Harry Dresden grins up at me exultantly, wraps his long legs tighter around my waist, coaxes me a little deeper into his body-- hot, open, wet and slick even through the thin, clinging layer of latex I’m wearing. He’s done this before; my stomach clenches and my breathing hitches, my hips following suit.
“I won’t break, Marcone,” he promises, teasing, spurring me a little deeper. ‘Marcone’ is warm and friendly on his lips, almost unrecognizable. To him, of course, I’m not John: there’s only one John to him, and he’s sitting at the foot of the bed, watching.
My double is observing patiently, slowly stroking his erection. He appreciates what he sees. We both agreed-- when Harry made his spur of the moment offer-- that we weren’t comfortable being intimate with each other. There’s masturbation and then there’s narcissism and then there’s courting a mental break. But at the easy distance of watching, I can appreciate that I-- I as I would be, if I were him-- look fairly fuckable with that pleased, amused expression, mouth smirking, cock out and red and ready. And his answering smile, as I catch his eye, says that yes: he quite likes the look of me balls deep in his lover. I as I would be... is, perhaps, more generous than I as I am. Has more left to give.
He shifts his leg a little more comfortably, and his t-shirt rises on his stomach, showing a leaner torso than mine, with a soft proto-potbelly. He doesn’t eat as well as I do, no nutritionists and ready meals, but he makes up for it by working honestly for his muscular physique. I can see the grease under his nails, unfamiliar scars on his hands, his arms. His smile grows wide-- he waggles his dick at me a little, cocks an eyebrow, but his eyes narrow, questioning--
I refuse to feel ashamed of what I have made of myself.
“Hey, Narcissus. Yoo-hoo!” Harry wiggles under me, his body tightening and stroking down my cock, his hips doing most of the work for the both of us, and my attention shatters and refocuses on him. He’s surprisingly muscular in a whipcord way-- runner’s legs I hadn’t suspected hiding under all those baggy pants, and I follow the track of his exertions under his skin with my mouth, up to his long neck and the wide curve of his lips. When he smiles it cracks his face, draws me in like a light. I’ve never seen it before. I can’t hold out much longer, his body gripping around me, soft, generous, like he’s done it a hundred times.
I grunt, my breathing coming hard as I try to regain control, and it sounds so loud with a witness to hear it. My thighs start to burn with the effort of getting deeper into him, again, again, harder and faster-- he looks up at me, a little surprised, and then smiles. “Yeah. Come on.”
“I don’t want--”
“Marcone, you can’t handle me,” he says, and it’s gentle and playful and laughing and everything that sex so often isn’t for me. “Come.” He bears down around me, and I do.
Those last deep thrusts-- as if I was trying to bury my entire lower body in him-- they make him shut his eyes, make high pitched sounds, so pleased he doesn’t bother to censor himself-- and they fade to a soft sigh when I finish and he’s still hard against my stomach, his strong legs holding his hips up against mine, not letting me move. I’m still in him, softening, twitching at how tight he is around my suddenly over-sensitive skin.
He breathes slowly and …his face, he’s savoring the feeling of me going flaccid in him, a feeling he knows, one he enjoys. He-as-he-is would never let me see this: I pack it away, tuck it in with the boxful of memories I will have to keep secret, safe, when I return home. He lowers himself and it’s almost painful as his body slides off of mine.
“What can I do for you,” I stammer out. Orgasm’s left me stupid, wildly pleased and glowing with how good it is, my tongue thick and my muscles heavy, but his long erection draped across his stomach is a reminder that I’m not done, can’t be done, that-- ha, that I need the reminder-- I’m not the only one in the room. Harry considers this, reaching up to peel the condom off of me and knot it expertly, tossing it at the trashcan.
“Suck him, Marcone,” I-as-I-would-be advises from the foot of the bed-- a studied suggestion. He’s been watching. I know that tone of voice-- jarring to hear from this end. He’s been wanting to see this.
I nod, sharp, jerky, and crawl back down their bed a bit, crouching between Harry’s thighs-- his eyes widen, suddenly almost shy. ...it’s so counter-intuitive and so extremely Dresden that he could be unselfconscious and uninhibited during a full-on screwing and now that it’s a little oral sex he doesn’t know how to handle himself.
My eyes flicker to my double again; am I doing something wrong? But his amused headshake reassures me. Harry’s always like this.
I lean down and kiss a hello from his balls up his shaft to his tip-- the tease is maybe a little cruel, as hard and as close as he is, but it’s been so long since I’ve done this. I need to breathe and remind myself how to handle a man from down here, let the scent of his arousal and sweat and musk wake up old, carefully stowed memories.
My double moves with a grunt, stretching across and over the bed to pull at one of the shelves built into the frame, getting another condom for us-- they don’t seem to use them often between each other, but we-the-Marcones agreed almost without discussion that it would be appropriate for me to use one. Him because he doesn’t know where I’ve been; I because if I ever let a stranger do this to my lover, I know I’d insist.
My hands do not shake as I rip the foil, pulling out the little latex roll and putting it carefully on the tip of Harry’s dick. Leaning on one hand, I use the other to point his erection at my mouth, and firm my lips as I pop them around the head of his cock and slowly sink down, rolling the condom down him as I go.
A familiar sound comes from far away-- my little trick impressed more than Harry, and I try not to watch too openly as my double milks himself to finish, eyes glued to my mouth and Harry’s cock, flickering to Harry’s face and back. We must look good.
Harry’s legs tense and untense around me-- he’s curled down to the toes as the slow bobs of my head start to speed up, as I lash my tongue when I can, when my mouth isn’t so full of him that I’m almost gagging-- slow down, breathe through my nose, I can get him deeper. Until I have to pull off. A worried sound from Harry, and I shake my head. I want to do this-- a little too much. It’s over-enthusiasm, not reluctance, that’s got me coughing.
“I’m sorry,” I murmur, “let me,” and go back down quickly-- short, fast strokes down him now, familiar habits coming back, I’m already growing used to, fond of the shape of him in my mouth. He’s starting to pant, fast and shallow, and then his lungs fill and he holds his breath-- his head whips back against the pillow, one hand flutters in the air over my head, and his cock spasms in my mouth, twitching against my lips. I can actually feel the pulse of him under my tongue through the latex. I can feel when he’s done, even if the long sigh wasn’t clue enough.
I pull off slowly, keeping my lips firm and round-- his hips give a little flutter, a sleepy roll, the lingering pressure doing something for him. He pets at my hair, murmuring something that, best I can tell, contains no actual words. He’s less sensitive, more receptive than I am after. I’ll have to blame the wizardly capacity to heal.
He shuts his eyes, splaying out-- afterglow nearly tangible, radiating from his skin. He’s left the condom on; it’s jarringly sweet. I shift, finding a place to sit beside his legs, and watch him-- there’s more room than there was before. I-as-I-would-be am missing.
My double clears his throat, padding back into the bedroom. ”I’d offer you a shower, but I’m afraid you caught us on a bad week.” He’s teasing me a little, I think. My manners and mannerisms; him, confident in his stubble, his worn clothes, his rough hands. “The water heater’s down. If you can wait a few minutes, though, the kettle’s on.”
So that’s where he’d gone, after he finished. I wonder how much he saw. I wonder if that last moment was only mine and Harry’s, and a part of me wants it, viciously. Another quieter, more sensible part doesn’t want that responsibility, that weight.
“I hope we weren’t without our chaperon for too long,” I say, and... he understands. There’s so much of me in him, and him in me, in the way we talk and think that it’s almost jarring to remember how different our lives are.
“I wasn’t gone long,” he assures me. “I came back in time to catch you wrapping up. Thanks for taking care of him. He’s a handful.”
“‘pyors,” Harry says, and sighs happily.
The easy joke hammers home some of our key differences-- the trust he has in his lover, the confidence. He’s in his home, this little apartment, the massive bed they built together. I’m in his domain. I have Chicago. I have my safehouses, my estate. I don’t have anything like this, a home that’s mine and more than a place I sleep, nowhere with a threshold stretched across the door, thick and effective, powered by my presence and my comfort and my joy.
I want it. The price is too high, but I want it.
“Thank you,” I say, eyes tracking back to Harry, sprawled sleepily across the bed. He’s finally remembered to do something with the condom. ...there’s quite a lot that this man has that I want, however little it may be from a strictly financial point of view.
I’d lose Chicago. I’d see it overrun by an indiscriminate, sloppy, vicious monster with Marco Vargassi by her side. I’ve seen the hunger in his eyes when I tell them about home; he wants that world where Chicago is a safer place, where he can extend his control and crush the invading forces of darkness, where he can make the hard choices and know no one else has to. Where men he loved weren’t fed to the mill. Where Nathan Hendricks isn’t a survivor of a vicious, unseen assault, isn’t recovering from the sick addiction of thrall. But he can’t imagine a life without his wizard, the partner and ally who tips the scales when his own strength isn’t enough and makes him feel at home-- I could see that, too, when his thoughts hit that wall, his face shuttering off, pained, locking down.
I want a lover I trust and cherish. I want Harry, intriguing and maddening and heroic and fun, my friend let alone my lover-- not angry and distant, antagonizing me into doing the right thing when the stakes are high enough. I want a home. I want not to be a monster, I want to be something like a good guy, I want Amanda Beckitt to be a happy, functional girl coping well with her parents’-- with her living, breathing, sane parents’ separation and sending me postcards from far away. I want to not know that I am, in my way, responsible for every death in my city, every hurt child, every family that cracks under the burden of addiction, everyone who fears the underside of the city that the cops can’t touch, that the law won’t protect them from. I want it badly enough that it curls around what’s left of my heart and squeezes. But I can’t imagine a life without control of my city. The uncertainty he deals with, the losses he’s taken, I can’t-- I hit the wall he hits, backing off from it.
“Shame there’s no win-win scenario.”
“Please stop reading my mind,” I say, my lips slanting into a wry nonsmile.
He matches it. “Your face, actually. It’s nice to know that no matter how much I polish up, I’m still going to be an idiot after sex.”
The laugh is painful and it surprises me. “You’ve got no idea.”
“Not in front of sleeping beauty, there. Princess, the grownups are going to go talk now.” Harry flicks a hand in our direction-- possibly making an attempt to raise his middle finger, but he’s sprawled out, snuffling gently, utterly shameless, and ultimately unsuccessful. John crosses over, kisses him hard-- slips a hand down under his ass where I can’t see and makes him sigh and squirm-- then pulls their covers up over him and waves me into the living room. Message delivered; I don’t begrudge him it. The kettle starts to whistle shrilly in their kitchenette.
We mostly manage to stay out of each other’s way as he gets a bucket, as I take the water off the range. He finds towels, I mix the steaming water with a little of their freezing tap water until it’s just at the edge of comfort, hot but not scalding.
There’s an almost decadent loofah to scrub down with, some soap tailor made for sponge baths. But why not do it right, if you have to do this three weeks a month? I clean the sticky remainders of sex off, and my double makes a sandwich. No, two. Because he knows what I take, and he knows I’m ravenous after sex.
“Regrets?” he asks frankly, from his comfortable seat on the couch, left leg up on the coffee table. He’s sipping from a beer; its brother stands beside the second sandwich. McAnally’s. There’s a giant cafe serving-sized brownie on a little napkin next to it, cut neatly in two. It’s remarkably distracting.
“No. But regrets that I don’t have regrets.” I kneel, dunk my head into the bucket, and scrub my fingers through my hair.
His laugh is knowing, rueful. “Because you think it was the wrong thing to do.”
“I need to get home. We need to track down the mirror and I have to find my way back to my universe. This-- this time I’ve wasted on a fantasy, it could have been put to better use.”
“Bull,” he tells me, as I wrap myself in one of their warm towels, use the other to scrape the last moisture off of my legs and out of my hair. “There’s no way Nathan is by your side seven days a week without reminding you of basic economics. It’s stupid to penalize anyone with a low income for buying the occasional luxury item; they couldn’t pay their rent any more easily if they had that twenty dollars back, the relative costs being what they are, and a really good meal will help their morale plenty more than an extra bill in their wallet. You’re time-poor, but there’s nothing we could have done with the last two hours but sit around here. We made good use of the time. And you can’t tell me your morale isn’t boosted.” His smile is knowing, gentle, generous.
He’s right, and it’s exactly what Hendricks would say, at that. ...Hendricks. I’m going to have to tell him about this. About what the course of one bullet can change. I can’t deal with knowing this alone. But first I have to get home to him first, to my friend, Hendricks-as-he-is. There’s nothing wrong with Hendricks-as-he-would be, he’s a good man and I can’t imagine that changing. But he’s not the friend-turned-bodyguard who puts my mind in order.
“You make a good point.” I nod. And there’s nothing I could do in the next fifteen minutes more productive than killing that waiting beer, wolfing down that sandwich, and wading through my half of that massive brownie.
What we talk about while we eat is trivial. It has to be trivial. I’m a man who engages in problems too easily: we both are. I wrap myself in the old comforter they gave me for their pull-out sofa bed and indulge in the pleasures of the flesh-- the other pleasures of the flesh-- and talk, of all things, about Aranovsky films, the comparative state of our newspaper comic pages, and which movies and radio stations I studied when I was polishing up my rough verbal edges to a boardroom shine.
“Tomorrow,” he says, as I’m down to the last few swallows of beer. “There’s a man we’re going to talk to. A friend of Harry’s, recently back from LA-- a minor celebrity, so you’ll be able to air-kiss in your native environment.”
I give him a graceless snort, warm and content in this safe place, full of food and good beer.
“Thommy White. Stylist to the stars.” He waggles his fingers in a pass at jazz hands. “Runs a cafe and haircut place. That’s one of his brownies you’re chowing down on.”
It rings a strange, discordant bell in my head. “Tall man. Pale skin, pale eyes, dark hair, cheekbones for miles, eats souls.”
“Oh, good, you know him.”
“You trust him? With Madeline Raith running the city?”
A shrug, one-shouldered. I trained myself out of that movement years ago. “He’s on the other side. And Harry trusts him, and I don’t think Harry’s being played here.” So that’s that, then. I nod, and dab the last crumbs of brownie from my plate.
“He’s Harry’s ally in my world, too.” There’s no guarantee that that would be a constant-- but I trust my double’s judgement. If he’s reckless about anything, it certainly isn’t his lover’s safety.
We rise: I sweep the crumbs from their coffee table into my hand, he scoops up our dishes. We wash them, mostly silent, and I put the beer bottles in their empties box. For a minute the world falls out from under me, my stomach plummeting, when I don’t catch my thoughts in time to stop them from wandering, from thinking how comfortable it is, like tidying up with my parents--
“Bigger kitchen then my first one,” I say, a little strangled.
My double looks over-- knows as much as anyone can how I feel, so strange to see my eyes when they’re reacting independently of me-- nods, slides on a slanted smile that matches mine. “A shoebox and a busted beer fridge. Least it’s hard for ice not to work.” He pats the ice box casually; it must have been Harry’s, before it was theirs. This apartment is Harry’s, Harry-as-he-is, back in my Chicago where I am as I am.
I want to know everything about them, suddenly, voraciously, these men as we could be. What they haven’t told me, what they can’t tell me-- their habits, their fights, all the different ways they’ve loved each other. I have an idea, now, Harry-as-he-could-be and his big hands and open smile, the glimmer of worry in his eyes when he doesn’t see me watching him back, the easy playfulness when he opened himself up to me, his body hot and tight around my fingers, my cock--
I turn, heart pounding, face hot, go back to the living room, the little safe haven of the sofa bed they’ve given me, before I can ask the hundred thousand questions tripping on my tongue.
We’ve fucked, we’ve eaten, we’ve planned. I assume the surprises are over, but when I go to pop the catch that will turn their sofa into the bed I’ve been sleeping on for the past three nights, John stops me. “...not tonight, Marcone. Not after that.”
My hand slips off the catch, a tide of relief rising up in me, strong enough to make my muscles loose and fluttery. I hadn’t realized how much being alone would hurt, after being so... not alone, if only temporarily. I follow him into their bedroom.
He stops at the door, gripping my shoulder, looking seriously into my eyes. It’s still jarring to see the mirror move without me. It's like one of those pictures you don’t remember having had taken. Is that what I look like? Well, no; I’m a little older, I’m a little broader, my hair is shorter. But those are my eyes, my lips, my expressions. “Marcone. Don’t get too deep in your head.” Because he knows I can; it goes unspoken.
“I’m feeling unusually untethered.” I shake my head, want to match his gruff, easy speech, but my mannerisms are so much a part of me by this point that I’d be putting on an act if I regressed. “Like I’m going to invade your house and usurp your place if I let myself.” Invasion of the better-dressed body snatchers.
“Like hell you can,” he says, eyes glittering, mouth pulled up in a dangerous grin out of a thousand mirror images decades past. He searches my eyes as if we could soulgaze, as if we weren’t pure mortals, and I stare down the steely core of myself-- he challenges and I push back, glaring at him, the silent contest to see which of us will blink first.
We give at the same time, and I catch myself laughing. There I am, wherever I go. We lock eyes again, less of a competition, and the moment stretches, warm and almost sexual.
...and we both pull back at the same time again, with the same expression like little boys who’ve been kissed by an embarrassing aunt. No. It doesn’t quite work.
“It’s probably for the best. If we could actually make out, he might explode,” I say clinically, and know I’m allowed to joke that far and not much further.
My double laughs silently, shaking his head, and gives me a tug into the bedroom before he drops his hand from my shoulder. “As if he’d forgive us for not letting him watch.” I follow him in, skirting along the wall so not to bash my knees into their real-estate dominating bed. It must have taken magic to get that mattress in in the first place. I smile at the image, and at my double moving quietly to not wake up his lover, and the boundaries between me-as-I-would-have-been and me snap back into place, stronger and not so painful anymore.
I find my balance, my distance; I can deal with Harry-as-he-is, hostile and mischievous and bantering and almost something like my friend. I’m ready to go back to my Chicago and back to him, for better or for worse--couldn’t leave him if I tried, the music of my youth supplies. It’ll be interesting, seeing him and knowing him better now, without him knowing what I’ve seen, how much he could, somewhere, trust himself to give--in a world where I could trust him in return. I’ll have to think of something to ask him that will make him boggle and leave him annoyed, wondering how I could possibly know. It’s good for him. Keeps him on his toes.
Harry’s snoring, low and tolerable, oblivious to late-night drama; my double throws me an extra pair of sweatpants to sleep in before he blows out the candles that light the room up, one by one. Harry shifts over as we crawl into bed, mumbling a pre-verbal question.
“Honey, the Beave had a nightmare. He’s sleeping with us tonight,” my double says fondly, and Harry gives a nearly coherent response, accepting it. He pats each of our left ears in the dark, fingers gentle on the ragged edge of mine, and draws me close, lying on his side with one arm across my chest, one folded up under the pillow under me. My double settles down against my other side, adjusting his position carefully and flinging a brotherly arm across my torso to rest his hand on Harry’s hip.
They fold me between them, welcoming me. This isn’t my Home.
But I’ve never felt like a more honored guest.
I’ll take on the world in the morning. Both of them.