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From This Broken Hill, Oh, Your Praises They Shall Ring

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When he was a boy, Goodnight's mama told him he had poetry in his soul.

She had a way with words herself did Mama Robicheaux; whip-quick and creatively unkind when her temper flared, or soft and honeyed when sweet-talking a better deal out of some trader at a market stall, so slow and easy he wouldn't even realise what had happened until later. But from those early years, what he remembers most are her stories. He remembers watching in rapt, fascinated silence as she spoke, curled in close in the firelight in their poky little house at night, transported by her soaring tales of distant lands and thrilling adventures. Some of the stories he'd heard before, paraphrased from fairy tales or bible stories, but they never came alive for him any other time quite like they did when his mama told them.

Quite by accident he learns wordcraft at her knee. He learns a flair for the dramatic, a feel for how lowering one's voice or pausing in the right place makes an audience lean in and hold their breath, hungry to hear what happens next. He learns how to take a mere happening and turn it into a story, something that evokes emotion and grabs attention. More than anything else, he learns about the power of stories. Most men are more apt to believe a falsehood well told than a truth spoken plainly.

Over the years he makes good use of it. As a boy he finds the most advantage in talking his way out of trouble, convincing exasperated adults that of course he couldn't possibly be responsible for whichever piece of mischief has their dander up. And then years pass and he grows, and with the awkward gangliness of adolescence comes an epiphany regarding the merits of charming those his own age. Flattery goes a long way. As does a well-timed reassurance that obviously a little exploratory fumbling doesn't really count. They're just...practising.

It's in this time that he learns that while charm and honeyed words might serve well in getting to that point, once clothes start coming off he's better served by keeping his mouth shut. He's had too many partners flush and withdraw, suddenly self-conscious, suddenly too starkly reminded of the reality of whichever sin they've so nearly been tempted into committing. It's a struggle to keep quiet, to dam the stream of words that flow too freely when there's excitement and pleasure humming in his veins and his tongue wants nothing more than to spill effusive filth and praise, but he manages. He develops an affinity for putting his mouth to better use.

When the time comes, his flair for the dramatic serves him well too in war in ways he wouldn't have expected. Jokes and tall tales raise the mood that precious hair when they're cold and hungry and tired, drawing thin smiles and snorted laughs when they have precious little to laugh about. Charming a quartermaster can be the difference between meager rations and a decent meal. It's not much, not in the face of what they're up against, but it's something. It's often all he has.

Beside his silver tongue, he has just one other skill of any note. He'd always been a respectable shot with a rifle, but war comes and hones that talent to a razor edge, precise and deadly. He'd already had the way of sighting, of steadying his hands and his breathing and holding the barrel stock still as he slowly squeezes the trigger; the harsher master of combat teaches him to judge distances, to judge how to correct for the wind by watching the way it stirs leaves and grass. He takes lives, but he saves lives too, and after a few enemy scouts and snipers disposed of before they can do any harm, the men in his unit start jokingly calling him their guardian angel.

At Sharpsburg he watches three hundred and fifty of them die, helpless with the Union ordnance beyond the reach of his rifle. There's no more camaraderie and fond teasing after that. No-one calling him their guardian angel. But thirty-seven confirmed kills earns him The Angel of Death instead, and whatever scrap of poetry in his soul might once have seen the irony in that is utterly, deathly silent.

He lost a lot of pieces of himself over the course of those long, long years; this should be the least of them. But the silence is deafening, louder even than the screams and thunder of artillery he hears in his nightmares, and it refuses to be drowned out by cheap whiskey and the downward spiral of self-destruction. It haunts him. Sam Chisholm saves his life, in more ways than one, but he can't make him whole again. By now he's not sure anything can.

And then, in a saloon in Texas, he meets Billy Rocks.

It's not a damn thing like being whole either, but he'd forgotten what it could feel like for silence to be a comfortable thing, easy and companionable as they let their horses set their own pace along the dusty, winding trail. Billy doesn't waste his words, but he speaks more freely when it's just the two of them out alone with no other ears to hear. And so slowly he scarcely even notices it Goodnight begins to respond. His own words spill out like they haven't in long painful years, curling into stories again, and lord the relief is indescribable. Breathing becomes easier. Carrying on, living, becomes easier.

And slowly, small and fragile as the first green shoot poking through the ashes of a torched field, that sense of poetry begins to wake again. It threads through his thoughts and whispers alluringly of how soft the dark, silken fall of Billy's hair would be between his fingers, of how good the lithe strength of Billy's body would feel pressed against his. It wants to breathe reverent odes to the captivating curve of Billy's lips and the crinkle at the corner of his eyes when he smiles against every inch of his skin. He's always been effusive in desire, but he's never felt anything like this before. If he were a man younger and less broken he might think himself in love.

Flattery will not avail him here. He knows this. Billy has a cynicism all his own, too numbed to the callousness with which he's often treated here to view honeyed words with anything but wariness. Truth be told though, nor would he want to win him over like that. There's genuine respect in the partnership they've made together, mutual loyalty and trust, and in the face of that it feels cheap and dishonest to set out with the same meaningless charm he would once have tried his luck with on any pretty young thing that caught his eye. He owes Billy more than that. Their partnership deserves more respect than that.

When they finally make that last step it takes him almost by surprise. And yet at the same time it feels as natural and inevitable as the rising of the sun, slow and tender and breathless and it's been so long that much as he tries to remember how to bite his tongue, he can't help the way that words of filth and praise and affection spill from his lips like water. But the furthest thing in the world from pulling away, Billy flushes and shudders under it, only pressing in closer and moving more urgently. The taste of his lips and the feel of muscle shifting under his skin is sweeter even than Goodnight ever dreamed it might be.

He's beautiful when he comes, head tipped back and lips parted as his eyes flutter shut, taut and trembling in desperate rapture. In that moment Goodnight knows in his bones that he'd do anything to see that sight again as often as he can be allowed.

Happily, Billy is more than amenable to that plan. They savour whatever time they can have alone together, camped out on the trail at night with no eyes to see for miles, or in some creaking boarding house with a locked door safely between them and the rest of the world. With the slow delight of discovery they learn every inch of each others' bodies; what draws gasps and moans and curses, how to finish each other quick and dirty and how to draw the moment out torturously slow until they're both flushed and desperate and overwhelmed. They learn how they fit together, who enjoys what, and gradually discount those acts as aren't to both their tastes. Despite any quiet misgivings Goodnight may have harboured, it seems only to strengthen their partnership.

He's hardly inexperienced, but this might just be the first time he's ever had a long-term partner with such a foundation of trust beneath them; it makes it remarkably easy to explore things he would never have dreamed of assenting to with some casual fling. Billy is the first man ever to take him, slow and gentle and with so much care in his touch that it makes Goodnight's chest ache. There's not a trace of unease anywhere in him, nothing but pleasure burning hot in his veins as he murmurs breathless words of encouragement and affection, half out of his mind as he pants out how good it feels and how desperately he wants it. He couldn't have held the waterfall of words back if he'd tried. And lord, why should he want to when every gasped curse and plea has Billy shuddering against him and gripping his hips tighter, fucking him that little bit harder.

The lesson that he should try to keep quiet during sex was learned thoroughly enough and young enough that it's no simple matter to let go of it. Perhaps he'll always have to remind himself that it's okay here, give himself that little push to stop instinctively biting his tongue. But it's always worth it for the way Billy flushes under his words, never any less blindsided than the first time to have such poetic praise and adoration lavished on him. He always closes his eyes when Goodnight calls him beautiful, catching his breath and stilling as though the word is some jewelled butterfly that alights only for a moment, easily startled into flight again by any movement. And every time Goodnight kisses him softly, determined beyond reason to tell him every night until he believes it.

Over time, the thought that this must be too good to be true fades. It feels disloyal even to contemplate it. He trusts Billy with everything left in him; if Billy tells him that this is good, that it's what he wants, he won't presume to second-guess him. All he can do is try to be worthy of what he's been given.

The thrill of exploration only lasts so long. But when it finally wears off, rather than a burnt out match as he might have feared, they're left with something that's now a solid and comfortable part of their existing relationship, another brick in a strong foundation. It's easy to turn to each other for comfort and affection when they're of a mind to seek it out. It's easy to share pleasure like they share everything else, always fairly as equals, to trust that the respect between them is too strong to be dented by any judgement of what they may or may not want and enjoy. They're safe here, together like this. And of course with the kind of life they lead and the demons they both carry, there will always be hard times, but it's easy to forget about them for a brief, blessed moment when they have the time to relax and savour being close. They laugh and drink and play cards in backwater saloons, lazily sharing cigarettes, content to maintain a respectably platonic distance when they know they have the luxury of a real bed and a door that locks waiting for them upstairs.

Sometimes the need to maintain a respectably platonic distance is nothing but an inconvenience. But when Goodnight's feeling mischievous, it's a delightful excuse to tease.

It's happened enough that Billy knows exactly what's happening when Goodnight's knee slowly and deliberately presses up against his under the table, his sideways glance and arched eyebrow as much challenge as warning. The fine gentlemen Goodnight has found to play cards with don't spare them a glance, more invested in glowering suspiciously at the dealer as he deals out the next hand; he takes full advantage of their distraction to trail his fingers slow and teasing up the inseam of Billy's pants, voice low and rough as he leans in to murmur, "I've been thinking all day about how good you're gonna taste."

Billy, inscrutable as ever, taps the ash off the end of his cigarette and takes a lazy drag. Someone who didn't know him as well as Goodnight does would think him utterly unaffected. Goodnight, however, is close enough to hear his breath catch and feel the slight shiver that runs through him, to say nothing of the way his legs fall open a little wider; his grin widens. All innocence, he picks up his cards and makes a show of inspecting them. Billy reaches for the bottle and tops off both their glasses before settling back in to idly observe the game, looking for all the world as though he isn't already half hard in his pants.

He keeps it up for the rest of the game, chancing teasing touches where he can, murmuring barely audible filth. He devotes quite some time to explaining in excruciating detail exactly how badly he wants to get his lips around Billy's cock, and thereafter moves onto weighing the merits of various different approaches to being fucked into a whimpering puddle of a human being. He's torturing himself as much as he is Billy, both of them keyed up and counting the minutes until they can get away with calling it a night. The other players at the table remain oblivious, for which Goodnight is devoutly grateful. Much as the sex is always excellent after a good barfight, his patience is wearing thin as it is. It would be unfortunate if they had to skip town before getting to take advantage of the bed waiting for them upstairs.

Billy quietly excuses himself as the game winds down, attracting little attention as he slips off upstairs to their room. Goodnight, distracted, loses the last couple of hands. It's worth it.

He knows he's grinning like an idiot as he climbs the stairs, but he couldn't have wiped the expression from his face if his life depended on it. The door is unlocked, the room beyond dimly lit; the second he's finished locking the door behind him he's being pushed up against it. The motion knocks his hat askew, and uncaring he lets it fall, greedily meeting the hard kiss Billy pulls him into. It's intoxicating in its urgency. Their hands are hungry on each other's bodies, sliding up impatiently under clothes to get at skin as they shamelessly rut against each other. Lord above, he could come just like this, with nothing but a demanding kiss and Billy's body moving against his through layers of fabric and pinning him up against the door.

But he doesn't want to, not when he aches to see the filthy promises he made downstairs fulfilled. With an insistent push at Billy's shoulder and a pointed roll of his hips he reverses their positions, eyes wicked and glittering in the barely-there light of the low burning lamp as he slowly, slowly presses Billy up against the locked door. "Lord, I could have you every night for the rest of my life and never get enough," he breathes, bowing his head to press a reverent kiss against the hollow of Billy's throat. He can feel Billy's pulse jump under his lips, his adam's apple bobbing as he swallows hard, his fingers gentle despite their shared greed as he curl's them into Goodnight's hair. He tugs the buttons of Billy's shirt open one by one, kissing his way down every inch of new skin as it's bared to him, here and there sucking in tender bruises where they'll be safely covered by his clothes come morning.

The taste of Billy's skin under his tongue is as addictive as ever, soft moans on his lips for the tang of sweat and the feel of muscles twitching under the skin; too impatient to draw it out any longer, he goes to his knees, nuzzling shamelessly into the growing bulge in Billy's pants and shuddering for the way Billy's grip tightens in his hair. His fingers are clumsy with haste as he fumbles the buttons open, desperately eager to tug the sturdy fabric out of the way and finally, finally wrap his lips around Billy's cock. It's satisfyingly thick and weighty on his tongue, a familiar ache settling quickly into his jaw as he opens his mouth wide to greedily take it in. Billy's hips buck, a sharp breath hissing through his teeth as he bites back some cry of pleasure. His fingers stroke affectionately through Goodnight's hair as he rocks slowly into the wet heat of his mouth.

He makes a stunning sight like this, his head tipped back against the wood of the door and his lips parted around soft, breathy moans. Goodnight shudders and swallows around him, reaching down to palm his own neglected cock through his pants. No matter how many times they get to have each other like this, the heat between them never seems to fade, only burning brighter every time they get their hands on each other. He's never been so consistently, constantly greedy for another person. It's a wonder they ever manage to get anything else done.

There's a groan of something that's half lust and half frustration from Billy, and with careful but insistent hands his tugs at Goodnight's hair, coaxing him to pull off. He goes reluctantly, but his disappointment at not getting to take Billy apart is more than tempered by the promise of what's coming next.

They leave a trail of clothes behind them on the floor as they stumble toward one of the beds, hardly able to stop kissing for long enough to draw breath much less look where they're going. It's a no less clumsy thing when they tumble onto the bed together, soft laughter lost between their lips, finally naked now and wrapped around each other like they intend never to let go. "I want you so much," Goodnight breathes against the side of Billy's neck, thighs splayed wide around his hips, spread open and vulnerable and shamelessly asking with every line of his body. "Christ, you're so fucking beautiful like this."

Billy shivers desperately against him and kisses him hard, reaching blindly for the bottle of oil left sitting on the nightstand in anticipation. The moan Goodnight gives when the first slicked finger presses into him is torn from his throat, loud enough that Billy has to press a hand across his mouth to quiet him for fear of thin walls. Eyes warm, he presses a kiss to Billy's palm and shifts his hips in a clear request; smiling, Billy removes his hand and leans in to instead swallow Goodnight's noises of pleasure in a deep kiss as he works him open with an efficiency born as much of familiarity as urgency. They know this, know each other's bodies, how much they can get away with and when they need to be more careful. With Goodnight relaxed and pliant under him, nothing but eager, drawing it out will do little but frustrate them both.

"Please," Goodnight groans into the kiss, his voice rough and wrecked, grinding down greedily onto Billy's fingers. "I'm ready, come on, I need you." He's scattering kisses over Billy's jaw and throat, utterly wanton and a thousand miles from caring as he murmurs filth and pleas against his skin. "I want to feel you so deep inside me I can't breathe for it." The kiss Billy gives him as he carefully withdraws his fingers and reaches for the oil again is so achingly soft it makes his heart stutter in his chest. Even after all this time, he still isn't used to how much care Billy takes with him. He's not sure he ever will be.

And then Billy's cock is nudging slickly up against him, a thrill of anticipation rushing through him as he spreads his legs wider in invitation. There's a moment of blunt pressure before his body yields and the head slips inside, spreading him open; the curse on his lips for it is a desperate sob of a thing, trembling under the force of how incredible it feels to have Billy slowly pressing into him, filling him, that familiar sweet ache throbbing through him in time with the racing of his heart as he slowly adjusts to the intrusion. He wants it so desperately, the slick stretch of his body opening up eagerly around Billy's cock burning through him like wildfire and leaving him utterly helpless before the waves of blinding pleasure crashing over him. He can do nothing but bury his face in the crook of Billy's neck and moan, the two of them clinging to each other like drowning men to a raft, utterly overwhelmed by sensation.

The first thrust has him arching up and raking red lines into Billy's back, a choked noise caught in his throat as he tries desperately not to howl in pleasure. Billy kisses him again, hard and hungry like they want to devour each other, both their noises lost into it as they find a rhythm together.

The air is full of their harsh breathing and the sounds of flesh on flesh, whimpers and moans they can't quite hold back underscored by the rhythmic creak of the bedframe. Goodnight can hear the filth falling from his lips as though from outside himself, asking for harder, for deeper, to be fucked until he can't feel his legs and then fucked some more. Like this he can feel every shudder that rolls through Billy for it, every hitched breath and jerk of his hips. It's so good, Billy's weight pressing him into the mattress, heat tearing through him for every hard thrust.

"You're incredible," he murmurs breathlessly, even the lust in his eyes overruled by the sheer awe that he really gets to have this beautiful creature so wholly focused on him, on giving him pleasure. The dim lamplight gleams on the sweat sheening Billy's skin, every muscle in his body thrown into sharp relief by exertion; he looks like some classical painter's muse, like something more than human. "Ah, Billy, please, I'm so close." He can feel the orgasm building at the base of his spine, his cock achingly hard against his stomach, barely touched and still a hair trigger from shooting. "You feel so good, fuck, please--"

Billy hooks an arm under his knee, hitching his leg up to press deeper into him. The change of angle has heat tearing through him anew, a helpless sound torn from him as he bites his lip to keep from crying out. He's teetering on the brink, and much as he would have loved to wait and feel Billy come for him, he couldn't have held on if his life depended on it. He bites down hard on his own fist to muffle his howl as he arches up taut and trembling and comes in a hot rush over his own stomach.

Aftershocks are rippling through him as Billy fucks him through his orgasm, so tender and oversensitive in the wake of it that every increasingly erratic thrust into him provokes a pulse of pleasure so intense it's almost unbearable. He groans out a ragged curse, sweat-soaked and shaking, boneless and pliant in Billy's arms as he nuzzles clumsily into the side of his neck. "Come on," he breathes, cradling Billy close against him as he lays kisses against his skin, "Come on, shoot for me. I want to feel you spill inside me. Fuck." His lips are soft and his voice softer, his fingers curling into Billy's hair. "Fuck, I love you."

There's a high, almost startled noise on Billy's lips as his hips buck frantically and he comes. Goodnight holds him close as he melts in against him, stroking tenderly through his hair and brushing kisses over his skin. He loves these warm quiet moments immediately afterwards, all soft ragged breathing and wordless noises as they sink into a contented sprawl against each other, their racing heartbeats slowly starting to settle. He loves getting to feel Billy utterly relaxed against him like this. In moments such as these, all the hardships they've gone through to get here seem a million miles away.

Billy shifts just enough to catch his lips in a kiss, warmth curling in his chest for the lingering tenderness of it. When it breaks, he can't help but trace his fingers over the curve of Billy's cheek, amazed all over again that he really gets to have this. "God above you're beautiful," he murmurs.

There's a flash of that familiar vulnerable look in Billy's expression, stilling as he always does under the heartfelt sincerity of the compliment. But he doesn't close his eyes this time, instead searching Goodnight's face as though looking for something.

"...what?" Goodnight asks after a long moment of silence.

Billy draws breath as though to speak, but appears to think better of whatever he'd been about to say. "Nothing," he replies, stealing another soft kiss and shaking his head. "You talk too much."

There's another pause, in which Goodnight hastily reviews as much he can remember of all the nonsense he's babbled in the last few minutes. And...oh. Oh.

"...I mean what I say," he says carefully, a hint of a tentative smile on his lips. "Here like this, at least, I mean what I say."

Billy sighs softly and lays his head down on Goodnight's chest, closing his eyes as he settles in more comfortably. "I know." His hand finds Goodnight's, lacing their fingers together. "I trust you." And perhaps that's not what a man would hope to hear in response to a certain other three words, but he'll be damned if it doesn't still feel like more than he's ever had from another person. It certainly feels like more than he's ever deserved.

Goodnight presses a kiss against his hair, holding him a little closer. "Go to sleep, chéri," he says softly. "You don't have to say a word."