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Under the Steinway

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When the forecast calls for a blizzard incoming, Arthur always goes a little barmy, dragging stacks of quilts and heavy blankets out of the linen closet and obsessively checking the thermostat, the humidity settings. When Eames locates him, Arthur is in the studio trying to make hospital corners on the rounded sweep of the Steinway's six foot long lid.

"Pass me the packing tape," he says to Eames, not looking up, hands holding down a particularly taut fold.

Eames finds the roll of tape on the floor a few feet from Arthur, hands it over, watches Arthur's finicky fingers smoothing out the wrinkles in the tape and blanket both before moving on to the next bend in the piano. "You know," says Eames, "it's not even that cold out, yet."

"Your instrument doesn't react to weather like mine does," says Arthur, still focussed and unbothered. "Besides, we've got that Schumann retrospective next week, you want to spend days rehearsing Dichterliebe on a piano that's wildly out of tune?"

Eames presses his palm against the coddled surface of the Steinway, testing. This has got to be the third blanket Arthur's layered over it. He's nearly done. "My instrument is very sensitive too, I'll have you know," Eames says, letting himself sound petulant. Arthur isn't paying attention anyway.

"Damn, where's the tape?" Arthur asks, now underneath the piano's body. "Why do we live in Boston? This is insane, having a piece of goddamn art in such a fickle climate."

Eames spies the tape on top of the piano and snags it again, crawling down to meet Arthur in the dark space under the grand. "I'm next," he says. "If you don't smother me in blankets and tape me together my voice will be no use to you either. I'll probably sing in French instead of German or something equally disastrous."

Arthur uses his teeth to bite a length of tape off the roll, shouldering Eames aside to secure the last corner of the blanket. They lie side by side, staring up at the padded underside of the soundboard. Arthur is checking for gaps; Eames is trying to think of a similar chink an Arthur's obsessive worrying about the damned piano.

"I think I'll put on a fourth quilt, just to be safe," says Arthur, and goes to roll out from under the piano.

Eames catches him by the wrist, gently. Arthur is as careful of his hands and arms as he is of the Steinway; he's wearing long woollen gloves to guard his fingers against the weather change. "It's not snowing until tonight," Eames says, softly.

"It's not the snow, it's the pressure and humidity changes before the snow falls that"-- Arthur begins, tiresome and precise and weirdly attractive, so Eames stops up his mouth with a kiss. --"that affect the soundboard and the pegs, you have to take care of these things before"-- another kiss -- "before they get out of hand and you have a tuning disaster"-- yet another --"and, and you have to call in a tuner, and then your instrument does it all over when the bad weather ends." But for all his lecturing, Arthur has surrendered, he's sunk down onto the floor and his head is firm in the crook of Eames' elbow, his long lean body rolling in close, gloved fingers toying with the short ends of Eames' hair at his nape.

"You don't understand," says Arthur, but his voice has changed. Arthur's ear is trained for the sonority of string and hammer, but Eames can read vocal timbre like a splash of colour, and Arthur's has gone from urgent deep purple to a softer warmer blue. "Your voice is practically indestructible, you can smoke a pack of cigarettes and go on to sing three hours of Strauss without a crack. The Steinway's different."

"Hours before the snow starts to fall," says Eames again, ignoring all this, pressing his mouth into the curve of Arthur's bare neck, gorgeous and sinuous as the swoop in the side of the piano.

Arthur sighs, and Eames knows he's trying to make it sound short-tempered and put-upon, but it comes out far too slowly for all that. The sigh is like the end of a long phrase, tapered and elegant and measured as every one of Arthur's pianistic gestures. "Fine," says Arthur, "but you're not going down on me, it'll make you hoarse until tomorrow."

"Can't rehearse with the piano all bundled up anyway," Eames points out, and slithers down Arthur's long body. Six feet gives enough room that they are still both completely under the piano's shelter, in its dark sequestered sacred space, when Eames reaches his destination and starts working on Arthur's trousers.

Arthur's already mostly hard by the time Eames works him out of his boxers. "Okay, okay, but not too deep," Arthur says in an urgent whisper, like he's doing Eames a favour here, letting Eames suck his cock. Eames swallows Arthur down just to be contrary; if he didn't know Arthur was completely incapable of it, he'd almost suspect that Arthur was using reverse psychology here. But no, Arthur is genuinely worried about the state of Eames' vocal folds. His gloved fingers press worriedly at the point of Eames' jaw, trying to ease him up a little.

Eames works his throat once, twice, a third time, and Arthur's fingers fall into a fond caress as he unwillingly releases a sigh of pleasure.

Satisfied, Eames lifts up enough to take a deep breath through his nose and goes down again, falling into an adagio tempo, languorous and sultry and deep. Arthur's hips shift minutely under Eames' anchoring hands, happy dizzy twitches that aspire to nothing more.

Eames' jaw starts to ache, building a tension he'll have to coax out in his warm-ups tomorrow morning (not that Arthur will ever know anything about it), but it's worth it, oh, it's worth it, Arthur's devolved into little catch-breaths now, rapid and clicking with each intake, and Eames only now starts a poco a poco accelerando, taking Arthur into andante and then moderato, and then -- he gets no further, because Arthur stops breathing, makes a soft pained sound, and comes, trying to pull out but Eames won't let him because Eames likes this bruising pressure on his throat, the way Arthur loses control like this even as he struggles.

"Say something," says Arthur when Eames crawls back up and flops down half on top of him.

"Mee mey mah moh fucking moo," says Eames, raspy and breathless and exultant.

"Oh, you idiot," says Arthur in a raspberry red tone of exasperation.

"Pull off those bloody gloves and give us a tug, will you?" asks Eames, unrepentant.

"Only if you're close, I don't want to cramp up," says Arthur, but he's mostly kidding in his dry Arthurian way; Eames is too bloody close anyway and they both know it. Eames wrests his fly open, yanks off Arthur's right glove, and shoves his brilliant warm muscled hand down Eames' pants.

"Harder," says Eames, "faster," but Arthur doesn't have time to do either before Eames is clutching Arthur's shoulder and groaning and spilling over Arthur's fist. Arthur eases him down and wipes his hand on Eames' belly before meticulously regloving his hand and settling in with his head on Eames' panting ribcage.

When they finally emerge from under the Steinway some minutes later, it's to the sight of the first fat sticky flakes drifting down out the window.