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Diplomatic Resolution

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I don’t usually have much of a head for politics, unless it involves abusing loopholes to keep myself un-executed, but I was pretty sure politicking didn’t usually lead to lazing around in bubble baths.

No, wait, let me back up.

Since becoming Winter Knight, I hadn’t changed many of my day to day habits. I still stomped around Chicago playing supernatural sheriff, setting fomor agents on fire. Sometimes I mixed it up with some of my shiny new ice magic, but my finesse needed some work. I had enough oomph behind me to freeze someone solid, but not enough care not to fall on my ass when the road was covered in black ice.

I was perfectly happy to keep on protecting my hometown in between my Knightly duties. But lately things were a little more complicated. I was Mab’s liaison to the mortal world, and slinging around the power the Winter Court afforded me to get the job done. Chicago, though, was a barony now. Politics would have it that by protecting the city, I was doing a favor for Baron Johnny.

I didn’t mind having Marcone owe me a favor. But unfortunately, that often leads to Marcone owing Mab a favor these days.

That was something I minded. Mab was never kind about her debt-collecting, and as her representative, I sometimes tripped people into her path. I hated to admit it, but when the fomor thing happened, Marcone stepped up to the plate. I didn’t want Mab to get her claws in him when he had enough to deal with as it was.

Which brings me back to the bubble bath.

It was huge, a great porcelain claw-footed monster of a tub. I didn’t think they made these in my size, or, for that matter, outside big budget period piece romances, but keeping my legs bent kept me almost totally submerged, just my knees exposed to the cool air. I shifted the bubbles around to cover them, piling up two lavender-scented pyramids of foam.

The water had initially been hot enough to almost scald, but it had mellowed out into the sort of solid heat that seeped deep into my body, all the way down to my bones. The feel of Winter that lingered in me faded somewhat. I could still feel it in my magic, but quieter. It never quite left me. No mortal means could manage that, but that was perfectly fine.

There was even a little rolled up towel between my neck and the porcelain, a pillow to make my reclining more comfortable. Everything was situated for maximum comfort, and I certainly felt maxed out. I kept my eyes closed and let my hands float in the water, feeling weightless but supported. Sometimes I stretched a leg out of the water out of the water, just long enough for the chill to set in, then drew it back in, all just to feel that slow warming again. Mm.

Eventually the heat faded from the water, and I opened my eyes to see the bubbles mostly gone from the surface. Disappointing, but not the end of the world. I could’ve steamed things back up and languished some more, but my hands were looking wrinkly.

I shook some of the water off my arms, then just to be a pain in the ass, briskly clapped my hands.

Lo and behold, John Marcone walked in, dressed down, barefoot, and holding an armful of pure fluffy softness masquerading as a robe.

I gawked at him, then pointed to the door. “No, wait, go outside, I want to see if that works a second time.”

John ignored me, instead setting the robe down on the sink and grabbing a towel from the rod. He held it out, waiting as I crawled out of the tub and stepped in. As I dried off, he took care of the remaining water, shirt sleeves carefully rolled up his arms. My towel was whisked away and John held up the robe for me to shrug into.

“Oh hell’s bells, what did you do?”

“Two minutes in the dryer on high heat,” John said smugly. Let him be smug. I was too busy wrapping the robe around myself and hunching down into the fluffy staticky heat.


“Come on. Food’s ready.”

“Food,” I repeated, low and intent. Food sounded excellent. John snorted, apparently amused at my new found love of the simple things. Food. Baths. Being lead through John’s big, fancy house on his arm. I didn’t even bother remembering the layout of the monstrosity Marcone called home when he wasn’t in Chicago; that was all taken care of by my host.

The snowflake brand on my skin started to tingle, a quiet warning sign, the shadow of Mab’s awareness trying to settle on me. It was enough for me to walk a little faster, and John didn’t ask, just quickened his steps.

John deposited me in front of the fire in the main living room. It was crackling merrily with a thick, woolly rug in front of it. I settled down onto the rug and let my feet dig into the material, loops of carpet knit hooking onto my toes. The fire’s heat suffused through me, like my own had back when I‘d had an apartment. I’d just stretched my feet out closer to the flames when John returned with a tray. There were fruits and little squares of cheese along with what looked like a bowl of chocolate sauce. I grinned.

“You gonna feed me, like the servants with the grapes?” I waggled my eyebrows at him, high on the ridiculous image.

John smirked. “Don’t you have your own cabana boys in Arctis Tor?”

“That’s more of a Summer thing.”

“A shame I don’t have any transparent pants.” He set the tray down next to me, then knelt at my back.

“That’s harem boys, Marcone.”

“My mistake.” He settled behind me, tucking my back against his chest, one strong arm around my waist and another the other picking up bites of food to press against my lips. There were some actual grapes there, the deep maroon ones that were all sweet, no tart. Sometimes, John would push one right into my mouth, and I’d crush it between my teeth, letting it burst juice over my tongue. And sometimes, he’d hold onto the thing so I’d have to suck it out of his grip or split it. The mess was unexpectedly good, especially when it lingered on John’s fingers. I tipped my head back, feeling very enticing myself, cleaning off the juice that clung to his skin.

I made eyes at him repeatedly, ranging from serious half-lidded smoldering stares and blatant winking.

“Is there something in your eye?” John asked blithely.

“You are not being very accommodating.” I sulked at him.

“Knighthood has made you soft, it seems.”

I wriggled back against him. “Soft ain’t the problem.”

John snorted and returned to feeding me. Pieces of gouda and cherries dunked in chocolate came in an almost constant stream to my mouth. John Marcone’s way of telling me to shut up. I didn’t mind.

I cleared off most of the tray before turning my face away from the bite. John put the tray aside without a word, and shifted just enough to make my recline against him that much better. I‘d had no idea the way I was lying wasn’t perfect until my spine curved just a little more and I sighed extravagantly.

John’s legs were bent, perfect for acting as armrests, and I put them to good use. My fingers pressed against the knit of his jeans, finding the little patterns in the denim.

I had my eyes closed, heat at my front with the fireplace and heat at my back with John, when he finally touched me. A palm slid through the gap in the robe, down along my ribs to lay across my stomach. That was it, just a hand pressed against my skin. My breath hitched, and I waited for him to do something. Anything. He didn’t, just left his hand there, and soon it faded into just another point of warmth.

His other hand joined it in the same spot. Two warm presses. I sighed deeply and arched a little bit, shoulders back into John, abdomen up against his hands.

No reaction. But that was fine. I settled again, content with the touching and sated appetite and everything. John’s lap was the lap of luxury, no surprise there.

At first, I didn’t even notice him moving. I was so relaxed that it was like being wrapped in wool, everything distant and indistinct. Gradually, I became aware of John’s hands drifting over my skin, first little more than a tilt, the slightest brush to and fro. It kept going, until he was rubbing my belly in sweeping circles, hands skipping over each other on every pass. It was very slow, but felt like he was eroding away every inhibition I had left in me.

Not to make any genie cracks, but I was being rubbed in the right way. Before long, sweat broke out over my skin. It was a heat wave spreading over me, and more than anything, I wanted to move. Into it, away from it, either would work. Something kept my hands where they were on John’s legs though, just tightening my hold on his knees.

“Comfortable?” John asked, and I could hear his smug grin.

“Could be better.” I tried to shift back against him, searching for contact, anything I could get. I wasn’t willing to do more than that; it was his job for the night to serve. I wasn’t about to help him along. “You just need to...”

“What?” His hands remained steady, circling and circling until my skin was almost numb from the constant friction. I was puffing out air, frustrated, but didn’t speak. The quiet sweep of skin on skin was loud, almost hypnotic on its own.

Second base, and John had me going, pinned under the weight of his attention but revved hard. I tried to hitch up higher in hopes his hands would go lower, but he just moved with me and settled be back into my spot.

He was going to make me ask. I could just tell that he was waiting for me to crack and tell him to get proactive with those hands already. This wasn’t about his ego, though, so I made myself lay back and enjoy it anyway.

It wasn’t a hardship. I had no idea why his relentless petting worked so well, but it did. All I let myself do was sag back against him, occasionally rubbing my cheek against his shirt, shuddering out sighs. I spread my legs out a bit, relieving some pressure, and heard John make a sound. He tried to keep it quiet, but his body was all along mine. I could feel it.

“Comfortable?” I asked him.

“Fine,” he said shortly.

“Okay.” It was too late for him to sell the unaffected act. I just stretched my legs out further and rolled my shoulders back again. I was on Cloud Nine, even as the tension in my gut tightened with every touch. All the touches and indulgence, they settled into my muscles and bones, making me heavy and lethargic.

Credit where credit’s due: it felt like an hour later when John gave in. He wrapped one arm fully around my stomach and slid his other hand slid right down under the loosened tie of my robe to brush over my cock. I sucked in air and groaned, pressing up into his grip. His arm held me down, but was completely superfluous. I was holding myself down plenty, content to let him get the job done. My participation was limited to gripping his knees a little tighter and shivering.

He didn’t exactly tease, but started by just running up and down over my cock, just the curl of his fingers through my coarse hair. When he gripped me. I was keyed up so much it nearly hurt, my toes stretching and flexing futilely. There were strangled sounds working their way out of me, and John seemed motivated by them, jerking me slow, fast, firm, light. When he got the combination right and I arched my back, he kept at me, on and on until I broke. He held onto me tightly as I came and shook apart.

“Mmfuck,” I moaned, articulately.

John chuckled and kissed my temple, his hands settling on my stomach again, damper but resuming their slow rub.

I grinned so hard my face ached, reaching up to curl an arm around his neck.

And then I passed out.

I woke up in a sunbeam, in John’s bed. That was weird, because no one enjoyed blackout curtains more than John Marcone. You’d think someone like him would be a morning person. You‘d be so wrong. He was one of those fetch-me-a-coffee-IV people. Complex thought didn’t happen until his mild caffeine addiction was appeased. Complex like ‘which foot goes into which slipper.’

Not that I spent many mornings with Marcone. A handful of times, usually accidentally, starting back a few months before he made Signatory. He maliciously tripped me into bed that one time, and I hadn’t anticipated how satisfying it would be to sleep with someone you completely and totally hated with every fiber of your being.

Go figure.

I lazed a little while longer in the faint heat of the sun, indulging before getting up and shuffling off to the bathroom. I used the spare toothbrush John kept for my overnight visits, splashed some water on my face, and shuffled back in the bedroom to get dressed.

John came in just as I was getting into my shoes, wearing his workout clothes with Mouse trotting next to him. I ignored John as he stripped down for his shower, instead kneeling down and rubbing Mouse’s ears. “Hey there, you have fun chasing the gophers?”

“My lawn does not have gophers,” John said, indignant.

“No, because Mouse takes care of them for you.” Mouse lolled his tongue out of his mouth, clearly agreeing with me. “So, we good?”

“Are we... Why wouldn’t we be?”

I waved at him, indicating his entire... Marcone-ness. “You spend the whole night at beck and call, and I sort’ve left you hanging there.”

“I assure you, Harry, that I did not feel put out.” John tugged his shirt off over his head, mussing his hair, the sweat from his brow pulling it up at odd angles. I had a strong urge to go and fix it, a small recompense for last night. Instead, I shoved my hands deep into pockets and ducked my head.

“Not so much with the, uh. Put away wet, then?”

John shot me an arch look. “Are you asking if I took matters into my own hands after you fell asleep?”

Maybe. “No.” The chuckle John let out was low and deep, and there must’ve been a draft because I shivered. “Anyway! Debt absolved, price paid, et cetera and so on. Next time, try to handle this shit on your own.”

“Next time, don’t meddle,” he replied without bite. I got the feeling John enjoyed settling accounts with me. Something to keep in mind for the future.

“Whatever.” My staff and sword were propped up against the nightstand, waiting for me. I went to collect them, detouring long enough to steal into John’s space and fingercomb his damp hair like I wanted. “Stay out of trouble.”

He picked up my things, holding my staff as I lashed my sword to my hip before passing it to me respectfully. “I’ll see what I can do. Perhaps you could stop providing positive reinforcement though.”

I leaned into him. “You that eager to be my cabana boy for another night, Baron?”

He shook his head, smiling. “Have a good day, Knight Dresden.” And he left for the shower.

“Yeah,” I murmured to myself on the way out, body still humming pleasantly with that deep, stretched out, relaxed feeling he’d left me with. “You wanna be my cabana boy.”