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Hardest of Hearts

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Damen wasn't ashamed to say that he loved working in porn.

He loved sex, he was passionate about it, and he'd never shied away from that fact. He loved it in all it's forms, be it profound intimacy between lovers, anonymous passion with strangers or mutual pleasure shared between professionals. He loved it all; he craved it all.

Quite simply, Damen loved getting paid for fucking beautiful men. His job was to create an erotic fantasy for some faceless stranger to seek their pleasure to, and he got a lot of satisfaction from doing a good job of it. He loved the freedom of his work, and it's strange and inconsistent hours. He loved the odd people who worked for the studio, and the friendships he'd formed in the industry. He didn't even mind the voyeuristic aspect of performing in front of the camera, and if anything had come to enjoy it.

He loved porn, despite its consequences and its flaws. He hadn’t lived to regret being a part of it yet.

Still, Damen knew this industry wasn't forever, and he knew a it had closed a lot of doors in his life. No matter how good he was at fucking a guys ass or sucking cock, no matter how much his audience loved to watch him do it, one day that would come to an end. For all his love of the job, he'd rather it to be sooner than later. He still had his dreams, after all, and they didn't end here at Britain’s favourite gay porn website.

These facts allowed the line between pleasure and profession to become a little clearer.

Damen wasn't typically an introspective person. Given the choice between a room full of loud people or a quiet place to think, Damen would always choose the former. The prop room at the studio was nice though. Tucked away behind the staff lounge, people rarely came here unless it was to find a prop, and even then that wasn't often. The place was huge, almost unnecessarily so, but it was still over crowded with nick-nacks from hundreds of shoots over dozens of years. No one here could ever throw anything out.

Behind the main column of shelves where most of the sex toys were stored, there was an old plastic covered settee that used to belong to the living room set. It had sat there gathering dust for years, completely forgotten about. When Damen had first discovered it on an errand for his director, he'd immediately been drawn to the secluded little nook and the privacy it afforded. It had quickly become his favourite place to hang out before a shoot, his own little quiet space to just be with himself before he was needed on set.

He might not be an introspective person by nature, but, in porn, a lack of clarity between ones emotions and thoughts could ruin a career. When the line of professional sex was crossed and things became too personal, people got hurt bad. 

It hadn't happened to Damen yet, and he doubted it ever would.

He was drawn from his thoughts with the sound of approaching footsteps, and looked up to see Nikandros rounding the shelf of props.

“Ten more minutes,” Nik said as he made his way over and threw himself down on the couch beside Damen, shifting about on the squeaking plastic to get comfortable. “How’s the meditation treating ya? Did makeup get their claws on you yet?” 

Damen snorted. “Yeah.” He stretched his arms above his head and arched his back until it cracked.

“So… you good?”

Damen turned to Nik. His friend’s face was open and sincere and free from judgement, the same as it had always been. Damen grasped his shoulder and squeezed it firmly.

“Always,” he said.

Nik slapped his thigh in turn and squeezed affectionately before hauling himself to his feet. “Take another minute, we’re a bit ahead of schedule. Who knew Benoît had it in him?” 

Damen chuckled. “You’re the one who keeps hiring him.” 

“When you find a director who can make a gay porno look like a piece of renaissance art and who can also show up on time, let me know.”

 

*** 

 

Damen stepped onto set in his robe, smiling and greeting the crew as they passed. He tried to stay out of their way and stuck to hovering around the beverage table as he waited for someone to call him on.

“Damen!”

At the sound of his name Damen looked over to see his co-star emerge from the dressing room. Damen smiled, genuinely pleased to see him again, and made his way over. 

“Isander, it’s good to see you,” he said, extending his hand. 

Isander giggled at the formal gesture, but took Damen’s offered hand with a blush on his cheeks. “I forgot how chivalrous you are. You sure know how to make a boy feel special.”

With a wink, Damen leant forward and brought Isander’s hand to his mouth, to press a kiss to his knuckles. His smile widened as Isander’s blush deepened and he looked away shyly.

“If you’re quite done talking up your co-star, Damen, we’re good to go.” 

Damen grinned wolfishly at Nik, who was staring pointedly at them over his clipboard, but he released Isander with a parting wink. Isander giggled again, biting his lips coyly. He was whisked away by the wardrobe assistant before Damen could say anything further. 

Damen watched on with brazen intrigue as Isander’s robe was removed by a fussing woman who prodded at him in an attempt to make his meagre costume sit right. It consisted of little more than gym shorts and a crop top. Still, he looked like something out of a wet dream. 

Isander noticed him looking, and that blush dusted his cheeks again. Damen smiled gave him another smile, but quickly retreated before Nik could start brandishing the clip board as a weapon. It would do no one any good to get over-eager before the real show started.

Moments later Benoît, the notorious, 'visionary' director, swept into the room and set his sights on Damen. He stalked towards him with a frankly predatory sway in his hips, and pulled him down to kiss his cheeks an excessive number of times, loudly professing his excitement at the top of his lungs all the while. Damen weathered the heavy petting and non-subtle innuendos with a forced smile, and tried to conceal a laugh when he caught sight of Nik watching with a nauseated expression. 

He was blissfully spared further torment when the assistant director managed to drag the man away.

Damen made his way to the edge of the brightly lit set when they were ready for him. He stretched a little, loosening up his limbs and relieving some of the tension held in his body, rolling his neck from side to side and breathing deeply. With a final exhale, he shrugged off his robe.

Unlike Isander, Damen had no costume, so to speak. Entirely naked and not the least bit uncomfortable, Damen made his way over to the wall where the row of shower heads were.

He closed his eyes and tuned out the sound of shuttering cameras as men moved around him, finding their marks. He used to feel self conscious doing this, so awkwardly and painfully aware of every set of eyes on him, but it seemed almost laughable now. It was funny, the things one could get used to.

The cue for action almost made Damen jump. He exhaled, opened his eyes, and allowed himself to slip into the familiar skin of his character.

When he turned on the water it was warm, which he was grateful for, and started to lather himself with soap. He rubbed it sensually onto his body, lower and lower across his taut abdomen while making sure the cameras got a good view. 

He reached his pubic hair and briefly massaged the well maintained, dark curls with sweet smelling soap, before sliding deliberately lower. He took himself in hand, tugged gently and slowly as he propped an arm against the wall. He let his head tip back and let water cascade down his neck, running in warm rivulets all the way down to his hardening cock. He closed his eyes sighing deeply, allowing the barest of grunts to escape his lips as he squeezed a little harder.

Then, Isander was given the cue to enter the scene.

Damen watched Isander over his shoulder, still holding his cock with a firm grip. His eyes slid up and down his delicious form, and Damen licked his lips as he smirked. Isander in turn cast a lingering look over his shoulder at Damen’s soapy ass, before quickly looking away when he noticed Damen’s gaze. Isander stopped in front of the row of lockers, opening one to put his prop bag inside, and Damen turned off the water. 

Damen sauntered over and stopped beside Isander, towering over him, boxing him in against the locker. 

“Well, hello there,” he said, smirking as Isander’s timid character averted his eyes from Damen’s obvious nakedness. “I haven’t seen you around here before.”

 

 ***

 

By the time they reached the final scene, the long awaited cum shot, Damen was exhausted. His thighs hurt from the constant fucking motion, his arms hurt from holding Isander up in various positions, and his dick hurt from all the constant, pleasurable friction and the aching lack of release. It took all his concentration to stifle the urgent need to come— even jacking off in the bathroom before the penetration scenes did little to take off the edge. Isander was just too damn good at his job.

When finally, finally Damen was given the clear to come when he was ready, he jerked the condom off with shaking fingers and fisted his cock over Isander’ face. Isander opened his mouth and caught as much as he could on his tongue, while the rest shot in stringy globs over his face. 

“Fuck yeah, good boy,” Damen growled. He smeared some of the white liquid across Isander’ cheek, then thrust his finger into his mouth, swearing under his breath as Isander sucked it clean with a moan.

“And cut! That’s a wrap!” Benoit called, clapping his hands loudly and excitedly. “That was perfect mes cheries, absolutement parfait!” 

While Benoit blabbered excitedly in the background, Damen helped Isander to his feet. Isander grinned at him as he cleaned some of the come off his face. Most of it had managed to stay out of his eyes, but there was a particularly large glob slowly making its way down his forehead. Damen wrinkled his nose in disgust, and wiped it away while Isander giggled. 

“How chivalrous,” he said, sounding appropriately sex drunk. 

“It’s the least I could do."

They moved off to the wings where they were given their robes and ushered along to their changing rooms to take care of the mess. Nikandros followed Damen along to his, shooing away the makeup girl who tried to follow them in.

“Good job today,” he said. “This one’s gonna blow up.”

Damen was pleased that he thought so. “What would you do without me?” he said. Nik flicked a towel at him. 

Anyway, one of my guys dropped out of our next project last minute so I have another script ready to shoot next week, if you’re interested. Carlos is directing, and we’ve got Ancel Baiser as bottom.” 

Damen hummed half-heartedly in response, washing his face in the sink and patting it dry. Really, Nik already knew he was on board.

“I’ve sent you an email, but here’s the hard copy since you still live in nineteen ninety fuck all.” He passed the thin booklet over, which Damen took with an accompanying eye roll. 

“Love you too, asshole.” 

“That’s Mr. Asshole to you buddy.”

 

***

 

The elevator in Damen’s apartment building had been broken for nearly three years now. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if he didn’t live on the eighth floor.

He made the familiar, painful journey up the sixteen flights of stairs with his meagre groceries held under his arm, and reached his landing exhausted, sweaty, and panting, resolved to file yet another complaint to the landlord, before letting himself into his apartment and promptly forgetting all about it when the cat launched itself at his ankles.

“You fucking shit— get off!” 

The cat yowled in response, back arching and tail bushing up as it hissed at him with its squished little face, evading the tread of his heavy shoes. The damned thing was a menace.

“Fuck off, tiny Satan,” he hissed at it in turn, and the angry little thing ran off. 

With a world-weary sigh, Damen dropped his keys into the bowl by the door and kicked off his shoes before plodding down the narrow, short hall to the living room. The tiny room was barely big enough for his couch and TV, with a tiny coffee table crammed in between, and a desk shoved behind it. It was nothing luxurious, but Damen made do.

Opposite the tiny living room was the kitchen, with its dirty faux marble bench dividing the space. The kitchen was really the only redeeming quality of this apartment, Damen could admit. It was also the main reason why he’d chosen this place.

The kitchen was at least the size of the living room, which was laughably impractical but virtually tailored to Damen’s needs. There was ample bench space, a surprisingly decent gas stove and oven, and plenty of cupboards and storage. Damen could cook in there without feeling stifled or claustrophobic, and he had more than enough room to move about with ease. He loved that strange little kitchen.

He dropped his groceries onto the dividing bench, putting away the milk and cheese, before collapsing onto the couch with a sigh.

He was two thousand pounds richer, as of that moment, but it hardly felt that way. It wasn’t that it had been a slow week for him, with the shoot he’d had that day and his week’s earnings at the club, but his rent had been due, and the bloody cat had to go and get a weird rash that resulted in a messy, regrettable trip to the vet. And, of course, there was always the money he sent home. He was starting to regret splurging on the cheese.

He ran ragged hands through his hair, a habit of stress, before he grabbed his laptop and opened Facebook to distract himself by scrolling through his feed. His internet was atrociously slow, but he found a barrage of new notifications when the page finally loaded, most from Nik tagging him in memes. He was in the process of responding to all of them with an angry faced reaction when a picture on his dash caught his eye.

It was a gorgeous sunset setting over rolling green hills, a sprawling town of quaint white villas cascading down to a beach of pearly white sand and a sea of crystal clear blue. He recognised this place, he would always know his homeland when he saw it. His heart clenched in his chest.

She was somehow even more beautiful than he remembered, standing silhouetted against the waning sun, hair alight with the stunning pinks and oranges that stretched across the sky. Her head was turned to show her smile, so bright and happy and sweet. A smile that was never meant for him. His brother leant on the balcony beside her, laughing at some joke that Damen would never hear.

They looked so happy together.

Damen slammed his laptop shut. He breathed, as deep and evenly as he could, feeling his nostrils flare with the effort. He closed his eyes. He felt his hands shake.

Damn her. Damn them both.

He called Nik, because if he didn’t he’d probably do something stupid. Nik picked up on the third ring.

“Hey man, what’s up?”

He exhaled a low breath, wincing when his voice broke. He heard sounds of muffled background noise fade on the other end of the line, and the snick of a door closing. With a quiet seriousness Damen rarely heard from his friend, Nik asked, “What's wrong?”

Damen laughed, a small, bitter thing. “Look on Facebook.”

There was silence but for the sound of clacking keys on Nik’s end. Damen knew he didn’t need to tell Nik what he was looking for.

Then, after a heavy silence, Nik swore. “That son of a bitch. I can't believe he took her... I’m going to fucking kill him.”

Damen snorted. “You’d be useless to me in jail.”

“I dunno, I’ll burn his house down then, they'll never be able to prove anything.”

Damen sighed. “Nik, please.”

Nik was silent for a moment, but Damen could hear his steady breathing on the other end of the line. “Ok. What do you need?”

“I don’t know.” He closed his eyes and scrubbed his hand over his face. “To not be alone, I think.”

“Ok, I’ve got you man. I’ve got a shift tonight, but I can cancel.”

“No,” Damen insisted. “No, you need the money.”

“I need to be there for you more than I need a couple of measly quid.”

Damen laughed, trying to hide how touched he was by the gesture. “That measly quid could be your week’s groceries.”

“I won’t eat then. Look, Damen, if we double-up on the stage fee and dance together, we can split the earnings. That way you get to take your mind off… it, and we both get to eat.”

Damen considered it. He didn’t usually do a shoot and work a shift on the same day, it took too much out of him, but right now he was desperate enough for a distraction. Plus, he hadn’t danced with Nik in ages. It could be fun. 

“Alright. When?”

“Give me an hour, I’ll pick you up. Oh, and bring that nice aftershave I bought you.”

Damen chuckled softly. “You mean that you bought us.”

“Same diff. Go shit, shower and shave buddy, I’ll see you soon.”

Damen said his goodbyes and hung up, chucking his phone onto the counter and trudging his way into his bedroom and the ensuite attached. The bathroom was little more than a shoebox. He was a good few inches taller than the shower head, and most of him stuck out of the cubicle when he showered. The toilet had a penchant for clogging at inopportune moments, and the water from the taps always took a couple of seconds to start running, with the ancient pipes groaning hideously in protest.

He turned on the shower taps and shucked off his clothes while he waited for the water to heat up. When it was warm enough he stepped inside, drawing the curtains closed behind him. He washed his body in a far more perfunctory manner than the earlier shoot, and soaped up his hair with some of his nicer smelling product. He couldn’t afford to splurge on it often, but his customers always appreciated the little details.

He shaved after he got out, because Damen was a full-blooded Greek and grew hair like one, and splashed on the aftershave Nik had bought him for his last birthday. He threw it onto the bag lying on the bed when he went out to change When he was done and ready, he returned to the living room to wait.

The cat reappeared while he sat idly and tried to make nice by rubbing up against his shins. The damn thing was hungry, it was the only time Damen was treated with any civility. He fed it, because it’d be even more vicious later if he didn’t – and because he was fond of the stupid thing, for some reason. It meowed pleasantly at him as it trotted over to its bowl. Damen rolled his eyes. 

Not ten minutes later, his phone rang.

“Bro, you know I’m not climbing those stairs,” Nik said when he answered.

Damen rolled his eyes, but tucked his phone under his chin while he slung his bag over his shoulder and walked down the hallway to grab his keys from the bowl.

“Lazy cunt,” he said.

“Bitch, I showered.”

Damen hung up the call and jogged his way down the stairs. Nik was parked outside the entrance, leaning against his car and smoking, with those obnoxious sunglasses of his perched on his nose.

“You look like a pimp,” Damen said.

Nik flung a hand over his heart and gasped. “These are Gucci.”

“They’re knock offs.”

Nik flipped him off and stubbed his cigarette out onto the pavement, before throwing it into the nearby trash can. Damen walked over to the passenger side and got in. 

Nik’s car was a second hand of a second hand that his sister had given him for his twenty-first birthday. He barely used it, because it was impossible to drive in London, but it was more convenient on a club night to get home that way. And there was less chance of clients following you, when you got into your car out of sight in the staff garage.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” Nik asked as he pulled away from the curb, shooting Damen a look.

Damen sighed, scratching the back of his neck and closing his eyes. “No,” he said.

“Fair enough. Let me know, yeah?”

Damen nodded absently, and turned to stare idly out of the window.

Nik cranked up the radio while he drove, and ignored the strange looks from pedestrians and fellow drivers as their car vibrated with the heavy bass. Damen rolled his eyes but didn’t say anything. Nik was very possessive of his radio.

“Is Adrastus gonna give us shit for this?” He asked, yelling to be heard over the music.

Nik shrugged. “Nah, Petro and Dan do it all the time. They usually make more money that way anyway.”

“That’s usually because they’re basically having sex up there.”

Nik grinned. “What, are you saying you wouldn’t fuck me on stage in front of dozens of horny drunk guys for some dough?”

Damen rolled his eyes. “My dick is done for today.”

“That wasn’t a no, though,” Nik added with a lecherous wink.

“Fucking asshole,” Damen laughed.

It was a fifteen-minute drive to the club from Damen’s house, just in the outer skirts of the city proper. It wasn’t busy at this time, just after six on a Friday night, but that would change very soon.

Nik flashed his pass to the machine, and the garage doors rolled up to allow them in. It was only a small place, barely big enough for twenty cars, but it was better than out on the street with the type of crowds the place usually attracted. There was a female strip club further down the row, and a half a dozen pubs and bars interspersed throughout. On a Friday night, the place would be teeming with people.

They parked and got out and Nik grabbed his bag from the back before they made their way over to the side door that would let them straight in to backstage. There were already a couple of guys in makeup and costume running around when they got in.

A flash of blond caught his eye, and Damen turned in time to catch Erasmus as he flung himself at Damen, giggling excitedly. “Damen! I didn’t think you were on tonight.”

Damen laughed as he weathered the assault, and patted the boy fondly on his bare back.

Erasmus had started working there a couple of months after Damen and Nik, and he’d been a mess. He was barely eighteen, freshly kicked out, desperate for cash because his dealer boyfriend wasn’t taking sex for drugs or rent anymore. Damen had let him stay on his couch while he looked for a new place, had given him a shoulder to cry on and the support he’d needed to finally kick his worse habits and focus on taking care of himself. He felt like a father to the kid, despite being only five years his senior.

“Hey Ras. I wasn’t, but Nik offered to share his stage.”

“That’s so nice!” Erasmus said, turning his big doe eyes on Nik. “It’ll be amazing to watch you two dance together.”

“Don’t get too excited,” Nik smirked, punching the boy’s arm fondly. “This asshole always runs off for private dances the first chance he gets.”

Erasmus giggled again and extricated himself from Damen’s arms. “That’s because he’s so good at them,” he said. “I have to go talk to Pallas, but I’ll see you guys later?”

“For sure, kid,” Damen said. “We’ll go have a drink sometime.”

Erasmus seemed to light up at the suggestion, obviously delighted at the opportunity to spend more time with Damen and Nik. He skipped away with a farewell wave, and Damen smiled after him.

“He’s crushing hard on you,” Nik said when he was out of hearing distance.

“I guess,” Damen agreed. “He’s a good kid.”

“So's every stripper in London.”

 

 ***

 

Adrastus raised an eyebrow at their request to share the stage, but had allowed it on the condition of doubling the stage fee and tips he normally demanded. Nik had scowled after his retreating back, but said nothing until they were safely in the changing rooms, out of earshot. 

“Slimy mother fucker,” he hissed. “He never charges Petro that much.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s cos he wants to fuck him." 

Nik scoffed, shaking his head. “Men,” he said, with distaste, as he unbuttoned his shirt and stuffed it in his bag, his pants quickly following suit. He walked over to the costume racks completely unselfconsciously in just his briefs and started going through the various selections, tongue poking out of his mouth while he concentrated. 

“Are we more of a ‘leather and sex’ or ‘glittery gays?” He asked.

Damen, halfway through unbuttoning his own shirt, looked over. “Are those the pants with the ass cut outs?”

“The very same. These’ll look great on you.”

“Are we matching?” 

Nik hummed, looking thoughtfully at the leather material in his hands. “Why not,” he said. “What’s better than two brown hunks grinding against each other in sinfully tight leather.”

Damen threw back his head and laughed.

They were scheduled to start at seven, when the club opened its doors to the public.

While they waited, Nik chatted to the barman, someone named Guymar who Damen didn’t know well, as their shifts never usually coincided. Damen waited by his stage and watched the last of the floor workers and bar hands set up their stations, offering to help as he always did, but meeting polite and often shy refusals. Damen was fairly aware that he made a rather intimidating sight like this. He was more a distraction than anything else.

“Doors open in five,” the security guard standing by the locked door called out.

Nik reappeared at his side then, elbowing him as he leant against the stage. He winced when his bare arse met with the colder wood.

“You good?” He asked.

“Yeah,” Damen said. “Are you?”

Nik grinned at him. “I’m always good.”

Damen grinned back, and turned to hoist himself up onto the stage. He clasped Nik’s hand and hauled him up after him.

With two minutes to go, the music and lights were turned on, while the last of the dancers got into their respective positions. Nik swung himself around on the pole, closing his eyes and furrowing his brow as he ran through the moves of their routine again.

The doors were opened at seven on the dot, and a steady stream of customers filtered in. There were always mostly men, considering this was technically a gay club, but Damen noticed some female groups in amongst the crowds. They occasionally had some rowdy bachelorette parties. Those nights always went well.

In just a short handful of minutes, Damen and Nik had attracted a crowd. It wasn’t often that two massive, muscular strippers shared a stage, he supposed. They had become something of a spectacle, and they hadn’t even properly started dancing yet. 

When the next song came on, some inane club remix of a pop song, Nik abandoned his pole whirling to saunter over to Damen. He looped his fingers in the front of Damen’s leather pants and starting swaying suggestively in time to the music, a salacious grin plastered on his face. There were a couple of hoots and calls as Damen started join in, rocking his hips and making sure the audience got a good view of his deliciously toned, bared arse.

By the time they got to the proper routine, money was all but flying at them. Damen had perfected a particular move that took him down to his knees near the edge of the stage in a smooth, graceful motion, allowing him to gyrate his hips while the audience jostled each other to tuck bills into his waist band. He grinned and flexed his muscles, running a hand down his abdomen and winking at the man closest to him. The older man blushed, but tucked a fat note into the front of Damen’s pants all the same.

 

*** 

 

Damen was exhausted when he finally got home. Nik pulled up to his apartment complex sometime after two, and leant over the console to press a kiss to the side of his face and muck up his hair while Damen groaned at him.

“I nearly made double my usual pull, you son of a bitch,” Nik said. “You’re a fucking cash cow, Damen." 

Damen grinned at him, and flicked his thick stack of bills against his palm. He had made more than his usual pull as well, though not solely because of their shared stage. He’d had the luck to interest a very rich, very enthusiastic older gentleman who had payed a truly obscene amount for Damen to give him a lap dance that had lasted for a decent twenty minutes. Their standard lap dance time was less than five, unless the customer was particularly interested, but Damen wasn’t going to say no when the man had pulled a fortune out of his wallet and offered Damen the lot if he would keep going.

“Read over that script, yeah? You have a couple of days to decide, but I need to know ASAP.”

“Yeah alright. See you soon then?”

“Of course.” Nik pulled him in to press another kiss to his forehead, exaggerating the sound of his lips smacking just to make Damen wrinkle his nose. “Don’t die on those stairs.”

Damen groaned as he opened the car door and let himself out.

He was so exhausted by the time he got to his floor, he could barely see straight. His legs felt like liquid after having spent so long fucking Isander earlier and then dancing his ass off for the last five hours. His entire body felt like one giant bruise.

He let himself into his apartment, and thankfully the cat seemed to find him too pitiful to bother attacking. He dumped his bag in his living room and threw himself onto his bed.

He was tempted to just fall asleep like that, but force of habit drove him to get back up and go to the bathroom, where he brushed his teeth and washed some of the glitter off his face. He kicked off his clothes, preferring to sleep in the nude, and finally crawled into bed.  He plugged his phone into the charger before he let himself close his eyes. When the phone connected, the screen turned on, and Damen couldn’t help but glance at his notifications.

Nik had tagged him in something on Facebook, something he would deal with in the morning. It was the last notification that interested him.

Back when he’d been single, before everything that happened with Jokaste, Damen had been an infrequent user of Grindr. Between the porn he did and stripping, he didn’t usually have much time or want to pursue sex in his own life, and then he’d met Jokaste and it hadn’t been an issue. He’d used it maybe twice in the two months that he’d had it before he and Jokaste made things official, and not once after things ended between them, despite Nik’s encouragements. Usually he just ignored whatever messages or notifications he got from the app, because the likelihood of him wanting to pursue anything further was small.

But tonight, for some reason, he was curious. He opened the app, went into his inbox, and read the first message he’d received in months.

(11:54pm): Hello.

That was all it said.

Damen frowned. That wasn’t anything at all like the other messages he’d received from guys on the site. Normally it was straight to dick picks and hook-ups, not such a succinct ‘hello’. The guy had even used a full stop. 

Damen clicked on the man’s profile, curious to see what someone who sent messages like that on a notorious site like Grindr would look like. When the page loaded, he stopped dead. 

To say the man was good looking would be criminal. He was gorgeous. Probably the most beautiful man Damen had ever seen in his life. In his profile picture, he was sitting outside what looked to be some sort of European café, with a mug of coffee framed by long, slender fingers. He was looking off to the side, his attention captured by something out of the frame, but Damen could see the magnificent blue of his eyes even from the poor angle. His hair was long and golden, illuminated by the sun shining behind him, creating a soft halo around his head. He had the fullest lips Damen had ever seen in his life.

It was too good to be true. There was no way this guy was for real.

  1. 5”11. White. Single.

Academic. Lover of ancient art.

Damen was reopening the chat and typing out a message before he even properly knew what he was doing.

(2:32am): Hi. You’re incredibly hot.

It was stupid and cheesy and boring, but Damen too exhausted to care. He was normally much better at this.

Damen put his phone down on his bedside table and rolled over, burying his face into his soft pillow. He was asleep in moments, so he didn’t hear the vibrating of his phone or the ping of a notification as he received a new message. 

 

Chapter Text

Damen’s alarm woke him far, far too soon. He groaned as he turned over to shut it off, wincing at the bright light streaming in through the blinds.

He wanted nothing more than to burrow into his soft, warm pillows and go back to sleep, but it was just after ten, so if he wanted to shower and get to work on time he’d have to get up now. Sighing, he sat up and yawned, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. He pushed off his sheets and shuffled to the bathroom before he lost his resolve.

He rubbed uselessly at his arms while he waited for the water to heat up, dancing on the balls of his feet to minimise contact with the freezing tiles. Once it finally did, stepping into the warm stream was heavenly. Damen sighed as he tipped his head back and allowed the water to cascade over him.

He used his generic brand soap to wash himself, spending long moments massaging it to a lather on his chest and down to his lower abdomen, enjoying the way warmth pooled in his belly, settling in his groin. His cock stirred in interest, already half hard from sleep. He allowed his hand to slip a little lower and curled a fist around his cock, exhaling a low breath in pleasure. He pumped slowly, twisting a little at the head and squeezing as his eyes fluttered closed. He leant forward against the wall, propping himself up on one arm and letting warmth suffuse through him.

It felt good, but alone it wasn’t enough. He closed his eyes to remember tan skin and dark hair, loud moaning jarred by the force of his own thrusts, Isander begging for more, to be fucked harder, screaming Damen’s name.

A cycle of faceless partners blurred behind his eyelids, an amalgamation of attractive features and moments of half remembered pleasure. He was chasing that feeling, something tangible to hold on to, to bring himself to the edge.

It was a subtle shift at first, and yet wholly inevitable, when his imagined partner began to take on more solid features. Blond hair, pale skin, the gentle curve of supple, pink lips, nails clawing down his spine, a sultry moan in his ear as she raised herself above him and…

Damen opened his eyes and jerked away from the wall, nearly slipping on the tiles. He grabbed the shower curtain to keep from falling.

Shit.

He scrubbed a hand over his face, trying to clear the image from his mind, the lingering memory of Jokaste.

He glared angrily down at his erection. There was no way he could finish now. He shook himself and stepped back beneath the stream, staying there until the water ran cold.

He had time for cereal before he had to leave, so he poured himself a generous bowl of cornflakes and put the kettle on to boil. The cat appeared while he stood in the kitchen eating, and rubbed itself up against his legs, purring. He fed it, rolling his eyes at it’s approving mewl, and made himself a cup of coffee.

He left just after eleven, and hurried down the stairs to avoid missing his train. He made it to the station just as it pulled up, and jogged over to the doors, climbing in before moving to find a seat near the back of the carriage.

He looked down at his phone as the train trundled onwards. There were, thankfully, no more messages from Jokaste. There was, however, another unread message sitting in his inbox that caused Damen to double take after he saw it.

 (1:39am): How original. The sentiment is mutual, however.

In all his— admittedly brief— experience using Grindr, Damen had never encountered a man who replied to messages quite like this. Who used proper grammar anymore? Maybe it should have come across as snobbish, but Damen was intrigued, and that was reason enough for Damen to send his concise reply.

 (11:13am): So, what exactly are you looking for??

His own desire was quite straightforward; the guy was gorgeous, and Damen would very much like to fuck him. Or, if the man preferred, be fucked by him. Damen wasn’t all that picky.

To his surprise, not two minutes later his phone pinged as he received a reply.

(11:15am): That depends on what you’re prepared to give me.

Damen swallowed, lips twitching into a smirk.

(11:15am): I don’t think there’s a lot that I wouldn’t be prepared to give

(11:17am): Good. Are you available later?

(11:18am): I’ve got work till 10, but I can do after. I can host???

(11:19am): That won’t be necessary. Meet me at Ruth’s Diner, Bedfordbury. 11:30pm.

(11:20am): I’ll see you then. My name is Damen, by the way

(11:20am): Lou. See you then, Damen.

Lou. Damen pictured the way the name would sound on his lips, how it would feel to moan that name while he was inside him, fucking him hard and fast. It wasn’t an appropriate line of thinking to be having on the train. He shifted and covered his lap with his hands, in case anyone looked over.

He got off at the underground station, a ten-minute walk from the restaurant, with twenty minutes to spare before his shift started. He picked up a coffee from a nearby café, needing the additional caffeine if he was to survive his shift, and resisted the urge to return his barista’s flirtatious smile.

As he sat and drank, his thoughts drifted inevitably back to ‘Lou’. He wondered if Lou would look as handsome in person as he did in his picture. He wondered what his voice sounded like, how tall he would be beside Damen, if his hair was as long as the picture suggested. Damen wasn’t ashamed to admit he had a soft spot a mile wide for men with long hair.

His phone pinged with another message, and Damen found himself rather ludicrously hoping it was from Lou. It was only Nik, though, and he was not disappointed about that.

N: You free later?

D: Nope. Got a date.

Not a minute later, Nik called him.

You son of a bitch, with who?” Nik said as soon as Damen picked up.

“Guy on Grindr, funnily enough.”

Since when do you use Grindr?”

“Not often. He messaged me last night.”

Is he hot?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.”

Let me guess, is he blond.”

Damen snorted. “I’m a man of simple tastes.”

“You’re an idiot. Send me a photo so I can show it to the police when you get stabbed.”

“I’m probably like twice his size Nik,” Damen laughed. “Besides, the only one who’s getting stabbed is—”

“No! Why would you— fucking asshole.”

Damen laughed, while Nik grumbled on the other end of the line unintelligibly.

“Send me the photo, I wanna know how fucked you are. Also, have you started reading the script yet?”

He hadn’t. In truth, he’d completely forgotten about the damned script. “Uh, no, it’s still sitting on my counter. I’ll read it tonight, I swear.”

Yeah, yeah, sure you will. Send me the photo.”

I will. I have to go to work now, I’ll talk to you later.”

“Tell those arrogant French bastards to go fuck themselves for me!”

Damen hung up laughing, and quickly took a screen shot of Lou’s profile to send to Nik. He put his phone away and downed the rest of the coffee as he walked down to the side alley to the kitchen entrance.

The familiar sounds of the kitchen drifted to him through the door; the clanking of crockery, the dull thud of knives on a cutting board, the sizzle of pans on the stove and a dozen hurrying feet. The organised chaos that he so desperately wanted to be a part of, where breath-taking beauty was made only slightly more often than junior chefs burning dishes and bringing the wrath of hell down on themselves. He could do better than any of them— he could run circles around their so called culinary training and expertise. The world wasn’t kind to those who didn’t have the money to buy pretty titles.

He stowed his backpack in his locker and exchanged his sweater for his white jacket, smoothing out the collar and rolling up his sleeves as he checked himself in the mirror. He felt almost like a pretender wearing it. He wasn’t a real chef, he didn’t even touch the food here. It almost felt like he was being taunted.

He shook off the crushing weight of those thoughts and checked his phone before he put it away. Nik’s reply was waiting for him.

N: You’re fucked.

 

***

 

Damen went home and changed after his shift, breaking out his nicer leather jacket and a new pair of jeans for the occasion. If he deliberately chose a too small shirt, he figured there was no harm in it. He imagined Lou would probably appreciate the way it showed off his muscles.

He took a photo of himself standing in his full-length mirror and sent it to Nik, who replied with his verdict promptly.

N: Very fuckable. Go get him tiger.

Damen was pleased that he thought so. Nik had a good eye for these things.

He took the script with him when he left, and read it on the short bus ride to the diner. It was a little different to the kind of stuff he usually did, a lot heavier on the fetish play. It wasn’t anything he wasn’t comfortable with, though, and the money would be better for it. He shot Nik a text letting him know he was on board before he got off the bus.

The diner was empty when he pushed open the door, and he was almost worried that it wasn’t open until a boisterous older woman swept out of the back room and descended on him with purpose. He found himself ushered to a table and sat down, and an order for tea extracted from him with little fuss.

The booth had a good view of the entrance, so he settled down to wait, keeping half an eye on the door. The woman came out with his tea almost instantly, setting it before him and asking if he’d eaten the same way his grandmother used to when she was of a mind to stuff him with food. He allowed her fussing with a smile, finding himself liking the old woman enough to order one of her ‘world famous chocolate slices’, just to see her smile. He played a shitty game on his phone while he waited, sipping his surprisingly good tea and snacking on the delicious chocolate slice.

At eleven-thirty almost to the second the bell above the door tinkled, and Damen looked up.

‘Lou’ somehow looked even better in person than he did in the photo. His eyes were beautiful, the colour an amalgamation of piercing blue hues, stunning in their intensity. His hair was longer and a lighter shade of blond than Damen had thought, he wore it gathered over one shoulder and it trailed down to his chest. He was tall and thin, his legs magnificently long and toned, shown off in the tight skinny jeans he was wearing. Damen took him in, his eyes travelling down his frame to appreciate every inch. By the time he returned to look at his face, those piercing blue eyes were on him.

Lou made no effort to hide the way his own eyes travelled over Damen from where he was visible in the booth. He cocked his head a little, a strand of hair falling across his face. It played across his lips, and Damen found himself captivated by how full they were, pink and lush and soft even from this distance. He could have stared at Lou forever.

He was snapped out of it when Lou walked over to the counter and struck up a conversation with the older woman. They seemed to know each other quite well, if the woman’s audible fussing was any indication. Damen tried and failed not to stare at his arse as he leant over the counter. It seemed impossible for a man so thin so have such a gloriously fine arse. Damen took a long sip of his scalding tea.

After he’d paid, Lou made his way over to Damen’s booth. He didn’t sit down immediately, instead he stood beside the bench opposite Damen, looking down at him with a strange, distant severity. Damen was helpless but to stare back.

“Damen,” Lou said. It wasn’t a question, not a confirmation that Damen was the man he’d agreed to meet. He already knew that was the case. It sounded like he was trying the name out, savouring it in his mouth, determining its value.

“Lou,” Damen replied.

Lou’s eyes narrowed, his expression turned scrutinising. Damen felt like a prize pig under that stare. Finally, he seemed satisfied, and sat down. Damen let out a breath he hadn’t realised he was holding.

“You are larger than I’d imagined,” Lou said. His voice was surprisingly—and pleasantly— deep, but his accent was about as posh as Damen had expected. He had a lilt to some of his vowels, a slight blending that wasn’t commonly found in the English accent. Damen wondered what it was.

“I’m six five,” he replied, rather lamely.

“Your profile indicated as much.”

Damen was unsurprised by the almost abrasive response. “And you’re five eleven.”

“Average, believe it or not,” he remarked with what Damen assumed was a small amount of humour, though it was hard to tell.

The older woman arrived with Lou’s coffee before they could say anything else, which was a relief because Damen was at an utter loss for what to say. Usually he was great at this, it was easy to be funny and kind and keep the conversation flowing in the right direction, but something about Lou was utterly different to anyone Damen had ever done this with before. It threw him off kilter.

Lou thanked the woman with a kind smiling, calling her Marine. She departed after a fond pat of his shoulder.

A lengthy silence followed. Damen desperately tried to think of something to say. “You come here often?” He finally asked, wincing at its clichéd tone.

Lou raised an eyebrow. “Frequently.”

“Right,” Damen said.

“I live nearby,” Lou went on. “It’s a short walk.”

It sounded like a suggestion, but Damen had a hard time imagining that Lou meant it as such. He took another sip of his cooling tea.

Fortunately, Lou spoke next. “Your accent is interesting. Is it Spanish?”

“Greek,” Damen said. “My family is from Greece. I was born there.”

Lou nodded absentmindedly. He didn’t say anything more.

“And yours? You have a bit of an accent, too.”

A frown creased Lou’s brow. “You have a good ear,” he said. “My mother was French. I was born in France, but I’ve always lived here. I recently returned from Paris where I was studying.”

“Art history?” Damen said.

Lou looked at him with an unreadable expression. “Yes. Among other things.”

“Like what?”

“My major was psychology.”

“Oh, that’s cool.”

Lou seemed almost amused by this. “Is it?”

“Where did you study?”

“Ecole normale supérieure de Paris,” he said.  

“Ah,” Damen replied. He didn’t know the first thing about Parisian universities, but it seemed like the right question to ask. “That sounds… nice.”

This seemed to amuse Lou even more, and a smirk lifted the corners of his full, pink lips. Something in Damen reacted to that sight, to the amusement of the man sitting opposite him, the way a smile seemed to transform his features into something delicate and stunning, more beautiful than any painting.

While Damen was so obviously distracted, Lou’s hand darted forward to steal the last of the chocolate slice off his plate and pop it into his mouth. Damen couldn’t find it in him to care when Lou started licking the chocolate off of his long, pale fingers, wearing a sly smirk as though he knew exactly what Damen was thinking.

“And you?” Lou went on.

“And me?”

“Have you studied?”

“Oh,” Damen said. “No, I uh, I never went to uni.”

This didn’t seem to surprise Lou, who nodded absently. Damen wondered if he came across as the unintelligent type, if that seemed so un-extraordinary.

“No desire to?”

“No, I could never find the time. Or money. Family things,” Damen waved a hand about in an attempt to brush off his answer.

The unreadable expression returned to Lou’s face. He resumed idly stirring his coffee.

“Do you always have such menial conversations with the men you plan to fuck?”

Damen was glad he hadn’t taken a sip of his tea, because if he had he likely would have spat it out. As it was he cleared his throat a little awkwardly, blinking at the blasé expression of the man across from him. He furrowed his brow and tried to find a way to respond.

“Would you prefer it if we’d skipped this step and had just gone straight for the fucking?”

“Is that not what we’re both here for?”

Damen frowned. “If that’s the case, why did you suggest we meet here?”

“To ensure that if you were some withered old man, or possessing of homicidal tendencies, you wouldn’t have my home address.”

Damen raised an eyebrow. “I still could be. You never know.”

Lou cocked his head again, a calculating expression crossing his features. “Well, should you be planning to take me back to my apartment to fuck and murder me, the owner, her husband, and the three people sitting at the bus stop across the street saw us together, not to mention the three security cameras outside of this building and the several more outside of mine, including any neighbours we should chance upon between now and when you leave my apartment latter, with my no doubt brutalised corpse remaining in your wake.”

“You’ve thought this out,” Damen said, with an amused huff.

“Best to be prepared before one meets a stranger on the internet.”

Damen smirked. “So, do I strike you as the homicidal type?”

Lou looked him over deliberately, eyes lingering on lips and arms and chest. “I rather think the risk is worth the reward,” he said.

Damen swallowed.

Lou was abrasive and intelligent and strange and nothing at all like Damen had ever expected or encountered before. There was something intriguing about him, something that Damen was drawn to helplessly, something that had nothing to do with the colour of his hair or the fineness of his skin or the blue of his eyes.

Oddly, Damen found himself wanting to do more than simply go to Lou’s home and fuck him. He wanted to talk to him, to find out more about him, to see just how deep that apathetic veneer and callousness went.

He had to shake himself to banish the thoughts before his mind went somewhere he wasn’t entirely prepared for it to go.

“Shall we go, then?” He said.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

 

***

 

Lou did, in fact, live a very short walk from the diner. Damen didn’t even want to think about how expensive a place this close to the city might be.

Lou scanned them into the building with a key pass and made for the stairs, leading Damen up several flights to the third floor. Lou nodded to an elderly man descending the stairs as they passed and threw a meaningful look over his shoulder at Damen, who tried not to laugh.

He led Damen down a short hallway and stopped outside his door at the farthest end, but made no move to open it.

“If you’re having second thoughts about my knowing where you live, now’s a bit late,” Damen said.

Lou shot him a withering look over his shoulder, and shoved the key into the lock.

His apartment was big, a lot bigger than Damen had thought it would be. It opened into a spacious living area with floor to ceiling windows at the far end, a dining nook behind it and a kitchen to the side.

“Fucking hell,” Damen said, stepping inside and looking around. “You live here alone?”

He turned to look at Lou, who was standing with his arms crossed over his chest and an eyebrow raised. “Wondering if you have to dispose of my body before someone comes home?”

Damen chortled, and took that to mean yes. He was tempted to wonder how on earth someone as young as Lou, who was only recently finished university, could afford a place of this size in London, but it wasn’t exactly any of his business.

“Bedroom through there?” He asked, gesturing to the door at the end of the room. Lou nodded.

Something about his demeanour had changed since they’d left the diner. The same man who’d sat with an almost arrogant casualness, insulting Damen’s small talk, now averted his eyes and held himself with palpable tension.

“Are you alright?” Damen asked.

Lou looked at him sharply. “Why?”

Damen shrugged. “You’re tense,” he said. “Sure you’re not having second thoughts?”

“Don’t patronise me,” Lou snapped. “I know what I’m doing.”

“Alright, alright,” Damen tried not to sound too incredulous. Something told him Lou probably wouldn’t appreciate that.

Lou shifted, his expression now carefully neutral, though Damen could see him working his jaw from where he stood halfway across the room.

“You are… experienced?” Lou said, after a drawn out silent. He met Damen’s eyes for a moment before looking away again.

“I am,” Damen said. It wasn’t a boast, simply the truth. “What about you?”

Lou’s silence spoke for itself.

Damen was surprised. It was hard to imagine someone as good looking as Lou having any difficulty finding someone to have sex with. Though he was certainly abrasive, he didn’t seem to have any major personality flaws that would ward people off. Damen wondered how he’d come to want this, why he’d sought stranger from Grindr to do this with. Damen wondered why he’d chosen him.

“I’m not a virgin,” Lou said.

“Ok.”

“I’ve never— I don’t—”

“Hey, you don’t need to explain anything to me,” Damen said, taking a half step towards him. “Whatever experience you’ve had in the past doesn’t matter. If you’re still sure you want to do this, I would love to show you.”

Lou scoffed and opened his mouth to no doubt bite out some cutting return, but instead closed it again, jaw working furiously, hands twitching into fists where they were crossed against his chest.

He was nervous, and Damen understood that, understood why. He remembered how nervous he’d been his first time, and he’d been with someone he knew well, not a complete stranger he’d met half an hour before.

“We don’t have to do this,” he said, his voice softer now. “I can walk out that door right now and we can pretend this never happened. If that’s what you want, I’ll go. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

“That’s not what I want,” Lou said.

Damen took another step towards him, now standing within arms reach. He was tempted to reach out and touch him, take his hand and reassure him that everything would be ok, that Damen would never dream of hurting him.

“Why are you afraid?” He asked instead.

Lou looked at him sharply. “I’m not afraid.”

Damen opened his mouth to question him further, but Lou cut him off before he could.

“Stop being so— so—”

“So what?”

Lou scowled. “So infuriatingly nice,” he said, spitting the word like it was distasteful.

Damen chuckled, he couldn’t help himself. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Look at you. You were supposed to be a mindless brute, compelled solely by his cock.”

“You would have preferred that?”

“I would have.”

Damen shook his head. “You’re the strangest man I’ve ever met.”

“Touché.”

It appeared they had reached a stalemate.

Lou stood with his arms crossed defensively over his chest, staring Damen down as though he expected a challenge. And Damen lingered utterly torn between knowing the smartest thing to do would be to get the hell out, and wanting to push this nonsensical, infuriating, contradictory, gorgeous man against the nearest wall and ravish him stupid.

Their eyes were locked, tension was so thick between them Damen doubted a knife could slice through it. He searched Lou’s face, for fear and uncertainty, for any sign that he was not welcome, that Lou wanted him gone.

He found none.

The stiff tension from mere moments ago started to transform into something else. The silence was deafening, electrifying, unbearable. Damen was trapped under Lou’s stare, his eyes burning through him and consuming him whole. He could hardly breathe. His fingers itched to touch, heat stirred low in his gut.

Lou’s tongue darted out to lick his lips, an almost subconscious reaction that he seemed unaware of. Damen watched the way his lips glistened with the moisture it left behind, how they parted just so slightly to allow him to draw in breath.

Damen took another half step, drawn helplessly forward. He could barely bring himself to shatter the silence, to alter this moment for fear of shattering it. “What do you want?” He whispered.

Lou’s gaze flicked down to his lips as he spoke. He licked his own again.

“Kiss me,” he said.

Damen’s heart thundered in his chest as he took the final step towards him, closing the distance that remained between them. He raised a hand and, with the gentlest touch, tucked a loose strand of hair behind Lou’s ear.

“You’re beautiful,” Damen uttered.

Lou met his eyes. “Stop talking,” he said. “Kiss me.”

Damen’s cupped the back of his head, his fingers sliding between soft, blond threads of hair. The difference in height between them was exaggerated now that Damen stood over him, looking down as Lou craned his neck to meet his eyes. Damen’s thumb pressed against the side of Lou’s neck, so gently he could barely feel the fluttering of his pulse beneath his skin.

He leant down, so close that their breath mingled in the space between them, so close that their eyes couldn’t meet without crossing. Damen stared at Lou’s lips, even softer up close, even fuller, even pinker. He trailed his thumb along Lou’s skin, travelling upwards over the expanse of the soft skin of his neck, the jut of his jaw, the smooth dip of his chin. He pressed into his bottom lip, marvelled at the softness, the slight wetness left by that clever tongue. He traced the shape of it almost idly, losing himself in the simplicity of the touch.

“Stop that,” Lou said, dislodging the tentative press of Damen’s thumb as he spoke.

“Stop what?”

“Looking at me like that.”

Damen leant back far enough to meet Lou’s eyes. “Like what?”

“Like this means anything.”

Damen frowned. “Doesn’t it?”

“You don’t know me,” Lou said. “You’re just a stranger.”

But Damen didn’t feel like a stranger. Standing before Lou, touching him like this, it was the most natural thing in the world.

There were so many things he wanted to say, but he couldn’t give voice to any of it. He was losing his tether on reality, slipping into some insane fantasy where any of this was tangible, that this fleeting moment could in any way last.

“Can I kiss you?” He said, because it was the only thing he could bring himself to say.

“Idiot,” was Lou’s response. But, then, he was moving, stepping in to Damen, craning his neck up and slipping his hands into Damen’s curls, tugging him down. Damen’s arms slid instinctively around him, his hands holding his waist, pulling him even closer, allowing the other to take control as Lou finally, finally pressed his lips to Damen’s.

Despite the forwardness of his advance, the impatience with which he had tugged Damen to him, Lou’s kiss was gentle, a barely there ghosting of his lips across Damen’s. His mouth was warm and soft, the faintest scent of sugary coffee lingering in the short breaths that left his parted lips. Damen couldn’t bring himself to close his eyes and block out this perfect sight.

Lou pulled back a hairsbreadth distance. “Kiss me,” he said, a barely there whisper, his tone impatient all the same.

Damen didn’t make him ask again.

He closed his eyes and pressed his lips to Lou’s, tilting his head to allow their mouths to slot more easily together, to facilitate the angle that Damen needed to part his lips and kiss him deeply.

Lou lacked the finesse that Damen had refined through years of practice, which was hardly surprising given his admission of a lack of experience. Damen didn’t mind; it was thrilling to him.

His lips moved with purpose, pressing lingering kisses to Lou’s mouth, parting further to kiss him more wholly each time. He gently sucked Lou’s bottom lip into his mouth, grazing the tender flesh with a hint of teeth. He felt the shudder that rippled through Lou, heard the faintest intake of breath, a sound of surprise and pleasure.

Their pace was slow and leisurely; Damen took time to savour each moment of it, allowing Lou do to the same. With each minute, he seemed to grow more confident. He was, evidently, a fast learner.

Damen’s hands splayed over his back, desperate to touch more of him. His fingers played under the hem of his sweater, grazing the bare skin beneath as Lou’s hands tightened in his hair. When Damen slid beneath, bare skin finally meeting, Lou gave a sharp nip to Damen’s bottom lip, drawing it between his teeth and tugging. Damen couldn’t help but groan at the feeling.

He was hard in his pants, had been since the first moment Lou had touched him. He wanted more.

“Lou,” he groaned, his arms tightening around the slighter man, pressing them firmly chest to chest, not a hint of space left between them. “Lou.”

Lou drew back suddenly, evading Damen’s lips when he tried to follow him, hands moving down to Damen’s shoulders to still him.

“What’s wrong?” Damen asked, already beginning to release his hold.

“That’s not my name.”

Damen blinked. “Pardon?”

“My name isn’t Lou,” he said. “It’s Laurent.”

Damen blinked again, momentarily stunned, before he threw back his head and laughed.

“Oh, shut up,” ‘Laurent’ said, shoving his chest. “It’s not that bad.”

Damen shook his head, grabbing the hand that had struck him and bringing it to his lips. “It’s not bad at all,” he said, pressing a kiss to his knuckles. “Laurent.”

Laurent made a face, turning away.

“I understand why you gave me a false name,” Damen went on. “Thank you for trusting me with your real one.”

“And ‘Damen’?” Laurent said. “Am I to assume that is your true name?”

Damen smiled. “Close enough. My name is Damianos, but only my mother calls me that.”

Laurent looked at him with an indecipherable expression. “Has anyone ever told you you’re entirely too trusting?” He said.

Damen chuckled. “Once or twice.”

Laurent rolled his eyes, but didn’t pull away again when Damen leant forward and kissed him again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Laurent tugged him forward, hands dropping from Damen’s shoulders to grab fistfuls of his shirt. He backed himself into the wall behind him and Damen followed, propping one hand up beside Laurent’s head and kissing him until he gasped. He slid his tongue teasingly along Laurent’s lip, unable to prevent the smile that split his face when Laurent’s mouth fell open under him to permit a low sound of pleasure to escape.

Their gentle, exploratory kisses quickened into something desperate and frenetic. Laurent’s hands clutched and pulled at him, travelling over Damen’s chest as though he were determined to map out every inch of him, slowing over his abs to trace the dips and lines of every hard muscle through Damen’s thin shirt.

Damen held Laurent’s slender hip in one hand, and moved the other to cup his jaw, tangling his fingers in the length of Laurent’s hair. He tugged slightly and Laurent let out a low exhale, subconsciously tilting his head into Damen’s hands. Damen used this new angle to press hard kisses along Laurent’s cheek down to his jaw, and further down to his neck. He tried not to be too rough, uncertain whether Laurent would appreciate him leaving any bruises. Despite his best efforts, when he pulled away Laurent’s pearly white neck was peppered with faint red marks.

Laurent made an unhappy sound when Damen stopped. “What?” he snapped, the hand pressed to Damen’s abdomen grabbing a fistful of his shirt.

“I’m sorry,” Damen said. “I didn’t realise your skin would bruise so easily.”

Laurent’s eyes widened when he understood Damen’s meaning. For a heart wrenching moment, Damen thought he was going to push him away. But then, Laurent scoffed and thumped his head back against the wall.

“Idiot.”

“Should I stop?”

“Well, it’s too late now,” Laurent said. He met Damen’s eyes. “Might as well make the most of it.”

Damen grinned at him, and dipped his head to press his lips to Laurent’s neck once more.

Laurent’s skin was wonderfully sensitive. He made barely any sound as Damen bit and sucked and licked every expanse of skin that was available to him, but his pleasure was readily evident in the tight grip of his hands, the slightest of shudders that Damen could feel through the press of their bodies. Damen’s tongue traced a collarbone, licked down into the hollow of Laurent’s throat and up along the smooth expanse of his neck. He kissed the corner of his jaw, the tip of his ear, tongued down the curve of it’s shell and nibbled on the lobe. Laurent’s hands clutched him throughout, pulling him closer and closer until there was no space left between them.

When Damen pulled back, Laurent’s neck was a painting of love bites. The primal part of Damen preened at the sight.

“Brute,” Laurent said, when he cracked open an eyelid and caught him looking.

Damen merely trace his finger over the more prominent of the marks he had made, grinning helplessly as Laurent shivered.

“I assume you came here to do more than that,” Laurent said, a low growl. “Get on with it.”

“There’s no rush,” Damen countered, pressing a light kiss to the corner of Laurent’s mouth. “I’d take my time and worship every inch of you.”

Laurent blushed, his cheeks turning a ruddy, rosy red. He flushed from the tips of his ears to the top of his chest. It was exquisite.

“Fuck me,” Laurent hissed.

Damen swallowed. His impossibly hard cock twitched in his pants.

“As you wish,” he said, and bent his knees, wound his arms under Laurent’s arse, and pulled him into his arms.

Laurent yelped in surprise, hands flying to Damen’s shoulders for balance. His legs went around Damen’s waist, clutching him tightly between his thighs. Damen could feel the hardness in Laurent’s jeans pressing against his stomach.

“Animal,” Laurent said, but his hips gyrated against Damen, his pupil-blown eyes narrowed.

Damen spun them around and made his way across the room. Laurent looked down at him as he walked, their position giving him the advantage of height. His hands travelled along Damen’s neck up to his hair, tangling in his curls, tugging harshly.

“Enjoying the view?” Damen asked with a smirk, nudging the door open with his foot.

Laurent rolled his eyes.

The bedroom was obscenely large. From around Laurent Damen could see an enormous bed laden with plush blue sheets, rows of bookshelves lining the walls, a massive window looking out over the dreary city landscape. There was a book on the nightstand, a pair of glasses askew on top, an empty mug beside it. A long black coat was draped over the only other piece of furniture in the room, a cosy looking armchair facing the window. This was Laurent’s room; immaculately tidy and positively Spartan, but Laurent’s all the same. It felt intimate to be allowed into this space.

Damen strode to the bed and carefully placed Laurent onto it. He dropped to his knees, putting them at eye level, and wasted no time in kissing him again.

Laurent’s legs were still wound around his waist, and he pulled Damen closer as he opened his mouth beneath his.

“What do you want to do?” Damen asked when he pulled away. He cradled Laurent’s face in his hands and pressed a kiss to the corner of his jaw.

“I want you to fuck me.”

Damen pressed another kiss to his pale skin. “How?”

“You’re the experienced one,” Laurent countered.

Damen ceded that point. “Can I tell you what I want, then?” He asked.

“I don’t imagine I could stop you.”

Damen kissed his lips again, to silence his callous retort, before he told him. “I want to take off all your clothes, kiss every inch of your body,” he began, punctuating each desire with another kiss. “I want to find every place you are sensitive, where it feels good, mark you everywhere.” He kissed a trail up to Laurent’s ear, took the lobe into his mouth, nibbled and sucked until he heard Laurent’s breath come out unsteady. “I want to taste you, I want to suck your cock until you come.”

Laurent stiffened under him. Damen felt it and drew back, alarmed, concerned that he had gone too far.

“I won’t do the same,” Laurent said.

“Pardon?”

Laurent met his eyes, his expression entirely guarded. “I will not blow you.”

“Oh,” Damen said. “That’s fine, whatever you’re comfortable with.”

Laurent raised a sceptical eyebrow.

“I don’t mind. We can do other things. I still want to blow you though, if that’s ok?”

Laurent regarded him silently for a moment, searching his face. Damen wondered if he’d expected more protest.

“Ok,” Laurent finally said.

Damen gave him an encouraging smile, which Laurent rolled his eyes at, before leaning forward to kiss it off his face.

Laurent’s kiss was bruisingly hard— he was done with playing around. He pulled Damen up, tugging him forward as he lay back on the bed, until Damen was over him, supporting himself on his hands so he didn’t crush Laurent under his weight. Laurent arched up, pushing himself into Damen and making the softest sound at the resulting friction of his hardness rubbing against Damen’s.

They kissed until need for breath forced them apart, but Laurent wasted no time in kissing a trail down Damen’s jaw, to his neck, sucking and biting Damen’s dark skin. The marks didn’t show as easily as they did on his own, but it didn’t seem to deter Laurent from trying.

Damen propped himself up with one hand, allowing the other to trail down Laurent’s body, fingertips teasing under the edge of Laurent’s sweater again before pushing up, drawing the material up to bunch around Laurent’s chest. Damen explored the new expanse of skin available to him, marvelling at the faint impressions of muscle, the jut of his ribs visible with every draw of breath. He dipped his head and laved his tongue over the perfect pink mound of Laurent’s nipple.

Laurent’s hands clutched at his hair, his hips bucked up again. Damen sucked gently at the nub, tongue circling, teeth grazing. Laurent, evidently, had very sensitive nipples. This delighted Damen to no end.

As he teased Laurent with his mouth, his hand trailed down further, following the slope of Laurent’s stomach until he reached the top of his jeans. His fingertips dipped underneath the waist band. Laurent’s stomach fluttered beneath his touch.

Damen began to kiss a path down his stomach. He trailed his tongue teasingly into Laurent’s navel, nuzzled his nose in the light smattering of hair that made up Laurent’s happy trail. His fingers began to fumble at the button of Laurent’s jeans.

The angle, however, rendered his thick, rather ungainly fingers ineffectual against the taut material. Laurent quickly grew frustrated with his fumbling attempts, and shoved his fingers and face away.

 “You are useless,” he said. Then, he pushed Damen roughly, and Damen allowed himself to be tipped over onto his back, too stunned to put up any protest. To his surprise, Laurent pushed himself up and off the bed and turned to stand over his prone body. He met Damen’s eyes, held his gaze unflinchingly as his hands dropped to his jeans. He undid the button and shoved down the zipper, then stripped the pants from his legs in one smooth motion.

Damen couldn’t help but stare with open mouthed wonder at the long, smooth, perfect length of Laurent’s legs. His hair was so fine, so blond, his skin so creamy and pale, his thighs so exquisitely shaped. The bulge of Laurent’s erection in his tight, black boxers didn’t escape Damen’s notice either.

Laurent’s hands were at his waistband again, beginning to push down the hem of his boxers, but Damen didn’t miss the tautness of his jaw, the rapidness of his breaths. He was nervous. Damen reminded himself that he had been too, the first time he’d ever done this with another person, the first time he’d ever allowed another to see him bare. He was resolved to make this as easy and as comfortable for Laurent as possible.

Before Laurent could push his underwear down, Damen sat up. His hands moved to cover Laurent’s, stopping his progress.

“Let me,” he said.

He waited until Laurent gave him a sharp nod of assent, but instead of pushing down his boxers as Laurent had expected, his hands turned to the hem of his sweater.

“Can I?” he asked.

Laurent held his gaze for a long moment, before he slowly nodded again.

Damen drew the material up, and Laurent obligingly raised his arms so Damen could pull it off all the way. He dropped his arms again when it was done, letting them hang loosely at his sides.

Damen marvelled at the way his blond hair had mussed under the shirt’s pull; his fingers itched to run through it and smooth it out. Then, his gaze dropped down to Laurent’s bare chest. His eyes feasted over it’s expanse, he ran his hand down the dip between Laurent’s pecs, over the taut valley of his stomach, back to the hem of his boxers. Laurent shivered under his touch.

“You’re so beautiful,” Damen said.

Laurent blushed again. “And you’re overdressed,” was his reply.

Damen conceded his point and shucked his jacket off without further ado. His shirt quickly followed suit, and he threw both into the corner before turning back to Laurent.

Laurent’s eyes were glued to Damen’s abs.

“Like what you see?” Damen asked teasingly, quirking his eyebrows. He was immensely pleased at the way Laurent could barely tear his gaze away for long enough to shoot him a disapproving look.

“Idiot,” Laurent muttered. He was still blushing though. It was making Damen’s stomach do strange things.

Damen leant forward, hands framing Laurent’s waist, and pressed a kiss to his navel. Laurent made an amused sound, and his hands wound their way into Damen’s hair.

“Do you want me to take mine off first?” He asked.

“Don’t coddle me, I’m not a child.”

Damen shrugged. “I just want to make you comfortable.”

“I know,” Laurent said with a scowl. “Because you’re infuriatingly noble.”

Damen had to laugh at that. Laurent had known him all of a day, and he was already getting to the crux of what had irritated Nik for years. “That’s been said before,” Damen chuckled.

Laurent rolled his eyes and pushed Damen back. It was his turn to go to his knees, as his hands reached out to grasp Damen’s belt and began to undo the clasp as Damen watched him, leaning back on his elbows. Damen’s cock couldn’t help but perk up in interest at the sight of Laurent on his knees before him. Even though he knew that Laurent didn’t want that, and though Damen didn’t mind, it was still an enticing sight.

“Enjoying the view?” Laurent asked, with a sly smile.

Damen licked his lips. “Immensely.”

Laurent’s cheeks had that rosy blush again. Damen wanted to kiss him.

Laurent finished opening his belt, then quickly moved to unzip his fly. He pulled the jeans open, framing them around the sizeable bulge now visible between the parted material. Damen’s cock strained against the red fabric of his boxers. Damen watched as Laurent’s eyes zeroed in on the sight, as he subtly licked his lips.

Damen’s eyes threatened to flutter closed when Laurent ran a long, slender finger down his cock, tracing it through his underwear. Damen couldn’t help the way it twitched under Laurent’s touch. This seemed to amuse Laurent thoroughly.

“Want something?” He asked, all innocence.

“Yes.”

“Hmmmm…” Laurent mused. “I assume you have retained the ability to use your words.”

Damen wanted to throw a pillow at him.

“Touch me.”

Laurent grinned. “I am touching you.”

Damen’s head dropped back as he let out an exasperated groan. Laurent took the opportunity to run his finger back up the length of Damen’s cock.

Damen’s hips jerked upwards, a helpless gasp escaped his lips. “Please,” he said. “Touch me.”

Laurent studied him closely for a moment, eyes travelled from muscled chest to abdomen to cock. He met Damen’s eyes and, with a sly smile, relented. He hooked his fingers in the waistband of Damen’s pants and underwear, and began to pull them down. Damen helped by lifting his hips off the bed, allowing Laurent to tug the jeans down over the swell of his arse. He left them bunched around mid thigh, baring Damen’s flushed, hard dick to the cool air.

Then, he stopped. It didn’t take Damen long to figure out why.

On Damen’s twenty-first birthday, he and Nik had gone to a tattoo parlour with the intention of getting matching tattoos. They had been a little bit drunk, and very emotional— it was the tenth anniversary of their enduring friendship after all— but in a momentary lapse of judgement, and on Nik’s dare, instead of a tattoo, Damen had gotten a piercing in his dick.

Not one of his finest moments.

He still remembered the way Nik had held his hand while he groaned in pain, still remembered the weeks afterwards when he’d been on the receiving end of countless snarky jokes, how much of a torture abstaining from sex for nearly a month had been. Somehow everyone at the club found out about it. He still hadn’t entirely forgiven Nik for that.

Despite all that, five years later he still had the thing. His online audience seemed to appreciate it, as did his sexual partners. It was classy, as far as a piece of metal in one’s cock could be; a small gauge frenum piercing of silver metal. Damen was rather fond of it.

Laurent was staring at it, eyes dark and hooded.

Damen grinned.

“How is this supposed to work?” Laurent asked.

“Same as any other dick would.”

Laurent gave him a withering look. “Is there anything I should avoid?”

Damen shrugged. “Don’t tug on the piercing, I guess.”

That seemed to satisfy Laurent. He studied Damen’s cock in an almost clinical manner before taking it in hand, causing Damen’s hips to jerk sharply, and stroked firmly from root to tip.

“Fuck,” Damen gasped, hips subconsciously following the movement, chasing the promise of more.

Laurent tsked at him. “Be still,” he said.

It didn’t even occur to Damen not to obey him.

He struggled to remain as motionless as possible as Laurent’s hand began to move on him. His strokes were mechanically even, a smooth motion from root to tip with perfect pressure.

In a moment of boldness, his thumb pressed against the underside of the head, gently grazing the piercing there. Damen’s body jerked unwittingly at the intense, incredible stimulation.

Laurent looked at him.

He made such an incredible sight; down on his knees at the end of the bed, eye level with Damen’s cock, stroking him with his eyes locked on Damen.

 “Laurent,” Damen groaned. “Kiss me.”

The hand on him slowed, stopped. Laurent quirked a brow, hesitated for a long moment, but then released him. He moved up, climbed onto the bed and straddled Damen’s waist. His pale thighs framed Damen’s brown torso, his hands went to Damen’s chest to steady himself.

He somehow looked even better like this; over Damen, on top of him, looking down with faint amusement.

“Kiss me,” Damen said again. Laurent leant down.

Damen thought he might drown in Laurent’s lips; in the wet warmth of his mouth, between the supple mounds of his perfect, pink flesh. He imagined it wouldn’t be so terrible a way to die.

“Stop thinking,” Laurent chided between breaths, mouth forming words against Damen’s lips.

“Make me,” Damen returned. Boldness surged through him, and with careful movements his arms wrapped around Laurent’s bare torso, and Damen rolled them over. He was on top of Laurent now, lying heavily between his parted legs. When he shifted his weight to lessen the strain on his arms, he inadvertently grinded their cocks together, drawing a startled gasp from Laurent’s mouth.

Damen kissed a trail down his neck, and made a pleased sound when Laurent tilted his head back to allow Damen better access. He started a rhythm with his hips as he worked, rocking forward and back in slight increments, teasing breathless gasps from Laurent’s parted lips. He liked it slow and steady, Damen discovered. He liked to be kissed and worshipped until he was breathless with it.

Damen was more than happy to oblige him.

With a parting kiss to Laurent’s now swollen lips, Damen began to move down. He kissed a trail down the entirety of Laurent’s body, lavishing special attention to his nipples, navel, the line of muscle that ran to his groin. Laurent pushed himself up on his elbows to watch him, and any trace of apprehension was utterly absent.

Damen caught the hem of his boxers with his teeth, and tugged them down the slightest increment. His teeth grazed across the sensitive skin above Laurent’s groin, and he enjoyed the way Laurent’s stomach muscles fluttered.

“May I?” Damen asked.

“I wish you fucking would.”

Damen laughed. “Impatience suits you.”

Laurent merely huffed, glaring at him icily.

Damen rolled the boxers down Laurent’s thighs slowly, revealing his hot, flushed cock bit by bit. Laurent’s jaw clenched visibly as his erection finally sprang free and bobbed animatedly before Damen’s eyes.

Damen’s mouth watered.

He was perfectly sized, rigidly hard in his arousal. A prominent vein ran along the pink flushed shaft and pre-cum beaded at the un-cut head, threatening to spill over as Laurent’s cock jerked. It appeared that he liked having Damen’s eyes on him.

Laurent’s cheeks had flushed an almost scarlet colour, and his breaths came out shaky and strained, but he didn’t look away from Damen. He watched, with determination, as Damen leant forward and ran his tongue up along the shaft.

Laurent gasped, his eyes fluttering. Damen took him in hand and ran his tongue along the same path, the pressure harder now.

“Shit,” Laurent cursed.

Damen smirked and ran his tongue over the head. He tasted the salty pre-cum, a flavour he’d never much minded, and teasingly dug his tongue into the slit. Laurent jerked and an aborted groan escaped him. He seemed determined to silence himself, if the way he screwed up his face and bit down on his lips was any indication.

Damen decided it was his challenge to coax as many sounds from Laurent as possible.

Damen took him into his mouth, hand covering the shaft where he couldn’t reach, and began a gentle suction while he pressed the flat of his tongue against the underside of the head. Laurent’s hips jerked, forcing his cock deeper into Damen’s throat. Damen let him, and relaxed as best he could as Laurent began to fuck his mouth.

“Fuck, fuck, Damen—” Laurent gasped. His eyes finally closed and his head lolled back, resting between his shoulder blades.

Damen’s gag reflex was well trained, but even he wasn’t immune to choking when Laurent’s cock hit an angle that had him coughing and spluttering, spit and pre-come dribbling from his open mouth. It was sloppy and messy, and Damen loved it.

“Sorry, sorry— shit,” Laurent’s hand was in his hair, trying to push him back. Damen rolled back onto his heels, allowing Laurent the distance.

“Alright?” Damen asked, his voice hoarse.

Laurent seemed to shudder at the sound of it. “I apologise,” he panted, lifting his head with no small amount of effort. “I got carried away.”

Damen grinned at him. “It’s alright,” he said. “I want you to fuck my mouth.”

Laurent definitely shuddered at that, and didn’t protest when Damen took him back into his mouth, and swallowed him down to the hilt.

Laurent kept a hand in his hair, and used it to guide him with the thrusting of his hips as he fucked into Damen’s warm, wet mouth. Damen could do little but relax and take it, but he tried to stimulate his cock with his tongue where he could, mindful of his teeth. When he brought his hand up to fondle at Laurent’s balls, Laurent finally allowed a cry to leave his parted lips. He cursed colourfully, in English and in French, around grunts of pleasure.

Damen was so aroused by having his throat fucked that his cock throbbed, and he couldn’t help but reach down between his legs with his free hand to stroke himself.

Laurent, even in his pleasured haze, noticed.

“Are you touching yourself?”.

Damen couldn’t speak around the cock in his mouth, and certainly didn’t want to pull off for long enough to answer, so instead he hummed, mouth vibrating around Laurent. Laurent cursed again.

“Go slow,” Laurent told him. “I want you to press your thumb into the slit.”

Damen groaned, helpless to obey Laurent’s command, somehow desperate to do as he was told. He pressed his thumb hard against the head, hips jerking forward at the sensitive pleasure.

“Good,” Laurent said. “Stroke slowly.”

It was torture; all Damen wanted was to fuck into his fist in time with Laurent’s thrusts, but it felt so impossibly good to hold back, to restrain himself, to do as Laurent told him.

“Twist at the head,” Laurent said, his voice breaking on a perfect thrust. “Fuck.”

It was need for air that forced Damen to pull away, because he would have loved nothing more than to keep sucking Laurent’s cock until he came, until Damen could swallow his come, milking his orgasm until his toes curled and he screamed in pleasure.

As soon as he released him, Laurent was surging forward, mouth crushing Damen’s in a kiss that would leave his pink lips bruised. Damen matched his ferocity, sharing Laurent’s taste between them as he licked into Laurent’s mouth. He rose to his feet and crowded over Laurent again, pushing him back along the bed until Damen lay over him.

Their cocks rubbed together, eased with the slick of Damen’s spit. The feeling of Laurent’s hard, hot flesh on him was going to drive Damen insane. If this was how good this alone felt, Damen couldn’t imagine what being inside him would be like.

Damen reached between them and wrapped his hand around both of their cocks.

“You feel so good,” Damen groaned, burying his face into Laurent’s shoulder. “Fuck, Laurent.”

Laurent groaned in turn, pushing himself into Damen’s hand, arms wrapping around Damen’s back to pull him even closer.

The friction of their cocks rubbing against each other, of Damen’s warm hand encasing them, was too good. Damen knew he wasn’t going to last long.

“Laurent,” he groaned, stroked harder and faster, hips stuttering and breath catching in his throat.

Damen,” was his reply.

Damen came with a shout, his rhythm faltering and fist clenching almost painfully over them both. He surrendered his body and mind to an orgasm that had his toes curling, sent waves of pleasure crashing over him in relentless surges. It was so intense that he almost missed the moment when Laurent came.

Laurent’s clutched desperately at Damen as he threw back his head and groaned. His entire body shuddered as his come spilled over Damen’s fist, eyes screwing tight as the aftershocks had his fingers digging reflexively into Damen’s back.

He looked so beautiful like this.

After long moments, Damen rolled off him with a weary sigh, collapsing onto the soft bedding beside him. Breathless, exhausted, floating in an all-encompassing bliss, Damen turned his head and looked at Laurent. Laurent was panting in exertion, his eyes still firmly shut and his lips parted. His hair was in utter disarray, fanned out on the creased sheets like rivulets of gold. Love bites were littered across his neck like a necklace of bruises, and their spend had pooled in his lower abdomen, threatening to dry in a sticky mess.

Damen rolled over onto his side, propping himself up with one arm, and reached out with the other to brush a strand of blond hair from Laurent’s face. Laurent’s eyes opened and found his.

“Good?” Damen asked.

A smile spread slowly across Laurent’s face. “Good,” he said.

 

***

 

They dressed together, after they’d cleaned themselves off, and Laurent offered Damen a cup of tea before he left. Damen gratefully accepted, happy for the excuse to spend a few minutes more with Laurent.

Damen watched him as Laurent went about preparing two mugs, not hiding the fact that he was admiring his ass when his back was turned. Laurent didn’t seem to mind, though he shot Damen a knowing look over his shoulder.

When he was finished, Laurent turned to him, handing over the mug of tea and gesturing to where he kept various condiments. “Milk?” He asked.

“Please.”

Laurent went to the fridge and retrieved a carton, handing it to Damen to serve himself.

“So, what exactly do you do?” Laurent asked him then.

Damen blanked for a moment. He didn’t usually tell people about what he did, not because he was ashamed of it, simply because it was a difficult thing to bring up in polite conversation. He couldn’t imagine someone like Laurent would understand the first thing about it, and, for some reason, he was reluctant to tell him. He felt strangely defensive, in this expensive apartment with this evidently richer, younger man. He felt… inadequate

So, he told him the simplest and least complicated truth he could. “I’m a chef. Kind of.”

It wasn’t a lie— he was a chef, even if he was omitting his two other jobs.

Laurent, however, seemed intrigued. “Kind of?” He repeated, bringing his cup to his lips and taking a tentative sip.

Damen shrugged. “I wear the jacket but I don’t touch the food.”

Laurent raised an eyebrow. “Are you any good?

“Yeah,” Damen said. “Doesn’t mean a thing when you don’t have a fancy certificate, though.”

Laurent digested this over another sip. “Sounds like wasted potential.”

Damen snorted in agreement. “And you?” He asked, moving the conversation along. “What do you do now you’ve finished studying?”

“I have a post-grad fellowship at King’s College,” he said. “While I work on my thesis.”

Damen raised his eyebrows. “Impressive,” he said.

Laurent shrugged. Then, “Do you always have such menial conversations with the men you’ve just fucked?”

Damen laughed, nearly spilling his tea. “Only when they’re especially good,” he said.

Though he brought his cup up to his mouth at that moment to take a sip, Damen was certain he saw the faintest hints of a smile on Laurent’s lips.

 

Chapter Text

Damen left Laurent’s apartment sometime after one with a grin on his face that persisted until he got home. Not even the sixteen flights of stairs or the cats’ retribution for its late dinner could get him down.

He needed to see Laurent again.

Even if all the other man wanted was something casual, just more mind blowing sex, Damen could live with that. But he could live with a lot more, too. Laurent was effortlessly callous and cold and witty and earnest, all in the same breath. Beautiful and intelligent and so utterly unlike anyone Damen had ever done this with before. Damen didn’t think he’d ever felt this way about any casual hook up.

Laurent had to have felt it too.

Damen was kicking himself for forgetting to ask for his number.

He remembered standing on Laurent’s doorstep, propping his arm up on the frame to lean into Laurent’s space, standing so close that Damen could feel the heat of the mug held between them against his chest.

“Thank you,” Damen had said. “I had fun.”

Laurent had raised an eyebrow, but then he stepped even closer, his free hand grasping hold of the collar of Damen’s jacket and pulling him down. He went to the tips of his toes to kiss him, nipping harshly at Damen’s bottom lip.

Damen had been surprised, but instinct took over quickly and he was kissing back, hand wrapping around Laurent’s waist. He remembered the warm taste of sugary tea, and something else that was entirely Laurent.

There was a moment after Laurent pulled back, when he simply pressed his forehead against Damen’s, and drew in a long, low breath. Then, “Goodbye, stranger,” he said, letting his eyes linger just a moment longer on Damen’s face before he turned, and closed the door firmly behind him.

Damen smiled, remembering it.

At the very least, he could message him on Grindr.

He wanted to do it as soon as he got home, but frankly he was too exhausted, and he knew it would appear far too eager anyway. Laurent would probably just laugh at him. So, Damen tossed himself into bed and resolved to do it in the morning.

He fell asleep quickly, peaceful in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time. He slept like the dead until his alarm woke him after noon the next day. Though he grumbled in complaint as he rolled over to shut it off, he was grateful that he had the day off to sleep in. It was rare he had a day off from all three of his jobs.

The first thing he did once he’d rubbed the sleep from his eyes was to reach over to the bedside table for his phone.

He was pulling up the app, mulling over what he was going to say, when there was a knock at his front door. He sighed and shoved his phone in his sweat pants as he went to answer it.

Nik was standing on his doorstep, doubled over and wheezing, a bag of groceries held under his arm. “Fuck you and your stupid fucking stairs,” he wheezed.

Damen snorted, but stood aside to let him in.

Nik groaned, elbowing Damen as he passed him and made his way into the apartment. He dropped his bags on the kitchen counter and collapsed on Damen’s couch. The cat eyed him warily from the windowsill.

“What’s with all the…” Damen gestured at the bags and at Nik, an eyebrow raised.

Nik sat up to look at him, hands held almost awkwardly in his lap as he tried for sincerity. “Look man, I know shit’s been tough in the last couple of months, so tonight we’re gonna do fuck all, play some shitty games, and eat our weight in crisps. And you’re gonna dish about your hot date. My treat. Capiche?”

Nik did stuff like this occasionally.

Damen remembered his first break up back in high school—Nik had built him a pillow fort and let him use his new Nintendo while his mother had baked them cookies. When Jokaste had… well, Nik had cleared his schedule, gotten his shifts covered at the club, and whisked him away to Amsterdam for the weekend. His theory was that weed and working girls could cure anything. It had mostly been for Damen’s benefit.

Nik had always been there, with his exasperating antics and surprisingly heartfelt gestures. Sometimes Damen forgot just how lucky he was to have him.

“Ok,” Damen said, mussing up Nik’s hair as he sat down beside him. “But I get first dibs on game.”

 

***

 

Distracted by kicking Nik’s ass at COD and eating his weight in crisps, Damen completely forgot about messaging Laurent. It was only when he went for a beer run that Damen realised how late it was.

“Shit,” he swore, digging frantically around in his pockets for his phone. It wasn’t there, and he couldn’t remember the last time he saw it, which meant it could have fallen out anywhere.

“Oi kólos, help me look for my phone,” he yelled at Nik while he started rummaging around stray cushions that had been flung around the room.

“Fuck you too,” Nik grumbled. “What d’you need it for?”

“To text that guy.”

“Ooooooh,” Nik cooed, pulling a face.

Damen threw a pillow at him. “Just look.”

Nik did as he was told, with minimal grumbling under his breath.

They found it lodged behind the back of the couch, along with a half-finished packet of smarties that Nik gleefully claimed.

“What are you going to say to him?” Nik asked, throwing himself back onto the couch and stuffing his mouth full of chocolate.

“Fuck, I don’t even know.” Damen scrubbed a hand over his face. Something that might win him Laurent’s number, and the promise of a second date. Could he call it that?

He pulled up the app and opened his inbox, and stared blankly at it for half a moment, lost in thought, before he blinked and focused on the page before him.

He looked dumbly at the screen, sure that he wasn’t seeing it correctly. The conversation was still there, the messages Damen had received and sent just hours ago, but Laurent’s profile was gone. Laurent had deactivated it.

He was gone.

“Damen?” He heard Nik’s voice as though through a fog, barely felt the touch on his shoulder.

He couldn’t believe it.

“He’s gone.” He felt like the bottom of his stomach had dropped out. “He’s gone.”

“Oh shit,” Nik said.

Damen needed to sit down. He collapsed onto the couch, still staring at his phone. “I don’t get it,” he said. “I thought…”

What had he thought, really? That Laurent had felt the same way? That the connection he’d felt had been real, that Damen hadn’t imagined it? How naïve, Damen now realised. He didn’t even know his last name. Of course, it hadn’t meant anything.

He felt like a fool.

“What kind of an asshole just ups and deletes their account?” Nik mumbled. He fell on the couch beside Damen and rested his head on the crook of his shoulder. “It’s always the fucking blonds.”

He didn’t protest when Nik took the phone from his hands, when he closed the app and locked the screen and put the phone out of sight on the table behind them. He didn’t say a word when Nik curled into him, head on Damen’s shoulder, arms wrapping tightly around him.

“He’s not worth it,” Nik said.

“I thought…”

“I know,” Nik interrupted, “I know. But he’s an asshole. And he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s just missed out on. He’s not worth it.

Damen slumped back into the couch. He chuckled humourlessly, scratching his hands hard through his hair and tugging hard till his scalp burned.

Damen’s ego wasn’t so fragile as to buckle under the weight of Laurent’s rejection, but the feeling of bitter disappointment wasn’t too pleasant either. He was angry at himself for getting worked up over the idea, for overestimating everything all over again.

Nik shuffled closer, practically in Damen’s lap. “Trust me,” he said, “There’s a beautiful, amazing, totally stable and un-morally heinous blond bombshell out there waiting for you.” He squeezed Damen’s shoulder tight. “You’ll find em, tiger.”

Damen’s hands fell heavily to his lap. He turned his face to Nik, pressing their foreheads together. He took in a deep breath.

“What would I do without you?” he said.

“Fuck knows, I’m, like, ninety-percent of your sanity.”

Damen laughed, shoving Nik away.

“You know what’ll take your mind off it?” Nik said, settling back onto the couch and reaching for the smarties again.

“What?”

“A cute little red head called Ancel, with an arse like a bubble and the voice of an angel.”

Damen shook his head with fond exasperation, and reached for his controller.

Perhaps Nik was right, though.

Maybe he just needed to take his mind off it. Maybe it’d just been so long since he’d felt anything for anyone during sex that he’d gotten carried away with himself, seeing things that weren’t there. Maybe fucking Laurent out of his system would be all it would take to banish this bitter regret, and shut up the voice in his mind whispering why.

 “Alright,” he said. “I’ll do it.”

 

***

 

He’d met Ancel once before at an award show several years back.

He remembered little of the night, he’d been determined to get drunk to forget the embarrassment of having to sit in a crowd of hundreds of people all watching an incredibly explicit highlight reel of his scenes before they announced the award (that he’d won). What he did remember of the man was his incredibly aggressive sexual advances and unprofessional gossip mongering.

Damen had watched some of his work, in preparation for their scene together. It had been immediately apparent that Ancel was the type of power bottom who loved to play a bratty tease, flaunting himself in front of the camera with a kind of confidence that Damen had to admire. He had an incredibly enthusiastic fan base, mostly comprised of older men who enjoyed his petite, boyish figure, and the impressive way he took frankly enormous dicks. He had a well known reputation for being a size queen. It was readily apparent that If Damen had been worried that his own cock might prove an uncomfortable challenge for the slight man, he needn’t have.

They met up a week before filming for a discussion of the script and to sign off their waivers. Ancel was staring at him far too intently the entire meeting to be paying much attention.

The working title was ‘twink gets fucked by boss’. That was about as creative as porn studios ever got.

It had been three days, and so far, Damen thought he had done pretty well in distracting himself from the bittersweet memory of Laurent. He’d managed to pick up more shifts at the club, which was a relief, and he’d been working every afternoon in the restaurant. The methodical process of washing dishes was at least good for dulling his mind into a thoughtless stupor.

Besides his upcoming shoot with Ancel, he’d felt no desire to sleep with anyone since, not even to fuck the memory of Laurent out of his system. The only relief he allowed himself was his morning wank in the shower. He always tried to keep to safe thoughts when he brought himself off, but his imagination was stubborn, and blond hair and blue eyes haunted him when he wasn’t careful. A recent and disturbing addition to these dangerous fantasies was the way blond, feminine features had begun to morph into masculine ones, firm muscles replacing soft curves, hard cock replacing pink, wet folds, a plump arse pressing against him, taking him inside while that quiet, breathy moan purred in his ear…

It got him off embarrassingly fast, but he always felt miserable afterwards. 

 

**

 

Damen arrived at the studio on the day of the shoot a little before his call time. He handed in his paperwork and test results to the guys at administration, before checking in at makeup to have his face prodded and powdered until the fussy makeup team was satisfied.

The first order of business was a solo photoshoot that the studio would use for promotion, so after he was in makeup and costume, he was whisked away to the set to get it done. He posed and pouted and did as he was directed, slowly removing more and more clothing until he was naked. He had to take a few moments to jerk himself to hardness, before gripping his cock teasingly while he stared down the barrel of the camera.

When it was finally done, he retreated from the set, knowing he’d have maybe an hour to himself while Ancel did his solo shoot before they’d have to get into the real thing.

He made his way to the prop room, as he always did. He sat in the dimness and closed his eyes and tried to think. It was hard to believe that it had now been a week. Harder still to believe that the memory of Laurent yet lingered like a trap at the corner of his thoughts. It was impossible, how quickly and efficiently that blond enigma had burrowed his way into Damen’s mind. Impossible that now, right before he was about to fuck one of the most popular and gorgeous bottoms in porn, he was suddenly all Damen could think about.

“Damen!”

Damen jerked, bolting upright at the sound of Nik’s voice.

“Jesus buddy, are you alright?” Nik threw himself down onto the couch beside him, pressing his palm to Damen’s forehead and cocking his head. “I was calling your name for like five minutes. You seem really out of it man, are you sick or something?”

Damen pushed him away with a sigh, his heart rabbiting in his chest from the shock. “No, I’m good,” he mumbled.

Damen.” Nik was looking at him with concern plain on his face, his brow furrowed and eyes searching. Damen didn’t know what to tell him.

“Is this about that guy?” Nik went on.

“No,” was Damen’s immediate response, before, “yes. Maybe. I don’t know.”

Nik raised an eyebrow.

Damen closed his eyes and turned away with a sigh. “I’m being stupid.”

“Oi,” Nik grabbed his chin and turned his face. “Don’t give me that bull fuckery. How long have we been doing this shit buddy?”

“Too long,” Damen groaned.

“Damn right. Now, I know you and I know that look. If you’re too hung up on that guy, tell me and we’ll end this, you got it?”

Damen looked at him, at the honesty and the concern and the care on his face, the conviction that he would do whatever Damen needed of him, regardless of the cost.

“I can do this,” Damen said. “It’s my job.”

“It’s more than that.”

“Maybe,” Damen said, “but I’m not gonna let myself be hung up on this forever.”

Nik gave him a searching look, hand still gripping his chin tightly. “Fine,” he said. “You’re a grown ass man, don’t let me tell you what to do. But remember, Casanova, I have the power to end this shit at any time, so if you need to tap out, tap the fuck out. Capiche?”

Damen nodded firmly, and Nik seemed satisfied enough. He released Damen and relaxed back into the couch. Damen slumped beside him.

He’d meant what he’d said. He wasn’t going to let some casual hook up interfere with his life and his job any more than it already had, just because he’d gotten too emotionally involved when he shouldn’t have.

 

***

They were ready for him by the time Damen got back to set. Ancel was already there, and as soon as he saw Damen, made his way over. He pulled him into a hug by way of greeting, and toyed dangerously with Damen’s belt while he batted his eyelashes and bit his bottom lip.

“I’m excited about today,” he purred. “I love your videos. You have such a big cock— and that piercing!” His eyes lit up. “I can’t wait to feel it inside me.”

Damen swallowed thickly, taken aback by the brazen crassness of it. But, when Ancel gave him a salacious grin and turned on his heel, swaying his hips like a dancer as he walked away, Damen couldn’t help but watch after him.

He was only human, after all.

They started their scene sitting opposite each other; Damen behind the desk, playing the boss, with Ancel in his visitor chair. He sat with his legs so far apart Damen didn’t doubt he’d be doing the splits if the arms of the chair had allowed it.

Intros were never Damen’s strong point, nor did he find them particularly fun. He wasn’t in porn for his acting skills, and he had no desire to spend a great deal of time embarrassing himself. He got through his lines with as much conviction as he could, as quickly as possible, and was grateful that Ancel did the same. The guy had some acting chops, at least.

“This is the second quarter that your work has been late, Tom,” he said, making himself sound stern. “What am I supposed to tell your father? I’m doing him a big favour, you know. Should I tell him that his ‘pretty little college kid’ can’t do his job?”

“I’m so sorry, sir,” Ancel purred. “It’s just…”

“Yes?”

Ancel batted his eyelashes sweetly. “Maybe you should punish me, sir.”

Damen was impressed that he actually managed to blush. He was good at this.

He sat back in his seat, let his eyes roam over Ancel’s displayed body. Ancel bit his lip. “Come here,” Damen growled.

Ancel went to his knees before Damen’s chair, looking up at him through hooded eyes while his hands went to Damen’s pants, effectively ending the thankfully short intro. The director called to end the scene, and then the cameras swooped in.

Amidst the shuttering of the lens and the occasional flash, Damen and Ancel went through the motions of the scene. Ancel got Damen’s dick out, coaxed it to full hardness and took it down his throat, then Damen was picking him up and sitting him on the desk. They were kissing and grinding and holding still when they were told so that the cameras could get a good shot.

After that it was against the wall, then back on the chair, various items of clothing being removed every time. Damen found that Ancel was adequately prepared, his hole wet and loose, when he fingered him. Ancel let out a pretty moan and his legs spread a little wider either side of Damen’s lap, when he slipped a second digit in. Damen lubed up his cock while Ancel watched, biting his lips, before he batted Damen’s hands out the way and sat himself down on it.

“I can’t wait till you’re fucking me properly,” Ancel groaned, his thighs quivering from the effort of holding himself up.

There was a short break before they started filming the porn itself, enough time for makeup to redo them, their clothes to be put back on and adjusted, and for everyone to hydrate. It was hot under those lights.

When they resumed, Ancel returned to his knees before Damen’s chair, and had Damen’s cock down his throat before Damen could blink. It was impossible not to groan at the exquisite feeling of his cock being worked over by such a talented tongue, feeling the wet, constricting warmth of Ancel swallowing around him in noisy slurps as he forced Damen’s cock further down his own throat.

Damen fucked Ancel’s mouth harder than he would have usually dared, but Ancel kept begging and groaning and pleading for more, choking himself on Damen’s dick despite his apparent lack of gag reflex. He made a beautiful sight; eyes tearing up, mouth dripping with spit and pre-come, making obscene sounds whenever Damen thrust into his throat.

Damen let up to allow him to breathe, and Ancel sucked on the head of his cock, playing with his piercing with the tip of his tongue. Damen had always loved that sight, loved the feeling. It was so sensitive, and felt incredible when done right.

When Ancel sunk back down his length he began touching himself, hands slipping down between his legs as he hummed around Damen’s dick, deliberate and teasing, making Damen’s hips jerk. Ancel was smirking up at him, daring Damen to do something about his brazen insolence as he thrust into his own fist like a wanton whore. Damen rose to the bait and pulled Ancel up, pushing him over his knee.

“That cock’s mine,” he growled. “You’re not allowed to touch, boy.”

“Punish me, sir,” Ancel drawled, his voice taunting.

“You want me to spank you?”

Ancel moaned his agreement, grinding himself down on Damen’s clothed thigh.

“Hands behind your back. If you move or try to cover yourself, we’ll start again. Count them out loud.”

Ancel groaned, nodding his head feverishly. “Yes sir,” he gasped.

Damen started gentle, uncertain how much tolerance Ancel had for pain. Given the way Ancel arched into him, presenting his ass for punishment, screaming every number with audible ecstasy, and grinding down into Damen after every blow, Damen assumed he liked it rough.

“Perfect, boys,” the director called out after Damen had reached twenty. “How are we doing, Ancel?”

“So fucking good,” Ancel groaned, still grinding down on Damen’s thigh, despite the fact that the scene had ended.

“You sure?” Damen asked. Ancel’s arse was bright red, after all. It had to sting.

“Relax, sweetie,” Ancel purred. “You have a way with your hands.”

When everyone was assured Ancel was alright, the scene resumed. Damen dragged him up by his hair, careful not too pull too hard, too fast, and Ancel clambered onto his lap. His cheeks were pleasure flushed, his pupils blown and lips bitten red. Damen tugged him down and kissed him hard, licking into his mouth and teasing with his teeth while Ancel moaned and purred in turn. His hands were splayed on Damen’s chest, but boldly they began to travel down, lower and lower until he took Damen’s spit slick cock in his hand and tugged hard once, twice, until Damen groaned into his mouth. This pleased Ancel, as he grinned against Damen’s lips.

“I can touch yours, right?” He teased, insolently.

Damen chuckled, and then his hands were on Ancel’s ass, squeezing tight, as Ancel arched his back to encourage him further, before he suddenly stood, turned, and dropped Ancel onto the desk.

Ancel wasted little time in twinning his legs around Damen’s hips, rutting up against Damen’s cock even as he held it still in his hard grip. The display of strength seemed to ignite a new hunger in him as he kissed Damen with unrestrained passion. It was messy and sloppy and almost comically audible, but it was so fucking hot.

“Fuck me sir,” Ancel begged, “Oh please, please fuck me.”

Damen pushed him back so he lay flat on the desk. He grabbed Ancel’s pearly white thighs from around his waist and pushed those back too, bending Ancel in half.

“You think you deserved to be fucked?” He asked, going to his knees.

Ancel watched him, feigning confusion. “Sir?”

“Slut like you,” Damen growled, face now level with Ancel’s ass, “Needs to work for it.”

And without further ado, he buried his face between Ancel’s cheeks and licked a long stripe over his hole.

Ancel’s head thump back hard against the desk, and he let out a high-pitched keen, his hips rocking down against Damen’s face. Damen rimmed the winking hole thoroughly, soaking it with spit, before digging his tongue in hard. Ancel’s body jerked.

“Oh, yes fuck, fuck— fuck yes, more please sir, more,” Ancel cried in a profane litany.

With Damen’s prompting Ancel held his own legs up under the knee, spreading them wide so Damen had ample room. Using his freed hands Damen spread his cheeks and resumed his diligent work; taking Ancel steadily apart.

When he introduced a finger alongside his probing tongue, Ancel’s thighs quivered. With the introduction of another, both crooked against his prostate, Ancel very nearly screamed.

“Please! Please, I need your cock sir, please.”

“How much do you want it?”

“Fuck I need it so much, I feel so empty. Fill me up, sir, make me your bitch.”

Damen growled and surged upward, leaning over Ancel’s spread legs, pushing them down further, and kissing Ancel’s mouth. After what he’d just done, maybe it should have been distasteful, but Ancel was thoroughly clean and they were both too turned on to care. Ancel bit on his lip and reach for his cock, and nothing could have made Damen stop him from guiding it to his hole.

He sunk in slowly, making Ancel feel every inch, gripping the edges of the desk for leverage.

“Make me scream,” Ancel purred in his ear.

Damen pulled out, almost to the tip, and slammed back in, so hard the breath was driven out of the red-heads lungs.

“With pleasure,” Damen said.

He saw the glint of delight in Ancel’s eyes as he pulled out only to slam back in again.

 

***

 

Damen never usually spent long in the showers at the studio. Today, however, he allowed himself to take his time.

He stood beneath the fantastic pressure and consistently hot water, cleaning off the sweat and lube stuck to his skin before just soaking. It was soothing— the steady fall of it, the trickling sounds of the droplets hitting the tiles. He scrubbed his hands through his hair and tilted his head back into the stream.

He felt good. Better than he thought he would.

The shoot had been fun. Ancel had turned out to be even better than Damen had expected, and it had been a pleasure to fuck him repeatedly into submission. Even when Damen was going his hardest, Ancel had demanded more. He was insatiable.

Nik had been right, Damen was willing to admit. Fucking Ancel had taken his mind off the bittersweet memory of Laurent.

It was a relief. He hadn’t been sure it would.

 

**

 

The promos were published on the website two weeks before the release of the full film. A five-minute highlight reel was distributed to their third-party affiliates, and pre-orders were opened.

Within two days, they had broken the studio’s record.

Damen’s fan base was working themselves up into a frenzy. Nik amused himself by keeping up with the gossip pages and fan speculations, showing Damen some of the best parts and delighting in his general exasperation.

“The people love you, King D,” Nik would coo at him. Damen wondered if his shins ever bruised with the amount of kicks Damen aimed at them.

He wasn’t given any new scripts for the time being, so while he had time off from filming, he threw himself into his work at the club. He worked his stage every night until his thighs burned and his hands chaffed, and grinded on the laps of countless paying customers until their money ran out and the next one caught his eye.

He had the good fortune to be chosen to entertain a stag group who came in one night, and Adrastus had been so impressed with his performance (and profits) that he’d offered him a part at the next stag party the club was being contracted to entertain for. He would have been mad to refuse.

The stag night was a week away, so Damen, Nik, and the two other strippers who’d been chosen to work it, Pallas and Erasmus, had plenty of time to polish up their routines. Damen thought it was interesting, that the client had gone with three bulky, darker men and one slight blond, but he supposed everyone had different tastes.

When Damen wasn’t stripping, he was exercising or covering extra shifts at the restaurant. He worked all day, every day, until he could collapse into bed at the end of it, exhausted.

It was the easiest way not to think about anything else.

 

***

 

The day the video was released, Damen was awoken far too early by his ringing phone.

Have you seen it yet?” Nik shouted at him as soon as he picked it up.

“I was sleeping, asshole,” he grumbled, holding the speaker away from his ear as Nik continued to shout.

“Fucking look at it now, Damen!”

He complained about it, but pulled the website up anyway.

He had to blink a couple of times and rub the sleep from his eyes before he could properly take in what he was seeing.

In just thirteen hours, the video had over a million views with more than a ninety-percent approval rating. It was the most successful debut of any of Damen’s video releases. The studio would be beside themselves.

“Shit,” he said.

Right!”

“How the fuck did that happen?”

“Fuck me if I know. We have to celebrate!”

Damen groaned. “Like the last time?”

“Do you know how long it took me to get an invite to that, you ungrateful bastard?” Nik laughed, referring to the time his interpretation of celebrating had been getting him and Damen invited to the most exclusive orgy in London. “But fuck no, rounds on me at the pub Casanova, I’m not breaking my bank for your thankless ass again, no matter how much sweet, sweet dosh it makes us.”

Damen grinned despite himself, knowing that Nik wouldn’t be able to see it. “Yeah, yeah,” he said.

 

Chapter Text

Damen had found that, since he’d started porn, his popularity at the club had skyrocketed.

Before, he’d hardly been starved for clients— he had a very unique size and colouring, after all— but since his online career had taken off, it seemed that anyone who recognised him wanted to try his services. And he was recognised a lot.

For all the good his popularity did him, unfortunately it meant that many assholes were under the impression that the club rules and boundaries didn’t apply to him. They found out quickly that Damen had very little patience for that kind of bullshit.

It was still early into the night and his latest client, quickly passing the wrong side of tipsy, had started trying to cop a feel of his crotch. Damen pushed his hand away and reiterated the club rules again, but it didn’t seem to be getting through to the man, whose erection he could feel pressing against his thigh. When the man offered him an enormous sum of cash to be allowed to touch for ‘just a second’, it had been the last straw. Damen got up and left the room. He caught the security guards eye on the way out and sent him in to take care of it.  

Damen made his way back to main bar, hoping to find someone a little more sober to entertain. As he leant against the sticky bar top Erasmus came over, flushed and giggling as he wrapped himself around Damen’s arm. Damen smiled at him, ruffling his hair as Erasmus looked up through his batting eyelashes.

“You wanna swap for the bar?” Erasmus asked, shouting to be heard over the heavy bass.

Damen nodded, more than done for the evening, and clapped Erasmus on the shoulder as he handed him his card for the room.

“Knock ‘em dead.”

“You too!”

Damen watched Erasmus skip down the steps to the main floor, on the prowl for a client. It didn’t take long for him to find one, and lead the man into his private room. Damen shot the security guard who’d just returned a look, tilting his head towards the room Erasmus had just entered. The man nodded and stood pointedly by the door, where he would be able to hear and quickly intervene should the need arise.

It wasn’t Damen’s job to take care of Erasmus like that, and he wasn’t sure the boy would appreciate it if he knew, but Damen felt a degree of responsibility over the kid. Private dances could go south, fast, and Erasmus didn’t have a history of standing up for himself when clients got too pushy. He knew the guard would look out for him.

Satisfied, Damen lazily scanned the crowd, idly fiddling with the black tie around his neck. Failing to catch anyone’s eye he turned to the bar, and one of the attendants quickly flagged him down.

Damen weaved through the men crowding the bar to get to him. “Hey Aktis,” he said. “How’ve you been?”

“Ah, you know, same old.” Aktis grinned. “How about you, my liege?”

Damen shrugged. “New video came out.”

“Oh yeah?” Aktis’ grin widened. “I’ll have to check it out.”

“Let me know what you think.”

“What, and stroke your ego even more?” Aktis laughed. “This orders for table six, you want it?” He loaded a last drink onto a tray and pushed it in Damen’s direction.

Damen took the tray, giving Aktis a half salute.

Table six was one of the low lounges overlooking the main stage, down a handful of steps that Damen traversed carefully. There were three men sitting there, all wearing impeccable suits, passively watching the dancers on the stage before them. Damen knew the type.

“Gentlemen,” he said as he came to a stop before their table. “Two whiskey sours and a gin martini.”

He unloaded the drinks onto the low table, having to crouch to do so. He didn’t miss the way the men’s eyes lingered on his ass.

“Is there anything else I can help you gentleman with?”

Blatantly eyeing the way Damen’s muscles moved as he stood, one of the men said, “Why don’t you come over here and give us a show?”. He was probably the oldest and better looking of the lot, his hair was greying at his temples in a way that complimented his posh demeanour. He took a sip of his drink and gave Damen another obvious once over.

“Of course,” Damen grinned.

The music was a rolling, sultry beat that was easy to dance to. Damen sauntered over, loosening the tie around his neck and letting the silk tumble smoothly down his abs as he pulled it off. He looped it around the man’s neck as he straddled his lap. Damen grinned as the man licked his lips, and he pulled a little tighter on the tie, tugging the man close enough to smell his musky cologne. He rolled his hips, letting the man feel his body move, before Damen smoothed his hands over the man’s chest and pushed him back, looping the silk tie back around his own neck, and swung his leg over.

He spun around and sat back onto his lap, starting up a rhythm in time with the pounding bass. He leant back a little, giving the man a good view, and ran his hand down his body and briefly cupped himself.

The man smirked and placed a hand over Damen’s thigh. Damen took that hand and moved it to his abs instead.

“So fucking hot,” the man purred, fingers trailing over the dips of Damen’s muscles. “What’s your name?”

“Damen.”

The man leant forward, pressing himself against Damen’s back, stilling him so that he could whisper at Damen’s ear. “Well, Damen, why don’t you show my friends here what that ass can do?” Damen heard the distant crinkle of paper, and felt the man tuck a wad of cash into the back of his pants.

Damen moved to do as he was bid.

The man’s associates weren’t as good looking or as forward as him. The first one Damen was receptive and generous to his advances, though not particularly handsy. He laughed when Damen stood on his hands and propped himself up backwards on the man’s thighs in a surprisingly graceful move, shaking his ass. The other was far more reserved, and blushed when Damen straddled his lap and put the man’s hands on his ass.

When he stood up to take his leave, the first man spoke again, “Thank you for that… thrilling performance, Damen.” His eyes sparkled over the rim of his glass. Damen could only chuckle. If the man had recognised him, he was hardly embarrassed. “Ah, who’s your friend?”

Damen turned as Pallas came up behind him, his hand slipping around Damen’s arm to grab his attention.

“The boss wants to talk to you,” he said quietly in Damen’s ear. Damen looked at him, puzzled at the request, but Pallas only shrugged.

“Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure,” Damen said. “Duty calls.”

He and Pallas moved away, weaving through the crowds as they made their way backstage.

“Did he say what it was about?” Damen asked, once the deafening noise of the club was somewhat muffled behind the closed door.

Pallas shrugged again.

Damen frowned. That was unusual, Adrastus didn’t normally interfere with his dancer’s floor time.

It was colder backstage than it had been in the club, without the lights and smoke everywhere. He shivered a little, rubbing at his bare arms. Damen knocked brusquely on Adrastus’ office door when they reached it, and let himself in. Adrastus wasn’t alone. The door swung open to reveal Nik, wearing his civvies, already inside.

“Here comes the Calvary,” Nik smiled as they entered.

Adrastus’ office stunk of cigarettes and mould. There were water damage patches on the ceiling that had caused dark stains to spread along the plaster, and when it rained, it leaked. It was cluttered with papers and old, tattered costumes, and hundreds of photos of stripper’s past, like some convoluted shrine. Adrastus himself sat behind his desk, fiddling with a cracked old mug that was spilling orange cigarette butts and stale ash all over his papers, with a newly lit cigarette dangling from his lips.

Damen sat next to Nik on the patchy old couch in front of the desk. “What’s up, boss?”

“Change of plans on that stag party,” was the gruff reply. “He wants to move it up to Friday. He’s happy to accept replacements if any of you can’t make it, but he’s forking out a lot of cash for this shit so I highly recommend you find a way.”

Damen shrugged. “It’s fine with me,” he said. “As long as it’s after five, I have work.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Adrastus said, ashing his cigarette with a scowl.

“I’m good for it, too,” Nik said. “You’re still driving us though, right?”

“It’s downtown fucking London, you can take a fucking taxi.”

“I’m good for it,” Pallas piped up, before Nik could shoot back an equally abrasive retort.

“Fuckin’ perfect. I’ve already spoken to Erasmus, so your asses better be there by nine sharp or you can fuck off,” Adrastus said. “Pallas, get back to work.”

With a raised eyebrow at Damen and Nik, Pallas got up and made his way out, closing the door behind himself.

“Is there something else?” Damen asked when he’d gone.

“Yeah,” Adrastus turned to him, the permanent scowl on his face deepening. “It’s very important that you two do not fuck this up. I want this guy so fucking happy by the end of the night that it’ll be unthinkable not to tell all his rich little friends and book with us again.” He threw his half-finished cigarette into the old mug and leant forward over his desk, propping himself up on his elbows and pointing a finger at them. “You two are my best guys. I expect you to do whatever it takes.”

It took a long moment for his meaning to sink in.

“What the fuck are you saying?” Nik said.

Adrastus fixed him an irritated look. “You’re a smart kid,” he said. “Figure it out.”

There was a long moment of silence, then, “You fucking bastard.” Nik’s face twisted in anger and he pushed himself to his feet, his fists curling into white-knuckled balls. Damen stopped him with a hand on his arm, pulling him back into his seat before he could lash out.

Damen turned back to Adrastus. Calmly, quietly, he asked, “Are you trying to pimp us out?”

Adrastus sneered. “That would be illegal,” he said. “I’m simply making a… professional suggestion. Besides, I’m sure you of all people wouldn’t mind.”

Damen’s hands twitched. He forced himself to remain on the couch.

Nik snarled. “You piece of shit, how dare you—”

“You’re walking on very thin ice, boy. Don’t forget who the boss is here.”

Cold fury was gathering in Damen’s gut. He leant forward, drawing himself up to his full height. “You have no right, no fucking right.”

A flush spread across Adrastus’ cheeks, turning his ruddy skin an ugly, mottled red. “Do not speak to me that way. I am the only reason you two aren’t living off the streets, begging for scraps like vermin.”

Fuck you,” Nik hissed. “We don’t owe you shit, you useless, selfish cunt.”

Adrastus pushed himself abruptly to his feet, his chair screeching as it was shoved back along the floor. He looked half a moment away from flying into a violent rage, his lips curled into a sneer.

“Enough!” Damen said, raising his hands between them, but this only turned Adrastus’ rage on him.

“You are nothing but an over glorified whore,” he spat. “You should be grateful.”

Damen wanted very, very badly to punch him in that moment. He wanted to knock his disgusting yellow teeth out of his ruddy, fat little face. It would be so fucking easy.

But Damen couldn’t afford to lose this job, and neither could Nik. If Adrastus turned them away, Damen didn’t know what they would do.

He didn’t have a choice.

He swallowed his pride, as much as it hurt, and fought down the hot rage that burned in his chest as he said, “Alright.” He felt Nik stiffen beside him. “You know I’m… grateful.” The words were like poison in his mouth, coating his tongue like ash. “We’ll do our jobs. That’s all I can promise.”

Adrastus glared at him for a long moment, jaw working furiously, still standing over them like he could intimidate them into submission. Damen gazed calmly back, teeth clenched so hard his jaw hurt.

“Very well,” Adrastus said, finally. “That will be all.”

Damen got on his feet and dragged Nik out of there as fast as he could, firmly closing the door behind them. The minute they were out of Adrastus’ sight, Damen turned and slammed his fist into the wall.

“Fuck!” He growled, ignoring the way his knuckles ached.

“Damen,” Nik said, moving behind him. “Damen, breathe mate.”

Damen breathed in deeply, hands still trembling with the urge to hit something.

“I swear to god, one day I will kill that fat, disgusting little creep,” Nik promised him. “And I’m going to fucking enjoy it, but please for the love of god, if you break your hand over that fucking weasel you’re not going to be able to work for months and then we’re both fucked.

Damen leant back against the wall, trying to ground himself, running his hands over his face and fisting them in his hair to keep from lashing out again. Satisfied Damen wasn’t about to break his knuckles or the wall, Nik turned and started to pace.

“He can’t do this.” Nik said. “Just because we work in porn he thinks he can just pimp us out like that? Like he fucking owns us or something? It’s not right, and I’ll bring that motherfucker down before I let him get away with it.”

“I know,” Damen said. “But we need this, Nik. You know we need this.”

Nik’s face screwed up as he grumbled under his breath. He shook his head, pushing his hair out of his face. “It shouldn’t be like this. It shouldn’t be a choice between letting that creep walk all over us or earning a living.”

“I know,” Damen sighed. “I know.”

Anger and helplessness and rage burned hot in Damen’s chest. He could barely breathe for it. He closed his eyes and slumped against the wall.

“One day, when we’re rich as fuck, we’re gonna run fuck heads like Adrastus out of this industry,” Nik said. “No one else is gonna have to deal with this shit, if I have anything to say about it.”

Damen felt himself smile. He opened his eyes to look at his friend, and the stark sincerity on his face soothed the maelstrom within him. “Yeah,” Damen said. “One day.”

Neil sighed deeply, and pulled Damen into a hug. They were of a height, but Nik smooshed Damen’s face into his chest and held him so tightly Damen could hardly breath. Damen didn’t mind. He held Nik back, closing his eyes when he felt lips pressed to the crown of his head.

“Thank you,” Nik said. “I don’t know what I would have done back there. Since when do you have more self control than me, anyway?”

Damen chuckled and shrugged, pulling away. He ruffled Nik’s hair just to be an asshole. “Call me later?”

“Of course.” Nik said, with one final clasp of Damen’s shoulder, pressing a kiss to his forehead, before he turned and walked down the corridor, hands shoved into his pockets and head hanging low.

Damen watched him go, drew in a deep, shaking breath, then walked the other way.

 

***

 

Damen’s shift finished at one o’clock, so he decided to take a cab home. He and Erasmus agreed to share, as they lived fairly close to one another, so once Damen was changed out of his gear, he waited by the back exit for Erasmus to join him.

Erasmus came out wearing a skimpy muscle-tee, giving generous glimpses of his torso beneath, and a jacket that was at least three sizes too big. Damen tried not to grin too much at him; he looked adorable.

“Ready to go?” He asked. Erasmus nodded, giving him a shy smile.

The cab took a couple of minutes to arrive. When it did, Damen and Erasmus both got into the back. The driver wasn’t chatty, beyond the grunt of a greeting he didn’t say anything else.

Damen passed the time staring out of the dark window, watching the street lamps pass by in golden blurs. The roads were quiet, few cars were out at this time of night.

“Have you worked a private event before?” Erasmus asked.

“I have,” Damen turned to him. “They’re fun.” The passing street lights threw a gentle glow across Erasmus’ face, casting shadows that danced and fell across his features as they passed. Damen thought, not for the first time, that Erasmus was rather beautiful.

“Pallas says people get quite handsy.”

“They do,” Damen shrugged. “Drunk people are like that, especially when they don’t have a security guard standing over them. I’ve never had much of a problem though.”

Erasmus’ eyes dropped to Damen’s arms, as though drawn to the evidence that Damen never had much of a problem with anyone once he’d insisted on something. The blond blushed.

“You’ll let me know if anyone bothers you?” Damen hand slid across the car seat, hovering over Erasmus’ for a second, before taking his hand in Damen’s own. “Promise?”

“I will.” Erasmus’ blush deepened and he ducked his head, muffling his voice in his jacket. “Promise.”

“Good,” Damen said. “I want you to be safe.”

They were silent for the remainder of the journey, conscious of the driver listening to their conversation.

They pulled up to Erasmus’ apartment first, and stopped by the entrance for him to get out. Erasmus turned to Damen before he did and hesitated, seeming torn over something. Then, in a surprisingly bold move, he leant forward, and pressed a kiss to Damen’s cheek. “Bye,” he whispered, then pulled away, opening the car door and spilling out into the night. He was gone before Damen could say a word.

Damen stared after him as the driver pulled away, half in shock. That was the last thing he’d expected.

He’d known the boy had a crush on him, but he’d always thought it more of a hero worship kind of thing, less of a tangible feeling.

Maybe he’d been wrong.

A part of him felt guilty. He’d always been physically friendly with Erasmus, they’d done some incredibly intimate routines in their time, and had lived together for a long period too, but perhaps he’d been encouraging the boy too much. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Erasmus, in fact he thought the world of him, but he knew it wouldn’t be fair on the boy to allow him to entertain the hope that Damen would ever want something more.

Erasmus was his type almost to the tee, but Damen thought of him almost like a little brother. He’d taken care of him, shared his home with him, watched out for him for as long as he could remember. Damen couldn’t for the life of him imagine seeing Erasmus in any other way than that.

He’d have to talk to him, set the record straight. He hoped the boy wouldn’t resent him for it. He didn’t want to hurt him. He didn’t want to lose a friend.

The driver pulled up to his building, and Damen paid him before getting out. He climbed the stairs sullenly, breathing heavily once he finally reached his landing, and let himself into his apartment, trying to be as quiet as possible. The walls were thin, and though he knew the neighbours probably already suspected what he did, it was a bit on the nose to come home at nearly two in the morning making a ruckus.

The cat was no where to be seen, though its food bowl was empty and scratching post shedding was all over Damen’s carpets, so it had definitely been around earlier. He changed out its water in his dark kitchen, lit by the distant city glow shining in through the open windows.

He had work tomorrow in the afternoon, so he went to bed not long after that.

He tried not to resent the empty space beside him too much.

 

***

 

Damen was twenty minutes late to the restaurant where he was meeting Nik, Pallas and Erasmus for dinner. He’d gotten off at the wrong stop, and had to travel the last kilometre on foot. He didn’t mind the walk so much, but his gear bag was ungainly and heavy on his shoulder, making the journey awkward.

The restaurant was a ten-minute drive from the address Adrastus had given them for the clients’ house; a ridiculously obnoxious sky scraper apartment. Apparently, their client lived in the penthouse. Damen hoped he wasn’t the frugal kind of offensively wealthy.

When he finally got to the restaurant, the others had already ordered and had started eating. Damen didn’t mind, he was the one who was late after all.

“Finally!” Nik exclaimed when he came up to their table. “God forbid you’re ever on time to anything in your life.” He got up and pulled Damen into a hug in greeting, slapping him heartily on the back.

“Fuck off,” Damen scoffed. He dropped his bag to the floor beside his chair and collapsed into it.

Nik had taken it upon himself to order on Damen’s behalf, so there was already a plate of food sitting before him. Steak and chips, his favourite. Nik knew him too well.

They talked as they ate, sharing client horror stories and sharing speculations about the night ahead. Erasmus keep shooting Damen shy smiles whenever he thought the others weren’t looking, and though Damen only ever politely smiled back, he caught Nik giving him the evil eye once or twice. That was something he’d have to address at some point.

They left the restaurant at eight-thirty, giving them plenty of time to find the clients’ apartment. The uber driver who took them didn’t comment on what four attractive men with giant gear bags were doing going to this kind of address at this particular hour, but he gave them a knowing glare all the same. Damen gave him a stony one back.

The old concierge knew to expect them, apparently, because as soon as they showed up to the front desk he leapt from his seat, waving his hands animatedly at them, and ushered them quickly out of sight and into an elevator. Apparently, the obscenely wealthy received discreet stripper delivery.

The concierge hurried them out when they reached their stop on the top floor, before taking the elevator back down, with a parting warning in fussy tones not to break anything.

With the old man gone, Damen took in the hallway of the penthouse floor with a disbelieving eye. It was ridiculously decadent; the carpets were a clean dark blue pattern, the walls an immaculate beige, adorned with artwork. The ceiling towered above them, needlessly high, dotted with chandeliers casting a soft, warm glow along its length. All this leading to a large, innocuous wooden door at the end of the hall.

“Well, shall we?” Nik said.

There was a thrill in this quiet moment, like the calm before the storm. Damen wondered what awaited them on the other side of that door, what their client would be like, look like, act like. How generous he would be, how receptive. Would he be enthusiastic, participating with lustre, or withdrawn, making them work for their tips?

Damen had done this enough to know that anything could be waiting for them.

Nik raised his hand to knock.

They only had to wait a handful of seconds before the door swung open abruptly, revealing the man standing on the other side.

Damen blinked.

For a second he had thought… But no, of course it wasn’t. That would be ridiculous.

The man standing in the doorway was beautiful, incredibly beautiful, there was no other way to put it. Brilliant golden hair fell to his shoulders in styled tousles, his full lips stretched in a charming smile, his blue eyes sparkled with a youthful excitement. He was young, probably not a day older than thirty.

He looked familiar, but Damen knew he’d never met this man before. Despite that, he couldn’t shake the strange feeling that settled over him, like he was missing something incredibly important.

“Hi,” Nik said, offering his hand. “My name is Nik, this is Damen, Pallas and Erasmus. Are you our groom?”

“Excellent! And yes, I am. My name is Auguste.” Auguste shook Nik’s hand, smiling charmingly.

“Awesome. May we offer our congratulations on your impending nuptials?”

Auguste laughed, throwing back his head and somehow managing to look graceful while doing so. “Thank you, I appreciate that. Now, please, come in. I’ll introduce you to my guests.” He stepped aside and gestured for the men to enter.

If the hallway had been decadent, there were no words to describe the apartment itself.

Floor to ceiling windows lined the far wall, allowing a breath-taking view of the city beyond. The room was massive, enhanced by the overwhelming height of the ceiling stretching high above them, and the shiny dark wooden floorboards underfoot. There was a spiral staircase to one side, leading up to a mezzanine that jutted out over the living space, and a wide hallway beside it. Peculiar sculptures that looked like they belonged in a modern art museum thronged the room, sitting on marble pedestals, and along one wall was the largest painting Damen had ever seen, filling the entire wall. The living space was taken up by several incredibly comfy looking sofas, all placed before a simply ginormous curved television.

It looked like something out of a magazine.

“Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to my guests. This is Jord, Lazar, Orlant, my groomsmen, then Engeurran, Rochert, Huet, Estienne and Hendric, and this lovely lady is Vannes and her girlfriend Talik, and then of course Aimeric and Torveld, close associates.”

The people in question looked at them curiously, some with bashful glances while others, namely Lazar and Vannes, looked boldly.

“But, there’s someone missing. Where’s…”

He trailed off as another man appeared silently in the doorway of the kitchen. His long, flaxen hair caught the light shining behind him and gleamed like a crown of gold, his piercing blue eyes fixed on them with a ruthless, singular clarity.

He looked exactly like he had the first time Damen had met him.

“Ah, there you are,” Auguste said, striding over and flinging an arm around his shoulders, pulling him in close.

He didn’t need to introduce him. Damen knew who he was.

“This is my brother and best man, Laurent.”

Chapter Text

Shit.

Damen stared at him. Laurent gazed back.

Part of Damen latched onto the fact that he didn’t spare a glance for anyone else, but another wholly larger part reeled at the coolness in Laurent’s expression, his eyes flat and dim in lack of recognition. His arms were crossed over his chest, his finger tapping against his forearm like he was bored.

Laurent had to recognise him. You didn’t just forget the face of the man who you’d let into your apartment and fucked, no matter the span of weeks since it’d happened.

Laurent recognised him. He had to.

Laurent slouched against the doorframe, ignoring the arm his brother had slung around him. He swirled the wine in the glass he was holding almost absentmindedly, before bringing it to his lips and taking a sip. He didn’t look away as he swallowed. Damen’s eyes were drawn helplessly to the perfect white of his throat.

Damen remembered the marks he had left there.

He wondered how long the bruises had lingered.            

“Is there somewhere we might store our things and get ready?” Nik asked after it was clear Laurent wasn’t going to say anything.

Auguste turned away from his brother, whom he’d been frowning at curiously. “Of course! Down the hall, first door on your left. Feel free to use the ensuite as well,” he said, accompanied by a charming smile.

Damen didn’t move, even when Pallas and Erasmus passed him, shooting him a look. It was only when Nik grabbed his arm, dragging him after them, that he snapped out of it.

“What the ever-loving fuck is wrong with you?” Nik hissed at him as soon as they were in the room. When Pallas and Erasmus gave them curious looks, he dragged Damen into the attached bathroom and closed the door behind them. “You were just standing there dude, what the fuck?”

“I—” Damen blinked and turned away, covering his face in his hand. “It’s him, Nik.”

“It’s who?”

“Laurent, he…” He trailed off, unsure what he was even trying to say. Who was he to Damen, exactly? A stranger he’d fucked, who’d moved on when Damen clearly couldn’t?

“Fuck,” Nik said.

Damen thought it summarised the situation quite succinctly.

“What do we do?”

Damen didn’t know.

He couldn’t just leave, that would be ridiculously unprofessional and Adrastus would have his balls. If Damen was lucky, he might still walk away with his job, but if not...

But that aside, it wouldn’t be fair to Nik, Pallas or Erasmus to just leave them because of his personal issues. It wouldn’t be fair to their client who was paying for the privilege of their time. To walk away would be selfish. It would be weak. It would be cowardly.

Damen wasn’t a coward.

“We do nothing,” he said. “This is my problem, I’ll deal with it.”

Nik raised a sceptical eyebrow. “Why does that worry me more?”

“I’ll just… I don’t know, avoid him. He doesn’t seem like the type to be interested in strippers anyway. It’ll be fine.”

Nik’s eyebrow was approaching his hairline. “Famous last words,” he said. “What if he doesn’t avoid you?”

 “That won’t happen. He’s the one who deleted his account, remember? This is probably as awkward for him as it is for me.”

Nik acquiesced to the logic of that, though he still shook his head and put his hands on his hips. “Never a fucking quiet moment with you,” he said, looking to the heavens with a dramatic sigh.

“What else were you keeping me around for?”

Nik snorted. “Well, let’s just hope he doesn’t get his brother to kick us out.”

With a parting slap to the shoulder, Nik left the bathroom. Pallas and Erasmus were already getting into their gear, and looked over as Damen and Nik came back in. Erasmus opened his mouth, about to say something, before Pallas elbowed him in the side. The two shared a brief look before they went back to what they were doing in silence.

The four men changed into their gear, unselfconsciously stripping to the nude in front of each other and where necessary gathering their props. Damen attached the plastic handcuffs to his belt and pulled the police cap onto his head, adjusting it in the bathroom mirror and following it with the aviators.

Erasmus sidled up to him as they were finishing up, tying the bowtie of his barely-there waiter’s uniform. “Is everything ok?” he asked. “You seem worried.”

There was such genuine, open concern written across his features. Damen didn’t deserve Erasmus’ kindness.

“Everything’s fine,” he said, cheekily ruffling Erasmus’ hair and smiling at the boy’s indignation.

“Jerk,” Erasmus giggled.

 

***

 

 

The first few minutes of any party were always the most awkward. No one was drunk yet, and devoid of liquid courage the more conservative clients, those who’d never done this kind of thing before, looked distinctly uncomfortable when they all came back out again. They never knew whether it was ok to stare and gawk, so they all sipped at their drinks self-consciously and looked anywhere else.

Laurent had disappeared again. Damen was quietly relieved. It would be impossible for him to pay attention to what he was supposed to be doing, to adopt his professional persona, knowing that Laurent would be watching him. He felt more aware of himself than he was used to, of the ridiculous costume he was wearing.

Without his confidence, he felt unbalanced.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long before their audience started to become enthusiastic. From the start, Lazar and Vannes had been hooting and jeering, ribbing each other and giggling, but soon enough they were joined by the rest of the steadily drinking groomsmen.

Auguste seemed to be enjoying himself. Sometime towards the end of the first song, Erasmus had ended up close to his chair, and so the young blond took the opportunity and climbed lithely up onto Auguste’s lap as the other man laughed and blushed, his friends jeering him on from the settee, and treated him to a taste of his talents.

Erasmus was a natural at this kind of thing. When he danced, his shy, timid persona fell away, and in its place emerged the sly, devious vixen who knew just how to make men want him, how to string them along until they were desperate for him. Even the most aggressively heterosexual men had been known to lose sight of their religiously self-assured sexualities when Erasmus starting dancing for them.

The end of the next song saw Damen following suit. He advanced on Vannes, who had been strategically trying to catch his eye, and started a much more intimate performance to her vocal pleasure. Her girlfriend sat beside her, watching on with an amused expression as Damen danced and grinded down on Vannes’ lap, grabbing her hands and putting them on places that would make polite society blush.

Damen had never danced for a woman as enthusiastic as Vannes before. Female clients tended to be less touchy than their male counterparts, most often content to sit and enjoy the performance rather than participate, but Vannes apparently hadn’t gotten the memo on that. She delighted in the whole affair unabashedly, and at its conclusion tipped extremely generously, with a wink and a parting slap to his ass.

By this time, Laurent still hadn’t reappeared.

Damen tried to remind himself that he shouldn’t be looking for him, that if anything he should be glad Laurent wasn’t there right now, but he couldn’t help it. He wondered if Laurent was hiding in another room. Maybe he had a bedroom in the house, and he intended to stay there all evening. Laurent didn’t seem the type to hide, though.  

Damen wondered what Laurent was thinking. He wondered if he’d been as surprised as Damen had been to see him again. He wondered if he felt guilt, or maybe regret. He wondered if there might still be hope to change his mind.

Nik noticed his distraction. He hissed something exasperated under his breath while the attention was focused on Pallas, who had just removed his pants to a chorus of cheers.

Damen set his jaw and turned away. He wasn’t in the mood for another lecture.

While Auguste seemed to have taken a liking to Erasmus, Lazar had set his sights on Pallas. The dark-haired man was lounging lazily, watching Pallas writhe on his lap with riveted eyes. Pallas grabbed his pale hand and ran it down his bare, tan abs, while Lazar grinned and Pallas encouraged him with a flirtatious smile. They looked good together.

Erasmus had stripped down to his briefs and bowtie and sat himself on Auguste’s lap, back pressed to his chest, holding the man’s hands on his hips as he arched and ground down sinuously. Auguste was enjoying him with a more reserved appreciation, clearly mindful of his own personal boundaries, as apposed to Lazar’s salacious grin and wandering hands.

This left Nik with the remaining groomsmen, who looked to be enjoying themselves as he gave the dance his all. Nik had always been an enthusiastic twerker, and tonight he was breaking out his best moves, arching his in his ‘soldier’ costume and shaking his ass to the chorus of cheers he enticed from his audience. Even the shy Aimeric, who had earlier seemed to be trying to hide himself in the corner of the settee, seemed to be getting into it. He had sidled much closer to the dark haired Jord, and had even tucked a few bills into Nik’s trousers when Jord prompted him to.

Vannes had once more captured Damen for her nefarious intentions.

She stole the cuffs from his belt and dangled them over her finger with a grin, asking with a voice dripping in innuendo who got to wear them. Damen snorted and stole them back, quickly and neatly handcuffing Vannes’ hands behind her back, while her girlfriend laughed herself to tears beside them.

He resumed dancing, this time without Vannes’ cheekily wandering hands accosting him, and smirked at her equally frustrated and amused attempts to break herself free. Just as she started to pout, there was the sound of a door closing from somewhere above them.

Damen looked up just as Laurent appeared on the mezzanine.

He looked almost regal standing there, looking down on them with a stony expression on his beautiful face. Unwittingly, Damen ground to a halt at the sight of him.

It should have been impossible for any man to look so beautiful.

“He’s pretty, isn’t he?” Vannes said, snapping Damen out of his reverie.

Damen looked down at her, ready to apologise for his distraction, but she was grinning up at him with a twinkle in her eye and a sly smirk on her lips.

“He is,” Damen had to agree.

“Too bad he’s a cast-iron bitch,” Talik barked in her thick accent. “I’m surprised Auguste got him to agree to come tonight.”

“I’m not,” Vannes said. “He’d do anything for his brother.”

Auguste must have caught sight of him then, as he called out to his brother with a wave, other hand still firmly rooted on Erasmus’ gyrating hips. Laurent scowled down at him for a moment, before he made his way over to the stairs.

“I apologise,” Laurent said, just loud enough for Damen to hear, as he retook his seat on the plush arm chair beside his brother. “I had to take that call.”

Auguste gave him a smile, something utterly adoring and kind, and waved away the apology. While Auguste didn’t appear to be overly concerned with the man currently humping his lap, Laurent certainly seemed to be. Damen thought if he scowled any further, he’d have permanent lines etched between his eyebrows.

“I’ve never seen him so tense,” Vannes giggled.

“Typical of a virgin.”

“Now, now, my dear,” Vannes chided with a smile, before whispering conspiratorially, “I’ve heard it on good authority that he breaks his chastity once every ten years.”

Talik scoffed at the idea, and threw back the last dregs of her beer. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Damen bristled. He didn’t like the crude way they were gossiping about Laurent. Besides, they were wrong. Damen could attest to that first hand.

He wanted to say so, but stopped himself. It wasn’t his place. It wasn’t his secret to tell.

Vannes must have noticed how tense he was, because her conspiratorial smirk widened. Damen didn’t like the glint in her eye.

“Well, if that’s all it takes,” she said to Talik. “Why don’t we test the theory?”

Talik looked confused for a moment. Then, she followed Vannes’ line of sight, from Laurent to Damen and back again, before letting out a loud snort. “You’re a sly bastard, babe,” she said, utterly fond.

“Of course I am,” Vannes agreed, her lips stretching into a wide, lecherous smile. Damen liked this expression even less.

“Damen, if you would be a darling and reach into my front pocket just there. I seem to be… incapacitated at the moment,” she giggled.

Damen, albeit apprehensively, did as she asked. Sitting inside the front pocket of her jacket was a stack of cash. A thick stack of cash. A very, very thick stack of cash made up entirely of twenty pound notes.

Damen blinked at it.

“All of that is yours, if you go over there and give that boy the lap dance of his life.”

Damen palmed through the notes. He was holding so much money in his hand he could scarcely believe it. It had to be several hundred pounds at the very least. That was more money than he had ever been offered for a single lap dance, hell, than he’d ever earnt most nights in all the eight years he’d been doing this job.

And all of it could be his, right now, if only he’d do the one thing he’d sworn he wouldn’t. If only he breached the unspoken, invisible barrier between him and Laurent.

He was utterly torn.

How could he turn down this much money? This was the kind of pay off strippers only ever dreamed about. He’d never get this kind of opportunity again. But how could he do as she asked? How could he go over to Laurent, how could he even begin to speak to him, let alone convince him to let Damen dance for him?

He couldn’t. It wouldn’t be fair to either of them. He shouldn’t.

“Come on sugar, you’ve been eyeing him up all evening, don’t think I haven’t noticed,” Vannes said. “Think of this as an opportunity. You get to do what you’ve been wanting to do, and you’ll be paid very well to do it.”

Her expression brokered no argument. She was set on this, determined to see it to its conclusion.

Damen wanted to argue, to turn her ridiculously generous offer down. He knew he needed to. But, when he opened his mouth, he couldn’t force the words out. His eyes flicked back over to Laurent instead, heart thumping in his chest when he saw Laurent was looking at him.

He couldn’t turn the offer down, it was too good to just throw away. Besides, he was a professional first. He could do this, it didn’t need to be weird. He’d just go over and dance and that would be that. Job done, money in his wallet. Easy as that.

Vannes seemed to sense the moment his resolve crumbled. Her smirk widened, and she tilted her head to Talik. Talik snatched the stack of cash back from Damen’s hands, and slipped out three notes before tucking them into his pocket. “The rest when it’s done,” she said in her gruff voice.

“Go get him, tiger.”

Damen was uprooted from his perch on her lap as Vannes bucked her legs, spurring him into motion. She made a shooing gesture with her foot, in lieu of her still bound hands, and smiled encouragingly at him. Or, at least, it looked like it was supposed to be encouraging.

Damen turned around, and suddenly, there was nothing in his eyes but Laurent.

He was just sitting there, sipping his wine, looking anywhere but at the half naked dancing men all around him. He was elegantly composed, poised so confidently, like he could be perturbed by nothing.

This was a bad idea.

Nik was going to kill him.

Damen found his feet moving of their own accord, walking towards Laurent without even making the conscious decision to do so. It was too late to turn back now.

Laurent didn’t look at him, not even when Damen came to stop in front of him. His gaze remained firmly fixed on the far wall, and he took another sip of his fast depleting wine.

Damen cleared his throat, finding it suddenly dry, and opened his mouth to speak, to say something, anything, to break this awful silence.

Before he could, Laurent spoke first. “A chef?”

The words Damen had been about to say vanished from his tongue.

Of course, he hadn’t told Laurent about this, had he? He hadn’t lied when Laurent had asked him about his job, but he hadn’t told him the whole truth either, because he couldn’t stomach the idea of someone like Laurent judging him for what he had to do to get by.

But now, Laurent knew. Damen had been caught in the act.

There was no possible way this could get any more awkward.

Laurent looked up at him when Damen had no response. His blue eyes were chilling, sending shivers down Damen’s spine.

“I didn’t lie,” Damen said. “I am a chef. Kind of. But, I, uh, maybe didn’t tell you everything.”

“Evidently.”

Damen knew he should walk away. The situation was weird and uncomfortable to begin with, now it was just unbearable.

He couldn’t, though. He couldn’t force his feet to move, to carry him as far away from Laurent as it was possible to go. He was trapped where he stood, with Laurent’s gaze devouring him whole.

“What do you want?” Laurent said.

Damen wanted a lot of things.

He wanted to know why Laurent had deleted his account. He wanted to know if there was a chance that Damen could change his mind. He wanted the money Vannes had offered him, but he thought he probably wanted to dance for Laurent even without that incentive. He wanted Laurent to look at him like he had when Damen was sucking his cock, with frantic desperation and pleasure, utter disbelief that anything could be so good. He wanted to hear his name on Laurent’s lips, wanted to hear his curses in all the languages he knew.

“How about a dance for the best man?” He said instead.

Laurent raised a perfect, blond eyebrow. His gaze roamed up and down Damen’s form, the same way he had done in the café the first time they’d met.

“I think if you tried to writhe around on my lap, I would be crushed to death,” he said, and drained his glass.

He hadn’t said no.

He hadn’t given Damen outright rejection, hadn’t turned him away with flippant disregard. Now, he wore the a familiar expression; guarded and distant but undeniably interested. The way his eyes lingered spoke volumes.

 “I don’t know about that,” Damen said. “I have very strong thighs.”

Laurent’s eyes darted down to the thick, muscular appendage in question. Damen shifted his weight under Laurent’s gaze, knowing his muscles bulged under the tight material of his pants.  After a long moment, Laurent seemed to catch himself, and looked away. He was scowling, but he was blushing, too.

“I can see that.”

Damen smirked. “Can you?”

“You’re wasting your time.” Laurent deliberately cleared his throat. “I have no interest in your service.”

The bright flare of hope that had ignited in Damen’s chest was suddenly extinguished. Damen tried not to show his disappointment on his face. It would be unprofessional. He’d been turned down on dances before many times, after all. Not everyone was interested.

But Laurent was. Damen knew he was, because even now the way Laurent was looking at him could leave no doubt.

But he had said no.

Damen didn’t understand.

For a moment, he felt a flash of anger. This hot and cold man with all his mixed messages, giving Damen hope and in the same breath taking it away. He had to know his effect, had to know what he was doing to Damen. It had to be deliberate. Maybe he got off on it, stringing men along just to break their hearts. Maybe it was all just a game to him.

Before he could stop himself, re-evaluate the situation rationally, Damen’s stubborn mouth was opening of its own accord. “What, too good to pay for what you’ve already had?”

Laurent betrayed no reaction. For a long moment, he betrayed nothing at all. Then, slowly, his lips twisted into a smirk, a twinkle of humour sparkled in his cold blue eyes.

“Not all bark.”

Laurent put his glass on the table beside the couch and reached into his pocket, pulling out a black wallet. When he flipped it open, Damen caught a glimpse of the thick stack of cash inside. Laurent slipped out a fifty-pound note, looked up to meet Damen’s eyes and, holding that gaze, leant forward, curled his finger over the waistband of Damen’s pants and pulled them down just far enough to tuck the note inside.

Damen could hardly breathe.

The barest slide of Laurent’s fingers sent shivers tumbling down his spine, skin burning where his touch lingered. A hunger he hadn’t felt since he’d last had Laurent in his arms awakened in his gut, greedy for more.

Damen was fucked.

He managed to swallow around the lump in his throat. “Most clients make me earn my tips first,” he said.

“Then I suppose you should start earning it.”

Damen was so fucked.

He boldly reached out and ran a fingertip along the jut of Laurent’s jaw, tracing it down to his chin which he took in two fingers and tilted upwards. Laurent allowed it, his throat bobbing as he swallowed.

Damen crouched down to Laurent’s level. He leant forward, breath ghosting across Laurent’s skin, eliciting a shiver as it caressed his ear. “Would you like me to show you what I can do?” Damen purred.

“If you must.”

Damen grinned, heart thundering in his chest at the recognition of permission. As good as an invitation from Laurent.

He pulled back to catch Laurent’s gaze, and held it as he moved up and over Laurent’s lap. He balanced himself on his knees, crowding Laurent against the backrest until they were almost chest to chest. Laurent’s head was tilted up so that he could meet Damen’s eyes, exposing his long, white throat. Damen trailed the finger that had held his chin down its expanse to rest in the dip of his collarbone. Laurent stifled any outward physical reaction, but Damen still felt the way his fingers twitched where they were resting now on Damen’s thighs.

Damen smirked down at him. They were so close Damen could smell the rich red wine on his breath, undercut by Laurent’s natural, masculine scent and the tang of expensive cologne.

If Damen dared to, he could move forward half an inch and kiss him.

His entire body throbbed at the thought. The memory of the biting, passionate kisses they had shared just weeks ago sprung unbidden to the forefront of his thoughts. But he couldn’t, no matter how much he wanted to. Strippers didn’t kiss their clients. And that’s what Laurent was to him. A client. Nothing more.

It took every ounce of his willpower to do so, but Damen leant back, taking him out of reach of temptation. The motion created a new set of problems, however, as it rocked him on Laurent’s lap, grinding their crotches together. Damen was rather abruptly made aware of how hard he was in his pants. He barely managed to grit his teeth to keep from making an embarrassing sound.

Laurent’s fingers dug into his thigh, fingernails biting into flesh through the fabric. He managed to maintain a remarkably straight face, but his pupils were blown so wide there was barely any iris left. His cheeks were rosy with a barely there blush.

God, he was beautiful.

Damen started up a steady grinding rhythm, careful not to press too much into Laurent’s lap. He was sure Laurent knew just how hard he was, but he had to at least try and be a professional about this.

He grabbed Laurent’s hands and put them on his abs. Laurent’s eyes finally dropped from his, to watch as his fingertips mapped out the valleys and ridges of rippling muscle and the spattering of freckles across Damen’s skin. Though he maintained an impartial expression, there was eagerness in Laurent’s touch that made Damen’s heart skip in his chest, left trails of fire burning over his skin.

Damen rolled his hips again. He lowered himself down a little more, pressing a little harder, leaving him breathless when all he could feel was delicious pressure where he wanted it most.

Damen forced himself up and turned around, offering Laurent a sight of his bare arse in the bottom-less pants he wore. He leant forward, stretching down to the ground, and presented his ass. He rolled down, hips thrusting against the ground in the illusion of sex.

He could feel Laurent’s eyes on him, boring holes into his flesh.

He had never felt so aware of himself before, in the way that each muscle bunched and tensed when he moved, in the deliberately sensuous way he moved to release them, emphasising every attribute he had in the most pleasing way he could. He had never moved so gracefully, so purposefully. He had never felt so sexy the way he did now, knowing that Laurent’s eyes held only him. He would do anything to keep that attention focused on him forever.

He turned over, spread Laurent’s thighs wide and moved between them. He stayed there longer than he usually would, knowing how tantalising it looked; to have someone on their knees for you. He ran his hands up Laurent’s thighs, slowly, dragging his fingernails through the material so Laurent could feel it. He looked up through his eyelashes, sucked his lower lip into his mouth.

Laurent was scowling, but his blush betrayed him. His smouldering eyes betrayed him. When Damen’s eyes dropped, the tautness of his trousers betrayed him too.

Evidently Laurent wasn’t as good at hiding his physical reactions as he thought.

Damen pushed himself up between Laurent’s thighs and clambered back onto his lap, seating himself with his back to Laurent’s chest. With the wide spread of Laurent’s legs, it meant Damen had to spread his even widen to balance on his knees, which meant there was no way to hold himself up off Laurent’s groin. Which meant he could feel the growing hardness pressing into his ass. Fuck did it feel good.

Damen leant back, careful to ensure his knees still held most of his weight. Again, his hips settled into a rhythmic motion, rocking back and forth. He pulled Laurent’s hands from his sides and to Damen’s waist, giving him control to guide Damen’s motions. Damen leant to the side and twisted a little to meet Laurent’s eyes as he obeyed the rhythm Laurent set with his hands. He clasped one under his own and slowly dragged it across from his hips to the centre of his stomach and slowly down, down, down…

There was a cheer then, and Damen looked over to see a jubilant Vannes watching and clapping, laughing herself to tears. Talik, for her part, looked shocked. Clearly, she hadn’t expected Damen’s attempts to meet fruition.

The loud noise drew Nik’s attention. He looked over just as Damen did, and when he took in what Damen was doing, his expression darkened. He looked furious.

“Your friend doesn’t look too impressed,” Laurent said close to his ear, startling Damen’s attention back to him.

“Your friend looks ecstatic.”

Laurent snorted. “She’s under the impression that I’m a virgin,” he said. “Naturally, she has low expectations.”

That was so close to the thing they weren’t supposed to be talking about.

But, if Laurent didn’t mind bringing it up, then maybe…

“Suddenly shy? I was under the impression you were still earning your tip.”

Damen realised belatedly that had stopped moving, but, before he could start up again, Laurent’s surged forward, pressing his front along Damen’s back. His hand dug in tighter at Damen’s waist, and the other dipped dangerously low along his front, boldly caressing the lower plane of his stomach and chuckling softly as the muscles jumped under his touch. Now, Damen couldn’t move if he tried.

“Dance for me,” Laurent purred in his ear.

Damen felt the gentlest pressure at the base of his neck; Laurent’s lips parting and teeth grazing softly on the sensitive there. It felt so good, Damen couldn’t supress his quiet intake of breath, couldn’t stop the way he instinctively sought the sensation, pressing back harder into the man behind him.

It was too good.

It was too much.

Every shred of sense in him, every logical part of his conscience, was screaming at him to stop, this was a bad idea. He knew he wouldn’t be able to stop himself once it started. He knew he was playing with fire.

But Damen had never learnt to be careful, not when he wanted this much.

So, turning, he whispered into Laurent’s ear, “Can we take this somewhere more private?”

Laurent raised an eyebrow in that haughty way of his, looking amused like the smug bastard he was. But he nodded, indicating for Damen to get up. Damen pushed himself to his feet, and offered his hand to assist Laurent up behind him.

Most people were too busy to notice as Laurent, still holding Damen’s offered hand, led the way out. Nik, however, was glaring after them with such vehemence that Damen winced. He could almost hear the grinding of his teeth from across the room.

Laurent didn’t lead them down the hallway to the bedrooms, as Damen had expected. Instead, he slipped quietly into the entrance hall, pulling Damen behind him.

He stopped in front of a subtly concealed panel near the front door and slid it across, revealing a small, dark room beyond. It was a coat closet, Damen realised. Laurent was leading him into a tiny, dark coat closet.

“What are—”

He was cut off abruptly as Laurent grabbed his arm and shoved him forward. Damen tripped over his own feet and slammed into the wall, but before he could steady himself and ask what the fuck Laurent was playing at, the door was sliding closed and Laurent was on him.

Between one breath and the next, Laurent was kissing him.

Damen was too shocked to respond. The press of Laurent’s lips was insistent, demanding, almost punishing. His hands held Damen’s face in a vice-like grip, and he pressed his body hard against Damen’s so he could feel the bulge in his trousers.

Damen was dazed and breathless. He wanted so badly to open his mouth beneath Laurent’s brutal kiss, wanted so desperately to respond in kind and ravage Laurent till his perfect pink lips were bruised and red and Damen could taste him, the real Laurent, not some pale imitation in a dream.

As tempting as it was to just forget everything but the sweet taste of Laurent’s warm mouth under his, Damen knew this could very likely be his one and only chance to talk to Laurent. If he didn’t seize this opportunity now, he wouldn’t likely get another and, when the night was over, he’d walk away with nothing. He would never see Laurent again.

As tempting as it was to just take what was being offered, he’d never forgive himself if he didn’t take this chance.

With Herculean effort, Damen put his hands on Laurent’s chest and pushed him gently back.

Laurent jumped as though burned, putting a full arms length between them in seconds. Damen couldn’t make out his expression in the dark, but he could hear his breathing, fast and unsteady and coarse.

Damen ploughed on. “Laurent, we should talk—”

“What, you didn’t want to get me alone just to fuck me?”

“No, I—”

Laurent laughed, a low sound. “Are you sure about that?” Then he was moving closer, his hand reaching out and cupping Damen in his pants, squeezing tightly until Damen gasped. “This suggests otherwise.”

Damen grabbed his forearm, grip so tight it had to hurt. “Stop,” he said. “I want to talk.”

“We have nothing to talk about.”

“Yes, we do.”

Laurent scoffed.

Damen blinked, trying to adjust his eyes to the dark so he could make out Laurent’s face. “Please, Laurent, just hear me out.”

For a long moment, Laurent was silent, unmoving. Then, his grip on Damen relaxed, and Damen released his arm, allowing him to step away. Laurent put as much distance between them as the small space would allow. Damen tried not to be too aware of that.

“Is there a light in here?” He asked.

Laurent flicked the switch, and a warm yellow light flooded the room.

Laurent didn’t look at him. His arms were crossed over his chest, and he was looking firmly at the wall behind Damen.

Taking a deep breath, steeling himself, Damen said, “You deleted your account.”

Laurent’s brow crinkled in confusion, though his gaze only flickered to Damen before returning to the wall. “Yes?” he said.

“Why?”

“Because I got what I wanted.”

Damen swallowed. “And what was that?”

Laurent’s jaw tensed. He shifted his feet, eyes darting to the door. For an awful moment, Damen thought he was going to walk away.

“Is there a point to this?”

It wasn’t an answer, but it was more than Damen had hoped for.

“Yes,” Damen said. “I looked for you, after. I went to find you on the app. But you were gone.”

At this, Laurent’s eyes snapped up to his. “Is that why you’re here tonight? You wanted that badly to fuck me again?”

Damen was taken off guard by that accusation. “No,” he insisted. “I had no idea you’d be here tonight. You saw my reaction when I came in, you know that’s the truth.”

“Then what the fuck do you want?”

Damen forced himself to think before he blurted out the answer. He knew he only had one shot at this, and he couldn’t afford to fuck it up. He had to do this right. “I wanted to ask you out on a date,” he said. “I wanted to take you out for a coffee, maybe, or lunch or… I don’t know.” He rubbed his hand over his face. “I… liked talking to you, after. I enjoyed having sex with you, I won’t deny that, but… Laurent, I’ve never met anyone like you before. I wanted to get to know you. I still do. Is that so wrong?”

Damen couldn’t decipher the way Laurent looked at him then. There was no anger or spite or joy or any discernible reaction Damen would have expected of anyone else. He just… looked; looked at Damen with those cold, blue eyes.

Damen looked back, as earnestly as he could. Damen would never tire of looking at Laurent. Such a thing would be impossible.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why do you want to…” Laurent cut himself off, waving his hand in an abrupt motion, gesturing between them.

“Why do I want to go out with you?”

Laurent looked at him expectantly.

“Because you’re incredible, Laurent.”

Laurent’s face twisted. “You don’t know me.”

“Maybe not,” Damen agreed, “But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. I want to know you. If you give me a chance…”

Damen blinked, and Laurent’s hand was on his mouth, cutting him off before he could say anything further.

“Don’t,” Laurent said. “Just… I…” He snarled in frustration, fingernails digging reflexively into Damen’s checks.

It was silent for a very long time after that.

Damen tried to bear it for as long as he could. But, eventually, he curled his hand around Laurent’s wrist and gently, so gently, drew it away.

“What do you want?” Damen asked, pleaded. “Whatever it is, please, let me give it to you.”

“I don’t know,” Laurent said, his honesty breath-taking. “I can’t think.”

Damen kissed the hand he held, pressing his lips to each knuckle and fingertip, before turning it over and kissing the palm, the wrist, against his fluttering pulse. He felt Laurent shiver, and the fingers curled into a fist.

“Don’t think.” Damen’s hands moved to hold his face, his thumbs traced marble-carved cheekbones. “Tell me what you want.”

Laurent’s slender fingers curled around his wrists, fingernails digging into his skin so hard Damen winced.

“Fuck you,” Laurent said. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

Damen’s mouth was suddenly dry. His heart thudded painfully in his chest. He was almost scared to breathe, scared that any sudden movements might be the final straw and send Laurent running. He thought that if Laurent did, Damen would break.

 “Laurent…”

But then Laurent’s lips were on his. He pressed against Damen so hard his teeth hurt, sucking Damen’s bottom lip into his mouth and biting down until Damen could taste blood.

Damen didn’t care. It didn’t matter. This time, he opened his mouth immediately, obediently, and kissed him back.

Chapter Text

Damen had never wanted anything so badly.

Nothing had ever felt half so good as Laurent kissing him senseless in that dim cupboard. Damen held him tightly, pulled him flush against his own body and ravaged his lips with a feverish desire, giving and taking in equal measure, desperate to taste as much of him as he could.

He slipped his arms around Laurent’s waist and spun them around, crowding Laurent into the wall. Laurent’s fingers tangled in his curls, nails scraped along his scalp. His teeth nibbled on Damen’s lower lip, and Damen groaned, his hips jerking forward. He hadn’t realized how hard he had become until he felt his erection press against Laurent’s. 

“Laurent,” he groaned, breaking the kiss, pressing his forehead against Laurent’s and trying to breathe. He couldn’t shut his eyes even for a second, he couldn’t risk missing a single moment of this.

Laurent’s mouth was red, his swollen lips parted. He stared at Damen’s mouth hungrily and tugged Damen’s hair to pull him back down again.

“What do you want?” Damen groaned into his mouth. He needed to make Laurent feel good, needed to watch him come apart, needed it like he needed air. “Tell me.”

“Everything,” Laurent said.

“I want to suck you. God, Laurent, I need to taste you.”

Laurent pushed his hips harder into Damen’s in response. “Yes,” he said.

Damen pressed a last kiss to his lips, then moved to the corner of his mouth, his cheek, his jaw. He kissed a burning trail down Laurent’s neck, across his collarbones. His fingers played along the waistband of Laurent’s pants, tugging up the ends of his shirt for better access.

Impatient with his slow progress, Laurent swatted his hands away, and pulled off his shirt with perfunctory motions, balling it up and throwing it into the corner without a second glance.

With a new canvas of skin available to him, Damen dipped his head and wrapped his lips around the delicate pink mound of Laurent’s nipple. He traced it with his tongue, sucked it gently into his mouth, grazed the hard bud with his teeth.

Laurent’s hands were fisting through Damen’s hair, tugging as though he was torn between pulling Damen closer and pushing him away. His nipples were so deliciously sensitive. It was beautiful to watch the way he squirmed in pleasure as Damen teased them.

When Damen pinched the other nipple hard, Laurent threw back his head and softly keened.

“Fuck, Laurent.”

Damen dropped to his knees, fingers fumbling at Laurent’s belt. He tugged it off and ripped open Laurent’s fly, shoving his underwear and pants down his legs till they caught at his mid thigh. He didn’t waste time trying to get off Laurent’s shoes so that he could remove the pants the rest of the way, he was too distracted by Laurent’s hard, flushed cock bobbing right in front of him.

Damen’s mouth watered at the sight.

He vividly remembered the taste of him, even now could taste phantom saltiness on the tip of his tongue. He took Laurent’s hard cock in his hand, and stroked from root to tip, pulling the foreskin over the glistening head and down, grip tight.

Laurent’s entire body jerked when Damen touched him, like he’d been shocked. He made an aborted sound, his hands curled into fists and thumped against the wall. His head was tipped back and his eyes were closed. He stood with absolute stillness, every muscle taught, betrayed only by the uneven rise and fall of his chest.

“Laurent,” Damen said. “Look at me.”

Laurent’s eyes opened and he looked down. When he saw the sight presented to him; a shirtless, desperate Damen on his knees, hand holding Laurent’s cock, licking his wet lips in anticipation, Laurent’s eyes darkened.

“You’re so beautiful,” Damen said. “Keep your eyes on me.”

Then, Damen leant forward, opened his mouth, and flattened his tongue across the slit of Laurent’s cock.

Laurent’s face crumpled in pleasure. He made a small sound under his breath, a half-spoken word Damen couldn’t understand. Damen repeated the motion, pressing harder, laving his tongue along the underside for good measure.

He didn’t look away from Laurent as he devoted himself to his task. He sucked him down to the base, choking himself on Laurent’s perfect cock, relishing the heavy weight of him on his tongue, in his throat. He teased the sensitive veins with the tip of his tongue, dug into the slit every so often to taste the beads of pre-cum that pooled there. He bobbed his head with a frantic rhythm, saliva and pre-come spilled from his mouth and coated his chin. He hummed around Laurent’s length, took him down his throat and swallowed again and again until Laurent swore violently.

Laurent didn’t look away either.

It appeared as though it took every ounce of his iron will, but he kept his eyes firmly on Damen. His brow furrowed, lips parted, nose scrunched a little, but though his lids fluttered occasionally, he never looked away.

Damen pulled off with an obscene pop. He wiped his chin, grinning at the mess he’d made, and stroked Laurent idly while he watched his expression soften.

“Do you want to fuck my mouth?”

Laurent shuddered. “Yes.”

“You can pull my hair. I’ll let you know if it’s too much.”

Laurent’s hands carded through Damen’s curls, cradling his head gently. Damen opened his mouth, placed his hands on Laurent’s thighs, and looked up at him as Laurent slowly edged his hips forward, and slipped the head of his cock past Damen’s lips.

Laurent watched his cock fucking shallowly into Damen’s mouth. He kept it at a slow, easy pace, concentrating on his own pleasure, his hands maneuvering Damen’s head in time with his gentle thrusts.

Damen obliged him for as long as he could, but desperation quickly built up inside him, frantic need for Laurent’s cock to fill him, fuck him, use him. Eventually, he could remain still no longer. He sucked, used his tongue, hummed, tried everything he could within his limited means to entice Laurent into breaking his faultless rhythm, but Laurent merely ignored his desperate attempts, lips curling into a smirk, and went slower. Damen wanted to scream.

Laurent pulled Damen off and smeared the weeping head against his lips. “You want it?”

Yes.”

“How bad?”

“Fuck, I need it, Laurent.”

Laurent’s thrusts began to pick up in their pace, every time he fucked in a little deeper. He grunted occasionally, made low noises of unbidden pleasure.

God, it was so hot. Damen could hardly stand it.

He moaned when Laurent’s fingers yanked at his hair. As his rhythm increased, the pressure against Damen’s scalp built until tears pricked the corners of his eyes. It felt so good. Damen had never been harder in his life.

A hand slipped off Laurent’s thigh, and he buried it between his legs, squeezing at his cock through his leather pants to try and take off some of the edge.

Laurent noticed.

“Look at you, such a little slut,” he said.

A flood of heat went straight to Damen’s cock. With every thrust, it ached. “Yes, fuck, yes.”

Damen was fully prepared to suck Laurent to his conclusion like he hadn’t gotten to do the first time they’d done this. He wanted to swallow down his come and lick him clean until he hissed in oversensitivity, wanted to taste the culmination of his pleasure more than he needed air.

But, again, it was Laurent who pulled away.

He slipped himself out of Damen’s mouth, breathing raggedly, and slumped back against the wall. He closed his eyes and carded his fingers idly through Damen’s hair.

“Are you ok?” Damen asked, voice hoarse.

Laurent cracked open an eye and looked down at him, making a face at the mess on Damen’s chin. He swiped a thumb through it, smearing pre-come and spit, and then traced it along Damen’s bottom lip. Damen opened his mouth and sucked it inside.

“Yes,” Laurent said, shuddering lightly. “Get up.”

Damen did as he was told. He stood to his full height and crowded forward against Laurent, bracing his hands on either side of the wall by his head.

Before he could say anything, Laurent leant forward and kissed him. He held Damen’s face between his hands, cupping his jaw and tangling his long fingers in the curls by his ear. He demanded control and Damen ceded it to him.

“Laurent,” Damen groaned, kissing along Laurent’s jaw and throat. “Laurent—”

Laurent shut him up with another kiss, and moved his hands down to Damen’s waist. Damen made a soft noise when he dug his nails in and, apparently emboldened, Laurent lowered them to grab his ass, bare by design of his ridiculous leather pants. Damen groaned at that, grinding forward, hard cock digging into Laurent’s belly.

“Have you got a condom?” Laurent asked.

Damen stopped, surprised. “You want to—”

“Yes. I want you to fuck me.”

Damen swallowed.

He hadn’t expected that. Hoped, maybe, but he’d never actually believed it could happen. For Laurent to actually say it, want it, with Damen.

No fantasy could compare to the earth-shattering reality of that.

“Ok.”

Damen dug around in his pockets, shoving around crinkling money, until he found what he wanted. He withdrew the small, square wrapper and presented it to Laurent triumphantly.

Laurent raised an eyebrow. “Keep that on you for every stag you do?”

Damen shrugged. He did, because he never went anywhere without a condom, a cautious force of habit. It didn’t mean anything. “I always have one on me,” he said. “Better to be prepared.”

Laurent seemed to deem his answer acceptable. He didn’t take the offered condom. Instead he reached down and hooked his fingers in the waistband of Damen’s pants, and started to pull them down.

Damen’s fists clenched around the condom wrapper, the crinkling deafeningly loud in the quiet closet.

Laurent revealed his cock inch by agonizing inch, tormenting him with this glacial progress. Finally, he was free, his cock swinging almost comically and slapping against his stomach. He couldn’t help his full exhale of relief.

Laurent looked at him, eyes roaming over Damen’s hard length, before taking it in hand. He stroked it, soft hands roaming over its silky texture.

“I remember this,” he said. His thumb skimmed lightly over Damen’s piercing.

Damen shuddered. He leant forward, hands bracing against the wall beside Laurent’s head, and came to rest inches from Laurent’s face. Laurent’s hand was still moving on him, teasing him, his thumb rubbing against the sensitive slit.

He stroked Damen for a handful of minutes, too slow to do anything other than tease. Damen tried to rut into Laurent’s hand, seeking a faster tempo, but Laurent slackened his grip in retribution, huffing out quiet laughter when Damen whined in complaint.

Finally, when he had deemed it long enough, Laurent said, “Condom.”

Damen passed it to him.

Laurent ripped the wrapper open with his teeth, pulled the slimy rubber piece out, and, with careful precision, rolled it over Damen’s cock. Damen let out a small groan, and he throbbed when Laurent pressed a kiss to the side of his mouth.

“I don’t suppose you keep any lube in there?” Laurent asked.

Damen grinned, and tugged out two large packets. “You want me to—”

“Yes,” Laurent said. “Do you?”

Damen had never wanted anything as much.

“Yes,” he said. He pressed a kiss to Laurent’s lips, gentle and lingering, before dropping to his knees. Laurent blinked at him in confusion, before Damen started undoing his shoe laces.

Laurent snorted. “Really?”

Damen grinned up at him, then leant forward and pressed a kiss to the tip of Laurent’s dick, chuckling at the way Laurent blushed.

Damen pulled off his shoes, Laurent lifting one leg at a time to allow it, and tugged his pants down the rest of the way. Laurent kicked them off, then pulled Damen up by the shoulders and kissed him again.

He was fully naked now, and Damen had never been so aware of anything in his life. His hands roamed over Laurent’s skin, mapping out dips and grooves in his muscles, investigating the slightly raised moles that dotted its surface.

Laurent made pleased sounds into his mouth when Damen spent long moments rubbing his nipples, sounds that grew louder when Damen’s hands began to slide down his back and over the swell of his pert little ass.

God, he had an amazing ass.

Damen held it in his hands, massaging gently, stroking over the pert mounds and the soft pale hairs that covered them. He slipped his finger down the middle, teasing at Laurent’s crease, before his fingers found the fluttering entrance to Laurent’s body.

Laurent made a choked sound into Damen’s mouth, and pressed himself back into Damen’s touch. It was the most pleasurable surprise imaginable to find out just how much he enjoyed this.

Laurent’s arms wound around his shoulders as Damen continued his teasing. He tugged at Damen’s hair again, and Damen tightened his arms around Laurent and gave his ass a light slap in retaliation. Laurent arched into it, so Damen did it again.

After long moments of teasing, Damen pulled away. “Put your hands on the wall and bend forward,” he said, nuzzling Laurent’s ear.

Laurent did as Damen asked. He put his hands on the wall and leant forward at the waist, spreading his legs and presenting himself. He was breath-taking like that; completely naked, primed and ready for Damen’s touch.

Damen gathered his beautiful hair in one hand and let it fall to one side, baring Laurent’s long neck. He pressed a kiss to it and stroked a hand reverently down his back, coming to rest at the base of his spine.

Laurent shivered.

“So beautiful,” Damen said. He pressed another kiss to Laurent’s neck.

“Fuck me.”

Damen chuckled. “I intend to.” He pressed himself against Laurent’s side, kissed his hair. “Nothing you don’t want.”

He remembered the nervousness Laurent had exhibited back in his own apartment before the first time they were together. This was a whole other ball game, but Damen wanted to reassure him now, as he had done then, that Laurent was in control, that whatever he wanted Damen would abide, that Damen would take care of him, bring him pleasure, allowing no compromise in comfort or consent. It was incredibly important that Laurent knew that.

Laurent exhaled audibly. “Get on with it,” he said.

His bravado was a mask for his inexperience, Damen knew. He kissed him again, a lingering press to the crown of his head.

Damen ripped open a packet of lube, and squirted a healthy amount onto his fingers, rubbing them together to smear it around and warm it up.

“Are you ready?” He asked. His hand cupped Laurent’s ass again, the coated finger resting gently between the two mounds, his meaning explicitly clear.

Laurent shivered. Damen felt tension roll through him.

Laurent tilted his head to the side, his eyes met Damen’s. He breathed in, searching Damen’s face, and Damen thought he felt a little bit of Laurent’s tension ebb away.

“Yes,” Laurent said.

Damen kissed him, because his lips were right there and it would be impossible not to. The angle was a little awkward, he had to stoop to make it work, but none of that was important, because his finger was tracing Laurent’s entrance, coating the smooth pucker of skin with the smooth lubricant, giving Laurent a taste of what was to come.

Damen would remember the sound Laurent made when he pushed the tip of his finger in for the rest of his life.

Laurent’s lips stilled under his, and Damen drew back to give him space to breathe. Laurent’s eyes were screwed shut, his brow furrowed, his lips slack. The tension that had slowly released returned in full force, and Damen stilled so that his fingertip just rested gently inside.

Laurent was a vice around Damen’s finger. The tension in him was so fraught that the ring of muscle didn’t have an ounce of give.

Damen waited with baited breath in the hopes that Laurent would relax, that he would allow his body to open to Damen. After a long minute with no noticeable change, Laurent let out a sound of frustration.

“Hey, it’s fine,” Damen said softly. “Just relax, let me in.”

“What do you think I’m trying to do, you dumb brute?” Laurent snapped.

Damen laughed, a deep and rich rumble that spilled from his mouth and filled the small closet space.

Laurent’s eyes opened again. Damen watched him carefully, closely. It was almost unbearably intimate, being inside of Laurent’s body, even in this small way, and watching the struggle going on behind Laurent’s eyes.

Laurent set his jaw, swallowed roughly, and Damen felt the conscious effort he made to relax. It started in his shoulders, a slight slump, then travelled down his spine. He adjusted his stance, frowning when it jostled Damen inside him, spread his legs wider.

Damen felt the first give of Laurent’s hole with his entire being.

“I’ve got you,” he said, desperate to say something. “It’s ok.”

Laurent didn’t reprimand him for this, didn’t snap something witty and callous at him in his typical fashion. Instead, he seemed to anchor himself in Damen’s voice. With his eyes rooted to Damen’s desperate, hopeful expression, Damen felt the tension leave him in a rush.

“Fuck, you’re so beautiful,” he muttered, awed.

Laurent shut him up with another kiss.

Damen stretched him slowly and gently, paying close and careful attention to the way Laurent reacted to his every movement. Laurent’s breath came out a little faster when he massaged the outer ring of his muscle with shallow, probing movement, so he made sure to do it on every withdraw of his finger. Laurent’s hips arched up and back when he thrust in deeper, exploring him with attentive keenness, so Damen did it every time. He paused every so often to coat his fingers to the point it was almost excessive, but Damen wasn’t going to take any chances. He wanted Laurent to feel good, didn’t want to risk even a moment of unnecessary discomfort or pain.

He asked to add another finger, and Laurent snapped at him to get on with it. Damen chuckled and teased him by tracing a second finger around his hole for long, relentless minutes until Laurent made a growing sound of frustration and thrust his hips back, forcing Damen inside.

It was after the stretch of the second finger that Damen crooked his fingers and sought out the fleshy nub of Laurent’s prostate. He knew he had found it when Laurent’s entire body shuddered, and he drew in a deep ragged breath.

Damen kept the pressure on that spot, massaging in gentle, tiny increments. Laurent seemed to battle with the way it made him feel, flexing his fingers and half thrusting his hips. Damen knew the stimulation was intense, sometimes too much, but knew that if Laurent allowed it, it could be so good.

Damen withdrew his fingers, all the way out to the rim, scissored them for a moment, then thrust back in. When he crooked his fingers against Laurent’s prostate once more, Laurent couldn’t stifle a quiet gasp.

“Fuck, Laurent.”

“That is the idea,” Laurent quipped.

Damen coated his free hand in lube as best he could without use of the other, then tossed the empty packet aside and dipped his hand down to envelop Laurent’s cock in a firm grip. Laurent gasped, hips stuttering, caught between fucking forward into Damen’s fist and backing himself onto the fingers inside him.

Damen stroked from root to tip slowly and leisurely. The quiet moans and mewls that Laurent was trying and mostly failing to stifle were all going straight to Damen’s rock hard, aching cock.

When he pressed a third finger to his entrance, Laurent shifted his hips backwards to encourage him, and his breath hitched as it caused Damen’s hands to stimulate the sensitive head of his cock. When Damen pushed all three inside, relentless but careful, he felt Laurent’s legs trembling under him. Another nudge at his prostate and they gave out. He would have fallen if Damen’s arm hadn’t caught him around his middle, abandoning Laurent’s cock and using his frankly lewd strength to simply hold Laurent up and continue.

“You are obscene,” Laurent gasped at him.

“And you are exquisite,” Damen replied, kissing a trail along Laurent’s neck and shoulders.

Laurent couldn’t quite manage to fend off the smile that snuck its way onto his face. Only a short time later he said, “I’m ready. Fuck me.”

Cursing, stumbling over himself in his haste, Damen withdrew his fingers from Laurent and pushed him back, turning him around so his back was to the wall. He kissed him again, just because he could, while he made to rip open the second packet of lube. Before he could open it, Laurent took it from his hands.

He put the foil between his teeth and created a tear, and squeezed a dollop of the greasy liquid onto his hand, before he brought it to Damen’s dick. He stroked up and down methodically, coating the condom still covering Damen with lube.

Damen hissed and chased after Laurent’s lips. After so long without it, Laurent’s hand on him now was almost overwhelming. He’d never been so turned on, never felt so hard in his life.

“Do you think you could hold me up against the wall whilst you fuck me?”

Damen’s brain short circuited.

The image in his mind of Laurent with his legs wrapped around Damen’s hips, hands clutching at his shoulders, Damen holding his entire weight and pulling him up and down on his cock…

“Yes,” he said. “Fuck, yes.”

Damen kissed him again. He devoted himself to pressing bruising kisses into Laurent’s pliant mouth, tasting every inch of him. Laurent responded exquisitely, he knew just how much pressure to exert, how much teeth and tongue to use to tantalise. It was impossibly good, for someone who had confessed to be so inexperienced. Damen couldn’t help but marvel at him.

He nibbled gently on Laurent’s lower lip before sucking it into his mouth and pulling. Laurent ground his hips upward with the little leverage he had, rubbing his cock into Damen’s leather pants.

“Well?” Laurent asked, and his hands were on Damen’s chest, nails clawing down over muscled skin to his stomach.

“Fuck, you’re demanding,” Damen said.

Laurent gripped his hard cock again, squeezing tight and stroking up. “Seems you like it.”

“God, I do,” Damen confessed. Then, he grabbed Laurent’s ass and, in one smooth motion, lifted him up and pushed him against the wall. He held Laurent securely with his head centimetres away from banging against the ceiling, now at eye level with Damen.

Laurent arched his back and wrapped his legs around Damen’s waist, pressing one hand up against the ceiling for leverage while the other clutched Damen’s shoulder for balance.

“You are grotesquely strong,” he said.

Damen smirked, pleased at the blatant tone of arousal in Laurent’s voice. “And you like that, don’t you?”

“Almost as much as you.”

Reaching their stalemate, they fell into silence. The only sound in the small space was their ragged breathing and the muffled music of the party still in full swing in the room beyond.

After catching his breath, Laurent leaned forward to press another bruising kiss to Damen’s lips, and gasped as Damen lowered him slightly, his erect cock brushing against Laurent’s backside.

“Don’t make me ask again,” Laurent growled against Damen’s lips.

Damen smiled innocently. “Ask what?”

“You—” Laurent trailed off with a hiss as Damen pressed an open-mouthed kiss to Laurent’s neck, giving him the slightest hint of teeth. “Fuck me, Damen.”

Damen couldn’t help the way he shuddered at the sound of his name falling from Laurent’s lips.

“Hmmm, you like it when I say your name? If you fuck me, maybe you’ll get to hear me scream it.”

That was all the encouragement Damen required.

Shifting all of Laurent’s weight to one hand, Damen reached down with the other to grasp his cock and lined it up until it pressed against the wet entrance to Laurent’s body. The sudden realisation of what he was about to do, the knowledge that he was about to be inside Laurent, left Damen utterly breathless. His heart was thundering in his chest, spots were dancing in his vision, his entire world was narrowed down to that single point of contact. Damen didn’t know how to contain the emotion that welled up in his chest.

When Damen lowered him further, using gravity and Laurent’s weight to slowly slide him down onto his cock, a sound escaped Laurent. It was a half groan, half wince. Damen stilled immediately, the head of his cock resting heavily against Laurent’s entrance.

They stayed like that for a long moment. Laurent’s eyes were closed, his face turned away, as though he couldn’t bear to look at Damen. The tension had returned in full force, the hand that clutched Damen’s shoulder was digging crescents into his skin.

Damen waited, his entire body almost vibrating with the effort of restraint. He was barely able to breathe.

“Laurent,” he said, his voice little more than a whisper. “Laurent, look at me.”

It took a long time for Laurent to do as he asked. He turned his face to Damen but kept his eyes firmly closed. His eyelids fluttered, the muscles in his brow twitched.

“Look at me,” Damen said again.

Finally, Laurent opened his eyes.

“Hi,” Damen said, smiling, almost giddily.

Laurent huffed and rolled his eyes, but Damen saw the way his lips twitched against a smile. The light-hearted moment had seemed to do the trick, and slowly, bit by bit, Laurent relaxed again.

“Ok?” Damen asked.

Laurent nodded, giving his permission to continue. He bit his lip and swallowed down a whine as Damen slowly, slowly, lowered him down, until his ass rested against Damen’s hips with Damen’s cock fully buried inside. It was then, with no space left between them, that a grunt escaped his lips.

Damen immediately stopped when Laurent made the sound, holding him perfectly still. “Are you ok? Did I hurt—”

“No, no shut up,” Laurent snapped, and closed his eyes. He was quiet for a long moment, tremoring a little in Damen’s arms. “Say something,” he finally managed. “Keep talking, please I—”

“What’s wrong? Laurent, are you—” he made to lift Laurent up, but Laurent stopped him, clutching Damen’s shoulder tighter and winding his legs around his waist more securely.

“Don’t stop,” he said. “I want this.”

“Who are you trying to convince?”

Laurent glared at him for that.

“Please just keep talking. I just, I need— I want—”

He couldn’t seem to put his own thoughts into words. For someone like Laurent, so attuned to his own thoughts and feelings, this was entirely new and terrifying territory.

Damen started to gently stroke his across the dip of Laurent’s lower back as the other hand moving up to cradle his jaw, stroking a loose lock of hair behind his ear. “Ok, I can keep talking,” he said. “You feel so good Laurent, you’re so tight, fuck— it’s incredible.” He trailed off, breathing heavily, and pressed his forehead to Laurent’s chest, overwhelmed by the desperate need that was building within him. “You’re so incredible. I’m so lucky. I want you so badly, god I want to make you feel so good. I want you to come while I’m fucking you, I want to feel it.”

He continued for a while like this until, bit by bit, the furrow of discomfort in Laurent’s brow slowly smoothed out, as he anchored himself to Damen’s voice. Damen felt Laurent’s cock twitch.

When he’d heard enough, Laurent kissed him to silence. The tension was still there, but it was manageable, and Damen supposed expected. Laurent would never have made this easy.

Laurent moved on him, grinding a little and jostling the cock inside him. Damen rolled his hips, pressing Laurent against the wall, his giant hands holding his waist to keep him steady. He started a slow rhythm, drawing out and thrusting in in deep, precise, methodical motions, giving Laurent time to adjust to the feeling of him. Not one for letting another do all the work, Laurent used his leverage against the ceiling to push down into Damen’s thrusts and let his head fall back against the wall as he savoured each slick slide inside him.

His face was crumpling in pleasure, his cock leaking profusely against Damen’s stomach. Where the initial difficulty of the stretch was a challenge, now it seemed its own pleasure to Laurent. He was so tight around Damen’s cock, his walls so smooth and silky and wet and warm. It had never felt this good to be inside another person.

Damen wondered how it felt for Laurent, wondered if he was enjoying it as much as Damen, was desperate to know.

“Laurent,” Damen pleaded. “Tell me how it feels.”

Laurent opened his mouth, poised to speak, until Damen thrust in particularly hard and instead a low groan was driven out of him. Damen couldn’t help but moan himself at the perfect way it sounded.

“You’re so needy,” Laurent chided half heartedly.

“I want you to feel good.”

“I do,” Laurent shuddered as Damen thrust in again. “Fuck, it feels so good.”

That was all Damen had wanted to hear.

In all his years of doing porn, Damen had picked up more than a few tricks. Anal sex was a delicate art, one that could be so good when done well, or horrible if done badly. Damen had been coached by the best bottoms in the business. He knew how to drive in deep, to make Laurent feel deliciously full, how to find his prostate and drill into it with precise motions. He knew how sensitive the outside ring was, knew how to gyrate his hips to stimulate it.

Laurent, for all his efforts to contain the noises Damen was determined to drive out of him, failed utterly. He let out breathless grunts with every thrust, moans and gasps occasionally spilling out of his open mouth and mingling with Damen’s own. On one hard press against his prostate, timed with the rubbing of his cock against Damen’s abs, he keened.

Damen had ascended to a higher plane. “Fuck, fuck you’re so good,” was all he could say, all he could think.

Laurent squeezed around him for good measure, and Damen let out a broken moan.

“Faster,” Laurent hissed at him, “harder.”

Damen cursed and did as he was told.

Damen pulled Laurent tighter against him and was now physically lifting Laurent up and down on his cock, thrusting up as he slammed him down. Laurent let out a cry as it forced Damen deeper, faster. He pushed off the wall entirely, wrapped his arms around Damen’s shoulders, tangled his fingers in Damen’s hair, and surrendered all his weight to Damen’s arms. Eventually, he gave up trying to stifle noise as the sheer force of Damen’s pounding drove the sounds out of him.

Damen was getting close. Laurent felt so good, the sight of him moving up and down on Damen’s cock was exquisite. The noises Laurent made were slowly unravelling him. Even Damen’s hard-earned stamina couldn’t keep up.

“Say my name,” Damen begged. “Laurent.”

Laurent’s hands gripped his hair mercilessly, tilting his head back and kissing him hard.

“Damen,” he growled, sucking on Damen’s lower lip and biting down. “Damen.”

Laurent, Laurent fuck I’m close—”

“No, don’t you dare come,” Laurent snapped.

 Damen whined, utterly shocked at the unexpected command. Once more, without even consciously deciding it, Damen found himself obeying Laurent, and resisted his building orgasm. “Fuck— fuck, please, please Laurent.”

“Make me come,” Laurent commanded.

Damen immediately freed one hand to reach between them, fist curling around Laurent hot and tight. Laurent’s back arched and his entire body jolted. Damen knew Laurent was close, so very close, a hairs breadth away from falling apart, but Laurent couldn’t seem to give in. He was so tense, so taut, Damen thought he might shatter in his arms.

“Please Laurent,” Damen begged. “Please come, fuck— please. Come for me Laurent.”

Laurent could barely breathe for need of release; his face was crumpled, his mouth stretching open around a silent cry. He surged forward, capturing Damen’s lips with his own, clutching his sweat slick shoulders with a deathly tight grip.

“Damen,” he gasped. “Damen—”

Then, all at once, Damen thrust deep, slamming into his prostate, he pressed his thumb into the slit of Laurent’s cock, squeezed tight, and buried his face into the crook of Laurent’s neck and bit down. Somehow, it was enough.

The sight of Laurent coming in his arms would remain with Damen for the rest of his life. Never had he seen a sight more beautiful. Damen knew nothing would ever compare. He was utterly ruined for anyone else. Nothing would ever feel as good as this again.

Laurent’s back arched and eyes squeezed shut, a strangled cry spilled from his throat, somehow taking the shape of Damen’s name. His passage fluttered in release, milking Damen’s cock, as Damen swore and cursed and continued to thrust, fucking him through the aftershocks, drawing the pleasure out until Laurent slumped boneless in his arms.

 But Damen was still so close, so unbearably, frustratingly close. He thought he would die if Laurent didn’t let him come. “Please, Laurent I—”

“Yes. Yes, Damen, come.”

With a cry, a sob, Laurent’s name breaking on his lips, Damen buried himself deep and came.

His vision whited out, his toes curled, his hands reflexively tightened on Laurent’s waist. He buried his face into Laurent’s chest and tried to remember how to breathe. His orgasm overwhelmed his senses wholly. He had never come so hard in his life.

He stumbled a little, finally tiring after what should have been an impossible act of physical strength, and Laurent nimbly extracted himself from Damen’s arms before they both went crashing to the floor. Laurent slumped down against the wall, sliding down to sit on the ground, and tugged Damen down beside him.

“Well, fuck,” Damen said, when he’d regained his breath enough to speak.

He looked at Laurent, and swallowed at the sight he found. Laurent’s hair was damp with sweat, and his skin was flushed a healthy red, the blush creeping down to his chest. He had splatters of his own come streaking his pale skin.

Damen wasn’t looking much better. He was covered in a sheen of glistening sweat, his curls matted to his forehead, his chest and torso striped with ribbons of Laurent’s come. But he didn’t care. He’d never felt so good in his life.

“That was incredible,” Damen sighed.

“It was adequate.”

Damen groaned at him, and Laurent chuckled, the sound perfectly breathless.

“You’re impossible,” Damen said. He pulled the condom off his softening cock then, and tied it with perfunctory movements. He looked around for a place to put it and found none, so shoved it back into the pocket of his pants, still tangled around his thighs.

As they sat in silence, basking in the after glow, Damen could dimly hear the music playing from beyond the room. He remembered with a sudden sinking feeling where he was.

Now he had to figure out where the fuck any of this left them.

He turned to Laurent, who had been looking at him. He offered him a small smile, and slid his hand across the carpeted space between them to take Laurent’s in his. He gave it a gentle squeeze.

“I guess we have some things to talk about,” Damen said.

Laurent frowned.

Damen felt a slowly building panic rise up in his chest. The realisation that Laurent might withdraw again hit him like a freight train. After what they had just shared, it was impossible that Laurent didn’t feel what Damen did. The connection between them was electric, the pleasure they had shared together indescribable. Laurent couldn’t walk away. Damen had only just found him again.

“Laurent—”

“I don’t want this.”

Damen’s heart stopped. He dropped Laurent’s hand.

Laurent was frowning and looking down at his feet. “Not… this. I don’t want...” He shifted, he looked so desperately uncomfortable. “I can’t give you what you want.”

“And what do I want?”

“A relationship.” He spat the word like poison.

Damen swallowed. He tried to speak, even as the feeling in his chest choked him. “Ok, that’s… that’s ok.”

“You’re upset with me.”

“No,” Damen insisted. “I just…” He ran ragged fingers through his hair. “I wanted you to give me a chance.”

“I can’t.”

Damen didn’t understand him. He didn’t understand any of this. What was Laurent so afraid of? Why couldn’t he just...

With nothing more to say, the silence was deafening, the tension between them so thick Damen felt like he was choking on it. Regret was a bitter taste in his mouth. Frustration another. 

Before today, Damen wouldn’t have thought it possible to fly so high and fall so low in the space of a moment.

“Ok,” Laurent finally said. “Pass me my pants.”

Their time was up. Laurent was going to leave. Damen felt panic flutter in his chest, desperation to do something before he lost his chance forever. He almost couldn’t bring himself to do it, but he leant forward to fetch Laurent’s pants from where they had fallen. He passed them over, unable to meet Laurent's eye. Laurent took them before fishing around in the pockets.

He pulled out his phone, unlocked it, then pressed it into Damen’s hands.

“Your number,” Laurent said, when Damen looked confused.

“But I—”

Laurent wrapped Damen’s hands around the phone and shoved it at him. “Number.”

Damen, blinking like an idiot, put the number in and handed the phone back to Laurent. “Laurent,” he said, “Why do you want my number.”

“I can’t give you what you want.” Laurent tucked the phone into his pants. He met Damen’s eyes. “But I want this.”

The kiss he pressed to Damen’s lips was savage, for lack of a better word. He bit down hard and licked greedily into Damen’s mouth.

“If you want it,” Laurent said, “I can give you this.”

Damn him, Damen did want it.

He knew he shouldn’t. He knew that he felt far too much for Laurent to contain this to a purely sexual relationship. He knew it would be too complicated. He had seen what happened to people who cared too much about things they shouldn’t. He knew these things, he understood these things, and still he kissed Laurent back.

Still he nodded, cupped Laurent’s face, gentled the kiss and stroked Laurent’s hair. Still he said, “Alright.” And he meant it.

Even if he knew he was damned.

They dressed again, less of a task for Damen who technically hadn’t been wearing much to begin with. When he was finally all put back together, looking as respectable as one who’d just been roughly fucked in a cupboard could, Laurent stopped before Damen on his way to the door. “Wait a few minutes before you come out,” he said. Then, he rose to the tips of his feet and pressed a kiss to Damen’s lips.

“Goodbye, stranger,” he said, then he slid open the door and was gone.

Chapter Text

Laurent had disappeared by the time Damen came back out, as had his brother. Only Pallas and Erasmus were still dancing, the latter for the groomsmen, who were rambunctious in their appreciation and surrounded by an array of empty beer bottles. Pallas was still writhing on Lazar’s lap.

Nik was notably absent.

Vannes waved to Damen when she noticed him idling in the doorway, still sitting on the same couch as before, though someone had freed her from her flimsy plastic constraints. She smiled at him, while her girlfriend regarded him with newfound respect.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine you’d actually succeed,” Vannes said, and, with a devious smile, “I never knew Laurent had it in him.” Then, she pulled out the stack of bills, the money she had offered to Damen before as incentive, and fanned through it with a teasing wink. “You’ve earnt every penny.”

In all honesty, Damen had completely forgotten about the money.

He reached out to take it on instinct, but something about it didn’t feel right. He couldn’t. He couldn’t accept money as compensation for what he’d just done. None of it had anything to do with the money Vannes had offered him.

The idea that Laurent might think he’d done it for money made him feel nauseous.

“I can’t,” he said.

Vannes blinked in surprise. “Why on earth not?”

“I didn’t do that for money,” he said. “It’s not what you think.”

Vannes’ eyebrow shot up to her hairline. She and Talik shared a look.

“Well that’s certainly something,” she said. “Regardless, my little request took up all your evening, so consider this my compensation for the use of your time.”

“I—”

“I insist,” Vannes said. She took Damen’s hand and pressed the money into his palm. “This is nothing, allow me to appreciate all your hard work.”

He couldn’t turn her down, she was too insistent. The practical part of him was already thinking about all the bills that money could go towards paying. It would be stupid to turn it down.

So, with a heavy sense of guilt, Damen took the money. He told himself he took it because he would have been a fool to refuse it. It had nothing to do with Laurent. It didn’t change anything.

He went to find Nik after, he had to tell him he’d be leaving. The party was far from over, but he knew Laurent would want space from him right now, so space was what he planned to give him.

He found Nik standing in the kitchen with a glass of water in his hand. The look he gave Damen would have turned lesser men to stone.

“You,” he said, jabbing his finger accusatorily, “What. The. Fuck .”

Damen held up his hands. “I promise we’ll talk,” he said. “But not right now.”

Nik looked like he wanted to throw something at him. “You’re unbelievable. You’re going to be the fucking death of me.” He drained his glass and put it back by the sink. “Tomorrow, we’re gonna fucking talk, you hear me?”

“Yes,” Damen agreed. “I have to go.”

“What…” Nik trailed off as he searched Damen’s face. His eyes lingered on Damen’s tousled hair, the faint scratch lines extending down his chest, then narrowed into dangerous slits. “Tell me that you did fucking not.”

Damen had the grace to at least look a little sheepish.

“Oh my god,” Nik looked to the heavens and spread his arms wide as he implored: “I’m a good person, what the fuck did I do to deserve this?”

Damen snorted.

Nik rounded on him. “Your blond complex is fucking insufferable, fucking malakas .” he said with a menacing jab of his finger. “Get the fuck out of here you love-struck douche canoe.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Damen said. “I’m sorry to leave early like this.”

“No, fuck, it’s fine. Erasmus and I have got this. God knows Pallas isn’t being any fucking help.”

They went back out into the main room. Auguste had re-appeared in the time they’d been gone, though Laurent was still nowhere to be found. When he saw Damen, he fixed him with a long, probing look, scanning him from head to toe with a burning blue gaze. Damen offered him a polite smile, and was greeted with a suspicious frown.

Well, that was something.

He went over to inform him he’d be leaving. The fact that he was approaching the brother of the man he’d just had sex with in his own coat closet was not lost on him. And, if Auguste’s expression was any indication, it wasn’t lost on him either.

“Leaving so soon?” Auguste said with a raised eyebrow as Damen came closer.

“I’m sorry, something personal came up,” Damen said. “But thank you for inviting us this evening. It was a pleasure.”

Auguste snorted. “I’m sure it was.” He crossed his arms over his chest and stared at Damen with hard eyes. “You seem like an alright guy, so you’ll hear no protest from me. But make no mistake. If you hurt him, I will find you and I will personally cut off your dick and choke you to death with it.”

Damen blinked. “Uh… I uh…”

Then, all at once the steely look was gone, and Auguste was beaming at him, his beautiful face totally transformed. “Thank you for coming tonight, here’s a tip for your services.” He pressed a couple of twenties into Damen’s hand. “Have a safe ride home.”

Auguste turned and strode away, reseating himself on his armchair where he was soon joined by an attentive Erasmus.

Damen stood dumbstruck for a moment. He hadn’t doubted Auguste would notice their absence, and expected the man had likely asked Laurent what had happened when he’d returned, which made Damen wonder exactly what Laurent had said to him, because Damen hadn’t expected to be confronted like that. Was this what it was like to have an overprotective older brother?

Despite himself, it made him smile.

He decided he liked Auguste.

***

Damen was woken up rather abruptly when a ball of fluff launched itself at his midsection. Wheezing, grumbling in a half sleepy stupor, Damen swatted at the devil cat and pushed it off the bed, cursing himself for forgetting to close his bedroom door again.

He groaned and starting fishing through his bedsheets for wherever he’d dropped his phone last night. He unlocked the screen and was greeted by a barrage of notifications. Ten messages from Nik, a missed call from his father, and some coupon offers from lists he’d forgotten to unsubscribe to.

Nothing from Laurent.

He told himself that was fine, of course it was. The party had only been last night, Laurent was hardly going to message him less than a day after. Damen was determined to be entirely rational about this. Well, as rational as he could be, in this stupidly irrational situation he’d gotten himself into.

The ten texts from Nik were all from that morning. Damen skimmed through them as he usually did when Nik when on a texting binge.

(8:32) Oi douche canoe text me when u get up we’ve got some talking to do

(8:54) The barista at pret a manger is hot as fuck buddy you gotta come see this

(8:54) Oh no, that’s right, you’re probably too busy thinking about the asshole you fucked last night

(8:55) In BOTH senses of the word

(8:55) Ok tmi

(8:55) But still

(9:09) Wake the fuck up asshole im bored

(9:10) If you wake up ill buy you a croissant

(9:13) Ok I bought you a croissant anyway you better fucking ADORE me

(9:23) Fuck you im coming over

The last message had been sent just under twenty minutes ago. He’d probably be here soon.

Sighing, Damen pushed off his sheets and got to his feet.

He threw on the lumpy old sweater his mum had bought him a couple of Christmases ago and fed the cat, who had been winding in-between his ankles and making a general tripping hazard of itself, then put on the kettle with enough water for two brews, and slumped on the kitchen counter to wait.

Nik arrived before the kettle had finished boiling. He let himself in with his spare key, undoubtedly thinking Damen might still be asleep. He’d probably had a plan in mind for how to wake him up, likely involving a large body of cold water. It wouldn’t be the first time.

“Catch!” Nik called as soon as he saw him, and lobbied a brown paper bag in his direction.

Damen caught it, and peeked inside to see the promised croissant. He pulled it out and took a bite, savouring the crumbling pastry with a moan.

“Bless you,” he mumbled to Nik around his mouthful.

“I’m the fucking best,” Nik said. He threw himself down onto Damen’s couch with a sigh.

“Coffee?”

“Please.”

Damen fixed them both a brew and brought it over. He put his on the coffee table while he continued to eat his pastry, sitting beside Nik.

“So, you wanna tell me what the fuck happened?”

Straight to the point, then.

“Vannes offered me a huge stack of cash to go and dance for him. I couldn’t turn it down.”

Nik’s eyes narrowed. “How much?”

“A thousand.”

Nik choked on his coffee. “Are you for fucking real?”

Damen nodded, even got up to fish the stack out of his covert cookie jar to prove it.

“Holy shit,” Nik said, eyes wide. “No wonder.”

“Yeah.”

“But that doesn’t explain why you went off and fucked him, Damen.”

Damen scratched the back of his head. “I didn’t plan to.”

“That didn’t stop you.”

“I didn’t leave with him with the intention to fuck him, it just… I tried to explain that I wanted to see him, and he kissed me and--”

“Yeah, yeah. You couldn’t say no. He’s pretty and blond, I get it.”

“Jesus Nik, why are you so angry about this?”

“Need I remind you what happened the last time you fell head over heels for an asshole of a blond?”

Damen didn’t know what to say to that. It was true, there were similarities between Jokaste and Laurent that even he hadn’t failed to notice, beyond the colour of their hair.

“This is different,” Damen said, “Jokaste was cruel. Laurent is…” Damen couldn’t find the words to describe him. “He’s not experienced like she was. I don’t think stringing men along is his M.O.”

“But you don’t know him.”

“I don’t. But I have a feeling.”

Nik rolled his eyes. “We both know how dangerous those are.”

“He’s different, Nik. Different to Jokaste, different to… everyone.”

Nik sighed. “Alright,” he said. “Alright. But if he breaks your heart, don’t expect me to just sit by and watch you fall apart. I won’t do that again.”

Damen felt himself deflate. “I know.”

“So, what now? Are you seeing each other?”

Damen winced. “Not exactly.”

Nik’s expression darkened again, but Damen cut him off before the inevitable outburst.

“I know what I’m doing, Nik,” he said.

Why did that feel like a lie.

“What exactly are you doing, Damen?”

“We’re, I don’t know, seeing each other casually I guess.”

Nik blinked at him. “You’re fuckbuddies?”

“Woah, no, I didn’t say that—”

“Do you know how profoundly stupid that is?”

Damen shoved his coffee cup onto the table and pushed himself off the couch, restless and itching to pace.

“Don’t treat me like a fool,” he said. “I can make my own damn decisions.”

“Do you know how ridiculous you’re being? Damen, you know how this is going to end.”

“I know!” Damen turned to Nik, trying to figure out how to make him understand. “I know, I just...” He sighed angrily, scrubbing a hand over his face and scratching nails through his scalp. “I can’t let this go Nik.”

“That’s immediately obvious.” He felt Nik’s hands on his shoulder, and peered up to see his friend standing before him. “I don’t need to tell you how badly this could end, Damen.” His words were harsh, but Nik’s voice was soft. His hands were warm and comforting on Damen’s shoulders.

“I know it’s stupid,” Damen said. “I know. I’ve seen this happen. I know, I just… If this is all he can give me Nik, it’s all I want.”

“It’s not,” Nik said. “It won’t be.”

“Maybe he’ll change his mind.”

“And maybe he won’t.”

“I’m willing to take this chance.”

Nik glared at him, long and hard, long enough that Damen was readying himself to argue again, before, “You’re an idiot.”

Damen grinned. “But you love me.”

With a shake of his head and dramatic sigh, Nik pulled him into his arms and said, “fuck me, but I do.”

***

Two days later, and there was still no word from Laurent. Despite himself, Damen was beginning to give up hope.

He tried to keep as busy as possible, to stop himself from constantly looking at his phone, waiting with baited breath for the moment a notification would come in and then being inevitably disappointed when it wasn’t from Laurent.

He could barely concentrate at the restaurant, which resulted in several nasty cuts on his fingers. No matter how determined he was to think about anything else, the minute his mind wandered it would return to Laurent, to that dimly lit closet and the words ‘ Goodbye, stranger.’

What had Laurent meant when he’d said goodbye?

Damen hated feeling like this, this pathetic doubt and fear and confusion that he couldn’t shake off.

On Sunday afternoon Adrastus called him into the club for a meeting. The second he’d walked through the door, Adrastus had fixed Damen a sleazy smile and said: “I knew you had it in you.”

Damen had stopped in his tracks.

“Don’t worry, Pallas told me everything,” he said. “Nice touch, going for the brother. Home wrecking can leave a bad taste.”

In a moment, Damen’s hands curled into fists, and the urge to punch that smug smile off Adrastus’ face nearly overwhelmed him. He kept his mouth firmly closed, clenched his jaw so hard his teeth hurt, because he knew if he spoke he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from telling Adrastus exactly what he thought of him.

“You did good work, I know I can count on you to do so again in the future.” The pointed look Adrastus gave him made Damen see red.

Don’t count on it,” Damen said, before he could stop himself. “I didn’t do any of it for you.”

Adrastus raised an eyebrow. “Whatever you need to tell yourself,” he said. “We have another stag in two weeks with a similarly wealthy client. Make sure your schedule is open.”

Damen got out of there as fast as he could.

What time he didn’t spend looking at his phone or trying to distract himself, he spent worrying. What if Vannes had told him about the money, and Laurent had thought the worst? What if Laurent had found out about the porn, and wouldn’t lower himself to be with Damen again, knowing how many men he’d slept with?

What if Laurent had come to the conclusion he wasn’t interested in anything to do with Damen?

What if he’d never been interested at all?

On the third day, Nik had finally had enough.

“Ok, you pathetic piece of shit,” he said, strolling into Damen’s bedroom uninvited late that afternoon and throwing open the blinds. Damen was still in bed, ‘moping’ as Nik would say. “Get your ass up.”

Nik dragged him to a bar nearby, one they’d frequented before, ignoring Damen’s questions and protests. Erasmus was there, along with some of their other friends from the club including Pallas and, somewhat surprisingly, Lazar.

Nik set out to get Damen drunk like a man on a mission. They went through shot after shot, beer after beer, they even ventured onto the fruity cocktail menu, and Damen thoroughly enjoyed his ‘sex on the beach’, no matter how much Nik gagged.

Erasmus sat close all night, his bright cheeks flushed with alcohol and his lips stretched in a constant smile. He was an affectionate drunk, and draped himself all over Damen while he argued with Pallas about whether leather or lace was sexier (with Lazar’s added commentary about the merits of both).

Damen wondered what it would have been like, if he had fallen for Erasmus. Simpler, maybe. Sweeter. He imagined the many nights they might have had like this, hanging out with their friends, drinking and having pleasant, uncomplicated fun. Erasmus was a good man. He would have been easy to love.

But he wasn’t what Damen wanted.

Damen managed to extract himself from Nik in the early hours of the morning, and stumbled home. He drank a glass of water, and winced just thinking about the headache he’d have in the morning, before he threw himself into bed, not fucked to get undressed. Out of habit opened up his phone, not even really expecting to see a message anymore.

But there it was, against all hopes and odds, a message from an unknown number. He knew it was Laurent, it couldn’t be anyone else.

(7:21) : Meet me at Carluccio’s tomorrow, 4pm.

Damen never even doubted for a moment that he’d be there.




Chapter Text

Damen got to the café half an hour early.

He sat in the same spot they’d sat together the first time they’d met— across from the door, so that he would be the first thing Laurent saw when he walked in. He ordered a coffee to pass the time while he waited, and because the waitress kept shooting him dirty looks for taking up table space without buying anything.

No matter how firmly he told himself to remain calm and collected, his eyes just wouldn’t stop sliding back over to the door. Anticipation wound up inside him and made him jittery and impatient, the caffeine from his triple shot mocha not helping matters.

He was nervous. There was so much that could go wrong.

For twenty minutes he sat there tapping his foot and sipping his drink, stewing in his nerves, until Laurent walked in.

He looked breathtaking, though Damen was starting to realise he always did. He was wearing a slimming grey turtleneck with a pin striped blazer, and neatly pressed trousers with shiny black shoes to match. His hair was smooth and golden, draped over one shoulder. He was effortlessly classy and heart-stoppingly beautiful.

His eyes caught Damen’s immediately.

Damen grinned at him and raised a hand in a half wave. Laurent hesitated only a moment before he came over.

“Hello, stranger,” he said, coming to a standstill over Damen.

“Hi.”

Laurent made no move to sit or go over to the counter to order himself something. He stood there, almost awkward, and looking like he was trying very hard not to be.

Damen understood. It was a… unique situation, to say the least. So, in an effort to ease the tension, Damen said, “Can I get you something?”

Laurent scoffed.

Damen blinked. “What?”

Laurent slowly scanned Damen’s form. Under his intense blue gaze, Damen felt strangely small. “Do you apply all of your ingrained heteronormative tendencies to every date you go on?”

Damen ignored his meaningless posturing. “Is this a date then?”

“That is beside the point.” Laurent shifted, looking away now.

Damen couldn’t help but smile. “I’d like it to be,” he said, as sincerely as he could. Thoughtlessly, he reached out and took Laurent’s smaller, paler hand in his. Laurent jerked in surprise, but didn’t pull away. “I’d very much like to go on a date with you.”

“We are all very aware of what you would like,” Laurent said. He pulled his hand away.

Damen fought down his hurt. Laurent had made his thoughts and feelings perfectly clear, it had been unreasonable for Damen to assume that much had changed. He knew what this would be walking into it. He agreed to as much.

Laurent seated himself across from Damen, looking anywhere but. He seemed on edge. His clasped hands fidgeted restlessly on the table. Damen could hear his foot tapping.

The waitress came over when Damen flagged her down, and Laurent ordered a latte for himself, while Damen asked for a refill of his own drink. When she was gone, they fell into silence.

Damen didn’t have any idea what to say. Laurent had no desire to hear him confess his feelings and wants, and Damen had no idea what else he was supposed to talk about. The weather? Sports? Politics? Is that what two people who met up for the sole purpose of fucking talked about? Porn was never this difficult. Porn was scripted and calculated, it was professional and mutual and a means to an end. This was real life. Everything was different.

Thankfully, Laurent spoke first. “I suppose there are some things we should discuss, before we go any further.” he said.

Damen nodded. “Yes.”

“Have you ever done this kind of thing before?”

Damen snorted. “Having a fuck buddy? You’d think, wouldn’t you.”

Laurent smiled thinly.

The waitress returned with their drinks, before Laurent could get a word in, and he didn’t say anything after she left.

Damen didn’t know how to continue.

Was there an etiquette to these types of things? Did they disclose their number of sexual partners, their test results, agree on a place and time to fuck, and that’s it? Was it that clinical? That... detached? Could they not have any kind of relationship outside of it-- would that be going too far?

Damen wanted more than that. Damen wanted so much more than that.

Instead, he said. “So, I’m a stripper.”

Laurent paused with his cup halfway to his mouth. He cleared his throat. “I noticed.”

“Yes, well… I didn’t know if that would be… an issue, for you.”

Laurent scoffed again. “We’re just fucking. What you chose to do with yourself outside of that is no business of mine.”

Damen shrugged, shifting in his seat. “You aren’t the least bit curious?” He looked up, and Laurent was watching him, devoid of expression. When Laurent said nothing, Damen awkwardly shrugged again. “Most people are curious,” he said.

Laurent opened his mouth to speak, then closed it abruptly. He frowned. “I don’t care.”

Damen forced himself to take a long, deep breath and sip of his drink.

Laurent was being deliberately cold, and Damen just didn’t understand it. He thought he had seen the real Laurent inside that cupboard, stripped plain and bare by pleasure. He had been beautiful. Earnest. He had been warm.

But now? Now, Laurent was a carefully constructed enigma, revealing nothing.

He felt like a stranger.

By the time Damen looked back up, a funny little smirk was on Laurent’s face. “I’ve been doing some research,” Laurent said. “The internet is truly a remarkable place. The things that come up when you type in a name.”

Fuck

All the breath left Damen in a rush.

“After our little stint at the party, I found myself wondering what else there was to you. It was surprisingly easy to find out. King D isn’t exactly subtle.” Laurent smirked. “Congratulations on your ‘best top of the year’ award, by the way.”

“I…” Damen swallowed roughly.

Despite his embarrassment at being caught out, Damen was surprisingly relieved that Laurent knew. He supposed it solved the awkward issue of trying to find away to let Laurent know, without making it weird. He would have found out eventually.

“I watched some of your videos,” Laurent said.

Damen’s eyes widened. He swallowed. “And did you… enjoy them?” He asked.

“I think you know that I did.”

And holy fuck, that hadn’t been what Damen was expecting.

The thought of Laurent watching him fucking the men in those videos, of him getting turned on watching it, perhaps imagining himself in the place of some of those bottoms, of him touching himself, jerking off to it… These were not appropriate thoughts for a public setting.

“That’s so fucking hot.”

Laurent’s smirk widened. “I particularly enjoyed your most recent video,” he said. “There’s a certain novelty to being so plainly reminded of your obnoxious size.”

He was talking about the video with Ancel-- the boss and subordinate fucking in the office. He imagined Laurent watching it, seeing similarities between him and Ancel; they were of a size, Damen thought, it wouldn’t be so hard to imagine Laurent in Ancel’s place.

Damen shifted in his seat, his growing erection uncomfortable in his jeans.

“Laurent,” he said. “Laurent, fuck, I—”

“At first I didn’t know what to think,” Laurent interrupted. “First stripping and now porn? You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you. But the more I watched, the more I… wanted.”

“What did you want?” Damen breathed.

“I wanted you to fuck me,” Laurent said, “like you fucked those men. I wanted you to hold me up against a wall, or push me down on a bed, and fuck me insensate. I wanted you to put me on my knees, and show me how to worship your cock.”

Damen felt embarrassingly close to doing something very brash, like grabbing the front of Laurent’s perfectly smooth shirt and dragging him over the table to kiss him.

“You work at a club for your stripping, do you not?” When Damen nodded, Laurent continued. “I think I would like to watch you work sometime. To see what it feels like to have King D dance for me.”

Damen swallowed. “Alright.”

“I think I’d like watching other men lust over what they cannot have. There would be a certain novelty to it, knowing that even as you strut about for their attentions, no matter how hot they get for it, the only one you’ll be fucking is me.”

Damen’s mouth was suddenly very, very dry. He swallowed, his throat sticking, as all the blood in his body suddenly redirected south.

He imagined it for a moment; dancing for another man while Laurent sat and watched, those burning blue eyes fixed on him, a knowing smirk on his beautiful face. He imagined climbing onto Laurent’s lap at the end of a long night, weighed down by the money stashed in his pants. He imagined Laurent ravishing his lips, he imagined grinding down on him, Laurent hard from watching Damen dance for those unimportant men.

Laurent’s cheeks flushed, his smirk knowing. “I think you like the sound of that,” he said.

Yes .”

“Hmmm.”

Damen startled when he felt a sudden pressure against his groin, and looked down to see Laurent’s perfectly polished shoe nudging against the hard bulge in his pants.

Laurent… ” Damen gasped.

He was moving his toe in little circles against Damen’s groin, pressing just hard enough to have Damen drawing in ragged breaths.

“Fuck, Laurent,” Damen all but groaned, much too loudly for the quiet café.

The thought that someone could walk past and see Laurent teasing Damen under the table with his foot made his cock throb.

Laurent was watching him, taking in every change in Damen’s expression. He watched Damen’s lips part as he panted for breath, watched the way Damen’s jaw worked as he tried to conceal his pleasure. Damen’s eyelashes fluttered when Laurent pressed particularly hard, and he watched that too.

“Do you think you could fuck me like you did with that obnoxious little red-head? Fuck me so hard that your desk creaks, until I can only scream your name over and over and over .”

Laurent—

“Follow me,” Laurent said, standing suddenly. He tugged Damen up by the collar of his shirt, ignoring Damen’s half-hearted protests as he was made to stand with an obnoxiously obvious bulge in his tight jeans, and started pulling him away.

They slipped down a corridor beside the counter and walked down the hall to the male bathrooms. Damen’s thundering heart kicked up a notch when he realised what Laurent meant to do.

Half-heartedly, Damen protested. “Laurent, shouldn’t we talk about--”

“Later.”

Then, Laurent was pulling Damen into the one-stall room, slamming the door behind them, and shoving Damen against it. He tugged Damen down and kissed him, ravishing his mouth with bruising enthusiasm, hands splayed over his chest and tugging at the hems of his jacket.

Damen made a surprised sound, that quickly turned into a moan when Laurent’s tongue slipped into his mouth. Without thought, his hands were around Laurent’s waist, holding his slim body and anchoring himself in that touch. His lips moved in tandem with Laurent’s, his tongue teased and plundered and his teeth grazed Laurent’s bottom lip. He tasted like coffee and caramel and mint, and Damen was drowning in him.

“Laurent, fuck,” Damen groaned.

Laurent nipped his lip playfully. “I can’t stop thinking how you felt inside me,” he said, his voice breathless and low and gravelly, sending shivers down Damen’s spine. “I could feel it for days.”

Fuck ,” Damen gasped into his mouth, arms tightening around him.

“I don’t know what you’ve done to me,” Laurent growled, uncharacteristically harsh. “I want you.”

“I’m yours,” Damen promised him. He felt drunk, high, delirious. Laurent’s confessions were rocking him to his core.

“Then, take me.”

Instinct took over at Laurent’s demand, and Damen was pushing him backwards. He pressed Laurent into the opposite wall, cupped his slender neck in one hand and held his waist in the other as he kissed him breathless. Laurent arched against him, pressing their hips together, arms winding around Damen’s neck and tugging at his hair. Damen’s hand ran down his thigh, squeezing tightly before he was dragging it up and around his waist, rocking Laurent up into him. Laurent drew in a loud breath when it pressed them together, their cocks grinding against one another through their trousers.

Laurent was just as hard as him, Damen could feel it. Hard from teasing Damen with his foot under a café table.

“And here I thought you were inclined towards the conservative,” Damen said when he pulled back for breath. He marvelled at Laurent’s red, wet lips, plump and swollen from their hard kisses.

“You have a lot to learn,” Laurent said.

His hands slid over Damen’s shoulders, running down his hard chest and abs, until he hooked his fingers in the waistband of Damen’s jeans. He quirked an eyebrow, asking permission, and Damen gave it in a wordless nod. He watched Laurent’s face, utterly transfixed, as the man’s fingers worked open his pants.

Laurent looked up at him with a smirk. “Do you often neglect to wear undergarments?”

Damen chuckled breathlessly, but had no chance to reply as Laurent drew his hard cock out from his pants with his long, slender fingers. He feasted his eyes over the revealed flesh and licked his lips. Damen cursed at the sight.

He kissed him again when Laurent started to stroke him. It was dry and a little awkward given how closely Damen was holding him, but the thought of letting him go was unacceptable. He ached to be closer, to feel Laurent flush against him. He craved his touch, felt like it was the only important thing in the world.

Laurent let go of his cock then and his hand moved to his own trousers. He fished around in the pockets, and Damen drew back to ask what he was looking for, before he drew out two slim foil packets. He shoved them wordlessly into Damen’s hand.

“You’re going to fuck me over that sink,” he said.

Damen drew in a painfully ragged breath. “Jesus fuck Laurent.”

Laurent pushed him back, extricating himself from Damen’s arms, and began to furiously work at his trousers. He shoved them down his thighs, underwear too, freeing his flushed, pink cock before he turned and leaned over the sink, clutching the white porcelain with his slightly trembling hands. He presented himself to Damen, arching his back beautifully to display his ass. He turned his head to fix Damen a smirk.

Damen had never been so hard in his life. Damn closets, this was the hottest, most thrilling thing he had ever done. And he did porn for a living.

Damen moved forward and cupped Laurent’s ass in his hand. He massaged the firm white flesh and pressed a kiss to the side of Laurent’s head, nuzzling him affectionately as Laurent gasped and turned into him. Laurent demanded his lips again, and so Damen kissed him, bending forward a little to make it work, as his fingers started to travel over the swell of his ass and to the cleft.

He ran a fingertip over Laurent’s furled entrance, and swallowed his quiet gasp with relish. He massaged the hole in gentle increments, coaxing more little breathy noises out of Laurent’s mouth.

“Fuck me,” Laurent snapped at him when Damen teased him for too long.

Damen grinned. He’d come to expect an almost petulant quality from Laurent when he was like this, demanding his pleasure from Damen and growing quickly frustrated when he didn’t immediately give him what he wanted. Damen found it incredibly endearing.

He held the packets Laurent had handed him up to the light to read the label. One was a condom, the other a packet of lube.

“Something wrong with the brand?” Laurent asked impatiently.

“No, Laurent, I—”

“Stop thinking,” Laurent demanded. “Just fuck me.”

Damen ripped open the lube packet and smeared some of its contents over two of his fingers. His hand went back to Laurent’s ass, teasing along the cleft before finding that rosy pink entrance again.

“Ready?” He asked.

“For fuck’s sake—”

Laurent was cut off on a gasp when Damen pushed a finger in. He let out a breathy sound, nails clacking against porcelain as he gripped the sink tighter.

The stretch was easy, almost surprisingly so. Realisation dawned on Damen, and he growled low. “Have you been playing with this since we fucked?” He slowly drew his finger back out, rubbing it against Laurent’s smooth walls as he did. “Have you been stretching your hole for me?”

One of Laurent’s hands flew from the sink to Damen’s forearm, clutching at it desperately, digging half moons into his skin. He was blushing, the red spreading down over his chest and to the tips of his ears. He made a strangled sound when Damen pressed another finger in quickly after the first, scissoring them and swiftly finding Laurent’s prostate.

“Yes,” he finally choked out.

“Fuck, that’s hot.”

Laurent chuckled, before the sound quickly dissolved into a panting groan as Damen dug his fingers into his prostate again.

“Did you watch my videos while you did it? Did you play with yourself imagining it was me instead?”

“Yes,” Laurent rasped.

“Just fingers?”

Laurent squeezed his eyes closed, his cheeks a rosy red. He shook his head. “Toys, too.”

Damen imagined it: Laurent writhing on his bed, frantically trying to fuck himself on a giant dildo. It had to be large, for him to feel so loose. The very thought made Damen’s cock throb.

“And did you imagine it was me inside you while you were fucking yourself with your toys?” Damen growled in his ear.

Laurent shuddered. “Shut up— Fuck, shut up.”

Damen pulled his fingers out abruptly, leaving Laurent wet and open. Laurent pressed himself back, searching for sensation and snarling his frustration when he couldn’t find it.

Damen was busy ripping open the second foil packet and rolling the condom onto his aching cock, before smearing it with the rest of the lube. He moved behind Laurent, stroking a hand reverently down his clothed spine before bending over to press kisses to the back of his neck as he rubbed his cock against Laurent’s entrance.

There was a mirror in front of the sink, a little dirty but perfectly placed for Damen to watch Laurent’s face as he dragged his cock back and forth across his gaping, pink hole. Laurent’s eyes fluttered closed, his mouth parted, his blond brow furrowed. He was flushed and panting and utterly exquisite. It was intoxicating to watch him in his pleasure.

Laurent’s eyes opened, and they met Damen’s in the mirror. Damen pressed a little harder against him and Laurent made a small, whining sound, something Damen imagined he would fervently deny making later. God, he was desperate for it.

When he finally sunk slowly, slowly in to that hot, wet heat, all breath was stolen from Damen’s lungs, and he could only close his eyes and desperately try to hold on, to draw this moment out for as long as possible.

“Damen,” Laurent cried out, voice echoing much too loud in the small bathroom. “Damen, oh shit…

Damen buried himself steadily to the base, till his jeans scraped along the back of Laurent’s thighs. Jesus christ, Laurent was so fucking hot and tight. His ass squeezed Damen’s cock like a vice, more perfect than Damen could ever imagine.

Damen pressed his forehead to Laurent’s shoulder and tried desperately to breathe.

It felt so good, he could barely fathom thought. He felt high on the danger, the fact that anyone could walk in on them at any time, he felt drunk on the feeling of fucking Laurent in this dingy little bathroom, staking his claim on Laurent as much as Laurent was staking a claim on him.

“Fuck— fucking move, dammit,” Laurent snapped, his voice raspy and hoarse and breathless.

Damen held his hips tight as he started to rock back and forth, drawing just a little of his thick cock out before pressing it right back in. He listened to Laurent’s little grunts and gasps to guide himself, speeding up in intervals as Laurent moaned for him. He angled his hips and searched for his prostate, found it a handful of thrusts later as Laurent’s entire body jolted.

Laurent’s hands were white knuckled where he gripped the edges of the sink, his head bowed forward and his hair falling around him like a shroud. Damen was struck by the need to see his face, to see how pleasure transformed him, and so unthinkingly he wound his fingers through a handful of Laurent’s tresses and gently pulled.

Laurent gasped at the sensation, his back arching. He lifted his head under Damen’s gentle tug and met Damen’s eyes in the mirror.

“Harder,” he said.

Damen swallowed, his grip tightening a little, and Laurent winced beautifully, before his lips fell open and he moaned.

Damen watched Laurent’s face as he fucked him, watching the way his expression crumpled every time Damen drove into him hard, every time Damen tugged his hair as he pulled back out. His other hand gripped Laurent’s hip tight enough to bruise, pulling Laurent back and forth on his cock with every thrust, making him take it that much deeper. Laurent grunted every time, the sound driven out of him. He put his hand up on the wall by his head, and as he looked Damen in the eye in the mirror, he used that leverage to push himself back hard. Damen slammed into him, and the sound echoed like a slap in the bathroom. Again and again and again their bodies collided. Laurent was driven to his toes, Damen pulling his hair tight enough that his head wrenched so far back that his long throat was bared, every swallow visible as it worked.

Damen held out as long as he could, fucking Laurent hard and fast, trying to give him what he wanted, but the need to be closer overwhelmed him. He let go of Laurent’s hair and bent forward, curling himself over Laurent, clutched him so tightly there wasn’t an inch of space between them. One hand snuck under his shirt and splayed over Laurent’s smooth stomach, the other roamed a little higher and curled around his chest.

“Harder,” Laurent growled at him, voice hitching on a thrust.

Damen’s movements were even and deep, hitting all the places that had Laurent crying out for him, the sound of their slapping skin obscenely loud in the quiet bathroom. It was fulfilling every fantasy Damen never knew he had.

He turned Laurent’s face and kissed him as best he could from this angle, plundering his lips with the same enthusiasm that he fucked him, taking him steadily apart. Laurent could barely reciprocate, his mouth was open and panting around Damen’s kisses, little breathy moans escaped him that made Damen’s toes curl. When Damen drew back to look at him, Laurent looked utterly wrecked.

“So fucking beautiful,” Damen growled.

He withdrew the hand on Laurent’s stomach, spit on his palm, and reached between Laurent’s legs for his cock. He fisted it in his damp palm, stroking at a slower tempo to his punishing thrusts, teasing the head as he knew Laurent liked.

Laurent’s moans hitched up a cadence, driven out of him easily now with Damen’s frantic thrusts. He was more vocal than he had ever been, and it was driving Damen insane.

Too soon, Damen felt his release building up inside him. It started in his toes and suffused throughout his entire being, like bubbly champagne. His own grunts and groans were louder now, tangling with Laurent’s, sounds that the delirious voice in the back of his mind thought were exceptionally porn worthy.

“I’m— I’m close,” Laurent gasped.

“Fuck, come for me. Fuck, Laurent,” he grunted. He was so close to his own orgasm, too close to it now to look back. His hand was flying over Laurent’s cock, his thrusts jolting them both back and forth in a ceaseless rhythm. He opened his eyes, found the mirror, saw Laurent looking at him, blue eyes glazed over in pleasure.

Laurent came like that, eyes never leaving Damen’s even as his body shuddered and convulsed, as he spilled over Damen’s fist. Despite his earlier noisiness, Laurent finished silently, his mouth wide open and spilling messy breaths, expression contorted in ecstasy.

He tightened around Damen, and Damen followed him over the edge, clutching him desperately as he thrust a final few times and emptied himself inside.

The sound of their ragged breaths was deafening in the suddenly quiet room.

Damen waited until he felt feeling return to his fingers, until his head stopped spinning quite so much, before he started to disentangle himself from Laurent.

He pulled out carefully, soothingly stroking a hand over Laurent’s ass as he removed himself, and quickly tied off the condom before dropping it in the small bin by the sink.

Laurent was still bent over and panting. His head had fallen forward and his face was once more shielded by his hair. Damen moved up beside him and gathered it in his hands, draping it over one shoulder so that he could see his face.

Laurent’s eyes were firmly closed and he was adorably pleasure flushed. He looked fucked out and blissful. He opened his eyes and turned his face to Damen. He smiled back when Damen grinned at him.

“That was… intense,” he said.

Damen chuckled. “That it was.”

Laurent’s little grin was unthinkingly sweet. Damen felt warmed by the sight of it.

“If you don’t mind though, I need to wash my hand,” he said.

Laurent looked down at the hand in question, and wrinkled his nose at his own come which had stained it. He straightened himself and stretched, yawning and rolling his shoulders, and made Damen wait as he washed his own hands first before he would move.

Damen couldn’t help but chuckle at his little act of petulance.

When Damen was clean he turned to Laurent who was leaning on the wall with his hands crossed over his chest, trousers now fixed and redone, watching him with a silently appreciative eye. Damen stepped up to him, gently cupped his face and kissed him.

“You’re fucking incredible,” Damen said, resting his forehead against Laurent’s.

Laurent scoffed, and didn’t say a word.