“Are you really sure about this?”
John sighed heavily. “Arthur, if you ask me that one more time, you might as well march us straight back out of this bar. Yes, I’m sure—though now I’m starting to think that you’re not.”
“No, I am!” Arthur leaned their elbows against the bar, hunched forward over their glass of whiskey in a weak attempt to keep the other patrons from noticing him muttering to himself. John may have been able to shout through their shared mind as much as he pleased, but as long as Arthur still controlled their mouth, he got to and had to do all the talking. “I am,” he repeated. “It’s you and your temper I’m worried about.”
“If I didn’t want to do this, I wouldn’t have suggested it,” John insisted. “Now quiet down before you draw the wrong kind of attention to us. I’m looking.”
Arthur sighed this time, but he straightened up and turned their head so that John would have an easier time scanning the room. A new bar in a new town—no risk of them running into someone who would have recognized Arthur from his previous life. From before…John. They had reached the point in the night when closing time was just around the corner, and those gentlemen who had not yet already slinked off to the motel upstairs were eyeing each other as possible companions. It was John’s turn, then. He glanced from one to the next, judging them, trying to claw from their faces and physiques some means by which to rate them against each other. For immeasurable eons he had been a predator, evaluating potential victims by how easily he might obliterate their puny human minds. Now his hunt was of a very different sort, and he found it more exhilarating—and more intimidating—than he had ever expected.
“Any hopefuls?” asked Arthur.
“Maybe.” John caught the eye of a lanky man with long eyelashes sitting in the corner booth. Immediately he could picture the dozens of ways he might destroy such a timid creature, and as tempting as that was, he moved on. There wasn’t much point if he didn’t give Arthur a challenge, was there?
Arthur hummed impatiently. “Describe them for me.”
“No.” John looked to the next booth: a hulking brute with the shoulders of an ox and hands broad as dinner plates. The thought of those clumsy mitts pawing at his Arthur had him clenching their fist; he forced himself to relax. “We agreed I get to choose—I’ll tell you what he looks like once I’ve decided.”
Arthur gave a huff that was somewhere between annoyance and amusement. “Fair enough. You’re the one that will be looking at him, and I never judge a lover by their face anyway.”
The careless reference to his previous liaisons sent a pulse of heat through John, incorporeal as he mostly was. “If you’re worried about my taste, just remember we’re leaving town after this,” he muttered.
“Worried? Not at all.” A sly note crept into Arthur’s voice. “Curious? Desperately.”
John squirmed inside him. This was, in all likelihood, a terrible idea; he looked from one man to the next, imagining their bodies pressed up against the flesh they shared—the Arthur that was his—and his emotions writhed and tangled unlike anything he’d felt before. How anything could feel so primal and yet so unfathomable at the same time galled him. Why were humans so fucking complicated?
Then his gaze landed on a man sitting next to the record-player, and if he had influence over their heart, it would have skipped. A stranger was watching them: quiet and curious, and yet…hungry. When John stared a little too long, the stranger sat up straighter—intrigued, maybe even excited, but not desperate or needy. Someone who wouldn’t blow over at the first puff but wouldn’t push his luck, either.
“There,” said John, and an unexpected quiver of anticipation shot through him. “There’s a man sitting alone next to the record player, at our four o’clock.”
“Finally.” Arthur downed the rest of their drink and hopped off the bar stool.
John startled. “Right now?”
“Night’s not that long, John,” Arthur whispered, and as he turned from the bar he straightened up with his full confidence. “Don’t forget what you promised.”
John gathered himself and fixed his attention on the stranger before them. “He’s about your age and build,” he at last described for Arthur as they moved forward. “Probably a little taller, once he’s standing. Dark skin, short black hair. Weathered, like he’s been through it. Not unlike us, really. Just a little to your left, Arthur—he’s leaning back in the booth, watching us. Stop.”
Arthur stopped in front of the booth in an easy, friendly stance; the stranger took in a slow breath, his tongue darting briefly across his lips. Apparently Arthur had good instinct for hunting out the kinds of establishments where everyone was seeking the same thing. “Hello, there,” Arthur greeted pleasantly. “Can I offer you a drink?
“He’s smiling,” said John, though that didn’t do the expression justice; he was intrigued the mix of excitement, trepidation, and hope being fixed on them. “He looks interested. His eyes are round and amber-colored, like honey, and—”
“I just finished mine,” the man replied, though not with any hint of rejection. His voice was rough, almost gravely, but not unpleasant. “And it’s a little too close to closing time for a fresh one.”
He was trying to be smooth, probably—it came off a little rusty. Without missing a beat, Arthur took a step back and replied, “In that case, can I offer you a room?”
A line like that should have not worked, as far as John was concerned—and he was convinced it wouldn’t have, had Arthur delivered it with even a shred less confidence than he did. As it was, the stranger’s warm eyes gleamed, and he didn’t need more prompting than that.
“He’s getting up,” said John, and Arthur took another step back to give him room. “You’ve got him. Hmph. A little too easy, if you…”
The man stood, unfolding long legs that pushed him to a greater height than John had anticipated—a full four inches taller than them at least. “I’d like that,” he said.
Gazing up at him through Arthur’s lashes gave John an unexpected chill, and he struggled not to let Arthur detect his brief lapse. “Chin up, Arthur. He’s taller than I thought.”
If Arthur felt at all intimidated, he didn’t show it. “Glad to hear it,” he said. “Let’s get out of here.”
He took another step back; the stranger followed, well and truly drawn to him, and John began to relax again. His initial assessment wasn’t wrong—they were the ones in control here. He let that thought embolden him as he guided Arthur out of the bar, and then toward the narrow staircase that led to the room they’d rented on the second floor. The stranger followed a step behind at first, but once they reached the empty hall above, his long legs made up the gap to put them side by side. He brushed the backs of his fingers against John’s knuckles.
John tensed. The touch was gentle, seeking, and he had much too little experience with that. Arthur was the only one that touched him, and even then, not all that often. He felt the hairs on their forearm rise with goosebumps, and the sensation was so new, so fascinating, that he couldn’t stop himself—he stretched his hand in reply, and the man threaded their fingers together.
“He’s, um.” John swallowed, giving a tentative squeeze. Was his palm already sweating? “He’s taken our hand.”
Arthur cocked his head slightly. “What should I call you?” he asked.
“My name is…” The man cleared his throat. “You can call me Calvin. Or Cal, if you want.”
“John,” Arthur replied, and John startled in confusion, not expecting to be addressed. Then Arthur added, “You can call me John.”
John wasn’t sure what to make of that, even less so when he caught a glimpse of Calvin’s expression: momentarily pained, easing into wistful nostalgia. “John,” the man repeated with a reverence that left John breathless. “Nice to meet you.”
Arthur let them into their room. His movements were still self-assured but there was urgency threaded through their limbs that even John could feel. “The lamp we left is still on,” he dictated for Arthur’s sake, “but it’s weak, leaving the room mostly dark.” As soon as he’d closed the door behind them, Calvin tugged John’s hand. “He’s pulling us back,” said John, and Arthur turned just as Calvin then let them go. “Licking his lips—he can’t wait to kiss you.”
And he didn’t—Calvin took their face in both hands and kissed them. He had to lean down and Arthur had to rise up on his toes, but they met each other with equal hunger. He seemed to take a great deal of enjoyment from it, and judging by the way Arthur swayed into him, he was pretty good at it, too. John quivered, unable to do much but wind his fingers in Calvin’s shirt. Arthur’s arousal trickled down to him in sensations of tension and heat that he clung to as best he could. That had been half the point, hadn’t it? To really know, once and for all, how much of this body they shared he could partake of? He couldn’t feel Calvin’s mouth on theirs, couldn’t taste his plush lips; he could only drink up Arthur’s quiet murmurs of pleasure, like a starving man grasping at scraps.
Arthur broke the kiss with a quiet gasp and whispered, “Keep going.”
Calvin chuckled breathlessly. “Of course—I’ve barely started.”
He drew Arthur back to him with greater fervor, but it was John those words were meant for, and John who took the most encouragement from them. Determined to answer as he was meant to, John rallied himself. “He’s kissing you,” he said, only to grumble with dissatisfaction and try again. “Kissing us. Deeply, possessively.” Calvin’s hands slid to the back of their skull, cradling them as he loomed with his greater height. John didn’t like the idea of being at anyone’s mercy, though, and it flicked something deep inside him that infused his voice with electricity. “He’s used to this, Arthur—being the one in charge. He thinks we’re going to roll over for him like a good boy.”
Arthur’s low hum sharpened with defiance; it was just the reaction John had been hoping for, and he let it fuel him. “Back up,” he said. “Make him come to us. He doesn’t get to set the pace—we do.”
Arthur pulled back, letting their right arm fall. The left he kept raised, and though it took John a beat longer than it should have to catch on, when he did, he hooked his fingers in Calvin’s belt. He gave a sharp tug; Calvin’s amber eyes sparkled with intrigue, and he obeyed, following Arthur step by step toward the bed.
“Yes,” John breathed. “That’s more like it. This is what he really wants, he just doesn’t know how badly yet.” When Calvin reached for them again, John gave his belt another yank, harder, and his hands fell. It gave him a little thrill of power, and he growled happily. “He’s going to be so good for us, Arthur. One more step to the bed.”
Arthur’s calves hit the mattress, and there he stopped to drag Calvin down for another kiss. As their mouths preyed on each other, he set upon Calvin’s shirt, expertly flicking the buttons open one by one. Calvin, meanwhile, reached lower. “He’s undoing our belt,” John related, hurrying through the buttons with Arthur so that they wouldn’t distract him any longer than necessary. Strong fingers brushed their stomach and hips as Calvin slipped the leather free. John’s enthusiasm twisted into something ragged when he felt Arthur shivering beneath each deliberate touch, and he lowered his voice. “Our pace,” he insisted. “If he goes for your cock right away, don’t let him. He doesn’t get to touch you until I say so.”
“Fuck,” Arthur hissed between kisses, and when Calvin did try to palm Arthur’s swelling cock through his slacks, he snatched the man’s wrist and urged it back. “Not yet.”
“Good, Arthur,” said John. He took an embarrassing amount of pleasure just from the fact that Arthur had heeded him for once, finally; he let the sensation coil about him in all its triumph. “You took him by surprise a little but he looks even hungrier, now. He’s holding still so you can finish with his shirt and belt. Take your time.”
Calvin licked his lips as he watched them unfasten his belt and fly. “I, ah, I don’t want to ruin the mood,” he said carefully, “but I think you should know…it’s been a long time for me.”
John flicked their gaze up to Calvin’s face. He definitely seemed to be telling the truth; his eyes, still bright with arousal, were also pinched with impending embarrassment, and a hint of that same, distant nostalgia from moments ago. Though John had thoughts as to what those things implied, he stayed quiet to let Arthur handle it. “It’s okay,” Arthur replied without pause or awkwardness. He pushed up on his toes to press a short kiss to Calvin’s mouth. “Me too.” He chuckled as he tugged Calvin’s fly open. “Besides, based on what you’ve shown me so far, I never would have guessed.”
Calvin’s relieved smile was so charming that even John felt a flutter of butterflies. “Really?”
“Really,” said Arthur, nudging their left hand against Calvin’s abdomen. “Seems to me like you know exactly what you want.”
John slipped his hand down the front of Calvin’s drawers to squeeze his cock. Calvin hissed with the contact and drew Arthur to his mouth again. As they sucked at each other’s lips John went to work; he traced Calvin’s member down to the head with firm fingertips, then wrapped him up. The flesh swelling into his palm gave him another thrill; Calvin’s breath catching even more so.
“Oh, Arthur,” John purred, stroking in earnest. He gave the head a slow, teasing pinch with two fingers and grumbled happily when the man answered with a shiver. “He’s big. I bet he’s already imagining you taking this thing. Planning to bend you in half and fuck you.”
Arthur groaned, pushing up harder into Calvin’s mouth. John allowed himself to imagine it, too, for a moment: Arthur on his back, knees pressed up to his ears, eagerly taking some stranger’s cock. Something inside him shuddered hotly at the thought, and he squeezed Calvin hard. “He’s not going to get that chance though, is he?” he continued while Calvin whimpered and pressed his hips forward. “He’ll be the one taking. We’re going to show him everything he’s been missing, aren’t we? He’ll be worshipping us by the time we’re through.”
Arthur must have liked the sound of that; he shoved Calvin’s pants down and reached around behind him. John couldn’t see or feel what he was up to, but Calvin certainly did; he flinched and gasped, shifting his feet further apart.
“You want this, right?” Arthur murmured against Calvin’s throat.
“Y-Yes,” Calvin whispered, swaying between their two hands. When John reached lower to squeeze his balls, he sucked in a hard breath through his teeth and said again, louder, “Yes.”
“Good.” Arthur gave his ass a smack and leaned back. “On the bed.”
Calvin immediately stepped out of his pants and tossed his shirt aside. “He’s finished undressing,” John said as he helped Arthur out of the rest of their clothing, too. “Climbing onto the bed. The bedside table is to your left—reach down.”
Arthur opened the drawer and removed the two items they’d stowed there in preparation; the condom he handed to Calvin, the lube he handed to John. As they turned back to the bed, John felt a fresh surge of arousal that was his own. “He’s waiting for us. Sitting up, like he wants to see which way we want him. His cock is huge and flush against his thigh, and he’s fisting the blanket—he wants to touch himself, but he’s waiting for you.” John’s voice deepened to a growl. “Put him on his back for me—I want to see everything.”
Arthur hummed like he would have liked to reply, if only it wouldn’t have confused their companion. He joined Calvin on the bed, and though John was hoping to see him exert some strength, Arthur instead took his time; on his knees he drew Calvin into another series of long kisses, low murmurs of encouragement seeping between their mouths. For once he had the greater height and he applied it to his advantage so patiently, leaning more and more of his weight forward. Calvin sank to the bed gradually, resisting just enough to be tantalizing. John simmered, impatient but fascinated by Arthur gently but assuredly bending the larger man to his will. By the time Calvin was on his back as requested, even John felt as if he were quivering with delight and at his mercy.
“Fuck,” John whispered. All he could do was cling to the bottle Arthur had handed him, jealous that he wasn’t the one sinking into soft bedding. “You know what you’re doing.”
Arthur hummed again as if to say See? He sucked one last, long kiss from Calvin’s lips and then straightened up. John shook himself mentally and resumed his narration. “His thighs are falling open for you,” he said, unable to keep the heady excitement out of his voice. “He’s panting now, hungry for it—watching us so closely, like he can’t believe how much he wants us.” He began unscrewing the cap on the bottle of lubricant with his thumb, though his attention was then drawn by Calvin’s fingers creeping up the tops of Arthur’s thighs.
Arthur didn’t need to be reminded. Just as those crafty hands reached their cock, Arthur swatted them back. “Not yet,” he insisted. “But soon.”
John churned triumphantly, even as Calvin’s gravely chuckle made him weak. As Arthur settled between his thighs, John finished opening the bottle and slicked two fingers in the cool jelly. But as he reached forward, Arthur gave another quiet murmur.
“You said it’s been a while?” he said, nudging the underside of Calvin’s thigh. “I’ll go slow.”
“Don’t worry about me,” Calvin said, drawing his knees up closer. “I can take it.”
“We’ll see,” said John, but he took Arthur’s instructions to heart; he slicked Calvin’s asshole thoroughly before easing into him, just one finger at first. Calvin hissed softly and squirmed beneath them; John couldn’t help but grumble in answer. “Ohh, he’s tight. Tighter than you, the last time I fucked you.” Arthur scoffed, which he then tried to cover with a groan. Wanting him to make that sound for real, John lowered his voice and carried on. “I can see your cock throbbing, Arthur. You’re so ready for this, aren’t you? So thick I’m not sure you’ll even fit it in here, unless I can loosen him up for you.”
Arthur whined, stroking Calvin’s thigh. “Relax, Cal. I’m going to take care of you.”
Calvin tipped his head back and moaned as John worked a second finger into him. He looked enraptured already, his long cock leaking against his abdomen, and John was about to describe it when he let out a long, breathy murmur. “Please, John…”
His name, spoken with such needy pleasure, shook John unexpectedly. With only a few motions of two fingers, this stranger was begging for him—reverently, even, as if reciting a prayer. He felt powerful and humbled at the same time, and he moved his fingers back and forth, massaging his new disciple from the inside. Seeing Calvin writhe, hearing his throaty whimpers, filled him with pulsing desire nearly as potent as the first time Arthur had let him touch him like this.
He wished it was Arthur. His long, lovely Arthur, knees tucked to his ears, keening beautifully beneath his fingers—gazing up at him with lust. If they couldn’t have that, at least they could enjoy this gorgeous specimen together.
“That’s it,” said John, fucking him slowly—easing the tension from him with each deep stroke. “Much better already.”
“Good, Cal,” Arthur passed on. He cupped and fondled Calvin’s sack; John felt a clench around his fingers, which he also smoothed away with gentle plying. “You feel so good already. Are you ready for me?”
“Yes,” Calvin gasped out. He was quaking in anticipation, barely able to unwrap the condom. “Can I?”
Arthur didn’t reply right away, and it took John a beat to remember his earlier demands. Ever emboldened by that sign of compromise, he at last said, “Yes, Arthur. Let him touch you.”
Arthur rose up on his knees. “Please.”
Calvin immediately reached down and wrapped his broad palm around Arthur’s cock, as if he had been dying to do so all along. Arthur gasped, hips jutting forward. After all Arthur’s bluster, it only took a few firm strokes from Calvin’s sweaty fingers to begin unraveling him into blissful murmurs. John hissed enviously. “Arthur.”
“Mmn, keep that up and you’re gonna make me come,” Arthur said, which sharpened the jealous heat in John’s belly—even more so when Calvin chuckled, pleased with himself. He got a move on at least; he rolled the condom down over Arthur’s straining erection and gave it another luxurious squeeze that left Arthur breathless.
“Enough—my turn.” John slicked his fingers with fresh lube and urged Calvin’s hand away. “You’d better not come too fast, Arthur,” he said as he coated Arthur’s cock. “I want to enjoy this.”
Arthur huffed and squirmed. “Okay,” he murmured, hooking one hand under Calvin’s knee while Calvin himself took the other. “Deep breath.”
“I’m ready,” Calvin reassured him, and with John guiding, Arthur pushed into him.
This was much better. Though deep down John couldn’t help the little sparks of angry longing, he had to admit, he was enjoying the view: Arthur’s cock swallowed up by a willing body that was splayed before them in worship; Calvin overwhelmed, mouth slack and eyelashes fluttering; the subtle adjustments of hips and spines and moans as two strangers melted together in carnal harmony. He wanted to study every moment and millimeter.
“Yes,” John breathed excitedly. “Fuck, you look so good, Arthur. And so does he, stretched so tight around your cock. Didn’t I tell you?”
Arthur groaned in answer. Calvin looked a little less sure, so John reached between them, gently rubbing his needy hole with more of the lube. Both men hissing with appreciation was just the encouragement he needed; he felt an unexpected stirring of pride in watching the strain fade from Calvin’s brow. Around and around he traced their joined flesh, until Calvin was loose and eager again.
“Keep going,” Calvin panted.
Arthur pulled back and then rocked forward again with unbelievable patience. “Good,” John praised him. “You’re fucking perfect—nice and slow. Let him feel it.” Calvin stretched his free hand down to spread his ass cheeks further. “He wants more of you, Arthur. Fill him up for me.”
“Christ,” Arthur whispered, and he began to move, sliding deeper into Calvin with each steady thrust. Calvin shifted and curled, trying to draw his long legs up higher and wider—surrendering completely with rough sighs. In no time they had found their rhythm, and Arthur pushed his full length into him.
“Oh God,” Calvin moaned, head lolling to the side. “J…John…!”
“Yes,” John hissed in answer. “Yes, feel me.” He gave Calvin’s balls a gentle squeeze as a reward, and savored the man quivering. “Harder, Arthur.”
Arthur hardly needed the encouragement; he gave Calvin a sound pump, and the slap of skin preluding more guttural sounds of pleasure set John ablaze. “Harder,” John said again, digging their foot in the mattress for better leverage. “He’s begging us for it.”
Arthur smacked his lips noisily as he sped up. “Fuck, Cal, you feel good,” he huffed, fingers digging into the underside of Calvin’s knee as he leaned forward. “Say it again.”
“John,” Calvin obliged, his voice a ragged whimper. “John, please…!”
John seethed excitedly. He found that when he pushed with the ball of his foot just right, he could add a bit of extra force to Arthur’s thrusts. The first took Arthur off guard, and he drilled deep into Calvin’s ass with a shudder that was very nearly the end of him. With an eager hum, though, he resumed his pace.
“Oh fuck, I felt that,” he whispered.
“You better have,” John snapped. He clenched his toes against the mattress and timed it again, helping to shove Arthur’s hips forward at just the right moment. The thud of sweaty flesh invigorated him. “Now fuck him, Arthur.”
Arthur continued to mutter curses and sped up again. Together they shoved Calvin harder into the mattress; he gasped and curled and begged with every breath, a sweaty, vibrating mess of passion. John drank it in and felt godly. “Yes, Arthur, fuck him!” he snarled, and he snapped his slick palm around Calvin’s cock. “He’s ours—let’s take him together.”
A sound ground out of Arthur’s throat that John had never heard before—low, and bestial, and the most beautiful thing he had ever heard. He set a fierce pace, and John matched him, pushing that little extra into every thrust and pumping his fist over Calvin’s leaky cock in time. Their cooperation had never felt so raw and so urgent. Poor Calvin could barely contain himself; he gasped and whimpered, tall frame shuddering with pleasure. Over and over he whispered John’s name, and over and over John and Arthur rewarded him, rocking the bedframe into the wall in pounding thuds in their fervor.
“God,” Arthur wheezed, dripping with sweat. “I’m—”
“I know,” said John. He could feel the pressure building, throbbing, just out of his reach. He stroked faster and watched Calvin’s eyes roll back. “He’s close, too—do it, Arthur. Come for me.”
Arthur shuddered; he pushed in flush against Calvin’s ass and came, groaning raggedly through each jerky pulse. John could feel it tingling down into his fingertips, into his cramping toes, and for a moment his vision even rolled out of focus. He blinked it clear just in time to watch Calvin’s climax roll into him—rough and primal, his lips numbly forming John’s name one more time as his heavy cock twitched and gushed. For long seconds the three of them hung suspended, breathless and amazed. John held very still, desperately attuned for whatever stimuli he could draw from each of them.
Then Arthur pulled out. He lowered Calvin’s legs to the mattress and crawled up his body. John blinked, surprised, as Arthur pressed his mouth to Calvin’s in a deep, melty kiss. They were both still reeling, breath hissing messily between their mouths, but Calvin kissed him back anyway. Calvin twisted his arms around Arthur’s back as they shared a few moments of lazy intimacy.
John stayed quiet. He wrapped himself in the rumbly aftershocks of Arthur’s pleasure but couldn’t feel what he felt then—the gentle epilogue to ferocious lovemaking. He couldn’t kiss Arthur like that. He made himself small and let them have it alone.
Once they had caught their breath somewhat, Arthur propped himself up on his elbow. “You all right?” he asked, rubbing Calvin’s chest. “I got a little carried away there.”
“I’ll be feeling it in the morning, I’m sure,” Calvin replied, but then his lips quirked in a smile. “Thanks.”
“You’re more than welcome.”
They shared another kiss, and then with a groan Calvin started to push himself up. “Mind if I borrow your bathroom?”
“By all means,” said Arthur.
Calvin didn’t make it upright on his first try; his knees wobbled, and he thumped back onto the mattress. The two of them laughed—Arthur sounded so good then, so charming, taking John's breath away. Then Calvin managed to propel himself upright and into the bathroom.
As soon as they were alone, Arthur collapsed onto his back with a long sigh. “John?”
“Arthur,” John replied. He felt strangely disembodied and didn’t know where to begin. “Are you all right?”
“More than,” said Arthur, and he chuckled breathlessly some more. “Jesus, that was…” He reached across their body to lightly scratch the back of John’s hand. “What about you? How was it?”
“It was…” John had no idea how to describe it. He tried to push aside those last moments of disappointment to focus on the moments beforehand: the fiery, all-consuming hunger that had bound them so tightly. “I enjoyed that. I was really impressed by how well you took care of him—like you knew him already.”
Arthur scoffed quietly. “Just comes with experience, I guess.” He gave the back of John’s wrist a playful pinch. “You promised.”
John grumbled. “Why did you give him my name?”
“Oh.” Arthur shifted against the mattress. “I thought it might help you feel more included, that’s all. Sorry—I should have asked you first.”
“No, it’s all right.” John thought back to Calvin moaning his name and shivered. “I, um. I liked that. It helped a lot.”
“Yeah?” Arthur hummed with relief. “I’m glad. I was really impressed with you, too, John.” He rubbed his thumb back and forth against the spot he’d pinched as if in apology. “I thought it might be distracting, but having you talking through it like that really turned me on.”
John perked up. “You’re just saying that so I’ll agree to this again.”
“No, I mean it!” Arthur sighed, and John had to admit, he sounded sincerely enamored. “Don’t get a big head or anything, but sometimes that voice of yours… It hits just right.”
“Well. It was my pleasure.” John stretched their fingers. “Will you kiss me?”
“Mm?” Arthur took his hand, but then he stopped. “Ah, after we’ve had our turn in the bathroom,” he said. “I know where you’ve been.”
“Hmph. Fair enough.”
Calvin emerged shortly afterward. His cheeks were still flushed, and as exhausted as he looked, there was also something extra in his eyes as he sat down on the edge of the mattress. “Looks like he has something to say,” John related. “Careful, Arthur.”
Arthur propped himself up on one elbow. “Calvin?”
“John.” Calvin fixed him with that wistful, nostalgic smile John had noted earlier. “Look, I’m not young. I know what this was.” He rubbed a hand over his short hair bashfully. “But I just wanted to say…thank you.”
“You don’t have to thank me,” Arthur replied easily. “I got just as much out of it as you did, and I’ll be half as sore.”
Calvin chuckled, and John was convinced, then—someone had loved this man, deeply. Someone who had adored that sweet laughter. “Thanks for that, too,” he insisted. “The truth is, tonight was the first time I’ve really been ‘out’ since…” His eyes darted away briefly, indulging in some painful memory. “Anyway, I saw you casing the bar. And it felt really good that you walked up to me when you had plenty of options. I really needed this.”
Arthur hesitated, licking his lips. They’d been together too long for John to miss what was on his mind. He watched the subtle embarrassment and elation in Calvin’s face and knew what Arthur would say, if only he could see it too. “Ask him to stay, Arthur.”
Arthur sat up, but slowly. “I mean it,” John reassured him. “It’s okay—tell him to stay.”
Relief palpable, Arthur leaned into Calvin’s side. “Calvin, I’m leaving town in the morning,” he said. “But do you want to spend the night here?”
Calvin eyed him with the same mix of hope and suspicion John had felt moments ago. “You don’t have to say that.”
“I mean it.” Arthur pressed a kiss to Calvin’s shoulder. “Honestly, I…I know exactly what you’re going through,” he said, with a sincerity that had John aching. “I’ve been there. And it’s okay, if you stay. It’s okay that you’re here.”
Calvin’s expression briefly crumbled, and he leaned in for a proper kiss from Arthur’s lips. Arthur granted it, gently cupping his face. John stayed still. It was a strange sensation, to want to know what grief felt like.
“Tuck in,” Arthur said lightly once the kiss had run out. He turned off the bedside lamp. “I’ll be right back.”
“Thank you,” said Calvin, emotion in his face and voice that John wouldn’t need to relay.
Arthur slipped out of bed and moved them into the bathroom. After a piss and a quick wipe down, he scrubbed their hands in the sink, taking good care even under John’s fingernails. “You’re really okay with this?” he whispered. “We agreed ahead of time, no sleepovers.”
“I’m okay with this,” John reassured him. “It’s just for the night, and it looks like he needs it.” He hesitated and then added, “So do you.”
“Forget that part.” John took a breath. “I just want to hear you admit that I have good taste.”
Arthur chuckled quietly as he dried their hands off on a towel. “You do,” he said, and he pulled John’s hand up to his mouth.
He kissed the inside of his palm—tenderly, earnestly, and John shivered at the touch of gentle lips. When he cupped the back of his hand and hummed, the subtle reverberations spread beneath John's skin. John curled their fingers, enjoying the rare expression of affection. After all the hunting and fondling and fucking, this was the pleasure he felt the most clearly.
“You’re a good sport, John,” Arthur murmured against him. “Thank you.” John mumbled a wordless reply and they returned to the main room.
Calvin had stripped the top blanket and slipped between the sheets. Arthur wasted no time in joining him. Without word or hesitation Calvin wrapped them up, drew them to his chest as if obeying instinct. Arthur seemed surprised at first, but he didn’t resist; he relaxed bonelessly into Calvin’s embrace, even tucked his nose up under his chin. In all likelihood Calvin was pretending they were someone else, but that was fine: John was, too.
He pressed his palm flat to Calvin’s chest and pretended it was Arthur. He pretended he was small, and weary from passion, and Arthur was the one holding him so protectively. He never would have admitted it, but he took a great deal of comfort from that fantasy. Maybe someday, he could writhe beneath his partner until they were spent, only to fall asleep in each other’s arms, just like this.