|It would have been ridiculous, if it hadn't been so damn serious.
No last minute rescues this time; no cavalry (metaphorical or otherwise) charging over the hill in the nick of time. No more tricks hidden up Artie's sleeve or in Jim's boot. It. Finito. Au revoir. The end.
"I'd always hoped I'd go out with a modicum of style, and at least a little comfort."
"Hush, Artie, I'm thinking."
Artie obligingly kept the remainder of his useless comments to himself. There wasn't much else he could do. He and Jim had each managed to escape their immediate confines twice, not that it had done them much good, as they'd both been captured before getting out of the fortress itself. Colonel Maximillian Anthes, who was insane, but not stupid, had retaliated by stripping them of every remotely suspicious object and locking them up good and tight.
Artie's arms were starting to cramp, but he didn't dare move them to release the tension. He was standing face to face with Jim, his arms on either side of his partner's broad shoulders. His hands were manacled to a thick stone column behind Jim, and Jim's wrists were fastened to another column behind Artie. And the columns were just far enough apart that they had to stretch their arms to the limit to avoid being pressed closely together. Artie had long ago given up the effort to put enough space between them to be able to see Jim's face. It simply wasn't worth the pain.
Frankly, Artie couldn't imagine how Jim could possibly think like this. But then, Jim wasn't hampered by an overactive imagination and a hypersensitive awareness of the body bare millimeters from his own. Artie, on the other hand...
"I don't suppose you've figured out how to get us out of this yet."
"If I had, we'd be on our way," Jim answered with some asperity. "What's the matter now?"
"You mean, aside from the fact that we're going to be killed?"
"Aside from that."
"My arms hurt," Artie said, as matter-of-factly as possible, because it wouldn't do to give Jim any idea what was really bothering him.
"Try relaxing them a little."
"I can't do that," Artie gritted between his teeth.
"You have any better ideas, Artie? Just do it!"
There being nothing else to do, Artie let up on the tension by swaying forward, sighing with relief as the iron shackles stopped cutting into his wrists. He bit back a moan when the movement settled him firmly against his companion's compact form.
He could feel Jim's voice vibrating through his chest. "Ah... yeah."
"Good." Jim took a small step forward as well, letting his own arms rest a bit, completely unaware of the effect he was having on Artie. "Can't do anything if my hands fall asleep."
"So..." Artemus paused to clear his throat, "any ideas now?"
"I'm still thinking."
Knowing a hint when he heard one, Artie fell silent again. It took too much effort to string together a coherent sentence anyway. Jim shifted slightly, making himself as comfortable as possible in the strained position, and unconcernedly tilted his head to rest against Artie's shoulder. It was all Artemus could do not to groan aloud.
A long time passed in silence while Jim thought and Artie struggled with his desires. Finally, unable to remain silent any longer, Artie spoke up again.
"Ah, Jim... we're not going to get out of this, are we?"
"Never mind," he rushed on, "I don't think I want to hear the answer to that. The point is... well, if we don't get out of this, there's something I should tell you."
Jim sighed, his ribcage rising and falling against Artie's chest. "What is it, Artie?"
"And if I don't tell you now, and there's no later, then I won't have a chance to tell you, will I?"
"What is it, Artie?"
"I... love you."
"Of course." His tone indicated clearly that he considered that understood. He loved Artie; Artie loved him. Only it wasn't something men normally told each other.
"No," Artie disagreed, pulling back against his bonds again, trying to force some space between them. "I mean..." He shook his head slightly, then leaned forward to lay his lips gently against Jim's for only the briefest of moments. "I love you."
Of all the things Artemus might have said, or done for that matter, Jim reflected later while riding back to the train at dusk, that was about the last thing he'd ever have expected. And there were a lot of strange things Artie might have, and often had, said and done over the years.
Jim hadn't had the foggiest idea what to say in return. If the words had startled him, that shy kiss had just about blown him out of the water. Luckily for him, Artie had fallen silent again, apparently not expecting any sort of response. Jim doubted he could have managed one if he'd had to, and he was certain to have said entirely the wrong thing in any case.
Artie had been too pessimistic about their chances, as it turned out. Not ten minutes after his startling announcement, one of Anthes' henchmen had snuck in to release them. Apparently the man had had second thoughts about the Colonel's plans, or more probably his lowly place in them. With his reluctant help, it had been relatively simple to wrap up the mission and the bad guys.
Jim was returning now from dropping them off at the local sheriff's office. Artie had gone straight to the train, pleading a lingering headache, hardly surprising after being bashed over the head earlier in the day. Knowing he could easily deal with the bound prisoners on his own, Jim hadn't begrudged him his rest, although he was fairly certain Artie had been more anxious to escape his presence than to nurse a sore head.
Jim found himself laughing aloud suddenly. The single person in his entire life who'd ever honestly admitted to loving him wanted nothing more than to get away from him as soon as the words were said. He forcibly swallowed the laughter before his sudden case of the nerves got out of hand. It really wasn't all that funny.
The train came into view and Jim reigned his horse in to a slow walk. He desperately needed to think about this, yet he couldn't seem to concentrate. Jim was tired, and nervous, and aroused, as was often the case when he'd wrapped up a mission. Usually, he sought out a bawdy house and worked off the excess adrenaline there, burying it in whatever beautiful body he'd chosen for the purpose. But the town he'd just left was too small for a proper (or improper, as the case may be) brothel. He didn't want to go back to the train, back to Artie, feeling like this.
Well, why not? He offered, didn't he? Well, didn't he?
No, of course not. Not like that. Jim shook himself and nudged his horse back into a brisker pace, which had them at the train in seconds. It was the work of a few moments to walk the gelding into the stable-car and see to his needs. Far too soon, Jim was done.
Artie wasn't in the parlor when Jim entered the private car. He wasn't certain whether he was relieved or disappointed, and not knowing annoyed him. He perched on the arm of a brocade couch and pulled off his boots, loathe to track any more mud through the luxurious car. A quick shot of whiskey burned its way down to his stomach, but did nothing to settle his nerves. Contrary to a clearly craven impulse to ignore the whole matter until a later date, Jim set off to find his partner.
He pushed open the door to Artie's private compartment without
knocking. His partner had obviously been in the process of getting
ready for bed. Half-clothed, he sat on the edge of the mattress with
his head in his hands. The misery in every line of his body drew Jim
across the room to stand in front of the hunched figure. He watched
with a strange detachment as his hand came to rest on Artie's bowed
He would never have said a word if he hadn't been suddenly certain they were going to die. The unexpected reprieve felt like a death sentence after his ill-considered confession. Artie had taken refuge in the necessary violence of their escape and, after that was done, the familiar contingencies of life as Jim's partner. It was only then, finally home on the train and half-finished with his nightly routine, that he had allowed the despair to wash over him. Artemus wished he had died.
The familiar sounds of Jim's return barely pierced his shroud of misery. It hardly mattered in any case. He'd lost the best and brightest thing that had ever happened to him.
He didn't even hear James enter the room, but suddenly there was a warm hand at the back of his head. Artemus slowly raised his eyes, unable to believe that Jim could be standing there before him. But he was; tired and sweat-stained, smelling faintly of horse and strongly of his own unique musk. And the hand on Artie's head seemed to draw him forward, until his cheek rested against Jim's solid thigh.
West was still wearing his chaps: those slick, black,
closely-cut sheaths of leather which always set Artie's heart to
pounding. He breathed in deeply, swallowing the smell of body-warmed
leather and the tang of sweat. Without thought, Artie's arms rose to
wrap tightly around the slim hips and he rubbed his cheek over the
Jim looked down at his partner's dark hair, wondering faintly how he had come to this. He hadn't meant to draw Artie to him, had he?
Artie's cheek pressed against his thigh, nuzzling gently. The movement felt odd through the muffling layer of leather. Odd, and unquestionably sensual. Unwillingly, he felt himself becoming aroused.
His fingers tangled in Artie's unruly locks, guiding the dark head away from his increasingly sensitive body. The brown eyes refused to turn up to meet Jim's confused gaze. Artie kept his head bowed, fingers working nervously against Jim's hips. After a moment, Jim released him with a sigh, and the weight of Artie's head settled against his leg once more.
They remained frozen in the uncertain tableau for a time,
neither quite brave enough to move. Jim was startled to feel Artie's
fingers travel lightly over his waist, and realized suddenly that he'd
buried both hands in Artie's hair. Artie deftly unfastened Jim's
suspenders and pressed a burning palm to the small of Jim's back.
His skin was fever-warm beneath the thin barrier of his shirt. Light blue linen, a stunning contrast with the royal blue of his jacket and tight trousers, and an impressive complement to Jim's piercing blue eyes. The shirt, damp with sweat, both old and new, clung to the muscular torso. Artie felt the minute shift of Jim's muscles through the hand he had settled in the tender curve of his back. He knew without opening his eyes that his partner had shifted his stance, moving just slightly closer. It was all the encouragement he needed or was likely to get.
Artie lifted his head, glancing briefly up at Jim's face, but turning aside before he could meet his partner's eyes. Fumbling slightly, he unhooked the fasteners on the chaps and trousers. His hands rose to push Jim's jacket from his shoulders and slid down the front of his shirt, undoing buttons as they went. He twitched the thin shirt off Jim's shoulders as well and it joined the jacket draped over his elbows. Artie gathered his courage to meet Jim's eyes.
"Let me, Jim," he whispered around the tight knot in his throat, knowing he was asking too much, but desperate for the only chance he was ever likely to get. "Please?"
He didn't know if he imagined the slightest of nods, but Jim's answer was unmistakable nonetheless. The broad hands which had been cupped around the back of Artie's head suddenly released their hold. With the straightening of his arms, Jim's jacket and shirt slid silently to pool at his feet. Artie swallowed hard, staring at the bared chest he had seen so often before, but never from so close, never under such circumstances. The leashed power of the muscles shifting under tanned skin had never seemed so threatening, or so promising.
Gathering his courage, Artie lifted his hands to Jim's waist.
Lightly, they slid down his hips, pushing leather and cloth before
them. The trousers balked for a moment, then gave up, taking the chaps
with them in their sudden drop to the floor. Artie gazed in something
like awe at James West's nude body.
The chill air of the cabin was a shock against his naked skin. Jim hardly felt it, however, consumed with the fire that raged inside. The light touches of Artie's hands as he gently undressed him had only fanned the flames higher. Jim was vaguely surprised that he could react so strongly to a man's touch; none of his women had ever taken him so far, so fast. It didn't seem to matter, however; nothing mattered but this feeling.
Artie's fingers traced aimless patterns over his damp skin, drawing ever closer to the most sensitive of flesh. Jim's buttocks tightened on an instinctive shiver when the light touch skimmed over them. He was breathing through his mouth, silent pants of desperation. Artie's face turned up to him for just a second, dark eyes hungry and pleading at the same time. Then he dipped to rub his cheek against Jim's swollen cock.
He gasped at the sensation. First satin skin, then the slight roughness of beard, the tiny pain provocative. Jim's hands closed again on his partner's body, one buried in the soft hair, the other clasping a strong shoulder which he realized he'd been resisting the impulse to touch until that moment. The silky whisper of Artie's lips brushed over the tip of Jim's cock, followed soon thereafter by the hot lap of his tongue. Jim's eyes closed and he shouted, his grip tightening, when his erection was swallowed into Artie's hot, wet mouth.
His world narrowed to that single sensation. The pleasure was
almost overwhelming. Jim grabbed hard on Artie's shoulders, steadying
himself. His head fell back, strangled moans escaping his throat. It
had never been like this. Though he'd occasionally paid women for this
service, it had never been so beautiful, so powerful. Within moments,
Jim was on the edge. He fought it, banking down on the rising desire,
finally pulling himself free of Artie's hands and mouth.
Artie was badly startled by Jim's abrupt retreat, jolted out of the sexual abstraction he'd courted. He gave a soft involuntary gasp at the sudden loss, glancing up hazily to see what was wrong. Jim's face was averted, his fists clenched, powerful muscles standing out in high relief. For a moment, Artie was actually frightened of his partner. Then Jim slowly relaxed, breathing deeply, and Artemus swallowed a chuckle as he figured out the cause of Jim's sudden tension.
Artemus licked his lips, delighting in the lingering salt taste of his lover, remembering the slick silken feel of him in his mouth. He would have been content to suck Jim's cock forever. He closed his eyes to savor the memory.
Jim pulled him to his feet. Reluctantly, Artie opened his eyes again, and was once more overwhelmed by the nude beauty of the man before him. He stood staring, swaying slightly, and barely noticed deft hands stripping him of his remaining clothing. Only when he was naked, and James stopped abruptly, did he become aware of his nudity.
He was strongly erect, and suddenly ashamed of the fact. Jim caught his hands when he moved to cover himself and stepped forward, pinning Artie's wrists behind his back and pulling their bare bodies against each other. The contact forced a gasp that was almost a sob out of Artie. Jim merely tilted his head to look up the slight difference in their heights, his expression faintly amused behind the bland emotionless mask Artie knew so well. For the first time since the early days of their partnership, Artemus couldn't completely read West; other than the hint of amusement, which might or might not be the friendly sort, he could tell nothing of his partner's mood.
Jim rubbed deliberately against him, sending sparks of arousal showering through him. Artie leaned down, but Jim turned his head aside before their lips could meet. Frustrated, Artie growled deep in his throat, struggling against the restraining hands. Jim held him captive until he calmed, only releasing him after he had become passive once more. His hands freed, Artie obediently molded them to the sleek muscles of Jim's back. He lowered his head to brush his cheek against the soft dark hair scattered over Jim's chest, then took a hard nipple between his lips, delighting in the faint tremor under his hands and the bright coppery taste of him.
Slowly Artie sank back down on the side of the bed, running
his mouth over every inch of flesh he met in his descent. His strong
hands caressed over the length of Jim's back to finally rest on his
hips. Jim's hands on his shoulders held him away, however, preventing
him from once again taking the throbbing cock in his mouth. Artie
looked up questioningly.
Jim was finding it hard to breathe. The first sight of Artie's unclothed body had been a revelation; broad and strong, fit from exercising with Jim on the train, the chest completely smooth. Jim knew himself to be strong, but the sheer power enclosed in that barrel chest was a surprise. He thought, in a moment of whimsy, that only a chest that large could contain the heart of this man.
He had never been sexually attracted to a man before. There was a first time for everything, it seemed. The powerful lines of Artie's body, his dark sultry coloring, even the demanding lift of his erect organ, all conspired to drive Jim to the edge. When Artemus began moving against him once more, it was all Jim could do to control himself.
He stopped Artie, however, when his partner moved to take him in his mouth again. It was wonderful, but not what he wanted, not any more. Glancing quickly around, Jim spied the bottle of lotion Artie used when the chemicals he constantly worked with dried out his hands. He grabbed it up quickly and returned to the bedside. His fingers felt clumsy as he struggled with the top of the bottle. Finally, however, the stubborn lid yielded to him, and he poured lotion into his palms.
Artie watched him with wide eyes as he carefully smoothed the
slick lotion over his aching cock. Jim didn't know how to ask, or even
if he was going to, but as it turned out the words were unnecessary.
Artie nodded decisively and lay back on the bed, his dark eyes watching
Jim with both agitation and trust.
When he saw Jim pick up the lotion, Artie knew what his partner wanted. He hadn't expected Jim to be willing to go that far. Swallowing his nervous trepidation, Artie shifted over to the center of the bed and waited for Jim to join him.
The strong, lithe body of his partner slid onto the bed, and Artie, making him gasp with the overwhelming sensations. He was startled to feel Jim's sure hands caress coaxingly over his body, not stopping at back, chest and flanks, but even daring to collect his erect cock in one large palm. In moments, he was writhing under Jim's weight, unable to take in a full breath in the inferno of his pleasure. He rolled easily at Jim's direction, without hesitation, and lay on his belly savoring the pass of those demanding hands over his back and buttocks.
Artie's legs were brusquely spread apart and the heat of Jim's
body settled uncompromisingly between his thighs, but the fingers that
parted him and pressed cool lotion into his body were gentle. Artie
gripped the blankets hard, burying his face in a pillow, as Jim's hard
cock pressed against and into him. It stretched him unmercifully,
awakening pain and pleasure both, filling him with heat and hard power.
Trembling, he bit his lips to restrain a groan.
Jim shivered, biting back a moan. Nothing had ever felt like this. He drew reluctantly out and swiftly sheathed himself again. So tight and hot. No woman had ever been like this. He threw his head back, glorying in the rush of possession, in the incredible feel of the tight channel yielding to him. Ah god! Nothing like this!
A soft sound, not a gasp or moan or cry, but all three and neither, drew his eyes back down to the body impaled upon his. Artie. Curled under him, surrounded and possessed. This loving surrender of a man he knew without doubt to be powerful and self-confident dashed the breath from his lungs. Jim leaned forward over Artie's prostrate form, matching his chest to the strong back, curling his arms around the broad torso. His was the power, the control, and he found he could only think of using it to please Artie.
Jim laid his cheek against Artie's shoulder and began a slow gentle thrusting. His hand sought out his lover's weeping cock and enfolded it in a tender fist. Artie trembled under him, crying out as Jim matched the stroking of his hand with that of his body. He coaxed Artie to move in tandem with him, feeling the quaking of his own muscles as desire threatened to overwhelm him.
Suddenly, Artie groaned deep in his chest, his body spasming.
Hot fluid spilled over Jim's hand and the muscles which cradled his
cock tightened in the flood of ecstasy. His control broken by the
silken grip of Artie's body, Jim pushed himself up on his hands, his
hips snapping wildly in the final thrusts before he was overwhelmed by
his own climax. The world exploded in color, then blacked out.
Artie returned to himself, Jim's warm weight draped over him. Gingerly, he shifted out from under the other man's lax body, rolling over to cradle him in his arms. His breathing only just beginning to come back under control, all Artie could do was lie staring at the ceiling. He didn't really see what was before his eyes, however; he was too busy memorizing the feeling of Jim's warm body curled up against him.
After a few entirely too short minutes, Jim stirred. Artie felt him draw back, propping himself on an elbow. He was very careful not to turn his eyes from their scrutiny of the ceiling, not at all certain he wanted to see what was in Jim's eyes at that moment.
"Yes?" With a deep breath, Artie forced himself to look over at Jim. West didn't meet his eyes, too busy drawing imaginary designs on Artie's smooth chest with a forefinger.
"We aren't in any danger."
Artie frowned, confused. "Not as far as I know."
"But there's something I really ought to tell you."
"Oh?" he managed around a tight throat.
"I love you too."
And the strong arms wrapped tightly around him as Jim's lips met his for the very first time.
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