As soon as the warm water hit him, Jim’s muscles tensed. He hadn’t really taken inventory of his injuries, and getting into the shower with a cut led to the inevitable unpleasant sting of the water on bloody lines and scrapes. But the water was warm and soothing, and the steam had already begun to curl up past the curtain to warm the room and blanket everything in a misty sort of cloud. He exhaled slowly and closed his eyes as Sebastian began to scrub him.
Overall, it was a very nice sensation, not counting the dull aches and throbbing head and shoulder that was just not feeling right. Leaning against the sniper’s solid weight beside him, the water warm and soothing, and that always good feeling of getting clean. Regardless of what else was going on, having a shower was a good thing, a certain privacy (even with a companion) and a certain unburdening. An escape. Jim was known for taking long showers. He wasn’t consistent with them. Sometimes he sang, without any shame, sometimes he just stood under the water and stared at the tiny, uninteresting text on the back of the shampoo bottle. Sometimes he scrubbed himself within an inch of his life while grinning madly to himself because the water had kickstarted some wonderful plan in his ticking time bomb mind.
Now he kept his eyes closed and took a moment to answer. He could almost hear the grime being washed away under Sebastian’s firm hand.
“Oh yeah? I think I have the right to complain about the filth more than you, my dear. I’m the one who was not only involved in an explosion, I also had my life saved by a rubbish bin. This may be my lowest moment.” He smiled slightly, eyes opening slowly. He wasn’t going to comment on the earlier statement. He probably couldn’t stay on his feet, and Sebastian knew that, obviously. But if he didn’t acknowledge it, he knew Sebastian wouldn’t mention it again, and that way they could both pretend it wasn’t entirely necessary. “And I’d been having such a nice day. That suit, not to mention that coat, is destroyed.”
The criminal looked up at Sebastian’s face; while the Irish sniper had not put himself directly under the stream of water, he’d ducked into it a few times. Water rivulets had made some clean lines in the soot on his face, giving him an odd fantastical tribal appearance. His jaw was tight, and Jim couldn’t imagine that this was still some residual worry for himself.
“Are you keeping track of the time until my tea is ready?” Flippancy, at this point, seemed safest.
“Unless I can hear it over the water, a whistling teakettle’s not going bother me too much if we take a few extra minutes,” Sebastian replied, his Ulster accent rolling comfortably through the peaks and valleys of the words.
He squeezed a bit of his own shampoo into his hands, then lathered Jim’s hair. With Jim leaning against him, he didn’t need to keep an arm around him, so he was free to take his time as he lightly massaged his scalp and the back of his neck, feeling carefully for bumps and cuts. When his companion’s mouth tightened for a half-second, he noted a cut on his scalp.
Sliding one arm around Jim’s waist to support him, the sniper used his other hand to tip Jim’s head back into the stream of water and smooth the soap out of his hair. He impulsively leaned in to kiss the smaller man’s upturned chin, then his mouth. It was a kiss without expectation or implication of anything else, just a simple movement motivated by gratitude for his employer’s continued existence.
He carefully scrubbed off the rest of the soot and blood, noting which injuries would need to be tended more carefully when Jim’s physician arrived. Finally, letting Jim rest against his broad chest again, Sebastian set to quickly and methodically cleaning himself.
He reached beyond the smaller man to turn off the water, then lingered for a moment in the cooling steam before pulling back the curtain and reaching for one of the oversized bath towels.
He wrapped Jim in the towel and rubbed his arms through the soft, textured cloth, “S’better, isn’t it?”
Grabbing a towel for himself, he wrapped it around his waist and stepped out of the tub, half-carrying the other man with him.