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I will Not Feel Guilty

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“Are you really going through with this?”

Calvin took a deep breath and looked around the bar. He couldn’t blame his companion for being doubtful; it was fairly rare that he even ventured into establishments like this, let alone with the goal he had spent all day talking himself into. It was getting late; the respectable clientele had taken their leave, and the rest were mostly slinking off in pairs. He’d already stuck around long enough to broadcast his intentions to everyone left. The thought was as intimidating as it was exhilarating.

Have you ever known me to not go through with something, once I said I’d do it? he thought.

The entity inside him hummed. They did that fairly often, in fact—always droning just below his surface. Sometimes their voice rippled like deep water, sometimes it hissed like a night wind through tall trees. Sometimes it thundered. But it was always with him, not a white noise but a black one, evoking dark alleys, ancient forests, moonless skies. The void personified, and his loathsome savior.

“No, we haven’t,” admitted Tenebrosum, audible only to him, thank goodness. He counted himself lucky for that small favor just about every day. “You are singularly tenacious, for a human.”

You don’t know any other humans that well, Calvin reminded them, though he then tried to smother a pang of nostalgia before his passenger could pick up on it. If you did, I don’t think you’d find me that special.

“Well, we’re about to know at least one more very well.” Tenebrosum hummed again, their interest a bit too keen for Calvin’s liking. “In the Biblical sense, you may have called it?”

Calvin could feel their curiosity coiling serpent-like in his belly. It threatened his resolve—it was dangerous letting himself get even this close to another person, with Tenebrosum’s enthusiasm so obvious and so untrustworthy. Despite their alliance, he was well aware of what his passenger was capable of, and how selfish it was of him to expose them to anyone else. Maybe their recent series of victories against the forces of the other planes had given him a false sense of confidence. Maybe this was a mistake.

“What about that lanky one in the corner?” suggested Tenebrosum.

Calvin looked. A tall man with a sullen face and long eyelashes had both hands wrapped around his glass. It stirred an immediate, protective sympathy in him, though a moment later he flushed, unnerved to realize that Tenebrosum had latched onto his preferences so easily. No, he couldn’t threaten someone who already looked so delicate with his curse, even if he had trusted Tenebrosum’s ability to play nice.

“No,” he said aloud, and he took a sip from his whiskey.

Tenebrosum purred with amusement. “We are not interested in harming any humans tonight,” they reassured him, but so smugly as to offer no actual reassurance at all. “We are very interested in engaging in relations with one. As are you.” Their voice lowered to a rumble. “We both enjoyed it so much the other night—your personal intimacy, that is. We’re more curious than ever as to what it will be like with another party involved.”

Calvin swallowed, the heat in his cheeks growing hotter still. That ill-advised experiment, which had been intended to release some tension, had only planted a seed in him. He hadn’t anticipated how it would feel, to allow himself even a few moments of selfish pleasure after years of isolation, let alone doing so under the watchful eyes of an immortal omniscience. And he certainly couldn’t deny that it had sparked something inside him that he was just foolishly optimistic enough to want to indulge in again. He took another drink.

Even so, not him, Calvin insisted.

“Very well. The larger one in the next booth over, then?”

Calvin looked again, and his heart gave a heavy thump at the broad-shouldered mass Tenebrosum was referring to. The man’s heavy brow and square chin looked as if they’d been carved from granite, rife with scars, and his thighs were thick as maples. Calvin had never been with a man like that and his imagination stuttered to a halt.

“A fine specimen,” Tenebrosum said sagely. “And as far removed from your beloved João as one can come, no? What would he think, we wonder, to see you with such a man?”

As familiar as Calvin was with the entity’s stinging barbs, it caught him off guard—hooked under his ribs. We agreed you wouldn’t bring him up tonight.

“It’s a conundrum, you might say,” Tenebrosum continued, unconcerned. “Your first lover since losing the only man you have ever loved, who very well might have defined attraction itself for you. Now, if you pick one too similar, are you clinging to an absent past?” They hummed some more. “One too distant, and are you trying to erase your memory of him?”

No, Calvin retorted quickly. That’s not what this is about.

“You said you were ready to forget?”

Calvin grimaced. I did not say that.

“Ah, yes. We are mistaken.” Tenebrosum chuckled. “You will forgive us for our memory not being infallible.”

I know what you’re doing, Calvin thought, determinedly keeping his breath calm and even. You want me to back out so you can call me a coward.

“On the contrary. As we said, we are very interested in this liaison. We reference João as part of a different line of curiosity.” Their voice gentled, and for a moment, Calvin could almost believe they were being sincere. “It was not so long ago you insisted you had no interest in taking a partner. ‘Not ready’ you may have said. Now, nothing has changed, but here we are.”

Calvin frowned down at his glass. Was he a fool to take Tenebrosum seriously? I don’t know how to explain it to you, he thought, meaning it. You’re a piece of a whole but you’re not incomplete, like I am. You’ve never lost something, or someone. He took another deep breath. And you’ve never had to pick yourself back up afterward. He and I promised each other once, that if anything happened to one of us, we would want the other to move on and be happy. I wasn’t ready to even contemplate that before, but I am now. I don’t know why exactly. That’s all I can say.

Tenebrosum considered that for a while. With them silent, Calvin took the opportunity to scan the bar again. There were still several others about, of various builds and demeanors, and he tried to put his passenger’s goading out of his mind. If no one caught his eye, they could simply move on, or try another night. That wouldn’t make him a coward. He was ready.

João would understand, he thought, not intending it for Tenebrosum but there was no avoiding that. He would encourage me to be here. He sighed as he watched another pair make their way toward the exit. Whether anyone will be interested is a whole other question.

His gaze landed on a man at the bar itself, perched on one of the stools. He was fairly slender, brown hair threaded with a few wisps of gray. As the man turned his head to survey the room, Calvin was granted a look at his profile. Though his angular features were by no means unattractive, it was the stranger’s eye that gripped Calvin’s immediate attention: a bright, almost unnatural shade of golden yellow that stood out even from across the room.

“Hmm?” Tenebrosum resumed. “A different option?”

Calvin shushed him. As he continued to watch, the stranger leaned back and turned his head further, making a slow pan just as they had been doing. As those striking eyes drew closer, Calvin felt his heart begin to pound, as if something might truly happen when they reached him. The time to test his commitment was at hand.

The stranger looked at him; he sat up straighter in his booth without thinking, feeling a little too much like a puppy in a shop window. But it had been a long damn time since he had sought someone’s eyes across a room like this, and he couldn’t help the shiver of boyish anticipation that tickled him then. Just when he expected the stranger to move on to some other, less weathered option, he stayed.

“He’s staring at us,” said Tenebrosum, intrigued. “What do you think?”

Calvin didn’t have time to answer; the stranger was already downing the rest of his drink, sliding off his stool. He swallowed hard as a bolt of terror and triumph shot through him, and he fought to relax his posture, to save at least a little of his pride. Oh wow, am I really going through with this? he couldn’t help but think as the man approached. He’s really coming over here? There was something almost hypnotizing about those brilliant, yellow eyes of his, which were trained on him with such strict evaluation as to be intimidating. Despite his relatively uninspiring stature, Calvin could sense easily this was not someone to be fucked with in any other venue.

And yet, when the stranger reached him, a smile curled his lips that was so effortless, so genuine that it softened every edge, replacing any coldness with easy charm. Oh he was handsome when he smiled. Calvin hadn’t been on the receiving end of a smile like that in a long time; his breath caught, and he was even barely aware of his tongue darting across his lips. That a man like this would seek out him

“Hello, there,” the man greeted pleasantly. “Can I offer you a drink?”

Calvin smiled back, excited and terrified and hoping neither of those things showed too blatantly in his face. He was surprised that Tenebrosum wasn’t mocking him already. “I just finished mine,” he said, trying to think of what someone calmer than him would say. “And it’s a little too close to closing time for a fresh one.”

Without missing a beat, the man took a step back and replied, “In that case, can I offer you a room?”

Tenebrosum remained quiet. Though curious as to his passenger’s sudden reticence, Calvin didn’t have time to wonder; the stranger needed an answer. Steeling himself, he stood from the booth.

Can I really do this? he thought, but when his chosen partner gazed up at him through his lashes, the faintest moment of vulnerability shown through those shining eyes of his, and Calvin felt fresh, eager warmth bloom in his chest. Maybe this stranger was a little rusty, too, he thought. It soothed his apprehension, leaving only the anticipation, the nibbling hunger that had spurred him here in the first place.

“I’d like that,” he said.

“Glad to hear it,” the man replied, all confidence again. “Let’s get out of here.”

He led the way out. Calvin followed, taking the last moments he had to encourage himself. It’s just one night, he thought. He wants this, you want this. You’re ready. Just relax—enjoy it.

They reached the foot of the stairs that led to the motel on the second floor and started up. At last, Tenebrosum chose to speak up. “There’s something strange about this man.”

You mean the eyes? Calvin assumed. They’re certainly attention-grabbing.

“He’s talking to himself,” Tenebrosum said thoughtfully. “We can hear his internal monologue.”

Calvin frowned. You’ve always said I’m the only one whose thoughts you could read.

“You were, until now.” Calvin felt the thing in him shift, like an ear cocked to listen. “He’s narrating everything as we do it. Counting the steps, even. Maybe he is trying to encourage himself? The way he thinks is nothing like how he speaks aloud.”

Calvin thought about that tiny flash down in the bar, when the man had lifted his gaze shyly to meet his. Once they reached the top of the stairs, he picked up his pace just enough to put them side by side. It’s okay, he thought, brushing the back of the man’s hand with gentle knuckles. I’ll take care of you.

The hand pressed to his grew tense. So, despite his air of confidence, he really was just as nervous, wasn’t he? Calvin waited, and when he felt the man stretch gingerly in answer, he threaded their fingers together. The hesitant squeeze he received gave him everything he needed.

“He has a piece of wood in place of one of his fingers,” murmured Tenebrous. “Curious.”

Calvin could feel the prosthetic just fine, and he was careful not to call attention to it with any movement of his own fingers. That’s none of our business.

The man cocked his head. “What should I call you?”

“My name is—”

“He said call you,” Tenebrosum interrupted. “You’re going to give him your real name?”

Calvin stuttered, embarrassed—of course someone would want to use a pseudonym in a place like this. But he couldn’t think of anything fast enough, and he cleared his throat. “You can call me Calvin. Or Cal, if you want.”

“John,” the man replied, and Calvin’s heart skipped at the too-familiar name. “You can call me John.”

Calm down, Calvin told himself. It’s the most obvious fake name a man could give. But there was no helping the rush of heartbroken nostalgia that tightened his throat. “John,” he repeated. He hadn’t come close to saying João’s name aloud for so long that it sounded like forbidden lore on his tongue. “Nice to meet you.”

“You, too.”

“That’s not what he calls himself,” whispered Tenebrosum.

Of course it’s not, you’re the one who just— Calvin gripped “John’s” hand tighter as they slowed at one of the doors. I don’t need to know. I’ll call him John.

John unlocked the door and let them in. Even just seeing the bed that awaited them sent flickers of arousal cascading down into Calvin’s groin, as if his body had finally caught up to the position he was in. He tugged John to him, wetting his lips in anticipation for this moment he’d denied himself for so long. He took John’s face in both hands and kissed him.

God, he had missed this. At the first touch of another’s mouth Calvin couldn’t help the tiny moan that rose at the back of his throat. John rose up on his toes to meet him with perfect eagerness, and immediately Calvin deepened their kiss, tongue gliding deftly past his lips. He had always loved this part—the simple intimacy of a kiss—but he was hungry for it now, having been starved of affection so long. Feeling John sway into his body, warm and receptive, flipped every dusty switch he had.

“Ahh, this is new,” Tenebrosum murmured, their voice vibrating behind Calvin’s ribs. “We like this.”

Calvin’s lips tingled. He could feel Tenebrosum’s wispy tendrils diffusing throughout him, dribbling into his fingers and toes as if they were just as thirsty for every blessed stimulus. Feeling that shadow overlapping him so thoroughly, watching his every move and partaking of his every sensation, nurtured that little seed in his belly. Was there even a chance of him impressing the void itself? Suddenly he was desperate to find out.

He felt a hint of guilt for John’s sake, unwitting participant to this unorthodox experiment, but the clench of fingers in his shirt helped sear that away. John was all but clinging to him, spurring his confidence to where it needed to be.

John broke the kiss with a quiet gasp. His eyes were heavy and brilliant in the dark room. “Keep going,” he whispered.

Calvin chuckled breathlessly. “Of course—I’ve barely started.”

He drew John in again. Every instinct returned to him in a rush of relieved excitement as he cradled John in his hands and sucked kiss after delicious kiss from his mouth. He could have stayed there all night.

Tenebrosum made a quiet sound of confusion. “‘Us’?”

Calvin hummed in reply. Yes, us, he thought, scraping his nails lightly against John’s scalp; he made such a beautiful sound in response. You can feel all this, can’t you?

“No, he… hmm. Yes.” Tenebrosum chuckled, their tone concerningly smug again. “Yes, we feel it. And so does he.”

The reminder that Tenebrosum could hear the man’s thoughts rattled Calvin just slightly; with that minor lapse, John slipped out of his hands and leaned back. His eyes sparked with defiance as he took hold of Calvin’s belt and stepped back; he gave a sharp tug.

Calvin’s breath caught and tangled in his throat. “He thinks he’s in charge here,” Tenebrosum hissed in his ear, which only lit a match under the intrigue roused by that display. “He wants you to roll over for him, Calvin. To be at his mercy.”

Though he should have known better, Calvin couldn’t help his curiosity. Is that really what he’s thinking? he asked, letting John pull him, step by step, toward the bed. He reached for him, wanting the warm body under his hands again, but John gave his belt another yank; a pulse of arousal stuttered down into his hips, and he swallowed. He lowered his hands again.

“Yes,” purred Tenebrosum, their voice lower and deeper than Calvin was used to, as if it were echoing out of his bones. “Yes, he wants you meek and obedient. Will you give that to him, Calvin?”

When they reached the bed, John drew them together for another kiss. Gone was any hint of the hesitation Calvin had detected earlier; despite being taller than the man, he felt as if John were towering over him. Then John’s hands were on his shirt, flicking the buttons open one by one with an infectious urgency. Not wanting to be completely overwhelmed by a faster pace than he was used to, Calvin steeled his nerves and reached boldly for his belt.

“Yes,” Tenebrosum continued to encourage him as he slipped the leather out of the buckle. He touched John every chance he could, rubbing the backs of his fingers against his stomach and hips. “Oh, yes, feel him shiver. Let us touch him, Calvin—he’s begging to be touched.”

God, how long it had been—how much time he’d spent thinking he’d never have the chance again to be desired like this. Calvin pressed his palm to John’s stomach and glided down. He felt a breathless curse against his mouth, and his own cock gave an eager throb as just the tips of his fingers groped over John’s. But then John snatched his wrist and urged it back.

His bright eyes glinted almost dangerously. “Not yet.”

Calvin gulped again. His already sprinting heart thudded as Tenebrosum murmured excitedly all through him. “Ohh, Calvin,” they teased, a sultriness to their voice that he wasn’t prepared for. His cheeks felt so hot he may as well have been feverish. “You liked that, didn’t you? We liked it, too. We can’t wait to feel what he has in store for us.”

Calvin shivered and licked his lips as he watched John unfasten his belt and fly. John’s intentions for the evening were suddenly very clear, and he realized that it hadn’t fully occurred to him he might be expected to take this role. With João he had almost always—very happily—assumed the lead, but even that had been years. And now… “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’s gaze flicked back up to his, and Calvin felt a brief chill, as if he was about to be judged too inexperienced or too hesitant. So much for that tentative hand-holding from moments ago, he thought. But then John’s expression softened again with that charming smile.

“It’s okay,” John said, and he rose up on his toes for a quick, reassuring kiss. “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 smiled back, unable to hide his relief. “Really?”

“Really.” He nudged his fingertips beneath the waistband of Calvin’s drawers. “Seems to me like you know exactly what you want.”

“Yessss,” Tenebrosum hissed excitedly. “Yes, touch us!”

John reached deeper to squeeze his cock. Calvin hissed almost as ferociously as the entity inside him, quickly growing fully hard beneath the long, warm fingers. Almost involuntarily he pressed his mouth to John’s again, hungry to pair arousal with the intimacy he craved. As John stroked he could feel Tenebrosum churning and rumbling inside him, like a contented beast with a delicious meal, heightening the already intoxicating contact. The thought that he was sharing in a god’s first real moments of carnal pleasure took his breath away.

Yes,” Tenebrosum groaned as John leaned in eagerly to each of Calvin’s tongue-sucking kisses. “Yes, oh yes, that sounds delightful.”

What? What’s he thinking? Calvin asked, only to be immediately distracted by John’s delivering a long, thought-erasing squeeze to his by now desperate erection. His cock almost seemed to vibrate, as if Tenebrosum were in turn stroking it from the inside, and an embarrassing whimper snuck out of him as his hips jutted forward.

John shoved Calvin’s pants down and reached behind him; without hesitation he slid two fingers down between his ass cheeks to massage his hole. Though he should have been expecting it, Calvin flinched and gasped, startled by the fresh heat flooding through him. He wanted this, far more than he’d anticipated; already his feet were inching apart in welcome.

“You want this, right?” John murmured, his tongue flicking against the curve of his throat. He rubbed Calvin’s asshole, tenderly compared to the long strokes his other hand was delivering to his cock.

“He wants to bend you over,” Tenebrosum whispered. “Fold you in half and fuck you.”

“Y-Yes,” Calvin whispered, caught off guard by Tenebrosum’s uncharacteristic vulgarity as much as the exhilarating image. Did you just cuss? he thought, only for those thoughts to be seared away when John groped his balls. He sucked in a hard breath through his teeth. “Yes.”

“Good.” John pulled both hands back; Calvin bit back a whine at the deprivation. His little smirk was nearly as arousing as his clever fingers as he delivered a playful smack to Calvin’s ass cheek. “On the bed.”

Calvin didn’t need to be told twice; he stripped down and thumped on the bed. As he watched John undress, his gaze was drawn to a number of unusual scars across his chest and stomach. His own ached in sympathy. He’s been through almost as much as we have, he thought.

“We feel so warm,” Tenebrosum murmured as if drunk, and Calvin certainly felt it, too, distracting him from John’s body. His stomach even fluttered with an unexpected fondness for his shadowy passenger and their earnest reactions. Whatever he had imagined Tenebrosum would be like during this encounter, it certainly wasn’t this. “Our skin—it tingles. We hunger, Calvin. It feels so—so tight, so much pressure, so—”

Hard? Calvin thought, swallowing as he watched John retrieve a condom and lube from the bedside table. He accepted the condom in sweaty fingers; he hadn’t been this hard in years.

Yes.” Tenebrosum seemed to sink then, like heated syrup pooling in his abdomen and hips. “Yes, so much harder than the last time. Please touch it, like you did before—oh please, touch us—give us more!”

Calvin clenched his jaws against an uncharacteristic curse of his own. As tempted as he was to do as asked, John’s gaze sliding to him in the dim light stirred his cock even more so. To defy Tenebrosum by submitting to this stranger gave him a strange thrill, and he waited, his heart pounding.

John crawled onto the bed. On his knees he pulled Calvin into another series of long kisses while Tenebrosum whined and sloshed. Now positioned as the shorter of the two, Calvin fully expected to be forced down, rolled over, and he was ready—so ready he almost unraveled. But when John pushed, it was gently. With quiet confidence he pressed one palm to Calvin’s chest and leaned into him. No fake bravado, no immature haste—just steady, dominant guidance. Calvin had never been on the receiving end of an energy like quite like it, and arousal sang through his every fiber. He resisted a little, just to make it last. Inch by inch, John bore down on him between kisses, both tender and unrelenting at once, until Calvin’s back was to the bed.

I’m in charge tonight, John seemed to say in his last, heavy kiss. You can let go. And maybe it was just what Calvin hoped he was saying, but the message rolled through him either way, a pang of emotion close behind. When was the last time he had allowed himself to submit to anyone like this? Not since even before Tenebrosum? For so long he hadn’t been able to drop his guard, not even for a moment, but now the Infinite Darkness inside him was purring like a tamed cat. Maybe, just for tonight, he could be this reckless and this selfish.

“Oh yes, he’s so good,” Tenebrosum murmured, distant, as if speaking to someone else entirely. “Take us, take us, we want to feel everything.”

John straightened up on his knees, licking his lips. Calvin couldn’t take his eyes off him; all out of hesitation or embarrassment, he let his thighs fall open in welcome. He could feel Tenebrosum tingling within his hips in anticipation, whispering, “Please, please, touch us—fuck us—please—”

Calvin’s breath caught as he watched John unscrewing the bottle of lubricant. If only he knew a god was begging for him, he thought. He trailed his fingertips over the tops of John’s thighs, crawling up toward his groin. Would he behave any differently?

Touch him,” Tenebrosum hissed with sudden vehemence. “Let us torture him, too!”

But John swatted Calvin’s hands back before he could grab his cock. “Not yet,” he said. “But soon.”

“No! Now!” Tenebrosum ranted, and Calvin couldn’t help but chuckle, aroused and amused by his two partners. The thought of getting to tease Tenebrosum for this later was mystifying. But as he heard the lid come off the jar, he sobered a little.

I haven’t played catcher for someone in a long time, he thought, unsure if he was warning Tenebrosum or trying to work himself up to it. It’s probably going to feel strange for you.

“More than you know,” Tenebrosum replied, and Calvin had no idea what that meant, but by then John was humming, drawing his attention back.

“You said it’s been a while?” John said, nudging the underside of Calvin’s thigh as he drew two fingers closer, slick with lube. “I’ll go slow.”

“Don’t worry about me,” Calvin replied, drawing his knees up. “I can take it.”

Tenebrosum laughed huskily. “We’ve always liked this about you. Always more confidence on display than you feel. Good, good. Don’t give him any reason to restrain himself.”

John pressed two fingertips to Calvin’s asshole; Calvin couldn’t help but flinch at the first touch, and he spared a moment for thankfulness that he’d thoroughly showered before going down to the bar. He spared another, more profound moment for gratitude when John stayed true to his word: he massaged for a moment first, letting the jelly warm between their skin, before easing in with just one finger. It really had been a long time, and Calvin let slip a low hiss as he struggled to adjust.

Tenebrosum growled as if in reply. Calvin could still feel them most intensely down in his hips, as if the beast were clenching into a fist around John’s finger. “Mmnn, it’s so tight,” they mumbled while John softly groaned and began working his digit in and out. “He likes it—he wants you—he’s not sure he’ll fit.”

Calvin’s stomach fluttered with a sensation like butterflies. Relax, or you won’t be walking tomorrow, he told himself, licking his lips. It shouldn’t have been so exhilarating to contemplate. When John made a quiet sound of eagerness, wanting him so badly but still taking the time to pamper, Calvin’s heart melted.

“Relax, Cal,” John murmured. “I’m going to take care of you.” He slid a second finger into him.

It was getting easier; Calvin tipped his head back and moaned as the tension eased into genuine pleasure. Yes, he remembered this—the burn and the stretch, tunneling deeper, until it all unfurled. As John crooked his fingertips, Calvin surrendered, letting the long-overdue sensation stir him. It only took a gentle stroke to send beads of precum dribbling from his heavy cock.

I’ve missed this, he thought, for a moment forgetting that the delicious vibrations in his pelvis were anything other than his own excitement. Oh god, I’ve missed you. He let out a long, throaty sigh. “Please, John…”

John hesitated—had that been too much? Had he read his thoughts somehow, just like Tenebrosum? But then he resumed; pumping his fingers slowly, plying and urging. Calvin whimpered, relieved to feel his body adapting. What had only moments ago felt like an intrusion was already not enough, and he gripped the undersides of his knees tighter.

“Oh, Calvin,” Tenebrosum murmured, throwing him even further out of his proper wits. They sounded absolutely enraptured. “It feels good—it feels so good. We want more of them inside us!”

“Good, Cal,” said John, and he gave Calvin’s balls a squeeze, as if bestowing a reward. It shot fresh heat up Calvin’s spine and he drew momentarily tight around John’s fingers. But with only a few clever movements, John had loosened him up again.

“You feel so good already,” John continued. “Are you ready for me?”

“Yes!” Tenebrosum crowed, and Calvin felt them draw tighter, too. “Yes—tell him yes!”

“Yes,” Calvin gasped out. He tore open the condom wrapper. “Can I?”

John considered for a long moment—long enough that Tenebrosum began to growl impatiently. Calvin met his gaze, letting the heat of those beautiful eyes draw his own anticipation to a nearly unbearable peak. At last, John freed his hand and rose up on his knees.

“Please,” he said.

Calvin wasted no time, immediately grabbing up John’s hard cock. As willing and eager as he was to follow the man’s lead, he wanted suddenly to prove that he would have been just as happy—and adept at—controlling the pace himself. Feeling John’s hips rock into his grip, seeing his eyelashes bat, was the perfect refresher to his confidence. He squeezed John at the root and drew a long, firm stroke up and over his head.

“Mm, keep that up and you’re gonna make me come,” John warned.

“Do it,” Tenebrosum snapped immediately; Calvin’s palm tingled, as if the darkness had flooded straight into his hand in the hopes of guiding it. “Keep going—make him beg.”

Calvin chuckled and let John go. You’re the one who’s been begging, he teased as he finished unwrapping the condom. He spread the rubber down over John’s straining erection, and as a further taunt to them both, gave it another long, luxurious squeeze.

John gasped, and he quickly urged Calvin’s hand away. After slicking his cock with more of the lube, he hooked his right hand under Calvin’s knee; Calvin relinquished it to him, while keeping his grip on the other.

“Okay,” John murmured. “Deep breath.”

“I’m ready,” Calvin reassured him, but he did indeed take a huge breath of air to brace himself.

John pushed into him. As much as the foreplay and preparation had helped, Calvin still found himself momentarily overwhelmed. Tenebrosum’s warning he’s not sure he’ll fit ran through his head as his ass stretched to accommodate. Relax, he told himself, carefully shifting his hips and back as John groaned overhead. But Tenebrosum was rumbling then, their ethereal voice a near threatening growl at what to them must have been an unexpected pain.

Calvin sucked in another deep breath. Easy, Escuridão, he thought. Being able to focus his concern on another had always centered him like nothing else, and he latched onto his partner then. It’ll get better—just relax.

Tenebrosum continued to grumble their displeasure, but then John reached between their bodies. With two fingers freshly lubed he massaged Calvin’s stretched hole, gently encouraging. Calvin hissed, appreciating the sentiment even more than the efforts. Tenebrosum’s muttering gradually became encouraging again, and as that tension loosened, Calvin was finally able to ease himself as well.

Getting better? he asked Tenebrosum.

“Yes,” Tenebrosum admitted, uncoiling.

Calvin sighed with elation. “Keep going,” he said.

John pulled back, and the relief had Calvin’s eyelids fluttering. When he rocked forward again, it was slowly, with such attention being paid to his partner that again Calvin felt an overabundance of affection. Let him take care of you, he thought, and he sank deeper into the mattress, determined to trust and partake. Once he was sure he was ready, he reached down with his free hand to draw his ass cheeks open in welcome.

John whispered a curse and took the invitation; he began to build a slow rhythm, still ever patient but pushing in deeper each time. Calvin continued to make slight adjustments to their position until he felt himself fall into place, and suddenly it all made sense again. He let the strain fade in favor of pleasure—John’s long cock stroking his insides, filling him up as he hadn’t experienced in so long. Even Tenebrosum had come back around and was panting excitedly. Was that them, thrumming all throughout his hips and groin? Was an ancient immortal really smothering any lingering discomfort with warm tendrils of dark magic? He didn’t know and didn’t care in that moment, because it was working: he at last relaxed enough that John was able to thrust fully into him, planting heat and arousal so deep he worried he might finish on the spot.

“Oh god,” Calvin moaned, and his mouth sought familiar syllables. “J…John…!”

John gave his balls another gentle squeeze—more warning than reward this time, as he then gave a sharp thrust of his hips that had Calvin seeing stars. It drew a ragged groan from his throat that startled even him, and Tenebrosum positively seethed.

More,” Tenebrosum demanded. “More, deeper, please—”

“Fuck, Cal, you feel good,” John huffed. He pushed Calvin’s knees higher and sped up. “Say it again.”

“John,” Calvin moaned at once. “John, please…!”

John answered almost too enthusiastically; he thrust in deep, skin slapping against skin, hard enough that Calvin could have sworn his teeth rattled. Tenebrosum moaned, twisting and tightening around Calvin's joints as if they were wary of being shook free from their host entirely. Even John himself whispered some curse as if caught off guard. The thought that he had drawn such passion out of this stranger had Calvin tingling, and he murmured encouragingly.

John resumed, faster than before and just as forceful. “Oh, fuck,” he uttered, shoving Calvin into the mattress with each heavy pump of his hips; Calvin drew his knees tighter, suddenly the most flexible he’d been in years as he invited John’s cock again and again. The bedframe creaked with complaint. Calvin whined along with it, not entirely certain of what words might be coming out of his mouth then. Sweat drenched his fiery skin and jolts of pleasure coursed out from his core and he wanted more, wanted it to last for hours.

Then John wrapped his hand around his cock. The sweaty palm squeezing more drops of precum across his stomach shook him, even more so when Tenebrosum snarled in response. The rippling voice of the abyss tumbled through him, fierce but formless, as if they were too at the mercy of carnal instinct to shape it to words. Calvin understood all the same—Tenebrosum’s possessive fury he had experienced plenty, and this time, it fueled him.

“Please, John…!” he whimpered; John fucked him harder, and Tenebrosum howled, begging along with Calvin even as they bristled defiantly. Calvin had the sudden impression that he was trapped between the two of them, helpless to do anything but accept John’s pounding cock and his partner’s scintillating reverberations. It felt good, so good to let go and be at their mercy, to take and shiver and moan with abandon. To ride out every mounting ounce of brilliant pressure, until his throat felt raw and his muscles aching.

John bore into him one last time and shook, hips jerking with release; feeling his partner overwhelmed, hearing his ragged cry of pleasure, pushed Calvin over the edge every bit as much as a well-timed stroke to his cock. He arched and quaked as his climax washed over him in a torrent. “J-John,” he whispered as pulse after pulse gushed across his stomach. He felt breathless, floaty—suspended on clouds of long-awaited euphoria.

“Calvin…” Tenebrosum murmured, their voice croaking shakily as if barely able to contain itself in human language. They seemed diffused, flowing through Calvin’s weary limbs like a cool mist. “Calvin, Calvin…”

John pulled back. He lowered Calvin’s legs—Calvin immediately collapsed into a boneless pile of mush. As he fought to regain his breath and wits, John crawled up his body and kissed him.

And it was perfect. Calvin kissed him back immediately, winding his arms around John’s back and holding him tight. For a few minutes as their lips clumsily met, he felt almost normal. Passion, affection, welcomed exhaustion—things he had, for so long, thought could never be his again. He pressed his gratitude into John’s mouth and shivered happily.

At last, John leaned back to prop himself up on his elbow. “You all right?” he asked. His brow quirked with apology as he rubbed Calvin’s chest. “I got a little carried away there.”

“I’ll be feeling it in the morning, I’m sure.” Calvin stretched experimentally and had to swallow a wince, but even that couldn’t damper his mood. He smiled. “Thanks.”

John smiled, too. “You’re more than welcome.”

Calvin pulled him back for another kiss. He wanted to draw it out longer, but when he realized how quiet Tenebrosum had become, he leaned back. With a groan he sat up. “Mind if I borrow your bathroom?” he asked.

“By all means.”

Calvin swung his feet off the bed, but when he tried to stand, his knees were having none of it. An ache spread through him from his hips to his toes and his muscles became jelly, depositing him back onto the bed. He laughed, and so did John. It took him gripping the bedpost to shove him onto his feet, and with a deep breath he stumbled into the bathroom.

The running water was blissful. Calvin took a long drink straight from the tap and then splashed his face. He could still feel Tenebrosum swirling beneath his skin, but their continued silence began to put him on edge. Are you all right?

“Hmm?” Tenebrosum at last coalesced, warming Calvin with their familiar humming. “We’re listening.”

To John? Calvin winced as he wet a rag to begin cleaning himself up a bit. If he’s disappointed, I don’t want to hear it.

“He’s not,” Tenebrosum reassured him easily, and his focus shifted. “Are you disappointed, Calvin?”

Calvin gave a huff as he re-wet the rag and reached between his legs; he had to grip the edge of the sink with his other hand to keep his balance, as shifting his feet further apart put the weakness back in his knees. Not hardly! That was incredible. He hissed quietly as he mopped up between his ass cheeks. A little rusty, but that was a lot better than I expected.

“Hmm. Then what are you upset about?”

What? Calvin thought, and as he finished up he lifted his gaze to the mirror over the sink. What do you mean?

He stopped, staring at his reflection. The sight of his brow hitched with remnants of strain, his eyes bright with bliss, his smile broad but shaky, stirred an unexpected rush of emotion deep in his chest. He swallowed, hard.

“You enjoyed that a lot, didn’t you?” Tenebrosum asked, their voice low, testing.

“I…” Calvin said aloud without realizing. He gulped again and dropped the rag in the sink. I did.

“More than you should have?”

No. Calvin frowned and lowered his eyes. Deny as he might, he could feel a cold, sick feeling creep into his stomach. It’s not that.

“It was nothing like João,” Tenebrosum continued to press, but softer now. “But you enjoyed it so much. You feel guilty.”

It was the uncharacteristic note of sympathy that did it; Calvin gripped the sink bowl with both hands. Yes.

“He never made love to you quite like that. You feel guilty, wishing that he—”

“Stop,” said Calvin. He didn’t have the strength for anger—it wasn’t as if Tenebrosum was wrong. The thing inside him could read his every thought, after all. Maybe he ought to be grateful that the beast had simply dragged it into the open.

He risked glancing up into the mirror again. “God, I look tired,” he murmured, a self-deprecating smile tugging his mouth. His shoulders sagged. “I can only imagine what he’d say.”

Tenebrosum was quiet a moment, but when they resumed, it was in that same, softer tone that stirred something in Calvin’s chest. “Calvin, we did not know João for long,” they said. “You did. You knew him better than anyone, yes?” Calvin furrowed his brow, but they continued before he could interrupt. “Earlier, you said that he would encourage you to be here, if he could. If the man who knew him best says so, it must be true. Yes? So trust that man, if you cannot trust yourself now.” Tenebrosum stretched and churned inside him soothingly. “Trust that João would want you to be here, and to enjoy yourself.”

Calvin blinked, too stunned at first by Tenebrosum’s condolences to fully embrace them. As he met his own eyes in the mirror, though, he allowed the words to penetrate. Maybe it was only because the source was so unexpected, and the encouragement so desperately needed, but he took a deep breath and let himself believe it.

You’re right, he thought, and he turned the sink back on for one more splash to his face. You’re right—this was good for me. He licked his lips. For us. You enjoyed it too, didn’t you?

“Yesss,” Tenebrosum hissed. “Yes, we enjoyed that very much. We want to try the other way next time.” They purred excitedly. “Bend him in half and fuck him hard.”

Calvin laughed incredulously. I can’t believe you’re cussing now, he thought, turning off the water. But I guess I’ve brought it on myself.

Calvin toweled off and returned to the main room. John was still stretched out in the bed, and he propped himself up as Calvin approached. His face was curious and serious, as if he could see some of the struggle still twisting beneath Calvin’s surface. “Calvin?”

“John,” said Calvin. Returning to find someone in bed waiting for him felt absurdly nostalgic, and he couldn’t help but smile as he took a seat on the edge of the mattress. Though there was a fair chance he was about to make a fool of himself, he suddenly felt the need to lay the last of his cards on the table, as if he were performing an exorcism.

“Look, I’m not young,” he said. “I know what this was.” John was watching him so closely that he ran a hand over his short hair self-consciously. Gosh, he really is handsome right now. Don’t you dare get attached. “But I wanted to say…thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me,” John replied. “I got just as much out of it as you did, and I’ll be half as sore.”

Calvin chuckled; he was feeling it already. “Thanks for that, too,” he said. “The truth is, tonight was the first time I’ve really been ‘out’ since…”

He glanced away. There wasn’t any reason to sour the mood with more detail than necessary, but, it had been so long since he could say—

“Don’t,” said Tenebrosum. “You’ll regret it later.”

Calvin swallowed the story back. Tenebrosum was right again, after all—he wanted this night to represent something hopeful, rather than to dwell. “Anyway, I saw you casing the bar,” he resumed. “And it felt really good that you walked up to me when you had plenty of options.” He held John’s gaze. “I really needed this.”

John licked his lips as a shadow passed over his face that wasn’t anything like the hesitation Calvin had detected earlier. He sat up and leaned closer. 

“Calvin, I’m leaving in the morning,” he said. “But do you want to spend the night here?”

Calvin’s chest constricted with equal hope and trepidation. “You don’t have to say that.”

“I mean it,” said John, and he pressed a little kiss to Calvin’s bare shoulder. “Honestly, I…I know exactly what you’re going through,” he said, and Calvin shivered. “I’ve been there. And it’s okay, if you stay.” He found and gave Calvin’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “It’s okay that you’re here.”

A fresh pulse of emotion briefly strangled Calvin. He could see in John’s face that he really did know, that his compassion was sincere, and it shook him in exactly the way he needed. He twisted, and reading his intentions easily, John met him for a gentler kiss than those they’d shared earlier, full of empathy and absolution.

“Tuck in,” said John. He reached behind him to turn off the room’s small lamp. “I’ll be right back.”

Calvin nodded with gratitude. “Thank you.”

John headed into the bathroom, and while he was gone Calvin took a moment to strip off the top, sweat-soiled blanket. Then he slipped into bed, eager for the lumpy mattress against his back. A few deep breaths helped to calm what remained of his grief, leaving only weary relief.

“You liked hearing that, didn’t you?” asked Tenebrosum.

“Hm?” Calvin closed his eyes, realizing that he couldn’t quite sense as much of Tenebrosum as usual, as if they were stretched very thin. Yeah. Yes, I did.

“He didn’t say anything very different from what we said,” Tenebrosum continued. “But you felt it deeper.”

He lost someone, Calvin thought, his own sympathy stirred remembering the look that had fallen over John’s face. It’s a little different, coming from someone who really understands.

Tenebrosum fell quiet; no disdainful hum nor irritated grumble. Calvin wasn’t sure what to make of it, and just when concern started to creep up on him, he caught on with a flash of amazement. Are you jealous?

“No,” Tenebrosum replied immediately, but Calvin knew better. Their shared minds might not have been a full two way street, but they had been bound for years, and the whims and tempers of a god were not so difficult to suss out, sometimes. “That would be immature.”

Calvin smiled. Sometime later, he would tease Tenebrosum for sure, but in that moment, his curiosity and awe won out. He pressed one hand to his chest. Can you feel this?

Tenebrosum hummed warily. “Of course?”

Calvin rubbed back and forth. Can you collect yourself here for me, please?

Tenebrosum continued to grumble, but they did as asked. Gradually the threads of wispy shadow drew in from his limbs, gathering in his chest. The familiar, dark magic grew dense and thrummed within his rib cage. Calvin breathed slowly, in and out, savoring the weight of it. He was always so careful, it wasn’t often he allowed himself to simply appreciate the powerful creature that lay just below his skin.

Calvin moved his fingers in a slow caress across his chest. Though he wasn’t completely certain what he hoped to achieve, it felt right. Thank you, Escuridão, he thought. You’ve been very good to me tonight, and I appreciate it.

Tenebrosum hummed, stalling, but they couldn’t hide their fascination with the attention; Calvin could feel their cloud-like mass swaying inside him, following the movements of his hand like a cat arching into his touch. “We are always very good to you,” they mumbled. “But…you are welcome.”

Calvin sighed through a smile. After all this time, you still find ways to surprise me.

“I surprise us too, sometimes,” Tenebrosum replied, and Calvin blinked his eyes open in confusion at the unusual use of pronoun, just as John returned from the bathroom.

“I…?” he thought as he made room for John and lifted the sheet.

“Go to sleep, Calvin,” Tenebrosum replied. “You’re very tired.”

John climbed into bed. He seemed a bit quieter, and once again Calvin’s protective instincts soared to the forefront, smothering that moment of confusion. He drew John into his arms; the man fell into him easily, tucking himself up under Calvin’s chin. It warmed Calvin to know that they were more alike than he’d originally suspected—that they could comfort each other in this small way. He held John tight, already eager to wake up with a body alongside his.

And as he drifted off to sleep he felt John’s hand press to his chest—felt Tenebrosum shift inside him to meet it. Like two palms seeking each other through a pane of glass. It was fascinating and humbling, to feel the ancient darkness so tame and sentimental. He knew already he would wonder about it for a long time come morning, but for the moment, he let his thoughts dissipate so Tenebrosum could partake of whatever they were after in privacy. Sometimes even the void deserved a little care.

They had plenty of time together ahead of them, and so much more to learn, but it could wait.