for him.
"Good morning, Instructor Brice." Wicks rolled over and curled into his arms. He made the same move last night while sleeping. Clay's erection poked Brice's pajama pants. That happened last night too.
"I'm only here because I thought I'd keep you warm," Brice muttered as his eyes scanned what might be the best sight in the world. "That's all I was doing."
"i belive you." Clay's eyes, rested and bright, crinkled with a smile. No one Brice had ever dated looked at him the way Clay did. Brice could wake up and see this man's smile every day until he died.
That thought had Brice tugging out of Clay's hands and rolling out of bed.
"I should make you stretch," Brice muttered.
"I feel phenomenal. I slept like the dead." Clay climbed out of Brice's bed with one more hug to his pillows. "Your bed is spectacular."
"I guess." Brice shrugged. His bed seemed more spectacular with Clay in it. "After the hut, I couldn't sleep, so I started doing anything I could to rest. I got sleep music. I found the best sheets. I picked out the best mattress. I added the pillows. None of it helped." Brice headed to his kitchen and poured water into his teapot, and set it on his burner. Since he knew Clay wasn't wearing pants, Brice told himself not to turn around.
He turned around.
"I think those sheets must be made of clouds." Clay's muscles flexed beautifully as the man stripped out of his shirt and tossed the top over a pillow. "Mind if I shower again?"
A gloriously naked Claymore Wicks had Brice tongue taking a vacation. Each light scar on his skin seemed to call out of Brice. Touch me, lick me, they whispered. He nodded as all his blood zipped to his cock and then pooled there.
"Thanks." Clay spun around and headed to the bathroom. The view of his rounded backside showed Brice all the things he insisted he didn't want. This lying to himself was getting out of hand.
After Wicks was out of sight, Brice picked up his tongue from the floor and walked to his pillows. He scooped up the shirt Clay worn last night. Bringing the garment to his face, Brice inhaled. The smell was Clay's warm skin, Brice's soap, and the hint of arousal. The scent made him dizzy.
"Brice, I can't find—" Clay poked his head out of the bathroom and caught Brice sniffing his clothes like a dog. He was such a dope.
"What?" Brice tossed the shirt to his bed. "Can't find the soap?"
"That's not what I was going to say." Clay grinned at him. "What are you doing?" His aqua eyes sparkled in that way Brice loved and hated.
"Nothing." To make a point, Brice grabbed the shirt and tossed it into his laundry hamper. As soon as Wicks left, he would dig out the top. "What do you want?"
"I can't find my uniform. If you want to keep me here naked, you only have to ask. You don't need to hide my clothes."
"I dried them last night," Brice explained. "In the closet past the sink is the washer and dryer. They're in there, and your boots are on the heated drying rack by the toilet. Don't lollygag."
"Thank you, boyfriend." Clay's eyes studied him. "That's very domestic of you." He vanished back into the room before Brice could tell him to stop it.
Right as Brice got his tea into his mug and oatmeal cooked for Clay, Wicks stepped out of the bathroom. Dressed in proper attire for training, Brice had two emotions surge. One, Clay looked damn sexy in his uniform. Wicks looked so tasty Brice wanted to strip the other man out of the outfit and lick everything underneath. Two, he should not be with a recruit.
He whispered the words I should not be with a recruit as he set the bowl and spoon on the table.
"Thanks for doing my laundry and for cooking dinner last night and breakfast this morning." Clay took a seat as he slid the food in front of him. "Is oatmeal another one of your specialties, boyfriend?"
"Call me boyfriend again, and I'll make you do a hundred pushups."
"I can do a hundred pushups." Clay laughed and began to eat. Brice sipped on his tea as he watched Clay. Never in his life had Brice wanted to be a spoon until Clay licked the utensil.
Glancing at the clock, Clay stood. He guzzled water, wiped his face, and then leaned over and kissed Brice's scar along his cheek.
"I have to go."
Brice was oddly annoyed that he didn't get a real kiss. Then he remembered they weren't dating, and he was an idiot.
"Goodbye." Clay strode to the door, unlocked it, and turned around with his hand on the knob. "I love you, and I'll see you tonight."
Brice's heart surged painfully, and he ruthlessly quashed the emotions slamming into him. No more of that.
"Don't say you love me, and we are not seeing each other tonight."
"I wasn't talking to you." Clay's eyes twinkled as they flipped to Brice. "I was talking to your bed."
"Wicks." Brice exhaled his frustration. Clay was going to make him lose his mind. "You're not seeing my bed tonight."
"Back off," Clay teased. "Stay out of my relationships. Your bed and I have a good thing going. I'll see you later." With that, Clay left.
As soon as he was gone, Brice stared at his rumpled blankets. Maybe if Clay and his bed were together tonight, he could crash their date.
Brice shook his head. Clay was getting to him. The man wore him down like forty grit sandpaper on balsa wood.
Dressing quickly, Brice used his bathroom, cleaned his dishes, and then grabbed what he would need for the day's meetings. He checked his watch as he locked his apartment. He had to see the armor about removing the weapons first thing this morning, but he had a few minutes. He was going to talk to Nancy.
As Brice marched down the hall, he decided that Nancy might be the one to give him some insight. She was tuned in, and she knew him. After seeing Keith, Brice thought he had this thing with Clay settled, but after making an ass of himself in front of Abdul and Essie, Brice realized that he didn't have the discipline he thought he did. He was quickly discovering that his love for Clay was under control like a downing man in the middle of an iced-over river. He wasn't stupid enough not to ask for help when he was holding on by a thread. So, he would see Nancy, and maybe she could give him clarity.
When Brice reached Nancy's door, he knocked and leaned against the doorframe. Not more than a minute passed when she poked her head into the hall.
"Brice," Nancy answered in a long pale green robe. Her hair was wild gray and blonde curls all over her head. Even though she looked like she must've recently gotten up, her eyes didn't seem sleepy.
"I need to talk to you." Brice glanced around the empty hall. The other trainers could appear at any minute.
"Can we talk in the lounge?" She stayed firmly planted in the doorway and leaned on the doorjamb. "Later?"
"I want to talk to you alone." He lowered his voice. "It's about sleeping with a recruit."
"Damn it." Nancy gave out an exaggerated sigh and then stepped aside. She waved Brice into the apartment. "How did you figure it out?"
As soon as Brice entered her place, Nancy called toward her bathroom. "You can come out now."
Brice didn't have time to comment on her announcement. Was Nancy sleeping with a recruit? Or did he misunderstand her? After meeting Clay and thinking the man was his blind date, Brice was a hell of a lot more careful these days.
"You can come out, Zac," Nancy said as she sat at her dining table. She picked up her cup. "Brice knows."
Red-headed skinny Zac popped his head out of Nancy's bathroom, and his eyes widened.
"Great! I don't have to lie to everyone anymore?" After a quick scan of Brice, Zac headed toward Nancy. He was dressed in his uniform for the H.S.P.C. training, but his shirt was rumpled. Obviously, he had stayed the night.
"No, my big man." Nancy sipped on her mug. "We're still lying to everyone." When Zac reached her side, he kissed her cheek. "When you get back to your bunk, don't forget to change."
"Okay." Zac kissed her one more time and then hurried out of the room and into the hall.
"People will see him leave." Suddenly Clay leaving his place had Brice feeling nauseous. The cameras would pick up a recruit leaving his room. Someone might show Rea or Keith.
"Don't worry about that." Nancy rose and filled a cup of apple cider for Brice. "I tipped all the hall cameras to one side. If he walks on the left, he is out of view."
Brice stood there, speechless. Slowly he gathered his wits. She had planned this. Maybe Nancy was sleeping with Zac for a long time. If she moved the cameras, this wasn't a one night of forgetting her position as trainer. If she'd been doing this for a while, how had he missed Nancy and Zac? More questions rolled around in his head.
"How long had this been going on?" Brice sat at Nancy's table and worked to keep his expression from showing his surprise.
"We started while he was in the first training class." Nancy set the mug in front of him and then took a seat. Nancy loved to drink the spicy concoction, and though Brice wasn't a fan, he took the drink anyway. Complaining about the cider was the last thing he wanted to talk about currently.
"How did I miss it?"
"You haven't been yourself." She shrugged. "You don't sleep well, you're tired, and you work all the time. You're a shell of a human. I don't know where Brice is anymore."
"Is this why he didn't pass the first cycle?" Brice asked. And damn it, he wasn't a shell. Work was important, wasn't it? He was the Boss.
"No, it wasn't because of us sleeping together that he didn't pass training the first time." Nancy huffed as if Brice had insulted her. "He didn't pass the first time because he struggled with some of the written exams. He has issues reading. This time around, I'm helping him with it. Listen, I'm not the one holding him back."
"Does anyone else know?" Brice swirled the red-orange liquid in his cup.
"Essie does, but he knows everything." Nancy shrugged again. "And I think Ponce maybe, but he has been sleeping with one of the recruits too, so he wasn't going to tell you. Hell, he helped me with the cameras."
Brice held in his shock at hearing that Ponce was doing a recruit and instead drank the hot apple yuck. When he suffered through the drink, he stood.
"What about the Deans?"
"Dallas-Dean and Zoey are sleeping together. I think they're in their own world right now."
Was everyone at HQ having sex but him? Brice walked back and forth next to Nancy's bed. He had come here believing that Nancy would tell him not to sleep with Claymore Wicks. Deep down, way deep, that was what he'd been hoping. That Nancy would say fight the attraction. He desperately wanted her to tell him that he was making the right choice. Instead, Brice found out that everyone was coming but him.
Brice pictured Clay on the top floor of HQ, moaning and shooting in his mouth. He wanted an orgasm with Claymore than air.
"New-Dean has a thing for Zoey too. He's in this weird on again and off again with them as a pair." Nancy kept talking. "With that threesome, they aren't looking at Zac and me, that's for sure."
As Nancy explained, Brice felt like she had just pulled back a curtain, and he'd been missing a lot of the show.
"Nancy," Brice began. He wasn't sure what he wanted to say. Could he tell all the trainers to stop it? And if he did, would they? Probably not. There were no rules about trainers fooling around with trainers, even if it was group sex.
"If you want to write me up or replace me, do it, but I don't want to hear your lecture." Nancy rose and set her cup by the sink. "I'm not like you, Brice. I can't shut my heart away in a protective bubble. I can't put my pussy on a dusty shelf and pretend like it doesn't exist. I'm not a shell of a human. None of us are. When I'm with Zac, he helps me."
"Helps you come?"
"Don't take that tone with me, Young Brice." Nancy wound her robe tie around her fist.
"Helps you how?" Brice asked quietly. She was right. He had no right to judge Nancy. She had seen a lot of life and a lot of death. Nancy knew things and was wise and kind and a survivor. She had escaped a pandemic and kept living when so many died. Nancy had also been there for him when he cried over Colin. She'd put up with every heartbreak he'd been through and then some. She was as much family as Keith. Brice should listen.
Nancy was silent for a long moment. "He helps me forget that who I love doesn't love me in return."
Nancy loved someone? When did that happen?
Tears shimmered in her eyes for a second, and then she swiped her hand over her face and put her usual smile into place.
"I'm in love with Keith, and I have been for some time." Nancy sniffed and then made her grin wider. "It's silly. I'm too old for this kind of thing. You know."
"You're sleeping with someone else to forget Keith?" Brice's brain was starting to hurt. None of this made any sense to him. "Why not tell Keith. Tell him and be with him."
"I did tell him. Keith turned me down." Nancy shrugged and acted like whatever happened didn't matter. Brice was sure that whatever relationship she had with his mentor hurt her deeply. This looked like a victim of a heart in a concrete grinder.
"I don't know why he would do that," Brice said after a few minutes passed. Nancy was kind and sweet and maybe a little younger, but she would be great with Keith.
"He had his reasons. Our ten-year age difference was one. And he'd already been hurt before, so he wasn't going to let it happen again. It came to a point where I had to accept his wishes and leave him alone. But even though I walked away, every day I think about what I can't have. For the few hours I'm with Zac, I forget about Keith." Nancy strolled to her bed and stared at the messy blankets. "I know this is crazy, but it's how I deal."
"I can't believe Zac is okay with this." Brice pictured the ugly breakup between Nancy and Zac at the end of the training. He didn't know how he was going to deal with that.
"Zac is fine with it. I'm not lying to him or pretending we're more than we are. I've told him that I'm in love with Keith, and I always will be. Zac understands that this is some side action for him while he goes through training. He is doing so much better this time. He will pass, and then I'll be nothing but a fond memory. We're both happy with that."
Brice nodded. He'd planned to talk about Clay, but now he didn't want to. Not only did Nancy just blow his mind with all this information, but he's also realized she wouldn't be able to help him. Nancy had no idea what she was doing either. Maybe no one did. Brice was more confused than ever.
"Are you here to remove me from my position?" Nancy asked as she lifted her chin.
"No." Brice headed to the door. He had to get to his meeting with the armor to get all those guns out of his room. He considered retraining a new instructor in the middle of a cycle—what a headache. Nancy had to stay.
"No?" Nancy asked. "Then I take it that you came to tell me that you know, and you want me to stop messing with Zac." She wound her robe tie around her fist again.
"I came to say..." Brice stared at the door handle. He didn't come to say that either. "Make sure this doesn't interfere with training. If I see anything out of place..." Although Brice doubted that he would see anything since he didn't even know this was going on until a few minutes ago. "If I see anything," he continued. "Then I'll have to drop the hammer and shoot this up the chain of command. I don't want to do that paperwork. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Nancy hurried to his side and hugged him. "Thank you. I promise as soon as Zac is gone, I'll be a model trainer like you. I'll learn to sleep alone. Maybe get a big comfy bed like yours."
Brice swallowed hard. Is that what a model trainer did? Be alone and solitary like a monk? Was he a shell? No matter how many pillows he added to his bed, none of them compared to Claymore Wicks.
Brice had no idea what to say. Her thanking him for not getting her in trouble was laughable. Her life was already full of problems. He was helping her in no way. Nancy loved Keith, and instead of dealing with the heartbreak, she was sleeping with a recruit. And she was hiding it like all the other trainers who were hiding their love affairs.
This might be his future with Clay. Brice groaned.
"Is what you're doing worth the risk of losing your position here at HQ?" Brice asked.
"I don't know if it's worth it." Nancy tipped her head to the side as if profoundly considering his question. After a few seconds, she shrugged. "All I know is that being with Zac is right for me. You know? You know."
Yes. This time, Brice might actually know.