I know you don’t really mean it

by A. Nellsechs  

The telegram reaches Everson when he’s in his stained glass studio. He wipes the sweat from his brow and then from his hands before he reaches out to take it. It’s an address and nothing more, which would be suspicious to any other recipient, but this isn’t the first time Everson has gotten messages like this. It’s also not the first time he’s gone where they tell him to.

Everson lives in a grand house befitting a baron, which is what he is. However, he doesn’t pay all that much mind to things like titles and riches and propriety and the like. He’s always been more interested in the arts and, being the only child, was able to get away with it. That’s why he has other people to tend to the everyday life of the barony so he can do what he enjoys, which is staining glass and painting canvases. Well, that and going where he’s bid, but only when a certain someone bids him.

He changes out of his “work clothes” and into something casual. He doesn’t want everyone wherever he’s going to know who and what he is. Most of the time he’s able to pass himself off as any other man of decent standing instead of a Lord. 

He bids his housekeeper, Maggie, to ask his driver, George, to ready the horse and buggy, then has a quick snack of a softly ripe pear, even if the juice does drip down his chin in a way that Maggie very clearly disapproves of.

“You oughtn’t follow his every beck and call,” she says. Her face is round and friendly, but even so right now it looks tight with unhappiness. 

“Probably not,” he says, “but I am such a fan of an adventure.”

He smiles at her, even though they both know he’s lying. There’s no adventure waiting for him, just someone who’s probably in no fit state to take care of themself.

He passes George the address and then they head off. Everson doesn’t particularly love the rocking of the buggy, but it’s luckily not a very long ride, and he can at least look out the window as he goes. 

The house, when they reach it, is fairly ordinary and plain, though clearly belonging to someone of decent standing, because it has a fresh layer of paint and a well-tended garden. The gate doesn’t even squeak when he opens it.

A man greets him at the door, and the sight of him fills Everson with an effervescence he’s never felt with anyone else. He’s small and slight — waifish, some might say if they were prone to romanticism, and Everson is. Despite this, there’s still a strength to his jaw and the line of his shoulders, though he’s thin and his dark skin is ashy and pale. His eyes and cheeks are sunken, and his curly dark hair is dry and messier than usual, and despite all of this he’s the most beautiful person Everson has ever laid eyes on. His eyes are a warm brown and long-lashed, and his smile when he sees Everson is just a touch too sharp. His name is Henry, and Everson is most of the way in love with him.

“Everson,” he says in a high voice, and Everson hums his assent. “You came.”

“Yes,” Everson says. He doesn’t smile at Henry, but he’s sure the warmth he feels shows through anyway.

“Come in,” Henry says, standing aside so that Everson can do just that.

Henry is wearing only his underthings, a simple white undershirt cut to coat length and knee-length white drawers. It’s inappropriate garb of course, but Henry is as inappropriate as they come, and Everson has known him for too long now to be surprised.

This isn’t Henry’s house, Everson knew that coming into the situation, so Everson is not surprised when they walk into a small sitting room (populated by a little tea table and two couches facing each other) to see another man in the room. He’s half dressed, wearing an undershirt and unbuttoned trousers. His hair is out of place but not tousled like Henry’s is. He’s out of breath, which lets Everson know what they just now finished doing.

“This is Everson,” Henry says, but he doesn’t introduce the other man. He likely doesn’t remember his name, and Everson can’t blame him. Henry has far too many clients to remember all of them, and chances are the name is just John anyway. 

“Nice to meet you,” says the man, looking like it’s anything but nice. His eyes rove over Everson hungrily; not for the first time, Everson wonders exactly how Henry convinces the men to allow Everson over. Is he a bodyguard? Another prostitute? Another john? He’s never sure, and he also never asks.

The man gestures for Everson to sit on the couch across from him, which is green. Henry sits with the man on the couch, which is red. The man reaches over and pulls him half into his lap, and Henry slings a casual arm around his shoulder with very practiced nonchalance. 

Henry does it just to drive him crazy and Emerson knows it, which at least lessens the hurt of it. It does not, however, make the hurt nonexistent. Everson’s entire body aches like he’s been in a fight and he can’t actually tear his eyes away from where the other man’s hand rests on Henry’s inner thigh, possessive as if he has earned the right. He knows Henry’s m.o., and this guy won’t be around for longer than it takes to deal Everson a mortal wound, but even that knowledge can’t convince his stupid heart not to care.

“You’re so good at that,” Henry purrs when the man’s hand rises higher to rub at his dick through his pants. Henry’s not looking at the man, even though Henry’s got an arm draped over his shoulders and a leg draped over his thighs, revealing the way Henry’s dick is almost blatantly soft. Henry’s eyes don’t leave Everson’s, and they’re full of malicious light, like he knows Everson is suffering and takes pleasure in it.

The man is watching Everson too, in a way that is malicious but not on Henry’s level. The man is thinking, I have him, and he’s beautiful, and I know you want to be where I am, which is true on a surface level, Everson supposes. In this moment, he does want to trade places with the man, but he doesn’t want to be there just for a moment. He wants to have Henry all the time, and not just for sex. He wants to care for him when he’s sick and hold him when he cries and figure out his favorite foods so that he always knows how to make him smile. 

“Oh, that feels so good,” Henry says in a high, warbling tone, even though he’s not hard. His eyes aren’t even closed, which means he’s really barely aroused. Henry can’t bear to have his eyes open when he’s really turned on because he doesn’t like the truths they reveal, but he’s revealed them all to Everson anyway, with every stuttered moan and half-spoken word and every tear quickly wiped away.

The man is now mashing Henry’s cock against his stomach through his pants, probably because Henry told him he liked it rough and hard, and Everson doesn’t know how Henry is managing to stop himself from wincing or even crying out. When they’re together, Everson strokes him like he’s petting a rabbit, his fingers so soft they’re barely there, until Henry is overstimulated and trembling and crying and so hard his dick is nearly purple. This guy is practically slapping him.

“Does that feel good?” the man asks, but he’s looking at Everson.

“No,” Everson replies.

“I wasn’t asking you.”

“Then stop looking at me like you want my cock in your throat,” Everson says blandly. Henry hides a smirk behind his hand, but the man growls, tossing Henry to the side like he is unimportant, a blanket to take off. An expression flashes across Henry’s face, anger or annoyance or maybe even hurt, before he arranges his features back into sultry wanton whore.

“I don’t suck cock,” the man says, as if it’s a terrible thing to do.

“How sad for you,” Everson says. “I’m very good at it. I could show you how, if you wanted to learn.”

The man hesitates. There’s only the three of them in the room, and it’s clear from everything about the man that he’s more interested in Everson than in Henry at the moment. He’s been told all his life that real men don’t get on their knees, which means that the only thing he wants is a real man on his knees. And yet he doesn’t want that, because if he fucks a man like Henry, he can say it’s because he’s feminine; Everson is solidly built, muscular, a draft horse of a person, and the man would have to face the fact that he’s undeniably queer if he were to fuck him.

“Boy,” the man says to Henry. “Let him suck your cock.” 

Henry is annoyed, but he won’t say anything to show it, so he crosses the room instead, laying down on the couch Everson has been occupying. He starts to tug on his own pants, undoing the buttons, but Everson stops him. They make eye contact then, Henry’s brown eyes heavy-lidded and dark with lust and dread, because he knows what’s coming but can’t let himself say no.

“He’s not a boy,” Everson says first of all, tracing his hands down Henry’s thighs to his ankles, slowly in a way he knows will make Henry tremble. He traces back up again, fingers alighting on Henry’s button fly before moving up to palm at his stomach. “He’s a man, first of all. I’ve never understood how convincing yourself you’re fucking a child makes being queer easier for people. It’s frankly embarrassing.”

The man growls, but it sounds more aroused than anything else. 

“Secondly, look at how hard he is now, and I’ve barely touched him.”

Henry makes a noise in the back of his throat, something more grunt than anything else. He tries to make it sound more pretty but that just makes his voice crack.

“Some people like it soft,” Everson says, pressing his fingers slow and gentle into Henry’s pants.

“He’s a whore,” the man says, as if whores can’t like soft things.

“You’re a bad fuck,” Everson says, but he times it for when he’s pulling down Henry’s pants, letting his big red dick fly free like a flagpole, so the man barely takes in the words. Everson leans in and breathes against his dick, just breathes, and Henry shifts like he wants to fuck into Everson’s mouth but doesn’t want to admit he likes the attention.

“You’ve got to tease a little,” Everson explains, opening his mouth to trace just the inside of his lower lip against Henry’s foreskin. “It’s about the buildup. The best orgasms take hours to come by, don’t they?”

“Mnnh,” Henry says. “I,” he tries, but his thighs are trembling in Everson’s hands, hitching upward. He likes to put his legs on Everson’s shoulders, squeeze his head between his thighs until Everson can barely breathe. He’s fighting against himself to not fuck against Everson’s face until he finds his mouth. Henry likes it like that, rough and a little cruel and a little too much.

Henry fucks like he’s angry, when he’s given a choice about it. When he’s not given a choice, he fucks like the perfect whore everyone wants him to be, moaning loud and throaty and encouraging but never coming, because that would mean enjoying himself, and Henry never, ever has sex he enjoys if he can help it.

When Everson takes control, he’s soft and kittenish, little mewling noises he hides behind a hand, trembling limbs, weak fingers, teary eyes. He cries when Everson touches him, the only time he feels safe enough to let it out. Everson’s never hurt him once, not even when Henry hurts him. Everson touches him like the stained glass he makes in his workshop, firm but gentle, sure but soft. He pulls down the foreskin and licks, just a little, at the head, and Henry mewls.

“Fuck,” says the man, but Everson barely remembers he’s there. Everson may be a big, strong man, but he loves the taste of cock, and Henry’s in particular is exquisite. Everson could eat his come for days.

“I could lay you out on my bed,” Everson says into Henry’s thigh, just before he bites down. “Keep you there, suck you whenever I feel like it. Feed you and fuck you and feed you again until your belly is warm and full and your limbs are too shaky to move.”

Henry makes another noise, something soft and sweet. His eyes are tightly closed against tears, and Everson almost feels bad for making him cry in front of this random man, but he likes Henry’s tears too much.

When Everson finally takes Henry into his mouth, holding his thighs down so he can’t wrap them around Everson’s head, Henry actually cries out a little – ah-ah oh god – like he wasn’t expecting it. Everson sinks all the way down, opening his throat for Henry, letting him rest there. He moves his head slowly when he drags it up, then sinks down faster, then drags up slow. Henry writhes in his grasp, his hands moving everywhere he can reach before alighting in his own hair and tugging at it.

“Everson,” Henry pants, forgetting for a moment where they are. “Ah,” he moans. “Everson,” he whines.

“Fucking slut,” says the man, as if he doesn’t want to be forgotten, but Everson pays him no mind. He stills when he drags himself up and Henry tenses, then shudders, then tenses again. He’s close, Everson knows, has seen him come enough times that he knows what it looks like. Everson presses down again, then simply holds Henry in his throat, not moving, just watching.

Henry breaks his record for holding out. It must be nearly five minutes before he says, “Oh, please, I need – “

Everson pulls up again to tongue his slit, then sucks hard at the head, his cheeks hollowing. Henry opens his eyes then, to look down at him, his eyes red-rimmed and blurry with tears. He comes when their eyes meet, his back arching, his thighs tensing as if to wrap around Everson’s head to hold him there. Everson lets them go so Henry can grasp onto him with his legs, rolling his hips slow and deep into Everson’s mouth as he pants and babbles out something incoherent. He comes like an angel, as usual, his body perfect in the glittering mid-afternoon sun. Everson wants to paint him like this someday, vulnerable and beautiful. Everson knows it’s sacrilegious, but Henry makes him think about heaven and earth and God when he comes, how soft he finally turns, how unable to keep himself pulled away he is.

Everson slowly unhooks Henry’s legs from his neck, knowing Henry’s too weak-limbed to do it himself. He’s trembling and shaky and his eyes are closed but Everson can see tear tracks going down the sides of his face.

“Whore,” says the man, as if he is going to ask for something from Henry now. 

Everson says, “I’ll buy you out for however long you have left of him,” before the man can think to do anything cruel to Henry while he’s in such a fragile state.

“I had him for another two hours,” the man says. When Everson looks over the man is confused, his dick incredibly hard in his pants. “I – “

Everson fishes the correct amount of money from his wallet and throws the bills on the man’s lap, then gets Henry dressed and hoists him carefully into his arms. Henry is boneless, a ragdoll, and it takes a certain amount of strength and care to make sure Everson doesn’t accidentally break his spine when he picks him up. Henry is a dead weight, no help at all, so Everson has to wrap Henry’s legs around Everson’s hips for him, drape his arms over Everson’s shoulders just so he can carry Henry out to the horse and buggy that are waiting outside. George raises an eyebrow when he sees Henry, but otherwise doesn’t comment, which is good because Everson doesn’t know what to say.

Falling in love with a literal prostitute was never exactly in Everson’s plans when he’d mapped out his life. At first he’d assumed there would be a wife, until he realized he didn’t want that. Then he’d assumed an affair with a man of good standing, a confirmed bachelorhood, as it was. Then he’d met Henry at a party, high on cocaine and being used as a fuckhole for every man in attendance. Everson had watched for hours as everyone took turns, then took turns again, fucking into Henry hard and fast and rough, leaving harsh bruises and scratches that drew blood. Henry had moaned like an invitation, but never once had he even gotten hard. At the end of the night, when everyone was done and Henry was used and half-beaten on the floor, Everson had taken him home and cleaned him up and made him come.

At first it was an experiment. Just to see if he could. He hadn’t touched Henry’s hole, other than to soothe it with ointment that would hopefully keep away infection. He’d laid on the bed and draped Henry on top of him and kissed him until Henry was buttery-soft and warm against him, sighing blissfully into his mouth and slicking Everson’s stomach with precome. Everson had squeezed a hand between their two bodies and stroked Henry so slowly, so gently, that it took half an hour for him to finally come. 

He’d thought that would be it, because he hadn’t predicted how perfect Henry would be afterward, how malleable and precious, how boneless and soft. How sweetly confused he would be when Everson fed him from his fingers and put him in a tub of warm water so that he could rest his aching body. 

Everson does much the same tonight. He has George go inside ahead of him to tell the servants to prepare a bath and some finger foods, cubed fruit and honey and soft cheese and bread. He lays them both down on his bed, a large four-poster with heavy green curtains embroidered in gold. He busies himself, dipping pieces of pear into honey and pressing them against Henry’s soft mouth until he opens up for it. He likes Henry’s mouth, how warm and wet it is, how plush and soft his lips are, how his teeth are a little sharper than Everson would have expected. He sucks the honey off Henry’s lip, leaving it swollen and red, then feeds him a strawberry and licks him clean from that, too. The honey is sweet with a perfumed aftertaste, and Henry’s mouth is as lush and soft as rose petals.

When the bath is ready he strips Henry down and carries him over and places him gently inside, then washes him with chamomile soap and a soft flannel. He leaves his hair, dark and thick and kinky-curly, alone. Henry is mostly listless, though his eyes are open and dark and watchful. He doesn’t smile or look particularly pleased, but he never does when they’re together. At first, Everson took this to mean Henry disliked him, but with time, he realized Henry didn’t like how Everson made him feel, or that he made him feel at all. Henry normally didn’t feel, not anything. Not hunger or pain, not happiness or comfort, not sadness or anger or lust. He simply existed, trapped inside his body and yet disconnected from it, trapped inside his mind but disconnected from that, too.

Don’t touch me like that! Henry had shouted once, when they were living together and Everson had brushed a curl of hair behind his ear with soft, barely-there fingertips. Why won’t you ever hurt me?

Because I’m soft, Everson had said. I like to be soft. I like when you’re soft.

And then Henry had left, again.

Everson thinks it’s like when you’ve been cold for so long that being warm hurts. Henry had been emotionless for so long that when he has a feeling, it’s all sharp edges and acid burns and coppery breath in the back of his throat. 

“I won’t come back this time,” Henry says as Everson tucks him into a nightshirt. It belongs to Everson, which means it’s far too big on him. It makes him look like an orphan on a streetcorner selling matches and begging for moldy bread. “You’d better fuck me hard so I remember you.”

Instead Everson lays down with him, sharing the same pillow, his back pressed to Henry’s front, his ass in the cradle of Henry’s hips. Henry slides a possessive leg up Everson’s thigh, opens his mouth against the back of Everson’s neck so he can feel his teeth. I’m a predator, he is saying, and it makes Everson’s breath catch.

They’ve never fucked. Or rather, neither of them has penetrated the other, not even with fingers. Everson doesn’t care about his own orgasm much – they’re cheap in comparison to Henry’s. Henry refuses to top for supposed professional reasons (though Everson has never bought him), and so Everson refuses too. They both know the real reason why, but they’re both too stubborn to put a stop to it. Henry won’t top because if he did, he would have to be more than a body, a ragdoll, something to fuck and toss away when Emerson was done. Everson doesn’t top because Henry would become a hot, tight hole to stick a dick in, and Everson knew that Henry would be able to label him as just like every other man once he crossed that line. 

“I fucking hate you,” Henry whispers into Everson’s ear just as he’s falling asleep.

“Mmh,” Everson mmhs, “but at least you feel something.”

Henry is gone when he wakes up, as is three hundred pounds, but Everson expected that.

***

The most important things to remember about Henry is that he is a liar, an actor, and a performer. He is a con artist, he is a salesman, and he is a liar. Liar is on there twice, because Henry is a fucking liar, almost to the point where it crosses into truthful territory. He told Everson he wouldn’t be coming back, but stumbles into his house six weeks later, drunk and high and mostly naked. He’s bleeding from his lip and has a blackened eye and a half-empty bottle of gin in his hand.

“Sir,” says Maggie in obvious distaste.

Sir,” Henry mocks slurringly. “Everson, sir. Lord. What’s your title, anyway? Aren’t you titled? What a twat.”

“Mh-mm,” Everson agrees easily enough, even though Maggie looks like she might throw Henry out the door if he says another word. “C’mon, let’s get you cleaned up. Maggie, a first aid kit, if you would?”

“Hmph,” says Maggie, but she still fetches it and brings it up to Everson’s rooms, which are where he takes Henry.

Henry has obviously been assaulted. Everson can’t tell if it was in a professional capacity or just in general. Henry either can’t or won’t tell him, probably doesn’t care – or rather, doesn’t think he cares – much either way. He won’t let Everson take the bottle away and tries to pull Everson’s dick out of his pants while Everson’s cleaning his lip. He’s upset when Everson pushes his hands away, and upset when Everson asks if he’s got any other injuries, and upset when Everson says he should get some rest and they’ll talk in the morning. He breaks an expensive lamp and an inexpensive side table, breaks his bottle of gin and pours it on Everson’s bed, then asks Everson to fuck him in the glass shards. 

Everson says, “Henry, I’ll fuck you in the guest bedroom,” then climbs onto the bed on top of Henry and holds him down. First Henry tries to open his legs, to have the sex he thinks will make him feel better, or maybe worse. Then he struggles with Everson, tries to push him off, but he’s bigger than Henry, heavier, and it’s impossible. Finally he cries, clinging to Everson and letting out these broken wails.

“I was so afraid,” he cries. “He wanted to hurt me. I thought it would hurt less if I let him.”

“I know,” says Everson, who has learned by now that Henry’s strategy with pain is to let it happen and hope it doesn’t end up being too bad. And if it is bad, to drink or snort his problems away, or try to paste the hurt up inside with someone else’s orgasm, or…

Wait.

“You came to me,” Everson says softly. He realizes how Henry clings to him, their bodies chest to chest, face to face. Henry’s legs are wrapped around Everson’s from the inside, his thighs against Everson’s ass and his feet on the outsides of Everson’s calves. It’s a strange position, but in this house what Henry wants, he gets, so Everson doesn’t struggle or move away.

“You,” Henry says. His voice is shaky and soft and he’s stammering. He’s drunk, Everson remembers, but he’s less guarded when he is, more honest. “You’ve never hurt me,” he says. 

“Mm. No. I haven’t.”

“You won’t…?” Henry says, so small Everson almost can’t hear it. And then, stronger, “You won’t.”

“I won’t,” Everson agrees.

“You like me soft.”

“I do like you soft,” Everson says, and his tone sounds warm and pleased even to his own ears, like he’s just been shown a drawing by a child and, while he does like it, he mostly wants the child to know he’s proud.

“You,” Henry stammers. His voice sounds warm too, and deeper. He makes it go all high most of the time on purpose, because he knows people want him to be girly. “I – Everson.”

Everson honestly doesn’t know if Henry had ever said his name before, outside of sex.

“Can I stay here? For a little while?”

He hadn’t asked last time. Everson hadn’t even realized he was living here for a few weeks, he’d just assumed he kept showing up at the house, like maybe he knew Everson’s schedule. It wasn’t until he’d complained about Maggie trying to kick him out that Everson understood he’d never left.

“Yes,” Everson says. “As long as you’ll let me.”

“Let you?”

“Let me enjoy your company. Let me keep you. Let me take care of you.”

Henry swallows hard. Everson feels it against his own forehead. “Yeah,” Henry says, his voice deeper and rougher in a way that makes Everson tingly. “I’ll let you. For a little while.”

“If you practice,” Everson says easily, “you can let me more and stay for longer.”

Henry swallows again. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

***

Henry is gone in the morning, which is a disappointment but not a surprise. When Everson goes back to his bedroom it’s already been cleaned, the broken items removed and replaced with different ones. He sighs to himself, then wanders morosely around his house. His fingers itch to paint, but his muse is gone. And besides, he’s never painted Henry before, though he’s never asked. He’s always wanted to though. He thinks Henry would look good in a landscape. Or as a satyr. Or as the Virgin Mary, but a debauched male version. So not like her at all, except maybe with a halo. He also thinks Henry would look good… still. Reading a book, or sitting under an apple tree.

He wants Henry. He wants to paint. He wants to paint Henry. He wants to paint the exact way Henry’s mouth softens to let him push fruit inside, the way his teeth flash when he chews.

Someone calls to him from somewhere else inside the house, and then a bell tinkles. He follows the noise to the front door and finds…

“Henry?”

Henry has brought things to the house. Like, multiple things. Like, bags and boxes and more, much more. Actually, Everson is really wondering about it, and feeling a bit rude because, if he’s being honest, he’d kind of assumed Henry was… homeless? But unless he stole all of this within the last few hours, he clearly had somewhere else to live.

“Can I have the guest bedroom we – I? – just slept in?” Henry shoots a confused glance at Maggie, who rolls her eyes.

“Sure,” Everson says. “Maggie knows,” he adds, because she doubles, sometimes, as an assistant in his studios. The stained glass studio is fine, normal, religious iconography. The painting one is… much the same, except for gayer and hornier. Like if Jesus was a big fan of ass and dicks and balls and getting his portrait done with them.

“Oh,” Henry says, though he’s still looking at Maggie like he’s never seen anything like her before. “Um.”

“I’ll help you carry your things,” Everson says, scooping up as many bags as he can carry, which is quite a few. He doesn’t miss the way Henry’s eyes trace across his back and shoulders and arms and – well, everything, really. He’s not exactly subtle. He’s wearing real clothes for once, instead of his underthings, but he wears them like they’re underthings, all half unbuttoned and wrinkly and sliding off, like he’s not expecting anyone to see him or like he’s just been debauched.

In fact, he probably has, now that Everson thinks about it. It occurs to him that Henry could choose to continue with his… work, even from here. He braces himself for it, so he won’t be surprised. 

Henry sets up the guest bedroom, flitting around and placing things where he wants them, unpacking bags and boxes. They mostly contain clothing, most of which Everson has never seen before. They all hug the line of too feminine, too childish. He has makeup too, which Everson feels he should have expected but is still somehow surprised by.

He sits on Henry’s new bed, freshly made from the night before, and watches him. Henry moves like he had butterfly wings once, but they were stolen and he’s not sure how to get them back. He flits this way and that, loses his balance and almost falls, bumps into things too. Everson wants to draw him as a faery, with butterfly or dragonfly or angel wings. 

“Can I,” Henry asks when he is done, then stops. He tugs at a curl. He has a lot of hair products too, and perfumes. He sets his jaw stubbornly, and Everson wants to kiss it until it softens. “I’m going to keep taking customers.”

“That’s fine,” Everson says, even though it hurts. “Just don’t tell Maggie. She’ll be upset.”

Henry looks at him, his brown eyes warm like melted chocolate. “You… don’t care?”

Everson shrugs. “I’d rather you not, but I don’t own you, and I won’t stop you if it’s what you want. If it makes you happy,” he adds, because they both know it doesn’t. 

Henry swallows hard and doesn’t meet Everson’s eyes. “It does,” he says, because he’s a liar. 

“Do what makes you happy,” Everson says. Henry walks over to stand in front of him. His skin is dark in tone, but ashy and pale as if he hasn’t seen the sun in a while.

“Do what makes me happy?” 

“Yes,” Everson says, keeping his gaze steady.

“What if nothing does?” Henry’s trying to sound strong and brave, but his voice trembles and he wobbles slightly on his feet. There are shadows under his eyes, and Everson wonders if he’s been sleeping well. Probably not. He works all night and stays out all day and never sleeps or eats or thinks.

“Then find something,” Everson says. “Something that makes you happy. Not just not unhappy, but really happy.

“I’ve tried everything,” says Henry.

“No one can try everything.”

Henry looks away, but at the same time he edges closer. When he reaches out Everson holds himself still, letting Henry press a hand to his neck, then rub down to his shoulder, then shuffle forward. Henry hesitates, then climbs into Everson’s lap, his hands on Everson’s shoulders, his head on Everson’s chest, tucked under his chin.

“Fuck me.”

“No.”

“I’ve never tried that,” Henry points out.

“Fuck me,” Everson says. “You’ve never tried that.

“No.”

“Can I touch you?” 

“You don’t have to ask.”

“But I want to,” says Everson. “I like when you mean it.”

“Don’t touch me,” Henry says as he snuggles in closer. Everson doesn’t. Someday, Henry will admit what he wants, and Everson will be there to give it to him.

***

Everson wakes up the first morning to Henry, already in his bed. That was expected, since they had gone to sleep together after spending two hours necking. Henry was as mottled as a giraffe, but he looked so fucking good with his color high that Everson has no regrets. 

“Henry?” Everson asks. He can hear a strange noise but it takes him a while to place what it is. When he finally does he sits up in bed to find the blankets on the other side of it pulled back. Henry is on his side, three fingers pressed deeply inside himself. He’s mechanical about it, like he’s doing a job – because it is a job, Everson reminds himself – and he’s not hard. In fact, he doesn’t look aroused at all.

“You want to fuck me?” Henry asks. His voice is the high voice he uses for johns, the one that actually grates on Everson’s nerves sometimes. It is attractive, there’s no mistake about that, but it’s not honest, and that’s what Everson usually finds attractive.

“Do you want me to?” Everson asks, rubbing at his eyes.

“Yes,” says Henry, but Everson knows he doesn’t mean it.

“I won’t,” Everson says.

“But don’t I look beautiful?”

Of course he does. “Of course you do,” Everson says. 

“So why won’t you fuck me?” Henry sounds mad. His fingers are long and thin, and they move in and out of his hole in a way that would be attractive, maybe, if Everson couldn’t see his face and be sure he wasn’t enjoying it. 

“I’ll fuck you when I believe you want me to.”

Henry pulls out and sits up, turning to face Everson. His face is pinched and drawn, and Everson wants to take it in his hand and soothe every line. 

“What, do you want me to beg?” He widens his eyes and lets his mouth drop half open, wetting his lips with his tongue. “Please, sir,” he says. “Please, please fuck me. I want you to.”

“I know you don’t really mean it.” 

Henry scowls. “Fuck you.”

Everson throws the covers off and spreads his legs. “Do it then. Fuck me.”

He watches Henry’s face as his eyes crawl across Everson’s groin. He bites his lip as his eyes linger on Everson’s soft dick, which he can see through his thin cotton pants. 

“You’ve never made me touch you before,” Henry says, his voice all dazed and confused. His face is soft again, but his forehead is wrinkled like he’s thinking hard.

“I won’t make you do anything.”

“I must not have figured out what you like.”

“I like licking honey out of your mouth. I think I’ve told you this already.”

“It must be me that’s the problem.” Henry’s talking like he can’t hear a word Everson says.

“You’re not a problem, Henry,” Everson says gently. Hopefully the words will get through. “You’re just a little confused.”

Henry snaps back into the present, baring his teeth in an angry grimace that’s probably the most honest expression Everson has ever seen on his face. “I’m not confused!” he shouts, then storms out of bed to have sex he doesn’t want with men who don’t want him.

Everson sighs for about seventeen straight minutes, then gets dressed and heads to his painting studio.

***

Henry finds Everson a couple hours later, Henry looking freshly fucked and annoyed and Everson looking just as flushed from staining glass.

“You’re avoiding me,” he says, and Everson pulls his brush away from the canvas to look at him.

“You’re working,” Everson says.

Henry scowls. “You could watch. I have to pay you back somehow.”

“No, thanks,” Everson says. “I don’t like seeing you unhappy.”

“I’m never happy.”

“I don’t think that’s true.”

“What are you painting?” Henry changes the subject, probably because he hates being honest and being known.

Everson steps away from the canvas anyway, letting him take a long look. So far he has the sky and the background forest and a small clearing with an oak tree. Later he’ll paint a figure underneath. “What’s your favorite color?” he asks, thinking about wings.

“Red,” Henry says shortly. When Everson looks at him, his expression is positively stormy.

“Why are you upset?”

“I’m not.”

Everson hesitates, undecided as to whether he should push the issue or not. He finally decides against it. “What’s your least favorite color?”

“Pink.”

“Hmm,” Everson hmms. “How do you feel about orange?”

“It’s fine.”

“Alright.”

Neither of them speak for a while, and Everson continues to paint. Henry’s presence is a line of warmth against his back, though they’re not touching. 

“Why do you ask?” Henry finally says.

“Hm? What?” Everson frowns. “If you were happy?”

“No, my favorite colors.”

“I’m going to draw a faery,” Everson explains, gesturing to the place on the canvas where he thinks he will place him. 

“Oh,” Henry says, short once again. He glances at the clock in the corner. “Well, I have to go. People to do, things to fuck and all that.”

“Alright,” Everson says. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Henry twitching but not moving to leave.

“You…” Henry says. “You’re not… I don’t want you to come with me.”

Everson turns to face him. Henry’s tugging at a strand of hair and looking anywhere but at Everson. His face is flushed with embarrassment, and Everson thinks he’s the most beautiful thing in the world.

“Do you want me to?”

“No!”

Everson puts down his brush and wipes his fingers on his apron, stepping forward, edging into Henry’s space. “Are you sure?”

Henry’s pupils are swallowing his iris. He licks his lips and Everson can’t help but follow the movement. “No. I mean, yes! I mean no, you can’t come, and yes, I’m sure.”

Everson leans down and Henry’s lips part, moist from where his tongue touched them. When they kiss it’s close-mouthed and chaste, but even so Henry looks ruined when Everson pulls back.

“You don’t have to,” Henry says. His eyes are closed. Everson wonders if that makes it easier to know himself, or admit what he wants. “You– You–”

Everson kisses him again, on the corner of his mouth, and Henry makes a noise like sin, all rough and sexed-up. Everson trails his mouth along Henry’s jaw, not kissing, barely touching really, just breathing along his skin. He lingers at the hinge where jaw meets ear and Henry makes another needy sound, his hands coming up to grip Everson’s biceps. Everson traces his nose down Henry’s neck and he moans.

“You’re so sensitive,” Everson murmurs.

“Everson,” Henry pants. “I – You –!”

“Do you want me to touch you?” Everson asks against Henry’s collarbone. He licks him because Henry’s extra sensitive there; he sways against Everson, his fingers digging into his biceps hard enough to hurt. “Do you want me to unbutton your pants? Take out your cock?”

Henry gasps and one of his arms goes around Everson’s neck as if his legs are too weak to keep him up. “I want– I want–”

“Do you want me on my knees for you? You want my mouth?” Everson leans in to put his lips against Henry’s ear. “Do you want to fuck my mouth?”

Henry makes a desperate, incoherent noise, then says, “Yes, yes, I want you, I want you.”

“Are you lying?” 

“No, no,” Henry says, half-sobbing almost, pushing down on Everson’s shoulders to encourage him lower. 

“What about this,” Everson whispers, his lips touching Henry’s ear with every word. “What if you get the lube, and slick up your fingers, and put them inside me, hm? And then you can fuck me.”

For a moment, just a brief flash, Everson thinks it might actually work. Henry’s panting against Everson’s neck, hot and humid and wanting. Then he pushes Everson away, his eyes still lusty but also glittering with anger.

“No!”

“Why not?” Everson asks, frustrated. “Henry, why? Why won’t you? I know you want to!”

“N-no! I don’t!” 

He does, they both know it.

“Yes you do,” Everson says, stepping forward. He strokes a gentle hand down Henry’s neck, watching his eyelashes flutter. “We both know you want to push me against the wall and just fuck me, don’t you? I’m good for it, I’ll be good for you. You can pull my hair. I like bottoming, you know, and your cock’s so nice and long. I’ll be so tight around you.”

Once again, for the briefest of moments, Everson thinks that he has him. Henry’s leaning forward, his face open, his mouth open, full of heaven and sin both. But then he takes a step back and his face closes off and he says, “No, no, that’s not what I want.”

“Henry, please –

“No!” Henry shouts, his fists clenched at his sides. “No!”

They wait there, both looking at each other. Henry is still breathing heavily, and Everson is… Everson is… frankly, almost at the end of his rope. 

“Henry,” he says, his voice quiet even to his own ears. “Please. Please just – “

“Will you come watch me?” 

His voice is steady, and he holds his chin high. Even so, for just a moment, his mouth sort of twitches, or wobbles, and Everson feels something inside of him give way.

“Why?” he asks desperately. Henry slants his eyes away.

“I…”

“Are you just doing it to try and hurt me?*

Henry’s lower lip wobbles again. “I… I’m not! I don’t… you make me…” He swallows hard. “You won’t… let anything happen to me?”

Everson sighs, but it’s small. “I won’t ever let anything happen to you.”

***

And so here they are again, a position they’ve been in many times before. Everson is just there, in the room, watching Henry while he’s with some other man, unhappy and not turned on and not enjoying himself. And the only thing Everson wants to do is rip the nameless stranger off of him and tell him to leave, to scoop Henry up and put him in a warm bath and clean him up and take care of him, treat him softly like he ought to be treated, like he wants to be treated but won’t admit.

The worst part about it is that Henry does look good on his knees like that, arguably, his mouth full of someone else’s cock. His mouth looks good stretched around it, and he looks good flushed, and his shirt is off and his nipples are so perfect for sucking. His expression just looks like he’d rather be anywhere else, and that makes Everson’s stomach twist. 

The man pulls out of Henry’s mouth and sprays all over his face. Everson watches, feeling sick, as come drips onto the eyelashes of Henry’s closed eyes. Everson directs the other man to leave but he doesn’t watch him go, instead rising to his feet to fetch a damp cloth. He uses it to wipe Henry’s face, wiping carefully over his eyelids, as thin as gold leaf, then over his forehead and cheeks and the curls of hair that always fall into his eyes. He’s very still while Everson works, his fingers loose against his thighs. He’s still on his knees. He looks too calm, far too calm, almost like he’s not there really, is just pretending. 

Everson starts to speak then, trying to be soothing. “Let’s be done for the day,” he says, even though he’s not sure if Henry can even hear him. “C’mon, let’s get you into the bath, yeah? Let’s be done for the day, c’mon, get up, just like that, there you go.”

He leads Henry to his own bedroom. He pops his head out the door and flags down a passing servant, asking for them to prepare a bath in his room, and to prepare a platter of fruit and honey, ripe pears and strawberries and honeydew. He pulls Henry onto the bed with him, which is hard because Henry is mostly catatonic at this point, entirely shut down. Everson lies on his back and pulls Henry down with him, cradling him against his chest, their legs tangling up together. He shushes him before he realizes that’s silly, that Henry isn’t talking. He keeps talking to him, whispering to him, telling him what’s happening, about how he would take a bath, about the fruit, about honey, about anything he could think of. 

Henry shifts slightly after fifteen minutes, then curls further into him after twenty-five. Everson soothes his hair out of his face. Perhaps it’s the gentleness of the touch, or perhaps it’s just that Henry is back to himself, because it’s then that he begins to cry. 

“Everson,” he cries, and Everson soothes him with soft unidentifiable noises, stroking his hands over Henry’s shoulders and back and the back of his neck up into his scalp.

“It’s alright,” Everson says.

“No,” Henry says, “No, no, Everson.”

“Shh, shh,” Everson shhes. “I know, I know. I’m here. You’re okay.”

“Why,” Henry sobs, “I don’t know, why, I – I don’t know why I keep doing this!”

Everson doesn’t know what to say.

“You… It’s your fault! You never fucked me, you should have just fucked me, why are you so nice, you’re leading me on, you’re messing with me, you – “

“No,” Everson says, “I’m not. I just care about you. I think you’re troubled, but I think you’re sweet and funny and – and handsome.”

Henry sniffles, then looks up at him. His eyes are red and wet, but his expression is sort of… perked up, like a curious dog. “Handsome?”

“Very handsome,” Everson says, and Henry gives him a watery little smile.

“No one’s ever called me handsome before,” he says in a soft voice Everson’s never heard from him before. He sort of shifts against Everson, like he’s getting comfortable. He tucks his face into Everson’s throat, so Everson lifts his head up to make space for him there. “They all,” Henry slurs. “They all always said, ‘You’re so pretty, Henry, just like a girl.’ ‘Henry, wear a dress, you look so good in that.’ ‘Don’t play with the boys, Henry, you’ll get callouses and get dirty. Don’t you want to be soft?'”

“Ah,” Everson says.

“I don’t want to be soft,” Henry murmurs. “I want – I’m a man. Just because I like men doesn’t make me a woman.”

“No.” Everson feels a flash of anger at the people who must have told Henry that. “No, it doesn’t. Liking to be gentle and soft doesn’t make you a woman either. And even if you were, you don’t deserve to be treated badly.”

Henry is quiet for a bit longer, and Everson strokes his hands up and down Henry’s back.

“Do you believe that?” Henry asks.

“Hm?”

“Do you believe that? I don’t deserve to be treated badly. And it’s okay to be soft.” He pushes up onto his hands so he can look Everson in the eyes. He looks exhausted, and handsome, and sort of raw and scared.

“Of course I believe that,” Everson says firmly, as if it should be obvious. And it should be. “Everyone deserves kindness. Everyone deserves what they want and like.”

“Even me?”

“Especially you.”

“Hmm,” Henry hmms, sounding like Everson. He snuggles more deeply into his arms, which Everson didn’t even think was possible since they’re already so closely entwined. “Would it be okay if I didn’t see any more customers?”

Everson sighs happily. “Yeah, that would be okay. That would be great, Henry.”

“Will you fuck me?”

“No,” Everson says firmly.

“Hmm. Will you kiss me?”

Everson leans in very slowly and does.

***

Henry is so much happier when he’s not seeing customers, it’s like he’s a whole other person. He wakes Everson up in the mornings by climbing on top of him and just lying there until Everson’s up. He makes a game of picking Everson’s clothes out for him, and then picks out some of Everson’s clothes for himself to wear even though they’re too big. He looks impossibly soft in them, like a child playing dress up in their parents clothing, but Everson doesn’t tell him that because it’s a touchy subject, Henry’s need to be delicate but not girly.

They eat breakfast together, which Maggie prepares. Henry is more talkative than most people Everson has met, now that he’s decided he can be. He has a lot of funny stories, and he usually remembers to omit the part where he had sex he didn’t like for money from people who hurt him. 

After breakfast, Everson usually tries to hit at least one of his studios. Henry loves watching him make stained glass, and sometimes he helps pick out the colors. He likes looking at sketches too, tracing over the lines with his fingers until the pencil marks are half gone and Everson has to bat his hands away to save it.

Everson waits a few days before going back to his painting, because the oil paints take a while to dry. Henry moves around the studio, touching the paints and looking at the other canvases and chattering away like a child. 

“What are you painting?” Henry asks when he trails across the room back to where Everson is.

“The same painting as the other day. The forest, the clearing, a tree right here, and a faery.”

“A faery,” Henry says, looking intrigued. He gives Everson a mischievous smile, then leans over his shoulder even though it means he has to stand on his tippy-toes and crane his head. He looks at the faery, and Everson is nervous, because he painted the faery very consciously to look like someone, which was Henry. 

Henry stops leaning on Everson and comes around in front of him. His face is… Everson doesn’t know how to describe it. He looks shocked maybe, or almost scared, or something similar. His fingers reach out almost as if to touch the painting, but then he pulls back.

“Is this how you see me?” he asks, and Everson can’t decipher his tone.

“Yes?” Everson says, confused. He looks at the faery. It’s not… it’s not anything impressive, but it’s nice, he thinks. The faery is in charcoal-colored linen trousers and a white shirt, unbuttoned at the throat. He’s laughing, though Everson doesn’t know at what yet. He has a nice smile, and his eyes crinkle at the corners. His skin glitters slightly, because Everson had mixed the paint for it with gold leaf. He has brightly colored butterfly wings, red and pink and orange, one fading into the other. He likes the contrast of faery wings and trousers and button-up shirt.

“You see me like this?” Henry asks again, his voice sort of breathy and strange.

“Yes,” Everson says more firmly. “I think you’re – handsome” – he’d almost said beautiful – “and magical and a little wild, but the fun kind of wild, like you have bad ideas but end up with good memories you can laugh at later.”

Henry begins blinking quickly, and Everson realizes he’s trying not to cry. 

“Are you okay?” Everson asks.

“You really like me?” 

Everson blinks at him. “Yes, of course. I’ve told you so, haven’t I?” 

“Yeah,” Henry says, “but. But people always say so.” He looks raw and confused. “Everyone always says they like me, and then they go away, and then I’m all alone again.”

Everson doesn’t know what to say, so he reaches out and traces his fingers down Henry’s jaw. Henry turns and throws himself into Everson’s arms, and he has to struggle to catch them both so they don’t go tumbling to the floor. 

“You really want me?” Henry asks. “Are you sure? You want me?” His eyes are so big when he looks at Everson, and so filled with tears.

“Yeah,” Everson says, with a fond little smile. “I’ve been trying to show you that. And tell you that, too.”

Henry sniffles, then sort of climbs up Everson like he’s a tree. “Are you sure? If you keep me you’re stuck with me. I won’t let you go, Everson, I won’t, you’ll be mine.”

Everson’s heart skips a beat. “Yeah? Yours?”

“Mine,” says Henry, “all mine. Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” says Everson, his heart racing as he starts to get excited. “Yes, Henry, I’m sure.”

“Okay,” Henry says, “okay,” then lays a smacking kiss on Everson’s cheek. “Let’s go to your bedroom so I can fuck you.”

Everson laughs a little. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. You’re right. I’ve been wanting to, but I – I just – “

“I know,” Everson says, because he does.

***

Henry isn’t soft when he fucks Everson, but he’s not as rough as Everson had been expecting. Instead he’s… just very, very good at it, like someone who knows exactly how it’s supposed to go. He seems to know what Everson wants before he himself does. Like, when he’s preparing Everson, he somehow figures out that Everson doesn’t like to be finger-fucked, and certainly not hard. Everson likes… it’s strange, but to be pried open almost, pulled apart. It makes him feel watched and examined, which always makes his skin crawl with heat.

He wants to be close to Everson too, which is nice. Everson likes the way he bodily pushes Everson’s legs apart and keeps them there with his knees tucked behind Everson’s thighs. Henry watches the way his fingers look inside of Everson, but he also leans down to suck marks into the skin of Everson’s ass, or the soft skin of his lower back, or the meat of his shoulders, or most intimately, the nape of his neck.

“You like this?” he asks when Everson whimpers. He’s got an indiscernible amount of fingers inside of him from both hands, as if he wants to start with them and cram the rest of himself inside. It’s making Everson hot and raw and bothered and slightly unhinged. 

“Yes,” Everson gasps out. There are more words on his tongue waiting to be spoken, but they’re such a jumble that Everson doesn’t say anything for fear they won’t make any sort of sense. 

“I like it too, with you,” Henry says. He’s always been one to talk when they’re intimate – and they are intimate, even if Henry would claim it was just sex – but he’s normally not so coherent. When Everson touches him he tends to go out of control, but when Henry’s doing the touching it’s like he’s a researcher studying plants, or a professor grading papers, or an artist with their materials. He is skilled, and he knows what he’s doing, and he’s confident.

“I used to fuck other men, you know,” he says, reaching in and finding Everson’s prostate like he knew where it was all along. Everson whines at the touch, trying to shift around even though the only way he can move is to spread his legs more. “Back when I was first starting out in the business. Some men wanted that, I found. Some women did too. Wanted me. That was an experience. They were always so secretive, like having desires was something terrible and wrong. They always wanted it rough and hard, like a punishment.

“But I had a pimp, or a master or what-not, and he decided I got more business from men who wanted to fuck me. He owned me at the time, so I had to pay him back however I could. I used to think it was fun, at least when I was younger.” He leaned over Everson so he could breathe the next words, hot and heavy, into Everson’s ear. “It wasn’t fun for a long time until you.”

“Henry,” Everson gasps. 

“I like the way you say my name. I’ve always introduced myself, but no one ever remembers. They call me whore and boy and sometimes girl if that’s what they like, but you always say, ‘Henry, do you like that?’ like if I don’t, you’ll stop and do something else.”

“I will,” Everson promises. “Henry, I want – “

“What if I wanted to stop right now?” Henry asks. He draws his fingers out of Everson, leaving him empty, a freshly dug hole ready for a seed. “What would you say if we stopped right now? What if I said we should just get back up and you can finish your painting? Would you like that?”

“No.”

“Would you do it anyway?” Henry’s tongue is so wet against the back of his neck that Everson’s hips jerk into the bedclothes before he can think to stop himself.

“Yes, Henry, I would,” he says. “We can be done whenever you want.”

“I’m so glad to hear you say that. How many times have you made me come, Everson?”

Everson’s thoughts flag. “I…? I don’t know.”

“Eleven times,” Henry whispers, biting softly at his neck. “And how many times have you come?”

“I…”

“Just five. That means we’re uneven.”

Everson suddenly realizes where this is going. “I – I – I can’t – “

“Oh, but I think you can. And you said we could be done whenever I wanted, right?”

Everson had said that. Just now, in fact. He almost wishes he could take back the words, but the thought of Henry making him come until he’s raw and overstimulated is maybe too good to pass up. “Yes, I did.”

“Good. That’s so good. Do you know why I was so popular, when I was fucking people?”

“No,” Everson pants. He feels something nudging at his entrance, something larger than fingers and blessedly longer. “Henry, Henry,” he chants.

“I can just keep going forever, is why. You make me come so fast.”

“Half an hour is fast?” Everson asks, actually shocked.

“Yes,” Henry says, and slowly pushes inside. 

Oh,” Everson says, surprised even though he shouldn’t be. He’s seen Henry’s cock before and knows its size and shape and length, and yet, and yet, it feels so different when it’s pushing inside of him. “Oh, oh,” he says again, unable to stop himself. Henry just keeps pressing in and in, almost to the point of pain. Everson’s body tenses instinctively and he forces himself to relax, Henry waiting for his body to soften before pushing in again, and again the cycle repeats. He hasn’t been with anyone but Henry in months, and he and Henry have never done this. Everson doesn’t bother fucking himself usually, since he can’t quite manage the buildup he likes best when he’s on his own. He’s tight and unused to intrusion, but Henry is slow and steady.

“Christ,” Everson says. 

“It’s Henry, actually,” says Henry, and it’s such a fucking sacrilege and yet echoes all of Everson’s thoughts at the same time.

“Henry, Henry,” he says, like a prayer, and then Henry’s all the way inside of him and he’s so fucking full, so tight. It’s pleasure and pain all mixed together. When Henry drags out again Everson moans at the feeling, the almost sucking emptiness of it, the anticipation of what’s to come. He expects Henry to come in hard now, to fuck him rough, to take him like an animal, but when he thrusts back in it’s slow and smooth and so fucking deep that Everson jerks with it.

“Oh my God,” he says.

“Yeah,” Henry huffs into his ear. “I knew you’d like it like this. I’m going to make you come until your eyes are crossed.”

Everson clenches his hands in the blankets and cries out again when Henry thrusts back in, he can’t seem to stop. It’s like his body is surprised by the depth of it every time, even though he feels he should be prepared. The rolling of Henry’s hips is like the rocking ocean, and Everson is just a ship on the sea. 

Henry starts to pick up speed, but even so the thrusts are still rolling and deep, dragging all the way out before pushing all the way back in again. He pulls out all the way, his cock leaving Everson’s body entirely and Everson sobs with need, trying to wiggle himself back except that he can’t. His legs are spread wide and though he could try to use his arms he feels like he’s made of jam, soft and sweet and spreadable.

“Do you like this?” Henry asks. He presses just the tip inside, then pulls it back out again, teasing Everson’s rim in a way that’s fucking incredible.

“I – I – ” 

He tries to reply, he really does, but he comes instead, clenching down on the head of Henry’s cock like he’s afraid it’ll escape. His orgasm rocks his body, sending tingles up and down his spine, across his shoulders, down his arms and thighs, curling his toes.

“There you go,” Henry says while Everson’s half-sobbing into the covers. He doesn’t give Everson any time to adjust afterward, doesn’t wait or slow down. In fact he speeds up, pumping into Everson deeply and sending him jerking across the bed before pulling all the way out. Everson twitches with aftershocks and overstimulation and the depth of the penetration when he pushes back in, which is even more intense now, like Henry takes root every time he’s inside and then rips out all the roots when he leaves.

“Please, please,” he says, but he doesn’t know what he’s asking for. He can barely keep track of his thoughts, like for the first time he’s fully inside of his body and his mind has quieted down. Henry lies down on top of him, his front to Everson’s back. His skin is heated, but not as flushed and sweaty as Everson’s. It feels so odd to have Henry fully in control of himself and Everson a writhing mess beneath him.

With the change of positions, the tempo is different now too, short quick thrusts that seem to jolt so far into Everson’s body he can feel it in his throat. Henry only pulls an inch or two out before going back in and it’s incredible, it’s amazing, it’s the worst, and for the first time Everson becomes aware of his own cock, which seems an odd thing to not be aware of when he’s so aroused, but the entirety of his focus was on where he’s pressed so fucking full. He realizes, to his shock, that he’s hard again, so achingly hard it’s like he never even softened after his first orgasm. 

“I’m going to make you come like this,” Henry says, licking at his ear and then sucking the lobe into his mouth. Everson moans in reply, then moans even more as Henry stills inside of him so he can turn Everson’s face to him, sucking his lip into his mouth. They kiss, but it’s a nasty, lewd thing, like they’re both eating melting ice cream without a spoon. Henry starts pumping in again and Everson just opens to him, his mouth and his body and everything. He barely notices when he comes again, other than the waves of pleasure, but they’re almost indistinguishable from the rest of what he’s feeling.

Henry manages to manhandle him over after that, rolling him onto his back and then hitching Everson’s knees over his shoulders. Everson barely realizes what’s happening until he feels Henry pressing inside again. 

“Here, this will get us really deep,” Henry says, and Everson thinks, Was that not already deep enough?

It wasn’t, apparently, because from this angle it’s definitely deeper. He also can’t really move other than his arms, and even then when he tries they’re weak, like he’s been hanging from a ledge for too long and can’t lift them up anymore. Henry hitches Everson up even higher somehow so that he can lean down and kiss him, and Everson knows it’s just his imagination but Henry tastes like honey.

“Henry, Henry,” he can hear someone say, and then he realizes it’s him. It’s all so overwhelming, the way Henry has to force his way inside every time. Everson’s arms flap around blindly until he finds Henry’s hands, and Henry is so good at this that he knows just what to do, gripping Everson’s wrists in his fists before biting down so hard on his lower lip Everson thinks he will bleed. 

Everson comes again, even though it should be impossible. He can feel himself tighten around Henry, like tightening around a bottle, and Henry moans. Everson’s legs, or maybe Henry’s back, are coated in sweat and he keeps slipping and sliding. He doesn’t… it’s like he doesn’t want it to be over but he maybe needs it to be, so he starts to speak in that same low, soothing tone he always uses to talk Henry into coming.

“You gonna come now?” he slurs. “You… I want you to, want to feel you,” he says. “You should… ah, you should come, it’ll feel so good. You make me feel so good. I want…” His hands make an aborted motion. “I wanna touch you, I wanna touch your cock, wanna wrap my hands around it.”

Henry moans again, then slowly and carefully pulls out. He still has Everson’s wrists in his hands so he picks them up and brings Everson’s hands to his dick. Everson wraps both his hands around it, enjoying the feel of it and the slick slide of the oil, and then Henry starts moving his hands for him.

“Jesus,” Everson gasps, another spark of arousal shooting through him. He doesn’t know how a handjob is just as arousing as getting absolutely fucked, but somehow it is, especially with the way Henry moves his hands, fucking them over his cock. 

“Oh my God,” Everson says, his fingers spasming, tightening. Henry moans, then stills, his cock twitching against Everson’s fingers. His fingers tighten on Everson’s wrists and then he comes all over Everson’s belly and hands.

As usual, once he comes, Henry sort of collapses onto Everson, which is fine, good, great even. He’s small enough that he’s not too heavy, and Everson is tired enough that he doesn’t care about the sheer amount of come covering them both. He would maybe prefer if there was absolutely nothing touching his oversensitive cock, but there’s really no way to avoid it, and anyway he likes cuddling with Henry too much to want it to be over.

“Holy God,” Everson mutters. “Jesus Christ. That – that – “

“Yeah,” Henry mumbles. “You’re so good. I…”

“I can’t do that all the time,” Everson says finally. He can’t even open his eyes, can barely move at all. His legs are still all spread out and he doesn’t even have the strength to wrap them around Henry or even move them at all. His arms are tucked between their two bodies and he tries to pull them out but he can’t, he’s too weak.

“No,” Henry says. “No way. And besides I… I like it when you…” He can’t say the words, but Everson doesn’t mind. At least he’s not lying anymore.

“I know,” Everson says, because he does. 

“And you know I… I didn’t mean it when I said – “

“Yes,” Everson says. “I know.”

***

Everson finishes his painting of the faery, laughing at bees as they buzz around a hive attached to the branches of the oak tree he’s sitting under. He starts another one, with Henry’s full permission and consent. He asked over and over and over to make sure. It’s provocative and sensual and private, a painting for no one’s eyes but their own.

It’s Henry’s mouth and Everson’s fingers, shiny and slippery with honey. Everson spends a long time making sure it would glisten just right, especially the streaks of it on Henry’s mouth. He does hours of research and goes through at least an entire jar of honey, amusing himself by slathering it all over Henry and then sucking it off until he’s panting and shaky and desperate and so very flushed. 

They sleep together every night now, but Henry still has his own room that he fills with softness, blankets and pillows and dresses and jewelry and perfume. Some of it is for Everson too, because what they do there is for no one but each other and themselves, and because Henry likes to fuck him in a skirt. 

Henry has his own clothes now, in darker masculine colors. They all used to belong to Everson but were tailored to fit him instead. Everson likes the look of him like that, the perfectly fitted dark trousers and the shirt he never bothers buttoning up all the way. It’s a wonder Everson can ever get anything done when Henry walks around like that, effortlessly provocative and beautiful as sin. All of Everson’s paintings are portraits now, and he was right before. Henry looks good sitting at a desk reading, or eating apples in an orchard, or flying a kite on the ridge of a hill, or looking at the water of the ocean, and most of all with a pen in his hand and a smile on his face, like he’s writing in a secret code that he can’t wait for Everson to solve.

He still gets upset sometimes, and sometimes he doesn’t believe Everson when he says he loves him, but he doesn’t lie so much anymore, and sometimes, when Everson whispers how much he cares for him, he looks like he wants to say it back. 

Sometimes he does, and Everson knows he means it.

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15 thoughts on “I know you don’t really mean it

  1. I love your additions from the earlier version I got to read! It’s the right amount of context to start and the ending is solid too — it’s great to see Henry have a chance to come out of his shell with the help of Everson’s endless patience. I kind of love Maggie too. She has that long-suffering vibe of “I don’t like what you’re doing, but obviously I’m still going to help you.” It’s kinda sweet. :)

    Also: welcome! I’m so happy you’re joining us and I hope you’ll be contributing more pieces in future issues.

    • I had so much fun with this piece, even adding the context in the beginning so that it would make sense! Thank you for all the help, and I’m glad you like it! I had a lot of fun writing a chaotic character who’s just taken care of by a patient character, I just love the juxtaposition of the two.

      I LOVED Maggie, I didn’t necessarily mean to add her but definitely if/when I expand on this, I’m going to add to her character. I like how much she disapproves of Henry but is kind of like “lol make ur own mistakes I guess, stupid”

    • (also I forgot to say I am so happy to finally join and I look forward to writing more pieces!!)

  2. Now, you already know how great I think this is, so I’ll just say that I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I beta’d it for you and I really enjoyed reading it again. Your style is so rich and moody and playful — and so damn hot <3 I didn't catch last time that at the end Henry's dressed like he was in Everson's painting :') So lovely! I'm hoping you'll stick around because I'm eager to read more of your work!

    • Omg the fact that you’ve been thinking about it is such a compliment!! I had a lot of fun with this and I’m glad you think it has a style, I’m never sure about my style except for when I read it I think “hot, humid and rainy” so I don’t really know about all that.

      I had a tooooon of fun writing this, it was kind of a roller coaster because honestly I wrote it all in three days so I was just throwing words down and crossing my fingers they made sense afterward. I tried to throw some symbolism in there but idk if it worked lol.

      Thank you for the read!

    • Thank you so much for the read! I had a lot of fun writing this and I’m glad you enjoyed!

  3. Wow, this story sucked me in and blew me away. The tenderness and conflict are such a heady mix. Thank you so much for sharing this!!

    • Oh thank you!! What can I say I just love soft romance idk… No conflict except our trauma haha. Thank you for the read!

  4. aaaaaa everson!!! Henry!!! i love how clear it is from the get-go how much these two care about each other, even though Henry doesn’t know how to deal with it. everson does a great job balancing that implacable “I’m here for you” support with not pushing the boundaries he can tell are important.

    also twinky top rights!!! thank you! get it everson!!!!

    • First off TWINKY TOP RIGHTS. Also, dare I say, big buff bottom rights?? Thank you.

      Anyway, I had a lot of fun writing this and I’m glad you enjoyed reading it! I like playing around with relationship dynamics and had a lot of fun with this one, Everson being helpful without being an over controlling savior, and Henry pushing Everson away without being truly, irredeemably cruel.

      Thank you for the read!! <3

  5. Sometimes new contributors feel like they’re taking their first hesitant paddles in the sea of written pornography, not yet comfortable with writing the deed using any amount of explicitness, and this is CLEARLY not the case here. The contrasts between the different sex on display, between Henry’s business dealings, the self-destructive decisions he makes for himself, and the sweeter scenes with Emerson, make each other stand out all the more. The characters are allowed to be messy and imperfect so that when they manage to hold on to something good it’s a triumph, not a given! Keep this up and you’re no doubt going to become another eagerly-anticipated name on the submissions list. Welcome aboard!

    • Omg this is the nicest comment thank you so much <3 I'm glad you enjoyed my entry! When it comes to writing, I'm definitely more nervous about my plot-writing skills than my porn-writint skills, since in general and in writing I love exploring the different types of sex that a person can have and the reasons why. I wanted to write a story where someone uses sex as a form of self harm, and that's where Henry came from! It's not exactly non-consensual because he is consenting, he's just like forcing himself to consent even though he doesn't actually want to… People and the sex they have are varied and interesting and I just wanted to play with the juxtaposition of having sex you don't want, that you maybe used to enjoy, vs. sex that you don't WANT to enjoy but do anyway. Idk! I'm glad you were rooting for these two :D

      Thank you for the read and the comment, I look forward to writing more here!! <3

  6. Stories that play with contrasts and the same thing, but from different perspectives, are always fascinating to me. The difference between Henry sleeping with his johns and sleeping with Everson is so stark, and I’m glad that they finally manage to get together in the end. Extra bonus points for the relationship being so complicated– I love seeing how those pan out. :) Great job!

    • Thank you!! I love contrasts and I love when characters keep meeting in the middle but like, not nicely. I imagine people trying to hold hands and they keep accidentally slapping each other and pissing each other off haha, and then they have to go finger by finger or find a different route. People doing things impulsively, like Henry, and then being forced to slow down and be mindful are so interesting to me. I also wanted to write a story where someone “saves” someone else but it’s not like… The wrong way? Everson has no god complex or savior complex or controlling habits, he just wants Henry to pull himself out of the hole he’s in instead of digging out more dirt, and it’s only that fact that helps Henry say to himself “damn, I don’t want to be in this hole anymore”

      Thank you for the read and the comment!

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