Rough Canvas
Chapter Eighteen

 Joey W. Hill

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He'd kept the entry key to Marcus' place. It had been in his wallet all this time, working its way toward the back, behind the more frequently used assortment of other cards. Credit cards, his driver's license, hell, the video store card that protected Marcus' picture.
It was shortly after two a.m. and he'd seen a light on in Marcus' place from the glass elevator. Top floor. A spectacular view of Manhattan and the water. Because Thomas had to pass through three checkpoints using that access card, as well as a security guard, who recognized him with a friendly smile, he wasn't too concerned about letting himself into a New Yorker's apartment in the middle of the night. He could have called ahead, but chose not to, not wanting to give Marcus the ability to shut him out.
When he let himself in, Thomas dropped his bag in the foyer and then moved through the kitchen. The light had been on in Marcus' office area, but he found Marcus sitting in the dark living room, just inside the open balcony doors. He was in the shadows, next to the fluttering curtains. Thomas might have missed him, except he was smoking and the faint glow of the cigarette tip drew his attention.
Now Thomas leaned against the kitchen doorframe, considering the man he loved.
His fastidious lover was wearing just a pair of jeans, the top button open. The pack of cigarettes was half empty, ashtray full. A bottle of Jack Daniel's Gentleman Jack sour mash and Chopin brand vodka sat companionably together.
He was staring. It didn't seem to be at anything in front of him, so Thomas assumed it was at something inside him, something worth making himself shitfaced drunk. As Thomas watched, he lifted the bourbon to his mouth and chased it with the vodka in an impressive swallow. Straight from the bottle, both of them, and Thomas was willing to bet it didn't even make his eyes water. Wiping the back of his mouth with a hand, Marcus picked up the cigarette again.
Marcus froze in the act, turned his glance toward the interior of the apartment. The eyes glittered in the darkness and Thomas had the sudden impression he'd walked into the den of a wounded tiger.
"What are you doing here?"
"You forgot your cell phone." Thomas lifted it, moved across the room. Taking a position in the open door to the balcony, he made sure he was square with Marcus, where he wouldn't be ignored. Deliberately, he hooked his thumbs in his pockets, curling his fingers loosely on the front of denim. Watched Marcus' eyes center where he'd intended, then run up his body with a greedy look gripping his features, causing prickles of heat to move across Thomas' skin.
Yeah, Marcus was drunk. But not too drunk, which meant he could hear, and maybe listen some.
Thomas didn't know what he was going to do or say, though. He was here. That was what mattered. The rest would come. "Your brother needs you to transfer six thousand to the account to cover the burial expenses." Marcus' gaze shifted back up to Thomas' face. Deliberately, he crossed his legs, leaned back further in his chair. Took a deep drag on that cigarette with a style only Cary Grant could have emulated. Thomas could almost see the internal machinations clicking into gear to put the usual shields in place. "You couldn't call and tell me that?"
"I would have been here a couple hours sooner, but there was someone else I wanted to talk to. A story I wanted to hear. I didn't get all of it. I want it from you. But I got enough to get my foot in the door."
"You think so?"
"I know so."
"Are you fucking with me, Thomas? You think I'm in the mood for that?"
"Do you really think you can love someone without making yourself vulnerable? I told you. That's not how family works."
"I'm not your family, Thomas. I wouldn't even know how to be. Go home. Go away. Go to hell. I don't care."
"Nice try," Thomas said mildly, though Marcus' words spiked against the ball of nerves in his stomach. He knew he was playing against a master poker player. A Master, period. But he wasn't going to back down.
"Owen told me about a street kid they called Dodger. With slick hands and the kind of looks that made sure he could stay ahead of hunger. Just. Over time, two other kids got attached to him. Toby and Emile. He ran with them, protected them. Kept them clean while he did whatever he needed to do. Fifteen years old. A runaway from Iowa.
From a father who couldn't accept what he was and a mother who wouldn't stand for him."
Marcus flicked ashes in the ash tray. "You're telling me a story I already know. Go tell it on a street corner. If you set it to music, someone might flip you a quarter." But Thomas' sharp eyes caught the slight tremor in the fingers. Drink, but also nerves.
"Every Dodger has to have a Fagan," he pressed on, though the images the story had created in his head had made him sick, made him hurt for Marcus. "Yours was Mike Winshire. He'd grown up a street kid as well, become a small operator. Graft, gambling, prostitution, but according to Owen, a strangely gentle man who loved you in his odd way."
Marcus rose out of the chair, swift, but without his usual animal-like grace. Paced out onto the balcony. "I chose every step of my life, Thomas. Mike taught me to survive, taught me to play the right games. If he needed sex, he got it from me and counted himself lucky to be tapping the ass of a pretty kid, because he was an ugly son of a bitch, hung like a damn moose.
"We only had one rule. I'd make him money and be his fuck toy, but my kids were off limits. They ran scams, worked some honest gigs." A muscle flexed in Marcus' jaw and he shook his head. "I made it, they didn't. I stayed in control of my life from the beginning to where I am now." He gestured to the view in front of him, the apartment behind him.
"You can handle anything," Thomas agreed. "So can I. So can my mother. So can Rory. But we all have a breaking point. When we get there, there's got to be someone or something that helps you hold it together. You can handle anything," he repeated.
"Except being out of control. What I've been wondering is...are you strong enough not to be in control?"
When Marcus turned, his eyes narrowing, Thomas kept going. "You could throw me out of your place, but how do you get me out of your heart? Your head?" His voice quieted. "Your soul. I know I haven't figured out a way to get you out of mine. I guess as long as I figured I wasn't in yours, I could handle that.
"Hell, I could always go home, hide behind my commitment to my family and never acknowledge that the reason I didn't come back is because I didn't truly believe you wanted me so much that it would make standing up to my family worth it. That you'd really be there forever."
He had Marcus' attention now. His Master had gone very still. "But here's the kick in the ass," Thomas continued. "Somehow it finally got through. You do need me as much as I need you. Maybe even more. And in the past twenty-four hours you've needed me more than you ever realized was possible. It's scaring the shit out of you, to the point you're standing there wanting nothing more than for me to get out before it spills out all over both of us."
Thomas pushed up off the frame. Marcus was motionless, though his jaw was held so tight Thomas was afraid it might fracture. His eyes had gone from angry to cornered rage, a rage tinged with desperation. The shadows of his past had him in such an obvious stranglehold that Thomas acted on instinct. Just as he had the first time he'd decide to creep into Marcus' bedroom and lay his hand on his foot.
Reaching out, he put his hand on the side of Marcus' neck, threading his fingers under his hair, finding his nape, massaging him with light fingertips. "Sshh..." Marcus moved forward a reluctant step, every muscle rigid. Thomas took the cigarette from his tense fingers, put it in the ashtray. Brought him in another step.
Inside the doorway, away from the balcony. Tugging the sliding door closed, Thomas enclosed them in hushed silence, shutting out the sounds of the street. It brought him near enough to press his chest against his lover's, the cotton cloth of his T-shirt against Marcus' bare skin.
Thomas dipped his head, pressed his lips to Marcus' shoulder, the fine line of bone.
When Marcus' fingers brushed his hips, hooked onto his jeans to grip him tighter, Thomas felt a surge of triumph, and relief. There was a way in. Moving on to Marcus' throat, he nuzzled him there, smelled the abrasive combination of liquor and cigarettes, but Marcus was under it. Thomas set his teeth to him, tasted.
Marcus' breath expelled on his temple as he moved into Thomas now, his hardening groin touching his hip. Thomas reached down, found him and opened the jeans. When Marcus caught his wrist, Thomas stopped in the act of pulling down the zipper. Raising his head, he met the brilliant green of his Master's gaze. The only man he'd ever let own him, body, heart and soul.
"I want to take you, Master," he said. Marcus' attention settled on Thomas' lips in a way that had his own cock rising. He knew how much Marcus liked to make him go down on him. Almost as much as he liked doing it. But something else was driving Thomas now. "Take you deep and hard in the ass, be where you've never trusted me to be before. I want to tie you down when I do it. I want you to surrender to me the way I've surrendered to you, so you'll know I'm yours and you can trust me. Now and always."
"I...can't." It took a moment to register, but then Thomas realized he wasn't mistaken. Marcus, over six feet tall and almost two hundred pounds of hard, solid muscle, was starting to shake. As Thomas had done the first time Marcus had ever told him he was going to do exactly this to him. When Thomas had started shaking, Marcus' eyes had flared hot...much as his were doing now, he was sure, because the shaking told Thomas that Marcus was going to let him do it.
Marcus moved back, away, dropped into the chair. Thomas followed. Dropping to one knee, he covered Marcus' hand, resting tensely on his knee. The curved knuckles, the veins marking out the finger bones beneath.
Marcus turned his head and watched him, saying nothing, just staring at him with that haunted, fierce expression.
"It's hard for you...the idea of it." Deliberately, Thomas circled one of Marcus' wrists, keeping his attention on his face. As he held the restraint, a quiver ran through Marcus' shoulders, something shifting in his eyes. Fear.
Abruptly Marcus jerked away, throwing the other fist. Thomas blocked it with his forearm. They froze there, their wrists crossed, Marcus' fist juxtaposed in the air with Thomas' open palm.
"Owen said there was one time, a group of men. That was when you went to the hospital, the first time he met you..."
"No. No. " Marcus' jaw clenched. "It wasn't like that. No one forced me, no one held me down except when I went willingly. I'm not some rape victim, a molested kid. I worked the streets, I protected what was mine." Something darkened in his eyes as if somewhere his soul was falling into a deep pit. "It was just sex, Thomas. It doesn't mean anything, bending over and taking someone's dick.
"Like us? Just sex?"
"Yes," Marcus snapped.
Thomas smiled. "Don't be a bastard," he murmured. "It's not going to work on me.
Not ever again. I love you."
At Marcus' closed expression, he cocked his head. "It never occurred to you the day might come when you'd win me over and I'd surrender to you, did it? I'm yours, Master. All yours. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to be a prick or are you going to surrender and let me love you, the way you want me to?" Thomas turned his hand then. Slowly, he closed his fingers over Marcus' wrist again. Under his grip he thought he felt the manacles of Marcus' memories, the things Marcus called choices.
He'd never thought of Marcus as one of the damaged. His polish was so bright and brilliant. But it was there in his eyes now, so raw and violent. It confirmed what Thomas now accepted, what finally made him and Marcus make sense. The key had been the unfinished thought Marcus had spoken at the farmhouse. I need that core of you... The core Marcus had lost.
Thomas rose to his feet, tugged. Brought Marcus to his feet, coaxed him one step, then another. They were moving down the hallway, Thomas moving backward, his footing sure, keeping his eyes on Marcus', like a dance. If the eye contact was broken, the rhythm could be lost. Marcus' chest expanded with a deep breath as Thomas stopped at the threshold to the bedroom.
"You can do this. You will. Your slave is begging you for the privilege. Please, Master." Thomas grazed his thumb over Marcus' wrist pulse. "I know everything about your body. I know the way your cock likes to be touched, how to suck you into my mouth and make you come. How your fingers clench in my hair when my mouth and teeth mark your skin. I know how your ass tightens when I squeeze it, and I've wanted to get between those cheeks with my fingers, my mouth, my cock." He was a bottom with Marcus. Always had been, even when he'd topped or taken turns with other men. But he'd wondered and wanted, at least once, to feel this.
They'd moved into the bedroom now. Thomas reversed their positions so Marcus was turned to face the bed while Thomas stood behind him. Another step and Thomas was pressed against Marcus, his cock a tight bulge under his jeans against Marcus' denim-covered, luscious tight-as-a-drum ass.
Reaching under Marcus' arm around to his flat abdomen, Thomas stroked the ridges of muscle before descending to the half-opened pants. Unzipping them fully, he pushed them down far enough to be out of his way. When he ran his hand over Marcus' buttock under the stretched cotton of the briefs, he felt the reflexive tightening. But Thomas sensed some of the tightening was tension.
"It's just me." As he reached over to the night table, he noted the slight tilt of Marcus' chin, his attention following him. There were restraints still in the drawer, as he'd hoped and suspected. Thomas set the bottle of lubricant on top of the nightstand.
"Kneel down, Master." He put a firm, inexorable hand to Marcus' shoulder and began to press.
"Thomas, I..." Marcus shuddered. Thomas slid his hand into Marcus' underwear, his thumb playing in the crease between his buttocks, just a teasing caress before he moved to palm one cheek. To squeeze. With the other hand, he reached around from the other side and gripped the thick root of Marcus' cock. Marcus' head fell back, hair brushing Thomas' temple. Thomas pressed his face into it, inhaling.
He worked his strong fingers over the ridged head, the steel shaft. When he pushed his leg against the back of Marcus', he made his knee bend. Slowly, Marcus went down onto one, then the other. Emotion flooded Thomas' chest, made it hard for him to speak.
He didn't think there were words for this kind of moment, anyway.
Guiding Marcus' hand up, he held the arm straight in the air and fit the cuff around the wrist. Then the other. "Lace your fingers behind your head now," he said quietly.
Marcus had a preference for restraints that made his submissives feel that extra step of vulnerability. So now Thomas ran the stiff strap threaded through a loop of the wrist cuff around Marcus' throat, a three-inch thick collar which nudged up his chin. With his thumb, Thomas nudged it up further so he could fit the collar, run it through the other cuff ring and adjust it.
As he slid the tongue of the strap through the buckle, he ran his fingers beneath, made sure it wasn't too snug against Marcus' throat. Then he snapped the joining pieces of the wrist cuffs, the final reinforcement. It effectively kept Marcus' hands laced against the back of his head, unable to lower arms or move his hands at all. It allowed Thomas access to any part of him.
Guiding Marcus back to his feet, he turned him. Gripping his bound forearms, Thomas leaned in and simply seized his mouth. He could do whatever he wanted to that mouth, and he did, playing deep into him, moving to hold Marcus' face to take himself deeper, push his tongue so far in it was probably at the back of his throat.
When Marcus' legs hit the bed, Thomas took him down flat on his back on it, pressing between his legs, still half standing, hard groin to hard groin, the pressure of his body on every available inch of Marcus' as he kissed him, kissed him, and kept kissing him.
He used his hands, running them over the biceps, hard as rock. Along the laced fingers, tugging on the wrist restraints and the collar to tease, underscore his bondage.
Marcus strained for him. Arms, upper body. When he tried to raise his legs, buck against him, Thomas shoved them down. Held the powerful thighs to the bed and ground denim against soft cotton, let him feel the full press of his length and need against his testicles, against Marcus' own aroused cock.
Oddly, Marcus said nothing. It was as if his voice was paralyzed and all he could do was move against Thomas, conveying his desire with his body, the expression in his eyes, his now wet mouth. He was trembling still, all over, so hard his teeth were practically chattering. Thomas reached under him, gripped his ass, his fingers opening him, teasing the rim.
That got a response. Thomas felt Marcus' cock convulse against him like a separate beast. He moved his hand forward, inside Marcus' snug briefs and gripped the base. He was hot. Jesus, was he hot. When he was sure the near miss had passed, he caressed the tip, then withdrew his touch and licked Marcus' salty taste off his hand while those green eyes watched him.
"Fuck me. Do it."
Instead, Thomas put his hand to Marcus' throat, his fingers sliding under the restraint of the collar to hold him still as he bent to the left nipple and began to nibble.
Marcus had the sexiest nipples, the flat brown circle of pigment around them like burnished pennies. He laved them, nipped and then nipped more sharply.
Marcus almost came off the bed. Thomas fought him and won, ending up straddling his waist, his ass pressed down on his cock. Marcus' gaze traveled down his own body to Thomas' tightly restrained crotch area. His chest was heaving from the exertion.
"Show it to me. I want to see all of you."
"Stay where you are." Thomas eased back, stood between the spread of Marcus' thighs and caught his thumbs in the band of Marcus' boxer briefs, ran them down his legs and took them off with the jeans. He wanted Marcus completely naked first.
God, he'd never felt anything like this. He wanted to devour Marcus, drown in that green fire in his eyes. He wanted to be fucked by him forever, taken down on his knees and savaged as punishment for doing this to his Master. But first he wanted to earn that punishment. Earn it well.
For a moment, when Marcus' gaze traveled down his body, Thomas could tell it occurred to them both, that Thomas could make Marcus open his mouth, thrust himself in. But he wouldn't. That was a true act of submission, one he would never force upon his Master.
Despite the rush of this moment, Thomas had no illusions he was a sexual Dominant. The desire he saw in Marcus' eyes when he Mastered Thomas goaded a response from Thomas that was explosive, all consuming, so raw he knew it came from a core identity of who he was. The slave of one particular Master, who was as much a Master as Thomas was his slave.
Therefore, this might be the most difficult thing Marcus had ever done. Thomas didn't want to do anything to destroy the highly fragile, perfect moment. Everything he was doing now was following his intuition of what his Master needed in order to let go, to love. To do that, his slave had restrained him. It was a delicate, completely instinctive give and take, so close to the deepest, darkest areas of Marcus' psyche that it seemed to require the deepest level of Thomas' submission in an unprecedented way.
As he took off his shirt, he felt Marcus' eyes cover his chest. Thomas lay back down on him, putting his knee in between Marcus' legs and stretching out so he brought his chest to Marcus' face, giving him the heat of his body. He closed his eyes, shuddering as Marcus' lips clamped on his skin, mouthing him greedily, sucking on his flesh, tasting him, licking the tender crease of the pectoral, the bump of his nipple, the curve of skin over the last line of ribs before his flat stomach.
He rubbed his hard need against Marcus' abdomen even as he pressed his upper thigh against Marcus' arousal. Marcus strained upward, grinding. Locking his legs over Thomas' ass, he increased the friction in a way that had Thomas fighting his own response, creating a light dew on both of their skins.
He moved back down hip bone to hip bone, chest to chest. Thomas loved the feel of his bare, cleanly shaven skin rubbing over the light covering of silken hair over Marcus' pecs that made a dark arrow down his belly. Marcus kept his pubic area clean though, except for a trimmed mat of hair. Thomas reached between them to stroke it now, to run his knuckle along his cock.
"" Marcus reared up, bit his throat with a growl.
Thomas pulled back from him, stood and pulled the button free, took the zipper down and shucked off the jeans, kicking off his shoes to make it happen. He suddenly found his hands perspiring, heart high in his chest. The first time he'd done this it had been with someone he'd picked up at an artist's hangout in New York. They'd been two kids groping each other, laughing.
Philip. After Philip fucked him, they switched places and Thomas did him. It had been fun, simple sex, though it had been a wonder for Thomas, having always had to guard his desires so closely, never exercise them. It had been Philip in that first painting, when he'd met Marcus.
This was anything but simple. This was Marcus. Marcus whom he wanted so badly he had to remember to breathe.
One step, two steps. He put his knee on the bed, by the outside of Marcus' hip, and leaned over him. Reaching behind his head, he unsnapped the cuffs, slid the strap free from his neck and laid it to the side. Pulled one cuff free, then the other, running his fingers over the red marks on his wrists where Marcus had pulled so viciously against the restraints.
It was dark in the room, but there were lights from the city outside the bedroom window, enough light he could see the gray tones create a sculpture of Marcus' face, the way his cheeks sloped, the line of his jaw, his lips still moist from Thomas' mouth and his own ministrations on Thomas' skin. Those eyes.
"I've tried to paint your face. Did you know that?" Marcus shook his head, one slight movement. "No, pet. I didn't."
Thomas remembered it as he ran his fingers over Marcus' upper body slowly, thoughtfully, semi-aware of Marcus' breath catching in his throat, his charged stillness.
Marcus wasn't restrained, but he lay there as if he was, his knuckles on the bed above his head. It only emphasized the mouthwatering line of elbow to armpit, deltoids, abdomen, pectorals. Down to elegant straight hips and a cock that begged for Thomas' touch, his mouth. He looked at him and he hurt. Because it was all his. His.
The same way he belonged to Marcus.
Thomas had never really understood it, had been incredulous of such an enormous gift. Yet here it was, the proof in how Marcus just lay here against all his dominant instincts. Needing him, waiting on him, though Thomas knew it was taking everything in him, tearing things inside, for him not to take control.
"You're a masterpiece, Marcus. You never imagine going to the Louvre and getting to take something home like that. Not a kid from a small rural town that doesn't even register on cosmic radar."
"How do you think a kid from Iowa feels every time he looks at you?" Marcus said, his voice barely a sound emitting from the shadows.
Thomas' touch stilled on him, his eyes burning through the darkness, summoning an answering fire from Marcus'.
Marcus closed those green eyes then, turned his face to the mattress. "Thomas...I can't. Do this. God, just do it, or I'm going to break. Hold me together, pet." Thomas pressed his lips together, nodded and moved to put the heat of his palm against Marcus' thigh. As he exerted pressure, Marcus began to turn. The one leg crossing over, taking him to one knee on the bed, his shoulders flexing as he pushed himself up. Thomas brought Marcus' feet back to the floor, pressed on him so his knees bent, supported by the slight shelf of the bed rail holding the box spring mattress.
Picking up lubricant from the nightstand, he applied it liberally to his own cock, then worked a stream between Marcus' buttocks. They tightened, the display drawing a growl of desire from Thomas as he rubbed more lubricant on himself. Marcus' head swung to look back at him, his eyes coursing over Thomas' slick knuckles, the way he was fisting himself. "I could have done that."
"If you had, this would have been all over."
A flash of teeth, despite the intensity of the moment. It made Thomas want Marcus all the more.
Thomas set it aside and put his hands on Marcus' hips, the oill making his hands slick over the upper part of his buttocks. When Marcus began to look down, Thomas' hands clutched, dug in.
"Look at me, Master. I want you to look at me."
Marcus swallowed, turned his head and met his gaze. Thomas held it as he guided himself in. Slow, easy. Marcus was tight, tight as a virgin. He hadn't been taken this way in a long, long time. Probably not since he'd been a street kid when his ass had been up for whoever had the money or power to take it.
It made Thomas' heart ache, even as his cock nearly spurted at the way it felt to be entering Marcus. He lifted his hips to Thomas, helping, his eyes going opaque, his teeth sinking into his bottom lip as Thomas got past the sphincters and slid home. Slid deep.
"Jesus Christ." Marcus was shaking again and now Thomas leaned over him, wrapping his arm around his wide chest and putting his other fist to the mattress alongside his, biceps to biceps, the line of their shoulders together. Thomas pressed his face into his neck, letting Marcus drop his head now.
"Hold on." He lifted his hips, thrust, and Marcus groaned. Thomas could barely restrain himself at the excruciating feel of it, Marcus' ass muscles holding him, working him, his body rippling with power beneath the hold of his. The smell of his hair, the neck, his skin. His.
Reaching up, Marcus grabbed the hand Thomas had against his upper body. The connection became one knotted fist, their fingers holding together so tightly against Marcus' chest Thomas could feel the pulse of blood fighting through their fingers like the hammering of Marcus' heart and his own.
Their curved bodies were two parts of the same heart, and though he couldn't put this on canvas any more than he'd been able to capture Marcus' face there, he knew moments like this were imprinted on the universe, already rendered by a Master Artist far greater than he would ever be.
He thrust, thrust deeper, looking for the place that would send Marcus over, and then he could go. He knew it had to be that way. To be done right, all the way, Marcus had to surrender, to let go. Jesus, it wouldn't take more than a thought for Thomas to lose control. Marcus' back was slick with sweat, his breath coming harsh. Almost too fast, as if he were a winded horse. Thomas tightened his grip on Marcus' fingers, pressing his face hard into his neck.
"I'm here, Master. Let go. Come. God, you feel so fucking good." Marcus' short nails bit into his hand, into the scars from working around the store.
His head dropped even lower, his back curved up high. He'd gone to one elbow, and Thomas leaned down with him, pressing the back of his thigh against his, half up on the bed with him. So slick and hot. God, Marcus had an ass worth dying for. He snaked his other hand under Marcus' waist and Marcus cried out when Thomas gripped his turgid cock, squeezed, began to work the broad head.
"Give me everything," Thomas demanded urgently. "Don't you hold back on me.
Past...time for that." Lord, he was going to just erupt any second, but he couldn't go alone. Wouldn't. "Mine. You're mine. Forever..." His lips stretched back, almost a snarl.
"Family. You're part family. My blood. My heart. Forever. Always. Come now, dammit. Come...for me."
Marcus bucked, a roar tearing out of his throat. With relief and a surge of hot lust so strong it made him violent, Thomas slammed into his ass and worked Marcus' thick cock at once, pulling on it, rubbing furiously with sure knowledge as he kept pumping him.
Marcus seized the bed covers, using them as a counter pull as he pushed when Thomas shoved, drawing back and coming together as Marcus' climax rocketed through them both. For a few remarkable moments Thomas held both their weights on one arm, keeping Marcus hard against his chest as he stroked him to the last drop. Then his balls convulsed, beyond the point of no return.
He shouted out his own climax, too powerful to stop the reaction, and a deep guttural cry from Marcus joined his, his hips rocking up to take all of Thomas' seed, heart thundering against their locked fists. Thomas rammed him without thought now, just all physical need and animal feeling, everything right, everything as it should be, no need for a mind when the heart and soul were so large and overwhelming, filling the room with heat.
When at length he slowed, a lifetime later, his hand was slippery with the cum that had jetted out of Marcus. With his warm and wet knuckles Thomas rubbed his Master's cock, up and down as Marcus twitched at the increased sensitivity, all his muscles shuddering.
While at first Thomas was filled with deep male satisfaction at the trembling post-coital reaction of his lover, as his own post-climactic haze cleared off, he realized Marcus was still breathing too fast, too deep. He was rocking back against Thomas as if they were still fucking. Pushing, drawing away, pushing, pushing...
Marcus' hands were clutching the blanket spasmodically. Lowering his head to the covers, he pressed his face there, his back curved in a painful bend as if something far greater than Thomas' weight still rested on him.
"Hey..." Thomas withdrew, pulling him back in his arms, but he had to follow Marcus down the side of the bed to the floor. When Marcus put his arms over his head, covering his expression, his body still rocking, Thomas' heart broke. He wrapped both arms around him as the first sobs crashed over his Master.
He was overwhelmed by Marcus' grief. The way he leaned into Thomas, almost toppling over so he was half curled into Thomas' lap. The weight of what he was carrying seemed to be hurting him too much to allow anything but a fetal position to brace himself against it. Thomas curved protectively over him.
Now knowing what he knew, Thomas suspected the grief wasn't solely for Marcus' father. Eventually, an unloved child realized there was no obligation to love back. But the man Marcus had become could mourn being born into a family where he wasn't wanted, didn't fit. Feel the hurt of standing on the outside of what so many others had.
Of knowing there was no way for it to be different, caught between hate and longing, not hate and love.
After talking to Owen, Thomas realized there was another reason he'd fallen in love with Marcus. While he loved Marcus certainly for the individual, sexy, complicated man he was, Thomas also had found a spark of his own father, who had carried so much responsibility and never thought to question or resent it.
When the family farm had failed, Thomas' father had turned to the hardware store his father had started, which wasn't more than a side interest at that time. He worked contract jobs in between building it into a thriving concern. At times the money had gotten so tight Thomas' mother had turned to neighbors to provide a meal for them, tucking away her pride.
She'd hidden the knowledge from Thomas' father, and Thomas knew she'd done it so he'd never falter, never think she had a moment's doubt in him. He suspected there must have been times his father had wanted to crack, so afraid he wasn't going to make it all come together, take care of his family, live up to that love in his wife's eyes.
Marcus went out and forged his dreams out of less than nothing, formed his own family, protected them, even tried to protect Mike. And had lost them all. From the violence of his reaction now, Thomas thought it likely he'd never let himself break over any of it, because he couldn't. He couldn't handle the pain of it until...he had someone he trusted enough to see it.
A different version of the same words Marcus had said to him, during that first bad fight in the Berkshires.
Different situations, different men, but the glue always the same. The thing that made it all work. His father had had his mother's unwavering love, his children's respect. Marcus had him.
Hold me together...
"Always, Master," he murmured, holding him tighter. "It's going to be okay. We're together now. Always."
The polish had come at a high, high price.
Thomas kept stroking his hair, murmuring and rocking, until at last Marcus started to rein it back in, pushing himself up, swiping his hand at his nose and eyes.
"Okay?" Thomas kept a hand on his bare shoulder, moving his fingers slow and easy over the firm flesh.
"Yeah. Oh, Jesus. No." Marcus bolted from the floor, disappearing into the bathroom. He managed to kick the door shut before Thomas heard him start to get rid of probably a gallon of Jack Daniels and vodka.
Wincing sympathetically, Thomas rose and went to the adjacent bathing area to run water in the Jacuzzi tub. He selected the temperature Marcus liked and increased it a few degrees up from that. Moving to the sink, he began to clean himself with a cloth and soap, keeping an ear tuned to the bathroom. Three pauses, followed each time by more vomiting. Marcus must have been drinking since he'd last seen Thomas.
The evidence was in the penthouse as well, in the unmade bed, dishes in the sink, paperwork tossed on the floor. Thomas pulled on his jeans, shrugged into his shirt and made the bed while he waited. As the minutes passed, he suspected Marcus was probably in there hoping he'd disappear. He heard the sink running, the sounds of teeth being brushed, a mouth being rinsed that would probably never be able to taste Jack Daniel's again.
"Got a bath out here when you're ready."
"Go away."
Thomas stifled a smile. "Come out here and stop being such a girl." That did it. The door opened and Marcus stood gloriously naked in the doorway.
He'd washed his face, but as Thomas well knew, everything else to use for cleaning up was in the Jacuzzi part of the bathroom. Marcus glared, but otherwise seemed at a loss for words. And he looked tired.
Thomas rose from the bed. "Tomorrow you can go back to being invincible. But for tonight, why don't you let the guy who loves you enough to kiss you with stale liquor and cigarettes on your breath take care of you? Get you into the tub and scrub every part of you that needs scrubbing."
The teasing light died out of his tone, replaced by something else as Thomas stopped in front of him. "Maybe after that, you can try sleeping while I hold onto you and thank God that you kept on loving me until I figured out what a gift you are?" As Marcus' expression changed, Thomas moved forward another step, put a hand to his face. "Please, Master. Give me the gift of taking care of you."
"I already did."
"C'mon, then. I've got a bath run. It'll do you good." Marcus gave him a searching look but complied, moving into the bathing area.
Thomas tried not to hover, but was nevertheless glad he did. When Marcus lifted his leg to get into the tub, he lost his balance.
" you. Here." Thomas eased him down into the warm water. "Don't think Jack's completely out of your system yet."
"Good thing he isn't. Else, probably wouldn't have let you..." Marcus' face was turned away, his jaw pressed to the cool porcelain. When Thomas laid a hand on his hair, tangled there, he didn't move, but he felt the focus of Marcus' awareness as if he'd fixed that potent gaze on him.
"I'm glad you did. It was about time you let me all the way in. Course, maybe it was the first time I'd earned the right to do it." Marcus turned and looked at him then, a hundred thoughts passing between them, none of them needing saying.
"I don't know why I care," Marcus said abruptly. "He didn't ask for me. Why should it matter to me what his expectations were?"
"I think he was just the straw," Thomas suggested gently. "Do you have a good memory of him? Even one?"
Marcus looked down into the water. "He took me to the barber once, when I was six. We had ice cream afterward, sat in a park. He put his arm along the back of the bench and talked to me about going to school. How to get along with other kids, not to let them push me around, but not to jump into a fight, either."
"That's your favorite memory of him. That's how you were able to call it up so easily."
Marcus lifted a shoulder.
"Hold onto that one. That's the only one that matters anymore. Why don't you get your hair wet? I'll wash it."
Marcus complied, sliding down and beneath the water's surface, and then emerging, slicking the ebony silk of his hair to his skull. As he settled back, scraping water from his face with his hands, he turned a considering eye to Thomas. It had some of its usual arrogance to it, cheering Thomas considerably. "Remember, shampoo followed by conditioner. Use the ones in the black bottles." Thomas eyed the array of hair products on the corner of the tub and snorted. "God, I forget sometimes how gay you are."
When he reached across to grab the shampoo, Marcus seized his waistband and hauled him into the tub. Even wrestling him, Thomas managed to be overpowered and held under for at least five seconds, water sloshing over the sides.
He surfaced, spluttering and laughing, and splashed Marcus in the face. "You asshole. You know this flannel shirt is a Tractor Wholesale original? It was a whole twelve ninety-five off the rack. You've simply ruined it." And found himself dunked again. When he came up this time, he was hauled forward to meet Marcus' mouth in a wet, rough kiss, Marcus' hands holding his head.
Hair treatments could apparently wait.