Actions

Work Header

Magicians have no business marrying

Chapter Text

On the day after Mr Strange had performed his momentous trick of exchanging Jeremy Tott’s obscure and notoriously dull book, English Magic and its mirror reflection for Mr Norrell, the younger magician arrived at Hanover-square promptly a nine o’clock in the morning to take breakfast and discuss with the Greatest Magician of the Age his upcoming studies.

When Mr Strange was shown into the dining-room, Mr Norrell was pacing about in a very cheerful state. He went to a chair and bade Mr Strange sit down across from him. He rang a little bell, and they were served breakfast. While Mr Strange partook of eggs, kippers, toast with preserves, and strong tea, Mr Norrell ate sweetened gruel and drank hot chocolate.

After the meal was cleared away, Mr Norrell moved to sit nearer to Mr Strange and presented him with several sheets of paper. Mr Strange laid them out on the table to peruse them.

“This,” Mr Norrell said delightedly, “is a syllabus of the course I suggest that your studies should take.”

He watched as Mr Strange slowly skimmed through the sheets, a smile growing on his face.

“This would take, at my best estimate, Mr Strange, about three years, possibly as much as four, for every book mentioned will lead you to others, and you will end by reading more than the titles listed here. Still, I could wish that it were much longer.” He gazed rather wistfully into Mr Strange’s eyes.

“Sir, it is a long time, and yet I feel both from what you have listed here and from your kindness that I, too, could wish it even longer.” He gazed back with a similarly wistful little smile.

This wistfulness became mixed with uncertainty as they continued to stare at each other. Their breathing became noticeably deeper. There was a tiny moment when each seemed to quiver, as if exerting considerable will power to restrain himself from some precipitate action.

Mr Norrell gazed at Mr Strange with an odd expression upon his face as though he would have been glad of something considerably beyond a little conversation with him, but had not the least idea how to begin.

Taking heart from this, Mr Strange slid uncertainly to the edge of his seat, leading Mr Norrell to assume a pleasantly surprised expression and then slide forward himself. After further hesitation, Mr Strange stood up, and Mr Norrell soon imitated him in this as well. Then, breathing even more heavily than before and sharing a single impulse, they suddenly threw themselves into each other’s arms. Mr Norrell barely had a chance to mutter a shutting and muffling spell for the doors than their mouths met in a frantic, deep kiss.

Mr Norrell had clearly never indulged in such an activity before, but he made up in enthusiasm for what he lacked in experience. He learned quickly as well, and soon the two magicians’ tongues were entangled in a most arousing way. Indeed, both gradually became aware that their erections were struggling to get at each other through the plackets of their breeches.

At last they pulled apart, and Mr Norrell said, “I believe that I wish to …” He glanced furtively around, though there was no one in the room by themselves, and continued more softly, “… to commit, um, b-buggery with you!”

Mr Strange nodded emphatically and replied, “I do as well, sir!”

Mr Norrell looked about again, this time with an obvious sense of urgency. “Mr Strange, where should we … or how? I simply cannot wait!”

“Nor can I!” He stooped quickly and looked under the table. “No, I do not think that would support your weight without tipping over.” He straightened up. “If you could perhaps bend over that chair … That’s right. May I, uh, remove your breeches and smallclothes?”

“Do so, Mr Strange, without delay!”

Mr Strange did so as hurriedly as might be, and soon both articles of clothing were cast aside. He then unbuttoned his own breeches and soon had pulled out his fully rampant cock.

Mr Norrell, still bent over, looked around impatiently, but his eyes grew wide. “Oh, Mr Strange, your, uh, member is most impressive. Do you mean to enter me with it?” He seemed both eager to try and worried about the difficulty of the endeavour.

“Yes, indeed … if I can only …” Mr Strange surveyed the room anxiously until his eyes settled upon the sideboard, and he said happily, “Ah, there is some butter left, and napkins as well. Exactly the sorts of things we require. Yes, I think with care I can enter you. It will take a little time, I fear, for I do not wish to hurt you any more than necessary. Um, could you shift your feet further apart? Thank you.”

Mr Norrell fidgeted slightly as Mr Strange proceeded to apply a good deal of butter to his puckered entrance and to press and rub it, eventually inserting a finger. To keep Mr Norrell from becoming impatient, he reached around with his other hand and stroked his tutor’s erection firmly but slowly. Soft gasps and then increasingly loud moans of pleasure resulted, and Mr Strange continued to loosen the tight ring as his fingers found and glided repeatedly over Mr Norrell’s pleasure point.

Mr Norrell began to keen, his hands gripping the back of the chair until the knuckles turned white. Realizing that the man was on the verge of coming, Mr Strange eased back with his fingers and concentrated on loosening Mr Norrell’s arsehole. At last he felt the opening relax. Mr Strange applied what was left of the butter to his own member and eased the tip slowly inside. Mr Norrell stiffened and gasped, and Mr Strange froze.

“Try not to clench up, sir. You will soon adjust to it … I hope.”

Mr Norrell breathed deeply and finally said, “Go on … slowly.”

Gradually Mr Strange pushed further inside and began gently thrusting. He recommenced stroking Mr Norrell’s shaft. As Mr Strange’s cock slid a few inches inside, Mr Norrell again jerked. He shifted his feet even further apart, urging Mr Strange to go faster. Given the urgent nature of their desires, it was not long before Mr Norrell uttered a strangled-sounding groan and repeated it with each spurt of his seed that splashed onto the seat of the chair.

Mr Strange allowed himself to let go, thrusting hard a few times and shuddering as he reached his release.

They paused, letting their breathing return almost to normal. Mr Strange leaned over Mr Norrell’s back and hugged him, placing soothing kisses on the back of his neck. Soon he felt himself about to slide out of Mr Norrell, and he grasped one of the napkins he had placed to hand and wiped the other magician before going on to clean himself. Then Mr Strange wet another cloth from a pitcher of water and carefully removed the sticky drops from the chair. When he finished, its seat was damp but held no evidence of their recent activities. They pushed the chair under the table to hide the damp spot.

Mr Strange wrapped the wet napkin in the dry one and set them aside momentarily to fasten his breeches and assist Mr Norrell in resuming his clothes.

Eventually Mr Norrell stood facing him and reached out to take Mr Strange’s hands. “Oh, Mr Strange. That was … absolutely wonderful. When I invited you to study with me, I did not do so with the thought that we might actually engage in such intimate interactions … but I believe that deep down inside I must have wished that it would happen.”

“I must confess, sir, that I accepted your kind offer with the wish, not buried quite so deeply within me, I suspect, that we might engage in, as you say, such intimacies.”

Mr Norrell stared at him, his mouth slightly agape with surprise. “Did you, Mr Strange? I must say, I felt that there was an immediate friendship and understanding between us, born of our mutual devotion to magic, but I had no idea that our affinity ran so deeply.”

Mr Strange picked up the soiled napkins. “We must not leave any thing of this sort lying about as evidence of our … uh …”

“A-amorous congress,” Mr Norrell suggested.

“Yes. We also need to plan ahead a little better next time … assuming there is to be a next time, sir. It was sheer luck that there were some napkins and butter close to hand.”

“I very much hope that there will be a next time. You are right that upon such future occasions we must be more careful. Just now I did not have time to think through such practicalities. I simply wanted you too much. Um, Mr Strange, is there no way to do the same sort of thing but with us facing each other? I should like to see you during such an arousing activity.”

“Yes, absolutely we can face each other. I would prefer that myself. It is just that we were so eager to enjoy each other that there was no time to seek a more appropriate place.”

Mr Norrell smiled. “I am so relieved that you felt the same way I did! I was quite terrified of speaking and then finding you completely uninterested in doing such a thing with me, Mr Strange.”

Mr Strange hugged him. “I myself was rather nervous about how you would respond if I revealed my desire.” He kissed Mr Norrell’s cheek. “By the way, may I call you ‘Gilbert’ now—when we are in private that is?”

Mr Norrell considered this as if it were a new and unusual concept. “Well, I suppose so, Jona—that is, Mr Strange. Oh, I shall have to get used to our new circumstances before I …” He stretched up to kiss Mr Strange on the mouth in a leisurely way. Finally they reluctantly drew apart, and Mr Norrell added, “Now, however, I think it would be best if we retired to the library and began our first lesson. Our first lesson in magic, that is.” He chuckled dryly.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

That first lesson went well, as the two magicians already felt quite comfortable and companionable after their unexpected bout of passion.

Shortly after noon, they set aside their books, carefully bookmarked, and their notes, carefully labeled. Mr Norrell said, “You are from Shropshire, as I recall, Mr Strange. Where are you staying in London?”

“At quite a nice little hotel near Covent Garden, sir. Not expensive, but in a quiet street.”

“That sounds very pleasant, but surely now you will wish to find more long-term lodgings in order to pursue your studies. The most logical—and desirable—thing would be for you to move into my house. There are several bedrooms going unused, and it would save you so much time in coming and going for your lessons—not to mention the economizing in expenses like rent. And … we should be able to be together more in the evenings as well.”

Mr Strange was grinning by now. “And possibly at night, too.”

“Yes, quite possibly.”

“Gilbert, I accept with great pleasure. It makes perfect sense for us to be together as much as we can.”

“Fine, then perhaps tomorrow you would care to bring your things with you when you come for your lesson, and we can settle you in. I shall direct the maids to make up the room next to mine.”

Mr Strange chuckled. “Very convenient, I’m sure.”

“Very. Ah, there is the gong signaling lunch. It always is struck five minutes before a meal is served. Of course, my invitation to live here includes all your meals. I look forward to many fascinating conversations as we eat. Oh, I should mention that Mr Drawlight and Mr Lascelles often dine with me as well. I do not pay them any salary, of course, but they spend a good deal of time here and do me many services.”

Having met those two gentlemen during his first two visits to Mr Norrell, Mr Strange nodded with a notable lack of enthusiasm and followed his tutor back to the dining room.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

After lunch the two magicians returned to the library. Mr Strange looked expectantly at Mr Norrell, since they were scheduled for a second lesson that afternoon. Instead, Mr Norrell looked rather inquiringly at him, shifting his feet slightly.

“Um, Mr Strange, would you feel … that is, would it … would it be too soon for us to repeat our amorous activities of this morning?”

Mr Strange looked at him with surprise and a faint smile. “It is soon, to be sure, but that is not to say that it is too soon. But am I never to have the lessons for which I am ostensibly here? I cannot spend all my time satisfying your desires, after all,” he said with a chuckle.

“Of course not, Mr Strange. But we had a perfectly pleasant lesson this morning after our first act of amorous congress. Such an act does not a great deal of time, after all … Oh, I see. You are teazing me. I must admit that I am not always quick to recognize when I am being teazed.”

“To be sure, I was teazing you. I am in fact quite delighted that you should want me again so soon. But to be practical, do you not feel a trifle sore in your … nether regions? Doing it again so soon might be, well …”

“A trifle, yes, Mr Strange. It did hurt a bit when you entered me this morning, but the overwhelming sensations that soon resulted banished any sense of pain. I do … um, feel the need to repeat those sensations.”

Mr Strange surveyed the front of Mr Norrell’s breeches and realized that his tutor was not exaggerating in the least.

“If you are certain that this is what you want, I certainly would not be averse to our performing, um, amorous congress in the same fashion.”

Again they embraced eagerly, and Mr Norrell put the muffling and sealing spell on the door. The pair looked around for a suitable support for their passionate interaction.

“I would prefer not to bend over a chair again,” Mr Norrell commented breathily.

“I understand. What about this table? It is a sturdy library table, not an elegant dining-room one. I believe it would stay upright under vigorous activity. I shall just … put this down as a cushion for you.” He plucked a lap blanket that Mr Norrell kept draped over the arm of the sopha for moments when, as frequently happened, he felt chilly. It provided a soft surface upon which Mr Norrell could lie, once his breeches and smallclothes had again been removed.

“Oh, but Gilbert, something is required to lubricate us to ease my entry. We have no butter here.”

Mr Norrell blushed but replied at once, “No, but I keep a jar of salve in my desk drawer, ostensibly for dry hands but … I admit that I sometimes the need to, um, relieve my arousal by … you understand.”

Mr Strange shook his head. “I am not at all surprised to hear it! No, don’t bother. I shall fetch it. Which drawer?”

“The upper right.”

“Ah, yes. And I shall have to sacrifice my handkerchief to the cause … which will be well worth it.”

Once Mr Strange had prepared Mr Norrell—a process made easier by the fact that his entrance was still somewhat relaxed from their earlier lovemaking—Mr Norrell bent his legs and grasped his knees to allow Mr Strange to carefully enter him. He winced slightly at first, but soon he grimaced and moaned delightedly as he felt the same sharp pleasure that he had experienced that morning.

Mr Strange coaxed Mr Norrell to place his legs around his waist, and he began to thrust, softly at first and with more vigour as Mr Norrell began to keen with mounting arousal. Despite his growing abandonment to pleasure, he looked up at Mr Strange with a smile, and the other magician smiled in return and began to stroke his rigid cock. The two stared into each other’s eyes until their excitement peaked and their eyes slid shut in bliss.

After remaining still for a short time, Mr Strange leaned over to kiss Mr Norrell’s cheek. He gently lowered Mr Norrell’s feet to the floor, so that he could slide off the table. They embraced, leaning against each other as their panting subsided.

Finally Mr Strange cleaned them with his handkerchief before fastening his breeches placket and putting on his vest. At the same time Mr Norrell pulled up his breeches and buttoned them with some effort before resuming his vest and jacket. As they turned to face each other, Mr Strange smiled and straightened Mr Norrell’s wig.

“Oh, Mr Strange! That was even more thrilling than this morning’s amorous congress! Being able to watch you while we did it was quite exciting.”

“I understand perfectly. This morning I could tell that you were enjoying our activities because of the noises you made and the way you moved. Still, seeing your reactions was better still.”

Mr Norrell sighed and gazed into his face. “Is it any wonder I should want to watch you? You are so beautiful, Mr Strange!”

“And you, Gilbert, are so …”

“Yes, Mr Strange? You can hardly have been going to say that I am beautiful as well. I am hardly under any illusions on that score.”

“Um, I was just thinking that what I was about to say about your appearance is perhaps too disrespectfully personal for someone who is my tutor and a great magician.”

“Nonsense! We agreed to call each other by our first names, in private, of course. That and what we have just done—twice now!—are extremely personal. I realize I have not yet actually called you by your first name, but I am sure I shall manage it eventually. But you were about to say …”

Mr Strange grinned affectionately. “I was about to say that you are thoroughly adorable.”

Mr Norrell looked quite startled. “Do you think so, Mr Strange? I doubt there are many who would agree with you, but after all, I do not care a whit about their opinions. If you consider me …” He cleared his throat. “ … um, adorable, then I am more than pleased!”

The two were about to embrace each other, but instead each moved abruptly apart, for they had heard footsteps approaching the library door from without. (Mr Norrell’s muffling spell was carefully worded to allow noise from outside the door to be heard inside the library, but not the reverse.) At once Mr Norrell whirled to face the table, stretching over and pulling a large book toward them. He moved more quickly than Mr Strange had imagined he could, especially in the aftermath of their recent vigorous coupling. Mr Norrell called out “Come in!” in response to a knock at the door.

“And so you see, Mr Strange,” he said in a dry, lecturing tone of voice as the door opened, “Martin Pale’s historical position as the last of the Argentine magicians gives his work a undeniable weight. He may have lived considerably after the last of the Aureates, but he had the advantage of reading many of the records and accounts penned by the other Argentines. He even claims to have been taught by Catherine of Winchester herself, though of course she had been dead for two hundred years at the time, and there is much dispute about how much credence one should give that claim. I myself …” He paused and looked across at Mr Lascelles, who stood in the half-open door. “Yes, Mr Lascelles?” he asked in a tone that some might interpret as mildly annoyed.

“I beg your pardon, sir. Lucas explained to me that Mr Strange is now studying with you and you are not to be interrupted during his lessons.” Mr Lascelles gave Mr Strange a distinctly cool look. “I told him, however, that it might be necessary to remind you that we are due to call upon Sir Walter Pole in about half an hour. I have called for your carriage to be brought to the door.”

“Ah, yes. I did recall, but I had no idea that it was that late. Time flies when one is engaged in such a pleasurable activity,” here he glanced with a little smile at Mr Strange, who in turn smiled back at him. Mr Norrell went on, “Studying the fascinating history of magic, that is.”

Mr Lascelles frowned slightly. “You are looking a trifle flushed, sir. Are you feeling quite well?”

“Oh, quite well, particularly well in fact!”

“I’m glad to hear it, sir,” Mr Lascelles replied, but his eyes were moving suspiciously between the two magicians.

Noticing this, Mr Norrell resumed, “You see, Mr Strange and I celebrated this, the first day of his studies, with a few felicitous toasts over lunch. I am afraid I might have taken just a trifle more wine than I am accustomed to.”

“I see, sir. Well, it is indeed a significant day … for all of us,” he said, looking with a stiff little smile at Mr Strange.

Mr Norrell turned and picked up the book, handing it to Mr Strange. “While I am gone, you should begin reading this, Mr Strange. It is one of the key texts for understanding the eras of both the Aureates and the Argentines.”

“I shall do so with pleasure, sir. I have long anticipated having the chance to become acquainted with the work of Mr Pale.” He said this without a trace of irony or rancor, for any resentment against Mr Norrell that Mr Strange might have felt during that long period of not being able to read Mr Pale’s work and that of other magicians of the past had been washed away by their instant eager feeling of collegiality during their second meeting and now by Mr Norrell’s generosity in allowing him to read the longed-for book itself. Not to mention the agreeable glow of satisfaction lingering in his loins as a result of their recent intimacy.

Mr Norrell turned to Mr Lascelles. “I shall join you in the carriage in a few minutes, Mr Lascelles. I need to give Mr Strange a few further instructions.”

Mr Lascelles nodded and went out, closing the library door. At once Mr Norrell stretched up to kiss Mr Strange. “I am so sorry, Mr Strange! In my joy at our new intimacy, I had entirely forgotten about my appointment with Sir Walter. I wish we could have lingered a little more afterward.”

“That would have been very pleasant. I must say, you handled Mr Lascelles’ interruption quite masterfully. I had no idea you had such a talent for prevarication. Your excuse for your slightly flushed appearance was very clever.”

Mr Norrell frowned. “I regret having to tell such falsehoods, but I badly needed to keep the nature of your and my relationship secret. After all, what we have just done is illegal and could lead to serious consequences should news get about that we have broken that dreadful law against such activities.”

“Surely Mr Lascelles would keep your secret. He has risen to some degree of fame through his work for you.”

“True, but he might confide in Mr Drawlight, who is a notorious gossip. Moreover, I cannot help but worry that Mr Lascelles might use his knowledge to put pressure upon me in cases where we might strongly disagree on some subject.”

“Ah, a touch of blackmail, you mean.”

“I am not sure it would be serious enough to merit that name, but something of the sort, yes.”

“Quite right, then. We should be careful indeed. Well, you must go now, and I wish you well in your dealings with Sir Walter. I shall make the most of my time here alone,” Mr Strange said, gesturing at the book lying on the table.

Mr Norrell turned toward the door but paused to address him cheerfully. “Given the importance of this book, I recommend that you practice taking careful notes. I gather that you have not always recorded your magic as diligently as you ought. Do not rush through the book, for it is quite fascinating! Perhaps over dinner we can discuss the first chapter or two. I should be happy to hear your thoughts on it.”

After he departed, Mr Strange sat down at the very place on the table where he had been pounding into Mr Norrell just a short time before. He thought with an abstracted little smile about the sudden and wonderful change in his situation that had occurred only the day before. How remarkably lucky he was that Mr Norrell had been so impressed by his feat of magic—and that his and his tutor’s desires had so quickly surfaced and proven to be perfectly matched.

As he reached for a nearby stack of paper and an inkwell, he wondered briefly whether Mr Pale’s book was among the ones Mr Norrell had planned to start his studies with. He did not recall seeing it among the readings for the first few lessons and suspected that it was in fact much too advanced for his current state of knowledge. “Talented I may be,” he thought, “but I am hardly well educated in any formal way in the field of magic. No matter! I am lucky that the book to hand when Lascelles interrupted us was one I have been particularly keen to read.”

He opened Pale’s book and soon was deeply immersed in the first chapter.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Mr Strange arrived for breakfast the next morning with all his luggage, which the footmen carried up to the room which had been prepared for him. Over breakfast, he told Mr Norrell that he had written to request that more items be sent from his home in Shropshire, including the small library that he himself had managed to assemble.

Mr Norrell sighed happily. “To think that we shall be able to discuss magic morning, noon and night—and to sleep in the same bed and in general to have amorous congress whenever we wish.” His smile faded and he thought for a moment. “Well, with some limitations, of course. I can tell Mr Lascelles that he must move his desk from the library into the drawing-room and work there when you are having lessons. That is no obstacle, but Childermass will be returning from a book-buying trip tomorrow.”

“Childermass?”

“Childermass is my Man of Business. He handles all my affairs, as well as taking care of the library and buying books for me.”

Mr Strange nodded. He had heard of Childermass, though not by name. Time and again he had been told by booksellers that Mr Norrell’s man had been there before him and that they had no books of magic left to sell him. He kept that fact to himself, however, since now that he had access to Mr Norrell’s library, the other magician’s hoarding of books was not an obstacle to his learning.

Mr Norrell went on, “He is an invaluable assistant, but under the circumstances, his presence in the library might interfere with your studies … and … with our possible intimacies.”

Mr Strange nodded somberly. “Well, if he works in the library, then I suppose we shall have to confine our moments of, um, amorous congress to your bedroom, after we retire in the evening.”

Mr Norrell looked at him doubtfully. “But … when the passion seizes us, will we really be able to wait until evening? I for one would find it difficult to resist that urgent sense of wanting to … well, you understand.”

“I fear that I would feel exactly the same difficulty.”

“I think it might be better if for part of the day we were to retire to a little study I keep upstairs. I established it for times when Childermass or Lascelles or both are working in the library and would distract me too much from my work. I use that study for my government projects, so that I can keep maps and other papers spread out for days at a time. No one is allowed to disturb me in the study … and there is a convenient day-bed there, which I ordinarily use on occasions when I feel the need of a nap … but … it could also serve …” He smiled in a guardedly mischievous way that Mr Strange found charming.

“Yes, that sounds like a good idea!”

“The only problem is that we should not have any books at hand except for the ones we take up with us or the ones that I keep there because they are relevant to my current projects for the government. Still, I suppose you, being fit and young, could go down and fetch ones that we need. I can always give you the shelf references. Childermass can help you at first, and soon you will be familiar with the locations of the books. Speaking of Childermass, he will probably be quite happy to be rid of us. He would not be allowed to speak while you are having your lessons, and that would be quite hard on him. On the other hand, he is quite often away from the house, and on those occasions we could work in the library.”

And that is how they arranged to have privacy for their lovemaking, which proved to be a habit their indulged in almost daily—quite apart from their nightly sessions in Mr Norrell’s bed. The staff soon began to remark that lately Mr Norrell’s temper had improved remarkably. They put it down to his enjoyment of instructing Mr Strange in magic, but Childermass would just give a little smile as he listened to them.

Childermass, who knew almost everything that was worth knowing, had long been of the opinion that a good buggering every now and then would do wonders for his master’s testy disposition. He was not inclined to perform that service for him, but now that Mr Strange was so inclined, he was delighted to find his old opinion so clearly vindicated. Childermass also resolved to try and give the two magicians the privacy to succumb to their passions, which was no great difficulty given the many errands he had to run. If he had no errands, he could always go out and check the usual book shops for rare magical tomes. In fact, as time went by, Mr Norrell’s and Mr Strange’s little stratagems for getting away from prying eyes were far less necessary than they imagined, and they often undeservedly congratulated themselves at having “put one over on Childermass.”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Over the next few weeks, the pair worked in the little study, usually in the morning when Childermass dealt with correspondence and consulted with the housekeeper on the running of the domestic activities. On those afternoons when he went out on errands, they came down to be in the library, which was much more convenient for referring to books.

Whether in the small study or the large library, the two magicians were often free to indulge their passions whenever irresistible desire struck them, as it often did. Mr Strange rapidly became used to hoisting Mr Norrell onto any piece of sturdy furniture conveniently nearby and of a height to allow Mr Strange to stand between his legs in the necessary position. This was sometimes rather awkward, but it did allow them to face each other while fanning the flames of each other’s ardor.

As they had discussed, the two made careful plans not to leave behind any evidence of such dalliance. Mr Strange purchased numerous jars of salve, which were secreted in the drawers of any piece of furniture of the right height and breadth, and he also bought a great many cheap handkerchiefs, hidden away for the purposes of cleaning away “the results,” as Mr Norrell said in his prim way. Mr Strange burned the used handkerchiefs so as not to arouse curiosity among the maids by handing them over to be laundered.

One afternoon a little over five weeks into Mr Strange’s studies, Childermass went off on another of his book-buying trips. The day after his departure, yet another episode of strong desire struck the two magicians while they were in the library. Mr Strange immediately pulled out the nearest handkerchief and jar of salve, relieved Mr Norrell of his jacket, vest, breeches and small clothes, and helped him onto a low shelving unit, padding it as usual with the small blanket. Preparing Mr Norrell as quickly as he dared, Mr Strange thrust quickly into him, making him groan loudly at the force of it. Mr Norrell put his legs around Mr Strange’s waist, beginning to ride the large cock and emitting a hoarse, blissful moan each time Mr Strange thrust into him. Both had been so eager that Mr Strange’s tongue had invaded Mr Norrell’s mouth halfway through the muffling spell that he habitually used on such occasions, and Mr Norrell, rather than prudently pushing him away and completing the spell, had begun to suck on his tongue enthusiastically.

Rational thought had deserted them at an unfortunate moment, for this sudden succumbing to unbearable need happened to coincide with the time when Mr Lascelles was accustomed to arrive to resume his editorial and publicity duties for the Greatest Magician of the Age. Mr Drawlight often was with him, hoping to receive an invitation to dinner. Mr Norrell had become less inclined to invite the two to stay to dine since Mr Strange’s arrival, one of several reasons they had found to resent the young intruder.

Mr Lascelles’s exile to the drawing-room for his editorial pursuits galled him no end, as this change had made it more difficult for him to keep an eye on Mr Norrell’s activities. Since he had to pass the library door on the way to the drawing-room, he habitually paused briefly in case he should be able to hear something of use to him. Up to this point he had learned nothing of interest by this procedure.

Now, even as Mr Norrell’s cries of pleasure and Mr Strange’s grunts at the effort and delight of thrusting into him became louder, Mr Drawlight and Mr Lascelles paused on their way to the sitting-room and stood outside the closed door, listening and staring at each other with sour looks on their faces.

Mr Lascelles muttered, “I thought there was something of this sort going on. D—n! There seems to be only on conclusion one can draw, but take a look and see if you can confirm that they really are doing what such sounds suggest. Ascertain that it is not a result of a magic spell or some such nonsense.”

Having been wishing that he could do just what Lascelles ordered, Drawlight hastened to kneel at the door and look through the keyhole. To his delight, the narrow view afforded him by this tiny orifice happened to display the activities of the amorous pair in a nearly ideal fashion. Drawlight peered avidly at the two magicians, appreciating the sight of Mr Strange’s muscular buttocks clenching rhythmically as he thrust into Mr Norrell and the latter’s grimaces of enjoyment as his body jerked slightly each time Mr Strange’s cock pressed against his pleasure point. Mr Drawlight reluctantly withdrew his eye and turned to nod at Mr Lascelles, assuming a rueful expression as he did so—before returning his eye to the keyhole.

Mr Lascelles sneered with distaste as the moans and keening emanating from inside the library grew even louder and more desperate. He said, “Just as I suspected. I shall be in the drawing room when you grow tired of watching that disgusting spectacle.”

Mr Drawlight had felt quite embarrassed at spying at such activities with Lascelles present, and he was happy to have his friend leave him to it. Luckily for him, Mr Strange seemed to have considerable endurance and Mr Norrell an understandable longing for his partner to keep going, prolonging his bliss as long as possible. Eventually, however, they both reached the peak of ecstasy, Mr Strange grunting and gasping while Mr Norrell whimpered and thrashed, his seed spurting upward to an impressive height.

Mr Drawlight had no fear that either man would recover any time soon and come to the door, especially given that Mr Norrell was half naked. He rose and stood contemplating the distinct bulge in his breeches. Had he but known how long the pair would keep at it, he would have gladly taken care of that while watching. He sighed and slowly moved to join Mr Lascelles in the drawing room, trying not to think about what he had just witnessed and hoping that by the time he arrived his arousal would diminish enough not to be noticeable.

Mr Lascelles was reading one of the newspapers that he invariably brought with him, in case they should contain any reference to Mr Norrell. He tossed it down and sighed. “There’s a mention here of Norrell taking Strange with him to a reception at the Admiralty last night. Note that we were not invited to go along.” He sniffed bitterly. “I’m surprised Norrell could leave off having that bloody fellow fuck him long enough to attend social events.”

“Oh, come, Henry! They can hardly do it continuously. After all, they’ve left off now,” he pointed out as he poured large glasses of Mr Norrell’s expensive Madeira-wine for both of them.

Mr Lascelles responded with a sneer, “For how long, though?”

Once he has settled onto a sopha Mr Drawlight toyed briefly with a cushion and put it into his lap to conceal the remains of his erection. He said in an annoyed tone, “Well! I think it most inconsiderate of Norrell not at least to cast one of his muffling spells on the library. Who wants to hear those two rutting merrily away?”

Mr Lascelles looked at him with mild curiosity. “Oh? I thought you liked to watch.”

Mr Drawlight replied, “Naturally I do, under some circumstances.” He paused and chuckled. “Though apparently there is nothing natural about wanting to be a spectator to others’ intimacies. Quite unnatural, as my friends repeatedly teaze me.”

Mr Lascelles gave him a wan, polite smile at the feeble jest and let his friend natter on.

“I am sure I took no pleasure, however, at observing that particular pair,” he said with a careless air. “It simply flaunted in my face how much influence with Norrell we have already lost. They must both be quite besotted with each other to be fucking in broad daylight in Norrell’s precious library. You would think they would have more discretion.”

“Besotted indeed, and I suspect they have been doing it since quite soon after Strange appeared on the scene. Well, you realize that this absurd passion of Norrell’s will be disastrous for us. Already I work away from the library, and both of us see far less of him.”

Mr Drawlight nodded and said regretfully, “If I had known the old fellow wanted to be fucked, I would have obliged him from the start. Nothing in the world could have been easier. That would have assured our hold over him and perhaps forestalled his taking this upstart into his house. I had no notion that Norrell had any interest in the pleasures of the flesh, let alone that he had a taste for men.”

“Wishful thinking, I am afraid. Christopher, I doubt you could have seduced him and forestalled any thing, despite the fact that you are undeniably quite good-looking. No, there is more to this than simple lust. Did you see how Norrell looked at the fellow when he did that trick with the silly book and the mirror? I could easily believe that he had had no interest in the pleasures of the flesh until that point. No, it will be damned difficult to lessen his and Strange’s ‘friendship.’ He obviously does take Strange seriously as a magician. Maybe that’s what made Norrell desire him. Quite possibly up to that point he did not realize that he wanted to be fucked. It would not surprise me. Really, though, his motives do not concern me. The question is, how are we to break up this sordid affair and get rid of Strange?”

“Do you think that is possible? Now that they have got this far, I cannot imagine Norrell giving up his new-found pleasures and his admittedly quite handsome young swain.” He was not about to annoy his friend by remarking that both Strange and Norrell had certainly shown every sign of extraordinary pleasure while he had been watching them, and what could one do to discourage that? Especially given that, from what he had been able to see through the keyhole, Strange was generously equipped to provide that pleasure.

Mr Lascelles waved one hand languidly and dismissingly. “Nonsense! Couples quarrel and part all the time. The initial fascination wanes, and they come to find faults in each other. Or they begin to suspect things about each other, often suspicions that have a real basis ... though of course they need not,” he concluded with a sly smile.

Drawlight considered this. “What sorts of faults?”

“Mostly deceptions of various sorts. Pilfering, selfishness, infidelity, lying … any number of things, great or trivial, may eat away at one lover’s trust in and attraction to the other.”

They both sat pondering what sorts of things could cool the ardor between an older man who has just experienced the joys of shared physical love for the first time and his manly young lover. Especially when, as in this case, the couple were also bound to each other by an unswerving devotion to a rare and fascinating profession like magic.

At length Mr Lascelles said, “We know he is absolutely miserly about his books. He is obviously allowing Strange access to at least some of them, given that that first day when I walked in on them Norrell was going off and leaving the fellow to read what was evidently a very important volume. Can he have given Strange free access to the entire library? That would explain when he is so willing to fuck such a dry, boring old fellow.”

Mr Drawlight shook his head and responded with a self-satisfied little smile. “Oh, I know that Strange is forbidden to read certain books.”

“How do you know that?”

“Strange leaves that set of papers lying about, that lesson-plan that Norrell made for him. It is usually on that large table where he works when they’re in the library. The plan begins by stressing that he may only read the books assigned for each lesson or ones that Norrell explicitly tells him he may read. Indeed each lesson has a short list of books that Strange must read, with shelf references. I’m sure you have noticed that all the shelves are labelled with little tags. The plan also specifies particular shelves holding books that he is strictly forbidden to read until late in his course of study—if at all.”

Mr Lascelles stared at him. “Christopher! I had no idea that you were so assiduously seeking out useful information of this sort. Usually you confine yourself to frivolous tittle-tattle. And which shelves contain the forbidden books?”

“Oh, at the time I did not take much note of the numbers, but I can easily have another look at the lesson-plan and find out.”

“Do so. Once we know, we can remove one of the larger, more conspicuous books from those shelves and hide it in Strange’s room. Norrell will be beside himself to learn that Strange has disobeyed him. But how will we know which room is Strange’s and how can we get into it to deposit the book there?”

“You may leave that to me. For a start, we can plan the ‘borrowing’ of the book for a Monday, when Childermass will be away most of the day on banking and other household business, as usual. The maids finish up their work in the bedrooms by lunch time, and if Lucas and Davey drive Norrell and Strange somewhere, they will not be around to tend to the front door. If you can find a reason to take both of them somewhere, I should have access to the bedrooms, and Strange’s will obviously be the only one occupied apart from Norrell’s. Either that, or one afternoon I might pretend to leave and then return for dinner, when in actuality I shall be upstairs placing the book in Strange’s room and then hiding in a vacant one until dinner-time.”

“Well, I cannot deny your talent for deception, so let us assume that we shall handle the ruse in one fashion or the other.”