Hours later, Valorous sprawled in Cicero’s guest bedroom, waiting for Cecil to come out of the bathroom. Valorous had finished showering before he had and had slipped out from under the spray once he was done scrubbing himself clean and dried himself off with a gust of steam before sliding into bed – the guest bathroom was a fancy thing with multiple streams of water, but Cecil has been talking to Coshel before he’d joined Valorous in the shower.
Cicero’s apartment, predictably, was ridiculously opulent for a fucking student flat – it was one of the fancy new builds that wasn’t even five years old, had all the fanciest trimmings and fittings, the kitchen all shining sleek silver facades and appliances, the living room and dining room, because Cicero Penllwynog needed a fucking dining room, were furnished with antique furniture that had probably been in the Penllwynogs’ family for some many generations, and he’d accented a lot of the antiques with more contemporary, fancy shit.
Well, Cicero hadn’t done that.
He’d probably hired an interior designer, as his sort of people did.
He had a four-poster bed with curtains because that was just what he was used to, but it had had more than enough space for the four of them. It had been funny, at first, kissing Cicero and letting their bodies slide and grind against one another, making each other moan and react, with Cecil and Coshel watching, just like they’d been doing when they were fighting in the arena.
Both of them had hung back like they weren’t sure how to involve themselves, and Valorous had gotten playful with it, had let electricity crackle off his skin and make Cicero gasp and shudder – Cicero had responded in kind, making ice frost on Valorous’ skin before making it steam off, and they’d laughed as they’d done it, the both of them playing off each other.
“Which one do you want?” Coshel had asked, and it had made Valorous shudder, the way he said it, dry and possessive and utterly confident in its tone. Cicero had kept on kissing him, mouthing down the side of Valorous’ neck as his hands came to grip loosely at his thighs, their pricks sliding against one another.
Cecil, very dryly, had replied, “Can’t you give us both two cocks, and we’ll spit roast them together?”
“… You down for that?” Coshel had asked, and Valorous and Cicero had both whipped around to look at Cecil, at the way he’d suddenly blanched and looked horrified at his joke being treated seriously, and they’d both burst out laughing falling each other, Coshel laughing as well and smacking Cecil on the back.
It had been nice, in the end.
Cecil had suggested Cicero and Valorous keep competing, and Cecil and Coshel had laid back against the pillows while Cicero and Valorous both tried to get themselves off as quickly as possible, riding their respective cocks while Coshel and Cecil had made commentary, had talked about them.
Cicero had come before Valorous had but it was a close thing, the way the two of them were fucking talking, the things they were saying – Cecil had started about how young they were, what pretty decorations they made, two young lads desperate to prove themselves, and Coshel had hooked right onto it, had disagreed and said they were boys that needed to be kept in line.
After, Valorous had ended up lying on top of Cecil’s belly, Coshel fucking into him from behind and making Cecil and Valorous both moan and shudder underneath him – once Cicero had started kissing him as well, Valorous had been powerless and overstimulated, losing his fucking mind.
Cecil hadn’t come, he didn’t think – Coshel had, and after Valorous had come, he’d sucked Cicero off until he’d had a second orgasm. He hadn’t asked out loud, had just looked at Cecil and raised his eyebrows, tilted his head toward his cock, and Cecil had shook his head.
He came out of the bathroom now, striding over with a sort of thoughtless swagger he often had when he came out of the shower, a PE teacher through and through, and he slid under the sheets and sank down into the expensive pillows on his belly: Valorous immediately crawled on top of him, dropping his face into the back of his neck, and Cecil laughed, reaching back and squeezing his arse.
“Performance anxiety?” asked Valorous sleepily.
“I’m an old man, remember.”
“Mm,” hummed Valorous with enthusiasm, sliding his hands underneath and squeezing Cecil’s chest, and then he leaned in and pressed his face into Cecil’s hair, which smelt of the expensive shampoos in Cicero’s guest bathroom. There was something about men with longer hair that appealed deeply to him, that spoke to something deep and buried in him – even before Myrddin, it had spoken to him, clicked with him. He pulled loosely on a few strands of Cecil’s hair, loose from the shower and feeling it soft and silken between his fingers.
Fae men wore their hair longer than human men did, even magical ones, and Valorous knew that most fae men would never shear their hair to be as short as a lot of men wore theirs. It’d be a sign of shame in a lot of places, Valorous knew, having really tightly-cropped hair – if he went to some kingdom with his hair cut really short, people would make comparisons to a shorn sheep or an anxious bird.
It's not like it was universal between all fae – Valorous knew there were a few down south who were super into baldness as a sign of status – but it was a common enough trend.
“Would you fuck him?” he asked, and Cecil yawned underneath him, shifting forward and pressing his face further into the pillows.
“He’s a young pretty cunt, isn’t he?”
“He’s too self-confident,” said Valorous, rubbing at his eye. “He’s not broken enough for you.”
Cecil huffed out a laugh. “He’s posh, but I wouldn’t say he’s completely uncracked, the way he is. With that said, I’ve fucked boys who aren’t particularly traumatised before, I’ll have you know.”
Valorous hummed, not entirely convinced – he didn’t know exactly how it had felt, fucking alongside him, knowing that Cecil was looking at Cicero, at Coshel. Well, that wasn’t true, exactly – Cecil hadn’t much looked at Coshel at all, not really his type, but he’d looked at Cicero, and yet not as much as at Valorous, even though he was so familiar with Valorous’ body by now, even though he was surely used to it.
Valorous had had group sex before, had fucked people in the same room as other partners, or been passed around and fucked, either drunk on a night out or out as part of his work, doing some kind of a honeypot thing or just passing the time before a target would be accessible. He preferred that, he thought, being gangbanged and the centre of attention – when you were the object of people’s focus in a situation like that, it was almost like being in a panopticon. You could turn to look at someone at any time, and they were all trying to get your attention, trying to be the one you remembered, the one with the biggest cock, the cleverest fingers, the best fuck, the most dominant one in the room, or the kindest one, or whatever.
Maybe that wasn’t particularly like a panopticon. It occurred to him that if he voiced that thought out loud, Cecil would probably laugh, or think he was crazy, or something.
But it was different, knowing that Coshel was concentrating on Cicero and that Valorous was being concentrated on by Cecil – Coshel and Cecil had kissed a little while they were both fucking up and into them, and that had given Valorous a kind of flutter in his belly, but they hadn’t focused on each other, nor Coshel on Valorous, or Cecil on Cicero.
He'd talk about it with Dot, probably.
He didn’t feel anxious, didn’t feel scared or insecure, he didn’t think, and maybe he’d expected to, a bit. Maybe it would have felt more like a competition, if it hadn’t actually been a competition, and Valorous hadn’t won – the fact that there were rules and a way to win rather than just turning it over in his head—
Valorous sat up suddenly, staring down at the back of Cecil’s head.
“Oh, no,” said Cecil sleepily. “What fucking eureka moment have you reached?”
“Did you do that on purpose?” Valorous asked, his voice coming out urgent, and he was surprised to find that there was no heat in his own voice, and no fire burning in his chest. He felt itchy and too big under his skin with want, was desperate, craving to know, but he wasn’t angry, wasn’t pissed.
“Lad, sometimes, I won’t be able to come in a given situation,” mumbled Cecil. “It’s nothing personal, it’s just—”
“Not that, I don’t give a fuck whether you came,” said Valorous.
That was the wrong thing to say, judging by the judgemental silence that followed. “Thanks.”
“The— getting us to compete. Making it a game. Did you do that on purpose?”
“Well, I suggested it.”
“But so I wouldn’t get anxious and insane after, and be like, oh, was I better or was Cicero better, did you want me more or him more, or so I didn’t pick apart the whole— Did you do that on purpose? Like when you give the dog a chew toy so she’s concentrated on something and then she can’t panic about anything else?”
Cecil was silent for a second underneath him. Then, quietly, with a bit more enunciation in his voice, not quite as much of a sleepy mumble, “Did it work?”
“Yeah. I mean— Yeah. Yes. I think so.”
“Good. No, I wasn’t trying to work around that, I just thought me and Coshel getting to be on our backs would be a bit easier than whatever four-way complex position either of you little pricks would come up with. We’re old men, I’d remind you again – or at least, I fucking am.”
Valorous laughed, feeling like a balloon had popped inside him, and he felt stupid and too-smart all at once, tipped forward and dropped flat on top of Cecil’s back, made him let out a low, “Oof.”
There was barely a second’s pause before he went on. “You know you make a habit of that, don’t you?” asked Cecil quietly. “Overthink a situation, look for all the ways someone might be manipulating you, bending back and bending forwards, when sometimes it’s just… simple?”
“Yeah,” said Valorous, rubbing his chin between Cecil’s shoulder blades, feeling the light dusting of hair there under his skin. “I know. People can have multiple motivations at once, though.”
“Well, given that you’ve just brought that up, I’ll keep it in mind for next time,” said Cecil. “Now it’s on my mind, it’ll stay there. But I wouldn’t have thought of that on my own, no. You normally get anxious about shit like that? Sex with other people?”
“No,” said Valorous. “But I’ve never had a… an actual boyfriend. Someone long-term who I really cared about and was carrying on a relationship with. So maybe I would have been, otherwise. I don’t know. And I won.”
“You did win,” Cecil agreed mildly, not bothering to keep the audible amusement out of his voice. “As always.”
“Do you think I should tell him?”
“Tell who what?”
“Coshel Fenwick. Do you think I should tell him I used to stalk him?”
“… Why would you tell him?”
“I don’t know. Ethics is your strong suit, not mine.”
“Ethics is one thing,” said Cecil. “Self-preservation’s another. Honesty’s all well and fucking good, but I don’t see the point in telling him that when you’re not doing it anymore, and it can’t harm him any longer. All it’ll do is creep him the fuck out, and for what?”
“So it’s not ethical to tell him?” asked Valorous, and Cecil sighed.
“Can we please just sleep, lad?”
Valorous rested his head on Cecil’s back, melting into him, and closed his eyes. He slept fairly well, and it didn’t occur to him until the morning to check the guest bed for runic symbols, which were inscribed in the headboard, and were the classic magic dampeners – inactive, but there and ready for if somebody needed them.
* * *
They got the train back to Camelot in the morning, making their excuses and making their way out, and Valorous sat cross-legged in the little cabin on the train, separate from the first class seats – these were common to a lot of magical trains, and he always tried to get one if he could, just because people would walk slowly back and forth to try and look at you, or come and sit and talk.
Sometimes, there weren’t compartments available, especially when it was last minute like this, but when he did use them he never had to pay the extra for them. It hadn’t really occurred to him that it was unusual until Cecil had raised his eyebrows as Valorous had taken the ticket off the guy at the station and led the way automatically to the front of the train, sliding the door open and then shutting the compartment door across again.
“This is magically enlarged, right?” Cecil asked, and Valorous nodded, gesturing to one panel of the wall and tracing his fingers over the runic inscription he could distantly feel pulsing underneath it, even though Cecil couldn’t see it or feel it.
“Yeah, it’s a basic extension charm, just creates a pocket dimension and leans into it. It’s actually easier to do on a locomotive like this than you’d think, rather than a static space, I mean. You okay?”
“Just hurts my brain a bit, that’s all,” murmured Cecil, sinking down into the other chair beside the window – it was two seats either side of a table in front of the window, a cabin bed just big enough for two (narrow) people up a ladder, and a desk with another stool underneath that. “I forget you’re used to this sort of shit.”
Valorous didn’t say anything, looking out of the window at the passing fields as they moved out of Camelot and on the tracks toward Medalton – there were other stations that it’d pass through before it went down to Lashton, but Medalton was the only big one on the map.
“You working tonight?” asked Valorous.
“Mmm hmm,” said Cecil. “Four ‘til late. You’re back tomorrow, right?”
Cecil looked across from him, leaned back in the armchair, and he put out one of his feet, gently touching against the side of Valorous’ ankle. “Doing okay, lad?”
It used to be that a man asking something like that, especially the way that Cecil asked it, warm and quiet and kind of sensible, or maybe just straight-forward, that Valorous would tense up and be frustrated, or defensive. It was to do with the intimacy of it all, the fact that he and Cecil actually had something regular going on, the fact that Cecil knew him, the fact that, for better or worse, Cecil really was—
That was the wrong word for a fifty-year-old paedo ex-PE teacher, Valorous thought, even if they were the same age rather than twenty-something years between them, but it would be wrong to call him his partner, too, because partner implied a kind of equality between their positions, and lover implied other stuff.
Whatever fucking word, whatever fucking label to apply to it, he really hadn’t ever dated properly, had never had an ongoing relationship with someone, let alone one as consistent as his relationship with Cecil, where he slept at Cecil’s all the time, where he could comfortably slot into Cecil’s life and felt comfortable with Cecil slotting into his, where he wanted them to slot into each other.
He'd been involved with people around, but anything long-term like this would always be when he was undercover somewhere, whether that was held hostage and honeypotting from inside a cell, mounting a slow seduction and pretending to be turned to someone else’s side, or whether he was genuinely undercover and pretending to be someone else, and it was always so… involved. Whether it was men or women, Myrddin had used to be really clear about exactly what role he was supposed to play, about how he was supposed to engage with someone’s vibe, how he was supposed to conduct himself, the sort of identity he was meant to assume.
King Capulet had been easy enough, when Valorous had just been held hostage and had basically been letting the man think he had Valorous seduced – a few months of torture, and that had been one of his first jobs, as far went espionage, pretending himself to be a failed assassin and a failed spy. There’d been others – he’d been on the arm of Dunstan Warren for quite some time, for six months, nearly, getting the information he’d needed out of him; he’d spent almost a year furnishing Red Candle’s bedchambers, and that had been chained up to her bed more often than not.
“Did you think about me?” he asked, not looking at Cecil, but staring out of the window, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Cecil jerk slightly in the chair – it wasn’t a surprising question, but the man had been dozing a little. He hadn’t slept that well in Cicero’s guest bed, Valorous didn’t think – the mattress was too soft for him, and Valorous glanced over at him, own at his shoulders, his back, considered sitting on top of the old man later on and pressing his fingers into the knotted muscle and old scars there, different to Valorous’ own.
“Did I think about you?” Cecil repeated, a sleepy coating on the words, almost-mumbled so they weren’t fully enunciated.
“When I wasn’t here,” said Valorous. “When I wasn’t following you, or when I wasn’t… Was I ever on your mind?”
Cecil blinked once or twice, like he was trying to get himself to be more awake in response to that question, and Valorous slowly got out of his armchair and moved around the table to the other. Cecil grunted as Valorous crawled into his lap, not straddling him but sitting back across his legs and bringing his knees in against his hip, dropping his head forward against Cecil’s neck, resting his forehead against it.
He almost wished Cecil was a bigger man, at moments like this, the both of them small and relatively thin, even with the muscle on their bodies, but even if Cecil was even smaller than he already would, it wouldn’t stop Valorous from folding himself into his lap like this, from making himself at home there.
(“You’re as bad as the dog, you are.”
“You make the dog get down.”)
“Sure, I thought about you,” said Cecil, in the slow voice that made it clear he thought he was on dangerous ground, or that he thought this was something Valorous was going to be volatile about, something he was going to be unstable about. “Thought about you when you were on the telly, or when people talked about you, you know, fancy little knight as you are. Never said anything, obviously, but I thought, well, what would these lads think, knowing I used to teach that little prick at school, that he was always thirsting after my cock?”
“You thought I was tragic,” said Valorous. “Pathetic.”
“Hmm,” said Cecil, not like he was trying to avoid it, but like he was really thinking about it; one of his hands had come to rest on Valorous’ lower back, and was rubbing idle circles into it, down against his arse, as well through Valorous’ tracksuit bottoms. “A little, but not like most people would think about you, if they knew you. Remember I’m as tragic as you are, so it’s not like I have the same perspective as a lot of people. But no, I never really saw you about and felt sorry for you, if that’s what you mean.”
“You wanked over me?”
“But not the age I was,” said Valorous. “That I am. Just when I was back at school.”
“I’d think about you at school,” said Cecil, “but no, I thought about you other times as well, sure. Didn’t, I will grant you, fantasise about you breaking into my fucking house and insinuating yourself into my life.” Valorous smiled against Cecil’s neck, and Cecil pinched his arse, because Valorous wasn’t supposed to smile at that, wasn’t meant to be proud of himself. “But no, I’d think about meeting you somewhere, stumbling into each other here or there – at the gym. You bending yourself over, talking about for old time’s sake, me fucking you. Me fucking your throat, getting my own back on you after everything you put me through at school.”
“Hot,” said Valorous, but he was tired after last night, and wasn’t particularly interested in trying to suck Cecil off in the train carriage right now, although the idea appealed as a potential at a later date.
“You think about me?” asked Cecil. “That why you’re asking?”
Valorous inhaled, wanting to ground himself in Cecil’s scent – the smell of Cecil, a bit, but mostly his own smell, the smell of Cicero’s fancy shampoo that Cecil had in his guest bedroom, the smell of whatever petal fragrance that Cicero’s staff used to wash his bedsheets, rosewater or whatever the fuck.
The thing is, this was always inevitable, he thought. In retrospect, anyway.
He’d think about Cecil all the time, when he wasn’t in Lashton. He didn’t think it was normal, didn’t think the way he thought about anybody or anything was normal, except that he remembered turning fourteen or fifteen, remembered when suddenly his body was electrified with want and heat and desire all the fucking time – he’d started puberty a ways before then, had started getting boners, had started feeling horny, getting wet dreams, but that extra heat had come later, when he’d started using more powerful magic as a matter of course, when he started taking more magic into himself, when he was alive with it.
He didn’t know exactly when it had happened, but he remembered what had happened, or vaguely recalled the course of events; he remembered stumbling after Myrddin the first time he’d been drunk from a party, trying to crawl on top of him, or maybe he’d just tried to hug him, something. He’d been a kid, still, and he remembered how Myrddin had laughed, how it had been a—
He'd felt adult, or something like adult and grown-up, had felt more than that. He’d been a hero, even then, had been a warrior in his own right and getting better, stronger, more powerful every day. Every compliment from Myrddin had felt like a caress, had left him touching himself all over in the aftermath, more than any of the boys at school.
He'd thought about other warriors, he thought, other men and women in the arena, shit like that, but Myrddin had been more important until Myrddin had laughed at him, until he’d laughed and said that Valorous wasn’t for that, when he’d said—
It was funny.
It had rewritten parts of Valorous’ whole psyche, had split him open at the time and left him furious and confused and desperate and horny and angry and everything for ages, and he didn’t remember it, not exactly. He remembered bits of it, remembered how it had felt – remembered feeling betrayal, confusion, grief, desperation, mostly just so horny he could die; he remembered furiously wanking himself off, using magic to wank himself off for the first time.
At some point, in all that haze of rejection, the sudden assurance that not only did Myrddin not want to fuck him now, but he’d never want to fuck him, he’d switched onto Cecil instead. Maybe Myrddin had suggested it, even, or someone had commented on him – or maybe they’d just been talking about it, who they’d snog, marry, kill, and he’d fixed on Cecil and stuck on him.
He didn’t remember the specifics.
He remembered that, suddenly, Cecil had become a kind of landmark for his libido, and not a landmark, but the landmark, had become everything he hung himself up on, because Myrddin didn’t want to fuck him, and wouldn’t; Cecil wanted to fuck him, and wouldn’t fuck him, until he finally did.
It had been—
He didn’t know, but Cecil had been an obsession, not just an attraction. He remembered he used to think about Cecil non-stop, alongside his class schedule, used to fit Cecil in whenever he could, going in his office, going through his desk, his phone, following after him when he could, going to his flat, sometimes. He remembered Myrddin would talk sometimes about him needing to work on his ability to trail people, had talked about him knowing how to observe people subtly or silently, but Cecil had been separate to that.
He'd wank himself off in the shower, thinking of Cecil, would finger himself, even when he wasn’t taking pictures, even when he wasn’t doing it so Cecil would see, because Cecil had been—
“Lad,” murmured Cecil, gently squeezing his arse, and Valorous raised his head, realising he’d had his eyes closed, realising he was kind of out of it, thinking about Cecil, turning Cecil over and over again in his head.
“I didn’t answer the question,” said Valorous tiredly.
“No,” Cecil agreed. “Just close your eyes, lad. Relax a bit.”
“I thought about you all the time,” said Valorous. “At school. After school. Now.”
Cecil brushed his lips against Valorous’ temple, and Valorous leaned further into him, sliding one of his hands underneath Cecil’s shirt, resting his fingers against the heat of his body.
“Always knew you were mental,” said Cecil softly, and Valorous smiled, pressed close into him and kept himself crammed there between his body and the table. Cecil’s hand stayed on his lower back, rubbing back and forth, comfortable, solid, regular.
“Do you really think so?” he asked.
“Yeah,” said Cecil. “Same as me, like I told you.”
Valorous smiled thinly, even knowing it wasn’t the same, not really. His type of mental was a ways off from Cecil’s, even if Cecil wanted to be nice about it, even if was true that they had some shit in common.
“You don’t believe it,” said Valorous, because it was true.
“Sometimes I don’t,” said Cecil, but didn’t argue, and didn’t say anything else. Maybe he felt like he didn’t have to – maybe to him, that was all that needed to be said. Valorous smiled, and thought about sitting down with Ruby when he got home, sitting cross-legged on the floor with her whole body in his lap, leaning into him, same as Cecil was holding him now.
His smile lingered on his face, and he took it with him as they continued on home.