Title: The Night of the Christmas Present
Fandom: Wild Wild West
Pairing: J/A
Feedback: justblackchaps at yahoo dot com
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Jim gets in trouble trying to do something nice. That'll teach him.
Disclaimer: The Wild Wild West belongs to CBS and Viacom. I only play here and often.
Advertisement: Part of the Slash Advent Calendar of 2003
Warning: This gets kinda ugly. If you're squeamish, look away.
Note: Part two of two

*******

Jim rolled out of bed early that morning. The Wanderer had stopped less than a minute ago. He had an errand to run and wanted to get back before Artemus woke up. Silas always tossed them off the train, but he did usually let them sleep and eat before, and that would give Jim enough time to get back. He threw on the first clothes he saw, kissed Artemus lightly on the forehead, and ran for the stable car.

For once, his horse cooperated fully, and Jim saddled him up in record time. Down the ramp, up into the saddle, and they were trotting to town. Baltimore was a railroad hub, and Silas loved the works here. It was unfortunate for the agents, but Jim didn't dwell on it. His horse pranced high in the mud, and he kept a close hand on the reins. Falling in the mud wasn't on the schedule today.

One sentence echoed in Jim's mind. Baltimore was the worst in recent memory. It had been a year, and it still bothered him. He couldn't make up for those years that he'd deserted Artemus, but when Jim found out they'd be spending Christmas in Baltimore, he became determined to buy him something special. Jim didn't feel guilty. Not at all, he just wanted Christmas to be nice, like last year.

"Whoa, boy," said Jim.

The black gelding tossed his head and stomped to a stop. Jim swung down, wrapped the reins around the hitching post, and stepped up to the boardwalk. The building provided some protection from the whipping wind and he walked quickly to the jewelry store. He had no idea what he was going buy Artemus. It had to be something special, unique, and lacking in sentiment. Jim didn't want to send the wrong message. He wasn't sure what the message was, but he didn't want to get it wrong. Jim pushed inside the store and wished he'd worn a suit. His chaps and leather shirt were fine for most places, not this place.

"May I help you, uh, sir?"

The clerk's cultured tones and slight insult put Jim's back up instantly. He resisted the urge to crack his knuckles.

"I'm looking for a gift."

"Your wife?"

"Well, no," said Jim. His face felt hot. "A friend."

"A ring?" The man showed Jim a large display of diamond rings.

Jim swallowed hard. Hell, no. That was the wrong message. "Something different."

The fellow tapped his finger on the glass. "A watch?"

Artemus had two already, and one was from his father. Jim didn't think Artemus needed another.

"A fob?"

Jim shook his head no and began to browse. He had to choose quickly. A clock? Cuff links? They wouldn't send any message at all. Jim leaned against the counter and looked down. These were different.

"Ah yes, sir, you don't want one of those."

"And why not?" Jim rested a hand on his six-shooter.

"Each one is handcrafted by a local artisan." He sniffed. "They are very expensive."

"That's not a problem." Jim tapped his upper lip with his index finger. "The gold one."

"I'll need to see the cash before I open the case."

Jim pulled out the cash and waited. His patience was about at an end. The clerk pulled out a large set of keys and opened the case slowly. His hand reached in and took out the golden armband. It was thin, made up of a series of interlocking circles and designed to go above the bicep. Jim liked the look of it. It was primitive looking and yet somehow sophisticated. Artemus could wear it under his shirt, and no one would know that Jim had marked him as his own. Would Artemus know? Jim hoped not.

The money changed hands, and the armband put in a velvet bag. Jim picked it up and headed for the door. Time to get home. The clerk moved to open the door for him, and Jim waited a bare moment. Three bad-looking hombres pushed in the door and shot the clerk down. Jim reacted in an instant. Stuffing the velvet bag in his pants, he launched himself at the three men.

The next bullet grazed Jim's arm, and he was on top of them. Three against one, and Jim was doing fine. He threw a tall, thin gunsel into a display, and the second he leveled with a right cross. The third thug bore Jim to the floor with the weight of his body. They struggled on the floor. Jim was underneath and took several punches to the head. It didn't faze him. He gave the fellow a shot to the chest and kneed him off. Jumping to his feet, Jim never saw the blow that struck him across the back of his head. He stiffened, drew his gun in slow motion, and collapsed.

***********

The sound of a metal door clanging shut rang loud, and Jim struggled to his feet. His blurry vision got even blurrier. Where was he? He staggered forward three steps and crashed into bars. Ah yes, jail. Shaking his head, he held onto the bars and breathed. How did he get here again? Someone grabbed his shoulder and swung him around. He tried to duck, but the fist struck him soundly across the face, driving him to the floor.

"Rotten bastard, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you."

Jim reached for the bars to pull himself up. The kick to his guts made him retch. This fellow was beginning to get on Jim's nerves. His vision cleared, and he got out of the way of the next kick, rising to his feet. Leaning into a corner made up of bars and brick, he tried to breathe and waited. The tall, thin outlaw rushed in with a fist up, and Jim kicked him right in the jaw. He dropped like a stone.

"I don't much like you either," wheezed Jim. His hand wrapped around the bar screamed a protest when the rifle butt struck it.

"No fighting."

Jim pulled his hands far away from the bars and turned to face this new threat. It was a deputy sheriff. He was big, meaty, blond hair, and dressed in a three-piece suit. Nice suit, but not a nice man.

"He started it. I finished it." The rifle leveled at Jim. He raised his hands and moved farther back. "Listen, deputy, you've got the wrong man. My name is James West, and I work for the Secret Service."

The deputy sheriff threw back his head and laughed. "Right and I'm President Grant. The clerk you shot is barely alive. If he dies, you hang."

Jim shook his head. "I was trying to stop the robbery."

"That's not what he says." The deputy sheriff pointed to the unconscious felon on the floor. "He says you shot the clerk and have been with the gang for years. Now, shut up and stay well back."

Jim rubbed his bleeding hand through his hair. "Contact my . . ."

The rifle cocked. "Shut up." The deputy sheriff was dead serious, and Jim knew he was beating a dead horse. He went to sit on a cot. The deputy continued his patrol down the block of cells, and Jim groaned. He was in more trouble than he would've believed possible. Artemus was his only hope.

Jim sucked his bloody knuckles and came to a mind-numbing realization. It was December 22. Would Artemus think Jim had up and left for his vacation? Again. Jim searched his pockets for a picklock with a sense of despair. No luck. The armband was where he had tucked it, and he left it there. That would seal the deal. He would hang. Boots? Jim looked down and groaned again. This pair didn't have removable heels. Next time Jim went shopping, he was going prepared for the worst. There was a piss bucket in the corner, and he used it, making sure the armband stayed put. It wasn't comfortable, but he didn't have much choice.

The idiot on the floor stirred, and Jim watched him closely. He staggered to the other cot and collapsed. Jim touched his cheekbone. It was bleeding. He pressed his shirt cuff to it, and it stopped. Smoothing down his wild hair, Jim grinned. He was a mess. No one would ever believe he was a government agent. No one. The grin faded fast. This wasn't good.

"Artemus, I could use a little help here," said Jim. He leaned his head back against the wall and began to wait.

**********

The day passed slowly. Jim dozed. His cellmate stayed on his cot and slept. Jim tried again when the deputy opened the door so two trays of food could be brought inside.

"Deputy, I want to speak to the sheriff. You have the wrong man."

The rifle swung back and forth. "The sheriff's busy. You'll go before a judge after Christmas, now shut up."

Jim took one step too many, and the rifle butt swung in an arc towards his head. He ducked down and moved far back. "Settle down."

"I can tell you're going to give me trouble." The deputy scowled, and Jim considered bolting for the cell door. "Fred, go get shackles."

Fred put the trays on the cots and took off in a run. Jim eyed the rifle. The deputy cocked it.

"Try it," said the deputy. "It'll take care of the paperwork."

Jim raised his hands. His cellmate laughed. "Kill him."

"Shut up, Jones. Just cause you're a regular here doesn't give you special privileges."

Fred returned with a pair of shackles, and Jim took two steps back. "Deputy, I won't cause any trouble."

"Damn straight. Fred, shackle his wrist to the cot." The deputy grinned. "This is a holiday. I don't intend to let you spoil it."

Jim didn't cooperate, but he didn't punch Fred in the face either. Poor Fred. He looked terrified. The shackles clicked on, and Jim jumped from the frying pan to the fire. His cellmate laughed and laughed.

"Shut up, Jones," growled Jim. He sat down and watched the deputy back out.

"It'll be dark soon," said Jones. "I can't wait."

Jim pulled his tray over and ate. He was hungry. Jones was in for a surprise. One little shackle wouldn't stop Jim from protecting himself. The food wasn't bad, and he ate it all. He'd need the energy to beat off Jones.

Fred didn't return for the trays. Jim pushed his off the cot so he could stretch out with one arm over his head. The cell was growing darker, and his thoughts went to Artemus. What was he doing? If the clerk died, Jim would hang. Artemus had to get here. Two weeks was too long. Surely, Artemus knew Jim wouldn't run off without him this year.

After Christmas last year, Jim worried the partnership would suffer, but it hadn't. If anything, they worked better as a team. Artemus was more relaxed, and Jim enjoyed everything they shared. Jim never told him how much he cared, and he wouldn't. Artemus knew. Didn't he?

"You gonna to be my girlfriend tonight?"

Jim rolled to his side. "You think you're man enough?"

"Oh yeah, you're cuffed. It'll be easy." Jones threw his tray at the bars. "You fucked up my plans, and now I'm gonna fuck you."

Jim laughed, and Jones gave him a funny look. "You shot that clerk. Touch me, and I'll beat the shit out of you."

"That shackle might slow you down." Jones stood up and stretched. "Yep, I need a good fuck."

"How about a good beating?" Jim sat up and waited patiently. Some men needed their ass kicked on a regular schedule.

Jones unbuckled his belt, whipped it out, and slapped it against his hand. "A few stripes and you'll behave."

Jim didn't answer. The belt whistled through the air, and he moved enough to avoid it. Jones whipped it back, took a step, and Jim kicked him in the balls. The fight was over before it began. Jones went to his knees with an agonized cry, and Jim gave him a back fist to the face. He toppled over. The lock on the cell door clicked over, and Jim pulled to the length of the shackle, putting his back to the wall.

"You don't follow orders, do you?"

"He's the problem. I'm minding my own business."

"Fred, get in here!" Fred came at a run. The deputy nudged Jones with his boot. "Put him on his cot, Fred, and hand me the belt."

Jim frowned. This better not happen. Fred handed the deputy the belt and got behind him. A scared little man, and Jim knew why. The belt slapped, and the deputy grinned. It chilled Jim's bones. This couldn't be happening.

"Face the wall."

"No, you sadistic bastard."

The ever-present rifle lowered to Jim's groin. "One more chance."

Artemus would be upset if Jim got his balls shot off. Slowly, and with a look that could kill, he turned to face the wall. His arm stretched to the limit behind him. Fred made a noise that made Jim flinch. The strap didn't get any response from him at all. He stood and took it. Counting the lashes was a waste of his time. He spread his legs slightly to brace himself and endured. It lasted.

"My arm is getting a mite tired, Fred. You want a turn?"

"No," whispered Fred.

"Ah hell, I didn't even take his shirt off." The deputy laughed. "It didn't hurt all that bad."

Jim leaned his head against the wall, but made no other move. This would end. It always did. Fred breathed hard. If Artemus ever showed up, Jim was finding Fred a new job. The laughter continued, and Jim was grateful he'd worn leather. A shirt would be in ribbons. Three more cracks.

"This is boring, Fred. Let's go."

Jim didn't move. He didn't believe that for a minute. The deputy was silent a long moment and punched Jim in the kidney with the rifle barrel. He went down, wrenching his arm. No air. His mouth opened and tried to suck in a breath. The cell door slammed shut and laughter echoed down the hallway. Hanging was starting to look good.

*********

Jim spent the night sitting on the floor in the corner, shackled to his cot, keeping an ear on Jones. His cot would have been marginally more comfortable, but Jim felt safer with two walls behind him. It was dark, but he could hear every move. The idiot had the sense to leave Jim alone, but no way was he lying on his stomach on that cot. Lying on his back wasn't possible. It stung, burned, and smoldered all night. He stretched it as much as he could bear to keep the muscles from stiffening even worse.

The night lasted, and Jim didn't sleep. He was accustomed to night watch, and it was no hardship. Artemus wasn't here, and that was a hardship. Every situation had a glimmer of hope, if Artemus was shackled with him. It didn't make sense, but it was true. Jim rested his head on his arm. It wasn't quite so dark now, and he could make out the sleeping figure of Jones. Jim adjusted the armband in his groin. That thing had turned out to be more trouble than he could handle.

"Artemus, where are you?"

"Shut up, you little shit," said Jones.

Jim grinned. Jones sounded like a man with sore balls. The light grew stronger, and Jim dozed. He dreamed Artemus was talking.

"I'm looking for my partner, James West. Brown hair, green eyes, about this tall."

"No one here fits that description," said the deputy.

"What about that fellow in chaps?" Fred sounded scared. Did Jim hear a smack?

The dream disappeared, and Jones was on top of him. Jim shook off sleep and fought back. Jones had the advantage and used it to punish him. Jim's back burst into flames. His arm tore off. He abruptly changed tactics and went limp. Jones straddled Jim and grabbed his shirt to shake him. Jim could feel the idiot's erection against him. He waited and didn't resist.

"Time for your fucking."

Jim lurched up and planted his elbow in Jones' face. His nose spurted blood, and he fell back. Jones disappeared off Jim and cracked against the wall. Artemus was furious. Jim managed a shaky grin. What a beautiful sight.

"James, are you . . ." Artemus knelt near him. His voice was shaking from anger.

"I'm okay," said Jim. "I'd like to leave though."

Artemus nodded and whirled on the deputy. Jim smiled and rested his head against his arm. Artemus was here. Everything was going to be okay. The shouting was comforting. Artemus had a great set of lungs and wasn't afraid to use them. Not long after, Fred removed the shackle, and Artemus tried to help Jim up. He hissed, and Artemus dropped his hands.

"Jim, what's wrong?"

"Don't touch my back," said Jim, "and don't leave Fred here."

"Who's Fred? Not that fellow." Artemus pointed at Jim's unconscious cellmate.

"No, that little guy," said Jim, pointing at Fred. He was watching from outside the cell. He looked more or less terrified. "He needs a new line of work."

"Jim, you're delirious."

"Artie, don't argue," said Jim.

Artemus frowned and nodded. He gestured to Fred. "Come on, you're leaving with us."

Fred nodded, and Jim smiled at him. Artemus took Jim by the arm, but he pulled it away. "Don't touch that either."

Artemus' face grew very dark. "Anything else?"

"Face, arm, hand, and back ought to cover it." Jim was on his feet and moving. He'd crawl out of here, if necessary. "This is not a quality hotel, Artie."

Artemus let Jim set his own pace. The deputy was waiting outside the cellblock door with the sheriff.

"I have to apologize for the mix up, Mr. Gordon," said the sheriff. He wrung his hands.

"Don't apologize. Fire him." Artemus pointed at the deputy. "Now."

"I was doing my duty, Sheriff," said the deputy. He looked smug.

Jim said nothing. He turned and lifted his shirt. Artemus made a noise that hurt Jim's heart.

"Out! Get out! You're fired. Give me that badge!" The sheriff seemed a bit agitated, and Jim smiled. The deputy was out the door by the time Jim turned around.

"Mr. Gordon, Mr. West, I can't apologize enough." The sheriff was edging toward desperate. "I'm an elected official, and if this gets out . . ."

"How's the clerk?"

"He'll be fine, only hit in the shoulder," said the sheriff. "Mr. West, I'll make this good, somehow."

"Keep a closer eye on the hired help," said Jim.

"Come on, Jim. I got us a hotel around the corner," said Artemus.

"A dingy one?"

"Nothing else in Baltimore." Artemus turned to Fred and said, "You coming?"

"Na, now that he's gone. I'll be fine," said Fred. "But, thanks."

The sheriff turned beet red, and Jim put his hand on Artemus' forearm. "Where's my horse?"

"In the stable," said the sheriff. "Fred will bring him to your hotel."

Jim laughed. "Fred doesn't deserve another beating. I'll get him."

Artemus shook his head. "We'll get him in a few days, sheriff. Make sure nothing happens to him."

Jim opened the door and stepped out into a light mist. It felt good on his face. Cold, but good. Artemus was right there, and they traveled down to the hotel. Jim didn't talk. He concentrated on walking. His back hurt like the devil. The hotel manager looked alarmed at the sight, but the look on Artemus' face kept him away. Up a flight of stairs and into a hotel suite that had seen better days.

"Artie, you're right. Baltimore is the worst in recent memory."

"What are you talking about?"

"Ah, nothing. Do I look bad?"

"God Jim, you have no idea."

"Good, I feel bad," said Jim. "Thanks."

"For what?" Artemus helped Jim sit and leaned over to pull his boots off.

"Everything." The boots and shirt came off. Artemus made another groan, and Jim put a hand on him. "I'm okay."

"No, you're not," said Artemus. "I should get a doctor."

"Don't bother. I'll heal." Jim rolled his shoulders and gritted his teeth. "Does my face need a stitch?"

"No, just cleaning. What happened to your arm? Not only was it shot, but it's swollen." Artemus lifted Jim's arm and examined it gently.

"Shackle," said Jim. "I about ripped it off."

Artemus probed it. It wasn't broken. Jim wanted a bath, but didn't want to move.

"James, lie on your stomach and rest. I'm going to get some bandages and ice for your arm."

"Take off my chaps," said Jim. "And reach in my pants."

"James my boy, now is not the time."

"Just do it." Jim stood up, and Artemus unbuckled the chaps, tossing them on a chair. He reached in Jim's pants and fished out the velvet bag. His look of amazement was priceless.

"You've had this lodged next to your balls?"

"For days," said Jim. "Toss it on the dresser."

Artemus shrugged and did. It gave off a small clang. "What is it?"

"Later, I gotta sleep, Artielove." He'd only said it once before, but he was tired and it slipped out. Jim lay down on his stomach and got comfortable. Everything came to a halt.

********

Jim woke in a blink. Where was he? Artemus was sitting next to him with a concerned look on his face. Not jail. Jim sighed with relief.

"Hey Artie, am I okay?"

"No, Jim, but you'll live." Artemus stood up and stretched. He looked tired.

"You had me worried for a minute." Jim groaned. "I can't move."

"Don't try," said Artemus. "You'll hurt yourself."

"Come sit on the bed with me." Artemus padded around and got on the bed with Jim. "Take off your shirt."

Artemus frowned, but took it off.

"Lay down and put your arm right here." Jim pointed at his ass. "I don't think its hurt."

"I've been worried about that." Artemus stretched out on his stomach and wrapped his arm around Jim's ass. "Your cellmate was a tad closer than I like other men to be around you."

"He wanted my ass," said Jim.

"Who wouldn't?" Artemus murmured.

Jim wrapped his hand in Artemus' hair and fell back to sleep.

********

The smell of coffee roused Jim from the depths. He stifled a yelp of pain and tried to sit up. Artemus helped him upright.

"I have got to piss," said Jim.

"Let's get you out of those pants." Artemus was trying to help and not touch him at the same time. "You need a bath."

"Do I ever, but I want coffee more."

"We can do both." Artemus was patient with Jim, and before too long he was in a tub with his coffee.

"Do not wash my back," said Jim.

Artemus smiled. "How's your arm? Try not to get the bandage wet."

"It hurts, but that's okay." Jim drank his coffee down before beginning to wash slowly with one arm. Artemus lent a hand or two. "You're going to make my cock hard."

"Don't think about it," said Artemus. "We're not doing anything."

"You're no fun at all." Jim shut his eyes, and Artemus washed him. "Tell me how you found me."

"Um, let's see. I woke up, and you were gone. I had breakfast and didn't worry about it. Silas told me to haul my ass off the train, and I began to worry. I packed for both of us and went to look you up. It took a while." Artemus rinsed him. "Baltimore has a lot of whorehouses."

"Artie! You didn't think I'd rise from your bed to go whoring. Did you?"

"No Jim, I'm teasing. First, I checked the morgue." Artemus sat down on the edge of the tub. "Then the whorehouses."

"What kind of man do you think I am?" Jim touched his sore face and pulled the plug. He was clean enough.

"Horny." Artemus helped Jim stand, get out, and began to pat him dry. "Finally, I figured with your luck that you must be in jail."

"Good thinking," said Jim. He pulled Artemus close and kissed him. "I was worried."

"You thought I wouldn't come?"

"Well, it was the 22nd of December." Jim kissed him again.

Artemus guided Jim back to bed. "You wouldn't leave without saying goodbye."

"That's true, but I won't ever leave again." Jim sat and ran a hand through his wet hair. "Okay?"

"Sure, Jim," said Artemus. He rummaged around in his saddlebags. "Let me rub salve on your back. It'll help."

"It'll hurt." Jim lay on his stomach, and Artemus sat next to him.

"You are a mess." Artemus sat on the bed next to Jim. "This is a huge bruise down here. Another Christmas I won't be having sex."

"He shoved a rifle barrel there. What day is it?"

"Christmas Eve." Artemus rubbed him with slick hands, not too hard. "I should've shot him.

Jim flinched, tried to relax, and finally did. "There's tomorrow."

"Forget it."

"Artielove, I always get what I want," Jim said it again. This time on purpose. He liked the sound of it. It was true, but hopefully Artemus would think it was nothing but a silly nickname. A moment slipped by.

"Don't call me that," said Artemus. His hands never stopped. "I don't like it."

Jim was shocked. He tensed and rolled to sitting with his legs off the bed. His bruised back was to Artemus. This was a fine kick in the ass.

"Jim, lay down." Artemus touched him very lightly on the arm. "I'm sorry."

"You're sorry? Not as sorry as I am." Jim paced over to the door and leaned against his hands. This was worse than the whipping. He didn't care, right? No, he cared far too much.

"It's not the truth." Artemus was right behind him, not touching, but close. "And it hurts me."

"When have I ever lied to you?" Jim turned around and watched all the blood drain from Artemus' face. "When?"

"I . . ." Artemus spread his hands helplessly.

"You don't love me, fine, but don't call me a liar." Jim went from hurt to hot, boiling mad. Christmas in Baltimore was terrible. "Don't."

Artemus went to the chair and sank down. He put his head in his hands. Jim could see him shaking. He wasn't talking, and Jim's anger melted away, leaving a sense of regret behind.

"Artie, don't worry, loving me is not part of your job description." Jim went to the dresser and picked up the velvet bag that cost so much, turning it over. "I won't call you that, I promise."

"James, what's in the bag?"

Jim flipped it over again. Might as well give it to him. A gift was a gift. It sailed through the air and landed in Artemus' lap. "Your Christmas present."

"It was expensive." The armband slid out into Artemus' waiting hand. The gold shined, and the circles swirled. "It's beautiful."

"Hey, I tried to make Baltimore a little better, but you see what I got for my efforts." Jim laughed. It sounded awful. "Ah well, serves me right."

"What are you talking about?"

Jim met those brown eyes. They did look confused. "You said Baltimore was the worst Christmas in recent memory. I wanted to buy you something to make up for it."

"Ah yes, I did say that. Baltimore isn't the best place to spend Christmas alone, but I have you now."

Jim went to Artemus and stood over him. "If you want."

"I want," said Artemus. He wrapped the armband around, right on the tattoo. "Boy, do I want."

Jim touched him gently on the face. It was okay. Artemus didn't love him. Jim hadn't expected it. It would have been nice. Artemus reached out and pulled Jim closer, resting on his stomach. He stroked Artemus' hair and held him. It was enough.

"Artie, I know you're upset with me, but could you find me some food?"

Artemus laughed, and kissed him on the belly button. "Sure. You rest, and I'll go get a tray."

"Or two." Jim ran his hand down to the armband. It was warm, and looked barbaric on top of the dragon tattoo. "Three?"

"The food here isn't that good." Artemus stood up and went to get a shirt. "Hit the bed, buddy."

Jim watched him shrug into his shirt and said nothing. It was a shame. He turned away and went to bed. The door closed. It was a little cold in the room, and he slid under the covers, pushing them down so they didn't rest on his back. He tucked the pillow under his head and sighed. There was a lesson here somewhere, but he had no idea what it was. No good deed goes unpunished? The road to hell is paved with good intentions? Jail isn't for sissies? He grinned and listened to his stomach growl. That deputy better hope Jim didn't spot him in a saloon this Christmas. The door opened, and he smelled food. His stomach grumbled loudly.

"What were you grinning about?"

"What are the chances I'll run into my deputy friend over Christmas?"

"Slim, I think he took the first train out of town."

"Damn, I never catch a break." Jim rolled to his side, and Artemus placed a heaping tray down on the bed. "Smells good."

"It's not bad," said Artemus. He pulled up the chair, and they ate. Jim kept his eyes on his tray. Artemus was quiet, and it was making Jim nervous. He ate everything and wished for more. Artemus didn't finish his tray, and Jim gave it the eye. "Go ahead, Jim."

Artemus didn't have to tell Jim twice. He finished that tray too and looked around for more. Spotting nothing, he drank his coffee. Artemus was watching him, and it was making his neck prickle.

"I'm going to sleep now," said Jim. It sounded awkward, but Artemus was staring and making him crazy. He got as comfortable as he could and shut his eyes. Artemus was still staring. Jim could feel it. His full belly made him drowsy, and he drifted off.

********

Artemus was talking softly, so softly Jim was certain it was a dream. He could feel Artemus under him. They were chest to belly. It was warm. He didn't open his eyes. He was dreaming again.

"James my boy, I really fucked this up. I should have told you that I loved you. Now you'll never believe me."

Artemus sighed, and Jim curled closer. Could he get closer? Was Artemus talking? Jim nuzzled down to Artemus' groin. His cock was hard. Good. Jim rested his face against it. It was warm. He smiled and tried to wake up.

"Jim, no," said Artemus.

Jim didn't argue. He was asleep, wasn't he? Artemus tried to wiggle away, and Jim grabbed him by the hips.

"Stay put," growled Jim. His eyes didn't open, but he was awake now. "I want this."

"We shouldn't. You might bleed on me," said Artemus. Jim laughed and licked him from balls to slit. "Never mind. What's a little blood between partners?"

Jim kept his hands on hips and used his mouth. Artemus tasted good, and Jim was hungry. Hungry for Artemus. Up and down, Jim did all the things that made him writhe and groan. He loved those sounds. Artemus couldn't seem to decide what to do with his hands, and they finally came to rest on Jim's head. Jim pushed Artemus to the very brink twice and backed off.

"James!"

It was a plea for mercy, and Jim gave in. He let Artemus orgasm down Jim's throat. It tasted good. Jim crawled up the length of his partner and kissed him. His back protested, but it was much better. Artemus put his hands on Jim's ass and ground the hard cock against his half-limp one. Jim groaned.

"Merry Christmas, Artie, uh," said Jim. He swallowed the word "love" at the last second. A promise was a promise.

Artemus frowned. "Jim, listen."

"Where's that salve?" Jim changed the subject. He didn't want to hear it. "Artemus, have you ever gotten a turn?"

Artemus' eyes bulged, and he licked his lips. Jim chased after it with his tongue. He enjoyed all of Artemus, especially the wet parts.

"I don't think so, but I'm not sure . . ." Artemus trailed off and looked away, refusing to meet Jim's eyes.

Jim got off Artemus, perhaps a little too quickly. His arm groaned, his back yelped, and even his hand protested. Artemus didn't love him and didn't want him. It hurt. He went to the lavatory and splashed some cool water on his face. Christmas in Baltimore. Jim made a mental note to request they never stop here again. Not that anyone would listen. Artemus moved behind him, and Jim didn't quite have room to turn before he hit the sink. The porcelain was cold. Ice cold against his balls. This discomfort ripped aside as Artemus leaned against him full body.

"You think you can take it?"

"Artie." Jim gritted his teeth. "Don't."

Artemus removed himself immediately, and Jim gasped from relief or the lack. He tried to edge out of the lavatory, but Artemus blocked his way.

"You aren't up to it." Artemus got in Jim's face. "I want you, I love you, but I won't hurt you."

Jim blinked and stepped back. Huh? "You're going to have to repeat that."

"I want you. I love you. I'm not going to hurt you." Artemus leaned in and took Jim by the hair and ass, yanking him close.

Jim found himself in the shelter of Artemus' warm body. "And if I don't believe you?"

"You're a damn fool." Artemus spread Jim's ass cheeks and touched him intimately.

Jim tried to squirm away, and Artemus held him. Without punching Artemus in the face, Jim was staying where he was for now. Artemus kissed him and touched him. He almost felt trapped.

"That's why I haven't had a turn," said Artemus. "You can't give up control, and you're not up to a wrestling match."

Artemus released him and went back to bed. Jim missed the warmth acutely. He hated it when Artemus was right. Jim took the time to piss. His dick hadn't been hard since it hit the sink. He washed up and went back to the bed.

"Will you salve my back?"

"Sure, honey."

Jim glared at Artemus and twisted his ear. "That's enough of that."

"Well, hey, you have a dumb nickname for me. I need one for you."

"It's not going to be honey," said Jim. Artemus found the salve, and Jim lay flat. This would hurt, but it would help. "Straddle my ass."

Artemus paused for a long moment, and Jim looked back at him. "I can tell by the look on your face that it's not worth arguing about, sweetie."

"Not that," said Jim. "Anything but that."

"I'll run through a list of names. You yell out when I find a good one."

Slippery hands began to work on Jim's sore back. He tensed, bit his lip, and by increments began to relax. It felt good and hurt at the same time. Artemus worked the salve deep into the abused muscles.

"Let's see; cutie, lover, sweet cheeks, sweetheart, honey pie, kitten, or baby."

Jim began to laugh. Artemus' hard cock was pressing against his ass, and he liked it. "Keep trying."

"How about Jimbo, Jimmy, Jaytee, Jamie, or jackass?" When Artemus said jackass, he slipped a greasy finger deep in Jim's ass.

"Artie!"

"That's the one then," said Artemus. "It's not what I'd of chosen, but you're the boss."

Jim's mind went blank. Artemus reached deep, and found a delicious spot to rub. Jim gasped and laughed. The finger didn't stop, and he wanted more. He tried to spread his legs, but Artemus was firmly in place.

"Hold still, jackass."

"Artielove, you're gonna pay for this."

"I know," said Artemus. One finger turned into two, and Jim forgot about his aches and pains.

Artemus slid back and off Jim, but didn't stop finger fucking him. Jim pushed up to his hands and knees. Artemus' other slick hand went underneath to caress him. He was incapable of speech. The fingers slowly pulled out, and he jerked when Artemus pushed the tip of his cock where they had been. It hurt, but Artemus didn't move again, and Jim adjusted. He breathed and looked back at his partner. The sight made Jim want more, much more.

"I thought we weren't going to do this," said Jim. He was curious, but he didn't want Artemus to stop. Not anytime soon.

"I changed my mind, jackass. We'll do this my way, and you won't get hurt."

Jim grinned and pushed back, trying to take charge. Artemus clamped a hand around him at the neck, holding him still. He wanted to struggle. His fists clenched from reflex. Artemus pushed Jim until his chest met bed and held him down, hard.

"Don't move, or we won't do this," said Artemus. He tightened his grip.

Jim resisted the urge to fight back. The hand holding him flat loosened, squeezed gently, and with a shudder, Jim surrendered control to Artemus. Somehow, Artemus knew it, because he began to move. Jim gasped and groaned as Artemus fucked him with a big, slick cock. Never fast, in and out with a steady movement. He stayed completely off Jim's back. Artemus reached around took Jim's cock in his hand and matched rhythms. Jim wanted to slam back hard.

"Artemus, you are killing me." Jim would never beg, but it couldn't hurt to ask nicely. "Let me slam back."

"Good and no. Move an inch, and I'll quit." Artemus released Jim's neck and pressed a finger to his mouth. Jim's lips parted to say something, and Artemus stroked inside, pushing the fingers deep. "Your mouth should be against the law."

Artemus' deep voice sent quivers through Jim and with a drawn out groan he came while sucking. His ass clenched, and Artemus echoed him. Jim dropped his hips, and Artemus pulled back. Jim bit Artemus' hand, and it pulled out. Artemus gently slipped away, and he staggered to the lavatory. Jim smiled at the sight.

"I'm exhausted."

"It's your own fault," said Jim. "I didn't get to do anything to help out."

"If you want it, you're going to give me the reins." Artemus leaned against the wall.

"So you want to saddle me up and break me?"

"Talk that way, and I'm gonna find some energy." Artemus returned with a damp towel and cleaned him off. Jim groaned and crossed his eyes when Artemus milked out the last and licked it off. "Very funny, jackass."

"Jail was bad, but nobody called me jackass." Jim rolled to his side and patted the bed. Artemus joined him after hanging up the towel. "Why do you think that is?"

"They don't love you like I do." Artemus kissed Jim. They cuddled face to face.

"Baltimore," said Jim.

"Is not a nice place," interrupted Artemus. "Let's go to Flora's next year, even if we have to ride the whole way."

"Good idea." Jim caressed the armband. "You don't mind it."

"It's beautiful. Thank you. I do think it was far too expensive."

"I'd have paid more," said Jim softly.

"Staking your claim, James?"

"Yes, and that's jackass to you." Jim smiled and scooted down a little so he could curl against Artemus' chest. He was sleepy. "I'm gonna sleep a while, Artielove."

"Merry Christmas, jackass," whispered Artemus. He kissed the top of Jim's head.

********
The End


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