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First Taste

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“Who’s there,” says Lee, losing his page; the stuffy quiet air of the bookstore seems to thrum, as if something is waiting. As if someone is waiting, breathing on the other side of the shelf, as if someone thinks he hasn’t heard the tinkle of the bell on the door-handle.

He can’t hear the shuffle of fingers on books, and his heart slows as he realizes that his new companion must simply be seeking shelter from the rain, where Lee is seeking shelter from his own mind, the comforting drug of dead writers’ words. He can hear the proprietor snoring.

There: a movement, across the shelf; a flick of rain-soaked dark hair, long enough to curl against a stubbled cheek— and Lee bites his lip in confusion and shock as he sees, as razor-blue eyes catch his own across the spines of the books. He pulls back his fingers from the shelf, shying from some unspoken intimacy.

He knows who this is. They are in a very small town, and this is the beginning of shooting; he has seen pictures. “Armitage,” he murmurs, sotto voce.

A second’s glimpse of a smile, a rakish angle of lips and teeth; and then Armitage rounds the bookshelf, droplets beading on his black leather jacket, nose and ears just a little ruddy from the cold. “Lee,” he says, as if he has earned the right to use Lee’s name, and he looks Lee up and down with just as much familiarity.

It should bother Lee. Instead it sends tingles up and down his spine, like fingers moving over the gold-embossed title of a book.

“I didn’t realize you were here early,” says Lee, privately shocked; he has always been taller than everyone, always an awkward stepladder of a man deep inside, but Richard is tall enough to meet his eyes easily, and he holds them fierce with his own.

“Thought there might be something interesting to do,” says Richard, and smiles, and advances a few feet as Lee reflexively takes a step back. There is danger here; what kind, he cannot tell. He holds up Hawthorne to his chest, a shield, a red badge of cowardice.

“Plenty to do, if you like rain,” says Lee, trying to turn back to his books, but Armitage is now too close to be ignored, the heat of him alluring in the inexpensive chill of the bookstore.

Armitage laughs; his breath moves over Lee’s neck and collarbones like a ghost, leaving gooseflesh. “Rain suits me,” he says, and his voice is low, pitched not to carry, pitched not to wake the proprietor.

Lee shivers, and Richard— Armitage, Lee reminds himself— leans still closer, until his sleeve rests heavy against Lee’s arm, until he knows that Richard can feel him— that Armitage can feel him shuddering.

Oh yes, there is danger here.

“I won’t bother you long,” says Richard, leaning in until his lips almost brush Lee’s ear. “Just saying hello, since it’s you and me in this godforsaken hamlet for the next week until the crew arrives. Maybe we should meet up.” And he makes as if to move back, as if to leave; but somehow his hand has come up to the small of Lee’s back, guiding him, preventing his withdrawal from those lips; and as he pulls away his palm stays a second too long, his fingers skate across the curve and the dimples where Lee’s ass meets his spine, burning as if no denim stands between them.

“Maybe we should stick together,” says Lee, shocking himself, instantly ashamed. And Richard laughs, and lingers a moment longer, and Lee feels the curve of those lips against the point of his own jaw; his own lips part, his hands come up, his fingers fist in the black slick of Richard’s jacket and in the rough cotton of his shirt.

Richard grips him, fingertips digging into biceps and forearms, and bears him back against the shelf, which creaks in dismay; his hipbone a second later rides with cruel friction against Lee’s growing arousal, and Lee gasps into Richard’s shoulder as those smiling wicked teeth sink into his throat.

Then Richard pulls away from him, not even out of breath though Lee is disheveled and panting, and smirks at the sweatered mess of tall gangly Pace before him. “Coffee tonight?” he asks, and doesn’t wait for an answer, and the door-bell tinkles as Lee sags against the shelf in a haze of confused and delirious lust.

_______________

The rest of the afternoon passes, and Lee can’t bring himself to leave the bookshop, possibly hiding but possibly just hoping that Richard will find him again, since he doesn’t have a number to text.

Coffee, he’d said. As if this little tourist town doesn’t have more coffeeshops and diners and bakeries than Lee has ever seen in one place, and most of them cute cheesy frilly things that Lee can’t imagine Richard sitting in. Richard, who is quiet, whose genuine small smile slips out during performances and somehow only makes his intensity more unbearable; Richard, whose teeth grazed his neck, who is intelligent and unpresuming but who can, apparently, read Lee like he is just another book in this shop.

Eventually the shop closes, and the sleepy-eyed proprietor takes his change and ushers him out into the mercury-lit yellow street with a paper bag full of Atwood and Poe; and Lee strolls the few blocks back up to his hotel, pretending to think about dinner but really just wondering where Richard is staying.

As he keys the door open (it, like the rest of the hotel, is a fifty-year-old remnant, and rattles like a monster in the closet), his phone vibrates. It’s a number he doesn’t recognize, and the text says: Coffee? 221.

A room number. Richard must have seen him coming up the walk.

He sets his books just inside his room and locks the door again, thumbing a reply: Wanna go out?

He’s halfway up the stairs when the response comes: No point.

Lee has to stop for a minute and collect himself. It would be easier if Richard at least pretended that they could begin as mere colleagues. But Richard, it seems, is not one to lie to himself, and every hurdle that Lee has seen in his future while he huddled in the bookstore— the prospect of sleeping with a coworker, the idea that he might be attracted to a man, the fear of discovery— all must be overcome at once.

He is either going to fuck Richard Armitage, or he is not, and the entire decision lies in the next footfall, in a stairstep up or down.

It’s this that saves him, because he is already headed up the stairs, and Lee doesn’t like to leave a thing undone, and after the first step upward the shaking leaves him in a rush and he is breathing again, he is rubbing the back of his neck as he waits at Richard’s door. Which opens; and Lee is cataclysmically unsure of what to do with himself, hunching his shoulders in unconscious defense as he slips past Richard into the room.

“Jacket,” offers Richard, gesturing to the chair where his own outerwear has been draped, and Lee tries not to hear in his tone: take off your armor, expose your vulnerable flesh. He takes off his jacket anyway and folds it across the back of the chair; and to his shock when he turns around Richard is making coffee, actual coffee in a coffeepot.

Lee can’t hold back a cough of incredulous laughter— my god, coffee— and Richard turns to raise an eyebrow at him. “Sorry,” says Lee, “I just expected something… different.”

Now both of Richard’s eyebrows are raised, and he places the carafe on the cabinet without turning on the coffeemaker and turns to face Lee completely. “Mind if I ask what you did expect?”

What had he expected? Teeth on his throat, weight of chest against chest, hands and lips and some gray haze of expectation, some motion he cannot yet bring himself to picture clearly. His mouth goes dry; he clears his throat.

Richard approaches him, not quite carefully, like a hunter stalking prey that has already fallen into the trap. “Do you want me to guess?”

Lee nods, willing himself not to back away, even though he desperately wants the security of a wall at his back. Richard’s eyes are burning him; in a moment he will be here, close enough to touch; in a moment he will be touching.

“I think,” says Richard, and then he slips his hand behind the small of Lee’s back, and draws him close enough that they are cheek to cheek, lip to ear; “I think that you want someone to tell you what you want. Is that right?”

Lee nods, and his lips part as he swallows convulsively; Richard is pressing him tight, tight enough to reveal that Lee has been hard since he walked through the door, and now his other hand slips between them and toys with the button of Lee’s jeans.

“I’ll be nice,” says Richard. “I won’t make you beg.” He undoes Lee’s zipper, and Lee feels his own breath stutter and betray him; then Richard pulls back. “Take off your shirt,” he orders, and Lee is so bewildered by the loss of contact that he stands there panting for a few seconds, fly open and face pained, before he can understand what Richard is asking him to do, and he crosses the first line to nakedness without realizing that he has made the choice, shucking his shirt and tossing it away without breaking the burning line of Richard’s gaze.

 The air smells like coffee now, but even this is not as tempting or as intoxicating as the smell of Richard as he moves close again, fingers spanning Lee’s ribs, mouth tensing in what might be a smile but is almost certainly something more predatory. “You obey beautifully,” he murmurs; and Lee is ready to obey anything he says, anything forever, for the sound of lips moving like this.

But this is only a moment of touch, and Richard withdraws it almost as soon as Lee has begun to reel from it; he knows now that all of his skin, that the palms of his hands and the creases of his eyes, are a drug that Lee will do anything to taste. He wins; Lee loses. It’s easier than Lee thought it would be.

“Pants,” says Richard, imperious; and Lee strips out of them without even thinking how awkward he must look, shucking the legs over his ankles and taking his socks with them. Normally he is all poise, all awareness of the angles of his elbows (he was a boy once with too-fast growing and limbs that knocked things over); now it doesn’t matter, and even if he nearly topples in his haste to stand shivering near-naked in front of Richard’s intense gaze, in the end he is only as exposed as he was before, when Richard cornered him in the bookshop.

He is beginning to understand that Richard sees everything to its bones, that his quiet is not shy, that he is an actor and it is his privilege to be whatever he wishes. This is how Lee reconciles the soft-spoken man from interviews, the artist of his own features, with the hot hunger and smirk on Richard’s face, with the aggression of teeth in his throat in the quiet dust of the stacks.

“What else,” says Lee, fully expecting to be ordered out of his underwear; but instead Richard sits back on the bed and stretches out his legs, ankles crossed, resting back on his hands in absolute confidence.

“My turn,” says Richard, and inclines his head; Lee takes a moment to understand, and Richard gives him a pointed look. Oh.

Richard lets him unbutton his shirt, and lifts his arms to be undressed, undershirt rumpling his hair as Lee pulls it free. The expression on his face is anything but passive, though-- he seems to know that he has set Lee a terrible task, to undress him without pausing to lick, to touch, to kiss, and he is savoring every minute pause in Lee’s shaking movements.

How Lee manages to undo Richard’s trousers, he’ll never know; but he loses control of himself at this point, and kneeling he presses his face helplessly into the fold of cloth at the juncture of thigh and hip, and breathes into it with a groan. Richard doesn’t let him get away with it, of course, and Lee finds himself scrabbling for balance, tilting backward from Richard’s gentle push.

Richard doesn’t scold him, but he does finish undressing himself, and he doesn’t leave himself the modesty of his briefs; he is, in fact, as confident and as filled with anticipation as he has been, while Lee with his scrap of cotton is left feeling utterly naked. He sits back on the bed, leaving his trousers crumpled on the floor, and heaves himself backward, sprawling out with knees upraised.

“Are you good with your mouth,” asks Richard, and Lee has no idea what to say to that; he supposes he’s pretty good with clits and things, but he has honestly never had a dick in his mouth, and it takes him a few moments to remember that even a terrible blowjob is usually better than no blowjob and Richard probably won’t actually withhold his cock if Lee admits his inexperience.

“I’m a fast learner,” says Lee, hoping his voice doesn’t sound like his throat has gone completely dry; but as he climbs onto the bed, crawling up over Richard, locked in eye contact-- is this right, am I doing this right-- Richard catches him by the biceps and stops him, just as he steels himself and begins to lower his mouth.

Lee hesitates, because isn’t this what he’s meant to do, and Richard pushes him-- gentle, but stern, as if Lee has missed something incredibly important-- and Lee realizes that he was actually looking forward to having Richard’s cock in his mouth (it is heavy, only half-erect but stirring further, the head rounder than Lee’s and the shaft straighter and god he is looking at Richard’s cock, he wants to suck Richard’s cock, why isn’t this weirder).

“You’ll have to earn that,” says Richard, but his voice is dark and forceful instead of teasing, and Lee lets him guide his head downward, lets him raise his knees and tilt his pelvis back; and understanding at last, Lee slips his hands beneath, raising Richard’s buttocks, and before he can think about what he is doing he extends his tongue and with it touches the soft creased velvet skin below Richard’s balls, where dark whorls of hair meet and plunge deeper below.

It only tastes like skin; but it tastes like Richard’s skin, clean with a hint of sweat, and most importantly there is a hitch in Richard’s breath when his tongue meets skin. Lee hunches his shoulders, lowering his head still further, and Richard groans aloud as Lee spreads him and probes with his tongue, tasting roughness and darkness and an inevitable constriction of skin.

Lee honestly has no idea what he’s doing, but he wasn’t lying: he does learn quickly, and he’s creative to boot, and if he’s probably not the first man who’s thought of adding fingers to tongue he is certainly one of the most determined. His tongue can only go so far, and fingers stretch so much; and the more he opens Richard, the more Richard rocks into him, the sweeter all the sounds are of panting and muffled commands of yes and keep going and christ fuck.

But for all this there seems to be more that Richard wants, and Lee doesn’t know how to give it to him. He’s used to girls, who buck wickedly or sigh and moan, and who most importantly he has years of experience getting off; he has no idea what he’s supposed to be doing down there, besides tracing every pleat of flesh and worming his tongue between the tight ring of muscle. Is he... is he going to fuck Richard? Is that as far out of his reach or hope as he thinks?

Finally Richard loses his patience, and pulls Lee up by his hair, not cruelly but with purpose; and Lee feels his shoulders bunch and relax, lets himself be drawn up, until Richard stops him with fingers dug hard into the spaces between his shoulder-freckles.

Then Richard pulls his knees up further, and with his hands he guides Lee down to rest between his thighs, and Lee feels the heat of Richard’s cock alongside his own and shudders all down his spine. Lee thrusts against him, carefully, and gratifyingly Richard’s eyes flutter shut for a moment and his lips part; but then Richard’s brows draw tight and he snarls: “No more teasing, goddammit, use your cock in me--” and Lee fumbles in his haste to position himself, pressing himself against that slick open heat--

He tries to be slow about it, because he’s not that inexperienced, and he doesn’t want to hurt Richard, but the first convulsion of flesh around him is so sublime he wonders if he has accidentally come already, and Richard is clearly far more experienced than he is, taking even his clumsy opening thrust with ease.

This is like being a virgin again, Lee thinks, sunk to the hilt in the alien texture and velvet heat; his hips falter, and he forces himself to focus, to remember-- to hold a rhythm, even if it’s a slow one, to sweep rather than hammer. And still, even while liquid spilling heat builds in his extremities, even while every stroke forward robs him of his breath: Richard is unsatisfied, seeking ever-new angles, grunting with pleasure even as his eyes narrow in concentration.

Lee has no idea what he’s missing, and he feels frustration and helplessness on his face, and of course this is when Richard looks up at him, and their eyes meet without any act between them. Richard is only Richard, comprehending as ever, with his unjudging eyes and his scarce regretful smile; and Lee is himself, determined to learn and to do right, to leave no deed unfinished, with his brow knit in earnest query.

“You have no idea, do you,” says Richard, but it’s not belittling; it’s as if he has just discovered that Lee’s never tasted scotch, never seen a sunrise. As if this feeling, the weight of Lee’s chest against Richard’s knees as he presses into him, the warmth of Richard’s sides against Lee’s knuckles as he supports himself on the bed, is not enough of a revelation-- as if he will peel back the heavens and show Lee the face of God himself, and nothing will prepare him for it.

Then Richard twists, reaching for the nightstand, and Lee twists with him, joined as they are, and feels every contraction and shift of muscle as Richard moves his arms-- oh, he is opening the drawer, he is taking out a small bottle of lube-- and Lee gasps and moves with him, lost in sensation, as Richard lies back against the pillows beneath them and anoints his fingers and wraps his hands around Lee’s buttocks, stilling him entirely, held tight against Richard’s flesh.

Lee would protest, but Richard is clearly holding him still for a purpose, and in a moment he feels cold wet and warm skin brush across his asshole, and another sweep, and then pressure and entrance and oh god.

Richard fingers him like this, viciously, scissoring and stretching with well-practiced skill, while Lee lies buried and crushed in him, gasping and spasming, understanding from both perspectives the burn and work and hunger. He can’t even thrust; he is transfixed, as if he is the one being fucked instead of the one fucking, as if Richard is using him as a toy even while he prepares him to be used entirely.

And then Richard judges him open enough, and with a heave of his body pulls himself from Lee’s penetration; then, leaning half against the headboard, he pulls Lee up until his mouth is at Lee’s throat, where he scrapes his teeth thoughtlessly in wanton possession as he reaches down to guide himself against and harder and within and--

This is nothing Lee has ever felt, this wrongsicksweet burn and stretch, this ache that leaves him squirming. He’s not sure he likes it; but he likes the way Richard moans into his neck, and in a moment when Richard’s hand slides between them and strokes him, tip to root, still wet with lube and with Lee’s own saliva, Lee feels the strangeness uncurl into desperate heat, ribbons of arousal twining through him, drawn from his cock through his belly to the tight sore place where he is being breached.

And then Richard tilts his hips forward, a well-practiced thrust; and there is some inferno of pleasure kindled, some small place that has never been touched but has been waiting all this time; and Lee is racked with it, rocks and cries out, pleads for mercy and for more.

This, this is what Richard sought with Lee’s cock in him, he is sure. The angle isn’t quite easy, and every time Lee rocks forward Richard’s next stroke slips and does not strike; but if three of five strikes meets its mark, it is more than enough, and Lee feels orgasm like thunderclouds piling up on his horizon, something that will drench and drown and break him when it strikes.

He has never felt this! He cannot even imagine feeling this, arousal in every part of him, shimmering heat and dull satisfaction that drowns out even the tension of his rising balls; the roll of sensitive skin in Richard’s grasp is only an echo of that looming pleasure.

Richard laughs, the sound incongruous; there is too much to process, the soft serial tones of voice, the smell of coffee grounds and sweat, the confusion in his skin between bedsheets and slicked heavy intrusion, and Lee chokes something out that might be a warning or just a strangled surrender, and Richard kisses it right out of his mouth.

Too, too much; hungry exploring mouth growling profanities between the motions of lips and tongues, meaningless syllables-- tight god never had anything like this before have you-- and all the while that ceaseless hammering tide, rising and spilling and pouring and Lee is thrusting himself into Richard’s palm and every part of himself is exposed raw and bare to Richard’s observant eyes as he shudders and collapses into crushing awful climax. He feels himself spending in gouts between them, heat and anguish like the death-throes of the sun; he feels Richard joining him, coerced by the clench and plea of Lee’s flesh around him, and if he was unprepared for the depths of pleasure his body can apparently produce, Lee is entirely taken by surprise at the fullness he feels now, the way Richard’s come is heavy and thick inside him.

Then they are gasping, Lee fallen atop Richard’s chest with the sheen of sweat between them, the slow shift of Richard’s come still pooling inside Lee’s belly, the soft flutters of his cock subsiding within him, and their breaths lifting too-fast from their throats in shocked silence.

“I really am bad at this,” says Lee, when he can speak again. “I want a do-over.”

“A little practice certainly wouldn’t hurt,” agrees Richard, thick-voiced with lethargy. “You’ll get the hang of it.”

Lee’s mouth is pressed halfway against Richard’s browbone, and the arch is digging his lip into his teeth, but he really can’t bring himself to mind. “We have a week until filming starts,” he says at last, and Richard laughs, and Lee adds, “and there’s not much to do in this town unless you like rain.”

“Suits me,” says Richard, and his arms twine around Lee’s waist as he drifts off into sleep.