The citrus scent permeated the room now, uneaten oranges and torn up peels lying scattered on the hardwood floor, weaving a path around the empty liquor bottles (Gwaine’s shoes, jacket). It was an island of chaos in the otherwise pristine flat Arthur had all to himself. His cleaning lady, Gertrude, made sure it was spotless, leaving everything in its place, always. The only exception were the random Swiss chocolates hidden throughout, her tokens of affection, like Arthur wasn’t a twenty-something single workaholic, but her son or nephew. From his spot on the couch, Arthur could see one of them now, the silvery paper shining in the corner of a shelf. He wanted to get it, to taste the sweet richness of the chocolate against the tartness of the orange.
"Still wish I’d never showed?" Gwaine asked suddenly, pulling Arthur out of his chocolate-covered thoughts.
He was hanging sideways off Arthur’s favourite chaise, hair falling away from his face and practically reaching the floor. Arthur remembered it shorter. The blood rushing to Gwaine’s face made it redder, darker than it had been when he’d arrived, bag of oranges and orange liqueurs in hand, sun-kissed from his (year-long, unannounced) Italian getaway.
Arthur thought about the question and looked away from Gwaine, looked up, letting the last of the orange liqueur from the bottle drip onto the tip of his tongue from above. The rays of the setting sun played off the bottle and marked his ceiling with drops of light. I wish you’d never left, a braver, more open Arthur would say; I wish I’d never met you, the Arthur Gwaine probably remembered would have shouted. But that was then.
Arthur looked back at Gwaine, holding his gaze in spite of himself, mapping the new wrinkles not covered by his beard. He tried for the teasing banter they were once so good at, as just a couple of blokes in a bar. "You? Jury’s still out. The booze though? That can stay."
Gwaine's laughter bounced off the walls and the ceiling. His neck stretched out even more as his head tipped back, making Arthur remember a time when he'd have crawled over and mouthed at it, licking and sucking. Filthy, shameless. He thought about it even now, wondering if Gwaine's skin would taste like oranges or sunshine, and how much he'd have to lick and bite until it was all gone.
"The booze was locally made. Small distillery right on the coast of Sicily." Gwaine looked over at Arthur and Arthur expected him to break into yet another of his wild stories, like he used to, though they'd been sparse tonight. He didn't. Instead, he tumbled out of the chair and grabbed a couple of the oranges on the floor, and crawled through the debris of their night, sitting next to the couch, facing Arthur.
He held up an orange (the other forgotten next to the couch) and looked at it with something akin to wonder and awe before he spoke again. "It was all made with these oranges, you know. The Red Orange of Sicily." He began to pick at the peel.
Arthur watched him dig his nail into the peel, under it, dragging it away. He straightened up on the couch, making room in case Gwaine wanted to climb up, a physical manifestation of old habits dying hard.
But Gwaine didn't climb up, only leaned his elbow on the couch next to Arthur's legs. "The groves were amazing, Art. Straight out of some painting or something."
Arthur winced at the nickname but kept staring at the dazed, faraway look on Gwaine's face, his eyes fixed on the orange like it held all the answers, the reddish flesh peeking through the slit in the peel.
Gwaine yanked a bit of the peel off and tossed it onto the pile, and his demeanor shifted a bit, his eyes more focused. He looked at Arthur and spoke again. "It was right on the coast, too. Fantastic weather, close to the beach. Pretty sweet set-up."
Arthur nodded, said, "Nice, man." Meant, Why did you leave? Why didn't you call? How many did you fuck?
The rest of the peel went flying over Gwaine's shoulder and he began to tug at the juicy flesh of the fruit, pulling it apart, sliding a piece into his mouth.
"What about you, then?"
"Not much has changed, really." Arthur avoided the answer, avoided telling him how stupidly long it had taken him to pick up the pieces Gwaine always inevitably left behind and stash them at the far end of his mind, to get back to a life that was his own.
Paused mid-bite, Gwaine shot him an incredulous look. "Aw, c'mon, it's been a year-" stopping the sentence dead in its tracks when he'd realized...
It was out in the open.
"Not all of us can live lives of leisure and adventure, Gwaine. Someone's got to do the boring routine shit." Arthur knew his voice dripped with bitterness now, knew he crossed a line by throwing Gwaine's words back at him. They didn't do this. They didn't talk about things.
"I-" Gwaine started, but Arthur didn't let him finish.
"It doesn't matter. Things have been good."
"Good." Gwaine finished the slice of the orange and pulled off another one, popping it into his mouth with one hand, the other clinging to the rest of the fruit. His chewing was the only sound in the still room.
Arthur could see Gwaine moving out of the corner of his eye, and he watched the shadows play across his face, feeling entirely too nostalgic (for familiar touches and kisses) and blamed the alcohol.
Gwaine peeled off another red slice in Arthur's periphery and Arthur tried not to turn his head instantly when he heard shuffling and felt the couch shift and dip as Gwaine sat next to him. Arthur swallowed around the dryness in his mouth and looked at Gwaine. He watched with frozen curiosity as Gwaine lifted his hand up, the blood orange slice held between his fingers.
Only the alcohol and the unstoppable force of habit (loneliness, need, want) could be to blame for what happened next. Without looking at Gwaine's face, which undoubtedly held the same small, apologetic smile Arthur had seen hundreds of times before, Arthur leaned down, reaching for the fruit with his mouth, and stopped dead in his tracks.
His eyes locked with Gwaine's and they both stayed frozen for a moment that stretched and stretched. Arthur wanted to pull away but couldn't, his mouth parched and dry, craving (but unwilling to cave).
Gwaine swallowed audibly and Arthur parted his lips, watching Gwaine’s hand move toward him, slowly, cautiously maybe, but it didn't matter. As the fruit got closer, its scent filled Arthur's nostrils and his mouth parted on a sigh before he closed the distance and wrapped his lips around the sliver. As he bit down instinctively, sweetness and relief flooded his tastebuds, and he made contact with Gwaine's fingertips.
Arthur pulled away, intent on getting off the couch and looking for Gwaine's forgotten orange (and checking the bottles for leftover droplets) but stopped when Gwaine popped the rest of the slice into his own mouth. The gesture seemed so natural, it could have been rehearsed but Arthur didn't dwell on it. Gwaine's lips were shiny with the juice and Arthur’s eyes traced a droplet down Gwaine's fingers and palm. Arthur leaned over and reached out, grabbing Gwaine's hand and licking at the stray juice on his wrist, the inside of his hand and up to his fingertips.
He could feel the unnatural stillness of Gwaine's body next to him and it felt wrong. The bitterness from the peel filled Arthur's mouth when he slid two of Gwaine's fingers past his lips and sucked down any leftover juice. When he tasted nothing but the curves of Gwaine's fingertips on his tongue (reminder of things he'd lost), he pulled off and leaned over to Gwaine's other hand, wrapping it up in his own and bringing it up to his mouth along with half of the orange left still in it (desperate to forget). Arthur bit down on the fruit, thirsty, letting the juices run down his chin and their fingers.
Arthur closed his eyes and moaned around the tangy, sweet flavours, pressing his tongue up against the roof of his mouth and feeling the tiny pockets of juice explode in his mouth. The fruit fell apart all too quickly and Arthur made to take another bite, to get more, but Gwaine's other hand (still sticky) swiftly reached up to his neck and held him in place as Gwaine pressed their mouths together.
At first, it was too chaste, a simple rub of lips against lips, barely there, but as Arthur's free hand found itself fisting around the fabric of Gwaine's shirt, things shifted. Gwaine's tongue flicked out and licked at Arthur's lips and seemed to paint stories across them with each swipe. Arthur deepened the kiss and a wet slide of mouths, their still-entwined hands sticky with the dripping juice, sealed them together.
Gwaine's hand moved from Arthur's jaw to the back of his head, holding it in a strong grip, fingers threading into his hair. Arthur bit down on Gwaine's bottom lip with a groan, the movements second nature, fluid and innate like breathing. He didn't think about all the guys Gwaine must have done this with over the past year.
Arthur leaned back and broke the kiss, one hand pulling at Gwaine's shirt, using him as leverage, the other unfolding from around Gwaine's hand and the orange and slipping into Gwaine's mouth, feeding him the juice.
Gwaine sucked Arthur's fingers deeper into his mouth, swirling his tongue around them, between them, licking them clean. Saliva slipped from the corners of Gwaine’s lips, around the fingers and down Arthur's hand, a cool trail marking his skin. Arthur gasped at the hint of teeth against his knuckles and moved his other hand up Gwaine's torso to grip at his shoulder, lying flat on his back now. He was all too aware of his hardening cock, almost shameful, straining hopelessly against his trousers as Arthur fought for thoughts of his own, devoid of Gwaine. Gwaine, who bobbed his head up and down Arthur's fingers then, a couple more times before pulling off, licking Arthur's palm and pinning it above Arthur's head.
Arthur dug his nails into Gwaine's bicep with his other hand, trying to hold on, to put them back on even ground, to put Gwaine back on the chair. Gwaine just shook it off and moved it to join the other hand. Arthur watched him through half-lidded eyes, knowing the determined look on Gwaine’s face, imagining the things that could be in store. He gripped the side of the couch for lack of something better to do and watched Gwaine closely, watched every (calculated, breathtaking) move.
Gwaine shifted, using his free hand to hold himself up as he maneouvered himself up on his knees between Arthur's thighs. He raised the hand holding the deep red orange above Arthur's mouth, too high to aim properly and in a hoarse voice said, "Open up."
The cool air of his flat hit his palate, drying it out too soon, making it seem like an eternity passed before he saw Gwaine's hand quiver and squeeze. Arthur closed his eyes, protecting them from the harsh acid of the fruit, but lifted his head up, tongue out, waiting, ready. The juice fell in droplets at first, onto Arthur's tongue, lips, chin, nose, but it soon became a drizzle and a stream. Arthur chased it with his mouth, knowing Gwaine must have been moving it around to get the juice all over his face, and he swallowed around too little moisture, wanting it all.
Arthur's grip on the couch tightened, too eager to reach out and grasp Gwaine's hand and hold it in place, to bite and lick at it, to get the last of the juicy flesh. When the droplets stopped, Arthur heard a wet, chewing, slurping sound, and he knew Gwaine finished the rest of the orange.
He wanted to look, eyes safe from the juice now, but wasn't ready to see Gwaine like this yet (losing his cool, dropping his guard), so he squeezed his thighs around Gwaine's and knocked him off-balance. Gwaine held himself steady with a hand resting next to Arthur's shoulder, his eyes still closed, Arthur felt rather than saw Gwaine leaning down on top of him, aligning their bodies in a way that was so familiar, it made Arthur clutch harder at the leather and fight not to turn his face away.
He waited breathlessly while Gwaine settled deeper in between his legs. Their hips pumped in unison and they both moaned at the sudden friction. Arthur bit down on his lip and ground up against Gwaine, hearing a soft "Fuck, Art-" from above, and he thought it a blessing that Gwaine was never really vocal in bed because he was already drowning.
Arthur felt Gwaine's lips ghost over his own, back and forth, smearing the sticky juice into his skin. He gasped out, mouth opening and closing around air, trying to kiss Gwaine, but Gwaine moved his mouth away and Arthur would have whined embarrassingly (in a way that only Gwaine had ever heard him) but sweet sticky fingers slid into his mouth and filled it with the orange flavour yet again. Yes.
Arthur chased after it hungrily, sucking it down from Gwaine's digits even as they pulled his mouth to the side, turning his head (following Gwaine's every move). Gwaine leaned into Arthur's neck and nosed up to his presented cheek before lapping at his jaw and cheek. He moved his lips to kiss at the corner of Arthur's mouth, slipping his tongue in alongside his fingers, making Arthur moan out and thrust up. It felt entirely too out of control for Arthur's liking, but he was too out of control to care.
Gwaine's fingers led the other way, and Arthur's face followed. Gwaine licked and kissed the other side with less immediate hunger and more care. Arthur slid his mouth off Gwaine's fingers, which were completely devoid of the orange flavour now, and mouthed along the rest of his hand, sucking down the other fingers, licking between them, lapping at his palm.
Completely distracted by Gwaine's lips on his face and hand in his mouth, overwhelming his senses from all directions, Arthur barely registered that Gwaine's other hand had moved from his shoulder and was expertly pulling open his trousers, just like it had so many times before. Gwaine used the hand Arthur had been licking, sucking (kissing), to hold his face in place and kiss him.
Arthur let go of the side of the couch practically involuntarily, his fingers needing to touch and feel and grip. His hands fell onto Gwaine's back almost on instinct and when Gwaine pulled away from the kiss, Arthur tugged on the fabric under his fingers and, in one swift move, yanked Gwaine's shirt off. He threw it over Gwaine's shoulder to join the rest of the mess and let himself pause. His hands fell back to Gwaine's torso (tanned by the Italian sun, his months away), and on some basic level, as he mapped muscle after muscle, it was almost as if they'd never left.
Gwaine's own hands slipped under the fabric of Arthur's button-down and traced his ribs up, leaving a trail of goose pimples in their wake before teasing at his nipples. Arthur scratched at Gwaine's sun-kissed skin and hoped the trails left Gwaine with even the fraction of pain he'd felt himself when Gwaine left. Arthur lost the battle with himself, his carefully built-self control, and thrust up and up, needing more friction, and letting go of Gwaine to help him get the button-down off.
Arthur didn't feel the need to act coy as Gwaine's eyes raked over his bare torso. He knew he looked better than Gwaine remembered, he had plenty of spare time after all, needed something to do outside of work (Gertrude had gotten worried). He slipped his hands up to thumb at Gwaine's nipples til they peaked and he began making strained grunts above Arthur. He rolled his hips, the familiar outline of his erection brushing Arthur's own.
Gwaine leaned in to kiss Arthur again, his whole body pressed down, aligned with Arthur's in a hard thrum of energy (held back, released). When his hands splayed at Arthur's sides and clung just a bit, and their torsos began to stick together with their mutual heat, lips tingling under the constant pressure, Arthur held on (and let himself go). Arthur's fingers weren't a deep pressure anymore, but open, grasping, massaging, needy, verging on loving, verging on all the things Arthur didn't want to think about.
He thrust up harder and harder, friction a scarce commodity in his search for climax, until Gwaine pulled away from the kiss, too slowly and reluctantly, and mouthed down Arthur's overheated body. His kisses burned Arthur's skin, making it oversensitive in their wake and Arthur tangled his fingers in Gwaine's hair and held it, not knowing if he wanted to push Gwaine closer or pull him away.
Gwaine's kisses, once again, were a mere distraction. Arthur knew this as Gwaine mouthed his way back up to Arthur's neck, jaw, lips. Arthur looked down between their bodies, shivering and hissing when he felt Gwaine pull his cock out of his boxer briefs. Gwaine smirked down at him, unthinking probably, and Arthur, just as unthinking, rolled his eyes and thrust up into his grip impatiently.
This they could do. This spoke more than they ever did (but should have).
Gwaine repositioned himself on top of Arthur, realigning their legs, and finally, finally aligning their cocks. Arthur pulled him down hard into a biting, wild kiss, hands tugging Gwaine's unruly hair, egging him on, asking, begging, making him move.
They clung to each other equally now, Gwaine moving in a hard, slow rhythm, their cocks rubbing against each other in a slick mixture of sweat and precome. For a while, this was enough and they lost themselves in it, mouths messily rubbing around their faces and necks, too far gone to kiss.
The pressure began to build and build for Arthur, each hard thrust from Gwaine hitting all the right spots, knowing just what to do to drive him wild, and Arthur needed more.
He clawed at Gwaine's back (like he used to do) to make him move and got teeth grazing along his throat in return. The rhythm stalled. Arthur knew Gwaine wanted to hear him beg, that he used to love it when Arthur lost himself. But that Arthur was somewhere in a box, with Gwaine's books and DVDs. This Arthur didn't beg. He wrapped his still-clothed thighs around Gwaine's and locked him in a vice grip as his hands slid down to Gwaine's arse and held him in place for Arthur to thrust up and up, harder and harder.
Gwaine's breath was coming in harsh pants against Arthur's neck, coating it with saliva and unspoken apologies. Arthur lapped at Gwaine's neck without coordination, mouth needy and empty as he increased the speed more and more, setting a punishing rhythm. He held Gwaine tighter and closer, his muscles tightening all over his body, pressure building.
When Gwaine's hands dug into Arthur's sides, Arthur knew he was close. But when he finally groaned "Fuck, Art-" into Arthur's ear, it only took Gwaine a couple more thrusts before he was coming all over them both, covering Arthur's cock, balls and stomach with his come.
Arthur chased his own release, so close, so close, but Gwaine tore himself out of Arthur's grip and bonelessly slid down his body, wrapping his mouth around Arthur's hardness and swallowing it whole. Gwaine's hands held Arthur's hips down from thrusting up too much into his mouth, while Arthur's pushed at Gwaine's head, needing more, more. When Arthur's cock hit the back of Gwaine's throat and moved past, Gwaine's nose barely puffing air against Arthur's pubic hair, Arthur's body lost all control in an orgasm too familiar to endure.
When Arthur's body came down, muscles relaxed and useless, he relented the grip on Gwaine's hair, suddenly embarrassed in the wake of the alcohol leaving his system. He ran his hands over his face and sighed, not sure what to say, how to say...
The room had grown darker, day turning to night. Gwaine moved off Arthur and sat up at the other end of the couch, tucking himself back in and stretching, shadows playing against his muscles, painting him almost otherworldly.
Arthur looked away and made a move to follow, kicking his legs off the couch to stretch them, and hitting something in the way. He bent down and picked up one of the blood oranges, probably the last one left, before sitting back and tossing it from hand to hand.
Arthur rolled the orange down the slope of his torso as the silence began to creep into the uncomfortable territory. A more heartless Arthur would kick Gwaine out, but the Arthur Gwaine remembered would do something stupid like reaching out and touching him, getting closer.
This Arthur did neither. This Arthur watched one of his favourite fruits rolling down his torso into the cradle of his hand before dropping it repeatedly. A thought struck him just as the fruit reached his navel once more, and when he caught the orange again, he held it.
He moved his head to look at Gwaine, only to find Gwaine looking back. He finally broke the silence, his tone holding none of the bitterness from earlier. "Why Sicily, though? Wasn't the plan 'run to the Amalfi Coast, become a lemon farmer, make limoncello, make money, retire?'"
Gwaine held Arthur's gaze for a moment, then rolled his eyes and reached over to grab the orange from Arthur's hand. He tossed it up, letting it fall dangerously close to his face, then caught it and looked at it before looking back at Arthur and replacing it in Arthur's hand.
With a small shrug, he simply said, "You hate lemons."