Title: The Night of the Proof
Fandom: Wild Wild West
Pairing: J/A
Feedback: justblackchaps at yahoo dot com
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Artemus wants more. Does Jim?
Disclaimer: All this belongs to CBS.

********

Artemus stared at Jim's back and licked his lips quickly before his handsome partner turned around. Jim turned and held out his hand. Artemus plunked a glass of whiskey in it.

"Thanks, Artie."

"You're entirely welcome, James." Artemus smiled and took a drink. It burned going down. That was good. "I was thinking. We could do something different tonight."

"No chess?"

"No." Artemus sat on the sofa and took another drink. "How about I cuff you to the bed?"

Jim finished his drink. "And then I escape and beat you up? Sounds fun."

Artemus couldn't help but laugh. He took another drink. "How about chess?"

"Excellent idea." Jim grinned. "You're a scoundrel."

"I know." Artemus didn't move to the chessboard. "It never hurts to test the waters."

"You don't really want that." Jim snorted and sat down near Artemus. "Do you?"

Artemus almost smiled at the small note of apprehension he heard in Jim's voice. He weighed his next answer carefully. "It would be nice to feel . . ."

"Powerful?"

Artemus shook his head. That wasn't it. "Like you'd do anything for me."

"You know I would. I have a couple of times." Jim put his big hand on Artemus' knee and squeezed. "You do remember?"

"It's hazy, but, yes." Artemus shrugged. "It's not important."

"You sure?" Jim took his glass and refilled it. "You can, if you want."

Artemus was careful not to look at Jim. "Why?"

"I trust you with my life. This is nothing." Jim stood over Artemus. "So? What'll it be?"

Artemus drained his glass. He stood up and moved to put his glass on the sideboard. "Chess is fine." He sat in front of black and waited for his partner to join him.

Jim sat across and pushed out a white pawn. "We already share a bed."

Artemus nodded and abruptly abandoned the chess game. He went to stare out the back door. "It's nothing." The words slipped out before he could think of the consequences.

Jim put a hand on him. "Then, why do we do it?"

"You wanted it. I agreed." Artemus turned and met those blue eyes. "But I don't fool myself."

Jim looked him up and down. "And cuffs would solve this?"

"I did wonder." Artemus felt like ducking. Jim looked a little dangerous. "You won't give it."

"You think you can take it?" Jim shifted his boots and put his hands on his hips.

Artemus knew he'd crossed a line. There would be no going back. "If I did, I wouldn't want it." He whispered the words and dropped his head, staring at his boots.

Jim sighed. He moved away and sat down heavily. "You want more."

"There was always that risk." Artemus rubbed his face. "You must have known it."

"I'd do anything for you."

Artemus couldn't decide whether to stare at Jim or turn away. "How about - ÔI've done all I can for you.'"

"That's a lie!" Jim jumped up and thrust an iron finger hard against Artemus' vest. "Why don't you believe me?"

"Because you won't let me make love to you." Artemus caught the hand and held it. "Not a quick one that any whore would give out for five dollars."

Jim jerked his hand away and whirled. His breath came hard and fast. Artemus was out of words. He'd said too much, when all he'd wanted was to tease Jim a little. The words had flown out, and there was no taking them back. Artemus checked the time. He should go on to bed. There was nothing more to say.

"Fine. Cuff me."

Artemus again stared at his partner's back. "You do it."

Jim flinched and ran a fast hand through his hair. "Is it all or nothing?"

Artemus considered lying. The truth could be so ugly. "After these words, could you?"

"No," Jim whispered. He strode from the parlor, and the door swung shut behind him. Artemus watched him go and said nothing, but after a moment went after him. If they were done with sharing a bed, Artemus wanted to know. He found Jim in the closet, stripping off his clothes. Jim grabbed up a pair of cuffs, pushed Artemus out of the way, and went to the small room they shared. Artemus followed and didn't take a deep breath. Jim was very naked. He lay on the bed, thrust his arms through the spindles, and deftly put the cuffs on his wrists. His body was so tense that muscles stood out. "Anything else?"

"If I did want you to cuff your legs, it's a little too late." Artemus chuckled softly. "You look angry."

"I am." Jim wiggled and seemed to get more comfortable. "This is stupid."

Artemus took the tip of his finger and ran it up Jim's body. "Is it?"

Jim stared at him. "You need me to prove it. So take it."

"You sound as if you won't like it." Artemus swirled a finger in Jim's underarm hair. It was soft like a downy chick. "Proving your love will take more than this."

"Do we have to talk? Get in, get out, and let's go on with our lives." Jim paused. "Together."

Artemus nodded. "You would do anything for me. I see it now." He paused and placed the palm of his hand on Jim's stomach. "Even things you don't want to do. You don't want this, now or ever."

Jim shut his eyes, pursed his lips, and refused to answer. Artemus sighed softly and went to undress in the closet, putting his clothes away carefully. Chances were that Jim would be free when Artemus returned to the stateroom. Artemus turned the lamp off and went to Jim. Jim glanced at him. He was still cuffed. That was a small surprise.

Artemus dimmed the lamp in their room and sat near Jim's hip. "Off?"

"No." Jim nudged Artemus in the back with a hairy leg. "Please do what you need."

Artemus blinked. Another surprise and this one was from Jim's own lips. "The things we do; is that all you need?"

Jim looked him in the eye. "No, but I won't ask for more."

"Of me? You know I will give you anything."

"If I ask it, but I wanted you to . . ."

"Take it?"

"Yes, damn it!" Jim's jaw clenched.

Artemus tried not to laugh and failed. Jim managed to kick him fairly hard. And Artemus slid off the bed onto the floor to laugh in safety.

"Stop laughing!" Jim took a deep breath and began to laugh. Artemus wiped his eyes and stood up. He looked Jim over and let his imagination run wild. There were so many possibilities here, and the cuffs could stay. Jim's underarms would be a delight to bite.

"James my boy, we're going to be here awhile." Artemus smiled at him.

Jim made no answer. He did spread his legs just enough to make Artemus focus his attention there. Jim's cock was hard, and Artemus made himself comfortable between Jim's legs. Artemus gripped it firmly and licked.

"Artie, I thought you wanted more than that!"

Artemus looked up and grinned. "I want everything, Jim."

"Oh, is that all?" Jim's legs opened wider at an insistent push. "What exactly do you have planned?"

Artemus didn't answer. He chuckled softly and enjoyed himself, dining on Jim's warm flesh. Delicious didn't begin to describe it. Jim struggled occasionally in the cuffs, and it only added spice to the meal.

"Enough! Enough!"

Artemus removed his mouth and hands, sitting back on his heels. "No more? Ever?"

Jim groaned and wrapped his legs around Artemus' hips. Artemus rubbed his hands up Jim's thighs and waited patiently. "Damn it!"

"I thought you might say that." Artemus rocked his hips into Jim's and moved them both. "Just relax and enjoy yourself."

Jim growled an obscenity. Artemus smiled. Jim wanted to rush this, and pretend it never happened. He shoved his hips up, frantically pushing. Artemus braced himself on his arms and leaned down to kiss Jim's stubborn lips. They didn't part, not at first. Artemus nibbled and licked until Jim returned the kisses with full measure. Their tongues stabbed at each other, and Artemus sucked Jim's tongue deep into his mouth. Jim thrashed a little. Artemus released him.

"That hurt!"

"Not all that much." Artemus pushed back and managed to sit with Jim's ass in his lap. Jim seemed uncomfortable with his legs wrapped around Artemus. That was fine. "Jim, have you ever been with a man?"

"Dumb question." Jim licked his lips.

Artemus stroked Jim's cock with one hand and teased a finger underneath. "Think a minute."

Jim jerked. His ass tightened. "No!"

"So, that's what this is all about." Artemus nodded. "It makes sense."

"Artie, we're not. Are we?"

"All means all." Artemus found the jar of salve and opened it. He immediately pressed a slick finger to Jim's asshole, but didn't penetrate. Jim was tense, wide-eyed, and almost near panic. Artemus sighed. "James, I'm not going to hurt you."

"I know." Jim shut his eyes, but his body didn't relax.

Artemus shrugged in defeat. Jim was too tense. This would never work. Artemus pulled away, leaving Jim again flat on the bed with his legs slightly spread. Jim's eyes snapped open, and he glared. Artemus made sure the jar lid was shut. "What?"

"Do it!" Jim's now green eyes were angry.

Artemus shook his head. "Jim, I can't, not without hurting you, and I won't do that. Taking it is nothing but rape, and I could never do that to you."

"Artemus, quit talking and do it." Jim's voice grew soft.

"You don't understand. It would be difficult, even painful. You have to relax and want it. It will still hurt, a little." Artemus laid a gentle hand on Jim. "Some other time, maybe."

Jim shuddered. His whole body quivered. Artemus wiped his slick hand on his thigh before taking the cuffs off. Jim sat up fast and grabbed Artemus, shoving him down flat and straddling him. "What if I want it all?"

"You haven't before." Artemus squeezed Jim's thighs and smiled. "Use plenty of salve."

"How much is enough?" Jim opened the jar and cautiously took out a finger full.

"If I scream, use more." Artemus laughed.

Jim didn't join him. "You've done this often?"

Artemus quit laughing. That was near to an insult. He narrowed his eyes and analyzed the face over him.

"I apologize." Jim recapped the jar and moved off Artemus, sitting on the edge of the bed. He rubbed the salve slowly into the palm of his hand. "Sleep, perhaps, is a better idea."

Artemus sat up and rubbed Jim's shoulders. "It's okay. I know this is hard. I'm not angry."

"I wasn't insulting you. I was hoping for pointers." Jim blushed, not too much.

Artemus smiled and used his thumbs to work the tension built up along Jim's spine. He wasn't sure what to say and concentrated on the skin beneath his hands. It was warm and firm. Muscles bunched and began to relax.

"Artie, ready for bed?"

"Let me do this first." Artemus kissed the top of Jim's shoulder. He'd done it a thousand times before and tonight was no different. Jim rotated his neck and reached back to capture Artemus' head, pulling. Artemus resisted from surprise, but capitulated easily, sliding around Jim from behind. He kissed again, running his lips along and licking. Jim let out a breathy moan. Artemus reached around and discovered Jim's hard cock. His hand was still slick enough to produce an easy motion. It was no hardship. Jim needed this release. He laid his head back on Artemus.

"Feels good."

Artemus kissed and fondled him; even this was more than usual. It would be enough, for now. Jim wouldn't be broken like a bronc. No, he'd be coaxed like a mule. Artemus' hard cock pressed into Jim's back. Jim slipped a hand back between them and stroked him. His hand was also slick. Artemus groaned and bit Jim lightly. It wasn't possession; no one owned Jim West, but a desire to mark him. This man was mine for one night. The mark would shout it, and Artemus sucked the skin red. Jim arched his broad back, and Artemus felt the wetness spurt up. It made him take a deep breath and release. Jim flinched slightly. The seed had struck his back.

"Sorry."

Jim shook his head. Artemus understood the apology wasn't necessary. He made sure Jim was completely finished before releasing him. Proof of their passion was on Jim's chest and back.

"I'll clean it up."

"With your tongue?" Jim laughed softly, breathlessly.

Artemus kissed the red mark and said, "It'd be a pleasure."

"I was joking."

"I'm not." Artemus let his voice deepen. He licked Jim's back clean first and grinned at the tiny tremors. When he slid around and down to his knees to do Jim's chest, he caught a good look at Jim's face. "What?"

"I'm not sure."

Artemus believed that. Jim looked stunned, almost as if his brain had stopped working. He gripped Artemus tightly, spread his legs, and pulled him closer. Artemus licked him clean. Jim did want it. He groaned and ran his fingers through Artemus' hair. It was a touch so intimate that Artemus wanted to cry out his joy. To keep from it, he latched his lips onto Jim's balls.

"Those aren't messy." Jim shook Artemus by the hair. "Kiss me."

Artemus jerked in shock and obeyed instantly. Jim took control of the kiss and plundered. He held Artemus tightly. Artemus didn't wiggle. He gave. Something had changed. He'd wait and see what happened. Jim tugged him up on the bed, and they lay together. Their mouths moved, and their hearts beat. Time stood still.

"Try again."

Moments shattered before Artemus understood, and he paused. "This is enough. I don't need more."

"But I do." Jim gripped him hard.

Artemus believed, and he groped for the salve to slick his cock completely. "Roll to your stomach."

Jim did this without a trace of reluctance. Artemus knew Jim was watching closely, but didn't meet blue-green eyes. He rubbed Jim's back and ass. There wasn't much tension. Jim raised his hips slightly and adjusted his cock.

"Stay right there," Artemus said. He felt a little light-headed and eased a finger inside. Jim didn't jerk. He grunted softly. Artemus didn't hesitate. He pressed and retreated.

"That's enough. Use your cock."

Artemus nearly flinched at the words. Jim didn't know. He'd be stretched. It might hurt. "Let me-"

"Now!"

The word snapped out as a command, and Artemus gave up. He fumbled his cock to the right position and shoved, not too hard, but enough to breach the entrance. Jim drew a very deep breath. Artemus held perfectly still.

"That's it?"

Jim's dry comment made Artemus laugh. "I'm fucking you up the ass, not shooting you."

"You're not doing much of anything."

Artemus put more of his body weight on Jim. He wanted to slap the firm ass under him. Oh, what the hell. Jim pushed up and glared back at him. Artemus grinned. "You asked for it."

Jim didn't answer. He used his hands to shove himself backwards. Artemus got the message and didn't argue. He applied himself, giving no quarter to the man underneath him. Kissing, fondling, moving fast and slow, he took his pleasure and his time, making love to Jim the right way. If it took forever, that was fine. When his arms began to quiver, he quickly rolled them.

Jim gasped. "Hey!"

"Problem?" Jim's body was in the perfect position to be enjoyed completely by Artemus' hands, and he set about doing it.

Jim held still, at first. "Are you going to move?"

Artemus flexed his hips. "You can."

Jim didn't seem sure. He put his hands flat on the bed and pushed. "Roll us."

"Greedy." Artemus kissed him and pulled those strong arms back until Jim was braced up. Jim began to move. The sensations overwhelmed Artemus. His eyes fluttered shut, and he wrapped a hand around Jim's cock. He pulled Jim's hair with his other hand, forcing him to arch. "Feel me."

Jim jammed himself down and swiveled. Artemus gasped and emptied himself. He could feel Jim's cock pulsing. They stayed locked together. Artemus released Jim's hair and caressed it gently. Jim groaned and jerked again. He eased down, and his full body weight was on Artemus.

"Gently."

Jim nodded. He didn't yank away. Artemus rolled them to the side, and he dropped out. He immediately glanced down, spotting no obvious blood. Thank goodness. Jim had been tight. Artemus put his arm around Jim and squeezed.

"Where's your tongue?"

Artemus choked on air. "I'm not your towel!"

"You volunteered. I thought the position was permanent."

Artemus leaned up to see the grin on Jim's face. "It'd serve you right if I followed you around the rest of your life, licking your body."

"Yes, it would." Jim reached back and grabbed a fistful of Artemus' hair. "Get busy."

Artemus let himself by hauled over Jim where he began to lick. Jim's eyes glinted with mischief, and Artemus knew where his tongue was headed next. Artemus had no desire to taste salve, and when a big hand shoved him lower, he quickly inserted two fingers.

"Artie!"

"I don't think you're quite finished." Artemus worked his fingers fast, making Jim groan. "Get hard for me."

That was all it took. Jim was hard again. He gripped his own cock and shoved it at Artemus' mouth. Artemus sucked and thrust with his fingers. Jim panted and begged. He was far gone into pleasure. It was a beautiful sight. He wrenched out a deep incoherent cry, and Artemus tasted him for the third time. Jim curled slightly. He trembled. Artemus licked him clean, but left his fingers deep, occasionally flexing them. Jim squirmed.

"Artemus?"

"Yeah, Jim?" Artemus lazily swirled a finger around Jim's nipple, gave him a lick, and smiled.

"You can remove your hand."

"I think it's stuck." Artemus didn't look. He pulled his fingers nearly out, but went back for more. "Sorry."

"You're going to have a hard time explaining that to Colonel Richmond." Jim laughed. "He thought he'd heard it all!"

Artemus nodded and went to the edge of the bed. He took Jim's ass with him. Jim switched from laughing to wiggling. "Next time, do more of that."

"Next time, it's your turn." Jim's voice was firm. He'd made up his mind on that point.

Artemus slipped his fingers and headed towards the lavatory to clean up. "We can do both."

"After your fumbling around, I can't look bad."

"Careful, your sarcasm is showing." Artemus washed his hands. He took a firm hold on Jim. "Grab the tub."

Jim's back straightened. "No."

"Lean over. I'll clean you and make sure there's no blood." Artemus snapped the words out. This was not the time for Jim to be a knucklehead. "Consider it an order."

"You don't outrank me."

"From your doctor."

"Shit." Jim sighed, turned around, and grabbed the tub.

Artemus cleaned and inspected him for rips. Jim had insisted they rush, and he'd torn slightly. It would ache later, but there had only been trace amounts of blood. He'd be fine. He might sit funny tomorrow.

"Well?"

"You'll feel this later." Artemus patted him gently. "You'll be fine."

Jim leaned up and crossed his arms. He looked embarrassed. "Did you bleed when some fellow fucked your ass the first time?"

Artemus made sure his jaw didn't drop in shock. He made the immediate decision to let the truth roar out of him. "Since I was leaned over a stump being held by two confederates while another stuck it to me - yes!"

Jim's eyes widened. His jaw did drop slightly. He looked down. "I didn't know."

Artemus knew that. He turned and left Jim there to gather his clearly scattered wits. Regretting his outburst, Artemus pulled on some drawers before slipping into bed. He let himself collapse. That had worn him out. Did Jim wish this had never happened? Possibly.

"Artie, I spoke crudely." Jim got under the blankets near him. "I apologize."

"Okay. I was just shocked." Artemus put an arm over his eyes.

Jim sighed and stayed away. He wouldn't come close. He never did. Artemus had hoped this would mean more to Jim, but it hadn't. It was nothing but fucking, again, and this time with a man. It was nothing.

"You should have told me."

"You were a boy. I got over it."

"Obviously." Jim took Artemus' arm and pulled it away. "I was young, but never a boy."

"True, but you'd have dashed off to try your hand at killing them. It would have been stupid." Artemus looked at him. "I lived. It was enough."

"War is hell." Jim leaned up onto one arm and stared down at him. "I know you said you wanted more, but if you're not happy with what you got, you can leave."

Artemus waited for the rest of Jim's words. There would be more.

"I'll chase you down and beat you, but you can go."

"I know." Artemus rubbed his eyes. "Let's sleep. Tomorrow while you're trying to find a comfortable spot to sit, you can rethink your decision."

"Sounds fair." Jim didn't smile, but a dimple showed. "I shouldn't talk so much."

Artemus nodded and shut his eyes. He rolled away to his side and controlled a gasp of surprise when Jim curled around him. They slept.

********

Artemus handed Jim a brandy. They moved as one to the chessboard and sat in the chairs. Only Jim's eyes flinched.

"Let's do something different tonight."

"No. Thank you," Jim said. "Chess will be fine."

Artemus nodded. "I only meant that you'd spot me a bishop."

"That isn't going to happen."

"And neither is anything else, ever again. Right?" Artemus went ahead and pushed his point home. He'd watched Jim frown and try not to squirm all day.

Jim stood up fast. Chess pieces wobbled and fell. "No!"

Artemus didn't get it. He leaned back and watched Jim's face. It might give him a clue to whether he should be packing.

"I feel like an idiot!"

"This is new?"

Jim whirled and raised a finger. He took a deep breath. "I deserve that."

"And more." Artemus took a drink. "But, go ahead. Don't let me stop you."

"You should have told me years ago, and I acted like an ass." Jim rubbed his hair. "I was embarrassed."

"No and yes." Artemus shrugged. "Forget it."

"I'm not going to be your woman." Jim's mulishness was showing.

"I'd be your towel." Artemus stood up. "It was nothing. Don't worry."

Jim paced away from him, drank some brandy, and said, "Are you trying to hurt me?"

Artemus nearly dropped his drink. Those few gentle words unmanned him. "I loved you, and you immediately struck out at me." Softly, the words dropped into the silence. "I want more."

"And you think I don't have it to give." Jim growled the words out. "Right?"

"Not to me. Someone else? Yes. I've been in your life forever, and familiarity breeds contempt." Artemus finished his brandy and put the glass away. "I was wrong to ask for more."

Jim sank down on the sofa and drained his glass of brandy. "We went over this. I wanted you to ask, and I gave all I have. To you."

Artemus paled. He needed to think, and he stepped from the parlor. He'd check his horse. When he closed the door behind him, the geldings swung their heads to look at him. He picked up a brush and gave them each a few swipes. They didn't need it. Jim kept them immaculate. They didn't protest a little grain, and he sat down on a stool to watch.

"What did I miss?"

The horses didn't answer. The black stomped a hoof. The grey swished his tail impatiently at a fly. The door opened. Artemus waited.

"This is where I usually hide."

"I'm tired of the galley. You always expect food." Artemus stayed sitting. "You did give all."

"Yes, and I didn't like it." Jim cracked his knuckles. "I'm not much of a man."

Artemus rolled his eyes. "Shut up with that. You sound like a fool."

"It's what I am. When it comes to you, that is." Jim sank down to one knee in front of Artemus. "I don't know what you'll accept as proof, but if you think of it, I'll find a way to get it."

"Did those words hurt?"

"You have no idea." Jim rested his head on Artemus' thigh. "Hurry, before my pride forces me up."

Artemus didn't. He put his chin in his palm and stared at Jim. "I don't want your horse."

"You can't have him anyway." Jim banged his forehead. "How about my balls?"

"Did you think I took those last night?"

"Yes! You made me feel weak. Hell, I begged! I've never done that!" Jim jerked up and strode away to the horses, running a hand down the black gelding's hide. "Never."

Artemus crossed his arms and thought it all through again. "It was my fault. I made a fundamental mistake. I assumed by loving you that you'd give all. I was wrong. Oh, you did." He held up a hand to forestall Jim's words. "But I took. And you didn't like it. Tonight, you have to give. That's the only proof I'll accept."

"Tonight?" Jim's hand went to his ass. "How about tomorrow?"

"Think about it." Artemus smiled and left his partner with his horses.

*********

Artemus puttered in the galley. Dinner was long over. It had been quiet, but Jim had eaten. Artemus had kept his eyes to himself, and his mouth shut. Last night had been a whirlwind of emotions. For a brief moment, he'd allowed himself to believe that Jim wanted it all, always. Jim didn't and wouldn't. He'd been trying to get a little pride back by forcing Artemus to clean him up.

"What are you thinking?"

Artemus shut the cabinet and turned to Jim. "Not much."

"Are you still willing to follow me around and lick me?" Jim's shitty grin topped that statement.

"No." Artemus left the galley through the door to the hallway.

Jim grabbed him by the shoulder. "You lied?"

"You didn't mean it. You were humiliating me!"

Jim gripped him and shook him. Artemus balled up a fist and sent it at Jim's head. He knew it was stupid. Jim ducked and used his shoulder to shove Artemus against the wall. They clung together, breathing hard. Artemus wanted to rip Jim's head off and shove it up his sore ass. He was so angry that he wasn't sure why he was angry anymore.

"I wasn't."

Artemus let out a long breath. "Convince me."

Jim glared at him. "You are a stubborn man! Stupid, too!"

"Thanks! Asshole!" Artemus felt like a complete fool. He should have stuck with the occasional meaningless encounter. It would have hurt less than this.

Jim took a good hold of Artemus' lapel and dragged him to their stateroom. He shoved him at the bed. "You started this, but by God, I'm going to finish it!"

Artemus wasn't sure he wanted to know what the hell Jim was talking about. He watched Jim angrily strip off his clothes. His cock was hard. Artemus knew he should do something, but he couldn't think of what. When Jim was naked, he started on Artemus, throwing his clothes to the floor.

"That's no way to treat nice clothes."

"For once, shut up. Words are making this worse."

Artemus abruptly sat on the bed. "Stop!"

"No," Jim said. "Not until you understand."

"It'll never happen, not this way." Artemus raised his hands to fend off another attack. Jim retaliated by removing Artemus' boots and pushing him flat. Artemus soon found himself naked, and he felt vulnerable. Jim was angry. His big hands flexed and found purchase. Artemus put his hands on Jim's chest. "Stop."

Jim took a ragged breath. He blinked. And stopped. "I won't hurt you."

"I don't believe you. You're angry." Artemus shook his head. "Don't. I won't stand for it. Not again."

Jim moved back so fast that Artemus felt the wind of it. "I'd never!"

"You are dangerously close." Artemus sat up and put his back to the wall. "I think, perhaps, it's time for us to go our separate ways."

"What?" Jim sat down and rubbed his face. "I can barely remember life without you."

Artemus shut his eyes and took a breath. "I know, but-"

"No! Last night we agreed. And then I said something stupid. We're not tossing this away because I was a jackass!"

Artemus shook his head. "You didn't like it."

"I did. I'd roll over right now and do it all again. It just didn't agree with my notions about pride and place." Jim scrubbed his hair. "I didn't say this would be easy."

"No joke." Artemus agreed with that. "Why don't we give this a rest? No rush."

Jim didn't answer. He left the bed and picked up the clothes, taking them to the closet. Artemus helped. He wasn't sure if there were any words left to say. Would Jim ride off in a huff? Jim did slam a few drawers, but he seemed more frustrated than angry. Jim West, angry, was not a man to be trifled with.

"Artemus, let's cut out all the bullshit."

Artemus nearly groaned. That sounded bad. "Okay. You go first."

"I gave. You liked it." Jim shut his closet. "But, if you want me to show you, you're going to have to give back."

"I don't follow."

"When's the last time you were with a man?"

Artemus didn't particularly want to answer that. "I haven't, not often, over the years."

"Answer the question. My guess would be last month in Washington. You were half-drunk with the ambassador from Mexico."

Artemus avoided Jim's sharp eyes. At the time, Jim had appeared to be busy, but he always paid attention to details; like where Artemus was. "Yes."

"I thought so. You did have a good time?"

"Sure. It was fine. He talked too much, but-"

Jim threw up a hand. "No more details. I might have to go back and kill him."

"James, you were banging that whore from Russia." Artemus leaned against the doorway and watched his partner think. "She told me that you were like a stallion."

"I'm not sure that's a compliment." Jim rubbed his forehead. "So, you're willing to bed Pedro, and not me?"

"It's not that simple!" Artemus threw up his hands. "He meant nothing to me!"

"And you love me."

"Yes, but don't get a fat head over it!" Artemus was tired of standing naked in the hallway, and he strode back to the bed. If nothing else, he'd get some sleep. A memory of Jim's young face flashed in front of Artemus' eyes. He groaned. They'd always been tied together by something neither of them understood. Circumstances, war, women, duty, and time hadn't been able to separate them. Would this? No. They had to find a way through it.

"Did he fuck you?"

Jim certainly didn't pull his punches, and Artemus gasped at the crude words. He spat out the truth. "No, I fucked him hard from the front. I put his legs on my shoulders and worked him like a ten dollar whore."

Jim flinched at each word. "Did he beg like I did?"

Now Artemus flinched. "I don't know. I wasn't listening. I was wishing I was with you."

"Doing something any five dollar whore would do?" Jim stood in the door.

"Yes, because that's better with you than everything from a nobody." Artemus whispered the words and was surprised at how true they were. "Is that all you wanted to know?"

"Maybe more than." Jim sank down on the bed. "My brain hurts."

"You don't use it enough."

Jim laughed softly. "Good one." He scooted close to Artemus. "Lay down with me?"

Artemus nodded, and they lay close. Jim's hand rested on Artemus' hip. They didn't talk or even really look at each other. Artemus tried to relax. Jim scooted a little closer, and he nuzzled Artemus. His lips lingered. Artemus didn't move away.

Jim would finish this. He never backed away. "We were always headed here."

"It does seem that way." Artemus gave a sigh and quit worrying.

Jim smiled at him. "We'll find a way, but you are spending a good part of the rest of your life licking me."

"I was afraid of that. Me and my fat mouth." Artemus returned the smile.

Jim caressed Artemus. "I am sorry."

"I know. I am too." Artemus relaxed a little more. He did want this, and it was possible that he'd over-reacted to a few things. "Maybe I was thinking too much."

"Maybe?" Jim ran his tongue down Artemus' neck and shoulders. "I'm going to pick out a place and give you a mark."

"Lower please." Artemus pointed at his cock and laughed. "I should have marked you when you were eight, then we wouldn't have had this trouble."

Jim's eyes glinted. "You did."

Artemus gripped him tightly. Everything clicked into place. The proof was in the pudding. He'd taught Jim about women and sex; of course, he looked to him. They could have dispensed with the occasional months ago, but Jim had waited for Artemus to take the lead, again. Artemus felt like smacking himself. It was easy to forget the ingredients that made up a recipe. "Let me show you what feels good."

"Please," Jim said. "I can't even remember all the stuff you were doing to me last night. My body was on fire."

"Good." Artemus would teach Jim, but gently. "How's your pride doing?"

"I left it in the closet with my gun." Jim grinned. "Let's try something different tonight."

"Excellent idea."


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