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Rumors and Ribbons

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        “Captain Fitzjames,” Horatio said with all the composure someone of his rank should display. “I am pleased to see you returned from the Arctic.” The two men stood abreast under the watchful eye of the admiralty. As comfortable as Horatio was on the deck of his ship, the flashing brass buttons of these aged dogs still filled him with a sense of all consuming dread. Surely they could see all the signs that pointed to the true nature of his and James’ relationship. 

        “It is good to be back, Lieutenant Hornblower,” James said with his characteristic good looks and charm. “I trust you may be free tonight for something a little more intimate?”

        “Of course, it is not as if I have much to do while I’m stuck on dry land,” Horatio said with a small raise of his champagne flute. The chatter of the ballroom was quickly becoming overwhelming and Horatio long to disappear with his beloved at once.

        “Before I forget myself, Horatio,” James said, dropping all pretense of formality. “I may have come by a gift for you during my return.”

        “For me?” Horatio asked, shocked. “While you were returning from the Arctic wastes? I’m surprised there weren’t other, more pressing things on your mind.”

        “Trust me, sweet Horatio, you were on my mind every hour of that miserable march. Besides, fear not, I found it once I was already returned to England.” James smiled and pulled a small parcel from his coat pocket. Horatio took a few steps to be out of the way of the crowd and undid the twine. 

        “A hair ribbon!” Horatio exclaimed, excited before dropping his voice again. “You do know I have a particular fondness for these things.”

        “Indeed I do,” he murmured as James circled behind his back, ribbon in hand. From the corner of his eye, he spotted two captains looking in their direction and whispering. “James,” he hissed. “They can see.”

        “Then let them watch,” he said, letting his calmness float above the crowd like a comforting sea breeze. “I didn’t realize it had become improper to help a fellow officer with his hair in my absence. Someone should alert the  authorities at once for my dreadful crime.” James’ carelessness set Horatio on edge even as his gentle fingers brushed through his hairline.

        “James,” Horatio said, once he had finished the bow. He caught, for a moment, the look of complete and utter adoration in his lover’s eyes and the twitch of his hands as he longed to hold his cheek. 

        “Horatio,” he retorted with a smirk. A clock began to chime in some other room, bringing both men to attention. “I do believe it is getting late. Perhaps it is best for us to finish our business at home.” 

        “I agree,” Horatio said with a slight bow before he made his rounds to say his goodbyes to the admiralty. 

        The walk back to James’ home was chilly, only in the way October nights could be. Before James had gone to the Acrtic, Horatio might have mentioned how he was cold and James might have given him his furry overcoat. But such times were far behind them and he found himself forced to be content by the closeness the dark afforded them. 

        “It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since I’ve seen you last, Horatio.” James’ shoulder bumped into his own. As far as Horatio knew, the admiralty had eyes everywhere; watching and judging and waiting for reasons why they should not make him captain. The mere thought that James could be his undoing tore Horatio’s heart to pieces even though, externally, he was as stoic as ever. 

        “It feels like forever has passed, and yet, here you are,” he said, despite his better judgement. Soft words and sentimentality were for when they were safe in the house.

        “Here I am,” James agreed. He hesitated on the doorstep, just before the safety and and seclusion of the rather ramshackle apartment. “I’ve heard a rumor.” He started and Horatio tensed his shoulders. 

        “Have you?” He asked. “I hadn’t realized you had been back for so long. I would have come to visit.”

        “Don’t be like that, my sweet,” James whispered, so not even the most dastardly of spies could hear. “I’ve only heard that you’ve been rather cozy with some lass named Maria and that you two have become rather close.”

        “Oh yes,” Horatio huffed. “Well, I too can set the rumor mill to my own work.” He unlocked his door and entered the drawing room. James closed it gently behind him before he wrapped Horatio is a tight hug. He relaxed into the embrace and nuzzled his nose into James’ long hair. “Know well that you are the only love of my, thus far, short and bright life,” he whispered. 

        “I know, love. I know it very well.” James took Horatio by the hand and led him to their bedroom. 

        The large bed was the one nice thing in the apartment. As much as Horatio tried and toiled, he wasn’t captain yet and was subject to half a lieutenant's pay while he was on land. But the bed. The bed was the one thing he could afford to splurge on and the one thing he missed when he spent years on the sea. The one person he missed sat on its edge and smoothed out a wrinkle in the quilt. 

        Horatio was not a small man, but compared to James, he seemed as delicate and well formed as a porcelain doll when he sat in his lap and allowed himself to be held. 

        “My sweet Horatio,” James said as he cradled his lover’s cheek in his hand. “Please, allow me to pleasure you.” 

        “Oh, James.” Horatio twined his arms about his neck and pressed their foreheads together. “It would be an honor.”

        James laughed before he kissed Horatio, long, slow; drinking deep his fill of every ounce of intimacy that he had been denied from the years trapped in the Arctic. Warmth pooled in the pit of Horatio’s stomach sweeter than the finest brandy. His fingers fumbled with the brass buttons before James stilled his hands. 

        “Allow me,” He said as he gently lowered Horatio to his back. The press of his thighs around Horatio’s waist as the captain gently pinned him to the bed. He kissed his cheeks and throat as he flushed adorably. James made quick work of his jacket and shirt, leaving Horatio bare and vulnerable to his ministrations. He settled between his legs as he set himself to the task of relearning every plane of his lover’s body. 

        Horatio found himself completely enamored by the excitement with which James explored the heave of his chest and the slight quivering of his belly. His beloved lightly traced his fingers across scars he knew and scars he didn’t as he pressed his ear against Horatio’s heart. Every kiss and brush against his flesh sent an overwhelming buzz to his head. He didn’t even notice that he reverted to his old habit of covering his face with his hands. 

        James laughed softly as he held Horatio’s hands, urging them away from his cheeks. “What, sweetling?” he warbled as his kissed Horatio’s forehead. “Have you grown so shy in my absence?”

        “I had only forgotten what such...touch feels like,” he stuttered as Jame resumed kissing the juncture between his neck and shoulder. He could feel James’ gaze upon him and it filled his chest with indescribable light, so he screwed his eyes shut. 

        “My dear…” James trailed away, worried. “Are you alright? We don’t have to do this tonight.” He ran a comforting hand over his shoulder. 

        “No,” Horatio said as he shot up and curled himself into James’ embrace. “No, no. I’ve missed this so much. I’ve missed you so much. I want you more than anything under the sun.” He sighed and contented himself with burying his face in the crook of James’ neck as his lover ran the flat of his nails along his back. 

        James kissed the top of his head as he gently pulled Horatio away so he could look at him in his reassuring way. As much as Horatio was loath to admit it, this was not a particularly uncommon occurrence when once of them returned from sea. “Dearest, I wish to see you and your beautiful eyes,” he said with light kisses to both his eyelids. He drew his arms around Horatio’s waist and pulled him flush against his chest so he could feel his hard prick pressed into his stomach. “Would you like to try our preferred solution?” James asked with a hint of humor in his voice. 

        Horatio said nothing, but nodded as his lover ran his free hand through his hair. He was warm and soft, and he had never felt more safe. 

        “My sweet, can you speak to me? I need to hear you,” James said as he kissed the bridge of Horatio’s nose. 

        “I would like that very much,” Horatio said, and James needed no more confirmation. He deftly undid his new hair ribbon with an elegant flick of his wrist before laying Horatio on his back. He kissed him on the lips once more before he tied his beloved’s hands above his head. 

        The pressure on his wrists was gentle and sweet. All at once he was resolved of all responsibilities that he might have still held. Once satisfied by Horatio’s comfort, James disrobed himself and began to undo the buttons of Horatio’s pants. He did his best to stifle a moan as James kissed down his chest and stomach into the dip of his hips.

        “It’s alright, my sweet,” James soothed as he kissed the soft swell of Horatio’s belly. “No one can hear you save for me and you have the prettiest voice.”

        Having finally divested Horatio of all his clothes, James sat back and admired his handiwork. Horatio’s hair was fanned around his head like a halo and the soft blush spread from his cheeks to his chest to his cock. 

        Horatio groaned in earnest as James pressed a chaste kiss to the head of his prick. The happiness that spread through James’ eyes was more than enough to set Horatio entirely at ease as he began to suck. His mouth was warm and wet and his tongue, exceedingly clever. Horatio sighed as James drew filigreed patterns into the skin of his thighs and hips, bearing his throat as he turned his head to the side. 

        “None of that, my sweet,” James said as he pulled away from his cock with an obscene sound. He stroked Horatio’s cheek as he calmed down again. Horatio moaned into a kiss as James used his free hand to resume where his mouth had left off. He moved frustratingly slow as he kissed his beloved, spit and precum easing the way.

        “Did you know?” Horatio asked as he pulled mere millimeters away from James’ lips, “That I may be in love with you.” His voice stammered and shook as James increased his speed. “I love more than the sea and my ship and my crew. If only I could take you with me.”

        If James had been less devoted to the task at hand, he would have gathered his dearest into a hug and reassured him of all his unspoken fear. Horatio, instead, thrust quick and short into his hand, as if he were afraid of the very action. 

        “There you go,” James whispered in his ear. “Just let yourself go, sweetling,” he urged. 

        “James,” Horatio whimpered, struggling to find any other words than his lover’s name. “It feels so good. I had forgotten…”

        “I know,” James said sweetly as he kissed Horatio’s hair. His movements had become more relaxed

        “Please, James. Please take me,” Horatio begged in a manner than was unbecoming of an English officer, but for once in his life, he couldn’t find the strength to care. The entirety of his mind as finally been given over to James, who placed a kiss to his forehead. 

        “Of course, my love; my brave darling,” James hummed nonsensically as he released Horatio and quickly finished disrobing. 

        Horatio had forgotten about how much he loved the sight of James’ cock, red and leaking, against his pale stomach. He had forgotten that two years was a long time to be parted with only the memory of his James making love to him. He was so taken with the thought that he didn’t even notice him rummaging through the bedside table to find a vial of rose oil.

        James was gentle in the way a ship was not. He took Horatio gently, first with one finger, then two, all the while pressing the sweetest kisses to his belly. Two years was a long time and Horatio could never even fathom taking another lover. So, James took his long and tender time preparing his Horatio until he was relaxed and quivering around his very touch. 

        “Please, James,” he babbled, uncaring if he sounded completely debauched. “Please...I can’t...I want…”

        “I know, sweetling,” he soothed as he warmed a last bit of oil in his palm. He grabbed a pillow and positioned it under Horatio’s hips. He wrapped his arms around Horatio’s waist as he slowly pushed into him, giving his lover ample time to adjust. 

        Horatio whimpered and tried to hide his face before realizing he could not.

        “You’re doing so well, Horatio,” James breathed as he pressed their foreheads together. 

        “Please move,” Horatio begged. “Please, James.”

        And so he did. In the dark of the night, the only thing Horatio could hear or think about was the sound of their flesh together and James’ praise ringing in his ears. Two years was a long time and though this night wasn’t long enough, the final moments could have stretched on for all eternity. 

        “James, I think…” Horatio panted, having completely lost the last vestiges of his coherence. “I think I might…”

        “It’s okay, love,” he said as he thrust hard and fast into Horatio. 

        “Don’t want to...not yet...I want…” he trailed away, basking in the intensity of the heat building in his stomach and James’ hands in his hair. 

        “Cum for me, Horatio,” he commanded and he had no choice but to obey. 

        James followed suit with a stuttering moan as he rolled the pair to the side so he could hold Horatio against his chest. The everpresent thrum of his heartbeat was even more intoxicating than sex.  

        James left Horatio for exactly thirty seconds while he went to get a warm rag to clean themselves. Horatio could never admit that this was his favorite part. James’ concentrated attention and tender words melted like sugar in the rain against his skin. Finally, after he was all attended to, James undid the ribbon and ran his fingers over the faint, red lines left there. 

        He frowned slightly as Horatio leaned against his shoulder. “Next time I’ll be more careful,” he said as he kissed the marks from his beloved’s wrist. 

        “It doesn’t hurt,” Horatio reassured him. “They won’t even be there in the morning.” He snuggled down into the bed and pulled the quilt over their shoulders. “Besides, I might have heard a rumor.”

        “Oh? And what do the people say?” He asked as he nuzzled into Horatio’s hair. 

        “They say you love me and that you crawled out of the Arctic just to hold me again.” Horatio sighed and kissed the strip of pale skin that was closest to him. 

        “The rumors are true,” James sighed with the sweetest smile. “I do love you.”

        “And I love you too.”