"You're not going to welcome me home?" Jim and Artemus settled into comfort on opposite sides of the parlor car. It was intentional, of that, Jim was certain. Artemus had a bee in his bonnet. Jim nearly grinned and hid his face in his brandy.
"I know you're grinning."
"Sorry. But you are very angry, and for some reason, I'm finding it funny."
Artemus stood up and turned his back on Jim. "Oh, it's hilarious. You disappeared for two weeks! Then, you show up and you're not you. Funny, James, very funny."
"Okay, so it's not funny." Jim shrugged. "But it wasn't my fault either."
Artemus whipped back around. "If you could keep your trousers buttoned shut for one evening--"
"I wouldn't be the charming Jim West that you know and love." Jim took another sip. The word 'love' was probably an exaggeration tonight, but usually it was true. "I can't apologize. I was keeping you out of trouble. What if you had gone out with her?"
"Like that was ever going to happen," Artemus grumbled, finding his seat again and his brandy. "I still think you should avoid pretty women for a while."
Jim laughed openly. "But who will go out with you on double--dates?"
"Okay. Those I agree too, but no more getting into strange carriages with beautiful and dangerous women!"
"How can I know they're dangerous?"
"They're all dangerous!" Artemus laughed a little at himself. He took a big drink of brandy and slumped at the shoulders. "Give me a break, will ya?"
Jim nodded. He would, for a little while; it wouldn't kill him. Artemus deserved some consideration. Being held captive by Dr. Loveless had been, for the most part, boring, but Artemus had, no doubt, been frantic. "I have a surprise for you."
"I don't think my heart can stand any more surprises. Thanks anyway." Artemus leaned his head back and shut his eyes. He obviously wanted to ignore Jim this evening.
Jim put his brandy down and went to the stable car. It was in a crate that had been delivered today. He had thought Artemus would like it. Opening the crate carefully, he took out the -- what were they called? He didn't know. Dr. Loveless had invented them, or so Jim assumed, even though the little doctor was not above stealing things. He toted it back to the parlor, making sure he had all the parts.
"What is that?"
"Your surprise." Jim smiled. "I confiscated it from the ghost town."
"You mean stole it."
"That too. No one seemed to care." Jim put it on the desk. "Think you can get it to work?"
Artemus was studying each part with intensity. He didn't look up. "What does it do?"
"It makes music." Jim went back to his brandy. "Or it did."
Artemus grunted, sat down, and flipped a part into place. He ignored his brandy and worked at it. Jim watched him. Artemus was enjoying himself. He'd tried not to, but he was clearly happy tinkering with the machine. Jim swirled his brandy. He wasn't going to push himself on Artemus tonight. There was more than one way to wheedle his way back into the good graces of his partner.
There was a quick knock at the door, and Jim went to answer it. He doubted Artemus had even heard it.
"That's me." Jim smiled and tipped the young man, taking the large basket. "Thanks."
"Thank you!" The young man dashed off.
Jim took the basket right to the galley. Artemus glanced up, but said nothing. Jim fixed two plates of food. Fried chicken, potatoes, corn, and biscuits made up the bulk of the meal. There was also pie, but that could wait. He took Artemus a plate and silverware before returning for his own.
"Why James, thank you."
"You're welcome, Artie. I saw no reason you should have to cook tonight."
Artemus nodded. He suddenly smiled, picking up his plate and joining Jim at the table. "You're trying to cozen up to me, aren't ya?"
"Me?" Jim shook his head. "It would be a waste of effort. You'll be angry for another day or two, at least."
"Yep, and don't forget it." Artemus picked up his chicken. "Get me my brandy, will ya?"
"Sure." Jim went to the desk, scooped it up, and returned. "Now, don't push your luck."
Artemus laughed softly. They ate their dinner and did no more talking. When Jim's plate was empty, he went to the kitchen and brought out the pie.
"Pie?" Artemus cut into it and dished out two big pieces. "Cherry pie. My favorite. Now I know you feel bad."
Jim shrugged and ate his pie. When Artemus finished, he wandered back to the desk. Jim picked up the plates and went to rinse them. It wouldn't kill him. The leftovers he stored in the icebox. He gave the cabinets a swipe and turned, bumping directly into Artemus.
"James, you reek of guilt."
"Well, I spent most of that time bored. Granted I had moments of panic, but by and large, I just laid around and waited for Dr. Loveless to get on with the business of killing me."
"You spent plenty of time kissing Marie and holding a gun on your partner!" Artemus poked Jim in the chest with a finger. "Pie or no pie, I'm not happy!"
Jim twisted his little finger and tried to think of a way out of this mess. He had held a gun on Artemus. It had been a joke, of course, but Artemus had been worried for just a split instant. And kissing Marie had been no hardship, but that's all he'd done. Marie wouldn't be having a child in nine months, no sir. "It did give me a lot of time to think."
"I may kiss a few girls, but I always come home to you." Jim looked away. "And you're always here."
"We've been together too long to get angry over a few kisses, but the gun was over the top!" Artemus backed Jim against the cabinets.
"I was afraid of that." Jim let himself be cornered, and he obligingly slumped down a little so Artemus could loom over him. "I'll make it up to you."
Artemus gave out a noise similar to a horse snorting. "It'll take more than pie."
"Well, you've never been cheap," Jim said with a slow smile. "Hot bath and a massage?"
"It'll be a start." Artemus inched closer. "Was Marie a good kisser?"
"Not as good as you," Jim answered honestly. It might help.
Artemus shook his head and said, "If you're going to butter me up, do better than that."
"I'm telling the truth." Jim stood up straight and pushed his chest out. "She did have nice breasts, but--"
"Don't say it!"
Jim laughed and slowly wrapped his arms around Artemus. "I would never."
Artemus didn't struggle or move away. Jim took that as a good sign and squeezed a little. He had missed his partner, and he didn't mind showing it. Artemus quit glaring.
"I panicked when I thought that Janus would kill you. If anyone could kill you, it'd be me," Jim said. "Voltaire was ready for me that time."
Artemus nodded. "I wasn't too suspicious until he pointed my own gun at me, which has perfect balance, by the way. Great--Aunt Maude was the frosting on the cake."
"Dr. Loveless didn't do enough research." Jim rubbed Artemus' back through his shirt. "Good thing you're smart."
Artemus pulled away, and Jim let him go. "I want to work on the music maker."
"Sure." Jim followed him and sat down again to watch. Artemus didn't do more than glance at Jim while finishing. Jim made sure he wasn't doing anything annoying. He had enough to make up for and didn't want to dig himself in any deeper.
"I think I'm done." Artemus stood up and looked all around it. "Did he happen to show you how it turns on?"
Jim smiled and turned the crank. "Put that there."
Artemus nodded and did so carefully. Jim watched Artemus' face, not the machine. Beautiful music filled the parlor car. Artemus smiled, and it was worth every bit of trouble that Jim had gone through to get it. Jim put his hand on Artemus' shoulder and squeezed. Artemus turned to him. "Lovely."
"Yes." Jim poured Artemus another brandy and handed it to him. "Sit with me?"
Artemus sat down and took a sip. "Dr. Loveless is a genius."
Jim nodded, but said nothing. The music tucked itself into every nook and cranny of the parlor, and he suspected Artemus' heart. Artemus loved music passionately. Having it here was more than a treat, it was a moment suspended in time.
"James?" One soft word that had etched itself across Jim's heart years ago.
"You're forgiven." Artemus wrapped his arm behind Jim. "But you knew that."
"I did hope." Jim put his hand on Artemus' knee. "I'm glad you like it."
Artemus shut his eyes, sipped his brandy, and said nothing until the music faded away. "Again?"
"Of course." Jim reset the machine and sat back down to enjoy his partner, if not the music. This time Artemus didn't interrupt the music. Jim relaxed into the physical comfort of his partner. Artemus gently kissed Jim behind the ear. The music, the brandy, the smell of Artemus' cologne, and the kiss were enough to make Jim wish they were in the stateroom.
The music ended, and Artemus pulled Jim into a deep kiss. "Can I show you how much?"
Jim had to fill in the missing part of the sentence. It took a second, and before he could answer, Artemus looked away in disappointment. Jim put his palm on Artemus' face and pulled him back. "Yes."
Artemus didn't grin and smile triumphantly. He leaned his forehead against Jim's and said softly, "Thank you."
"No, Artie. Thank you." Jim kissed him and smiled.
Artemus stood up, took Jim by the hand, and went to the stateroom. Jim laughed softly and went along willingly. He did stop to turn off the lights in the parlor. Artemus tugged a little impatiently, and Jim didn't stop again until they were close to the bed. Jim took the time to light a lamp. When he turned to his partner, they didn't smile. He dug out the oil that he liked and shrugged out of his jacket.
"Come here, James."
Jim looked, shrugged, and obeyed. He wasn't accustomed to it in the stateroom, or anywhere else, but he had given Artemus the reins. Artemus took his time removing Jim's clothes. One piece at a time and kissing every step of the way. Jim felt as if he'd spend before they were even naked together. He started on Artemus' buttons.
"No." Artemus pushed Jim's hands away. Jim groaned softly and gasped when Artemus' hot hands pushed his trousers down. "We're not rushing this tonight."
Jim didn't answer. He was busy trying not to come like a green boy with his first girl. His boots and trousers gone, he forced himself to wait for Artemus to tell him what was next.
Artemus stepped back and looked. "Very nice. Don't move."
Jim lowered his head slightly and narrowed his eyes. He didn't want to wait one more minute, but Artemus was still fully dressed. Artemus took a long time to remedy the situation -- too long. Jim wanted to jump on him, but held himself still.
"Your eagerness is a nice compliment." Artemus smiled. "And you even let me boss you around."
"I'm ready for you to show me." Jim spoke very quietly. His hands itched to get a good grip on Artemus. "More than ready."
Artemus nodded. "You're always quick at the trigger, James, but let's go slow."
Jim blinked, frowned, and decided that he'd been insulted. Artemus hugged him, pushing Jim's arms back, lacing their hands together. Jim didn't fight or tug. The muscles in his arms bulged, and Artemus kissed them. Jim dipped his head and bit Artemus on the neck.
Jim sucked it hard until Artemus yanked away. He grinned. "You taste good."
"You're supposed to let me do everything."
"Yes, everything. You can't kiss, bite, chew, nibble, thrust, hump, push--"
They laughed together. Artemus pushed Jim to sitting and spread Jim's legs. "Leave your arms back."
Jim sighed, but did it. Artemus knelt by the bed and began licking, not sucking, just licking. It was maddeningly wonderful. Jim tried not to thrust, but didn't succeed. He draped his leg over Artemus and pulled.
"No pulling either."
"Artie! I'm going crazy here!"
"Yeah. I like it." Artemus moved up Jim's chest, licking and nibbling. "Better?"
Jim captured Artemus with both legs and shoved himself into warm skin. Artemus laughed and let them move to the center of the bed. Jim grabbed and shoved. He was so close. Artemus kissed him, but pulled back. Jim wanted to howl at the moon. "Come on!"
Artemus shook his head. "I had two weeks to think about this, and I went out and bought something." He opened the side table drawer and took out a cock ring made of leather. "Hold still."
Jim bucked like a bronco when it went on. He could have fought and protested. It seemed stupid. "It won't last forever."
"But when you do, it'll feel so good." Artemus licked up Jim's body, skipping over the leather. "Let me think, there was one other thing I wanted to do."
"I was missing, and you were planning all this?" Jim couldn't believe it!
"Well, my mind did wander a bit while I was riding here and there." Artemus reached again. He kissed Jim before asking, "Can I?"
Jim looked at the blindfold. "Yeah, but tell me why."
Artemus blindfolded him fast and tight. "I want to show you, not have you take over and make me insane with lust."
"I see." And Jim did, even though he couldn't. Artemus wanted to be in control -- complete control. It was okay. Jim trusted him. This was showing it. "Don't let me fall off the bed."
Artemus laughed. He went back to licking, this time with a dollop of sucking thrown in for good measure. Jim gripped the spindles of the headboard and wallowed in the pleasure. His body pulsed. He nearly ripped off the blindfold twice. This was exquisite torture.
"What are you doing again?" Jim gasped and arched his back.
"Showing you exactly how much," Artemus said softly right in Jim's ear.
Jim smiled and whispered, "How much what?"
"I want to hear it, or I'm ripping this off and coming on your face." Jim pivoted and pinned Artemus to the bed, easily. "Well?"
Artemus groaned and pinched Jim's nipples, running his hands to Jim's ass and squeezing. "How much I missed you."
"And?" Jim kissed him and pulled back. It was good to hear, just this once, of course. There was more, and he wanted it said. "And?"
Artemus flipped them again. Jim allowed it. Skin was hot on skin. Artemus bit Jim's ear and said, "How much I love you."
"Good." Jim gripped the spindles again. "Did that hurt?"
"I knew what you wanted during our pie. Those eyes were begging for it." Artemus sucked Jim's neck. It'd leave a mark. "Do you have anything you want to tell me?"
"Depends on your performance here tonight. Think you'll get a rave review?"
Artemus bit him hard. Jim took it. He did squirm, lifting his legs and snuggling their groins together, but he was careful not to push. Artemus did that for them, shoving and grunting. Jim wanted more, and he was tired of waiting, but he refused to ask. He'd wait. Artemus pulled away. Jim gasped from sheer denial.
"Come right here, James."
Jim bit his lip. He made a mental note never to allow this again. Groping, he found Artemus at the end of the bed. Artemus was sitting cross--legged. He took hold of Jim's hair and guided him. Jim squeezed Artemus' thighs hard, showing his displeasure at this game.
"Do it anyway."
Jim growled softly and settled into Artemus' lap to do some sucking of his own. He didn't mind it. What he minded was crawling around looking for it. Artemus kept his hand in Jim's hair, keeping him busy. Jim suddenly wrenched his mouth off. "You were showing me!"
"That was before you got mouthy." Artemus laughed at his own joke.
"You said no sucking."
"Think back. I omitted that verb." Artemus pushed him back down. Jim went with a grunt. He should have known better than to argue words with Artemus. Jim went a little faster. Artemus orgasmed. It was salty in Jim's mouth. He swallowed and came up to breathe. The cock ring slowed him down, but he was about there. Artemus pushed him to his back and crawled down him. Jim gasped as the cock ring vanished, and Artemus' slick mouth took him deep.
"Shit," Jim said. His whole body convulsed, and his cock emptied itself. The pleasure was intense, almost like a punch to the gut. He twitched and found skin on his partner to rub. "Wow."
Artemus hefted Jim's balls and rolled them. Jim groaned and lifted his hand to take off the blindfold. Artemus stopped him. "The night is young, James."
"Well, I'm not anymore, not after that!" Jim didn't try to take it off again. He sagged flat and moaned softly. "I love you, Artie."
"I guess I did get a rave review." Artemus kissed up to Jim's mouth and took over, thrusting with his tongue. Jim wanted to drowse off to sleep, but it was clear that Artemus was just getting started. "James, are you going to give me a backrub?"
Jim shook his head. "Can't see."
Artemus left for a moment and then pressed a bottle of oil into Jim's hand. "You'll manage, and you did promise."
Jim yawned and found his way around and on top of Artemus. He straddled him and used the oil. Artemus groaned. Jim did a thorough job, but kept his hands on Artemus' back. "We done?"
Artemus took the oil and said, "That was intermission. We still have the second act."
Jim slid off and sat on his butt. "Can I use the lavatory first?"
"Of course." Artemus removed the blindfold. Jim blinked in the dim light and went to clean up. That done, he padded back to bed. He might sleep through the second act. Artemus wasn't there. Jim got comfortable on the bed, and Artemus was back. They smiled at each other.
"For some sleep? Yes." Jim stretched.
"Jim West, when did you get old?" Artemus lay down on top of Jim. Jim grunted and tried to find some space. Artemus kissed hard and then gently. He scooted and moved.
Jim suddenly realized what was going to happen. "Artie, we don't usually."
"It's an oversight I've been meaning to correct." Artemus kissed him.
"It's always uncomfortable." Jim protested half--heartedly. He wasn't going to win. Artemus looked determined.
"We don't take our time. You always rush. Tonight we're not." Artemus licked, kissed, and nibbled. And that was just the beginning. Jim woke up and tried to relax. It didn't work. Artemus looked up. "You're too tense. What's wrong?"
"You know." Jim didn't want to say it.
"Don't think about it. I may get tired and fall asleep anyway." Artemus smiled. "Want your blindfold back?"
"No." Jim gripped Artemus by the cock. "We could just move together."
"Yeah. I like that, but tonight we're going to do it my way." Artemus raised Jim's arm and chewed on the muscles. Jim sighed and resigned himself to it. It never felt awful, just not all that good. Artemus was right though. They'd never taken time.
"Okay, but if I say stop, we're stopping."
Artemus laughed. "That's not gonna happen."
Jim shrugged. It might. It had before, and it might again. Artemus wasn't a small man. The kissing and biting continued. Jim let his hands roam all over, and he did relax, until he felt Artemus brush a finger over him. He immediately tensed. Artemus settled his mouth and hands below Jim's waist, licking, sucking, and gently rubbing.
"Yes!" Jim wanted to shove and come again. He didn't, but he did dig his fingers into Artemus' shoulders. "Go ahead."
"No. This is why you complain. You rush, and then I hurt you." Artemus found the oil and used a generous amount. "Slow and easy is the way we're doing it tonight."
Jim gasped. He didn't agree. Artemus pressed an oily finger inside him, moving it in and out. Jim shut his eyes and tried to remember how to breathe. Artemus was killing him. "Artie, please."
"No." Artemus stroked him, making room for two fingers. Jim raised his legs and tried to drag Artemus up and inside him. "Jim, stop it."
Jim growled and let go of him. "We'll see if I let you take charge again."
Artemus got in Jim's face, staring into green eyes with his brown ones. "Yes, we will." He moved off Jim. "Roll over."
Jim felt some disquiet at the fierceness of his partner. Their lovemaking had always been light and easy, never too serious, but tonight Artemus had an expression on his face that made Jim's insides quiver. Jim rolled over and gasped when Artemus stuck a pillow under Jim's hips. "What the hell?"
Artemus didn't answer because he was busy putting Jim right where he wanted him. Jim almost wished for his blindfold back. This position felt extremely vulnerable. Artemus kissed and stroked him.
"Is this revenge?" Jim couldn't take his eyes off Artemus' considerable inches. It was going to hurt tonight.
"Hush. You know better than that." Artemus pressed a finger deep again. Jim looked away and tried to think of nothing. The finger was sweet torture. "Ready?"
"Yes." Jim knew his muscles were tensing.
Artemus kissed across Jim's ass. "I've broken horses than were more cooperative than you."
"I hope you took off your spurs tonight."
Artemus laughed and slapped Jim's ass. "I've always loved your dry wit. I bet you drove Dr. Loveless crazy."
"I did my best." Jim smiled. He braced his hands and pushed back a little. "Go on."
Artemus kissed the small of Jim's back. "No pushing."
Jim groaned. This was taking far too long. Artemus used two fingers, and then quickly, three. Jim shut his eyes and went with it. It did feel good tonight. His body responded, and he wanted to touch himself. He reached. Artemus kept him from it. "Excuse me, that's my--"
"Not tonight it's not!" Artemus slapped Jim's ass.
Jim was shocked. That was the only word to describe it. He couldn't believe how bossy his partner was tonight. "Hey, if you're planning on pounding me to death, I'm leaving."
Artemus didn't reply. He pushed his fingers back and forth. Jim moaned. He could stick around and find out. It went on for a very long time. "How can you stand this?"
"Easily." Artemus pushed something deep in Jim.
Jim looked. That wasn't Artemus. "What are you doing?"
Artemus moved whatever the hell it was in and out. It wasn't as thick as Artemus but nearly as long. Jim tensed. Artemus kissed, rubbed, and made him forget. His breath came faster. His body had given up fighting and was enjoying it. "Oh, God."
Artemus pulled it out and was over Jim in a blink. Jim arched his back and cried out. It felt so good -- warm and hard inside him. He felt his body welcome his partner. It hadn't happened before, and it was nothing but a pleasure. Artemus dug his hands into Jim's shoulders and moved.
Jim wished Artemus would stop saying that. "Yes!"
Artemus squeezed Jim's shoulders. Jim had thought he was ready, but he was wrong. It wasn't possible to be ready for this. He groaned and considered crawling away, but he wanted more. His knees spread, and he reached back to grasp a straining thigh. Artemus did hammer him into the bed. He wasn't gentle. "You feel it?"
Jim couldn't think. He didn't understand. "What?"
"My love." Artemus went deeper.
Jim didn't see how it was possible, but it was true. He lost control of himself, and he'd blush later to think about it. He panted, quivered, writhed, and cried out senseless words. His body demanded it, and he gave into the love pounding through him. It crashed over him, and he gave all he had to Artemus.
"Shut up!" Jim panted the words, and then yelped in surprise. Artemus sank down into him, grabbed, and rolled them fast. Jim stared at the ceiling, and Artemus wrapped him tight, shoving deep again. "My God!"
Artemus stuck his tongue in Jim's ear and thrust. His hips kept rhythm with his tongue. Jim melted away, feeling his orgasm hit his skin. Artemus rubbed it and pushed him down, holding him and saying, "Feel it?"
"Yes!" Jim did feel it, and he understood better what Artemus felt for him. It was gentle and fierce.
"About time." And Artemus released into Jim's body. Jim let himself quit. He was done. Artemus rolled them to the side. "You can sleep."
"Like this?" Jim shut his eyes. He was drifting away, whether he liked it or not. Artemus chuckled in Jim's ear, but didn't answer in words.
Jim protested softly, "Not again."
"You are old, James." Artemus nibbled him and wiggled his hips. "Tell me you don't want it."
"I don't, well, really, I--"
"I thought so." Artemus moved slowly. "Sun's not even up yet."
Jim tried to collect his thoughts. Everything was a blur. His body ached, but it felt good. "I'm not old."
"Okay, lazy then." Artemus kissed the back of Jim's neck. "Hard or slow?"
"You seem to be the boss tonight." Jim managed a stretch.
Artemus pushed deeper. "It can be good."
"Yes." Jim wasn't going to argue. "When's it my turn?"
"Later." Artemus thrust and gasped. "I'm making up for lost time."
Jim shrugged. That might be true. "Touch me."
Artemus did. Jim shut his eyes and felt loved.
Jim heard music. He stretched, groaned, and smiled. The sun was up. The coffee smelled good. He slipped into some drawers and went to clean up before heading to the galley. Wrapping Artemus in a hug, Jim squeezed.
"Well, good morning."
"Finally, yes." Jim smiled and released him. "You still mad?"
Artemus laughed. "After I eat maybe, but I'm too weak to think, much less be angry."
"That's two of us, then." Jim leaned against the cabinet. "It's good to be home."
Artemus pressed against him. Their hearts, hands, and lips met and melded together. Jim's stomach growled, interrupting them. Artemus smiled. "Welcome home, James."