Arthur paced back and forth across the hotel room. The two windows at first glance seemed to relent no image other than his own reflection in the candlelight. The bed was unmade, cold and empty. Black clouds had rolled in at sunset, bringing thunder and rain. If Arthur stepped up to the window facing the street below, he could see the light from the saloon across the way. Apparently no storm could stop a party.
The saloon had been the first place he’d looked. Checked the bar, the tables, glanced into all of the backrooms and the alleyways. No sign of him. He’d wandered around town, squinting in the dark, keeping his coat tightly shut against the rain. He’d peeked through the windows of the closed general store. Looked in the stables under the pretense of checking on their horses. Even checked the jail. Luckily, the town’s Sheriff had seemed to believe him when he’d said he was just checking around for his drunk friend. It wasn’t entirely a lie.
But he’d found nothing.
So Arthur had retreated back to the hotel room to dry off and wait. He lit the oil lamp at the table, and started a little fire in the fireplace to warm up and hang his coat by. The minutes were ticking by at an agonizing pace. Every passing moment, he felt his heart beat a little faster. His stomach had worked itself into knots. He’d been afraid for weeks and weeks that this would happen.
Afraid he would be gone. Just like last time. But only this time, Arthur feared that he’d never come back…
Quitting his pacing, he dropped into the worn, green armchair by the fire. Breathing deeply, he closed his eyes. Finding calmness didn’t seem to be in the cards for him tonight. A panic was starting to settle in.
What if somethin’ happened? What if he’s hurt? What if he...hurt someone?
Banging a fist down onto the arm of the chair, Arthur shook his head firmly to clear his mind. Shakily, he dug into his pocket for a carton of cigarettes and tried to light one. The tip of the match broke against the flint, and he hucked it gracelessly into the fire.
But then there was a tapping. Almost like the pitter-pattering of the rain against glass. But more deliberate, a rapping at the pane. When Arthur looked up, his mouth went dry.
John was there outside the window. The second floor, street-facing window. The window with no stair or balcony beneath it to speak of. His black coat seemed to further shroud him in the night. The rain plastered his long, dark hair to his head. He looked ghostly pale in the darkness, his lips and chin stained crimson.
Dropping the unlit smoke, Arthur hurried to the window and unlocked it.
“Get in here! Someone’ll see you, ya damn fool!” Arthur whispered, grabbing the younger man by the front of his shirt.
“M’sorry,” John croaked, climbing frantically through the open window and into the hotel room. “M’sorry, there’re two fellers sharin’ a smoke on the back stairwell, and the clerk is still awake, and I-I,”
Arthur shushed him, closing the window. He looked around to be sure no one had seen. There were no figures in the dark, blocking the light spilling from the tavern. It was pouring rain. No one in their right mind would be out and about. Quickly, he drew the curtains at both windows, shutting out the night. Only then did he whirl on John.
And then gave a pause.
The younger man looked...pathetic. Soaking wet, dripping onto the floor. Large brown eyes looked guiltily into Arthur’s. His hands tugged at the edges of his coat, unsure what to do and too nervous to do nothing. His hair hung wetly down around his shoulders. His mouth was smeared with blood, and watery with rain, like he’d tried to wipe it away.
Swallowing hard, his heart thumping wildly in his chest, Arthur asked, “What did you do?”
“I-I was hungry. I know you said to wait here ‘til,”
“What. Did. You. Do?” Arthur growled through his teeth, stepping into John’s personal space.
“It was just some chickens, Arthur, I swear! I’m sorry, I tried to wait. I really did!” John frantically explained, backing up.
The bigger man crowded him against the wall, seizing him by the collar, “Anyone see you?”
“No! No one saw me, I promise! It was just some chickens from that house up on the hill. The hill behind the church. I ripped up one corner of the wire, made it look like a fox got in. I didn’t leave no sign, no footprints. Nothin’! Honest!” At the withering glare that was leveled at him, John shrunk against the wall. Looking afraid. Not necessarily afraid of Arthur. But afraid of disappointing him.
Afraid of Arthur being afraid of him.
The two stood stock still for a long moment. Neither breathed, searching the other’s gaze. One imploring the other to believe him, the other desperately hoping to find the truth there.
Arthur stepped back some time later, working his jaw, and nodding, “Okay.”
John’s tensed shoulders relaxed.
Arthur rubbed at his eyes, “Just don’t...don’t run off like that.”
“I won’t. I’m sorry.”
Through his fingers, he looked at John, still pressed against the wall. A small puddle gathering under his boots. Shaking his head, the blond heaved a sigh, “Yer drippin’ all over the place. Let’s getcha out of those wet clothes.”
John pressed his lips firmly together, and did as he was told, starting with his coat. It came off easily enough, and Arthur hung it over near the fire. He slid his braces from his shoulders and pulled his red shirt from his trousers. It was then that Arthur stepped in, gently dragging up the hem of his shirt. Compliantly, John lifted his arms as the garment was taken off of him.
Swallowing hard, he pulled off his boots, socks and stepped out of his trousers, standing in nothing but his damp long pants as Arthur hung up his clothes. They soon came off as well after Arthur fixed him with a look.
Thankfully, it was a state that he was accustomed to. More often than not, it led to more interesting places. That was unlikely tonight given that Arthur was so upset with him. John knew he’d worried him unnecessarily. He’d been so hungry that he’d forgotten to leave a note. But he really was telling the truth. And he hadn’t even been gone that long. Not even half an hour.
At Arthur’s wordless gesture, John knelt in front of the fireplace. He didn’t flinch when a threadbare towel was thrown over his head and rubbed back and forth to dry his hair. It made him feel like a child. Cowed. Vulnerable.
And then Arthur was suddenly kneeling in front of him with a damp cloth and a grim look on his face. A coldness slithered through John’s chest as the cloth was used to wipe at his mouth. It came away red with blood. He had tried to be as clean as possible. He’d already lost a couple of shirts to messy kills fueled by his hunger. A hunger that hurt more than any hunger he’d ever felt in his life. A stabbing nausea, and a burning in his gut that slowly grew. A hunger so painful that his teeth hurt...
Arthur shook his head, “Yer a mess.”
“M’sorry,” John rasped, “I tried to wait. It...it just hurt so much.”
The older man paused at that. He lowered his gaze, not for the first time trying to imagine what John’s hunger felt like. The younger man had tried to describe it before. It had come out sounding like drunkenness. The same haziness, but without anything that resembled numbness. Painful. With one clear goal in mind.
It scared him. Seeing John curled up, clutching at his belly. Watching how he tossed and turned, stumbled around, crying, and rubbing at his jaw. It was frightening to see him inch towards becoming a beast...like the one that made him this way.
He wouldn’t let John forget who he was.
“S’okay. I didn’t mean to be back so late,” Arthur murmured, and gently smoothed his fingers over John’s scarred cheek, “Does it...does it still hurt?”
Shaking his head, John leaned into Arthur’s touch, “Not so much now. I promise, I only killed three chickens. Left them way out in the forest when I was done for the coyotes. Didn’t want anyone gettin’ suspicious.”
“Think it’ll last you?”
“...Not for too long,” John relented with a worried frown. He closed his eyes as fingers combed back through his long, dark hair, still wet from the rain. He covered the hand at his cheek with his own.
Arthur closed his eyes and pressed his brow to his with a sigh, “It’ll be alright, I promise.”
“Okay,” John whispered back. Their lives never offered them surety or permanence. It always came down to individual moments that often decided their survival. Things were seldom alright.
But for now, the pair were content to believe the lie.
“We’ll figure it out, okay?” Arthur said, his words brushing against the younger man’s lips. His fingers tightened in his hair, reassuring himself that he had really returned. A twinge of fear twisted in his stomach. A fear that things would inevitably come to a horrible end.
He’d buried John once. Literally. And he came back. But a day might come where Arthur might have to do it again...
Such thoughts were unwelcome.
“Okay,” John breathed, afraid to move. To break the spell. To anticipate anything before he was sure that he was welcome.
“C’mere,” Arthur murmured.
It was all the brunet needed to hear. He climbed eagerly into the other man’s lap, and was pulled into a kiss.
The pair found themselves keenly aware of John’s nakedness and of Arthur being fully clothed. A thrilling shiver went down John’s spine as blond stubble burned against his lips. Teeth set to his lower lip, and fingers tightened in his hair. A jolt went right down to his groin. He couldn’t help grinding up against Arthur’s belly, leaving a small, damp spot against the man’s blue shirt.
John groaned when hands slipped down his flanks to grasp his arse. Pulling his cheeks apart. Kneading the muscle there.
“C’mere,” Arthur said again, adjusting his grip.
John suddenly found himself being lifted as the other man stood up. He hooked his legs around Arthur’s waist, and slid his arms about his shoulders. There was muscle there from hard work and hard riding. They lived difficult lives.
He was settled on the bed, the rumpled sheets cool against his back. Mindlessly, his hands went to work undoing the buttons on Arthur’s shirt, crushed between them. In the meantime, bruising kisses were pressed to his mouth. He responded in kind, or at least as best he could once he got his hands on Arthur’s bare skin.
It was rather distracting. The big man radiated heat like a woodstove. Exploring hands could travel the firm plains of his back for hours. Blond hair dusted over his chest, his belly and trailed downward, tantalizingly downward to disappear under his jeans. The crotch of which was doing its best to contain a rather impressive erection.
“Arthur,” John gasped when the large bulge was pressed firmly up against his arse. Grinding into him. Slotting itself against his taint. “Arthur, please, I,”
“Shhh, I know, I know,” the older man groaned, reaching down to undo the buttons of his denims. John took the opportunity to reach for the pot of vaseline that had been left on the side table earlier that afternoon.
At the time, Arthur had been attempting to leave the room to look in on a lead for a bounty. The brunet had affixed his sleepy brown eyes on him amongst the blankets and said something along the lines of “Don’t go just yet.”
Arthur had left later than he’d meant to.
In his defense, John could be very persuasive. His mouth was a force to be reckoned with. And his hands were...tactile. Vaseline just made things all the easier.
“Let me,” Arthur grunted, slipping slick fingers down to caress John’s hole. A gasp was the first response. The next response had slick, deft fingers stroking his cock into full hardness.
“Yes. Please, Arthur,” John breathed, “Please, more of you. Please.”
“Shh, slow down, John,” Arthur shuddered, gently sliding his fingers inside. His belly clenched, hips jumping at a good twist of his lover’s wrist against his cock, “Hah, John, slow down, yer gonna end this before it’s even started.”
John listened, easing up some, “M’sorry. Just want you,”
“I know, sweet, I know,” Arthur said softly, kissing him. The brunet uttered a pleased sound, adjusting his hips for a better angle.
It wasn’t too much longer before John was begging. Arthur could seldom say no to him. Strengthening his resolve, he pressed himself inside. The tight warmth slowly enveloped him.
Well, he tried to go slow.
“Slow down,” he grunted, “Slow down, damnit,”
“More. Please, more. Please, I won’t break,” John groaned, pulling the blond in by the hips, pressing his heels against his arse.
Arthur barked out a laugh, “S’not you I’m worried ‘bout.”
John smiled, wiping the sweat from his lover’s brow, leaning up to kiss him. His patience was wearing thin, but he wouldn’t risk Arthur stopping. He bit his lip, enduring the gentle way the sizable cock eased in and out of him.
It was maddening. Made his skin crawl with pent up pleasure. Made him feel desperate.
He waited, sighing, whining as Arthur built up like the storm outside. Grunting in exertion, accompanied by rolling thunder and pounding rain. Adjusting his knees on the bed. Moving down to brace himself on his elbows. As slow as it had seemed before, it was suddenly exactly what he wanted.
John gasped, and exhaled a moan. His hands scrabbled at Arthur’s strong back, desperate for purchase. His legs tightened around muscled hips. Seeing stars, he cried out, “Like that!”
Bearing down, Arthur picked up a brutal pace. With each thrust, he drove the brunet back against the sheets.
“Harder,” John whimpered. Arthur almost didn’t hear him through the boom of thunder. But the plead was against his ear as he tightened his arms around his lover’s solid shoulders, burying his face against his nape.
Arthur could deny him nothing, adjusting the placement of his knees again to oblige him.
“Oh my god,” came a breathless gasp.
Arthur shivered, a pained hiss leaving him as nails scored red trails up his back. John deliriously cried out, grazing his teeth against his lover’s throat, “Arthur, Arthur,”
The blond felt two distinctly sharp points scrape against the side of his neck.
“Please? Arthur, please?” John whimpered, “S’okay to say no. S’okay. Ohh, god!”
Some time ago, Arthur’s first reaction would have been to pull away. To refuse. To scold. To be afraid.
That was no longer the case.
Arthur kept up his punishing pace, and tilted his head to one side, baring his neck. There was a relieved whine, broken up by each hard thrust. And then there was a burning as two very sharp teeth pierced his skin.
“Fuck,” Arthur grunted, biting his lower lip. He knew the worst of it would be over in a short moment. Each time he let John do this, it grew easier. For the both of them. Most of the time, it was out of necessity.
However, more recently they found that it could be done for pleasure…
The pain lessened. A muffled moan escaped John, his teeth slipping from the wounds as he began to drink. Arthur groaned, frantically pounding into his lover. A shiver of anticipation went down his spine, his body recognizing the sensations.
Each time they did this, climax seemed more and more intense.
“John,” he ground out, his body feeling heavy, his muscles tensing up. John began to tremble, holding on tighter and tighter as he spasmed around Arthur’s cock. Desperate noises left them as they moved gracelessly together. A crack sounded from the fireplace, the blocks shifting as they burned.
John shouted his name against his throat, coming off in ribbons against their bellies. Arthur grew light-headed, arousal reaching its peak as lightning flashed against the curtains. A stuttering groan left him as he slammed his hips against his lover’s, following after him in pleasure.
The two grew weightless, feeling lighter and lighter from orgasm as the thunder rumbled. Each muscle uncurled and loosened. The vague outline of their thoughts brushed together, dissolving languorously. Sweat gathered along their tingling skin. Slowly they unwound, melting into a panting pile of tired limbs.
Vaguely, Arthur could feel John nuzzling and licking at his throat. Soothing the bite. Encouraging the two small puncture wounds to heal and close up. A soft whimper left him, like that of an animal. He only ever made that sound after feeding.
Arthur forced a hand to move, threading his fingers through John’s hair. A satisfied rumble got caught up in his chest at the resulting pleased sigh.
Arthur reached down and tried to pull himself from his lover. But John held on tight, squeezing him between his thighs. “No, not yet,” he whimpered, “Please.”
Normally when Arthur took it, he wasn’t fond of feeling John’s cock soften inside him. When he was coming down from an orgasm, he wanted to be relaxed. Not John. No, he wanted to draw it out as long as he possibly could. Arthur just wished that the brunet felt the same in the moments leading up to penetration.
Still, he stayed. Letting John hold him. Twitching with every leftover wave. Listening to the rain and thunder. Stroking his hair, relishing the soothing fingers along his back.
Arthur wasn’t sure when, but he must have dozed off.
Familiar images, and feelings filled his sleep-addled mind. A dark night, riding along with John, running from a nightmare. Horrible, animalistic sounds out in the trees. The way their guns shook in their hands as they urged their horses faster. The seizing of his heart when John was taken clean off of his horse. Watching him disappear before his very eyes, screaming into the darkness.
Finding John, gurgling amongst the trees. Something that was once a man on top of him, tearing at his throat. Only escaping with his life because a bullet found its brain in a strange sepia landscape. His heartbeat booming in his ears, vision blurring as he held John, who began to scream to the black skies. Whole body rigid, trembling, foaming at the mouth, bleeding from two holes in his neck, wailing until suddenly, he stopped. Completely. No movement. No breath. No heartbeat. Silent. Nothing. Dead. Dead and gone.
Dirt falling upon his scarred face as Arthur buried him, sobbing all the while. Stuck a ramshackle cross in the ground as the sun finally rose on what had seemed an endless night. John’s name poorly carved into the wood. Still two day’s ride from camp. Alone. Shocked. Heartbroken. Empty.
He came to with a gasp. Sweat covered him, and he could hardly breathe.
Worried, dark brown eyes greeted him. Eyes that had seen him come out of that same nightmare before. “Shh, it’s okay, it’s okay, take a deep breath.”
Without hesitation, Arthur crushed him to his chest. Cried silent tears into his long, black hair.
“I’m here,” John murmured against his lover’s collarbone, stroking his back, listening to his frantic heartbeat, “I’m here.”
Arthur swallowed hard, and closed his eyes.
He breathed deep. Breathed in the scent of him, of the two of them together. Things about him may have changed, but he still smelled the same. Arthur fought down the fear and the worry. He still had him. Still had this. This was all that mattered right then. That they were in bed together. Nothing else needed to matter right then. He repeated it to himself, feeling John’s breath against his skin, and his faint heartbeat.
Only this, and nothing more.