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The Glue of Life

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December 28th

“Thomas,” James called, knocking on the bedroom door. “Thomas, you awake?”

“Yes,” Thomas said, going over and opening the bedroom door. “Did you need something?”

“I’ve got something for you,” James said, holding out a canvas shopping bag. 

“What is it?” Thomas asked, taking the bag. 

“Open it,” James encouraged with a smile. Thomas opened the bag, breath catching at the brand new laptop. “For school. Can’t go to Columbia without a laptop.”

“Thank you,” Thomas said, pulling the box out of the bag and holding it to his chest. 

“Come, I’ll help you set it up,” James said, holding out a hand to Thomas. “And then we should pick out your classes for this semester. You can’t register quite yet but we can pick out what you want.”

———

December 30th

“Here,” James said, handing out a couple credit cards to Thomas.

“What’s this for?” Thomas asked, taking the card with a frown.

“For you,” James said. “I added you to the household account. And I opened you one of your own.”

“I don’t have any money,” Thomas said, holding out the cards to James.

“You do,” James said, pushing his hand back gently. “Your father transferred your trust fund to me as soon as we left Virginia. And I put it all in the account I opened for you. It’s yours to do with whatever you want.”

“Oh,” Thomas said, looking down with a small smile. “Thank you, James.”

“You’re welcome, Thomas,” James smiled, resting a hand on Thomas’ arm. 

———

January 1st

“Happy New Year, Thomas,” James said, tapping his champagne flute against Thomas’.

“Happy New Year, James,” Thomas said, watching the fireworks light up the sky. James watched Thomas, finding him far more beautiful and interesting than the fireworks.

———

January 4th

“Hey, Thomas?” James leaned over the counter where Thomas was sat, typing out something on his laptop.

“Yes?” Thomas looked up at him.

“Tomorrow is Friday,” James said, arms crossed on the counter. 

“Yes,” Thomas said slowly, brow furrowing a bit. 

“And doesn’t Shabbat start on Friday?” James asked.

“Yes and?” Thomas repeated, looking back at his computer.

“And have you gotten the stuff you need?” James asked, leaning a bit further across the counter. “I didn’t see anything different come in the shopping.”

“That’s because nothing did,” Thomas said, not looking up from his computer. 

“Why not?” James frowned. 

“Because I’m not Jewish anymore,” Thomas said.

“Thomas-“

“I need to finish this,” Thomas said, shutting his laptop and standing. “If I’m going to test out of the first semester courses I need to finish this. I’m going to work on the balcony.”

Thomas didn’t bother waiting for James to respond before leaving.

“James! Hello,” Lafayette said, sounding far too loud over the phone. “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” James said, watching Thomas through the balcony doors. “But Thomas isn’t.”

“What’s wrong with Thomas?” Lafayette asked, worried.

“Well, ah,” James sighed, running a hand through his hair. “It’s a bit of a long story.”

“I’ve got time,” Lafayette said firmly. 

“Right,” James nodded, sitting down and continuing to watch Thomas as he explained to Lafayette what had happened during their time in Virginia. 

“Your dad’s an ass,” Lafayette said once James was finished. “And so is Thomas’.”

“Yeah, I completely agree,” James sighed, running a hand through his hair. “But I told Thomas that the whole conversion thing was just for show. He can still practice Judaism in our home. I want him to be happy and himself.”

“He doesn’t trust you,” Lafayette said bluntly. “Thomas doesn’t trust easily. And after what happened in Virgina I don’t think he’s going to trust you for a long time.”

“What do I do?” James asked softly, chewing on his lip. “How can I earn his trust?”

“I don’t know,” Lafayette admitted. “The most important thing is to talk to him. And be patient. And honest.”

“Okay,” James said, watching Thomas shut his laptop and stand. “When are you back in New York?”

“Not all of us have fancy apartments like you,” Lafayette teased. “I’ll be back when dorms open on the eleventh.”

“When you get back, would you like to come over for dinner?” James asked as Thomas came inside. “Your dormmates as well.”

“We’d love to,” Lafayette smiled. “I’ve got to go. Give Thomas my love.”

“I will. Thanks, Laf.”

“Bye.”

“Bye,” James said, ending the call and putting the phone down on the counter. 

“Why were you talking to Lafayette?” Thomas asked, pouring himself a glass of water. 

“I wanted to ask their advice about something,” James explained, turning around to watch him. 

“Oh okay,” Thomas said, drinking a sip of his water. 

“Thomas, can we talk about something?” James said, fiddling with his phone. 

“I need to study,” Thomas said, heading back towards the balcony. 

“Thomas, this is important,” James stood. “We need to talk.”

“I need to study,” Thomas insisted, not bothering to look back at him. “And unless you’re going to order me to sit and talk to you, sir, I’m going to do just that.”

“Thomas,” James sighed. “For fuck's sake. We need to talk. Why’re you being so stubborn?”

Thomas froze, entire body stiffening. “I apologise for my insolence, sir.”

“No, Thomas, that’s not,” James moved quickly to Thomas’ side, freezing when the submissive flinched. “Thomas, you did nothing wrong. You have nothing to apologise for. I’m sorry for pushing and snapping. Go study. We can talk later.”

“No, sir, you want to talk,” Thomas said, moving to sit on the couch. “What would you like to talk about, sir?”

“We can talk later,” James sat down next to Thomas.

“You wanted to talk,” Thomas said softly. “I shouldn’t have argued.”

“You’re allowed to argue,” James said, resting a hand on Thomas’ knee. “Thomas, I like when you argue with me. I like when you are sarcastic and sassy. I like when you are you, Thomas, not the robot your father turned you into.”

Thomas said nothing, just stared down at his lap. James sighed, removing his hand from Thomas’ knee. 

“My father is an ass,” James continued, running a hand through his hair. “And so is yours. And what they made you do, making you convert like that, was not okay. No one should force you to be something you’re not. And, Thomas, you’re not Christian you’re Jewish - now and forever unless you choose differently. I know my word probably doesn’t count for much right now but I promise I’m never going to stop you from being yourself here. And  I want to learn more about you and your religion and culture.” 

Thomas said nothing but gave a small nod, still looking down at his lap.

James gave him a small smile, whispering, “I want you to be happy. I want to make you happy if I can. We can talk more later, why don’t you go study yeah? Your exemption exams are next week.”

———

http://www.jewfaq.org/shabbat.htm

 

Judaism 101 > Times > Shabbat

Shabbat

Level: Basic

 

  • Shabbat is a joyful day of rest
  • Shabbat is two commandments: to remember and to observe
  • A traditional dish is cholent, slow-cooked stew

 

See also:

Shabbat Prayers

Havdalah Prayers

 

For six days you may perform melachah, but the seventh day is a complete Sabbath, holy to the L-RD ... it is an eternal sign that in six days, the L-RD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed. -Exodus 31:15-17

 

The Nature of Shabbat

(show)

 

Zakhor: To Remember

(show)

 

Shamor: To Observe

(show)

 

A Typical Shabbat

Shabbat, like all Jewish days, begins at sunset, because in the story of creation in Genesis Ch. 1, you will notice that it says, "And there was evening, and there was morning, one day." 

Shabbat candles are lit and a blessing is recited no later than eighteen minutes before sunset. This ritual, performed by the woman of the house, officially marks the beginning of Shabbat. Two candles are lit, representing the two commandments: zakhor (remember) and shamor (observe), discussed above.

Before dinner, the man of the house recites Kiddush, a prayer over wine sanctifying Shabbat. The usual prayer for eating bread is recited over two loaves of challah, a sweet, eggy bread shaped in a braid. The family then eats dinner. Although there are no specific requirements or customs regarding what to eat, meals are generally stewed or slow cooked items, because of the prohibition against cooking during Shabbat.

After dinner, the birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals) is recited. Although this is done every day, on Shabbat, it is done in a leisurely manner with many upbeat tunes.

 

Recipe for Cholent

(show)

 

Home | What’s Nu? | Current Calendar | About the Author | Glossary and Index | Full Site

 

© Copyright 5756-5771 (1995-2011), Tracey R Rich

 

———

January 12th

James set out early that morning since he wanted to be sure he got everything in time to set it all up before Thomas returned from visiting with Lafayette. Over the past week, James had been doing a lot of research on what he would need to prepare things for Shabbat. Every time James brought something even tangentially related to Judaism up with Thomas, the submissive would shut down and make some excuse to disappear. 

It was extremely frustrating.

Especially since James didn’t fully trust the information he got on the internet and would much rather learn from a Jewish person. But Thomas refused to answer any questions and Lafayette knew very little since the didn’t grow up with strict practising parents. 

So James was left with the internet. And he hoped that what he had learned was accurate. 

It was around noon by the time he got home, arms full of bags with all the things he would need. He dropped them onto the counter with a sigh, relieved to be able to put them down finally. The apartment was empty, as he expected it to be since he had arranged for Lafayette to keep Thomas out for the day, so James put on some music on the Sonos system and set to work.

“Lafayette, it’s still early, why’re we going back?” Thomas asked, glancing over at them. 

“Because,” they said, glancing at him with a smile. “You’ll see.”

“Lafayette,” Thomas grabbed their arm, making them stop. “What is going on? Why’re you rushing me home?”

“Thomas, what day is it?” Lafayette said, watching their cousin. 

“The twelfth,” Thomas said. “What are you getting at?”

“Thomas, it’s Friday,” Lafayette said, resting a hand on his shoulder. “Shabbat starts tonight. And James has spent all day preparing things.”

“What?” Thomas frowned. “Why would he do that? Why does he insist on this?”

“Because he cares about you,” Lafayette said, turning and starting to walk towards Thomas’ apartment building. “And he’s trying to make you happy. He got you things for Hanukkah didn’t he?”

“I converted,” Thomas said, jogging slightly to catch up to them. 

“It was a sham, Thomas, you and I know that. James knows that,” Lafayette glanced over at him. “James made some mistakes but he’s trying to earn your trust. Maybe you should try a bit to learn to trust him.”

“It’s not that easy, Lafayette,” Thomas glared. 

“I know,” Lafayette said, pushing open the door to the apartment building. “I know it’s not just going to happen overnight and that it’s going to be hard but if you don’t put in some effort you’re never going to learn to trust anyone again.”

Thomas didn’t respond, chewing his lip as he followed them into the elevator and up to the floor correct floor. He followed them to his apartment silently, pulling out his key and unlocking the door without a word. 

“James!” Lafayette sing-songed, swanning into the apartment as if they owned the place. 

“Lafayette!” James came around the corner from the kitchen, smiling. “Just in time, Hercules just got here.”

Lafayette pressed a kiss to James’ cheek before moving to Hercules, wrapping their arms around his neck and kissing him gently. 

“Hello, Thomas,” James said, looking over at his husband. “I, ah, I made dinner.”

“I heard,” Thomas said, brushing past James and going further into the apartment. “Did you bake the Challah yourself?”

“Ah, no,” James said, following him. “I bought it from a bakery. But I made everything else.”

“Didn’t know you could cook,” Thomas said, walking through the kitchen and looking over the dishes. 

“I’ve never done it much,” James admitted, watching him nervously. “But the recipe seemed easy enough.”

Thomas hummed, peeking into the slow cooker. The stew James made smelled good and looked about right. Thomas closed the lid and turned to James, “I’m going to shower. You need to too before we start.”

“And put on nice clothes, right?” James asked. 

“Yes,” Thomas said, slipping past James and heading to the bedroom. He paused in the doorway and turned back to him, speaking softly, “Thanks, James.”

“You’re welcome, Thomas,” James said, smiling brightly as Thomas disappeared into the bedroom. 

Chapter Text

January 15th

James was still sleeping when Thomas left, taking the last opportunity before classes start to sleep in. Thomas had stood and watched him for a moment, the dominant curled up on the couch where he kept insisting on sleeping even though Thomas said they could share the bed. James looked much younger in his sleep, and much less intimidating. The blanket had slipped down off his shoulders and Thomas stepped over, fixing it gently before grabbing his ridiculously expensive (but admittedly beautiful) messenger bag and leaving the apartment. 

It was cold, but not unbearably so, as Thomas stepped out of the apartment building. He slipped his hand into his pocket, grabbing his phone and earbuds, putting them in his ears and opening his music app. Once he’d selected a playlist he slipped his phone back into his pocket and made his way down the street towards campus. He was supposed to be meeting with his academic advisor to go over his exemption exam results and determine what courses he would be taking but Thomas would much rather just not do that. Truthfully all he wanted to do was curl up in bed with his new Kindle (another completely unnecessary gift from James) and read the books he’d bought. 

But he had to meet with his advisor. Because James enrolled him in Columbia. And arranged for exemption exams. And bought him a fancy laptop and kindle and textbooks and messenger bag and coat. And was being patient and kind and gentle. And Thomas hated it.

Well, he didn’t hate that James was being nice. He didn’t hate that James was trying to be a better husband and dominant. He didn’t hate the gifts and being able to go to school. 

He hated that it wasn’t going to last. He hated knowing that this was some long con that James was playing and that eventually, it was all going to crumble around him. He hated that, against every instinct, he was beginning to trust James. And most of all he hated that he couldn’t figure out why James was doing this.

Thomas pushed open the door to the ‘Berick Center for Student Advising’ building with an internal sigh, pulling his headphones from his ears and pausing his music. He slipped his phone and headphones into his pocket before going up to the desk. 

“Hi,” Thomas said, smiling at the receptionist. “I’ve got an appointment at nine-thirty with Susan Masters.” 

“Thomas Jefferson, yes?” The receptionist said, clicking something on the computer. “Take a seat, Mrs Masters will be with you shortly.”

“Thanks,” Thomas said, going over and sitting down. He set his bag down at his feet, pulling his phone out his pocket to check his messages, happily finding a couple from Lafayette.

 

TO Thomas:

Tom.

Thomas.

We’re still getting coffee this morning yes?

 

TO Lafayette:

Yes. I’m at my meeting now.

I’ll text you when I’m done.

 

TO Thomas:

Perfect

See you later.

 

TO Lafayette;

Later, Laf

 

Thomas hesitated before opening his chat with James, typing out a message.

 

TO James:

I’m at my advising meeting and going out for coffee with Lafayette after

 

TO Thomas:

Okay. 

I’ll see you later. 

Have fun

 

TO James:

Thanks.

 

“Mr Jefferson?” 

Thomas looked up, slipping his phone away as he stood. He gave Mrs Masters a smile and nod as he grabbed his bag, following her into her office.

———

 January 16th

“Thomas, what time does your class finish this afternoon?” James asked, pouring two travel mugs full of coffee. 

“Three-twenty,” Thomas said, putting his laptop into his bag. “You?”

“I don’t finish until five,” James said, sliding one mug across the table. 

“Do you want me to wait on campus for you?” Thomas asked, slinging his bag over his shoulder. 

“Not if you don’t want to,” James said, shrugging. “You’re choice.”

Thomas bit his lip, looking down and grabbing his mug with a nod. “Alright.”

“I’m going to get lunch at the cafe near campus at around one,” James said, grabbing his own bag and mug. “If you want to join me.”

“I’ve got a class that doesn’t end until one-forty,” Thomas said, heading towards the door. 

“Okay,” James said, following him. “Another day then.”

“Yeah,” Thomas opened the door, holding it open for James to walk through. James gave him a smile in thanks, stepping out the door. Thomas quickly followed him, shutting and locking the door behind him. The pair lapsed into silence, neither feeling like talking as they left the apartment building and walked down the street to campus. It wasn’t a long walk, only about twenty minutes, but by the time they arrived Thomas’ stomach was tight with anxiety. He was nervous about starting classes. About all the people. About disappointing James. About getting too comfortable and happy only to have it all ripped away suddenly. 

But he told none of this to James. Instead, he just gave his husband a smile as they split off, going their separate ways to their classes. Thomas entered the building where his first class was, looking around to try and figure out where the room was. He pulled out his phone to check the room number, not really paying too much attention to where he was walking, only to run directly into someone.

“Hey!” A familiar voice said, making Thomas look up from his phone in surprise. 

“I’m sorry, Alexander,” he said, blushing a bit. 

“It’s cool,” Alex shrugged, smiling. “What’re you doing here? You looking for James? He doesn’t have classes in this building.”

“No,” Thomas said, biting his lip. “But I do.”

“Oh!” Alex grinned. “So James finally pulled his head out of his ass, huh?”

Thomas frowned at him, “Ah, yeah.”

“What room are you looking for?” Alex asked, adjusting his bag strap.

“Three-zero-four,” Thomas said, glancing down at his phone to make sure he was right.

“Oh! That’s where I’m going too,” Alex smiled, slapping Thomas’ back lightly. “Come on. I’ll show you the way.”

“Thanks,” Thomas said, slipping his phone back into his pocket. 

“No problem,” Alex said, leading Thomas down the hall. “What’re you majoring in?”

“Double major in Political Science and Philosophy,” Thomas said, looking over at the shorter man. “You?”

“Double major in Political Science and Economics,” Alex grinned, looking up at Thomas before pointing to a room just down the hall. “Our class is right there.”

“Have you had this professor before?” Thomas asked, opening the door and holding it for Alexander. 

“Nope,” Alex slipped inside. “Thanks.”

Thomas hummed, following him into the room. He looked around only to find it empty apart for one other kid. He headed towards the back of the room, intending to sit where he drew the least amount of attention to himself, only to have Alexander grab his bag strap.

“Ah, no,” Alex said, pulling him along to the front. “Don’t sit in the back.”

“I like sitting in the back,” Thomas said, frowning. 

“No, you think you like sitting in the back because society makes submissives feel like they need to draw as little attention to themselves as possible,” Alex pushed Thomas down into a chair at the front of the room. 

“No, I like sitting at the back because sitting in the front makes me anxious,” Thomas said, glaring at bit at Alexander as he sat down beside him. 

“Sitting in the back makes me anxious,” Alex said, pulling out a notebook.

“I don’t see what that has to do with me,” Thomas said, moving to stand. “You can stay here.”

“Hey,” Alex rested a hand on Thomas’ arm. “I’m trying to be a friend. You’re brand new here. And I’m sure pretty nervous. So I thought having a friendly face in your class would be helpful.”

“Very kind of you but I don’t need friends,” Thomas said, pulling away from Alexander and moving to sit at the back of the room. 

Thomas’ first day went pretty uneventfully. He sat in the back of his two classes and grabbed a quick bite to eat from some little cafe on the corner of campus for lunch. By the time he last class finished he was tired, not so much physically but mentally. While he enjoyed being able to learn freely again it had been a while since he had had to interact with so many people at once. So when he was finally free he was excited to go home and have a couple hours of uninterrupted alone time before James got home.

But of course the universe was not on his side and when he left the lecture hall he ran directly into Lafayette and their boyfriend.

“Thomas! Mon ami!” Lafayette grinned, jumping forward and hugging him. “How was your first day, Thomas?”

“Good,” he said, hugging them back tightly for a moment before pulling back. 

“You simply must come get a coffee with me and Hercules,” Lafayette said, taking Thomas’ hand. “I want to hear all about your first day.”

“Laf, I need to go home,” Thomas said, squeezing their hand. “I’ve got work to get started on.”

“Thomas,” Lafayette whined. “Please. Just one drink.”

“Lafayette,” Hercules rested a hand on their shoulder, thumb brushing over the back of their neck. “Don’t bagger your cousin. I’m sure he’s tired.”

“Mon amour,” Lafayette looked up at him, pouting. 

“Lafayette,” Hercules' voice took on a stern tone, a clearly dominant tone. “If Thomas says no, he means it.”

“Yes, sir,” Lafayette huffed, looking back at Thomas. “You will come for coffee with me another day, oui? I miss you.”

“I saw you yesterday, Lafayette,” Thomas pointed out, pressing a kiss to their cheek. “But yes, how about tomorrow? I’m free for a couple hours in the middle of the day.”

“Okay,” Lafayette grinned. “I’ll text you.”

“Okay,” Thomas said, smiling. “Bye, Laf. Bye, Hercules.”

“Bye, Thomas,” Lafayette said, stepping back and leaning against Hercules’ chest. Thomas gave them a smile before leaving, pulling out his headphones and shoving them into his ears to ward off anyone else talking to him. 

The walk back to the apartment was peaceful, a perfect way to decompress after a long day. He dropped his bag onto the kitchen counter when he arrived, looking around the empty apartment with a sigh. Since it was the first week of classes he didn’t have much work to do, but there was a bit of reading he should probably get done so he put on the kettle to make a cup of tea. While the kettle was boiling, Thomas grabbed his textbooks, highlighters, notebook, and pens from his bag, setting them all up on the coffee table. 

The kettle whistled just as he was connecting his phone to the speakers, putting on some classical music. He quickly made his tea before settling on the couch, grabbing one of his textbooks. For a while, he got lost in his reading, a carefully balanced notebook resting on the arm of the sofa where he would jot down things as he went. His cup of tea sat forgotten on the table, growing cold and undrinkable with each passing moment. 

He didn’t notice when James returned home. He didn’t notice when James began cooking dinner. He didn’t notice when James rested a plate down on the coffee table. 

“Thomas?” James said softly, sitting down on the opposite sofa. Thomas looked up, startled. 

“When’d you get here?” He asked, shutting his textbook and setting it to the side. 

“Like an hour ago,” James said with a smile. “You enjoying your classes?”

“Yeah, so far,” Thomas nodded, catching sight of the plate on the table. “You cooked?”

“Yes,” James asked, his own plate resting on his knees. 

“Thanks,” Thomas said, grabbing his plate. 

“You’re welcome, Thomas,” James said gently, leaning back into the sofa and beginning to eat. Thomas grabbed his plate, pausing for a moment about to say the appropriate prayer for the meal. Thomas let out a soft sigh before grabbing his fork and digging in without praying, a small knot settling in his stomach. The couple ate in silence, the sound of forks and knives and classical music being the only things to fill the air. Thomas hadn’t realised how hungry he was until he started eating and quickly devoured everything on his plate. 

“How were your classes?” Thomas asked, stepping down his now empty plate. 

“Good,” James said, his plate already set down on the coffee table. “I’m glad to be back. Not having anything to do over the break was getting boring.”

“Yeah,” Thomas said, grabbing his cold tea and taking a sip. He grimaced at the awful taste of the cold tea, putting his mug back down. “Thank you for cooking.”

“It’s not a problem, Thomas,” James smiled. “We said we’d take turns right?”

“Yeah,” Thomas nodded. “I’ll cook tomorrow then.”

“Okay,” James said, standing and taking the dirty plates into the kitchen to put in the dishwasher. “I’ve got some reading to do.”

“Yeah, I’ve got some more to finish as well,” Thomas said, standing and stretching for a moment before sitting back down. “Do you mind the music or should I turn it off?”

“It’s fine,” James smiled, grabbing his bag and heading to the desk in the corner. “You know you can use this desk too, Thomas.”

“I know,” Thomas shrugged. “I like sitting on the sofa.”

“Alright,” James said, sitting down and pulling books out of his bag. Thomas nodded, sitting back down and grabbing his books to continue working. 

Chapter Text

James had been very adamant that when Thomas picked his classes he made sure that he was finished early enough on a Friday to be home in time to prepare for Shabbat. This kind-of-but-not-actually an order had caused a fight. Although looking back, ''fight may have been a bit of an exaggeration. Thomas made a total of one sass-filled comment, which caused James to snap back in frustration, leading to Thomas promptly shutting down and capitulating to James’ wishes.

Which is not what James wanted. He liked when Thomas sassed back. And he realised if he was going to get more sassy Thomas he needed to get better at holding his temper. The next hour of picking out classes was spent in near silence; Thomas simply agreed to whatever class James suggested with barely more than a nod or quiet “okay”. 

And now, on the morning of the first Friday of classes, James was stood watching Thomas pack his bag before they left. He wanted to bring up Shabbat, and after having a marginal amount of success with Shabbat the week before he thought (hoped, desperately hoped) it wouldn’t cause Thomas to lash out or shut down, but James wasn’t sure just how to go about doing that. 

Luckily he didn’t have to. Just as they were leaving the apartment, travel mugs of coffee in hand, Thomas turned to him with a completely unreadable expression and said,

“I won’t be home until late tonight.”

James startled, frowning a bit in confusion, “What? Why not? Shabbat starts today.”

“I’ve got plans,” Thomas shrugged, heading down the hall to the elevator, leaving James to lock the door. 

“What plans? With who?” James asked, locking the door quickly and jogging slightly to catch up to Thomas. 

“I wasn’t aware I needed to inform you of my every move,” Thomas glanced at James, raising an eyebrow. “You’re not my dom anymore.”

James flinched slightly, nodding. “Right. Yeah. Of course. You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to.”

Thomas gave a small nod, pressing the button to call the elevator and watching the numbers change in silence. Not a word was spoken between them when they entered the elevator. Or when they left the apartment building. Or walking down the street. It wasn’t until they arrived on campus and were about to go their separate ways that Thomas turned to James, tilted his head slightly to the side as he studied his husband and said,

“You worry about me.”

James looked over, confusion written all over his face as he nodded. “Yes, of course, Thomas. I’ve told you that.”

“Huh,” Thomas hummed before turning and heading into his building, leaving James staring after him in confusion. 

“Your fiancé is a dick,” Alexander said, dropping his bag onto the table and sitting across from James. The little cafe was full of Columbia students due simply to its proximity to campus but James had managed to snag a little table in the corner.

“Husband,” James corrected, looking up at Alexander.

“Whatever,” Alex shrugged, taking a sip of his coffee. “Either way - still a dick.”

“What did he do?” James asked, shutting his laptop. He knew he wouldn’t be getting any work done while Alexander was there.

“All week I’ve been very kindly attempting to become his friend and he keeps rebuffing me at every turn,” Alex said, resting his cup down and leaning towards James. “It’s rather rude.”

“You’re rather obnoxious,” James said, grabbing his tea. 

Alexander just rolled his eyes, unaffected by James’ comment. “Why is he ignoring me?”

“I don’t live in his head, Alexander,” James huffed. “I don’t know what Thomas is thinking or why he does the things he does.”

“He’s your submissive,” Alex pointed out. “Does he not talk to you?”

“No, Alexander, he does not,” James clenched his jaw a bit. “And currently he isn’t my submissive.”

Alex frowned, “What do you mean? You just said he’s your husband.”

“He is,” James nodded slowly, looking around to see if there was anyone around that would report back to his father or Thomas’. He didn’t see anyone but spoke quietly just in case, “But only on paper. I burned our betrothal contract.”

“Why would you do that?” Alex leaned forward, dropping his voice to match James’ in volume. 

“I’d rather not talk about it,” James said softly, biting his lip nervously. 

“Tough, because I want to know and I’m not going to stop asking until you tell me,” Alex said, a determined look on his face. James narrowed his eyes. Alex raised an eyebrow, gaze challenging James to argue. They stared each other down for a moment before James sighed.

“Fine,” James said, sitting back and holding his tea with both hands. “If you’re so determined to know, come over to my place after classes. I’ll explain there.”

“Okay,” Alex nodded, sipping his coffee. 

“Great,” James said, a bit annoyed with Alexander’s snooping but also wanting to get a second opinion on the situation. “Can I get back to what I was doing? I’ve got a paper to work on.”

“Sure sure,” Alex waved a hand at him, grabbing his bag as he stood. “See you later.”

“Bye,” James said, opening his laptop.

The knock at the door made James jump, looking up sharply from where he was reading on his Kindle. He dropped it onto the coffee table and stood, heading to the door. He checked the peephole, sighing when he saw not only Alexander but his rag-tag group of friends as well. James opened the door, fixing the shorter dominant with an unimpressed look.

“I’m pretty sure I only invited you, Hamilton,” James said, one hand resting on the doorframe. 

Alex shrugged, pushing past James into the apartment, “I wasn’t going to leave my submissive all alone on a Friday night. And Lafayette is Thomas’ cousin so of course, they needed to come. And obviously, Hercules wasn’t going to let his submissive run around alone on a Friday night.”

James sighed, rolling his eyes as he stood back and waved the others in. 

“Salut, mon ami,” Lafayette said as they passed, patting James’ chest gently. “Where’s Thomas?”

“I don’t know,” James said, shutting the door behind them. “All he said is he’ll be home late.”

Lafayette hummed thoughtfully, heading over to the living room. Alexander had already claimed one of the armchairs, lounging in it and looking around. 

“James? You got any kneeling cushions?” Alex asked, not even bothering to glance over at John who was stood awkwardly by the side of the chair.

“Yes,” James said, going over to the corner and grabbing a couple. “Here.” He tossed it at Alexander, the cushion landing by his feet.

“Thanks,” Alexander said dropping the cushion on the floor by his feet. He glanced up at John before looking away and gesturing for the submissive to kneel. John frowned, exhaling slowly before sliding to his knees at Alexander's side. 

“Do you want one as well, Lafayette?” James asked, holding out the other cushion to them. 

“Merci,” Lafayette said, taking the cushion in one hand and Hercules’ hand in the other, tugging him over to the sofa. They dropped the cushion onto the floor and knelt, resting their chin on Hercules’ knee when the dominant sat.

“So, James,” Alexander looked at him, taping his fingers on the armrest. “Storytime. Ready, set, go.”

“Fine by you can’t talk until the end,” James said, waiting for everyone’s nods before sitting down in the other armchair and running a hand through his hair before starting,

“As you know Thomas and I were engaged since we were kids. His family and mine are very traditional. We were both raised with very strict rules and expectations about how a dominant or submissive is supposed to act. I’m sad to say I never really questioned those expectations, not until you pointed out how shitty I was being, Alexander. It wasn’t until then that I realised how unfair I was being to Thomas and how I didn’t want a mindless robot as my husband and submissive. So from that moment, I tried to be better and fairer, hoping to get Thomas to be more comfortable and open up. And it was working, a bit, I think. 

“Over the winter break, we went back to spend Christmas with my family. And we had to pretend that I was that perfect commanding dominant and that Thomas was the perfect obedient submissive because his father was doubting my ability as a dominant. And I had to do some really awful things and treat Thomas really terribly to stop them from taking him away from me and marrying him off to someone much worse. And as a way to solidify my claim on Thomas my father decided it would be for the best that we were married. Immediately.

“But before we got married, Thomas had to convert. I didn’t want to make him do that. He didn’t want to do it. But our fathers were forcing it to happen and I was powerless to stop it. Once we were married I brought us straight back to New York, burned our betrothal contract and took back the collar so Thomas and I would be simply roommates and friends - equals - until a time when he wanted to be my submissive. And if he didn’t want that then I would gladly sign the divorce papers so he can be with someont that will make him happy.

“But ever since we got back, he’s been distant and while little snippets of his personality have started to show it’s not much and I’m worried I’m doing this all wrong and I don’t know how to get him to open up and trust me.”

The room lapsed into silence as James finished talking, the dominant staring down at his lap and nervously fiddling with the wedding ring that sat snug on his left hand. 

“Well, shit,” Alexander finally said, making James look up at him. “That sounds like quite a mess you’ve gotten into there, Madison.”

James narrowed his eyes, sarcastically muttering, “Brilliant analysis, Hamilton. Whatever would I have done without your excellent commentary?”

“It’s not surprising he doesn’t trust you,” John said, cutting off Alexander’s witty retort. “If your families were anything like mine he learned not to trust dominants when he was still a kid. It’s going to take more than a few months to earn that trust.”

“I know that,” James sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. “But I don’t even know how to go about trying to earn that trust! He is so closed off and doesn’t let his emotions show and barely ever offers up his opinion when we’re at home and-“

“When you’re at home?” Alexander interrupted. “Does he offer opinions to you somewhere else?”

“Yeah,” James nodded, brow furrowing a bit. “When we’re walking to and from campus. But he closes off whenver we get to either place.”

“Maybe he doesn’t feel comfortable here,” Lafayette offered, fingers tracing patterns on Hercules’ ankle. “I mean this place is nice, but it’s not really his is it? Your father bought this apartment with you in mind. And most of Thomas’ memories here are tainted by that awful contract and his belief that you’re just like all the other dominants he knows.”

“And maybe he feels safer talking when he’s in a neutral public place,” John added. “Somewhere public where you’re less likely to lash out if he says something wrong.”

James frowned, “I’d never-“

“He doesn’t know that,” John reminded him gently. “He can’t trust that you’re not going to snap and beat him at any moment. At least not yet.”

James sighed, shoulders slumping a bit, “What should I do?”

“Try and spend more time in netural places with him,” Hercules suggested. “Coffee shops, the park, the library. Let him get more comfortable talking to you in those places.”

“And keep being patient,” Lafayette continued, giving James a gentle smile. “It’s going to take lots of time but it’ll be worth it.”

“Yeah,” James said softly, giving a small nod. 

“And maybe look into getting a new place,” Alexander added with a small shrug. “Somewhere that he helps pick out so he’ll feel like it’s his too.”

“Okay,” James said, looking up and giving the others a grateful smile. Although he knew he still had a lot of work to do to earn Thomas’ trust (and hopefully love), the advice from his classmates (friends?) made him feel a bit less nervous and a bit more confident that this was something he would be able to accomplish. 

Chapter Text

“Thomas?” James sat up, rubbing his eyes as he checked the time. It was well after midnight so he must have fallen asleep watching a film after Alex, John, Lafayette, and Hercules had left. 

“Hey,” Thomas said softly, dropping his bag onto the kitchen counter. “Sorry I woke you.”

“It’s okay,” James said, brushing the blanket off his legs and standing. “Did you have a good time, wherever you were?”

“It was… informative,” Thomas said, pouring himself a glass of water. 

“Good,” James nodded, yawning. “Good. Any plans tomorrow?”

“I’ve got a paper to write,” Thomas said, drinking the entirety of his water in one go before placing the glass into the sink. “It’s late. I’m going to bed. Good night, James.”

“Good night, Thomas,” James said softly.

Thomas was the first one up the next day, waking with the first rays of the sun. He rolled over to look out the window and watch the sunrise over the buildings. The bed was warm and Thomas didn’t want to get up, wanting to stay cocooned in the duvet forever. But he had things to do that day so Thomas forced himself to kick off the duvet and slide out of bed. He stood and stretched, glancing once more out at the rising sun before leaving the bedroom.

James was still fast asleep on the couch and Thomas could hear the gentle puffs of his breathing. Thomas went over quietly, standing a couple feet away from the couch and watching his husband sleep. Right from the start, Thomas had always found it interesting to watch James sleep. When awake James was big and strong and at times overwhelmingly dominant. But when asleep, he looked soft and gentle and so much smaller than he was. It was a strange contrast that Thomas was sure he would never stop finding interesting. 

Thomas couldn’t help but smile slightly as James grumbled in his sleep, the rising sun casting light over his face. It made the submissive roll his eyes as he went over to make coffee. If James would just stop being so insistent that he sleep on the couch he wouldn’t have to be woken by the sun every day since they could close the curtains in the bedroom to lock the sun away. But James infuriatingly stubborn and would not budge. Thomas couldn’t decide if he liked or hated that quality in his husband. 

Thomas poured himself a cup of coffee once it was brewed, glancing over at James before grabbing another mug and making one for James as well. He grabbed both mugs, going over and resting James’ down on the coffee table directly in front of the dominant’s face before going back into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him.

James woke to the smell of coffee. The opened his eyes slowly, rubbing them as the mug of coffee came into focus. He frowned a little in confusion, wondering how that mug had gotten there, full and steaming with delicious, life-giving coffee. It wasn’t until he heard the sound of the shower running in the background that it clicked in his sleep-fog filled mind that Thomas must have made the coffee. He sat up, smiling as he reached out and grabbed the mug, bringing it up to his face and inhaling the beautiful smell. A soft sigh of pleasure fell from his lips as he took a sip, the warmth spreading through him and making him feel like an actual human. Thomas had learned quickly how to make James coffee exactly how he liked it, with the perfect amount of sugar (too much) and milk (way too much) to make the bitter drink palatable for the dominant. He sat and sipped at his coffee for a while, listening to the sound of the water running a couple rooms over and watching the sunrise. Even though it was only the first week of classes, and as such a relatively easy week, James was exhausted and extremely grateful that it was the weekend. 

The sound of the water shutting off made him glance over towards the bedroom doors. The thought crossed his mind to go thank Thomas for the coffee before he quickly dismissed it. He doubted the best way to get Thomas to start trusting him is to barge in when the submissive is half dressed and still dripping from his shower (as lovely as that mental image may be). Instead, James stood with a sigh, drinking the last of his coffee before going over to make breakfast. 

Thomas emerged from the bedroom, dressed in a pair of black jeans and a white button down shirt. James glanced up when he came him and Thomas noticed the way James’ eyes scanned him, making him shift nervously under his husband’s gaze. James must have noticed his discomfort because he quickly turned back to the stove where pancakes were cooking. Thomas said nothing as he went over and grabbed an assortment of berries from the fridge, placing them on the counter before grabbing a chopping board. The couple worked in silence, the only sound filling the apartment was that of the pancakes frying and fruit being chopped. Thomas had to abmit (silently to himself never out loud - ever) that he enjoyed this. He enjoyed when he and James would be working on something together but without the need for words. It was strange how James had only been helping in the kitchen for a couple weeks but they had easily settled into a rhythm, moving around each other like a dance. 

Thomas filled two bowls with fruit, shooting a glance at James before carrying them outside to the table on the balcony. It was an unseasonably warm day and Thomas wanted to spend as much of it outside as he could. He rested the bowls down, glancing over the rail to look down at the street below, watching the people and cars for a moment before returning inside.

James watched Thomas out of the corner of his eye as the submissive went about gathering all the things they’d need for breakfast. It wasn’t unusual for Thomas to be almost completely silent at home but today that silence wasn’t as heavy. It didn’t feel like Thomas was being silent because he had to but rather that he simply wanted to. The thought made James smile as he removed the last pancake from the pan and placed it in the dish with the others. He grabbed the dish and carried it out onto the balcony, resting it down on the center of the table that Thomas had immaculately set before glancing over to where Thomas was currently leaning against the balcony, head tilted slightly towards the sun. His eyes were closed and a soft smile was on his lips. James watched him, biting his bottom lip. Thomas looked so peaceful and happy and James didn’t want to distrub that. So instead he went back inside to grab a bottle of orange juice, giving the submissive another couple minutes to enjoy the sun. 

When he returned, bottle of juice in hand, Thomas was sat at the table, cellphone in hand and head bowed as he typed out a message to someone. James sat down across from him, resting the bottle of juice down between them before grabbing his bowl of fruit and a fork, stabbing a piece of pineapple and plopping it into his mouth. He watched Thomas for a minute, silently wondering who the submissive was texting but saying nothing since it was not his place to ask no matter how much he wanted to know. In an attempted to distract himself from the man sat across from him, James turned his gaze to the sky. 

The sun was almost fully risen at this point, casting its bright light over the city. James may dislike many decisions his father has made for him over the course of his life, but this apartment was not one of them. The apartment itself was beautiful and the view was worth every penny James Sr had paid for it. Truthfully, he was hesitant to give the place up, but Alexander’s advice about finding a new place, one that would be both Thomas’ and his, was a very good one. Now James just had to figure out how to bring the subject of moving up to Thomas.

Thomas finished texting and locked his phone, resting it down and glancing over at James. The dominant was staring out over the skyline, slowly eating his fruit with a small smile, looking completely relaxed. Thomas licked his lips, tapping his fingers on the side of his leg as he contemplated if he should say something. If he should tell James where he was last night and where he was planning on being the next day. Thomas swallowed, about to speak just as James let out a contented sigh and Thomas changed his mind. He looked down at the table, grabbing his bowl of fruit. He knew what he was about to say would cause James to get upset and Thomas didn’t want to ruin what was a truly peaceful morning. 

Thomas ate his fruit slowly, savouring every bite as he occassionally glanced up to watch James as the dominant watched the skyline. It was strange to have spent the entire morning in almost total silence but a nice kind of strange. Thomas licked the fruit juice off his lips after eating the last strawberry, resting his bowl back down on the table and reaching out to grab a pancake from the dish. His hand brushed against James’ as he did, making him glance over sharply, a blush spreading across his cheeks as he pulled his hand back. 

James smiled gently at him, grabbing his pancake before pushing the dish towards Thomas slightly. Thomas returned the smile shyly, reaching out and grabbing a pancake before looking away from James. He dropped the pancake onto his plate, adding a bit of syrup before cutting into it and taking a bite. This wasn’t the first time he’d had James’ pancakes but he was still surprised by just how good they tasted. They were fluffy and buttery, a perfect golden brown with a soft warm center. Thomas couldn’t help the pleased little hum that he made as he chewed, a small delighted smile on his lips. 

The sound made James chuckle softly and Thomas looked up, glancing over at his husband with a touch of hesitance. James just smiled at him, reaching out and grabbing the bottle of orange juice to pour some for the both of them before turning back to look out over the city while he ate his own pancakes. Thomas watched him for a minute, chewing on his bottom lip thoughtfully before returning to eating.

James finished eating first but continued to sit there, sipping absently on his orange juice. The morning had been perfect and he was hesitant to get up and break the calm by cleaning up and really putting a start to the day. He wanted to stay in that moment, that peaceful moment where he could pretend that he and Thomas were a happily in love married couple and not two basic strangers that were forced together. But of course all good things must come to an end and once Thomas had finished eating he stood, gathering up the dishes to take back inside. 

James sighed once Thomas had disappeared back into the apartment, standing and running a hand through his hair before grabbing the rest of the items on the table and taking them inside. He carried them over to the counter, resting them down next to the dishwasher that Thomas was currently loading before going back to lock the balcony door. Even though they were several stories above ground James was still immensely paranoid about locking doors, something that he could not explain even to himself. 

He returned to the kitchen to help Thomas finish cleaning up, only to find that the submissive was done. The dishwasher loaded and turned on and the leftovers packed away into the fridge. It amazed James sometimes how skilled Thomas was at cleaning until he remembered that the submissive had been taught his entire life how to keep a immaculate home. Thomas turned to him, giving James a small smile.

“Thank you for the pancakes,” he said softly, the first words spoken by either of them that morning.

“You’re welcome,” James said softly, returning Thomas’ smile. “You’ve got a paper to work on today right?”

“Yeah,” Thomas nodded, glancing over to where his bag was sat proped up against the desk. 

“I was thinking about going to the library on campus to get some work done,” James said, trying to sound casual. “Would you like to come with me? It’ll be nice to get out of the house for a while.”

Thomas said nothing for a moment, watching James with a completely unreadable expression. James hated how Thomas was so good at hiding his thoughts and emotions. It would be so much easier to understand the submissive if he let something slip on his face. But he never did and James was left wondering. 

“Sure,” Thomas finally said with a shrug.

“Really?” James smiled brightly. “Great. I’m going to take a quick shower and then we can go.”

“Alright,” Thomas said, smiling shyly as his phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out, checking his messages as James grabbed his own phone from the kitchen counter and made his way into the bedroom to get ready.

Chapter Text

Thomas and James spent most of the morning in the library, sat together at a table tucked in the corner, both working quietly on their own assignments. At lunchtime they packed up and went to a cafe near campus, where James decided he should finally bring up the idea of moving. He waited until their food had been ordered and they were both settled comfortably into a table. 

“Thomas?” James said, resting his phone face down on the table so he wouldn’t get distracted.

“Yes?” Thomas looked up, tucking his own phone away. 

“On Friday night, when you were out, Alexander, Lafayette, John, and Hercules came over,” James said, taking his napkin and picking at it a bit nervously.

“I didn’t think you were friends with them,” Thomas said, raising an eyebrow.

“I’m not really,” James shrugged. “Alexander and I were in a class together last semester and we did a projected together and ever since he’s been far too interested in me but anyway not the point. They were worried about us, about you.”

Thomas stiffened noticeably, back straightening as he narrowed his eyes slightly. “What did you tell them?”

James swallowed, “Well, basically everything.”

“Why?” Thomas’ voice was cold and James startled slightly at the tone. 

“Because I needed their advice,” James said softly. “Thomas, I’m way out of my depth here. And I want things to work between us but I don’t know how to go about making that happen. So I wanted to get someone else’s opinion on how to fix things between us. And I trust them.”

“I thought you said you’re not friends,” Thomas pointed out, glancing up as a waiter brought their food. He gave the waiter a small smile and a soft, “Thank you.” The waiter smiled in return before leaving. 

“I’m not,” James said, placing his napkin on the table and grabbing his spoon. “Well, I don’t know. Maybe I am. But either way I trust that they won’t go tell your father or mine anything.”

Thomas hummed, looking down at his plate, “What did they say?”

“Well,” James exhaled slowly, “they suggested that we find a new apartment.”

“What? Why?” Thomas looked up sharply, a hint of panic in his eyes that James couldn’t figure out the cause of.

“Because my father bought this place for me,” James explained gently. “And they suggested that it might be a good idea to find somewhere that is both of ours. So you can feel comfortable.”

“I’m comfortable,” Thomas insisted, his grip tight on his fork. “You don’t need to move because of me, James.”

“Thomas, I wouldn’t be doing it because of you,” James said gently. “I’d be doing it for you. Because I care about you. And I want you to be happy.”

“Why?” 

“Why what?”

“Why do you care about me? You barely know me,” Thomas directed his question to his plate so he missed the way James winced. 

“I know,” James sighed. “I don’t know you very well, but what I do know makes me care deeply for you, Thomas.”

Thomas said nothing in response, looking down at his food. James sighed again, biting his lip for a moment before speaking again.

“I’m sorry,” James whispered, fiddling with his wedding ring. “Maybe we should… do you want to… do you want a divorce, Thomas?”

Thomas flinched, chair scraping on the floor a bit at the force of his jerk. He looked up at James, eyes wide with fear as his hands began to tremble a bit. James mentally cursed himself, reaching out to take Thomas’ hand only to have the submissive jerk back like he’d been burned.

“Thomas, no, wait, I’m sorry, I’m not trying to get rid of you,” James said softly, calmly. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have… I’m sorry. I don’t want to get divorced. I just… I don’t want to force you to stay if you’re unhappy.”

“If you divorce me I go back to my father,” Thomas whispered, swallowing hard as he moved his hands to his lap. 

“I wouldn’t let that happen,” James said firmly. “I’d protect you.”

“You’d have no claim over me,” Thomas snapped. “If you’re so eager to get rid of me, James, just do it. Send me back to Virginia and wipe your hands clean of me since I’m obviously that much of a burden to you.”

“Thomas,” James gasped. “Thomas, no, you’re not a burden. I’m not sending you anywhere. I want you to be here. I want to be with you but I don’t think you do. And it’s so hard to know if you do or don’t when you don’t talk to me.”

“If I talk you’re going to hate me,” Thomas said softly in a rare moment of honesty, looking away from James. 

“No, Thomas, I won’t,” James said confidently. 

“I’m rude,” Thomas whispered, looking out the window. “Arrogant. Sarcastic. Far too bossy for a proper submissive.”

“I know,” James said softly. “I mean, I’d gathered as much based on the tiny little bits of yourself that you’ve let in rare moments. You’re filled with sass, Thomas, and so fucking smart. I read those essays you wrote last semester, I mentioned that right? They were brilliant, Thomas, and you never set foot on campus or into a lecture. I want to know more of you, Thomas. More of that brilliance and sarcasm and bossiness and everything your father tried to beat out of you.” He gave Thomas a small smile. “I know it’s hard to trust me right now. I haven’t really done much to earn your trust but I’m going to do everything I can. I just hope you give me the chance.”

“And if it turns out you don’t like me?” Thomas’ voice was quiet as he looked back over at James. “What’ll you do then? Where’ll that leave me?”

“Exactly where you are now,” James said, resting his hand on the table, palm up as a silent offering to Thomas. “In New York studying at one of the best schools in the world. I’d get you an apartment and make sure you had the resources to graduate and go into whatever field you want. I wouldn’t just leave you out on the street, Thomas, or send you back to Virginia to your father. No matter what.”

Thomas watched him, studying James’ face for any hint of a lie. James waited patiently, watching Thomas with a completely open expression, wanting the submissive to see the honesty and tentative hope on his face. Thomas must have seen something he liked because he reached out slowly and rested his hand on James’. The dominant smiled softly, giving Thomas’ hand a gentle squeeze. 

They returned to the library after finishing lunch. As they were walking the short way from the cafe to campus, Thomas slipped his hand into James’ without a word. The dominant glanced over at him but said nothing, just giving the warm hand a soft squeeze and smiling as they continued their walk. The table they’d been sitting at before was taken so instead they went to the other side of the library and found a table behind a couple rows of bookshelves and settled in. The afternoon passed in silence as the pair worked on their papers. Thomas finished the first draft of his quite quickly, words flowing easily onto the page as he constructed his argument. James was having a bit more trouble with his paper but managed to get most of it done by the time the sun was beginning to set and stomachs started to rumble. 

“Shall we go?” James whispered to Thomas, shutting and packing away his laptop. Thomas looked up from his textbook, having moved on to some reading after he finished writing. 

“Sure,” Thomas whispered, packing his things away quickly before standing and pulling on his coat. He slung his messenger bag over his shoulder and wrapped his scarf around his neck. James did the same, checking the time on his phone as he headed towards the door. Thomas followed behind them and just after they stepped outside he once again slipped his hand into James. This made James smile brightly, squeezing Thomas’ hand firmly as they made their way down the street. 

“So,” Thomas said softly, glancing over at James. “A new apartment?”

“Yeah,” James said, looking at him. “We can start looking at places online tomorrow if you’d like.”

“I’ve got plans tomorrow morning,” Thomas said softly. “But maybe after lunch?”

“Okay,” James said, giving Thomas’ hand a gentle squeeze as the passed a dark alleyway and Thomas froze, causing James to stop as well. “What is it?”

“I heard something,” Thomas said, looking into the alley. He took a step towards the alley, frowning. “It sounds like a cat.”

“What?” James said, following him as Thomas crouched down at the entrance to the alley, opening the top of a cardboard box that was sitting there.

“Oh,” Thomas said softly, reaching in and pulling out a black cat with white patch on its stomach. “Hello.” 

“Oh, poor thing,” James said, pulling off his scarf as the cat meowed sadly, trembling in Thomas’ hands. “It’s probably freezing. Here.” He wrapped his scarf around the cat, letting Thomas cuddle the cat to his chest. 

“It’s so small,” Thomas said, standing and holding the cat close. 

“It is,” James said softly, looking at the cat as it curled up in the scarf. 

“We should get it home,” Thomas whispered, tucking the cat into his coat. 

“You want to keep it?” James asked, looking a little surprised.

“Yeah,” Thomas said softly, looking down at the cat. “I like cats. But my father never let me have one.”

“Well keep it then,” James smiled, resting a hand on Thomas’ back and leading him towards the apartment. 

“Really?” Thomas couldn’t help his smile, holding the cat tight. 

“Yeah,” James nodded. “I’ve always liked cats. We’ll get it home and then I’ll go get some supplies for it.”

“Okay,” Thomas said softly, smiling. “Thanks, James.”

“You’re welcome, Thomas,” James said with a fond look. They made their way back to the apartment quickly, wanting to get the cat inside out of the cold. James unlocked the door, letting Thomas go in first. The kitten was meowing softly the entire way home and James thought it sounded too quiet, making James worried. 

“We should take it to the vet,” Thomas said softly, taking his bag off his shoulder and dropping it into the counter, the cat still curled into his chest. “And it’s probably hungry.”

“I’ll go to the store now,” James said. “Could you search and see if there are any vets nearby that are open now?”

“Sure,” Thomas nodded, taking the cat out of his coat and resting it on the counter. He checked the cat over, not finding any visible injuries. The cat continued to tremble a bit, meowing pitifully as it stared up at Thomas. It was only then that Thomas realised that the mark on the cat’s stomach looked like a heart. It made Thomas smile as he ran a gentle hand down the cat’s back. “It’s okay, little one. You’re safe now.”

The cat looked up at him, hesitantly nuzzling into his hand. 

“I’m going to go now,” James said, grabbing a different scarf since he was covered in dirt and cat hair. “See if it wants a drink - water not milk yeah? It looks like it’s a grown up so milk will make it sick.”

“Yes, sir,” Thomas said instinctively, completely focused on petting the cat to calm it down. James swallowed, not bothering to say anything since Thomas didn’t seem to notice and left. 

Chapter Text

“Did you find somewhere?” James asked as he returned with the supplies he’d managed to get from the store. He dropped the bag onto the counter before going over to where Thomas was sat on the couch with the cat in his lap.

“Yeah,” Thomas nodded, looking up as he continued to pet the cat gently. “We’ll need to drive there or take a taxi but they’re open twenty-four-seven and are expecting us.”

“Alright,” James nodded, going over and sitting down next to him. “How’s the cat doing?”

“He’s doing fine,” Thomas said, shifting the cat so James could pet it as well. “He drank some water and stopped shivering a while ago.”

“Good,” James smiled, scratching under the cat’s chin. “He needs a name.”

“Yeah,” Thomas hummed, giving James the cat so he could stand and put his coat back on. “Any suggestions?”

James made a face, thinking before shrugging, “Liberty?”

“Liberty?” Thomas raised an eyebrow. 

“Yeah,” James smiled, standing and holding the cat gently. “‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.”

Thomas laughed, “The Declaration of Independence? Really?”

“I like history,” James shrugged, smiling at Thomas as he walked over and held the cat out to Thomas. “You got any suggestions?”

“Macaroni,” Thomas said without hesitation, rubbing his face against the cat’s soft fur. 

“Macaroni?” James laughed, looking at Thomas with a bright smile. 

“Yeah,” Thomas nodded, hiding his own smile in the cat’s fur. “I like macaroni.”

“I gathered that by how much you would make it,” James said, grabbing his car keys. “Come on, let’s go get this little guy to the vet. We can talk about names on the way.”

They didn’t have to spend long at the vet before their new cat was given a clean bill of health. The as-yet-unnamed cat (“Macaroni is a great name!” “It’s a food, Thomas!”) is perfectly healthy apart from a bit of dehydration and malnutrition. While they were at the vet James bought a few more things for the cat - a litter box, cat carrier, a couple cat toys, a bed. Thomas was reluctant to put the cat in the carrier, not wanting to let the tiny creature out of his arms. The vet had managed to convince him that it was safest for the cat in the carrier so Thomas tucked the tiny creature inside while James made an appointment to bring the cat back to get his shots. Once everything was sorted out, Thomas grabbed the carrier and followed James to the car.

“I still like Macaroni,” Thomas said as James drove them home, glancing down to check the carrier at his feet. “It’s a great name.”

“My vote is still for Liberty,” James said, looking over to Thomas with a smile. 

“We’ve hit a stalemate then,” Thomas said, watching James’ profile as the dominant focused on the road. “How will we decide?”

“We could ask for some else’s opinion,” James suggested with a shrug. “Why don’t you give Lafayette a call?”

“Okay,” Thomas said, pulling out his phone and dialling his cousin’s number instantly. James' suggested had been phrased close enough to an order that it made the knot in Thomas' stomach loosen a bit.

Lafayette answered quickly, sounding extremely happy, “Thomas! Mon ami! Ça va?”

“Ça va bien, Laf,” Thomas smiled. “Et tu?”

“Tres bien, merci, mon ami,” Lafayette said. 

“James is here too,” Thomas said, switching back to English so James could understand. He put the phone on speaker and held it between himself and James. “Say hi.”

“Hello, James,” Lafayette said.

“Hi, Laf,” James smiled. “Thomas and I have a question for you.”

“Okay, mon ami. What is it?”

“We found a cat on the way home from the library,” Thomas explained. “And we decided to keep it. But we can’t agree on what we should name it.” 

“What’re the choices?” Lafayette said, their voice sounding a little farther away so Thomas assumed they’d put the call on speaker as well. 

“James wants to name him Liberty,” Thomas continued. “And I want to name him Macaroni.”

“Macaroni!” Alexander’s voice didn’t surprise Thomas all that much but the submissive still rolled his eyes in response.

“Yes, Hamilton, Macaroni,” Thomas huffed.

“Which do you think we should name him?” James said, smiling as the cat meowed at Thomas’ feet.

“Neither,” Alex said, voice filled with mirth. “You should call it Chatûl.”

Thomas laughed, loud and surprised, “Chatûl really, Hamilton?”

“Yeah,” Alex laughed. 

“What’s that mean?” John spoke up. 

“Is that Hebrew?” James asked, glancing over at Thomas.

“Yeah,” Thomas nodded, still chuckling softly to himself. 

“What’s it mean?” Hercules asked, sounding the furthest away from the phone. 

“I didn’t know you spoke Hebrew, Hamilton,” Thomas said, ignoring everyone’s questions. 

“If you’d stop being such a jerk and actually accepted my offer of friendship maybe you would,” Alexander responded. 

“Why do you know Hebrew?” Thomas asked.

“I’m not fluent or anything,” Alexander said and Thomas could hear his shrug. “But I picked some stuff up as a kid.”

“That’s all you’re going to share?” Thomas huffed.

“Not like you share things about yourself,” Alexander pointed out. 

“Boys,” Lafayette interrupted, sounding amused. “Stop bickering and tell us what Chatûl means.”

“It means cat,” Thomas explained, chuckling softly at the thought of naming the cat 'cat'. James laughed as well, glancing over at Thomas with a smile.

“You’d name our cat 'cat'?” James chuckled. 

“No,” Thomas grinned. “But it’s an interesting idea.”

“I quite like the name Liberty,” John said. 

“Oui, moi aussi,” Lafayette said. “Liberté is a lovely name.”

“That’s three votes to one,” James teased, looking over at Thomas. “Looks like Liberty it is.”

“Ah, no, Hamilton and Mulligan haven’t said anything yet,” Thomas pointed out, giving the phone a little shake. 

“I’m gonna have to say Liberty too,” Hercules said. “Sorry, Thomas.”

Thomas huffed, pouting a bit, “Hamilton?”

“My vote is still Chatûl,” Alexander laughed.

“Alright goodbye,” Thomas said, hanging up and dropping his phone into his lap with a huff. He crossed his arms and looked out the window, pouting.

“So, I guess we’re naming him Liberty,” James said, glancing over at Thomas with a smile. His smile stiffened and dropped a bit when he saw the look on Thomas’ face. “Thomas? We can call him Macaroni if it matters that much to you.”

Thomas turned his head to look at him, watching James’ profile silently as the dominant turned into the apartment building’s underground parking. James kept shooting him glances as he parked, concerned that Thomas had suddenly shut down. 

“Thomas?” James said softly once the car was parked, turning to look at him to find Thomas staring back at him.

“Would you really let me name the cat Macaroni to make me happy? Even though you don’t like the name?” Thomas asked softly.

“Yes,” James nodded.

“Because you care about me,” Thomas whispered. Not a question.

“Yes,” James said softly.

Thomas gave a slow nod, biting his bottom lip gently before smiling slightly. “We can call him Liberty. As long as you agree to name the next cat we get Macaroni.”

“Deal,” James smiled, giving a small nod.

“James?” Thomas said softly as they sat, already in their pyjamas, on either side of the couch, a movie softly playing on the television, a fire roaring. The cat was curled up on the couch between them, happily fed and warm. 

“Yes, Thomas?” James looked over at him, yawning slightly.

“Were you serious about moving?” Thomas whispered.

“Yeah,” James nodded, smiling softly. “I was thinking we could get somewhere bigger? Maybe a two-bedroom place.”

“I’m sure you’d appreciate not having to sleep on the couch anymore,” Thomas said, reaching out and petting Liberty gently. “Although you don’t have to sleep on the couch but you’re too stubborn to listen.”

“I don’t want to pressure you,” James said softly.

“Sharing a bed isn’t pressuring me into anything,” Thomas pointed out softly. “It’s just sleeping. We can share the bed without anything happening.”

“I know that, Thomas, I just,” James sighed. “I don’t think its a good idea. Not yet. Not until our relationship is on better terms.”

“Okay,” Thomas whispered, looking down at his lap. It was almost an order, so tantalisingly close to an order that Thomas wasn’t going to argue.

“So we can start looking for places tomorrow afternoon,” James said softly. “After you’re finished whatever it was you’re doing in the morning. We’ll get a two bedroom place and have separate rooms for now. And if - yes, Thomas, if - our relationship gets to the place again then the second bedroom can be a guest room.”

“Alright,” Thomas said, picking Liberty up and placing him in his lap, gently stroking the cat’s back. 

“Where are you doing tomorrow?” James asked softly, pulling his blanket tighter around himself. “If you don’t mind me asking."

“Research,” Thomas said softly, tucking his face into Liberty’s fur. 

“Research?” James said slowly. 

“Research,” Thomas nodded, peaking out at James over Liberty’s head. 

“For what?” 

Thomas shrugged, “Personal stuff.”

“Right,” James sighed softly, grabbing his phone to check the time. 

“Do you really want to know?” Thomas whispered, watching James hesitantly.

“Yes, because I’m curious,” James nodded. “But, I don’t want you to tell me unless you truly want to.”

“Okay,” Thomas whispered, gently stroking Liberty’s soft fur. "Promise you won't be mad?"

"Of course I won't be mad, Thomas," James said gently. "You can do whatever you like. And you don't have to tell me if you don't want to." He was silent for a long time before whispering something.

“What?” James said, not quite catching what Thomas said. 

“I’m going to church,” Thomas said, looking over at James nervously. 

James frowned, “Why? Thomas, I told you-“

“Because I want to,” Thomas said, setting Liberty down when the cat squirmed in his arms. Liberty ran off, heading towards his bowls in the kitchen. “Because you keep insisting on learning about Judaism since it’s a big part of me and I want to learn about Christianity because it’s a big part of you.”

“I’m not really all that religious, Thomas,” James shrugged. “I mean I believe in God but I don’t care for church or anything.”

“I still want to learn,” Thomas said softly, fiddling with his blanket nervously. Bringing up this topic never failed to lead to an argument (or what counted as an argument between them considering Thomas never argued with James) and Thomas really didn’t want that, not after the truly pleasant day they had. 

“Because you want to or because you think you have to?” James asked softly, eyes narrowed a bit. 

“For the same reason you want to learn about Judaism,” Thomas whispered, chewing on his lip. “Because I care about you and want to know more about you.”

James let out a soft huff, shaking his head slightly. “Okay. I’ll come with you then. If you don’t mind.”

“I thought you said you don’t like church,” Thomas pointed out softly. 

“I like you,” James whispered. Thomas blushed, ducking his head and swallowing the lump in his throat before nodding and standing.

“I’m leaving at ten-thirty,” Thomas said softly, folding the blanket and resting it over the arm of the couch. 

“I’ll be ready,” James said softly, watching Thomas with a small smile. “Good night, Thomas.”

“Good night, James,” Thomas whispered, glancing at the dominant before quickly going into the bedroom. He shut the door behind him, leaning against it with a sigh. He listened to the sound of James moving around the living room - dousing the fire, turning off the television, checking that there was enough water for Liberty. Thomas exhaled slowly, running a hand through his hair. He wanted to go back out there and ask - beg - James to come sleep in the bed. After months of sharing a bed, Thomas found it difficult to sleep alone and after having such a nice day with James, Thomas wanted nothing more than to curl up next to the dominant. But Thomas knew that James would just keep saying no, keep insisting that sleeping separately was for the best. And that little thing, that little insistence that was close enough to being an order that it satisfied the submissive instinct in him, no matter how fleeting, was something Thomas desperately clung to since James was firmly against dominating Thomas in any way. 

The light in the living room switched off and Thomas listened as James settled down on the sofa. He bit his lip, hand moving to the door handle for a brief moment before he sighed and pushed himself away, going over to the bed and climbing in. He curled up on his side under the duvet, tucking his hands in front of his chest, inner wrists touching as if they were bound together. It took a while but eventually, Thomas was able to fall into an uneasy sleep. 

Chapter Text

“So?” James asked as he and Thomas left the church following the service. “What did you think?”

“It was interesting,” Thomas said, adjusting his gloves before slipping his hand into James’. “They talk about Jesus a lot.”

James laughed, squeezing Thomas’ hand gently, “Yeah. They do.”

Thomas hummed, squeezing James’ hand back as they walked down the street towards their apartment, thinking back over the church service. 

“What’re you thinking about?” James asked softly, smiling gently at Thomas. 

“Just that it wasn’t that different to the Shabbat morning services I grew up going to,” Thomas said, looking over at James. “The prayers weren’t in Hebrew and there was a lot of Jesus talk but the structure was basically the same. Lots of praying and sitting and standing.”

“Yeah, I guess that would make sense since Christianity did develop out of Judaism,” James shrugged. “Since Jesus was Jewish after all. And our Old Testament is the same as the Torah right?”

“The Tanakh,” Thomas corrected gently. “The Torah is just the first five books. The Tanakh is the name for twenty-four books that were the original source of your Old Testament.” 

“Oh okay,” James nodded. “I’ve always just heard the Torah being mentioned but I guess that’s because the western world is really shit at representing other cultures in an accurate light.”

Thomas gave a soft laugh, “Yeah. I suppose it doesn’t.”

“I’ve got an idea,” James said softly as they approached their building.

“Oh?” Thomas hummed. 

“I’ll teach you all I know about Christianity,” James said softly. “If you teach me all you know about Judaism. We can do Shabbat on Fridays and Saturdays and go to church on Sundays. And celebrate both sets of holidays.”

“That sounds like a lot,” Thomas said, pushing open the door to the building. 

“Yeah, but as you’ve so clearly pointed out, we are both stubborn and since we both want to learn about the other’s religion this is the best course of action,” James stepped inside, sighing at the warmth. “And then at some point, we can pick and choose which parts of each religion we want to keep. That’s what people do anyway, isn’t it? Stand behind the parts of religion they agree with and ignore the parts that contradict them.”

“I suppose that is what some people do,” Thomas agreed, pressing the button for the elevator. 

“And we can do what we like,” James said, giving Thomas’ hand a squeeze as the doors to the elevator opened. “It’s our lives.”

“We can,” Thomas agreed, stepping into the elevator with James and pressed the button, the doors sliding shut behind them. 

The afternoon was spent doing just as James suggested. They sat on the couch, trading information about their respective religions. Thomas knew more about Christianity than James knew about Judaism due simply to the prevalence of Christianity in western culture. Liberty joined them on the couch and alternated between their laps for his naping. Neither James nor Thomas noticed how much time had passed, enjoying their conversation too much to bother to pay attention to anything else. It wasn’t until the room had grown dark that James checked the time and sighed.

“It’s almost dinner time,” James said, standing and stretching. “What do you want for dinner?”

Thomas shrugged, “I don’t care. You pick.”

“Chinese?” James suggested.

“Sure,” Thomas nodded. 

“I’ll order it,” James smiled. “Can you feed Liberty?”

“Okay,” Thomas said, standing and heading into the kitchen. Liberty followed at his heels, meowing and rubbing against his legs. “Alright, Liberty, alright. I’m coming.” Thomas laughed, grabbing the cat food and filling Liberty’s bowl quickly. He placed the bowl on the floor and Liberty quickly attacked it, eating happily, tail swishing lazily. Thomas smiled as he watched the cat eat, leaning against the counter and listening to James order their food. 

“Do you want to watch something?” James asked once he’d hung up, slipping his phone into his pocket. 

“Sure,” Thomas said, pushing off the counter and walking over to sit back down on the couch. 

“What would you like to watch?” James asked, sitting down next to him. 

“I don’t know,” Thomas leaned against the arm of the couch, running a hand through his hair. 

“Want me to pick?” James grabbed the remote. 

“Yes,” Thomas nodded, barely managing to hold back the ‘sir’. 

“Alright,” James said, opening Netflix and scrolling through until he found some film one of his classmates had recommended and turned it on. 

Thomas didn’t know where he was. He tried moving but his arms and legs seemed to be tied down. Something was tied tight around his eyes, leaving him in total darkness and it was cold. So cold that it seeped into his bones, chilling him from the inside out and making him shiver continually. Thomas swallowed, listening carefully to try and find some indication of where he was. Nothing. Not a single sound. Just complete darkness and overwhelming silence. 

Fear settled into his stomach, forming a tight knot. There was a burning behind his eyes as tears started to form, breath hitching as his heart sped up.

Where was he? What’s going on? Why’s it so quiet? Where’s James?

James.

“James?” Thomas called out hesitantly, hands clenching into fists around the rope holding him in place. “James!”

Nothing.

Thomas sobbed softly, tugging at his bonds, making the rope dig into his wrists painfully but he didn’t stop. He kept pulling and pulling. He needed to get up. Needed to get the blindfold off so he could see. Need to get the ropes off so he could move, could get away. 

“James!” Thomas yelled, breath hitching. “James! James, help! James!”

Who did this to him? Where was James? Did James do this to him? 

Thomas sobbed, tugging sharply at the ropes. He could feel the blood dripping down his arms as the rope cut open his skin. 

“James!” Thomas sobbed, the blindfold growing wet with his tears. “James! Please! I’m sorry! I’ll be good! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’ll be good. Please! James!”

Footsteps. Slow and heavy. Making their way over to where Thomas was tied up. Thomas swallowed hard, trying to stop his sobs.

“James?” Thomas said hesitantly, turning his head to the direction that he thought the footsteps were coming from. “James? I’m sorry. I’ll be good. I’ll be better. I’m sorry. James, I-“

A knife pressed against his throat cut him off, making Thomas’ gasp as the sharp blade dug into his skin just enough that a small drop of blood startled to trickle down his skin. Thomas choked back a sob, entire body freezing up in fear as the tip of the knife was dragged up his neck, over his jaw and cheek. 

“Please,” Thomas whispered, voice shakey. “James, please.”

The knife was pressed against his lips, making Thomas whimper, falling silent. He chocked back a sob as the knife was removed from his skin. He listened as the footsteps walked away, getting quieter and quieter before there was the sound of a door shutting and then there was silence. 

“James!” Thomas screamed, fighting against his bonds again. “James! Please! I’ll be good! Come back! Please!” He sobbed, blood dripping down his wrists and neck. “James!”

“Thomas?!”

Thomas woke with a jerk, falling off the couch and landing on the floor with a pained whimper. A hand reached out to him, landing gently on his shoulder but Thomas flinched, scrambling away from the touch and whining. 

“Sorry,” he whimpered. “I’m sorry. Sorry. Please.”

“Thomas?” James whispered, voice soft and hesitant. Thomas whimpered, still moving away from James until his back hit the fireplace. He curled up, pulling his knees to his chest and hiding his face in them. Thomas’ entire body was trembling as he sobbed into his knees. 

“I’m sorry,” he continued to whisper between sobs. “Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Please. I’ll be good. I’m sorry.”

“Thomas, darling,” James said softly, kneeling a couple feet away. “You’re okay. It was just a nightmare. You’re okay.”

“Please,” Thomas whimpered, glancing up hesitantly at James. “I’m sorry. I’ll be good.”

“You are good,” James whispered, giving Thomas a gentle smile. “You’re so good, Thomas. It was just a nightmare. You’re okay. You’re safe.”

Thomas squeezed his eyes shut, pressing his forehead against his knees and crying. James watched him, still sitting a little away from him to give the submissive some space. Liberty came over, rubbing against Thomas’ legs and meowing softly, concerned. Thomas looked up at him, uncurling a bit to pick Liberty up and hug him tight. He pressed his face into Liberty’s fur, still crying softly. After a few minutes of crying, Thomas was finally able to calm down, breath calming and heartbeat returning to a normal rhythm. Liberty stayed still in Thomas’ arms the entire time, purring softly and giving his human all the comfort he could. 

“Thomas?” James said softly once Thomas’ tears had stopped. 

Thomas swallowed and looked up at him, whispering, “Sorry.”

“You don’t need to apologise, Thomas,” James said gently. “Do you want some water?” Thomas shrugged, petting Liberty gently, wiping his tear covered face with one hand. James gave Thomas a gentle smile. “You should drink something.” 

Thomas didn’t say anything, just looked down at Liberty and rubbed his nose against the cat’s head. Liberty meowed, licking Thomas’ face gently. James sighed, standing up.

“I’m going to get you a drink,” James said, standing. “Do you think you can move to the couch? It’ll be comfier.” Thomas shrugged, glancing up at James through his eyelashes. “Thomas?”

Thomas swallowed, looking down and blinking away the tears that were forming in his eyes again. Liberty meowed, rubbing his head against Thomas’ cheek and licking away his tears. 

“Thomas, darling,” James said softly, crouching down in front of him and reaching out to gently rest a hand on Thomas’ shoulder. “Come sit on the couch.”

“Yes sir,” Thomas whispered, shrugging off James’ hand and standing slowly. James stood as well, staying close as Thomas walked over to the couch just in case Thomas needed help. He didn’t and soon enough Thomas was curled into the arm of the couch, still hugging Liberty close. James gave a small nod before going into the kitchen to get Thomas a glass of water. 

“Here you go, darling,” James said softly, sitting down next to Thomas and holding out the glass. 

“Thank you, sir,” Thomas whispered, taking the glass and sipping it slowly. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” James asked softly. 

“Not really,” Thomas whispered, biting his lip as he held the glass with both hands. “What time is it?”

“After midnight,” James whispered. “You fell asleep watching the movie after dinner.” 

“Sorry,” Thomas breathed, swallowing.

“It’s okay,” James reached out hesitantly, resting a hand on Thomas’ arm. “You were calling out to me. You sounded so scared, Thomas.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Thomas said, resting his glass down on the coffee table. 

“Okay,” James said with a small nod. “It’s late. Do you think you can sleep?”

Thomas shrugged. He didn’t think so but James was probably tired and wanted Thomas to go to bed so James could go to sleep. Thomas held Liberty close to his chest as he stood, making his way slowly to the bedroom. 

“Night,” Thomas whispered, slipping inside and shutting the door before James could respond. The bedroom was quiet and dark, making Thomas’ heart beat a little faster as the memory of his nightmare started to overwhelm him. Liberty nudged his chin, scratchy tongue licking his neck and pulling Thomas back to the present. 

“I’m okay, Liberty,” Thomas whispered, not knowing if he was trying to convince the cat or himself. “I’m okay.” Liberty meowed, watching him. Thomas smiled shakily, pressing a kiss on the top of Liberty’s head. He went over and rested Liberty down on the bed before going to get changed into his pyjamas. When he returned from changing and brushing his teeth, Liberty had curled up one of the pillows, head resting on his paws. He opened his eyes lazily when Thomas climbed into the bed, giving a small meow before shutting his eyes again. Thomas smiled, laying on his side facing Liberty and reaching out to gently run his fingers down the cat’s back. 

He could hear James moving around the living room and vaguely wondered if he would come into the bedroom to get changed for bed. His question was answered a moment later when the bedroom door opened slowly and James stepped inside. Thomas laid silently on the bed, listening to James move around, getting changed before heading into the bathroom to brush his teeth. The sound of James in the room helped Thomas to relax, things weren’t as scary in the dark when he could hear James. But he knew the room would once again descend into silence when James went back into the living room to sleep and the thought made him whimper slightly. 

“Thomas?” James said softly, moving from the bathroom door where he was turning off the light to the bed. “Thomas, are you okay?”

“Please don’t leave,” Thomas whispered, swallowing hard as he looked up at James, eyes pleading. “Please. I’ll be good just please don’t leave.”

“Oh, Thomas,” James sat down on the side of the bed, reaching out and gently running a hand through the distressed submissive’s hair. 

“Please,” Thomas whimpered, leaning into James’ touch. “Please, just tonight. Please don’t leave.”

“Okay,” James said softly, smiling gently down at Thomas in the dimly lit room. “Let me just go turn off the lights in the living room. I’ll be right back.”

“Thank you, sir,” Thomas whispered, shutting his eyes as James stood and quickly went into the living room. Thomas clutched the duvet tight as he listened to James move around the living room, shutting off lights and tidying a bit before returning to the bedroom. He shut the door and went over to the bed quietly, gently pushing Liberty off the pillow before sliding into the bed. Thomas breathed out a relieved sigh as James settled down beside him, turning to face James and sliding over to curl into James’ side. 

“Thank you,” Thomas repeated, resting his head on James’ chest and wrapping an arm around the dominant’s waist.

“You’re welcome, Thomas,” James whispered, running a hand through Thomas’ hair. “Try and get some sleep okay? I’m not leaving you.”

“Okay,” Thomas whispered, shutting his eyes and focusing on the gentle rise and fall of James’ chest and his soft breathing. The sound and touch were enough to chase away the last remnants of fear from his nightmare and help Thomas to calm enough to fall asleep again, this time without any nightmares or dreams at all.

Chapter Text

When Thomas woke the next morning James was gone from the bed. For a moment Thomas panicked, thinking that James had left completely, but then he heard the sound of the shower running and breathed a sigh of relief. 

He’s just getting ready for classes. No need to panic.

Thomas sat up with a sigh, running a hand over his face before kicking off the duvet and standing. Liberty meowed in annoyance when the duvet was flopped over on top of him making Thomas chuckle lightly.

“Come on then, Lib,” he said, pulling the duvet off. “Let’s go get some breakfast.”

Liberty stood up and stretched, meowing softly at Thomas as he jumped off the bed and headed to the kitchen. Thomas followed him, pulling off his bonnet and dropping it onto the table by the bedroom door. 

“What should we have for breakfast today, Lib?” Thomas asked, running a hand through his curls. “Well, you’re having the usual, Liberty. Since you’re a cat and all. But what shall James and I have, hmm?” Liberty meowed, sitting down by his bowl and waiting for Thomas to fill it. His tail was flicking back and forth across the floor lazily as he watched Thomas. 

“Yes, yes, I’m coming,” Thomas chuckled, grabbing Liberty’s bowl and filling it with food. “Here you go, Lib.” Thomas placed the bowl in front of him, scratching behind Liberty’s ears before stepping away to make breakfast for himself and James. 

Thomas was just finishing the scrambled eggs he was making when James came in, freshly showered and dressed.

“Good morning,” Thomas said, looking over at him with a small smile. “I made eggs.”

“I see,” James smiled as well, walking over. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Thomas shrugged. “I thought we could have a proper breakfast and maybe look at potential apartments since neither of us has classes until ten.”

“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” James said as he made two cups of coffee. “I’ll get my laptop.”

“Okay,” Thomas said, serving up the eggs and toast onto two plates and taking it over to counter. He sat down, pulling his mug of coffee close and glancing over to where James was pulling his laptop from his bag. The dominant looked nice in his black slacks and deep red sweater, making Thomas bite his bottom lip as he watched him. 

“We want to stay close to campus, right?” James said, moving over to the counter and sitting next to Thomas. He rested the laptop between them, opening it and signing in quickly. “I like being able to walk to and from campus.”

“I do too,” Thomas nodded, taking a bite of his toast. “Definitely want to stay near here. Have you checked to see if there are any open units in this building?”

“Not yet,” James said, pulling up a browser to do just that. He took a sip of his coffee before scooping a bit of egg onto his fork while the page loaded. 

“Are you still adamant that we have separate rooms?” Thomas asked softly. 

“Yes,” James nodded, looking over at Thomas with a gentle smile. “Just for now, Thomas.” Thomas gave a small nod, looking down at his plate and taking a few small bites. James sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Why do you want to share so much, Thomas? Can you explain it to me?”

Thomas said nothing for a moment, eating slowly as he thought of the best way to explain things. “I sleep better when you’re there. And I feel safe when you’re there.”

“Your nightmare,” James said softly. “Do you have those often?”

Thomas shrugged, “I suppose.”

“Why haven’t you said anything before?” James rested a hand on Thomas’ arm. 

“I’m used to doing things alone my entire life,” Thomas explained softly. “And I wasn’t sure you truly cared.” His voice grew quieter and more hesitant. “I’m still not sure.”

“Oh, Thomas,” James sighed, squeezing Thomas’ arm gently. “I wish you would’ve told me.”

“I’m telling you now,” Thomas looked over at James. “I don’t want to have separate rooms. I like when you sleep next to me. I like knowing you’re there and hearing you breathe.”

“I’m still not sure it’s the best idea, Thomas,” James said softly, looking conflicted. 

“Why? Because we’re not really together? Because we’re only married because our parents made us?” Thomas’ brow furrowed a bit. 

“Because I’ve already done enough to hurt you,” James said softly, “I don’t want to do anymore.” 

“Not sharing a bed with me hurts me,” Thomas pointed out softly. “I don’t have nightmares when you’re with me. I sleep better when you’re there.” 

James sighed, taking Thomas’ hand and squeezing it gently. “Okay, fine. But we’re still getting a two-bedroom place. Just in case you need to somewhere to escape. And having an extra bedroom is always a good idea.”

“But we’ll share?” Thomas asked softly, sounding a little hopeful.

“We’ll share,” James nodded, giving Thomas a small smile. “As long as you promise to tell me if you need space.” 

“I promise,” Thomas said, smiling. “Thank you, James.”

“Thank you for being honest with me,” James said gently. “And telling me what you want and need.”

Thomas’ smile grew shy, a light flush spreading across his cheeks. He ducked his head, looking at his plate. James smiled, giving Thomas’ hand another gentle squeeze before dropping it to click around on their building’s website.

“It looks like there are a couple two bedroom units available,” James said, sipping his coffee while he scrolled through. “I’ll send in an enquiry. Staying in this building would be ideal.”

“It’s a nice building,” Thomas agreed softly, gaze turned back to his plate as he ate the rest of his eggs. 

“Yeah and truthfully I’d rather not have to move far,” James took a bite of his toast before typing up a message of interest about the apartment. 

“Thomas!” Alexander called, jogging slightly to catch up with him. “Thomas! Wait!”

Thomas sighed, stopping and turning around to face Alexander. “What, Hamilton?”

“I wanted to ask you a question,” Alex said, gesturing to the building they were both heading towards as an indication for Thomas to keep walking. 

“Well, nothing I say is going to stop you so go ahead,” Thomas said, shorting his stride so Alexander could keep up easier. “What is it?”

“It’s about John,” Alex admitted, sounding a touch reluctant. “And, yes, I already asked Laf but they weren’t much help.”

“Get to the point, Hamilton,” Thomas sighed.

“John has been acting strange,” Alex said, pushing open the door and stepping inside. 

“Strange how?”

“It’s hard to explain,” Alex frowned a bit. “But when we first got together John was like perfectly submissive. And now he’s… now he’s not. Now he seems to hate when I give him an order and keeps purposely breaking rules and I don’t mind, not really, I would much rather have my submissive have a personality and not be a perfect mindless robot but it doesn’t seem like he’s doing it because that’s what he wants. He seems angry and I can’t figure out why and I keep asking him but he won’t tell me anything.”

“He probably is angry,” Thomas shrugged, adjusting the strap of his bag. “And scared. Look, Hamilton, he spent his entire life pretending to be a dominant. He’s built up this massive persona, big parts of his personality are probably centered around this idea of him being a dom. And when you first got together he was able to let go for the first time and that probably felt really good. But now that the reality of the situation has set in, now that more people know he isn’t a dom and are starting to look at him differently, treat him differently, he’s going to lash out because he is trying to figure out who he is without the dominant persona.”

Alexander froze, head cocking slightly to the side as he contemplated Thomas’ words. 

“You should probably sit down and have a chat with your boyfriend,” Thomas continued, still walking. “And definitely prepare for him to lash out more. Things’ll probably get worse before they get better. You just have to keep giving him reasons to trust you. And keep showing him that it’s okay for him to be submissive, that you don’t think he’s weak or anything.” He glanced over, only to find Alexander no longer walking beside him. Thomas stopped and turned around, rolling his eyes when he found Alexander standing in the middle of the hallway. “Hamilton?”

“Hmm?” Alex gave his head a little shake before walking over to Thomas’ side. “Right, yeah. Thanks, Thomas.”

“You’re welcome, I suppose,” Thomas shrugged, pushing open the door to their classroom and heading inside. 

“Hey,” James said as Thomas sat down next to him on the bench outside Thomas’ building.

“Were you waiting for me?” Thomas asked, adjusting his scarf. 

“Yeah,” James smiled. “I wanted to walk home together.”

“Oh,” Thomas blushed lightly, ducking his head. “You didn’t have to wait. It’s cold.”

“I wanted to,” James rested a hand on Thomas. “I got a response from the building manager. We can take a look a couple of the two-bedroom units this evening if you’d like.”

“That sounds good,” Thomas said, looking up at James and turning his hand over to clasp the dominant’s gently. 

“Great,” James smiled, squeezing Thomas’ hand gently. “Let’s get home and I’ll give them a call.”

“Alright,” Thoma said, standing and pulling James up with him. They set off down the street towards home, hands clasped together. 

“How was your day?” James asked softly, rubbing his thumb over the back of Thomas’ hand absently. 

“Good,” Thomas shrugged. “Hamilton was annoying as always.”

“What did he do today?” James chuckled. 

“He asked for my advice,” Thomas looked over at James. “About his submissive John.”

“I thought he and John were doing well,” James said. “They seemed happy on Friday when they came over.”

“John’s apparently not adjusting to everyone knowing he’s a submissive as well as Alexander would like or initially thought he would,” Thomas shrugged. 

“What did you tell him to do?” James gave Thomas’ hand a little squeeze. 

“Be patient,” Thomas explained. “And talk to John.”

“Solid advice,” James nodded, dragging Thomas across the street as soon as the light changed. Thomas hummed in agreement, walking alongside James silently for a moment.

“How was your day?” Thomas asked softly. 

“It was good,” James shrugged. “Nothing particularly interesting happened. Glad to be going home though.”

“Do you think Liberty was okay today?” Thomas asked, a touch worried.

“Yeah, I’m sure he was fine,” James said gently. “We left plenty of water and he ate before we left. And he knows where the litterbox is. I’m sure Lib was fine.”

“Okay,” Thomas nodded, chewing on his bottom lip. 

“I’m sure Liberty was fine, Thomas,” James repeated and squeezed Thomas’ hand gently. “No need to worry, darling.”

“Alright,” Thomas nodded, pushing open the door of their apartment building. He moved quickly across the lobby, heading straight to the elevator and pressing the button. James chuckled as he leaned into Thomas’ side a bit.

“You still want to get up there and check on him, don’t you?” James smiled fondly.

“Yes,” Thomas nodded. “It’s his first day alone.”

“He spent quite a few days alone on the streets, Thomas,” James pointed out.

“James!” Thomas pouted as the doors to the elevator opened. Thomas stepped inside quickly dragging James along with him. James laughed and followed him, nudging his hip against Thomas’ with a grin.

“I’m sure Liberty is fine,” James said, squeezing Thomas’ hand as the doors shut and the elevator started to ascend to their floor. “No need to be an overprotective mama bear.”

“If I was an overprotective mama bear I would have taken him to school with me,” Thomas grumbled, pretending to be annoyed as a small smile began to spread across his face.

James laughed, “You definitely thought about it, TJ. I saw the way you were looking at Lib this morning while you were packing your bag.”

“TJ?” Thomas looked over at James, surprised. James blushed, biting his lip nervously.

“Sorry,” he said softly. “It just slipped out. I won’t call you that again.”

Thomas shook his head slightly. “I don’t mind. It just surprised me. No one’s called me that before.” He paused, a light flush spreading across his cheeks as well. “I liked it.”

“Really?” James’ smile was hopeful.

“Yeah,” Thomas nodded, turning his gaze shyly to his feet. “But only from you.”

“Okay,” James said softly, giving Thomas’ hand a gentle squeeze as the doors opened to their floor. “Come on, TJ, let’s go check on our furbaby.”

Chapter Text

The rest of the week passed peacefully. Thomas and James checked out the apartment on Monday night and both liked it a lot so they signed the documents to move in over the weekend. James decided, and Thomas happily agreed (a tantalising almost order that caused Thomas’ heart to clench), that Sunday would be the best day to move after they’d gotten home from church; after some convincing from James, they asked Hamilton and co. to help with the moving (“We need their help, TJ, if we want to get things done quickly” “Does it have to be them? Can’t we ask Aaron? I don’t mind Aaron. He doesn’t talk incessantly like Hamilton”). 

On Friday afternoon, just as they had agreed, Thomas got home early to prepare for Shabbat. James had a meeting with his academic advisor so he wouldn’t be able to get home until just before sundown so Thomas was left to do all the preparations himself. Which he honestly didn’t mind too much, cooking and preparing for Shabbat was one of his favourite things to do with his mother growing up. 

Liberty had taken up residence on one of the bar stools after Thomas kicked him off the counter, not wanting cat hair in the food he was making. Soft music was playing in the background as Thomas moved around the kitchen, preparing dinner for tonight as well as food for the next day since James was insistent that they do Shabbat correctly this time. 

"What shall I make for tonight, Lib?" Thomas hummed, opening the fridge. The next day's meal was currently simmering away in the slow cooker, ready for whenever they'd need it the next day. "Something traditional probably, right? James would like something traditional." Thomas sighed, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. "I don't know why I want to impress him so much. As he's pointed out plenty of times, he isn't my dom. And he's only my husband because our parents forced him. And yet, all I want is for him to be proud of me, to tell me I've done a good job. God, that's so pathetic." Liberty meowed, licking his paw and rubbing it over his head. 

"Yeah, thanks, Lib, that's some valuable insist there," Thomas huffed in amusement, smiling fondly as he pulled out the various ingredients from the fridge. "Do you think I should trust James, Lib?" Thomas said as he laid everything out on the counter. "I mean, he's been nothing but nice since we got back from Virginia but… I don't know. What happened in Virginia was…" Thomas swallowed, shaking his head a bit, "and what if that's who James really is?" Liberty watched him as he moved around the kitchen, tail lazily flicking back and forth. "What if all this is some elaborate game he is playing?"

Liberty meowed, sound a bit annoyed. Thomas huffed, biting his lip. "Yeah, I know that sounds crazy, Lib. But I can't help thinking about it." Thomas grabbed a cutting board and knife. "I want to trust him, Lib. He's becoming everything I've ever dreamed about my dom being. He's smart and funny and kind and, fuck, Liberty, he's so strong and dominant. But… but what if… what if this is all a dream?"

Thomas could have sworn that Liberty rolled his eyes as the cat jumped off the stool and lazily wandered off. "You are no help, Liberty. But of course you aren't, you're a cat."

Liberty jumped up onto the couch, curling up in a patch of sun and going to sleep. Thomas sighed, chewing on his bottom lip as he turned his full attention to cooking.

---

"What should I wear?" James asked, standing in the bedroom in his pyjamas while Thomas stepped out of the bathroom in his robe. 

"Same types of things you wear to church," Thomas said, brushing his hair back out of his face. "And I have a kippah you can borrow."

"A kippah, right, yes," James nodded before frowning. "It wouldn't be rude for me to wear one? Even though I'm not Jewish?"

"No," Thomas went over to the closet. "It's considered respectful to wear them in a synagogue, whether you're Jewish or not. You don't have to put it on until we get there."

"Okay," James said, nodding. "Right okay."

"You should get dressed," Thomas said, grabbing a pair of slacks. "We need to leave soon."

"Right, yes," James chewed on his lip nervously. 

"And, James?" Thomas said, a small smile on his lips. 

"Yeah?" James looked over at him, nerves clearly written on every inch of his face.

"Relax," Thomas smiled softly. "You're going to be fine. Just follow what I'm doing and if it feels wrong to say the prayers or anything just stay respectfully quiet. No one is going to be upset with you if you are respectful and show a genuine interest in learning, which you do."

"Are you sure?" James asked nervously. "I don't want to offend anyone."

"You won't," Thomas promised, stepping over and giving James' arm a gentle squeeze. It was quite adorable how nervous James was, how worried he was about causing offence. "Now get dressed. We need to go."

---

James managed to get through the entire experience without completely offending anyone or drawing too much attention to himself. In all honesty, no one really paid attention to him and Thomas at all beyond acknowledging that they were new faces. Thomas took the lead while they were there, speaking to the people around them and saying all the right things, making polite conversation before the service started and after it ended. Everyone was extremely friendly even - maybe even more so - after Thomas told them that James wasn't actually Jewish but rather just learning. 

It was interesting to watch Thomas in this environment; somewhere he was completely comfortable. The submissive seemed so confident and happy, full of smiles and easy flowing conversation during the reception ("Kiddush, James" "I thought that was the prayer you said last night to bless the wine" "It is. It's this too"). James mostly just stuck to Thomas' side, silent and listening to his husband talk. 

"Did you enjoy the service?" 

James turned, surprised to find someone talking to him. People must have noticed James' nerves and had mostly been leaving him alone beyond polite greetings. But now he found a woman, about his and Thomas' age smiling at him. 

"Yes," James said, grip tightening on his glass of water a bit. "I did."

"Your husband said you weren't Jewish," she said, still smiling gently at him. 

"I'm not," James slowly. "I was raised Episcopalian. But Thomas and I are currently teaching each other about the religions we were raised with."

"That's an interesting way to do it," she said, chuckling lightly. "Most Southern dominants just make their submissive convert."

James frowned, "How'd you-"

"Know you were southern?" She laughed, eyes sparkling. "You have an accent."

James blushed, ducking his head, "Oh yeah. Right."

"I'm Dolley, by the way," she said, holding out a hand to shake. 

"It's nice to meet you," James said, shaking her hand gently. "I'm James."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," she smiled. "I know it can feel strange to dive first into a new religion and culture so if you ever need someone to talk to, I'm happy to help."

"Thanks," James smiled, feeling a bit less nervous. "I'd like that. Sometimes I feel like an idiot to ask Thomas all these questions and I'd really like to not feel so dumb with this stuff." He looked over to where Thomas was talking to a middle-aged couple, a bright smile on his lips. "All of this is a massive part of him and it means a lot to him."

"I'm sure he doesn't mind answering your questions," Dolley said, looking over to where James' gaze was turned. "I mean, I never mind answering people's questions about Judaism if the person is genuinely interested and the questions come from a good place."

"Yeah, I suppose, but I still want to be more knowledgeable about this," James shrugged, looking back at Dolley.

"Well, I'm happy to help however I can," she said. "You go to Columbia right?"

"Yes," James frowned a bit. "How'd you know that?"

"Thomas mentioned it," she shrugged. "I go there as well. Do you want to meet up for coffee on Monday? Say one-thirty?"

"Yeah, sure," James nodded, smiling. "Why don't you give me your number, I'll text you a place."

"You going to memorise it?" Dolley teased lightly, making James frown in confusion. "No writing on Shabbat. Or using electronics."

"Oh," James blushed. "Right, of course."

"It’s okay, James," Dolley rested a hand on his arm. "You're not going to remember everything right from the start."

"Yeah, I suppose," James said with a small shrug. 

"We can meet at the entrance to the library," Dolley said, squeezing his arm. "And I'll give you my number then."

"Okay," he nodded, looking over as Thomas walked over to him. "Hey, Thomas."

"Hey," Thomas smiled, entire body language radiating happiness. "You ready to go home?"

"Sure," James smiled, glancing over at Dolley. "Thanks, Dolley, I'll see you Monday at one-thirty."

"See you then," she smiled. "Enjoy the rest of your weekend."

"You too," James smiled, blushing slightly as Thomas took his hand and lead him out of the synagogue.

"Making friends?" Thomas asked, heading down the street back towards their apartment. 

"Yeah, Dolley is nice," James smiled. "And it's nice to have someone else to talk to about this stuff. You're a great teacher, TJ, but I don't want to bombard you with my endless questions."

"I like your questions," Thomas said, glancing over at James shyly. "But having someone else to talk to is always helpful."

James smiled, squeezing Thomas' hand gently. "Yeah, it is. So what do we do now?"

"Well, we could nap," Thomas shrugged. "Or read - actual books no kindles or tablets - or play a board game or talk."

James nodded, humming thoughtfully. "I've got some novels I've been meaning to read, nows a great time to do that."

"Yeah, it is," Thomas agreed. "My mother and I would read together in the afternoons every Saturday. It was my favourite time of the week when I was at home."

"That sounds nice," James said gently. "Would you like to read with me?"

Thomas blushed, ducking his head shyly as they came up to their building. "I'd like that."

"Wonderful," James smiled, holding open the door for Thomas. 

---

The afternoon was spent in a peaceful little bubble. James and Thomas curled up on the couch, softly reading out loud to each other, alternating chapters. It was much more fun than reading a novel had any right to be but when the sun went down and Shabbat ended, James was sad to see it go. He was amazed by how little he missed his phone during the last twenty-four hours and quite looked forward to making this a part of his weekly routine. 

Once he was able, he did pull out his phone though, needing to make sure that their friends (classmates? acquaintances?) were still able to help them move. After a few quick texts to Lafayette and Hamilton, James dropped his phone back onto the counter, turning to watch Thomas as the submissive sat curled into the corner of the couch with Liberty on his lap. Thomas was still relaxed from the day of rest, body language unguarded and open, making James smiled softly. 

"TJ?" James spoke quietly, not wanting to break the peaceful atmosphere. 

"Hmm?" Thomas looked up, a soft smile on his lips. 

"Do you want to watch a film before bed?" James asked, sitting back down on the couch beside him. 

"Not really," Thomas admitted softly, leaning over and resting his head on James' shoulder. "Can we read some more? I like when you read out loud. You've got a nice voice."

James blushed, warmth spreading through him at Thomas' words. He shifted a little closer, wrapping an arm around Thomas' shoulders. "Sure, darling, we can read some more."

"Thank you, sir," Thomas said quietly, words barely audible even in the silent room. James bit his lip, glancing down at the submissive and wondering if he should say something about Thomas calling him 'sir'. He decided to leave it for now, not wanting to ruin Thomas' good mood and the calm that had settled over the apartment. Instead, James just grabbed the book they'd been reading, holding it in one hand and as pulled Thomas a little closer and settled comfortably into the couch to resume reading. 

Chapter Text

The next morning went much the same as the previous Sunday. Thomas and James were up early, both having slept extremely well with the other by their side. Thomas took a shower and got dressed while James fed Liberty and made breakfast. After they'd eaten James got ready while Thomas tidied up and then they were off to church. They arrived just before the start of the service and found seats in the back, tucked away in a corner. Thomas felt more relaxed this time but was still confused by some of the things going on.

"What're they doing?" Thomas asked James softly as people began to line up in the aisle. Most people stood but a few - like James and Thomas - stayed seated. Thomas had wondered what was going on last time but did say anything since he didn't feel comfortable asking James questions like he did now. 

"It the Eucharist," James explained softly. "It's the part where they get the little wafer and sip of wine meant to represent the body and blood of Christ."

"Oh, right, the massively weird part," Thomas whispered, nodding. 

James snorted, a small smile spreading across his lips. "Yes, I suppose it is a bit weird."

"It's very weird," Thomas whispered, shifting a little closer to James. "Why would you want to eat the body of Christ? That's cannibalism."

"Well, how I was raised to understand it is that it's a representation, not the actual thing," James shrugged. "But I'm pretty sure Catholics have this whole thing about it actually being the blood and body of Christ which is weird."

Thomas hummed, watching as people moved down the aisle, noting a few children amongst the mix. "Do children get it as well?"

"At the church I went to growing up you couldn't until you'd had your Confirmation," James whispered. "But some churches allow kids to get it."

"Confirmation?" Thomas whispered, looking over at James.

"It's when you make your profession of faith," James explained. "There's a whole big church service and you get all dressed up. I did it when I was fifteen. And had a big party afterwards."

"That sounds a bit like my Bar Mitzvah," Thomas whispered. "Not exactly the same but… Confirmation is like a right of passage right? And then you're seen as an adult?"

"Yeah, kinda," James nodded, as the last few people finished up with the Eucharist and returned to their seats. Thomas hummed thoughtfully before going quiet as the church service continued.  

---

"Thomas, could you get the door?" James called hands full of pots that he'd been taking out of the cupboards. Thomas looked up from where he'd been stacking books into boxes.

"Yeah, sure," he said, jumping to his feet quickly, happy to obey even if it had been phrased as a question.

"Thanks," James said, smiling over the mountain of pots in his arms. Thomas nodded and went to the door, pulling it open to find a bag being shoved in his face.

"What the fuck, Hamilton?" Thomas said, stepping back as to not be hit by the bag.

"Hello to you too," Alexander said, shoving the bag into Thomas' arms and swanning past. "We brought food. You're welcome."

"Pretty sure we didn't ask you to," Thomas muttered, adjusting his page in his arms. 

"Just say thank you and move on, Jefferson," Alex said, glancing over his shoulder with a smirk as he dragged John into the apartment. "We got your favourite."

"You don't know my favourite," Thomas rolled his eyes.

"I do," Lafayette said, stepping over and pressing a kiss to his cheek. "Dites juste merci, donc Alexandre va se taire."

"Hey, Laf," Thomas said, smiling. "Hamilton ne sait pas comment se taire."

"Je parle français aussi," Alexander called, leaning against the wall, hand still holding John's tight. 

"Shut up, Hamilton," Thomas glared, shutting the door after Hercules and Lafayette entered the room. 

"Alright, enough," James came around the corner, rolling his eyes fondly. "There's too much to do to have you two fighting the entire time." 

"Sir, yes, sir," Alexander teased, giving James a mock salute causing the other dominant to sigh in exasperation. 

"Thomas, could you finish packing up the books?" James said, turning to his husband with a smile. Thomas nodded, heading over to the office nook and resuming his task while James gave the others tasks. 

"Oh!" Lafayette laughed and Thomas glanced over to find Lafayette crouched down and petting Liberty gently. "Hello, Liberty, you're a very pretty cat."

Liberty meowed, rubbing against Lafayette's ankles before going over to his bowl and having a drink of water. Lafayette smiled before standing up and heading to do whatever it was that James asked them to do. For a while, there was silence as everyone worked on getting all the personal items packed up. The furniture all came with the apartment and their new one was fully furnished as well so they didn't have to worry about that. 

Once Thomas was finished packing up the books, he went to pack up their clothes, surprised to find John already in there. The other submissive was carefully stacking shoes into a suitcase. John looked up when Thomas came in, a guarded look on his face. 

"Hey," Thomas said, sitting down next to John and grabbing a pair of shoes. John gave Thomas a small nod but said nothing. Thomas cocked his head in confusion, frowning a bit. He and John weren't particularly close - in all honesty, he didn't know the submissive at all really since they had no classes together - but his lack of speech seemed suspicious. "Hey, are you okay?"

John nodded, piling more shoes into the suitcase. 

"Then why aren't you talking?" Thomas asked, handing John another pair of shoes to add to the suitcase. John looked up at Thomas, raising an eyebrow as if the answer to his lack of talking is completely obvious and Thomas was being an idiot. "What? What is it? Why aren't you talking?"

"He's not allowed," Alexander said, standing in the doorway of the closet. 

"What?" Thomas turned, frowning. 

"A punishment," Alex explained, leaning against the doorway. "He's not allowed to talk for another-" he checked his watch "-two hours and fifteen minutes."

"Why's he being punished?" Thomas asked, looking back at the submissive sat across from him. 

"He broke a rule," was Alex only response before leaving. 

"Oh," Thomas said, a weird feeling settling into the pit of his stomach. It was almost like longing and jealousy. Which was strange - why would anyone long to be punished? Thomas bit his lip, handing John the last pair of shoes. The longing and jealousy did make sense though; after all, Thomas was a submissive and thus he was biologically wired to crave rules and structure and commands. Without it, he would fall apart - and was beginning to if the anxious feeling he had near constantly for the past few weeks was any indication. But James didn't want that, didn't want him, and no amount of hinting on Thomas' part seemed to make a difference. 

"Thomas?" James' voice startled him, causing Thomas to jump. "Sorry, Thomas, I didn't mean to startle you."

"It's fine," Thomas said, looking up at him. 

"You okay?" James asked, crouching down so he wasn't towering over the submissive. Thomas liked when James towered above him. 

"Yeah, I'm fine, I was just thinking," Thomas shrugged, zipping the suitcase of shoes closed. "Did you need something?"

"We are going to start carrying boxes up to the new place," James said. "Can you and John finish packing up the closet and then bring that stuff up?"

"Sure," Thomas nodded, biting his lip. He wanted to scream 'stop asking just order me to do it!' but couldn't even bring himself to whisper the words as James smiled and stood. 

"Thanks," James rested a hand on Thomas' shoulder for a second, giving John a smile before leaving. 

---

James and Thomas didn't own much that needed to be moved so it didn't take more than a couple of hours for the six of them to get everything upstairs to the new apartment. Their usual cleaner was coming in the next morning to give the old place a thorough cleaning before James handed back the keys so they didn't have to worry about that. They decided not to bother unpacking too much and instead, all sat down on the couches and chairs, food spread out on the coffee table.

"Does anyone want a drink?" James asked, resting his plate down on the arm of the couch so he could stand. Everyone made some sound of consent and James nodded. 

"I'll get them," Thomas said, jumping to his feet.

"No no, Thomas, it's fine, I'll get them," James gestured for Thomas to sit back down before going into the kitchen. Thomas sighed, chewing on his lip as he sat down. He picked at his food absently, not really hungry despite having not eaten for hours and all the activity he'd done that afternoon. 

"Thomas?" Lafayette said softly, looking up at him from where they were sat on the floor beside Hercules, their plate resting on the coffee table. "Come sit with me. I want to show you something." 

"Okay," Thomas said softly, sliding down to sit next to them on the floor. He rested his plate on the table and leaned into their side, resting his head on their shoulder with a soft sigh.

"You should tell him," Lafayette whispered so only Thomas could hear. "You need to tell James that you need to submit."

"He doesn't want to do that with me," Thomas whispered, chewing on his bottom lip as John joined them on the floor, sitting silently on Lafayette's other side. John's punishment had finished almost an hour ago but he still hadn't spoken more than a couple words after he and Alexander disappeared to talk privately at the end of his punishment. 

"You're going to crash, Thomas," Lafayette said, looking at their cousin with worry filled eyes. "You're already looking so strung out."

"I'm fine, Laf," Thomas insisted softly, sitting up straight and grabbing a piece of lettuce off his plate. He bit into it slowly, looking down at his lap. That obnoxious knot in his stomach grew tighter at Lafayette's words and Thomas had to work very hard to fight back tears. 

"You should talk to him," Lafayette whispered, resting a hand on Thomas' leg. "He'll help you."

"Not because he wants to," Thomas whispered, swallowing hard. "But because he feels like he has to."

"James cares about you," John whispered, leaning against the coffee table so he could see Thomas. 

"Yeah, but the same way he cares about his siblings or friends," Thomas shrugged, running a hand through his hair. 

"You're his husband," Lafayette reminded Thomas.

"Only because he was forced to marry me," Thomas said bitterly as he picked up his fork and stabbed a piece of chicken. He took a bite of it, chewing slowly, as James came back over with a tray of drinks. He handed the drinks out to everyone before sitting back down, his leg brushing against Thomas' shoulder. 

"What're you doing down there, TJ?" James asked softly, gently brushing his fingers through Thomas' hair. It took every ounce of the submissive's willpower to not whimper and lean into the dominant's touch. The knot in his stomach did uncurl a bit as James gently scratched Thomas' scalp. "Thomas?"

"Laf wanted to show me something," Thomas said softly, tilting his head back ever so slightly so he could look at James without dislodging the dominant's hand. 

"Okay," James said softly, smiling down at Thomas as he brushed a curl out of his face. Thomas returned the smile shyly before looking back down at his food. James continued to play with Thomas' hair for a moment before removing his hand so he could eat. The loss made Thomas go cold, stomach tightening painfully as he stared at his plate, blinking back tears.

---

The couple weeks following their move passed rather uneventfully and they easily settled into a rhythm. Thomas and James would walk together to campus in the morning, sometimes talking but sometimes in a companionable silence, and - if their schedules allowed it - would walk home together after classes. Thomas had to admit it was nice, especially since James was perfectly happy to just listen while Thomas recounted with varying levels of annoyance the dumb ways Alexander tried to establish a friendship between them that day. 

“He follows me around, James,” Thomas whined one day, scarf wrapped tight around his neck to ward off the cold winter breeze. “I don’t understand him. How many ways do I have to tell him to fuck off? He thinks because we asked him to help us move and you asked him for advice that that means we're friends or something.”

James just laughed and handed Thomas a thermos of his favourite tea.

The time passed peacefully, both Thomas and James growing increasingly comfortable around the other as they continued to share bits of their past and religions. Thomas found that James was far more interested in Judaism than he could have ever imagined possible and that made him happier than he cared to explain. James met up with Dolley at least once a week and always came back with new knowledge and even more questions, which Thomas was glad to answer to the best of his knowledge. Even the ever-increasing knot of anxiety in Thomas' stomach couldn't cast a shadow over the joyful atmosphere they had been carefully cultivating in their lives. 

Everything was going wonderfully - far better than Thomas could have hoped for. 

That is until Thomas had an anxiety attack in the middle of class.

Chapter Text

Thursday, February Fifteen started the same as any other day. Thomas and James were woken by Liberty jumping onto the bed and meowing insistently. 

"Lib, stop," Thomas groaned, pushing Liberty away. "I'm coming, stop."

Liberty nipped at Thomas' chin before jumping onto James' back, needing his shoulders. James groaned, turning his head to face Thomas' opening his eyes slowly. 

"Morning," James whispered, voice hoarse with sleep.

"Morning," Thomas said softly, smiling as he sat up and grabbed Liberty. "I'll go feed him."

"Thanks," James said, shutting his eyes again. He had a couple minutes before his alarm was set to go off and he intended to savour that. Thomas smiled and climbed out of bed, holding Liberty close as he left the bedroom. 

The morning passed without issue. Breakfast passed in a comfortable silence, interrupted only by some soft meows from Liberty. The walk to campus was spent with Thomas quizzing James on the information the dominant needed to know for his quiz that day. James seemed quite prepared by the time he and Thomas went their separate ways and Thomas was in a particularly good mood. Not even the thought of dealing with Alexander in every one of his classes that day could put a damper on his mood. 

---

"Thomas," Alexander dropped a pile of books onto the table Thomas was sitting at.

"Hamilton," Thomas sighed, looking up at him. He had about an hour before his next lecture and he decided to spend it in one of the study rooms going over some notes for an exam he had next week. 

"I wanted to talk to you," Alexander sat down across from him.

"I'm trying to get some work done," Thomas sighed, resting a hand on his notebook. 

"Yes well, I'm trying to thank you," Alex said, leaning across the table a bit. 

"Thank me?" Thomas raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah," Alexander nodded. "Credit where credit is due and all that. Your advice for sorting things out with John was helpful so thanks."

"You're welcome," Thomas said, looking back down at his notebook. "Now go away."

"Nope, not gonna happen," Alex reached across the table and took Thomas' book. "Because now I'm going to return the favour."

"Hamilton," Thomas glared, reaching to try and get his book back. "Stop being annoying. Go away."

"Also, not going to happen," Alexander shrugged. "You gave me some advice that helped better my relationship with my submissive so now I'm going to give you some advice to help better your relationship with your dominant."

"James is not my dominant," Thomas said, eyes narrowing. "He has made that fact perfectly clear. We are husbands and roommates and equals."

"Yes, but you want him to be your dom," Alex said with a raised eyebrow. "And he wants you to be his sub."

"He wants no such thing," Thomas said, looking away. "He's been pretty clear about that."

"I guess you're not as smart as everyone thinks," Alexander dropped Thomas' book back down in front of him. "Because James clearly wants you to be his. You should talk to him. And you should definitely tell him about the submitting thing."

"What're you talking about, Hamilton?" Thomas sighed, opening his book.

"You know, the whole needing to submit to be happy and healthy?" Alex grabbed one of his own books, flipping it open. "It's a thing you learn in any decent high school health class but I'm guessing based on where and how you were raised James probably missed out on that one."

Thomas swallowed, looking down at his lap and clenching his hands into fists to hide the slight trembling. 

"You're going to crash, Thomas," Alexander said, voice extremely soft and gentle, clearly a dominant talking to an in distress submissive. It made Thomas' heart clench in longing and skin crawl with disgust. It wasn't Alexander he wanted to be talking to him in that tone. "If you don't get the things you need soon you're going to drop and it's not going to be pretty."

"Thanks for the advice, Hamilton," Thomas muttered, standing and packing up his books. "But I don't need you, a dominant, telling me about submissive biology. I'm very much aware of everything I need to know."

"Thomas-"

"Bye, Hamilton," Thomas slung his bag over his shoulder and left, long strides carrying quickly out of the room before Alexander could say another word.

---

Thomas couldn't get what Alexander had said out of his head. Which was annoying for so many reasons, most of all being that the constant repetition of Alexander's words in his head only made the knot in his stomach and trembling in his hands worse. 

He thought he could handle it. Thomas thought he'd be able to push it down and away just long enough to get home where he could curl up with Liberty and hide away from the world. If he made it until he was home at least then James would give him some almost-but-not-really orders or suggestions that had just enough weight that Thomas could pretend they were orders.

But of course, fate and destiny and luck were not and had never been on Thomas' side. And all it took was one question from a classmate, one sincere request for Thomas' opinion on some matter, to set him over the edge and send him tumbling headfirst into a panic attack induced drop.

It was the end of 'American Constitutional History'. His professor had just finished the lecture and was fielding a few questions from the students so they used by the last few minutes of the scheduled class block. Thomas was packing his things away, wanting to be ready to leave quickly so he could get away before Alexander had a chance to say anything more to him. 

He'd just shoved his laptop into his bag and shut it when one of his classmates, whose name he didn't remember then and most certainly never bothered to learn afterwards, turned to him. 

"Hey, Jefferson," the aforementioned classmate said, speaking loud enough that it gained the attention of others in the room. "You're a sub, right? What're your thoughts on the Submissive Rights Movement?"

The question was innocent enough and if Thomas wasn't already so on edge it wouldn't have caused a reaction in him. But he had been tittering on the cusp of a total meltdown for days and it seemed that even a simple question was enough to put him over the edge. 

He knew that his classmate was still talking, maybe clarifying his question or just pushing for an answer Thomas didn't know specifics. He couldn't hear anything over the sound of his own heartbeat, hammering away dangerously fast in his chest. His vision blurred both with tears and dizziness as he gripped the side of the desk, breath coming out in irregular staccato gasps. 

Someone was talking to him, their voice soft and gentle as they leaned in close. Thomas was pretty sure he whimpered but couldn't bring himself to care, not with the ever-increasing sense of panic that was flooding his system. He wanted everything to stop. Everything was too loud, too sharp, too bright. He wanted to go home where the world was soft and quiet and safe. Where people didn't ask him questions or demand things from him. Where he could just exist and be and follow James' kind-of-but-not-really orders. He wanted someone to just tell him he was good.

He wanted James.

Thomas felt more than heard the sob that escaped him at that thought, hands trembling as he gripped the table tighter. He couldn't be sure, not with his own pulse a deafening rhythm in his ears, but he was pretty sure he whimpered out a soft 'James'. A gentle hand landed on Thomas' back between his shoulder blades and Thomas flinched, whining softly and curling away from the touch. The hand was wrong - it was too small to be James'. Thomas didn't want anyone else. He wanted James. His husband. His dominant.

Not your dominant. James doesn't want you.

Another sob escaped him at that thought. The dark, cruel part of his brain choosing the exact worst time to remind Thomas of the terrible truth of his life.

'Nobody wants a rude, stubborn, outspoken submissive, Thomas.'

His father's words, spoken to him with venom and always punctuated with a slap, joined in on the chorus of hatred his brain was conjuring up for him. The words played on a loop, mingling with his own negative thoughts to create a symphony of torturing he could not escape. Thomas sobbed, drawing his knees up to his chest, shoulders hunching as he tried to make himself as small as possible - not an easy task for someone as tall as he was. He tucked his face into the tops of his knees, entire frame trembling as he continued to sob in between gasped breaths, desperate to get some air into his deprived lungs. 

"Thomas."

His name was spoken softly but it still made Thomas flinch and whimper. 

James. 

James was here.

How did James get here?

Why was he here?

"Thomas."

Thomas looked up, cheeks wet with tears, vision still blurry and hands shaking as he gripped his jeans tight. James was knelt in front of him and it wasn't until that moment that Thomas realised that at some point he'd ended up on the floor. 

"Thomas, darling, hi," James said gently, giving Thomas a soft smile. "Can I touch you, TJ?"

Thomas whimpered, nodding slowly, bottom lip catching between his teeth nervously. James continued to smile softly, hand moving slowly, giving Thomas plenty of time to change his mind, before handing gently on his arm. James' touch sent a jolt through him, warmth radiating through Thomas' frame from where James' hand was resting. 

"Hey, TJ, you're doing so well, darling," James whispered, thumb rubbing his arm gently. "You're such a good boy, darling, but we've got to get your breathing under control, okay? I'm going to count, yeah. All you've got to do is breath in and out when I say. You can do that for me, can't you, TJ?"

Thomas gave a small shrug, a few more tears slipping down his cheeks. James was undeterred, still smiling gently as he gave Thomas' arm a gentle squeeze.

"Of course you can because you're a good boy," James' voice was gentle, light and filled with affection. It made Thomas' heart ache. "Breathe in, Thomas, good, very good. One, two, three, four, five, and breathe out. Good boy, Thomas, well done. Let's do it again. In. One, two, three, four, five. And out. Good."

James continued to count slowly, praising Thomas the entire time and never getting frustrated when Thomas' didn't manage to do as he was told. The kindness made Thomas want to cry more - James wasn't supposed to be this nice to him. James didn't want to be his dominant. He didn't want Thomas. He-

"Hey," James' voice was closer now and Thomas opened his eyes (when did he close his eyes?) to see his husband's face mere inches from his own. Thomas had never noticed how beautiful James' eyes were before. "Hey, Thomas, darling, focus on me, okay? Not whatever silly things your brain is telling you. You're doing such a good job, you're such a good boy." 

A gentle hand rested on Thomas' cheek, warm and steady. He nodded, leaning into the touch slightly and shutting his eyes. 

"Good boy," James whispered. "Breathe in, Thomas, one, two, three, four, five. And out. Good. Very good." 

This continued for a while. But James stayed completely calm the entire time and eventually some of that calm was able to spread to Thomas, allowing him to steady his breathing and heart, even if his hands still trembled a bit. 

"Good," James whispered, brushing his thumb over Thomas' cheek once the submissive had settled - mostly settled. "Good boy, Thomas. You did such a good job. You listened so well. I'm proud of you."

I'm proud of you.

The words made Thomas' recently calmed heart speed up, but for a completely different reason than before. A blush spread across his cheeks and down his neck. An unfamiliar warmth wrapping tight around the ever-present knot in his stomach, engulfing it like a mother wrapping her crying child in her arms and soothing away the tears and fears. 

Thomas whimpered, leaning forward and wrapping his arms around James' neck, squeezing the dominant as tight as he could. James hugged him back just as firmly, slowly pulling the submissive to his feet. He held on tighter when Thomas' stumbled a bit, legs still a bit shaky. 

"I've got you," James whispered, rubbing Thomas' back. "You're okay, TJ. I've got you."

Thomas nodded, face pressed into the side of James' neck, hands gripping his coat tight. 

"Come on, precious," James whispered, pressing a featherlight kiss to Thomas' temple. "Let's get you home."

Thomas nodded, letting James guide him to the door. He stayed tucked into his dominant's side the entire time, not wanting to see who was around and had witnessed his massive display of weakness. The only thing keeping him on his feet and stopping a quick and equally painful slide back into the panic was James' words, echoing through his head and chasing away the bad.

I'm proud of you.

I'm proud of you.

I'm proud of you.

Chapter Text

Thomas woke wrapped in a blanket. Liberty was curled in his lap, purring loudly. Strong arms were wrapped around him, holding Thomas close and rubbing his side. Thomas didn't want to move, didn't want to acknowledge that he was awake, didn't want to stop being held tight. He felt wonderfully warm and safe and he never wanted to move again. Thomas sighed softly, snuggling in closer to the protective body wrapped around him.

"Thomas?" James' voice was soft, grip tightening on Thomas a bit, pulling the submissive closer. "Are you awake, darling?"

"No," Thomas whispered, shifting slightly so he could press his forehead into James' neck. James chuckled, running his fingers through Thomas' hair gently. 

"Okay, then," James whispered, kissing the top of Thomas' head. "Rest as long as you want, TJ."

"You're comfy, sir," Thomas whispered, brain still calm and soft from sleep. "A very comfy pillow."

"That's good, darling," James gently scratched Thomas' scalp, rubbing his back gently. "You feeling better?"

"Yes, sir," Thomas whispered, nodding slightly, hair tickling James' neck. 

"Good," James smiled, kissing the top of Thomas' head. "I'm glad you feel better, darling." 

Thomas hummed, gently running a hand down Liberty's back. The cat was still curled up comfortably in Thomas' lap, he wasn't purring as loudly now that Thomas was awake, seeming to know that his human was feeling better. Thomas felt calmer than he had in a long time, the knot in his stomach entirely gone and a sense of peace had seemed to settle into his bones. He wanted to hold onto this feeling forever.

"TJ, darling, what's the last thing you remember?" James asked gently, gently guiding the submissive's head off his shoulder so he could look into Thomas' face. Thomas' brow furrowed, thinking back to the day's events. He remembered the morning - breakfast, feeding Liberty, walking to campus - and the afternoon - Alexander ambushing him, going to classes - but beyond his 'American Constitutional History' class, he remembered nothing. 

"I was in class," Thomas whispered, sitting up a bit and rubbing his eyes. 

"That's the last thing?" James asked gently. "Nothing after that?"

"No," Thomas whispered, frowning. "James, what happened?" 

"You had an anxiety attack," James said gently, running a hand down Thomas' side. "It caused you to drop, TJ."

"Oh," Thomas breathed, stiffening a bit. "I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to apologise for," James said firmly, cupping Thomas' cheek. "I do. I'm sorry, Thomas. I'm sorry I didn't notice how much you were struggling."

Thomas bit his lip, looking away from James. "S'not your fault. I should have said something."

"You don't trust me yet," James gave a small shrug, thumb rubbing over his cheek gently. "I understand. I haven't really given you many reasons to trust me."

"You've been nothing but kind since we got back from Virginia," Thomas whispered. 

"A month of kindness doesn't negate eighteen years of abuse, TJ," James said gently, a soft smile on his lips. "And for the first six months of our relationship were not particularly great and didn't give you many reasons to trust me."

"The past is the past, James," Thomas shrugged. "We can't change that. And you're giving me lots of reasons to trust you now. I'm sorry I didn't say anything."

"I'm sorry I didn't notice that my hesitance about dominating you was causing you so much pain," James said softly. "But let's stop move on, apologies have been made and now we should focus on how we can move forward from here." 

Thomas nodded, running a hand through his hair. "Okay."

"Are you hungry?" James asked, tapping his thumb on Thomas' chin before dropping his hand away from the submissive's face. "You slept through dinner."

"A little," Thomas admitted softly with a small shrug.

"Let's make something and then after dinner we can talk," James said, smiling gently at Thomas. 

"Yes, sir," Thomas whispered shifting away from James. It wasn't until he was standing that he realised what he had said and turned to look nervously at James, not sure how the dominant would feel about Thomas calling him 'sir'. 

"It's okay, Thomas," James said gently. "That's one thing we need to talk about, but you can call me sir if you want."

"Are you sure?" Thomas whispered, a small bud of nerves blooming in his stomach. It was nothing like the terrible knot that had plagued him for a month but it was enough to chase away that wonderful feeling of calm Thomas had woken with. 

"I'm sure, Thomas," James said, taking Thomas' hand and squeezing it gently. "We'll talk about this more later, but I want you to be my submissive, Thomas. I'm sorry I ever made you think otherwise. But I really do want you as my submissive. So call me sir if you'd like. Or James. Whichever makes you comfortable."

Thomas ducked his head, biting his bottom lip and giving a small nod. "Thank you, sir."

"You're most certainly welcome, Thomas," James whispered, squeezing Thomas' hand gently. "Come, let's go make dinner and then we can talk some more."

"Is that an order, sir?" Thomas looked at James from under his eyelashes, a hesitantly teasing look in his eyes. 

"Yes, Thomas," James chuckled, squeezing Thomas' hand and tugging him over to the kitchen. "That's an order."

---

TO Thomas:

Mon ami, how are you doing?

 

TO Laf:

I'm better now, Laf

 

TO Thomas:

Have you talked to James?

 

TO Laf:

A bit

We're cooking dinner now

We're going to talk more after

 

TO Thomas:

A little late for dinner…

 

TO Laf:

I only just woke up

 

TO Thomas:

Ah. Alex mentioned your attack was bad

 

TO Laf:

Shit

Hamilton was there

 

TO Thomas:

He is worried about you

He kept pestering me to give him your number so he could check up on you

I didn't think that was a good idea

 

TO Laf:

Yeah definitely not. thanks

 

TO Thomas:

He's trying to be your friend

 

TO Laf:

He's annoying

And loud

 

TO Thomas:

You can be both those things too, Thomas.

 

TO Laf:

Yeah but I'm awesome

 

TO Thomas:

You're ridiculous.

I'm going to go let him know you're fine so he'll calm down

 

TO Laf:

Okay

Hey, Laf?

 

TO Thomas:

Yes?

Tell him thanks.

I'm guessing he was the one who called James

 

TO Laf:

I will. 

See you tomorrow, Thomas.

Love you, cousin

 

TO Thomas;

Love you too, Laf.

---

They made macaroni and cheese for dinner, with a side of vegetables at James' insistence. Once dinner was made they settled down onto the couch, Liberty taking up residence on the cushion between them. 

"Do you want to talk now or after we eat, sir?" Thomas asked, looking over at James.

"After," James said, taking a bite of his macaroni. "You need to eat. And then we'll talk."

"Okay," Thomas nodded, looking down at his plate with a smile. He took a couple bites before pausing, biting his lip before leaning forward and resting his plate on the coffee table. 

"Thomas?" James asked, concerned. "You okay?"

Thomas didn't say anything, just slid down to sit on the floor, shifting close to James and crossing his legs. His shoulder was pressed into the side of James' leg as he reached out and grabbed his plate, settling back comfortably against the couch and resting his head on James' knee. Thomas sighed softly in content when James' hand rested on his head. 

"Better?" James asked softly, carding his fingers through Thomas' hair. 

"Yes, sir," Thomas whispered, taking a bite of his macaroni. 

"Good," James said, scratching Thomas' scalp gently. "Eat up, TJ, and then we'll talk."

"Yes, sir," Thomas nodded, shifting a little closer. He rested his plate in his lap, eating with one hand and wrapping his other arm around James' leg, holding the dominant's ankle. 

For the next little while, there was silence. Not a heavy, oppressive silence that made the air feel tight and painful. But rather a peaceful, soothing silence. The kind of silence that came with a beautiful sunset or a calm morning spent in bed. Thomas practically devoured his macaroni, before simply relaxing, absently tracing patterns on the skin of James' ankle where his pant leg had risen up. The dominant continued to play with Thomas' hair gently, balancing his plate on the arm of the couch so he could keep a hand in the submissive's hair the entire time. 

"Thomas," James said once he'd finished eating. 

"Yes?" Thomas tipped his head back, looking up at the dominant. 

"Take the dishes into the kitchen," James said, holding out his empty plate. 

"Yes, sir," Thomas said, standing and grabbing both empty plates. He took them into the kitchen, putting them in the dishwasher quickly before returning to the living room.

"Good boy, Thomas," James said, voice filled with affection. A shiver went down Thomas' spine at the praise, a blush spreading across his cheeks. 

"Thank you, sir," Thomas whispered, ducking his head. 

"Come sit with me," James said, patting the seat next to him. "We need to talk."

"Can't I kneel, sir?" Thomas asked, a touch of pleading in his voice. 

"We need to talk first," James said, taking Thomas' hand and pulling him down to sit. "And this conversation needs to be done as equals. But as soon as we're done talking you can kneel if you'd like okay?"

"Okay," Thomas nodded, brushing a strand of hair out of his face. 

"So," James said, shifting to face Thomas. "Alexander told me that you thought I didn't want you to be my submissive." 

"That was the impression I was getting based on how stubbornly you were refusing to give me an order or rules," Thomas said, looking down at his lap. 

"I wasn't doing that because I didn't want you to be my submissive, Thomas," James said softly, resting a hand on Thomas' knee. "I just wanted you to have a time in your life when you got to choose who you submitted to and when and how. You spent your entire childhood being forced into some outdated idea of what a submissive should be. I wanted to give you a chance to just be yourself, free of orders and expectations."

"But I am a submissive, James," Thomas said gently, taking James' hand and playing with his fingers. "I need structure, rules, order, commands. I’m biologically wired to get comfort and happiness from those things.”

"I know, I just," James sighed, squeezing Thomas' hand. "I guess- I thought- plenty of submissive's live with the bare minimum and are perfectly happy."

"Every submissive is different, James," Thomas said softly. "Some need more, some less. Some need barely any and are pretty close to being neutral. Aren't dominants the same way? Some need lots of control, some only small amounts and some need barely any."

"Yeah," James nodded, rubbing his thumb over the back of Thomas' hand. "Yeah, you're right that's true. I never thought to ask you what you needed."

"It's okay," Thomas said, giving James a gentle smile. "Do you actually want me to be your submissive, sir?

"Yes," James nodded, smiling fondly. "So I need to know how much submission you need to be happy and healthy."

"Well," Thomas hummed, thinking, "I like rules and structure. I like being given orders, like when you told me to take the plates into the kitchen. I liked when you used to choose my outfits, maybe not every day but sometimes. And I mean, I did like before- before Virginia, I mean, parts of it. I like when you took complete control and all I had to do was just listen and obey and be good. But I don't think I want that all the time."

"Okay," James nodded, smiling gently. "That's a good start, Thomas. Thank you."

"I don't want you to interfere with school," Thomas said, sitting up a little straighter. "I mean, I know you're paying for it. And that you technically have the right to but please don't. Anything personal you can have but not school."

"I won't," James said firmly, squeezing Thomas' hand. "Your education is your own. You make all the decisions in that. I promise I won't interfere."

"Thank you," Thomas said, shifting to lean into James' side. 

"What about things you don't like, Thomas?" James asked softly. "Things you don't want me to do?"

Thomas shrugged, "I mean, on the spectrum I'm pretty far down on the submissive side so… I, ah, I do know a few, ah, punishment related things I don't like…"

"I'd like to hear them," James said softly.

"Corporeal punishment," Thomas said quickly. "I don't- my father- he-"

"I understand, TJ," James squeezed his hand. "I get it. You don't need to explain."

"I don't like when people ignore me," Thomas added. "Or being left alone to be punished - like in a room all alone. Especially if I'm tied up. Or blindfolded. I like blindfolds and bondage but not being left alone."

"Okay," James nodded. "I promise I won't do any of those things, Thomas. And we need to establish some safewords."

"Safewords?" Thomas was a bit surprised. 

"Yes, Thomas, safewords, of course, we're having safewords because that's what healthy couples do," James said, squeezing Thomas' hand tight. "So, do you want something specific or just the traffic light system?"

"Traffic lights work," Thomas said softly, ducking his head and smiling slightly. 

"Alright," James smiled. "We're going to take things slow, TJ. I want to do things right, I don't want to hurt you again."

"Slow is okay, James, but not snail pace, okay?" Thomas looked up at him, smiling shyly. 

"Okay," James smiled, wrapping an arm around Thomas' shoulders, pulling him in for a hug. Thomas sighed happily, curling into James and relaxing into the dominant's embrace. His dominant. His wonderful, strong, brilliant dominant. Thomas tucked his face into James' neck, breathing in his dominant's soothing scent as he felt every ounce of tension drain away.

Things weren't perfect between them. There was still lots they had to work out, past mistakes they needed to rectify, boundaries they needed to establish. But they were maybe, finally, possibly on the right track to be able to have that healthy, happy relationship they both craved. And for now, that would be enough.