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Pavlov's Bell

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The first time they meet, they're still in the military.

“How do you do,” Eames says politely, shaking Arthur's hand, his mouth a wry slant; and Arthur, a second slower on the uptake, spits out, “Motherfucker.”

His NCO starts to reprimand him, and though he doesn't care, he tempers himself. He sits through the entire briefing, burning with embarrassment, and pretends he can't feel Eames' gaze lingering on him with pointed interest.

Eames corners him later that night in a different tent.

“You've never met a werewolf before,” he says, as casually as though he has this conversation all the time. Arthur shakes his head. “What are you?”

“I thought you could tell,” says Arthur. “You were staring at me—”

“I've never smelled anything like you,” says Eames, and again, his calm, casual tone lends a surreal aspect to the conversation. “It's ... different.”

“I'm ... I'm slightly feline,” Arthur manages to spit out, glaring, as if daring Eames to comment.

“Interesting,” Eames says. He's staring at Arthur with unreserved interest, his gaze hot and intense for a few second.

Then he relaxes.

“I don't have to be your enemy, Corporal,” he says finally. Then he walks away.

Somehow, it turns out that way anyway.


In the latter half of his twenties, Arthur spurns jobs with Eames whenever he can. It isn't just that the other man is obnoxious and brash and annoyingly competent. It's that his mere presence grates against Arthur like a physical force, making him bristle, pushing him away.

Judging by the barbs Eames is constantly flinging at him, the feeling is mutual.

Still; the pool of people working in dreamshare is still small, and they're paired up on a number of jobs. It doesn't surprise Arthur when he hears, eventually, that they've developed a reputation for fighting like cats and dogs—since, in a sense, they are those things.

He tells Eames as little about himself as possible. They already seize every opportunity they can to demean and embarrass each other—just because Arthur has the decency not to go around telling people about Eames' unique affliction doesn't mean Eames is similarly inclined, and Arthur has no desire to arm him with any information that might at some point be used against him; possibly in public, in front of other esteemed members of the mind crime community. He can tell that Eames is fascinated by him, watching him the way he watches someone he's supposed to forge, and that annoys Arthur, leaves his capacity to tolerate Eames even less. Bad enough that Eames should know his condition just by sniffing him; when the forger finds out about Arthur's tail, Arthur braces himself for the blackmailing of a lifetime.

(It's a mistake, really, on both their parts; a drunken, fumbling one-night stand after a particularly perilous job in Reno. So many shots later and Eames is determined to fuck Arthur, and the discovery of an extra, furred appendage where an appendage shouldn't be doesn't deter him. He simply lifts it out of the way and pounds in. It's hate sex, plain and simple, a rough and violent joining-together, and presently Arthur refuses to count it, because they were drunk. Very drunk.

The blackmail never comes, but only presumably because he has sufficient material on Eames as well.)

The tail isn't the worst part of the whole thing. No; it gets worse than that. This, at least, is a secret Eames has no knowledge of. Normally Arthur can plan for it, seclude himself for the week-or-so that it lasts, and so nobody in the mind crime world but Cobb knows of this condition.

When it happens, it hits him like a fever—exactly like a fever. He feels hot, uncomfortable in his clothes, and every time somebody touches him on the arm or the shoulder he feels a cold shock ripple through him. It's an itch, prickling, spreading over his body, and no amount of friction can soothe his itching skin. No ice can settle the burn. Everything looks sharper, smells more intense. He's flushed, constantly, unable to keep his mind on his work, unable to think about anything except the urge to scratch the intolerable itch—to mate.

Heat. It's a damnable custom that makes him loathe his own traitorous body.

Under normal circumstances, he would find a female of his kind, track her scent for miles if he had to, and mate with her. Over and over, until his sexual appetite (or hers) was satisfied. But there are no others of his kind—male or female—that he knows of, and so he normally ends up in a bar, picking up the most receptive man or woman drunk enough to forget any physical oddities they might see in the dark.

When he can't have sex throughout the entire period—it's do-able. But in those cases, the unbearable heat lasts over a week. Given the chance to have sex, it's only a few uncomfortable days.

He watches the signs. He keeps track of his own cycle. It doesn't make sense, then, when the fever rolls over him unscheduled.

He's working a small job, just him and Eames and Ariadne, and they're on a tight deadline. He can't afford to be distracted; the job depends on his research. Desperately, he weighs his options. Eames isn't around. He's off tailing the mark's sister on her vacation in the Dominican. It's only Ariadne, and if he can fool her—

He sheds his waistcoat, rolls up his sleeves, and literally sweats through the first day, gritting his teeth and trying not to bite Ariadne's head off when she asks for his opinion on a new maze. Late at night, he goes back to his hotel room, strips off, and rolls himself around in the bedsheets, trying desperately to rub away the burning, prickling, itching sensation in his skin while he jerks himself off. He finds release in his hand, but it's barely satisfying, and the fever isn't quenched at all.

This goes on for the next four days.

He's nearly mad by the end. He's borderline manic all week, flushed constantly and so uncomfortable it's painful. What the fuck was he thinking? He wonders frantically to himself how he could ever have gotten through this sexless before, because right now he needs to get laid so bad it hurts, but the job—

And suddenly Eames is there.

He strolls in, nonchalant, and Arthur, whose senses are all aflame, smells him before he sees him. His head snaps up.

“What are you doing here?”

“Marie's cut her trip short. She'll be on a plane all night.” There's a wry tilt to Eames' mouth, the beginnings of a smirk. “I caught an earlier flight. The sooner to see my dimpled darling's face again.”

And Arthur, for once, is actually too annoyed to pick a fight. He's too hot, too exhausted, too desperate, and so he just says “Fine” and goes back to work, not before seeing a slight look of surprise on Eames' face.

Eames stands there.

“You're still here,” Arthur observes tersely, when after a few seconds Eames still hasn't budged.

Eames glances around, evidently to locate Ariadne, then lowers his voice and says in an unfamiliar tone, “You smell different, did you know?”

Oh, Christ. Arthur can feel heat rising in his face, no doubt making him even more flushed than he was to begin with. If this isn't the most embarrassing—

“It's not bad,” Eames says, still in the same low, soft voice, obviously only for Arthur's ears. “It's just ... different.”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” Arthur says stiffly. If Eames can't identify the pheromones Arthur knows he's putting out, Arthur sure as hell won't be the one to enlighten him. “Get to work, Mr. Eames.”

Eames gives him a strange look and leaves. When he joins Ariadne on the other side of the warehouse, Arthur hears his own name, and then Ariadne's scoffing reply, loud enough for Arthur to hear: “Oh, yeah, he's been PMSing all week.”

“Interesting,” says Eames. Arthur hunches over his desk and stares determinedly at his moleskine, knowing full well that his face is burning.


It's typical for Arthur and Eames to bicker—or, more appropriately, for Arthur to flatly shoot down all of Eames' ideas, point out all the flaws in his opinions, and for Eames to wind up and snap back with a sort of childish glee. It's Arthur's job to point out flaws, and since Eames is easily one of the more creative minds in the field, and has a lot of ideas to bring to the table, it's not unusual that they should be at odds as often as they are. Arthur shoots down a lot of ideas in his line of work. He and Eames have just taken it to a more—personal level.

So for him not to say anything when Eames fires off a few opinions based on what he's learned about the sister—for him to not even join in when Ariadne is briefing Eames on all the intelligence they've collected in his absence—is beyond unusual.

Weirder still is how intently Eames is staring at him. He stares all afternoon. His gaze whips away whenever Arthur glances over, but he can feel Eames' stare burning into him, and it makes him all the more uncomfortable, until he's practically squirming in his seat.

Eventually Ariadne gets up and stretches her arms over her head, saying she needs to take a break from mazes and she's going for a walk and does anyone want any deep-fried peanuts, and the second she's gone Eames is out of his seat.

“Eames,” Arthur says warningly, but Eames cuts him off.

“Just let me—” And he reaches down and clasps a hand around the side of Arthur's neck to pull him closer in his chair, leaning down until his nose almost brushes Arthur's jaw, and draws in a deep breath.

“Eames!” Arthur hisses.

“God,” Eames breathes, not making a move to step away. “You smell intoxicating, Arthur.”

And that ... is not what Arthur was expecting.

He's numb in his seat as Eames takes in a few more hungry breaths, and his nose is definitely brushing Arthur's skin now. Arthur sits still and just waits for him to get it out of his system, like a pet dog smelling a new dog-scent on its owner, but then the tip of Eames' tongue touches his neck, and Arthur shoves him off.


“Sorry,” says Eames, not looking sorry at all.

“You can't just come over here and molest me like—”

“I can't help it,” says Eames. His fingers twitch restlessly like he wants a cigarette or something. “Can I just—”

Arthur jerks away, glaring.

“I won't touch,” says Eames plaintively, raising his hands.

“Fine,” Arthur spits out bluntly.

He submits to Eames' once-over again, the sooner to get this over with. Eames is thorough this time, starting with his hair, down to his neck again, taking deep, slow breaths. His eyes are glazed over hungrily. This is the closest Arthur's ever come to seeing Eames lose control of himself.

Soon, he can tell sniffing isn't enough, or at least, the bare skin Eames has to work with isn't. He makes a sound of marked frustration, and Arthur pushes him away.

“Go back to your desk,” he says.

Eames has to blink a few times before any semblance of clarity returns to his eyes.

“Right,” he says dumbly. “Sorry,” and he leaves, back to his side of the warehouse.

Arthur gets back to work, not before noting that he's half-hard in his trousers. He sincerely hopes Eames couldn't smell that kind of receptiveness on him. When he notices, some time after Ariadne returns, that Eames is staring right over her shoulder at Arthur while she talks, he gets up hastily and excuses himself to take a walk of his own.

This is unbearable. He wants to run for twenty blocks and howl. He wants to curl up on the ground and roll and stretch and rub his scent off on the pavement. He wants to—

—to go back up there and tear his clothes off and pounce Eames—

Except no. Not that last part.

The muscles at the base of his tail ache, he wants so badly to raise it instead of tucking it down his pant leg.

He bums a smoke from a stranger, who probably obliges him only because he can see Arthur's crazy eyes, and tries to soothe his rattled nerves. And maybe mask his scent a little bit. The cigarette helps, marginally, on both fronts.

Job be damned, he needs to go out tonight and get laid.

When he returns to the workspace and is met by Eames' predatory stare, he does what he should have done in the first place and grabs their oscillating fan, powered-off in the corner. He hauls it promptly over to Eames' desk, places it on the side further from his own and switches it on. Eames' expression is quizzical until Arthur returns to his own desk, safely downwind, where he has to weigh all his papers down with stray coffee mugs. Then Eames seems to get it. He relaxes and gets back to work.

Arthur just doesn't account, with every rotation of the fan, for Eames' scent to be blown his way. More importantly, he doesn't anticipate the way it washes over him and leaves him heady and dazed. Arthur's never liked Eames' scent—the heavy werewolf scent that clings to him no matter how recently he's bathed. Now, rich and musky, it does strange things to Arthur's head. It evokes the memory of their one and only fuck—a drunken half-remembered haze on Arthur's part, but—that doesn't stop the hairs on the back of his neck from rising, accompanying an involuntary shiver.

Ariadne eventually turns the fan off, grumbling, when it blows papers off her desk one too many times, and neither of them complain.


Eventually, Ariadne has to call it a day and leave. As soon as she's gone, Eames is on Arthur's side of the warehouse. His voice is breathy and husky and soft behind Arthur.

“Arthur, I don't know what's going on, but you smell amazing and I don't think I can—control myself—”

He's leaning closer as he speaks, desperately, and Arthur gets another noseful of his scent, drowning out all other senses. He shuts his eyes, parts his lips and inhales, pressing his tongue to the roof of his mouth behind his teeth, where the sensitive vomeronasal organ is, to better drink in Eames' own pheromone-laden scent. And God, has Eames always smelled so fucking wild and irresistible—?

“I think—if you leave now—” Eames says, sounding muddled and unsure of himself, and Arthur realizes Eames is giving him an out. Which—shit. One wide hand curves around Arthur's neck, tilting his head back so that Eames can nose over his pulse point gingerly. His hand trembles around Arthur's throat. Eames is serious. He literally can't control himself.

Arthur considers that information.

“Leave?” he says finally. “In the middle of a job? I don't think so.”

“Arthur.” Eames sounds broken. His nails scrape ever so gently over the soft skin of Arthur's neck.

Arthur stands abruptly. It seems to take Eames a considerable effort to let his hand fall away.

“I'll be in my hotel room,” Arthur says firmly, turning to face him, and he sees the moment when Eames gets it.

He walks out purposefully, moleskine tucked under his arm, the entire line of his spine prickling so that he's almost certain Eames can see the swing of his tail. He stifles himself forcefully.


It doesn't take Eames very long at all to show up outside Arthur's hotel room, brimming with a sexual energy Arthur can smell.

“I hope you brought—” Arthur starts, and is forced to break off when Eames barrels inside and captures Arthur's mouth in a kiss. He brings both hands up to Arthur's shoulders, so that Arthur couldn't pull away even if he wanted to (which, he finds to his surprise, he doesn't really).

This is new. Eames kisses forcefully, powerfully, like he's trying to devour Arthur. If Arthur's being honest with himself, he kind of wants to let him. Then Eames presses his body to Arthur's, and it hits Arthur just how hard Eames is. He can't remember much about Eames' cock, but—pressed against his thigh, it feels pretty substantial.

He prises Eames off and shuts the door behind him.

“I'm in heat,” he says, and he already knows his face is flushed; even this statement can't make him much redder. Eames snorts a soft laugh.

“Of course you are.” He draws Arthur close again, not for a kiss but to loop two fingers under Arthur's belt. “Let me help you with that, kitten.”

Face burning, Arthur jerks away and starts tugging his shirt off. Eames follows his example, casting his own shirt aside, then grabbing Arthur by the belt loops and tugging him close.

“You know what I want to see,” he breathes over Arthur's face. His fingers move deftly over the buckle of Arthur's belt, his eyes never leaving Arthur's face; then he unzips him and pushes Arthur's trousers down, kneeling as he goes, and Arthur shuts his eyes as he feels his tail come free and curl at the tip.

He's hard and leaking, but it's the tail Eames' hands reach for first, smoothing down the ringed silver-black tabby fur reverentially.

“Stop that,” Arthur manages to croak at length.

“Feels good?” Eames grins up at him, all bared teeth, his canines tipped and sharp. But he rises, one arm winding around Arthur's waist to pull them flush again; when he kisses Arthur, his other hand slides down Arthur's spine to knead at the base of his tail. The tail arches of its own traitorous volition.

This motion seems to remind Eames of his mission: with a sudden sense of purpose, he turns Arthur around and pushes him onto the bed, where Arthur lands with a grunt on his knees. He shifts himself to the centre of the bed, where he's more comfortable, and glances around in time to see Eames shedding his own pants, his erection springing free, curving up toward his stomach, and Christ, he's big. Arthur doesn't know how he ever took Eames' cock the first time. His tail immediately drops flat again, as though to shield him.

Eames clucks, noticing this. “Don't worry, pet,” he murmurs, dropping onto the bed and giving Arthur's tail a little tug. “I'll make you nice and loose for me.”

“Stop touching my tail,” Arthur snaps, trying to save a little face here. In answer Eames gives it another tug, then reaches up and tickles right under the base, sending a jolt straight to Arthur's prick. “Fuck!”

Eames groans suddenly and Arthur hears the snap of a cap of lube. His tail whisks low again, instinctively, but before he can react more than that Eames is gripping it close to the base and holding it up out of the way while a slicked finger circles Arthur's hole. A prickling flush descends over Arthur—his tail twitches violently in Eames' grip.

“Easy, pussycat,” Eames says, and slides two fingers in. Arthur whines, his whole body throbbing hot, his thighs spreading in spite of the ache. “That's it,” Eames murmurs, working his fingers in deep. “Show yourself off for me.”

The smell of him, sex and sweat, batters Arthur in waves. He himself is sweating miserably, though he senses that the fix for his fever might just be hidden in that intoxicating scent. Eames edges another finger inside and Arthur hisses, clenching, but then Eames releases his tail and reaches instead for his cock. His palm is warm, slightly rough, and Arthur positively melts into the touch.

“Don't,” he pants, sinking to his elbows. “I'm gonna ...”

Eames squeezes gently, rolling his thumb up under the crown of Arthur's prick and flicking his wrist, and Arthur comes hard, all over Eames' hand and the sheets. His muscles relax a little and he lets his head drop until his forehead is resting on the covers, panting. Then he starts to rock his whole body back into the gentle thrusts of Eames' hand, rubbing his forehead back and forth over the sheets. He's still hard, maybe harder than he's ever been, and almost instantly desperate to get off again.

“Christ,” Eames says hoarsely, watching him; “I can't—” And he withdraws his fingers, pushes Arthur's lashing tail aside and starts to sink in abruptly, forcing his cockhead in before Arthur can do much more than mewl pathetically. He sinks in to the root in one hot slide, and the stretch and pressure are almost more than Arthur can bear. He's not used to bottoming; being fucked would mean situating a stranger too close to his tail for comfort. The only person who's ever been here, touched him like this before, is—Eames.

“Eames,” he manages in a breathy, creaking whine, his nose running for no explainable reason.

“That's it,” Eames says again, voice strained as though all of him is being constricted by the tight clench of Arthur's muscle. “You can take this, Arthur, I know you can,” and he's stroking Arthur's spine, awkwardly, but then he reaches and his fingers tangle in a handful of Arthur's hair and oh. “That's my good boy, you can take it—”

He starts to slide back out, and Arthur breathes; he punches back in, tugging Arthur's head back, and the breath leaves Arthur's lungs in a great whoosh, like the girth of Eames inside him leaves no room for air. He scrabbles at the sheets for purchase as Eames sets a pace like that, sawing forcibly out and in until Arthur has relaxed sufficiently around him to make the friction more bearable. He feels drunk—he's swimming in the smell of Eames, sharp and canine and masculine, and from far away he hears cries in what he can't believe is his voice. He becomes aware that his tail is draped over Eames' shoulder and around the back of his neck, curved tightly as if it's strong enough to cling to him. The force of Eames' thrusts push him up the bed a little on each stroke until he can reach out and brace against the headboard with one hand.

“There,” Eames growls, actually growls, a bass rumble that resonates through Arthur's chest cavity. “I knew you could take this, I'll fuck the heat right out of you, pet—”

He pulls out and Arthur makes a sharp, broken sound, but in the next instant Eames has flipped him roughly onto his back, hooking one of Arthur's knees over his arm, and he slides back home with a groan of relief. Arthur likes this angle better, especially when Eames drops his head to Arthur's and pants raggedly against his mouth, and he's all Arthur can see and smell and feel, it's like he's drowning in Eames and is quite happy to let go. Eames is pushing up inside him to that itch he can't reach and nothing has ever felt so achingly satisfying as the drag of his cock inside Arthur.

Thus far their coupling has been rough, frantic, hurried. Now Eames starts to change the pace—he rocks a little slower, pushes in deeper, as deep as he can, hips flattened to Arthur's thighs before dragging back out again. It's tormenting.

“Eames,” Arthur says breathlessly, scratching sharply at his back. “Come on—”

“Just—” And Eames stutters off, burying himself as deep inside Arthur as he can be, and fits his mouth against Arthur's in another kiss just as he—fuck, he starts to swell; he's swelling inside Arthur and it's an unexpected hurt. Arthur arches his spine off the bed.

“What are you—”

“Don't,” Eames says, smothering him with body weight. His eyes are dark and dazed and he nips along Arthur's jaw tenderly, like he doesn't know he's folding Arthur almost in half and stretching him open in painful increasing increments. It's a sensation Arthur can't rightly identify: clenched around the very base of Eames' cock, it's only just inside him where Eames is swollen, sealing them together, stretching the rim of his hole painfully taut.

It's only when Arthur starts to panic, makes a little sound of pain, afraid Eames is going to tear him apart, that Eames becomes still inside him again, stretching him around an impossible girth.

For a second they're silent apart from harsh panting breaths, and then Arthur realizes Eames is coming, spilling in long spurts inside him with soft moaning sounds. Inside, he feels hot enough to burn Arthur.

After a minute or so, Eames stirs himself enough to say, “It's okay,” trying to quell Arthur's squirms: little abortive movements with each painful pull at his hole, enough to tell him it will hurt a lot more if he tries to part from Eames in earnest. His fever momentarily quenched, head starting to clear, he feels a flicker of sharp panic again.

“What's happening?” he demands. His voice is ragged, his throat scraped raw.

Rather than answer him, Eames noses under his jaw and then kisses him again.

“Just relax,” he murmurs against Arthur's lips.

But he can't relax, they're joined and he can't break free, and it hurts and yet the ache is sweet, and he gulps for air, his head spinning as the fever comes raging back. Eames wraps a hand around his cock and starts stroking.

“Relax,” he says again, and Arthur melts into the sheets all over again. He simply gives himself over, trusting Eames to soothe this raging burn inside him that makes him so desperate to be touched. He can't do anything else.

Eames' cock is angled just so that it rubs against Arthur's prostate every time he moves, and Eames brings him off twice before Arthur's erection at last starts to subside. By the second orgasm, he's half sobbing for breath and insensate. He barely feels Eames dragging Arthur's hand through the mess of come on his chest and then licking it off Arthur's fingers, one by one. After that, they lie still, breathing together, and Eames mouths and nips every bit of flesh he can reach; licking up the line of Arthur's throat, dropping wet kisses over his jaw. Arthur's skin tingles everywhere Eames touches him.

It's almost fifteen minutes after Eames' own climax that they're able to ease gingerly apart from one another. At that point Eames props Arthur's thighs up and examines him carefully for damage, while the tip of Arthur's tail sweeps lazily back and forth over the sheets. He feels like his hole must be gaping, but when Eames presses a finger up inside him, he realizes he's clenched again, holding Eames' come inside, the muscles under his tail too tight to loosen that easily. He wonders, vaguely, how Eames ever possibly fit in the first place. He doesn't protest at Eames' examination. He's wrung-out and pleasantly sated, like he could sleep for a hundred hours. Amazingly, his fever's broken. The heat's gone, over.

At last, Eames crawls back up the bed and flops down beside Arthur, draping an arm over his waist and closing his eyes.

“That didn't happen in Reno,” Arthur mumbles, fighting to keep his own eyes open. Eames makes a querying sound, and Arthur says, “That time we were drunk.” Eames is silent, and Arthur presses, “Does that always happen when you have sex?”

For a minute he doesn't think Eames is going to reply. Then Eames mutters, “Usually I pull out before it can.”

“But not this time.”

Eames is quiet again. Asleep, Arthur presumes.

On reflection, that sounds like the best idea he's heard all day.


Arthur wakes up in the morning to an incredibly sore ass, a very normal body temperature and an empty hotel room. This isn't a surprise.

The fact that they pull the job off flawlessly, in spite of how distracted Arthur is by the smell of Eames in the warehouse all week, is a surprise.

They don't discuss it, not until their client has transferred all the money to their accounts and Arthur shows up at Eames' hotel to let him know. He stands awkwardly in the doorway when he's done talking, watching Eames pack.

“So—” He clears his throat. “Thanks for—helping. With the whole heat thing.”

“Not a problem.” Eames folds his clothes loosely and drops them into his suitcase, haphazard with his belongings. “I suppose we should talk about that. If it happens again—”

“It's a distraction. I know,” Arthur says quickly.

“I guess we could stop working with each other from now on.”

He throws a shirt into his suitcase with particular vehemence. Arthur can't see his face.

“Eames, I did some reading.”

Eames stills, his shoulders hunched slightly, and Arthur finds quite unexpectedly that he's tongue-tied. He doesn't want to tell Eames that he'd specifically told the cleaning service to stay out of his hotel room and jerked off every night to the smell of Eames in his bed, purring in his throat when he came. He doesn't want to give voice to his suspicion that what happened in Reno had not been a mistake on Eames' part, or that just maybe, Arthur has been an unfair dick to him for a long time now. And he certainly doesn't want to bring to light his newfound knowledge, which took some digging to find—werewolves only tie with their mates.

And he definitely doesn't want to admit that maybe he liked it.

Instead, what he says, taking pains to sound neutral, is, “We could stop working jobs together ... or we could work every job together.”

Eames turns to face him, one eyebrow raised, his expression otherwise as neutral as Arthur's tone.

“That would be agreeable to me,” he says, and drops the last piece of clothing into his suitcase.

Then he grins, suddenly, that bared-tooth flash of canines Arthur is used to.

“So what other little kitty secrets are you hiding in there?”

Arthur's instinct is to scowl. But his tailtip flicks against his leg, and he manages to admit, “Sometimes I've got cat ears in the dreamscape.”

Eames laughs, a throaty rumble that has Arthur's flesh itching like he's in heat all over again.

“Oh, darling,” he growls fondly. “I can't wait to explore every inch of you.”