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It's Not the Things You Say

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Arthur looks at his Smart Car then at the picturesque sky and thinks, not for the first time, that he should've waited another year. Saved long enough to spring for the cabriolet instead of settling for the coupe. After all, the impending six hour drive to a remote lake in the wilds of Virginia would be a lot more enjoyable if he could put the top down.

He sighs, hands in his pockets, as he wishes once again that he were headed to the beach instead, relaxing for the first time after eight grueling years of the finest education Annapolis has to offer. Eighteen years if he counts from the day he was born and first tormented by his older sisters.

The screen door slams shut from behind him and he turns to see his mother walking out, handkerchief clutched in one hand, a brown paper sack in the other. Arthur manages not to roll his eyes, but it's a close thing.

"There's a sandwich and some snacks in here," she explains, handing him the bag. He has to look away from her eyes, shining with unshed tears, and decides to inspect the bag: peanut butter and jelly with baby carrots and a snack-size bag of Doritos. "Do you think you'll need more?"

"You really didn't have to," he says instead of, I'm not five anymore, mom. He drops it into the driver's seat, half hoping to smash it when he gets in.

She frames Arthur's face with her hands, forcing him to look at her instead of the ground. "Arthur Cohen, you may be eighteen, but you'll always be my baby. It's my job, don't take that away from me."

A tear slides down one cheek and Arthur follows it with the pad of his thumb, makes a soft sound in the back of his throat as he pulls her to him, wrapping her up in his long arms. Her head fits perfectly under his chin. "You act like I'm going off to war," he chides gently, brushing his lips against the dry skin of her temple. "I'll be back in three months. Maybe less."

There's a long, loud sniff and his mom pulls away, her cheeks wetter than before. "I know, I know. I just can't help it." She waves his hand away and uses the kerchief to dab at her tears. "Are you all ready to go, then?"

Arthur looks back at the car, checking to make sure he's got both duffels and his laptop bag. He's about to answer her when she grabs his arm. "I forgot one thing, wait here." He watches her disappear into the house, only to emerge a moment later with his garment bag. He can't stop his eyes from rolling this time.

"Mom, I'm gonna be in the middle of the woods. Not in New York or Paris. I doubt I'll be needing any sort of formal attire, let alone my suit."

She pushes past him to lay his suit out over the other bags, skims a palm over it to smooth out the wrinkles. "You never know, Arthur. You might meet a handsome young man while you're working. Or," she slips her hands into her pockets and makes a small surprised sound, "when you're at that bookshop. I just want you prepared."

She looks down at her right pocket, and her hand comes out holding a wad of bills. "I can't believe I almost forgot this, either," she worries, pressing them into Arthur's hand. "Just in case."

Arthur doesn't count the money in front of her, but he can guess he's holding about two hundred dollars. Maybe three. "Mom..." he says gently as he tries to give it back, reaches out for her pocket when she pulls her hands away, but she's adamant.

"Just take it, Arthur. Or I'll send it to Eames and have him sneak it into your wallet somehow." She has a hand wrapped around his wrist, stopping him in his tracks, and she doesn't let go until he pulls back and stuffs the bills in his pocket, frowning slightly.

Arthur shakes his head and pulls her into another hug. "You're impossible, y'know."

"It's my job," she reminds him with a haughty sniff.

Eventually, her arms find their way around his waist again and squeeze hard. He can feel her tears dampening his shirt, but he lets her have the moment. Even takes one of his own to close his eyes and inhale deeply, getting one last whiff of the unique collection of smells that is his mother: fresh baked cookies, coffee, and cold cream.

When he feels her arms slacken a little bit, he pushes gently at her shoulders. Her eyes are red and cheeks tear-streaked and, in this moment, he loves her impossibly. "Three months, mom. I'm coming back."

She nods, her lips forming a tight, thin line. He can see the tremors anyway. Her head tips up and she kisses him once on each cheek, tweaks his nose when he thumbs away her tears and kisses her forehead. "Drive safe," she manages; a wretched, hoarse sound.

Arthur nods, not trusting himself to talk as he feels tears prick his own eyes. His mom retreats to the shade of the porch, clinging to the column to watch Arthur make one final check of his baggage and shift the sack lunch to the passenger seat in an overly obvious gesture before getting behind the wheel. He turns the key and gives her a long look, a flash of his dimples, and slings his arm over the passenger seat, twisting to check his rear view. There's nobody coming and it only takes one smooth move for Arthur to back out and shift into drive, giving his mom one last wave before pulling away.

It doesn't take him long to get to the US-50 on-ramp, but there is a long, quiet moment of indecision where he almost decides to go east toward Rehoboth Beach and his friends. Predictably, Arthur's conscience rears its ugly head and he turns west instead, leaving Annapolis behind.

On a perfect day, Google maps says it's a five hour drive to the lake. Arthur manages to stretch it out for another hour by enjoying the beauty of the day, despite his lack of a convertible. The farther away from home he gets, the more relaxed he feels in his neck and shoulders. And as the disembodied voice of the GPS tells him when and where to turn, Arthur finds himself almost looking forward to the summer. At least he'll be out from under his sisters' thumbs for once.

Sure he'd outgrown the shortest one by four inches a few years back and hadn't let them put make-up on him since he was nine, but they still manage to treat him like their baby most of the time, anyway. He loves them all fiercely, but a guy's got to grow up sometime, and though he'd hoped they would've figured that out once they all went to college and spent some time away from him, it had yet to happen. This trip might just be his final hope.

Sooner than he likes, Arthur's pulling into a long, winding driveway, trees lining either side. The branches meet in the middle, creating a thick canopy of leaves that blocks out the waning rays of the evening sun. The lack of light makes the car's headlights flick on.

It hadn't been this dark the last time he was here, he thinks, then gives himself a mental slap. It'd just been the beginning of the growing season, he remembers, the trees still bare, but budding out in anticipation of the spring thaw. Now, though, it's a riot of greens and golds, and Arthur slows a little to try and pick out the different species.

The house at the top of the drive is just how Arthur remembers it, a sprawling log cabin-esque structure with a row of windows reaching from one end to the other, broken up only by the double front door. Another shorter line of windows starts above the door and stops just short of the end of the house, skylights dotting the roof all the way across. An exposed stone chimney anchors one end of the house, smoke lazily curling up past the cover of the trees. A wide, columned porch wraps around the other end, disappearing toward the back of the house into what Arthur assumes will be a deck.

"Could make a lot of money here as a window washer," Arthur murmurs to himself, pulling up to a detached garage that echoes the house's design; all thick, blonde logs with an exposed stone foundation interrupted by two car-size doors and one wider door on the farthest end. Arthur parks in front of the closest one, then grabs his suit and a duffel and approaches the porch, two intimidating columns flanking either side of the flagstone steps. He rings the doorbell and waits a moment, scanning the vegetation and listening to the variety of bird calls all around him.

It's peaceful, he can at least admit that, out here in the woods. A blue heron croaks in the distance, so loud it sounds as though it's standing right next to him; his eyes slant down to check, just in case. The air tastes cleaner, too, doesn't make his lungs feel thick when he breathes.

The heron calls again, loud and rough, and Arthur realizes he's been standing on the porch for several long minutes, lost in the shushing of the trees and the sharp whistling of a pair of cardinals. Turning back to the door, he peeks through the sidelight to see if he can spot Eames or, at the very least, a person-shaped shadow. He doesn't.

The door looks to be solid oak, and his knocking will probably be futile, but he tries it anyway, knocking hard enough for his knuckles to come away sore. He watches through the window again, frowns when still nobody appears. Collecting his duffel, Arthur decides to follow the driveway where it curves around the side of the house, in between it and the garage.

The backyard is a lot like the front: a deck that runs the entire length of the house; a natural-looking landscape with plenty of trees and shrubs; a sparkling lake beyond that where Arthur can see tiny dots skimming over its surface.

Arthur is so captivated by the sight, he doesn't see Eames ten feet in front of him and a little to the right, messing around in one of the few sunnier gardens. It isn't until Eames stands, bare-chested and sweaty, wiping his hands on the jeans hanging low on his hips, that Arthur sees him. And when Eames smiles at him and says hello in a smoky British accent, those obscene, pink lips rounding themselves around the 'O', Arthur's mouth goes dry.

Oh, shit.

: : :

Here's the thing.

Arthur's known that this summer was coming for years. It's been a tradition on his dad's side of the family for as far back as anybody can remember; the Cohen men leaving the nest for a summer of manly bonding and maturing before they head off to university. It's not a horrible tradition, getting away from all the clucking and mothering of four (sometimes more) sisters, but like any proper teenager, Arthur had fought it tooth and nail, wanting instead to join Yusuf and Ariadne and a dozen of their closest friends in a house in Rehoboth Beach for the first half of the summer.

But his mother had insisted this would be better for him, that this supposed family friend -- Eames, no mister -- would not only be a good male influence and help him acclimate to living on his own, but could also be a mentor and excellent contact point for future networking.

So, off they'd gone, taking the week of spring break -- and really, Arthur was already giving up his summer for this ridiculous, archaic nonsense, did he have to sacrifice his spring break, too?!? -- to get to know the area where he would be living for three months. Find a job and the good stores, a cozy bookshop-slash-coffee shop for Arthur to lose himself in, an amusement park to go to once he made some friends.

They covered everything they thought Arthur would need during the summer. Except, unfortunately, for meeting Eames, who hadn't been available due to his youngest sister's wedding.

Which is how Arthur finds himself speechless, duffel bag in his right hand, garment bag slung over his shoulder in the left, mouth watering at the sight of golden, inked skin, sheened in sweat, and coming closer to him with every wide, graceful step.

Arthur hadn't thought about it much, really, what this summer would be like, what Eames would be like. Mostly because he kept busy with studying and working and the cross-country team. But also because thinking about it for too long just made him mad all over again.

The few times he did let himself wonder, however, he imagined Eames older with a bit of a belly, oily grey hair styled in a lame comb-over. The house, though he'd seen the outside of it during his spring break trip, he wagered would be filled with 70s kitsch and shag carpeting. Probably a water wall and at least a dozen stupid lava lamps.

Ok, so maybe Arthur has a bit of a vindictive streak. He also doesn't like to admit when he's wrong, but in this case, he would happily eat crow all night long.

He has to drop his duffel as Eames approaches, hand reaching out, smiling wide. His voice is rough and his British accent clipped when he says, "Arthur, nice to finally meet you."

It's instinctual to reach out and shake his hand, the skin of Eames' palm sandpapery against Arthur's own. Bigger, too; his thick, blunt fingers an enveloping warmth. Arthur looks down at them for a long moment, then back up to Eames and his startling blue-grey eyes.

"You, too," he gets out, finally, not sounding quite as weak as it could have. Eames gives his hand a squeeze, then lets go and bends over to pick up the bag. Arthur tries to protest, but Eames is already halfway to the house, carrying the bag like it weighs nothing, and it isn't until Eames is at the door and calling his name that Arthur startles, realizes he'd been staring at the flexing muscles of Eames' back. How broad his shoulders are and how his back tapers at the waist. How the jeans are just barely hanging on to those slim hips, teasing Arthur by highlighting the top swell of Eames' ass.

Arthur swallows and shakes himself out of his daze. "I'm sorry?"

"Come on in and I'll give you the tour." His eyebrows flicker into a half-frown, but his smile doesn't falter.

Arthur follows him inside.

: : :

Despite how fancy it looks on the outside, the inside of the house is rather humble. Not quite the typical bachelor pad -- clothes strewn all over, empty cups and plates littering every available flat surface, skin mags and pizza boxes carpeting the floor -- but also not filled with priceless furniture Arthur would be too afraid to sit on.

Most of the woodwork is light, to brighten up a house blanketed in shade. In the living room, the effect is offset by a chocolate brown sofa and hunter green club chairs, all facing a massive entertainment center on the opposite wall. The fireplace, Arthur notes, is real; a stack of logs sits to the side of it.

The kitchen is more formal with all the of the appliances finished in stainless steel, which helps reflect what little light streams in through the wall of windows overlooking the lake. There is a bar with stools to sit on and chat with Eames while he works, but there's also a little nook that sticks out, breaking the straight line of the house. It's in the shape of half a hexagon and protrudes so far from the house, Arthur almost feels like it's its own stand-alone structure. It is positioned so that Arthur has the most fantastic view of the lake to where it disappears on the horizon, and wonders if the house was built this way or if the vegetation was removed to create the view.

He has just enough time to decide on a little bit of both before Eames is waving toward a shadowed hallway that leads to his bedroom and office, then takes the stairs, two at a time, to the second floor and disappears around a corner. Arthur once again finds himself transfixed by the ease with with Eames slings the bag around, as if it isn't filled with just about every article of clothing Arthur owns. Eames peeks around the wall, eyebrows raised, to get Arthur moving again, and there's a slight heat burning in Arthur's cheeks.

When he turns the corner, Eames is dropping Arthur's bag on the floor and spreads his arms wide only to let them fall to his sides. "And this'll be your room."

Arthur finds himself in a huge room that takes up the entirety of the second floor and looks more inviting than his own bedroom at home. Its centerpiece is a heavy king-size bed, the wood stained dark, topped with a plush comforter and an obscene pile of pillows, all in varying shades of pale yellow. Paired with the color of the walls, it looks like the sun in a idyllic blue sky.

The rest of the furniture matches the bed in color but not style. While the headboard has intricate carvings in it, the vanity is plain and utilitarian, the bureau an antique, the nightstand modern and quirky.

At the other end of the room is a cozy sitting area anchored by a smaller version of the living room's entertainment center. Facing it is a midnight blue loveseat and matching overstuffed chairs. The coffee table is actually a chest, the same color as the rest of the wood furniture, with a lid that Eames lifts to show Arthur where extra blankets are stored. On the same wall are two closed doors that Arthur decides to explore later, while he unpacks.

He turns back to Eames who's still standing near the coffee table, hands in his pockets. For the first time, he looks a little nervous and this more than anything helps settle Arthur, despite finding it difficult to not follow the curling tendrils of the tattoo on Eames' shoulder with his eyes, if not his fingers.

Arthur breaks the awkward silence first. "I like it. It's nice."

"My sister picked everything out." Eames explains. "She comes to visit more often than I'd like, and insists on it being just like home when she does. No ugly bedspread and lumpy sofa for her."

Arthur grins. "Sounds like you two are close."

Eames winks when he says, "Unlike you and your sisters, I'm sure."

"I can assure you, that's not by choice," Arthur replies, but he's smiling when he says it.

"Oh, speaking of my sister," Eames shrugs and, for the first time, breaks eye contact with Arthur first. A light blush stains Eames' cheeks. "She'll be here the end of next month. She wasn't supposed to be, but she has some business to attend to. I'll need you to sleep on the downstairs couch while she's here. I'm terribly sorry."

Arthur waves away the apology. "I'm the guest in this equation. I'll be fine."

Eames nods. "Well, I think you can figure everything out from here. Make yourself at home, yeah? I usually eat dinner around seven. Is there anything you don't or can't eat that I should know about?"

"I'm allergic to shellfish. But other than that..."

"Right. You're easy. I like that." Eames grins and chuckles and Arthur can't stop the spike of lust, or the smile that follows it. "Dinner. Seven." Eames nods once, smiling, and leaves, allowing Arthur the time and privacy to get comfortable.

: : :
Finding plenty of room in the walk-in closet (door number two) and en suite (door number one) for all of his belongings, Arthur takes his time unpacking. He can hear Eames rattling around when he comes downstairs to get the rest of his things. Cleaning up, maybe; preparing dinner, probably.

Back upstairs, Arthur's fists clench every time he replays the moment in the garden, how Eames rose to his feet in one smooth move, all his limbs uncurling and stretching. The smile he gave Arthur, a little shy, a lot crooked, framed by lush lips begging to be sucked, begging to be fucked. Warm like the hand he'd offered. The skin dry but soft in a way, rasping against Arthur's slimmer fingers when it pulled away.

Eames' back flashes behind Arthur's eyes, the broad expanse of it, the strong line of his spine and the sweat gathered in the hollow at the end of it. His mouth twitches at the thought of falling to his knees and kissing that spot. Barely more than a brush of his parted lips, gathering the sweat and salt with his tongue.

There is cold marble under Arthur's hands when he comes back to himself, leaning on the vanity, face to face with himself in the mirror. He's flushed, his eyes dark. And-- yes, his cock has been enjoying the mental playback. He spits out a curse and grinds the heel of his hand along the hot length, hoping to get himself under control. It doesn't work.

A bottle of hand lotion catches Arthur's eye. He reaches for it as he kicks the door closed and wrenches his shirt off. His cock is hot and throbbing through the material of his shorts when he unzips them, carefully pushing them and his boxers over his erection. He thumbs at the head, hissing at being so sensitive already, and slicks his palm with the precome there. With the lotion and snapshot fantasies of what Eames would look like during sex -- Arthur's legs wrapped around his waist or over his shoulders; Eames looming large and heavy and taking Arthur from behind; Eames pinning Arthur against a wall, easily taking his weight -- it doesn't take Arthur very long to come, shaky and gasping, all over his stomach and chest.

Arthur wants to be surprised at this turn of events, already crushing on a guy he's just barely met, a guy he has to spend the next three months living with, a guy old enough to be-- well, not his father, but a much older brother, at least. Which is sort of what everybody was hoping Arthur would get out of this trip. A male relationship for Arthur whose dad had died far too soon.

The fact is, Arthur's always been attracted to guys that are older than him.

It started with his next door neighbor, Tyler, a boy four years older than Arthur. A good kid, if a little quiet, with all-American good looks: blonde hair, blue eyes, picture-perfect smile. The only time they really spent together was when they were mowing the grass in the summer. Tyler with his shirt off, his body just starting to muscle out from his baseball playing, looked flawless in the sun, his skin golden and glistening as they shared a glass of lemonade on the porch.

Then there was the morning Arthur woke up with a mess in his underwear, cold and sticky and confusing. He'd buried the evidence deep in his hamper, then washed up in the bathroom as quietly as possible, half-remembering how he'd dreamt of Tyler shirtless and on Arthur's bed, just lying there. He never mentioned the episode to anybody. Not the first time.

When it happened for the third time in two weeks, he had to know. He explained it to Yusuf, his nerdy best friend, and swore him to secrecy before explaining the situation, leaving the bizarre dreams of Tyler out of the equation. Arthur felt better knowing that this was normal, but still confused about why Tyler was the object of his new-found lust.

And then, as it usually happens in a military-heavy neighborhood, Tyler's dad was reassigned after a year, and Arthur's crush disappeared along with them.

After that, it was Ariadne's older cousin. Much older cousin. Nearly ten years older than the two of them. Visiting from Greece for the first time ever, he was the epitome of tall, dark and handsome. All long limbs and a charming smile with dark eyes and darker hair. Thirteen year old Arthur never stood a chance, hanging out at Ariadne's parents' nursery, helping to bag purchases (for no pay, thank you very much) and trying not to stare as Theo hefted hundred pound trees around like they weighed nothing, the muscles of his back flexing and shifting with each movement.

(He was also the first in a long line of guys with accents that Arthur fell head over heels for, but he tries not to analyze that too much.)

Arthur manages to last a whole week before jacking off to thoughts of Theo, his skin flawless and golden, his hair damp and curling with sweat, how heavy his hands are when he rests them on Arthur's shoulders. But once the floodgates are open, a teenager's libido cannot be contained, and though Arthur's sure his mom thinks the amount of tissues and lotion he goes through that summer is excessive, she doesn't say a word. Something for which Arthur is eternally grateful.

When August rolls around, Theo returns to Greece, bronzed and smiling, leaving behind Arthur's broken heart and the growing realization that he's gay.

Jake breezes into Arthur's life when he's sixteen and just starting to get comfortable with his gangly limbs. Being on the cross-country team helps with that, but so does hanging out with Marcus, whose dad is the coach for the team, and is also kind of the opposite of Arthur in every way, including the fact that he comes from a family of all boys.

One of those brothers is Jake, in his third year at the local state college, majoring in music. On his off days, he assists his dad with the coaching duties.

Arthur tries not to make too much of it when Jake seems to be extra friendly toward Arthur, offering to help with extra coaching after practice, or a ride home if the weather's not ideal. It's a little more difficult to ignore the random touching. Nothing untoward, but he definitely touches Arther more than the other boys; a hand brushing against his shoulder while running drills, or maybe too high on Arthur's thigh when helping to deepen a stretch.

Jake is attractive and a truly nice guy, but Arthur is only out to Yusuf and Ariadne and, due to a horribly embarrassing accident, his family, so he's a little unsure what to do with this new-found attention. Ends up ignoring it until he can't, spends too many late nights remembering hot brown eyes and slim, nimble fingers. Long hair and longer legs.

At the end of the school year, Coach has the whole team over for a barbecue. It's an unseasonably warm day for May in Annapolis, so they've opened the pool and all the boys shed their shirts the minute they step in the yard. The girls change upstairs in the bedrooms, and then it's a free for all, screaming and laughing and having a good time. All of Marcus' brothers are there, including Jake, and Arthur feels his gaze like a physical thing, heavy on his back. He darts furtive looks at Jake, but is never quite able to catch his eye.

Later, when Arthur's in the house washing his hands so he can get a snack (ok, a third plate of food), there's a breeze on his back and, as he looks up into the mirror, Jake is looking back at him, eyes wide and dark.

"I thought I locked that," Arthur manages to say around the lump in his throat.

Jake looks down at the knob in his hand, then back up at Arthur. "This door's always been a little tricky."

Arthur nods and reaches for the towel. "Right. Well. I'm done here, so..." He approaches the door -- approaches Jake blocking the door -- and stops just short of touching him. Looks up at him with an arched brow, waiting for Jake to move aside. When he doesn't, Arthur tries to push lightly at his hip, his fingertips barely registering the moisture on Jake's skin.

Jake sighs his name and Arthur feels it on his face, they're that close. He can't look up, won't look up, until Jake cups his cheek, tilting his head up. Just that touch sets Arthur's blood on fire, rushing through his veins to his groin, filling his cock almost painfully fast.

His eyes are closed when lips brush his, damp and light. Then again, and again, each one longer than before. Arthur whispers yes against Jake's lips, all the permission he needs to place a hand on Arthur's shoulder and push him back, close the door behind them. Arthur feels himself being guided, slowly, in a turn. His eyes pop open at the touch of cool, slick wood on his heated skin, and the way Jake's eyes have gone black sends a shiver down Arthur's spine.

"You have no idea..." Jake whispers into the skin of Arthur's neck, sucking at the pulse, dragging his teeth down the curve to Arthur's neck. Arthur's hands find Jake's hips and cling, fingers struggling for purchase on all that damp skin just so he can stay on his feet. His cock is throbbing and he whines when Jake passes the back of his hand over it, teasing.

Then Jake's mouth is on a nipple, hot and wet and sucking. Arthur's fingers thread through Jake's hair and clench, holding him there, thinking he couldn't possibly feel anything better than this. Until Jake drags the pad of his thumb up the spine of Arthur's cock. Even through the wet swim trunks, Arthur can feel the heat and bucks, panting, into the touch, unconsciously guiding Jake's head down, down, down.

Jake chuckles, a hot puff of air gusting over Arthur's belly button, and pulls Arthur's trunks down agonizingly slowly, fingernails a deliciously sharp drag over Arthur's ass. When Arthur whimpers, Jake sucks a kiss into his hip, using his teeth and tongue to raise a bruise there. "Don't worry Arthur, I'm gonna take care of you."

Arthur looks down and his cock is hard and red and leaking, and Jake's mouth is right there, his lips pink and damp. His tongue darts out and the tip of it brushes the crown, smears through the precome, and Arthur can't close his mouth against the, "I'm gonna come, I'm gonna come, fuck I'm gonna--"

And then Jake is on him -- he is in Jake -- his mouth hot and slick and obscene where the lips stretch around Arthur. All Jake does is pull up, his tongue dragging up the spine of Arthur's cock, and suckle at the head, teasing at the slit with the tip of his tongue. Arthur has no time to warn him, wouldn't know to do so if he did, before he's coming. Jake pumps him through it, taking everything Arthur can give him, swallowing it, and Arthur thinks he might come again just from that. From Jake thumbing at the corner of his mouth, catching anything he might have missed and sucking it clean.

Arthur's legs can't hold him, they give out as soon as Jake's hand is no longer on his hip, pinning him in place, and he sinks to the floor, Jake kneeling in the vee of his legs. Jake leans forward to kiss him this time, really kiss him with teeth and tongue and a salt-bitter taste. All Arthur can do is hang on, his fingers threaded in the hair at Jake's nape. He can hear himself making these needy little sounds in the back of his throat, and his cock twitches when Jake's tongue slides against his own over and over again.

Jake slips an arm around Arthur's waist, pulls him up and close, so that Arthur is sitting on Jake's knees, naked, and chest to chest with him. The heat of Jake's body feels good, and Arthur shifts closer, hooking his arms around Jake's neck. Jake growls in appreciation, sucking at Arthur's lip, his chin, the hinge of his jaw.

His lips brush against Arthur's pulse again when he says, "You have no idea how gorgeous you are, do you?"

A blush warms Arthur's face, and he's ridiculously glad Jake can't see it right now. He shifts closer, tries to wrap his legs around Jake's waist when he feels it; the hot, hard length pressing into his belly. He freezes, but Jake doesn't notice. His hand is working its way between them, trying to get his shorts down despite Arthur's weight pinning them in place.

Arthur leans back to give him room and Jake lets him, his face flushed and eyes black when he finally gets enough room to free his cock. It's cut like Arthur's, but a little longer and a little thicker. The head glistens in the sunlight, precome sticky and leaking and, without even thinking it, Arthur's hand is there, thumbing over the head where it peeks out from the circle of Jake's fingers.

Jake groans Arthur's name, long and low and completely wrecked, and it spurs Arthur on. He slots his fingers in between Jake's, lets Jake set the pace. He startles when he presses his thumb under the head and Jake's whole body jerks. He's chanting fuck fuck fuck, so Arthur does it again, and that's it. Jake is coming in long streaks over Arthur's chest and stomach, breath rough and stuttering.

Arthur slides back to the floor and watches Jake's eyes flutter shut, his lashes two dark smudges against the fading red skin. He can't stop staring, can't stop thinking about how gorgeous Jake looks like this, and desperately wishes he knew what to do now. If it's still okay to touch, to kiss and taste and want.

Jake answers it by reaching out for him, his thumb slicking over Arthur's nipple and the come there. He raises it to Arthur's mouth, just watching, and Arthur makes sure to keep eye contact with him as he takes it in, tonguing over the whorls on the pad, sucking down to the knuckle. The taste isn't great, but it's not the worst thing he's ever had (well, there was that time with the goldfish). Jake's pupils go wide, and the pride arrows straight to Arthur's cock. He's hard, again, and he wants. Wants Jake and his hands, his mouth, his cock, on and in and all around him.

Jake smirks a little, his gaze dropping to Arthur's cock, his hand, too. The one from Arthur's mouth. He drags his fingers through the mess and uses his own come to slick his hand up and down Arthur's cock, slow and steady. Arthur wants to thrust into it, but Jake pushes him back, stretching out next to him on the cool tile, and pins Arthur down with his mouth and his chest.

He kisses Arthur like he jacks him off, slow and torturous, and chuckles at every one of Arthur's whimpers. "Let me make it good, Arthur. So, so good."

And Arthur does. He can't not, all of his limbs loose and heavy, his hand in Jake's hair serving no other purpose than to reassure Arthur that this isn't a dream. Jake is there, tasting of come and sweat and chlorine, his chest a reassuring weight on Arthur's, his hand slow and teasing on Arthur's cock.

Minutes pass, maybe hours, even. Days; it doesn't matter. Arthur doesn't care. He wants to keep this feeling forever. His heart full, the tight tingling in the base of his spine, the restless shifting of his legs. And then Jake, his clever mouth right next to Arthur's ear say, "Come on, Arthur. Come for me." And he does. Every muscle clenching, his mouth forming a silent 'O' that Jake nips at, his hand carefully teasing the last of the orgasm out of Arthur.

They lay there for long moments, Arthur's ragged breathing the only sound in the room. Jake is next to him, his head pillowed on his own arm, but tipped towards Arthur's neck so that every exhale stirs the hair behind Arthur's ear. Arthur shifts a little closer, seeking out the body heat, and Jake gathers him close with a hand on Arthur's hip.

Arthur tries not to snuggle, but he can't help it. The tile is so cool and Jake is so warm, and his ass fits perfectly in the cradle of Jake's hips, his head not quite tucked under Jake's chin. He can't help the smile, either. Doesn't want to. The floor is hard and cold and he's a sticky mess, but he would stay there with Jake all night if that's what Jake wanted.

Of course, Jake eventually pulls away, pushing Arthur down when he tries to get up, too. Arthur doesn't fight it or the yawn that follows, his eyes falling shut after. He can hear Jake moving around, opening and closing a cabinet, running water, then there's a wet heat at his groin, nothing like what Jake's mouth felt like. He looks down and Jake's cleaning him up, careful of Arthur's sensitive cock. He drags the washcloth up, pausing at the hip to thumb over the skin there, and Arthur winces. There's a bruise, he can feel it, and he just knows it's the exact shape of Jake's mouth, can't wait to look in the mirror and see it for himself.

Jake's less careful with Arthur's belly and torso, but he circles the nipples gently, and his tongue darts out to wet his lips. For a second, Arthur's sure Jake is going to dip down and taste him again, drag the flat of his tongue over each hardened tip, but he doesn't. His fingertips skate down Arthur's side, and then he bumps Arthur's hip with the back of his hand. "Good as new," he grins.

Arthur rolls onto his back as Jake stands, letting himself watch Jake at the sink, rinsing the washcloth out to clean his own body off. There's a line low on his hips where the skin above is dark and his ass, just below is ghostly white. Next time, Arthur thinks to himself, I'm going to run my tongue along that line.

Jake turns and offers Arthur a hand in getting up, his smile bright and warm. He pulls Arthur to him with his hands on Arthur's hips, into the vee of his legs, and kisses him, soft and quiet. When Arthur pulls away to breathe, Jake presses their foreheads together. His breath ghosts over Arthur's lips as he says, "You really are amazing, you know."

Arthur's silent, unsure how to respond, until Jake squeezes his hip. "Yeah," Arthur says finally, a little breathless. "You, too."

Jake laughs then, loud in the confined space, and he's hugging Arthur, arms wrapped tight around Arthur's shoulders. "Bruise my ego why don't you?" But Arthur looks at him and he's smiling, so Arthur smiles back.

"We'd better get back, though. Somebody's probably missing us." Arthur nods and finds his trunks, can't stop himself from watching Jake bend over, his ass high in the air. It's not far and if Arthur leaned over just a little bit, he could bite it, leave his own mark...

But then the trunks are up, hiding the pale skin, and Jake is guiding Arthur out into the kitchen as he detours for his bedroom. Arthur glances at the clock before he steps outside and startles at the hour he lost in the bathroom. Nobody says anything, though. He slips right back into the pool like nothing happened, and is immediately challenged to a game of chicken.

It isn't until later, when everybody is toweling off to go home that Arthur realizes he hasn't seen Jake since the bathroom. He doesn't ask, though. Knows it would look weird. A week later, a week Arthur spends wondering and worrying about how one follows up something like that, he shows up at Marcus' house for another pool party and figures out what happened.

The day is so similar to the track team party that Arthur half expects Jake to come walking out of the house at any time. But then he hears Marcus' mom talking to one of the neighbors, hears Jake mentioned, and moves closer, hoping nobody will notice that he's eavesdropping. He hears words like road trip, and entire summer and girlfriend, and Arthur's stomach drops somewhere in the vicinity of his feet.

He manages to make it through the rest of the party, though how he doesn't know, and spends the first three weeks of his summer vacation bouncing between work and Ariadne and Yusuf, drowning his sadness and confusion with pints of Ben and Jerry's Cinnamon Buns. Eventually, he forgets Jake, as much as he can, and puts some distance between himself and Marcus.

He doesn't quit the team, though. In fact, he throws everything into it after that, making track and school and work his life. Ariadne and Yusuf think it's a little unhealthy, but it's what gets him accepted at NYU (and everywhere else he applies), so he can't much regret closing off his heart.

: : :
After Arthur stows the last of his socks in the bureau, he glances at the clock and is startled to see almost two hours have gone by. He throws his empty bags into the closet and makes his way downstairs, heading straight for the kitchen.

Eames doesn't notice him at first, and Arthur takes advantage of it. He watches Eames, still barefoot, move from the refrigerator to the sink to the center island with ease, a graceful dance he's no doubt performed thousands of times before.

Arthur frowns a little at the t-shirt Eames has put on, but the material's thin enough to see the shadows of the tattoos underneath, and the way the material stretches over his shoulders makes him seem even wider than before. It's short, too; the hem just meeting the waistband of Eames' jeans, so that when he bends over to retrieve a bowl from the cabinet, a wide strip of skin is exposed, a teasing glimpse of Eames' tan line. Arthur's fingers itch with the desire to find out what that skin feels like, if it's as warm and smooth as it looks.

Eames is deft with the knife, the blade glinting in the light as it slices through a head of lettuce. He smiles at Eames' concentration, the way he bites down on his lower lip even though he's just chopping up lettuce. Arthur wants to put his thumb there, tug it free and run his tongue over the teethmarks. Maybe suck on it a little to make it plump and rosy again.

Arthur stops that train of thought in its tracks, knowing he would never survive dinner with a raging hard on. Nor does he have the time to take care of it again.

He waits until Eames is done with the knife before he asks if he can help with anything. Eames startles anyway, but at least he doesn't cut his finger off. He points to the rest of the vegetables on the counter. "You could finish the salad. I've got to get the steaks on the grill."

Since it doesn't involve heat or the stove in any way, Arthur's fairly confident in his abilities. Eames passes by Arthur on his way out, but doesn't touch him, and the only sound he makes is the quiet rumble of the screen in its track. A cool breeze carries the chorus of crickets into the house and raises goose bumps on Arthur's arms and legs while he works.

With the salad done and the table set, there's nothing left for Arthur to do but wait for Eames. He flounders for something to do, anything really. Thinks about looking in the fridge for something to drink (maybe even a beer, he muses silently), but doesn't yet feel comfortable enough for that. He could sit at the table and wait, but that could seem too pushy and demanding. The TV in the living room could use a little investigating, but that feels too lazy teenager.

He finally decides to join Eames on the deck where he's watching the fireflies flit around in the dimming sun. The lake is a pink-purple sheet of glass, still but for the low wake of the occasional pontoon boat returning to dock. Once outside, Arthur can hear frogs accompanying the crickets and a coyote howling in the distance, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

Eames chuckles low from the shadows, the whites of his eyes eerily bright. "You won't have to worry about them."


"There are a few, yeah. But the lake's too populated, they tend to stay away. I have a shotgun, though, just in case. Not that I've ever had to use it." He pauses, then adds, "Here, anyway."

Arthur quirks an eyebrow, prompting Eames to explain further, but he's facing away from Arthur, opening the grill and flipping the steaks. When he closes it, Eames is quiet again, arms folded across his broad chest, tongs tucked in the crook of his elbow. Arthur lets him have his silence.

With his back against the wall, Arthur closes his eyes and focuses on the night sounds, can pick out the blue jay screeches from the trilling chickadees finishing up their meals before it's the owl's turn to reign. Despite living in the city with only traffic noise for a lullaby, Arthur finds himself soothed, even manages to doze for a few minutes. Eames taps him on the arm as he walks by, the steaks on a plate in one hand, two bundles of foil in the other. Arthur gets the door for him, easily catching the tongs when they fall from where they're tucked under Eames' arm.

After setting the food down, one foil-wrapped mystery for each plate, Eames gets a pitcher of iced tea from the fridge and two glasses from an overhead cabinet. Arthur watches it all in rapt attention, making sure to get the lay of the land as quickly as possible so he isn't asking Eames inane questions every five minutes.

Eames motions for them both to sit down, and gestures toward the food. "You should know I'm not used to cooking for other people, so you'll have to bear with me."

Arthur digs into the salad first, heaping two huge scoops onto his plate. "As long as you don't ask me to help with anything more than chopping and dicing, I can handle anything."

"Not a chef?" Eames asks, adding a little sugar to his tea. Arthur does the same.

"I'm good with my hands, uh, but not in that capacity." Arthur blushes a little at the innuendo and doesn't look at Eames to see if he notices. "My sisters were only too happy to do it, anyway."

Eames nods and smiles, "Mine too, but our cook made sure everybody learned, so..." He shrugs, unwraps the foil and reveals a baked potato. "Turned out to be a good thing, I suppose."

Arthur cuts into his steak, the knife slicing through it like butter. He nods and smiles at Eames, indicating he likes it, then tucks into his potato, adding butter, sour cream, and pepper. They eat for awhile in silence, Arthur stealing glances at Eames when he thinks Eames isn't looking. Gets the tingly feeling in his scalp that maybe Eames is doing the same.

After long minutes, when Arthur is chewing around a mouthful of salad, Eames clears his throat and sets his fork down. "So, Arthur." He pauses to let Arthur swallow. "Care to tell me more about yourself?"

Arthur's eyebrows arch. "Like what?"

"I dunno," he shrug, gesturing vaguely with a hand that Arthur can't keep his eyes off of. "What you like, what you do? That sort of thing."

Arthur smirks. "Small talk, then?" he asks, even though his mind traitorously whispers first date talk. Eames leans forward, elbows on the table, and nods. Arthur mimics the movement and ticks each point off on his fingers. "Well, I'm a Capricorn. I like long walks on the beach, organization, and books. I dislike assholes, global warming, and being treated like I'm five. My favorite movie is Notorious or The Empire Strikes Back, depending on the day. I like music, any music." He pauses to think. "My turn-offs include narcissism, hairy knuckles and too much tongue. My turn-ons are cuddlers, intelligence, and a good cologne."

He gasps a little after he says the last part, realizing too late that he's basically outed himself to a virtual stranger.

Eames doesn't seem to register it, though. Just grins and shakes his head, drops his gaze to his plate to mop up the last of his potato with a piece of steak. "Right. So, on a scale of one to ten, how happy are you to be here?"

Arthur slants him a look through thick lashes. "About a four," he answers honestly. "Which is up from the one I was feeling all the way down here."

"Oh?" Eames leans back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest, eyebrows raised expectantly.

"Yeah, well, I knew the house and the lake would be gorgeous and peaceful. But you." Arthur shrugs one shoulder, not looking at Eames as he continues, "I pictured you more Dick Cheney, less Matt Damon." He tries to keep a straight face, but is sure the slight quirk of his mouth deepens the dimple on one side, giving him away.

Eames laughs then, a loud, full sound that has him tipping his head back, exposing the long column of his throat. Arthur smiles wide, too, gaze stuck on the bounce of Eames' Adam's apple, the dull glow of the skin there. Arthur wants to lick it, see how salty Eames tastes. He settles for licking his own lips instead. It isn't anywhere near the same, he's sure.

He's still smiling as Eames quiets, one hand wiping at his eyes. It freezes mid-swipe -- Eames' whole body freezes -- and he's looking at Arthur's face, eyes wide, mouth slack.

Arthur frowns and wipes at his cheek. "What is it? Do I have potato on my face?"

"No, I..." Eames clears his throat and his voice strengthens. He points a finger at his own cheek. "The dimples. They make you look sinfully young."

"Oh, yeah. The dimples." Arthur drops his eyes as he feels the blush spread, can only imagine how red he must look. The dimples that everybody adores are often more trouble than they're worth. Arthur still gets carded sometimes when he tries to rent an R-rated movie. It's kinda ridiculous.

Finally, he looks up and Eames is still staring at him, his eyes soft and fond. "I didn't mean anything by it, Arthur. I rather like them, actually."

Arthur can't stop the smile this time, ducks his head so Eames won't see the heat in his cheeks. "Yeah, well," his shoulder lifts and falls, "It's not like I can do anything about them, anyway." Eames hums in agreement, and they both fall silent, Arthur crunching on the last of his salad.

They remain that way, in a half-awkward silence, until Arthur finishes. Arthur helps to clear the table, Eames pointing out where all the condiments belong, and Arthur elects to dry the dishes as Eames washes.

Arthur is leaning against the counter, towel in one hand, eyes unseeing when Eames speaks again. "What would you be doing?"

Arthur stills, confused. "What?"

"If you weren't here, what would you be doing?"

"Oh, right." Arthur smiles, a little sad, though not as much as before. "I'd be in Rehoboth Beach with my friends, doing what teenagers do best: getting drunk and having sex." The having sex part may be a lie, but Arthur figures Eames doesn't need to know that.

Eames grins at him from over his shoulder. "Your mum made you leave a beautiful girl behind?"

Arthur barks a laugh. "Not exactly."

"A strapping young lad, then?" he teases with a wink. But his shoulders are stiff, Arthur can see, and his hand slows on the plate it's scrubbing.

Arthur's voice is softer as he says, "No, not one of those either." He hides a smile behind his hand when Eames relaxes and nods, muttering of bloody course under his breath.

With just a few dishes left, they finish in silence, and Arthur follows him into the living room, unsure where things go from here. Eames makes a beeline for the television and Arthur slows, interested to see what Eames plans to watch. Instead of a remote, Eames is fiddling with some cords, and Arthur smirks as he realizes what they're for. "An Xbox? Really?"

"It helps get the creative juices flowing," Eames says.

He seems sincere, but Arthur holds his gaze to see if Eames will break. He doesn't.

"What game are you playing?" Arthur asks eventually, nearing Eames and the knot he's fighting with. Arthur places a hand on Eames' arm and takes over, easily fixing the tangled mess.

"Call of Duty. Do you play?"

Arthur nods. "A little. My friend, Yusuf? We play sometimes."

Eames gestures for Arthur to sit next to him on the sofa. "Well, let's get on, then!"

It's fun playing with him, Arthur finds. Other than the fact that he accidentally kills Arthur more than once because he's not used to playing with others, Eames isn't afraid of trading trash talk with Arthur; Yusuf was always far more into the strategizing part of the game to actually have fun.

After a couple of hours, Eames is tired of Arthur's superiority, so he starts FIFA soccer 11, which Arthur loses handily over and over again. He doesn't last more than an hour and tries to head upstairs for bed then, but Eames talks him into one more game, one where they're both on even footing.

Arthur arches a brow when Eames suggests Ms Pac-man and Eames blushes. It's horribly endearing and Arthur loves it.

"It's my sister's," Eames explains, slipping the disc into the console. "Home away from home, remember?" Arthur chuckles but doesn't tease, doesn't comment either on how hard Eames concentrates, or by how wide a margin he beats Arthur.

They're both yawning wide when Arthur realizes it's after midnight, and he suddenly feels impossibly tired. He helps Eames clean up the game and their tea glasses, and says good night to Eames from the bottom of the stairs.

"Good night, love," Eames shoots back, casual and warm, but Arthur sees his hand stutter at the light switch.

Arthur doesn't say a word, is desperate not to react in any way, even though he can feel the weight of Eames' gaze on him all the way up the stairs. It's not until he rounds the corner and strips down, opens the windows wide and crawls under the thick covers that he smiles to himself, dimples and all.