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If this chapter seems familiar to old readers...it is. This is the only chapter I saved from the first version. Mostly because of sex. Yes, this is a bit of a cheat. Sorry! The next brand spankin' new chapter will be posted soon. Until then, hope you enjoy.


CHAPTER 6

Robert was drunk.

He knew intellectually that he was drunk. Still, some gin-soaked part of himself insisted that he was not in fact drunk, but merely very, very merry. Also slightly disoriented – how, exactly, had he ended up on the floor again? But no matter; excessive merriness could no doubt induce fits of disorientation. And, apparently, giggling.

A bushy-bearded face swam above Robert, looking concerned. Robert knew, for reasons which were a bit foggy at the moment, that the man’s name was Half Johnson. This amused him. He giggled.

When the face spoke its voice sounded like an echo down a long tunnel. “Are you alright, m’lord?”

“Capital,” Robert assured him, squinting suspiciously at the man’s beard. It was not a trustworthy beard, he decided. You could hide things in that beard. Secrets. Knives. Nobody would know.

“I think,” Robert said, pushing himself up on his elbows, “I think I need another drink. No, no, don’t look at me like that, it’s perfectly fine, I merely have a, a sort of medical condition whose symptoms include improvising maudlin poetry and undergoing sudden bursts of hysterical laughter that cause me to topple off barstools. I am not drunk!”

“Course you en’t, m’lord,” the tavern-keeper said doubtfully, helping Robert to his feet and propping him against the bar.

“I have an excellent constitution when it comes to alcohol,” Robert informed him, swaying slightly.

“I believe you, m’lord,” the tavern-keeper said, signaling to someone out of Robert’s narrowing field of vision. “Why, I’d reckon a pint of strong whiskey on top of all that gin en’t nothing more n’ mother’s milk to a fine gen’leman like youself.”

“Yes,” Robert agreed. He rested his head on the top of the bar. It was sticky and smelled like beer and vomit. “Yes, but also no. Because I’m not a gen’leman. Or even a gentleman. No. I’m a pathetic, failed excuse of a…failure. Who fails at things. Important things. Things that matter. Things in brothels.”

“Ah, well,” the tavern-keeper said sagely, “all men have that failing from time to time, m’lord.”

“Yes,” Robert sighed. “Wait, what?”

“I’ll take it from here, father,” said someone from behind Robert. There was a cool hand on his neck and he moaned, leaning into the touch. “Well, you are in your cups, y’lordship,” said whoever it was, sounding amused.

Robert turned too quickly and lost his balance. He stumbled into strong arms, head buried in a red tunic smelling not unpleasantly of young wine and sawdust.

“I like your shirt,” Robert told the man. He lifted his head and found himself looking into a pair of pale green eyes, calm and implacable. They made Robert think of sweat on a bottle of iced ale, frost on the grass on the morning of winter’s first chill, and his cock reminded him again that he hadn’t, after everything, come yet tonight.

“Thank you,” said the green-eyed stranger. “It’s my favorite color.” He swept his gaze across Robert’s hair, red as autumn leaves and plastered to his forehead with sweat, and Robert could feel the man’s interest raise the hair on his nape.

“I also,” Robert said, “like your face.”

The stranger laughed, revealing a dark emptiness in his mouth where one of his back teeth had been knocked out. Robert wondered what it would be like to tongue the place where a tooth had once grown, lift the tunic and run his hands over the man’s work-roughened skin.

“Would you flatter me if you were sober, m’lord?” the man asked, still smiling in amusement at Robert’s clumsy flirting. His hair was a dark honey-color, cropped close to his scalp, and Robert resisted the urge to touch it.

“Probably,” Robert admitted.

It was true. He patterned every lover on Luca and as a result was a fool for blond boys, the prettier the better. This man was not pretty – and looked the type to knock down anyone who accused him of being so – but he was warm and free and here and Robert needed to lose himself in sex and stupidity now more than ever.

The prospect of ejaculating into something other than his hand cleared some of the drunken fog from Robert’s mind. He had a talent for being charming under adverse circumstances, honed by years at Court, and summoned the skill now, standing up as straight as he was able and letting his features settle into an abashed grin.

“I apologize,” he said, slurring a little but not too much. “Usually I’m not so blunt. I fear whiskey has stolen all my clever lines.” He wondered if he would fall over if he stopped gripping the bar with a white-knuckled hand and decided not to try.

“Along with your balance,” the stranger observed.

Robert laughed. He ran fingers through his hair, discreetly trying to get it to fall thick around his shoulders instead of lying in limp, clammy knots. “The creature makes fools of us all,” he said. “But I probably shouldn’t go home tonight. The gods have a sense of humor when it comes to making sport of drunk men.”

The stranger made a luck-sign and Robert followed out of habit, though his hands were more clumsy in the gesture.

“Have you rooms here to let?” Robert continued. “Something private with a big, comfortable bed and thick walls?”

Hook baited.

The stranger grinned. It was full of things unspoken. “Oh yes, m’lord,” he said. “Plenty.”

Robert leaned forward, ignoring the dizziness threatening to topple him. “Share it with me,” he murmured.

This was the dangerous part of the game, where he might either find himself afterwards with either a well-sucked cock or a knife in his belly. But as he pulled back he saw that the man was flushed and bright-eyed, and very much not fumbling in his tunic for something sharp and pointy.

“Yes,” the man said a little breathlessly, touching Robert’s arm with a shy sort of eagerness. “I – yes. Yes.”

Hook bitten. Robert rejoiced silently.



It was of that particular breed of tavern room that was musty with other peoples’ smells, floors worn by the scuffing of unfamiliar boots and mattress indented with the shape of a body not Robert’s own—almost offensively foreign, oppressive with the feel of other long-departed transients whose essences lingered still. The windows were pasted over with brown butcher paper beneath thick old curtains and the walls were bare, plaster cracking and stained by the gaslamp’s oily smoke. Still, it was clean and the bed was, as promised, both big and comfortable. That was all Robert needed tonight.

The stranger – whose name, he had told Robert, was Justios – seemed nervous, fiddling with his vest buttons as though unsure of whether or not to undo them, then dropping his hands when Robert smiled at his uncertainty, blushing furiously. On another occasion Robert might have said something unkind – he wasn’t used to inexperienced partners – but remembered his first clumsy fumblings with Luca, and the younger boy’s patience. He said nothing.

Feeling the warm rush of alcohol from his brain to his groin Robert stumbled forward, nearly upending a footstool, and met Justios’s mouth with a clash of lips and teeth almost violent in its urgency. If Justios had been prettier, like Luca in more than just his hair, Robert would have been gentler, but the feel of thick arms and calloused palms reminded him that this was a man whose mouth his tongue was exploring. This wasn’t love, or even sex, it was a casual fuck in a Paradiso tavern, and Robert couldn't spend what little care he had in him to give on a bouncer.

Justios made up in enthusiasm what he lacked in skill, shoving his tongue forward to meet Robert’s and slamming their bodies together with near bruising force. They swayed like saplings in a breeze. It was war as much as it was kissing, war without sides or weapons or treaties, just the heady anarchy of conquest.

Somehow, still locked together and staggering over each other, they made it to the bed and collapsed in a tangle of limbs. Robert ended up with one foot on the floor and the other knee between Justios’s thighs. Justios’s eyes were glazed and fixed on the ceiling as he ground slowly against Robert’s leg; his tunic had been pulled up around his armpits and Robert was sucking one puckered nipple, rolling the other between thumb and forefinger. Justios tasted as he smelled, of cheap wine, of salty sweat. Robert moaned softly against the other man’s chest, suddenly feeling everything at once: the wrinkled areola pressed against his lips, Justios’s hard cock against his knee, his own cock kept from full arousal by too much to drink. Robert thought of Luca and the satyr. The booze in his stomach threatened to become bile.

“Something wrong?” Justios grunted when Robert’s mouth stilled.

“Nothing,” Robert said. “Everything. It doesn’t matter. Take your pants off.”

Justios complied. His erection lay stiff and dark with blood against his paunch. The pubic thatch was dark, almost black, and Robert wondered whether this Lower Quarter tough lightened his hair.

It had been one of his grandfather’s stable hands who first instructed Robert in the fine art of oral sex, and sucking was forever linked in Robert’s mind to the earthy smell of horses and leather. Now, as he fell to his knees between Justios’s legs and took the man’s cockhead into his mouth, his olfactory glands twitched in remembrance.

“Ah, fuck,” Justios hissed, thrusting his hips forward to bury himself deeper.

“That’s the idea,” Robert said, or would have had his mouth not been full of penis. As it was the words just came out as garbled mumbles, but Justios seemed to think this was some new trend in blowjobs and appreciate the sensation because he groaned loudly in pleasure.

“I’m pretending you’re someone else,” Robert told Justios around his cock.

“’S good,” Justios panted, and Robert gave up. He made an angry hollow-cheeked suck, deliberately scraping his teeth against the sensitive shaft, but Justios only groaned louder.

I’m pretending you’re someone else, Robert continued in his head, trying to mentally telegram the thoughts to Justios. I’m hoping you’ll turn into him soon so I can stop hating myself for sucking a trick in a tavern while he’s being fucked in the brothel that owns him.

Assuming it had been Luca in the brothel at all. If it wasn’t just a boy who looked like him, or just enough like him to fool Robert’s drunk, desperate mind. Robert was beginning to suspect that it had all just been a sadistic sort of dream. Or perhaps he really was going mad.

Justios did not hear Robert’s thoughts and did not turn into Luca. Instead he twined his fingers in Robert’s hair, trying to push his head down. Robert reached up and slapped his hand away irritably. He thought of removing the cock so he could scold its owner for his bad manners but found himself reluctant to do so. There was something soothing in this, meditative even. Cathartic. Luca had once—

No. He wouldn’t think of Luca. He wouldn’t even think of this oaf. He would think of nothing but the cock in his mouth. He closed his eyes and willed his mind blank. Instead he focused on tactile sensations: the slide of thick silky flesh against his tongue, the bursts of brackish flavour leaking from its tip, the feel of heavy balls nudging against his chin with every downstroke. Gods, this was good. He hadn’t realized how much he’d needed it. He fell quickly into the old familiar rhythm Adrian had preferred, fondling Justios’s testicles with one hand and his own half-hard cock through the fabric of his trousers with the other. He let every coherent thought go completely and lost himself in the bob of his head, the throbbing of the man’s cock, and the mounting fuzzyheadedness of twin arousal and intoxication.

Robert came before Justios, stamina seriously decreased by drunkenness. He made a mess of his trousers and even through the after-orgasm euphoria (also, he noted, seriously decreased by drunkenness) winced to think of the laundry-girl's expression when he handed her his cum-stained clothes in the morning. Having milked all the pleasure he could out of sucking Justios Robert took him in hand, pumping the man to his own orgasm with an impatience he knew to be selfish but refused to feel guilty for. Justios bucked, yelled, and came. Robert wiped his hand on the leg of his trousers unthinkingly, then groaned when he realized that he now not only had his own fluids soiling his best dress-pants, he also had a complete stranger's.

Ignoring Justios, who was fumbling with his pant-laces and looking at Robert questioningly, no doubt wondering if a mediocre blowjob was all he was going to get tonight, Robert crawled onto the bed and buried his head in a musty pillow. He fell at once into a deep sleep and did not dream.

##



Robert woke with the taste of cock in his mouth.

This certainly wasn’t the first time this had happened, but it was the first time that Robert couldn’t remember whose cock he’d been sucking. Even at his most addled he at least made a cursory note of the man whose prick was about to breach his lips. Fuck, but he must’ve been drunk last night. Or was it still tonight? Gods, what time was it?

Robert rolled off of his stomach onto his back, wincing as the movement sent lancing spikes of pain through his head, and opened one eye experimentally. He was sprawled on a rough-hewn cot in what looked to be a tavern room-for-let, tangled in ill-washed sheets with an abominably low thread count and still wearing last night’s clothes, stained and stinking of ale and cum. He had a vague notion that he’d done something in them worth regretting, but he couldn’t for the life of him remember what.

Robert groaned and pulled the sheets over his head. Damn his life and everything to hell, he needed another five solid hours of sleep before he could deal with this.

“Uh, m’lord?” came a tentative voice.

Robert peered blearily over the edge of the sheets, resolving to hate unreservedly whoever was standing there. A square-jawed tough, the sort of rough type his friend Val made a bad habit of, was standing in the doorway, shuffling his feet and looking concerned. Robert made a mental inventory of the likely picture he painted and decided that the concern probably wasn’t unwarranted.

“Never fear, whoever you are, I shall avoid dying of alcohol poisoning in your tavern,” Robert assured him, dragging the sheets over his face again. “Bring us up a pot of your strongest black coffee, there’s a good chap, and I do mean strong. If it doesn’t boil the enamel off my teeth it isn’t strong enough. Bloody fuck, why is everything so fucking bright?”

There was an offended pause, and the tough said tersely, “My name is Justios.”

“Is that supposed to mean something to—oh.” Robert sat up, horrified. “Did we, ah—”

Yes!

“Oh.” Robert pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes. Fuck. Fuck. He opened them again and looked at the tough, who was pink with indignation. “Did I – er—“

“You gave me a blowjob, came in your pants, and finished me off with your hand, my lord,” Justios snapped, looking furious.

Thus the taste in his mouth and unmistakable crust of dried semen in his underclothes. Lovely. Robert scrubbed at his face with his hands and groaned again.

“I suppose it’s too much to hope for that you have any idea how I spent the earlier half of my evening?” he said, trying to coalesce vague fragments of memory into something cohesive and failing.

“No,” Justios ground out, “although apparently you mentioned something to my father about a brothel.”

Robert blinked. That was strange. He hated brothels. They reminded him too much of Luc—oh.

Oh, fuck.
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