They’re rip-roaringly drunk and laughing loud enough at each other to wake half the neighbourhood as they stumble into their lodgings. The rooms they’ve taken are small and in a very rough part of town, but they are at least affordable, barely, and Henry loves them purely for being theirs. They bounce off the walls and off each other until James falls onto the sofa and pulls him down in an attempt to steady himself, and Henry finds himself suddenly draped half across James’ lap with the room spinning around him.
“Good Lord, Dundy, do watch where you land,” James snorts, smacking at his shoulder. “Anyone would think you’d had too much to drink!”
With much effort, Henry hauls himself up and sits beside him, leaning heavily against James’ side and giggling like a child. “How dare you! I had a perfectly sensible amount of–of gin, or rum, or... Christ, what on Earth were we drinking, again?”
They fall into laughter again and James slips sideways to rest his head on the arm of the chair, laying back like a dying poet. Whether it was intentional or not, Henry isn’t sure, but the way James paws at his arms until he’s laying with his head on James’ chest certainly is.
“I’d not have thought you so comfortable to rest my head upon,” he says as he settles into position, “given how bony you look.”
“How dare you! I’m not ‘bony’, I’m lithe. Besides at least my hair isn’t twenty years older than the rest of me!”
Henry laughs at that, an honest and undignified snort that sets James off giggling again. “Well, perhaps you should have gone home with that lovely young thing you were talking to. I’m sure she’d be much more pleasant to have atop you than I, and with hair far more befitting her age.”
“Mm, perhaps, but how could I take my own enjoyment and leave my brother without?”
“I’d have done just fine for myself, thank you very much!” Henry says hautily. “Women find me to be quite dashing, you know. The grey gives me a touch of roguishness.”
“It is rather fetching, I admit.”
Slender fingers clumsily brush through Henry’s hair, inadvertently grazing his scalp and drawing a sound of satisfaction from his lips. He’s always been partial to being stroked and petted like a lap cat by lovers; that James is not in that category makes no difference to the enjoyment of the sensation. He reaches up blindly and takes a lock of James’ hair. The careful curls have wilted but Henry nonetheless twines it around his finger as if it were still a ringlet.
“You’ve lovely hair,” Henry mumbles.
“You’ve lovely hands.”
He props himself up and gazes down at his friend, and quite without reason, gives him a peck on the cheek that sends James into a fit of hysterics again.
“Are you trying to make up for my abandoning that young woman in favour of your company?” he giggles, taking Henry’s face between his hands. “Because I was hoping for rather more than a kiss on the cheek from her, you know.”
“Oh, indeed? What scandalous plans did you have for the poor lass?”
James leans up and kisses him on the lips, clumsy and so off centre as to be only kissing a quarter of his mouth, then relaxes back again with a grin. Henry rolls his eyes.
“Lord, Jas, if you’re going to kiss me, at least have a sense of where to aim for!”
It seems incredibly important in that moment to demonstrate, so Henry does. Their lips are much better aligned this time, James’ lower lip sitting neatly between his own and both of them with mouths slightly open. Just enough that he can feel the warmth of James’ breath. When he pulls back, there’s a shine to James’ lip that he realises is his own saliva, and a sensation much like that of having his hair and scalp caressed quivers down his spine. They look at each other for a moment, perhaps longer. The humour of the situation has not entirely evaporated, but there is certainly something thicker in the air between them now.
The next kiss comes suddenly and Henry cannot not say which of them initiated it, only that James’ fingers are in his hair again, and his tongue is slipping between James’ lips. They’re still both drunk, still both clumsy, and it’s a messy affair. Yet Henry finds himself not minding at all. It reminds him much of his first kiss in how unskilled they both are, though without any of the nervousness or hesitancy of that momentous occasion. It is simply right that he be kissing James as he is. It’s the most natural thing in the world. He feels more than hears James sigh, and he’s sure he makes some noise too as he lazily threads his fingers through James’ hair. Even after their revelry, it’s still fragrant with the oil James uses to give it the shine that Henry has always admired. In certain lights, the rich tones of James’ colouring make it look strikingly similar to finely polished mahogany.
Beneath him, James fidgets and wriggles until Henry is resting between his splayed legs. Though the kiss remains sedate, he feels James’ hands begin travelling over his back in slow sweeps, dipping past the point of decency more than once to feel his buttocks. He laments being unable to do the same to James, for he is still propped up on both elbows and certainly lacking the coordination to manage a exploration of James’ body while still maintaining the kiss. Still, he can feel James well enough against him. He is indeed lithe. Willowy, Henry had called him once. It seems all the more apt now, with James’ long limbs twining around him. He can feel enough of him through their clothes. Especially in one particular place, and that really should bother him far more than it does. It certainly should not be enjoyable to feel James growing and firming against his own member, which seems to have risen without his notice.
“Was this more what you had in mind?” he asks as he shuffles himself down to mouth at James’ neck.
“With that woman you were bothering all night. Is this closer to your plans for her than a simple peck on the cheek?”
James stretches his head back and to the side, inviting Henry to taste more of it. “I... oh, I don’t know that she’d have been quite so bold as you, Dundy. But this is certainly along the right lines, yes.”
He groans as Henry grazes his teeth across his skin, and Henry smirks. The next time he does it, nibbling lightly on James earlobe before scraping over the patch just below James’ jaw, James’ hips push up into him. Distantly, Henry wonders again why he’s so untroubled by the fact of the person beneath him being a man, but then again, it’s not just a man. It’s James, who is so much more to him than that, and there is much pleasure to be had in feeling James respond to him as he is. The hard ridge of him, the deep tenor of his sighs and moans, the size of his hands as they touch and squeeze all they can reach.
He knows James desires more, even if he won’t say it outright. The roll of his hips speak volumes and in any case, Henry is matching him with slow grinds of his own now. It’s satisfying, in the same way that stretching after a long day is satisfying, in the same way James’ honest laughter at his jokes is satisfying. But it’s not satisfying in the way he usually seeks when he’s at full mast with a willing body beneath him, and that’s enough to push him to haul himself somewhat upright and press his hand to where James is straining the placard of his trousers.
“Would your young woman have known what to do with this?” he asks with a grin. “Or were you perhaps hoping for some shy young thing to introduce to the sins of the flesh.”
James stretches like a cat and gives a breathy moan that Henry is certain must be an affectation. Nobody can look and sound so ridiculously hedonistic entirely naturally. He is inexplicably pleased to find that James is long here also, and of a greater heft than he’d’ve expected, if he’d ever been in the habit of having expectations about such things. James is marvellously solid, impressively so given how much they’ve imbibed. Henry’s own instrument is of a similar state too, though, and feeling James’ heat under his palm is making him ache.
“Bloody do something with it, won’t you? Damned tease!” James complains as he raises his hips.
“Since you’ve asked so nicely, I suppose I should.”
His fingers fumble open James’ trousers and pull him out. Free of the fabric, the size of him is even more obvious and Henry feels a touch jealous. His own is nothing to laugh at but James obviously has the superior weapon. He wraps his fingers around it and says something about Congreves that can’t have been especially witty, given how terribly addled his mind is at this moment in time, but James laughs nonetheless even as he drives himself through Henry’s fist. A few slow strokes has him gasping again. Henry cannot decide where to keep his eyes focussed; James’ features take on an entirely new beauty when flushed with pleasure but the sight of James’ prick dribbling in his hand is enticing indeed. He settles for flicking his gaze between the two, then sitting back a little further to get a good look at him in his entirety.
“Will you come off for me, darling?” he asks roughly.
James nods frantically, eyes closed and apparently speechless. It’s a powerful feeling, and Henry has to use his free hand to hurriedly pull his own prick free and begin working on it too. Perhaps the faltering of his grip on James draws his attention, because James’ eyes fly open and lock onto where Henry has revealed himself and he actually moans.
“Let me,” he pants, reaching forward. “I’ll not be accused of being a selfish lover!”
Henry gladly offers himself and curses as James’ long, elegant fingers wrap around him. His grip is perfect, exactly how Henry likes it, drawing half-suppressed moans from his mouth and a steady stream of slick from his tip. Together they work each other, and the sedate pace rapidly turns into something with a more competitive spirit. Whether they’re trying to see who is best at the task at hand or who has the most stamina, it’s difficult to say, but there’s a slight hint of a smirk on James’ slack mouth and he knows an answering expression must rest on his own. It’s a Herculean effort not to just let go and use James’ fist to his end, especially when the realisation hits that they’ll both end up ruining James’ waistcoat. That his elementals will be sprayed across James’ body, marking him, leaving him debauched and ruined like a cheap doxie.
“Your hair is–fuck... it’s grey,” James says, breathless and beautiful.
“Even here, I know. Still think it fetching?”
“Mmm, gorgeous, Dundy. Always knew you would be.”
He looks away from James’ face, the admiration and hunger he sees there too much to bear if he is to win this battle of wills. The alternative is not much better. If seeing his own hand on James’ prick was thrilling, it’s nothing compared to the sight of James’ tropics-tanned fingers around him, his thumb pressing in just the right spot, as if he’s done this before. Or perhaps James is just as given to making an event out of self indulgence as he, finding ways to reach his end beyond simplistic and vulgar pumping at himself. Henry redoubles his own efforts, feeling sturdy enough sat on his heels to press the thumb of his spare hand to the strip of flesh beneath James’ delightfully plump stones, the sensitivity of which he discovered on his own body during a particularly luxurious exploration of himself a few years prior.
“Oh–fucking Christ, that’s... you absolute swine, that’s not–mm, that’s not fair!” James says, prick twitching in Henry’s hand and eyes going wide. “Dirty... dirty bloody trick!”
His own hand is between Henry’s legs before he can fire off a retort, sliding into his trousers and tugging at his balls. At the sound of the deep groan the sensation forces from him, James laughs, a laugh that quickly devolves into another breathy whine as Henry retaliates by adding a little twist to his stroke and rubbing a slow, firm circle against James’ taint. The battle is surely almost lost though, he is so very close to his end and his increasingly frantic attempts to hold back with thoughts of the Articles are beginning to fail.
“I–fucking–Henry, damn it, I–ah! Fuck!”
The stream of nonsense happens in unison with James’ prick swelling and pulsing in Henry’s hand as victory comes in the form of seeing James arch off the sofa and erupt, decorating himself in streaks and shuddering with every spurt of it. Henry’s reward is to throw himself wholeheartedly over the edge too with James’ name on his lips and James’ hand milking it out of him until he cries for mercy.
It’s some time before he’s caught his breath enough to speak, and a little more before he feels capable of doing so after seeing the state of James’ clothing leaves him tongue tied.
“Bigger cannon it may be,” he says with a slack smile, “but you’re a quicker shot than I.”
James arches a perfectly shaped brow at him, displaying his rank surprisingly well given the speck of seed on his cheek. “My fuse was lit first, if you care to remember. I’d not gotten a hand on you until after you already had me primed.”
“Next time, we shall have to start at the same time. I’ll not have you contesting my victory again!”
He leans forward and gives James a sloppy kiss. When he sits back on his heels, James has a strange combination of the expression of a man struck on the head and the eyes of one ready to do battle.
“Right then,” he says, jutting his chin and smirking, “we’ll go again tomorrow.”
Laughing wholeheartedly, Henry flops down atop him without a care for the damage being done to their clothing and kisses James again. There’s a thrill in his blood at the thought of James wishing for a rematch, borne as much from base desire as it is from some deeper joy at this becoming a new aspect of what is already a most beloved friendship. Henry cannot find it in himself to worry overmuch about what that might mean.
Besides, James’ fingers are clumsily tugging at his collar and getting them both naked seems suddenly far more important than anything else.