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Skin and Bone

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Noises obtained by percussion
Metal, wood on skin and bone
Voices of animals and men
Laugh and shout and scream and moan
~Adam Ant

***

“I want to learn. Can you play it?” Laurent reaches out, touching the strings feather-light. They ping, barely audible, the soft echo against the marble pillars.

Damen looks at him, a faint smile, showing more in his dimples than on his lips. “I can play it. I don’t know that I’d be any good at teaching you.” He approaches, straight-backed and casual. His hands fall to Laurent’s hips instead of to the instrument, pressing in just slightly, so Laurent can feel him through the heavy Veretian layers. “Why this?”

Laurent tilts his head up, the angle of Damen’s face strange from the position, but he finds he rather likes him at any angle. “Do I need a reason?”

Damen’s smile widens, and he dips his head low, nosing along the small, exposed bit of Laurent’s neck. Laurent shudders, a gesture which wouldn’t be picked up by anyone else except Damen, and he makes a delighted noise as he does with every response he can coax out of his lover. “No,” he says, then kisses the place right behind Laurent’s ear. “You need no reason.”

Laurent hesitates, then steps away from Damen’s arms to the instrument. It sits, carved with intricate designs, telling a story in Akielon in the curves of the wood. It’s a gorgeous instrument, really, fitting for the man who was crown prince, who now sits as king. He plucks it from the stand, holding it like he’d seen when they were being entertained at Damen’s coronation, though it’s the most he knows. His fingers drift over the strings, and the sound is pleasant, even if it is nonsensical.

Damen watches, his eyes crinkled in the corners with his grin, and after Laurent is done messing with it, he takes it in his hands. He holds it, a little more stiffly than perhaps a man who had been well trained in the art, but his fingers move to the strings. The tune he plucks out is something simple, but effortless, and it would only be made better if a song had accompanied it. But Damen does not sing—Laurent has heard him once or twice after too much to drink, and it’s not something he would actively encourage.

Damen doesn’t try, just goes through the melody once, then twice before stopping and setting it down.

Laurent is still staring at his fingers. It’s strange, sometimes, to see how nimble Damen’s hands can be, when they are so large, and so strong. He knows the light, careful caresses intimately, in places he would trust no other person in the world—but he trusts Damen. When things are overwhelming, and he needs to let go of control, needs to be treated with care, Damen delivers with those hands.

He licks his lips, and when he looks into Damen’s face, he can see that his husband is aroused. “Do you wish to share your thoughts?” he teases.

Damen ducks his head, and Laurent knows if he put a palm to his cheek, there would be heat there. He does not. Instead he takes a step back, offering a chase, if Damen wishes it.

“I think they would be…too improper to share, where others can hear.” He adds the last bit with some hesitation, because there are guards nearby. Guards Damen has fought alongside, and has shared food and drink, and stories of battles. This is Akielos, however, and Laurent knows there are things the men do not share.

Intimacy between the kings is one of those things.

“Perhaps then you would like to take me somewhere else and tell me then?” Laurent offers.

He does not give chase when Damen reaches for him. Instead he falls pliant into his lover’s arms, and allows Damen to crowd him back into the wall, their sides brushing the edge of a colourful tapestry just before their mouths meet in a hot, sweet, pressing kiss.

Damen breathes through his nose, hot and heavy, full of want. The desire is in the air, heady, thick with something Laurent cannot yet name. “I…” Damen stops, and Laurent is kind enough he does not push his husband when he cannot find the words.

Instead he links their fingers and takes the side passage away from the main hall. It exists just steps from their bedchamber, and they slip inside, knowing they will not be disturbed for some time.

It’s cool in there now, the soft breeze from the evening coated in a layer of salt from the sea. Laurent shivers, though the breeze is welcome against the pressing hot, humid Akielon summer which is quickly fading into the cooler seasons. They do not light lamps—the moon is full and it’s rising just outside of their open window.

Damen takes his time, as he always does with Laurent. Each finger, nimble with the laces at Laurent’s throat, at his wrists, along his chest. Inch by inch, his skin is revealed, and soon he’s in nothing but underclothes, his shirt too light, his legs bare and pale against the stone backdrop of the bedchamber wall.

Damen drinks him in, with his eyes, with his hands, with his mouth. He follows a trailing path of lips as fingers draw hot lines over Laurent’s throat, his collarbone, the centre of his chest. Laurent gives little more than quiet gasps and small sighs, but Damen hoards them all, as though Laurent has stood on the roof and shouted his love for Damen.

He would, if Damen wanted such a thing. But he knows Damen prefers this, this secret thing between them, a piece of Laurent that no one else in the world gets to touch.

Laurent eventually finds the pin on Damen’s shoulder, pulling it from the fabric, letting it drop with a soft clink to the stone floor. The chiton, with the untied string at the waist, falls with it. Their clothes pile together, and their feet nearly trip over each other as they make their way to the bed.

Laurent is feeling something tonight, something buzzing under his skin that he usually doesn’t want, and never asks for. But it feels different now, he feels braver somehow, and it’s perhaps that bravery that guides his hand, to the cleft of Damen’s ass. Fingers push between, seeking, hungry in a way he’s not expecting.

“Can we…”

“Yes,” Damen breathes, almost a groan. He turns his head and kisses Laurent desperately, a little messy, too wet, showing how close he is to losing control. He’s hard against Laurent’s thigh, pushing himself in a rocking motion for what little friction he can take. “Yes,” he says again.

Laurent has done this one time, and one time only. A moment Damen had shared with him—a first for them both. Laurent doesn’t prefer it, but it’s in the moment he feels he wants it, and there’s something overwhelming about how willing Damen is to give it to him.

It takes no coaxing to turn Damen, to see him stretched out on his front, with his hips lifted, waiting for Laurent. They are both unpractised, both nervous, but Laurent feigns confidence well as he slicks his fingers with the oil at their bedside, and pushes one inside.

It’s tighter than he remembered, but Damen is pliant beneath him, his muscles occasionally quivering with anticipation. He closes his eyes as he searches, and he feels Damen’s hips hitch, just before he gasps and says, “There. Gods…Laurent…”

Laurent is emboldened by this, adds a second finger, then when Damen is begging, a third. There’s very little now beyond Damen’s quiet moaning, and the slick, wet sound of Laurent’s fingers pushing in and out, in and out in a mimed fuck which he will perform…but not until Damen begs for it.

They both know what Laurent is waiting for.

“Please,” Damen eventually gasps. His hips are moving restlessly against the mattress, too close to his release. Laurent can hear the desperation in his voice. “I want to come with you inside me. Please.”

Laurent needs no more coaxing. He slicks himself, and he hitches Damen’s hips up, and he pushes in with a controlled, agonizingly slow slide. He wants this, he wants Damen to feel it, but he could not live with himself if he caused Damen another second of pain.

The scars he stares at as he picks up his rhythm are enough of a reminder that never again—never again—will he be responsible for such things.

His hands trace them, and words tumble from his lips like, “Yes, beautiful, so good,” and Damen reacts to them by thrusting back, and gripping the sheets with his passion.

Neither of them last long. Laurent has found the angle Damen begs for, and he ruthlessly fucks against it as Damen’s trembling hand strokes himself until he comes, arched backed and loud. Laurent doesn’t last more than a moment later.

His climax is quieter, reserved, but no less intense as he buries his face against the puckered, scarred back of his husband. His hands hold Damen by the hips as their bodies still, the heat still radiating off the pair of them.

It’s sticky and the smell is heady, and Laurent falls boneless to the side, magnanimous enough to let Damen peel himself from the sheets to bring a wet cloth from the basin.

Clean up is perfunctory, a few swipes of too-cool water, which feels good until Laurent’s skin begins to cool naturally. Then it’s a lot—overwhelming sensation which Damen seems to sense, because he pulls the blanket high along Laurent’s waist before he collapses next to him.

They roll toward each other, a motion so natural for the pair of them now, neither of them think much of it. Damen’s large, gentle fingers brush through the sweat-slick locks loosely curled over Laurent’s forehead. “Thank you,” he whispers.

Laurent’s cheeks pink, and he shrugs. He says nothing, but he knows Damen doesn’t need words.

“You are beautiful. You make me feel safe,” Damen says.

Laurent is not hesitant when he leans in to kiss him, small pecks like the beat of a butterfly’s wink against his mouth, his cheek, his chin. “I love you,” he says. The words aren’t spoken often between them, but in this moment they feel right.

At the sight of Damen’s smile, Laurent knows bearing his soul like this is worth it. “I love you too.” Damen does not say them often either, but he never hesitates to whisper them back whenever Laurent is brave enough to make the declaration.

The moon’s up now, the filtered, pale light of Artemis easing them to sleep. Laurent pulls Damen’s hand in, resting it against the beat of his heart. They are content. They are safe. Laurent takes the moment to acknowledge what’s between them:

A Kingdom and this.