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When he’d first turned his attention to Elias Bouchard — the man who’d had the name before him, before he hollowed the shell out and crawled inside — he’d piqued his interest despite everything else about the sloppy way Elias lived his life that would suggest the contrary. He was an unlikely bet, ill-placed and without outstanding prospects. But they’d had something in common, or at least the man he used to be had something in common with Elias.

The prospect had intrigued him, of returning to what he used to know. He’d spent a long time in the kind of bodies he had always wanted. It’s been long enough that, having grown used to it, he’s no longer sure he needs it so badly. He wouldn’t have been able to do this two hundred years ago, maybe even a hundred, even if medicine had been advanced enough to give him the body he has now. It was too much like what he had wanted so desperately to leave behind the first time. And yet now that he’s skipped from body to body enough times, he’s less uptight about it. It’s begun to feel less important what the frame looks like, how it conforms to the perfect image he had once held in his mind. The impermanence of it, the inconsequence of the physical particulars that he bears for a while only to shed them again, is enough to dissolve any discomfort he might have with the form that carries him.

It’s easier now to live like this than it was back then. Not easy, but easier. One of the things that fascinates him about living a very long time is watching miracles spring up every decade, and then be absorbed into the ordinary a generation later. He’s seen it happen with the landmark ones, of course, things like electricity or antibiotics or the internet. But the things that still give him a sense of wonder about the world he’s come to live in aren’t any of the most momentous breakthroughs, the things that reshape life for all of society. What lingers in his mind the most are what most would consider significant but not earth-shaking medical advances, the things he only could have dreamed about being available to him when he was younger. He wants to try them now. And he can.

Elias — the current one, under new management — had been concerned he might find he hated it after all, once he went back, and the adjustment period is more challenging than it usually is, but it isn’t unpleasant. This body feels comfortable now, like an old coat thought lost and then turned up at the back of the closet. Nostalgic, in a way.

It still takes some time to get accustomed to, the same as it always does. He doesn’t need Peter to be involved, he supposes, but it sounds like fun to bring him along, and it’s certainly more interesting than just himself and the mirror.

Ah. There’s Peter in the hall outside.

Peter doesn’t knock. He never does; he knows he doesn’t need to. Elias is always already expecting him, would be even if he didn’t have an appointment. As usual, there’s no sound of footsteps to accompany him as he steps inside.

“James,” says Peter.

“Elias, now,” says Elias. “Come now, you’re going to have to get used to it.”

It’s not Peter’s first time seeing him after the switch, although it is the first time Elias has set aside for the two of them to be alone for…personal purposes. Peter’s other few encounters with Elias in this body have been brief and mostly business-related, and he hasn’t really had the chance to get acquainted with it. Well, they’ll discover it together, Elias thinks.

Peter has shut the door behind him, but he doesn’t step any further into the room. Elias can tell Peter is making note of his position, already sitting on the edge of the bed. He smiles at him. “Come here,” he says. “Unless you’d like to have a seat and make small talk for a while first.”

“Not really,” says Peter, removing his boots.

Elias begins to unbutton his shirt. Peter moves closer, his eyes on Elias’s fingers working. He watches hungrily as Elias slips his shoulders out from the fabric.

Elias doesn’t often find himself the subject of the watching, and it feels different, but nice nonetheless. Still filling, in its way. He goes slower than necessary taking off his trousers and his pants, dragging it out, tasting it. He crooks one knee to the side, just to see if Peter’s eye will be drawn to the suggestion of his legs parting, and he’s satisfied when Peter’s gaze does follow the movement, Peter making no endeavor to hide it.

“You too,” he says when he’s stripped entirely.

He lies back against the pillow and watches Peter undress. He’s much less of a showman about it than Elias, but it’s enjoyable all the same. He’s not new to Elias the way Elias is to Peter, but it’s still beautiful to watch the pale expanse of his stomach spread out underneath his shirt. He likes seeing the soft, hidden parts of Peter reveal themselves, the parts he knows rarely see any light, sheltered under all the layers he wears. The tops of his thighs, the small of his back, even the insides of his elbows; Elias knows no one else sees these little patches of skin but him. When Peter is standing naked, Elias pats the bed and Peter gets up on the mattress to kneel at the foot of it.

Elias stretches one leg out and rests his heel up on Peter’s shoulder. He’s limber and loose now that he’s young again, and the stretch of his limbs feels luxurious, catlike.

He smirks at Peter. “It’s not so scandalous now that I’m closer to your age, is it?” he says.

Peter scoffs. “My age? I’m flattered. I think you’re a good bit younger than me now.”

“Oh, who can say with a little thing like age,” Elias sighs. “You know I can hardly tell all you young people apart.”

Peter leans up, dislodging Elias’s leg from his shoulder, and kisses him. It’s a bit of a welcome surprise. Peter is often strange about kissing, and he almost never initiates, but maybe he wants to get to know this new mouth.

He’s indulgent, lingering at Elias’s lips a long time. He even lets Elias cup one hand under his chin and tilt his head in closer. Peter’s hands move down to roam over Elias’s chest.

Elias has had a flat chest for many years and a number of bodies now, so it’s not exactly a novelty to him anymore, not the thrilling way it was the first time. Still, he has to admire what his predecessor has done with the place. Something like this would have seemed impossible in his first body, and here he is living in it.

Peter finally pulls back from the kiss. His hands stay on Elias’s chest, moving to trace his nipples. Elias doesn’t have much sensation there, but he appreciates the gesture.

“Tell me what you want,” says Peter. Elias smiles. Peter really is ever the dutiful one, even if he would never admit it.

“Your mouth,” Elias says.

Peter sinks to settle between Elias’s legs. His hand comes up first, brushing a finger over the length of Elias’s slit. He finds Elias already wet as he spreads his folds and brings his mouth to Elias’s cunt.

His first lick across Elias is inquisitive, just brushing the surface of him. The light touch sets Elias tingling, all the nerves along the trail of it attentive and at the ready. Then Peter sinks down deeper, licking long, firm stripes across Elias, pressing down into him.

Peter is even less familiar with this body than Elias is, and Elias has to be his tour guide to some extent. As Peter's mouth wanders over his cock, he sighs and tips his hips up in encouragement. "Yes," he murmurs, “just like that."

Peter's tongue is warm and flat dragging against him. Elias’s cock is beginning to grow hard and sensitive as Peter teases it. He has more to work with than he did as Jonah; the testosterone has given him that. He likes the look of this cock, the satisfying fat shape of it, the way the head pokes out between his lips. He’s pleased to find, as Peter maps him out with his mouth, that it’s still very, very responsive to sensation.

Peter gets the hang of it quickly. His tongue sweeps swift and firm over the head of Elias’s cock, soft flesh pressing and pushing against him where he’s hard. Elias tangles his hand in Peter’s hair and pulls. Peter doesn’t need the encouragement, buried diligently as he can be at the crux of Elias’s cunt.

Every time Peter licks him he feels it up through his stomach, up his spine, a vivid spike of pleasure. He thinks he might be close to coming, but he’s not familiar enough with this body to tell for sure. He knows Peter will get him there soon enough, Peter with his unexpectedly loyal mouth, his undivided attention.

Oh, yes, there it is, for sure now, Elias can feel himself coasting the crest of it. It spears up into his belly, across his whole body. Elias gasps, and only partially means to do it. His thighs tremble around Peter’s ears as Peter continues to lap at his cock. His lower back lifts off the bed. He lets the feeling roll through him, peaking more and more intense, until it’s too much and he has to push Peter’s head back.

As he comes down from it, Peter's cheek resting against the inside of his thigh, Elias finds that he doesn't feel drained or sleepy, suddenly over it, the way he's become accustomed to feeling after he comes. He just wants more of the same, for Peter to keep touching him. Oh, he'd forgotten this lovely little feature of having a body like this, of not having to stop after coming just once.

He remembers Barnabas used to fuck him like that, his pretty little mouth licking him through round after round. Dear, dedicated Barnabas, so sweet and eager to please. He'd go for hours if that was what his darling Jonah wanted. Elias wonders how long he could convince Peter to go for.

In the absence of any instructions, having just been shoved off Elias’s cock, Peter has begun mouthing softly at Elias’s inner thigh. As his attention comes back to him, Elias feels the light scrape of teeth against his skin, not biting, just skimming. Elias reaches down again to lay a hand in Peter’s hair to signal to pay attention, that he wants to go again. Peter’s mouth lifts, no longer fidgeting, and the teeth disappear.

“Use your fingers,” Elias tells him.

Peter brings his hand up to Elias’s cunt and strokes through his folds, where he’s wet with Peter’s saliva and his own arousal. Elias twitches when Peter’s fingers run over his cock, still sensitive. Peter circles the area just around it, reactive but not so twitchy and raw, then sinks lower to slide two fingers inside him.

It feels a little different like this than it does having Peter from the back. The nerves are wired differently, and the sensation when Peter glides in and pulls back has a different tenor to it. There’s more give where he pushes, Elias’s body more willing to accommodate without having to be persuaded. There’s the wetness, not unfamiliar, but strange after all this time. Peter has big fingers, and Elias has always liked having them inside of him. He finds he likes it just as much this way, as well. His cunt hugs Peter’s fingers close but not uncomfortably tight, a stretch but not a difficult one.

“Like this,” says Elias, and shows him how to curl to rub against that spot he remembers, same as it was in his first body, the way he’d brought himself off so many time as Jonah. The others had, too. Mordechai had an especially good hand for it, he’d had the same thick, strong fingers Peter does, and he’d practically hammer against it, relentless, until Jonah had gone weak in the knees.

Peter’s other hand is at his cock now, stroking him in rhythm with the fingers inside him. Peter himself is hard, but patient. He hasn’t even tried to touch himself this whole time. He’ll go like this for as long as Elias wants him to, denying himself until Elias tells him otherwise. Elias supposes he must get something out of it, in his way. If Elias finished and sent him away without granting him his own release, he probably wouldn’t even complain. Elias has never tried; he likes seeing Peter come.

Elias feels the tension rising in his core and he’s coming again, bucking his hips, Peter attentive in keeping his fingers driving into his sweet spot even with Elias moving around him. Elias allows himself a long moan as the orgasm sweeps him.

“Lie on your back,” he tells Peter once he’s satisfied, allowing his fingers to slip out of him.

He moves over to allow Peter to take his place lying at the head of the bed. As soon as Peter has himself situated, Elias crawls over and settles on top of his thighs. He takes Peter’s cock in his hand, red and hard after being ignored for so long, and gives him a single light stroke. “Is this what you want?” he says.

Peter shuts his eyes as he inhales. He lets his head fall back onto the pillow. “Yes,” he says. “Please.”

He’s had Peter wait long enough. Elias sinks down onto him, taking him inside at a steady, measured pace. When he’s fully seated, he pauses for a moment to soak it in. He’s full with Peter stiff inside him. He reacquaints himself with the feeling, the fascinating strangeness of having another person occupying this soft part of him. He’s curious if it feels odd for Peter, too, for him to be so close to another.

Elias lifts his hips partway, then settles back down. Peter’s hands rise to rest over his hip bones, as if to guide him, as if Elias needed guiding. His thumbs make a minute motion over a spot between hard abdominal muscle and the tops of his thighs stretched tight, a little pocket of in-between space where Elias’s skin is soft and gives easily.

“Elias,” he says, his voice husky. He sounds like he might be about to say something else, but stops himself.

Peter is so desperate for it sometimes, when he slips and allows himself to stop denying himself. Early on in what passed for a courtship between them, Elias had thought that Peter was just young, that he hadn’t fully mastered his aspect. He’d learned to keep people at a distance most of the time, but not everyone, and he didn’t know how to do it forever.

It wasn’t until some time later that Elias had realized there might be an intentionality to it, when he starts to feel the effects of it on his own side of the arrangement. When Peter lets the wanting be real, it makes the absence more bitter. It’s a cycle that feeds itself: The ache of the absence makes the anticipated touch sweeter, and the sweetness of the touch turns around and makes the absence ache again. This is a moment where they’re caught in the downswing. Here, right now, it’s sweet.

And then there are times when Elias thinks that maybe, even in that suspicion, he was mistaken as well. Peter is only human, after all, underneath all of it, and he has human needs. He is a manifestation of his aspect, but not an ideal one. He can never get all the way there, to perfect solitude. He aches like any human does. Elias wonders if maybe he sometimes longs for reasons that are his own and not his patron’s.

Elias’s nature is to seek, and he could, but he doesn’t pry for that answer. He lets Peter keep that secret for himself.

Elias finds an angle that feels nice and begins to ride Peter in earnest. He likes this arrangement, with him perched on top of Peter, a nice vantage point to take him from. Peter hates it when he makes eye contact during sex, so he fixes his attention lower instead, on Peter’s wide chest, flushed and heaving. It’s a pretty sight, nice enough for him to get lost in.

He does get lost in it as he throws himself into his rhythm on top of Peter. He catalogues the feeling of Peter inside him, sinking into the depths of him every time Elias brings his hips down. Peter’s hands slide from Elias’s hips to his thighs and back up again as Elias fucks him, grazing light and then occasionally digging in. “Do you like it like this?” Elias asks.

“Yes,” Peter sighs, and then he makes no sound but his rough breaths until he warns Elias, “I’m close.”

“Do you want to come inside me?” Elias says, and Peter groans. “Go ahead.” One of the benefits of modern living.

Peter’s body stiffens underneath him, his hands squeezing at Elias’s hipbones. “Elias,” Peter whispers. It’s the first time he’s heard his new name said like that. He savors it as Peter spills himself inside him.

When Peter is done, Elias lifts himself off him and moves back up to his face. Peter doesn’t have to be told what to do, opening his mouth for Elias as he settles on top of him.

Peter’s mouth is warm on his well-used cunt. He wants his tongue on his cock, but he makes Peter lick himself out of him first. Back in the day he’d coaxed Fanshawe into doing it like this a few times, which looking back, had been appallingly risky, but at the time it had felt so good. He still remembers Jonathan’s hot tongue, so industrious and thorough, licking into Jonah after he’d spent himself inside him, almost apologetic for his own mess.

Elias grinds onto Peter’s face, smearing come and his own slickness all over Peter’s beard. Peter takes it pliantly. His tongue seeks steadfast inside Elias. When there’s nothing left for Peter to lick from him, he tips Peter’s chin to guide his mouth back to his cock, swollen and thrillingly tender.

It doesn’t take long for Elias to come again like that. He clenches his thighs around Peter’s face as he shakes in one last wave of pleasure. It crests sharp and then finishes low but sweet, residual sparks zipping through him at each slide of Peter’s tongue.

At the end of it, he picks himself up off Peter’s face and slumps back down onto the bed. He feels like he could come three more times, but he’ll give Peter a break. Elias lets the glow settle into his limbs as he feels his muscles sink into relaxation. He can feel his own pulse still running quick and he remembers the ostensible purpose of this exercise: yes, that’s his pulse now, that’s his heart and these are his veins. This fluttering, pulsing body. This is him, now.

He keeps his eyes shut to allow Peter to slip out quietly, as he always does afterwards. It’s a symbolic courtesy more than anything, seeing as it doesn’t make much of a difference whether Elias is literally looking at him or not.

Peter always cloaks himself in the static of the Lonely before he leaves, so Elias can’t pinpoint exactly when he departs. Maybe he stays for a while after slipping in there and watches Elias from the other side, wrapped up in his own blanket of foggy interference. Who knows. Peter certainly isn’t telling. If Elias really focused, he might be able to identify the exact moment that Peter steps sideways into that parallel landscape out of his reach, but he doesn’t feel the need to. Peter will be back soon enough. He always is.