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Beat You To It

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John’s been back two months. 

It feels like forever. 

Arthur looked so surprised when he finally found them, then everyone started yelling, Jack started crying, John got a fist to his nose and he hit the ground holding his face, gasping for air and spitting out blood.

His face still aches a little when he scrunches up his nose but the bruising has faded. 

Arthur’s giving him the silent treatment now, and he’d rather take a fist to his face every day than this shit for another minute. 

They’re by the dying fire, and it’s some kinda pissing match, who will give in first, turn in, walk away. 

John lifts his head from staring at the lip of the bottle in his hands and looks across the way at Arthur. 

“What do I gotta do?” John asks hoarsely. 

Arthur barely looks at him before returning his gaze to the fire, expression a little tighter, angrier. 

“Arthur,” John says as he gets to his knees, “C’mon, what do-”

“Shut up, for a start,” Arthur says lowly, a warning. 

John doesn’t heed it. 

He slowly shuffles the few feet between them until he’s kneeling at Arthur’s feet. 

“He’s not mine,” John whispers, “Swear it.”

Arthur frowns down at him then moves, quickly and John braces, hands curling on his thighs, fully expecting to be hit. 

When the impact doesn’t come after a few seconds he opens his eyes cautiously, only to see Arthur’s hand, held down to him, all the fingers curved into a fist except his pinky. 

“You serious?” John asks, looking up at Arthur, “Arthur, I ain’t kiddin’ around, don’t-”

“Promise me,” Arthur says quietly. 

John quickly lifts his hand and links their pinkies together. 

Arthur stares at their hands for a moment before squeezing John’s pinky with his own then pulling back. 

John keeps staring up at him. 

Leaning in. 

“Stop hatin’ me,” John whispers and drops his hands to his lap, “I’ll do anythin’, Arthur.”

“You still left,” Arthur mutters, “Madder about that than anythin’.”

“I told Dutch I just needed to think- I-” John leans in, moving his hands to Arthur’s knees, squeezing, looking up at the older man with a pleading expression, “But I came back and y’all had moved.”

Arthur just keeps frowning down at him. 

“C’mon, Arthur, please,” John whispers, “Why you so mad at me?”

“You left,” Arthur says darkly, “Us. All of us.”

“... You?” John leans in, pressing his lips together and squeezing Arthur’s knees again, “You never liked me anyway. Let me trail you like a stupid mutt and laughed when you kicked me.”

“What?” Arthur leans back. 

“You knew I liked you,” John says thickly, “I told you.”

“You were drunk, kinda like you are right now,” Arthur says slowly. 

“Is that what you want again?” John whispers, hesitates, moving his hands up Arthur’s thighs, “Me willin’ to do anythin’ to please you?”

“... John.”

“Just stop- Stop hatin’ me,” John squeezes Arthur’s thighs for a moment then nudges them apart, shuffling himself between the older man’s legs closer, keeping his head bowed so Arthur can’t see his eyes watering, “Will that make you stop?”

--

Two years earlier…

--

“C’mon, Johnny,” Arthur murmurs as he tries to get the younger man to stand. 

John just mumbles and leans against him, almost making Arthur stumble. 

Arthur huffs loudly and grabs John around the waist, then reaches down and hooks his arm behind the younger’s knees. 

John just snickers, wrapping his arms around Arthur’s neck. 

“Oh, now you’ve got control of your body?” Arthur rolls his eyes as he starts to carry John away from the fire to the younger man’s tent. 

“What a gentleman,” John mumbles, his fingers playing with Arthur’s hair at the older man’s nape, “Real noble of you.”

“What?” Arthur hitches John a little higher and frowns down at the younger man who’s smiling up at him. 

“Takin’ care of me,” John whispers, like it’s a secret, and Arthur’s brows furrow further. 

He ducks through the flaps of John’s tent and moves to settle John on the cot, but when he tries to straighten back up, John holds on. 

“John, c’mon,” Arthur mutters, “Knock it off, go to sleep.”

“You could,” John whispers, still in that gentle, secretive tone, “Fuck me, r’now, I’d let you.”

Arthur stiffens in shock and holds very still, trying to process what John’s just told him. 

“Wanna,” John whispers, his thin fingers combing through Arthur’s hair, “You wanna?”

One of the younger man’s thighs slides between his and Arthur squeezes the sheets on the mattress.

His hands on either side of John’s waist.

“John, let go,” Arthur whispers, not meeting the younger man’s eyes. 

“Please?” John’s thigh nudges higher, brushing up against Arthur’s crotch and Arthur quickly yanks the younger man’s arms from around his neck and shoves away before John can feel that he’s hard. 

John stares up at him from the bed, eyes wide, barely holding himself up on his elbows 

Arthur just stares back at him for a moment then laughs, a sharp, angry thing. 

“Unbelievable,” Arthur mutters as he turns and leaves John’s tent.

--

When Arthur doesn’t move to stop him John bites the inside of his cheek and slides his fingers higher, pausing on the closure of Arthur’s pants. 

Arthur still doesn’t move, just watching him. 

John slowly slips free the first button, pauses. 

Waiting.

Arthur still doesn’t move to stop him so John settles heavier on his knees and slips the other buttons free, pulling the fabric apart. 

Arthur’s hard, under the knit of the union suit. 

John makes a shaky sound, low in his throat, and finally looks up, only to see Arthur looking away, face turned to the side. 

“Art?” John whispers and the older man’s eyes close tight, “You want this?”

“... I don’t know,” Arthur mutters, “I… I’m still mad at you.”

“... Wasn’t that drunk,” John says shakily, “That night. Just wanted you… Wanted you to take care of me.”

Arthur’s quiet, still not looking down at him. 

“Meant it,” John says, gently tugging at the older man’s union suit, not trying to open it, but gripping the fabric tightly, “Really, Arthur, would let you do anythin’.”

“Yeah?” Arthur asks roughly, “You love me or somethin’?”

“... Or somethin’.”

“Stupid,” Arthur says under his breath, opening his eyes and sitting up, “You’re a fool, Marston.”

“I’m well aware,” John says hoarsely, “You’ve told me plenty.”

Arthur makes a rough sound, deep in his chest, fidgeting for a moment, settling his hands on the log on either side of his hips, biting his lower lip hard, finally looking directly down at John. 

At John between his spread thighs, at his splayed open pants. 

“Shit,” Arthur whispers, looking around them, “Get the hell up.”

John chews on his lower lip as he backs up and gets to his feet. 

“Go…  Go to my tent,” Arthur says thickly.

John blinks down at him. 

"Go," Arthur says again, quieter, "Do whatever you need to get ready, then lay down."

"... You serious?" John whispers, "This ain't a prank or somethin' right?" 

Arthur shakes his head and covers his eyes, fixing his pants before leaning over his legs, rubbing his face. 

"If you mean it, go."

So John goes. 

First to his own tent, because he doesn't feel as exposed, stripping down and rummaging through his things, relying on old muscle memory to clean himself, slicking thick jelly over three fingers and working himself open. 

A little quick, a little rough. 

He pulls back on his union suit and cautiously slips out of his tent. 

The fire’s been put out, Arthur probably got tired of waiting for him. 

But when he gets to the older man’s tent, Arthur’s not there. 

John takes a deep breath and steps out of his boots before crawling onto the older man’s cot. 

It’s changed, since the last time he shared with the older man, maybe the mattress has changed, maybe it’s just grown thin. 

John lays on his side, facing the entrance to the tent, waiting. 

--

He’s almost asleep when Arthur comes in. 

The older man stops, seeing him, hesitates. 

Then sighs quietly and turns around, tying the flaps shut and kicking off his boots roughly. 

John just watches the older man move around, pulling off each article of clothing, each accessory until he’s matching John, just in his union suit. 

Arthur walks over to his bed and looks down at John, who stares back up at him, doe-eyed. 

“God,” Arthur mutters and climbs onto the cot, hovering over John, frowning down at him, “You’re a dumbass, you know that?”

“... Yeah,” John whispers, shifting slowly, “Sorry?”

Arthur snorts and bows his head then moves to kneel, straddling John. 

John squirms under him and tentatively lifts his hands to Arthur’s waist. 

“What do you want, really, John?” Arthur whispers, “You wanna fuck me?”

“No- I… I just-” John stutters and shifts, squeezing the older man’s firm muscle under his hands, “‘M ready for you.”

“... You already-?" Arthur inhales sharply and glances down between them before looking John dead in the eyes. 

John just nods slowly.

"Jesus," Arthur whispers, sitting up, looking down, "You sure?" 

"... I dunno how many times you need me to say it," John drops his hands off the older man and fidgets with the closure of his own union suit, "Want you, have for a while." 

John slowly starts to unbutton his union suit from the top, but Arthur stops his hands, whispering. 

"Wait."

So John stills, looking up at him. 

Arthur presses his lips together. 

Dropping his eyes down, not meeting John’s questioning gaze. 

“Turn over,” Arthur whispers, sitting back.

John slowly turns over onto his belly and understands when Arthur’s fingers are undoing the flap on the bottom of his union suit, pushing the sides open. 

He makes a shaky sound and lifts his hips up a bit, pressing his ass back into Arthur’s hands. 

“How much did you do?” Arthur asks hoarsely, “Do I gotta grab somethin’ slick or-?”

“No,” John whispers, “Worked myself open… You can just…”

Arthur groans softly and there’s shuffling behind him, then his hips are hiked up a bit and he feels Arthur’s cockhead pressed to his hole. 

His breath catches in his throat as Arthur pushes in, slowly, gently easing his cock in until he bottoms out. 

“Fuck,” John whimpers and grits his teeth when he clenches around Arthur’s cock, “Christ, Arthur.”

“Mm?”

“Just- Just go slow, please,” John whispers shakily. 

“Too much?” Arthur leans down over his back and his lips ghost against the shell of John’s ear, “D’you wanna try workin’ yourself open a lil’ more before-”

“No- No, just… Don’t be rough,” John says hoarsely, “Please.”

Arthur’s quiet and his hand presses against John’s lower spine, thumb against the younger man’s tailbone. 

Slowly pulling his hips back, John shoving his face into the mattress to muffle his whimpering. 

Arthur’s hand slides up his spine, presses down on him as he sinks back in. 

John’s back arches sharply under him and the younger man makes a weak sound, voice watery. 

“John?” Arthur whispers. 

John shakes his head quickly. 

“Sorry- Keep- Keep goin’,” John’s toes curl in his socks and he lightly pushes back, fucking himself onto Arthur’s cock. 

Arthur stays still, watching the younger man rock back onto him. 

Quietly whimpering into the mattress, obviously forcing himself. 

“John,” Arthur whispers again, “Don’t let me hurt you.”

John slowly stops moving and shivers, curling up a bit, clenching around Arthur and squirming. 

“Stop hatin’ me,” John says shakily, “Please.”

“... I don’t,” Arthur says hoarsely, “John, please tell me you actually want this, and you’re not just… Tryna buy me back or somethin’.”

“Wanna see you.”

Arthur curses roughly and slowly pulls out, grabbing John’s hips and helping the younger turn over. 

John’s eyes are watery and he doesn’t meet Arthur’s eyes.

“You wanna see me, you gotta look at me, Johnny,” Arthur says softly. 

John huffs and rubs at his eyes before looking up at Arthur. 

The older man sighs softly and moves one hand to John’s shoulder, squeezing. 

“Do you want this?” Arthur whispers, “Really?”

“Wanted you as long as I can remember,” John says with a weak laugh, “Just don’t wanna remember it badly.”

“... Jesus,” Arthur mutters and sits back, rubbing over his mouth and studying John. 

“Always imagined it real sappy,” John admits hoarsely, closing his eyes, “You bringing me to bed, kissin’ me, bein’ sweet.”

“John,” Arthur whispers. 

“Know it’s stupid,” John mutters and keeps his hands on the mattress by his hips. 

So he won’t reach out for the older man. 

“Sorry-” John says thickly, “Know you’re still mad at me… But don’t… Don’t make this a punishment, please?”

Arthur slowly leans down over him, 

John can feel the older man’s heat hovering over him, Arthur’s heated breath on his upper chest where he never buttons the top of his union suit. 

It makes him shiver, press his lips together, feeling the cooler air in the space between them on his exposed ass.

He bends his knees slowly, keeping his eyes closed, shifting lower on the mattress, letting his legs fall open. 

The soft kiss against his cheek startles him enough he gasps. 

“Did I hurt you?” Arthur whispers, “Serious.”

“No,” John whispers. 

Arthur swallows loudly and there’s another kiss pressed to his cheek. 

Then another, a little closer to his mouth and John holds his breath. 

“Bein’ sweet?” Arthur echoes him, “What’d you mean by that?”

John finally opens his eyes and looks up at the older man. 

“Like you’re enjoyin’ me,” John says quietly, looking between Arthur’s eyes, fidgeting with the sheet under him, “You… You take good care of me- Or you used to.”

“I care about you,” Arthur murmurs. 

“Why’d you laugh?”

“I… Thought you were with Abigail,” Arthur says slowly, “Thought you were cheatin’.”

“... Was never with Abigail,” John mutters, closing his eyes again, “We messed around once and I didn’t even-”

John stops himself, dark brows furrowing and Arthur sighs quietly above him. 

“Sorry I punched you.”

“Sorry I left,” John whispers. 

Arthur’s lips press against his and John can’t stand not touching the older man anymore, reaching up and grabbing at Arthur’s shoulders. 

Gasping into the kiss when Arthur’s fingers brush over his ass and rub against his hole, checking the rim then pressing inside. 

Just one, then two, carefully stretching John open, slower with much more care and attention than John afforded himself. 

John makes a shaky sound and bends one of his legs up, opening himself more and setting his heel in the crook of Arthur’s hip. 

Arthur’s other hand moves to the outside of his thigh and squeezes before the older man gently bites at John’s lower lip, pausing, waiting, tugging. 

John lets his lips part and Arthur hums against his mouth, a deep, pleased sound as the older man deepens the kiss. 

A third finger is worked inside him and John clenches around the fingers, cock twitching under the fabric containing it. 

“Good?” Arthur whispers, barely pulling back enough to speak. 

“Good,” John says shakily, “Good, fuck, Art- Please?”

“Lemme be sweet,” Arthur kisses him again and John reaches between them, his fingertips following down the buttons of Arthur’s union suit to where it’s parted, his fingertips grazing the coarse hair. 

Sitting up a bit, fighting against Arthur until he can wrap his fingers around Arthur’s cock, whining into their kiss when Arthur’s fingers curl inside him in response. 

“Shit,” Arthur whispers, pulling back, breathing out roughly as he looks down between them. 

John slides his hand up Arthur’s neck from the older man’s neck, slowly combing his fingers into Arthur’s hair. 

“... You wanna?” John asks shakily. 

Arthur huffs roughly and presses his lips together, shifting his hands to pull his fingers out, shuffling forward and letting John guide his cock until the head is against the younger man’s hole. 

“Told you I wasn’t that drunk,” John whispers then moves his hand from the older man’s cock to Arthur’s upper arm when the older man shifts to hold himself up over John. 

Arthur just shakes his head softly and presses in, slow, looking down at John as the younger man squirms and John’s head tilts back, neck stretching and Arthur takes an opportunity to press a gentle kiss to John’s throat. 

John’s throat vibrates with a soft moan under his lips as Arthur bottoms out. 

“God, Johnny,” Arthur whispers, “I’m sorry.”

“S’fine, c’mon don’t-”

“I mean it,” Arthur says and his voice is a little shaky. 

“Yeah, me too, alright? Please, move,” John whispers, “We can talk later, promise.”

“You gonna tell me what you did for a year?”

John tilts his head to the side to get Arthur’s mouth of his neck then turns towards the older man. 

“I missed you,” John says roughly, “All y’all, and you.”

Arthur’s quiet looking at him, then away, closing his eyes, dropping his head to John’s shoulder. 

“Move,” John begs weakly. 

Arthur listens, finally and slowly pulls out, just a careful, pressing back in as he kisses John’s collarbone through the fabric. 

Working himself into a rhythm, keeping a gentle pace, fucking into John. 

John’s making little, stunted sounds, catching in his throat, with each thrust, tiny muffled whimpers.

“Missed you,” John repeats, shaky and breathy as he curls his fingers in Arthur’s hair, “S’longer.”

“Yeah, yours too,” Arthur says between panting breaths, keeping the same pace, shifting on his knees to lift John’s hips a bit, changing the angle. 

John squeezes his arm with a shaky sound and his back arches, mouth falling open. 

“I-” John makes a gut-punch sound then clenches around Arthur as he rocks his hips up, “Arthur, I-”

“I love you,” Arthur whispers carefully, and John bites down on a groan, his legs wrapping around Arthur’s hips and squeezing tight. 

Arthur moves his hand to rub John’s cock through the fabric, slow and firm as he speeds up. 

“John,” Arthur says shakily, “Love you.”

John just makes another broken, whimpery sound and uncurls his fingers, cupping Arthur’s head and holding the older man tightly to himself as he comes. 

Arthur groans, muffled against John’s shoulder as the younger man clamps down on him, rutting lightly into John until he’s pulled over as well, cursing and tucking his face into John’s neck. 

Settling, heavy, laying down on the younger man. 

Both of them taking a few moments to catch their breath. 

John clears his throat weakly, his fingers combing out of Arthur’s hair then resettling on the older man’s nape. 

“I was gonna say that,” John whispers, almost petulant in tone. 

Arthur snorts gently against the younger man’s neck and shakes his head in disbelief. 

“Beat you to it.”