His every instinct told him to turn and run, to pull away and smile good-humouredly as if nothing had happened.
No matter. After the slightest of hesitations, he leaned in towards Thomas, eyes falling shut as their lips pressed together. Thomas’ nose was caressing James’ cheek, the man’s lips stole his breath from his chest like a thief in the night, except James couldn’t say he minded so much.
Thomas pulled away for only a second, too short for James to take a breath, then his hand was on James’ cheek, so soft, so careful, pulling him in and holding him the same way he would a treasure.
It was that thought that shook James from the haze that had enveloped him. Not enough to make him pull away – never that, with Thomas so close – but enough, perhaps, to doubt his sanity, kissing another man, a lord even – as if it wasn’t bad enough that he had already taken said lord’s wife to bed.
He was torn between the opposing desires of pulling closer and pushing away, but incapable of either as he got the first sweet taste of Thomas’ tongue as it licked his lip tentatively. He sighed, and knew that he shouldn’t be surprised that lord Hamilton kissed his men. Men weren’t supposed to kiss, no sweetness was allowed in their world, so of course Thomas kissed him as if his very life depended on it. Thomas always did everything he wasn’t supposed to do.
But James, he didn’t – Jesus Christ, except for a few exceptions during all his years with the Navy, James’ self-control had been impeccable. How could he have ended up where he was now, feeling giddy and high, his life in the hands of someone who could throw him out and ruin him with a single word?
He didn’t know what to do with his hands. If he was just a bit less shocked, he might have grabbed Thomas’ expensive clothing and pulled them together as tight as he could, with the possibility of never letting go. However, he knew such a blatant display of desire could not be welcome, even though the kisses might be misinterpreted as genuinely affectionate. Instead he lifted them, despite that they felt leaden, and put them ever so gently on Thomas’ sides, feeling the expensive material of his clothing that did nothing to hide the differences between them. Just the feeling of Thomas, even through all that clothing, made his stomach flip and roll uncomfortably.
“James,” Thomas whispered, and his name was a prayer on the man’s tongue. He was dizzy, knees shaking with the effort to keep standing. How could the simple muttering of his name make James shiver so? “Oh, James, how -. I’m afraid we do not have the time for this,” the lord muttered as if it pained him, but he had not pulled further away than to rest his forehead on James’. “My father will surely already be preparing for –” The man trailed off, eyes looking half a world away as he gazed down on James. He looked to the world as if he had all but forgotten what he was about to say.
James simply blinked, unsure why Thomas thought it necessary to mention his father in this moment. “James!” Thomas keened, then. “We really do not have the time!” James did not look away, nor did he have a reply. He was much too preoccupied with the curious fluttering feeling in his stomach and the tightness of his throat, the knot in his belly that seemed to twist and swirl and loosen inside him to spread a warmth through his entire being that he had never known before. And, curiously, this warmth seemed to grow only stronger as he fell into the eyes of the man currently talking.
Then Thomas chuckled and James was certain his heart stopped as the breath of it washed gently over his face. “No, you’re right, James, I am being silly as usual,” and it was as if James had offered some most convincing argument. Curious, indeed, that he be just at that moment, comprehending that this fire that comforted him so, was just as dangerous as it was bright – maybe even more so. Then Thomas took his hand and James felt he floated out the room.
Down they went, through corridors that were familiar to him now. The library, the room where the Hamiltons usually broke their fast, a small study where Thomas kept his maps and his globes – the room that held the world in it.
Then the staircase that took up almost an entire wall, and up they went until Thomas stopped, walked down until James was above him and reached onto his toes to kiss James tenderly as if he was taller now, and James registered that it was a different feeling, a different sort of closeness where Thomas yielded the power offered to him by his height and station. James could scarcely believe it and would surely have fallen if Thomas had not pulled at his hand again in laughter.
They entered a wing where James had only been once before, but this time he was pulled past Miranda’s bedchamber and to the end of the corridor, where he was pressed up against the door as if he and Thomas were alone in this world, as if no one could walk by and see them. Thomas stole all James’ worry with the press of his lips and James could not think anymore, so lost was he in the warm embrace.
Thomas fumbled behind him and in a second they stumbled into the room, almost tripping over each other as the door fell away behind them. And Thomas laughed again, and it sounded like song to James’ ears. It was that sound that finally brought him back to himself.
It was a sudden shock, as if being woken by the sensation of falling that had you gasping and left your heart beating with the speed of a sparrow’s.
Christ, they couldn’t do this. But for all the other, more important reasons, the only one that bothered James in this moment was that Thomas will know. He would know that James wasn’t here just to get his cock wet. Once they began, James would be completely unable to hold back his admiration, his sentiment toward the man, just like he’d been unable to hold back his moans while being fucked over a cannon by a lieutenant when he was just a boy. And that, that was too much – surely it would be – even for a man like Thomas.
Stop, he though. Stop, for God’s sake! But he couldn’t find the breath to voice it as Thomas pulled them flush together and buried his nose in James’ neck, ghosting his lips over James’ skin and it was all he could do not to cling on as if Thomas was the last piece of debris to save him from the wrecks.
Thomas must’ve seen something on his face, though, for he said: “James, dear James you are so pretty, do you know that?” Yes, he could say, yes, I’ve always been told that I’m pretty, and he would do it with a shiver, but he thought Thomas might not want him if he knew he’d already been had. This was not the reason for James’ discomfort. He’d been called pretty before, he’d been called little else in fact – it seemed it was the one quality of his that all men appreciated and probably, he reasoned, because he could just as well have been a girl and surely – surely – no one would be doomed for fucking him, so it eased their conscience. James could only dream that Thomas was any different from the rest of them.
Thomas rewarded him with kisses and James didn’t have the power of will to stop him. He was poison and James knew it, but oh – what a sweet thing it was.
“Thomas,” James croaked, but the warning was there, blatant in his voice.
“Do not worry, James, no one will see us, I swear. The servants are told to keep out of this part of the house except in the mornings while I break my fast. We’ve nothing to fear, I assure you.” Thomas’ voice was breathy and even impatient, and he immediately started kissing James again, as if all was good. It was the eagerness to kiss, to feel, to hold – so evident in Thomas’ actions, that made James feel almost wanted not only for the instantaneous relief he could provide with his body, but also for his warmth and his intellect; nay, even his soul. It was something he was not acquainted with and it troubled him deeply.
He had lost any control he might have had of the situation the moment Thomas had first kissed him, but if he was to do this, and to survive this night and all the following weeks when he would need to look at Thomas and know what they shared for just a night, but unable to have him, to feel him and truly know him again, he needed to bring back some semblance of that control. He did it the only way he knew how.
He started working his many buttons and received an appreciative hum from the lord, who soon brushed his fingers away to do them down himself. James didn’t complain, even though Thomas’ touch made him want to forget all about control and throw himself bodily on the man and wrench his clothing off with brute force. He could almost see the confusion turning to desire in Thomas’ eyes if he was to do any such thing but remembered after a moment that it would be a much too violent act for the gentle man.
With shaking hands Thomas pushed James’ coat and waistcoat off his shoulders and they fell to the ground with a soft thud, the only sound in the room except their intermingling breaths and James’ heartbeat in his throat. Holding eye-contact, Thomas pulled James’ shirt from his trousers and James lifted his arms so Thomas might remove it.
“May I?” James’ hands were on Thomas’ clothing now, and the man closed his eyes, leaning into the touch with a nod and his mouth found James’ mouth again and he kissed him. Thomas’ hands, heavy on James’ naked hips, pulled him closer softly but insistently until James could barely get his fingers on Thomas’ buttons. The swipe of Thomas’ tongue along his bottom lip wasn’t helping either.
Getting impatient, Thomas batted his hands away and pulled away from James with a growl, to finally wrench his coat and waistcoat off in one go. James was – stunned. He hadn’t thought the lord capable of any kind of growling, hadn’t believed he could ever show an outward reaction as strong as that – except, perhaps, when confronting his father.
Then all at once Thomas’ hands were fiddling with James’ trousers and he pulled them off before James had the chance to regain his composure.
“Do you have oil?” James whispered, damning his broken voice.
“Beside the bed.” Thomas kissed him but James wrenched himself free this time, against all his body’s protests. He couldn’t let himself be kissed senseless again, so he crawled into bed and reached for the vial of oil, turning to offer it to Thomas who had his trousers around his ankles and a hand on his cock. James’ hand began shaking, the vial almost dropping from his fingers.
You’re gorgeous. God, you’re gorgeous he wanted to say, and he almost did but – Jesus he couldn’t do this.
Thomas was ready to have him, James had to pull himself together if he was to survive the night with any of his dignity left.
“Here, take it, I’m ready,” James offered, and situated himself on his hands and knees in the middle of the bed. Slowly, agonisingly slowly, Thomas approached the bed, and chills almost made James visibly shudder. It was all too familiar. He wanted it, but he feared it, also. He feared the morning and he feared what Thomas might do to him, not out of malice, but ignorance of James’ emotions, of what this meant to him. He shouldn’t have done this, he shouldn’t have accepted Thomas’ offer.
“I won’t lie, it is a very pleasant view, James,” Thomas’ hand came up to caress his thigh, stroking further till it squeezed his arse, and James bit back a moan at the gentle, silk-like touch of Thomas’ hand, “but I do prefer to see your face. I can’t kiss you like this.” There was a laugh in Thomas’ voice, and to James it sounded like mockery.
“You want to see my face? While we fuck?” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them.
“Well, of course,” Thomas admitted and pushed against James’ side, rolling him onto his back. “There isn’t much intimacy in the back of your head, James.” Thomas leaned down to kiss him, but James put a protective hand in front of himself and scrambled away helplessly.
“I can’t,” James muttered. Then louder – “You can’t do this to me, please.” And his voice broke as if he was a schoolboy. He hadn’t meant to speak, but the words wanted to be heard.
“What are you on about, James? Have I said something to offend you? Of course, I will not keep you from leaving if that is what you want, and we can forget this happened but –”
It was even worse, receiving such kindness from the Lord whose trust he’d betrayed.
“What do you expect will happen if we do this? I’m sorry, my lord, but I can’t – I can’t come back tomorrow as if you were not quite in my reach, I can’t pretend that I don’t –”
“That you don’t what, James? Please explain to me what troubles you.” There were tears in James’ eyes now and the angrier he got at himself, the worse it was to keep them from falling. He hadn’t realised the state he was in before he was walking on the edge, about to break.
“That I don’t care, my lord,” he said in a voice so broken it was barely understandable.
“I can’t pretend that I don’t care for you! Please, stop!”
“Why would you need to –” Realisation seemed to dawn on the lord then, and he looked hurt beyond comfort and James wished he had only kept his mouth shut so he would never have brought such an expression on the man’s face. “You’ve never… What kind of relations have you had with men, James?” James looked away in shame, too out of his senses to leave the bed, pull his clothes on and leave. “That is all you know, isn’t it? The physical? What have they done to you?” Thomas’ voice sounded so mournful James could cry only listening to him. Oh, why had he troubled this man with his pains? He did not deserve it.
Thomas crawled into the bed with him, like an invasion over a crumbling city wall. “James, look at me. I am not here to rape you. I don’t want to take you for a few minutes of pleasure. You’re not just a body to me, James – how can you not know that?”
Taking James’ face firmly in his hands, Thomas kissed him again, crawling on top of him, settling as well as he could between hesitant legs. At the contact, James’ forgotten cock started to fill again, and he drew a sharp breath in pleasure, accompanying Thomas’ own.
“James. I care for you too, beyond the physical. I… I feel for you, can you understand that?”
“It’s not right,” James whispered.
“What? Fucking a man is acceptable, but caring for him is a sin? I’m sorry, James, but your logic is terribly flawed.”
“Men don’t do this, Thomas.”
“I do. You clearly do. I don’t care what others have told you, I don’t care that they think it’s only acceptable to fuck you if they don’t see you’re indeed a man. If you think they’ve never felt anything towards another man, you’re wrong. Men love men just like men love women.” Thomas’ eyes, so earnest, so clear and insisting, refusing to leave James’ for a second was almost more than James could bear, but the shame was gnawing at him and he could not let go the fear that had been his constant companion since he first realised his perverse nature. Soft fingertip, always shielded from that kind of work which would bring calluses, tripled over James’ ever salt-stained cheeks, so gentle, achingly so. James looked away so that Thomas might not dive through his eyes to the deepest, darkest depths of him, and he licked his lips as his eyes grew hot and wet and he drew a shaky breath to calm himself.
“No,” he muttered, shook his head, bit his lip. He didn’t know what exactly he was denying, for certainly he couldn’t deny the existence of his own emotions, not when they were so blatantly obvious. “It shouldn’t be like it – it’s not supposed to be like this!” he cried, and it was almost a sob, but not quite.
“Oh, James.” Thomas captured his wrists with unknown strength as they rose so James might hide his face in his hands. “Look at me.” But James could not, surely Thomas must understand why he could not look him in the eye now. Thomas pushed himself toward him then, pressed James against the mattress. He let himself be pushed down, but unwillingly, and couldn’t stop him when Thomas gently pinned his arms beside him. Then Thomas took to kissing him again, chased James’ lips even though he turned away. “What is this,” Thomas whispered against James’ cheek, “What is this, if not romantic sentiment, and what is this, if not beautiful? James, look at me.” Thomas’ nose traced his jaw, his breath tickled James’ neck. “This is the answer to everything, don’t you see?” Thomas urged, thumbs caressing circles on James’ wrists. “This is why we live, this is why we are here. To love each other, to be good with each other and make each other stronger. You make me stronger, James. You make me better. This is our purpose; we would be nothing if we could not love, and love is not something that can be defined simply between man and woman, husband and wife. Love is between a father and his daughter, a man and his comrades, partners. James, look at me.” At that third call, James turned his head and looked at him, feeling exposed and vulnerable, yet unable to deny a direct command from the man he loved.
“It is so difficult,” he whispered, closed his eyes against the shame of his tears.
“May I kiss you?” Thomas asked, gently, releasing his wrists as he did. James pressed his eyes harder together, balled his hands into fists, drew another rattling breath. No one had ever asked him that before. “You might say no, you know. Under no circumstance are you obligated to do what you think it is what I want, if you do not want it also. You are free to leave, and I will never mention this again, and I will be sorry that I was unaware of your situation and that I brought you past what was comfortable and so far beyond it. And I am genuinely sorry.”
“Don’t,” James muttered, shaking his head because it was so wrong that Thomas should feel sorry for anything. “Don’t speak like that, it’s not right.” He didn’t consider how backward it was that he, now, should lift his hand to gentle Thomas’ side soothingly. “You have done nothing, could never do anything, like what you think you describe. You know nothing of such things.” James touched his face, shook his head with a slight smile on his face. That Thomas could think he knew of such things…
“And I wish you didn’t either. Might I kiss you?” Thomas took James’ hand, caressed it, pressed it to his chest, and James allowed him. Allowed him to move closer. “Might I kiss you?” Thomas asked, seemingly unwilling to continue without agreement.
“Yes,” James replied, because Thomas’ eyes were wide and blue and open and innocent. Thomas’ hands were all over him then, brushing up and down his sides, over his pectoral muscles, over his breastbones and nipples and neck, brushing the dusting of hair on his stomach with such loving tenderness as could come only from one who cared. Cared for a friend, for a lover perhaps.
James touched too, now. Thomas’ skin was soft like that of a baby, not hardened by scars or calluses. Along his sides James felt the man’s ribs and it was a bit unnerving (mentally, he noted to himself to make sure that the man ate enough – he had a suspicion that Thomas forgot to eat when he was working), and there was not much muscle to speak of, unlike what he’d see in the sailors and other common folk. His abdominal muscles were not defined and his hipbones cut into James’ spread thighs but he didn’t mind. Thomas felt incredible. Just being underneath him, giving him the power and opening himself to him was an experience, gave a thrill such as James had never felt before. Was this what it felt like when you gave yourself over to someone completely and without regret?
One of Thomas’ arms found its way to James’ spread legs and he pushed between them, past his balls. James hadn’t noticed when Thomas had put oil on them, but a finger slid inside him easily anyway.
James gasped and Thomas smiled so widely at the sound of it. Agonisingly slowly, the finger pulled out of him, then pressed back in and James couldn’t focus on anything else. He’d never been treated with such care and gentleness before, and though there was something to be said for the animal rutting he was used to, this was something else entirely.
The pleasure from Thomas’ finger spread through his whole body, then Thomas pushed in a second one and the feeling multiplied through him. Unconsciously, James’ leg fell open wider, inviting Thomas to settle between them and do with him as he pleased.
Grinning in a way James hadn’t thought him capable, Thomas slid down his body until his face was on level with James’ groin and as he pushed his fingers inside him again he pulled the head of James’ cock into his mouth.
“Tho-!” James breathed. The feeling was extraordinary, like something he’d never felt before. His shaking hands buried themselves in Thomas’ hair and he held him gently but firmly, keeping him from pulling James’ cock further into his mouth, when all he wanted was to press down. “Wait – Jesus, I won’t hold if you do that, Thomas!” James whined as Thomas thrust his fingers inside him again. Changing tactic, Thomas went further down to lick his balls and pulled them into his mouth. James groaned in pleasure but it was not enough to end this prematurely.
A third finger joined the others inside James and his thighs were shaking around Thomas’ head. He spread his fingers, stretching James open and even though there was that usual feeling of discomfort and something not quite pain, James revelled in it. If Thomas could only reach a little bit further he would hit that spot that would make James come undone, but it was still not quite enough.
Then Thomas pulled out of him to a whimper. He crawled up and James kissed him this time, captured his lips as if to say thank you and Jesus Christ and you’re beautiful all at once.
Thomas grasped for the vial of oil and poured it over his fingers, still kissing James who could not be quenched when he’d first had a taste. Then he slicked himself up and pushed into James with ease.
It burned, but it was so sweet compared to what James had known before that it knocked the breath out of him and Thomas pulled away from his mouth to gasp at the sudden tight hold on him. Thomas’ entire body gave a shiver and James was delighted. That he could affect the man so, the same way Thomas did with him. It was incredible, unbelievable.
Carefully Thomas started rocking into him and it was so glorious, it was everything James had ever heard of what coupling was supposed to be and nothing like he’d experienced before. Some might think the slow rhythm was only frustrating, but for James it had already started that well known churning inside him that announced his approach to climax. Thomas bowed down and draped himself bodily over James and when he kissed him, pushing his tongue into James’ mouth, it was the perfect mirror of the feeling he got as Thomas pushed deeper inside him at the same time. The slow, wet glide of them together made him shiver, the hair on Thomas’ arms was standing on edge and James revelled at it.
Thomas’ breathing became heavier in James’ ear even though he wasn’t moving faster. He rocked his body into James and his rhythm faltered, he hit the right spot inside James once, twice, then stayed inside to grind against it and James couldn’t breathe. He saw stars in front of his eyes, his mouth hung open in a deep-throated moan and when Thomas took hold of his cock he pulled him to the very edge and James started falling, slowly, as the feeling built inside him and pulled his balls tight against him. Then he fell and it was like hitting a wall of sensation, of ecstasy. He groaned as Thomas fucked him through it, jerked him through it – and then Thomas reached his own climax, eyes falling close, mouth opening, and expression of utter abandon on his face as his hips stuttered and he filled James with his seed.
It took moments before they regained their breaths, and Thomas sunk unto James’ chest slowly so as not to hurt him. His heart was still beating quickly, James could feel it reverberating through his own chest.
“Thomas,” he whispered, for no better reason than to say his name, to hear the sound of it and feel it on his tongue.
“I know, God – James, I know.”
Thomas pulled out and cleaned them in a hurry, then scooted into bed again, covering them with the large blankets.
“James?” Thomas asked into the silent room. “Have you never gotten you cock wet?” It was a while before he got an answer.
“Depends on your definition,” James said at last, then – “No, not really.”
Thomas pulled him closer and nuzzled into the hair at his neck. “Go to sleep, James, I’ll see you in the morning.”
“I can’t stay here,” James mumbled, and fell asleep in his arms.