From the Mulberry Cocoon

Arthur can remember when he first saw silk, loosed from the bolt in a pool of gloss and heavy perfume from the east. It was dyed in bright saffron, like the sun off the water, and when Arthur stroked it with his fingers he finally knew the word to describe his brother’s hair.

“‘Brother, brother,’ you called to me,” Francis says, sliding Arthur’s stiff jacket off his shoulders. “‘Did you know your hair is like silk?'”

“I was mistaken.” Arthur lets Francis untie the neck cloth at his throat, does not protest when his fingers linger. The smell of fresh-cut lilies hangs soft in the air.

Francis’ fingers are joined by his lips. “Do you think of me when you wear those silk stockings next to your skin?” he asks, his voice gone heavy and dark.

“And you?” Arthur grins that crooked punk-kid grin he pretends he’s grown out of. “What do you think of when you wear your silk stockings beneath your silk nightclothes and crawl between your silk sheets, you decadent bastard?

“‘Brother, brother,'” Francis mocks with a smile. Arthur yanks at his hair in protest, pulls out the satin ribbon by accident and remembers bright scented silk pooled at his feet. Francis lifts his undershirt and kisses the bare skin below his navel. “Are you frightened?”

Arthur doesn’t answer, pulls his undershirt off over his head and tosses it to the floor. “Get on with it,” he says, staring straight into Francis’ eyes, daring. There are goose bumps on his arms.

“Lie back,” Francis tells him.

Arthur bites his lip as Francis enters him and cries out anyway. His hands hover above Francis’ head, fingers outstretched, but at the last moment he draws them back, drops them to his side to clutch at those decadent silk sheets.

Francis smiles. “You think you’re so grown up, don’t you?” He takes Arthur’s hands, kisses his palms and guides his fingers to tangle in gold-silk hair. He moves, and Arthur cries out again, pulls him closer without realizing, tears of pain and maybe something else pricking at the corners of his eyes. Francis kisses his forehead, softly.

Years from now Arthur’s fingers will brush against a silk shirt in the back of his wardrobe. The scent of lilies will drift in from his open window, and he will remember a smile he’d thought long forgotten.

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